Tag Archives: Harrison

Ak’s Iron Horse – Caballo de Hiero

When Zeke and Larry Miller needed someone to keep the four-banger Chevy roadster they had just built from running into the back of their daily driver as they towed it on the end of a chain up to Muroc Dry Lake they nominated their younger kid brother Akton, born in 1920, to take the drivers seat and act as brake man for the 100 mile journey to the frozen lake.

When the three Danish born brothers got their Ak was surprised to be offered the drive and set a 94mph time as a career in speed got kicked started that would see Ak become a founding member of the Road Runners car club in 1937, from which he was later ejected for refusing to bow to the flathead Ford Hot Rodders dogma by building and running a straight eight Buick in his Chevy, President of the Southern California Timing Association, SCTA, and one of the founding officers of the National Hot Rod Association, NHRA, in 1951.

Caballo de Hiero, Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, Laguna Seca,

While transforming countless Southern California ragamuffins enthusiasm into a recognized sport of which he became the acceptable face in a blazer and tie, he built and ran a variety of vehicles to compete on the lakes, 1/4 mile, road racing and Pikes Peak.

Today’s featured Caballo de Hiero was built using an Oldsmobile V8 in a Ford frame to compete in the Carrera Panamericana in 1953, Ak drove the car with Doug Harrison in the passenger seat and came home a respectable 14th overall and 8th in class that included sophisticated Ferrari’s and Talbot Lago’s .

Caballo de Hiero, Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, Laguna Seca,

The following year the hot rodding duo came in an even better seventh overall and 5th in class, they had hoped to return in 1955 but the race was cancelled in the wake of the disaster at Le Mans.

Ak and Doug had a crack at the Mille Miglia in 1957 with an all new El Caballo II but retired and Ak then moved onto competing at Pikes Peak, with a Chevy powered chassis of his own design with a Devin body, where he won his class on his debut which would be the first of eight class victories over 20 years.

On his 71st birthday Ak joined the 200 mph club at Bonneville, a speed event he helped found in 1949, driving a 225mph Crosley coupé built by his long time business partner Jack Lufkin and Ron Benham that was owned by Earl Wooden.

My thanks to Geoffrey Horton who kindly asked Karl Krause to take these photo’s at Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion held at Laguna Seca a couple of month’s ago.

Thanks for joining me on this “Ak’s Iron Horse” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow for Ferrari Friday. Don’t forget to come back now !


Der Großer Ultra Luxury – Mercedes Benz 600 SWB

So here is a little teaser question to start the week, what do American actor Jack Nicholson, Cambodian totalitarian dictator Pol Pot and Colombian drug dealer Pablo Escobar all have in common ? Answer at the end of this blog.

In order to compete with Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Cadillac, Lehmann-Peterson stretched Lincolns and the Chrysler Imperial Crown Ghia in the Ultra Luxury market segment Mercedes Benz built the 600 also known as “Der Großer” which was launched in September 1963.

Mercedes Benz 600 SWB, Brooklands Double Twelve

Since the biggest Mercedes Benz 3 litre 183 cui was never going to be up to the job of propelling this heavy weight, Mercedes Benz developed it’s first V8 engine, featuring single overhead cam shafts, with a capacity of 6289 cc / 383cui that produced 250hp.

To ensure the silent operation of the air conditioning, power window’s, sunroof, seats, auto door and boot/trunk closure and the suspension damping Mercedes Benz eschewed complex electrics and developed a complex hydraulic system that operates at a nominal 3200 psi, all well and good until it develops a leak and or the system gets refilled with synthetic automatic transmission oil, which eats the all rubber seals, instead of the correct mineral based oil.

Mercedes Benz 600 SWB, Brooklands Double Twelve

The windows are hydraulically activated by door switches that have a variable rate of closure depending on how hard one presses the switch, whack it inadvertently and someone could loose an arm, similarly if one touches the open boot/trunk lid it will close automatically, try and push it shut and one will likely as not break the hinges.

