Wednesday, December 28, 2011

MotoArigato Project Car Part 3: Interior Door Card Removal

The latest addition to the MotoArigato project car is the removal of the door cards and lube of the associated mechanical elements within, those being the window crank, rails, guides, door lock, door release, and vent window.

We posted the DIY on our sister site as part of the new MB tutorials section there, so have a look and get to wrenching!

MarrsCars: W111 Coupe Door Panel Removal Tutorial

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Official 2013 SL Photos Released

In what must be worthy of a good corporate firing; images of Mercedes' super secret replacement for the SL roadster were leaked online a couple of days ago. Now damage control has begun and Mercedes-Benz has released official images of the new drop top. Enjoy!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Papercraft 500K for Those Long Winter Nights

I don't know many people who would turn down a free Mercedes-Benz 500k, so here ya' go in the form of a papercraft model that you can build with a little glue, patience and some printer ink. I haven't built one myself, nor taken the time to read the instructions, so I'm assuming you glue this thing together, but if any of our readers takes on the challenge send us an email (using the contact form at the right) and we will feature your model on the site. This is also a great project for older kids who might get bored sitting around the house during the Holiday school break.

Visit this link to download the pattern & instructions. Be sure to check out the menu on the left side to see other papercraft vehicles and projects... I might have to give that Spirit of St. Louis model a try!
Papercraft Mercedes-Benz 500k

Mercedes-Benz USA Appoints American as New CEO

Mercedes-Benz USA has appointed Steve Cannon to the position of CEO, a title held by an American for only the second time in the company's long history. Cannon replaces former CEO Ernst Lieb who was Blitzkrieged from his post last month after it was alleged that he used company funds for personal enrichment. Cannon formerly held the post of Marketing Chief and replaces interim CEO Herbert Werner who stepped in until Lieb's replacement could be found.

Cannon, a former US Army Airborne Ranger who was stationed for three years in Germany, first joined Mercedes-Benz in 1991 as an Assistant to the President & CEO of North America. He also relocated to Stuttgart and played a pivotal role in the development of the class-creating ML, the first SUV made for and in the United States. He will head up Mercedes-Benz passenger cars, Sprinter vans, Maybach and Smart cars in the US market when official duties commence on January 1, 2012.

And here's his Glamor Shot from the mall in case you're wondering what an American Army Ranger running a German luxury automobile company looks like.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster Spy Photos Leaked!

A car blog in the Netherlands gave a peek at the final design for the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL roadster, significant because an all new SL introduction is about as rare as a Royal Coronation. Styled with apparent homage' to the SLS Gullwing that has taken the cobbled avenues of Monaco to the celebrity-studded streets of Los Angeles, this poor man's version of the super coupe will still come in at a phenomenal amount of your future earnings potential. Just roll with it, you'll dig it.

2013 Mercedes SL LEAKED

UPDATE: Better pics have now shown up on Jalopnik, view them HERE 
UPDATE #2: Even better pics can be found HERE (thanks to DieselBenz for the tip)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Future Aero-Trailer by Mercedes-Benz Cheats the Wind

Mercedes-Benz heavy trucks have long played an integral role in the financial successes of Daimler, without which, the coffers of the passenger car side would likely not be as full. Americans are becoming more familiar with the Sprinter, originally pitched on our shores as a Dodge/Freightliner product and now recognized widely as the vehicle of choice for the "American Picker's" boys, but the tractor trailer combo piloted by the Actros has been a roadway staple in Europe for ages. Now, with the Aero Trailer high efficiency hauler, Mercedes promises an improvement of 18% in drag reduction, which equates to about 530 gallons of fuel saved and a five-ton reduction in emissions for the driver who averages 95,000 miles on the road annually.

The Aero Trailer maintains the standard cargo box capacity and is only altered on the outside, which so happens to extend the length by about 4-feet. The Kammback addition, paired with lower, smoother side panels, give the trailer a futuristic style for the big back boxes that have remained relatively unchanged for generations.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

JC Unit One: On the Road In Johnny Cash's Custom Tour Bus

“I have a home that takes me anywhere I need to go, that cradles me and comforts me, that lets me nod off in the mountains and wake up in the plains."

Such are the words Johnny Cash wrote about his beloved home away from home, a majestic tour bus, specifically a customized MCI motorcoach upgraded with powertrain and suspension boosts, sound deadening, and other specialized equipment to the tune of over $500,000... in 1979 dollars. The silver, grey and black bus would come to be known as the most visible symbol of the extravagance and grandeur of a Johnny Cash show, with rumors spreading in each town along the route as excited fans spotted the fabled "JC Unit One" on local roadways and news spread that Johnny Cash had arrived in town.

Cash was not only a very private man, but one who enjoyed his personal freedoms. He chose to buy and build his own road cruiser rather than follow the usual rock star routine of renting a bus, because he wanted his to have all the personal touches and features of home paired with a sense of stability that familiar settings year after year would provide. Seeing that Cash toured with his young son, John Jr., and that his wife June Carter was an integral part of the stage show, it was necessary that the family be comfortable for those fleeting moments of private time while touring North America, tho it is said the bus did make at least one European appearance. In 1991, as tour support for Cash's side music project The Highwaymen, he used the bus to shuttle band-mates Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.

Cash sold the coach just after his wife of thirty-five years, June, died in 2003, and the Man In Black himself succumbed just four short months later from complications of diabetes, or as many who knew him believe is more likely, he died of a broken heart. The bus was sold by Cash to a ministry and then purchased by a car dealer who eventually sold it via eBay to an experienced collector in North Carolina, Dave Wright. Wright valued the bus for it's place in American music history and made a personal vow to return it to it's original condition by having a road worthy restoration completed at the original facilities.

