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Posts filed under ‘News’

The New King of the Hill:
950-hp Shelby GT1000

March 25, 2013 by Matt

Ford Mustang Shelby GT1000 1000 Dark Blue

This is getting a little ridiculous.

Top Gear has info today on the newest Mustang breathed upon by the tuning gods at Shelby, the 950-hp GT1000.

While I’m not quite sure about the chronology here:

[It] arrives on a wave of history: exactly 50 years ago Carroll Shelby premiered the Cobra at the ’62 New York motor show, announcing the arrival of a new tuning house.

seeing as how it’s 2013, there’s no doubt Shelby’s creation is designed to steal some of the new C7 Corvette’s thunder at the upcoming 2013 New York Auto Show and to stoke enthusiasm for the outgoing Mustang generation, even as a new one is being readied by Ford.

Ford Mustang Shelby GT1000 1000 Engine Motor Supercharger Blower

What we have here, essentially, is an officially-sanctioned version of a particular flavor of tuner car familiar to almost all enthusiasts: The dyno queen. Bragging rights are the GT1000’s sole raison d’être. Whoever shells out the asking price of $200K (for a Mustang!) for one of the 50 that will be produced can claim ownership of unarguably the most monstrous pony car ever screwed together by an official tuning house. Nevermind the fact that there’s absolutely no way that kind of power is usable in a street or track setting; wheel that baby up onto the dyno rollers, fire up the digicam and get ready to upload the video of the pull to YouTube and achieve instant Internet fame. That’s it, really, aside from sedate cruises to local meets and being lovingly waxed every couple of weeks. I understand Shelby’s reasoning behind the GT1000’s build, but as a prospective automotive experience, to me, it’s less than desirable. No thanks.

Image credits:,


Audi R8 V10 Plus Ad: The Animal Within

March 15, 2013 by Matt

Note to other performance automakers: This is how you do a commercial if you want to get your enthusiast base fired up about your flagship’s capabilities. None of that gentle-winding-through-a-wooded-backroad crap—which, ironically, Audi’s also done—just pure, raw, unadulterated power, full stop.

Aside from the visceral appeal, it’s quite a brilliant ad for Audi in that it directly addresses one of the main criticisms leveled against their R8 supercar: It’s too user-friendly, too sterile, too easy to drive quickly and not edgy enough to be called a proper supercar. As a result, the entire focus of the clip is on the roaring, crackling, popping, savage, well-nigh alive quality of the car’s engine—with a nice shot of the ultra-wide rear tires thrown in for good measure—dispelling any notion that the R8 is some kind of ho-hum “speed appliance.”

Between this and their well-received Super Bowl commercial, Audi’s marketing has been firing on all cylinders lately. I particularly appreciate the ads’ focus on the cars themselves, instead of simply trying to gin up an emotional reaction via a non-automotive storyline. It speaks to the confidence Audi (rightly) has in their design and engineering that in many cases the spots highlight those aspects of their cars which, according to conventional wisdom, would have less mass appeal. Well done, Audi, and carry on.


Hoping for Mediocrity?
The Alfa Romeo 4C

March 11, 2013 by Matt

Alfa Romeo 4C 2014 White

A “launch edition” of Alfa Romeo’s mid-engined Boxster-fighter, the 4C, was recently unveiled during the 2013 Geneva Motor Show, Motor Authority reports. As the first morsel of Alfa’s upcoming reintroduction here in the States, we enthusiasts should sit up and take notice.

Alfa Romeo 4C 2014 White

It will be fantastic to see Alfa return to the American market. There’s been a real decline in the number of desirable new cars that make absolutely no rational sense from an ownership perspective, and however Alfa has improved its cars’ reliability and other left-brained attributes, the brand will forever be associated with their charismatic yet heartbreaking cars of years past. So as crazy as it sounds, I actually hope their 4C compares unfavorably to its competitors like the Boxster in a number of key areas; being unable to make a case for the Alfa from a rational standpoint will only enhance its romantic appeal. A healthy dose of numeric mediocrity (as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of subjective sweetness) will only ensure that those who buy it are fully committed to the idea that the essence of a car is more than its power figures or Nürburgring lap times, and who better to make that case than Alfa Romeo?

