Cars and Coffee at Blackhawk Automotive Museum gets all sorts of interesting cars. One that was particularly interesting on a recent visit was a Blower Bentley. This is a great combination of huge power with minimal controllability. Stick a huge engine into a car in a time when suspension design and steering were in their infancy and you don’t have the opportunity to kill people at all! This example is beautifully looked after and seems to have a very original appearance. I am not an expert but I know people who are and they weren’t critical of this car so I assume it is an unusual and well maintained example.
One of the fun things about going to Cars and Coffee at the Blackhawk Automotive Museum in Danville is the variety of vehicles on show. You get things from one extreme to another. One of the first vehicles I saw after parking was a Lamborghini Aventador. This is a serious piece of supercar technology. There was also a McLaren to take a look at. Compare this with an old Datsun or a selection of old VWs and you are poles apart. However, they are all loved by their respective owners.
My enthusiasm for the Honda/Acura NSX was satisfied by three of them lined up together over in one corner. A very nice thing to find on one side of a big event. This proved to be a popular edition of Cars and Coffee. Over 800 cars were noted by the organizers. I got there a little early and it was already getting very full. Supposedly some people were there from 5:30am. That is enthusiasm for you.
A Rolls Royce is some people’s idea of the pinnacle of motoring. I have ridden in a couple and, while they were comfortable, they never really floated my boat. Cars and Coffee had two examples that I was looking at and the comparison was amusing to me. One was a brand new car that a dealer had brought along to show off. It was fitted with all of the latest toys and certainly would help relieve you of a chunk of your bank balance. However, the current Rolls styling is not to my taste and they look rather inelegant.
At the opposite end of the spectrum was a far older model that has been customized. Apparently, this had been a labor of love for a guy but he had sadly passed away. Not had been finished off by his family but they had then sold it on. It is a strange vehicle for sure. The classic Rolls shape is clearly identifiable but the cut down bodywork and the lowered suspension are a big deviation from the norm. I have no idea how much it cost to modify and I’m sure the value was to the guy rather than anyone else but it is a great example of creativity and commitment. I hope he was happy with it.
My recollection of Volvos as a youth was of boxes on wheels. They never struck me as impressive cars and the interiors seemed to match the exteriors in their boxiness. I even have a less than favorable memory of driving a 740 through France overnight to try and make a morning ferry (which we did). It was not always thus. The P1800 was quite a smart looking car and a TV star in the original version of The Saint.
This example showed up at Cars and Coffee. It was in excellent condition. Whether it has been kept well or restored beautifully (or even a bit of both) I don’t know but it looked great. It wasn’t the only example around either. However, it did stand out as the one to see. I have no idea what they are like to drive but that wasn’t the point at an event like this.
Supercars are seemingly coming along all the time these days. The latest Ferrari, McLaren or Lamborghini seems to come out with slightly more power, greater technology, performance statistics and pricing to match with a frequency that makes it seem hard to believe that there are enough customers out there for such things. It was not always thus. While there were some high performance motors around, they seemed a bit more rare. For me, there was one that always stood out. The NSX.
Built by Honda and sold under that brand in Europe and as an Acura in the States, it was a technological marvel at the time. Supposedly Ayrton Senna was involved in its development and it was supposed to be amongst the best. It never sold in huge numbers but they continued to build them for many years. They would show up in movies occasionally – Pulp Fiction includes a good example – but they were not as glamorous as something like a Ferrari or a Lambo. I loved them though. I would still like to have one but now they are passing from being expensive and new to being collectable and even more expensive. I’ve no idea if they are fun to drive or not but I like to think they are. When I came across these examples, I spent a little time enjoying the idea of roaring through the mountain passes with no worries other than having fun.
The cool cars were not just restricted to the main gathering area. As I wandered through the lot, a guy found himself a parking spot and pulled in with his McLaren. He hopped out, gave it a quick wipe down and then wandered into the crowds after chatting to a few of us. I only asked him one thing. Had it proved to be all he had hoped it was. “Oh yes!”
The Cars and Coffee meet in a previous post came with a whole bunch of Aston Martins. Obviously, there are a few people in our neck of the woods who like their Astons and I was happy to see what they had brought along. There were lots of late model cars looking particularly lovely on a sunny morning. The two lines of cars were great to see. It was hard to get a wide shot of them though. Plenty of people were all around them at any one time.
There were a couple of interesting old Astons too. One was a DB5 that appeared to be in spectacular condition. The owner was close by and chatting with anyone who stopped by. The one I was most taken by was an old Vantage. It turned out to be the car driven by George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. A far later model of the Vantage showed up in a Timothy Dalton Bond movie which shows how long the basic design lasted. Seeing this earlier version with an interesting pedigree was great.
