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- Post is under moderation/ #1993-Jaguar-XJ220 / It’s hard for me to believe I’ve owned my #McLaren-F1 for over 20 years. What’s even harder to believe is that I almost didn’t buy it. #1993 / #Jaguar
There had been a number of other supercars on the market that turned out to be disappointing. There was the #Jaguar-XJ220 , meant to have a V12 engine but later changed to a twin-turbo V6. There was also the Vector, an American supercar using a large #twin-turbo V8 and also not quite what was promised. So when the F1 finally came out, with the price tag more than double that of some other supercars, a lot of people thought, well, how good could it be? I was one of those sceptical people. Back in 1992, $810,000 for a car seemed crazy.
You could get a Rolls-Royce, a Ferrari and a Lamborghini for that much money. #McLaren hoped to sell 300 cars but that scepticism, plus a worldwide recession, forced them to shut down after just 64 road cars, 28 race cars and a handful of prototypes. Just 106 cars in total. Another reason I didn’t pursue the F1 was because, at the time, it couldn’t be sold in America. The driving position was not legal, it hadn’t been Federalised and it didn’t pass California smog tests.
In a classic case of not knowing what you’ve got till it’s gone, stories started appearing about the greatest car that nobody bought. Then a white knight appeared in the form of billionaire Bill Gates. After having trouble registering his Porsche 959, he helped introduce a law called Show And Display. What this law said was, any vehicle no longer in production, and considered to be of historical or technical interest, could be privately imported and driven in America no more than 2500 miles a year. That’s when I started looking. I called McLaren and spoke to a gentleman called Harold Dermott. ‘Any F1s for sale?’ I asked.
He said: ‘Yes, we have a very nice one here; black with black interior, and it’s $800,000.’
‘But that’s what it is new! It’s a second-hand car!’ ‘Well, there aren’t any new ones,’ Harold said. ‘And we think they’ll hold their value.’
I knew the car had been at McLaren about a month, with no takers. So I said to Harold, ‘Look, I’ll call you back in two weeks,’ secretly hoping the car would be sold by then and I would be stopped from making the biggest financial mistake of my life. Which was buying a car I’d never seen, let alone driven, in a foreign country with no guarantee I could bring it into the US. After two weeks I called Harold back. He said they still had it, although they’d had an enquiry that day.
Sensing that this was the oldest car-salesman trick in the book, I quickly fell for it. ‘I’ll take it,’ I said. I then naively asked Harold if the car had air-conditioning. ‘It does’, Harold replied, before adding in that classic understated English way, ‘but if you want the good airconditioning, it’s $25,000 extra.’
I don’t need to tell you that it was the most brilliant financial decision I ever made. When I purchased the F1 it seemed like the most complicated thing in the world. Imagine a car you hooked up to a computer, and a guy in England could look at a screen and tell you what’s wrong! Now, compared with modern supercars it seems almost simple, and in some ways it is. It even has a tool kit.
On my website, Jay Leno’s Garage, you might have seen us removing the engine from the F1 to replace the fuel cell. We did it in 2013 and we did it again a week ago. It made me fall in love with the car all over again.
Fixing even the simplest things on the F1, like replacing the battery, makes you feel like the mouse who took the thorn out of the lion’s paw. Is working on an F1 intimidating? Of course it is. But when you see it laid out on the garage floor, you realise it’s still a car and should be used as such.
There may be modern supercars that are faster, but none is more seductive and intoxicating. The induction noise, the manual gearbox, the lack of driver aids such as #ABS and stability control, really make it the ultimate driving experience. I’m proud of the 12,000 miles I’ve put on my F1, and I like to think I’ll put a lot more than that on it in the next 20 years. Investment be damned! The downside is they’ve become incredibly valuable and a lot of people are afraid to drive them. The upside is they’re so valuable they can almost never be totalled. If the only piece you have left after a horrible accident is the chassis plate, just take it to Woking and they’ll repair it. And, just like your Mustang or your MG, it even seems to run better right after you wash it.
‘I ASKED IF THE F1 HAD AIR-CON. “IT DOES,” HAROLD REPLIED, “BUT THE GOOD AIR-CON IS $25,000 EXTRA”’
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- Post is under moderationROAD RACER IN A SHARP SUIT
The Mercedes E500 and its 500E forerunner were hardly high-volume products, but the final 500 built were extra special. Here’s one of those cars, called the Limited, being tested at launch in 1994. Of all the eulogies written on this hot W124, we particularly like German magazine Auto, Motor und Sport’s review: ‘As forgiving as a fairytale uncle, as agile as a fast sports car’ Daimler.
