Drawn to Speed: The Automotive Art of John Lander (2015)
The Racing Cars
These are some of the racing cars that I read about and dreamed about as a teenager and young adult. The cars presented here range from open wheeled 1930s Gran Prix cars, to sports racing cars of the early 1950s.
LM 20 is the chassis number of the Aston Martin Ulster that finished 3rd at LeMans in 1935. In May 1962, a “For Sale” appeared in Road & Track magazine: “1935 Aston Martin Ulster Works team car, LeMans class winner, Alan Puckett, N.S.W. Australia.”
Rex Hardy, West Coast Chairman of the Aston Owners Club, bought the car. My late friend, Charlie Turner, later bought the car from Rex. In 1964, we made one of those “live fast, die young” trips to pick it up—driving from Atlanta to San Francisco and back with the Ulster in a week. This included a day in San Francisco, having a tow bar made, and a stop at Harrah’s auto collection in Reno on the way back, towing the Ulster. Charlie owned the car for the next 22 years and I got to drive it often, which was great fun.
In the early 1970s, I was storing the LM20 in my basement because Charlie had run out of garage space. One day, I got a call from Charlie. He wanted to know if he could bring an English Aston Club member to my house to see the car. He went on to say that the fellow was a musician. I said sure, thinking this would be someone with the London Philharmonic. Charlie then arrived with Nick Mason, the drummer for Pink Floyd. Nick owned LM 18, one of the other factory Ulsters. Pink Floyd was playing at the Omni in Atlanta, and Nick gave us some tickets to the concert. The seats were excellent and they put on a great show.
Irish-American Lucy O’Reilly Schell and her husband, Laury, are best remembered for their association with the French Delahaye firm. However, in 1939 they purchased
two of the three 8CTF Maseratis being raced by the factory. The third car, owned by Chicago-based Mike Boyle, had won the 1939 Indianapolis 500, with Wilbur Shaw as its driver. The Schells intended to enter their cars in the 1940 500.
In October of 1939, the Schells were in a highway accident and Laury was killed. Lucy, although badly injured, went ahead with plans for the 500. World War II had already begun in Europe but she managed to get the cars and her two drivers to Indianapolis. One of her drivers, René le Bègue, finished a creditable 10th. Lucy’s second driver, René Dreyfus, stayed in America and later opened his famous New York restaurant, Le Chanteclair. Wilbur Shaw went on to win in Mike Boyle’s Maserati, making it two wins in a row.
Even though Lucy’s cars were Italian, she had them painted her distinctive French Racing Blue.
“George & Lil”
George Weaver was one of a small group of people who raced in the prewar events of the Automobile Racing Club of America and postwar with the Sports Car Club of America.
In 1939, George was points champion of the ARCA, driving his ex-Malcolm Campbell Austin. Postwar, George drove his 1930s Grand Prix racer, the Maserati “Poison Lil,” in the first road race at Watkins Glen in 1948. This was the event that really kicked off road racing in the U.S.
In the 1948 race, George and Lil failed to finish due to mechanical problems. In later years, they made up for this by winning the Seneca Cup Race at the Glen in 1949, 1951 and, finally, 1956. Always great competitors, George and Lil will be remembered as a very important part of the early postwar road-racing scene.
At Pebble Beach, in 1953, race goers were on hand for the debut of an amazing combination of car and driver.
Ken Miles left England in 1951 to become service manager for Gough Industries, the MG distributor for the western U.S. When they decided racing would be great publicity for MG, Ken was ready. Putting his engineering skills to work, he designed and built his first MG Special, R-1. With the help of two co-workers, Miles had the car finished in time for the 1953 Pebble Beach Road Race. Ken and R-1 not only finished their first race, they won. They went on to win the next 10 races they entered.
Ken Miles designed, built and drove R-1 successfully, a combination seldom seen in road racing competition. While easily defeating the cars in the 1500 cc class, Ken was already planning a lighter, faster car; R-2 was on the way.
Ken went on to many racing successes, and was part of the Ford team that won Le Mans in 1966. In 1967, Ken Miles’ life and career were tragically cut short when he crashed while testing the new Ford J-car prototype at Riverside Raceway.
R-2 was the second Ken Miles MG Special, which he raced successfully in 1955. Because of its very low profile, it was quickly nicknamed the Flying Shingle. The MG factory had supplied Miles with the 1500 cc engine blocks made for Bonneville record runs. The MG people asked that the car design bear some resemblance to the current MG-TF model.
