28 Feb 2011


A great period shot from friend Roger Putnam who started working in sales for Lotus in the 1960s and who is pictured handing over Graham Hill's 'company' Elan in April or May 1967 .Roger says "the photo was taken by a Daily Mail photographer and it appeared in the paper the following day. . It was taken at Ian Walker's dealership in N Finchley,London. Ian used to enter a racing Elan for Jim Clark in GP support races. Graham drove the Project 312 Aston in the same races. Chequered Flag also entered an Elan for Jackie Stewart.

Jimmy Clark had an identical yellow Elan but we delivered it to France where he was living in Montmartre with a great eccentric journo called Gerard 'Jabby' Crombac. His nickname came from Jabby which was a well known make of French typewriter. Jabby wrote a great book on Colin Chapman about 10 or 12 years ago. He died shortly afterwards."

Jim Clark's Elan must have really cut a dash parked on the street in Montmartre amongst all the little Simcas, Citroens ,Renaults and Peugeots. I wonder what happened to both these cars .With their provenence they would command a substantial premium today .Graham Hill's writing desk recently sold at an auction in the UK for $8750 due to its history .It also looked  a very nice desk .I cannot see Sebastian Vettel's IKEA flatpack computer table going for a hefty premium in 40 year's time but you never know.

Roger Putnam is a distinguished motor industry character who survived working for Lotus ,Jaguar and finally Ford and retired with lots of great memories such as the above.He has an apparently encyclopaedic knowledge of the motor industry of that era and in particular the racing scene and seems to personally know or have known most of the key and not so key industry players of the era 1965 to 2005 . He really should write a book .

Over 40 years ago I had a friend whose father bought him an Elan S2 in kit form for his 21st bithday--yes I know -- his father was a diamond cutter ( Lotuses were sold in kit form in that period to avoid paying sales tax) . They assembled the kit but after about 4 years the friend abandoned the car as it was chronically unreliable . He entombed it in his parent's garage --with 10000 miles on the clock-and it was still there 20 years ago when I lost contact with him. I wonder if it is still there -- a great barn find . His parents would be long gone so I am sure that the car has moved on -- but again you never know.

27 Feb 2011


                             Used racing leathers for sale , Australian Moto GP, Phillip Island ,Australia .

24 Feb 2011


Lunch time Phillip Island Historics ,Victoria ,Australia, March, 2010 .Team Webster's Porsche Pavillion in the paddock surrounded by classic Porsches . Le Patron , Stewart ,is just visible at the back of the pavillion manning the corporate hospitality centre otherwise known as the barbecue.
This is how motor racing should be --plenty of races, no corporate PR and sponsorship nonsense ,great,reliable cars so no mechanical dramas and paddock rebuilds, a fast, scenic track in a great location,good company and a sunny day.

23 Feb 2011


Jim Clark was an extraordinary racing driver .This photo was taken on a tiny half frame Olympus over 40 years ago so the quality is poor but I have posted it because it shows Jim Clark literally hurling his "T"(training or practice) Lotus Cortina round Brands Hatch in preparation for a support race for the British Grand Prix in 1967 . He would have shredded a set of tyres in just a few laps . He was a magician in the Cortina .What a contrast to the rubbish we are now served up as V8 supercars "touring car" racing here in Australia .And just imagine today's formula one"stars' doing a support race before a grand prix and in those days grand prix were much longer races than today's sprints .
In another one of those six degrees of separation instances I have recently found out that my good friend Roger Putnam , whom I did not know then, and who was working for Lotus, drove this very car back to the paddock after that practice session,with a load of tyres on the back seat .

20 Feb 2011


      Pit straight 2009 Le Mans 24 hour race .It's mid-evening and an Aston Martin turns onto the straight from the Porsche Curves whilst an Audi enters the pit lane for a routine pit stop. This photo was taken whilst I was riding the fairground ferris wheel on the outside side of the track at the Porsche Curves . A great ride for a reasonable fee and a great photography platform . This photo -like many of my recent photos -was taken with a little Canon G series compact camera -in this case a G7. The key to great quality on these small sensor cameras is to use the lowest ISO speed possible -in this case it was set at  80 --this reduces the "noise" on the image and improves the quality significantly.

17 Feb 2011


 Back in the early 1960's the Porsche 911 was conceived as a compact, light, high performance sports car. An early Porsche 911 such as my 1971 2.2 litre 911T exactly meets this definition .It is an amazing car to drive . Very involving and very responsive .There is no brake booster ,no ABS, no power steering and the steering is very direct .The clutch is cable operated , the flywheel is light and it has Weber carbs so it is very responsive. There is no aircon ,or electric windows or central locking or electric mirrors . Indeed it only has a driver's side external mirror and an interior mirror. My 911T does not even have a radio or radio aerial.

