1931 Riley Aero Special – Rapid Riley – 252

Ashley takes a look at a locally built aero-engined Riley.

What makes us build specials? Common sense tells us we can never make anything as good as a factory-produced machine – and there is a host of vehicles out there which the manufacturers’ research suggests people want at a cost far less than that of a self-built one-off. But there is something else, something just as tangible. A special is a piece of mobile art, an expression of the constructor’s ingenious mind and a tribute to his or her knowledge, skill and appreciation of, for want of a better word, ‘rightness.’

In times past, the automotive industry included many outstanding individuals who produced some of the most exciting cars of all time – men such as Ettore Bugatti, Louis Delâge, Ferdinand Porsche and Colin Chapman. Modern production methods generally dumb down designs to cope with the lowest common denominator in order to make things easier for the driver – driving a GP Bugatti is not for beginners, but then, easy does not offer any rewards.

So, what was Robert McNair trying to achieve by building the special featured here?

Top Priority – Exciting Looks

If you study those early sports and race cars which, by their nature, were at the cutting edge of technology during their era, they were low, had long bonnets to house powerful engines, were beautifully detailed and went like stink. They also exuded a sense of presence that, although sometimes hard to define, remains a dominant feature. Read the rest of this entry »

Mercedes-Benz V12-powered roadsters on verge of extinction

There’s hasn’t been much in the way of new news about Mercedes-Benz SL-Class vehicles recently. It may be because the current model is almost eight years old or perhaps because it’s slowly and very quietly being put out to pasture.

It was back in 2008 that the  SL-Class received it’s most recent facelift but has fallen off the radar of buyers since then, and fuel economy could be a reason. To combat this, Mercedes is discontinuing its twelve-cylinder versions of the SL. The SL600 was the first to go and now the SL65 AMG is getting the chop as well. But it remains unclear if the fixed-roof SL65 AMG Black Series will continue on. Read the rest of this entry »

Aston Martin confirms limited production for V12 Zagato

Aston Martin has confirmed limited production of its new V12 Zagato following a successful unveiling. After winning the award for Design in the Concepts and Prototypes class at the prestigious Villa D’ Este Concours and then going on to complete the 39th ADAC Nürburgring 24 Hour race, Aston Martin claims that there is overwhelming interest from customers for the V12 Zagato.

Based on the V12 Vantage and sporting a handcrafted aluminium and carbon fibre body, the V12 Zagato will be produced in very limited numbers.  Orders are now being taken and production is expected to commence during summer 2012 at Aston Martin’s global headquarters at Gaydon, Warwickshire.

Of the V12 Zagato, Aston Martin’s Chief Executive Dr. Ulrich Bez, said: “Such style, exclusivity and fastidious craftsmanship ensures it will be one of the most highly coveted models in Aston Martin’s 98-year history. A fabulous celebration of the iconic DB4GT Zagato, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, the V12 Zagato is the perfect inspiration for the next 50 years of Aston Martin.”

In honour of the performance and racing heritage of previous collaborations, the first two V12 Zagatos were developed as endurance race cars from the start and went into their track debut just one week after being shown to the public at the Villa D’Este Concours. Read the rest of this entry »

Motorsport Flashback – July 1969: The end of the road for Amon and Ferrari

Chris Amon drove for Ferrari in 27 Grand Prix in the late 1960s. He started from the front row of the grid seven times, led 601.4 kilometres, and scored 34 points including six podium finishes. In Amon’s first Grand Prix for Ferrari, at Monaco in 1967 (Denny Hulme’s debut win), his team-mate – Lorenzo Bandini – was killed, and thereafter the Kiwi was No1 for the rest of his time at Maranello. His final Grand Prix for the Prancing Horse took place at Silverstone 40 years ago this month – but neither party knew it at the time.

It had all started so well. After Bandini was killed, Amon rose to the challenge and scored points in all but two races to finish fourth in the 1967 world championship. In 1968, had points been awarded for qualifying positions, he would have won the title with a race to spare, but finished with little in the way of hard results. Although he managed to boost his income after he discovered the deal his new team-mate, Jacky Ickx, was on – “When I found out he was on a retainer of $30,000 I was livid. I stewed on it for days, trying to figure out how I was going to confront ‘the Old Man’. He (Enzo Ferrari) was always very approachable and available, so one day I got up a head of steam and went in and asked why Ickx was on a retainer of 30 grand when I was only getting a share of the purse. He looked at me and said ‘But you never asked.’ So I did right then, and he agreed on the spot. It was the quickest 30 grand I ever made.”

After the frustrations of 1968, Amon hoped to have a Ferrari that combined the speed of the ’68 car with the reliability of the ’67 car. Sadly he got neither. Winning the Tasman Championship proved to be a false hope. “We basically had a sports-car engine for the first Grand Prix of the 1969 season, at Kyalami. We used to rev it to 11-and-a-bit. Ferrari had decided that the Cosworth had more torque than we did, so they’d rev it less and fatten up the torque curve, but the thing was just bloody hopeless. When I got back to Italy I had a meeting with the Old Man and told him we had to rev the thing more, not bloody less, and I asked him for an engine for Barcelona that revved to 12,000rpm. I said I didn’t care if it was cammy.” Read the rest of this entry »

46-litre V12 BMW Brutus still terrifying after 65 years (+video)

There’s no replacement for displacement is how the saying always goes and as this crazed story proves, that’s not exactly a new sentiment.

After the end of World War 2 Germany wasn’t allowed to own any military aircrafts which meant there was a huge amount of planes and plane parts laying around idle. So some German locals decided that they could use one of the BMW V12 plane engines to craft a one-of-a-kind racecar. Sounds like a good idea right? Well that BMW V12 aircraft engine was a a 1925 46.0-litre 12-cylinder unit, to be precise. Not something you’d fit into your average race car, at all.

Understandably there were problems with this bespoke beast, the engine tipped the scales at 510 kg and was huge measuring 1.8 meters long, 1.1 meters tall and 0.87 meters wide. Locating a suitable chassis in post war Germany was difficult but the keen carmakers managed to get hold of a 1908 American LaFrance car that could take the engine’s size and weight. It then took the builders several years to complete the car, which was manufactured in a workshop belonging to the Auto & Technik Museum in Sinsheim and was given the apt name – Brutus.

According to the museum, the engine puts out 500 horsepower at 1,500 rpm, but other sources claim that it can produce 750 hp at 1,700 rpm (but for only one minute). Its fuel consumption is about as bad as it comes with 1 litre being consumed for every kilometer it travels. For this reason Brutus has a huge fuel tank and is said to comfortably cruise at speeds of over 100 km/h at just 800 rpm. Read the rest of this entry »

Aston Martin’s exclusive One-77 – almost a sell out

The One-77 supercar is the most exclusive of all Aston Martin models, with just 77 units being produced. The sleek body is made with massive amounts of carbon fibre, a 750-horsepower V12 and hand-crafted aluminum panels. With this much technology and effort required the One-77 carries a very hefty price tag of $1.87 million ($2.5m NZ). For most of us that is a ridiculous sum to ever consider spending on any car, but there are those out there that have the means to disagree.

Reports are coming in that 60 of the 77 One-77s are already sold, leaving only 17 copies of the extra rare English exotic up for sale. Further to just buying the One-77 many new owners are apparently opting to spend an extra $30k US to buy the Toyota IQ-based Cygnet mini Aston. While that’s a lot of coin for a flashed-up Toyota, new One-77 owners have got to keep the Mrs happy with something.

Lamborghini completes work on first all-new V12 engine in 46 years

Many think that there’s only one engine that can really compete with the groans of a V8 at full throttle and that’s the screams of an Italian twelve pot. One of the masters of these massive gas-sucking monsters is Lamborghini and since the introduction of its 350 GT in 1964, every twelve-cylinder Lamborghini has used a derivative of the same engine. That includes models like the Miura, Espada, Countach, LM002, Diablo, Murcielago and Reventón. But that chapter is now over and the Italian automaker has scrapped that old design and started fresh with a new beast.

Ready for duty in the upcoming Murcielago successor, the 6.5-liter V12 has been designed, developed and produced entirely in-house at the company’s Sant’Agata Bolognese factory. High-tech features include four-valve cylinder heads made from an aluminum-silicon alloy and short stroke and lightweight construction to deliver an output of 700 horsepower (522kW) and 689Nm of torque.

Mated to this new engine, Lamborghini have built a new type of gearbox called the Independent Shifting Rod (ISR) transmission. Making use of dual shifting rods, the ISR can apparently, shift nearly 50 percent faster than other dual-clutch gearboxes, while weighing considerably less.

If you want some technical details on the new Lambo mill, check out the full official press release below.

Lamborghini Press Release

A milestone in the history of Lamborghini: The new twelve-cylinder and the new ISR transmission — Innovative technologies for a unique powertrain

Automobili Lamborghini is embarking on a highly innovative chapter in the company’s history with an all-new V12 power plant and a new, unique high performing transmission — the twelve-cylinder with 6.5 liter displacement, output of 525 kW (700 hp) and maximum torque of 690 Newton meters was developed with state-of-the-art technology from a clean sheet of paper. The result is a synthesis of breathtaking performance, high-revving exhilaration, low weight and moderate gas emissions. The perfect complement is a completely new transmission concept for super sports cars: the “Lamborghini ISR” automated manual gearbox combines minimal shift times and everyday usability with low weight and dimensions to guarantee that emotional sensation from gearshifts, which customers expect from a super sports car at the very top of the premier league. The new powertrain will enter production ear ly 2011.

The legend of Lamborghini strongly relies on its extraordinary, unique V12 engines.”This new power unit is not only the crowning glory of our product range, it is also part of our enormous investment in the future of the Lamborghini brand,” says Stephan Winkelmann, President and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini. “With this new V12, we are heralding a technological leap that encompasses all areas of the company and our future model lineup. With a unique package of innovations, Lamborghini will redefine the future of the super sports car. This 700 hp engine, together with an all-new concept gearbox, will be the strong heart of the Murcielago successor next year.”

Top performance, low weight

Twelve-cylinder engines are fundamental to the legendary Lamborghini brand — in the past and in the future. The very first model by Ferruccio Lamborghini, the 350 GT, first appeared on the market in 1964 with a twelve cylinder power unit that was extremely innovative for its day. Miura, Espada, Countach, Diablo and, most recently, Murcielago are just a few of the super sports car to have been built in Sant’Agata. All of them were and will be driven by V12 engines — and all have long since taken their place in history as automotive legends.

The next milestone in this glorious history now awaits — Lamborghini’s research and development engineers started with a clean sheet of paper to create an all-new high-performance power plant. The resulting package is extremely powerful and high-revving, yet compact. At 235 kilograms, it is also extremely lightweight — with every single kilo of engine weight representing around three hp of maximum output.

High-revving joy, stunning sound

Even in the world of super sports cars, 515 kW (700 hp) at 8,250 rpm sets a new benchmark. Maximum torque stands at 690 Newton meters and is available at 5,500 rpm. The extremely well-rounded torque curve, beefy pulling power in every situation, incredibly spontaneous responsiveness and, not least, the finely modulated but always highly emotional acoustics make this engine a stunning power unit of the very highest order. Not only was it developed entirely in-house by Lamborghini, it is also manufactured from start to finish at company headquarters in Sant’Agata Bolognese. Highly qualified specialists assemble the engines by hand, with every single one then tested extensively and finely calibrated on an engine test bed.

This exceptional athlete derives its power from a whole package of innovative technologies. For optimum weight, the crankcase and the four-valve cylinder heads are made from aluminum-silicon alloy. The short-stroke layout ensures exceptional high-revving performance and very low internal friction. A lengthy process of fine tuning perfected the thermal management system for the high-performance power unit, as well as the oil circulation system with dry-sump lubrication. The intake system with four individual throttle valves is highly complex — an extremely well-rounded torque curve and outstanding pulling power across the rev range the reward. The exhaust system delivers the lowest emission levels, as well as that unmistakable, spine-tingling Lamborghini sound — from a moderate rumble when cruising through the city at low revs to the howling crescendo of gears at their limits.

Innovative transmission for maximum performance

Engineers working under the sign of the bull have come up with an ingenious mate for the new twelve-cylinder engine in the shape of the Lamborghini ISR transmission. Overall, this is a drive unit that is absolutely unique in the competitive world of super sports cars. The development target was clearly formulated — to create the world’s most emotional gearshift feel.

This innovative manual gearbox combines extremely fast shift times — almost 50 percent shorter than with a dual-clutch transmission — with the benefits of manual shifting when it comes to low weight and compact dimensions, both always crucial for a super sports car. The low shift times are enabled through the transmission’s particular design, known as ISR (Independent Shifting Rod). Instead of taking place in series, as with a conventional gearbox, shifting can occur virtually in parallel. While one shifting rod is moving out of one gear, the second shifting rod can already engage the next. Moreover, the transmission weighs only 79 kilograms — a distinct benefit, even against comparable DSG transmissions, which are considerably heavier.

Ultra-rare Ferrari 250 GTO for sale

It’s a very rare occasion when a Ferrari 250 GTO come up for sale, and mostly, you’d probably never hear about it. Most sales are done behind closed doors between uber wealthy enthusiasts with the sale figure never disclosed to the public. This just adds to the mystery behind what is the world’s most valuable car, and is part of the reason why the cars are so coveted. Just 36 examples were built between 1962 and 1963, all examples are still in existence and easily carrying an eight-figure price tag. A few years ago, a 250 GTO apparently changed hands for nearly $30 million USD, but no one can completely confirm the rumor.

Now, some details will be known about the next 250 GTO to go on sale. RM Auctions have announced that they will be doing a “private treaty sale” of 1963 250 GTO chassis #4675GT. The car has been in possession of its current Japanese owner, Yoshiho Matsuda, since 1996, and has an extensive racing history.

So If you’ve got millions of dollars just sitting around, now is the time to break out the checkbook and buy your very own rolling piece of V12-powered Italian artwork.

Check the gallery below for images of the 250 GTO and check back as we update you on its progress.

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