Saturday, July 31, 2010

Famous Quotes Across Automotive History

While I was looking for the Paul Newman photos I came across a quote I heard by Mr. Newman about 5 years ago during an interview on Leno. It's a great quote and something somewhat relatable for myself:
"the first thing that I ever found I had any grace in"



I thought it would be interesting to compile some quotes that I found about racing and cars in general. Some funny, some insightful, all interesting and indicative of the personalties of those who said it.



"Aerodynamics is for those who cannot manufacture good engines"
- Enzo Ferrari



"When I raced a car last it was at a time when sex was safe and racing was dangerous. Now, it's the other way round."
- Hans Stuck



"I will drive flat out all the time. I love racing."

"If someone said to me that you can have three wishes, my first would have been to get into racing, my second to be in Formula 1, my third to drive for Ferrari."
- Giles Villeneuve



"Racing, competing, it's in my blood. It's part of me, it's part of my life; I have been doing it all my life and it stands out above everything else."
-Ayrton Senna



"The racing driver's mind has to have the ability to have amazing anticipation, coordination, and reflex. Because of the speed the car goes."
-Emerson Fittipaldi


"The track is my canvas. My car is my pencil"
- Graham Hil


"Racing drivers have balls, unfortunantly, none of them are crystal"
- David Coulthard

Monday, July 26, 2010

MINI back to Rallying


Mini Cooper S Rally Car, originally uploaded by BenGPhotos.

Good news, MINI Cooper is rumored to be taking the plunge and re-entering the World Rallying Championship.

For a point of reference, a Mini Cooper S with a barely 1L 4-cylinder engine won the 1964, 1965 and 1967 Monte Carlo Rally beating out the likes of Porsche 911S's which were rear-wheel-drive and much more powerful. So, the British, tiny, front-drive car managed to beat the rear-engined beasts of Stuttgart.

That's the first important part of the story.

The second part is that BMW Group, who've revitalized the little Brit brand, have commissioned Prodrive to manage the MINI Cooper WRC team. That's even better news.

BMW and Prodrive previously worked together on an E30 M3 rally car in the late 1980's which was a dangerous little package of the homologated S14-powered E30 M3 on the Monte Carlo Rally - a rear-wheel-drive car in the golden days of all-wheel-drive. While the M3 excursion wasn't incredibly successful Prodrive moved onto bigger and better things with Subaru starting in 1990.

With a Subaru Legacy and then the more successful Impreza and driver talent like Colin McRae, Prodrive had a lot resources at their disposal for potential wins. Three world championships later, Prodrive's ability to bring in wins anchored their place in rallying history. Lackluster performance in later years resulted in Subaru pulling out of the WRC and leaving Prodrive without a partner for professional competition.

However, re-partnering of Prodrive and BMW via MINI could result in some interesting additions to the WRC, which has suffered as of late after Mitsubishi and Subaru pulled out due to economic pressures. Insiders believe that the MINI Countryman would serve as the basis for the rally car along with the potent 1.6L turbocharged 4 banger. If the partnership moves forward, expect an announcement sometime next Spring.

Personally, I am looking forward to it as this should provide an interesting racing series and a renewed venue for BMW to demonstrate its strong product lines - assuming MINI and Prodrive move forward with a partnership!.



Evidence of things that could be when BMW and Prodrive combine? I point you to exhibit A:



Source: BMWBlog via Autosport

2 Parts British with a Splash of Italian

Thanks to the boys at Motoring Con Brio I'm starting to learn to appreciate Alfa's more than I had previously.

Being a male under 30 years old I'm by default a fan of Aston Martins, Land Rover Defenders and, of course, a monumental fan of 007.



This clip of the prologue to the latest Bond film, Quantum of Solace, thankfully has all four and I can forgive the rest of the movie for being mediocre at times simply for the three minute, thirty second piece of film that kicks off with the roar of an the Aston Martin DBS and ends with the destruction of two Alfa Romeo 159's, a Land Rover Defender 90 and a good portion of a DBS. Ironically, the end of the scene has shots reminiscent of On Her Majesty's Secret Service from 1969 which also was the only time an original Aston Martin DBS model was featured in a Bond film and the last time a DBS was driven by 007 for 37 years.



