Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Facel Vega HK500 Performing a Burnout Because Why the Hell Not?

Enjoy the sheer joy that comes at about the 45-second mark in this clip. Mercedes-Benz designers are purported to have later based their iconic SE Coupes on the Facel Vega owing to it's utter perfection, class and style.  Can you see the similarities?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

2013 Forest Grove Concours d'Elegance Recap in Pictures

Summer for many in the Pacific Northwest is highlighted by attending the Forest Grove Concours d'Elegance and the most recent installment marked the 41st time the collected masses of automotive majesty gathered on the manicured lawns of Pacific University. Among the historic buildings and ancient trees were scattered examples of some of the most historic, rare and legendary automobiles ever produced. Sinewy lines of hand formed aluminum, spoked wheels, museum-worthy radiator mascots, and ancient engines conspired to create one of the most impressive show fields in recent memory. Rather than offering a step-by-step narration of the day, we think the adage of "a picture speaks a thousand words" has rarely been more true, and in that spirit we would like to present a full gallery of fine photography by Ken Zuleger who graciously attended and is now allowing us all the see the event through his artist's eye.

Please click below to see dozens of photos in our comprehensive gallery!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Esval Models Review: 1:43 Scale 1936-40 Mercedes-Benz 260D Pullman Laundaulet

Esval Models kindly sent us their latest 1:43 scale model to review. We know that many of our readers collect all forms of automobilia, and scale models seems to top the list by a significant margin, so we hope you will enjoy our point-by-point evaluation of Esval's newest creation, the 1936-1940 Mercedes-Benz 260D Pullman Landaulet.

Created by Collectors
Esval Models was founded by a small group of enthusiasts who have grown their personal scale model collections over the last 40-years and wanted to create highly realistic replicas with a collector's eye towards the finer details. Often models are created by factories that have no interest in getting every little bit right, sometimes because of lack of research or an economic decision to create a simpler piece at the cost of accuracy, but when the company principals are also collectors themselves, you can see the improvement in terms of scale correctness and construction.

The cardstock display box immediately exudes retro-nostalgia with it's muted sepia hue, emblazoned with a classically elegant logo made up of a stylized wheel in burgundy with the "Esval" text in forest green to complete the vintage look.

The outer box has a cutout for viewing the display case within and features mirrored panels to show you every side of the car even before removing it. We were pleased, but not surprised, to see a hologram decal affixed to the bottom of the box indicating an official license by Daimler, Mercedes-Benz's parent company.

Inside is a standard acrylic display case with a black plastic base that allows an anchor screw & posts to keep the model in place. The base reads, "1936-1940 Mercedes-Benz 260D Pullman Landaulet" in silver ink.

As evidence of Esval Model's intention to deliver your new pride and joy intact, there are further hold-downs in the form of a thin plastic strap additionally securing the car to the base that you would remove and discard, as well as an adhesive disc at each end to keep the acrylic lid in place until you are ready to remove it.

The Car- Exterior
At first glance we were stunned by the level of detail, which only expanded as our eyes began to crawl over the piece unlike most models where the more you look the more flaws you detect. We immediately noticed the most visible part of any Mercedes, that iconic hood star, which here is rendered in what we feel is the most scale-accurate reproduction yet seen on any model. The headlights are an especially masterful bit of engineering consisting of several tiny parts to replicate the original full-scale units perfectly. The creative folks at Esval Models understood that sometimes even the most meticulously restored original cars can have modern or non-period substitutions, this is often the case with headlights, yet here they are depicted in perfectly original factory accuracy. This may not translate in photos as well but in person, the effect is delightful. The light mounts are also aimed perfectly straight ahead, something you may take for granted but is an issue more often than it should be when buying models.

The folds in the fabric, both inside and out, are wonderfully rendered on the stowed roof panel, with the very best sculpting being reserved for the foward-most folded panel which is perfectly scaled and realistic in the way weight and gravity is expertly suggested. That front panel also has two tiny chrome buckles on the tie-down straps.

Windows are up all around, a personal preference to be sure, but one we appreciate. We especially love the wheel covers which are stunningly accurate even to the width of the chrome strip and scale of the center stars. A rear luggage rack in the folded position is ready for that pixie-sized road trip into the countryside, or just a few feet further down your mantlepiece. Tiny wiper blades are perfectly rendered albeit their mounting holes may be overly large. The engine cowl has rows of vents running along each side that are actually open and would allow air to pass through if the tiny car was able to run under it's own power, that's something many modern full size cars no longer have, choosing to utilize add-on ducts purely for appearances. Detroit, you could learn something from these folks!

The paint is simply sublime, with great care taken to polish it to a luster that even 1:43 sized concours judges would appreciate. The body has a bit more shine than the fenders but neither detracts from the other. We can only assume a fair amount of hand work was done to achieve this effect. Coach lines intending to replicate chrome strips seem to have been hand-applied with skill unrivaled this side of a Rolls-Royce factory pinstriper. We learned that in reality Esval Models uses a new technology to create these chrome bits to such terrific effect. The same method is how the wheel cover stars are achieved. Chrome accents a few other bits and pieces for a next-level of detail that you would normally be paying much more for if this were an offering from another brand.

We enjoy that the number plates were left blank, something you almost never see on other models that either place the model designation there, or perhaps the number plate of the actual car the model was based on. Given the variety of colors you can order each model type in, we like being able to customize with your own tags if you so choose.

The undercarriage is really more of a base plate on this model, but a perfectly understandable trade-off when you consider all the detail work and paint quality lavished on the parts you actually spend time looking at. The axels are straight metal rods, not convoluted plastic pins replicating a suspension, so for those of us who like to occasionally take our models for a late night spin across the dining room table after the rest of the brood is fast asleep, you can rest assured this car won't collapse under your meaty paws.

The Car- Interior
The interior is somewhat less detailed than the exterior and uses cast panels for doors and floors without much in the way of applied add-ons, but the effect remains much the same simply because of the care taken in both the original sculpt and final paint detailing of these pieces. The wood has tiny stripes painted within each piece to replicate the exotic veneers used in their full-size cousins. The factory accurate matte texture of the seats and door cards contrasts the shinier finish of the wood elements to add even more realism.

Rearview mirror, dash gauge cluster, arm rests, ashtrays, folded jump seats, and other typical accoutrements are all there with foot pedals, shifter and parking brake applied as separate castings. The only real flaw we noticed was on the rear seats where they meet the floor, the paint mask was apparently loose on our model so the tan seat color doesn't fully reach the floor. To be fair, this was only really noticeable once we put an LED flashlight on the model for a full evaluation and that section of the interior is quite hard to see from normal viewing angles, and on other variations with fixed roof panels would be virtually impossible to detect, if present at all.

As you further dive in you discover tiny metal handles for releasing the landau top, situated beneath the rear roof bow. Another handle placed at the rear stands ready to lift the roof at the first sign of rainfall, and even the roof rails are presented in an incredibly realistic satin finish, something that would usually be fabricated in chrome or left painted on lesser models. We're told this is but one example of that collectors eye for detail we spoke about earlier, the rails having the same care and attention lavished on them as the rest of the car. These rails are so realistic we found ourselves searching for the tiny grease gun to keep them lubricated, recognizing that as a necessary bit of maintenance on our full-sized MB's.

There's even a divider window between the passenger and driver compartments that is perfectly scaled in thickness, just like the windows.

Overall we feel this model from Esval is among the very best in existence, especially at it's price point. We are of the thought that spending more may buy you a model with greater detail underneath the car but as far as a shelf-ready display model is concerned, this is as good as it gets. Before our review sample arrived we presumed the model would be comparable to the finer examples from Minichamps judging from the photos we saw online, but once we had our Mercedes in-hand we recognized that the offerings from Esval Models blows it's competitors right off the asphalt. The initial models are said to have taken two years of product development before being market ready, but new offerings will begin to appear quicker now that Esval has overcome many of the initial growing pains that come with starting a new business from scratch.

Esval is a new player in the scale model game only having come to market in February of this year, but one that will surely thrive given the overall attention to quality, detail, enthusiasm for their products and level of customer outreach. Heck, they even print an invitation right on the box asking for upcoming model suggestions, so go ahead and send a message begging for that scaled down dream car, they are listening! Our suggestions? How about the one-off Pininfarina W113 Pagoda, or an early W111 Coupe with US-style headlights (why do they all have Euro lenses and side reflectors?) or the Spanish Royal Family's W31 G4.
The company email for suggestions is: if you're interested in reaching out.

Photo of a full-size Mercedes-Benz 260D; courtesy Daimler archive.

  • Scale: 1:43
  • Construction: Resin with photo-etched metal details
  • Weight: 41grams (model alone); 139 grams (model with display case)
  • Manufacturer: Esval Models USA (built in China)
  • Edition: Limited to 500 in each color variant
  • Color options: Four per car type
  • Retail price: Prices differ depending upon region and seller but hover around the $100 level or less in the US

There are four variations of this particular casting each with it's own unique roof configuration.
  • Beige over Brown: Open front and rear roof panels.
  • Red over Maroon: Closed front and rear roof panels.
  • White over Black: Open front, closed rear.
  • Black over Black: Closed front, open rear.

Esval's first and only other offering at the moment, the 1941 & 42 Packard Limousine, comes in two color options for each year for a total of four variations.

For more information about Esval Models and their product line visit them at

Where to buy?
In the United States:

In Europe:

In Russia:

Click Read More below to view the full gallery of high resolution images.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Mercedes-Benz Next Generation Pullman Limo Revealed In Spy Shots

Mercedes-Benz W222 Pullman Limousine; photo:

The classic Grand 600 from Mercedes-Benz, the conveyance of choice for decades of the world's leaders, dictators, and religious heads is getting an update now that the Maybach brand is on it's way to being quietly shuttered. The 2015 Pullman is based on the recently updated S-class sedan but has been stretched at the rear doors, given additional quarter windows behind those doors, and will be generally luxurized (I just made that word up) to hold a new spot at the top of the MB's passenger carriers.

Check out the full article over at Motor Authority who has lots more spy shots of this upcoming, anxiously awaited new Grosser Benz.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Video Details Creation and Design of 2013 S-Class

Pictured, S63 AMG courtesy MBUSA

"To us, perfection is an obligation."

This video (bottom of page) detailing the design, testing and engineering of the 2013 S-Class gives us a in-depth glimpse of the all-hands-on-deck manner in which Mercedes-Benz engineers it's flagship model. The sheer breadth of genius/madness that must be a pre-requisite for working in the development department is well evident as we see the lengths the storied company embraces, quite literally going to the ends of the world, to create what they claim is the most advanced, safest, innovative and most reliable car ever to come from the Mercedes-Benz factory.

Adding to the already impressive list of things the newest S-Class does exceedingly well is greatly improved fuel economy, standing at 37-mpg for the 6-cylinder gas/hybrid engine and an astonishing 53-mpg for the 4-cylinder BlueTEC hybrid.

New system stops the car in emergency situations.
 Interestingly, the video reveals that Daimler Chairman Dieter Zetsche arrives to work in both an S-Class and a Star Wars-style elevator pod, but rest assured both are likely quite necessary in order to manage the empire that has been the class leader for generations. How better to review the clones troopers/new models?

Senator Palpatine, err Chairman Zetsche arrives for an inspection.
Chairman Zetsche arrives at the Galactic Senate, dammit, we mean the development center.

Thumbs up all the way around!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance Features American Royalty This Sunday

Duesenberg as depicted in "The Great Gatsby"  -Warner Bros. Pictures
American Royalty, European Presence
The Forest Grove Concours d'Elegance continues it's annual celebration of automotive style and grace this Sunday with sparkling examples of the motoring world's finest displayed studding the shaded grounds of Pacific University. Enlivened with over 300 perfectly groomed and spit-polished automobiles of every era and marque, the show promises it's enviable attendees breath taking rarity, hand built charm and world class prestige tucked around every corner.

1931 Duesenberg Model J owned by Clifford Stranberg
Time to Get Your "Gatsby" On
The 2013 Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance will shine a spotlight on American coachbuilt and luxury automobiles by featuring the 1931 Duesenberg Model J owned by Clifford Stranberg (also the poster car) and the 1931 Duesenberg Model SJ owned by Tom and Susan Armstrong.  The Armstrong car is just one of five examples with a coachbuilt body by Derham. The same car made it's local debut at the ‘Allure of the Automobile’ exhibit at the Portland Art Museum in 2011. LeMay-America's Car Museum will also bring down a 1939 Packard Super 8 Convertible Coupe to continue the patriotic theme. Both of the Hoosier built Duesenbergs have special significance to your very own MotoArigato Founder who was similarly born in Indiana and resided in his early years just a couple of miles down the road from Denny Duesenberg, who, along with his father Fred, created some of the most memorable and successful road and race cars in American history.

A pristine example of the W113 Pagoda SL Roadster as seen at Cars In the Park.
Additionally, the event will celebrate 60-years of the Corvette, while honoring German marque Porsche on it's 50-year anniversary of the 911, with special classes dedicated to each. Further highlights include special recognition of the W113 "Pagoda" SL and the imposing Grand 600, both by Mercedes-Benz and each styled rather successfully by legendary French designer, Paul Bracq.

The judges and presenters are, in usual fashion, as storied as the cars themselves. Automotive author and expert Ken Gross performs duties as Senior Judge. Gross is renowned for his work as Executive Director with LA's Petersen Museum and as a Pebble Beach Concours judge. Keith Martin and Donald Osborne from Sports Car Market Magazine emcee the awards ceremony, and will this year launch a new element to the day's activities by telling the stories behind each car live throughout the day via mobile microphones.

Schedule of Events
Saturday, July 20th
The Vineyard Tour will wind through the picturesque wine country of Willamette Valley to visit an impressive private car collection, then on to Abbey Road Farm for wine tasting, lunch, and presentation of Tour Trophies. On Saturday night, Concours entrants and their guests are invited to the Evening of Elegance Dinner, at 1910 Main St. Bistro.

Sunday, July 21st
5:30AM:  Begin placement of cars
7:45AM:  Judges Meeting in the University Center
8:30AM:  Spectator Gates Open
9:00AM:  Judging of automobiles begins
10:00AM:  Music entertainment on Main Stage
Noon:  Judging to be completed
1:30PM:  Trophy Presentation begins
4:30PM:  Concours concludes and automobiles may leave the display area

Mercedes-Benz of Beaverton; photo: MBCA Portland, OR
Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance is presented by Mercedes-Benz of Beaverton.  Major sponsors include American Car Collector and Sports Car Market magazines, Chubb Collector Car Insurance, The Pamplin Media Group, The Oregonian and Ron Tonkin Gran TurismoAdult Spectator tickets to the Sunday Concours are $20 at the gate, or $17 in advance.  Children 12 and under are free. Advance sale tickets can be purchased on the Concours web site.

The Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance is produced by the Rotary Club of Forest Grove, with all proceeds benefiting Forest Grove Rotary Foundation college scholarships, youth sports, scouting programs and various service projects. The Forest Grove Concours d'Elegance has raised more than one million dollars for the community, including scholarships and financial aid to over 700 Washington County students to Pacific University and other colleges.

Official Website for info, advance tickets, results and more: Forest Grove Concours d'Elegance
Read the follow-up to last year's event here.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Auction Update: Juan Manual Fangio W196 Sets Record Price

Fangio's W196 from 1954. Photo: Bonham's Auctions

As you may recall from our earlier article on Juan Manual Fangio's fabulously preserved W196 monoposto Grand Prix racer, the car was being auctioned by Bonham's as part of their annual Goodwood sale. Well, that car just achieved a record breaking, if not surprising, result of over $29,600,000.

Bonham's claims it's a record on several fronts; including any car sold at auction, any F1 car sold, and highest price paid for any Mercedes-Benz. In 2011, a 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa sold at $16.4 million although a private trade saw the highest known price paid for an automobile when a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO raced by Stirling Moss sold at $35 million in 2012.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The True Story Behind CocoMats, an Iconic American Company

CocoMats VP's own Mercedes-Benz 300D fitted with Jaspe pattern.
Disclosure: CocoMats is sponsoring the rolling restoration of our MotoArigato Project Car by supplying us with a set of custom made sisal floor mats. After exchanging several friendly emails with company representative Drew T. Phythian, we were so intrigued by his family operation that we expressed an interest in writing a profile piece on CocoMats. What follows is a unique insight into an American company that is thriving, despite a slow economy, simply because of the support of the classic car hobby.

When you visualize vintage cars from Porsche, BMW, Volkswagen or Mercedes-Benz you tend to think of the fine details like perfectly chromed door mirrors sitting atop thin stalks, jewel like taillights, and simple but elegant interiors. Within those interiors is very often found one aftermarket product that has been embraced by enthusiasts of those brands and more since the 1950’s; CocoMats. Even more popular at MBCA meets than sheepskin seat covers, CocoMats originally began in the 1950’s as a product that was widely loved but not necessarily known for longevity. That all changed in 1996 when CocoMats was re-established by Jeff Allwine as a new company with a revitalized product line intending to be the best in the field.

Machine used to perform stitching on every CocoMats product.
We spoke extensively with Drew T. Phythian, Vice President of CocoMats, in order to share a behind-the-scenes view of one of classic motoring’s most iconic and beloved aftermarket products.

CocoMats today is a family run company based in Fort Mill, South Carolina and that is also where the mats are assembled by Drew and his family personally, and being “American Made” is something they are quite rightfully proud of. His brother, Jeff, jump started the brand in the 1990’s and today he, together with Drew, Drew’s sister Deb, and niece Elizabeth, make up the core employees with a handful of talented others on hand to help create the dozens of varieties available. While the materials are sourced from India where “the best quality coco in the world comes from” according to Drew, every bit of custom cutting, stitching, bonding, pattern making and final assembly is performed by hand at the family factory. Drew explains that the modern product is superior to the original mats that were made well before his family took over the operation because today's CocoMats are backed with a thick natural rubber material with nibs to secure the mats in place with no sliding around the floor or bunching of the material, a common frustration with most other brands.

Natural rubber heel pad and backing.
We’ve personally used Weathertech liners on our modern vehicles but find them to have a very contemporary and industrial look not suited to classics, but the elegance of traditional, natural fiber mats is better paired to early cars, and there is no shortage of demand for CocoMats considering the numbers of BMW, Porsche Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz drivers who place orders with regularity. Drew mentioned that in addition to coco and sisal mats in various shades and combinations, he is presently developing a checker-board pattern to match 1970’s era BMW options as well as a synthetic sisal that will offer even better durability for those in harsher climates or who use their cars as daily drivers. The most popular mat? That would be #51 Black & Red, which happens to be one of the original color combos dating back to the 1950’s.

Drew suggests that their current production breaks down to “60% vintage (pre 1980 vehicles) and about 40% new vehicles” and also that because every mat is a custom-made item, they can “literally make mats for almost any year, make and model vehicle.” 

Evidence of this can be found in recent issues of the MBCA club magazine, The Star, that features a CocoMats ad picturing floor mats fitted to a Mercedes Sprinter van. We can also see these being popular in the RV set as Sprinters take on more and more of that marketplace.

Shelves of material ready to be assembled.
When you place an order with CocoMats they will, upon request, send you a full-scale paper pattern that you can trim to fit your specific vehicle, which Drew and his family will then use to custom create a bespoke set to your exact specifications. This turned out to be more of a necessity with older vehicles because, as Drew informs, “ The hardest aspect of making floor mats for vintage vehicles is that so many of them were hand made and as such have different characteristics for each individual car's floors. This in addition to having multiple versions and sub-models within a particular chassis has made determining a specific pattern for a specific vehicle very difficult.”

Drew T. Phythian with Jay Leno at Jay's garage.
You may have seen Drew explaining the benefits and construction of CocoMats in online videos for sites such as Jay Leno’s Garage, an experience that holds special meaning to Drew. He explains, “Jay is one of the nicest and most down-to-earth individuals, let alone celebrities, that I have ever come in contact with.” He says the genesis of the appearance started when he sent a set of #51 Black & Red mats to Leno for his 1963 Porsche 356 Carrera 2 with a note asking for his input once he received the product, 2-weeks later Drew received a phone call from Leno inviting him to LA to shoot the segment. Drew says Jay “had some amazing cars there however my favorite was a silver Mercedes 300SEL 6.3” being a fan of “sleeper” cars.

The appeal of CocoMats isn’t just limited to the US as you might have guessed, but despite most of their orders coming from home, they do regularly fill orders from places scattered around the globe from The Philippines to South Africa, from Saudi Arabia to anywhere in Europe. Drew claims this is the result partly of their saturation of advertising but more importantly, “many of our customers are excited about our mats... and spread the good news throughout web based (car) forums.”

Patterns hang awaiting use.
Despite his present love and commitment to CocoMats, Drew says he initially had no hand in the company but rather worked in sales and acquisitions of exotic cars in Los Angeles, before eventually receiving a call from his brother Jeff to join the new family business in order to “bring the company to a new level of technology and expansion.”

Drew's own 300D Turbo Diesel and Mini Clubman S in background.
Drew is not a suit and tie guy who crunches numbers all day but rather a collector and enthusiast just like us, he still owns and drives his very first car, a 1984 Porsche 944 (fitted with #06 Brown & Natural CocoMats), and also enjoys his 2010 MINI Clubman S (#57 Black & Orange Dot) and his weekend project car, a 1984 Mercedes 300D Turbo Diesel (#91 Jaspe). When pressed to name his current dream car, he said he would love to add a Morgan 3-wheeler to his garage explaining that “I LOVE vintage style with modern technology and innovation.”

Color samples hang nearby for quick reference.
When not knees deep in filling orders Drew spends time exploring his other passions, IDPA Tactical 3 Gun competition shooting utilizing modern rifles and pistols and to that end he also does gunsmithing to repair and restore all types of firearms.

You can make inquiries or place a custom order for virtually any year, make or model of vehicle by visiting

Classic Motorsports' fintail with made-to-order CocoMats installed.
The Classic Motorsports fintail rally car.
All photos used with permission from

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Save the Date; 2013 Forest Grove Concours (Oregon)

The 2013 Forest Grove Concours is fast approaching and this year promises to be yet another haven for Mercedes-Benz enthusiasts with both the iconic W113 Pagoda and the Grand 600 featured on the show field. We will post more info closer to the date but in the meantime go ahead and pick up some advanced tickets and clear your calendar for Sunday July 21st!

Check out past event coverage here.

Pictured above: 1931 Duesenberg owned by Clifford Stranberg of Beaverton Oregon.
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