Obscure Sedans of Yore

Obscure Sedans of Yore

Today we will take a look at some of the most obscure sport sedans of the past.  You may recognize some, but I bet a few will be new.  Let me know if I missed any you want to see.

Lancia Flaminia – This car was a sports saloon built until the 1970’s.  It is notable because a convertible version was the car used in the film “The Italian Job.”  When the mafia group pushes the Aston Martin off the side of the cliff, a Flaminia was used in its place due to cost.  The name Flaminia comes from the Lancia habit of naming their cars after Italian roads.  The Berline, or sedan was designed by Pininfarina, and the only version to be built throughout the entire production span.

Lancia Flaminia

Rover – British Leyland, which owned Rover was known for many of the best known British sports cars.  Rover produced some of the best, and worst sedans of the day.  Notable sedans included the P5 (a favorite of the British Government), the P6 (an icon of the 1960’s and 70’s), and the miserable SD1.  The SD1 was made famous in the Top Gear British Leyland test, where it failed to retain water and its doors fell off.  The P6 is also famous as the car in which Princess Grace Kelly was killed, in an accident in Monaco.

Rover P5

Rover P6

Iso Fidia – Iso is the company that brought us the Isetta bubblecar.  They are also famous for great sports cars like the Grifo, the Lele, and the Rivolta.  Iso cars were designed and built by the team of Bizzarrini and Giugiaro, the former being famous for the Ferrari “palace revolt” and his own sportscar named the Bizzarrini 5300 GT.  Built between 1967 and 1975, the Fidia had so much polished wood and hand stitched leather, that it cost more than a Rolls Royce.  The second car ever made was purchased by John Lennon.

Iso Fidia

Avanti – Designed by the famed design team of Raymond Loewy, this was the brainchild of Sherwood Egbert, the president of Studebaker.  He knew the end was near, and wanted a sports car that was so radical, it would save the company.  It didn’t, but it did outlast Studebaker by over 40 years.

Avanti Sedan

Borgward – This was a German company that produced cars until 1961, then again in Mexico until 1970.  Famous for their transmissions and pneumatic suspensions, the P100 Isabella model was a beautiful design.

Borgward P100

Lotus Carlton – Lotus built this car based on the Vauxhall Carlton during the 1990’s.  Once considered the fastest four door saloon in the world, the more sedate US version was sold as the Cadillac Catera.  Lotus said the car could reach 186mph, and offered it in only one color, British Racing Green.

Lotus Carlton

Panther DeVille – Cruella DeVil’s car from the movie “101 Dalmatians.”  Panther built two sedans, one was a restyled Triumph Dolomite with a Rolls Royce like interior.  This concept didn’t work when Cadillac tried it on the Cavalier/Cimarron, and it worked less here.  One other evil cartoon villain also owned a Panther DeVille, Sir Elton John.

Panther DeVille

Panther Rio

Sterling – This was a British car made by Rover and Honda.  Basically an Acura Legend sedan, it had an upgraded interior, and extensive use of wood trim.  Unfortunately, it was sold at the same time as a cheap cologne called British Sterling, that had a catchier jingle.  The cologne stayed, the car did not.

Sterling 827

Stutz – The Diplomatica was a neo-classic limited edition luxury car designed by Virgil Exner, of Chrysler fame.  It’s claim to fame is that many celebrities bought these monstrosities, including Elvis, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Kenny Rogers and Lucille Ball.   

Stutz Diplomatica

Checker – The Checker Motor Company built taxicabs for many years, but went into the consumer car business during the 1960’s.  The car in this photo is of a concept made by Ghia, with the help of Alejandro de Tomaso called the Ghia Checker Centurion.  This car is such a mystery, that no one knows if it was a design for a new taxi, a concept for Checker’s foray into the limousine market, or a possible Checker based replacement for the lost Ghia designed Chrysler Imperials.  It was never produced, and this concept is the only known example.

Ghia Checker Centurion

Wartburg – This East German car was imported in very small numbers to the US, and featured a three cylinder two stroke engine with only seven moving parts.  The model in the photo is the Wartburg Knight.

Wartburg Knight

Lagonda Rapide – Long before the current Rapide model by Aston Martin, the name was used for a sedan used by David Brown to revive the Lagonda brand.  In the 1970’s, the name was again used on the Aston Martin Lagonda sedan designed by William Towns.

Lagonda Rapide

Aston Martin Lagonda

Maserati – The Quattroporte pictured here is a Series I car first produced in 1963.  Designed by Frua and Vignale, the car was produced until 1974, when it was replaced with the Series II shown below.  The first series was a success, but the later series nearly bankrupt the company.

