thecarnut.typepad.com > 2007 LOS ANGELES AUTO SHOW #2

PROFILE OF TESLA ROADSTER EV

PROFILE OF TESLA ROADSTER EV

Among the buyers who've put down a 100 percent deposit for the inaugural signature series of 100 cars (that would be $100,000, but your name gets etched in the doorsill) are actor George Clooney, Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Segway inventor Dean Kamen, Hyatt-hotels heir Nicholas Pritzker, sportswear designer Julie Chaiken, and Ari Emanuel, founder of the L.A. talent agency Endeavor. And it's a non-refundable deposit, at that. The car borrows heavily from the Lotus Elise, with seats and lighting systems and more from that neat little sports car ... and that should be a "good" thing; Lotus does R&D work for many of the world's car-makers; Lotus and Tesla Motors being associated in the public mind makes both look good, at least to car enthusiasts, and ultimately, only if Tesla actually goes into production. Lotus will continue to be a highly-respected car company, no matter Tesla's fate.


TESLA ROADSTER INTERIOR

TESLA ROADSTER INTERIOR

This is the interior of the Tesla Roadster which the company exhibited at the 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show. This was the best they could do? And we're supposed to think these cars are "close to production"? Maybe what really happened is their detailing guy took the day off. If I look at the photo fast, it looks a lot like the interior on my 1972 Triumph Spitfire (which was a hell of a fun car, when it actually ran). And that car eventually developed a hole in the floorboard which allowed the passenger to actually 'see' the road surface while driving; it was "a new safety device", I'd tell my lucky dates ... This Tesla Roadster's interior doesn't look too far-off from some of those same kinds of "Triumph"-related problems (read: British car interiors of the '60s and '70s) ... The bucket seats in the Tesla Roadster are from a Lotus Elise (always a good thing; a look at the Tesla's exterior lights and some other features in and on the car tell us that the seats were not the only thing supplied to them by Lotus), but close observation of the car's interior does not reveal, at least to us, a car which looks near-ready, or even close to, production. 'Click' on this photo to make it larger and see for yourself and develop your own opinion ... If all you saw was this photo, and someone told you this is the interior of a significant, all-new $100,000 sports car, would you lay-down the required "100% non-refundable deposit" and ask to be put on this car company's buyers' list? Keep in mind, too, that just a few months ago, Tesla execs were telling the media and prospective buyers (who have already paid their non-refundable "100% deposit") that the company would be rolling-out production cars to paying customers no later than the end of September, 2007 ... some two months ago.


PORSCHE CAYENNE HYBRID

PORSCHE CAYENNE HYBRID

Regular visitors to this website learned some three years ago that Porsche would be outfitting their Cayenne SUV with a gas/electric hybrid system, using Toyota's hybrid technology to create their vehicle. Here's the result of the company's efforts, a gas/electric Cayenne which, alas, will not be on-sale until 2009 or 2010. There are three flavors of Cayenne available, the $43,400 Cayenne vanilla which produces 290 horsepower from a 3.6 liter V6 engine, Cayenne S at $57,900, also offering vanilla but with chocolate sauce and making 385 horsepower from its 4.8 liter V8, and Porsche Cayenne Turbo, the banana split of the trio, churning out 500 horsepower from its turbocharged 4.8 liter V8, and it's base-priced at a mere $93,700. One more "green" note: None of the three Cayenne models offered in the US average more than 17 miles per gallon in city/highway mileage figures combined and averaged.


CAYENNE HYBRID CUT-AWAY VIEW

CAYENNE HYBRID CUT-AWAY VIEW

True to their word of several years ago, Porsche did indeed bring a gasoline/electric hybrid version of their popular (in Southern California, at least) Cayenne SUV. It was nice of Porsche to bring this nice piece of sculpture to the 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show, but with no official announcement of when sales might begin, the always large and interesting Porsche exhibit was a bit of a downer this time out. They've borrowed the basics of their hybrid system from Toyota (and who can blame them ... why invest hundreds of millions of dollars in hybrid R&D when one of the world's great automotive engineering companies has already done it for you?), but without an official "on-sale" date announcement, and also without even a mock-up or photo of the one Porsche which is most highly-anticipated, their all-new four-door Panamera, Porsche's 2007 LA Auto Show exhibit was a bust.


1900 LOHNER-PORSCHE ELECTRIC; PRECURSOR TO GAS/ELECTRIC HYBRID

1900 LOHNER-PORSCHE ELECTRIC; PRECURSOR TO GAS/ELECTRIC HYBRID

A little while ago, I wrote a story about the very car seen in this photo: The 1900 Lohner-Porsche electric, the first automobile of any type to carry the name "Porsche". Ferry Porsche was, at the time this car was made, a 24-year old engineer working for Jacob Lohner and Company in Austria, which made electric vehicles from 1899 to 1906. Exhibited at the Paris World's Fair that same year, the car created more than a bit of a sensation with a car-buying public only only enthralled with these new contraptions called cars, but also determining how cars should be powered. Between 1900 and 1930, the public and the auto industry were still 'deciding' how the world's vehicles would best be powered: Gasoline, steam or electricity were the main candidates, and until it was clear that gasoline was the 'winner', there were just as many steam and electric cars produced as there were gasoline-powered. The internal combustion engine fueled with gasoline was then, and remains, one of the cleanest and most efficient ways to power a vehicle. An electric motor mounted in each front wheel hub drove the Lohner-Porsche, making it one of the world's first zero-emissions automobiles; later, Porsche added a combustion engine which provided power for the electric generator to the electric drive system with two internal-pole motors in the front wheels. This made Porsche’s hybrid drive ready for production and created a unique highlight at the Paris Auto Show in 1901.


