Gatso Barchetta "Platje"

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It's not surprising to me that car enthusiasts would be betrayed by one of their own. Let me explain.

The name of this car may sound familiar, well, the first part at least: it was designed by Maurice Gatsonides, from whom we were gifted the Gatso speed camera. And despite creating a small range of hand-built sports cars and finding racing success, his race car company declared bankruptcy in 1950…while Gatsonides was out racing. (And that bankruptcy was for the second time, by the way!)

In 1953, he'd win the Monte Carlo Rally, but I find it funny that his enduring legacy has been in the gathering of speed fines for going too quickly—Gatsonides had designed the speed camera to accurately measure his cornering speed. Otherwise, how else would he know if his driving was improving from lap to lap? (Another big problem at the time was the clumsy way in which police officers handed out speeding fines, often relying on a stopwatch to time drivers' travel between two fixed points.)

Gatso cars were mostly based on V8-powered Fords, with various modifications to make them quicker. The main modification? A slippery body said to be inspired by pre-Second World War Auto Union race cars. Designed to maintain high average speeds, in the '40s, all you really needed was a V8 and slippery bodywork to be quicker than anything else on the road.

In 1949, Gatsonides designed a new type of streamlined racing car, influenced by lessons learned from racing and Gatso's earlier models. Nicknamed platje, or "Flatty", it eschewed Ford mechanicals for mostly Fiat parts. At its heart was a 1,500-cc inline-6 cylinder engine, a motor obviously smaller than a Ford V8 and so the car wore a more slippery nose. The chassis was a shortened Fiat 1500 piece and the racer is said to have been Dubonnet independent front suspension.

Pushing the limits of metallurgy in 1949—essentially right after the end of the Second World War—is, in hindsight, probably not the best thing to do. In the Flatty's case, it was handily leading its debut race at Zandvoort before on of its alloy wheels failed at the hub, putting Gatsonides out of the race. The photo at the top shows just how advanced his car was compared to the competition.

The second bankruptcy saw this car sold for very little, and it was lost for many years before being found by an enthusiast and restored—not to mention completed in time for an elderly Gatsonides to be reunited with his very quick and unexpectedly fragile creation.

I say this quite often, but check out the sources, especially the first website and the articles on velocetoday.com, they'll provide much more background on this very accomplished man. In my research, I came across a salient quote of his that I'll end with: “Never despair when things are not turning out as you expected, but try again. Remain inventive and flexible.”

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