29 Mar 2012


This great little Porsche 550 inspired BMW powered special was on display at Essen .It has a spaceframe with a fibreglass body and is powered by a BMW flat twin motorcycle engine with cooling air forced through by two electric fans .No details on whether it has reverse gear or whether this is provided by the passenger getting out and pushing although the gearbox looks like it maybe car sourced .The build and detailing are obviously superb.
It looks like a great little hillclimb car or something for a quick run through  the Bavarian backroads on a beautiful Sunday morning .

Photos by Patrick Wheeler .

28 Mar 2012


The annual Techno-Classica Essen has just been held last weekend. It is the world's biggest show devoted to old cars and bikes .It is a mecca for classic car enthusiasts particularly enthusiasts of German marques .Sadly I did not go--I will one day- but friend Patrick went seeking gear for his BMW bike and armed with his Canon S90 . He came back with some interesting photos including one of this must have accessory for your classic BMW- a complete beer dispensing kit and bar . Look at the engineering.Only in Germany .

26 Mar 2012


I was not going to comment on last Sunday week's Australian Grand Prix as I thought I stood the risk of sounding like a broken record but a few friends have chided me so I have to say that it was just boring .Very boring .Jason Button was on pole and lead from start to finish.The TV commentators tried to make it all sound exciting -that's what thay are paid to do after all - but even their frantic babbling could not hide the fact that nothing much happened .To be fair I watched the first 20 mins and returned for the last 20 mins (I had more interesting things to do) but nothing had changed during my absence.
There was story in the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday saying that it was boring and a quote from Ferrari driver Alonso that F1 is a technical sport and is not intended to be exciting ! Silly old me to have got it wrong for all those years- maybe I should have been watching synchronised swimming if I'd wanted excitement .

There was also a story in the Australian Financial Review on the Friday before the race where the chief executive of the AGP was raving about the lavish new corporate hospitality area and the many hatted chefs turning out amazing gourmet fare for the corporates .No mention of any racing for the fans .

I can't offer any prescription on how to "fix" F1 .Above all else I reckon that the problem is cultural .At the end of the day people are trying ( and suceeding) in making a lot of money out of F1 and they really don't care a fig whether we think it is exciting or not .It is just a very big,ugly business and a lot of people have hitched their wagons to Bernie's money train -- including the big team owners-- and they are not going to rock the boat .

Since writing the above I watched some of the Malaysian GP last night and it was more exciting but only because the procession of the usual suspects was interrupted by heavy rain which stopped the race and forced a delay and a restart when the usual suspects got jumped by a few others ."Technical" driver Alonso won it in a Ferrari .I did notice that Malaysians are not enthusiastic about the grand prix as the stands were very empty and many of the public enclosures were almost totally empty.I wonder how long the Malaysian govt will go on paying Bernie a small fortune to stage a race which has so little local support?

Anyway a photo from a different time ( when I went to the races and I could get into the pits ) -- the then mighty Williams team on the pit lane at during saturday's practice for the Italian GP at Monza in 1981 with Alan Jones just climbing into his car .Frank Williams is in the centre left of the picture giving directions .Picture by me on my Olympus OM2 with a 28mm lens on Ektachrome film .I just cropped this into a square picture for a change .

25 Mar 2012


Overcome with nostalgia for my "big bertha" lens -- see post below--I have dug out some more big cat shots . All from the Okavango Delta , Botswana . All taken on a Canon 5D with the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 lens on Fuji Velvia slide film .

23 Mar 2012


Peugeot pulling out of motor racing has not been at all well received in motor sport circles . Not only did they pull out the day before entries closed for this year's Le Mans 24 hours race - thus depriving the fans of another epic Audi/Peugeot battle-but they have really taken the interest out of the new FIA Endurance Championship in its first year .This had promised to be a great series and a real attraction to motor sport fans who miss the old World Sports Car Championship and who are not attracted to Bernie's Circus .

Peugeot cited cost constraint as the reason for the withdrawal but strangely they announced their decision whilst the team were testing the completed new car at Sebring so much of the money has presumably already been spent .

Peugeot's most recent foray into motor racing has had mixed success .They competed at Le Mans 5 times but only won once in 2009 although they came tantatisingly close in 2011.However they were very successful in the American Le Mans series taking back to back series titles and many race wins . The irony is that Peugeot ( and their associated brand Citroen) do not sell cars in North America and have not done so for many years.The only place you can find new Peugeots and Citroens in North America is on the tiny islands of St Pierre and Miquelon which are a sovereign French territory just 38km off the coast of Newfoundland,Canada.The French are odd aren't they?

Anyway Peugeot have taken the interest out of the 2012 Le Mans which now promises to be another Audi procession unless Toyota can pull a rabbit out of the hat in their works team comeback year and given their abysmal record in 8 years of Formula 1 this seems highly unlikely.I'm glad that friend Patrick and I had already made the decision to give the 24 hours a miss this year and to go to the Le Mans Classic.

