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Brandon Seiler's Blog on Cars

Archive for November 2009

Land Rover Defender set for re-release, sales could double

If it weren’t for tightening global safety and emission regulations, the iconic Land Rover Defender might not be going under the knife this year for the first time since 1983. It was just that good, and was after all, the original Land Rover, the vehicle that laid the ground work for the entire company way back in 1948. 

But while the Defender transcended generations, the auto industry become cleaner and safer. Word of Defender's long awaited redesign comes this year largely because of the shrinking number of markets around the world where it can still legally be sold — Americans haven’t been able to purchase a new Defender since 1997 due to a lack of mandatory airbags. So here we are: 

Project Icon as it’s aptly known, is under secret development and set for a 2012 or 2013 launch. The new Defender will ride on the T5 steel platform chassis used on the Discovery and Range Rover Sport models, meaning Land Rover will be able to continue offering the Defender in a variety of forms, including hard/soft tops and truck/cab versions. Upgrades are to include an all-independent suspension, available with both steel and air springs and a new 5.0-liter V-8. Juicy as the upgrades may be, the whole operation is one of high stakes.

“(Defender) is our heritage,” said Land Rover Managing Director, Phil Popham. “It underlines our history, our origins, our engineering credibility and leadership, and it’s passed on a lot of positive things to the products that followed.”

“The dilemma we’ve got as a company, when it comes to replacing an icon like Defender, is you’re replacing a car that is known throughout the world and has been for 61 years, but its sells 25,000 units a year – not a lot in the automotive industry and not a lot within our portfolio of products at the moment,” he said.

“You've got to sell a lot more than 25,000 vehicles off a new platform to make business sense.”

When asked just how many more Defenders the world would need to consume, Popham said: “If you significantly simplify it on a modern platform, you still need to sell about 50,000 units a year to make it viable.” (2)

Popham believes nearly doubling worldwide Defender sales is doable because the current model is not sold in countries where it doesn’t meet various regulations. A modernized Defender would open up more markets, including the United States. 

Still, purists might be rightfully worried that because the new Defender design was prompted by safety and emission standards, it’s likely to lose much of its legendary functionality. But Popham said the new edition should be even more capable than the old. 

“Before 2013 we need to be very certain and have planned what the replacement for that product is. We’ll be really tuning up the versatility side and practicality side. That for me is the core (Defender attribute),” he said. (2) 




Rich guise: Crashing exotic cars, because they can

What might seem like an embarrassing mishap to common folk is really a right of passage into the playboy world. No, not accidentally killing a stripper, but wrecking an exotic car. 

Over the weekend, Ferrari/Fiat Chairman Luca Montezemolo slowly drove a Ferrari California off the track and into a sand trap at the Ferrari World finals with Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso in the back seat. 


The car became stuck. Jalopnik quipped: 

“What's a chairman to do? Just have the team send another Ferrari and let the track workers deal with it.” (1) 

Indeed. Either Montezemolo truly believed a sand trap designed to stop cars spinning out of control at 100mph+ would be no match for his slow moving California, or more plausibly, he was giving Massa and Alonso a playboy Bar Mitzvah. I’ll side with the latter and even go so far as to say the incident represents a ceremonial birth into an elitist gentleman’s club of auto enthusiasts. Not convinced? Consider this: 

Within days of the Montezemolo crash, two FERRARI CALIFORNIAS were racing about Sofia, Bulgaria when one of the cars miraculously power-slid into a front-end loader.


Once again, the whole scene was conveniently caught on video, and we, the lowly YouTube masses were led to believe a Ferrari was outmaneuvered by heavy machinery. Please.

This video wasn’t of a wreck but a happy documentary of self-inflicted hazing into the aforementioned society; a group of guys so rich, wrecking an exotic car is like thrashing their own buttocks with a paddle for the guffaws of their cronies. 

