• Just Where Are The Best Deals on Wheels?

    When looking to buy a car there is certainly no shortage of choice. The UK has over 4,900 franchised dealers plus many more generalists. Car auctions, internet sites and private ads offer even more options but this still leaves many buyers wondering just where is the best place to get a really good deal.

    For most people, a car is likely to be the second most expensive single item that they will ever buy and so it is important to get it right. There is certainly plenty of choice and if you are looking to buy a used car in the London area, it is possible to find almost every conceivable make and model within a radius of a few miles. The first decision is whether to buy new or second-hand. New car sales are booming, fuelled largely by some of the new methods of financing them such as personal contract plans and leasing as new recruits to the world of motoring consider car ownership very much along the same lines as mobile phone contracts with a continuous monthly charge and regular upgrades being the order of the day. The canny buyer, however, realises that such a throw-away mentality results in some great cars appearing on the second-hand market and it usually means that the first owner has paid dearly for the privilege of new car ownership or lease. A car’s value depends on several things but one of the most predictable is its age and the depreciation curve is invariably steeper in its early days.

    By steering clear of the lure of new cars, a buyer may suddenly realise that his budget will now stretch to a much better specified car. Most car purchases involve the heart more than the head and even our London buyer may fancifully visualise cruising along deserted country roads with the roof down whereas, in reality, a nose-to-tail daily commute is probably much more likely with emission levels and congestion charges figuring highly in any car buying decision.

    There are undoubtedly some great bargains to be found but the risks should not be underestimated. Perhaps the ideal car could be almost new or fairly young, low mileage, well maintained and with a known history. An ex-demonstrator from a franchised dealer or an ex-lease car could probably fit the bill and some of those previously used by disabled people under the Motability leasing scheme can often be exceptionally good but the range of vehicles on offer may be rather limited. Buying ex-fleet vehicles is another option to be considered but some of these may have covered high mileages and a used taxi or minibus is certainly not to be recommended.

    Another interesting idea is to check what vehicles are available from car rental companies such as those offered under the Hertz Rent2Buy scheme. The idea that ex-rental cars have been roughly treated by uncaring drivers is simply not borne out by the facts and there are some real gems to be found. Hertz even allow for an extended test drive in the form of rental for a few days so there should be no unpleasant surprises here!

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  • 666 Ducati Diavel Diesel Models To Be Built

    The Ducati Diavel Diesel is a limited edition model being produced as a collaboration by the two Italian firms. A total of 666 motorcycles will be produced as a result, featuring what the press releases calls ‘a hyperkinteic dynamism of a post-apocalyptic, retro-futuristic world’. Sounds fancy.

    2017 Ducati Diavel Diesel

    To go with the release of the Ducati Diavel Diesel is a small collection of clothing to match from Diesel. On the way in April with the limited edition, will be a leather jacket, two T-shirts and a pair of Jogg Jeans. Which might be why the new bike was actually unveiled at Milan Men’s Fashion Week before heading to the Motor Bike Expo.

    2017 Ducati Diavel Diesel and Clothing

    Ducati Diavel Diesel Design:

    So it’s obvious that a motorcycle worked on by Ducati and an Italian clothing brand would need to look good. And the Diavel starts off with a hand-brushed stainless steel superstructure with visible welding and rivets. That approach is kept for the fuel tank cover, front cowl and passenger saddle cover.

    2017 Ducati Diavel Diesel Tank Cover
    2017 Ducati Diavel Diesel Tank Cover

    And the saddle itself looks rather lovely, made of real leather, and with a pyramid of three Ds to stand for Ducati, Diesel and Diavel. The mix of leather and visibile steel has that feel of vintage aeroplanes or ships. It’s definitely my favourite part of the bike.

    2017 Ducati Diavel Diesel Saddle and Passenger Cowl
    2017 Ducati Diavel Diesel Saddle and Passenger Cowl

    The black anodised lateral air intakes also ave visible welding, and have intake covers in red methacrylate (or bendy plastic as it’s also known). And some Diesel logos on the inside.

    2017 Ducati Diavel Diesel Intake Cover
    2017 Ducati Diavel Diesel Intake Cover

    There’s a red theme with the LCD dashboard matching the Brembo front brake calipers and even the chain features five red links.

    But the exhaust goes for classic black Zircotec ceramic coating, with black silencers. Both the exhausts end cans and rear-view mirrors are machined from a solid block. You also get a black front mudguard with the DDD pyramid logo on it.

    To show it’s a limited edition, the Ducati Diavel Diesel comes with a numbered plate on the frame. And buyers will be happy to know they get a bike cover and rear stand included in the price – but will have to wait to pick up a matching Diesel T-shirt.

    Mechanically it’s a standard Ducati Diavel, with a 162hp Testastretta engine, with the Ducati Safety Pack (ABS and Traction Control). Which is the point where some people may have lost interest – but as a purely cosmetic limited edition, the Ducati Diavel Diesel has some nice touches to enjoy or possibly emulate.

