Zeppelin Cars Ltd [BIG ANNOUNCEMENT]


Lord James Zeppelin (1896-1981) used to live his childhood days in the family’s Southern England house, surrounded by the richness and the lazyness of an old noble family, until the First World War and the following business meetings with the Bentley brothers, which lasted until the mid-30s,chaged all.
The last years of the 1920s were pretty harsh for Benltey, seeking new financers in order to keep racing. Sir Lord Zeppelin, father of of James, offered over £80.000 to buy the brand, which was in serious difficulties. Howerver, the negotiations didn’t go well, and Bentley was sold to a famous “Benltey Boy’s” father.
James, at the time, was finishing his engineering degree, and when Bentley came to visit Lord Zeppelin, he used to spend hours on looking at those magnificent work of art which were the first Bentley cars.
He promised himself that his cars will be even better, and that one day will be able to compete against them…

However, his dream had to wait lots of years, due to the great depression and the Second World War, and the hard UK recovering from it.
In 1959 James Zeppelin was already 63, but all the long waiting was finally over, because the first chassis and fiberglass bodies were ready to see the world’s racetrack…


Through the sicilian switchbacks of the 1960 Targa Florio, the more nimble and light Porsche and Zeppelin trimphed.

The 8th edition of the Sports Car World Championship was the perfect stage to test the first car designed by Zeppelin, who preferred to make its debut into the racing world, hoping for good results and obtain visibility and fame. However, against Ferrari, Maserati, Porsche, Aston Martin and so on, the chance to bright were little. The 3,0 liters of displacement limit decided by the FIA helped Zeppelin’s purpose, which was “less weight as possible”.

Monocoque chassis was a pretty expensive solution, but Zeppelin was convineced that in the future, it would have been the winning one.

Engine wise, the SC38 mounted a 3000cc ( 82 x 71 mm) SOHC 32v cast iron block engine, with a quad DCOE Weber racing carburetor. The aim was to reach the 100 hp/liter ratio, so they adopted a race tubular exhaust and the compression was raised up to 11,5:1.
Although thaey hadn’t reached the fateful aim, the rear-mounted R60A0 V8 ws able to develop over 292 hp at 6800 rpm and a max torque of 318 Nm.
Also suspension wise, the both front and rear double-wishbone was the most modern and race-oriented solution, perfect to absorb the shocks of the bumpy road of the Targa Florio while speeding at over 200 kph , for example.

The fibre glass panels were the lightest solution, but it had also a few downsides: for example, it was very fragile and difficult to repair.

The car’s weight was around 808 kilos, and the commitment to minimize weight is clearly visible from the fact that every type of coating is absent: the only one is the leather of the seats.
The car turned out to be a compromise between a Ferrari 250 TR and a Porsche 718, in terms of performance: around 250 kph ( 155 mph) with a 0-100 kph covered in just 4"6.

The results didn’t late to come: after the unfortunate withdraw at the 1000 km of Buenos Aires, due to mechanical problem, after only 317 km, the following 26th march 1960, at Sebring, a revised SC38 arrived 5th while the other two completed the top 10.
The best results arrived with the Targa Florio, where the efforts spent to make the car even more ligher and nimble through the scottish roads, saw their magnificent reasult: an excellent 2nd place, behind a 718.
Again, reliability problems came out again to the Nürburgring, and forced two of the four Zeppelin to withdraw from the race.

Before catching fire, the driver managed to stop the car in time and run away.

In conclusion, three of the four cars placed arrived at the end of the season. The following year, Zeppelin managed to build another two of them, with some relevant fixes, in order to improve the reliability, trying to seek the success also in the major endurance races, as Le Mans 24h, and the Nürburgring 1000 km.
Together to the silver and red livery, created as a German competition homage, the SC38 raced with other two liveries: Daytona Blue and British Racing Green (down below):

Before founding his own racing team in 1963, Zeppelin cars raced thanks to private teams, buying them and bringing them to success.
From 1962 Zeppelin focused its efforts to the first production car and next racing legend, the first one to have the Zeppelin Competitions livery, losing pretty much every interests on improving the SC38.


The livery, color scheme and front-end styling are period-accurate, but the taillights aren’t - they would be much less out of place on something from the 90s or even the late 80s, and are too small anyway. Even so, this first Zeppelin would be a formidable competitor to most of its rivals on road and track.

