News: Saleen up for sale

Saleen Racecraft Mustang fq

Famous American tuner Saleen is much more than just hot-rodded Mustangs and Corvette supercars, and now, it’s for sale. Founder Steve Saleen left the company in 2007 when he started up new performance company, SMS.

Saleen has traditionally worked for automakers and built the Ford GT and Dodge’s Viper. Automakers also go to Saleen for paint and some subassembly work too. Saleen’s board has hired an advisor to investigate what level of interest there might be from potential buyers. Recent economic developments aren’t going to make it an easy sale, but Saleen would like to sell itself by early 2009.

News: Aston One-77 – super fast very exclusive

Aston Martin one-77 fq

Despite global economic crisis, Aston Martin is not backing down from high-priced territory. Its Rapide four-door coupe is on the way, the as-yet un-named convertible DBS is due shortly,and development of the V12 Vantage continues. The next DB9 and Vantage are rumoured to be going further up-market, but not before the ultra-premium One-77 lands in the hands of a few very fortunate customers. A total production run of 77, will make the model very exclusive indeed.

The mysterious One-77 won’t be officially unveiled in full until next year, but the first batch of pictures is already out, and initial specs have now found their way onto the internet. CEO Ulrich Bez has confirmed that power will come from a potent derivative of the company’s existing 6-liter V12, bored and stroked to 7 liters and producing around 700 horsepower and 520 lb-ft of torque. All that power will have to move just 1500kg, lighter than the 1630kg V8 Vantage, the 1760kg DB9 and even the lightweight 1690kg DBS. Bez claims that an all-out performance battle with the Bugatti Veyron isn’t the point of the One-77, but a crazy high top-speed is all but guaranteed.

News: Holden Barina achieves four star crash rating

Holden Barina fq

Holden acknowledged this week ANCAP’s confirmation of a four star crash rating for the 2009 model year Barina three-door hatchback. The result reflects structural improvements and the addition of side impact airbags as standard across the new Barina hatchback range introduced in August.

Holden has upgraded the Barina nody shell with three clearly defined load paths designed to absorb the impact of an offset front-end accident and support the entire structure of the passenger cell over a large area. High-strength steel has been used to reinforce the B-pillar. Side impact airbags have been added as standard for the driver and front passenger.

Holden New Zealand Managing Director, Simon Carr, said the ANCAP result was welcome as Barina was an important and significant vehicle for Holden in the small car market. “This announcement confirms the effectiveness of our various safety improvements.”

The Barina nameplate has been part of the Holden line up in New Zealand since 1985 when the MB Barina was introduced. Holden New Zealand has sold more than 1,885 of the current TK Barina since its launch in 2005.

News: World’s ugliest Mustang

Ford Mustang ugly fq

This week’s SEMA show in Las Vegas, has seen some truly beautiful show cars unveiled by aftermarket tuners, and some which are just plain ugly. American tuners Rich Evans Designs was willing to face public humiliation when it rolled out the “Hardcore Knight” Mustang. Attempting to get potential customers Rich Evans has brought his nasty Mustang to SEMA before, this year he is claiming that Rich Evans Designs will be producing 100 limited edition cars and up to 1000 of the 19-piece component kits for owners to destroy their own Mustangs with. Perhaps in a post-apocalyptic world where anarchy rules these kits may sell well, but probably not in the current climate.

News: Mercedes to produce diesel SLK

Mercedes SLK diesel fq

With fuel efficency and lower emission fever gripping the automotive world Mercedes-Benz is jumping onboard and preparing to offer a diesel engine option in its next-generation SLK.

The proposed powerplant will be the same 2.2-litre “BlueEfficiency” 4-cylinder twin-turbo diesel currently offered in the C250 sedan, where it returns a claimed 54.3 mpg while emitting just 138g/km of carbon dioxide. To previous generations the idea of a diesel convertible remains a foreign concept, the advancement of particulate filter and common rail injection technologies are making them a viable option. Nice work Mercedes, bring a few diesel SLKs down here to Aotearoa.

Mini: Mini John Cooper Works 2008 — Road Test

mini-jcw-fq

Ever since that cheeky David cracked Goliath’s head open with a stone and was then so inadequately depicted by Michelangelo we have all been a bit obsessed with size. In particular by examples of small overcoming big; like the rugby half-back who squares up against the number 8 or the short man who leaves the night-club with the hottest girl. Stories of underdogs winning through armed only with determination and guile are among our favourites.

