Galpin’s Rocket misses its target

Posted by Owen Ready November 21st, 2014

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Galpin’s Henrik-Fisker-designed Rocket has just been unveiled, and on first impression, we can’t help but feel like the car represents a missed opportunity.

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If you’re going to take the trouble to design and build a new carbon-fiber body for your 2015 Mustang, wouldn’t you be a bit disappointed if it looked similar but worse than Ford’s own effort? In fact, where the latest Shelby GT350 taut and muscular, with the front bodywork wrapped ever tighter around the engine, the Galpin looks puffed up, lethargic and really rather out of shape. We’d take the GT350 every time.

Ford Mustang Shelby GT350

Tom Phillips

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Mazda CX-3 is perfectly pleasant

Posted by Owen Ready November 21st, 2014

Mazda CX-3

As well as the US premiere of the MX-5 Miata, Mazda also gave its B-segment crossover CX-3 its world debut here in LA.

Perhaps it’s wholly predictable as it sticks tightly to Mazda’s recent Kodo design language, but this is a very nicely resolved small crossover with enough brio running through features such as its undulating beltline and sharp nose to attract attention, but without resorting to the extrovert levels of the Nissan Juke. It’s also interesting to see that the lower body cladding is so prominent, shifting further towards a traditional SUV than its rivals.

Mazda CX-3

Its interior is especially successful, with a clean, distinctive IP theme and interesting, high-quality materials throughout. Mazda may well be onto a winner with its little CX-3.

Mazda CX-3

Owen Ready

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GM resurrects Chaparral name for Gran Turismo concept racer

Posted by Owen Ready November 20th, 2014

Chaparral

General Motors is one of the many carmakers to create a car for the latest Gran Turismo Playstation game and is perhaps the most extreme.

“It was a global competition open to all our studios,” explains Charles Lefranc, the car’s designer based in GM’s advanced studio in North Hollywood. “I knew we could really do something much more extreme than just a version of an existing car. We could have done a Cadillac but that’s not quite right for racing and a Corvette would be too easy so I thought ‘how about a Chaparral?'”

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It’s a name made famous by the sports racing and Can-Am cars of the 1960 that were so far ahead of the competition thanks to the brilliantly innovative mind of founder Jim Hall that each was banned from racing to give the other competitors a chance.

So it’s only fitting that Lefranc’s 2X explores extremely advanced technology avenues. Its ‘driver’ lies head-first with arms and legs extending out towards the four corners and suspended in a special gel. But the most exciting element is its power source that uses a forward-facing laser to produce thrust around the parabolic cone that forms the rear part of the 2X’s body. It’s a technique called lightcraft that’s currently in its infancy.

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But clearly this is more a flight of fancy than a piece of hard engineering and as an emotional object it’s truly engaging.

What’s more it’s thoroughly refreshing to see that GM allowed its designers completely free reign and allowed them to produce a vehicle that doesn’t sit in one of its brands.

Owen Ready

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The Scion iM – a sign of the times

Posted by Owen Ready November 20th, 2014

Scion launched its first cars, the xA and xB, at the LA Auto Show in 2003. Fast-forward to 2014, and the brand’s remit remains the same, but the once-distinctive designs, created almost specifically for the Californian market it launched in, have diluted to such an extent that they’re barely distinguishable from their Toyota counterparts – even the respective show stands are barely delineated.

Scion

Looking at Scion’s showcar, the iM, begs the question that does a new SoCal driver really crave a Euro-market Auris hatchback wearing a fairly nasty bodykit? Perhaps the answer in today’s financial climate is yes, when the new iM goes on sale in 2015 for less than $20,000.

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But while Scion may be risking melting back into the fold of Toyota, there is still the odd flash of that original point of difference that marked out the brand’s launch. The targa-top FR-S by Cartel Customs, shown at SEMA, with its California blue paint and custom 19-inch rims, feels like the Scion of old, and one that offers something different from its mainstream parent.

Scion

Tom Phillips

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Motor sport makes its presence felt

Posted by Owen Ready November 20th, 2014

With the balance sheets of most car makers now back in the black, the number of manufacturer-backed motor sport vehicles scattered around the show floor caught our eye.

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You’d perhaps expect it from a brand like Porsche, but the shear prominence given to the Dempsey Racing 911 GT America, located right at the entrance to its show hall, ensured that visitors couldn’t fail to make the link between its race and road-car programs.

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motorsport-01Mazda showed its LMP2 prototype, but its new single-make MX-5 Miata racer looked more inviting, and the perfect reinforcement of the new road car’s sporting credentials.

Single seaters included Honda’s Indycar and Infiniti’s F1 racer, while at the opposite end of the circuit-racing scale was Kia’s SCCA turbo Optima.

motorsport-02motorsport-05motorsport-09Off the race track, Subaru showed the WRX driven to a new lap record around the Isle of Man TT course, while Volkswagen showed Tanner Faust’s new rallycross Beetle.

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And while most carmakers opted for current motor sport vehicles, tucked around the corner of the Toyota stand, alongside an immaculate 1961 Land Cruiser, was the 1991 Eagle MkIII, powered by its racing engine.

motorsport-07Tom Phillips

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Auto Show inside, Car Culture outside

Posted by Owen Ready November 20th, 2014

LA Auto Show

It just wouldn’t be a car show in Los Angeles without at least a sampling of the local car culture making its presence felt. Early risers on the first day of the show were treated to a breakfast from a small fleet of the city’s famous food trucks, and a sweet buffet of LA customs, movie and racing cars from various eras.

LA Auto Show

Legendary customizers George Barris and Gene Winfield were on hand to talk about their eye-catching creations, like the full-size versions of Hot Wheel toys, including the 2014 Darth Vader car, that lined the curb near the dining area.

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Inside the big tent were customs from the classic era and today, classic cars from Europe, exquisite modern reworks from the likes of Singer and Icon, and even the odd movie car making a cameo appearance. It was a great way to kick off the show.

Karl Smith

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Lexus brings the sunshine indoors

Posted by Owen Ready November 20th, 2014

The appeal of switching European winter for a spell in the Californian sun is somewhat mitigated by spending all day in windowless show halls. But Lexus brought a little sunshine inside with its four-seater LF-C2 convertible that previews a drop-top version of its RC coupe.

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Show-car credentials are reinforced by the fact that the car doesn’t have a roof mechanism stowed beneath the curved rear deck, and its lamps, grille treatment and surfaces have all been exaggerated – the latter to help make the most of the show stand’s light in accentuating the exterior color.

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While the color choice is an obvious nod to the launch location, the multi-layer silver and yellow lacquered paint finish is straight from the West Coast tuning scene – a theme reinforced by the slammed stance, 20-inch chrome rims and white and gray leather used throughout the interior.

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Tom Phillips

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Mazda Miata MX-5: just as good second time around

Posted by Owen Ready November 20th, 2014

Mazda

I declared the Mazda MX-5 as my star of the Paris motor show, which is sometimes a dangerous game that can see you back-peddling when the show fever has subsidised.

Mazda

So it’s great to reaffirm my appreciation of this dinky sports car here in LA. Sure, some of the surfacing remains a little off and a couple of its details challenging, but the overall form and its still-surprising compactness won me over all over again. Interesting too to see one in full Japanese spec in white (a good color for this car) and right-hand drive (much to the confusion of some bystanders).

Add to this the lovely race-prepared version sat to the side of the Mazda stand and I just can’t wait to jump behind the wheel.

Mazda

Owen Ready

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Lorde-ing it in the Mercedes-Maybach

Posted by Owen Ready November 20th, 2014

When New Zealand singer Lorde’s hit single ‘Royals’ was released last year, the line ‘But everybody’s like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece’ caused an unexpected spike in search engine traffic for the term as those unfamiliar with the brand attempted to discover exactly what it was.

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And while the popularity of the song is unlikely to be involved in Mercedes’ decision to keep the name, we’ve now had a chance to sample the firm’s reinvention of its top-of-the-line model. Although it may have benefited from a little extra mass added ahead of the A-pillar to balance out the added length, the S-Class has survived the stretch into a Mercedes-Maybach without unduly affecting the proportions. The thicker, less-rounded C-pillar subtly recalls the Großer Mercedes, and features the Maybach emblem, while the name is written in script on the trunk lid.

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Inside, the individual rear seats are divided by a center console that has space for drinks, champagne flutes and power sockets. It’s so packed with cubbies, in fact, that you almost struggle to see your passenger across the divide.

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Although Mercedes claims the car is the quietest in the world, it’s likely you’d struggle to hear your fellow passenger, too, as the bespoke Burmester stereo features a roof-mounted speaker not much smaller than a B&W Zeppelin iPod dock. At least that’d give Lorde something to listen to her tunes on…

Tom Phillips

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Porsche Panamera hand-made by robots

Posted by Owen Ready November 20th, 2014

As well as the global premiere of the 991-series 911 GTS, the LA show played host to the unveil of the Panamera Exclusive Series. Limited to 100 units, 27 of which are allocated to the US, the car confirms a trend for mainstream carmakers adding upmarket features to top-end models, and enjoying the healthy profit margin therein.

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In Porsche’s case, the perceived value is added by giving the long-wheelbase Panamera a two-tone chestnut brown and jet black colorway. It’s unique to the model and painted by hand to ensure the colors blend together in a smooth but oh-so subtle way – the brown section runs back between the creases that stem from the front fender vent.

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While the first car ever to feature Poltrona Frau leather was the 1986 Ferrari-engined Fiat Thema 8.32, this Panamera is the first Porsche to use the Italian maker’s hide. The treatment of the chestnut-brown leather is impressive. It’s perforated using Porsche crests of various sizes. It’s notably softer than Porsche’s standard upholstery, too, and the material covers more surfaces, adding to the opulent look. Buyers can also buy custom luggage designed to fit the Panamera’s boot that’s made from the same leather, and has the same motifs, although it costs extra of course.

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Tom Phillips

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