Monday, December 16, 2013

2015 C-class W205 Officially Unveiled, Full Press Relese and Photos


We often asked for more industry "behind the scenes" articles so today, as Mercedes-Benz unveils the latest addition to their future-looking new model range in the form of the 2015 C-class sedan, we are presenting the full press release and photo gallery for you to pour over in as much detail as you can stand. Let us know if you'd like to see more information-brimming articles like this in the future and we will happily indulge you.

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-class

The all-new C-Class heralds a new chapter in the Mercedes- Benz success story and sets new standards in the premium mid-range class. Thanks to an intelligent lightweight design concept boasting weight savings of up to 220 lbs, excellent aerodynamics and new, economical engines, the C-Class establishes new benchmarks in its class. A host of new assistance systems offer safety of the highest standard, while a new suspension, optionally air-sprung, provides for exemplary ride and driving comfort as well as nimble and agile handling. In terms of appearance the new C-Class adopts a progressive approach with its clear yet emotional design and its high-class interior. Many other innovations and interior touches underscore the sedan's luxurious comfort and refined sportiness. In all, the perceived quality of the new C-Class feels like an "upgrade to a higher class of travel."

Check out the rest of the press release and photos:

Monday, December 2, 2013

Debunking Misinformation Surrounding the Paul Walker Porsche Carrera GT Crash

Walker and Rodas' Porsche Carrera GT. Image: Always Evolving Performance Motors
 When tragedy strikes in this age of instantaneous information we can usually bet on one thing, armchair detectives. Looking back at the folly of split-second assumptions and the ability for anyone to go online and post their hypothesis, valid or purely made-up, is something we will probably just have to get used to. In the case of the tragic death of Paul Walker however, we have at least enough factual information about the car he died in to help dispel some of the rumors and misinformation that has been seen in the media, even by some "reputable" outlets.

Fuel tank is located behind seats and in front of the rear-mounted engine.
Assumption: The location of the fuel tank caused the deaths.
The facts: This may very well be true but we will get to that in a moment. At present, some less responsible media outlets are speculating that the fuel tank's location, in front of the passenger compartment's footwell, may have made it impossible for the two men to be saved. The error here is that the fuel tank on a Carrera GT (which can cost over $15,000 for the part alone) is not in the footwell but rather in the bulkhead immediately behind the driver and passenger, and in front of the engine, which is in the rear on this car. We believe the nomenclature "Carrera" has confused non-automotive types to assume it's a 911, GT2, GT3, etc. Owing to the logic that the ruptured tank may have contributed significantly to the inability of rescuers to remove the men, this is indeed possible due to the location of the tank. The GT, according to at least one report and evident from crash scene photos, hit the light pole and trees on it's passenger side, the seat Walker was occupying, and thus likely ruptured the tank allowing the fuel to splash into the passenger compartment due to forward momentum.
Exploded diagram of Carrera GT fuel tank.
The tank was actually placed here to not only help make it more durable in the event of a crash, but primarily for the sake of neutral balance, as the car was originally built to compete in a racing series who's rule changes prevented it from ever actually participating in the intended races. If the tank were placed fore or aft, like in most cars, the weight distribution would change throughout a race due to the end of the car containing the tank becoming lighter as fuel burns off.
Paul Walker and Roger Rodas.
Assumption: The driver had no business being behind the wheel of such a powerful car.
The facts: Roger Rodas was not only the proprietor of Always Evolving Performance Motors in Santa Clarita, CA just around the corner from where the accident occurred, he was also a highly trained driver who participated in race course events and was well acquainted with high performance automobiles, it was one of his livelihoods. That, in itself, doesn't relieve him of liability should findings later reveal negligence in some way, we simply cannot speculate, but is does paint a much different picture of the man than had been first created in online discussions accusing him of killing the actor, who by the way, was also a friend, business partner and client of Rodas. 

The take away: As enthusiasts, what we do know is that most of us have ourselves been in situations where we inadvertently let a car get out of hand, perhaps due to simple ignorance about it's capabilities, unexpected weather or road conditions, the act of another driver, or due to mechanical issues. No matter how good you are at car control or the amount of experience, when you're behind the wheel of a machine that is essentially being propelled by a series of extremely rapid miniature explosions of combustible fuel, causing thousands of moving parts to interact in just the right way, you can see how quickly things can, and very often do, go bad very quickly. We have seen Formula 1 and Indy car champions lose their lives due to their own mistakes, we are imperfect humans after all.

