The 2014 Lykan Hypersport being being introduced at the 2013 Dubai auto show. (Shmee150)

The 2014 Lykan HyperSport being being introduced at the 2013 Dubai auto show. (Shmee150)

In the movie, “Furious7” (or “Seven”, the filmmakers can’t seem to make up their minds), the latest installment in the “Fast & Furious” franchise, a car identified as a Lykan Hypersport is crashed from one skyscraper in the 70+-story Etihad Towers complex in Abu Dhabi to another (and another).

What’s a Lykan HyperSport? And is it really worth $3.4 million? Were only seven ever built? And did the filmmakers really destroy one?

Yes, yes and yes.

The car is real, and so is its price tag. Why so much? It has something to do with the 420 diamonds in the headlights! Indeed, only seven were built for public sale, and yes, one really was destroyed in the film.

But it wasn’t one of the seven.

Huh?

Some background: The Lykan HyperSport is the first creation of W Motors, which bills itself as the first Arab maker of automobiles. W Motors was formed in 2012 in Lebanon, but in 2013 re-located to Dubai.

The Lykan Hypersport was unveiled in Monaco in January of that year, and has been making the rounds at various high-end auto salons, boat shows and art installations ever since. W Motors says it has plans for a second car, the SuperSport, somewhere down the road.

Despite its “all-Arab” origins, the Lykan Hypersport has some interesting genes. The design had major input from StudioTorino, an Italian firm based in Turin. Its flat six 3.7-liter twin turbo engine descends from Porsche via Ruf Automobile, a German tuner and manufacturer of its own sports cars. In fact, the specs closely relate to those in Ruf’s GTR3, which has been around since 2007 (also at least partially styled by StudioTorino). Ruf also has a manufacturing facility in the Middle East. The chassis is said to be similar to ones used in certain Porsche race cars.

Even at a suggested retail price of $3.4 million, a Lykan HyperSport is not the world’s most expensive car (as some have touted it), but it is right up there with those that are, such as the $4 million Lamborghini Veneño and some special edition Bugatti models ($3.3 million-plus). Part of the tab is driven by the diamond-encrusted headlights; rubies, sapphires and other precious gems are options that could drive the “drive-off” cost higher.

From a performance standpoint, the Lykan HyperSport is relatively modestly powered: 740 horsepower puts it in the realm of the Lambo Murcielago and Veneño, and the Aston Martin One-77. It is slightly more powerful than a Pagani Huayra or a Ferrari F12 Berlinetta. It is a little down on power to some Gumpert Apollo models and Porsche’s 918. Way down the list, compared to Koenigsegg and Bugatti models.

Its top speed is calculated at 245 m.p.h., but it is doubtful anyone outside of a computer lab has ever driven it that fast.

Here’s a look at how filmmakers used it:


Is it lightweight enough that Vin Diesel could pick up the nose and hold the front of the car in the air? Probably not, although its mid-engine design helps keep its balance more toward the rear. Curb weight, an unpublished number, could be an issue for the Lykan HyperSport. The future SuperSport promises a lighter weight – in the area of 3,300 pounds (as well as a lower price tag, and 1000+ horsepower engine). So, we know the Lykan HyperSport probably tips the scales at hundreds of pounds more.

As we mentioned above, the movie car – which really was destroyed filming the stunts depicted – was not one of the planned production run of seven vehicles. It was actually built by W Motors, strictly for movie use (and it sounds like there may have been more than one built).

“Though the cars that we had in the film weren’t the actual production model Lykan HyperSport, they’re basically a movie version that W Motors created for us or built for us,” Dennis McCarthy, the movie franchise’s Picture Car Coordinator explained in an interview with The Verge (see it all here). “Still very pricey, but not $3.4 million like the actual car would cost.”

McCarthy, who has worked on all but two of the seven Fast & Furious movies, explained the process: “What W Motors did is they used the exact same molds they use for their actual production car, but they built the car out of fiberglass as opposed to carbon fiber. The chassis, instead of being basically a Porsche race car, is a Porsche Boxster with the wheelbase stretched on it. So yeah, we basically built a car that looks 100 percent correct, or is as close to it as we possibly can, and doesn’t wipe my budget out with just one vehicle.”

It is difficult to confirm how many Lykan HyperSports may have been sold. But the filmmakers paid for theirs. The old you-break-it, you-buy-it rule of retail, I guess!

