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  • 02/11/14--09:00: Renault 8 Gordini

  • In June 1962 Renault introduced the R8, a model derived from the popular "Dauphine" (which in turn was based on the 4CV).

    The Dauphine's chassis was carried over, as was the engine placement at the rear of the vehicle. At the time, many journalists thought this to be a step backward for Renault as they had, the previous year, released the R4 with a more traditional front engine / frontwheel drive configuration and introducing a hatchback body design.

    What Renault engineers banked on was the continuing popularity of rear engined cars in the European market - and the sheer numbers of R8's manufactured proves that they got it right!

    Unlike the Dauphine, which had a very rounded bodywork, the R8 was very angular of design. Other improvements over the Dauphine were made, most noteably with the introduction of a new engine (956 cm2 of 44 bhp) and 4 wheel disc brakes (a rarity for the time).

    There was a choice between a three speed gearbox as standard equipment and a four speed as optional. Most technical innovations, were introduced a few months earlier on the renewed Floride - Caravelle model.

    In 1964 a new model was introduced, the R8 Major. This car had an enlarged engine, with 1108 cm2 and 50 bhp, and the 4 speed gearbox as standard.

    The car had better equipment than the normal R8: Chrome details on the exterior, whitewall tires, the bootspace was covered with upholstery, vinyl covered seats with adjustable backs, arm rests on the front doors, ash trays in the rear, moquette carpet on the floor, map lights on the inside mirror.

    Yet another model was introduced in 1964, the R8 Gordini. This car had the 1108 engine, but now with 90 hp. The car also was a bit lowered. The R8G was only available in blue (the French racing color), with two white stripes over the bonnet, roof and the boot. In 1965 an electrical gearbox became available. That was the standard three speed gearbox, now electrically operated by buttons on the dashboard.

    Rallying Renault 8 Gordini

    Running a full scale works rally car is an expensive business, and Renault competition activities to the mid 1960's could best be described as only "good in parts". Renault management seemed to change their attitude to the sport without much regard for the potential of cars in production at any one time. Things would change for the better however when competition cars were prepared and managed by Jean Redele of Alpine-Renault fame.

    When the 1255 and 1296 c.c. Gordini engines became freely available towards the end of 1965, few doubted the potential of Renault in rallying, but the intervening two years had seen a constant struggle for reliability. The engines, particularly if bored to the limit and highly tuned, often developed gasket trouble, while the Alpines were much too fragile for the rough and tumble of rallying. In addition, Renault were loath to spend the small fortune on Scandinavian drivers which was very much the "in-thing" during the 1960's. Instead there was a desire to use home-brewed stars such as Jean-Francois Piot and Guy Larrousse.

    In 1968 the R8 Gordini 1300 was homologated as a Group 1 car - meaning that at least 5,000 were built in the 12 months before approval and was sometimes used with a prototype 1,440 Gordini engine, or even the two-ohc racing engines. The Alpine-Renault was homologated in 1,296 c.c. form as a Grand Tourer, and also used the prototype engines from time to time.

    In the 1950s, Bill Fursdon, Rex Neate, Desmond Silverthorne and Mike Britton carried the Renault banner in Britain, with their little4 750s winning the Plymouth Rally twice, the Scottish once and innumerable class awards. The cars were given twin carburetors, special exhaust systems and Koni dampers. At the end of 1958 the gallant little 750s were changed for the much faster Gordini Dauphines.

    Perhaps the first serious rallying Renaults were the Dauphines blooded in the Alps in 1956, but the first really big win was in the 1958 Monte when Guy Monraisse and Jacques Feret used a works-backed, modified Dauphine. Feret became competition manager of the Regie to exploit the potential of the Gordini in 1965. Just over a year later, in the summer of 1959, an even quicker Dauphine-Gordini took first place in a gruelling Alpine Rally driven by Condriller. An even more remarkable achievement was the second and third places notched in the Liege-Rome-Liege marathon (Monraisse and Feret again piroting the leading car) - especially as the Dauphines had once seemed vulnerable to engine troubles on dusty roads.

