A.I. Commentary: McLaren MP4-12C And Ferrari 458 – Rivals..? Really..?

March 15, 2012

From the motoring folks who recently launched the Drive channel on YouTube, here we have an interesting (and beautifully shot) video from a certain Mr. Chris Harris that raises some questions about the aim of this car when considering the cozy, discreet, Grand Touring-like capabilities and real-world, daily-driven useability of the MP4-12C…

On paper, one would be immediately excused for comparing the mid-engined 3.8L V8 twin-turbo, 592 bhp McLaren with the 4.5L 562 bhp Ferrari 458 – Somewhat similar power outputs, comparable price point, mid-engined V8, well-established racing pedigree on both sides, really really fast, etc… Yet although one could argue that both cars represent each company’s bespoke (and exotic) interpretation of the formula and layout, one could also argue that these two cars aren’t exactly the heated rivals that the motoring press, a certain British motoring TV show and many supercar enthusiasts have made them out to be.

Understated yet conventionally attractive looks have most people 'ho-hum'-ing with regards to its looks...

For starters, one is a raucous, loud, impractical and highly visceral (and visual) experience adorned with beautifully stunning lines riding on conventional (albeit, high-tech) dampers and springs while the other is an extremely relaxing, everyday-useable, long-distance tourer imbued with all of the latest-tech wizardy (hello space-age suspension) that’s been rather discreetly (some would say, boringly) styled with a matching set of (mostly) muted lungs… Their power, price and basic shape/layout is similar, but aside from those traits, I’m beginning to see just how different these two supposed rivals really are…

The stunning Ferrari 458

After reading publications and watching a deluge of head-to-head video tests over the past 6 months involving various rivals  – most notably, the Ferrari 458 – one question seems to jump out moreso than any other: Should the Ferrari and McLaren even be considered rivals…? The McLaren doesn’t exactly shock and fascinate ‘in-the-metal’ despite its eye-candy doors and plethora of exotic materials used in its construction, but it does impress with its to-the-millimetre build quality, road-litheness and general air of keen robustness.

At a recent Concours Show in our fair city, the McLaren didn't exactly 'wow' the crowds moreso than it gained people's respect as an incredible 'all-rounder'

The more I look at it (and I looked at it for a long time back in September, as the photos show), the more I’m inclined to view this new McLaren as a Premium high-end spiritual successor to the tech-fest Honda NSX from the early ’90s – a phenomenally-engineered, precision-built, fast-yet-comfortable, mid-engined ‘everyday’ GT sportscar with Jekyll & Hyde-like attributes – one who’s modern-day main rival really is the Porsche 911 Turbo… not the look-at-me-dance Ferrari 458…

The 458 doing what it loves to do best...

With its understated outer-shell design (minus the fancy doors) and plush interior complete with classy nods to exotic materials and bespoke functionality – not to mention its luxuriously appointed ride quality – the MP4-12C, at least to these eyes, really seems to be aimed more towards the discerning driver that isn’t at all interested in flash attributes, going sideways, making noise and standing out… A driver that would just rather enjoy pootling along with Rolls-Royce levels of ride quality alongside bang-up-to-date tech with the promise of truly eye-watering speed and handling capabilities… if called upon.

Looks like a Supercar (albeit, a slightly dated one) from the back... doesn't sound like one though.

After soaking-in all of these high-profile, head-to-head tests (and mostly losing them) the McLaren has taken more than its unfair share of flack for its apparent inability to excite and entertain in the ways that the Ferrari so readily does… Yet I ask this: Taking price, power and basic layout out of the equation, how close, actually, are these two cars in terms of being labelled as direct rivals…?

Your thoughts and opinions, as always, are welcomed…!

-Blake J.

-McLaren Photos by: Blake J./AutoInjected.com

Ferrari F40: Photo Album Of A Motoring Legend

March 13, 2012

2012 marks the 25th Anniversary of the very last Ferrari to be built under the watchful eye of Enzo Ferrari himself. At 90 years of age, Enzo passed away one year after the F40’s official debut in the Summer of 1987, marking the lightweight (1100 kg), powerful (471 bhp from a twin-turbo V8) and strategically bare-bones F40 as a fitting ‘last testament’ to the fuelled passions and race-bred visions of Enzo Ferrari.