/ #Mercedes-Benz-W124 / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes-Benz-E500-W124 / #1993-Mercedes-Benz-E500-W124 / #1993 / #Mercedes-Benz-E500Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationICON: MAZDA RX-7 ROTOR BLADE
Richard Meaden revisits the final incarnation of Mazda’s rotary-powered sports car. Powered by a twin-turbo #Wankel engine, the third-generation #Mazda RX-7 was one of the sharpest coupes of the ’90s. But nearly a quarter of a century later, does it still have that edge? TEXT by RICHARD MEADEN. PHOTOGRAPHY by DAVE SMITH.
I can still remember the last time I drove a third-generation, ‘FD’ RX-7. But that’s because it was also the first time. It was way back in #1993 , when the car was new and causing a stir in the UK. There was a real buzz about it, and I’m not just talking about its audible rev limiter. Even those who would not normally be drawn to Japanese performance cars found the fast and voluptuous rotary-powered Mazda very hard to ignore.
The same was true of Toyota’s bewinged A80 twin-turbo Toyota Supra and Nissan’s slightly more discreet, but no less appealing, 300ZX. That this was also the heyday for Honda’s NSX makes it clear how strong the Japanese brands were in the early to mid ’90s. Factor in BMW’s equally fresh E36 M3 and Porsche’s 968 and you’ll appreciate this was something of a golden era for fans of fast, front-engined and relatively affordable rear-drive coupes.
As you’d expect from Mazda, the RX-7 was the oddball of the bunch, courtesy of its twin-turbo 13B-REW Wankel engine. With twin rotor chambers (each displacing 654cc) and turbo equivalency applied, the RX-7 was deemed to have a 2.6-litre motor. The unit’s compact size and light weight made it easy to package behind the front axle line and low in the chassis for a 50:50 weight distribution and low centre of gravity.
The engine was unusual for its use of twin sequential turbos. Indeed, it was amongst the first of its kind. The concept was simple, the first turbo boosting from 2000rpm, with exhaust gases then fed directly from it into the second, identically sized, turbo to further reduce lag. It was an effective, if complex system that relied on precise electronic control of boost pressures to work seamlessly.
In Japan it was tuned to deliver 255bhp, but in Europe it developed a slightly softer 237bhp at 6500rpm, with 218lb ft of torque at 5000rpm. That still put it on a par with the four-cylinder 968, but some way short of the more potent six-cylinder M3, Supra and 300ZX. Nevertheless, the 1284kg RX-7 remained an appealing and rapid machine, capable of hitting 60mph from a standstill in 5.4 seconds and touching 156mph flat-out. That was quick in the early ’90s, kids.
Just 210 of these curvy coupes were officially imported to the UK, and this is one of them. Of course, many more subsequently arrived from Japan in the late-’90s, courtesy of the Single Vehicle Approval (SVA) import scheme, but the FD RX-7 remains a rare sight on our roads, especially in unmolested condition. The Fast and Furious movie franchise has plenty to answer for.
Like all cars of this era, the RX-7 seems so small and compact. It might be small, but its curves (evolved from a concept penned by Mazda’s US design studio) ensure it has plenty of presence. It’s funny, though, how your mind plays tricks; cars that you thought looked low and wide and had big wheels don’t actually look that spectacular these days. No wonder, when a quick glance at the pretty five-spoke rims shows they’re only 16 inches in diameter and wrapped in 225/50 rubber. No matter, for the innate rightness of the shape and the courage of the design mean the FD’s looks remain surprisingly avant-garde.
There wasn’t really anything like it before, and there hasn’t been anything quite like it since. The smoked, one-piece, full-width tail light still makes a dramatic statement, while the pop-up headlights are proper ’90s nostalgia. They were actually a necessity due to the low-line nature of the RX-7’s nose.
The door handle is positioned unusually high, up above the waistline and nestled against the B-pillar. You open the door expecting the glass to be frameless, but instead you find a heavy black surround framing the side-glass lenses like a pair of thick-rimmed spectacles. The interior mirrors the exterior with its organic curves, but advances in materials mean the RX-7’s black-plastic cockpit has dated badly. It doesn’t feel that great quality-wise, but it’s a comfortable place to be thanks to squidgy seats that yield nicely, allowing you to sink into them for support.
You don’t sit as low as you might expect, and the steering wheel is quite big in diameter with proud stitching that also features on the handbrake and gearknob. Equipment levels are pretty basic by today’s standards – leather upholstery, a pair of plastic luggage bins instead of rear seats, air conditioning, electric windows, powered mirrors and a stereo are all there is to shout about. The instruments are simple but really quite handsome, with a bold typeface, a speedo that reads to 180mph and a tacho that reads round to 9000rpm, even though the red line itself starts at an altogether more modest 7000rpm. Gauges for oil pressure, oil temperature and fuel level sit to the left of the tacho to complete a proudly analogue binnacle.
