It used to be called the Optima, and it’s the manufactured cousin of the better-known Hyundai Sonata. It’s also helped propel Kia, arguably the somewhat lesser-known of South Korea’s automotive brands, to three consecutive monthly U.S. sales records through May. The K5, as the fifth generation of Kia’s midsize sedan is now officially known, was renamed in large part to provide Kia with some punchy, more recognizable brand identity. Entirely new for 2019, the K5 package has been tweaked for 2022 with equipment upgrades that include the expanded inclusion of navigation as standard equipment across additional trim levels of the car.
In addition to the new, edgily stylish Kia logo, the K5 package for 2022 will include a Surround View Monitor, an additional helping of wireless charger points inside the passenger cabin and a new Premium Package for AWD K5s in the GT line that adds a panoramic glass sunroof, heated steering wheel and LED projection headlamps, plus navigation-based driver and cruise-control assist. Prices will start at $23,690 for a basic LX sedan with front drive. Assembly is at Kia’s dedicated plant in West Point, Georgia.
If somebody asks you to name the largest-selling motor vehicle of all time and you answered with the Ford Model T or the original Volkswagen Beetle – or, for that matter, the Ford F-Series – that’s a loud fail buzzer you hear pealing in the background, because none of those replies have been right for a very long time. The undisputed World Sales Champeen is right now standing on more than 44 million sales worldwide, across 12 generations, since its introduction as a 1966 model in its home market. The Corolla has been the world’s top-selling passenger vehicle every year since 1974, and overhauled the Beetle as the highest-production car in automotive history back in 1997. So while mortals likely take it for granted when they notice it at all, anything that happens concerning the Corolla’s long and stellar history is a very important topic back in Toyota City. This week, the Corolla saga launched its newest chapter and if you remember the Tercel nameplate, you’ll understand that this news also represents kind of a swerve in the Corolla’s forward progress.
It’s called the 2022 Corolla Cross, based on the current E210 version of the Corolla, and sharing the sedan models’ underpinnings, namely the Toyota New Global Architecture platform that also forms the basis for the Prius hybrid. It’s a compact SUV, very much aimed at such offerings as the Mazda CX-30, Nissan Kicks and Subaru Forester. The Corolla Cross will be offered in front- and all-wheel-drive models, and will span L, LE and XLE trim levels. It’s anything but deprived in the powertrain department, its standard engine running to a full 2.0 liters of displacement and capable of 169 horsepower mated to a CVT transmission. For AWD models, the Corolla Cross can disengage its rear wheels to help save fuel. Independent rear suspension is limited to AWD models, and the new vehicle has plenty of optioning choices, including towing capacity of up to 1,500 pounds.
Small SUVs, whether they fit your needs or otherwise, are undeniably toasty when it comes to buyer appeal. One such punter, to use the British colloquialism, is the Kia Seltos, which has been in our showrooms for about a year now and is a demonstrated sales success. If you’re encountering the Seltos for the first time in this space, it’s indeed a little thing, kind of in the Buick Encore mold, and built on the joint Hyundai-Kia K2 platform that also underpins the Kia Rio and the Hyundai Venue. Based on its appeal, the Seltos is now getting an additional model in its lineup, with the appealing boost of turbocharged power.
Specifically, the new entry is the 2022 Kia Seltos Nightfall Edition, which boasts not only artfully subdued visuals, but standard all-wheel drive – a key consideration in this segment – plus Kia’s 1.6-liter Turbo GDI four-cylinder engine, rated at a robust 175 horsepower, and mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The full Kia suite of Forward Collision Avoidance Assist driver aids is standard, along with a 10.25-inch multi-function touchscreen that boasts UVO link connectivity. Suggested price: $26,690.
Maybe this should have happened at Amelia, too, although even with all the wealth that’s in obvious evidence outside the Ritz-Carlton, you’ve still got to wonder whether it would be enough in this case. The image from Rolls-Royce accompanied its announcement last week that it fully intends to build the automobile you see, commissioning the construction of the Boat Tail, as it’s being called, in a revival of custom coachbuilding that has been an element of Rolls-Royce luxury for much of its existence. The august, once British-owned institution has launched a subsidiary, Rolls-Royce Coachbuild, to create cars such as the Boat Tail after the firm ventured into customer-specific bodywork with the much-noticed Sweptail study of 2017.
