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Brandon Seiler's Blog on Cars

Archive for March 2011

WTF? The Oddest cars of 2011…Thus far

 

Since the invention of the crossover, half-baked concepts and pipedream segment mash-ups now have a viable shot at making their way to successful production. A new year is upon us and those wacky automakers are at it again, throwing automotive genre-benders against the wall to see what sticks. The following is a small glimpse of the food fight: 

TOYOTA PRIUS MINIVAN

You know what would make the Prius even cooler? Exactly - If it were a minivan. 

Dubbed the Prius V, the new eco-friendly family hauler will share the same platform and hybrid drivetrain as the classic five-door model, only Toyota says the V will sport a smug 50-percent increase in interior cargo space over the current Prius. 

Although the V does appear suspiciously akin to the Prius, Toyota notes that the new model “has been designed from the ground up, with a shape that evolved from the Prius rather than being an elongated version.” From CarScoop:

“Inside, the Prius V offers seating for five with increased headspace and visibility, as well as 34.3 cubic feet of cargo space. The 60/40 split, folding rear seats allow for four different seat arrangements, while a fold-flat front-passenger seat allows for longer cargo.”

Using the same 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle engine/electric motor as the Prius, the V will sip its way to an estimated EPA fuel economy rating of 42mpg city, 38mpg highway and 40mpg combined. (1)

The launch of the V in Japan will be delayed due to disruptions in parts supply caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Toyota originally planned the release in April. (2)

FERRARI FF

You know what would make a Ferrari even cooler? If it could seat four, had ample trunk space and a station wagon rear end. 

Enter the Ferrari FF. Designed to be Ferrari's most practical model, which isn’t much different than designing the world’s most practical monster truck, the FF will be also be the first of its stallions to come equipped with all-wheel drive, hence the FF acronym, which stands for “four seats” and “four-wheel drive. 

Wealthy parents should take care to spot-weld their children’s baby seats to the frame as the FF’s V12 engine kicks out 660hp and will blast from 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds on traumatizing rides to the grocery store. (3)

BMW M3 Pickup Truck

For those of us who fawn after BMW’s legendary M series and watch “My Name is Earl” for glimpses of Earl’s El Camino, our fantasy worlds have now collided in a mind-bending vehicular merger. 

Last month at the Nurburgring, the auto press captured spy shots of a camouflaged “Die Strabe” coupe with truck bed testing amongst the other BMW M-Class models.

Is this really happening!? No. From Jalopnik:

“In a chat with BMW's Munich head of product communications, Dirk Arnold, he offered up this quote: “Ah, yes, everyone's been talking about that pickup. But, no, this is… how you call it, an April fool’s Joke”. (4)

In reality the German mullet-rocket is actually a one-off parts hauler for ZTechnik, a BMW motorcycle accessory builder that’s only used around the compound. But then, why the camouflage? Product planner for car celebrities told Jalopnik:

“Camouflage means nothing. BMW puts camouflage on anything and everything. Look at that BMW Vision Connected concept. That has camouflage and they're obviously not building that.” (5)

Well played BMW. Well played.

SCION iQ

Although it may appear it to be a choking hazard shook from a box of Cheerios, the iQ is actually a cross between a Scion xD and a Smart Fortwo. Accordingly, from the outside, most would assume the tiny automobile only seats two. Oh contraire – Scion is calling it the world’s smallest four-seater.

There’s room in the back for one adult and a child. Scion refers to the setup as “3+1” seating. This means the rear seats are not symmetrical; the seat on the right is larger than the one on the left allowing passengers to move forward to make space for an adult in back while leaving room behind the driver for the kiddie seat. (3)

For those who might wonder how safe it is to pack four people into a car the size of the iQ, the ‘lil package will come equipped with stability control, traction control, ABS, and a staggering TEN airbags, including the industry’s first-ever rear-window bag. The iQ goes on sale in the US this spring. (6) 

