Most Beautiful Cars:  The Citroen DS

Most Beautiful Cars: The Citroen DS

It is not sufficient to see and to know the beauty of a work. We must feel and be affected by it. – Voltaire

It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Lately, I’ve been reading some lists of “Beautiful Cars” that force me to believe the beholder was blind.  One website, Edmunds lists the 1973 Pontiac Grand Am and the 1985 Chevrolet Camaro in the 100 Most Beautiful Cars of All Time.  Voting in those plastic nightmares tells me they have no clue about design or beauty, and just had too many cars in the list.  It is just silly.  So, I have decided to take a stab at my own list, and showcase what I feel are the “Most Beautiful Cars Ever Made.”  Each post will highlight one car, in no particular order.

First in my list is the incomparable Citroen DS, a car that took the world by storm in 1955.  In a time where France was still rebuilding from the disaster of WWII, and a time of sever austerity in Europe, this space ship was a complete shock to the automotive world.  Built in secret over a period of 18 years as a replacement to the Citroen Traction Avant, the new DS was so amazing a design that it sold 743 copies in the first 15 minutes of its debut.  Imagine the frenzy.  By the end of the day a record breaking 12,000 examples were sold.

Image result for citroen ds convertible

The DS, pronounced “Day-ess,” French for Goddess, was styled by Italian sculptor and industrial designer Flaminio Bertoni and the French aeronautical engineer André Lefèbvre.  Its futuristic aerodynamic body design and innovative technology was so shocking and revolutionary to the public, that some were even scared of the car.  Contemplate this for a moment.  The year was 1955, and most of the cars were pre-war designs, with upright radiator shells, pontoon fenders, crank starters, hardwood dashboards, and in America: tail fins.  Along came the DS with a shape that was aerodynamic, beautiful, and appeared to float over through the streets like a time traveler from another dimension.  This was a car whose scarab, teardrop shape was like nothing else on the roads.  The bright colors, and open airy interior was so different from the dark, heavy, industrial cars of the day that it changed the definition of what a motorcar could be.

The DS was literally a space ship for the masses.  Not only did it change the way cars were perceived; it changed the way cars were built.  The technology included a hydro pneumatic self-leveling suspension, front power disc brakes, variable ground clearance, and a semi-automatic transmission with no clutch pedal.  The hydraulic assisted brakes were operated not by a pedal, but by a small mushroom shaped button, with which the slightest of pressure could bring the massive car to a very abrupt halt.

The list of innovations continues with a fiberglass roof, inboard front brakes along with independent suspension, different front and rear track widths to reduce the under steer typical of front engine, front wheel drive cars.  The DS has an engine designed to slide under the floor in a crash, headlights that swivel when you steer, space frame construction, tolerances within microns, the first plastic dashboard, use of aluminum in the bonnet and fenders, crumple zones, rollover protection, and a even a collapsible steering wheel.

The DS used a suspension system of compressed nitrogen gas, was auto self leveling, and even had a self centering one spoke steering wheel.  The engine was a hemispherical head engine, though with only about 100hp due to French Tax Horsepower system.  It was a car that could drive on three wheels, climb a wall of ice, start in 40 below weather, and provide the best “magic carpet” ride quality ever built into a car.  The suspension and quality of ride made the DS unique in the automotive world.  The driver could travel from asphalt to gravel to snow, and only identify the changes by the different color of the surface.  Nothing was allowed to disrupt the perfection of the ride comfort.

The DS was also utterly French, and a symbol of French ingenuity and design.  It was beautifully sculpted with an aerodynamic body that still looks fresh in 2012.   The car is sheik and stylish, yet strangely conservative, wildly eccentric yet also very practical.  It is quirky and beautiful in every way.  The complete devotion to aerodynamics is evident in the teardrop shape.  The wheelbase was extended on the design mock up to make the car more appealing to the eye.  In fact, it exactly matches the wheelbase of a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud, a length of 10’ 3 inches.

To appreciate the aerodynamic shape of the DS, one only has to look at the Saab 96.  Both have the same teardrop shape, but the Saab is not executed in the same clean, sculptured lines.  The Citroen seems light and airy compared to the bulkiness of the Saab.  Even in the 1960’s with the Jaguar MkII Saloons, the effect of the wind cheating aerodynamic shape remained heavy and complicated.  In fact, the shape of the DS defines the car.  One important point that is often unnoticed deals with the front of the vehicle.  Most cars use the front face to identify and reinforce the brand.  Grilles, badges, hood ornament, and names are plastered all over.  The DS is blank and clean.  It survived in the market place purely by virtue of its shape.

The Citroen DS has been chosen as one of the most beautiful cars ever made by many critics, generally is recognized as one of the most influential of all auto designs, and was voted THE most beautiful car of all time by Classic & Sports Car magazine.  The DS was awarded “Product of the Century” ahead of the Boeing 747, lunar landing module, and even the Apple Macintosh computer.  For me, the scarab shaped car is still relevant almost 60 years since its introduction, and one of my top ten cars of all time.

Image result for citroen ds

Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond

Photos Courtesy of ukadapta.blogspot.com, sv.wikipedia.org, carpr0n.tumblr.com, mannamaker.com, barcelonaphotoblog.com, carprestige.pl, conceptcarz.com, ebay.com

Reference: The Citroen DS, Design Icon by Malcolm Bobbit from Veloce Publishing

Most Beautiful Cars:  Lamborghini Countach

Most Beautiful Cars: Lamborghini Countach

When all think alike, then no one is thinking – Walter Lippman

Every vehicle that made my list of Most Beautiful Cars was a milestone in the development of the automobile.  Each of them changed the way cars were designed, and advanced automotive technology in a way that no other cars had done before.  In the process they became icons of the automotive world, cars that shook the public’s concept of what a car could be.  Today’s selection took that to a whole new level, and was essentially a paradigm shift for automotive designers.  Some believe the Bugatti Veyron is a “Concorde” moment, where car design took a quantum leap forward.  Today’s car is just as important.  It is an SR71 Spy Plane in a world of Cessnas.  It is the Lamborghini Countach.

At first sight, the natural reaction is to catch your breath and just try to comprehend the angles and wedge shape.  The Countach is a collection of trapezoidal panels and air scoops, squatting so low to the ground that it is almost unrecognizable as an automobile.  If someone told you it was a grounded stealth drone, you could accept its shape more readily.  Even the name is astonishment.  Countach roughly translates to “holy shit!”

The Countach was such a radical and fundamental shift that it remained an icon from 1974 until its demise in 1990.  This is an amazing feat in a world where supercar fashion changed almost daily.  Born as a violent slash across the drawing pad of Marcello Gandini for Bertone, it was the successor to his other creation, the legendary Miura.  In fact, Gandini penned not only the Miura, but also the iconic wedge shape of the Lancia Stratos, as well as the Pantera, the Dino, the Lamborghini Diablo and what we know in the US as the Renault Le Car.

The original design was as clean and subtle as it was radical and angular.  The LP400 originally had a coke-bottle shape, and was devoid of the scoops and vents of later models.  Almost immediately the car morphed into a jet fighter, with a huge stabilizer wing sprouting from the rear deck, and more ducts and air boxes than a F117.  US models also developed a “moustache” front wing, which allowed it to comply with the height restrictions of the new federal mandates.

By the time the Countach was retired from service, it looked more like a Transformer than a motorcar, with obscene bulges and deep cuts in the duct work.  What began as an icon, ended life as a synonym for cocaine.

The Countach was THE car to own for those that could afford it, and for every boy who had a poster on his bedroom wall.  There was nothing that epitomized the excess, the power or the avant garde nature of the supercar better than the Lamborghini Countach.  Its shape and overall zeitgeist will never be improved upon.  Just as important was the sound bellowing from the Lamborghini V12, which only improved with age.

How was the Countach when compared to other cars?  In a word, it was atrocious.  The Countach was great at being an icon, but rather dismal at being a car.  The interior was cramped and hot, with no ventilation and a roll down window barely big enough for your hand.  The clutch was unbearably heavy, there was no place for your feet, no rearward visibility, and the US front wing meant the car would gain flight at high speeds.  It was fast in a straight line, but otherwise drove like one of Ferruccio’s tractors.  The car was so abysmal; the only way to reverse a Countach properly is to leave the car by sitting on the sill with the door up.  To drive a Lamborghini Countach is to kill a dream.

Fortunately, most of us never get the chance to truly experience a Lamborghini Countach.  We will never have our dreams crushed.   The first time I saw one in person was in Boston.  I was crossing the street near the Copley Plaza hotel, and heard this evil V12 screaming.  When I turned, I saw lime green fog lights, and then a second later it passed by my knees.  It was a black 5000QV, and I remember the huge wing passing me like a shark fin.  That experience stayed with me to this day.

My next encounter was with a LP400S, owed by a dealer in Weymouth.  Through a friend I was able to take a ride, and snap some photos.  My memory is mainly of the sound of the V12, the fact that I literally could not move inside the cockpit, and that it seemed like everything in the world stopped when you drove by.

The Lamborghini Countach is still an icon.  Sure, it lost some of its luster by being associated with the 1980’s, yuppies and power ties, but not even the new Reventon can compare with its radical design.  The Lamborghini Countach is still the ultimate supercar.

Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond

Photos Courtesy of netcarshow.com, autowallpapers.net, conceptcarz.com, finallyhip.com, covercars.com, boldride.com, militarytuners.com, Jamie Wynder

Most Beautiful Cars: Jaguar E-Type

Most Beautiful Cars: Jaguar E-Type

The most beautiful car ever made – Enzo Ferrari

There you have it, from the man whose company has created more incredibly beautiful car designs than anyone on the planet.  The Jaguar E-Type (XKE in the US) is probably THE most beautiful design ever for a production car.  It is a car so striking that it was included as a permanent part of the collection at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.  Almost without exception, every list of great and beautiful cars includes an E-Type.  More text and photographs have been devoted to this car than any other in history.

