Passion & Practicality – High miler Laverda 3C

In Australia Laverda motorcycles are rare, customised Laverdas are even rarer, and customised Laverdas that are ridden on a regular basis are almost unheard of. Today’s bike falls into the last of these categories, an Italian beauty that’s not afraid to put miles under it’s tyres, and it comes in the form of Marty’s 1974 Laverda 3C. After twenty years ownership (including three as an everyday rider), and showing no fear in riding it on a regular basis, this bike shows that you can have something special as your daily transport. It helps to have bitchin’ mechanical skills as well.

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The heart of this machine is the one litre engine the 3C left the factory with, although much modified by now. The cylinder head has been worked, now sporting steeper angles for the inlet and exhaust ports, while nestled in the head sit a pair of custom cams. A set of Keihin carbs from a Honda have replaced the factory setup, the airbox a custom job to work between the Jap and Italian engineering. An IIS ignition sytem brings the spark, Ross racing pistons bring the noise, and a larger capacity oil pump helps stop the engine from blowing itself to pieces. With the engine now running at 12:1 compression, octane booster is utilised to stop pinging. At the exhaust end of business the silencers are stock units, with personalised touches in the form of slight bruising from having to put the bike down at speed.

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The ability to stop and handle is as important as the ability to go fast, something that hasn’t been neglected on the Laverda. The stoppers on the front end are Ducati full floating discs, with Brembo four pot calipers doing the clamping. Marzocchi is the choice for the front forks, the original Ceriani ones being given the flick, and a Tarozzi forkbrace fitted. Sitting in the forks are cartridge emulators, to boost the performance of the damping rod system, and 5w oil. At the back end sit Koni Dial-A-Rides, also fitted with cartridge emulators. To maintain a façade of a factory looking bike, the original Borrani wire alloys have stayed on the bike.

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In the looks department, the bike stands out too. And not just because the Laverda’s Marmalade paintwork is retinally searing. A Ducati SSD front fairing envelopes the front end, hiding the 38mm Ducati clip-ons in it’s super brightness. The front guard comes courtesy of a Laverda SFC, and the factory rear guard has been retained, although it has lost 8 inches of it’s length. Due to Marty’s tall height, and an injury from an off he had a while ago, the rear sets are an inhouse arrangement. A set of ground down spanners, flanked by Tarozzi pegs, make for a custom heel-toe gearchange, allowing for a better riding position for the big man.

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Marty is a guy who knows what he likes, and two decades of ownership have allowed him to customise the bright orange machine to exactly how he wants it. This bike doesn’t just cover road miles, with it doing a year in post classic historic racing, it’s failure to get podium positions being described by Marty as ‘fast bike, slow rider’. The miles it does on the open road is no small figure either, with the bike doing a yearly trip throughout the Australian Alps, on top of the interesting bike routes dotted around Sydney. A fast bike, albeit with a ‘slow rider’, this Laverda has so much passion and time put into it by the doting owner, that you can see why it is still going strong. It does pretty damn well to go against the idea that a Laverda can’t be an everyday bike.

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Superior by name, Superior by nature

Some things in life don’t stand up to being described in words. A tropical sunset, a new born baby, you will find the sum of the words do not give a fitting description to the experience being felt by whoever is doing the describing. In the motorcycle world, the equivalent of this is attempting to put the Brough Superior SS100 on paper. The sleek lines and beautiful chromework do not lend themselves easily to descriptions of a literary nature, always equaling something less than the whole. I’m willing to give it a try though.

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An almost mythical creature in the cycle world, the Brough Superior is the stuff of legends. It is the granddaddy of today’s breed of superbike, from a time when 100mph was fast, and cork was the substance of choice for helmet padding. That is, if a helmet was worn at all. Long and low, with flowing lines, the SS100 is the perfect paradigm of a motorcycle. From the leading link forks to the swing arm rear suspension, it can be hard not to admire the leading edge technology of it’s time. With every SS100 coming with a written guarantee it has reached over 100mph during the testing stage, the bike was bound to attract those riders with a more sporting bent. Today’s feature bike is one such bike, having cut it’s teeth in competition and moved onto a more sedate lifestyle of touring. With many interesting miles behind it, FGX5 is a beautiful example of the Brough Marque and it’s story does need to be shared.

