Abarth – Simca 1300 Bialbero (cars listed by race year)

Abarth, Bahamas Speed Weeks, Bridgehampton Road Races, Marlboro, Otto Linton, Sebring, Tom Fleming No Comments »
Abarth_Logo

Abarth Founded in 1949

 

Abarth is an Italian racing car maker founded by Austrian-Italian Karl (Carlo) Abarth in Turin in 1949. Otto remembers him as a flat track Motorcycle racer in Austria before the war. Although many of Abarth’s creations were based on Fiat (they bought the company in 1971 and made it the racing arm of Fiat), Abarth was also associated in producing sports or racing cars with Porsche and Simca.

 

During 1963 and 1964 Otto Linton and Tom Fleming raced an Abarth 1300 Bialbero – Simca. Tom owned the car and Otto worked on it.

Rudolf Hruska was born in Vienna and attended the Vienna University of Technology at the same time as Otto Linton. He ended up in Italy owning a Porche dealership with Carlos Abarth (who was also from Vienna) and working for Cisitalia.

Hruska designed the one piece tubular backbone frame for the Siata 208cs that Otto raced. He moved on to Alfa Romeo and worked on the design of the Giulietta which Otto also raced. He was at Simca and was involved in the design of the Abarth that Otto raced in 1963/64.

 

The first race they did in the car was at the 10th Annual Bahamas Speed Weeks in January 1963 under the #70. Otto Linton liked the car an suggested that they run the car in some of the upcoming long races.

Abarth-Simca 1300 Bialbero 1963

Abarth-Simca 1300 Bialbero 1963

 

Later that year they ran the 6hr race at Marlboro, Maryland in August of 1963, they took first in class (GT1.3) running under the #57.

 

Abarth-Simca 1300 Bialbero 1963

Abarth-Simca 1300 Bialbero 1963 at Marlboro

Abarth-Simca 1300 Bialbero 1963 Marlboro

Abarth-Simca 1300 Bialbero 1963 on track at Marlboro

 

They next ran the car at Bridgehampton in the Double 500, September 1963. Running the #3 they again took 1st in class (GT1.3).

 

Abarth-Simca 1300 Bialbero 1963

Abarth-Simca 1300 Bialbero 1963 at Bridgehampton

In November 1963, Otto ordered parts directly from Carlos Abarth by calling him on the telephone and speaking to him in his native Austrian (German). Karl was pleased to use his native tongue and responded personally.

 

Karl Abarth

Karl Abarth

 

In March of 1964 Tom Fleming, Otto Linton and Jimmy Diaz ran the car at Sebring under the #62. The Diaz brothers where racing buddies of Otto from South New Jersey and had bought many of Otto’s race cars when he was done with them. Not only did they win their class (GT1.3), but they also won the speed index based on engine size / weight / distance.

 

Abarth-Simca 1300 Bialbero

Abarth-Simca 1300 Bialbero at Sebring 1964

 

Abarth-Simca 1300 Bialbero

Abarth-Simca 1300 Bialbero 1964 Sebring Pit Stop

Abarth-Simca 1300 Bialbero

1st in Class GT1.3 and Speed Index Sebring 1964

 

Errata: Ray Heppenstall started to work for Otto Linton (at Speedcraft Enterprises) right out of High School…..at first sweeping the floors and washing cars. He eventually moved up to oil changes on street cars. He had no training or mechanical skills to speak of.

Ray Heppenstall enjoyed racing and Otto used him to haul the cars to the events (because he had a business to run). In the mid 1960’s Ray Heppenstall left Speedcraft and his main business was hauling race cars to the track for several Philadelphia area racers. Ray Heppenstall would tow the cars to the track, get them registered and setup in the pits. Ray Heppenstall was a bit of a “self promoter” and his name often shows up on the entry lists, but he did not own or drive the cars.

In the end Ray Heppenstall’s main client was Tom Fleming, because Tom was a principal at Howmet Corporation. Howmet was a large mining company that had a division that was a foundry of high strength parts for Helicopter engines (Turbines), Tom Fleming was involved in that operation. Howmet went through a number of mergers in the 1960’s and when it came to the board’s attention that a number of its principals where involved with racing they where ordered to stop (something similar happened to Otto). Tom eventually complied, but he kept his name out of things for several years before he did so.

In his later years Ray Heppenstall took credit for the accomplishments of many people. As Otto say’s “to have listed is name as owner / driver of the cars at the time was one thing — everyone knew what was what at the time, but to take credit for other peoples victories when they are no longer around to speak for themselves is very wrong”.

