Monday, 15 July 2013

I Look Forward To Seeing This Never Actually Happen

Canvas wheels are a bold move. In my experience canvas flaps around in the wind and folds up very easily...
Today's Vapourware Special sees a Mr. Paul Halstead, an Australian entrepreneur, wishing to create a ground-up supercar (as in made from scratch, not something he can grind up) featuring a powertrain that combines Bugatti Veyron, Cizeta V16-T and Oppo Mentality by combining two GM LS7 V8s. The target result is a 1200-horsepower 14.0 W16 with two crankshafts and a "trick transfer case" to send all that power rearwards through an LSD (not the kind he might be consuming). But is it actually vapourware? Let's analyse.

First of all, let's try to be positive. Mr. Halstead runs an automotive design/engineering company called HAL, whose motto is presumably "high prices and shoddy workmanship? I'm afraid I can't do that Dave...". He's therefore probably got a sufficiently-equipped shed for the job, and what's more he's being honest with himself about this little project, saying that it's not a serious business venture and mostly just a bit of fun. The end result will be shown at the 2016 Detroit Autorama hot rod show, where he hopes to win a Ridler Award, perhaps for making the most confusing car or using the most green question marks of any entrant. He's also managed to bring a product to market before, which was the HAL Giocattolo, an Alfa Romeo Sprint coupé with a mid-mounted V8 that appeared in the '80s.

And now the negative. While we're on that modded Alfa, HAL only managed to make 15 of them before going bust. What's more, he's given himself two and a half years to finish a fully bespoke hypercar with a very complicated drivetrain linking two engines to one 6-speed gearbox, just like the Cizeta V16T that remains a largely-forgotten flop. It'll use a carbon fibre tub and a carbon-kevlar body, because hey, Koenigsegg do that all the time! How hard can it be? I've seen those videos on YouTube of theirs. Having a W16 engine may put people in mind of the Veyron, but the chances of this being half as good as the Big Bad Bug are slimmer than Posh Spice after having a shit. Also, it looks like a speculative render of Maserati's rumoured LaFerrari spin-off, not something that hails from Australia.

So what do we reckon?

Mr. Halstead has said that if anyone sees the finished product and they want to buy it, then he'll entertain them and say yeah mate, sure. That makes it sound like it's really just a project car he's working on for his own sake, rather than an attempt to make the next Hennessey Venom. If that's the case, then I actually hope he finishes it, because we shouldn't put down someone who wants to make a bonkers mad car for fun. It could also be a poster car for his company as long as he doesn't call it the 9000. If, however, this is actually supposed to be a limited run road car and he's just playing it down, then either he's a genius by throwing us off the scent or he's not very confident in his plan to tackle the Koenigseggs and Paganis of the world, and he'll lose out or even go bust again.


Monday, 8 July 2013

The BMW M3 Coupé is Dead, Approximately 12 People Care

BMW M3 (E92)
BMW have recently stopped production of the "E92" and "E93" chassis 3-Series coupé and convertible models. This, in turn, means that the BMW M3 is dead, as the "E90" and "E91" saloon and estate 3-Series have already been replaced by the all-new F30 and F31. The outgoing M3, with it's 4.0 V8 producing 414bhp and a heavenly roar as the needle soared as high as 8500rpm, will be the last and only generation of the legendary sports car to feature eight cylinders, thanks to a trend for downsizing and turbocharging.

The M3 Coupe has had a long and illustrious history on both road and track, with strong connections in each direction. Originally conceived as a homologation special back in the days when the rules of sports car racing stipulated that the cars entered had to be based on a road car of more than 250 examples, the original E30 had a naturally-aspirated 2.3-litre "S14" inline-4 that made nearly 200bhp and revved high with a metallic edge, few creature comforts and the steering wheel resolutely on the left side of the interior, as well as distinct changes to the bodywork for improved aerodynamics. Initial reviews were actually mixed, something you wouldn't realise if you looked at the floods of admiration it now enjoys 28 years later. It was like a touring car for the road, and the actual Group A touring car it homologated enjoyed huge success in German, British, Italian, Belgian, French, and Australian race series. In fact, E30 M3s in their various specs and evolutions won twelve touring car titles, five Nürburgring 24H races, four Spa 24H races and even a win at the Tour de Corse in the World Rally Championship. From 1987 to 1992, if you wanted to win in Touring Cars, the BMW was your best bet.

