Moss Motoring - 1968 Triumph TR250

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DRIVEN – 1968 TRIUMPH TR250

 NO RESPONSES AUGUST 28, 2015

Despite the success of the Triumph TR4 and TR4A in sales and competition, as the end of the 60s approached it was clear that the company had to improve its performance with the introduction of a new engine that could offer not only greater horsepower, but also smoother operation than the relatively rough and noisy 4-cylinder could provide. The answer would lie with the 1998-cc inline 6-cylinder engine from the Triumph 2000 sedan, which was stroked to 2498-cc for use in the Triumph TR250 and TR5.

Management had determined that the new powerplant would have to make 150 hp to provide the desired top speed of 120 mph and sub-nine second times from 0-60 mph, but the only practical means of doing so would require installation of the new Lucas PI fuel-injection system that would make its debut in the TR5. So equipped, the TR5 became the first mass-produced fuel injected British car and was the most affordable 120-mph vehicle in the country as well. With the exception of the new engine, the only external differences were a slightly revised grill with painted slats and new marker lights and chrome trim. Inside, a matte finish replaced the polished surface on the walnut dash while new seats debuted that were the most comfortable yet seen in a TR.

Triumph TR250-4

Now considered the most attractive of the four Triumph string eras – sidescreen, Michelotti, Karmann and Wedge – the shape pioneered by the TR4 combined with the grunt from the 6-cylinder engine is a winning combination

Alas, despite the impressive performance that the fuel-injection made possible, restrictive emissions rules in the United States made sale of the TR5 impossible because the primitive nature of the Lucas system could not meet the Federal standards. What this meant was that while the UK and continental Europe would enjoy the fastest TR ever built, the United States would get the Triumph TR250, which featured the same six-cylinder engine fed through dual tamper-proof Zenith-Stromberg carburetors that forced use of mild cam timing – compared to the TR5 – that resulted in only 104 hp at 4500 rpm – the same output as the 4-cylinder engine in the TR4A – but increased torque to the tune of 143 ft/lbs at 3000 rpm to allow for only slightly better acceleration and top speed. While response to the TR5 was enthusiastic – “without doubt the best Triumph yet” declared Autosport – in the United States, enthusiasm for the new model was decidedly muted, with Car & Driver musing, “to pay an extra $500 for a nearly identical but slower car doesn’t make much sense.” To be fair, the TR250 was much smoother and quieter than the TR4A and Road & Track found that the new engine “could hardly run more sweetly” and changed the essence of the TR from rough and tumble to relaxed and smooth.

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The seats – unique to the TR250 – are the most comfortable and provide the most room of any TR from TR2 through TR6

For all the negativity that the TR250 engendered during its brief production run – only 14 months – it is appreciated now for having combined the best elements of the TR4 with the performance potential offered by the TR6. Modern advancements and technological know-how make it possible for current owners to replicate the 150-hp TR5 with the existing carbureted setup and for these reasons and others, the TR250 is now the most valuable TR sold in America.

Driven

The lines of the TR250 have only improved with time and the Michelotti design has an elegance that is lacking in both the TR3 and TR6 and despite having a wheelbase that is 3-inches shorter than the MGB with slightly more overall length, it appears to be the more substantial car. The muted tailfins, higher fender lines and larger 15-inch wheels add to that impression, although both cars are comparable in overall height. The interior of the TR250 is more luxurious than any offered by its competitors with its polished walnut dash, leather seats and high quality carpeting. The seats are comfortable and the travel adjusted such that any sized driver can be easily accommodated within, while the three-spoke steering wheel is both attractive to look at and well positioned for use. It would be hard to improve upon the basic instrumentation package that was largely carried over from the TR2. The face-level vents are a nice touch along with the generously sized lockable glove box that is situated before the passenger. The occasional rear seat provides a flat surface upon which soft luggage can be placed since it is no longer legal to place unbelted passengers in the diminutive space.

The Rostyle wheels and racing stripe are period touches that mark the TR250 as another matter from its TR4A predecessor

The engine starts with a turn of the key and it springs to idle with a growl reminiscent of a Big Healey. The pedal box is large enough that the dimmer switch – located on the floor adjacent to the driver’s kick panel – can be used as a dead pedal provided the driver is careful not to engage the switch with a heavy foot. The accelerator and brake pedal are closely located to allow for easy heel-and-toe operation and the clutch effort required for engagement is light enough to use the car in heavy traffic without much complaint. The gearbox – an all-synchromesh unit – is a delight to use although it is best used slowly – with a slight pause in the neutral position – to provide the smoothest shifts. The lever itself is short and well placed as it falls easily to hand from the steering wheel. Steering effort is very light and the slightest turns will result in a change of direction so it is best to let the car self-steer – with only a light hand on the wheel – down the freeway or long stretches of straight roads.

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The stance is unmistakably Michelotti derived

The exhaust note is loud and powerful although unobtrusive at moderate speeds. The engine will pull strongly up to the redline and has the ability to cruise all day at 80 mph without fear of damaging any internal components given its stout construction. There is enough torque to remind you how much fun driving can be and the power band is tractable from idle to 5000 rpm. As much fun as an Austin-Healey 3000 or Jaguar E-Type, the IRS suspension provides a supple ride that easily handles irregular road surfaces with aplomb.

