Tuesday, July 15, 2008

HMX - new shoes, rolled it out

new tires for the HMX

Oh, I’m so close to driving this thing I can taste it. Earlier this week, I finished up the restoration of the AMC TurboCast II wheels. I detailed the process of cleaning and refinishing these 14-inch aluminum wheels in a tech story that will appear in the September issue of Hemmings Muscle Machines, but we shipped that issue before the tires arrived, so you loyal blog readers get first peek not only at the BFGoodrich Radial T/As that I ordered, but also at the tires mounted to the fresh wheels.

I was kinda apprehensive about ordering a set of BFGs. After all, they’re on every other muscle car out there and the customer survey results over at Tire Rack actually placed the BFGs lower in overall rating than Firestone’s Firehawk Indy 500s. But after flipping through my dealer brochure for the 1979 AMX, I discovered these cars originally came with ER60-14 Goodyear GT Radials, and I don’t think Goodyear even makes a 14-inch tire anymore. To the best of my knowledge, ER60-14 translates in metric size to 225/60-14, and the only manufacturer I see that still makes tires in that size is BFGoodrich.

I can at least console myself with the fact that AMC hooked up with BFGoodrich for the two Nürburgring AMXs. On the other hand, I called up the current owner of the No. 1 Nürburgring AMX and discovered they used 245/60-14 tires. I contemplated stepping up to that size, but in the end went with the safe bet of the 225s. I do have another set of TurboCast II wheels, however…


In the tech story, I didn’t have enough room to mention the finish on the backs of the wheels. The cap on the can of Rust-Oleum claimed it was stainless steel, but it came out looking more like magnesium. Much better look than the 30-year film of brake dust.


I also wasn’t able to show a side-by-side before-and-after shot.


I also wasn’t able to roll the car out into the driveway and show a wheel-on-car shot, so I went ahead and did that. After years of looking at the car in the context of its fixed space in the garage, it was kinda odd to see it out under natural light.

The wheels and engine look good. The rest looks sufficiently hillbilly. Which makes the wheels and engine look that much better. There is a method to my madness.

Euro-spec BMW 335d rated at 35 mpg (US) combined

This week, BMW unveiled the refreshed 2009 3-series, but unfortunately, we only have specs for the European models so far. Nonetheless, those details give some hints about we can expect from the diesel-powered 335d that arrives at U.S. dealers this fall. The one detail we already knew was that the diesel 6-cylinder would only be paired up with a 6-speed automatic and that the U.S. power output would be 265 hp and 425 lb-ft of torque. Our European friends get 286 PS (around 282 hp) and 428 lb-ft. The Euro edition 335d sedan is rated at a combined 35.1 mpg (US) while still accelerating from 0-62 in 6.0 seconds. The current European version has a particulate filter, but the urea injection system is not yet included. With the slightly lower power of the U.S. version, the acceleration will probably drop off by a couple of tenths of a second, and the EPA test procedures will likely yield a combined fuel economy number of about 30 mpg. By comparison, the gas-powered 335i only has 295 lb-ft of torque but a slightly higher 306 hp while only being rated at 25.8 mpg (US) combined. The 335d is no Prius but for a strong-performing sport sedan it certainly has very impressive mileage.

Now, if only BMW would just see fit to offer American drivers the four-cylinder 320d. The 177 hp its 2.0L four produces lets the 320d run from 0 to 62 mph in a more-than-adequate 7.9 seconds while returning a combined 49 mpg when you translate its EU-standard 4.8 liters/100 km composite fuel economy rating to U.S. miles per gallon. Now we're talking!

into every cruise-in schedule, a little rain must fall


So last week’s cruise-in, while not outstanding in terms of quantity due to the rain that soaked the area all day, still produced some cars of outstanding quality, enough so that we forged ahead and handed out awards despite the low numbers. For example, Charlotte Bader’s North York, Ontario-based 1964 Pontiac Parisienne convertible had us scratching our heads all night as to what parts came from the Pontiac bin and what parts came from the Chevrolet bin.