(Photo: themalvernhills)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Legends.

I just stumbled onto this from Wippermann's great collection of YouTube videos. Brunswick Films, the producer of this new series, looks to have quite a few interesting clips and unseen footage so I'm greatly looking forward to what this film will hold.

It looks to be a retrospective of a handful of incredible Grand Prix drivers, many of whom were World Champions. A number of comments on YouTube bring up the great point that there are drivers left off of the list - some of which still living that could have been included. So far a quick but incomplete list looks to be Sheckter, Stewart, Peterson, Hunt, Fittipaldi, Andretti, Lauda and Hakkinen.

Watch the clip below up until the end - the retort from James Hunt is worth waiting the entire 2:41 to see it. Check out the clip below - as I see more on this series I will definitely be posting it!


History Lesson: The German Grand Prix(s)

Tomorrow kicks off the 2010 German Grand Prix at the Hockenheimring located near, you guessed it, Hockenheim, Germany. The Grand Prix of Deutschland has, for better or worse, been held at the Hockenheimring since 1977 after the shocking 1976 German Grand Prix held at the Nurburgring where Niki Lauda had a suspension failure that pitched his Ferrari 312T into the Armco at Berkwerk resulting in a horrible fire that nearly killed him. The accident reaffirmed what many had thought (ironically the drivers nearly striked that weekend because of safety concerns - led by Lauda - but ultimately didn't) that the Nurburgring wasn't safe and as a result it was never used again for the German Grand Prix - with one small, exception in 1985 at the then-new GP circuit that excluded much of the original track. Many of the problems were to blame on the poor response of the track marshals and crews as fellow drivers had to pull Niki from his burning Ferrari and only a safety marshal with in Porsche 911 and single fire extinguisher was on the scene a first few minutes after the accident.

The Nurburgring has reappeared on the roster of venues for Grand Prix racing but only in the constantly changing European Grand Prix and only on the GP portion of the fabled circuit.

That's a shame too - some pretty important races were held on the old Nurburgring. In 1968, Jackie Stewart had what he would call his "best" Grand Prix of his career when he stormed - literally - to victory when rain struck the race and the Nurburgring was described as "having rivers across the track" in some places. Scary stuff but the scary part was the attrition rate and how much slower everyone was behind Stewart. A handful of cars spun off in the rain while everyone else slowed down so much so that Sir Jackie crossed the finish line a full 4 minutes before second placed Graham Hill caught up. Much of the field being minutes behind that or a full lap down. Stewart pulled off this feat with a broken wrist - which is unheard of in modern racing. You can read his account of it here.



The Nurburgring would go on to scare the hell out of Grand Prix drivers for a few more years until the fateful 1976 race in which Lauda's Ferrari wrecked, caught fire and nearly took Niki to the grave. He managed to fight back from the edge and get into a car at Monza 6 weeks later to come 4th in the Italian Grand Prix - with a head covered in bandages, blood seeping through where the top of his ear used to be. Everyone's probably seen the video of Lauda's crash and the ensuing mayhem so instead of focusing on that, I've listed the video below of the incredible 1975 German Grand Prix where Herr Lauda launched a great start and led much of race until a tire puncture set the Ferrari 312T back in pace and sent him into the pits, allowing the other front-runners to slip past with Reutemann taking the win in his Brabham. Incredible footage of nearly the entire race! It's in 5 pieces so you can catch all of the clips as they're linked into each on YouTube. It's worth watching the entire first clip just to see the outright speed of the cars on track with the green, rolling hills of Germany as a very picturesque backdrop. Out of 26 cars to attempt to run the 1975 German GP - only 10 managed to finish!




I've also included this video of the 1969 German Grand Prix where you can see the advent of aerodynamics beginning to sneak onto the front and rear of grand prix cars. This is nothing but 10 minutes of footage and engine notes!



