Monday, November 30, 2009

Investing in a BMW M3 E30? Think again!

Investing into a future classic car seems like a good idea. Let's take the BMW M3 E30, one of the best homologation specials on the market. It's an icon of the 80ies touring car scene. Awesome to drive, good to look at, even 20 years after its birthday.
And the value is increasing continuously. The cart shows (in green) how the money you have to put down for an M3 in good shape went up since 2000. And it can be expected that the value continues to increase.
So, this would be an ideal candidate to invest in, right?

Well, no. If you only assume reasonable cost to keeping the car in good shape (garage, basic maintenance, insurance, etc.) you will spend much more money on the car than what you can ever get back for selling it. That's the nature of car ownership. Doing nothing is not an option, storing it outside is a good idea neither.
So if you are looking for a good investment and you don't like stock certificates then maybe consider watches or stamps.
However, if you are also looking forward to having fun then owning a car like the BMW M3 might be one of the financially quite attractive hobbies and that's what it is meant to be. "Freude am Fahren" (driving with passion).

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Unknown car makers - the Australian Buchanan

Very few people know what a Buchanan is, but most historic racing car enthusiasts know the car that was used to mould the body of the first Buchanans - the Aston Martin DB3S.
Here's what you can find on

N H Buchanan Motor Co Pty Ltd was an Australian kit car manufacturer. It made sports cars in the 1950s.

The original body produced by Buchanan was a fibreglass item based on an Aston Martin DB3-S racing car. Buchanan borrowed a DB3-S and pulled moulds from it while it was in Australia. The styling was altered by filling in the scallops either side of the bonnet and reshaping the grille opening to be oval. Because the target market was for rebodying of early model MGs, the Buchanan moulds were cut and extended between the door openings and the rear wheelarches, adding several centimetres to the body length.

Racing car kits were also produced, consisting of this type of body plus a fabricated X-frame racing chassis manufactured from steel channel sections welded face to face to form box sections. The chassis used mechanicals from an FJ Holden, with the front suspension crossmember and rear axle assembly being shortened to suit the narrower body.

The second model, the Buchanan Cobra was introduced in 1958 as a production vehicle based on Standard 10 mechanicals. Only 7 were manufactured.

Buchanans were used on the road, but also raced quite successfully. You can see some of the cars pictured on the side. (pictures taken from "Buchanan Motor Company")

To some extent Buchanan can be compared with Devin or JWF. I like this breed of course and wouldn't mind owning a Buchanan.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Looking for an "Evolution" or "Special"? Go back in time!

A friend of mine recently told me that the latest "evolution cars" and high end spin-offs are neither exciting nor superior anymore. He illustrated this with the not really top rated Audi TT RS, but there are many other disappointing examples like the latest Mitsubishi Lancer Evo or Subaru Impreza.
Let's go back and look at some older offsprings and famous evolution and homologation specials. For example the unforgettable BMW M3 E30 in 2.3 and 2.5 liter disuise. BMW built this car as the basis for motorsports and when you drive one of these you can fell this is true.
Or take the Porsche 924 Carrera GTS. A true racing car with road registration. Hotter than the GT which already was a pretty exciting car.
One of the most famous homlogation specials probably was the Porsche Carrera RS 2.7 liter, built between 1972 and 1973. It was planned to build 500 of them, but demand was so big that more than 1'300 were built and the racing career was a long lasting one with many special versions built on top.
Ferrari build many evolution and homologation cars, i.e. the 250 SWB or the F40. All of them have been competitive and attractive as well.
What all of these have in common are a good amount of race pedigree and steep price developments. A very good evolution model of the M3 for example can easily fetch almost the price as "new", Porsche 924 Carrera GTS have already gone beyond that. And we all know how much a good Ferrari 250 SWB or even an F40 is worth today. The Porsche Carrera RS 2.7 is traded higher than USD 200'000 today, 4-5 times of the price for the new car.
So, as a summary, true homologation specials and evolution models are cars without compromise, designed to win on the track and to offer a minimum amount of comfort and convenience anywhere else. Collectors love these things and even when the car is not competitive compared to modern sports cars, driving one of them is awesome and very rewarding.
So, if you plan to buy a Audi TT RS, maybe you reconsider, buy a normal TT and an M30 E30 on top.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Downsizing works - Audi A5 at the Audi TechDays

