200% Authentic and Totally Original
Authentic. Original. In the world of vintage and historic racing these two words
constitute the foundation for the sport's bible; or, perhaps, more accurately the
bible for those who see fortunes to be made in the sale of old, obsolete
Never raced though tried repeatedly…
In times past, an obsolete racer was an unwanted orphan, not something to be
revered. Indeed, most were stripped of useful components, and left to rust, or rot
away out back in a field somewhere, their lives over. For those collectors who
have written the checks to what they view as works of art, this attitude approaches
heresy. Yet, given the fact that for race car builders and manufacturers these cars
were tools, it is quite understandable, and reasonable.
All in the Family…
Dr. Ferry Porsche, who founded with his sisters Louise, the firm that today is
considered the most important independent sports car maker on the planet, was
once asked what his favorite Porsche of all time was. His reply was equally
simple: "The one not yet built." The fact of the matter is that famous companies
such as Porsche and Ferrari were forced to concentrate on the present and look
towards the future because to do otherwise would spell financial disaster for
these firms whose bank accounts were less prestigious than their reputations.
Only when the collectors started coming around with checks in hand for what
looked at as useless relics, did the car manufacturers pay attention, Even so,
most factories cared little about what they were selling other than it produced a
negotiable bank instrument that improved their balance numbers. Sure, they
made certain what they were selling was what they said it was. Sure, they took
plains to note the car's history and condition. But, there was no passion on their
part, no sense of loss that a piece of themselves was walking out the door.
This may or may not be that chassis number but it is the car…
Even today Porsche's museum tends to be casual; about what cars they really
have. For example, Porsche sent over to the recent Rennsport Reunion at
Daytona a 1973 Carrera RSR that they labeled as that year's Targa Florio winner.
The trouble was that the factory car, even in its authentic Martini paint scheme,
was not the real Targa winner. That car continued to be developed by Singer & Co.
for the rest of the 1973 season and was also in attendance at Rennsport but in
the later season look.
Perhaps even more embarrassing was the fact that the real factory winner was on
hand at Daytona, now owned, and correctly restored by its private owner. Want
more? Also on hand at Daytona, similarly restored in its authentic 1970 Salburg
paint scheme was 917-023, the car in which Dickie Attwood and Hans Hermann
gave Porsche its first overall victory at Le Mans. Of course the factory also has a
similar looking 917. The trouble with it is the fact that in reality it is 917-001 - the
Geneva show vehicle with no actual competition record to its credit.
There are other similar cars in and around the Porsche collection, but you get the
message. Now, Ferrari, which hitherto was happy to let owners of its older racers
fight among themselves about how credible their automotive toys might or might
not be, is starting its own program to " provide a stamp of approval guaranteeing
originality for the population of vintage and historic competition Ferraris. And, oh
yes can you pay the fee for this service please in Euros?
Have we gone nuts. Have we forgotten the simple truth that by driving one of these
vehicles from the past that we can experience in real time what most of us were
too young, or too poor to experience when they were new, and let it go at that, Carl
Thompson, a former top aide to the late Vasek Polak, and more recently a key
player in the vintage scene, took a spare 917 chassis and body, mated them with
the correct mechanicals, and created for himself a brand new example of the
awesome 12-cylinder racing coupe. Thompson makes no pretenses about its
linage. Rather he simply beams when he talks about the fact that he and others
can now drive a piece of history, and see how the early folks lived.
The thrill of nearly 600 horsepower in a lightweight tubeframe, "flexible flyer"
sports racer with less than perfect brakes and only slight better handling might
not be all that pleasant, but it is all that memorable. So, who is to say that
Thompson's 917 is not just as good a toy as its much older brethren - who, by the
why, often come with new frames, new bodies and other newly minted parts to
make the "safe" for their drivers
Let's stop thinking in terms of art, and more in terms of the tools these vehicles
were always intended to be. The summer vintage season is now with us, let's put
away the checkbooks and the egos, and enjoy what we've got because our time is
short, and the cars will outlast us.