Saturday, November 25, 2006

2008 BMW X6 Crossover Spied!

Judging from this prototype we photographed in Germany, it appears that BMW has started development work on the X6�a new model spun off from the recently-released X5. This new performance-minded crossover appears to have taken the philosophy of the Mercedes CLS four-door- coupe, utilizing a sloped roof-line and and tauter packaging in the name of style. Sober concerns such as functionality and cargo capacity have been left to the X5, which has grown larger and more versatile in its recent second-generation redesign. From the looks of it, this X6 has been styled to match the bravado of cars like the Range Rover Sport, which take the SUV in a decidedly athletic direction.

The heavy camouflage obviously hides the nuances of the design, but the prototype�s smooth profile, steeply raked windshield, high waistline and slim greenhouse are readily apparent. The sloping roof arc is expected to continue straight into a coupe-like hoffmeister kink, bringing a little of the Z4 coupe into the crossover zone. One look at the chiseled ground-effects between the wheels also hints at some pronounced fender swells that should add to the sporting look.

When we first shot this prototype, speculation began on the exact identity of this vehicle, since another X5 spin-off�the V5�is said to be in the works. But the V5 is supposed to be a uniquely space- efficient vehicle in the guise of Mercedes� R-Class, and this prototype doesn�t seem to fit that description. Given the success of the Range Rover Sport in the marketplace, and the lukewarm launch of the R-Class, BMW appears to be making the right move in putting the X6 ahead of the V5 in the development cycle. The X6 is likely still two years away from showrooms. The fact that it will share elements of the X5, that time-frame could be accelerated a bit.

2007 Hyundai Equus/Dynasty

Ok, Hyundai is now saying that this large luxury sedan will not be sold in Europe although Hyundai did test the sedan in Germany, but it should make it in the US by 2008 with both a 3.8 litre V6 and a 4.5 litre V8.

Hyundai is also claiming to compete with the Lexus LS, BMW 7 series and Mercedes S Class, Volkswagen Phaeton, Cadillac DTS (US maket), Audi A8 etc. Prices should be around $50,000

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


CT Ashby on his Zenith, Brooklands 1925. Zenith motorcycles held more over-100mph lap times at the Brooklands track than any other make, and the competition machines were personally supervised by Freddie Barnes, owner of Zenith. The bike is stripped down to the essentials, with a big pillow strapped to the tank for rider comfort on the notoriously bumpy Brooklands bowl. The crucial components; big 1000cc JAP ohv engine, Harley forks with an Andre bump damper, 'square' ML magneto at the front of the engine, two big fishtail mufflers poking beyond the rear wheel, 21" wheels front and rear, and a a dummy rim rear brake. Ashby, always a practical rider, is wearing a turtleneck sweater under his collarless leathers, and what looks like a kidney belt to help with the pounding he must have recieved while doing 110mph. I owned a similar machine, which I'll show in a future post.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

2007 Ford Escape Undisguised for the first time!

Well here it is in full production trim, the 2008 Ford Escape. We've seen various prototypes of this lightly redesigned SUV over the past year, but now the refreshed Escape looks ready for its debut at the L.A. auto show later this month. Changes to the exterior are obvious while the interior upgrades are harder to spot. Not surprisingly the cabin looks similar to the already unveiled Mercury Mariner although the Escape has less brightwork and cheaper looking black plastic trim. Look for the 2008 Ford Escape to go on sale early next year.

2007 Mercedes GLK plays hide & seek

Here are the first pictures of Mercedes� upcoming compact SUV, the GLK, which will be competing against the successful BMW X3 and Audi's, soon to be, Q5.

At first sight the test car looks like a disguised GL, but in reality it is one of the first real prototypes � not a mule - of the smaller GLK (short version of GL, K from the German kurz = short).

The GLK is using technical components from the yet to come new Mercedes C-Class, which is set to debut in March 2007, and it will stay very close in design to the recently launched GL-Class.

Possibly the GLK will debut as a 2008 model on the IAA car show in Frankfurt in September 2007, however Geneva 2008 sounds more reasonable.

Power is expected to come from four and six cylinder engines, both petrol and diesel, and later on there could be a V8 powered GLK 55 AMG version too. While the competitors from Munich and Ingolstadt only offer their SUVs with all-wheel drive, Mercedes will offer the car in both rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions, with the GLK 220 CDI as the basis rear-wheel drive version and the GLK 280 as a petrol alternative. The all-wheel drive versions will be the GLK 350 with 272 bhp and the GLK 320 CDI with 224 bhp. All versions are expected to have the 7G-Tronic, TouchShift automatic transmission.

