28 Feb 2014

Where are we?

Take a close look at these photos.A meeting of the Vintage Sports Car Club.Surely a group of eccentric old Brits (Poms) one wearing a pith helmet (!) meeting in an English village with a thatched pub tucked around the next corner.
Wrong on all counts -except the pith helmet.It's a gathering of the NSW branch of the Vintage Sports Car Club - a group of Aussies- meeting at a biker's roadhouse on the Old Pacific Highway north of Berowra in NSW earlier this month.The Australian rego plates and the gumtree are the giveaways.
To quote an old English expression "There's nought as queer as folk." Queer here being its original meaning of odd.All Leica X1 photos.


26 Feb 2014

A thing of beauty

As a complete contrast to all the Porsche and motor sport stories I found this delightful photo last weekend.Taken in Zimbabwe -once one of the most beautiful and richest countries in Africa -now totally trashed- in 1998 on my Leica M6 with a 135mm Elmarit lens on Kodak Ektar 100 colour negative film.Unlike many of my colour negatives this one is in superb condition although it is much younger than the ones which have discoloured.In 50 plus years of taking photos I can only remember taking two photos of birds and this is one of them.

23 Feb 2014

Another turbo era

With the 2014 F1 season commencing with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne in a few weeks a new era of 1.6 litre V6 turbocharged cars starts.These cars will be very different to the previous turbo era cars where the engines were absolute screamers with some producing amazing amounts of power for just two laps in "grenade" qualifying tune.It is said that the works BMW 1.5 litre engines used by the Brabham team produced over 1500 bhp in qualifying tune.That's 1000 bhp per litre.Oh happy days.

The rules for the 1.5 litre turbo era were pretty simple and  aside from the capacity the engines were "free".You could have a turbo engine upto 1500cc -any number of cylinders or a naturally aspirated engine upto 3 litres with any number of cylinders.
The new era's rules are incredibly complex but the engines have to be V6 1.6 litre turbos.The cars are restricted to just 100kgs of fuel per race which means that some races will be driven more like economy runs but the drivers will be used to that after the degrading short life tyre nonsense which went on for much of last season.The cars will be fitted with a energy recycling system (ERS) which stores energy and uses it to power an electric motor.It is the next stage on from the kinetic energy recycing system (KERS) systems used in the last few years.

For an explanation of the complexities of ERS I have had to go to the official F1 website. KERS worked by harnessing waste energy created under braking and transforming it into electrical energy, providing an additional 60kW (approximately 80bhp) of power for up to 6.67 seconds per lap.

The Energy Recovery Systems (ERS) which form an integral part of an F1 car’s power unit from 2014 take the concept of KERS to another level, combining twice the power with a performance effect around ten times greater.

ERS comprise two energy recovery systems (Motor Generator Unit - Kinetic [MGU-K] and Motor Generator Unit - Heat [MGU-H]), plus an Energy Store (ES) and control electronics.

The motor generator units convert mechanical and heat energy to electrical energy and vice versa. MGU-K works like an uprated version of KERS, converting kinetic energy generated under braking into electricity (rather than it escaping as heat). It also acts as a motor under acceleration, returning up to 120kW (approximately 160bhp) power to the drivetrain from the Energy Store.

MGU-H is an energy recovery system connected to the turbocharger of the engine and converts heat energy from exhaust gases into electrical energy. The energy can then be used to power the MGU-K (and thus the drivetrain) or be retained in the ES for subsequent use. Unlike the MGU-K which is limited to recovering 2MJ of energy per lap, the MGU-H is unlimited. MGU-H also controls the speed of the turbo, speeding it up (to prevent turbo lag) or slowing it down in place of a more traditional wastegate.

 As this is all new technology there has been a frantic rush to develop the new power trains for the start of the season and there seems to be a view that some teams including some of the teams at the pointy end of the field may be far from ready when the season starts in March.

By coincidence the last grand prix of the previous turbo era - for the 1.5 litre cars- was also the Australian Grand Prix which was held in Adelaide in November 1987.The winner was Gerhard Berger in a Ferrari seen in the photo above on the front row  and next to him is Alain Prost in the McLaren-TAG (a V6 turbo Porsche engine).

It was very hot - heatwave conditions and you can see how parched the Adelaide Hills are in the background- and I was there in the main straight grandstand-not the best place to watch a grand prix but at least I was in the shade-and took this photo of the start on my Leica M4P with a 28mm lens on Konica colour film.I can't really remember why I was using Konica colour film except that I have a vague memory that it was being heavily discounted and I bought a brick of it.It has not discoloured as badly as many of my colour negs but that may be down to the processing rather than the film itself.
The Leica M4P was a beautiful piece of gear but today's photographers bought up on a diet of automatic everything and menus to cover every eventuality-98% of which are never used-would be in disbelief that the camera was focussed manually and did not even have a built in exposure meter.It was an accessory which coupled to the shutter speed dial and you had to read the meter and then transfer the readings to the camera.

