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Friday
Oct132017

October 2017

October 13, 2017: American Expedition Vehicles is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. From its first long-wheelbase TJ Wrangler in 1997 to the latest JK Wrangler Brute Double Cab pickup, AEV has been a hotbed of off-road innovation. Ensconced in a modern assembly facility in Wixom, Michigan, the specialty manufacturer has branched out to build uprated Rams, but stills hews close to the rules founder Dave Harriton created in Missoula, Montana. We tour the facility, drive a modified Wrangler, and see what it takes to build a factory quality specialty vehicle. Ever wonder what the difference is between McLaren’s carbon fiber Monocell and Monocage chassis? We did. So we rang the folks in Woking, and asked to talk to their production chassis expert. From the boarding area of an Italian airport, Adam Thomson explained what defines a Monocell and Monocage, and outlines the technology that goes into making the chassis for one of the world’s preeminent supercar brands. Eager to change things up a bit, contributing editor and Virtual Collection creator Bill Sawyer searched for an addition to our simulated museum that hit all of the hot buttons: sex, power, and a fall from grace. He found it in a wooden boat Henry Ford had built for and named after his mistress, Evangeline Cote Dahlinger. It’s a gripping story about lust, betrayal, and restoration in the early years of the auto industry. The only thing missing from this tale is a happy ending.

Friday
Sep152017

September 2017

September 29, 2017: The Virtual Collection tops the chart this week, with a story about a hand-built luxury car that originated in Dayton, Ohio. Built as the Wright Brothers were taking flight, the Stoddard Dayton brought anal retentiveness to a new level, which doomed the fledgling car maker, and led it in a roundabout way to become a cornerstone of Chrysler. Jaguar Classic is building nine continuation models of the XKSS racer turned street car. They will take the place of the cars lost when the Browns Lane factory caught fire in 1957. With the skills necessary to faithfully recreate the body and chassis in short supply, Jaguar has turned to an outside firm for help. On a more modern note, a number of new cars recently were announced. Kia’s Stinger is the first up, a rear-drive BMW 3 Series-size rear- and all-wheel drive sport sedan. It carries both a competitive price tag and a seductive spec. sheet. It’s joined by the Genesis G70, a mechanical clone that combines sport and luxury, and is sold by Hyundai’s upmarket brand. Toyota’s Lexus division, meanwhile, launched its fifth generation LS sedan. Built on a new platform shared with the LC 500 coupe, the new range topper adds a dollop of excitement to what, in the past, has been an extremely high quality but boring vehicle. Volvo also revealed the production XC40 small SUV. Built on a new modular architecture it will share with Geely, the XC40 is a bit funkier than your typical Volvo. Funky is a word that also describes the Kia Soul. Though often miscast as a small crossover, the Soul gets turbo power and a more responsive chassis, but is it enough? Finally, Hyundai used the Orange County, California auto show to debut the new Accent sedan. Though more refined and better equipped, is it the right vehicle for a market rapidly shifting to SUVs?

 

September 15, 2017: Every other year, the automotive world flocks to the Frankfurt Motor Show’s 10 halls to see what’s what on the Continent. Geneva starts the year with typically Swiss neutrality,and a non-denominational look at what car makers have to offer. Frankfurt, on the other hand, is dominated by the home team and its concerns. If only one word could be used to describe those anxieties it would be: electric. From supercar to luxury lounge on wheels, battery power was the common denominator. Did the automakers allay fears, or create new ones? Ducati may have worries of its own, as in who will be its new master should Audi be forced to remove the Italian motorcycle maker from its stable, but electric power isn’t one of them. The company pulled the covers off its race-bred street V4 Desmosedici engine. Surprisingly close in concept and execution to its Moto GP V4, the street version doesn’t rev quite as high, meets Euro 4 emission standards, and it’s gorgeous to look at. This week’s Virtual Collection isn’t as technically advanced as Ducati’s V4, but it’s no less easy on the eyes. Contributing Editor William G. Sawyer traveled to Norcross, Georgia ahead of Hurricane Irma to attend the Atlanta British Car Fayre, and came away with history and a history lesson. Finally, we end this issue where we started, back in Frankfurt, but this time looking at products and concepts that didn’t draw the same level of attention as the cars. First up are a pair of tire concepts that seem tailor-made for the autonomous future. Continental’s ContiSense tire can monitor the temperature, tread depth and friction available, and relay this to the driver or the vehicle’s autonomous system. Meanwhile, the ContiAdapt concept can adapt its footprint to the conditions by altering tire pressure as needed. Combining Michelin’s Acorus Technology with Maxion’s Flexible Wheel doesn’t use sensors or electronics to do its magic. Rather, it combines flexible flanges with a unique wheel design to produce a system that improves ride quality and comfort while nearly eliminating punctures from potholes. And if that's not enough, Frankfurt was the scene for a reveal never before seen in its many halls. Land Rover and iCandy teamed up to produce a limited edition stroller for the adventurous parent. It may carry an all-terrain designation, but its real purpose is to make your social circle sit up and take notice.