Maserati Quattroporte I

Maserati Quattroporte II

Maserati Quattroporte III

Maserati Quattroporte IV

De Tomaso – The Deauville was a luxury sedan made by de Tomaso, and based on the Maserati Quattroporte III.  It sported a V8 Ford Cleveland engine and had a top speed of about 150mph.  Only 244 copies were made, spawning a coupe version sold as the Longchamp.

De Tomaso Deauville

Bitter – Erich Bitter was a race car driver that also built luxury cars in Germany, and later Austria.  The SC is based on the Opel Senator, and was sold from 1979 to 1989.  Only 5 sedans were sold, mostly through Buick dealerships.  The company folded in the late 1980’s.

Bitter SC

Bitter Berlina

Monteverdi – This Swiss car manufacturer sold both boutique converted luxury cars based on everything from the Plymouth Volare to the Mercedes Benz S-Class.  Sedans from the company include the Tiara, Sierra and the High Speed 375/4.

Monteverdi High Speed 375/4

Monteverdi Sierra

Article courtesy of Chris Raymond

Photos courtesy of Google Images

20 Greatest Movie Car Chases

20 Greatest Movie Car Chases

I thought that every red-blooded male American would be familiar with great movie car chases.  I knew that in order to be an accepted gearhead, you had to know and have seen each of these movies.  I discovered I was wrong, especially when I spoke to a few of my friends.  So, for those that have no idea why Bullitt is established as the best car chase in a movie, here are some clips to watch.  WARNING – THESE CLIPS ARE UNEDITED AND MAY CONTAIN ADULT LANGUAGE.

Bad Boys II – This is my favorite, not only because of the absolute madness of the highway scene, but because the tension continues to build through the entire sequence.  Watch for some spectacular crashes, and some of the best CGI flips in any movie.  It is Michael Bay at his best.

Bullitt – This is the first modern car chase ever filmed, and it includes some icons of movie history.  First, there is Steve McQueen who is the coolest guy in the world.  He is driving a ‘68 Highland Green Mustang GT  which was the coolest car in the world.  Add to that the hills of San Francisco, and Bill Hickman in a black Dodge Charger, and you have some of the best footage ever filmed.

French Connection – This has to be the greatest car chase on film, even better than Bullitt.  Not because the sequence was better, or that the realism was better, but because it WAS real.  The entire scene was shot in one take, and preparation only included a siren mounted on the car.  No one in the neighborhood was notified, or prepared, and all those close calls are real people… not movie stuntman.  They expected to get arrested at some point in the filming, so they did it once, and went all out.  Again, this is the same producer of Bullitt and The Seven Ups, and again Bill Hickman is the driver.  Gene Hackman came back and did some second unit shots of him driving the car, and again never notified anyone.  The scene where he hits the Ford and spins off is real, and the other driver was just leaving his house for the day.  Nowhere else, and at no time again can this stuff happen, and that’s what makes this sequence so spectacular.  One secret is that this entire chase scene is timed to Santana’s Black Magic Woman.

Gone in 60 Seconds  (1974) – The original version is the one to watch.  The movie is horrible, and the acting is even worse, but the car chases make it worthwhile.  The car chase is over 40 minutes, and still ranks as the longest in movie history.  If you are a fan of cars from the 60’s and 70’s, then you will love this…especially the chase scene performed inside a Cadillac dealership.  Check out the original Eleanor in clip one below, then follow the YouTube links to clips 2 through 5.

Ronin – There are a few chase scenes in this movie, and each one is fantastic.  The driving is done on the streets of Paris, and in the tunnels, and the action is in real time.  From start to finish the BMW vs. Peugeot scenes are pretty scary, which is why I posted it below.  Also great is the Audi S8 vs. Mercedes 450SL on the back roads in France, which can be found at this link.

Matrix Reloaded – A truly great car chase.  From the Cadillac to the motorcycle, it has some of the best crash and fight sequences in a movie.  Yes, its CGI, but the stunts are amazing. At last count, this took over from the last Blues Brothers movie as having the most cars wrecked (300).

Blues Brothers – This held the title for most destroyed cars in a movie, a title that was taken over by its own sequel.  The Blues Brothers has one of the best, most fun, and light hearted chase sequences ever filmed, and one that still is legendary.  The speeds are real, and the famous Bluesmobile can be seen doing over 118 mph.  The complete destruction of the shopping mall is awesome, and has to be seen.  The drop of the Pinto wagon is from over a mile, and everything else in between is just hilarious.  A great classic.

The Seven Ups – This is a somewhat forgettable movie starring Roy Scheider.  More notable is the great chase sequence, that uses two Pontiacs, and the same Bill Hickman from Bullitt and the French Connection.  Listen for the engine noise, that is dubbed straight from Bullitt, and look for the overpass which was where Cameron Diaz crashed in Vanilla Sky.

Quantum of Solace – What more can you say…James Bond, Aston Martin, Alfa Romeo, and the cliffs of Italy.  Perfect, exciting, and totally awesome.

