By Mark Atkinson for MSN Autos
Rich people converting luxury sedans into station wagons and shooting brakes is something we can get behind. And there are plenty on offer, from Aston Martin and Ferrari, to Bentley and Rolls-Royce. Usually, they're done by Italian coachbuilders who then add plenty of flair, or at least look-at-me flashiness, and sell perhaps a handful to a select clientele.
So when legendary Italian coachbuilder Touring Superleggera got its hands on a Maserati Quattroporte back in 2009, it created the Maserati Touring Bellagio Fastback. (phew!) The enormously named station wagon shared the same vociferous V8, and most of the body panels, but the roof, rear doors and entire structure aft of the B-pillars was enhanced. Sure, some of the lines must be challenging from some angles, and the armrest-installed cellphone looks straight out of 1997, but bear with us.
Those colour-matched Borrani alloy wheels drove me insane when I first spotted this after its introduction, but four years on and I have to say they've aged well. Not sure about the Forest Green with tan interior, a combination more befitting something from Jaguar or the Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer's littering the streets during my teens.
The car is being put on the block at RM Auctions' event at Villa d'Este in Italy in conjunction with the Concorso d'Eleganze held this coming week.
Of course, the rarity will play into this too - this is one of only four built. The original owner was, according RM's elegant explanation, "Italian financier and former Ducati President Dr Carlo Bonomi" and the car was presented to him "for use on his estate."
That's gotta be nice.
Anyway, while RM figures it'll sell for somewhere between €80,000 to €120,000 (or about $105,000-$150,000 Canadian), it's by far the least-expensive vehicle that'll be up for bidding... Bugattis and Ferraris and MG's, oh my!
Being a maker of sports and grand touring automobiles for 100 years means you've done at least a few things right along the way. Despite being near-death for more than a few years and needing some serious cash infusions along the way, British car-maker Aston Martin is celebrating its centenary in 2013. And to help blend its past performance with modern design, it's given itself the CC100 as a birthday gift.
The open-topped roadster reminds us of the Le Mans-winning DBR1 from 1959, the last time the brand took victory there. The details of the concept are pretty stunning, like the flip-up 'doors, the race-spec wheels and tires, along with the throwback leather belts and door-pulls inside.
Under the hood, Aston's familiar 6.0-litre V12 with a paddle-shifted sequential transmission. The company figures it'll do 0-100 km/h in under four seconds and top out over 290 km/h. The CC100 was introduced as during a pre-race lap at the Nurburgring 24 in Germany, a race the DBR1 also won in '59...
What do you think? We figure Aston Martin will put at least a limited number into production. Why not? It has no problem pulling seven-figure sums for its small-run projects like the One-77 and V12 Zagato.
Like it? Love it? Loathe it? Let us know.
By Mark Atkinson for MSN Autos
Slow economy? What slow economy? Proving once again that super-rich people continue to buy whatever strikes their fancy, someone just set the unofficial record for the highest amount paid for a Ford Mustang at $1.3 million US.
Apparently, an official 50-car production run was planned, but the price would have been twice that of the next-most-expensive Shelby, so there wasn't much interest.
During the Mecum auction in Indianapolis from May 14-19, someone decided that this one-of-one Shelby was worth $1.3 million. Depending on who you ask, previous records for other Mustangs and Shelby's run from $990,000 paid for a '65 Shelby GT350 through RM Auctions and $1.1 million for the modified Shelby 'Eleanor' that Nicholas Cage drove in the remake of Gone in 60 Seconds. Either way, the Super Snake easily beats both of those by a substantial margin.
So, if you had the money, would paying over $1 million for a muscle car be worth it to you? Is paying over $1 million for any car, regardless of age or rarity, a complete waste? Would you buy a modern exotic instead? Let us know in the comments.
By Mark Atkinson for MSN Autos
Honda's history in Formula 1 is long and full of ups and downs. It was the first Japanese manufacturer to win an F1 race way back in 1965 at the Mexican Grand Prix with Richie Ginther behind the wheel. In the '80s and early '90s, their engines were used by hot-shot teams like McLaren, Williams and Lotus. By the end of their participation in 1992, the company had provided power to six constructor's championships, and five driver's championships, including three for Ayrton Senna.
The decision to supply engines to BAR in 2000 - the team started for Canadian Jacques Villeneuve - eventually led to the team's purchase, and then a decade of disappointment. In 2006, BAT became Honda Racing, which didn't improve matters. Finally, the company pulled the plug in '08, selling the team to Ross Brawn, who somehow managed to mate new Mercedes-Benz engines with the leftover chassis to finally create a winner.
Obviously, that debacle left the company with a bad taste in its mouth. So, with Formula 1 moving to small-displacement 1.6-litre turbocharged V6s from the current normally aspirated 2.4-litre V8s, Honda's hoping its expertise in both the original F1 turbo 'era' and the similar setups currently run in IndyCar, will create a winner.
That McLaren is its first confirmed customer doesn't come as much of a surprise. Ever since McLaren split from Mercedes-Benz a few years back, you could tell the relationship was strained at best. This way, McLaren can completely break all its ties with Mercedes while trying to regain some of its '80s glory. However, since the organizational and naming changes with Honda won't take place until the 2015 season, McLaren will have one year with Mercedes' new turbo-six. Here's hoping they aren't lame ducks during the transition.
In BMW's long history of coupes, there's only been one that's ever been powered by a V12: the '90s-era 850i. A fantastic, albeit heavy, gran touring car that never quite caught on as the company hoped. Using the same V12 found in the more sober 7 Series, the big two-door started life with a near-300-horsepower 5.0-litre unit. Over the next decade, the 850 gained additional letters - Ci and ultimately CSi - and displacement, which meant power rose accordingly. However, even though the final CSi sported 375 horsepower, its added mass meant even the lowliest V8-powered 840i was just as fast and significantly less expensive.
Nearly 15 years after the last 850i rolled off the line in 1999, BMW and Pininfarina look to be channeling the car's spirit for an upcoming concept. From the photographic teasers, the ridiculously named BMW Pininfarina Gran Lusso Coupe will sport some sort of V12. We'd guess the twin-turbocharged 6.6-litre verison found in the Rolls-Royce Ghost, which is normally rated at 563 horsepower, but which BMW will probably tune to over 600 horses.
Word is that under the coupe's skin lies a fully-functioning 760iL chassis, meaning it's road-legal and drivable. That makes the possibility that Pininfarina build at least a few examples for customers a pretty strong guess.
The concept will be revealed at the annual Concorso D'Eleganza at the stunning Villa d'Este on Italy's Lake Como on May 24. Since BMW is the major sponsor of the event, it's taken to revealing some pretty fantastic one-offs, whether with outside design houses like Pininfarina or on its own. Some recent notables include the 2012 BMW Zagato Coupe, the BMW 328 Homage in 2010 and the BMW M1 Homage back in 2008.
Once official photos and other details are released, we'll make sure to post them here. In the meantime, which of BMW's Villa d'Este concepts is your favourite? Let us know in the comments.
By John LeBlanc for MSN Autos CanadaIf the commercial van seen above wearing a Chevrolet bow tie looks vaguely familiar, that’s because it’s a rebadged Nissan. This week, America’s General Motors confirmed it would sell a version of the existing Nissan NV200 Compact Cargo commercial van as the Chevrolet City Express in the U.S. and Canada.
We've talked about the kartSTART program before. It's a fantastic way to teach kids as young as 8 years old not only how to drive, but also the importance of vehicle dynamics and safety. Fellow journalist and ex-racer Russ Bond has done fantastic work since the program's launch a few years ago, and has slowly been expanding not only its popularity, but also its reach.
Essentially, the program gives kids one-on-one attention from highly trained instructors with basics like accelerating, braking, turning in a vehicle that's their own size: a kart. And kartSTART also works with the entire family by going through all of the various new safety systems found on new vehicles and how they work in real life.
Now, with Toyota Canada's continued sponsorship, kartSTART is expanding its schedule to five provinces this summer. Starting in mid-July and stretching through the end of August, the program will be visiting karting facilities in Chilliwack, BC; Calgary, AB; Innisfil, ON, Montreal, QC and Halifax, NS. They estimate being able to educate over 1,000 children over the course of the summer.
For a more detailed schedule and information, or to enroll your family in the program, visit kartSTART.ca.
By John LeBlanc for MSN AutosAs previewed by the Furia concept (seen above) from this year’s Detroit auto show, we already know Japan’s Toyota has an all-new version of its compact Corolla sedan hitting showrooms this fall as a 2014 model. But in a segment chock-a-block with competitive products like the Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus and Volkswagen Jetta, is Toyota doing enough to make its next Corolla a class leader?