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    It’s not often you see a #Jaguar with a supercharged #V8 sticking out of the bonnet. Well here’s two of them!

    Shotgun Wedding

    In the average wedding car, you’d be lounging in the back in the swells of loved-up marital bliss. But these big cats would definitely have you calling shotgun… Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: Ben Hosking.

    “What is a wedding? Well, Webster’s Dictionary describes a wedding as: the process of removing weeds from one’s garden.” So said Homer Simpson in the iconic 1994 episode ‘Secrets of a Successful Marriage’. Inspiring stuff.

    Weddings, it goes without saying, are hard. Months of preparation, agonising over seating plans and the family politics of who you can and can’t invite without causing awkward tension and a cessation of future Christmas cards, grappling with suppliers who double the cost of everything simply because you’ve prefixed each item with ‘wedding’ (seriously, ‘wedding napkins’ are just napkins that happen to be at a wedding)… it’s enough to age you ten years in one. The honeymoon comes as a blessed relief simply because it’s a chance not to spend every evening doing bloody wedmin.

    For people like us, of course, there’s an extra level of stress and jeopardy: what do you go for in terms of wedding transportation? For the average couple it’s easy enough to just get on the blower to Rent-a-Roller and rock up in a Silver Shadow, job done – but if you spend every day with engine oil under your fingernails and squinting through arc-eye, you need something a bit more eye-catching.

    Something with a story. And that’s where Fat Cat Classics come in – at least, for residents of New South Wales, Australia. This is your one-stop shop for a badass wedding convoy; they’ve got a fleet of three matching Jaguars jam-packed full of shock-and-awe mischief and rumbling horsepower. You see them here bunched together in the workshop of Sydney’s Forza Performance, but this is an aggressive trio that loves nothing more than a blast on the open road, vying for tarmac-troubling supremacy as they each deploy sodding great gobs of torque. Sure, they’ll get the blushing bride to the church on time, but they’ll frighten the life out of her on the way there. Which, naturally, should set a precedent for the rest of the marriage.

    You’ll spot that there are three cars in the package, each resplendent in shimmering silver paint and lipstick red interiors. There’s a 1963 Mark X, a 1971 XJ12, and a more modern S-Type – we’ll swerve the latter for the sake of keeping this spotlight squarely focused on the Retro Cars heartland, and take you on a journey in the former pair, each one eager to ruck up your suit and do unseemly things to your cummerbund.

    …but before we do, let’s take a little look at their respective personas. You see, these cars have names, and names always carry weight; the Mark X is named Elizabeth, and you may call the XJ12 Marilyn. As you’ve no doubt deduced, this refers to the classic celebrity rivalry of the late 1950s and early ’60s, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. While history ultimately seems to have handed Monroe the trophy, it was Taylor who was winning the race for column inches, and her bank balance was pretty healthy too – she was earning $1m a movie while Marilyn was taking home $100k. It’s the classic tale of the eager up-and- comer in the shadow of established royalty, with both parties actually being enormously jealous of one another’s assets. And so the rivalry rages in the Fat Cat garage.

    Elizabeth is imposing enough to immediately position herself as top cat here. The perky billet 8/71 supercharger poking through the savaged bonnet acts as a psiren song, an irresistible lure toward the danger within.

    “The engine swap was easily the hardest part of the build,” says Fat Cat’s Sean Carolan. “We had to re-engineer the whole front end.” Indeed, with the Jag’s original motor swapped out for a meaty small block Chevy V8 – 6.3-litres, no less – you can imagine just what sort of upheaval was required. The floorpans were reconfigured, transmission tunnel reworked, and firewall modified to make room for the vast new powertrain. An XJ12 independent rear end sits out back to help deploy the growling fury of it all, ensuring that the engineering project wasn’t just confined to the car’s leading edge, and there’s a feel of solidity and dependability throughout the chassis. And that’s just as well really, as the last thing you want is your wedding car breaking down. “We made the decision to keep the power at a moderate level, to ensure that there were no annoying breakdowns or overheating when getting the bridal party to the chapel,” Sean explains. “As such, Elizabeth currently makes 450rwhp on 6psi, although more power could easily be found if we changed our minds!”

    The natural balance to be reached here is that, no matter how powerful or extreme a wedding car may be, it must always be luxuriously appointed. No bride wants her five-grand dress being creased by a set of aggressive Takata harnesses or snagged on an exposed door innard. So Elizabeth’s interior has been artfully trimmed in fi nest scarlet leather – a hide plucked from the Aston Martin menu, no less. The carpets and headlining wear a similarly bright shade, with the overall vista being one of classic, timeless elegance. Well, until you peer over the chauffeur’s shoulder and spot that gargantuan blower poking out of the front, that is.