During the 1950’s and 1960’s Ray Heppenstall never progressed beyond “novice” races and was not a member of the SCCA. So the idea that he owned or drove any of the cars that he hauled (other than on and off the trailer) for Otto Linton, Tom Fleming, Howard Hanna, Bob Holbert or Terry Grant is ridiculous and he certainly never won a National Championship.

With Ray Heppenstall’s limited mechanical skills (Otto had to explain how a 2 stroke engine worked to Ray Heppenstall in the DKW powered Scorpion that Ray Heppenstall later claimed to own and drive) and with Tom Fleming’s obvious capabilities and resources it is also clear where the Howmet Turbine car came from.

It is a shame that Ray Heppenstall’s stories where taken as a primary source for many publications.

 

 

Abarth-Simca 1300 Bialbero

Otto Linton, ex-Abarth driver, being interviewed at Watkins Glen 2009 Race Revival Photo Credit: Alain Raymond

Siata 208CS #CS055/#CS060 *Updated 2011*

Bridgehampton Road Races, Brynfan Tyddyn Road Races, Mille Miglia, Otto Linton, Siata, Strategic Air Command Races, Watkins Glen No Comments »

Siata founded in 1926

Siata (Societa Italiana Auto Trasformazioni Accessori) was an Italian company founded in 1926 by Giorgio Ambrosini. Originally they worked on tuning Fiat cars, but by 1949 they began to produce their own. These cars where powered by modified Fiat or Crosley engines.

 

The 1952 208 CS Berlinetta was an in-house development by Siata using a special oval tube chassis. Siata used a modified version of the Fiat Otto Vu V8 engine (Fiat had been advised that Ford held a Trademark on “V8″ and named the engine Otto Vu– 8V). The unique 2 liter 70 degree engine was designed by Dante Giacosa, it was an all alloy engine with dual twin downdraft Weber carbs and featured a high mounted cam shaft (short pushrods) with upward exahust ports.

2.o Liter 70 degree Otto Vu engine -- Photo: dica do Zullino

 

 

Siata hired Rudolph Hruska to make a tubular chassis in a bottle configuration which allowed Siata to place the bucket seats on the alloy floorpan which allowed a low roofline. The car had a 3-point suspended alloy differential driven by a 5-speed box. The lightweight all aluminum coachwork was designed and built by Stabilimenti Farina Berlinetta and featured new design standards like mechanically retractable headlights and ultra low coachwork construction. The Ambrosinis had been impressed with special Michelin X radial tires on a Peugeot and designed the wheels for the 208CS to fit those tires 165/400.

 

Siata 208CS (#CS055) with its two sister cars at the 1952 Mille Miglia

Siata 208CS (#CS055) with its two sister cars at the 1952 Mille Miglia

In 1952 the car debuted at the Turin Auto Show in April. Three identical Coupes (#CS052, #CS053 and #CS055) were entered in the Mille Miglia on May 4, 1952. Two retired, but the remaining car (#CS055) driven by Franco Rol and Gino Munaron (both were F1 drivers) finished 11th overall. #CS055 was reconditioned and renumbered as #CS060 at the factory in Torino.

Stabilimenti Farina folded after just six examples were produced and a further nine were constructed along the same lines by Balbo but had a much higher ride height.
Renato Ambrosini President of Siata presents CS060 to Otto Linton August 1952

Renato Ambrosini President of Siata presents CS060 to Otto Linton August 1952

Otto Linton purchased the car (#CS060) at the factory and drove it through out Europe. He tells the story of how he came to a Russian checkpoint (Vienna was still partitioned at that time) with the car, having only minimal paper work. The Russian soldiers spoke neither german nor english, but they where laughing and egging him on with their guns. They had not lifted the barricade, but made it clear they wanted him to move forward….which he did. The ultra low roofline of the Siata passed under the barrier with room to spare.

 

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Otto Linton with Siata 208CS on the streets of Vienna 1952

Otto Linton with Siata 208CS on the streets of Vienna 1952

Otto entered the car in the Watkins Glen Grand Prix on September 20, 1952, that race was halted due to a tragedy and never completed. 1952 would be the last race on the original road course through town. The car created a stir at the race as it was quicker than the Jaguars off the line, its roof line was lower than the hood of most cars and it was the first appearance of the Michelin X radial tire in the USA. The most common comment was “hey your tires are low on air”.

