Archive for the Dream garage Category

Dream Garage #11 – Citroën C-Airplay

Posted in Desirable machines, Dream garage with tags , , , , , on 08/05/2011 by Alexander

Yes, yes, I know. Yet another Citroën. But I simply cannot pass this one up, as it is one of those cars I’d gladly trade for nearly any other one of the members of my dream garage.

The Citroen C-Airplay was introduced in December 2005 at the Bologna Motor Show. Maybe it was the venue, maybe it was too close in time to the C-SportLounge or C-Buggy, I don’t know, but the general reception seems to have been lukewarm at best, because Citroen decided not to pursue the model, either with a production version or even the styling cues. From what I personally recall, the most off-putting feature for most people were the little tinted windows mounted low down in the doors. I suppose people were concerned strangers would be able to perceive defects in their legs in traffic jams or something.

It’s just such a pity and waste that this gorgeous, gorgeous car was left to wallow in the mire of Forgotten Concept-Car Oblivion. That lovely shape and the charming tininess would have made for a cracking city car. I look at it and reminded of the Fiat Nuova 500, which the C-Airplay preceded by more than a year, and judging from the success of the Italian car, Citroen probably had a winner on their hands and didn’t realise it.

And look at it! How much closer could this have been to production version? Yes, the interior is far too outlandish for the mass market, but the outside was bang on. The handsome headlight and the grill arrangement underneath them, the central exhaust pipe, the concavities in the doors, the little wheels a the corners… it’s just all so wonderfully balanced and dynamic-looking.

I also loved that incredibly pretty targa roof, which would’ve been a certain success amongst the target clientèle (which would be those who went for the Fiat 500 cabrio), though a more consensual interior along with more standardised rear seats would’ve been necessary. The rear seats would probably only allow legless dwarves to occupy them in a minimally comfortable manner, but if the Fiat 500 and the Peugeot RCZ get away with it, then so could the C-Airplay.

The absolutely insane interior that could only exist in a concept car was a bit weird. The front seats were joined up with no central column down the middle, like on most cheaper cars up to until about twenty years ago, and the seatbelts were attached to the car in the middle (as you can see in the picture). The interior was all covered in rubbery plastic or something, which the usual PR car-designer prattle said it was to “enhance sensory perception” or some bollocks like that. The steering wheel layout was very cool, very much in line with the fixed central hub introduced with the Citroen C4. I don’t know about the display though, with only the rev-counter and speedometer plainly visible for the driver to see. The end result is a Spartan as opposed to minimalist (e.g., BMW interiors are truly austere and purely functional, with the feeling that joy and enthusiasm weren’t on the designer’s mind – thus Spartan; a Volvo on the other hand, has a very simple interior, with no fussy mannerisms, but very nicely balanced, giving a sense of comfort and welcoming – that’s minimalist). Though the colour and the concept are truly meant to make the innards of the C-Airplay come across and young, fun and funky, I think it must’ve seemed featureless and bare to the casual beholder, and that’s probably another reason why it didn’t receive an enthusiastic reaction on being presented.

And I’m saddened that I’m writing this entry in this way, since it sounds like I’m writing an obituary. It’s been more than five years since this car was shown, and judging by the current crop of Citroen’s and their styling, and the general direction the company is heading in, this concept’s future development is probably definitely very dead. Unless of course, some absolutely whacky executive at the Marque comes along and decides to resurrect the project. This probably isn’t that whacky an idea though, since there is a market for funky little city cars, and the styling still looks great today. Smacks me more as wishful thinking on my part, though.

Ah well. Maybe one day I’ll be filthily-rich enough to go up to some high-standing figure at Citroen and commission a replica of one or buy the concept version. I definitely would do that. I just wonder if such a thing is possible.


Dream Garage #10 – Nissan GT-R

Posted in Desirable machines, Dream garage with tags , on 29/04/2011 by Alexander

I’m not one for cars that are just about horsepower and top speed and stuff like that. I think Lamborghinis, Porsches and Ferraris and the ilk are wastes of resources and time, since they’re all horrendously expensive, distastefully flashy, and aren’t really hugely different from one another when scrutinised… well, I won’t go on since I’ve already ranted enough on so-called supercars, and I’m guaranteed to do so again in the future.

But I’ll make exceptions when the said car is ball-bashingly spectacular all around or revolutionary, either when it’s insanely, mind-boggingly over-the top like a Bugatti Veyron, or when it’s some sort of upstart that puts mainstream supercars to utter shame. And the latter is definitely the case of the magnificent Nissan GT-R.

