MMR Blog

My Word: BMW i8

Posted on October 30, 2014 Comments (1)

“This is the best car that has ever come to Walmart.”

BMW i8

Larry assured me the young Walmart employee was as sincere as brown shoes. And likely correct in his judgment. My press car for the week was a BMW i8. As advanced technologically as any BMW I could recall and as special to look upon as anything Bavarian not meant to be eaten.

BMW i8

Larry Bruch is my rent-a-nerd who keeps my computers functional and is also an assistant when it comes to assessing the cars I am sent to assess. He uses cars in a different way than I do and it's useful to me to hear about that difference.

This time, given the extreme zones which this BMW has claimed, I asked Larry to expose the i8 to unique situations and report on reactions he noticed. As well as giving me his personal take. “This car gets more attention from more different people than any car I have ever been in.” he said. And that’s from kids, adults, men, women—Demographics gone wild. “Young women taking pictures like never before from that group.”

BMW i8

Larry cajoled his rabbi into taking time for a short ride. That experience elicited from the cleric overt laughter, which was uncharacteristic for Larry’s rabbi, but not for passengers in general. “Everybody laughs.” Larry reported. It’s the quickness of the acceleration, the unique interior in which they are ensconced, the eager willingness of the car to move. Passengers all laughed with open glee. “This is one happy-making car” he said.

BMW i8

BMW i8 backseat

The Tuesday Car Table folks could easily be blasé about odd and awesome rolling stock. After all our lunch regulars have over time brought on any given Tuesday at noon some impressive vehicles of their own to The Santa Fe Bar and Grill (all visitors welcome). Assorted McLarens, hot-rodded Audi R8s, a Ferrari Enzo, Bentleys, a Porsche 918. But real car guys never get jaded. They want to see, touch, ask about. They were all over the i8. Even trying out the back seat.

So this plug-in hybrid from Bavaria’s motor works, made of carbon fibre with a 1.5 liter 3 cylinder engine and a couple of electric motors at the wheels. All work willingly and seamlessly and appropriately in concert or on private missions.

BMW i8 wall charger

Performance is never slighted in this car having those particular initials writ large upon it. But then it’s as green as a St. Pat’s Day parade as well. Its economy is astonishing.

But what really blew the minds of curious Car Table folk was their inability to open the hood. They called BMW and were told don't even try. “You could invalidate the warranty.”

What? Laughter here, too. Yep. Stay out. This isn’t a car, this is a personal mobility device with ways of doing things you don’t need to know about. 

BMW i8 grill

BMW—truth telling—is not my fave among Teutonic road goers. However I have been amused and impressed by the marque’s insistence on building the best of normally-aspirated engines rather than taking an easier route to power with turbos like everyone else did. Until. Whap. OK—turbos! 

And at that, such good ones. And then BMW’s diesel—wow . Fine, fine diesel.

BMW i8 interior

And now this clear move into of all things a delightful advanced path toward tomorrow with comforting news for car buffs. Thus: Socially responsible driving need not be dull. Save the planet and your zest for driving at the same time. This is a light-hearted, bright-minded way to approach the matter of four-wheeled transport in time of transition. Out of character for BMW? Well, no. A deft change of character perhaps. Read the many reviews on the web and enjoy deciding for yourself.

A negative matter here. Larry with the i8 was approached by a man not feeling kindly toward BMW dealers. “I went to buy one of those”, he said. “The dealer laughed at him. He was only getting two. So his wife was getting one of them and a friend the other. And his friend was paying him $30,000 more than sticker price.” Simple as that. The man told Larry: “It's unlikely many i8s will get to the general public. Dealers will see to that. And to their own pocket.”

Ah the motor trade. As the Brits call them. Greedy. Finagling. Too bad if the BMW dealers choose to play that way. It's unbecoming. But never mind. BMW, the magicians of Munich, have nonetheless made a point. We know how to change the scene and make the future look delightful. And everyone else seems a little off gait. 

Laughter.


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on October 24, 2014 Comments (0)

It happens every year but it still feels funny. An October weekend with no F1 race, or a Tudor Sports Car race, or an IndyCar race. But wait, there is always NASCAR!

