Posts Tagged ‘automobiles’
As a freelance contributor to Automobile, Robb Report, BBC Autos, and JeanKnowsCars.com, I jumped in and out, and on an off, a lot of automobiles and motorcycles in 2014.
Here are some favorites:
Where: Marbella and the Ascari racing circuit, Spain; Gingerman Raceway, Michigan
When: May, October
Summary: Breathtakingly good looking, comfortable to sit in (once you collapse butt-first over the sill), great interior layout with trim that can be as tasteful or garish as you please. The car drives like a peach around town but unleashes real fury on the track.
Better than: Skydiving, a threesome in Vegas, and maybe any other Lamborghini
Where: Palms to Pines Highway (twice)
Summary: The established motorcycle press seems to think the new Monster 1200 S is too big and unwieldy, but Ducati says owners had asked for more room for a passenger. Those overindulged journalistic geniuses are splitting hairs awfully thin. This bike fascinated me. There is so little chassis, for one thing. (Someone labeled the overall design “cyborg insect.”) And the 1.2-liter V-twin has immense soul.
What Molly says: “It doesn’t smell as good as a those biscuits you get me at Trader Joe’s, but I still wish I could go for a ride.”
Where: Borrego Springs, California
Summary: The last variant of a great design. Its age admittedly shows. For example, the oval headlamp openings. Yet it’s bewitching. It makes me drool. And the very idea of such a short wheelbase and a 6.0-liter V-12 is purely outrageous. When you’re happy and you know it, close the top.
Better than: Kim Kardashian’s assets, six Mustang convertibles together
Where: Isle of Man
Summary: Honda U.K. let me borrow it for a little tour of the Isle of Man and a trip over the Mountain Course. I returned it with almost no gas in the tank. Sorry, Honda, but thanks for the great time on a bike with a brilliant V-four powerplant and a dual-clutch automatic transmission that was always in the right gear.
Better than: Italian beer being on tap in public houses, the Isle’s “financial services” industry, perhaps most other motorcycles in the class
Where: Big Island, Hawaii
Summary: Toyota put a big effort into revising its popular midsize sedan. The new face has attitude. There are additional features inside. Nothing changes under the hood. Still, it’s such a value, and I enjoyed driving the XSE way more than expected. It’s about as good as a front-wheel-drive car can be.
Better than: Madeleine Albright twerking, whatever they post on Jalopnik
Where: San Bernardino, California
Summary: A most pleasant surprise. The turbocharged 1.4-liter engine performs great in all situations. And the cabin is quiet!
Better than: Sitting down low and being unable to see ahead
Where: North Palm Springs, California
Summary: The 847cc three-cylinder engine kicks ass. And the bike’s price of $8190 is hardly believable. Yamaha’s pushing the right buttons.
Better than: Either Yamaha I bought new.
Summary: Multi-mode electric driving without the geek factor of a Leaf or Prius. And built on the same line and in sequence with other Golf models, it’s a manufacturing triumph, as well.
Better than: a-b-c-d Golfs
Where: Downtown Los Angeles
Summary: Think they’re sitting on some engineering talent at the Motor Company? Project LiveWire presents us with a highly refined electric motorcycle. Hey, this is only a prototype. Not only is the electric powertrain well integrated, but the design is nicely conceived (although the rearview mirrors weren’t too effective).
What I found myself saying when leaning slightly forward streetfighter-style over the straight bars and riding away from the L.A. Convention Center: “This is a Harley?”
Better than: Being locked inside a limo with Miley Cyrus
Where: Henley-on-Thames, England
Summary: What Jeep did with a four-door Wrangler, Mini Cooper is doing with its new 4 Door. It makes perfect sense to offer rear doors—a first for Mini—and add functionality for those who want to nevertheless express their individuality. It still drives great. And I like the way looks. Nice job, Mini!
Better than: A lot of Maxi cars
Where: Long Beach, California
Summary: It almost makes me a believer in 800-pound motorcycles. The bike is stable in a crosswind, and the ride over choppy pavement is equanimous. Coming home from Long Beach at night, I had the sense that other vehicles were aware of my presence because of the bike’s size and ample lighting. It cruised ever-so-relaxed at 80 mph and 3000 rpm. All the custom flourishes charmed me, even when I was just seeing it in my garage.
Better than: Motorcycles without whitewall tires
Where: South Haven, Michigan
Summary: A turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine teaming with an electric motor to power a supersports ultraluxury car with swan-wing doors is just what the world needed, and BMW gives it to us–a rare, fine thing for $136,650.
Better than: Every car that lacks a sound symposer
Where: Palms to Pines Highway
Summary: As the Monster increases in size, capability, and price, Ducati seeks a new generation of buyers with the Scrambler. The Scrambler Icon, seen here, is $8495. Another $1500 gives the choice among Classic, Full Throttle, and Urban Enduro models. The gas tank’s accent panel can be individualized (red and green checks, anyone?) and a panoply of saddlebags and apparel make this bike a means of personal expression.
Better than: A whole album of fuzzed out guitar riffs, a maxi scooter, your next tattoo
Where: In my driveway now
Why: To haul bags of mortar mix, a load of fill sand, and maybe a motorcycle
Summary: This is the fourth General Motors pickup I’ve driven this year. Whether GMC or Chevy, heavy- or light duty, they’re so useful (and more efficient than you might think). Even though they’re a handful in the supermarket’s parking lot (backup cams are definitely a help, though) I desperately want one. What’s cool about the Silverado: LED lamp for the cargo box, integrated bumper step, EZ Lift-and-Lower tailgate that drops gradually.