Rolls-Royce last week issued a very long media statement that really discusses the Boat Tail in very broad terms and yet makes abundantly clear that no conceivable element of personal luxury and expression will be lacking in this car. Among its planned designed elements are a dual-panel deck lid that opens in butterfly fashion to reveal a champagne cooler that’s pre-stocked with Armand de Brignac in two bottles plus caviar and blini. Cocktail tables will fold open on either side of the deck, clad in anthracite-tone Caleidolegno veneers, with BOVET timepieces integrated into the instrument display. Rolls-Royce has yet to announce a target MSRP for this quintessentially personal car, but reliably accurate sources including Forbes are reporting that the first client Boat Tail, now in planning, is pegged at more than 20 million pounds, which works out to around $28 million. Jeez, and we thought the F-Series EV was a big deal. As they say, see your dealer for further details.
Yes, this is a racing Corvette. And appropriately, it was on the show field at Amelia Island last weekend. But there’s a big difference between this and the other famous Corvettes from the early 1960s. Look at the beefy steel wheels, because they’re a hint of what’s coming. In late 1962, Chevrolet sent six of its new Z06 split-window Corvette coupes to Mickey Thompson in California to be prepped for an upcoming road-course event at Riverside International Raceway. The only thing is, two of the coupes never made it to Riverside. Instead, both were prepped to run in what was apparently a NASCAR Grand National open-competition event on the 2.5 mile high-banked oval at Daytona International Speedway. That’s where things get interesting.
That’s where the wheel and tire combination comes in; it’s pure stock car stuff. This Z06 is unique in that it was prepped to run under Grand National rules in 1963, for which Chevrolet had a lethally potent powertrain weapon even though it wasn’t officially involved in motorsport. The Corvette’s chassis was modified so that the new Mk II big-block V-8, displacing 427 cubic inches, would fit. Junior Johnson, who would flog the same engine in regular NASCAR events that year, put this Z06 on the pole for the race, which was actually run in the rain. The lightened, chopped-chassis car, with Billy Krause as substitute driver, was beset by handling problems in the wet, allowing Paul Goldsmith to win in a Ray Nichels-built Pontiac Tempest stuffed with a 421 Super Duty race engine. It was the first public appearance for the new Chevy big-block, which would become a competition legend. This car was returned to small-block power and raced locally in California until Tom McIntyre of Burbank found it in 1976, began doing research and learned its unique, pivotal racing history. Officially, Chevrolet took back all the Mk II “Mystery Engine” examples after the program ended, but up the street here in Daytona Beach, Smokey Yunick kept one in his stash, and thanks to Tom’s entreaties, allowed it to be used in the restoration. This, part of the Chevy Thunder class at Amelia Island, is the result. A report of Amelia Island’s post-pandemic revival will be in the second issue of Crankshaft.
Since we’re enthusiastically on the topic of history, especially when it comes to racing, this visually stimulating volume, brand new, just sailed over the transom. The term “grand prix” predates it, but as a racing category with a specific set of regulations governing car design and construction, Formula 1 is a postwar phenomenon, first organized in 1950. And, alone among manufacturers, Ferrari has fielded a works team since Day One, employing drivers from Jean Alesi to Wolfgang von Trips, with champions such as Phil Hill, John Surtees and the unassailable Michael Schumacher also in the mix. History books about Ferrari and F1 have been published many times. This new one, by British journalist Stuart Codling, is a very thick and photo-centric examination of each car Ferrari has constructed to contest motorsport’s premier series.
Ferrari Formula 1 Car By Car is a hefty work on expensive, coated stock that will surely please those genuine tifosi who make the investment in it. Each race car has an encapsulated technical history, generally running to four of the book’s 224 big-spread, hardcover pages, which correctly salutes the individual designers, such as John Barnard in the case of the controversial, largely British-penned 640 with its torsion bars and problematic semiautomatic gearbox. Besides a technical narrative, there’s also a useful specification box for each car, and a year-by-year accounting of Ferrari finishes in F1. Really, it’s quite good, and not unreasonable at 60 bucks in the U.S. from Motorbooks.