(A footnote: A stunt man really did crash the Lykan HyperSport replica out of one glass tower into the next, but it was on a 40-foot high re-creation at a sound stage in Atlanta. For argument’s sake, however, a mathematician consulted by an Abu Dhabi newspaper calculated that the stunt could be done, “but I would not volunteer to be the one driving the car.”)

Jerry Garrett
April 6, 2015

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | March 31, 2015

In Arizona, Does 2003 Chevy Truck Mean “Mexican Drug Runner”?

IMG_8847

VIRGIN RIVER CANYON, Arizona

Driving along Interstate 15 the other night in my 2003 Chevrolet S10 pickup, laden down with furniture and household belongings, I was pulled out of a line of traffic slowly wending its way through a 45 mph construction zone by an Arizona state trooper.
“You were speeding, and weaving across the fog line,” the trooper greeted me, before I could say anything.
“What?!?” I answered. “What’s the ‘fog line’?”
“The white line along the side of the road,” he said.
“First time I’ve ever of that,” I responded. “I wasn’t aware I was weaving. The road is pretty messed up through the construction zone, and this truck is loaded down pretty good.”
“Your rear wheels touched it a couple of times,” he said, making sure to shine his light squarely in my blue eyes.
“First time I ever heard that term,” I said. “Also, I didn’t think I was speeding. I was in the middle of a line of about ten cars. I wasn’t passing anybody. Nobody was passing me. I was just keeping up with traffic.”
“Look, I was just going to give you a warning,” he said. “But if you are going to give me attitude, I will write you up.”
“I wasn’t trying to give you attitude,” I said. “I was just trying to understand why you thought I was speeding and the others around me weren’t.”
“I’m just one guy out here, stopping one car for speeding,” he said. “I can’t say what the others were doing.”
Bad answer, I thought. He was picking on me. But I didn’t yet understand why. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Everyone makes fun my four-cylinder 2003 Chevy – as too slow to get out of its own way. Now I was being accused of speeding with it. How was that possible?
“Okay, I’m not going to write you up for speeding,” he said. He also wasn’t going to write me up for touching the ‘fog line’ – both of which he knew were bogus charges. But he wasn’t going to let me off, without teaching me a lesson for questioning him, his authority and his judgment. He cited me for failing to have a printed copy of my current insurance card – having it on an app on my smartphone apparently wasn’t good enough for him. He also didn’t like the report he got back on my Florida license. But he wasn’t going to run me in over that. At that point, he just wanted to get rid of me, and teach me a little lesson, for being cheeky.
The court, if I want to fight any of this, he said, is in Colorado City, Arizona – which is probably 70-80 miles away, back up through Utah and out the road toward Kanab. If you’ve heard of Colorado City before you might know that its twin city just across the border in Utah is Hildale – two cities best known for their overwhelming polygamist populations. It’s fairly weird place that I usually steer clear of.
The officer who cited me doesn’t actually live there himself. He lives in St. George, Utah – which I think is an even weirder deal.
After handing me my citation, he zoomed off and was soon pulling someone else over. I couldn’t tell exactly what kind of vehicle they were driving. Something like a white van.
Later, my daughter. who also lives in the St. George area, gave me an answer what was going on: “You were being profiled. You were driving the ‘cholo truck’. He thought you were Mexican, and probably a drug runner.”
That is the kids’ way of describing my little blue Chevy. It seems to be a popular truck with landscapers, construction workers and pool service guys.
Now I know what it feels like to be profiled, I guess. Not good, amigo.

Jerry Garrett
March 31, 2015

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | March 26, 2015

Irwindale Speedway Demolition Approved

IRWINDALE, California

Irwindale city council last night approved plans to demolish Irwindale Speedway & replace it with a 700,000-sq ft outlet mall.

The speedway operator’s lease, however, can continue until the developers have 70% of its planned shops pre-leased to tenants.

Ground-breaking for “Phase I” is scheduled to begin in 2016. So it’s possible the speedway could survive into 2016. (Phase II mall construction is slated to begin in 2018. 

The racing facility, which features a half-mile oval and one-eighth mile dragstrip, was built in the late 1990s at a cost of about $20 million. 

Jerry Garrett

March 29, 2015

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | December 28, 2014

THE IMITATION GAME: Where Is Bletchley Park?

Bletchley Park complex & huts aerial view (www.webbaviation.co.uk)

 

Where – and what – is Bletchley Park, that top-secret strategic location in the film, “The Imitation Game” ?

In general terms, it is a 130-year-old mansion house, converted for use by code-breakers during World War II, and it is about 50 miles north of London. Specifically, it is on the south side of Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, a burgeoning commercial and industrial center that has really only come into being since the 1950s. If you’ve heard of MK heretofore, it may have only been because it is central to where a lot of Formula 1 racing teams, such as Red Bull (nee Jaguar, nee Stewart Racing) are headquartered.

During WWII, the area was largely farmland. The Bletchley Park site, comprised of about 58 acres, was originally part of a larger estate of 581 acres that dates to at least the early 1700s. A mansion of some kind existed there in 1711, but it was demolished sometime after the property changed hands in 1793. A subsequent farmhouse constructed there was expanded in the 1880s into the sprawling mish-mash of Victorian, Gothic, Tudor and Baroque architecture we know today.

The mansion and surrounding land was bought in 1938 by a developer, who planned a housing estate there. But he was overruled later that year by Britain’s MI6 secret service, which decided to acquire B.P., as it is nicknamed, for secret intelligence work in case war broke out.

The site was a mixed blessing, from a strategic standpoint. It was right next to a railway station on the “Varsity Line” that ran between Oxford and Cambridge, the universities from which many of the intelligence workers were recruited. And it also connected to the main line that ran from London in the south, all the way to Liverpool (and Scotland) in the north. Likewise, it was close to the main highway (now the A5) that connected London and Birmingham. High-volume telegraph and telephone lines also were strung through the area.

But it turned out to be not beyond the range of German bombs, which was proven one night in 1940 when three bombs – probably meant for the railway station – dropped squarely on one of the huts. The damage was quickly repaired, and no one was hurt.

After the war, the site was largely abandoned, and various developers again tried to re-purpose the property. But in the early 1990s, Milton Keynes elected officials recognized it for its wartime strategic importance, and designated it as a park. It has been open for tours.

Alan Turing & early computing equipment.

Since 2007, Bletchley Park has been the site of the National Museum of Computing. It features, among other things, reconstructed versions of the pioneering Colossus computer devised in large part by the genius mathematician Alan Turing, around whom the movie revolves.

In 2014, the museum, which is undergoing ongoing restoration, was officially “re-opened.”

The site was, by the way, used as an actual filming location for the movie, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley.

Jerry Garrett

December 28, 2014

 

 

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | December 25, 2014

THE INTERVIEW: Who Is Responsible? Sony? The CIA? How About Canada!

Who is responsible for making “The Interview” – and where and when was it filmed?

Of course, the comedy about assassinating North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wasn’t filmed in North Korea. So, where was it filmed?

How about Vancouver, British Columbia?

Yes!

The entire movie was filmed in and around Vancouver last October to December. (We’ll note some of the exact locations below.) O, Canada!

North Korea actually believes the United States government made the film. In fact, it was largely made by Canadian tax payers, who footed most of the bill! Ha!

As Canada’s Global News notes, “‘The Interview’ was made in Canada by Canadians with the help of Canadian tax credits.”

Screen Shot 2014-12-25 at 9.25.01 AMThat strikes Canadians pretty funny, since they feel at least 90 percent responsible for the controversial movie; it’s funny as long as all those threats to strike the White House, Pentagon and the whole U.S. mainland and target President Barack Obama are just blarney.

Perhaps none of this is amusing, however, to Sony Pictures, which was victimized by a damaging cyber-attack on its computer archives, supposedly because it green-lighted the film and planned to show it in theaters starting Christmas Day.

Somehow, Canada’s name didn’t come up in any of the statements from North Korea or the hackers, the self-proclaimed Guardians of Peace.

Just how Canadian is “The Interview”?

Among the film’s executive producers are Canadians Shawn Williamson and Ariel Shaffir. It was co-produced by Point Grey Pictures, a company founded by Vancouver natives Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (and named for the Vancouver high school at which they became friends). They co-directed, and filmed it with largely local crews, dozens of local extras, and a supporting cast of Canadians like Reese Alexander, Diana Bang, Geoff Gustafson and Dominique Lalonde.

Since the film, made on a budget of $44 million, was essentially “home-grown” Canadian box office fare, it was eligible for British Columbia tax credits of up to 33 per cent and Canadian federal tax credits of nearly 16 per cent. And don’t forget that favorable exchange rate between American and Canadian dollars. Cast and crew could be housed pretty economically for two months of location work.

Exact locations?

Interiors – bars, bedrooms, etc. – were shot on a soundstage at The Bridge Studios in Burnaby, B.C. Scenes in which James Franco’s character hosts his fictional interview show “Skylark Tonight” were shot in a studio at the CBC Vancouver Broadcast Centre.

Downtown Vancouver was used for the film’s “New York City” exterior scenes.

The glorious Canadian Rockies that stand like sentinels around Vancouver doubled as both China and North Korea.

Vancouver’s Robson Square doubled as Pyongyang, the North Korean capital — complete with a giant statue of Kim Jong-un. (I’m waiting for that to turn up on eBay.)

Other locations include:

Vancouver Art Gallery on Hornby St.

The Ascot Lounge on West Pender St.

A street corner at West Hastings and Hornby streets.

A stretch of West 1st Ave. near the Burrard Bridge.

The movie’s final scenes, in the life boat, I believe were shot on what the Canadians call the Salish Sea (Americans think of it as a northern part of Puget Sound, I suppose); specifically in an area that looks to me like Horseshoe Bay – kind of on the way up to Whistler (where the 2010 Olympic ski events were held). A construction yard along the bay, off Highway 99, looks like the area where the tank and aerial scenes were filmed.

Pretty country. Much prettier than North Korea. Everybody loves Canada. Everybody loves Canadians. In fact, Americans, if you ever find yourself in a dangerous situation overseas, try shouting, “Don’t shoot! I’m Canadian.” It works.

It seems to be working – so far – for the makers of “The Interview”.

Jerry Garrett

December 24, 2014

 

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | December 22, 2014

Monday Motorsports 12/22/2014: Cash Piñata Ecclestone Sued Again

 

Bernie Ecclestone's 2014 Christmas card

Bernie Ecclestone’s 2014 Christmas card

By JERRY GARRETT

(Please note: This weekly column by The New York Times contributor is now moving to this blog.)

BayernLB, the German state bank, is suing Bernie Ecclestone and his family’s Bambino trust for €345 million ($422 million) over the Formula 1 major domo’s role in the controversial 2005 sale of the bank’s share of the series.

Ecclestone, in response, has counter-sued the bank for an undisclosed amount.

The Bayern suit, announced in Munich on Friday, is the latest in a string of lawsuits over F1’s sale to an investment group. A Bayern executive went to jail for 8+ years in connection with the sale, over charges he solicited a $44 million bribe from Ecclestone (who paid it).

Ecclestone agreed to pay the Bavarian government a $100 million “settlement fee” last summer to make fraud charges against him in connection with the matter “go away.” He faced up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Ecclestone lampooned that payment as a form of highway robbery in his annual Christmas card (shown above).

Bayern and Ecclestone have been engaged in settlement talks over the matter; Ecclestone reportedly offered the bank €25 million in cash last August. The bank said it refused the offer, then filed its suit.

In other motorsports news of note from the previous week:

Ford GT40 winning 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ford GT40 winning 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ford Motor Company is reportedly planning to resurrect its GT supercar for production, and to also commission racing versions that would compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016.

The GT, evocative of Ford’s legendary 1960s GT40 sports car that won Le Mans four times 1966-69, was a limited edition model that was produced in the 2005 and 2006 model years. The car, plagued by initial quality issues and a $150,000 price tag, was discontinued after that, although it reportedly took some dealers into 2007 and 2008 to clear their lots of unsold models. Since then, however, the GT has become something of a cult collectible.

While details remain hard to pin down, a press conference has been scheduled by the FIA’s World Endurance Championship, a series affiliated with the Le Mans race, for Jan. 13 in Detroit in connection with the North American International Auto Show.

Ford may or may not announce its GT plans at that time.

(Rhys MIllen Racing)

(Rhys Millen Racing)

Meanwhile, Hyundai is apparently ending its North American motorsports program, after withdrawing from its six-year partnership with Rhys Millen Racing. The partnership had fielded entries for the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, Global Rallycross and Formula Drift.

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Posted by: Jerry Garrett | December 16, 2014

Is This The 2016 Toyota Prius?

Does this look like a Toyota Prius? (Jerry Garrett Photo)

Does this look like a Toyota Prius? (Jerry Garrett Photo)

PARIS

Is this the next Toyota Prius?

News reports coming out this week suggest it is. But what exactly are we looking at here, and where – and when – was this picture taken?

This is Toyota’s “C-HR Concept” which was shown last October at the Paris Motor Show. Toyota said little in introducing it, and just sort of tossed it off as a design study of a “compact crossover.” Most automotive journalists, if they mentioned it at all in their dispatches from the show, described the C-HR as apparently Toyota’s attempt to come up with something of a competitor to Nissan’s Juke.

In my report for The New York Times, I wrote the C-HR, was “not exactly a surprise — because Toyota hinted it was coming.” But, I added, the “C-HR proved compelling, and it was said to be the first example of a new ‘diamond’ styling architecture.”

Toyota said, vaguely, the C-HR “will deliver significantly enhanced efficiency.”

Not much to go on there. But it was obvious Toyota had spent a lot of time on this interesting, and rather appealing, little car. Why weren’t they saying much about it?

Rear view

Rear 3/4 view

Apparently it was a trial balloon for a controversial, and highly unusual, styling re-do – of the Prius – inarguably one of Toyota’s most important models.

Information coming out of Toyota recently indicates that the much anticipated 2016 Prius re-design – originally due in early 2015 – didn’t pass muster when it came up for its final review by Toyota’s top brass late last year. A complete re-do was demanded. At conservative Toyota, that dramatic of a turn of events almost never happens.

Back to the drawing board, and styling room, the chastened design team went. Six months passed.

The results were shown to the same execs in April. This time the design got a thumbs-up. Whew! Design team careers saved!

To the outside world, the design of the next Prius is still a closely regarded secret. But a Toyota source tipped an Automotive News correspondent recently that the next Prius is “closely” related to the C-HR Concept shown in Paris.

If true, the next Prius might not be as boring as its predecessors. What a concept! The C-HR features a sporty stance, pronounced wedge shape, prominent wheel arches, aggressive grille and tapered greenhouse. About the same size as the outgoing model on the outside, the next version will offer more interior space by optimizing the size and placement of components such as the dash, the seats and door panels.

Because buyers expect each successive generation of the Prius to get better and better fuel mileage, Toyota will implement many new lightweight body parts. The lighter the weight, the higher the fuel economy (generally speaking).

The standard Prius’ styling will also be different from the next plug-in version of the car; right now, they look almost exactly the same.

Some had speculated the next Prius would look something like the recently introduced Mirai fuel cell car; but when Prius designers asked about using similar design cues, they were told “no!” The Mirai is supposed to look like the Mirai only, and nothing else in the Toyota lineup.

All the changes to the next Prius came at a price, however. Instead of coming out in the first half of 2015, it is not likely to appear until late in 2015.

Jerry Garrett

December 15, 2014

 

 

 

Isn't this what auto shows are all about? (Lexus photo)

Isn’t this what auto shows are all about? (Lexus photo)

LOS ANGELES

The Lexus LF-C2 concept, introduced here at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show, is the ultimate in topless motoring.

No, seriously. It has no top.

That’s because, Lexus announced, it’s a “roadster concept.” So, as a result – in Lexus’ thinking – it doesn’t deserve a top.

Okay, so we had our fun – me and my colleagues in the motoring press.

Youabian Puma (Jerry Garrett)

Youabian Puma (Jerry Garrett)

It seems we have to find something we can jump on at each auto show. Last year at L.A., it was the Youabian Puma (deservedly so). This year, it seems to be the LF-C2 concept. Except for the Dyson-like nose, I thought the LF-C2 looked pretty cool (it would look especially cool with me and my date in it!).

In its own defense, Lexus revealed surprisingly little about the LF-C2 concept at its introduction. In fact, in prepared remarks, Jeff Bracken, the Lexus executive who introduced it, devoted just four short, vague sentences to the car.

“Today we’re here to share with you what happens when we take our signature look, which is critical to our identity in the luxury market, and incorporate it into a fun ‘what if’ concept,” he said. “The result is the LF-C2.”

He added, “This concept celebrates our design identity and kicks it up a notch – actually, make that several notches! Open top, gorgeous at a glance, and just plain fun, this concept gives you a hint into what the future of Lexus design holds.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 3.51.43 PMThe topless Lexus – LF-C2 apparently is short for “Lexus Future – Coupe 2” – appears to be nominally related to the RC-F coupe, which is headed into production. If that is true, the LF-C2 could theoretically be powered by the same sort of 400-plus horsepower V8.

Or, like its non-existent top, it could be powered by nothing – not an uncommon form of motive power among pie-in-the-sky auto show concepts.

But here’s my point: Isn’t that what makes auto shows great? Or at least worthwhile? Isn’t it the flights of fancy – the more extreme the better – that make an auto show worth going to? Otherwise, an auto show is just like a trip to the auto mall.

So I congratulate Lexus for even going to the trouble of preparing the LF-C2 and bringing it to the L.A. show. I remember many years when Toyota and Lexus had nothing to introduce at L.A. – even though it’s right in the backyard of the company’s American operations (in Torrance, California).

If more manufacturers brought concepts to auto shows, think how much better auto shows would be! I’ll never forget the Ford Nucleon of the late 1950s – even if the idea of a nuclear-powered flying car (especially one based on a Ranchero pickup) now seems ridiculous.

So bring on the topless roadsters, the flying cars, gas-free electric cars, the armored SUVs – that’s why I go to auto shows.

(Postscript: All that said, Lexus, and its parent Toyota, need to get serious and build some real convertibles. The company has always seemed to have a tortured relationship with opening the tops of their cars. It barely tolerated a “Sunchaser” open-top version of its Celica, and only because it didn’t really make it – a third-party vendor did the conversion. The Lexus SC-430 coupe, with its folding hardtop, was beautiful on the inside but disproportionately styled on the outside; still, it hung around in the marketplace for almost 10 years without a redesign before finally being put out of its misery. Lexus’ neglect of the SC-430 was so extreme that, at the time of its demise in 2010, it was the last automobile sold in America with a cassette tape deck.)

Jerry Garrett
November 30, 2014

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | November 19, 2014

Bentley Grand Convertible Unveiled At 2014 L.A. Auto Show

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 6.56.11 PM

LOS ANGELES

Bentley, the British luxury carmaker, has some holes in its otherwise lavish lineup of sedans and coupes. The new Grand Convertible concept, unveiled at the 2014 L.A. Auto Show, is meant to fill ones of the biggest deficiencies: It needs more convertibles.

The Grand Convertible is, the company says, “the most sophisticated open-top car ever created by Bentley.”

The Grand Convertible was billed as a concept, but the vehicle was all but production-ready. It is based on its Mulsanne luxury flagship, with power and luxury rivaling the company’s most extreme offerings.

Under the hood is a 6.75-liter V8, equipped with twin turbochargers, producing a total of 530 horsepower and 811 pounds-feet of torque. Top speed, while not announced, approached 200 m.p.h.

The concept’s Sequin Blue color was originally created to fulfill a customer’s request to replicate a single sequin from a haute couture gown. Like the Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe, to which this concept is meant as a competitive answer, the Grand Convertible features a contrasting silver “liquid metal” finish to its hood and windshield frame.

It took 14 naturally tanned, linen-colored leather hides, stitched merged together with progressive-diamond quilting, to craft the four seats seats and door panels.

When the convertible top is stowed, the tonneau cover (ala the RR’s teak rear deck) is hand-crafted of book-matched, mirror-finished, dark-stained Burr Walnut between parallel lines of chromed steel. “It’s the largest piece of wood veneer ever applied to a Bentley,” the company said.

“This concept demonstrates Bentley’s ability to create a pinnacle convertible Grand Tourer,” said Wolfgang Durheimer, the company’s chief executive, in unveiling the car. “It embodies elegance beyond compare.”

He added, “With this car we combine the opulent Mulsanne experience with the full sensory indulgence of open-air touring, continuing to unite luxury and performance in new ways. We are eagerly awaiting the response of our customers to this car. We will ensure that this car – if it reaches the roads – will be a highly exclusive, extremely limited collector’s piece.”

Why the reluctance to confirm the Grand Convertible for production?

Maybe they didn’t want to reveal the price yet!

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | November 6, 2014

2014 SEMA Show Is An Automotive Idea Factory

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By JERRY GARRETT, Contributor to The New York Times

LAS VEGAS

The Specialty Equipment Market Association’s massive annual trade show here is something of an idea factory for what enterprising innovators can come up with to expand automotive boundaries of performance, appearance and taste.

The show opened Tuesday, spread out over more than a million square feet of space at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

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“Nearly 2,500 exhibitors will bring products for more than 60,000 wholesale buyers looking for the latest parts and accessories,” Chris Kersting, the organization’s chief executive said via email.

Those numbers represent a continuing trend in the aftermarket industry, which continues to bounce back from a rough patch, 2008-2009, when the entire automotive industry weathered an economic storm.

“In 2013 consumers bought more than $33.4 billion in non-repair/replacement parts and accessories to personalize their cars, trucks and SUVs,” noted Kersting, who said that total was almost a seven percent increase over the previous year. “And it was a 19.7 percent increase since the recession ended in 2009.”

He added, “Such growth is a sure sign people still love their cars and are again spending money on improving them.”

What, precisely, is driving the industry’s rebound?IMG_8230

“Two market niches especially stand out: Street Performance and Light Truck,” he said.

The ever-growing Street Performance niche – which actually grew during the recession – includes all products used to modify performance vehicles such as sports and muscle cars – superchargers, suspension, body kits, and so forth. That part of the industry has nearly quadrupled since 2001 and now represents about $9 billion in retail sales, Kersting said.

Some of the growth is being driven by not only continued interest in performance and muscle cars, but also by a growing interest in restoring and modifying older cars.

Light Trucks, which comprise products for modifying performance, appearance and handling of light trucks and utility vehicles, was hit the hardest during the recession, Kersting said, complicated by high unemployment in the construction sector and rising gas prices. But since 2010, it is up 16 percent – although still not above pre-recession levels.

IMG_8220
The largest product segments remain specialty performance tires and custom wheels, which are seen as popular options for quickly and relatively easily improving performance, handling and value of most vehicles.

Many hundreds of customized vehicles will be on display, both inside and outside of the convention center. There will also be a number of displays of performance, handling and capability of modified vehicles.

Most automakers will have displays at the show, as well as the aftermarket companies, as both foreign and domestic manufacturers realize there are profitable opportunities for them as well in this market. Displays will include factory-blessed customized vehicles from Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, Hyundai and many others.

The SEMA show, as it is popularly called, runs through Friday. It is closed to the public, although some vehicles on display, or involved in performance activities outside of the convention center, can be seen without special passes or admission charges.

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Posted by: Jerry Garrett | October 6, 2014

Please Note: October 8, 2014 Blood Red Moon Eclipse Facts

The Moon turned blood red during a full eclipse April 14/15, 2014 (Jerry Garrett Photo)

The Moon turned blood red during a full eclipse April 14/15, 2014 (Jerry Garrett Photo)

Here we go again. Another lunar eclipse, just like we had last April. And it’s another one of those eerie “blood red” Moons. But this one will be a super-sized Blood Red Moon.

So there will be differences between this one and the last one. This one could be better ! Here are some reasons why, along with some noteworthy facts, figures, times and places where it can be best seen.

Number 1: It’s, of course, a full moon that night. Check your local almanac for the time when the full Moon will rise in your area. Just after sunset is a good rule of thumb!

Number 2: There is confusion about when you might see it in your area, because all the East Coast-centric writers have extrapolated the viewing times into Eastern Daylight Time zone – where the viewing won’t be all that great because of the arrival of dawn. So convert those East Coast times into what it would be in your time zone.

Number 3: Totality starts at 6:25 a.m. EDT and last nearly an hour – until 7:24 a.m., the National Aeronautics and Space Administration calculates. But that means, for instance, that it will be fully eclipsed from 3:25 a.m. to 4:24 a.m. on America’s West Coast – a couple of hours earlier than that in Hawaii. Earth time doesn’t necessarily align with that of the celestial clock. (Helpful times for the exact moment of “totality”: October 8 10:55 UTC ; 6:55 a.m. EDT; 5:55 a.m. CDT; 4:55 a.m. MDT; 3:55 a.m. PDT.)

Number 4: Because this eclipse will happen two days after a point when the Moon is nearest to the Earth, called a lunar perigee, the Moon will appear 5.3 percent larger than it did during the April 15 eclipse. So maybe we should call this a Blood Red Super Moon!

Number 5: The eclipse will be best seen – i.e., in its entirety – from the western United States, the Pacific Islands and eastern parts of Asia, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. Sorry, Europe, Africa and the Middle East; you are totally out of luck. Areas in between (see map) will be able to see parts of the eclipse but sunrise/moonset will interfere with the viewing experience.

