Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason Tackles London to Brighton Veteran Car Run for 28th Time

1901 Panhard
courtesy Royal Automobile Club

The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run must be a lot of fun. Pink Floyd’s drummer, Nick Mason, has driven in it every year since 1985 and has finished all but two times. He’ll be driving a 1901 5-litre Panhard et Levassor Roi des Belges this Sunday, one of many classic cars owned by his company. Now there’s a garage I’d love to tour.

Yep, he’s a gearhead, and has been for years. About the Panhard, bought specifically for doing the London to Brighton run, he says, “Big-engined cars from this era are not that common, and the great thing about the Panhard’s 5-litre engine is that the car can tackle a steep hill even when loaded to the gunwales with friends, family and mechanics.” He should know, he’s used it on the course 18 times already.

About the run itself, he says, “I suspect I was, like most people, guilty of assuming the run was mainly an excuse for dressing up, but experience has taught me that considerable skill is required to keep these brutes going in a straight line, let alone coaxing the gearbox into surrendering another gear. Entering Madeira Drive in Brighton gives you as great a sense of satisfaction as a chequered flag.”

He adds, “My passion for cars and motor racing predates any involvement with music. My father, a director for Shell’s documentary film unit, used to take me in his 4 1/2 litre Bentley to the vintage car events he was competing in, and some of my happiest childhood memories include the smell of leather, hot oil and blended racing fuels, accompanying the ticking sound of hot metal.”

Definitely a gearhead.

Monday, October 29, 2012

London to Brighton Veteran Car Run Just a Warm-Up for Joy Rainey and Her 1904 Oldsmobile

Joy Rainey and her 1904 Curved Dash Olds
courtesy London to Brighton Veteran Car Run

The annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run could be described as the world’s oldest motoring event for the world’s oldest cars. Originally held in 1927 as a re-enactment of an 1896 race celebrating the end of the 4 mph speed limit enforced on motor cars, it’s been hosted by the Royal Automobile Club since 1930. What makes it cool, at least to me, is that it’s restricted to cars built in 1905 or earlier. There’s more of them around than you might think—recent years have seen over 500 entries for the 60 mile run.

While not every car finishes the run, Joy Rainey, who’s done the run before, has a longer trip in mind. She’s planning on driving her 1904 Oldsmobile Curved Dash Runabout across the United States next year. She used to participate in speed hill climbs, and has also done some long runs, including the London to Sydney Marathon and the Carrera Sudamericana. Neither of those were in anything as old school as the 1904 Olds, however. According to Rainey, “An invitation to a pub lunch and a viewing of the veteran resulted in me arriving home complete with the back axle and mangled gears and a decision to sell my 400bhp single-seater racing car and take on a 7hp 1904 Oldsmobile.”

So why the 2,826 mile trip across the States? Rainey wants to raise money for Cancer Research UK, in honour of her former partner and co-driver Trevor Hulks who died in 2010. Rainey explains, “A few months after Trevor’s untimely death I was contacted by Gary Hoonsbeen of the CDO Club in the USA who gently suggested that at some time in the future I might consider undertaking the trip myself as a tribute to Trevor. My reply was something like, ‘I never say never’, but in my heart then, I did not think that I could take on such a challenging trip without my soul mate.

“Now, after considerable soul-searching and encouragement from old and new friends, I have decided that this challenge feels like unfinished business. Therefore on 14th April next year I will start my coast-to-coast USA trip from Los Angeles and drive to Daytona Beach arriving on the 15th May in my 109-year-old Curved Dash Oldsmobile. And I would like to raise £20,000 for Cancer Research.”

I hope she does.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bond’s Best Car

If you were to survey James Bond film fans as to which of the various cars appearing in the movies was their favourite, what would they pick? Total Car Score recently ran a Facebook survey to determine exactly that. They let participants choose from a list of 10 cars covering the franchise’s history. You can see pictures of the various car models (some of the photos show the actual movie cars) in this article by their editor-in-chief Karl Brauer.

