Tag Archives: Automobile

The Open Road – A Case of Vehicular Genetics

In today’s world of vehicular incest, where car manufacturers are continually blending elements from within their own family of vehicles, it is always interesting to see just what will be hitting the streets in the upcoming model line ups.

It is never a surprise to see a design feature from a brand’s higher end lines trickle down into their lower end models.  It happens so frequently that we rarely batt an eye when doing a double take on the highway because one model looks so entirely similar to another.   More so, the plot thickens when automakers share design elements across brand lines.  Case in point, the Volkswagen Toureag has a very similar rear end to the Porsche Cayenne.  In it’s simplest of terms, it makes sense.  Keeps costs down, ensure brand recognition (rather than moniker division), and ensures the consumer believes they are getting a higher end product at a lower end cost.

I’m all for it.

Sometimes.

So it should come as no surprise that Ford looked within their brands for the design of the new 2013 Fusion.  Granted it’s a striking vehicle with a design that is less “Hertz Gold Member Downgrade” and more “Normal People Might Want to Drive Me”.   If you’re a car buff like me, you’ve already ventured a guess at just what family member influenced the new design.  And you’d probably be right if it weren’t for the fact that said brand is no longer in Ford’s stable of brands after being sold to a UK investment group.

So tell me…. do you think the mother in this case was the Aston Martin DB9 Coupe?

Or am I just off my rocker.

Images via [1] [2]

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The Open Road – If Bentley & Chanel Had a Love Child….

Let’s be honest with ourselves.  Recently Bentley has gotten a bad rap.

No.  I don’t mean that P.Diddy put a Conti GT in his newest video and the “song” was sub-par.

Honestly, I’ve dished a bit of it myself.  Not because I’m a BMW driver (I am…).  Not because I can’t afford one (yet)(I can’t).  And certainly not because I don’t appreciate a piece of artwork on four wheels (I can and do). But because they are sending to market this:

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not the best looking SUV on the block.  We all know that.  The press knows that.  Bentley knows that.  Which is why they’ve sent it back once before for a redesign before introducing the hard concept to the public.  Opinions are subjective and I have to respect Bentley’s lead designer, David Hilton for sticking to his guns.  I mean hell, we all took Chris Bangle (then head of BMW’s design team) over the coals for introducing what has come to affectionately be known as the Bangle Bustle, a design motif present on the last body style 6 and 7 series BMW.  In the end and since his departure in 2009, we’ve seen a drastic tone down and “rental-car” sensibility come from BMW’s current design staff.

Basically we may turn our noses at the quad headlight design on the EXP 9 F concept now but considering Hilton claims the design is reflective of Bentleys to come, we better get used to it.  Like it or don’t buy it I say.

So we’re beating Hilton with a cat o’ nine tails all because it looks like Takashi Murakami designed the front end of his happy monster SUV.  BUT…. there is redemption my friends.  Ultimately, Bentley did not fail us when it came to what they do best.  If you’ve ever sat in one, drove one or just plain ogled one you know what I’m talking about.

The Interior.

Say what you will about the four-eyed beast but leave your insults for the exterior because Bentley has gone the uber distance to make sure you’ll forget all about them once you’re behind the wheel.  I don’t normally swoon over interiors (with exception to vintage vehicle interiors made with REAL wood from REAL trees cut down by REAL men) but I’ll gladly ogle this one.

Handcrafted elements from bronze, aluminum and gunmetal.

Silk wool floormats.

Diamond quilted soft-touch leather.

Bespoke picnic hampers and a cooled compartment for champagne.

Are we talking about a country house or a car because I’m confused reading Bentley’s description.  Though they may cost nearly the same (it’s rumoured the EXP 9 F will start at $200,000 USD) only the Bentley can be easily moved.  And yes, it comes with an awning over the tailgate to “protect those seated there”.  I figured you were asking that question because you know this is an option you really want.

Julia Roberts would have killed to have one of these in the polo scene of Pretty WomanWhoop Whoop Whoop.

Though really, take a closer peek at the interior.  Bentley has taken great strides in blending a perfected mix of vintage aerospace, current technological innovation, and a lady’s Chanel bag.  Although the gentle negative curve of the veneer dash is sexy, the upward “swoop” of the door panels racy, and the quilted leather absolutely orgasmic, it is that singular aluminum & leather unit that runs from front to back finally encompassing the rear the mirror that truly makes this interior something straight out of First Class on Air Emirates.

Did you catch sight of the Union Jack motif in the door sills?  How about the contrasting body matched leather welt around the dashboard? Or that gentle curve of the seat foundation that looks like Hermes included four saddles? That’s contrasting stitched leather on the ceiling people.  THE CEILING.

