2010-04-28: Zagato's glorious Alfa TZ3 Corsa and four sparkling concept cars from Beijing ...
At this weekend's Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este Zagato revealed its 'gift' for Alfa Romeo's 100th anniversary; Alfa Romeo TZ3 Corsa. As the name suggests the all-new machine was very much inspired by the TZ racing cars built in collaboration by Alfa Romeo, its racing department Autodelta and Zagato. The new TZ3 has also been constructed as a full fledged competition car and comes equipped with only the bare necessities. Among them is a 420 bhp version of the Maserati/Alfa Romeo V8 engine and a beautifully crafted aluminium body. The exterior design is very much a continuation of the classic Zagato Alfa Romeos but still remains very modern. Commissioned by a German enthusiast with a sizeable Alfa Romeo / Zagato collection, the TZ3 will most likely remain a one-off. The new owner has no intention of racing the car at the highest level but instead plans to use it for more leisurely track-days.
While we were chasing racing cars through France for the Tour Auto (much more about that in a later update) and jet-setting in Villa d'Este, the majority of the motoring press was found in China for the annual Beijing Motor Show. That the quickly expanding Chinese market has unique demands was underlined by several concept cars revealed by European manufacturers. Most illustrative is the Citroen Metropolis, which features an unusually long wheelbase. It could very well be a design exercise for a new exclusive model for China.
German rivals Mercedes-Benz and BMW were once again hard at work creating new niche markets. The giants from Stuttgart showed this Shooting Break Concept, which should be placed somewhere between a sedan and a proper estate. It takes no math-wizard to see that Mercedes' interpretation of a Shooting Break has two too many doors. BMW on the other hand displayed this Concept Gran Coupe; a mix of a sedan and a coupe. The car boasts a new, more subtle design language and BMW enthusiasts will welcome the return of the famous 'Hofmeister kink'.
Ford addressed the other end of the spectrum with the tiny Start Concept. Powered by a 1-litre engine, it promises to be both frugal and affordable if it ever hits the market.
2010-04-26: 2010 Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este report and slideshow ...
This weekend the luxurious Villa d'Este hotel on the shore of Lake Como hosted its annual 'Concorso d'Eleganza'. The highly exclusive event is not open to the public and due to size constraints only around fifty cars are invited. Fortunately the ash-cloud that disrupted air-travel so dramatically only had a limited effect on the event and no cars had to be withdrawn because of it. At first glance the entry list for this year's Concorso d'Eleganza did not look very impressive but a closer inspection revealed one gem after another. Once at Villa d'Este and listening to the owners' fabulous stories, we were convinced. Among the most interesting of the cars entered were a very rare Squire, a unique Duesenberg Model X, two very early Aston Martin DB2s, a 'Teardrop' Talbot Lago and the Pininfarina bodied Alfa Romeo TZ2 show-car. Zagato were on hand to celebrate Alfa Romeo's 100th anniversary with the startling TZ3 Corsa, inspired by the 'Tubolare Zagato' racing cars of old.
On Sunday all cars moved to the nearby Villa Erba and the adjacent park where there was a lot more space available. This enabled the general public to get a closer look at the fabulous machinery that had been displayed in the courtyard of the Villa d'Este hotel a day earlier.
Our photographers were at the event on both days and spent their time very well. This has resulted in a detailed, class by class report and an exclusive 190-shot gallery with all cars at Villa d'Este and an additional 40-shot gallery from Villa Erba.
2010-04-21: A look ahead to this weekend's Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este ...
This weekend the spectacular Villa d'Este hotel in the Northern tip of Italy will again host Europe's most prestigious concours d'elegance. With the entry strictly limited to 50 cars, it is an honour to even be invited for the 'Concorso d'Eleganza'. We will be on the shore of the beautiful Como lake for the full duration of the event and have today prepared a warm-up.
One of the most rarely seen cars entered for this year's edition is the Alfa Romeo Giulia 1600 Sport. In long term ownership this Pininfarina styled and built show-car has only made very few appearances in the past decades. It was originally launched at the 1965 Turin Motor Show. The unique machine shares its very low underpinnings with the Alfa Romeo TZ2 racing. The Giulia Sport is one of just two TZs not bodied by Zagato and the only to have survived in original condition. We last saw the car back in 2003 and are very much looking forward to get another look.
