Audi’s R18 hybrid: Beautiful and spectacular

WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps 2014

While there’s likely nowhere on Earth where the above Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro is street legal – except perhaps Antarctica, which isn’t known for its road system – one can dream of getting behind the wheel of this stunning vehicle and opening it up.

That is, until one comes across an older couple in a late-model Buick chugging along in the fast lane at 48 miles an hour.

The Audi R18, the first hybrid race car to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, is one of the favorites of this year’s race, not surprisingly.

The car possesses an unusual combination: It features a conventionally powered rear axle together with an electrically powered front axle. The system located in the front of the car contains two drive shafts and a motor generator unit, together with planetary gearbox, which retrieves its own energy from the electric flywheel accumulator mounted alongside the driver in the cockpit, according to Audi.

The energy is stored during deceleration, and then transferred to a flywheel that can shoot it back to the front axle for added acceleration.

In the process, the front wheels drive the motor generator unit. This accelerates a carbon-fiber flywheel, which runs in a high vacuum. Once the car takes a corner and the driver accelerates, the system delivers the energy to the front axle – but only above a speed of 75 mph, the manufacturer added.

The 3.7-litre V6 engine can muster 510 horsepower and speeds of more than 185 miles per hour.

As for price, if you have to ask, well, you know the rest …

Plymouth muscle car fetches $3.78 million at auction

1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda Convertible

The Chrysler name has taken a beating in recent years, between the automaker declaring bankruptcy, being bailed out by the US government and choosing to discontinue such venerable lines as Plymouth.

While sales have rebounded over the past few years, proof of just how high automaker once flew was evident this past weekend when a Chrysler muscle car from more than 40 years ago sold for $3.78 million.

A rare 1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda convertible fetched one of the top prices ever for a muscle car June 14 at Mecum’s Seattle auction.

The $3.78 million figure makes the ’71 Plymouth the most valuable Chrysler product ever sold. The final total included an 8 percent commission for Mecum.

The Hemi Cuda was one of only two built for the US that year with a 4-speed manual transmission and a 425-hp big-block V-8 engine. Of the two, the bright blue beast sold Saturday is the only one with its original motor, according to Mecum’s.

Chrysler made just 11 Hemi Cuda convertibles in all in 1971.

1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda Convertible 2Muscle cars – the name attached to high-performance automobiles – came into prominence in the 1950s and ‘60s, with the major American automakers all producing their version of souped-up cars with powerful engines.

The segment was ultimately waylaid by rising insurance rates, the OPEC-inspired fuel crisis of the 1970s, which drove up gasoline prices, and the Clean Air Act.

According to Mecum’s, the car in question was purchased new by a “famous cartoonist” who later sold it to someone in Oregon. A few years later, however, it was confiscated in a drug bust and ended up at a police auction in 1999, where it went for the then-astonishing price of $410,000, according to Fox News.

(Photos show the 1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda convertible that sold this past weekend for $3.78 million.)

Rare Ferrari fetches record auction price

Ferrari-275-GTB-4-Spider

Among the many things that Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll owns is a race track. That’s handy because the Quebec entrepreneur has more than 20 Ferraris, including a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S N.A.R.T. Spider that he purchased at auction last month for $27.5 million.

The final price, which included commission, makes the red roadster the most expensive road car ever sold at auction.

N.A.R.T. stands for “North American Racing Team,” a Ferrari-backed venture created in the late 1950s to promote the brand in the US.

One of only 10 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S N.A.R.T. Spiders ever built, it had been owned by the same family since its creation – that of former Lexington, N.C., Mayor Eddie Smith, who died in 2007.

The single-family ownership increased interest in the car, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Smith bought the car for $14,500 when it was new. Despite its rarity, he enjoyed driving it regularly and was known throughout the small town of Lexington for giving kids a ride in the car so they should share the experience, according to the Times.

Since Smith’s death the Ferrari has been stored in a specially built garage. Proceeds from the sale were to be given to charity, according to Smith’s son.

Continue reading

Some things sell themselves – fortunately

Aston-Martin-V12-Vantage

About all that stands out in TopGear.com’s review of the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S is the end of the second sentence – “ … it’s more powerful than ever, and it’s louder” – along with the accompanying photos of the stylish sports car.

