The Volkswagen ID R is a monster!

The Volkswagen ID R tackles the Nurburgring Nordschleife.
The Volkswagen ID R tackles the Nürburgring Nordschleife. Photo © 2019 BILDAGENTUR KR√§LING

The ID R isn’t your Dad’s golf kart.

I just learned that the Volkswagen ID R electric concept/race car just broke another record. It’s not surprising since the car looks like a cross between a Group C race car and something Daniel Simon could have designed. Truthfully, the car was designed to take the electric car record at the world-world famous Pikes Peak Hill Climb. However, this latest record proves that electric cars are the ultimate evolution of motorsports: The ID R just broke the Nürburgring Nordschleife record for electric cars at 6:05!

To understand exactly how fast that is, first, you have to understand how big the Nordschleife is, and how fast a racecar can go around it. The original “Nordschleife” or “North Loop” was built in the 1920s around the town of Nürburg, in the Eifel mountains. Also nicknamed “The Green Hell”, the Nordschleife is almost 13 miles long, with 73 turns and massive elevation changes. Sports car manufacturers often use the Nordschleife to develop their cars, and it’s not uncommon for a car maker to boast about its cars’ lap times.

The Volkswagen ID R successfully makes a run. Photo © 2019 Volkswagen Motorsport

How fast is six minutes and 5 seconds?

A “fast” car can make the loop at around 8 minutes. The Alfa Romeo 4C did 8:04 back in 2013. A “very fast” car like the Ferrari 458 Italia can do it by roughly 7:30. An “extremely fast” car like the Lamborghini Aventador 770-4 SVJ can do it in under seven minutes. These are just production cars though, and the Volkswagen ID R is clearly not a production car.

The previous record holder for the fastest electric car was the Nio EP9, which made 1000 kilowatts or 1,361 horsepower equivalent. The EP9 was only a shade slower than the Lamborghini Aventador 770-4 SVJ at 6:45, which we already knew was “extremely fast.”

The Volkswagen ID R did it 40 seconds faster than a 1,300 horsepower electric car. That is insanely fast!

What’s more surprising is the fact that the ID R makes less power than the previous record holder. It “only” makes around 700 horsepower, but the car has an incredibly lightweight body weighing only 1,100 kilograms or 2,500 pounds. In addition, the ID R sports a very low-drag and high-downforce body, meaning that the car could take the Nordschleife’s 73 turns at a much higher speed.

Just imagine; in a few years, electric race cars like the ID R will be making insane lap times at our favorite tracks like the Circuit de la Sarthe, or even WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca!

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A Child’s Dream: The Dome Zero

The Dome Zero (silver) and the Dome Zero P2 test cars (red and green respectively). Photo © CarDesignNews.com

The 1970’s was an interesting time for Japan…

Japan was becoming a hotbed for industry in many sectors, including steel manufacturing, electronics, and of course, automotive manufacturing. Several manufacturers including Nissan, Toyota, Honda, and Mazda were engaged in an arms race to build fun and affordable sports cars for export markets. Starting in the late ’60s, drivers here in the USA saw the introduction of the Nissan 240Z, an affordable and reliable offering with the classic European styling cues that relay the hallmarks of a proper sports car.

Motorsport of course was no exception. Cars like the legendary Toyota 2000GT and Datsun 240Z were picked up by notable teams like Shelby Racing and Brock Racing Enterprises and raced with varying degrees of success. In Japan, several home-grown outfits also began racing their own cars. Dome is one of these outfits.

The Birth of a Dream

The Dome Zero Prototype, featured on a product card. Photo © Road and Track

In 1975, Kabushiki Gaisha Dōmu, or “Dome” was founded by Minoru Hayashi with the purpose of building race cars. With its name meaning “A Child’s Dream,” it was the dream Hayashi to compete on the world’s stage of motorsports. However, these ambitions changed a short while after the company was founded. Disillusioned with the progress of their race car construction program, Dome pivoted towards producing their own sports cars. It was here that the Dome Zero was conceived.

For many people (including myself), the Dome Zero was an enigmatic sports car you could drive in Gran Turismo 4; a game I clearly spent too many hours playing and going as fast as possible down the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca. It featured styling that made the DeLorean in Back to the Future ­look like a cheap kit car with its razor-sharp lines and wrap-around canopy. Powering this dream car was the venerable Nissan L28 Inline-6 making 145hp and mated to a 5-Speed manual transaxle. What the engine lacked in power, the car more than made up for it with responsive handling and a futuristic, lightweight fiberglass body that would make Colin Chapman smile.

