Tag Archives: Volvo

Mercedes-AMG Hammer Wagons – and why not?

25 Jan

AMG OMG!

Don’t ask me why, but I have always had a thing for fast estate cars. Couldn’t explain it to you. Perhaps it’s a latent love for Rickard Rydell honing about in the British Touring Car Championship in a Volvo 850 estate. Or hearing the V6 burble of the Audi RS4 the guy at the end of our road used to own. I actually think that, to explore the real reason that I love fast estate cars, you have to look at my penchant, as a boy, for Swiss Army knives. Here was something which fitted in your hand and was convenient to carry around, but could replicate the experience of owning a saw, or a pen, or a knife, or a magnifying glass. By replicate, I really mean ‘do an impression of’. Because if someone presented me with a piece of wood and said ‘OK pal, you have to cut this and you could either use a real saw or spend the next 7 months of your life eroding the wood away with the saw in this Swiss Army knife,’ I know which one I’d pick. It’s the saw, by the way.

My first crush, Rickard Rydell

Now those of you whose brains aren’t entirely starved of oxygen should be able to make this analogical leap with me. If someone gave you a racetrack and said ‘OK pal, you can either go around it in a Lotus Exige or a BMW M5 Touring’, you’d probably take the Exige, because its entire raison d’etre, if I might be so pretentious, is to go around a racetrack, just as the saw’s job is to saw through wood. BUT! If I was dropped in a forest somewhere and was only given a saw, I’d think longingly about that Swiss Army knife with all of its flawed features all snugly collapsed into its red body. And similarly, were I to be told that I was only allowed to own one car ever again and found myself owning a Lotus Exige and trying to fit my hypothetical future wife and two small children into it, I think that I’d rather begin to miss that M5 Touring.

A Swiss Army knife, earlier today

And this is what’s so great about fast estates. They’re the only car you’re ever going to need in the real world. You can go down to Homebase and buy some curtain rods and on the way home you can outdrag a Ferrari and totally remasculate yourself! No, they’re not as sharp as a sports car around a track, and they’re almost certainly not as economical as a Nissan Micra on the road, but if you’ve only got space for one car in your garage and you’re a petrolhead, a fast estate should win out every time.

So anyway, that long preamble is by way of discussing the daddy of powerful estates and the subject for today’s little monograph: the Mercedes-AMG ‘Hammer Wagon’. Now for starters, if you’re going to drive around in something, it may as well be called a Hammer Wagon, right? Right.  And the Hammer aspect does accord with the engineering principles behind earlier AMGs, namely stick a very large, very powerful engine in the car and then….sell it. In the case of the original Hammer Wagon, AMG started with a W124 E-Class chassis, into which they dropped a 5.6l 360bhp V8. Yes, it may have had the cornering ability of a train, but it packed a hell of a punch when it was released in 1986. It would pack a hell of a punch now….although you rather feel that a modern engine tuner could extract more power out of a 5.6l engine. And because it was a Mercedes estate, you could have two people in the front seats, three in the middle and ANOTHER two on the weird, flip up, probably now illegal bench in the boot. And then you and these six other people could travel at 186mph down the autobahn. Wunderbar!

Homoerotic Hammer saloon

But why should I mention the Hammer Wagon at all? Well, for one, because I like educating you all out there, dear Readers, about these fabulous cars. But also, I’ve recently written a couple of articles for a BMW modifying magazine and, reading the publication that my articles appeared in, have had the hitherto largely unknown world of car modification illuminated to me. I think I had rather written off car modification as the preserve of sex-starved adolescents from some of the England’s lesser-known counties. But it can be done with taste and with discretion. And this has got Carficionado’s little grey cells ticking. Could I buy a W124 estate and turn it into my own Hammer Wagon? There must be thousands of boggo W124s out there, and no shortage of written-off cars just waiting to have the V8’s scraped out of them. Mercedes themselves are famed for their collection of spare parts for their old models, so sourcing them wouldn’t be a problem. Then just buy some tasteful AMG bodykit and wheels (tasteful, mind), upgrade the suspension, and there you have it: a Hammer Wagon! And then you could drive it around and feel like an 80s banker, or murderer, or something. I can only see two flaws in my plan. One of them is money. The other is that there are bonobos with a greater flair for engineering and mechanics than me. Maybe it will just be a little pipe dream then <sigh>. Either way, ladies and gentlemen, doff your caps if you will to the Mercedes-AMG Hammer Wagon.

Frankfurt Motor Show Awards Ceremony!

13 Sep

So Carficionado ist in Deustchland. And using his mastery of the German language, and disguising himself as a small Schnitzel, he managed to sneak his way into the Frankfurt Motor Show! Other, very reputable, automotive publications will tell you in a more prosaic way how it went down, but I’ve decided that that is too….well, prosaic, so here is Carficionado’s Frankfurt 2011 Award Ceremony. Cue fanfare.

Most Star Studded Cameo of the Day:

Why, it’s the Weltmeister himself, Sebastian Vettel, who turned up at Infiniti to unveil his “Inspired by Vettel” FX50 concept. And reinforce why, when you want to discuss matters of class, taste and discretion in tuning a car, Germany doesn’t usually get the call. (Other notable entries in this category: Michael Schumacher, who drew a big crowd; Nico Rosberg, who didn’t; and Bruno Senna….but more on him later.)

Pomp and Circumstance Award – an award given to the manufacturer who provided the most amount of bullshit in an unveiling:

It has to be Mercedes. Unveiling the new B-Class, F125 and SLS Roadster, along with the Smart Forvision,  a posse of what can only be described as gay Thunderbirds pranced around the stage, interacting with the massive LED screens and doing some light trampolining, before a couple of wizened German management-types shuffled on stage to bore the pants off the gathered audience. Who were all journalists and who thus didn’t applaud with the great aplomb that I’m sure Mercedes were hoping for.