    What of Marilyn, then? Is she a shrinking violet, in the thrall of the ruler of the roost? No, not a bit of it. Let’s not forget that Marilyn Monroe was a bit of a firecracker, and seldom happy to stand in another’s shadow. The logic of the respective names does falter somewhat when we look at linear chronology (Taylor was some years younger than Monroe, whereas the Marilyn Jaguar is the younger car here), but their positions make sense. The Mark X is the bigger, brasher, more imposing car, but the XJ12 snaps at its heels like a snarling puppy. The 1971 Series 1 was in fact born of a ten-day whirlwind of workshop activity in the run-up to Sean’s own marriage to his partner-in- crime Leigh. “We built Marilyn on a very tight timeline,” he says. “It was created from a rolling shell in just ten days, it was very intense – we were still working on it at 2am on the day of the ceremony. I was one tired groom!” Hey, it’s all about priorities, isn’t it? And if your wedding car is your business, you can’t show up in a half-finished motor. Particularly when your other car is so flawless.

    You can see that the aesthetic is neatly carried over to the ’71; both cars wear the same 20in Vertini wheels and the same shade of silver paint, along with that shockingly red interior treatment with its old-school wood accents. They also share an absolute disregard for any semblance of subtlety when it comes to poking shiny slabs of mechanical equipment through the bonnet, and the XJ12 is also no slouch. Sean’s looking at the thick end of 420hp at the rear wheels, which should ensure that the bride’s mother arrives at the church sideways, screaming in terror and choking on acrid tyresmoke. In deference to her big sister, Marilyn wears just the one carb instead of two and a smaller blower, but the numbers still aren’t to be sniffed at. It’s more about hierarchy than compromise.

    “If I had my time over again, I think I would have put a bigger supercharger on Marilyn,” says Sean thoughtfully, scratching his chin as he considers the implications. “In fact, I think I would have built both with injected setups instead of the carbs…” You can see the way his mind’s working, can’t you? These cars aren’t just built as static showpieces; they’re workhorses of course, but evolving ones. Work also happens to be pleasure here, and you can’t stop a man like this from playing with his toys. There are always treasons, stratagems, and spoils afoot. You can be pretty sure that if and when you were to see these cars again, they’d be subtly different – or perhaps, as befits their nature, not so subtle…

    The act of planning a wedding is never going to run smoothly, but if you’re aiming to get married in the vicinity of this fleet of raucous Jags, that can at least be one major box ticked off the list. And if you need help with the rest of the planning, just remember the wisdomous advice that Homer Simpson had to offer on the subject: “That’s it! You people have stood in my way long enough. I’m going to clown college!”

    Oh wait, no, not that. Er… “Son, if you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They’re about to announce the lottery numbers.” There you go. The Simpsons always offer a solution.

    SPECIFICATION #1971 / #Jaguar-XJ12-Series-1 (MARILYN) / #Jaguar-XJ12 / #Jaguar-XJ-Series-1 / #Jaguar-XJ / #Jaguar-XJ12-Series-1-Marilyn /

    ENGINE: 400ci (6.6-litre) small block #Chevy-V8 #V8 , 4-bolt mains, 4in stroke Scat crank, Scat H-beam rods, Probe forged 8.9:1 pistons, Clevite bearings, ARP head and mains studs, ported alloy heads, Isky springs and retainers, Cam Tech custom solid cam, Trend pushrods, Yella Terra 1.5:1 rockers, Rollmaster doublerow timing chain, Melling oil pump, 750cfm Barry Grant carb, 4/71 #GM supercharger (6psi), MSD Pro Billet dizzy, MSD coil and leads, MSD 6AL, Holley fuel pump, custom 4-into-1 headers, twin 3in mild steel exhaust, X-pipe, 420rwhp

    TRANSMISSION: T400 auto, 3000rpm stall, Jaguar XJ12 LSD, custom tailshaft

    SUSPENSION: Pedders shocks and springs
    BRAKES: Series 3 front brakes, stock rears
    WHEELS & TYRES: 8.5x20in Vertini wheels
    INTERIOR: Momo steering wheel, Recaro front seats, red leather trim, Hurst shifter, red carpets, red headlining, satnav, Pioneer stereo, Autometer gauges
    EXTERIOR: Stock restored XJ12, bonnet cutout

