The Autoblog Weekender – Click above to check out what you missed
This slightly belated Weekender is extra full of the week's car news, starting off with a union of cars and alcohol that only Aussies would think of putting together. In the opposite hemisphere but the same corner, reporters with China's Caixing news site take an uncharacteristically critical look at BYD and find suspect claims and institutionalized corporate cloning that has made its CEO and Warren Buffet even richer. Back on this side, Smart hasn't lost its relevance, just its place in people's minds, so it's using hot dogs to try and get its mojo back while Citroën uses John Lennon and Marilyn Monroe. And when is a model car not a model car, when does an AMG float, and where in the world do you use an H2 to tow a snowplow out of the snow? The answers are right after the jump...
1. In the Name of Beer: the 1978 Porsche 911 by VB Raw
VB, for Victoria Bitter, is one of the beers Australians really drink (Foster's is one of the beers people think Aussies drink). To promote the "stripped-down" nature of VB Raw, the company commissioned a designer, Paul Begg, to take a 1978 Porsche 911 and reduce it to its best and most basic bits. Some call it the "Raw Porsche." Others might call it a curious fate for a 911. For more on the build or a look at what else is in the VB Raw Speed Shop, click on over to the VB Raw site...
Calling out Chinese car companies for cloning their competitors' cars instead of innovating is nothing new. But this time it's being done by the Chinese themselves, in a report prepared by four reporters at Caixin. The article's tagline says it all: "From batteries to cars, BYD engineers have found that successful product manufacturing begins by copying others," and the article relates how the company even tore apart owner Wang Chuanfu's Mercedes S300. The detail here is that Warren Buffet has touted his investment in BYD, that investment made Chuanfu a very wealthy man, and BYD plans to bring the E6 to America. The company's motto is "Build Your Dream." What should be added is, "Using Someone Else's – It's Cheaper That Way." There is also a close look at BYD's supposedly industry-leading electric hype technology that VW has signed up for and Buffet made a fortune on. Hat tip to Regular Man
3. Two Memento Mori from eBay: a Tyrrell F1 Car and a Bugatti EB110
Toward the end of his run the dearly departed Ken Tyrrell ran an F1 team with far more guts than liquidity. Even in the early days, when the team won its three championships with Jackie Steward, they weren't a huge budget affair. But what Tyrrell Racing lacked in funds they made up in ingenuity, such as the P34 six-wheeler and that overreaching lead shot car in 1984. One of his offerings is on eBay this week, along with the first flagship from the first, failed resurrection of Ettore Bugatti's company. The Lord gives and he takes away. eBay just gives. Hat tips to Shawn and Jacob
4. A smart, a Hot Dog, a Gas Station Attendant, and a Guy with a Shovel Make a Movie...
Gone are the days when Smart was the biggest little topic of conversation, but not gone are the days of Daimler's belief in the tiny two-door. The German marque is commencing a new international media campaign that wants to return attention to the ForTwo using a cast of characters that emphasize the word "character." There will be six 10-second shorts that all end with the question "What happened?" Which, ironically, is exactly what a lot of people are asking about the brand itself.