Not convinced? Consider an article from MSN entitled “Texan drives $1 million sports car into marshes”. The story is of a man who recently drove a Bugatti Veyron, the world’s fastest and most expensive production car in the world, into a SALT mash. It might sound passably dumb if it weren’t for the first paragraph: 

“LA MARQUE, Texas - A man blamed a low-flying pelican and a dropped cell phone for his veering his million-dollar sports car off a road and into a salt marsh near Galveston.” (2)

Said guy wasn’t trying very hard to keep his secret on the DL. Watch the video for yourself (yes, there was a car full of guys videotaping the Veyron, seconds before the Texan drove into the water) see if you can spot the mysterious low-flying bird. 


Did you see the bird? Of course not. Even more revealing was the driver’s attitude after launching his million-dollar car into a salty lake: 

“He was calm,” said wrecker driver Gilbert Harrison of MCH Truck and Auto, which is storing the car, “If it had been me, I'd have been cussing, but he was calm. I imagine inside he was probably pretty upset.” (2)

Only the soggy playboy wasn’t upset, he was only waiting for the good news to reach the elders:

“The Houston Chronicle reported the Texan has become something of a celebrity. He reportedly told the Texas City wrecker driver who towed his car that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called him Wednesday, along with several other celebrities.” (2)

Welcome to the club, Tex. 

Picture: story.cfm?id=32487

“Most efficient car in the world”: Volkswagen L1


When Volkswagen unveiled the L1 at the Frankfurt auto show, they boldly called it “the most fuel-efficient automobile in the world.” Try these specs on for size: 158.7mpg with a 416mile range, from a diesel engine/electric motor setup, sipping from a 1.7gallon fuel tank. (1, 2)

The whole car weighs in at about 650pounds; the carbon fiber-reinforced body shell is only 280 pounds. All the weight isn’t there thanks to aluminum brakes, carbon-fiber wheels, titanium hubs and ceramic bearings. Power is fed through a Direct Shift Gearbox transmission, giving the L1 a top speed of 100mph. 

Inside, other expensive goodies include a driver display screen using high-contrast OLED (organic LED) technology. There’s room for two, situated pea style, driver ahead of passenger. Width wise, the L1 makes the Smart for 2 appear bulbous in comparison. The New York Times says:

“In photos, it looks like a car. In the metal, it has the appearance of a small plane, to which someone forgot to attach the wings and a tail. Walter de Silva, Volkswagen's head of design, says the shape 'redefines classic and aesthetic vehicle traits. All of its moving parts are integrated so accurately that the body resembles a rocket or jet.'” (2) 

There doesn’t seem to be much debate that the L1 is in fact the world’s most fuel-efficient car. It was the talk of the Frankfurt auto show when the sheet dropped off it and VW isn’t known for making wild claims. 

VW says the L1 will be available in 2010, in limited numbers. All those carbon fiber, titanium and ceramic components will probably make the price tag considerably heftier than the curb weight, not to mention the “new technology” mark up. Regardless, this is one of those cars to be excited about. 



Pam Anderson & PETA kill whale-penis interior, crazy press release ensues


Russian custom car shop Prombron has decided not to include whale-penis leather interior on their upcoming $1.5 million SUV. PETA wouldn’t have it and Pam Anderson complained with a personal email. More notably, Prombron composed a mind-blowing press release on the matter entitled:

(Entire Document Below)

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The SUV in question is called the Dartz Prombron Moncaco Red Diamond Edition. Set for a 2010 release, Jalopnik reports it’s intended to be “The world's most expensive ultra-luxury SUV.” (1)

Options are to include:

-Ruby Red matte paint
-Gold-plated bulletproof windows
-22” Kremlin Red Star bulletproof wheels
-Tungsten exhaust
-Tungsten and white gold gauges with diamonds and rubies
-White gold diamond and ruby encrusted badges - grill, side and dashboard
-Special edition Vertu mobile phone with “alert” button
-Additional outside kevlar coating
-Rogue Acoustic Audio System
-Three bottles of the world’s finest vodka

Whale-penis leather interior was originally on the list as well before Pam Anderson and company sounded the alarm. Dartz folded under the pressure and now plans to infuse the interior with “advanced nanotechnologies”. They also composed the craziest press release most of us will ever read, particularly in the third paragraph. Enjoy:


One month ago DARTZ presented uberluxury armored car with whale penis interior - PROMBRON’ (ex.RussoBaltique), lot of people name this car as DARTZ.KOMBAT. As the world’s resonance was very huge and DARTZ got lot of angry e-mails from Greenpeace, WWF and also Pamela Anderson, DARTZ make strong decision to stop their plans regarding such interior.

