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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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    One of the most spectacular builds we’ve seen in a long time, this #BMW-M135i is quite unlike anything else. Words: Elizabeth de Latour /// Photos: Henry Phull @ Slam Sanctuary

    When Bruce Gowans said he had plans for his M135, he wasn’t lying. A year ago, this car was candy red with a modest boot build and Watercooled Industry wheels and now, well, it’s pretty much unrecognisable. There’s modifying your car and then there’s forging ahead with an absolute vision that’s uncompromised and single-minded in its intent. This car is what happens when someone makes that vision a reality.

    There is no typical modified BMW owner, and Bruce certainly fits into that non-box of atypicality. He is of the ‘older’ generation, shall we say, and resides in a tiny village in the heart of the Bedfordshire countryside, a million miles away from the frenetic and eclectic world that is the modified BMW scene. But this mechanical engineer has a heart that pumps pure petrol and has spent his entire life flitting from modified car to modified car, with an underlying appreciation for BMW but never the opportunity to indulge that interest in Bavarian metal until he acquired this M135i. “I’ve been interested in BMWs ever since I was a lad and grew up into a petrolhead! I’ve been a fan since the first E30 M3 and seeing an E9 coupé on neighbour’s drive when I walked to school and thinking how cool it looked. I bought the M135i, my first BMW, for its ‘performance for the price’ factor and because the drivetrain, the engine and the transmission are such a great combination in this vehicle. I bought it brand-new in 2013 and was going to keep it stock…”

    “Both Shakey and I thought that translating this design into a vinyl wrap would be a nigh-on impossible task”

    Digital audio explained:

    “The system in this car was spec’d to accommodate Bruce’s passion for high resolution audio. It’s cutting edge in the fact it can play any file format he wants and samples up to 196khz with bit depths of up to 24-bit. When you consider a CD (still reference in so many studios) samples at 44.1khz at 16-bit, that’s a huge amount more information. Of course, all of the car’s OEM equipment and functionality is retained and played through the new system alongside solid state hard drives, wireless streaming and various other inputs.”
    Carl Shakespeare, Director, Studio Incar

    Clearly that didn’t happen. It seems like the car was stock for all of five minutes before Bruce had started tinkering and while the mods started off sensibly and in a restrained manner, once the momentum began to build there was clearly no stopping Bruce (or the M135i). “The first mod was to get a new exhaust developed and fitted by Scorpion Exhausts. Then Luke and the guys at Plush supplied and fitted the air-ride, sourcing components from AirREX and an eLevel system from Accuair. This was closely followed by a carbon-fibre front splitter from SSDD,” he says. “Spring 2014 brought a change in colour, with a candy red colour wrap from Avery called True Blood.

    New MD1 wheels from Watercooled Industries were added, closely followed by a Juice Box 4 (JB4) piggyback ECU from Burger Motorsports and a decat downpipe which were fitted at #Performance-Developments in Sunderland. The car went to #Forge-Motorsport in #Gloucester to have one of its high-performance intercoolers fitted, along with one of its dump valves.” With all those mods on board, it made 400hp and 450lb ft of torque on the dyno and considering how blisteringly quick the standard M135i is, that’s going to be more than enough power to keep Bruce happy. “After having the traction control kick in once too often, I took the decision to fit a limited-slip diff to the car. Options were thin on the ground for this platform but Birds in Iver, Buckinghamshire developed a Quaife ATB for it, which has made a massive difference to the way the car drives.”

    And that is where the story would end for most people. A dramatic wrap, some exceedingly nice wheels, air-ride and some performance mods. A fine selection of upgrades. Job done. But that’s not where this story ends, as you can clearly see. “At the end of 2014 I planned to make some big changes to the car and started speaking to Carl Shakespeare at Studio Incar about my plans,” he explains. “We discussed my ideas for a rear-seat delete and a high-end audio installation and things just got out of hand. I had already decided to try and get a BTCC body kit. I contacted West Surrey Racing and negotiated with the guys there to buy a genuine race car kit from their 2014/15 BMW 1 Series race car. However, fitting it proved more difficult than you might think! The BTCC cars have front and rear subframes and crash structures that are specified by TOCA and these also provide mounting points for the front and rear body panels. These didn’t match up with the mounting and fixing points that BMW specify! It required the rear wings to be cut and tubbed – scary stuff! Luckily, Stylehaus in Northampton has some serious skills and brought the whole thing together.