The atmosphere in Adelaide for those Grand Prix was special particularly when the weather was so hot and the whole city and state got behind the race.Something which has not happened in Melbourne.South Australians were very disappointed when they lost the race-down to the usual Bernie skullduggery- but Melbourne offered more money and everyone knows that one thing you must never do is get between Bernie Ecclestone- F1 supremo- and a big bag of money.Indeed you must never get between Bernie and any sized bag of money.

The noise from those turbo engines was wonderful-particularly when they were massed for the start.Oh happy days.Noise is a key part of the motor racing spectacle for me and I suspect most spectators.That's why I am so cynical about the new Formula E electric car formula which launches in 2015 and which is being promoted as the future of motor sport. Whoosh-hardly stirs the soul does it?
Formula 1 is not yet for all electric cars and hopefully the new F1 engines do make a decent level of noise so all is not lost- yet.

See earlier post from the same race on Adelaide GP 1987

21 Feb 2014

Colour photography the hard way

Next time you take a photo on your smartphone or digital camera and immediately upload it to Facebook or the send it to a friend reflect on how far colour photography has come in 100 years.
Some of the earliest colour photos at the turn of the 20th century were Autochromes.For an explanation on the extraordinary complexity of the Autochrome process I cannot better Wikipedia.See Autochrome

It was a slow, delicate process and a very far cry from today's truly instant electronic photography but it produced images of unusual beauty.

 Old photographic processes are being rediscovered -see this interesting video on old process Tintype.
It will be interesting to see if someone starts making Autochromes again.The four examples below are on public display in the photographic collection of the Deutsche Museum in Munich--an absolute treasure house of photographic and other scientific goodies including planes,trains and automotive items.See Deutsche Museum
When I visited the photography collection of the museum last year I was the only visitor and a museum volunteer manning the collection was incredibly knowledgeable and helpful.

I also saw some superb Autochromes at the Lumiere Brothers Museum in Lyons ,France a few months ago -the brothers were the inventors of the Autochrome process.

20 Feb 2014

Porsches and fires.

Fires in modern cars are thankfully reasonably rare occurrences but more prevalent in old cars including old Porsches.A Porsche provides an ideal environment for a fire with the engine down low and and all the ancillaries-carbs/fuel injection and hoses up above the hot engine and exhaust system.The sound insulation pads behind the engine and below the back shelf are ideal fire fuel.When my 1971 car was being bought back to life the Webers blew back and the pad under the back shelf caught fire luckily without any serious consequences.And then there is the old wiring ready to overheat and start a fire given the slightest opportunity.
To protect against fire I have always carried substantial dry powder fire extinguishers in both my cars.However a couple of weeks back I saw the photos of a (modern) Mini Cooper- owned by Jeff Damron's wife in the US -after it had been consumed by fire-see photos below.
When a fire starts in a car it can become very serious very quickly and if petrol is involved you need to kill the fire very rapidly.
Previously Craig Duthie and I had been discussing fitting more effective fire extinguishers to our cars and we have now fitted Halotron extinguishers.Halotron is a "friendly" relative of Halon which is a very effective fire extinguishing agent but which is a CFC and because of its high toxicity there are controls on the use of halon extinguishers in domestic environments in many countries including Australia.Halotron is not in this category but as it is an invisible and potentially chocking gas and it's best not to fit your extinguisher in the passenger footwell where it could be inadvertantly triggered and ensure that the safety pin is secure wherever you fit it and that you are well briefed on how to use the extinguisher as it would still be a disaster if you put out the fire but you killed yourself with the extinguisher whilst doing it.The extinguisher does come with instructions to avoid this outcome.
Seeing what had happened to Jeff's wife's Mini prompted me to get on and organise with Craig to move sooner rather than later to fit halotron extinguishers for our early cars.The extinguishers are not cheap -- about 5x the price of a dry powder extinguisher but it is cheap insurance.Losing an early Porsche to fire would be a disaster.
I have fitted my extinguisher to the grille above the gearbox control rod uj on the tunnel in front of the rear sets.The extinguisher bracket bolts neatly onto the grille and is easily accessible.

Halon on the left displaced dry powder on the right

18 Feb 2014

Trying to catch the light

Catching the light photos-- early morning and evening-- one on film-the other two on the Leica X1.

