Dirty business: VW’s “Dieselgate”


I have to admit, I have been off my blog for nearly a year (my last post was in October). Mainly because I have never got myself round to writing, secondly because I had too many fingers in too many pies, and finally – because there were too many things to talk about and none that I thought about writing about…until last week.

VW Diesel

For those of you who have no idea what so many car nuts are losing their heads about and why the VW Passat unveiling was not over the news (like if it ever would be. A “Passat” is like saying “A4 paper”. It’s the same kind of reaction), Volkswagen Group got into a bit of trouble over their 2.0 litre TDI engines. Volkswagen advertised their engines as being the benchmark for power and efficiency and having exhaust gasses that are cleaner than white clouds in a Summer sky over Iceland. Because of that their new customers all over the world bought loads of cars with these engines in them, around 11 million between 2009 and last Friday, in fact. But now it seems that this number won’t increase for some time. All is because Volkswagen were lying. Not about them being reliable or anything, but that they are actually not as clean as clouds over Iceland. They are actually dirtier than a Smog over London in the 1960s. But why it was unnoticed? Why nobody screamed about it before? Because they couldn’t tell.

THE PROBLEM

Oh if only everybody knew it then

Oh if only everybody knew it then.

They couldn’t tell because VW, being the “Dr. Evil Enterprise” installed a device which basically when engaged turns the cleaning systems in the engine on, making exhausts as clean as advertised in the brochure. This device was programmed to start automatically, when it detects that an emissions test is in progress. After the emissions test is over, this device turns all of the cleansing systems off and the engine burns dirty fuel mixture. And how much dirtier is it? If you’re going to say “twice”, I’d say “don’t be too humble.” Five times? Nope. It emitted BETWEEN 10 TO 40 TIMES OVER THE ALLOWABLE EMISSIONS NORM. So that means if you have a VW Golf, Audi A3, Seat Leon or any other car with a 2.0 litre 4 cylinder Diesel engine and think that you’re actually saving the planet, you’re probably making the air dirtier than a footballer in a 6.0 litre W12 Bentley Continental GT. Maybe even four footballers.

THE INITIAL RESULT

The prime suspect: VW group's 2.0 litre 4-cylinder TDI engine.

The prime suspect: VW group’s 2.0 litre 4-cylinder TDI engine.

Nobody knows exactly who blew the cover first – either United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, America’s environment agency who sets the emissions targets and do the testing. They probably don’t feel to well after realising they’ve been fooled right under their eyes) or some automotive company, who, like many others, buy competitors’ cars, disassemble them and see what makes competitors’ cars better. What we do know is that this has been the biggest PR disaster Volkswagen group have ever experienced. Because of that, and because of a very powerful and overly-sensitive nature of an average American consumer, the sales of diesel cars and loads of other VW Group models in the U.S. stopped overnight.

And it’s not like they are going to go and buy them anyway. So Volkswagen, who so far have handled it quite humanly, paid the dealers for diesel cars standing in dealer lots, as they know they will not be selling them anytime soon, if not at all. It has not been specified how much, but I believe it will be enough to keep these dealers afloat for some time, because VW really needs their dealer network now more than ever, as after this scandal it is hard to believe that anyone else will step in to help to sell their cars. VW also told them to stop selling them until the issue will be fully resolved with the EPA.

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Speaking of EPA, Volkswagen are shaking nervously while they await their verdict on what fine they will have to pay. If the worst case scenario happens (which seems like it will, as Americans will see another opportunity to protect their local car industry against foreign competition), then VW will have to pay $37,500 per car in fines, which results in a total fine of $18 BILLION. That’s a fifth of their profits gone. However, VW still have the 10.5 million diesels elsewhere with the same device and the same mistake made by them. So…it could skim Volkswagen until they have no money in them. A massive risk.

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Further, adding to their problems, VW saw $26bn of shareholders’ money just flying away in front of their eyes, as their share prices dropped from around $1.40 per share to 60 cents. That’s more than a half of company’s value gone. Adding more to that, their share prices could go further down in the future until the sales figures will be revealed for this quarter, showing actually how many cars they have actually sold less than before, especially diesels, which made 20-25% of their total U.S. sales. Shareholders would run faster than sprinters from the company, selling their worthless shares left and right. It scares me imagining what will happen next to them. All I know now is this: there is a chaos in the company.