In 1909, Henry Ford the original had a new car bearing his name that he believed was strong enough to conquer a cross-continent tour of the United States, which then boasted next to nothing in terms of improved roads. After 50 days and more than 6,500 miles, one of his Model Ts crossed the finish line of the first transcontinental automobile race held in the United States, which meandered from New York City to the gate of the Seattle World’s Fair. Ford is reprising that Atlantic-to-Pacific journey now, under considerably less punishing conditions, to introduce its all-electric Mustang Mach-E crossover to a waiting buying public. Very appropriately, this year’s route included a show-field stopover at Amelia Island, where electric vehicles of the past were one of the featured concours categories, and a bevy of manufacturers ranging from Lucid to Porsche were displaying new EVs (with Porsche also granting test drives) to attendees.
So if you’ve yet to spot a Mach-E in the flesh, this is it, the photo representing one of the few moments the vehicle didn’t have a bunch of people pressed against it, requiring the nice gent in the blue cap to wield his polishing cloth yet again. Mustang purists who came of age when the Dave Clark Five were still a big deal may be appalled by this in some cases, but from this view, a whole lot of Amelia visitors, who by definition are pretty serious car people, were sidling up to the Mach-E and giving it serious attention, enough that it took some time to get a clear view of the car for photo purposes even though it wasn’t 9 a.m. yet. That’s saying something, given the locale. Mach-E deliveries commenced in December and the line’s next model, the Mach-E GT Performance Edition, can be reserved right here before it arrives in Ford showrooms this fall.
The 26th running of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, pushed back from its normal March date, came off swimmingly as a responsibly distanced event that was a little smaller and less frenetic than normal, but still possessed of comparatively mild skies instead of the fiery heat and savage thunderstorms that rake Florida this time of year. The dual Best of Shows, for road and sport, went to an exquisite Hispano-Suiza – one of the event’s featured marques – and to a Shadow Can-Am car with a vibrant history. But the Amelia’s about a lot more than what ends up nose-to-nose in front of the judges’ stand. Historically significant automobiles, racing and otherwise, sometimes enjoy a dense measure of obscurity that makes them all the more charming. This car was being judged on the Amelia show vehicle and we’re thrilled at that, given its background.
What in God’s name is a 1979 American Motors Spirit AMX doing on the same field as Duesenbergs, Ferrari 275 GTBs and a brace of Porsche 935s? Marking its international record of achievement, which we guarantee that 99 percent of the Amelia’s attendees were oblivious about until they read its placard. Like the cars in the background, it was raced by Lyn St. James, the concours’ honored guest for 2021, a veteran of Trans-Am and IMSA GTO competition who became the second woman to drive in the Indianapolis 500. In the late 1970s, AMC had a collaboration with BFGoodrich to run its then-new T/A line of street performance tires in pro-level road racing, the effort led by team boss Amos Johnson of North Carolina, a well-known figure in the world of AMC motorsport. To promote the tires in Europe, BFGoodrich had Johnson prep a pair of Spirit AMXs to run the Nurburgring 24-hour race for production cars. Lyn shared this car with automotive journalist Gary Witzenburg and road racer Jim Downing, who went on to co-invent the HANS device that’s saved so many racers from fatal basilar skull fractures in crashes. Despite being hobbled by mechanical issues, the AMC actually managed to win its class, making it the day that a Rambler ruled the ‘Ring. Remember, this is the car that replaced the AMC Gremlin. We absolutely love this, and wonder if the people at Stellantis, as the former FCA is known since merging with Groupe PSA, are aware of this remarkable achievement by one of its heritage nameplates. In its Nurburgring livery today, the AMC is owned by Michael Weaver of Joppa, Maryland.
We’re making a brief and hopefully, understandable departure from normal practice as the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance commences for its COVID-delayed, 26th consecutive running in northeastern corner of Florida this week. In addition to moving a couple of months later than its usual date, the bulk of concours-related activities have been moved outside its home at the Ritz-Carlton for distancing and open-air mitigation purposes, beginning with tomorrow night’s Porsche-sponsored wine dinner, which sold out a long time ago. Amelia Island has a long and rich alliance with the famed dealership Brumos Porsche, now known as Porsche Jacksonville Another sold-out happening that takes place Friday is the Porsche Driving Experience that begins at the Fernandina airport and includes a stopover at The Brumos Collection of historic automobiles down the road in Jacksonville. What’s not sold out is the book signings featuring concours founder Bill Warner, who will be signing copies of his motorsport photography journal The Other Side of the Fence on the show field outside the hotel, with sessions set for 2 to 2:30 p.m. on Friday and from 1 to 2 p.m. on Saturday. JDOW will be in the house.
