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El Diablo: Miata Style

December 23rd, 2013

2001 Mazda Miata MX5

An average car will run a quarter-mile drag race in 15–16 seconds. That’s not a blistering pace, but it’s just enough to give a slight rush while accelerating up an on-ramp before settling into a steady stream of 65-mile-an-hour commuters.

The Mazda Miata, while relatively sporty and fun to drive, typically falls somewhere within that average time in stock, off-the-showroom-floor form. It’s nothing spectacular, and it won’t win many drag races, but the time is good enough to warrant the designation of “sports car.”

Barely.

A quick quarter-mile time in the Miata might fall somewhere in the 11–13-second range. When that stock speed just isn’t fast enough, upgrades can be applied, and the Miata, like any car, can become a drag racer.

An extreme case would be taking a Miata, stripping it completely of its powertrain, and replacing it with a source of power sure to embarrass even the most seasoned of racers.

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Costco Fulfills F1 Racing Dreams… For a Price

May 20th, 2013

Costco F1 racing simulator

Costco: the land where dreams come true.

Assuming, of course, your dreams include 50-pound bags of sugar, gallons of mayonnaise and full access to all the toilet paper you’ll ever need.

Bulk discounts on household staples are enough to keep some people coming back every Saturday. Every once in a while, though, Costco surprises by offering something so over-the-top extravagant or absurd that it blows our little minds. That includes million-dollar diamonds, caskets stacked near the TVs, and now, F1 cars.

Kind of.

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Engineering a Supercar, Part 2

October 26th, 2012

5G body

Back in May of this year we heard about a competition put on by GrabCAD, an online engineering community, and 500 Group, a think tank for new products. The challenge was to create a body for a new supercar that would be built on an existing chassis using GM Performance parts and the LS3, LS7 or supercharged LS9 V8 engines. (Maybe they should also consider the new LT1 engine… just saying.)

In that original post, I admittedly got a little harsh about letting engineers act as designers. I made the argument that when that happens, we’re left with cars like the Accord and Camry. Excellent vehicles, but they don’t have much in the way of personality.

We heard yesterday from a representative of the 500 Group who wanted to set us straight.

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The Ultimate American Used Car: 1967 Ford GT40

August 21st, 2012

1967 Ford GT40

America’s first real supercar.

One of America’s favorite big-screen auto-racing heroes.

The most expensive American car ever sold.

Thanks to some history with the one and only Steve McQueen, a 1967 Ford GT40 has sold for $11 million, making it the most expensive car ever built here in the land of recliners and football.

At the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, RM auctioneers got rid of the ultra-rare Ford GT40 for such a high price thanks to bidders pushing the sales price in the final minutes in their attempts to own the car used in the filming of Steve McQueen’s movie “Le Mans.”

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Falling Cars, Falling Records and Falling Snow at 2012 Pikes Peak Hill Climb

August 15th, 2012

Pikes Peak Hill Climb crash

I’ve driven the Pikes Peak hill climb.

Okay, maybe not the Hill Climb, in capital letters, like the one that took place on the Colorado mountain this weekend, but I’ve driven up Pikes Peak for an entirely separate occasion. It took me a good 30 minutes to negotiate the switchbacks, curves, dirt sections of road and harrowing vistas of road ending in sky.

That drive gives me a new appreciation for the brave souls who actually compete in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, a flat-out timed race to the summit. Compared to my time of a rather leisurely 30-40 minutes, the competitors make the 12.42-mile 156-turn drive in about 10 minutes.

But at least I didn’t fly off a cliff and roll 10 times down the side of the mountain when I made the drive. That, plus falling snow and falling records dominated this year’s Hill Climb.

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Toyota Gets Serious About Performance with TMG Line

June 22nd, 2012

Toyota TMG Motorsport

The words “Toyota” and “performance” aren’t often spoken in the same sentence these days.

Toyota, though, is getting serious about building performance cars, as the Lexus LFA, Lexus IS F and Scion FR-S are tearing up tracks and backroads across the world.

Now, it seems Toyota may want to take things even further by creating performance versions of existing models. The company is thinking big, too, like along the lines of Mercedes-Benz’s AMG line.

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Green Update: Hypercar Hybrids from Porsche and Ferrari

May 15th, 2012

Design study for the F70

We have written about the incredible Porsche 918 hybrid before, with details here and here. Now, 918 Spyder prototypes have been spotted testing, looking a little like the old 917 race cars (see pix here).

The 918 will produce some 770 hp from a V8 and “two independent electric motors, one on the front and one in the drive line, acting on the rear wheels.” All this with decent fuel economy. Production is expected by the end of 2013, so you have time to save up the $850K it will cost.

The new Ferrari F70 is expected to replace the Enzo and may come to market around the same time as the 918, according to Automotive News. The F70 will probably cost more than the Porsche, but has some amazing technology, which we will illustrate below.

Why are these companies building such monster cars?

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Shelby’s Gone. Any More Like Him?

May 14th, 2012
Shelby with a Ford GT40

Shelby and the Ford GT40

Caroll Shelby (1923-2012), whom tgriffith wrote about today, was one of the last true Car Guys. There just won’t be any more like him.

Here’s why. Shelby’s career began with sports-car racing, and there he made his greatest mark. He could never have created the Cobra or the muscle cars that followed had he not raced for Aston Martin, Maserati, and finally won Le Mans as driver, constructor and team manager—the only person ever to do that.

That was the great era of sports-car racing—the late ‘50s-early ‘60s—when the sport had a very big following and a bunch of grand individualists. Pete Lyons offers this tidbit in his tribute to Shelby:

“Old Man Ferrari offered me a job and I said, ‘Well, Mr. Ferrari, I have a family, three children, what kinda money?’ He says, ‘Oh, it’s an honor to drive for Ferrari.’ And I said, ‘Well, I’m sorry, I can’t afford the honor.’ And I had a deal with John Wyer, anyway, and I had another deal with Maserati. I had a choice of four or five different offers. So I turned Ferrari down.”

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F.A. Porsche Dies, and Germany Is Winning the Car Wars

April 9th, 2012

2012 Porsche 911 Cabriolet

World War II was of course not the end for Germany, though the country was pulverized. The three Porsches, all named Ferdinand, were still alive, but it was Ferry, son of the founder, who brought the car company to fame and success in the late 1940s.

His Porsche 356 took the prototype Volkswagen—created under Hitler in the 1930s but not produced till after the war—and made it a smartly engineered, rear-engine, desirable sports car. And it caught on in the U.S.

The third Ferdinand (F.A., right), who died last week at 76, in my view really made the company with his 1963 design of the 911 (Type 901), a complete departure from the 356 with a 6-cylinder (some few 912 fours were made) and a more functional and beautiful design that has endured to this day.

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More Geneva: the Lotus Exige S Roadster

March 8th, 2012

Lotus Exige, side view

A few folks have been modifying present Lotus Exige S cars, converting them into soft-tops (see comment by wallabyguy here), but now the factory does it for you. And it has made other alterations to make this a most desirable sports car.

This is part of Lotus’s comeback story. The firm has had lots of ups and downs but has always kept to the “less is more” mantra, and its new cars are finally getting the styling right as well. I think owner Proton (Malaysia) has done well by them.

The Exige S Roadster gives what is basically a track and rally car a little more class and some upgrades in appearance. Worldcarfans called it “an Elise with a bigger engine,” but now it’s better-looking too.

Performance comes from a blown 3.5-liter V6 (345 hp) that moves you to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds and 0-100 in 8.5. Top speed is 145 mph. Best is its light weight—about 2,400 pounds. A 6-speed manual is standard; you can order Lotus’s Serial Precision Shift (SPS), with paddles and automated shifting.

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