Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The car Artega should build - Artega GT 2.0 TFSI

We haven't heard much from Artega lately, at least they were at the Geneva Car Show a couple of weeks ago.
Given the current trends and sensitivities I wonder whether Artega shouldn't consider adding another model or even replacing the one they have. As you know the Artega GT has the Volkswagen V6 engine on board, basically the unit from the Passat R36 coupled with the DSG box. While this certainly guarantees acceptable performance the engine isn't known for fuel efficiency and low CO2 emissions. So why not replacing that unit with a tweeked 2.0 TFSI engine? Performance would still be more than okay, but weight could come down to 1'235 kg, CO2 emissions to 174 g (from 220 g), average ECE fuel consumption from 8.9 to 6.7 l/100 km. Even the price could be reduced and maybe some of the components (breaks, wheels, etc.) could be made lighter optimizing performance and fuel efficiency even more. Important though would be an investment on the sound engineering side though and please alter the seating position so that even tall men can sit comfortably!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ferrari F40 versus Porsche 959 - true benchmarks

These are two of the best cars ever produced: Ferrari F40 and Porsche 959. Both represent what was doable when they were presented. Both are still attractive today. Both were very expensive when they were sold as new, both are still good value today. The video (in French) lets them shine and sound .. wonderful! Thank goes to LP for pointing me to this great video!

Monday, March 29, 2010

iPhone Applications for Classic Cars Enthusiasts

More and more people use an iPhone and this includes classic car drivers. With the iPhone people get access to a large repository of applications, so an interesting question to debate is what is actually available for classic car enthusiasts. Here's an initial list:
Various and definitely usable navigation applications can help to find the way and direction. Navigon, TomTom and others are the providers. An issue is of course the need for energy on longer trips, and not all oldtimers do have a cigarette lighter! Google Maps may also often be of help, but it's not a navigation software and downloads can become expensive.
File sharing:
DropBox and other applications are useful to share data and files between your PC and the iPhone. You want to have a map with you or a list of hotels with you on your iPhone? No problem with these applications.
There's a number of weather apps out there, typically tailored to local needs. for example allows you to see an animated rain forecast for the next 12 or so hours, very useful for the ones who can't take their top with them in their classic car ;-)
Internet Search:
Google and other Search Engines will help you to find the information you need. Often you do this through the iPhone browser (Safari), but there are also native search applications.
More and more journals and dealers offer their pre-owned cars through iPhone applications. Many of the online classifieds portals do provide iPhone apps.
As many classic car drivers log their fuel and oil consumptions and their trips made, an iPhone app could come handy here. Various types of apps are available.
Sound recording:
Not only can recorded engine noise soundtracks be fun, they might also help you if you have a problem and want to illustrate the problem to your mechanic. The standard sound recording software available with OS 3.0 is quite good and will do the job.
Photos and camera:
The built in camera isn't really a highlight, but for some occasions it's certainly good enough. And you can send the pictures immediately through email or MMS, so you can inform your mechanic about a problem for example.

What do I miss:
I would like to have a good application to locate/search Specialists. For example, if I am in Germany and have a problem I would want to know where the next (geo based) maintenance shop for my car is.
I would also find it useful to be shown the closest Racetrack wherever I am.
And, in case of mechanical problems a diagnostic tool for old cars would be really useful.
And, why not have an app that warns you 10 minutes before it starts to rain at the place you are? This would help to close the car's top in time before it's all wet in the interior ;-)

Any more ideas from your side? Don't hesitate to comment!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Check your savings - Porsche 906 for sale in Germany

This beautiful Porsche Carrera 6 (916116) is still for sale at Freisinger in Germany. According to the must-have book "Porsche 906" written by Jürgen Barth and Ulrich Tripsel 906116 was delivered on March 15, 1966 to Baden Auto in Freiburg. First owner was Werner Brockhaus. The car competed at variuos hillclimbs (for example Ollon Vilars, Schauinsland, Bad Neuenahr), but also in the 1000 km race at the Nurburgring in 1968. It had a serious accident at the Gaisberg hillclimb and obviously was almost wrecked at testdrives on the Nurburgring in 1970. In 1971 the car was offered for DM 6'700.- (basically the price for a new Volkswagen Beetle) with accident damages. The color of the car changed from white with stripes to red and now back to white during the years. Obviously the car is now in as new condition, but the price of Euro 780'000.- isn't something for people with small budgets. Given you can build a "new" Carrera 6 for roughly Euro 100'000 to 150'000 from scratch (recreations/replicas are for example built by werkzcars) you wonder whether the history is worth the difference. But that's for the buyer to decide! As all my readers know I have somewhat a crush for the 906 and maybe one day ....

