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Ken Block Gymkhana 6!

kenblock

Finally, after waiting too long after this Hoonigan tore up the streets of San Francisco in Gymkhana 5, Block is back for another instalment of rally/drift mayhem.

Ken is using his latest whip, a 650-bhp 0-60-mph in 1.8 secs Ford Fiesta ST RX43. I think you’ll agree that when Ken floors it and starts pulling his signature gold-plated handbrake, anything is possible in a car. If you are wondering what those garish blue hubs are, they are in fact bladed to act like fans in order to cool the front brake discs.

Following a teaser earlier this month, Block has officially unveiled Gymkhana Six: The Ultimate Grid Obstacle Course. You couldn’t dream up a course better suited to showcase the sheer speed and exhilarating driving such a small powerful car – it’s insane. Block throws his Ford Fiesta ST RX43 around a series of obstacles including cop Lamborghini Aventadors, a moving spiked wrecking ball and more cops on Segways.

F**K the PoPo!

   

SEMA Car Pornography

Right now in Sin City the SEMA Show is taking place, the globe’s premier auto trade show. The industry’s biggest luminaries are drawn to it like gamblers are drawn to the lights of the casinos. It’s here at the Las Vegas Convention Center where the latest concept cars are revealed, along with the most innovative technology. If you are in the industry and lucky enough to attend, the SEMA Show offers educational seminars, product demos, special events and networking opportunities.

I usually like to go over the technical stuff and specs etc but for this I just wanted to show you my favourite “eye candy” cars. Right, enough of the boring stuff; let’s look at the best top shelf car porn on offer in Las Vegas 2013.

My favourite is this Chevrolet Camaro Bumblebee – the one from the Transformers. In fact, this 2014 concept is due to feature in Transformers 4 next summer. 

It uses the base from the standard Camaro, but this Bumblebee features sleeker headlights, a bigger grille, and giving it a wider and beefier rear, a different set of rear fenders. I particularly like Chevy’s signature yellow paint scheme with the black racing stripes.

Engine options are a V6 and V8, although why would you opt for a V6? To set this special Bumblebee edition apart from the rest, they will come with the edition of Transformers badging on the wheel centers and sill plates, along with an embroidered emblem on the console inside – nice touches.

It’s big, bright and bold, just like a muscle car should be.

The next car grabbing my attention was this absolutely stunning battleship grey supercharged Mustang. Ten years ago people would say “It’s got primer, but where’s the damn paint?” This primer finish has become quite popular, especially with Fords.

The Mustang pictured here is known as the “Switchback” and was created by the Ring Brothers. They have become legends for their custom car creations, and have applied their magic to several other Mustangs in the past.  The Wisconsin-based company debuted this year at  SEMA and I’m sure we’ll see a lot more from them in the future.

Ever since Dodge showed the world what real production speed was all about, I’ve never forgotten the Viper’s bright red body and yellow wheels. The 1st generation is on my list of cars to own in the future – it will probably be my last too!

Over two decades on and evolving through 5 generations, the SRT Viper still maintains the 1st gen’s shape, although underneath it’s a different story. This particular Viper featured at SEMA to display Vivid Racing’s amazing touches.

As you can see, this is one slick snake, covered in carbon fibre from Seibon. Just look at the hood! Seibon’s custom weave design transforms a lightweight hood into a piece of art. Other custom carbon pieces include a front lip, canards, side skirts, the diffuser, and a rear wing. The custom carbon taillight surround you can see is an optional extra on the stock SRT Viper.

The Viper’s gigantic 8.4-L V-10 thumps out 640-BHP and 600-ft-lbs of torque. The Viper SRT is renowned for the noise it makes – it’s not beautiful like a Ferrari; it’s dirty, angry obnoxious. Considering this version is lighter and features a custom exhaust system, it’s probably one of the fastest and loudest cars around.

