9 Feb 2016

Bathurst 12 hours-another great race

It was the Bathurst 12 hour GT race last weekend.For overseas readers Bathurst is a country town about 3 hours drive over the Blue Mountains west of Sydney,Australia. It is also the home of one of the world's greatest motor racing circuits-Mount Panorama. It's up there with the Nordschleife Nurburgring. Better than Spa. And even better than Le Mans.Yes it's that good.
Every time I stand at the top of the mountain and watch the cars rocket across the top at Skyline and down the Dipper I just say wow-this is real motor racing.
One of the great aspects of the 12 hour race is that it is not expensive to attend and you have full access to the pits and the padddock on the general admission ticket. This may change in the future as the rapacious V8 Supercar organisation owned by private equity have bought 50% of the race and they do not have a good record of looking after any other interests but their own. Just like Formula 1. If they do screw it up it will be a great shame but money always talks and it is hard to be optimistic.
This year's race was cooler than last year's-thank goodness. It was hot in the afternoon but not heatstroke hot. And the race was just as exciting.There were 29 changes of lead in the 12 hours and five different marques made up the top five places-McLaren,Nissan,Bentley,Audi and Mercedes. And the winner set a new circuit lap record and won by just 1.8 seconds.
And the Stone and Wood draught beer in the Hotel Canobalas in Orange where I stayed tasted great Saturday evening and Sunday evening.
In summary it was a great weekend.
Some action photos from the race with some paddock photos in the next blog post.

The start at 5.45am.An early morning wake up as I stayed in Oprange -54kms away.

Dawn breaking,Brake rotors glowing at the end of Conrod Straight.

Porsche Cayman entering Caltex Chase in the early morning light

The winning McLaren setting an cracking early pace as the sun rises over the Blue Mountains in the distance

Fast food.The McDonalds sponsored Ferrari did not bring home the bacon.

Audi R8 powering up the Mountain


The second placed Nissan coming out of the Cutting late morning



The third placed Bentley

The fifth placed Mercedes SLS


Porsche class winner descending the Dipper

Winning Mclaren fighting Bentley for lead mid afternoon



Porsche coming down the Dipper



Porsche and Audi turning onto Syline at the top of the Mountain.

Fifth placed Mercedes coming down pitlane



Over Skyline and into the Dipper
All photos by JohnS using a Sony a7 and 90mm Zeiss Biogon and  200mm Minolta Rokkor lenses. Both manual focus lenses.The Zeiss lens is superb and gives beautiful results which barely need any processing.
The Minolta lens which I bought for A$12 off eBay gives surprisingly good results after work in Lightroom.
The irony is that I used to have a superb Canon 70-200 F2.8 lens and 2X converter but I sold all that gear years ago when I decided that my days of dragging a big lens and cameras around a race track were over. That was then this is now and at least the outfit I used on Sunday was light and small.

8 Feb 2016

A Midget in Paris





Some photos from David Young of what looks like a fully restored MG Midget parked in Paris .You rarely see such well restored Midgets and Austin Healey Sprites nowadays because it does not make economic sense to restore them unless you do most of the work yourself.And the simple fact is that they are unexciting cars.They are basic,small and slow. Why spend good money restoring one of these when you can have a new modern car with all the things the Midget/Sprite lack for the same or even less money?

When I joined the then weeks old British Leyland in the market planning dept in August 1968 the company was making over a quarter of a million sports cars-MG,Triumph.Austin-Healey and Jaguar-a year. An astonishing figure.The  majority were going to the US -particularly the west coast. Within ten years this vast market had almost gone.
At my job interview in January 1968 I asked,David Christie,the market planning manager, what the company thought of the very advanced Honda S800 sports car. It was a prescient question.
At the time Honda had a very small presence in the UK market although they had already done very well with motorcycles and I was an early adopter of Honda having owned a Honda bike since 1964. So I was aware of how good and how reliable their products were. Christie replied that the company regarded them as toys and did not see them as competitors at all. Well how wrong he was although it was not Honda which did the damage it was Datsun (Nissan) and later Mazda and of course the US EPA with the emissions rules. The Japanese cars were better engineered,better built and just better all round.