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Picture of the Week - Alfa-Romeo Montreal V8

This weeks picture shows a detail of the Alfa-Romeo Montreal.
The Montreal was presented in 1970 in Geneva and was produced until 1977, a total of 3'917 cars left the factory. The design was done by Bertone/Gandini and it is certainly impressive, even today. However the highlight of the car is the V8 engine that came more or less directory from the Alfa-Romeo 33 Stradale sports racer. In the Montreal it had 2593 ccm. The 90 degree V8 received its fuel through a SPICA fuel injection, delivered 197 hp and was coupled to a five speed ZF gearbox. With all this technology performance was certainly up to the standard in the early 70ies. Handling was apparently less of a buying factor also because with 1'270 kg the car was quite heavy for its time. Despite the great design and the race bread engine prices for used Montreals are low, especially if you compare it with other cars of that time. But maybe, this will change.

Friday, March 26, 2010

DSG is for street cars, automated sequential gearboxes for race cars

What few people know is that the first Double Clutch Gearboxes were invented for racecars in the 70ies. Porsche built one to save tenths of a second per lap in Le Mans and on other race tracks. As we know changing a gear (manually) takes time. So being able to shift instantly from one gear to the other seems to be a good idea. However the Porsche box wasn't a success and Porsche dropped the idea. Many years later Volkswagen started to equip cars with DSGs that offered the convenience of automatic gearboxes while not taking the extra fuel traditional automatic gearboxes sip. Audi followed soon and today many car manufacturers add DSGs to their street cars, including Ferrari (California Spider), Porsche (911/911 S), BMW Z4 35si, etc. However in racing we haven't seen one of these gearboxes. Why? Well they get much heavier than automated sequential gearboxes and they can't shift much quicker than what you can buy for example in a 430 Stradale or what Formula 1 has demonstrated. Weight is bad in racing, too many moving parts are bad for reliability, cooling needs when high power is involved and other issues add to the disadvantages.
So, what is good for street cars doesn't make sense for race cars. It shows that people appreciate the higher gear change comfort of DSGs while they hate the bumpy gear changes of automated sequential boxes. Well, almost. For fast road cars manufacturers actually program bumpy gear changes or noise effects to create the sensation of a sporty gear change.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Everyday Classics - example Porsche 911 SC G-Model

Classic cars are often said to be "heavy maintenance" compared to "low maintenance" of modern cars. That's why most people use classic cars only for the sunny and dry days and keep them in a warm garage for the rest of the time. However there are a number of classic cars that often also get used like everyday cars. A typical example is the Porsche 911, pictured here the G model (built between 1973 and 1989). Many of these cars still get driven every day and maintenance bills are not higher than if you drive a modern equivalent. Other examples are the SL series from Mercedes-Benz, be it the R113 or even more the R107 (280 SL, 300 SL, 350 SL, 380 SL, 420 SL, 500 SL, 560 SL). Also some of the Jaguars get used every day and many sport limousines from BMW, Mercedes, Alfa-Romeo or other car manufacturers still help their owners to get through the daily traffic. That's good, as so we keep remembering them and the streets don't look so dull showing only silver and black aerodynamic wonders passing by.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Race and Street Cars too far away today? Look at the Mercedes SLS GT3

Mercedes just presented a GT3 version of their new Mercedes SLS AMG super car. The difference between the street and the race car is enormous and it's not just the big wing on the back of the car. Actually you wouldn't want to try the GT3 on normal roads. That's how far away the race car is from the street car. It wouldn't be legal also.
In the past this was very different. The street version of a Ford GT40 was very similar to the race version and actually most if not all GT40s were road registered.
And that's what I love about race cars from the past. They were pretty close to what you got from the manufacturer and the changes were marginal in comparison. Racing immediately influenced the production and made the street cars better. There's barely anything floating back from racing car engineering into series production anymore, not even for super and hyper cars. And that's a pity!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Looking for a thrill? Chevron B8