    SPECIFICATION #1963 / #Jaguar-Mark-X (ELIZABETH) / JAGUAR MARK X / #Jaguar-MkX / #Jaguar-Mk10 / #Jaguar-MkX-Elizabeth /

    ENGINE: 383ci (6.3-litre) small block #Chevy-V8 / #GM-V8 / #GM , Scat 3.750” crank, 4-bolt mains, #Scat H-beam rods, Probe blower 8.8:1 pistons, moly rings, #Clevite bearings, #ARP head and mains studs, ported cast heads, #Cam-Tech hydraulic roller cam, Crower lifters, Trend pushrods, Yella Terra 1.5:1 rockers, Rollmaster double row timing chain, Melling oil pump, HE sump, #B&M oil cooler, Edelbrock water pump, XR6 thermo fan and radiator, 120A alternator, custom billet pulleys, 2x 750cfm #Demon carbs, TBS 8/71 supercharger (6psi), MSD Pro Billet dizzy, MSD coil and leads, MSD 6AL, Holley Black fuel pump, block hugger pipes, twin 3” exhaust, custom X-pipe, 450rwhp
    TRANSMISSION: #GM-T400 auto, 3000rpm stall, #Jaguar XJ12 diff , LSD, custom 2-piece tailshaft
    SUSPENSION: Pedders shocks and springs
    BRAKES: Factory #Jaguar twin-piston calipers
    WHEELS: 8.5x20in (front) and 10x20in (rear) Vertini wheels
    INTERIOR: Custom Aston Martin red leather trim, Hurst shifter, Autometer gauges, red carpets, red headlining, Pioneer head unit, power amp and speakers
    EXTERIOR: Stock restored Mark X, bonnet cutout

    “Elizabeth currently makes 450rwhp on 6psi, although more power could easily be found if we ever decided to change our minds”
    How many wedding cars do you know of where the engine sticks through the bonnet! Christ, it’s enough to make you want to get married!
    At the time of its launch the XJ12 was claimed to be “the fastest full four-seater in the world”. With a #Chevy-V8 it’s now even faster! #Jaguar-S-Type isn’t really retro Cars fodder, but it completes the Jag trio nicely.
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    Genesis-made suspensions - plus Genesis-modified bodywork - plus Genesis-assembled #Chevy-V8 / #GM-V8 engine and Ford GT40-style #ZF-5DS-25 transaxle, all made the first test hack more McLaren than Ultima, but when someone said "It's got to have a name" it was Bruce who - gazing out of the window and noticing the road name 'Albert Drive' on the board opposite - suggested "'Albert'! Let's call it 'Albert, so McLaren Cars' first-born twin was christened.

    / #Ultima-Mk3 / #McLaren-Albert-Prototype / #1991 / #McLaren-Ultima-Mk3 / #McLaren-Ultima / #Ultima-Mk3-McLaren-Albert-Prototype / #Ultima / #ZF-5DS / #ZF / #Genesis / #McLaren

    Mark Roberts not only designed an ' #Albert-V8 ' badge for him, he also kept his hand in as an illustrator by producing a detailed cutaway of the beast.

    "And it was a beast too", Bruce recalled, "Short wheelbase, massive power, enough torque to pull your house down... but it was useful".

    'Albert's creation had served to equip the Genesis prototype shop and to get it up and running, a well-oiled functioning entity. This experience paid off in the speed with which the first true prototype #McLaren #McLaren-F1 - chassis XP1 - would come together two years hence.

    'Albert' helped the Genesis team evaluate many proposed features for the new car. Peter Stevens: "We needed to prove the centreline driving position - might it be unacceptable for some unforeseen reason once we got the chance to try it on the road? We fitted 'Albert' with a swinging steering column, and swing-seat, pedals and gearchange to match. We were all paranoid about the press seeing a centre-drive hack leaving our workshop and putting two and two together.

    "For the same reason, when we tested split nose radiators we fed them air from one central nose intake, for fear of giving part of the game away. It was highly entertaining when one specialist magazine ran a photo of ‘Albert’ and claimed a world exclusive 'first photo of McLaren's new supercar'. But what was even better was when the same claim was made for another published photo — of Vem Schuppan's road-going Porsche 962."

    Gordon: "At around that same time there was a lot of talk about #TAG-McLaren having bought Lydden Hill race track in Kent for its new tailor-made company HQ. Word was that an agency photographer was camped out there for months through the winter hoping to snatch first pictures of our new car on test. He'd have needed a long lens, and a filter - our nearest testing was 60-70 miles away, with 'Albert'! One bitter day someone suggested sending him a hot meal and a thermos".