At the time Miles was planning the car, he chanced to meet Robert Cumberford. Robert, a student of the Art Center School, was renting space from John and Elaine Bond, owners of Road & Track magazine. Ken and his wife were often guests of the Bonds. Robert was invited to submit design sketches, and the Shingle was the result.
In the late 1980s, I did a limited edition print series, “MG Specials Built and Raced in America,” featuring the four cars from the series. I was very flattered to get a phone call and an order for the Shingle print from its designer, Robert Cumberford.
“Ferrari with Iguana on the Rocks”
This title kept running though my mind. The iguana in the foreground was a given, but which Ferrari? The lizard suggested a hot dry area.
From 1950 through 1954, the government of Mexico sponsored La Carrera Panamericana to celebrate the completion of the Mexican portion of the Pan-American Highway. This was probably the most grueling, dangerous cross-country road race ever run. This gave me the background I needed.
Several different Ferrari models competed over the years, but I decided on the 340 Mexico Coupe. The long lean look seemed just right. This is the car that Phil Hill drove with Ritchie Ginther as co-pilot in the 1953 race. Unfortunately on the second day of the race, they slid off the road backwards on a tight mountain curve and were out of contention.
In my illustration, we see Hill and Ginther running flat out under a blazing Mexican sun. The iguana is simply a curious onlooker.
I took some liberties and tilted the front wheels and grille forward for an illusion of speed. I hope the finished product comes off that way!
“Dick Lyons Special”
In 1989, my friend Toby Bergin attended the Monterey historic automobile races. As fate would have it, Toby came across an interesting MG Special for sale. Toby bought the car and had it delivered to his shop in Smyrna, Georgia, near to where I live.
Now known as the Dick Lyons Special, this car started out as the Bill David MG Special. The Bill David car was well known in the early 1950s and photos appeared in several publications at that time. Bill David sold the car when he started racing an Osca.
Dick Lyons had the car painted British Racing Green—it was originally metallic blue. Dick wrecked the car at Pebble Beach in 1954.
The car was on a stock MG-TD frame when first built by Jack Hagemann. After the wreck, Hagemann rebuilt the car with a tube frame and a new front-end treatment. My illustration shows the car at Pebble Beach after the rebuild. The small pictures show it as the Bill David Special in 1951 (left) and after the Lyons wreck, in ’54.
In the early 1950s sports car racing was beginning to take hold. David V. Uihlein wanted to build a 1.5-liter class winner. He wanted to use American know-how and ability to produce a world-beater.
Uihlein, of David V. Uihlein Engineering Co., sought out E.J. Healy—an Allis-Chalmers engineer—and Weikko Leppanen to handle the design phase of the project. Machine work and engine construction was carried out by Tudy and Carl Marchese, engineers and racing mechanics.
Beginning with a stock MG-TD block and bottom end, a twin hemispherical cylinder head was produced. A positive cam gear train mounted in ball bearings was used instead of the traditional chain drive. The MG components were left stock, with twin S.U. carbs feeding the fuel to the left side of the head and four individual pipes handling the exhaust.
To reduce weight from the stock TD chassis, a chrome-plated frame was designed and constructed. Joe Silnas, an Indianapolis body man, built the sleek two-man aluminum body over the frame. Complete, the car was 600 pounds lighter than the stock MG-TD.
Even though the car was well thought out and beautifully constructed, it never lived up to its potential and disappeared from competition.
“Formula for Success”
In 1957, Lance Reventlow was touring racecar factories in Europe and Great Britain for a suitable chassis to race in the 1958 season back in America. His final stop was Brian Lister’s shop in Cambridge, England. Brian’s cars, powered by Jaguar engines, were winning a lot of British sports car events. Lance wanted to buy a car and fit a Chevrolet V8 in it. After touring the shop and checking out the cars, he was disappointed with what he saw. At that point, Lance decided to build his own car, the Scarab.
As the only child of Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton and Count Kurt Von Haugwitz-Reventlow, Lance had no lack of funds for his project. Reventlow chose shop owner Warren Olson as his project manager. Olson had prepared racecars for Lance in the past year or so.
Olson’s first step was to hire a team of racecar builders—Dick Troutman and Tom Barnes. Olson needed a really good mechanic/test driver and filled this slot with Chuck Daigh. Others involved read like a list of the elite from the racing world. Emil Diedt, famed Indianapolis car body builder, took care of hand-forming the bodies. The final touch was the beautiful paint scheme by renowned painter/striper Von Dutch. With driving by Reventlow and Daigh, the Scarabs had their formula for success.