Racing

NASCAR drivers are competing to continue into their playoff season and stakes are high. My curiosity was peeked last week when mainstream media got excited over a murky video of a driver running/scuffling/whatever between NASCAR transports and the news that Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, and Denny Hamlin had exchanged paint with Penske driver Brad Keselowski on and off the track and Kenseth, in the video, was chasing him with a view to possibly harming him. As it happens he reportedly got him in a headlock. But the real news for fans was the fact that mild mannered Kenseth was involved at all. NASCAR must have felt the same way as they fined Keselowski $50K, Tony Stewart $25K, and Kenseth not a dime. In subsequent interviews with Kenseth and Hamlin, financial correctness prevailed. Each driver mentioned the name of his sponsors and their team and their car manufacturer and then described his part in the affair. All quite different.

Matt Kensenth with daughter

In a pre-“NASCAR American Family” era, before drivers stood on the grid with all their living relatives and we got to watch their wives agonize over whether husbands would win the Duck Commander 500, when drivers and pit crews fought, punches got thrown and people fell down, NASCAR projected a far different image. They appear to have forgotten the impact that the fight Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison had on ratings when they tangled on the cool down lap of the 1979 Daytona 500. . “An estimated 16 million people watched the race, a number that jumped to nearly 20 million over the closing laps. CBS won an Emmy for the broadcast, televised the Daytona 500 until 2000 and showed a fledgling cable network called ESPN the value of the racing business.”

A driver’s reputation counted for something then. Fast fists and a feisty disposition were prized driver attributes. Among many others in NASCAR’s history, a hot tempered AJ Foyt and humorless Parnelli Jones were not men to be trifled with on the track because eventually you would meet them in the pits. The aforementioned drivers were the American alpha males of their age and, not surprisingly, they never tangled. Veteran pit people also thought that Foyt was very wise. Parnelli and the angelic looking Mark Donahue, an equally fierce competitor, did their fighting on the track in Mustangs and Camaros. Jones introduced overt revenge wrecking to road racing. It shocked the sporty-car crowd establishment organizers but it thrilled the fans.

Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison fight

The difference in the times? Today, Tony Stewart is the only driver in the pits who still reacts in the old fashioned way. And his recent troubles in a modified race probably have an effect on that also. One week after the blow-up and fines, Keselowski won the Geico Talladega 500 with Kenseth pushing him across the line to finishing second. Despite Roger Penske’s endorsement of his actions, the fact remains that had this happened 40 years ago someone would have insured that he met the wall in Talladega early, unintentionally, of course.

Denise McCluggage

The Great Divide

Denise McCluggage joins us again this week and writes a follow-up to her recent Range Rover trek to her ancestral home of Tin Cup, Colorado. 

Denise is currently recovering nicely from surgery to replace a poorly performing hip. This is her second such restoration and we know you join us in wishing her a hearty “Hip! Hip! Hooray!” She is in good company as she is recovering in Albuquerque, tribal home of the Unsers and the Unser Racing Museum.

Concorso Images

Please visit our Photo Gallery for more images from The Santa Fe Concorso.

Feedback: Sochi Sucks!

Alonso, Russia GP

We were correct and so was Alonso. The Russian race was boring and it turns out there was a technical reason why. All the drivers were running out of their allotted fuel ration and dialed back the engine performance in order to finish. Brilliant! And boring.

Also on the Sochi post we suggested that perhaps Bob Varsha, Tommy Kendall, and Justin Bell would add a more American (We know Bell is British, but he is funnier than hell and we want him anyway) flavor to US F1 coverage. WHAT THINK YOU?


Michael Furman’s image is of an unrestored body badge on a T-57 Bugatti.

Michael Furman’s image this week is of an unrestored body badge on a T-57 Bugatti.


Have a great weekend and please don’t forget to share this newsletter with a friend.

Peter Bourassa


My Word: Tread Lightly

Posted on October 22, 2014 Comments (1)

The Great Divide Expedition

Recently I wrote in these environs about Range Rover’s Great Divide Expedition reenactment. The original was 25 years ago and involved a Bill Baker inspired event for motoring journalists taking part in a criss-crossing trip down the spine of the Continental Divide in Colorado.

There were several waves of us taking part in different sections of the route laid out by off-road expert Tom Collins, a.k.a. T.C. He’s still working for Land Rover and furthering that company’s programs of using their capable vehicles to open up back-country adventures for owners and prospective buyers.

Welcome to Tin Cup

On the original Great Divide trip in 1989 I was in the wave that crossed what is called variously St. Elmo or Tin Cup Pass depending on the direction you are headed. The story is just a click away here if you missed what I wrote about my family’s personal connection to the ghost town of Tin Cup (or Tincup) in Colorado. I had not known at the time I sent Peter the story whether or not the reenactment leg I was on in 2014 would include that Taylor Park town.