Dubbed “The Greatest Crumpet Catcher Known to Man” by Henry Manney, the E-Type remains an icon of the swinging sixties, the British invasion, and the domination Britain had over the sports car market.  Styled by Malcolm Sayer, a newcomer to the Jaguar team and a self-proclaimed aerodynamicist, in partner with Sir William Lyons, the chief at Jaguar, it was the first design not created by Sir William himself.  Lyons was known to style the cars in the garden of his home, spending hours watching the how the light reflected off the curves, all while local children watched from atop the garden walls.  The E-type was the perfect blend of Sayers understanding of aerodynamics and Lyons’ mastery of light and shape.

When the E-Type was introduced at the 1961 Geneva Auto Show, it was an instant hit, and well on its way as an icon of a generation.  It was the choice of celebrities, royalty, and the ultra rich, who combined style and class with a penchant for caddish behavior.  The super chic of the time, Bridgette Bardot, Steve McQueen, Mick and Bianca, and George Best all chose the E-Type, and even Frank Sinatra barked “I want that car, and I want it now” the moment he saw it.

When it was introduced at the Geneva Auto Show in 1961, Jaguar took 500 orders.  It looked like nothing else on the display floor, and at £2097 for the roadster and £2196 for the fixed head coupe, the car was considerably cheaper than its competitors Ferrari, Aston Martin and Porsche.  In fact, it was priced lower than the car it replaced, the XK150.

The E-Type was beautiful and exciting, but was far from perfect.  The claimed 150mph top speed was basically a myth until 1963, the car drank enough oil to fill a supertanker and the ungodly Moss gearbox lacked synchromesh on the first gear, and originally intended for use in pre-war trucks.  Add to that the lack of space, the poor braking, the wicked Lucas electrics dubbed “The Prince of Darkness” and you end up with something like a first wife…pretty, but impossible to live with.  One of the few good items on the car was the independent rear suspension which was designed by Bob Knight in only 27 days on a bet with founder Sir William Lyons, which endured until the 1990’s.  Even the engine had faults, being a carryover from 1949 and a testament to Sir William’s frugality.

The original Series I was the purest of the line.  It was surprisingly rare, with only 2160 cars produced in 1961, another 6266 in 1962, and 4065 in 1963.  Over the years the car evolved to have a more powerful engine, better seating, and better electrics.  In 1966 the introduction of the 2+2 radically changed the E-Type body.  While the roadster stayed the same, the FHC featured a longer wheelbase by 9 inches, longer doors and a taller windscreen, designed to accommodate two children in the additional rear seats.  It was offered with an automatic gearbox for the first time and sold surprisingly well, though it was criticized by many for its odd proportions.

In 1967 the E-Type was reworked, this time to comply with the growing US regulations for cars.  The new Series 1 ½ meant the headlamps were moved forward 2.5 inches, and the Perspex headlamp cover were gone.  Minor changes continued though the Series II and up into the 1970’s.  Jaguar had intended on replacing the E-Type with the XJ27, or as we know it, the XJ-S.  However, due to financial difficulties, it was decided to rework the E-Type, extending its life with the addition of a new V12 engine.  This new E-Type, dubbed the XJ25 was finally launched as the Series III.

The new Series III featured a wider stance with 1 inch flared wheel arches, a larger air intake and chrome XJ6 grille, better brakes and steering and a commitment to the 2+2 wheelbase length.  The 2-seater Jaguar Coupe was dead.

By 1972 the end was near for the beloved E-Type.  By this time Malcolm Sayer had suffered a fatal heart attack, and Sir William Lyons finally retired.  Strikes and US mandates on safety had turned the car into an aging icon, a once beautiful actress who had finally lost her looks.  By 1974, production had basically ceased, but unsold Jaguars in dealerships prevented Jaguar from announcing the official end of the line until February 1975.  It was replaced by the XJ-S, the final car to be designed by Malcolm Sayer in cooperation with Sir William.  The end of an era had come to Jaguar.

The Jaguar E-Type, in all her forms was a breakthrough in automotive design.  It possessed a shape that was instantly recognizable, even among non-car people.  Its curvaceous body was unlike any production car before or since, and remains an icon of an era.  Coveted as a work of art, the E-Type is a true symbol of what put the “Great” into Great Britain.

Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond

Photos Courtesy of profeng.com, carbase.com, nextcar.com.au, netcarshow.com, tomorrowstarted.com, pinterest.com, seriouswheels.com, deviantart.com, diamondcars.de, classicandperformancecar.com, and Google Images.

 

Most Beautiful Cars:  Lamborghini Miura

Most Beautiful Cars: Lamborghini Miura

‘Every impatient, rich man wanted one’ – Giampaolo Dallara

No list of the most beautiful cars can be complete without the first to be called a “Supercar,” The Lamborghini Miura.

Created at night, in secret and against the orders of the boss; the Miura is exactly what she was envisioned to be, the perfect anti-Ferrari “race car for the road.”  Three young employees, GianPaolo Dallara, Paolo Stanzani, and Bob Wallace wanted to show the “old man” that the future of the company was not large grand touring cars, but instead cutting edge sports cars.  It was the Miura that truly gave birth to “The House of the Raging Bull.”

Inspired by the Ford GT40, the car was designed around a transversely mounted mid engine layout, which was a departure for Lamborghini.  The Bizzarrini designed V12 engine produced 385 horses, and was merged with the transmission and differential.  When the rolling chassis was introduced at the 1966 Turin Salon, it caused such a sensation that people actually placed orders despite it having no body.

The design for the missing body was given to Bertone, who promptly assigned 25 year old newcomer Marcello Gandini to the project.  Gandini had been brought in to replace Giorgetto Giugiaro who was leaving for Ghia.  Giugiaro, who was only 19 days older than the young Gandini had actually had prevented him from being hired earlier, and refused to work with the new stylist.  Once he was gone, it cleared the road for Gandini and the Miura became his first project.

The prototype for the car was called the P400.  The actual body design was finished just days before it was debuted at the 1966 Geneva Motor Show.  So late, in fact that the engine could not be installed, and the front clamshell had to remain locked throughout the entire show.  That lack of planning continued, when it was discovered after the debut that no one had bothered to check if the new V12 could even fit in the new body.

The Miura was essentially a clamshell front and rear aluminum body built around a compact passenger cell.  The shape created by Gandini is impossibly beautiful.  Low and incredibly wide, a look where every bulge, line and curve is absolute perfection.  The effect is stunning, right down to the eyelashes; a design cue that hid small vents for the brakes.  In the front, the long expanse of hood is broken by two sets of grillwork that allows air to pass through the radiators.  The right grill also served to hide the fuel filler.

The pop up headlamps were rumored to be inspired by the Bertone Corvair Testudo concept car.  In the back, a set of six louvers over the engine bay were inspired by the 1963 Corvair Monza GT.  These “industry first” louvers were the only thing between the world and that magnificent sounding V12, and would remain a design cue for years to come, gracing cars from Modena to Detroit.

Attention to detail in the design was paramount.  When it was decided that car would be named for a fighting bull, the Miura was given horns; small functional side louvers were added to the doors, in an upward sweep.  When the doors were opened, the horns were exposed.

The fighting bull theme is the inspiration and logo for Lamborghini.  Named for the Spanish fighting bulls of Don Eduardo Miura of Seville, the car and the company have a strong bullfighting connection.  After the birth of the Miura, almost every Lamborghini car name is bull related.  The Miura bulls remain the fiercest breed in bullfighting and were the subject of many stories, including Earnest Hemingway’s 1932 book “Death in the Afternoon.”

Long before pictures of the Countach graced every boy’s bedroom, this car was the sexiest thing in the decade of free love and bohemian hipness.  In its day, it was as radical as a spaceship, and even today a sighting will create an instant crowd.  Owned by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, The Shah of Iran and Elton John, the car was excruciatingly expensive, incredibly rare and nearly impossible to maintain.  It is, as one writer said: “Ultimately great at being iconic, but not very good at being a car.”  For me, it is beyond “bellissimo.”

Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond

Photos Courtesy of: carart.us, lotusspiritturbo.com, netcarshow.com, caranddriver.com, boldride.com

Most Beautiful Cars:  Jaguar XK120

Most Beautiful Cars: Jaguar XK120

“The car is the closest thing we will ever create to something that is alive.” – Sir William Lyons

Very few cars are appreciated as classics in their own time.  From the moment Jaguar unveiled the XK120 at the Earls Court Motor Show in 1948, the press and the public understood that it was a milestone.  The XK120 was the fastest and the most beautiful car offered by any manufacturer at any price.

The XK120 was more about the engine than the body.  Jaguar was a new company, having just one production car under its belt, the SS100.  The company had just survived WWII, and had changed its name from SS Cars (for Swallow Sidecar) to Jaguar due to the connotations of the German SS.  During the war the order was given by head Sir William Lyons to create an engine on their own, something they could use to power a new line of sedans the company was developing.  Prior to this, they had purchased engines from outside suppliers, and the need to develop in-house was critical to the company’s future.

Jaguar and Sir William were intent on producing a sport saloon with 100mph performance with a price of less than 1,000 pounds.  This was a very tall order at a time where the average car could barely crack 75mph, and just reaching 60 would take 30 seconds or more.  Lyons also required the car to be fuel efficient, at a time when gas rationing was common.  Work began on a new engine, dubbed the XK.  It was designed as a cross flow head, dual overhead cam layout with four cylinders, but was eventually upgraded to a six cylinder for better performance.  The end result was a seven bearing straight six, displacing 3,442 cc (210 cu in.) with a long stroke that provided good low end torque and high RPM power cast with aluminum heads.  This engine would continue to be used in Jaguar models straight through to the 1980’s.