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First registered on the 13th of December 1938, the SS100 was placed in the showroom of Godfrey’s of London. Sold the same month, the first owner took part in several trials over the course of 1939. Five years later, the bike appeared for sale in a 1944 edition of The Motorcycle magazine. After that it disappeared for some time, reappearing in 1956 in Stroud, then in 1964 having had two separate owners during that year. In 1997 the bike was purchased by Bob Shapiro, an American living in London. On his passing in 2000, the bike was passed onto another owner from across the pond. The SS100 was kept and maintained in the UK, under the watchful eye of another Brough club member. The new owner made annual trips to England to take part in rallies, or to visit the bike during the Club’s August rally. The bike was by no means UK bound during this time, with the new owner taking the gleaming machine to the continent, his wife perched upon the pillion seat. The magnificent machine passed to it’s current owner in September 2010, with the bike being kept in regular use. Rallies in Germany, Scotland and England ensure the Brough does not collect any cobwebs on it’s gleaming chromework.

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FGX5 is definitely a bike with a full and interesting history. Commonly referred to as ‘The Show Bike’, it is a duplicate of a Brough Superior that was featured at the Earls Court Motorcycle show in the autumn of 1938. Unsure as to whether it was one of the two bikes featured at the show, or simply an understudy of sorts, the bike has all the accessories one would expect on a show bike. Chromium plating, crashbars and special paint work add up to an eye catching motorcycle. It was this lavish bodywork, and beauty of the machine that led to George Brough’s own claim that the Brough Superior was the ‘Rolls Royce of motorcycles’. This raised the ire from those at the top of the Rolls Royce organization, and a tour of the Brough factory was scheduled for the top brass from Rolls Royce. Upon seeing the bikes were assembled by workers in white gloves, permission was given to use the Rolls Royce name to advertise the Brough marque. The workers outfitted in white gloves were doing so in preparation for the 1938 Earl’s Court, with the show bikes being specially prepared, but the Rolls Royce ambassadors weren’t to know that. Brough Superior, the Rolls Royce of motorcycles. A term coined over 75 years ago, but an analogy fitting so well it has stuck since.

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The best things in life are free

It has often been said that the best things in life are free. Love, tropical sunsets, and now Suzuki GS motorcycles can be added to the list of what can be had for nothing. Today’s feature bike, a 1982 Suzuki GS1100E, started out as a clapped out gift from one friend to another, and ended up a restomod show-stealing superbike. The journey even took the owner, Joe, all the way to having his own bike workshop VJ Motorcycles. With the bike as the flagship of the VJ workshop, Joe won’t suffer from a shortage of interested customers.

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After a friend lost interest in the big GS, Joe put his hand up to adopt the neglected machine. A few weekends of workshop tinkering, and the bike was running like a GS should. Happy to keep the bike in stock form, Joe kept the bike standard for the first few years of ownership. Soon though, Joe had a bad case of spanner itch and knew he couldn’t keep riding the bike in it’s then current form. In the words of the builder himself; ‘as with any vintage machine, the stock suspension was down right scary when paired with the engine’s capabilities’. It was time for a restomod.

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Parking the bike up in the shed, the whole machine was stripped back to a bare frame and Joe got to work. The main priority of this build was to remedy the suspension issues, and bring the bike up to show spec. With a design brief to swap out the lackluster factory suspension, the GS had it’s entire suspension replaced with later model components. The factory front end is gone, in it’s place sits a GSXR1100 forkset with Racetech 1.0kg fork inserts fitted. This more sporting setup is strengthened with an ABM top clamp kit and Jay’s custom forkbrace. The front brake set is also courtesy of the GSXR1100, with SBS pads fitted and CORE MOTO carbon brake lines bringing the pressure. To pull the big bike up both front and rear are GSXR1100 EBC XC series contour units.

