Iconic Beach Cars

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As many return from overseas holidays, stay-cations and City breaks I wanted to send a “wish you were here” digital postcard – also my 300th Aestheticons post – from a wonderful visit to France’s Cote d’Azur, more particularly, the iconic French beach-side town of St Tropez with it’s simply beautiful pastel shaded port.

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Fame was assured for this picturesque coastal town when the 1950’s French actress, Brigitte Bardot, born in 1934 and still a local resident at Baie des Canebiers, featured in the 1956 Roger Vadim directed and ground breaking “And God Created Woman” (“Et Dieu Crea la Femme”). Mdme. Bardot’s impact on the region has been honored by local baker “Senequier” who in 1956 launched the delicious “La Tarte Tropezienne”, a delicate almond cream filled brioche topped with powdered icing sugar and chopped pistachio.

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Shot on location in and around St Tropez the film also provided a springboard for the world renowned beach club/restaurant “Club 55” that was founded from a dilapidated beach shack by the parents of current owner, Patrice de Colmont, who provided food for the cast and crew of filmmakers. Rumored to have recently been offered €30m for his iconic beach club M Colmont is understood to have politely turned down the offer as he preferred not to become one of his clients eating the signature dish of “Panier des Crudites” with anchoiade mayonnaise!

The town’s along this stretch of the Cote D’Azur are each rather distinct and have their own style. The beach is never far from people’s minds as they negotiate, sometimes to the frustration of the locals, the summertime traffic of fellow tourists.

Naturally in this style capital it is vital to get your beach or port transport right. For those not seeking to impress in the vast array of American muscle cars that are to be spotted in many locations, my preference is to celebrate the more quirky and classic vehicles.

Aestheticons readers will already know of my passion for the GRP bodied Citroen Mehari – see our previous post here – Citroën Méhari – A reliable French classic that is patriotically supported and really enjoyed in St Tropez and its surrounding villages.

The Mini Moke, which has the look of a vehicle that was designed for the breeze of the Cote D’Azur, is a very popular ride either to the beach or to park up alongside a visiting boat transporting provisions for a day at sea. For the the right clients it is possible to rent one of these wonderful and iconic cars for your stay. See our previous posts here – Mini Moke Goes Electric .

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Closer to the original Mini, I have seen parked in Grimaldi Village, a beach version with wicker seats and no doors, called the “Austin Mini Beach”. It was very beautiful and, I understand, extremely valuable! See our previous post here celebrating the iconic Mini – Mini – the best selling car in Britain

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The third leaf of this Fleur de Lys of wonderful beach and port transport is the Ghia designed Fiat Jolly based on the equally iconic Fiat 500 – see our previous post here – Fiat 500 – 1957-2017

Seemingly one of the most valuable of these iconic beach cars price points of $100,000 have been mentioned for these basket weave seated, frilled canopied expressions of Italian style.

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Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis is said to have had and loved his Fiat Jolly.

In 2108 this charming little car celebrated its sixtieth anniversary and to coincide the guys at Fiat commissioned Garage Italia to produce a reimagined version of the Jolly, limited to 1958 editions, and called the Fiat Spiaggina.

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Image Credits – used with grateful thanks – Hemmings Car Auctions and Garage Italia/FIAT

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Mike Hawthorn – 1958 Formula One World Champion

 

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At the weekend, with a couple of my kids, I visited the Brooklands Museum – see the Museums website here  – Brooklands Museum in Weybridge Surrey the home of British Aviation and early Motor Racing. My late father had been an early Trustee of the Museum assisting it to secure substantial support from Shell, his former employer. I am told there is a plaque to his memory on site but, sadly, we couldn’t locate it.

My father was a very keen follower of Motor Racing, he ran part of Shell’s  commitment to sport and visited tracks all over the world in the 1970’s and 80’s. As kids we even lived in the village of Silverstone.

Prior his early years in the Army and then in commerce in Africa and elsewhere, my Dad was schooled at Ardingly College in West Sussex. A rather typical English Boarding School which produced well rounded chaps in the 1940’s. His close friends and contemporaries included Bill Cotton (the son of the 1940’s Band Leader, “Billy Cotton”, who became the head of BBC TV) and John Michael (“Mike”) Hawthorn, who because of his hair coloring, was nicknamed “Snowball”. See our previous post mentioning Mike Hawthorn here – Morgan Cars

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Born in Yorkshire on 10th April 1929 this blond and debonair young man was an iconic British racing driver and the very essence of what made motoracing glamourous. He drove a Ferrari and his penchant for racing in a bow tie did much to concrete his reputation as a gentleman racer of the finest tradition. Behind his steely blue eyes lay a depth of grit and ambition that would see him secure the Formula One World Championship alongside a host of other trophies.