The new engine was to be mated to the new sport sedan, but Lyons decided it needed more “field experience” before large scale production.  His solution was to develop a limited production sports car with an entirely new body.  The design called for a wood and metal frame with hand formed aluminum body panels.

Based on the BMW 328 Mille Miglia, the car was to be a low slung sports roadster.  Sir William himself, though not an engineer, had a heavy hand in the styling.  Taking the shape of the BMW, Lyons made the form longer, lower and more curvaceous, with a dramatic beltline dip below the doors.  Lyons would shape the car in the garden of his home and study how the light reflected off the curves, all while local children would watch from atop the garden walls.  Lyons had a masterful understanding of light and curves, and the new sports car was a testament to his abilities as both an artist and designer.

The new design was named XK for the engine, and 120 for its top speed.  It was basically the Bugatti Veyron of its day.  On its debut, the car astounded the audience.  It upstaged every other car at the show, including Jaguar’s own Mark V sedan.  In fact, the other manufacturers were so put off, they were openly skeptical that Sir William could really offer such a car for such a low price.

The critics of the time were ecstatic, and so amazed at the 120mph top speed that they were willing to overlook its faults, one of which that anyone over 5’9” would not be able to fit comfortably behind the wheel, and the others being a sad excuse for brakes and a tragic Moss transmission.  Jaguar performed many demonstrations of the cars speed, achieving 126mph and higher.  At a time when only a V12 Ferrari could reach such speeds, the 1,000 pound XK120 was more than a bargain.

The reaction to the car was so great that Sir William was forced to increase production plans.  Originally intended for 200 cars, the body was hastily redesigned for large scale production in steel.  Much of the production (85%) was bound for the United States, going to upscale wealthy owners like Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart.  The popularity of the car, enhanced by a favorable exchange rate, eventually created a demand for a fixed head coupe (FHC) version in 1951.  The coupe, with its sweeping circle of a roofline was dramatic, and included many more niceties required in a luxury car.

The XK120 eventually evolved into the XK140, which addressed some of the concerns with comfort and functionality.  This eventually morphed into the XK150, which lost some of its stunning curves but improved performance.  Finally the line was replaced by the equally stunning E-Type.  Overall production numbers for the XK120 was 12,061 including 240 of the original roadsters, which was far more than the original 200 planned by Sir William Lyons.

The Jaguar XK120 remains one of the most beautiful cars of all time.  The styling is still unique and instantly recognizable.  It possessed the beauty of the classic pre-war European coach built era cars with the speed of the fastest race cars of the time.  The XK120 was the epitome of grace…simple elegance and the refinement of movement.

Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond

Photos Courtesy of ambientlife.net, automobilewiki.com, boldrides.com, Bridgetownblog.wordpress.com, dreamgarage.com, supercars.net

10 Of the Most Beautiful Supercars

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’ toys only exist in most drivers’ dreams. The kind of money you’d need to splash out on one of these beauties is eye-watering.  Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bugatti – they’re all car companies which are synonymous with high-quality, flashy vehicles. And according to this list by Autoweb, they don’t disappoint with their top-of-the-range rides.  Some of the more unusual looking supercars include the Koenigsegg Agera R, a ridiculously powerful ride with 1099 break horse power.  With a top speed of 260mph and powered by a twin-turbo 5.0 litre V8 engine, the Agera R means business.  It’s also one of the most expensive cars on the market.  For most of us, the most attainable supercar would be the cheapest – the Lamborghini Aventador. At £253,000, it’s still a pretty cool price for an amazing car.

Most Beautiful Cars:  Ferrari 250

Most Beautiful Cars: Ferrari 250

Most Beautiful Cars:  Ferrari 250

“Aerodynamics are for people who can’t build engines”  “I don’t sell cars; I sell engines.  The cars I throw in for free since something has to hold the engines in.” – Enzo Ferrari

When I decided to create this list, I started with some simple rules.  First was to disqualify all pre-war cars, as most were custom built boutique examples created by specialty coachbuilders.  I wanted prêt-à-porter, or off the rack designs.   Second was to group together certain body styles, showcasing only the best design of the group.  Cars like the Gordon Keeble, which looks like a Lancia Flaminia GT would be judged as a set, with the best one winning.  Finally, the car design had to be more than beautiful; it also needed to be something of a revolution in the automotive world.  The Panhard 24CT is pretty, but not special and therefore would not make the cut.

Today’s selection is very special.  It is a model that encompassed no less than 22 different body styles during its lifetime, some of which are universally acclaimed as the most beautiful designs ever.  Each of these bodies was built for one purpose; to be a jewelry box for an exquisite 12 cylinder engine called the Colombo Tipo 125 V12.  Nearly every variant of the 250 carried this engine, whose lightness and amazing power brought Ferrari a staggering amount of racing victories.  All of this amazing beauty was delivered in less of a span than cars like the Citroen DS.

Designed by Gioacchino Colombo, a former Alfa Romeo designer, the span of the 125 engine would start with the first Ferrari road car in 1947 and continue until 1966.  It was Ferrari’s first “home grown” engine, and was originally inspired by the American Packard V12 engine.  During its lifetime, variants of the Colombo engine were used in the 250 series, as well as Ferrari icons like the 365 California, 365 Daytona, 375MM Ingrid Bergman, 400 Superamerica, the 512 Berlinetta Boxer and the 512 Testarossa.

250 S – The 250 series actually began with the series 225, with race cars preceding the road cars by three years.  Most 250 road cars share two wheelbases, either the 94.5 inch short, or the 102.4 long wheel base.  The first in the series was the 250S, an experimental Berlinetta prototype, which won Ferrari the 1952 Mille Miglia, was used in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Carrera Panamericana.

250 MM – With the 1952 win, the next in the series was aptly named the MM, or Mille Miglia.  With coupe bodywork created by Pinin Farina, and the open Barchetta version created by Carrozzeria Vignale, the designs featured recessed headlamps and side vents that became a staple of Ferrari for the 1950’s.

250 Monza – The series continued with the 250 Monza built in 1954.  This car was a hybrid between the 750 Monza and the 250 chassis, with coachwork by Pininfarina for the Barchetta, and Carrozzeria Scaglietti for the coupes, including a one-off 500 Mondial.

250 Testa Rossa – The next car would be the unforgettable 250 Testa Rossa, or the “red head.”  The Testa Rossa was one of the most successful racing cars in Ferrari history, winning Le Mans three times, Sebring 4 times and Buenos Aires twice. Named for the red valve covers, the original had bodywork by Scaglietti.  It was called the “Pontoon” TR, due to the front fender shape which allowed air ducting across the front brakes and out through the open area behind the wheels.   In all, 34 Testa Rossas were built from 1956 to 1961.  One example of this car recently sold at auction for 16.4 million dollars.

250 TR – This was a more aerodynamic version of the Test Rossa, designed by Pininfarina.  Only two factory cars and 19 customer cars were built.  With a more powerful engine, this model inspired the F430 road car.

250 GTO – In 1962 Ferrari created the “Gran Turismo Omologata” which means Grand Touring Homologated…sexy eh?  This is the car that summed up the philosophy of Ferrari best, the ultimate of performance and styling.  It was the first Ferrari to use wind tunnel technology, with a voluptuous body capable of speeds in excess of 180mph.  With an original $18,000 US price, buyers had to be personally approved by Enzo Ferrari himself.  39 cars were created, all of which are still accounted for today.  Recently, a pastel green GTO built for Sir Stirling Moss sold for a record $35 US million, making it one of the most expensive cars in the world.  Not bad for a car that never included a heater, speedometer or odometer.

250 P – In 1963 Ferrari unleashed the 250 P, essentially a 250 LM minus a roof.  With styling designed in the wind tunnel, it followed the same lines as the Ford GT, its main competitor.  This mid-engine supercar eventually evolved into the 330 P and the 412 P, and was meant to be a track car for the super wealthy.

250 LM – This Le Mans racer was designed by Pininfarina, to be used in FIA racing.  Enzo had promised to build 100 copies, so it would qualify as a production car, but only 35 were made.  Only one was never raced, a luxury model that even had electric windows.  Beaten by the Ford GT, the LM marked the end of Ferrari participation in the GT class of 1965 World Sports Car Championship.

250 Export/Europa – These models were the only member of the series to use the Lampredi engine that replaces the Colombo.  Ferrari never created a standard body design for the car, and models were styled by Vignale, Pininfarina, and Scaglietti.  The Export/Europa was not the prettiest Ferrari in the stable, but was a solid grand tourer.

250 Boano/Ellena – With tail fins and styling by Pininfarina, this was the first real production car with standardized body design.  Mario Boano started the production of the car, but demand grew quickly.  When he moved to Fiat, it was handed over to his son Ezio Ellena who revised the design as a separate model.  A total of 65 Boano cars were built, followed by 40 Ellenas.

250 GT Berlinetta “Tour de France” – Created after Ferrari GT cars took the top three places in the 1957 Tour De France automobile race (not the bicycle race), this car sported a modified Tipo engine.  It was so successful that Ferrari continued to win the event an unprecedented nine years in a row.  Bodied by Scaglietti, Pininfarina and Zagato, no two cars were the same.

250 GT Cabriolet Pininfarina Series I – Ferrari’s first production cabriolet was designed in a special workshop at Pininfarina.  Though the standard body was never really standard, the all shared similar details, and all sported the Colombo Tipo V12.  This model is generally considered the 9th Greatest Ferrari of all Time.

250 GT California Spyder LWB – Motivated by an American to create an open top model that pays homage to Ferrari’s best market, the Scaglietti designed California Spyder is generally considered one of the Greatest Ferraris of all Time.

250 GT Coupe Pininfarina – This was a car designed to stabilize Ferrari finances.  With 335 examples created, it was a simple GT coupe with clean lines, a notchback roofline and a panoramic rear window.  Though it had a standard body design, each model was still bespoke for each customer by Batista “Pinin” Farina himself.