SOURCES:
(1) http://carscoop.blogspot.com/2011/01/2011-detroit-show-all-new-toyota-prius.html
(2) http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9M4MRRO0.htm
(3) http://www.cafemom.com/group/112449/forums/read/13409421/5_weird_cars_coming_in_2011
(4) http://www.autoblog.com/2011/03/22/confirmed-bmw-m3-pickup-on-nurburgring-is-an-april-fools-gift/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+weblogsinc%2Fautoblog+%28Autoblog%29
(5) http://jalopnik.com/#!5782213/is-this-bmw-m3-pickup-for-real
(6) http://www.autoblog.com/2010/03/31/2011-scion-iq-new-york-2010-reveal/ 

“The Wraith” – Charlie Sheen’s 1986 cult car movie classic

Charlie Sheen is too damn high. Before he went crazy on the cocaine and was fired from his $1.8 million per episode gig on the hit show “Two and a half men” this month, he starred in a car movie circa 1986 entitled “The Wraith”. It was a terrible film that took the life of a camera man and reached cult status long before Charlie ever lost his marbles. 

The cast includes the likes of other crazies such as Randy Quaid and Donald Howard - Ron Howard’s endearingly odd younger brother who sported an eraser-head hairpiece for the role of Rughead. Add to the mix an alien protagonist vehicle based on the 1982 Dodge PPG M4S Turbo Interceptor (also played by Sheen) and we’ve got ourselves a valid reason to detail “The Wraith.” 

THE PLOT

A rebel street gang somewhere near Tucson, Arizona forces motorists with desirable cars to street race for pink slips. The gang, led by the bad guy, Packard Walsh, always wins the races, often by cheating. Lowlier members of the gang, such as the character Skank, are often seen drinking brake fluid from plastic jugs to induce a crack-like high. 

One day, Packard finds nice-guy teenager Jamie Hankins in bed with his girlfriend, Keri Johnson. Packard kills Jake and is never charged with the crime. 

Shortly thereafter, a mysterious power creates Jamie’s re-embodiment, Jake Kesey (Sheen), an ultra-cool dirt-biker who unbeknownst to the rest of the cast, has the power to transform into an invincible car (The Wraith). Kesey and the Turbo Interceptor embark on a mission to destroy Packard’s gang and rescue Keri from a forced relationship with Packard. 

“Winning!” 

1982 DODGE PPG M4S TURBO INTERCEPTOR

A joint effort of the Dodge Division of Chrysler Motors and PPG Industries was originally built to serve as a pace car for the PPG-CART Indy Car World Series. 

Powered by a Chrysler 2.2L (135 cubic inch) 4cylinder engine rated at 440 horsepower, mated to a 5-speed manual, the mid-engine car had a top speed of 194.8mph and could go from 0-60mph in 4.1 seconds. 

Fun Fact: Although the real car does appear in the film, most of the functional versions used for action sequences are fiberglass molds of the M4S atop custom dune buggy chassis powered by Volkswagen engines. 

FORBODING COMMENTS FROM STUNT COORDINATOR BUDDY JOE HOOKER

“The cars that they built for us were very dangerous and hard to drive. The equipment we had, although it looked good, was very difficult to work with.” 

“We worked on them throughout the film, but you’re doing high-speed stuff, seventy, eighty, ninety miles per hour with these cars that are wandering all over the road and have skeptical braking. There was nothing really built for us to use, we just used what we got.”

GANG MEMBERS & THEIR CARS

Packard - Late-1970s Chevrolet Corvette with a custom paint job and nose clip 

Oggie - 1986 Dodge Daytona Turbo Z 

Minty - 1977 Pontiac Firebird with supercharger 

Skank/Gutterboy - 1966 Plymouth Barracuda 

Rughead - Late-70's Chevrolet pickup 

DEADLY CHASE SCENE

Location: Mt. Lemon outside of Tucson AZ – a very windy mountain road with steep-mountain slopes on one side and sheer drop-offs on the other - 250 feet straight down. The crew set up a 2.5 mile course blocked off on either end by local police with little radio communication in between.

Buddy Joe Hooker was driving the car chasing the Wraith as both vehicles trailed the camera car.

“The camera car had a lot of people on it, maybe too many in my estimation,” said Hooker. 

Around a bend, the overloaded vehicle slid out into the embankment and flipped, sending crew members flying into the mountain-side and over the edge of the cliff. 

“We looked down the road and there was just bodies everywhere,” Hooker said, “We couldn’t get ahold of anybody so Steve Davison and I just started doing a triage thing just trying to help whoever we could.” 

A MIRACLE

“I heard somebody yell, ‘Hey hey, everybody come here, come and look, there’s somebody down there,” Hooker said, “So we go over to the edge, and there’s a guy that had gotten thrown over the edge, one of the grips or someone, had probably gone down sixty, sixty-five feet and landed in a little area with rocks all around into one area with no rocks, and this guy had landed in there, knocked himself out, was in perfect shape though.” 

THE TRAGEDY

Camera operator Bruce Ingram wasn’t so lucky. He died in the wreck. The end credits dedicate the film to his memory.

MAKING IT BETTER, WITH MORE WRECKS

After the tragedy, the film’s creators pitted the crew’s teamsters against the stunt guys in a demolition derby using cars that had already been wrecked during filming or weren’t needed any longer, to raise money for the families affected by the accident. 

QUOTES

Packard Walsh: [Oggie is about to race the Wraith] I want you to tear this guy a new ass****. Do it to him 'Oggie-style'. 
Oggie: Hey, man, I'll burn this Iranian!
[after drinking a bottle of brake fluid] 

Skank: Aaagh! I'm tweakin', dude!
Packard Walsh: Skank, do me a favour will ya? Get rid of that zombie-piss you're drinkin' before it turns you into a mushroom! 

Rughead: Okay! The first one to Dragonfire Crossing wins! You lose the race, you lose your car! Ready! Set! GO! 

Jake (Sheen): It's time for me to hit the road. My business here is finished. But before I do, I want you to have something. 
[Jake hands Billy car keys] 
Jake: She's yours now. 
Billy Hankins: Who's mine? 
Jake: It's outside. Turbo Interceptor. The only one in existence. Does very special things. Take care of it, will you? 
Billy Hankins: Who are you, bro? 
Jake: You said it, Billy.

Gettin’ Dirty at Mudfest 2011

Tomorrow morning I’ll guzzle a thermos of Kroger brand coffee, eat a wholesome complete breakfast and putz out to Dirt Fish rally school where the Northwest Auto Press Association will be testing 2011 sport/crossover utility vehicles. They call it Mudfest for a reason – many a young man has sullied the seat of his trousers at the prospect of navigating the world-renowned off road trails of Dirt Fish in the best utility machines the world has to offer. From the NWAPA:

“Sport-utility vehicles are a mainstay of the Pacific Northwest automotive market, and journalists from this region are among the most knowledgeable critics of this segment.
Mudfest is the most widely recognized event of its kind in North America. This annual event allows member journalists to test the performance, handling, and braking, as well as the on-road and off-road demeanor, of each competing SUV. Vehicles invited to participate include all-new and recently updated models. The previous year's winners are also invited to defend their title.” 

Once the dust clears and the goop hardens, the NWAPA will release 2011’s prestigious list of winners in the categories of:

-SUV of the Year 
-Best Affordable SUV
-Best Family SUV
-Best Luxury SUV
-Best Off-Road SUV

To keep my automotive blogger credentials clinging to the bottom rung of legitimacy, I’ll be taking extra special care not to test the airbags on press cars generously provided by Land Rover, Mercedes, Cadillac, Acura, Jeep, Ford, Subaru, Honda and even Kia. Then again, during these uncertain economic times it’s highly unlikely any automaker would lend one of their new vehicles to an event entitled Mudfest if they weren’t prepared to gamble with the prospect of fun occurring. 

DIRTFISH

More than just an intriguing band name, DirtFish sports over 300 acres of rally courses just 30 minutes from Seattle in rural Snoqualmie, an area where the true heartbeat of the Northwest has avoided the Emerald city’s bum-rush of yuppies and hipsters with beautiful scenic living and forgotten cold-case serial killers from the eighties and beyond. When the NWAPA isn’t testing brand-spanking new SUV’s on DirtFish’s playground, the school treats their students to 300hp Subaru Impreza’s designed especially for the rigors of those dirty roads less traveled. 