Since the Mini’s first production back in 1959 it has epitomised the underdog ethos and captured the imagination of loyal enthusiasts worldwide. BMW has done well to retain so much of that spirit in the new model Mini — it’s still a fun and practical city car — but to truly bring out the underdog magic and give the terrier the sharp teeth to face a mastiff, BMW enlisted the help of John Cooper Works (JCW).

History lesson over; earlier this year BMW purchased JCW and it has recently released the first factory Mini John Cooper Works. Not just another power kit for the Cooper S with some higher spec replacement parts, this is a whole new angrier version of the iconic model. So what do you get over the standard Cooper S? Apart from the fastest factory made Mini ever, and apart from a modern incarnation of a legendary racer, you get a lot.

The Mini JCW is a looker, dressed up with lashings of carbon fibre and special badging to display its superior rank over more standard relations. Bespoke 17-inch rims are stuffed under the guards, and the run-flat tyres blend into the plastic surrounds. Like all new Minis the two-box styling of old still holds up well and unlike the reworked VW Beetle the Mini shape remains staunch and unfeminised. There are clever styling cues throughout from the honeycomb front grille up and over the carbon fibre bonnet scoop, along the special side-skirts and finishing at the centre-mounted dual exhaust tip.

Make the shift from outside to inside and you realise that physics mean nothing to the Mini as its interior appears bigger than its exterior looked. However, it is a definite two seater with little room in the rear for adult passengers. The circular styling of the interior is mesmerising, and with all the gauges illuminated the cabin lights up brighter than a power-station Christmas tree. Retro touches are plenty with chequered floor mats and toggle switches, but the Mini’s controls can be a little too tricky and are guilty of trading some functionality for style. The carbon fibre and JCW badging is maintained in the cabin, with part of the dashboard, the handbrake and even the gear knob receiving treatment. The sports seats are firm and hug both front occupants tightly. You do need to be hugged, because once you push that start button the Mini JCW turns from cute and familiar to leery and aggressive.

The production team at JCW has made wholesale changes to the Cooper S 1.6 litre power plant with a complete new cylinder head and reinforced pistons. An upgraded turbo runs a higher boost and a full sports exhaust is fitted from manifold through to exhaust tip. The result is 155kW and 260Nm of torque. The Mini JCW will slingshot from 0-100km in 6.5 seconds. Under wide-open throttle, extra spice is added with an overboost function – a little extra boost allowed for short periods. This increases the torque briefly to 280Nm. Acceleration is fierce and with all the power pushed onto the front wheels torque steer is an unavoidable side-effect but seldom a liability. The JCW Mini has a uniquely fun learning curve, and an ability to make the driver feel one-part Sebastian Loeb and two-part Dick Dastardly.
High driver confidence is in no way misguided, the Mini JCW feels calm and content even when driven on its limit. With its short wheelbase and wide track, plus the amount of power transmitted through the front wheels, the JCW is extremely nimble and responsive. The steering is surgically precise and during cornering the front end holds the road tighter than a stranded sailor does a Playboy magazine. A sport button offers further control by quickening the electrically-assisted power steering ratio and decreasing the amount of throttle pedal travel needed for response.

The ride borders on firm, but no more than is necessary and would only become uncomfortable on the bumpiest of kiwi roads. Stopping the Mini is huge four-pot Brembo brakes that have a suitably strong, resistant feel to them.

It’s hard to fault the Mini JCW as it’s a pure example of a small vehicle with a lightweight motor packing heavyweight performance. It can live a Jekyll-Hyde lifestyle; as an edgy, frenzied intimidator on request while still being a relaxed daily driver capable of 6.9 l/100km fuel economy.

David dropped Goliath with a lucky shot, but the Mini JCW doesn’t need this luck to trouble larger more expensive vehicles, especially on twisty roads. Superb performance, a fun driver experience and classically inspired styling and characteristics means little will beat big anytime the Mini JCW is storming around.

Click through to the next page for a list of specifications.