WORLD'S FIRST SUCCESSFUL GAS/ELECTRIC HYBRID RACE CAR

WORLD'S FIRST SUCCESSFUL GAS/ELECTRIC HYBRID RACE CAR

This is a photo of perhaps the world's first gasoline/electric hybrid automobile. By 1900, it had already been demonstrated that racing "greatly improved the breed" of automobiles, just as it had with horses, camels, dogs and other racing animals bred for that specific purpose. After the Lohner-Porsche electric car made its 1900 debut at the Paris World's Fair, Ferry Porsche added a gasoline-powered 'generator' to create electricity to power the electric motors built into the hubs of the front wheels (they can be easily seen in this photo; be sure to 'click' on it to enlarge it). Note also how much larger the motors in the front hubs appear to be, as compared to the previous photo, demonstrating that even in 1900, when the worldwide auto industry was but in its infancy, racers had already discovered that "there is no replacement for cubic inches", and, especially, "bigger can be better" when it came to engine (or motor) size.


ALL-WHEEL DRIVE GASOLINE/ELECTRIC HYBRID AUTOMOBILE

ALL-WHEEL DRIVE GASOLINE/ELECTRIC HYBRID AUTOMOBILE

As we often say, "There's nothing new in the world of cars, only new ways of using existing technologies". If you need proof, just check-out this photo which was displayed at the Porsche exhibit at the 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show. Through this and other photos, the company was telling American auto show-goers that possibly the world's first all-electric drive car without a transmission or layshaft (I'd never heard that word either, and it was not in my 'Road & Track Illustrated Automotive Dictionary', written by good friend John Dinkel). One online dictionary defines "layshaft" as: "A secondary shaft, as in a sliding change gear for an automobile". The Lohner-Porsche had motors in the front wheel hubs to motivate the car. This car is a gasoline/electric all-wheel drive hybrid meant for every day use (note the motors in all four of the wheel hubs).


1900 LOHNER-PORSCHE FRONT WHEEL HUB DETAIL

1900 LOHNER-PORSCHE FRONT WHEEL HUB DETAIL

In our photo of the left-front wheel on the Lohner-Porsche, it's easy to see how a not-so-small electric motor almost replaced the wheel hub itself. Interestingly, Porsche says in their press material for the LA Show that, "The Los Angeles Auto Show has become the most significant show for Porsche in the USA, reaching Porsche customers in one of the brand’s main regions with maximum impact and with a great effect on the company’s image." How important is Southern California to Porsche? Porsche reported a few years ago that 25% of their entire production of cars and trucks is sold there, that's how important the area is to the company. Sure, there are more than enough West Los Angeles dentists driving Porsches outfitted with "USC" license plate frames, drivers who wouldn't know a good car if they were run over by one (hey, calm down, it's a joke ... but you know it's true), but there are also plenty of drivers, male and female, who scrimp and save and eat noodles for years on end in order to be able to afford their dream car, and often that car is a Porsche. And those buyers truly enjoy their cars, in ways which even Dr. Ferdinand Porsche would no doubt approve!


REAR PHOTO OF THE 1900 LOHNER-PORSCHE ELECTRIC

REAR PHOTO OF THE 1900 LOHNER-PORSCHE ELECTRIC

Porsche says that the Los Angeles Auto Show is the most important "trend show" in North America for their company (they ought to come to the SEMA Show in Las Vegas sometime --- officially and showing their wares). The company also stated in their press materials, "Porsche is also presenting a milestone in automobile development to the well-informed public attending the most significant trend show in North America with their great knowledge of history and technical development over the years: The electric-drive Lohner-Porsche from the year 1900, one of the world’s first zero emission vehicles and, accordingly, a forerunner for hybrid drive". The company also said, in regard to their exhibiting the 1900 Lohner-Porsche for the first time in the US, "On loan from the Technical Museum in Vienna, Austria, this outstanding achievement in technology, protected today as a universal monument, is now to be seen the first time outside of Europe at an auto show."


PORSCHE/PENSKE ALMS RACER

PORSCHE/PENSKE ALMS RACER

What part of the auto business does Roger Penske not have his hands in? At the 2007 LA Auto Show, we saw Penske's power at the Smart car exhibit; the cars will be sold in America only at dealerships owned by the Penske Automotive Group (his company owns something like 253 dealers representing more than 40 different makes, at least an hour ago when we last checked). When it comes to Toyota and Lexus, Penske owns Longo Toyota in El Monte, a town not more than 20 minutes from the location of the LA Auto Show, downtown Los Angeles' Convention Center, and that dealership is the busiest auto dealer in the world, selling a new car or truck, on average, every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Penske's Toyota and Lexus stores in the Los Angeles area makes more than $1.5 billion annually for Toyota and together sell more Toyota and Lexus cars than any other dealers anywhere in the world. So when it comes to the Porsche exhibit, one might wonder what possible connection Roger Penske could have, apart from maybe owning a few dealers in the USA selling that brand. Well, wonder no more: The Porsche RS Spyder ALMS car in this next group of photos are campaigned in the US by none other than, yes, you guessed right: Penske Motorsports, located in Mooresville, North Carolina. Why North Carolina? Because that's also where some of Mr. Penske's other racing operations are headquartered, including his Penske South race team which fields the cars campaigned by Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman and the NASCAR SPRINT CUP series.


PENSKE ALMS CAR PROFILE

PENSKE ALMS CAR PROFILE

Even before Dr. Porsche got the "personal ok" from Adolph Hitler himself to build the Volkswagen, the "German People's Car", Ferdinand Porsche was heavily involved in auto racing, with companies including Auto Union, the Germany-based company we know today as Audi. Porsche knew of Hitler's intent to build a four-passenger car which could run at 100-kph (62 mph) and achieve, get this, 35 miles per gallon. That mileage figure is interesting because that's the same figure the US Congress says car-makers selling in the US must hit by the year 2020. And that "Dr." title is regularly used by engineers in Germany; in fact, they are often known as "Herr Doctor Professor" ... apparently Porsche's own "doctorate" was either self-awarded or honorary, as Dr. Porsche did not finish college nor attend engineering school. This Porsche RS Syder campaigned by Penske Racing has drivers including Timo Bernhard, Emmanuel Collard, Romain Dumas, Ryan Briscoe and Sascha Maassen. Porsche entered the series through Penske in late 2005 and has been a power for the rest of the ALMS series' teams to contend with since that time. The race car is a two-seater, open sports prototype according to A.C.O. regulations and competes in the LMP2 (Le Mans Prototype 2) class. This RS Spyder is suitable for racing in the ALMS, LMS, various other championship series and long-distance races.