As it turned out it did not. Our group began in Denver, crawled over the rockiness of Red Cone Pass and the 13,188-foot Mosquito Pass and thence to Aspen with an intervening overnight in Breckenridge. (My story about the trip will be in AutoWeek soon. A link will be provided here.)

Red Cone Pass

Off Road Quad

Why no Tin Cup? The Land Rover instructors, one to each of the posh 2014 Range Rovers in which we drove the splendor of Colorado’s above-timber-line trails, told us that some of the old route for the Great Divide was now unusable. On one section a tunnel had collapsed, on others overuse by the new mosquitos of the off-road—the 4x4 ATVs variously called quads or side-by-sides—have altered some roads through overuse making them more trouble than they are worth.

These ATVs are small, capable and relatively inexpensive. They have made the back-country more accessible to more people, which cannot be bad unto itself. However a goodly number of the newcomers either never heard of “Tread Lightly” or have no respect for the program that Land Rover has championed with the Forest Service for a quarter century.

Tread Lightly

Tread Lightly is a general agreement that vehicles will stay on the existing roads and trails, not enlarging them or—heaven forfend—not ignoring them and striking off across virgin country. And that visitors will leave nothing behind and take only pictures with them. It’s a kindness attitude toward the environment that enough of the new folk either can’t do or won’t try. And, truth be told, the large-huge-wheeled, knobby tired, short-wheel-based, powerful machines just naturally have a different effect on the surface of the earth than an SUV.

In my AutoWeek story I likened the antagonistic mix of users of old roads and trails to that which arose some seasons ago on the ski slopes. Mogul fields were made unusable to the users of long skis when a new lot on short skis took to skiing them. It’s not the intent that changes the terrain, just the way the beast is built. Short-ski skiers recut the moguls and long-ski skiers were out of luck.

Anyway, Land Rover saw fit to eliminate the Tin Cup part of the route which came after the section I was scheduled for anyway. I was told that Tin Cup is as heavily trafficked as Times Square on summer weekends these days. ATVs are everywhere and there is even a traffic light.

Nonetheless my interest in seeing the spot again has been stirred. I want to go back and see for myself. That will not be possible this fall because snow—already fallen in some serious amounts—can make the interesting routes impassible. But there’s another reason: I go in this week for some more reworking of my aging suspension system. Winter looms too large and so I’m thinking early summer of 2015 when the old roads start browning and creeks a-gurgling and the sun climbs higher in the sky.

Log House Tin Cup

The thought struck me, maybe some of you guys with under-exercised SUVS or who haven’t seen Colorado at its height might like to join me/us. Say start here in Santa Fe or maybe Denver or the Springs and join up en route. I’ll get suggestions for likely passes from T.C. at Land Rover. He has at least a nodding acquaintance with every important rock in the Rockies. We’ll find some good passages and we’ll advance on Tin Cup. We’ll find Uncle Will’s log house and my Great Grandmother’s grave and see what ghost towns look like when engines have awakened them.

If you have any interest in such a plan, send me an email. Subject: Tin Cup Trek. We’ll keep you informed. Maybe something will come of it. Anyway we’ve got more ideas on trips—some more for sportive cars—you might like to try. We’ll keep you up on those as well. (One particularly will blow your mind.)

Cars are meant to be driven; hills are meant to be climbed; local cafes are meant to be tried. And I suspect there’s something special beyond that next bend.


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on October 17, 2014 Comments (0)

MG Grill

I was recently perusing a very old (1930s?) magazine in which a sports car was defined as “a small, two passenger car intended for short spirited rides”. One of the first cars I owned in the sixties was a 1957 MGA. It was a small sports car. Years later, I remember sitting on the false grid of a Ferrari track event and in front of me was a Ferrari F355. I remember thinking how much higher, wider and fatter it was than my “little” 308.

Black Ferrari 308

A recent article in Automobile Magazine compared a Bentley Continental with a New Ferrari FF. I was struck by how big these 2+2 Touring Cars appeared. The Bentley is 189 inches long, the FF is 193, and my 308 is 172. The MG was a mere 155 inches long. The Bentley is 55 inches high, the Ferrari is 54, and the 308 is 44. Strangely, the MGA was 50 inches high. So the MGA was “little” compared to the “308” and the 308 is “little” compared to the FF. A Ford GT 40 is 183 inches long and, of course, 40 inches tall.

Ford GT 40


Marshall Buck brings us the second installment of his construction of the miniature Ferrari 250 SWB.

Marshall Buck brings us the second installment of his construction of the miniature Ferrari 250 SWB.


Michael Furman’s photograph of the 1916 Simplex-Crane headlight.

This week we feature Michael Furman’s image of the 1916 Simplex-Crane headlight.


F1

Sochi F! Track

Sochi Sucks! Designer Hermann Tilke has done it again! Though his name was never mentioned (I wonder why?), the longish track is simply more of the same. This event was a triple threat come true. The track is boring, the race was boring (and Alonso agrees) and the coverage was abysmal. Our sympathies to the talking trio who sit in Connecticut trying to make an entertaining contribution without any control of the broadcast feed or the ability to review images.

Having said that, their consistent braying “the drivers love it!” about absolutely every venue sounds like a directive from F1 management. They and F1 appear to have forgotten who it is that they are meant to be entertaining.

On the Pricing Bubble!

Alain de Cadenet

Last week’s article by Winston Goodfellow drew many comments from our readers. It brought to mind a recent article in Classic & Sports Car’s 2014 Market Review. Alain de Cadenet, who writes a great monthly column sponsored by Credit Suisse entitled de Cad’s Heroes, explored an aspect of collecting vintage cars which we think you might appreciate. Our thanks to him for permission to reprint his thoughts here.

That’s it for this week.

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Car stuff can be very funny. For your enjoyment:


Exciting Times

Posted on October 15, 2014 Comments (2)

Alain de Cadenet

By Alain de Cadenet


The Bubble has not burst. Far from it; in fact, every report I see enhances the onwards and upwards market trend. For years, the auction houses have led the exhilarating charge to produce fresh values that range from the expected to the outrageous. The only bargains now seem to be cheaper cars needing work that buyers can do themselves; thereby making serious saving.

Mercedes

When Bonhams sold the exquisitely engineered 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196, it provided a boost for important GP machines ranging from pre-WW2 Alfa-Romeos, Talbot-Lagos, and Maseratis to 1960s and 70s F1 kit. Record prices appear to pervade confidence to similar genres of cars and that must surely be mirroring the commodity market? Either way, the auction houses have ramped up their businesses as demand increases and specialist publications have become invaluable to buyers in determining how prices have panned out as well as offering opinions, suggestions, and an insight into just how much knowledge is needed to bid assuredly.

Goodwood Festival of Speed

Such is the influence of auction prices that the biggest groans come from dealers who have difficulty obtaining stock. Owners are reluctant to dispose of something just in case it goes up dramatically in price. Who can blame them? Personally, on the premise that he wouldn’t risk his own capital on a dicey machine, I have always thought that a vehicle that was actually owned by a reputable dealer was a better bet than something that was merely on sale or return. Good logic? Depends on the dealer.

About 45 years ago I was chatting with an acquaintance who’d worked out that the sum total of really special, worthwhile vintage, veteran, and classic cars was only something around 3,000. That’s counting just the best of everything and what went into the mix is pure conjecture. Just think about that, though perhaps there aren’t that many totally delicious cars to be had. Remove cars held in trusts, museums, and the like and, even though there is more machinery to be considered from 1969, there will never be enough good stuff to go around.

Ferrari F1 Goodwood

With cheap money abounding, surely you should buy whatever you can get your hands on because this hobby/sport/market is not going to go away in the foreseeable future. By doing so you not only satisfy your cravings, but also provide ample fodder to set up a regime to help keep yourself sane in today’s ever changing world.

After all, old vehicles keep you busy. Research, study, and investigation all lead to what the quintessence of this celebration of artifacts is all about. They stop you playing Sudoku and Candy Crush and teach you about chassis manufacture, castings, machining, brakes, gearboxes, camshafts, bodywork, wheels, tyres, race history, vin numbers, registration numbers, and whatever else it takes to be an expert in your field.

Goodwood Festival of Speed

What’s on offer is wonderful therapy. It is the way knowledge is gained and one of the reasons why demand is so high. Next time you go anywhere the cognoscenti are gathering (Goodwood, for example), just ask them how much fun they are having and you’ll know why prices are on the up.

You’ll notice I have talked only about prices. A price is someone else’s idea of what something is worth and value is a different thing altogether. It is derived from your own feel for the item based on experience, knowledge, and discipline. Your dad’s old car will be more valuable to you than anyone else. So will the car that you always wanted but couldn't afford. Likewise, if you don’t want to wait for years for your favorite to be restored, the ready-to-go 100 pointer may be more valuable to you.

Either way, whatever is going on out there is fueling exciting times in every way in the old vehicle world. That’s why there is no need to worry.