Did I mention it has a compartment for champagne?

Have I swooned enough?  Have I made up for my incessant torturous remarks about the four headlamps and curiously vague tail lights?  We’ll leave that up to the PR people at Bentley to decide.  I’m hoping it has.

D.Coop was not compensated for this post though I’m really hoping Bentley let’s me sit in this thing when it hits the states. 

Images courtesy [1], [2], [3], [4]

 

 

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The Open Road – A Resurgence of the SUV?

Vroom

I’m certain that by now you’re entirely thrilled that I’m not tweeting about kitchen cabinetry and faucetry and hardware and what will soon become my best of/worst of show.  And you’re probably jealous that I just spent 48 hours in the third best city in the county (behind New York and Los Angeles) with some of the most awesome Twitter friends a boy could have (waving hi to my stalkeratzi!).

I’m kinda tired of kitchens too.  As much as I like to cook, I’m a realist and know someone will need to clean up after.  Break time!  Or in today’s case, Brake Time!

It really is interesting to see what pops up in my Twitter feed as it ranges from design and interiors down the line to random political stories and someone begging for a vote on some online contest somewhere.  Some of my favorite posts, however, tend to stem from the automotive industry.  If you really want to see where design is headed, take a peek at what is rolling out of the European automotive design studios.  Considering the amount of dinero it takes to produce a concept and eventual production vehicle, they are about as ahead of the trends as it gets.

Interestingly enough, the one consistent thread connecting a great deal of the auto tweets is the introduction of not one, not two, but THREE exotic SUVs to the marketplace.  I don’t mean concept vehicles that a few guys thought up around a conference table.  I mean, honest to goodness, straight to production Sports Utility Vehicles that will eventually end up in someone’s garage in Palm Beach or Greenwich or Malibu (your garage too so long as you have the checking account or mortgage to withstand the financial blow).

As an aside, it has always been my theory that you can foretell the state of the US economy by watching the Automotive Industry.  For the last several years the AI has pushed the “small car”, almost to the point that I want to put one in neutral and physically push one over a cliff. Diamler made their SMART car all the rage.  Nissan took to the roads in their Leaf.  Chrysler brought Fiat’s quintessential 500 (and it’s variants) back to the US.  And Toyota turned the Prius into the Best Selling “Ugly car” of the century (I’m going to call it Yugo from now on).

It was uncool if you didn’t have a car that could easily fit into the rear compartment of your SUV.

But now.  Ostentation is back in full swing.  Cadillac Escalades with Chrome wheels.  Ford Excursions and seating for 8 (plus two dogs and matching golf clubs). The Hummer H1. Or H2. Or H3. All of them were at one point, the pinnacle of giant suburban vehicles .  Vehicles meant to carry cargo.  Not groceries but true cargo of sorts.  Like the crates you see in an Indiana Jones movie.  But instead, they’re carrying kids to school.  Or soccer practice.  Or Ballet.  Or their acting coach.  And doing it on 8 miles a gallon.

And now, they’re back again.  But this time, they’re sporting serious nameplates.  Lamborghini.  Bentley.  Maserati.  I’ll see your spinning chrome wheels and raise you an integrated champagne bucket.  Is this the beginning of a new chapter in drag racing?  Two moms in Jimmy Choos revving their engines at a stop light and seeing who can hit 30 miles an hour quicker?

Let me say, I’m no purist when it comes to vehicles.  I grew up with muscle cars but my first new car was a 2002 BMW 325 convertible with all the bells and whistles. I worked my way up to the X6 a few years back and now I’m trying to tout my environmental horn by sticking with a shared 328 coupe and my Car2Go membership.  I’m no stranger to vehicle innovation.  And by no means do I keep my opinions to myself.

My theory is this. Once upon a time, this one manufacturer known for it’s quick convertibles and coupes (nary a sedan in sight) desired to revamp it’s image as being the “car for the mid-life crisis”.  Lost?  Here in California, up to about 2006 or 2007, nearly every Porsche spotted on the road was sporting a 40-something male reliving their youth.  Along came the Cayenne (and later the Panamera).  Purists screamed bloody murder.  Ferdinand Porsche died.  But the Cayenne quickly became the best selling vehicle in Porsche’s line up.  Anyway, I would never say that the sales figures for Lambo, the Big B, and my ever favorite “car with the catfish grille” are turning into ghost towns, but I have a feeling they’re trying to work a new angle.  Trying to catch new buyers to offset what might be a slightly negative connotation.

Herein lies the problem.  Competition breeds innovation.  Normally.  In this case, competition has bred three designs that should spend more time on the drawing board.  Lamborghini’s design is a near knock off of BMW’s X6 (which has been criticized from day one and yet lauded by everyone, including myself).  Bentley appears to have tasked the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami to design its front end and kinda sorta forgot about the rear end (though let me tell you, I’m in love with the Chanel-esque quilted leather seats). And Maserati, well it still appears that the catfish is their major design influence. All three are ok but they’ve neglected to remember that you can’t just put a coupe body on a Tourag frame and call it an SUV.

Rant much?

So my point?  Stick with what you’re good at.  Bentley, Maserati and Lambo are never going to be hurting for customers so long as they continue to produce uber-exclusive vehicles that not only appear in every rap video known to man but are also the wet-dreams of every 15 year old boy.  As I like to say, be a master of some and not a jack of all.

Blah.

Lamborghini Urus – Available Model Year 2015, Base Price: $200,000

(Photo courtesy Untitled Magazine)

Bentley EXP 9 F Concept – Available Model Year 2014, Base Price $200,000

(Photo courtesy Bentley Motors )

Maserati Kubang – Available Model Year 2013, Base Price rumored to be low $100K

(Photo courtesy Inside Line)

D.Coop was not compensated for this post.  However, if you have any of the above SUVs, please feel free to take me for a ride so you can prove me wrong.

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Show me the Carfax! The 1956 Maserati 2000 Gran Turismo Allemano Coupe

Living in California I’ve come to expect the un-expected. 

Seriously.  Things that happen here just don’t happen in other places.  Things like spotting Octomom Angelina Jolie shopping at a Ralphs with her baseball team in tow.  Like being able to surf and ski the same day (and not on the same body of water). Like pulling up to an intersection and seeing three Bentleys, two Ferraris, and a dealership’s worth of BMWs, Mercedes and Porsche At. The. Same. Time.  It happens and interestingly enough, it doesn’t phase me anymore. I’ve relatives in Iowa and Nebraska that come here, point these things out, and my response is a bland “Oh, I hadn’t noticed”.

Anyway, one of those random little moments happened on Saturday.  Steve and I are casually grazing over vehicles in search of the Beast’s replacement.  As much as I love that big black ball of steel, I wouldn’t mind a smaller car payment and something a little nicer on gas (comes back to that Walking the Walk I talked about last week). The result is that we’re finding ourselves in some random places looking at just as random vehicles.

So we thought we’d stop in to our local CarMax.  You know, the Wal-Mart of vehicle shopping.  Lots of cars but also, lots of blue polyester.  Similarity?  Hmmmm…. I’ll let you draw the conclusion. Let’s just say it’s not a place that is normally going to get my motor racing.

Until Friday.  When I spotted this little number just outside the front door. Parked by itself. Alone. Poor thing.  I snapped a photo and went on my merry way not knowing that I’d seen something VERY special.  Like one in sixty special.  Like hand built, no two alike special.

So special that it was a rather rare 1956 Maserati 2000 GT Allemano Coupe. 

Let me put it this way.  You DON’T see this car outside of the Cours d’Elegance. Certainly I talk about great vehicles here on the D.Coop Bloggie.  I’m sure you’ve all see my post about the Audi R8 Spyder. I mean, I talk about it ad naseum so you should have seen it.  Seriously.  What are you waiting for.  I’ll wait.  But this little beast, this is in a completely different territory.

Built between 1955 and 1957, the Allemano Coupe was considered the last of Maserati’s coach built vehicles.  Maserati had initially turned to builder of choice, Pinin Farina, to clothe the last of their hand built machines.  But alas, Farina had already committed to Ferrari (bastard). The result, a trifecta of boutique Italian coach builders were selected as the principal des vestements.  Ultimately this little twist of affairs made the coupe that much more rare.  Allemano produced only 2+2 bodies, better known as the coupe. Frua, whose influence can still be seen in today’s BMWs, produced Spyder bodies.  Zagato (Aston Martin Vanquish Roadster anyone?) turned out spectacular competition race bodies.  What this meant was that because only 60 Maserati 2000 GTs were ever produced, the Allemano Coupe is only one of 21.  Total.

There are more people that win the lottery each day then there are Allemano Coupes.  And of course, you’d probably need to win the lottery to afford one. A “fixer-upper” went to auction in 2006 and sold in the $180,000 USD range making clean, perfect, d’Elegance examples fetch numbers that would make four years at Harvard seem affordable.

But alas.  Just as any other dream, this one was short lived. After a short tour around the Wal-Max (or Car-mart) parking lot, the GT had vanished leaving me wondering “Just what WAS it doing here?”.

Will I see it again?  Probably not.  But it’s sighting I can chalk up to my Big Foot Bucket List.

Minus the footprints.  And the hair.

Images via: D.Coop, Maserati-Alfieri

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