If I had to recommend a series of automotive books for any collection—indeed, one I've seen in other people's collections, actually, is World Cars by The Automobile Club of Italy. Every year from the late '60s to the mid-'80s, there'd be a thick, hardcover tome featuring tons of weird cars and specs for everything else. There are a few inaccuracies, as you'd expect*, but for the most part it's a pretty nice set to acquire.
I am missing a few years, but today's car is from the 1982 edition (eBay listings). As far as I can tell, there were two versions of the Alpine A310-aping TAFCO Baronta. The description, for the second version, is as follows:
A highly-modified Corsa 6-cylinder engine allied with a full belly pan to create the desired ground effect allow the Baronta II to top 150 mph (240 km/h). The body is handcrafted from 0.035 steel over a tubular inner body. Wheelbase 92 in. (234 cm). Accessories include full instrumentation, CB radio and stereo and tapes."
Cool beans. Thanks, World Cars 1982. Hmm. More searching led me to a really interesting French car website that (using Google Translate, at least) doesn't seem to be too flattering of the car. After all, the title of the page is "THE GARBAGE IN HISTORY: THE TAFCO BARONTA".
Can't be that bad, right? We've been through some wild stuff over the last year…
Before we get into the TAFCO-hating, seeing that the car was designed and constructed in Dearborn, Michigan, tells me that with its thin metal bodywork and tube frame chassis (not to mention the wheels and tires used) it's probably intended to be a sprint or stock car for the road. That would be cool, honestly—sort of like a sports car version of a car Kurt Russell's character in Death Proof would have driven. Power is from a race-tuned Chevrolet Monza V6, and with fixed side windows, air conditioning was standard.
Now, this mysterious French website seems to think the car is fibreglass—so who is right? My single print source or the website? If there are only two sources and they contradict each other…
Anyway, the translated description of the car is hilarious, and I would like to share them with you:
"This month, we will study the production of TAFCO firm, led by Baron Samuel Tafoya, a US Detroit. This baron is so proud of its title, obtained God knows how, he gives the name of his car Baronta, contraction Baron Tafoya, the logo is a shield "homemade" adorned with the initials BST!"
How dare he! Is that a god-given title? Who is this person?
As it turns out, I don't think it's "Baron" at all; a quick search led me to a formerly Dearborn-based Samuel Barran Tafoya, who now resides in Florida and who holds a number of patents. Maybe my friends at Forgotten Fiberglass can track him down…
Anyway, the patents?
- Stealth bomber, transporter, air-to-air fuelling tanker, and space plane
- Stealth attack fighter bomber
- Ordinance canister with collapsible fuel-storing structure that after descent and impact atomizes
- Tri-point hydro sled
- Mechanic's step with stirrup
- Vehicle-assisted power generator
- Thermodynamic pressure generator
- Marine reaction thruster
- Infinitely variable geared transmission
- Reusable bomb diffuser
- High-volume, no-drag sea chest with purge capability
- De'sax'e 2-cycle engine, constant pressure adiabatic compound "C.P.A.C." (Lord knows what that is…)
Hmm. Is this the same guy? And, decades ago, was he building cars? As our friend in France writes:
"The craft, red Ferrari, now has fixed windows and aerodynamic underbody cavities to enhance the ground effect and allow reaching 240 km/h. Is Red Baron arrived there? A he survived? If you have news or other information on this exciting initiative, please let us know."
* How did people do this stuff before computers? Also: thanks, computers!