Category Archive 'Automobiles'
07 Mar 2021

A Silver Arrow

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24 Nov 2020

Leyat Hélica

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This showed up on Facebook this morning.

Wikipedia tells us:

Marcel Leyat was a French automobile manufacturer, born in Die, established by Marcel Leyat in 1919 in Paris. The automobiles were built on the Quai de Grenelle.

The first model was called Hélica, also known as ‘The plane without wings’. The passengers sat behind each other as in an aircraft. The vehicle was steered using the rear wheels and the car was not powered by an engine turning the wheels, but by a giant propeller powered by an 8 bhp (6.0 kW) Scorpion engine. The entire body of the vehicle was made of plywood, and weighed just 250 kg (550 lb), which made it dangerously fast.

In 1927, A Hélica reached the speed of 106 mph (171 km/h) at the Montlhéry circuit. Leyat continued to experiment with his Helica. He tried using propellers with two and four blades. Between 1919 and 1925, Leyat managed to sell 30 vehicles.


New Atlas:

Leyat was a biplane designer before World War 1 broke out, but turned his hand to automobile designs, feeling that the aviation world had a thing or two to teach car designers.

First off, he saw early car designs as far too heavy and aerodynamically inefficient, problems that the aviation world had been working hard to solve. Secondly, he felt that driven wheels were another power-sapping exercise in needless complexity, requiring transmissions and clutches and drive shafts and differentials and all sorts of other bits and pieces.

Aircraft, on the other hand, were designed to be aerodynamic and lightweight from the get go, and a propeller could mount more or less directly to the engine’s crankshaft. So why not a wingless airplane for the road? These were early days for the automotive industry, and all sorts of different technologies were being thrown at the wall to see which would stick and which would slide.

Horsepower was a fairly scarce resource back in 1913 when Leyat built his first Helica, which used an 18-horsepower, 1,000cc Harley-Davidson v-twin engine in a lightweight plywood body that weighed just 550 lb (250 kg). His goal was to extract motion from that power in the most efficient way possible. In that respect, he did pretty well; a subsequent Helica recorded a top speed of 106 mph (171 km/h) in 1927, a terrifying speed for the time.

In other respects, Leyat’s propeller car, and several other designs not dissimilar to it, were a roundly awful idea from the beginning, because, well, they had great big propellers on the front of them. While this example is wire mesh shielded, that doesn’t appear to have been a feature of the original designs, so errant pedestrians and wayward pigeons alike could end up getting fed through a several thousand-rpm blender, showering driver and passenger with an exuberance of gore.

What’s more, the spinning mass of the wooden prop could turn into a highly energetic constellation of airborne shrapnel in the event of a rear-ender. When it wasn’t exploding in an accident, it was making one more likely by obscuring the driver’s view and blowing wind directly into his face at high speed. And if that weren’t enough, Leyat had also taken an aircraft-inspired approach to the steering, eschewing the complexities of a steering rack for a very simple, cable-operated rear wheel steering system that threw the back end out sideways to turn the car.

The resulting vehicle looks, shall we say, rather exciting to drive, and thanks to the contemporary footage below assembled by Diagonal View, we can get an idea of how it handled. In even a slow-speed u-turn, the inside rear wheel lifts merrily off the ground, its front wheels wobble around like pin-fixed discs on a toy car, and the whole contraption does little to make us think propeller cars were ever the automobiles of the future.

21 Sep 2020

Lament for the Manual Transmission

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Alfa Romeo 1750 stick shift.

David L. Scott, in the Wall Street Journal, sees the grim approach of the dystopian future in which you’ll sit passively in your computer-driven car with government-mandated speed limits and instantly-revocable travel permissions programmed in.

The manual transmission is already missing from most hypercars, and the rising generations of wussies does not know how to drive stick. The era of driving as fun and adventure is rapidly drawing to a close.

