Motorclassica celebrates the Australian automobile industry one last time…Liqui Moly calendar a step back in time…Musk and Motown Masters of the ‘Air Salesmanship’ Universe….

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you’ll know that we tend to get pretty hot under the collar when it comes to the politically motivated demise of the local car manufacturing industry. So we were never going to be able to present a balanced and unbiased report of this Motorclassica Show in Melbourne.

Luckily, Mike Hanlon founder and star automotive reporter of US-based NewAtlas was on hand to present a more worldly view of the event.

There was a tinge of sadness about this year’s Motorclassica Show in Melbourne. Motorclassica is to Australia what Retromobile is to France and Techno Classica is to Germany, being the celebration of a 120 year-old automotive culture.

The well-curated annual event ran from October 13-15 and provided a wonderful perspective through which to view the passing of an industry dear to Australian hearts.

For those not aware of Australia’s demise as a manufacturing economy, on October 6, 2017, the second last major manufacturer of cars in Australia closed its doors and next Friday, the last one (Holden) closes its manufacturing facility and with it, an industry woven into the Australian way of life.

The show had several parallel themes, being Ferrari’s 70th birthday, vintage speedway, 100 years of Holden, 110 years of Lancia, and Moto Guzzi was the celebrated motorcycle marque.

The celebration of 100 years of Holden was hence particularly relevant. Holden more than any other, was Australia’s car. The first brochure for the car called it a Holden, and quite appropriately the name came from J.A Holden & Co, which started business as a saddler in 1856 in Adelaide.

Holden began making motorcycle sidecars in 1913, car bodies in 1914, and the centenary of Holden celebration refers to the 100th anniversary of large-scale production of car bodies that began in 1917.

Holden Motor Body Builders (HMBB) was then formed in 1918. General Motors entered the Australian market in 1926 and the two companies merged to become General Motors-Holden in 1931.

Many of the cars on display were American cars with bodies made by Holden, and a flick through the extensive image library for this story will unearth more examples. That’s a Holden-bodied 1932 Chevrolet BA Confederate Moonlight Speedstar above, while the car at left is a Holden-bodied 1928 Buick Speedster. From the firewall back, both bodies are hand-formed aluminium and the work is exquisite.

In the mid-1940s Australian prime minister Ben Chifley wanted to replicate the economic benefits of America’s thriving automobile industry and invited General Motors to begin producing cars in Australia, offering considerable incentives for doing so.

Although GM America chairman Alfred P Sloan was apparently concerned about Australia’s socialist tendencies, with the government running the railroads, airlines, postal and communications networks, the far-sighted “Project 2000” was conceived in 1946 to make an entire car in Australia and it kick started an industry that at its peak, produced 500,000 cars a year.

This is that car, the first Australian-built General Motors Holden 48-215 prototype. The first three prototypes were designed and built in Detroit, and borrowed much from contemporary American cars such as the Chevrolet Fleetline, but this is the first prototype built in Australia.

This car spawned the lineage of models that invariably crossed paths with every Australian at some point in their lives, be it in ute, station wagon or sedan form, beginning with the FX and onwards through the FJ, FE, FC, FB, EK, EJ, EK, EJ, EH, HD, HR, HK and HT. Holden added whole words to the language too, like Monaro (top right above) and Torana (below).

The original “Gawler Grey” Holden prototype had somewhat of a triumphant return to the venue it had last visited in 2013 when it was the star car of the Mossgreen auction accompanying Motorclassica, fetching AUD$668,750 to become one of the most expensive Australian-made cars ever sold.

For the record, all the other most valuable Aussie cars are muscle cars. Earlier this year, the 1977 Holden A9X Torana that won the 1979 Australian Touring Car Championship for Bob Morris sold for AUD$705,000. Two 1971 Ford Falcon XY GTHO Phase III cars sold in 2007 for AUD$683,000 and AUD$750,000 respectively, while the most expensive ever was the only 7.0-litre Holden Monaro HRT 427, which sold for AUD$920,000 in 2008.

This year the star car at the Mossgreen was one of immense global gravitas, and I still don’t comprehend why a Jaguar D-type, with an extensive racing history, was being sold in Australia when it is just as easy these days to present such a car in New York, Paris, London or Monterey, where a price estimate of AUD$7 million to $8 million is nothing remarkable to an audience accustomed to investing in storied automobiles.