"We call it Unit One. I love my bus. It really is my home too.  When I make it off another plane through another airport, the sight of that big black MCI waiting by the curb sends waves of relief through me – Aah! – safety, familiarity, solitude.  Peace at last. My cocoon.”

At the time, I was fortunate enough to be guiding Johnny Cash's original band, the Tennessee Three, as their Personal Manager and my duties were guiding them on what the they should do now that The Man himself was gone. We all agreed that the best thing they could do was keep the unique sound they created together alive by continuing to tour and play out in public to audiences who still needed their fix. We worked hard to get the band back on the road after John's death, a band that still included two of the original three members. The drummer, WS "Fluke" Holland, is also the first drummer in rock and roll music, featured on the original Carl Perkins version of Blue Suede Shoes. Holland was also key to creating Elvis Presley's early image, albeit unwittingly, by providing the poor southern singer with clothing for his various appearances on TV and concert, all of which were sized too big for the eventual "King of Rock and Roll." These oversized jackets would quickly become a trademark of Elvis' and are still in the personal collection of Holland in his Jackson, Tennessee home.

Bob Wootton played guitar, taking over for Luther Perkins who died in 1968, but also sang vocals with Cash, acted as his body double for TV and film work, and served as Cash's bodyguard on the road. After Cash's death Wootton took over lead vocals for the live act and recordings, and they continue to tour the US and Europe to this day. One evening, I got a message from Bob's wife, Vicky, telling me how someone had contacted her to buy the original license plates that Bob (also the bus driver at times) had ordered but never got a chance to put on before it was sold. She told me that Dave Wright owned the JC Unit One and wanted the plates to complete the restoration he was planning. After a long conversation trading stories, Wright agreed to allow the Tennessee Three full use of the bus for touring, stating that it was the right thing to do, getting it back on the open road with the band who made it all possible.

We used the bus for some time, making appearances to support the release of the biopic about Cash's life "Walk the Line." The JC Unit One was as big a celebrity as the band as it loomed always near as a welcomed respite on a moment's notice from genuine, but exuberant, crowds.  It delivered the band to the red carpet screening in Hollywood where they were reunited with old friends like Jane Seymour (Cash once appeared on Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman), during in-store appearances at Tower Records, touring the backlot of Paramount Pictures, and even served as the Green Room for us during the band's Oscar-night appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Fellow guest Johnny Knoxville was left like a starry-eyed fan as he waited patiently outside the bus door for Wootton and Holland to exit. He spoke briefly with the men, who had no idea who he was but were very courteous nonetheless, telling them how he had purchased Cash's small mountaintop cabin, before allowing the guys to head off to sound check, all the while smiling like a star-struck teenager. You see, it's not just meeting the band members that's so special to people like Knoxville, once they are invited on board the bus and witness the personalized touches and begin to hear the stories, that they are transported back to a time and place that is unique to each individual, perhaps it was the first time they saw Johnny Cash on television or heard the unforgettable line "I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die."

Band members arriving for Oscar Night performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
I loved telling people the stories of how Cash, not wanting to be told he couldn't export a rare wood from his Cinnamon Hill farm in Jamaica to his Tennessee estate, decied to make packing crates out of the wood for some furniture pieces he was shipping back to the States. Once the crates arrived in Tennessee, he simply disassembled them and used the wood for JC Unit One's stateroom. His room featured the expected black leather, dark burl wood and gold fittings. He chose powder blue suede and fabric to drape every inch of June's room; her favorite color and one he dubbed "June Blue". The two keeping separate sleeping quarters because of John's tendency to always be too hot while June was always complaining of how cold she was, so each unit had it's own climate controls. Always the country boy, there is a small brass plaque affixed to the entry door to June's cabin that reads "Queen's Box." When Cash was playing a show for the Queen of England at the Royal Albert Concert Hall, he wandered around the venue between sound checks, and promptly stole liberated the plaque from the entry to the Queen's private viewing box with his pocket knife. Cash also enjoyed embellishment for the sake of a good story, such as bragging to guests that the alligator hide lining the bathroom door was from a beast he shot himself in a near life or death struggle, when in actuality it was off-the-shelf vinyl with an embossed lizard print. (I already know I'm getting an ass-whoopin' in the afterlife for revealing that one.)

Eventually the bus was returned to Dave Wright, who then donated it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland, Ohio where it still remains on display in the outside plaza during the warm months. Visitors to the museum can take a tour of the interior of the bus, and see for themselves all the things I've described above to help personalize the man behind the legend. I only knew Cash from stories told by those who spent literally decades by his side, until I was able to sit in his chair, sleep in his bed and drink at his table. While on the bus I sometimes caught myself slipping in and out of a dream-like state, the flashes of street lights upon my face, or strangers giving us a thumbs-up on anonymous roadways, transported me like a time machine as I began to understand, by seeing what he saw and feeling what he felt, how this elegant yet simple coach would become a touchstone for the Cash family for the last half of John's life. Even in death, John R. Cash was an intimidating personality, but one you felt entirely welcomed by at the same time. The same duality that followed him and became his trademark was still tangible. Maybe he somehow knew we were bringing his much-loved JC Unit One out on the road for one last tour, one last trip over the Rockies, one last deadhead streak across the grey ribbons of asphalt in a rolling five-star hotel that he came to know as "home."