[T]he end of the manual transmission is near, and the unfortunate truth is few people will miss it. Most young adults don’t know how to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission, and they aren’t interested in learning. Many modern automatics offer better fuel efficiency and quicker acceleration than their manual counterparts. Porsche now delivers 75% of its 718 and 911 sports cars with automatic transmissions. The new C8 Corvette is only available with one. When the stick shift loses Porsche and Corvette buyers, you know it’s quickly heading for the rearview mirror.

But there is more bad news. In the future, cars won’t only be automatics; it appears they’ll increasingly be automated, electric vehicles. The satisfying throbbing of the exhaust and the pleasure of driving will also become victims of progress. Traveling in a personal vehicle will be as exciting as riding in an elevator with windows.

Despite impressive improvements in vehicle technology, my devotion for manually shifting gears, listening to the rumble of the exhaust, and maintaining a tight grip on the steering wheel through a sharp curve remains undiminished. Gripping the shifter knob allows a driver to become part of the vehicle rather than someone who is little more than a passenger. Manually accelerating through the gears and downshifting into a curve are two of motoring’s most satisfying experiences.

The sound, feel and thrill of driving are to be relished, not relegated to the trash heap and memories along with carburetors, fender skirts, steel wheels and hubcaps. Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway in a sports car with a manual transmission and you too will become a believer.


HT: William Laffer.

06 Sep 2020

A Car You’ll Never Own

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Jalopnik reports: Some unidentified gazillionaire ordered himself a special custom one-of-a-kind automobile from Aston Martin. It’s a V-12 with a manual transmission. Right on!

Features include:

Naturally aspirated 7.3-liter V12 from the One-77, tuned by Cosworth to a claimed 836 brake horsepower and 599 lb-ft of torque.

Six-speed manual transmission made by Graziano (The UK division of axle authority Dana) with a “bespoke motorsports clutch” that would probably cost more to replace than I’ve spent on car maintenance in my life so far.

380mm front, 360mm rear Brembo CMM-R carbon ceramic brakes.

Inboard springs and dampers from the track-only Aston Martin Vulcan.

Worked on by the team bringing the Valkyrie hypercar to life.
Finished in “Pentland Green” and satin carbon fiber with a Forest Green interior sewn by fancy leather outfit Conker Bridge of Weir which used cashmere on the headliner.

Also: The solid walnut(!) dashboard is Crown cut, whatever that means, and matches the wood shift knob.

Special bespoke clutch ?!

Cashmere headliner ?!

Pretty cool.


16 May 2020

Citroën 2CV Passing Ferraris


The Goodwood Collection offers the above video of a little old Citroën 2CV, its standard smaller-than-your-lawnmower’s engine replaced by a Suzuki GRX-1100R motorcycle engine, successfully passing Ferraris on the track.

A ride in a normal 2CV might send you to sleep, with its overheating engine, slow pace and rocking motion akin to a lazy sloop on the Mediterranean Sea. Not this one, however. This rather special deux chevaux is a track-worthy hot-lap machine, thanks to the Suzuki GSX-1100R powertrain hiding under the bonnet.

Join it at the Circuit Paul Ricard as it takes on the bigger boys – Porsches, Ferraris, Lotus and so on – during the ‘Dix mille tours de Peter Auto’ at the Paul Ricard circuit in France.

Despite having the aerodynamic qualities of a brick, the potent 2CV proves a lightweight weapon, passing a far, far more capable Ferrari 458 Italia twice on the French circuit before being overtaken again on the straights.

This has to be the most unlikely yet exciting hot lap we’ve seen for a while, and the perfect antidote to the enduring monotony of another day in lockdown. It’s also a perfect example of it’s not what you drive but how you drive it.

08 May 2020

Quentin Tarantino and Blue Karmann Ghias

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Quentin Tarantino makes prominent use of a blue Karmann Ghia in two movies.

My college best friend had a white Karmann Ghia that he called “Leopold.” Ghias were, I suppose, slightly cooler than the ordinary VW bug that most of us owned back when we were young, but most of us thought they were funny looking and, most importantly, no faster than any ordinary beetle.