Better than: Listening to a hoarse whisperer, a weekend in Woonsocket, a midsize pickup
What I’m eager to get my hands on in 2015:
Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe
Ducati Multistrada 1200 S
Early contender for 2015 Automobile of the Year:
In second NASCAR Nationwide race, Dakoda Armstrong comes home 15th, but not unfettered, at Auto Club Speedway
On March 23, 2013, making his second-ever start in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Dakoda Armstrong finished 15th in the Royal Purple 300 at Auto Club Speedway.
Q. Fifteenth position—pretty good for your second race.
A. Yeah, I mean, we were better than that, but we were struggling on restarts there. I think we restarted ninth on that last one. Those people that had new tires behind us—you get stuck three-wide between everybody, and it’s really hard to get this thing to handle right. You get spread out. We just lost too much ground there to make up. We were hoping another caution was going to come out so we could come back in and use our last set of tires. Everyone else that took them was going to be sitting ducks. Didn’t work out that way.
Q. Overall was it fun or frustrating?
A. For a while there it was fun. I thought we were getting it, and I thought we were going to have a good finish. I’ve just got to get my restarts down and figure out what it needs on those.
Q. Your boss, Richard Childress, has to be fairly impressed.
A. Well, at least we brought it home in one piece. That’s one good thing.
Whenever I clean out my clip files, there’s the problem of what to do with this story from the Omaha World-Herald.
I don’t have a file for wooden-bodied cars. Nor one for auto bodymen-versus-carpenters.
Maybe “Puns” would be appropriate. But I’ll hold my tongue-in-groove.
Dean Haden built the custom wooden body after his wife Marlys complained about their rusty 1968 International Scout. The former postal vehicle had been in the family ten or twelve years.
“Now Haden’s portable sundeck (with matching aerodynamics) is saluted by Weber grills and patios everywhere,” the Associated Press reported, adopting an unusually waggish tone.
“But there are worries. Like termite insurance. And you’ll note a unique vulnerability to penknives and young love.”
Maybe so. The vulnerability I see is in stopping the thing. With such a heavy body, you’d better hold brake the pedal to the floorboard.
Only a sap would push past 50 mph on the open road.
Oh well, no telling where the Redwood Runabout is now. The number I had for the Haden residence is out of service.
Maybe it’s on an errand at a nice lumberyard somewhere.
The Petersen Automotive Museum hosted a gala to celebrate the Corvette’s 60th anniversary, and Kirk Bennion, exterior design manager, presented the new C7 ’Vette, making its West Coast debut. Beforehand, a panel of important figures in Corvette racing history told battle stories and signed autographs. And the museum opened an exhibit of significant examples.
The first Corvette in 1953 excited some people with its advanced styling but disappointed others with its weak six-cylinder engine and Powerglide transmission. In any event, it was a remarkable product offering from a conservative corporation. The ’60 ‘Vette in the background is known as Big Tank.
“The American kid was out there racing that car,” Dick Guldstrand said. “You had to take your lunch money and do it yourself.” He drove his own ’56 Corvette to the track at Santa Barbara, taped off the headlights, stuck in a roll hoop, qualified for the race and won it.
Doug Hooper, left, remembered the early bias against Corvettes. “That was not the true sports car,” he recalled people saying. Only European makes qualified as such. “Thank God for [Zora Arkus-] Duntov. If it weren’t for him, there would’ve been no Corvette.” The engineer kept introducing new parts and features each year. “He kept it alive.”
Corvettes at the Petersen Museum: the 60-year anniversary, some singular cars, and the men who raced them
The Petersen Automotive Museum hosted a gala to celebrate the Corvette’s 60th anniversary, and Kirk Bennion, exterior design manager, presented the new C7 ‘Vette, making its West Coast debut. Beforehand, a panel of important figures in Corvette racing history told battle stories and signed autographs. And the museum opened an exhibit of significant examples.
Chevrolet’s Kirk Bennion, exterior design manager for the 2014 Corvette: “We wanted to play up the premium finishes and details.”
Doug Fehan, program manager for Corvette racing, makes a point about the car’s success in road racing. Joe Freitas, left, remembered seeing Phil Hill excel in a Ferrari at March Air Force Base. Road racing “got in my blood real early,” he said. “Those early Corvettes were a hell of a lot of fun going sideways.”
Zora Arkus-Duntov, the engineer credited by racing panel members with keeping the Corvette alive, understood the trend toward mid-engine single-seaters and led the creation of the Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle. First in an intermittent series, it’s known as CERV I. Bosses at General Motors didn’t want the company involved in racing, so the concept went nowhere fast. Stock-block Ford V-8 engines later ended up in Lotus cars, a combination that captured the glory at Indy.
Paul Reinhart, an early driver, remembered kissing trophy girl Jayne Mansfield after a victory. Bill Krause, right, got his start in Offy-powered midgets.
- New Corvette debuts in SoCal at Petersen Museum (abclocal.go.com)
- 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray to Make West Coast Debut at the Petersen Automotive Museum (virtual-strategy.com)