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Pegaso Le Mans Spyder

6290 Views 43 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  JohnP
A wonderfull article has been submitted by Jeff Davies on the Pegaso Le Mans Spyder.

Click here to read the text.

Thanks Jeff, looking forward to more of the same
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Ingeniere Wilfredo Ricart was a poof. He talked loud and did little. He failed at Ferrari and failed at Pegaso. Once the owners figured out that the guy was a fraud, they canned him and went back to their proper business, that is building the coolest buses and trucks of the period.

The Pegaso cars are interesting because they are different and somewhat bizarre. But their performance was disappointing for the specification. The engine was strongly copied on the Lancia V8 originally designed by Vittorio Jano. But it never performed like the Lancia.

Today, lots of so-called automotive historians are trying to give Ricart a lot more credit than he deserved, in this constant "revision of history" happening everywhere, and now including automotive matters. In another five minutes, we will hear that Albert Gore Jr. did, in fact, invent not only the Internet but also the hydrogen-powered automobile.
Older fellows are less duped by this but what will happen when no one is left to raise their hand and scream "BS!!!"?
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"I am sorry PDL but I can't agree with you, anyone who builds the worlds fastest car can't have failed."
"In either context PLD is wrong. As Ricard could hardly be called a "person of little real substance". As Pegaso's were one of Spain true Supercars."

First, the models are delightful.
Second, I am sure that Jeff is reading the same propaganda that tried to glorify the Pegaso when it was new. So, because someone says "this car is the fastest", you believe it?
The Pegaso cars were original, different, but actually very disappointing in their performance as proven many times by serious period records. The fastest ever recorded top speed in ideal conditions by a V8 Pegaso Z102 coupe was merely 203km/h, less than of a Jaguar XK120, and was realized by the French magazine "L'Auto" in 1954 at Monthlery. The test ended in a high-speed crash and the car was written off. Amazingly it survived as a wreck and was parked for years under the banking, in the Serge Pozzoli collection. This car has now been rebuilt and is in a German collection. It was raced at the 2002 Nurburgring Oldtimer GP and...was slow.
In 1952-53, a 2-liter V12 Ferrari was easily reaching 215km/h, but not more. The claimed top speed of "over 250km/h" for the Z102 was pure utopia and was never proven, and the claims of Ferrari (230km/h) were equally utopic.
There were no credible witnesses to this famous test on the Jabbeke motorway other than Ricart and Pegaso personnel. They were content to look at the speedometer and believe its figures. This speed figure was disputed by many at the time including Sir Williams Lyons and Harry Mundy, the designer of the Jaguar XK engine, but Ricart never backed it by an independent test. Current owners of Pegaso cars can tell you: the cars look different and the engines look like jewelry but the cars are SLOW and have quirky handling.
The few attempts by Pegaso to prove their car's worth in actual racing situations proved that not only the cars were slow but did not handle well, actually were quite dangerous at anything above 100mph. Poor brakes were blamed at the time, but the truth is the car was not so good.
The Pegaso engine had major internal design flaws including an antiquated combustion chamber that did not favorise swirl, keeping power way down, and a strange connecting rod design. Wilfredo Ricart was FIRED by Enzo Ferrari after disastrous designs and several engineering failures, including a bizarre two-cylinder F2 engine with HUGE bores, that shook itself to pieces on the dyno. Also the Z102 front suspension has the most bizarre geometry with way too much trail, resulting in difficult steering complicated with unstable straight-line behavior. Most restored cars had newly cast re-designed heads giving more power, while some had re-designed suspention and re-engineeded brakes, another weak point. I remember an engine in a restoration shop in California showing 190HP on the dyno, a figure more realistic than the huge power claimed at the time the car was new, and more in relation to its weight and aero for a realistic top speed. If anything, the Pegaso could probably handle a Maserati A6G, but barely. At 3 times the price.
Now make no mistakes: dictator Francisco Franco financed the Pegaso GT operation strictly for political and prestige advantages, and the BS was flying high in an attempt at disinformation fraud. Franco was bitterly disappointed by the poor results. Subsequently, funds were withdrawn and Pegaso and Ricart returned to what they did best: trucks and buses for the exclusive use of Spanish industry since any foreign vehicles were subject to such a huge duty making it economically impossible to anyone else to compete on this closed market.

