Tuesday, March 23, 2010

History on Parade: Motor Trend Cover Cars at Amelia Island

There's a small piece of Motor Trend history on display at this weekend's Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance in Florida. Actually, make that a big piece of history, because I don't think there's ever been a gathering quite like this; an eclectic collection of automotive rarities linked by a single common thread -- they all appeared on the cover of Motor Trend magazine.

The seven cars in this group -- some home-built specials, others mega-dollar factory concepts -- were featured on covers of Motor Trend between 1949 and 1956. The Amelia lineup includes the Kurtis Sports Car that appeared on the cover of the very first issue of Motor Trend, published in September 1949, and the astonishing Timbs Special, which graced the cover of issue two the following month.

The Timbs Special was built from scratch by Van Nuys, California, based aircraft design engineer Norman E. Timbs. He designed and fabricated the chassis and the four wheel independent suspension, and built a full-scale wooden buck to help form the car's voluptuous aluminum panels. The engine is a Buick straight eight, mounted mid-ships. It took three years and $10,000 to complete. You can read the full story of the car in the new issue of Motor Trend Classic.

Other cars in the group include the Buick LeSabre, one of world's earliest concept cars, and the Firebird II, the fully functioning turbine car built by General Motors for the 1956 Motorama auto shows. The Firebird II featured titanium bodywork, independent suspension all round, four wheel disc brakes, and a prototype guidance system that was designed to follow signals sent from an electrical wire embedded in the road surface.

Rounding out the group are the Ghia Gilda, a concept built for the 1955 Turin Show and powered by a 1.5-liter OSCA four cylinder engine; the Hudson Italia, the limited edition Touring bodied coupe built in 1954 and 1955 on Hudson Jet running gear, and the quirky three-wheeled Davis, built by an ill-fated, L.A.-based start-up automaker in the late 1940s.

You can expect features on some of these cars in future issues of Motor Trend Classic.

Source: Motortrend.com

Thursday, March 11, 2010

This is not stainless steel....

Here is just the car for you.

Do you think he is having economic problems?

This is not stainless steel.... (see explanation at bottom).

Recession? What recession?

So, it seems that this "global recession" has not impacted negatively on everyone.

Check this out!

It's a Mercedes Benz owned by an Abu Dhabi oil billionaire (naturally).

Featuring the newly developed V10 quad turbo with 1,600 horsepower and 2800nm of torque
0-100km/h in less than 2secs, 1/4 mile in 6..89 secs running on biofuel.

That is NOT stainless steel, people, it is WHITE GOLD!

I'm sure you'll sleep better tonight, knowing that the exorbitant dollars you're paying for gas these days are at least going to a good cause...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Ugliest, Most Lovable Trucks Of All Time

Big trucks. Mean trucks. Powerful trucks. Ugly trucks?

While pickups usually get praise for being the biggest, baddest and most powerful, we tend to appreciate the ungainly little guys. We love those trucks that do less and look even worse for doing so. We've rounded up our favorite ugly trucks of the past decades here.

1964-1987 Chevrolet El Camino

When most people think of the low, car-based trucks, there's only one truck that comes to mind: El Camino. The "coupe utility" vehicle was made from 1959-1960, then 1964-1987.

Long the butt of jokes, the 'Mino has had a bit of a resurgence over the last few years. Values for the old cars are going up and what was once considered a laughing stock is turning into a classic. In recent years GM even considered reviving the name, doing a concept in 1995 based on the Caprice sedan and then as recently as a few years ago when a Pontiac G8-based version of the coupe utility was considered.

1978-1993 Subaru BRAT

While Brat would have sufficed, Subaru actually considered the name of this car an acronym: Brat stands for Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter. Got that? Yeah, we prefer Brat, too.

Unlike a lot of trucks on our list -- but like virtually all Subarus -- the Brat was powered by all four wheels (thus the explanation for the acronym). Legend has it President Ronald Reagan owned (and loved) his Brat, keeping it as his California ranch for decades.

2005-now Honda Ridgeline

The only modern vehicle on our list, we can't help but call the Ridgeline. Tall and wide in the strangest of places, Honda's only truck won't win any beauty contests. As Honda expanded its lineup, it was only natural that they'd make a truck for the U.S. market, albeit with only a V-6 engine.

One of the things about the Ridgeline that owners love is the unique storage incorporated into the trunk bed. Essentially it's a locker to make sure all your belongings stay out of view.

1974-1993 Dodge Ramcharger

Frankly, it's hard to believe this vehicle was still built in 1990. In fact, the Ramcharger (an SUV version of Dodge's Ram Truck) lasted up until 1993. Big, broad and truly 'Merican in every way, the Ramcharger competed against the full-size truck-based SUVs from Ford (Bronco) and Chevy and GMC (K5 Blazer and Jimmy). Superfans of the Ramcharger also remember the Trailduster, the Plymouth brand version of this truck.

1979-1982 VW Rabbit Pickup

Officially known as the Rabbit Pickup in the U.S. but loved by owners as the "Caddy" (some even go so far as to emblazon their rides with Cadillac emblems), the small Veedub was never a big hit in America. While compact pickups were more the rage back in the 80s and 90s, the German company couldn't sell many of them.

Today the Caddy is a sought-after collectible within the VW community. The model is still sold in Europe (and called the "Caddy"), but unfortunately for us it's much more attractive now.

1972-1982 Ford Courier

Looking more like a small Japanese truck than anything a big American manufacturer would create, the Ford Courier squeaked onto the American scene in 1962. Its resemblance to Japanese cars was for good reason: the truck was made for Ford by Mazda in Japan as a way for the company to compete against the new (and increasingly popular) tiny Toyota and Datsun trucks of the time.

The Courier was the predecessor to the Ford Ranger, the top-selling domestic compact pickup of today.

1972-1982 Chevy LUV

The LUV (light utility vehicle) was much in the spirit of the Ford Courier: Chevy contracted with Isuzu to build the compact pickup to fight the onslaught of competition from the smaller Japanese products. As hard as it is to believe, the LUV was quite, well, lovable. Chevy sold over 100,000 of them per year in the late 1970s.
Chevy's marketing for the truck appealed to big truck buyers who were concerned about fuel economy: "Economical to buy. Economical to operate. This versatile Light Utility Vehicle has a 6-foot cargo box and carries 1460 lbs. Built tough...like a big truck."

GM 2003-2006 Chevrolet SSR

Retro design took hold within American car companies in the early millennium such that every auto show seemed to unveil another take on the genre. With Chrysler finding sales success early on with the PT Cruiser, GM followed suit, but in a different sort of way. The SSR (super sport roadster) was almost like a cross between a Corvette and a pickup truck.

The car/truck hybrid was actually classified as a truck by the EPA (it rode on the Chevy Trailblazer chassis), something Chevy didn't mind whatsoever. Unfortunately, GM never sold many of them: only about 24,000 went out to consumers over a four-year period. Critics cited the lack of power and high cost for the failure. We love the thing.

1982-1984 Dodge Rampage

Looking more like something a child would draw in his notebook (albeit one with an interest in hauling cargo), the Dodge Rampage is perhaps the ultimate ugly truck we love. Front-wheel-drive, underpowered and ungainly, it lived a short and unsuccessful life. Its angular front grille reminds us of a doorstop.

A rumored Shelby performance version of the truck set enthusiast hearts afire, but they weren't sold to the public.