1915 Van Blerck

This is automotive art, with the bellowing sound track and eyeball-taxing performance to go with it. One of the inimitable creations of Gary Wales, Pebble Beach Concours-winning automobile visionary, the basis of this one of a kind speedster is a gigantic six-cylinder Van Blerck Model L6 engine built to power the displacement hull speedboats of the early Twentieth Century. It displaces seventeen (yes, that's "17") liters, about 1,000 cubic inches, that produces about 200 horsepower and nearly unthinkable lb-ft of torque, making full use of the double chain drive to the gigantic rear wheels. "Awesome" has been vastly overused to describe automobiles, which is a shame because it is perfectly appropriate to this awesome Van Blerck Speedster. From its sharply-pointed radiator surround which recalls the marine heritage of its engine through the riveted body panels, abundant brass details, elaborately shaped, fabricated and riveted chain guards and rounded tail topped by a riveted brass fin the abundant details and the attention to detail in their creation, fabrication, finishing and assembly mark this as a masterpiece of automotive creativity. Everything about it shouts of elemental power and plain-spoken purpose. The gigantic T-head combustion chambers require three spark plugs to ignite all the fuel and air it swallows with each stroke. The carburetor hangs outside the hood sides in the cold air flow where the driver behind the gigantic right-hand side located steering wheel can keep a careful eye on it. It makes no point to go on: the details are to all practical purposes inexhaustible, making every look at the Van Blerck Speedster another experience in discovery, intrigue and delight. Displayed recently at Fall Hershey it was started hourly and never failed to draw a crowd of amazed, fascinated onlookers who were transfixed by its appearance, sound and potential. Gary Wales is the most restless, creative and imaginative spirit working in the antique and classic car idiom today. His Van Blerck Speedster is the one and only one built. There will never be another.

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