BLMC did nothing to protect their sports car market. There was a paucity of new products - just facelifts-and in fact the cars got worse. The emissions compliant engines were dogs.The one new product, the Triumph TR7, came in 1974 -by then the Japanese had already eaten British Leyland's lunch and were getting ready to eat its breakfast and dinner too. And the TR7 was a dog. The build quality was woeful and due to faulty tooling the wheelbase of the car was marginally shorter on one side than the other. Yes, really. At launch there was only the ugly coupe and the standard 4 cylinder engine was gutless. Later pretty convertible and V8 versions were introduced but as always they were too late.The dog had a bad name.The horse had bolted.It was all over red Rover.

My first ever company car in 1972 was an MGB GT -bright orange with Rostyle wheels and overdrive.It was almost the last of the good MGBs. After that model the MGB acquired hideous rubber 5 mph impact bumpers and it was raised to meet the impact bumper height rules.It looked awful-like a geriatric ballet dancer on tip toes- and the performance was even worse with a single carb replacing the twin SUs as they tried to meet the emissions legislation.The US compliant MGB was so bad that it would not do 100 mph even downhill and the driveability was hideous.

Fortunately my MGB looked great and would do a genuine 100 mph on the level-even if the speedo told me it was doing 115 mph-the MGB's most effective performance enhancing equipment was its Smiths speedo. At that time I was commuting to the BL factory at Cowley south of Oxford from Caversham north of Reading. I can still remember my daily commute on wonderful open,traffic free country roads across the Chilterns hills in the early morning and late afternoon and really giving the car some stick.There were no speed cameras littering the roadside in those days. As it was England it was often wet and I really polished my wet road driving skills in that MGB. I had my first experience of black ice in that car on one morning commute. Fortunately I slid into a soft grassy roadside bank and no damage was done.I drove very slowly for a few miles until I was over the icy Chilterns after that heart stopper.

Amazing to relate I retained the MG as my company car after our first child,Lisa,was born. I bought my wife and newborn back from the hospital in the MGB. We carried the baby and baby gear around in the MG for about 6 months until it was changed for a much less interesting saloon. Today's babies seem to require about 5 times as much "gear" as 1970's babies and most of today's parents would consider an MGB totally unsuited as a baby carriage. Indeed from my personal observation many parents regard an Audi Q7 as the minimum sized vehicle capable of carrying a baby and its life support equipment.

6 Feb 2016

A Porsche period piece


 Roger Putnam who has provided some choice photos for the blog from his archives over the years sent me the above photo of Porsche works driver Jaroslav ("Jerry") Juhan with Ferry Porsche in Austria. Roger's connection with Jerry is that he did the Mille Miglia with him in a famous competition Jaguar XK120 in 2005 -see photo below.
Jerry Juhan was one of the first works Porsche drivers. He started out his racing career in Central and South America.He died in 2011 at the age of 89.
The photo is rather charming with its period formality and the ladies in national dress.

As I am not into the detail of Porsche 356s I asked the local resident 356/550 expert,David Nicholls,to take a look at the photo to see if he could accurately date it from the cars. His response is forensic and straight out of PSI (Porsche Scene Investigation).

"The only clue from the 356 in front, is that it has a "Bent Windscreen", so that car is pre September 1955 when the "Curved Windscreen" was introduced.

The 356 behind Ferrys' right shoulder, has
'A' style bumper with low aluminium overriders. Late 1952 onwards.
Turn signals directly below the headlights. Introduced in1953.
Horn grills added beginning April 1954.

So the photo was taken some time between April 1954 and September 1955.
The weather looks quite mild, the people are lightly dressed and the distant trees are in full leaf. I think that you could take the Winter period, October'54 to March '55, out of that time frame.

