Archive | July 2013

The Alfa Romeo TZ3 Stradale is a Breathtaking Zagato-Kissed Viper ACR-X

TZ3-Corsa_TZ3-Stradale_1

Alfa Romeo TZ3 Stradale (Left) and Corsa (Right)

The legendary Italian coachbuilder Zagato unveiled the custom-built Zagato Centennial Coupe and Spyder last week in celebration of Aston Martin’s 100th anniversary, and the design left me a bit underwhelmed. I love whale sharks, but the exterior is a bit too reminiscent of the world’s largest fish to really hit the mark. Of course, I am obviously not the car’s target buyer, as both cars were commissioned by a couple of huge Aston fanatics, but Zagato’s work is hit or miss anyway. The same is true with Bertone, Pininfarina, or any other specialty studio. It happens.

An article at Mind Over Motor highlights the absolutely stunning Alfa Romeo TZ3 Stradale, a car that I had previously never heard of, and was also created to commemorate an automaker’s 100th birthday. While the TZ3 Corsa was a one-off based on the Alfa 8C Competizione, the Stradale version was based on the Dodge Viper ACR-X, and totaled nine production specimens. Its Kammback rear end and classic Zagato double bubble roof make for one hell of a limited-run supercar.

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Mercedes to Produce New Sedan Priced Above S-Class, But Don’t Wait for Maybach Revival

2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG 4MATIC

The “Super S-Class” will be based on the 2014 S-Class. 2014 S63 AMG shown

Automotive News reports that Mercedes is strongly considering a sedan priced higher than the ultra-luxurious S-Class, although it understandably won’t revive the Maybach nameplate that Mercedes mothballed this year. The Maybach 57 and 62 were, in essence, stretched versions of the old S-Class with more experimental accoutrements like a sunroof with adjustable transparency and a loudspeaker system that allowed occupants to speak with people outside the car without rolling the windows down. Buyers were unimpressed with not only the ridiculous options but also the high price, with the “entry-level” 57 starting at nearly $500,000, or roughly quadruple that of the S550. They stayed away in droves, pouring money instead into the Rolls-Royce Phantom, and per year Maybach sales exceeded 200 only once. The new flagship sedan will reportedly begin at roughly the same cost of the top-tier S65 AMG.

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Hamilton Enjoys Easy Win at Hungary; Räikkönen Keeps Vettel in Rear View For Second

Hamilton Win Hungary GP

Lewis Hamilton was able to keep his start in pole position to easily clinch the Hungarian Grand Prix yesterday in Budapest; although Hamilton has begun in the lead four times this season, it is the first time he mirrored race start and finish. It is also his first Grand Prix win for Mercedes since joining the team at the beginning of the 2013 season. Despite Sebastian Vettel breathing down his neck for the last six laps, Kimi Räikkönen was able to keep the 2012 champion in his rear mirrors to finish in second.

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Aston Martins Are Likely to be Powered by AMG in the Future

Aston Martin Vanquish Volante Front

Aston Martins will soon be powered by a new family of engines after its contract with current supplier Ford expires at the end of this year. Ongoing negotiations with AMG have resulted in Aston drawing up a Letter of Intent that looks to tap the high-performance Mercedes division for motors going forward. Mentioned specifically in the press release is Aston’s interest in “bespoke V8 engines,” a crucial component for the small sports car manufacturer. Currently, the V8 in the Vantage is a custom version of a Jaguar V8 that debuted in 1996, while the V12 is a pair of Ford Duratec V6s strapped together; it has drive range-topping Astons since it first appeared in the 1999 DB7 Vantage.

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Mini’s Vision Concept Previews Next Hardtop Design, and It’s Surprisingly Good

Mini Vision Concept Front Three Quarters

All photos courtesy of Mini

A couple of days ago, I suffered from a minor embolism that led me to rant about the Mini brand and how each successive variation of the core Hardtop moves the company from its origins. Some models, like the Countryman, are not exactly well received but fans of Mini design buy them in droves anyway. Some, like the Coupe and Paceman, are so lame that even the public can pick up their reek of desperation. What hasn’t changed over all these years is the Hardtop itself. It underwent a refresh in 2007, but for all intents and purposes, this is the same car we’ve seen for 13 years. While it seems like Mini has been resting on its laurels in the case of its once bread-and-butter model, they actually have been looking forward to figure out the Hardtop’s successor. Today, Mini released the first pictures of its Vision concept car, and it is a surprisingly good, modern take on the classic Mini coupe.

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Resto Modding and the Death of Retro

1970 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Twister Special

Why is Volkswagen’s New Beetle considered to be a retro design yet the Porsche 911 is not?  The same reason the current and last generation Mustangs are retro – no continuity.  Lineage and continuity are not the same thing.  The current Mustang is successful at being a modern car that harks back to its forefathers with a design language that draws obvious inspiration from that lineage.  But it is unabashedly retro because in between Genesis and the Second Coming was a whole bunch of completely unrelated material.  Mach 1, Fox, Mustang II:  Decades of ‘Mustang’ but apparently not Mustang enough to be the anointed ones come resurrection time.  A team of designers had to look at the back catalog and decide what it means to be a ‘Mustang.’  Does that mean that if you have a classic Mach 1 you chose wrong?  Well, no comment here, but if Ford had done what Porsche did the with 911, your car wouldn’t exist.  That would save you a lot on insurance.

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Mini Provides a Blueprint on How Not to Turn a Niche Product into a Line

Mini Cooper S

No car manufacturer on Earth suffers from such a severe case of mistaken identity as Mini. The BMW-backed revival of the classic British coupe exploded back onto the international scene in 2001, and has undergone few changes since. A revised edition was introduced in 2007, and one year later, the first Mini Cooper variant debuted as the Clubman. The car is little more than a stretched Cooper with a small second door on the passenger side and a split hatch that opens horizontally. It was born to breathe new life into the brand, and helped Mini achieve greater economies of scale by riding on the same platform as the Cooper and offering the same engine and transmission choices. While it did revitalize Mini, it also set off a chain of events that led to the potentially brand-damaging critical failures of the Countryman, Coupe, Roadster, and Paceman.

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