I had been watching “Once Upon a time… in Hollywood” (2019) on cable, and I remembered that Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman) had been driving the same bloody blue Karmann Ghia in Mexico on her way to the final showdown in “Kill Bill: Vol. 2” (2004). So, I asked myself: Why in hell does Quentin Tarantino think that Ghias are cool, and what is it with that blue color?

I decided to search the Internet, and I found the answer: his dad owned one and he fixated on blue Ghias as a child! My father had a copper-colored 1960 Chevrolet Bel-Air, but I only thought it was cool back then. I wouldn’t take a free one today.

The cars in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood” come close to stealing the show. Given that the film stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt — both grizzled and a bit beaten up but all the more handsome for it — that’s saying a lot. …

there’s the blue, beaten-up 1964 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, which belongs to Dalton’s stunt double, Cliff Booth (Pitt).

Oh, that Karmann Ghia. It’s lovely. I read that to help it perform in the movie as Tarantino wanted it to, he had its VW engine replaced with a pumped-up Subaru engine. The result, strange to say, is exactly what Tarantino’s films are like: cult cars souped up with new engines.

They’re exercises, in other words, in having it both ways: nostalgic and up-with-the-times; viscerally violent and glibly cartoonish; knowing and innocent. Tarantino’s casting of the Karmann Ghia expresses this duality in more ways than one.

I should stress at this point that I am in no way a “car guy.” I own a Honda CRV, and I can never remember where they’ve hidden the lever that opens the hood. But I do love beautiful cars, and whenever I see a Karmann Ghia, whether in a film or in real life, my heart breaks into a canter.

Yes, Porsches are gorgeous. Citroens are cool. And the great Italian sports cars are obviously unsurpassable. But Karmann Ghias — an unlikely combination of German (Volkswagen) mechanicals and Italian design — are simply the most beautiful cars ever built.

I know, I know, beauty is subjective. (Although it’s not so hard to find agreement on the proposition that Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie are good-looking.) But that’s precisely the point: A Karmann Ghia’s attractiveness is not absolute in any Platonic, archetypal way, like a Porsche or a Ferrari. Karmann Ghias are real. They’re invitations to fandom. They’re approachable. They’re affordable. And their shape is — to a degree that’s almost sublime — just right.

So yes, if I were Quentin Tarantino, setting my film in 1969, with his moviemaking budget, I, too, would be looking for just about any excuse to film a scene with a Karmann Ghia. I might even build my whole movie around it.

There was a moment when I thought that’s exactly what he had done. In one of the film’s indelible sequences, Pitt bids farewell to DiCaprio, hops into his Karmann Ghia, and drives home. Suddenly, it’s as if he were in a different movie, playing a bank robber with the cops in hot pursuit.

He’s not. They’re not. The whole sequence feels gloriously pointless, and — in classic Tarantino style — quite a few seconds longer than it needs to be. But the pointlessness is exactly what makes it so wonderful.

You could argue that the scene helps “develop” Booth’s character. You would dutifully point out that when acting as Dalton’s chauffeur, buddy and life coach, Booth drives his Coupe de Ville sedately, whereas when he is in his own car — the Karmann Ghia — he expresses his true calling as a stunt double: He appears to become a reckless lunatic, but he is actually very much in control. Both sides of his character get to shine in the film’s denouement.

But honestly, who cares about that? The real reason — the deeper reason — for the extended Karmann Ghia scene is the same as the reason Tarantino made homages to hard-boiled crime novels (“Pulp Fiction”) and to blaxploitation films (“Jackie Brown”); a revenge fantasy about Nazis (“Inglourious Basterds”); and a vampire Western (“From Dusk Till Dawn”). It’s the same as the reason he chose to cast the likes of John Travolta, Pam Grier and Christopher Walken in leading roles. It’s because he is a fan.

Tarantino’s main talent is and always has been the exuberant expression of fandom. He is a sort of hyperactive curator of personal pop obsessions. He’s just like you and me in this sense, only more so.

He tells stories, yes. But original plotting is not where his energies go. His real talent is to bring the irrational wildness of fandom to stories and subjects that in other hands feel exhausted, cliched, or just dated.

