It’s been nearly a week since the Italian Grand Prix run at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, in Monza, Italy – and already, I miss Phil Hill. As the first American to win the Formula One Driver’s Championship in 1961, Hill, who died of complications from Parkinson’s Disease August 28, 2008, in Monterey, California, was an important influence on the world of automobiles, racing, and International relations.
Even as recently as this year, Hill was a constant, loyal attendee at races all over the world and as such, was an influence on the culture of things automotive and served as an American ambassador of good will. When I think about the risk that drivers faced in F-1 and other forms of racing in the 1950s and ’60s, it’s amazing Hill even lived to tell the tale.
During the recent CES, I had a chance to spend some time with the Alfa Romeo Spider being displayed as a part of Microsoft’s Sync display. What a lovely car. Powered by a 260Bhp 3.2 liter V-6 engine hooked up with a 4-wheel drive system, the Spider is both sexy and technically clever.
Visually, I love the flowing lines of this car. Check out the detail around the headlights and the lovely use of a canvas, folding top. Designed as a collaborative effort between the Alfa Styling Center, Giugiaro and Pinnfarina, the Spider includes traditional Alfa cues, such as the log and front grill, not to mention the the very Alfa interior.
As CAFE standards continue to tighten their grip on auto manufacturers, decisions about next generation vehicles are becoming more complicated. While the Japanese are embracing alternative power, fuels, and materials, in the U.S., there are some basics that must be considered.
Case in point: The popular Ford Mustang. The 2020 CAFE rules, expected to start showing up in 2013 or so, will make the current engine lineup in the more powerful Mustang vehicles, ah… um… problematic. On the surface, an engine diet and workout program might give life to the car from an engineering point of view, but what about the perception of the public?
There are two types of mainstream designers in the auto biz: classically trained individuals who create vehicles for major manufacturers, and independent creative gurus, who typically build custom or one-off masterpieces. The auto industry lost one of its best independents this week, with the passing of Boyd Coddington. Coddington, perhaps the leader in west coast “Hot Rod” design, died this week at a hospital in Whittier, California.
Perhaps best known for his Hot Rod “Cadzilla” – created for ZZ Top, Coddington was also the host of the TV Reality show “American Hot Rod.” He started building cars when he was 13 years old, operated a gas station in Utah, and was always known as an individual dedicated to creativity, workmanship, and detail.
He grew up in Rupert, Idaho, but by the time he was a teen, he knew his destiny was closer to the California coast. But it wasn’t the sound of the Beach Boys or the surf that drew Boyd west, it was his desire to build little deuce coupes, powered by a variety of then popular hot-rod motors. Years later, Beach Boy Al Jardine contracted Coddington to create a deuce coupe – a 409 Chevy woodie for him.
Boyd opened his first hot rod shop, Hot Rods by Boyd, in Cypress in 1977. By the time of his death this week, his business covered more than 50,000 square feet, had more than 70 employees, and helped bring a number of talented designers into the light of stardom, including Chip Foose.
As with most entrepreneurs, Coddington also had his challenges, including a 1998 reorganization (Chapter 11 bankruptcy), and more recently, some legal issues related to registering cars to avoid emissions and tax liabilities. Regardless, his designs were truely visionary – smooth lines, sharp edges, and a look that always communicated speed and class. Even his daily driver, a Mercedes CLS four-door coupe, had the door handles removed and featured other nuances that dictate the “Boyd look.”
In addition to his custom car business, his reality TLC TV show, Coddington owned a popular wheel company, Boyd Wheels (started in 1988) offering up highly polished wheels designed to make any hot rod a bit hotter.
The offices at VehicleVoice and AutoPacific are filled with models of cars built through the ages, including some fantastic hot rod examples. Tonight, we’ll raise our glasses and toast one of the masters: Boyd Coddington. We’ll miss you and your vision.
In the midst of one of the weakest automobile sales seasons in recent memory, members of the United Automobile Workers union walked off the job at General Motors plants nationwide two days ago, kicking a marathon negotiation session into gear. Negotiators for both sides stayed at the bargaining table until a new deal was announced at 3AM today by UAW president Ron Gettelfinger. The result: GM workers get some important job security protections and GM gets to offload its health plan into a new trust (all details have not yet been announced). This was the first time GM had been struck in more than 37 years. When the UAW walked in 1970, they remained off the job for two full months. The last local UAW strike affected two plants in Flint, Michigan in 1998 in a walkout that lasted nearly seven weeks.
Whenever we can get up early enough on a Saturday and roll down the 5 Freeway to Irvine, we like to take in the Cars & Coffee get-together in the Ford Premier Automotive Group parking lot. This Saturday was special because Morgan Patrick joined our video team as ace interviewer. You will be able to see her video podcasts over the coming weeks.
Morgan Patrick discusses Bugatti Veyron with VehicleVoice producer David Barrett and cameraperson Cameron Barrett
The story behind Morgan’s arrival at VehicleVoice begins with her brother Keagan who is a car-nut staffer at AutoPacific. Keagan writes many VehicleVoice stories and has been seen on several of our video podcasts. After watching the video-casts, Keagan suggested that we add female interviewers to the mix to spice it up and get the attention of younger male viewers.
Well, a week or so later, Keagan’s sister, Morgan, showed up at AutoPacific offices in a friend’s Lamborghini. Not only was she in an outasight car, but she could talk about it intelligently. Putting two and two together, we come up with five and Morgan has joined our VehicleVoice team.
Here are some shots from the latest Cars & Coffee. Quite an eclectic group this week ranging from a 1912 Mercedes 3795 recently purchased by the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center
in Irvine to a Bugatti Veyron.
“Are you from the EPA? Are you from CARB? Are you from the DMV? No? OK, I can talk.” A line-up of Nissan Skyline GT-Rs caught the attention of almost everyone who has ever played a videogame.
Former AutoPacific Car Crazy Jacko talks with Morgan about his Skyline
Recent addition to Mercedes-Benz Classic Collection in Irvine – a 1912 Mercedes 3795 (it is not “officially” a Mercedes-Benz)