    “Shakey project managed the whole build with input from me, like my suggestion for the triple tank setup. Once the car was back from the bodyshop, and with a little bit of extra fettling by Fibreglass Phil in Kent (the manufacturer of the BTCC kit), the audio and air install could begin in earnest.” With a bit of direction from Bruce, Shakey was free to run riot inside the M135i. The end result is an interior that feels like it’s very much been built around the air and audio and one look inside leaves you in no doubt that this car’s main purpose is to astound. The rear seats have been removed completely, replaced by the awesome triple floating tank setup that looks like a spaceship, illuminated from above and hovering over the massive 15” Hertz Mille sub which forms part of the incredibly high-end digital audio install, while the rear load space is home to the three Audison amps, on display in a beautifully designed enclosure. There’s acres of Alcantara in here, which reaches up to cover the roof lining as well, while some extremely sexy custom door pods are home to Hertz Mille speakers. Finally, a custom panel in the centre console (also trimmed in Alcantara) houses the controllers for the audio system and the air suspension. It’s one of the most spectacular, special and perfectly-executed builds we’ve ever seen and it’s nothing short of a work of art.

    With such a spectacular build going on, the right wheels were going to be absolutely essential and Bruce was keen to move away from the usual suspects, like BBS and Rotiform, and try something different. “I had been in touch with Brada wheels in the States for a year or so, originally to try and get some wheels for my GT3,” he says. “I spoke to Zane and we agreed a design and spec for the wheels that were destined to go on the BMW. However, because the car was away having the body kit fitted, Shakey and I could only make an educated guess as to what the exact widths and offsets of the wheels would be, with us only knowing what the overall width of the BTCC car is and working back from those dimensions…” It can be hard enough to work out your exact wheel specs when you’ve got your car in front of you so this was most definitely a risky strategy but it worked and the resulting wheels are the perfect fit for the M135i. Bruce opted for Brada’s BR1 crossspokes with gloss black centres, matt black lips and stainless steel bolts in 9.5x19” at the front and 10.5x19” at the rear, the fitment perfect for tucking the wheels under the massive arches when the car is aired out.

    In terms of styling, the kit alone wasn’t enough for Bruce and he decided to take things to the next level. “The wrap design wasn’t established until quite late in the build. I have always been a fan of the BMW Art Car projects but picking a design to base the wrap for the M135i was tricky. Several of the Art Cars are ‘challenging’, to say the least,” he laughs, “but this Frank Stella design from 1976 was selected – it appealed to my inner engineer! Both Shakey and I thought that translating this design into a vinyl wrap would be a nigh-on impossible task, since the original consisted of lots of parallel horizontal and vertical lines; the hardest thing to do with vinyl wrap… Carl contacted JD Wraps in Essex and a deal was struck. When I collected the car a week later I was amazed. The guys had done an awesome job.” The combination of kit and wrap is one that is both single-handedly responsible for the utterly insane amount of attention this car garners but is also the most polarising aspect of the whole project. Some people love the wrap but hate the kit. Some people hate the kit but love the wrap. Some people hate them both. And some people like everything that this car has got going on! However you feel, it’s a talking point and gets the car noticed. Bruce loves it, however, which ultimately is the most important thing.

    Amazingly, all this work took just six months, really not long at all considering just how much has gone into the build and how complete the transformation has been. Bruce chose the Players Classic show for the car’s unveiling. It got as much attention as you’d expect and the sort of reactions you’d expect. “It seems to be very much a ‘Marmite’ car!” Bruce tells us. More importantly, though, he can now sit back and actually enjoy the car. Beyond the looks and the next-level interior, he’s got a fast, powerful car that’s great to drive, with an incredible sound system. It’s a package that just begs to be taken out on the road and enjoyed and, in fact, that’s now his only plan for the future.