Mike Hawthorn’s biography “Challenge Me The Race” carries the line “The first motor races I ever saw were at Brooklands. I was only a very small boy, but to me it was heaven to watch the cars thundering round those towering cliffs of concrete where the banking curved under the Members’ Bridge, to wander along the lines of brightly coloured cars in their stalls in the paddock, to jump as an exhaust snarled suddenly and to sniff the aroma of castor oil.”

Leslie, Mike’s father had relocated from Doncaster to Farnham, Surrey – opening The Tourist Trophy Garage in 1931 – to be nearer Brooklands. His father is said to have driven a young Mike in a Riley 2.0 litre around the legendary track thus sealing his ambition to race. This must have been a fascinating era with the Sunbeam, Napier Railtons and Bentleys battling on the banked curves of the Brooklands circuit.

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Mike started racing bikes in 1947 and after a period in Formual Two driving a Cooper Bristol and being courted by the Jaguar team – managed by Lofty England –  he joined the Ferrari Team in 1953. He suffered burns following a crash in 1954 in Syracuse (Italy) and whilst  hospitalized his father was tragically killed in a car accident. Mike joined Jaguar in 1955 as team leader, replacing Stirling Moss. After a tragic Le Mans in 1955 and a week Jaguar performance at the same race in 1956 – which led to Jaguars retirement from racing – in 1957 Hawthorn rejoined Ferrari.

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On 19th October 1958 – nearly 60 years ago – driving for Scuderia Ferrari, Mike failed to win the Moroccan Grand Prix at the newly built Ain-Diab Circuit. He was beaten into second place by Stirling Moss driving a Vanwall. Despite his position, Hawthorn secured, by a single point (total 42 points), the 1958 Formula One World Championship, the first British driver to do so. Moss came second with 41 points. Anoraks will be amused to note that Bernie Ecclestone competed in the same race – one of only two starts ever by Bernie in a Formula One – the second being the same year at Silverstone.

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Immediately following the race Hawthorn announced his retirement from motoracing after eight amazing years. Sadly, the 29 year old champ was unwell following the loss of his friend Peter Collins and a recurrent, and, many have said probably terminal, kidney complaint.

Sadly on 22nd January 1959 Mike was killed in a British Racing Green, Mark 1 3.4 litre Jaguar – Reg VDU 881 – that had been loaned to him by the Jaguar team, that crashed on the Guilford by-pass. Whilst the circumstances are unclear it seems that on the wet surface with a witness attesting to seeing his car traveling at around 100 mph, he may have been racing Mercedes Team’s Rob Walker, who was driving a gull-winged doored Mercedes 300 SL.

See this dated Pathe newsreel announcing in its staccato voice over the sad news of Mike’s death  Mike Hawthorn Killed

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Image credits – used with grateful thanks Brooklands Museum, Pathe News and Motor Sports Magazine

A Rare Rolex – The Submariner 6536

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Anyone who knows me will attest three things: I adore Rolex Submariners, I am truly fascinated by the processes of design and I am generally astonished by the extent that some people go to both understand their subject and display their knowledge.

The first is proven by the extent to which I have sung the praises of the iconic Rolex Submariner on many occasions in the pages of Aestheticons – see here a couple of our earlier pieces – Rolex Submariner and The Submariner

The second is fundamentally the reason that Aestheticons exists and I hope is amply demonstrated by our success amongst the likeminded.

Finally, and I cannot claim the credit here, which must go to Paul Altieri and the nice people at Bob’s Watches and Monochrome Watches – both who have links at the end of this piece. Their devotion to the study of the Rolex Submariner and are an illustration of why these fabulous watches have become virtually an “investment class” as would be understood by financial professionals.

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When we walk into a Rolex dealer or look at the array of excellent pre-owned models on-line we tend to be looking at the most readily and commercially available. There are few of us who will get the opportunity of seeing yet alone owning one of the often early and ultra rare version of Rolex’s iconic diver’s watch, the Submariner.