Sampled – It’s hard to believe that the TriumphTR250 was once unloved by even Triumph enthusiasts, but that train has long ago left the station, as it is now the most sought after of the TRs sold in America. The example that we were provided by Chequered Flag International in Marina Del Rey, California is the most original that we have ever seen with only one owner from new until 2014. Restored cars – no matter how much time and money is thrown at them – will never match the driving feel of an original car and this TR250 bears that out. More solid than any other example that we’ve driven, it was much as it must have been when first sold, a delightful roadster with added torque over the TR4A to play with in the twisty bits. With fewer made than any other TR, they’re hard to find but well worth seeking out.

Moss Motoring

Moss Motoring - 1961 Morris Minor

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DRIVEN – 1961 MORRIS MINOR

 NO RESPONSES AUGUST 27, 2015

Before the Mini left its mark as one of the most iconic cars to ever come from Britain, Sir Alec Issigonis had already established a reputation for brilliance with the Morris Minor. The first car built in the United Kingdom to sell more than one million units, the landmark Minor has been hailed as a design classic that combined an essential English character with utility and performance at an affordable price.

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The first British car to hit a million in sales, the Minor was the more stylish response to the ubiquitous Beetle

The first truly global British car, the Minor debuted at the London Motor Show at Earl’s Court in 1948 with a blend of qualities that made it the perfect car for a world still reeling from the effects of World War II. The original MM series was sold until 1953 and would eventually encompass a range of two and four-door saloons along with a convertible touring car. The front suspension used the torsion bar layout from the Morris Oxford and adopted a similar semi-monocoque bodyshell. The 918-cc engine was sourced from the Morris 8 and although horsepower was initially limited (27.5 bhp) it was an economical unit that delivered almost 40 mpg.

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The 948-cc engine is familiar to any fan of British sports cars

The MM was an unqualified success with more than 250,000 cars sold and as the size of the engines increased the performance grew as well. The ubiquitous A-series engine made its debut in 1952 after the Austin merger resulted in BMC. Despite lower specific output, the new engine felt like an improvement and would go on to power successive generations of the car. The popular Traveller was also introduced in 1952 and featured an external ash frame for the rear bodywork and two barn-style doors. Commercial versions soon followed and the Minor name encompassed several varieties of unique cars. The Series II Minors with the A-Series engines offered spritely performance and even better handling than earlier cars equipped with the side valve engines.

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A surprisingly roomy and usefully shaped cabin is a prime attribute

The 1000 series cars debuted in 1956 with the 948-cc engine and one-piece windscreens. Detail changes occurred on a regular basis to keep the car fresh and the market continued to buy the car in increasing numbers. The million mark in sales was reached in 1961 with 350 special edition cars built to commemorate the occasion. The next year saw an even larger version of the A-series engine (1098-cc) along with revisions to the interior and improvements to the heater. Amazingly, even though the Minor was born in 1948 just years after the end of the war it managed to live long enough to see men walk on the moon and then some. Although the convertible and saloon cars were withdrawn from the market in 1969 and 1970 respectively, the Traveller and other commercial versions soldiered on until 1972 with more than 1.6 million cars manufactured in total.

Driven

Much like the Volkswagen Beetle to which the Minor is inevitably compared, the Minor exhibits a build quality that belies its affordable price tag. Despite a Spartan interior – again like the VW – the Minor’s cabin is welcoming and capable of carrying four adults in reasonable comfort. The seating position is much more comfortable than in the Mini although the steering wheel is placed at an odd angle that takes some getting used to. The instrument panel is dominated by a centrally mounted speedometer – with an integral fuel gauge – and flanked by twin glove compartments with a generous parcel shelf located below the dashboard.

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When a Beetle is just too common …

While no one will mistake the Minor for a proper sports car, once the top is stowed it does a fair imitation given the deliberate acceleration (although it is no worse than in a similar vintage Beetle) and comfortable ride. While most Minor’s suffer from some balkiness while shifting, this example is easy to row through the gears with only the slightest hesitation present in second when rushing the synchros. With more torque than a Beetle, the Minor is more fun to drive and is the more unique mount (especially in Southern California where old VWs are plentiful).

Somewhat of a time capsule, this particular Morris was sold by British Motor Cars in San Francisco, California and has remained in the Golden State its entire life. While not a showpiece, there is enough patina present to make it look interesting, but not enough wear to set one’s thoughts to restoration. All in all, a better alternative to a convertible Beetle or Fiat 500, the Minor makes the ideal beach cruiser or weekend driver with room for friends and children.

Sampled – This 1961 Morris Minor Convertible is from the stable at Chequered Flag International in Marina Del Rey, California and displays its original black over red color scheme and California black plates. With a reported mileage of only 54,159 miles it seems to have led a pampered life. Some minor sorting could be done on the odd weekend or two, but this seems to be a great example of an all too rare English convertible.