 

Otto Linton with the Siata 208CS at Watkins Glen 1952

Otto Linton with the Siata 208CS at Watkins Glen 1952

Otto Linton with the Siata 208CS at Watkins Glen 1952

Otto Linton with the Siata 208CS at Watkins Glen 1952

 

Otto Linton with the Siata 208CS at Watkins Glen 1952

Otto Linton with the Siata 208CS at Watkins Glen 1952

 

Otto Linton with the Siata 208CS at Watkins Glen 1952

Otto Linton with the Siata 208CS at Watkins Glen 1952

 

Otto Linton with the Siata 208CS at Watkins Glen 1952

Otto Linton with the Siata 208CS at Watkins Glen 1952

 

Otto Linton with the Siata 208CS at Watkins Glen 1952

Otto Linton with the Siata 208CS at Watkins Glen 1952

The Siata 208CS was one of the cars Otto was able to drive to a race, prepare it and then compete in the race. He competed in a number of SAC races in 1953 with the car. General Curtis LeMay was the head of the Strategic Air Command and was a great sports car racing enthusiast (he owned an Allard), the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) was not well known at the time and Gen. LeMay allowed for a number of events to be held at SAC Air Force bases. The races ranged from 2hr (200 miles) to 500 miles with crowds of up to 60,000 in attendance. Otto recalls that the SAC races where great to run in, they supplied each driver with room in the barracks and a few Airmen First Class as pit crew that helped take care of all the preparations.

 

Briggs Cunningham in an OSCA 1500 chases Otto Linton in the Siata 208CS at Mac Dill Air Force Base

On February 21, 1953 in the 6hr race at Mac Dill Air Force Base Otto finished 2nd in Class (E Modified) with the 208CS. He also raced the car on August 9, 1953 at Lockbourne Air Force Base.

Otto Linton at a dusty start with the Siata 208CS in Watkins Glen 1953

Otto Linton at a dusty start with the Siata 208CS in Watkins Glen 1953

Otto also raced the Siata 208CS in a number of SCCA road race in 1953: May 23, 1953 at Bridgehampton Sports Car Races, July 25, 1953 at Brynfan Tyddyn Road Races and September 19, 1953 at Watkins Glen Grand Prix where he finished 1st in Class (E Modified) and 2nd overall having beat every Jaguar in the field except for the light wieght XK120C of Walt Hansgen. Watkins Glen was run at the second track layout, due to the incident in 1952.

Otto Linton in a Siata 208CS leading a Jaguar at Watkins Glen 1953

Otto Linton in a Siata 208CS leading a Jaguar at Watkins Glen 1953

The car was sold to Bob Murrell, who ran the car at Torrey Pines in April 1954 and the Golden Gate Races – June 1954.

The ex-Otto Linton Siata 208CS in a West Coast race 1954

The ex-Otto Linton Siata 208CS in a West Coast race 1954

We understand that the car sat for a long time in Delaware where it was hit by a snow plow. It was restored by Siata specialist Knute Kollman and painted red. We believe the car is now in a European collection.

ex_Otto Linton Siata 208cs restored by Knute Kollman

ex_Otto Linton Siata 208cs restored by Knute Kollman

ex_Otto Linton Siata 208cs restored by Knute Kollman

ex_Otto Linton Siata 208cs restored by Knute Kollman

More about Siata can be found at this great site: Etceterini.com

Otto Linton’s Siata Prototype (“Orchidea” Project)

Bridgehampton Road Races, Brynfan Tyddyn Road Races, Giant Despair, Mille Miglia, Otto Linton, Palm Beach Shores, Sebring, Siata, Vero Beach Road Races, Watkins Glen No Comments »

Siata Emblem - EarlySiata (Societa Italiana Auto Trasformazioni Accessori) was an Italian company founded in 1926 by Giorgio Ambrosini. Originally they worked on tuning Fiat cars, but by 1949 they began to produce their own. These cars where powered by modified Fiat or Crosley engines.

Renato Ambrosini established a collaboration with Enrico Nardi after Nardi left Scuderia Fararri in 1946. Nardi supplied chassis designed by Augusto Monaco, the bodies where built by Zagato and the engines where Siata modified Fiat 500s these cars carried Siata serial numbers. For example, the Siata TC (Tipo di Concorso) that Renato won two championships with had a Fiat 500 bored out to 698cc and supercharged for 45bhp.