Yes, the internet works in Australia, but the elite auction houses such as RM-Sothebys, Gooding & Company and Bonhams, all know who are the potential buyers for any particular significant model. People who spend $10 million on a car are not one-time buyers, and when one of the elite auction houses has such a car to sell they make sure they work the black book thoroughly and the usual suspects partial to a model or marque are all contacted and enrolled in the game.

In any case, a high bid of AUD$5.5 million (US$4.35 million) did not bring the hammer down and the US$21.78 million record price for a D-type was never under threat.

Another focal point of this year’s Motorclassica was Ferrari’s 70th birthday. Inside just seven decades, the Italian marque has dominated the collectible car market so comprehensively that 62 of the 100 most expensive cars ever sold are Ferraris. The 2017 LaFerrari Aperta made an appearance at Motorclassica – last month one of these sold for €8,300,000 (AUD$12.5 million or US$9.8 million) at auction in Maranello, a new world record for a 21st century automobile.

Another noteworthy showing was from Paradise Garage, a workshop that always finds something special to display at Motorclassica. Last year it was a fully-restored, 1930 Rolls-Royce Phantom II rolling chassis that was so intricate and detailed at the same time as being imposing, that people could be seen meditating on it.

This time around it was a partially completed “legacy” C-type Jaguar. These replicas feature all-aluminium bodywork and a steel tubular chassis made in the UK, a 3.4 liter XK120 engine and the one pictured above will be completed in Q1, 2018. All it needs is a detailed spec and the choice of colour … and AUD$265,000 (about US$208,000).

The stories are many in each of these shows, and I’ve chosen 100 images and written a short story about each of them in our Motorclassica photo gallery.

Liqui Moly calendar a step back in time

In the land of sauerkraut and steins it looks like sex still sells if Liqui Moly’s 2018 erotic calendar is anything to go by. To quote the company: “Special cars and naked skin – this is the field in which the 2018 erotic calendar of German motor oil and additive specialist Liqui Moly finds itself…”

It raves on thus: “Alongside the actual erotic calendar there is another disarmed version that shows less naked skin. The special part is: this girls calendar shows the same themes as the erotic calendar, alongside one with more textiles.

“Those who think the beauties are simply taking the spotlight away from the cars are better served with the motorsports calendar by Liqui Moly, which shows racing in all its facets – on two wheels, on four wheels and even on the water.

“The erotic calendar is an exclusive present for the business partners of Liqui Moly…(who will no doubt hang it up in their garage, or perhaps give it to their daughter to hang in her bedroom???)… But it is also possible to obtain a copy as a private individual as several calendars are going onto the open market and can be ordered in the Liqui Moly team shop.”

Can you believe it? How could anyone, especially women, trust a product made by a company with such stone age thinking? Even the Pirelli calendar has moved on from such extreme sexist rubbish.

Perhaps next year’s Liqui Moly calendar will feature Angela Merkel and Theresa May in a European Union with a difference? Shame on you Moli!

Musk and Motown Masters of the ‘Air Salesmanship’ Universe

The news that Tesla has laid off hundreds of production workers seems to have signalled the opening of a new shooting season with one Elon Musk very much in the crosshairs. Thomas the Think Engine had a shot in our previous posting, but it was a bit tame compared to this effort from Peter M. DeLorenzo, who pulled out the big guns in the latest issue of autoextremist rants.

As I wrote last week in Tesla Burns, Wall Street Fiddles, this industry is living in a fog of delusional thinking made up of one part hubris and two parts arrogance, with a large dollop of the ever-present unmitigated bullshit thrown in for good measure.

A charlatan like Elon Musk, who has been deified as America’s most notorious blue-sky visionary, but who has also been enabled and empowered by Wall Street to fleece investors by repeatedly “selling air” when it comes to Tesla, is now dancing on the vapors of empty promises made about the Model 3, which is shaping up to be the Silicon Valley resident genius’s Waterloo when it comes to the business of making cars.

When the ugly reality of the Model 3 hits home, with prototypes being slapped together by hand and promised volumes turning into a grandiose pipe dream, Tesla stock is going to crater faster than the latest product put on the field by this city’s hapless baseball team.

But even though Musk may be America’s Air Salesman-in-Chief, he is not the only one engaging in misguided hyperbole and fanciful notions about the future direction of this industry.

Right here in the Motor City allegedly smart executives are bathing in the promised glow of a connected future for the automobile, which, by their reasoned analysis, will lead to a future of untold riches the likes of which this industry has never experienced before.

