The big screen is home to much automative spectacle, from exotic supercars or rare classics to big budget chase scenes and ludicrous stunts the movies have had many fantastic moments for the car fan. Whether you prefer gritty car chases such as those found in Ronin, Bullitt and the Bourne films or if you’re keen on more outrageous stunts as seen in James Bond films or Gone in Sixty Seconds there’s something for everyone. In the next few posts I’ll list a few of my personal favourites which I feel embody the thrill of being at the wheel.
On a recent trip to Paris we noticed this stunning Mercedes 190SL parked outside the famous ‘Les Deux Magots’ cafe. The 190SL is often overshadowed by its big brother the 300SL which has a bigger engine, better brakes and more sophisticated tubular space frame construction. However, in this setting, none of that matters, its ‘time warp’ condition and the striking white coachwork make it a perfect fit against the backdrop of crisp Parisian architecture. In a city built upon cafe culture, high fashion and fine dining this 190SL is in its element and would make the ideal car for cruising around town. If you’re thinking of driving something this stylish you’d better make sure your outfit doesn’t let it down!
…. is not best demonstrated by this mirror finish Bentley Turbo R! It reminds me of the film ‘The Flight of the Navigator’.
The Espada is a legendary car from Lamborghini, fantastic to look at and true grand touring capability thanks to its spacious cabin and V12 engine. Although the design is more coupe than shooting brake, its striking Bertone styling and practicality instils a similar charm. At the time it was Lamborghini’s most successful model and it’s easy to see why. The four litre V12 supplies 325bhp which was a lot and it even handled well since it had fully independent suspension and all round disc brakes. In summary a very capable car for those with unusual tastes!
The second generation Lotus elite was a four seater coupe produced by Lotus in the seventies. As you can see in the pictures, the styling was somewhat unconventional but follows the shooting brake concept due to its sporting pedigree and load space. Once you’ve cleared the vomit off the bodywork the design isn’t as hideous as first impressions lead you to believe! The front end is almost Esprit in design but manages to house the engine despite its steeply raked appearance. Moving back we see pleasing chrome trim on the window surrounds but it does become more boxy from there backwards… However, it’s from inside the car we start to see sense. A true four seater, full leather interior with (at the time) a well equipped dash and of course the sensational Lotus experience behind the wheel. This was a fairly quick car when launched courtesy of the twin cam two litre engine driving the rear wheels and the glass fibre body helping keep the weight down. So if you don’t mind looking like you’ve stolen Dangermouse’s car a Lotus Elite can provide a thrilling yet practical ride.
If you were a fan of ‘The Saint’ you’ll no doubt remember the gorgeous Volvo P1800 coupe driven by Roger Moore, however, there was (in my opinion) an equally good looking variant, the ES. The ES is as close as you’ll get to the definition of a shooting brake, sporty styling, a luxuriously appointed interior and generous load space. The performance was reasonable for the time too. However, it’s the styling that gives this car kudos, the estate-like rear is elegant in its execution and is in keeping with the cars lines. The glass tailgate draws particular attention and its influence is apparent in subsequent models from Volvo, especially the 480 and the more recent C30. It might be a bit of a marmite car in terms of whether the styling is your cup of tea but you’ll be hard pressed to find a car that looks as ‘at-ease’ with its extraordinary looks than this.
I’ve always been a fan of shooting-brake cars, from the Volvo P1800 ES to the BMW Z3 M Coupe; they are satisfyingly different which (for me) brings a certain level of appeal. The term ‘shooting-brake’ was first used to describe luxurious but practical vehicles in which the wealthy gentry could carry their hunting equipment in. Nowadays it is used to describe a two door sports car or coupe which has an estate-like rear end. This may sound strange and does divide opinion, but this is the great thing about the shooting brake style, since it has never really been ‘in fashion’ it’s a left-field choice and a statement of individuality. Are we about to see a change? Well, with the arrival of the very shooting-brake Ferrari FF we may see a wave of this style car break into the mainstream. In the next few posts I’ll cover some of my favourites.
… the four C’s (used for measuring diamonds) share their name with the new prototype sports car from Alfa Romeo (the 4C) and what a gem it is! The cut or shape is quite typical of a mid-engined car, the low, short nose and high rear haunches give away the location of the engine. The bodywork details are reminiscent of the Alfa 8C, albeit exaggerated, with oversized rear lights and a plunging ‘V’ bonnet crease ending with the trademark badge and grille. Colour, Alfa have released a new type of soft-touch paint on this car ‘Lava Red’ and where other manufacturers are experimenting with flat and matt paint this promises a more silky quality, if the press pictures are anything to go by it looks impressive. Clarity, the ethos behind the car is cutting edge Italian style without sacrificing performance. Using top-end technology such as an automatic twin dry clutch and Alfas punchy but frugal 1750cc engine send the car from zero to sixty m.p.h. in under five seconds. This wouldn’t be possible without the final ‘C’, carat or weight is drastically reduced by using carbon fibre for the body instead of metal and the underpinnings are made from aluminium rather than steel. There is a fifth ‘C’ which will be familiar to anyone on the business end of a looming engagement, cost, I have my fingers crossed that the 4C will make it into production but with a carbon fibre body it certainly won’t be cheap. If they do decide to pitch it at a lower price by using alternative materials (I’m thinking between Audi TT and Porsche Cayman money) I hope they don’t lose sight of what makes this car so appealing, great looks with the performance to back it up.
The silver arrows were the nickname for the German Mercedes Benz and the Auto Union Grand Prix racing cars of the 1930s. The original German racing colour was white and myth surrounds the switch to silver. The story is that the 1934 Mercedes entry to the Grand Prix was 1KG over the maximum weight, so the team decided to strip the heavy lead-based paint off the car in order to save weight and reveal the silver coloured aluminium body beneath. This car then went on to win the GP giving birth to the Silver Arrows. Whether this is true (probably not) doesn’t really matter, the silver livery is trademark to the German racing teams and proudly lives on in today’s F1 Mercedes GP team as well as on Porsche and Audi racing cars.
Gulf Oil racing colours are most famously associated with the John Wyer Automotive Ford GT40 and Porsche 917 Le Mans racers of the sixties and seventies and the colours have been replicated by other teams subsequently sponsored by Gulf. The most iconic image for me is the Porsche 917 driven by Steve McQueen’s character in the film Le Mans. The rising popularity of McQueen and the increasing appreciation of the Heuer Monaco watch which he wore in the film inspired Tag Heuer to release an edition of the Monaco watch in Gulf colours! The logos of both Gulf Oil and the old style Heuer brand also inspired a clothing range but perhaps we shouldn’t go there…..