There have been countless odes to the F40 over the years, both in print and within this electronic medium, so let’s spare the (albeit, worthy) fanfare for another time and instead focus on the images selected for your viewing pleasure – images that span time from period-era rarities right on up to present-day re-interpretations. In short, a celebration of the iconic F40 supercar that, to this day, still tops the list of many a petrolhead and Ferrari enthusiast worldwide as the most exciting Ferrari ever made…



The heart of the beast...


Just for laughs...

-Blake J.

Spotlight: The Exquisite Alfa-Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale

January 26, 2012

In the oft-worshipped halls of exotic Italian sportscars of yore, the Alfa-Romeo Tipo 33 ‘Stradale’ is the stuff of dreams for petrolheads the world over. Yet, it didn’t exactly start out that way when it was first introduced at the Sport Car Show at Monza, Italy in September of 1967…

Essentially a road-legal version of Alfa’s Tipo 33 mid-engined racecar, the limited-run Stradale cost the equivalent of $17,000 when it was summoned upon the gazing eyes of the motoring world in ’67. That was astronomical money back then and as a result, Alfa struggled to find buyers for their luxuriously appointed, mid-engined Supercar that was carefully built by hand alongside their racing cars.

Churning out high-volume numbers of the Stradale was never going to be an issue so each Stradale was built-up over relaxed periods of time and therefore received evolutionary modifications and upgrades with each one produced. Subsequently, no two Stradales are alike, with earlier examples exhibiting twin-headlamps and later Stradales featuring vents behind the front and rear wheels to enable increased cooling capablities of the brakes.

Power for the Stradale came from Alfa’s first-ever V8 – A mildly-detuned version of their racecar’s 2-litre, all-aluminium, naturally-aspirated, dry-sumped, twin overhead camshaft engine that produced 230 bhp (it was capable of 270 bhp but ‘safely’ reigned-in for road-going purposes) and enabled the sprint to 60 in just 5.5 seconds and a top-speed of over 260 km/h. Rifling through the gears was a 6-speed Colotti gearbox and handling was aided by double wishbones all around. Stopping power was handled by Girling disc brakes on all four corners and helped along by the scant 700 kg curb weight of the entire rolling chassis. Accelerative prowess was a definite given with those numbers…

Franco Scaglione was a former employee at Bertone by the time he designed this evocative aluminium body for the Stradale – surely one of the most beautifully exotic, elegant, balanced and sexy designs to ever clothe a car. The signature (and rather clever) door-design being just one feature of the Stradale alongside many other design cues that permeate Italian flair and beauty like only the best of the best from the era.

With the Stradale struggling to find owners of the mere 18 examples created between late ’67 and March of 1969, five of them were eventually given to coach-builders Giugiaro/Italdesign, Pininfarina and Bertone to use as Stradale-based showcar concepts – the first one emerging from Bertone with their highly-influential, wedge-shaped ‘Carabo’ concept of ’68 (and the later Stradale-based ‘Navajo’ concept shown in ’76) followed by the ‘Iguana’ concept of ’69 from Giugiaro/Italdesign and two later Pininfarina-designed offerings. All five of those concepts survive to this day in the respective museums of their creators along with only 3 known road-going versions left in the wild- rare indeed.

What was considered a complete sales-failure at the time, it is now viewed as one of the most-cherished and adored pieces of Italian automotive creations. Its stunning lines and ferociously-lunged engine providing worldwide fanfare and adoration for this exquisitely created and rarest of Supercars from the 1960s.

-Blake J.

Video: The Sonic Savagery of a Ferrari F40

January 4, 2012

Oh, and let’s not forget burbling, crackling, thundering and flame-spitting as well…


 -Blake J.

The Forgotten First: 1964 Lamborghini 350GT

November 24, 2011

Ask any car enthusiast of any age what defines the iconic Lamborghini brand for them and they’ll undoubtedly mention the words Countach, Murcielago, V12 engines, Aventador, Raging Bulls, Gallardo, possibly Espada and most-likely Miura. But the very first lambo of them all…? Not a chance.