They even can climb Stairway To Heaven

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Stairway to Stardom?

Or oversteer you onto the Highway to Hell?

Well, anyway, better than crashing into The Wall :wink:

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Cruising on the Dark Side of the Moon.

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I want to be safe, Nothing Else Matters



The Spirit 4 Liters, the first production car made by the English car manufacturer, according to James Zeppelin, contains the true idea of Zeppelin Cars: that’s why it is called Spirit.

After the optimistic results of the SC38, already by the end of 1961 Zeppelin and his engineers started to work on their first production car. The next logical step was to demonstrate how well the Zeppelin formula worked also out of the racing world, and a coupé chassis was for certain the right choice. Zeppelin didn’t want to directly strike at Ferrari or Aston Martin, because James thought that the attempt would have gone wrong: customer would have chosen more reliable brands, with lots of years of experience at the back.

Also, in order to make it not that expensive, Zeppelin decided to abandon the monocoque chassis, and returned to the old space frame. Suspension wise, also the double wishbone was abandoned, and it was replaced with a MacPherson at the front and a semi trailing arm at the back. These choices would have affected the sportiness and the prestige of the car for sure, but since they wanted to keep the price around the Jaguar E-Type’s one, that was fine.

Although its simpleness, the space frame was studied hard in order to make the car both solid and torsion-resistant.

The 3998 cc (95 x 94 mm) inline-6 engine mounted a series of components derived from the racing world, as the triple DCOE carburetor by Weber, the main carburetors supplier for Zeppelin, and the tubular headers, which gave the Spirit a sporty nature.
254 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 362 Nm at 3500 were enough to push the car 0-100 kph in 7.03 seconds. Still, there were some gripes, as the relatively low top speed: 221 kph (137 mph), which was very poor if compared to the 240 kph of the first E-Type. The problem was not the engine, neither the weight, which was 1072 kg, but the 4-speed manual gearbox, which however guaranteed the best acceleration on its segment, making the Spirit the fastest 2+2 coupé through the English mountain roads.

Some of the Spirit produced were converted into excellent sports cars by some private teams which used to take part in local races.

The interiors quality was at the top, and the weight saved allowed to give an extra dose of comfort and material prestige: almost every part of the interior was covered by leather and smooth chrome or wood finishes, while the AM radio wasn’t used pretty much by nobody, since the engine sound was a much better symphony to listen at.

The Spirit’s interiors were almost handmade, so every customer had the opportunity to choose between some colors option: from the classic black or white, to the elegant brown or the sporty red, which was the most popular choice. The steering wheels could also have been made by wood, as the 1950s sports cars, but as more modern material started to spread, this choice was sadly abandoned, and today the wooden steering wheel models are the most sought after one.

The little British Ferrari, so called for the aesthetic similarities with the bigger 250s, was sold for slightly more than the E-Type - about €7000 current more - , which was however a lot less than an Aston or a Maserati. Its dynamic qualities were able to put in serious trouble the bigger opponents and even the E-Type, without renounce to the comfort and the high quality materials.
As for the SC38, Zeppelin surprised the opponent brands also in series production cars, when the Spirit was presented to the 1963 Geneva Motor Show: all the eyes were focused on what could have been the next move of that crazy 60 years old English Lord. He waited for over 35 years, but in only 2 he reached the same fame and prestige of the much more experienced brands, and the best is yet to come.

Infacts, the same year, receiving new founds by the motorsport financers, which pushed Zeppelin to build the next race car, Lord Zeppelin established the Zeppelin Race Department. Meanwhile, the Spirit started to be sold at current $56.000; The last models sold, in 1970, had some little improvements, as the 5-speed gearbox, or a 4-speed automatic for the USA market, but the classic first 60s look remained the same, and entered in petrolhead’s heart. At the end of its production days, after 7 years, 15.800 were the Spirit sold. Today the cars officially counted are 10.900 and have an average value of $105.000-$185.000, while the others appears to be lost, maybe in some barn.

The Grey Pearl was the personal car driven by Lord Zeppelin until 1971. It is listed on over $430.000.


DiDn’T yOu MeAn LeD zEpPeLiN

That is an inevitable symptom of the 240Z body’s high drag coefficient even without aero appendages. Still, 137 mph is fast enough for a car with this much grunt - and it handled very well to boot.


One of the first “Spacehip” exiting from the factory in 1964.