Tarantino’s fandom is so uninhibited, it’s infectious. Spotting the references to his various obsessions is part of what makes his films so fun. But he is generous on this score: If you get his allusions, great. If you don’t, he’ll make sure you have a good time anyway. …

Tarantino is happy for you to know that his father owned a blue Karmann Ghia. But the mental connection he would probably prefer you didn’t make when you see “Once Upon a Time” is between the Karmann Ghia and a trauma experienced 15 years ago by Uma Thurman — a trauma for which Tarantino last year publicly acknowledged responsibility.

In the final stages of shooting “Kill Bill: Volume 2,” Tarantino had asked Thurman, the film’s lead, to drive a blue Karmann Ghia down a sandy road at a speed with which she was uncomfortable. She had been told the car was not operating correctly after its manual transmission was changed to automatic. She asked Tarantino to get a stunt double to do it instead.

Tarantino insisted she drive, and the upshot was awful. The Karmann Ghia, with Thurman at the wheel, plowed into a tree. Thurman, who is convinced she could have been killed, has since described the incident as “negligent to the point of criminality.” She forgave Tarantino (he describes the incident as the biggest regret of his life). But Thurman maintained that the alleged attempt by Harvey Weinstein, Lawrence Bender, and E. Bennett Walsh to cover it up was “unforgivable.”


And, how do you like this? Quentin couldn’t actually put up with a true Ghia’s anemic power, and had the original VW engine replaced with a modern Subaru boxer engine that puts out at least four times the power of the stock German 1500 air cooled flat-four.

13 Apr 2020

“35 Most Beautiful Cars Ever Made”


Certainly not the most beautiful, but a Corvette I’d never seen. They only made 3600 of them that year. Very nice for a Corvette.

I hate clickbait format sites like this one. But I will admit this one is almost worth all the trouble and delays of wading through page after page, accidentally hitting an ad link ever now and then.

Obviously not all the most beautiful cars ever made. (How in hell did that Citroen get in there?) Far too short of pre-WWII cars, needs a lot more British cars and more of the very old Alfas. You could make Bugattis half the list. But, still, worth a look.

28 Mar 2020

The Crazy Search for Ernest Hemingway’s 1955 Chrysler

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Hemingway’s 1955 Chrysler New Yorker as found.

David Frey, at Narratively, describes the obsessive quest for Hemingway’s Cuban car.

A silver Porsche steered James Dean into legend. A pink Cadillac escorted Elvis to Graceland. On the streets of Havana, a 1955 Chrysler New Yorker carried Ernest Hemingway to the long bar at the Floridita, which he called “the best bar in the world,” for daiquiris mixed strong and sour. A two-door convertible with chrome details across the gunwales and an Art Deco eagle over the hood, wings spread wide, this car ushered the Nobel laureate to the fishing boat that he sailed into the blue current, which he simply called “the stream.” It took him to the hilltop farmhouse where he lived among royal palms and mango trees most of the last twenty-two years of his life.

Then it disappeared.

For decades, Hemingway’s car survived only in legend. Was it still on the island? Had it been secreted away? Or was it lost to history, fallen into scrap metal? It became the automotive version of Hemingway’s missing suitcase, the one full of early manuscripts that his first wife Hadley lost in a Paris train station and never found.

“This is where Hemingway lived for twenty-one years and this was where he felt at home,” said Christopher P. Baker, a British writer who had long been on the trail of the vehicle himself. …

Baker heard the first hint about the car back in 1996 from an American who believed he was buying the legendary auto. “Somebody was selling him a joke,” Baker said. But somewhere out there, he thought, the car must exist. In 2009, he talked with the director of Cuba’s automobile museum. He told Baker he’d seen the car, but it was “hidden away.”

