Good Festival of Speed!!! 2019 year is the year I finally seized to opportunity to attend it. Well, my fiancée gave me tickets as my Christmas present 2018 🙂 and off we went. it was an amazing experience; from the trip through the south of England, our airBnB host and of course the Festival of Speed itself. I can highly recommend it. Long story short, I’ll let you watch the video down below rather than writing a novel.
The most visually appealing cars of a motor show are obvisously the premium brands. The automotive industry is going through major shifts these days and will continue to do so for the coming five to ten years. So how are the premium brands holding up? After all, they are the ones that show as the latest in technology that will eventually trickle down to the ‘normal’ everyday cars.
1) Bugatti Chiron – Continuity or Dinosaur
Let’s start with Bugatti. The brand new Chiron is finally out, and I think it looks stunning. Sure, it looks similar to its predecessor, the Veyron, but that’s a good thing. I especially love the C-shaped side that forms a sort of frame from the roof around the door down to the side skirt. The Chiron is an evolution of the Veyron. It still has the massive W16, 8 litre gasoline engine in the back delivering 1’500 hp to all four wheels and it can speed up to 420 km/h. The last iteration of the Veyron, the Super Sport, produced 1’200 hp and got up to a top speed of 415 km/h. So you might say that the difference is not that big.
Yes and no. When Volkswagen Group bought the brand rights of Bugatti cars in 1998, they had to start from scratch: W16 engine, clutch that could endure the massive 1’250 Nm torque, paint, interior design and materials, customer experience and service – everything had to be created and everything was super expensive. As a matter of fact, Bugatti, hence Volkswagen Group, lost money on every single of the 450 Veyron they sold. Naturally, over the years, different version were built. A Veyron Super Sport cost about € 1.65 million and Volkswagen. I couldn’t find official numbers on their losses, but it’s estimated that they lost around € 4 to 5 million on each car they made. That’s insane!
Anyway, back to the new Chiron! This time, Bugatti wants to make profit on it. They want to build 500 of it and sell them for € 2.4 million each. That’s more like it! But look at this: The Veyron was made between 2005 and 2015. Many motoring journalist ended up stating that it was the last hurray of the 20th century type gas guzzling supercar. Now the Chiron is here and it’s basically the same thing in a new dress. Don’t get me wrong, the engineers for sure put a lot of effort in it, but it’s still a conventional fuel powered W16 engine – not electric, not hybrid, not autonomous. Let’s say the planned 500 cars will be sold over the coming ten years, so all the way up to 2026. With the car industry trending towards new modes of propulsions, as well as the fast development of connectivity and autonomous driving, the Chiron will still be an engineering marvel, but also obsolete. It’s like keeping developing the best typewriter ever, while everybody is on laptops already.
2) Porsche – Top Marketing
One of Porsche‘s new presentations was the redesigned Boxster. It’s not called the 981 anymore, but the 718 Boxster. Why? Simply because they ditched to flat 6 boxer engine and replaced it with a flat 4 boxer unit. What a scandal, what a disgrace, how dare they do that?!!! That’s what every hardcore Porsche fan must have thought when they got the news. Let’s face the facts: Everyone needs to adapt to continuously stricter emission rules. At the same time, they new engines produce much more power that the ones they replace:
- 718 Boxster: 300 hp (2l) VS 981 Boxster: 265 hp (2.7l)
- 718 Boxster S: 350 hp (2.5l) VS 981 Boxster S: 315 hp (3.4l)
Isn’t that just insane! Porsche are smart. They usually acknowledge the trends of the industry and find a way to connect it to the past, to make it look like they’re getting even closer to the roots of the respective car. That’s why they renamed it the 718 Boxster. The original 718 was a racing version evolution of the 550. And guess what, it had a flat 4 engine in it as well. The point of this is to trigger the right emotions in the heads of the potential buyers. Although the new engines have more power than the outgoing ones, the reduction of cylinders as well as the smaller displacement could have a negative effect on them. Telling you that it has never been as sporty as that and that it’s now linked to a Porsche legend is what changes everything! Good luck keeping up with the demand, Porsche. 🙂
3) Jaguar – Powerful, more powerful, ridiculously powerful
Jaguar didnt’ bring all that many new models to Geneva. All wheel drive (AWD) in now available across the entire range. The oldest model is the XJ, which got a facelift in 2015. All in all, a very fresh and revatelized brand. Models like the XE and XF will probably sell well, especially the AWD diesel versions. The Sportbrake (estate / station wagon) are not yet out, but they will probably generate even more volume.
