Twisted from the Sprue is my little corner of the internet. This site started as a simple web presence for the Three Rivers IPMS model club - as in middle-aged guys who never quite out-grew gluing together miniature cars and planes (and not a club of really good looking people who have their pictures taken for underwear ads and the like). The club now has a real web-site, and this blog is a place for me to post stuff I find interesting or just want to ramble on about.

For a long time the site used yellow-text on a black background, which looked cool but was hard to read. I changed the formatting, but its still the same old content.

Its reassuring to know you're not the only guy with an obsession for trivia - if you happen across something interesting here, or have a question or something to contribute, please leave a comment or drop me an email at dnschmtz@gmail.com


Sunday, April 19, 2020

Time Flies

This post marks an aniversary of sorts. The first time I wrote one of these "Twisted From the Sprue" stories was in the summer of 2000. My IPMS chapter was trying to launch a monthly newsletter and I had a "column" under the" Twisted from the Sprue"  name. One of those first essays was about packing and relocating my modeling workbench as my family moved to a bigger house, a memory that came flooding back as my wife and I took the downsizing plunge this and moved once again.

 Boxed up stash in the new man cave.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

50 Years Beyond the Infinite - Kubrick's Space Odyssey

Back in September I saw the 4K (digital) re-release of 2001: A Space Odyssey on the Carnegie Science Center's big screen (yeah, if you' look at the dates that was about 4 months ago - now you know how long it can take me to write these). The digital version was released at roughly the same time as a new 70mm film print produced under the supervision of Christopher Nolan, and there is a lot of discussion as to whether the digital "print" was made from the new Nolan print or the original negative and how accurate the colors in the digital version are - it seems that the two are unrelated and the 4K version has received good reviews for image quality and for its accuracy in reproducing the original theater images. It certainly looked really good to my untrained eye. The 4K print is now available on Blu-ray disk for a very reasonable (about $20) street price.

Well worn 1968 paperback copy of 2001 - bought at a used book sale for $1.

: this article contains spoilers about the movie and book 2001: A Space Odyssey. If you've managed to never see the movie or read the book or hear them discussed in the last 50 years, you're probably not going to, but don't complain to me if I ruin the surprise...

Monday, April 9, 2018

A Car Modelers Guide to IPMS

It seems like the guys (and a few gals) who spend their time gluing bits of plastic together to make model cars should have a lot in common with the guys and gals who glue bits of plastic together to make model planes and tanks. But walk around the automotive tables at an IPMS show and you’ll almost certainly hear someone whispering something like “these IPMS guys just don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to cars”. Usually they say it a little more colorfully than that. And you hear it again at the end of the show when the whispering is a little louder and along the lines of “how did that ever win!”.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

May your hands always be busy...

In the unlikely event you've been reading these articles from the beginning, you know that this blog was supposed to be about the hobby of scale modeling - building miniature cars and planes and such. In the first few installments I actually tried to find some tie-in between the hobby and whatever I wrote about, but it kept getting harder to do. If you want to talk about scale modeling, you really have to do scale modeling, and I found myself drifting away from the hobby. I still get to club meetings and buy the occasional kit, but I'm spending less and less time at the workbench and actually finishing a model has become largely hypothetical. From the people I've met at IPMS club meetings and model shows, that is not an uncommon thing. Which made me a little curious about why.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

A GT40 Detective Story

I thought I knew all there was to know about the GT40 - Ford's legendary race car from the 1960s. And then I saw a picture on Facebook of a GT40 at the Holman&Moody shop sometime between 1988 and 1990, taken by Russ Haines when he worked at H&M. Russ had asked if anyone knew anything about where this car was now. I thought this was going to be easy, but I would learn a lot more about the GT40 then I imagined before I figured it out. Not that I discovered something no one else had known, but this was a pretty obscure piece of GT40 history and putting it all together was kind of fun.

Many thanks to Russ Haines for letting me use his photos!