To keep ones hydraulics in order Mercedes Benz thoughtfully equipped the car with a hydraulic spares kit that contains brass spacers to keep the power seats from collapsing in the event of hydraulic system failure, three hydraulic blocks, three line connections, a set of hydraulic line plugs and clips, four wooden wedges to insert in to the window channels to keep the windows up, a spare hydraulic flex line, an oil container and an instruction manual to help you use all of the above correctly.

Mercedes Benz 600 SWB, Brooklands Double Twelve

The design of the 600 is credited to Italian Bruno Sacco, German Friedrich Geiger and Paul Bracq, the latter allegedly helped in the design of 600 pick up and hearse conversions that were built by Karl H. Middlehauve in the United States.

In all 2,677 Mercedes Benz 600’s were built up until 1981 they include; 2,190 Saloons, like the 1965 example seen at Brooklands Double Twelve a couple of years ago in these photographs, 304 4 door Pullmans, 124 6 door Pullmans and 59 Landaullets and 2 Coupé’s one of which was given to Mercedes Benz 300 SLR designer Dr. Rudolf Uhlenhaut upon his retirement.

By now you have probably guessed that Jack Nicholson, Pol Pot and Pablo Escobar have all owned a Mercedes Benz 600, the latters was destroyed in an attack in an attack in 1988 five years before his death. Other entertainers who owned a 600 include; Elizabeth Taylor, John Lennon, George Harrison, Karen Carpenter, Elvis Presley and Rowan Atkinson, politicians who owned 600’s include; Josip Broz Tito, Nicolae Ceaușescu, Francois (Papa Doc) Duvalier, Jean-Bédel Bokassa, F. W. de Klerk, Leonid Brezhnev, Idi Amin, Fidel Castro, Ferdinand Marcos (times 4 !), Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, Saddam Hussein and Chairman Mao Tse-tung / Zedong, no other drug dealers are recorded as having owned a 600.

Thanks for joining me on this “Der Großer Ultra Luxury” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be looking at a vehicle said to be responsible for the cancellation of a rivals model amid accusations of industrial espionage. Don’t forget to come back now !


Happy Birthday Cheryl – Marcos Mantis GT2

After the successes of the Rover V8 powered Mantula Rover based Marcos LM400, LM500 and LM600 GT cars which won the 1995, 1996 and 2000 British GT Championships Marcos announced the Dunlop sponsored spec Mantis Challenge in 1998 with spec normally aspirated quad cam Ford V8 motors.

Marcos Mantis GT2, Britcar, Castle Combe

In 2002 racers Warren and Charlotte Gilbert (nee Osborn) established Topcats Racing in Westcott, Buckinghamshire which has become a leading contender on the British Endurance GT seen and a leading independent service center for Caterham, Corvette, Lotus, Marcos and Mosler cars offering everything from a full service to an LS7 engine transplant.

Marcos Mantis GT2, Britcar, Castle Combe

Today’s featured Britcar Class 2 Marcos Mantis is built around a space frame with a fiberglass body and is powered by a standard LS7, 7 litre / 427 cui V8 engine mapped to produce 505hp on 98 octane unleaded fuel which is transmitted to the rear wheels through a 6 speed Holinger sequential gearbox.

Marcos Mantis GT2, Head, Tilley, Britcar, Castle Combe

Additional features include electric power steering, quick fill fuel tanks, quick lift air jacks and spec 18″ Dunlop slick or wet tyres on center lock wheels, four of which can be changed in 22 seconds.

Marcos Mantis GT2, Britcar, Castle Combe

With a weight of 1050 kgs / 2315 lbs the car will reach 60mph in an ear splitting 3.5 seconds and a top speed of 190 mph.

Marcos Mantis GT2, Head, Tilley, Britcar, Castle Combe

Sam Head and Kyle Tilley drove the #26 car entry for most of 2011 and they are seen above at Castle Combe on the 27th of August where they finished a low 20th overall from a more representative 8th on the grid, this a month after Henry Fletcher and Raphael Fiorentino had finished 2nd overall and 1st in Class 2 at Spa.