The view though the windscreen is dominated by curves, the rising line of each extremity swooping up towards you while each door mirror captures a reflection of the long arc of the door tops that flow into the rear wheelarches. Everywhere you look, sections of the RX-7’s fulsome shape swell into view to remind you you’re driving something special.
The engine starts with a characteristic chunter before settling into a rapid idle, rotary tips whizzing round at a busy and rorty 2500rpm for a minute or two before the revs eventually settle down. The clutch is modestly weighty; the throttle has a nice measured resistance. The stubby gearlever hints at a snappy, short-throw gearshift that’s clean and accurate, but the first few miles reveal the five-speed transmission is blessed with a good rather than brilliant shift.
The steering weight is more substantial than I was expecting, and that’s a welcome surprise, for it confirms the sense that the RX-7 is a communicative car with well-matched control efforts and carefully measured responses. The cast-aluminium pedals look attractive, feel good under your feet and are widely spaced across the footwell. The relationship between brake and throttle was clearly signed off by someone who enjoyed heel-and-toe work, and the exhaust is soon popping and crackling nicely with each easily blipped downshift.
Of course, the 13B motor was what made the RX-7 unique amongst its contemporary rivals, and it’s what continues to add curiosity value today. The engineering differences between rotary and conventional internal combustion engines might be large, but the tangible differences from behind the wheel are surprisingly subtle. Yes, of course that has something to do with the motor not being in a screaming state of tune, unlike in the legendary Mazda race cars, but it also shows that while rotary engines are still seen as eccentric, they are impressively straightforward in the way they go about their business.
This car has an aftermarket exhaust, which is a bit more vocal than an OE system, but strip away the snorty soundtrack and you find an engine blessed with refinement and good manners. Rise through the revs and it has a finely serrated smoothness that confounds your senses and encourages you to work it hard. It’s a genuinely enjoyable engine; torquey with little lag, it delivers a solid shove from 3000rpm through to 6000rpm.
Beyond that it runs out of puff a bit, yet still pulls meaningfully to the red line – signalled by the infamous buzzer as a reminder to take another gear. If you’re remotely intrigued by a car’s oily bits, the RX-7’s motor is special. It doesn’t dominate the whole character of the car, but it asserts itself nicely and sets the tone for a driving experience that’s outside the norm but delivers the goods.
This particular car has clearly lived a life, one in which it has covered more than 90,000 miles. That said, while the dampers and bushes aren’t in their first flushes of youth, and despite the front axle running on a different brand of tyre to the rear, it still manages to feel tidy. It rides with pliancy, masking minor surface imperfections and absorbing potholes without too much fuss, though there are a few creaks from the interior plastics! More impressive is the way the innate balance of this front-mid-engined, rear-drive chassis shines through, and how you rapidly build a clear picture of the sharpness and agility for which the third-gen RX-7 was rightly praised when new.
Funnily enough, of the memories I have of my first drive in an FD RX-7 back in 1993, the most lasting impression is of a car that demanded respect – something the 22-year-old me had just enough of to keep the Mazda out of the weeds. One moment in particular sticks in my mind. The road was damp and chased across hilly terrain. Travelling at enthusiastic but not silly speed, the RX-7 squeezed into a gently curving compression. As the suspension got towards the bottom of its travel, the vertical and lateral loads pushed the tail out of line with little warning. It was one of those moments caught by luck and youthful, sparky synapses rather than sage car control, not least because these were the days when I was testing my own limits as much as those of the car. It certainly taught me a lesson.
My driving skills – and judgement – have come a long way in the last 20 years, but I still can’t help but feel a little wary of this old Mazda for the first few miles. The nicely weighted steering is complemented by a calm rate of response that’s typical for fast cars of this era (just under three turns lock to lock) and which makes it easy to confidently place the RX-7 in corners with intuitive precision. You need only encourage it into long curves with a small squeeze of steering input, then relax the lock as the corner opens out. It finds a very satisfying and easily sustained flow.
The balance is beautifully neutral, with just enough bite from the front tyres to generate decent grip and response but not enough to induce oversteer. Likewise, the rear end has strong traction – not a surprise given the rear tyres aren’t exactly over-burdened with torque. In short, the perfect weight distribution and sweet ratio of grunt to grip ensures a harmony that lets the chassis work unhindered by dynamic imbalance. That it’s not fighting with an engine that’s too potent underlines the fact that sometimes less really is more.
Carry meaningful speed into a second- or third-gear corner, chase the throttle from apex to exit, and you feel the car and its Torsen limited-slip diff load up nicely, sitting down on the outside rear as the loads increase and those sequential turbos start to blow. It’s at this point I feel something of the RX-7 I recall, for when pushed hard it rapidly makes the transition from just on the limit to some way over it. It’s fun and harmless enough in the dry, but I can clearly see how I nearly came unstuck all those years ago.