    'Albert' would normally be driven in conventionally offset right-hand drive mode to the test tracks at Chobham or Millbrook, the 'swing-trick' would then take place there, in as secure circumstances as the industry offers. Centre-drive worked well, its promise self-evident.

    The same could not be said of carbon brakes, alternative sets being fitted and tested, and re-tested, but continually they flopped. Superb in sustained hard applications from high speed, they fell below acceptable working temperatures so rapidly in "normal" motoring that pedal pressure demands, lack of bite, numb feel…
    • “Albert” under construction at Genesis with the original swing-seat mechanism under development to provide centreline test driving in private - conver“Albert” under construction at Genesis with the original swing-seat mechanism under development to provide centreline test driving in private - converting to conventional right-hand drive on the public road between workshop and lest venue.  More ...
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    All new #2016 #Chevrolet-Camaro-SS vs. all new 2016 #Ford-Mustang-GT / #Ford-Mustang / #Chevrolet-Camaro / #Ford-Mustang-MkVI / #Chevrolet

    Two icons of American muscle drive straight past the drag strip and deep into sports-car territory by Eric Tingwall / Photography by Charlie Magee

    There was a time when the American muscle car performed all its tricks with the steering wheel pointed straight ahead. Detroit iron built its image on burnouts, quarter-mile runs, looking fast while parked, and chasing pedestrians out of the crosswalk with a prod of the throttle. But if it weren’t for that #V8 snarl and their burly bodywork, today’s muscle cars might pass as legitimate sports cars. America’s blue-collar heroes still charge hard in a straight line, but they now corner with the confidence of a European coupe. It’s the result of decades-long evolution, but also recent strides in chassis dynamics.

    Ford’s breakthrough arrived in 2014, just in time for the Mustang’s 50th birthday, when engineers included for the first time an independent rear suspension across their entire pony-car lineup. They created the most civilized, the most docile, and the most tossable Mustang outside of the odd be-stallioned track-day special. The 2016 edition is essentially unchanged from the car introduced two years ago, although it has spawned the race-bred Shelby GT350 and GT350R, cars that smear the distinction between juiced-up muscle and flexible sports cars into an indistinguishable blur of racing stripes and eight-cylinder thunder.

    As it was in the beginning, so it is now: Just like in the ’60s, #Ford ’s Mustang success has Chevrolet playing catch-up with its new Camaro. The #Chevy-V8 now turns out an additional 29 horsepower, but it’s clear that the engineers directed most of their energy toward the chassis. Reborn on GM’s Alpha platform, the new, sixth-generation Camaro uses the same core that forms the basis of the German-baiting Cadillac ATS and CTS. It is lighter and trimmer than the Zeta-platform-based Camaro it replaces and benefits from the suspension and steering expertise that is quickly — and surprisingly — becoming a #GM hallmark.

    We left the Dodge Challenger on the bench for this test. After its third-place finish in our December 2014 comparison, where a similarly equipped Mustang took the gold, we knew where the Challenger would place in this round. If it wants to run with these two athletes, Dodge needs to cut the fat. The Challenger is more than nine inches longer than either car here and weighs some 400 pounds more.

    For this test, the manufacturers provided the top-performing versions of the common man’s V8 muscle car. For Chevrolet, that means a Camaro SS with the 455-hp, 6.2-liter V-8 equipped with magnetorheological dampers ($1695) and the eight-speed automatic transmission ($1495). The $895 dual-mode exhaust doesn’t make the car any more powerful, but it delivers a Metallicavian aural assault. The top-tier 2SS trim includes cooled and heated seats, blind-spot monitoring, and ambient interior lighting that can be set to one of 24 colors (one-quarter of which are variations of pink), bringing the total price to $47,480.

    Ford brought its 435bhp #Ford-Mustang-GT-MkVI enhanced with the $2495 Performance pack. That add-on brings a strut-tower brace, revised suspension tune, a larger radiator, #Brembo front brakes, and a limited- slip differential with a shorter final-drive ratio, and it’s available only with the manual transmission.

    We’re beginning to believe that bringing a manual transmission to a drag race these days is akin to handing out Obama stickers at an open-carry meeting, but the manual Mustang actually puts up an admirable fight. In previous testing, the three-pedal version ran dead even with the automatic Mustang GT. The Premium trim makes our test car every bit as upscale as the Camaro, but with a price almost $4500lower at $43,070.

    To give these two increasingly competent corner-hunters a proper challenge, we pointed them toward southeast Ohio, to the Hocking Hills and roads so twisted and rural that you’d suspect them to be dating their cousin.


