Ouch! The Not-So-Funny Tale of Mr. Bean’s McLaren F1!

Just two years ago, well-loved British comedian, Rowan Atkinson crashed his McLaren F1 on a freeway in England.  The comedian also happens to be a car nut (like me!).  For almost two years, he drove his Jaguar XFR, while his McLaren F1 was being repaired.  He was driving along (at the speed limit, according to an eyewitness) and hit a patch of black ice.  The rear end of the car spun out, and he attempted to correct the car, but overcorrected, spun several times, and smashed into a signpost and bushes.  As if that wasn’t enough, Cars UK tells us that the repair bill came in at a jaw-dropping 910,000 British Pounds ($1.432 Million USD), but they also took two years.  I’m quite sure that his insurance company was none too happy shelling out that amount, it is far cheaper than finding a replacement McLaren F1.

Thankfully, due to the strong carbon-fiber monocoque of the F1, Mr. Atkinson wasn’t seriously injured.

When the McLaren F1 came out in 1992, it was the fastest production car.  Ever -now that title goes to the mighty Bugatti Veyron SuperSport (268 mph).  It was powered by a BMW V12 engine that pumps out a mighty 618 horsepower.  Plus, it weighed in at just under 2600 pounds.  Those two factors bring the car’s top speed up to a whopping 231 mph with the speed limiter, it is 242 mph.  Plus, it gets about 15 mpg.  Also, race-car tires were reworked to be street legal.  This means that the car can drive at top speed for almost 30 minutes before it runs out of gas and/or the tires go bald.  The Bugatti Veyron Super Sport can go faster, but not for so long!  All of these factors brought the price of the McLaren F1 up to a mere 640,000 British Pounds, which translates to $1.007 million USD!

Today, examples of the car can fetch up to 5 million British Pounds, which is $7.757 million USD!  This makes the repair seem like a genuine bargain!

While I am on the side of those rooting for the owners of hypercars like the McLaren F1 to drive the cars, the message is clear – drive the car on sunny days when there is no ice on the road!  I’m glad to know that Rowan Atkinson is reunited with his prized possession, I wouldn’t want to be there when he gets his next insurance premium!

See Ya Sucka!

The Ford Mustang is one of those cars that has a cult following.  Just about every Mustang has its own unique history.  Just think about it.  Run the VIN.  However, there are some Mustang models that are so very rare that clones of them are made.  The Ford  Mustang Cobra Jet is one of those cars.  I’ll give you a pop quiz, and then give you some history on the Mustang Cobra Jet, okay?

What’s the most expensive Ford Mustang currently for sale today?  The 2014 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, at $54,650?  Uh-uh.  It’s the 2014 Mustang Cobra Jet, which isn’t street legal (it doesn’t have a VIN, so don’t try to tell the police officer that the previous owner shaved it off – that doesn’t get pity, it’s pithy though!).  The 2014 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet will run you $97,990.  And, that’s before the registration fees for the NHRA and other costs set you back another $10,000.

In 1968, Bob Tasca, a senior engineer on the Ford Mustang Mach 1, wanted a faster Mustang – one that could win against a purpose-built dragster.  Why?  Well, he was mad that he’d lost to some “hoon in a 442 W30.”  He was mad.  His Mustang Mach 1 wasn’t fast enough for him.  He went to his boss, told the story, and then asked his boss for $100,000 in development costs.  He left with a check for $100,000, and five junior engineers.  They immediately started work on a bone-stock Mach 1 Mustang.  They took the stock cam off, put on two high-rise cams, went out, raced around the parking lot, and started work on the transmission.  Thus, the story of the Ford Mustang Cobra Jet was born.

Anyways, they called up Muncie Transmissions, who promptly gave them five four-speed transmissions with overdrive.  They had to fork out $5,000 for those trannies, but it was money well-spent.  They put the transmission in, raced some kids in a Camaro, won, raced against the same “hoon in a 442 W30,” won – three times, went to a bar, and celebrated.  Good for them.

Then, it was a matter of tires.  The tires kept going up in smoke when they floored it – at any speed!  They went to a local tire shop, bought drag slicks, realized that the car would be much faster if it wasn’t street-legal, went back to headquarters, and went into Lee Iacocca’s office.  Lee loved it.  he told them to shave off the VIN, trailer it to a dragstrip, and do whatever it took.  That’s exactly what they did.

