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Sunday, 31 July 2016

Maybe Next Month!


A month ago I apologised to anyone who reads or follows this blog (anyone? Bueller?) for being very thin on content. Maybe I'll get my act together in July, I said! Unfortunately, this has turned out to be a lie. I apologise again.

Maybe I'll pull myself together in August. In the mean time, use the sidebar to find something interesting from the archives!

As you were.

[image unrelated but beautiful]

Learn 11 of the 10 Must-Know Facts about the Mazda MX-5


The Mazda MX-5 (known in North America as the Mazda Miataaa) has been observed by humans for over 25 years now and recently reached total lifetime sales figures of over a million following the launch of the 'ND' a couple of years ago. It's so good that FIAT-Chrysler decided that if they were going to build a new Alfa Romeo Lancia FIAT roadster and sportify the brand, it would have to be a collaboration with Mazda (known in the USA as Mahzda). I could sit here and tell you all about it, but that would be a waste of time, because this video contains all the truth there has ever been on YouTube about this infallible automocar. Enjoy!


Drifter Puts Ferrari V8 in a Toyota 86


Swapping a V8 into a car that didn't originally have one is a favourite pastime of drifters with money. Unfortunately, this usually means taking an iconic coupé from Japan, butchering the bodywork and then putting a smallblock Chevy V8 in it. Now, I've nothing against that engine - its name inspired this blog's title after all - but when it comes to engine swap projects, an LS1 (or the like) is basically the Toyota Camry of engine swaps; yes, there are lots of practical reasons why it's an effective tool for the job... but that's kind of it. It's not interesting, unique or particularly special relative to the wider automotive world. I also despair when someone inserts an SBV8 in place of an engine with its own iconic status, such as a Porsche flat-six or Mazda rotary engine, partly because it's usually just done to piss people off and partly because cars like the 911 and RX-7 have characters defined by their engines. Yes they have a great chassis too, but the real USP is the engine and yet someone in a shed has turfed it out, changed its soul... bastardised it. No thank you. You're only doing that because you can't be bothered to learn how to maintain a 13B or Porsche boxer.

No, a proper engine swap should be something mad. In the video above you will find something mad. Outside of the real heavyweights like Skyline and Supra, Japanese coupés usually make do with an inline-four engine (sometimes great ones like a Honda VTEC or Nissan SR20). The one issue there is that a four-cylinder engine isn't very exotic, so even if the compact, lightweight chassis of something like the Toyota GT86 is as well balanced and finessed as a Porsche, it just doesn't feel like it's in that league.

Now, however, Formula-D mainstay Ryan Tuerck has decided to give the 86 an exotic soul... by inserting the 4.5-litre V8 from a Ferrari 458!

I'd just like to mention that, because I once fantasised about putting a Ferrari V8 in a Nissan S15, he's basically stolen this concept from my imagination. I'll be expecting royalties, Mr. Tuerck...

As you might imagine, fitting a 562bhp V8 from a mid-engined supercar into the front of a car only designed for a flat-four (a layout even shorter than an inline) is not a simple task, so the video above explains some of the work and considerations that have gone into making this incredible show car so far. It should be a hell of a thing when it's finished!

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Aston Martin AM-RB 001 will Redefine Hypercars Forever

Aston Martin AM-RB 001 Concept posing with the Red Bull TAG[Renault] RB12
For many fans of supercars who are over 15 years old, precious few machines, perhaps even no machine has yet surpassed the mighty McLaren F1 of the 1990s. Designed by Gordon Murray, then the most successful and famous designer of Formula 1 racing cars, the F1 road car set a world top speed record of 231mph almost by accident in its quest to be the ultimate driver's car. Its creator obsessed over losing weight, achieving ultimate efficiency and effectiveness of engineering and an incomparable driving experience, all with a borderline psychotic perfectionism of which even Ron Dennis was probably in awe. The result stood tall as the king of hypercars well after it ceased production, managing to miraculously win Le Mans with very little modification from road spec, as well as top its own top speed record with its BMW 6.1L V12 de-limited, to hit 240mph in 1998. It wouldn't be until 2004 that Koenigsegg beat it with the CCR, followed by the rather more famous Bugatti Veyron a year later... yet neither of those cars have a seat smack bang in the middle of the chassis (made of carbon fibre as a world first), nor a naturally aspirated engine that ignites the soul and reacts almost as quickly as electricity.