REAR DECK; PORSCHE'S RS SPYDER SPORTS CAR ENDURANCE RACER CAMPAIGNED BY PENSKE RACING

REAR DECK; PORSCHE'S RS SPYDER SPORTS CAR ENDURANCE RACER CAMPAIGNED BY PENSKE RACING

OK, so how fast does it go? In the technical description of this car we found by researching the Web and various Porsche and Penske sites, the engine is called a "Power unit". This particular "power unit" features an eight-cylinder, V-configuration engine with a 90-degree cylinder bank angle; it is watercooled; four valves per cylinder; oil cooling with oil/water heat exchanger; air intake system with a 44 mm restrictor plate per ALMS regulations; fuel intake system with individual throttle butterflies; dry sump lubrication with separate oil tank (no oil pan in a dry sump system, allowing for much lower placement of the engine in the chassis and able to achieve the aerodynamically-necessary "flat bottom" on the car); it uses the Bosch MS 4.2 electronic engine computer management system; and uses sequential multipoint fuel injection. The size of the engine (called "Capacity") is 3,397-cc, or just under 3.4 liters. Now, in answer to the 'speed' question: Engine output: Approx 480-hp at 10,300 rpm with current ACO restrictor. Maximum torque output: Approx 273 lb-ft at 7500 rpm. Output per liter: Approx 148-hp. Not surprisingly, the engine calls for a "Premium plus" fuel octane grade, and also made to "motorsport specification".


PORSCHE RS SPYDER COCKPIT AND DRIVER CONTROLS

PORSCHE RS SPYDER COCKPIT AND DRIVER CONTROLS

Frankly, this is not as good a picture as we'd like to post, but it's 'good enough' to give you an idea of what's going on in the cockpit of one of these 200-mph+ race cars. Be sure to 'click' on the photo in order to enlarge it to its full-size, which will enable you to see many of the details racing drivers must deal with in the midst of competition.


MAZDA "COSMO"; WORLD'S FIRST "TWIN ROTOR"  AUTOMOBILE

MAZDA "COSMO"; WORLD'S FIRST "TWIN ROTOR" AUTOMOBILE

Full Disclosure Notice!: Readers should know that the first car I ever bought was a 1972 rotary-engined Mazda, an RX2, if I remember correctly. I've never lost the warm spot in my heart for Mazda and their rotary engines (the company also builds gasoline- and diesel-fueled cars and trucks). As an engineering company, I rank Mazda with Honda. Rotary-engined vehicles provide a smooth ride, a quiet and comfortable environment and dependable parts. I was honored to have driven the first RX-7 "off-the-boat" in the US many years ago. GM had a warm spot for rotaries, too, but shut-down their attempt to develop one after their efforts reached some $100 million, and the system had cooling problems which GM could not cure. Remember the AMC Pacer, which was sold from 1975 through 1980? Remember the car's round shape? The Pacer was supposed to receive a rotary engine; which explains the car's rounded shape, sort of a paean to the rotary engine and all things round. AMC was going to buy the engines from GM, but when GM had development troubles, the poor Pacer never got its rotary engine.

The first Mazda to wear the Cosmo name (called the Cosmo Sports or 110S) was the first 2-rotor rotary engine powered car. A prototype was introduced at the 1964 Tokyo Motor Show, and 60 pre-production Cosmos were made for dealership testing in 1965. Full production began in May of 1967 and lasted through 1972, though Cosmos were built, by hand, at a rate of only about one per day.


MAZDA'S "COSMO" STILL A HEAD-TURNER

MAZDA'S "COSMO" STILL A HEAD-TURNER

This is the original, the 1967 Mazda Cosmo 110S, the first production car to have a dual-rotor engine. Mazda brought back the Cosmo name and used it in the 1970s on another rotary-powered car sold in the US. Mazda says that this is one of just two Cosmo 110S cars which made their way to the US. Apparently the original paperwork on this car showed that it was registered in the US by one of the companies which held a patent of some sort on the rotary engine (invented by Dr. Felix Wankel in, some say, 1919). The Wankel rotary engine didn't make it into a production car until NSU (a German car-maker which was then owned by Fiat) "perfected" it and put it in one of their models in Europe in 1959. Japan's Toyo Kogyo (parent company of what we call "Mazda", which is actually pronounced "Mat-su-da", as in someone's last name) bought the rights to the engine in 1961. The car is as good-looking as Toyota's much more famous 2000GT (yes, the one in that 1967 James Bond movie, "You Only Live Twice", with the Tokyo Hilton International hotel doing exterior stand-in duty for the "Osato Chemical Works" -- I know this because on my first visit to Japan, in January, 1979, I stayed at that hotel, and back then, with the yen pegged at 360 to the dollar, even I could afford it!). And now back to reality --- The Toyota sports car is actually so much more famous because Toyota raced it in Japan and Dan Gurney campaigned it in sports car racing in the US, but neither had much luck with it. Trivia Time: Who built the engine for the Toyota 2000GT? Yamaha ... Actually, Yamaha built the entire car for Toyota. And when it comes to this "Cosmo 110S", only Mazda could have built this one ... and people working for Mazda and those who enjoy reading about the company, you all know what we mean when we say "only Mazda could have built this".


MAZDA "COSMO 110S" BADGE LOGO

MAZDA "COSMO 110S" BADGE LOGO

The photo shows the Mazda logo (circa: 1967) which was fashioned after the shape of the engine's rotor. This Cosmo 110S was the first dual-rotor production car. Mazda said at the LA Auto Show that only two of these cars were ever registered in the US; this one is now owned by Mazda. NSU, the German-based company which was owned by Fiat in those years, first used a rotary engine (developed by Felix Wankel) in a production car. NSU started as a sewing machine and loom maker (the same as Toyota) in 1873 and produced motorized cycles and eventually cars from about 1905 to 1928. NSU cars were made again beginning in 1957, and the company was by then owned by Fiat.