I have a lot of affection for Peugeot as I headed up the sales and marketing for the Australian importer from 1981 to 1990 and this involved many trips to Paris and some great launches and motor sport forays when Peugeot were rallying the 205 Turbo 16 .We still have a Peugeot in our garage - not a current model.

Peugeot made some great cars during that era particularly the 205 GTI and the 505 which was a really comfortable, well built and tough car much loved in "rough" road markets particularly Africa and South America .Now their cars are generally boring .And their build quality does not match the very high levels being achieved by their competitors .Here is Australia,as elsewhere ,their sales are slipping very badly with VW and now the Korean brands eating their lunch .The response of the Peugeot board to their sales crisis is to cut costs but no car manufacturer ever saved their way to success .The only way to suceed in the car industry is to have great products .Nothing else - absolutely nothing else-counts as the recent success of VW,Hyundai,Kia and the recent revival of Land Rover clearly shows .

Here's a photo of one of Peugeot's better days - the final lap at the 2009 Le Mans 24 hours with the team in formation -they finished first ,second and sixth.Photo taken by me on a Canon G7 from the outside of the track at Tetra Rouge corner with the cars turning onto the Mulsanne straight for the last time .
Top photo above shows two team cars in the early evening during last year's exciting race when Audi beat Peugeot by just 10 seconds. A Leica X1 photo

And another photo from the Peugeot glory days of the World Rally Championship  in the 1980's with the amazing Group B cars . This photo was taken by me during the 1985 Rally of New Zealand and shows the eventual winners Salonen and Harjanne on a special stage in their Turbo16 . This photo was taken by me on an Olympus OM2 on Ektachrome film .Sadly at the time I loaned the original slides which were superb to a local motoring magazine for a story and unbeknown to me at the time they gave me back second rate dupes(copies) which were overcontrasty and not quite sharp . I was pretty annoyed when I found out but by then it was way too late .I have tried to recover them in Lightroom but they are a shadow of their former selves .
By coincidence Timo Salonen took me around Peugeot's test rally circuit at a launch event in France a few months before in a Turbo 16 . An unforgettable experience .Those cars were fast and exciting.

21 Mar 2012


The new header photo above was taken in 1993 by me on a Land Rover North America expedition into the Great Dividing Range in Colorado,USA . It was taken on a Leica M6 with a 28mm lens on Fuji Velvia film as we descended Tin Cup Pass into St Elmo .It was a real rolling road and not for the feint hearted. I will post more photos from that trip soon .


The wonderful Canon long lens which I have just sold--see post below - was a very useful tool for shooting at Le Mans .The first shot was taken at the 1998 race and shows the second placed Porsche GT1 -- the sister car to the winner -- coming through the Ford Chicane early in the evening.This photo was taken with the 2 x extender on the lens on High Speed Ektachrome film which by today's standards was pretty slow .With a modern DSLR with a high speed sensor this shot would be a walk in the park.Part of the problem I had was that this shot was handheld -- I should have used a monopod- and the long lens plus the extender was a very heavy piece of kit to hold particularly at lowish shutter speeds.

The second shot was taken from the public enclosure on the outside of the Dunlop Chicane just to the south of the Dunlop bridge in 1999 .It was a wonderful vantage point which was eliminated a couple of years later on safety grounds . Probably a wise decision as I was standing on the outside of the track opposite this point at last year's race and a 911 came off and travelled through the gravel trap at a very high speed .It stopped just short of the barrier .On the other side of the track the run-off area/gravel trap is much shorter.
The photo shows a Toyota GT-1 leading a Mercedes CLR and the eventual winner -the Williams constructed BMW V12 LMR- on the second lap of the race. This was also taken with the 2X extender on the lens giving an effective 400 mm lens .

20 Mar 2012


Ernie's "Fun 356" turned up on the Porsche run last Sunday with these great "chilli" wheels done by Ron Goodman in Sydney .They look great .They work on a 356 -- they look whimsical -- particularly on Ernie's car-- but they would probably look silly on a 911.

19 Mar 2012


Came home yesterday after a Porsche drive ready to to jump in the pool and noticed two very large female funnelweb spiders on the bottom .On Thursday we found a large female funnelweb on the bottom. All three were gingerly extracted( they can survive on air on bubbles on their legs underwater ).I keep finding them around the place .A bit of a worry .
To non Australian readers the funnelweb is one of the world's most venemous spiders.The female is the most dangerous .They are angry ,aggresive and dangerous.Not a nice combination.There is an anti-venom but you don't want to hang around looking for it if you are bitten.
Sorry about the bad photo of the two I pulled out of the pool but it gives you an idea of their size.
Just found another one in the garage .Time for some research .

18 Mar 2012


Regular readers of The Rolling Road know that I am not a fan of current F1 . Some will disgree with me about the state of F1 but surely even the most committed F1 fan agrees that the current season's cars with their horrible protruding noses,multiple winglets and narrow track are pig ugly --see bottom image of 2012 McLaren .They would frighten a small child . Not like these squat smooth nosed McLaren and Lotus beauties I photographed at the Goodwood Festival of Speed a few years ago.