In an age where high-tech is the norm, being able to out-do competitors in this field is quite a feat. And high-tech is what the GT-R has in cartloads. Apart from the clever gadgetry that’s hidden under the car’s proverbial skin, there’s a visual manifestation of this in the form of a centre screen, that shows a lot more than sat-nav and radio presets. Apart from the usual stuff and what an on-board computer is supposed to tell you, there’s a g-force-ometer, readouts on water and oil pressure and temperature, and a host of other impressive stats I personally think should be standard on all car displays. The graphics were designed by boffins from the computer game Gran-Turismo 5‘s creative team, which rather befits a technological tour-de-force made real.

And while most other 300km/h vehicles employ V8s, V10s and V12s (exception made for Porsche with their flat-6’s), this Nipponese auto uses a 3.8l V6, and uses its displacement well enough to put to shame cars many times its price. Just look up some GT-R vs. other cars on YouTube and a host of videos of drag-races of the Nissan against super-costly competitors (usually beating them). Then there’s the blitzingly amazing Nurburgring lap-time, and a load of publications shouting out the GT-R’s magnificence.

When Top Gear did not one, but two films on the GT-R, Clarkson explained how the exquisite assembly of the car includes mounting the engine is hand-made in a hermetically sealed chamber, so the components won’t microscopically expand. And because it’s hand-made you might get more than the 485bhp Nissan says it has (an American magazine tested theirs and it turned out to have 507bhp). Each gearbox is tailor-made for that one specific engine, and won’t function in any other GT-R. The suspension struts are mounted while under pressure simulating the weight of the car, so that the geometry is absolutely perfect. The shape of the car is all worked out so that the air is all channelled to the rear spoiler, and give the car more grip.

And while many people might be reading this and shaking their heads, thinking “a Porsche 911 can do the same”, the truth is that it takes one of the more sophisticated and pricey versions to trump this Japanese coupé’s prowess (don’t ask me which one, I can’t tell one 911 apart from another, they’re all the same s**t to me).

The GT-R also has a charm that’s unrivalled by European models, at least for me, and that’s its quirky styling. It’s designers don’t shy away from its very Japanese looks, partly due to all those aerodynamic mouldings, but mostly due to its inspiration in Japanese popular culture.

Nissan chief creative officer, Shirō Nakamura, has likened the new GT-R to the eponymous giant robots of the Gundam series. Nakamura stated: “The GT-R is unique because it is not simply a copy of a European-designed supercar; it had to really reflect Japanese culture.”

Nakamura noted that the GT-R’s square lines and vents were influenced by Gundam robots. (source)

It really does remind me of a Japanese super-robot. Very fitting, since this appeals to the science-fiction fan in me, and a technologically advance car should do that to you. And what’s remarkable is how it all truly works and comes together in one very neat, high-tech and ultimately very Japanese package. Japan is very good at making very dull cars, with bland styling and zero substance, but it also proves with this car that they can do just as well or better than Europeans if they put their mind to it.

All in all, a truly desirable machine. I’d love to have a pretty black one sitting in my dream garage, ready to tempt me into the world of petrol-drinking, tire-burning high speed.

Dream garage #9 – Datsun Z

Posted in Desirable machines, Dream garage with tags , , , , on 16/04/2011 by Alexander

I honestly don’t know much about the Datsun Z-cars in terms of technical specs and history. For that sort of thing, I’d simply direct the reader to the Wikipedia article, and their types of engines, 0-60mph times and production dates can be mulled over in whatever time is deemed necessary. This is one of those cars that have a more lasting appeal in other regards.

For example, for me its impression on me has always run deep for two main reasons. First, I had a Matchbox or Majorette die-cast toy version which was one of my favourites, and second, other major significant characteristic about it that will have definitely made an unmistakable and lasting image of it was that it was a Transformer, and furthermore, two of the cool Autobots (as opposed to the uncool ones, like that crappy ambulance or the people carrier, though I digress).

It’s a car that grabs you from the moment you look upon those superb lines. Nissan boss Charles Ghosn described the original car as having “European styling, American muscle, Japanese quality and global desirability.” The bit about European styling is no lie, and I’d refine it more to British-like design. In fact, an interesting tidbit of information regarding its original design conception was given by none other than Lionel Richie when interviewed for Top Gear, when he said the 240Z was designed to look like a Jag E-Type, “which it did”, in his words. I’d also say there was a bit of classic, lightweight MG sports car in the mix too. This is a car that can be lauded and loved simply for its beautiful styling, like an Alfa Romeo, but it goes deeper than that, as its tremendous popularity attests.