The alleyways of Old Havana are still full of vintage Plymouths and Packards, cars with graceful curving hoods and rocket ship fins, relics of the 1950s, when Americans descended on Cuba for its bars, brothels and casinos. More than fifty years after Castro’s socialist revolution ended the party, those old cars linger as postcards of Cuba’s past. Some gleam like they just motored off the showroom floor. Others seem held together by rust and fading paint. Hemingway’s Chrysler was lost among these fossils.

Then one day it reappeared, but before it could find a new life, it would have to endure an adventure of real-life sleuthing, an aging TV detective and Cold War politics thawing in a new millennium. …

[Hemingway] meant only to take a long vacation when he boarded the ferry to Key West on July 25, 1960. But history had other plans. Cuba nationalized private property. The U.S. launched the failed Bay of Pigs invasion the next year. In the meantime, Hemingway’s health failed. His depression deepened, and he underwent electroshock treatment at the Mayo Clinic. It didn’t help. The writer never returned to Cuba, instead settling in Idaho, where on July 2, 1961, he took his own life with a shotgun.

Castro had made clear that he was fond of Hemingway’s house, and his widow Mary donated it to the Cuban government. She gave his fishing boat, the Pilar, to Hemingway’s longtime first mate, Gregorio Fuentes. The Chrysler New Yorker went to José Luis Herrera Sotolongo, Hemingway’s doctor and friend. Nicknamed “El Feo” (the ugly one), he was a Spaniard who served as surgeon on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War and fled to Cuba to escape the Franco regime.

In the 1970s the doctor passed the Chrysler down to his son. From there, it changed hands again, and again, and again. With each new owner, the car’s connection to Hemingway dimmed. The Chrysler disappeared into Castro’s automotive jungle, where it might have been sold for scrap, chopped for spare parts, or simply pushed, rusting, onto a junk heap. It would have stayed lost forever, had Ada Rosa Alfonso not resumed the search. …

After six years of searching, her quest came to an end just a few miles from where it began. Alfonso showed up at the home of Leopoldo Nuñez Gutiérrez, an elderly man who, like Hemingway, lived in the village of San Francisco de Paula. He led her to his backyard. Chickens and a goat strolled amid a riot of tropical plants. Scattered through the yard were ruined cars and spare parts.

The old man led her to a vehicle. It sat hidden beneath a tarp. That thin piece of fabric was the only thing protecting the car from Cuba’s sun, wind and rain. As he peeled back the tarp, the contours of an aging chassis emerged. Big round headlights like eyes. A long, broad hood. A deep trunk. Alfonso couldn’t believe what she saw.

“The car,” Alfonso said, “was a disaster.”

The New Yorker’s two-tone paint job, Navajo Orange and Desert Sand, was painted over, first in blood red, then in white. The matching leather seats were torn to shreds. The white convertible top had grayed and eroded away. Holes rusted through the floor. Like Havana’s old mansions crumbling into dust along the sea, Hemingway’s car was barely holding on.

Alfonso compared the car’s serial number to Hemingway’s insurance papers. It was a match. After some convincing, Nuñez agreed to donate the car and Alfonso had it hauled back to the Finca and stored on cement blocks, where it was left sitting again. Cuban mechanics have become magicians in the art of resuscitating American classic cars, but the parts, and the funds, they needed were all in the United States, sealed off by decades of bad blood and a U.S. blockade.

Enter David Soul.


Video link

The hardtop looked like this in those colors.

23 Mar 2020

How a Jewish Driver Funded by an American Heiress Beat Hitler’s Silver Arrows

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The Delahaye 145 that Dreyfus drove in the 1938 Pau Grand Prix.

“In the 1930s, Adolf Hitler funded the most powerful racing program in the world. An American heiress, a Jewish driver, and a struggling French automaker banded together to defeat them on the racetrack.” Road and Track.

In 1933, the newly-elected leader of Germany, Adolf Hitler, announced that the Third Reich would dominate the Grand Prix. After the government poured funds into Mercedes and Auto Union, their top drivers Rudi Caracciola and Bernd Rosemeyer swept the field in their supercharged Silver Arrow race cars.