Friday, November 18, 2011

The King of Coupes That Never Was (Until Now)

Deep in the rural Wisconsin countryside lies a modest shop run by Karl Middelhauve, known to Mercedes-Benz enthusiasts as the only doctor to call when your 600 Pullman is sick. While Karl built a reputation on restoring and maintaining the eponymous 600 sedans and Pullman limos, seen wafting the world's Dictatorial elite from one African village to the next and even sporting a starring role as Satan's own ride in "The Witches of Eastwick", he is also regarded as a bit of a tinkerer. Sure, you and I may attempt to fix a broken stopwatch, or a garden tool that needs a new handle, but tinkering has a whole other meaning in Karl's world. You see, Karl is not just an enthusiast, but he also has a close relationship with the original designer of the 600, Paul Bracq, which affords him a special ability to bring unrealized designs from the annals of Mercedes-Benz history. Bracq is also revered as the design mastermind behind the Pagoda SL, the W111 Coupe, and the concept predecessor to the BMW M1 as well.

Early projects included the Benzomino and El Benzo, both El Camino styled variations of the 600, as originally envisioned by Bracq. Karl formed such a good relationship with Bracq on these designs that they collaborated again in 2010 to create the 2002 Grand Mercedes SL600 Silver Arrow. The Silver Arrow concept is based on a new design provided by Bracq on Karl's request for a coupe version of the 600. It is known that a handful of 600 coupes were indeed designed and delivered as gifts to high ranking friends of the factory, but they more closely resembled a shortened sedan than a bespoke coupe suited to the trendy tastes of stylish buyers. Starting with a 2002 R129 Silver Arrow special edition, the Wisconsin team set about stripping the body panels from the SL then re-fitting panels from a donor 600 with great care and attention to detail. The location of everything from axles to hood hinges had to be carefully considered and test fit over and over, to be sure this car would meet the expectations of all who would see, and envy, her when completed.

The design was finalized in winter 2009 with initial construction beginning in February 2010 and completed just a few short months later in July. The final car rather successfully pairs the bold fenders and hood of the 600 with the extra sleek lines of the panoramic roof. The front hinged hood is a novel addition that works well with the original body cut lines. Overall the profile has some resemblance to the Rolls-Royce Camargue, another uniquely penned vehicle with designer genes. The V-12 engine is surely an upgrade in performance and we are left with no doubt that Karl and his wife will enjoy until the next secret 600 project is ready for the road, and we're told there are several ideas vying for their chance to become more than just a passing thought or a few lines on a napkin, but another real and authentic addition to the history of bespoke Mercedes motoring.

Be sure to see all the construction and finished product photos here at Karl's site:

Photo copyright

Photo copyright

Thursday, November 17, 2011

MotoArigato Project Car Part 2: MBI Motors for the Win

In the interest of journalistic integrity, I would like to disclose that I have no material connection with MBI other than the fact that I give them money to make me and my car happy, not the other way around. They have no affiliation with this blog or influence upon it, and the views presented here are my own opinions.

As I drive the MotoArigato Project Car around town, fault finding, I continue to fall deeper in love with the "Ivory Zeppelin" as she has tentatively become known. The good folks at MBI Motors really worked some miracles on this baby with the addition of a re-cored radiator and addressing lots of minor, but necessary issues, but most importantly, making adjustments to the tempermental mechanical fuel injection system. Mind you, this Bosch system evolved from one originally designed for the Daimler V12 aircraft engines that were beating the hell out of Allied forces in WWII by allowing Luftwaffe planes to climb and maneuver without stalling, so they are literally a "battle proven" system. This was such a revolutionary design at the time, that had it occurred earlier in the war, we would all be reading Mein Kampf in grade school. The downside is that unless you have a brain like a computer and the requisite experience to handle one of these systems, you may find yourself falling victim to computer-desk mechanics who will advise you to swap it out for traditional carbs. This is a mistake you will regret every cold morning you actually want to go somewhere in your vintage Benz.

So what's the solution? Bring your car to MBI. Those of you in the Pacific Northwest are already well-familiar with Corbin, Sig and the rest of the crew, but you don't have to live in Oregon to take advantage of their expertise. On my most recent visit, I was fortunate enough to enjoy the visage that is a perfectly restored W113 280SL roadster in a deep chocolate brown (I used to have a Jaguar this color, so I am a bit biased). The owner had shipped the vehicle from Texas specifically so that MBI's Master Technician, Rich, could adjust it's fuel injection system. If that's not a Texas-sized testimonial, then I don't know what is. The employees at MBI speak of Rich in revered tones, clearly appreciating the magic he brings to the vehicles he presides over.

Last night, while tooling around town in the 220SE Project Car, the shift linkage came off at the transmission. It was just out of reach unless I was on my back and maybe 4-inches thinner, but being located on the traffic side of the car, and me having a silly fondness for keeping all of my body parts, my only option was to flat-bed it to MBI. The car showed up at 4:30 pm, yet within minutes it was up on a rack and was returned to me by closing time at a total cost of... $13. This isn't a typical scenario of course, but just an example of their willingness to do what's necessary to get a customer back on the road.

The true reason for my cult-like devotion to MBI is that they have become the default Mercedes-Benz dealer for Portland in terms of parts, repair and maintenance work. Each time I go in, from my very first visit until today, I have been treated exactly the way I always expected to be treated by MB dealerships but seldom were. I would gladly trade those puffy chairs and free cappucino's at Beverly Hills for a service adviser who would actually listen to my full explanation of the problem before driving my car away, or the local dealer who cost me several hundreds of dollars to have their "repairs" fixed right at MBI, all on my dime of course. Try getting a return phone call from a dealer, even to let you know your car is ready. We have all been there, the corporate systems focus the dealer teams on up-sells and quick, but less than stellar, work. MBI has been in business since 1969 and you don't turn your customers into friends by dicking them around or talking down to them. Ever been given the opportunity to see your car while it's on the lift? Ever been greeted by name by three different people when you walk in? Ever been handed an invoice that is less than the original quote? Spoil yourself, try MBI Motors in Portland, Oregon.