    There’s no word on price, but we’re sure your local Ducati dealer can find out for you before the bike is released in April. And if you can’t stretch that far, you can always buy a T-shirt instead…

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  • IR X RM Outback Motorcycle Shoes – Ridgemont Outfitters & Iron Resin

    The IR X RM Outback motorcycle shoes are an interesting collaboration between two South California clothing companies. Ridgemont Outfitters has produced boots and shoes for a while, while Iron and Resin sell a range of clothing for motorcyclists, skaters, and surfers. So now they’ve teamed up to produce something that looks good and works well for bikers.

    IR X RM Outback Motorcycle Shoes Ridgemont Outfitters and Iron Resin
    The IR X RM Motorcycle Shoes

    The result is the IR X RM Outback, which features genuine Horween full-grain leather sourced from their Chicago tannery. The main upper uses 2.5mm thick pieces in the construction, along with a super soft and durable oiled suede collar.

    In terms of practicality, the toe cap has been extended compared to normal Ridgemont boots to give protection from gear shift levers. And they’ve done the same on both boots to accomodate anyone with their shifter on the right side, for instance, vintage British bikes.

    On the bottom is a Vari-flex Bi Fit lasting board, which apparently has been stiffened from the heel to the middle of the foot in case you still have to deal with a kickstart. But the front is flexible enough for walking.

    There’s more protection with an internal nylon malleolus protector hidden in the suede collar to help look after your ankles, and a thermal plastic heel counter.

    IR X RM Outback Motorcycle Shoes Ridegmont Outfitters Iron Resin Diagram
    A photo of the IR X RM Outback motorcycle shoes. With some words and lines on it

    So here’s where it gets even more interesting. The existing Ridgemont line are reasonably priced for both the UK and US. But the companies have decided to test the demand for the new IR X RM Outback motorcycle shoes by running a Kickstarter campaign.

    If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, it’s actually not bike-related. It’s what’s known as a ‘crowdfunding’ site, where interested backers can invest in a future product in advance, and usually get something extra for their support. Each project has a limited time to reach a set goal, and if it succeeds, they get your money, make the products and ship them to you. If they don’t reach the goal, then you don’t pay.

    There is a slight caveat to that, as you’re investing in a project rather than pre-ordering a product, and some risks are involved. But basically, you can invest and get a pair of shoes in your choice of Black or Brown Horween leather for $165, which is 45% off the planned normal retail price of $295. And $200 gets you a pair of shoes, a T-shirt and a leather key chain. The estimated delivery is June 2017.

    If you interested, the Iron and Resin by Ridgemont Outback Riding Shoes Campaign aims to hit $60,000, and ends on Saturday, February 18th, 2017. Each of the discount packages is limited to the first 100 or 200 backers. The IR X RM Outback Motorcycle Shoe will be produced in US mens sizes 5-12 with half size increments, and also a size 13, in a medium width. T-Shirts are in sizes XS-XXL.

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  • SVRA HEACOCK CLASSIC: THE GOLD STANDARD!

    Mike Matune goes trackside at VIR to bring us highlights of the Gold Cup historic races.

    The SVRA wrapped up part of its season at the Heacock Class “Gold Cup historic races at VIRginia International Raceway. Optimum weather and VIR’s lush surroundings welcomed a bevy of seasoned racers. Spectators were treated to the sights and sounds of some great big-bore historic racecars. Olthoff Racing (www.olthoffracing.com) of NC showed up with three Superformance GT40s, top, including those of Harry McPherson (#2) and Jeff McKee.

    Curt Vogt brought his ‘70 Mustang, above. While it is a genuine Boss 302, it has no race history and is prepared to the current vintage rulebook as opposed to period standards. The engine puts out close to 600 horsepower and Vogt used every one of them as he manhandled the beast around VIR, frequently testing the limits of the track’s “friction circle”.

    Michael Lange’s Ford GT was built by Matech in Switzerland for GT3 competition in Europe. It served as an interesting contrast to the 1960s era technology of the Superformance cars. The car has approximately 500 horsepower from a Ford DOHC V8 backed by a Hewland sequential gearbox. Extensive use of carbon fiber keeps overall weight to about 2,300 pounds, allowing “adequate” performance. A surprising feature of the car is air conditioning!

    Tommy Riggins originally built this Falcon for the updated Trans-Am series. It never turned a wheel there and ended up competing in SCCA GT1. It features a fiberglass silhouette body favoring the 1963 Falcon (if you squint) on a modern tubular frame with tubular A-arms up front and a Ford nine-inch rear end suspended with a three-link system. Power comes from a 358-inch Rousch-Yates Ford V-8. Doug Richmond bought the car and freshened it for the vintage racing wars. VIR was its second outing under his ownership.

    It is hard to fault the lines on the Lola T70, Eric Broadley’s early attempt at a Group 7 racecar. Tom Shelton’s example was originally sold by the late Carl Haas, Lola’s U.S. importer to a privateer. It was campaigned in the USRRC and Can-Am with very modest success. As an early Mark I model, it had a narrow body updated to its present wide-body to accommodate hefty racing rubber during its extensive restoration.

