I have had a few visits to Cars and Coffee over the last few months. Plenty of cool vehicles to check out and justify getting up early on a Sunday morning. This time I figure I will just share a bunch of pictures of what has been there. Of course, these are but a small fraction of the total number of cars appearing but they caught my eye.
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.
Original Ford GT40s are not something that you see parked on every street corner. Cars and Coffee is not a typical street corner though. Find at GT40 is not, therefore, such a huge surprise. This one showed up at my last visit. It garnered a fair bit of attention and discussion as to whether it was a legitimate example or not. It appears to have been from the time although it may not have been an original racer. I am not an expert on such matters so anyone who knows enough to correct any mis-statements here, please feel free to comment below.
Whatever the heritage, it is a fine looking vehicle. It has old style British license plates which really took me back to childhood. There have been several styles of license plate in my lifetime but the majority of plates have been black digits on a white background for the front and a yellow background for the rear. The old white digits on a black background were still quite common when I was very young but now are a distant memory. Seeing it on this GT40 certainly took me back (although my childhood was not filled with GT40s!).
San Ramon holds an annual kite festival which we checked out last year. This time we went back and, rather than get too distracted by the other stuff that was there, we focused on the kite flying itself. There is a large field on which a series of demonstrations of different types and numbers of kites was undertaken. The quality of flying was very impressive. (I will caveat that by pointing out that a bunch of kids were flying their own kites around the field edges. They had obviously just had a kite bought for the, but the parents didn’t seem terribly bothered what they were doing with them so you could get a swift kite to the head if you weren’t careful – and I obviously wasn’t!).
If I ignore the health hazards, the demonstrators were putting on some excellent displays. The individual flights were good but the coordinated flights were outstanding. Two, four and sometimes six kites were flown in formations which was very cool. The lines can overlap so they can continue to control the kites even when they have overlapped the lines several times. Of course, untangling them again is required to avoid a lot of pain when they land.
The different kite styles also bring different capabilities. Twin line kites can be steered left and right while the four line kites allow steering or rotation in place, moving up or going backwards. In the right hands, they are very maneuverable. I have tried a quad line many years ago and they are twitchy but incredibly clever provided you don’t keep crashing them.
I also put together a little video of the flying below. It turns out shooting video of kites is a bit harder than I expected. They can move quite quickly and are pretty close to you. Also, it is hard to predict their next move so tracking is a touch harder than you would hope. Still, video gives a far better impression of them than stills can achieve. Now I am thinking about trying to find some old photos of kite flying in Lytham. Where are they?
While the majority of the Blackhawk Automotive Museum’s collection has a clear car association, there is also a room dedicated to the history of the Jukebox. I imagine this is because it is an area of interest to the patron of the museum. Various ages of jukebox have been preserved and restored. Some are quite basic in their design while the more recent ones have a greater level of complexity.
What they all seem to share is a design aesthetic that goes beyond the functional requirements of playing the music and encompasses a glamorous level of styling. The newer they were, the more exotic the styling. It might not be my sort of look and I don’t think I would want one in my house but I can certainly appreciate the effort that went into the design.
If you are going to have a museum to cars, why not include a tribute to the thing that makes them go? While fuel itself is not terribly suitable for an exhibit, the pumps that provide it prove to be a surprisingly good idea. Blackhawk Automotive Museum has a bunch of different gas pumps from through the years on display. They are all restored to pristine condition and probably look far better than they did when they were new.
The pumps cover a number of years and a variety of gas companies. The evolution of the pump designs is quite clear as you go through the years. I am not sure I fully understand how they worked but they seem to have involved filling up a clear vessel at the top of the pump with fuel. This filling process allowed you to work out exactly how much fuel was to be provided. Then, when the amount was worked out, the hose would allow you to drain the fuel down to the vehicle.
The early versions seem to be quite simple in layout and, as the years pass, the systems seem to become a bit more complex. A modern pump is way more complex but also severely lacking when it comes to styling. These old pumps look like they had some artists involved in styling them and the colors of the companies were similarly intricate. I guess that is how things worked in those days. Now efficiency, maintainability and functionality will win out over style.
These days you will struggle to come across a car that has not undergone extensive aerodynamic optimization. Even those cars that look like they have deliberately avoided an aerodynamically efficient shape will actually have undergone considerable testing to make sure that they are not just relatively low in drag but that they are also stable at speed. The widespread appreciation of aerodynamic performance became apparent in the 80s with the introduction of various cars that had noticeably lower drag than their competitors and associated improvements in fuel consumption.
However, the 80s was not the first time that aerodynamics occupied car designers. Go back a long way and you will see some very interesting shapes on cars. Some of these were looking to emulate the space age looks that were popular at the time. Others were real attempts to reduce drag. Blackhawk has a collection of three Alfa Romeo models. These show the iteration of design to try and achieve very low drag. They don’t look anything like a modern car and have more of a Jetsons appearance. However, they are a fascinating look at how some car designers were thinking at the time.
Obviously modern cars don’t resemble these machines which suggests their approach was not the best way to go. They also look like they would have been expensive to manufacture. What they do show is the willingness to push the envelope. It is great that they are still around for us to check out and see what was seen as cutting edge at the time.