   

Audi Quattro: The Legend Is Back

I’d heard about this concept making an appearance at the Frankfurt Motor Show a few months ago, and in an excited frenzy almost wrote a short piece about the return of a legend. Judging by the artist’s sketches, especially side-on, there are nuances of its 80s predecessor… this could be a car to start salivating over.

However, despite impressive figures, power stats equating to the dizzying heights of Group B rally, I wondered if Audi had created a car worthy of the original’s legendary status.

So I decided to leave this piece until a few more discerning eyes had cast their eyes over it at Frankfurt and translate their collective thoughts into the article.

If you are a traditionalist you may not take to the idea of the original S1 being bought back to life with the help from electricity. That’s right, this new monster is a Hybrid. If you think back to Audi’s concept in 2010, Paris got to see something a little more along the lines of an all out rally machine in the form of a turbocharged five-cylinder engine with an amazing exhaust note. That was never going to be built for production but it looked very similar to this latest concept.

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Even though this Hybrid may not go down too well with some, Audi have used the most advanced technology available, just like they did with the original S1. Three decades is a long time, so in some respects traditionalists should like the fact Audi have applied their philosophy in using the very best of what’s available to develop an all out maniac of car like the S1.

So what we have here is a 690-bhp V8 coupe that is most-likely going into production at some point. It is being built by a company that changed the automotive world with 4WD technology. It’s also being built by the people who created the almighty R8. So it has the ability to be extremely fast in a straight line and face-warpingly grippy around bends.

Although sporty in looks, this seemingly innocuous car houses  Lamborghini Aventador power at 690-bhp. I suppose this is a kind of sleeper car – looking at it you’d think it sat in the 200-250-bhp range.

62-mph comes at a jaw-dropping 3.7sec and tops out at 189-mph. Yes, the R8 and its mighty V10 beats it to 62-mph by 0.2sec, but that’s due to the batteries and their added weight.

Its V8 features cylinder deactivation and an engine stop-start system for fuel savings. A lithium-ion battery stores enough power for its electric only mode to cover 31 miles should the driver want to operate under electric power alone.

The Sport Quattro’s drivetrain is a complex, 4WD driven by a plug-in hybrid setup. The 552bhp/516lb ft 4.0-L twin-turbo V8  is mated to a 110kW/295lb ft electric motor, powered by a rear-mounted lithium-ion battery.

Not that petrolheads will care but thanks to the hybrid tech, CO2 emissions come in at a claimed 59g/km. Now for the amazing bit: fuel economy is rated at 113mpg!  That means you can drive hard and not break the bank – is this too good to be true?

I personally can’t wait to see one and have full confidence it will impress all round. More importantly, I think Audi have done what they do best with this one, and that’s producing a car that will transform future cars and their development, just like they did 30 years ago with the S1.

   

The Mighty Mini

I come from a family that has had many Minis throughout its tree. My mother and father owned one, and my uncle owned two. As a family of four, we had no trouble going on family days out, even with its modest boot. I sometimes wonder why families now feel the need to buy people carriers or 4x4s when the faithful Mini never let us down.

Designed by Sir Alec Issigonis, the Mini is probably the most recognised car on the planet. Since it first rolled off BMC’s (British Motor Corporation) production line in 1959, the Mini is still going as strong now as it has over the past five decades. In fact, in 1999, the little car was voted the second most influential car of the 20th century, behind the Ford Model T.

The Mk I Morris Minor-Mini 1959

Under BMC, the mini was produced under two brands until 1967. The Morris version – well known for producing the Morris Minor – was known as the Mini, or the Mini-Minor. Austin sold their identical version as the Austin SE7EN, a reminder of their popular 7 sold during the 1920s and 1930s.

From 1967 to 1970, the overall look of the car virtually remained the same regarding aesthetics and design. On the Mark II, the front grille was redesigned, and a larger rear window fitted, plus various small cosmetic upgrades.