    Beaten By The Mini, The R8 Gordini Rekindles Hope

    The next few years, however, were not at all happy for Renault. Their basic car was soon outclassed by the BMC Minis, especially after the Mini-Cooper arrived in 1961. Not even the 1000-off Renault 1093 (a sort of competition Dauphine-Gordini) could swing the balance back to Renault. At the end of 1964, however, came new hope. The Renault R8 had already been in existence for a couple of years, and Amadee Gordini had been busy developing competition engines for use in Alpine Renaults before the decision was made to combine the two in the R8 Gordini. The new car had a 95 bhp (gross) engine, four-wheel disc brakes and lots of other goodies, so stood a good chance of success.

    Things looked good for 1965, but first Renault notched up a good win in the Tour de Corse of 1964, a short, snappy, but very arduous "rally" around the twisting roads of Corsica. The year's big showing was on the Alpine Rally, where hordes of the raucous works cars battled with BMC's Cooper S. Honours were fairly even on this occasion, with Jean-Francois Piot and Jean Vinatier gaining Coupes des Alpes for unpenalized runs. Later in the year, Pierre Orsini rubbed in the worth of the Gordini by winning the Tour de Corse again.

    The effort intensified for 1966, as Renault-Sweden set out to prepare cars of their own, in addition to the official Regie Renault drivers. Berdnt Jansson, Harry Kallstrom and Sylvia Osterberg were to drive. French regulars were now J.F. Piot, J. Vinatier and J.P. Nicolas. By the end of 1965 the Gordini 1300 engine had become optional in the Alpine Renault, and a similar substitution duly arrived for the Gordini saloon. The engine change was accompanied by a five-speed gearbox, twin fuel tanks and four headlamps, so the Gordini began to look every inch a serious competition car.

    Both the Alpine and the Tour de Corse were scenes of outstanding achievements, both are "home midden" events to Renault, and Piot had the glory. He won another Coupe in a 1,440 c.c. prototype Gordini (and took 4th overall) on the Alpine, and won the Tour de Corse in the same car.

    Nicolas also won a Coupe on the Alpine. Renault Sweden had a very unlucky year. Jansson's Gordini blew up when leading the Swedish rally at three-quarter distance, and Hakan Lindberg succumbed to transmission failure when third on the RAC Rally later in the year.

    For 1967, the Gordinis were well sorted, and the 1300 had been homologated into Group 2. A full season's experience with the new cars had been useful, so 1967 results were well worth shouting about.

    Piot won the Rally of the Flowers (later re-named the San Remo) and the Iron Curtain Three Cities, while Vinatier backed up well with second place on the Danube behind Tony Fall's BMC 1800.

    The outstanding "new-man" was Guy Larrousse, who came to Alpine-Renault from NSU-France. In French rallies he was just about unbeatable, in the Geneva he led the event until rough roads damaged the underside of the fragile little coupe, and led the Alpine until engine trouble let him down on the last night. Piot also finished seventh on a dry, tire -limited, Monte after making all the wrong choices. Harry Kallstrom's best showwing was in the Alpine, when he took fourth place with a Gordini powered by the 1,500 c.c. two-ohc racing engine!

    Because Renault-Sweden were not outstandingly successful, financial support was withdrawn at the end of 1967. All Renault competition activities were instead in Redele's capable hands. In the 1968 Monte Carlo Rally all three works Alpine Renaults led the event, but Andruet crashed and Piot's car had trouble which left only the incredible Larrousse to fight two Porsche 911T's. His Turini crash in mysterious circumstances is now notorious, but Vic Elford's Porsche seemed to have the Alpine's measure prior to the accident.

    Of course Alpine Renault would go on to become one of the worlds leading Rally competitors. The turning point was, to some extent, thanks to the works Renault R8's Gordini's.

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  • 02/12/14--09:00: Convair B-36

  • The Convair B-36 (nicknamed Peacemaker) was the largest mass-produced piston engined aircraft ever made and the largest combat aircraft ever built. With a range of over 6,000 miles, some of these aircrafts needed special protection, so they were employed in "parasite" programs in which the B-36 carried smaller interceptors or reconnaissance aircraft.

    The FICON (Fighter Conveyor) program was conducted by the United States Air Force in the 1950s to test the feasibility of a B-36 Peacemaker bomber carrying an F-84 parasite fighter in its bomb bay.

    A production B-36 Peacemaker was modified with a special trapeze mechanism in its bomb bay, and a production F-84E Thunderjet was fitted with a retractable hook in the nose in front of the cockpit. The hook would link the fighter to the trapeze which would hold the aircraft in the bomb bay during flight, lower it for deployment, and raise it back in after the mission.