So here's something you can actually buy. If you are really ready for a thrilling drive, then maybe this Chevron B8 is the thing you are looking for? It's a 1968 model, completely restored and ready to be picked up at a specialist for kitcars and special cars in Switzerland. I am not really sure whether I would want the Rover V8 coming with it, but I like the shape and the yellow color suits the car well.
The Chevron B8 was very successful in racing in the last 60ies and is a highly competitive contender in various oldtimer racing series today. And it is probably one of the newest true race cars you can register for the road. At least I wouldn't know of any B16 that is road registered for example.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Volkswagen Passat Variant - practicality and economy beat design

Since the Volkswagen Beetle Volkswagen is famous for practical car with a good value to price ratio. This is certainly true for the Volkswagen Passat, especially in the estate version - VW calls it Variant.
It does what you expect it to do, transporting five people with a lot of luggage from A to B. Depending on the engine chosen it can do that a bit slower or faster. The engine options go up to 3.6 liters and 300 hp. But already the 3.2 liter version of the v6 with 250 hp is more than enough for today's traffic. There are highly economical diesel versions too, especially the bluemotion editions that offer a lot of transportation capacity at low fuel/diesel consumption. It comes with front wheel drive or four wheel drive (4motion). There are tons of options you can add to the Passat including Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Assistant, Navigation, Park Distance Control, etc.. The difference to an Audi A6 Avant is basically the design and the price. An equally equipped Audi will cost you 30 to 50% more, that's a lot to ask for four rings and a more elegant shape and detailing. I must admit that the Passat is not really the design of the centry, but there may be even things in the Passat that actually work better than in the Audi sister or are better engineered. The DSG (double clutch gear box) for example is only available for the six cylinder engines at Volkswagen and this box is a clear differentiator.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Select your car of the year 1967

In the year 1967 the German magazine "Hobby" asked its reader to select their "car of the year". What is interesting is the choice offered, sort of a preselection. They had three categories based on engine size. In the "small" section you will find a lot of cars that people barely remember today. Cars like Autobianchi Primula Coupé, Simca Sportscoupé 1200 S, Sunbeam Imp Californian, NSU Sport-Prinz Coupé, Renault Caravelle, Bond Equipe GT or Matra Jet 5 are rare finds on today's roads and even at oldtimer meetings. I would reckon that people today don't recognize half of the cars on the first picture any more. Only the Alpine 1100 Coupé, VW 1500 Karmann-Ghia, Fiat 124 Sport Coupé and Lancia Fulvia probably are cars many people would remember.
With the bigger cars it's a bit easier. Less known cars here are probably Reliant Scimitar, Glas 3000 V8, Bristol 409, Alfa-Romeo 2600 SZ or Fiat 2300 S Coupé. The kings of the road of 1967 like the Jaguar E-Type, Iso Grifo, Maserati Mistral, Maserati Ghibli, Lamborghini Miura or Mercedes-Benz 280 SL probably are still in the memory of any car interested person having lived in the 60ies or even later.
So, what would my pick today? In the first group Alpine Coupé, Lotus 46 Europe, Honda S800, Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior and Matra Jet 5 would be candidates for the win and if I had to choose one it would be the Matra Jet 5 as it was a very innovative car with a mid mounted engine and fiberglass body and it's extremely rare today. Plus it was successful in racing too. In the large car category my winner would be the Lamborghini Miura, a car that I really adore.
Interesting at the side is the fact that Hobby didn't include the regular Aston Martin DB5 but rather a designer version.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

