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2011-12-29: Our 2011 car of the year: the Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 ...
Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 Defying the current economic conditions and the urge to move to ever more environmentally friendlier methods of transportation, 2011 has been a fantastic year for sports cars. For example; Pagani raised the bar with the Huayra, Alfa Romeo announced a new rear wheel drive coupe, Porsche launched a all-new generation of the 911 and Chevrolet broadened the path to affordable performance with the tarmac-shredding Camaro ZL1. However, none of the new sports cars impressed us more than the Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4. At first glance it may look like a refreshened Murcielago but don't be fooled by the familiar design. Underneath the angular carbon-fibre panels a brand-new chassis and drivetrain can be found. It all starts with Lamborghini's first carbon fibre monocoque, which has been designed and will be built in-house. Lamborghini engineers also turned to Formula 1 for inspiration when they developed the sophisticated push-rod suspension. The power, all 700 horses, comes from an all-new V12, which is both lighter and more powerful than Aventador's predecessor's. The engine is mated to a seven-speed gearbox developed together with Graziano that is quicker than a dual-clutch box but at a considerably lower weight. Many subtle tweaks to the exterior design have also given the familiar lines a fresh, and even sharper look. The end result is a package that is more than a match for its rivals both aesthetically and technologically. We expect the range to be expanded with a Roadster model in 2012.
During 2011, we captured the Aventador several times as it made its various debuts around the world. This can be seen in our highly detailed, 30-shot gallery of various examples at the Geneva Motor Show world debut, the Goodwood Festival of Speed and the American debut during the McCall Motorworks Revival.
  2011-12-27: Two brilliant machines from the 1910s that starred at Pebble this year ...
Mercedes 18/100 Grand Prix Each year the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance is one of the absolute highlights on our calendar and the 2011 edition was certainly no exception. Before 2012 arrives, we wanted to take another look back by highlighting two very early machines that starred on the famous golf club's 18th fairway in August.
The first was part of a Mercedes, Benz and Mercedes-Benz feature that marked the 125th anniversary of the motor car. This Mercedes 18/100 Grand Prix had been meticulously prepared for the 1914 French Grand Prix. Equipped with a sophisticated four-valve head and boasting a relative small displacement, the Mercedes' four cylinder engine was the first that could rev over 3,000 rpm. No fewer than five were entered in the prestigious race where it faced rivals from Italy, France and Great Britain in a rather more peaceful encounter than the looming War. Christian Lautenschlager headed a 1-2-3 Mercedes victory in this very example. One of the sister cars was later sold to the United States and driven to Mercedes' only Indy 500 win by Ralph DePalma. The design was so sophisticated that in modified form, the surviving cars were raced well into the 1920s. Our feature car is one of three survivors and has been meticulously restored to its French Grand Prix winning configuration. Of a slightly earlier vintage is this Hispano Suiza Alfonso XIII, built in 1912. Named after the Spanish King and based on the 1910 Coupe de l'Auto winning racer, the small Hispano is generally considered to be the world's first sports car. Only slightly more civilised than the competition car it was based on, most were fitted with simple tourer bodies in par with the light weight design of the chassis. The example shown at Pebble is unusual in that it sports a slightly more luxurious body complete with a bullet-shaped nose that was more commonly used on the Hispano racing cars. The Jaquot Torpedo was one of the earliest participants of this year's Tour d'Elegance that traditionally precedes the Concours d'Elegance.
2011-12-22: Morgan 3 Wheeler road test and the latest news ...
Morgan 3 Wheeler Road Test One of the most exciting cars launched this year was no doubt the reborn Morgan 3 Wheeler. After trying one for size at the Geneva Motor Show, we set up an appointment to drive one as soon as possible. That opportunity came nearly six months later when we were handed the keys to one of the pre-production models. By that time the order book had more than filled up with well over 500 orders and a waiting list of more than a year. Judging from the sales figures alone, Morgan certainly had struck gold and we ventured out to find if the car lived up to these high expectations. Whether it did can be read in our Morgan 3 Wheeler road test illustrated by a 30-shot gallery of 'our' example in action and stationary around the lovely Malvern Hills.
At the last minute, Audi have revealed a pocket-sized Christmas present; the A1 quattro. The first four-wheel drive A1, the compact machine is equipped with a 256 hp engine and six-speed gearbox. Available only in white with a black roof, production of the A1 quattro is strictly limited to just 333 examples.
While most of us are preparing for the holidays, the major manufacturers are readying their releases for the North American International Auto Show, scheduled to kick off on January 9th in Detroit. After a single teaser picture last week, Lexus have now released three shots and the name of the LF-LC, which will debut at the NAIAS. Although little else has been confirmed, we do know that the 2+2 Coupe is equipped with a hybrid drivetrain. Sister company Toyota will use the Detroit stage to show the NS4 Concept, which also features hybrid propulsion.
