Zooming in on NASCAR

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NASCAR racers move fast. Camera shutters are fast enough to freeze the 200 mph action, but what do you do when you want a shot of the entire field of racers? Wide angle lenses create distortion known as convergence, and if you zoomed out enough to get the entire field, you're only utilizing a portion of your emulsion or imaging chips, resulting in a noisy, fuzzy image. Photographer Rick Graves has created a customized Hasselblad to solve this conundrum and has produced some of the most beautiful images of NASCAR we've seen.

The modified camera has been dubbed DistaCam, and uses a high-speed motor drive and a metal plate with a slit cut in it, sort of like a pinhole camera. There is math involved; the focal distance is calculated, the speed of the motor needs to be correlated to the speed of the cars on the track, and the aperture of the telephoto lens is worked out. Once the numbers are crunched, the camera is aimed at an inches-wide spot on the track and then prayers are offered to Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration in hopes that there'll be some good among the inevitable chaff. It's not often that everything happens just so and the cars come out perfect, instead of squished or stretched. Those perfect bits are stitched in Photoshop after the 66-inch long frames are scanned ten inches at a time and cleaned up. When all's said and done, the prints can be monstrous - as large as hundreds of feet long. Cool. It's like those trick aluminum floorjacks they use in the pits; a total hotrod.

[Source: Wired]

 

[via] Autoblog

In the Autoblog Garage: 2007 Jaguar XK Convertible

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click the pic above to view a gallery

"I say, that's a very fine Grand Tourer" said the delightful young man sharing a cookout in the street with his companion pit bull. At least that's how it sounded as it filtered over the transom of the XK while motoring through a questionable section of town. His actual verbiage may have been closer to "Yo, that $#!t is hot," but such is the bliss of driving the 2007 Jaguar XK Convertible, that it immediately transforms your mood and renders the world cheery.

Some vehicles have an inherent sense of self-loathing, almost apologizing for having an internal combustion engine and wheels. The Jaguar XK has no such identity crisis. While it's not the ultimate performer in its segment, if you derive pleasure from Grand Touring, the Jaguar XK has a brace of wily charms to woo your considerable pile of dollars.

Continue reading In the Autoblog Garage: 2007 Jaguar XK Convertible

 

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Chevy El Camino could return for 2011

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Mike Levine at PickupTruck.com is speculating that there's a good chance the El Camino name will be revived in the near future. The prospects just seem too good considering that Holden, GM's Australian division, is set to soon export the Zeta rear-wheel-drive platform to the U.S. for use in the Chevy Camaro and Pontiac G8. More vehicles are likely, and the El Camino could be among them. Bob Lutz himself has reportedly talked up the business case for an El Camino comeback, and the timing could be right for an Australian Ute to finally make the long trip from Oz to American shores.

PickupTruck.com has a few renderings showing what the El Camino could look like, which isn't hard to guess considering that the new VE Commodore-based Utes are set to debut in Australia in about a month. From the A-pillars forward it would look much like the sedan on which it's based, but all body panels aft of that point will be unique to the Ute. The Australian version will have an engine lineup of V6 and V8 engines, and we suspect that concerns over fuel economy would also necessitate a V6 option for the U.S. market. That's fine, as the General's current crop of V6 engines are smooth and powerful. Of course, it wouldn't be a proper El Camino without the availability of a V8, and we know GM has a few of those lying around.

What do you think? Would there be any takers for a new El Camino in the U.S.? We think the answer is obvious, as this truck wouldn't be an SSR redux. Click on the read link to view three renderings of what a 2011 Chevy El Camino might look like and let us know your thoughts in the comments.

[Source: PickupTruck.com]

 

[via] Autoblog

Ferrari GTO cufflinks made of real Ferrari GTO

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Dunhill Provenance CufflinksMuch like the Sex Panther cologne in Anchorman, which was "made with bits of real panther," Alfred Dunhill's enthusiast-oriented Provenance cufflinks are shaped like miniature Ferrari 250 GTOs, and are made of actual Ferrari 250 GTO aluminum body panels. Worry not, friends, as we're quite certain that Dunhill isn't wantonly slaughtering GTOs for the sole purpose of keeping French cuffs stylishly managed. A few panels were probably enough to make a full production run of the limited-edition baubles, which are as close to actual Ferrari GTO ownership as some buyers are going to get. With a price tag of $1800, even that subset of customers will assuredly be among the very well-heeled.

