Driving the APR supercharged Audi R8

R8 (18)They say you should never meet your heroes, and I think the same goes for the solving of the world’s seemingly great automotive problems. We curse and swear at the time, but unbeknownst to us it is often these problems that define the cars we love. Lamborghini’s, as a rule, have terrible rear vision and the owners of Lotus Exige’s are often far more acquainted with their chiropractors than they’d care to admit.

R8 (1)The obvious solution is just to build a supercar that somehow negates these dramas, right? We live in an age where we can 3D print exotic metals into any shape that our brains can concoct, so surely we can just build something that can be backed out of the shed without raising a sweat?

R8 (15)Audi (or more specifically, Quattro GmbH) should be commended for building the R8, for by any rational measure it is the best baby supercar you can buy. They have approached the R8 in a typical Germanic manner – calmly and efficiently solving the myriad of supercar problems to arrive at the mathematically best solution. It has the rock solid quality of an Audi, found from the carryover switchgear to the way the 4.2 V8 fires instantly, every time. It has good vision, usable ground clearance and a somewhat respectable boot. The navigation system is intuitive and the gated six-speed manual provides just enough of a challenge to reward but not so much as to put off a newcomer. Continue reading

Guy’s new Tarmac Rally project: The 1964 Alfa Romeo 2600 Sprint

2600Longtime Any Given Reason readers will be familiar with Guy Standen and his 1974 Fiat 124 Sport tarmac rally car. With a couple of Targa Tasmania’s already to his name, I stepped into the co-drivers seat and did Classic Targa Adelaide in 2011 and Targa Adelaide in 2012 with Guy. We had a blast, the 124 performed faultlessly, sounded fantastic and in both years we walked away with Targa plates for beating the base time on all of the special stages. Those two events were fantastic experiences that I’ll never forget.

Targa Adelaide Day 4 31 of 39After that last Targa in 2012 the 124 sat dormant; I was traveling overseas last year and it wasn’t practical to come home for Targa Adelaide 2013, and Guy made the logical decision to retire from competition and sell the 124. He’d already achieved everything he wanted and had developed it as far as possible, a Fiat Dino road car restoration was slowly peculating in the background and he wanted to spend more time with his family. It was a tough decision but the 124 was sold into Sydney and now resides with some enthusiastic Fiat club members who are gearing up for their first Targa Tasmania in 2015.

2600 (16)Over the past few months Guy and I have been talking about future rally cars, but I hadn’t taken any of our discussions terribly seriously until I logged onto Facebook one morning to find a message waiting for me: ‘Would you be interested in doing a Targa Tasmania?’ What!? You can’t ask a question like that with no explanation, so I got straight on the phone to discover that Guy was a little more serious about getting back into the game than I thought. His ‘retirement’ had lasted exactly three and a half months. Continue reading

Burning the midnight oil

Barry_LoweAs I write it is exactly 29 days until Scouts Rally SA, the South Australian round of the Australian Rally Championship. There are many teams out there burning the midnight oil to have their cars ready for the event, including crowd favorite and twice Australian rally champion Barry Lowe and a group of his close friends who are finishing the build of Barry’s brand new VB Commodore gravel rally car. After over 2,500 hours work in the past few months, it’s actually closer to completion than it looks but there is still a fair way to go.

This thing is going to be an absolute weapon. All info, specs and photos are under embargo until Rally SA, however Barry was kind enough to let Any Given Reason share this sneak preview. The engine is the same one used in his previous VB – a NASCAR GM race 6.8 V8, limited to a shade over 8,000rpm and about 700ish horses for reliability. As for the rest of the car? You’ll have to wait and see…

Walky 100 at Robertstown – SARC Round 2

Robbie 2014 (22)In a shock and completely unexpected result, Damian Reed has won the 2014 Robertstown Rally, round two of the South Australian Rally Championship, in his Mazda 121. Well… not quite. But his efforts in gallantly tackling this creek crossing which formed part of a rally postponed due to bad weather and impassable stage conditions surely deserves some kind of award.