The DirtFish fleet is painted up in an orange scheme that appears suspiciously like that of the General Lee Dodge Charger. They're built to serve as competition cars by Vermont Sports Cars - the same guys that build and run cars for the likes of Travis Pastrana and Dave Mirra for use in the Rally America series. Professional upgrades include Tein suspension, rally tires and OMP safety equipment for those times when you don’t land on the bouncy part. 

www.dirtfish.com 

2010 MudFest Winners:

-SUV of the Year: 2010 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Supercharged
- Best Affordable SUV: 2011 Subaru Outback
- Best Family SUV: 2010 Acura MDX
- Best Luxury SUV: 2010 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Supercharged
- Best Off-Road SUV: 2011 Land Rover LR4 

About the NWAPA:

NWAPA (www.nwapa.org) is a professional trade organization of automotive journalists 
from throughout the Pacific Northwest and Canada. Founded in 1991, NWAPA includes 
38 voting members, representing more than 100 newspapers, magazines, radio and 
television stations, media groups and online resources. Non-voting members are 
comprised of representatives from automotive manufacturers and related industry 
professionals.
 

Ford webisodes pit new Police Interceptors against Dodge/Chevrolet

For many, the mention of a Ford Police Interceptor conjures up memories of a time they contemplated terrible decisions on a plastic rear bench seat with their knees pressed uncomfortably to one side. This week the flashbacks are all the more poignant as Ford has released a web series documenting a battle between the new Ford Police Interceptor(s) and the other guys – Dodge’s Charger Pursuit and Chevrolet’s Tahoe PPV. From the press release:

DEARBORN, Mich., March 7, 2011 – Ford, the leader in the police vehicle market, is putting the company’s all-new Police Interceptor sedan and utility up against the competition in six action-packed webisodes that debut today.

Cameras rolling, Ford turns its all-new Police Interceptors, which debut later this year, over to the authorities for a series of competitive driving exercises against the Chevrolet Tahoe PPV and Dodge Charger Pursuit, proving that Ford’s Police Interceptors are up for any challenge. Officers test Interceptor power and performance on a black lake simulating slick conditions, capability and durability in the Dog Bone gravel pit, and acceleration, handling and braking tests on a tight, aggressive cone course.

“We set out to develop our new Police Interceptors to not only meet the current leader – our own Crown Victoria – but to exceed it and the competition,” said Lisa Teed, Ford Police Interceptor marketing manager. “As we prepare for one of the biggest launches in our history of developing police vehicles, we’re committed to remaining the nation’s largest provider. These videos prove our new vehicles are purpose-built, capable, and deliver the safety, technology and performance officers need to excel at their jobs.”

Don’t bother pleading with Officer Krupke to loosen your cuffs, just try to enjoy the action-packed videos of the new Ford Interceptor flexing its authoritah:

Ford Police Interceptor Official Test Drive 1 – Performance & Handling: 
http://www.youtube.com/v/Bx8-QZfPwwc
Officers test power and performance on the handling course in Ford Police Interceptor sedans with standard 3.5-liter V6 and optional twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6, and the Ford Police Interceptor utility with 3.7-liter V6

Ford Police Interceptor Official Test Drive 2 – Wet Pad:
http://www.youtube.com/v/7Tsbf6gTKG8
On a giant skid pad flooded with water, officers push the limits of handling and control in a Ford Police Interceptor sedan and utility, Chevrolet Tahoe PPV and Dodge Charger Pursuit

Ford Police Interceptor Official Test Drive 3 – Dog Bone:
http://www.youtube.com/v/H1wcUi-KIzs
The unmatched capability of the all-wheel-drive, pursuit-rated Ford Police Interceptor sedan and utility are demonstrated in the Dog Bone gravel pit 

Ford Police Interceptor Official Test Drive 4 – City Pursuit:
http://www.youtube.com/v/QJkvMNF_yvU
Officers test the acceleration, handling and braking of the Ford Police Interceptor sedan and utility, the Chevrolet Tahoe PPV and Dodge Charger Pursuit on a tight, aggressive cone course 

Ford Police Interceptor Official Test Drive 5 – Officer Protection:
http://www.youtube.com/v/PsL0H_4egCU
The next-generation Ford Police Interceptor is built to protect officers in the event of a crash, and engineered to help them avoid a crash before it happens 

Ford Police Interceptor Official Test Drive 6 – Purpose Built:
http://www.youtube.com/v/0sZGOJEAVT4
Two distinct Ford Police Interceptor models, on one common platform, are designed and engineered from the ground up to help officers do their jobs better

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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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