The 2010 German Grand Prix has Vettel at the front of the pack with Mark Webber just below and the Ferraris of Alonso and Massa and the McLaren twins bearing down on him. Should be interesting to see if Vettel can hold it together and keep the lead or will Webber step out of Sebastian's shadow again for the win.

I only hope that somehow the full Green Hell returns to the list of venues for Formula One.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Never in a million years...

Would I ever think I would say this: I want this Cadillac.

I grew up on imports - BMW's, Porsches, Benzes, Hondas - my great grandmother had a late 1980's Caddy Fleetwood Brougham. It was big, heavy, grey or blue and a depressing car.

That's more or less what my impression of Cadillac's have been for the past 20 or so years. For what its worth, the slow dissolution of General Motors from a world powerhouse to a troubled, scatter-brained manufacturer has spurred change within their organization. A result of that was a reinvigorated Cadillac Division - sharp creases up and down the body of typically stuffy cars, a youthful CTS and the V line of performance Caddy's.

Thankfully, the trend has continued and my impression of what was once one of the most luxurious cars in the world has improved. With the second generation of CTS, they've built a gorgeous sedan but more importantly, built this awesome wagon.

The picture above is actually of the CTS-V Wagon though the plain-jane one looks just as good. I saw one in traffic last night and was blown away by it - it looks fantastic - it really stands out from most other cars on the road right now. I will go full-on batshit crazy and say that the CTS Wagon, in terms of styling, manages to give the 3 Series Touring and A4 Avant a legitimate run for their money.

I never thought I would like an American car over a Bimmer but I think I actually might.



Thursday, July 22, 2010

How did I miss this? Porsche - A Company of Race Cars

Not sure how I missed this last year when it appears to have been released but it's a great video nonetheless. It's a promotional video first and foremost but interesting to see the behind the scenes support that Porsche lends to customer cars such as the GT3 RSRs, etc.



Cool video of Weissach and a glimpse of some of their most important cars like the 917k, 904 and 550 Spyder. In watching this I get the feeling that its a sort of precursor to this commercial - which is probably one of the best, most poignant of any automobile manufacturer I've seen lately.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Remembering the Titan

Being a fan of both cars and cameras there is, of course, a lot of overlap. I found these photos from LIFE.com that, in a broad stroke, cover Paul Newman's racing career.

I have a lot of respect for Newman as a actor, driver and most important a humanitarian. He was one of the few actors who managed to strike a balance between being a celebrity and being a normal person - achieving a great deal in his life beyond just making good movies. Newman's career reached heights around the time that racing seemed to hit its stride and a handful of fellow actors like Steve McQueen and James Garner were finding their way into professional racing as well.

Newman took a separate route and practically made a second career out of it. He competed in racing across 4 decades from the early 1970's until the early 2000's in a variety of motor sports venues and series winning notable achievements:

- 2nd place in the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Porsche 935
- Competing in the 2004 Baja 1000 at age 79
- Achieving the status of oldest driver to be on a winning team at age 70 during a 24 Hours of Daytona
- Owned various teams in the SCCA and IndyCar

Some of this list would difficult for a professional driver to achieve in their own right. Newman was a class act and it's great to see some of these photos documenting such a fulfilling career - if I can find more I'll post them.

Rally, Rinse, Repeat

I'm starting to get the rally bug and I think I like it.

I found this gem on YouTube while researching Mk II Escorts from the 1970's. It's the Rallye Legend Boucles de Spa held annually in Belgium.

A reinvisioned event from the Rally Spa - it combines crazy off-road courses with classic rally cars spanning from the 1950's to the 1980's. The Rallye Legend Boucles de Spa is gaining momentum each year and as you can see from this video there are some unexpected cars throughout the 1080p glory that is this video. I spotted a Mercedes 450 SEC, Benz 190E 2.3, Porsche 911 sans rear hood, and an Audi Quattro among the unending line of Ford Escorts - oh and some Lancia action near the end around the 7:30 to 7:45 mark.