1949 Ford business coupe

Julie and Bob King of Glen, New Hampshire, brought over their 1949 Ford business coupe with less than 5,000 total miles on the dial. Even with so few miles, they treated it to a restoration in 2004. Keep an eye on the pages of Hemmings Classic Car - we may very well feature this beauty in the next several months.

1981 Jeep J10

Maybe it’s not feature material like the business coupe, but I still geeked out over the 1981 Jeep J10 that Martin Ward, of Pownal, Vermont, owns.

1969 Javelin SST

And I really geeked out over the 343/four-speed 1969 AMC Javelin SST that John and Maggie Bilotta of Hinsdale, Massachusetts, brought.

Pair o’ purple Chevy pickups.

sunset on a splitwindow nose

1964 Pontiac Parisienne

And, whaddayaknow, the clouds actually started to clear toward the end of the night, setting up this neat shot.

Our next cruise-in’s June 10, so keep your fingers crossed for sun.

Opel and Vauxhall versions of Volt to be built in U.S.

Click above for more shots of the Opel Flextreme concept

When the Volt concept was first unveiled, GM was not sure how to badge European versions of the E-Flex cars. Apparently, the decision has been made and the first Euro-bound EV's from GM will be badged as Opels, with a Vauxhall version coming shortly thereafter. All three models of the E-Flex chassis will be built in Detroit atop the next-gen Delta compact car platform which was designed to carry a large lithium ion battery pack along with a range-extending engine. Though the Europeans would likely favor a diesel powerplant, it seems that the first-generation of all three E-Flex vehicles will use a gasoline-powered engine for on-the-fly battery recharging.

It goes without saying that the Volt and its Euro-clones will be the most expensive vehicles built on the Delta platform, with U.S. pricing estimated to be at least $40 grand. Across the pond, the Opel and Vauxhall E-Flex's will be saddled with at least a 10,000 euro premium. The price of gasoline, which is significantly higher in Europe than in the States, along with any government assistance for purchasers of the EVs, will determine how quickly customers will recoup that added investment.

Ze'ev Drori offers up another Tesla production update

Over on the Tesla blog, company CEO Ze'ev Drori has posted another production update for all you fans of the Roadster. Some time back, Tesla made the decision that the Roadsters would be shipped from the Lotus factory in England as gliders -- complete cars without a drivetrain. The first couple of production units had their battery packs and motors installed in the workshop at the company's San Carlos headquarters. As work has proceeded on preparing the second Tesla store in Menlo Park for opening, the final drivetrain installation work has been shifted to the dealership service bays. According to Drori, nine production Roadsters have now been shipped to California, with at least three of those having been delivered. In total, 27 cars are now in various stages of assembly. The upgraded motors, electronics and transmissions that comprise drivetrain 1.5 are scheduled to be installed in cars for delivery beginning in September. After that, the company hopes to ramp up production to the rate of 100 cars per month by the end of the year. At that rate, they'll probably need a bigger workspace than the Menlo Park shop to finish drivetrain installations.

Hyundai offers scorching deal on Genesis leases

To lure buyers towards the all-new 2009 Hyundai Genesis luxury sedan, the Korean automaker is aggressively pricing lease programs. Traditional Hyundai customers choose to lease about 10-12 percent of the time. The Genesis, however, is aimed at a more upscale buyer -- a segment that tends to lease more often (according to Hyundai's estimates, 50 percent of the Genesis customers will lease the new sedan). To drive sales, the standard six-cylinder model, with a base price of about $33,000, will lease for $399/month (24-month lease with $2,199 due at signing). It's a deal that undercuts the Cadillac CTS by nearly $150/month, according to a retailer who sells both. With 80 percent of customers expected to choose the V6 model (we would too), the lease program is bold enough to drive traffic. In case you were wondering, the V8 model won't be in showrooms for another month, and by that time the lease program will have expired.

Lost and Found overflow - multilegged Toronado and caged Fiero

Centipede Oldsmobile Toronado station wagon

It’s been far too long since we reached into our grab bag o’ fun Lost and Found overflow pile, but we came up with a good one today. Marty Pelker of All Starts Auto Glass and Accessories in Lincoln Park, Michigan, found two oddballs while out in his neighborhood. First, the Centipede, an Oldsmobile Toronado-based airport limo.