Price: from $54,900 – $67,825 (fully equipped)

What we like

  • Total fun driving experience
  • Invites hard driving
  • Unmatched cornering ability
  • Tasteful styling mods over Cooper S

What we don’t like

  • Fiddly interior buttons
  • We don’t own one

Mini John Cooper Works (2008) – Specifications

Engine 1.6 litre, 4 cylinder/16V
Max. output/hp/revs 155 kW (211 hp) at 6000 rpm
Max. torque/revs 260 Nm at 1850-5600 rpm (280 Nm at 1950 rpm with Overboost function)
Acceleration 0-100 km/h 6.5 s
Top speed 238 km/h
Acceleration 80-120 km/h (4th / 5th gear) 5.2 s / 6.2 s
Fuel consumption (urban) 9.2 1/100 km
Fuel consumption (extra-urban) 5.6 l/100 km
Fuel consumption (combined) 6.9 l/100 km
CO2 emissions 165 g/km
Unladen weight (EU) 1205 kg
Max. permissible weight 1580 kg
Max. permissible roof load 75 kg
Luggage capacity (min. – max.) 160 – 680 litres
Tank capacity (approx.) 50 litres
Dimensions (L x W x H) 3714 x 1683 x 1407 mm
Transmission 6-speed manual

Words Adam Mamo, photography Brad Lord

News: Help design Caterham’s next sports car

Caterham Levante fq

Caterham is making a new car, but no one knows what it is yet because we still have to develop it. The British sportscar maker is famous for continuing to produce and develop the Lotus 7, even after Lotus moved on to new projects. Now, in a world first, the next model to be produced by Caterham Cars will be created online by the public.

Named Project Splitwheel, Caterham is offering every car enthusiast, irrespective of any engineering skill, design experience or mechanical ability, an opportunity to get amongst it and help design an all-new sportscar.

To be a part of automotive history, people can join ‘Project Splitwheel’ from its dedicated website, www.splitwheel.com. From here, members from all over the globe are able to submit ideas and concepts for every single aspect of the new Caterham and discuss and debate them with other users, before ultimately voting on what makes it to the final vehicle. Initial registration for this new venture is now open with the Project set to start in early next year.

The website will use a combination of articles, blogs, forum discussion, a Wikipedia-style user-edited knowledge base and a comprehensive voting system to turn user input into a workable vehicle design. Splitwheel will also factor increased environmental pressures by exploring alternative methods of propulsion, such as electric and hybrid, and crucially their desirability to drivers. Once the specification is agreed, Caterham Cars will seek to produce a prototype vehicle which could become an addition to its model range as early as 2011.

Starting from a blank sheet of paper and with very few restrictions in place, the result should be at least a very interesting vehicle. Project Splitwheel is clearly a clever marketing idea to further brand recognition for Caterham , but also a fun project for car nuts and a good way to learn more about automotive R&D and manufacture. So check it out and demand a coat-hanger aerial and paua shell ashtray.

See the clip below or visit the website for further information and registration details.

To go to the Splitwheel website click here

News: Kiwis still loves big cars

Turners Holden fq

New Zealand’s love affair with the big car is far from over, according to third quarter sales figures from Turners Auctions.

The Holden Commodore has taken over from the Subaru Legacy as the most popular model sold through Turners. Overall sales of cars with a cc rating of 2 litres or more have increased by 4.5% while cars with a cc rating of less than 2L have experienced a decline in sales with 1.3L and 1.6L cars experiencing a 2.6% drop.

Regardless of rising fuel prices, people seem to be changing their perception of large cars as gas guzzlers, says Todd Hunter from Turners.

Rapidly rising fuel prices earlier this year impacted on the sales of big cars as buyers opted for smaller models. However the advice from Turners was that big cars are good value, and not the gas guzzlers they are often made out to be.

“We’ve been telling our customers all year to buy big cars — and it appears they’ve taken our advice. “When you consider that prices on larger vehicles significantly plunged as buyers opted for smaller models, and compare the savings you make against high petrol prices — which now tend to be dropping – it’s clear that you’re actually going to spend less if you purchase a bigger car.

“While we can’t deny that fewer cars are being sold in the market, it is the smaller cars that have suffered the biggest decline,” says Hunter.

Toyota continues to dominate the used car market with 19.2% of total market share, down 3% in the past year. The average vehicle value has declined significantly when compared to the same period last year from $6518 to $6329 per unit.