Mazda Clay Design Exhibit

Mazda Clay Design Exhibit

An interesting part of the Mazda exhibit was this mock-up of the innards of an actual automotive design studio, with a vehicle being carved out of clay. This is an extremely labor-intensive job which is still preferred by many car designers, even though computer programs exist to do the same kind of work. But auto stylists say that actually "feeling" the vehicle as they use hand tools to create it from a huge lump of clay and being able to stand over the clay, climb under it and view it from every possible angle, is crucial to achieving the design they have in their minds. How do they carve their vision from the clay? One, who I interviewed a few years ago at Nissan Design International's beautiful facility in La Jolla, California, once told me, "It's easy. All we do is cut away everything that's not part of our design. The final design is under all that clay; I just carve away the clay we don't need". Sounds simple enough, huh?


MAZDA 'FACEBOOK' DESIGN CONTEST

MAZDA 'FACEBOOK' DESIGN CONTEST

During the run of the LA Auto Show, Mazda stylists (and the contest winner), working from the small model on the photo's left, built a complete concept car version of the model. The average consumer now uses the Web more than 75% of the time to shop for their new car, so why shouldn't car companies use it to ask people to design their new cars and make a contest out of it? Sound exciting? Well, too late (as always, right?), because it's been done ... Here's the info on the contest and the winner, straight from Mazda:

For the first time ever in the automotive industry, Mazda’s designers and a special guest sculpted a clay model concept car live on stage during the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show as part of a culmination of the “Mazda Design Challenge.” Mazda sought out designers to help create the 2018 MAZDA3, Mazda’s best-selling car globally, by hosting a contest on Facebook.com.

Facebook members across the United States competed by submitting their design ideas. The winner of the competition, Mallory McMorrow, an industrial design student from the University of Notre Dame, worked with Franz von Holzhausen, director of design, Mazda North American Operations (MNAO), and his team, to bring the concept to life in the Mazda booth.

To enter, contestants submitted a 150-word description of their vision of the 2018 MAZDA3 and an optional sketch drawing. The Mazda Design team then judged each entry, choosing 10 semi-finalists. Five finalists were chosen by the Facebook community. Each of the five finalists were paired with a Mazda designer to hone their concept, which was then judged and voted on in a second round by fellow Facebook members.

“The Mazda Design Challenge brought in a flood of cool, unique design ideas. The winning design concept is a fresh new way to look at the design of a vehicle,” said von Holzhausen. “This competition was a tremendous success, and this entire process was really beneficial to my team and me to understand what design means to our target buyers."

The hard part --- The contest winner, working with Mazda's stylists and engineers, and starting from scratch, did indeed complete building a full concept car on the show stand in ten days, and in full view of show goers.


NORTH AMERICAN DEBUT: 2009 JAGUAR XF SEDAN

NORTH AMERICAN DEBUT: 2009 JAGUAR XF SEDAN

Let's allow the Jaguar (make sure you prounounce it "Jag-U-ar") folks (lads and lasses?) tell you about their new car:

"Jaguar is proud to announce the all-new 2009 XF, a 4-door Jaguar that combines the style and performance of a sports car with the refinement, and sophistication of a luxury sedan. Utilizing Jaguar’s bold new design language both outside and in, the interior is trimmed in wood, aluminum and leather. Technical features include the all-new JaguarDrive selector, JaguarSense (motion detecting sensors activate certain vehicle features), unique phosphor blue interior lighting, and Bowers & Wilkins sound technology."

In light of all the "techie" claims being made by Jag, we can't help but remember the answer given by the company's founder, William Lyons, to a woman who had posted him a note complaining about her husband's Jaguar's inability to keep the car's cabin dry and warm when the weather outside was cold and wet (a not untypical occurrence in Great Britain): "People," the answer stated, "should dress appropriately for the weather".


JAG'S 2009 XF (SUPERCHARGED AN OPTION) SEDAN

JAG'S 2009 XF (SUPERCHARGED AN OPTION) SEDAN

On sale in March of '08, the 300-hp version XF is tagged at $49,975, but the supercharged, 400-hp cat comes in at $62,975, and jumps from 0 to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. That's about $130 per each extra horepower if you order the blower. Our take on it, at least so far? There are existing Jag's with the same (or better) performance, and which definitely look a lot better than this (and what is the deal with those vents (functional or not) just behind the front wheels on this Jag and also Land Rovers, both divisions of Ford? Will they also appear on Volvos, Mazdas and Lincolns?).


2009 JAG XF FRONT END

2009 JAG XF FRONT END

Why does this all-new Jag's front-end just leave us dead-cold? It almost appears as if the car in the photo has already undergone front-end crash-testing by the Insurance Institute. The C-XF concept, exhibited worldwide for the past year, was such a good-looking car, too. Based on that concept, some journalist was quoted in Jag ads as saying things like, "Looks so good, one could buy it based only on its appearance". Well, as much as some journos try to butt-kiss their way into car-maker's ads and good graces, I don't think even that journalist is writing the same thing about the production version of the C-XF, the 2009 XF.


JAG'S S-TYPE REPLACEMENT, THE 2009 XF

JAG'S S-TYPE REPLACEMENT, THE 2009 XF

Since 1998, Jaguar has been building their S-type, based on the Ford DEW platform which was also the underpinning for the now-defunct Lincoln LS. Now, this 2009 XF replaces the S-type, and while it looks like no other Jaguar (Jag aiming this model at a younger, first-time Jaguar buyer) we think it might be too much a deviation from the traditional Jag "look" for potential buyers. The production car was revealed for the first time at the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show. The XF was developed at Jag's Whitley design and development headquarters in Coventry, UK, and will be built in Castle Bromwich, Birmingham, UK. Those of you who may have been to Birmingham know that the city is the UK version of Pittsburgh and Detroit, combined. But only in the best, most positive sense ...


2009 JAGUAR XF SEDAN INTERIOR

2009 JAGUAR XF SEDAN INTERIOR

We have not yet driven a 2009 XF, but expect to in the next few weeks, at which time we will be able to post a full review of the car on this website. Our thought on this photo, though, is that more than any place else, a Jaguar must be a Jaguar inside the car. We recently spent more than a week in a 2007 "Jaguar Super V8" (that road test can be found on this website, simply click on "Road Tests" on the right margin of the main page and do a quick search for the 'Jaguar'), and more than anywhere else and anything else, the car's interior set it apart from anything else in its class. The beautiful wood, with matching grain on both sides of the interior, the supple leather, the wool carpeting throughout (even in the trunk), the HVAC systems which worked as well as the fabled HVACs in GM cars, even the power seat controls and the radio operation, as easy as possible given the 100's of channels thanks to satellite radio --- It all worked great and made everyone who had a chance to drive or travel in the car very special indeed. If XF can not do all of that, Jaguar will have some problems.


FORD EXPEDITION "FUNKMASTER FLEX EDITION"

FORD EXPEDITION "FUNKMASTER FLEX EDITION"

Ford's "Galpin Auto Sport" Fusion and the "Steeda Focus Club Racer" were nice takes on small cars at the show, and while their "Expedition Funkmaster Flex Edition" drew its share of wide-eyed stares from the younger hip-hop set, this is what the salespeople and market folks call and "aspirational" vehicle, not a realistic purchase for anyone under 40. But Ford is at least aiming at exactly the audience they need to attract. It's a 2008 model, and is expected to be arriving at some dealerships sometime this fall or in the first-quarter of 2008. Ford developed this Expedition with hip-hop personality and specialty car builder Funkmaster Flex. Look, we respect the vehicle and what Ford is trying to do, marketing-wise, reaching out to a younger crowd of buyers (like they are doing with their 'Sync' system, the newest technology to emerge from the Ford-Microsoft relationship), but as far as this Expedition --- Hmmm... --- Yes, the big SUVs are popular with the hip-hop crowd, but how do you "customize" what's essentially a "brick" to begin with? And how many people under 40 have the bling for this? By the way, "Galpin" is the biggest Ford dealer in Los Angeles, probably in California and maybe in the entire nation, and they are big enough and more than successful enough to back their own race teams.


2008 FORD "BULLITT" MUSTANG --- AND ISN'T THIS THE SECOND "BULLITT" SPECIAL EDITION?

2008 FORD "BULLITT" MUSTANG --- AND ISN'T THIS THE SECOND "BULLITT" SPECIAL EDITION?

Say what? You've seen this car before? In a movie made in 1968? Well, what does it say about a major auto company (or about the quality and daring of the designers and stylists at most car companies today) when the best-looking car in their 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show exhibit, which highlights their 2008 and beyond cars and trucks, is a reworked and updated version of one of their 30-year old cars? Ford has surfed this nostalgia wave long enough, having had some success with recent Thunderbird and Mustang throwbacks (and this is the second Mustang "Bullitt" special edition from Ford --- They made the first one in 2001 and sold about 5,500 of them, in colors including Highland green, blue and black) --- Now they need to come up with vehicles which greet the future, instead of constantly waving goodbye to some past glories. Even nostalgia gets old ...


FAKE GAS CAP ON "BULLITT"; BUT WHAT'S REALITY, ANYWAY?

FAKE GAS CAP ON "BULLITT"; BUT WHAT'S REALITY, ANYWAY?

The gas cap on the 2008 Bullitt Mustang is really the key lock for the trunk. But isn't the entire car more than a bit "faux"? For a little bit north of $31,000, '60's nostalgia freaks can relive not even their own lives, but someone else's life, and that "someone else" is a phony character that was in a movie. Now, you tell us --- Where does reality stop and start? Now, don't mean to get all "psychology" on you ... Ford is hoping that at least 7,701 car-buyers in North America want to relive that part of actor Steve McQueen's life which happened in a made-up movie; we say that number because the company says they are planning to build 7,700 Bullitt-edition Mustangs, and the old saw in the car business is: Build just one more less than you can sell. No word yet on how many years this Bullitt will actually see production. Anyone buying one (or more) as an investment? Save your money, or buy a real 1968 Mustang GT 390 Fastback with the same very modest power enhancements found on this Bullitt.


FORD'S 2008 MUSTANG "BULLITT" STILL GETS ATTENTION

FORD'S 2008 MUSTANG "BULLITT" STILL GETS ATTENTION

A well-styled car will last forever, it will always be attractive, no matter the date. The best example of this fact is the original 1963 Porsche 911; for 45 years, its styling has remained as contemporary as any competitor, and as opposed to most all sports cars except the most expensive and super-exotic, like the Ferrari Enzo, Saleen S7 or Lamborghini Reventon, the Porsche's looks are still futuristic. Ford's Mustang, while in a completely different class of cars, nonetheless has a basic style which will remain 'current' forever, as long as cars have four wheels and engines in the front. The 2008 Bullitt special edition adds some performance and appearance tweaks which apparently still "rings the bell" for a lot of movie and car fans.


FORD'S SECOND "BULLITT" SPECIAL EDITION, 2008 VERSION

FORD'S SECOND "BULLITT" SPECIAL EDITION, 2008 VERSION

Ford offered a "Bullitt Special Edition" with their 2001 Mustang model, and while that car sold well, Ford has added more appearances bits and pieces to this second-generation Bullitt, some outside but many of them inside the car. Eighteen-inch gray wheels are unique to the Bullitt. Inside, aluminum accents are added along with unique gauge font and an aluminum shift knob. GT500-style seats and steering wheel are also added. Options include: Xenon lights, Shaker audio system, Sirius satellite radio, an interior lighting option, upgraded anti-theft system, and wheel locks. Which has us thinking: When a customer buys a "Special Edition" car and is paying quite a bit over the stock car's price, the car coming the same 4.6 liter V8 engine with just 15 more horsepower, isn't it more than a little rude to have all these options, which the buyer will have to fight over with the dealer's F&I person? Our feeling: Sometimes, a special edition vehicle should come with no options, and everything standard. The dealer is already making a nice piece of change on the car anyway; why force the car's buyer to go through the horrendous "F&I experience", too, so the dealer can make a few more bucks? Not fair, say we. This is exactly the kind of thing where Ford could have made a friend and a life-long Ford buyer out of the Bullitt customer, but they still insist on "pouring it on".


BULLITT MUSTANG WHEEL

BULLITT MUSTANG WHEEL

The grey wheels do set-off nicely the P235/50ZR 18 BF Goodrich g-Force T/A KDWS tires, the same used on Mustangs at the Ford Racing High Performance Driving School at the new Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah (which is somewhat near the Dugway Proving Grounds, and the less said about poison gas, the better)... Bullitt's boost in power over the GT (15 throbbing horsepower) comes courtesy of an open-element air filter, unique exhaust tuning designed to match the sound of the car in the movie, and an adaptive spark ignition system. As far as the car's "sound", why not just through a CD of the movie's sound track into the sound system and turn it up real loud? Other points to ponder on this second-generation Bullitt: 3.73:1 limited-slip differential is the shortest of any Mustang, the suspension is lowered slightly in the rear and the dampers are retuned for the car. A strut-tower brace is added and the 5-speed Tremec TR-3650 from the Mustang GT is the tranny. The brakes (shown in photo) are stock Mustang GT except for more aggressive, Performance Friction Carbon Metallic front pads. If Ford wanted to really improve this car to make it relevant to the 21st century's sporty cars and their drivers, a four-wheel independent suspension would be just the ticket; this age-old use of the hard axle on the car's rear suspension (except on some racing versions of Mustang which can be purchased directly from Ford) because of the money-savings has been going on for too long for Ford to still use that age-old excuse of why Mustangs traditionally do not handle as well as they could.


SCION DISPLAY

SCION DISPLAY

With the first Phil Spector trial recently completed, perhaps the marketing people at Scion, Toyota's "youth division", were thinking of Spector's "Wall of Sound" when they came up with this "Wall of Cars" concept. Actually, we think the last time we saw this kind of display at the Los Angeles Auto Show, which can almost be called "Cars in a Vending Machine" was from the BMW people when they first introduced their Mini brand at the LA Show. Scion has a new xD and xB model, and the problem they have with their line-up is ... The vehicles tend to all look somewhat alike, so using an eye-catching exhibit is one way to get tied show-goers to spend at least a few minutes looking over you offerings.


ALL-NEW 2008 LINCOLN MKZ

ALL-NEW 2008 LINCOLN MKZ

For several years, there has been talk about Ford doing away with their Lincoln and/or Mercury divisions, but the rumors about Mercury going the way of Oldsmobile have been the strongest. Last year, a member of the Ford family took over Mercury as her own personal project, so the chances of Mercury going away anytime were immediately downgraded. We don't think Ford wants to kill Lincoln; that if they had a choice and needed to make a decision, it would be Mercury getting the axe. Honestly ... When was the last time you visited a Lincoln/Mercury dealer, or knew someone who had? Our point exactly. In any event, this all-new MKZ is one new flagship from Lincoln, and it steps right into one of the most hard-fought automotive sales segments in the country (forgetting about the world, at least for now). We say MKZ is "one new flagship from Lincoln", because the 2009 Lincoln MKS, which Lincoln says is due in showrooms in late 2008, with prices starting just under $38,000, will be the "full size" Lincoln flagship. It'll have a 3.7 liter V6 engine derived from the same V6 in this MKZ; horsepower will reportedly be 270, only 7 more than the MKZ, and will have all-wheel drive. Like the new Cadillac CTS, this MKZ has a V6 (MKZ a 3.6L, CTS 3.5) and six-speed automatic transmissions (CTS has an available six-speed stick shift, depending on the model and engine output). Big news is in the engine and the drive wheels; Both cars produce 263 horses, but Cadillac has an optional Direct Injection system, with which it makes 304hp; interestingly, the Lincoln people at the show spoke about a "turbocharged" version of the MKZ's engine coming "soon", but offered no details (the same may also be true of next year's MKS). MKZ comes with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive; CTS also comes with all-wheel drive, but the other choice is rear-wheel drive, which we almost always enjoy more than front-wheel (call us old-fashioned).


2008 LINCOLN MKZ; NEW MID-SIZED FLAGSHIP WITH ALL-WHEEL DRIVE OPTION

2008 LINCOLN MKZ; NEW MID-SIZED FLAGSHIP WITH ALL-WHEEL DRIVE OPTION

While Lincoln no doubt sees the new CTS from Cadillac as their prime mid-sized competitor, MKZ is no slouch in the handling and ride department. MKZ comes with four-wheel ventilated disc brakes with ABS, and electronic brake distribution. As there usually is when anti-lock brakes are present, MKZ also features electronic traction control using the ABS combined with the car's electronic engine management system. All those electrics in new cars and trucks aren't wasted; MKZ has an on-board vehicle immobilizer which should deter theft, at least by the casual thief. Some cars with puncture-proof tires don't even come with spares these days, and a full-size spare is nearly a thing of the past, especially in more expensive and technically-advanced cars and trucks. MKZ comes with a "spacesaver" steel rim internal spare wheel. The Lincoln's suspension system has a wishbone, front independent suspension with a stabilizer bar and coil springs, and a multi-link rear independent suspension, also with that stabilizer bar and coil springs. See, Ford ... You can make an independent rear suspension. You should offer it as an option, at least, on your sportier Mustangs.


LINCOLN MKZ's BEST ANGLE

LINCOLN MKZ's BEST ANGLE

We didn't like the massive chrome grille on the Caddy CTS, and we don't like the one on this Lincoln. But apparently, massive chrome grilles are making a comeback, of sorts, at least in midsized and large domestic cars. But this might be good news for us: Maybe we're not yet in the target demographic for those cars. However, MKZ has a terrific-looking rear deck. There's a bit of Bentley on MKZ in this angle; just a bit, but nevertheless, there it is. Lincoln might have an edge on Cadillac when it comes to pricing. MKZ base prices range from $30,555 to $32,425, depending on the trim level and any options. The range for CTS base-price starts at $32,245 and can go as high as $34,545. Not a huge difference (which is what you should have expected when comparing cars in the same cut-throat class and price range) but the two grand saved on one car might allow another option or two on the other. Something to think about ... And for buyers with the money, they might want to wait until late in 2008 when Lincoln's MKS full size flagship debuts.