    DATA FILE #2015 #BMW-M135i-F21 / #BMW-M135i / #BMW-F21 / #BMW / #Brada-BR1

    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre straight-six turbo #N55B30 / #N55 , JB4 piggyback ECU from #Burger-Motorsport , #Scorpion full exhaust including a decat downpipe, #Forge / #Forge-FMIC / , #Forge-DV , stock #ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox #ZF8HP , #Quaife ATB LSD from #Birds

    CHASSIS 9.5x19” (front) and 10.5x19” (rear) #Brada BR1 three-piece wheels with gloss black lips, matt black faces and stainless hardware, with 235/35 (front) and 275/30 (rear) #Goodyear Eagle Asymmetric 2 tyres, #AirREX air-ride and Accuair eLevel management

    EXTERIOR #BMW-M-Performance carbon fibre wing mirror shells, #BMW M Performance black front grilles, #BTCC body kit from WSR, Art Car wrap by #JD-Wraps

    INTERIOR Interior by #Studio-Incar , full digital audio install comprising Audison AV Quattro amp x2, Audison AV Uno amp, Audison bit Ten D processor, #Audison bit Play HD source, #Hertz-Mille three-way front end, Hertz Mille 15” sub, rear seat delete, custom air installation, Alcantara roof lining, integrated audio and suspension controllers built in to the centre console

    THANKS Studio Incar and Shakey in particular for handling this project and for keeping my spirits up when I needed it, Zane and Jacob at Brada, Myles and Chris at Brada UK, Fibreglass Phil, Scorpion Exhausts, Forge Motorsport, the guys at Stylehaus, Luke Massy, Phil James, Kat and the team at JD Wraps, Voodoo Elie for getting me out of a tricky situation, and last but not least, Ed Hamilton at JK Engineering for being a great friend, being just as daft as me and as big a petrolhead as me!
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    Pre-season testing reveals analogies with the past. The more things change... Maurice Hamilton is a veteran motor racing journalist. Here he compares the latest news from Formula 1’s winter testing programme with past events - and finds surprising similarities.

    They call it the Winter Grand Prix. That's #Formula-1 slang for the uncertainty of pre-season predictions and promises that emerge from winter testing. It becomes scathing F1 vernacular when confident assurances are then crushed by the reality of going racing: as in #Ron-Dennis , boss of McLaren, telling Ferrari they may have won the #1990 Winter Grand Prix but not the important one that followed.

    This was a scornful reference to the Italian team dominating pre-season testing, only to go to the first race in Phoenix and have one car leak hydraulic fluid into the oil and the other expire in a blaze of embarrassment when the clutch exploded, fractured an oil line, caused a flash fire and seized the engine. McLaren, low-key in testing, had simply turned up in Arizona, claimed pole and won the United States Grand Prix. The important one.

    Is a similar collapse of Mercedes, the early favourite, imminent in 2015? Will #Ferrari have learned lessons from previous false dawns if they attempt to win another Winter Grand Prix? Will McLaren win any race, never mind the first one in Melbourne on 15 March? In all three cases, the answer is: 'highly unlikely'.

    Mercedes, the reigning champions, set out their store by completing a mammoth 157 laps during the opening day of pre-season testing. It was an overwhelming display of reliability and confidence in a session when the McLaren- Honda managed just six stuttering laps of the Jerez track. Ferrari, meanwhile, was quickest - but only by half a second during a one-off lap in-between the red car spending more time in the garage than on the circuit.

    Here, in a matter of hours, you had a likely template for the 'important Grands Prix' to be played out between March and November in 19 locations around the globe.

    Mercedes are on a roll. This happens in F1 as surely as #Bernie-Ecclestone makes money out of anything that moves - or stands still long enough to be hustled. Successful exploitation of major technical changes means the team that does best initially usually remains ahead until either the rest eventually sort themselves out or the formula changes once more. Witness the run by Ferrari at the turn of the millennium, or McLaren and Honda in the mid-80s, or crafty Jack #Brabham using the simple Oldsmobile-based Repco V8 to see in the arrival of the 3-litre formula in #1966 .

    And so it was with Mercedes when they started 2014 better prepared than anyone else for what has been the biggest technical change for decades. The rest have been trying to catch up ever since. 2015 promises to be no different.
    We shouldn't be surprised. The engines may be designed and built in an immaculate facility in the village of Brixworth, Northants, the chassis may be manufactured 45 minutes south in Brackley, but the car is a Mercedes from the signature three-pointed star on the nose to the signatures on cheques issued in Stuttgart. The pace and location of the company's F1 technology may have changed but the Mercedes ethos and domination remains exactly as it was 60 years ago when the Silver Arrows travelled from Germany each race weekend to wipe the floor with Ferrari, Maserati and the rest.

