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The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance has become the ultimate classic car show, where millionaires with plenty of interesting metal in the garage come to show off their beloved rarities.
This year, all manner of exotic ancients were snapping up category wins for Best Pre-War Car, Best Car No One Else Can Afford, and Best Monocle and Cravat Ensemble Worn by a Driver. Okay, we can’t recall all the categories, but they all involved impossibly precious metal and a sober approach to high-end car collecting.
Except for one vehicle. The classic car Michael Huby took to the Pebble Beach arena this year almost defies definition.
It is the result of a collaboration between car designer Alex Tremulis and aerospace engineer Tom Summers.
Tremulis designed, among other post-war classics, the 1948 Tucker and, in 1966, a land speed record-setting motorcycle with the ultimate retro-futuristic name; the Gyronaut X-1.
In fact, it’s that motorcycle that gives us an indication of what this year’s winner of the Dean Batchelor Trophy at Pebble Beach is all about. It’s a gyroscopic car. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you, it’s riding on two wheels.
This is the Gyro-X of 1967, a car that relies on gyroscopes to balance. The original car, now lovingly restored by Huby, was first shown off at the 1967 New York Auto Show. Despite causing plenty of wonder back then, it was never destined to make it into mass-production.
In 2009, a Texan car collector saw the Gyro-X online. It was in a sorry state, having been subjected to a rudimentary three-wheel conversion (its gyroscope was long gone).
Clearly keen for a strange restoration project, the car collector purchased the Gyro-X but, shocked at all the physics involved, quickly passed it on to Huby to complete.
No easy task, given it took Huby (a renowned museum curator and automotive archiver) several years to finish. He even had a new gyroscope custom-built by a superyacht designer.
Incidentally, the Dean Batchelor Trophy is awarded to “the most significant car related to our hot rod heritage”.
Aside from a touch of Rat Fink weirdness, we’re struggling to make the connection. But hey, we’re happy Huby received the recognition for all those hours of work in bringing this bizarre car back to life.
Saab heads for the heart of Hog Country
When you think of Sturgis, you’re probably not automatically conjuring up images of Swedish engineering magnificence (or folly) in the shape of the now-extinct Saab marque.
You’re more than likely picturing a sea of shining metal, rippling like a heat haze along the wide open highways of South Dakota, as the annual Harley Davidson pilgrimage swamps the small city.
But remarkably, Sturgis is about to call itself home to possibly the most complete Saab museum in North America.
The museum is owned and run by Saab aficionado Tom Donney, who has been collecting Saabs for many years, as well as racing the occasional example.
Donney and wife Patti are to open his collection of around 85 Saabs for public display early next year.
The collection is reported to span the entire lifetime of the brand, from the Saab 92 to some of the final models apologetically offered for sale by Saab’s last owner, a disinterested General Motors.
The Donneys even bought up the majority of cars from GM’s Saab USA Heritage Collection.
And, we’re delighted to report, rather than sneering at the presence of these oddball Scandi sedans and sports coupes in their Hog-centric ’burg, Sturgis’ city fathers have welcomed the Donneys’ new facility with open arms.
When you have between 300,000 and 400,000 visitors descending on your town every August, we’re guessing the more things to do that don’t involve knife fights outside bars, the better.
Of course, the Venn diagram that shows a distinct crossover between Harley Davidson and Saab fans is probably one of the slimmer examples out there ...
Nurburgring pile-up caught on helmet-cam
If you want a rather blunt reminder of how track day shenanigans can go from bad to worse and then even worse in a hurry, search out the video Rival Motorsport posted online.
Filmed at the Hatzenbach section of the Nurburgring Nordschleife a week or two ago, thankfully the footage doesn’t involve any injuries, but boy-oh-boy is the unassuming weekend racer, whose helmet-cam captures everything, a witness to one heck of a pile-up.
On seeing an issue ahead, the driver with the helmet-cam does all the right things; he pulls over (where I’m sure he assumed initially he was well beyond the previous corner), stops his car on the side of the track and climbs over the Armco out of harm’s way.
The good Samaritan even starts trying to flag down approaching race cars in an effort to make them stop short, too.
That’s when the trouble starts. What seems like car after car comes careening around the corner, going too fast and apparently oblivious to the poor guy waving madly. The results are, well, crunchy.
The irony is that the original incident apparently had nothing to do with bent metal. Rather, the steam that is visible further up the track as our hapless on-the-spot reporter arrives on the scene, is from a Porsche 911 GT3 RS that had blown its radiator hose and coasted to a stop.