Within a year, the car was ready for production.  It was expensive, but faster than anything south of an Indycar (according to Tasca, “this thing will whip the a*$ of any dummy who races this thing.”).  The dealers started clamoring for the car.  It came, as well as buyers.  Since the car wasn’t street-legal, dealers would keep a car at a local dragstrip.  Good plan.

Today, the Ford Mustang Cobra Jet is stripped-down, just like its older cousin.  The bodyshell is stripped-down.  Inside, the rollcage, Recaro seats, and unique suspension hardware and the computer bank take up the interior.  Not bad.  The engine is powered by a 2.9-liter Whipple supercharger, which is mounted atop the stock 5.0-liter V8 shared throughout much of the Ford line.

Even though the original car was offered with a stock 428 cubic-inch V8 that was naturally-aspirated, that didn’t stop Ford Racing from supercharging the car.  The 2014 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet has an all-new three-speed manual transmission, a parachute mount for those planning to drive over 150 mph, and two new colors.  One is matte-black, and the other is Gotta-Have-It Green (that’s the actual name!).  As one might expect, the Mustang Cobra Jet is rare, and will stay that way, with only 50 examples being produced (all have been spoken for).  Orders were on a first come, first serve basis, and buyers confirmed their orders with Ford Racing.

I’d take one, but money comes into play.  I don’t want financing, and it will take a long time to pay back Ford if my buyers only pledge $1.22 a day…

Look Out for This Gorilla in a Back Alley!

Do you ever see those cars on the road that act like roosters?  Loud, slow, peckish?  Well, let me assure you, the Chrysler 300 SRT8 is the exact opposite.  It’s a car Teddy Roosevelt would love – it walks softer than a lot of cars for its price range, and it’s got a giant Sequoia tree as its stick.  In other words, it appears docile, but will run just about anybody out of Dodge City.  That’s what happens when you have a top speed of 175 mph!

When Chrysler introduced the spectacular 300 SRT-8 back in 2005, Car & Driver heaped many praises on the powerful 425-horsepower, 420 lb-ft of torque 6.1-liter V8.  Plus, the brutish 5-speed automatic would chirp tires on a 1-2 upshift.  The 300 SRT-8 had no real competitors for the price (the Cadillac CTS-V was almost $10,000 more!), but it’s interior wasn’t the stuff dreams are made of of.  Plus, it guzzled gas, like, well, a Motown muscle car.  Now, there is a car that is perfect for those wanting something tame for the workweek, but will beat a Mustang Boss 302 at the track day.  Chrysler and SRT have truly made a 1000-pound gorilla in a back alley.  Look out!  In fact, this car is so obedient that most street racers would never know that it would smoke their Mustang with the gigantic wheels and skinny tires.  Besides, it doesn’t need any nitrous-oxide – it’s fast enough by itself, thank you very much!

The 300 SRT-8 has a very powerful engine that has 45 more horsepower and 50 more lb-ft of torque than the previous 6.1 liter engine.  This new engine is much more technologically advanced than the old engine.  It has variable valve timing (VVT) for better fuel economy and power delivery, and an aluminum engine block that shaved almost 30 pounds off of the old block.  Now, there’s a chip off the old block (get it?)!  It has grown to the much-loved 392 cubic-inch engine (6.4 liters).  The engine pumps out a whopping, mighty, and thundering 470 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque.  This gorilla will quite simply, scare you off the road!

With the push of small button on the not-so-high-quality touchscreen, it can be a tractable commuter car, an effortless interstate loper, or a vicious corner carver.  Also, its oh-so-potent 6.4 liter Hemi engine can switch between four cylinders and eight cylinders, depending on the driving conditions.  The old car was brutal in its performance, delivering a whopping 4.8 second 0-60 mph time and beat a Nissan 370Z Nismo through the quarter mile at a blazing 13.3 seconds at over 100 mph.

