Monday, 28 February 2011

RIP hongkongphooey

Renowned modifier, restorer and all-round good egg Simon Baldwin (aka hongkongphooey) was tragically killed in a car accident on Friday night. Our thoughts are with his family.

Here's to you Si, pulling a cheeky burnout through the pearly gates. May your legacy live on through your unique works.

Imperia GT

The Imperia GT is Belgium's answer to a question that nobody really asked: can an unknown low-volume manufacturer make a retro-styled hybrid sports car with ultra-low emissions and a 911 price tag?
Well, yes - Imperia can offer similar C02 levels to a Smart car from their combination of 210bhp 1600cc petrol four-pot mated to 136bhp electric motor. If they can overcome their battery weight issues, they'll be able to offer 0-60mph in sub-6s for around £65,000. Click here for more info.

It looks pretty cool. But who's going to buy it...?

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Bertone B99

B is for Bertone, 99 is the number of years the firm have been around. Put them together and you get the latest Jaguar concept, due to debut at Geneva.
Whilst retaining a classic Jag silhouette, it's actually only the size of a 3-series. But much more luxurious, obviously. The pillarless doors cleverly disguise the fact that this coupe is actually a four-door, while the slitty lights echo those of the C-X75 concept. Apparently it has a hybrid drivetrain too, but we don't really give a toss about that. (C'mon, it's a Jag - it should have a big, lazy V8 and single-figure fuel economy.)

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Trabant nT

I've always been a fan of the Trabant 601's cheeky styling, but even the most evangelical supporter of the brand would admit that the car had its problems. Chief among these were an asthmatic two-stroke engine that, while smelling brilliant, would struggle to relieve a rice pudding of its skin, and bodywork that was inexplicably delicious to livestock. Happily, both of these issues have been addressed with the new Trabant nT: the bodywork's made of good ol' steel, while the powerplant is - wait for it - electric.

The nT is just a prototype for now, while investors are sought. But if it enters production, it'll apparently only cost about £7000 to buy one. Which is fantastic news.
Click here to learn more.

Mini Rocketman

In an ideal world, 'Mini Rocketman' would be what Elton John called his son. But it does equally well for Mini's latest concept, due to be unveiled at the Geneva show. It answers criticisms that have been circulating since the launch of the New Mini - that its inflated size is an insult to Issigonis' pure design - by being really rather small. Brilliantly, they're calling it a '3+1'; you can get three people in there in relative comfort, four at a push. But you're better off having two (or, ideally, one).

If it does go into production, we'll have to hope that they don't make a convertible... those funky rear light hoops would make it look like a shopping trolley.
Click here for further info.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011


Take one Beetle bodyshell...

...mount it to a Boxster chassis...

...and you get a Bugster! Brilliantly simple, right?
Well, no, hideously complicated. But well worth it. 270bhp of mid-engined tomfoolery in a classic shape, liberally smothered in a controversial shade of Lamborghini grey. Click here for the full gallery.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Lada Niva: back in the UK

The Lada Niva has many benefits over other commercially-available 4x4s:
- It's considerably cheaper
- It's as tough as old boots
- If you lose your keys, you can break into it with a spoon

Exciting news, then - it's available in the UK again after a lengthy hiatus. Dating back to 1977, the Niva (Russian for 'crop field') features an 80bhp 1.7-litre engine and a 0-60mph time of seventeen seconds. But you don't want it to be quick, do you? You want it to be indestructible, which it is. And it'll cost you under ten grand.

Click here for James May's opinions, and then click here to buy one. You know you want to.

Iso Fidia

For the discerning family man, there are a few choices of transport if the Maserati Quattroporte is considered a little too obvious: the Bitter SC, the De Tomaso Deauville, the Aston Martin Lagonda... but for true unusualness, there's no rival for the Iso Fidia. Built between 1967-75, the Giugiaro-penned leviathan was powered by a 300bhp Chevrolet V8, allowing it to growl to 60mph in around seven seconds. Interior fit and finish was sublimely luxurious, as you'd hope in a car that cost more than a Rolls Royce. Credentials were good too, with John Lennon having bought the second Fidia off the line.

