Drawn to Speed: The Automotive Art of John Lander (2015)
Collected in this chapter are various cars, planes and boats that didn’t quite fit under the headings of any other chapters but deserved to be included. They are a diverse group of sports cars and other subjects.
In 2012 a new bartender came to work at the Vintage Tavern in Smyrna, near to my home. I soon learned her name, Summer Barfield. After we got to know each other, Summer agreed to pose for a new picture I had in mind.
Up to this point, I had never done an illustration of a Pegaso. In the early 1950s, the Spanish government decided to produce a luxurious GT car that would demonstrate Spain’s technical abilities and open new markets for Spanish products. Thus, the Pegaso Z-102 was born. The car was acclaimed for its technical innovations, but not so much for its bodywork.
Wilfredo Ricart, the man responsible for Pegaso, approached his old friend, Carlo Anderloni, head of Carrozzeria Touring in Italy. The first Touring bodied Pegaso was shown at the Paris auto show in 1952. Pegaso wanted something really spectacular for the 1953 Turin auto show. The Pegaso Thrill was the answer. The car almost stole the show.
So, you guessed it—the combination of the girl and the car became the “Summer Thrill.”
I was very pleased and happy when art director Larry Crane ran my artwork in the “Non Sequitur” section of Automobile Magazine. Included in the September ’98 issue was my illustration titled “River Run.” The wooden boat in the picture is the 1920s Gold Cup Winner Baby Bootlegger, designed by George Crouch. Probably the most beautiful racing boat ever, Baby was certainly an influence on automotive design. The stern was not the usual flat surface, but a graceful tapered tail. The Auburn Boattail Speedster I put in the picture mimics the boat’s rear shape.
Mark Mason, who lives and restores boats in Laconia, New Hampshire, is the one who tracked down and rebuilt the boat. Mark’s location on Lake Winnipesaukee provides a perfect place to exercise Baby and her World War I Hispano aircraft engine.
As fortune would have it, Mark picked up a copy of Automobile and saw my illustration. He contacted me and bought the original illustration, which now hangs in his home, near the boat that inspired the painting.
“Double Buehrig on the Rocks”
Gordon Buehrig is well known for his design of the front wheel drive coffin-nosed Cord 810 and 812 of 1936-1937. The Cord is a well-established classic. He is less remembered for designing the TASCO (an acronym for The American Sportscar Company).
In 1948, a group of sports car enthusiasts operating out of Hartford, Connecticut, approached Gordon with the idea of designing an American sports car to compete with the British and European cars being imported following World War II. Gordon proposed the idea of a closed cockpit design, along the lines of a private aircraft cabin. The result was a striking vehicle that incorporated design features later used on production cars. Various problems kept the car from going into production and only one was built. I thought the two designs, one prewar and one postwar, would make an interesting contrast. I put the two cars on a cobblestone surface with a cityscape backdrop, thus “Double Buehrig on the Rocks.”
“Phantom by Moonlight”
In 1938, young Rust Heinz dreamed of putting his extravagant design, the Phantom Corsair, into limited production. Rust’s death in an auto accident ended any hope of this happening. The one prototype constructed by Bohman & Schwartz on a Cord 810 chassis exists for us to study today. His design, besides its very futuristic look, incorporated interior safety features, including the first padded dash. The Phantom truly was a vision of tomorrow.
Its exciting new look even got the Phantom a movie role. It appears in the movie Young at Heart, starring Paulette Goddard and Douglas Fairbanks. The Phantom was later owned by television personality Herb Shriner. Shriner unfortunately had some body modifications carried out. After Shriner’s death in 1970, the car became part of Harrah’s automobile collection. A careful and accurate restoration returned the car to its original 1938 configuration.
In my illustration, I decided to show the Phantom as a creature of the night: “Phantom by Moonlight.”
The small independent company started in 1924 by Archie Frazer-Nash continued to build uncompromising sports cars until the late 1930s. The Frazer Nash cars (no hyphen), with stubborn traditionalism, retained chain drive and external hand brake and shift levers. The radiator is set well back from the exposed front axle. The steering is extremely quick, under one turn lock-to-lock. When you corner in the wet, the rear end slides. There is no differential, just a straight chain drive axle. When you want to corner quickly, in dry conditions, you induce the slide yourself.
From 1924 to 1938, about 348 cars were built. Owners of the remaining cars today cherish them as British national treasures.
In the 1930s, the company became the exclusive distributor for BMW in England. The cars were marketed as BMW-Frazer Nash. After World War II, the company continued for some years using a modified version of the BMW engine.
With their solid rear axle and quick steering, I always picture the cars driving flat out at the limit—“At 10/10s.”
“Just Plane Bored”
Whenever I saw pictures of a Gee Bee, I thought to myself, what a neat little plane. The Gee Bee, designed and built by the Granville brothers, looks almost like a cartoon airplane. The short, stubby fuselage has an 800 HP Pratt & Whitney radial engine up front. The cockpit is located just before the tail, with little in between. The R-1 Gee Bee won the 1932 Thompson Trophy race, piloted by Jimmy Doolittle.
The automobile is a 1930 front wheel drive Ruxton. Engineered by William Muller, the front wheel drive layout allowed for a very low body profile. The unusual Woodlite headlights add to the car’s unique appearance. Among the investors backing the new car was one William Ruxton. It was decided that Ruxton sounded like a good name for a car, and so it came to be.