The new car is much faster at 4.5 seconds to 60, and an amazingly fast 12.9 seconds through the quarter mile.  That’ll beat the Porsche Cayman S (the Cayman R will beat the Mustang GT500) to 60, and the 300 SRT-8 will pull ahead in the quarter mile.  Floor the 300 SRT-8 when passing on the highway will result in a huge thundering roar that will set off car alarms and rocket you to almost 90 mph.  In just a few seconds.  At redline.  VROOM!  By the way, the redline is at almost 8000 RPM, so it makes a raw, uncensored, bellowing, howling, roar that sounds like it is supercharged.  At idle, the engine sounds docile, almost like a V6.  Why?  Because of something called cylinder deactivation.

Car & Driver‘s Shaun Bailey recommends NOT using the shift paddles when one has passengers.  Why?  Because using the shift paddles in manual mode is a sure way to give passengers whiplash…Also, don’t downshift when you are not in a straight line.  It tends to upset the chassis.  However, SRT has recently retuned the chassis to reduce chassis flex during hard cornering.

Unfortunately, cylinder deactivation doesn’t get rid of that absolutely annoying Gas Guzzler Tax.  That automatically slaps $1,000 onto the price of the car.  But, don’t be afraid – the 300 SRT8 starts off at $47,815.  But, most drivers and/or passengers will want the killer Harmon/Kardon 19-speaker sound system that sounds like a Bang & Olufsen unit.  Wanna be safe?  Get the SafetyTec package for safe technology.  Like stargazing, get the dual panoramic sunroofs.  Enjoy black chrome?  Get the Black Chrome Group, which adds those big, 22-inch wheels.  Plus, the Chrysler 300 is one of the last big cruisers from Detroit.  Since this generation debuted last year, there have been three editions, and they instantly make the curb appeal of the Chrysler 300 even bigger.

The Chrysler 300 SRT-8 is meant to look subtle, but be very aggressive.  It’s akin to seeing a grizzly bear that looks all cute and cuddly.  The second-generation Chrysler 300 SRT-8 is very much like Teddy Roosevelt’s famous quote.  It walks softly, enveloping the driver and passengers in the lap of luxury, but the stick that it carries under the hood will send a caveman running back to his, er, cave…  Scarily, when it revs, it almost sounds like a maniac.  I can’t wait until I get one, Mom!

Epic Drives – Across the U.S.!

The title sounds awesome – because it is!  With summer vacations in mind, my thoughts turn to road trips.  If you were given time off from work and/or daily life, where would you go, and (most importantly), what would you drive?  Any  car, any place – what car would you choose?  Sounds simple, right?  It can be, if you’re driving in a car that you love.  The thing is, the car has to still be in production!  You can take one passenger, and gas is prepaid.  The one thing that’s not avoidable – speeding tickets!

Would you want to travel long distances on one tank of gas so you don’t need to fill up to often?  Or, is something with a sonorous engine like an American V8?  Or,  could it be something with oodles of luxury so you’re comfortable the entire trip?

If I had my choice, I would want to take something like the Bentley Continental GT V8, because it’s got a lot of comfort and speed.  Plus, it’s got one of the nicest sound systems in the world, so I can hook up the iPod and cruise along and listen to some music!  Imagine looking at the rolling hills of Scotland through the windows of that Bentley.  Or, I would take a Corvette and drive across Route 66. Or Argentina in a Huayra.  Or the Autobahn in an Mercedes Benz SLS AMG.  Or a McLaren P1 around the Nurburgring.  The possibilities are as plentiful as one’s imagination.

P.S. If you took an epic road trip across the U.S., feel free to tell me in the comments section, and what car you would do.  If you are planning a road trip, but don’t have a passenger, look no further!

Does the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 Have the Guts and Glory for America?

Remember those $30,000 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sport Coupes that were super chintzy and slow from the early 2000’s?  Mercedes-Benz is diving back into that pool with the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250.

This new Mercedes-Benz is based on the equally jaw-dropping Euro-spec A-Class hatchback.  But, us Americans like our sedans with graceful, elegant lines.  So, Mercedes-Benz took the A-Class and turned it into a lovely small sedan.  Of course, when something makes your knees weak when you see it should tell anybody over 6 feet that they won’t want to be in the backseat!  According to Motor Trend‘s Frank Markus, the headliner scraped his head, and the rear seat wasn’t super comfortable.  I guess that nothing’s for everybody…If you want a CLA250 with the as-advertised $30,000 base price, let me know.  Such tempting options as a self-parking feature, a panoramic sunroof, Distronic radar cruise control, a Harman/Kardon Logic 7 audio system, COMAND navigation, and all-wheel-drive all bring the price up to a more expensive $38,000, which is on par with the larger C250.