Renato Ambrosini in the Siata Tipo di Concorso 1948

Renato Ambrosini in the Siata Tipo di Concorso 1948

 

 

Siata "Besagliera"

The Siata-Nardi "Besagliera" 1948

 

 

This was followed by an ambitious Siata-Nardi project in 1948 called the Bersagliera. This car was a mid-rear engine designed car with a Nardi chassis, but powered by a Siata designed 1100cc twin cam engine. The engine was designed in house by Aldo Leoni (who had designed the successful Cucciolo “puppy” motorcycle engine that established Ducati as a motorcycle company…read more here) and was intended to produce 90bhp. However, the engine never achieved that output and the car was plagued with handling problems.

 

Late in 1949 Renato began project “Orchidea” on the last remaining Augusto Monaco designed Nardi chassis. Renato decided that the cost of developing an in house engine was not justified by the meager gain in horsepower over what they could achieve by modifying stock engines, so this car was powered by a modified Fiat 500 engine once again. The car was built as a coupe for the Mille Miglia with a body by Bertone and Borani wire wheels.

 

Siata Prototype "Orchidea" as a Mille Miglia coupe 1949

Siata Prototype "Orchidea" as a Mille Miglia coupe 1949

The body was a little to top heavy for the small tubular Nardi chassis and after the 1949 Mille Miglia the car was rebodied as a “Spyder”. The car was entered in many Italian races such as Lieto Colle, Coppa d’Oro delle Dolomiti, Aosta-Gran San Bernardo, Coppa Michelin, Circuito del Garda, Mille Miglia, Circuito di Tigullio, Aosta-Gran San Bernardo and the Targa Florio. The car performed well with the lighter weight “spyder” body.

Renato Ambrosini found the Augusto Monaco designed tubular chassis was to difficult to build straight and was not cost effective. So Siata moved on to a box cut steel chassis for project “Amica”. The Amica was a passenger car powered by a Siata modified Fiat 500 “C” motor. Fiat had improved their design quality and Siata found that they were getting increasingly less horsepower gains out of their Fiat modifications.

Antonio (Tony) Pompeo was a mysterious figure in early SCCA racing. His showroom was one floor above Luigi Chinetti’s in NYC and was also full of Italian cars. Tony was tied into John Perona, owner of the El Morocco on 54th Street, who had a passion for exotic cars. Tony often brought multiple cars to SCCA races and arranged for experienced drivers to run them e.g. Otto Linton, Dick Irish and Jim Pauley. Some of the cars were owned by Perona and in the later days where named after the famous NYC nightclub.

In 1951 Tony Pompeo visited the Siata Factory, not only did he see the Amica in production but he saw the “Orchidea” spyder prototype sitting in the corner of the shop floor. He suggested to Renato that there would be a market in America for a car that looked like the “Orchidea spyder”, built on the Amica chassis. He also mentioned that the Crosley overhead cam engine was very popular with road racers, because it was a sturdy and light engine that could achieve great horsepower gains through modification. Tony returned to America with the “Orchidea” Spyder.

Yet again Tony Pompeo turned to Otto Linton to test his latest car. Otto picked up the Siata prototype from NYC and towed it out to Wisconsin for the August 1951 road race at Elkhart Lake. The prototype now was powered by a “hot” modified Crosley 750cc engine. Tony had also arranged for Lee Kerrigan a young nursing school student from NYC to drive the car in the “ladies” race. Otto remembers dicing it out with John Gordon Bennet in one of Roger Barlow’s supercharged Simca 1100cc cars during the race. Otto really liked the Simca cars, but Bennet was a good driver and had a substantial horsepower advantage yet the Siata had no trouble mixing it up with the Simca because it was a far better handling car. Otto ran #39H on the prototype but dropped out of the race with mechanical issues.

 

Siata Prototype "Orchidea" at Elkhart Lake road races 1951

Siata Prototype "Orchidea" at Elkhart Lake road races 1951

 

 

Otto towed the Siata Prototype back to NYC for Tony Pompeo to complete the repairs and did not see the car again until it was time for the Watkins Glen race.

Tony Pompeo had big plans for Watkins Glen and Siata. He brought both Giorgio and Renato Ambrosini to the race from Italy to see the Crosley powered prototype run. Otto Linton was selected to drive the car based on his experience with road courses and in particular having raced at Watkins Glen since its inception. Giorgio did not speak English and Renato’s English was limited, however both Otto and Renato were fluent in German. Otto developed a relationship with Renato that would last for years.