    Dave Robert’s ‘56 Corvette could was converted into a racecar by Chicago area Motor Sport Research in the early 1960s. It would live a life over time involving multiple owners and drivers, each attaining some level of success. When technology eventually caught up with it, it became a vintage racer and continued its winning ways. Roberts has recently returned the car to its original configuration to best celebrate its historic significance.

    Ken Mennella is a long time vintage competitor in his “tribute” ‘63 Corvette Grand Sport roadster. Equipped with a 600 horsepower, 400-inch Chevy small-block and TexRacing Super T-10 transmission, the car has been wining in SVRA Groups 5 & 10 for more than ten years. His car is a faithful reproduction of what was envisioned as an American car to beat Shelby’s Cobra and the fastest European racing cars. Its promise was short lived when GM enforced its anti-racing position.

    Externally Robert Gee’s ‘69 Corvette has all the pieces associated with the L88 endurance racing package – fender flares, fixed headlights under clear plastic covers and a vented and bubbled hood. It’s small-block powered and prepared to B/Production vintage standards with original brakes and stamped steel a-arms.

    Bob Lima’s big-block powered Corvette was formerly raced by Dick Kantrud. Like Gee’s car, it features styling cues from the famed Corvette endurance racers of the late-1960s,-early 1970s. Power comes from a big block Chevy with Edelbrock aluminum heads and a plethora of racing hardware. The raised headlights with clear covers reduced weight and complexity by eliminating the retracting mechanism. They also allowed improved airflow.

    Corvette racecars come in all forms from nearly showroom stock to purpose-built racers like Jeff Bernatovich’s entry. Originally built by Irv Hoerr, it combines a tube frame and look-alike fiberglass body panels, sharing precious little with its production counterparts. Some racers like this approach because instead of removing extraneous street components and beefing up cars that were never intended to withstand racetrack punishment, they are starting with a clean slate and incorporating only that what they need for speed and safety.

     

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  • ‘17 FIAT 124 SPIDER: CLASSICAL GAS!

    It’s what happens when you take a Mazda Miata and add a little Italian brio, blogs Road Test Editor, Howard Walker.

    Ready for a little Italian conversation class? Start by repeating after me: Bella piccolo macchina. Now say it with feeling, and maybe with an Italian-style shrug of the shoulders and upturned palms. The literal translation is ‘beautiful little machine’. And it’s also exactly how you’d describe Fiat’s new magnifico 124 Spider two-seater. Bella indeed.

    You might have heard about this new 124. It was developed hand-in-hand with Mazda – yep, I scratched my head too when I first read that piece of news. Fiat borrowed the underbody structure of Mazda’s much-loved Miata MX-5 and wrapped it with its own bodyshell – every panel is unique to the 124 – and squeezed in its own piccolo engine. Just don’t call it a Fiata!

    Makes sense. These days, small, affordable, old-school sports cars – even with $25-grand starting stickers – sell about as well as electric typewriters and Filofax planners. So it was tough for Fiat to justify going it alone to build a new 124. Split the costs with Mazda, send the two cars down the same production line in Japan, and it becomes a lot more financially sound.

    As much as I love the little MX-5, I have more amore for this little Fiat. It has oodles of styling cues from Fiat’s classic 1970s 124 Spider – the twin power bulges on the hood, the distinctive front grille, rear fenders that look like Joan Collins’ shoulder-pads in Dynasty. It’s also around five inches longer than the Mazda, which somehow makes it feel less dainty, more substantial.

    And while it would have been so much easier for Fiat to stick with the MX-5’s trusty 2-0-liter SkyActive four-banger, full credit to them for wanting to use their own 1.4-liter Multiair turbo from the plucky Fiat 500 Abarth. Not that there’s much difference in power; 160-horsepower for the Fiat, 155 for the Mazda, though the 124 gets a 36 pound-foot hike in torque which kinda counters the Fiat’s extra 100 pounds in weight.

    Thankfully they stuck with the MX-5’s brilliant folding canvas top. To me, it’s still the benchmark for a manual roof. Flip a lever, flop the top back to stow on the rear deck, 10 seconds max. And you do it with one hand. While in the car.

    So what’s it like to drive? Bellissimo. The whole point of a two-seater like this is for it to be fun, and to put a big smile on your face. And the little Fiat delivers. The fizzy turbo engine provides a ton of thrust to get you off the line fast, to zip you past slower traffic, and to punch you out of a tight bend.

    Interestingly our tester came with a six-speed automatic rather than the knife-through-butter-precise six-speed stick. My initial reaction was ‘no way’. But for our arrow-straight, traffic-congested Florida roads, it makes perfect sense. The shifts are smooth, it’s eager to kickdown and there’s manual shifting if you feel the need.

    Fiat offers three 124 Spiders to choose from. The base Classica kicks off at $24,995. Then there’s the leather-trimmed Lusso I’ve been driving with the bigger 17-inch alloys and silver windshield surround. For performance fans, there’s the feistier 124 Abarth with tighter suspension that starts at $28,195.

    Why would anyone buy a 124 Spider? It’s a fun, affordable ‘toy’ that’s a blast to drive, especially top-down on a blue-sky Florida winter day. And if you remember with affection the old 124 Spider, this car will rekindle those nostalgic memories.

     

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