What Would George Washington Drive?

So if you were a presidential candidate, which vehicle would you drive? (Limousines don’t count, and your political party doesn’t matter.) If you’re running for the country’s highest office in 2008, the consensus seems to be the Ford Escape Hybrid. According to a graphic posted recently on the ABC News website, five current presidential candiates, including Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), John Edwards (D-N.C.), Bill Richardson (D-N.M.), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), and Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), all say they drive the Escape Hybrid. Another (former) candidate, Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), says he drives a Honda Civic Hybrid, while Barak Obama likes to get behind the wheel of an unnamed flex-fuel E85 vehicle.

Obviously, hybrid or flex-fuel vehicles are politically correct this election season. But the automotive preferences for some of the other candidates are a little more revealing. John McCain (R-Ariz.), for instance, notes that he’s partial to the Cadillac CTS. Joe Biden (D-Del.) drives a ’67 Corvette that was given to him as a wedding present by his father. Rudy Guiliani (R-N.Y.) has been seen behind the wheel of the Cadillac Escalade, while Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) drives a 2005 Ford Mustang convertible. And Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) tools around town in a Ford Focus. Who says the car doesn’t fit the driver’s image?

Which got us to thinking — what would some of our former presidents have driven if they had had a choice? What would George Washington have driven, for instance, or Abraham Lincoln, if they had had cars in their days? We did a little brainstorming and came up with the following guesses.

For George Washington, we wanted something that was classic and continental. Earlier in his career, before he became the father of our country, Washington sought a commission in the British army. Believing that he would prefer the refinement of a British set of wheels, we selected for him the Bentley Continental GT Speed (above), which Bentley calls “a revolution of power.” (And no, we did not make that up). The Continental GT Speed combines performance and styling in a refined, truly unforgettable car — perfect for an unforgettable gentleman president.

For Abraham Lincoln, we chose — what else? — a Lincoln. The 2008 Lincoln MKZ (below), with the optional all-wheel-drive package, 263-horsepower V6 engine, and THX audio system, seems like a good fit for the 16th president. In black, of course. From there, our recommendations become fairly diverse. JFK? Has to be a Porsche. Teddy Roosevelt? Something with plenty of ponies and off-road capabilities, like a Hummer. LBJ? A vintage Cadillac, something with fins, like a ’59 Fleetwood Sixty Special (below). But it has to be in canary yellow, not black (for Lady Bird). And finally, what about Richard Nixon? This one required some thought, but we finally settled on the Dodge Stealth. Somehow, it seems fitting.

Dueling Supercars

You may need a scorecard to follow this story, but here goes. Envisioning himself as the next Enzo Ferrari, British entrepreneur Arash Farboud founded an exotic sports car company, called Farboud Sports Cars, in the late 1990s with the goal of producing a supercar to rival some of the best in the world. After several attempts, he developed a concept for a car he called the Farboud GTS. But realizing he was stretching himself too thin, and preferring to focus his attention on auto racing as well as managing his family’s pharmaceutical company, Farboud brought in British automotive designer and producer Chris Marsh to oversee the company and produce the GTS.

However, in moving the mid-engine supercar from paper to production, Marsh made a number of critical changes to the car’s design, mechanics, and powerplant. For instance, Marsh opted for an easily acquired Cosworth-tuned, 3.0-liter Ford Duratec V6 that produces 262 bph (British horsepower) and is capable of driving the GTS from 0 to 60 in just under 5 seconds. That car is currently in production at the automaker’s small factory near Bath, England.

Okay, fine so far, but here’s where the twists begin. After Marsh made changes to the GTS’s design, Arash Farboud became disillusioned with the car, since it had strayed too far from what he had originally envisioned. So he launched another car company, which he called Arash Cars, a few years ago. Fearing there might be some confusion (are you confused yet?) in the minds of prospective buyers, Marsh, who remained at the original company, decided to rename his car. And so was born the Farbio.

Granted, it’s an odd name, a sort of Italian twist on the Farboud name. But the Farbio GTS is indeed about to make its way out onto the British, and perhaps American, roadways. The two-seater features a full carbon-fiber body, a steel-tube frame, a complete flat underfloor that helps the supercar stick to the road, and a six-speed manual gearbox. Inside, the Farbio GTS features an ergonomic design, with Sparco Milano reclining seats, a touch-screen navigation system, and bespoke leather organizer pouches, as well as the standard air conditioning, sound system, and power everything.

Pricing for the Farbio GTS will be 59,525 pounds, or around $121,500. A supercharged version will be available for 71,675 pounds, or about $145,000 and change. Reports indicate that the GTS will be available in the U.S., possibly sometime in 2008.

And what of Arash Farboud and his new company? Never content to be left in the dust, he’s in the process of launching the Arash AF10 (below) which, oddly enough, bears a striking resemblance to the GTS, although with a slightly different rear deck design and a more Ferrari-esque front end. No official word yet on when it will be available, but at least it’s nice to know that if you have the bucks, you’ve got a choice of British supercars.

Pivo 2 and Pixy to Debut in Tokyo

Leave it to the Japanese automakers to come up with something really, really different. Perhaps its the lack of parking space in Japan, or maybe it’s just a sign of things to come, but Nissan and Suzuki are rethinking the automobile, and they’re certainly not thinking inside — or outside, or anywhere remotely near — the box. They’re thinking bubble.

At first glance, the Pivo 2 concept car (above), which Nissan plans to unveil later this month at the Tokyo Motor Show, looks like an overgrown child’s toy. But it ‘s actually a functional car, and it showcases some pretty cool ideas. For one thing, the driver enters through the front of the vehicle, which opens and closes automatically. The driver sits in the center on a single bench seat, with room for two passengers, one on either side. Once the front door closes, the steering column and steering wheel pivot down (the steering column is in the “up” position in the image below).

The Pivo 2 won’t break any speed records (at least not yet, anyway) but it’s ideal for city driving, and it’s guaranteed to make parking easier. Not only do the wheels pivot 90 degrees, so the car can move sideways in a crablike fashion, but the cabin itself rotates 360 degrees, making it easy for the driver to change direction without moving an inch. See a narrow space you’d like to pull into? Just pivot the wheels, spin the cabin around 90 degrees, and bingo! You’re there. Just think — no more parallel parking in the future! (That alone makes the Pivo 2 a car to covet.)

As if that’s not enough, the Pivo 2 comes with its own personal robot, which can converse with the driver in both Japanese and English. According to representatives at Nissan, the robot can also discern the mood and facial expressions of the driver, and can, for instance, help calm the driver down if the robot senses anger, or help keep the driver awake should the robot sense the driver is becoming drowsy. That’s a pretty cool passenger to have along.

The electric-powered Pivo 2 can be recharged by plugging it into any household electrical outlet. No word on whether, or if, it will ever be available for sale in the U.S.

Not to be outdone, Suzuki will also reportedly unveil its own bubble-topped mini-car, the Pixy, which comes with its own transporter, called the Suzuki Shared Coach, or SSC. Some bloggers have noted a definite Star Wars design scheme going on with the Pixy, which is a one-person vehicle. We’ll keep you posted on developments when it bows at the Tokyo show, which kicks off on Friday, Oct. 26.

Saving Lives With ESC

Airbags and seat belts have become standard equipment on cars, trucks, and SUVs for a simple reason — they save lives. But as today’s vehicles have become more sophisticated, so has their safety equipment. A recent addition to the standard safety features of many vehicles is a system called Electronic Stability Control, or ESC. Many drivers may not realize it, but more than half (51 percent) of all vehicles produced in 2007 come equipped with ESC, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Even more impressive, fully 87 percent of all SUVs produced in 2007 include ESC as a standard safety feature, while 58 percent of cars come equipped with the feature and 8 percent of trucks include ESC as standard equipment.

So what is ESC, and why is it included as a standard feature on so many 2007 vehicles, especially SUVs (like the Toyota FJ Cruiser, pictured above)?

According to the IIHS, almost half of all fatal crashes involving passenger vehicles involve a single vehicle. However, equipping vehicles with ESC can reduce the occurrence of these types of accidents by more than 50 percent. ESC does that by using speed sensors on each wheel to monitor steering wheel direction and the rotation of the vehicle around a central vertical axis (an imaginary line). When the system detects that the vehicle is rotating in the wrong direction, or losing traction or stability, it uses the antilock braking system to automatically brake the appropriate wheel to help the driver maintain control, and may even reduce engine power.

While ESC is currently not available on 36 percent of all 2007 vehicles (and is optional on 13 percent of vehicles), there will come a time in the next few years when it will become standard equipment on all vehicles, just like seatbelts and airbags. To search for vehicles equipped with ESC by make, model, and year, or to view videos or additional information about ESC, you an visit the IISH website at www.iihs.org.