A woman named Lucy Schell decided that something had to be done—so she launched her own racing team. A dazzlingly fine driver in her own right, Lucy had cash to spend, reasons of her own to challenge the Nazis, and the will to claim her place in a world dominated by men. For a car, she chose the most unlikely of manufacturers: Delahaye. Managed by Charles Weiffenbach, the old French firm was known for producing sturdy, staid vehicles, mostly trucks. Racing seemed like a path to save the small company. For a driver, Lucy recruited René Dreyfus. Once a meteoric up-and-comer, he had been excluded from competing on the best teams in the best cars, all because of his Jewish heritage.

Triumph over the Nazis promised redemption for all of them. If it was to happen, the opening race of the new formula Grand Prix season in 1938 would provide their best chance.

— excerpted from the new book Faster: How a Jewish Driver, an American Heiress, and a Legendary Car Beat Hitler’s Best.


28 Feb 2020

After 62 Years, Chevrolet Kills the Impala

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1960 Chevrolet Impala

Yesterday, an American era ended. Detroit News:

Production of the Chevrolet Impala will cease Thursday after six decades, making the Impala yet another Detroit sedan to be laid to rest as buyers switch to crossovers, SUVs and pickups.

Introduced in 1958 and produced continuously except for gaps in the 1980s and 1990s, the final Impala will roll down the line at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly. Seen by many as emblematic of the all-American car, more than 16.8 million have been sold globally (not including the 1994-96 Impala SS, which was counted as a Chevy Caprice).

Impala enthusiasts around the country are sad to see the nameplate hit its expiration date and cherish even more the Impalas they have found and made their own.


Typical Americans of my generation grew up riding in our father’s full-sized American sedans, of which the Chevrolet was the paradigm example. My father proudly came home in 1960 with a new Chevrolet Bel-Air. The Impala was a slightly higher-priced, gussied-up version of the same car, and my father was decidedly resistant to opportunities to spend more money unnecessarily for image and prestige.

Europeans drove smaller, often sportier and more sophisticated automobiles. But, back then, we Americans reveled in our roomier cars fitted with bench seats and bigger engines. We had yet to learn anything about cornering and handling. And the notion that importation from the European Old World should be looked upon as evidence of superior styling and sophistication was, back then, confined to the extreme top-end American haute bourgeoisie. Most Americans considered American-made to be the best in the world and sneered at European cars as foreign junk.

How our perspectives would change after a decade or so!

13 Feb 2020

First They Coming For Your Guns…

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Then they mean to take away your car, Jack Baruth predicts.

I’d be willing to bet that very few of you know who Richard Aborn is. He was the president of Handgun Control, Inc., in 1993 when the Brady Bill was passed. Prior to the bill’s passage, the NRA and others said that it would be the “camel’s nose under the tent” of firearms legislation. This is a reference to an old saying that you can’t just let the camel’s nose into a tent—you end up letting the whole camel in, whether you want to or not.

Anyway, when the Brady Bill was passed, Mr. Aborn grabbed a reporter and said, “[The bill’s detractors were] right all along in fearing the waiting period was a camel’s nose under the tent. Brady has now passed and it is time to reveal the rest of the camel!” At the time, I thought that was a little, ahem, bold of the man to say. Regardless of how you feel about gun control, you can probably agree with me that you shouldn’t spike the football before the referee puts his hands up. But Mr. Aborn no doubt figured he was on the right side of history in this matter.

Across the Atlantic, the legislators both elected and unelected believe themselves to be on the right side of history when it comes to the privately-owned internal-combustion vehicle—more specifically, when it comes to the demise of same. The UK just announced that it would ban the sale of gas or diesel cars by 2035, “or earlier, if possible.” When Neil Peart wrote Red Barchetta, that date was a robust 60 years away. Now it’s closer in our windshield than the introduction of the second-generation Toyota Prius is in our rearview mirror, so to speak.