Centipede Oldsmobile Toronado station wagon

That is, we think it was meant to be an airport limo. Like the ones Ben Merkel photographed in Hawaii. But adding that flashy Centipede graphic along the bottom seems like overkill for such a utilitarian purpose.

Centipede Oldsmobile Toronado station wagon

Like us, Marty had no clue as to who performed the conversion. However, he described it as a combination of “a Toronado drive and a stretched Vista Cruiser body.” Possibly.

Centipede Oldsmobile Toronado station wagon

Amazing that the Michigan winters haven’t chewed up the Centipede.

mystery Fiero kit car

Next, Marty shared with us something so sinister and unbelievable it needed to be caged in cyclone fence just like Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver.

mystery Fiero kit car

Marty confirms what we all surmise, that it was once a Pontiac Fiero. “I was told it was done in Canada,” he wrote. Well, then that’s reason enough to invade those maple syrup-swilling, flannel-wearing Canucks.

mystery Fiero kit car

I do not know the company that converted this Fiero, nor do I know what exactly they were attempting with it. I’m not sure I want to know.

look out, it's loose

But just as with the Centipede, I’m amazed it’s in such decent shape.

So anybody care to fill us in on the coachbuilders (I use that term loosely) responsible for these two creations?

the son of Corvette: Uncle Eddie’s Crosley

Almquist-bodied Crosley

So after posting the photos and info on my post-Crosley engine haul, Myron Vernis starts telling me about this Almquist-Crosley he knows about. As it turns out, it’s his, so I tell him I need photos, stat, and he comes through, along with some history.

As you know, Ed Almquist founded Almquist Engineering which was a pioneer in catalog sales of speed parts. Around 1955, he bought Clearfield Plastics, an early manufacturer of fiberglass kit cars. In the ensuing years, he produced a series of Almquist kits (and a few ready-built cars) to fit various size chassis. His first kits were made to fit Crosley and Fiat Topolino automobiles.

Almquist-bodied Crosley

This car was built right around 1955 in the same area of Pennsylvaia where Almquist was based. I bought it from there several years ago. It was professionally built (the shop’s build tag is still on the firewall) and rumored to be one of Almquist’s pre-made units, but this has not been confirmed. Either way, the car is great looking and it belies its small size.

Almquist-bodied Crosley

It has a stock Crosley CIBA engine in it. I always thought it would be a great candidate for a hotrod Crosley engine. Cosmetically, the patina is real (unlike many of today’s “ratrods”) so I think it should be left alone.

Almquist-bodied Crosley

The windshield’s not quite as slick as it could be, but I’m digging it anyway. Myron said his goal is to get it running this summer, possibly find a Bearcat engine like mine and hot rod it just a little bit.

Monorail + Automobile = MonoMobile

A couple of Cincinnati-area men believe they may have solved mankind's transportation problems by combining the strengths of an ultralight electric car with those of a monorail. The plan, developed by Jay Andress and Andy Webster, is to use the small electric cars for short distances about town. When you need to go out to the exurbs or to another city, using the wheels attached to your roof, you connect yourself to the monorail. While you're autonomously whisked away to your predetermined destination at speeds of up to 200 mph, your car uses the rail to charge its battery.

While the pair has spent only $2500 preparing a CityEl, now dubbed the "Liberator Car.", to demonstrate the scheme, they are now trying to attract an additional $10 million for a 1 mile test section of monorail. They expect it would cost upwards of $500 billion to add a MonoMobile infrastructure to the existing interstate highway system but say the increase in transportation efficiency and productivity would save almost an equal amount of money each year. For all the details on this innovative "dual mode" system, check out the MonoMobile website.

'08 Goodwood Festival of Speed: The highlights

Click above for high-res gallery from Goodwood

The Goodwood Festival of Speed wrapped up on Sunday after three days of pure motorsports Heaven. While we would have liked to have posted a gallery or two a day from the event, internet issues kept us from sharing anything else after firing off our initial couple of posts. To make up for it we have a few massive galleries of goodness from Goodwood planned. We start today with some highlights, but will try to show some of the special categories individually too in later posts. After all, it isn't really a race in the strictest sense of the word and the pics will keep you just as entertained now as if they come next week. So hopefully you'll appreciate what we have to offer and if it isn't your thing, feel free to move onto something else you like better.