The MotoArigato Project Car: 1962 220SE W111 Coupe

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

MotoArigato Project Car; 1962 Mercedes-Benz 220SE Coupe

We will be documenting the gradual process of improving this long lost automotive gemstone from barn tender to daily driver. That's right, this will not be a show car or a trailer queen, no 100-point restoration is in her future, that will be for the next owner, nay, this car will be brought back bit by bit to roadworthy status, so she can once again serve in exactly the capacity she was intended, as a family sport tourer with suave "Mad Men" and "Pan Am" era looks in spades. Sinatra couldn't have made a better choice for his arrivals at the Stardust Casino!

Photo courtesy
Model Overview
The W111 Coupe' that Mercedes-Benz brought to the pampered masses in 1961 was the first car from the company to carry all the hallmarks of the modern vehicle age. In most cases, these innovations actually first appeared on this model, the world's first S-class coupe. Replacing the earlier "Pontons" as the barrel-sided but outdated cars were lovingly nicknamed, the 220SE "Fintail" or "Heckflosse" in the native tongue, was the first of this new breed to appear on American shores.

Rocket-age safety advancements and performance features made the car so far ahead of it's time that contemporary observers would have to be forgiven for assuming it was reverse engineered from alien technology. Front and rear crumple zones, padded steering wheel and dash, front disc brakes, mechanical fuel injection, dual zone heating and air conditioning were but a few of these advancements that gave the car it's price tag that was 2-1/2 times that of the typical American car. A top speed in excess of 115mph with the ability to handle the twisties thrown in for good measure ensured the popularity of this elegant motorcar.

The Score
We found this 1962 220SE Coupe for sale locally at a premium used car dealership Luxe Autohaus who's inventory we've been watching for several years, noting uncommon examples of interesting European metal. We knew enough about these W111 coupes to know that you have to pry much deeper than skin deep if you don't want any nasty surprises, considering that unnoticed damage, rust or failed components can quickly put you upside down on one of these cars, since many parts are unique only to this one model. We originally expressed interest and scheduled an inspection, but the day before an international buyer called and put a deposit on the car. We moved on and began our search anew when a few days later we were told the buyer never finalized the deal and the car was ours again if we were interested. We drove her home that day.

Needs vs Wants
One of the first steps was to take inventory of what was there and what needed fixed right away. This car is going to be driven from day one, so getting the basic mechanicals sorted is an excellent place to start. All the body trim, interior and exterior is there, without it we would have passed on this car and kept searching. The front glass is cracked but the rest is intact. All the weather seals are toast and need replaced, costly so be prepared for that, these aren't your regular JC Whitney sourced seals. Wood is all cracked and peeling, veneer is intact so a simple strip and re-varnish will work wonders... one day. The maroon interior is a mix of old leather that was never conditioned and is now cracked and split including the seating surfaces, and vinyl that has aged surprisingly well and will largely remain as original in this car, which includes the door cards and side trim, headliner, etc. The Parchment paint is not original and has started flaking off in several areas. There is minimal rust to speak of, almost more surface rust than anything eating through or structural.

The engine bay presented it's own challenges. With oil and transmission fluid spray everywhere, leaving a thin greasy layer settled over every surface, we knew we were going to have to spend some time in this area. After a quick but thorough inspection by our friends at MBI Motors we discovered that the rear differential had a cracked boot leaking all it's fluid, transmission seals were all dry and leaking, power steering hose and box had leaks, coolant was leaking at the radiator, and the choke was causing starting problems because of the other relevant issues. We OK'd all the work aside from the power steering and transmission leaks, figuring we can attend to topping those off regularly, and also to give both units the opportunity to reseal themselves now that the car was going to be driven regularly again. OK, we know only British cars spontaneously repair themselves, but it's worth a shot, and we're broke, and we're anxious to get this thing on the road. We will report back when the car comes home from it's first round of repairs and let you all know what's next.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fix It Again Bertone; Italian Suit on an English Body

Poking around the internet looking for nothing in particular is usually how we stumble across the coolest stuff. Take this Bertone bodied Jaguar originally designed for the 1966 Geneva Motor Show, rare as a cop having a good day, this is a truly special vehicle for the collector who has everything.

We can't say that the looks of the Jaguar 420 donor car were improved by all the panel beating, but it does have a certain appeal just like the Rolls-Royce Camargue, which eschews traditional styling in exchange for some exceptionally horizontal lines so popular with 1960's Italian design houses.

The best part? The car is for sale... but as the ad states, it's "not cheap, but a very good investment."
See all the pics and ad here: Jaguar F.T. Bertone Coachbuilt for the 1966 Geneva Motor Show

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What Became of Gaddafi's "Rocket Car?"

The current world's most famous dead guy, Muammar Gaddafi, was not only an eccentric fashion icon for much of his 40-years as ruler of the Libyan Revolution, but also for being bat-shit crazy as evidenced by his Fuhrer-like interest in creating a "people's car" for the oppressed Libyan population. Dubbed the "Saroukh el-Jamahiriya" (Libyan Rocket), the prototype was said to have been designed by Gaddafi himself but built by the European firm, Tesco TS, and cost close to $3-million to produce just this one example. Unlike the vehicle Hitler was responsible for, the Volkswagen Beetle, which went on to become one of the most important automobiles in history, the Libyan Rocket seems destined to remain an automotive footnote at best.

