Shaken And Stirred

Shaken And Stirred

Let’s get this done as quickly as possible to avoid the nausea.

Aston Martin is a venerable British marque known equally for its great cars and its greatest enthusiast, James Bond.  With icons like the DB3, DB5, Vantage and Vanquish, the company lives up to its slogan, “Power Beauty, Soul.”  Not wanting to rest on its laurels, however, Aston Martin is making some changes:

First, they’ll start making teeny tiny little microcars with engines from a blender. Yes, a blender.  These cars will be based on the Toyota IQ, an adorable little lunch box better suited for storing sandwiches than cruising the countryside.  The newest Aston Martin will do 0-60 in a stately 12 seconds or so and have a top speed of 102 mph using the same “power” train as the Toyota.  Never has the word “power” been so liberally applied. For $25,000 over the Toyota, you get a huge Tom Selleck mustache (grille) pasted onto the nose, four new vents tacked to the hood and side, a pretty interior made from very tiny cows and new fancy paint colors including Tiger print and Zebra.  Other than that it’s a Toyota IQ. At first, the company said they would only sell it to present Aston Martin owners to use as “an exclusive tender to a luxury yacht.” Now they’ve changed their minds and are offering it to the regular guy (No US version yet).

I have no idea what ungodly events led to this day, but it’s a sad one indeed.  I’m sure they’ll sell all 4,000 microcars to people who will brag that they just bought an Aston Martin.  This car is for Mr. Bean, not James Bond, as he’d rather walk.

Next, the company which was sold by Ford to a Kuwaiti Investment Company just had a few more milestones.  The new One 77 cost $2.4 million in August of last year.  7 months later it’s worth only $1.4 million, making it the second most expensive production car after the Bugatti Veyron Fbg Par Hermes.  At the same time, the company introduced the Rapide, its first 4-door sports car.  The Rapide is a stunning new addition to the lineup.

Finally, in sad news:  Harold Henry Beach, the Chief Designer of Aston Martin (Retired) and creator of cars like the DB4, DB5 and V8 Volante has passed away.  He was 96.

Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond

Small Business Solution:  Ford Transit Connect

Small Business Solution: Ford Transit Connect

Lately I have been noticing some very European inspired small trucks on the road.  Every time I see one, I have to do a double take when I spy a familiar blue oval.  It seems Ford is selling a ton of their new Transit Connect truck/vans.  They are cool British looking things always doing fun stuff and always with great boldly colored graphics on it sides.  I see them as cargo van/trucks for small businesses, and five passenger truck/vans hauling pretty people, and they always look like a blast to drive.  Maybe it’s the height of 6’8” which makes them stand out, or the Ford Fusion style nose, but this little truck/van is everywhere.

I should stop calling it a truck/van, since it’s actually imported into the US as a small passenger car.  Ford does this to avoid paying a tax on light duty trucks, but then sells them only on the truck pages of its website.  Naughty, but who cares.  They get a mulligan for not taking money from the government.

Why America wasn’t getting these things years ago is beyond me, especially since they are so popular in Europe.  You can get a nicely equipped version for less than a full sized van, and with its gas sipping 2.0 liter Duratec engine, you won’t be destroying the planet.  Plus your business can even design its own graphics at one of Ford’s websites which oddly has a broken link on the main site.  I created one but it turned out pretty ugly so no pictures here.  If you have a free weekend, it’s a great place to waste time.

Ford even has an accessory shop, where you can outfit it with a camping tent, or something called a wiper shaker.  If that’s not enough, there are other websites where you can buy partitions, tool chests, drawers, and even some silly things like push bars, porch awnings and safes.  This is one cool little truck/van.  Forget the Stimulus package, this alone should increase small business in America.

Pictures courtesy of Edmunds.com and the Chicago Tribune

Article courtesy of Chris Raymond

New Mini on Steroids!

New Mini on Steroids!

Mini has announced that starting in 2011 buyers can opt for a new Mini on steroids, called the Countryman.  This “Super Mini” will be an SUV version of the cute little retro car that won our hearts in movies like “The Italian Job.”