For those who want to stick around you can expect to see coverage of everything from the Cartier Style et Luxe concours to the Airbus A380 flyover. We'll also include some shots of the people and sights from around the grounds of Lord March's estate. Although the racing is what brings people here, it is truly the ambiance that keeps them coming back year after year. The photos are captioned as much as possible for your convenience, but look for supercars, celebrity drivers, vintage racers, classic cars, movie cars, wild track action and much more. We hope you enjoy our expanded coverage of the 2008 Goodwood Festival of Speed as much as we enjoyed being there and sharing it with you.

Mercedes CL550

Mercedes cars are awesome if they get the attention they deserve, and this CL550 certainly got the needed portion…

Mercedes CL 550
Mercedes CL 550
Mercedes CL 550
Mercedes CL 550
Mercedes CL 550

That’s a nice Merc if you ask me.

BMW 7 Series gets ballsy unveiling in Russia

You would think a car company with BMW's brand recognition could roll out its redesigned flagship 7 Series covered in burlap at a mid-December reveal in Siberia with no concerns over public perception, but BMW apparently feels the up-and-coming Russian market needs to be romanced with a glitzy intro right in the middle of Red Square. That's where the carmaker held the official unveiling (though we already got the official photos earlier this month) July 8th.

For two days, the 7-Series was hidden in 180,000 silver balls that filled a giant glass-and-acrylic hourglass almost 40 feet tall that had been built right in front of the Kremlin. Then, on the night of the 8th, as 400 invited guests watched, the top of the hourglass emptied to reveal the car.

BMW officials say the stunt was meant to illustrate the event's tagline, "Never stand still." Hey, if it sells a few Bimmers in Russia, maybe giant hourglasses are the way to go. Still, maybe next time they should at least consider the burlap. It's gotta be cheaper than silver balls, and we'd still blog about it.

Check out a high-res gallery of photos from the event here and BMW's press release after the jump.

more ramblings through south-central Vermont

red Dodge

Mike Eldred, whose wanderings we’ve featured here before, knows where all the cool old cars are hidden away in and around Wilmington, Vermont, and can take a good picture too, a few of which he recently sent us. First, a Dodge truck he shot last fall from White’s Road in Wilmington.

plywood Jeep

Next, a CJ-5 on Route 100 in Wilmington that features a plywood tub behind the firewall. Make do with what you got, I suppose.

gorilla VW statue

Finally, a south-central Vermont landmark of sorts, the gorilla-slash-vee-dub statue outside Pioneer Auto Sales in Brandon, Vermont. Unfortunately, RoadsideAmerica.com hasn’t yet documented this hairy beast, so we’re left wondering what - if anything - he once held in his right hand.

Mitsubishi iMiEV to be priced around $37,000 at launch

We got word a couple of days ago that Mitsubishi had pulled ahead its retail sales plans for the iMiEV electric car from 2010 to mid 2009. Now we have some information about the pricing for the diminutive electric car. The little four seater will reportedly carry a sticker price in its home market of about 4 million yen or US$37,496. That would put it in a similar range to the expected price of the Chevy Volt which will hit the market a year later. Tax breaks for low emission cars in Japan should chop the end price by about one quarter to somewhere around $28,000. Now if Mitsubishi would just bring the iMiEV to the US market it would satisfy a lot of American fans.

BMW M3 - Race Version

Is this one bad-ass BMW M3, or not?
2008 BMW M3

It’s the 2008 American Le Mans Series BMW M3 and I found it at BMW Talk.