First, their CEO, Martin Winterkorn, resigned just today (23rd September, 2015). The captain jumped ship before it sank. Everyone knows it was his fault, himself included, but you fix the problem and only then go. Second, VW aimed everything for their goal to become the biggest car company in the world by 2020, beating GM and Toyota in Sales, profits, and share prices. Looks like that goal is gone.

Shortly after the "Dieselgate" hit the fan, VW removed all of their "clean diesel" adverts, including these "Old Wives' Tales" commercials, which even I saw on TV when I was in the States.

Shortly after the “Dieselgate” hit the fan, VW removed all of their “clean diesel” adverts, including these “Old Wives’ Tales” commercials, which even I saw on TV when I was in the States.

Worse still, VW’s credibility as a reliable manufacturer is seriously damaged. Last time someone had this much damage from a bad publicity cos of a diesel engine was Oldsmobile, the very reason why Americans don’t like diesel. In 1970s Oldsmobile, after the oil crisis, thought they could earn money on customers looking for a cheap, efficient car. A diesel was a perfect bet, as it consumes less fuel and is as powerful as petrol cars. However, because of typical GMness, the design for the diesel engine was simple and rushed. All they did was replace petrol spark plugs with diesel ones, rearranged spark plug timing and hey presto. It wasn’t – the engines used to blow up or not start at all, so by the time they solved the problem, diesel sales stopped completely and the reputation of a diesel engine was forever ruined for Americans. Same as now.

POSSIBLE OUTCOMES (MY PREDICTIONS)

Firstly, let’s look at this graph:

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As you can see, VW from all brands contribute the least to their profits, yet earns most for their revenues. That means either they’ve allocated a huge chunk of money into development of new models, or they’ve reallocated it elsewhere to cover some losses or development of other projects, such as Bugatti Veyron’s successor, Bugatti Chiron. Then you see some higher value brands such as Audi (which are united with Lamborghini, because Audi branch exclusively own the brand) which are mechanically almost the same as VW, but here they pay that extra for the brand. The best example is Porsche/Bentley. According to Bloomberg, Porsche makes $23,000 on every car they sell, so they earn a VW Golf on each car they sell. Stronger on the brand spectrum than them is Bentley. I already talked about it in my previous blog post about VW’s badge engineering – Bentley Continental Flying Spur is nothing more than a VW Phaeton with a Bentley badge. The difference in price between VW and Bentley for this model is $100,000. Of course, Bentley has better leather and some wood, but in other ways it’s exactly the same. So Bentley earn an Audi A8 over every car it sells on top of the earnings of a VW Phaeton.

On the other end of the spectrum you have smaller brands like Škoda and Seat. For Škoda I could argue in favour more than against. They are the more differentiated than Volkswagen, as they have the Yeti and Rooster, which sell like cupcakes (at least until recently). However, the same cannot be said about Seat. For years VW executives have complained about how difficult it is to sell Seats and no matter how hard they’ve tried, they just don’t sell. Partly because they’re only sold in Europe, but mainly because they are just too similar to Volkswagens and Audis. I already showed this in my blog before, but they once actually made a Seat that’s exactly the same as an Audi A4. If you covered their brand logos up with sellotape, you could easily mix them up. There hasn’t been badge engineering this severe this side of GM.

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So my guess is this: if Volkswagen will have a massive chunk bitten off their finances (which, at this moment in time, it looks like it most certainly will), Seat will be the first brand to leave VW. As you see in the graph above, they make a loos on every car they sell, which in every sensible business would be a case for a closure of the brand. They could do two things: either sell the brand to a different manufacturer, or sell just their factories and get rid of the brand completely. The problem with the former one is, to Volkswagens own regret, Seats are just too similar to every other VW group model out there, so every Seat will hold an answer to every mystery of VW Golf, Polo, Scirocco, Audis etc etc. It would be a goldmine for other manufacturers and a death sentence for VW, who would give away the competition a huge market share. On the other hand, the latter version could not bring in enough cash and bring in a huge outrage in Spain, as the brand is part of country’s history. It’s their own, SPANISH brand, a national pride (I know the feeling, living in a country that used to make Fords for Eastern Europe in late 1930s). Also, who would want to have an empty factory in Spain? Ford? They already have one. Jaguar Land Rover? They have factories under construction in Brazil and will be in the U.S. GM? They have Opel in Germany which nearly went under in the Financial Crisis. So there’s no demand. One thing for certain, though, is this: they will keep Porsche and Bentley. They bring in too much money to get rid of them.

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If their efforts to raise cash quickly by selling brands will fail, then they will have to tighten their belts in the R&D department. Not only it will mean a reduced superiority over other brands, it will also mean a fall in reliability. So far they have been built really well, but as the graph before shows, they do not have a lot of profit cash to use to mend those problems, so they will have to use more of that revenue to cover their problems. That will further impact their sales globally, which is a real shame.

THE BRUTAL AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY

I am a fan of VW cars. But what I found most disgusting in this story is this: VW with this fault polluted the atmosphere more than initially everybody thought and they lied about it, but they killed nobody. General Motors, on the other hand, because of their lies and neglect, killed 31 people and injured 244. VW are facing extinction, yet all GM have done so far is pay mere $1.4bn in fines to shareholders and in fines to the U.S. Federal Government. In comparison, GM got away by paying pennies, yet their clueless, manipulated customers still buy their cars. Their sales actually were not affected by much. And VW are facing extinction. RIDICULOUS! Absolutely disgusting, that human lives are worth less than company’s integrity and truthfulness. All GM did was blame it on “Old GM”. Excuse me, but that’s exactly the same company. There is no difference. You screwed it up? You are responsible for it. That means VW’s new CEO has to say “that was Winterkorn’s VW. We’re different now” and prosecutors will forgive them? That is how it looks like.

But this shows how horrible the automotive industry can be – you never know what you’re gonna get (like Forrest Gump said). Whatever happens, I wish Volkswagen all the best of luck in the coming months, because that is what they will need most. They cannot hope on anything else for now but survival.

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Back in Time: The day I finally got to meet my hero car


Before I begin I would like to say an enormous thank you to all 1018 viewers that have viewed my articles. Nothing in my life has got such an attention, not even me listening to music loudly in the traffic. This number gives me an encouragement to just keep going and bringing you some more interesting content.

And today I have really something special.

 

Yesterday (13th September, 2014) I went to see a “youngtimer” hill climb race. For those of you who don’t know what a “youngtimer” is, it is a car that is at least 30 years old (so 1985 was the upper limit for entrants) but not too old to be afraid to thrash it up a hill to set up the best time. As for the hill climb, you have definitely seen it on Top Gear India Special. Let me remind you:

This all happened near Sigulda – a city about 30 km east from Riga – on a road called “Lorupes Grava”. It used to be the main road into the city until 1968 when a new higher and straighter road just next to it was opened up right across the alley next to it. No idea why they did it but my guess is that Soviet cars and mopeds weren’t powerful enough to get up the hill on this beautiful road. Luckily for petrolheads, this road unlike other “works by Capitalist pigs” wasn’t abandoned or destroyed. It has now a wonderful smooth tarmac on it. And this place is a petrolhead’s dream. It is 1 km of driving heaven with a couple of S-type curves and a rapid descent and a sudden climb straight afterwards.

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As I was told by one of the entrants (you will see him and hear his name quite soon, but let me get there) told me that the reason for this is because in Soviet days there used to be an actual rally stage through there. This event was started just 2 years ago and it did attract quite a crowd even though it wasn’t advertised much. However, by judging how friendly and open they were with each other, my guess is that those guys already knew each other long before this rally. Not sure how many but you will be the judge by looking at these photos.

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Brands that were represented? Well the Nº1 brand for sure was SAAB. There were a couple of brave guys in SAAB 96 (the blue car in the picture above), there was a SAAB 900 turbo, a SAAB 99 and even a SAAB 900 cabriolet. One of the marshals even drove a SAAB. Seems like all of them are in love with SAAB’s rally heritage.



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The next big group was a group of Porsches. There were quite a few 944, one 924 from Lithuania (who seemed to laugh in everyone’s faces with his performance) and a handful of 911 Porsches. I have seen 911 races on TV and in pictures but to see and hear it in reality was quite an occasion. The noise vibrations from that Flat-6 went through my body. That is a feeling that is hard to describe how good it feels until you experience it yourself.

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In fact this has been my very first ever such event I’ve attended and, after this, definitely not my last one. The experience of being at a car event itself is magical. First you have the feel of the event. The smell of burned tire rubber and exhaust fumes, the wonderful track, all these great cars around and nobody’s cocky. Everyone’s open and friendly. And FINALLY a place where there are guys who genuinely know things about cars. They don’t pretend and don’t talk trash. They know what they’re talking about. Then they allow you to properly scrutinize the car and even tell their side of the story on why they bought this car, what’s its history and what have they done to it.

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Then there were some hard core fans of their cars. There was one guy with the only one running Alfa Romeo Spider in the Baltics…and he wasn’t one of those losers who buy their cars and then lock them up in garages, being afraid that a small stone could put a little dent in car’s rims. This bloke had his Alfa restored to the best condition possible. He re-chromed it, repainted it, cleaned the interior, did an engine overhaul and voilá. I suggested him to take part in one of those car perfection competitions where cars are ranked on how mint they are. I am more than sure this guy would get the first prize.

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There were also a handful of some quite interesting LADAs. In one LADA (in the 3rd picture below) there’s something one of the track marshals told me about and something I am quite proud of that we have in our country – more and more young girls nowadays are becoming passionate about cars and some who don’t have licenses yet are desperate to get them so they can get some of that driving action. Not just as a very beautiful, smiling passenger like in that 3rd picture, but also as a driver. AT LONG LAST! THANK YOU, JESUS!

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But the main reason why I went to this event was not just to see some sexy cars and smell burning rubber. I came there because a guy called Ints Indriksons told me he is going to be there. I am quite sure none of you know who he is but I found this guy on the internet and later – on Facebook. I first met him (briefly) at a classic car show during Riga city celebrations back in August but that was just too brief. Then I contacted him again and he told me about this event and said that I could see him and his car at last, with no rush and we could chat away as long as we wanted. Got my camera and my mum’s permission to get there with her car. Away I went, having “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News blasting on car’s stereo. I was nervous because at long last I would get a chance to meet my dream car. I finally arrived at this event and asked guys at the start where is it. They said that it should be back from the run any second. So I went back through the grid desperately trying to catch a glimpse of the beauty.

And there she came. All in her silver stainless steel glory. She stopped and Ints opened her doors which rose up like a greeting. I finally got to see one in action. After all these years looking for her, reading about her, watching documentaries about her and a Hollywood blockbuster with her in the starring role finally she was right in front of me. I am talking of course about DeLorean DMC-12.

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Do you remember how you felt when at Christmas you removed the wraps and saw there the toy you’ve been wishing to have? That is exactly how I felt seeing the DMC. I have seen it only once before and that was in a museum. But seeing it in public is a completely different experience. It is like I’ve never seen it before. It blew me away. It is a very low car to start with. As you can see in the picture above it is as low as a Porsche. And it being in stainless steel it is mysterious. Like nothing else you’ve seen. It is like nothing you’ve seen. There hasn’t been a single production car that’s covered in stainless steel. Even more, there are no more than 17 000 cars made with gullwing doors (Mercedes 300SL and SLS, Bricklin SV-1 and the DMC). And those DeLorean and gullwing door critics can just shut up because they are talking nonsense.

IMG_2883First of all, as you can see above (that’s Ints, by the way. The owner of this DeLorean which happens to be the only DeLorean in the Baltics), there is no problem getting in or out of the car. I got in and out without any trouble. It is easy. Secondly it is absolute nonsense that the space needed for doors open up has to be large. All you need is mere 10 cm of space. That’s it. So the gullwing doors are the most practical door solution on the car there is. Thirdly and this is liked to the main idea why John DeLorean introduced the gullwings in the first place, is safety. Not because you have a high door sill, but because the roof  cut-out in some physical way makes the car more rigid (see Channel 4 “For the love of Cars” for more info).

_MG_7126_MG_6876It is a very comfortable place to be too. The seats are soft and the driving position is the best! The door panel and the centre console are high enough so you can control the steering wheel with your index fingers. Well, maybe on a highway, because this car has no power steering. Also, as Ints was so incredibly kind to allow me to roll the car a bit forwards along the queue for the rally, the clutch is stiff too as you could expect from such an old car. It was hard to judge the brakes because the car wasn’t running. The rev counter you see in the picture above is always in that position when the engine is off. It’s only when you turn the power on the rev counter needle drops to zero. Why? I don’t know. Forgot to ask. Another thing worth talking about is the gearbox. The shifts are incredibly precise, almost like on a German car._MG_7123

So far the car failed to follow the “never meet your heroes” principle. Quite often you hear people getting into cars that they’ve dreamed about of having since young age and find out that they don’t quite fit or it is breaking down every 500 metres or it is just rubbish in whole. But my final bit for this all came when it was time to shut the doors, because I have heard stories that some people over 6ft3 (about 190cm) could not fit. So I pulled the door down. It was surprisingly easy to do it. Towards the end you’d have to pull it a bit harder. When the door shut there was a sign of relief. I CAN FIT IN A DELOREAN! And not like I’d have to bend in some weird way, I sat like I normally sit in a car and I had space for my head, my feet and my hands to turn the steering wheel. That was lucky. But also it should not be a surprise, because John DeLorean himself was 195 cm tall.

 

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As you can see, the boot is in the front. The 2.8 litre PRV V6 130 hp (enough) engine is in the back. Ints told me that the boot is big enough for two airplane sized luggage cases. That and you have some space behind the seats. So this car could be practical enough to be usead as a daily driver. There is only one problem as shown by the picture below: as I shut the bonnet and removed my hands, even though I had clean hands I left some finger prints. But Ints said it is easy to get used to. And it is easy to get rid of them. Just clean it with a wet sponge or wait for the rain to come._MG_6884

 

Now a bit more about the history of this particular DMC. It was built in August 1982. It is interesting because this was one of unfinished cars that was shipped over to America and it was completed there. The factory in Belfast closed in May of 1982. Then it was registered in 1991 and then that owner left it in a barn in Texas in 1995 and forgot about it. It was not until 2005 when it was discovered by some Dutch DeLorean enthusiasts and brought over to Europe. They put up an advert on the internet, asking anyone to come forward and buy the car, therefore financing its restoration. It was Ints who did it. It was finished and brought over to Latvia.

 

_MG_7120_MG_7128It’s not like Ints has put this car away in the garage like these purists do. No. When there are DeLorean events in Northern Europe he drives to them. He said he’s driven it to Sweden and to Germany. He even got a congestion charge disk bought so he can get into any German city center without being penalized. It started a discussion between the guys at the meet because they were not sure if this applies to foreign cars. But Ints rightly said “it’s better to invest €15 than to check and in the end pay a fine of €40”.

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This was a fantastic day with some fantastic people. I am extremely grateful to Ints Indriksons for allowing me to take such a close look of my dream car. Thank God this car is not a case of “never meet your heroes”. It had an opposite effect – it made me want it even more. Now I see my goal after getting a job after university – buy a DeLorean. I will do just that.

And as the last picture I could not resist to have one similar to those Mr. John DeLorean himself had. How cool is that?

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Motorexpo 2014


It’s showtime: London Motorexpo 2014

 

I have been away for a while, but now I’m back. And on Monday I visited a car show that I have actually something to talk about. It was Motorexpo 2014 in Canary Warf, in London. And these were my favorites from the show. Photos provided by me with a great helping hand of my sister.

 

Porsche Boxster

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This is the very recent version of Porsche’s “hairdresser’s car” which now has become more muscular and more likeable to many. The first thing that I noticed as soon as I got into the car was most certainly QUALITY. It was everywhere – from the feel and smell of the brand new leather (I love smell of new leather in new cars) to those thousands of buttons on the center console. Even paddle shifters felt like they’ve been screwed together so tough that even a tractor couldn’t pull them off. A very low car too, though. However, as I said, this is “hairdresser’s car”, i.e. you wouldn’t like to see two men in it with the roof down. It would be a bit awkward. In an Aston Martin or an Audi A4 sure, fine, it’s cool, but in this it sort of doesn’t look right. But if you forget about the guy sitting next to you, focus yourself on the absolutely sublime driving position (feet in level with the ground and pointing dead straight) and you’ll be the happiest man in the world. For a woman, you will feel happy no matter who sits next to you.

 

Aston Martin V12 Vantage S

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Speaking of Astons, finally saw one today. Because I am so “poor” (i.e. I didn’t wear a Rolex and my eye pupils didn’t form into dollar signs) the dealer standing next to it started to shout as soon as I was crouching to get in. Oh well, maybe some other time. But one thing I can point out to Aston – your interiors have to updated fast. They’re a bit dated. Don’t believe me? Read some car journals. However, as I read, they are in works of a brand new chassis. #happytimes

McLaren 650S

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If you remember (if, of course, you bother reading my blog every time I post something) I said that I see no point of the 650S. That it is a slightly higher priced, P1-nosed 12C. Then I had a chat with the chap who represented McLaren there. He too said “look, touch, close the door, but don’t sit there”, but then I asked him “isn’t this just a fancier 650S?” He explained that it is in the looks (from the back, of course), but in detail it’s a different car. Sure, it has a 3.8 litre twin-turbo V8 (same as every other McLaren (apart from F1) there was, is and, for now, ever will be), but it’s been tuned up to 612 bhp (650 PS, hence the 650 in the model name). Also, the P1 nose gives it way more downforce. He said that the 12C had too little downforce on the nose that at some speeds there could be a possible understeer. Not like Lamborghini Miura, of course, but still not good enough in McLaren’s perfectionist eyes. Also they added larger side skirts, a bigger side scoops for more engine cooling and almost all of 12C extras now come as standard. And if you calculate all differences, he said, the 650S is actually cheaper by about £2000 than the 12C. And now I’m guessing you’re bored to levels of boredom as big as listening to a lecture about evolution. But don’t be put off by this. It just shows that even a chap at a car show is as geeky and passionate for the brand as Ron Dennis. Ronnie himself was a perfectionist and, after he came back, seems like things have shaken up a bit. And that’s a good thing.

 

Lotus Evora S

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Apart from this eye-watering color, I love the Evora. This is the S-model, i.e. a supercharged 3.5 litre  Supercharged (hence the S designation) Toyota engine in the middle and some bits and bobs added to it as standard. As Lotus has been known for decades as the ultimate handling machine, this one felt like it is just that – low, perfect seating position, arms completely horizontal when extended to the wheel, perfect adjustment on the seat to get in the position and a crisp gearbox. I have no idea where Clarkson came up with rubbish shifts when he reviewed the Evora S. There were two drawbacks. The first wan was there is literally no space in the rear for the passengers. Despite having two seats you would have to be: a) a midget if you’re driving or b) a baby if you’re sitting at the back. And the quality of the door opening handle was a bit wobbly.

 

Lotus Exige LF1

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Back in 2011 I got in a Lotus Elise for the first time. But then getting out of it was truly embarrassing for me and quite entertaining for my mate who stood there while I was on my knees, trying to get out of that thing. The same story here – I have mastered the method of getting in (first you sit in it, then slide your feet under the steering wheel). As for getting out, well, as you can see in the picture above, I have still a long way to go. Anyhow, it is a stripped-down version of Elise, so in the interior there is no drama. Just mechanical windows, no carpets, just an aluminium floor, a steering wheel, a gear knob and some pedals. That’s it. And do you actually need anything else for a track-ready sportscar? To beat all those “sluggish” Mercs and Audis, I don’t think you do.

Why is it particularly an LF1? Because this edition is made to celebrate Lotus’s involvement in F1 throughout the years. It features 2 in 1 color scheme tributes – the bright red is to commemorate those “Gold Leaf” F1 cars of late 60s and that famous, unforgettable “John Player Special” black-and-gold scheme. Only 81 of them will be built. So I have had a bit of a luck. 

Jaguar XJR

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I remember the year I fell in love with Jaguar. That was 1998, when I got my first computer game ever – Need for Speed III. It had two Jags – XJR-15 sportscar and an XK8. Despite XJR-15 being faster, sleeker and in a higher class than the XK8, I loved the GT coupe because it had this Jaguarishness about it. It just felt right. It looked good, it has the best brand name in the business (imagine saying to your girlfriend/wife: “Shall we take the Jag tonight, my dear?” Makes you as cool as Roger Moore. Actually cooler, because that guy had a thing with opening eyes wide when he said things like this) and…it just was my favorite car. Fast-forward to 2011, I saw the last special edition Jaguar XK- XKR-S – and an XJ. I was so surprised by how cooler Jags are than I though.

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XJ has one of best interiors in business. It is at the top alongside Audi which for decades has made its drivers feel more at home than your local pudding. Jag’s swooping trim line going all across the dash; if it is chosen to be wood, it would make you feel like a king. I love it. Then the position in which you sit; it makes you feel cool even if you are a nerd. The TFT-display, pillow-soft seats, supercharged V8 engine…the list goes on and on and on.

 

Jaguar F-type

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Oh yes, I always save the best for last. I couldn’t contain my excitement while writing this article until I got to write about my most favorite car of today – the F-type. I have seen it millions of times in pictures, but when I saw it up close I was blown away. It is just too beautiful to remain unnoticed. They had them in various shapes and sizes – both convertible and coupe – but, as some might know, my favorite F-type has to be the V6 S coupe. First of all it has the more powerful supercharged V6 of the lot. Secondly it makes the same roar as the E-type Straight-6 XK engine. I love it way more than the roar to the V8. Don’t get me wrong, I love the V8, but if I had an F-type, it would be just a V6. Thirdly, in my mind the coupe F-type is the most beautiful car in the whole world today. I’m not a fan of roadsters myself. I love solid roof driving. I wouldn’t mind to drive with a roof down, but only on a GT coupe. But as you saw some weeks ago, Jaguar killed the XK and the replacement, the XR (as rumors suggest it’s going to be called) is coming no earlier than 2017 (according to CAR magazine, at least. I hope they’re right). Also the coupe has more luggage space than the roadster. In the car show one of convertibles had a golf bag in the boot. Now that looked like a mini golf bag. In the coupe, though, if I would have a girlfriend, we could have some space to take some luggage with us for the week. Not huge, but this is a sports car, not a grand tourer.

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I did get a chance to sit inside as well. Seats, despite being as thin as Lewis Hamilton’s patience, were surprisingly comfortable. And the quality of it all was as good (or maybe better) than that in Porsche. That is quite a high praise. But then again Jag has come a long way. From Ford-days when they still had some quality and reliability issues and that hideous-looking S-type, to the lineup of today. It is just getting better and better. And I cannot wait what the XE will bring this autumn.

 

Today I lived in a dream. A dream I didn’t want to leave. Thank you, Motorexpo, for giving this wonderful opportunity to see these beauties. It’s been 3 years but the passion is still there. 

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About Veyron drivers and Bertone


My most sincere apologies, ladies and gentlemen, for a late post. My coursework took over my weekend, so I didn’t manage to post another article. But from this Sunday onwards it’s back to normal – article every Sunday.

So…let’s get down to business.

Bling Bling syndrome: Bugatti Veyron drivers

My, oh, my, oh, my. I just took a look at the list of 15 most famous Bugatti Veyron owners. This list proves my point – they are owned by the ones who think they’re better than they actually are AND they think they know a lot about cars…when, in truth, they know nothing.
Here are some of the owners who are on the list:

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SIMON COWELL – a crown jewel of the Veyron owners’ community. And he proved that on his second appearance at Top Gear. He blamed Clarkson for him choosing the wrong car – Audi R8 (another flashy car, but this is a much more down to earth) – because he bought it following Clarkson’s review of the thing. Well…ok…who did put a name on the order’s list? And who took the keys? Anyway, the Veyron also sort of fits Cowell’s personality – fake shine, not that good looking and expensive for no legitimate reason (if you think magnesium turn signal stalks are a good reason to make it cost £1m, then you should join Volkswagen, cos they do).

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CHRIS BROWN – I would be surprised if he didn’t own one. Another “superstar” who thinks he’s “brave” and has lipstick on his knuckles…and who’s bright by taking Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature”, a lovely song, stripping out his vocal part and putting daft, un-melodic, heavily auto-tuned vocals in it and calling it his “masterpiece”. Also, like Veyron – so much technology that makes it to stay on the road.

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CRISTIANO RONALDO – by the rules of Clarkson, if a premiership footballer buys a car it automatically becomes seriously uncool…therefore Veyron is pathetically uncool cos a couple of footballers own them, Ronaldo being the most famous of the lot. If it was the 60s, when football was played for real, professionally, and was a real man’s game (with no bloody drama after receiving a small bruise on the knee and laying down in grass as if the guy’s about to give birth) then it wouldn’t be the case and it’d be cool. But it isn’t the 60s…and in 60s they had prettier cars – Ferrari Dino, Lamborghini Miura, E-Type Jag, Jensen Interceptor etc. Veyron’s sibling of the decade would be Ford Edsel, i.e. an Elephant’s car with genetals used for the grill.

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See what I mean?

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FLO RIDA – the one who loves to waste money. He, reportedly, owns three Veyrons. That’s 1% of total number of those bloody things. Once he was caught driving one of them while drunk (quite worrying to have a drunk driver behind the wheel of one of fastest cars in the world) after which he was banned from driving…but very soon after that he was seen again behind a wheel of a different Veyron. Bling bling.

…but there were two surprises on that list that just don’t fit in this company. One being TOM CRUISE.

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He arrived at the premiere of Mission Impossible III in a Veyron. A bit of a broken promise, if you remember the “Risky Business” quote: “Porsche: There is no substitute”. …but he has one of the iconic 928s…a bulletproof one 😛 Nice.

Another surprise was Jay-Z. A successful guy like him, being a producer to many successful acts, being active in Politics (trying to involve people to vote in 2008 US Presidential Elections) and a business entrepreneur in a Veyron?

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…but looking at Jay-Z and Beyonce’s garage – Maybach, Ferrari F430 Spyder, Rolls Phantom – the Veyron feels right at home.

I am not against Veyron because they are owned by ridiculously wealthy people. No. I’m not a communist. I am against it because it just isn’t cool and is a ridiculously overpriced, over-engineered car. In the end what it is is just a Volkswagen designed by a guy who’s the designer for VW Lupo and Škoda range (if you look closely, the pre-facelift Veyron’s headlights are just like ones Škoda have. Cost saving? On a £1m car??) And people are just going with the flow because they are afraid to think differently, therefore they say it’s awesome without justifying why. Guys, how about Pagani with their marvellous Huayra? Or Koenigsegg? There are plenty of better, more beautiful, more enjoyable cars than a Veyron. You just look outside the box.

Eulogy: Bertone

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I really didn’t want to believe this…but one of design greats, Bertone, after their financial troubles and not much activity in the mainstream car market is calling it quits. Such a pity after seeing their “greatest hits”. Here are some of them:

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You cannot think of Bertone without thinking of their (in my view) best creation – Lamborghini Miura. This car is the closest you can get to make looking like a woman; a very sensual, tender, slender woman who you would take for dinner at Savoy, after which you would assist her with putting on a thick fur coat and you would walk all night long around the city with “On Days Like These” sounding in your ears. I am not sure what would be better: that walk or a drive with this beauty through Stelvio Pass like on “The Italian Job”…without any bulldozers, obviously. I would say if that girl would be your girlfriend/wife, then both of them would be equally great.

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Alfa Romeo Montreal, the car which looks like George Clooney – a good looking bachelor who gets even better looking when he gets older. And the eyes always inviting you for a play. If not for Alfa’s well known “reliability”, this would’ve been one of best buys ever. Pity not many people remember cars like this…all because everyone’s going with the flow, liking ridiculous lumps of metal like Veyron and explosive (literally) Ferraris of today.

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Whenever I see a Lamborghini Countach my child’s gene wakes up and brings back childhood. This car is one of few cars that paid a big part in my childhood developing my passion for cars, because it was one of a dozen cars featured in the first PC game I ever owned – Need For Speed III. I was always blown away by its angles, by the style, those doors. However I am one of few who doesn’t like that huge rear wing, but that’s just a question of taste. Driving it is a completely different story and I am very cautious of meeting my childhood heroes as, so many people have said, it leaves you with a bitter disappointment. Like seeing the actual faces of Teletubies.

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Aston Martin Rapide Bertone Jet 2+2. Long name, but a simple concept – take a good looking car and improve it. And Bertone did it brilliantly. Pity Ulrich Bez, CEO of Aston Martin, wasn’t moved enough to put this beauty into production…at least for a limited run.

Thank you, Bertone, for all what you’ve done. You may be gone but your legacy will continue to pleasure our eyes.