A scintillating electric concept sports car comes from Jaguar

This is one of those high-flying ideas that you just hope and pray becomes reality for the average bloke, or at least the average well-heeled bloke, will someday be able to buy and enjoy on the road. This week, Jaguar has unveiled its first all-electric sports car, the Vision Gran Turismo Coupe, the rollout taking place at the Gran Turisno World Tour happening in Tokyo. It was envisioned from the ground up as an all-electric, all-wheel drive racing car for competition in global GT series. It utilizes a trio of compact electric motors to produce an output, measured in pferdestarke, as 1,020 units, the equivalent of about 1,005hp. By golly, just gaze upon those body lines. The Vision looks like a weapon that the Car Acrobatic Team might have wielded on Speed Racer.

There’s a hitch to all of this wonder, of course. The Vision, at least for right now, is a virtual car, created under the tutelage of Jaguar design chief Julian Thomson for players to select in the online Gran Turismo game, the brainchild of gaming wizard Kazunori Yamauchi. The Vision was drawn to evoke, even in the most distant way, the glory of Jaguar sports races from eons past such as the C-Type and D-Type. The Vision Gran Turismo Coupe will be available for players to download in Gran Turismo Sport for Sony PlayStation 4 from the end of November. Take some hope, though, because landmark production automobiles have been born of conceptualization more indirect than this in the past.

2020 Mazda6 offers turbo power, technology options

Everybody out there raise your hands if the Mazda6 has ever been on your shopping list for a midsize sedan. If your hands remained at your sides, maybe you ought to give some serious thought to changing that. Built on a dedicated assembly line in Flat Rock, Michigan, the third-generation Mazda6 will get a moderate redo for 2020 and will encompass no less than five trim levels. Turbocharged horsepower will be offered in some of the model ranges, along with an escalating level of driver-friendly technology and occupant comfort.

Mazda6 selections for 2020 begin with the Mazda6 Sport, which comes as standard with such niceties as radar cruise control, smart braking with pedestrian avoidance capability, land departure and the Mazda Connect infotainment system that includes Bluetooth. Step up to the Mazda6 Touring and you get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with a power moonroof. Up next, the Mazda6 Grand Touring comes standard with a 2.5-liter Skyactiv-T turbocharged engine that produces up to 250hp. The range climaxes with the Mazda6 Signature that combines the turbo engine with interior leather, suede and wood trim treatments. Not everyone may always remember it, but Mazda has been in business since 1920, been in the United States since 1970, and has scored some thrusts of success with its innovations in Wankel-cycle engines, the RX-7 sports car and the adorable Miata, now officially known as the MX-5. That’s a proud history.

Looking at a landmark Lotus

If you know anything at all about auto racing journalism, you know who Pete Lyons is. Born in New York, Pete moved to California and in the 1960s, became one of the world’s most acclaimed racing photojournalists. He’s best known for intimately documenting the outrageous Can-Am series for unlimited sports cars, but Pete also spent countless hours chasing and documenting other genres of motorsport. One of them was Formula 1, which leads us to this, his latest work. Lotus 72 is an in-depth story about the development of the first truly great F1 car of the 1970s, brimming with innovation.

Lotus 72, the book, is a look at how this landmark car came to be, and what it accomplished. Jointly designed by Colin Chapman and Maurice Phillipe, the 72 was an early but highly influential study of incorporating aerodynamics into the F1 toolkit. Its wedge shape was borrowed from the Lotus 56 gas turbine cars that Chapman had designed to race in the Indianapolis 500, and that theory was expanded by the 72’s incorporation of inboard disc brakes, side-mounted radiators and a huge overhead airbox, technologies that soon became standard practice. Just nine Lotus 72 chassis were ever built, but they had outsized influence in contrast to their numbers: Jochen Rindt drove the works 72 to multiple victories before being killed at Monza; he won the 1970 world championship posthumously. And Emerson Fittipaldi – who contributes the foreword here – used the 72 to win his first world title in 1972. Pete takes 320 large-format hardcover pages to tell the story of this groundbreaking car, illuminated by more than 360 photos, including his own. This title is simply a must for anyone interested in F1’s technical history and the unfettered genius of Chapman. It’s available for $79.95 by Quarto as part of its Formula 1 Greats series of titles.

Ford vs. Ferrari, the epic story as it really happened in the 1960s

We’re less than a month away now from the theatrical release of Ford v Ferrari, the dramatized tale of the struggle for racing supremacy between the Ford Motor Company and Ferrari, a savage rivalry that had its roots in Henry Ford II’s failed effort to buy out Enzo Ferrari. The manufacturer’s war that followed had its culmination in Ford’s 1-2-3 finish at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966. The book we’re reviewing here isn’t a rehash of the movie plot, but instead a concise recounting that the forces that made the worlds of global auto production collide with the Machiavellian, old-world fiefdom of hand-crafting exotic cars for competition on the world’s greatest circuits. Ford Versus Ferrari only takes a little longer to absorb than the film probably will, and it’s authored by one of the world’s current lead authorities on motor racing history.