Bourne Trilogy – Each of these movies has a chase scene or two, but the best is the second movie, the Bourne Supremacy.  The fight between the Russian Lada taxi and the Mercedes Gelandewagen is amazing.  While you are there on YouTube, search for the Mini chase scene in the first movie, and the New York police car versus the Volkswagen Touareg in the last.

The Italian Job – The original version with Michael Caine is the better of the two.  It features a Lamborghini Miura being tossed off a cliff, two beautiful Jaguar E-Types, and an Aston Martin DB4.  When the Aston is destroyed, they actually used a Lancia Flaminia, so don’t get teary eyed.  It also features some great old Mini’s in a chase scene that goes everywhere, including the roof of a stadium, and the rooftop FIAT test track.  The newer version includes some great CGI work, more speed, and a good helicopter scene, but it can’t compete with the original.

Le Coup/Le Casse – This movie, translated to mean “The Burglars” includes a great chase scene.  It is scripted and performed by the legendary stuntman Remy Julienne, and is a must see for stunt fans.

Duel – I first saw this as a kid, and thought it was the best movie ever made.  Even today, it stands the test of time.  This is the first feature film by Steven Spielberg and it stars Dennis Weaver.  The entire movie is a chase, where a mystery trucker tries to kill Weaver, who is driving a red Plymouth Valiant.  I remember how much of a nightmare those Valiants were, and I can’t imagine trying to get away from a Peterbilt in one.  Every moment is epic, and tense.  It is a must watch for car chase enthusiasts, and movie buffs.  Look for the links to Part 2-8 in YouTube.

The Master Touch – Voted by many to be the second best car chase ever, this features Kirk Douglas, some old Chrysler iron, and a long chase.  In one part they throw another car upside down on the chase cars roof, and in another they destroy a Citroen DS Estate.  Another classic chase.

The Island – Another Michael Bay masterpiece using high tech CGI.  Dodge Magnum Wagons, a very cool big rig, helicopters, and an armored truck are all featured.   Just like Bad Boys II, they start throwing stuff at cars, except here it’s railroad locomotive wheels.  I especially like when the Magnum is sheared in half by a steel plate.  Michael Bay also gets honorable mention for his other work, including Transformers series.

McQ – This is a “good” movie featuring John Wayne and the stunts of Hal Needham.  The chase scene involves a souped up Plymouth sedan, a Chevy Impala, and a Cadillac Sedan Deville racing down a beach in Oregon.  Notable is the fact that there is an amazing car flip, which seriously hurt Needham, and is the first use of an air cannon in a film.

Wanted – Angelina Jolie and a Dodge Viper…perfect.  There are only two scenes that make the movie worthwhile, and both are simply awesome.  The first is when she picks up a guy in the Viper by doing a 360, scooping him up in the process.  The next is when they flip a Mustang upside down over a limo, so they can shoot a guy in the backseat through the moon roof.

The Dead Pool – If you like Bullitt, then you will love Clint Eastwood’s homage to Bullitt that included a San Francisco chase scene with an Olds 98 and a miniature radio controlled car.

Terminator  – This franchise gives us some more great CGI work.  In the second Terminator, they use a Peterbilt tractor trailer in a jump from an overpass, and in the third movie, they use a monster crane and a fire truck.  For absolute destruction, these are great movies to watch.

To Live and Die in LA – This 1985 movie is usually rated as a good chase, but there seems to be a lot of sped up film, and dolly work that makes it look too fake for my taste.  The bad acting doesn’t help either.  It is one of the first movies to have a chase scene going the wrong way against traffic on a freeway.  The movie also got in trouble with the FBI and Secret Service.  It seems the counterfeit money they used in the movie was printed on both sides, which is illegal.  It was then “stolen” and used by set people at local stores.  There was actually an investigation.

Other Notable Movies – The Driver, Death Proof, Vanishing Point, The Dark Night, Short Time, Freebie and the Bean, Executive Target, and The Rock

From Concept to Showroom

From Concept to Showroom

“The Future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” – Eleanor Roosevelt

With the coming of the New Year there is an excitement about what the future holds.  Two events inspired me to write today’s article.  The first was a book called “Concept Cars” that I had received as a gift from my sister.  The second was being caught behind a slow moving Mazda 5 mini-van on the way to a lunch appointment.

Buick Y-Job  – Harley Earl

The book is written by John Stroud, and is a coffee table style photo book.  It covers concept cars starting with Harley Earl and the 1938 Buick Y Job and follows through up to present day.  Of all the car books I have received, this one is probably the best.  One car that stood out to me was the Mazda Hakaze.  Besides being futuristic, it has a scallop effect along the lower wings that is utterly beautiful.  It made me wonder why styling cues like that never make it into production cars.