300 - a benchmark in the automotive and other industries

300 could be seen just as any other number. But in many ways it's more. It's a movie for example. But it's also a benchmark for the construction industry. The Eiffel Tower was for quite some time one of the few buildings beating 300 m in terms of height. But this is a blog about cars. 300 km/h top speed was for a long time a benchmark for supercars. In the 60ies car manufacturers started trying to build cars that could go to a 300 km/h top speed. The Lamborghini Miura was one of the first street cars getting close, but only close. Even in the 70ies it was almost impossible to beat 300 km/h. Many claimed to be faster, few were. The Ferrari 512BB for example wasn't able to go faster than 290 km/h and it became quite clear that more than 500 hp were needed to get to such a top speed. Of course the late 80ies, the 90ies and the new century changed the game and with the Bugatti Veyron we have been able to beat the 400 km/h top speed benchmark. Many super and hyper cars of the last years have of course been able to go faster than 300 km/h.
The reason why I am talking about the number 300 is also that with this blog I have been posting 300 blog entries around cars and racing - it's the "work" of basically the last 12 months. I hope you have enjoyed reading them.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Carbon Limited Edition - stereoids on a budget

Chevrolet (GM) just announced the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Carbon Limited Edition. It's a limited production run of the popular Z06 with some improvements coming from the ZR1 (braking, cooling, wheels). It's only available in special colors and probably will be sold out quickly. Part of the improvement package though can also be ordered with regular Z06s. Which brings me to the point that I do actually quite like the Corvette. It represents good things such as lots of power for fairly little money (an entry level Corvette can be yours for a bit more than 50k USD), good looks, lightweight body/chassis design, great sounds and impressive performance. This is combined with acceptable fuel economy. Of course neither the interior design nor the build quality are a global benchmark, but hey, it's okay.
The current Corvette brings supercar performance (Z06) at the price of a normal BMW street car, or it is able to compete with the fastest Ferraris and Lamborghinis at half the price (ZR1). And it has more racing pedigree than most of its competitors, having won its class in Le Mans multiple times.
Even from a collector's point of view it's something to be considered. Old Corvettes (C1, C2 split window Stingrays, C3 Stingrays) fetch high prices, and race versions are sought after. So in many years people will look for well maintained C6 Z06 or ZR1 and thanks to the substantial volume produced there should be enough specialists and good parts availability to keep them running.
I have never owned a Corvette, but had it on my list from time to time. Remember what I said about the Audi RS5? It's the wrong compromise. Rather buy an A4 Avant and a Corvette on top. At the end you will have more performance and driving pleasure AND more practicality for your money, just incorporated in two instead of one car.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Picture of the week - Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS

Here's a car that is probably one of the most admired sportscars in the world. It wasn't much when it appeared and Porsche wasn't even sure they would be able to sell 400 of them. It's the Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS. It basically was a homologation special with lightweight panels, a bigger engine, zero interior comfort and this funny spoiler on the back of the car. Many people put a similar spoiler on their "normal" 911 to make it look faster, so it created a trend. The car was good. Thanks to the low weight (less than 1'000 kg for the lightweight sports version) and the bigger engine with 210 hp it accelerated better than most other cars from that time, including most Ferraris. The car was so successful that Porsche had to build 1580 cars. The fact that the later cars got closer and closer to the normal 2.4 S model is another story.
I could have bought a good one for roughly 50k € a few years ago. Sadly enough I didn't go for it, as the same car today would probably fetch at least three times the money. And it's certainly entertaining to drive.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Is the Mazda RX8 the last Rotary Engine car?

The rotary engine was seen almost as an engineering miracle in the 60ies. Every car maker wanted to have it in its car. Mercedes experimented with it others did the same. But only NSU (now Audi) and Mazda followed through on it and when the NSU RO80 ceased production, Mazda was the only manufacturer to offer rotary engine cars. And they did it with quite some success. They even won Le Mans with a rotary engine car! And they improved the engine a lot and made it reliable. But they were never really able to solve one of the key problems - the high fuel consumption. The Mazda RX8 is still built today and sold reasonably well. It is an exceptional design because of the way how the doors open and because it quite nicely combines the shape of a coupé with the need to properly seat four people. The small rotary engine allows for a very sporty weight distribution with the engine mounted low and behind the front wheels. Power is sufficient with 231 hp, torque is of course an issue with only 211 nm. Mine was a grey 2004 model and it was actually quite fun to drive. The engine sound was very special with basically now low frequencies and this touch of a coffee mill. The car depreciated quicker than most cars I ever owned, also because Mazda pushed sales with heavy discounts. Fuel economy was a disaster especially compared to equally fast alternatives. The handling was exquisite and it's one of these cars you can really look through the side window when you go around corners!
Due to its characteristics and the current need to be green it may well be the last rotary engine car that is being built. But it could be an inexpensive good and fun track day car if this is what you need.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What's the right life span of a car model?