 

NASA’s map of the best areas to see the October 8, 2014 blood red lunar eclipse.

 

Number 6: Why does the moon appear red? It has to do with the bending of light rays in the atmosphere. Eclipses occur when the Earth moves exactly between the Moon and the Sun; the Earth’s shadow covers the Moon. Most light is blocked, but some red bounces past, and seems to project itself, like the colors of a sunrise or sunset, coloring the Moon.

“The exact color that the moon appears depends on the amount of dust and clouds in the atmosphere,” according to NASA scientists. “If there are extra particles in the atmosphere, from say a recent volcanic eruption, the moon will appear a darker shade of red.”

Number 7: This eclipse is the second in a series of four lunar eclipses, known as a tetrad, that are occuring over a period of this year and next. Earth will experience only eight tetrads this century. The next one won’t come around until 2032-2033.

Jerry Garrett

October 6, 2014

 

 

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | October 6, 2014

Please Note: Eiffel Tower Does NOT Have A Glass Floor!

iffel Tower 6 October 2014: Notice anything different? Mind the gap in the middle of the first floor! (Jerry Garrett Photo)

Eiffel Tower 6 October 2014: Notice anything different? Mind the gap in the middle of the first floor! It’s 57 meters down to the ground! (Jerry Garrett Photos)

PARIS

The Eiffel Tower’s first floor is no longer a huge gaping hole, thanks to some new construction that has been completed. The finished work was unveiled to the public Monday. Somewhat disappointingly, despite hype to the contrary, it does not have a glass floor!

What is does have is a narrow transparent walkway around the perimeter of the gaping hole. You can’t venture very far out from the old metal walkway (the one that has been there since the tower was constructed in the late 1880s). But you can go far enough to probably scare the average tourist half to death. For the very brave, the transparent railing around it is canted out even farther over the void.

The opportunity to pay money to be scared half to death was enough to lure thousands of thrill seekers, despite an afternoon rain, to stand in line for a ticket to experience it. (There was some kind of holiday in Germany today, so more than usual in the queue were from there.)

The view remains free!

The view remains free!

Millions (seven-plus in 2013) already come to see it each year, making it the most visited monument in the world – especially of the “admission required” variety. It made 73 million euro (over $95 million) last year alone in admission fees to ride the elevators that go to the top. (Latest rates: 9 euro for adults for the elevator to the second floor; a further 15 euro for the separate elevator to the top; it even costs 5 euro now to take the stairs to the second floors that used to be free – note you can’t climb the stairs all the way.)

Local officials, who presided over the “gala” grand opening (pun intended) today, are hopeful the changes will bring even more visitors – and even more money – to the landmark.

The idea of a completely glassed-over floor on the tour’s first elevated viewing area sounded great. But I wondered how they would pull it off – that’s a huge area to cover. And I could just imagine several tour busloads of morbidly obese Americans cramming themselves onto the plexiglass and making it cave in. That was the apparently dealbreaker for architects Moatti-Riviere for anything more ambitious. A structure made of glass or plexiglass or any transparent material (now known) just does not have the tensile strength for those kinds of loads. But a glass walkway can be (and is) reinforced with steel just enough to make it work.

The new installations should help improve the tourist experience up there. It will still be drafty and cold – even on a warm day. But the wind flow has been altered and lessened.

Tourists who braved the first day view didn't stay there long!

Tourists who braved the first day view didn’t stay there long!

Still, even the tourists who made it up there today seemed daunted – and few stayed out on the see-through portion very long. It is 57 meters (187 feet) to the ground below. (Tip: Ladies are advised no to wear skirts; there are plenty of photographers with very high power telephoto lens camped out below!)

The changes are all part of a 30 million euro facelift of the dowdy first floor, which took two years to complete. The sparkling area now includes glassed-in shops, restaurants and a museum with seven screens. A film detailing the history of the 125-year-old, 325-meter-high tower will be shown on them. (Did you know the tower was best known for many years as a revolutionary lighted outdoor billboard – for Citroen cars?)

No more major work is planned on the tower for the foreseeable future. But the ongoing maintenance here never ends. The whole structure needs a 60-ton coat of new paint every seven years.

Jerry Garrett

October 6, 2014

 

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