Fast-forward to 2016, however, and while McLaren have once again made a boundary-pushing hypercar, it is now a different British sports car company which is currently stopping the world dead in its tracks with a money-no-object, physics-crushing performance car to end all performance cars.



This is the stunning Aston Martin AM-RB 001. Designed by Adrian Newey OBE, now the most successful and famous designer of Formula 1 racing cars, this upcoming road car is claiming the impossible in its quest to be the ultimate driver's car. Its creator obsessed over losing weight, achieving ultimate aerodynamic efficiency and effectiveness of engineering - there is not a single piece of steel in the car's structure - and an incomparable driving experience, all with a borderline psychotic perfectionism of which even Ron Dennis is probably in awe.

So far we have a full-size display model to gawp at and a wordy but largely un-revealing press release to work with. This car is a collaboration between Aston Martin and Red Bull Racing, fully justifying the cynical use of AM logos on the Renault-powered RB12 Formula 1 cars. While it actually takes a decent-sized team to devise a car like this, we hear that it encapsulates everything Adrian Newey has learned in his 30+ years as a racing car designer as well as fulfilling a dream he's held since he was 6 years old: to design a road car.
If you don't follow Formula 1 closely enough to know about Newey, he masterminded all four of Red Bull's world constructor's championship titles from 2010-13 thanks to his enormous brain and unmatched affinity with the black art of aerodynamics. Oh, and that was far from his first run of success in the top racing series - from 1993-98, he was responsible for every single constructor's title-winning car except for '95, having overseen much of Williams-Renault's utter dominance before moving to McLaren-Mercedes in 1998 and fending off a resurgent Ferrari with the help of Mika Hakkinen's epic driving. So that's 10 world titles in total. TEN. Now he's easing back on his F1 work and has this chance to move street car aero on by a giant leap or two instead.

The thing is, when viewed from a higher angle the Aston Martin-Red Bull 001 doesn't really look like much. I was initially disappointed by the top image because after seeing the X1 Gran Turismo Concept racers it just looked a bit... conventional. Chunky, even.

But then I saw this video by EVO magazine. The following images are screenshots from the video, which is required viewing just to gawp at...




LOOK. AT. THAT!

Look at all the fresh air underneath the front bodywork! All the negative space between the wheels and the cockpit! Suddenly you realise that far from being chunky, that bodywork is as sinuous as a bat's wing. In fact, it's almost as if they were trying to make the whole car into a wing and then squeezed a cockpit into the middle of it and some wheel pods in the corners. It's like a cross between the X2014 and a BAC Mono. Or an automotive catamaran. Or a minimalist rule-breaking LMP1 car.

This display model's two-tone colour scheme neatly bisects the inputs from Red Bull Racing's aero department and Aston Martin's design department. The carbon-coloured dark grey elements around the bottom are by Newey and co, while the greenish-silver top body is styled by Aston Martin (but no doubt refined in a wind tunnel anyway). Aston's work is like a skin stretched tight over the aerodynamic hard points, while Red Bull's input includes a two-element front wing (middle picture above) that looks straight off an F1 car, an elegant little active rear wing and many air channels and/or heat vents.


Despite seeming not to have any room for anything bar some skinny little suspension arms, this car is meant to have room enough for two everyday adults, sitting with their heels higher than their hips as one would sit if they were in an F1 or LMP1 car. Don't count on any luggage space though, this may be an Aston but it won't be a cushy GT car. Instead an all-new naturally aspirated V12 engine of undisclosed displacement squeezes in behind the occupants, along with some kind of electronic KERS boost to allegedly provide as much as 1000 horsepower... in a car allegedly weighing as little as 1000 kilogrammes. That is of course 1000bhp/tonne, roughly twice the power/weight ratio of a Veyron and considerably more extreme than any of Porsche/Ferrari/McLaren's hyper-hybrids of a couple of years ago. In fact, this car makes all four of those machines and many more besides look chunky and old-fashioned (especially the Bugatti). Instead, its performance aims are pointing at an altogether more significant crowd...