Another unique entry for this year's Villa d'Este is this Bugatti Type 57. It was collected from the factory in bare chassis form by the first owner and driven to England 'naked'. Here it was clothed by Bertelli and raced in the Tourist Trophy. Like the Alfa Romeo, this Type 57 TT Bertelli Tourer has been preserved remarkably well. In 2009, Bugatti's centenary year, it was shown at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and at Pebble Beach.
In 2009 we were pleasantly surprised by a very rare Japanese entry; the Prince Skyline Sport. As the name suggests, it is the grandfather of one of the country's most legendary models. It was the result of an elaborate scheme to add more style to the Prince line-up. Chassis would be shipped to Italy where they were fitted with bodies styled by Giovanni Michelotti. Not surprisingly this did not work well and most examples produced were used by Prince executives and subsequently destroyed. The Skyline Sport we saw last year is one of the very few survivors.
2010-04-18: 2010 Techno Classica Report and Slideshow ...
Earlier this month the vast Messe Essen exhibition centre was packed to capacity with classic cars, parts and accessories. The occasion was the 22nd annual Techno Classica, the world's largest show of its type. Over 170,000 visitors traveled to the German city to get a closer look at the stands of the 1,100 exhibitors. There were so many classic cars present that quite a few had to be displayed on the parking lots next to the dozen halls.
While most exhibitors were at the Techno Classica to flock their wares, there were also clubs and manufacturers that showed some if their finest cars. Mercedes-Benz dominated the first hall with a vast display celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Mercedes(-Benz) sports cars. In addition to the production cars, the company also brought the unique C111 and C112 concept cars. Other manufacturers that were on hand with prominent displays were Alfa Romeo, BMW, Mini and the Volkswagen Group.
Much of the remainder of the available space was allocated to a wide variety of dealers. Some opted to pack as many cars on their stand as possible but fortunately there were also several that left some space between the cars. Among the best was Hall & Hall who had an interesting selection of cars on display, highlighted by the unique Sokol 650. This Grand Prix car was built for the son of Joseph Stalin immediately after the War by former Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union engineers. Auctioneer RM Auctions used the Techno Classica as an in-the-metal preview for the upcoming Monaco sale. Their display was dominated by the BMW 328 'Buegelfalte' Roadster that we featured earlier in the week.
We worked our way through the twelve halls and corridors of the Messe Essen for our full report, which is illustrated by a 100-shot gallery.
2010-04-16: Blisteringly quick HPD ARX-01c and the all new Audi A8 L W12 quattro ...
At last weekend's Le Castellet 8 Hours one of the most impressive performances was Strakka Racing's comeback after a lengthy delay in the pits to win the LMP2 class. A vital part in this effort was the new HPD ARX-01c used by the team. It is the third evolution of the Courage based, Nick Wirth developed ARX-01, which debuted in the 2007 American Le Mans Series (ALMS). The outing at Paul Ricard was the car's European debut and serves as a warm up for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. For the legendary event two ARX-01cs are entered, one by the Strakka team and the other by reigning ALMS LMP1 champions Highcroft Racing. The latter currently races their HPD in the ALMS and is in the running to take this version's first victory on American soil in this weekend's Long Beach Grand Prix.
During the Le Castellet 8 Hours we focused on the blisteringly quick HPD and have returned with a 12-shot gallery, which will certainly expand as the season progresses.
Audi disturbed the lull in automotive news this morning with the announcement of the long wheelbase version of the recently introduced A8. The top of the range model is the W12 quattro, which uses a new evolution of the unusual 12-cylinder engine. The biggest changes are the hike in displacement from the original's 6 litre to 6.3 litre and the addition of direct fuel injection. This has resulted in a power increase of 50 bhp to a total of 500 bhp. This is transferred to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The A8 L W12 quattro is very luxuriously appointed on the inside and can even be ordered with a fridge in the area usually reserved for the ski-hatch. An other interesting option is the Bang & Olufsen sound system than has an output of 1400 watt.
2010-04-15: Two unique BMW 328 racing cars that will grab headlines this month ...
This year BMW celebrates the 70th anniversary of the company's victory in the Brescia Grand Prix, which replaced the Mille Miglia in 1940. Due to the War, the traditional route (Brescia-Rome-Brescia) could not be used and instead the 'Mille Miglia' was held on a 103 km course around Brescia. The German manufacturer fielded five 328s; three bodied by Touring, including the winning Berlinetta, and two unique machines clothed by the factory; a roadster and a coupe.