    This tests were all soon abandoned, partly because air refueling appeared as a much safer solution to extend the range of fighters. The first parasite experiments with B-36 employed a XF-85 Goblin escort fighter, but it proved to be a failure and a dangerous experience for pilots.

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  • 02/12/14--11:00: Yvon Duhammel

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    Chosen by Empire magazine as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history 
    She formed a lifelong bond of friendship with Elvis Presley in their first pairing in Viva Las Vegas (1964). It was kept alive by Elvis' habit of sending a bouquet of flowers to all of her stage-show appearances, until he died in 1977. She reveals her romance with Elvis in her autobiography.
    She suffered three broken ribs and a fractured shoulder when she was thrown off a motorcycle she was driving in rural Minnesota.(2000)
    Rode a 500cc Triumph T100C Tiger motorcycle in The Swinger (1966) and the same model fitted with a non-standard electric starter in her stage show. A keen motorcyclist, she was featured in Triumph Motorcycles' official advertisements in the '60s--for obvious reasons!.
    Toured Vietnam with the USO during the Vietnam war.
    She had two Billboard Club Play charting hits.: in 1979 with "Love Rush," which climbed to #8, and in 1980 with "Midnight Message

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  • 02/13/14--11:00: Sidecar Attack

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  • 02/14/14--09:00: Cole Foster's Moon Rocket

  • Even before he turned his hand to motorcycles, Cole Foster was a big name on the custom scene. His hot rods had the cleanest, simplest styling—and impeccable detailing that few others could match. Then, fortunately for us, Cole and his Salinas Boys company turned their hands to custom motorcycles. Moon Rocket burst onto the custom scene in 2007, and was inspired by the bikes of drag racers such as Leo Payne and Boris Murray. The platform for Moon Rocket was a bobber test ‘roller’ that Cole built for Custom Chrome in 2001, a project that was left to gather dust at the back of a warehouse. Cole got that bobber back and spent three months on the new build. Despite the short timeframe, most parts are custom-made—from the frame to the controls to that raw aluminium fairing, reminiscent of vintage Honda racers. The engine is a 100ci RevTech Evo and the wheels and rear brake are Custom Chrome, with Brembo callipers. Moon Rocket cemented Cole’s reputation as one of the USA’s most talented automotive artists


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  • 02/14/14--11:00: Gardner vs. Lawson

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  • 02/15/14--09:00: I have no idols

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  • 02/16/14--09:00: Elf Honda

  • Between 1981 and 1983, Honda’s outlandish ELF prototypes competed in the World Endurance Championships, generating a slew of patents for Honda—including one for a single-sided rear swingarm. Fast but unreliable, the machines were created by Renault designer Andre de Cortanze, who was a keen endurance rider as well as an accomplished automobile designer. Known as the “ELFe”, the bikes raced at the Bol d’Or and Le Mans 24 Hours; this particular machine was rebuilt in 2008 by the French restoration experts Kerlo Classic, in collaboration with former racer Hubert Rigal.

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  • 02/16/14--11:00: Sir Jack Brabham

  • Sir John Arthur "Jack" Brabham, AO, OBE (born 2 April 1926) is an Australian former racing driver who was Formula One champion in 1959, 1960 and 1966. He was a founder of the Brabham racing team and race car constructor that bore his name.

    Brabham was a Royal Australian Air Force flight mechanic and ran a small engineering workshop before he started racing midget cars in 1948. His successes in midgets and Australian and New Zealand road racing events led to him going to the United Kingdom to further his racing career. There he became part of the Cooper Car Company's racing team, building as well as racing cars. He contributed to the design of the mid-engined cars that Cooper introduced to Formula One and the Indianapolis 500, and won the Formula One world championship in 1959 and 1960. In 1962 he established his own Brabham marque with fellow Australian Ron Tauranac, which became the largest manufacturer of customer racing cars in the world in the 1960s. In 1966 Brabham became the first – and still the only – man to win the Formula One world championship driving one of his own cars.

    The Brabham name is synonymous with Grand Prix motor racing and to this day, Sir Jack Brabham, the first driver in history to be knighted for his services to motorsport, remains one of racing’s most popular personalities.