Shop window Terrigal
Terrigal Esplanade

Steps down to Town Beach,Port Macquarie,NSW.November 2013.Smoke from bushfires in the distance.Taken on my Hasselblad 500 with a 80mm Planar lens on Kodak Portra 400 film at sunset.This shot was handheld.I really struggle with keeping the Hasselblad steady without a tripod.I have a serious tripod but I don't like using it.

16 Feb 2014

Here's looking at you....

Keeping a watchful eye on the camera- Phoebe.Leica X1 photo.
Apparently there are 10 pictures of cats to every one picture of a dog on the internet and I'm intent on maintaining that ratio.Phoebe is 13 -an old lady in cat terms .She is a beautiful,friendly and gentle cat and she really is an integral part of our family along with her "sister" Zoe.Earlier in the week Phoebe was under the weather but after a visit to the vet she is back to her usual self although giving her medicine -particularly tablets- is straining our friendship a little.

                                                             Two cats in the yard.Phoebe and Zoe taking in the evening air after dinner two days ago.

It's raining -contd.

Well I made the right call to not call off the Porsche drive but I did get the weather wrong.And worse than that on the way down the freeway to the meeting point whilst doing about 110kmh in light drizzle the wipers on my 1971 911 stopped working and a strong smell of burning came into the cabin.I pulled off at the next interchange and checked the fuses.No problem there so I drove gingerly to the meeting point.One of the drivers on the run had both a spanner which allowed me to remove the wiper arms which were right in my view and also miraculously had a bottle of Rain-X which we applied to the screen.
There was a turnout of 22 cars - including quite a few 356s.A few did not make it because of the rain but under the circumstances it was a great turnout.
I was the lead car on the drive which was fast over empty roads and with only light drizzle and as long as I kept above 80kmh the water beaded and flew up the screen.It was a lot more difficult down Bumble Hill and the Yarramalong Valley as I was pushing hard to keep up speed on the tight slippery roads.But on the run back home a couple of hours later after the coffee stop the rain was torrential and the traffic was heavy and very slow and it was 45mins of nightmare driving with very limited visiblity.I'll pull the trim out tomorrow and check the wiper motor.I suspect I'll be needing a new one.
I've made a note to keep a bottle of Rain-X in both cars -it's not much use standing on the garage shelf.Thanks to my saviour who had the good sense to carry his bottle in his car.
I'm not complaing about the rain.It's a wonderful sound on the tin roof and I'm sure that our tanks are filling fast.The farmers are dancing in the fields the rain is so welcome.UK readers will find this all very ironic.

Miracle ingredient

15 Feb 2014

It's raining.

It's 7.30 on Saturday evening and it's raining.And it's been raining on and off most of the day and I have very mixed feelings.Firstly we desperately need the rain.It has not rained here on the Central Coast of NSW and in Sydney since Christmas Day.The gardens are gasping for a drink and our water tanks are empty.Inland NSW the situation is much worse.They have not had any rain since October and they are in the grip of drought .Now many areas have had a proper soaking in the last 24 hours which will be very welcome.
On the other hand I am organising a Classic Porsche run tomorrow morning.I have been in a quandry.Do I call it off or do I take a chance? I have consulted the weather radar on the Bureau of Meteorolgy website and I am going to chance it and go ahead with the run in the belief that the rain band will have cleared overnight.I have told the cafe where we are ending up that it's on so all I need now is for the rain to ease or stop and the participants to turn up.We'll go if it's drizzling -we can't be too precious-and hopefully if it's monsoonal in the morning they will take a look here early morning to see if I have changed my mind!

13 Feb 2014

Porsche heaven-Le Mans 1985

How's this for Porsche heaven? The one minute board for the grid at the 1985 Le Mans 24 hour race.The front row is the two works Rothmans 362 of Ickx and Mass(#1) and Bell and Stuck(#2).On the second row is the Lancia LC2 of Bob Wollek,Nannini and Australian Lucio Cesario(#4) and the eventual winner the New-Man Joest 356 of Ludwig,Barilla and "Winter"(#7).The third row is the Lancia of Pescarolo and Baldi and the #3 Porsche of Holbert Schuppan and Watson.What a line up of the greats of sports car racing .
It was a classic Porsche v Porsche battle with the Ferrari F1 V8 engined Lancias thrown in for good measure.