They're pretty tough to track down these days though... Iso only built 192 of them. But if you can get your hands on one, you'll be driving what Iso described in their brochures as both the world's fastest four-seater and the world's most exotic four-seater. And neither of those is a bad claim.

NASCAR's biggest pile-up

1960 was only the second year of the Daytona 500, yet in all the decades since they've never had an accident as big as this one. (Don't worry, everyone [unbelievably] managed to walk away, so you can enjoy the carnage without guilt.)

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Storm Field's MGB GT V8

The MGB GT is an icon of the halcyon days of affordable British sports cars, looking glorious on a summer's day in British Racing Green, wire wheels glinting in the light.
Of course, sticking a V8 under the bonnet creates rather a different animal. Bulbous arches, lurid paintwork, stripped out interior with a beefy roll-cage: all of this is entirely appropriate - nay, essential - for an MGB racer.
I just love the look of this car. There's not a single thing I'd change.

Click here for more info.

Rally Classics - Catalunya

Some photos here of the latest round of the Rally Classics series at Catalunya. You can learn more about the series here - basically, it's an excuse for owners of classic sporty machines to race them against each other in a variety of evocative settings, which is after all what they're for. Marvellous.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

ATS 2500GT

Many desirable marques and models have followed, but the ATS 2500GT has the privilege of being Italy's first mid-engined supercar.
Founded in 1962 by two ex-Ferrari engineers, Carlo Chiti and the illustrious Giotto Bizzarrini, Automobili Turismo e Sport began work on a road car and an F1 racer, designing them from scratch to run a common engine. Arguments over whether to run a V8 or V12 saw Bizzarrini leave the project (taking the money with him, as well as his V12 design which went on to symbolise everything that we love about Lamborghini), while Chiti developed a V8, in 1.5-litre guise for F1 and 2.5 for the road.

The company's F1 career was short-lived - a single season was enough to see Chiti abandoning the endeavour - but a handful of competition 2500GTSs were worked on for the Targa Florio and similar events... although just one road-legal 2500GT is believed to have been built. It's the pleasantly weathered example you see in these photos.

ATS lasted from 1962 to 1965. Bizzarrini's career went from strength to strength with Alfa Romeo, ISO and, latterly, Bizzarrini S.p.A., while Chiti went on to found Autodelta, later to become Alfa Romeo's in-house tuning arm. Their work with ATS is now little more than a footnote in Italian automotive history, but it inspired a generation of performance car builders to experiment with a new layout that rapidly became the norm. And we, as car enthusiasts, cannot thank them enough.

BBC 'Rally Sprint' - 1983

A lovely bit of retro archive footage here. In 1983, the BBC staged an event entitled 'Rally Sprint', pitting Formula One stars against rally drivers to see who would come out on top. The F1 drivers in question were Danny Sullivan, Derek Warwick, John Watson and Nigel Mansell, while the rally world was represented by Jimmy McRae, Pentti Arikkala, Stig Blomqvist and Tony Pond. In the following videos you'll see them going head to head in 300bhp Rover SD1 V8s, autotesting in MG Metro 1300s and racing at Donington Park in MG Maestros. A truly unusual spectacle.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

The Camaro's got the nuova-retro muscle car looks, and it certainly isn't lacking in the power department. But being content with 'quite a lot more than enough' has never really been the muscle car way, so Chevrolet have turned up the wick a little. Y'know, just because they can.
The new ZL1 is powered by a supercharged 6.2-litre V8, giving 550bhp and enough torque to dislodge the teeth of anyone you happen to drive past.

It's actually the engine from the manic-but-understated Cadillac CTS-V, although this is a much better look for the unit. And it's also created the most powerful factory Camaro ever built. That's nice.