I remember when I was first coming down with my major case of the car bug, the Ferrari 360 was the first car I saw that had a paddle shift transmission. While the F1 gearbox was offered in the F355, the 360 was the first model where enough of the kinks had been ironed out to make it a viable alternative to the traditional manual. Technology has come quite a long way since then, and the 360 is no longer on the tip of the technological spear. But once a Ferrari, always a Ferrari, and it still has quite a lot of appeal for buyers on the secondhand market. With this context in mind, I went into my drive in this 360 Modena ready to judge how it stands in our current day and age.
Designed by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, the SSK was Mercedes’ racing powerhouse from 1928 to 1932, winning a long list of significant victories, including the 1931 Mille Miglia in the hands of legendary driver Rudolf Caracciola. It also broke the pace record for the Mille Miglia at the time with an average speed of 62mph(101km/h). The SSK was seriously fast, in fact it was the fastest car of its time. Its top speed was 120mph (~190km/h), and the performance from its 7.1L straight 6 engine is still decently impressive by today’s standards. The key was its supercharger, which engaged via a clutch when full throttle was used. This design gave the power when it was needed (especially at higher altitudes, where air is thinner), but also helped keep the car reliable by not having the blower stressing the engine all the time. From what I’ve read, around 170hp was available before the supercharger engaged, and 225hp hit when the boost came on. I have also seen some reports of SSKs making as much as 300hp, so maybe in different specifications were used for different races. The car also had a massive amount of torque, with as much as 500ft/lbs available on those highest spec’d cars. Keep in mind, all of this performance is in a car with 1920′s technology, so tires, brakes, suspension, etc were all nowhere near the level of a normal modern car, and the SSK weighed nearly two tons. Racing back then took some serious bravery.
The SSK you see here was on display at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, during my trip to Europe last year. Regrettably, I don’t have too many details on this specific SSK because I was so focused on taking photos that day that I didn’t bother reading the signs. I do know there were only 30-35 SSks built, so it is very rare, and definitely worth a few million dollars.
I love looking at early racing cars because there is so much crude genius. All of the performance aspects of a modern car had to be developed, usually through trial and error, and driven by competitive spirit. The SSK was the pinnacle of automotive technology in the late 1920s, and it marks a significant moment in racing, as well as in the development of the automobile itself. Enjoy the pics.
Spotted this GT2 RS near the Porsche factory in Stuttgart. I saw a few of these during my recent trip to Germany, but this was the only one I managed to get on film. The king of 911s is obviously quite badass, and it was awesome to see this 620hp monster in person. Read the rest of this entry »
I was in attendance for this year’s Woodward Dream Cruise. This was my first time at the event, and it is by far the most epic traffic jam I have ever witnessed. The scale of the event is mind-boggling, with around a million people flocking to the Detroit area to see and show off cars of all types. I have a lot more material from the event, but this is a good overview of what was happening. Keep checking back for features on specific cars not shown here. Enjoy the gallery.
Mclaren released their one off X1 at the Quail motorsports gathering in Monterey this past weekend. It is the culmination of “3 years of hard work” they said, and I have to ask for what? I find the X1 unappealing; it looks like its design is trying to hard to be extreme, and real supercar beauty usually comes from function and purity of design. There is also the obvious influence of elegant 1930’s French cars, and that sort of Cruella de Vil look does not work well on a supercar. The covered rear wheels take the car’s aggressive stance away as well, leaving us with an appearance that is just plain awkward. On top of this, that 3 years of work has only gotten the customer a normal 12C with an ugly body kit, so again I have to ask, why?
Looking at all the supercar news sources I can see the usual amount of oogling over this car. Most people only like this car, and cars like it, because they are rare, expensive, or just stigmatized as a “supercar”. That, to me, is mindless dribble. I will give credit where credit is due (like the Ferrari P4/5), but I am at a personal point now where I don’t care at all about a car being a status symbol. It must have its own legitimate merits to get my good graces, and this Mclaren falls way short. I saw a normal 12C go by tonight, and it looked brilliant. So why bother making this ugly thing if not only to use as another soulless status symbol by someone with far more money than self security?
Different is not always a good thing, and I could care less if the owner locks the X1 away for eternity. In fact, I kind of hope he or she does.
This was my first visit to the legendary Nurburgring. As it happened I was there during the week leading up to the Nurburgring 24 hours, so the track was closed to the public for laps (next time I will do that). However this did mean that the paddock was full of race cars being prepped for the big race. We also wound up having a private tour of the facilities because we were the only members of the tour who spoke english. The race itself will have just finished when this is posted. Enjoy the gallery. Read the rest of this entry »
So, after an excruciatingly long wait, the details of Toyota’s new entry level sports car have emerged. After looking them over for myself, I am pleased to report that everything seems to be exactly what I had hoped it would be. The car has some serious potential to be quite a good driving experience with a curb weight around 2700lbs, manual transmission options, a limited slip differential, and a high output, naturally aspirated 2.0L boxer engine producing 200hp (do the math, that is 100hp/L). The FT-86/FR-S is showing much promise, and hopefully this means Toyota is finally going to start making viable cars again, but there are still some things this car must do before progress will truly be evident. Read the rest of this entry »