Tag: Heritage

By on May 25, 2011

SB Medien may call the forthcoming FT-86 a “Celica replacement,” but in this first video of the latest near-production prototype, the budget rear-drive coupe nearly runs into a Supra which apparently belongs to the development team. The Supra shows up once more in the video’s ‘ring testing footage (about 1:55 in), suggesting again that it’s somehow involved in the testing or benchmarking process. How and why? Your speculation is as good as mine…

By on May 14, 2011

The reboot at Lotus has been much discussed in the motoring press, but amidst all the talk of styling and strategy, one of the brand’s major competitive issues has been widely overlooked. Lotus’s strategy is, in essence, to build up its brand to the level of a Porsche or Ferrari… in other words, reviving the UK’s position in the brutally competitive world of European sportscars. But just as Lotus is eying a return to greatness, targeting the top-tier of the sportscar market, another UK competitor with (at least) equally-burnished credentials is making is own play for a slice of the high-performance road car market: McLaren. Unlike Lotus, McLaren’s racing roots aren’t just deep, but are recent as well; the brand is rebuilding its legacy on the strength of its Formula One racing heritage as much as its legendary F1 road car. And unlike Lotus, McLaren has already delivered one of the more intriguing road cars in recent memory, the MP4-12C, which is lighter and faster than Ferrari’s lauded 458, while breaking new technical ground with its carbon fiber monocoque and adaptive hydraulic suspension.

And now Autocar reports that McLaren is following up its Mp4-12C with a limited-edition flagship hypercar boasting 800 HP from a 5 liter V8 that should hit 100 MPH in 5.5 seconds. With a 2014 launch date, the “Mega Mac” should hit the market just after Lotus introduces its first, rapidly-developed sportscars… and make Lotus’s task of capturing the position of UK’s top sportscar brand much, much harder. Can Lotus make up the difference with branding alone? We’ll sure enjoy watching the battle unfold, as nerdy, product-led, race-tech-happy McLaren takes on splashy, branding-led, glamor-happy Lotus.

By on May 6, 2011

Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

As a Detroiter I hate ruin porn. I particularly hate it when lazy journalists, bloggers, editors and video crews shoot photos or video, or worse, use stock footage and pics, of the Michigan Central Station and the old Packard plant. So I’m a little reluctant to share these photos that I shot just south of State Fair, east of Woodward. Ultimately, the photos were just too good, so emblematic of Detroit’s decay, that I had to share them. Also, it’s an opportunity to share some hope about the city.

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By on May 6, 2011


Start the video, then pause. Click on the “3D” icon on the YouTube menu bar to select your choice of 3D formats or 2D. Video and original photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

We’ve all seen too many pictures and videos of the magnificent ruin that was once the Packard plant on Detroit’s east side. It turns out that there’s a Packard site in the Detroit area that’s not a ruin, the Packard Proving Grounds in Shelby Twp. about 15 miles north of Eight Mile Road. Like the Packard plant on East Grand Blvd, Albert Kahn designed all the original Packard buildings on the proving grounds site, including a tudorish looking lodge where the facility’s manager and his family lived. It may be the only place where Kahn designed both residential and industrial buildings. It was built in 1927 at a cost of over a million dollars. Packard used the facility to develop and test their cars, aviation engines (there was a small airfield inside the big oval track – Charles Lindbergh visited the site), and also for publicity and marketing. The proving grounds even had a role in the Arsenal of Democracy. Chrysler used the facility during WWII to test Sherman tanks, erecting a building used to service the tanks that were tested inside the paved oval.

Additional video after the jump.
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By on May 6, 2011

Within weeks of becoming Editor-in-Chief here at TTAC (and through a truly unexpected twist of fate), I was given the opportunity to interview Jaguar’s head of Design, Ian Callum on the occasion of my first-ever visit to Detroit. True to our industry-centric mission, I was in town for Chrysler’s Five Year Business Plan, and to be perfectly honest, I struggled with the challenge of interviewing a chief designer, especially one who had recently rejuvenated the aesthetics of such a storied brand.