[Source: Dunhill via Acquire Mag]

 

[via] Autoblog

Jetta Sportwagen sales delayed until next year

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Are you impatiently waiting to check out VW's new Jetta Sportwagen? Looks like you'll be waiting a bit longer. Autoblog has confirmed a rumor on the VW Vortex forums that the August launch of VW's new Jetta wagon has been delayed. The posting on the forums said an engine plant fire was to blame, but that remains unconfirmed.

Keith Price, VW's public relations manager, tells Autoblog that the company, "Lost some production" and will roll out the 2.0FSI Turbo models with the official launch of the Clean Diesel wagons in early 2008. Price said to look for a "tiny trickle of 2.0FSI Turbo cars at intro, and an even split of 2.5L and Clean Diesel in dealers to follow" in March.

With a dearth of inexpensive, but spacious wagons on the market, this is indeed disappointing news for those hoping to snag one of these budget five-doors this year. But if it's the diesel model for which you pine, Price said those are on schedule for March, and that, "Clean Diesel Sportwagens will be hot."

We take that to mean, "Get in line."

Thanks for the tip, Scott!

UPDATE: Keith Price wrote us back to confirm a plant fire that destroyed between 12,000 and 15,000 cylinder heads is to blame for this delay. He also says pricing for gasoline and diesel models has still not been finalized.

 

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What actually sells: Fleet sales for first half of 2007

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Automakers often report their sales figures in whatever way makes them look most positive, and for a long time including fleet sales has been an effective way to make a slow selling vehicle look more popular with consumers on paper. Automakers don't distinguish between fleet and retail when reporting their sales, so we've been forced to them recently when we've been told that fleet sales are being reduced. General Motors, Ford and the Chrysler Group have all claimed that reducing fleet sales is a component of each companies' respective turnaround plan, but we've found a document that suggests they're still way behind Toyota and Honda when it comes to resisting the easy route to higher sales.

These PDF documents from fleet-central.com, which we've converted to images and included below in a handy gallery, reports in detail the percentage of sales sold to fleet operators in the first half of 2007. It's broken down by both vehicle segment and specific models, which allows us to pinpoint exactly who depends more on fleet sales than others.

Let's dive right in and pick out some of the more interesting numbers that you may be curious to know.


Subcompacts: (fleet) 149,766 | (retail) 825,697 | (total) 975,463 | (% fleet) 15.4%
Chevrolet Cobalt: 29,090 | 44,141 | 73,231 | 39.7%
Ford Focus: 19,660 | 54,621 | 74,281 | 26.5%
Toyota Corolla 22,999 | 121,348 | 144,347 | 15.9%
Honda Civic: 2,817 | 128,113 | 130,930 | 2.2%

VERDICT:
Not surprising. While the Focus is older than the Cobalt, it enjoys a smaller percentage of fleet sales. The Corolla has a lot of fleet sales, but it's retail sales are so large that its percentage of fleet sales is relatively small. The Civic's retail sales are higher than the Corolla's, however, which means that it is actually the real best selling subcompact.

More segments after the jump! All the numbers can be viewed in the gallery below.

UPDATE: Fleet sales for trucks, minivans and SUVs added to the gallery.

[Source: fleet-central.com via AutoSpies]

Continue reading What actually sells: Fleet sales for first half of 2007

 

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REPORT: Teens covet iPhone over new car

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Ask any teenager a few years ago what one possession would boost their cool status, and you'd probably expect them to say 22-inch rims or an ear-bursting 3,000-watt car stereo. Oh how times have changed. CNW Marketing Research asked teens what they most wanted, and cars were actually way down the list.

Turns out, if you wanna be cool in 2007, personal transportation won't make it happen. No, only 20% of the survey's respondents said a car would impress their friends, down from 35% in 2000.

In 2007, it takes a different kind of mobility to boost cool. Mobile phones were the top desired possession among 16-29 year olds, with 32% saying one would impress their friends. Make it an iPhone, and, according to the researchers, that number almost doubles to 70%.