Recently I was doing some research on the Volkswagen Beetle and was intrigued by the fact that it was built for 65 years using the same layout and only minor design changes during its long life. This is probably the benchmark, if we don't include the Morgan +4/+8 and derivates. The Ford T Model was built some 19 years. The Mercedes SL (R107) is probably the latest long runner with 18 years. Most cars today end up with a life span of roughly 3 to 8 years. Often there's one of more facelifts during the car's life.
So, would a car being produced for 18 years be thinkable today? It's a lot harder today than it was in the past. Safety regulation for example are influencing the shape of the car. Design has become much more important as a differentiatior than technology. Marketing and PR is way more important today and therefore drives car design and model strategy. So with quite a high probability we will not see again cars being produced for 10 and more years any more. Which is bad for collectors (parts availability) and bad for resale value (model changes increase depreciation), but good for the motor journalists and the car manufacturers I assume.

Adaptive Cruise Control - is this the start of the auto pilot for cars?

What we know as "Cruise Control" (other terms are Tempomat, Tempostat, etc.) has been introduced by Chrysler in 1958. Mercedes-Benz was the first European manufacturer adding cruise control to a car in 1962. For years the cruise control mechanism mainly controlled the throttle. With the enhancement of modern electronics mechanical approaches to do this were replaced by sensors, electronic steering signals and computer control. And after controlling the throttle car manufacturers added the controlling of the brakes. Which makes a lot of sense, as when you go downwards it would nice to still keep the speed. In 1998 Mercedes-Benz added radar to the equation and started to measure the distance to the cars in front of the controlled car to adapt the speed based on traffic flow. These systems are called Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC). The version of Volkswagen is displayed in the picture. So, it took 30-40 years to get from throttle control to brake and throttle control and another 10 years to add traffic flow and advanced computer control. But what's next? And what is the disadvantage of ACC systems?
First, let's start with the disadvantages: ACC doesn't increase the capacity of highways and streets it actually rather decreases it. ACC tries to always keep the preset distance to the car in front of you. This leads to a lot of breaking and acceleration, which is bad for street capacity usage, but also for fuel consumption. In certain situations the systems even interpret the traffic context wrongly.
There are of course advantages too. For the driver it can be relaxing to not having to think about speed, throttle and breaking. And ACC systems can prevent accidents, as the can brake down a car completely if the driver doesn't react quickly enough himself.
But what would be the perfect solution? Imagine a traffic lane with all ACC controlled cars and computers actually talking to each other so that the car behind knows already that the car in front of him will brake before actually "seeing" it. With this you could decrease the distance between the cars and increase the capacity of the lane. For the car drivers it would almost be like riding on a train. The cars could even take over the steering, the technology is already out there.
Of course this would mean that non ACC cars could not play the same game and of course driving a car would be a lot more boring than today. Which is why I wouldn't be a fan of such a system. I actually do not really like the ACC. But cruise control clearly is a necessity today, as it's the only way to make sure you do not speed in cities and on heavily monitored highways (speed cameras).

Monday, March 15, 2010

How to improve a Volkswagen Beetle?

Yet another wonderful Volkswagen commercial. What would an Italian designer improve with the 1957 Volkswagen Beetle? Watch it yourself!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Picture of the week - Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560 and ...

This picture of the week captures three elements that marketeers love to combine somehow - cars (Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560), girls and babies. Car shows sometimes offer great opportunities to take pictures ....

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Volkswagen Beetle is so airtight, you have to push the door or open a window

Here's another one of "my" all time best car commercials, this one is really short. But have a look yourself.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Looking back over 28 months of Toyota Prius driving

The Toyota Prius has gone. We sold our family vehicle and so it's time to look back and think about the strengths and weaknesses of this car.

Let's start with the strengths:
The Toyota is an affordable high tech vehicle. The technology works really well. We didn't face any breaking or acceleration issues similar to the ones recently discussed in the press. It's pretty economical too with minimum fuel consumption of around 4 liters per 100 km if you really try hard. It beats most Diesels in terms of emissions, not specifically for CO2 but for the other stuff like NOx. The car can seat four to five people with acceptable comfort and it comes well equipped with lots of gadgets like keyless go or a pretty impressive JBL loudspeaker system.
The car never let us down, reliability is certainly very good. Servicing isn't expensive either. Insurance premiums and road taxes are acceptable too, some states even have lower taxes for hybrid vehicles. So from an operation's cost point of view the car is good.

