Sunday, July 31, 2011

Supercar Sunday - 7/31/11: Ferrari v Lamborghini upstaged by Zonda R

Lured by the Ferrari v Lamborghini showdown planned for this last Sunday in July, I decided it had been way too long since I had made the drive up to Woodland Hills for Supercar Sunday and got my butt outta bed for the first time in almost a year. It was a wise decision.

Not only did I get to see about 1,000 interesting collector cars on display, I also had a chance to catch up with at least a dozen friends I hadn't seen in a long time. That alone made the trip worthwhile, but the surprise unveiling of a Pagani Zonda R made it incredibly fortunate.

The Pagani Zonda needs little introduction, but these amazing boutique supercars are extremely rare here in the States. Never officially imported, a couple have found their way into private collections, and a few have been displayed at various shows and races around the country. I consider myself lucky indeed to have seen a handful of them between SEMA, SCS and Goodwood, the impression they leave in person akin to meeting Lewis Hamilton or Michael Schumacher - that sudden thrill you get from realizing you are in the presence of a legend.

Auto Gallery, who generously underwrites SCS, has been named an official Pagani dealer, allowing it the privilege to sell the Zonda's replacement, the Huayra when it goes on sale soon. As if seeing a Zonda isn't enough to make friends who weren't there hate your guts, the Zonda they helped bring to the show this weekend was actually a Zonda R, the race version that holds the lap record at the Nurburgring Nordschleife for production based cars. Its 6:47.5 time bested the Ferrari 599XX by eleven seconds and the new production car record holder the Porsche GT2 RS by...wait for it...thirty seconds.

Horacio only built a few of these race cars so not everyone will get to see one in their lifetime. Without DrivenWorld publisher and SCS organizer, Dustin Troyan, I may have missed my chance. Dusty's hard work, along with the generosity of the car's owner, Auto Gallery and Century Towing allowed me to cross another vehicle off my bucket list.

Seeing the car up close reveals why Pagani has such an aura about it. The shape is alien yet beautiful and the engineering prowess of the company is immediately evident. The carbon fiber is laid perfectly, and close inspection reveals the titanium threads woven into the cloth to add flexibility to this normally brittle substance. Every detail is not only functional, but designed in such a way that you feel there must be some artists in the engineering department. Why can't every carmaker make their vehicles this beautiful and capable?

If you click the link above to view the gallery, you'll notice that at least half of my photos are of the Zonda R, but pry yourself away from those and you'll also see why shows like Supercar Sunday are so much fun. How's this for eclectic? When was the last time you saw a Toyota Crown Deluxe coupe? Never? How about a Kurtis Kraft 500? There were at least three there today. A Ram Air GTO Judge wagon? Maybe not factory, but a really cool sight. Other rare and wonderful sightings included a Renault R5 Turbo, Ford RS200, '73 Carrera RS, Continental Mark II, Morgan Aero, Hurst Camaro, Maserati 3500GT, Riley Elf, two yellow Ultimas, three BMW Z8s, Qvale Mangusta, and a few Lamborghinis and Ferraris.

The marque of the Bull was represented by dozens of Gallardo variations, a few Murcis, a pair of Miuras and a handful of Countaches. Prancing horse lovers were treated to scores of 3X8s, Maranellos, 355s, Modenas, 430s, 458s, Stradales, Scuderias, and Testarossas. Favorites included the 330 GTS, 550 Barchetta, 575 Superamerica, and a lone F40. Not a bad turnout by any stretch of the imagination, but overcast skies and a few scattered showers may have kept some of the even more exotic stuff at home. We're not greedy though, so an F40, two Miuras and a Zonda R were just fine with me.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cars & Coffee – 7/23/11

The Venom GT showed up today, piloted by the man whose name is on the back - John Hennessey. This stretched out Exige was just in England a couple of weeks ago being driven up the hill by GM engineer and racer John Heinricy, and now it's in the States, the only one of five on these shores. Three lucky customers are already driving theirs in various parts of Asia, and the fifth is the silver development car that is back in England.

The obvious similarity to a Lotus Exige is more than skin deep. John explained that the car uses the Exige cockpit almost intact, but veers off for the front and rear assemblies. The Venom GT looks like it's twice as long and wide as the car it is based on.

At one point John asked who wanted to see the engine and after several cheers of approval, the reverse-hinged rear clamshell was lifted to expose the heart of this beast. With boost set at a fairly modest 12 pounds, this turbo V8 derived from a Corvette LS9 motor delivers over 800 hp to its rear wheels. With the wick turned up, that number climbs closer to 1,200 at the crank, giving the 2,685-lb supercar a theoretical top speed of 277 mph.