The brakes are up to the job of fast road driving, with progressive response, but they don’t have the capabilities of those on today’s high-performance cars, so you have to be a little sympathetic. You’d toast them on track, but then cars of this age weren’t developed with as much in reserve as today’s performance models.
It’s been great to be reacquainted with the FD RX-7. Two decades of rampant engineering progress and sky-rocketing performance mean Mazda’s flagship sports car is no longer the force it was back in 1993, but it remains a thoroughly charming, fascinating, intriguing and usefully rapid car. It does things differently – as you’d hope – but it does them well. Well enough to remain the high point for Mazda’s rotary efforts. Here’s hoping last year’s glorious RX-Vision concept makes the leap to production and rekindles some of this RX-7’s abundant magic.
TECHNICAL DATA #Mazda-RX-7-FD (UK spec) / #Mazda-RX-7 / #Mazda /
Engine Twin-chamber rotary, 1308cc, twin-turbo
Power 237bhp @ 6500rpm
Torque 218lb ft @ 5000rpm
Transmission Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive, limited-slip differential
Front suspension Double wishbones, coil springs, dampers, anti-roll bar
Rear suspension Double wishbones, coil springs, dampers, anti-roll bar
Brakes Ventilated discs, 294mm front and rear, ABS
Wheels 8 x 16in front and rear
Tyres 255/50 R16 front and rear
0-60mph 5.4sec (claimed)
Top speed 156mph (claimed)
Value now £7000+
On sale (in UK) 1992-1995 (£33,999)
‘THE ENGINE HAS A FINELY SERRATED SMOOTHNESS THAT CONFOUNDS YOUR SENSES AND ENCOURAGES YOU TO WORK IT HARD’
Above: interior shows its 23 years, but the pedals were laid out by someone who knew what they were talking about. Left: pop-up headlights were required to meet regulations due to the RX-7’s low nose.
‘EVERY WHERE YOU LOOK , THE RX-7’S FUL SOME CURVE S REMIND YOU YOU’RE DRIVING SOMETHING SPECIAL’Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationCAR #Mercedes-Benz-320E-W124 / #Mercedes-Benz-320E / #Mercedes-Benz-W124 / #Mercedes-Benz /
Year of manufacture #1993
Recorded mileage 83,670km
Asking price £10,000
Vendor Edward Hall, Worminghall, Bucks; tel: 01844 339666; http://edward-hall.co.uk
WHEN IT WAS NEW
Max power 220bhp
Max torque 230lb ft
0-60mph 8.3 secs
Top speed 146mph
The W124 is regarded by many Mercedes fans as the last ‘real’ Benz: over-engineered and largely hand-built. This pre-facelift example was recently imported from Japan, so it has aircon and no sunroof. Its Japanese auction papers mark the condition as 4.5. A new car is 5, so it’s very well preserved. There is little paperwork, but in the door shuts and behind the fuel flap it wears QR-code stickers, which Mercedes only started using in 2013. So every sign is that it’s been comprehensively, and expensively, looked after.
It appears never to have had paint and all of the plastics are mint. The same goes for the alloys, which are shod in matching Contis, about half worn since new in 2004. On the spare is an unused MX, likewise the jack next to it, and the tool roll is in place. Underneath, the original graphics and stickers are still visible on the dampers and the rear exhaust box. Inside, the seat velour is unworn (it had been protected by lace covers). The carpets are pristine, too, beneath overmats fitted by the supplying dealer. The dash top is still sharp, the gauge needles still orange and the veneers are perfect, bar a small crack in the centre console insert.
The motor is clean and in factory finishes, with the anodising bright on the ABS pump. There are no leaks, but Hall has replaced the engine wiring loom because it’s a known weak spot on these. The oil is golden, the coolant clean – dark blue and spot-on for level – and the little Mercedes lead seal is still present on the ignition timing/emissions port.
It starts instantly, and drives like a new one. Coolant temperature warm is just over 80ºC, with the fan cutting in briefly after you stop. Oil pressure is 1.5bar at hot tickover, rising to the usual 3bar full deflection at 2000rpm and above. There was a hint of hum from the driveline but that might have been no more than the tyres. The gearchanges are smooth, as are the brakes, which pull up straight. The aircon works, as do the electrically adjustable seats – even the rear headrest drop feature. The 320E comes with books, an MoT and registration if required.
EXTERIOR Straight; clean; unscuffed
INTERIOR Mint, bar a small crack in veneer
MECHANICALS All signs good; vulnerable engine wiring loom already changed
For Like new; should go for ever
Against Looks like a taxi, but this could be a selling point
SHOULD I BUYIT?
As W124s go, this is just about faultless. So if you want a discreet, almost-analogue classic that could be a daily driver, this is for you.
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