    The triple world champion is the only Formula One driver to have won a world title in a car of his own construction – the BT19 – which he drove to victory in 1966. The following year the Brabham team won its second successive world championship when New Zealander Denny Hulme drove the BT20 to victory.

    Brabham established himself in Australian oval racing before switching to road racing in the early 1950’s. His driving style matured dramatically at this time and, in 1955, he moved from Australia to Europe to drive for Charles and John Cooper. That partnership resulted in Brabham's first two championship titles in 1959 and 1960. It was also in a Cooper that Sir Jack shook the establishment at Indianapolis, qualifying the first modern mid-engined car at the 500 and finishing ninth. What seemed an anomaly at the time would in fact lead to a revolution at the Brickyard and the demise of the classic Indy roadsters.

    In 1962, Sir Jack teamed up with fellow Australian Ron Tauranac, now of Ralt Racing fame, to produce the first of the Brabham Marque, the Brabham BT-3. This particular car debuted in the '62 German Grand Prix and became the first of many successful Brabham cars that have run in Formula One up until the last few years. Sir Jack also introduced Honda to four-wheeled motor sport, their engines powering the successful Brabham Formula Two chassis in 1966.

    Sir Jack scored his final Grand Prix win in South Africa in 1970 before calling his gallant motor racing career to an end at 44 years of age. Sir Jack has never lost contact with the motor racing world and still competes in many different venues. His three sons Geoff, Gary and David have all proven themselves in their own professional racing careers.

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  • 02/17/14--09:00: Rossin Matrix Marble

  • Rossin road bike, made from Columbus Matrix. Equipped with an rare Campagnolo Chorus group in graphite finish. Original marble paint design, decals below clear coating.

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  • 02/18/14--09:00: Mercedes Targa Florio 1924

  • The car is based on the 1923 Indianapolis car, redesigned by Ferdinand Porsche.

    DMG's new chief designer Porsche had got off to an excellent start when he prepared this car for the 1924 Targa Florio. The engine, built in 1923, was completely done over and modified to include a number of innovations, like filling the exhaust valves with mercury for an improved heat abstraction.

    Contrary to the regulations on the colouring of racing cars according to their nationality, this car was painted red instead of white, which was the official German livery . Reportedly, this was meant to stop spectators at the Targa Florio from recognizing the car as a competitor's marque and throwing stones at it, a common practice at the time. Surely not only for this reason, the car was victorious with Werner at the steering wheel, once more demonstrating the capability of the supercharger.

    This race also marked the DMG debut of Alfred Neubauer who was later to become race manager. The car was used in numerous races after its debut in the Targa Florio. For the 1924 Semmering race, Salzer fitted the Targa Florio chassis with a 4.5 litre engine, taken from 1914 GP and additionally equipped with a supercharger. Salzer could establish a record.

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  • 02/18/14--11:00: Everybody Jump

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  • 02/19/14--09:00: Hughes H-1 Racer

  • The H-1 flew beautifully and was far faster than any aircraft previously built. Hughes determined to try to recapture the world landplane speed record, which had been taken for France the year before by Raymond Delmotte in a Caudron C-460 built in French Air Ministry facilities at a cost of over a million dollars. They tuned the Twin Wasp Jr. for maximum output using newly developed 100 octane fuel especially shipped in five-gallon containers from the Shell refinery in New Orleans. In this way they got nearly 1,000 horsepower from an engine nominally rated at 700.

    On September 13, 1935, at Santa Ana, California, representatives of the National Aeronautics Association and the Internationale Federation Aeronautique, including Amelia Earhart and Hollywood stunt pilot Paul Mantz, clocked Hughes and his racer at 352.39 miles per hour, nearly forty miles per hour faster than the in existing record set by Delmotte." The speed runs that day nearly ended in tragedy. As Hughes completed his final mg so pass along the measured three-kilometre course, the engine quit and the little silver monoplane dropped out of sight into an adjoining ploughed field. When Odekirk and other observers got there Hughes was climbing down from the cockpit. Fortunately, the plane was scarcely damaged; a crash would have voided a new record. Later they found a wad of steel wool in a fuel line. But according to Odekirk that did not stop the flow of fuel-Hughes had run out of gas.