Unfortunately, popularity brings its problems along. It’s like Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin: absolutely great music and such, but so widespread that hordes of utter morons will try to imitate them. What I mean is that it’s analogous to vast diffusion of 70’s Z-cars, and that for the million or so sold, a good percentage of those are true modding retards who have wanked them up beyond belief. And for a beauty such as these Japanese works of art, it truly is a serious crime.

One thing that makes it modder-bait (apart from its relative cheapness and inherent “sportiness”) is how it wears do many different colours so well, like a Citroen CX. You’ve got green, yellow, orange, brown, gold and so forth, and these hues look great. For my part, I’d love to have a 240/260/280Z in my dream garage, in its pristine, factory-spec state, and in a rare colour, like that chocolate-brown or racing green.

Dream garage #8 – Fisker Karma

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Desirable machines, Dream garage, Green Tech with tags , , on 10/01/2011 by Alexander

How can someone not want this car? It’s ticks all the boxes. Gorgeous-looking? Check. Goes like stink? Check. Low-emissions and high fuel economy? Check. I can’t believe this car hasn’t been thought of sooner. However, nothing’s perfect and it does have its drawbacks. It’s large, it’s expensive, and most of all, it’s late. The long wait that many future Karma owners have had to endure must be frustrating, but I’m guessing it will be worth it. Personally, I find it to be a current automotive pinnacle, unless there’s some other terrible flaw Fisker hasn’t told anyone about.

Another interesting bit to dwell upon is the interior design. I’ll be honest, the design is some two years old now, and for cars, that’s a long time. Car cabins get nicer and nicer as time progresses, and even cheap cars get very interesting-looking innards. Despite that, it does look cool, and reminds me of minimalist Volvo interior designs, which are fabulous. And there’s more, and I’ll quote directly from the Wikipedia article:

The base model features an “eco-friendly interior”, including salvaged lumber from fires or even from lake bottoms. Optional leather seating is available, but it will use much more of the cow hide than would customarily be found on luxury models—hides with scratches and other mars (which should not affect functionality) will be used.

This is something other brands should exploit, and I’d go further. The insistence on leather is pathetic, with less glitzy but far more cosy materials getting an ill-deserved reputation as not being sufficiently upmarket. I covered this in my other blog (previous to the creation of this one, and it’s a good article, IMHO, so I might re-publish it here), and though Fisker’s alternative isn’t perfect because it still involves skinning our poor innocent bovine friends, but it’s better than mainstream approaches.

Returning to another downside, the price, one can’t help but think what kind of market segment Fisker is aiming for. Rich fat-cats who have the money for this sort of car usually go for high-end BMWs, Mercs and Jags. Then again, I think this car might be able to steal some of the usual expensive-sedan clientèle. It’s much better-looking, goes as fast (or nearly as fast) as M5’s and AMG’s and the sort, while getting amazing mileage. This last bit will appeal to Johnny Aristocrat since he’ll have to make less stops at the pump (where he has to mingle with riff-raff), and to other German Big Three car owning-posers, who can hardly afford the thing (and got a diesel to try to save a bit on fuel).

That said, the Karma’s success depends on impressing this niche of the market. It has to look fashionable and status-sporting, and current widespread Top Gear-like mentality is anathema to this. I wish the Karma all the success in the world, and leads the way for other beautiful, fuel-sipping cars.

P.S. Sorry, no more galleries for my Dream Car Garage. Very time-consuming, and time is something I don’t have.

Dream garage #7 – Citroën CX

Posted in Desirable machines, Dream garage with tags , , on 07/01/2010 by Alexander

Perhaps readers who are a more than distracted may have noticed a motif (that is, if I actually had any readers). In seven cars, four are French (five if you count the Bugatti, it’s made in France and named after a Frenchman) and three of these are Citroëns. There’s a reason for that, and it’s probably embodied by the Citroën CX.

This was the car I grew up with. My father owned more than half a dozen of these big beauties, and the impression it made on a young car fan was, to say the least, indelible. The looks, the size, the interior quirkiness were enough to make me believe that all other cars’ design were simply wrong. Why do other cars have indicator stalks instead of the clever boxes? Why do they use large, round dials instead of the space-saving revolving drums? Why do they have levers to pull to open the doors instead of the trigger-like mechanism of the CX? I could go on and on, since one of the advantages of having observed this car so much as a child is that my attention to detail was obsessive.

The CX had big shoes to fill. It had the task of replacing one of the most revolutionary cars of the 20th century, the DS. Now I won’t go into the debatable realm of whether it succeeded or not, but I think it will suffice to say that the CX’s run lasted for fifteen years (the DS had a twenty year stint), in an age where automakers had to keep changing, evolving and continuously upgrade models in order to stay afloat on the market.