“We have no any ideas to kill the whale or something like that. All we want - to make just luxury car. Real luxury car which will be world number one car. Our brand was started at 1869 when in Riga was opened Coach Factory or Russo Baltiysky Vagonnij Zavod - PBVZ, and first products was luxury train coaches. At 1907 was made a decision to open Car Department, and at 1909 first car left factory - the name of this car was RussoBalt. This was luxury and sport cars. At 1911 specially for Monaco Rally car got french style name - RussoBaltique. At 1912 factory made world first 4 x 4 wheel drive car, and at 1914 - armored car. All we want to unite luxury and armoring traditions of RussoBalt factory in one car, which brand celebrated 100 years now. At 1922 RussoBalt was renamed to PROMBRON’ (ex.RussoBalt).

We just looking for most expensive products for this car - and that’s why we choosed whale penis leathure when we checked it is most of most. After wave of protest we realised our mistake and make a decision not to use natural leathure at all. We will focus on world most advanced nanotechnologies to achieve interior highest quality using artificial materials which also was never used for cars. We want to tell our hello to all whales: “Our Sea Brothers! We all know that earth are stand on three whales - we will keep You live! We don’t Earth fall down to Ocean!”

Also we make a decision to pay more attention to glass and on our new car model we will use glass which will be made by special technology - from artificial grown chrystals, which will be gold sputerred to cut IR and UV rays, which make driving inconvinient when sun shine. _Best regards,
Leonard F. Yankelovich



What’s your sign? Oh, do you drive a Volkswagen? (Part 4/4)

This is the end, the last three-pronged stab into a party bowl of zodiac car treats. Buckle yourselves into the carstrology highchair then. Sprinkle on some cardust and dig in quick; the Libra's getting soggy. 

(September 23-October 22)

Custom Van

As children, Librans fantasize about finding the Prince or Princess of their dreams. It’s a primal search that becomes all too literal when they hit driving age. Love sick and ensconced in shag, Libras lure fewer reputable people into the bellies of their Custom Vans than hitchhikers and prostitutes, neither of which has much to offer in the way of lasting companionship.

What may seem like a miscalculated vehicle choice to some is all part of the Libra’s master plan. Librans are aces at escaping from reality into obscure role playing, during which times there’s a lot more going on in the deep innermost levels of their psyche than other signs might expect. 

They completely understand Custom Vans lost their grimy 70’s sex appeal long before The A-Team was canceled and now will only repel most quality mates. 

Here lies the rub. Librans aren’t looking for anything short of a carpool partner for the ages. Custom Vans are people filters, the perfect ride to sieve out those who would be quick to judge what can be seen through the murky plastic bubble window. 

Alas, it’s a sad fact that in many cases Librans would have fared much better had they simply remained on their own. To their credit, sometimes a Libra does manage to find a true van-mate. When they do, their ecstasy is the stuff of 8-track fairy tales. 

(August 23-September 22)

1986 Dodge Diplomat 

Whether part of the force or not, Virgo’s are endowed with a cop’s mentality. Most will manage to fenegale a used cop car for personal use at some point during their lives, or build something close to one. 

Consequently, in a chicken before the egg conundrum, Astrologers often give Virgos a bad wrap and write them up as being fussy and narrow-minded. This may be due to animosity created before or after Virgos repeatedly attempted to write Astrologers up for getting high in their ’86 Honda Accords.

“Can I see your badge?”

“Why don’t you take another hit off your Gandalf bong, wizard-hippie”. 

Like any other cop, a Virgo’s life pursuit is to do the right thing, but their secret desire is to love and be loved in return. They’re just looking for respect, but in place of legal authority Virgo's have a matte-black ’86 Dodge Diplomat with primer-white midsection, aftermarket ram bar and a row of Christmas lights fashioned to a 2x4 atop the roof. 

