Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Bruce Willis car collection to be auctioned

The mega movie star Bruce Willis needs no introduction. He has been a continuous part of popular culture since he burst onto the world stage more than 20 years ago, first in the television series Moonlighting and then in the cinema tetralogy Die Hard. Now, this leading man’s collection of American muscle cars is being offered by renowned auctioneers Bonhams & Butterfields in Los Angeles on October 25th.

1969 ‘Bullitt’ Dodge Charger

The cars in the collection are representative of Willis himself in that they are purely American and focus on strength, performance, individuality and quality. Following are highlights of five of these magnificent automobiles.
1957 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible, a gift from his then wife Demi Moore, it received a thorough restoration and retains its original 283 cu-in engine delivering 220hp, has Powerglide transmission, front disc brakes, power booster, power steering, and comes with both soft and hard tops. (Est. $70,000/$90,000)
1967 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster. Considered the most desirable year-model Corvette in history, this 427 cu-in big block offers 435 hp and takes off like it’s turbocharged when the second set of Holley 2-barrel carbs comes on line. Like all of Willis’ cars, it has extras like power brakes, power steering, Cragar S/S alloy wheels, and an Alpine 5-CD changer in the glove box with an infrared remote so it doesn’t detract from the otherwise stock appearance or require removal of the original AM-FM radio. (Est. $110,000/$150,000)
1968 Pontiac Firebird 400 Convertible. This gorgeous, essentially stock car with 400 cu-in V8 engine and 330 hp is fully equipped with factory A/C, front disc brakes with power assist, power steering, 4-speed manual transmission (recently rebuilt), dual exhausts, Power Flex fan, twin hood scoops, and its original radio which has been augmented by an Alpine stereo system whose custom speakers are tucked into the back of the car. (Est. $30,000/$50,000)
1968 Shelby Mustang GT 500 Convertible. The perfect, updated convertible version of the iconic car that launched Steve McQueen through the streets of San Francisco in the classic movie Bullitt, though McQueen’s car in the movie was a 390 fastback. Willis had leading professionals exhaustively rework the engine to 468cu-in delivering 570hp! A full mechanical restoration included drivetrain, suspension, body and cosmetics to the utmost degree. The list of add-ons is staggering but what’s most interesting about this powerhouse is that there are only two visual hints that this car isn’t stock: the polished Cragar S/S alloy wheels and, when seen in motion, a controlled suspension that informs onlookers that this is a serious driver’s car. (Est. $150,000/$175,000)
1969 Dodge Charger. Having a Bullitt-style Mustang that McQueen’s character drove meant that Willis needed a Bullitt Charger that the bad guys drove. This 2-door hardtop has a 440 engine bored and stroked to 502 cu-in offering 700 hp, along with all the extras like Aries pistons, Edelbrock heads and intake manifold, Holley carbs, Flowmaster exhaust, Mopar 4-wheel disc brakes, Hydroboost assist, power steering, Perfect Fit A/C, Alpine stereo, and much, much more. (Est. $50,000/$70,000)
These no-expense-spared performance cars personally upgraded, owned and driven by a legend of the silver screen will be offered at Bonhams’ annual Classic California Sale held, fittingly, at the Petersen Automotive Museum in downtown L.A.’s Miracle Mile District on Saturday, October 25. It would be worthwhile attending, just to have a look at some of these vehicles.
Complete and detailed descriptions of these cars as well as the never-before-offered personal belongings of Steve McQueen, offered by his first wife, Niele Adams, can be found in the sale catalog. This may be reviewed and purchased at www. Bonhams. com/us. Interested collectors may register to bid in the auction - in person or remotely - via the website, by e-mailing [email protected], or by calling 415-391-4000.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked why was Rene Lalique well known among car collectors. It was because he used to make Lalique glass bonnet mascots. Incidentally, they are worth big money today for an unmarked one.
So to this week. A maker of aeroplanes decided to go into production of cars, after WW II. The body was made of alloy, with thicker panels on the top of the front wings, where mechanics would lean during servicing. The engine was a two liter six cylinder which was appropriated from a German auto manufacturer as part of the war reparations. The body shape was very aerodynamic and in tests done in 1973 (20 years after the car had been discontinued), only four current production cars were found to have marginally better drag coefficients. What was this car?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!

 


The new Fiat 500 - practical or just a dream?
The new Fiat 500 has been voted the European Car Of The Year, so it has already got some credits to its name, but are these remakes (the VW Beetle, the Mini and now the Fiat 500) really representative of the originals, and very much loved originals at that?
Quite simply, no they are not. The ‘new’ beetle has FWD and you can order a turbocharged dual overhead cam engine delivering 150 bhp. The original Beetle had a 1200 cc engine hanging out the rear and delivering a staggering 25 bhp.

New Fiat 500

The ‘new’ Mini isn’t really ‘mini’ at all, being much larger than the original Sir Alec Issigonis design which was just over three meters long, with an 850 cc engine that delivered 34 bhp. The new Mini is over three and a half meters long and you can get engines from 125 bhp upwards.
Now here comes the classic Fiat 500 which was built for 20 years, starting in 1957. It was designed as a small, economical car to get Italians mobile. It did have an air-cooled 500 cc engine in the rear and developed 18 bhp. It also had suicide doors (rear hinged) until 1965 and had a four speed ‘crash’ gearbox. Italians loved them (and many Europeans too), and Fiat made 3.5 million of the little buzz-bombs.
So now we have the ‘new’ Fiat 500, which although it looks even more like the original than the VW or the Mini, should really be called a Fiat 1200, as the engine is now 1.2 liters and is at the front, and can deliver 68 bhp to the front wheels (though there are variants delivering up to 100 bhp through a six speed all synchromesh gearbox).
An even larger difference is in the manufacture. There is no spaghetti anywhere, as the Italian icon is actually made in Poland, so the stains under the seat are more likely to be soup, such as the popular bouillon or tomato or more festive barszcz (beet).
So if you are looking to recapture those heady days of drinking chianti in the piazza of Torino, unfortunately, like most remakes, the Fiat 500 is more ceremony than substance. It is, however, a good car in its own right, but it is not a Fiat 500.
However, today’s equivalent is the Tata Nano. Will we be lining up for a ‘new’ Nano in 50 years time? I wonder.


I goofed!
OK, I admit it, I am only human. I made a mistake when I suggested that Lewis Hamilton was robbed in Italy. At Monza, the very deserving winner was Sebastian Vettel, without any help from bungling FIA stewards. It was at Spa in Belgium that Hamilton was given the post-race penalty, against which no appeal could be made, or even accepted by the FIA. That is what is so galling. Hamilton was not found guilty at the hearing in Paris. The FIA refused to even accept the appeal. What kind of ‘justice’ is that?