A bit of background for those who are not hardcore GT40 aficionados...  In the 1950s Ford cars had gained a reputation as reliable but dowdy. After the war, GM had developed new overhead-valve V8s for all of their product lines, but Ford kept flogging their flathead V8 that had its origins back in 1932. When Ford finally developed new V8s of their own, they were heavy, conservative designs with limited performance potential.

Then in 1960 Lido "Lee" Iaccoca became general manager of Ford. Iaccoca had worked his way up through the Ford sales and marketing organization, and he knew what made people want to buy cars. He would launch a new marketing campaign known as Total Performance, which focused on racing and offered big-motor versions of most of Ford's various models.

Ford's lineup was especially weak when it came to sports cars. Ford had dabbled with the 2-seater Thunderbird in the mid-1950s, but had pulled the plug in the face of limited sales.  What the bean counters failed to realize was that cars like the T-bird helped generate excitement that brought people into the showrooms, even though they might leave with a Falcon or Galaxie family car. Chevy's Corvette owned that market niche, and Ford had nothing in the pipeline that could compete (the Mustang was still just a glimmer in Iaccoca's eye, and would take another 4 years to develop).

As a stop-gap Ford would make a deal with Carroll Shelby to build Ford powered Cobras, but they lacked even basic creature comforts like roll-up windows and heaters. The well-heeled buyers who might buy a Cobra to impress the boys at the country club were unwilling to pay top dollar for a car that could only be driven on sunny summer days. So in early 1963 Ford decided they would buy Ferrari. Today that sounds a little ridiculous, but at the time Ferrari was only selling a few 100 cars a year and Ford was one of the biggest companies in the world; Ford was paying just $10 million dollars for half-ownership. And then at the last minute Enzo got cold feet and backed out of the deal. Henry Ford II was not happy, in an "I want revenge" kind of way.

Ford bought the design of the Lola GT from Eric Broadley, a thoroughly modern (for 1963) mid-engine race car built around Ford's new small V8. And then opened a production line in England to produce the cars necessary to qualify it to race in the FIA sports car races in Europe - races that had been dominated by Ferrari for a decade. It would take millions of dollars and years of development, but Ford GT40s would finally sweep LeMans (placing 1st, 2nd and 3rd) in 1966 and win again in '67, '68 and '69. Along the way, the GT40 would go through several iterations:
  • The original Ford GT.  This first batch of cars were intended to be powered by Ford's 255 cubic inch pushrod Indy-car engine, developed from their new small block V8.  This sounded good on paper, but Le Mans is a lot longer than the 500 mile Indy race, and the engines - not to mention the transaxles - didn't have the necessary durability.
  • The GT40 MkI.  This marks the point where Shelby took over development of the car, adding the "40" to the name.  The Indy car motor was swapped out for the same production based 289 inch version of the Ford V8 that Shelby used in the Cobras, and the bodywork was tweaked for 200 mph stability. The MkIs had some racing success, and were eventually sold in (theoretically) street drivable "road coupe" form.
  • The GT40 MkII. This was essentially the MkI chassis with a NASCAR derived 427 inch "big block" V8, de-tuned slightly for reliability in endurance races. These were the cars that won all the big races in 1966.
  • GT40 MkIIa and MkIIb. These were just MkIIs upgraded for 1967 with the latest engines, bodywork and safety equipment. Most notable differences were dual 4-barrel carbs on the big V8, a new dash and a roll-cage in the cabin. These cars were essentially backups for the new MkIV.
  • GT40 MkIII. These were just MkIs modified to be slightly more street-legal (the headlights were re-positioned to meet height standards and mufflers were added to the exhaust). The revised bodywork was a little clunky and only a handful were sold.
  • GT40 MkIV. This was an all new car, developed in the US by Ford's Kar Kraft subsidiary. It bore a family resemblance to the MkII, but was a completely new design with an aluminum honeycomb chassis to reduce weight. Power came from an uprated version of the 427 used by the MkII. Less than a dozen MkIVs were built, and they were purely race cars. Development of the MkIV had started in 1965, when it wasn't clear the MkIIs would be able to get the job done against the Ferraris; Ford continued the program even after winning Le Mans in '66 to allow them to notch an "All American" victory. The MkIVs would only enter (and win) a few races in 1967, including a 1st and 4th finish at Le Mans, before Ford pulled out of endurance racing.
All of the MkI-MkII-MkIII cars used chassis built in England; the mechanicals and bodywork were added at either FAV in England, or shipped to the US for completion at Kar Kraft or Shelby American or H&M.  The earliest cars were issued 3 digit serial numbers starting with 101;  with the name change to GT40 the numbers switched to 4 digits, starting with 1000. Since the cars were repainted frequently and were driven by a number of different drivers at various races, GT40 aficionados use the chassis numbers to keep track of their favorite cars, and throw the numbers around when discussing their racing history. For example car 1075 is well known as the Gulf sponsored two time ('68 and '69) Le Mans winner.