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At the rear of the GS sits a Bandit 1200 swingarm, the Bandit also donating both front and rear rims, wrapped in Michelin 2CT rubber. All that power from the 1100cc motor needs to get to the ground efficiently, so a SuperSprox 48t is fed DID Gold brand o-ringed chain. Keeping all that power grounded is a set of Ohlins SU1430 piggy back shocks. To keep with the sporting aesthetic, and more importantly to be able to ride in full race position, a set of ZX12R rearsets have been fitted.

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In the engine department, Joe felt the 1100cc powerplant was adequate for the bike’s purpose. Due to this, the engine itself has not been fettled for more power. Instead, some thought has gone into the longevity of the engine and some smart mods made. With the 82-83 model GS bikes known for having oil issues in the head, Joe utilized a fellow GSResources forum member’s fix. Greg’s top end oiler mod is an upgrade that pushes the flow of oil directly onto the cam area, allowing for better lubrication and cooling. To complement this, a GS1150E stock oil cooler and lines have been fitted for better cooling ability. The engine has been treated to a fresh coat of high temp gloss black, and a stainless bolt kit fitted.

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The fuel system has been given a bit of a touchup, the factory and carburetors long gone. In their place sit a set of Mikuni BS36SS from a GS1150E, packing K & N pod filters. All that air going in has got to come out somewhere, so a MotoGP Werks custom 4-1 exhaust has been built for the bike, mounted on a modified Rometech stainless hanger.

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Aesthetically, the lines of the bike look as good as when the GS rolled out of the factory in 1982. However, the muscular bottom half of the bike looks like it rolled out of the factory and rolled straight into the gym. The complete body is as Suzuki intended, freshened up with a new set of decals. The Rizoma parts bin has been raided, with a set of gold bars, mirrors and end caps bringing a bit of flash to the build. The stock brake master cylinder and perch have been ditched, in their place sits a unit from a Yamaha FZ8N. To keep a proper eye on the speed, an 83 model 140mph meter cluster has been mounted, beneath the stock headlight is flanked by Oberon LED directionals.

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From an unloved lump of high quality Japanese steel languishing in a shed, this GS has found a new lease on life. The average factory suspension has been swapped out for something a little more stable in the twisties, and with a showbike finish there is no chance of this bike changing owners for free ever again.

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A million thanks to Joe from VJ Moto for taking the time to provide the info and pics on this awesome bike. A quality build from a quality builder, get in touch to see what VJ Moto can do for you. You’ll find them at http://www.vjmoto.com

For more info on the GS series of Suzuki bikes, head to the fountain of knowledge at http://www.GSResources.com

True comfort

True comfort

From Motorcycle Magazine, 3rd May 1956

7 questions for…you

7 questions for...you

It was the beginning of the mainstream motoring age. No longer would the ownership of automobiles be restricted to the upper classes. The future of cars was here, and the people needed to be informed. To do so, in 1911 a book was published to address this need. It was called ‘Questions & Answers for automobile students and mechanics’.

Here are 10 questions:
1) in relation to the engine, what is the ‘two to one’ shaft?

2) what practical use is a ‘hydrometer’ to a touring driver when it comes to the issue of fuel quality?

3) What are the principles of a dynamo?

4) Describe the system known as ‘hot tube’ ignition.

5) Describe the ‘Franklin’ air cooling system.

6) What is the better option; a live axle or fixed axle with two chain drive?

7) what is the difference between a ‘knock’ and a ‘pound’?

First person with all seven questions right scores a copy of ‘The Halcyon Days of Motoring’, all for a little google work.

Good luck.

7 Questions for – A cafe racer specialist

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Positioned just north of Brisbane, Australia, a small workshop is trying to bring the community spirit back to the motorcycle culture. Sharing info, no looking down on others’ rides and a general feeling of wanting to help out have helped Rocker Classic to be the awesome ‘workshop/meeting place/purveyor of cafe racer spirit’ it has become today. We asked Matt from Rocker Classic to answer some questions on how this came about , and this is what he came back with…

1) How did the Rocker Classic idea come about?
After many years in international freight my good friends and business
partners and I set up a procurement business that included the sourcing
and movement of vehicles including bikes. Like many of our customers and
friends I had ridden bikes since I was a kid but only started riding again
later in life. I fell in love with the café racer scene and all that
surrounds it and was inspired by shops like Dime City and Deus to take the
plunge and buy by partners out and focus on a retail custom bike shop, but
one with my own touch. I wanted something less commercial and more
welcoming and community orientated. A place like they used to be, where
you can just hang out if you want.

