Birth of Pro Street debuting on Spike TV Saturday night

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The always affable Antonio Alvendia -- photographer extraordinaire and scribe of Drifting: Sideways from Japan to America -- has teamed up with EA Sports to produce a documentary on the transition many racers have made from the street to the track. Birth of Pro Street is a promotion that coincides with EA's launch of the next installment in the Need For Speed franchise -- Pro Street -- and will debut at 1 AM this Saturday night/Sunday morning on Spike. We're assured it'll be worth skipping another trip to the club, or, failing that, the space on your DVR.

EA has hosted an elongated trailer over on its Pro Street page (click the skull) and we've embedded a few teaser clips after the jump.

Continue reading Birth of Pro Street debuting on Spike TV Saturday night

 

[via] Autoblog

Fan tours Nissan's Zama storage facility, brings camera

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click above image for a photo tour of Nissan's Zama storage facility

One lucky Nissan 300ZX twin turbo fan was recently able to tour the manufacturer's famed Zama Operations Center in Kanagawa, Japan. The location is the home to Nissan's storage facility of historical automobiles and it is also the headquarters for specialty Nissan builder Autech. Amazingly, the visitor was able to escape alive with pictures. Being such a nice guy, he posted them up on TwinTurbo.net for our viewing pleasure, over a 150 photos in all. It would take a lifetime to recount the significance of all the vehicles captured on film (er pixels). However, we have chosen a few interesting finds that should be noted. Follow the jump for Nissan Heaven.

[Source: rojoloco aka Travis via TwinTurbo.net]

Continue reading Fan tours Nissan's Zama storage facility, brings camera

 

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First pics of new Euro Ford Focus Wagon

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Click image for photo gallery

While Ford has yet to formally release official photos and details relating to the new variants of the updated Euro Focus, the overseas media has been doing a knockup job stealing the Oval's thunder. First, it was Auto Express spilling the beans on the new Focus ST. Next up is the Focus Wagon, courtesy of Autoweek.nl (via our compadres at Autoblog Spanish). As you're probably aware, the Focus station wagon is now an overseas-only body style, and what a shame that is, because it's a snappy-looking one at that. As with the regular Focus and Focus ST, the latest Ford Europe design elements are on display here. A host of engine/trim levels will be available, too, including an Econetic-branded version that should deliver 54 US mpg and carbon dioxide emissions of just 115 g/km. On top of the green-themed car, expect a variety of gasoline, diesel, and flex-fuel offerings depending on market.

[Source: Autoweek.nl via Autblog Spanish]

Gallery: 2008 Euro Ford Focus Wagon

 

[via] Autoblog

All VW models to get touch screens

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Recently we reviewed VW's four-door GTI and one of our few complaints was the difficult-to-use nav system. We suggested replacing all the little buttons and dials with a touch screen. Guess what? They listened! VW's design chief, Walter de' Silva, tells Automotive News Europe that starting next year, every VW will have a touch screen interface. Not just those equipped with nav, but every VW made. It's not clear from the story whether this is will be in Europe only or includes U.S.-spec VWs as well.

According to the article, all the car's main passenger-usable systems will be controlled by the screen including climate, radio, entertainment, etc. While we'll withhold judgment on the usefulness or intuitiveness of the system, it will surely go a long way toward giving VW a high-tech look. Could this have been what VW consulted Apple on a few months ago? Or is it just finally the fruition of VW's tech licensing of touch-screen technology from Immersion back in 2005? If so, that could mean the company's new touch screens will have tactile feedback like GPS units that use Immersion's TouchSense technology. Either way, we look forward to seeing how iPhone-like automotive controls work out.

[Source: Automotive News Europe - Sub. Req.]