The Submariner with case number 6536 is a case in point. Given the time it now takes to bring a new version to market the early days of the Submariner were marked by an ability to introduce and retire models frequently. The 6536 is such a model. It was released in 1955 and made for just one year and I understand that only around 100 pieces were ever made.

So how can you identify a 6536? It features an unprotected 6mm crown – giving a 100m depth rating – with no side guards built into the case. Early – very rare versions – had the depth written in red ink on its face. Some ultra rare versions came with the Explorer dial but the majority featured a mix of round indexes and stick batons with the inverted triangle at 12 – as used in the modern Submariner. There are one or two specimens with the Arabic 3-6-9 markings of the Explorer.

The Explorer came with the same Mercedes-style hands that first joined the Submariner range from 1954. The very earliest models retained the longer types, with a minutes hand that overlapped the dial’s outer chapter ring, before being shortened at some point during the production cycle.

The 6536 was powered by the Cal. 1030, a 25-jewel automatic caliber first introduced in 1950 – you won’t find any with the ‘Officially Certified Chronometer’ text on the dial – it became a long terms Rolex favorite.

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Link to Paul Altieri’s of Bob’s Watches excellent piece here Rare Rolex Submariner

Ok so let’s understand what we mean by valuable – here’s the full link to Monochrome Watches detailed piece Valuing Rare Rolexes

 

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Running left to right in the above photo –

The 1955 Rolex SUBMARINER Ref. 6536 with Red Depth rating –
Rolex Submariner Ref. 6536 100m Red Depth Rating 5 digits serial number is for sale for €80.000

The 1955 Roles SUBMARINER Ref. 6536 with Ultra-Tropical “Explorer” dial
Rolex Submariner Ref. 6536 explorer dial ultra tropical and 5 digits serial number is for sale at €280.000.

The 1956 Rolex Submariner Ref. 6538 with “Big Crown” and Red Depth Rating – Legend has it that this is the one worn by Sean Connery in the James Bond 007 movie “Dr. No”is for sale at €175.000.

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Images courtesy of Bob’s Watches and Monochrone Watches.

Mercedes 220SE Coupe & Cabriolet

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This month Aestheticons’ contributor, Grant Calton, glances at his back catalogue of cars owned to salute the Mercedes 220SE Coupe & Cabriolet, with more than a twinge of regret! 

There will always be folk who can’t see beyond a 280SL Pagoda (ideally 1968 in silver with blue leather) but for me, the ultimate definition of infinite Teutonic beauty, is the Mercedes 220SE Cabriolet. I had always cherished the notion of owning a 280SE 3.5 which, even 15 years ago, were sporting stratospheric price tags and so it was joyously that I found myself at a classic car auction in 2002 being the successful bidder on an immaculate 1962 model – shiny black with cream MB tex interior and plenty of wood dash (with a touch of woodworm perhaps) and all for £15k!

But enough of my dreamlike recollections and onto the history books. The 220SE Coupe was unveiled in late 1960 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Mercedes–Benz Museum in Stuttgart.

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The even more delicious Cabriolet followed shortly afterwards with its launch at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Characterised by it’s twin stacked headlights, the 2195cc 6-cylinder engine was perhaps a little under-powered for this heavy beast, producing 134Hp, but then in my driving experience it was very much a cruisey not racy experience. The UK price at launch was a deutschmark or two under £3500 – for comparison, Fords’ Classic – a mildly sporty sedan – was £724 at the time!

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There is something unspeakably perfect about the curved lines, the echo of a tail fin remaining from its predecessor, known as the Pontoon, and those twin headlights looked so futuristic yet stylish. And the seamless rag top design integration avoided that oft encountered issue of the convertible version of a coupe looking slightly unwieldy.

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From 1961 until 1965 2,729 220SE Cabriolets rolled out of Stuttgart, compared to 14,173 of the Coupes.

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It was briefly superseded by the 250SE until 1967 when the 280SE (and it’s 3.5 litre derivative) took centre stage. And how much do I regret selling mine in 2005 for £23k…. you’d be hard pushed to find one for under £60k in today’s market.

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Grey’s Anatomy star, Patrick Dempsey, in his 280SE 3.5.

