Sunday, November 30, 2008

November 2008 Dream Car of the Month - Vector W8

Sorry for the delay this month. It's getting harder and harder to find unique cars worthy of the Dream Car of the Month.

For the month of November I've selected a rather unique car, the Vector W8. I don't know how many people know about this car as it's 15 minutes of fame really came and went around 20 years ago. The car was designed by Vector's founder Gerald Weichert in the 1970s. The Vector was really the first attempt by an American manufacturer to build a car to compete with the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini. It didn't turn out well but the cars that resulted will be remembered for two things, their striking design and their outright failure.

The Vector W8 was the first real car from the company which was started in 1971 named Vehicle Design Force. After showing a model mock up in 1971 at the LA Auto Show, the company received some attention from the automotive press but nothing ever came out of it as the car was never produced. In 1978 the company, now known as Vector Aeromotive, designed and built the Vector W2, the predecessor to the W8. The W2 had a claimed top speed of over 230mph but no one was ever allowed to test these claims.

Vector W8

The Vector W8 was the first real "production" car from Vector Aeromotive and it went on sale in 1989. The company finally had secured some financial backing to begin building these cars, each of which was assembled by hand. The price for the W8 in 1989 was around $450,000 and a total of only 17 W8s were ever built for sale between 1989 and 1993. The most famous and disastrous one was sold to Andre Agassi which was subsequently bought back by the company after serious problems with the car. The company claimed that Agassi had demanded the car be delivered for his birthday but it was not finished. The company agreed to deliver the car for the party so he could show it off but warned him not to drive it until they could take it back and finish the work. Allegedly Agassi did not heed the warning which resulted in a near crash.

The Vector W8 featured an aluminum honeycomb semi monocoque structure covered by a body constructed mostly of carbon kevlar. Power was delivered by a racing V8 and a three speed automatic transmission. The engine used twin turbochargers to produce 625HP/650TQ. Top speed was only estimated at over 200MPH but the W2 prototype, powered by a less powerful engine, allegedly reached 242MPH at Bonneville Salt Flats.

Vector/Avtech WX-3R

The company was to follow up the W8 with the WX-3 and WX-3R but they were never produced as the company was taken over in 1993 by Megatech, which at the time owned Lamborghini. Megatech did release a version of the WX-3 with a Lamborghini Diablo V12 in it called the Vector M12. Unfortunately only 14 of these cars were produced by the time the company folded in 1996.

Vector M12

Gerald Weichert eventually won back the rights to the company, now named Vector Supercars, and has displayed a new car the WX-8. Not much is known about the car except what was given when the car was shown. Top speed target is 275+MPH with a 0-60 time of under 3 seconds and a 1/4 mile of 10 seconds at 160MPH. Many doubt it will ever be produced.

Vector WX-8

The Vector W8 is such an outrageous design it could never be mistaken for any other car on the road, if they were produced in such numbers where you could actually see one in person in your lifetime. It was, and still is, one of the most striking designs I've ever seen even if it looks a bit dated today. But so do the Lamborghinis and Ferraris of the time. Unfortunately, the company just didn't have the funds to properly develop what could have been America's first supercar.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

2008 LA Auto Show Highlites

The LA Auto Show is in full swing and, unfortunately for me, no one is willing to pay me to go check these shows out live so I'll just have to make due with the web coverage. There are several new or updated models making their debuts at this show along with some new concepts.

2009 Nissan 370Z
So far the production car I'm most excited about is the 2009 Nissan 370Z which was officially revealed in LA. Sure we've all seen photos of the new Z for weeks now, but we finally have some more details to check out. Aside from the new exterior and interior, major changes have been made to the chassis which is now stronger and lighter. The new 370Z will weigh around 225 pounds less than the 350Z which, along with the bump in HP, should make the car scoot pretty good. The car should have a comparable power to weight ratio of a BMW E46 M3. Not too shabby. That car was capable of mid 4 second 0-60 sprints and mid to low 13 second 1/4 mile times. Handling as well as fuel economy should be improved with the reduction in weight . Mileage for the new 7 speed automatic and 6 speed manual are estimated to be the same 18 city/ 26 hwy.

Standard on the base model 370Z will be 18inch wheels with 225/50/R18 front and 245/45/R18 rear Yokohama ADVAN Sport summer tires. The optional sport package upgrades to lightweight Rays 19inch wheels covered with meaty 245/40/R19 front and 275/35/R19 rear Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires. The Sport Package also includes Nissan Sport Brakes with large diameter 14.0-inch front and 13.8-inch rear rotors with 4-piston front and 2-piston rear aluminum calipers. Standard brakes are 12.6-inch front/12.1-inch rear.

Only two 370Z models will be offered - base and touring and there will be two option packages - sport and navigation. So far I like what I hear and see for the most part. I never thought the 350Z was a great looking car but it grew on me. I'll have to see the 370Z in person before I make my decision on the styling. With a base price of $29,930, it's a pretty good performance deal.

Honda FC Sport Concept
On the concept car side of things, I'm very intrigued by the surprise Honda FC Sports fuel cell sports car concept. This came out of nowhere and shows that Honda is thinking of the future of sports cars. There aren't a lot of details but the car uses aerodynamics, light weight and the power of the hydrogen fuel cell system from the Honda FCX Clarity to provide performance and zero emissions and zero reliance on fossil fuels.

I really like the look of the car and I hope that it is a hint of what future Honda sports cars will look like. The car is a three seater like the McLaren F1 and has the fuel cell powertrain mounted mid-ship driving the rear wheels. I'm not big on the whole "green" movement or electric cars but if they all looked like this I'd be on board.