At the seasons end the Topcats Class 3, 50 hp less, #36 Mantis finished 2nd in the Britcar Championship with Owen O Neill, Henry Fletcher, Jon Harrison and Raphael Fiorentino all taking turns at the wheel during the season and the #36 was classified 3rd with Jeff Wyatt replacing Kyle for one round at Snetterton and Neil Huggins and Jon Harrison being the cars drivers in the championship final at Brands Hatch.

Topcats appear to have retired their LS7 powered Mantis cars from competition at the end of 2012 after their 2 cars both now running in Class 2 finished 3rd and 11th in the Britcar Championship.

Wishing Cheryl a Happy Birthday.

Thanks for joining me on this “Happy Birthday Cheryl” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be looking at another Desse. Don’t forget to come back now !


Birdcage Streamliner – Maserati Tipo 60 #2451

Despite winning the 1957 World Championship Drivers Title, there was no constructors title until 1958, with Juan Manuel Fangio, Maserati was in dire financial trouble at the end of the year and after four sports car were written off in South America the Italian Government had to step in as receiver to save the company.

Immediately all motor racing programmes run by the factory were cancelled, but just one year later the case was made for Maserati to resume building racing cars so long as they were paid for and raced by customers.

Engineer Gulio Alfieri was given a brief was to build a low cost, competitive, two seater racer, using existing parts stock where possible.

Maserati Tipo 60, Goodwood, Revival

In the absence of sufficient contacts to help him build a monocoque chassis Alfiei devised a space frame Tipo 60 chassis built up from thin tubes with a 2 litre / 122cui 4 cylinder motor that became known as the ‘Birdcage’.

Today’s featured chassis #2451 started life as the prototype Tipo 60 and on the 12th of July 1959 it was driven to a win in the Rouen Grand Prix by Stirling Moss.

Stirling Moss is said to have been impressed with the ‘rightness’ of the design, the light but precise steering, the totally neutral handling characteristics with the superb brakes also being singled out for praise.

Maserati Tipo 60, Willi Balz, Goodwood, Revival

Italian hillclimb specialist Odoardo Govoni then drove #2451 to a win on the ‘Pontedecimo-Giovi’ hillclimb on the 20th September 1959, soundly beating the favourite Giorgio Scarlatti’s Ferrari Dino 196S.

Maserati chairman Omer Orsi authorised the production of six Tipo 60 chassis and it was not long before requests from the US came in for cars fitted with 3 litre / 183 cui motors.

Subsequently Alferi was asked to work on a 3 litre motor and he managed to squeeze one into a Tipo 60 which which then became the Tipo 61 to distinguish the larger engine size.

Maserati Tipo 60, Goodwood, Revival

In September 1959 Lloyd Perry ‘Lucky’ Crasner tested a Tipo 60 and immediately ordered two 3 litre cars for his CA-sner MO-tor RA-cinq DI-vision, better known as the Camoradi Racing Team.

A shortfall in manufacturing capacity left Maserati no alternative but to fit a 4 cylinder 3 litre / 193 cui motor to the prototype chassis #2451 which was then shipped out to Nassau in December 1959 for Dan Gurney, Carroll Shelby and Jo Bonnier to test in preparation for the Nassau Speedweek.

Dan claimed a class victory in the Preliminary Governor’s Trophy while Carrol retired from the Nassau Trophy Race after a puncture and then an accident.

Maserati Tipo 60, Goodwood, Revival

Dan and Marsten Gregory qualified #2451 2nd for the 1960 1000kms at Buenos Aires but retired with a broken shock absorber mounting bolt after leading comfortably.

Carroll Shelby teamed up with Masten to drive #2451 in the Sebring 12 hours but retired with an engine issue.

At the Targa Florio #2451 was entered for Umberto Maglioli and Nino Vaccarella who led the race at 3/4 distance only to crash after a rock punctured the fuel tank.