 

[via] Autoblog

Catch "Travolta Fever" on eBay

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By buying this (garishly) customized Firebird, you're really purchasing a way of life. Inexplicably listed as a 1971, when it's clearly about a decade newer, this car is your ticket to a full-on star shrine. You get the car, a trunkful of memorabilia and knicknacks, even a domain name (travoltafever.com). The car itself was built in 1979 by George Barris, and it encapsulates some of the pop culture ethos of the late 1970s. The interior has a manly theme inspired by Urban Cowboy, though when we set our gaze upon it, all we could think was Brokeback Mountain. Nevertheless, it's certainly better than the stock Poncho interior was. The exterior has been flared in an odd way, endowed with a large spoiler, and painted in the fashion of the time. The car is actually named "Travolta Fever," so says the hood. How awesome, you could have a Firebird named after the same virus that inspired Travolta to release a double album.

All snarkiness aside, it's a cool piece of Kustom Kar history, which is inextricably linked with a well known Hollywood star. Star value always inflates car prices, for better or worse. This one comes with a collection of other memorabilia, as well, and looks to be in good shape. There's no telling whether it will truly appreciate in value, but $25,000 isn't that outrageous for a car with a known celebrity link that comes with all kinds of extra stuff. Some of that stuff includes a Revell scale model kit, a copy of the "Travolta Fever" double LP, and various other pieces signed by George Barris. You're guaranteed to draw a crowd at your local car show with this thing, even if you're parked next to a Bandit Trans Am.

 

[via] Autoblog

Lights, Camera, Action! Ford's official Mustang Bullitt video

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On the Mustang front, the past seven days have been the week of the Bullitt. The media rush is in stark contrast to the Bullitt's understated demeanor, but with its 315 HP engine and track-tuned suspension, Steve McQueen's chase machine reincarnated deserves it. Yesterday we showed you Popular Mechanics' video of the Bullitt in action, and today we've got Ford's shot of its newest Mustang in motion pictures. The Blue Oval's piece has a lot less substance, but it still features the Bullitt sliding on pavement as if it were wearing ice skates. Check out the Mustang slip and slide after the jump.

[Source: YouTube]

Continue reading Lights, Camera, Action! Ford's official Mustang Bullitt video

 

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Honda gets 20,000 orders for redesigned Fit in Japan

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Honda has received a flood of orders for the newly redesigned Fit in the two weeks since its launch. That's a good thing for Honda in its home market, where its sales have been flagging. Instead of the projected 12,000 Fits per month, there have been 20,000 orders for the roomier and more efficient Fit since its announcement. The deluge of demand for the new Fit could help Honda take over the top spot as Japan's best-selling car, toppling the Toyota Corolla. It's important to note, however, that in Japan, new model announcements are routinely followed by initial order numbers that exceed expectations (which are then trumpeted by the automakers). In the United States, the clamor around the Fit remains hot, as well, so when the new one makes it here - reportedly within a year - it should equal further positive numbers for Honda.

[Source: Guardian Unlimited]

 

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Dual clutch transmission delayed for Mitsubishi Evo X

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Fans of the Mitsubishi Evo X who've been eagerly awaiting the new dual-clutch gearbox will apparently have to wait a little longer. The DCT, which Mitsubishi is labeling a Sport-Shift-Transmission, is the first one being used by the company and was expected to start production right about now. Apparently, Mitsubishi is still having problems building the new units, and that will delay that will delay their installation into production Evos until at least early 2008. For now, fanatics will have to settle for a conventional five-speed manual gearbox.

[Source: AutoExpress]

 

[via] Autoblog

LA Auto Show preview: Porsche Cayenne Hybrid

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Click image for photo gallery

As was the case last year, the upcoming LA Auto Show will have a decidedly "green" tinge to it as automakers use the California setting to tout the alt-fuel offerings that they're both selling now and have under development. Porsche (now that it has removed Detroit from its calendar) calls LA its most important showcase, and will bring the Cayenne Hybrid along for all to see. Due by the end of the decade, the Cayenne uses a parallel hybrid system that will help the SUV achieve fuel economy of at least 26 US MPG. This, while retaining its off-road capabilities and and a towing capacity of 7,000 pounds, according to an earlier announcement by the automaker. Joining the Cayenne Hybrid on the stand will be Lohner-Porsche electric vehicle, which first made its debut at the 1900 World's Fair. Yep, they did in-wheel electric motors way back then, too. AutoblogGreen has more on Porsche's vintage EV, and we'll have a full complement of Autobloggers on hand in LA to get the skinny on the Cayenne Hybrid.

[Source: Porsche]

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AutoblogGreen for 11.12.07

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One could argue that the only real difference between the 1900 Porsche EV in the middle of the picture above and Steve Titus' Solar Bug over on the right is the presence of solar panels on the roof of the Solar Bug. Sure, there's also the century of engineering advances between the two, but think of the similarities. The vehicles were designed and made 100 years apart, and both are electric vehicles designed for two and - if they had better batteries - could go a lot further.

There are two other AutoblogGreen stories I think Autoblog readers will be interested in from this past weekend's coverage: We've got the goods on the greenification of Jay Leno's Big Dog Garage and all the details on the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid. Enjoy.
The complete list of ABG stories from the weekend is after the jump.

Continue reading AutoblogGreen for 11.12.07

 

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Compact, seven-seat Chevy crossover coming to the U.S.

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While GM's new labor contract with the UAW has been out for some time, it took some snooping on the part of Automotive News to find out that one of the models set to be produced at the General's Hamtramck, Mich. plant will be a new seven-seat people mover. The imaginative codename for the new model is the MPV-7, which will find inspiration from the next generation Opel Zafira. According to AN's sources, it will sport a more manly exterior, with a box shape to make room for a "unique interior."

The minivan replacement will carry a Chevrolet emblem at first, with a Saturn-badged variant to follow. Pricing is expected to be in the upper-$20k to $30,000 realm and GM plans to sell 100,000 units annually, both in the U.S. and Europe. If Ford decides to bring the S-Max from across the pond, this could be the beginning of a competitive segment here in the States.

[Source: Automotive News - Sub. Req.]

 

[via] Autoblog

Report: New UAW deal to save automakers $1000 per car

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While throwing billions of dollars into a health-care VEBA for workers might be a heavy hit for the Big Three, in the long-term, the new contracts will likely save each automaker a substantial amount of cash. According to analysts, when the new contracts are in place in 2010, Chrysler, Ford and GM will be saving approximately $1000 on each vehicle it sells. If all three automakers maintain market share - over 16 million vehicles sold per year - that nets GM $3.8 billion per year, with Ford saving $2.4 billion and Chrysler being able to pocket an extra $2 billion. The "if" that started the previous sentence is a big one, particularly with the U.S. economy teetering on the brink of the "R-word."

[Source: Automotive News - Sub. Req.]

 

[via] Autoblog

Honda plans hybrid to rival Toyota Prius

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Toyota's Prius has been the perennial hybrid player for a few years now and Honda thinks it's about time to provide it with some competition. Honda has big plans for its next generation hybrid, with annual worldwide sales expected to be in the neighborhood of 200,000 - half of which are destined to find homes in the garages of North American consumers.

Unlike the Civic Hybrid which has put a very small dent in the Prius' success, the new model will only be available with a hybrid system and is rumored to take its styling cues from the FCX fuel-cell vehicle set to begin production next year. This new model will be joined by another hybrid based off the CR-Z concept that debuted in Tokyo.

[Source: Automotive News - Sub. Req.]

 

[via] Autoblog

Proton may build world's first Islamic car

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What exactly differentiates a car we might think of as "normal" from an Islamic car? For starters, it would include a compass dialed in to always point towards Mecca. It would also feature a storage compartment similar to a glove box for your copy of the Koran. Such a car is being considered for production by Proton, Malaysia's state-owned automaker. It would be developed in cooperation with parties from Turkey and Iran and possibly based on the automaker's Waja sedan, shown above. Proton could use a sales hit, and clearly the Islamic market is one yet to be fully tapped by automakers. We're curious to know whether or not such a vehicle would be seen as pandering to a demographic that's sensitive about its culture, or whether it would be embraced by people of the Islamic faith. Western religions have certainly penetrated car culture, as any person who has christened his center console with a plastic Dashboard Jesus will tell you, though we can't remember a time when Christ was offered as a factory option.

[Source: caradvice.com.au]

 

[via] Autoblog

Do your job at GM, win cash for a car

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Apparently, absenteeism at GM's North American plants is such a huge issue that the automaker has to offer more than just a paycheck to get workers to show up. The new labor contract the General signed with the UAW includes an incentive for workers that go a full year without missing a day. Their reward is to be entered into a drawing that gives five lucky employees $15,000 to put towards a new GM car or truck.

While the idea of offering an incentive for employees to do their job might be a surprise to the rest of us working stiffs, the auto industry's hourly workforce has one of the highest annual absenteeism rates in the U.S. A 2004 study showed that about 10-percent of workers aren't manning their positions during the year - three-times higher than other industries. Naturally, this has a massive effect on labor costs and quality control.

GM has tried a number of different programs to lower that absentee rate to no avail (sometimes it actually went up ), but in addition to the cash giveaway program, a new absence excuse system will be employed January 1st that puts more stringent restrictions on employee attendance. Workers will now need to show proof of test results or a prescription slip for medical issues, and if the problem persists, the offending employee will be given the axe.

[Source: Detroit News]

 

[via] Autoblog

In the Autoblog Garage: 2008 Acura RL

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Click the Acura RL for a high-res gallery

Being first to the party is often not a guarantee that you'll be the most popular. Diamond Multimedia was one of the first to introduce a portable MP3 player with the Rio 500, but it wasn't until some other company brought out a device called the iPod that the market broke wide open. Similarly, Toyota's Lexus division is currently the big dog among Japanese luxury car brands, but it was by no means the first. In 1986, Honda opened up 18 new stores with a brand called Acura.

Over the years, the Acura Legend evolved into the RL as Acura changed its nomenclature. Honda seemed to struggle, however, with what its top sedan was supposed to be. It went from what looked like a fancy Accord to a soft and underpowered Lexus wannabe and finally took a sharp left turn with this latest iteration. The current third generation RL first appeared back in 2005 when it was reintroduced as a luxury sport sedan.

We were actually first exposed to the RL in late summer when Acura held its 2008 model preview at the Waterford Hills race track just north of Detroit. Immediately following that session of thrashing the RL on the track, we asked Acura if we could spend more time with an RL and got one for a week shortly afterward.

Gallery: In the Autoblog Garage: 2008 Acura RL


All photos (C)2007 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.

Continue reading In the Autoblog Garage: 2008 Acura RL

 

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Corporate Carpooling: Zipcar and Flexcar to merge

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Both Zipcar and Flexcar are known as the two biggest players in the nascent industry of renting cars by the hour in urban areas and around college campuses. Their pick-up and drop-off locations have popped up all over the country, as well as Canada and London, though surprisingly the two companies only compete directly in Washington D.C. and San Francisco. Neither company, however, has managed to turn a profit, so they've decided to merge, combine their fleets and operate under the Zipcar brand name out of Cambridge, MA. Though both firms operate fleets that number in the thousands, neither had become big enough to enjoy those cost savings that only come from large economies of scale. Following the merge, they should be able to capitalize on reduce costs for everything from the cars themselves to the insurance with which they're covered. The execs handling the merge expect their first profit maybe within a year, and then an IPO may follow shortly after. For anyone who uses these services, the merger is undoubtedly great news. We can't attest to how well the system works having never tried it, but perhaps we'll give it a go now that renting cars by the hour is going mainstream.

