Classic face-off is a feature where we show you a couple of similarly priced classic cars from the same era, and you vote for the one you find most appealing.
In this round we have a couple of vehicles which at some point in their lives could have been described as fine luxury automobiles. Now however they could euphemistically described as “fixer-uppers”. Just over a decade separates their production dates, although perhaps surprisingly its the older car which seems to have had an easier life. One is a finely honed German machine, the other was cobbled together by Englishmen toiling away with hand tools and overcoats. Both of them offer character by the bucketload.
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In 1955, Ford’s luxury division, Lincoln, flirted with the idea of building a sports car. The bodywork of the Lincoln Indianapolis Exclusive Study was developed by the Italian coachbuilding company Boano. It was based on a Ford chassis, and the car’s styling was penned by Gian Paolo Boano, the son of the company’s founder.
The Lincoln Indianapolis was unveiled to the world at the 1955 Turin Motor Show in Italy. It featured aviation-inspired styling, stacked headlights, large lateral air intakes and a streamlined cockpit. It was painted in an extremely eye-catching bright orange hue and topped off with numerous chrome trim elements.
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In the 1970s, car design was all about the angular wedge. “Make ‘em pointy and they will sell” was the motto of car designers at the time. Actually it wasn’t. But it may as well have been. Italdesign was no exception, in fact they were one of the champions of the wedge design. And when they designed a four-seater sports coupe for Audi in 1973, how could it be anything else.
The Audi Asso di Picche concept by Italdesign was based on an Audi 80 platform. Although interestingly it wasn’t Audi who commissioned the car, it was in fact designed at the request Karmann Coachworks. Karmann hoped that they could get Audi interested enough in the car to get them to order a limited run which Karmann would then manufacture for the company.
The styling of the Audi Asso di Picche (Italian for Ace of Spades) was partially inspired by a previous Italdesign concept, the Boomerang supercar – which had been designed for Maserati a couple of years before. However for the Asso di Picche the extreme styling and unusual window configuration of the Boomerang was ditched for something a bit more sensible.
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After the Second World War, car designers started to get really creative. Many became obsessed with trying to make their creations look like wingless fighter jets, adding fake jet-engine like air intakes and numerous fins and wings. The 1956 Pontiac Club de Mer concept was no different. Except for the fact it didn’t look too over the top.
The Pontiac Club de Mer de mer (Sea Club in French) was designed at GM’s then brand new Technical Center under the leadership of the company’s superstar car designer Harley Earl. It was conceived as a racing-inspired sports car which would offer, comfort, performance and style. Paul Gillan, the head of the Pontiac Styling Studio and his team of designers then got to work coming up with hundreds of sketches and proposals. Based on feedback from the top brass, the designers made amendments and changes to the concept before moving on to develop a full-size clay model.
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The Stout Scarab was a peculiar but also rather clever automobile developed by the famous engineer William Stout back in the 1930s. The car was designed from the outset to be more practical, safer, spacious, comfortable and versatile than any other car available at the time. Many people have since refered to the car as the very first minivan, and that’s a fairly good approximation of what the Stout Scarab was. But it was also much more than that.
William Stout made his name in the aviation business, designing numerous aircraft which were well ahead of their time and brought in new ideas and improvements to the industry. Stout used his aeronautical expertise when designing the Scarab – which was styled by John Tjaarda. In particular in creating an aerodynamic shape which helped reduce the car’s fuel consumption.
The Stout Scarab was based around a monocoque chassis and body – unlike almost every single other car of the time which still relied on a separate chassis/body combination – reducing the overall weight. The interior layout was also unusual. Instead of a front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels through a long driveshaft. The engine and transmission of the Stout Scarab were placed at the rear of the vehicle behind the passenger compartment. This drivetrain position meant the interior could be much more open, and the entire floorpan perfectly flat. A long wheelbase also helped increase the amount of usable room inside the vehicle.
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The pursuit of pure speed has resulted in a number of oddly shaped cars. But perhaps none more so than the 1951 land speed record car designed, built and driven by Piero Taruffi. The car goes by several names, including the Italcorsa and Tarf II – it also got the fitting nickname “Bisiluro” (twin torpedo in Italian).
Piero Taruffi was an Italian racing driver and engineer. His passion for fast machines began with motorcycles, but he soon moved on to cars, and his considerable talent allowed him to pilot some of the fastest machines of the era from numerous manufacturers including; Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Cisitalia, Ferrari, Maserati and Mercedes-Benz. During his racing career he notched up several victories – including the last ever Mille Miglia. He also broke several dozen speed records.
The Tarf II was based on an earlier design called the Tarf I. Both cars featured the same twin boom design, but the Tarf II was fitted with a larger 1,720 cc Maserati four-cylinder engine which developed 290 horsepower thanks to the addition of a supercharger. A chain transferred power to the rear wheel.
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The Toyota Publica Sports was a concept car introduced for the first time at the 1962 Tokyo Auto Show. It was a preview of Toyota’s very first production sports car, the Toyota Sports 800. The Toyota Publica Sports featured an unusual sliding canopy which provided access to the interior. There were no doors, and the occupants had to climb over the sides to gain entry. The canopy could be completely removed to turn the Toyota Publica Sports into a dinky roadster.
For a first try at a sports car, the Toyota Publica Sports was quite attractive. It wasn’t particularly stunning, but it was also far from ugly, especially with the roof removed. The Publica name was taken from a much more pedestrian small family car the company started producing the year before. Publica had been selected by Toyota as the company wanted to give the car mass market appeal. They thought giving it a name which sounded similar to Public might help.
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David Brown Automotive have just unveiled their first model. Called the David Brown Automotive Speedback, the car’s styling is a mix of classic British sports cars. There’s plenty of Aston Martin in there. Err, well actually that’s about all there is. It’s almost completely Aston Martin. It should be said that the David Brown of David Brown Automotive has no connection with either Aston Martin, its founder, Sir David Brown, or with the David Brown Group.
So got that? This is an entirely different David Brown from the Aston Martin David Brown, who just happens to be building cars that look like classic Aston Martins but they aren’t.
What you get for your money (prices are still to be announced) is a classically styled GT car with modern underpinnings. Those underpinnings come from Jaguar – the Speedback is based on an XKR – and as such it is powered by a 5.0 litre supercharged V8 which produces 510 horsepower. Although the company say they can tune the engine to any level requested.
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As cars become increasingly more like rolling gadgets, they’re starting to lose a bit of their character. There’s nothing wrong with progress and trying new things, but new doesn’t always mean better. There’s a reason why people are drawn to classic cars. In many ways they are more interesting and unique than modern vehicles. It was before the days of badge-engineering and follow-the-leader designs, designers weren’t afraid to take risks and try different ideas.
Below are listed five classic automotive design features which are either dead and buried, or rapidly facing extinction. But each of them deserves to be preserved or returned to more mainstream automotive design.
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A rare unrestored 1939 Lagonda V12 Hooper is headed to auction next month in Birmingham, England. The unique matching numbers car was built for the wife of the owner of Hooper Bodies Ltd, a noted coach builder of the time. The car was first registered in 1939, but with the Second World War breaking out just weeks later, the car was put into storage before being sold on in 1952 to a collector called Harry Ellard.
After Ellard’s death in 1984, the collection was sold off, and this car went to its third owner where it stayed until 2001. The current owner has had it in storage for the last 13 years and the car is now in need of a complete restoration – although as you can see all the parts are there and in relatively good condition.
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