• 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.

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  • Bugatti Veyron 16.4 vs Rimac Concept_One

    Watch petrolhead peer Lord Pembroke’s Bugatti Veyron and Mate Rimac’s Concept_One go head-to-head on track.

    Lord Pembroke can’t resist a challenge, so when the chance came to pitch his pride and joy against the latest technological tour de force from Croatia – the Rimac Concept_One electric supercar – he didn’t have to think twice.

    The founder of the Wilton Classic & Supercar show – which relaunches this year as the UK’s most prestigious and exclusive annual supercar and classics gathering – swapped cars with Rimac’s official test driver, Miroslav Zrncevic.

    “Looking forward to the technologies driving future performance will be one of the most fascinating elements of the new Wilton Classic & Supercar event,” says Lord Pembroke, “and we wanted to get to know our new friends at Rimac – builders of the world’s fastest accelerating supercar – as part of that journey of discovery.

    “It’s fair to say the Wilton team returned from Croatia having been blown away by the technology built into the Concept_One, and awed by the single-minded dedication of the man behind it. Now we can’t wait to share some of that Rimac magic at our new event on June 3-4.”

     

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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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  • ‘17 JAG F-TYPE SVR: KITTY KITTY BANG BANG!

    It’s the latest supercharged cat from Jaguar, with a tiger under its alloy bonnet and an explosive snarl from its quad exhaust. Meet the F-TYPE SVR, which lives up to Jaguar’s claim of being the “lightest, quickest, most powerful” member of its line.The F-Type SVR’s supercharged 5-liter V-8 serves up 575-horsepower and 516-pound-feet of torque after and hooked to a recalibrated, fast-responding 8-speed ZF Quickshift transmission. Its Dynamic Mode gives it sharper throttle response with quicker shifting, staying in a lower gear for instant power on demand.

    Power is available at throttle tip-in, getting to the ground via on-demand all-wheel drive. That meant our 7,000-mile-old Jag pinned us in our seats en route to 60-mph in 3.3 seconds, and 100-mph in 7.8 seconds. All four tires grabbed and went, with no wheelspin, as the quad exhaust wailed a seductive battle cry. The gearbox executed neat, fast downshifts with a throttle blip before each in Dynamic mode.

    The Active Exhaust gave the sound exiting that sleek tail a sharper edge under power, and a loud and very addictive POP-pop-snarl overrun on deceleration. I loved it, as did most of my friends. But don’t try to sneak home with Active exhaust turned on, or even off – it rumbles and crackles even when off. Auto stop/start works on all settings, helping net an average 19-mpg.

    The F-Type also has adaptive dynamics, torque vectoring and dynamic stability control, with an upgraded chassis, new dampers and anti-roll bars, wider tires on lightweight 20-inch forged wheels and new, stiffer rear suspension knuckles. Add in forged aluminum double wishbone suspension up front and multilink in back with adaptive damping that reads the car’s body motion, roll and pitch to firm up or soften as needed.

    The result was a firm but comfortable ride in normal mode; the coupe quiet and supple at speed except for some tire noise. In Dynamic mode, the ride got very firm but surprisingly forgiving, each bump quickly handled, rebound at full compression nicely buffered. The SVR really carved its way into curves, both ends grabbing and going with super tight control. Power out of a turn in Dynamic, which backs off stability control, and some playful rear-wheel-drive tendencies would appear as the rear Pirellis came out a bit.

    On our skid pad, there was initial understeer. Then with a touch of power, the rears would work in a bit and grab. Engineers worked on the rear electronic active differential to make sure there was good torque distribution between the front and rear axles, and across the rear wheels. The result – a lithe 3,455-pound coupe with catlike reflexes in high-speed twisty bits and an admirably flat line around fast sweeping turns. The G-force meter’s data log showing it pulling a super-grippy 1.11 Gs in turns, and .89 Gs on launch.

    The electric power-assisted steering was scalpel sharp, no play dead-center, with a very direct feel. And with the huge (15.6-inch front/15-inch rear) cross-drilled carbon ceramic matrix disc brakes with six and four-piston monobloc calipers, the Jag stopped clean and straight from any speed, no brake squeak or noise. Hard repeated use on the street saw no fade at all.

    Since Jaguar’s birth in 1934, 2-seat coupes and roadsters have been its most memorable cars, like the 1960s E-Type. Then in 2013, there was its spiritual descendant – the F-Type. Jag’s Special Vehicle division went to work, and the F-TYPE SVR was born.

    If the base F-Type is sleek, the SVR is slick and even a bit evil looking, with hints of classic E-Type in the long hood, fastback rear roofline and rounded flanks. Its short front and shorter rear overhangs live on a relatively long (103.2-in.) wheelbase. But the SVR redesign adds 1.5 inches in width, while all the carbon fiber and carbon ceramic brakes subtract 110 pounds. 
The snarling cat’s face emblem lives on a gloss black grille. There’s a wider lower intake with carbon fiber air dams for reduced drag and added engine cooling.

