World Record: 964 Ferraris Gallop at Silverstone

September 17, 2012

A huge gathering of 964 Ferraris converged upon Silverstone Circuit in the UK this past weekend to assist in setting a new Guinness World Record for the largest single containment (?) of Prancing Horses ever seen. Although the turnout was shy of the expected 1000 cars, it obliterates the previous record of 490 Ferraris having a chat in 2008 at the Fuji Speedway Circuit in Japan.

The big event took place at a Ferrari Racing Days gathering and even a certain Felipe Massa F1 driver showed-up to lead the idling/crawling 964 Ferraris around the track… though, it appears that he was the only one that actually had any real motoring-fun doing so, as the video shows…

Along with the massive collection of Ferraris of all vintages to oggle at, Ferrari UK also brought along the new F12 for attendees to pore over and ponder. The event itself was coordinated by Ferrari and the British Ferrari Owner’s Club, who had a hand in bringing 60 Ferrari F40s together at Silverstone back in July of this year.

One of the promises Ferrari made this weekend was to donate 5 British Pounds to charity for each Ferrari that showed up. In the end, 4,820 GBP ($7,819) was raised. According to Ferrari, all of the pertinent areas were met with regards to scrutineering by the Guinness World Record-folk and the record should be confirmed by the end of this week.

Great job, Ferrari-owners of the UK..!

-Blake J.
AutoInjected.com

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McLaren: Striking One-off X1 Debut

August 20, 2012

If you squint really hard, you’ll see it – the MP4-12C underneath it all.

Just last week McLaren unveiled their Can-Am Edition MP4-12C which paid a debt to their racing heritage and focused on their ideas/visions for the future of the company’s racing commitments. Yet then, this weekend at Pebble Beach they go and unveil this – the one-off McLaren X1. The words ‘shock’ and ‘awe’ only hint at what we’re left with…

What you’re looking at here is the result of the McLaren Special Operations unit (MSO) fulfilling the bespoke design influences (and assorted visions) of an unnamed/anonymous McLaren customer/aficianado that displayed an open-chequebook philosophy towards his/her idea of what constitutes ‘vehicular exclusivity’ in this world nowadays. Indeed, the array of chrome flourishes, classic lines, faired-in rear wheels and added-on adenda aren’t exactly in-line with the typical McLaren un-fussy design philosophies… but it’s that marriage of McLaren engineering know-how and one person’s open-wallet exclusivity that makes this entire project so intriguing.

The X1 project was undertaken by McLaren stylist Hong Yeo with design chief Frank Stephenson and MSO Programme Director Paul MacKenzie close by to oversee the progress. The X1 vehicular influences are listed as:  Buick Electra, Mercedes-Benz 540K, Facel Vega, Chrysler D’Elegance Ghia and the Citroën SM. Meanwhile, the architectural influences are listed as: the Guggenheim museums in New York and Bilbao, grand pianos, Airstream caravans, a Thomas Mann Mont Blanc pen and Audrey Hepburn (?).

Granted, those are some heady points of navigation and yet when all encompassed, seem to work, given their grandeur and societal poise. After all, one of the main objectives was to create a car that would look elegant enought to roll up to an opera in… As expected, there’s a lot to focus on with this daring Mclaren X1 one-off, so let’s allow the assorted photos and the official press release (below) to fill-in the necessary details.

-Blake J.
AutoInjected.com

McLaren X1 (Full) Press Release:

McLaren Special Operations (MSO), the division of McLaren Automotive responsible for the delivery of bespoke projects, will present a breathtaking one-off supercar at The Quail, an exclusive event on August 17, 2012 that is a highlight of the Pebble Beach weekend in Monterey, USA.

Called the McLaren X-1 and based structurally on the company’s groundbreaking carbon MonoCell but with a totally unique body, it has been created for an anonymous car enthusiast.

X-1: the brief It’s not every day that a team gets to create something unique in a project that would take the supercar, even by McLaren standards, to a different level. The challenge began with a special brief.

‘One of our clients who already owned a McLaren F1, a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren and now a 12C, wanted a unique car,’ says MSO Programme Director, Paul MacKenzie. ‘The conversation began with our Executive Chairman Ron Dennis almost three years ago – before the 12C was even launched. The client wanted a machine that had all the capability of the 12C but wrapped in a unique body that reflected his needs and personality.’

In a subsequent meeting, Paul Mackenzie and Design Director Frank Stephenson went to see him to start to explore the sort of car he wanted.

Says Frank Stephenson: ‘The key qualities the client desired were “timeless and classical elegance”. Which was some challenge.’