5. Michael Paul Smith's Creations Redefine the phrase "Model Car"
Michael Paul Smith started on an "exercise in model building and photography," then turned it into "dream-like" and highly realistic reconstructions of mid-20th century towns and cars. Building in 1/24-scale, models like the 1955 Ford Crown Victoria and 1958 Plymouth Fury are set in dioramas made from Gator board, styrene plastic, Sintra and found objects. The word we need here is, "stunning." Hat tip to Rock
6. The Mercedes-AMG Inspired Cigarette Powerboat Ready for the Havana Run
The 46-foot Cigarette powerboat inspired by the Mercedes SLS AMG that was teased in December last year has debuted and ready for the water. The Alubeam Silver Cigarette AMG with Mystic White stripes (both SLS colors) is the first application for Mercury Racing's 1,350-horsepower engine, giving it an estimated top speed of 130 miles per hour. Pricing hasn't been announced, buy when it is you might want to add the cost of a Freightliner semi to it, because with an estimated weight of around 13,000 pounds the Cigarette AMG will need something a little more hefty than an SLS to pull it... Hat tip to Tim
8. Citroen DS3 Hires Marilyn Monroe and John Lennon to Sell Anti-Retro DS3
Citroen is going all out with its new mini, the DS3, and it's calling out other automakers using 40-year-old cars as templates for new models. Two new commercials use footage Marilyn Monroe and John Lennon to convey messages like "nostalgia isn't glamorous," and the even more pointed, "do something of your own." So there. Hat tip to Leopaul
In spite of turmoil, turbulence, and a long time away from the spotlights, the Ssangyong C200 is determined to live. The Compact Urban Vehicle about the same size as a Tiguan or RAV4 has been spotted winter testing in Sweden. Which is probably a much nicer place to be than company headquarters right now... Hat tip to Paul
10. Jaguar's XF Diesel S Makes Burning Oil More Fun
The biggest news for the 2011 XF is a new model, the 275-horsepower Diesel S, which gets you an oil-burner close to the XFR: an XFR-derived interior is standard and Active Dynamics is an option. The Diesel S' options list swells further with the Dynamics pack and its Shadow or Silver paint and 20-inch wheels, and the Aerodynamic Pack with black mesh grille inserts, XFR side sills and LEDs up front. After that, the price to get in the door has also dropped, with the 3.0-liter V6 going for just £29,900. And that means you can get the free-of-charge red brake calipers and new Polaris White hue for less money. That's how it's done, son...
11. When Your Snowplow Gets Stuck, You Need a Hummer
The season has not only seen the most unlikely amounts of snow in the most unlikely of places, it has seen some of the strangest towing events we've ever encountered: Subarus pulling semis, Bentleys pulling vans, and now this, an H2 pulling a snow plow from the frozen waves in Baltimore. When will the madness end?
– The Future of the Electric Car is Priced, Future Remains Cloudy and Uncertain
The Trexa "scalable lithium-drive platform" gives you a fully operable electric-car base upon which you would mount your desired body. This week Trexa released the price and specs: $15,999, all-wheel drive, 0-to-60 in eight seconds, 105-mile range, four hours to charge. What the company didn't release is any information on how those specs are supposed to mean anything since there's no body, interior, electronics, and, oh, regulatory approval – leaving its place in the electric car pantheon far from decided. Hat tip to Suhas
– Easy Mr. Kotter!
Guy goes for his first track day with an instructor, instructor doesn't like the guy's driving, instructor demands to be let out after the first lap. Not an uncommon incident, surely, but this example does seem a bit extreme – we can't judge the smoothness, but the car is never out of control, and frankly we've been on press trips with journalists who've done far, far worse than this driver. Is it just us, or was the instructor just a little too high on the word "smooth" that day?
– Pagani C9 Does 411 KPH in South Africa We told you about the Pagani testing in the South African sun. What we didn't tell you was how blisteringly fast it was going: 411 kilometers per hour. That's 254.82 miles per hour to those of us in a non-metric country. That's vinnig in South Africa. Otherwise known as "fast." Hat tip to Paulo
– Geneva Motor Show News Comes on Your Time
You can check up on the stands being built at the Geneva Auto Show, and from March 2 – the same day we'll be there covering it for you – you can see the cars being revealed in real time and get video updates every day from March 1-15. But they won't have our amazing pictures and heartwarming commentary, so don't think about leaving us for some Swiss tart.
– The Nissan Patrol Cometh This Weekend
The Nissan Patrol is a staple in other harsh lands, and we'll get a taste of it Stateside when it replaces the Armada. It is called "The Hero," and it is said of this new vehicle that it will make sand quiver. But will it do the same to the showroom floor? Hat tip to Aziz
– Did You Catch the Cayenne?
Porsche pulled a funny: twinkling behind the GT3 R Hybrid on the company's USA web site is the new Cayenne. We really do hope it's that fast. And that the GT3 R Hybrid really is that good in snow. Hat tip to jeremy