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Anyone heard of an Excalibur?


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#1 WDH74

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Posted 05 March 2003 - 14:34

Hello! I've asked this question elsewhere, but thought I'd ask here as well. I have a photo I took at Road America a few years ago (during the June Sprints) of a rather exotic looking coupe called an Excalibur. Before anyone says it, I know it's not the Brooks Stevens designed overgrown Lotus 7 lookalike from the fifties, nor is it the Mercedes SSK lookalike from the seventies. This car looks a lot like one of the Alfa Romeo BAT cars, pointy nose and vestigial fins and all. This car was also used for competition (it had a large V-8 if I recall correctly), with full safety cage and harnesses. In fact, the car was parked in the "Legends of the Sprints" enclosure, with such notables as a Cheetah, a Boss 302, and Augie Pabst's Scarab. White, with dark blue stripes. Naturally, I don't remember what the information board propped up next to the front wheel said, and it's difficult to read in my photo. I don't have any way of hosting the pic, otherwise I'd do so (unless there's a way of doing this I'm not aware of? That's not surprising, I'm a bit clueless about these things).
-William

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#2 Rainer Nyberg

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Posted 05 March 2003 - 16:03

If you have the picture in digital form, you can mail it to me rainer@nyberg.com and I can post it for you.

#3 rdrcr

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Posted 05 March 2003 - 16:24

Is this the car?

Posted Image

A Link to the webpage with more info on the Excalibur Hawk - seems that it had a studebaker engine for power.

#4 WDH74

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Posted 05 March 2003 - 20:34

Yup, that's it! The example I saw had alloy wheels, not wires, but the same paintjob-white all over with blue stripes up the center and blue flanks. Amazing how fast that happened! (And maybe I should work on my Google technique, eh?)
Thanks again!
-William

#5 dretceterini

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Posted 05 March 2003 - 22:52

There were also the Excalibur Mercedes SSK and Bugatti T35 "replicars" :rolleyes:

#6 rdrcr

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Posted 05 March 2003 - 23:10

...and, as it turns out, this car was also built by Brooks Stevens. Judging from the photographs, there appears to have been at least two of these cars constructed. One a was RHD, and the other a LHD car.

From this original photo taken in 1962, it appears that the LHD car was fitted with alloy wheels just as William remembers it.

Posted Image

I've never even heard of such a car let alone seen one. Interesting effort for Stevens and a last attempt for Studebaker in SCCA racing. Until the Trans Am effort with the Javelins and Penske a number of years later.

A Link to the photo page

#7 Mike Argetsinger

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Posted 06 March 2003 - 03:27

Originally posted by WDH74
Hello! I've asked this question elsewhere, but thought I'd ask here as well. I have a photo I took at Road America a few years ago (during the June Sprints) of a rather exotic looking coupe called an Excalibur. Before anyone says it, I know it's not the Brooks Stevens designed overgrown Lotus 7 lookalike from the fifties, nor is it the Mercedes SSK lookalike from the seventies. This car looks a lot like one of the Alfa Romeo BAT cars, pointy nose and vestigial fins and all. This car was also used for competition (it had a large V-8 if I recall correctly), with full safety cage and harnesses. In fact, the car was parked in the "Legends of the Sprints" enclosure, with such notables as a Cheetah, a Boss 302, and Augie Pabst's Scarab. White, with dark blue stripes. Naturally, I don't remember what the information board propped up next to the front wheel said, and it's difficult to read in my photo. I don't have any way of hosting the pic, otherwise I'd do so (unless there's a way of doing this I'm not aware of? That's not surprising, I'm a bit clueless about these things).
-William



The "Legends of the Sprints" is something I dreamed up that year - the track and the organizing body for the June Sprints (Chicago Region of the SCCA) asked me to come up with something to add to the visual appeal of the event. Every car there (in the Legends tent I mean to say) that weekend was by my invitation. I limited it to 18 cars and attempted to achieve a cross section of interesting race cars from a boad range of classes and price points. My main criteria was that the car was interesting and had a June Sprints history. I was mostly successful in achieving this. I called Tony Stevens (one of Brooks Stevens' sons) and asked him if he would bring the car. He agreed to do so and he and one of his brothers drove the car there from their Wisconsin home. Great guys - and I personally loved the car.

It was a pretty busy deal for me as I was also racing a Formula Ford 2000 that weekend. That was 1999 by the way.

They held it the following year but someone else ran it for them. I think they gave it up after that.

#8 Ray Bell

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Posted 06 March 2003 - 07:41

Originally posted by rdrcr
.....a last attempt for Studebaker in SCCA racing. Until the Trans Am effort with the Javelins and Penske a number of years later.


Studebaker never ran Trans-Am, to my knowledge...

They had Chevy engines by the time that series started, as I recall, and the Javelins came out of the AMC works...

I know, I know, it's hard to think of them as Ramblers and not get confused with Studebakers...

#9 rdrcr

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Posted 06 March 2003 - 08:08

: :D

I could have sworn that Studebaker was merged with Nash-Hudson at some point to become AMC... but alas, I guess I'm mistaken...

AMC evolved from the Hudson, Nash-Kelvinator merger. And Studebaker and Packard merged, with Studebaker dropping Packard '63? when they moved to Canada? Then closed its doors forever in '66, after 114 years in business - first starting as a wagon maker. I think my confusion begins with the fact that these mergers took place the same year, in 1954.