Over the years the 911 line put on weight . At first the weight gains were small year by year but in the last 15 years the 911 has moved into the seriously podgy class . Today the 911, or as it is now badged, the Carrera, is an obese car and some derivatives are more obese than others. To my mind it is too big ,too heavy and way too complicated and arguably way too expensive .Driving a current 911 Carrera is just not an involving experience for me. It is like driving a very fast model of any brand of luxury car .It does not give me the "buzz" of excitement of driving a special car .

I cannot see many of today's Porsches lasting forty years outside of museums as their electronics will literally crumble and the cars will be unsustainable .Not a unique Porsche problem but still relevant to being an icon cherished in the future. Why design a car where disconnecting the battery results in memory loss of driveablity parameters from one of the electronic control units ?

The 911 has lost its sparkle and now Porsche are resorting to tacky marketing to try and make the old dowager sell . Dozens of different variants are being produced but sales are still sagging .You can tell when sales are slow when the manufacturer resorts to putting numbered plaques on the dashboard of special editions. Avoid all cars with tacky numbered plaques on the dashboard .Perhaps the worst manifestation of the derivatives is the new 2011 Speedster. It looks like a giant cockroach . Compare the two cars in these images.. The same bloodline ? I'm not so sure anymore. Yes, they both have 6 cylinder motors behind the rear wheels and Porsche badges but really that is all they have in common.One is pure sports car and the other is Moscow gangster wheels meets Shanghai boulevard cruiser meets travelling electronics showroom.

Of course there are still some real humdingers in the GT3 variants of the 911/Carrera but these are essentially race cars for the road-- lightened and stripped of much of the over the top equipment and ancilliaries
Changing consumer needs and above all else legislative requirements mean that Porsche could not build and sell a 1970's 911 today but it is sad to see such an icon going downhill like some once well respected political figure who is well past his or her use by date but who won't quit .
 Rumour has it that the next generation 911 -- due in 2012 --will be even bigger and heavier .Oh dear .
I count myself very lucky to own two of the true 911s .I won't be lining up to buy a Speedster.

16 Feb 2011


                                        Chillies fresh from the garden,Terrigal ,NSW,Australia.

14 Feb 2011


Australian car enthusiasts sadly don't have the informal  "cars and coffee" meets which have sprung up in N America and Europe in recent years.Maybe our geography works against us or perhaps it is a cultural thing or that we just enjoy too many other distractions.Local bikers seem more sociable and gregarious and they have their favoured "hangouts" mainly on good riding roads .
To get a group of enthusiasts together in Sydney it has to be organised and so that is how last Sunday a group of "big bumper" Porsche Club enthusiasts headed north early in the morning from Sydney starting up the winding Old Pacific Highway populated mainly by lycra clad cyclists .Then a short cruise up the F3 freeway and then up the beautiful but very rough Yarramalong Valley Road and a very bumpy and fun hill to a service station cafe at Kulnura.The cafe is a favourite  for sports motorbikers and we had a few coffees and pastries standing around outside and talked about -- yes, Porsches.As it was a muggy and damp day most of the motorcyclists had wisely stayed in bed late so we had the cafe mainly to ourselves.

We had a great turnout of cars -mainly "big bumpers" including a rare genuine ,original 2.7 Carrera , a RHD 914/6 --locally created-- a trio of Targas including one which does not normally venture out when there is a cloud within 500kms of Sydney, a beautiful 356 , some nice SC's ,one steel bumpered 911 and a couple of moderns including a Boxster driven by a dimunitive Japanese lady Porsche fan ,Kumiko .I drove my faithful 2.7 which has never felt stronger and seemed to enjoy a real thrashing up the hill .
There should be more mornings like this .

12 Feb 2011


     Some amazing art deco and art deco style car mascots at a Shannon's Display Day, Eastern Creek  ,NSW, Australia .
I used a longish lens at a wide aperture to give a limited depth of field to isolate the mascots from the background .They are not a subject a compact digital camera could handle easily on its auto settings as it would have too much depth of field unless you intervened manually. These are just a few of my mascot photos . The mascots fascinate me but oddly the cars they are attached to don't interest me at all .

8 Feb 2011


This is or was my friend Patrick's Porsche . I met Patrick in 2003 via this Porsche which is a 1971 911T with the now unloved but very novel Sportomatic clutchless manual gearbox . At the time my 2.7 911 was also a sporto and I read about Patrick's car in the Porsche enthusiast's bible Excellence magazine . I contacted him by email -he lived in San Francisco at the time- and we soon started corresponding . Six months later although he had not ever met me he loaned me the car for a weekend when my wife and I were passing through San Francisco . An amazingly generous act .
Thereafter whenever I was coming to the US --which was pretty often at the time-- I made sure I entered or exited via San Francisco to catch up with Patrick and we had some great runs in the Porsche . The car was most certainly not a garage queen -- it was a daily driver . Patrick used it every weekday to commute to work  right into the centre of the city . He  picked me up at the airport in it and he and his wife did the shopping in it . It had a great patina and a few knocks and scratches but it just kept going -- quickly- when Patrick was driving it . One weekend in 2005 I put my foot down and insisted that we spent a morning cleaning it . Patrick did not own much car cleaning gear beyond the absolute basics so we made a trip to the local auto supermarket and after a few hours hard labour this is how it came up .