This crazy cool missle hasn't had a chance to try to reach that v-max and John seems to be looking for a place to do it. When asked about taking it to the Texas Mile, John said, "That's only a mile though, we need a bit more than that. We could probably do 230 or a bit more in the mile, but nowhere near 270."

We also asked John if he thought about letting Top Gear and The Stig take a go at it and he responded, "We tried to get something together but the timing just didn't work out. We had done something with the magazine last year and were hoping to get on the show, but not this time."

With its LeMans-ready looks, British/American heritage and otherworldly performance, this could be looked at as a modern-day Cobra, but it more clearly fills the hole left by the demise of the Saleen S7 as the only true American supercar. The S7 ended up winning dozens of trophies in several different series during its relatively short lifespan. We don't know whether or not there are any plans to take the Venom GT racing, but if looks and sound are any indication, we doubt it would have a hard time winning a few trophies of its own.

At $950,000 we doubt we'll see a lot of these on the street either, although for those who can afford one, it represents quite a bargain compared to the Bugatti Veyron, one of the benchmarks in this class. While the Venom's top speed should exceed the Veyron SS's in a perfect world, the more amazing thing is the way the Venom outperforms that superGT at the dragstrip. Well, perhaps not at the typical dragstrip, but in the 0-200 sprint, the Veyron needs just over eight extra seconds to get there - 24.2 - 15.9 seconds. Simply amazing.

This was one of those weeks at Cars & Coffee where there wasn't just one highlight though, as David Sydorik brought a gorgeous Alfa Romeo TZ, Local Motors brought a Rally Fighter, Project Import brought a handful of race cars including a StopTech-equipped S2000 hardtop, someone brought a Ford  Escort Cosworth and a few hundred others brought something that was equally special to them. Epic week.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cars & Coffee – 7/16/11

I'm just going to list some of the cars that were there today, as the O.C. Fair awaits me. Hillbank, which sells Superformance and Shelby vehicles as well as parts for Mustangs and Camaros, filled the corral today with dozens of American icons. There were even a few originals in the mix, including a rare green Shelby GT350H and a genuine Pedro Rodriguez B Production championship winning GT350.

The first Fiat 500C showed up today, as well as a new Shelby GT350 and the new Chrysler 300 SRT8. Older highlights included a white Countach 5000S, Saab 9-3 Viggen, Porsche 911 Speedster, 911 soft window Targa, Bandit T/A, a few more Mustang racers, Riley Elf, beautiful Ford F-1 pickup, 1971 Toyota Corolla, 1959 Olds Ninety Eight, Fiat 850 and 600 Multipla, Peugeot 403, Jensen Healey, Puma GT and a Ferrari F1 car.

The F1 car was Dr. Tony Nobles' and it is part of the Corse Clienti program that the factory offers. The car is the 2001 Monza car that was raced by world champion Michael Schumacher right after the tragedy of 9/11. Tony has run it on many of the world's most famous tracks and is next headed to Belgium to see if he has the cajones to go flat through Eau Rouge at Spa. After recently becoming just the fifth person to do that same feat at Paul Ricard's similarly laid out section, I'm guessing it won't be a problem for the Doc.

Link to photos

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Cars & Coffee – 7/2/11: The Pike's Peak Edition

Slow internet connection while out of town for the remainder of the Independence Day Holiday weekend necessitates a brief write-up today. Will add more details on the StopTech blog in a few days.

A filthy Hyundai in the corral today was much appreciated, not because we have a thing for dirty Korean cars, but because this one had racing dirt on it. It was the very same Hyundai powered unlimited class car that Rhys Millen had used last weekend to tackle Pike's Peak. While Rhys was only able to finish second, this little rocket ship is still mighty impressive in person. With nearly the same power as a Veyron and less than half its weight to haul around, this awd LMP shrinky dink can catapault from a rolling start-124 mph in less than 8 seconds. It also pins you back into your seat at 1.14 g's in the process. Rhys is a cool guy who spent a lot of time talking to people about the car, the race and himself. We did have to give him a hard time about his other car on display though - a pimped out Ostrich leather interior'd Equus SEMA show car. Now if that thing had Pike's Peak dirt all over it, then it might be something special.

The only other car that really caught my attention yesterday was a Cobra. It was used in the movie "The Gumball Rally" where it raced a Ferrari Daytona Spider from NY to LA. While "Cannonball Run" is perhaps the better known movie about the first Coast-to-Coast illegal car race by a group of wealthy East Coast sportscar owners, "Gumball" is a much better car movie. The scenes of this Cobra and that Daytona racing through the LA River are classic. To think of how valuable each of those cars has become makes the footage that much more impactful today. If you haven't seen it, track it down. This should be in every car lovers collection right along side Le Mans and Grand Prix.

Link to photos