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Friday, February 29, 2008

The Land Down Under - 2008 Melbourne Auto Show

You gotta love Australia. It's like a trip to the past as GM and Ford continue to duke it out in a serious horsepower war reminiscent of the the 60s and 70s. Here in the US, it's all about green this and hybrid that. A prime example of the awesomeness in Australia is this years Melbourne Auto Show. On display are more than a few cars that I would absolutely kill to have them available here.

Thankfully, GM (thank you Bob Lutz) have embraced their Holden brand and are starting to bring the once forbidden fruit here to us rear drive horsepower junkies. That started with the fantastic but ignored 2004 - 2006 Pontiac GTO and continues with the new and, so far, well received Pontiac G8. Holden is not alone either as Ford has been building similarly bad-ass RWD sedans in Australia for years.

Here are a few of the most exciting cars featured at the Melbourne Show:

Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV) Falcon:
This car is based on the latest generation of the Australian Ford Falcon, a RWD sport sedan available with either a turbocharged straight 6 cylinder or an optional V8 and of course the option of a manual transmission. How killer would this be if it were available here? Ford Taurus anyone?

The FPV versions always get the flash to match the dash and this one seems to be no different. So far there has been no word on power figures but they should be pretty impressive.

FPV F6 - 6cyl turbo

FPV GT - V8


Holden HSV W427:
The new generation Holden Commodore was recently introduced in Australia and has made it to our shores as the new Pontiac G8. Not being satisfied with the 360HP of the standard V8 powered Commodore, Holden's performance wing, HSV, has stuffed the W427 with the sick 7.0l V8 from the Corvette Z06. Power numbers are expected to exceed 496HP and 472TQ. The car will also feature GM's magnetic shocks, huge brakes and the dual mode exhaust. Production numbers will be very limited.

Rumors have been swirling about a higher performance Pontiac G8 eventually being released. Please, please let it be this. More than likely, the US monster G8 will probably feature the 6.2l V8 from the standard Corvette producing over 400HP. I guess we'll have to settle for that. Beggars can't be choosers.

Holden HSV W427


Holden Coupe 60:
Well, with the lukewarm reception the previous Holden Monaro Coupe received in it's US guise as the Pontiac GTO from 2004 - 2006, you can imagine they would be hesitant to do it again, but, come on GM, right here is the next Pontiac GTO. Hell, I don't care what you call it, we must have it.

This is supposedly just a concept but production is a possibility. Based on GM's Zeta platform, the coupe was built by taking a Commodore sedan and removing the rear doors and trimming over 2 inches from the overall length. The wheelbase is the same as the sedan. The engine is a flex-fuel 6.0l V8 transferring power through a proper 6-speed manual. No power figures have been divulged but they should be as impressive as everything else from HSV.

Having always been a fan of the 2004 -2006 GTO, I really think they should give it another try with this car.

Holden Coupe 60:

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

February 2008 Dream Car of the Month - Ford GT40


1966 Le Mans 1-2-3 finish

In 1963, Henry Ford II, by then obsessed with fielding a Ford at Le Mans, was informed that Enzo Ferrari was possibly interested in selling his company. Ford jumped on the chance and spent millions of dollars negotiating the deal and reviewing all aspects of Ferrari’s company. At the absolute last minute, Enzo Ferrari either had a change of heart or just didn’t like the deal because he backed out, infuriating Ford. Henry Ford II then decided that his company would build their own car to kick Ferrari’s ass at Le Mans. The rest, of course, is history.

Ford quickly determined that they couldn’t do it alone and began negotiating with Lotus, Lola and Cooper to help with the design and build of their new race car. Lotus, specifically Colin Chapman, asked for too much money and insisted that the car be called a Lotus and not a Ford and Cooper didn’t have any experience in building the type of cars Ford wanted. Lola became partnered with Ford when Eric Broadley, Lola’s owner and designer, agreed to personally help in the development without the involvement of his company. The agreement was for one year and included two Lola built chassis sold to Ford for development. With the help of the legendary Carroll Shelby, they would build a world beater.


GT40 MkI

The first Ford GT40 was displayed in England on April 1, 1963 and was powered by a 4.2L Ford V8 mated to a Colotti transaxle. The “40” in the name of the car indicated the height of the car from the ground to the roof, 40 inches. The run of original cars was dubbed the GT40 MkI and production models were powered by 4.7L (289cid) V8s from the Ford Mustang.

The GT40 MkI saw it’s first racing action in 1964 with disappointing but promising performances at the Nurburgring 1000km and the 24hr of Le Mans. In both races the cars performed well but were unreliable and retired due to mechanical failures. In February 1965, the GT40 scored it’s first win at the Daytona 2000km race.


GT40 MkII

In 1966 the GT40 MkII was introduced. The new car was a revised MkI with slightly different body aerodynamics and, more importantly, a 7.0L (427cid) Ford V8. The MkIIs were entered into the 1966 24hr of Le Mans and completely dominated the competition, scoring a historic 1-2-3 finish.