 

Otto Linton with the Siata Prototype at Watkins Glen 1951

Otto Linton with the Siata Prototype at Watkins Glen 1951

 

Otto Linton's Siata Prototype on Franklin St at Watkins Glen 1951

Otto Linton's Siata Prototype on Franklin St at Watkins Glen 1951

 

Otto Linton's Siata Prototype at Cornett Bridge at Watkins Glen 1951

Otto Linton's Siata Prototype at Cornett Bridge at Watkins Glen 1951

 

 

The Siata Prototype was mostly a big success, it was well suited to the difficult course and attracted a great deal of attention. Sporting the #33, the bright blue car easily out paced it class, Otto Linton was lapping the second place car for the second time on the last lap of the race. The second place car waved Otto by on a straight away, but then veered into him pushing the Siata off the road. The Siata rested in a ditch only dented but out of the race and the offending driver was never invited back for any future SCCA events.

 

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On the other hand, the looks and performance of the car did not go un noticed. Otto alone took deposits on three Crosley powered Amica Spyders based on his performance at Watkins Glen (Wessels, Scatchard, Publico). These new cars were to be based on the Amica with a similar “Spyder” Baritone body and became known as the 300BC.

Otto next ran the Siata Prototype at the Palm Beach Shores Road Races in December of 1951 still carrying the #33. He purchased the car from Tony Pompeo shortly afterwards, however Tony kept the modified Crosley race motor.

Otto Linton was a Crosley dealer at the time, so he set about building a new race motor. He installed larger valves from an MG and ported and polished the head. This was made more difficult by the fact that the Crosley had a fixed over head cam design, so all the valve and port work had to be done through the ports or up from the bottom. A regrind of the camshaft, a steel crank from one of Crosley’s military grade pumps and a Weber carburetor.

The car was ready for the Florida races by March of 1952. Otto Linton first entered the car in the 12 hour Vero Beach race with #75 and a week later at Sebring with the #39, Tom Scatchard was his co-driver (who would receive on of the three Siata 300BCs that where on order).

 

Otto Linton with the Siata Prototype at Sebring 1952

Otto Linton with the Siata Prototype at Sebring 1952

This is one story I know well, for as a kid on vacation in Florida, Otto refused to stay at the only Motel for miles around because he was afraid that they might remember him.

During practice for Sebring the Siata Prototype broke the crankshaft. Otto sent one of his crew back to Philadelphia to pick up a spare, while he began the rebuild of the engine In His Motel Room! They used the bath tub to hold (and hide) all the parts, and once they had the replacement crankshaft they used the sink full of gasoline for washing parts. As soon as the car was back together they promptly checked out and he never went back there again. They had a successful run at Sebring with the “Motel” built engine wearing #39.

 

Otto Linton with the Siata Prototype at Brynfan Tyddyn 1952

Otto Linton with the Siata Prototype at Brynfan Tyddyn 1952

Otto Linton next ran the Siata Prototype at the Giant Despair (#56) / Brynfan Tyddyn (#50) race weekend in July 1952. The tight and mostly unpaved road course suited the Siata and he easily bested his class.

 

Siata Prototype at Brynfan Tyddyn 1952

Otto Linton and Lewis Flink with the Siata Prototype at Brynfan Tyddyn 1952

 

Otto Linton tuning at Brynfan Tyddyn 1952

Otto Linton tuning the Siata Prototype at Brynfan Tyddyn 1952

 

Otto Linton at the start Brynfan Tyddyn 1952

Otto Linton at the start Brynfan Tyddyn 1952

 

Otto Linton racing at Brynfan Tyddyn 1952

Otto Linton racing at Brynfan Tyddyn 1952

 

Otto Linton news from Brynfan Tyddyn 1952

 

In August of 1952 Otto went to the Siata Factory in Italy to pickup his 208CS, but he kept the Siata Prototype to run as well. In September of 1952 Otto ran the Siata 208CS under #114 and the Siata Prototype under #112 at the last Watkins Glen road race through town. (Read about the Siata 208CS here)

 

Otto Linton in the Siata Prototype at Watkins Glen 1952

Otto Linton in the Siata Prototype at Watkins Glen 1952

In March of 1953 Otto drove the Siata 208CS to Florida and had the Siata Prototype hauled to Sebring. Otto entered the Siata 208CS in the Miami International Auto Show where it took second place while he went to Sebring to run the Siata Prototype.