The resemblance between the Dome Zero Prototype and other notable wedge designs like the 1979 Lotus Esprit is uncanny. The ’70s were an interesting time for Car Design. Photo © CarDesignNews.com

Dome followed an absolutely grueling schedule to bring the car to fruition in time for the 1978 Geneva Auto Show. However, when it debuted it became one of the show’s most popular cars, with showgoers immediately placing orders for the new Japanese wondercar that was shorter than the Ford GT40. In addition to this, the company’s coffers were kept flush with cash thanks to licensing agreements with toy companies to produce models of the razor-turned-sports car.

A year later, the Dome Zero P2 was created for the American auto show circuit, with revised bumpers and pop-up headlights. This road-going door-stop was tested by several notable American automotive magazines, including Road & Track, who’s contributor Dennis Simanaitis described the car’s handling “as-though-on-rails variety.” Road & Track, however, would slam the Zero P2’s styling as “derivative”.

Road & Track Magazine tested the green Dome Zero P2, which was designed to be homologated for American highways. Photo © Road & Track.

Dome and their Zero seemed poised to reinvent the Japanese Sportscar and take the market by storm. So why is it that most of us have forgotten about this amazing car until 2004 when teenagers like me were whipping it around Trial Mountain in Gran Turismo 4?

The Two Strikes

A Magazine Scan of an article reviewing the red Dome Zero P2, which was designed for European markets.

Two things happened to the Dome Zero that put a kibosh on the production efforts. First, was the Japanese regulatory body for homologation rejecting the initial design of the Zero. The regulations at the time were very strict, and the original Zero prototype did not meet them due to various reasons. In order to try to get around these regulations, the Dome Zero P2 was designed for homologation in export markets in Europe and the United States. However, these new prototypes also failed to achieve homologation for those markets.

Following the failure of bringing the Dome Zero to production, Hayashi decided to pivot the company again and restructure development efforts from building a production sports car to a full-on race car. The reasoning behind this was simple: “Race on Sunday, Sell on Monday.” Hayashi had hoped that the publicity from a successful racing program would translate to renewed attention to homologate the Zero for production, and sell cars. Additionally, his team had ambitions to race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the highest arena of motorsport. In order to achieve such a lofty goal, Dome created the Zero RL for racing in the Group 6 prototype class.

The Dome Zero RL was an interesting-looking, prototype, with almost no resemblance to the Zero P2 prototypes. Photo © Paul Kooyman

The Zero RL was designed for straight-line speed on the Mulsanne Straight, with an unusually narrow front track, and the longest body in its class at slightly over 16 feet. The design of the car was also very striking and recognizable, thanks to its unique angular bodyshell that interestingly did not resemble the production prototype. Powered by the legendary Cosworth DFV V8 engine, the Zero RL cut a sharp profile with the sound to match.

It was unfortunate then, that the Zero RL was not a successful endeavor for Hayashi and Dome. Despite it being the third fastest car on the field, in its first outing in the 6 Hours of Silverstone the Zero RL managed to finish 12th in a field of 13. Then, at the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans, both entered cars failed to finish the race due to technical problems. In the subsequent years, Dome returned time and again to try and clinch a finish at Le Mans, only to be met with Did-Not-Finish across the board. This proved to be the second and final strike for Dome’s efforts in creating a winning race car and successful production car, as in 1982 all racing efforts were canceled and both the Zero and Zero RL projects were scrapped. The company would refocus and go on to become a race car constructor for various teams, and the Zero would largely be forgotten as a footnote in Japanese automotive history.

A Virtual Legacy

My own virtual photo of my Dome Zero from Gran Turismo 5, fully tuned for racing around Trial Mountain.

The Dome Zero remained forgotten to mainstream audiences up until 2004 when the car was featured in the hit PlayStation 2 game Gran Turismo 4. In fact, I can recall doing the necessary racing modifications and tuning the Nissan L28 engine to nearly 350 hp in-game, and then going racing against a field of Lotuses and a few Honda NSX’s! Of course, I won those races thanks to the car’s low simulated weight and a fully race-tuned Inline-6.

I know I’m not alone with my obsession with the Dome Zero. Thanks to a series of very popular video games, the Dome Zero is now a well-known and mythical sports-car-that-could’ve-been. It’s 70’s razor-edge wedge styling looks right at home on the walls of an 80’s kid’s bedroom, next to that poster of the Lamborghini Countach with a buxom blonde draped over it. Its design and the story behind the car just lends itself to the imagination, and begs the question “Why didn’t this get made?”. It’s unfortunate the Dome Zero is regulated to “what could have been”, but thankfully, people like Gran Turismo creator and Polyphony Digital CEO Kazunori Yamauchi and his deep passion for cars allow people like me to experience what it might have been like driving the Dome Zero on my favorite race tracks.