Image credits:

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Design Showdown:
McLaren P1 vs. LaFerrari

March 6, 2013 by Matt

McLaren Ferrari Logos

In anticipation of their reveal at the upcoming 2013 Geneva Motor Show, the automotive world is abuzz with talk of the latest offerings from perennial Formula 1 and road-going supercar rivals McLaren and Ferrari.

You can read more about their staggering technical specs here; for now, let’s examine them from a design standpoint and weigh in on which one is more aesthetically successful, or, to tip my hand a bit, which one is less ugly.

Our first contender is McLaren’s so-called F1 successor, the P1. Sinewy and organic, the eyebrow-like McLaren logo is echoed in many places throughout the bodywork. Like its little brother the MP4-12C, though, the P1 manages to look dramatic and somewhat anonymous at the same time. Its lines don’t strike me as being particularly resolved, and as such the whole car has a nervous, fragile, unsettled look about it.

McLaren P1 Yellow

McLaren P1 Yellow

McLaren P1 Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

Next up is the brand new follow-on to the Enzo, the ridiculously-named Ferrari LaFerrari. Unveiled in the past couple of days, the LaFerrari certainly looks more conventional than its British competitor. Still, the black roof and stock supercar proportions combine to make it look like a cutting-edge supercar for, say, 1994.

Ferrari LaFerrari Red

Ferrari LaFerrari Red

Ferrari LaFerrari Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

On the merits of its styling, which do you prefer? I honestly can’t pick a favorite. I appreciate the creativity of the P1, but the LaFerrari’s lines are more resolved overall. Until an automaker can pen a supercar design at once fresh-looking, well-proportioned, with exquisite detailing and above all, beautiful—yes, I do believe it can be done—I don’t know that I will have a dog the burgeoning supercar fight, a conflict that includes not only the cars featured in this post, but offerings from Porsche, Pagani and Lamborghini as well.

Image credits:


Automotive Art: The OS Giken TC24-B1Z

March 4, 2013 by Matt

Nissan Datsun L-Series L24 L26 L28 OS Giken Cylinder Head DOHC TC24

Dovetailing nicely with my recent post about Nissan/Datsun L-series tuning lore, I came across this page featuring the OS Giken TC24-B1Z, a stroked 3.2l, 420-hp L-series topped with the legendary OS Giken DOHC, 24-valve cylinder head.

Nissan Datsun L-Series L24 L26 L28 OS Giken Cylinder Head DOHC TC24

While it’s perhaps not the most romantic piece of machinery out there, the engine exudes a kind of precise beauty, sort of like an immensely powerful Seiko watch. The gear-driven cam arrangement, chosen for durability at the engine’s 10,000 (!) rpm redline, reinforces that analogy. Fuel injection is optional; the TC24-B1Z leaves the craftman’s bench with a lovely set of triple Webers, shown above.

Nissan Datsun L-Series L24 L26 L28 OS Giken Cylinder Head DOHC TC24

The beauty comes at a price, though: Only nine have been built, and if the cylinder head alone is worth over $30,000, it’s not a stretch to imagine the whole package costs perilously close to 6 figures, if not more. Still, as the Bugatti Veyron of naturally-aspirated L-series engines, it’s a stunning sight to behold, and as a vintage Datsun owner, it’s affirming to know the platform is receiving such attention.

Image credits: Dino Dalle Carbonare for


A Production Chevy Code 130R?

February 15, 2013 by Matt

Chevy Chevrolet Code 130R Red Concept

Yes, please.

