Thursday, July 31, 2014

We interrupt the Concours photos to bring you the new road-trip car!

As long as I'm sharing photos and factoids about fancy-shmancy cars, I reckoned I'd share a few photos of the newest member of our own automotive fleet, a 1999 Jaguar XJ8 Vanden Plas Supercharged saloon.

The Vanden Plas Supercharged (VDP SC) was a special order version of the long wheelbase top-of-the-line Vanden Plas, and was the forerunner to the Super V8. The equivalent car in the UK was known as the Daimler Super V8. It had all the luxury features of the standard VDP plus the supercharged V8 engine from the XJR with 370 hp and 387 lb-ft of torque. The upgraded heated seats and stereo system also came standard with the VDP SC package. The only exterior differences I've noticed so far between this and a regular Vanden Plas are the 17-inch wheels, the big exhaust tips, and the "Vanden Plas Supercharged" badge on the trunk.

The driving experience has been everything I hoped it might be. Unbelievably smooth and powerful on the highway, but surprisingly zippy on curvy roads, especially with the "Sport" setting activated. That firms up the suspension and moves the shifting points down a bit for faster acceleration. And if you need to get somewhere fast? Zero to 60 in 5.5 seconds. The maximum speed tops out at 155 mph, but only because it's electronically limited. Auto reviewers like to break out words like "robust" for this car.

Only 788 of them were built during the 1998-2003 run of the x308 body style. I believe the vast majority of them were delivered to the US market. In 2003, the last year for the x308, the Super V8 became a model of its own in the US:

1998 - 36
1999 - 165
2000 - 208
2001 - 234
2002 - 145

The color of our new VDP SC is Emerald Metallic. It's a chameleon color. Depending on the viewing angle and the lighting source it varies from bright green to dark green to dark blue to black.

Okay, so the outside is pretty. But you don't drive it from the outside. What's the inside like? Well, take a step inside...

It's pretty much soft Connolly leather, lambs' wool carpeting, and burled walnut everywhere. These seats feel as comfy as they look.

Because the Vanden Plas is the long wheelbase edition of the XJ8 the rear seats have an extra five inches of legroom.  It's truly roomy back here. It's not just the nicest car I ever bought. It's also the nicest couch! (And the nicest stereo, for that matter.)

Naturally the passengers in back don't need to rely upon the chauffeur for their climate control. They have their own controls and heated seats. 

And yes, those are indeed fold-out walnut tea trays for the back seat, presumably so you have a place for your jar of Grey Poupon:

(Here's a link to the classic Grey Poupon ad for our younger readers who came along after it was retired from TV.)

For the last two pictures let's return to the exterior and see the new toy next to an earlier model (late 70s, I believe) Jaguar XJ6. I love how Jaguar carried the classic XJ lines forward into the XJ8.

So why on Earth did I buy a ridiculously fancy-shmancy Jaguar? Well, um ... there was an awful lot of creative rationalization along the way in terms of back-seat legroom on our upcoming trip to Wyoming. And the "replace the rusty old pickup truck" downpayment fund took a terrible beat-down.

But honestly, just look at it. And it drives like supercharged butter.

What else could I do?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The 2014 Concours of America, Part 1 -- Muscle Cars and Race Cars

Here at the Patio Boat Blog we have no idea how it already got to be the end of July, but we suspect it had something to do with Arsen and Brigitte's big move, the porch repair project, the new road-trip car, and a billion other little things. And really, gentle reader, I promise to update you soon on all the assorted goings-ons. But in the meantime, since I visited the annual Concours of America Sunday, I reckoned I'd put a little more automotive photoblogging up, just to reassure you all that I haven't actually dropped off the face of the earth.

Welcome to the show.

The Concours of America takes place on the grounds of the Inn at St. John's in Plymouth, Michigan. Most of the cars are laid out on the grounds of the golf course. Most of the interesting factoids I summarize below come courtesy of little blue signs next to each car. It's always interesting to watch the crowd. Half of them are looking at the car, half of them are reading the sign, and the other half are trying to talk to the owner or restorer. Sure, that adds up to 150%. But it's a popular event, so I'm sure the math works out somehow.

One of the first cars I saw was one of the tastiest, this 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Premiere Edition C7 Stingray Convertible belonging to Myles B. Hoffert. Only 500 of these were built, and all 500 have this dark green and tan color scheme, plus every bell and whistle available on the new Corvettes.  Oh, so delicious.

Since we started with a yummy American muscle car, let's take a look at a few other pieces of high-speed American steel. This year's Muscle Car class focused on the "Aero Wars" ... the attempts by the American car companies to climb to the top of NASCAR in 1969-1970 by creating cars specifically designed for the aerodynamics of 180-mph-plus stock car ovals. To qualify for racing, the manufacturers had to produce at least 500 of a model. As a result some of the wildest looking, high-speed cars in history roamed the streets during this period. My favorites were the crazy Dodge Daytona and Plymouth Superbird with their pointy noses and giant rear spoilers.

Let the record show that Monique hates the look of these cars. Feel free to imagine her saying, "Ick! Yuck! Bleah! Ick!" and you can capture my experience as I showed her each of these photos.

Tim Welborn's 1969 Dodge Daytona with only 6,000 miles came to the Concours all the way from Alexander City, Alabama, presumably on a trailer. At its top speed of 205 mph it could cover the 800 miles from Alexander City to Plymouth, Michigan, in less than four hours.

The Limelight 1970 Plymouth Superbird on the left belongs to Douglas Schellinger of New Berlin, Wisconsin. The Bright Green Metallic 1969 Dodge Dakota on the right belongs to Tom Abrams of Canton, Michigan. The aerodynamics were developed and tested both at Chrysler's Chelsea, Michigan, testing grounds and in a Lockheed Martin wind tunnel. The original tail spoiler wasn't nearly as tall, but they had to raise it higher to allow the street version enough room for people to open the trunk. Remember, they had to sell at least 500 for street use to be able to use them in NASCAR races.

What's that you say? One ridiculous lime green 1970 Superbird isn't enough? Here's another, this one belonging to Larry Weymouth of Ray, Michigan. To the casual eye the Superbird looks just like the Dodge Daytona, but although they share the same general shape they actually had different noses, fenders, and tails.

Another fairway the featured an exhibit honoring the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang and the 50th anniversary of the Pontiac GTO with a line of Mustangs on one side of a fairway and a line of GTOs on the other.

Tired of fast cars? How about a fast boat? Here's a 1963 Weber Boat 150 Cubic-Inch Hydroplane built in 1962 by Harold "Pops" Weber and piloted to numerous victories by his son Ray before selling it five years later. The boat was found in Maryland by Ray Weber's son Mark 40 years after it was sold. He had the derelict boat restored to its former glory and became the third generation Weber to own it.

Now, back to the speedy cars....

A race-adapted 1953 Corvette from the ProTeam Personal Reserve Collection. The first-year '53 Corvettes only had a 150 hp six-cylinder engine. This Corvette, however, was kept within Chevrolet for further work and emerged in February 1956 at the NASCAR Daytona Time Trials with a 240 hp V8 engine to become the first Corvette ever raced in NASCAR competition.

This is "Orange Blossom III,"  a 1970 Ford Boss 429 Mustang, one of only two Boss 429s known to have been raced in the IMSA Camel GT series. It was converted from a road car in 1974 and finished mid-pack in the 1975-77 in races like the Sebring 12 Hours of Endurance and the 24 Hours of Daytona, pretty good for a car whose engine was built in 1969. And even if it was only a middling racer during its career, this car looks really damn fast just standing there.

Robert and Joseph Dochery's 1965 Ford Mustang 350 GT "R" race car produced by Shelby America. It raced for Dochery Ford of Morristown, NJ, in 1966 and is still competing for the family, now in Concours events.

And finally, Lamborghinis! Lamborghinis! Lamborghinis!

The Lamborghinis had a ring all their own this year. To be honest, the gripping appeal of Lamborghinis has always been a bit lost on me. But I do love how they go completely over the top in their design. If you see something that looks fast and outrageous on the roads, "Lamborghini" is always a good guess.

Let's start with a couple of early Lamborghinis and then see what they became:

This 1970 Lamborghini Jarama 2+2 by Bertone is owned by Marc and Jane Trahan of Rochester Hills, Michigan. It carried four people to a top speed of 162 mph -- as long as the two in the back seat were very, very small.

Here's a 1974 Lamborghini Estrada also belonging to Marc and Jane Trahan. It could carry four genuine adults. You might think Lamborghini was on pace to eventually manufacturer a 210-mph competitor to the Chevy Suburban, but they soon returned their focus to two-seaters.

This is what Lamborghinis look like nowadays. Here's a 2008 Lingenfelter Lamborghini Reventon from the Lingenfelter Collection. Lingenfelter made 20 of these special-edition cars for folks for whom the standard Reventon was just too pokey. Thanks to its 661 hp V12 engine it hit 60 mph in 3.3 seconds on its way to a top speed of 212 mph.

Crazy though that sounds, think about this. That's a top speed just 7 mph over the 205 mph top speed of the 1969 Dodge Daytona built nearly 40 years earlier. That's how crazy those Daytonas and Superbirds were.

Our final Lamborghini is this 2014 Lamborghini Aventador belonging to Kevin Adell of Southfield, Michigan. It does 0 to 60 in 2.9 seconds. It's official top speed is 217 mph, but it was measured at 230 mph by Sport Auto Magazine. If you're in a real hurry to run down to the corner store to pick up a gallon of milk, it's a good choice.

That's it for today. Another batch of Concours photos coming soon. ... I hope.