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The greatest thing about our passion is the fact that it’s only about 150 years old. If we were all Bible scholars, instead of petrolheads or gearheads, we’d be spending our days poking around in the searing heat out in the desert somewhere. Instead we get to go to cities like Modena, Stuttgart, Detroit and Paris. Or even Woking.
/ #McLaren-P1 / #McLaren / #2015 / #2015-McLaren-P1
When I was a teenager my life was muscle cars. I used to feel sorry for people who grew up in the 1920s and ’30s because cars seemed so slow back then. But the more knowledge I gained, the further back I wanted to go. That’s the reason I got interested in steam. I wanted to know what came before the internal combustion engine.
Steam ran the world from the 1800s until the opening decade of the 20th Century, just as the internal combustion engine ruled the world from the 20th Century to the dawn of the new millennium. Sure, the internal- combustion engine is still around, but the writing is on the wall. A child born this year will most likely not ride in an internal-combustion vehicle as an adult, just like most kids in America today have never been in a manual-shift car.
I now realise that every decade had its supercars. In 1906 Fred Marriott, driving a Stanley Steamer, set a world land speed record of 127.6mph on the beach at Daytona, Florida, that record stood for 103 years as a steam car’s peak speed achievement until it was broken by a British three-ton, two-stage turbine-driven steam car which only went a hair over 20mph faster - over 100 years later.
Another early supercar I lusted after, and was fortunate enough to acquire, was the 1918 Pierce Arrow Model 66. The Pierce 66, as it was popularly called, still holds the distinction for being the largest production engine ever put in a car. It has six cylinders with a total displacement of 825 cubic inches, that’s 14 litres.
The pistons are the size of paint cans and the engine has three spark plugs per cylinder. It needs three spark plugs because the combustion chambers are so huge, the bore is 5in, the stroke is 7in and the wheelbase is 147.5in. Horsepower is rated conservatively at 125. This car is a torque monster. One time when I was pulling away from a traffic light I thought to myself, it feels a bit sluggish, then I realised I was in fourth gear.
The twilight of the 1920s brought what has to be the greatest American classic of all time, the Duesenberg Model J. A straight-eight, twin-cam, 7-litre masterpiece, with four valves per cylinder and 265bhp. Or 320bhp when fitted with the optional supercharger, this was at a time when 100bhp was considered exceptional. It was also the first American car to be fitted with four-wheel hydraulic brakes. Between the braking, the horsepower and the handling, it’s one of the few cars of the 1920s that you could actually drive today in modern traffic with no problem at all. Assuming, of course, you have massive biceps and a strong left leg.
Another thing you learn when you study automotive history is that there is really nothing new under the sun. Four-valve heads, twin cams, hemispherical combustion chambers, even hybrid cars are nothing new. All these things existed before the First World War. One of Ferdinand Porsche’s first cars was a hybrid: the 1899 Lohner Porsche, which was front-wheel drive and had its electric motors in the front hub. And since battery technology was still in its infancy, he had two small gasoline engines directly powered to a generator, providing the electricity to the front wheels. Sounds like the future, doesn’t it?
When I was a teenager, the King of the Hill was the Chrysler Hemi - a massive V8 with two four-barrel carburettors and an unheard-of 425bhp. It really ticked all the boxes, the one I have is in a 1970 Dodge Challenger with a four-speed transmission and the hilarious pistol-grip shifter. It’s painted Hemi orange with a black vinyl roof and matt accents on the hood. It handles like a bowling ball on a waterbed but that doesn’t matter because it goes like stink in a straight line. Or it seemed like it did, back in the day, when 0-60 in 6.3sec was as good as it got. And 13.1sec quarter-mile times were all it took to beat everything else out there, all the while getting nine miles to the gallon. On a good day.
Unfortunately, today driving a ’70s muscle car is like walking around with a rolled-up sock in your pants. It looks impressive until a kid in a hot hatchback blows your doors off while still getting 30 miles to the gallon.
In this era of McLaren-P1s, Corvette ZR1 s, Bugattis and Koenigseggs, there are probably kids now looking back at my era and feeling sorry for me. Why? Because cars were so much slower then.