    When the Mercedes-Benz Rennabteilung first arrived in the paddock in 1954, the steamroller effect was exactly as you saw last year. They had thought of everything, Stirling Moss marvelling over a spare windshield emerging from the bodywork in the likely event of the original being smashed by a stone. Having engaged first gear and let out the clutch halfway through #1954 , Mercedes left the rest in its wake the following season and would surely have continued to do so had the #1955 #Le-Mans disaster, when more than 80 spectators were killed, not forced premature closure of the racing department.

    Optimistic observers will tell you things are different in 2015. The rules have been relaxed slightly in that the engine manufacturers - Mercedes, #Renault , #Ferrari and Honda - can make changes to their power units as the season progresses rather than remain stuck with their mistakes once the racing gets under way. The removal of the freeze is not such a massive thaw, since the block, crankcase, cylinder spacing and inlet systems must remain untouched. Wriggle-room will allow an element of catch-up, but those hoping for a change at the front of the field forget that the newfound freedom also allows Mercedes to improve on a near-perfect product.

    Talk of the rest clawing back the 70bhp advantage enjoyed by the silver cars last year has already been dashed by Mercedes allegedly having found another 60bhp during the winter. Standby for another tense fight as #Lewis-Hamilton defends his crown from #Nico-Rosberg , while the rest play a supporting role.

    That said, no amount of self-assured punditry such as this will prevent Mercedes glancing over its shoulder, uncertain of how much improvement has been made elsewhere. The obvious place to look is #Williams-F1 , given that Sir Frank's team is using the same Mercedes engine. If anyone is likely to be poised to pick up the scraps knocked off the table by a squabbling World Champion and his team-mate, it's this British F1 icon.

    More uncertain will be progress at Ferrari, mainly because the #Maranello team has a long way to come after a shambolic year, even by its previous colourful standards. Alonso's departure to McLaren with a year to run on his Ferrari contract is just the start and easier to understand than #Sebastian-Vettel 's move from #Red-Bull as the Spaniard's replacement.

    Carried along by the inevitable aura of Ferrari's history, #Vettel has attacked his new role with great vigour, rushing back from the first test in Spain to spend more time in the simulator. Even if this ultimately does not produce the required performance, it will take Vettel's mind off the pain experienced when blown away by #Daniel-Ricciardo last year.

    The smiling Australian assassin's three confident wins were a highlight of #2014 , not least because they were the only break in the #Mercedes monopoly. Whether or not #Red-Bull-Renault can go further depends on Renault's shake-out of an organisation previously top dog for four years but humbled in #2014 by being a day late and many horsepower short.

    McLaren had no such excuse since fighting for fifth in the championship with Force India (a team with half the budget and resources) was exacerbated by having the benefit of a Mercedes power unit. #McLaren-Honda have switched to #Honda , the return of the Japanese firm evoking memories of a previous liaison...

    Judging by modest predictions for the early races, McLaren recognises it's a dangerous game to look back on a glorious past and link it with an uncertain future. Much has been made of Honda's last move to #McLaren in #1988 when the combination won 15 of the season's 16 races. But things were very different then.

    There was no serious competition to speak of and Honda had already gained experience of the turbo game through a championship won with Williams and #Nelson-Piquet the previous year. Comparing today's complex hybrid energy retention formula with that simple V6 turbo is like comparing an electric typewriter with an Apple Mac.

    McLaren scarcely bothered with pre-season testing in 1988. The #MP4/4 , arguably the sleekest #F1 car of the past 50 years, turned up at Imola late one afternoon a few days before the first race, Ayrton Senna climbed on board and the brand-new car smashed the lap record straight out of the truck. It was only fading light that forced the excited Brazilian to stop.

    In the first #2015 test last February, Alonso and Button counted themselves lucky if they got started, electrical and engine-related problems restricting them to 12 laps in the first half of the four-day test. The essential process of fine-tuning the handling slid further and further down a schedule governed by a massive but not unexpected work list.
    Mercedes, meanwhile, not only covered two Grand Prix distances in the first day but also demonstrated its state of readiness by cheekily rehearsing no fewer than 17 pit stops. In 2014, several teams had barely managed one before the first race was upon them.