Editorial note: We have chosen not to include photos of the crash owing to the fact that, although not visible, the victims were still inside the car in many of the images available. We feel it is a matter of honoring the friends and family of these two individuals.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

You Will Love This One Off Aston Martin DB7-Based Zagato

Aston Martin offered two versions of it's DB7 that were reworked by the talented hands at Zagato, the DB7 Vantage Zagato in 2002 and the DB AR1 the following year, each in an edition of 99 cars with an additional one of each produced for the factory archives. What we have here is neither of those, but rather a fantastic homage to the bygone cars of Aston Martin, but with a twist, as this car is underpinned with the chassis from the DB7 like it's factory built cousins. The Evocation, as it is awkwardly named (do we expect anything less from British coachbuilders?), is arguably far more appealing wearing a skin reminiscent of the greatest of all AM customs, the legendary DB4 GT Zagato from 1960.

Evanta Motor Company in Hertfordshire, England, has been producing replica AMs since 1995 and chose the DB4 Zagato as a fitting tribute to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original. The new car features the optional V12, and retains the DB4 dash and seats coexisting with evident DB7 console and switchgear, but also features thoughtful and welcomed updates including A/C, airbags, and heated seats. The body shell too owes more to modern technology than old-world craftsmanship, tho there is plenty of both evident in the photos. It's made of carbon fiber and kevlar, finished in factory spec "Solent Silver" paint and underneath that sensuous cover is an ingenious bespoke tube chassis/unibody mash-up designed to sit atop the donor chassis while supporting the new body. The company indicates that customer commissioned models will feature made-to-measure pedal lengths and other modifications tailored to the new owner.

Be sure to have a poke around the Evanta Motor Company website for some more, truly amazing photos of their projects. I'll have one DB4 Barchetta please!

Photos © Richard Pardon
(His site is also a great place for a gearhead to spend some time.)

DB7 donor car above, tube frame work being done below.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Vintage Cars Appear to Float in French Artist's Photography

Renaud Marion has an eye for beautiful machines and a great mind for fantasy. He is the photographer behind the imaginative series "Air Drive" which playfully depicts fine vintage automobiles reworked into retro-futuristic vehicles by setting them aloft on an imaginary cushion of air (with a little help from Photoshop). We especially appreciate his love of vintage Mercedes.

While these works remind us of the also non-existant Jetsons car, and even more so Luke Skywalker's Landspeeder, it doesn't take much of our imagination to know we would love to sneak one of these through the Florida Everglades, airboat style, while making our own shortcut to Disney World given the chance.

All images © Renaud Marion.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Meet the Bastard Child of a Mercedes-Benz 540k and a G4 that has a 38-foot Turning Radius


The latest Captain America film is set to premier worldwide sometime in 2014 and that gave us cause to remember our favorite "character" from the first film, the menacing behemoth of an automobile driven by the Captain's nemesis, Red Skull. The car is a purely original design created by Daniel Simon (also the mind behind the grid vehicles from Tron: Legacy) who took only minimal direction from the Director and producers when designing what was described as the fastest car in the world within this fictional universe. Featuring a nose and tail inspired by the luxurious 540K roadster, mashed-up with the lumbering 3-axle G4 staff car for the middle section, and topped off with slit headlight masks as found on WWII military vehicles to evade enemy aircraft... this is not your grandfathers W123 diesel.

The car needed to be produced in full scale, not merely within a computer as graphics, so the 25-foot long beast was built up over a truck chassis, with the bodywork in fiberglass. The entire vehicle is motivated in the real world by a 700-hp Drexler engine (?), but it's imaginary stats sees it powered by a 16-cylinder aircraft engine (tho we count 18-exhaust ports). There is a non-functional Supercharger casing mounted to the front, much more of a Bentley Blower design cue than how Mercedes prepped their supercharged cars, but it works wonderfully on this car.

Personally we would just add a set of CocoMats, and hit the open roads; preferably long straight ones with no curves considering the excessive length of this monster Benz doppelgänger.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Wanna See the 2015 Mercedes C-class Right Now?

A Spanish automotive site has leaked images of the as-yet-unreleased 2015 C-class and it sure is a looker. Head on over to the (translated) page for Diario Motor to see what all the fuss is about.

Here's some officially-released interior images to go with these spy shots.

Diario Motor: 2015 C-class Pics and Info

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Roy Spencer Launches the MotorBinder Project; Fine Art Images of American Road Racing From 1955-65

Phil Hill with Bev Spencer and Spencer's Ferrari 250GT SWB.  © Roy Spencer

Many of you already know Roy Spencer not only from his Mercedes Heritage website, but also his restoration & sales of the brand's "old timer" cars. You may be surprised to learn that it's not only German steel that sparks his plug. Spencer's father, Bev Spencer, campaigned some of the most historically significant Ferrari road racers to ever exist, and today, armed with two massive binders full of in-period photos taken at virtually every major California racetrack, Spencer hopes to offer a fine art book to Maranello-loving cognoscenti.

The years 1955-1965 hold a certain allure to racing fanatics. It was an era of big engines, big races, big stakes and even bigger personalities. It was during this time that Bev Spencer, a Buick and Ferrari dealer based out of San Francisco, opted to create a race team who's archives would eventually spawn the MotorBinder project.

Spencer explained to us how his father became integral to such a pivotal time in American racing history, "My father had been buying most of the great road Ferraris beginning in 1957 and added a Ferrari Franchise to his Buick franchise in 1963. Once connected directly to Ferrari, he was able to purchase ex-Factory 250GTOs to race with hired drivers on the west coast from 1963-1965. In addition to the dozen or so epic street Ferraris he acquired he owned what are now the most significant competition Ferraris in existence."

That storied list includes:
  • 1958 Ferrari Testa Rossa #0666 Prototype Testa Rossa
  • 1961 Ferrari Testa Rossa #0794 last 3 liter Testa Rossa and the 1961 LeMans winner
  • 1963 250GTO # 4219 perhaps the least raced GTO
  • 1964 250GTO #5571 Daytona Continental 1964 winner

We especially enjoyed the anecdote Spencer recited during the brief Kickstarter video presentation, relating how his "media savvy" father figured out an ingenious way to attain press for his team. Check it out here for yourself: MotorBinder Project on Kickstarter

Just a $10 contribution lands you a reproduction Pit Pass

Funding for the digitization and restoration of the images is the biggest task at hand and Spencer has set up a Kickstarter page to enlist the support of people like you and I in order to make the book a reality. At the time of writing, the goal was nearing it's completion, but bear in mind that, as with all Kickstarter projects, any extra funds will still be awarded to the project so even if it meets it's deadline so don't worry, you can still reap the rewards offered for your kind contribution to the project. The rewards are pretty cool indeed ranging from replica pit passes to photo prints to your very own copy of the book at only a $35 contribution. We consider that a bargain and one you certainly won't find amongst the perpetually-appreciating real life counterparts to the cars depicted.

10-17-2013 Update: Roy Spencer informed us that the $10,000 goal is actually only partial funding for the book. To date, he has already spent over twice that amount and will spend far more before it is all said and done, so your contributions are in fact helping to make this book happen and any amount will be put to good use. 

MotorBinder Project on Kickstarter
MotorBinder Project on FaceBook

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Keep Calm and Drive On: 6 Famous British Cars From Film and TV

Image: Jennings Motor Group UK

 Americans have lusted after British motorcars at least since Charles Rolls and Sir Henry Royce had their "you got your chocolate in my peanut butter" moment, entwining their two companies, and forever hence cementing the image of grace, elegance and old-world craftsmanship into our collective minds. Today we are still captivated by the allure of the Sceptered Isle in the form of more modern automotive-themed exports such as Top Gear UK, Wheeler Dealers and Classic Car Rescue. Below you will find an informative graphic detailing six of the most iconic and recognizable British autos from the world of entertainment and some fun facts about each.  Click here to view full graphic

Graphic courtesy Jennings Motor Group UK.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Snaphot of the Day: An Enthusiast is Born

Photo by Hugh Holland

This image is from Hugh Holland, most noted for his photo essay of life in the freshly forming Southern California 1970's skateboard culture in his book, Locals Only. We love the wild eyed excitement of youth, with the superimposition of the elder gentleman in the background, creating an ethereal vision that makes us think the man is reminiscing about his long-gone youth, or perhaps, if we're being less somber, the child sparking what will become a lifelong interest in vintage cars. How do you interpret this image?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Self-driving Cars Are Coming Sooner Than You Think (or Maybe Want?)

Autonomous Vehicles ("AVs" for purposes of this article) are those which can drive themselves without any human input and is a technology that has existed primarily in Science Fiction for the last century or so of automotive development. That is all about to change, and by "about to" we mean in the next few years.  2020 is the date Nissan has given as it's goal for fielding a showroom ready autonomous vehicle that the general public can buy and drive be driven in.

Nissan certainly isn't alone. Mercedes-Benz also just completed a historic 60-mile journey that retraced the path of the original Benz Patent-Motorwagen journey, also the first known road trip in an automobile, that Karl Benz's wife, Bertha, made with their two sons over 125-years ago. The car used for the modern trip, an S500 Intelligent Drive research vehicle, didn't even use any specialized equipment other than adapting lane departure, adaptive cruise control, automatic braking systems, etc., that is already in place on the next-generation 2014 models. You can see that the technology is largely already there. The trip also marked the first regular road drive in an AV that operated among the general population of pedestrians, bicycles, and animals crossing the roads in addition to the basic open-highway testing that other manufacturers have performed to date. Autonomy for it's cars is apparently such a focus of long term product planning at Daimler that it's CEO, Dieter Zetsche, said of the technology, "For us, autonomous vehicles are an important step on the way to accident-free driving." We all know how seriously Mercedes takes their role as safety innovators.

Cadillac and Tesla also made it clear they are not planning to watch this technological revolution from the sidelines. Cadillac hopes to have their own version ready just behind Nissan's and Tesla is presently looking to hire experts in their field to help develop their system which is a bit more ambitious in that company CEO, Elon Musk, states that he plans to have a car that can drive 90% of regular roadways in full autonomous mode within just three years.

Volvo has also been working on their advancements for several years and have been largely successful, aside from that one embarrassing incident. OK, and maybe that second one too. Audi, Volkswagen, BMW, Toyota, and presumably others, are also working on their own versions.

Decades ago many believed that in order to accommodate AVs, cities would need to embed special magnets, sensors or other devices into the physical roadway to guide the cars, much like that old toy van from the 1970's that would follow a line you drew with a crayon. We're glad we didn't end up going this route for real world cars, the results could be rather maddening at times.

Oh yeah, about that "coming soon" part, we weren't being entirely honest with you. Google, who heads up their own AV program, claims there is already around a dozen AVs on American roadways at any given moment testing and improving their systems. Those cars have logged over 500,000 miles to date. Google engineers are routinely driven to work by their automatic drivers by making their daily commute in a series of Toyota and Lexus vehicles outfitted with their proprietary Google Chauffeur system.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

2013 All British Field Meet: Review In Pictures

The All British Field Meet at Portland International Raceway is finishing up it's final day today with the extremely popular Swap Meet, but yesterday was arguably the most exciting day combining both races of historic autos coupled with the vast and always-impressive show field.

As expected, the usual suspects ranging from Ranges, Rovers, Rollers and the requisite picnic baskets replete with stereotypically "Brit" trimmings were there. Rows upon row upon row, like an army of faded Redcoats, lined the grassy avenues of what normally serves as event parking inside the gates, but with a turnout of quirky automobilia to rival even that of the Historics, the extra space was very much needed. 

One could take $2 Land/Range Rover adventure rides over a hilly dirt course built for motorbikes, or sample the fish & chips being served up to the appreciative masses, or perhaps studying technique of the artists who displayed at the art contest. If you ever considered joining a car club for your favored marque they were all in attendance with tents and info packets ready to lure you into their friendly and knowledgeable arms. 

We try to attend every large motoring event at PIR, especially those focused in some way on the vintage side of the hobby, and while the variety is greater at some of the other gatherings we feel this is the one we have the most fun at. The relaxed atmosphere and humor necessary to even consider owning a British automobile gives the ABFM a palpable air of "family and friends" even if you were to not know a single person upon entering, we would wager that you leave with a new circle of comrades.

(Photos: Marrs and Andrew Garcia)

Enjoy the full gallery of over 100 photos from the 2013 event. Please click "read more" below to view the full photo set.

Friday, August 30, 2013

MotoArigato Project Car: Our CocoMats Arrive

Disclosure: CocoMats is sponsoring the rolling restoration of our MotoArigato Project Car by supplying us with this set of custom mats.

You already know everything is there to know about CocoMats thanks to this earlier article, but even writing that story didn't fully prepare us for what arrived in our mailbox recently, our newly minted bespoke set of Sisal Cocomats. Drew T. Phythian and his crew worked their magic for our very own MotoArigato Project Car by kindly supplying us with a set of the mats, custom cut from a pattern they provided that we then trimmed and returned to their South Carolina factory for final production. Our set consists of both front and rear mats in Red Sisal with red vinyl edging and a beautifully hued maroon rubber heel pad.  