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2) Who is it that inspires you?
Tough one. I love want others have done…including many of the prominent
custom shops. I find inspiration in helping a new rider build something
they love on a shoestring budget…it’s what we all did. I find
inspiration when I watch a retired guy with a gleam in his eye as he shows
me his Matchless and then swaps stories with the younger guys. I am
inspired by the support we have received. We have built this whole thing
on a small budget (my accountant still thinks I am mad) and we have a long
way to go…but I can’t think of doing anything else. My staff also
inspire me greatly. Without their passion and belief we wouldn’t be here.
I am blessed with some of the best guys in the industry who have much
experience to share but are willing to listen to my crazy ideas as well!

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3) Can you tell us the favourite bike you’ve done work on?
1998 Thunderbird 900 we built into a very cool tracker. We love doing
SR’s too but to be honest we just love the process from vision to result
on anything we do.

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4) So what would be your favourite bike someone else has built?
We showed an SR we built for Motorcycle Specialities down at the Oil
Stained Brain show in Melbourne last year. There was a fantastic XS650
café racer there that someone had privately built and I thought it was one
of the tidiest builds I had seen for a while, commercial or private. I
also like the bikes coming out of Red Star Garage, although they do mostly
bobbers. Pop Bang Classic should get a mention and Deus still does
consistently good work. Destino Custom Garage put out some awesome
bobbers too. There are plenty more that come into our shop for a visit!

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5) What do you see in the future of the cafe racer scene in Australia?
I think the industry is still growing (otherwise I wouldn’t of spent every
dime I had, and more, on this crazy idea – actually yeah I would have).
It is one of the fastest growing areas of the motorcycle scene across the
country and world and I believe the passion and love for making old things
into something new and exciting will be around for a long time yet.
Whether it is the guy pushing a bike together with a bunch of old spares
in his back yard, through to commercial ventures like ours, the shared
passions should see us all still throwing spanners for some time.

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6) What would you say is the best part of your job?
My job. I LOVE the interaction with customers who really become our
friends as we go along. I love the fact that we have a place where people
from all walks of life can meet and share the craziness that is Rocker. I
love seeing the bikes we design come to fruition and I love the smile on
the face of the owner as they ride away. It is a fantastic culture and I
am humbled to be a part of it.

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7) Can you describe a cafe racer in one sentence?
A café racer is a bike that has had its shackles removed, its lungs
cleared, it’s body streamlined, and it’s heart reminded of what it should
always have been; lean, responsive, powerful and in the end an expression
of the rider.

Continue reading

WRC is for boys, Group B is for men

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It was a different time. Racing was still relatively dangerous, sex was still relatively safe. However, within a decade this arrangement was soon to be flipped around. Group B was famous for rally drivers pushing their reflexes to the limit, in cars that could accelerate and corner faster than their brains could comprehend. FISA, the leading motorsport authority of the time, made sure all the world’s best manufacturers threw whatever they could, financially and technologically, at these fire breathing monsters, with little regard for drivers’, navigators’, spectators’ and officials’ safety. The Fiat motor group was at the forefront of the Group B movement, and this is the story of one of their cars: The Lancia 037.

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Built as a replacement to the Group 4 Lancia Stratos, the 037 was designed to run in the newly formed Group B class of rally. The Fiat motor group had a healthy rally history, as well as the Stratos there was the Fiat 131 Abarth rallycars winning rally after rally. Lancia itself has had a long factory supported motorsport history, beginning with Cesare Fiorio producing the Fulvia HF in the mid-60s, to the Lancia Stratos, and now the Lancia 037. For Group 4 homologation five hundred Lancia Stratos cars had to be produced, giving Lancia the experience in limited run homologation specials, by the time the Group B rules came about. In 1980, FISA was in the process of bringing in a new set of class rules for its motorsport categories. The newly devised Group A, B and C regulations were slow to be published, leaving manufacturers unsure as to a direction in which to head. The two main issues which the manufacturers needed confirmed were the exact numbers required for homologation, and whether evolutions of the cars would be allowed. The lack of a final figure for production, mixed with the lack of surety of the possibility of evolution models, made manufacturers a bit wary of starting on building cars that might not even fit in with the guidelines FISA would come out with. Sergio Limone, outgoing Abarth Technical director of the time, had an idea of what his team’s rally car should look like and forwarded his ideas onto his replacement, Pier Paolo Messori.