 

Otto Linton in the Siata Prototype at Sebring 1953

Otto Linton's Siata Prototype waiting for a replacement crankshaft at Sebring 1953 (Tom Scatchard's 300BC ST402 #56 1 of the 3 Otto sold in April 1952)

Once again the Crosley motor broke its crankshaft during practice. Otto mentioned the problem to his friend Briggs Cunningham, who replied that he had a spare Crosley crank at his shop (on the other side of Florida) and if Otto could send some one down he would let them take it. Otto Linton co-drove the Siata Prototype with Harry Beck under the #39 on the freshly rebuilt Crosley motor.

 

Otto Linton makes the start in the Siata Prototype at Sebring 1953

Otto Linton makes the start in the Siata Prototype at Sebring 1953

 

Otto Linton Sebring 1953

Otto Linton Sebring 1953

Otto used the Siata 208CS at the SAC airbase races on the way back to Pennsylvania and began to use it exclusively. He did enter the Siata Prototype in the 1953 Bridgehampton Road Races for his English mechanic at Speedcraft Enterprises. Unfortunately, Tommy Luck wrecked the car badly.

 

Otto Linton's Siata Prototype at Bridgehampton 1953

Otto Linton's Siata Prototype at Bridgehampton 1953

Otto sold the modified Crosley Motor to Hilgass who built it into a ¼ midget that ran the engine successfully for many years. This was not the end of the Siata Prototype as he later sold the car to the Diaz brothers (Jimmy and Benny), as he would many of his older race cars over the years. The Diaz brothers repaired the car and fitted it with an 1100cc motor. They ran the car at Cumberland (#218) and Beverly (#89) in 1955. To whom they sold the car is not known, and Jimmy tended to paint every race car he bought bright red, we are not sure if he did it to the Prototype as well.

1934 Frazer-Nash TT Replica “chain gang”

Bridgehampton Road Races, Denver Cornett, Frazer-Nash, Otto Linton No Comments »

Frazer_Nash_LogoThe company was founded in 1922 by Archibald Frazer-Nash after he had previously founded the GN Cyclecar Company. They where also in the armaments business having designed and built hydraulic gun turrets for aircraft since the mid 1920s.

Frazer-Nash was in the habit of entering a racing version of their cars into big races (Nurberg, Ulster, Boulogne and the TT) and then selling “replica” cars to capitalize on their success. In the Mid 1930’s Frazer-Nash became an importer and Assembler of BMW 328’s, in the postwar they built some beautiful cars using a Bristol engine developed from the BMW 328 design and tool dyes.

The Frazer-Nash TT replica was their most successful car which featured a Gough 4 cylinder 1496cc engine with a four speed gearbox selected by dog-clutch and “chain gang” drive to a bevel box rear.

Frazer-Nash built about 400 cars in 30 years of production and 83 TT Replicas between 1931- 1938.

Dr. Samuel Scher was a pioneering car collector involved with the AACA who had a great collection of cars. He would enter his “racing models” in SCCA events and have experience drivers run the car (e.g. Bill Milliken, Bob Morgan and Otto Linton).

Denver Cornett was visiting Dr. Scher in June 1950 and drove the 1934 Frazer-Nash TT down to the Bridgehampton Road Races for Otto Linton to run.

 

Otto Linton and Denver Cornett in the 1934 Frazer-Nash TT

Otto Linton and Denver Cornett in the 1934 Frazer-Nash TT 1950

At the start of the feature race (standing start) Otto exploded the dog ear clutch at the line. Bill Millken remembers “I knew you had a problem when a flew past you at the start as if you where standing still”.

 

1934 Frazer-Nash TT replica at Bridgehampton

Otto Linton in the 1934 Frazer-Nash TT replica at Bridgehampton 1950

Otto towed the Frazer-Nash back to his shop for repair (Speedcraft Enterprises). Having repaired the clutch, it was on a shaft with the front part of the “chain gang” drive and held with a set screw, he began preparing the car for the next race. Unfortunately, the car was sitting on the showroom floor and was not completely assembled (specifically the throttle was not connected) when a salesman decided to start the car up for a customer. With the throttle wide open and at full revs the clutch set screw failed and sent the “chain gang” drive through the cowling. This required a second rebuild of the clutch as well as repairs to the car and “chain gang” drive. He still says “I knew I should have drilled out the shaft for a longer set screw when I fixed it the first time”.