 Moss Motoring

Moss Motoring - 1965 Jaguar E-Type OTS

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DRIVEN – 1965 JAGUAR E-TYPE OTS

 NO RESPONSES AUGUST 28, 2015

The 1950s were halcyon days for Jaguar. With postwar demand for sports cars reaching record levels, Jaguar’s iconic XK120 two-seater quickly became a must-have amongst the American and European “sporty” car set. Alongside success in the showrooms, the decade also marked a period of near total domination by Jaguar in endurance racing, including 24 Hours of Le Mans victories in 1951, 1953, 1955, 1956 & 1957. Continued success on the track was becoming more difficult to achieve in the face of more technologically advanced competitors and the iconic XK range was beginning to look dated when compared to products from Aston Martin, Ferrari, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.

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Repeated surveys confirm that the E-Type is the most revered British sports car ever built and one of a handful of design icons

Jaguar withdrew its factory-sponsored racecars after the 1956 Le Mans triumph and the competition department was tasked with the design of a new sports car based on the racing cars that owned the Maison Blanc and the Mulsanne Straight. The resulting E-Type was a direct descendant of the D-Type that had won the World Sports Car Championship and shared its XK engine, disc brakes and semi-monocoque chassis design while clothed in an aerodynamic envelope artfully fashioned by Malcolm Sayer.

It was the beautifully sleek profile over advanced mechanicals that would cement the E-Type’s reputation as an automotive hallmark. It was the equivalent of finding out that the supermodel for which you’ve pined was also an honors graduate with an affinity for small animals, children and charitable works. The new Jaguar would forever mark the transition from the conservative 50s into the sexy 60s and prepare the world for Ursula Andress, Brigitte Bardot and Raquel Welch. Following its launch at the 1961 Geneva Auto Show, Enzo Ferrari proclaimed the new cat as “The most beautiful car ever made” and, in time, it would grace the Museum of Modern Art in New York and sit atop the list of the “100 Most Beautiful Cars of All Time.”

An Affordable Thrill Ride

What was truly incredible about the car was not the curvaceous body, nor the world-class suspension, but the fact that it was downright affordable when compared to its peers – at less than half the cost of the Aston Martin DB4 GT you got better performance and handling. Within four months after its debut at Geneva, the Jaguar E-Type was available for purchase in roadster and coupe variants and capable of 150 mph (although few owners could replicate the feat) from its 3.8-liter twin overhead camshaft engine that had more than proved its worth in competition.

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Few engines can match the venerable XK power plant for aural pleasure and effortless performance

The initial version of the car powered by the 3.8 sold briskly with 15,498 purchased in the three years following its launch. An enlarged 4.2-liter engine was introduced with the “Series 1” with more torque, better brakes and a significantly improved gearbox that now featured synchromesh on all forward gears. A 2+2 variant followed in 1966 boasting rear jump seats and an available automatic transmission to go along with its greater length.

Under pressure from increasingly onerous federal regulations, Jaguar created the “Series 1½” from 1967-1968 with more effective (but far less pretty) open headlights, improved dash switches and new carburetion to meet emissions standards. In total, 38,419 examples were sold through the end of the Series 1½ cars when the heavy-handed regulators squeezed the sexy feline even further.

The Series 2 was sold from 1969 to 1971 and adopted many of the features unveiled on its immediate predecessor plus larger and higher bumpers and turn signal indicators. The brake lights went from delicate to garish (and as many sexy bits eventually fall prey, migrated south – to under the bumpers) and the mouth opening was increased in size to assist in engine cooling (helped by supplemental fans) while fragile Americans were protected by the replacement of the toggles by safer rocker-style dash switches. Brakes continued to improve while air conditioning and power steering were newly available from the factory. While emissions controls and added weight hampered performance the car continued to resonate with buyers (with 18,809 car sold).

To offset the loss in performance dictated by compliance with federal regulations, Jaguar responded with an all-new 5.3-liter V-12 in 1971. The engine added only 80 pounds to the car and boasted excellent acceleration, refinement and torque. What it added in these qualities, however, detracted from the essential nature of the car, which grew softer and more luxurious with each passing year and foretold the coming of the XJ-S in 1975.

Driven

More than 50 years after its debut, the E-Type retains its visceral sensuality and the shape is compelling now as then. The 1965 E-Type OTS Series 1 that we drove is at once both feminine and phallic and is the embodiment of the sexually liberated decade of its birth. The car stands low to the ground although none of the contortion required of entering a coupe is necessary with the top lowered. The interior is trimmed in high-quality black leather of recent vintage and features all the elements that make for memorable sports cars – full instrumentation, firm seating and performance far in excess of its saloon car relatives. From the start, the venerable XK engine is familiar with a note that is restrained at idle and joyous at speed. One of the most interesting features of the XK powerplant is that as displacement increased throughout its lifespan (1948 to 1992) it grew more flexible and tractable rather than less so.

The gearbox is familiar to anyone that has spent any time in British cars with its long handle and positive throws, while the transmission allows for quick shifts and well-spaced ratios. The clutch pedal is firm but easy to depress and the pedals are well spaced to allow for heel and toe operation. The brakes are as good as any offered during the period and the pedal operates with servo assistance that allows for firm (rather than excessive pressure). The braking is progressive and neither overwhelms the suspension in hard use nor elicits fade from repeated stopping.

