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    Weekly Recap: What led to the end of the Montezemolo Era at Ferrari?
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GT-R owner finds going 200 mph on a public freeway is asking for trouble

Posted Sep 14th 2014 6:59PM

We are going to start with the disclaimer: do not try this at home. Ever.

That covered, we've been intrigued with a video that is making its rounds on the enthusiast forums. Shot from a dash cam, with a full performance overlay, it shows a modified 800 horsepower Nissan GT-R (with its twin-turbocharged engine bored and stroked to 4.3-liters) flying down a public Russian highway late at night. While we've viewed a similar lawless scene too many countless times, what happens next is the real surprise.

As the coupe hits 327 kilometers per hour, which is a blistering 203 miles per hour, the right front tire unexpectedly loses pressure and instantaneously disintegrates from the centrifugal force (even though the Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT 600 is a run-flat tire, it doesn't stand a chance at four times its rated zero pressure speed). Shrapnel from the tire blows out the right front HID headlight (explaining the momentary flash of light) and the steel front quarter panel is peeled back like the lid on a can of sardines... but the driver holds it together and controls the Nissan to a safe stop, which takes place over an agonizing 32 seconds.

Regularly checking tire pressure and the tread surface are great ways to reduce the likelihood of a blowout, but road debris and heat buildup are variables that are hard to control. We don't know why this GT-R owner's tire blew, but we do know that they did nearly everything right from that point forward - hold the vehicle steady, lift off the accelerator pedal, gently apply the brake and coast to a safe stop. Aside from the extensive damage to the right front clip, there is a happy ending to the video because the driver did not panic and slam on the brakes - a mistake that likely would have sent the GT-R careening out of control.

One more thing: the video doesn't tell us who the driver is (for obvious reasons), but we are confident that they should be easy to identify by the bloodied lips from joyfully kissing the pavement once the crippled GT-R came to a stop.

News Source: LiveLeak via MotorAuthority


1969 Corvette Lego model needs some support to make production

Posted Sep 14th 2014 4:57PM

1969 Chevrolet Corvette Lego proposal

Spend just a few minutes looking around online, and you quickly find that people have figured out how to make just about anything out of Lego, including some very cool model cars. The Danish company has taken this fact to heart and has released some fantastic automotive kits recently. In August, its vintage Mini Cooper came out, and a few years ago, it unveiled its 1962 Volkswagen Bus. But maybe it's about time that Lego added a large-scale recreation of a classic American sports car to its offerings.

To that end, a user named Brickdater on the website Lego Ideas is hoping to put this 1969 Corvette into production. According to the project description, "Ever since I can remember I've always wanted a '69 Vette. So I built one." The creator definitely gets the C3 'Vette's curvaceous form down, despite having to render them in angular plastic blocks. Brickdater has even managed to achieve a two-tone look with a white stripe running over the hood, roof and trunk. As it sits now, the Corvette is made up of 1,500 parts – about 420 more than the Mini Cooper – and the design features removable T-tops and a really well-detailed engine bay, complete with a carb and hoses.

Lego Ideas is a way for the company to get new product ideas directly from its fans. If a project receives 10,000 supporters, the Lego Review Board evaluates it. Then if it gives the design the thumbs up (which isn't a guarantee), the kit gets put into production. Lego even shares a percentage of each sale with the creator.

With about 2,400 supporters as of this writing and nearly a year to reach the goal, Brickdater's Vette is doing pretty well so far, but obviously it could use a nudge if you're so inclined. You can add your further encouragement over at Lego Ideas.

News Source: Lego Ideas

Image Credit: Lego Ideas

Mahindra studying bringing Ssangyong to US

Posted Sep 14th 2014 2:58PM

A South Korean employee talks on his pho

After a valiant effort, Indian automaker Mahindra eventually had to give up its attempt to bring a small, cheap pickup truck to the United States, but it hasn't completely given up. Korean automaker Ssangyong, which Mahindra controls, might have a confusing name, but it's taking the first, tentative steps toward bringing its inexpensive SUVs across the Pacific.

