Mini Beachcomber concept may be the return of the Moke

June 1st, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Mini’s constantly expanding lineup could get another addition if the quirky Beachcomber concept heads for production.

While details are limited, reports have been released that say MINI’s Global Brand Manager Dr. Wolfgang Armbrecht stated “We will come back to this (the Beachcomber concept) to see if there is a business basis, as we were overwhelmed by the reaction. MINI will never show a concept that won’t make production.” He went on to say “MINIs need authentic names” which could be a clue that the Beachcomber production version will wear the Moke badge when it is released.

What does “Moke” actually mean? It refers to an archaic British slang term for “donkey,” which reflects the go-anywhere, utility ideals behind the basic design.

The Beachcomber concept was unveiled at the 2010 North American International Auto Show as a preview of the Countryman crossover. Looking like a Mini crossed with a Jeep Wrangler, the Beachcomber featured removable doors and a canvas roof. It proved popular and may still reach production.

Hulme Supercars now taking orders for CanAm

May 27th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Hulme Supercars the builders of NZ’s first Supercar the Hulme CanAm has just announced plans for a 20 unit limited production run.

Named after Kiwi racing legend Denny Hulme the CanAm will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis with the option to purchase on offer for a £10,000 ($21,680 NZ) deposit.

The full purchase price of the Hulme CanAm will be fixed at £295,000, ($639,530 NZ) on receipt of an order, including delivery worldwide. The deposit is fully refundable if the option to purchase isn’t converted to a sale.

Jock Freemantle, Hulme Managing Director, explains, “Deposits will be held in a Trust account, pending a private viewing and driving experience of the car at or before the 2011 Goodwood Festival of Speed for those who have purchased an option to order. Following that, if anyone does not wish to proceed, the terms on which the deposit is paid will provide a guarantee that their total deposit will be returned immediately.”

The 20 customer cars will be coach-built and equipped to customer order, with deliveries commencing late 2011 and into 2012, the 20th anniversary of Denny Hulme’s death.

Any fat cat who confirms the purchase of a CamAm will be given two Air New Zealand Business Premier class return tickets to Auckland with one-week luxury accommodation, for their final fitting in the car and further road and circuit driving, before the car is then shipped to their chosen destination. All production cars will be numbered, with a guaranteed certificate of authenticity, and a 1/8 scale exact replica, finished in the same livery and specification, plus a full photographed dossier of the car’s build.

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Toyota’s FT-86 coupe delayed and could be a hybrid

May 27th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Rumours have begun circulating that the release of Toyota’s FT-86 rear-drive sports coupe will be delayed from 2011 to 2013.

The reasons behind the delay are varied, and include speculation on a different design direction, the economic slowdown, Toyota’s recent recall issues and interestingly the possibility of a revised powertrain strategy that could include some kind of hybrid power.

The FT-86 generated some serious interest in the performance car scene after all it was to be the spiritual successor to the Corolla AE86 but it was just a concept. Now, Toyota is apparently second-guessing the styling of the coupe before it reaches production. ToMoCo is also keeping a close eye on the success of the Honda CR-Z, which may end up influencing Toyota’s decision on the final drivetrain specs of the FT-86.

That could mean a hybrid powerplant is on the cards, which may not be a bad thing, but if Toyota decides to produce the coupe as a front-driver, it will loose most of its cred rapidly. More will be revealed when the next example of the FT-86 debuts at the Tokyo Motor Show at the end of 2011.

Hummer shuts down all production

May 26th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

The long and troubled trip that has been the Hummer brand is just about to come to an end for General Motors. The final ever production H3 rolled out of GM’s Shreveport, Louisiana, U.S.A factory last Monday on its way to an American Avis rental car outlet. Hummer H3s had actually ceased production half way through last year as the brand faced bankruptcy, but it resumed production recently to fill an 849 unit special order fo Avis.

GM tried to offload the Hummer brand to Chinese company Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machines Co, but sadly the deal fell through. Now that production has ended, 200 Hummer employees are to be laid off with the rest of the Hummer staff either leaving or being reassigned.

Porsche already has 900 customers for 918 hybrid

April 28th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Porsche is reporting that is now has more than 900 potential customers for its upcoming 918 Spyder hybrid.