We all have observed that cars got bigger and heavier over the last 20 years. With this gain of weight some of the progress made by building better and more fuel efficient engines got lost and actually some handling and performance also was given away.
The problem with more weight is that everything needs to be built stronger to deal with the increased weight.
Audi showed how it would be the other way around. They lightened an A5 by roughly 200 kg, by using an aluminum structure and body and carbon for some parts. Thanks to the lighter body they were able to use a smaller transmission, smaller wheels, fuel cell and brakes. At the TechDays they compared this special 4 cylinder TFSI A5 with its bigger brother the V6 A5 as built and sold today. Despite 54 HP less the lighter car accelerated as well as the V6 and the handling was much better. Fuel consumption is down to 6.2 liter per 100 km, a lot less than the V6. So, you get equivalent performance, better handling and heavily improved fuel efficiency without suffering. The only downside may be the engine sound, but as we know these things can be engineered.
And "cetero censeo ....." I am still waiting for the 950 kg super car.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Picture of week - unrestored Porsche 904 GTS

There is an ongoing debate in the scene about what is better, a beautifully restored car or an unrestored car with patina. Now, with race cars, people tend to really liked the cars with true traces that the car competed in many races. The picture on the left shows details from a Porsche 904 GTS that run at the Gaisberg race this year. It's unrestored and basically 100% correct to period specification and build quality. It's awesome! Gaisberg was also special in the sense that you could compare 4 or 5 of these cars, some completely restored, and one totally unrestored. Of course glossy cars in as new state look good, but this shabby 904 GTS with race stickers from the 60ies, corroded wheels and all these marks from races and storage, it's just marvelous.
The issue is that if you really want to race old cars then you have a safety requirement that may force you to take such a car apart and fix it from the inner to the outer. That means that cars like this Porsche 904 GTS in many cases are more museum cars and show cars than ideal candidates for fast laps and hard track use. Also one must know that these cars were built to last one, maybe two or three seasons, not 50 years. With this in mind, an unrestored Porsche 904 GTS is even more of a joy to look at!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Want to reduce weight of your Porsche? Here's how

I have been talking about lighter weight cars a lot. Less weight means better performance and fuel efficiency. Now here's a baby step to improve your car, at least if you are ordering a Porsche 911 GT3, GT3RS or the new Boxter Spyder. You can add the "upgrade" to a lithium-ion starter battery to your order, save 10 kilogramms (6 versus 16) and pay roughly 2'400 USD extra. I haven't said it's cheap to save weight, have I?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Audi 2.3 E Cabrio - Audi's first in the early 90ies

Audi hadn't have a convertible in its car range over many many years. Actually some of the DKWs and NSUs probably were probably kind of the predecessors of the Audi Cabrio presented in 1991. They built it for almost nine years. It was a reaction to the success of BMW with the 3-series convertible and it became a success as well, offering the same advantages and characteristics, i.e. space for 4-5 people and some serious amount of luggage, a hood that allowed winter use and a broad range of engines, from four to six cylinders. Audi of course also had the five cylinder which powered the car I owned in the early nineties.
I was quite happy with the car, it was very reliable and even the depreciation was acceptable. It was fairly quick as well and nobody at that time would have been thinking about an S4 Convertible appearing 15 or so years later. Fuel consumption wasn't its strenght, but the noise level with the roof up was quite okay. I drove long distances with the car and it never let me down. I sold it to a water policeman in the neighborhood and I am sure he was happy with it for a long time.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Brave color choice may not pay off short term, but maybe long term

In a previous blog post I criticized the boring colors cars are offered with today. It's a fact that a large share of the cars produced today are either black, silver or something in between. And when you look at a parking lot there's little color to be seen.
To be fair it must be said that there are other colors available. On the picture to the left a number of colors available for cars in the market today are shown. So if you want a colorful car you are free to buy one, at least to some extent. It must be said that there seems to be a more diversified color choice for smaller cars (i.e. Mini, Renault Clio or Volkswagen Polo) and partially for sportscars (e.g. Mazda RX-8) too. If you plan to buy a Mercedes E Class then there's little to be chosen from outside of silver and black.
But as we know it's not just about your own choice. If you want to sell the car after some years creative colors may be a reason for accelerated depreciation. And only after another 15 or 30 years people will love the color again as it will be part of the pedigree of the oldtimer ...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