As I was fumbling through our breakfast interview, we were joined by a GM executive who happened to live at the hotel where Mr Callum was staying, and when I got the most unexpected answer of the interview, it’s safe to say this exec jumped as high out of his seat as I did. I had asked Callum what his favorite new car was, and to my complete surprise he answered “Chevrolet Stingray Concept.” That answer actually played a surprisingly important role in my subsequent career, as it earned Mr Callum and myself an invitation to GM’s Heritage Center (once we had scraped the GM exec’s jaw off the floor), where we spent three hours wandering around and taking in the best of GM’s glorious past.
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By on May 5, 2011

No, the G-Wagen isn’t gone for good… but let’s face it, we all know nothing lasts forever. Having been built with only one major technical change since 1979, the G-Wagen’s inevitable ride into the sunset is beginning with the end of production for the short-wheelbase, two-door version that we’ve never (officially) received here in the US. A complete shutdown of Graz, Austria production has been whispered about since (at least) 2005, when Mercedes nearly stopped shipping Gs to the US (according to Wikipedia, only an order from the US Marines [Devil Dog G-Wagens FTW!] stopped Mercedes from cutting America off from the G-loving). But, according to Auto Motor und Sport, the convertible and four-door versions will continue to be built… for the moment. Think of this as an opportunity for a bit of proactive mourning….

By on May 1, 2011

1903 Columbus Electric Model 1000 on display at the 2011 SAE World Congress. From the collection of Peter Fawcett.

Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

The theme of this year’s SAE World Congress was “Charging Forward Together”. In case you haven’t noticed the electrification of the automobile industry, to make the phrase even more obvious the logo includes an electric plug. Keeping with that theme the automotive engineers’ professional association put a couple of early electric cars on display, a 1915 Detroit Electric and a 1903 Columbus Electric.
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By on April 19, 2011

The Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC 5.0 isn’t a dream car, because it’s obscurity and touring car blueprint is a relative buzzkill. But this Bauhaus-worthy super coupe is a homologated racer much like it’s 300 SL forefather. I’ll skip the basics to focus on unit #1576: a grey market import from a USAF officer stationed in Germany. The current owner, Leif Skare, let me drive this meticulously kept, nearly stock (period correct 15” wheels and AMG front spoiler aside) SLC 5.0 before it heads back to Europe. Perhaps the SLC 5.0 is a dream car, when viewed in the right light. In the right place.

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By on April 15, 2011

Under current Cuban law, only cars built before the 1959 revolution can be legally bought and sold. This has kept Cuba’s pre-revolution American cars running, creating the island nation’s unique automotive landscape. But now, reports NPR, proposed liberalizations of Cuba’s property laws might threaten Cuba’s fleet of classic American cars. Though reforms could bring much-needed investment to Cuba, they would also mean an end to the laws that have kept Cuba’s streets looking like a time capsule from the late 1950s. But luckily Cubans have come to feel deeply attached to their classic American cars, vowing to keep them running as symbols of Cuba’s history.

As for Cuba’s classic cars, mechanic Jorge Prats says he thinks they’ll be around for at least another 50 years.

“These cars are a part of our national identity now, like rice and beans, or roast pork,” Prats says as he shows off his two-toned, bright red-and-white 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air coupe. “We take care of these old American cars as if they were another member of the family.”

By on March 21, 2011

The modern Crossover family tree can be traced (aesthetically, anyway) back to three basic roots: the “light SUV” (Jeep Cherokee, Toyota 4Runner), the “pure crossover” (Lexus RX300 and endless copies) and the “jacked up AWD wagon” (Outback, Volvo Cross Country). In fact, one might even posit a Hegelian dialectic to explain the evolution from:

Light SUV (thesis) -> “jacked up AWD wagon” (antithesis)-> “pure crossover” (synthesis)

Well, leave it to Europe to screw up a perfectly good theoretical construct. It seems that the continent that gave us dialectics is going back to what was always the most interesting branch of the crossover family, the “jacked up AWD wagon.” Volkswagen seems to be responsible for a lot of the re-exploration of Subaru’s now-nearly-abandoned niche, with a CrossPassat coming to European markets next year, a possible “Skoda Superb Scout” being weighed as well, and an Audi A4 Allroad already on sale. But perhaps the most intriguing of this new class of neo-Outbacks comes from Peugeot, which is testing a leggy 508 diesel hybrid wagon that drives its rear wheels solely by electric power.

