Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Gorgeous 2013 SRT Viper Video

I’d meant to continue my series of blogs on the cars at Beaulieu today, but YouTube thought I might like the video I’ve posted below, and they were right. Can’t go wrong with Ralph Gilles demonstrating the Viper.

Looks like there’s more Viper goodness on SupercarHall’s YouTube channel, along with other great cars like the Porsche 911, or the 2013 Mercedes SLS AMG GT, alongside its ancestor, the 1955 300 SLR. ‘scuse me, I’ve got videos to watch.

February 2014: Aaargh! As so often happens with YouTube, the videos are no longer available. You can find some good car videos on Motor Trend's website, however, and with any luck they'll be around for a while.

Friday, March 22, 2013

National Motor Museum’s Ian Fleming Connection

Apart from the Bond in Motion exhibit currently running at Beaulieu, the National Motor Museum has at least two vehicles in its own collection with a connection to Ian Fleming.

1930 Bentley Blower
by Kate Tompkins
First up we have this 1930 Bentley Blower with a 4 1/2 litre supercharged engine. According to its plaque, the supercharger was designed by Amherst Villiers, a friend of Ian Fleming’s. Probably not coincidentally, Bond drove a similar car in the original versions of Fleming’s novels Moonraker, Casino Royale, and Live and Let Die. Well, it was fast and sporty, if a trifle old-fashioned. Then again, Casino Royale was published in 1953.

by Kate Tompkins
The second car has nothing to do with Bond at all, but is the subject of children’s book and movie Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. Yes, the same Ian Fleming. According to Wikipedia, he wrote the story for his son, and had the first volume published in 1964. The first Q-modified car doesn’t show up until 1964’s Goldfinger. Hmm.

By the way, there’s an interesting slide show by Evans Halshaw on the evolution of the Bond cars here. They’re all downloadable as wallpaper.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Even More Bond at Beaulieu

2002 Jaguar XKR from Die Another Day
by Kate Tompkins

Here’s the last vehicle I’m going to cover from the Bond in Motion exhibit at the National Motor Museum, a 2002 Jaguar XKR convertible from the movie Die Another Day. I would have liked to cover the 2002 Aston Martin V12 Vanquish from that movie as well, but you could only see it through a window when the lighting cycled just right. I think they were trying to duplicate the camouflage effect of the car in the movie, but it meant I couldn’t get a decent photo, though not from lack of trying.

The Aston Martin, naturally, was Bond’s car (in this case, Pierce Brosnan), while the Jag was driven by villain Zao in a gadget-filled chase scene, over ice, no less. Don’t you love that green paint? It would be expensive to replicate, as it has gold mixed in with it.
2002 Jaguar XKR from Die Another Day
by Kate Tompkins

Other non-standard equipment on the Jag is the thermal imaging system, rockets, mortars, a hydraulic battering ram, a Gatling gun, and the door-mounted missiles seen in the second photo.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Shelby GT500 Muscle Car Forever Stamp

Created by award-winning artist Tom Fritz under the art
direction of Carl T. Herman, the 1967 Shelby GT500 is one
of five stamps in the U.S. Postal Service’s Forever stamps 
collection. (Photo: Business Wire)

Further to my last post, thought you might like this photo of the 1967 Shelby GT500 stamp, courtesy of Carroll Shelby Licensing Inc. The Shelby GT500 depicted in the stamp is shown in Guardsmen Blue with Wimbledon White stripes. 1967 was the first model year for this iconic car. According to Carroll Shelby Licensing, only 2,048 were built, each with a 428-cubic-inch Police Interceptor engine capable of 355 horsepower. While that’s not much compared to today’s Shelby’s, it was a lot of muscle at the time.

According to the artist, Tom Fritz, “The ‘67 Shelby is as legendary as the man who built it, so I wanted to keep with the traditional paint scheme and iconic look of one of the most popular muscle cars of all time.” Personally, I think he’s done a great job.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

US Post Office Launches Muscle Car Collection

From Left: Daytona International Speedway President
Joie Chitwood III, Muscle Cars Stamp Artist Tom Fritz,
NASCAR icons Kyle and Richard Petty, and Postmaster
General Patrick Donahoe unveil the Limited Edition
America on the Move: Muscle Cars Forever stamps
at the Daytona International Speedway. All 60 million
Forever stamps are ready to roar out of the nation's
Post Offices.
(PRNewsFoto/U.S. Postal Service, 
Daniel Afzal, U.S. Postal Service)

The US Post Office has just released a new collection of car stamps in its America on the Move series: Muscle Cars Forever. Appropriately enough, the limited-edition first class stamps were dedicated at the Daytona International Speedway by seven-time NASCAR National Champion Richard Petty, together with Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, and Petty’s son Kelly.