In conclusion Your Honour, I would say that the photo was taken either, between April and October 1954, or, between March and September 1955.
I would imagine that both 356s would be from one of those periods.
These Porsche 356s, are known as "Pre A's" ".


Every picture tells a story.


3 Feb 2016

Summer in the city



If you are freezing in the US here's two summer photos to brighten your day up.Top Chicago-not quite sure why she's wearing a scarf with that outfit but who cares anyway. Bottom NYC.Both Leica X1.

29 Jan 2016

Chiens de Paris

Dog,man,phone,Seine.
                        
Wet evening walkies-putting your left foot/paw forward.

Bulldog cafe.

Patience

I am sitting at the computer trying to get my head around going to France this year.I missed out on my French fix in 2015 and I need another dose but that long flight is looking less and less appealling as I get older and the airlines cram in more seats. I've done the flight hundreds of times over the years but it seems to be getting longer. So I thought I would flick through some photos from my last trip to try and activate my enthusiasm and I came upon these four.
Dogs are as Parisien as the Eifel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. All Leica X1 photos and all 100% Paris.Guaranteed.
Maybe I should spend two weeks in Paris just shooting dog photos and then publish a book of them. Dream on John. Sadly I am thirty years too late for that. Now I'd just have to post them on my Instagram account and people could look at them for free on their little phone screens. I see that one of my favourite photographers Thorsten Overgaard has succumbed to the lure of Instagram. I feel that his photos are wasted on little screens.

28 Jan 2016

Gotta love the French

This gem is in today's Sydney Morning Herald-syndicated from the Washington Post.

"Iranian President Hassan Rouhani commenced an eventfful trip to Europe this week. As part of his visit to Rome,Rouhani toured the famed Capitoline Museum with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Monday.The building is home to numerous prized works of antiquity some of which appear to show human figures in the nude.
Given the sensibilities of the theocratic Iranian regime,Italian authorities decided to conceal some of the perhaps offending artworks during Rouhani's visit. Ply boxes and panels were placed around the objects to obscure them from the Iranian presxident's vision,or at least photo-ops.
In accordance with protocols governing visits by Muslim dignitaries,alcohol was not served at a dinner hosted in Rouhani's honour. As noted last year by the Washington Post,the Iranians apparently did not receive similar dispensation during an earlier visit to France,whose government baulked at the notion of hosting an official dinner without wine."

What an absolute load of nonsense covering up the statues.Presumably Rouhani is a grown man and has seen a naked human before -even if only a glimpse of himself in a bathroom mirror.This sort of pandering is ridiculous. The Italians belittle themselves by doing it and all power to the French for keeping wine on the menu.

27 Jan 2016

Slim volume


Photo taken in Borders New York City 2011. Borders has gone but the lovely Sarah is still with us and having seen the recent TV news of her on stage with Donald Trump she still seems to be able to talk gibberish for long periods and get raptuous applause at the end. It's terrifying to think that Donald Trump could be President of the US and Sarah Palin could be VP. Sarah Palin just a hearbeat away from the keys for launching a nuclear attack-unthinkable.
If Trump becomes US President and Palin VP and I lived in N America,China,Russia or Europe I would seriously be thinking about investing in a home nuclear bunker. We should be safe down here in Australia but with those two one could never be certain. Go Bernie.

26 Jan 2016

Australia Day 2016


Happy Australia Day to all Australian blog readers. For overseas readers Australia Day is Australia's national day and commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet of European settlers in Sydney Harbour on 26th January 1788 and the founding of the colony of New South Wales.
The weather co-operated fully today.You could not ask for better.Hot but not too hot and a beautiful blue sky with a few puffy clouds.Typical Australia.
Photo taken from the balcony bar at Shelley Beach Surf Life Saving Club, NSW midday today.