By on March 15, 2011

It’s one thing to find a car featured on Curbside Classics for sale on Craigslist or Ebay… in fact, according to our trackbacks, a number of used car sellers have even taken to linking to the relevant CC in their online ads. But finding a beast of a Packard Clipper that Paul Niedermeyer himself once called “the biggest find of the year so far” for sale for the low, low price of $4,700 (as of current bidding) just doesn’t happen every day. If you’re on the West Coast and you’re looking to scratch that hard-to-reach Packard itch, your barge may just have come in (so to speak).

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By on March 15, 2011

Volkswagen’s long flirtation with Fiat’s Alfa Romeo brand has hit a few obstacles recently, as Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has been adamant that he won’t sell its money-losing brand to his European rival, saying

As long as I am CEO of Chrysler and Fiat, Mr [Ferdinand] Piech will never have Alfa Romeo. It’s hands-off. I told him. I will call him and I will email him. I’m not the one who bought Seat. He’s the one who bought it. I don’t know if he can [fix it], but he needs to try.

Which, as Bertel has pointed out, is a harsh burn: after all, VW may not be “winning the future” with its “Spanish Pontiac,” but at least it rescued SEAT from a struggling Fiat in the early 1980s. And now Herr Piech doesn’t want to take no for an answer, telling Autocar that it would fix Alfa up quick-smart. How? The same way VW might sex up its Audi brand: by using Porsche engines. Yes, really…

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By on March 15, 2011

“Fine. You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain”

-Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight

What is it about human nature that forces us to destroy the things we love the most? Jaguar’s E-Type died long ago, shuffling off this imperfect mortal coil to take its place in automotive Valhalla. And, if we really loved the XKE, that’s where we’d let it stay, swathed in the immortality of the glorious yet out-of-reach past. Instead the E-Type is being destroyed in the name of love… and on the 50th anniversary of its birth, no less. For between €500k and €1m (depending on the number of takers) Switzerland’s Robert Palm will modify a new Jaguar XKR into this hollow mockery of the E-Type’s epic proportions and classic design cues. Called the Growler E 2011, this 600 HP beast is neither a high-quality, faithful resto-mod like the Eagle E-Type, nor a truly modern interpretation of the classic. Instead, what we have here is a wire-wheeled lesson in learning to let go.

By on March 10, 2011

By slyly slipping an image of a classic Chrysler 300 into this ad, Lancia is subtly admitting the truth about its new Thema. And in light of this half-admission of the Lancia’s less-than-entirely-sophisticated Brampton, Ontario roots, perhaps the better Baudelaire line would have been the great stoner’s admonition to

beware of common folk, of common sense, of sentiment, of inspiration, and of the obvious.

If Baudelaire were alive today, does anyone doubt he would have added “marketing” to that list?

By on March 10, 2011

The first time VW showed a retro-inspired Van concept, they said they would build it but never did. Now, having shown a new, far smaller retro-inspired microvan [gallery here], VW says they will not only build the thing, but thanks to their modular MQB platform, they’ll be able to build variations of it for markets around the world. Though VW’s development honcho Ulrich Hackenberg insists the microvan won’t be built at VW’s new plant in Chattanooga, TN, he does tell Autocar that it will be sold in the US and

aimed at the XB produced by Toyota’s youth brand, Scion.

Which means it will be built in Mexico, alongside the New Beetle. And come to think of it, the New Bulli and New Beetle seem to have quite a bit in common: both trade heavily on heritage-inspired looks while having little (if anything) to do with their actual inspirations. Which means the Baby Boomers will love it.

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