Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Embargo Breakage: 2009 Corvette ZR1 Review

Jalopnik has just posted their review of the 2009 Corvette ZR1 thanks to someone in South Florida breaking the embargo. Enjoy...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Chrysler Employee Pricing For EVERYONE; Some Conditions Apply

After Chrysler just (kinda) announced losing $515 million in the first quarter of 2008, I guess they figured they should go diving deeper into the pool of red ink around the back of HQ in Auburn Hills, MI.

I've heard through the grapevine that all Cerberus employees (at least in Canada) are now eligible for employee pricing. Also, they are allowing employees to give six (yes, SIX!) codes per year to family or friends to get the same prices on Chrysler products.

The website, available here (password 'affiliate'), was sent out to employees of Cerberus companies about a month ago in an effort for Chrysler to squeeze out some more sales in July. This comes right before they decided to not lease anymore cars.

Though Cerberus is in the business of making money, not making cars, you wonder what their decision makers are thinking when they decide to make their profit margins smaller than they already are. For instance, on the 2008 Dodge Ram Light Duty 1500 Quad Cab 4x4 SXT (I know, mouthful!) they are offering $18,806 in rebates and discounts bringing the price to $20,969.

It seems like all mouths on this three-headed dog are busy gnawing at its own last leg.

UPDATE: After a little bit of digging I've found a document to dealers outlining the program. It seems to have started January 3rd, 2008 and ends January 2nd, 2009. The best part of the letter:

Select new and unused 2006MY, 2007MY, or 2008MY Chrysler vehicles purchased or leased from participating Dealerships.

Because only Chrysler would have a 2006 'new' car on their lot. Go figure. Full letter can be seen here.

UPDATE 2: If you are wondering if you might be eligible, check the list of Cerberus companies here. Even if you don't think you are part of their investments, you may be.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Nissan Sebring? Chrysler Altima? America and Japan's Number 3s Doing The Mid-Size Tango

Chrysler is really taking this who mid-size thing seriously, at last. The Chrysler Sebring has been the automakers sore point for quite some time now. With a bad visual design and the car itself not thought out all that well, it is no surprise that they haven't been flying off the lots.

Nissan and Chrysler have made some recent partnerships with regards to small cars and full size trucks. Now, it is rumoured, that they are looking to get together on a mid-size car.

From details over at Reuters, it is thought that Nissan will produce a mid-size car for Chrysler that will be sold under the Chrysler name. It would probably be build on the same platform as the Nissan Altima, with powertrains possibly coming from either company.

Let's just hope that it doesn't look like an Altima with a Sebring grille pasted on to the front.

Andrea Pininfarina, CEO of Pininfarina, Dies In Road Accident

Though, there has been no confirmation as of yet on the Pininfarina press release page, Autocar is reporting that Pininfarina CEO, Andrea Pininfarina, was killed this morning on his way to work in Cambiano, Italy. Pininfarina was riding his Vespa scooter when struck by a car in Turin.

Pininfarina (the company) has been responsible for such cars as Ferraris, Fiats, as well as the Euro Ford Focus. The company was started in 1930 by Battista "Pinin" Farina, Andrea's grandfather.

Andrea joined the family design firm in 1983 after receiving a mechanical engineering degree. He is survived by his wife and three children.

Our condolences to his family, friends, co-workers, and admirers.

[Source: Autocar]

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Return of the Lotus Carlton?

It has been many years since Lotus built a four-door lane stormer. But, according to the oh-so-reliable Autocar, it could be a possibility.

The Lotus was based on the Vauxhall of the same name back in the early 90s. Producing 377bhp being run through a 6-speed manual, the Lotus Carlton dwarfed its Griffin badged twin.

Lotus Group CEO, Mike Kimberly, has been quoted as saying he would “like the company to build another car in the mould of the Lotus Carlton.”

Though, the Vauxhall Carlton is no more, its modern day equivalent would be the soon to be released Insignia.

Let's just hope they plan on trimming the fat 500lbs or so.

UPDATE: And then I got thinking, Lotus built this car when they were owned by GM. Vauxhall is also a GM company, so modifying one of their own vehicles fit the bill. But, now they are owned by Proton, a Malaysian automaker, with some cars only the mother of a sodomite with political aspirations could love.

So, there are only two real options out of the Proton line that could even be somewhat feasible. The first being the Proton Gen-2, which kind of looks like an MG with some sort of physical handicap:
The second option would be the Proton Impian, with "elegant styling with high quality workmanship" says the Proton website, it reminds me of a Skoda, and not in that "rugged Soviet car" kind of way:
[Source: Autocar]

Drifiting at Silverstone...in HD

The video on here is not in HD, but follow the source link below to see it in amazing clarity.

Maybe Takuma should take up a new sport.

[Source: Vimeo via Axis of Oversteer]

Because we've all been tempted...

Spied: Chevy Beat Test Mule

While it won't be coming to North America, it will be hitting the silver screen thanks to Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. The folks over at NextAutos.com have gotten their grubby little hands on some dirty pictures of the Chevy Beat that is slated to go in sale in Europe.

Powered by a 1.2-liter, 16v DOHC S-TEC II through a manual or slushbox, the Beat will bring a whole new sense of style to the small car market.

I guess since Ford will be bringing the Euro Focus to our shores in 2001, GM is looking to fill the niche of "company making desirable compacts we can't have here".

[Source: NextAutos.com]

Thinking of a colour change for your car? Don't paint it, tape it!

Most of us have bought a car and later realized that we would like it in a different colour. Though a black car is definitely classic, a white car can definitely be an eye catcher if it is the right car.

But, what if later on you want that car to have it's original paint for resale or you give your car to your girlfriend and she wants to turn it hot pink? Answer: tape it.

For about $1500 you can get special adhesive 3M tape that will cover your whole car, protect your paint, and is available in a wide variety of colours.

Now if only they came with pre-applied NOS stickers. The Honda boys would be all over it.

Slideshow of the process and finished product below.

[Source: E90Post via AutoBlog]

Spied: Pagani Zonda F

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That seems to be the motto over at Pagani. AutoExpress has snapped some photos of the new Zonda F undergoing some testing.

There are some minor tweeks here and there. For instance, the front end is receiving some aero changes in order to let in more air to the rumoured 5.5L V8 or 6.0L V12 sourced from Mercedes. Also, the headlights have been slightly revised along with the side mirrors.

If you want to get in a Zonda, be prepared to fork out $800,000 CAD. Don't have the money for that? You can always get a Feirrari instead.

More photos of the new Zonda below:

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

KERS: The Technology

Formula 1 has traditionally been a showcase of the latest and greatest technology. Carbon fiber has been commonplace in the sport now for more than a decade. Traction control has been utilized by the teams up until this year. Computerized fluid dynamics machines have been installed in the headquarters of almost all the manufacturers. Turbos were even used at one point. KERS is different - finally some leading edge technology is making it from the road to the grid.

KERS stands for Kinetic Energy Recovery System and is very simple in principle. But, as with everything implemented in Formula 1, it will be engineered within a hair of its tolerances to provide maximum performance with the least amount of weight.

Even though there has been a lot of talk about the technology as of late, many fans don't understand how it works or even what it is.

In a nutshell, KERS is a regenerative braking system that will allow the cars to recover some of the energy that was usually lost as heat and store it for later use. That later use part is the key defining property of this system; it will be used when the driver pushes a button on the steering wheel, almost like the Turbo Boost feature on Michael Knight's KITT. Though, the technology may seem like it is something out of a badly acted primetime sci-fi drama, it's for the most part already being used on everyday automobiles.

Capturing the energy is quite simple, with generators being installed in the wheels that resist turning and provide power instead. The main problem is how to store this energy and then make it available for use later on. Two of the options that are currently known are storing energy in batteries or in a flywheel.

Flywheel based KERS seems to be the lesser popular of the two options, with only Williams, Honda, and Toyota rumoured to be developing it for their cars. In the case of the flywheel, energy captured from the wheels is used to power the spinning disc to an estimated 50,000RPM. When the driver wants to use this energy, a system of clutches engages with the flywheel and sends all this extra kinetic energy through the drivetrain and into the wheels, effectively increasing the amount of power being put to the ground.