‘A CHILD BORN THIS YEAR WILL MOST LIKELY NOT RIDE IN AN INTERNAL- COMBUSTION CAR AS AN ADULT'
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- Post is under moderationCertain facts in the automotive world are irrefutable. Number one, the #1971-Citroen-DS-Pallas / #Citroen-DS / #Citroen / #1971-Citroen-DS / #Citroen / #1971 / , especially the #Pallas / #Citroen-DS-Pallas model, is the most comfortable car in the world. You may not be crazy about the four-cylinder engine, while the transmission’s not the smoothest, but the seats combined with the padded floor truly make it the most comfortable car on the planet. People sit in my DS after I’ve told them this, and they all say the same thing: why can’t all cars be like this? And why can’t they? When you get behind the wheel of a DS you literally fall into a big easy chair that wraps itself around you. Some manufacturers try very hard; two of my favourite Mercedes-Benz models are my 1972 600, which has hydraulically operated seats, and my ’1971 280 SE Coupé, with its big, overstuffed leather chairs. These are the last of the truly handmade #Mercedes-Benz cars. Yet even with the finest leather, they’re still not as comfortable as the DS.
The only car that comes close is my #1931-Bentley-8-Litre fourdoor Mulliner sedan. Even though its suspension is primitive, the big, down-filled leather chairs are something you’d be proud to put in your library or sitting room.
When I was in England recently, a friend collected me in a beautiful Rolls-Royce Phantom. It is an amazing car – quiet and smooth, with an unparallelled sound system – but still I felt like I was sitting on the seat rather than in it. Shouldn’t a Rolls be at least as comfortable as a DS? And why does the leather in today’s high-end motors have the texture of vinyl? My 1968-Mercedes-Benz-6.3 has 327,000 miles on it, but the constant application of hide food has given the leather a patina and suppleness that just can’t be found in modern cars.
And can we stop with the Recaro racing seats? One of my favourite cars to drive would be the Aston Martin Vantage with a manual gearbox. It’s fast and sexy, but it has the most uncomfortable racing seat I’ve ever sat in. I love everything about the car except the seats. They’re slaves to fashion trying to look cool. Astons are for driving long distances across continents, which should be done in the most comfortable way possible.
With these Recaro buckets, after an hour I had to pull over to get out of the car and stretch. It felt like it was cutting off the circulation. Even in my #McLaren-P1 I replaced the standard seat for a slightly wider one. It’s a little bit better – but not much. I have a Shelby Mustang GT350R. The first thing I did when I ordered the car was to ask for the stock Mustang seats to be put in, instead of the standard racing buckets. If the goal was to crack walnuts with my buttocks, I’d have kept the Recaros. It’s hard to drive if you’re not comfortable. Where’s the fun?
When I was restoring my DS, I took great pains to deconstruct the seats and examine what made them so comfortable. The secret? Foam, and lots of it. Of course, Citroën never took the DS to the Nürburgring. That has a lot to do with it. The Nürburgring has probably done more than anything else to make luxury cars uncomfortable. Any suspension perfected there is designed to handle loads and speeds the average driver would never see in a luxury car. Along with low-profile tyres, which are so popular and have absolutely no give, the combination means cars simply aren’t as comfortable as they should be. My Tesla had 21in tyres. In 1000 miles I hit two potholes and blew out two tyres. There’s not enough sidewall to take the compression, so you split the sidewall. There’s nothing else you can do.
Why do people buy 21in wheels? They don’t really know the difference between sidewall compression rates, they just think it looks cooler. They are willing to give up comfort for that.
How many people would prefer to look good or feel good? Style reigns, unfortunately. BMW has just come out with the R Nine T, which is a twin-cylinder Boxer motorcycle available in three styles. The coolest is the Café bike. I drove the standard version with standard handlebars, and it was so comfortable, but I ordered the Café because it looked the coolest with the little half fairing and the lowered bar. After 20 minutes of riding, I realised I should have ordered the other one.
The idea of selling comfort now seems to have gone out the window. It seems to be about looking cool or sporty, or Nürburgring times. Stuff like that. In the old days they used to sell comfort. American cars used to sell what they called the Boulevard Ride: the car floats down the road. Ford made a fortune selling LTDs, saying it was quieter than a Rolls. Whether it was or not, nobody really knew. It’s like you’re the captain of a ship, driving a big boat. So much of that seems to have fallen by the wayside. If someone offers you a seat in their DS, take it. It’s the most comfortable motoring experience you can have.
The Collector Jay Leno
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- Post is under moderationThe other day I started up my ’ #1941-Plymouth , for the first time in over a year. Every collector has one or two vehicles that don’t get driven as often as the others. My #Plymouth is not special, just a good old girl. It’s unrestored, a two-door business coupe; the Deluxe model with heater, radio and threespeed column shifter, with a vacuum assist to make shifting easier, a 201ci six-cylinder flathead engine and about 87 horsepower. #Plymouth-Special-De-Luxe-Business-Coupe / #Plymouth /
Even after sitting for over a year, the engine cranked about half a dozen times and started right up. The reason it made me smile is that so many modern cars would be almost inoperable after sitting for so long. If they are not turned over every week or two, injectors get clogged from lack of use. And you have to keep them on a trickle-charger.
