Friday, 28 September 2012

McLaren P1

The McLaren MP4-12C, for all its myriad merits, does look a little dull from some angles. There's no real reason for this - it has all the correct supercar ingredients, but somehow it looks like a generic unbranded supercar from an early-noughties video game.
No such concerns with the new P1 concept, though - it looks sensational. Every curve, every surface is peppered with exquisite detail; the swan-neck motif on the front bumper around the headlights, the swooping LEDs on the tail, the overtly aero-focused form. It's stunning.
Performance will be equally stunning, as well - the P1 is aiming squarely at Ferrari's forthcoming Enzo replacement (rather cunningly getting there first), with the intention of basically blowing it into the weeds with superior technology and firepower. Some piquant morsels from the menu include carbon-fibre 'MonoCage' construction, active aero (providing 600kg of downforce at 170mph), and KERS... although the real party-piece is the thinking behind it. They're not going for a ballistic headline speed figure like the Bugatti Veyron SS - who cares if you can theoretically do 268mph if your car weighs over two tonnes and needs to be wrestled like an ocean liner around the slightest curve? The P1 has been designed with the express intention of being the fastest driver's car. And that's much cooler.
Images via Octane.

Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo

I've never been totally sure about the Panamera. Like the Cayenne, I get the point of it and it's undoubtedly a thoroughly capable machine - there's just something about the styling that jars with me.
...but that's not the case with the Panamera Sport Turismo. Just look at it - it's stunning. Debuting at the Paris Motor Show as we speak, the ST is a plug-in hybrid shooting brake; its Audi-sourced 3.0-litre V6 is supercharged to produce 410bhp, but working along with the hybrid system Porsche claim 80.6mpg and CO2 emissions of just 82g/km. Performance, frugality, desirability, provenance, practicality - there are absolutely no drawbacks. Porsche's ugly duckling has blossomed into a ferocious swan.
Photos via Autoblog.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Bentley Continental GT3

It's been a decade since Bentley debuted the Continental GT concept, and yet here we are in 2012 being astonished by the car all over again - this time as a GT3 racer.
The Conti GT represents, as one would expect from a Bentley, quality and opulence of the quilted leather/robustness/satisfying-door-thunk variety, backed up by a terrifyingly brutal under-bonnet arsenal. But does this package really translate all that well to the track? Can you be competitive in a two-ton trans-European express?
Yes, you can - you just need to shave a fair bit of weight off. The Conti GT3 weighs a staggering 1,300kg - that's 1,000kg lighter than the standard road model. Where has all the weight gone? Well, racers don't need walnut door inserts or sat-nav of course, but when the engineers started paring it down they found opportunities for simplification everywhere. The doors of the road car, for example, weigh 54kg - the GT3's doors weigh 7kg. This thing is, in all ways, very serious indeed. Engine and chassis specs are yet to be released, but expect brutality... Scroll down for the official video.
Photos via Autoblog.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

F31 Leopard

As dynamic and exciting car names go, you can do a lot worse than 'Nissan Leopard'.
Launched in 1980, the Leopard was a luxury sports coupé that was never officially sold in Europe. The example that you see here is a later F31 model, available between 1986-92; under the skin it was a mixture of R31 Skyline and C32 Laurel, available with either 2.0- or 3.0-litre V6 engines, with the option of a turbo on either. Being a product of the eighties, it enjoys folded-paper angularity and a brilliantly slitty set of tail-lights, while its 1980s luxury ethos encompassed a carphone, CD audio system and the brilliantly retro-futuristic concept of Sonar Suspension - a module mounted under the front bumper that scans the road surface and adjusts the suspension accordingly. Swish!
This particularly kickass example is sitting very low (although, one hopes, still with the Sonar Suspension hooked up!) over SSR XR4 wheels. More can be found at HTF.

Escort S2000

The classic Ford scene is always diverse and surprising; while there are enthusiasts who err on the side of purism, there are equal numbers of modifiers keen to push the envelope of what's possible. That's how cars like this happen: it's a mkII Escort, Jim...

It's a mkII silhouette really, of course. The chassis is from a TVR Tuscan Challenge racer, adapted somewhat to match the Escort's dimensions. Custom coilovers mounted in the centre of the chassis mate with fully-adjustable, rose-jointed wishbones to ensure that the handling is impeccable in whatever scenario it's driven. Unclip the one-piece front end and you'll find a Honda S2000 VTEC, mounted way back under the windscreen line, running Jenvey throttle-bodies and producing 275bhp. The interior is pure race car, the exterior looks tarmac rally-spec only much, much lower, and the overall ethos is of purpose and focus. Weighing 826kg wet, this Escort has a power-to-weight ratio of 333bhp/ton - the same as a Porsche 959 or Ferrari 550. And, of course, it's a fully-fledged race car under the skin. An astonishing build.
See Speedhunters for the full story.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Forge Motorsport Action Day 2012

Some superb footage here from Stephen Brooks Films.

FORGE MOTORSPORT ACTION DAY 2012 // Castle Combe Circuit from Stephen Brooks FILMS on Vimeo.

Blown Rotary Imp

The Hillman Imp approached performance in the same way that the Mini did - light weight, nimbleness and chuckability were the key factors, so massive power figures really weren't necessary.
Of course, 'necessary' is entirely subjective. With the engine sitting in a reasonably-sized boot space, there's plenty of scope for swaps - so, how about a supercharged rotary engine...?
Swapping the standard 875cc four-pot for a Mazda RX-7 12A Wankel will immediately yield huge power gains, and strapping on a supercharger is a brilliant exercise in overkill given the Imp's kerb weight of around 700kg. With a stripped-out interior and almost no silencing beyond a dinky Micron bike can, this thing must be a real assault on the senses as well as being ballistically quick. Looks like great fun.
Click here for more.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Screamin' Alley

Old-school East Kent drag racers may fondly recall the heady days of Screamin' Alley - an impromptu drag-strip that found quick success on a service road at RAF Manston. Its time was short but, offering the south-east's only option for proper drag racing besides making the trip to Santa Pod or across into Europe, it was a true cult hit. A Reliant Kitten on slotmags, a Marina Coupe gasser and a narrowed Renault 4 silhouette? It could only be the 1980s...
You can learn more here or, better still, buy this month's issue of Retro Cars magazine, which has a full feature in the venue's history.