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Limone envisioned a Lancia Monte Carlo based car, using parts from the Abarth lineup, including a good number of parts from the hugely successful 131 Abarth rally cars. Interestingly, induction was to be supercharged, going against the grain in the Abarth workshop, as they nearly wholly dealt with turbocharging. Two of the factors in favour of supercharging were reliability, and to not have to worry about ‘turbo lag’. Another plus was that Abarth could build superchargers in their own workshop, whereas the turbocharger units were sourced from Ferrari. Supercharged Abarth engines were tested in a number of motorsport disciplines, and their viability was proven in the field. The initial aesthetic design was for a Monte Carlo based car, with large front wing and additional rear part, the initial mockup being produced by CBC of Turin. It was given the go-ahead, and chassis number 001 heading Dallara, with their work already been proven in the successful Monte Carlo Turbo racers. It was soon after this when FISA broke cover with the fully published Group A, B and C regulations. One of the points stipulated was that Group B cars were not to run in the WRC series, making the 037 obsolete, before it had even really begun.

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Cesare Fiorio, who had initially started Lancia’s rally team, blasted FISA for changing the regulations to the opposite of what they had put forward six months earlier, that Group B cars would be able to run in WRC. Cesare pointed out that any manufacturer who had put money and time into building a Group B car would now be at a loss as to where they would be able to compete in it. Luckily for the Abarth team, FISA changed its mind in December 1981, to reverse their decision and allow Group B cars to run in the WRC. Chassis 001 was still under test at this time, its Rootes style supercharger giving trouble, so the engine was running in naturally aspirated form. The 1995cc engine block used in this car, and the first set of 037 cars sold, is the two litre mainstay of the Fiat group, the head being the same specification as a 131 Abarth. The big end bolts are 11mm, uprated from the 10mm factory specification. Lubrication is of a dry sump type, allowing for lower positioning of the engine in the frame, and better oil feed to suit rally conditions. With fuel injection systems still too far advanced, and time expensive to fit, the decision was made to run the first cars using a twin choke Weber. This would also help in the process to get the road cars registered, as the Weber allowed the car to pass the emissions regulations of the time.

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Ignition was provided by a production Marelli unit in the road cars, the race cars getting a special ECU, to go with a proper distributor. To overcome the handling issues experienced in the 131 Abarth rally cars, a few engineering touches were made. Double wishbones were fitted all round, this would allow for flexibility in the setup of the car, depending upon the conditions faced in competition. Twin shocks on the rear axle made for longevity of service, reducing overheating issues by halving the workload each shock had to do. Front suspension is conventional independent wishbone style, the single shock a coiled Bilstein. Braking is taken care of by Brembo, two piston calipers both front and rear, boosted by a hydrovac unit. The 16” rims wrapped in Pirelli P7 tyres. All Lancia 037 cars were rear wheel drive, the first round of cars getting the ZF 5DS25/1, a transmission famous for its strength. This gearbox is used in supercars such as the Maserati Bora, and is still sought after today for use in different types of MR kit cars. The initial plan to use the Monte Carlo body was kept, however the car was sent to Pininfarina to test in their wind tunnel. Pininfarina’s engineers decided the car needed a different design to better it’s aerodynamics. The Monte Carlo cockpit section was kept, albeit flanked front and rear by subframes, these comprising of the suspension, radiator and cooler mounts. The Uberti produced fibreglass body is built for utility, with two large parts for easy access in rally service sessions. Snorkels mounted on the rear section, are adjustable to two positions, depending on the conditions faced. Our feature car comes from that first batch of 200 road going cars produced to meet homologation purposes.