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The perfect sports car cockpit trimmed in luxurious leather and with some of the best ergonomics from the 60s

The steering wheel is (like the rest of the car) beautiful but its use is somewhat heavy in traffic. At speed the effort to control the car is almost perfect and it is easy to see the gauges through the wheel and the gearbox lever falls easily to reach. The performance of the car remains exceptional even when compared with modern commuters that can nominally match its statistics. It is as much a case of how the E-Type goes about its job, as it is what the E-Type does as a car.

The E-Type is the rare classic that can be driven anywhere at anytime (especially in coupe form with open headlights – the closed headlight models are almost unusable at night due to visibility concerns) and rewards the driver with exceptional performance in the here and now rather than wistfully reminding us how much has changed in the intervening decades. The car not only keeps up with traffic but also accelerates away from it and handles as well as one could hope for while riding on narrow tires with wire wheels. It never feels twitchy in transition and feels benign at the limits, which most drivers will explore.

What settles the question, however, is the view over the hood that is, perhaps, the most compelling factor presented to the enthusiast driver. While at a stoplight, other drivers nod approvingly and appreciate its beauty despite the passage of time. There are few sports cars that everyone should own at one time or another, but the Jaguar E-Type should reside near the top of the list. It remains relevant today, will be tomorrow, and constantly serves as a reminder of an automotive legend whose beauty will never fade.

DSC_1185Sampled – Few cars have undergone as meteoric a rise in value as has the E-Type in recent years, with even previously unloved Series III cars now routinely passing the $100,000 threshold at auction. From the standpoint of collectability, desirability and aesthetics, the best of the breed are the Series I closed headlamp cars in either FHC or OTS trim. While this particular model wears a flattering red – instead of the original white and has a non-original block – these are advantages in that it keeps the price reasonable unlike the $200,000-250,000 that 100-point cars now command. Most of us can no longer afford such scratch, but nonetheless we would prefer a driver condition closed headlamp E-Type like this since every mile driven would add smiles rather than detract from the car’s value as would be the case with a concours standard example. Thanks to Chequered Flag International in Marina Del Rey, California for throwing us the keys to the most popular British sports car ever.

Moss Motoring

Moss Motoring - 1951 Morgan Plus Four DHC

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DRIVEN – 1951 MORGAN PLUS FOUR DHC

 NO RESPONSES AUGUST 27, 2015

Morgans do not just evoke the past, they are the past – come to life to remind us of what once was – and for a price and patience – what can be again. Against all odds, Morgan has outlasted its larger rivals throughout the years from BMC, Standard-Triumph, Rootes and eventually British Leyland; and it has done so with single-family ownership and using a design that has remained fundamentally unchanged since 1936. Well after the world had adopted monocoque construction and mass-production methods, Morgans from Malvern Link still hand formed steel panels on ash-built sub-frames, set upon a separate chassis and hand-assembled by cottage industry craftsman who were raised in the art by their fathers and their own fathers before them. For more than a century, the Morgan family has withstood the temptation to advance, improve and evolve, choosing instead to continue to sell what they have always sold – the most venerable and anachronistic sports car in the world.

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The profile of the early Plus Four DHC is delightfully ‘prewar’ with the dual spare tire mounting an attractive anachronism

The first Morgan motorcars – single-seat, chain-drive J.A.P. vee-twin powered three-wheelers – were introduced in 1910, and after enlarging the little cars to accommodate both driver and passenger it continued to sell with only progressive improvements until 1952. The first four-wheeled Morgan was itself an adaptation of the F-Type three-wheeler – with power coming from an 1122-cc Coventry Climax four-cylinder engine – and made its debut in 1936. Known as the 4/4, it would set the archetype for all succeeding models with its sliding pillar front suspension, underslung Z-section chassis and wooden sub-frame. Since Morgan was too small a concern to manufacture its own engines, it has had to make use of several motors over the years from a wide range of suppliers including Standard, Rover, Fiat and Ford. The Plus 4 became the upper model in the Morgan range – and was sold alongside the 4/4 – from 1950-1968. It continued to use steel body panels over wooden framing on a ladder-type steel chassis with the unique Z-section side members.

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With much less weight than with the contemporary TR, the Plus Four is a better performer in straight line and the twisty bits

The new model was externally similar to the 4/4 but carried instead a more powerful version of the 2088-cc Standard Vanguard engine attached to a Moss 4-speed manual gearbox. Plus 4 versions included the two-seat roadster, four-passenger roadster, two-seat drophead coupe and (briefly) a four-seat convertible. With the exception of the ultra-rare (26 built) envelope-bodied Plus 4 Plus of the mid-60s, Morgan styling remained unchanged since 1954 except in minor detail when a smoother fascia with faired-in headlamps replaced the original flat radiator design from the 30s. There have been some concessions to modernity; front disc brakes appeared in 1959, rack and pinion steering in 1984 and telescopic rear shocks appeared in 1991.   In fact, until the introduction of the Aero 8 in 2000 it was difficult for the passing enthusiast to identify with confidence the year and model of any Morgan unless one was familiar with the details.

Other than engine changes necessitated by supply and performance considerations, there have been few substantive modifications to the basic formula. The cars became faster with better engines and the Plus 4 – which had lost its engine with the arrival of the TR5 and much of its performance advantage over the 4/4 too – was itself replaced in 1968 by the Rover V-8 powered Plus 8. The procession from 4/4, Plus 4 to Plus 8 did not diminish the essence of the marque. Every Morgan model – regardless of engine – shares the same harsh ride, lightning acceleration and Depression-era styling – Thank God for that.

Driven

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From this aspect it resembles a smaller Bugatti Type 57 Royale

Also unblemished by the passage of time are the unique dynamic characteristics identified with the cars. In appearance, the Plus 4 resembles the T-Series MG or prewar Riley, Singer and Wolseley, although that resemblance is much stronger in the flat radiator models like the one driven here. The cut-down doors are low and short and ingress is best accomplished by placing one’s feet into the footwell and then sitting down onto the flat seat cushions while rotating the hips. The seats backs and squabs are thinly padded and narrow without much in the way of adjustment. Legroom is not as good as in the TR2 and requires a knees-out attitude to work the pedals and clear the wheel. The driver’s position vis-à-vis the 4-spoke wheel means that the elbows are cast sideways with arms akimbo rather straight out. With exceptionally high steering effort this is not a bad thing. The dash is fashioned out of a single wooden piece and it has a decidedly homemade quality to it but the instruments themselves are jewel-like in design and function and there is an open glovebox located before the passenger.

The Vanguard powered Plus 4 is delightfully quick with impressive torque on hand and lively acceleration – weighing as it does 400 pounds less than the TR4 – and corners incredibly using suspension components that were obsolescent before World War II. In fact, several period sources refer to the Morgan’s roadholding as “legendary” and that reputation was achieved in concert with a ride that was unflinchingly stiff, which is surprising for a chassis so flexible.

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A well patinated interior showing decades of enthusiastic use

Rough road surfaces lead to some scuttle shake and there is always some flexion going on around the driver when underway. The steering is quick but the effort to turn the wheel borders on herculean at anything resembling less than high speed. The Moss crash-box requires patience and a firm hand to use properly and it is essential to dutifully double-clutch to ensure smooth operation. The brakes, disc in front from 1960, are effective and powerful, particularly since the Morgan is so light when compared to its 60s peers. Luggage room is dependant on whether one is in a two-seat or four-seat model but there is always adequate space behind the front seats for adequate (if not secure) storage. All told, the Morgan feels like the fastest T-Series in the world – with a surfeit of horsepower and torque – with handling that is nigh competition ready. Writing in 1966, Automobile Quarterly opined that “Morgans are sheer fun to drive, and they produce more amusement than a trainload of Playboybunnies. I kid you not.” Like the cars themselves, nothing has really changed since.

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Dash plaques attest to places seen and events attended

Sampled – The 1951 Morgan Plus Four DHC driven here was supplied by Chequered Flag International in Marina Del Rey, California. A former AACA (1978) National first place winner, it has been driven down into very good driver condition with only a few paint blemished spoiling the unique yellow and black livery. The interior displays a wonderful patina and the performance provided by the Standard sourced engine is beyond reproach. The steering was excellent – likely due to recent work from Isis Imports – and the ride was exactly what one would expect from a vintage Morgan (something like a TR3 on steroids). 

 Moss Motoring

Moss Motoring - 1974 Jensen Interceptor

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DRIVEN – 1974 JENSEN INTERCEPTOR

 NO RESPONSES AUGUST 27, 2015

Allan and Richard Jensen started business manufacturing auto bodies under contract for Austin. The firm also made bodies for the Volvo P1800, Sunbeam Tiger and Austin-Healey in addition to the first Interceptor built from 1950 to 1957 with various engines under an attractive glass fiber body.

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The Italianate styling of the Jensen Interceptor are attractive and purposeful with its broad hood and aggressive stance

The second iteration of the Jensen Interceptor was hand-built at the Carters Green Factory in West Bromwich from 1966 to 1976 and represented an ill-timed effort to capture the hearts and minds of the luxury GT marketplace. Unlike its predecessor, the new model was clothed in steel using a handsome body designed by Carrozeria Touring with the earliest examples built by Vignale before Jensen took over serial production. The styling was heavily influenced (if not outright borrowed) from the Brasinca Uirapuru, a limited production GT coupe manufactured in Brazil, and featured a distinctive large rear window that also served as the tailgate.

Powered initially by the Chrysler 383 cubic inch V-8 with an optional manual transmission (only 22 were so equipped) or TorqueFlite automatic driving the rear wheels through a limited-slip differential in Salisbury rear axle. Demand for more power (the car weighed almost 3500 pounds) led to an increased displacement of 440 cubic inches with a maximum available output of 390 HP. Befitting an anticipated place at the upper regions of the marketplace was a standard kit that included electric windows, reclining front seats, power steering (from 1969) and a modern stereo system with two speakers. Subsequent revisions led to the Mark II in 1969 with revised styling to the front of the car, a new interior and the use of ventilated disc brakes. The Mark III debuted just two years later and featured even more changes to the front styling and cast alloy wheels and saw the debut of the larger mill in 1973.

