Journalism is my life. I've been at it since the 1970s, starting in news and developing specialties in covering automobiles and motorsport. I hold more than 50 journalism awards for work in both newspapers and magazines. I have developed a global audience during my career.
When it comes to really inspired ways to promote new car, the Art Car initiative by BMW, as its been generally known since its debut in the 1970s, has few peers when it comes to sheer effectiveness. Begun in 1975 by French racer and art aficionado Hervé Poulain and BMW racing chief Jochen Neerpasch, the program got underway in 1975 when Alexander Calder crafted a unique finish for Poulain’s competition BMW 3.0 CSL coupe. Since then, participating artists in the ongoing program have various numbered Michael Jagamara Nelson, Esther Mahlangu and most recently, John Baldessari in 2016. The cars are visually stunning and now, BMW is coming up with a new way for their fans to appreciate them.
BMW has just revealed a new collaboration with the advance mobile app Acute Art, which caters to those who love fine expression. Using AR, which stands for augmented reality, the app will bring the BMW Art Car Collection into the digital world for the first time. The first 10 cars will debut on the Acute Art app by the end of the month, with the subsequent nine Art Cars being integrated next at two-week intervals. Each car will be transformed into an exact digital reproduction, with Acute Art scanning each car using a photogrammetry methodology to create every line and curve of the vehicle precisely. Each car is thus transformed into a piece of digital artwork. Last night, in honor of the first moon landing, the Smithsonian Channel demonstrated how technicians similarly scanned the Apollo 11 capsule to create a virtual tour of the historic spacecraft, inside and out.
Canton, if you’ve never heard of it, is part of what one might refer to as the Mississippi Metroplex, being located in Madison County a bit west of the state capital, Jackson. It’s also one spot in Nissan’s widening U.S. manufacturing footprint, as Nissan’s assembly facility in Canton has variously produced light trucks and SUVs including the Armada, Xterra, and since 2012, the midsize Frontier pickup, whose latest generation first made its way down the line. First opened in 2003, Canton Vehicle Assembly Plant makes extensive use of collaborative robjots – cobots, for short in today’s lingo – which are employed to ensure that repetitive tasks have the same precise outcome with every repetition.
The 2022 Frontier, regardless of how many wheels are driven, uses Nissan’s 3.8-liter direct-injection V-6, with best-in-class 310 standard horsepower. A nine-speed automatic transmission is also standard. The V-6 is sourced from another big Nissan operation in the sunbelt, the Nissan Decherd Powertrain Plant, located in Decherd, Tennessee, along its southern boundary in Franklin County.
In the United Kingdom, RML Group Ltd. is preparing to launch is reinterpretation – “reinvention” simply takes the notion too far – of a polished-platinum automotive icon, the Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta, which, for legal reasons, is the last time we’ll make that comparison here. Let your eyes tell you what this car is going to be all about when it appears soon, the first press-evaluation example now being readied for an October rollout. Regardless of whatever the licensing niceties are here, this bespoke GT coupe makes heavy use of what is essentially current Ferrari technology, borrowing the platform and most of its associated pieces from the appropriately longitudinal rear-drive 550 Maranello coupe. From there, the RML engineering team is stirring its own cup of consomme.
While retaining the 550 Maranello’s wheelbase and basic suspension mounting locations, RML has undertaken to slightly gentle the Short Wheelbase’s ride motions, given its intended place for long-legs GT motoring, rather than the bared-gums stuff of later Ferrari creations. For one thing, the 550’s active-technology Bilstein shock units have swapped out in favor of slightly softer Ohlins units, with anti-roll bar and coil spring weights also nudged slightly downward in keeping with the new car’s project curb weight, which will be less than the 550’s. The Ferrari steel backbone chassis should also gain stiffness, since the RML coupe will use high-tensile carbon fiber bodywork, as opposed to the 550 Maranello’s aluminum skin. Customer cars are forecast to arrive in the first quarter of 2022.
NASCAR history exists in a whole lot of places today, starting on your big-screen TV, and it’s happily often told in the words of those who lived it. Sometimes, that tends to pass up the more formative years of, say, 40 years ago, before the glitz of modern NASCAR became all-enveloping and when mere flesh-and-blood mortals could sweat and knuckle-scrape their way to stock car racing’s pinnacle and succeed there. Hearing those stories, from that age, is increasingly challenging given the passage of years. I know, because I helped to tell one person’s tale of that journey. So it’s gratifying when a name from the past, especially one you recognize, makes a determined effort to honestly tell the story of his or her personal journey in motorsport. This is one of those occasions, and one of those books.
The photo on the cover of Will Cronkrite’s life story tells a story nearly as effectively as his 600-plus pages of text, every sentence his very own. That’s what a NASCAR crewman looked like when he moved south from his native Michigan and entered the sport in the 1970s. The air wrench is the only thing, aside from the person, that isn’t primitive. Notice that there’s no radio headset. I Was a NASCAR Redneck is a warm, geniunely likable and amusing tale about when this was a pastime en route to becoming a deadly serious business enterprise. As a car owner – yep, Will did that, too – the author orchestrated one of the most consequential races in modern NASCAR history, when he stuck a young Dale Earnhardt in his car for the Daytona 500, catching the eye of rival car owner Rod Osterlund. We all know what happened after that. Will then went on to DiGard Racing, which turned Darrell Waltrip into a major star. The author credits technical geniuses as broad as Bud Moore and Mario Rossi as mentors. The book is highly personal, truly funny, a deep dive into both STEM and vehicle dynamics, and veers happily into the world of automotive restoration. Will also, we should add, holds the unofficial record for the fastest stock car lap ever turned at Daytona, and explains how it happened. This is a good book. The link will take you where to order it for 45 bucks. Try it on.
The Los Angeles region doesn’t boast the level of manufacturing infrastructure for cars that it once did – the Chevrolet assembly plant in Van Nuys and Ford factory in Pico Rivera have been history for some 40 years now – but the screaming tangle of Southern California is still a place where automakers nurture their new ideas. Nissan and Mitsubishi, to name just two, have operated design facilities in the region creating new vehicles and concepts for the North American market. The list of automotive luminaries who do their heavy thinking in the Southland also includes General Motors, whose innovation studio in North Hollywood marked its 20th anniversary this year. That’s because GM has announced its intention to both relocate and expand its SoCal operations, relocating to an expanded facility in Pasadena that will conduct advance research into transportation technologies.
GM is earmarking $71 million in new spending for the research site, which will encompass 149,000 square feet on eight acres in Pasadena, ensuring that America’s biggest homegrown automaker will have a long-term presence in this regional hive for theoretical thinking. It’s part of a three-pronged effort that will also include expansion of the longstanding GM Tech Center in Warren, Michigan, and its Advance Design Center in Shanghai. Among the recent projects GM has pursued has been a partnership with Lockheed Martin to create a new-generation lunar rover. The Pasadena location will leave GM better position to pluck the best of Southern California’s minds from the aerospace, defense, automotive engineering and software development. This is kind of smarts you need to build viable cars for the 21st century.
Especially since World War II ended, two-seat sports cars have enjoyed iconic status at Mercedes-Benz, as anyone who’s attempted to buy a 300 SL from the 1950s at an auction recently can attest. All such cars, including the R107 generation whose numbers seem to be a fixed element of any such sale, enjoy significant fan followings today. Especially in the case of the R107 and its successors, the SLs have largely been luxurious, compliant, easy to drive and possessed of relentless build quality. In many cases, their generally docile road manners have blunted some onlookers’ willingness to consider them true sports cars in the guts-out mode. The newest generation of these eternally popular roadsters will likely do a lot to change that perception.
The seventh distinct generation of the Sports Leicht class since 1954 will debut later this year, built on the new R232 platform. For the first time, the SL will be an AMG-massaged performance model only, making the new roadster’s official name the 2022 Mercedes-AMG SL. It will also be the first SL-Class offering in Mercedes-Benz history built with all-wheel drive as standard, and will also be the first such roadster offered in a 2+2 seating arrangement since the R129 generation of 1989. Mercedes-Benz has just teased a look at its interior, which will feature a combined-language display of analog and digital information it’s calling hyperanalog, which will be expressed via an 11.9-inch adjustable touchscreen integrated in a sun visor, which can be power-repositioned with the soft (this generation SL will eschew the auxiliary removable hardtop that’s commonly been part of the line) top lowered to diminish solar glare. The occasional rear seats, incidentally, can be covered by a wind deflector or used as auxiliary storage.
We’ve got the Fourth of July; the French republic marks its national holiday today, July 14, with the annual celebration of Bastille Day. The remembrance takes its English-language name from the assault by French partisans on Louis XVI’s political dungeon in Paris amid an economic crisis, becoming the incident that triggered the French Revolution. As holidays go, it’s great. At Hemmings Motor News, I took part in a French car rally that ended at a Bastille Day street fair on the east side of Manhattan. Best escargot in wine sauce I’ve ever experienced. In any case, Bugatti, the revived French builder of hyper-costly supercars, chose to mark France’s holiest day at one of its equally sanctified automotive capitals, Molsheim.
Molsheim is the primary city of the French region known as Alsace-Lorraine, a sanctuary for artisans that changed hands repeatedly while conflict raged across Europe as World War I approach, Bugatti’s namesake founder, Ettore Bugatti, began building cars in Molsheim in 1909. In addition to creating, by force of will, the most aesthetically flawless cars the motoring world has ever known, Bugatti produced everything from railway locomotives to surgical instruments in Molsheim until the founder’s death in 1947 and his company’s demise in the early 1960s. The brothers Fritz and Hans Schlumpf then established the world’s largest private collection of cars, and the biggest global brace of Bugattis anywhere, which became today’s Musée National de l’Automobile in 1982. The EB 110 that revived the Bugatti name in Molsheim dates to 1995, and has continue to produce the megabuck hypercars, in very small numbers, in the firm’s spiritual home ever since. Today, Bugatti posed some of its current offerings in front of the renovated Chateau St. Jean in Molsheim. Have a blast on your biggest day, mes amis.
