Saturday, February 28, 2015

Driving a Porsche in the Snow

New Planet 9 column. If you have ever had to drive a two-wheel drive sports car in the snow, you will totally get it. If not, I hope to have given you enough advice that you will not try it. Either way, read the damn column!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Top 10 fantasy cars of all time

Well it’s a fantasy right? That means anything goes. It could be new, it could be old, something a coach builder or manufacturer created to get people talking. And you know what? It still works! These cars still get the pulse running a bit faster. Hell, just the chance to see one in the flesh makes me tingle all over. But in a car geek kind of way. It all comes down to personal opinion of course…and I will say that when it comes to cars, I do OK.

I am a child of the 1960’s and it can be seen from this list that I really like the cars from the decade of the Beatles, Apollo and the Woodstock inspired counter culture. But I also love the edgy aircraft inspired cars from the 50’s, a more innocent time when the theories of drag and lift and how a car cut through the air were really coming into their own. Then there is the wedge. It screams 1970’s! But the newer stuff, concepts from the current decade, man they combine spaceship curves, alien lighting and pumped up wheels arches. The interior could easily come straight out of Star Wars and with many of them based on chassis and powertrains from supercars, they should be fast. The fact that many of them will never turn a wheel on the road is irrelevant, it’s the flights of fancy that they represent. Concepts cars are fantasy cars, they keep us dreaming of what could be. So enjoy my list, please post your own in the comments. I would love to see which ones do it for you. And please suggest some of your own.

10. 1970 Lancia Stratos HF Zero by Bertone: The tiny rally rocket Stratos and this car really have little in common other than a name. The 70’s were all about the wedge shape and this one pretty much says it all. Completely impractical, the occupants may well have been fried by the huge flat hatch/door/windscreen. Still, when you see that triangular engine hatch open, it is like opening automotive fantasy land, I don’t even care if there is a motor under it. Triangular…really? That’s so 1970!

9. 1953-1955 Alfa Romeo B.A.T. 5/7/9 by Bertone: Alfa commissioned three studies from Bertone in the mid-50’s to study aerodynamics. The BAT 5 was very radical and could reach 200kph (120mph) with only a 75hp motor. It was very slippery with a very low Cd of 0.23. The BAT 7 was even more radical a unbelievable Cd of 0.19. The final BAT 9 was the closest in design to current Alfa’s of the time. Amazing!

8. 1967 Lamborghini Marzal by Bertone: Ferruccio Lamborghini wanted a four-seater to go alongside his more sporting models. The incomparable Marcello Gandini designed this car with generous glass encased gullwing doors and louvered rear window. Its long elegant grace has stood the test of time appearing almost willowy. Many current four door cars seem overwrought in comparison.

7. 1971 Maserati Boomerang by Italdesign: Giorgetto Giugiaro was the father of the wedge shaped designs of the 70’s. You probably remember one of his designs, it turned into a submarine in James Bond’s Live and Let Die. The Lotus Esprit was the epitome of wedge. But the Boomerang really pushed the boundary, every edge had a crease, no flat surface was left unturned. And dig that instrument panel; that is CRAZY. Probably totally unusable, but it is the definition of 70’s cool.

6. 1952 and 2013 Alfa Romeo Disco Volante by Carrozzeria Touring: Beautiful then and now, created as a racing concept for Alfa, the three prototypes never had huge success on the track, but they are still sought based on their beauty. As for the new one….it can be yours if you donate an amazing Alfa 8C. Then months later (and no doubt lots of checks, or wire transfers with commas and zeros in them) you get a new DV. Achingly beautiful the new Disco Volante shows that Touring still knows a thing or two about the art of automotive coach building. I’ll bet there are a bunch of guys that work there that only work with hand tools. They probably do not even know what an on / off switch is…

5. 1971 Lamborghini Countach LP500 Prototype by Bertone: Penned by Marcello Gandini this is one of the most recognizable automotive shapes ever. But the purity of the original prototype of 1971 was never to be. Testing by the famous development driver Bob Wallace revealed that the car over heated and did not get enough air in the engine. So the first LP400’s had NACA ducts and side scoops added to cool the car. Later a bunch of footballers, gold neckless wearing drug dealers and people with lots of class added things like huge rear wings, extended wheel fairings, and oversized bumpers. Really the car got stupid. But that original shape was just perfect. I wish it could have been left that way.

4. 2013 Lamborghini Egoista: I thought about adding the Veneno, but in comparison, the Egoista is just over the top. It is like a F22 Raptor on the road. Visual tension reaches a crescendo over the cockpit area. And when the canopy moves up to reveal the fighter pilot interior, it just reinforces that the Egoista is just that, a fighter plane for the road. The back of the car looks like an X-Wing fighter, with a mechanical vibe, pieces of important components hanging out there for all the world to see. Amazing! F1 cars should hope they look this bad ass. Yet again, Lamborghini pushes the edge on new car. Sometimes I wish Ferrari would follow…

3. 1970 Ferrari Modulo by Pininfarina: Wow! If the Egoista looked like a space ship, the Modulo was one. It set the standard for WAY OUT THERE designs of the late 60’s / early 70’s. This car is based on a real race car with a real Ferrari V-12 right behind the driver. Although some folks just can’t help themselves and ruin it for EVERYONE. Turns out the motor was just a show piece, not real. Sigh…. Well you can just look at it and imagine it tucking the wheels in and taking a turn towards Mars.

2. 2013 BMW M1 Hommage: It all started in 1972 with the BMW Turbo concept. Designer Paul Bracq fused safety, technology and wedge shaped elements into a car that would point the way for the eventual M1. The simple wedge shaped design of the production M1 was penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Italdesign the car became somewhat of a pariah for BMW. Built to be the platform for a race car and race series, the times passed it by. It probably did not help that BMW partnered with Lamborghini to build the car (this was during Lambo’s financial troubles). That leads us to the fresh interpretation of the M1. The new one looks good from any angle. The wheels are outrageous as it looks like they will not work on a car…but they do. Beautiful!  

1. 1969 Ferrari 512S Berlinetta Speciale by Pininfarina: I still have a 1970 Hotwheels version of this car. It is green and beat up from years of being played with, but I still have it. When it comes to a fantasy car, I think this car embodies everything that makes concepts / prototypes / show cars the automotive flights of fancy that they are. The way all the curves and edges drive towards the front edge of the car. How the cockpit seems to dominate like it is trying to drive beyond the front wheels and how the rear kicks up as if hovering off the ground. It looks like how a futuristic self-driving car would look if somehow Ferrari built one. Taken as a snapshot of 1970, this is what the future looked like. And based on this shape, the future looked good.