And it may be the most egregious case of delusional thinking that this business has ever seen.

These serious-minded executives are operating under the assumption that having the automobile of the future be a centre of connectivity will lead to a world of endless possibilities and open up a vast, limitless future of unbridled profitability.

Which is all well and good and even noble to a degree, but it also exposes a fundamental naïveté about the world that is excruciatingly painful to observe. And it certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

The auto companies plan on mining reams of data collected so that they can “know” you down to the very last detail and proclivity, and then they plan on using that data so that your car can tell you where the nearest Starbucks is, or where the shoes you’re lusting after are, or where the best local French fries are, or even where your favourite movies are playing in town.

And they think they’re going to monetise these and countless other scenarios of desirability until the cows come home, gleaning profits from consumers and businesses alike.

Right now certain manufacturers are feverishly building data collection “farms” and corralling the power of that data so that they can be an integral part of a connected movement that will propel them to what’s certain to be (in their minds) a new, utopian reality.

Except that the movement has long been established, and we already have and use our smart devices for all of this so tell me, what is the driving difference that the auto companies will provide, again?

No matter how hard the car companies try to usurp the power of our omnipresent smart devices and convince people that their cars are not only the new centres of connectivity but that they’re actually better at it than smart phones, it’s just never going to happen. Ever.

Do you think I’m exaggerating the gravity of this development? Well, you would be wrong. Auto executives are pissing away billions upon billions of dollars on the quixotic notion that if they turn the automobile – autonomous or otherwise – into a rolling hotbed of connectivity, that everything will be right with the world again and that they’ll be serious players to be reckoned with in The Game.

In fact they are absolutely convinced of it.

The ugly reality? There is not a chance in hell that it’s going to happen. The automobile industry, domestic or otherwise, has never gotten over the fact that there has been a seismic shift to Silicon Valley when it comes to societal cool.

Smart, handheld devices have transformed everything about the culture here and around the world, and even though the automobile companies are still an inexorable part of America’s industrial fabric and a centre of technology and manufacturing expertise, the once ever-present automojo that dominated our culture isn’t there anymore. And it’s not coming back either.

So what to do? The automobile companies actually do know how to do some things better than The New Masters of the Universe in Silicon Valley. For instance the auto companies know how to mass-produce a wide variety of precision, complicated machines for a bewildering kaleidoscope of applications that transfer people safely, efficiently and in comfort to their destinations.

In fact, most in Silicon Valley – except for St. Elon, of course – have acknowledged that fact both publicly and behind the scenes. So what’s wrong with the auto companies concentrating on that? What’s wrong with the auto companies continuing their pursuit of building the best machines possible while exploring new avenues of propulsion and efficiency?

Sure, future automobiles should be ready to be connected – at the discretion of consumers – but connectivity in and of itself should never be the raison d’etre of these machines.

Not surprisingly, rational thinking and logic are in short supply in the auto biz of late, and “selling air” has progressed from being a perennial cottage industry in marketing to an all-hands-on-deck pursuit at the highest levels of these companies.

And the Siren Song of Connectivity has lured normally smart auto executives into a zombie state, which has caused them to lose all touch with reality. These auto execs actually believe that they can be Masters of the Universe again, when in fact that chapter of the storied history of the automobile was closed over 50 years ago.

The idea that connectivity is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for the auto industry is preposterous. It may be boom times for “selling air” – but beyond that there is simply no there there. And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.

What goes around, comes around

It’s small, very powerful and produces little or no vibration. What you might call the idea ‘range extender’ for an EV. So, is this magical little unit hot out off the 3D printers at BMW or Merc’s R&D departments?

Far from it. In fact, it’s been around since the early ‘60s when Felix Wankel was mucking about in his shed and polishing his Iron Cross. Yes, you’ve guessed, it’s the Mazda rotary engine.

In this case, what goes around, certainly comes around, this time in the form of range extender for a new platform EV/hybrid that could be released as early as 2019.

And it’s also probably that we’ll see a second, larger, more powerful rotary engine currently being ‘worked on’ by Mazda, in a high performance sports car that will slot above the Mazda MX-5 Miata.

Originally introduced in the Cosmo Sport, the rotary engine first appeared in a Mazda vehicle in 1967 and powered a number of sports cars including the third-generation RX-7 that features a 1.3ltr two-rotor unit with sequential twin-turbocharging.