The car was entered in the 1950 Watkins Glen race, but the repairs where not finished in time. Otto had also arranged to bring over Karl Kling’s 1949 Veritas RS for Watkins Glen, but the boat did not arrive in time. So for the 1950 Watkins Glen race Otto was without a ride and spent the race managing the Speedcraft Special he had built for Denver Cornett.

Otto and I saw the restored car at an F1 race at Watkins Glen during the 1970’s. It had a beautiful restored polished stainless steel plate on the cowling with all the screw heads perfectly aligned….we had to explain to the owner that the plate was not original (he thought it was an original access plate) but was due to the exploding “chain gang” on the showroom floor in 1950.

Errata: Some sources have Otto Linton also driving the Frazer-Nash at the Suffolk County Airport race in Westhampton (May 1950), but Otto was there with a different car and Bob Morgan drove the car.

DuPont Model G “LeMans” – The Speed Craft Special

DuPont, LeMans, Otto Linton, Speed Craft Special, Watkins Glen 1 Comment »

The DuPont Car Company founded in 1919

The DuPont Car Company was founded during the first world war by E. Paul DuPont. The first car debuted at the New York International Auto show in 1919. Between 1919 and 1931 DuPont built 516 cars, all with custom coachwork by companies such as Merrimac, Murphy, Derham, Waterhouse and Wolfington. In all, eight different models were produced called A through H.

With every new model the wheel base grew longer and the engine got bigger. The Model G was a long wheel base car, with a Continental L-head straight Eight…..it was available in 12 body styles from Merrimac, Derham and Waterhouse.

The two and four seat Model G speedster from Merrimac debuted in 1929 at the New York International Auto Show. The first Model G speedster was bought by Mary Pickford for her husband Douglas Fairbanks. Although Merrimac was founded by the son of J.B. Judkins (known for his Lincoln and Packard coachwork) Stanley Judkins died of the Flu in 1920 and the company remained independent of Judkins. Merrimac built many custom bodies for several manufacturers including over 400 Springfield Rolls-Royces and several hundred for Syracuse, New York’s Franklin Automobile Company.

The Model G Speedster from Merrimac had swooping fenders, a bullet shaped Grill and unusually shaped Woodlight headlights.

Dudley Wilson's Model G -- Merrimac bodied 4 seat -- 1946

Stan Smith's DuPont Model G Merrimac bodied 2 seat Speedster 1946

Stan Smith's DuPont Model G Merrimac bodied 2 seat Speedster 1946


A.J. Miranda was the NYC distributor for DuPont Cars…..he wanted to compete with Stutz (DuPont’s main competitor) on the track with the Merrimac speedster. He convinced the factory to have a two seat short wheel base car built by Merrimac in a boattail configuration. They tried to enter it at LeMans….but the regulations at the time mandated four seats. Merrimac then built 2 four seat speedsters (short wheel base) only one of which made it to LeMans.  A.J. Miranda drove the car at LeMans in 1929 but suffered a gearbox failure (that car is now owned by Dr. Simeone).

George DuPont's Model G LeMans speedster 1945

The DuPonts bought the Indian Motocycle Manufacturing Company in 1930 and merged the car business with the motorcycle business…..Paul DuPont was president of the combined company.  Paul stopped all non-motorcycle production (like outboard motors and cars) in 1931 after building and selling only 3 Model H cars (even longer wheel base than the G)….. Paul Dupont ran Indian until 1945.

After Paul DuPont shut down car production at Indian in 1931…..Merrimac continued to make  “LeMans copies” of the short wheel base LeMans car in both two and four seat configuration, these were sold by A.J. Miranda in NYC…..Merrimac went out of business in 1934. There is no record of what engines where used in these “LeMans copies“, but as many as 16 versions where produced in those years.  Many of the “LeMans Copies” where intended for racing, the fenders and rear cowling (around the boat tail) were removable and often the car had only a driver side door.

They had full access to the left over DuPont parts…and since they had designed and built the car originally, they had all the patterns for manufacture. It is not clear if this was done with DuPont / Indian’s blessing or not. They say Paul intended to restart car production at some point….but as the depression took hold he never did.

