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Aspects of Motoring History # 13

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SNAPSHOT 77: An overhead cam ‘straight eight’…

Slowly being restored in Norfolk is a sophisticated sports car to intrigue the true enthusiast. Our congratulations to the SAHB ‘Snapshots’ visitor who unhesitatingly shouts out ‘Nacional Pescara’ – or who perhaps makes a more private and equally correct identification. Promoted to enhance Spanish prestige and to further the country’s struggling motor industry by the Marquis Raoul de Potteras Pescara and his younger brother, Enrique, the aristocratic backers hired top design talent. Eduardo Moglia and Wifredo Ricart had established reputations for their advanced engine and chassis designs, and indeed both had distinguished careers ahead of them.

The Nacional Pescara was unashamedly a competition car, and the first examples were under construction in 1930. A straight 8 engine of 72·2 x 90mm [2960cc] initially had a single overhead camshaft, but this was joined by a twin cam option almost at once – this for the short-chassis cars. The engines had nine main bearings, the camshaft drive being a train of gears, and both the cylinder block and head were aluminium. The block had pressed-in  steel liners and the valve seats in the head were likewise accommodated. There was a single downdraft Zenith carburettor and coil ignition. A single plate clutch took the drive to an in-unit gearbox. To minimise weight, the high-tech but highly-inflammable alloy elektron was used for many parts including the sump, gearbox casing, fuel tank and the pressed disc wheels.

Whilst the left-hand drive low-slung chassis was largely conventional with semi-elliptical leaf springs at each corner, the transmission was bizarre in that the two gears were a direct drive and an overdrive. A three-speed centre-change conventional gearbox soon was substituted. Plans to offer a supercharged Nacional Pescara never came to fruition. It seems that fewer than ten chassis ever were completed, and the car illustrated is one of two known to survive.

In competition, the Nacional Pescara immediately showed its capabilities, especially for shorter events; taking the European Mountain Championship in 1931, but only minor circuit racing successes were achieved. Meanwhile, the political turmoil in Spain prevented the intended further development, the supportive King Alfonso was forced into exile and the firm’s modest workshop was relocated to the Voisin factory in France. The conclusion had all the aspects of Greek tragedy – the two designers drew up a V16 engine for a final car that then was built in Switzerland. Clothed in an elegant drop-head coupé body for the Marquis himself, it was destroyed during an action in the Civil War.


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