Friday
Aug112017

August 2017

We will be on vacation the first week of September, but back in time to report on the Frankfurt Motor Show. See you on September 15.

 

August 25, 2017: With each generation of its M cars, BMW leaves you wondering if it could possibly top its latest creation. And with the debut of the 2018 M5 prior to its launch next month at Frankfurt, it proves once again that it can. However, doing so this time required a technology never before seen on an M car. Meanwhile, over in Monterey, Mercedes introduced a new Maybach concept designed to take everything to the extreme. This electrically powered land yacht is both sleek and nautical, and more than a little reminiscent of the best industrial design and a certain type of laxative. The same can’t be said of the De Tomaso Pantera, a sexy mid-engine Italian sports car built along the lines of a Ford GT40. It was derided in the day for its many faults, and its mongrel status (it has a Ford V8 under the hood) meant it never got the respect it deserved. Until now that is. With the help of Petrolicious and Jay Leno’s Garage, we take a look at what makes the Pantera so desirable. ATS, created out of the Palace Revolt at Ferrari in the early 1960s, is about to introduce a new supercar along the lines of its ill-fated but delicious 2500 GT. We take a look at the history of the marque, and its plans for the future. Audi’s plans include a new numbering system for its vehicles. Scheduled to launch with the new A8, it places two-digit designator after the model name, based on the output of the powertrain. VW’s T-Roc small crossover has broken cover, and it is aimed at the fast-growing small SUV segment. It’s the first Volkswagen ever to offer a contrasting roof panel color, but oddly will not be coming to the U.S. anytime soon. The Passat may never wear a contrasting roof color, but it does carry the mantle for VW’s U.S. assembly plant alongside the Atlas SUV. Though more restrained than some of its competition, it provides comfort and space they lack, with a solidity that could only come from the Germans. Mitsubishi’s Outlander, on the other hand, sits square in the middle of the mid-size SUV segment, and is something of a reset for a company that used to be a tech leader. We evaluate the crossover, and see whether quiet competence is enough in a crowded market. Federal-Mogul has a new valve rotation unit for overhead cam engines. We take a look at a technology designed to control wear and heat build up on the valves and seats. This week’s Virtual Collection digs deep to find the most unusual Jaguar Mark IX you’ll ever see. Built for the former head of a major automotive engineering consultancy, it is up-to-date in everything but looks. JBR Capital not only lends money to those wanting to buy high-end classic cars, it has created an interactive website dedicated to Ferrari’s V12, and the various vehicles it has powered. The site has surprisingly subtle yet trick graphics, and is a go-to resource for those interested in Enzo’s most famous engines.

 

August 11, 2017: As a kid who grew up in Dearborn during the Total Performance era, Kar-Kraft was a subject of constant wonder. Then, one day in the early 1970s, it ceased to exist, and urban legend and innuendo filled the void where secrecy had previously lived. Charlie Henry, who worked at Kar-Kraft while in college, decided to take up the challenge, fill in the blanks, and discover the truth behind the legend. We review his book, and find that it fills a void in the knowledge of every enthusiast of a certain age. Keeping with the project theme, Infiniti has teased a concept set in the golden age of Grand Prix racing, that retroactively seeks to define what makes an Infiniti an Infiniti. Kumho, meanwhile, uses advanced mathematics to design a multi-layer wheel and tire concept that needs no air, and may be more than just a design study. TVR, on the other hand, is ready to step out from the shadows and show its latest car at the Goodwood Revival. We take a look at the clues thus far, outlining the car that the staff at Gordon Murray Design have created. Whatever that might be, it can’t hold a candle to the outrageousness that is the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. The 707-hp SUV promises a lot, and costs even more. It undoubtedly will be a pittance compared to the price expected at RM Sotheby’s Monterey auction for the Aston Martin DBR1/1. It’s not only the first of a rare breed, but one with a significant competition history. We go along as the folks from Petrolicious go for a drive. BMW’s M30 M3 also was the first of the breed and, to our mind, the best. See why it gets pride of place in the Virtual Collection. Unfortunately, the purity of the original eventually fades, as shown by the latest Audi A4. Bigger and better in so many ways, see why we feel it lacks the soul a sport sedan should possess. And don’t forget to tag along as we go to dinner with the Gore family in a plug-in Prius Prime. You may discover why we prefer the non-prime number. Finally, Mazda has announced a compression ignition gasoline engine family that promises diesel-like efficiency, and EV-level cleanliness. Can this combination of spark and compression ignition do the job?