Monday, July 19, 2010

2011 WRX STi Prototype attacks Zee 'Ring

I guess it's rally day today on eBrake and I'm on a roll. I saw Autoblog's review of the 2011 Subaru WRX STI and ended up searching YouTube for some video of what this thing must sound like. Thankfully, with the slight revision for the 2011 model and the transition back to a sedan -the overall package seems more appealing than than the 2010. Personally, I like the hatchback but it wasn't rated highly against previous STI's.

That said, according to Autoblog the sedan is a big step up for 2011.

Moving on, I found this video by Car and Driver of the new STI sedan prototype crushing the Nurburgring. Subaru even called in Finnish WRC superstar Tommi Makinen to pilot the car. Ironically, Makinen cut his teeth and set his records primarily with the STI's biggest rival, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution blasting across different surfaces of countryside. However, that doesn't matter as he finished his last two years year in WRC with an Impreza, now does it?

Either way, enjoy the new STI in full attack mode at the hands of a master.

Apparently, I need Ford Escort Mk II Content

I think someone is trying to tell me something as I've encountered Ford Escort WRC content like 5 times today so I figured I would post this up for today while I work on a few other things.

I've been particularly interested in the Monster Ford Fiesta lately as I think it is a great looking car and will hopefully be competitive at the hands of Mr. Block. That led me to find this video of Ken Block's own Ford Escort Mk II.

For the record - I usually only drink Red Bull products and like their F1 teams - but in this case, I'll make an exception!



Friday, July 16, 2010

1970 Targa Florio - Twofer Feature

Seppi, Rodriguez, 908/3, Italian Countryside. No Questions? Good, sit down and watch!





Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Turbos are for people who can't build engines"

"Turbos are people who can't build engines."

- Keith Duckworth, co-developer of the Ford-Cosworth DFV

Makes me laugh when considering this car. Jalopnik was complaining yesterday that the F50 doesn't get enough love despite an ultra-light, stripped body and a massive F1-derived V12(you know, when manufacturers actually had technical developments in F1 outside of insane aerodynamics).

They stated the turbocharged V8-powered F40 got more of the attention and I think it should. It was the last time Enzo Ferrari would sign off on a car before his death. However, there is a car more rare than the F40 or F50 from the days of 1980's Group B madness: The 288 GTO Evoluzione.

Basically, the 288 is the precursor and basis for the F40 and even more rare considering a handful of 288's were built compared to over 1,000 F40's. Most interesting was that Ferrari himself signed off on a turbocharged car - nearly unheard of considering it was a big deal just for the Dino to carry a mid-mounted V6 - and the Dino wasn't even formally labeled a Ferrari.

However, the Evoluzione was an incredible car and with turbocharging in many levels of motor sports at the time - I feel that I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with Mr. Duckworth - though he definitely knows his stuff.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Juxtaposition

My buddy Malcolm posted a clip from the newest Top Gear - Episode 3 in which a Camaro SS is pitted against the brute-in-a-suit Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG.

His argument is that the Camaro SS isn't quite a comparable model to the E63 - perhaps with an M5 or RS6 normally serving in that position. I respectfully disagree.

Mercedes-Benz and the AMG branch have never been about setting fast laps or crushing the competition at the Nurburgring - it's just not their cup of tea. But what they can make are very comfortable cars that can go very fast with a bit of flair and style. So, price ignored, that puts the Camaro SS and E63 AMG right back up against each other. The Hamster seems to agree and he's quite the hoon himself despite Clarkson.



Besides, with cars like the C63 AMG on sale - you know AMG is only interested in cars that are hyperspace-capable and good at making 11's - remind you of any other big orange cars from the States?

See for yourself and decide.

Link to Top Gear - Damn non-embedded videos!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Function First: The G-Wagen

There's something very attractive about a purpose-built vehicle that manages to make its way into consumerdom for the rest of us to enjoy. Across history there have been some outstanding examples such as the Mercedes 190E 2.3 Cosworth and BMW M3 as homologation specials, The BMW 320Si, The McLaren M6 GT, The Lancia Stratos - good things come from tried and true race car platforms that trickle down to real-world application.



