By Maz Woolley
All text by, and copyright of the Author. All photographs provided by the Manufacturer.
This article looks at the last two releases of models by Autocult. These are cast in resin to 1:43 scale with photoetched details, and are made in China for Germany. As ever they represent rare of unusual vehicles from across a wide time frame.
This release features:
- Steyr 100 “Asien Stey – from the category ‘past brands‘
- Benz 35/40 Prinz-Heinrich-Wagen – from the category ‘the early beginnings‘
- Thompson House Car – from the category ‘camping vehicles’
- Ferrari 330 GTC Zagato – from the category ‘prototypes‘
#02018 Steyr 100 ‘Asien-Steyr’ (Austria, 1934)
Max Reisch was born in Kufstein in the Austrian Tyrol in 1912 and made a name for his long distance motorcycle journeys. Using the reputation he had earned he approached Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG in 1934 for material and financial support for his next trip.
Instead of a motorbike they offered him the recently launched Steyr 100 so that the trip would be combined with a major promotional tour for the new car. Max Reisch accepted and the first step was to get the expedition car changed to his suggestion of a pick-up version.
The trip began in April 1935 and Max Reisch along with his partner Helmuth Hahmann left Vienna and travelled to Palestine, Syria and Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. From there they went via Pakistan, India, Burma, Thailand and Laos to Vietnam and China. After 14 months they arrived at their final destination Shanghai.
When they arrived in Shanghai instead of finishing they decided to continue their journey and took a passage on a ship to Japan and to the USA. After a brief pause the men and their Steyr headed to Mexico from where they sailed back to Bremerhaven.
Circumnavigating the world would be an amazing feat now but in 1935 with minimal engineering and spares back up it was an incredible achievement.
#01001 Benz 35/40 Prinz-Heinrich-Wagen (Germany, 1906)
The Benz 35/40 was the pinnacle of the Benz company output early in 1900. It was powered by a 3,380cc four cylinder engine producing 35 to 40 horsepower which could power the car up to 55 MPH via a leather lined clutch and chain or cardan drive. It was one of the fastest vehicles on the public roads at the time.
This was an expensive chassis and was generally fitted with a luxurious bodywork.
Albert Wilhem Heinrich of Prussia; the brother of the German Emperor Wilhelm II, was an early motoring enthusiast and Benz owner. His Benz 35/40 double phaeton modelled here participated in the 1,700 kilometers long-distance race “Herkomer-Konkurrenz” on 6-12 of June 1906.
#09010 Thompson House Car (USA, 1934)
Little is known of Arthur Thompson, who was said to have been a watchmaker from Ontario in California, the creator of this vehicle.
This 1930s vehicle took seven years to develop and build. It was based upon a Studebaker chassis fitted with a six-cylinder engine. Onto the chassis he formed a car body, passenger and camper compartment, all made out of aluminium. Over the conventional, solid structure he fixed another almost identical structure, which could be lifted like the popup campers of today. It was connected to the body by a combination of rods and fold-able fabric parts and was driven by an ingenious series of gears. Once in place it was possible for an grown person to stand upright.
It is not clear how many of these campers were built some references quote four, others no definite figure. One still existed in a museum in Sacramento in 2007 as photographs on the web show.
#06032 Ferrari 330 GTC Zagato (Italy, 1974)
In 1968, the last year of production of the Ferrari 330 GTC, chassis number 10659 was shipped to the USA. The buyer was the US-American Ferrari importer and former race driver Luigi Chinetti.
The car was first sold to Robert V. Kennedy of Cambridge, Massachusetts who sold it on to an unknown owner before it was accident damaged and ended back the hands of the US importer in the early 1970s. Instead of simply reconditioning the car he gave it to Zagato for a completely new design. Elio Zagato and his team created a new body for the Italian sportscar in the new style, without any curves and with several extravagant design features, which were new on a Ferrari. The most prominent feature were the front lights behind plexiglass covers, but the rear to had special features. Beside the eye-catching body there were new safety features built in underneath that could not be seen.And the whole car was topped off by a removable targa top.
This unique car was exhibited by Zagato at the Geneva Motor Show in 1974 and was shown at the Concour d’Elegance in Pebble Beach in 1996.
This release features:
- Talbot Lago T26 Grand Sport Coupe Figoni & Falaschi – from the category ‘past brands’
- BMW 340/1 Roadster – from the category ‘prototypes’
- Bedford SB3 Mobile Cinema – from the category ‘buses’
- Mercedes-Benz 150H Sport-Limousine from the category ‘racing cars’.