Mazda Hakaze – Laurens van den Acker

Later in the day, while sitting behind that Mazda minivan in traffic, I noticed something interesting.  Though much more subdued, the same scallop effect was on the side of the van.  Somehow the styling of the concept had made its way to the sides of a boring little minivan.  It got me thinking…how many other concept designs are slowly creeping into the mass market?

Cadillac ELR – General Motors Advanced Design

To answer that question, all I had to do was see the new Cadillac ELR.  The ELR was the darling of the NY auto show, and is about as close to a concept as you can get.  It is loosely based on the Cadillac Cien concept, and exaggerates the lines already held standard by cars like the CTS and XTS.  It is cutting edge, sharper than the others, and looks stunning.  Cadillac has really taken the idea of developing concepts into drivable production vehicles.  It is astounding that same company that brought us the tail fin and the Dagmar bumpers can be this cutting edge, but also reassuring that Cadillac, with its history of daring design still has what it takes to create something unique and beautiful.  Cadillac is far from dead.

Kia Optima – Peter Schreyer

Other car makers are following the lead set by Cadillac.  Kia has redesigned its entire lineup with cars based on the “Tiger Nose” developed by Peter Schreyer.  Ford has introduced designs that are both cutting edge and practical.  The new Ford grille, based on the Aston Martin has transformed cars like the Fiesta and Fusion from econo-boxes into quasi sports cars.  Though it is hard to predict the future, I hope many more automakers start to deliver on the promises made by concept cars.  The days of the boring blob needs to end.  Cars will sell better if they are designed to inspire as well as to transport.  Here then are some of my favorite concept cars:

Alfa Romeo Scighera – ItalDesign/Giugiaro

This fully functional concept car of the future is named after the Milanese word for Fog.  The hood is styled after the shield on the grille, and the rear area is a 2-piece glass unit designed to show off the engine bay.  Gull wing doors and a unique headlight treatment accent beautiful lines that can only belong on an Alfa.

Cadillac Sixteen – General Motors Advanced Design

The Cadillac Sixteen was astonishing when it was first introduced.  It sports a V16 engine with 1,000 horsepower and harkens back to the Cadillac’s of the 1930’s.  The car features a power operated dual hood opening, hinged at the center spine, as well as an all glass roof.

Ferrari P4/5 – Pininfarina

Originally created as a one-off design for American collector James Glickenhaus, it is said that three examples will be built by an American company.  Based on the Ferrari 330 P3/4 race car, it reportedly cost $4 million USD to build.  Considering he has already received an offer of $40 million from a member of the Saudi royal family, it seems like a good deal.  Glickenhaus is already planning a successor to this car, called the P33.

Mazda Nagare – Laurens van den Acker

Introduced in 2006, the Nagare is an exercise in natural and organic car design.  The name Nagare means “flow” and was the predecessor of the Hakaze concept car.  Besides the fluid seamless form of the body, the car features two double-length doors that open forward and spread from the cabin like the wings of a butterfly.

Acura 2+1 – Leon Paz

This concept car sports a multi-faceted design language described as “modern baroque-fashion” and was intended on being a gateway car for the new NSX.  The car features a glass roof, see-through engine bay, as well as a “predator” styled rear end.  Built using a new family of plastics designed to be better and stronger than fiberglass, it is a collection of cool and frightening ideas.  The hood is sealed, and cannot be opened by the owner.  It is scheduled to have a single yearly maintenance visit, which will include servicing the engine (protected with nanoil, or nanosized beads) as well as replacing the interior fabric with something more fashionable.  Weird, but I still want one.

Cadillac Aera – General Motors Advanced Design

Winner of the 2010 LA Design Challenge, this “Batmobile” is the strangest car on our list.  Basically, it is Cadillac’s version of the Ariel Atom on steroids.  The frame uses a 3-D lattice mono-formed design found in the grouping of bubbles in nature and is essentially “grown” into a single part lattice structure.  It uses compressed air to serve as an engine, and the same pressurized air cells found in the airbags of the NASA Mars Rover.  Batman should drive this car.

Lexus LF LC / LF NF – Calty Design Research, Ian Cartabiano/Edward Lee

Lexus is the company that brought us the “Worst Car Ever Made,” the SC 430.  To make up for it, they also created the LF, probably one of the best hypercars ever made.  The LF was a gizmo laden space ship capable of amazing speed and the absolute best sound ever produced by an exhaust system.  Styling was never its strong suit, looking more like a villain from “Mighty Morphing Power Rangers” than a car.  Now the new version is straight from the aliens of “Independence Day.”  The new spindle grille is awesome, and the intricate flowing form is almost alien.  The inspiration was the leaf of a tree, and the result is just mind blowing.  The same group created the LF NF concept, a hyper-SUV that is as stunning as it is strange.