If you want a cheap German car that seats five and looks good, this isn’t the horrible C-Class Sport Coupe that would lure the innocent into showrooms.  In fact, this car aims to bring a lot of younger people into showrooms, where they can get a relatively affordable car that immediately gives them more social status than a Toyota Camry.

Inside the CLA250, the interior is every bit as luxurious as the S-Class, which is a very good thing.  The instruments and vent registers could have been pulled out of the SLS supercar, and vinyl is standard.  Mercedes-Benz says that the MB Tex vinyl will pass for leather to the casual observer, and cowhide is optional.  Since us Americans LOVE our sport seats, sport seats are standard.  These seats offer plenty of support for any frame (Mercedes-Benz had people of different sizes and heights drive and give feedback.  The engine gives a gleeful snarl when it’s nearing redline, and it is quiet at all other times.  Plus, the 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque help move this sub-3300-pound car around with no problem.  Part of that could be the excellent 7-speed automatic that is so smooth it could be mistaken for a CVT half of the time.  That’s probably due to the twin clutches and paddle shifters.

One would think that torque steer would be an issue with such large amounts of torque on hand, but think again!  That’s amazing considering that there isn’t a complicated steering setup, just a simple one.  It could be magic, or the electric-assist steering that will allegedly compensate for extreme road crowns and crosswinds.  It also applies corrective steering if the driver hasn’t mastered steering into a skid.  I’m thinking that this just might be the perfect car for somebody who is very close to getting his driver’s license…

Because France keeps it’s roads micro detailed to the point where there aren’t any bumps except for speed bumps, but ride quality is very controlled and nice.  And this is with the sport suspension that will initially be offered on U.S. spec cars.  It’ll be interesting to see if Mercedes-Benz has the guts to put the optional 18-inch wheels on the sporty suspension.  If not, expect to see the standard 17-inch wheels that look equally classy.

In terms of tires, the Continental ContiSportContact F5’s do a pretty good job of planting the car on the road, but you can hear the tires trumpeting their limit, so don’t be surprised!  If you don’t like trumpeting tires, you can opt for Eagle F1 run-flat tires, which  will only orchestrate their limit!

Motor Trend‘s Frank Markus went into the press launch thinking that the CLA250 was aimed squarely at the Volkswagen CC, but it’s not.  The CC feels more grown-up and conservative, and the CLA feels more like a GTI in it’s driving dynamics, with interior fit and finish that rivals the Hyundai Genesis.  What I’m sure all of you are dying to know is if the CLA250 is worth buying over the BMW 320i, Volvo S60, Cadillac ATS, and Audi A4.    My personal opinion is that the CLA will hang on with those, and possibly be the car that sends BMW back to the drawing board.  I doubt that will happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if BMW updated the 320i to make it drive more like the CLA to get more sales.

The CLA250 is what could be a breakthrough for Mercedes-Benz.  It’s a lot nicer than the C-Class Sport Coupes of yore, and it looks way better than many of it’s competitors.  It reminds me of the Mercedes-Benz 190e.  The 190e helped Mercedes-Benz reach other markets and younger people, and I’m thinking that the young people driving the Volkswagen GTI will be wanting to get a CLA as their next car.  It’s a far superior car than the Jetta GLI, and it drives more like the GTI than the GLI.  Sure, the CLA isn’t for everybody, but it’s about as close as it gets.  And, this might just happen if Volkswagen isn’t careful.  In the comment section of a Motor Trend article starring the CLA250 and what information they had a month ago, everybody was saying that Mercedes-Benz hit a home run with this car.  It’s the same size as a Ford Fusion, it looks similar, it’s got social status, Mercedes-Benz is known to be reliable, and it’s a nice car.  If you go onto the Ford website and take a Fusion Titanium, it will cost about $37,000, which is pretty darn close to a loaded CLA.  It would be interesting to see how well the CLA places against the Fusion, and some other loaded family sedans.  You can oggle at the CLA at the link so graciously provided by Mercedes-Benz.  http://www.mbusa.com/mercedes/benz/innovation/future/model-2014_CLA

By the way, I am expecting you faithful readers to pitch together somewhere between $30,000 and $38,000 to buy me a brand-new CLA250 when it comes to our shores in May…I won’t be happy if there isn’t a 2014 CLA in my driveway…  Really, would you expect me to say something different!?