Which is a bit of a shame, really, as the very first Lamborghini road-car was an exquisitely-built machine that actually saw Ferrucio Lamborghini take a (in 1964 money) 1,000 GBP hit on each 350GT made. This loss was understandable though as Ferrucio insisted that his cars not be built down to a price, yet still undercutting the competition – namely another Italian sportscar manufacturer called Ferrari.

Yet, it was the legendary Maranello (Ferrari) concern that prompted Lamborghini to enter into sportscar production alongside his already-succesful line of Tractors in the first place. Story goes that Ferrucio visited the Ferrari factory back in the early 60’s with the intention of purchasing one of Maranello’s finest. But after being ignored, shuffled about and generally treated disrespecfully on that initial visit, Ferrucio walked away with his pride damaged and a deeply-seated resolve to become a producer of exciting sportscars to outshine Ferrari.

Also, one can’t help thinking that having your name emblazoned across a sexy and largely capable V12’d supercar was probably far more gratifying  and prestigious than on a Farming vehicle…

Whatever his reasoning, 1963 saw Lamborghini introduce the striking 350GTV Prototype at the Turin Salon to rousing fanfare. The following year (after some notable styling revisions and a detuned engine) the 350GT entered into production with Carrozzeria Touring implementing its impressive ‘Superleggera’ (Superlight) methods of aluminium-body construction.

The stunning 350GTV Prototype

Lamborghini’s very first car is sometimes seen as a slight mish-mash of curves and challenging angles, but the end result was nontheless captivating. Reports from the day focus on the excellent handling, performance and build-quality of the 350GT and routinely tout it as one of the best GT cars of the 1960’s. All of this positive press wasn’t enough for Ferrucio to lose a hefty sum on each one made though, as his insistence to produce a vehicle of exquisite quality adorned with high-end build techniques came with the underlining mantra of securing his reputation as a future force to be reckoned with.

Again, the beautiful 350GTV Prototype

Overall weight was kept down to 1450 kg and power came from an all-aluminium 3.5L V12 mated to a robust 5-speed German ZF gearbox chucking out 270 bhp, enabling 60 mph to emerge from 0 in just 6.5 seconds… That’s pretty brisk for a well-appointed and beautifully-built GT car from 1964. Full 350GT production topped out at just 135 units being made.

The updated 400GT was introduced a year later in ’66 and used mostly steel-bodied construction along with an enlarged V12 lump (upped to 4L) relinquishing 320 bhp. There were some minor styling changes infused as well – most noteworthy being the quad-headlamp setup. Only 23 of these were made. There was also an unconventionally attractive 2+2 steel-bodied version of the 400GT which accounted for 247 examples built until up to 1968.

The updated 400GT

With barely 3 years under its belt as a vehicle manufacturer, Lamborghini unveiled the stunningly beautiful Miura in 1966. It goes without saying that all eyes (and hearts) were blown away and rather transfixed on this striking new Supercar from the barely-broken-in Lamborghini. The 350GT/400GT became the Islero in 1968 and eventually morphed into the Jarama (from ’70-’76) but as the world (mostly young men and famous folk) fell in love with the lovely Miura, the somewhat forgotten GT car that started it all gracefully slid into the history books (and relative obscurity) as simply just that – the car that started it all.

The 350GT was an uncompromising first effort from a man empassioned by style, pace and beauty. It was also his best. The sheer attention to detail graced upon each of the 135 cars made prompted other European manufacturers to take notice as well. It also raised the bar and established Ferrucio Lamborghini in the burgeoning automotive world he so dearly dreamt of makng his mark in.

-Blake J.

Pic of the Day: Classic Fiat 500 hunted by a Lamborghini

October 14, 2011

17 bhp vs. 572 bhp. 2-cylinders vs. 12-cylinders. 499 kg vs. 1650 kg…. Hmm. Understated, classic, useable Italian cuteness vs. voraciously trouncing/howling, unpractical, look-at-me-all-scissor-door’ed Supercar… Again, hmm….