Other things more desirable than new cars were game systems, iPods, shoes and computers.

Oh, by the way. This post was written on an iPhone. On yeah. Autoblog is SO cool.

BTW - while doing this post we discovered more proof that someone at Apple reads Autoblog. If you begin typing "autoblog" in Notes, Email or SMS, the iPhone's internal dictionary will auto-finish the word for you and capitalize it. Thanks Steve! Photo after the jump.

[Source: CNW Marketing Research via Kicking Tires]

Continue reading REPORT: Teens covet iPhone over new car

 

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Spy shots: 1-series cabrio coming to Geneva in '08

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The recently uncovered BMW 1-Series is sure to inject additional sales volume and revenue into the luxury car juggernaut Bavarian Motor Werks. The folks over at Carscoop captured a canvas-topped mini-Bimmer when nobody was looking, and the resulting shots prove that a topless 1-Series will join the budding lineup. The move makes sense because retractable top BMWs tend to sell well, they demand a price premium, and they just look good. BMW decided on a cloth top as the material of choice, no doubt because of cost and weight concerns, as well as to minimize the impact on the smallish trunk. Expect the 1-Series cabrio to bow at Geneva in 2008, just before BMW's smallest ride goes live.

[Source: Carscoop]

 

[via] Autoblog

eBay Find of the Day: 2006 Mustang in many pieces

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If you're a Mustang fan and you like model cars, this is the eBay auction for you. Exotic Playboy show Headlights and Tailpipes used this pull-apart 2006 Mustang as the grand finale of its final episode, and now this otherwise beautiful yet almost completely useless Stang is up for bidding. That's right, the aftermarket rims on this Mustang are truly just for show, as the only way it gets around is on casters, and the car can be pulled apart into four pieces in about two minutes. The auctioneer says this worthless pile of metal can be used as a promotional tool, but unless you own a bodyshop or you're promoting ways to destroy an otherwise fine sports car, we don't see where this Lock-Block special can help. This four-piece puzzle cost thousands of dollars to "construct", but it'll undoubtedly sell for a fraction of the cost. Check out the gallery of pics to see this famous Mustang in its various forms.

[Source: eBay via Mustang Evolution]

 

[via] Autoblog

Abt Sportsline announces Audi A5-based AS5

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Click image for photo gallery

On the heels of its latest creation the Abt TT Roadster, Abt Sportsline has released the first renderings of its forthcoming AS5 coupe. Based on the hot new Audi A5 powered by the European-market 3.0 TDI engine, the AS5 gets all the thing's you'd expect from a tuner like this: updated bodywork, a new wheel/tire package, a choice of engine upgrades, a new exhaust system, and more.

The AS5's new aero kit is typical of the work Abt has done before, with tastefully inplemented skirts and spoilers, along with a rear diffuser and fender-mounted side extractors. Quad exhaust outlets lend musclular looks and sound to the after portion of the car, and the TDI will be upgradeable to power levels of 272 or 300 horsepower. Sport suspension and brake upgrades will also be made available, and owners can top everything off with a two-tone paint scheme if so desired. We're very curious to see how that looks in the metal.

[Source: Abt Sportsline]

Gallery: Abt AS5

Continue reading Abt Sportsline announces Audi A5-based AS5

 

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Chevy Malibu Hybrid making debut at MLB All Star Game

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2008 Chevy Malibu Hybrid
Click image for photo gallery

It won't hit dealerships until October, but the Chevy Malibu Hybrid is now officially on display in San Francisco at the MLB All Star Game's Fan Zone, which opened to the public today. The Malibu Hybrid is basically the fraternal twin of the Saturn Aura Green Line we recently reviewed at Autoblog and AutoblogGreen. Powered by the same mild hybrid setup, the Malibu Hybrid boasts a 24/32 city/highway EPA fuel economy rating, a slight upgrade over the non-hybrid 4-cylinder. Unlike the standard 4-banger, however, this one should be eligible for a tax credit. By introducing it at the All Star Game, GM gets to kill two birds with one stone: it's puts the new Malibu in front of a lot of faces that probably haven't seen it yet, and it tells the public that a Hybrid version's on the way. Malibu will also be available with the aforementioned non-hybrid Ecotec as well as GM's smooth-operating 3.6L V6. Follow the jump for the press release issued by GM.

[Source: GM]

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Monroe Truck offers production version of Transformers' Ironhide

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Ironhide as he appears in the film, Transformers

Of all the GM rides playing Autobots in Transformers, one of the favorites around here is Ironhide (above), who rolls as a completely tricked GMC TopKick 6500 pickup truck when he's not kicking ass, taking names, and intimidating Chihuahuas as the Autobots' weapons specialist. Monroe Truck Equipment, which modifies rides like the TopKick for business owners, has partnered up with Hasbro to offer the ultimate adult Transformers toy: a near-exact Ironhide replica (minus the giant transforming robot element, of course).

Ironhide edition TopKick by Monroe TruckIronhide buyers get twin big-rig-style smokestacks, 20" black wheels wearing massive tires in lieu of the TopKick's standard dualies, custom, powder-coated front and rear bumpers, and a monster winch up front. The only real differences we see on the Monroe Truck version are the amber running lights (Ironhide's are blue) and the non-aero (but more useful) mirrors. As for the look of horror on Prius drivers' faces when you thunder by in this thing, well, that's an intangible that you can't put a value on. Ironhide effing rules!

[Source: Inside Line]

 

[via] Autoblog

Beijing temporarily bans 1 million cars to reduce pollution

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In China's capital Beijing, smog levels have gotten so bad that the State Environmental Protection Administration will be removing one million cars from the city's streets. The Chinese government announced this week that a partial driving ban would be in place between August 7 and 20 in a hope that Beijing's perpetual smog will disappear. A previous ban of all government cars earlier this year saw traffic jams ease and blue skies return to the capital.

The city has already spent more than $15 billion on trying to improve its air quality, especially now that the Olympic Games being hosted there are only a year away. The situation in Beijing has become so bad that officials measure the performance of their initiatives by counting how many days of blue skies they have in a year. By that measure, these initiatives are having an impact. Last year saw 241 blue sky days compared with less than 100 only ten years ago.

Considering only a handful of Chinese own cars and the fast growth of the economy, we wouldn't be surprised if this is just the beginning of drastic measures taken by the government to curb the country's pollution.

[Source: Times Online]

 

[via] Autoblog

First review of the BMW M3 by Car Magazine

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click above image for a huge gallery of high-res shots

We've all seen the spy shots, read up on the crucial details, taken a look at the competition, but now it's time for the final step. A review of BMW's new M3. Not due to go on sale until September, the world's media were invited for a drive of the car and here's a quick synopsis of what the lads from CAR Magazine thought about Munich's latest Bahnstormer.

Sporting a new V8 engine, the former model's trademark metallic rasp is now gone, replaced with a muscle car burble synonymous with performance eights. The powerplant's high-revving nature means there's a hole in its low range torque so it needs to be worked to see results. The same six-speed manual carries over from the outgoing version but expect to see a new dual-clutch box to follow soon after.

The final verdict? The car isn't as hard edged as the previous E46 version - a cost of trying to please a more general audience - but it's still very fast, practical and well built. Now the wait is on for the hardcore, track-focused, CSL version.

[Source: Car Magazine]

Gallery: 2008 BMW M3

 

[via] Autoblog

Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe bought at charity auction for $1.6 million

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click above image to view more high-res pics of the Drophead Coupe from RR

Giving to charity is a good thing, no doubt, but what better incentive is there for budding philanthropists than dangling the keys to a brand new Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe in front of their compassionate eyes? One guy took the bait and dropped £800,000, or a little over $1.6 million, at the 9th Annual White Tie and Tiara Ball's charity auction for a new Drophead Coupe. His cash will go to the Elton John AIDS Foundation, while the Drophead Coupe will arrive in exchange later this summer. A new RR Phantom Drophead Coupe costs "only" £260,000, but in comparison to what the undisclosed auction winner paid, that's beginning to sound like a bargain.

[Source: Newspress]

Continue reading Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe bought at charity auction for $1.6 million

 

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[via] Autoblog