Archive | May, 2010

My Top Five F1 Cars, in no particular order. Number 1 – Ferrari 312T4

31 May

So this week, I’ve decided to serialise my 5 favourite Formula 1 cars of all time. I’ve loved Formula 1 for as long as I can remember, so hopefully my choices will be a fitting tribute. I won’t bother doing them chronologically, I’ll just see how I feel. I’m afraid that I can’t and won’t get too technical about these cars. If you want that you can just look it up on Wikipedia, because that’s all I would have done! I mostly just love the way they look….

So first up, it’s  Ferrari’s 312T4, raced by a partnership of Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve in the 1979 Formula 1 season. I love the lip that runs around the front of the car’s chassis and the tractor loader that was obviously lying around in the Maranello factory which they decided to screw onto the front to form a wing. It’s just such a dynamic looking thing in a slightly awkward way. And it won the 1979 Constructor’s and Driver’s Championship for the team, neither of which Ferrari would win again until the advent of a certain M. Schumacher.

Umm Porsche, have you been copying Ford’s work?

29 May

I haven’t scoured the pages of any other car magazine to find out whether anyone else has noticed this, but these two have very similar rear fascias. Peculiar.

Interestingly though, whilst looking for a picture of the Porsche, I found a picture of the Panamera’s prototype, which is much, much better looking. Behold….

My updated 20 car dream garage…..

27 May

The other day whilst at my mum’s house in Brighton, I discovered a little Carficionado relic. Back in 2004, when I’d just finished school and was taking my gap year, I went to India with a friend to work at his dad’s company, which was in Pune. Finding ourselves sidelined and feeling fairly useless, our talk turned to cars and our dream garage. My friend and I each had a 20 car garage (a mite opulent, I think) and we chose what we wanted. I mostly remember being baffled by my friend’s desire for a Bristol which, I hastily pointed out to him, looks like a Vauxhall Carlton welded onto the front of a Ford Capri. However, here’s my list along with what I would actually have now, wizened as I am.

1) Lamborghini Murciélago

Good start really, but it’s a bit large. Think Gallardo is probably a better bet.

What I’d have now: Lamborghini Gallardo

2) Ferrari 612 Scaglietti

I’ve always liked Ferrari’s GT cars. I even liked the 456. So this can stay.

What I’d have now: Ferrari 612 Scaglietti

3) Mercedes 300SL Gullwing

If ever there is a car that, in a moment of madness, I leave my girlfriend for and go and marry in Vegas, this is she. Beautiful!

What I’d have now: Mercedes 300SL Gullwing

4) Ferrari 250LM

I’ve always loved this car, ever since I saw a video of it when I was a lad. I love the way the roofline just suddenly drops off (like an 80s Toyota MR2 but….better) and the way it looks so purposeful. It is purposeful of course, what with it being a proper racing car, and all reports say that it was a bit of a pig to drive, but fantasy is fantasy so I’m sticking with it.

What I’d have now: Ferrari 250LM

5) Bugatti EB110

I don’t really know how the old EB110 worked its way in, but here it is. I suppose it would be a nice bit of curios in my collection. I personally think that the Veyron’s a bit vulgar, so the EB can live, I suppose.

What I’d have now: Bugatti EB110

6) Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic

This is such an achingly pretty car. I don’t really go in for that pre-war car bit, but there’s no arguing with this.

What I’d have now: Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic

7) Aston Martin DB9

Hmmm, I always thought that the DB9 was very beautiful. But then the Vantage came along and it just looked a little more gainly. I mean, don’t get me wrong, if a DB9 got into bed with me, I wouldn’t kick it out. I’d think it was a bit strange, but I wouldn’t kick it out. And I know one’s a GT car and one’s a sports car, but I’ve always got my 612 so….

What I’d have now: Aston Martin V8 Vantage

8)  Alfa Romeo SZ

Another oddity and one which I shall stick by. It was on a car calendar I had when I was a kid and I loved its angular lines, its cubey body and serious face. And the V6 sounds like a peach.

What I’d have now: Alfa Romeo SZ

9) Subaru Impreza WRX

Oh what a little ruffian I once was. Subaru Impreza indeed. Well, I suppose it would be fun going cross country in it, but it’s not very classy. Although this was back in the era before the Impreza looked like a Kia. Change it!

What I’d have now: Volkswagen Golf GTi

10) Land Rover Defender Tomb Raider Special Edition

Looks menacing and brilliant, but a grown man can’t go around in a “Tomb Raider Special Edition” car. I’ll just buy a black one and stick the bits on myself. Or bugger it, I’ll just get a Discovery.

What I’d have now: Land Rover Discovery 3.0 TDV6

11) Peugeot 106 GTi

Oh I am a card sometimes. This is back when I owned my 106 Quiksilver, aforementioned. But things have moved on, this car’s a bit of a relic, and so I’m afraid it has to go.

What I’d have now: Renault Clio Renaultsport

12) Ferrari Enzo

Very exclusive and very worthy, but a bit too thoroughbred. Think I’ll have that new 458 instead please, thank you.

What I’d have now: Ferrari 458

13) Porsche 911 Carrera 4S

Well, this was very generous of me considering that this was the era in which Porsches had those droopy fried egg headlights (I’m sure Porsche are very obliged to me). But the 4S did the best job of covering it up, which I suppose is why it made the grade. But there’s a new 911 now, so it’s out of here.

What I’d have now: Porsche 911 Sports Classic (so pretty!)

14) Porsche Carrera GT

This must be an amazing car to drive. The feature I like most on it, perversely, is its beechwood gear stick. Love it, although that new Porsche 918 prototype looks pretty good too. Remains to be seen….

What I’d have now: Porsche Carrera GT

15) Jaguar E-Type

Funny story. One day I was walking along, talking on the phone. All of a sudden, I saw a beautiful black E-Type coupe parked up with the owner appearing to show someone round. As I walked on, I suddenly saw that the car had obviously just been in a massive crash and the whole of the passenger-side door was crushed. I was so shocked and despairing that I walked straight into a lamppost, after which I kindly oik was decent enough to shout “Look out for that lamppost mister”. Still, in spite of its beauty, I think it’s a little gauche, so I’ll borrow one of my friend’s favourite cars as a 1960s sportscar replacement, and a very worthy one…..

What I’d have now: Ferrari 250 GT Lusso

16) BMW M3 CSL

I’ve always thought that the M3 (and BMWs in general) were the preserve of – how should I put this – small dicked tossers. Notable exceptions are: old BMW CSL, 2002 Turbo, 1980s 6 Series and a few others. The 2004 era M3 CSL was and is probably owned by tossers, but was apparently very good. So would I get the new M3 as a replacement? Yeah, why not? I might even get it in a noxious colour and make sure I only drive in the fast lane on motorways, right up behind someone’s bumper, flashing my lights at them, and then changing across 4 lanes of traffic in one go when my exit comes up. Bitter? Moi?

What I’d have now: BMW M3 in metallic lime green, or equivalent

17) Audi RS4 Avant

Well, talk about desert island cars. This is it. Space in the back, four wheel drive, 4.2 V8. What more could you want? The RS6 you say? Well perhaps, but that’s a bit uglier, and my next car’s got that covered, so I’ll be sticking with my RS4, although back in 2004, I meant the old RS4, and now I mean the new one. Well, the A4’s just been replaced, but the last RS4.

What I’d have now: Audi RS4 old new one

18) Custom made BMW 5 series Touring with M5 engine [sic]

Artist's Impression

Well blow me down. I predicted the future. Back in 2004, this dream-wagen didn’t exist, so with my imaginary millions of pounds I would have paid someone to make it for me. But now I just have to pay someone to buy their second hand M5 Touring off them. Great!

What I’d have now: BMW M5 Touring

The real thing

19) Honda S2000

Not quite sure how this made it in. For the future trophy wife? Perhaps. Because I need a cabriolet? And something small with great handling? Oh well, sorry then little Honda.

What I’d have now: Lotus Elise

20) 1980s Mercedes 280SL

My family used to have one of these in the 80s and it will soon feature in my “Cars that me or my family used to own and that I now miss” section. Yeah, I miss it, but it’s not quite as beautiful and luxurious as my now ultimate car, a 1960s 280 SL, so I’ll have that instead.

What I’d have now: 1960s Mercedes 280SL (W113) in white, automatic, with red leather seats.

Cars that me or my family used to own and I now miss #1 – My dad’s Range Rover

25 May

My dad's looked a little something like this

I still don’t really know why my Dad bought a Range Rover. I know that he was pretty moneyed up in the 80s, and he must have bought this in 1988ish. Presumably with the demands of a small family, he thought that we needed a massive 4×4. As a car mad little urchin, I wasn’t complaining. As kids we took a trip down to Cornwall in it. We stopped in the Ashdown Forest and played Pooh sticks on Pooh’s bridge and then it started to rain a crap load. I just remember the comfort of all the space as I was put into my seat in the back, the feel of the fabric on the interior, a sort of grey velor but nicer than that sounds. But most off all I remember the beautiful noise that came out of its 3.9 V8. An assured hum that let you know that you were being taken care of. Now, in this day and age, I baulk at massive petrol engines moving massive, heavy cars. BMW’s 4.8 V8 for their X5 makes me feel a bit queasy, and the Porsche Cayenne Turbo makes me actually vomit. But you’ve got to remember that in the 1990s, Sat Nav existed for the military and for people on yachts. Perhaps. My Dad’s Range Rover didn’t have electric or heated seats, there was no real computer wizardry, and consequently it weighed about half a ton less than the current Range Rover. Not an excuse, but it means I can sleep at night. Nowadays, were I to buy a big 4×4 for some reason (and I’m not in any position to do so) I would definitely buy a diesel. But thinking back to those innocent times, soundtracked by that beautiful V8 gurgle, when my main concern was trying to learn my three times table and how to spell my own name, makes me feel a bit warm and gooey inside.

If you’ve ever watched Top Gear, and I would suggest that if you’d bothered to find this blog then you probably had, you may have seen Jeremy Clarkson’s ode to the combustion engine and its presumably imminent extinction, with him talking over footage of an Aston Martin V12 Vantage scything through somewhere epic looking. Well for me, the noise that will haunt me when the combustion engine is dead and buried is still the noise of the 3.9 litre V8 of a maroon, E-reg Range Rover.

Just as an addendum, I found this video which sort of demonstrates the sound. No beating the real thing though…..

Germany invades America

24 May

Couldn't have found a much better picture, really

Volkswagen's new Passat CC.....oh wait

OK, so German cars have been sold in America for a long time. James Dean, as American as apple pie and widespread gun ownership, saw fit to pulverise himself in one of their offerings, his Porsche 550 Spyder. Herbie, a car with its own conscious mind but luckily without a desire to wipe out the human race (like his Dad, Adolf <cough>), was a VW Beetle. But recently I’ve noticed that the Germans seem to be making the cars look a bit….American-y. Take the Volkswagen Passat CC, which looks quite a lot like a 2005 Buick Lacrosse (who names cars in America, by the way?). Or the easy, unchallenging lines of the Mercedes E-Class Coupé, a car that will look much more at home in Beverly Hills than in Bavaria. The BMW X6 is almost totally American in its concept, promising to cater for the active lifestyles of upper-middle class families, which we might safely assume to be taking lil Scottie to his soccer match on a Sunday.

It seems clear to me that Germany is starting to take its American market a lot more seriously. This may have been signaled by Mercedes’ decision to build its M-Class in America in the late 90s; it was interesting that they chose to build that particular car there, what with it being a Sports Utility Vehicle which the Yankees seem to like so much. The fact is that Americans are suckers for Europe. They think anything that comes from Europe is from some mythical land of wizards and dragons and will infer that they are discerning and classy. In the people of America’s heedless pursuit to each get their own white picket fence, and then fill all available space within said white picket fence with “stuff”, having a European car is a sign to your neighbours that America’s automotive dental floss just won’t cut it for you. You need the best. You need European.

So now, ironically, I believe that the Germans have altered their design ethos to appeal to the Americans, softening the lines on their cars, making them a bit more palatable, a bit easier on the eye. Mercedes were never really that avant-garde in their design, not when compared to someone like BMW; but their current roster of cars is even Mercedes-lite, with that chintz, sparkle and matinee-idol looks that don’t ask too much of the viewer. When I think of American cars in the 90s, they were all very cool looking in a way that was too obvious to make them really good looking. The first car I ever drove, our family’s hired Plymouth Breeze (seriously, who comes up with these names), seemed strangely dynamic whilst not being dynamic at all. It was good looking, but not really. Sort of like those girls that drive minis with giant Red Bull cans attached to the back, or the girls who hold the drivers’ signs on the grid in F1.

So, is this a bad thing? Not really. I don’t give that much of a toss about large German cars. But it might be worth a thought that if Germany starts making all its cars look suitable for the American market before thinking of its homegrown European buyers, are we going to miss out on cars as visually challenging as, say, the outgoing BMW 5-series? Its replacement sets my pants on fire not a lot; let’s hope that the Germans think of the war a bit next time they’re designing a car.

So, first post. Bugatti? Ferrari? Porsche? Nope – Peugeot.

22 May

Finally, a man possessed with rage walked into the Peugeot design centre, eyes bloodshot with anger and caffeine and screamed “ENOUGH! STOP DRAWING THESE CRAP CARS AND DRAW SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL! SOMETHING PEOPLE WOULD ACTUALLY DESIRE RATHER THAN JUST END UP IN BY MISTAKE!”. And Peugeot listened to the cries of this angry man, the result being the very comely Peugeot RCZ. Originally billed as the 308 RCZ in concept form, meaning that it’s retained the sister car’s slightly gurning face, this could be the car to put Peugeot back on the right path…..or on some sort of path. See, thinking about it, Peugeot has never really had what might be called ‘Salad Days’; instead it’s had little flashes of brilliance which have been enough to warm people’s hearts and keep everyone thinking “That Peugeot lot, they’re not so bad”. Think of the 205 GTi. The 106 GTi. The beautiful, Pininfarina designed 504 Coupe. The beautiful Pininfarina-designed 406 Coupe, for that matter. But mixed into this charm and elegance is all of Peugeot’s dross. The 406. The woefully undesirable 607. The 1007.

My first car was a Peugeot 106 Quiksilver and I loved that car very much indeed. Much more than the girlfriend I was with at the time. I imagine many Europeans’ first cars have been Peugeots too. So Peugeot means a lot to a lot of people. Now by no means do I think the RCZ is going to be a world beater. But the design is good. The rear headlamps have a respectable whiff of the Merecedes SLK about them. Its profile is just long enough to pull it out of that Vauxhall Tigra, very soft coupe range (it’s more just regular soft).  It has nice alloys and two chunky exhaust pipes. The engines are a tad disappointing, with your options being one of two 1.6 petrol engines or a 2.0 diesel, but performance-wise they’ll be roughly on par with their competitors such as Mazda’s MX5 and the SLK200. Still, a cheeky little V6 wouldn’t have hurt, although in this day and age I suppose getting as much power out of a 1.6 as Peugeot are getting (0-60 in approx. 7.5), with the implications on emissions, is commendable. Well done Peugeot (V6 yeah?). Whether or not it’s a touch on the  girly side remains to be seen, and I doubt it will be a true driver’s car. Still, it’s an important step for the company in re-establishing some sort of brand allure and presence.

So, stride on Peugeot, be brave, the people are on your side, sell the RCZ in droves and stop making boring Euroboxes!