The Countryman will compete directly with the Honda CR-V and (believe it or not) the Land Rover LR2 and will be the first 4-door Mini ever made by the new company.  Similar in size to the Clubman which is he new wagon version of the Mini, this new SUV will boast enough options to make your head spin including an all wheel drive system, stability control, run flat tires for when the baddies try to assassinate you, and a choice of a peppy 1.6 liter engine or a brawny turbocharged version.  You can even opt for a panoramic roof on the Countryman.

The Countryman will feature a raised rear seating area which will increases visibility as well as comments from the back passengers about your driving.  The people up front will get nice bucket seats, and plenty of gadgets and dials to keep them occupied during any trip.  Everything inside will be centered on a “Center Rail” storage system, which is Mini’s version of a normal center console (they like the word center).  Much like the apps of an iPhone, owners will be able to purchase various attachments to suit their needs like sunglass cases, cup holders, gun holster, handcuffs for the kids and an iPod dock (OK, two are those are my ideas).

Anyone familiar with Mini knows that you can buy one prêt à porter (off the rack) or spend hours in the “Mini Configurator” tailoring every detail of the car to your wildest desires.  I myself spent a week there one day, and came out with a car plastered in Union Jacks.  With the new Countryman, you can even be part of the design team.  It seems Mini has launched a contest for people to design new attachments to the “Center Rail” and considering that past options included a plastic palm tree, the wackier the design the better chance you have of winning.  According to the people at Mini the winners will get to reveal their “app” at the Paris Auto Show, and runners up will get Macbooks and other fun stuff.  Finally, there are other models in the pipeline including a very hot chopped top coupe and a cute little roadster, so expect lots more fun from Mini in the coming year.

Photos courtesy of MINI USA

Article courtesy of Chris Raymond

Miles of Smiles

Miles of Smiles

Mazda is in the middle of its “Claim Your Mazda” sales drive and is trying to get buyers in the door.  When those buyers arrive, they’re going to be greeted by some seriously unappealing cars.  Take a look at the new Mazda 3, for example. It’s got a face like a maniacal clown.  The grille is upturned into a hideous smile that looks way too big for the nose. It’s uglier and more offensive than an Arkansas Tea Party rally.

It’s true that the Mazda 3 is a fantastically fun car for the money. It’s also true that I own a Mazda. But after seeing the latest ad campaign I doubt I’ll be buying one again. See, I just can’t get past the fact that somewhere in Mazda, there’s an executive that’s proud of that damn clown car.

Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond

Saab Lives, Again!

Saab Lives, Again!

Saab, or should we say the “new” Saab, has started production again at the Trollhattan, Sweden plant.  The plant has been closed for the past two months while the fate of the brand was hanging in the balance.  Now owned by Spyker Cars, Saab is back, and the first car off the line was a 9-5 saloon followed quickly by a 9-5 convertible.

Alongside the workers at the plant re-opening were Saab CEO Jan Ake Jonsson, Spyker CEO Victor Muller, and plant director Gunnar Brunius, who greeted the new car with banners reading, “Saab number 001 of a new era.”  Over 3400 workers have returned to the plant, which produces about 100 cars a day.  Spyker officials hope to produce 50 to 60,000 cars this year and over 100,000 vehicles per year in the future.  Recently, the company also announced that its headquarters will be moved to Royal Oak, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.

Muller, the man who closed the deal with GM in January,  is a car collector who owns 15 exotics including Aston Martin, Ferrari, Maserati and Rolls Royce, as well as five boats including a 71 Riva Super Aquamarine and a former Malcolm Forbes luxury yacht.   In 2000, he started Spyker Cars with former partner Maarten de Bruijn, who now runs Silvestris, a sports car and boat manufacturer.

