20,000 pre-orders for the Smart ForTwo

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DaimlerChrysler's U.S. distributor for the tiny Smart ForTwo has taken more than 20,000 reservations for the upcoming minicar, with customers paying $99 upfront for the privilege of being one of the first in the country to own one. With base models expected to start below $12,000 and rising up to roughly $17,000 for a convertible version, the cost effective model took less than four months to tally up its pre-release orders.

Set to go on sale in January, the new Smart will likely be sold through a network of dealers under Roger Penske's United Auto Group, with a bulk of the cars selling through Mercedes-Benz stores.

The tiny two-seater is, in fact, built by Mercedes and features a 0.7L three-cylinder motor. The car has yet to undergo U.S. crash testing, but it's expected to do much better than the previous model, which scored just three stars our of five in Europe's NCAP tests. There's still no word on whether the recent micro-hybrid Smart will come to the U.S.

[Source: The Detroit News]

 

[via] Autoblog

Chinese trucks being built in Oklahoma

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It was supposed to happen in Texas, but things didn't pan out for Tiger Trucks in the Lone Star State. Oklahoma quickly swooped in and wooed the builder of trucks designed by China's ChangAn. In an era when manufacturing is increasingly migrating to China, Tiger is reversing that paradigm. Oklahoma put money and a rail spur on the table and that seems to have sealed the deal. Tiger's advance team is already in Poteau, OK, waiting for equipment to arrive so they can get to work setting up the plant.

Tiger Truck will build the Champ and the Leopard, two versions of the same platform. The Champ is a pickup with a full-size bed and a couple different cab configurations. The Leopard is a version of the Champ with a diesel engine and dual rear wheels that's road legal in the markets where it's headed. Most of the Poteau plant's output will head out of the US, though eventually there'll be a new medium duty truck that will be road legal worldwide. The best news out of the opening of Tiger Truck's new facility is that they're hiring. Tiger is looking to fill 100 positions with local workers immediately, eventually expanding to 300 people in three years time. Props to Tiger Truck for turning modern manufacturing practice totally on its ear.

Press release after the jump

[Source: Tiger Truck via Just-Auto]

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The Opel Calibra could be reborn from the GTC concept

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Back in 1990, Opel introduced a sleek new front-wheel-drive Vectra-based coupe called the Calibra to replace the old Manta. The Calibra was popular in Europe through most of the decade and formed the basis for Opel's DTM efforts in the early to mid '90s before fading into the sunset. In the last few years, Opel and Vauxhaul have offered the now discontinued RWD Holden Monaro coupe and now they are looking for a replacement, which may end up being a new Calibra.

Last March at the Geneva Motor Show, Opel showed off the GTC concept coupe that revealed the design direction for the next generation Vectra. The GTC proved to be so popular that Opel is now looking at adding a production version of the coupe to European dealerships. A range of four- and six-cylinder gas and diesel engines will provide efficiency and decent performance for the new Calibra, which may be on sale by the end of the decade.

[Source: AutoExpress]

 

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London thieves pull jewel heist in a Bentley

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Stealing jewelry in suits and Bentleys? Sounds like something out of blockbuster fiction like The Thomas Crown Affair, but life appears to have imitated art imitating life in London, where thieves pulled an armed heist Hollywood style.

The BBC reports indicate that two men, posing as wealthy tourists, arrived at the west London jewelry store dressed to the proverbial nines, as if potential customers, before pulling out firearms and taking millions in pricey bling and escaping in a waiting Bentley Continental Flying Spur.

Scotland Yard are undoubtedly investigating the robbery, but no details have been released beyond the initial report. If you're thinking thieves with Bentleys wouldn't need to steal, the Bentley was reportedly rented. That can't be a common occurrence, even in London. (Are you listening, inspectors?)

[Source: Motor Authority]

 

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Rendered Speculation: Ford Falcon from Oz

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The Australian-market Ford Falcon is one we would like to have on our shores, and may get if Ford wises up and takes a page out of GM's playbook. The Falcon is RWD, comes with turbo V6 engines, V8s, optional El Camino-like truck beds, and it just looks good. Unfortunately, the Falcon has fallen on hard times, with the venerable Falcon falling to third place in sales down-under, behind the Commodore from GM and the Corolla from you know who. Ford has good news forthcoming, though, as the Falcon is scheduled for a major overhaul in March. The Aussies over at Drive couldn't wait until Spring to see what Ford's next Falcon will look like, so they talked with folks from Ford Australia, did their spy shot homework, and came up with the above illustration.

Drive's rendering uses some queues from Ford of Europe's Kinetic Design, with more angular headlights and sharp creases. There are also some themes from past Falcons like the roundness of the front end and the large greenhouse. Overall, the rendering is very tastefully done, and Ford wouldn't do to badly to put such a vehicle in production. Unfortunately, the changes to the Falcon are largely cosmetic, and the underpinnings are rumored to be largely unchanged. Check out Drive's other Falcon renderings by hitting the Read link below.

Thanks for the tip, Paul!

[Source: Drive.com.au]

 

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Noble reborn as Rossion Q1 in the U.S.

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click above image for more views of the Rossion Q1

Back in February we told you about Noble Automotive selling the rights to M12 and M400 production outside of the UK to raise some capital for development of the M15. At least in the States, they ended up handing over the rights for M12 and M400 production to their U.S. distributor, 1G Racing, of Cincinnati, Ohio. As part of that agreement, 1G had to rename and rebadge the car. The company got to work, addressing a few problem areas in the process. What you see above is the result, the Rossion Q1. It's still recognizable, but sports a subtle makeover. Slightly less raw looking than the Nobles, the Q1 still looks the business.

Rossion Automotive Vice President Dean Rosen tells us that the Q1 has been refined, both inside and out. Power, which was already more than adequate at 425 hp, has been bumped to 450. Slightly heavier, but still weighing in at just 2,500 lbs, the Q1 will rock to 60 in just 3.2 seconds, capture the quarter in 11.4, and continue on until it reaches a top speed of 185 mph. All the while, it encases the driver in a more comfortable interior that now includes features like satellite navigation, power mirrors, "hand-stitched sumptuous interiors," and a top notch sound system. Prices are about the same as the M400 too, starting at a base around $69,000, or about $90,700 with a complete drivetrain installed. Rossion is already taking orders and hopes to start deliveries later this year.

More pics available in the gallery below. Full press release after the jump.

Thanks for the tip, Brav!

[Source: 1G Racing via Noble Forums]

Gallery: Rossion Q1

Continue reading Noble reborn as Rossion Q1 in the U.S.

 

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Spy Shots: Mitsubishi EVO X totally uncovered

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The Mitsubishi EVO X won't be officially unveiled for a few months, but the next-gen tuner-supreme has been spotted completely in the buff, and the good folks over at Motor Authority have posted the pics for all to see. The captured preproduction EVO X differs very little from the concept shown in Detroit seven months ago, with a few exceptions. The rims look close but perhaps an inch smaller than the concept, less-expensive dual-projector headlamps were added, the cool as hell LED fog lights were replaced with more traditional fog ambiance, and more conventional side mirrors replace the super-fly design statement from the concept.

The Evo X figures to be a smash-hit for Mitsubishi with over 300 hp, amazing full-time AWD, a mega-stiff chassis, and a paddle-shift dual-clutch transmission. We hope Mitsubishi can deliver on the affordable price-point that has been established with previous EVOs while upping the performance ante one more time.

[Source: Motor Authority]

 

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Autoblog Podcast #70

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They go on vacation, they never write, they never call, bupkis is what they send as communiques from the front. Our three erstwhile podcast participants, John, Damon and Alex, have pulled it together this week after far too long a hiatus. We proudly bring you Autoblog Podcast #70. Forty minutes and fifty-five seconds of crispity-crunchity Autoblog punditry. John admits to shabby Alero repair right off the bat, but things quickly move on to how perfect the Audi S8 is. You weren't going to use that $110,000 on anything like philanthropy, anyway, so pony up for the Panda Bear upholstery, you'll be glad you did. You could use your S8 to jet-set to Altamont and catch the 24 Hours of LeMons when it comes back around. Damon was there live blogging it this time, but we're going to be campaigning an Autoblog car in October. We hope.

Turning our gaze to the Roundel, BMW has officially officialized the 1-series coupe. With real snort under the hood of even the base model, it appears that this car may have found some of the DNA that the 2002tii left kicking around. Will the styling be off-putting? Will it poach MINI buyers? Is the price too high to attract new people to the brand? Stay tuned. The breathlessly awaited and endlessly promoted Transformers movie finally hit screens, and Autoblog was there. Alex plays film critic and offers a solid analysis (Let's not get carried away, Dan - AN) which boils down to: awesome, until the people start talking. Oh yeah, it's full of not-so-subtle advertisements and product placement, too. Who cares? It's TRANSFORMERS! We should warn you - if you want to avoid the spoiling about the film, skip from 17m 10s to 28m 35s, and you'll be good to go.

We wrap up with a couple of quick ones: iPhones top the list of status baubles for teenagers, and cars are way down. At least if they don't have a car, they won't be using the iPhone while they should be driving. It sounds to us like a serious issue with priorities, though. Speaking of coveted items, a forum member managed to snag some very nice spy shots of the new Challenger in the wild. We can't wait for the 2009-2010 Musclecar Smackdown. Maybe it'll be just as short as it was nearly 40 years ago, hopefully not. Lastly, the Reader Ride is returning. We love featuring your cars, so be sure to look for the post about what to do.

See you next week!

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Ichiro wins Tahoe Hybrid for being All-Star MVP

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Click photo for gallery of Chevy trucks at the All-Star Game

Yes, nothing says "unnecessary" like awarding a professional athlete a free car, but it's all about brand promotion, and El General loves to throw sets of keys to MVP winners. During the Super Bowl, they give away a Caddy, and last night at the conclusion of the MLB All-Star Game in San Fran, Chevy GM Ed Peper was on hand to award an '08 Tahoe Hybrid to Mariners CF and All-Star Game MVP Ichiro Suzuki. Ichiro, in the walk year of a 4-year, $44 Million contract, could buy a Tahoe Hybrid with his pocket money, but that's beside the point, we suppose. His in-game heroics (3 for 3 with an inside-the-park HR) helped lead the AL over the NL for the 9,000th year in a row. Ichiro will apparently be able to add countless more Tahoe Hybrids to his stable as early as Friday, as the Seattle Times reports the M's are set to give him a 5-year, $100M extension. Too bad. He would have looked real nice guarding the short porch in right in the Bronx.

The gallery below has more Chevy-oriented All-Star Game pics in it, including players (current and retired) riding into the ballpark in the beds of Silverados. The GM press photo of Derek Jeter in the Chevy truck could possibly be construed as a subtle dig at Ford, since the Yankee captain is a spokesman for the Tri-State Ford dealers here in my neck of the woods.

[Sources: GM, Seattle Times, MLB.com]

 

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Never be late again: Street-legal Dallara Indy Car

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Click image to enlarge

The DuPont Registry is the car shopping guide many of us use for that mission-critical research on what we're going to buy for ourselves when the good ship Powerball sails into our lives. After all, you can never be too prepared for that sort of thing. The August issue has a real gem nestled among the countless Ferraris, Rolls-Royces, and Lamborghinis you'd normally expect to see in the Registry's glossy pages.

It's even less practical than the most cramped exotic, too. It seats one, and that seat belonged to Eddie Cheever back in 2000. It's a Dallara Indy Car, and yes, it's 100% street legal. Back in its day, a 3.5L methanol-fueled Infiniti V8 sat behind the driver, and while the Infiniti decals still adorn the bodywork, a small-block Chevy provides motivation today. Wearing its original livery, the car's outfitted with all the required lighting, runs on pump gas, has electric start, a carbon fiber and leather-surrounded cockpit, 5 gauges and launches like a sportbike with its 2.5-second 0-60 time. In an era where the phrase "racer for the street" has become become cliché, this bad boy lives up to the description in every sense.

The car was put up for auction on eBay back in December but didn't meet reserve. The old listing's still up, where you can find additional pics, info and video.

[Source: DuPont Registry, August 2007 issue]

 

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Porsche 997 hits 100,000 units faster than any other 911 generation

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Porsche has announced that the current iteration of the iconic 911 sports car, the Type 997, has reached a milestone. The 100,000th 997 has rolled out of Zuffenhausen, and the significance here is not the number, but how quickly it got there. The first 997 was completed in April 2004, and no other 911 generation has reached the 100,000 car mark in so short a time. The landmark vehicle, shown above, is a Guards Red 911 Carrera S with a manual transmission which will be delivered to a German customer. How'd Porsche get to the number so fast? Well, obviously there's demand for the car, and production capabilities have only improved over the years. We wouldn't be at all surprised to see the next-gen 911 repeat this feat.

[Source: Porsche]

 

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AutoblogGreen for 07.11.07

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If you're going to drive from Europe go Mongolia in a cheap car, would you dare convert it to run on straight vegetable oil? You'll be going through countries where you don't speak the language and will need to beg, borrow or buy the stuff for the tank. Still up for the challenge? These guys are, and AutoblogGreen got to talk to them.

We also snapped some exclusive pics of the Ford Hydrogen Fusion 999 and chatted with ZipCar in our latest podcast.

 

[via] Autoblog

Grab your cameras and shoot America's Roadside Bloomery

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Ok, if you're here reading this, chances are that you love cars, love the act of driving, and enjoy taking in all the little details -- the sights and sounds you encounter when you're behind the wheel of your machine. Fred First is a Virginia-based naturalist and blogger, and he's put out a call to arms, asking photographers to send him pictures of "America's Roadside Bloomery." What he's looking for, in a nutshell, is photos that include a road and the wildflowers that grow alongside it. Fred will take the submissions he receives up to October 15, 2007 and upload them to this gallery on Smugmug. When all's said and done, folks will be able to vote for their favorite pics, and prizes for first, second, and third place will be awarded.

The photos already uploaded to the gallery will give you an idea of what kinds of things people are submitting. The shot above is one of the submissions, and happens to be a great car photo as well. It's easy to take the surroundings for granted as we cruise by on the way to work, or shopping, or wherever. Take a moment to notice what's there, and if you like something you see, click that shutter and forward it to Fred. This is a cool idea, so take five minutes to
[via] Autoblog

Not easy being green: First 2008 Dodge Viper SRT-10 off the line

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The 2008 Dodge Viper is one mean machine, with 600hp, 560 lb-ft torque, and one of the most badass production hoods in the history of the automobile. Dodge's newest Viper will be on dealer lots shortly (if only for a minute before being sold), and the folks over at Dragtimes caught one of the preproduction models right off the assembly line. The Snakeskin Green Viper represents one of the five "Lifesaver" colors, which also includes Venom Red, Viper Violet, Viper Orange, and Bright Blue. Way to sissy up an American classic, Dodge. Then again, with killer looks and a sledge hammer for an accelerator, we wouldn't complain if this baby ended up in the Autoblog Garage regardless of color.

[Source: DragTimes via Jalopnik]

 

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S73 T AMG: Pagani power in an S-Class wagon

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Close your eyes and imagine working at AMG, Mercedes' own in-house tuning division that should by now be familiar to everyone. Now go back a decade and imagine being in Affalterbach then. As part of the AMG team, you've had your share of kicks developing monster engines and shoehorning them into otherwise ordinary luxury sedans, and now you've just developed an even crazier engine for the Pagani Zonda. You're looking at the supercar engine, and you're looking at a big ol' S-Class sedan. So tempting, if only someone would give you the budget to put the two together.

Enter stage left the Sultan of Brunei, a monarch with a penchant for crazy cars and the money to make them reality. So in you shoehorn the 7.3-liter DOHC 48-valve V12, all 565 horses worth, and create a monster of a super-sport-sedan. While you're at it, why not fit a special exhaust, brakes, suspension, wheels and full custom interior. Oh yeah, and just for kicks, why not make it a wagon while you're at it. The result: the cartoonishly sinister S73 T AMG.

The Sultan was reported to have originally ordered 15, then decreased the commission to 10 (the oil business must have been slow that year), and sources estimate that a total of 18 were built, with three remaining in AMG's custody. Suddenly the more recent idea of dropping a Lamborghini V10 into an Audi sedan doesn't seem quite so crazy, does it?

[Source: Autojunk.nl]

 

[via] Autoblog

Honda to bring diesel V6 to U.S.

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When diesels first hit the American market after the gas shocks of the 70's, they were unreliable, smelly, loud, and rough. They did get better gas mileage than comparably-sized gasoline engines, but in the eyes of the American public, the negatives of diesel tech far outweighed its positives. Diesel engines have gotten far better in the past 25 years, with Europeans buying more oil-burners than petrol engines. $3.00 per gallon gas (or worse) is helping to usher in a second renaissance for the diesel, and Honda is going all-in with a 3.5L dieselV6 for the US market.

Honda's forthcoming engine, which should be arriving around 2010, should achieve 30% better fuel economy (or more) than a comparably-sized gas engine, which should alleviate some of our pain at the pump. Honda plans on installing this V6 diesel delight on larger vehicles like the Odyssey minivan, the Ridgeline, and the Pilot. We think the new V6 will go along nicely with the planned four-banger in the Accord, and it will certainly help the folks from Tokyo compete with the many diesels the competition has planned for the near future.

[Source: Bloomberg]

 

[via] Autoblog

VIDEO: Mercedes C63 AMG boogies to the techno beat

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A hand-built 6.3-liter V8 pumping 451 horsepower in a compact German sports sedan sounds pretty good, doesn't it? You should see it on video, where you get a better idea of the muscle beneath the skin of Mercedes' newest baby, the C63 AMG.

Sadly, yet again, the exhaust note, on which the Affalterbach engineers spent so much time tuning, is all but completely drowned out by the unfortunate soundtrack, and this time it's trashy trance music. It's still well worth watching, though; the video has some great angles, like the steering-wheel cam focused on the paddle shifter. Sweet.

[Source: vpod.tv via Le Blog Auto]

Continue reading VIDEO: Mercedes C63 AMG boogies to the techno beat

 

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Another tragedy befalls the France family

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The family of former NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr. has suffered yet another tragedy only one month after the former NASCAR chief died of cancer. The husband of NASCAR executive Lesa France Kennedy died in a tragic plane crash along with another long-time NASCAR employee after their twin-engine Cesna 310 began emitting smoke in the cabin. Dr. Bruce Kennedy was attempting to land the disabled plane at Sanford-Orlando Airport but never got there, as the aircraft crashed into a house. Several people on the ground were injured or killed in the accident, which is obviously casting more pain on the France family and NASCAR.

[Source: AutoWeek]

 

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Manhattan Project: Proposal seeks to shut down NYC traffic

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Anyone who's ever driven into or through Manhattan knows what a nightmarish experience it can be, with gridlock congestion and a lack of available parking spaces. Jim Gehr wants to make it even tougher in the hope of drastically reducing traffic altogether by further reducing parking, shutting down the biggest intersection, and increasing green space.

Gehr is the urban planning consultant whose plans have already been famously (or infamously, depending on your perspective) imposed in London, as well as Copenhagen, and he's proposed similar policies for Stockholm, Oslo, Edinburgh, Cape Town, Zurich and Melbourne. His plans for Manhattan would include shutting down Times Square to almost all traffic, while eliminating parking on some avenues in favor of wider sidewalks to accommodate park benches and sidewalk cafes. The result would be a more pedestrian, cyclist and public transit-oriented Manhattan.

While some elements in the city are opposed to the idea, he appears to have the ear of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the municipal transportation department wants to hire him as a consultant, and several prominent civic and commercial organizations have his support, as well. If Gehr gets his way, Project Gotham Racing might be the closest we'll ever get to driving Manhattan's streets ever again.

[Source: NY Daily News via Kicking Tires]

 

[via] Autoblog

2009 Lincoln MKS to get first application of GDI V-6

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Ford product development VP Derrick Kuzak informed the world during the 2008 model preview recently that the twin-force technology that was shown on this year's MKR concept would go into production in the next two to three years on a variety of four- and six-cylinder engines. What he didn't tell us was which engines and which vehicles.

Well it turns out the first engine from Ford with gasoline direct injection will be the 2009 Lincoln MKS. At launch, the 3.5L V-6 will be equipped with only the DI part of twin-force equation (twin referring to GDI and turbocharging). The turbocharging may be added later, although if new fuel economy standards go into effect what might happen is a reduction in displacement combined with the turbo and direct injection to maintain the power level while reducing fuel consumption. At launch, we can probably expect 300-310hp from the MKS or maybe as much as 330 if the rumored bump in displacement to 3.7L happens. All of this also bodes extremely well for the 2010 Mustang which will also be getting the new 3.5L V-6 as the base engine and will almost certainly get the GDI version.

 

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24 Hours of LeMons wrap-up: Galleries, standings and stories

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Click the image above for a gallery of images from LeMons.

We've finally gotten settled in after our weekend of LeMons coverage, and have put together two final galleries for your viewing enjoyment. The first was shot by our boy Brad over at Shutterflick, which includes some of the best action shots from the race on Sunday, while the other gallery consists mainly of static shots depicting the remnants of the competitors and the awards ceremony. Both are chock-full of some great pics that give you a feel for what it's like to be at LeMons.

After the jump, we've posted the overall standings of all the campaigning teams, along with the awards given to the competitors who epitomized the spirit of the 24 Hours of LeMons. Enjoy!


Continue reading 24 Hours of LeMons wrap-up: Galleries, standings and stories

 

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New CRX won't show until 2011, but will be a hybrid

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Back in February we relayed some information to you about a possible new Honda CRX. Our friends over at Winding Road told us that Honda was finally admitting to developing a new CRX based on the Fit platform. The success of small, affordable, fun cars like the MINI proved the market was viable and Honda eventually gave the car the green light. Well, now comes some additional info stating that besides the green light, Honda is giving the new CRX a green powerplant. Some might recall the poor-selling, but much-loved-by-a-few Honda Insight, as well as its resemblance to the wickedly fun but economical CRX. Marrying both loved vehicles into one model makes some sense, too.

WR is reporting that its inside info says the car will definitely be a hybrid, and should emulate the styling of the original CRX rather than its successor, the Del Sol. Good news so far. The catch is that rather than seeing the car in 2009, as originally thought, it is going to debut around 2011 instead. Geneva's Small Hybrid Sports Concept and Los Angeles' Remix were seen as possible CRX design ideas, but it seems that an homage to the original is more likely. We'll probably see a concept version in Tokyo in October.

[Source: Winding Road]

 

[via] Autoblog

Return of the Reader Ride

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It's a rare week that goes by that we don't get at least one comment asking where the Reader Ride of the Day has gone. Well, we're pleased to announce that the RR hiatus has ended and in the next two weeks we'll be accumulating more reader-owned vehicles to showcase on a regular basis. We're still mulling over whether or not we want to keep the same format as before, featuring one vehicle per day and then allowing you to vote for your favorite at the end of the week, or making it a weekly feature, with a vote at the end of the month. Sound off in comments about what you'd prefer and we'll take your thoughts into consideration.

We've got a new Flickr pool set up, ingeniously titled "Autoblog Reader Rides," and we'd ask you to begin submitting your rides as soon as you've got three photos and a brief (or detailed) description of your vehicle. Directions are posted after the jump that outline how to submit, what we need and what our new Flickr address is. Bring your best and brightest, or your downtrodden and rusted -- we don't care -- we just want to see what you're rollin'.

Continue reading Return of the Reader Ride

 

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In the Autoblog Garage: 2007 Ford F-150 Harley-Davidson

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Click on the photo above for our photo gallery of the 2007 Ford F-150 Harley-Davidson

Ah, how we miss Ford's second-generation Lightning. By infusing an F-150 with 380 HP of supercharged 5.4L fury and selecting suspension components that were up to the task of harnessing such power, the Special Vehicle Team (SVT) redefined the sport truck genre and sent the competition scrambling to build worthy competitors. In 2003, the Lightning gained a big brother in the form of the supercharged crew-cab wearing Harley-Davidson livery, but unfortunately, SVT's run came to an end a year later, and with it disappeared the blown Ford trucks.

Fast-forward to the present - the Harley-Davidson package has transitioned back to the F-150 after a brief flirtation with the Super Duty line-up (featuring one of the most garish paint packages in recent history), and forced induction has yet again found its way back into the fold. Now packing 450 horsepower and the blackest color scheme imaginable, we recently got a chance to spend a few days with what is currently the most powerful pickup truck available.

Continue reading In the Autoblog Garage: 2007 Ford F-150 Harley-Davidson

 

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