The only real new model Jaguar brought to Geneva is the F-Type SVR, available as both, coupé and convertible. It’s the first SVR super sports car of many more to come out of Jaguar Land Rover. The same awesome sounding 5.0l V8 engine we have known for a couple of years now is producing 575 hp, accelerating from 0-100 km/h in 3.7s and getting up to a top speed of 322 km/h. As a matter of fact, Jaguar Land Rover is ditching the “R” models and instead is making extra powerful performace cars in their freshly built Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) facility near Coventry. You can look at it like the AMG division of Mercedes-Benz.
I know the F-Pace had its premiere last year in Frankfurt, but because it’s Jaguar’s first ever SUV and because they normally have Land Rover within the same group to focus on SUVs only, this is a big step for Jaguar. No car manufacturer who wants to sell big numbers can afford not to have an SUV in its model range. I’m not a fan of SUVs althogether. Granted, there are a few I’m okay with, like the Range Rover, but only because it started life as a real off road vehicle and it still can. People don’t necessarily want an SUV because they want to drive in the mud, they just want to sit a bit higher than in a sedan and be able to get in and out more easily. Mayby we’ll all drive SUVs only in the near future – or should I say we will let ourselves drive by our autonomous capsules. 🙂
4) Aston Martin – Genesis of a new design language
Aston Martin, a byword for James Bond – British Secret Service, gentlemen, refined GT cars. With the launch of the DB9 in 2004, Aston Martin had finally gotten rid of the old school image of the DB7 and all new, modern era was heralded. Over the years, the entire model range was updated and all of the Aston Martin cars were given the new face. Time moved on and that new face became middle aged itself. Now, with the brand new DB9 successor, the DB11, Aston Martin has found its new design language! I know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so I’ll simply let you judge by yourself. Check out the DB11 in the video below.
5) Tesla – Gimme more models
Tesla Motors started its life with the Roadster, which was based on the Lotus Elise S2. Then in 2012, the first 100% Tesla developed car was delivered. Worldwide expansion of Importers, dealers and most importantly, Supercharger stations has grown significantly. And now that all the early adapters have put their hands on a Model S, it is time for Tesla to move up and expand their model range. Now we also have the much anticipated SUV called the Model X. Although retail customers had to wait until late 2015 instead of 2014, the X with its gullwing back doors is now here. The car that will probably make Tesla Motors profitable in the mid term is the hugely anticipated Model 3, which is a 20% smaller sedan than the Model S. It will be unveiled on 31 March 2016 and deliveries are scheduled to start in late 2017.
Tesla is without a doubt the symbol of the car industry of the future, with the exception that they are already here! Electric, connected, autonomous, self updating, almost maintenance free cars. The automobile industry is going through a massive paradigm shift and the small company of Palo Alto California, which ten years ago was almost nowhere, is pushing hard to lead the next evolution of personal transport.