    Pre-season testing has been limited to three four-day sessions. In the 1970s and 1980s, the mechanics and drivers considered themselves lucky if they got four days off during the winter. A tyre war meant the likes of #Goodyear , #Michelin and #Dunlop would pay teams to test endlessly in the heat of Brazil or South Africa (long-haul venues ruled out today because of the need to cut costs).

    It was not unknown for a mechanic to pack his bags in January, test for five weeks in Rio, have a short break in Brazil and then cross the border for the first race in Argentina before returning to Brazil for Round Two. It was the same in South Africa, when the opening race of the season was staged at Kyalami on the outskirts of Johannesburg, Formula 1 teams taking up permanent residency in the nearby Kyalami Ranch.

    The mileage clocked up was so extensive that lap times scarcely mattered. The only time news wires carried a story from F1 testing was when someone crashed and was, at best, badly injured. The motor racing world more or less forgot about this relentless slog in the sunshine.

    How different things are today with the advent of social media. Websites and Twitter carry coverage of every lap and every driver's waking moment. Sky TV digs diligently for stories to fill a summary each evening. When an unofficial highlight of the first week in Jerez was a distant shot of a spectating #Niki-Lauda having a pee in the undergrowth, you begin to understand how difficult it is to extract anything interesting from drivers and officials who almost seem reluctant to give their name. Their aim is to dig deep into the box of optimistic soundbites while refusing to comment on their state of competitiveness - mainly because they don't honestly know. Or if they do, they're not saying.

    Lap times are the only black-and-white evidence of what is going on, but even these assume a permanent shade of grey. It is pointless to Tweet, as one website did, that #Pastor-Maldonado has just done his best time on his 43rd lap in the #Lotus-Mercedes . Such information is utterly meaningless. #Pirelli – F1's sole supplier - brought four different types of dry-weather tyre, ranging from Supersoft to Hard, plus one that warmed up quickly (to save time in the cool conditions) but will not be raced. Maldonado's time depended on which tyre he was using, the engine mode, how much fuel was on board and whether he was on a long run or simply going for the short-term glory of a quick time.

    The latter may seem a pointless exercise at such an early stage but, when you're trying to attract a sponsor, a decent headline or two does not go amiss, particularly since the cars are not weighed (unlike race weekends, when regular checks will prevent anyone running beneath the 702kg minimum). Hence the raising of a cynical eyebrow or two when #Sauber - who failed to score a single point in 2014 - was among the fastest in the first week.

    Being kind, the Swiss team uses a Ferrari engine and it was reasonable to suggest that the surprising performance was due to a much- needed improvement in the driveability of the heavily revised Italian V6, particularly when Vettel and #Kimi-Raikkonen put Ferrari at the top of the time sheets. But then this was, after all, the opening week of the Winter Grand Prix.

    'Senna climbed on board and the brand-new car smashed the lap record straight out of the truck’
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    Dinan Turbo #BMW #M6 #E24 ( turbo-engined #M635CSi #E24 #1988 ) The Annihilator. By Nicholas Bissoon-Dath.

    The needle races past 60 mph. The on-ramp ahead curves tightly away, but your right foot stays flat to the floor, the turbo-charged engine screaming with the hard- edged bass of a highly tuned six-cylinder in full cry. As the sign suggesting a ramp speed of 25 mph flashes past, you bend into the turn, and your passenger audibly pleads for divine protection. You feel the immense lateral loadings build as your speed rises, but the car clings to the road with no dramatics. As you merge onto the highway at more than 80 mph. you look over at the disbelieving face in the right seat. Welcome to the world of the Dinan Turbo BMW M6 E24.

    Company #AMG has the #Hammer , but #Dinan-Engineering has an equally formidable implement; think of it as the #E24-Annihilator . It blasts from 0 to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds, through the quarter-mile in 13.2 seconds at 107 mph, and on to a rev-limited top speed of 172. It offers race-car handling, #BMW quality and feel, and a shove in the back dial will get anyone’s attention.

    Steve Dinan is a 34-year-old mechanical engineer and the founder of Dinan Engineering (81 Pioneer Way, Mountain View, California 94041; 415-962-9417). He has spent the last nine years of his life servicing, racing, and tuning BMW's. The Turbo M6 is his star, and he has every reason to be proud of its brilliance.