Left Lane reports Chevy may be considering a production version of their well-received Toyota FR-S/ Subaru BRZ-fighter, the Code 130R concept car:

GM hasn’t officially green lighted the 130R, but the Detroit-based automaker is at least considering ways to make the car a reality. …

[A] production version of the 130R would be loosely based on a version of the rear-wheel drive Alpha platform that underpins the Cadillac ATS.

Considering the Alpha platform is arguably the most successful piece of the ATS package—most reviews gush over its handling poise, steering feel and overall balance—a dealership-ready Code 130R built on that chassis would likely stand a good chance of being Chevy’s first real driver’s car since, well, ever.

Granted, to secure my fandom, Chevy would have to cleave to the concept’s formula and develop a FR-S/BRZ alternative. In practice, this means they would have to keep the weight low (sub-3,000 lbs), keep the car low-priced and basic, emphasize the fun-to-drive factor and above all, keep it RWD. If Chevy does all that, they’ve got a least one banner-waver in the enthusiast community right here.

Chevy Chevrolet Code 130R Concept Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

The sticking point in the whole idea is the fact that Chevy’s own V6-engined Camaro occupies roughly the same low-$20K price point as the Code 130R presumably would, packs a good deal more punch under the hood and has massive name recognition to boot. Is the market for small, back-to-basics RWD sports cars strong enough to support both the FR-S/BRZ twins and the Code 130R? Given the choice, would enough buyers opt for a slower but more fun-to-drive 130R over a V6 Camaro if both are similarly priced? Open questions, but ones I’d love to see explored.

Image credits:,


2014 Lexus IS: A Design Analysis

February 4, 2013 by Matt

2014 Lexus IS Sedan

The problem here is context.

The details of the next generation Lexus entry-level sports sedan, the IS, are certainly generating a buzz. Next to the C7 Corvette, it’s been arguably the most aesthetically dissected car to emerge from the recent 2013 Detroit Auto Show.

The reviews haven’t been overwhelmingly positive. The consensus seems to be that although observers appreciate the fact that Lexus is taking chances, design-wise, the new IS’s shape leaves them unsatisfied. Personally, I want to like the new “spindle grille” motif the Japanese luxury automaker has cooked up, but somehow it just doesn’t sit right; I respect aesthetic risk-taking, but between the grille and the new taillights (the new IS’s two most prominent features), I’m left feeling…uneasy as I contemplate the new car’s lines.

The nose. Evident in the picture at top, the nose is far and away the most prominent feature of the new car. An attempt to create “visual tension” by giving the impression the bodywork is stretched tightly over some muscular internal structure, the feature falls flat simply because none of the rest of the car matches its design drama. Put your hand over the new Lexus’s fascia and the car becomes another run-of-the-mill sports sedan. It’s the aesthetic equivalent of a stage actor turning in a powerhouse performance…while his castmates phone in their lines. There’s just no visual support from the rest of the car.

2014 Lexus IS Sedan

The tail. Slightly more successful is the 2014 IS’s other “showcase” styling element, its downward-sloping taillights. By visually connecting the taillights and the rocker panels, the rear wheels and thus the car’s RWD configuration are emphasized. So far, so good. But there remain two major problems: The styling effect employed makes it look like the bodywork is tearing or breaking so that the taillights can push through, giving them a sort of half-finished look, and their taper around the side of the car leads the observer’s eye forward back onto the car’s flanks, when the tail should be a smooth resolution and neat conclusion of the car’s look. As it is, our eyes are constantly thrown back toward the IS’s profile, kept in a kind of awkward visual limbo.

2014 Lexus IS Sedan

The proportions. The new Lexus’s context problems are on full display here. There’s nothing in the car’s proportions that even comes close to the impact of the car’s extremities. Really the only update over the previous generation is a lower decklid, reintroducing a traditional bit of “three box” styling into the new IS’s profile, but otherwise… Ho hum.

