A drop dead drophead
Bentley Motors unveiled their latest offering at
the Los Angeles International Auto Show, called the Bentley Arnage
This vehicle, which is destined for production in
2006, is one which I believe has managed to retain ‘traditional’
Bentley lines, and yet look modern at the same time. However, Bentley
Motors, a Volkswagen marque these days, is being coy about production,
claiming much will depend upon customer reaction.
Arnage Drophead Coupe
Unveiling the car in Los Angeles, the chairman and
CEO of Bentley Motors, Dr. Franz-Josef Paefgen said, “The 2005
Arnage range has been extensively re-engineered at significant cost
and is a very modern, high-technology saloon. It is natural,
therefore, that we would use this base to further our reputation as
the pre-eminent builder of large, luxury convertibles in the world. We
had such amazing success with the Bentley Azure, which has developed a
cult following, although production stopped in 2003. There’s no
reason why this new Arnage derivative couldn’t fill the gap left by
the Azure. If customer demand is there, it could go into production
within a very short space of time - as early as Spring 2006.”
Dirk van Braeckel, director of design at Bentley
Motors added, “The Arnage Drophead Coupe is the latest in a long
line of much-admired Bentley convertibles and we wanted to reflect
that heritage as directly as possible. The key to a four-seater
convertible is that its grace and elegance is on display when the roof
is down but it shouldn’t lose any of that beauty when it is raised.
We think we have struck that balance with the beautiful lines of the
have been sporting chariots for gentlemen for more than 80 years, and
the new coupe shares the current Arnage platform, and the suspension
from the Arnage R. The engine is also taken straight from the Arnage
and is a 6.75 litre twin-turbocharged V8 producing 450 bhp (336 Kw)
and 875 Nm (645 lb ft) torque, which is enough to tow the Amari
Watergate hotel through the Pratunam markets.
The interiors of Bentleys have always featured
trees and dead animals, and the new drophead is no different, with
several planks of burr oak veneers with a boxwood inlay along the dash
and doors, while several herds of cows donated their hides for the
upholstery, while a wooden steering wheel with inlayed chrome rim is
unique to the car.
Robin Page, head of interior design explained the
use of the traditional materials saying, “The Continental Drophead
Coupe from 1955 had a wonderfully understated but luxurious interior.
For example, the doors had simple armrests with a leather pad on them
and we have reflected that in this car’s hide-trimmed armrests that
run the length of the cabin sides and appear to be suspended away from
the door’s actual surface. Similarly, we admired the fluted leather
in earlier drophead (Bentley) Continentals and echoed that with the
vast amounts of warm and inviting leather hide that extends past the
seats and onto the parcel shelf, thereby emphasising the impressive
dimensions of the rear compartment.”
Whatever, and forget the rhetoric, the Bentley as
seen last year at the Bangkok International Motor Show was a stunning
vehicle, retailing at around 21 million baht, from memory. The new
drophead will be even more so. Hopefully, it may even come to this
year’s Motor Show (March 25 - April 3, 2005).
Toyota takes Hybrid
Land Speed Record
In a publicity move that has left the other hybrid
engine manufacturers behind, Toyota took the new category land speed
record at Bonneville Salt Flats in the US with its hybrid Toyota
The event was kept under wraps until it was
released by Car and Driver magazine who had secured an exclusive from
Toyota. Running on a 4.8 km course during the land speed trials at the
Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah last August, the Prius reached 210 kph
to set the mark for the world’s first hybrid-engined vehicle land
the LSR Prius!
The race-prepared Prius was driven by Car and
Driver editor Aaron Robinson, Prius executive chief engineer Shigeyuki
Hori and Fumiaki Kobayashi, the group vice-president of technical and
regulatory affairs of Toyota North America.
The car ran a standard Hybrid Synergy Drive
power-train of an electric motor and the 1.5 litre, four-cylinder
petrol engine but the final drive gear ratio was raised from the
standard 4.23:1 to 3.2:1. The car’s inverter voltage was increased
from 500 volts to 550 volts and the petrol engine’s electronic
management system was altered to allow it to rev higher.