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The new leather cockpit is the equal of anything produced by Aston Martin or Bristol

The Interceptor suffered from poor timing in that it soon ran headlong into the oil crisis of the early seventies and the market for a bespoke GT from England decreased substantially with greater competition from the Jaguar XJ-S and other competitors from the Continent. It is best remembered, however, for the most unique variant of the range which was one of the first vehicles produced with four-wheel drive with the manufacture of the Jensen FF (Ferguson Formula) which was hailed at the time as a revelation with its attendant traction control and mechanical anti-lock brakes from Dunlop Maxarat. With an increased length by 5 inches over the Interceptor, the FF looked virtually identical despite the added length and was identified by an additional side vent and swage line on the forward wings. With only 320 FF variants produced (195 Mark I, 110 Mark II and 15 Mark III) it is unquestionably the most desirable and complex car of the range.

Driven

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In convertible form the Interceptor is a match for an Aston Martin DBS or Ferrari 330

The 1975 Mark III Convertible that we drove was well maintained and cared for and presents the perfect opportunity to sample what these cars would have been like when new. The Convertible is even rarer than the FF with only 267 examples produced from 1974 with most offered for sale in the American market. This particular example features a striking leather interior with an attractive wooden dash and switchgear that would be welcome in any of the other more well-known offerings from the United Kingdom like Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Jaguar and Aston Martin.

In fact, this car is the perfect alternative to a drophead from Newport Pagnell or Crewe with the added benefit of a lower initial purchase price and easier (and less expensive) maintenance afforded by its Mopar engine. Performance is superior to the Aston Martin DB6, similar to the Jaguar E-Type and just under the Porsche 911S from the standing start to 60 MPH and better than all in the quarter-mile save the DB6. Unfortunately, this performance came at the price of mileage in the range of 12-14 mpg at a time when the cost of gas was rising without check.

The first impression upon settling into the well-cushioned leather seat and surveying the instruments set in the wooden fascia is that the Interceptor is very much on par with an Aston Martin of the period save for the added cachet of the David Brown nameplate. Every surface is made of quality materials and it seems as if that quality has withstood the passage of almost four decades none the worse for wear. It seems to be a much larger car than it is (five inches shorter than the Chevrolet Camaro) which is likely due to the long hood, high doors and the bustle created by the folded top.

While the leather and wood interior trimmed with Wilton wool carpets literally screams Britannia, the first turn of the key brings an instant reminder that under the hood rests an engine with its roots firmly planted in America. The idle is utterly without tension and it seems as if hardly any effort would be required to reach the 135-MPG top speed. Use of the Chrysler engine and TorqueFlite transmission dictate that the driving experience is very familiar in the way that any large American V-8 with an automatic is eerily similar despite what the badge on the grill says. The engine still allows for acceleration that would be quick even by modern standards and the reserves of torque are fun to play with from the stoplight on Lincoln Boulevard in Marina Del Rey, California. Despite the urge afforded by the engine, the entire package is very relaxed and would be the perfect carriage for a trip up the Pacific Coast Highway with a long-legged and blonde haired companion seated alongside.

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One of the most rapidly appreciating examples to come out of the 70s, the Interceptor is now appreciated for its continental styling and the reliability afforded by its American engine

The interior is the epitome of Seventies luxury (for what that’s worth) and the seating position is comfortable and cosseting for long-distance travel. The brakes are soft in that overly boosted fashion of most American cars and the overall driving experience is a unique blend of Britain and Detroit with a touch of Italian style thrown in for good measure. For what it is, the Interceptor is the perfect alternative to its much more expensive cousins and is, perhaps, better suited for daily or occasional use than any of them. The rub is that as they were less desirable from new and more affordable in the days since it is difficult to find one in the condition of our test car. If such an example, however, finds its way across your path this Anglo-American hybrid with Italian styling is as fine a GT car as you could hope for.

Sampled – This 1974 Jensen Interceptor convertible was provided to us by Chequered Flag International in Marina Del Rey, California and is a rust-free California survivor. Treated to new interior trim and rolling stock it exemplifies 70s era-cool with its sparkling Tangerine paint and aggressive stance. With Interceptor prices on the rise this is an inexpensive path to bespoke British GT ownership with a vehicle that has taken recent star turns in the Fast & the Furious franchise and on Top Gear. Much more affordable than an Aston Martin or Bristol, the Interceptor is a car on the come.