Most awkward unveiling:

This award goes to Lotus, who summoned poor old Jake Humphreys (‘cos he’s from Norfolk and that) to help do a big unveil on some cars that, frankly, didn’t really seem worthy of a big unveil. Poor Mr Humphreys stood, his ubiquitous iPad by his side, looking for all the world like the beleaguered television presenter that he frankly was, wearing a sickly smile as some dodgy, sub-porn lighting illuminated an updated Evora, the new Elise (including the R-GT 16…..OK, that was quite cool) and Lotus’ 444bhp Evora GTE, their most powerful ever road car. Bruno Senna was waiting in the wings to come on, but I had had enough.

Best surprisingly cool car:

This award goes to Volvo, for their Concept You, err, concept. At a time when another Swedish car maker that shall not be named is in dire straits, it was surprising and heartening to see Volvo offer up this rather swish looking exec saloon, which integrates some of the company’s classic design language with some modern sweeps and tweaks (Oh, like every other car on the market you mean? Yes.). But it looks cool. Well done Volvo.

N.B. Volvo have subsequently had their award revoked for offering Carficionado a bribe in the form of a delicious coffee. Mazda are also not eligible, having provided Carficionado with a rather sizeable brioche and some sparkling water.

Most barren stand:

Sorry to pick on you Ssangyong, I know you’re weak and pathetic and no one’s bought one of your cars since my Mum, presumably as an act of charity, took delivery of a Musso in the 90s. But your stand was more dismal than a Bratwurst floating in a puddle. But your concept looked good. Well if Kia and Hyundai can do it….

Worst dressed person of the day:

Well, this was always going to be a difficult choice. There was such a crop of poorly attired, misled Germans this year. Heck, every year I’m surpised and delighted by the lack of sartorial direction amongst the Teutons. I mean it’s one thing when they’ve obviously given up on life. But it’s when they’re trying and failing that it hurts my heart the most. And so, regrettably, because in my eyes they’re all winners, this chap wins. See, scenesters are everywhere!

And last but not least, best concept car:

A rather dour, serious category I know, but it must be done. And I’ve decided that I’m going to be progressive and say that my favourite concept at the motor show was (drum roll)….the Volkswagen Nils (cymbal crash). You may have noticed an environmental bent in Carficionado’s blog over the years. Not much of one, admittedly, but it’s there. But it came always with a slightly rueful feeling that in the future, big bugger V8s and the like would be eradicated and this would be an awful thing. But this car made me feel that what we’re looking at is a future of economical single-seat (or two or three seat) racing cars! And if they handle well and are nippy and economical, bring them on, I say!

So there you go, awards over. Next year I’ll book Billy Crystal to do it.

The Dockland Motor Expo thinginy-jig

15 Jun

So, this weekend, I had a hankering to watch the film Amelie. Don’t know why, these things just happen, particularly with Amelie which is an especially beauteous film. So off I went on my little bicycle to an HMV in Canary Wharf, purportedly my closest outlet. As I arrive there, what should Carficionado see before his very eyes? A car show. Suffice it to say that I had no choice but to get snapping and report back to you, the good people. Here’s what I saw, bearing in mind that I don’t think car manufacturers were waiting for the Docklands Motor Expo to unveil any of their latest offerings.

First off, I saw this rather tasty MX5 roadster type thing. I didn’t enquire as to what its purpose in life was (Mille Miglia in an MX5?) but it looked cool.

Then I saw what was for me a bit of a revelation. The new Saab 9-5. I like Saabs. My dad has an old 9-5 estate and it’s a very nice place to be. I personally thought the new car looked stunning (sorry for News of the World terminology there). There’s a hint of the Vauxhall Monaro about its rear fascia, which is fine but the overall shape and design of the front? Sehr gut! Echt gut! In the automotive world where so much slime carries on living regardless (I’m looking at you Kia Magentis), Saab’s a company that deserves a new beginning and particularly a GM-less one, and I hope that this 9-5 marks the start of that emancipation.

Elsewhere I saw a Tesla, which is no longer newsworthy I don’t think, but good to see one up close. The new Jaguar XJ which looks nearly very very brilliant. There’s just something that I don’t like about it though. Can’t quite put my finger on it. Although the interior, I can safely report, was luscious.

One genuinely new car was Mini’s new Countryman. Now I’ve been in a fair few regular Minis and they are very cramped. Considering Alec Issigonis’ original was roughly the size of one of the newer Mini’s wheels, it was certainly about as, if not more, practical. The Countryman is intended to target the Golf more directly, and doubtless will. It was notably bigger, a little jacked up as if intending to do some soft-roading and had a decent sized boot. I couldn’t get this image out of my mind though. Imagine a regular Mini sneezing….

Otherwise it was business as usual. The new Volvo S60 which looks….pretty good. A brace of Norton motorbikes which look the part but are heinously expensive, more than twice the price of my Triumph Bonneville. And the new BMW 5 Series, which looked so anonymous that I barely noticed it. Does have a very big boot though. So the Docklands Expo, or whatever it was called. Not the greatest car show I’ve ever been to, but always nice to spend a Saturday sniffing around some shiny new cars.

Now, something which I didn’t see at the Expo but is still noteworthy was this rather tasty Renault Alpine GTA that I stumbled upon in rural Oxfordshire. Didn’t get to hear its V6 unfortunately, but I always enjoy spotting a bit of curios.