Mercedes Benz AMG Vision Grand Turismo – Advanced Design, Daimler AG/Polyphony

This is what a car should be, and what every designer wants to create.  Stunning from every angle, this 1,000 horsepower monster was originally designed for the video game Grand Turismo 6.  It became a real-life concept for the Los Angeles International Auto show, and left the crowd and auto pundits breathless.  The Vision recalls the Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrow race cars of the 1930’s with a grill like the 1952 300SL race car.  That grille is one of the best parts, and should be on every car made.  It sports individual LED lights that can create shapes and effects.  Gull wing doors, full steel wheel covers, no rear windows, and a tail section composed of 7 exhaust pipes makes this the coolest car since the Citroen GT concept.  Why can’t we have cars like this in real life?

Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond

Photos Courtesy of Allcarcentral.com, gtaforums.com, Cadillac.com, thefabweb.com, nevseoboi.com.ua, carbodydesign.com, Houston-imports.com, cartype.com, topgear.com, autoevolution.com, lexus.com, forbes.com, diseno-art.com

 

 

 

2017 Chevy Silverado 2500HD

2017 Chevy Silverado 2500HD

A Quick Look at the All-New Chevy Silverado 2500HD for 2017

Billed as the longest lasting truck of its kind, the all new Chevy Silverado 2500HD for 2017 has some major changes and enhancements in store for diehard Chevy fans. Not only is the Chevy Silverado 2500HD boasting more torque but also a newly redesigned hood that has vents added to keep that 910 lbs –ft. cool on all those long hauls, allowing more circulation to increase the efficiency of this beautiful big and powerful motor. There are too many new and improved features to list, but some of the highlights should prove that this is one vehicle worth test driving.

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Chevy Silverado 2500HD

Choose Your Power

Both engine options are just as powerful as you’d expect from Chevrolet, but you can choose between the 6.0 Liter L96 V8 Vortec engine and the 6.6 Liter Turbo-Diesel Duramax V8 engine. Both are powerful beasts but improvements on the gas engine enable it to run on fuel that is up to 89% ethanol. What does this mean? It puts the Vortec into a class that is E85 compatible because it has the option, as mentioned above, to run on a fuel with an extremely high percentage of ethanol or standard unleaded gasoline. Both engines are then paired with Chevy’s innovative transmissions to ensure smooth sailing at max power.

The 2017 Chevrolet Silverado HD features an all-new, patented air intake system. Marked by a dramatic hood scoop, the system drives cool, dry air into the engine for sustained performance and cooler air temperatures during difficult driving conditions.

The 2017 Chevrolet Silverado HD features an all-new, patented air intake system. Marked by a dramatic hood scoop, the system drives cool, dry air into the engine for sustained performance and cooler air temperatures during difficult driving conditions.

What’s in a Transmission?

Then there is the transmission that makes the Chevy Silverado 2500HD a literal beast. The L96 is paired with the transmission that best suits all that power – the 6-speed MYD automatic transmission. One thing that should be noted is that the gasoline powered Silverado 2500HD HD for 2017 is not equipped with the newly designed hood scoop. Yes, it’s as functional as it is trendy, but that’s the way Chevy wanted it this year and they probably found that wasn’t as necessary on the gas engine as it is for the diesel powered motor.

2016 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LTZ Z71. Available fall of 2015.

2016 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LTZ Z71. Available fall of 2015.

Stylistic Changes of Note

While power and functional features are what endear truckers to the Silverado 2500HD, in 2017 Chevy decided to do away with three of their newer colors and simultaneously added two new ones. The colors deleted for the 2017 series were Tungsten Metallic, Autumn Bronze Metallic, and Slate Grey Metallic while the two added colors include Graphite Metallic and Pepperdust Metallic. Even the names of the two newly added color schemes are thrilling.

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Words can only do so much to describe the changes made to the 2017 Chevy Silverado 2500HD so the best thing to do would be to actually see one up close and personal. Take a spin and feel the power while checking out some new design elements and those two new color schemes. About the only ‘bad’ thing anyone has said thus far is that it takes a bit of time to learn to maneuver it but it is not bad compared to other makes of its class. All in all, it’s a great truck with a trendy new design that lacks nothing in the way of performance.

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Article Courtesy of dzhingarova

Photos courtesy of Car & Driver.com, Ford.com, vehiclephotos.vauto.com

Car Design as Art, Figoni & Falaschi

Car Design as Art, Figoni & Falaschi

I have always considered the “Golden Age” of car design to be the period of the 1920’s and 30’s.  Sure, the 1950’s were great, with the introduction of the fin, huge chrome grilles and the beginning of the rocket age look, but true custom car design was at its peak during the time of the great coachbuilders, and the most flamboyant of the lot were the French.

This was a time when you purchased a rolling chassis from an automaker like Duesenberg or Hispano Suiza, and then sent it off to a designer to create the bodywork.  Designers would build cars specifically for you, like having a haute couture dress made.  The result, were some of the most fantastic shapes to ever be placed on an automobile, and my favorite of the group was Figoni & Falaschi.

After World War I, Giuseppe Figoni started a small body repair shop in Boulogne-sur-Siene, France.  His work included modifying the coachwork of touring cars, and his business prospered.  By 1925, he was building complete bodies on rolling chassis purchased from automakers including Delahaye, Bugatti, Delage, and Panhard.  By 1935, he acquired a partner, Ovidio Falaschi, and created the Figoni & Falaschi name.  Fascinated by the emerging aircraft industry, he was influenced by the shapes of airplanes, and the wind.  Figoni’s designs gave the impression of movement, even when the cars were standing still, and had an aerodynamic quality that would not be prevalent until the 1950’s.  Figoni was fascinated with teardrop shapes, and his Delahaye 135, with its elliptical shapes and enclosed teardrop pontoon fenders created a sensation at the Paris Auto Show of 1936.

Figoni had a command of color and design that was worthy of an artist, and favored two and three tone paint designs that would accentuate the shapes.  He loved to work with designers of high fashion, creating gowns, hats, gloves, and shoes that perfectly matched the design and colors of his cars.  He was also involved in designing racing bodies, creating aerodynamic bodies for cars like the Alfa Romeo 8C 2300, a car that won the 1932 Le Mans, as well as other cars.

The creations of Figoni & Falaschi were flowing masterpieces, cars that the buyer wore like fine ball gowns, and a style whose closest relative today would be the Morgan Aeromax.  Their cars were an expression of freedom and movement, with enclosed wheels, and lines that made the cars float across the ground.

Figoni was an automotive sculptor who created patented designs for disappearing soft tops and even a disappearing sunroof.  The hallmark of the brand is the Talbot-Lago T150 C, a car whose teardrop shape, flush door handles, and sloping fastback became the symbol of French coachbuilders.  These cars were from a time when car design was true art.

Article courtesy of Chris Raymond

Photos courtesy of Google Images and Coachbuilt.com

10 Of the Most Beautiful Supercars

10 Of the Most Beautiful Supercars

Being the envy of your peers is standard issue if you can manage to get hold of a supercar.

With supercharged engines, luxury interiors, striking bodywork and incredible engine power, these big boys

Layla – The Boat Tail Riviera

Layla – The Boat Tail Riviera

 

I tried to give you consolation…When your old man had let you down. Like a fool, I fell in love with you, Turned my whole world upside down. – Eric Clapton

This past week I decided to buy a new toy.  I found a beautiful 1972 Buick Riviera Boat Tail on Craigslist, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to own an iconic classic and an appreciating collector automobile.

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The Riviera is rare, with only 31,557 examples originally built, and the design was overseen by none other than Bill Mitchell (55-57 Chevy BelAir, 63 Corvette Split Window, 63-72 Buick Riviera).  .  Its flowing lines are immediately identifiable, and the boat tail design is unique in modern automotive styling.  Finding a decent one for sale is like discovering a unicorn.

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Originally I was on the fence about buying a car the size of a English Channel ferry boat, but a twist of fate forced my hand.  During a conversation with my website designer/SEO guy name Brian, I discovered that the actual car I was buying was one he and his friend owned in high school.  The seller was his best friend, and the two worked on the car, made the upgrades and know every detail about the cars history.  It is a small world, and knowing that there was that connection made me believe I could be safe in taking the chance on the car.

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The Riviera is beautiful, in a slightly ungainly way.  Mine is painted a Subaru WRX blue, and sports raised white lettered tires and Cragar SS rims.  Inside, the car is equipped with a front 60/40 split bench seat done in black with white leather inserts.  The previous owner had redone all of the body issues, added new carpets, and added a few cool chrome Edelbrock upgrades under the hood.  These upgrades made the engine shine and probably added a ton more horses to the stable.   It also has cherry bomb mufflers, and sounds like a true muscle car.  Once I started it up, I was hooked.

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The body is in excellent shape, with no rust or dent issues.  The paint is older, and pretty poorly done, with lots of orange peel and a few areas of dripping and waving.  The interior is also in good shape, with only the driver’s seat having issues, while the rest of the interior is un-molested.

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Driving the car is an experience.  The engine starts right up, and settles into a smooth idle after a few moments.  The cherry bombs on the exhaust give the car a mean growl, and every time you step on the gas, you expel a little more of the rear tire rubber.  Speed was never on the list of goals for the Riviera, but it still manages an impressive 0-60 in close to 8 seconds, which is not bad for a 19 foot long, two and a half ton behemoth.  With the upgrades to the engine, the car is now much faster, which means it is a challenge to drive.  The steering is like guiding a ship though a series of hard turns.  The steering feel is not only loose, it feels disconnected from the car.  When it does finally turn, the whole side dips and rolls like an aircraft carrier in high seas.  One major fault is the seats, which have no lateral support whatsoever.  On even the slightest turn, you often find yourself in the passenger seat.