250 GT Cabriolet Pininfarina Series II – The most expensive car in the GT range, it was a high volume car with 212 examples produced.

250 GT Berlinetta SWB – Sergio Pininfarina called this car “The first of our three quantum leaps in design with Ferrari.”  Originally designed for the 24 hours of Le Mans, it was the natural continuation of the Tour de France model.  The wheelbase was shortened for better handling and less weight, and the car became an integral part of the Ferrari legend.  This is also the model that Count Giovanni Volpi and Giotto Bizzarrini used to create the Kammback styled “Breadvan.”   This car is generally accepted as the 5th Greatest Ferrari of all Time.

250 GT Spider California SWB – One of the most famous of all Ferraris, it is known to no car people as the “Ferris Bueller” car, and to gearheads as the “James Coburn California Spider.”  Rated as one of the Greatest Ferraris of all time, the Coburn car recently sold for a record $11 million US dollars.

250 GT/E – In 1963 you could walk into a Ferrari showroom and choose between a GT California, a Pininfarina Cabriolet, a SWB Berlinetta or a GT/E all for the same price.  For about $1,000 dollars more you could even get a 250 GTO.  With this in mind, more people chose the GT/E than all the others, due to its 4-seat configuration, and its engineering simplicity.  This was the car Enzo himself drove, and it marked the transfer of power from Batista Pininfarina to his son Sergio.

250 GT Lusso – Beauty and elegance personified.  This is the ultimate Pininfarina design with expert Scaglietti coachwork.  Unparalleled in the automotive world, this voluptuous design was the choice of Eric Clapton, Steve McQueen, James Garner and James Coburn.  It also was my favorite Lesney “Matchbox” model of all time.  Introduced in 1962 as the GTL, it personified the fastback shape of 1960’s grand touring cars, and was the last of the 250 line for Ferrari.  Of all the beautiful Ferraris, this will always be my favorite.

Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond

Photos Courtesy of Uk.cars.yahoo.com, supercars.net, archdezart.com, autoblog.com, bestautophoto.com, bewall.com.

 

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget

Style and luxury are usually sold at a premium.  In the world of classic cars, that doesn’t always need to be the case.  A simple search on sites like Hemmings and eBay will unearth a wealth of cars that will make heads turn, but also not put you in the poor house…if you are lucky.

To find the right car, you should avoid cars that are too obvious.  An old Rolls Royce or Bentley can be found for cheap money, but buying one means you will end up dirt broke and depressed.  Plus, unless you get the exact “correct” example, you will look like a fool who blew his life savings on a desperate attempt to get attention.   What you want is something a little more subtle.  You want a car that you would see pulling up to a Kennedy family picnic, or something driven by a lesser known DuPont.   I recommend a nice Mercedes Benz sedan.

Mercedes Benz has a reputation much like Porsche.  It is the chosen car of the well heeled, as well as the douche.  For this reason, you have to be careful about which car you choose as your own.  First, since most of us are not Rockefellers, I recommend you avoid the expensive models.  Second, unless you are a cast member of “The Jersey Shore” I recommend staying away from almost all late 1980’s and 90’s models as well as any flashy coupes.  That brings me to what I think could be the best value on the classic car market, the 200/300-series.

The 200/300-series cars are a collection of mid-range sedans offered by Mercedes.  I would be more specific, but it takes a PhD to figure out the Mercedes model line.  For this discussion, I am speaking of the sedans carrying the 200, 230, 250 280, and 300 badges…sometimes including the 330.  These are also known as the W108, 109, 114, 115, 123, and who knows what else.  Never mind…anything cheap and boxy with a Mercedes badge is good enough.

For less than $6,000.00 you can find some amazing examples of Mercedes style and class.  Given the right condition and color, and you could have the perfect classic luxury car.  These models never seem to age, probably because the basic design and style was already pre-aged from new.  They were boxy, clean and carried just the right amount of chrome.  Interiors are well appointed, usually leather and seem modern even by today’s standards.  It is a car you can drive to the country club, or the supermarket with the same sense of satisfaction and dignity.  These are the cars driven by professors, lecturers, judges and the wives of wealthy industrialists.  Their natural habitat is that huge house in that beautiful neighborhood that you always dream of moving into.

To most, a classic car is a pastel colored, chrome speckled, fin encrusted monstrosity.  Muscle cars and Chevy Bel Airs need not be the only choices.  There is not a single car show in my area that is not home to hundreds of cheap little Corvettes and ugly “rods.”  The true aficionado looks for something different, something with a little culture.  A nicely preserved Mercedes sedan is a car that would look great at a local show, but also not seem ridiculous as an everyday driver.  However, before you buy, make sure you do your homework.

Like any old car, a Mercedes can be a handful.  Though pre-1986 models seem to be the best quality, there were still issues to watch out for.  A check of Mercedes forums will keep you updated on what to look for, like electrical harness issues and transmission problems.  Finding a good example is worth the effort because trying to restore one can be a sentence to automotive hell.  The saying “There is nothing more expensive than a cheap Mercedes” is something to remember at all costs.  If there are problems, then there is a 50/50 shot that it will be cheap and easily repairable.  Of course, on the other hand, it could mean you bought a disposable car.  That is the risk with classics, and a Mercedes is no different.  Treated well, a Mercedes can be as reliable as a purebred Shepherd…treated badly, and it can rip your face off.  Look for a dealer-maintained no rust, documented history car.  Start with super wealthy Greenwich Ct families with large heated garages that were anal about maintenance.  Otherwise, look on eBay and Hemmings, roll the dice and live dangerously.

With some luck, you will end up with a car that represents quality, culture, style, and discriminating taste for all to see.  It can be a car that you can enjoy for years and re-sell without depreciation if it is maintained, or even make a profit if the value raises.  Classic Mercedes Benz sedans are becoming more collectable as the years pass, and finding the right one could be an excellent investment.  For the price of a used Buick Century you can have all the best that Stuttgart can offer.

Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond

Photos Courtesy of eBay, benztuning.com

Dodge Caravan: A Car That Changed The World

Dodge Caravan: A Car That Changed The World

Today I went to a local car show to check out some beautiful cars.  There were about 20 vehicles on the lot, mostly from the 60’s on up with an occasional old hot rod thrown in the mix.  Lots of people were milling around, looking at all the shiny paint and the chromed out engines while taking pictures of the more elaborate custom jobs.  About halfway through, I noticed a small sad looking little van sitting in the corner.  As I got closer I realized that someone had brought a 1984 Dodge Caravan to the show with the intent of showing it off.  The minivan was in very good original condition and the owner had cleaned the interior and opened the side door.  There was nothing special, and no chrome engine on this car, it was just a plain, basic mild mannered car was quietly sitting in a corner of the lot waiting to be discovered.

I almost walked by without noticing, but it just drew me in with its serenity.  I was struck by how a car that was universally acclaimed as changing the automotive industry could be so invisible.  Forbes magazine had named the Caravan as one of the “Ten Cars That Changed the World” and yet here it was sitting like a wallflower at a high school prom.  This Dodge Caravan was a piece of history but it couldn’t draw more that a handful of polite visitors.  I couldn’t help but go over and speak to the owner, who had bought the car new and said that it still drove well.  He wasn’t surprised that it didn’t get a lot of attention, especially sitting next to lime green imports and orange muscle cars, but he was glad he had brought the car, stating that “It was important in its day”.  To me, that was a huge understatement, since “its day” was now and since minivans of all types are still huge hits in the marketplace.

The Dodge Caravan and its siblings were introduced in 1984 just months ahead of the Renault Espace, making it the first of its kind.  It was the brainchild of Lee Iaccoca and Hal Sperlich and has since outsold every other type of minivan.  The first Caravan produced is sitting in the Henry Ford Museum, and another is at the National Museum of American History.  Combining all the aspects of both a car and a truck it offered seating for seven, easy entry and lots of space thanks to removable seats.  Built on the Chrysler S platform, the same platform used for everything from the Aries and Reliant K to a stretch limousine a few years later; the Caravan was a simple family wagon that was safe, economical and small enough to fit into a garage.

At this car show were collections of tuner cars and muscle cars in almost every color, with a few nice antiques thrown in the mix.  The little Caravan was like the housewife at a party of supermodels.  The difference was that this particular housewife had changed the world.

Photos courtesy of Chrysler, netcarshow.com and autoindex.com

Article courtesy of Chris Raymond

Bridgestone Drive & Learn

Bridgestone Drive & Learn

You get the best out of others when you get the best out of yourself – Harvey S. Firestone

Tires are important.  I didn’t fully understand that until I spent some time with the people of Bridgestone.  They showed me some cool technology in the tires they produce, and gave me a chance to try them out on the track.  It was not only a learning experience; it was a hell of a lot of fun.

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Bridgestone is the largest tire and rubber manufacturer in the world, and also owners of the Firestone brand.  This past week I was invited to attend the Bridgestone Drive and Learn day at Gillette stadium in Foxboro, MA.  The event is held in 22 cities throughout the US and usually attended by tire dealers.  How they got my name is suspect, but I wasn’t going to pass up a day at the track.  Basically, the event is held to give the product people a chance to introduce the new tires being offered, explain the new technology and demonstrate the benefits.  The day starts with a few videos highlighting the new Dueler, Potenza and Ecopia line of tires.  Then the fun begins.

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A team of 8 professional drivers take us out onto an autocross style track.  Driving new BMW 328i sedans, we are given a chance to attack the track driving on each of the new tires.  The drivers are not your average wheelmen, and the introductions reminded me of one of Richard Hammond’s Top Gear Challenge races…champion after champion.  The list and their qualifications are impressive.

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Brian ColeProgram Manager for Driver’s Edge and a former Skip Barber School instructor. 