Robbie 2014 (36)Apocalyptic conditions were forecast for the rally and the few days before it, and we prepared with boot fulls of wet weather gear, jumpers and rain covers for the cameras. To be honest it was almost a bit of a letdown when photographer Mark Williams and myself arrived at Robertstown on Friday afternoon to discover dry roads, dust and almost zero mud on our recce. The sun was even out.

Robbie 2014 (35)But as the sun dipped below the horizon and the ambient dropped even further a visible storm front approached bringing howling winds and rain. Lots of rain. As we sat around the bar of the Robertstown Pub that evening the much mooted storm front hit and stayed until daybreak. A lot of us were camping in the clubrooms of the Robertstown footy club that night and almost everyone was woken at some point by the rains. It was torrential.

Robbie 2014 (32)It was a little odd when at around 8am the organisers declared the rally postponed because the weather didn’t seem that bad. It was hardly raining, but the damage was done. Continue reading

The new California T at Adelaide Ferrari

California T (15)In the late 50′s Ferrari was faced with a problem. It made some of the fastest and most technically advanced racing cars, and its road cars were pure works of art. But there was one problem – some customers, particularly in America, viewed the road cars as too focused. They wanted a car that enabled them to enjoy the wind in their hair and the company of a special passenger. With old Enzo surely seeing a cash-cow ripe for milking, the solution was the now infamous 250 California Spider, a vehicle that combined the mechanics of their latest GT racer with a svelte Scaglietti designed convertible body style. Just 106 were built, and today they are some of the most collectable Ferrari’s in existence.

California T (7)Its contemporary namesake, the California T, was previewed to an assembled group of Ferrari owners and enthusiasts recently at the new Ferrari Adelaide showroom on West Terrace in the city. Whilst I’d certainly argue that the modern car doesn’t live up to such a storied name (a 599XX V12 powered, lightweight, limited production racer for the road would be more fitting), the modern iteration certainly embodies the concept if nothing else. Here’s a Ferrari with just enough practicality to be considered for daily duties; with enough luggage space to escape for a weekend away and a folding hard top that can be hidden away for sunny drives.

California T (4)At $409,880 the California is the cheapest way into a new prancing horse, and the Australian distributor expects a whopping 70% of California’s to be sold to first time Ferrari owners. To facilitate this the California T is some $50,000 cheaper than its predecessor, indicating a business model already utilised by several manufacturers to attract buyers to their high-end brands. Ferrari is world famous for its brand loyalty and repeat purchase, so how many of those 70% first time owners will go on to purchase a second or a third Ferrari, maybe something more focused like a 458? It’s a smart growth strategy.

California T (14)You can certainly see the resemblance to the outgoing California, however everything is new save for the folding hard top. It looks leaner, edgier and sportier. I find some of the detailing a little fussy, particularly the mesh used in the bonnet and guard vents, but overall it is a harmonious look communicating its intended purpose and the sporting ideals of Ferrari. It’s a huge improvement over the old car.  Continue reading

Another visit to Classic Throttle Shop

CTS_June_14 (63)There are some things you just do without question; acts that are almost mandatory given another related occurrence. You never change oil without also changing the filter, and you never get behind the wheel without first belting up. In what’s becoming somewhat of a similar ritual, you never make a visit to Sydney without also stopping in at Classic Throttle Shop.

CTS_June_14 (2) In the 21st century we are connected to the world in an unprecedented way – I’ll bet at least some of you are even reading this from the bathroom. The impact of technology is changing the world forever and can be felt everywhere in our society; even frontiers seemingly unrelated are being forced to adapt or die. For example, the internet is replacing newspapers as a primary method of news delivery which leaves the door open for magazines to deliver a material experience, and online shopping is apparently devastating the retail industry. Adapt or die, right?