Just to repeat, this is not a book based on a movie script. The author, John Starkey, is a Briton now living in Florida who restores and writes about international racing cars from this era, most notably the creation of Lola and Porsche. This 128-page softcover volume tells the story of how Eric Broadley’s first Lola GT indirectly morphed into the famed Ford GT that crushed Ferrari’s finest. All the real-life characters from the film take turns in the text, including Carroll Shelby, Ken Miles, Dan Gurney and also Ferrari’s lead driver, the great Englishman John Surtees. It’s hard to imagine any two manufacturers going at it today in such an openly hostile struggle for supremacy on such a global stage. Ford Versus Ferrari is an authoritative telling of an incredible story in a format you can easily get through in one night. It is certainly worthy of a read. The book comes from Veloce Publishing Ltd., costs $19.99 and can be ordered through Motorbooks in the United States.

Ford views an all-electric motoring future in a big way

We’ll say it again: Ready or not, electrically powered automobiles are here to stay and they’re going to be coming at us en masse during the coming years. To that end, the Ford Motor Company has announced plans to create and offer North America’s largest charging network for electric vehicles, consisting of more than 12,000 charging locations across the continent supporting up to 35,000 individual charging plugs. Drivers will be allowed to access a new FordPass app on their mobile phones or through an electric vehicle’s on-screen dashboard, which will allow drivers to locate a charging station, following the progress of the charge and, yes, pay for their fresh load of juice.

Industry observers generally agree that one obstacle to widespread acceptance of electric vehicles is buyer concerns about where they’ll be able to find a place to get them recharged. Ford says its network will be the biggest in North America, and should help to alleviate those worries and just maybe, make buyers embrace the technology with fewer trepidations. Forthcoming electric Fords, including the Mustang-based SUV that’s coming to market next year, will come standard with a Ford Mobile Charger that will be able to handle both 120- and 240-volt outlets, a technology developed in partnership with Amazon that will allow a vehicle to fully charge overnight. The FordPass charging network will allow a vehicle to take on 47 miles of range in just 10 minutes, meaning you’ll be able to juice up your ride while you juice up with your favorite latte. Ford expects to spend $11.5 billion on advancing the reach of electric technology by 2022.

Aston Martin’s continuation Zagato is an award winner

You simply cannot be an observer or celebrant of automotive history without including Aston Martin, now marking its centenary of building superior sporting cars, in your ongoing deliberations. That’s what happened this week at the Historic Motoring Awards, where a panel of judges selected the firm’s beautiful DB4 GT Zagato Continuation as Bespoke Car of the Year. The judges, including Jay Leno, Octane editor-in-chief James Elliott and collector-car insurance leader McKeel Hagerty, selected the Continuation for the award in part because of its modernized use of traditional coachbuilding techniques, and for the fact that it’s being constructed at Aston Martin’s historic home base of Newport Pagnell in England.

Look at that grille opening, the sinuous curves along its flanks, and the airy-but-aerodynamic roof treatment, to say nothing of the traditionalist wire wheels. Only an even 19 copies of the DB4 GT Zagato Continuation are being fabricated to celebrate Aston Martin’s biggest birthday ever. Each one of the luscious Zagato-themed bodies is constructed of 1.2mm-thick aluminum sheeting stretched across a digitally created body buck and hammered into shape to the tune of some 4,500 man-hours per car. These were the skills used when Aston Martin and Zagato – which marks its own centennial this year – first collaborated on a sports car some 60 years ago. This car is a foll0w-on to the 25 DB4 GT Continuation cars that sold out in 2017. The same outcome is likely here, regardless of the fact that the DBZ Century Collection has a price tag of 6 million pounds Sterling.

A New Beetle convertible raises money for a worthy cause

Big things are happening at Volkswagen, led by a headlong dive into the market for electric vehicles, especially in the European Union. To enable that, the German giant’s assortment of models is undergoing a profound revision. Part of that process involves axing at least one of Volkswagen’s recent signature models, the second-generation New Beetle. Basically, anyone who was smitten by the retro specialty subcompact has already gone out and acquired one, so it’s going away. At the just-concluded inaugural Chattanooga MotorCar Festival in Tennessee, a 2019 Beetle Convertible Final Edition SEL was raffled off to attendees to serve a singularly noble cause.

Chattanooga is a growing city in the mountain South, and coincidentally happens to be the site of Volkswagen’s new U.S. assembly plant. The convertible was offered as a fundraiser to benefit the Erlanger Neuroscience Institute, the region’s only medical center dedicated to treating disorders of the central nervous system, including among pediatric patients. Volkswagen was also the major sponsor of the Chattanooga festival, and used the occasion to roll out its new Atlas Cross Sport SUV, which is assembled at the Tennessee factory.