To avoid aerodynamic problems, it was dropped by
12.7 cm so that the body sat only 2.5 cm above the ground. It had
specially made Goodyear Landspeed Record tyres, 26 inch diameter at
the front and 25 inch at the rear. Extensive bodywork modifications
were made to fit the large wheels and tyres, for the event. The
interior was also stripped, so owners of road Prius vehicles should
not feel short-changed if their one does not quite hit these speeds on
the Thailand superhighways!
Schumi assists tsunami victims
In a wonderful show of generosity, Michael Schumacher is reported as having
donated 10 million dollars towards the tsunami appeal. It was also reported by
some media that one of his entourage perished while holidaying in Phuket. Whilst
there will no doubt be the detractors who will say, “he can afford it,”
there are many other sportsmen who can also afford large sums, and golfers and
soccer players immediately spring to mind. Michael Schumacher has done the
motorsport fraternity a great favour, as well as the victims. Well done Schumi!
Another ‘Retro’ hits the US
Another “new” vehicle released at the Los Angeles show
was the Chevrolet HHR, designed by Bryan Nesbitt, the 35 year old stylist
responsible for the Chrysler PT Cruiser.
According to GM, stimulus for the design of the HHR come from
the 1949 Chevrolet Suburban, built 21 years before stylist Nesbitt was born!
The new HHR gets its name from Heritage High Roof and will
have a 2.2 litre engine with 104 kW of power, while the fancier 2.4 litre model
will have 126kW. Transmission is a five-speed manual and there will be a
four-speed automatic option.
The reason GM have brought out this model has been the
success of the Chrysler PT Cruiser, so GM have done a ‘me too’ exercise with
I don’t know about you, but this leaves me fairly
underwhelmed to say the least. Next they’ll bring back the ‘woodies’!
Porsche Infineon Cup
The Porsche Infineon Asia Cup is another of the ‘level
playing field’ competitions, and this one is part of the world Porsche Cup
The category is divided into two very hotly contested
sections, with Class A being the professionals and Class B being for amateur
Marsh leading the field
The inaugural championship title in 2002 was won by Hong
Kong’s Charles Kwan, one of the biggest names in Asian motorsport, and in 2004
the battle for the title went right down to the wire with Kwan, Thailand’s
Nattavud and UK’s Matthew Marsh all in a position to take the Asian title. At
the final round in Macau in November, it was A-Ha Racing’s Matthew Marsh who
finally took the top position for the series.
Class B, specially designed for amateur drivers and
introduced at the start of last season, has proved fantastically successful,
creating a ‘field-within-a-field’ where the competition is just as intense
as amongst the professional drivers. Notable amongst these was Thailand’s
fastest pizza delivery man, the Pizza Company’s Bill Heinecke.
Here is the proposed calendar, to add to your pencilled in
dates for the F1 series.
And for those who can’t locate the 2005 F1 calendar, here
it is again. Pencils sharpened and away you go!
06 Mar: Australia - Melbourne
20 Mar: Malaysia - Sepang
03 Apr: Bahrain - Bahrain International
24 Apr: San Marino - Imola
08 May: Spain - Barcelona
22 May: Monaco - Monaco
29 May: Europe - Nurburgring
12 June: Canada - Montreal
19 June: United States - Indianapolis
03 July: France - Magny-Cours
10 July: Great Britain - Silverstone
24 July: Germany - Hockenheim
31 July: Hungary - Hungaroring
21 Aug: Turkey - Istanbul
04 Sept: Italy - Monza
11 Sept: Belgium - Spa Francorchamps
25 Sept: Brazil - Interlagos
09 Oct: Japan - Suzuka
16 Oct: China - Shanghai
Last week, I asked how and when did the terminology “the
pits” come into common usage in motor racing? The answer was the French Grand
Prix of 1908 when a divided trench with a counter just above ground level was
provided for team crews. The trench idea was never used again, but the term
“the pits” stuck.
And so to this week. While the subject of pits and pit
signalling is in my head, who “invented” pit signals and why?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email [email protected]