[Source: Washington Post via AutobloGreen]

Continue reading Corporate Carpooling: Zipcar and Flexcar to merge

 

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2008 Porsche 911 GT2 introduction: Suspension technology

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While the incredible power output of the new Porsche GT2 gets plenty of attention, it's the suspension and braking systems that should be receiving credit for making this vehicle something other than just a straight-line terror.

At the GT2's North American introduction, we had the opportunity not just to try out the hardware on the track, but also to discuss it in detail with GT2 Product Engineer Carsten Schebsdat and Porsche Motorsports head Hartmut Kristen. These gentlemen were in the pits with some examples of their work, and described the subsystems with all the enthusiasm of a proud parent.

Gallery: 2008 Porsche GT2 intro

Continue reading 2008 Porsche 911 GT2 introduction: Suspension technology

 

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Doing their heavy duty: OEMs seek one towing standard to rule them all

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A pickup's towing capacity is perhaps its biggest bragging point. With the arrival of the full-size Toyota Tundra on the scene, truck makers began upping their maximum tow rating for half-tons just to beat the Japanese truck's rating of 10,800 lbs. The Ford F-150, for instance, jumped from a maximum two rating of 9,900 lbs. to 11,000 lbs. overnight. Unfortunately, these tow ratings that are held in such high esteem are practically worthless when comparing trucks side by side. That's because there is no standard for rating how much a pickup can tow, so companies are free to determine the maximum towing capacity of their trucks under ideal conditions that will yield the best results. Well, all of that's about to change.

According to Pickuptruck.com, every major pickup manufacturer including Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda and Toyota, as well as a select group of trailer and hitch makers, convened last winter with the Society of Automotive Engineers to develop a single towing standard to rate pickups all the way from half-tons to Class 5 trucks. Dubbed the 'J-2807 - Performance Requirements for Determining Tow Vehicle Gross Combination Weight Ratings and Trailer Weight Ratings', the standard will reportedly include testing trucks with a trailer in tow on a level grade and 7% incline with an ambient temperature of 100 degrees F. Each truck will be timed from 0 to 60 mph, and their braking and cooling performance will also be measured. Other aspects of towing that involve trailers and hitches like tongue weight will also be standardized.

While the standards are about to be voted upon by a group of representatives from each company, they should be in place so that by mid-2008 all advertisements that boast a truck's maximum towing capabilities will hold true to these standards. Finally we'll be able to see which half-ton and heavy duty trucks are truly King of the Hill when it comes to towing.

[Source: Pickuptruck.com]

 

[via] Autoblog

Tractorri Lamborghini Mustang is strong like bull

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click either image to enlarge

The SEMA Show in Las Vegas is huge, which is the only explanation we can muster for why we didn't see the Tractorri Lamborghini Mustang there ourselves. Built by John Haugh from Cleveland, OH (w00t!), the car you see is basically a 520-hp mid-engine, all-wheel-drive Lamborghini Gallardo wearing the heavily modified body panels of a Ford Mustang. Out back the rear taillamps of the Gallardo have been incorporated along with a gaping grate through which one can view the Lamborghini hardware. The interior is also mostly Lamborghini, though the door panels obviously come from the Ford.

We know, some of you are asking why anyone would embark on such a project, but why sweat the details when there's a freakin' mid-engine, all-wheel-drive Mustang staring back at you? Just count your lucky stars that there are people out there who will build something like a Mustang-bodied Lamborghini for the rest of us to enjoy. Oh, and we extend an open offer to buy Mr. Haugh a beer at The Winking Lizard in Lakewood so he can show us this insane coupe in person.

Click the Read link below to visit themustangnews.com where there are more pics of the Tractorri Lamborghini Mustang.

[Source: The Mustang News via Carscoop]

Gallery: Tractorri Lamborghini Mustang

 

[via] Autoblog