During the subsequent repairs #2451 had a new streamline tail added along with the extreme screen which was designed to meet the Le Mans minimum height screen regulations and minimise the frontal area of the car. The other 2 Camoradi T61’s had the modified tail fitted for Le Mans, but not the low frontal area screen.

Maserati Tipo 60, Goodwood, Revival

#2451 was the fastest car at Le Mans in 1960, after a starting problem saw Marsten cross the start line in 24th place he had recovered the lead by the Mulsanne Corner on the opening lap overtaking 18 vehicles on the Mulsanne Straight.

After a couple of hours Marsten handed #2451 over to Chuck Daigh but the car lost an hour with another starter problem. Between the forth and eighth hours Marsten and Chuck had recovered two of their lost laps, but at midnight the car was retired either with a blown motor or an electrical issue depending on which sources one reads.

The Le Mans race was the last race of the 1960 World Sportscar Championship season and #2451 was chosen by Camoradi backer Frank Harrison as the car he was promised and wanted to run in the USA.

06 Maserati Tipo 60_1663sc

Harrison entered the car for Jim Jeffords who won with it at Road America on July 31st, 1960. In April 1961 Fred Gamble drove #2451 to a class victory at Marlboro .

Sources are not conclusive on #2451 being the car that William Kimberly drove to victory for Frank Harrison at Courtland in July 1961.

Frank sold #2451 to Don Skogmo, a regular winner aboard a Maserati Tipo 61, who is thought never to have raced #2451.

In 1971 #2451 found a new lease of life in the British ‘JCB’ historic championship where it was driven to a championship victory by Brian Joscelyne.

By 1980 #2451 was to be found in the Rosso Bianco collection belonging to Peter Kaus. Today the car, which was first registered for UK road use in 2010, is owned by Windpower magnate and Maserati Collector Willi Balz who is seen at the wheel at Goodwood a couple of years ago.

Thanks for joining me on this “Birdcage Streamliner” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres”, I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be looking at a versatile Talbot that raced at Le Mans in 1939. Don’t forget to come back now !


Turbo Erika – Ford Escort RS Turbo

Launched with the strap line “Simple is Efficient” the third generation Ford Escort was code named “Erika” while in development taking the name from Fords Product Planning Dept leader Erick A. Reikert.

Ford Escort RS Turbo, Snetterton

The Escort MKIII went head to head in the market place with the popular Volkswagen Golf which had turned VW fortunes around after the demise of the ‘Beetle’.

Ford Escort RS Turbo, Snetterton

Like the Golf the 3rd iteration of the Escort employed front wheel drive, unlike the Golf the Escort was a conservative hatchback retaining some vestige of a three box shape bodywork at the rear, although the tailgate included the rear sloping window.

Ford Escort RS Turbo, Brands Hatch

The 132hp RS Turbo version of the Escort was launched in 1984 with the 5 speed transmission driving the front wheels through a viscous coupling differential that was a world first for a front wheel drive car. The RS Turbo proved a strong competitor in production saloon racing where it rendered the hitherto dominant Ford Capri 2.8i obsolete in the space of 12 months.

Ford Escort RS Turbo, Silverstone

In the top photo national radio DJ Mike Smith and Lionel Abbot shared the #25 to win the 1986 Willhire 24 hour race at Snetterton at their second attempt becoming the first two driver team to win the race since it’s inception in 1980. The #32 was driven by Karl Jones, Patrick Watts and Chris Creswell in the 1987 Willhire 24 hours qualifying 2nd, to a Ford Sierra RS Cosworth, and finishing sixth, third in class after a late driveshaft failure. By 1989 the Escort RS Turbo’s driven by Vaughan Richmond, #44 seen at Brands Hatch and Jonathon Harrison, #60 seen at Silverstone, were overwhelmed in class B by half a dozen faster BMW M3’s.

My thanks to Tim Murray on The Nostalgia Forum for the race details on the #32 at Snetterton.

Thanks for joining me on this ‘Turbo Erika’ edition of ‘Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres’ I hope you will join me again tomorrow for Americana Thursday. Don’t forget to come back now !