 

Friday
Jul142017

July 2017

July 28, 2017: The drive toward autonomous vehicles is a fait accompli if you listen to pundits, driven by the need to meet the demands of a new generation. But are Millennials driving the move to this technology, or are there other factors? You might be surprised what’s really behind the drive to driverless vehicles.  Speaking of Millennials, Ford introduced the 2018 Mustang this week. It features significant increases in power and performance, as well as pricing that — in most cases — will make your eyes water. Like the Camaro, it continues to chase older, financially well-established buyers, having walked away from its original remit as a sexy, affordable car for young people. Then again, 0-60 in under four seconds does sound fun. Honda’s new Accord ditches the current generation’s naturally aspirated four and V6 for a pair of turbocharged inline fours, and gives the larger engine a 10-speed automatic. (A six-speed manual is available with either motor.) Will this, fresh styling, and a reengineered hybrid model be enough to gain ground in the shrinking sedan market? One segment that’s expanding is the mid-size pickup market, and the latest entrant is Mercedes-Benz. Its version of the Renault Alaskan/Nissan Frontier is decidedly upscale, but is it in keeping with the M-B image or a jaded line extension that won’t be sold in the U.S.?  Of course there’s upmarket and then there’s Upmarket. The new eight generation Rolls-Royce Phantom definitely falls into the latter category. With a bespoke spaceframe that will underpin all future Rolls-Royces, a twin-turbo V12 and an available bespoke art gallery, it is the perfect transport for the well-heeled sybarite. In the 1930s, a young man by the name of E.L. Cord sought to carve out his own corner of the auto industry. He took over Auburn and Duesenberg, and created another brand named for himself. And though it eventually came to tears, the company created the focus of this week’s Virtual Collection, the iconic Cord 812. Our feature car is a unique long-wheelbase sedan that once may have belonged to the man himself, and still turns heads today. Brush Hero sent us its Dynamic Duo car wash outfit, which includes a car wash nozzle and dispenser combination, as well as a water-powered brush head. It sounded a bit over the top at first, but the proof was in the using. The real question, however, is whether or not its good enough to make you forget all the other car washing gadgets cluttering your garage. Once you’re done washing the car, you might want to kick back with a premium dry gin with a difference. The Archaeologist is a bespoke gin brand from Germany that quite literally is built around parts from old Harley-Davidson motorcycles scrounged from around the world. You have to see it to believe it.

 

July 14, 2017: This issue is a little different, featuring only one new production car, and concentrating on automotive dreams. The production vehicle in question isn’t even a car. It’s Jaguar’s 2018 E-Pace small SUV. The E-Pace is based on the underpinnings of the Range Rover Evoque, making it the first Jaguar to feature a transverse-engined all-wheel drive layout since the Ford Mondeo/Contour-based X-Type. For Jaguar’s sake, let’s hope it’s more successful. Our dreamscape starts with the Tucker 48, a rear-engine four-door sedan that promised more than its creator could deliver. Though the “48” stood for the year in which the production version would debut, it was not far off the total number built before lawsuits, recriminations and sensationalism brought the project to a halt. It is joined in our Virtual Collection by a Porsche supercar that doesn’t (yet) get the respect it deserves. The genesis for the Carrera GT started as a Le Mans racer cancelled to make room for the Cayenne SUV, and ended in the creation of the last great analog supercar from Stuttgart. Though actor Paul Walker’s untimely death in one has tainted its image, the Carrera GT is a road going racer every bit as delectable as Ferrari’s Enzo. On the human side, Renault’s F1 team is running a promotion in the UK to celebrate its 40th anniversary. To celebrate, they are putting four lucky folks who test drive a Renault in the coming weeks behind the wheel of a Renault F17 F1 car. And to prove just how simple this can be, it put a 79 year-old woman — Rosemary Smith a former rally champion — behind the wheel and videotaped the results. It’s worth a look. On the more, er, ridiculous side, Cragar has introduced S/S wheels for your golf cart. The 1960s throwbacks add a sense of hot rod-inspired style to the game of golf, and should make buyers the envy of their gated community.  We bookend our dreamscape with another car that promised more than its underdeveloped nature could deliver, the NSU Ro 80.  It had everything from radical bodywork to a semi-automatic gearbox to front-drive and a state-of-the-art engine. Unfortunately, a lack of development meant it fell short of real world expectations, and doomed both the car and the company that made it.