#02019 Talbot Lago T26 Grand Sport Coupé (France, 1949)
In the years following the Second World War things were hard for most people and the pre-war days of outrageous spending and glamour were replaced by a more serious and less frivolous era. In such a market pre-war bodybuilders such as Figoni & Falaschi found a lot fewer takers for their extravagant designs.
The model made by Autocult is one of their last designs based on the chassis of a Talbot Lago T26 . The car was ordered by the ‘Zipper King’ Mister Fayolle and featured a zipper-like string of horizontal chrome strips on its front hood. The car then made its way to the United States, where Lindley Locke bought it in 1960. But Locke’s interest in the exclusive French car was passing and soon the car was garaged and forgotten.
47 years later the car saw the light of the day again. After its restoration it was presented for the first time at the Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach in 2018; exactly 70 years after its creation. The Talbot Lago T26 Grand Sport Coupe was one of the highlights of the show.
#06029 BMW 340/1 Roadster (Germany, 1949)
In August 1946 the BMW plant in Eisenach was taken into the state owned AWTOWELO AG. In the spring of 1948 the first prototypes of a new car were finished, and in October 1949 series production of the new BMW 340 sedan began. After international legal battles between West and East German companies over the right to use the BMW name the East Germans changed the name of their cars to EMW, after their place of manufacture Eisenacht Motoren Werke.
Whilst the saloon version was being developed designer Hans Fleischer designed a sporty two-seater. The BMW 340/1 was a prototype based on the 340. It was a convertible with a sleeker body and lower bonnet line and greatly modified grille. The sports car was fitted with the 55 hp six-cylinder engine from the 340.
The project was taken seriously by the Soviet dominated German industry and it was publicly exhibited on the AWTOWELO stand at a trade fair in Leipzig in 1949. Long distance testing and some road racing were all undertaken to prove the car but it never went into series production. This is thought to be because there was little place for a sports car in the planned economy of a war ravaged country struggling to rebuild itself and which needed utilitarian vehicles much more.
#10004 Bedford SB3 Mobile Cinema (Great Britain, 1967)
In the early 1960s the then Prime Ministerof the UK, Harold Wilson, made a speech about the “White heat of Technology”, and the challenges that faced the UKs industries to adapt and exploit the new developments in science and engineering. A Ministry of Technology was created and its role was to inform manufacturing industry about new production techniques and opportunities.
Nowadays this outreach would be done by a team of consultants creating web sites, emails, and tweets and hoping that people round the country would interact with them. But in the 1960s the officials realised that they had to get out and visit Industry face to face round the country to spread the message. One way to do this was to take films and lecturing staff to visit key staff at industrial companies.
To allow this to take place the Ministry of Technology ordered seven trucks and trailers in 1967. The equipment was produced by Coventry Steel Caravans (CSC) a company based in Warwick which was famous for the trailers they had produced in the war, for the MInistry of Agriculture, and for industrial customers, as well as for making Caravans. CSC also built the bodywork for a cinema on wheels on a Bedford SB 3 coach chassis. With a capacity of up to 24 seats managers could watch the films on a cinema screen that was located at the rear end of the interior. The cinematic equipment was controlled from a Plexiglas dome above the driver’s cab. Inside the trailer displays were fitted to complement the films.
Seven Bedford trailer combinations were on the roads across the United Kingdom between 1967 and 1974 managed by the state and Industry sponsored Production Engineering Research Association (PERA).
#07015 Mercedes-Benz 150H Sport-Limousine (Germany, 1934)
The 1934 Mercedes-Benz Type 150 was unusual with its mid-engine. After the W30 the Type 150 was the second Mercedes-Benz which had its engine positioned as far as possible toward the centre of the vehicle. Never suited to mass production it was however very suitable for racing. The influences of Tatra and others are clear in the styling of this car.
Six such sports cars were built by Mercedes-Benz all built to compete in the class “V” in the second ‘2000 km durch Deutschland’ (2000 km of Germany). On July 21, 1934, at 5:35 am, all six were positioned on the starting line. All models were fitted with a 1.5 litre, water-cooled ohv four-stroke engine with a power rating of 55 hp. The engine closely related to that fitted to the Type 130. Four drivers finished their race with a gold medal. After the 2000 km of Germany the cars competed in another race in August 1934; the rally Liège-Rome-Liège. The driver Hans-Joachim Bernet led the field between Rome and Pisa and completed the section perfectly with the score of “zero penalty points”.
Despite this racing history Mercedes-Benz had no use for the six cars and in the end all the vehicles were destroyed. Several parts of the bodies and the chassis were reused for the development of a conventional front engined roadster which was launched in 1935.
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