Though an American launch is still years away from actually happening, Ssangyong and Mahindra are investigating whether the Korean automaker has a chance of succeeding in the US market. "Right now what we are doing is very early feasibility study of which products will make sense for the US, what will it take to make those products work, whether it will be financially viable to launch in the US," said Pawan Goenka, president of Mahindra's automotive business to Reuters.

Goenka didn't specify to Reuters when this analysis might end, but he indicated once it was done, the move into the US would still need to be ratified by the company's board. From there, it could be another two-and-a-half years or more to actually put an SUV on sale.

Mahindra had reportedly been considering the Ssangyong expansion as far back as 2012. Earlier this year, the Korean company began working with consultants to determine a more American-friendly name and determine which vehicles from its range might work best here. The two most likely candidates at the time were the Korando and SLV crossovers.

According to Reuters, Ssangyong has been investing into its products and expanding further into China, possibly even building a factory there. Still, Mahindra already learned from experience that launching in the US was no small task. Can it get things right the second time?

News Source: Reuters

Image Credit: Park Ji-Hwan / AFP / Getty Images

Ferrari production to increase under Marchionne

Posted Sep 14th 2014 2:01PM

Ferrari F12 Berlinetta production in Maranello

2014 Ferrari F12 Berlinetta - front three-quarter viewThe head of any company has to juggle the relationship between supply and demand. Of course, that applies to automakers too, even ones as high-end as Ferrari. And as with many other decisions, the way Ferrari has addressed supply and demand has come down principally to the principal.

Enzo Ferrari may have only wanted to sell as many vehicles as he needed in order to fund his company's racing department, but with the F40 – the last model made under his watch – Ferrari ended up increasing supply to meet growing demand. However, after Luca di Montezemolo took over in the wake of Enzo's passing, he started constricting supply. He figured Ferrari could sell 400 units of the F50, for example, so he built 399. More recently, Montezemolo undertook a course of action that spread Ferrari into more markets, while simultaneously constricting supply to increase demand and thereby profitability.

It's been a winning formula for Ferrari. Just days ago, the company announced record earnings up by 14.5 percent in the first half of 2014 over the same period last year, which itself had seen a 7.1-percent increase over the year before. Clearly the strategy has worked, but Montezemolo's successor is already eying a different approach.

According to Bloomberg and others, Fiat-Chrysler chief and incoming Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne intends to increase supply to meet growing demand. Where Montezemolo restricted production to 7,000 units per year, Marchionne is eying 10,000. That's in part because the Italian-Canadian auto magnate believes that Ferrari's expansion into new markets means that there's little risk of oversaturation. In particular, Marchionne sees the F12 Berlinetta (inset photo) as a growth model, and intends to ramp up production to shorten the waiting list and keep supply moving apace.

It's the first big change we're seeing Marchionne enacting as he takes over and ushers in a new era at Maranello. We'll be watching to see what other changes he has in store for the Prancing Horse marque. In the meantime, you can read the full details of Ferrari's financial performance in the press release below.

News Source: Ferrari, Bloomberg

Zack Snyder tweets another glimpse of new Batmobile

Posted Sep 14th 2014 1:02PM


There are plenty of movies flashing cool cars across the silver screen, but few can get enthusiasts as excited as a new Batmobile. From the Lincoln-based roadster in the original series to the Tim Burton-era jet-powered dragster and on to the Tumbler featured in the latest films, Batman's ride of choice has evolved tremendously over the years. And soon we'll have another on our hands.

Although we're still a year and a half away from the debut of the upcoming crossover movie Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, we've been catching glimpses of the new Batmobile for months now. A few months back, director Zack Snyder – known for his comic-book adaptations like 300, Watchmen and Man of Steel – showed us a rear 3/4 view of the cloaked Batmobile, followed by close-up shot with Ben Affleck in costume, and more recently it was spotted on set in Detroit. Now Snyder has tweeted another shot of the Caped Crusader's new wheels, and it looks pretty badass.