Both of them Italian motoring icons in their own right, but given our current austerity-driven swayings amidst these (silly) eco-maniacal times of late, which one would you really want to be seen in… ? to use every single day… as your daily-driver…  if such a Genie-in-a-bottle type of question/demand magically popped-up within your dreamy existence… ?


-Blake J.

Lamborghini Miura – Taking a break (ie:broke down) in the Downtown core

September 8, 2011

Hot on the heels of the Lamborghini Superleggera feature yesterday, comes this – a broken-down Lamborghini Miura… Pardon me, I mean – the iconic, forever desireable, unbelievably beautiful and stunningly seducing V12’d Beast, the Lamborghini Miura… er, broken-down… in the Downtown core. Many would also argue towards it being the very first of the actual Supercar breed as well… but that’s for another story.

Sad Miura, out of petrol

Things always happen to me in this way – After coming up with the initial idea for the Superleggera piece, later that evening I went for a bike ride and what do I stumble across in traffic…? The very car used and photographed for the feature. Then yesterday evening, after publishing the Lambo piece here on A.I., I was returning home after a weeknight jaunt out to Porteau Cove and back with my local classic-BMW club when I noticed an obvious kerfuffle taking place up ahead at one of the downtown core’s busiest intersections.

Amazing how short the Miura is - a mere 51" from road to roofline

To my amazement, I noticed the instantly distinctive rump of a red Miura being pushed around a corner. Naturally, I pulled over to see if I could be of any assistance for the driver and the sexy Italian (odd that I was the only person to offer help – jeez this city is such a weird keep-to-myself city). Turns out it was one of the fellas from the local Lamborghini Dealership returning from an event, having a bit of a hard-luck day… Needless to say, a flatbed was on its way.

Don't worry li'l red Miura, help is on the way

So, being the ever-mindful online automotive enthusiast that I am, I ran back over to grab the digi-cam and snapped away… wouldn’t you…?


words/photos: Blake J.



Love love love the delicate A-pillars

Preparing to board the rescue ship


So stunning...

Take care beautiful Miura... *sniff*

Ferrari F355 Spider – A rather tempting local find

August 31, 2011

There’s a large, hardcover book that’s been sitting on the floor beside my desk at h0me for many years now. It features a smug-ish Jeremy Clarkson on the cover touting his trademark bouffant of puffy locks and over-collared leather amidst the dull-yet-catchy ‘Jeremy Clarkson’s Hot 100’ title emblazoned across the face of it. I picked it up at a local Book Wharehouse store about 8 years ago, in the Blow-Out bin, for $5. I felt sorry for it, really. A quick thumb-thru at the time revealed a photo-strewn, simplistic yet entertaining read… ‘Perfect for the loo!’ – I thought. But what really caught my attention was the red, Italian sportscar that Clarkson was sat in: A Ferrari F355.

Now, aesthetically speaking, I’ve always been a sucker for pop-up headlamps and Ferrari was one of the last manufacturers to maintain this styling trait within it’s gorgeously sculpted mid-engined V8 wailer right on through until the 355’s end in ’99 (no awkward, mid-life facelift here). But obviously that’s not the only reason why the 355 has aged so well.

Aside from its beautifully-penned lines and aggressively squat stance, therein beats the heart of a 5-valves-per-cylinder, 109bhp/litre (the most for a naturally aspirated engine at the time) 375bhp engine that revs to 8800rpm… All within a (by modern standards) lightweight 1350kg mass. A rather monumental step-up on all fronts from the rather lacklustre 348 (300bhp) predecessor, this was Ferrari entering into a new age with it’s mid-engined V8 leviathan that hasn’t let up on the tech ever since.

With the notion of fascilitating any mere thoughts of owning a mid-engined Italian supercar heading into the 15+ year-old arena comes the inevitable horror-stories and online folklore of the ‘Are You F’ing Crazy?’ sort… But you’d be foolishly wrong to simply attach that train of thought to anything adorned with the Prancing Horse badge from the mid-90’s and call it a (safe/boring) day… well, mostly. Let’s be honest: With any older exotica of this sort, you’d have to be a monumental twit to dive-in without doing your homework and applying a modicum of good ol’ common sense (a good site for help – www.the355.com). And with the Ferrari 355 more-recently attaining a waiting-in-the-wings ‘future classic’ tag, your odds of finding a tidy, truly mint, low-mileaged, properly well-kept/serviced example isn’t quite as easy as it once was.