CTS_June_14 (6)Any smart business person will tell you that a threat is often opportunity in disguise, and what we’re learning is that technology can’t deliver an experience. Industry leader Deus ex Machina is brilliant at delivering an experience, and new players like Zen Garage are fast catching up. I’m sure the Peel Microcar sitting on the shelf in this image is a hint at where I’m going with this, which is why Classic Throttle Shop has quickly become an essential Sydney destination. I wonder how many people with the necessary means stop by for a relaxing Saturday morning coffee only to spot a lithe Porsche 911 in the corner, stew over it for the weekend and then return during the week to make a purchase.

CTS_June_14 (72)Case in point – this track inspired but oh-so-clean E30 M3. It made me weak at the knees on first sight, and had I the means it would be eating away at me right now. And the fact that it was converted to right-hand drive at brand new in the UK by the dealer just sweetens it further. Continue reading

Car hunting in Nouméa

Noumea (3)Cars aren’t usually what initially springs to mind when you think of think of New Caledonia, the tiny collection of idyllic tropical Pacific islands situated 1,200km East of Australia. At the mere mention of the place any normal person would immediately visualise palm trees, azure blue oceans, grass skirts, ukelele’s and drinks with little umbrella’s in them. But Noumea is a city that hosts a round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, so there’s gotta be at least a few gearheads about the place, right? With a rainy Thursday free to explore the city last week, I kept my eyes open for any automotive treasures I could chance upon.

Noumea (8)Less than half an hour after arriving I stumbled upon probably the coolest thing I would see all day – this camouflaged Suzuki Jimny. With a replacement nudge bar, big mud tyres, flares and a snorkel intake it looked like the perfect tool to explore the tiny dirt roads and discover deserted tropical beaches.

Noumea (9)The Jimny was pretty rough but what it lacked in polish it made up tenfold in charm, and it struck me that this is a vehicle perfectly suited to its location. I’m struggling to think of more appropriate transportation for this place, assuming a dash of fun is a requisite.

Noumea (1)New Caledonia as we know it was settled by the French, in a similar way to how the English settled Australia. In the capital city of Nouméa the French influence is felt everywhere, and it’s easy to forget how close you are to Australia. French is the most commonly spoken language, the architecture is commonly Parisian and there are tons of simply incredible pâtisseries and boulangeries scattered about for connoisseurs of fine breads. However anyone with an inclination towards cars will no doubt notice the sheer number of Peugeot’s, Citroen’s and Renault’s getting about – more than half of cars on the road are French. Most of them are sacked out hunks of junk, but occasionally you can find something cool like this 205 GTI. The little details are interesting too, like how the automotive sections of the newsagents contain more single marque French car titles than you ever knew existed. I picked up an issue of a magazine devoted just to the Peugeot 205 for some friends back home.

Noumea (5)How often are you walking down the street and find a Ligier dealership? I got a little excited when I saw images of the company’s fine and detailed history on the building facade.

Noumea (4)Motorsport anoraks will of course know of the company started by racing driver Guy Ligier in 1968 in Vichy, smack in the middle of France. Their JS2 road car used the same Maserati V6 as the Citroen SM, and they competed at Le Mans from 1970 until 1975. Not only that, but they fielded a Formula One team from 1976 until 1996 whose highlights included running the famous Matra V12 in 1976 and winning a race in 1977 with Jacques Laffite.

Noumea (6)So how did they fall from these dizzying heights to become the worlds second largest manufacturer of microcars and the largest manufacturer of drivers license exempt vehicles? I don’t know, I don’t even want to know. These things are only one step away from a gopher. It’s not even a case of another company buying the Ligier name – Guy Ligier’s son is still the CEO.

Noumea (2)As it turns out Nouméa still is a place devoted to the art of Pacific Island living, outside of major events at least. And whilst palm trees, azure blue oceans, grass skirts, ukelele’s and drinks with little umbrella’s in them were the primary reason for Any Given Reason’s visit, it still pays to keep an eye out, right?

Words and photos by Andrew Coles