• ST. MICHAELS CONCOURS: SHOWTIME ON CHESAPEAKE BAY!

    Mike Matune brings us highlights from one of the top East Coast Concours.

    As the show season winds down, we always look forward to the St. Michaels Concours d’Elegance for one last hurrah. To celebrate its tenth year on the Concours calendar, it returned to the campus of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. This location allowed the showcasing of stunning wooden boats and outstanding automobiles, delivering pure sensory overload. Making its debut at St. Michaels was the North Collection’s ‘33 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300. Under its flaming Italian Racing Red paint is body done in the style of Touring, build by Pettenella.

    Robert Tattersall freely admits the lovely lady, right, featured on the hood of his ‘48 Triumph TRA 2000 is the most frequently photographed element of his car! It’s something of a shame as the car has many other notable features. Among them a “dickey” or rumble seat with a pop-up windshield.

    Tattersall’s Triumph, below, showcases some of the details that make it an excellent addition to the show field: period blanket and picnic basket. One could almost see Yogi Bear running off with the basket!

     

    Karen & John Gerhard’s ‘66 Ferrari 275 GTB Berlinetta was made for, and feels most comfortable on, the open road. When introduced at the 1964 Paris Auto Show, it marked a move by Ferrari to produce a more user-friendly version of its front-engined, closed sports car. But that move didn’t come at any reduction in performance. A Colombo designed 3.3-liter 280 horsepower V12 powered a new 275 chassis with four-wheel independent suspension.

    Here is an early example of American Muscle, Peter Stiffel’s ‘11 Mercer Raceabout. It utilized a minimalist approach to lower weight and high performance. Nothing was included that didn’t serve the singular purpose of providing its driver with a thrilling adventure.

    Max Hoffman, the legendary auto importer of the 1950s, gave us several important marques and models, among them the BMW 507 roadster. Impeccably styled by noted industrial designer Albrecht Goertz, it features a V-8 of just over three liters backed by a four-speed transmission. They became the darlings of the rich and famous in their day. Thomas Pesikey owns this beautiful, Rudge wheel equipped example.

    Paul & Linda Gould’s ‘35 Bugatti Type 57 Grand Raid Roadster was one of those cars you had to observe from every angle to drink in just how striking it is. This one is one of only two that were completed with bodies built by the Swiss firm, Worblaufen. This rear angle gives you a good idea of how all the elements of design combine into one very cohesive shape.

    Alvis is one of those British manufacturers that has disappeared. But before they went, they produced some very well styled cars like James Sprague’s ‘64 TE21 Drophead Coupe with coachwork by Park Ward. Actor Tony Curtis originally owned Sprague’s car. He had it fitted with power steering and brakes, automatic transmission and air conditioning.

    In a car that bore his name, E. L. Cord combined cutting edge engineering with equally impressive styling. FWD drive and a monocoque chassis rested under a rakish body with hideaway headlights and a “coffin” nose. Thomas Haines’s ‘36 Cord 810 Convertible Phaeton takes it all a step further with an open car still allowing for all weather protection.

    Barbara and Al Mason are frequent Concours competitors with their brilliant orange ‘28 Auburn 8-115 Speedster. At St. Michaels they came away with a double victory, earning not only People’s Choice, but also taking Best in Show. An impressive “Double” to say the least!

    Here is proof of the old adage about “There’s nothing new under the sun”. Bill Alley’s Waverly four-passenger Brougham is an electric car built in 1911. Originating in the period when the automobile was beginning to replace horse drawn conveyances, its appointments are more in keeping with an aristocrat’s carriage than what we would expect in an automobile. The interior looks like the drawing room in a fine home.

    Continue Reading…

  • ‘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.

     

    Continue Reading…

  • ’17 MERCEDES-BENZ SL65: SUNSHINE SUPERCAR!

    “Dial ‘SL65’ if you want a classic aluminum-bodied two-seat roadster with an abundance of luxo-tech and V12 power,” blogs Dan Scanlan.

    Inside the ‘17 Mercedes-Benz SL65 Roadster’s sleek-but-familiar frame resides a supercar’s worth of power – a handcrafted twin-turbocharged 6-liter V-12 with, delivering 621 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque at a low 2,300 to 4,300 rpm. And, builder Antonio Donadai’s signature on its carbon fiber engine cover!

    This SL is the seventh in a series of arguably the best known Benzes, born in 1954 as the 300 SL Gullwing coupe. Tests of uber-SLs are rarities, the last one we had an SL550 three years ago with 429 horsepower. It hit 60 mph in 4.2 seconds and 100-mph in 9.7 seconds, averaging 20 mpg on premium fuel with auto engine shutoff engaged. Now we had the latest SL65 with five different driving programs – Comfort, Sport, Sport +, RACE and Individual.