Jeff BarkerDriving coach for Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), the Ferrari Owners club, Porsche Owners club, test driver for BMW and Viper, and NASCAR Super Truck series driver. 

Dominic CiceroWinner of the Elf-Winfield Driving championship, winner of the TelMex Grand Prix in Mexico City, stunt driver for the Leverage and Grimm TV series, and driver for Elf Oils and Renault who competed at tracks like Monza, Monaco, Daytona and the American Le Mans. 

Pierre Kleinubing5 time champion of the SPEED Touring Car series, former Brazil Touring Car Champion and driver in the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car series.

Andre SerraDriving coach, Kart racing champ and Grand Am Continental Tire Sports Car driver

Mark WeberLegend of the SCCA Sports Car Club of America who has competed in over 500 races as well as being an acclaimed motorsports photojournalist.

Burt FrisselleGrand Am Rolex Sports Car series driver (Daytona prototype class).

Toby GrahouecSports Car Club of America SCCA National Champion, Grand Am Koni Challenge champion, US Touring Car champion and All American Ice Hockey Hall of Famer. 

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The driving was fun and pretty challenging.  We were placed in a car with a set of the new tires, and given a few laps around the track.  Once done, we switched to another car with a different set of tires and repeated the process.  All in all we drove on 5 different types of tires, from the economical Ecopia line, right up to the ultimate Potenza S-04 Pole Position Ultra performance tire.  The difference was amazing.  All had an excellent feel and ride quality, but the more high performance the tire, the more we could molest the new BMW’s.  The ultra high performance tire was the most fun.  It had amazing braking and cornering capabilities, no feel of skip on spin on the tire, and returned a feeling of being really connected with the road.  Even the fuel efficient Ecopia tires had an excellent feel to them.  Though they were less forgiving of my driving faults, they were quiet and gave an excellent ride, all while saving serious money.

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To cap off the day, we were then broken up into 4 teams and challenged to a Le Mans style race.  Each team is setup in relay race style.  The first guy runs to the car, buckles in and does the fastest lap he can.  Once back, he is given a specific area to park (within some cones) and then runs to tag the next guy in line.  Points are lost for hitting a cone, not buckling up, or parking outside the boundaries.  It was a lot of fun, even though my team came in second.

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So, what about the tires?  Bridgestone is on the cutting edge of tire technology.  The company is focusing on green tires made from things like soy and even dandelions, as well as compounds and polymers that work on a molecular level.  The average design process has been reduced from 1-2 years to a month, so they can keep on that edge.  Recently, the company even introduced an air-free concept tire made from thermoplastic resin which is entirely 100% recyclable.  Current tires are also designed for excellent wet traction using a silica compound and futuristic stuff like 3D sipes and Particle Z.

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Fuel efficiency is improved using something called NanoPro Tech which controls the interactions between the polymer, filler materials and other rubber chemicals at the molecular level.  Fuel saver sidewalls help reduce rolling resistance, and computer optimized components put all the right materials in the right design to make the most fuel efficient tire possible.  Add all this technology to improvements made in ride comfort, wear life, tire noise and even ride comfort and you have an amazing lineup of tires.

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So, what did I learn?  First, I learned that in spite of my enthusiasm for cars and racing, I am slower than your average tire dealer.  Second, I learned that the right set of tires can compensate for a lot of simple mistakes in my driving.  Better tires allow for slower reaction times, and can mean the difference between avoiding a crash or becoming part of one.  Third, I learned that when you get an invitation to a track day, never pass it up.

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Article and Photos Courtesy of Chris Raymond

Worst Cars from the 1970’s

Worst Cars from the 1970’s

**I am re-posting this article as part of a special request made from one of my avid readers, and biggest fan.  Flyaway something or other.  Mr. Fly is presently living somewhere in a facility where the world confines internet trolls, and is especially enraptured with my opinions on this subject.  Not only does he agree with my findings, but has squealed with delight at the prospect of seeing my concrete facts posted for all to see.  So, this one is for you Mr. Fly.  Please take special note of the Ford Pinto section…and the bright colors that you love so much.  Best of Luck!

Every auto writer loves to make fun of bad cars, and the thought of creating a list of the worst makes me absolutely giddy.  This list is “The Worst Cars Sold in the US during the 1970’s,” a time of muscle cars, “Nimitz” class family sedans, and quick rusting steel.

Ford Pinto – The mother of all bad cars.  This car is an abomination, with an exploding gas tank that killed thousands Hundreds of millions of people, and maimed even more 37 billion.  Ford actually had a radio spot that claimed, “Pinto leaves you with that warm feeling,” can you believe it?  A better “saddle” tank was used in the Capri, but the bean counters decided a human life (worth $200,725 dollars) and the lawsuits were cheaper than spending $5.08 per car to fix the problem.  When the Pinto was hit, the doors would crumble, trapping owners inside the burning car.  Even though Ford tested the Pinto 40 17, 624 times in secret, with it exploding every time, they still refused to fix it.  The Ford Pinto is the most reprehensible decision in the history of American engineering.  Facts stating otherwise are purely just fact.  The Pinto is the worst car known to man. 

Ford Mustang II – Based on the Pinto, the Mustang II was Ford’s answer to the oil crisis of 1973.  The standard car had 88hp, and the high-end version had 105hp, not swift by any definition.  Shorter, and smaller than the old Mustang, it looked overly styled, bulky and was an embarrassment to the Mustang name.  (It should be noted that this car is no where near as bad and reprehensible as the Ford Pinto, which killed 425 million people.)

Ford Maverick/Mercury Comet – Ford was cute with this one…giving you paint options like Anti-Establish Mint, Freudian Gilt, Thanks Vermillion, Dresden Blue (Remember how pretty Dresden was after we got through with it?) and the luxury version was (I am not lying) targeted as an alternative to BMW, Mercedes and Audi (More crack please!).  (Also, not as bad as the reprehensible Ford Pinto…a car that maimed most of the Eastern US)

Lincoln Versailles – A very thinly disguised Granada…everyone hated it, and it turned out to be the Lincoln equivalent of the Cimarron.  (Hint – underneath, this car is actually that serial killer Ford Pinto)

Ford Fairmont/Mercury Zephyr – This was the car that chased poor E.T. until he dropped, and the base models were trash.  Doors were the width of pennies, felt about as heavy, and the dash looked like it was made in grade school.  Cheap was taken to a completely new level with the Fairmont.  (I still like it though…unlike the Ford Pinto which not only murdered million and millions by drowning, but almost collapsed the economy through its vial devious unregulated activities)

AMC Gremlin – This car was fugly, and the cute comments asking, “Where’s the rest of your car” were really saying, “God, you are one stupid idiot for buying that piece of crap.”  Yes, it was a tiny subcompact with a V6 option, but it makes no difference.  The car was named after a small gnome that destroys equipment.  It was introduced on April Fool’s Day, and the original design was drawn on a Northwest Orient airsickness bag.  Because they ran out of money, they actually cut the back of the design off, and had carpeting as an option.  AMC had to be an insane asylum, where no one took their meds… there is no other explanation.  (P.S. – The Ford Pinto was responsible for WWII)

AMC Hornet – Three years and one million man-hours of design, and this is the best they could develop.  My father drove one courtesy of the US Air Force, and I remember it as being cheap, ugly and one of the oldest feeling new cars I ever drove, like driving a coffee grinder.  Even in the show room, these cars looked used.  (At least it is not a Pinto, which secretly caused the extinction of the Great Auk)

AMV Matador Coupe – This car is so ugly, they should have had an option to tint other people’s windows.  It was too fat, the hood was too long, and the wheels were lost under all that overhanging sheet metal.  Only when it was setup for NASCAR did the car finally look normal.  The Matador Coupe was the ultimate in bad taste.  (Did you know that the Ford Pinto was actually an attempt by The Bilderberg Group to destroy the middle class?)

Notable – AMC Pacer – The Pacer is ugly and memorable, like that banjo playing kid from Deliverance, but I am not going to be like everyone else and call it the worst car ever made.  Sure, during the summer the terrarium glass made everything in the car melt into a viscous pool on the floor, including the passengers.  Yes, the heavy doors did not match (one was 4 inches longer) and they would eventually sag like an old woman’s chest; but the car was unique, and credit should be given to AMC for having the sack to take a chance.  (Fun Fact – Saddam Hussein owned 11 Ford Pintos)

Plymouth Arrow – Just when I thought there was nothing bad enough from Chrysler to get on the list, I stumble on the Arrow, a car whose rear suspension was taken from an earlier model: the ox cart.  Also known as the Arrow Jet, and Fire Arrow, the car was a collection of sad parts, bad names and gaudy decals designed to decay in less time than it took to go from 0-60. (Ran out of things to say about the horrific Ford Pinto – Enter your own quip here…)

Plymouth Cricket – Yes, like the insect, this car would make annoying noises until you killed it.  (In a study conducted in 2010, most Americans would rather live under ISIL rule than be forced to drive a Ford Pinto)

Plymouth Sapporo – A hideous car that never sold well and looked like a Japanese import, raised on American Big Macs.

Dodge Omni / Plymouth TC3 – This was one horrible car.  Chrysler came out with a Shelby version that was only slightly better, but I can never forgive them for the de Thomaso “red tomato” edition, not to mention what they later did to the Maserati name.  Chrysler did more to ruin Italian heritage than Mussolini and Sacco & Vanzetti combined.  (Ford Pintos are the product of the devil, and Ford Motor Company…in that order)

Downsized GM cars – Almost everything from the “downsize” era at GM was ugly, with the exception of Cadillac.  Straight lines, poor quality, no power, and bad paint jobs helped make GM what they are today…bankrupt.  Great models like the Cutlass were trashed by boxy replacements that fell apart in the showrooms.  If I ever meet the people responsible for this period in car design, I shall beat them severely.  (Wow, never realized this article was so long…Ford Pinto sucks!)