 Moss Motoring

 

Moss Motoring - 1958 Austin-Healey 100-SIX BN6

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DRIVEN – 1958 AUSTIN-HEALEY 100-SIX BN6

 NO RESPONSES AUGUST 27, 2015

When BMC discontinued A90 engine in favor of a larger Morris designed engine for its larger Austin, Morris and Wolseley sedans, Donald Healey was forced to abandon plans to adopt the 100S competition engine for production use and find a way to install the corporate C-series six-cylinder engine into its small roadster. Despite seeming to offer an increased level of performance over the A90 – with 102 hp versus 90 hp – the larger engine weighed more, produced less torque and had to power an increasingly heavier car such that overall performance was slightly reduced from the 100. The revised model was christened the 100-Six and it was to represent the bridge between the simplistic and rugged 100s and the refined and powerful 3000s that evolved from it. Unlike many interim models that are difficult to distinguish from their predecessors, the 100-Six was similar to the 100, but wholly different in detail. An increased wheelbase allowed fitment of two ‘occasional’ rear seats to provide 2 + 2 seating in the BN4 – although as a practical matter the rear seats (with shaped cushions) were unsuitable for human use – while their presence destroyed the utility a flat surface would have afforded. The longer engine required a longer hood – with clearance bulge – that also necessitated reworking the grill into an oval shape evocative of that used on the 100S. The retractable competition windscreen used on the 100 gave way to a fixed screen and the longer doors featured external handles to allow them to be opened from outside without having to reach into the interior while the fuel filler migrated from the trunk to the rear shroud.

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The 100-Six bears much greater resemblance to the 100 than to the later 3000 Mk III BJ8 with more attractive – and crisper – styling that makes this the ultimate 2-seat Healey derivative.

After a year of production, final assembly of the 100-Six was moved to the MG plant at Abingdon-on-Thames, which resulted in much better quality and an improved finish from that achieved at the Austin facility in Longbridge. Concurrent with that transition, changes were finally made to the C-series engine to address the performance deficit, which had existed since the 100-Six was introduced. The most significant modification was replacement of the original cylinder head with an improved 12-port design that with larger carburetors, revised intake manifold and increased compression was capable of 117 horsepower. With the increased performance and an emphasis on publicity – Healey had used a supercharged 100-Six to break the 200-mph barrier at the Bonneville Salt Flats – sales began to improve for the model.Sports Car Illustrated was appreciative of the changes, with comments that the 100-Six was “as perfect a mating of commerce and purism as one is likely to find in the world.” A 2-seat roadster – the BN6 – would be reintroduced in 1958, but it would be substantially outsold by the 4-seat BN4, which continued to sell at a steady clip despite increased competition from Triumph with an improved TR3 and from with BMC with the MGA.

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Most 100-Sixes were equipped with disc brakes that are perfectly adequate for spirited street driving but can become overworked in competition.

In competition, the 100-Six struggled early on to match the pace set by its illustrious forebear – not to mention the reputation of its creator – but found success on the rally circuit with the Team Prize from Liège-Rome-Liège and the Ladies Prize – with Pat Moss at the wheel – in the Alpine Rally. These efforts would display the potential that lurked within the C-series engine and with a chassis frame that was “put together like the main trusswork of the Golden Gate Bridge,” the six-cylinder cars were naturals for the demanding sport as the 3000 would later prove.

Driven

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The improved interior may not be to everyone’s taste, but the carpeting is an improvement and the seats and door panels can be changed to OE spec with little time and effort expended.

For all but the most ardent Healey enthusiasts, it is difficult to distinguish from behind the wheel between an Abingdon-built, later 100-Six and an early Mk I 3000. Compared to a later 3000 – BJ7 or BJ8 – the 100-Six will delight with its light controls and deft feel on the road. With four-wheel drums there is no doubt that the 100-Six falls short against the disc brake equipped 3000s, but in anything short of competition use they will deliver smooth and safe stops at the expense of high pedal effort. The best thing about any 100-Six is the delightful burble that can only be matched by another six-cylinder Healey and the cars are perfect for relaxed long-distance cruising since they offer low revs at freeway speeds with overdrive engaged. Despite lacking the torque of the 3000 series, there is more than enough available to pull away from stoplights in any gear and the gearbox – despite the long lever – is easy to use although it requires a slow hand to avoid rushing the synchros. The ride on the 100-Six is more pleasant than on the 100 – largely due to the longer wheelbase – but it does not handle as well due to the additional weight of the larger engine. Driven aggressively, the 100-Six is fun and safe provided that care is exercised to avoid throttle lift in hard corners, which will force the rear end around to the potential detriment of adhesion though this is easily rectified with a stab of the accelerator pedal. Inasmuch as the 100-Six has traditionally been the most affordable of the Big Healeys, they also make some of the best drivers since they share all the same positive traits with their 3000 brethren along with lighter handling and cleaner styling.

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One of the most attractive instrument clusters in motordom

Sampled – This 1958 Austin-Healey 100-Six BN6 comes from the stable at Chequered Flag International in Marina Del Rey, California and is an example of one of the most desirable (and valuable) Healeys ever built. In BN6 two-seat form, the svelte lines of the 100/4 were retained while adding the sonorous exhaust note of the straight six and its inimitable reservoir of torque. This particular car presents itself as something much better than your usual driver condition Healey with sharp paint and all the little details seemingly attended to. Unfortunately, the restoration went beyond mere period correct to the ‘improvement’ stage such that the interior materials are trimmed in non-standard materials. The enhanced carpeting is actually a nice touch but the seats and door cards have an almost 70s feel that can easily be corrected by installation of a Moss seat and panel kit. All in all, the best looking of the six-cylinder cars and an example that will be competitive at local shows and provide hours of great British motoring.

