Archive for the ‘Vehicles’ Category

…recently uploaded new campaign videos to YouTube. Ok, before you call me out for calling them ‘campaign videos’ – I’m aware that they are viral videos, and haven’t been created (yet) as TV-going commercials, but let’s face it: they are companies that are in it for profit, and those videos are monetized. I digress – less than one paragraph into my post I’ve meandered into territory that is insignificant to the post. The point is this: these videos are awesome, simply put.

The first features the Benz SLS AMG droptop, out to break the world record for fastest ball catch. Besides the skill and calculation that went into this production, it’s a beautiful juxtaposition of perhaps the most conservative sport in the western world with blasphemous powerful, tire-smoking Hoonism. So go ahead – watch an AMG convertible catch a golf ball at speed without as much as a single dent!

 

Next, from Karl Benz’s rival Bavarian badge comes a piece of video art featuring the new BMW M5 as a bullet fired on its own power out a giant tunnel (read: gun chamber) aimed at three art-constellation targets…all of which the V8 saloon shatters with triple-digit force.

 

In my opinion, as cool as both are, the SLS AMG wins for verisimilitude. The BMW video is under speculation for its veracity. I don’t think it matters much whether or not it’s real, it’s still very, very entertaining and creative, but it speaks less for the driver’s skill being that it is likely a composite of real footage and CGI. If it turns out that it’s real, I’ll eat my words, but that car looks too perfect after smashing through barriers at those speeds. If anyone is going to attempt it in real life though, I nominate Jezza, since he’s already fond of car/gun mash-ups. Hopefully his back will hold up better than when he put a Lorrie through a brick wall.

 

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It All Ends With ‘Z’

Posted: October 26, 2011 in Classics, Vehicles
Tags: , , , , , ,

I will start out by mentioning the obvious: it’s been a long time since H4H’s last post. Due to the complex nature that is sometimes referred to as “life,” I have not found myself writing much in the past few months.

That being said, I’ve had a few nice chances to take some cool cars out and also attend a couple nice events since then. I suppose being that it has been a long time, I will make a comeback with something else that has been resting for a long time but is back in the game.

This middle-aged cat is none other than one of my favorite classic Japanese cars, the Datsun 240Z. Manufactured in the last quarter of 1970 and sold as a ’71, it is a series one S30 chassis Z, and also happens to be burnt orange, which is quite possibly the best looking color on a Datsun, period. There is something so catching about an orange Datsun, something that tickles your nostalgic armpits.

It may be that it is so period correct, or it may be that no other car has ever been able to pull such a color off quite so well since, but there is something undeniably seventies about the color that makes it fit so well. Shag rugs were made in the same color, Velma, Daphne, or Shaggy from Scooby-Doo wore it (be it sweater or hair color) in the popular Hanna-Barbera cartoon series. It could be a color dyed into a zoot suit and shown off on the disco floor.

Either way, the color is right at home on the timeless styling of the Z’s lightweight frame. Granted, the Z is not quite as light as its boxy brother, the 510, but it’s still lighter than any newer variants of the Z since, starting from ’73 onward. The North American market S30s became bulkier, heavier, and also less attractive as the years wore on, largely due to increasing safety and smog regulations. But the series one has really stood the test of time on a styling level.

As for performance, the Z is no screamer compared to cars of modern time, and can’t even come close to touching performance figures like that of its youngest brother, the 370Z. However, the 240 has really got it where it counts: character. It’s a thoroughly involving drive and keeps the driver connected very directly. There’s no power steering, ABS, radio or A/C (at least not anymore), ECU, differentials, or driver aids of any sort to get in the way of you and the road. It’s really just driver, car, tires, and tarmac.

That sense of contact with the road is what makes this Z shine from behind the wheel (not to mention the cherry stained wood grain of the steering wheel itself). And for being 40 years old, this particular Z also is very much original and intact, boasting all original body work and interior, with the quilted leather even holding up without ruffling or tears. Under the hood also sits an original L24 that has been stroked to 2.8L and features a more aggressive cam with valves and springs to boot.

Having spent the better part of this past decade in a garage in Orange County, the Z has undergone a good amount of work to ensure that it runs strong. It’s received a new alternator, clutch hydraulics, belts, hoses, gaskets, and of course, all new fluids. It is a middle-aged car still, and needs the occasional check up. But much like Dos Equis’ most interesting man in the world, while it is aging, it keeps its charm, good looks, and game without so much as a slouch.

Malbec Black is what Infiniti calls the color on this car, though it looks more like a midnight purple of sorts that when coupled with the flaming red leather interior would be right at home in Flashdance.

And flash it is. This G37 coupe is nearly the same driving and performance-wise as its Sport package equipped brethren, save for the redone intakes, exhaust, and ECU tune. But it’s got significantly more curb appeal, and even more attention-getting pazaaz when rolling by with its low-drone exhaust note.