History of the car
The “Starsky & Hutch” car was a third generation Ford Gran Torino. Although the third generation was built from 1972 to 1976, the cars used in the 70’s TV series and 2004 movie were ‘74 to ‘76 models. Due to US Government safety regulations their front and rear bumpers, as well as the front grille differed greatly from the early 70’s model years. In 1976, the success of the “Starsky & Hutch” TV show even made Ford make a limited edition of 1’000 units built and painted just like the TV star. The ’74 to ’76 Gran Torino’s were equipped with a range of different V8 engines; displacements of 302 cu in (4.9L), 351 cu in (5.8L), 400 cu in (6.6L) and 460 cu in (7.5L), all of them being coupled to a three or four speed automatic transmission.
For starters, it comes in the correct Ford bright red paint livery with the white “vector” racing stripes all along the sides and over the roof. Furthermore, we can see that is has the correct body colored “sport” rear view mirrors, the yellow front marker lights, which are engraved into the body. The “Gran Torino” model lettering is correctly put on either front fender. However, ERTL used stickers for all letterings instead of actual plastic letters. Moreover, the car is equipped with the chrome US Mags 5 slot wheels. The tires do have actual profile on them but there are no markings on the tire walls. Like in many ERTL models, the chrome lines surrounding the wheel arches are painted on. They did a nice job though with the chrome side skirts from the front fender all the way back to the rear bumper.
In the front, the ’76 front grille with the eight vertical bars and the integrated parking lights is accurately replicated. There is even the Gran Torino emblem on it. Above the grille, we can see the Ford lettering. Gran Torino aficionados will notice that the letters are actually a little too far from the grille on the flat part, instead of being just close to the grille on the inclined part of the front. Further down we find the large bumper going all the way around both corners. It’s got the correct classic blue license plate “California 537 ONN” on the left side. They even put the two vertical bars in front of it with the black padding on it. The tip of the white “vector” stripes almost touch the headlights, which is too far. I believe the design of the stripes changed a little bit over the series but they never reached quite as far.
Going over to the passenger side of the car, we get a close look at the red flashing tear drop police light on the roof, which is attached to the police radio unit inside. But we’ll get to the interior in a few moments. Looking at the back of the car we can see that the taillights are wrapped around the corners. This eliminates the need for rear side marker lights. They are nicely done and clearly show the white reverse gear lights in the center. Obviously, the license plate is the same as in the front. Speaking of letterings, the “Torino” letters are accurately put on the center back. So are the “Ford” letters on the right side of the trunk lid. The trunk lock is only painted and to my big surprise, the trunk doesn’t open at all. The lid is clearly a separate piece of metal, but as I disassembled the car to check whether something was not put together correctly inside, I found out that there are no hinges at all at that the trunk lid is simply riveted to the body. That’s a very disappointing fact, considering that the doors and the hood do open.
The single exhaust pipe indicates that this model is equipped with one of the lower powered V8’s, but a close look under the hood well be given in the next chapter. Anyway, looking around the upper part of the car it’s nice to see ERTL painted the chrome lines around all windows. However, it’s a bit odd that the color surrounding the main windows is not the same as the one following the little rear side window. The windshield wipers are hidden underneath the hood of the car, which is accurately done. The disappointing part of it, is the fact that they are actually part of the body and just painted black on the top. ERTL has proven to be able to do better than that. Last but not least, they added a slightly bent radio antenna, which gives the car a very realistic and used touch, as they rarely stay straight very long.
Under the hood we get to admire the mighty V8: In the TV series, they used cars with different engines. This one, as we can see from its sticker on the air filter, is the 351 12V (5.8L) 152 hp unit. The attention to details is actually quite good: blue air filter and valve covers, the safety stickers on the ventilator cover, chrome painted alternator. Moreover, all of the auxiliaries are visible, although not moveable. Wires and hoses are all there and even the battery clamps are painted grey. Kudos to ERTL for that.
The mechanical details are all quite good; the steering works smoothly and although it’s all made out of plastic it’s reasonably solid. For me, the nicest thing to see is the engine and the transmission; it really pays to have the different elements painted in different colors. It just gives the car a more upscale touch. Back in the rear we can read that it was made under Ford license and built by ERTL. There is however, no mention of a movie production studio or a Starsky & Hutch merchandising department.