The PT45 is remembered to be the racing car that kept high the prestige of British manufacturers during the 1960s, especially GT Prototype wise. The pride given by the already withdrawn SC38 was still fresh in England, and the public opinion, together with the first brand lenders started to appear by the end of 1961, started to ask when the next car ready to compete would have been made.
1963 was a very active year for Zeppelin: starting from the first Spirits sold, to the establishment of the Zeppelin Race Department and the announcement of the great return of Zeppelin in the racing world by 1964 with a brand new model. However, due the very busy year, Lord Zeppelin had very few time to spend looking after the development of the new prototype. In less than a year the 1964 season would have started, so the engineers designed a “not at all new car”.

As the SC38 successor, the new PT45 fully assumed the early '60s prototype concept.

Zeppelin chosen again the steel monocoque chassis and the double wishbone suspensions, confirming the extreme technological solution adopted and the full efforts spent chassis wise. The structure was very similar to the SC38s one, but that wasn’t the only similarity…
Rear longitudinally-located, appeared a widely reworked 6 cylinder engine, coming from the Spirit 4,0 Liters. It was so reworked that many thought that the only thing remained from the previous engine was the number of cylinders. In facts, bore and stroke increased up to 100 mm and 95 mm, resulting on a 4477 cc aluminium block engine, way lighter than the cast iron one. Also, the DCOE carburetors were redesigned and it was introduced a race tubular exhaust. These were the main components changed, but many less bigger changes were made, in order to reach a horsepower output of 390 hp at 6300 rpm and 466 Nm at 5700 rpm, 10 hp more than a 1965 Ferrari 365P , which mounted a 12 cylinder engine. Pushed at the extreme the engine suffered from failures, so PT45 drivers always remembered what Lord Zeppelin said, aware of the risks and the reliability problems: "Finish the race before the car brakes down".

Harder studies on aerodynamics brought a very futuristic fiber glass body, that allowed to decrease the Cd.

The new ZRD livery first appeared on the PT45 in 1964.

The “Spaceship” weighted 837 kilos: this, together with the powerful inline-6, allowed a top speed of 280 kph ( 174 mph) and a 0-100 kph in an astonishing 3"5. All these stats appeared to be really good and almost instantly the PT45 was considered the winning candidate of its P class, where racing vehicles had to have a 3+ liters of engine displacement. However, from the paper to the racetrack, the new Zeppelin creation surprised again the major European manufacturer, but not only them: the 1964 was the year of the GT40 debut.

As said before, the mid-60s were really intense for Zeppelin Cars: one of the major investments done was the new tarmac ring, a few kilometers from the Alps, where Zeppelin tested its vehicles’ top speed.

Before the regulation changed deeply again in 1966, concluding the International Championship for GT Manufacturers era, and inaugurate a new series of championship season which saw the legendary challenge between Ford and Ferrari, Zeppelin had two years of glory with the PT45, from 1964 to 1965. These two years were dominated nearly entirely by the British manufacturer, which was the only Country’s representative, contributing to ensure the pride of the UK car makers. At the time, the challenge between Jaguar and Zeppelin, officially born with the arrival of the Spirit in 1963, was suspended and everyone cheered for the small British car maker, who bravely challenged the continental monsters.

Despite the reliability problems, the three prototypes managed to finish the two season without any serious accident: two of them are preserved at Zeppelin History Heritage Museum, while the third one is part of Lord Zeppelin’s personal collection.

The car won the last two ICGTM seasons, before regulation changed again, as said before; the PT45 could have took part in , but the arrival of the American Giant, who invested an incredible amount of money in order to make the GT40 almost unbeatable with its enormous 7 liters V8, convinced James to withdraw also the last British presence in Motorsports world, unless for a while. The media attention was entirely focused on the “Italian-American war”, and the podiums were occupied by the two Brands until 1968, when Porsche, starting with the 908 to the 917 series, stolen the scene.
Zeppelin exited from Motorsports world for a while, concentrating its efforts in production cars. However, still today the Spaceship is remembered as one of the very best prototype cars ever made in the 1960s, the golden era of the Sport-Protype.


Seeing this brand as my most successful one of the past 2020, i have decided to give it an all new look in a new thread: due to pc related problems, i’ve lost all Zeppelin cars, so I’ve taken the opportunity to remake all of them and presenting the new versions in the new thread, trying to do my best without changing their appearance.
See you there!

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