The second option, battery based KERS, is the system of choice so far. BMW is definitely committed to this option, as was evidenced last week when a mechanic touching one of the cars after a test run received a massive shock when he touched the chassis. Most of the other teams are expected to pick this type of KERS as well. The only difference between this and the flywheel type is the storage of the energy is done via battery. These batteries (along with the entire system) is thought to weigh around 25kg or more. Also, this system is what already exists on road cars today. The energy is recovered, stored in batteries, and, on the driver's command, the energy is sent to electric motors within the rear wheel hubs.

Both systems effectively have around the same performance due to FIA regulations mandating that they only be able to recover 60kW of energy from a single axle on the car and release only 400kJ of energy per lap. This equals to around an extra 80 horsepower being sent to the wheels for duration of 7 seconds per lap.

But, is this all safe? What are the ramifications of this technology? Why are they implementing it now? And how is the FIA going to keep tabs on all this? Check back throughout the week for more insight on KERS and what it means for Formula 1.

DIY Tumbler...What?

Bob Dullam is just like any other gear head. After work, he likes to retire to his garage, tinkering and fabricating, just like any other guy. And, just like the rest of us (at least when we were 13), he wants to drive the Batmobile. Well, Bob, you seem to be doing a good job with that.

In Bob's garage sits a full size, homemade, replica of the Tumbler from the new Batman movies. This piece of automotive insanity is built from scratch using only references he could find on the Internet. One of his posts estimates the cost of the build to be around $50-70k USD.

So, what is his next project? The Batpod, of course.

More pictures in the slideshow below:

[Source: SuperHeroHype via VWVortex]

Tesla: Looking To Be The Electric Edsel; Steals Ford CFO, Mazda Designer

There are times when a new start-up will try to lure talent from other companies in order to bring some experience to the table. Most of the time this is a good plan. Then, on the other hand, you have Tesla.

Slowly and surely, Tesla Motors, based in Silicon Valley, are digging themselves an early grave. In the early stages, the company was showing lots of promise. They were building a product people wanted and were willing to pay a premium for. Then, things started taking a bit more of a corporate turn.

Today, word has it that Telsa has lured over a former CFO from Ford and a designer from Mazda. What is wrong with this picture? Well, Ford hasn't made a dime in the past century or so, and even though Mazda cars do look good, they aren't really brilliant (unless you are talking about the Furai).

[Source: Jalopnik]

ESPN buys Racing-Live.com

If you are a fan of Formula 1 and are always looking for the latest tidbits of news and gossip from around the paddock, you have probably heard of F1-Live. They provide amazing day-to-day coverage of the sport, and other sites have sprung up as a result under the Racing-Live.com umbrella.

Today, Racing-Live.com announced they have been purchased by ESPN. Though no numbers were released as to how much ESPN paid for the family of sites, being that ESPN is owned by Disney, I doubt that it went for pennies.

Full PR-gasm here.

[Source: F1-Live]

Monday, August 4, 2008

KERS: The Formula 1 Green Light To The Future

With seven more races left in the 2008 season of Formula 1 most teams are starting to put all their efforts into next year. Along with the new season, as for every new season, come a new set of rules and regulations brought about by the FIA and the Technical Working Group comprised of all the teams in the paddock.

Many issues have plagued Formula 1 over the past few years, some more than others, but all equally relevant. The lack of overtaking being a key one. The level of excitement has dropped since the years when Senna and Prost battled it out turn after turn. Instead, you have cars doing almost the whole race in the lead and not much action towards the back of the field either.

The cars, due to mechanical grip being taken away when grooved tires were introduced, have relied on more downforce and the need for more wing has made the cars exponentially more complex aerodynamically. With this comes fragile aero components and a dirty 'wake' of air following the cars making drafting all but impossible.

But, the FIA, along with the Technical Working Group, have a plan to remedy this...

Enter Kinetic Energy Recovery System, or KERS, onto the playing field (or circuit in this case, I suppose) to bring the excitement back to grand prix racing while showing the general public that Formula 1 is now committed to being a greener sport than yesteryear.

Over the next week, I will be giving you an in-depth view into KERS, the technical issues that surrounds it, as well as the political benefits that it gives to the sport. Until then, enjoy this little video of a mechanic from BMW coming to a shocking grip with that KERS will be bringing to the paddock in 2008.

Rally Finland 2008: Video Recap

Though the WRC has had its ups and downs as of late, there is still no cap on the action at Rally Finland. Watch the video below for all the high flying action from the tree laden rally below.

Hungary 2008: Tribute Spelling Fail

Insert Hungarian Engrish joke here.
[Source: Gridcrasher]

New VW Golf Hits The Web

I am going to get something out of the way first. There is no way I would ever buy one of the new generations of any Volkswagen. They just aren't my thing. But...

As is per usual (at least in the world of the interwebs), new pictures have surfaced of the new VW Golf which will be bound for our shores sometime late in 2009.

The front of the car is definitely sporting some design elements of the new Scirocco, which is definitely a good thing. Go around to the rear, however, and prepare to be disappointed by a pair of taillights that look like they were nabbed off the back of a Touareg.

All in all, Volkswagen stays with its modern roots, and gives a simple, yet stylish, piece of kit. Photo gallery below:

[Source: Autoblog.nl via Jalopnik]

NASCAR: How To Beat The Good Ol' Boys At Their Own Game

This past weekend, the Nationwide Series (formally Busch Series), visited Montreal's Circuit De Gilles Villeneuve for the 23rd stop on the 2008 calendar. It's Monday, I just saw the results, and I am ashamed that I missed it.

Canada and Australia have figured out how to put a pounding on those Southern boys. For ease of understanding, I will write it out as a recipe:

Start with going to Canada
Add a few non-American drivers
Add an equal number of road course drivers
Mix in a little bit of Eastern Canada weather
Blend together on one of the toughest circuits raced on the Formula 1 calendar

Put this all together and you end up with a 1-2 for Canadian drivers Ron Fellows and Patrick Carpentier, then give the last podium position to veteran V8 Supercars driver, Aussie Marcus Ambrose.

Well done guys. Now, let's see a little but of the action in the rain in Montreal...

Freaky: Lightning Hits 91 Places At The Same Time, Places Occupied By People

Though they say that lightning doesn't strike the same place twice, it sure can pack a wallop the first time it touches ground. Especially if there are people between said lightning and ground.

At a national auto-cross championship in Norway a hill packed full of spectators was struck by lightning, with 91 people being struck and 45 people being sent to hospital.

I'd love to meet the fellow was who went around saying to the other 46 people, "So, you weren't struck by lightning as much as that guy over there. Sorry. Find your own way to the hospital."

[Source: TSN]

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Mosleygasm: Woman E Only Wanted To Blackmail Mosley, Got Mouthful Of White Male Instead

Since the whole Mosleygasm started back in March, there has been a lot of talk about who was behind the whole plot to discredit Max for his Fuhrer-styled fornication of the Third Reich. Was it Ron Dennis in an attempt to get revenge after the spy scandal? Was it Bernie trying to get Max thrown out for personal gains? No on both counts.

Actually, it was just a greedy hooker and her trench-coated covert husband just trying to make a few extra bucks.

It seems that Woman E, as she has been labeled by the press and the courts, was just a little hard up for cash and wanted to take advantage of her position. So, because of all this, Max is going to be going to court for the next year or two, wasting time, and not focusing on bigger issues.

Hungary 2008: The Flying Finn Takes The Win

So, your name is Heikki Kovalainen, and all year you have been compared to your team mate and told you were number two in the eyes of the team. How do you come back from that? Well, you just wait for the Ferrari driven by Senor Massa to blow up on the third last lap of the race and take the win like any normal Finn would do.

In all fairness, Heikki drove a pretty brilliant race. He was consistent throughout which eventually paid off. So, congrats to the young Finn on his first ever career win and his second podium finish of the year.

But, the big news of the race was the number of fires happening in the pits. Under FIA regulations, all fuel refilling hardware, nozzle and repository included, are strictly controlled in that they are not allowed to be modified by the teams in any way. The catch is there were three separate incidents of fire in the pits during the race due to the refueling rigs. All refueling hardware is made by the same company which is contracted by the FIA. So, we will have to wait and see what the FIA will do about this.

[Photo credit: Formula1.com]

Top Gear: Episodes Hit Gran Turismo TV, Gamers Rejoice

If you are a fan of Top Gear or Fifth Gear, and live on the wrong side of the pond, then you probably have heard of FinalGear. The folks over at the site everything BBC and car related are reporting that Top Gear episodes have hit Gran Turismo TV on the Playstation 3. In addition to the Top Gear test track being available in the game when it is fully released, some episodes from Season 6 of the show are now available for rent.

For more information, hit up FinalGear, and buy a shirt while you are there.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

My iRacing: Starting my first full season

At 9PM local time I get my first chance at completing a full season on iRacing. Each season lasts 12 weeks. I'm sure there are hundreds of people waiting for the first race at Lime Rock Park to start.

Right now, I am racing primarily in the Solstice Challenge. Being a rookie (which is an actual rank within the sim) I am not able to change the settings on my car. But, it also makes it a level playing field. The ranking system is quite brilliant. They take into account how clean you race when you first start. You get points for your position at the end of the race on the track, but, there is another rating which is directly related to how safe of a driver you are.

So, there is an hour and ten more minutes to wait until I start my first race of the season. Wish me luck. I will delve deeper into the sim as I get more addicted and definitely post about it over the coming weeks.

iRacing Is The New Poor Man's Track Day

When I first heard about iRacing a few years ago I thought it was going to be one of those vaporware products never destined to see the light of day. Between the time it was announced and the time people actually were able to use it was tremendous. But, it is finally here, and it is incredible.

Though not fully released there are a small number of people who have been invited to participate in the online racing league. Yours truly received an invite a few weeks back and there are another round of invites scheduled to hit inboxes Wednesday, August 6th.

I'm so addicted to this simulation so far that I just cannot leave it alone for a full day. The graphics are spectacular, the racing close, the damage very real, and the participants are very friendly and 99% of them won't give you the finger if you give them a slight nudge on Big Bend at Lime Rock Park.

Over the next couple of weeks I will run down the different features of iRacing, from the web-based console to mixing it up with the Legends at Homestead. Until then, check out www.iracing.com and read a bit more about it. I'm off to do some hot laps!

Leasing: How The Manufacturers Tried To Screw You And Screwed Themselves Instead

This week has been bad for the American automakers. Not only are they not able to sell their stale product, they are trying to do it in the middle of a credit crunch. Leases were a great way to go for some individuals given the current financial climate. But, that has now changed.

Cerberus, Chrysler's parent (including Chrysler Financial) and owner of GMAC, has announced that they will no longer be offering automobile leases as of last week. Well, hold on here, what does this actually mean?

Well, for starters, let's discuss how this came about. A lot of lending companies, after making so much money for so many years, are now seeing a high number of defaulted loans, from homes, to cars, to store credit cards and even pay day loans. There is now more risk on the lender's behalf in the current financial climate that they need to take into account.

But, in addition to that, the American companies in particular are having a hard time as their product lines are comprised of a lot of trucks and SUVs. The same trucks and SUVs that get horrible fuel economy that nobody wants anymore. End result: resale values for these large vehicles are now the worst they have ever been when compared to their original selling price.

Chrysler understands this. Their line-up of product includes some very hefty vehicles that aren't that easy on gas. So, nobody wants their vehicles. Add to that the fact that they also build some of the most horrid cars in the small- and midsize-car segment and you end up with Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep dealers with a lot of inventory and nobody to buy it. Even the used inventory isn't moving.

So, now they will attempt to make purchasing as cheap as leasing. How this turns out, we will just have to wait and see.

Hungary 2008: Hurricane Hamilton

As has been the trend as of late Lewis Hamilton placed his Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 on the pole after back-to-back wins in Britain and Germany. Alongside the Brit will be the other McLaren driven by Heikki Kovalainen.

Heikki, however, has vowed to attack his teammate. With McLaren now having the most dominant car on the grid, it should be interesting to see what happens in the first few laps. If everything is done to plan, McLaren will come home with an easy 1-2 at the Hungaroring. But, with Heikki hungry for his own success, we could have a battle on our hands.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The evolution of my automotive addiction

I have always found the first post of a new blog to be the most excruciating task. Once you get the first one down then the rest flows with amazing clarity. But, the first post sets the tone for what is to come. Like the opening to an episode of Seinfeld with Jerry giving random verbal diarrhea as foreshadowing as to what is to come, you have to make sure that everything falls into place correctly on the first post.

So, I will keep this short and sweet, as this is what I want to do with the rest of the blog. I love cars. I hope you love cars. Let's love cars and everything about them together. This addiction isn't going away anytime soon.