Nathan Deremer’s official photos of last year’s dual Best in Show winners does a lot to explain why Amelia Island is, for many people, the best premium automotive gathering in the world. It’s unique in that it awards two Best in Show honors, not just one, with the second one going every year to an acclaimed competition car with proven historical provenance. Last year’s winner, on the left, is the Porsche 917/30 that ultimately annihilated the original Can-Am series in the hands of Mark Donohue and George Follmer. The Porsche is owned by Rob Kauffman of Charlotte, and next it is the 1929 Duesenberg J-218 Town Limousine owned by the Lehrman Collection of Palm Beach, Florida, which was the other top winner. The guest of honor at each concours is frequently a motorsport personality, the distinction goes this year to Lyn St. James, the second woman to race in the Indianapolis 500 and a Ford factory racer in IMSA whose accomplishments also include a class victory at the 24 Hours of the Nurburgring aboard, of all things, an American Motors Spirit. The Amelia is all about gorgeous cars, heart-stopping auctions, terrific high-end shopping and automotive history that permeates absolutely everything. No weekend plans? Take a ride and visit. This event raises a ton of money for charities around the First Coast of Florida.
Incredible, amazing things are everyday occurrences in the world of motorsport, at every level, and here’s proof of what we mean. The name of Stan Ploski might not mean much to you unless you grew up in New Jersey. In the Garden State, Ploski is a certified legend, a huge star, one of the greatest stock car drivers the state has ever produced. The product of a dairy farm in Ringoes, not far from Flemington, Ploski stepped into a stock car for the first time in the early 1960s, won his first Modified feature in 1965 at long-gone Hatfield Speedway in Pennsylvania, and went on to a Hall of Fame career that resulted in 182 career Modified feature wins at 10 speedways including the famed Reading Fairgrounds and more notably, the great Flemington Fair Speedway, which counted Ploski, who owned 74 wins there, among its biggest and most enduring stars. Stan the Man, as he’s long known, first retired when Flemington was paved in 1991, and then did it again after the track closed for good some years thereafter. Ploski is now 77, not long removed from a torn Achilles’ tendon, and back behind the wheel of a racing car once more.
Ploski, who owned five open-cockpit wins at Flemington to bookend his Modified resume, has returned to competition at New Egypt Speedway in central New Jersey in the track’s class for non-wing Sprint cars powered by GM crate engines. Ploski’s nephew, Modified star Ryan Godown, drove the car to 15 winds until a change in track rules barred Modified drivers from coming in to cherry-pick the crate Sprint class. Flemington Modified veteran Karl Freyer then took over the seat before offering it to Ploski, who flipped the car in 2019 before the pandemic, and the tendon injury, interrupted his 2020 campaign. Ploski is now back in the Sprinter and determinedly pursuing feature win 183, as this Pete MacDonald image from Area Auto Racing News demonstrates. Please allow some context here. As a teen-ager, I watched this guy kick butt at East Windsor Speedway and Flemington in cars that included his own 27jr, the Ken Brenn 24 and the Trenton Mack 74. The guy is 77. In three 2021 starts, he’s never finished outside the Top 10 and is fifth in crate Sprint points. As Ploski told AARN publisher and editor Len Sammons, “With this Sprint division, everyone is equal. Same tires, motor and weight. It’s all about the driver’s ability. I might not be as quick as I was when I was younger, you can’t expect that, but I think I can still get the job done. What I want to do this year is win a race. I told my wife if I win one race, that’s it.” Or maybe not: Besides his nephew’s exploits, his son, Stan III, owns a New Egypt feature win in the Sportsman division, and grandson Hunter Ploski, who goes by “Stanley” now, wants to drive. It’s not inconceivable that three generations of the Ploski family could end up racing at New Egypt together.