GT40 MkIII

There were 31 GT40 MkIIIs built as road cars. They featured softer suspension, four headlights and different bodywork and were significantly different looking from the race versions. They were powered by the 4.7L V8 producing around 335HP.


GT40 MkIV with Carroll Shelby

For 1967 the new GT40 MkIV was released. The MkIV was a new design with a new chassis and new, more aerodynamic, body but it still used the MkII 7.0L engine. The 1967 Le Mans race featured four MkIVs, three MkIIs and one MkI. A MkIV piloted by greats Dan Gurney and AJ Foyt scored the second consecutive Le Mans victory for the GT40s.

The GT40’s dominance at Le Mans continued in 1968 when rules changes limited the GT40’s class to 5.0L displacement max. That year a 4.7L MkI won for the GT40’s third win in a row. At the 1969 24hr of Le Mans the competition was much stiffer than the previous year. The GT40 had to compete against the mighty Porsche 908s and 917s. That didn’t matter as the GT40 once again proved it’s place in history by taking a fourth straight victory at Le Mans. The car that won in 1969 was the exact same car that had won the 1968 race and by that time it was seriously outdated.

The Ford GT40 is one of the greatest “American” race cars ever created. The American part of it is debated as most of the car was built and designed in England by various different people and companies. Either way, the car would have never come to be had Henry Ford II not been so determined to win. He was so obsessed with beating Ferrari on their own turf (Ferrari had won Le Mans six times in a row from 1960 – 1965) that it became one of the most expensive racing programs in history. The GT40’s success and impact on international sports car racing are indisputable.


1995 Ford GT90 concept

The GT40 lives on in many forms through various replica and kit car companies. Ford displayed a futuristic concept honoring the GT40 in 1995 known as the GT90. However, the most important tribute to the original car came in 2002 as Ford unveiled the GT40 concept at the Detroit Auto Show. The response was so overwhelmingly positive that the car, renamed simply Ford GT, went into production in 2004.


Production Ford GT

Friday, February 15, 2008

Porsche Panamera Video

Some video of the upcoming Porsche Panamera sedan tooling around Stuttgart. Yes, it's still ugly.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Adding Lightness


Mazda Miata

What a difference a few months make. Not too long ago I gushed over the horsepower wars currently going on in the auto industry. Fast forward to today and there is already talk of some serious changes. It seems like we're going through the same thing that happened in the late 60s and into the 70s. Back then cars were getting bigger and bigger and more and more powerful until the first energy crisis hit and led to the dark days of the mid 70s through the 80s. Days when "performance" cars, choked by emissions regulations and more fuel efficient engines were producing horsepower numbers between 150 and 200hp. Less than a decade earlier, you could get cars with around 500hp. This led to the rise of the Japanese manufacturers with their smaller, more fuel efficient models. It also led to the rise of the evil that is Front Wheel Drive.

Today, it's much the same. We are in another energy crisis. We have artificially inflated gas prices, (don't get me started on the oil company profits over the last few years), global warming paranoia and a war going on. Again there is talk that the days of big, high horsepower cars are over. New Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards are calling for manufacturers to increase fuel efficiency in their models to an average of 35MPG within the next 10 years. This time around, the Japanese are players in the small car segment but so is Korea, India and China. They all stand to benefit from the impending trend toward smaller cars.

Already GM has cancelled some models under development such as a new rear wheel drive platform and a new DOHC V8 due to the new standards. Ford has begun development of new turbocharged 6 cylinder engines that they feel will replace the thirstier V8s. Insurance companies are also jumping on the bandwagon saying that the higher horsepower cars result in more accidents and more insurance claims, thus higher premiums. It appears that the end is near. Cars like the new 620HP Corvette ZR-1 may become endangered species very soon. What can be done?

It's inevitable that cars are going to be featuring smaller more fuel efficient engines. The only solution then, to maintain performance, will have to be smaller and/or lighter cars. The sports car market is going to go more in the direction of cars like the Lotus Elise and the Mazda MX5 Miata. Both are great pure sports cars and they don't need to have 500HP. It's all about power to weight ratio and handling. Even Ferrari has stated that future developments will be lighter, smaller cars with less powerful engines. V8 muscle cars, unfortunately, are going to go bye bye once again. That sucks, they were just making a comeback. I just hope the current trend toward more rear wheel drive cars isn't reversed.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

2008 Dodge Challenger Finally Official



With the 2008 Chicago Auto Show opening this weekend, Dodge made it official by finally revealing the production 2008 Challenger SRT8. Sporting a 6.1L Hemi V8 producing 425HP and 420TQ, 0-60 performance is expected to be in the low 5 second range and the quarter mile in under 14 seconds. Weighing in at over 4,100lbs and with a wheelbase 9 inches longer than a Mustang, it's a very big car. It will need every bit of stopping power provided by the 4 piston Brembo brakes behind it's 20 inch wheels. Unfortunately, the first bunch of cars off the assembly line will be five-speed autos with a manual arriving later.



Friday, February 1, 2008

Viper ACR track video

Here is a sweet video of a couple of the track special Viper ACRs going at it on a road course. Nice.