There are some weaknesses too:
Fuel economy is only good if you help the car. Short distances are bad, especially in the winter time and high speed driving on highways is bad as well. The hybrid unit will not help in these situations. You need to understand that when you break hard you still burn energy and that optimal recuperation only happens when you break softly or let the engine break on its own. We observed fuel consumption of 8 liters and more per 100 km in suboptimal conditions. The seats are not really good and the offer only limited lateral support. Usability could certainly improved and some things are not thought through. Let me give you one example: In Switzerland we tend to drive with the lights on also during daylight. Now, when switching on the lights, the display dims down, because it assumes it's dark. Therefore you can't read the display very well any more during the day. You can influence the brightness, but not enough. There's not enough space in the boot, certainly not for a complete family. I don't understand why the pure electrical mode has to be limited to speeds below 49 km/h. Most European cities have a speed limit of 50 km/h and this always turns the gasoline engine on. The beeping of the reverse gear is annoying. And there are a few additional little things I could mention here, but to be fair, none of these is a major problem.
The recent issues around Toyota and the fact that (at least in Switzerland) the market has been over-flooded with second hand Prius had a bad impact on the reselling value. We lost much more on this car than we did on the previously owned VW Touran for example.
But what is really the biggest minus in my eyes is the way how the car drives. If you consider yourself as a engaged and sporty driver you will not become happy with this car! The noise is annoying when you rev the car, the handling isn't really fostering fast driving and the performance is sub standard.

So here's the verdict:
If you look for an economical family car with good behavior and a green image and you don't have any aspiration to drive fast and sporty, then the Toyota Prius may be the right car for you. There's clearly an eco premium to be paid, but it's compensated by the fun of driving in fully electrical mode. Reliability is good and emissions are very low. There are many cab drivers in Switzerland who drive Prius now and for them it probably really makes sense.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mercedes 500 SL (R129) - innovative and a great tourer

The Mercedes-Benz 500 SL (R129) was a very modern car in the 90ies and showcased innovative engineering. It was one of the first convertibles with a fully automatic roof mechanism. And it had the latest and best safety technology such as an automatically rising rollover bar on board. The design by Bruno Sacco was seen as state of the art and very attractive in 1989 when the car was launched. The fact that they were able to build (and sell) 204'940 cars in 13 years is proof that it was a success. Mine was a blue 1993 model with the fabulous 5 liter V8 engine and it was both comfortable and relaxing to drive. Mounting the hardtop though was a pane and I don't understand why the first owner had a stationary heater unit installed. Actually the car had almost any accessory that was on the pricing list. I liked the shape and the design, but looking back or seeing them on the road today I must admit the design didn't age well depending on the perspective you look at the car. But it was a good car to use with our then small family for holiday and weekend excursion purposes. And it was a good business vehicle as well.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Can Pininfarina's Alfa 2uettottanta beat the old Alfa-Romeo Fastback Spider 2000?

Pininfarina presented the 2uettottanta, kind of an Alfa-Romeo Spider in the tradition of the beloved fastback spider of the 70ies and 80ies.
It's an impressive design and the car looks really sharp. The whole thing makes the impression as if production could start tomorrow. Not many prototype and concept car gimmicks, stuff you actually could build today.
Would I buy one?
The old Fastback Spider 2000, built around the end of the 70ies is one of my alltime favorites. I tried two times to buy one, but never really was successful for various reasons. It's one of the first convertibles I drove and I loved the slick gearbox, unmatched by most modern cars. The sound of the engine was like music and you enjoyed every double clutch gear change. The car was very easy to use too with its simple roof that you could bring down with one hand and without the need of an armee of electric motors. With 127 hp or so the performance was more than satisfactory thanks to the low weight.
I actually still would love to own one of these, maybe one day ....
Coming back to the 2uettottanta, would I buy one of these if they put it on the market? Maybe, but in all honesty, I would prefer the old car (once again).