The most significant differences are obvious to the eye. The IPL (which stands for Infiniti Performance Line) features the aforementioned exclusive paint and interior leather colors, as well as an revised bumpers and side skirts which brings the lines of the vehicle into a lower, more menacing stance.

Speaking of stance, the IPL also gets exclusive 19″ graphite painted mesh wheels wrapped in high performance summer Potenza RE050A rubber.

The IPL comes with either a six speed manual or a seven speed automatic with solid magnesium paddle shifters. I’m not usually one for the paddles and although the one I drove came equipped with paddles, the ergonomics of the Infiniti paddle shifters are amongst the best out there. They lend themselves to a more natural shifting feel, unlike some which shift quite awkwardly with the manner of an elevator button. The magnesium paddles have a snappy quality where you can feel the snick of the gears as the paddles spring back into place with solid momentum.

The gutteral rumble of the VQ37 powerplant is more obvious on the IPL, which roars into its own when you really mash on the go-juice pedal. The upgraded high performance brake pads on larger 4-piston calipers (front, 2 rear) help bring all that go to a stop rather well.

The IPL which I drove was a tad more willing to let the tail end around than a standard G37 coupe, a nice nod from Infiniti towards those who want more involvement in the ride. The car has plenty enough torque however to kick the car around and really enjoy it. The car was brand new and still was adjusting the computer controlled differential as I drove, but showed desire to let the rear end around with enough right-foot encouragement.

The IPL is a great car, but it’s name is somewhat unbecoming of the car itself. Like many, when I heard the car was being produced I expected a NISMO type package and more engine and suspension bits. After all it’s Infiniti’s first foray into the world of in-house performance branding, is it not? Well, not really. It’s not a car that should be stacked against NISMO, BMW M-division, AMG, or similar in house tuning monikers. The IPL is really more a fully optioned G37 with extra flare and a couple bolt-ons, and that’s why it’s a flash grenade. It’s got a flash-bang quality and is still explosive enough, but not with the fiery and unstoppable force that other more atomic cars from competing in-house performance brands offer.

That’s not to make little of the IPL though. The car is hot, no doubt, it’s just not a one-off special from an in-house tuner. It’s bright, loud, rocketshippy, and all sorts of smoke and shadows. It’s a great car to power through the mountains with and then show up with afterwards at the tapas bar looking hard parked.

Some might criticize it for this, but with that being said it still acheives daily-driver liveability and gas mileage that is really rather compassionate for a high performance touring coupe. And touring it really does provide. All the kit you’d possibly need, from backup cameras, heated seats, GPS nav with voice command, bluetooth, XM radio, and even Zagat restaurant ratings are all there. Standard. The IPL then is a mobile office built for twisties, as well as clubs and sidewalk passer-bys. Perhaps Infiniti has something more going for them in the sub-branding division than we all assumed after all? Flashy and practical? All day long.

“Volkswagen” it was called: it was the people’s car. Affordable, practical, and fun by nature, the VW Type 1 has with time become the longest running single most manufactured car in the world. However most of you would not know what a VW Type 1 looked like unless you heard it by its more commonly used moniker, the Beetle.

Another interesting fact is that the Bug was issued by Adolf Hitler to Ferdinand Porsche (before his own name became fame) to be a car that would allow ordinary citizens who could previously not afford a car to do so. Porsche also borrowed heavily from Czech automaker Tatra when designing the Beetle, which would also influence the direction he’d take later with cars created under the Porsche brand.

The influence the VW Type 1 had on the car industry worldwide is tremendous, but often goes unnoticed. Such was the case with this ’62 Beetle, owned by an elderly woman in Pleasant Hill, CA. After she passed away her nieces who had inherited the Bug didn’t believe it to be of any value when it wouldn’t start. So they listed it for the nice price of $1,500 and it made its way into the hands of its new owner Karen.

Karen said she knew what the car was worth and that it was in good shape. After purchasing the car she had a new battery brought over and after dropping it in, the original 1200 boxer-4 motor started up immediately and has been turn-key since, with mostly basic maintenance. The people’s car indeed, no?

Driving around both locally and on the highway the car shines (though not literally, the burgundy paint has faded with time). It gets around without fuss or drama, and has character to spare. This particular Bug may not be the cleanest example, and it won’t win any best of show awards, but it’s still plugging along and it does so in good fashion.

Karen told me that truck drivers get angry and honk at her from behind when on the freeway but that otherwise people are usually enthusiastic and stop her often to talk about the car. She enjoys owning a car that everyone can appreciate, as well as the thriftiness it provides at the pump.

Though she doesn’t emphasize it you can tell she’s a fan of its personality too. She keeps the interior clean and picked up  a very fitting black die shift knob to accent the cabin with. Take a look at that key too – far cooler than switch blade VW keys of today.

The Volkswagen Beetle is a car with an extensive history and story, and it’s one that keeps unraveling mile by mile. And judging by this one, the story’s far from over.