How serious is the bowtie brigade about converting you to an EV customer? Enough so that Chevrolet has rolled out its first all-electric versions – plural – of its midsize Blazer SUV. Riding on General Motors’ Ultium platform, and mixing in styling cues liberally borrowed from the Camaro and Corvette, the electric Blazer will be capable of traveling up to 320 miles on a single charge, depending on trim level, with a fast-charging capability that will allow owners to energize 78 miles’ worth of juice in 10 minutes using a fast-charging station.
With suitably dramatic looks, the Blazer EV will be offered across five trim levels, including Chevrolet’s first all-electric SS performance SUV, along with Chevrolet’s pursuit-rated Police Pursuit Vehicle package for fleet use. Deliveries to all customers will get underway in spring 2023.
We were invited earlier today to stop by the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, located at Daytona International Speedway, where we’re one of the electors for its inductees. The invitation was to cover a reborn piece of Daytona racing history – a perfect, and we mean perfect, re-creation of the 1963 Pontiac Tempest that inductee Ray Nichels, the Indiana race car builder, put together for fellow inductee Paul Goldsmith to run in what was then known as the Daytona Continental, the predecessor of today’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. Nichels stuffed the little Tempest with a big-bore, 421-cu.in. Pontiac V-8, giving Goldsmith enough power to erase the favored Ferrari GTOs in the 1963. Goldsmith didn’t finish, but the Europeans were so awed by the Pontiac’s output that Mercedes-Benz bought, and later destroyed, the Tempest just to see how it worked.
Here’s the car being pushed into the Hall where it will be on display for the scores of visitors that come to the speedway every day. This re-creation is considered a gilt-edged piece of Pontiac history because of its accuracy, and because it’s one of the lightweight 421 Tempests, most built for drag racing, that are considered the spiritual fathers of the fabled Pontiac GTO, which was introduced the following year after General Motors up-sized the Tempest into an intermediate hardtop and squeezed a slightly smaller 389 beneath the hood.
Credit for all this goes to the guy being interviewed, Michigan collector and historian Roger Rosebush, who built the re-created Tempest, and, as luck would have it, was celebrating his birthday as the Pontiac was wheeled into the Hall. We guarantee he’ll remember this one fondly.
An American motorsport milestone was achieved this month with the 100th running of the Climb to the Clouds, the legendary Pikes Peak Hill Climb in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The sinuous two-lane road is paved all the way to the summit now, but Pikes Peak still remains a harsh, but hallowed, evaluation of pure power and adhesion. The centennial running included a standalone milestone this year as a 2022 Shelby GT500SE hardtop, right off the Shelby American assembly line in Las Vegas, was certified as the fastest genuine street-legal production car to assault the mountain in its century of history.
The GT500SE’s pilot was hall of fame hillclimb driver Robert Prilika, who wheeled the Shelby under his Robert Prilika Motosports banner, and sponsored by Pierre Ford of Seattle, one of the nation’s highest-volume Shelby dealerships over the past several years. The GT500SE was unaltered from stock other than to add the requisite safety equipment directed by the Pikes Peak organizers. For the record, the current Pikes Peak course is 12.42 miles with 156 distinct corners, encompassing more than 4,700 feet of elevation change, with the finish line set at 14,115 feet above sea level. The record run took place in dense fog with temperatures in the 40s.
Those who know the history of Japanese cars on these shores will find this to be an intriguing item. Toyota already has one of the broadest U.S. model arrays of any auto manufacturer, and already has a halo brand in Lexus. But its heritage assigns the Toyota Crown the status of a marque legend, being Toyota’s first mass-produced passenger vehicle when it first debuted in its home market as a 1955 model. It’s been decades, literally, since the Crown last appeared on these shores but as Toyota’s premier luxury executive cars, it’s existed through 15 generation elsewhere. And it’s through being a U.S. oddity.