Virgos can often become victims of relationship power-games where they are mistreated. This isn’t to say they’re deplorable characters. When Virgos shine, there’s nearly no sign that can match their inner light. When not impersonating police officers in their Dodge Diplomats, they can be found in the “service to others” industries, ranging from welfare work, to doctors, school-teachers and the like. 

For those who were turned down by the police academy, proceed with caution: Like their authoritative alter egos, they can be delicate people who require special treatment to please. 

(October 23-November 21)

1977 GMC Sierra Crew Cab (First $500 takes it)

Lovingly named the “Wonder Truck”, this dilapidated old gent sits melting outside of old man Drake’s house. Mr. Drake is a Scorpio, believed to be the “most powerful” and wisest sign. He understands that even though the Wonder Truck leaks oil, smokes during the summer, grows a covering of moss during the colder months and resembles a crumpled tallboy can of Budweiser year round, it will most likely outlive the world’s oil supply with periodic $200 repairs.

Mrs. Drake is not a Scorpio. Before her husband left on a trip to see his brother in Kennewick, there was not a For Sale sign in the Wonder Truck’s windshield. Scorpios have intense and dramatic personal relationships. 

By the time Mr. Drake returns home from his trip, the Wonder Truck will be sold or donated to the charity crusher for a tax deduction. He won’t be bothered. A Scorpio’s biggest challenge and test in life is choosing between the power of love and the love of power. As the sign of the “oldest souls,” Mr. Drake has been around long enough to know Wonder Trucks come and go, but his wonderful spouse is here to stay. 

As evidenced by Mr. Drake’s new 1967 M715 Kaiser Jeep, bought for a tidy $3,500.

In Kennewick. 

*And there you have it: Twelve months, twelve zodiac signs and a car assigned to each. There are no refunds for these bejeweled revelations, any further explanations or rhymes. For tarot car readings, crystal ball diagnostics on pre-owned vehicles and amateur tattoo artistry leave a comment below or look for the 1991 Dodge Dynasty parked in your local grocery store parking lot. The one with the “Space Gypsy” bumper sticker. 


Drunk charged with biting deputy after crashing car

A drunk Port Orchard man crashed his 1993 Isuzu Rodeo into a ditch early Sunday morning, and that’s where this story should have ended. Instead, the 28-year-old decided to fight the power, first by instigating a battle of the wits, eventually with biting above the armpit. 

Like a tossed ninja, the man was nowhere to be found when a deputy arrived to investigate the scene of the accident. 

Kazaa!! Drunky appeared and admitted the wrecked car was his, but argued that the deputy couldn’t prove he was the one who put it into the ditch. Clever, but the man was bleeding from his elbow and visibly drunk, according to court documents. From the Kitsap Sun: 

“When the deputy took a picture of the suspect's injury, the man lunged, biting the officer’s right arm above the armpit.” (1)

End game. The man was arrested and charged with third-degree assault. Bail was set at $86,000. Ouch. 



‘Russian road roulette’ claiming lives in Bulgaria

Five people have already been killed and many others injured in a deadly new game played by gangs of drivers in Bulgaria’s capitol city. Every night at midnight nearly fifty people gather at busy intersections around Sofia to take part in 'Russian road roulette'. 

The rules are simple: Drivers, mostly twenty-something gang members in SUV’s, must barrel through red lights at top speed, sometimes up to 120mph. They are not allowed to hit the brakes, hit another car, hit a pedestrian or leave the road. This results in a “loss.” 

Bets up to $10,000 are made on the possible outcomes. 

Rumen Georgiev, a taxi driver, said he was now afraid to be on the city's roads after dark. “I – like every other taxi driver in Sofia – stop at a green light to make sure nothing is coming the other way,” he said. “I have to apologise to clients for the slow journey. It's a jungle out there.” (1)




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About this blog

Brandon Seiler is a bonafide car guy, member of the Northwest Auto Press Association and proud Washingtonian. He covers the latest auto news, technology, and pretty much anything having to do with car culture. You don't have to like cars to read his blogs, you just have to be able to read.

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