In late 2009, he sent an email to GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz expressing his interest in purchasing the beleaguered Saab brand.  Eight minutes later, Lutz connected him with the sales team. The rest is history.  Muller celebrated the deal with a top hat and a live rabbit at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, a nod to his ability to “pull a rabbit out of his hat” several times during the negotiations.  The rabbit, called Silver Paw, will be cared for by his children at home.

When talking about Saab, Muller emphasized his intention of bringing “bold” new cars to the brand.  “We will reinforce the emotional experience between Saab drivers and their cars and we will focus on Saab’s historical strengths in the fields of independent thinking, aircraft heritage, ecological performance and motorsport,” he said.

Saab has plans to offer five lines of cars, including the possibility of a new Viggen model.  The Viggen, which means Thunderbolt in English is named after the Saab 37 Viggen jet fighter and is a high powered, turbo charged version.  In addition to the planned release of the Saab 9-5 flagship sedan this summer and the 9-4x crossover early next year, Spyker said it intended to develop a new 9-3 model and possibly a 9-1 to slot at the bottom of the product line.

Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond

Moviestar Gets A Facelift

Moviestar Gets A Facelift

Let’s play a game. I’ll give you ten facts about a car and you tell me the name and make of the car. Ready? Here we go.

This car…

  1. Is one of the most popular cars of all time with over 22 million produced and a life span of over 75 years.
  2. Was the brainchild of, and named by, Adolph Hitler.
  3. Was designed by one of the most respected names in sports car history, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche.
  4. Starred in over 270 movies and television shows.
  5. Was the subject of one of the most famous advertising campaigns in history.
  6. Is the fourth most influential car in automobile history
  7. Is the godfather of the current art car trend.
  8. Is known by over 100 different names throughout the world.
  9. Has an engine that is also used in airplanes, opal mines, zambonis,  morotcycles and sawmills.
  10. Is a drag racer, funny car, formula vee car, rally racer, and Baja racer.

If you haven’t figured it out, it’s the Dodge Stratus!  No, just kidding. It’s the Volkswagen Beetle.  The Beetle is an icon and a favorite of hippies everywhere, and now there’s talk of a new one in 2011.  But before you bust out your Allman Brothers 8-tracks and your QP of dank kind bud, you should know that the new Beetle will look and feel  much different, with a flatter roofline and possibly a hatchback.  They’re also considering producing two different versions – one on the Golf chassis, and the other on the tiny VW Up! chassis.  All that being said, the Beetle is Volkswagen, for better or worse, and I hope they treat the little car with the respect it deserves.

Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond

Pagani Zonda Tricolore

Pagani Zonda Tricolore

Before the highly-anticipated Pagani C9 makes its debut in God-knows-when, the Italian supercar maker has decided to satiate our appetites once more with a very special edition Zonda that is set to be revealed at the Geneva Motor Show next week.

Created as an homage to the Italian equivalent of the British Red Arrows Display team, known as the “Frecce Tricolori”, the Pagani Zonda Tricolore, which pretty much based on a Zonda Cinque, is a special edition Zonda that is built from a special carbon-titanium weave left bare except for a clear blue lacquer coating.

In addition to that, the Zonda Tricolore also come with a unique set of LED running lights and an exclusive red, white, and green trim – signifying Italy, of course – that runs up from the nose of the car all the way up along the top of the car’s surface.

Now, if you’re curious to know just how rare this special edition car is, consider the fact that Pagani is building all but one model of it and, to top it off, it’s priced at a bank account-depleting $1.75 million

Thanks to TopSpeed and Kirby Garlitos

Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond

Koenigsegg CCXR Edition

Koenigsegg CCXR Edition

If 1018 hp, top speed of 257 mph, and a 0 to 60 time of 2.9 seconds were not enough reasons to want a Koenigsegg CCXR Edition, then how about the fact that there will be only 4 cars produced.

This should make the CCXR Edition hard to find, right? Well a German exotic car dealer currently has one of the ethanol powered supercars on the lot. So grab the private plane and about $2,100,000 — that’s the price of admission to an exclusive club that now can be counted on one hand.

Thanks to TopSpeed.com and Simona Alina

Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond