Are these guys^ sharing an arm?
The only reason you might have heard of MaRussia’s supercar efforts would be in F1 news… when they bought out Richard Branson for control of Virgin’s F1 racing team.
That in itself gives them some credibility, and it doesn’t hurt that racing driver Nikolay Fomenko helped found the company in 2007 (along with brand strategist Efim Ostrovsky and tech entrepreneur Andrey Cheglakov).
These wildmen got together with supercar dreams like so many others- wanting to build the baddest, bestest, beastest supercar experience for a select few buyers with very deep pockets.
Production limited to 2999 units, MaRussia’s two models (the B1 and B2) can be powered by either an N/A 3.5 liter V6 or a boosted 2.8 liter six, the latter developed by Cosworth.
Either way, power output is conservative by supercar standards in the neighborhood of 400 horses.
The styling however, is quite interesting. Especially on the B2, pictured here in blue. I see some hints of Gumpert Apollo influence. The B1 (purple) has me thinking “Lotus Evora meets Pagani”.
Check out the company’s site if you’d like to study the cars further, and scroll down for a few images.
Dual GPS in case… your passenger wants to go somewhere else?
Having been contracted to pick up vehicles for a few Massachusetts car dealers, I’ve been given the opportunity (or “charge” depending on who you ask) to attend dealer-only vehicle remarketing auctions.
I was pretty stoked at the prospect of being paid to wander around a car show, even if I’d be looking at Muranos and Civics instead of E-Type Jags. And what auto-industry enthusiast wouldn’t be interested in seeing how the proverbial sausage of the car remarketing business was made?
Well, as soon as I strode in to my first warehouse auto auction I remembered why that “origin-of-sausage” saying was meant to have rather negative connotations.
As I stepped out of the summer heat into the city-sized facility I was met with a wicked amalgamation of exhaust, cigarettes and bad cologne launching a full-blow assault on my olfactory senses.
I could feel years falling off the back end of my life with each breath I took in, and another saying altogether came to mind- Obi-Wan Kenobi’s righteous line to Luke Skywalker as they enter that sketchy desert neighborhood in a galaxy far, far away…
“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.”
So it would seem.
No more than two paces deeper into the building I’m met with a second barrage, this time on the ears.
The cacophony of a hundred engines revving, weezing, and coughing their way around a metal-walled building makes listening to Gilbert Gottfried sing “Call Me Maybe” through a fan sound like a solid alternative.
The auctioneers, masters in their craft of attention-getting, yell over each other in an attempt to drive up prices and generate excitement.
As for the bidders, they span the range of ethnic minorities, but one thing they seem to share is a disagreeable attitude and a penchant for Ed Hardy t-shirts.
I was… right at home?
I gave up trying to make my friends after being told to fuck off for the third time and focused my attention on the cars.
The cars drive, limp, and sometimes are pushed around the facility in front of the various auction blocks- dragging their feet (tires) like they’re heading to interment camps.
The auction sells about ten vehicles simultaneously, every ninety seconds or so, with each lane having a per-determined order so buyers can theoretically time when to be where to scope out their targets. Reality is that the times and order answer to no one, including basic numerical logic. Getting in front of a car you read about on the pre-sale runlist is as much a game of luck as one of being able to read a schedule.
This ceaseless stream of cars marches through the warehouse like a torpid caterpillar of steel and plastic.
And what an assortment of cars.
Literally everything from 200,000 mile Honda Odysseys to Nissan GT-Rs to telephone-pole reaching crane trucks are trotted out for an audience of hundreds of car dealers vying for deals in a seemingly endless contest of machismo and wits… such as they are.
Since car values proclaimed by sanctioning bodies like NADA and Manheim are accepted across the industry, one would think auction prices would be easy to predict. But they aren’t.
Sometimes a great car can roll across the block when everyone who can afford it is off eating soup (which is sold from a vendor within the facility and is surprisingly popular). Conversely, two bidders can get caught up in egos and send the price of a Pontiac Aztek through the roof.
When a buyer and seller can’t agree on a price, an auction official might even step in and reduce their fees to expedite a transaction.
The business is run on turn, not margin. A given auction house will hustle 2,000 cars across its blocks in a day, and in the scheme of their operation $100, even $1,000, is hardly a blip in their ledger.
You probably have an idea in your head of what an auctioneer sounds like from cartoons or movies. That rapid-fire “Foghorn Leghorn” voice is exactly what you think it is. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, let’s just say it’s nothing like the creepily-deliberate voice from the auction at end of Taken.
The abstract and disorganized nature of the world’s largest retail market is enough to make an MBA shake his head, but I find it hilariously endearing.
Wrought with corruption, underhandedness, bad manners, and worse smells it takes a stalwart stomach indeed to wheel and deal in the auction environment. That, or somebody who loves cars and can tune out the anger of a thousand anxious immigrants. Such as myself.
Now if only my employers would pay me enough to take advantage of a great deal on a third-gen RX-7, I’d be the happiest guy in the place.
In the meantime, next time you buy a used car from your neighborhood dealer… however it ended up on their lot, you can rest assured that it had quite an adventure getting there.
Found this gem parked outside of the ADESA Auto Auction in Framingham, MA.
It caught my eye from across the parking lot because, I mean, come on.
At first I thought it was the failed abortion of a GM concept (the Monte Carlo taillights) or maybe it was “bring your kid to work day” at the design studio and somebody hit “send” instead of “save” on this beauty.
But closer inspection revealed that this could not possibly have come from anywhere that was anything more advanced than what we in the industry call a “shade-tree” mechanic.
I’d venture a guess that this vehicle was literally constructed under a tree. And probably in the dark.
Remember that Simpsons episode where Homer works for a car company and builds a one-off called “The Homer”?
I mean, right?
Aside from the taillights the only thing that’s really identifiable are the wheels. They look a little early-911 to me, but I imagine they’re from something far less prestigious. What chassis, suspension and driveline setup this wildman is running is anybody’s guess. As badly as I wanted to meet the creator of this creature it was about 105 degrees outside and sadly I had to prioritize a Dunkin Donuts run.
Okay, as tempting as it is to just shit on this thing with its bumpy hand-fiberglassed body panels, mismatched gauge faces and what I’m pretty sure is hand-rolled paintjob, let’s take a step back and think about what this guy’s done.
He had an idea for his own car design, and he fucking went for it. Sure it probably didn’t come out as sleek as he had imagined, but if I had attempted this I guarantee it would look ten times worse. Fiberglass is really hard to work with, and custom-making an interior is no cakewalk either, even if it is rudimentary.
As goofy as it looks we can’t discount what he has accomplished- the body fits (pretty much), and presumably the car works. I mean, it was wearing license plates and sitting in a day-use parking lot. So hey, he’s not going to win a Concourse show anytime soon but for all intents and purposes; “Mission Accomplished” and bravo for giving a pretty insane project the old college try.
That said, the idiot who approved this car for an inspection sticker I’d like to have a few words with.
Spotted this W111 on Craigslist and upon realizing it was just down the street, I couldn’t help but have a look. Huge bench seat, accented fintails, lovely curved glass and a grille that says “pull over, peasant” make this chassis one of my all-time favoritie Mercs, and high on my list of next potential projects.
Though the body on this one looks decent from ten feet away, those ominous freckles of rust hint at substantial rot underneath. The blacktop on which the car was parked was too hot to crawl on and properly inspect the underbody, but just a glance at the front arches revealed some pretty gnarly through-body deterioration. But even the holes in the floor (which I found after lifting up the carpet) wouldn’t have deterred me off this car completely… it fired up without much coaxing and was probably tidy enough to pass state inspection with a minimal palm-greasing.
The problem lied in the paperwork. From the look of the license plate sticker the car hadn’t been registered since 1972, and as there was no title present getting a fresh set of plates from the death-grip clutches of the heinous Mass DMV would be almost as difficult as completing the restoration. So alas, this car may be condemned to RIP (Rot In Place) unless somebody can brave the bureaucratic bastion and get some tags on this lovely car. Or hey, maybe the seller will just find the damn title…
Being in Boston for Larz Anderson’s British Car Day I couldn’t resist making the pilgrimage to the event, despite having sold my Land Rover years ago.
Conveniently I was able to convince Matt Weaver of Bootleg Racing to give me a lift in his Cooper S provided that I paid his registration fee and brought the beeahs.
The event would be a good chance for Matt to gain some exposure for his car- the Cooper is currently being prepared for Auto-X and RallyCross events and he’s gathering sponsors to make it all happen.
And of course, the event would be an even better chance for me to sit under my car show awning, crush PBRs in the middle of the world’s prettiest parking lot and nerd out on cars for four hours.
So, solid weekend.
We managed to pack all my tailgating gear into the aptly-named MINI and get ourselves in the front seats for the journey across Boston in 100-degree heat. My new roommate Abby was wedged in the back, and had been surprisingly willing to to take part in this despite being both apathetic about cars and a woman.
Once we reached the park we nabbed a spot square in the middle of the lower show field and I proceeded to build our encampment.
No matter how many car shows I go to, I’m always surprised I’m one of the only exhibitors who brings his own shade and comestibles.
It’s not like there’s a shortage of space at these things… why get sunburned and eat the park’s gnarly $9 hot dogs? Anyway, seeing as I’m about thirty years younger than your average auto show exhibitor I don’t think their habits are going to change anytime soon. I expect I’ll continue to see old farts toddling over and making the same goofy “in my day we didn’t have coolers” comments for the rest of my car show career. Ha, these events are always crawling with characters as wacky as the V8-swapped TR6′S or single-seat XK150′s they roll up in.
Check out some photos of the beautiful iron in attendance this year, courtesy of Abby and her fancy Nikon DSLR.
Herb Chambers is a legend in the Boston business world. Originally hailing from the notorious D-O-T (Dorchester, MA) he built one empire after another and is now best known for running one what might be the largest network of car dealers in the region.
His personal vehicle collection includes a McLaren F1 and a helicopter, so when he wanted to amend his Bentley/Rolls-Royce shop in Wayland by adding a full-fledged Lamborghini dealership- he picked up the phone and made it happen. Recession be damned, Bostonians need access to $100,000+ supercars.
To smash a proverbial bottle over the bow of the building, Herb and Lamborghini’s PR company Centigrade threw a semi-formal gala on location where enthusiasts, members of the press and the not-so-general public could rub shoulders and taken in the cars. I managed to score an invite and wedged the cute-ute I borrowed from mum between a Ferrari 458 Italia and a DeTomaso Pantera in the parking lot.
As soon as I rolled up I was reminded of how much old money Bostonians love to dress like easter eggs. I’d never seen as many suits with pink, lime green, and powder blue utilized as the primary color. If The Hunger Games was set in a dystopian New England this is how the freaky rich people would have looked.
The automotive celebrities in attendance- Michael Lock of Lamborghini, the head men of Bentley and Rolls Royce as well as Herb Chambers himself, were easy to spot in more traditional business attire.
But naturally it was the machines on display that I was here to see. The showroom housed two Bentley Mulsannes, a Continental GT, three Lamborghini Gallardos, an Aventador, an three Rolls Royces- a Ghost, a massive drophead (convertible) and the their newest version of the flagship Phantom which was unveiled at the event by the one of the company’s top men himself.
The parking lot was looking lively as well where a few Ferraris, two Murciélagos, and an ancient Rolls Royce Ghost were hanging out with Herb’s surplus of Bentleys waiting to be collected by their future owners. Of particular interest was a Jaguar XKR-S in that “French Racing Blue” paintwork it’s always wearing in the commercial.
I made my way over to the service area which was just as immaculate as the show floor- complete with red velvet rope. A far cry from the shack my bike shares with a family of squirrels, but I’m still confident I could beat any of these preps in a race from the beach to the polo field on my Gixxer.
The car I wanted to see most was Lamborghini’s new 700 horsepower animal- the Aventador. They had one plopped square in the middle of the new room in a fittingly-ostentatious orange color.
Although they declined my request to fire it up, the car’s presence was still impossible to ignore.
The first thing I noticed was its size. Those who have only seen Lamborghinis in pictures and video games don’t realize how massive they are. Despite only having room for two people and a briefcase I’m pretty sure the Aventador was about twice as wide and a third as long as my sister’s ML320.
The car’s drama continues with crisp chiseled lines- even the taillights look sharp enough to cut yourself on- and the side air intakes behind the door could swallow a condor.
But just in case you manage to see all this, open the car’s signature scissor door, and climb in the fighter jet cockpit without realizing the machine’s intensity, the start button is covered by a red flap like- well, like a fighter jet. That’s some Tony Stark shit right there.
The Gallardos looked rather tame in comparison, so I guess the band set up between them?
I had seen and sampled just about everything by the time Mr. Chambers made his speech, singing his praises of the impressive vehicular designs and hor d’vours we had all been enjoying. But the most interesting comment he made was that every car we were looking at had already been sold.
Wow, either new money is starting to gain traction around here or god had been answering a whole lot of Janis Joplin-esque prayers. Because I did not see too many people in this room that would have looked comfortable strapped in to an asphalt-eating Aventador for their commute to the office or weekend ride to Cape Cod.
Next up was the new Phantom unveiling. After the cover had been lifted, the Rolls representative watched nervously as old ladies plopped themselves on the crisp-white passenger seats with glasses of merlot shaking in their hands.
Once I had seen everything a couple times I caught site of Lamborghini COO Michael Lock making a phone call outside. When he finished and made his way to the champagne table, I bellied up next to him and asked for a brief interview.
He was kind enough to oblige, and I hustled through my mind-gears to think of something halfway articulate to ask him as we made our way to a couch next to a dark blue Gallardo.
Mr. Lock is an adept businessman and motor vehicle enthusiast from London. Before working at Lamborghini he was in charge of marketing at THINK Electric Vehicles and had spent time as Ducati’s North America CEO. He was very well spoken and I must say, easier to understand than most Londoners I’d met. I couldn’t help but notice how well he connected quick bursts of thoughts with pauses for accentuation, he was a great conversationalist.
Here’s an excerpt of our meeting and yes, he knew he was being recorded.
[RoadRoving] So how long in the making has Lamborghini coming to Boston been for you guys?
[Michael Lock] Well we’ve been with Herb Chambers for, must have been around eighteen months but, this is the launch of our own dedicated showroom. And this project has taken about twelve months.
We have quite exacting standards when it comes to the fit-out and the floor tiles, and the whole décor- all up it’s been about a twelve month project.
[RR] …Now, you’ve worked for Ducati as well haven’t you?
[RR] So, if you can speak candidly- four wheels or two?
[ML] Ah, well it depends what mood you’re in! I can tell you if I lived up here in Boston I would have to have four and two. I lived in California for ten years where two wheels was just fine.
…the thing about Italian brands, whether it’s Ducati or Lamborghini, is there’s this kind of mechanical adrenaline flowing through them that’s really unique… I think if you like Ducati you’ll like Lamborghini and vice versa. I can’t imagine that you’d love the cars and not love the bikes. Really.
[RR] Sure. Is there a favorite feature you have on any of the vehicles in Lamborghini’s latest lineup?
[ML] You know, the thing I’m reminded of every time I drive them is- that it looks exotic, it sounds exotic, it’s superfast, and yet, you could drive it all day.
…I think that’s the big thing about the latest line of our cars. With the partnership [between] Audi and Lamborghini- Audi’s a name you can trust for quality, fit and finish, and for ease of use- they’re kind of a household name for all of that. For them to be able to assist and advise and consult for Lamborghini, to make what we do something that’s not intimidating anymore…
…You go back to the big hairy-chested Lamborghinis of two years ago, and they were extraordinary, but you had to relearn everything you knew about driving.
You really did, and the cars were scary. The cars were fantastic, but they were scary. The cars were for professionals only. The beauty of what we produce now, whether it’s a Gallardo… or even an Aventador, a 700 horsepower carbon fiber car, you could drive it to the grocery store and park it in the parking lot!
And that’s a big deal about modern Lamborghinis- you can drive them.
[RR] …Eloquent indeed, now if you could answer one thing without thinking, and I can never resist asking anybody this; your favorite car?
[ML] Of all time?
[RR] All time.
[ML] A couple different Alfa Romeos, a couple Lancias, the original Porsche 911, I can think of a lot cars I like. A lot.
[RR] Well thanks so much for speaking with me, I really appreciate you time and have a good night!
After Mr. Lock and I parted ways I took one last lap around the show floor, hoping to spot a moneyed older woman who might buy me a car… but alas, the only people who would talk to me wanted to tell me about how well their lime green pants matched their wives enormous hats.
Maybe next time I’ll bring my bike to one of these and see if I can stir anybody up for a race.
You’ve always trusted RoadRoving.com to deliver timely and accurate news from the world of motorsport and our beloved auto industry.
Hah, did I getcha?
Seriously though, one new vehicle that we’re watching develop with particular interest is the “Concept One” from Rimac Automobili.
If that name doesn’t sound familiar, don’t worry… we’re putting it on blast in our next installment of the Secret Supercars Series.
For now I’ll just give you the essentials- it’s an unbelievably sexy full-electric supercar designed and built in Croatia. If there aren’t enough kickers in there already, at the helm of the company is 23-year-old visionary entrepreneur Mate Rimac with swagger in spades, great taste in sunglasses and a penchant for car racing.
When I saw this image of him lighting up the tarmac in an E30 on slicks, I was impressed… but once I realized that this car had been retrofitted by Rimac and his engineers to be a test mule for their electric propulsion technology, I knew I had to talk to him.
Rimac Automobili’s PR department was kind enough to get me in touch with the Mr. Rimac last week, here’s the exchange.
[ROADROVING] I’ve watched some videos of you drifting your e-M3 test mule, and it’s pretty clear you’ve got great driving skills. How long have you been participating in motorsports?
[RIMAC] Thanks. I have never driven in any professional motorsport competition but I have used every opportunity to participate in drift and drag races and track-day events. Those races are not really professional – in my country it is more on an amateur level. Unfortunately my family couldn’t give me the opportunity to start a motorsport career when I was a kid (you have to start very young).
[RIMAC] I own an 2007 BMW M6 for 5 years and I’m very pleased with it. It’s very fast, comfortable but it still not screaming “look at me” like Lamborghinis or Ferraris do – that’s one of the things I like most about it. For most people it’s just another BMW so it doesn’t draw too much attention. I like the Veyron from an engineering standpoint and the Paganis for their attention to details. I believe that the Tesla S will be a pretty good car too.
[RIMAC] I was always into electronics, technology and fast cars. A fast EV combines all of my interests into one package. As most little boys, I dreamed of making my own car. When I really started to do it, the decision to make an electric car was pretty easy since I believe that electric motors are simply much better machines compared to internal combustion engines, especially for a sports car.
[RIMAC] Hmm, where to start? Almost anyone can make a car. What I wanted to do is something completely new so we had to develop the entire car and thousands of parts from scratch. I have set the quality and performance standards very high so the project was far from a garage project from the very beginning. We have developed the powertrain and the car with the latest technology and tools, in the same way big car manufacturers develop their vehicles. The difference is that we had a tiny budget and team compared to the big OEMs. We didn’t have any kind of government support (unlike GM, Tesla, Fisker and many others) so funding was and still is the biggest problem. It is also hard to make a high-end vehicle in a country where no automotive industry ever existed so we had no access to suppliers and we had to build the know-how how to produce a car from the ground up. But hey, if it was easy, everyone would do it…
[RIMAC] The adjustable Torque Vectoring system is my favorite feature. When it is in “oversteer” mode and the other systems are in “race” mode, it is a blast to drive – in this mode the car helps the driver to drift through the corners. The R-AWTV system, combined with the enormous torque available from 0 RPM and instantaneous throttle response is a completely new experience.
[RIMAC] We do plan to homologate the Concept_One in the US but after we have started to sell it in Europe.
[RIMAC] Besides the production of vehicles for end-customers, Rimac Automobili provides engineering services and prototyping for other companies. Our technology will be used in a much wider vehicle range, not only in high-performance cars. We have currently no plans to produce mass-market cars under the Rimac Automobili brand, but you never know… “
Thanks so much for rapping with us Mr. Rimac, RoadRoving.com wishes you and the Concept One the best of luck. For our readers, here’s one more glory shot of that electric M3 tearing up tarmac. For images of the Concept One, you’ll just have to stay tuned…
By now the news of Carroll Shelby’s passing has reached everyone in the automotive community. As an icon on the track as well as in the engineering lab, Shelby had a huge impact on the sports car world- his work and accomplishments will live on as the stuff of legend. In honor of Mr. Shelby, here’s a quick rundown of our three favorite automotive creations that will help immortalize him.
Shelby began his professional life as a chicken farmer, selling cars on the side. Like many of us, he had dream for a little-car big-engine combination that would blow the doors off the supercars of Italy.
Those dreams started to materialize when Shelby found the failing British sports car company “AC”- which was willing to unload their “Ace” roadster, as long as somebody could find a suitable engine to pair with the body.
Enter Ford, a big-budget automaker with a surplus of V8s kicking around.
Hands were shaken, papers were signed and in 1962 the AC Ace was impregnated with a massive V8 engine; effectively giving birth to the now-iconic Shelby Cobra.
Original Cobras from this era now carry stratospheric values, with one example known to have sold for $5.5M a few years ago. But fans of the concept needn’t lament, because there are a few companies building reproductions for much, much less money. Replicas might not have the same historic value, wouldn’t you feel just a little guilty ripping donuts in a seven-figure investment?My personal favorite Shelby creation is the Daytona coupe, a machine of Leila Lopes-beauty with legs to match; versions of this vehicle won the epic races of Sebring, Le Mans, Daytona, and the Nürburgring… right before it claimed 23 speed records at Bonneville in 1965.
Only six renditions of the original Daytona coupe were ever produced, five in Italy and one in California. There’s quite a dramatic tale on Wikipedia about that sixth car involving a horrific suicide and the band “The Monkeess”, but I’ll let you follow the link and decide the truth of that one for yourself.While the Cobra and Shelby’s Mustangs are famous enough to earn instant recognition by enthusiasts, what less people realize is that Shelby’s magic reached the Hot Hatch market as well.
In 1984 Dodge teamed up with him to create the “GLH” version of their supermini, the quintessentially-80′s Omni. Two years later, the further-improved GLH-S was released representing America’s real contender in the supermini segment at the time. The nomenclature allegedly stood for “Goes Like Hell”, which would make sense because the dorky little hatchback was boosted to 175 horsepower and sitting on Koni adjustable shocks.
Novel, if not competitive. It was quicker than the Volkswagen GTI of the day; basically the only competitor. Though it was a few years ahead of its time it’s just a little too ugly for anyone to pay what it’s worth, so you’ll be hard pressed to see one in the wild these days.Shelby was also well-recognized for making the Ford GT40 the legendary racer that it was, putting his touch on the original Dodge Viper, and of course developing many fantastic incarnations of the Mustang.
Share your favorite Shelby car with us on Tumblr and help immortalize a legend.
After a long day brainstorming business ideas, the call of the road became too great to resist. By mid afternoon my associates and I gave into temptation and took to the streets a pair of retro ragtops.
There’s only so much inspiration you can gather in front of a computer, after all.
I sniped mum’s DSLR on the way out and got a few good images of my father’s FIAT Spider 2000 dueling with my good friend Ben’s E30 convertible around Cape Ann.
If you didn’t get a chance to hit the tarmac this weekend, we hope these frames will inspire you to get that winter project wrapped up and get on the road!
Even an E30 looks big parked next to Pininfarina’s tiny Italian.
For those who haven’t discovered Tumblr yet- you gotta get on that.
Once you set “supercars”, “suicide girls”, “military vehicles” and “bell & ross” as the tags you want to track you’ve got yourself a steady stream of sweet stuff to scroll through… forever. The picture supply of our ever-expanding internet is quite literally endless, and Tumblr has effectively established itself as the go-to procrastination station for those who don’t want to be bothered with status updates or promotional Tweets.
Now that I’ve dialed in my account to pretty well reflect whatever’s cruising through my mind at any given moment, I’ve been shamelessly enjoying all the visual distractions the site has to offer every time I’m waiting for a Workaholics episode to buffer.
All the pictures of awesome watches and drifting E30′s are great, but I never realized the endless scroll of sexiness Tumblr delivers could also be educational.
Wedged between a wide-angle of two Ferraris street racing in Dubai and a black-and-white of Kate Upton was a high-res snapshot at this year’s Monaco Grand Prix of a spectacular modern sports car that I had never seen.
And what a sports car. The face is big; less-angular than a Murciélago but tougher than an MP4-12C. Tracing the body back reveals sweeping, but subtle lines- like a more tasteful rendition of a Saleen S7. Think Daisy Duke in a dinner gown instead of jean cutoffs. (How many comparative metaphors are you trying to stack here? -Ed.)
On top of all that the Spano features a panoramic sunroof that blends the windshield with the roof to complete the beautiful-simplicity vibe that the car commands. Hell, even the GTA Motor badge is tight.
Why had I never heard of this car? I thought I was on top of the scene, and yet here was unbelievable machine that I didn’t even recognize.
So how many great new microbrew automakers are out there that you haven’t heard of?
There’s a massive treasure-trove of sports cars, SUVs, and luxury vehicles built in super-limited quantities that most of us will never see and some we’ll never even here of. And that just ain’t right. These cars need to be experienced by the masses, if not in person then at least online. Like full speed on an SS1000R or Sasha Grey.
In an effort to educate the masses on the exceptional machines of obscurity, I’m taking it upon myself to seek out the cars and motorcycles that even us auto enthusiasts might not have heard of- then and bring them to you with stats and a healthy dose of high res photos.
I’m not talking about the Paganis or Koenigseggs you can drive in Need For Speed. I’ll be shining light on cars from companies like the Zenvo, Oullim, and Rimac that are unbelievably cool and you will probably never, ever see in real life in our new “Secret Supercars” series.
For now, back to the first vehicle in the series- the Spano.
Spanish F1 R&D lab GTA Motor has decided to bless the world with 99 examples of the supercar I started to describe in the top of this story. You can see how sexy it is easily enough, but how well does it go?
Oh, don’t worry. It goes.
Powered by a house-made 8.3 liter supercharged monster of a V10, the Spano belches out 820 horsepower that propels the 1350 kilogram car to 100 KPH (62 MPH) in less than three seconds and on top a top speed of over 217 MPH.
Those numbers will leave the pilots of Ferraris, Porsches and even plenty of motorcycles in the Spano’s rearview, scratching their helmets and wondering “since when the hell does Spain make supercars?”
Actually, that’s a pretty good question.
The Spano project began three years ago, when GTA Motor team manager Domingo Ochoa had a dream of his F1 team putting their design and development skills to work on a road car. I mean, yeah. Obviously that’s an awesome idea.
Apparently I’m not the only one who agreed, because the car’s launch in 2009 was a cosmopolitan affair in the city of Valencia attended by the region’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Innovation (how’s that for a title?) along with a some local motorsport celebs.
“I think we are before an automobile that will mark a ‘before and an after’ in the Spanish automobile history” said Ochoa, in a statement that I’m sure sounded sexier en Español.
Though not everyone left of the Atlantic knows this Spain actually does make quite a few cars, mostly sporty compacts that are popular in Europe but they have cooked up their share of sweet sports cars as well. But that of course, is a story for another time.
GTA Motor has been in the racing game for about fifteen years, and pondering a road car for five. With the finished product finally fired up and rolling out it’s pretty clear that they’ve taken the time to build something that will do their nation proud, and sure poses well for photos.
With the “Fast & Furious” bodykit craze pretty well receded into the depths of dead automotive style trends, The “Stance” scene has moved in to take its place.
For the uninitiated, “stanced” cars are fitted with wheels so gigantic that the camber has to be adjusted, usually to quite a dramatic degree, making the bottom of the wheels appear to poke out.
The result is vehicles that ride so low to the ground you’d be hard pressed to slide a credit card under them, let alone a jack. Good luck changing the oil.
That splayed-out camber setup first made an appearance in drifting, because it forces weird traction properties on the drive wheels. For that reason you’ll primarily see Japanese imports used as stanced cars, though older BMWs and Volkswagens seem popular candidates as well.
The setup is not ideal for handling, acceleration or fuel economy but it sure does look funky.
Now, American roads aren’t all perfect strips of glass-smooth concrete so this low clearance setup errs on the side of impractical.
Until now(?). Enter “SlammedNavigator.com” …a by-enthusiasts for-enthusiasts website designed to allow people with insanely low cars to get around without scraping their undercarriage components and custom front bumpers.
The concept will be hilarious to some, unbelievably useful to others.
Either way the site has a ton of sponsors, so the scene is obviously gaining traction (ha, get it?). Makes me wish mum still had her four-door Odyssey minivan… I could see that thing toddling around from one drive-thru to another with the help of Slammed Navigator.
In case the Urban Dictionary definition wasn’t clear, this chick seems to have the right idea-
The last leg of the ride, New York to Boston, was a well-worn path I had driven many times living in the Northeast. Compared to the nation-spanning conquest we had just completed, it felt like a ride up the block.
I took the wheel with my knees as I wolfed a breakfast sandwich from one hand and sipped lava-hot coffee from the other after a Dunkin’ Donuts stop I demanded. I delegated horn-honking and finger-giving to Birdie who was reading me the GPS’s instructions from the passenger seat.
Try as I might to convince him the drive wheels were in the wrong place he seemed happy with it. I asked him how awesome a light bar would look on Birdie’s ML and he shrugged as she rolled her eyes. Maybe they’ll be convinced when I get that Jurassic Park paintscheme on there…
The last stop before our final destination was Mike’s Pastry- an exceptional canoli purveyor and Boston institution. Bringing home a take from Mike’s for my family would win me some points right off the bat.
Just over an hour later we were pulling into my parent’s lawn. I had been dreaming of ripping a big, ignorant donut to announce my arrival but I aborted when I realized dad had just put down grass seed. I’d need to stay in his good graces a little longer if I expected him to let me use his tools.
A couple days of showing Jess around the North Shore and she was on a plane back to LA. I was left with a very tired SUV that was clamoring for a detailing and an oil change.
Thus concluded the longest and somehow most incident-free land expedition I’d accomplished yet. I don’t care if it was build in ‘Bama or Bremen, those boys at Benz know what they’re doing. Forget selling this rig, I’m adding it to the fleet!
The End • ML Across America
My friend Molly works at an animal ER in town, and met up with us around midnight to show us a few bars. I didn’t expect much on a Sunday night, but the local law enforcement certainly did. As we made our way back to the cars after last call we must have passed twenty Interceptors holding down Capitol Street containing what could only have been an invisible riot.
Talk about a sea change- it doesn’t get much more American than waking up in West Virginia and wrapping up in a Jersey City highrise overlooking New York’s skyline.
Birdie’s friend Brad brought us over the river (actually under it, on a subterranean commuter train) and to a kickass place in the East Village simply called “Frank Restaurant.”
The $4 ATM charge was well worth the experience of great food, stylish atmosphere and a surprisingly impressive wine list.
Actually, I shouldn’t have been surprised because rich hipsters love places like this.
Back at Brad’s apartment the nighttime view from the living room was downright inspiring. In the garage the car once again got to rub shoulders (er, fenders) with M3’s and AMG Merc’s… all of which were undoubtedly jealous of our humble ML’s epic expedition.
Even though we still had a couple hundred miles ahead of us, seeing the Atlantic meant we pretty well had this trip in the bag. And despite a few trying moments on those empty highways, we had had smooth sailing from one ocean to another.
On our last morning in Louisiana we got breakfast at an apparently famous joint called “Mother’s” which was conveniently located about a hundred yards from our hotel. Stoked.
We enjoyed some grits and pancakes while we left our Benz to regale other cars in the Lowes garage with tales of its adventure so far.
Mother’s certainly had the motif and waiting time you’d expect from a famous establishment, but Jess and I had to agree that it might have poured the worst. Coffee. Ever.
Including that time Austin Powers drank poop thinking it was coffee.
Imagine brewing a gallon of coffee, letting it sit for a day, microwaving it, letting it sit for another week, draining the waste oil out of a New York Taxi into it, microwaving it again, and serving it a week later. Unfortunately for Jess, the milk had gone off as well so she was in for an even more trying experience.
Needless to say, we hit Starbucks as soon as we crossed the Alabama state line.
“That’d be a cool photo op,” I thought to myself, but I quickly became distracted as my phone reminded me it was someone’s birthday.
Before I could finish the obligatory wall post a giant Mercedes-Benz emblem rose out of the horizon, foreshadowing the enormous facility it was mounted atop of.
I almost suggested we stop, but Birdie was at the helm and therefore we were WOT in the left lane.
I shifted from Facebook to Google and discovered that not only was there a Mercedes factory here in Tuscaloosa, Alabama- it was where the M-Class was built!
We had inadvertently driven right past the very birthplace of the car we were riding in. Awesome.
We took advantage of the last Bo’Jangles restaurant we would see on a trip (heartbreaking) and proceeded to arrive at the Nashville Econolodge around 10:00PM.
“It’s $42 for a double bed or $47 for a king,” said the surprisingly cheerful dude behind the counter.
“Meeeeeehhhhhhhhhh we’ll take the double.”
Boom, that’s a beer right there.
Like New Orleans, Nashville had three standout qualities that happened to be alliterative. Those being- bands, buskers, and babes.
The last time I passed through Nashville I left with a favorable impression. And that was on mid-week night right after a catastrophic flood.
Tonight was a Saturday, in the throes of college basketball finals, and the scene was unbelievable.
Live music poured out of every door, and when we weren’t in earshot of a bar the street musicians were out in force. And not just your typical gutter punk with an upside-down bucket and two spoons, these were full-fledge rock bands occupying the sidewalk.
I don’t know if there was a convention in town or if the local population is just well-presented, but the women of Nashville are flatout jaw-droppers. What is it about a dress and cowboy boots?
Ah, Sin City. Famous for gambling, hookers, and now of course, Google’s fleet of self-driving Pruii.
Google’s autonomus vehicle program has been in the news for awhile, but until now was confined to closed airports and other test locations removed from the public. But after today they’ll be at large in traffic, possibly including the Vegas Strip.
So far Nevada is the only state authorizing Google (and reportedly, “a number” of other companies looking to follow suit) to interject these autonomous-autos into the wild.
“To be approved for road travel, autonomous cars must have a combined minimum driving time of 10,000 miles. Nevada also requires autonomous car operators to submit a complete description of their self-driving technology, a detailed safety plan, and a plan for hiring and training test drivers. The state requires a $100 licensing fee plus $13 for each set of license plates, but companies must also purchase a surety bond of $1 million to put up to 5 vehicles on the road. Nevada says a number of other unnamed companies are looking to follow Google and test self-driving cars on the state’s public roads.”
Even in its fledgling state, such technology is pretty fascinating.
The Pros? Well, a serious reduction of drunk driving incidents that’s for sure. And honestly, I’d bet my safety on a robot driving over most of the motorists with licenses in this country.
But in twenty years, will this mean I’ll have to race through autonomic traffic to uncover a secret robot conspiracy as the only one left on a motorcycle?
The beads, the booze, the boobs; all tossed in your face like pennies into a fountain.
Unfortunately we were doused in rain as much as debauchery, but a little weather never hurt- uh, nevermind.
We started our experience by ticking off the boxes we knew we had to- streetcar ride (I resisted the urge to try Brando’s bawl), coffee and beignets (say “ben-yay”) at Café Du Monde and a self-guided tour of the French Quarter.
We met up with Cliff again and he showed us his lab in what was, as our cab driver warned en route, “not a good neighborhood to be going to.”
The facility took me back to senior year of college… red dust on everything, tiny fragments in plastic bags, dudes in black t-shirts scribbling notes. Good times.
“You get used to stuff like that living around here,” said Cliff, in his perpetually unfazed Louisiana drawl.
Lunch was, of course, fried shrimp on a sub- which they call a “Po’ Boy” for reasons I never learned. What I didn’t expect was that it was served at a Chinese restaurant. That also sold cereal. “The Chinese setup shop here, and figured out what people wanted to eat,” explained our host. “I guess they stuck with the dragon décor just ‘cuz.”
He also introduced us to a new genre of city dwellers referred to by contributing members of society as “gutter punks.” The gutter punks are part hipster, part flower-child, rolled in under a motif of homeless. They invariably have lots of tattoos, a dog, and rancid hair. Curiously they seem to disappear in bad weather suggesting a “homeless by choice” scenario, which earns them scorn from both sides of the poverty line.
After sharing that cultural gem with us Cliff had to get back to work, so Jess and I were on our own again for sight seeing.
Instead of aquatic creatures, these bowls contained vodka, light rum, 151, amaretto, triple sec, gin, a dash of grenadine and few sneezes of juice.
Despite the fact that this unique container included a necklace-string, by the vendor’s own admission it was not up to the task of supporting the beverage’s weight.
“Hold the bowl from the bottom, don’t wear it around your neck. Because then you’ll be wearing it all over your shirt.”
Based on the jet-exhaust smell the elixir was emitting, I had a feeling it wasn’t going to matter.
Drinking from a fishbowl full of liquor while strolling down Bourbon is perfectly acceptable, almost expected if you’re from out of town. But the practice felt decidedly more embarrassing when we crossed the line out of tourist town and into the abutting residential areas.
Just walkin’. Sucking down a gallon of liquor. Don’t worry about it.
We circled back and landed at another weird restaurant for dinner. I couldn’t resist a menu item called the “Dead Cajun”- a fried burger (yep) injected with cheese and jalapeños, toped with fried onions, fried fries and what I’m pretty sure was just fried lard. Jess Instragramed a picture of it while I called my mum to tell her I loved her before committing to what would surely lead to a heart attack.
To my left a few fellows were cheering on a March Madness NCAA game. Out the window to my right, a woman in sequined sweatpants was beckoning pedestrians to enter a building with the text “LIVE SEX SHOW” over the door in, you guess it, flickering neon. Instead of windows the building had TV monitors looping content that I gathered was taking place inside.
You’d think I would have lost my appetite, but I was starting to get used to the spectacle that is New Orleans.
In case you’re wondering, yes there is an Uptown where locals go. It’s chock full of its own great nightlife and reminds you that NOLA does in fact have residents. But if you’re in town for one night, that’s not where you’re going to end up.
For some reason I remembered Waffle House being awesome… was this the first time I’d been in one sober?
Decidedly undercaffeinated we pressed east toward the state commonly known as Little Weeziana and the legend that is New Orleans.
As soon as we crossed the border the lush flatlands of Texas gave way to swamp. The first giant puddle we saw was literally stagnating below the “Welcome To Louisiana” sign. By the time we had driven fifty miles in I was convinced we were going to get passed on the right by a fanboat.
Birdie scanned the terrain for something to Instagram and commented; “I’m not sure this place is inhabitable.”
I was inclined to agree, as we had yet to locate a Starbucks within reasonable distance from the highway.
Determined to have an authentic Louisiana experience by lunchtime, I scanned Google for the deep south’s favorite chicken and biscuits- Popeye’s.
Actually I was hoping for a Bo’Jangles, which is a superior purveyor of basically the same thing, but we wouldn’t be in their territory for another few days. It’s like being stuck with Krispy Kreme when all you want is Dunkin’ Donuts.
So we ventured into the bayou, wedged our Cali-registered Mercedes between a Silverado on 33’s and a Taurus that looked like it spent all twenty five years of its existence under water.
Territory remained unfamiliar as we tried to order. The chick behind the counter was speaking some dialect of English I was sure couldn’t exist outside of parody skits about this region, and yet…
Anyway we got the chicken and got the hell out of there, charging into a torrential rainstorm on the way to our final destination.
Birdie’s mum had been exceptionally kind and sent us a first world care package in the form of a couple nights at the Loews Downtown. Our rig would be getting valet parked for the first time since W163 was the current M-Class chassis code.
The place was spectacular- and downright majestic in comparison to the Dallas Motel 6 we had inhabited the night before, where I had tried to microwave Ramen noodles in the ice bucket in an effort to conceal the dead-body odor emanating from under the beds.
We hit the hotel bar before we met up with a bro of mine for just long enough to spot no less than four Tommy Bahama shirts. I was surprised we didn’t see more, considering that there were five dudes in the place.
With that scene exhausted we caught a cab uptown to a place I can’t remember the name of and linked up with Cliff, an old friend from my archaeological field school. He’s a NOLA native who works in cultural resource management in town.
Giving us an expedited rundown of the city he told us that while Bourbon Street and the French Quarter were worth seeing, the city’s life spread far beyond what I’d seen on Girls Gone Wild. From what I could see he was right… but I wasn’t that concerned with seeing how the locals lived. Bring on the beads.
Despite having come across favorable weather for the first time since L.A., an unlimited supply of lattes could not have kept me awake on I-20. In fact, I’m pretty sure we didn’t pass a commercial establishment on this road that would know what the hell a latte is.
We stopped in a town called Tatum to stretch our legs and refuel the Benz. I poured out of the car and tripped to the fuel bowser.
INSERT CARD OR PAY INSIDE.
ADD CAR WASH?
ADD HOT DOG TO YOUR PURCHASE FOR $.99?
ADD GIANT SLURPEE TO YOUR PURCHASE FOR $1.99?
CASH OR CARD?
CREDIT OR DEBIT?
ERROR PLEASE PAY INSIDE
By about the third question on this SAT-level refuel I had had a feeling that I was going to be lured/forced into this sketchy establishment somehow.
I kicked down the sliding door and was overcome with the smell of chemical-based floor cleaner, fried food and little hint of stale fart.
Fluorescent lights flickered overhead while a few ancient corndogs rolled lazily on a heater looking about as enticing the idea of Kimbo Slice babysitting your kids.
But all was forgiven when I made eyes on the Hostess Fruit Pies, and soon enough we were on our way with a full fuel tank and high-fructose corn syrup in my gullet.
I had eaten the whole Pie before I realized my debit card was still sitting on the counter, now almost a hundred miles behind us.
“Hey Birdie, how much money you got?”
Luckily her cousins were buying dinner in Dallas that night, so I thought I’d be able to refrain from racking up international charges on my Australian debit card for at least a few more days.
Sadly I could only hold on to that dream until we discovered Elm Street- the Dallas nightlife hub locally known as “Deep Ellum” which I learned later referred to the phonetic spelling of “Deep Elm” when read with a southern drawl.
With the famous last words; “Cheapest single-malt you got with two ice cubes in it,” out came the Commonwealth MasterCard, $7 transaction fees be damned.
The Dallas nightlife might have been one of the biggest surprises of the entire expedition. Blocks and blocks of bars and music venues are packed into the Deep Ellum district. It has the gritty-warehouses-converted-to-party-spot vibe and therefore was crawling with hipsters (I didn’t think they knew Texas existed). Even downtown had a few good places that were kind enough to oblige us with service moments before last call. The Texans sure know how to party.
The lack of a Chuck Norris sighting and the pungent odor of our hotel room were really the only negs of the Dallas stop. Yee-haw.
Today Jalopnik broke the story of Nissan’s latest contribution to their rapidly expanding lineup of wacky crossovers (have you seen the Murano CrossCabriolet?).
A couple copies of The Juke R, a high-performance variant of their decidedly unique looking Juke SUV-ish thing, have been brought online and will soon be released into the wild.
By a couple I mean, literally two- one right-hand-drive and one correct-hand-drive. So far.
Besides the wild widebody kit and steamroller wheels, the Juke R packs the already-legendary powerplant and drivetrain of the GT-R supercoupe to give it supercar performance to back up the polarizing style.
Due to the slightly (ahem, substantially) different weight/size layout the Juke has to the GT-R (it’s almost a foot shorter and yeah, a lot taller) I’m told the driving experience is a bit more unwieldy.
Effectively rendering it- a bit more awesome.
Appropriately, Nissan trotted this thing out in Dubai- that glimmering diamond of redundancy that has effectively established itself as the flamboyance capital of the world, where it mixed it up with a Ferrari, Lambo and SLS Merc.
Check out this dramatic clip for glimpse of how it went down:
Until this moment the Juke was a car I was on the fence about… is it awesome or wicked awesome?
Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so, because sources are claiming the Arabs who saw the Juke R in action were so stoked on it some were offering crazy money to buy it on the spot.
Of course they did. Have you seen what those Dubaians get up to with cars?
Ten points to any American who can correctly identify that Nissan in the picture, by the way.
It looks like Nissan is inclined to oblige the acquiesce of the Arabian enthusiasts because hey- you throw enough dirhams at something and it just might happen.
For us mere mortals, Nissan is considering a Nismo version of the Juke to provide a lively alternative to the fun-but-not-fast crossover.
Personally I hope they just run with the Juke R so I can pick one up and run circles around all those ML63′s my mums friends drive to yoga.
Do yourself a favor and check out the Jalopnik photo gallery of this beast, then start pawing through the YouTube clips (of which there are many) and start working on your “please” letter to Nissan.
Back on the main street I detected a strong concentration of old hippies as we passed more than two art galleries with hand-painted signs. My suspicions were confirmed when the guy running the coffee shop was rocking round specs and an Indiana Jones hat. At least he was kind enough to recommend a place for breakfast.
Westbound again we took US-180 towards Texas. Kind of.
I was at the helm and kept the revs high enough to keep myself interested, which meant another workout for the 4×4’s well-exercised suspension. Sway bars creaked as I loaded the left, powered on, braked, loaded the right, powered on again… and carried on for another hour or so until, as if by divine intervention, somebody ironed out the road and we were gunbarrel straight again.
The Merc settled out of the last corner and I put the hammer down. The usually subtle V6 made itself known with a kitten-roar as the MPG gauge plunged into single digits and the rev counter surged. Tunnel vision set in and we figured out about how quickly the SUV could travel before its drag coefficient got the better of it.
Despite the throat-clearing I allowed our engine, the ride to Roswell seemed to take forever and a half… an annoyance amplified by the disappointment that occurred at not seeing a single alien in the entire ten hour period we spent in town.
Which is, by the way, well worth skipping next time you’re passing through the region.
Kicked off our first morning outside California with a tour of Mesa, AZ courtesy of my uncle Bob. The place is pretty much exclusively populated with massive mansions and gated communities… all of which had just had a brown/tan/reddish brown paint bomb dropped on them from 32,000 feet. At least that was the case on the side of the highway we saw.
The city abuts national park land, so suburbia backs right up to wide open desert. It’s bordered on the other side by golf courses, and everything gazes westward at the Phoenix skyline.
I was pretty eager to get on the road, because one of the free maps we snagged from AAA in Los Angeles laid out a spiderweb of dirt roads all over this state, and I was keen to see Birdie’s skills on wheels when conditions get primitive and there’s no Starbucks for 1,000 miles. Well, maybe 100 miles.
We deviated from the main highway shortly after leaving Mesa and proceeded down US-76 which, despite being a state highway, is a long and lonely dirt track. Beyond ruts, puddles, blind corners, and oft-flooded dips, there ain’t much out there.
I wasn’t exaggerating when I described it as “lonely.” In about three hours we passed one other truck, three dogs, and about a million cacti (Which were, much to Birdie’s amusement, dusted with snow). Somewhere during hour two it occurred to me that I hadn’t checked to see if the Benz was carrying a jack- or even a spare tire for that matter. Naturally this was a concern I dared not voice, for fear of jinxing the integrity of our Michelin Latitude HP’s.
Thankfully, the issue didn’t come up. Birdie took to the dirt like a regular Colin McRae (RIP), skipping the ML over loose granular like the world’s biggest flatstone on a halcyon lake. The amber “/!\” light flashed in the speedometer as the 4ETS worked up a sweat pushing power to the tracting wheels to keep the car in motion.
We cleared the dirt without injury or damage and if that weren’t enough good luck for the day, the trail intersected with the main road at a Dairy Queen/western novelty store.
The car was now sporting a healthy dose of mud splatter, and I was confident our off-road street cred had increased substantially (from zero).
We spent the rest of the day on main roads and wound up in Silver City, New Mexico.
When we arrived it was dark, snowy, and miserable. We had some apprehensions but didn’t want to drag ass another 100 miles to the next settlement, so we shacked up at the Motel 6.
In another brilliant stroke of luck the previous occupant of our room had left three microwavable dinners in our minifridge.
“Hell yeah, free dinner!”
We dined on Stouffer’s finest and headed back into town. You don’t come to a weird, creepy looking place like this and not hit the bar.
We took two laps down the main drag and settled on a place called Buffalo Bar- The only place open.
Turned out to be a good call, because as soon as I crossed the threshold I worked out that I was the least badass bloke in there.
Two enormous country boys were holding down the bar, while a Boss Hog lookalike was orbiting the pool table with a bolo tie around his neck and a shortbarrel shotgun slung over his back.
I went for a Bud Light and Birdie braved the cocktail menu. The bolo guy, a sophisticatedly-haggard looking gentleman in maybe his 60’s, sauntered over to order something similar. The drink came back, he dropped his firearm on the bar next to me and returned to his pool game.
With facial scars, toothpick hanging off his lip and a cowboy hat arresting a greasy flow of grey hair he was easily the most interesting feature of the Buffalo Bar. I couldn’t help but overhear his discourse with one of the other patrons; it sounded like they were trying to complete some kind of transaction. Regardless, it was the old man’s response that was priceless; “I only deal in guns and gold,” he grumbled in a Jeff-Bridges-in-True-Grit voice. Which was of course, exactly how I had hoped he’d talk.
The bartender seemed to transcend the stereotype though, with an orderly appearance and understandable dialect. He was even kind enough to send us off with a six pack of “to-go” beers (Motel 6 minibar was out of Bombay Sapphire).
Two nights in L.A. gave us enough time to see some old friends, get a few maps, and hit Sprinkles in 90210. I also convinced Birdie to do my laundry- it was an easy sell when she realized the alternative was to be trapped in her SUV with my unlaundered ski socks for two weeks.
We made it out of la la land by mid-morning and rode through torrential, seat-heater blasting, latte-fogging-my-window, rain for a couple hours.
It cleared up by the time we hit the desert, and when signs for Joshua Tree National Park made themselves apparent we veered off the highway and headed into the bush.
Turns out “the Tree” is a hopelessly inadequate moniker… because of trees, there are a shitload.
The moment you pass into National Park land the scenery goes full Dr. Seuss. The surface is a patchwork of coarse sand and rocks punctuated by monolithic heaps of smooth stones the size of our Mercedes. And between those commanding bouldermounds are hundreds of strange little trees that bear resemblance to an inverted cross-section of a human lung.
Thanks to the brochure we acquired in exchange for paying the park’s road toll I was able to identify these as,
wait for it;
Boom, box ticked.
These weird plants aren’t really trees- they’re Yucca Brevifolia, which is a derivative of agave (the stuff you get tequila from). I’m guessing because they taste as gross as they look, the name “yucca” comes from the reaction of pioneers who tried to eat it.
You’re probably thinking; “Yucca Brevifolia has such a nice ring to it, why change the name to ‘Joshua Tree’”?
The answer to that is decidedly less exciting than I had hoped. The Mormons, in their infinite desert-crossing wisdom, reckoned the weirdly shaped tree looked like the biblical figure Joshua with his arms outstretched in prayer. Of course it does.
The only biblical figure I’d ever heard of is Jesus, so I’m gonna have to take the National Park Service’s word for that one.
Semantics aside the park really is spectacular, and even has a few 4WD-only routes for stalwart adventurers. The ML did fine in loose sand and soldiered down miles of track without a complaint, even with the road tires it was wearing. In fact, the ride was smooth enough for me to wolf the rest of our Sprinkles cupcake cache while at the helm.
Having popped out at the eastern end of the Tree, we linked up with US-10 again and dropped the hammer across the barren wasteland of southeastern California and western Arizona to the city of Mesa, AZ where my aunt and uncle were staying at their place.
Third night of travel and we had only made it one state over… but we hadn’t broken anything. Chalk it up to good luck so far.
…or at least their influence on automotive styling does. I didn’t think anybody made window louvers for cars built after 1985, but this Mustang spotted on Route 1 today proved me wrong.
You can always count on SN95 owners to bring back stale trends. Hm… maybe this accessory was installed ironically. In which case, touché.
Should I have Instagramed this instead?