    The source of the Dinan M6’s E24 prodigious performance is its modified turbo engine. Dinan Engineering retains the 24-valve M6 block and head, but that’s about all. It lowers the compression ratio from 9.8 to 7.7:1. A specially matched Garrett T04B turbocharger supplies the boost, which is limited by a Roto-Master waste gate to 13.0 psi. A huge HKS intercooler lowers the temperature of the intake charge; at 134 mph on a 70-degree day, according to Dinan, the reduction is a whopping 160 degrees. Dinan also installs a new airflow sensor and high-flow injectors and enlarges the stock air-cleaner inlet for better breathing. 4he final touch is a #Bosch-Motronic engine-control system, reprogrammed to Dinan’s specifications by Veloz Car Computers.

    The results are 390 horsepower at 6400 rpm —134 more hp than the standard M6 E24 — and a 7300 rpm redline. Not only is the power amazing, but it feeds in smoothly and progressively in response to the throttle. Press with your right foot and full boost is available just a moment later. The thrust builds at a furious pace, and before you know it you’re traveling at twice your previous speed. It’s easy to maintain high average speeds along remote secondary roads, picking off other cars as if multiple-jumping your way to victory in a game of checkers.

    Dinan has also seen to it that the M6’s superbly controllable brakes will haul you down from high speed as often as necessary. Metallic pads grab the stock rotors, and the front brakes are cooled by means of race-car-sized ducts feeding air from two gaping intakes in the front spoiler. The Turbo M6 #E24-Turbo stops from 70 mph in only 173 feet, ten feet shorter than the stock M6 can manage.

    Dinan’s racing experience is evident in his Stage 4 suspension. The $1938 package includes firmer shocks, stiffer springs, and adjustable anti-roll bars at both ends. Negative-camber plates in front and a special rear crossmember allow the normally fixed camber settings to be adjusted at all four wheels.

    The rolling stock consists of #Goodyear Eagle ZR S or #Yokohama A-008R tires on #BBS modular aluminum wheels. In front. 225/50ZR-16 rubber is mounted on 8.0- inch rims; the rear tires are 255/50ZR-16s on 9.0-inch wheels.

    Yes, #Steve-Dinan personally tunes the sus-pensions of his cars, and he achieves impressive results. We measured 0.91 g on our skidpad; that’s 0.04 g better than a #Z52 #Corvette with 275/40ZR-17 tires. In the real world, the #Dinan-Turbo-N16 will scythe through a series of switchbacks at an incredible pace. Charge into a comer at more than twice the posted limit and the car holds its line precisely. Once past your apex, the tail digs in as you press hard on the throttle and unwind the steering. You can blast through comer after corner in this fashion, in an unending stream of speed and tire squeal and fury, yet remain in complete control.

    At the limit the car understeers just enough to let you know that you’re about to run out of grip. The rear wheels can also be provoked loose by accelerating hard in a tight comer or by sharply backing off the throttle at the limit. When the rear does let go, however, it does so slowly and predictably.

    The price of this performance is a nice, round $20,000 — not including the $59,000 that an #M6-E24 will cost you. For your extra twenty grand you get the rocket engine, the Stage 4 suspension, the wheels and tires, the brake modifications, and a special Center forced clutch.

    You also get a few compromises. The #Dinan M6s ride is substantially stiffer than the production car’s, and the front tires tend to follow highway ruts. If you find such behaviour unacceptable, Dinan Engineering offers three other suspensions for 1970-and-later BMWs, each with its own level of control and complexity. It also sells turbo kits for both 5- and 6-series BMWs (means #E34 and #E24 ). Our test car didn’t have any smog controls, but Dinan builds emissions-certified turbo engines as well.

    We’ve driven Dinan BMWs equipped with both types and found that the cleansed car suffers little in feel. Dinan’s racetrack experience and development work have paid off. The Turbo #M6 s limits are so high, and its acceleration is so aggressive, that only the most exotic performance cars on the planet can compete with it. This is a civilized race car for the street. Drag racers, beware. And heaven help anybody w ho tries to keep up with the #Dinan-Turbo #BMW-M6-E24 on a winding road.

    Vehicle type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive. 4-passenger 2-door sedan #BMW-E24 series

    1988 Price as tested: $80,000

    Engine type: turbocharged and intercooled 6-inline, iron Block and aluminium head, Veloz / ##Bosch-Motronlc electronic engine control system with port fuel injection.