The roadster was in the BMW experimental department from 1937 and first raced extensively in a relatively standard configuration. After runs at Le Mans and in the Tourist Trophy in 1937, it scored a class victory in the 1938 Mille Miglia. At the end of the 1939 season, the car was returned to the experimental department and completely rebuilt. It received a one-off roadster body, which earned the car its nickname 'Buegelfalte' or 'Trouser Crease'. In the successful 1940 'Mille Miglia' the very light and powerful BMW roadster finished sixth overall, behind three of its team mates. Amazingly the 328 Buegelfalte Roadster has survived in very original condition, despite spending many years behind the 'iron curtain'. At one point it was even traded for a new Lada. During a spell at the BMW museum, the company's classic department made an exact copy for their own collection.
The current owner has now decided to part with his prized possession and has consigned it to RM Auctions for their inaugural Monaco sale on May 1st. RM estimates it could sell for a breathtaking 5-7 million Euro.
The only 328 that did not finish in 1940 was the Kamm Coupe; the other BMW bodied car. This car was involved in an accident after the War and was completely destroyed. In the past 15 years BMW Classic have painstakingly reconstructed the coupe, using original photos and computer calculations. The final result of this momentous effort can be admired at the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este later in the month, where main sponsor BWM will celebrate its achievements in the Mille Miglia.
2010-04-13: Le Mans Series Le Castellet 8 Hours report and slideshow ...
This weekend the 2010 Le Mans Series kicked off with the championship's first ever race at the High Speed Test Track Paul Ricard on the French Cote d'Azur. With its very long straight the sophisticated circuit provides ideal conditions to prepare for the all important 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. The 'Le Castellet 8 Hours' saw the debut of Audi's R15 plus, which was built to comply with the new regulations and also to regain an edge over rivals Peugeot. With a privately entered 908 HDI Fap on hand, the new Audi could immediately show its worth. Other newcomers in the 41-car strong field were the BMW M3 GTR, boasting a special 'ACO' specification and the Acura ARX-01, which in 'c' specification is now known as the HPD ARX-01c.
With the Audi and Peugeot swapping fastest times in the various practice and qualifying sessions, it promised to be a very close race. It was not to be but further down the order there was enough action to keep everybody on the edges of their seats. The tone has certainly been set for what promises to be a very exciting season.
As usual the event's support program included the Classic Endurance Racing (CER) series with a race on Saturday afternoon. A startling 63 historic sports racers of the 1960s and '70s lined up for the one-hour race. The very diverse grid included Porsches ranging from 906s to a very rare 936, Lolas, Chevrons and the unique Duckhams. To spare the engines, the CER used a slightly different configuration of the track, which included a chicane halfway through the 1.2 km long straight.
We were at the Paul Ricard from the first to the last minute and have spent many hours either on the trackside or in the pit-lane. Our findings have been compressed in a detailed report and an exclusive 190-shot gallery filled with all the action from the Le Mans Series and Classic Endurance Racing races.
2010-04-08: Ferrari 599 GTO; lighter and more powerful ...
One of the worst kept secrets was confirmed today with the release of the first pictures and information of the Ferrari 599 GTO. With the GTO moniker, which it shares with two of the marque's most legendary models; the 288 GTO and even more so the 250 GTO, the new Ferrari has a lot to live up to. Looking at the specifications, the car holds the middle between the 'standard' 599 GTB Fiorano production car and the track-only 599XX.
At 1605 kg, it is considerably lighter than the original road car. This was achieved by using more composite materials but also by using thinner aluminium panels and glass for the greenhouse. The V12 engine is derived from the one used in 599XX racing car and produces a hefty 670 bhp and 620 Nm of torque. To ensure the sounds match the performance the track car's 6-into-1 exhaust manifold was used. The paddle-operated six-speed gearbox is capable of super-quick 60 ms shifts. The 599's Pininfarina styling has also been optimised to produce even more downforce. All these upgrades result in a 335 km/h top speed and a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of just 3.35 seconds.
The Ferrari 599 GTO will make its global debut at the Beijing Motor Show. Prospective buyers will need to act quickly as only an appropriate 599 examples will be built.
2010-04-07: Porsche's three-time Le Mans winning 936 and the new Audi livery ...
