I’ve seen two Stout Scarabs in my life, one up close and personal, one in a museum. Both were amazing.
The Scarab was a minivan before anyone even thought of minivans. It’s a rounded aerodynamic bug of a car, before the world was aware of the VW Beetle, although it may have already been on Ferdinand Porsche’s drawing board in the 1930s. It’s light before automakers were thinking of weight reduction.
Now NEO creates a beautiful 1/43 scale 1935 Stout Scarab in silver and it’s an eye-catcher that’s smartly executed.
The Scarab came from Stout Engineering Laboratories, later Stout Motor Car Co. in Detroit and was designed in 1932 by William Bushnell Stout, an aviation and car engineer. He believed in strong lightweight bodies, so created a unitized body structure from aluminum aircraft metal with the help of designer John Tjarrda. The result was a car that would seat at least six and weighed less than 3,000 lbs.
In back they dropped a Ford V8 and with that rear-end placement, eliminated the weighty driveshaft found in other cars. Unlike most cars in the 1930s, the Scarab had no running boards and used coil springs and independent suspension at all four corners for a better ride. Seating inside could be reconfigured too to face backward or forward. Read more
Coupes used to be a more plentiful subset of cars, but as cars become a smaller subset of vehicles the coupe appears closer and closer to extinction.
But Audi, for one, is committed to the segment and its A5 Coupe is a good example of how much pleasure can be derived from a coupe. It looks sharp, and melds sporty handling and power with a smooth-shifting 7-speed automatic transmission and 4-wheel drive, which Audi calls quattro.
The A5 does everything well, but is not a racer, nor a true family car, unless your little ones are in booster seats and can latch themselves in, or big enough to not need a booster, yet not too long-legged. Rear seat room is fairly cramped.
The silver test car ($575 extra for the paint job) came with Audi’s stout 2.0-liter turbo I4 that creates a spirited, if not rambunctious, 252 horsepower and 273 ft.-lbs. of torque. Turbo lag is non-existent, in fact, I looked under the hood to make sure there was a turbo. The power here comes on so smoothly and in such a linear manner that it’s not obvious that all this boost is from a turbo. Read more
Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari joining forces seems a deal worked in heaven, or at least Maranello, which to the tifosi is one and the same.
Vettel is a four-time world F1 champ and Ferrari has the most wins of any F1 team ever, 227. So when Vettel came aboard three seasons ago the tifosi’s dreams of another F1 title grew quickly. By 2016 they were expecting wins, if not a title, and the new Ferrari SF16-H looked to be the car to do it.
Looksmart, a fairly new Italian die-cast maker, has just begun making gorgeous 1/18-scale resin models and this version of the SF16-H is as it appeared in its debut race, the 2016 Australian Grand Prix. The review car is a replica of Vettel’s ride that day. He finished third. Replicarz provided the review model.
Scuderia Ferrari, started by Enzo Ferrari in 1929 to be Alfa Romeo’s factory racing team, has been successful in Formula 1 racing since its inception. It’s the only F1 team to compete in each season since F1 was formed in 1950.
Ferrari has won 16 constructors’ championships and its drivers have won 15 driver championships, most recently Kimi Raikkonen in 2007.
The SF16-H (SF for Scuderia Ferrari, and H for hybrid) ran the entire 2016 season. Vettel had the best results for the team although the car never won a race. Vettel notched seven podiums including three second-place finishes, while Raikkonen had four podiums and two seconds. The team was third in the constructor’s contest.
However, this car led to the SF70-H which is proving much more successful. It already has won three F1 races as of this writing, putting Vettel atop the F1 driver’s championship. Read more
Rare is the sports sedan, or any car, that makes you giggle when you tromp on its gas pedal. Rare too is a car that makes your friends envious.
Corvettes have become too common, Jaguars too mainstream, BMWs too numerous. No, for something special you want an Italian sports car, preferably in red and preferably with a sexy sounding name. You want something not everyone of a certain economic standing has.
Today, that car is an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. That’s Giulia, as in the woman’s name, Julia. And the Quadrifoglio? Well, that means four-leaf clover, which is emblazoned on the car’s front quarter panels. More on that in a bit.
Alfa Romeo embodies Italian car history, especially its racing history. It’s who Enzo Ferrari worked for, or with, before Ferrari became Ferrari. Despite its long history the Italian make pulled out of the U.S. market in 1995 and only recently, along with its parent, Fiat, has come back.
Giulia is the car it needs to regain a foothold in the American market and from a performance standpoint it is an absolute home run. Or in the sporting vernacular of its homeland, GOOOOOOOAL!
With any sports car, or sports sedan, one must start with the power plant. Alfa snags a 2.9-liter bi-turbo V6 created by Ferrari and it is magnifico! It’s strong and sings like one of the Three Tenors, a thing of beauty. Read more
You gotta admit, the name Rocket Bunny sticks in the ol’ memory banks.