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

True colors at the Geneva Car Show 2010?

In my introduction blog post on this year's Geneva Car Show 2010 I made the point that the most popular color for the cars displayed was white. Of course there were other colors, and I don't mean silver, grey or black. We actually had REAL colors. I put together a sample here. There were some brave car manufacturers bringing really colorful cars to Geneva. Ford for example had this cherry red color. Renault displayed gordini blue and yellow cars. Alfa-Romeo of course had red colors on their booth. There were golden and brownish cars too. And the Ferrari Hy KERS came in this shameless green tone. There is of course a good reason why cars at a car show are not painted in the beloved black or dark grey metallic color schemes. It just doesn't look great with the typical artificial light at an exposition and you can't really see the shape and design well. In that sense white makes a lot of sense, however it doesn't suit all cars well.

Monday, March 8, 2010

No sense for tradition and history at Geneva Car Show 2010?

With all these hybrid and electrical cars manufacturers seem to have lost their sense and passion for tradition and motoring history. How else could you explain that there were so few old cars displayed at this year's Geneva Car Show?
There were exceptions though. Peugeot has a nice old car there, Saab displays one of its early successes (apparently Mr. Spyker will compete at the Mille Miglia with an old Saab this year), Hispano Suiza showcases a true classic, probably to move the attention away from the less beautiful new car, and even Jaguar has a SS100 displayed, though you have to look hard through the glass behind the new cars to actually spot it. Alfa-Romeo probably makes most out of their tradition, Audi at least shows an older rallye car, but others totally miss this opportunity. Too bad!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

One of the best ever commercials for petrolheads - Shell V-Power Ferrari

Here's another one of the all time greatest. A commercial for Shell V-Power showcasing the long history of Ferrari Formula One cars racing through different cities around the world. You imagine the budget needed to do this 1:55 min movie. But the sound alone is worth it, decide yourself!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Hard Rock at the Geneva Car Show - Lamborghini, Pagani, Spyker, Lexus e.a.

Yes, this years Geneva Car Show 2010 was clearly showcasing the latest and best in hybrid and electrical car technology. But, there were some more traditional cars there as well, cars that make the heart of petrolheads speed. Here's a selection:
The Lamborghini LP560-4 Superleggera - faster, lighter, better than its predecessors, if we forget the Balboni version.
The Lexus LFA - too expensive, too late, but still quite impressive
Spyker - with three cars in Geneva. If only a little bit of their spirit will make it into the future Saab limousines, then the buyers will be the winners.
Pagani Zonda - a benchmark for super and hyper cars, even after all this time.
Clearly this is rock solid performance and focused on traditional talents. Good! Cars like this don't really influence the world climate and many of the modern gimmicks only spoil them.

Friday, March 5, 2010

David against Goliath - the Smart versus Ferrari Enzo battle

This is a funny story and shows the dedication of Ferrari to demotivate people leveraging their products for advertising. Apparently an impressive number of lawyers threatened Smart to not use the Ferrari Enzo any more in their tv spots. No problem for Smart, they will use a Mercedes SLS next time, painted in Ferrari red!

Peugeot SR1 - best of show at Geneva Car Show 2010

Peugeot surprises the visitors of the Geneva Car Show 2010 with the Peugeot SR1 concept car. But it's not just a very nice looking car, it's also probably the best display and booth over all. The car is interesting with its carbon fiber body, the hybrid drive concept with a total of 313 hp, able to accelerate the car in less than 5 secs from 0 to 100 km/h. Like many of its competitors it's able to drive with electricity only, in this case 12+ km. Three people can find place in the car. As I said in a previous post, if this is
the new Peugeot design concept then I may well end up with owning a Peugeot in the future.
By the way, what you see in the back, is water coming down, it really looked marvelous.
This is a concept car, the roof has to be taken off by two people and there's no space to store it. But why would you care? And you certainly wouldn't want to spoil the shape with packing the roof into the back of this car, wouldn't you?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Are hybrid sportscars the future?