However, purpose-built vehicles aren't restricted to solely race cars. You can also have big, lumbering creatures like SUV's that come from a blue collar background. After all, SUV's were originally designed to carry gear and people for working in the field. My guess would be that larger, off-road vehicles tasked with work duty were simply "Utility Vehicles" and the "Sport" nomenclature was an afterthought. Want an example? The Hummer H1 serving quite successfully for the United States military prior to civilian-ready trucks.

One such vehicle is the Mercedes-Benz Geländewagen or G-Wagen for short - meaning cross-country or Jeep. The G-Wagen started life as a product development for military contracts secured by Benz in the 1970's .

What most people in the United States probably don't realize is Mercedes-Benz manufacturers a multitude of vehicles outside of luxury cars. Namely, work trucks, vans and true utility vehicles are also MB products in Europe and other parts of the world. It would seem that Europeans are less caught up on brand prestige than we are here in the U.S. of A.

I digress, the G-Wagen came into life as Mercedes-Benz's(well, Daimler-Benz) answer to the German military's need for a light infantry vehicle. With the design process initiated in 1972, the model was given official approval for production by Steyr-Daimler-Puch(now Magna Steyr) in Austria by 1975. It would not be until 1979 that a civilian-ready G-Wagen would go on sale in a variety of shapes such as short and long wheel-base and a cabrio variant. However, with hindsight being twenty-twenty it almost seems laughable that an SUV of the G's size would initially have engines generating only 72 and 150HP. What nobody could predict at the time was that the G-Wagen would go on to live past a normal life cycle and survive for 25 years - with only one major restyle transitioning from the W460 chassis to 463 chassis in 1990.

What made the G-Wagen so special was the part-time four-wheel-drive but after 1990 equipped with permanent four-wheel-drive, a fully locking center differential and differential locks on both axles. This sort of technical prowess gave the G the ability to navigate extreme angles of terrain. During the design process, the G-Wagen was designed specifically to be highly competent as an off-roader but also functional and with cross-functionality of implementing parts-sharing from the Mercedes-Benz industrial truck lines. The commercial/military spec G showed considerable success after its 1975 debut with countries in the Middle East, Europe and South America placing orders for Teutonic light military vehicle.




Why wouldn't they want a handful of G-Wagens to use? Benz put the original W460 through rigorous trials of 14,000km of sand testing in Tunisia - encountering and overcoming up to 100% inclines. Hence the hardcore, loyal following of off-roading G-Wagen enthusiasts world-wide who still like to push the envelope of what the truck is capable of.

Once the civilian W460 was released in early 1979, many in Europe picked up the trucks which were already serving double-duty as work trucks across the continent. Initially, Mercedes hesitated at pushing the W460 in the U.S. marketplace as the reception of the G was still somewhat uncertain and only handful were imported and federalized through the 80's grey market at exceptional cost. However, with the 1990 restyling of the W460 to the W463, U.S. consumers were privy to the more luxurious but technically competent G when permanent four-wheel-drive was adopted along with a decadentl- revised interior, suiting the prestige of the existing Benz sedan/convertible line. Unfortunately, outside of engaged enthusiasts, the G-Wagen has been recognized less in the U.S. for its ability and more for the brand conscious, look-at-my-expensive-SUV type of buyer.

If the upscale reputation the G enjoyed wasn't enough, Pope John Paul II and the Swiss Guard deemed to W460 a capable enough vehicle to serve as the Pope's personal transport vehicle when greeting the public across the globe, eventually being succeeded by the ML-Class Mercedes-Benz. It's name? The Popemobile, of course.