TVR Grantura Restauration - stage two - some progress

A few weeks have passed since I wrote last time about the TVR Grantura. In the meantime the car was taken apart, the engine has left the engine bay, the transmission was taken apart. The interior has been removed also. So there's not too much left, but the body is still bonded to the chassis. This will be the next step, to actually "divorce" chassis and body. That's going to be a painful process with lots of dust and dirt.
The engine already has been checked and partially repainted to make a good impression.
As always there are many strange things to be discovered, many mechanical issues to overcome. People in the past have removed parts that seemed not to be needed, but actually they are important. The most funny thing though was the "material" the initial assembler of the kit used to protect the body from the exhaust heat. To build the heat shield he obviously stole a parking sign! According to some English blokes it's really an original English parking sign. Well it did the job for almost 50 years and I hope people still were able to park their cars.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Small cars outpacing medium sized and large cars in the US

I just stumbled upon a chart from Ford stating that in 2013 there will be more small cars in the US than medium sized cars. Now, let us think about this:
a) In the last 2-3 years US people haven't really got rid of their SUVs and they still like large cars
b) It's quite difficult to make good money with smaller cars
c) From a fuel consumption point of view, being small (and light) makes less and less of a difference. We said that 100 kg mean 1 liter more of fuel consumption per 100 km in the past, today, it's more about 0.3 liter and in 4-5 years it probably will be 0.2 liters or less. In the US where people drive long distances at constant speed the weight impact might even be smaller. Aerodynamics though is still very important and better results can be achieved with medium sized cars than with small cars.
So, there are a lot of factors working against the growth of the small car segment. Let's see what will happen ...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Picture of the week - Formula One in the Past

When you observe drivers of old cars you can see just how much force and body movement was involved in steering vintage racers. Steering wheels were big, the clutch heavy and the gear change a challenge. One reason why it looks so impressive though is that you actually can see the driver while today, you barely see his helmet. This picture was taken at this year's AVD Oldtimer Grand Prix on the Nurburgring.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New cars in 2009 - what newcomers will we remember in ten years?

2009 was a year of many new car models. In general the car landscape becomes more and more diversified with all these cross-over and hybrid concepts. However a key question is what new car announcement will we remember in five or ten years! Well, I'll give it a try and try the crystal ball:
1) Lotus Evora - it was the first really new Lotus being announced for the last 10 years
2) Ferrari 458 Italia - the successor of the highly successful 430 can almost everything better and looks both modern and gorgeous
3) Aston-Martin V12 Vantage - what a combination of styling and engine
4) Lexus LF-A - it is too expensive, will not sell as expected and production will stop early. We will remember it as an expensive failure and due to the small number produced it may be a collector's item.
5) BMW 5 series GT - because this is a car nobody has been waiting for and fills a niche that doesn't properly exist. We will remember it as one of the bigger flops in category innovation.

Now, many of you may think that there are important cars missing on this list. For example the new McLaren MP4-12C. But despite being announced this year production will only start in 2011 or so, so that's a no go. What about the Mercedes SLS? This could be a contender, but it was announced and talked about for so long, that I am not even sure what year it would fit in. What about the Porsche 911 GT3 or Turbo then. Well, these are remarkable cars but much less of a sensation than the 458 in my eyes. If somebody misses other cars that should be named, then just propose them!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Car makers made visible progress in 2009

Despite of the financial crisis and the recession 2009 was a good year in terms of new car announcements. And if you look at many of the new cars presented you must acknowledge that a lot has been achieved. Most new cars were clearly more fuel efficient, many were lighter than their predecessors, most were safer and quite a number of them were also prettier. So, overall, that's good news.
The new Toyota Prius is a good example. It's slightly bigger but clearly offers a lot more space. The design has been modernized and the interior now looks much more impressive than the one of the previous model. And it became more powerful while being more economical on the other side. That's how we like progress to happen.
There are a number of negative points in the 2009 car year. I get the feeling that car manufacturers spend a lot of time and energy to lower ECE driving cycle fuel consumption while what actually happens in regular driving is less impressive. Safety progress is focusing on achieving five stars in the standardized crash tests while passive saftey features like 360 degree visibility is neglected and sacrificed for design aspects. And also cars become more and more complex with all those gadgets and electronics built in making them a maintenance nightmare in a few years. But that's maybe the price for progress.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The new TopGear series has arrived