That meeting with Mackenzie and Stephenson lasted for almost three hours. From the pages of notes that were gathered, the design team brought together hundreds of images from the world of automotive, architecture, fashion, design and even film. These were then presented to the customer, and were then narrowed down to a mood book, full of inspiring images from which the design spirit of this unique car would be derived.

Inspirational cars included a 1961 Facel Vega, a 1953 Chrysler D’Elegance Ghia, a 1959 Buick Electra, a 1939 Mercedes-Benz 540K and a 1971 Citroën SM. There were various examples of architecture – including the Guggenheim museums in New York and Bilbao – plus a Jaeger LeCoultre art deco clock, an Airstream trailer, a Thomas Mann Montblanc pen, a grand piano – and an eggplant. ‘The client liked the shiny texture of the finish,’ notes Stephenson. There was also a black-and-white photo of Audrey Hepburn.

‘The client wanted a competition between external designers – some outside the automotive world – and McLaren’s own designers,’ notes Stephenson. In the end, a design by McLaren’s Korean-born RCA graduate Hong Yeo was chosen, and completed under the direction of Stephenson.

One of the biggest design challenges faced by Yeo was that most cars that embody classic elegance and timeless values have front engines and rear-wheel drive proportions. This is the exact opposite of a mid-engined supercar. So a new visual language for the car had to be found which led to months of sketching and modelling to find that perfect visual balance.

Stephenson recalls: ‘From this design, we then produced a 30 per cent scale model, then a full-size hard foam model. Initially, we planned to do it all digitally but the client insisted on seeing “real” models.

‘The client was very clear in his own mind what he wanted. But the only styling feature prescribed were metal brightwork rails running from the nose, over the shoulderline and hips, to the rear of the greenhouse.’

In the words of Hong Yeo: ‘X-1 embodies the McLaren value that every part has to have a purpose. No details are simply visual cues, every one has a purpose. Although I like to think the wide body combined with pontoon style rear fenders will ensure the car glides when it’s moving just like a superhero’s cape…’

The styling took 18 months to sign off but the result is a design that in a few decades time will be hard to pinpoint exactly when it was created … timeless, therefore, exactly as the client requested.

X-1: the creation The X-1 is the most ambitious example yet of MSO’s expertise. It has a whole new body made of advanced materials. Everything is bespoke, even down to the lights and wheels, necessitating new testing and homologation meaning the car took two and a half years to build, a process that began before the styling was signed off.

The X-1 had its own development programme because crucially, this wasn’t to be a fragile concept car that would never see tarmac. It was to be a usable car, road legal and capable of travelling at supercar speeds. It also had to comfortably seat two adults so although the 12C was already as shrink-wrapped as it could be from a packaging perspective, the ingenious flexibility of the MonoCell allowed the creation of a completely different form while maintaining the engineering purity of a McLaren.

A full CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) aerodynamic testing schedule ensured high-speed stability, and the car also completed approximately 625 miles of testing including two intensive testing stints at the Idiada circuit in Spain with chief McLaren test driver, Chris Goodwin. After testing, the whole car was meticulously rebuilt, by hand to concours standard.

X-1: the detail MSO Programme Director Paul Mackenzie explains: ‘The X-1 showcases the skills of McLaren Special Operations. More and more luxury customers want bespoke or individual features. The X-1 demonstrates that we can provide the ultimate personalisation service. It also shows that MSO is not just a technology led company. X-1 demonstrates a commitment to perfection and to the highest levels of quality.’

All body panels of the X-1 are made from carbon, and are finished in a rich piano black, as specified by the owner. Body sides are lacquered visual carbon fibre. ‘The black paint has no metallic or colour tints and is one of the most challenging colours to paint, but the finish is absolutely exquisite and befits the car perfectly’adds Stephenson.

Components were tooled exclusively for the car. They even include unique head- and taillights, inspired by the McLaren Speed Marque logo. The brightwork is machined from solid aluminium, and a nickel finish is then applied. The McLaren logo in the nose is specially machined from solid aluminium then nickel plated. Wheels are also unique to the X-1, and are diamond turned with a tinted lacquer to complement the exterior nickel-plated brightwork.

The brightwork itself is all machined from solid aluminium, and then nickel finished to give the same hue throughout. Even the McLaren Speed Marque badge in the nose is machined from solid aluminium, then nickel plated.

The same brightwork is used for the over-the-shoulder rails (as specified by the owner), at the base of the windscreen and the back of the glasshouse, and for the ‘eyebrows’ over the bespoke headlights. The McLaren Airbrake rear wing is also machined from solid aluminium and nickel plated, to complement the rest of the brightwork.

Perhaps the most unusual styling feature is the enclosed rear wheels, an upshot of the owner’s desire to have a car reflecting ‘timeless elegance’. The wheels are accessed by carbon panels using, as Stephenson explains, ‘some of the most gorgeous hinges you’ve ever seen’. The styling, too, is in no way compromised by the opening rear wings.

He adds: ‘The attention to detail is astonishing. Neat styling touches feature throughout the design, such as the rear number plate illuminators finished in carbon, a gorgeous machined aluminium cap is used for the header tank, and carbon finishers line the engine bay.’

The doors have also been developed specifically for the X-1, although they retain the dihedral action and twin hinges, and the roof is also new. Externally, only the glasshouse is carried over from the 12C.

The unique body of the X-1 means most dimensions have changed. The X-1 is 4658mm long – 109mm longer than a 12C. Width is 2097mm (with mirrors) – an increase of 188 mm. Despite the revised roofline, the height remains the same, at 1199mm. Kerb weight is almost identical (about 1400kg), as the lighter carbon body panels compensate for the greater length and width. Light weight, as with all McLaren projects, was a priority.

While the basic architecture of the interior did not change, personalisation includes bespoke Harissa Red McLaren Nappa leather used for the seats, door and roof trim, and switchgear with machined nickel-coated, aluminium bezels. The carbon interior trim has a titanium weave, to give a magical 3D-like effect. Special Andesite tufted carpet covers the floor.

All these changes ensured the X-1 needed special homologation for road use. The car has been thoroughly engineered to be usable and road legal. The X-1 shares the same the major mechanical components as the 12C, including the twin-turbo 625PS engine, giving astonishing acceleration and top speed.

Stephenson explains: ‘The X-1 epitomises how we can not only create a truly unique product tailored to the client, but also enable the client to become a key member of the design team throughout the process. It has been a truly rewarding and unforgettable experience. And I think that we as a team have created a completely unforgettable car that is true to one man’s vision.’

Hong Yeo concludes: ‘We designers are often blinded by the sun and assume that whatever we see and understand is the only way forward: to see the stars, sometimes you need the absence of that blinding light … looking at a car from a different perspective is what X-1 stands for.’

After its debut, on the Monterey Peninsular, the X-1 will return to MSO headquarters in Woking and be carefully checked over before it takes a place in the owner’s collection.

‘But it’s certainly not just colour and trim,’ notes Paul Mackenzie. ‘A number of cars have had different front and rear bumpers, which has increased downforce and boosted performance. These cars had to go through full aerodynamic CFD testing before engineering sign-off.’

Adds Mackenzie: ‘We’re here to help the client personalise the car to their precise taste. They typically come to Woking to see us, or talk to their dealer, or we go to see them. We’ll sit down with them, listen to their requests, then come up with a new colour or mechanical components, or – as with X-1 – a new “tailor made” car. Of course we make recommendations but we’re certainly not here to be style police. Every client is different. Our main job is to listen and then to interpret the owner’s requests into a superb car.’

As Mackenzie concludes: ‘This is the first fully client commissioned MSO car, but it certainly won’t be the last. The carbon fibre MonoCell chassis used in the 12C, is not only stiff and light, it allows for great flexibility in body styling and provides an affordable structure from which MSO can develop unique cars, as is demonstrated with X-1.’


Aston Martin: New Vanquish AM 310 Revealed

June 20, 2012

Aston Martin has released new details and photos of its forthcoming ‘Super GT’ car to replace the current DBS. It’s called the Vanquish AM 310, and aside from that sounding like a snappy new radio station on the low-frequency band, the materials used to ‘broadcast’ (sorry) this largely face-lifted, One-77-inspired addition onto the DB9 family platform are anything but mono-toned – The entire body is now clothed in carbon-fibre.

Keen eyes will also notice the beautifully-integrated rear spoiler and new wheels to go along with the more dramatic lines and pinches and bevy of creases that “represents the zenith of current Aston Martin design and engineering.” – according to the press release – which seems to signify that this is ‘the end’ of this current design language and that something anew is coming next year to mark Aston Martin’s centenary… ? Surely.

The interior appears to have been cleaned up in the dash/console area as well, which will come as a welcome benefit to those that have been flustered by the sheer onslaught of tiny switches that used-to inhabit Aston dashboards of recent times…

Full specs haven’t been released just yet, but the main headlines are that the 6.0L V12 has been uprated to deliver 573 bhp (up 56 bhp from the DBS’s 517 bhp) and an increased torque figure of 457 lb/ft up from a previous 420 lb/ft. 60 mph arrives just a couple of tenths quicker (irrelevant) than before and the AM 310 Vanquish will top out at 187 mph (again, mostly irrelevant).