But, then again, power, noise and flashy pics can do much to mask muddled writing.

Yes, for the vast majority of us plebeians, dreaming of owning an Aston Martin is akin to window shopping on Beverly Hill’s Rodeo Drive – except, perhaps, you might get something a little more tangible for your money.

Perhaps that’s why TopGear loaded its review of the V12 Vantage S with jargon that makes it practically incomprehensible at first glance.

For example:

Following on from the Rapide S revealed earlier this year, the new Vantage S replaces the old V12 Vantage, and sports Aston’s new AM28 6-litre V12 engine, producing the same figures as the Vanquish. So you’re looking at 565bhp – up from 510bhp – 457lb-ft of torque and a top speed of 205mph. The old car did a piffling 183mph; positively pedestrian.

Continue reading

A bumpy trip down memory lane in Germany

The Concours d’Elegance it was not.

The pride and joy of the communist auto industry was on display last weekend in Saxony, Germany, as approximately 550 vintage cars produced between 1949 and 1990 in socialist countries in Eastern Europe were displayed.

Among the “gems” of the Iron Curtain on hand were Trabants, once a mainstay on East Germany roadways, and Warburgs. (One pities the marketing executives who were tasked with putting lipstick on these pigs.)

Around 15,000 people came to the show, which has been held every four years since 2000 and is called “Damals die Renner” (loosely translatable as “They Used to Be Hot”), according to German publication Der Spiegel.

The event coincided with the 100th anniversary of the birth of Erich Honecker, the late leader of East Germany, but organizers insisted the timing was just coincidental, according to the publication.

At one time, Trabant cars were a ubiquitous sight on the roads of communist East Germany,” Der Spiegel reported. “Twenty years after German reunification, the iconic rattletrap autos are becoming increasingly rare.”

Also on display were motorized bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, trucks, tractors, buses and fire trucks, along with police and government vehicles.

Der Spiegel noted that the first “Trabi,” as Trabants are sometimes known, rolled off the assembly line in the town of Zwickau in Saxony in 1957.

A Trabant 500 Limousine

Trabants, which were produced until 1991 and were named by Time magazine as one of the 50 worst cars ever made, have become one of the most enduring symbols of the former East Germany.

However, once the reunification of Germany took place, the Trabant market quickly dried up and the make was discontinued.

Few lamented its demise.

No word on how many tow trucks were on hand at the event to assist with Red-era roadsters unable to make it away under their own power.

(Above: Scene from Damals die Renner, held last weekend in Saxony. Photo credit. Der Spiegel.)

Good ol’ days had some smelly drawbacks

Activists decry the automobile’s impact upon the environment, but few take time to consider what life was like in the days before motor vehicles came along 

More than 500 tons of horse manure was collected from the streets of New York City daily in the early 1890s, according to the above video by the New-York Historical Society and NYC Media. 

That’s 1 million pounds of road apples, for those of you scoring at home. 

All that horse hockey was produced by 62,000 horses in 1,300 stables, according to Jean Ashton of the New York Historical Society. 

It was taken – with human waste – to the aptly named “Barren Island,” where it was reduced to fertilizer. 

In addition to the horrible stench that emanated from the horse manure and urine, the waste products were obvious breeding grounds for insects and disease.

Continue reading

Carmaker: India merits special horns

Confirming what many who have been stuck in the legendary traffic jams of India have long suspected, at least one German carmaker revealed recently that it makes special horns for cars destined for the Asian subcontinent.

“Obviously for India, the horn is a category in itself,” Michael Perschke, director at Audi India, told Monday’s Mint newspaper.

“You take a European horn and it will be gone in a week or two,” he added. “With the amount of honking in Mumbai, we do on a daily basis what an average German does on an annual basis.”

Perschke said the horns are specially adapted for driving conditions in India, a booming market where Audi is one of many foreign car brands competing for increasingly wealthy customers, Agence France-Presse reported.

“The horn is tested differently – with two continuous weeks only of honking, the setting of the horn is different, with different suppliers,” he said.

Roads in India are often in poor repair, ranging from pot-holed major highways to dirt tracks in cities, while bullock carts, cows, rickshaws and bicycles often compete with cars and trucks for space.

Continue reading