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This Stradale model car was delivered to the UK, the initial deal to buy the car falling through, and the car was moved onto motorshow display duties. At the Ulster motor show, two of the people glancing upon the 037 liked it enough to buy it on the spot. Two brothers who dabbled in motorsport, Ronnie and Dessie Mccartney, snapped up the Stradale and took it straight to Martin Birney’s workshop. Here it was given a right hand drive conversion, doing so has made it the only RHD Stradale in the 037’s history. In 1983 the car was given it’s baptism of fire, the McCartney brothers entering it in the international Circuit of Ireland rally. Being so new, the car had to have i’s 1000 mile service during the rally. Preparations seem to be hasty, the car still being worked on at 8am on the morning of the start of the rally, the rolling stock a set of borrowed Lancia Stratos wheels.

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Although only packing the Stradale’s factory 210bhp, versus 310bhp of the full competition 037 driven by Pentti Airikala, the car still made an impact, albeit not in the sense of a podium place. After the race, Dessie McCartney was quoted as saying, “Although it was not as quick in a straight line, it was a hit with the fans. We’re actually trying to get some bits and pieces together, to put another engine into the car.” Their plan to put another engine into the car never happened, and the car found its way into the hands of John Gray, a renowned hillclimb racer. After using the car as his everyday transport, the car was given a freshen up. Performance was improved by fitting different camshafts, and the cylinder head being replaced with a more competition based design, along the lines of an Evo 2 engine configuration. On top of this, a smaller pulley was fitted to the supercharger, to increase the boost in the induction system. This translated to a healthy 300 horsepower at the wheels, up 90 from the factory setup. Motor Magazine took John Gray’s 037 out for a test drive, remarking that, “the 0-60 time is down to 6.7 seconds, and that was sideways most of the time … but it was always comfortable and stable’”. The reviewer took quite a shine to the car, going so far as to say, ‘”The sort of car whose squat presence urges you to pick your day, plan a route and get on with it … it’s road car description is not really meant to be taken seriously. Road legal rally car would be more to the point, and occupants should adjust their outlook accordingly”. Using the car in one of his favourite motorsport disciplines, John took the trophy at the 1984 Scottish Hillclimb championship.

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This achievement was made even more notable, as the field he was up against in the Rally car class was full of quite competitively strong cars, which he beat easily. After Mr Gray the car found itself under the owner ship of Ludovic Lindsay. By now it had acquired it’s Martini livery, the front and rear clips being changed over to the Evo 2 type. Ludovic put the power at 300 to 350 horsepower, which made the car a hot Stradale spec. Stopping power had also been upgraded at this point, with Lancia Delta S4 spec brakes fitted to the car. To allow for more driveability on the road, the factory tarmac springs were swapped out for those to allow for a more kerb friendly ride height. In 1989 the car was advertised for sale, from there it made its way to France where a serious collector placed it amongst some other heavy Group B artillery. Eventually, the car was brought to Australia by the current owners. Almost immediately, it was put to good use, entering in Speed on Tweed, the Bega Rally, and the Alpine Rally in Victoria. However, tragedy struck at the Alpine rally, a blocked oil feed line starving the bearings in the supercharger, causing them to fail during the rally. This was seen as a good chance to strip down and rebuild the engine. Using the correct componentry, and working the engine, meant the motor sported Evolution 2 specifications. The addition of a Evo 2 supercharger, and Evo 2 spec manifold assured the powerplant’s reliability at 300+bhp. Right now, the car is ready for competition again; it has not turned a wheel in anger yet, but the owners are eager to get it back out there and competing.

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An amazing car, with an amazing history. Well-travelled, this car has not been hidden away, it has been used as a rally car, every day driver, hillclimb racer, and has spent a good part of its existence registered for use on the road. Its existence today is a testament to the ability of the manufacturers of the era to make sure their homologation models were of a high quality, and not just thrown together to appease the regulation makers. The team at Lancia, the team at Abarth, all need to be commended on their work on these magnificent machines. From here this 037 is ready and raring to go again, keep an eye out because it may be coming to your area, and a piece of art like this needs to be shared.

This article was published in Race Magazine’s May-July 2013 edition.

With thanks to the owner of the car, the owner of the storage space and my new friend Paolo for his artistic photographic direction.

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