Back to that picture...  What jumps out at you is that this is a red GT40 with white stripes, like the factory cars wore in the 1966 racing season.  The doors are missing, but there is a bit of a roundel visible on the rocker panel under the door with the bottom curve of a number that could be a 3, 5, 6, 8 or even a 9. The rear bodywork and wheels are also missing, but the engine is all there - and it looks to be a big-block 427 with a single Holley carburetor. The dash looks to be the original MkI/MkII item. According to the Facebook post the car was rumored to have a Le Mans history.

Taking all this at face value suggests this is a 1966 GT40 MkII. I say "face value", because there were a lot of these cars built and it is fairly common for a pedestrian MkI with no racing history to be done up as a more famous car. But leaving aside that possibility, I checked racingsportscars.com to see which car (or cars) it might have been.

And the obvious answer is chassis 1047 - driven by Dan Gurney and Jerry Grant. This car had started from the pole and was at the front of the pack (trading the lead with Ken Miles and Denny Hulme in MkII 1015) when its radiator was damaged, putting 1047 out of the race after 257 laps. 1047 was painted red with white stripes and wearing a big number 3.

There are a few websites with fairly complete histories of all of the GT40s, organized by chassis number (like this one).  According to the registries, after the 1966 Le Mans, the 1047 car was upgraded to MkIIb specs and raced again at Daytona in 1967 where the engine would fail.

After Daytona, 1047 was sent to H&M to be prepared for Le Mans. And then something curious happened.  GT40 1031 was a sister-car to 1047, and it too was at H&M being updated to MkIIb specs in preparation for Le Mans. While the details are fuzzy, it seems that when the two cars were put back together their chassis numbers were switched, with 1031 renumbered  as 1047, and the "real"1047 becoming 1031. In 1967 the MkIIs were repainted several times, and parts were constantly being swapped, making their identities somewhat fuzzy.  Given the number of cars H&M was readying for Le Mans it would have been easy to mix up parts, and as long as the two numbers matched the Le Mans registration no one may have noticed.

At Le Mans the car previously-known-as-1031, painted light blue with black-striping similar to that used on the new MkIVs and wearing number 57 - would lose an engine. The car now-known-as-1031, painted gold with white-stripes and wearing number 5 - would crash into a MkIV in rather spectacular fashion. After the race both MkIIs were sent back to H&M to be repaired. Ford had promised Ford France a MkII to run at the smaller European races for the rest of the season, and the car they sent back across the Atlantic was 1031-wearing-number-1047. 

Some big-names believe that the number swap happened after Le Mans, when H&M quickly salvaged the two cars to ready a replacement for Ford France. One theory is that the renumbering was intentional, to match the registration paperwork at 1047's next scheduled race at Riems - where it would win. The current thinking, based on carefully comparing photographs, is that the number swap happened before Le Mans, and some of the online registries have changed their chassis listings for Le Mans - and some haven't - which can really make things confusing!

What is certain is that at the end of the 1967 season 1031/1047 would be sold off to the first of several French collectors, who kept it in their private collections for the next 30 years. Meanwhile H&M would put the "other" car back together; now wearing 1031, and sell it to a Japanese collector. That car seems to have spent most of 3 decades in a storage container in Japan. Being on opposite sides of the world, no one noticed the number foul-up until both cars were bought by US collectors in the early 2000s and sent out for restoration (details here).