If you missed the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the United Kingdom, which is wrapping up this weekend, we share your pain, because this is one of the globe’s great motoring heritage event. Most of its involves a galaxy of competition cars from the past, representing just about every discipline of motorsport, assaulting the 1.86-kilometer driveway – really, that’s what it is – that runs up the hill at Lord March’s historic estate in Merrie Olde, with an upgrade that nearly touches 5 percent. It’s a spectacle, a reverent celebration of all things racing, which predictably also attracts a clutch of automakers eager to demonstrate their go-fast products in a very public and cheerful way. Porsche is always one of them.
Stuttgart brought a whole lot of stuff, both new and historic, to Goodwood. Among the production vehicles, the star was arguably a new extreme-performance offering, the Cayenne Turbo GT, which led the hillclimb charge. Based on the coupe-configuration Cayenne, the Turbo GT, so named for the twin turbochargers boosting its 4.0-liter V-8 to a claimed 631 horsepower, is based on the prototype that recently set an unofficial lap record for SUVs on the Nordschleife section of the Nurburgring. Among the chassis-tuning advances are an overall ride height that’s 14mm lower than other Cayenne models, active anti-roll technology and all-wheel steering. Porsche is beginning to accept orders now for September delivery, with an advertised top end of 186 MPH and an anticipated MSRP of $180,800.
There’s wasn’t a whole lot of hype about it, and the exact vehicle that achieved the production benchmark hasn’t been disclosed. But last month, somewhere in its network of assembly plants, Subaru built its 20 millionth vehicle equipped with all-wheel drive, the technological mainstay that has defined Subaru products for at least a generation now. The official announcement came from Subaru Corporation of Japan, indicating that the landmark vehicle may have been produced for its home market.
The photo, which shows the driveline and suspension from a current Subaru Outback, explains what makes this company so intriguing. Subaru produces technologically unique and fascinating vehicles, which mount a horizontally opposed engine – the layout ensures the engine’s crankshaft pulses are inherently self-cancelling and thus balanced – with permanent all-wheel drive. Subaru cut its teeth in North America by marketing itself as a good winter car, which it certainly is, but anyone whose driven one of its products through a blinding Florida downpour, like we did yesterday, can attest that its feeling of security translates well to warmer climes, too. Subaru has been producing all-wheel drive vehicles since it introduced the Leone 4WD Estate Van, Japan’s first mass-produced passenger vehicle with all-wheel drive, in 1972. The DL/GL station wagon with AWD, the ancestor of today’s Outback line, was introduced to American buyers in 1975. A new-generation, full-time system that supplanted the earlier shift-on-the-fly setup came in the 1980s. In 1996, Subaru made AWD standard across all model lines, which remains the case today except for the base-level BRZ sport coupe, a shared platform with Toyota, which starts out as front drive only.
Here’s one automaker that doesn’t spend a lot of time contemplating a switchover to EVs, at least not yet. Shelby American, now the vehicle-production arm of Carroll Shelby International Inc., is all about eyeball-crossing performance accomplished by sizzling up hydrocarbons, producing lines of heritage continuation Cobras, component vehicles and notably here, production products that undergo some serious modification. A line of amped-up F-Series pickups from Ford is one of Shelby’s staples. To that end, Shelby American has done a hurry-up two-step and is just getting an ultra-performance variant of Ford’s new-generation F-150 – no, not the electric one – into the hands of its dealer body. Option the Shelby F-150 correctly, and you are guaranteed to humiliate everyone in sight when pure ponies are counted.
As standard equipment, the Shelby F-150 gets a naturally aspirated version of Ford’s Coyote V-8, displacing 5.0 liters, producing 395 horsepower. Look closely at the striping at the bottom of the doors and you’ll see what’s optional. Post-titling, buyers can specify installation of a Whipple-designed supercharger – if you follow drag racing, Whipple will be a familiar name to you – breathing through a bespoke Borla exhaust system, all good for a full 775 horsepower. Underneath, the rig gets a Shelby-specific tuned chassis based around FOX shock absorbers, a BDS lift system and rear traction bars. Based on the plethora of custom high-ride trucks that rip across central Florida, we can’t envision the Shelby F-150 being anything less than hugely successful – Roush-badged F-150s are popular here – even at a starting price set at $114,980, which includes the 2021 F-150 Lariat that’s the basis of the package. A 2021 production run of 600 units is forecast.