Mazda remains the only Japanese automaker to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans and it did it with…you guessed it again…. the rotary-powered 787B race car.

 

Super marriage looking to increase offsprings

Like most marriages, the Franco-Japanese Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi coupling has big plans with the three-way alliance issuing a new branding knot, to signify its love for each other, plus a new six-year post nuptial document.

Dubbed Alliance 2022, it spells out how the disparate individuals will cooperate more closely on future productions and behind-the-scenes collaboration on the way to amassing savings of €10 billion (£8.8bn) a year by 2022.

The group turned out 5.27 million off springs in the first half of 2017, making it the world’s biggest and busiest partnership by volume. And it’s more than 14m by 2022, up from 10m today, sending revenues up a third to $240bn (£177bn)….Oh, the power of love.

The wedding video ‘Drive the Future’ spells out how the three lovers will accelerate use of four shared architectures??? that will eventually, churn out 9 million siblings using a pool of just four common platforms .

Renault Nissan Mitsubishi vows that three-quarters of its output will use common (as opposed to posh) powertrains with Mitsubishi getting access to Renault Nissan’s common module family (CMF) and its associated engines, by 2020. But the spark that will ignite the coupling is Mitsu’s EV, battery and hybrid experience, especially with blond Russian Lada models hot off the internet!

 

 

Chinese automakers become disciples for safety

Twelve major Chinese car brands have announced that from next year they will fit life saving, anti-skid technology electronic stability control to all their models….cars that is!

Besturn, Changan, Dongfeng Fengshen, Geely, Haval, Hongqi, Lynk & Co, MG, Trumpchi, Roewe, Senova, and Wey, who collectively represent 85% of the Chinese manufacturer market, made the announcement at the launch of Stop the Crash China in Shanghai.

ESC can help prevent loss of control crashes and is widely considered to be the most important car safety development since the seat belt. Mandatory in the EU and US since 2012, it is credited with saving thousands of lives.

Welcoming the development, Stop the Crash’s David Ward said: “We are particularly delighted that it has been made during our campaign launch activities in Shanghai, helping us to raise road safety awareness with consumers across China.”

The announcement took place at Stop the Crash, a global NCAP led partnership that campaigns around the world to promote crash avoidance technologies. The event also featured three forms of autonomous emergency braking, motorcycle ABS, and tyre safety demonstrations.

#STOPTHECRASH is a partnership that includes organizations such as ADAC, Autoliv, Bosch, Consumers International, Continental, Denso, ITT, Thatcham Research, ZF Group and the Towards Zero Foundation.

“All are united in their shared commitment to promote advanced vehicle safety technologies in support of the UN’s Global Goals and the Decade of Action for Road Safety,” said David. 

Toyota expand its Concept-I agenda

Peter M. DeLorenzo’s auto rant doesn’t seem to have had much impact over in Japan where the Toyota’s Concept-i is offering a glimpse of how artificially intelligent vehicles might interact with their users.

It’s not quite what Peter was raving about, but the company has now added a couple of new concepts to this forward-thinking lineup that cater to the less mobile drivers and passengers.

Toyota sees the Concept-i not as a car for today, but as a vehicle for how AI can be developed to make for new and improved driver experiences in the future.

A heads-up display spans the width of the windshield, while the onboard AI monitors the driver’s mood and alertness and can learn to automatically switch between manual and automated driving modes.

All of this is Toyota’s way of exploring how new connections can be created between people and their vehicles. Slipping into autonomous mode automatically is part of that, but the company hopes that its in-vehicle AI can combine with biometric hardware and GPS data to recognise people’s emotions. Then, in time, create a more enjoyable ride by suggesting detours or engaging occupants in conversation.

One of the newly announced concepts is the Concept-i Ride, a two-seater electric vehicle designed for wheelchair users. It features gull-wing doors and a sliding electric seat for easy entry and storage for a wheelchair in the back.

A joystick takes the place of a steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedals and the AI Agent is presented on a large instrument display beneath the windshield and offers useful info such as where to find wheelchair-friendly facilities.

The second addition continues Toyota’s long history of developing Segway-esque personal mobility vehicles like the Winglet. Known as Concept i Walk, the three-wheeler is low to the ground and can rotate on the spot.

The AI Agent works with data gathered by sensors in the handles that warn of dangers such as other drivers and pedestrians and in certain scenarios, can take over control to automatically avoid obstacles. Both of the new concepts will be unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show, which kicks off on October 25. – Source: Toyota

 

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