    Each successive selection makes engine and transmission response a bit quicker and tightens the suspension and via software. SPORT+ mode really firms up the suspension, snaps off firm upshifts and throttle-blipping downshifts with some serious snarl. INDIVIDUAL mode lets the driver mix how they want the steering, drive system and suspension. Then RACE mode slams shifts at full throttle and backs off stability control as it sets suspension on full firm. RACE also likes you to paddle shift, guided by a handy upshift light.

    Set it in Sport+ and we sprinted to 60-mph in 4 seconds flat with wheelspin in the second and third gear shifts, reaching 100 mph in 8.2 seconds. Passing power was abundant, the engine snarling, the wide rear rubber giving just a wiggle of traction squirm. We averaged 10 mpg on premium. Sport, Sport + and RACE also allowed the exhaust to really roar, with an explosive “pop-pop-SNAP!” from the pipes when you backed off.

    Continue Reading…

  • CADILLAC RACING: BACK ON TRACK!

    Cadillac’s all-new Cadillac DPi-V.R racecar will compete in the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series, Prototype (P) class.

    The Cadillac DPi-V.R will first be driven competitively at the 2017 IMSA season opener – the Rolex 24 At Daytona on January 28-29, 2017. Wayne Taylor Racing and Action Express Racing teams will field it. IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the fastest and most technologically advanced sports car racing series in North America.

    “Cadillac is proud to return to the pinnacle of prototype racing in North America after a 14-year absence,” said Johan de Nysschen, president of Cadillac. “Cadillac’s V-Performance production models – the ATS-V and CTS-V – are transforming our brand’s product substance, earning a place among the world’s elite high-performance marques. The Cadillac DPi-V.R further strengthens our V-Performance portfolio, placing Cadillac into the highest series of sports car racing in North America.”

    The DPi-V.R has been designed to contribute to the functional performance of the prototype using elements gleaned from the current lineup of Cadillac V-Performance models, especially the CTS-V. The racecar is equipped with the new Rear Camera Mirror, first seen on the Cadillac CT6 Sedan and available on the 2017 Cadillac CTS, XT5 and Escalade.

    “The DPi-V.R racecar was an exciting new canvas for the Cadillac design and sculpting team,” said Andrew Smith, Global Cadillac Design executive director. “The studio embraced the opportunity to interpret the Cadillac form language, line work and graphic signature for this premier prototype racing application.”

    Design details giving the DPi-V.R car its distinctive Cadillac appearance and presence include the vertical lighting signature; the sheer, sculptural quality of the body and bold bodyside feature line. Plus, V-Performance wheels, Brembo brakes, V-Performance emblems, and a canopy graphic inspired by the Cadillac “daylight opening.” Even subtle cues such as the cooling vents and the air intake were designed in the studio, the latter in the trapezoidal shape of the Cadillac crest.

    A, race-prepped, naturally-aspirated 6.2-liter V-8 that shares architecture with Gen III Cadillac CTS-V (640 horsepower) and Gen V Cadillac Escalade (420 horsepower) engines, powers the DPi-V.R. The engine produces approximately 600 horsepower when tuned for racing as defined by IMSA-mandated air restrictors, with a maximum allowable rpm of 7,600. The engine transfers power to the rear wheels through an X-TRAC paddle-shift transmission.

    Cadillac and its designers collaborated with key partners including chassis builder Dallara, teams from Wayne Taylor Racing and Action Express Racing and ECR Engines to prepare the 6.2-liter V-8-powered Cadillac DPi-V.R over the past year.

     

    Continue Reading…

  • ELECTRIC PACESETTER: JAGUAR UNLEASHES LATEST CAT!

    Jaguar gives us a sneak-peak into its future. And it’s electric, blogs Road Test Editor Howard Walker.

    The undisputed star of this week’s Los Angeles auto show is an all-new, all-electric performance crossover from Jaguar, called I-Pace.

    While its official title is I-Pace Concept, this sleek, head-turning five-seater is essentially the same car that will hit the streets in a couple of years, priced – and we’re guessing here – from around $60,000.

    Despite the badge and its five seats, this new I-Pace shares zip, zero, nada with Jaguar’s recently launched F-Pace SUV. The entire car has been developed from a clean sheet of paper, using some very cool battery technology and featuring dramatic, so-called “cab-forward” styling.

    What Jaguar’s electrification gurus have done is develop in-house a battery pack featuring 36 liquid-cooled lithium-ion cells. These provide the juice to amp-up two 200-horsepower electric motors – one for each axle – making the I-Pace an all-wheel driver.

    With a total output of 400 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque – pretty much the same torque as Jag’s insanely-rapid F-Type SVR sports car – the I-Pace should be super-quick. How quick? Jaguar talks of 0-to-60 mph sprinting in just 4.0 seconds. That’s fast.

    How far will it go on a single charge? Jaguar talks about a range of around 220 miles, though plug it into a public 50kW DC charging outlet and you’ll get a 80 percent charge in 90 minutes and a full 100 percent charge in just over two hours.

    Continue Reading…

dd