    Displacement 211 cu in, 3453cc #S38 / #M88
    Power (SAE net) 390 bhp at 6400 rpm
    Transmission 5 speed
    Wheelbase 103.3 in
    Length 193.8 in
    Curb weight 3537 lb
    Zero to 60 mph 4.8 sec
    Zero to 100 mph 10.8 sec
    Standing ¼-mile 13.2 sec @ 107 mph
    Top speed 172 mph
    Braking 70-0 mph 173ft
    Road-holding, 300 ft dia skidpad 0.91g
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    So you want big power? Take one #M3-E30 , and add big turbo. It’s all simple, lo-tech stuff.

    There's not a lot of information on #Lotec . A German company in the spirit of Porsche-addling maniac #Ruf , it creates #Mercedes-Benz -engined specials for the autobahn addicts of the Fatherland. But we do know that Lotec created 20 E30 BMW M3s, all benefiting from a simple, non-factory extra, a Garrett T4 turbocharger.

    Ian Knight spent five months looking for an #BMW-M3 #E30 . He must have seen hundreds and could find fault with every one. Each had an un-pukka history, or had been smashed up. The best was white and had been resprayed in blue, and not very well at that.

    Things were not looking good. But he had to have an #M3 , and persevered in his search. His troubles were compounded by the fact that, the more he drove, the more bored he became with the car’s 200 bhp. It didn't give him the kick in the back he needed. Yet. all his life he'd wanted one, and he still had to own a decent example. The Evo Sport, with its 238 bhp, 2.5-litre mill, was as good as he was going to get, so he went to see one that was supposedly the best in the country. It was full of filler and he didn't find it all that quick. Damn.

    Enter stage left #GR-Motorsport of London, a specialist importer of exotic automotive fruit. At the time, the company was chasing down a very rare car indeed. So rare that Ian had no idea of its existence. It was a turbo model, with 350 bhp at its disposal. Was he interested? Docs the Pope preside over the Roman faith? However, apparently the car had no real documentation to speak of, and was white. His interest suddenly waned. GR shouldn't bring it here on his account.

    It didn't. It imported the car regardless of his disinterest, then gave him a call mentioning a price that was five grand under par. Perfectionism aside, Ian's interest was rekindled. It may have had a history with more holes than a colander, but it was a two-owner car, one being a dealer. Hmmm... 350 bhp. He took a chance, and bought it.

    He’s never regretted it even though his first action was to have the turbo replaced. Two years of standing had been followed by a 160 mph autobahn blast on its way back to the UK. and the blower's seals were shot to pieces. The suspension, too, was decomposing. #Eibach springs and #Bilstein dampers soon sorted that out.

    They were designed to give the car a 25 mm drop, but now, he's convinced it’s much lower than that. But there's almost never any wheelarch rubbing, and the car handles faultlessly, so he’s not complaining.

    The #BMW-M3-E30 arrived shod with 8x16 ACT alloys. Wrapped fatly with 225/45 #Goodyear Eagle F1 rubber, they looked splendid, in a cross-spoke kind of way. No reason to change them he reasoned. But, as any cross-spoke owner will know, they're the work of eternity to keep clean.

    Despite Ian having a scam of perfection-ism running through his like a streak in bacon, he found bringing the car up to an acceptable standard of finish very easy. The paintwork was straight so a good cut and polish brought it to life. The bonnet, however, was rusty, necessitating replacement. At the other end, the rear valance was renewed, as it had been mutilated to fit a nasty DTM-style exhaust heat shield.

    Now the car was clean inside and out. It wasn’t concours, but he loved its pace, and that was enough. Until recently, that is. The creeping need to perfect the paintwork means a respray is now due. Everyone tells him it’s unnecessary, but he knows other-wise. It doesn’t help that his best friend, Blue (don’t ask), is a master sprayer, and the owner of the most perfect M3 ever.

    Not without effort, though. Blue's car is mind-numbingly showroom because he’s made it that way. Thanks to his skills, the Lotec example will soon be as-new, too.

    The Lotec conversion is devastatingly simple. And simply devastating, come to think of it. It involves new inlet and exhaust manifolds, a massive T4 turbo, a #Porsche wastegate and an uprated fuel sys-tem. A custom exhaust is also used. The management is tweaked to take all these changes, giving 336 bhp. Ian’s car has received further work, the nature of which we’re not sure about, but it’s likely to have occurred in the ECU mapping department, to give the 350 bhp he enjoys so heartily.