I thought a black and yellow color scheme on both the plane and car worked well and I went with it. While the daring pilot and his dedicated mechanic carry on a lively conversation, the lady is “Just Plane Bored.”
In the 1940s, the late Dr. Floyd McRae was a respected neurosurgeon at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta. Dr. McRae was also a long-time car enthusiast.
In 1948, at the New York auto show he saw and had to have a Healey Elliott sedan. Dr. McRae bought the car and drove it back to Atlanta, where I saw it in 1951.
Most people connect Donald Healey with the Austin-Healey sports cars of the 1950s and 1960s. As soon as possible after the war, Healey was building cars to be sold in the U.S. This Healey of Dr. McRae’s was sent to New York as a possible car for Healey and his son to drive cross-country to set up dealers. A Healey roadster was also sent, and the Healeys took it as their tour car.
The Healey was part of a stable of cars maintained by Dr. McRae. He also had an early Jaguar XK-120 roadster, a Mercedes 300S coupe, a Cunningham coupe, and a Lancia.
The Healey was one of my favorite cars from my early years in cars. I show the car in downtown Atlanta with the good doctor at the wheel and a trackless trolley in the background.
You don’t see many Allards in the Atlanta area. I had never seen an early L1 four-passenger Tourer. In 2002, I attended British Car Day and there it was, an L1 Allard. I was intrigued and took some photos. This being an early car (1948), it had a standard flathead Ford V8. Later Allards usually had big overhead valve Cadillac or Oldsmobile engines.
Sydney Allard operated a successful British Ford dealership purchased by his father in the early 1930s. Sydney built his first special from parts he acquired from two wrecked cars. A Ford V8 roadster and a Bugatti racer contributed what he needed. From the Ford came the frame and most of the running gear. The Bugatti supplied the body and the steering gear. He was interested in running in hill climbs and trials so he set the engine well back in the frame to improve weight distribution. This car was such a winner that Allard was persuaded to build two more trial specials.
After the war, Allard went into small-scale production and built some cars that were winners at many venues.
The car is a 2.9 8C 2900 Alfa Romeo. This model, considered to be Alfa’s finest, was built in the late 1930s. Some people consider it the best sports car ever built. According to those who know, the 2.9 drives like a post-World War II car, not a prewar.
The 2.9 liter engine is made up of two 4-cylinder blocks with a one-piece cylinder head and overhead camshafts. Two superchargers pressurize the fuel-air mixture. The engine is mounted in a chassis with independent suspension, front and rear. This combination is capable of speeds of 125 mph or better.
The first road race at Watkins Glen in 1948 was won by a 2.9 coupe driven by Frank Griswold. Phil Hill, the first American world champion driver, raced a 2.9 Mille Miglia roadster early in his career.
In my illustration, the lady in the 2.9 tries to use her charms to get out of the ticket, for parking next to the obvious fire hydrant. The officer seems to be considering his options.
What could be better on a sunny day in the fall than a ride in your MG? With the top and windshield down, this couple is getting the full wind in the hair, bugs in the teeth experience.
The MG-TC shown here was virtually the same car that was being built in 1939 when the war shut car production down. The TC was the car that introduced most Americans to the sports cars. This is the car that showed us that cars could be more than just an appliance to move us from point A to point B.
The TC sits low to the ground, with tall 19" wire wheels with knockoff hubs. The steering wheel is on the right; no export models were built until the TD went into production. The engine is a four-cylinder pushrod overhead valve unit. Horsepower produced is only 54. The car weighs in at slightly over 1,800 pounds. With good use of the four-speed gearbox, performance is satisfactory.
With an open road and the wind rushing by, nothing offers more motoring enjoyment.
“Road Test Report”
The very rare British Alta was the result of one man’s vision and passion to bring it to fruition. The first Alta was built in a stable in 1927. Geoffrey Taylor, in his spare time with limited funds, was determined to build his dream car. Taylor designed the engine, made his own wooden patterns, and farmed them out to local foundries. He hacksawed the crankshaft and connecting rods from solid billets. Legend states that he kept a copy of War and Peace open to read as he sawed away. He drove his first car hard in long distance trials and was quite successful.
Taylor set up a small factory and began limited production between engineering jobs.
The car in my illustration is one of the 2-liter, supercharged models built just prior to World War II. Taylor produced 18 sports cars and several single-seat racing cars. I’ve pictured Taylor standing by the car as a pleased driver reports on his road test.
The Alta is a great example of the sports cars built by small manufacturers in England between the wars.
When I went to Jamaica in 2004 for my niece Happy’s wedding, I had no plans to do a picture like this. I soon found out her new husband Matt was an avid Porsche admirer. His all time favorite was the 1968 911 Targa.
Both Matt and Happy love the island and chose to be married there at Roundhill Plantation. I began to think a picture combining Matt’s Porsche interest with the beauty of the island might make a nice wedding gift. The wonderful tree was next to a walking path I used each morning I was there. Since my middle name is McPherson, the picnic blanket is McPherson dress plaid.
The 911 Targa was Porsche’s way around anticipated anti-convertible laws, with the wide bar behind the removable roof panel acting as a roll bar. Previously the 911, introduced in 1964, had been available only as a coupe.