Back to the picture taken in the late 1980s: neither of the two cars that might have been 1047 were in the US at this time. So much for the obvious answer.  Back to the theory that this was a MkI car that had been turned into a MkII (there were only a bakers dozen of MkII cars built, and aside from the 1031/1047 mix up their history is fairly well known). Assuming the mystery car was at Le Mans in 1966, there were only a handful of MkIs, and only 1 was red. Car 1040 belonged to Scuderia Filipinetti, a private team owned by Swiss businessman Georges Filipinetti; at the 1966 Le Mans it was painted red with white stripes, and wore number 14.

But a little digging ruled out 1040 as well. In 1967 that car crashed at LeMans and then caught fire at Monza; it was repaired but painted gold until 1989 when a full restoration began that would take 18 years to complete; it was not in pristine red paint in the 1988-90 time frame.

This whole time I had been chatting with Russ; he found another picture of the car in one piece on the road outside the H&M shop.

All of the details in this picture scream GT40 MkII. For me, this picture was the last nail in the coffin of my theory that this was a MkI rebuilt into a MkII; everything just looked right.  Below is a picture of MkII 1032 I took at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum just after it was completely restored to Le Mans specification by a group of retired Ford engineers; it looks just like the red mystery car (several of the Le Mans cars got gaudy day-glow graphics like this to help the pit-crews tell the cars apart at night).

MkII #1032 restored to the way it looked at LeMans in 1966.

I was ready to admit defeat.  And then while looking through the chassis number registry, I noticed there were a few cars listed way down at the end of the page that did not have 3 or 4 digit numeric chassis numbers. Instead these cars had numbers mixed with letters, like AMGT-1 and XGT-1.

A little more Googling turned up yet more GT40 trivia.  Enter Alan Mann, a British version of Carroll Shelby; Mann was a weekend racer who had wrangled a job at a British Ford dealership, and would use his connections to get Ford to sponsor a small racing team that had a fair amount of success in the early 1960s. In 1964 Ford would use the team as a sort of skunk works to test the racing capabilities of the new Mustang; the team would get several Mustangs before they even appeared in American show rooms. As John Wyer struggled to turn the early GT (with Ford's Indy engine) into a proper race car, Mann had an idea for a lightened version of the GT40: he would replace some of the steel chassis with aluminum, and instead of the high-strung Indy engine the car would be powered with a hotted up production Ford 289 like the ones H&M had sent for his Mustang race cars. Mann would use his connections with Ford to buy 5 MkI chassis (not complete cars) from Ford; they would be delivered unnumbered.

Mann would actually build two lightweights, attaching his own chassis numbers AM GT-1 and AM GT-2, and while the idea showed promise, by that time Ford and Shelby had settled on the 427 powered cars as the path to greater performance and reliability. Some Mann insiders claim Ford intentionally delayed sending the latest 289 performance parts to make sure the big-block cars had an edge; the parts would only arrive after Le Mans. John Wyer would use this basic strategy in his Gulf sponsored cars, dominating the '68 and '69 racing seasons, including back-to-back wins at Le Mans. The three remaining, unnumbered chassis were sent to Shelby to be modified to MkII specs, and returned to Mann, who would run a third team of MkII cars at European events during the 1966 season. These three cars would receive chassis numbers XGT-1, XGT-2 and XGT-3.  Mann would race XGT-1 and XGT-2 at Le Mans in 1966, although neither would finish. XGT-3 was at Le Mans too, but as a spare - it did not run during the race.