Pitched as a state-of-the-art transport that is suspiciously also claimed to be "the safest car in the world" because of features like "numerous airbags, an inbuilt electronic defense system, and a collapsible bumper", you know, like every car made since 1995 has. Well, I'm not so sure what is meant by "electronic defense system," I assume it means electronic nannies for traction, braking, etc., but then again, maybe the big evolution in car design was placing surface to air missiles under the hood; not likely but certainly not out of the realm of possibility for a tainted brain like Gaddafi's.

Choose for yourself, would this vehicle have been the next big thing ready to rival Volvo, Saab and Mercedes-Benz for safety achievements, or simply the delusional dreams of a madman bent on spending as much of his people's financial resources on bringing his own whims and pleasures to life at any cost? It seems the people of Libya have made up their minds and answered that question with absolute clarity. But what about the car? Where is it today and what will become of it? We know that Gaddafi's Fiat 500-based electric car, coincidentally painted "electric green," was looted when Tripoli fell to the rebel forces and is undoubtedly the centerpiece in some lucky bastard's living room right now, so did the Rocket Car meet the same fate?

"Libyan Rocket" at introduction.

Gaddafi's custom modified electric Fiat 500 being "liberated" by rebels.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ernst Lieb, Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Allegedly Fired for Misuse of Company Funds

Ernst Lieb, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, was fired in a move that seemingly came out of nowhere for many of Mercedes-Benz's representatives who were scheduled to attend a national dealer's meeting in Chicago on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. 

While there has been no official word from Daimler AG yet on their decision to replace Lieb, German language business newspaper Handelsblatt alleged that Daimler dismissed the executive after he repeatedly charged the company for private expenses, which is in breach of company rules. It explained that Lieb billed the company for expenses including a remodel to his NY area home and membership fees to a golf club. The paper stated that he had been previously warned against the practice but did not say where it obtained the information. Daimler AG continues to decline to comment on the reason for Lieb’s replacement and would not provide contact information for the former CEO.

Lieb, who is 56, is also a 36-year veteran at Daimler AG and took over duries as US CEO in September 2006. Daimler issued a statement that Herbert Werner, the unit’s chief financial officer, will manage the region “until further notice."

We created an English translation of the Handelsblatt article here: "Whoever does not abide by the rules that flies. No matter how successful, no matter how loyal."  <--- How very German of them.

Lieb (L) with Daimler AG Chairman Dieter Zetsche during happier times.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

2012 S-Class and CLS Shooting Brake Wagon Previewed

Autoblog is revealing some just-in shots of both the 2012 S-Class next generation warhorse and the elegant CLS Shooting Brake that has been widely speculated for production. The two links feature many photos of the cars, with the S-class making laps of the Nurburgring in what appears to be cooler weather since the vehicle is draped in a rather fancy Prada-like quilted parka. This will most likely be issued via dealer boutiques as a matching garment for both car and driver.
The CLS is virtually undisguised and shows us it's curvaceous looks, with only the rear most side glass obscured to trick the uninitiated, but we all know the real car beneath is as slick as an Arkansas used car dealer.

2012 S-Class at the Nurburgring
2012 CLS Shooting Brake Unveiled

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Bathurst 1000 Live Commentary: Drunk and Drunkerer

Check back throughout the day for *live* Drunk and Drunkerer commentary during the real life Deathrace 2000 Australian V8 Supercar event as I attempt to give commentary while progressively getting shitfaced. The cool-y titled Supercheap Bathurst 1000 is not quite what Americans would assume at first glance, that this is double the distance of the Indy 500, but Australia rolls metric so that's 1,000 kilometers. The "Bathurst 621.37" just doesn't have the same je ne sais quoi now does it? Take into account that this all happens on the widowmaker of a road course known as the Mount Panorama Circuit that features a strip of pavement that twists, dips and dives like a horny dolphin searching for a friends-with-benefits situation.
Here we go!

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Live Updates

4:05pm PST: We're just seconds away from Speed Channel's start of coverage for the race... I am prepared as best I can be. Studiously checked off my list... Flat screen HDTV, HDMI cable connection, 5.1 Dolby digital surround sound, and some assorted seasonal booze (Hornsby's Hard Cider, Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale, and some tall boy Rolling Rock). I opted for mellow and smooth given the duration of this race and my interest in remaining conscious until the end, which means I will have to catch the Suzuka, Japan F1 race tomorrow on the DVR.

4:17pm PST: It's interesting to hear the discussion of the (understandable) rivalry between Holden and Ford fans in Australian motorsport. Red (Holden) and Blue (Ford) banners, t-shirts and flags dominate the hillsides with only the most bold (or stupid) choosing to cross over into enemy territory. Supposedly, drivers have been subjected to death threats for changing loyalties from one team to another.

4:31pm PST: We were just treated to footage of NASCAR legend Darryl Waltrip touring the track as a passenger with Jason Bright at the wheel. Waltrip was totally flustered, red faced and holding the "oh shit" handle, his voice pitched school-girl high while he made proclamations such as "I just lost my lunch and I haven't had any" paired with truly classic gems like "this is a geological oddity." God love that man.

4:50pm PST: In-car shots make it appear that a large part of the track is as narrow as Monte Carlo, this is getting exciting.

5:11pm PST: Third beer of the race... on an empty stomach. Just realized I didn't have breakfast or lunch, just like Waltrip. This could get bad/totally amazing.

5:27pm PST: LeMans-style driver changes in this race. Some teams already switching. Commentator just said the average time is 13-seconds to get in or out of the cars.

5:50pm PST: Driver stated during interview that this series is coming to the US in "a couple of years". Is this actually happening or is he just being optimistic? Need, this, race, here. Booze update: Finished another hard cider and a pumpkin ale, getting deeper into the Rolling Rock; need to bring this up to speed.