The two-seater 918 Spyder hybrid was first shown at the Geneva auto show last month and represents an entirely new model for Porsche, which is aiming to increase sales to around 150,000 units a year by developing new products.

The hybrid drivetrain on the 918 Spyder features a V8 with 368 kW (493 hp) mated to three electric motors totaling 160 kW (215 hp). In total the 918 produces a whopping 528 kW (708 hp). The 0 to 100 km/h sprint is achieved in a mere 3.2 seconds and top speed is 320 km/h.

Fuel economy is also very impressive with the 918 Spyder hybrid sipping on just 3 liters/100 km, according to Porsche.

Porsche development boss Wolfgang Duerheimer said in a recent interview “I’m confident that we will soon reach the threshold of 1,000 potential customers. We need 1,000 seriously interested people to make a sound business case,”

The 918 Spyder hybrid is scheduled  to make a production-ready debut sometime in the next five years.

Holden to limit Commodore production before 2011 update

April 26th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Holden confirmed last week that it will limit production of the current-generation VE Commodore, in anticipation of an update to the range scheduled for later this year.

In July and August of this year, Holden’s Elizabeth plant in South Australia will shut down operations for 13 days, allowing Holden to reduce existing stock at dealers and holding yards.

Speaking at a recent press event, a spokesperson for Holden  said that a new agreement with the Australian car industry union have allowed Holden to slow production and schedule run-out sales on its current Commodore line.

“Ahead of updating our locally produced Commodore range later this year, we need to prepare for a smooth run-out of the current model within the plant,” the spokesperson said. “To do this, we have been working with the union to balance short-term manufacturing plans that will allow us to taper production of the current range, before ramping up with the new model.”

The announcement comes after last month’s news that strong international demand has seen Holden actually boost production of its 3.0 litre V6 petrol engine.

Production of Honda’s four-door Civic Type-R to cease

April 21st, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

First there was no replacement NSX Supercar, then the S2000 become an extinct beast and now Honda is ceasing production of its Civic Type R four-door model. While we didn’t see this go-hard Civic here in NZ by the end of August 2010, no one in Japan or Europe will either. The car was being manufactured at the company’s Suzuka factory in Japan, while the previous model had come off Honda’s Swindon, Wiltshire, UK, production line.

The four-door Type R had some go too and unlike its three-door hatchback sibling with 150 kW, the four-door Type R’s 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine was gifted more power for a rating of 168 kW. Drive was of course at the front wheels and arrived through a 6-speed manual transmission.

The Type R badge is still worn by what’s left of Honda’s performance models, it was first offered with the iconic NSX back in 1992. The first Civic Type R appeared in 1997 and proved instantly popular.

Dodge kick-starts production on Viper ACR-X

April 1st, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

If you’ve got $110,000 ($154,000 NZ) burning a hole in your pocket and want to go racing in a piece of American automotive history, then it’s time to check out the 2010 Dodge Viper ACR-X. The special edition model is a brutal machine that marks the beginning of the end for Viper production. It comes with 640 horsepower and can lap the Laguna Seca track a full three seconds faster than the rapid Viper ACR that owns the track record for a regular production car.

If you’re keen (who wouldn’t be) then now is the time to strike because Chrysler has just announced that production of the ACR-X has already started at its Conner Avenue Assembly Plant.

The SRT-developed 8.4-litre V-10 engine that powers the Viper ACR-X is equipped with factory headers and a low-restriction exhaust system that produces 640 horsepower (40 more than the production model) and 605 lb.-ft. of torque (45 more than production model). Following the initial build, each engine is shipped to a dynamometer lab where it is verified for proper outputs and electronically sealed before being sent back to the plant for final installation.

Similar to the Dodge Viper Competition Coupe, the non-street legal Viper ACR-X has safety features included such as factory-designed and installed fuel cell and race seat and factory-designed roll cage.

Dodge Motorsports and Mopar have even provided Americans a way to put the cars to good use. The Dodge Viper Cup will run at five racetracks starting this summer, with prize money on offer owners have a chance to earn back some of the purchase price of the car. In total more than $200,000 USD will be paid out, including $25,000 to the 2010 season champion.