If you picked the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger, you weren’t alone. The survey said 55% of the votes were for this car, with two other Aston Martins, the DBS from Quantum of Solace and the Vanquish from Die Another Day, coming in at second and third place. And no wonder. “Based on the opinions of those we surveyed on Facebook, it seems the Aston Martin DB5 has everything that makes a Bond car a Bond car,” said Brauer. “Early vehicles, like Dr. No's Sunbeam Alpine, didn't diminish 007's image, yet the Aston Martin DB5 that debuted in Goldfinger set a new standard that has yet to be eclipsed. The DB5's sleek profile can stand on its own, but throw in oil jets, machine guns and an ejector seat and you're left with a Bond icon so powerful they've brought it back for the modern movies.”

Check it out in the attached RM Auction video, posted in September 2010 for their October Automobiles of London sale, where it went for £2,912,000 ($4,608,531).



Art Cars Go Camping

No, we’re not talking the BMW art cars here, those racing vehicles painted by famous artists such as Andy Warhol. Instead, we’re talking about advertising vehicles shaped like product. Seems L.L.Bean recently commissioned its own car, the L.L. Bean Bootmobile, and thought it might be fun to take it camping in Freeport, Maine, last Saturday and raise funds for the US National Park Foundation at the same time. Three other art cars were invited along for the trip, the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile (how appropriate), the Just Born PEEPSTER car, and the Lindt Chocolate Gold Bunny car.

As the newest art car on the road, the L.L.Bean Bootmobile,
created in honor of the company's 100th anniversary, has
invited the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, the Just Born
PEEPSTER Car and the Lindt Chocolate Gold Bunny Car
to come together for the first ever "Art Car Campout"
in Freeport, ME on Sat., October 13. Today, Fri.,
October 12, the vehicles warm-up by the campfire
before the big day of outdoor family fun.
(Brian Peterson, Feature Photo Service)
 There’s a Lindt Chocolate Gold Bunny car? How did I not know this? So I did a quick Google search and discovered that there’s actually more than one of these golden Smart cars. This blog entry from 2008 says they’re the official company cars, at least in Canada. Why have I never seen one at the local outlet store?

You can see the Lindt Bunny car parked at L.L. Bean’s in the attached video. I’m thinking I may need to stake out our local outlet to see if I can spot a golden bunny of my own.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mopar Headed to SEMA

Possibly the most interesting car show in North America for new cars is the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show held each fall in Las Vegas. That’s where all the cool aftermarket bits and pieces you can use to tweak your ride can be found. Unfortunately, most of us Jane and Joe Averages will never get to see it, but many of the exhibiters are generous with details. Chrysler Group held a press conference last Friday to show off some of the toys they’ll be taking to this year’s show, which runs from October 30 to November 2.

They’ve used 500 plus Mopar parts and accessories to deck out 24 Chrysler Group vehicles. Only eight were on display Friday. Here are my favourites from among them.

The Jeep Wrangler Sand Trooper is one of 24 custom vehicles
that Mopar will bring to the 2012 Specialty Equipment
 Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas.
 Courtesy and copyright Chrysler Group LLC.
 Jeep Wrangler Sand Trooper

Too bad they’re only teasing us with a drawing—I assume the real thing will be ready for SEMA. Anyway, this monster uses the 5.7 liter HEMI® V-8 conversion kit, to give 375 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. It’s been boosted with front and rear portal axles, and rides on 42-inch Super Swamper Bogger tires. Other goodies include a skid plate, LED off-road lights, a CB radio, and a trailside winch kit. They’ve even added a trunk. Looks like a lot of fun, but with those half doors, it’s obviously not designed for winter. Too bad.

Fiat 500 Beach Cruiser

Courtesy and copyright Chrysler Group LLC.
Courtesy and copyright Chrysler Group LLC.
Heh. They’ve widened the body by a foot, added fender flares, teak wood trim on the floor and roof rack, and even a matching surfboard. The seats come with beach towel inserts, and there’s the obligatory hula girl on the dash. They’ve also thrown in performance and handling upgrades. All it needs now is an eight-track and a supply of Beach Boys albums to play in it. Where can I sign up for surfing lessons?

Dodge Charger Juiced

Take a Dodge Charger and add a Viper V-10 Mopar crate engine. Oh yeah! Add a Mopar lowering kit, front chin spoiler, and performance prototype hood, plus metallic Copperhead paint. Yum.
Courtesy and copyright Chrysler Group LLC.

SRT Viper

I saved the best for last. Thought the Viper was perfect already? Mopar has replaced several parts with carbon fiber versions, making the Viper lighter. Mopar springs boost suspension performance. Lots of yellow accents and polished chrome and aluminum make it pretty. There’s an optional front tow hook, in case you accidentally go off-roading.