Looking something like a cross between Burton's version and Christopher Nolan's, the new Batmobile is all flat panels converging at sharp angles, with knobbly tires, vents, ducts and military-grade bolt-ons (like that turret on the nose and what look like little rocket launches inboard of the wheels) to help the Dark Knight fight evildoers on the streets of Gotham (and maybe Metropolis).

Unfortunately we'll have to wait until March 2016 to see the new gear on screen, but it's shaping up to be a good one.

News Source: Zack Snyder via Twitter


How did Nissan tweet a response to the Royal Baby announcement so quickly?

Posted Sep 14th 2014 11:02AM

A mere seven minutes after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announced they were pregnant with their second child, Nissan had the perfect post circulating on the Twittersphere. How did Nissan know to expect Kate and William were expecting? By paying attention to the Internet zeitgeist.

David Parkinson, head of social for Nissan in Europe, told AdWeek that the automaker's creative agency created the image when rumors of a second pregnancy started in July.

"As it happened, the rumor was never confirmed, so we kept the piece in our back pocket."

Nissan spotted the rumors along with the European marketing DigitasLBi France's BrandLive initiative, which keeps an eye on trends and rumors circulating on the net. They look for anything that may be useful for their clients, including Nissan. The proactive approach seems to have worked. Nissan's royal baby tweet referencing its newly redesigned X-Trail crossover has been shared hundreds of times since Monday.

News Source: NissanUK

Rowan Atkinson crashes at Goodwood Revival

Posted Sep 14th 2014 9:01AM

Goodwood Revival 2012

To quote Harry Hogge (played by Robert Duvall) in Days of Thunder, "rubbin, son, is racin'." That can mean some unfortunate damage to high-end racing machinery, which may be repaired easily enough in stock car racing, but when it comes to vintage racing, the stakes can be that much higher. And yet incidents do occur, like at this weekend's Goodwood Revival.

Among the many competitors taking part in the retro racing event in England was none other than Rowan Atkinson, the actor perhaps best known for playing Mr. Bean. Driving a classic Ford Falcon Sprint in the Shelby Cup event, Atkinson (pictured above at the 2012 revival) reportedly crashed head-on into another car on track.

According to reports, the two cars up spun out. The driver in between managed to avoid a pile-up, but Atkinson couldn't steer clear and hit the obstructing vehicle. Fortunately Rowan walked away unscathed (and, we imagine, in a humorous manner), but while we don't know how extensive the damage was to the Falcon, it was enough to take it out of the race.

Atkinson, for those who don't know, is a certified automotive enthusiast. He regularly drives his McLaren F1 (which he's crashed a couple of times), sometimes writes for UK car magazines, once topped the Top Gear leaderboard and even convinced Rolls-Royce to lend him its V16 prototype for use on screen in Johnny English Reborn.

News Source: The Telegraph via World Car Fans

Image Credit: Andreas Rentz / Getty

Decelerating from a 390-mph land speed record run might just trigger your fire system

Posted Sep 13th 2014 7:01PM

Danny Thompson Challenger 2 Fire Extinguisher

Have you ever had one of those days where everything was going smoothly and then, in a split-second, there was utter chaos? Racer Danny Thompson recently got a fantastic story to tell when he was taking his streamlined Challenger II land speed car for a test run. Everything appeared perfectly normal, and then things went very bizarre in a blink on an eye.

We covered Thompson last year when he was raising money to complete the car and take it to the Bonneville Salt Flats. Danny is the son of famous racer and engineer Mickey Thompson, and the Challenger II is an updated version of the same vehicle that his dad attempted to set a piston-powered land speed record with in 1969.

For the project, Danny pulled the Challenger II out of mothballs and upgraded it to modern safety standards. He also ditched the original Ford engines in favor of two, nitro-fueled V8s with a claimed combined total of 4,000 horsepower, which made it really more of a Challenger 2.5.

