Garth Stein is a better driver than you. Really. In 2003, he won the SCCA Northwest points championship in his Spec Miata before a crash while driving in the rain, no less, ended those Senna dreams. The novel that sprang from those experiences is a lot like his little Miata: a bit cutesy on the outside but equipped with such a perfect balance of heart and engineering that you can’t help but go back for more. Maybe that’s why it’s been on the New York Times best-seller list for over 120 weeks and Patrick Dempsey, more race car driver than actor now, has picked it up for the big screen.
Reuters reports that GM Europe President Nick Reilly is retiring just as his successor predicts a slowdown the European auto market in the turmoil of the Euro crisis. Replacing Reilly is Opel’s CEO, Karl-Friedrich Stracke, who just last week told Automotive News [sub]
We expect that the automobile market in Europe will experience a painful cooling, and we expect a significant shrinking of the market.
And as if slow sales projections weren’t bad enough, Opel also faces a tough union boss in Klaus Franz, who is pushing for ever more production or not just Opels but Chevies as well, in the Euro zone according to AN [sub]. But despite the challenges facing Stracke, he’s still got a song in his heart… in the tune of GT. Though GM has no lightweight rear-drive platform to draw on, and in spite of all the gathering storm clouds, Stracke tells Auto Motor und Sport that
I can well imagine a car like the Manta, but with new technology and a new design. I could also very well imagine a proper Opel GT which recalls our classic model of 1968.
Ludicrous teasing? Possibly. An understandable escape from the depressing reality of mid-debt-crisis Europe? Definitely. I mean, what would you rather imagine, a cascading collapse of confidence in sovereign debt, or the scenario depicted above? Yeah, that’s what we thought…
We’ve already seen what Toyota’s forthcoming FT-86 looks like (basically), and now that the spec sheet has been leaked [via ft86club.com] there’s really not much more suspense left around the new rear-drive sports coupe. In case you don’t read Japanese, here are the basics:
HP: 147kw (200ps) / 200hp @7000rpm
Torque: 205nm (151 lb/ft) @ 6600rpm
Weight: 1210kg (2662 pounds)
Of course, that’s for a low-spec, manual transmission version, which rides on 16 inch wheels. Top-spec versions with an automatic transmission will weigh as much as 2,755 lbs. Toys for the top-spec version include LED headlights, leather steering wheel, 6 speakers audio and sport pedals… but then, this is all JDM spec anyway. Since the FT-86 will be coming to the US as a Scion, it’s tough to predict how the spec sheet will be structured. Still, the basics are there… and they look tempting (and in line with what the car’s chief engineer has told us). Now we just need to drive the thing!
Here’s hoping your weekend motoring has been a little bit safer than surfboard designer Roberto Ricci’s…
The autoblogosphere is agog this morning over what appears to be yet another leak of a Toyota JDM catalog, this time of the highly anticipated Toyota FT-86 sports coupe. But is this what Toyota’s lightweight, rear-drive sportscar will actually look like? Not exactly:the image above is clearly labeled as a Modelista version, which means it’s been visually tweaked by Toyota’s in-house tuner. On the other hand, if you pull off the Modelista bits, specifically the front fascia and ground effects kit, you’ll find that this model more closely resembles the FT-86 Concept than the FT-86 II Concept, most notably in its proportions. With a more compact, cab-forward look, these images show a car that shares the first Concept’s basic shape with just a hint of the II Concept’s wild wheel arches and sweeping character lines. That comports with what the FT-86′s chief engineer told TTAC in a recent exclusive interview, when he said the initial Concept was “kind of close” and the II Concept was “not close at all.” Another clue that this is the real thing (or close to it): ft86club shows that the interior appears to be similar to mules that were caught testing.
Finally, there’s one key issue with this FT-86 image leak that must be considered: when this car comes stateside, it will be as a Scion FR-S, not a Toyota. Which means it could well be visually tweaked even further for our market, as it transitions to Toyota’s youth brand. In any case, the mystery won’t last long: TTAC’s Bertel Schmitt will be on hand for the FT-86 (and Subaru BRZ) reveal at the upcoming Tokyo Auto Show. Until then, speculate away!
Video of cold-weather prototype testing runs fairly hot-and-cold, to use a rather indulgent metaphor. Often times the footage is deathly dull as test drivers nurse their million-dollar charges through the arctic ice. Other times, however, cold-weather test video gives us some of the best prototype footage, as when BMW’s i3 was caught showing off its rear-drive proclivities, or when its brand-mate the i8 revealed its interesting ergonomics when a test driver had to stop to pee. This video is less revealing, as we not only know about the Boxster’s basic attributes, we’ve actually seen it completely revealed. Still, seeing a not-ready-for-market sportscar flipping its tail out thanks to some injudicious use of the throttle is worth a look… even if you just fast forward to the 1:40 mark to skip the less-intriguing stuff. Did the rumored turbo-four base engine feed someone more torque than they were expecting? Did the driver throw some brakes into the recovery effort, or was that the work of a nanny? There’s also a second, less dramatic incident of ass-end antics at around the 2:07 mark, which the driver catches without the use of brakes…
With both China’s NRDC and Sweden’s NDO appearing unready to approve the Chinese takeover of Saab before a Halloween bankruptcy deadline, it seemed that Saab was properly borked. Without Vladimir Antonov or Gemini Investment Fund to hit up for yet another “bridge loan,” we fully expected to see Saab placed into bankruptcy a week from Monday. But if Saab’s parent company, Swedish Automobile, had found a private equity fund that was gullible enough to rush in where Antonov feared to tread and drop $44m on Spyker… well, we should have known that North Street Capital would be fool enough to get sucked into the Saab maelstrom. And sure enough, Reuters reports that
The private equity firm of racing car enthusiast Alex Mascioli, which bought the luxury sports car business of the Dutch owner of Saab in September, is to invest $70 million in the cash-strapped car maker as Chinese bridge financing looks uncertain.
Here we go… again.
When Buick announced that it would not be rebadging the Opel Insignia OPC as the Buick Regal GS, and that instead of the OPC’s all wheel drive and turbocharged V6 we’d be getting a front-drive turbo four performance model, I was a bit skeptical. On paper, the proposed GS just didn’t seem different enough from the turbo model (which I liked well enough as-is) to elicit much initial enthusiasm. But this is why we drive cars instead of just comparing spec sheets: having spent some time alone with the GS, I’m happy to report that my skepticism was entirely unnecessary.
It’s one thing to see a forthcoming performance-model prototype, say an Audi RS4 Avant or a Porsche 991 Turbo, tearing through the “Green Hell.” But it’s quite another to watch one unreleased prototype pass another camo-clad warrior, previewing autobahn battles that are still a good year away. It should come as little surprise that the new Porsche Turbo was able to get around Audi’s speedwagon by diving inside, but given the Audi’s slower line, the cornering-speed battle is closer than you might think. Besides, try taking the kids to hockey practice in an ‘elfer Turbo…