So when I saw Autoart has a new 1:18-scale model of the Toyota 86 in Rocket Bunny trim, well, I requested one to see just what a Rocket Bunny Toyota looked like.
What is a Rocket Bunny? You may be asking. Well, if you’re not a tuner car guy or under age 40, this aftermarket aero kit maker may not be on your radar. It should be though because Rocket Bunny / Pandem Aero Kits is waking up the custom car look for Drift-style boy-toy street racers.
These are sold in the U.S. via GReddy Performance Products that makes everything from special high-perf exhaust systems to electronics, engine parts and brake and suspension pieces to tweak performance.
The Toyota 86, by the way, starts with ample power for a 2+2 sports fastback with a bit more than 200 horsepower from its Subaru-built and designed boxer engine. The car is lightweight with an aluminum hood and its engine mounted as low as possible in the chassis to provide better balance and a low center of gravity. This is a rear-drive model with a top speed of 145 mph and a 0-60 mph time of about 6 seconds out of the box. Read more
From the 1,500 hp P-51 Mustang to 100 hp ultralights
That’s what you’ll see each year at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) AirVenture held each year on the last week of July. This year’s event was the 23rd to the 30th and I sped by for me, well, like Boeing’s B-1B did while making high-speed passes. This year the crowd seemed to be up over last year’s 560,000 attendance. UPDATE: EAA announced this this afternoon that attendance hit 600,000, a new record. This was my ninth year as a volunteer giving future aviators hands-on experience with radio control airplanes. I met people from all over the U.S. plus Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and Paraguay. Read more
Jeep has remade its Compass and moved it from near the bottom of the small crossover sport-utility list to much nearer the top.
The former Compass didn’t impress in any way, while the new Compass starts by looking like a miniature Jeep Grand Cherokee with a handsome 7-bar grille and well-proportioned profile. But it’s much more refined than its predecessor with a quiet and roomy interior and good behavior over the road, plus some ability to go off road, if needed.
Compass slots between the small, but cute, Renegade and the handsome more futuristic looking Cherokee. That means the interior is more people friendly too, and, somewhat ironically, the new Compass has more cargo room behind the rear seat than the Cherokee. It’s simply a pleasant vehicle to drive and ride in.
If shopping right now, be aware there may be some confusion if you go to a dealer asking simply for a 2017 model. Both the old, and new Compass models are being sold as 2017s. Make sure you try the newer version, although the former models should be on deep clearance.
Mine was the Latitude with 4-wheel drive. Here the power comes from a 2.4-liter, Multi-Air I4 that creates a healthy 180 horsepower. Not fast, but sufficient for all city and highway driving. A 6-speed manual transmission comes standard on Compass, a rarity in today’s market. But the bright red test vehicle added a 9-sped automatic for $1,500. Shifts were smooth, but acceleration is modest as the new tranny works to save fuel, and it does a great job of that. I got 27.4 miles per gallon in a week’s drive and spent about 60% of my time on the highway. The EPA rates the Compass at 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. Both numbers seem achievable. The Compass also features stop-start technology to save gas while the vehicle is at rest. Read more
Whose family didn’t own a 1950s Chevy when the entire country was seeing the U.S.A. from their Chevrolet?
Our family had a green 1955 Chevy 210, the mid-level model that ultimately became the Biscayne. That car ran forever and was still an attractive hardtop (ok, a little rust) when we traded it for a white Plymouth Valiant convertible in 1963. Now NEO creates a two-tone 1956 Bel Air, a sharp two-door hardtop.
This was the second generation Bel Air and was considered a premium Chevy model. So popular was it that the Bel Air was built at six Chevy plants across North America. Some were even made in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Sales were stellar, keeping Chevrolet American’s No. 1 brand.
After launching a restyled model for 1955 that was an overwhelming success, Chevy mildly restyled the 1956 model to replace what was known as the Ferrari grille with a full-width one that was more conventional at the time. Likewise the wheel wells were tapered for a more graceful appearance and the taillights were altered to include jet-like protrusions so popular on all cars of the day. Chevy also hid the gas cap inside the left fin, as it had on some Cadillacs.
Wisely Chevy created a sharp two-tone version, as in the sample here, with the roof, rear deck and top of the rear quarter panels being painted in an accent color. Here it’s white to offset the dark red to near purple of the car’s nose and lower portions. The model’s color is closest to the original Dusk Plum offered in 1956. Read more
The new MINI Cooper Countryman goes too far, but maybe that’s what U.S. buyers want.
It’s the biggest MINI yet. I know that sounds contradictory for the small British-born make now made by BMW. But it’s true. This is MINI’s version of a crossover or small sport-ute with a longer and wider body, plus ALL4, its all-wheel-drive system is available.