The Speed Craft Special

Otto Linton remembers, “David Felix was a Philly Lawyer who was into sport cars (Alfas etc) he also bought an MG from me in Exton, he always had leads on cars. Denver (Cornett) bought it  directly from Felix and brought it to me, the engine was there, but disassembled and needed some bearing work.” The car had mostly Ford running gear, ” The engine was based on a 1932 Ford B motor, but the OHC head was beautifully made with big valves about double the size of model B engine.”
Denver Cornett decided to go for a V8 and asked Otto to “build him a good engine”. Otto picked the 180 degree version because of the better torque available for Watkins Glen. “I sold the (original) engine to a relative of Frank Griswold who had a nice collection of cars and got almost half or better the cost of the engine I had built for Denny. He was happy with that.”
I was told by Denny, Felix and Lex (DuPont) that the car was a “special” from the Indian Motorcycle factory days, when I asked them at the time.”
Given the Ford running gear this car was most likely one of the short wheel base “LeMans copies” made by Merrimac for A.J. Miranda.

Norden Machine Shop known for racing parts in the 1940's

Otto used a Ford flat head V8 engine with 180 degree crankshaft and a special Cam shaft. He ordered the parts from Norden Machine Works in Culver City, California. Norden was known for racing parts in the 1940′s, supplying Carburetors, crankshafts, cam shafts and steering gear. Flat head V8′s with Norden parts ran at the Salt Flats and Indianapolis….many Midget racers used their single armed steering gears. Their catalog states racing parts “Proven at Indianapolis”.

The Speed Craft Special used a 180 degree racing crank and cam

Denver Cornett raced the “Speed Craft Special” at Watkins Glen in 1950 and 1951 on the original road course. He competed against a mixed group of cars…there where Duesenbergs, Rileys, Frazer Nash, Bugatti and more modern cars such as Allard, Maserati, Healey and Jaguar xk120s.
In 1950 he crashed and did not finish the race. In 1951 he placed 18th.

Speed Craft Special DuPont LeMans after the wreck at Watkins Glen 1950

The Speed Craft Special at Watkins Glen 1950


 

Denver Cornett in the Speed Craft Special (DuPont G LeMans) at Watkins Glen 1950



 

1949 Fiat 1100s Mille Miglia

Fiat, Mille Miglia, Otto Linton, Palm Beach Shores, Watkins Glen No Comments »

Fiat SpecialeAntonio (Tony) Pompeo was a mysterious figure in early SCCA racing. His showroom was one floor above Luigi Chinetti’s in NYC and was also full of Italian cars. Tony often brought multiple cars to SCCA races and arranged for experienced drivers to run them e.g. Otto Linton, Dick Irish and Jim Pauley,

For the 1949 Watkins Glen Grand Prix Tony brought three cars, a 1938 BMW 328 Mille Miglia car, a 1948 Alfa Romeo 6C and a 1949 Fiat 1100s Mille Miglia. Otto Linton was selected to drive the Dark Blue Fiat 1100s MM having run the 1948 race in a supercharged MG J4 750cc.

Fiat 1100s MM Total production 401 between 1947 – 1950 built at Fiat in their “Speciali” facility.

 

Otto finished 4th in class (22nd overall) behind a pair of Cisitalias and an MGTC, because –as he pointed out to Tony– it was a full coupe (built internally by Fiat) with only an L4 – 8 valve 1100cc engine which just could not pull on the long Watkins Glen hill.

Tony had collected a crowd who where returning to NYC with him after the race and he did not have enough room in his car, so he sent some of them to NYC in the Fiat.

Intermeccanica TorinoLater that year Tony contacted Otto to drive the car on January 3rd 1950 in the Palm Beach Shores road races in Florida and informed him that they had equipped the car with a Intermeccanica supercharger from Torino.

Otto drove the car from NYC to Florida in the pre-Interstate days on New Years day. He ran into some issues with the supercharger which was fed by a carburetor stuck out in front of the blower….the throttle was prone to icing. Otto says he had to drive it like a WWI plane…using the key to cut the engine at every stop light / stop sign until he got to Georgia where it was finally warm enough to stop icing, the rest of the time he had to drive it with the throttle stuck open and pass anyone who got in his way.

Otto ran the car in the first Palm Beach Shores road race on January 3rd, 1950. He finished 20th overall right behind Bill Milliken in a type 51 Bugatti.

Otto Linton 1950 Fiat 1100s mm

Otto Linton 1950 Fiat 1100s MM at Palm Beach Shores

 

Otto Linton 1950 Fiat 1100s MM

1950 Fiat 1100s MM on track at Palm Beach Shores

Errata: Otto was misidentified as the driver in some entry lists as A. Pompeo (the car owner) at Watkins Glen and as Otto Lincoln at Palm Beach Shores.