Chevy Monza   – Why did GM do this to us?  This car was a hideous joke, with a fat tail and a terrible design.  Anyone who bought this car deserved the pain it caused, and the fact that Oldsmobile called it a Starfire was an insult to a great line of cars.

Chevy Vega – If this car was built by anyone else, it would have been great, but instead it was brought to us by GM.  Everything, except the look was cheap and worthless.

Chevy Chevette – I knew someone that owned one, and I loved to drive it.  It was small, cheap and durable with almost nothing inside.  It was like a four-door motorcycle, and I loved the fact that you could reach everything from the driver’s seat, including the rear hatch.

Foreign Cars – I was one of those people who never made the switch from American to Japanese cars.  When the imports first arrived, they were not pleasant, and I remember aiming my land yacht at more than a few of them.  Cars like the Honda Z600, and the little Subaru were targets, which needed to be destroyed, and later models like the Nissan B210 Honeybee and the 200SX were just silly.  Mazda didn’t help things with their GLC (Goofy Losers Car), Cosmo, or the 808 Mizer and its 50hp engine.

European cars were even worse, and buyers were brought to tears by the crap being sold on our shores.  Italy was the worst of the lot, sending us the Fiat X 1/9 and Strada, and the miserable Lancia.  France was second for the Renault 12 and LeCar, the Citroen 2CV (imported before 1970, but bad enough to make the list), CX Diesel, and the Mehari (a summer sun car made from plastic that eroded in sunlight).  Third were British cars like the Triumph Stag and MG Midget, which made Anglophiles across the country hide in their homes in fear of retaliation.  Even Germany, who gave us the beautiful Audi Fox, let us down with the VW Thing, a car that reminded us of Nazis.  It took many years of counseling for us to heal from this abuse, but we will never let it happen again…hear that Chrysler?  Never again.

The 1970’s were a time of great cars and hideous trash.  I am sure there are a few atrocities I have missed, but I think everyone will agree that these are the worst offenders.

In conclusion, it is my sincere hope that Mr. Fly and all his internet troll friends now understand my hatred for the little Ford Pinto, a car that not only caused Global Warming, but has devalued the American dollar to a point where the only rational outcome is for all of us to use twigs for bartering.  

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Article courtesy of Mr. Flyaway and his special friends at the home

Photos courtesy of Google Images

Exchange and Mart – Affordable Classics Online

Exchange and Mart – Affordable Classics Online

Classic cars represent something of an anomaly in the automotive industry, and not just because of their unique design features and fascinating history. Classic cars also offer motorists and collectors a unique opportunity to purchase a vehicle that acquires value over time, which is extremely rare when you consider the pace of technological advancement within the marketplace. Typically, standard vehicles begin to lose their value from the moment that they are purchased, as the costs of ownership, long term wear and market shifts drive down any potential resale price.

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Interestingly, there are several online resources that can provide you with access to a range of classic vehicles, with http://www.exchangeandmart.co.uk/ being one of the most prominent. Buying classic cars from this type of resource may help you to maximize your initial investment, as the vehicles in question are likely to be more affordable and open to negotiation. Here are some great classic cars that were found on the website during a recent search:

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The Alvis TE21 Drophead Coupe Convertible 1965: Finished in stunning Mason black and boasting a contrasting cream hide, this stunning 1965 model was recently available online for a list price of £74,950. A convertible, it was shown to be in excellent condition despite its long and diverse service history. Well presented, picturesque and an absolute pleasure to drive, it represents an outstanding investment opportunity whether you are looking to make a statement or a considerable profit through resale.

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The Rolls Royce Shadow 4DR 1968:  Despite being a 1968 model, this Rolls Royce Shadow boasts just 107,000 thousand miles on the clock and is listed in outstanding condition. Supported by a full service history and comprehensive paper trial, this automatic car offers both style and reliability to classic vehicle enthusiasts. It was available for a bargain price of just £7,250, which is at the lower end of the average for high quality cars of this type.

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Jaguar S-Type 1966:  This stunning example is presented in metallic red with red leather.  A charming old Jaguar produced in the year when England won the World Cup.  Walnut dashboard and original leather together with that wonderful smell takes you back to 1966.  Smartly priced at £10,995.

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The Riley 1.5 Litre Saloon 1949: A genuine throwback one of the older cars listed on the Exchange and Mart website, the Riley 1.4 Litre Saloon comes equipped with full leather interior and a surprisingly short service history. Available at £7,750 and with just 46,000 thousand miles on the clock, this manual transmission vehicle is a must for serious collections or those with a penchant for nostalgia. With the classic cream over conker brown color scheme, it is a vehicle that allows the owner to express a distinct individual style.

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Rolls Royce Cloud series 1 Saloon 1959: Rolls-Royce is the best represented classic brand on the Exchange and Mart website, with several models available to consumers. The Silver Cloud Series 1 saloon comes in a classic black with superior tan interior and automatic transmission. It has 96,000 miles on the clock and a full service history behind it, which should peace of mind for any potential buyer.

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The Bottom Line – These cars are just a select few from those on the website, but they showcase the potential for finding affordable classic cars online. The online medium certainly provides an interesting option for consumers and classic car enthusiasts in the modern age, regardless of whether you are buying for recreational or investment purposes.

Lost America

Lost America

This past Friday, I was admitted to the hospital because of a blocked artery in my heart.  After testing, they found a 90% blockage, performed an angioplasty, and then implanted a stent.  The process was tough to deal with, and the recovery may take a week or more.  So, in honor of my battered body, I decided now would be a great time to highlight some photos of useless dead junk, that still looked beautiful.  It’s a metaphor.

These photographs are part of the website and collection of Troy Paiva.  His site, called “Lost America” is full of abandoned places, junk machines, and moonlit landscapes all photographed in striking colors.  The effect is haunting, beautiful, and very eerie.  I absolutely love it.

A photographer since 1989, Paiva’s photographs are amazing, filmed using colored lighting in which time itself is altered.  The effect is unusual, leaving the subject still and dead, but the background alive and surreal.  Much of his work was filmed in the American Southwest, and many of the abandoned buildings have since been destroyed, reinforcing the ghostly effect.

His works are available on his website, and in his two books, “Lost America” 2003, and “Night Vision” 2008.  In addition, his photography has been featured in galleries from New York to San Francisco, and seen in books and magazines across the country.

I first learned of him through a friend’s website, and was amazed at the pictures.  I had spent a lot of time in the southwest, traveling by motorcycle and RV, and visiting all sorts of beautiful abandoned places.  The machines he captures, from aircraft to cars, from ocean liners to trains are all familiar, but now have a dreamlike quality.  They are frozen in time, in the most bizarre poses, forgotten by everyone except the artist.

Each photo conveys a sense of the memories embedded in the item, and the happiness that they once provided.  His shots of a water park in California are sad, but remind me of childhood places I once loved.   His shots of cold war installations, abandoned, are exactly as they were when people walked away.  It transports the viewer back to the past, and to the intensity of the time.  The stark colors give you an eerie feeling of spying, the buildings seem post apocalyptic, and the effect is something akin to a Kubrick movie.

I have been looking for an opportunity to highlight his work for a long time, and am very happy to recommend his website to everyone.  Please take the time to view each of the galleries, buy the book, and purchase a print or two.  I am sure it will be like nothing you have ever seen before.  Thanks again to Troy Paiva, and Lost America.

Article courtesy of Chris Raymond
Photographs courtesy of Lost America

Curious Beauty – The Cars of Virgil Exner

Curious Beauty – The Cars of Virgil Exner

“Art produces ugly things which frequently become more beautiful with time.  Fashion, on the other hand, produces beautiful things which always become ugly with time.” – Jean Cocteau

 

Great automobile design is truly subjective.  Its success can depend on everything from the designers tastes and ingenuity,  the correct perception of the market, to even the financial and corporate backing of the automakers.  The “perfect storm” of events needed to ensure a great car is so subjective that even with the best environment, things can go terribly wrong.

This week I wanted to feature some of the work of Chrysler during the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Specifically, I wanted to feature the designs of Virgil Exner Sr., Advanced Styling Studio Chief at Chrysler.  Mr. Exner is famous for many things, including his “Forward Look” designs of 1955-1957, his classic 1970’s Stutz Blackhawk, and his concepts for Bugatti, Duesenberg and Mercer.  His amazing career was the subject of a book I recently viewed, modestly titled “Virgil Exner: Visioneer” by Peter Grist.  Mr. Exner is not well known today, but his legendary designs and industry changing concepts ensure him a hallowed place in automotive design history.

Time is an important requirement for creating a good design, and it takes most manufacturers 2-4 years to go from concept to production.  There are exceptions, as in the case of the Volkswagen Beetle, which took 15 years.  (It should be noted that the Beetle was designed by Jewish engineer/car designer Josef Ganz, and not penned by Hitler or Porsche as publicized).  On the other hand, the Ferrari Daytona took only 7 days to design.  Time, or the lack of it, is what created Virgil Exner’s biggest design failure, tarnished his legacy, and eventually contributed to his downfall at Chrysler.

Much of the designs Virgil Exner did in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s were for large cars.  For 1962, the designs for the new models were only months away from production when an event happened that would tarnish Exner’s career forever.  During a garden party, then President of Chrysler, William Newberg thought he overheard a GM executive talking about downsizing their upcoming models.  In actuality, the executive, Bob Cole was speaking about the new Chevy II and not the entire model lineup.  This mistake cost Chrysler dearly, and eventually led to the downfall of Virgil Exner.  Newberg immediately ordered Exner to rework the entire Chrysler lineup.  Gone were the big designs, and team worked non-stop to squeeze the designs onto a smaller frame.

