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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.