2014 Lexus IS Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

The interior. For its part, the interior is serious and tasteful with a strong sense of structure. Taken in isolation, it’s quite well done…but then you remember what the outside, and particularly the nose of the car, looks like, and scratch your head that there could be such a marked difference in feel between the two areas.

I wonder how isolated the design teams working on different parts of the car were from each other? From the looks of it, they must’ve had minimal, if any, contact with each other prior to applying their efforts to the new Lexus’s basic shape. There are lots of good ideas here, just no cohesion. Maybe next time.

Image credits:

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The 2013 Parade of
Automotive Super Bowl Ads

February 1, 2013 by Matt

Increasingly, companies try to create a positive buzz around their upcoming Super Bowl commercials by releasing them early on the internet via YouTube or another social media outlet. Regardless of its effectiveness as a business decision versus capitalizing on the element of surprise by withholding an ad until the actual game, the week-before unveiling allows us to take an early peek at what automakers’ marketing departments have cooked up, and gives us a glimpse into their self-image and priorities.

My favorite, naturally, is the Audi spot featured at top. It’s fun, it showcases the actual car rather than projecting an amorphous emotion and hoping we associate it with the brand, and it really does communicate Audi’s bravery (some would say irrational stubbornness) in persisting with a mechanical configuration—quattro—inherently dynamically disadvantaged compared to those of its rivals. Well done.

For their part, Mercedes released a mildly racy teaser spot for their upcoming CLA, a baby CLS attempting to mimic its big brother’s swoopy lines and curb appeal in 2/3 scale. There really is little here besides the age-old (and admittedly effective) “sex sells” tactic.

The Kia ad is a teaser as well, and it certainly takes the “most potential to be truly bizarre” prize.

The cheeseball award this year has to go to VW‘s somewhat cringe-inducing faux-Jamaican accent office guy ad, a commercial that, as mentioned above, attempts to channel what the automaker hopes is the feeling drivers experience when behind the wheel of a VW, but somehow comes up short.

And then there’s Lincoln. Hapless, floundering Lincoln’s marketing department couldn’t even come up with a fresh idea of their own, so they called in air support and enlisted the “help” of social media so owners could supply them with a premise for their spot. In general (pun intended), I like Ford the best of the Big Three, and so I have every hope in the world that Lincoln finds its footing in the midst of the cloud of global luxury marques, but after witnessing their initial attempt at crafting an original commercial, I’m somewhat less optimistic about their chances of survival, to say nothing of actually thriving.

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Burger Dots (01/23)

January 23, 2013 by Matt

Burger Image Random Car Posts Links News

  • Fantastic repository of classic Car and Driver reviews. I haven’t read nearly all of them (though I plan to), though I can tell you the Mustang vs Camaro vs The World comparo undertaken in the mid-’80s has a surprising—and pleasing—winner!
  • Neat factory-produced mini-documentary on the awesome Koenigsegg Agera R’s suspension design. Interesting that they’ve essentially attempted to do mechanically what the McLaren 12C’s suspension does electronically; that is, to achieve optimum control of each wheel individually with the fewest number of compromises with respect to how other wheels are affected. I guess when you don’t have McLaren’s development budget, you have to be a bit more creative from an engineering standpoint.
  • Left Lane relays new information emerging about Porsche’s upcoming supercar, the 960. Here’s the relevant information: Mid-mounted flat-8, four turbos, 650+ hp, 3,000 lbs, 0-60 in 2.5. Should be a hoot.
  • Check out this video of a Bugatti Veyron W16 engine being assembled. The castings are works of automotive art, plain and simple (via Tamerlane).
  • Feast your eyes on some of the most exquisite photography ever of the lovely Jaguar D-Type over at Automobiliac. Cast and hand-shaped aluminum FTW. My only question is, shown in the photo of the instrument panel, what use a race car driver would have for a speedometer? One’s speed at any given time seems like hardly the most relevant piece of information in the heat of battle…

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