    Odekirk had warned him to watch the time because he was only carrying a minimum fuel load to keep his weight down. But Hughes had been so intent on breaking the record that the engine quit before he could switch to an auxiliary tank containing a small reserve supply.
    The Coast-to-Coast Record Falls
    Hughes's next goal was to better the ten-hour coast-to-coast record set by Roscoe Turner in the 1934 Bendix Trophy Race. But it would be months before the H-1 could be repaired and fitted with a longer wing for distance racing. So Hughes looked with renewed interest at the new Northrop airplanes.

    Famed aviatrix Jacqueline Cochran had recently purchased a Northrop Gamma, a sleek advanced monoplane she was readying for the Bendix race. Hughes calculated that if he replaced the 1535 engine Cochran had on the plane with the latest Wright Cyclone R-1820G 850 horsepower engine coupled with a Hamilton Standard variable pitch propeller, he could easily better Turner's record. At about eleven thirty one night the telephone rang in Cochran's hotel room. She groped sleepily for the phone at the bedside table.

    "Jackie, this is Howard."
    ''Howard who?"
    "Howard Hughes. "
    She was tired and in no mood for practical jokes at what for a working girl was a
    late hour. "Aw, come off it. It's late and I'm tired."
    "No, really. It's Howard. I want to buy your airplane."
    ''Well, it's not for sale," she said. "I'm going to fly it in the Bendix."
    "I don't want to fly it in the Bendix, I want to fly it transcontinental."
    "So do I,'' said Jackie. Hughes wouldn't be put off. "Come on out to Mines Field tomorrow, look at the racer and we'll talk about it some more."

    The offer to inspect Hughes's "fabulous" racer was irresistible. She hadn't been able to keep her eyes off it whenever she had seen Hughes exercising it. "Aero-dynamically," Cochran says, "the plane was as far apart from the then-accepted airplanes as the jets are from the planes of World War II. I had been looking at this racer with my mouth watering." She got to sit in the airplane-she didn't get to fly it. Hughes, with his usual persistence, kept trying for weeks to work out a deal for the Gamma that she could not refuse. At that time Jackie was unmarried and supported her aviation activities through her efforts in the beauty and cosmetic business. Hughes knew that she was terribly short of funds. Finally he offered to rent the Gamma from her for nearly as much as she had paid for it. "I couldn't afford not to rent it to him," she says. Meanwhile, Hughes made eleven flights as a Douglas DC-2 co-pilot on TWA's his transcontinental runs during 1935, apparently to build his transcontinental experience in preparation for the record attempt.

    On January 13, 1936 Hughes flew the modified Gamma from Burbank to Newark in nine hours and twenty-seven minutes at an average speed of 259.1 miles per hour for a new record. Then he went on to set intercity records for New York-Miami and Chicago-Los Angeles.

    "It just broke my heart," said Cochran, "but I couldn't afford to do otherwise. Then the deadline was up for him to either return the Gamma or to purchase it. So he sent me a purchase check because he was in Chicago and too busy to return the airplane, I guess. Then he turned around and sold it back to me for much less a few days later-and he did a lot of work on it for me for practically nothing, which was interesting. He has a very interesting streak."

    For his achievements Hughes was awarded the coveted Harmon trophy. On January 20, 1937 en-route to the presentation ceremony he flew a revamped H-1, now fitted with a longer wing and a new Pratt and Whitney R-1535 Wasp engine of 700 horsepower, from Burbank to Newark in seven hours, twenty-eight minutes and thirty-five seconds. (Hughes built two sets of wings for the H-1, one with a span of only twenty-five feet-that he used to set the closed course record, and the other with a span of thirty-one feet nine inches that he used for his long-distance runs. The wings were of wood and the fuselage was aluminium.) The little racer averaged 327.15 miles per hour over the 2,490-mile course for a record that was to stand for ten years. And he did it using only forty-eight percent power because he to be sure and make it non-stop.
    A Major Milestone

    H-1 had a great impact on the design of high performance aircraft. Noteworthy were the close-fitting, bell-shaped engine cowling, the gently curved wing that moulded the wings to the fuselage, the retractable landing gear, the extra smooth surfaces with countersunk rivets and flush joints, ailerons that drooped 15 degrees when the flaps were fully extended (thus increasing the lift along the full span of the wing during takeoff and landing), and the smoothly faired canopy for easy entrance and exit. The landing gear was so perfectly fitted that the gear fairings and doors were difficult to see whenthe gear was retracted.