The chassis of the GLK is almost the same as the 4matic version of the new C-Class station wagon, except for bigger wheels and longer springs. The new Direct-Control chassis will make the car�s handling much better than with SUVs in general, in particular when taking narrow turns. With an overall length of approximately 4,50 m, the GLK will be about 30 cm shorter than the Mercedes ML .

In 2005, Daimler-Chrysler announced that the small GLK will be built in Bremen/Germany rather than in the US plant that assembles the ML and GL. The yearly production rate is expected to be 40,000 units with starting prices of about 35,000 Euros.
While the US is slowly moving away from big SUVs, Mercedes is loosing market shares to small SUVs like the BMW X3. With this new GLK they are hoping to get back to the top again.
The photos are showing a prototype of the GLK during a very short trip on a public road outside of the company�s headquarters in Stuttgart before disappearing again behind the protecting walls of its home base.

2008 Audi A5 Coupe caught at the "ring"

Audi is developing an all new model with a prototype which can be seen on these photos during high speed testing in heavy rain at Germany�s race track N�rburgring. Dubbed �A5� (code AU 474/475) the new Audi will be a sporty coupe-convertible adapting the design of Audi�s concept car Nuvolari.

The showcar was on display at the Geneva Motor Show in 2003. The prototype photos show that the new coupe will be considerably larger than the current A4, almost the size of today�s A6. With the A5 Audi intends to be a step ahead of the strong A4 competitors such as BMW 3-series Cabrio, Mercedes CLK and the VW-Convertible Eos. Due to the bigger size, Audi is indeed about to fill a gap on the sporty CC-market. Neither the BMW 5-series, Mercedes E Class model ranges nor any other car maker in this class and size has a luxury coupe-convertible to offer.

The new Audi A5 convertible is going to be equipped with a traditional canvas top, power is expected to come from two engines, a 3.0 litre TDI V 6 and 3.2 litre FSI V6 fuel delivering 255 HP. The new model is expected to be released by the end of 2007.

2007 Skoda Fabia undisguised!

At the Paris Motor Show in September this year, Skoda officials confirmed that the Fabia will be replaced by a new model in early 2007, and here�s final prove that the company is at full throttle developing their very successful entry-level model.

Left- and right-hand-drive models are currently tested around the Mlada Boleslav factory almost every night. While the prototype still wears a bit of disguising on the lamp units front and rear and especially on the C-pillar, it�s clearly visible the new Fabia will get a front-end similar to the Roomster.

The black A and B-pillars add to a sportier look, and - although the outer dimensions of the car seem quite unchanged � it is obvious that the next Fabia generation�s styling is much younger and up to date compared to today�s conservative original. The new car will make its first public appearance at the 2007 Geneva Show, but we expect to see factory photos yet in January.

Thursday, November 9, 2006


This is 'Cec' Weatherby, from Australia, about to start in the 1933 Junior TT, on his '33 Velocette mkIV KTT, sister bike of 'the Mule'. Dennis Quinlan sent this pic from his archives in Sydney; clear photos of rigid Velos in the IOM are rare, even though they figured highly in the results. The other visible makes are Norton and Rudge; Rudge had won its last TT in 1930, and a pushrod-engine machine would never win again. Nortons, though, won this and many others!
Visible on top of the scoreboard are the Boy Scouts who updated the rider positions during the race. One 'bobby' (a sergeant by the looks of it) stands by to keep order, the sponsors/owners are wearing their tweed suits and ties, the riders are wearing their baggy leather separates (one-piece suits weren't common until the early 50's); double-breasted button-up short jacket, high-waisted jodhpurs with suspenders underneath. Some of the riders wore shirts and ties, but Sartorialism was on the wane for motorcyclists by the mid-30's. Brooklands riders kept thier neckties until the war, with 'Barry' Baragwanath keeping his detachable collar and bowtie until the end of his career (must scan a photo!).

Wednesday, November 8, 2006


The consolation of bike trouble on Highway 1 is the view. This is Chris Potempa three years ago, working on his '34 Indian Chief which was having multiple 'issues' on the day, including shedding the rivets which held on the rear brake drum. That fix took a trip to the hardware store, which luckily was only about 10 miles away, and we managed to squeeze some bolts into the rivet holes for the trip home. Chris has since sold the bike!

Monday, November 6, 2006


1967 Velocette Venom Clubman Veeline - what a mouthful. This absolutely gorgeous machine lives in Australia, where I met it in '04, and it ran as well as it looked. This is just about my favorite configuration of Velo, barring a mkVIII KTT. It has a grace of line that even the Thruxton with a nose-cone fairing lacks. Doug Michenall, owner of Avon Fairings, created the mould for this line of fiberglass wind-cheaters specifically for Velocettes, and it shows. I have seen slimline Nortons use the same item, which looks great as well.