6:46pm PST: Loving the fact that Waltrip can't get over the concept of Australian's shifting with their left hand. He's mentioned this at least three times so far.

7:05pm PST: Sub 3-second brake pad changes, cool stuff! (This took me three tries to type, booze is compounding my excitement!)

7:11pm PST: "We're hearing rain at the top of the mountain." A nice Spa-style downpour on only part of the track, essentially creating a cluster-fuck of tire changes, which is always good TV.

7:18pm PST: "Fair Dinkum." Wait, that's real?!?

7:30pm PST: I find it intriguing how different the commercials are between Australian V8 Supercars and Formula 1. More convenience store pizza and strange burrito-esque "tornadoes" wraps vs. new Mercedes-Benz coupes and Church of Latter Day Saints forced-guilt interludes.

8:21pm PST: I disappeared for a bit, made some smoked salmon nachos. Perfect drunk food, couldn't replicate the recipe if I tried. Sorry TGI Friday's. Eat a dick Guy Fieri! Some news coming in... a race steward injured somewhere else on the hillside. Pit releases are super tight, basically stacking the cars up on the out. The Australians don't give a fuck, they are here to drive.  

8:59pm PST: Steve Johnson's car crashes with a HUGE fire. Driver is out of the wreckage. Latest report is that it was Johnson's co-driver who crashed. Driver is good, fire out, and Safety Car is on track.

 9:10pm PST: Totally unrelated, but this is how I have been spending my commercial breaks. Nightmares Fear Factory photo stream

9:48pm PST: This has been a really exciting race so far. Lots of action, beautiful scenery and the aerial shots really give you an accurate sense of the speed these cars are competing at. What a challenging track, this is sure to become a popular race franchise for Speed Channel.
10:09pm PST: The more I see of this event the more I am utterly impressed by the fact that these guys nail their apexes perfectly over and over again, for the duration of this rather lengthy race, really some amazing stuff. Wow, just now driver Wincup slowed for no clear reason, but it seems he is pulling it together for the time being. Speculation is he is low on fuel but calculations show he should be fine. Wincup is now out, speculation is the battery at this point.

10:11pm PST: Wincup is running again! Inexplicably his car restarted and is running the track tho slower than the rest of the traffic. "Lack of fuel or lack of spark" is still being thrown around along with battery concerns. It now looks as though he will simply return to the pits and call it a day.

10:50pm PST: Really digging the in-car shots of the driver's faces. We don't get a lot of that in other series racing, a cool and very intimate shot that I would like to see more of. HDTV + in-car camera = Botox enters motorsports for the first time.

10:59pm PST: Two Holden's lead the pack, still battling for the lead. Lowndes in the Vodafone car is really pushing to take the lead from Tander if possible. Commentators say five car lengths but in actuality, it's more like two... but maybe they're using metric.

11:03pm PST: Waltrip calls it, "No more Mr. Nice Guy, this is for the win!" The battle for first is intense especially after 1,000 kilometers, and Tander holds on to his lead but only just barely. Lowndes really pushed for the top spot by riding the tail of Tander's car, but there just weren't enough curves remaining for him to pull it off.

11:04pm PST:  Garth Tander wins the 2011 Bathurst 1000 in a Holden!  
Holy shit, I need to go to bed. So far I've drank myself into near oblivion, ate twice, puked once, drank myself into actual oblivion and somehow managed to dress one of my dogs in a new sweater. (I have no recollection of this event, yet there she is, wearing a new sweater, and I'm the only one here.)

Garth Tander, not to be confused with Darth Tater.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Alfa Romeo to Build Sedan Based on Chrysler 300

Alfa Romeo has announced plans to build a new range-topping sedan that is to be a direct replacement for the ill-fated SUV the company was previously considering. Returning to the North American market in 2013, the sedan will be a 2014 model and because of it's intended 6-cylinder engine, the most likely suspect for organ donation is the Chrysler luxury leader. Considering that many parts of the 300 are sourced from Mercedes-Benz models, this is yet another step towards intensive platform sharing that will become more and more commonplace due to the necessities of the global economy.
Hell, I'll take a Milano and spend the rest of the cash on an Alfa roadster.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Australian V8 Supercars: From Ashy to Classy

Australian V8 Supercars is the new "it" motorsport. According to who? According to us goddammit and probably you too if you have ever watched an event. These cars are the real deal. Today's race was at Phillips Island Raceway in Victoria, Australia. The track is tight and full of off-putting ever reducing curves with invisible endpoints. The bass tones rumbled through the surround sound speakers piquing my dogs curiosity (two rescued pitt bulls) while the digital quality of Speed Channel in HD is constantly improving and made for lavish camera shots that rival those of F1, Indy Car and Space Shuttle launches. Corners have quirky names that give birth to endearing phrases like "the Commodore passes down in Siberia" and commentators spiel about "Winterbottom" and "Borgwanna" completely straightfaced. 

These events are like Nascar races on too much espresso rather than too much crystal meth, wheeling lightweight race versions of what Americans would consider muscle cars through a serpent of tarmac dipping in and out of sculpted speed-inducing hills and shallow valleys. These tracks still have personality. You can see hay piled in farm fields just outside the fence line, the literal barriers of success have yet to be erected. The combination of cool road courses, and cars that are the perfect mix of several types of racing Americans enjoy, makes Australian V8 supercar events such as the upcoming Bathurst 1000 competition the new Indy 500/Monaco GP/Isle of Mann/24 Hours of LeMans/Daytona 500. Tho, to be clear, I do not remember a specific race being yellow flagged due to potentially prehistoric bird-creatures or wallabies wandering onto the course.The drivers seem encouraged to run into one another, maybe it's an Australia thing, don't try to understand it.

This led me to conclude that since Hyundai is the new Toyota (and maybe Lexus in a couple of years) then Holden, and other Aussie carmakers, could be new Big Three. Yes, we know how Holden, GM, Pontiac, Camaro, et al all share a tent, but as a whole, these purebred Aussie cars could lay waste to our fears of giving people too much engine power or too little fuel economy. We promise we will buy those planet salvaging cars, but we want some of these too.

Friday, September 30, 2011

eBay Seller Uses Every Tool In His Box

The seller of this Mercedes shift knob was either in too big of a hurry to get all gussied up in proper "bidness attire" or maybe he simply decided that the best way to move merchandise is with a hint of beefcake. Whatever the reason, the reflection of the photographer in the chrome knob reveals a pair of hairy nipples leading to Lord-only-knows what's lurking down in his nether regions.
Moral of this story: Always wear clothes when taking photos for the internet... of anything... for any reason. I've personally seen enough feet, tits and tail in eBay auctions to give Hustler Magazine a good run for it's money.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

All British Field Meet Makes Us Want to do Something Dirty with an E-Type

Portland, Oregon shares more in common with the British Commonwealth than just rain and ale, we both love finicky motoring relics of a bygone era. To that end, the All British Field Meet and Historic Races is happening throughout the extended Labor Day weekend at Portland International Raceway. This is an annual and beloved gathering of the faithful. Those who would prefer to pilot a self-loathing, hand built vehicle down a rain-soaked back road tend to have a slightly different world view than those of us who can't muster the bravery that is required to drive one of Ol' Blighty's finest on a day-to-day basis. Don't get me wrong, I've owned two Jaguars myself; one never actually ran and the second did so only at the date and time of it's choosing, regardless of the commitments or perils I may have been facing. Those cars had heart.

The prime event is the All British Field Meet where owners, drivers and fans of British steel (and aluminum) turn up to share stories and swap information amongst the royal loyal. Everything from Land Rover Defenders to Rolls-Royce 20/25 sedans, from Allards to Austin Healeys, from 4-wheeled Morgans to their 3-wheeled sisters, popped their hoods... errr, bonnets, in a choreographed display of absolute beauty and mutual admiration.

Saturday's activities featured a thrill ride of sorts with off-road tours offered by the adventurous Land Rover crowd for only $2 per rider with proceeds benefiting a local charity. There is a swap meet scheduled for Sunday that promises all the quarterlights, propshafts and boot kit spanners you could ever dream of.

The real thrill ride, however, is the competitions. Various classes of vintage steel pound the tarmac lap after lap in the historic races that take place daily until 5pm. I witnessed the eccentric Haggis Speed roadster, loosely patterned after a Lotus Super 7, make quick work of several competitors while giving a rough and tumble E-Type a solid run for it's money. There were cockpit doors flying open at the chicanes, dust ups between cars that would inevitably leave one or more straddling the candy cane hued curb, and puffs of brake dust serving as tangible proof of the determination of the pilots of these noble steeds, and before you ask, there were no Nobles present.

Shades of pale blue and orange, the traditional livery of Gulf Oil racers and a Martini striped Porsche 911 helped concrete the impression that we had all somehow been transported back in time, or at the very least to the Goodwood Festival of Speed. In the end, isn't that what all great car events do? They take us to the world we wish we lived in; a world where a plaid driving cap is tipped as a friendly gesture, where ladies unpack picnic baskets from the boot of a never-restored but perfectly serviceable old saloon car, and where we give a kind wave to a driver we've never meet before purely because he's piloting the same type of car as us.  Thank you England, thank you very much indeed.

Click "Read More" below to see nearly 80 photos!
A collection of classic Rovers.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Steve Jobs Magical Barcode License Plate Mystery Solved

For years now it seems every tech blog and random-ass news source has at one time or another posted an article revealing former Apple head Steve Job's "mysterious" license plate. You see, Job's SL55 AMG roadster sports a simple barcode where a license plate is normally found. The webisphereblogscape has been abuzz with speculation and theories ranging from the absurd ("California agreed to allow Jobs a special decal because his plates kept getting stolen") to the truly absurd ("It's a security measure") to the un-fucking-believably absurd ("Apple is working on new automobile/license plate designs that will change the world!"). Guess what ladies, none of that is true!

Every Mercedes-Benz in recent history has come with that same little sticker in the same location. It's printed with the VIN # next to a bar code and helps identify the individual car during the production process and also once it has shipped as a means of keeping track of the vehicle along it's route. Like many manufacturers today, Mercedes allows customers to track the production and delivery of their vehicles from day 1 until it's in your driveway. Some may find it confounding that, among the millions and millions of commuters who drive a Mercedes every day, only a few brave souls have chimed in to correct the abundant conspiracy theories. Why is this? Some would guess that many Mercedes owners have never had the need or motivation to see what's under their license plate. Why soil your hands when you can have someone else do it for you? More realistically, in many states, including California, the plate stays with the car when it's sold or transferred to another owner. Additionally, many Mercedes owners are brand loyalists and when they trade in their car for the newest model, the kind folks at the local dealership take care of all the plate changing and requisite ass kissing. Well folks, I am stepping forward, not only to break those Mercedes-Benz owner stereotypes, but to show you that anyone can have a Steve Job's style ride all for the price of an off-lease German motorcar. So go outside, pop off that rear tag and go for a drive around the block to experience the rush of living like a cultural demigod. Of course, you will be solely responsible for the tickets, fines and requisite driving classes that might reasonably face someone taking such actions.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Quick Lap: List of the 25 Biggest Speed Traps

Automobile Magazine was kind enough to compile the list of the nation's 25 top speed traps. As I thumb through the list, I realize every place I have lived to date made the list. Does that say something about me or the cities themselves???