Yet here we have this rather lovely ’96 Spider from Mile’s End Motors [http://bit.ly/r6Pnr5] that most-definitely warrants attention from those within the $60K-$70K budget area looking for a uniquely raw and invigorating 2nd-car experience.

If you’re a Ferrari (or driving) enthusiast, nothing comes more alluring to your visual take-in than the sight of 3 pedals on the floor and an open-gated 6-speed manual rising up from the centre console to greet that iconic, polished gear-knob. Granted, in ’96 only the manual was available but it just seems so… right. The F1 paddleshift option was introduced the following year in ’97 and it came with the usual first-gen troubles and potentially expensive worries… and by todays’ standards its performance is almost comically slow/dimwitted. So then, proper gearbox for this one.

The owner (Cletus Severyn, Sales Division at Mile’s End Motors) tells me that his has also received the proper care and maintenance throughout its (local) Vancouver life. Mileage is low with a scant 24,500 km’s on the clock and the entire car shows as if it’s only a few years old… It’s an absolute peach.

The paint and body are astonishingly immaculate – I saw only a few noticeable stone-chips on the front bumper. The interior leather is soft, uncracked and supple. Zero bolster wear. Zero scuff-plate wear as well. Wheels are unmarked. Has a new-ish convertible top too. The carpets are spotless and still attached in the corners where they should be. The notoriously flimsy plastics of the 90’s that the Italians used have retained themselves in this example over the years, yet Cletus informs me that the well-known delapitation of the centre-console plastics have received the proper upgrades.

Mechanically, all appears to be in rather rude shape as well. A new clutch was fitted back @ 14K km’s, but a recent full-service and subsequent diagnosis (not to mention my quick behind-the-wheel drive around the local neighborhood’s streets) assures that it hasn’t been abused and there’s still loads of life left in it. One noteworthy area of concern with the 355 is the catalytic convertors, yet they’ve recently been replaced at a cost of $9K (!*~#!)… so that’s a plus. A big one.

Also, it should be noted that this example hasn’t experienced the well-known valve-guide failures that earlier models (and owners) felt the sting of. They used bronze items back then that wore out rather easily and allowed oil to leak in, eventually indicated by a noticeably smoky plume emanating from the exhaust tips upon start-up. Later models were updated with a steel variant to cure this. Basically, this stunning F355 has had the known niggles and mega-worries properly dealt with.

F355’s stateside in seemingly tidy condition come in at approx. $10K cheaper than the $64,900 asking price afforded to this exquisite, local example. But those cars show twice the mileage, not forgetting to mention the rather inflating 19% add-on at the border for taxes and assorted fees tacked back on. In this price-point area, another $10K+ or so… A tempting proposition to shop locally for a showroom-beautiful F355 with a full, local service-history then. 

Depreciation needn’t be a worry either, especially for owners of exquisitely-kept examples like this one. Be in no doubt – this Ferrari will only increase in value as the years pass on by. Budget aside, let’s say, $3-4K a year for regular servicing costs and the possibility of replacement (understand that I say ‘possibility’ in the highest form of a hope-filled question) for the usual bits that naturally wear out over time and you’ll probably come out relatively ok come resale in 3-5 years’ time. Something to think about…

One aspect I like to point-out is that the F355 was adorned with something that the F360 and F430 cars will, in my opinion, struggle to adequately match over time – A cohesively compact and complementary stance amidst that curvaceously bold and wedgy design. I’ve always seen it as an Italian take on something from Lotus. It’s from an era of Ferrari’s raw simplicity colliding with newly-adapted (and advanced) technologies. An enticingly rare mixture of old-school values shaking hands with the next-generation of advancement thus creating a mechanically evocative driver/machine interaction that has, sadly, become somewhat lost within newer cars of today.

So then, Jeremy Clarkson was actually right about something.

author: Blake J.

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