Several books have been written about Pegaso, and none are too flattering concerning Ricart, often called a talkative moody and bitter charlatan. Fact is, he was a decent engineer but certainly not an exceptional one. His solutions to simple problems were complex and costly. One has to look at the V12 ferrari designed by Colombo and compare. Real substance all right, and by the way, WHAT other supercar did Spain ever produced, the SEAT Ibiza???
These are the facts.

Mr. Pea

PS: the definition of a poof was of a man wearing a perruque (powdered wig) then evolved in the 1920's as someone with too much grease in his hair. The definition of the adjective gay was of someone happy.
Both words lost their original meaning over the past 40 years.
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"at the speed test at Jabbeke in Belgium in September 1953, the car recorded 243.079 and 244.602 kph for a flying kilometre and flying mile respectively. Both were speed records at the time."

But Russell, this was NEVER proven. The Jabbeke test was a private affair conducted by Ricart and Pegaso. When Jaguar and Sir Lyons contested the numbers, Ricart talked high but never backed it by independent testing. When L'Auto tested an identical car, albeit a coupe, they could only get 203km/h. At Le Mans during practice, the car was unable to reach any serious speed, look at the records. I was there as a spectator and can tell you that the cars were SLOW. The deadly accident that ensued was probably due to the inexperience of the driver.
As I said, people have been trying for years to glorify something that looks more like a hoax. I like Pegasos for what they are, but no one is going to pass this one over me.
That does not stop the cars from being very interesting and making great models, but the record stands regardless of the relatively recent revisionism due to new interest in the restored cars since the values have greatly increased. It is doubtful however that the numbers realised at auction will ever reach the Ferrari figures, but who knows, rarity may in this case, overcome actual performance.

As far as the 550's at Le Mans in 1955, they obtained remarkable results in spite of their complex and relatively fragile 4-cam engines:

4th: # 37 PORSCHE 550 1498cc Polensky / Von Frankenberg first in class 1101-1500cc
5th # 66 PORSCHE 550/4 1498 Seidel / Gendebien
6th # 62 PORSCHE 550/4 1498 Glockler / Juhan
13th # 49 PORSCHE 550/4 1097 Duntov / Veuillet first in class 750-1100cc

Of course one could have pushed these placings abit behind if Mercedes-Benz had not pulled their cars after the dreadful accident of Pierre Levegh.

The Duntov/Veuillet car was run in 1956 by Helmut Polensky and Claude Storez, when if DNF'ed in the 8th hour with terminal distribution problems, and I purchased that blue car in 1982 with Le Mans mileage only for only $12K. In a most stupid move, I re-sold it in 1984 for what seemed to be a great price at the time, but by 1989, this completely original, un-restored car in fabulous condition and patina with matching engine, gearbox and even wheel numbers would have made over a million at auction.
So the only consolation to my immense blunder was to have Anni-Mini (Any-Slot) make a limited edition version of my baby lost to greed:

In 1956, Porsche came back with 550RS coupe cars, which later inspired the AUDI styling department for the retro "TT" design. (TT stands for Tourist Trophy, the famous races set in Ireland at Dundrod and of course at the Isle of Man). They won the class and finished 5th overall.

5th # 25 PORSCHE 550 RS A/4 1498 Von Trips / Von Frankenberg 1st class 1001-1500cc

Zora Arkus-Duntov, who pushed GM into making the Corvette a valid entity rather than an oddity, won the 1100cc class in 1955 and came back in 1956 but DNF'ed.