23 Jan 2016

Making hay whilst the sun shines


Comedian and Porsche collector Jerry Seinfeld is selling some cars from his fabulous Porsche collection. See  SEINFELD SALE.
He is quoted as saying  “I’ve never bought a car as an investment,”I don’t really even think of myself as a collector. I just love cars. And I still love these cars. But it’s time to send some of them back into the world, for someone else to enjoy, as I have.”
He may not have bought them as an investment but they will certainly turnout to be very good investments as classic Porsche values have skyrocketed in the last 3 years.
The sad part is that at the end of the day whatever Jerry says about sending them back into the world they will almost certainly end up in a private collection and most likely they will be rarely driven.
The escalating values of many classic cars-particularly Ferraris- is resulting in cars being bought purely as investments by people who know nothing - and care less-about the history of the cars. Indeed there are now car vaults in Switzerland and Luxembourg where investors are storing their cars in the same way that valuable paintings bought as investments are stored and there are investment funds investing in classic cars purely as investments.All very sad and distressing to real enthusiasts.
In the latest Excellence -the US Porsche magazine -there is a very good article imploring drivers of valuable Porsches to keep driving them.A view which I totally endorse and which I intend to follow with one of my cars in the next few days if this stinking hot weather and high humidity would go away. 

Photo taken January 2016 Morpeth NSW.

19 Jan 2016

Jenks




I will never know why my grandfather took my brother and I to see motor racing at London's Crystal Palace circuit in 1956.I had never expressed any interest in motor racing and we lived some distance from the circuit. My grandfather also had absolutely no interest in motor sport as far as I know. Indeed he could not drive and he definitely could not afford a car. In fact I would not be surprised to learn that at that time he had never even been in a car.
So whilst mystery surrounds why we were peering through a fence at a field of 500cc Formula 1 cars that morning in 1956 what I do know is that the outing triggered a sequence of events which defined my life. Let me explain.
I came away from Crystal Palace that day totally hooked. Three hours turned me into a motor sport junkie -at ten years of age.
The next week I visited the local newsagent on the way home from school. We walked to and from school in those days. No helicopter mum at the school gate in a black SUV and school buses had not been invented. It was long walk so we were fit. In the newsagent I fingered a magazine with a green cover-Motor Sport- price one shilling and sixpence. I saved my pocket money. I went without my favourite sherbet lemons and sherbet flying saucers and bought the magazine. It was a revelation to me-like opening a door to a magic kingdom. I still have a copy of that issue-not the original copy though. Today it looks dull with its few small black and white photos and pages of dense small type. In 1956 it was wonderful. I read it from cover to cover-many times. I have been reading Motor Sport ever since and have been a subscriber for over 40 years.
One section of the magazine totally entranced me-the very long column from the Continental Correspondent,Denis Jenkinson,who was known as Jenks and who signed his writing DSJ.
Now by 1956 Jenks was a legend. He was navigator for Stirling Moss in his victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia. They covered the 1000 miles at an average speed of 100mph in their Mercedes on closed public roads. Not only was the drive heroic but Jenks' story of the drive has become known as one of the classics of motor sport journalism. Jenks was very brave man- he had been sidecar passenger for Eric Oliver when Oliver won the 1949 world motorcycle sidecar world championship. Motorcycle racing sidecar passngers are brave verging on barking mad.
Jenks was totally eccentric. He was very short with a flowing beard. He looked like a robust garden gnome. His personal life was very odd. He lived in a tiny cottage in a dark wood in Hampshire in the UK. The cottage did not have mains electricity,mains water or mains sewage. The rooms were filled with pieces of disassembled cars and motorcycles. Not surprisingly he did not have a wife and although he apparently he did have a number of girlfriends the relationships never lasted. No surprises there.
But in 1956 I did not know of or care about DSJ's domestic foibles because each European summer he crisscrossed continental Europe following the motor racing and sending back detailed accounts of the races as well as a very entertaining account of his travels. And what travels they were. The era of the autoroutes/autobahns and autostradas was very much in its infancy so his travels in his company car-a Porsche 356 -were on the then main and minor roads with stops in facinating but often basic hotels in towns and villages which were still unspoilt. It was a magical time.
In 1956 Porsche was barely known in the UK but Jenks' travels and his enthusiasm for his 356 did much to raise the brand's profile in the UK. I became an instant Porsche enthusiast although at that point I had never even seen a Porsche. I soon went out and bought myself two 356s. Both the same colour of beige and sadly both only Dinky Toys.
Jenks' passion for Porsches resulted in a very readable book titled "A Passion for Porsches" first published in 1983 and republished more recently.
Jenks took his own photos using a Rolleiflex camera. His first basic test for any car he was asked to road test was whether the glovebox could take his faithful Rollei. The 356 passed the test.
Jenks was good friends with Jesse Alexander-a wealthy American who had moved across to Europe with his wife and child -his domestic arrangemants were more normal than Jenks'- to see if he could make a living from motor sport photography. On Jenks' recommendation he bought a 356 for his travels and so he also developed a passion for Porsches. Jesse Alexander went on to more than make a living out of his photography he became probably the best motor sport photographer ever. He has published many books of his photos-some are still available -and his photos are classics from an era of motor sport which was very special.
I saw and talked to Jenks at a few races over the years-that was before the Bernie era when mere mortals like me who were not FOB - friends of Bernie-could get access to the pits and paddock. I last saw him at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 1996 just a few months before he died. He was sitting alone in some shade and was very frail but as we chatted he still enthused about motor racing. It is perhaps just as well that he passed away when he did because I am sure that he would be appalled at the charade which calls itself formula one today.
As I gently chatted with him that day nearly 20 years ago I explained to him how his writing had resulted in me being a lifelong motor sport enthusiast and had also resulted in my working in the motor industry for nearly 50 years and had fired my enthusiasm for Porsches. He seemed genuinely pleased to hear my story. Thanks Jenks without you I would not be writing this story today.
 