    The standard final drive is retained, but to apply the T4’s slam-dunking torque delivery, the gearbox from an #E34 #M5 obliges. This #Getrag five-speeder has much longer ratios than the stock item, and provides 28 mph per 1000 rpm. This is an #BMW M3 four-pot, remember, so do the maths... the car has a theoretical top speed of 198 mph, before you allow for the detrimental effect of its aircraft-hanger aerodynamics.

    Even counting these, it’s still an extremely fast car. Part of the conversion is to park the windscreen wipers vertically, because at speeds over 160 mph, the arms would be forced off the horizontal by airflow, until the linkage broke.

    If the turbo is brought on song early in a launch, 60 mph can be achieved in well under six seconds. But the downside of the gearbox is that its big old ratio spread extinguishes the standard M3's revvy sparkle. I couldn't remove from my mind, while at the wheel, that if someone wanted a very powerful, long-legged mile-muncher, they'd be better off with an M5, full stop.

    Just as I’ve never understood the #Alpina 3.5-litre conversion, with its heavy engine transplanted under the M3 bonnet, I can't fathom this car, which seems to deny it what it was designed by BMW to be.

    However, Ian has a fiendish plan to have the best of both worlds. Noting that the turbo engine, being very little heavier than the standard item, doesn't knacker the M3’s superb handling, he plans to fit a six-speed, dose-ratio gearbox, to make the most of the rev-happy screamer.

    Above. Compact size of the #S14 four-cylinder meant plenty of room for the turbo installation. Twin-coil ignition and custom-made inlet plenum (left) are part of the Lotec conversion.

    Below. The #Garrett #Garrett-T4 turbocharger runs at 14.5 psi/1 bar with a remote Porsche wastegate. Gearbox is an #E34-M5 five-speed unit.

    Perhaps as a consequence of the grownup gearbox, the car is ridiculously civilised. In certain other applications, read big- turbo Cosworth Fords, the T4 turbo is deeply unsubtle, exploding into life at 4000 rpm causing Essex-man fishtailing as you try to keep the biscuit-tin car on the road.

    Not so here. The M3 feels pleasantly eager at low revs, before the power begins to build. And build. And build. After a certain time, the driver runs out of bottle, road, or both, and lifts off. At which there's momentary lag before the car slows. It’s incredibly grown-up, and astoundingly fast.

    And very, very German. This is the M3, translated for autobahn use meaning, of course, that it really is an M5 in miniature. Inside, factory leather, with the #M-sport colours, sewn in, reinforce the luxury-tourer impression. The previous owner was a lucky man, with the perfect combination of car and terrain at his disposal.

    Except that he wasn't all that fortunate. GR Motorsport's German scout was an acquaintance of his family, which sold the car while mourning his loss. The poor chap got crushed to death at work. Ian likes to think the ghost of Herman the German rides with him, with revs rising and falling of their own accord at idle.

    If Herman was on board recently, he would have had fun. Ian wound the turbo boost up to one bar, which transformed the car. Gone was its urbane nature, replaced by a savagery that shocked and delighted him. It moved the M3 onto a different level. Unfortunately, three laps into a Castle Combe track day, the engine suffered oil starvation, and the bottom end ate itself.

    Ian was lucky. He’d seen a #Subaru-Impreza park itself into the Armco at 60 mph and the only harm was to his wallet.
    He won’t be doing any more track days, once the engine’s rebuilt. The road’s the place for him and Herman to enjoy them-selves. And Curborough sprint days, of course. It was a shame the car removed itself from the track day scene, as he’d just about got the braking system right. Although the three laps were enough to warp a set of new discs, his brake specialist, Jim Freeth of Performance Braking in Monmouth, had turned him on to a blue Pagid pad that was giving brilliant service.

    As you read this, the Lotec will be back on the road. There are two others in the country, but these are resting. Having resurrected his engine, Ian's going to be a lot poorer, but he’s not cowed by the expense. It cost less than ten grand to buy, and gave him two years, or 6000 miles, of wild times before going pop. So he's going to take it on the chin, and console himself with the simple charms of Lotec transport.
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