Inside it’s all black, so that’s a good start. The steering wheel has the correct shape and the grey-ish accents. Even the ignition is there but the keys are missing. It’s nice to see that the gauges and everything on the dashboard does have the correct three dimensional shape and color, rather than just being put on a sticker. As mentioned before, the cable of the flash light is connected to the passenger side police radio unit. The microphone doesn’t come off, but it’s great to know that they built the whole thing. On the floor we can see three pedals. Being an automatic I suppose the left one is for the parking brake. The front seats tilt forward to get easy access to the rear. A lot of attention to details has been put into the door panels as well: visible lock pins on top, “Gran Torino” stitching in the middle, as well as some chrome elements contrast the all black door just as in the actual car. Looking up, we can spot the rear view mirror, the sunshades and even the inside light.
The box comes in traditional ERTL / RC2 fashion with the big windows in the front and on top, coupled with some pictures of the main actors of the TV show. In the back, you get a brief description of the show and the car in both English and French. On the bottom, the ERTL, RC2 and Ford logos authenticate that this is an official product of the toy company and the car manufacturer.
Back on the road
This ERTL 1/18 “Starsky & Hutch” model car is quite good, although not as good as fellow movie car model this brand has made alongside this one. It does have all of the car’s components and TV elements, such as the radio and shows a very well made interior. The only downside is the fact that the trunk does not open and the windshield wipers are part of the body instead of being separate parts.
From alcohol to fuel
The brick buildings in which “Autobau” is located today belonged originally to the Federal Alcohol Administration in Romanshorn, Switzerland. In 1996, the Federation lost the exclusive right and a couple of years later the buildings were assigned to the town of Romanshorn. Fredy Lienhard, a Swiss entrepreneur as well as race car driver bought the landmarked buildings in 2007 and transformed them into this huge garage and event facility it has been since 2009. As a matter of fact, the 30’000 m2 area not only offers the exhilarating presence of around 85 cars, there is also a huge repair shop called “Factory” and a small circuit. Private events on the premises can also be booked, given the fact that Autobau offers a complete catering team in order to meet any need.
It cost the creators 12 million Swiss Francs (CHF) to renovate and transform the building to what it is today. The German word “Erlebniswelt” effectively means “a world to experience”. The building itself accentuates to the distinctive character of the whole experience: its history, the shape and materials (bricks and glass). Inside it’s even better; nice clean columns, track road imitations, model cars embedded in display windows in the floor, etc.
An entire team at your service
In total, there are seven guides available to answer any question regarding the museum and the cars. Others take care of the cars when the collection is not open to the public. In addition to them, an event manager makes sure the venue is booked regularly. I was talking to one of the guides, and he said that Autobau is more of a rolling private collection than a museum. All of the cars are in mint condition; running and road legal – with the exception of the race cars, obviously.
A hidden jewel
This collection might not be as big and as prestigious as Jay Leno’s. But that’s like saying the view from the Empire State Building is not as spectucal as from One World Trade Center. The collection is jaw dropping and unique in its whole. Furthermore, the fact that the public can access it on Wednesdays and Sundays from 4 to 8 PM for an entrance fee of 15.- CHF is just amazing. The cars are not protected in anyway. Obviously, there are a few surveillance cameras. But there you have a private collection worth millions of francs or euros or dollars (whichever you prefer) and anyone is allowed to enter, get close to the cars, touch them and even open a few of them! In a time where respect and civic engagement are about as rare as rain in Los Angeles, who else in their right mind would do that these days?! And yet here it is, ready for everybody to enjoy it! Kudos to Autobau for giving the gearheads some food.
The collection is segmented in three areas: European Supercars and Classic Cars (with a strong emphasis on Ferrari and Porsche) in the left wing of the building, Americana and British cars on the lower right wing, as well as race cars on the upper right wing.