While hanging out at Livermore Airport to see the Collings Foundation, I ended up in conversation with another photographer and we started talking about cars as you do. We got onto the topic of the Blackhawk Automotive Museum and he asked if I had been to Cars and Coffee. I knew nothing about it so he explained a little. I was intrigued and decided I needed to go.
On the first Sunday of every month from 8am until 10am, the parking lot of the museum is a gathering spot for owners of cool cars and those who want to see cool cars. It is a case of whatever turns up so you never know what you will see. I got there a little after 8 and realized my error immediately. I did get a parking space but only by being on the opposite side of the lot. There were tons of cars there and plenty of interesting looking motors were just mixed in with the rest of the spectator cars.
I decided to head to the core of things to see what was around before starting to work my way back in the general direction of my car. This ended up working well. The mixture of cars was outstanding. There were more cars than you can probably imagine and the variety and quality was incredible. Some exotic machines from the latest product ranges were in with vintage cars that head been beautifully restored. If you have a ‘Vette, Mustang or Camaro, you were given space but we’re on the edge of things because of the more exotic types thrown in there. If you wanted to see a Ferrari, for example, you were going to be spoilt for choice. They were everywhere!
I was happy to see some Lotus models too. The more modern ones were nice but I was particularly happy to come across an old Esprit Turbo SE. This was a dream car for me when I was a teenager. Seeing one in such great condition was great. As with these type of gatherings, there was nothing between you and the cars and often the owner was around to show you their pride and joy. There were a few special things to add about the event so there will be a few other posts on specific things I saw coming up. Stay tuned!
This little excursion is courtesy of my friend Joel Love of Speed and Sport Photography. Joel called me up the other day to tell me that the SCCA regional fall run-offs were taking place. The location was Blackhawk Farms Raceway in South Beloit IL, about and hour and a half from me (if the traffic is clear!). He was heading up and wondered if I wanted to tag along.
This came right in the middle of the great spell of weather that had settled over our part of the Midwest so the chance to see some racing at a photo friendly circuit with good light and fall foliage seemed like a good combination. I decided this was a trip to make.
Blackhawk Farms is not a huge circuit. This has a couple of advantages. First, it doesn’t take long to get from one part of it to another. Second, lap times are relatively low so you don’t have to wait too long for a car to come back around again after you have first seen it. Add to that the great visibility from multiple locations (ideal throughout the day as the sun comes around) and you have all of the basics for a good day out.
There were a variety of classes running throughout the day I went. It was the day for practice and qualifying so there was less likely to be any frantic action – although a few people tried their hand at off-roading at various times! Some cars ran in multiple classes so showed up several times.
The types that made up the majority of the runners were modified road cars of which the vast majority were Mazda Miatas, single seaters like Formula Ford and the larger single seaters that have a more Le Mans styling to them – I’m sure someone who knows their motor racing will cringe at my categorization.
Since they could run in multiple classes and there was practice plus qualifying, there were multiple chances to shoot given cars which also meant that you could get them at different parts of the circuit without having to change location during each session. This made for a relaxed day of shooting. Also, you can take your car to each spot so no lugging camera gear around all day!
The multiple opportunities allowed for some experimenting. I tried wide open shooting to try and get separation from the background. That was a bust. Given the distance from the cars and the background, the depth of field was still enough to see what was behind. In the mean time, the shutter speed was very high so frozen wheels looked very unnatural.
Slow shutter speeds were a lot more productive. Getting some blur in the wheels made them look like they were actually moving. Then it was a case of just how low could I go. I tried all sorts of speeds throughout the day. The results varied a lot. Obviously, at the low speeds, the keeper rate fell dramatically. However, you could get some great effects of speed. The question then becomes one of taste. We have become very focused on sharpness in imagery. Some of the shots were not tack sharp but they gave a great feeling of motion. Some while like that and others will not. What do you think? The small size of a shot on the monitor is, of course, not a great time to judge!
Lower speeds also limit your shooting angles. When looking at the cars head on, you can get some nice shots as they turn in to a corner. However, at lower speeds, the turn in can blur the car. Head on is sharp but dull. Turn in is more dynamic but blurred. What to do? Of course, you see less of the wheels so maybe a higher speed is acceptable in these cases.
At the end of the day, do I like the shots? On the whole yes. I guess that is all that matters. Thanks must go to Joel for letting me know about this and for providing great company during the day. We shall have to do this again in the spring.