Like the Jeep, this is only a drawing, but I'm assuming they'll have a live Viper on the SEMA floor.
Courtesy and copyright Chrysler Group LLC.

Friday, October 12, 2012

All I Want for Christmas is a 2013 Neiman Marcus Edition McLaren 12C Spider

2013 Neiman Marcus Edition McLaren 12c Spider.
PRNewsFoto/The Neiman Marcus Group
The 2012 edition of the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalogue is now out. For those of us not on their mailing list (yup, that includes me for some reason), the catalogue can be viewed online. I used to love looking through the Sears Wish Book as a kid, but they never had anything like this. Here are a few items from their fantasy gift list that the gearhead on your list would probably love. And, hey, some of it goes to charity.

First there’s the featured car. Yeah, a 2013 Neiman Marcus Edition McLaren 12C Spider. Twelve of them, actually. I’m thinking his and hers would be nice. First there’s the car itself, in volcano red, with a 616 horsepower V8 twin turbo that will take you from 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds. It comes with matching luggage, which you’ll need for the business-class trip to England to tour the McLaren Technology Center and have dinner with McLaren Chairman Ron Dennis (um, I’d rather have dinner with McLaren himself). Plus a $3,000 donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters. For $354,000, it can all be yours. They’re taking orders as of October 24, noon EDT. Call 888-756-0775 to reserve.

While you’d need a second car for it (unless you want to put a trailer hitch on the Spider), they’re also offering a Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Woody-Tailgate Trailer. Think I’ll just quote from the press release here—it’ll be shorter that way. “Designed by interior designer Brad Ford, it's impressive on the outside, but what's on the inside truly astounds: sleek leather furnishings and details from Moore & Giles, rich wood finishings (handcrafted from reclaimed Bulleit Bourbon casks), elegant glassware, and a top-notch entertainment system, including a flat-screen TV, Blu-ray Disc™ player, and a state-of-the-art sound system, plus a one-year supply of Bulleit Bourbon and Bulleit Rye.” I wonder how they determine what a one-year supply is?

Finally, and possibly cooler than the McLaren Spider, is the JetLev R200. You get a water-propelled jetpack, complete with boat and all the necessary equipment, plus a CFI 1 Pilot Certification Training & Safety course. Sweet.

I’m not seriously expecting any of this to end up under my tree, but it’s fun to look.

[SOURCE The Neiman Marcus Group]

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Three Great Hot Rod Websites

1934 Ford Roadster by Kate Tompkins

I’ve noticed more hot rods out at shows the last few years. I know I like to look at them, and I can’t be the only one. Since the show season’s pretty much over up here, I thought I’d post a few websites where you can get your fix over the next several months.

Not only do they put out a great hard copy magazine (also available as a digital subscription), there’s lots of content on their website as well, including web only features. There are photos from lots of different shows, including last year’s Fleetwood Country Cruize In, a show I’d love to get to. Not so happy about the photos of the SEMA girls—the only eye candy I want to see is cars, thanks. Check out the videos as well, they cover projects as well as shows. Lots of links to other clubs, as well. If you like them on Facebook, you’ll get occasional updates, with pictures, from whatever show they’re currently at or project they’re working on.

This site has a different emphasis, being more about racing than about the building and showing of hot rods. Here you can find profiles of hot rod legends, together with photos, many of them historic. There’s a featured Photo of the Day and Part of the Week (it’s under Cool Stuff), and even a list of movies featuring hot rods.

Like Canadian Hot Rods, HOT ROD has both a digital and hard copy presence. There are lots of articles on cars and tech, and you can even search for cars by make. You’ll also find coverage of events such as the HOT ROD power tour and HOT ROD drag week. They also do a weekly radio broadcast, accessible from the web page. There doesn’t seem to be a specific photo section, but you can find lots to look at under Reader’s Rides.

Know any other great hot rod sites I should add to this list?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Lyonheart K to Build 250 Cars, Including Both Coupe and Convertible

Lyonheart K courtesy Classic Factory

Further to my last post, Lyonheart K has announced that it will be building 250 of its proposed British luxury sports car, and that, due to customer demand, some of those will be convertibles. If you’re in the market for a hand-built sports car with a Cosworth Supercharged V8, you might want to check this out. I’m mesmerized by the photos.