Patrick and his wife moved to Europe a few years back and sadly they had to sell the car -- although they made sure it went to a good home where it would be appreciated . We still correspond very regularly and now I travel to Belgium to catch up with him .He's looking to buy another Porsche but it will almost certainly be a more modern model as it will have to stand being parked on the street through European winters .We are off to this year's Le Mans 24 hours in June -our fourth Le Mans together . Amazing what happens when you read Excellence on a plane .

7 Feb 2011


Early Porsche 911s - pre 1974 steel bumpered cars- are highly prized by Porsche enthusiasts and they have developed a cult following with an early 911 culture evolving with its own web and blog sites, meetings and symbols and even high priests .As a large proportion of the early 911s are in the US , particularly on the west coast,California and especially San Francisco is the epicentre of early 911 culture.
Bob Tilton is an early 911 devotee based in San Francisco who is a gifted graphic designer and photographer who has just self published his own early 911 culture photobook entitled "Departures" which is "must" for early 911 fans. Bob rather underestimated demand for his tome and the 225 print run sold out so he is now into a reprint .I was lucky enough to get a numbered copy from the first print run and it features both creative photography and design.Bob has a blog which is worth following if you are into early 911s or just edgy graphic design.
My personal photography style evolved in an era when photography was more about recording than interpreting and when equipment was limiting compared with today and film was costly .I am gradually becoming more experimental but photographers like Bob Tilton are way ahead of me and it's fascinating to see young photographers such as Seth Reinhardt producing creative 911 images- three of which are featured below .These were taken at the Tasman Revival Meeting at Eastern Creek in Sydney in November last year.

5 Feb 2011


This is not the best of pictures technically but it is a personal favourite .It shows two great racers , Frank Williams and Alan Jones, just minutes after the prizegiving at the 1981 Austrian Grand Prix where Alan Jones , the 1980 F1 World Champion had finished second in his Williams Cosworth to Rene Arnoux in a Renault .Frank Williams ran a superb team with competitive cars and Alan Jones(AJ) was a tough Aussie charger . They were a brilliant combination and the empathy between them shows in this photo .For over 30 years Williams were in the top echelon of F1 teams alongside Ferrari and McLaren and have collected 113 victories although their fortunes have waned in recent years.
It would not be possible to replicate this photo today .Now as soon as the drivers leave the podium from the prizegiving minders take the trophies and the drivers are whisked off to a totally inane televised media conference where they asked tame and banal questions and which they answer with po faces through clenched teeth without any apparent sign of enthusiasm for life or delight in their recent performance .Mind you if I'd had to drive round the Bahrain GP circuit for two hours I'd have a po face -winner or not .

4 Feb 2011


Property name sign on an outback farm- Far North Queensland (FNQ)- Australia .The dirt road is the access road to the property . It's a very long way to town .In summer it is stinking hot and humid and when it rains the dirt roads are impassable-- sometimes for weeks .It is a hard way to make a living.
Cyclone Yarsi would have passed close to the property yesterday although it would have lost much of its intensity by then as it is far inland. Let's hope that the bike and Kittyvale escaped unharmed.

3 Feb 2011


...... a clean garage floor .For the past 5 years my 1977 2.7 911 has had a small oil leak . Not enought to warrant an  investigation and possibly expensive repair but enough to leave a very small pool after use . Recently the pool has got larger and the engine fan has been getting oily so an investigation could not be put off any longer. Thanks to Simon at Autowerks at Charmhaven , my local Porsche whisperer, the problem was found and rectified at only a small cost . It was a minor but hard to find issue and the upshot is now a completely oil free garage floor as neither cars have leaks . Not bad for cars which are 34 and 40 years old .
Now if it would only cool down I'd take one of them out for a run.

1 Feb 2011


It's hot,hot,hot on the eastern coast of Australia . We are into our sixth day of very hot conditions and it looks as if we will have to endure upto six more before we get a respite . Right on the coast at Terrigal we get a sea breeze late in the day which is very welcome .The beaches are still crowded although schools went back yesterday . At dawn today there were more than the usual number of bathers taking an early morning swim after a very hot night although they were being cautious as there was a very high tide and a major rip just off shore.