Throughout the Friday of the show there was something pretty cool going on outside. Around 500 invited or specially selected cars were taking part in the Dubai Grand Parade, running a huge loop from downtown Dubai upto the Burj Al Arab and then back to the convention centre. Whether there were points that the whole parade, led by Dubai Police supercars, were actually all together we don’t know. But we did manage to pap this eclectic mix of automobilia as we left the show…which was spectacle enough. Maybe not quite the buzz of watching SEMA show exhibit cars leaving the Las Vegas Convention Center, but pretty darn cool for Dubai.
…and Usain Bolt. No wonder this edition is wrapped in gold!
Following on from concept pictures of a four-door GT-86 from Toyota, it’s pretty sweet to see the convertible version in the metal. How would that look with full Rocket Bunny makeover?
Whether AMG, Brabus or any other tuner of Mercedes-Benz models, there’s something seriously hard about a modified Merc. For some reason, they’re not always the number one choice for driving purists, but just looking at these and you can hear one of those incredible sounding V8s burbling away…even when they’re turned off. Sleek style and beautiful engines, that’s the name of the game.
This Merc might find fans with the driving snobs though…
Meanwhile, their German rivals continue to do what they do best. New Porsche Turbo and 911 GT3…you probably don’t even need to know any more than that.
Or an ‘M’ prefix in front of a BMW model, in this case the 6.
The new 4-series up close. M4 could be a winner.
Although there’s still life in the 3-series yet!
An ‘RS’ badge in front of an Audi model is never a bad thing either. The new RS6, in this matte grey, was probably one of the toughest looking cars in the whole show.
There were some Ferraris too…in red.
Old habits die hard, so we couldn’t help putting some Ford pics in. The new EcoSport is quite a funky little car, and if they bring out an AWD version it would be even cooler.
Almost as cool as seeing a Focus ST in amongst all the high priced performance cars…a hatchback that can deliver just as many, if not more, thrills than some of the super-performance machinery on show – especially if you’re intending to use it everyday.
Scattered around the show were a few racers, which is always a pleasant sight. From 1960s F1 to LeMans winners the scope covered was pretty broad. But for us, the Hyundai i20 WRC car would be the weapon of choice. How tough does that look!
Naturally there was a glut of Ferraris and Bugattis (more about those in another post). There was also a section of the show devoted to automakers like Chery and JAC – cheap Asian motors that look like ugly rip-offs of European and Japanese vehicles – which we can’t be bothered to cover here. Much like they can’t be bothered to come up with their own designs. It’s far better to concentrate here on the smaller companies doing incredible things or the big companies who were getting a bit wild. The GT-86 below a prime example of the latter; a Toyota backed drifter for the Emirates Drift Team.
Jaguar’s Project 7 concept car is also exactly the type of thing we can appreciate:
What might be the speed-blur ‘car of the show’ though is the Hennessey Venom GT. Based on a Lotus Exige, they’ve shoe-horned a Viper V10 engine in the back and strapped on two massive turbos for good measure. The result: 265.7mph before it ran out of road.
Something that’s claiming more impressive stats though is the Dubai-backed Devel Sixteen. Looking pretty spectacular (think Zonda meets Batman…meets Top Gun) the producers claim it will produce 5,000bhp from the 16 cylinder engine and achieve almost 350mph. It’s a nice story at least. Dubai may have built the tallest building in the world but even with all the dollars they could throw at this, it would be a serious turnout for the books if they ever release a version capable of that… especially if they intend on it being road legal.
Another company from the Middle East is W Motors who have the cool-looking Lykan HyperSport and freshly launched SuperSport (the blue one). The HyperSport has a 750bhp 3.8-litre flat 6 Boxer engine and hits 62mph in 2.8secs apparently. Probably sounds pretty special too.
The Danes are getting in on the act too with the Zenvo ST1. It’s been around for a while, but the first time we’ve seen one of the 1100bhp hypercars in the metal…perhaps because this may have been its world debut (although we’re not sure about that). Apparently only 15 are scheduled to be made, two of which have been sold already.
Hell, even the Spanish are having a go at the hypercar market with the Spania GTA Spano – rocking an 8-litre V10 with over 900bhp and a similar number for torque – it’s a very decent looking car.
While most of these cars seem to be the stuff computer games are made of and the likelihood of seeing one on the streets seems remote at best, could it be that the UAE is the perfect place to showcase them. If anywhere has the money (and fuel to feed them) it’s the UAE…and Iit wouldn’t be a bad thing if the roads are filled with these rather than white Toyota Landcruisers, that’s for sure.
And rightly so. Sometimes it feels a bit wrong to like a boxy car – if you’ve ever looked at a Volvo T5 admiringly then you know what that feels like. But there’s a simple beauty in boxy cars, that even a child recognises. In fact, some rare and iconic cars flew against the desire for aerodynamic beauty, like the Lancia Integrale or Audi Quattro… and try finding a car fan who doesn’t use the words ‘stunning’ or ‘beautiful’ when describing them.
Yet, despite people swooning over curvy lines or only admitting a love of boxiness when faced with the vaunted heroes of boxiness (where only the ultimate models made a real impact on the world), there are two everyday heroes that define square proportions like no other; the BMW E30 3-series and the Mercedes 190e.
While they both had their ‘hero’ models, the E30 M3 and the Mercedes 190e Evolution…
…and they both had a bit of a ‘track record’…
…which of these cars that thought inside the box is cooler? Not just the wild Evolution models, but as a range from cooking-spec models upwards?
The BMW E30 3-series:
or the Mercedes 190e:
Both offered rear wheel drive and that certain austere flare that German cars had in the 1980s/ early 90s. They’ve both been driven by people from all walks of life and offered estate versions for the family man. And in the tuning world, the less exotic spec versions of each model have been given some incredible makeovers.
So, if you had to pick the greatest box-like car from between the two models, considering their top spec models and motorsport heritage right down to their base versions and the modifications people have done to them; which one is cooler?
WHY THE GUILT?: Ever seen a car driving around the UK in summer with ski holders on their roof rack? That’s just plain daft, unless of course they’ve snapped up a season pass to the local dry ski slope. It’s just posing and that’s about it. As for aerodynamics, roof racks have got to be up there with truck wing mirrors in the drag factor, which means a kick in the teeth for fuel economy. Basically, they can just seem a bit pointless.
WHERE’S THE PLEASURE?: On the other hand though, roof racks do suggest adventure. Whether it’s used to carry track day wheels and tyres, a surfboard, camping gear or a bike, the stuff carried on a roof generally points to good times. When it’s carried on the roof of a cool car then it just looks like you’ll be having a blast on the way to and from those good times too. Plus, you can always take a roof rack off.
From a relatively standard Mustang…
…to this matte blue Dodge, muscle cars are big news. The Dodge rumbled around an underground car park for some time looking for a space and sounded superb.
If you want big V8 muscle cars, a Corvette is probably one of the best-looking ways to go.
But you can’t beat a Porsche, as the Chevy below found out.
Supercars happen in Abu Dhabi, but Dubai seems to be a breeding ground for them. A Ferrari California just parked amongst the usual 4x4s in an underground car park:
But one of the coolest things spotted while out and about was this RX-7 in a sleepy residential area of Abu Dhabi. Obviously a work-in-progress, with no engine installed, but here’s hoping the owner is waiting to find a nice Chevy LS V8 to turn up…there’s plenty of them out here after all!
That’s why people with not much interest in cars, but a lot of money, probably buy supercars and the like. They want people to know they’re doing well. It’s probably why we modify cars too, aside from the desire to make things better, we want to show people we don’t want to be like everyone else…we want to be faster. We may also feel that by modifying we’re proving we know about cars, even if others may look and tag us with labels like “boy racer”.
But there’s one type of car that can transcend stereotypes and makes the game of first impressions a lot more fun: timeless classics. They’re cars that you could turn up anywhere in and people would find it difficult to label you instantly. Classless cars in effect.
Take for example a Land Rover Defender, old and battered. Is the driver landed gentry who uses it to stomp across his acres of land, is it the work tool of a builder or the expedition vehicle of an adventurer? You could buy one for under five grand and be whoever you wanted to be.
And the Lotus stable has a few classics that would keep people guessing too. A Lotus 7, for example, might be the vehicle of a sideways obsessed hoon, a track driving addict or a classic car enthusiast who might rarely see the redline, but revel in open top country driving. For under fifteen thousand pounds you could be any of those people.
The Lotus Europa is another car that fits this group. Not the balls-out performance of an Esprit, the Europa is a true classic that would have people checking it out as it drove by. You might have swapped your newish Fiesta for one just to commute from a one-bedroom flat to work in, or you might be giving one of your classic car collection an outing. For less than the price of many new cars you could have people stumped when it comes to trying to stereotype you.
Even old performance Fords could fall into this category. While a Cosworth or an RS Turbo was once (and still is) the type of car tuners delight in, winding up the boost and shredding tyres for fun, the price of some examples now means you’d never be sure who was driving it. Some years back we ran a clean Series One RS Turbo, a classic even then. Of all the high performance or tuned cars (including some outlandish looking creations) we’ve driven, no other car received so much attention at petrol stations or had people come and talk to us about a car as that one. We weren’t any different…we still worked around modified cars, lived in the same place, thought the same things. But somehow, the classic nature of the car didn’t make us ‘scary’ anymore, we weren’t seen as a ‘boy racer’ so much; somehow the car we were driving seemed to influence how people viewed us. It might not fit the timeless classic theme so much, but it was one car that you could have taken to a Ford show, a classic car show, a modified car show or a race event and have been universally accepted.
So if you ever want to drive a car that would let you experience as many different parts of car culture as possible and to not be stereotyped by your choice of wheels, then a well-chosen, affordable classic might just be the way forward. And once you get bored of that…start the tuning!
This is normally used by men when their wives or girlfriends are away to justify infidelity. Not cool. But when it comes to cars…maybe there’s something to be said for this philosophy.
Normally muscle cars, 4x4s, automatics and supercars seem either too juicy, too annoying or just too darn expensive. That’s a UK perspective anyway. In the UK and across much of Europe it’s about hot hatchbacks, powerful diesels in mid-size cars or four- and six-cylinder engines, often with turbos if we’re talking Jap imports. Everything else seems inefficient and, quite frankly, a bit pointless and unloveable.
But a recent move to the Middle East for one half of speed-blur starts to make you question this thinking. When you can fill up a small hatchback for less than £10 (or around €11.7 or $15.5) big V8 engines start looking acceptable. With wide roads and a lack of twisty country lanes, manual gearboxes don’t seem quite so significant…especially when you’re stopped at traffic lights for 50 per cent of a journey. And if everybody else is driving huge 4x4s you start thinking “why not?”
If you can’t be with the cars you love at home, how about trying to love the cars that you’re with now. It might be the way forward.
Even supercars start seeming a bit normal, especially when you can pull up to a supermarket and see a McLaren MP4-12C just popping in for some groceries.
The perfect example of the way you can quickly change your thinking is a car in the apartment’s parking lot – a Chevrolet Lumina SS coupe. Apparently these run a 5.8-litre V8 as used in Corvettes and a 4-speed auto box. Elsewhere they’re also known as Monaros. UK thinking says – too thirsty for petrol, not quick enough compared to an Impreza or similar, far too boat-like to rival a BMW (the closest rear-wheel drive equivalent) and a boring automatic.
Abu Dhabi thinking, however, says – filling it up isn’t a problem, it’s still rear wheel drive, would sound great and the auto box is perfect for leaving traffic lights and slugging about town. Is the next step really going to be wanting a white 4×4 Nissan off-roader with 1000bhp! If it’s time to love the cars you’re with if you can’t be with the cars you love…then just maybe.
Take my Forester for example. It uses the 2.0-litre turbo Boxer engine from an Impreza and has a burble waiting to escape; a burble that an aftermarket exhaust would surely help unleash.
When I first picked up the car it needed a new exhaust and I should have upgraded to a stainless steel one then. To save on expenditure though I went for a standard replacement part and a few years down the line, guess what, that’s decided to fall apart too. So that’s about three years of muted soundtrack and reduced performance.
With the front pipe splitting from the centre pipe, the one bonus is the noise. It might be childish but I love a loud car (a ‘good’ loud car). At that point it was a good car and it was loud, but not good loud if you get my meaning…more amusing loud.
So I decided to search for a stainless steel system, which I figured may have been quite difficult until I hit upon the joys of eBay. A lot of people talk about Impreza wagon backboxes fitting and changing centre pipes etc, but I didn’t want to take the risk, especially when one seller was offering a full stainless steel system specifically for an S/tb Forester (like mine). It was made by Magnex apparently (although I thought they weren’t about any more!) and would come in at a touch under £400 delivered – that’s everything from the turbo back.
Almost two weeks later and a missed delivery later and it turned up, meaning my initial thoughts about fitting it myself had to be canceled due to time constraints…and I’m kind of glad that’s the case.
It took a local and trusted garage almost a whole morning to take the existing exhaust off, the bolts into the turbo causing particular problems as they broke when attempting to remove. It’s amazing the tools garages have for this kind of event, but it still involved blow torches and a lot of effort.
The new exhaust didn’t come with gaskets or bolts either and the old ones either perished, broke or didn’t fit. By mid afternoon the front and centre pipes were on though and it was looking good. Then they offered up the new back box. This is when things get really annoying. You can forgive the rest of it as bolts and gaskets are bound to cause grief after almost 20 years of service, but you can’t forgive promises of a ‘perfect fit’ only to find the opposite.
With the new box in place it was clear that somewhere along the line everything was about and inch and a half too short. If the back box was bolted to the centre section the silencer would be touching the rear anti-roll bar. The tailpipe – in a central position on the back box as opposed to a lower down position on the original exhaust – also couldn’t hook up to one of the hangers at the very back because it was obstructed by the tow bar brace and rear bumper.
Ideas were thrown around on how the new back box could be made to fit, but ultimately they all seemed like a step into a world where there was no other option should we try it and it fail. In the end it was decided the original back box should be fitted to the rest of the new system, but even that meant cutting an inch or so from the old centre pipe and welding it to the original back box to ensure it was the right length. Talk about a mission.
In the end then, after almost two weeks of waiting to get it fixed and an entire day spent in the garage I’m left with a shiny new back box in my shed, a quieter Forester than ever and I’m about £500 down. The plus of all of this is that the turbo does seem to spool up a little further and I didn’t ruin the new back box by trying to weld anything onto it. When I get a chance I’ll need to head to an exhaust specialist and have a stainless steel section added between the centre pipe and back box, plus a longer rubber hanger on the end. I’ll also get them to pop the rivets on the tailpipe surround as the fluted section that surrounds the actual exhaust is ridiculously large.
Moral of this story? I’m not too sure to be honest. It certainly isn’t to not modify as a stainless exhaust is better in every aspect than a mild steel one. However, perhaps it’s another case of doing your homework properly and perhaps allowing for a slightly larger budget than you initially planned.