  2011-12-20: Three auction stars of 2011 ...
Ferrari 250 TR Prototipo Defying the current economic conditions, the major auctioneers hosted some of the best sales ever in 2011 with numerous world records shattered. Topping all charts was Gooding & Company's Pebble Beach auction in August where this Ferrari 250 TR Prototipo changed hands for a staggering $16.4 million, breaking the record of the highest amount ever paid at auction by over $4 million. The car in question originally served as the prototype for the legendary 'pontoon fender' 250 TR and is the only one of its type to be right hand drive. In recent years the vendor had the car completely restored to the NART colours used during the 1958 24 Hours of Le Mans where it was driven by Dan Gurney and Bruce Kessler. Certainly one of the most spectacular Ferrari sports cars in existence, the 250 TR Prototipo is a well deserved world record holder.
Also sold at the same auction was this Duesenberg J Murphy Coupe, which at $10.3 million broke the record for a Duesenberg and also an American car sold at auction. The unique machine was originally built to special order of Captain George Whittel, who was one of America's wealthiest and eccentric people of the time. Among the many stylish cues are the brushed aluminium roof and the fully appointed interior with patent leather seats. It was acquired by the vendor from a prominent Duesenberg collector in 1995 and the Gooding sale represented a very rare opportunity to acquire the 'Whittell' Coupe, which was reflected in the eight figure price achieved.
Earlier in the year, RM Auctions hosted the first ever auction associated with the highly exclusive Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este. Taking centre stage was a collection of unique show cars offered directly by design house Bertone. Among them was the Marcello Gandini styled Lamborghini Marzal. Powered by the manufacturer's only six cylinder engine, it was effectively a four-seater version of the Miura. The opportunity to become the Marzal's first owner did not come cheaply as the Bertone show car was bid all the way up to 1.5 million Euro.
2011-12-19: All new Donkervoort and first glimpse of Audi's 2012 LMP1 racer ...
Donkervoort D8 GTO Over the weekend, Dutch niche manufacturer Donkervoort launched the all-new D8 GTO. Still clearly inspired by the original Lotus 7, the latest Donkervoort is longer and wider than its predecessors. The GTO has not only grown in size but also features a revised tubular chassis that is constructed from a mix of carbon fibre, steel and aluminium. This has resulted in a structure that is still very light but also exceptionally strong. Audi is once again the engine supplier of choice with the direct injection straight five also used in the RS 3 finding its way into the R8 GTO. Available in various states of tune, it produces between 340 and 400 bhp. Tipping the scales at around 700 kg, the new Donkervoort is expected to accelerate to 100 km/h in just three seconds. In 2012, Donkervoort will produce 25 special D8 GTOs, which will be followed by a 'regular' production version in 2013. Prices of the lightning quick machine start at EUR 100,000 before taxes.
Readying for the inaugural World Endurance Championship (WEC), Audi Sport is out testing at Sebring with two cars. The host of the season opening 12-hour race, the American track is also a very suitable location for testing due to the rough surface and great variety of corners. The German manufacturer released a single picture from the test with a sketchy press release but we understand that at least one of the cars used is equipped with a hybrid drivetrain and will be known as the R18H. Further changes compared to this year's Le Mans winning R18 TDI include a larger glass surface to improve driver visibility. We will of course keep you posted on further developments of what promises to be one of the most sophisticated racing cars ever produced.
  2011-12-15: All new Mercedes-Benz SL 500 revealed in full detail ...
Mercedes-Benz SL 500 Today Mercedes-Benz released the full details of the first all-new SL since 2003. As already revealed a few weeks ago, the 'R231' generation is true to the 'Sport Leicht' moniker as it is substantially lighter than the outgoing model despite being longer and wider. This is mostly due to the all aluminium bodyshell, which weighs 110 kg less than an all-steel equivalent. The new SL is available immediately with a choice of a V6 (SL 350) and V8 (SL 500). The latter is a smaller version of the alloy eight cylinder engine used in the earlier '500'. This is more than compensated by the addition of two turbos and direct injection. In fact at 435 hp, the 4.7 litre V8 is actually considerably more powerful. Both engines are fitted to a seven-speed automatic gearbox. Other new features include the 'Magic Vision Control' wipe/wash system, which is more efficient than conventional systems. Available as an option is 'Magic Sky Control', which allows the transparent roof to switch between dark and light at the touch of a button. For now the SL 500 is the top of the range model but we expect an AMG version to become available before the end of next year.
2011-12-14: Ferrari 330 GTO in full detail ...
