By on October 21, 2011

Usually it’s the Germans who we find continually pushing the crash-test envelope, but this time around the UK’s Fifth Gear TV Show that decided to crash a car at 120 MPH. Sure, the Germans already proved how much of a difference can be made by crashing at 50 MPH instead of the traditional 40 MPH, just as the Chinese can make any of their cars appear safe by testing at 35 MPH rather than 40 MPH. But 120 MPH? It’s never been done before…

By on October 16, 2011

Axle and transfer case-maker Marmon-Herrington is still around, supplying OEMs and the aftermarket alike with up-rated drivetrain components. But back in the ’40s and ’50s, the firm designed its own vehicles as well, from an air-droppable tank, to a South African armored car, to monocoque electric trolley buses. Its predecessor company, Marmon Motor Car Company, even built the first car to win the Indy 500, the Marmon Wasp. Sadly this beast, an experimental amphibious off-road (on-marsh) vehicle called the Rhino (more here), was never produced. Otherwise, the Marmon name might have been exhumed during the ’90s SUV boom by a bespoke coachbuilding firm, offering specially-bodied medium-duty truck chassis bearing the brand name that won the first Indy 500 and parachuted into Nazi Germany. Imagine the possibilities…

By on October 14, 2011

America has a fine tradition of automotive spy shots, but it pales in comparison to Germany’s “Erlkönig” tradition. So much so, that Germans seem to exhibit a downright Pavlovian response to camouflaged vehicles, chasing anything that looks like it might be a factory prototype. Even if it’s actually a vehicle they probably see every day. How did this conditioning take root in the German psyche? For that, we need a brief history lesson.

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By on October 8, 2011

When Aston-Martin was first trying to explain there’s nothing undignified about rebadging a Toyota iQ, the firm’s argument was that the Cygnet would be like a “luxury yacht tender.” If you own a yacht (or a “real Aston”), went the company’s logic, nobody’s going to make fun of you for being seen in a dinghy. Or a Toyota. But it seems as though Aston’s argument has been taken a bit too literally. Here, a Top Gear Magazine feature tries towing a Cygnet in a Virage, effectively ruining the “real Aston’s” performance in exchange for more urban practicality when they arrive in Monaco (but at least they got a schadenfreude-laden picture of the Cygnet next to its Toyota cousin). And lest you think this “yacht tender” nonsense is only being done by barmy British magazines, think again. Now Aston just needs to build an actual yacht, so your DBS or Virage can be the yacht tender, and the Cygnet can be the yacht tender’s yacht tender. Now that would be luxury… [via Derek Kreindler's Tumblr]

 

 

By on October 8, 2011

It’s been… several months since I last indulged my strange obsession with Kia’s forthcoming funky take on first-gen Scion xB values, known as the TAM. And back then, all I had to share were a few crummy photos. Now, thanks to Youtube user daniel78park, we can see the Tam flying down the Korean freeway in glorious cell-phone-o-vision. And though I’ve always assumed the TAM was just a boxy, city-delivery variant of the Picanto/i10 platform, it seems my weird crush is more than that. Automotive News [sub] reports

Kia has dubbed its EV effort the TAM project. Kia’s first EV will be a small vehicle based on the platform underpinning the Hyundai i10 minicar. The company plans to produce 2,000 units in 2012.

Hold up… is my weird crush electric?
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By on October 7, 2011

No, it’s not a special-edition 911 with a few extra horsepower and leather-wrapped mirror-adjustment levers. Nor is it a water pipe built to the most exacting standards ever imagined by German engineers. No, Porsche has a freaking palace for sale, Schloss Bullachberg to be precise. Conveniently located in Bavaria’s castle district, near  some of Germany’s most famous castles, Bullachberg was once the seat of the von Thurn und Taxis dynasty… and can now be yours for an undisclosed sum. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that Porsche bought the property five years ago, for some six million Euros, with plans to turn it into a luxury resort hotel for “kaufkräftig” (literally purchase-powerful) customers and management retreats. Fast forward through one financial crisis and one overambitious attempt to buy Volkswagen, and Porsche has decided to let the property go. But be warned, as the FAZ reports that

only the most necessary work was done on the building’s upkeep.

Now that Ferrari even has its own amusement park (conveniently begun before the financial crisis), there’s no way Porsche will ever match its Italian rival in terms of cross-branded destination tourism. Which is fine. After all, we’re talking about car companies here… right?

 

By on October 4, 2011

“We” being Nissan, and “this” being shortening a GT-R powertrain enough to fit a Juke bodyshell over it. It won’t ever make production, and it will probably spin dizzy, short-wheelbase circles every time it even thinks about a corner… but even the haters have to admit that this is a clever way to highlight the Juke’s unexpectedly sporty nature. But despite the argument that “there’s a history of Nissan engineers driving the business,” let’s be clear about one thing: Nissan’s involvement in this project is all on the marketing side. Once upon a time, Nissan’s engineers might have built a little monster like this out of sheer passion, in their spare time. Today, though, the work gets outsourced to specialty race engineering shops, RML in this case. It’s not a knock, that’s just how the world works anymore.

By on September 28, 2011

In the annals of poorly-chosen songs, this one is right up there with the State of New Jersey’s almost-decision to make Springsteen’s “Born To Run” the state song. Yes, Maserati, you can do anything, you can be anyone… and you’re choosing to be the brand that pimps upgraded Grand Cherokees by invoking the ghost of Fangio over crappy power-pop. Do you really want to be reminding viewers that this is a conscious choice, picked from an infinite range of options? Because that kind of willful douchbaggery makes you, Maserati, look like you’re a half-step from becoming the official luxury brand of Jersey Shore.