Frustratingly, there’s no word on whether a manual will be offered in the gearbox/drive area of matters, but don’t count on it – The buying public appears to be fully transfixed now on everything being AutoMagic with some ‘sporty’ paddles behind the steering-wheel to flick away at with their lazy fingers when the need for evoking some ‘sporty driving’ occurs…

But then again, this is a GT car, so a quick-witted  ZF-based Touchtronic system is more than adequate for handling those cross-Continental blasts across the earth. Speaking of GT pretensions, the ability to carry more within the luggage area of your AM 310 has increased as well – up to 60% more space than the out-going DBS – and therefore, ample room for your golf clubs… if that’s your motoring concern.

Expect deliveries of the Vanquish AM 310 to start at the end of this year with big plans awaiting on the horizon for the next generation of Aston Martins to come…!

-Blake J.
AutoInjected.com


McLaren: Inside The Technology Centre – Video

May 23, 2012

Insightfully revealing new video here from the Drive Channel on YouTube showing the inner-workings of the mysterious McLaren Technology Centre. Most of what is shown in the 26-minute video has been previously unseen by film-crews, so to derive some sort of visual access to parallel McLaren’s notoriously precise methods of detailed engineering is a joyful encounter… Enjoy 😉

To be honest (and a bit nit-picky), I’m not entirely sold on the presenter’s abilities (or school-boy wardrobe selection) during this rare opportunity to ask some of the more pertinent and intriguing questions that could/should have been asked… but regardless, a great job by the cameraman/crew in capturing the interior aura and static mood of this near-otherworldly entitiy of McLaren.

-Blake J.
AutoInjected.com


Aston Martin: The ‘Ultimate’ Special Edition DBS

May 9, 2012

The current Aston Martin DB9/DBS shape is one of those automotive-landscape entities that has, undoubtedly, garnered deserved praise for its elegantly stunning and aggressively handsome design flourishes ever since its 2004 debut. It will, without fail, go down as one of the most beautiful sports/GT-cars ever made.

Just last night, during my usual evening stroll, I was taken aback by the sight of a lone, granite-grey DB9 parked up all by itself along one of the many quietly-curving, tree-lined streets that make up my old-money/Mansion-infested neighborhood. Point being, the DB9 still manages to stop me dead in my tracks and forces me to drink it all in… again… and again.

So it goes without saying that the eventual successor to the current DB9/DBS will have quite a job on its hands in keeping faithful to the beautiful mark that has been undeniably stamped onto the automotive scene. Said replacement will see the light of day sometime next year (probably) so it’s no surprise that there will be several ‘run-out’ Special Edition versions of the DB9/DBS cocktail forthcoming until then – the ‘Ultimate’ DBS, pictured, is the latest.

Only 100 ‘Ultimate’ DBS variants will be made and the features are, as usual with most run-out special editions, mostly cosmetic. Each Ultimate DBS will be individually numbered and identified by bespoke badging, loads of carbon fibre, shadowy grilles and tail-lamps, diamond-quilted stitching on your leather seats with either silver or red thread and your choice of red, yellow or black-painted calipers to complete the ‘Ultimate’ finishing touches…

Exterior paint colours offered are Carbon Black II, Quantum Silver, or Silver Fox – so basically Black, Grey or Silver. Both Coupe and Volante body styles are offered as well as either Automatic or Manual transmissions…

Hmmm… Silver-Fox DBS Ultimate with red calipers and red stitching being nursed through a Manual gearbox – yes, please.

-Blake J.
AutoInjected.com


Video: Evo Magazine’s Harry Metcalfe Shows Us His 1972 Lotus Elan Sprint

April 13, 2012

Brilliant new video here from Evo Magazine founder, Harry Metcalfe, detailing the rather  interesting engineering specs and idiosyncrasies of his 1972 Lotus Elan Sprint.

To see the massive, modern 20 inch Maserati wheel parked-up next to the Elan’s teeny 13 x 4 inch wheel is not only amusing but incredibly telling in mapping out the 40-year gap in automotive trends and the present day needs for harnessing power with monstrous levels of grip in these horsepower-obsessed times. I also love the fact that the Elan weighs a paltry 700 kg and easily out-performs most cars of this niche on any given day… and it’s a 50 year-old design…!

He even takes us for an onboard drive – what a noise…!

I’ve always loved and admired these cars. Now I want one more than ever before…

-Blake J.
AutoInjected.com


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.
AutoInjected.com

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


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