I have a 2002 Firebird that I had to get emissions-tested. The battery was ten years old so I changed it for the exact same factory-standard battery. And swapping the battery confused the computer, so they couldn’t get it to pass the emissions test. The technician said, drive it for 50 or 100 miles and see if it re-boots. I’m still waiting.
When I called my #Porsche dealer about getting a part for my Carrera GT, he said ‘We don’t work on any of the really old stuff.’ I said it’s a 2004! He said he’d check to see if any of the old guys are still around who worked on them. I mean, how old could they be? Forty-five?
I have a warning light on my #2005 #Mercedes-SLR-McLaren nobody can turn off. It doesn’t seem to affect anything. The car runs beautifully. But nobody knows how to deal with it. I wanted to put new tyres on it too and, like many cars, it has a locking lug nut. So I gave the tyre guy the key for the lug. And he lost it. So we called #Mercedes and #McLaren , quoting the serial number, but we couldn’t get one and couldn’t make one. So we had to torch the lug nuts and cut the wheels to get them off.
The last real maintenance I was able to do on a modern car at my own garage was, surprisingly, on the #McLaren-F1 . Ironically the F1 comes with a tool kit. A tool roll, actually, which contains wrenches, pliers and screwdrivers, all made of titanium. Was there ever an F1 owner whose car broke down on the motorway, pulled out his trusty tool roll and got it going again?
Anyway, we had to replace the Vanos unit, which controls the cam timing. Taking the engine out was pretty straightforward. And we did it without using a single tool from the toolroll! As sophisticated as the F1’s powerplant is, it’s still a car. It’s a #V12 and compared to modern cars it’s pretty straightforward. A good mechanic can look at that engine and pretty much figure out what they have to do. Would I try this with my #McLaren-P1 or a #Porsche-918 ? Not on your life.
Remember the Ray Bradbury book Fahrenheit 451? Where all the books are destroyed and so each person needs to memorise one book, and become an expert on it. That’s what seems to be happening with supercars. There’s only a few Veyron guys and a handful of P1 guys. I don’t know many #Porsche dealerships that could actually work on a 918; there can’t be many.
I feel that the days of the general mechanic who can work on anything are just about over. Those lucky enough to be trained mechanics on machines like the #McLaren-P1 and #Ferrari-LaFerrari pretty much have jobs for life, travelling the world, re-booting computers on 10-to-20-year-old supercars, many with very low mileage.
The way technology is going, collecting modern cars will be extremely hard. The fun part about working on old cars is that, if you don’t have the proper tools, you can measure up what you need, go to the lathe, and make one. On modern cars, if the manufacturer decides to lock you out of their code then that’s it, you’re pretty much done. Unless you have the #Ferrari code-reader, for instance – which someone told me is $25,000 – you’re not going to get to work on the car. That’s it. So any work on these cars in the future will probably mean having to go back to manufacturers. How much is that going to cost?
That’s fine for rich guys, who will always be able to have somebody take care of their car. It’s the little guy who’s going to get screwed. Unless they stick to analogue cars from the 1970s and earlier.
In 100 years from now, after my garage has been buried under some massive earthquake, and some automotive archaeologist will find my stash and dig it up, I’m guessing the only one they’ll be able to drive away is the ’ #1941 Plymouth!
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- Post is under moderationMcLaren P1. Our hypercar has been remarkably problem-free, despite its complexity.
I’ve just dropped the P1 off for its first annual service. This is the third time it has been back to the McLaren service centre since I took delivery, the first time being for an indicator that came loose, the second for a manufacturer’s recall to replace the front bonnet latch. Because the car had its brain updated immediately prior to delivery there have not been any further software updates, and for a car of this complexity the fact that the only two issues to emerge in year one were both minor and mechanical is hugely impressive. Indeed, my experience with the P1 has reinforced my personal policy of asking for late build-slots on limited-edition cars.
While I’ve yet to put any big miles on the car, through a number of regular shorter drives I am getting much more comfortable behind the wheel. While the #McLaren DNA is patent in the P1, once you begin to push it the car is clearly the wild child in the family. Both the 12C and 650S are much more linear and progressive. Put your foot down in a 650S and it will fly, but it all happens with a much smoother progression. Do the same in a P1 and you seem to jump from one- to five- to ten-tenths. The P1 seems to defy physics and compress time. Luckily the low, short bonnet coupled with the large windscreen make placing the car on the road very easy.
While traction is immense, on a concrete road with any moisture it disappears quickly if you are not careful with your right foot. Years with an F40 have taught me to be quite sensitive about twitchy back ends, and on two occasions now this experience has come in handy. So where in the 650S I usually put the traction and gearbox settings into Sport, which allows for some fun, in the P1 the calibration of the systems means that, on the road at least, both are left safely in Normal. With no known issues for the P1, the service should be fairly straightforward. Looking at the work order, the majority of the cost is labour, as they go through each of the car’s systems in detail as well as changing all the fluids. Can’t wait for the car to be back.
Below: on dry surfaces traction is supreme, but on even slightly damp roads the P1’s 903bhp and monumental torque make it a tricky beast.
Car #McLaren-P1 / #McLaren / #2015-McLaren-P1 /
Date acquired July #2015
Total mileage 505
Mileage this month 35
Costs this month $2358 service
Mpg this month 16
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- Post is under moderationJAY LENO The Collector / #2017 / #GM / #Cadillac-Escalade / #Cadillac / #SUV /
Like me, Octane readers look at cars differently. To most people cars are like an appliance. They do a job. To me, cars are vehicles of excitement and fantasy. I mean, I would no more put lumber in the back of my #McLaren than put skis on a car.
But to most people the automobile is an appliance like a refrigerator and they just want to combine the elements of one with the other. Americans are like that: ‘I’d like a two-seater sports car but it needs to carry five people.’ Well that’s not a two-seater sports car! So car companies came out with an SUV.
GM and Ford created the SUV in the ’80s. Trucks did not have a luxury tax because they were trucks, they were utilitarian vehicles. So a number of people, including Ford, said: Why don’t we make a Lincoln version of the truck? Let’s take that 5% that people would have spent on extras for the car, fit a leather interior, aircon, and make a luxury truck. This is where the SUV came from. Personally, I would say that if you want a truck, get a truck. Combining car and truck does not work.
SUVs are being made by almost all luxury and sports car companies now. #Bentley , #Jaguar , #Porsche ; #Lamborghini soon. It might be a bit strong to say making SUVs has saved these car companies but it certainly allowed the likes of #Porsche to breathe a little bit easier and spend a little more time and some of the profits from #Porsche-Cayenne on the latest version of the 911 – and the 918. I don’t think you’d have the 918 without the Cayenne.
The car business is a compromise. How many musicians have to play commercials before they can make the album they want to do? I’m not sure how many car designers set their goal as creating an SUV. They all want to do an Aventador or a Miura or a #Ferrari-458 or a #McLaren-P1 . But if anybody can make one look good it’s Ian Callum. To design the F-Type and the new #Jaguar-F-Pace and make both work is a talent.
I find when I buy magazines I skip through the #SUV road tests because I’m going to be reading about the cupholder and the seat that folds down so you can get this in and you can get that in. And none of that concerns me. I can’t think of any SUV that ever made me say ‘Oh man! I’d like to be able to try that.’ Except maybe the ridiculous #Lamborghini-LM002 . When the #Lamborghini LM002 came out it seemed enormous. I said, Oh my God, this is the biggest roadgoing vehicle I’ve ever seen. And now it’s probably smaller than an Escalade.
The Escalade is one of Cadillac’s biggest-selling vehicles so it has helped keep the brand alive. It’s an enormous thing and it’s hugely popular. It’s replaced the Lincoln Town Car as the go-to vehicle for Hollywood award-winners. I get invited to these things and they used to send stretch limos that would bottom out on my driveway; now they come with this huge SUV, with tremendous ground clearance.
The question of whether SUVs will kill off sports cars is not a worry. What is more likely to kill off sports cars is our roads, which are so terrible now, not only in LA but also the UK, I hear. I’ve had two wheels bent over the last five years or so, just driving home on the streets I take every day, because potholes open up and nobody fills them. Bang! You hit them hard in a car with maybe a 17- or 18-inch rim on it and it damages the wheel. Whereas a big SUV with a big rubber tyre and 22-inch rims is going to absorb that fairly easily.
I can see that rationale for an SUV. Also, as roads get more crowded, people want a little more space in their vehicle, they want more room. You can’t really drive fast anyway so maybe an SUV is the way to go if you gotta carry a crib and this and that. I talk to a lot of moms who like a commanding view of the road and a lot of metal around them. I understand the need for it but I just don’t find them interesting as vehicles. To me, automobiles are about fantasy and style and I just look at SUVs and go hmmm. It doesn’t work for me.