The E36 added a bit of luxury to proceedings on the road (as well as a four-door variant), and a bit of silverware in BMW's trophy cabinet, while also adding a proper BMW engine, the "S50" straight-six displacing 3.0 and latterly 3.2 litres as it took the world by storm across the rest of the 1990s. With 280bhp it was the first German performance car to be limited to 155mph (250km/h) as part of a gentleman's agreement to avoid the sports car arms race getting out of hand on the autobahn. One E36 touring car was painted by Sandro Chia as part of BMW's Art Cars series, which also included an E30 or two. Various limited edition models showed the popularity of the E36, which is still strong today in particular because it's the cheapest generation you can buy used. The only problem with that is that some of them are very, very used...

The turn of the century saw the E46, with a new "S54" 3.2 straight-six making 343bhp. As you'd expect it was heavier and more powerful, but it was no less successful on either side. By this point it wasn't homologating a racing car, more giving the people what they wanted, but E46 M3s competed well in GT racing anyway. In the ALMS they used a version with a 4.0 V8 not seen in the road car, so after complaints from Porsche that it wasn't in the spirit of the regulations, an M3 GTR Strassenversion was made, with that engine, a unique widebody aero kit and a stripped-out interior. The full-blown racing version featured (with a special blue-on-white paint job) in Need For Speed: Most Wanted, which is how many gamers remember the GTR. Adults with money, however, are most fond of the hardcore CSL version, whose only real flaw (besides having dry-weather-only tyres) was the SMG semi-automatic machine gun gearbox. A car like that shouldn't really be weighed down by flappy paddles and stuff, should it? The weight loss could've been even more than the 110kg it did lose to the regular M3 (making it 1385kg). There was no four-door version of the E46 M3, but there was, for the first time, a convertible for young tanned women with rich dads/husbands.

Then the E92 came out in 2007, with the saloon variant returning. With its hefty 1580kg kerbweight and V8 power, the M3 was almost turning into a muscle car, but for the fact that it had the kind of balance and poise to keep Porsche up at night (thanks in small part to a carbon fibre roof to lower the centre of gravity and improve roll stiffness, à la CSL). The racing car also competed well in various GT series - peaking with a 1-2 in the 2011 12 Hours of Sebring - and the latest Art Car also being an M3 GT2, done this time by Jeff Koons. It raced and sadly retired at Le Mans. The M3 GTS version was BMW's answer to the 911 GT3... in their minds. The often-orange track special packed a 4.4-litre version of the S65 V8 making 444bhp (450PS), plenty of oomph to shift a car roughly 135kg lighter, thanks to a stripped interior. The GTS also had a rollcage and a carbon fibre rear wing that never really looked big enough, and therefore looked a bit silly. Not as silly as the orange woman approaching her 40s driving a white, automatic coupe-cabrio, though...

And now here we are. But Michael, why would "only 12 people care" about this legendary sports car being consigned to the history books?

Well, because really it isn't. Only the coupé and convertible variants, and even then only if you're being pedantic.

See, BMW is overhauling its naming system to add consistency. To match up with the fact that two-door versions of the 5-Series are rebodied and called the 6-Series*, the Bavarian outfit are now doing the same to the 1- and 3-Series, turning the coupé/convertible versions thereof into the 2- and 4-Series. As well as adding consistency, it pulls the same trick that Audi have done with the A5, making the two-door version* of a fairly ordinary four/five-door executive car seem more special by having its own place in the range rather than a mere variant. So that means that the M3 Coupé's replacement next year will be called the M4. Same car (as it were), different name. But fear not! The four-door will still be the 3-Series and so a BMW M3 will still exist. It will just only be a saloon, previously a mere variant of the M3 Coupé, ironically. All signs point towards a 3.0 straight-six boosted by no fewer than three turbochargers, perhaps due to the kind of love for numerical precision that gave the M3 GTS 444bhp from a 4.4-litre engine. 3 litres, 3 turbochargers. How German.

*6-Series GranCoupe and Audi A5 Sportback [5-door fastback] notwithstanding. Bloody Germans and their niche cars...

Nerd's Photoshop Artist's rendering of what the M4 could well look like, based on the 4-Series Concept
So the only 12 people that care will be people pedantic enough to be irked by the change in their naming system. While I admit it might be a weeny bit more than just 12, it won't be many, as most people will just get over it and enjoy the new, more easily navigable naming system. Until you factor in niche cars like the 6-Series GranCoupe, which is a four-door version of the two-door version of the 5-Series. Eh? Did a thousand people really look at the new 6-Series and think "d'you know, what that really needs is more doors" out loud so BMW could hear them? And does said car really need to be a staggering ~£20,000 more than the 5-Series it effectively is? I suppose it also acts as a Mercedes-Benz CLS and Audi A7 Sportback rival, but it's not a coupé, and it's not for grans, so it shouldn't be called GranCoupe. Mind you, BMW also call their five-door school-run crossover a Mini, so maybe there's just no understanding them after all......