Lock & Load: CTS-V to go hunting in Europe after all

Last week, we reported on a Top Gear piece that indicated Cadillac would not be sending the CTS-V super-sedan to Europe. Cadillac contacted us with some corrections and clarifications, which we now deliver to you. First, the CTS-V is going to Europe. That fantasy matchup in the likes of Auto Motor und Sport that pits it against the likes of the M5, RS6 and the AMG E-Class is bound to happen after all. Top Gear's complaint centered around the UK-market's particular situation. You see, the CTS-V is not going to Blighty in right-hand-drive form. The V-Series car is only being produced with the steering wheel on the left side of the IP, though the company STILL can (and intends to) offer a limited number of CTS-V sedans in the UK in LHD configuration, according to Caddy spokesman David Caldwell. This could be duplicated in other RHD markets as well, save for Australia, where apparently, the regulations are such that left-hand-drive vehicles are simply not an option. We won't shed a tear for Australia, though. They have plenty of cool stuff that we won't see either.

So, to sum up: the CTS-V will be exported. Europe will see it, and so might the UK, but with the steering wheel on the "wrong" side (as far as they're concerned).

Agent Provocateur Mini

Agent Provocateur Mini Clubman

Yes we all know Agent Provocateur is really a lingerie label but they really designed a Mini CAR for charity and I have to say that even though it’s butt-ugly (get the pun?) I respect Agent Provocateur for actually doing something like this!

car shootout in London

We've discussed these electric cars before but now Whatcar? has gathered the NICE Mega City, the Smart ed, the Micro-Vett Fiat Doblo, and the Reva G-Wiz together for a group evaluation on the streets of London town to "...decide whether or not they do make a practical alternative to urban transport.". The first thing they discovered about the cars as they prepared for the initial shoot is that people are now extremely interested in electric vehicles as the quartet attracted "masses" of people with lots of questions.

So, how did they do? Somewhat surprisingly the G-Wiz seemed to best the Mega City as it was quicker, stronger and less expensive. The G-Wiz is set to get even better in Q4 when lithium ion batteries become an option and it's range and, no doubt its power, receive a welcome boost. The presenter, Peter Lawton, enjoyed the Smart ed saying that after driving the quadricycle entrants it "felt as safe as a tank.". This is another vehicle whose performance will greatly improve when they are produced with a lithium ion battery though the sodium-nickel chloride version is already quicker then the gas burning one. Lastly, the electric Doblo was the only vehicle already equipped with li-ion and had the best range and top speed. It also had the seating for 5 and a "boot". Although it was also the most expensive at £30,000 (nearly $60,000), it seemed the best choice for both the streets of London and those of America. Hit the jump to check all the shootout action as well as a bonus visit to a fuel price protest at the end of the clip.

AMO 2008: Circle the wagons!

SC/Rambler station wagon

While you Yanks were eating bratwurst watching fireworks this past weekend, I was up in Kingston, Ontario, for an equally patriotic event, but with a twist: The American Motors Owners Association for the second time in its history held its annual convention in Canada, which made for much clashing of accents and currencies. Definitely not the largest AMO meet, but anytime the meet moves eastward, attendance drops. Still, some neat cars showed up, including an abundance of station wagons.

For example, the SC/Rambler two-door wagon above had a lot of interesting what-ifs going for it: What if AMC built a two-door American wagon in the late 1960s? What if AMC applied the SC/Rambler formula to an American wagon body?

Cross-Fire Chevy in SC/Rambler station wagon

But the Cross-Fire Injection small-block Chevrolet V-8 underhood stopped that cool what-if vibe dead in its tracks.

Rambler American station wagon

Another late 1960s Rambler American station wagon showed up, though this one an honest driver with four doors and awesome patina.

Rebel 770 Cross Country station wagon

Rambler American station wagon too small for your burgeoning family? How about a Rebel 770 Cross Country station wagon in similar colors?

Rebel 770 Cross Country station wagon

Ambassador SST station wagon

Still not big enough? then step up to this 1969 Ambassador SST station wagon, owned by Tom Bunsey of London, Ohio, and fitted with a 390-cu.in. V-8.

Rambler Classic 770 station wagon

Then on the show field Saturday, I spotted a couple older wagons, including John McGhee’s Keswick, Ontario-based 1965 Rambler Classic 770.

327-powered Ambassador station wagon

And next to it John Hampton’s Lansdowne, Ontario-based 1965 or 1966 Ambassador wagon, equipped with the 327-cu.in. V-8.

Check back tomorrow for more coverage from Kingston, including one incredibly rare Hornet.