Monday, January 5, 2009

Fantasy Friday... for Monday (again)

You know, I really hate to leave a project unfinished. You might not think that if you took a quick tour of my shop, but believe me, even little ones will wake me up in the night. Well, the Fantasy Friday post definitely falls in this category and I think it's time to take two more posts and knock this one out. 

   I'm pretty sure this drifted back onto my radar while revisiting the Leno collection. How could it not? Witnessing a fellow gear-head who has had the good fortune to assemble his own dream collection is always going to make the mind drift off into a person's own personal fantasy. So, with that in mind, let the games begin;

11) Cunningham C-4R

     OK, I know this one's a bit unrealistic but hey, this is fiction after all. I feel that between this , an Auto-Union, a Mercedes W-154, and a Scarab, the Cunningham is the least outrageous. With, I believe, only three of these in existence, it is unlikely that I'll have one in the garage soon. That being said, I love everything about these great immediate post-war American specials. For starters, I truly love their looks. They may not be as flowing or streamlined as a Ferrari or Maserati of the day, but that is OK with me because the look seems to match the sound and layout. Few cars have the romance, intrigue, and pure heroicism surrounding them that the Cunninghams do. Briggs Cunningham, who would go on to win the America's Cup in 1958, was the consummate sportsman and adventurer. He began racing sports cars in the pre-war ARCA sanctioned professional and club events in cars of various make and model. After the war, Briggs decided that he would build a car of his own that could compete internationally, with the ultimate goal being a win in the coveted 24 hours of LeMans. The closest Briggs would come to that goal would be a 3rd overall finish in 1953. Powered by a full race Chrysler Hemi engine making around 400hp and backed by a 4spd Italian Siata truck transmission, the Cunningham C-4R would prove itself unbeatable on American soil and very near the equal of the great European machines of the day. All of this from a basic American "hot rod" design- live rear axle and all. Always painted in the international USA paint scheme of white with blue LeMans stripes, running Halibrand style magnesium knock-off wheels, and screaming through open side exit exhausts, this car will always be on my list... and you gotta love that gaping mouth and high mounted oil cooler.

    A funny story about one of the few experiences I've had around a real Cunningham C-4R;   It was 1998 at the 50th anniversary vintage festival at Watkins Glen that I was lucky enough to attend along with my good friend Mark Lambert. A re-creation of the original street race was going to happen with a surprising number of original drivers and cars. I remember the Alfa Romeo 8C2900B that won the first race in '48 being there along with Denver Cornett in his one owner MG-TC, as well as the famous "Ardent Alligator" among others. Well, one of the "other" original entrants was none other than John Fitch AND Phil Walters in a C-4R. The cars lined up on main street in front of the court house and were flagged off just as they would have been in '48. Unsure of how many laps they were supposed to complete, it seemed as though the drivers became interested in running indefinitely... this included our dynamic duo complete with original leather skull caps and pilot's goggles. Soon it became obvious to both Mark and myself that it was our clear duty to hop in his series one E-Type coupe and join the field. So we did. What I will never forget for the rest of my life is what happened about a half a lap into our run; Somehow, without realizing it, we had hopped into the field with the Cunningham somewhere behind us. As we were buzzing along on our thrill ride, running about 80 mph on a narrow country road, I see an ominous sight pop up in the side view mirror just behind us. You guessed it- and they were closing FAST! Remember, we're going 80 so I would have to believe that those two old pros were cracking into the triple digits. Without taking a beat to realize how outrageous the statement was I was about to yell from my co-drivers seat, I exclaim,"Look out! Fitch and Walters are catching us in the Cunningham!!". At this point Mark looks over at me and says,"What?... did you hear what you just said?" At that point we both started laughing uncontrollably. 

12) 1967 Corvette coupe; 

     Very mundane compared to the Cunningham I know, but for a road going American closed GT car from back in the day, this is one of my all time favorites. I prefer the cleanliness of the '67 to the rest of the mid-years and would have to have it in forest green with a 4spd and 350 hp L-79 327. No side exhaust, as they lose their charm after the first ten miles, black interior with teak-wood wheel, rally's with flat-caps. Great, great, timeless car. 

13) 1939 Cadillac 2dr Opera Coupe;

     This is a pick for sentimental reasons as I grew up around one thanks to my father having restored and owned this model during my early years. First and foremost I love the art-deco almost high speed passenger train front end of these. They mark such a specific transitional time for me in American design that says the Classic era is ending and deco-sleek, more personal, coupe bodied cars are on the way. I always think of a traveling salesman running down our early highways in these. A great, whisper quiet, dead smooth, Cad flat-head V-8 under the hood for motivation, and an equally whisper quiet, and very tidy, mohair interior complete with little "jump" seats behind the front bench. I'll take mine in black just like the one I grew up with. 

14) 1932 Ford hot rod roadster; 

      Since we have found ourselves in 1930's America, I have to go ahead and knock this one out. I can't imagine a world class and balanced collection that wouldn't have some representation from the golden age of hot rodding. I think it is safe to say that all of our countries racing and speed industry come directly from the roots laid down by either the Indianapolis 500 or the pre and post war hot rodding scene of southern California. It is amazing to think that a rebellion based youth movement has had such an impact on American auto development... but it has. Original hot rods from the golden era of dry lakes racing continue to be discovered and restored and accurate recreations of period correct model A and deuce based roadsters continue to be built by the thousands. The timelessness of both the original cars designs and the modifications that became the standard hot rod makeup seem to keep people drawn to these wonderfully simple machines. As I'm in the process of building a Model A based '40s style roadster, I'll have to go with a straight up '32 as my fantasy hot rod. It is simply the most attractive of the bunch and every time you see one you realize again why all the fuss. I'll take mine in shiny black with black Kelsey-Hayes bent spokes, no fenders of course, lowered with spring modification but no dropped axle, black wall tires, full hood, chopped windshield, nearly stock interior but with a few period SW gauges in addition to the original center pod, original steering wheel, non-shaved cowl or filled shell, '39 tail-lights, full house 59AB with 4 inch stroke, Eddie Meyer heads and two pot intake with 97s, Winfield cam, '39 Ford trans, 3.78 gears. I can see it clear as day. 

15) 1962 Chevrolet Bel-Air bubbletop 409

     I must be feeling extra patriotic today because we are all American all the time on this go around. If I had to pick one super stock this would be it. I go back and forth between several SSs from this era but every time I see one of these I'm reminded that they really are king with me. The '62 is simply the best design of the bunch and the bubbletop brings the icing. The sight of these seem to always conjure up those great black and white images of Dave Strickler and Hayden Profitt coming off the line, their bubbletop 409's noses a mile in the air. Of course a finely tuned original 409hp 409 is a sound to behold. Big compression, big solid lifter cam, an exhaust system that seems to have been made for the addition of cut-outs. I'd have to have mine in black with a red interior (my favorite 1960s color combination) complete with period Sun tach, black steel wheels with dog dishes, 409-409 4spd of course, and 4.10s out back... and maybe a few spring spreader blocks up front just to give it that little bit of rake that says super stock. 

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