 

Fifty-Fifty!

Fifty years ago, Ferdinand Porsche created the iconic Porsche 911.  Last year, he died of undisclosed causes at age 76.  In commemoration of the 911’s 50th birthday, you can buy two new Porsche 911’s after their debut at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show.

What we know about the new 911’s debuting is minimal:  We know that one debut will be the 911 GT3 Cup race car.  This car will replace the Flying Lizard Motorsports 911 hybrid in the IMSA, ALMS, and GT3 races around the world.  The 911 GT3 Cup features a more powerful version of the 3.8 liter flat-six cylinder engine common in the 911, Boxster, and Cayman lineup.  This engine will make a hearty 460 horsepower, which is routed to the wheels through a sequentially shifted 6-speed transmission.  You’d better be on the waiting list, or have a lot of money because only 2400 units will be made worldwide!

We don’t know what the other 911 debut will be, but Porsche tells Motor Trend and the world that the new 911 variant will be a true “world premiere” of a new 991-series based 911.  If I had to take a hypothesis, I would have to guess that it would be a 911 Turbo or GT3.  Motor Trend snapped photos of both:  While on an Epic Drives episode, Senior Features Editor, Jonny Lieberman caught some photos of a 911 Turbo prototype filling up  at a gas station in Sweden.  Another staffer got a picture of the 911 GT3 prototype lapping the Nurburgring with the iconic “whale tale.”  What I can guess for the 911 Turbo is that it will have a twin-turbocharged  flat-six cylinder engine making somewhere in the neighborhood of 550 horsepower.  It is likely that it will also have all-wheel-drive, and Porsche’s PDK seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.  The 911 GT3 will likely have rear-wheel-drive, Porsche’s new seven-speed manual, and a naturally aspirated flat-six cylinder engine making about 450 horsepower.

I can’t wait to see the world premiere of whatever new 911 variant debuts at Geneva 2013.  See you there!

Insanity. Redefined.

Insanity:  The condition of being insane; a derangement of the mind. We all know that Mercedes-Benz’ AMG tuning division has turned out some pretty radical cars.  Some of the examples include the original AMG Hammer, SL65 AMG Black Series, and others.  We also know that they make amazing cars like the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series.  It is afine example of a stunning car.  What we don’t know is, well, not a lot. AMG recently showed a video of it’s newest, craziest creation.  Ever.  What is it’s name?  The Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6X6.  Why 6X6?  Because it has 6 wheels!  It has similar performance to the G63 AMG, but has Unimog-inspired off-road parts that will send any other off-road-worthy vehicle running back to the drawing board. In addition the the extra axle, you get about 10 more inches of ground clearance (18.1 inches versus 8.4), and more looks.  Part of this is thanks to the Unimog-style portal axles, which are half shafts that enter the top of the wheels, rather than the center, and these axles are geared all the way down to the wheel hubs.  Plus, it has Mercedes-Benz’ 7-speed automatic that transfers the 529 horsepower and 560 lb-ft of torque to all six wheels. Inside, the interior basically looks the same, just more luxurious.  It has diamond-stitched seats, individual climate control, and MBZ’s latest infotainment system.  If you want one, and are in Europe, prepare to give AMG at least $400,000 for one unit.  AMG is still trying to figure out how much they should charge us Americans.  You’d better place an order quickly, as the annual production run will be about 20-30 units! Judging from the video shown below, no off-road prowess is given up.  It seems the opposite, as shown by the driver hooning it around the Saudi Arabian sand dunes.  Plus, it will turn far more heads than a normal G63 AMG!  Enjoy, and pine for one!  If you want to sell the house to buy one of these, you can, but make sure you buy one for me (Hint, Hint!)! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zM500XrjxZw