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Of course, now that I own the car, I need to figure out what to do with her.  Originally I had grand ideas of transforming her into the ultimate Grand Tourer.  I wanted to repaint her in a dark gray metallic and have the top section, that includes the roof, boat tail and the center of the hood, sprayed a slightly lighter color.  The interior was to be a medium saddle color, and the carpeted rear shelf under the massive rear window was to be transformed into a mahogany wood floor, much like a classic yacht.  I wanted to lower her by 2 inches, enough to highlight the lines without making her into a slammed custom.  I also wanted to add larger lower profile tires and larger chrome mag rims that would suggest a more refined hot rod look.  Finally, I wanted to cut the middle section of the bumper to highlight the full grill and make it a split bumper car, and add a center body colored fin in the center of the rear window, á la the 1963 Corvette Stingray Split Window Coupe.

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In reality, I probably won’t get a chance to do any of these things.  If I decide to flip the car for profit, then it would make sense to see if the blue paint can be salvaged, either with a light re-spray or a color sanding and clearcoat.  One thing I will keep are the blue LED lights under the front grille – the same lights I have on my motorcycle.

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In the interim, I have named her “Layla”, which means ”night”, or “dark beauty”.  I will continue to pilot her through the neighborhood scaring small children and wildlife, and have the time of my life playing with my new toy.

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Of course, I want to hear from you…write me a comment and let me know what you think of Layla, and share any ideas you have on how to customize her.  I am always looking for cool design tips.

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Article by Chris Raymond

Photos by Chris Raymond, Google Images, vilinstore.net and pinterest.com

The Rake of the Riviera

The Rake of the Riviera

In the United States, the automobile is synonymous with one name, Ford.  In the rest of the world, that name is Agnelli.  Rather than spend this week discussing the latest supercar, or who won at Pebble Beach, I am going to focus on an Italian iconoclast, Giovanni (Gianni) Agnelli.

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Agnelli was the namesake to Giovanni Agnelli, the founder of Fiat S.p.A. and heir to the Fiat fortune.  Fiat is an Italian conglomerate, founded in 1899.  Besides being the carmaker who bought us the 500, the iconic Italian mini car, they are (or have been) the owners of brands like Maserati, Ferrari, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Abarth, Chrysler, Autobianchi, Innocenti, Piaggio, Vespa, Simca, SEAT, and Iveco trucks.  In addition to vehicles, Fiat owns companies as diverse as Case Tractors, Alitalia, the newspaper La Stampa, Olivetti, and a slew of other companies making everything from weapons to pharmaceuticals, and from railcars to aircraft.  At one time, Fiat owned substantial shares of Edison, Rockefeller Center, Chase, and even Club Med.

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Fiat, which is older than Ford by 4 years, was a major force in both European and Italian markets.  At one time Fiat employed over 500,000 people, and controlled 4.4% of Italy’s GDP, 3.1% of its industrial workforce and a massive 16.5% of its industrial investment in research.  He was the richest man in modern Italian history.  At one time, Agnelli controlled more than one-quarter of the Italian stock exchange, a control unparalleled on any world stock market.  It is amazing to me how much power can come from just making cars.

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Agnelli’s life was one of finance and hedonistic fantasy, with himself as the company chairman, and the Italian playboy.  Married to a half-American, half-Neapolitan noblewoman, he was known for his pursuit of beautiful women and sports cars.  His affairs included actresses Rita Hayworth, Hedy Lamarr, “La Dolce Vita” star Anita Eckberg, among others.  One of the more salacious stories is of an affair with Jacqueline Kennedy, before she married Aristotle Onassis.  The rumor includes the allegation that John F. Kennedy Jr. was actually his illegitimate son.

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Agnelli was also a major trendsetter in fashion.  Esquire magazine named him as one of the five best dressed men in the history of the world.  He was famous for introducing the spread collar shirt, and the loosened off-kilter tie.  He wore exquisite Italian suits with hiking boots, and had a peculiar habit of wearing his watch over his wrist cuff.  His nickname was “The Rake of the Riviera” and was popular enough to inspire a classic menswear magazine called “The Rake.”  His love of fast cars almost killed him…twice.  Once he drove his Ferrari into a tree and wrecked his legs, then he drove it into the rear of a meat truck.

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Fiat and its other entities moved the world.  The company built a huge plant in the former Soviet Union which became the linchpin of Soviet auto production.  He once sold 10% of the company to Libya, making Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi a partner in the business.  This move forced Libya to spend money it would have used for weapons, and also strengthened the failing Soviet leadership with Libyan investments.