Yesterday BBC broadcasted the first episode of the new TopGear series. Thanks! Funny as always, illogical in the conclusions as expected. But certainly worth watching. And a good laugh! The Dacia Sandero is the new Morris Marina ...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ferrari 308 GTS - a great car, not just for Magnum PI

The Ferrari 308 GTB (and later GTS) was the first 8 cylinder street car Ferrari built honored with a Ferrari badge. The 308 GT/4 still had the Dino batch when presented. For timing reasons the Ferrari 308 GTB was initially built with a fiberglass body, helping to reduce weight and corrosion issues as well. With 808 cars built it's the rarest of the breed. However soon after production was changed and all 308 GTB/GTS produced after 1977 had a steel body. The Ferrari 308 GTB/GTS was a huge success, in total Ferrari built 6'116 cars between 1975 and 1980, pretty much half of them were the open targa version 308 GTS.
The 308 GTS became very famous in the US because the TV series Magnum PI showcased this car. Initially they wanted to use a Porsche 928, but Porsche couldn't deliver an open version. So Ferrari filled the gap and despite the fact that a tall man like Tom Selleck barely fitted into the car.
It is a typical Italian car of the seventies. You feel this when you try to adjust controls and seating position. You are forced in kind of a frog position, but despite the smallish seats it's quite comfortable. The car was actually more spacious than the later Ferrari 348 due to the way the engine was inserted.
And whatever you may have been told, it was a fairly reliable car, able to cope with long journeys. And the sound was, thanks to the Weber carburetors, much nicer than later cars.

It was my first Ferrari and I adored it. It felt at home on any road, be it the Monza circuit, highways or serpentines in the mountains. Fuel consumption was certainly not its strength, but who would see this as an important criteria for such a beautiful car? The design of the Targa version was specifically clever with the small windows covered in black - the driver could see through them, but from the side they seemed to be nontransparent.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Looking for an Oldtimer - lots of choices

When a car turns 30 years old, then it's called an "Oldtimer". In Switzerland it's called a "Veteran". Being 30 years makes a lot of things easier (in Switzerland, but also many other European countries). You can apply for special number plates, cheaper insurance and you only need to go to the Swiss equivalent of MOT every six years, assuming the car is in good shape and original configuration. Now an interesting question is what cars would fit this scheme in 2010, ready for being used in the next season. Here a couple of examples, coming from the used car section in one of the online platforms:
  • Lancia Gamma
  • Alfa-Romeo Spider 2000 Veloce
  • Alfa-Romeo Alfasud Sprint Veloce
  • Puma 1600 GTE
  • Lotus Esprit Turbo
  • Triumph TR7
  • Porsche 911 SC
  • Mercedes 280 SL/SLC
  • Fiat Ritmo Abarth
  • Mazda RX7
  • Ford Escort RS 2000
  • ...
The list goes on. Some of these cars cost less than USD 10'000.-, so are truly affordable. And some will most probably gain value over the next 10 to 20 years. If you pick the right one, you are not only welcome in many Oldtimer event you actually may make more money with it than with alternative investment possibilities. And certainly you will have more fun.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The art of car lights design

In the past the lights of a car, especially the rear ones, were not really considered as important design elements. The main difference a designer could make was to position them differently and maybe to alter the shape. Later people started to combine different forms and sizes and to position multiple lights at the rear of the body. Today, all is different. With the latest LED technology you have a lot more freedom on how to design the lights. Not just the form and shape but also how they look in the dark. But, be careful, in some cases the result doesn't convince. The Audi Q5 for example has a suboptimal light design in my eyes. And in many cases the designer have just done too much. And, what we see today, is far from being the end. Much more can be expected!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

How virtual is driving a real car today?

Some of us have been playing with a Playstation or Xbox and trying to drive fast around the Nurburgring. It's clearly quite different to the real thing. There's a lot missing despite the always improving graphics and more and more computing power. Not even a 720 degree turning steering wheel makes the sensation really real. But is "real" driving really real? More and more of what we do in a car isn't directly influencing mechanical elements but rather sensors and digital processors. When you step on the throttle today a computer decides how much of your command is really good for the engine and the driving condition. And when you turn into a corner your wheels in the back may also turn to make the driving safer. Engineers work hard to still give us "feedback" and make the driving less artificial, but in reality not even the sound of the engine may be real, as modern cars like the new Lexus LF show. So more and more real driving becomes virtual and at the same time virtual driving becomes more real. Brave new world!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Picture of the week - Alfa-Romeo 8C 2600

Unusual, rarely seen, an Alfa-Romeo 8C 2600 in white, well not completely. It's a Swiss vintage racing car, so the colors are red and white. This one drove at the 2009 Arosa Classic in the competition class and mastered the 7.9 km long hillclimb in 5:53. Not bad for a 70 years old car. Most of the younger cars actually were slower.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Is this what we will drive in 2030?