16 Mar 2012


I have just sold a beautiful lens -my Canon F2.8 70-200mm. It went for a fair price along with the Canon 2x extender . I purchased the lens in 1998 and used it regularly for 6 years but have not used it since then .It is a beautiful lens- fast and superbly sharp but very heavy .I know that I will not ever be buying a full frame or even APS-C Canon DSLR  so there was no point in keeping it lying idle in a cupboard .Now all I have to do is sell the 20-35mm Canon lens .
Below are a very small random selection of some of the many  images I took with "big bertha".
 Taken on a Canon EOS 5 on Fuji Velvia film in Botswana ,India and Sri Lanka.

14 Mar 2012


More anti formula one rant . General admission for next Sunday's formula one Australian Grand Prix will cost you A$99 on the Sunday and you will be very hard pressed to see much of the action from the general admission enclosures .

In 1968 I went to the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch .General admission for the day was 10 shillings sterling .Using the official inflation indices this equates to 6 pounds 50 pence in today's money - A$ 9.70(US $10.20) . And for our 10 shillings back in 1968 we got great supporting races before the main event .
So the price of general admission to a grand prix has increased by 10 times in real terms between 1968 and 2012 .Of course some of this has gone into better facilities      ( the toilets are cleaner) but much of it has gone into the coffers of the formula one "financial gnomes".And let's not forget that the state government in Victoria also tips in A$50m every year to support the grand prix .It really is a disgrace .The fans and the Victorian taxpayers are paying through the nose for the circus.

The 1968 British Grand Prix was a fantastic race won to everyone's surprise by Jo Siffert in Rob Walker's Lotus Ford . Rob Walker was a privateer . Imagine that today -- a private formula one entrant.Siffert was 4.4 seconds ahead of Chris Amon in a Ferrari .The entry list makes me tear up just reading it .

I still have the poster for that race stuck on my garage wall by blutack .
Better still I have a wonderful atmospheric shot of Siffert racing to victory I took from the inside of Kidney Bend from the general admission enclosure -- no catch fencing then .The shot was taken on my Leica 3A with a 50mm 2.8 Elmar lens  on Ilford FP3 film home processed in ID11.

13 Mar 2012


It's the Australian Grand Prix this Sunday and I won't be there .I attended every Australian Grand Prix of the current series from 1984 to 2006 and then I stopped. I totally lost interest because the racing was boring and the whole event had become a money grabbing circus and this was bought home to me when I found that in 2006 I could fly to Paris hire a car ,see the Le Mans 24 hour race ( staying at a B&B near the track at Le Mans ) for just $400 more than it cost me to fly to Melbourne , spend 4 nights in an overpriced hotel ( the minimum stay package) and pay a ridiculous ticket price to see a very boring race which barely lasted two hours.
Here's photograph of a BRM from an era when the F1 cars were interesting and so were the drivers. And also a photo of me with a driver who was never boring -James Hunt .

12 Mar 2012


With the ghastly ,indulgent,formula one money circus rolling into Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix next weekend it's good to look back to when formula one had soul and was fun .Today in F1 not only are all the cars and engines nearly identical but so are all the team managers and owners- "vanilla"  -colourless ,corporate men beholden to the money god and its high priest ,Bernie.The days of the colourful team chief are long gone .That's what makes this photo of very colourful Lotus chief Colin Chapman having a full and frank discussion in the late 60's with,a young Roger Putnam, so nostalgic. And just look at Roger's spotted shirt and velvet jacket -if he had kept them they would have come in handy for the Goodwood Revival .

11 Mar 2012


                                             It's a dog's life in Japan .Seen on the street -- Tokyo and Yokohama . Canon G7 photos

8 Mar 2012


I really enjoyed competing at Speed on Tweed in 2009.I missed 2010 as I was overseas and it did not take place last year .I was hoping that it would be on again in 2012  but time seems to be running out with no dates or details forthcoming as far as I can see. It is (was?) a really great event with a sprint course around the streets of Murwillumbah in N NSW and it will be a pity if it has crashed and burned.It had a great atmosphere , the track was excellent and they had a great entry list of classic cars.

The 2009 event was the last time I put on my race suit and crash helmet .As it is a long drive upto Murwillumbah I had to use road tyres for the event as the track tyres would have been worn out before I got there and as you can see from the photos below my car's suspension is not set up for the track but I managed to keep the car off the walls and scramble round the track in a respectable time.

6 Mar 2012


Some more photos from the wonderful Toys Club tin toy museum at 239 Yamate-Cho Naku-Ku ,Yokohama ,Japan.It is small but it there is a lot packed into a small space The smiling tin chef is great -he's the antithesis of Gordon Ramsey.
Highly recommended even if it is a little off the tourist trail.Even my wife was fascinated.Canon G7 photos.