For this test, the Challenger II made it to over 390 miles per hour with no problem, but then it was time to slow down. Danny pulled the 'chutes and got a very messy surprise to go with it when the fire suppression system kicked on due to the sudden deceleration. Check out the video to see how Thompson reacted.

News Source: thompsonlsr via YouTube

Image Credit: Related images copyright ThompsonLSR

Nissan-Dongfeng's Leaf-based Venucia e30 EV goes on sale in China

Posted Sep 13th 2014 5:00PM

Nissan's proverbial other shoe has dropped on the other side of the world. The Japanese automaker, along with Chinese company Dongfeng, has started selling the Venucia e30 battery-electric vehicle in the world's most populous country. How the sister vehicle to the Nissan Leaf will fare remains to be seen, but it's a pretty big bet.

The companies certainly tested the model enough, very quietly running 300 trial vehicles a combined three million miles on China's roads. The result is a vehicle the companies say reduces operating costs by about 85 percent relative to gas-powered vehicles and can go 35 miles on a five-minute quick-charge. In China, the Venucia e30 retails for about $44,000, though that's before government incentives kick in. The car will debut with sales in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Dalian, Wuhan, Tianjin, Zhengzhou and Hangzhou. The rest of the country gets access to the model next year.

Nissan and its Chinese partner are probably hoping for the kind of success Nissan's has finally started to have with the Leaf in the US recently. Last month, Nissan moved 3,186 Leaf vehicles Stateside, a monthly record. Year-to-date US sales of the Leaf are up 34 percent from last year to 18,841 units. You can find more info on the e30 in Nissan's press release below.

News Source: Nissan

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Sebastian Blanco/AOL

California historical license plate reissues in jeopardy

Posted Sep 13th 2014 3:00PM

Cruise Night

California hands out its license plates differently than some other states. As opposed to the tag being associated with the owner and switching whenever the vehicle is sold; the plate belongs to the car and remains for its life in the Golden State. Over the decades, the Department of Motor Vehicles there has redesigned its plates going from black-over-yellow during some of the 1950s to yellow-over-black and eventually yellow-over-blue through the '70s and early '80s. We thought it was pretty cool when a law potentially allowed for these vintage looks to come back, but some owners haven't been quite so enamored.

For the state to actually produce these legacy plates, a given color scheme had to receive 7,500 pre-orders from January 1, 2013, through January 1, 2015. That seemed pretty doable given Californians reputation for loving their cars, but according to Truck Trend the program hasn't exactly been a raging success. It claims that only the yellow-on-black tags have received their requisite applications. Black-on-yellow has managed around 2,000 requests, and yellow-on-blue has received about 1,700 of them.

The lack of popularity for the yellow and blue tags makes some sense because enthusiasm for restoring models from the '70s and early '80s is just starting to build. However, it seems like owners of '50s classics would be eagerly hopping onto this program. Perhaps many of them still have their original black plates and don't need a reproduction. Obviously, there are still a few months to go for the other two schemes to meet their requirements. Applications are still available, here, and if a design doesn't nab 7,500 orders the $50 pre-order is refunded.

News Source: Truck Trend, California Department of Motor Vehicles

Image Credit: Jae C. Hong / AP Photo

Formula E has first big crash in dramatic final-corner battle for victory

Posted Sep 13th 2014 12:32PM

Formula E Nick Heidfeld Crash

The electric racing series Formula E has just made its world debut on the streets of Beijing, and some motorsports have gone whole seasons between crashes as dramatic as the last-lap scrap between Nick Heidfeld and Nicolas Prost in China.

The incident happened in the last gasps of the race with Prost leading. However, Heidfeld was gaining and got a strong drive out of the previous corner. He lined up by Prost to attempt the pass, when Prost turned into Heidfeld's car. That move pitched Heidfeld's car sideways and turned the curb into a ramp to launch him into the wall in a very scary looking crash.