Unfortunately, while the car’s price has come down—the latest press release says the price will be well under 400,000 Euros before tax and delivery—we North Americans are out of luck. They’re planning on selling 70% of the production run in Europe, 10% in the Middle East and the remaining 20% in China. But I guess if you can afford the purchase price, you could afford to run over to Europe and pick one up.

I’ll be adding both the coupe and the convertible to my virtual garage.
Lyonheart K courtesy Classic Factory

Lyonheart K courtesy Classic Factory


New Lyonheart Sports Car Reinterprets Jaguar E-Type for Today

I originally wrote this column back in February for a now defunct car website. I’m rerunning it here as background for my next post.
Lyonheart K courtesy Classic Factory

Swiss design company Classic Factory has just launched a new British luxury sports car, to be built by hand entirely in Coventry. Does the world need yet another British luxury car? Probably not, but I just had a look at the Lyonheart Cars Ltd. website and the Lyonheart K is drop-dead gorgeous. While I will never in a million years be able to afford one (the asking price is €495,000 or approximately $656,122, and that’s before taxes), I sure wish I could.

This limited series car has a 5.0 litre supercharged V-8, putting out 550PS. With an aluminum chassis and engine, and carbon fibre panels, the Lyonheart K weighs around 3500 pounds. Consequently it’s fast. They say it will do 100 kph in less than four seconds (that’s 0 to 60 mph), with an electronically-governed top speed of 300 kph or somewhere around 186 mph. Yikes. All of this is hidden under a classic clamshell hood.

Classic Factory had originally designed the car as a one-off modern take on Jaguar’s E-type, but it was so popular they decided to actually build it. According to their CEO, Robert Palm, "We want to make the 'Made In England' label into a truthful concept, not just a statement. Every part of the Lyonheart K is developed, engineered and hand-built in England. The design clues of the Lyonheart K reflect Britishness at its best: cool, elegant, refined, understated yet powerful and dynamic."

It’s all of that. If it performs even half as well as it looks, it’ll be sensational.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Knit a Scarf to Match Your MINI

Courtesy BMW Group

In one of the more unusual marketing partnerships I've seen, MINI is working together with Wool and the Gang to produce a limited number of kits for people to knit their own scarf in MINI Countryman True Blue Metallic. Each kit for the LULA HOOP scarf comes with sufficient Peruvian wool to make it, the necessary knitting needles, a sewing needle, and the pattern. And, to make it truly exclusive, a sew-on badge with the MINI / Wool and the Gang cooperation logo.

Before any of you knitters out there get too excited, you should know that the kits are only available from the Wool and the Gang online shop (that’s HERE), and cost €75.00. Ouch. Think that’s because it’s exclusive? Apparently not, since all of their kits seem to be insanely expensive. The ready-made LULA HOOPs, not in MINI blue, are even more money.

Of course you could easily find an online pattern for an infinity cowl and pick up some bulky yarn at your local department store for $10 or so. You could probably even persuade someone to knit it for you. You wouldn't have the badge or the matching colour, however. For a true MINI fan, it’s probably worth the extra money.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Gentlemen, Start Your Lawnmowers

Got a press release a few weeks back announcing that some company or other was continuing to supply parts to, or renewing their sponsorship of, a lawn mower racing association. Obviously the press release wasn’t too effective on me because I can’t remember who issued it (possibly STA-BIL, a gas additive manufacturer)—I was too fixated on the idea that people not only race lawn mowers, but that there was an actual association for it.

According to Wikipedia, the whole thing got started, not surprisingly, in a pub in England, back in 1973. Needless to say, it spread. There are at least two American associations, the U.S. Lawn Mower RacingAssociation and the American Lawn Mower Racing Association. Both offer local chapters as well as a national championship. A little closer to home is the Southwestern Ontario Lawn Tractor Racing Association (SOLTRA).

In case you’re wondering, they use ride on mowers (wimps), which have had some modifications made to them for safety, including the removal of the blades. Too bad. I was planning on starting a local chapter and hosting a race in my backyard. Seemed like an easy way to get my grass cut.

I can’t vouch for the instructions, but here’s a site telling you how to make a racing lawn mower. There’s even an online lawnmowerracing game, in 3D no less. It does require you to register to play, which I haven’t done, so again, I can’t vouch for it. If anyone tries it and it is good, let me know in the comments.