And that’s more than enough for me.

The green Dome Zero P2 makes a pass. Photo © Road & Track.

[Opinion] Hypercars don’t excite me anymore

It’s been a while! I took a little hiatus while I was setting up the site’s new store, but now I’m back! The new print store will be up this week!

-W

The gorgeous Pininfarina Battista. Image © Autotimesnews.com

The Geneva International Auto Show is underway…

…And already there are some poster-ready sports cars and concept cars that could adorn the walls of teenagers who aren’t really into Fortnite. The most notable car for me is the Pininfarina Battista; a technical tour-de-force from one of Italy’s most well known car design studios, famous for penning the sultry bodies of Ferraris for decades. The Battista itself is a push forward towards the limits of electric drivetrain technology, with a motor in each wheel making a combined 1,874 horsepower and 2300 Newton meters of torque. And of course, its very good-looking.

So, why is it that I’m not very impressed with it?

Don’t get me wrong; I think the Battista is an absolutely gorgeous car, with plenty of references to one of my favorite concept cars of all time; the Maserati Pininfarina Birdcage 75th Anniversary Concept. It’s just that with all of the super sports cars and hypercars that have come out in the last couple of years, I might be a little jaded hearing about another sports car for the uber-rich. It just seems kind of pointless, doesn’t it?

The Pininfarina Battista and the Maserati Birdcage 7th Anniversary Concept car. Definitely a family resemblance.

On one hand, of course a car like the Battista is going to be ridiculously expensive; it’s essentially a concept car for the road. I should be glad that a car like this even exists as it represents the cutting edge of automotive technology. On the other however, I’ll likely never get to own or even drive something like this as fast as I want, because I live in a country with an average maximum speed limit of 55mph.

It could be a multitude of things that are making me feel this way about this car. Could it be that I’m now more cognizant of the current issues of our society, such as poverty and income inequality? When viewed through that particular lens, the Batista becomes another tool of which billionaires can use to flaunt their wealth to the lower classes. Maybe it’s the practicality of it, or lack thereof. I’m certainly someone that believes a car is meant to be driven and enjoyed, especially with a standard transmission and a short throw shifter. A car like this is likely going to take up space in a climate-controlled garage filled with other pieces of beautiful automotive engineering, only to be brought out for special events and gatherings; not that I don’t appreciate it. Certainly there will be people who would drive the Battista, but then we run into the first issue again.

Mostly, I think it’s my own preferences evolving as I get older. As I said before, I’m not interested in things that I have little to no chance even owning, let alone driving. Instead, I’ve noticed a trend toward interesting, quirky cars that don’t break the bank for owning and maintaining. In fact, I’m more impressed with cars that tick all the right boxes and still reside in the land of feasible ownership. A Lotus Esprit or an 90’s Acura NSX fall within this realm for me, and lord knows how much I’ve drooled over something like the Mazda Autozam AZ-1. Even new cars like the Alfa Romeo 4C interest me more than the Battista, because there’s a slight chance that I’ll be able to own or drive it.

I used Alfa Romeo’s Configurator to spec out a 4C. Base models go for around $66K

I suppose this is just the thoughts of someone shedding their teenage desires for owning an exotic car and settling with something more in my socio-economic standing. How many of us grew up with a Jaguar XJ220, McLaren F1, Lamborghini Diablo, or a Ferrari F50 taped to their bedroom walls, and are currently driving those around? I personally can’t answer that. But I can say that I could get a 90’s Lotus Esprit for around $25k and still feel like a million bucks.

The Pininfarina Battista is still a good-looking car though.

The Vector WX-3 is the most 90’s car to ever exist

The Vector WX-3 prototype. I would do unholy things to drive that car…Photo © Erik Fuller and RM Sotheby’s

The Vector has always had my imagination…

There’s something about the pseudo-vaporware All-American Supercar that just stays with you. Is it the wild carbon-kevlar body? The movable aerodynamic surfaces? The three-across seating arrangement? Maybe it was the use of aeronautical technologies, like the aerospace-grade bolts? Or, maybe it has more to do with the massive 7.0L Twin Turbo V8, making somewhere between 600-1200 horsepower? The Vector WX-3 is all and none of these things; alongside the WX-3 Roadster, the WX-3 ended up being a footnote in American automotive history thanks to a hostile takeover by Indonesian automotive firm Megatech in the 90’s. But for a time, it seemed that WX-3 was ready to take the supercar market by storm and put America at it’s forefront. And yet, it was largely forgotten as Vector simply phased out of the public eye and occupied that space where broken promises and failed dreams go. You know; like most things in the 90’s. It seems sort of ill-fitting then, that such a machine is being auctioned off for Lexus LFA money.