There was barely any car manufacturer present in Geneva without at least one hybrid car to show. Lexus/Toyota showed probably 10 or more variants of the ever same topic. Interestingly even the sportscar manufacturers had to jump on the hybrid train. Porsche for example showed the marvellous Porsche 918 Spyder concept car. With its V8 and twin electrical motors it's supposed to lap the Nurburgring Nordschleife in less than 7:30 minutes. That would be impressive. Porsche even brought a second hybrid sportscar, the 997 GT3 Hybrid, only thought as race car. Ferrari also was forced to come up with something green. So they brought this very green 599 derivate, the Ferrari HY KERS. The most amazing thing about this car certainly was the color. But I am sure the technology is impressive too. So the question remains - are hybrid sportscars the future? They offer even more power, better economics and lower greenhouse gas emissions. But they are also heavier which spoils the sportscar sensation. So I doubt whether big engines with additional big electrical motors are the future. But, we will see.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The 2010 Geneva Car Shows - white hybrid cars, but almost no passion, racing and tradition

Coming back from this year's Geneva Car Show (2010) there are a couple of trends I thought are interesting to mention:
1) Clearly fuel efficiency comes before performance on the marketing agendas of the car manufacturers
2) Any color is good as long as it's white. Many many cars are shown in white, few though are painted in other colors, to be fair, for example the bright green Ferrari or the colorful Fords.
3) There's less money than in the past, therefore there's also less glamour in the show. The booths are more basic, less money has been spent on displays, girls, etc.
4) There's a certain lack of emotion. No real passion!
5) History and tradition aren't really important anymore. You may find some classic cars, but you have to look hard. Ehhmm, I don't count Morgan and the Land-Rover as classic cars in this context.
6) Racing isn't highlighted. There are few race and rallye cars (i.e. at the Renault, Audi, Volkswagen and Citroen booths), but it's really marginal and certainly not in the center.
7) Clearly the the "hybrid" age has hit all the manufacturers, or almost all of them, including Ferrari (599 HyKERS), Porsche (918 Spyder, GT3 Hybrid) and many others. Also lots of electrical cars to be seen, but very few hydrogen cars.
8) There's still a lot of interest. Tons of people try to get an impression of how the cars today and tomorrow look like.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How practical and ecological are electrical cars really?

In the current issue of Auto Motor und Sport they test crew compares two electrical cars, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the Smart Fortwo ED.
While they are positive about many things, they criticize the reach. The Mitsubishi got them to 77 km (instead of 144 km as promised), the Smart lasted for 106 km (versus the 135 km promised by the vendor). Now, the test was done during the Winter and cold weather has a strong influence on batteries as we know. But going from 144 km to 77 km is quite a negative surprise.
What is worse is the "fuel consumption". The Mitsubishi needs 21.9 kWh/100 km, while the Smart asks for 22.4 kWh/100 km. Using the German mix on how electrical energy is produced (a lot by using coal), this results in equivalent of 125 versus 128 g CO2 per km. That's actually comparable or higher than what a good Diesel car like the Seat Ibiza Ecomotive (106 g CO2 in the test of Auto Motor und Sport) can do. So, what this means is, that electrical cars only make real sense if the energy need to "fuel" them can be produced in a clean way. Not new, but always good to remember.

Monday, March 1, 2010

How much acceleration performance do you need?

Over the last 50 years cars got faster and faster. Car buyers in the 50ies or 60ies were okay with an acceleration performance of more than 20 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h. In the 70ies it was required to have to be between 10 and 20 seconds, really fast cars could go below 10 seconds. Today however almost any car accelerates in less than 10 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h, even Diesel engine people movers. Sportcars are expected to be substantially below 5 seconds, Supercars below 4 seconds. Most midrange saloon cars can go in 6 to 8 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h today. The latest Volkswagen Polo GTI speeds in less than 7 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h, that's comparable to what a Ferrari 308 GTB could do in the late 70ies. There's a clear correlation between power and acceleration performance, and there's of course also a correlation between the power to weight ratio and the acceleration performance.
But how much of this do you really need? Wouldn't 10 seconds for 0 to 100 km/h be enough for today's traffic conditions? And how much lighter could we build cars, if we could live with let's say 120 hp instead of 200 or 300 hp for a saloon car? Only companies like Aptera, Mindset or other ecocar manufacturers do think along these lines. And it probably fits the demand in the market to go stronger and heavier, but what was first the egg or the chicken?