In the exterior shot in the video, you can clearly see that Prost checked his right mirror from the cockpit before turning, but evidently he didn't notice Heidfeld drawing alongside him on the other side. Thankfully, Heidfeld was not seriously injured, and Lucas Di Grassi was able to drive around the two stricken cars to take the victory.

While crashes like this in motorsports are never positive because they put drivers in serious danger, an incident like this with no major injuries could actually work to give Formula E some notoriety – particularly among those who don't follow racing religiously. If nothing else, the crash vividly illustrates that the series' drivers are willing to put it all on the line. Both men have weighed in on Twitter about what happened:

News Source: Filip Rauh via YouTube, Axis of Oversteer

Weekly Recap: What led to the end of the Montezemolo Era at Ferrari?

Plus: Notes On The Viper Price Cut, Semi-Self-Driving Cadillacs And Mercedes' Porsche 911-Fighter

Posted Sep 13th 2014 11:00AM

Italy Ferrari Montezemolo Out

Montezemolo "resigned," but his tenure at the helm will rank him among Ferrari's greatest leaders. It's Enzo, then Montezemolo.

Soon-to-be-former Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo seemed to have the best job security in the auto industry. He presided over a brand that ranks with Google, Disney and Coca-Cola among the world's most powerful, and he's largely responsible for transforming Ferrari from an Old World, family-run business into a modern, global automaker.

But as of October 13, Montezemolo will be unemployed, after a stunning turn of events played out this week that toppled a man Italians hold in such high esteem. He was once rumored to be a candidate for prime minister.

How did that happen, and so quickly?

The answer to both rests with Sergio Marchionne. The CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles – which owns Ferrari – clearly had a different view for the future of the Prancing Horse, which for 23 years has been steered exclusively by Montezemolo.

Image Credit: Associated Press, Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL, Dodge, Mercedes-Benz

How to charge up your BMW i3 with a Honda

Posted Sep 13th 2014 9:00AM

charge bmw i3 with honda generator

Behold a cheaper version of BMW's range extender for its i3 plug-in. And it's brought to you by ... Honda? Sort of, if you take the approach that Gadget Review took when it looked for an alternative to ponying up the $4,000 or so for the gas-powered i3 range extender that comes from the factory.

What was procured was a Honda portable generator for Home Depot for the experiment, which involved gassing the generator up in a parking lot, plugging in the i3 and going out for a cup of coffee. The result was that, after about a half-hour of charging, the i3 picked up about four miles of driving range. Not exactly revolutionary but it least a bit instructive. And given that Honda generators start at about $800, the idea, while clunky, is potentially cash-saving.

Gadget Review briefly took the experiment one-step further by trying to run the generator inside the back of the car and plugging in, complete with a rigged-up ventilation system, but the host thought better of it once he realized that there'd be suffocation involved. Why this was never tried on the Nissan Leaf, we'll never know. Check out Gadget Review's five-minute video below.

News Source: Gadget Review via Green Car Reports

Image Credit: Gallery: 2014 Sebastian Blanco / AOL, i3 With Generator: Gadget Review

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata design walkaround

See The Roadster Through Mazda Design Boss Derek Jenkins' Eyes

Posted Sep 12th 2014 7:58PM

Mazda North America Director of Design Derek Jenkins points out lines on 2016 MX-5 Miata

By now, you've likely read what we think of the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata's new looks both inside and out, and you've probably poured over the available photos and started to make up your own mind about the roadster's radically more aggressive new appearance.

More than likely, however, you haven't heard much from Mazda itself about its new design, and we're here to remedy that. Join Autoblog as we go over the new Miata from tip to tail with Derek Jenkins, Mazda North America's director of design. Jenkins, a veteran of both Audi and Volkswagen design studios, has been with the Japanese automaker for nearly four years, and he's kept a close eye in the ND Miata program along with his team in Irvine, CA.

Check out our video to see Jenkins explain his team's exterior and cabin handiwork and to learn a little more about why the new model graduates from the Miata's historically cute and friendly aesthetic to something altogether more assertive.

News Source: Gallery copyright 2014 Ronnie Fung / AOL


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