Photo © Erik Fuller and RM Sotheby’s

RM Sotheby’s recently listed the Vector Avtech WX3 and WX3 Roadster on their website, and now, I’m suddenly reliving my early childhood playing Gran Turismo 2 and racing in Red Rock Valley with my trusty red Vector W8 Twin Turbo. It was one of my favorite cars in the game thanks to its futuristic (to me) looks and massive horsepower (in game, you could upgrade the turbos to put out 800+ horsepower), and high top speed (240+ miles per hour). As far as I know, the last time you could drive a Vector in a video game was in Gran Turismo 2; unless you count the modded cars you could add to Need For Speed High Stakes. That being said the last time Vector was ever mentioned again was in 2007, when Vector announced the development of a new car; the WX-8. In fact, the WX-3 prototypes are being sold partly to fund development of the new Vector supercar.


Photo © Erik Fuller and RM Sotheby’s

First offered for $3.5 million for both prototypes, RM Sotheby’s have listed the lot for $450,000-$550,000. One has to wonder if this is because the name “Vector” is pretty much synonymous with “vaporware”; a conceptual product that’s always being advertised, but never available to buy. In fact, that last time the new Vector WX-8 was even mentioned was several years ago, with no road going versions sold yet (that we know of).

Even so, the WX-3 and 3R are absolutely bonkers. Finished in the famous Jazz-pattern Solo Cup colors of Teal and Fuchsia, both cars are an insane amalgamation of styling cues; from the influence of other wedge-shaped sports cars from the 70’s (the original Vector W2 was heavily based on the Alfa Romero Carabo Concept Car from 1968), to the organic shapes and styling cues that defined the 90’s. But, styling is nothing compared to the unique combination of automotive and aerospace technologies present in the WX-3


Photo © Erik Fuller and RM Sotheby’s

What made Vector’s cars famous was their use of aerospace materials and technologies, including aerospace-grade bolts to hold the aluminum honeycomb monocoque together, and the use of carbon-Kevlar composite for the body. However, nothing was more in-your-face then the inclusion of the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon’s Multi-Function Display Unit, modified to give you information readouts from the cars numerous sensors, and featuring a graphical representation of the car! And if that wasn’t enough, the WX-3 and 3R also used a unique, left-handed shifter arrangement meant to emulate the throttle on a jet-powered aircraft. Granted, the shifter was linked to an ancient Oldsmobile TH-425 Three-Speed transaxle, but still. And of course, you could entertain your wife, and your girlfriend with the three-across bench seat, and Sony 6 Disc CD Changer; assuming they can get past just how massive that windshield actually is (Vector once held the record for largest production windshield ever made)!


Photo © Erik Fuller and RM Sotheby’s

The WX-3 prototype first debuted with the same 6.0L Rodeck Twin Garrett Turbocharged V8 that was first used in the Vector W8 Twin Turbo, but when the WX-3 was reintroduced at the Geneva Auto Show in 1993, Vector had managed to squeeze in their 7.0L Rodeck V8, twin-turbocharged to 1000 hp! Despite being mated to a sluggish three speed transaxle, the car’s projected top speed was around 250 miles per hour; 12 years before Bugatti debuted the legendary Veyron.

With this combination of aerospace technology, insane looks, and massive horsepower, The Vector WX-3 is essentially the optimism of the 1990’s distilled into a single, high-speed form. It really is a shame that this car never got the chance to go into production, as Megatech locked company founder Gerald Wiegert out of his own building during the hostile takeover, and Wiegert countersued to prevent Megatech from building the WX-3 twins. Instead, we got a rebodied Lamboghini Diablo in the form of the Vector M12. In the end, Megatech also failed with their approach, as the slow sales of the M12 failed to keep the lights on, but not before Megatech tried to rectify the situation with a modified GM LT1 V8-powered version of the M12 dubbed the SRV8.

Still, it’s nice to imagine how the Vector WX-3 could have redefined exotic cars in the 1990’s, and rival other legendary cars like the Jagaur XJ220 and the McLaren F1. And for around $500,000, you could have two!

Do you think the bank would give me a loan?


Photo © Erik Fuller and RM Sotheby’s

Merry Christmas!

Photo © NostraCARmus

Nothing Says “Merry Christmas”…

…more than a red, Italian, wedge-shaped concept car! Santa Claus would be rolling in style with the Lancia Stratos Zero!

Merry Christmas!

-W