ZEPPELIN CARS Ltd.
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.