Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse, $2.4 million
It’s impossible to visit Manhattan without noticing wealth and privilege. Though I’m loathe to use the P word as it’s been corrupted by politics, how else can you describe someone driving a S Class Mercedes-Benz with “MD” New York license plates other than as affluent and expecting special treatment from parking enforcement that won’t be extended to some zhlub from Jersey in a Camry?
New York City generates so much wealth that the people there can afford the opportunity and real costs involved with insane traffic, general congenstion and expensive infrastructure. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the New York International Auto Show is where car companies go to show off their goods from the top shelf. (Read More…)
Denise McCluggage passed away this week at the age of 88. A pioneer in so many ways and not simply because she was a woman competing in mostly male environments. Denise simply excelled at whatever she did.
To most car enthusiasts she was known primarily for her automotive writing and photography. In the 1950s, though, she raced cars actively and successfully on road courses and in rallying, including a class win in a Ferrari 250GT at the Sebring 12 hour race in 1961. She raced in both women’s events and in those men’s events that would let her enter, competing with and being treated as an equal by racers like Phil Hill and Sterling Moss. She and Moss were lifelong friends. You could always spot her in the field by her distinctive red polka-dotted racing helmet. She was also a competitive downhill skier and a professional instructor in that sport. For more details on her professional life, you can read her biographies elsewhere, or check out her personal website, but this post is more of an eulogy than an obituary. Denise McCluggage was simply one of the coolest ladies I’ve even known. (Read More…)
Nowadays it seems as you’re almost as likely to see or hear a public service announcement about the dangers of texting behind the wheel as you are about drunk driving, but there are still plenty of “drive sober or get pulled over” billboards and PSAs. Around 4:45 AM on August 14, 2013, a 22 year old Florida woman named Mila Dago driving a rented Smart car apparently ignored all of that advice and allegedly ran a red light and broadsided a pickup truck, resulting in the death of her passenger, Irina Reinoso, also 22.
Not only did she find herself charged with DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide but now there’s a good chance she’ll be convicted because prosecutors have recently obtained a string of text messages she sent to her boyfriend that night including the self-incriminating statement “Driving drunk woo,” sent just minutes before the crash. (Read More…)
It sounds funny to say a car that costs almost $185,000 is a move downmarket, but the new McLaren 570S introduced at the recent New York Auto Show, and the detuned 540S version of the same “Sport Series” chassis (~$150K), are exactly that. The first McLarens to cost less than a quarter of a million dollars are aimed squarely at the Porsche 911. Since I’ve always been a best bang for the buck kind of a guy, whether I’m talking cars or stereo equipment, I wondered if McLaren might be interested in using their resources to bring their kind of high performance to an everyman’s sports car. So I asked Wayne Bruce, McLaren’s global director of communications, if there might be a sub-six-figure McLaren some day. (Read More…)
Over the weekend, General Motors announced the 2016 Chevrolet Volt extended-range hybrid car will have a MSRP more than a thousand dollars lower than the current price of the first-generation car. The next Volt will have a base MSRP of $33,995 (including $825 as a destination fee), which GM say is about $1,200 cheaper than the 2015 Volt. With a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 still in place, the new Volt could cost as little as $26,495 before any applicable state-level subsidies.
The Volt will not only be cheaper to buy, it should be less expensive to operate. Range when running in EV mode has been increased by 31 percent to 50 miles. When powered by gasoline it will get 41 miles per gallon on the EPA’s combined traffic cycle. In comparison, the current model is rated at 38 EV miles and 37 mpg. Another economy will be gained by the fact the combustion engine will run on 87 octane gasoline, unlike the first-gen Volt requiring premium fuel.
Now that the first Volt is going away, it’s probably appropriate to perform a postmortem. Has it been a success or a failure? (Read More…)
Due to advancements such as air bags, driving is much safer than it was when I first got my driver’s license in the early 1970s. Even then, because of seat belts and crush zones, cars were much safer than they had been in the early automotive age. The first decades of the automobile resulted in chaotic and unsafe driving conditions. Not only were the vehicles themselves dangerous to passengers and pedestrians (three quarters of early motoring related fatalities were pedestrians, often children), in the early days it was a free for all, with the first proposed traffic laws being instituted only after about a decade after the first automobiles. Author Bill Loomis is working on a book on Detroit history and in an extensive article in the Detroit News he discusses just how unsafe driving was a century ago, as well as the role that the Motor City had in making driving safer and less chaotic. Some of those innovations continue to make drivers safe, while others continue to annoy us. (Read More…)
Long distance driving is something that I enjoy doing, but most of the time, my driving is restricted to within 50 miles of where I live, just outside of Detroit. In the past few months, though, I’ve been a bit of a highway child.
I spent my birthday in December driving to Peoria to interview the farmer who owns Larry Shinoda’s personal Boss 302 prototype for a book that I’m doing for Car Tech Books on muscle car prototypes. In January and February I made a couple of trips down near Columbus to hang out and talk guitars with Jack Baruth. Speaking of guitars – also in Ohio – was a mint condition Pee Wee Les Paul that I wanted for my grandson’s future use.
Toyota loaned me a Highlander with all-wheel drive for the Chicago Auto. Lexus tossed me an IS 350 F Sport that I took to New York. The driving conditions ranged from the Super Bowl Sunday blizzard to sunny and dry coming back from NYC. The one constant condition: America’s over the road truck drivers seem to think that their time and fuel is more valuable than of people driving cars and light trucks.
If pressed, I’m pretty sure that I could come up with at least a half dozen different posts on the connection between automobiles and popular music, particularly rock ‘n roll and blues. There are songs like Terraplane Blues, Little Red Corvette and Baby You Can Drive My Car. You could probably do a series of coffee table books just on the car collections of rock stars like Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, J. Geils, Jeff Beck, Billy Gibbons and many others. “Stars & Cars” or “Cars & Guitars” has been used as a display or exhibit theme by museums devoted to both automobiles and musical instruments. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that people who love both cars and guitars have managed to join those interests, at the enthusiast level, with licensing deals, and at the advanced design studio level.
Hillary Clinton has gotten at least a little bit of publicity for her presidential campaign-launching trip across America in a conversion van she’s nicknamed “Scooby”, apparently after the Scooby Doo cartoon show’s Mystery Machine. While the van has had high visibility as Clinton’s made seemingly impromptu stops – like at a Chipotle restaurant and more staged campaign events while pundits have discussed the strategy and symbolism of Mrs. Clinton’s road trip – little attention in the general media has been paid to the van itself.
I was at the press conference in Chicago a few years back when Lincoln announced that they had decided to jettison billions of dollars worth of brand equity and go with alphanumeric model names (well, the announcement didn’t quite go like that, but that’s a pretty close approximation of what it meant). Around that time Ford was still trying to sell luxury F-150 pickups under the Lincoln brand, first the Lincoln Blackwood and then the Mark LT, before they realized the margins were greater on Platinum F-150s. When the sedan model now known as the MKS was introduced as a concept, the press kit referred to it as the Mark S, with Mk S badging, just like Mk IIIs and Mk IVs of yore – alphanumeric badging but the model name was spoken as “Mark x”. By the time it reached production, though, the new large Lincoln was simply the MKS. I asked a Lincoln rep what happened to “Mark” and was told that customers associated the name with old fashioned land yachts, not contemporary cars. With the new Lincoln Continental concept it’s clear that Ford Motor Company’s luxury brand has decided to embrace their inner land yacht. (Read More…)