As every year some design studios situated in or close to California revealed their visions for the future of motoring at the LA Autoshow. This year the designers where asked to design cars that would appeal to 16 to 23 years old chaps in the year 2030. Quite a challenge. You see three results here, one from GM, one from Mazda and one from Honda. Clearly they look futuristic. However I really wonder about the usability of these "things". Either these "cars" are very big or very difficult to enter. But clearly they look cool and I could imagine my son dreaming about such a thing (even today).

So, let's see. In 20 years we will know better. Given that apparently we have gone beyond "peak oil" already, more than smart design will be needed so that future generations still can commute and travel individually.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The importance of driving further

How far can you go, seems to be an important topic for many people. The range a car can do is a serious purchasing criteria. With the new electrical cars the discussion as been heating up. Most electrical cars have a range issue. The best of them claim to being able to cover 300 kms (Tesla Roadster), but road tests reveal that it's rather 150 - 200 km in reality. Most electrical cars do maybe 70 - 150 km with one full load of the batteries. The other extreme currently is been shown with new environmentally friendly Diesel cars. Take the Volkswagen Passat Bluemotion for example. With it's low fuel consumption of 4.5 liters per 100 km it can cover 1'600 km with one tank of Diesel. Impressive!
But how important is it really? Most people cover less than 100 kms every day for their commutes, so they can easily deal with a range of less than 100 km. And many people driving cars with very long ranges have fogotten how and where to fill in the gasoline when they next time have to. In the 70ies and 80ies a range of 350 km and more was quite acceptable, nowadays anything below 800 kms seems to be an issue. It all depends, I guess. If I can "fill in" my car at home in my garage I have no problem with having to connect it to the power source every day. If I have to find a gas station, queue to get served and to be able to pay and loose 10 or more mintues with it then I prefer of course to have a long range. In the past the range was also a safety attribute. If you have to stop to fill up your tank then you do at least stop. Think about the Passat Bluemotion driver who covers 1'200 or more km without stopping because he doesn't have to ...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cars starring in TV Series - best of the best

As announced in my blog post on cars in movies, I assembled also a list on TV Series with cars as stars. Of course almost any TV series will show cars here and then, at least if we forget western TV series like Bonanza or Science Fiction like Star Trek, but in some of these TV programs cars are more important than in others. The Ford Torino in Starsky & Hutch for example plays an important role, as does the SUV that Colt drives in The Fall Guy. Some TV series even did more for car makers in terms of publicity than a lot of their own marketing department. Most people for example know the Ferrari 308 GTS that Magnum drove in Magnum PI. The Aston Martin DBS and the Ferrari Dino 246 GT in The Persuaders are legendary. And many people know the Volvo P1800 sportscar rather from The Saint than from having it seen on the street. By the way in one episode of The Saint Roger Moores drives a TVR Vixen race car. Emma Peal in The Avengers uses a Lotus Elan (S2 and S3 models), John Steed drives a vintage Bentley. And the Harts in Hart to Hart use a range of cars including a Rolls-Royce Corniche, a Dino 246 GT, a Mercedes 450 SL and a Mercedes 280 TE model. The Professionals use and crash various Ford models and The New Avengers drive Jaguar XJS and other 70ies cars. Many people probably remember Miami Vice, showcasing a Ferrari Daytona spider, though being a fake. It was replaced later with a white Ferrari Testarossa and helped to sell the car in the US. So the list could go on, listing Pontiacs (K.I.T.T.), Thunderbirds (Vegas) and others. However two series are special in my eyes.
TopGear is more a car show than a TV Series, however it's not that clear. And finally "Michel Vaillant" was a TV series produced in France, telling the story of the Vaillant family, being both car manufacturers and racers. Interestingly many of the Vaillants looked a lot like Alpines or Matras, but is okay. The race scenes at the Targa Florio and other races are a joy to watch and nothing like this has been produced since.