Having an SUV in the line-up might help brands whose traditional cars might limit potential buyers with their image. Like Rolls-Royce. Suddenly you’re not seen as just driving a #Rolls-Royce , it’s a #Rolls-Royce-SUV . It adds more of a lifestyle air to it, I suppose.
Anything that keeps cutting-edge manufacturers going is fine with me. However, I don’t see #McLaren-SUV building an SUV any time in the near future and Ferrari will probably never build an SUV. Though it did build #Ferrari-SUV World – an amusement park – in Abu Dhabi. Now they’re talking about a Ferrari World in the United States. That’s like an SUV, isn’t it?
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- Post is under moderationNewey joins with Aston / #2015/ #F1 / #Adrian-Newey , the mastermind behind the #Red-Bull-F1 cars, is believed to be teaming with Aston Martin for an extreme new road-car project. According to UK outlet Autocar, Aston is targeting the #McLaren-P1 and LaFerrari with its Newey-backed project, which would likely adopt hybrid technology teamed with a V12 engine. This news also coincides with rumours suggesting #Aston-Martin may return to #F1 as a technical partner to the #Red-Bull-Racing F1 team, replacing Nissan’s luxury brand Infiniti.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationDrive-My design consultant Chris Hrabalek discusses the finer points of automotive design. Torino Design ATS Wild Twelve Concept.
At a time when the who-iswho of the motoring world focused all its attention on innovation competing neck-on-neck at the 24h of Le Mans race, Torino Design and Automobili Turismo e Sport (ATS) used a much smaller venue, the Parco Valentino Salone & Gran Premio in Turin, to unveil their Torino Design ATS Wild Twelve Concept. The new car is based on the carbon chassis of an early ’90s Bugatti, 'wild' indeed.
ATS was a small Italian manufacturer of sports and racecars, based in Poneccio Marconi, near Bologna. Famed for its creation following a ‘palace revolution’ in 1962 by the former Ferrari employees #Giotto-Bizzarrini, Carlo Chiti, Fausto Galassi, Girolamo Gardini, Enzo Selmi, and Romolo Tavoni, ATS remained active for only a very brief two years. Perfectly coordinated with the marque’s founding 50th anniversary, ATS once again re-opened its gates – even acquiring and disposing of the rights to the De Tomaso brand, along the way – to try and re-launch new products. Prior to an unfortunate management dispute between its owners, which had the company re-locate to the Canary Islands, of all places, ATS briefly promoted an ATS Sport 1000, an ATS 300 Leggera Roadster and a retro 2500 GT as their core line-up.
The 2015 #Torino-Design ATS Wild Twelve Concept is yet another direction that ATS could potentially take. Created to highlight design studio Torino Design’s 10 year anniversary of activity, this ATS is technically speaking a lot more ambitious than the aforementioned iterations. Powered by a hybrid power-train, based around a V12 engine with two turbo-chargers powering the rear wheels, and two electric motors powering the front wheels, the Wild Twelve claims a combined system power of 860PS with a maximum torque of 918Nm and a top speed of 390km/h.
Impressive figures. Looking at the styling of the ATS Wild Twelve, a certain proportional familiarity becomes apparent when the creators mentioned that the car is to be manufactured in Campogalliano, Italy. Campogalliano? Carbon chassis? V12? As the plot thickens, it becomes apparent that the ATS Wild Twelve is the latest reincarnation of chassis and engine bits, originally engineered for the early 1990s Bugatti EB110 – only to be later reassembled in the form of the mid-’90s Dauer 110 and 2000s B-Engineering Edonis – it seems the #Bugatti EB110 has more lives than a cat...
In its latest reincarnation, the design of the ATS Wild Twelve is certainly more bland than the Edonis; hopefully creating less dislike with regard to its styling from potential prospects. Unfortunately, as the Wild Twelve seemingly lacks 'Brand DNA', the styling of the concept is very brandinterchangeable; neither iconic nor charismatic. It looks like one of those rushed student-projects that get shown on a university exhibition stand. On the outside of a motorshow.
Unfortunately, the styling of the #Torino-Design-ATS-Wild-Twelve-Concept ultimately lacks desirability and with #Bugatti-EB110 prices going through the roof in recent months, one wonders if it would not make more economical sense to sell the NOS (new old stock) EB110 parts as spares, rather than base a 'new' hypercar on them. Any new hypercar featuring a quarter of a century aged carbon and resin bits, surely can not be considered a real threat to a #Ferrari-LaFerrari , #McLaren-P1 or #Porsche-918 . / #2015
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