Thursday, 31 July 2014

Nissan Cherry Europe

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

In embryo, this was a marvellous idea. But marvellous ideas don't always pan out as they should, do they?
You can imagine the board meeting where some creative type first mooted the idea: 'Hey, why don't we create a collaborative effort between Nissan and Alfa Romeo, fusing the key elements of both to make something unbeatable?' Much backslapping presumably ensued, at which point everyone went off for a long celebratory lunch and left the details to the work experience kid who hadn't fully grasped the idea. Yes, a beautiful Alfa Romeo body with a trusty Nissan engine could have been a world-beater... but switch the formula, and what do you end up with? Er, this... the Nissan Cherry Europe. (Or, if you fancy some more exotic badging, it was also available as the Alfa Romeo Arna.)
Nissan and Alfa Romeo wanted this car to take on the Golf in the flourishing hatchback sector, but the combination of uninspiring, designed-with-a-set-square looks and Italian guts that were, let's face it, not entirely trustworthy, resulted in something of a flop.

Nevertheless, I've always been one to champion the underdog, and I think this Cherry Europe GTI is a bit of alright. What do you reckon? Racy green seats, an engine that (if nothing else) looks rather pretty and, above all, a level of pristine-ness that suggests an owner who appreciates the model's position as an important chapter of motoring history. If only to serve as a lesson...

The car won top honours at the recent Concours de l'Ordinaire - you can read my report on it here. (And there are more photos here.)

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Maserati Quattroporte Evo

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

I've always had a bit of a thing for the fifth-generation Maserati Quattroporte. The name, dating back to the original QP of 1963, simply means 'four-door', which is a marvellously understated way of marking out the luxurious flagship in the model range. It's a big, imposing thing that's packed full of toys and quality materials, but the fact that it also happens to have a 4.2-litre V8 (or 4.7 in later cars) with Ferrari DNA coursing through it, that gives it supercar-baiting performance and a soundtrack like a choir of tortured angels, merely adds to the mystique. It's a luxury limo that secretly wants to be a race car.

...and in the case of the Quattroporte Evo, it actually is a race car. Now, you'd be forgiven for not having heard of the Superstars Series - it's been going since 2004 across Europe, although mainly in Italy, the rules requiring cars whose production brethren have four seats; non-turbo V8s are a must, and the grid's packed with M3s, RS4s and Panameras. It doesn't have a huge presence on the global petrolhead radar, but if machines like this are anything to go by, it really should. This QP Evo is the car that won the championship last year, driven to victory by long-time Ferrari/Maserati racer Andrea Bertolini, and as you can see it's packing a brutally wide body and aggression in spades.
We can draw two conclusions from this discovery. 1: we have a new race series to look out for. 2: someone should really build a Quattroporte road car that's as wide as this...

Spotted in the Cathedral Paddock att he 2014 Goodwood Festival of Speed - click here for more photos.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Brabus Super G 700 6x6

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Sometimes, cars spiral into absurdity. This quite big thing here is a case in point - the venerable Mercedes G-Wagen has been consistently popular since 1979, with no significant updates to the design because, well, it is what it is: a vaguely militaristic, hardy, all-terrain Merc that'll bounce over sand dunes, ford rivers, withstand gunfire and never break down.
In recent times, though, it's all got a little silly. Mercedes-Benz decided to put a 5.0-litre V8 in it in 1993, and then a 5.5 in 2005, before waving the AMG wand over the G-Wagen to furnish it with a supercharged 5.4-litre, allowing it to accelerate from 0-62mph in 5.5s. In something with the aerodynamics of a housebrick. And it didn't end there - Brabus, Lorinser and Carlsson all had a go at tweaking it, then AMG had another go themselves in 2006, boosting it to almost 500bhp, which swelled to over 600bhp by 2012... and then they thought 'OK, sod it, let's build a six-wheeled version'. That received an AMG V8, natch, and then we arrive at this, the very zenith of the whole silliness, the Brabus Super G 700 6x6. As the name suggests, it's got 700bhp-odd, six wheels, and not a lot in the way of subtlety. It's supremely expensive, guzzles fuel like a supertanker, and is pretty much impossible to park - so, as you might imagine, the West End of London is currently full of 'em...

Spotted at the 2014 Goodwood Festival of Speed - click here for more photos.

Monday, 28 July 2014


Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS is a complex and beguiling thing - at once devastatingly pretty and utterly ruthless. And the process of turning one into a GT3 racer effectively involves rubbing over the words 'utterly ruthless' with a luminous highlighter pen, over and over again.
What you end up with is the frightening orange charger that you see here before you. The unmistakable gullwing doors remain, but they're no longer the key aesthetic feature; they've been superseded by an aggressive aero package that beefs up the lines exponentially. And just look at the pure-function interior - uncompromising carbon-fibre buckets that are wafer-thin, a handful of buttons, and a sodding great air hose to stop the driver drowning in his own sweat. Oh, and it's all very, very orange.

Spotted at the 2014 Goodwood FoS - click here for more photos.

Friday, 25 July 2014

S54 240Z

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The Datsun 240Z was basically the Japanese E-Type - a long-nosed coupe with an eager straight-six, not too expensive, timeless lines, and endlessly desirable. Of course, they're a bit cheaper than old Jaguars these days, which is why you see this sort of thing happening...
The 240Z you see here, resplendent in searing Tango, is packing a BMW engine. And not just any humdrum Beemer six, but an S54 - the 3.2-litre lump found in the E46 M3. So that's about 340bhp-odd powering something that weighs as much as your shoes. Fun, huh?

Spotted at the Retro Show - click here for more. (And there's a build thread here.)

Phwoar, look at it making mincemeat of this Morris Minor...

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Captur & DeZir

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Renault's new Captur is proving to be rather successful - the rakishly styled mini-MPV seems to be everywhere. The combination of keen pricing and strong EuroNCAP ratings is quite a lure for young families, and it helps that it's all wrapped up in a package that sidesteps the mundane.

The Captur concept, however, was something rather different. Renault are superb at building concept cars, their motor show designs always featuring pioneering materials, methods and aeshetic executions. It's all very post-modern - weird for the sake of weird, and brilliantly so. Take a look at this orange marvel, the original Captur styling exercise from 2011; based on the Nissan Juke platform, it features swoopy carbon-fibre bodywork that bears similarities to Mazda's wind-hewn conceptual designs. It's got seats woven from plastic strands, display readouts on the bullet-camera wing mirrors, and some of the coolest bespoke tyres you've ever seen. Imagine if the production Captur looked more like the concept...!

And here's another concept from the same series that pioneered this new design language: the DeZir.
This one appeared in 2010 as an all-electric concept, its profile somewhere between Audi R8 and Alpine A110. It's got saucy butterfly doors, copious perforations, and a windscreen like the Stig's visor. An indicator of a future electric performance car from Renaultsport? Well, we can but hope.

Spotted at the 2014 Goodwood Festival of Speed - click here for more photos.