Testa Rossa vs Testarossa
Time TunnelBond's DB5
Remember the "Goldfinger" ? The Bond’s movie starred an Aston DB5 incorporating an ejector seat like what found in jet fighters. When the Dr. introduced this premier function to James Bond, I couldn’t quite understand how it would be useful. The movie went on, Bond was captured by the enemies and was to be moved to the enemy’s secret base. He requested to drive there by his own DB5 and was agreed (how can this be possible ?) A guy sat beside him with a gun pointing to Bond’s head (what a fool !), believing his gun could prevent the secret agent from doing tricks. Suddenly, Bond pressed the ejector button and .... booom .... the roof opened and ejected the guy to the 7th level heaven !
In reality, the DB5 is a very elegant, classic-looking GT. I saw it just once but that moment I was completely impressed. That piece of metal represents the best tradition of British craftsmanship. The styling is far classier than today’s DB7 (just too mainstream looking), a little bit conservative but you can feel it is an expensive car as it is. Aston didn’t have V8 or V12 then, but the straight six, displacing 4-litre, was more powerful than Jaguar’s XK. From 1963 to 65, more than 1,000 DB5s found satisfying customers.
Mitsubishi - the next victim ?Diamonds represent riches, but the 3-diamonds Mitsubishi is facing the toughest time ever experienced since WWII. In the 1998 fiscal year, its domestic and overseas production dropped by 7% and 21% respectively. You know, Nissan has been sold to Renault and eventually had to cut heads, but Mitsubishi’s rescue plan was relatively modest - to reduce 11% workforce in 5 years. The truck division has established alliance with Volvo truck (not Ford’s Volvo cars), but the car division insists full independence.
All it can do is to sell the GDI technology (to Fiat, Hyundai, perhaps VW) or supplying its famous off-roaders (to Fiat and Pininfarina), but that couldn’t earn too much. It is also finding a global partner for more joint venture, such as the venture with Volvo in Holland, Ned Car plant, which is producing S40 and Carisma. However, as more and more medium car makers are merging or being acquired by larger car makers, it seems that there will be less and less possible partners available. As known, Volvo will terminate the Ned Car project after the current S40 died because the replacement will be jointly produced with Ford.
The problem is, the majority share holder is still the Mitsubishi group or its subsidiaries. This mega group has been the spiritual support to the Japanese and was seen as the symbol of Japanese economy. Will it be the next victim of global take over ?
Stylists jumps and jumpsFirst is the death of Jaguar styling boss Geoff Lawson, then the position is succeeded by Ian Callum of TWR. He has been famous by his work on DB7 and Project Vantage. Meanwhile, the MGF’s father Gerry McGovern moved to Ford’s Lincoln, together with 3 of his right-hand men. His Freelander was quite good but the MGF is a complete .... well, forget it. Good luck Lincoln ! Similarly, Freeman Thomas moved from VW to DaimlerChrysler, now get a Director title. Thanks to his work, Audi will have a few busy months recalling and modifying the Audi TT, fitting those anti-lift devices .... given the valuable experience in A-class, DaimlerChrysler is confident to handle any crisis generated by Mr. Thomas.
Perhaps he should have learned from the self-employed Peter Steven, who has recently designed aerodynamic kits for Hyundai Coupe F2 Evo and Subaru Impreza P1.
found I’ve gone a little bit anti-German cars, with an exception to BMW
and Porsche. As long as Audi, Volkswagen and Mercedes continue the
trend of "de-emotionization", I will keep criticizing them. Emotion,
out of enthusiasm, is the driving force of creating exciting machines.
Take a six-cylinder engine as an example, you can have it arranged in a
straight line or in a 60° V6, both achieve the best balance and you
know it would be great. Suddenly someone drops a 90° V6 into an
bay, saying it could be produced in the same assembly line as a 90°
V8 to reduce cost. That is a compromise. Then the guy adds a balancer
to damp the vibration, but the result is a heavier engine and reduced
You know how the original SLR looked and ran. It was a lightweight, medium size, no-nonsense machine designed for motor racing. Its 3-litre straight six came from the best tradition of Mercedes-Benz. It’s not a show car, not a millionaire car incorporated a lazy supercharged V8 with a hell lot of cubic inches and a novice-delighted automatic gearbox. Yes, I’m talking about the forthcoming "New SLR".
The choice for a supercharged 5.5-litre V8 is obviously an economic decision. It is the cheapest choice - the V8 is already using in E55 and C55 AMG, adding a supercharger is just a tuner’s work. Developing a new V12 (don’t think the existing V12 could boost in-excess of 500hp) could be extremely expensive. Also, since the E-class, Mercedes’ accountants have been controlling tightly every project. The day Stuttgart decided to skipped its F355-challenger project makes you suspect that M-B is not confident of fighting Ferrari head-on. Instead, the new SLR project is far more secured, at least preventing the real combat with the Prancing horse and instead it will be competing with Aston.
Why do Ferrari, Lamborghini and even Aston use V12 ? Why does GM produce the most supercharged engines ? You must know that : performance vs cost. V12 is not necessarily more powerful than supercharged V8, but its smoothness, revability and sound quality must be superior. The E55 already gives us an impression of brutal, so the supercharged version will cause even greater problem.
Mercedes claims the new SLR will be as light as 1400kg, thanks to a carbon
fiber chassis developed by McLaren. Believe me, adding all the luxurious items and electronic blah blah blah the car will be least 1500kg. When a car is equipped with an automatic and has a 3-pointed star at the nose, you must expect all these burden.
However, every magazines are still seeing it as a 550 Maranello-chaser. Wrong ! by the time it reaches the market, the 550M is about to be renewed with an all new model.
In contrast, I’m eagerly waiting the Lotus M250 to come true. From its compact dimension and target weight of 1000kg (this is easily believable), from the 6-speed manual gearbox and mid-engined configuration, I know it is going to the right direction. I will be even more happy if it get the name "Europa". Well, because it is my nickname.
Concerning the styling, both the SLR and M250 couldn’t be criticized. It is just a question whether the F1 nose suitable to the character of the SLR. For the Lotus, I see many Nike logos at the various intakes. I hope Nike’s lawyers didn’t notice that.
- Mark Wan