This weekend the European endurance racing season will kick off with the Le Castellet 8 Hours; the opening round of the Le Mans Series. It will be the first time that the championship will host a race at the Paul Ricard track. An impressive 43 cars have entered for the event with the new Audi R15 plus as one of the most interesting. The German manufacturer has now released the first pictures of the V10 engined machine's livery. With an abundance of red and black, it is a big departure from the familiar silver paint scheme and it does require some getting used to.
One of our favourite elements of the Le Mans Series weekend is the Classic Endurance Racing race held on Saturday afternoon. For this weekend a staggering 62 racing cars from the 1960s and 1970s have signed up for the one-hour 'enduro'. Among them is a genuine Porsche 936, which has already made regular appearances and won the championship in 2009. The car raced is the fourth car built, which was raced with considerable success by Reinhold Joest in the early 1980s. Its record is nevertheless eclipsed by the three cars used by the Porsche Works team. Each one of them scored an outright victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans; in 1976, 1977 and again in 1981. Our article on the Porsche 936 is illustrated by six pictures of one of Porsche's own examples and a further 24 of the car that will race at Paul Ricard. It is seen in action at some of Europe's most famous tracks, including Le Mans, Silverstone and the Nurburgring. Further cars of note in the entry include the ferocious Porsche 935/81 'Moby Dick', the unique Ferrari 712 Can-Am and the Ford GT40 Mk II that finished third behind two sister cars in the 1966 Le Mans race.
We will of course be at Paul Ricard to catch all the on-track action and also to have a closer look at the revised R15. Our detailed report will be available early next week.
At last week's New York Auto Show, a legend returned; the sedan bodied Subaru Impreza WRX STI. As a 2011 model, the 305 bhp will be available at dealers later in the year.
2010-04-05: 2010 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance report and slideshow ...
The Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance celebrated its 15th anniversary this year. Yes, for a fixture that is set in so many agendas, the annual event is still relatively young. During the 2010 edition Richard 'The King' Petty was the honoree. His long and incredibly successful career was honored with a cross section of the cars he drove over the years. Another big theme was the Porsche 917, which embarked on its illustrious career forty years ago after a false start in 1969. Eleven examples of various configuration lined up on the meticulously prepared lawn of the Golf Club of Amelia. Among them was the actual chassis that, in 1970, scored the first of Porsche's sixteen outright victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Another Le Mans winner in attendance was the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL that walked away with the silverware in 1952. In addition to the hugely successful, the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance also payed tribute to the weird. A remarkable collection of one-offs was assembled, ranging from odd to just plain nuts. Quite a few of these once graced the cover of Motor Trend magazine and they were presented in one class with a large copy of the original cover placed next them. At the end of the weekend the traditional two 'Best in Show' awards were handed to two very deserving winners.
Although conflicting schedules prevented us from attending in person, we were ably replaced by our friends John Brooks, David Stephens and David Blumlein. They have provided the 100-shot gallery to illustrate our brief report of all goings on.
2010-04-01: Red Bull's radical RB6 and the new Volvo S60 based BTCS racing car ...
When testing for the new Formula 1 season started most eyes were on the return of seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher. The teams' technical directors had more attention for the replacement of the 2009 Red Bull, which had influenced so many of this year's designs. Two races into the 2010 championship, the high anticipation was proven correct. Penned by the brilliant Adrian Newey, the new Red Bull Racing RB6 is clearly the fastest car in the field. The most visible of the car's unique features are the low mounted exhausts, which significantly increase the efficiency of the diffuser. The RB6 is not without controversy as some team principals have suggested that the Renault engined machine has a trick suspension, which gives its a clear edge during qualifying. Unfortunately the raw pace of the RB6 has not been converted into victories due to poor reliability. If the bugs can be ironed out, the maiden win for the radical Red Bull can not be far away.
Hot on the introduction of the production car last month, Volvo have released a rendering of the first competition version of the next generation S60. Developed for the Belgian Touring Car Series, the S60 BTCS actually owes little to the production car. Like all cars in its S1 Silhouette class, the Volvo uses a control chassis with a mid-mounted engine. The spec V6 has 3.5 litre displacement and produces 410 bhp. The first example was shaken down today at the Zolder track, ahead of its official, April 11 debut. The V60 BTCS will be raced in the nine-round championship by the highly experienced drivers Eric van de Poele and Vincent Radermacker for the official Volvo S60 Racing Team.