This astounding regulatory decision, made by people who can’t gauge the UK’s relative impact on the climate vis-a-vis China—or maybe they just read 1984 as an instruction manual, not a warning—sickens me. There’s only one thing to be said in its defense: at least it’s kind of fair. Contrast it to the Europeans, who are doing something even nastier: their 2021 emissions standards require a fleet average of 58 mpg or thereabouts. You couldn’t do that with an all-Prius fleet. Heck, not even the Plymouth Horizon Miser could hit that mark.

What the EU expects the automakers to do is simple: continue making Ferraris, AMG Benzes, and whatnot for the super-rich while forcing everyone else into an electric vehicle. So while British showrooms will force the same misery on everyone, kind of like the way everyone in London had to hide in the same shelters during the Blitz, the Europeans will make sure that the most privileged among us get to keep doing what they want while the average man or woman in the street gets stuck with a glorified golf cart.

(If you like, and if it fits your political worldview, you’re also free to see this as a way to make the dirty plutocrats subsidize clean electric transportation for the proletariat through extra markup on their G-wagens or Range Rovers or whatever. There’s room for all views here, except perhaps for those held by the people who weld enormous scrap-sheet metal fenders on old 911s for no reason.)

The delight with which the politicians are rolling out these regulations would make Richard Aborn blush.


01 Jan 2020

Just In Case You Win the Irish Sweepstakes


Ferrari Monza SP1

Motortrend describes Ferrari’s latest: a one-seater and a two-seater with no windshield!

Barchetta means “boat [tail]” in Italian, but Ferrari is using the term to mean a vehicle without a traditional windscreen. Both versions of the Monza come with a Virtual Windscreen, a carbon-fiber hoop in front of the driver that diverts air up and over one’s head. You’ll probably want to wear a helmet anyhow, but luckily a custom fit one by Berluti comes with the car. You get a pretty nifty driving suit by Loro Piana, too.

Ferrari’s design team looked to the past—specifically the 166 MM and the 750 Monza—for inspiration. But they did not want to go retro. All they wanted to take from the old cars was purity of line, harmony of shape, and the “Symbiosis between driver and car.”

Are They Fast?

Uh, yeah! Under the long hood sits a modified version of the screaming 6.5-liter V-12 from the 812 Superfast. In the Monza it makes 809 horsepower, up by 30 from 789 hp. The gains are mostly achieved via variable-length intake ducts. Torque stays steady at 530 lb-ft. The chassis is in fact the aluminum undercarriage from the 812. The body, however, is mostly carbon-fiber pieces with bits of Kevlar tossed in here and there. Ferrari says it’s 15 percent lighter than aluminum panels.

Ferrari says 0-62 mph happens in 2.9 seconds and 0-124 mph comes in 7.9 seconds. Top speed is faster than 186 mph. Probably much faster.

Why Two Versions?

If you like driving around with your friend, you’re going to want to opt for the Monza SP2, as it has two seats. Happiest by yourself? Opt for the monoposto, the single-seater SP1, as there is literally no passenger seat. I’m not even sure the door opens (it probably does), but the space where the passenger seat would sit is encased by a tonneau cover. This is the one I would get. The SP1 is lighter than SP2 (Ferrari is claiming a “dry weight” of 3,306 pounds for the one-seater and 3,351 pounds for the duoposto. Also, “dry weight” is Italian for hahahahaha!!).

How Many Are They Building?

Great question. Less than 500 between the two models, and they will let customer demand determine the mix. If everyone listens to me, there will be no SP2s built save for the black one they showed. However, I’d imagine most customers are going to be a touch more mature and opt for the second seat. What a pity. Only time will tell.

How Much?

Ferrari won’t say officially until the Paris Motor Show, but I think $2 million a pop is a pretty safe bet. A bargain, too, when compared to a limited edition like, say, the F60 America, which went for $2.5 million and was essentially just an F12 with the roof hacked off. Though Ferrari did only build 10. But hey, back to the Monzas. You get a free leather-wrapped carbon-fiber helmet plus other clothing! Not the worst deal ever.

RTWT You want to see more photos.

I wouldn’t buy one. No standard transmission. I don’t care if a computer can do it better. I still want to shift for myself.

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