After Ford's big 1-2-3 finish at Le Mans in 1966, most of the MkIIs in the race were repaired and sent back into the fray, running at various European races or sent back to H&M to be rebuilt for the 1967 season. Even car 1046, the black-with-silver-stripes MkII that won the '66 Le Mans for Ford for the first time ever would race again the next season, and eventually be scavenged for parts before finally being restored years later.  In 1967 the drivers had yet to become racing icons and the GT40s were just worn out and fast becoming obsolete race cars; after Le Mans most of the team cars would be sold off to private racing teams to flog a few years longer, or sold to a celebrity looking for something outrageous to drive to Hollywood parties. A few left over MkIs would bounce around the US for a few more years, some would eventually sell for as little as $8000 versus the original $18,000 asking price (in 1969 $8000 was still a lot of money - it would have bought two BOSS 302 Mustangs with plenty of change left over for gas).

But XGT-3 had never raced; it was in pristine condition and painted an eye-catching red. It and a few other MkIIs were sent back to the States for publicity purposes, touring Ford dealerships and county fairs on a trailer behind a Ford Ranchero. Most of the MkIIs from the tour eventually made it back to the race track in '67, but XGT-3 was special: it had become the star of a series of Autolite sparkplug advertisements. After a few years having its picture taken, it would end up in storage at Ford headquarters until years later when Ford did some house cleaning and sold it off to a collector.

1967 Autolite Ad featuring XGT-3.

Needless to say, typing XGT-3 into Google image search turned up a bunch of pictures of a car just like the one in Russ's photographs; today it seems to make regular appearances at the Pebble Beach Concours.  The final bit of confirmation: the registry showed that XGT-3 was offered for sale through H&M's brokerage service in 2003, which would make sense if it was being maintained at H&M prior to that. This is about as sure as I'm going to get that the car in Russ's photo is XGT-3.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Gulf Boys Go Racing (part 2)

In part 1 we ended with Grady Davis teaming up with John Wyer in late 1966, leading to the formation of JW Automotive Engineering (JWA) in England and the first official Gulf Racing team making its debut in 1967.  Lets pick up the story there...

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Gulf Boys Go Racing (part 1)

When Andrew Carnegie sold the Carnegie Steel company in 1901 to create US Steel, he became - at least by some measures - the richest private person then or since. But Carnegie had accomplished something even more impressive: Carnegie Steel had attracted and nurtured a technology base in the Pittsburgh region that would be unmatched until the rise of Silicon Valley nearly a century later. The Mellon and Pittsburgh National banks had grown rich financing the fledgling steel industry, and would continue to invest in Pittsburgh's entrepreneurs and engineers to develop the modern electrical power industry (Westinghouse), the aluminum industry (Alcoa), processed food (Heinz),  and heavy manufacturing (Blaw-Knox, American Bridge and others).

At the same time that Andrew Carnegie had been building Carnegie Steel, John D. Rockefeller was building the Standard Oil empire. While the automobile had not yet been invented, neither had the the electric light bulb or commercial electricity generation; petroleum products were in demand for lighting, heating and increasingly for commercial lubrication. In 1900 a number of Pittsburgh businessmen lead by William Mellon decided to get into the growing petroleum industry, and it wasn't their style to make a small investment in someone else's company; instead they got together and built a refinery near the newly discovered oil fields in Texas, followed by a number of pipelines, service stations, a fleet of oil tankers and other bits of infrastructure to support the rapidly growing automobile industry. A few years later, these investments were consolidated as the Gulf Oil company, which would soon grow to rival giant Standard Oil.

Born  in 1908, in a really small town in Texas not too far from Austin and the East Texas oil fields, Irion Grady Davis (you sometimes see him use his first initial, but mostly he just went by "Grady") had studied geology at Texas University, followed by a few years of polishing at Harvard. Fresh out of school, he went to work for Gulf Oil, spending 20 years in their Venezuelan operation. He apparently knew how to work with foreign governments to get things done, and in the mid 1950s was promoted to Administrative Vice President of Gulf Oil and transferred to Gulf's headquarters in Pittsburgh.  A few years later he was promoted to Executive Vice President - the number 2 spot in the company. He would play a big part negotiating with the Kuwaiti government for access to cheap middle eastern oil, which would allow Gulf to expand into Europe.

Related image

Grady Davis - early 1960s
Image shamelessly stolen from the Corvette Hall of Fame website, lots of good stuff there.