Zurich Car Show 2009 showcasing Ferrari 458 Italia

The Zurich Car Show is organized every year and sits in the middle between the Frankfurt Car Show (IAA) and the Geneva Salon d' Automobiles. So it happens that there are a number of cars shown the first time in Switzerland. This year it was the Ferrari 458 Italia. It looks actually as good in reality as on pictures we all have seen. It's a really gorgeous car. Also rarely seen is the Alfa-Romeo 8C Spider that was presented in a light blue color that interestingly suits the car well.
A first for Switzerland was also the Fisker Karma (also displayed as convertible) and the coming Tesla four seater family car (prototype/mockup shown).
And quite a number of other showcars and prototypes made it to Zurich as well, for example the Mini Concept and the Saab Concept car pictured here.
Of course the event was very crowded and it was more than difficult to get a good shot at something it's still worth to visit.
Similar to other car shows this year, being green and environmentally friendly was a key topic and most manufacturers showed either a hybrid car or an electrical car.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

What a shame - Harald Schmidt blowing up a RR Silver-Shadow

Comedians and obviously TV talk masters do come up with all kinds of more or less funny idea. Here's one from Harald Schmidt, blowing up a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow. Now, this is clearly not a car in pristine condition and probably could be bought for the price of a Volkswagen Polo or less, but it's still a 70ies icon and I actually do love the shape and the aura of this car. So, how funny the idea may be, Mr. Schmidt, please take another car next time, for example a Cadillac or a Buick or something.

Friday, November 6, 2009

How much better is a 2010 Volkswagen Polo compared to its grandfathers?

I have been criticizing the lack of progress in car engineering again and again. But now it's time to also look at it from the other side for once. Having just read a couple of old car magazines - something that I enjoy a lot - and compared it with what is published as test reports today, some interesting facts come together.
If you take a modern car like the VW Polo (1.2) and let it compete with a VW Golf (1.3) built thirty years ago you can just see how much progress has been made. Despite the fact that the Polo is almost 300 kg heavier at about the same size, performance in comparison is staggering. The Polo accelerates better, is much faster, much more quiet (by a lot) and much more economical. Actually the current Polo is as quick as the top end model VW Golf GTI from 1979/1980. The Polo even beats a proper midrange car like the Audi 80 GLE (this one would be called Audi A4 today). It's faster, offers more space (look at the seat pitch for the people in the back of the car!) and again is much more quiet and thirsty. In addition to all of this the new car is of course much more safe (with 4+ airbags, crash protection, ESP, etc.) and much much cleaner. You actually wonder why anybody would need a bigger car, given that the Audi 80 was already luxury in the late 70ies. So, one must say, that the engineers did a lot of homework and progress is really well visible. So it's down to the consumer to make the right choice and take profit from the progress.
Two things to also mention: The Audi 80 GLE was DM 17'671, the Volkswagen Polo is priced at Euro 17'250. So, for the today's price of the Polo you would have received roughly 2 Audis, if the value of money hadn't decreased. But, as another measure, you could also have bought a Porsche Carrera RS 2.7 1973, as advertised in the used car section of the same magazine from 1979, for DM 16'900.-, so roughly the same money. Today though you would get approximately Euro 150'000.- for the Porsche and maybe 3'000 for a well maintained Audi 80 GLE.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Toyota following Honda and BMW exiting Formula 1 - no success despite all the money spent

It's really kind of a pattern. Big car manufacturers want to expand their image of building sporty cars. They enter the Formula 1, throw big money at it and are fairly unsuccessful. With the overall business not doing well they decide to pull back and exit the racing series. We have seen this with Honda, then with BMW and now Toyota!
There are many questions you could ask, for example, would they have canceled their racing engagement if they had been really successful? And, why haven't they been successful, given all the money they invested? Let's take Toyota. They were known as having the biggest budget of all the teams, they had it all under control, the chassis, the aerodynamics, the engine, everything. And still, besides some memorable results, the expected success didn't come.
On the other side you have Brawn GP who inherited the developments and ideas of the Honda team and won, despite a smaller budget and initially a lack of sponsors, the formula 1 championship. A private team showed the established factory teams how to do it.
Is it really about individuals that make the success? Designers like Adrian Newey, team leaders like Ross Brawn, drivers like Sebastian Vettel and maybe Jenson Button? It seems to be like this. With with all the big teams walking away the Formula seems to become again what it once was, a series for semi-private teams competing with what they were able to build.