The overall design was the brainchild of Robert Opron, who had joined Citroën under Flaminio Bertoni, the man responsible for the design of the DS. Opron appreciated the importance of aerodynamics, and implemented the DS’ swivelling headlamps that were glass-covered, as part of the DS’ 1967 makeover. This design element was also present in the Citroën SM, which, when looked at closely, heralded some design characteristics later included in the CX. In fact, personally I think it’s easy to see the similarities and Opron’s designing consistency in his Citroën designs, from the revamped DS passing through the GS and SM and on to the CX, what with them all sporting the same swooping rear and slightly curved-ness and horizontal-ness of the front.

I’ve always thought the CX as one of those cars that has stood the test of time extremely well. I remember how 80’s youths such as myself absolutely loathed the 70’s, yet this very openly 70’s car was irresistibly attractive even in the thick of the Thatcher years. It’s beautiful, sleek profile and tapering end gave it the necessary reminiscence to the DS to remind the drivers of the huge shoes it was filling. And like the DS, at the heart its look was the drive to find as aerodynamic a shape as possible, hence the name “CX” (“Cx” is the acronym for drag coefficient). I loved the curving shoulder-line, the long bonnet with the single, asymmetrical vent, the huge sloping windscreen, the rubber bits beneath the front bumper, the slightly concave rear windscreen on the saloon models, and especially those smiling front headlamps.

And that interior. I could dedicate an entry to the inside of the CX alone, such was the attention to detail and uniqueness bestowed by the geniuses who dreamt this car up. The single-pronged steering wheel, the absence of stalks behind it, the revolving drum speedometer and rev counter, the trigger door handles, the space, the comfort, even those crazy door-mounted ashtrays.

But enough of my slobbering praise. I’ll save some of my opinions for the captions in the following pictures.

Citroen CX gallery

Dream garage #6 – Phantom Corsair

Posted in Desirable machines, Dream garage with tags , on 31/07/2009 by Alexander

The Phantom Corsair is a car that justifies the name “dream garage”. Not because of the price(it must be biblically expensive), but because of the exclusivity. This car isn’t just rare, it’s unique. Only one was ever built and it sits in the National Automobile Museum, in the US state of Nevada.

It was designed by one Rust Heinz and the only prototype was constructed in 1938. The Corsair was supposed to be a production car but Heinz’s death stopped this from coming to fruition. You can only imagine what this absolutely amazing design would have had on the industry in 1938, since most cars at the time, though nice and roundy, looked like tin cans next to this.

Just the name is brilliant. “Phantom Corsair”. Could be a super-hero, a spy, or a pirate, but it befits such a unique machine perfectly. If it were a modern car, people would perhaps guffaw at its campness, but in the 30’s it must have sounded absolutely magnificent.

Look at that sweeping, spaceship-like body. The absence of any door handles or friezes. The split windscreen and the sculpted grill. This is 30’s retrofuture, something that should have been allowed to be. If this had been built as a production car, it probably would have stolen a lot of the Citroën DS’s thunder years before it was even built. If it had been built we’d probably all go around in bullet-like cars, with push-buttons for doors, and a front seat for three people, and wheels obscured by the bodywork (this last bit makes me wonder how good the turning circle on this thing would be).

Even though a real life production Corsair was and is impossible, it lives on in a slightly different way. The 2002 PC game Mafia: City Of Lost Heaven had a certain “Manta Prototype”, unlocked after you’d finished the game and completed a certain bonus mission. Not exactly a substitute for the real thing, but it certainly stands out from the rest of the cars, and it’s a hoot to drive. It was also the car player piece in the board game of Monopoly I own, though I can’t find photos on the net that corroborate this.

The Phantom Corsair is a true automotive legend, a glimpse of what might have been if chance had had a different whim at the time. A real dream car.

Phantom Corsair Gallery

Dream Garage #5 – Infiniti Essence concept

Posted in Desirable machines, Dream garage with tags , , , on 27/07/2009 by Alexander

infiniti-essence-concept_20It would only be a matter of time until a concept car showed up. And this is one car I’m sore to see will never roll off the assembly line, though if it did, it wouldn’t make much difference since we don’t get the Infiniti brand where I live.

And it’s this unfamiliarity which made the sight of this prototype even more breathtaking. It looks sculpted, studied from every possible angle to look good. Just looking at it makes the mind picture sitting behind the wheel and speeding off across an entire continent.

The fact that it has a special luggage-shifting boot speaks nothing to me, nor that it has 500+ horsepower deriving from a 3.7-litre V6 hybrid engine. For all I car it could have a 1.0-litre unit from a 1990 Fiat Panda. It’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous.

Infiniti Essence Gallery