Moss Motoring

Moss Motoring - 1967 Mini Cooper S

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DRIVEN – 1967 MINI COOPER S

 NO RESPONSES AUGUST 24, 2015

The Perfect Package

The Mini deserves a place in the automotive pantheon alongside such legends as the Volkswagen Beetle and the Ford Model T. The diminutive vehicle was intended to spark a revolution in how small cars were conceived, manufactured and marketed and there is no doubt that the Mini was the result of a singular vision to reshape the automotive firmament. Nicknamed “Sputnik” by those working on the project, the Mini’s designer, Sir Alec Issigonis, demanded that his team approach every challenge imposed by the new car with fresh eyes. More compact than almost anything else on the market, the little saloon featured monocoque construction with power from the well-established BMC A-Series, inline, 848-cc engine.

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A profile that is as instantly recognized as the 911 or Beetle

In order to maximize interior space in such a small and compact package, Issigonis not only mounted the A-Series engine transversely in the front of the car, but he also located the 4-speed gearbox in the sump of the engine and had this one-piece unit drive the front wheels, so that he could avoid having a standard transmission, driveshaft and tunnel eating up precious space in the cockpit.

In 1961, racecar constructor John Cooper – who was manufacturing highly successful BMC-powered Formula Junior racecars – took a stab at performance tuning the Mini. Lengthening the engine’s stroke yielded a 947-cc variant that raised the power output from 34 hp to 55 hp. Additional changes such as disc brakes on the front transformed the staid little “box” into a small-displacement, racing saloon. Within a few years of the Mini Cooper’s introduction, demand for an even higher performance example was so great that in 1963, BMC released the Mini Cooper S, badged interchangeably as either an Austin or a Morris.

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Nothing screams Cool Britannia like a two-toned Mini

The first Cooper S benefitted from a further enlarged 1071-cc, A-Series, engine and larger servo-assisted front disc brakes. 4.030 examples were constructed until an updated version was released in August of 1964. This new Cooper S now featured a 1275-cc A-Series engine, even larger front disc brakes, as well as BMC’s new “Hydroelastic” suspension system, which essentially replaced the earlier car’s rubber cone springing with an interconnected system of fluid-filled bags, not unlike that developed on the earlier Citroen 2CV. Starting in 1965, the Cooper S also received larger 4.5-inch wheels and a growing list of optional extras. All told, BMC built 14,313 Mk I Minis with the 1275-cc Cooper S package that are all sought after as some of the finest sports sedans ever built.

Driven

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The offset steering wheel resides on a flatter plane than most but is a delight to saw around the corners

It never fails to surprise the uninitiated how much interior room there is inside a Mini given the Lilliputian external dimensions. The driver’s door is large and well shaped allowing an ease of entry that belies the relatively low roof and large diameter steering wheel. More comfort is available than would seem with the oddly raked bucket seats – higher in front than in back – and the large wheel perched above the driver’s splayed legs. With just an 80-inch wheelbase, and room for four passengers, it was necessary to locate the wheels as far towards the corners as possible. While this means that every occupant will sit next to one of the prominent wheel wells, in no way does this diminish the cabin’s overall comfort nor does it force one to assume a contorted seating position.

The centrally located ignition key stirs the 1275-cc engine to life revealing just the slightest hint of raucousness in the exhaust and a slightly discernible clatter from the valve train. Moving the small, well-placed shifter into first transforms the Mini from design icon to performance legend. With handling that is closer to go-kart than automobile in feel and an engine that will pull with more vigor than you could hope for, the Mini is without doubt one of the few cars that exceeds its period reputation even in the present day.

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With not much weight to haul around, in Cooper S trim the A-Series engine is enough to haul the car around with abandon

Moving the wheel places the car exactly where the driver wants and cornering becomes an abject exercise in four-wheeled thrills. . Jump on the gas and the FWD Mini hauls itself through the corner like an amusement park ride. While the Hydroelastic suspension is out of its element on irregular road surfaces, it shines on good roads with fantastic road manners, both in transition and tracking. Steering is direct, accurate and requires minimal effort, while the braking is on par with – if not superior to – many dedicated sports cars of significantly greater expense.

Nothing short of a Ferrari 250 or Jaguar E-Type can evoke an era as completely as the iconic Mini, and its one of the few cars that almost every automotive enthusiasts should own at least once – along with the 911 and MGTC – and few are as nice as the example that we sampled here.

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A more generous boot than any car nicknamed Sputnik deserves to have

The 1967 Mini Cooper S profiled is offered by Chequered Flag International and was delivered new to San Francisco and has remained in California since, as evidenced by the black plates. Finished with Almond Green under an Old English White roof, the interior is Porcelain Green and Dove Grey. Still fitted with its original hydrolastic suspension, it presents as a fine example of the breed. Please contact Neil for further information at (310) 827-8665.

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