As busy as we are recording & preparing for the Tycho shows coming up, Dakar is celebrating it’s birthday this week and I didn’t want to miss out. Here is some great imagery captured in the 34 years since the rally raid’s inception.
Starting in 1966, Can-Am was an idealistic series conceived by the SCCA and its Canadian counterpart, CASC. Running under FIA Group 7 rules, it was as open as a series could get, essentially a formula libre format with the chassis weight and horsepower being, for all intents and purposes, unlimited. If the the tires weren’t exposed and it had 2 seats, you could race it. It was popular among drivers and enthusiasts, the likes of Keke Rosberg, Gilles Villeneuve, and even Paul Newman being regulars at the meets.
While this format led to some interesting technological developments and some truly oddball designs, it also opened the door to the inevitable: 1,000+HP engines bolted to cars that proved to be as unsafe as they were powerful. Lola & McLaren dominated the front 9 of the first era, the latter half saw the introduction and subsequent perfection of the Porsche 917, which nearly spelled the end of the series as they were unbeatable by non-works sponsored teams.
Some notable offspring of the early Can-Am years included heavy experimentation with aerodynamics and downforce, particularly Jim Hall’s Chaparral cars. The 2J, or “sucker car” [seen above in b&w bearing the number 66] used a series of skirts and a small 2 stroke engine which powered 2 fans aft of the vehicle. This combination of parts cobbled together [on what I feel is one of the ugliest race cars ever produced] created a unique type of ground effect, one which didn’t require moving air over the car, meaning that downforce in excess of 1.5g could be accomplished at any speed. When it was actually working, it qualified 2 seconds faster than the closest car, and was quickly banned.
The late 1970′s saw the waning series combined with then thriving Formula 5000 category, allowing teams to convert single-seat, open wheeled tubs into closed-wheel sports cars. While less popular in the long run, it encouraged many more teams to compete and led to a truly unique chapter of motorsport, as well as some really good looking cars. This modest resurgence continued until the dominance IMSA/Camel & CART took over as the format of choice in the 80′s.
“Car art” is always a contentious subject for me, there’s alot of cartoonish colored pencil stuff out there that Road & Track likes to pass off as “fine art”. If there’s one thing i’ve tried to showcase in my livery posts, it’s that the geometric body of the car itself makes for a great canvas.
Earlier last week, fellow car porn addict (although he gets paid for his addiction) Jim Lau sent me the innocuous “you’ve seen this, right?” message. Above are some examples of Ricardo Santos’ work, and I think they’re absolutely fantastic. You’ll notice some farmilar ‘faces’ from alot of the car posts I’ve done here on the blog, needless to say I’ve solved the problem of hanging up pictures of cars on my wall without looking pubescent.
These prints all come in a variety of sizes & formats, the stretched canvas is barking at me and the moths futzing outside my window will soon find a nice warm home in my wallet. You can find all of Ricardo’s works seen above over on his Society 6 page.
Here we are, probably my favorite livery from the heyday of Formula 1: John Player Special. As Lotus’s title sponsor for much of the 70′s and 80′s, these beautiful black and gold machines spent alot of time in the winners circle. Emerson Fittipaldi, Jochen Rindt, Mario Andretti, and Ayrton Senna, to name a few, all drove JPS sponsored Lotus machines.
JPS was also active in touring cars and motorcycle racing, the black & gold scheme so iconic that many manufacturer’s road-going variants usually had a complimentary paint option – albiet without the lucrative cigarette advertisements.
The colors have proved so nostalgic that Lotus has donned them once again (without any association to the extinct cigarette brand) in their Formula 1 and Le Mans prototype cars, and I must say that it’s a hero’s return for most.
What I’m really looking forward to is checking out the Historic GP at this year’s inaugural F1 race in Austin, a little birdie told me that Mario’s old Lotus 79 will be buzzing around the new track.
The effect that Dekotora has on the senses is profound. Imagine for a moment that you’re walking home late at night through a less trafficked, industrial area. Out of nowhere a garage door springs to life and the seismic presence of a 12 cylinder diesel barks to life. The next thing you know, a 10 ton monstrosity, cobbled together with jukeboxes, arcade machines and laser guided disco lights, is quickly bearing down on you. Such was my introduction to the relatively nonexistent presence of decorative commercial trucks operating in the greater New York City area.
A rare sight in most corners of the world, Dekotora is the Japanese discipline of decorating industrial and commercial vehicles with anything that reflects, glows, or flashes. It’s inspiration is drawn heavily from Gundam & arcade culture, something that much of the neon-marinated citzens of Tokyo can relate to.
Surprisingly, these are not “art cars” – they are fully functional and go about their daily tasks just as you see them here. Alot of these vehicles can be seen during business hours, backing up to loading docks, stopping for weigh stations or filling up at diesel pumps. Granted, some of the trucks above may be for shows only but from what I’ve read a lot of drivers do it to liven up their job and set their truck apart from the rest.
I really love the amount of detail that goes into these, I hope someday I’m able to get a closer look, I feel like I could spend a whole day looking at all the little bits and pieces. Yellow Magic Orchestra never reached the audience they deserved in the US so hey guys, here’s our chance to make up for past mistakes, you know that broken Bally machine in your aunt’s rec room? Or that Wurlitzer collecting dust in your garage? Throw a copy of Solid State Survivor in there and glue that shit to your truck man.
Fiat (Italian Automobile Factory of Turin) released the 131 to little fanfare in 1974. It was aimed at the family demographic, offering sedan, avant, and coupe layout. They were modestly powered and featured nothing truly ground breaking. So why bother featuring it? In all honesty, I think the 131 was one of the better looking economy cars of the day. It nearly stole the 3-series’ thunder, with a very evolved and elegant design for a mid-seventies car. Its proportions are pleasing, it has geometric, minimal shapes between the pillars, and anything with fog lights framed in a boxy fascia, I’m a fanb0i of.
While a lot of the cars I feature in my posts have some sort of tie-in with rally racing, I’m more a fan of european car design from the 70′s and 80′s in general, and in those days the WRC was a cost effective way for carmakers to achieve a global presence in motorsport. BMW has M Sport, Mercedes-Daimlers has AMG, Nissan has NISMO; Fiat’s tuning division was called Abarth. And in 1976, Abarth turned this mellow grocery-getter into one of the last great carbureted, rear-wheel driven rally cars. It took the World Rally Championship 3 times in ’77, ’78, and after a 2 year drought again in 1980, with a total of 18 victories over 5 years.
As good as the road-going model was, the Abarth 131 is truly a work of purpose-built art, everything from the bespoke brake ducts and flared wheel wells to the subtle spoiler lip added to the boot lid puts this particular variant in my top 10 list of best looking cars ever produced. Whenever I look at an E30 M3, I can’t help but think it looks a little sterile compared to the Abarth.
Homologated under the legendary and ill-fated Group B classification, Peugeot [allegedly] produced 200 neutered road-going versions of this MR layout hyper-hatchback. Featuring a turbocharged 1.7 litre inline 4-cyl engine with 4 valves per cylinder, 4 driven wheels, and a dynamic epicyclic drivetrain, this sophisticated vehicle ran away with the 1985 & 1986 FIA WRC drivers & constructors championship.
It was the last car to truly dominate in Group B before the class’s demise in the 1987 season. Its distinctive lines and vivid liveries were an instant classic, with my personal preference leaning towards the huge spoiler & bold Camel sponsored Paris-Dakar/Rally Raid motif.
The takeaway video above documents the Talbot team’s championship winning 1985 season [albiet in French]. Their team principal, Jean Todt, went on to direct Ferrari’s Formula 1 team and now oversees the FIA.