Toyota is reintroducing the Crown to North America as a 2023 model, as a large sedan with a very high luxury content and as you’ll spot, a higher-than-typical ride height for easier occupant access. The new Crown will be sold in three trim levels, XLE, Limited and Platinum, all offered with electronic on-demand all-wheel drive. The familar Toyota hybrid system is standard, but a new HYBRID MAX powertrain will be offered that will pair a 2.4-liter turbocharged ICE with an electronically powered rear axle assembly that will yield an expected 340 horsepower. Just think, a luxury hybrid with rear-drive balance. Built on Toyota’s GA-K platform, the revived Crown will make its return to the marketplace later this year.
Boonie busting is popular with those who love their pickups, even the modern interpretation of them, which means a very big-buck vehicle will a lavish interior and scads of standard convenience items. GMC makes just such a full-size pickup in the form of its Sierra 1500 AT4X, which can already be optioned to the very hilt. Undeterred by beckoning brush, or anything else, GMC chose the Overland Expo Pacific Northwest to reveal its latest specialty offering, the 2023 Sierra 1500 AT4X AEV edition, which is aimed squarely at determined off-roaders.
The plan here was to give the premium Jimmy pickup a strong measure of back-country capability while sacrificing none of its copious creature comforts. As you might imagine, some of the upgrades are cosmetic in nature, while others convey clearly that GMC is completely serious about this truck’s ability to play in the dirt. Among the package components are five hardened skidplates stamped from high-tensile boron steel, just the thing to keep the oil pan from being perforated by rocks. Further, and visually primo, is the decision to adopt 18-inch AEV Salta disc wheels with recessed valve stems to guard against flats in the middle of nowhere blamed on rock strikes against the wheel. The whole package goes on sale shortly.
Andy Warhol was a certified genius who defined popular art in wild, broad-brushing of electrifying colors on somewhat plebian topics, most of the time. We’re all familiar with his treatment of Marilyn Monroe’s visage – it sold at auction for 195 million bucks – and a lowly can of Campbell’s tomato soup. Back in the 1980s, Mercedes-Benz commissioned Warhol to help mark its 100th anniversary by creating more than 80 pieces of art on individual models from the past, most of them as historic as Warhol’s body of work. For the first time in some 30 years, they’re coming back stateside.
Warhol’s wild interpretation of a Mercedes-Benz W125 supercharged Grand Prix car from 1937, one of the all-conquering Silver Arrows, is one of the works that will be on display when “Andy Warhol: Cars from the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection” begins July 23 at the Petersen Automotive Museum on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. Five of the eight Mercedes-Benz vehicles that were stunningly painted as part of Warhol’s final commission will be shown to the public at the Armand Hammer Foundation Gallery on the museum’s first floor. But wait: Also on display will be Warhol’s personal 1974 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, which he bought new and kept for the rest of his life despite having never received a driver’s license. Undeterred, the pop legend relaxed in the Roller’s rear seat and let his fellow worthies, including Mick Jagger and Imelda Marcos, be pressed into service as chauffeurs.
The BMW CCA Foundation and the Ultimate Driving Museum, the latter located at BMW’s huge stateside production facility in Greer, South Carolina, are participating in a museum exhibit known as The Power of M, which commemorates 50 years of BMW motorsport in North America. To that end, The Car of the Month Brought to You by Continental, to use its full name, will spotlight 25 cars and one motorcycle that will form a rotating monthly exhibit at the Greer museum through January 23, all of them storied race cars or their roadgoing counterparts.
The first such car selected is depicted above. It’s 1974 BMW 3.0 CSL No. 2275469, powered by a 3,153cc M30 inline six-cylinder engine with 206 horsepower at 5600 RPM and 215-lbs.ft. of torque at 4,200 RPM. Initially designed by the Alpina tuner house, the 3.0 CSL became the prototype for the infamous “Batmobiles,” so named for their plethora of wings and spoilers, that wowed crowds during IMSA competition in the 1970s. This is one of 167 Alpina-built CSLs that were sold with their wings packed in the trunk. A college kid originally from Luxembourg bought it new and drove it off and on for 40 years before a VIN check unveiled what he really had. It’s now the first car to strut at the M Power exhibition in Greer.