The 550 shown in the picture is just one of 78 sold to the public out of the 90 made. The most famous of the 550's is of course the ill-fated James Dean's car, also modeled by Any-Slot:

The 550 is one of the most delightful automobiles I ever had the priviledge to drive in competition, the 904 being my next favorite.

Mr. Pea
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"TSRF, did the 1955 LeMans Duntov/Veuillet no.49 become the 1956 Storez/Helmut Polensky no.28 or have I mis-understood?"

No, this is correct.

"I believe that the '55 car had streamlined bodywork and a 1097cc engine wheras in '56 your blue no. 28 would look to have had revised "open" bodywork and a 1498cc engine. A few mods must have gone on there."

In fact the car was returned to the works, then came back with "standard" bodywork and was shown at the 1955 Paris Auto Show (I saw it there as a young man, never thinking I would some day own it!) and sold to Claude Storez through the French Porsche distributor, Sonauto.

The difference in looks is due to that at Le Mans in 1955, the car had the small windshield. When I got the car, it came with both windshields, the alloy tonneau cover, a hand-typed manual in French with real photos (the German one was merely...printed!) and the small soft top that had never been used. Your Any-Slot model is in fact one of the 78 road/racing cars sold to the public.

"in almost every respect I have to agree with mr. PdL since he was a talented man, but not quite a successful one. He designed some complex engines and also Grand Prix cars that can be considered mechanical jewels, but had too many problems and never were winners;"

Thanks, and in no way would I try to demean Jeff's story or any achievements of Wilfredo Ricart except for these two things:
-He lied about the Jabbeke speeds to promote his cars. Not that they were slow, just that they were slower than advertised. Now was he pressured by money concerns or political dues to his sponsor, dictator Franco?
-Of all his projects, few ever came to something actually worthwhile. Just too much complication of other people's original designs.

The American especially like complex machinery regardless of function, just for the beauty of it. In this regard, Ricart and E. Bugatti are right up there as well as the Maserati 8CL used by Wilbur Shaw at Indy. The difference of course is that the Maser and Ettore's cars delivered what they promised.

Make no mistakes, I love Pegaso cars but no one is going to tell me that their performance was better than it really was.

Mr. Pea

PS: in the 18th century, a pouffe was also called a macaroni.
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Of course one of the big problems is to find where lies the truth. This site especially shows the kind of problem when fantastic, optimistic and un-verified numbers are thrown into the arena. It shows speeds from 210 to 300km/h for various Pegaso models...and a vast variety of power for what amounts to be the same engine... The ghost of Wilfredo Ricart is over the Internet...

Amazingly, this intox sometimes works and more than likely deprived the Brits of a genuine chance of toppling the Italians and the Germans in F1 from 1954 to 1960. For the new formula starting in 1954, Coventry-Climax had devised a splendid V8 engine, the "Godiva", designed by Harry Mundy, and this 2.5-liter thing immediately gave a solid 240hp at 7200RPM with an excellent torque curve.
The Italians from Ferrari and Maserati claimed over 290hp for their new inline-6 and V12, and Mercedes announced a more realistic 250hp for their W196 car (that CREAMED the Italian cars in '54 and '55, save for the Lancia D50). Coventry-Climax got psyched out by the Italians and shelved the engine!

They revived the mill as a 1.5-liter F2 engine for Cooper and other F2 entrants, then got fully vindicated in 1959 and 1960 when, taking a half of the Godiva and developing it to 2.2-liter, they cleanly swept the F1 world championship with Cooper, thumbing their nose at the Establishment. "Historians" attributed the feat to the placement of the engine behind the driver, but it is to ignore the actual power and torque of the Coventry-Climax engine. At that time, the 2.2 then 2.5-liter 4-banger, re-named FPF, cranked a solid 240HP with only half of the cylinders of the original design. Both the 1958 Vanwall and BRM 4-cylinder engines had less power, and the Italians had barely 230 in their multi-cylinder boat anchors.
I can tell you from personal experience that the Cooper-Climax did not handle better than the best of the front-engine cars, the Maserati 250F.

Mr. Pea
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