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Porsche revisits its remarkable SC East African Safari rally car

Posted Jul 13th 2014 8:00PM

1978 Porsche 911 East African Safari Rally Car

Porsche and motorsports just seem to go hand-in-hand. The brand has defined itself by its ability to compete on the track with the concept that racing bred better road cars. While we are used to seeing 911s speeding along circuits around the world, the rear-engine icon's success in rallying is somewhat less well known. The Porsche Museum aims to fix that by highlighting a 911 SC that competed in the 1978 East African Safari Rally.

The 911 rally car definitely projects a '70s vibe. You wouldn't see too many racecars with a pink brush bar sliding through the stages these days, but it looks amazing. Its bank of spotlights and two, giant, hood-mounted horns definitely give away the car's purpose. Best of all, that fantastic Martini livery defines the looks of Porsche racers from this era.

The 911 SC performed well in the East African Safari Rally, but some suspension damage meant that this particular one never raced again. It's been a part of the Porsche Museum ever since. Scroll down to learn a little more about one part of the brand's off-road legacy.

News Source: Porsche via YouTube

How GM almost screwed up Toy Story, Cars, Monsters Inc. and more

Posted Jul 13th 2014 6:00PM

Given Just 7 More Days, GM Would Have Changed Entertainment History

Interviews Executives From Pixar Animation Studios

Cover of Creativity, Inc., the new book from Pixar co-founder Ed CatmullGeneral Motors came within one week of buying Pixar in 1985, and would have subsumed the then-fledgling computer company to use its technology to help aid car designs. That surprising almost-was historical wrinkle comes courtesy of Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar, in his new management book, Creativity, Inc.

At the time, Pixar was more of a computer hardware company than an animation studio. Had the deal gone through, it would have likely "put an end to our dream of making the first [CGI] animated feature film," Catmull says in the book. There would have been no Toy Story, no Cars, no Ratatouille, no WALL-E and no Monsters Inc. It's not even clear if the name Pixar would have survived – it's likely that GM would simply have subsumed the organization into its design department.

The aborted GM deal, about which little has been revealed beyond its existence (it was mentioned in an earlier book, David A. Price's The Pixar Touch), is fascinating to ponder. Catmull (above) said the failed negotiations to buy the then-ailing Lucasfilm computer division actually involved the automaker and Philips, the Dutch engineering and electronics giant. "General Motors was intrigued because we were leading the way in the modeling of objects, which they felt could be used in car design," says Catmull. Philips was interested in the technology behind the Pixar Image Computer, which could read huge amounts of data from imaging machines like CT scanners or MRIs. Those two pieces of technology made Pixar a sweet acquisition target, one GM and Philips valued at around US$30 million. The companies had agreed to pay George Lucas $15 million and invest a further US$15 million in Pixar's operations in order to consummate the deal.

In reading Creativity, Inc., it's not entirely clear what scuttled the deal, but in the book's afterword, Catmull makes it sound like Pixar executives were upset when the deal fell through. "We'd made a promising match with General Motors, only to be left at the altar," he says. In a recent lecture as part of the DFJ Entrepreneurial Series at Stanford, Catmull expounded a bit, saying the deal fell apart when "with General Motors – the EDS part – the Ross Perot holdovers and the car people got into a war with each other." EDS, of course, being Electronic Data Systems, the technology and services company that the one-time presidential candidate sold to GM in 1984.

Instead, Apple's Steve Jobs "swooped in" to help prop up Pixar, and the rest is animation history. Today, Catmull is president of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios. He, and thousands of Buzz Lightyear, Mike and Sully, and Lightning McQueen fans are probably eternally grateful the deal was never realized.

News Source: Creativity, Inc., DFJ Entrepreneurial Series

Image Credit: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg / Getty

BMW looking to save billions with cost cuts

Posted Jul 13th 2014 4:00PM

Germany Earns BMW

BMW is planning a fairly extensive overhaul in a bid to recoup some its annual costs, with CEO Norbert Reithofer (pictured above) aiming to save three to four billion euro (CAD$4.3 to CAD$5.8 billion) per year to help keep the company's profit margins between eight and 10 per cent, while also maintaining investments in production expansion and new tech. BMW's profit margins sat at 9.4 per cent in 2013.

According to Automotive News Europe, Reithofer is none too pleased about costs at Mini and on the 1 Series, although neither AN nor its source story, from Germany's Manager Magazin, elaborate on what steps could be taken to improve losses on either project. That makes it hard to figure out just where the fat will be trimmed from.

