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Four-Links – Barcelonnette hillclimb, Spitz Auto parts, Insolent Chariots, Panamerica Comets

Published in blog.hemmings.com

We know that Ronan Glon at RanWhenParked has a good eye for unusual European cars of the Eighties, Nineties, and beyond, so we’re always happy to see his coverage of local European events like the recent Barcelonette hillclimb.

Small, regional hill climb events and rallies are common throughout most of Europe. While I’m not dedicated enough to hit each date on the calendar, I always make it a point to attend the Barcelonnette hill climb held annually in the lower part of the French Alps. It’s close to my house, it’s in a gorgeous part of the country, and there is always a wide variety of cars to check out. Hatchbacks from the 1980s and the 1990s are a dime a dozen, but some racers line up on the starting grid in older BMW E36s, heavily modified Simca 1000s that have been racing for decades, and near-stock vintage cars.

* As David Greenlees at The Old Motor pointed out, the salvage yard in this FSA photo that Shorpy highlighted last year still operates under the same name 80 years later.

The Spitz family established this used auto parts operation in 1939 and it has been in continuous operation ever since then. Spitz Auto Parts is located at 12570 Lincoln Highway in Irwin, PA, (Route 30) and has been serving travelers and local customers on the famous highway for eight decades at this site twenty-seven miles west of Pittsburg.

* The automotive excesses of the Fifties certainly had their critics, among them John Keats, whose “The Insolent Chariots” from 1958 satirizes just about everything auto-related at the time, according to Patrick H. Smith.

Divided into 8 chapters,Keats discourses into auto history in each chapter starting off with “The Years of Our Ford,” then into “Whence and What Art Thou, Execrable Shape?” then the post war era starts with “The Ad and the Id”, followed by the debacle that was Ford’s Edsel, mockingly titled, “Sounds like Dead Cell.” He finishes off with “Heigh Ho, Come to the Fair!” which was really a discussion on salesmen and tactics circa 1957. “S.O.B. Detroit” is a nasty spin on the relationship between auto manufacturers and their dealer body. That subject up til then had not been openly discussed anywhere.At least, not in any candid manner.”The Call of the Open Road” is about traveling by automobile and compares the cost to train, plane and weighs what is gained and lost by each. The finale, “Yes Sir, She’s Your Baby Now,” gives an overview of where America was with their cars and compared them to European makes. He made a sweeping statement and placed the blame of the 1958 recession squarely on the US automakers for failing to make what people actually needed instead of what they wanted or rather, what they said they wanted.

* Gene Herman pointed out this article over on Thackerspeed about Fran Hernandez’s campaign to drive three new Mercury Comets from the tip of South America up to Alaska in 40 days. The big question is whether they drove through or bypassed the Darien Gap.

No one had ever attempted to drive forty days and forty nights through fourteen countries, spanning the globe from Argentina to Alaska. The route from Ushuaia, Argentina to Fairbanks, Alaska offers any challenger the extremes of weather and the unpredictability of international roads. But on September 12, 1964 a team of rotating drivers and three Mercury Comet Caliente hardtops sped northward through mountains, desert, jungle, and back through mountains again. The three 1965 Mercury coupes were regular production models, the same car sold at any Mercury showroom. Their assigned mission was anything but regular–to prove to the public that Comet is the world’s durability champion. After a journey of 16,247 miles, with no repairs other than routine maintenance, the trio of Caliente’s rolled into Fairbanks, Alaska on October 22, 1964.

* Poor salt conditions this year kept speeds down at Bonneville Speedweek, but to appropriate a phrase, a bad day racing beats a day in the office. So let’s watch Team Vesco’s recently uploaded video of Rick Vesco’s attempt to go fast in a motorcycle streamliner.

In 1970 Rick Vesco and brother Chuck built a motorcycle streamliner powered by two Yamaha 650 cc 4 cycle engines. After learning to balance the two-wheeled vehicle Rick made a run on the salt flats hoping to qualify for a record. At a speed of approximately 150 mph the vehicle began a slow tilt to the left which ended in a spectacular crash. Rick survived without any injuries. After that event he switched to 4 wheeled vehicles! This, #14 Motorcycle Streamliner has been restored by Kent Riches and is currently on display at the National Motorcycle Musuem in Anamosa, Iowa.