If you know anything about cars, you’re fully aware that cars from Bentley are very expensive, and ladle on the unalloyed luxury as few other cars do. One of the most recent developments at Bentley is the rollout and fitting of its Bentayga EWB, the long-body version of the Bentayga, which constitutes one of Bentley’s five major product lines today. Befitting a high-luxury sedan of its station, the Bentayga EWB places a special measure of focus on seating for its occupants. To that end, the Bentayga EWB offers what it calls the Airline Seat Specification, which surely is one of the most multi-adjustable and tailored-to-occupant seating in automotive history. It’s amazing this much technology can be packed into a car seat.
Bentley likes to point out that the Airline Seat Specification is all about wellness for the Bentayga EWB’s occupants, and we have a hard time arguing the point. The seating features the world industry’s first-ever automatic climate sensing and advanced postural adjustments. The Airline Seat Specification can continuously adjust occupant heat and humidity at the rate of 0.1 degree Celsius every 25 milliseconds. Each seat has seven defined comfort zones, individually adjustable via console-mounted touchscreen. In terms of posture adjustment, the inflatable system can control 177 specific points of the body grouped among six zones. With a combination of 12 electric motors and three pneumatic valves, each rear seat is adjustable 22 different ways.
It’s not uncommon for a son to follow his father into the family business, but what is unusual is when the business is recording the history of automobile racing on film. John Lane Jr., better known as Ace Jr., is the son of a legendary short-track photographer from New Jersey, Ace Lane Sr., who photographed short-track action from its earliest days with Ace Jr. by his side, gradually learning what a camera was and how to work one. The father passed on in 1973, but Ace Jr. has been a fixture on the Northeast racing scene since then, and is being honored by induction into the Northeast Dirt Modified Hall of Fame in Weedsport, New York, the first photographer ever to achieve that distinction. His enshrinement will take place July 20 at the hall, which is located on the grounds of Weedsport Speedway in central New York.
Ace Lane Jr. came to be a lead photographer for Area Auto Racing News, the track photographer for fabled Flemington Fair Speedway, and shot races for a gaggle of publications at tracks throughout the eastern United States. Ace Jr. follows his late father, who won the Leonard J. Sammons Jr. Award for Outstanding Contributions to Auto Racing in 1995, into the hall. Ace Jr. is a living link to the region’s racing past, having witnessed early action at Hinchliffe Stadium, the Polo Grounds and at the Teaneck Armory, in addition to supplying deadline photography to New Jersey newspapers along with the racing publications he served. Fittingly, the Eastern Motorsport Press Association’s highest award for photography is now named in Ace Jr.’s honor after having been originally named for his father. Ace Jr.’s son J.J., who passed away at age 38 in 2020, won the award in 2018, making three generations of acclaimed photographers in the family. Ace Jr. has also been highly active in kart and R/C racing over the years. I am proud to call this guy a longtime friend and colleague, and salute him at his latest honor.
Just in time for the Fourth of July, when recognizing the efforts of America’s men and women in uniform is a very appropriate thing to do, Jeep has unveiled a new Freedom Edition package that’s an optional extra on 2023 models of the Wrangler and Gladiator. What’s that? Check the box, and you get a regimental-uniform paint scheme plus an Oscar Mike badge – for all us civilians out there, that stands for “On Mission” – along with, natch, an American flag decal. The Freedom Edition rigs will also be sold with steel rock rails and a winch-capable front bumper to further toughen things up.
Military-themed interior design cues are also part of the Freedom Edition package. Order a Wrangler or Gladiator so optioned, and Jeep will donate $250 per sale to charities assisting military families, which we like. For off-road capability, all Freedom Edition Jeeps will further receive LED headlamps and fog lamps for added illumination.