Story by The Rolling Road-JohnS. Originally published in Porsche Power issue 4 2015

17 Jan 2016

Carol-a review

I went to see the movie Carol today.It's a superb movie.See it if you can.
10 reasons to see it .
  1. Cate Blanchett is brilliant 
  2. Rooney Mara is brilliant
  3. The directing is superb
  4. The cinematography is outstanding
  5. The evocation of 1950s America is almost uncanny in particular the New York street scenes and the small town motels
  6. The musical score is great
  7. The many American cars featured almost make it worth going to see them alone
  8. The story is very straightforward but nonetheless gripping
  9. It reminds you how many people smoked in the 50s and when hamburgers cost 40 cents
  10. A Canon Leica copy plays a role in the story 
 Yes,I liked it.Really a "must see".

16 Jan 2016

Vale Clarence Bordreau



Clarence Bordreau was a talented musician,violin repairer and amateur photographer who lived near Sidney,on beautiful Vancouver Island,Canada.
I never met or spoke to Clarence but he found me via this blog and we corresponded by email frequently about Leicas and photography. His photos and commentary have appeared on The Rolling Road quite a few times.
Yesterday I emailed him. The email bounced. I tried to log onto his business website-Victoria Violin Repairs-and received an error message. Fearing the worst I Googled his name and sadly the funeral notice came up in the searches. Clarence had died aged just 63. I  found out from the funeral notice that a great photo he had sent me a couple of years ago which I had put on the blog which he had titled"a Good Listener" -above-was in fact a clever self portrait.
So very sad that we won't be corresponding anymore and such a pity we never met.
Some of Clarence's photos which have appeared on the blog of his beautiful local area and home.




























15 Jan 2016

A scorcher


Terrigal Lagoon,NSW,yesterday at 6.00 am. The start of a scorching day. In Terrigal the temperature reached 41ºC (106 ºF). I had the misfortune to be in the Sydney CBD in the day. It was like being in a furnace.
Late afternoon a cool change swept through bringing strong winds and heavy rain overnight.This morning at 11.00 am the temperature was 18ºC.