Grand Avenue winners
Sixty-six of the world’s most intriguing, unusual, exotic and genre defining cars were put through their paces on the Grand Avenue at The London Classic Car Show 2017. The cars were split into 10 different categories, six to a group, to produce a provocative automotive history embracing the expected, unexpected and the controversial, to form the 2017 theme: The Perfect Ten.
The Perfect Ten categories were saloon, coupé, four-seat convertible, sports car, supercar, hatchback, shooting brake, sports racer, single seater and aerodynamic pioneers. A winner from each category was selected on the final day of the show and presented with a special award, and here they are!
SALOON: 1982 Aston Martin Lagonda
Aston Martin, rescued from bankruptcy in 1975, really needed a new product so developed a 4-door saloon that shared much of the V8's mechanical package in a radical new shape by stylist William Towns. The resultant Lagonda, a model name sourced from David Brown's purchase of the marque in 1947, was the star of the 1976 Motor Show and underpinned the company's finances for over 10 years although its high-tech digital instrumentation was initially unreliable.
CONVERTIBLE: 1924 Hispano Suiza HC6 'Tulipwood'
In 1924 André Dubonnet, flying ace, athlete, racing driver and wealthy son of Joseph Dubonnet, founder of the eponymous drinks company, had a Tulipwood bodied 8-litre HC6 built to race in the Targa Florio. The Tulipwood body lightened this huge car for the twisty course and, impressively, he came 6th. Sadly some years later the car was badly damaged when the roof of the garage it was in collapsed, so this beautiful car is an exacting recreation built using original Hispano components and 1024 brass rivets.
SPORTS RACER: 1964 Crosslé 5S
The 5S was presented in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Crosslé Car Company, who still build its direct descendent the 9S at the same factory. Crosslé are the world's oldest customer racing car constructor and have a proud record. This car, chassis number 13, was completed in 1964 for owner driver Brian Nelson. The initial Daimler V8 engine was heavy and lacked power so various units were tried before the current all-aluminium Buick V8 (the engine Rover later licensed) was fitted. The car was developed in period to the 9S specification it exhibits today.
SINGLE SEATER: Ferrari Dino 246 F1 1959/1960
Ferrari fought a rear-guard action towards the end of the 2.5-litre F1 era, retaining the glorious front-engined cars that had won Mike Hawthorn the driver's title in 1958 by one point from Moss' Vanwall. Ferrari refined the design for each following year but lost the last two drivers and constructor's championships of the era, albeit very narrowly, to Jack Brabham's less powerful but nimble Cooper-Climax. The V6 engine was designed by Vittorio Jano of Alfa Romeo fame with input from Enzo's son Alfredo 'Dino' Ferrari who sadly passed away at 24 with muscular dystrophy. Enzo decreed all V6 engined Ferraris would thereafter be called Dino to honour his son.
HATCHBACK: 1986 MG Metro 6R4 GpB
Winner: 1992 European Rallycross Championship. Driver: Will Gollop.
Gollop's Metro was developed into a spectacular rallycross machine to keep pace with rivals such as Martin Schanche's Ford RS200. In its ultimate form it developed 870bhp, achieved 0-60mph in 1.4 seconds, did 2mpg, and regularly showed an exhaust temperature of 960°C! These statistics were achieved using a pair of Tag-McLaren F1 KKK turbos and intercoolers mated to the 2.3-litre V6. For safety reasons Group B cars were banned from rallying in 1986 but continued being developed for Rallycross until being banned from this sport as well in 1993.
SHOOTING BRAKE: 1960 Peugeot 403 Familiale 1.5-litre 'Emmanuelle'
The French have a tradition of building elongated 'Familiale' versions of best selling saloons and the 403, over a million of which were made in all forms, exemplifies that. Its 24cm wheelbase extension ensured plenty of space and a nice long roof for extra baggage. The car is believed to be the only R.H.D. example remaining and was originally exported to Nyasaland (now Malawi) before being driven across Africa and eventually returning to the UK in 1965.
SPORTS CAR: 1913 Chalmers Model 17, 54hp Speedster
Chalmers grew from the Thomas-Detroit marque after Hugh Chalmers, owner of the National Cash Register Co, bought into the company. By 1916 Chalmers were producing over 20,000 units a year but eventually became part of Chrysler and vanished in 1924. The straight-6 7.6-litre overhead inlet-valve engined roadster was among America's most desirable sports cars and achieved success on track in early Stock Car 24-hour endurance runs. The current owner has dyno tested the car and it produces 100bhp at 1750rpm!
COUPE: 1974 Bitter CD
The CD was originally an Opel Diplomat-based concept car built for the 1969 Frankfurt Show. Opel subsequently contracted coachbuilders Frua to build two prototypes but then realized a low volume bespoke car would be a distraction for a large company like GM's European division. Thus the whole project was handed over to well known racing driver Erich Bitter who engaged Bauer Coachworks in Stuttgart and produced 395, beautiful, all-steel 2+2 V8-powered coupés using 5.3-litre Chevrolet V8s between 1973 and 1979.
SUPERCAR: 1971 Monteverdi 375L High Speed
The 'High Speed' was the GT supercar for the early 70s jet-set, and this example was first owned by Alison Entwistle, wife of The Who's bass player John. This rarest and most glamorous of GT cars was reassuringly expensive in 1971, at £10,450, but customers got a beautiful bespoke car with reliable Chrysler V8 muscle and the assurance that the limited production meant no one else would be driving one.
AERODYNAMIC PIONEER: 1937 Alfa Romeo - 6C 2300 Aerodinamica Spider
The Aero Spider was brought over from Germany especially for this show and is not only one of the most beautiful cars ever made but is a very important piece of motoring history. It is a unique car, constructed with help from Alfa's legendary Chief Designer Vittorio Jano, in the hope it could evolve into a machine able to challenge the then German supremacy in GP racing using his experimental V12 engine. The Aero Spider's history is remarkable. It was built by brothers Gino and Oscar Jankovits, then Alfa Romeo concessionaires in Fiume, Italy. The body was designed after consultation with Josef Micki and Paul Jaray and pre-dates other streamlined bodies of this type while it exhibits many advanced features such as wishbone suspension. Unfortunately Jano's dismissal from Alfa Romeo in 1937 and the global political situation meant that the car remained hidden in their garage until 1946 when Gino was accused of helping the Nazis and faced execution. He fled across the border in the Aero Spider, driving it at high speed under a border gate from the then Yugoslavia into Italy. Bullets burst the tyres and damaged the rear bodywork but he was unhurt. The car was then sold as Tito had seized the family's property and it has now been restored. The current owner is working on a book about this remarkable car which should make fascinating reading.