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Volkswagen Karmann Ghia

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I am giving serious thought to the expression “Favourite Car” in response to an enquirers question to name mine. Now, I thought I had a long-term and completely harmonious fictional relationship with a 1965 Porsche 911 Targa. See here our previous past Porsche 911 Targa 

No question my pulse quicken and my throat dries a little at the thought of those classic lines, that ticking engine and those long lazy sunny days mastering the hairpins down to La Corniche. Then, as if to upset the harmony of a steady relationship, a perfectly formed little nose nudges you and with winking classic headlights clears its throat and ask you if, perhaps with a little hesitation and possibly some disappointment, whether you have forgotten them.

They remind you of the mid-1970’s classic car magazine collection “On Four Wheels” – which to the best of my recollection ran for about three years and with each edition – after the usual “magazine-crack” two for one introductory offer – became increasingly more expensive. They remind you of this endless summer days with your childhood pal, Mike, when you’d visit car showrooms, argue about the merits of Italian cars versus German or French ones and write to “concessionaires” asking for brochures often to be inundated with coffee table sized promo materials featuring sleek new sleek Lamborghinis and Maseratis. Mike still has his collection of brochures stored in a garage – Ebay anyone?

One such car is Volkswagen’s iconic Karmann Ghia – especially the Cabriolet version. My Godmother has a hard topped version in grey and she was quite cool so that was how this pretty car became locked in my evolving psyche from the mid-sixties.

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The Volkswagen Karmann Ghia – based on the classic and mechanics of a first model Beetle – see our celebration of this amazing car here Volkswagen Beetle – an icon re-imagined –  was debuted as a design concept at the 1953 Paris Auto Show. Following launch, it was available in 2+2 coupe versions (from 1955 to 1974) and as a cabriolet (from 1957 to 1974).

The Karmann Ghia was a collaboration that featured the styling genius of Luigi Segre, of the legendary Turin based coach-builder, Carrozzeria Ghia (now owned by Ford), and the hand-shapes panelling  of German coach-builder Karmann – who VW had commissioned to develop the car. A massive success with over 445,000 cars built, the Karmann Ghia was extensively exported, particularly to the US market.

The VW Karmann Ghia Cabriolet was first introduced August 1957.

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The Cabriolet has, along with many cars in the VW range, been featured in a series of classic Doyle Dane and Bernbach (DDB) print media adverts in the 1950s and 60’s; so much so that DDB’s work with Volkswagen, who they have represented since 1959 (opening an office in Germany in 1961) was voted the No. 1 campaign of all time by Advertising Age’s 1999 “The Century of Advertising”.

A classic DD&B poster from the early 1960’s:

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In the early 1970’s, in response to increasing vehicle safety requirements, particularly in the US, the smooth chrome wrap-around bumpers were replaced with energy absorbing bumpers. By the mid 1970’s the model was phased out to be replaced, initially, by the Porsche 914 – never a particular favourite.

STOP PRESS: In the Gooding and Company Scottsdale Auction in January 2018 a 1963 hard topped version of the Karmann Ghia achieve a respectable $37,400 which whilst is not cheap does suggest that this fine German brand is an everyman collectible – see this lovely example and read here the Gooding and Company report Gooding and Company Karmann Ghia

Seen and loved the car – now get the T shirt – please click the AMAZON link under the image 

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VOLKSWAGEN KARMANN GHIA 1970 STENCIL MENS T SHIRT CLASSIC CAR (XXL(50-52), RED)

Read more about the history – here.

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Volkswagen Karmann Ghias and Cabriolets: 1949-1980

Essential mantelpiece material – a die cast model to keep those juices flowing!

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Minichamps 155054031 1:18 Scale “1970 VW Karmann Ghia Convertible Black” Replica Model Toy

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Karmann Ghia Type 14 Logo T-Shirt Oldtimer Car Cars Collector Driver Ralley Osnabrück Coupé Cabriolet 17156 – Grey – XX-Large

If you are lucky enough to find a Karmann Gaia in reasonable condition – and at a reasonable price – grab it! If successful you’ll need the iconic Haynes Manual to tell you just what to do to keep your beautiful car in fab condition.

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VW Beetle and Karmann Ghia (1954-79) Automotive Repair Manual (Haynes Automotive Repair Manuals)

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Images by West Coast Classics, Doyle Dane and Bernbach, Ara Howrani/Howrani Studios and Gooding and Company with grateful thanks