As far as engines go... are you referring to the AMC engine? IIRC, (once again) they had 290 AMC blocks bored out to 304 CID as per the rule maximum...

Or, are you talking about another entry?

I've got to get one of these correct!

#10 Ray Bell

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Posted 06 March 2003 - 08:38

The mention I made of the engines was only in relation to Studebaker... they adopted the 327, replacing that horrible and very heavy lump they had.

Remember they also had a supercharged version of both the Lark and the Avanti? Studebaker actually stopped production at South Bend in December, 1963. All cars made in Canada after that time had the Chevy engine.

And then there was Avanti II, wasn't there, when somebody brought the Avanti back to life... I don't recall the details of that one.

#11 Ron Scoma

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Posted 06 March 2003 - 08:59

The Excalibur was built, and raced at times, by Hal and Bill Ulrich.
Sadly Hal died a few weeks ago, we celebrated his 85th birthday in December.
A true loss.
Bill is doing well and is part of the ROMEOs (Retired Old Men Eating Out) that meet every Friday for lunch.
All Chicago area enthusiasts, and those passing through, are welcome.
Off list for details.
Cheers,

Ron Scoma

#12 BS Levy

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Posted 06 March 2003 - 13:11

Don't I recall a Studebaker Lark (in the hands of the irrepressable Toly Arutunoff) running at Sebring many years ago?
Got to interview Brooks Stevens to do a story on the original Excaliburs before he passed on, and he was the most charming, entertaining and delightful man--graceful even if in a wheelchair by then. And what fabulous stories! He was a true renaissance man, an industrial designer working out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the industrial midwest where many products were actually manufactured rather than with those (to use his words) "handkerchief-up-the-sleeve designers in New York. His work was incredibly varied, including everything from the Willys Jeepster and the very handsome Kaiser Manhattans to the Mercedes-ish Studebaker "Grand Tourismo" to outboard motors, steam irons, the wide-mouth peanut butter jar (think about it!) and the entire Milwaukee Road Railroad from the shape of the diesel locomotives to the domed observation car in back to the buttons on the conductors' uniforms to the designs on the napkins in the club car!
Although he'd had polio and couldn't really race himself, he was a tremendous enthusiast (he owned a beautiful blue Alfa coupe (a 6C 2500, I think) and one of the first XK-120s in the states--two-tone black-and-cream, no less) and went to Henry Kaiser with his idea for an American sports car based on existing sedan mechanicals to do battle with the MGs, Jags and Healeys coming over from England at the time. As Brooks told it, Kaiser (who had far bigger fish to fry as his company struggled against the Big Three and lukewarm public acceptance) finally gave Brooks three chassis "just to stop pestering him." The cars were built in Hal and Bill Ulrich's sports car shop in the near north suburburbs of Chicago (Brooks said "they'd leave the phone off the hook except when they needed to call for more money.") and the resulting cars looked very sharp, original and all-American (if a bit Sabre-jet futuristic).

I got a chance to track test son Tony Stevens' example at Grattan Raceway many years back and came away surprised and impressed. Oh, it was no Jag beater, but easily faster than any MG and probably even the then-new 100/4 from Donald Healey. But Kaiser was foundering and the project never went beyond the three (I think) prototypes. Still, Brooks ran the team at many races (including Watkins Glen and Sebring, as related hopefully correctly in my novels) even though the cars were classed with the over-three-liter sports/racers like C-Types and Ferraris where they had absolutely no chance. But Brooks loved his racing and hoped to drum up finanacial support for a production run of Excaliburs. The recently deceased Hal Ulrich drove one (now much modified and powered by a supercharged Jaguar six) to an SCCA B-Modified National Championship later in the fifties.

The coupe never went beyond the prototype stage, but my friend Bob Shaw (who was a huge fan and supporter of Brooks) had it restored/re-created over the past many years.

#13 Don Capps

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Posted 06 March 2003 - 14:56

Sometime in the April or May 1963 timeframe, Road & Track had an article on the Excalibur -- or an Excalibur, at any rate. I can still see the pictures of it in my mind's eye -- very distinctive and certainly not run-of-the-mill for its day. I will try to remember to check out the article when I get home this evening.

#14 rdrcr

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Posted 06 March 2003 - 18:34

Originally posted by Ray Bell
"...And then there was Avanti II, wasn't there, when somebody brought the Avanti back to life... I don't recall the details of that one..."


Ray, so as not to hijack this thread, check your email...

Mike, nice story of bringing this car and others to be shown at the June Sprints.

Burt, thanks for the additional info on the history of these cars.

#15 Ray Bell

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Posted 06 March 2003 - 21:05

It will be two weeks before I check my regular e.mails, unfortunately...

I've cleaned a few PMs out... you can message me there. Sorry about that... but my life at the moment is far from as well organised as it should be.

#16 WDH74

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Posted 07 March 2003 - 02:52

Mike-yup, 1999 sounds about right (and I don't think I've seen the car since). Naturally, I didn't bother to put the dates on any of my pictures, ever (great archiving, right?). And I've been going to the Sprints (and the BRIC) since about 1994. Hundreds of images. Anyway, thanks for the info, everyone! (see you this summer!)
-William