    So important is the H-1 in the history of flight technology that it is now enshrined at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., where a plaque reads: "The Hughes H-1 racer was a major milestone on the road to such radial-engine powered World War II fighters as the American Grumman F6F Hellcat and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, the Japanese Mitsubishi Type 0 (Zero), and the German Focke-Wulf 190. The H-1 demonstrated that properly designed radial engine aircraft could compete with the lower-drag inline designs."

    Hughes's development of the H-1 racer made another vital contribution to American aviation, according to Jacqueline Cochran. "He had a group of young engineers working on that racer who became the backbone in the development of our wartime aircraft. And at that time they probably couldn't have gotten a job as a busboy in a cafeteria. We were in the heart of the depression in our country, and great talent would have just gone by the wayside if he hadn't put up the money for the development of that and many other things in aviation.... I have a lot of respect for him, frankly, in spite of his eccentric attitudes.''

    While Hughes was still on the East Coast after his record-breaking transcontinental flight in the H-1 he was telephoned by General O. P. Echols, Commander of the Army Air Corps' Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, a centre for Air Corps testing and procurement. Echols told Hughes that the Air Corps was keenly interested in the H-1 because it was faster than anything they had at the time. "Can you stop by and let us see it on your way back to California?" Hughes agreed and Echols arranged for a group of top brass to be on hand to meet him.

    According to Noah Dietrich, there now occurred the first of several incidents that would poison the minds of key Army Air Corps officers against Hughes for years to come. He over-flew Wright Field, gassed up in Chicago, and continued on to California. Echols, who later became Chief of Air Corps procurement, never forgot the snub. He vowed that Howard Hughes would never get a "dime's worth of business" from him. Hughes told Dietrich that he just forgot to stop in Dayton. Dietrich thought the snub was intentional, that Howard simply "didn't want those generals snooping around his airplane and stealing his ideas."

    Such an incident did occur, according to the testimony given in the 1947 Senate hearings, but not in the way Dietrich recalls in his book. According to information in Hughes's logbooks Hughes did not fly the racer home. The plane sat in Newark until Allen Russell, corporate pilot for William Randolph Hearst, flew it back to Burbank.

    The H-1 flies again!

    At approximately 7:15 AM, July 9, 2002, the Wright built Hughes H-1B, serial #2 became airborne for the first time. The dream of one man became a reality because of the hard work, dedication and perseverance of a talented team of individuals.

    September 13, 2002

    On the morning of September the 13th, 2002, Jim Wright piloted the Hughes Racer Replica to a new world speed record (category C-1.d) of 304.07 mph. The H-1 Racer has once again earned a place in the record books.

    The Challenge
    August 28, 2002
    By Dennis J. Parker

    I had to smile a little during testing of the Hughes H-1B (serial #2) the other day. The airplane was built from scratch by a small group of dedicated individuals sometimes referred to as "The Racer Team". As usual the airplane drew a small, unexpected crowd and (as usual) there were grins from ear to ear. I was humoured by a gentleman's comment, "They don't make 'em like that anymore." I was humoured because the gentleman was wrong. We did make one - and then we flew it.

    Howard Hughes was the builder of the original Hughes H-1B (serial #1), which now sits in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. Back in 1935 he flew that aircraft to a new land speed record and for a brief period of time was the fastest person ever to pilot a land airplane. He was a man with remarkable ambition who built his dreams for himself instead of waiting for the world to create them for him. He was also a secretive man. His life and his accomplishments are somewhat of a mystery, and the H-1 is no exception. The history books only touch briefly on the H-1, an airplane that Hughes reportedly considered one of his greatest achievements.

    Hughes shattered two world records in the original H-1 before he retired the aircraft, eventually donating it to the Air & Space Museum at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. where it sits in a place of honor. After setting the transcontinental speed record in 1937, Howard Hughes would never again fly the H-1 Racer. The public would have to wait almost 65 years to see an H-1 fly again. That happened at 7:15 A.M. on July 9, 2002, when serial number two flew for the first time.