It also appears to be less MINI in styling as it looks more bulky than cute. Think of that cute guy/girl in high school that packed on a few pounds by the 10-year reunion. In fact, the Countryman is just short of 500 lbs. heavier than the MINI Clubman that I enjoyed last year.
To put it nicely, the Countryman feels more substantial than earlier models and obviously is designed to accommodate larger U.S. passengers. The Countryman gains four inches of rear seat legroom compared to its predecessor and being a 4-door it’s easy to load five people aboard. I did it on a lunch run and one of the riders was a 6-footer.
So while the MINI-ness of the Countryman seems a bit of a stretch (pun intended), the usefulness of it should make it more attractive to folks who intend to actually haul a family in it on a trip. Another family plus? The rear seats fold down flat in a 40/20/40 split to expand the generous 17.6 cubic feet of cargo space, but allow rear seat riders. Likewise the seats will recline slightly and the entire rear seat will slide forward a couple inches if you’re simply carrying cargo, not rear seat passengers. Read more
There are some relatively obscure cars from the 1950s and early 1960s that just don’t get their due from die-cast car makers, even though these vehicles are stellar examples of that era’s radical styles.
Now NEO has created a 1961 Chrysler Newport wagon that highlights some of that edgy styling with modified tailfins and an artistic use of chrome side trim. This is another of NEO’s sharp looking 1/43-scale resin models of this exciting era in U.S. car design.
Cars were big in the early 1960s as families were growing (remember the Baby Boom?) and station wagons were needed to haul all those kids around, like minivans today. But not all parents wanted to tool around in a boring box. So Virgil Exner and his Chrysler design team came to the rescue!
Joe Leonard was a heck of a racer, on two wheels and four.
He not only won three motorcycle championships, the hard-nosed driver also moved up to Indy cars and won the 1971 USAC championship running virtually the same car as his teammate, Al Unser, who won the Indianapolis 500 in a sister car that year.
Replicarz honors Leonard, who died earlier this year, with its release of a 1/18-scale PJ Colt, a replica of the car Leonard drove to the USAC title decked out in its yellow and blue Samsonite-sponsored livery. Replicarz had created a limited edition 1/43-scale model of the car previously, along with Unser’s 1970 and 1971 Indy winning Johnny Lightning racers.
Leonard won three A.M.A. Grand National Championships between 1954 and 1957 and set a record with 27 wins. By 1961 though, he turned his attention to auto racing and debuted in USAC, then the top-level open-wheel racing series. In 1964 he reached its top level, racing Champ cars, those that ran in the Indianapolis 500. He won his first race, the Milwaukee 150, in 1965 aboard a Gurney Eagle.
Leonard raced for several teams and had several good results at Indy, finishing third in 1967 and sixth in 1969 when he was wheeling Smokey Yunick’s doctored Gurney Eagle. In between he put Andy Granatelli’s famous wedge turbine on the pole at Indy and was leading with 9 laps to go when a part failed. Read more
Few cars are pure joy to drive, yet cost less than $30,000. I’d put the Mazda Miata at the top of those, and a few models of the Mini Cooper would slot into this price range. But Fiat’s 500 Abarth is a relative newcomer and blows the others away on price.
The Abarth starts at about $21 grand, including delivery, and that’s down about $2,500 from a year ago. That doesn’t happen often!
But in its size, like the Miata, lies the Fiat’s fun, nimbleness and, well, joy.
In its lower lines, the Pop and Lounge models, the 500 carries a mild 1.4-liter Multi-Air I4 that generates just 101 horsepower, leading to superb gas mileage. Well, the racier Abarth, which Fiat says is pronounced AH-bart, bumps that up substantially to 160 horses thanks to dual intercoolers, turbos.
Now you have some pop when you slip the 5-speed manual through the gears. Second and third punch up the torque (a 170 rating) and by fourth you feel like you’ve had a little mini vacation. Five speeds keeps it all simple, but adding a sixth would allow its small engine to bring the revs down and quiet the interior some.
Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed the grumbling burble of this little turbo as it was amplified via dual exhausts. But I kept wanting to shift to sixth on the freeway as its continued grumble made listening to the radio nigh to impossible. Read more
Today the blending of cars and trucks seems natural as SUVs and crossovers have become the preferred mode of personal transportation in the United States. But in the late 1950s and early 1960s such a thought was downright odd.
Ford stirred the beast first when it created the Ranchero and within two years Chevrolet answered with El Camino, basically wagons made into pickups with a big open bed behind the enclosed front seat compartment. Some considered El Camino a coupe utility pickup, a fairly apt description.
NEO has created a sharp 1/43 scale version of the 1959 El Camino in black with a red interior and plenty of chrome nose and tail.
The original El Camino was only around two years 1959–1960 and was made in GM’s Arlington, Texas plant. It rode on the 1959 Chevy Brookwood platform, a new two-door station wagon that was longer, lower and wider than existing full-size Chevys. Read more