The result was some of the most abominable designs ever created by Detroit.  The 1962 Dodge Dart/Valiant was over styled, poorly proportioned and universally panned by the press and public.  Through it all, Exner warned that the result of this downsizing would be atrocious, and end in a colossal failure.  Newberg assured him that he would not be held responsible, and the process slogged on.  To add fuel to the fire, the engineers and bean counters imposed limitations due to cost cutting that doomed the effort.  The original design for curved glass was eliminated, as was wraparound bumpers and new rooflines.  They even went so far as to mandate the amount of chrome on the car.  All this happened in an environment of turmoil.  Executives, including the Chairman were embroiled in a payola scandal that cost more than a few their jobs.

In the end, the cars Exner had dubbed “plucked chickens” were so poorly received that when they were finally unveiled to the dealers, over 20 of them simply walked out.  At year’s end the sales of Dodge cars were down 25% and despite assurances from management, Exner was relieved of his position as Design Chief and given a small room to ride out his remaining contract.  Despite his success with the “Forward Look” designs, and his amazing concepts, the designs of the 1962 Dodge would haunt his legacy forever.

The 1962 Dodge cars were some of the most “aesthetically challenged” vehicles ever to be produced.  The cars were so hideous that they are still loathed to this day by most critics, and will probably never enjoy the true following they deserve.  At the time, design critics thought they looked “plain ugly” and had a front end “as if someone had taped two flashlights to the fenders.”  Sales were terrible, and it took Chrysler almost 5 years to regain the ground lost.  Time is lessening the blow, and the designs have softened over the years.  The cars are still as “fugly” as a wart, they do appear more “European” in the right light and at the right angle.  In hindsight, the cars have become a curious oddity from the golden age of the car styling.

Of course, Mr. Exner’s designs were always a little out there.  His predilection for  highlighting the functions of the car, rather than hiding them led to one outrageous move after another.  One only needs to look at the 1961 Chrysler Crown Imperial’s free-standing headlights to see his unique taste in car design.  Exner’s design cues include the reverse tailfin, the ingrown toenail lights, massive wings, sweeping chrome side panels, severely scalloped fender wells, gun sight taillights, concave grilles, as well as off centered and asymmetric wind splits, driver only dashboards, and his signature, the fake spare tire impression on the decklid.  Separately, these items read like a list of “don’ts” for a car stylist, but in the hands of Exner, they were unique, thought provoking, sometimes controversial and always beautiful.


Throughout his career, Virgil Exner was an innovator, a visionary and to some, a victim of corporate stupidity.  He will forever be remembered as the man who saved Chrysler, only to almost kill it.  Though not on the same level as Pininfarina, Gandini, Sayer, or Giugiaro, his designs are timeless, beautiful and still relevant today.  Even his most criticized work has grown to be more alluring than ever before, and with time I believe they will continue to soften.  The cars featured here represent the best concept and production cars of a true master.

Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond
Photos Courtesy of  allpar.com, mad4wheels.com, curbsideclassic.com, pinterest.com, conceptcarz.com, carstyling.ru, blog.hemmings.com, boldride.com, donseibelphotography.wordpress.com, hotrod.com
Dyson V6 Car & Boat Vacuum

Dyson V6 Car & Boat Vacuum

Dyson is cool.  Their products are not just different; they are cutting edge and modern.  For me they are the Apple of home appliances, with design and technology that instantly makes you want to buy their products. 

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The Dyson V6 Car & Boat vacuum is a handheld vacuum with the amazing Dyson V6 digital motor.  It is the most powerful handheld vacuum on the market, and uses a 2 Tier Radial cyclone design, which creates 15 cyclones that work in parallel to increase airflow and capture more fine dust.  It comes with 6 tools, including a crevice tool, motorized brush tool, hose, and assorted other tools, used to get into all the awkward spaces in your car or boat.  Powered by a redesigned Lithium-Ion fade free battery, it has a charge life of 20 minutes, which is more than enough to clean the inside of a car.  However, if you use the motorized brush attachment, that time is cut to about 6 minutes of charge.  The vacuum is small enough (8.2 X 5.7 X 15.6 inches) to be used without too much effort, and weighs only 3.4 pounds.  The vacuum also has a boost mode which increases the suction (and the noise) considerably.  As with all Dyson handheld vacuums, it comes with a two year warranty

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Packaging – The box is pretty standard, and the vacuum and attachments are all nicely packed.  One of the first issues I had was with the accessory tools.  There are six different tools and I had no idea what to do with any of them.  The manual and box show no explanation.    The Dyson website has a section explaining each tool, but none of the photos would load on the site, so I couldn’t tell which tool went with which description.  So Dyson, get to work on your website. It kind of sucks. 

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Design – As with every Dyson product, the design is futuristic and cool.  The Vacuum is weighted so it handles well and is not heavy to use.  The clear collection basket lets you easily see when it is full, and the cyclone effect is kind of fun to watch.  One button emptying of the basket means no mess.  All of the attachments snap into place easily, though with nowhere to store them, you need to carry all six attachments out to the car when you use the vacuum, which was slightly annoying.   

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Functionality – The vacuum is pretty sweet.  It works just as you would expect, though it is a little loud.  All of the attachments work as expected, and the motorized brush picks up dog hair from places that I have never reached before.  Unlike any other vacuum I have used, the Dyson cleans with one stroke, so it takes less time.  Suction is pretty amazing, and the charge lasts just long enough to get even the most disgusting car clean as a whistle. 

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Overall – I love it.  Even with a retail price of $239.99, I think it is a great deal.  Yes, it is more expensive than the others, but the technology and attachments are worth it.  This vacuum is a must have for every garage. 

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Rating – On a scale of 1-5, I would rate the Dyson V6 Car & Boat Vacuum as a 5.  Sleek, modern and powerful, this vacuum delivers.    

Article by Chris Raymond

Photos by Chris Raymond and Dyson.com

 

Ford SVT Raptor, Designed for Men

Ford SVT Raptor, Designed for Men

Look at this truck and tell me what you see?  Wrong.  It’s the new Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, a tough as nails he-man truck that wants to rip your arms off.  Now look back again, what do you see?  Wrong.  It’s a truck so manly it sweats, a truck you need to shave three times a day, a truck that will grow chest hair.   This truck is dangerous, in the same way you are.

Ford designed this truck for men, not ladies, and certainly not little boys.  This brute is not the truck you take to the local Starbucks for a double non-fat soy chai macchiato latte or to the boutique to get Mr. Jingles a new outfit.  No, this is the truck you use to hunt Wildebeest on your private game reserve, or to chase down local gangs to deal out some street justice.  The Ford SVT Raptor was designed on a mountaintop, by secret disappearing ninjas using the greatest technologies known to man.  They built it with a massive 6.2 liter V8 that makes 411 horses, and 10 million lb-ft of torque.  That’s enough torque to pull the sewer pipes right through your front lawn, and enough power to outrun the cops.

Don’t let this truck scare you, because it will cruise down the highway smoother than your M1 Abrams Main battle tank, and when you get where you’re going, just throw on the Advancetrac system and crawl up over that Prius parked in your spot.  They won’t say anything, they won’t dare.  The SVT Raptor is comfortable too, with enough room for those blonde hotties you picked up on the way to your fight club.

Fully loaded, the Ford SVT Raptor will cost around $42,000 dollars, but you won’t care because this truck will outlast you, and the seventeen children your testosterone flooded body will undoubtedly spawn.  This truck will outlast democracy, and become an impressive monument to the level of machismo you’ve attained.  Throw it into mud-bogged rainforests in Bolivia, use it to tear through the 38th parallel and show those Koreans who’s boss, toss a trailer hitch on it, and drag that mother-loving M777 155mm Howitzer right up to the nearest Al-Qaeda cave, you can do anything in this truck.

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This Raptor is designed only for ripped, hulking, brutish, macho, Chuck Norris lookalikes who enjoys Mixed Martial Arts fighting, threesomes, blonde threesomes, rugby, choppers, blondes and eating fried scorpions.  And don’t worry if one of those hotties has a twin…Ford made a crew cab version.

Ford Raptora

(This happens every time you park it!)

Photos courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Article courtesy of Chris Raymond

12 Future Investment Classics and Why You Should Avoid Them

12 Future Investment Classics and Why You Should Avoid Them

Investing in classic cars has never been more appealing or popular than it is today.  Investment gurus across the nation are spinning stories of amazing returns and massive gains that can be had simply by purchasing a used car.  What they forget to mention, is that investing in classic cars can be a hell from which you never return.

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Jaguar XJS – Undervalued for years, this car is the ultimate Grand Tourer.  Beautiful, quick, classy and rare are qualities that guarantee it will be an appreciating classic.  Though the market is currently soft, I can see this becoming the next E-Type, with a strong return over the next 10 years.  Look for the rare coupe version, the later Series III, the V12 and the special editions (TWR, XJR-S, Celebration-Le Mans, and XJ-SC) for the best return.

After the economic collapse, many middle class families have been saving money, adding to their 401k, and paying down their debt like never before.  These families have grown fearful of the stock market and unimpressed with the miserly returns being offered by banks.  More and more they are turning to “experts” who advise them to invest in recession proof commodities like gold, fine art, vintage wine, and even classic cars.  While very few of these families have the nerve and resources to dive into the fine art and vintage wine markets, they usually don’t think twice about classic cars.  Today, I am listing cars that I think would be a good investment for the future, as well as why you should avoid them.

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Dodge Magnum SRT8 – These are rare, fast and cool.  With 425 horses and a production figure of only 3837, they are sure to be a future collectable.  Look for later model years, especially 2008 and 2009, and always go for the Mafia hit man colors:  Dk Blue, gray and black. 

The market for many classic cars has increased tremendously, averaging a 16% return compared to the Dow Jones 4%.  While stories about people purchasing a Ferrari 250 GTO for $800,000 ten years ago, and reselling it in 2012 for 30 million are true, they are unbelievably rare.  The market is good for some cars, and investment grade historic cars can return 300-500% on rare occasions, but the amount of money and knowledge needed to participate in those markets is overwhelming.  For most of us here on earth, the average classic car is not a good way to invest unless you are very careful.