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Agnelli also changed Fiat over the years.  He admired the American automakers modern methods of manufacturing, and copied them at Fiat plants.  He built better and larger cars for the European market, and overtook Volkswagen as the continent’s largest seller of cars.  He improved on quality, and reversed Fiat’s reputation of “Fix it again, Tony.”  Agnelli diversified Fiat, a move that saved the business more than once.  He linked Fiat with General Motors in 2000 with the provision that GM buy out Fiat by 2004.  It was a move eventually cost GM $2.9 billion to escape.

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Over the years Agnelli developed a close group of friends that included the Kennedys, Fords and the royal houses of Europe and members of the Politburo.  Other friends were a diverse group, and included Henry Kissinger, Margaret Thatcher, George Bush, the Clintons, Fidel Castro, Nixon, Reagan, de Gaulle, Onassis, and Winston Churchill.

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He also partnered on many US ventures.  He was on the board of General Electric and Chase Bank, and owned a major part of Rockefeller Center in New York.  He was also a member of the Bilderberg Group, the shadowy secret society that supposedly runs the world.  Gianni Agnelli’s life and death was like a Puccini opera.  He died in 2003 at age 81, on the same day that his family was to gather to argue about his will and legacy.  He was a symbol of Italy’s postwar renaissance, a country where the rule was “Agnelli is Fiat, Fiat is Turin; and Turin is Italy.”

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What does this have to do with cars?  Everything.  The history of the automobile is not just cars; it’s also the people behind the scenes…the designers, the owners, the marketing people.  Agnelli is an icon who accomplished great things, and his life is interesting to anyone who loves history.  For the gearhead, his life story should be required reading, because of his connection to some of the greatest marques in history, and also because it shows how one little car company changed the world.

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Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond

Photos Courtesy of Classicandperformancecar.com, bigpower.co.uk, autoham.ru, moteverdiclub.com, zcoches.com, cargurus.com, pistonheads.com, casa.mitula.it
Cars Found on eBay

Cars Found on eBay

eBay and Craigslist are the best places to look at cars you have no intention of buying.   This is a good thing, because many of the cars are hiding more problems than you could ever afford to fix, and some even have stolen VIN tags.   Occasionally, there are some interesting finds, and today we are focusing on four cars representing the life of the de Tomaso brand.

de Tomaso Automobili SpA is an Italian car company founded in 1959 by Alejandro de Tomaso and is the product of another race car driver who wanted to build cars.  Over the years, the company purchased the Ghia and Vignale design studios, the car makers Maserati and Innocenti, and the Benelli and Moto Guzzi motorcycle brands.  De Tomaso also partnered with Ford to create the popular Pantera, and Qvale for the Qvale Mangusta.

De Tomaso suffered from a long history of marriages that went bad and was responsible for more than its share of atrocious cars.  A look back over the years will bring up embarrassments like the Biturbo, a car that ruined the Maserati name, Shamal and Ghibli II, which were desperate redo’s of the Biturbo, the obscene Chrysler TC Maserati and the hideous Dodge 024 de Tomaso.

Today, however, things are much better.  Maserati is again producing cars that live up to its heritage and de Tomaso was recently purchased by a former Fiat executive with plans to bring back the marque.   So, on that happy note here are my four picks of the week:

1969 de Tomaso Mangusta


Known more for its design than its quality, this Mangusta is one of 401 made and about 200 left on the roads.  This car is completely restored and is fitted with a new 302 cubic inch racing motor.  Everything on this car looks perfect and can be yours for about $55,000.

1972 de Tomaso Longchamp

Built as a coupe version of the Deauville, which was aimed at the Jaguar XJ series, it sports another Ford V8 and is one of only 395 coupes produced from 1974 to 1989.  It was a true Grand Touring car, rare but unpopular, and styled somewhere between a Mercedes and a Lancia.

1973 de Tomaso GTS Pantera

This was the George Clooney of the family.  Anyone with money who wanted an Italian car with American muscle bought a Pantera, and for much less than a Ferrari or Lamborghini.  Ford V8 power, Ghia wedge design and sold through Ford, some 6 thousand plus were made until 1993.  Later examples started to lose their Italian looks, becoming more like Batman rejects and shark-nosed kit cars.   This was the car of rock stars and rich delinquents and eBay is loaded with both good and bad examples.  This particular one is fully restored and for sale at 65,000.

1996 de Tomaso Guara

This is the car that replaced the Pantera, and the last project of founder Alejandro de Tomaso.  One of only 50 in the world and powered by a Cobra 4.6 liter V8, this car is the last of the breed.  Based on the Maserati Barchetta, it has a true formula one Indy car suspension, the looks of a squashed Mazda, and is offered at 100,000 dollars.

Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond