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Not so fast, Jamie Oliver!

18 Oct

Mr Oliver behind the wheel of his "Porsche-powered" camper

A few weeks ago, I was hanging out at a noted Porsche specialist in Essex, as I am wont to do from time to time. Around me were 993 Turbos and beautiful 1970s 911s with Fuchs wheels and a couple of “future classic” 996 GT3s. However, taking pride of place in the garage was a beautiful, blue split-sceen VW camper, or as it’s known more informally in Germany, Kombinationskraftwagen, which was being renovated for a customer. I remarked to the salesman that it looked similar to the one owned by local Essex celebrity chef and all-round pukka geezer Jamie Oliver – in fact, I thought it might have been his. It wasn’t, as it turned out.

However, I also remarked, thinking that it would impress said salesman, that I happened to know that Mr Oliver had dropped a 3.6 litre Porsche engine into the back of his camper, as he proudly announced on Top Gear a few years ago. This, however, drew a wry look from our salesman. It transpired that a friend of the salesman had been responsible for doing up Mr Oliver’s camper originally, and had put in the common engine upgrade that camper drivers tend to get, that being a modified 2.1 litre Volkswagen engine. However, the engine put into this particular camper had a Porsche fan on it which, according to our nice salesman, had led Mr Oliver to believe that he had in fact put an entire Porsche engine into his camper.

True or false? I don’t know, but I will say that the salesman seemed a very pleasant and honest chap who knew his Porsches, and especially those in the Essex area. If it is true, it seems that the Naked Chef’s motor may not be quite as nippy as he would like to think.

BMW Unleash New 3 Series

17 Oct

New 3 Series

BMW unveiled their new 3 Series at a special event in Munich last Friday. And it’s a bit of a cracker. Obviously the unveiled car was red because, as previously mentioned in this blog, our Teutonic friends sometimes drop the ball on matters of taste (incidentally, I can count on the fingers of one hand German cars that look good in postbox red – but perhaps that’s a blog for another day). But the car itself looks great. For me, the most interesting aspect of the new 3 Series is that it points to the future direction of BMW’s design language, joining the dots between the current range and the rather fabulous i8, a petrol-hybrid produced by BMW’s cannily named sub-brand Project i, which is scheduled for release in 2013.

The forthcoming i8. Note the similarities

And, having personally been disappointed by the styling of the new 5 Series (which hasn’t grown on me at all) it’s nice to see BMW being a little bit edgier with its styling. Well, at least with the front fascia. See the way the lights blend into the front grille? Very i8. Admittedly the rest of the car looks like a smaller 5 Series, but at least it has a handsome face.

5 Series. Yawn.

The car will be powered by the usual array of BMW engines, with the 320d looking likely to be the volume seller in Europe, as it was with the previous-gen model. Will there be an M3, I hear you cry? Yes, probably. But ecological conditions being what they are, BMW won’t be shouting about that at this stage, preferring instead to talk about the EfficientDynamics options on offer for the car, such as brake energy recuperation and oil and water pumps that only operate when required.

What will it be like to drive? Well, doubtless it will be like most BMWs, that is, very very good. You’ll just have to wait and see if they let old Carficionado have a go in it (advice: don’t hold your breath).

So what do you, dear Readers, think of the new 3 Series? Carficionado appreciates any comments!

Oh, and as for the aforementioned i8 (and its baby sibling the i3), I’ll be bringing you an exclusive interview that I conducted with Uli Kranz, direction of Project i, in the coming days….

This is the 335i model. Check the twin exhausts

Cabin is set back to emphasise RWD. Presumably.

Audi uses its Teutonic technical tools to create RS3

22 Nov


Audi have unveiled their new RS3. And it looks pretty good, in the rather staid way that all Audis these days look pretty good. But its figures are faintly staggering. I was in the pub at the weekend watching Tottenham vs Arsenal and there was a man at the bar whose scarf I would have quite willingly used to throttle him. And this man kept going on and bloody on about how he wasn’t a stat man but if you look at Peter Crouch’s scoring record for England blah blah blah. Now, I’m not a stat man, but if you look at the Audi RS3’s….well, stats, they beggar belief. To-whit…..

Price – £40,000

0-60 – 4.6 seconds

BHP – 335

OK, this is very nice. But not trouser immolating.

This makes it faster than a BMW M3, itself a very fast car. It puts the little Audi in amongst supercar territory. But I can’t help thinking that I’d rather have something with a bit more joie de vivre. I mean, we’re talking £40,000 for a start, not to mention high insurance. Have a look on and see what you can get for £40,000 – a most enjoyable, saliva-inducing game by the way. A £39,000 blue Ferrari 355 with 40,000 miles on the clock, which leaves you a grand to spend on a Ferrari bicycle, or skis or whatever crap they’re pedaling (arf) to their customers these days. A 45,000 mile Aston Martin DB9. Why not buy a brace (brace mind) of Volkswagen Phaetons? What about a 1959 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud? Now of course, all this is a bit silly. For a start, those cars aren’t new, and thus miss out on warranties and all the appeals that having a new car brings. And frankly, people in the market for an Audi RS3 probably aren’t in the market for Rolls Royce Silver Cloud. But even its competitors seem more interesting than it. I walked passed a Focus RS on the South Bank the other day, and I felt a tremor of vaguely homo-erotic excitement at its muscular haunches and implied potency. And even I, basher of Bimmers, fancy the similarly priced, similarly powered 1 Series M Coupe more than this. But, at the end of the day, there’s little doubt that the Audi will be very good. I just hope that a bit of Lamborghini spirit has drifted through the Volkswagen-Audi group and seeped into it.

Neat and tidy.

Shoya Tomizawa

7 Sep

Just a sombre post today, to make everyone aware of the death of Shoya Tomizawa over the weekend. The 19 year-old was killed in the Moto2 support race at San Marino. Scott Redding, the young British rider who hit Tomizawa after the Japanese rider crashed in front of him, was said to be severely traumatised. Valentino Rossi, who rode in the main race and was later informed of Tomizawa’s death, said afterwards: “Shoya was very funny, always smiling and always had nice things to say to everyone. He was young with a great career ahead of him. We are all so sad.” Eskil Suter, the chief executive of Suter racing, Tomizawa’s team, said in a statement yesterday: “Shoya was more than a friend. He was like a family member. He was loved by everybody in the paddock and I am terribly sorry for his family and his team who suffered this tragic loss.”

Shoya Tomizawa 1990 - 2010

Stig! Revealed! Mayhem!

3 Sep

So anyone with an interest in cars probably has an interest in Top Gear and thus probably knows that the Stig has outed himself.  This has led to a bit of a media furore, after Ben Collins and his publisher HarperCollins (no relation), which is ultimately owned by Rupert Murdoch by the by, won the right to disclose his identity as the Stig. This victory, his publisher said, was “a victory for freedom of speech.” Oh yeah, it’s right up there in historical moments with the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door.

All in all, it seems to be a bit of a sour move on Ben Collins’ part, if you ask me. He was integral to both Top Gear the show and the magazine and must have worked closely with these people whom he’s presumably pissed off by revealing his indentity, else the BBC wouldn’t have bothered taking the thing to court. Obviously he’s had to stand by as Jeremy Clarkson’s sold book after book, Richard Hammond’s started narrating Takeshi’s Castle or whatever they’re calling it, and James May’s illustrating how the 20th Century happened via the medium of Lego. And he, perhaps rightly, wants a slice of that pie, which presumably he wouldn’t be able to get if he went to a TV executive and said “Hello, I’m Ben Collins, the slightly anonymous racing driver, may I have a television show and some of your money.” The guy could make millions, both off the book which will presumably be staring at you from the W.H. Smith’s bookshelves come Christmas time and the probable TV career that will follow. Perhaps on some dodgy backwater of Sky. Which is owned by Rupert Murdoch by the by. But still, there should be a level of decency surely. This whiffs of Max Clifford…..

Anyway, I haven’t read the autobiography, obviously, because no-one in the outside world has, so maybe it’s all done in the best possible taste. Still, I’m a blogger, so spouting my mouth off about stuff I haven’t done enough research into is my job, and it’s a job that I plan to uphold. Still, let’s talk cars next time.

The Ferrari 458… puns about fire

2 Sep

It's "flaming" brilliant

The new 458 is smoking hot……literally.

There, with that pun I have achieved the level of intellectual gravitas required to be an American journalist (also seen: “Ferrari 458 Italia lights my fire.” That doesn’t even make sense). Nevertheless, Ferrari have had to recall the fabulous new 458 Italia because it has the unfortunate habit of bursting into flames, which must alarm the owners who have just shelled out £170,000 for it. Galling images of beautiful Italian autoerotica sitting charred on the side of roads around the world are starting to flood in, causing a bit of a PR disaster for Ferrari, although one which their website, which still proudly shows a 458 pounding along a cypress-lined Italian road, fails to acknowledge. You can configure a California though. I’d have mine less ugly.

Apparently the fires have been caused by heat from the exhaust pipes causing the wheel arch fixings to sag, somehow causing the car to become a fireball. The boffins at Ferrari are currently fixing heat shields to the 1,200 cars that have been recalled. I suppose it’s better than Mercedes’ PR crisis when their A-Class was found to not be able to stand up very well on its own in the now-infamous “elk test”. Still, not ideal really. And believe me when I say, dear readers, that I for one will not be buying a 458 this year.

This car's on fire......literally! Sigh.

And it’s go, go, goat…..Martin Brundle’s secret texts.

29 Aug

Carficionado's homing in on your dastardly game, Brundle!

Welcome to a new era for Carficionado. Inspired by the Heat magazine currently lying on my toilet floor and belonging either to my girlfriend or gay brother who’s staying with us, I have decided to become an insipid little gossiper. I have to admit, I expect the number of these gossip posts to equal a grand total of 1, because no-one tells me any good rumours, but this one’s a good’un.

So, here goes. Carficionado has a friend who went to university with a certain daughter of Martin Brundle, who as you all know is the current BBC F1 commentator and former driver for the likes of McLaren, Ligier and Bennetton, and whose daughter was was going out at the time with my friend’s housemate. Well, it transpires that father and daughter have a system whereby she texts her father over the course of the race weekend and provides a word for him which he has to get into his commentary at some point. Now my friend who leant me this rumour didn’t manage to find out any specifics, but if you hear Mr. Brundle utter something slightly untoward during this afternoon’s Belgian Prix…..well, you heard it here first.

Gordon Murray takes on the G-Wiz

21 Jul

So, Gordon Murray has built a city car. Now I realise that this is verging on old news. Murray has been working on this project for about 7 years now, and he released shots of the car, named the T25, to the press a few weeks ago. But, in my own manner, I like to digest things and see what I think of them. And I think it looks…..good. Well, let’s qualify that a little. The back end looks like one of those silly quad bike-engined cars that you see driving around rural France a lot. Or a G-Wiz. So that’s not so great, but then again it’s not a particular design feature, so we’ll forgive him. From the front though, I think it looks, in its own gorky way, excellent.

(Look how far I got into this article without mentioning the McLaren F1!) Murray is most noted, in road car terms, for having designed…..the Mclaren F1. Perhaps this explains the 3 seater layout of the car, with the driver thrust up to the front as some sort of fighter pilot-cum-chauffeur (quite a job description) whilst the passengers sit set back and either side of the driver’s seat. The door opens upwards and forwards, thus giving the passengers infinite room to get into their seat, rather than clambering into a tight space through a regular door. Murray has borrowed a 660cc engine from Mitsubishi, with 51bhp linked to a 5 speed sequential gear box. The car is light at just over half a ton, meaning that the T25 can do 74 miles per gallon whilst emitting only 86g/km of CO2. Which means that you won’t have to pay road tax. The car’s 0-62 time is quoted as 16.2 seconds, but if it’s a city car then it won’t really be doing 62mph. It will, however, be doing a lot of 0-30 mph accelerations, and with its light weight the T25 should be fine speed-wise (although there was talk of fitting a turbo….). And as for cornering, well, let’s just say it again, the guy designed the McLaren F1 and used to test the Formula 1 cars he designed himself, so I imagine it will be a hoot to hoon around a city in.

There’s one problem in all this though. Murray can’t afford to build the car himself and hasn’t had any manufacturers knocking on his door yet. Considering his contacts within the industry and his reputation, this is both a shame and worrying for the future of the T25. Obviously, little blogger-boy here doesn’t know the ins and outs, but I’d hope that someone would take this idea and run with it. It seems to me to be the perfect solution to city driving. City cars are generally a dull concept, focussed largely around compromise and dodgy design. But then you add Gordon Murray to the equation, and all of a sudden the idea sounds much more intriguing. Let’s see what happens.

The T25's pedigree.....

T25 pedigree, part two

Renault’s new executive zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

11 Jun

Oh my God! Renault have done a big saloon car! I wonder what it looks like? Does it have the robustness of a German car? Is it as involving to drive as Renault’s recent RenaultSport cars? Does it have the style and élan to match the Citroën C6? Oh wait, here comes a picture now, it’s……a Toyota Avensis. I mean the new Renault Latitude.

I mean, come on. The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, is married to Carla Bruni. Carla Bruni! This man has taste, this man appreciates the finer things. You think he’s going to want to drive around in the back of this? He’s going to choose the Citroën C6 every time. What worries me most about this car is that it borrows styling cues from the Dacia range. These are cars built to satisfy the automotive wants of people who hitherto fore have driven Yugos, FSOs and tanks around Eastern Europe. This is meant to be Renault’s dustbin, the dog food to Renault’s chateaubriand. Not the inspiration, the lifeblood of their top of the range exec saloon. The topflight at Renault must be wondering what they’ve done to deserve such treatment. The Citroën boys turn up to their gala luncheons in their C6s, the Audi boys have their new A8, Mercedes execs get an S-Class or maybe even a Maybach. And the Renault lads get a taxi. The one, solitary, stand-alone, hint of a decent feature that I can see is the Lexus LS profile of the rear quarter, which frankly they’ve nicked. That’s it. And let’s be honest here, the Lexus LS isn’t going to make it into the Museum of Modern Art any time soon. Not even the Skegness Museum of Modern Art.

So, clap clap Renault. After all the hard work your little RenaultSport team have been doing to give you an iota of credibility, you come up with this. Merdeque!

Jeff Koons’ BMW Art Car!

10 Jun

So Jeff Koons has been the latest artist to contribute to the BMW ‘Art Cars’ series. For a start, it’s good to see Koons going off on a bit of a tangent from his 90s fascination with making sculptures of him and his (now ex) wife in the throes of ecstasy (Google ‘Jeff Koons Made in Heaven’). I love the Art Cars series. It’s about the coolest thing BMW, or any other car manufacturer, have ever done. The series began in 1975 and has featured contributions by Andy Warhol (on a BMW M1), Roy Lichtenstein (320i) and David Hockney (850CSi). Koons, who was given BMW’s M3 GT2 Le Mans racer as a canvas, has created a rather excellent dazzle-paint effect which, coming up behind you on the Mulsanne Straight at 8 a.m. after you’ve been driving for 4 hours already, should be sufficient to scare the bejesus out of weary drivers and probably force them to crash. Cunning. Either way, it’s a handsome beastie and will be piloted by the talented triumvirate of Great Britain’s Andy Priaulx and by two German men named Dirk, namely Müller and Werner. Good luck to ‘em!

To read more about the BMW Art Cars, look here: