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.
Toyota has announced plans to expand its investment into a battery plant in Liberty, North Carolina, by an additional $2.5 billion to boost battery electric vehicle, or BEV, production, with the added benefit of 350 new jobs. The Toyota Battery Manufacturing North Carolina facility is now in the site-work stage, aiming at a 2025 opening, where up to 2,100 employees will fabricate high-tech batteries for EVs and hybrids.
The North Carolina facility is financed through Toyota’s global investment of some $70 billion in EV and battery production. As one components, Toyota has earmarked $5.6 billion for new battery production, of which the Liberty plant will be a part. Wanna join the team? Point your browser here to view and apply for open positions at Liberty and elsewhere.
Offered across four trim levels, and with significant levels of powertrain output and occupant protection, the 2023 Nissan Rogue has just hit the showrooms, with pricing getting underway at a suggested $27,360 for the basic Rogue S model. With a 1.5-liter variable-compression turbocharged engine offered across the board of all model ranges, the Rogue produces the most gasoline-fueled torque of any SUV in its class.
Opt for the Rogue Platinum and the SL Premium Package, and you’ll add standard Amazon Alexa voice-command technology for a variety of interior functions. The 2023 Rogue also boasts the most standard safety features in its class, with Nissan Safety Shield 360 standard across all grades. Speaking of which, the Rogue lineup maxes out for 2023 with the Rogue Platinum AWD, with standard navigation, which starts at $38,640.
Just yesterday morning, I was working on a story that peripherally discussed what happened the last time Audi got involved in a major racing series in a very big way. That produced the decade-plus of dominance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the World Endurance Champion, where a brace of successive Audi prototypes with turbocharged diesel power laid waste to everything in sight. It was reminiscent of how, a couple of decades farther back, when the emergence of Audi’s quattro technology utterly transformed the top tier of global rallying, and made AWD viable for performance cars.
Audi stunned everybody last week by announcing its newest foray, into the star chamber of Formula 1 with an all-new engine and energy-recovery system – to say nothing of a new chassis – beginning in 2026. It makes infallible sense, given the number of new Audis that are sold each year in North America and the added fact that F1 is now a U.S.-owned entertainment property. Audi, you will note, is the descendant of several premium German cars that were formed into a single operating unit, including Auto Union, who traded Grand Prix domination with Mercedes-Benz during the 1930s. Which begs the question: When the Silver Arrows of yore return to the F1 arena, will they be clad in shades of charcoal and scarlet instead?
Even though last week’s announcement was less than surprising, it’s still seismic in its impact. California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that beginning in 2035, all new cars and light trucks sold in the Golden State will be EV-only. California, standing alone, already constitutes one of the world’s largest single markets for new vehicles, it’s still historic, and one of the world’s first efforts to impose an emissions-related outright prohibition on vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. The ruling covers new vehicles only, with used gasoline-fueled vehicles being unaffected by the present ban.
The ruling by the California Air Resources Board will also set interim targets for phasing out gasoline-fueled vehicles. Beginning in 2026, 35 percent of all passenger cars, SUVs and light trucks sold in California will be required to be zero-emission vehicles. That quota is due to increase each year, reaching 51 percent by 2028, 60 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2035. The quotas would also clear the way for 20 percent of legal vehicles allowed for sale to be plug-in hybrids. A spokesman for the CARB called the steps the most important actions the environmental body has taken in the past 30 years. If past practice is any indication, California’s moves could foretell a blueprint for a national bid to eventually switch to new EVs.
Dial the calendar back nearly a century and you’ll learn that the exotic Spanish creations of Hispano-Suiza were at the best on the world’s road circuits, and coddling very rich passengers, in the pre-1930. Like several other glorious nameplates, Hispano-Suiza is undergoing a revival, now owned by the Peralada Group, which makes most of its income now by presenting high-luxury dining and entertainment events. The revived Hisso is part of a company now headed by a descendant of its founder, and made its U.S. debut at The Amelia as the Hispano-Suiza Carmen, a 100-percent electric hypercar.
Making the scene at Monterey was this newest offering, the Hispano-Suiza Carmen Boulogne, of which just 24 examples will be produced, this first Boulogne strikingly finished in a shade of Ocean Song Rose. The firm’s management has called the United States a “strategic market” in the brand’s revival, and plans five more exclusive showings before potential buyers as the year continues.
Hagerty’s footprint in the collector-car world resembles Paul Bunyan’s more every day, with its recent acquisition of the Broad Arrow Auctions group. Full disclosure, I have been working with Broad Arrow on prepping some of the catalog listings for their auction events, specifically the group’s impressive debut with a live auction at the Monterey Jet Center last week as part of Hagerty’s renamed Motorlux event at that venue, which drew several thousand notables to enjoy the cars, aircraft and Monterey gourmet cuisine that was offered. But at its core, this was a high-end auto auction, and Broad Arrow performed proudly during its star turn.