Ferrari 330 GTO In 2012, the legendary Ferrari 250 will be 50 years old. The 39 examples produced rank among the most valuable cars in the world. Among the rarest variants of these is the four-litre version briefly raced by Scuderia Ferrari in 1962. Known as the 330 GTO, it featured a modified version of the engine used in the 400 SuperAmerica road car. Equipped with six double Webers, it produced 400 bhp and also powered the 330 TRI/LM to victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where one of the 330 GTOs also lined up. This was the type's second outing and would be the last as a works car. In 1963, a similar, but more aerodynamic 330 LMB took up the four-litre GTO's place. While the first two 330 GTOs were pure racers, the third and final example produced was sold as a street car to one of Ferrari's board members. Ironically this car is the one that has since seen the most action in historic events.
In recent years we were fortunate to capture two of the three examples at some of the world's most prestigious events. These are the ex-Le Mans car, which was brought out for this year's Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and the third example, which we saw at Goodwood and the recent Monterey Motorsport Reunion where it was driven to victory in the GTO celebration race. We have picked the best shots from these occasions to form a 24-shot gallery to illustrate our detailed article.
  2011-12-12: New V8-engined Bentley Continental GT and Grand-Am version of Audi R8 ...
Bentley Continental GT V8 Ahead of the official launch at next months North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Bentley have today released details of the V8-engined version of the Continental GT. This version was already announced when the second generation W12 engined Continental debuted in Paris back in 2010. The engine, available in both the GT coupe and GTC convertible body-styles, is similar to that of the latest Audi S8. Displacing just under four litres, it is equipped with two turbos and direct fuel injection. Capable of producing 500 bhp, it can also run on four cylinders to reduce emissions and consumption at times when not all that power is required. Just like its larger engined siblings, the Continental GT V8 features all-wheel drive, complete with a new 8-speed gearbox. Among the visual cues that set the V8 apart from the W12 are the 'figure eight' shaped exhaust tips.
During a two-day test at Daytona International Speedway last week, Audi's latest racing car, the R8 Grand-Am, made its public debut. With official test driver Frank Stippler at the wheel, the main purpose of this outing was to create a base setup for the Audi's customers. Compared to the R8 LMS Ultra on which it is based, the Grand-Am specification R8 sports considerably smaller wings to comply with the stricter regulations. Audi have supplied an engine to Grand-Am's governing body, who will use the results achieved in various tests to establish the minimum weight and maximum power the car will be allowed to run in the races. The R8 Grand-Am is scheduled to make its competition debut during the 50th edition of the Daytona 24 Hours at the end of January.
2011-12-11: All new BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe ...
BMW 650i Gran Coupe BMW have added a third model to the 6-Series with the launch of the Gran Coupe. Following the example set by rivals Audi and Mercedes-Benz, BMW have now applied the Coupe moniker to a four-door car. The first clues of the upcoming expansion of the line-up was the Concept Gran Coupe launched at the Beijing Motor Show back in April of last year. Compared to its two-door siblings, the new Gran Coupe features a longer wheelbase to provide additional room for the passengers. It also slightly wider and surprisingly also a little lower. BMW describe the seating arrangement in the four-door machine as 4+1 because of the prominent transmission tunnel. Among the engines available are a twin-turbo straight six and a twin-turbo V8. Powering the 650i variant, the V8 has been significantly compared to the existing version. The two turbos are now mounted inside the 'V' between the cylinder banks. This 'reverse flow' configuration has helped increase the power to 450 hp and 650 Nm. The Gran Coupe will be available in the summer of 2012.
  2011-12-08: Superb Austro-Daimler Bergmeister and two Smart Concepts ...
Austro-Daimler ADR 635 Bergmeister Armbruster Sport Cabriolet One of the most beautiful cars we have had the privilege of capturing this year is without a doubt this Austro-Daimler ADR 635 Bergmeister Armbruster Sport Cabriolet. It was shown by its proud owner Dr. Wolfgang Porsche at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance following a 10,000-hour restoration. The 'Bergmeister' was introduced in 1931 and equipped with independent rear suspension and all aluminium, Porsche designed engine, it was one of the most advanced road cars of its era. The type name (German for 'Champion of the mountain') was a reference to Hans Stuck's 43 wins in hill climbs in Austro-Daimlers between 1928 and 1932. This particular example was clothed by a glorious Sport Cabriolet body created by Armbruster and served as the factory demonstrator. If you missed this very rare machine at Pebble, there will be a new opportunity from December 17th when the car will be temporarily displayed in the Porsche Museum. Having scraped together all the information we could find on these little known cars, we have compiled an article on the Austro-Daimler, illustrated by a detailed 18-shot gallery of the beautifully presented Bergmeister.