By on September 20, 2011

TTAC wasn’t able to be on-hand for the Chengdu Auto Show, but thanks to Carnewschina.com, we’ve got the latest in “we’re far enough into the interior that foreign firms won’t complain about our blatant ripoffs” styling, from the new heavyweight champion of Chinese ripoffs: Yema Motors. Seriously, calling these things “derivative” is wholly undeserved a compliment. And if you think this Audi A4… excuse me, Yema F16, is bad just wait until you see the rest of their new cars. From the Infiniti-aping E-series, to the Touareg-alike “T-SUV,” to the Subaru Forester clone F99/F10, the stylists at Yema Motors take their mimicry very seriously. And apparently the last original idea their design team had was “I know, let’s put our faux-Audi grille on the Faux-rester.” Tada, new model! The Jiade Dynasty rolls on…

 

By on September 17, 2011

Not long ago, I considered asking the Best and Brightest if something like this were possible. You see, when I was a younger man, I was a big fan of the game Aerobiz, a tough, take-no-prisoners Super Nintendo simulation of the (Cold War-era) airline business. Since I’ve been immersed in the world of the car business, I’ve often wondered if it were possible to create a game that similarly captured the challenges of running a car company. And now, it seems, that game is already in development by a couple of coder car nerds from Australia. Called “Automation,” the game is still a ways from completion and its creators are soliciting pre-orders to help fund development (sound like any car startups you can think of?).
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By on September 6, 2011

Welcome to Bob Lutz week at TTAC! I spent several hours recently with the auto industry’s most notorious executive, and elements of that interview will be the basis for much of my writing this week. We’ll also be capping the whole thing off by voting on the 2010-2011 Lutzie award for most unfortunate quote by an auto exec. And rather than jumping right into the meat of the interview, I want to kick off Lutz week by looking at a few cars that came up in our meandering conversation. After all, these are not just vehicles… when Lutz brings them up in an interview, they become stories, little encapsulations of his philosophy or the state of the company that made them. Let’s start with a car that I literally had never heard of before he mentioned it almost in passing: the Dodge Dakota Convertible. Eat your heart out, Murano CrossCabriolet… the Dakota was the original “WTF-vertible.”

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By on September 6, 2011

Reuters is widely considered the best in the business when it comes to the auto beat. They were that before Paul Ingrassia joined Reuters as Deputy Editor-in-Chief. That someone who won the Pulitzer-prize for his coverage of the turmoil at GM took the helm at Reuters only made their coverage better. Amongst the Tokyo auto press corps, Chang-Ran Kim of Reuters reigns supreme.

However, even the best journalists can become a bit territorial, and an aging TTAC blogger who air-drops into Tokyo every other month can become an irritant. After a little back and forth ribbing, we decided: “Let’s settle this like, well, persons.” And a grudge match was arranged:

Ran Kim of Reuters races BS of TTAC. Full race coverage after the jump …. Read More >

By on August 30, 2011

Boston.com’s On Liberty blog reports that the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the right of citizens to video police officers, ruling in part that

changes in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw. The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone or digital camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status.

So great was this victory for First Amendment rights and the New Media, that an Albuquerque police officer celebrated by getting caught in flagrante delicto while in uniform. You know, in case there was any question as to why the courts really ruled this way. And if this whole story smacks of Jalopnik-style only-barely-related-to-cars desperation, we’ve got a “Stump the Best And Brightest” challenge to keep things car-centric: what model of vehicle is the officer “laying down the law” on?

By on August 27, 2011

This is the kind of video that might suffice as standalone weekend entertainment. After all, braking a truck with your feet is a pretty demonstrably bad idea. But the lovable nerds at Popular Science just had to take it a step further and work out the physics of trying to halt a truck ala Fred Flintstone, noting

Let’s estimate he can push down with a force about a quarter of his weight. If he weighs 200 pounds, this would result in a force of 50 pounds, or 225 N. We also know that the force of friction (F) between his feet and the asphalt depends on the force with which he pushes down (N) and the “coefficient of kinetic friction”(μ) between the soles of his shoes, which we will assume are made of rubber, and the pavement.

F = μN

The μ between rubber and asphalt varies between 0.5 and 0.8. Let’s assume a value of 0.7. Therefore, solving for stopping distance, we get:

D = ½(2100kg)(18m/s)2/(0.7)(225N) = 2160 meters, or over 1.3 miles!

The situation might be improved if he exerted his full 200 pounds, or 900 Newtons, of force against the ground. In that case:

D = 1/2(2100kg)(18m/s)2/(0.7)(900N) = 540 meters (about a third of a mile)

However, the amount of torque exerted on his ankles and knees might make that a problematic proposition.

Surf on over to PopSci for the entire breakdown (no pun intended).

By on August 18, 2011

One of the most challenging aspects of running a blog like TTAC is managing diversity. As a global site, TTAC and its readers are exposed to the full range of diverse global perspectives, but our largest market, the United States, is also home to incredibly divergent views and lifestyles. Much is made of our national polarization these days, and when the topic turns political, TTAC often finds itself on the front lines of America’s cultural and ideological battlefield. Luckily we’re all of us bound together by something that transcends much of what divides us: our shared fascination with cars gives us the opportunity to interact with and relate to people with whom we may have little else in common.

Take this photo: depending on your perspective, this scene, photographed near my home in Portland, OR, might be a symbol of the ultimate automotive aspiration or a dread vision of a dystopian anti-automotive future. But regardless of how the image relates to your personal views and circumstances, nobody can deny that the people who live in that house think very seriously about their automobiles. And even the most unabashed, gas-huffing EV skeptic has to respect that. Vive le difference!

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