As the photo shows, Broad Arrow presented an intimate setting for its sale, which included this 1995 Ferrari F50, which hammered at a world record price of $5.175 million. Just edging it out for top sale of the event was another Ferrari, a gorgeous 250 GT SWB Berlinetta “Tour de France” from 1957, which rolled out of the hangar for an even $5.5 million. The lot we were watching was the one spotlighted in this space, the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 from the estate of Sir Sean Connery, which brought $2,425,000 and included a personal drive with Sir Jackie Stewart. All together, the Monterey sale rang up $55.3 million in sales, with a 88 percent sell-through rate of the 93 lots offered. Broad Arrow now moves toward its sale liquidated the famed upstate New York collection of Jim Taylor before taking on another live sale this November in West Palm Beach. Broad Arrow has also been named as the official auction house at The Amelia, another Hagerty holding, beginning next year.
Full disclosure: I know both authors of this work of history and I’m familiar with the vast sweep of their output and knowledge. Al Pearce and Mike Hembree represent nearly 100 years of combined experience in covering American motorsport and its history, one of our favorite topics. So it was rewarding to see these gentlemen combine their nearly endless knowledge to tell the stories of 50 breakthrough wins by the elite of NASCAR, going back to when Bill France Sr. first attempted to organize stock car racing into something coherent. 50 First Victories, a 236-page review, appropriately begins in the right place: With the story of Jim Roper, who hauled all the way from Kansas to win NASCAR’s first Strictly Stock race at the old Charlotte Fairgrounds, which came after the supposed winner was tossed for bootlegger-style weight jacking, which was then prohibited.
As the cover makes clear, the book is an episodic march through the generational greats that have made up the Cup series’ history, with deep dives into some of the luminaries whose names are still spoken with quiet respect. Our personal favorite will always be the tale of Tiny Lund, who won the 1963 Daytona 500 in storybook fashion after the Wood Brothers’ regular driver, Marvin Panch, was critically burned in a sports car preliminary and personally asked the Woods to put rideless Lund in the seat. Second fave for us is Harry Gant, an utter terror in Sportsman type racing who snapped an out-of-sight Cup losing streak in 1982, fittingly at Martinsville, thus becoming NASCAR’s “Mr. October.” This is a hugely entertaining and easily digestible book at 236 pages from Octane Press.
We reported in this spot a while back that the Chrysler – Stellantis, if you prefer – rear-drive platform that now underpins its ICE-powered muscle cars is long the tooth and facing the chop in the near future. This news seriously rattled one of my pals who’s a would-be Hemi Challenger buyer, and is concerned about whether traditional American high performance can co-exist with today’s carbon reduction. As this image, released last week, makes clear, Dodge is in no way prepared to abandon the performance market when the current platform is finally retired.
What you’re looking at is what Dodge is calling the future of American electrified performance as represented by this design study, the Dodge Charger Daytona SRT concept. You can see that the Charger is still a four-door (yes!) looks thoroughly nasty, and given past Stellantis practice, can be reasonably expected to make it to the showrooms largely intact. And if you’re worried that American muscle is doomed to sound like a dentist’s drill gone bonkers, you can take heart in this: The Daytona SRT concept includes what Stellantis is calling Fratzonic Chambered Exhaust, which, even through the car is all-electric will mimic the sound of today’s 707-horsepower SRT Hellcat for occupants and onlookers. Stop snickering, because we bet that buyers are going to love it.
One of the flat-out nicest places you can be as the leaves begin to turn in earnest is the magnificent Hudson Valley of New York and the adjacent Catskill Mountains. The up-and-down, winding roads present a delight for any driver, especially one that’s driving a veteran car. To that end, Historic Automobile Endurance Runs, LLC is offering a pair of autumn rallies for vintage cars in this beautiful locale, located about 100 miles north of New York City. Both rallies are organized by enthusiast and historian Robert Selkowitz of Shokan, New York, a longtime pal of this space. The events are designed to be attainable, enjoyable and most importantly, affordable.
Set for Saturday, September 24th, the Sixth Annual Catskill Conquest Rally is held in commemoration of the Automobile Endurance Run of October 1903 that saw 34 cars take part in an 800-mile run linking New York City and Pittsburgh. The second event is the Fourth Annual Catskill Covered Bridge Rally, set for Saturday, October 15. Both rallies’ starting point will be at the Maurice D. Hinchey Catskills Visitor Center, 5069 State Route 28, Mount Tremper, New York, 18 miles west of Kingston, New York, accessible via the New York State Thruway. Entry fees are set at $100 for the Catskill Conquest rally and at $50 for the Covered Bridge event. A reasonable price, to be sure, for that much fun.
Thirty years ago, and continuing forward for many seasons, Newman-Haas Racing was second only to Team Penske as a power in the INDYCAR world. At various times, its drivers ranged from Mario Andretti to Nigel Mansell to Sebastian Bourdais. Sadly, both of the team’s main principals, Paul Newman and longtime Lola importer Carl Haas, have been passed on for some years. In an amazing public offering, the auction house RM Sotheby’s is planning to present a huge sale of Newman-Haas memorabilia, a notion that goes along way, given that the items being offered for sale will include no less than 40 cars that raced at the Indianapolis 500, in the CART series and in the then-Indy Racing League.
Besides Lola chassis, the race cars represent the products of fabricators ranging from Swift to Dallara. One of our favorites is the Lola-Chevrolet seen above from 1991, when the Andrettis, father and son, were Newman-Haas teammates and when Michael Andretti engaged Rick Mears in one of the most thrilling late-race duels in Indianapolis 500 history. This once-in-a-lifetime sale of gilt-edged racing goodies is set for October 29.