HONDA'S FCX CLARITY, A "PRODUCTION" HYDROGEN-BASED FUEL CELL ELECTRIC VEHICLE

HONDA'S FCX CLARITY, A "PRODUCTION" HYDROGEN-BASED FUEL CELL ELECTRIC VEHICLE

What could be cooler than this! In the foreground, is the Honda "Home Energy System", a bulky unit which nonetheless would fit in most home garages (or car ports) and separates the hydrogen from the natural gas which is already piped into almost every home and building in America. This well-maintained natural gas infrastructure delivery system already exists; no major construction is necessary to make this entire system viable. The FCX Clarity owner (or lease customer) then simply pumps the hydrogen from the Energy Station into their Clarity. The fuel cell stacks in the car produce electricity from the hydrogen, and is used to power the car's electric motors and charge its on-board battery packs. And, yes, it works. Honda says the Clarity is going into "production", but it's not mass-production. The FCX Clarity cars which will be leased to owners (totaling under 100 cars, many in the Southern California area, near Honda's US headquarters) will be, mostly, hand-built, and that's understandable.


MAKE IT YOURSELF, IN THE PRIVACY OF YOUR OWN HOME, UH, WE MEAN: GARAGE!

MAKE IT YOURSELF, IN THE PRIVACY OF YOUR OWN HOME, UH, WE MEAN: GARAGE!

Here's perhaps your first look at the Honda "Home Energy Station", which the company displayed in their 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show exhibit. Honda says that what's inside their non-threatening-appearing appliance is going to change the way we drive, and, in years to come, allow us to live better and even less-expensive lives. The "HES", they say, will fit in the average garage, just like a home's heating and air conditioning system and even that deep-freeze in the corner. Here's what it does: Separates the hydrogen from the natural gas line that you're already paying for, and which is already coming into your home (and just about every building of any kind in the country). This might be just one of the many huge breakthroughs which the world needs to get off the addiction to oil. Leave it to a company, a technology-oriented company at that, based in a country which has virtually no oil and buys almost 100% of whatever oil and natural gas they need to develop this technology. Putting aside for a moment the wonderful possibility of doing away with today's vehicles, which need so many different forms of petroleum, the futurist in you should be able to easily see the possibilities of this machine providing the hydrogen needed for a small generator which would supply all the electricity needed for one's home or apartment or office building (okay, so you'd need bigger generators ... You'd be able to afford developing and producing them if we weren't paying through the nose for our oil, right!). That sounds pretty interesting, doesn't it? Well, it isn't all that far off ... Similar systems are being tested, as we speak, in Japan, in homes and offices and even being used as back-up electric generator systems in factories, and some of those factories make cars and car parts. Don't tell us it can't be done ... They're already doing it!


HONDA'S "HOME ENERGY STATION" MAY POINT TO OUR FUTURE

HONDA'S "HOME ENERGY STATION" MAY POINT TO OUR FUTURE

The small stand to the left of Honda's "Home Energy Station" contains a touch-screen to be used during the unit's operation, and also holds the short hose used to "fill 'er up!" with ... uh, hydrogen. While it seems almost too good to be true, this is certainly one step, and it might be a major step, to not only developing this technology, but also convincing the average person that having this very-modern apparatus in their garage, home, office building or hospital ... literally any building with a natural gas line pipe coming into it ... that this technology is safe, simple-to-learn and simple-to-use and, perhaps most important in the long-run, makes sense for cost-effectiveness. If all that can be accomplished, and Honda has the money and the brains to do it, it could lead to its wide-spread acceptance (which is much-needed, if it's going to make any difference, for the country and for Honda). The American people, many polls show, are definitely willing to make certain adjustments, pay a certain price, and sacrifice to a certain extent, in order to be a part of saving the world.


PRODUCTION VERSION; HONDA'S FCX CLARITY, A HYDROGEN-BASED FUEL CELL EV

PRODUCTION VERSION; HONDA'S FCX CLARITY, A HYDROGEN-BASED FUEL CELL EV

"Honda, The Power of Dreams" is what the video board, which makes-up the rear of the FCX Clarity exhibit, says, and also features one of Honda's favorite "characters". That would be "Asimo", Honda's walking, talking seeing, hearing and probably headed for some Honda assembly line sometime soon. I was at Honda's Research and Development Center in Tochigi, Japan, about 60 miles north of Tokyo and somewhat near their "Twin-Ring Motegi" race track, when Asimo made his public debut. In a small room, what looked like a storage room of some kind, were a small group of US journalists and a bunch of very nervous Honda engineers, all waiting for Asimo's big moment. There was a staircase in a corner of the room, and we were staring at it when Asimo himself, yes, the real robo-man, entered the room by walking down the stairs ... Now if you don't think that's a neat trick, we're talking about a 5' tall robot here, doing it all on its (his? hers?) own. When Asimo reached the floor and then started to walk over to our group, about 10 feet away, the Honda engineers went totally nuts (or at least as 'nuts' as they're allowed to, being at work, each one in his (not 'her', never 'hers' in Japan) white scientist's smock with their name on the pocket, including our host, the president of Honda, formerly the head of their Formula 1 effort. We were told (several times during our visit, in fact) that no one at the R&D Center, which has some 5,000 employees, was over 40 years old. And, as usual in Japan, the only females we saw were either serving us snacks and cool drinks, or running errands (and quite literally "running" them, too; we understand they also are great at 'making copies', and apart from that, or sitting at the front desk in the lobby, not many women were to be seen). Why did Honda's president support Asimo's development? When I asked him, he told me, "Many Japanese people do not want to work on assembly lines. So we have to develop robots to do that work for them". He was not kidding, and I have every confidence that his company will reach that goal (as long as robots don't form a union). Still, that Japan, so modern in so many ways, continues to completely ignore the potential genius of more than 1/2 of their population, still shocks me.


HONDA'S "CLARITY" MAY MAKE JUMP TO A "HYDROGEN ECONOMY" EASIER, LESS EXPENSIVE

HONDA'S "CLARITY" MAY MAKE JUMP TO A "HYDROGEN ECONOMY" EASIER, LESS EXPENSIVE

Honda is taking a huge chance with the development of both their FCX Clarity electric car and the Home Energy Station, which they say can provide the hydrogen necessary to "fuel" the car. The company has invested, without doubt, hundreds of millions of dollars into this project, perhaps billions. There's no better way for any company to express its confidence in future machinery than by actually building products that will work with that technology. The hand-built "production" Clarity cars, which will total around 60, will be leased to Americans for an announced $600 per month. That amount would not even begin to cover a small percentage of this vehicle's costs, but Honda is throwing the "hydrogen fuel cell" dice and if they're wrong, it's going to cost the company astronomical amounts of money, perhaps even more than the successful company could afford. Now, that's confidence ... And only time will tell how their bet will pay off.


