BREAKING NEWS

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.


 
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