I was there ostensibly to cheer on the Group44 Bob Tullius Jaguar V12s and although they put in a very professional effort they were not upto either the pace or the reliability of the Porsches.
The US Group44 team were supported by Jaguar North America.The US sales company wanted the Jaguar UK factory to put their weight behind the Group44 effort for a full assault on Le Mans in 1986 but weeks before the 1985 race Jaguar's sales and marketing chief,Roger Putnam,had signed off on a deal for Silk Cut cigarettes to sponsor Tom Walkinshaw's TWR team's entry into the World Sports Car Championship starting in 1986.It took three attempts before TWR won Le Mans in 1988 ending Porsche's domination of the race.Jaguar absolutely made the right decision to go with TWR but the US sales company were not at all happy about it at the time and probably enjoyed some private schadenfreude when the TWR Jaguars stumbled in the 1986 and 1987 races despite their huge resources .

In 1985 the Le Mans pits had not been rebuilt so compared with today's massive structure the pits and the stands above were very crowded.
I took this photo with my Olympus OM2 and I believe that I used my Olympus Zuiko 28mm lens which was a beautiful lens.
The photo was taken on colour negative film.It has deteoriated and stained badly and was not usable as a colour photo so I have had to convert it to black and white.There is still some visible damage on the image which could be cleaned up in Photoshop if I had the time.

The atmosphere at those 1980s sports car races was special.It does look as if sports car endurance racing is making a serious comeback with Porsche rejoining this year and now Ferrari talking about a possible comeback into the top LMP1 category in 2015.
Last weekend the Bathurst 12 hour GT sports car race was held here at Mount Panorama in Australia and it was a cracker and was won by a Ferrari-- so much more exciting than the tiresome V8 saloon car race at the Mountain.

And as a postscipt to this story I have just found two copies of the Jaguar media pack for the Group44 V12 cars from the 1985 race wedged in between books on my bookshelves.The media release reflects sunny optimism which history shows was very misplaced but that's motor racing.

8 Feb 2014

Porsches at Warwick Farm-1970

Another great set of Australian vintage Porsche motorsport photos from Justin Reed.Taken by Justin's father, Brian ,at Warwick Farm race circuit near Liverpool,NSW,Australia on 12th July 1970.
Fabulous atmospheric photos taken with a classic Minolta SRT101 SLR on Kodachrome film.
So much to see in these photos-fabulous 911s including the super rare TR of Alan Hamilton,the cigarette sponsorship,the pure slicks on the wide Fuchs wheels ,half cages in the cars,the officials in flat caps,jackets and collars and ties,the fuel bowsers placed right next to the paddock-one flash and they were all ash-and the sign for "Driver and Pit Crew amenity tent".Note the word tent.Contrast this with the massive mobile catering facility solely for the use of the precious Carrera Cup prima donnas at the recent Australian Rennsport.I am sure that they served a mean egg and bacon roll in the amenities tent.No tofu and mung bean salad back then.

By all accounts Warwick Farm was a wonderful circuit.It hosted rounds of the Tasman Series in the 1960s and into the 1970s with the European F1 drivers incl Jim Clark,Jackie Stewart,Graham Hill and Jochen Rindt coming out downunder during the N Hemisphere winter.Jim Clark won there many times.If you would like to read more about The Farm and the Tasman Series and racing from that era see the blog from motor sport  journalist and sometime team manager Peter Windsor

The Farm closed to motor racing in July 1973 but in 1987 a shortened part of it was still accessible and we used it for a Jaguar customer promotion with Stirling Moss.Before the Jaguar owners arrived Stirling took me around the circuit for a few fast laps in an XJ6 and he was fast and so smooth.Straight onto the track-one medium pace recce lap and then he was into it.His car control was quite extraordinary.He made that big car dance.Then he gave me some personal tuition.A quarter of an hour of high speed driving tuition from Stirling Moss -Priceless! On that same day Keith Berryman also took me around in his D-Type Jaguar.Not everyday you get to ride as a passenger in a genuine D-Type at speed on an historic racetrack.

I am very lucky to have seen Stirling Moss racing in the prime of his career.I saw him when I went to my first ever motor race at Crystal Palace in London in 1956.He was racing his personal Maserati 250F and he won the Formula Libre race.I can just remember seeing the 250F and I certainly did not appreciate then that I was seeing one of the world's greatest racing drivers in action.Five years later I saw him win the 1961 TT at Goodwood in a Ferrari 250GT and I was also at Goodwood on that fateful day in 1962 when he had the major accident which ended his top level racing career.
And by coincidence I was at the Le Mans 24 hours race in 2011 when he decided whilst practicing in his Porsche for the historic support race that it really was time to stop.I took the photo above of Stirling in the Porsche after he had pulled off and made the decision to finally quit racing.That's his wife,Susie, coming over to speak to him-probably very relieved - Le Mans is a very dangerous track even for a young man as the 2013  race sadly showed.You can see the emotion in Stirling as he sat there semi slumped with one of his support crew waiting to drive him back into the paddock.For him that day was the end of an amazing personal journey.This photo was taken from the public spectator area looking down onto the paddock with my little Canon G9 fitted with a Canon tele-extender.A pretty small -and inexpensive-piece of kit.