    More SVR touches include carbon fiber bonnet vents so hot air can exit from the supercharged V-8 and slit side vents inside the wheel arches to smooth side airflow and reduce front lift. The front bumper was extended outward over aggressive low-profile P265/35ZR20-inch Pirelli P-ZERO rubber to also aid airflow. They roll on lighter 10-spoke satin alloy and black wheels framing those huge cross-drilled carbon ceramic disc brakes with yellow Jaguar-badged calipers. The side mirrors behind thin A-pillars are carbon fiber too.

    The rear fenders flare wide over meatier P305/30ZR20-inch rubber before wrapping around the short tail. There is where slit LED taillights with cat’s eyes mimic the classic E-Type. The roof panel is more glossy carbon fiber weave, part of a low roofline that flows down a small fastback rear window. The tail is capped by a huge carbon fiber rear wing that rises at 70 mph to help reduce lift by 15 percent, according to Jaguar. The sculpted gloss lower aero piece has a carbon fiber diffuser to aid underbody aero control.

    The cockpit is tailor-made for two, amped up with more carbon fiber, special leather and soft suede done in black with red seat belts. Driver and passenger have to duck to get under the low roof and over aggressive side bolsters of 14-way power bucket seats done in Jet leather with quilt pattern. Tap the black start button in the center console and the engine barks to life. The thick-rimmed leather and suede steering wheel has power tilt and telescope plus aluminum shift paddles behind it. It frames a straightforward gauge package under a double-curved suede cowl, with 210-mph speedometer and an 8,000-rpm tach redlined at 6,800 rpm.

    A color LCD screen in between offers trip computer with radio, time, outside temperature, digital speedometer and gearshift position. The wide center console’s carbon fiber face frames a color touch screen for navigation, audio, climate control, parking sensors, backup camera with cross-traffic detection and phone. It also displays performance gauges – engine/transmission/steering/suspension setup and a stopwatch/gas and brake force/4-way G-force. But no voice command for stereo and navigation, and simple things like vent position and radio station scanning require going into their menus.

    A base rear-wheel-drive Jaguar F-Type with 340-horsepower V-6 starts at $61,400 for the coupe and $65,400 for the convertible. But you basically double that for our 575-horsepower, all-wheel-drive SVR – $125,950, with the convertible version starting at $128,800. But that price includes everything we’ve mentioned here, including all the carbon fiber and carbon ceramic brakes, for a final price of $126,945 with destination.

    “Scratch the price,” says Scanlan. The Jaguar F-Type SVR is a dynamic sports car with all the right moves, enveloped in a sexy and aggressive body with the right pieces of carbon fiber.
    And that sound!

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  • The Origin of the Chain

    Humanity is so familiar with chains – we see them and use them in hundreds of applications throughout our lives – that it may come as a surprise to find that they are a relatively recent invention.

    The word “chain” itself is a derivation of an ancient Indo-European word and the earliest known use of a metal chain is that of a well-bucket chain made from linked metal rings back in 225BCE. The use of chains developed alongside humanity’s growing expertise in metalworking and these early chains would have been prized for their vastly superior resistance and longevity compared to the ropes made from animal skins and plant fibres.

    Nowadays our industries still make use of chains, although they’ve evolved somewhat! There are heavy duty chains capable of withstanding caustic and abrasive environments, as well as temperatures of up to 530C, such as the chains used in lime production. A far cry indeed from a hessian rope!

    Da Vinci’s ideas

    Back in the 16th century, genius inventor Leonardo da Vinci made several sketches and plans for what seem to be the first steel chains. These chains appear to have been designed for a pulling application rather than a wrapping application because they have plates and pins only, as well as metal fittings. The sketch does reveal a roller bearing ensemble as well, though, and it’s not dissimilar to bearings used today!

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    As was often the case with the Italian genius, da Vinci found his ideas were way ahead of their time. The technology to realise and produce the concept was limited by the restrictions on the production and processing of steel itself. Thankfully, innovations in the 19th century made steel manufacture and processing easier and more sophisticated so that it was possible to make chains and bearings much more accurately and uniformly. In 1832, a French inventor called Gull was awarded a patent to make a chain similar to a modern-day bicycle chain and the so-called Gull chain is still used today in hanging and suspension applications.

    Chains take off

    With the invention of the moulded chain in the 19th century, chain technology started to advance more rapidly. Next in line was the cast-detachable chain, made from cast links that are identical in shape and dimension. Then came the pintle chain, which features a separate pin. Both types of chain, cast-detachable and pintle, have been refined and improved over the decades, as you no doubt imagine and they are still in use today in some industries. They are gradually being replaced, however, mainly by large pitch steel conveyor chains.

    By the late 19th century, the bushing came along to change the chain industry further. Chains that featured bushings had much greater resistance to wear then the Gull chains because the bushings provided a bearing to protect the pin. This is when chains really started to develop and to be used in more and more industries and applications. Steel bushing chains were used in bicycles, as well as in the rear-wheel drive of early cars and even in the propeller drive of the Wright Brothers’ 1903 aeroplane.

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