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Fernando Alonso Looking At Things (Photoshop Game)

I know I've had fun with Fernando Alonso's tweeted images before, and shared with you the subsequent results, but one of my internet-friends had another smart idea with another of the double F1 World Champion's Hipstergram photos, so I wanted to play too. Here are our results, a couple more from my post on Jalopnik, and a blank-canvas template so that you too can play:


Here are mine, 'cause this is my blog and I'm the boss:

Alonso looking at Alonso looking at Alonso looking at Alonso looking at Alonso looking at Alonso looking at......

Remembering earlier memes of Alonception...
This one utilises another image he tweeted today
More after the jump!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Sebastien Loeb Obliterates Pikes Peak On His First Attempt

Possibly the world's happiest rally car, piloted by possibly the world's fastest racing driver
The legendary Pikes Peak International Hillclimb may well have had to compete with the legendary British Grand Prix this weekend, just one week after the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours, but as it turned out in the mountains of Colorado, there was no competing with Sebastien Loeb. If you haven't heard of Mr. Loeb, you need to watch more motorsports. Michael Schumacher won seven F1 World Championships, with a record five in a row through the early 2000s. Seb Loeb won the World Rally Championship nine times in a row from 2004 to 2012. The only reason it's not going to be a nice round ten is because he's only competing in the 2013 WRC part-time, as he winds down his rallying activity in preparation for a jump to the World Touring Car Championship next year, when long-time employer Citroën will enter the sport with (most probably) a new DS4 Racing, er, racing car.

Last year, Loeb tried his hand at Rallycross by entering the X-Games in a specially prepared DS3 (essentially a much more powerful version of his usual DS3 WRC). He won. This year, sister company Peugeot decided to enter Pikes Peak 25 years after Ari Vatanen had won the hillclimb in a special 405 T16 - a win immortalised in the short film Climb Dance that gets rally fans all twitchy and excited - so the Frenchman tried his hand at hillclimb racing in an utterly wild 875bhp, 875kg Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak special with a mid-mounted turbo V6 (so not at all related to his WRC car). He won. By miles.

Last year's winning time was much faster than the 9:51.278 that Monster Tajima managed in 2011, because the track was fully-paved for the first time. For some reason (and also due to a couple of retirements) the Unlimited class didn't host the record-breaker, as Porsche GT driver Romain Dumas set a 9:46.181 in his "Pikes Peak Open" class 997 GT3R. This year, Rhys Millen, holder of the two-wheel-drive record, posted a 9:02.192 on the fully-paved road course, which is a massive amount faster than Dumas. But Loeb was off the scale, taking his Peugeot (with the rear wing and possibly floor from a 908 Le Mans Prototype) from the start to the summit 12 miles of death-threatening corners away in... are you ready for this?


Not only was he the first and only one to do it in under 9 minutes, but he did so by over fourty-six seconds. Millen's 9:02 was enough to get him second place. I'll say again that this is Loeb's first Pikes Peak event, going straight in at the completely unhinged Unlimited class. If that's not awe-inspiring, nothing is! It's fair to say that the time itself was always going to be very fast compared to previous years, as before now it was part-dirt and originally all-dirt, but that doesn't take away from beating your closest rival - who does this event every year and whose dad is also a legend on these bends - by 48 seconds. Based on what I've seen and read of Loeb, he was most likely completely calm afterwards as well. What a legend.

Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima taking his all-conquering ways away from internal combustion, but not Pikes Peak
As for Monster Tajima, he entered in an electric car, so he had no chance of winning outright, but his [breathe] 2013 Tajima Sport E-Runner Pikes Peak Special was good enough for him to beat his own 2011 record with a 9:46.530, besting himself by 5 seconds or so and only being half a second off the Time Attack-class winner Paul Dallenbach. Not bad at all for a 63-year-old racing without an engine!

Next year, we'll probably see less record breaking going on, or at least not by such huge margins, but unless they allow fan cars or something in the Unlimited class, I suspect Mr. Loeb's record will stand for a long time to come...

UPDATE: Here's the full run from inside the car!