    There’s nothing else like the Mustang in Ford’s U.S. portfolio. It’s the lone eight-cylinder car and the only rear-drive vehicle in Dearborn’s arsenal that isn’t a truck. That’s both a blessing and a curse. On the upside, Mustang engineers have the freedom to craft their car without the constraints of shared parts. But neither does the Mustang benefit from the trickle-down economics that comes with building higher-performing Corvettes and more-expensive Cadillacs.

    In a vacuum, you could be lulled into thinking that Ford perfected the American muscle car with this Mustang. Freed of its stick axle in back, the original pony car now handles corners and busted concrete with ease. The competent chassis musters 0.94 g of grip around the skidpad and executes a 70-to-zero stop in just 157 feet. The steering effort builds in a linear fashion and offers a modicum of feedback. The brake pedals in both of these cars are firm and responsive, yet the Mustang’s binders start biting earlier with less pedal travel.

    But when you start to draw comparisons about those dynamic attributes so essential to driver satisfaction, the Chevrolet exposes the Ford’s vulnerable spots; simply put, the Mustang GT is softer than the Camaro SS. The Mustang leans in corners. Under acceleration, the haunches squat and the hood rears back. The slightly slow, fixed-rate 16.0:1 steering hides a small dead spot on-center, and despite wider tires, there’s not as much front-end grip as in the Camaro. That makes the Mustang more prone to understeer and less willing to rotate under throttle.

    The Mustang rides on nonadjustable dampers, so even though you can toggle through the same four drive modes as those in the Camaro, you can’t alter the Ford’s roll resistance or ride quality. That said, the single tune of the Performance pack nicely balances ride and handling. Body motions, though large, are always deliberate, never clumsy or inaccurate. Hustling the Mustang over hills and around bends is oldschool, organic fun. The Camaro, damping out impacts with minimal body motion and no sacrifice in ride quality, proves that the technology exists to do it better.

    With a torque deficit of 55 pound-feet and a redline 500 rpm higher than the Chevrolet small-block’s, Ford’s 5.0-liter Coyote engine needs to be spun out to keep pace. Its intensity builds exponentially with revs, and, around 4000 rpm, the energy swells in an intoxicating crescendo toward 435 horsepower and the top of the tachometer.

    Launched at 3500 rpm, the Mustang GT will break 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and trip the quarter-mile in 13.0. The six-speed stick moves with tight, precise action, but the throws are a touch longer and the effort a bit stiffer than we prefer.

    This dual-overhead-cam engine is smoother and more civilized than the Camaro’s pushrod V-8, but that doesn’t necessarily rank as a positive. For one, the Coyote is too quiet. Even at full throttle, it emits a muffled thrum rather than a visceral yowl. The Camaro gets it right. Its unapologetically lumpy idle and gruff exhaust note are precisely why you didn’t spend your $45,000 on a BMW M235i .

    If there’s one aspect where Dearborn has Detroit handily beat, it’s that the Mustang is a much more practical car and far easier to live with on a daily basis. The timeless lines of the Mustang include a taller roof that, combined with a slightly higher seating position, eases ingress and egress. There’s excellent outward visibility over the long hood, to either side, and through the rearview mirror. The cabin, aided by a lower beltline, feels much roomier than the Camaro’s.

    The Mustang’s cockpit is a simple place. Considering the headaches that abound inside the Camaro, this is meant as a compliment. The clean, straightforward center stack even offers the perfect array of knobs and buttons to make the imperfect MyFord Touch tolerable. We really only have one complaint about the Mustang’s cabin: The turned aluminum that spans the width of the dash is slathered in so much clear coat that it might as well be plastic.

    The Ford Mustang effortlessly balances performance, comfort, sport, and practicality. It is a powerful, engaging, and valuepacked daily driver. But as a performance car, as a machine designed to provoke exhilaration, the Camaro has it beat.


    In doubling down on the retro-caricature style of the fifth-generation Camaro, Chevy appears to have designed for the next Transformers movie rather than the buyers who will live with the car. Stylists injected steroids into the bodywork and, almost unbelievably, knocked the roof about an inch lower to make the greenhouse even shorter. The stocky Power Wheels proportions suggest that a full-grown human would have to poke his or her head through the sunroof to drive this thing.

