[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

Old and New: The Dowsetts Classic Cars Comet

The brand new Dowsetts Comet; British Retro-futurism at it’s finest! Photo ©Autoclassics

Retro done right…

One of the biggest issues I have with car design today is the fact that there is such an emphasis on efficiency and aerodynamics that most new cars are starting to look alike. I’m willing to bet that if you were to take all the popular sedans, de-badge them, and then line them up next to each other, it would be very difficult to tell them apart. In addition to the current design trends, you have the introduction of electric drivetrains, which further serve to drive the emphasis on efficiency. Coupled with the lowering popularity of manual transmissions, cars are starting to become more like appliances than actual objects of desire.

That being said, with the introduction of fully-electric drivetrains, the beginnings of a new trend are started to take hold. Manufacturers like Jaguar are making a bet: now that electric drivetrains are becoming more commonplace, why not revisit the classic designs of yesteryear? Jaguar introduced the E-Type ZERO, a special electric conversion of their famous Series 1 E-Type sports car in order to capture the burgeoning market of classic car design with modern electric technology. And now, a newcomer to this market has made itself known: the Comet.

I count at least 4 different timeless design cues taken for the Dowsetts Comet. Photo ©Carrie Wilson

The brainchild of TV personality and unabashed car enthusiast Ant Anstead, the Dowsetts Classic Cars Comet looks like something that could have easily been a world beating sports car in the 1960’s. With a design that evokes past sports cars from the golden age of car design, like the Aston Martin DB4, the Jaguar E-Types and D-Types, the Alfa Romero TZ2, and even the Maserati Pininfarina A6GCS/53, the Comet is already setting the car design world ablaze with its good looks and modern amenities.

Paired with the all-aluminum (or aluminium for our friends across the pond) 6.2L LS3 small-block V8 from Chevrolet, the Comet can reportedly accelerate from 0-60 miles per hour in under four seconds, and look amazing while doing so. It seems a shame that it’s that fast; I’d rather just cruise on by and feel everyone’s gaze turn toward me! However, the rev-happy small block LS3 isn’t the only choice of drivetrain for this masterpiece of retro-futurism. Dowsetts also offers the choice of a fully electric drivetrain.

The Comet, posed next to the Handley-Page Victor V-Bomber. Photo ©Carrie Wilson

With this car, you can have all the looks of a classic golden age sports car, with the technology of today’s efficient electric drivetrains. Details are still pending on the final mechanical design of the car, however. According to Autoclassics.com, the debut car used a Tremec 5-speed transmission, a limited-slip differential, and a De-Dion-style rear end. This is likely to change with the introduction of the proposed electric drivetrain. Furthermore, the current mechanical setup is also likely to change as the car nears production. You could possibly have your choice of a 5-speed or 6 speed transmission later on, but this has not been confirmed.

The aesthetic mix of classic and modern is carried into the interior a mix of materials and surfaces. Paired with the classic-style wood-rimmed and airbag-less steering wheel, white face gauges, and supple quilted leather, is a mix of polished aluminum surfaces, buttons, and a touchscreen infotainment system. The end result is a fusion of truly retro-futuristic designs inside and out.

The Comet interior. Photo © Autoclassics.com

Is the Comet the latest example of a new trend of retro-futuristic car design? Hopefully the answer is yes; I’m starting to get tired of cars that look like soap bars!

More information on the Dowsetts Classic Cars Comet and Comet Barchetta can be found on Dowsetts Twitter and Instagram. The full website will be coming soon.