Petty said of the collection, “These examples of raw power bring back fond memories for me and my family, a testament to how aerodynamics transformed racing. I’ve been around racing and muscle cars all my life. These stamps bring back the memories of our racing heritage in the ‘60s and ‘70s.”

Donahoe added, “Just looking at the stamps evokes a feeling of speed. As Forever stamps, they’ll always be good for mailing a First-Class letter anytime in the future. And when you think about it, that’s fitting. Because these stamps—just like the great cars they represent—are timeless.”

There are five different designs in all, which are sold together as a self-adhesive sheet of 20 (each design appears four times). The artwork is by Tom Fritz of Newbury Park, California. The cars in the series are a 1966 Pontiac GTO, a 1967 Shelby GT-500, a 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona, a 1970 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda and a 1970 Chevelle SS.

Previous issues in the America on the Move series were ‘50s Sporty Cars and ‘50s Fins and Chrome.

The Muscle Cars Forever collection is currently being featured on the post office’s Facebook page. There’s a link there to a webpage where you can buy these and other stamps online.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Bond at Beaulieu: Part Two

1977 Spirit Marine wetbike
by Kate Tompkins

Here are a couple more vehicles from the Bond in Motion exhibit at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, plus one of the Top Gear challenge cars. The first vehicle isn’t a car, but a Spirit Marine wetbike from the 1977 movie The Spy Who Loved Me, starring my favourite Bond, Roger Moore. Wetbikes weren’t commercially available until 1978, but trust Bond to have the latest gadgets.

1977 Lotus Esprit submarine
by Kate Tompkins
And speaking of the latest gadgets, here’s another vehicle from the same film, the 1977 Lotus Esprit that converts into a submarine. Among other things, Q had installed torpedoes, a mine launcher, and surface to air missiles. You can find lots more pictures of the car on this page at the Internet Movie Cars Database. Seems it was right behind the Aston Martin DB5 in popularity.

Top Gear Lotus Excel submarine
by Kate Tompkins
There was another Lotus submarine car in the Top Gear exhibit also on at Beaulieu while I was there. Host Richard Hammond used a Lotus Excel rather than an Esprit to save money. And it actually worked. I had a link to a video but it's unfortunately disappeared.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Rolls-Royce Taking on Bentley with New Wraith?

While I have a lot of respect for Rolls-Royce as the grande dame of the grand touring cars, I’ve always found them old-fashioned, and even a bit stodgy. No more. Judging by photos of the new Wraith launched at the Geneva Motor Show on Monday, they’ve definitely entered the 21st century. The Wraith certainly looks like it can perform, and the specs would seem to bear that out. Its V12 engine can put out 624 bhp and it will go from 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds, making it the most powerful Rolls ever. Impressive for a high-end luxury car, which is why I’m wondering if they’ve taken a leaf out of Bentley’s book.

And it definitely is a luxury car, with a lot of hand-craftmanship involved. The interior is swathed in fine leather and wood panelling. The headliner has fibre-optic lamps incorporated into it so that it looks like a night sky. There’s lots of modern technology included, of course, including Satellite Aided Transmission which peeks ahead using the GPS data to pre-select gears based on upcoming terrain. Voice activation is said to be so sophisticated that it can understand a command such as “navigate to Piccadilly in London.” My GPS has trouble with “enter destination.”

The Wraith will cost around €245,000 in Europe and the first ones are expected to be delivered in the last quarter of this year. You can see more photos and information on the Rolls-Royce Facebook page (is it just me, or does it seem wrong that something as exclusive as a Rolls is on Facebook?). Obviously far beyond my budget, but I’ll be making room for it in my virtual garage.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Bond at Beaulieu: Part One

James Bond's 1963 Aston Martin DB5
by Kate Tompkins

One of the things I really enjoyed about my visit to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu was the Bond in Motion: 50 Vehicles, 50 Years exhibit. The exhibit was put together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Bond film franchise in 2012, and was so popular that it’s been extended to January 5, 2014. If you’re a Bond fan and you’re visiting the UK, this is well worth a look. The exhibit is included in the price of admission to the museum.

Among the 50 vehicles is everything from a 1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom III, driven by Goldfinger in the 1962 film of the same name, to a pair of 2011 Honda CRF250R motorcycles from Skyfall. I was quite pleased to find what I’d consider the most iconic Bond car of all time, the 1963 Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger (above). While there were earlier Bond cars, this was the first one modified by Q. Who wouldn’t want a car with a passenger ejector seat? I’ve wanted a close look at a DB5 anyway—to have it be the Bond car was even better.
1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1
by Kate Tompkins

Another Bond car that caught my eye was the 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1 from Diamonds Are Forever. Seems Ford told the production company they’d give them as many cars as they needed, as long as Bond drove this one. Not his usual style, but a very nice car indeed.