Heel pad feels luxurious in color, weight and material
The mats themselves are incredibly substantial with a massive natural rubber backing studded with nibs to prevent slippage and boy, do they do that job well. Once in place, that's it! They are staying there unless you lift them all the way out by hand and readjust them although ours are so perfectly tailored that they almost click into place as if they were part of one of those snap-together models you made as a kid.

The sisal weave itself is much finer and smoother than the coco fibers they are more known for, no better or worse, it really just depends on what look you are going for in your own car. We like the coco fiber for an in-era look but chose the thinner-strand sisal because we felt it matched the elegance of our W111 coupe much better.

Be sure you're getting the real deal, only from
We realized a couple of things after installing the mats over our factory carpets that came as a pleasant surprise. We considered adding sound and vibration damping materials such as Dynamat or a similar product to the floors but after driving around with the Cocomats in place we noted that much of the road noise we had been hearing was now muted or eliminated entirely.

We also had been in no rush to make decisions about altering anything that was original to the car, being such a survivor, and those are clearly becoming rarer by the day, we kept going back and forth between replacing the carpets altogether, or dying them back to as close to original as possible. However, once we laid the mats in the car we were all surprised by how much it classed up the interior, making even dying the carpets something we could take some more time to think about since the car no longer looked like the abandoned puppy of the car world. It's somewhat like those infomercials where they wipe some magic Sham-wow cloth across the counter and everything is sparkling like new including the host's teeth, we don't know how it worked so well, we just know it did.

(L) Cheaply made mat that was in our car (R) New Sisal CocoMat
When we received our car it originally had a set of aftermarket coco fiber mats installed that had easily seen better days, and quite a few of them at that. The original mat is black and red with a cheap, almost paper-like vinyl edging, and you can see in our side-by-side image how frayed and loose it has become with time and use. Also notice there is no backing of any sort? That mat came from the passenger foot well and guests were always smoothing bumps down with their shoes or kicking the top portion off of their feet because it was constantly drooping like a bored hound dog's ears.

There is quite literally no comparison to the CocoMat quality (R)
We rather unexpectedly managed to test one of the features advertised by the company on the first week we had them installed. Dirt, sand, and moderate amounts of water will not penetrate to your carpets because of the natural barrier created by the heavy rubber backing. It seems that somebody, who is writing this article now but shall remain nameless, spilled water on the passenger side mat. That clumsy person quickly blotted it up, used compressed canned air to blow out any remaining water and just like that the mats were like new. Not a drop underneath nor a stain in sight. Mission accomplished! Time, money and effort was saved, we can definitely dig that!

When you write about cars and car products all day you sometimes get accustomed to hearing the same things over and over from PR guys or product catalogs and few products stand out among the rest, but once in a while, when you get your own hands and eyes on a product that just feels right in every single way, you have to share it with your buddies. (PS: You're our buddies.)

Our passenger side foot well, with fire extinguisher visible
We recommend Cocomats without hesitation and suggest you use their custom fitting service to ensure the very best match to your car's interior, especially if you are ordering for a handmade vintage beast like we have where measurements don't always match from one side to the other, let alone one car to another.

I want this stuff in my house now too.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Bling it Like Beckham; Soccer Star Shows Off New McLaren MP4-12C Spider

David Beckham, trophy husband of ex-Spice Girls singer Glorious Spice (or was it Awesome Spice, or perhaps Old Spice?) was spotted tooling around LA in his new McLaren MP4-12C Spider with 14-year old son Brooklyn, who was quite clearly enjoying the ride in pop's new supercar.

While not nearly as valuable as the initial F1 from McLaren the MP4-12C Spider is no slouch in the taking-your-money department as the vehicle is priced at an eye watering $240,000 in the US, and that's before the slew of modifications Becks normally has performed on his fleet, generally consisting or making every bit of the car black or matte black. He is pretty hardcore after all, married to a Spice Girl and all that, so the "murdered out" look makes sense.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

McLaren Sets New Auction Record for F1

McLaren announced via Twitter that a new world record has been set for the sale of their fabulous F1, a mere $8.47-million was achieved at this year's Pebble Beach Concours.

Mr. Bean probably couldn't be happier, tho some owners may now be facing the unenviable dilemma of "is my car now worth too much to keep?"

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