What may happen, though, is that BMW attempts to trim 100 million euros (CAD$145 million) from its German labor costs each year; a solution hinted at a few weeks ago by Germany newspaper Muenchner Merkur. While a dramatic cost reduction, 100 million euros still doesn't begin to even approach the savings envisioned by Reithofer.

Meanwhile, the company is aiming too increase its global annual sales from 2 million units to 2.5 million by 2016, as part of its ongoing battles with Mercedes-Benz and Audi. Part of that plan will involve increasing production in the US, China and Latin America.

News Source: Automotive News Europe - sub. req.

Image Credit: Kerstin Joensson / AP

Why Japan's government is looking to curb its adorable kei car market

Posted Jul 13th 2014 1:57PM

Honda N-One

Each region around the world has its stereotypical vehicle. North America has the pickup and Europe the five-door hatchback; but in Japan, the kei car reigns supreme. These tiny cars are limited to just 660cc of displacement but they've also come with lower taxes to make them more affordable. To make of the most of their small size, they've often had quite boxy styling like the Honda N-One shown above, and because they're Japanese, they've often had quirky names like the Nissan Dayz Roox. However, if the Japanese government has its way, the future popularity of these little guys might be in jeopardy.

The problem facing them is that Japan is an island both literally and figuratively. After World War II, the Japanese government created the class as a way to make car ownership more accessible. The tiny engines generally meant better fuel economy to deal with the nation's expensive gas, and the tax benefits also helped. It's made the segment hugely popular even today, with kei cars making up roughly 40 per cent of the nation's new cars sales last year, according to The New York Times. The downside is that these models are almost never exported because they aren't as attractive to buyers elsewhere (if indeed they even meet overseas regulations). So if an automaker ends up with a popular kei model, it can't really market it elsewhere.

The government now sees that as a threat to the domestic auto industry. It believes that every yen invested into kei development is wasted, and the production takes up needed capacity at auto factories. The state would much rather automakers create exportable models. To do this, it's trying to make the little cars less attractive to buy, and thus, less attractive to build. The authorities recently increased taxes on kei cars by 50 per cent to narrow the difference between standard cars, according to the NYT.

If kei cars do lose popularity, it could open the market up to greater competition from foreign automakers. Several companies complained about the little cars stranglehold on the Japanese market last year, but since then, imported car sales there have shown some growth thanks to the improving economy.

News Source: The New York Times

Image Credit: Honda

Land Rover knows where you're going and how you want to get there

Posted Jul 13th 2014 12:01PM

JLR's self learning car

Land Rover makes some of the most capable SUVs on or off the road, and some of the most luxurious too. But the British automaker isn't about to rest on those laurels – not when every other automaker assaults its territory with sport-utes of their own. That's why Land Rover has been working so hard on nifty new technologies from a depth-sounder in the door mirror of the Range Rover Sport an augmented-reality head-up display that makes the whole front of the car virtually disappear.

JLR's newest tech may not be ground-breaking, but its integration promises to make driving around town that much easier. The system syncs with the driver's smartphone and uses all manner of parameters – including driver habits, weather and location as well as the presence of other passengers – to make the commute go as smoothly as possible. Get into the car and it'll set the seat and mirrors for you. No big deal, because lots of cars do that. But it'll also set up the nav system to take you to work and the sound system to play your favourite music. Okay, getting more interesting.

Get in with your kids and it'll know not only that you've got to drop them off at school first (or remind you to pack their gym bag if they've got soccer practice after school that day) but that they might not enjoy that Chumbawamba album you've been listening to since college and it'll play something it knows you'll all enjoy based on your listening history. Then it'll switch back to Tubthumping once the kids are out, remind you of your morning meeting and alert those you're scheduled to meet with if you get stuck in traffic while finding you a better route to get there, monitoring fuel levels all the while and telling you if you'll need to tank up before you reach your destination. It knows if you like calling your mother on the drive to work and will lower the air suspension to make it easier to hop out once you get there.

Impressive stuff, and you can delve deeper into it in the press release and video below.

News Source: Jaguar Land Rover

Check out these cool jazz tracks inspired by great cars of the '70s

Posted Jul 13th 2014 10:00AM



There's nothing like taking a drive with the perfect song playing that matches the mood and moment. When the rhythms sync up with the undulating road, the whole experience gets just a little bit better. Danish jazz-fusion band Elektrojazz understands the connection between music and driving, and it has a new album called Cars with each track inspired by a specific vehicle of the 1970s. The era might be known for some real clunkers, but you don't have to look too hard to find classics from the groovy decade, as well.