Yesterday we received two press releases about Smart based concept cars in short succession. The first was created by Smart themselves and will be officially revealed at the North American International Auto Show in January. Dubbed the For-Us Concept, it is both wider and longer than the current production Smart. The additional space can be used to carry cargo, much like a miniature pick-up. It is powered by a 55 kW electric motor. Designed by the ever creative Frank M. Rinderknecht, the second concept is known as the Dock+Go. Closer to a standard Smart, this Geneva show car features a bolt-on section to create additional storage space, referred to as a 'back-pack on wheels' by Rinspeed. In addition to adding space, the back-pack can also serve as an easily changeable battery for the electric motor that powers the car.
2011-12-06: Tribute to Peter Gethin with a closer look at 'his' BRM P160 ...
Peter Gethin Last night the sad news reached us of the passing of Peter Gethin. Aged 71, he lost the fight to cancer. In a racing career that lasted barely a decade, he achieved great successes on both sides of the Atlantic. His style was best suited to the thundering F5000 cars, which he raced from 1969. His results earned him the daunting task of filling Bruce McLaren's place at McLaren after his fatal crash. He won a Can-Am race in 1970 and piloted one of the team's works Formula 1 cars until switching to BRM halfway through 1971. In only his second race for the team, he scored the best known result piloting his BRM P160 to victory in the Italian Grand Prix. This epic slipstreaming fight saw five drivers vie for victory in what for over three decades was the fastest ever Grand Prix. Eventually Gethin came out on top with the top five separated by just 0.61s. He later returned to F5000 and in 1973 used a Chevron to score the only victory ever for a F5000 car in a F1 race. After his retirement as a driver in the late 1970s, he remained involved in racing.
In what must have been one of his final public appearances, we were very fortunate to capture Gethin reunited with 'his' BRM P160 at the 2010 Goodwood Revival where BRM was the featured marque. The Tony Southgate machine was the last successful BRM racing car, scoring three Grand Prix victories. As can be seen in our 12-shot gallery, Gethin drove the Italian Grand Prix winning P160 during two of the weekend's three demonstrations.
  2011-12-05: First of the glorious Alfa Romeo 33 sports racers in full detail ...
Alfa Romeo 33 Periscopica Spider In 1967, Alfa Romeo embarked on the company's most ambitious competition programs since leaving Formula 1 after two dominating seasons at the end of 1951. Spearheaded by Carlo Chiti's Autodelta, the Italian manufacturer entered prototype racing, effectively going head to head with Porsche. Over two years in the making a brand new machine was developed for the program; the Alfa Romeo 33. It sported an ingenious aerospace-inspired aluminium chassis with a glorious 2-litre V8 that produced around 270 bhp. In its original guise, the 33 sported a Spider body with a periscopic air-intake for the engine, which earned it the nick-name 'Periscopica''. Introduced to the press in March of 1967, Alfa Romeo's new racer won straight out of the box, at the Fleron hill climb in Belgium. After this victorious debut, the fast but fragile prototype racer was often dogged with reliability issues. In 1967 the car starred only in minor races but further development turned the 33 into a more consistent performer the following year. The machine's second season was highlighted by a 1-2-3 class finish in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Today we have taken a closer look at the debut version of the 33, the Periscopica Spider. It is believed that only five or six of these cars were ever built and just three remain in their original configuration. Our article is illustrated by an 18-shot gallery that includes all three known survivors at events around the world.
2011-12-01: Ferrari 599XX Evoluzione, Hennessey Venom GT Spyder and Scion FR-S ...
Ferrari 599XX Evoluzione At this year's Bologna Motor Show, Ferrari focuses on the company's broad motor sport program with a full range of competition cars on display. Among them is this new-for-2012 599XX Evoluzione. As the name suggests, this is a further development of the 599XX track-day special introduced ahead of the 2009 season. Among the changes are an even more powerful version of the V12 engine thanks to side-mounted exhaust and additional aerodynamic devices that include a new splitter and an real-time adjustable rear wing. In its new guise, the 599XX is capable of lapping the highly technical Fiorano track in just 1'15".
This morning we received word of the expansion of the Hennessey Venom GT line-up with a 'Spyder' version due to be available in 2012. It will be offered alongside the 'Coupe' for $1.1 million as opposed to the $950,000 asking price for the hard top. Under the curvaceous body the two Venom GT versions are identical, so the Spyder also boasts the neck-snapping 1,200 bhp V8 engine in a 1,220 kg package. As with the Coupe, the Spyder is only available in limited numbers.
Hot on the heels of the Toyota and Subaru counterparts, the American-market version of the two companies' compact sports car was launched last night; the Scion FR-S. Mechanically identical to the GT 86 and BRZ, the rear wheel drive machine sports unique styling cues to blend in with the rest of the line-up of the Scion brand.