HONDA'S 'FCX CLARITY' AND CHEVY'S 'VOLT' INSPIRE SHOW-GOERS

HONDA'S 'FCX CLARITY' AND CHEVY'S 'VOLT' INSPIRE SHOW-GOERS

It's always interesting to listen to the comments of auto show visitors when they first see one of the new vehicles, especially if it's something that they've been waiting to see, touch, smell and maybe even ... buy! But some of the most talked-about vehicles on display at the 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show aren't yet available, and may not be for several more years. We're not talking about the futuristic concept cars and trucks which always grab attention; people know that production cars may draw some design inspiration from the concepts, but that's about all. The cars we're talking about are this Honda FCX Clarity and the Volt from Chevrolet. Neither car is especially good-looking, but they'd probably be acceptable in the driveways of many of the show's patrons. But the Clarity and Volt were not being talked-about because of their styling; no, the LA show-goers were much more interested in finding out how these cars actually work, and when anything like them might finally be available for sale at their local dealer. Car show visitors, at least those at this LA Auto Show, seemed very educated about the different technologies which the car-makers are developing, and the public is definitely ready to try-out these first examples of the future. And as long as gas prices either stay where they are and/or continue to rise, which is a pretty good bet, the American people seem more-than-ready to move on to an oil-less future.


FORD 2009 "FLEX" CROSSOVER STATION WAGON ... WE THINK ...

FORD 2009 "FLEX" CROSSOVER STATION WAGON ... WE THINK ...

Ford displayed a concept version of this car, uh, truck, uh, minivan ... anyway, it was a concept at last year's LA Auto Show. To be honest, when we taped a segment in front of it for our TV show, I had a pretty good laugh with it and thought most viewers would, too. I didn't think it would ever go into production ... Well, guess what ... Ford has announced that the Flex is going into production. Now, even though it didn't formally meet the press at this year's LA show, the blue-oval brand did premiere two vehicles, this Flex and the Mustang "Bullitt" special edition. Ford knows how many Bullitts they are going to make, at least for the 2008 model year, and that's 7,700 vehicles. Ford sells about 150,000 Mustangs a year. Ford hopes the Flex becomes the more commercially significant vehicle of these two is this all-new crossover, 2009 Ford Flex, the replacement for the late Freestar minivan. Sales should get underway in early 2008.


FORD'S FLEX WAGON --- PART MINIVAN, PART STATION WAGON

FORD'S FLEX WAGON --- PART MINIVAN, PART STATION WAGON

Ford sold about 48,000 Freestar minivans in 2006, the last sales year for the aging minivan, and the Dearborn, Michigan, company would be happy to sell just one more Flex then they did Freestars in its last year. Flex is replacing Freestar, a minivan which had seen better days ... and better years, frankly, as its sales had been dropping the past couple of years. Ford hopes that this all-new model, the 2009 Flex, is just the thing to bring families and other traditional minivan buyers back into the 'blue oval' neighborhood. Taking a chance that minivans are passe', and traditional station wagons might be on the verge of a comeback, Ford has a lot invested in the Flex. Ford is calling it a "crossover", because that's the hip-sounding "name of the month", and a lot of people now know that a "CUV" is a "Crossover Utility Vehicle". But we call 'em as we see 'em, and when we look at the Flex, in person and in photos, we see a station wagon. And if Flex doesn't sell well right out of the box, look for incentives to be placed on it about as fast as you can say "cashback".


FORD'S NEW "CUV", 2009 FLEX, PRICING STARTS AROUND $26,000

FORD'S NEW "CUV", 2009 FLEX, PRICING STARTS AROUND $26,000

Based on the Mazda6 platform, Ford is aiming for production of 100,000 units for Flex's first sales year. Pricing should start around $26,000. "Room for seven, limo-like legroom, advanced technology ranging from a refrigerated console to mood lighting", is just some of what Ford has to say about their all-new Flex, which has a 2009 model year sticker, yet will go on-sale sometime in January of 2008. Other items Ford wants to point out: Two-tone roof, power liftgate, rear-view camera, LED taillamps, "intelligent" all-wheel drive, 19- inch aluminum wheels, 265-horsepower 3.5 liter Duratec V6 engine, HID (High Intensity Discharge) headlamps, three-bar chrome grille, grooved door panels and AdvanceTrac with RSC (Roll Stability Control). Inside, Flex will sport all of Ford's latest features, from their 'family entertainment system' to their 'Safety Canopy System' (releases several side airbags in the event of a roll-over), voice-activated navigation system, and the new and much-hyped 'Sync' system which connects multiple Bluetooth-enabled phones and translates incoming text messages to voice, allows voice control of the entire library of your connected MP3 player by voice, among other wonders.


Where All the Ferraris Go to Sleep at Night

Where All the Ferraris Go to Sleep at Night

When the Los Angeles Auto Show goes to sleep at night, so do all the Ferraris. Imagine all the millions of dollars resting under those Ferrari-red blankets ... All those fantastic 12-cylinder engines, waiting and ready to provide the music which accompanies every Ferrari as it motors, interior audio system on or not ... Luca di Montezemelo, who ran Ferrari's F1 team, and is now president of both Ferrari and Maserati, as well as head of Fiat, the parent company, and is often spoken about as a future Prime Minister of Italy, is what could be described as a "great guy". At age 60 now, he is 'living the dream' for certain, but he appreciates the chance to do so, and does it all with a great gusto and enjoyment; even with Royalty in his family, he takes none of his fabulous success for granted (he's worth some $400 million). He's the one who told me, when I asked about "sound system availability" with his cars, "Why you need radio? With Ferrari, the engine ... she is the music!" Now, who could argue with that?


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