Just the one exhaust pipe, pointing at an angle undoubtedly meant to make the airflow out of it benefit the car's handling
Because there is so much fresh air underneath this low-slung car, there is the potential to manipulate it into generating absolutely huge levels of downforce. In fact, there's official talk of the car making "LMP1 levels of downforce." No figures are given at this stage but in theory that would be comfortably over a tonne of the stuff at something like 200km/h (124mph) or above. For reference, the McLaren P1 in "Race Mode" generates ~600kg at around 160mph, so this could have twice as much aero effect as that - oh, and LMP1 cars make more downforce than Formula 1 cars anyway, so there's that for context. What's more, Aston Martin state that it can pull up to 4.5g of lateral force in a fast corner (whether that's possible on road tyres is debatable but the model here is wearing slicks, so I'm assuming you get multiple sets of tyres for different driving) while delivering lap times to rival Red Bull's racing cars...

Now, we've heard the phrase "F1 car for the road" often enough in the past that it's become a cliché difficult to take seriously. At the same time, however, if ever there was a car to actually manage it then this seems as worthy a candidate as we've ever seen before. Thing is, though, this is a road car. A decade ago we had the Caparo T1 which basically looked, sounded and sort of drove like a GP2 car with headlights and a canopy over it... but despite being road legal it was an absolutely hopeless road car. Given Aston Martin's long-held reputation for elegant long-distance cruisers, a rock hard race track refugee that's un-drivable on a trip to Tesco wouldn't make any sense no matter how fast or spectacular it is.


As such, the suspension will apparently be as game-changing as the aerodynamics - much like the McLaren F1 road car this aims to blow your mind yet soothe your spine. We hear from the company that the system(s) will feature "innovative technology and employ principles honed by Newey over his thirty year career. Likewise, the transmission is a clean-sheet design conceived by Newey and developed by Red Bull Advanced Technologies." Newey himself adds "I’ve always been adamant that the AM-RB 001 should be a true road car that’s also capable of extreme performance on track, and this means it really has to be a car of two characters. That’s the secret we’re trying to put into this car - the technology that allows it to be docile and comfortable, but with immense outright capabilities." Will it be clever active suspension that reads the road ahead? Will it simply be a packaging marvel that squeezes enough travel into a tiny space entirely within the bodywork for unobstructed air flow? Or both? Or something else entirely? Time will tell.


How much time? Well, the first deliveries are targeted for 2018, so we've got a while yet to get our collective heads around this incredible machine and absorb what will likely be a drip feed of technical information over the next year or two. This model has already been shown to some potential customers in Monaco, while Red Bull F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo has expressed keen interest in being a test driver during prototype development. Once it's all finalised, Aston Martin will at their facility in Gaydon build at least 99 road-registered cars (with a cap at 150 cars including prototypes), then 24 track-only versions that really would scare an LMP1 car...

Fancy one? Tough. It's going to cost at least £2,000,000 which used to be an awful lot of money until two Thursdays ago. Instead you, like I, will have to just sit there and dream about it, quietly wishing it had a slightly snappier name and wondering what on earth its all-new V12 will sound like.

Hypercars may never be the same again.


Written exclusively for SmallBlogV8. Don't steal the words. Images from Aston Martin and evo magazine.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Proper Content On The Way

It rained this year, because this year is terrible in general
OK, so this blog's been a little bit light on substantial content recently. While I've mostly managed to make my personal target of four posts per month, it's certainly not the aim to write four posts in the last 90 minutes of a month. I do have stories to tell and pictures to show (although one set of videos still needs to be recovered after I made a mistake in fatigued state of mind), but personal problems and one or two other things have held me back. I'm aiming for this to stop being the case soon. I'll spare you a furious/terrified rant about Brexit because you'll have read every point I'd make somewhere else, but there's Goodwood, a special Gran Turismo preview and one or two other things I'd like to present as long-form features. While I dare not make promises, I'm hoping July will be the month I get my shit together. We will see...