The Mk II Morris Mini Cooper

The Mk II Morris Mini Cooper

It was during this period the Mark II became a movie star and household name when it appeared in the film The Italian Job 1969. Famous for its long car chase, the movie saw three Minis driving down staircases, through storm drains, and into the back of a moving coach. Such a success, the film was remade in 2003 using the new Mini Cooper.

There were variants of the Mini, such as the Mini Van, the Mini Moke (a utility vehicle intended for the British Army), the Clubman (a squared boxy shape), and the Mini Countryman (an estate version with wooden inserts in the rear body), but it was the famous Cooper S that was the desirable model. My father’s best friend during his youth was lucky enough to own one, although not so lucky as he crashed it going too fast!

In 1961, John Cooper, the designer of Rally and F1 cars became involved with Mini when he saw potential in the little lightweight car. His design increased the engine size, which boosted the hp from 34bhp to 55bhp. Its race-tuned engine featured twin-carbs, a closer-ratio gearbox, and disc brakes on the front wheels.

1963 saw the birth of a more powerful Cooper, the S. This version had a slightly bigger engine and improved brakes. In 1964, the S was taken a step further in engine size (1275cc) and entered into the Monte Carlo Rally. The Mighty Cooper S claimed victories in 64, 65, and 67.

1963 Mini Cooper S

1963 Mini Cooper S

1965 Monte Carlo Winner, 1964 Cooper S

1965 Monte Carlo Winner, 1964 Cooper S

The Mini was so popular among celebrities it became a symbol of the ‘Swinging London’ scene during the 1960s. Even the Queen was seen driving one, making it a ‘classless’ car. During this period and the 70s, the mini also became a fashion statement, famous coachbuilders hired by such celebs as John Lennon, Britt Ekland and Elton John were chosen to upholster their Minis. Marc Bolan famously died as a passenger in a Mini 1275GT when it hit a tree.

John Lennon sitting in George Harrison’s custom painted Mini

John Lennon sitting in George Harrison’s custom painted Mini

From the mid 70s through to the late 80s, the Mini didn’t see much change in design. To a passerby, a Mini was a Mini, only a discerning eye able to notice the slight cosmetic changes.

Mk IV Austin Mini 1976 - 1983

Mk IV Austin Mini 1976 – 1983

Mk V Mini 1984 – 1989

Mk V Mini 1984 – 1989

The 90s, right through to the end of production under the Rover Group, the Mini continued to keep the same overall body shape. The Mk VI and VII, whilst looking similar to its predecessors, had their engine mounts moved forward to house a 1275cc power unit. An injection model was also introduced in 1991.

Mk VI Mini 1990 - 1985

Mk VI Mini 1990 – 1985

Mk VII 1996 – 2000 Mini Cooper

Mk VII 1996 – 2000 Mini Cooper

Rebirth

 In 2001, a new generation of Mini went on sale and was an immediate success. With the original design kept in mind, the new breed offered a more modern look.  The models available were the ONE, a standard 1.4L model, a Cooper, and a Cooper S 1.6L. These new generation Minis were powered by BMW technology, but the diesel versions used a Toyota-built engine.

Mini One 2002

Mini One 2002

In 2005 BMW invested £100M in the Mini Oxford plant, enabling a 20% rise in production. Keeping up with demand, in 2011 BMW invested a further £500M in the UK, extending their ranges.

Mini Cooper S Special Edition 2012

Mini Cooper S Special Edition 2012

A Cooper S John Cooper GP Works

A Cooper S John Cooper GP Works

This Mini is the newest interpretation of the Cooper S John Cooper.

This Cooper S JCW GP was seen just outside of the infamous Nürburgring circuit.

The original Cooper S JCW GP boasted just 215 horsepower, but shed an impressive amount of weight to stay quick. This new model is expected to bring around 220 hp to the track with significant weight reductions of its own.

This little car has more than lasted the test of time, and although it continues to thrive, you can still JUST about see the similarities between the first photograph and the last. Very impressive since over half a century has passed since Sir Alec Issigonis sat at his drawing board with an idea in his head and a pencil in his hand.