    A human does fit inside, although you should probably pass on the $900 sunroof to seize precious millimeters of headroom. The Chevy’s cabin is far more crowded than the Mustang’s, and the form-over-function exterior creates some ergonomic woes inside. Hang an arm on the windowsill and your elbow rises to ear level. The high trunklid and low roofline squeeze the view out the back into a sliver. Wide B-pillars and the rising beltline render the rear quarterwindows useless. When the feds make blind-spot monitoring mandatory in the coming years, you’ll have this car to thank. There’s more natural light entering Guantanamo’s solitary cells than the Camaro’s cabin, and yet designers struggled to shield the navigation screen from glare.

    Their inelegant solution tilts the screen toward the floor, an awkward angle that also reflects the faux-metal bezel surrounding the shifter. The panel gaps of the instrument- cluster hood—directly in the driver’s line of sight—should make Bob Lutz weep. And when the interior-design team ran out of room up front, they simply used the real estate in the rear. The map pockets in the doors and the wireless phone-charging pad are effectively in the back seat.

    Despite the voodoo ergonomics, the new Camaro’s interior is still a massive improvement over the outgoing car’s. The materials belong in an actual motor vehicle with a considerable price, as opposed to a toddler’s toy, and the switchgear is both attractive and easy to use. A digital screen in the binnacle between the analog gauges is packed with useful information, and the nav-screen graphics are crisp. Honestly, though, this cabin could be trimmed in cellophane and crayon markings and we’d still gush over the way the car drives. While the new car looks stockier, the switch to the Alpha platform trimmed 2.3 inches in length and roughly 100 pounds as equipped for this test. The high cowl means you can only guess at where the corners of the body stop, but that’s less of an issue since the new Camaro drives like a much smaller car. That’s a stark contrast with its predecessor, which felt as if it grew in size the more carefully you tried to place it on the road.

    There’s a precision in the Camaro’s handling that until now was reserved for track-oriented models such as the Z/28 and #Ford-Mustang-Boss-302 . Credit the same chassis integrity that’s baked into the Cadillac ATS and CTS; Chevy says structural rigidity is improved by 28 percent over the last-gen car’s. The magnetorheological dampers hold the fenders level in corners and relax the ride on the highway. The electrically assisted power steering reacts to minute on-center tweaks and tightens the car’s line with a ratio that quickens as you wind in lock. There are touring, sport, and track modes, plus a weather setting to appropriately finesse the steering effort, dampers, transmission mapping, and stability control. You can also lock the steering and shocks into your preferred setting regardless of the mode. We favor the lightest, most natural steering weight that comes with touring. Regardless of the drive mode, the Camaro follows a path earnestly and intuitively. Its best virtues are symbolized by a wonderfully sculpted, flat-bottomed steering wheel.

    Not that the 6.2-liter #LT1 V8 , imported from the Corvette Stingray with only minor changes, is any slouch. The small-block’s torque peak of 455 pound-feet comes 150 rpm higher than the Mustang’s, but it fills in the lower half of the tach with palpably more grunt. From idle to 6600 rpm, it sounds as if its gargling 91 octane and spitting pure anger out the tailpipe. There’s a smart side to this Detroit legend, too. Direct injection, variable valve timing, and the ability to run on only four cylinders when paired with the automatic gearbox helped the Chevy extract 1 additional mpg over the Ford’s smaller-displacement engine.

    With lower weight, higher power, more gears, and greater grip, the Camaro walked all over the Mustang in our performance testing. #Goodyear Eagle F1 rubber helps produce a Porsche-like 147-foot stopping distance and lateral grip that flirts with 1.0 g. While it favors understeer in most situations, the Camaro was far more wieldy running through the slalom, pivoting better than the Mustang under acceleration and deceleration. In a straight line, breaking four seconds to 60 mph put the Chevy half a second ahead of the Ford, a gap that grew to 0.7 second by the end of quarter-mile. The Camaro’s Corvette powertrain and Cadillac chassis are some of the best parts in GM’s storerooms. The Camaro SS rockets to triple-digit speeds and whips around corners with poise. It’s the small-block–powered ATS-V that Cadillac will never build, yet it costs almost $20,000 less than the turbo ATS-V that it does. This Camaro defines an era where the eight-cylinder American muscle car is more than cheap power and brash styling. But it hasn’t forgotten the cheap power or the brash styling.

    Top: Even with narrower front tires, the Camaro has greater front-end grip. Above: Gun-slit side windows are too small for big guns.

    Chevrolet Camaro SS
    + Corners as well as it accelerates, small-block snarl.
    - Concept-car design wreaks havoc on the cabin, the options you want aren’t cheap.
    = Rippling with American muscle, but as sophisticated as European iron.

    Ford Mustang GT
    + A 7000-rpm redline and a willingness to get there, no-gimmicks interior.
    - Steering and chassis could be tauter, yacht-rock soundtrack.
    = Draws more parallels with a grand tourer than a sports car.

    Above: Speak up, son. We can’t hear you. The 5.0-liter V8 engine at least carries a pretty big stick. Left: Baby seats for baby-sized adults.

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    A Belgian #BMW-E30-Cabriolet #M20 on air with style and flair to spare. It may hail from north-eastern Belgium but this shimmering #E30-325i is pure Hollywood through and through… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Kevin Raekelboom.

    When you picture the gleaming, sun-scorched highways of Hollywood circa 1989-ish, what pops into your head? Stickyhaired execs in pastel-hued suits driving #Porsche-911 Turbos, Lamborghini Countachs and Ferrari Testarossas? Yes, that sort of hedonistic supercar excess does seem to characterise the cash-rich ostentatiousness of the era, but there is one slightly more attainable car that shouts just as loudly: the #E30 #325i cabriolet. If there’s one motor that really encapsulates the white-teeth, go-go nature of late-Eighties California, this is it – it goes hand-in-hand with Ray Bans, massive cell phones, and rolling your suit sleeves up to the elbow.

    To many enthusiasts of today, this is the image of the #BMW-E30 that they wish to tap into. The second-generation 3 Series has been with us since 1982, its production running into the early Nineties, and we’ve seen pretty much any and every interpretation of them possible – race cars with insane aero, #Chevy-V8 swaps, lovingly restored bone-stock chrome-bumper 316 automatics, you name it. For some, the tantalisingly evocative moniker ‘E30’ immediately conjures images of the original #M3 , all rorty four-banger charm and unstoppable race dominance. But to others, it’s all about rounding Sunset and Vine in a drop-top #325i , on your way to Paramount to stick your nose into the filming of Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade. It’s a car for upwardly mobile, perma-tanned young go-getters.

    This is clearly a lifestyle to which young Belgian Tom Vandeweyer aspires. “I wanted an older BMW with a bit of horsepower,” he explains, “and I’m crazy about lowering, so it was always bound to turn out this way.” Aha – here, of course, is where that retro Hollywood aesthetic receives its contemporary twist. This particular 325i, as you may well have spotted, is sitting on the floor, like, right on it. And these are the kind of lows that are most effectively achieved in this day and age by the judicious application of some clever air-filled bladders sprinkled around the suspension system. “It had to be crazy low, and for a while I was running static,” he says, “but it got to the stage where I was just too paranoid about damaging it, and I didn’t want to be in a position where I was too apprehensive to drive the thing, which led to me swapping to air-ride.”

    This conversion was taken care of by the renowned madcap spring professors at Kean Suspensions, a name that seems to be everywhere on the Euro tuning scene these days. Tom remains tight-lipped about the full spec of his setup (as we often find – some owners are eager to show off the details of their suspension spec or the precise offsets of their wheels while others prefer to preserve an air of mystery) but suffice to say it flies the flag for Kean’s trademark mix of quality components, exemplary fit-and-finish, and focus on optimising ride quality first, then aesthetics. “It actually rides better than my daily-driver #E90 ,” says Tom, “and I love the air install in the boot, it’s one of my favourite modifications to the car – it’s so neat, it looks perfect, and I can still use the boot.”

    There’s more to this build than simply dropping it on its butt and bothering a few speed bumps, however. Tom has been playing the long game with this project and it shows in the details. Everywhere you look you find fastidious polishing, millimetre-perfect stitching, an overall feeling of care and love. It’s impressive that the thing gets driven at all, let alone used regularly and hard; he must be tremendously busy with his polishing gear.

    “I’ve had the car for five years now and every winter I aim to change something significant,” he tells us with pride. “The most noticeable change is the suspension but there’s a lot more to the car than how it sits. The focus for the build is quality, I want everything to be the best it can be. At first I was running it on coilovers over Keskin KT4 rims and it was about 3cm from the ground. Like I say, it got to the point where I was scared to drive it! But I’m back in love with it now, Kean has transformed it.”

    You can imagine just what a pleasant place that interior is to pilot the thing from, too. It’s very much in keeping with that oldskool Hollywood vibe but, again, with a more modern twist. The seats, in fact, are #E36 #M3 items, to add a bit of extra support and class, and have been reworked in line with Tom’s views on quality parts. “It’s all trimmed in Porsche leather with contrasting red stitching,” he grins. And you can see why he’s so chuffed with it – even in photos, you can almost feel the silky softness, smell the hide, imagine its smooth grain caressing your posterior… it’s a mark of quality that works perfectly in tandem with the timeless E30 interior. And, yes, ‘timeless’ is the right word; while the switchgear and materials may look dated in comparison to #2014 fare, the overall setup of the Eighties 3 Series is nigh-on perfect and transcends the ages. With the dash centre angled toward the driver, a perfectly positioned gearstick and sensibly sited dials, it’s all just as a quality interior should be.

    One area in which Tom’s playing the 325i’s retro credentials to the fullest is what’s going on under the bonnet. Yes, engine swaps are rife in the tuning scene and it’s not particularly tricky to throw, say, an #M50 from an #E36 in there, but this enthusiast has stayed true to the core principles of the model as BMW intended by hanging on to that original M20 unit. And why not, eh? It’s a damn fine engine, the 12v fuel-injected straight-six offering up a handy 170hp-ish in stock tune. Tom’s bolstered this somewhat with the obligatory K&N induction, as well as adding a custom Inox stainless steel exhaust system, so the old girl is inhaling and exhaling a little more freely. As such, the bark from those chunky twin tails has a pleasingly classic note, just a little bit more rugged and angry than the standard rasp that used to ricochet between so many Californian studios back in the Falcon Crest era.

    Now, it’d be easy for a cynic to dismiss the #BBS RS as a played-out wheel design, but it’s important to consider the appropriateness of the RS for this car in particular. We all know how fiercely competitive people can get when it comes to choosing what rolling stock to squeeze under their arches. For a lot of folk it has to be the newest, freshest design from the trendiest aftermarket manufacturer (‘you’re doing the 2014 show season on a set of Rotiform BLQs? You’re so 2012…’) while for others it’s all about hunting down and restoring the rarest motorsport rims, with BBS turbofans being a particular favourite right now. But when you think about the history of the ubiquitous BBS RS, it all makes sense. Having pioneered cost-effective ways of mass-producing threepiece rims in the late 1970s and early ’80s, the company released the first three-piece splitrim for street applications, the RS, in 1983. Available in 15” or 16” and a whole lot of widths, you got forged aluminium lips and centres that came in a choice of silver or gold. Contemporary motorsport fans went bananas for the latter. With massive global demand, BBS followed the RS with a two-piece version (the RM) and a one-piece (the RA), thus elevating the RS to top-of-the-tree status. (Then they brought out the Super RS, a twopiece 18” version… but we’re in danger of getting needlessly geeky now.) With all this in mind, you can see why Tom made the choice that he did for his 325i. It’s just what those late-Eighties Hollywood wideboys would have chosen for their cabriolets, duking it out with the Alpina and Schnitzer fellas with their frisson of spangly-gold motorsport aggression. Yes, they’re so hot right now, but the RSs suits the E30 cab down to a tee. “I’ve had other wheels on the car but these suit the period the car’s from the best,” says Tom, summing it up rather neatly.

    This #BMW 325i, then, is effectively an old-skool boulevardier that’s been magically transported to 2014 via some sort of celestial low-loader. In the process, the cosmos has seen fit to Photoshop the whole thing a few inches closer to the ground but otherwise it’s just the kind of thing that moneyed executives would have fallen over themselves to climb into in period. Just look at the flawless paint – looks brand-new, doesn’t it? “Yes, it’s been resprayed in the original Diamond black,” Tom confirms. And doesn’t it just highlight how straight and true every panel is? It complements the shimmering perfection of the BBS rims, too, which is just as a #BMW-325i should be. If you can think of a more appropriate car to cruise top-down along Santa Monica Boulevard (er, 25 years ago) we want to hear about it.


    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 2.5- litre straight-six #M20B25 , #K&N induction, Inox stainless steel exhaust, stock manual gearbox.

    CHASSIS: 7.5x16” (front) and 8.5x16” (rear) BBS RS wheels with 205/40 (front and rear) Toyo Proxes tyres, Kean Suspensions air-ride setup, front strut brace, EBC RedStuff brakes.

    EXTERIOR: Diamond Black, M-Tech bumpers, smoked head- and taillights, Shadowline grille, 6000K xenons, carbonfibre badges, yellow fogs, light brows.

    INTERIOR: E36 M3 seats trimmed in Porsche leather with red stitching, VDO gauges, Schmiedmann mats, air-ride show install in boot, Alpine head unit with Axton amp and Shabir components.

    THANKS: All of my friends for their help, Schmiedmann and Kean Suspensions for their good service.
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