Do you live near one of the biggest speed traps? Find out here!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

"Black Beauty" Artwork Featured on io9

Remember the story we did about a super sick painting of the Green Hornet's famous ride, the "Black Beauty" here? Well, the folks over at Gawker's sci-fi blog io9 recently featured the piece in an article covering the most famous cars in movies as depicted in artwork. Check it out!

They were even kind enough to mention us by name. Much love to our friends at Gawker/Jalopnik/io9!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Celebrating the Life of Aryton Senna Through Film

In appreciation of the release of the new feature film "Senna" documenting the life of racing legend Ayrton Senna that is gradually being released around the world (opening today in Portland), we wanted to remind you to check out a very thorough and extremely heartfelt article we published detailing the final days of the masterful driver's life. Without further adieu: The Last 100 Hours of Ayrton Senna's Life.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Mystery of the Ducati in the Livingroom

Deep in the heart of one of Portland, Oregon's upscale neighborhoods is a home for sale with a very intriguing feature. Stationed in the living room window like a sentinel, nay, a siren, is a delicious Ducati of a somewhat recent vintage, visible for anyone passing by to see and admire, the house itself outfitted with a combination lock for ease of real estate agent entry.

So what's the story man?
Is it there to lure prospective buyers by exhibiting it's owner's good taste? Is it included in the purchase price? Is it simply safer to store the bike in a highly visible location than tucked away in a garage, where it's theft wouldn't be noticed right away?

Tell us what you think and help us solve The Mystery of the Ducati in the Livingroom!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Keep Portland Wheeled: Rare Porsche 420 Spotted On Hawthorne

The unofficial time coordinate of Portland, Oregon is 4:20, this much is well established and generally appreciated by it's residents. The green standard that Portland is well known for extends not only to it's wind turbine industry or it's strict policy-making that ensures initiatives like car-friendly saltless roads, but to the Green Goddess that so permeates the air with as much frequency as a misty morning (in a city commonly nicknamed "Cloud City").

The driver of this former 924 hits all the notes to woo the locals in a bicycle-centric town that somewhat reviles anything with an exhaust pipe... It not only speaks to the fuel efficiency martyrs who will appreciate the smaller engine this kid brother of the 944 sports, it also announces the owner's preference for "natural healing" in hand-taped text on the vehicle's bodywork. This would be an invitation to a YouTube-worthy beatdown by the local constabulary in most any city in America, yet in Portland the cops seem to not mind too terribly much so long as you can see over the top of your bong (some may cite you if the water hasn't been changed recently, public safety you understand).

The other option is, of course, that this is a street legal SCCA racer with sponsorship from a collective of gentlemen investors from south of the border who enjoy making homebuilt submarine trips up North for the occasional vintage event. Not very likely but how do you really know?

For your consideration:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Peter Windsor Returns to Speed Channel for Spa-Francorchamps GP

Peter Windsor was a familiar face to American F1 viewers before he left Speed Channel to head up an ill-fated attempt to revive a US Formula One race team in 2010. While we have all come to love adorable little Will Buxton and his constantly mutating facial hair (this season so far he's gone from baby faced to full blown 70's porn star 'stache), it will be a welcome sight to see the familiar face of Windsor when he defines a new role at the network, that of the ultimate "insider" with features and interviews with top level F1 brass, drivers and engineers.

Spa-Francorchamps will be the first day of school for Windsor, and his contribution will surely add even more excitement to what promises to be yet another incredible race for the 2011 season.

Full story at Windsor Returns to Speed F1 Team

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Meet the New Beast, Not the Same as the Old Beast

President Obama has been cruising the Midwest the last couple of days in an unofficial tour leading up to his reelection campaign. What's interesting this time is that the Secret Service has, for the first time in it's history, added a pair of armored buses to their vehicle fleet. Spotted by CNN when the President arrived in Minnesota with police style lights blazing, the new bus is clearly armored as evidenced by the thick doors, but the remainder of it's specialized equipment is, understandably, a closely guarded secret.

Check out the CNN article here: The President's Beastly Bus

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Portland's Adult Soapbox Derby is Giant Beer Garden of Fun

Saturday's Adult Soapbox Derby took place atop Portland's in-town volcano and continued the long tradition of families and hipsters ingesting large quantities of alcohol while spectating home-built carts manned by teams of costumed death-defiers. The course ran from the top of Mt. Tabor to the lower reservoir and seating was plentiful, European rally-style, with fans scattered among the trees, hills, ditches, grassy knolls and tucked into every imaginable critter hole. Contrary to what one might expect at an event that is primarily fueled by fermented grains of all variety, there was remarkably little in the way of assholism or fights, with the single observed incident this year being the surprising case of a 50's-something dad-ish sorta guy on a road bike who pulled a knife on course workers who were attempting to keep him clear of the racers.

With competitors ranging from Death Machines to Super Mario Brothers to a remarkably cool Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters, coupled with myriad luge inspired rides and other wacky racers, most outfitted with some form of water based weaponry, either squirters or balloon cannons, it all made for one helluva day in the park. 


Click below to see more pics and video after the jump!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Werewolves in Gullwings; Only in Hollywood

Twilight heartthrob Taylor Lautner (the shirtless werewolf, not the sparkly James Dean-y Vampire) just joined the Badass Benz club after he walked into a LA area dealership with his folks and laid out for a new SLS AMG Gullwing.  According to Mercedes-Benz the modern interpretation of the iconic 300SL Gullwing costs a cool $185,750 and that's before you fill the tank. At 14 MPG around town, it's definitely good to have Twilight money for those late night dashes to Mel's Diner.

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