    Unravelling the history of the H-1 and of Hughes during that era was an intriguing challenge. The impact that the original aircraft had on aviation made it a natural choice for a team that wanted to build a one of a kind reproduction. Barely forty hours were flown on the original. Yet, according to the Smithsonian Institute, "The Hughes H-1 racer was a major milestone aircraft on the road to such radial engine-powered World War II fighters as the American Grumman F6F Hellcat and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, the Japanese Mitsubishi Type 0 (Zero), and the German Focke-WuIf FW 190." The H-1 broke the world speed record at 352 mile per hour, could fly from standard runways, had practical flight characteristics, and had an almost unimaginable range of nearly 4000 miles! Hughes flew the H-1 from Los Angeles California to Newark New Jersey in 7 hours 23 minutes without stopping for fuel. That was fast enough to capture the world record, and that was in 1937!

    Since the goal of the Racer Team was to recreate the aircraft as precisely as possible, the Team needed access to the original. Using Paul Matt drawings of The Racer, estimates were made regarding fuselage and wing shape. Then reverse templates were cut using these estimates. The Smithsonian graciously allowed members of The Team access to the H-1 outside of normal business hours to make measurements. The reverse templates were held up to the actual H-1, and notes were made where they did not match. Several trips to Washington D.C. were required during the design phase. With each trip, the Racer Team gained new appreciation for the genius of Howard Hughes. Whatever else Hughes may have been, his genius in aircraft design was becoming apparent.

    Hundreds of pictures were taken, and pages upon pages of notes were made. While this work was being done, hundreds of man-hours were spent in research. It seemed like everyone that had any knowledge of the original H-1 was eager to help. We were impressed with companies such as Pratt & Whitney, Stoddard Hamilton, and others who happily opened their historical archives to help us understand Hughes and the H-1 better. We learned from the historian at Pratt & Whitney, Jack Connors, the history of the R-1535 that we have, as well as the history of the original that sits on the H-1 in the Smithsonian. They actually have documented history on each and every engine that they have built. It turns out that Pratt & Whitney had leased the engine to Hughes for the record-breaking attempt. Mr. Connors noted (with a chuckle) that there was no record that Hughes ever actually paid Pratt & Whitney for the engine!

    We learned from an original test engineer on the R-1535, Skip Eveleth, that in his opinion the engine was one of the most trouble free twin row engines built. Skip worked directly with Howard Hughes on the project. Skip was a test engineer on the R-1535 in the 1930's and assisted in tracking down the original performance figures for the R-1535 for our Racer Team. There were less than 3000 of the R-1535 engines made, and today they are exceedingly rare. Most are believed to have been destroyed. We believe that the engine installed on the Racer replica is the only known flying example of a P&W R-1535 in the world.

    Howard was anxious to work with Skip to obtain performance figures on the engine. At the time these were considered classified. Apparently Pratt & Whitney wanted Hughes to have the data, despite the classification. According to Skip, Howard was directed to an office that by "sheer coincidence" had the performance figures laid open upon the desk. Howard was instructed to wait in the room while they reviewed his request for the data. Skip's boss returned a short time later to inform Hughes that his request for the information was denied. With a grin Hughes replied that he would no longer need it. Skip also recalled, (with a chuckle) that when Howard Hughes called him to discuss the data, that he called him collect. Skip asked his boss if he could accept collect calls to which his boss replied, "Only from Howard Hughes."

    We had many discussions with one of the original design engineers on the H-1, Mr. John Newbury. John revealed much about the project, and what it was like to work for Howard. Apparently Howard had a habit of wearing sneakers, which allowed him to walk about very quietly. Howard would often stealthily enter a work area to monitor his staff without being detected. He was not always successful with this though. John recalled with humour that at times Howard would go a considerable time between washings of his sneakers - the odour of which would then betray his presence.

    We spent several hundred man-hours trying to locate the original blueprints. We had several leads and tips, and tracked the prints as far as Lakeland Florida. Unfortunately, we failed to locate them. This challenged the design team to "back engineer" the structures in the aircraft that are hidden from view. Considerable engineering time went into the reproduction. Old photos of the internal wing structure were pored over. Additionally, we were able to obtain the wind tunnel data done on the original aircraft (GALCIT report #135). The Hughes team spent over 90 days at the wind tunnel at the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory, California Institute of Technology (GALCIT). Howard Hughes did not make guesses or leave things to chance. He was insistent that things got done right, regardless of the expense.