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Alfa Romeo GTV6 – Low production numbers and a beautiful Italian body make this car worthy of investment.  Prices have gone up dramatically, but you can still find one for small change.  Look for the Balocco and the Maratona editions for extra value.

The classic car market is as volatile as Mel Gibson at a traffic stop.  Cars like the Maserati Ghibli that once commanded $300,000.00, are now selling for $75,000.00.  A Jaguar E-Type once was valued at $150,000.00 can now easily be purchased for $50,000.00.  On average, many classic cars perform well as investments, but you have to be an expert to purchase a real winner.  Once you make the leap, you then have to worry about maintenance, housing, restoration, and a slew of other issues that will arise.  Yes, in many cases the investment will perform better than blue chip stock, but 100 shares of GE will never catch fire and torch your house.

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Triumph TR4 – Michelotti styling on a car that is easy to work on in your own garage.  This is the perfect car for the first time collector looking to get his hands dirty.  Better and more rare than a MGB.  Prices are rising on this one, so find the best example possible (no rust) and buy it quick.   

I recommend buying into the market only if you are a true gearhead.  If you purchase the item for love, and not money, the outcome will be easier to accept, good or bad.  Buy a car that not only a good investment, but one you can have fun with.  Classic cars are meant to be driven, not shoved away in a closet for 20 years.  Using the car on weekends in the summer or for car shows will keep the old girl young, and make it better able to handle to passing of time.  A classic car needs to be loved as you would your own child, which is good because they cost about the same.  Look for cars that have the following characteristics: historical, rare and unusual, famous, loved, or just plain cute.

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BMW M Coupe – This one is a little upscale for many buyers, since a good example could be a little pricey.  Shooting Brake design and very low production numbers make this an excellent investment. 

Historical cars are typically cars that either made or were part of history.  Cars that were raced, certain track cars, special editions, or have a connection to a historical event usually retain their value regardless of the market.  Cars owned by celebrities can be included in some cases.  Examples of these would be special coach built cars, rare editions offered by the factory or the dealer, cars that were used as part of a historical event, movie star cars, and cars that are very old.  Provenance is the key, and it is important to get as much documentation as possible.

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Fiat 124 Spyder – Another low production car with few good examples left.  Most were consumed by rust, or trashed by bad driving, but a good example can demand top dollar. 

Rare and unusual cars are typically cars that have low production numbers, custom one-off vehicles, celebrated special editions, first and last cars of a production, cars not readily available on the market, and cars with unusual options not regularly found.  Examples of these cars could be as varied as a Ferrari 250 California, or the last remaining example of an AMC Eagle SX/4.

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Lincoln Continental – the 1960’s models are poised to gain traction again.  This car once commander a premium price, but lost value in the downturn.  Time is making this car rarer every day, and finding a good one is difficult.  Famous due to “The Matrix” and “Entourage.”  Look for the convertible version for the best return, but be wary of the complicated top mechanism. 

Famous cars are typically the General Lee, the Back to the Future Delorean, or Kitt.  These are cars that were found in movies and television, and are recognized as collectable.  More than a few DeLoreans have been sold because of the movie, in spite of the fact that they are actually horrible trash.  Cars like the VW Bug are reminiscent of Herbie, even without the paint job, and automatically resonate with buyers.  However, full reproductions have a limited market, and should be avoided.

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1940-1960 era Pickup Truck – These trucks are in high demand, with restored examples going for well over 50,000.00.  Easy to work on, and with readily available parts, these are perfect for the investor that is willing to put a little work into them. 

Loved cars are typically the type of car owned by your grandparents.  These are the cars purchased new, and have unbelievably low mileage.  They were cared for lovingly, and no expense was spared in upkeep and maintenance.  Car enthusiasts are also a good source for these cars, and locating one can be as easy as finding a specialty car site or forum.  Examples of these are the typical little old lady car, a 1976 Cadillac Coupe DeVille in Forest Green with the plastic still covering the seats.

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Saab 900 – The early Saabs are getting harder to find every day.  Finding a nicely kept low mileage car could mean an excellent return on your investment.  Avoid the late model GM cars, and go for the early models.  Special editions (and there were a lot of them) are best.   

Cute cars are the easiest to find.  Typically these are cars that remind someone of their youth, and spark the urge to relive those days once again.  People buy cute cars just because they can, for fun, and usually resell them just as easily.  Though you probably won’t retire off the profits from a cute car, you will never have trouble selling it.  Examples include the Mini Cooper, Fiat 500, VW Beetle, MGB, Fiat Jolly, Triumph Spitfire and the Mazda Miata.

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Ford Probe – I chose this one to represent the whole age of aerodynamics at Ford.  Early examples are hard to find in good shape, but it can be well worth the effort.  Avoid the newer body styles, and go for the original for the best return. 

Before you decide on a car, make sure you get professional advice.  Buy the best car you can, with no maintenance or mechanical issues, low mileage, no body rot or issues, no accidents, as few owners as possible, and with the most complete history possible.  The amount you spend up front could mean less money spend down the road.  Also, I would recommend staying away from restorable cars, as the cost to restore could be many times the value once completed.

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Honda S2000 – This is Honda’s answer to the Mazda Miata.  Produced in low numbers,, and always a favorite of the motoring press, this car promises a good return for investors.  Later models are best, and look for one that hasn’t been abused by a Tokyo Drift fan.

After the purchase is when the fun begins.  Maintenance issues can pop up without notice, and the costs for some cars can be astronomical.  Drive with care, and tackle issues as they arise.  Leaving work for later only adds to the problems.  Store the car properly, maintain it, and drive it enough that it is exercised but not abused.  Classic cars do not make good daily drivers, and I have receipts for $2,000.00 a month in Jaguar maintenance to prove it.  When it comes time for the resale, make sure to market it properly.  Whether it eBay or Sotheby’s, how you sell and market the vehicle could be the difference between profit and loss.  Nothing ruins the sale of a car more than the act of selling it.

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Subaru SVX – This Giugiaro designed grand tourer was Subaru’s first attempt at a luxury/performance car.  The most unusual part of the car is the glass to glass canopy, a feature that makes this car really stand out.  Low production figures combined with the unusual styling means this car is sure to rise in value.  Avoid the teal green or eggplant colored cars at all costs.  

Some other cars to consider include the Mazda RX8, the Porsche 914, the Hummer H2, the Mercedes 190, the Triumph Spitfire, the Jaguar XK8, and the Range Rover LWB.

Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond

Photos Courtesy of motivbrakes.com, hdwallsize.com, autoasas.it, carsfolia.com, forums.aaca.org, gulfgt.com, thehulltruth.com, totalcarscore.com, carstyling.ru, wallpapershunt.com, picstopin.com,

Genesis and Ferrari, Design in 7 Days

Genesis and Ferrari, Design in 7 Days

According to the bible, it took God just seven days to create the world as we know it.  Unfortunately, God doesn’t design cars, because the average time to develop a new car can be as long as four years.  With computers and high tech design systems, the time can be shortened, but the process is still massive, costing an automaker billions of dollars.  Even a single component can take years, as in the case of Jaguar and its 17-year development of the V12 engine.

Like God, the automotive world has its own “divine” being, controlling beauty, power, and inspiration.  Of course, I am talking about Ferrari, and when Enzo Ferrari decided it was time to replace the 275 GTB/4, he called Pininfarina studios, who gave the job to a young designer named Lionardi Fioravanti.  Like Genesis, the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 was created in just seven days.

Nicknamed the Daytona, much to the disdain of Enzo, the car first appeared at the 1968 Paris Motor Show and became an instant sensation.  To describe the design intent, Pininfarina said “The whole idea was really a search for this sense of lightness and rake, a slender look.”  In 2008, Fioravanti described it as “the best I have ever done and the one I am most proud of” adding, “there isn’t much I would change.”

The Daytona was the last classic-era, front engined V12 Ferrari produced before Fiat ownership, and was aimed directly at the Lamborghini Muira.  The car was a Grand Tourer, capable of speeds of 174mph and costing $10,000 when new.  Designed to be more angular and shark-like than previous Ferraris, it still paled in comparison to the outrageous looks of the mid-engined Muira.  Performance and drivability was the Daytona’s strong suit, and the Muira’s design fell short due to a design flaw.  The Muira’s gas tank was mounted over the front wheels, making the car very light in the front when the tank was low, and very difficult to drive at speeds.

The production Daytona’s V-12 displaced 4.4-liters and, like the Ferrari 275 GTB/4, had four overhead cams.  This magnificent engine was crowned by six downdraft Weber carburetors and produced 352 horses at 7500 rpm.  In its first road test of the new car, Road and Track exclaimed, “It might as well be said right now, the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona is the best sports car in the world.”  Autocar Magazine came to the same conclusion, stating “It is hard to capture in mere words all the excitement, sensation, and sheer exhilaration of this all-time great among cars.  For us it has become an important new yardstick, standing at the pinnacle of the fast car market.”

Though the designer never envisioned a convertible version, Italian coachbuilder Sergio Scaglietti created an open-air prototype, and Ferrari was inundated with requests for a Daytona Spyder.  The convertible was finally introduced at the 1969 Frankfurt Auto Show, and designated the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona.  Production began in mid 1970 and fewer than 125 were built over three years, with almost 80 percent going to America.

The 365 GTB/4 Daytona was one of the most popular cars ever produced by Ferrari.  It remains one of the most recognized, and beautiful cars ever made.  The Daytona, and the creation of the world, prove that with the right designer, it is easy to make something magnificent and unforgettable.

Photos courtesy of Google Images

Article courtesy of Chris Raymond and Car Design Review.com

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