Whatsmore, the G-Wagen, at the hands of Jacky Ickx and a co-driver took a converted, V6 280 GE and won the historic Paris-Dakkar Rally in 1983. Not hard to understand why the Magna Steyr facility in Graz, Austria has agreed to continue production of the current W463 through 2015 - where the truck is still partially constructed by hand. The current iterations of the G-Wagen comes equipped with an AMG-derived, supercharged 5.0L V8 and 7-Speed automatic transmission to help accelerate the G55 AMG to 60MPH in under 6 seconds.



So, the G-Wagen has won races across some of the most brutal terrain on Earth, served under a man capable of inspiring over a billion people and has served strict duty from the sands of Tunisia to the jungles of Argentina to the valet lines of Beverly Hills - all of which it has successfully conquered. Not hard to imagine how a truck with such a diverse, winning history is still in production after 25 years. The G-Wagen stands as a testament that the thought, design and testing that goes into purpose-built, function-first vehicles can last the test of time and continue to be successful despite the ever-changing needs of the automotive frontier.

We're only hoping to see it run another 25 because vehicles like this only come around once in a lifetime.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Things I want: BMW 320Si



With a crazy busy work schedule I've not had the opportunity to finish up the GWagen thing yet plus a few other items on my plate. However, I did want to post this Japan-based BMW 320Si. Based on the current E90 chassis, the 320Si was a limited edition of about 2,600 cars built so that BMW could meet the production requirements for homologation of the 320Si race car with the FIA.


The 320Si has since gone on to do quite well in the S2000 spec of the WTCC and BTCC. What made the production version special was the 2.0L inline-4 under the hood churning out 170HP. Though not much, it was a detuned, non-Valvetronic version of the same engine powering the race car. Oh, and it was also a hand-built engine manufactured in BMW's Landshut plant alongside the Formula One engines when BMW still maintained a presence in the sport with Sauber.

Something about the limited edition, homologation-special 320Si has always appealed to me. Though not a powerhouse by any means it is still very rare for car enthusiasts to see cars built primarily for homologation purposes - especially one priced in-line with most any other 3 Series.




In my search for knowledge on this elusive Bavarian I eventually came across a gentleman in Japan named Yoshina who owned a noteworthy 320Si. I ended up interviewing him for BMWBlog as one of my first articles two years ago but I still absolutely love his car even today. He's managed to take an Alpine White E90 320Si and, through hard work, a lot of money and an eye for detail turn it into an incredible driving replica of the race spec 3 Series. He's caged the sedan, added a wing, custom-built diffusers front and rear, a revamped steering wheel and full BMW Works Team Great Britain 320Si - and that maybe covers a fifth of what's been done.




Honestly, if I had the money, I would probably do the same to a E90 chassis. I love that he's managed to somewhat keep the daily driveablility intact while maintaining a close mirror to the race-spec car. The only real difference I can see is the lack of a wide body front and rear - but STUDIE can make that happen too.


If you're a fan of a unique, cool car or just good automotive photography, check out his Flickr page.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

Hope everyone is having a happy and safe 4th this year! We'll be out for fireworks and family later but thought we should post something entirely American to celebrate the 234th birthday of our great country.

What could be more 'merican than Steve McQueen, an original Mustang Fastback and an original Charger tear-assing around San Francisco? Nothing. So watch this and enjoy the day!

Top Gear Is Back - but Better...

Finally, Top Gear is back to what I think so many people loved about it. This clip sort of encapsulates much of what makes the show great: Interesting cars, Monty Python-style silliness, and dry, British humor. Makes me think that maybe the last 2 seasons of sort of ho-hum shows are probably a fluke.

Porsche 908 Uphill

Quick video from the Goodwood Festival of Speed (going on this weekend) of a Porsche 908 in its awesome Gulf colors and distinctive arrow design. This was the same 908/3 that Porsche ran at one of the last Targa Florio events when it was before it was outcast to being only a local event because of its inherent dangers.





(The Chicane Blog)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Coming Up Soon


G-wagon, originally uploaded by scarlet lancer.

I'm going to be talking about these soon. 30 years old, only slightly revised since inception, has avoided cancellation numerous times and was never designed as a luxury vehicle.

What's not to like?