    The implementation phase overlapped the planning/design phase for the building of the replica. Major factors involved were the coordination of subcontractors, selecting talented and compatible team members, coordination with suppliers, and managing the hundreds of visitors. The coordination of subcontractors was sometimes challenging as time estimates were often exceeded. All tolled over 35,000 man-hours went into the replica. Some of the most talented artisans in the industry were employed on the project.

    Selecting team members was straightforward. All were local pilots, all had experience with completing experimental aircraft projects (some award winning), and two are certified aircraft mechanics. A total of five team members constituted the main team: Jim Wright, Ron Englund, Dave Payne, Mike Mann, and Al Sherman. Support to the team is provided by employees of Wright Machine Tool.

    Their efforts have not gone unnoticed. Local radio personality and pilot, Bill Barret, expressed his views in an open comment posted to the Racer Team on their forum. Bill was present at one of the initial flights and said, "... I tried to express to Jim (Wright), how much the H-1 project demonstrates the sometimes intangible American Spirit. I was in the Saturday throng that watched and listened with childlike excitement as Jim taxied out for take-off. When the H-1 surged off the runway and climbed powerfully into the blue, I was proud to see their dream realized. Although tucked away in a small hangar in Cottage Grove, Oregon this project speaks loud and clear to the spirit of America. Individuals grasping a challenge and seeing it become a gleaming reality. Jim and dedicated crew saw the goal, and did the hard work with obvious skill and patience. I was delighted to see the H-1 fly and to share its' story with my children ..."

    It is difficult to capture (in words) the scope of an undertaking like this. I have been around a lot of experimental aircraft. Building an aircraft is not easy. It has been likened by some to climbing a mountain. In that sense the H-1B is the Mount Everest of experimental homebuilt aircraft. It has taken the talents of dozens of people to make it all come together. It has taken stubborn patience, hard work and an unprecedented attention to detail to reproduce this airplane. The list of talents employed to complete the project include: machinists, engineers, wood workers, metal workers, mechanics, assemblers, painters, electricians, secretaries and computer draftsmen. Above all else, it took the dream of one man who wanted to be the fastest man in the world, and the later dream of another who wanted to recreate that vision.

    I was once asked why anybody would want to tackle such a project. There really isn't a single canned answer to this. This aircraft is many different things to different people. It is tough to put into words. There is something timeless about the aircraft. It exudes an aura unlike any other aircraft that I have seen. My suggestion to those that might ask why is this: take a look for yourself at the Wright built Hughes H-1B. Get up close to the airplane and see what those guys built. If you still have to ask why, you wouldn't understand the answer.

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  • 02/19/14--11:00: Wayne Gardner & Moriwaki

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    A clothing designer's creation became Bobby Darin's dream car. While Detroit native Andy Di Dia's Clothing designs were elegant and traditional, his single automobile design was unrestrained and unconventional. Construction of the hand-built Di Dia 150 lasted from 1953 to 1960 and cost over $150,000 to build. Today, it would approach $1.5 million. It has a V8 engine with a 125-inch wheelbase.

    Di Dia friend, singer and actor Bobby Darin, was enchanted by the car and obtained it from Di Dia. Bobby drove it to the Academy Awards and in movies. It was donated in 1970, three years after his death.
    The DiDia 150 is an exotic vehicle that is over-done in every detail and in every respect, an iconic dream car. Its metallic red paint was from 30 coats of paint with real ground diamonds for sparkle. In the back are large tail fins that would be better suited on the underside of a boat or on the wings of an airplane. The body is from hand-fashioned soft aluminum. There are hidden headlights and tail lights that swivel as the car turns. Inside, the seats each have their own ash tray, cigarette lighter, and radio speaker. On the dash are oversized levers that control the air conditioning, heater and defroster. The car rests on a 125-inch wheelbase and is powered by a V8 engine. This is a car that batman would buy.

    The car was created by Andy DiDia and only one example was ever built. It was later sold to the singer and actor Bobby Darin. It currently resides in the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, MO.

    This was not a show car. Bobby and his wife, Sandra Dee often drove it to the Academy Awards. It also appeared in movies of the time.

    The DiDia 150 is hand-fashioned from soft aluminum, has thermostatically controlled air conditioning, hidden headlights, tail lights that swivel as the car turns a corner, glass windows on hinges, and rust-colored seats, each with an ash tray, cigarette lighter, and radio speaker.It took seven years to complete, from 1953 to 1960.

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