Instead of picking the cars themselves, the members of Elektrojazz put up a poll on the band's website allowing people to vote for their favourites. The most popular vehicle in each category made it onto the album. The final list definitely skews towards European sports cars of the era, with choices like the Lotus Esprit and Lamborghini Countach, but there are some definite outliers like the AMC Pacer and Saab 99 Turbo.

"Some of my favourites didn't make it," said Elektrojazz member Anders Larson to Autoblog via email. He would have liked the Porsche 928 and Jaguar XJS to make the cut, among several others. Although, he hinted that another car-inspired album could be on the way.

Each ride gets its own style of jazz to go along with it, too. The song about the 1970 Dodge Challenger sounds like you could drop it into Bullitt and no one would notice. However, the one about the Pacer uses some Latin-tinged blues. Scroll down to watch a video that previews all of the groovy tracks on the album. It's available for sale on the band's website and on iTunes.

News Source: Elektrojazz via YouTube

Harley-Davidson calls in 66k Touring bikes for brake line problems

Posted Jul 13th 2014 8:00AM

Harley-Davidson Touring

Most of the recalls we cover involve four-wheeled automobiles – and most of those these days have come from General Motors, at that – but every once in a while a motorcycle recall comes across our desks that's just too substantial to ignore. This is one of those recalls.

Harley-Davidson has announced a recall of 66,421 of its motorcycles. The units in question are from the Touring and CVO Touring series, specifically those equipped with ABS brakes and manufactured between July 1, 2013, and May 7, 2014. The problem apparently revolves around an improperly installed front brake line that's prone to be pinched between the tank and the frame, increasing fluid pressure in the brake line and potentially causing the front wheel to lock up. Which sounds like it would be bad enough in a car, but that much worse on a motorbike.

As a result, the Motor Company is notifying owners to have their local dealer inspect their iron horses for potential damage and, in addition to replacing any damaged brake line, fit an extra cable strap or two to prevent it from sliding between the frame and the fuel tank. Delve into the recall notice below from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a full list of specific models affected.

YouTuber TJ Smith is your singing Lyft driver in Nissan Sentra ad

Posted Jul 12th 2014 7:58PM

Nissan Sentra TJ Smith

Perhaps you've seen Nissan's latest commercial, promoting the Sentra. It's a fairly simple little spot, showing the compact's driver blaring Billy Idol's Mony Mony, singing along and encouraging other motorists to join in.

We'd have been fine had it been left at that. It's a simple commercial that shows the car with a catchy tune and smiling people. Nissan couldn't leave well enough alone, though, and has come back with this. Starring TJ Smith – the driver from the original ad and an apparent YouTube celebrity famous for the kind of thing shown in the original commercial – the new ad expands on the old, with more people, and more Mony Mony. This time round, Smith is serving as a driver for the Lyft service, who just happens to break into song with his fares in the car.

Scroll down for the full video. If you've no idea what we're talking about, we've also included the original commercial.

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News Source: nissanusa via YouTube

Image Credit: Nissan, Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL

McLaren F1 designer Gordon Murray no fan of hybrid supercars

Posted Jul 12th 2014 6:00PM

McLaren P1

McLaren F1 LMYou'd think that the extreme performance, engineering and technology of hybrid hypercars like the McLaren P1, Ferrari LaFerrari and Porsche 918 Spyder would appeal to a guy like Gordon Murray. After all, the man behind the McLaren F1, the original hypercar, knows a thing or six about pushing the edge of the performance envelope with a new vehicle.

The F1 came out over 20 years ago, but even then, it was exploring the limits of automotive technology. But if Murray were in the driver's seat today, he'd pass on all the F1-inspired trickery that's infiltrating the modern breed of supercars. Instead, as he tells Goodwood Road & Racing, he'd focus on building a "great driver's car" with "pure engineering." We aren't sure how Murray's engineering differs, or is purer, than the work done in Woking, Maranello and Zuffenhausen, but we suppose he's entitled to his opinions.

Overall, the interview with GRR and Murray is a fascinating read into a man that has a very unique take on what a driver's car should be. Hop over and have a read.

News Source: Goodwood Road & Racing

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL, Copyright 2014 Matt Davis / AOL

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