We ran the Jaguar promotion at other circuits around Australia .Then it was off to the Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide and which was the final round of the World Championship.It was a wonderful atmosphere for the F1 Grand Prix in Adelaide and Melbourne has never matched it although having the race at the end of the season helped Adelaide and of course F1 has changed -very much for the worse- sadly.

The photo above shows a much younger me with a much younger Stirling Moss outside the Adelaide Hilton at the time of the 1987 Grand Prix.John Crawford who took that 1987 photo was in the US last month and had dinner with Stirling and his wife Susie and  Derek Bell and his wife in Florida and although Stirling is now 84 and suffered a terrible accident in his home a few years back both he and Susie look very well.
John took this photo on his iPhone.I wish that the iPhone had been invented 30 years earlier as I would have so many more shots of great motor racing moments.

5 Feb 2014

Lost worlds-1

My brother,Bob,who lives in the UK sent me this wonderful photo taken by him way back in 1968 on the island of Korcula on the Adriatic Coast of what was then Yugoslavia and is today Croatia.What an evocative shot of a lost world.Yugoslavia has gone -fragmented after the appalling Balkans war which generated so much suffering and which NATO/UN/EU/US moved in to stop way too late.And the same thing is today happening in Syria.So much suffering by innocent people and so much posturing and impotence by the west and as usual so much obstructionism by Russian and now China.When will we ever learn?

The photo was taken on a half frame Olympus camera on Kodachrome film.Unfortunately my brother only had a print from the original slide to scan in and this was emailed to me so it has been through many steps and has lost both sharpness and its distinct Kodachrome look.Nonetheless it is a wonderful photo.Look at the market square with the shading trees and the people and that ancient (Russian?) truck.On the RH margin you can see a couple -- most likely English-with a bike.Almost certainly backpackers as the Adriatic Coast was the new frontier for backpackers at that time.I went there with my then girlfriend ( now spouse) in the year before in 1967.It was big trip by boat and train from the UK.No budget airlines or high speed trains then.And we camped so we carried it all in our backpacks.
A long haul across Europe to Munich and then down into Yugolavia.It was a gruelling journey across many borders with many passport checks.No EU.No Euro so assorted currencies to juggle and no calculators so mental arithmetic was the order of the day.No Google maps.No apps -silly or useful.No SMS messages home.No daily Facebook updates.Just a simple camera -no cords and chargers and spare batteries-and probably one roll of slide film.Just 36 or 72 pictures at most.You set out and perhaps you sent a postcard whilst you were there which if you were lucky got to your home before you did 8 weeks later.But it was a magic place when you got there.The British package deal hordes had not arrived although there were plenty of sunburnt German tourists with their caravans and their big tents -drinking beer for breakfast-as the German economic miracle was in full swing by then.The sea was crystal clear -- it had not been overfished -and it was always sunny and very hot and very cheap.
Was it a better time? I cannot say that but I know that it was a much simpler time.
Truly a lost world. 

3 Feb 2014

A 356 jewel

I was up in Autowerks in Charmhaven two weeks ago and Simon-pictured with the bones of a RSR replica being built in the shop-showed me a quite stunning newly restored 356C which was in for some minor work and to get registered.The car has just been totally restored in Victoria.It is in concours plus condition.Breathtaking.
I was scared to walk near it.Simon confessed that he was nervous about road testing it.Who would want to be the first to collect a stone chip on that pristine paint? And there are plenty of stones on the roads around Charmhaven.
Then at last Saturday's German Car Day on the Foreshore at Newcastle there it was below -registered and being driven on the road.It looked superb.As did the quite stunning Mercedes 300SL Gullwing at the same display.Sorry-not a good photo but it was always surrounded by people.

1 Feb 2014

What an idea!

Now here's a business idea with a big future.Getting rid of those pesky corporate pests.How do they operate?
I presume that they come into your office in the evening -- a couple of men wearing face masks,rubber gloves and carrying pressure spray bottles and they spray along the skirting boards and behind the filing cabinets.Then next morning about an hour after the office starts you find that awful woman from accounts stiff as a board in a corridor on her back with her legs and arms in the air and then a short time after someone finds that creepy little man from head office in the same position in the meeting room.All very straightforward and bound to be madly popular in many offices.
Van spotted in Terrigal earlier this week.