Dream Cars

AutomotiveBlogger.net Car Star Award for June 3rd-9th 2007

Friday, June 8th, 2007

First a disclaimer - I own a 69 Chevelle, so I have a very soft spot in my heart for them. Mine’s nowhere near the condition of this guy’s car, but it’s still the same year, make, and model. So yeah - I’m biased.

On with the show!

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There’s really not a whole lot of background info on this car. The owner/builder is a guy named Dennis Hopper. I found the car browsing around at Chevelles.com. The car is a 1969 Chevelle, and it looks to be pretty much custom from the ground up. The Chevelles.com member who posted pics of the car had a website listed, and it turns out that the entire buildup of the Chevelle is there. Go on over to the gallery and take a look at the interior on this car. Incredible craftsmanship.

This car looks remarkably similar to a Jada Toys Muscle Machine toy I have sitting directly in front of me on my desk as I’m typing this.jadachevelle.jpg

Very nice, and very deserving of this week’s AutomotiveBlogger.net’s Car Start Award.

–Will

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You will never know, dude

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

I saw an article on Ask Yahoo that made me think for a minute. Some guy named Nick from Mobile, Alabama asked what was so special about the ‘57 Chevy?

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Yahoo tried to answer Nick’s question; but you can explain that about as well as how you know you’re in love. The answer is very similar to both questions. You just know when you’re in love, and you just know a ‘57 Chevy is a special car.

Nick, if you’re out there, here’s some advice: If you’ve ever seen a ‘57 Chevy in person and didn’t get a feeling that it was more than your average commuter, please stick to your Accord, Camry, Taurus, or whatever it is you drive. You will never know, dude.

–Will

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800 HP, 25 MPG and zero fossil fuels in a 65 Impala SS

Monday, May 21st, 2007

I just saw a re-run of MTV’s Pimp My Ride. Let me tell you, I’m pretty impressed.

I used to love this show, but then I got a little tired of these guys seeing how many monitors they could fit in a car. This episode, however, was a bit different. Instead of just dubs and 20 million video monitors, there was dubs, 20 million video monitors, and an 800 horsepower engine with 1400 lb-ft of torque that gets 25 MPG in a 1965 Impala SS. This engine pushed the heavy Impala to a 0-60 time of around 3.5 seconds. That’s gol-darned fast, son.

The kicker? All this was done using zero fossil fuels.

These amazing numbers were reached by using a turbocharged Chevy Duramax diesel engine with a few standard diesel go-fast goodies backed by an Allison tranny and a Currie rear end. All this was done specifically for the Impala to use 100% biodiesel (B100) as it’s fuel. All of this was done by MTV as part of their Break the Addiction campaign for Earth Day. In addition to Xzibit, Mad Mike, and Beau; the unveiling was done by California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at Galpin Auto Sports (G.A.S.).

Check out the episodes on MTV.com, where there’s a nice drag race between the Impala and a Lamborghini Gallardo. Be sure to keep an eye on Gov. Schwarzenegger when they explain the upholstery to him.

Here’s a link to the episode (there are three videos playing in order so keep watching), and here’s a link to the Impala’s gallery at G.A.S.

Nice!
–Will

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Weekly links May 6th-12th 2007

Friday, May 11th, 2007

So I’ve officially been at this for a week now. It’s been a fun week, although a lot tougher and more time consuming than I expected. I think I’m going to start a post with a recurring theme every week.

It occurred to me that there are a lot of links out there that I visit very often, so I think I’ll start posting those up. In addition, I’m gonna post up a link to a cool car (or truck) that I’ve found trawling the internet. I’ll even give it a cheesy name. How about “AutomotiveBlogger.net’s Car Star of the Week”

Let’s get a few of the basics links every car person should know about out of the way in my first weekly links and Car Stars vehicle:

Car Domain

If you’re thinking of modifying your car and want to see how cool your car could look as well as how stupid it could possibly look, Car Domain is your destination. Users can join for free and post pictures of their cars and list modifications for everyone to see. Be aware of the extremely cheesy backgrounds on these pages. It’s very similar to MySpace, except for cars.

Ebay Motors

If you need to find a rare car or a part, Ebay Motors is your place. I once found a brand new set of center caps for some American Racing Progressive wheels that had been discontinued for a decade. This is also a great place to find cars for reference. If you can’t remember it was 67 or 68 Camaros that had the vent window (it was 67, BTW), a quick check on Ebay Motors will hook you right up.

MSN Autos

While MSN for the most part has been a dreadfully useless place on the internet, MSN Autos has been a pleasant diversion of mine for over a decade now. What drew me in back then was the 360 degree views of cars and interiors that are commonplace in all reviews now. I don’t think the site has changed much in ten years, and that’s a good thing for me. At least they finally got rid of the one reviewer who constantly complained about the inadequacies of windshield wipers on every vehicle he ever reviewed.

This category will be added to every week with pertinent or just plain fun links. If you have a link you’d like to see here, feel free to contact me or leave a comment.

On to the AutomotiveBlogger.net’s Car Star of the Week May 6th-12th, 2007 -

I’ve had a thing for this car ever since the first time I saw it a few years ago. It’s long, low, black, and way over the top. Just my kind of ride.

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The car is a 1965 Lincoln Continental owned by Ken and Brandee Leet from Hesperia, California who not only drive this 1965 Lincoln Continental everywhere, they got married in it at a Las Vegas drive through wedding chapel. That’s Brandee in the bottom pic. For more specs and lots more photos, go check out the feature at the SoCal Customs site

–Will Thompson

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For Sale: Knight Rider’s 1982 Pontiac Trans Am, K.I.T.T.

Friday, April 27th, 2007

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I recently discovered that a local consignment car company has in their show room a genuine K.I.T.T. from the Knight Rider television series. I loved Knight Rider as a kid. It was a border line obsession. But what is funny to me now is that I realize David Hasselhoff is a terrible actor and a 1982 Pontiac Trans Am is a pretty terrible car. None the less Knight Rider amazed and entertained me with a talking car that was jam-packed with gadgets it was really hard not to like the show. And now I have my chance to own the genuine artifact of my childhood affection. So what does a black 1982 Pontiac Trans Am in full K.I.T.T. regalia go for? According to Kassabian Motors it should fetch in the neighborhood of $150,000. I have to believe that if it sells for that price it might be the most expensive ‘82 Pontiac ever sold. For that matter it might be the most expensive ‘82 anything ever sold.

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Here is Kassabian’s description of the car:

**Own a piece of Television history!**

1982 Pontiac Trans Am
305 V-8 engine
2,393 original miles
This vehicle has been “Title Only” never registered for street operation.
Pontiac Historic Service (PHS) documentation
This is one of the 3 original cars Pontiac donated to Glen Larson to film the Knight Rider TV series.
It is one of only 4 surviving T-top cars from the series.
(1083, 1084, 1087, 1177) None of the 10 series cars have ever been offered for public sale. Cars 1084 & 1087 are on display in museums. One in Keswick, England and the other in Auburn, Indiana. Car #1177 has had all electronics changed by a reproduction company and does not have any of the original equipment from the series.
This car was a Picture or Hero car used in all 4 seasons of the series. In season 1&2 it was car #1083, for season 3&4 it was renumbered #1197 (Both numbers still remain on the car.)
This car has been restored to its original season 1 condition
Original dash with 2 operational TV’s. One connected to a camera in front of the car, the other connected to a DVD player with the audio speakers hidden under the nose.
Original interior fabric (very rare and not available in reproduction.)
Receivers welded to the frame for towing and shooting close up shots
Stunt brake switch operational (installed by stuntman Jack Gill for rear brake lock up.)
Electrical components will work on 12 volt battery or plug in to 110 current
Come take Michael Knight’s place behind the wheel of one of the most famous cars in history!

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Unfortunately for me K.I.T.T. is way out of my price range, and I would probably have to sleep in the car every night for the next 20 years to justify its purchase. However, I have no doubt that some dedicated and wealthy Knight Rider fanatic will cough up the necessary dough to drive home in this piece of television history. And they will no doubt be the envy of several other fathers on their street.

-Bill Mertz

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Best of Three Worlds

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

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When I checked my mail box today I was greeted by a new vehicle from Kanter Concepts called the 789. The 789 is named so because it blends key styling cues from the ‘57 Chevy Bel Air and both a ‘58 and ‘59 Chevy Impala. With C6 Corvette underpinnings the 789 is marketed as a unique and retro ride that can perform like a modern super car on the street. Performance isn’t the only thing that is of super car proportions; with a price tag of $135,000 the Kanter 789 ain’t cheap. However if you really want a blend of American nostalgia, with modern performance, and looks that will have overweight men in tank tops and mesh hats drooling then the 789 might be the perfect car for you.

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Here is the press release on the 789:
Named for the three years represented in the overall design, the 789 has the
“hooded eyes” and chrome grille bar of a ‘57 Bel Air, a mid-section and
tri-toned interior that is reminiscent of a ‘58 Impala and the “bird in
flight” rear tailfins of a ‘59. These three vehicles are all instantly
recognizable classics celebrated by people around the world.

No matter how well you restore a ‘57 Chevy or how much you update a ‘59, you
still have a 50 year old car with its outdated technology and safety
features - not to mention reliability problems. The 789 solves that with the
latest in GM engineering. Get in and go anywhere, drive 190 mph if it’s
legal, and get 25 miles per gallon cruising on the highway.

Looks? You will have picture phones galore sending photos around the world
of your one-of-a-kind ride. No two cars will have the identical paint scheme
or colors, and with over 10,000 interior combinations you will never be
parked next to yourself at the country club or cruise-in. Recently we
attended a very fancy cruise in and there were two Ford GT’s near each
other, both grey, white stripe/black interior. Needless to say, all eyes
were on the 789.

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Kanter Concepts is the designer of the 789 and they do it the old fashioned
way. The design team sketches by hand and the clay modelers do it by hand
also, that’s the only way to get sensuous curves and sexy features.
Computers? Sure we use them, each staff member has the most complex computer
known to mankind - the human brain. Want a cookie cutter car? The same
computers that design cars can run a cookie factory.

The price of a turnkey 789 is $135,000, well equipped with all Corvettes
standard equipment including the 400 horsepower aluminum block V8 engine. In
addition, each car includes a custom Borla exhaust system, PST high
performance anti-sway bars and a $2,000 wheel/tire upgrade allowance. Any
upgrade or modification can be done to your car at additional cost, from
turbocharging to ceramic brakes and from a 1000 watt stereo to ostrich
leather interior. Our only limit is your imagination.

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The exterior of your car is what the world sees just like the outside of
your home . But you spend most of your time enjoying your home and car from
the inside. The first Impala model was the 1958, it was top of the line and
only available in two door convertible and coupe. In the years following it
was the name of a model series of sedans, coupes and wagons . Purists
consider the ‘58 as the only true Impala.

Each 789 interior is based on the donor C6 Corvette and is tri- toned as
standard equipment, just like the ‘58 Impala that inspired it. You have the
choice of virtually any available commercial fabric or leather combination
at no extra cost. Ostrich grain, alligator, rattan, brocade, or perforated
leather. Bring us your thoughts or samples and we’ll turn it into reality.

At extra cost anything is available, solid silver dash surrounds, hand
tooled leather seats, panels accessories. Sound system upgrades, door panels
that glow in different colors in sync with the music, racing seats with your
name or crest embroidered on them.

Our design staff will be glad to consult with you and prepare renderings to
build your car or we can work with your own design or that of a designer of
your choice.

Remember, “no two alike” refers to interiors also. For sure you’ll never get
into the wrong car at Burger King or the Neiman Marcus parking lot.

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Cars like the 789 have me a bit conflicted. While I appreciate the effort of building a unique creation and the skill it took to actually put the thing together the end result is still a C6 Corvette with a new body on top. And while the body work is quite stunning, it still doesn’t seem as cool as an original ‘57, ‘58 or ‘59 Chevrolet. While this is an undeniably cool ride I’ll still take the genuine historic car over the faux nostalgia any day.

-Bill Mertz

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12.9-litre V8 Cobra: Fastest Production Car?

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

I have to thank a fellow writer, Meg from http://angelinajoliewatch.com, for sending me the link to a story about an amazing Cobra. While this news is slightly old, it is the first I had heard of the car, and I must say it is quite impressive.
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When the AC Cobra burst onto the scene in the mid-1960s it was considered a rocket ship. Even by today’s standards the small lightweight V8 powered AC Cobra was an outstanding performer. But going fast is an addiction and it didn’t take long before the Cobra was sporting a new big block motor with even more performance. Shelby even went so far as to build two twin-supercharged Supersnake Cobras that reported 800 horsepower with 0-60 times coming in under 4 seconds. With no practical way to use this much speed and power on public roads you would think that urge to build a faster street legal Cobra would be non-existent, but a German car company specializing in reproduction Cobras decided they wanted to build the king of all Cobras.

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12.9 liters

The company is called Weineck Cobra, and the vehicle in question is the spectacularly outrageous and borderline pointless Weineck Cobra 780CUI Limited Edition. What makes this car so ridiculous is its 780 cubic inch V8 that develops a mammoth 1100 horsepower at 7000 rpm. That is like bolting two Corvette Z06 motors together and spotting them 100 horses. Even more impressive is the Earth rotation altering 1300 lb-ft of torque. Weineck has not given an official quote for 0-60 mph times (0-100 km/h) but that is only because they had bigger fish to fry. In testing the Weineck Cobra was able to accelerate from 0-125 mph (0-200 km/h) in only 4.9 seconds and can rush to 185 mph (300 km/h) in 10 seconds flat! I guess those times shouldn’t be too surprising considering the Cobra is only pushing around 2 lbs for every horsepower it develops.

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Weineck spokesmen beamed about the car in a way that only a Germans could, “Words cannot describe what will happen if you want to experience the full potential of this ULTIMATE driving machine. There is just no comparison with anything ever built to be used on the road!!!
What happens above 5000rpm is too much for human vocabulary. It’s more like Sol 5 on Starship Enterprise! You feel like being in a time machine with corners approaching so fast that you just won’t believe it. From now on, your brain and body have to work at maximum speed. Otherwise it is better not to enter this world…”

Of course the Weineck Cobra is built to take all the abuse that the 12.9 liter V8 can dish out. Built using top of the line materials the Cobra sports a thick tubular steel frame, reinforced carbon composite body panels and an advanced variable-rate independent suspension utilizing lightweight aluminum and titanium components. Helping to put the power to the ground is a specially built 4 speed gearbox, 75% lockup limited slip differential and massive 315/35 ZR rear tires mounted on 18-inch rims. The Weineck also utilizes a host of safety devices including stability control, traction control and ABS; and while I’m sure these added safety measures help I have a hard time believing that they will nullify the tremendous danger that this lightweight rocket presents on public roads.

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Unfortunately for you speed demons and fortunately for you road safety lobbyist Weineck is only producing 15 of these vehicles, a number which will certainly inflate their price. So if you hope to drive one of the worlds fastest road legal machines you can expect to cough up a pretty penny.

-Bill Mertz

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Microbus’n!

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

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The creator of the 24 Hours of Lemons recently purchased a VW Microbus for $800 dollars. The bus, a ‘73 I believe, is part of an ingenious penalty devised by the creator to make life miserable on the track for drivers who aren’t obeying the track rules. I could say more but I don’t want to ruin the surprise. However, the race is still months away and in the mean time the bus is just sitting out in front of a seedy looking warehouse.

Having never driven a VW Microbus I had to jump at the chance to take this thing for a spin. After all, despite its horrible-bordering-on-dangerous tires, the bus was registered and reportedly ran fine. To make things even more interesting I had just participated in a photo shoot for my editor’s neighbor who is a professional photographer. At the shoot I met young guy from Germany who was interning over here in the States. He also had a strong interest in type 2 Microbuses. Some times things fall into place in an astonishing way. After the photo Sebastian, my new German friend, and I grabbed the keys to the Microbus, fired it up and headed onto the dangerous public streets.

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I think it is safe to say the VW bus is the slowest licensed vehicle I have ever driven. Combine that with vague shift linkage and I quickly figured out that I needed to let any car behind me pass. Shifting this thing was like rolling dice, about 25% of the time you hit the gear you wanted, the rest of the time it wouldn’t engage, you got the wrong gear or you heard a terrible grinding noise. Even if you did manage to steadily up shift through the first 3 gears, 30 mph hour was about all it wanted to do, unable to push to 35 MPH as if it were the speed of sound.

Performance aside, and it should be well aside because this is a VW Microbus, the bus is a total hoot. The steering wheel is nearly horizontal to the ground giving it a genuine bus like feel, and the driver sits so far forward that the when you turn it gives you the impression that you are hanging off the bow a ship. This particular bus was well used, with no upholstery and a giant rust hole on the driver’s side floor, but the Spartan German interior still had a bit of charm left.

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The actual $800 Microbus

The best part of the whole trip was when I turned the controls over to Sebastian and let him drive. The 21 year old German was so ecstatic to drive this piece of junk that he didn’t stop smiling even when we sat for an entire traffic light cycle trying to get the bus into first gear. He told me that busses were fetching a high price in Germany and how he was thinking about trying to bring one back from the US. We must have made quite a site driving around the streets of the east bay, two tall, skinny, blonde guys in a Microbus. The fact that I have a lot of German ancestry, and the fact that I got to share my first Microbus drive with a genuine German Microbus enthusiast made the whole event a really cool affair. I have to admit, as terrible and slow as the Microbus performs, it really is a cool little bus.

-Bill Mertz

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Awesome Soccer Mom Vehices

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

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X5 Le Mans

Today a good friend of mine sent me two great video clips, both involving incredibly fast soccer mom type rides, a BMW X5 and a Renault Espace. We didn’t get the Espace here in the US, but let me assure you that this little minivan is a total mom-mobile.

Let’s start with the BMW. The first video is in German, so frankly I don’t know what’s going on. But what I did make out with my broken Deutsche is that we are looking at a special BMW X5 Le Mans which sedan racing legend Hans Stuck has generously agreed to thrash around for our benefit. This X5 is clearly far from stock, as you can tell by the throaty and aggressive exhaust note. Under the hood lies a mammoth 6.0 liter twelve cylinder engine (the same engine which won Le Mans for BMW in 1995) that puts out a remarkable 700 horsepower and 531 lbs-ft of torque. This is enough grunt to push the crossover SUV from 0-60 mph in less than five seconds with a top speed approaching 180 mph. More than enough performance to tote the kids around don’t you think? So what does this behemoth look like in the hands of racing hero?

While the X5 Le Mans is wild, it looks like a librarian next to the Renault Espace F1. This bizarre creation was born in mid-1990 in order to celebrate the 10 year partnership between Renault and Matra. To build the car Matra took the drive train directly out of their 1994 Championship winning Williams/Renault Formula One car. The 820 hp 3.5 liter V10 and sequential gearbox were mounted mid-ship inside a modified Renault Espace minivan. The stock Espace had its floor pans cut out to accept a new carbon body structure containing the high-tech driveline. The minivan also received updated brakes, automatic attitude control and a special aero package to keep it from flying off the road. The result was a shocking vehicle that was stupid-fast, looked weird and cost a lot of money. Who wouldn’t want one?

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Stock Renault Espace and the Espace F1

The Espace F1’s stats are impressive. With a top speed of nearly 190 mph this Renault can accelerate from 0-60 in under 2.8 seconds. It can run from 0 to 167 back down to 0 in only 1,968 feet (not much more than a quarter mile) and it can pull up to 2g in cornering. Oh and there are four bucket seats and plenty of room for luggage. But on-paper performance does not do this special vehicle justice. Take a look (and listen) at the Espace F1 on the track:

This is the caption I received with the clip:
Short documentary about the Renault Espace F1 broadcasted in 1995 on French channel M6. Quick summary of what the narrator says:

* In one day the Espace F1 will do its maiden lap and also last lap ever
* Renault Sport, Williams and Matra all worked on this prototype with the help of F1 pilots Alain Prost and Eric Bernard
* Renault Engine 3.5l V10 800 hp 14000RPM
* Consumption is 60 liters / 100km
* Cost per kilometer is 300 times more than a regular Renault Espace

Alain Prost at the end declares: “I always wanted to bring with me in a two-seater Formula 1 some journalists, specially the ones I don’t like.”

Good stuff.

-Bill Mertz

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A Practical Flying Car: Can It Be Done?

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

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The idea of building a car that can fly is not a new one (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang). In fact it has been done many times before. However the out come is usually some bulky inefficient creation that is equally horrible at flying and driving. The flying Pinto, which crashed on its maiden voyage, comes to mind. However, if you could make a flying car that flies well, drives well, doesn’t slurp fuel at an alarming rate and is affordable, then you would have something amazing on your hands.

John Bakker, a Dutch visionary and entrepreneur thinks he has created that perfect flying vehicle. Working in conjunction with groups like the Dutch Aerospace Laboratory, Bakker has spent years developing his flying car concept which he calls the PAL-V (Personal Air Land Vehicle). Realistically the PAL-V is years from coming to market, but Bakker has high hopes that when it does it will revolutionize transportation, providing safe and fast transit through countries with underdeveloped infrastructure and helping with problems like traffic congestion in overly developed countries.

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Utilizing the space between the ground and the 4000 foot floor for commercial air space the PAL-V will be able to fly at low altitude, which according to Bakker is the last unclaimed space. When on the ground the sleek three wheeled vehicle is said to be as comfortable as a luxury car and as nimble as a motorcycle, thanks in part to a unique system which allows the PAL-V to lean over as it turns. With the propeller neatly folded and hidden away it isn’t bulky like flying cars of the past. And with power coming from a highly efficient environmentally certified car engine the PAL-V has the potential to be both economic and green friendly. The motor can uses multiple fuels including standard petrol, bio-diesel and bio-ethanol.

Bakker is currently in the process of building the first working prototype to demonstrate that the technology is safe, affordable, and just feasible. He is looking for additional investors to speed the PAL-V’s march to production. Any takers?

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I really like this concept, except that when I imagine a world full of affordable flying cars I can’t help but think of how many people are terrible drivers and still take to the roads. Imagine the damage that those same people could do in flying cars. What a nightmare. No doubt there will be numerous government regulations and a strict licensing process before you could legally own and fly one of these things, which would help calm some of my fears. But it seems like road rage and stupid driving would be much worse in the skies.

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In America it’s Chitty Chitty Bling Bling, out here it’s Chitty Chitty Bling Bang!

-Bill Mertz

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New Deronda Sports Car Coming to the States

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

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My first thought when seeing the Deronda sports car was that it looked like a mid-engine modern day Lotus Seven. In fact that description really isn’t a bad one. The car is a bare bones lightweight design, with a small but powerful four cylinder engine giving it excellent power to weight, advanced four wheel independent suspension, and looks that are more about function than style.

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This week the Deronda is making its US debut in Sebring, Florida. Coming from across the pond in England the Deronda is being produced and sold in the US by Autosport Development in Trenton, Michigan. The company will only be assembling a limited number of these road legal race cars with a price of around $70,000.

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The make up of the Deronda is quite impressive. A steel tubular space frame is at the center of it all with double side impact bars, a front crash structure and rear crash bars. For safety the car has double longitudinally braced rollover hoops, a foam filled gas tank, an external master cutoff switch, and an onboard fire suppression system. Suspension duties are handled by a double wishbone suspension that sports fully adjustable Ohlin springs and dampers. Power for the car comes from an Audi sourced 1.8 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine that delivers 250 brake horsepower and 300 pound feet of torque. The Deronda also comes with massive brakes, light weight wheels, performance tires and a fully adjustable pedal box to help tailor the car the specific needs of different sized customers.

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Weighing at only 1600 pounds the Deronda can scorch the tires and reach 60 mph in less than four seconds. Add to that the nimble handling and quick direction changes that only come with a sub-2000 pound car and you have one amazing package. Like the Lotus Seven the Deronda shines because of its lightweight minimalist approach. Even though it is light-years ahead of the Seven in terms of performance, how it delivers the performance is much the same. I look forward to seeing one of these on the road or track, and hopefully it will be dusting a car with twice the power and weight.

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-Bill Mertz

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New From Geneva: Spyker C12 Zagato

Monday, March 12th, 2007

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This year marked the 77th passing of the Geneva International Motor Show. For the last several years Spyker Cars of Holland has used this as a platform to unveil some magnificent vehicles. Upholding this tradition, Spyker pulled the curtains off of a new Zagato bodied C12. The stunning Dutch car is powered by a 6 liter 500 horsepower W12 sourced from Volkswagen. With the addition of a supercharger this figure can be easily, if not expensively, bumped up to 650 horsepower. The standard 500 horse motor is powerful enough to propel the 3086 pound super car to 60 mph in only 3.8 seconds with a top speed approaching 200 miles per hour.

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Rumor has it that this car is a bit piggish in the handling department. This is probably of little concern to the 24 customers who will get to drive this limited production vehicle, as it is much more rolling art than it is a race car. However if I was going to shell out 495,000 Euros before tax (that’s $649,341 for all of us Yanks) I would hope that the car could out corner most of the vehicles on the road. It would be pretty embarrassing to have a Honda Fit or a Toyota Tundra chase you down on a windy road in this thing.

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Aesthetically the C12 Zagato pulls many styling cues from Spyker’s 2007 Formula One car, with air inlets, diffusers, ducts and small winglets shooting off in all directions. Certainly not an understated vehicle the C12 is still handsome in its all aluminum Zagato coachwork. In the past Zagato had a reputation for building lightweight and rounded bodies with questionable fit and finish. The C12 however looks taught and fast with few of Zagato’s signature design features. With a jet fighter appearance the C12 Zagato looks as unique as it is rare. There will undoubtedly be a couple of these cruising the streets of Monaco in the upcoming year.
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The Alfa Romeo Sprint Zagato has classic Zagato lines.

-Bill Mertz

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Badonkadonk

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

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Nope, I’m not talking about a girls backside, I’m referring to the JL421 Badonkadonk Land Cruiser/Tank that was spotted for sale on Amazon.com. Actually I have to give some props to my little sis’ for putting me on the trail of this amazing vehicle. I’ve read the ad over several times and I still don’t know if it is a joke or legit.

Here are the features as listed:
- Carries cargo or a crew of up to five internally or on the roof.
- Piloted from within the armored shell or from an exposed standing position through the hatch.
- 6hp Tecumseh gasoline engine, top speed 40 mph.
- Includes head/tail and turn signal lights, trim and under body lighting.
- 400 watt premium sound with PA system, plush interior, and external camera.


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And here is the text description:
The JL421 Badonkadonk is a completely unique, extremely rare land vehicle and battle tank. Designed with versatility in mind, the Donk can transport cargo or a crew of five internally or on the roof, and can be piloted from within the armored shell or from an exposed standing position through the hatch, thanks to special one-way steel mesh armor windows and a control stick that pivots up and down to allow piloting from the standing or seated positions. The interior is fully carpeted and cozy, with accent lighting and room for up to five people. A 400 watt premium sound system with PA is mounted to project sound both into the cabin and outward from behind the windows. The exterior is a steel shell with a rust patina, and features head and tail lights, turn signal lights, trim lighting, underbody lighting, fixed slats protecting the windows, and a unique industrial-strength rubberized flexible skirt that shields and protects the wheels to within an inch of the ground, while still allowing for enough flex to give clearance over bumpy and uneven terrain. Master power, ignition, all lighting, and stereo features are controlled from a single switchboard to the left of the driver, again accessible from either the seated or standing position. Standard drive is an air-cooled, 6hp Tecumseh gasoline (unleaded only) engine, with centrifugal clutch, giving the Donk a top speed of 40 mph. This vehicle is not licensed for use on public roads, and is intended as a recreational vehicle only. Badonkadonks are produced on an order-by-order basis, with each one having its own unique set of features. With your order is included unlimited consultations with the designer and manufacturer concerning all relevant options (a representative from NAO will contact you shortly after your order). Price does not include shipping and handling.

After reading the description I kept thinking this thing was for real. Even though I have my doubts about a 6 horsepower motor propelling an 1100 pound vehicle plus driver up to 40 mph, the rest is quite believable. But after reading some of the product reviews it was hard to take the Donk seriously.

Here are a couple samples:
It shouldn’t come as a shock that NAO Design is shutting down one of the two production lines in their leased, 2,500 square-foot space in an abandoned movie theater; the Badonkadonk is a lemon. Despite NAO’s claim that “The Badonkadonk can plow mercilessly through 4 feet of solid concrete while it’s owner-friendly construction shields the driver from excessive cabin noise,” I got a sofa stuck in the wheels while trying to ram through my neighbor’s living room to steal some Twinkies. And I couldn’t hear my Celine Dion for the life of me.

That was just the first-day’s problems. On day two I realized the Badonkadonk’s advertised “Comfort Zone, Climate Control” is nothing more than 6-inch slits covered with impenetrable safety glass. Try dealing with that on a thirty-minute trip to the pediatrician to treat your 3-year-old’s atrocious gas. My eyelashes nearly melted off (although, truth be told, the trip would have taken over an hour if the Badonkadonk wasn’t bashing through morning traffic).
On a positive note, the brown/rust/oxidation finish is as luxurious in person as in the photos.

donk3.jpg
Have you ever wanted to be the dictator of an obscure country whose name you can’t pronounce, only to realize you don’t have the appropriate armaments in your suburban garage to give you that tactical advantage? Let’s face it: installing that leaf blower and shop vac in the wife’s SUV just isn’t going to get the job done and will probably only lead to ridicule.
Now, thanks to the good people at NAO Design, you have access to a device that can make your third-world conquests a reality. Granted, the Donk won’t go head-to-head with a modern Abrams M1A2 fitted with the Urban Survival Kit upgrade, but in field tests against Russian-made T-72s, it performed admirably. Survivability was significantly improved with the installation of depleted uranium armor in key areas. The addition of a German-designed Rheinmetall AG 120 mm smoothbore gun made it possible to take out adversaries from nearly 4000 meters away.

Pros: The stock 6HP Tecumseh engine and drive train can be retrofitted fairly easily with an electric motor drive system powered by a surplus Russian-built Strontium-90 Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG). That change out pushed the top speed of my Donk to over 92 MPH (though I did also have to upgrade to “R” speed rated all-season tires). Plus, with a half-life of 28.8 years, I’ll be ready for a new cruiser by the time the fuel is no longer viable.
The soundtrack to Top Gun totally rocks on the 400 watt sound system as I charge into battle! Sometimes I also like to play it on the external PA system to confuse and disorient the enemy.
Cons: Cup holders are too small for the 64oz mega-size slurpees I like to take into combat zones. No trip odometer. A digital dashboard display for the outside temperature would be nice, as would dual-zone climate control. Oh, and the glove box is too small for my gas mask.

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According to Amazon there are only two more Badonkadonks left in stock. So grab that $20,000 that you have stuffed under the sofa and go buy your very own fully customized Donk.

-Bill Mertz

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Tornado Chasers

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

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Early TIV prototype

Do a Google Search for “tornado chasers” and you will find there is a large and crazy following of people who love to chase tornados. While I have always admired the amazing power of mother nature, I haven’t wanted to get anywhere near a tornado since I saw the Wizard of Oz when I was young. This fear of tornados was heightened further when I drove cross-country with some friends in 2000. We pulled off at a gas station in Bloomington Illinois to get info on a huge storm that had just blown in. Within 5 minutes word came over the radio that a tornado had touched down less than a mile from the station. It was a pretty frightening and helpless feeling for a guy from the west coast. But believe it or not there are people that actually look for these tornado touch-downs, and try to get even closer to them.

In order to chase a tornado you need the proper vehicle; something that is relatively quick but can also take a beating. My first choice would be an Abrams tank or Bradley attack vehicle, followed closely by a heavily armored Humvee. But many tornado chasers drive remarkably average vehicles: everything from big American sedans to flat bed trucks with Doppler radar mounted on the back called DOW’s (Doppler on wheels).

tiv-1.jpg
Before turret

The coolest tornado chase vehicle I found was custom built for an IMAX documentary about tornados. The vehicle is called the TIV (Tornado Intercept Vehicle) and is built to drive extremely close to a tornado and possibly even survive a direct hit while filming all the action.

Based on a Ford F450 truck platform the TIV was built over a period of 3 months using a unique design that incorporates strength, visibility, and speed. While this 14,000 pound whale doesn’t look fast it is said to have a top speed of 90mph, an extremely impressive mark that clearly shows why they chose to build the TIV over a real military tank. The frame of this chase vehicle is made of 1/4″ steel tubes and I-beams with 1/4″ plate steel floors and 1/8″ steel plate providing the skin for the skeleton. To keep the wheels and tires protected 1/8″ steel covers were mounted on hinges to give access when necessary. The four doors on the TIV are also thick plate steel and lock solidly closed with massive steel bolts.

tiv-2.jpg
After turret

Half inch thick Lexan resin, an extremely strong plastic, was used for the side windows. Up front a hybrid of scratch-resistant tempered glass and Lexan laminate give the windshield the combination of strength and excellent visibility. To make the TIV extra camera friendly a military style turret was added to the roof, giving cinematographers 360 degree access to the weather outside. One of the coolest features of this tornado tank is a set massive steel plates that can be lowered all the way to the ground. These plates prevent the wind from getting under the vehicle and drastically reduce the chances that it will be lifted skyward if the vehicle takes a direct hit from a tornado. Inside the TIV is like a heavily armored weather station on wheels. The high-tech weather diagnostic equipment gives the occupants all the information they need for storm chasing.

tiv-3.JPG
TIV next to two DOV trucks

While the TIV is still in the prototype phase, the builders have high-hopes for its ability to gather amazing footage of tornados. Eventually this footage will be used for the IMAX documentary “Tornado Alley”. As of yet they have no plans to mass produce this thing, but just think what they neighbors would think if you had one of these in your driveway.

-Bill Mertz

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Incredible Barn Find in Portugal

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

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Every car nut dreams of discovering some valuable automotive relic tucked away and well preserved in an old dusty barn. Unfortunately barn finds are almost non-existent these days. Back in the 80’s (not that I remember much) it seems like people were pulling vintage Ferrari’s out of old garages and barns left and right, but now most of the discoveries have already been made. All the BMW 2002 turbos and Porsche 356’s seem to have been plucked from their hiding places and barn finds have become more legend than reality.

Recently some pictures surfaced of an amazing cache of vehicles tucked away in a locked stone building (read barn) on remote farm in the Portuguese countryside. I’m not going to pretend that I know the facts, but the rumors are probably better than the facts in this case:

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Imagine that you have decided to move out to the country. You found a lovely farm house on a large plot of land in a remote area of beautiful Portugal. The house and land have been vacant for well over a decade as is evident by the overgrowth and the houses state of disrepair. As you are wandering the grounds of your new estate you come across a massive stone barn with a padlock on the door. An angle grinder makes quick work of the old rusty lock and you slide open the giant door. The sun shines in, its light filtering through the clouds of dust that haven’t been disturbed in twenty years. As the air begins to clear you make out the tops of what appears to be dozens of vintage cars. You quickly turn on a flashlight and shine it in all directions. You aren’t dreaming; hiding under a thick layer of dust are more than 50 vintage vehicles of all makes and conditions. Porsche, Lotus, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Mercedes, DKW, MG, Austin are only a few of the badges that catch your eye. This treasure trove of well-preserved vintage cars is probably worth well over a million dollars. It’s too much, the hot musty air gets to thick to breath and you lose consciousness.

How much of this story is true I don’t know, but I do know that the part about Portugal and the awesome stash of vintage cars is true and that’s good enough for me.

Here are a few more pics from the find:
barn3.jpgbarn4.jpgbarn5.jpg

Check out the rest of the stash here: Barn Find

-Bill Mertz

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About Automotive Blogger

Some people use their automobiles only to get from Point A to Point B. You know there's more than that. You get mad when someone makes a remark about your car that's less than flattering. You get riled when a cool car is destroyed in a straight-to-video movie. You realize when a new car doesn't deserve it's name of a great car of the past. When you see someone driving a boring vehicle, you feel sorry for them. You know it's not the destination that counts - it's the journey. Welcome home gearheads. Welcome home, car freaks. Welcome to the site that fuels your automotive obsession - AutomotiveBlogger.net

Automotive Blogger Author(s)
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