Today brings a car I've been trying to snap a photo of for quite a while. It's strange, with all the people in Chicago and all the cars on its streets, but my morning walk and this driver's commute have crossed regularly.
What you see above is not a Porsche. (Readers who've played Gran Turismo know where I'm going with this.) It's a Ruf. Ruf GmbH is a small German auto manufacturer that buys bodies and components from Porsche, assembles them with their own highly modified engines, transmissions, suspensions, and body panels, and attaches unique badging and serial numbers. While Ruf has close ties to Porsche - every Ruf design to date started out as a Porsche - the vehicles are modified to such an extent that Porsche will not actually allow them to carry the name. It's for this reason that a manufacturer with annual production numbers in the hundreds manages to find fame in almost every racing video game on the market. While Porsche is notoriously strict with product licensing, Ruf, as a manufacturer (not a tuner), can independently grant permission to use its products. As a result, the Ruf brand has become a clever loophole to get "Porsche-like" vehicles into video games.
This particular Ruf is an exceptionally rare BTR Slantnose. The BTR, manufactured from 1979 to 1991, was inspired by FIA Group B racing. This example is one of the earlier models, based on the "930" model Porsche 911 turbo. In some circles, the 930 is known as the "widowmaker", due to a combination of rear-engine weight bias and turbo lag that could cause sudden, dramatic oversteer. While the 930 could be a dangerous toy for executives of the 1980s, in skilled hands it could compete with any car on any road at any price. Ruf took the 930 Porsche and re-engineered almost every component. The engine bore was increased, the cylinder head ports were enlarged, and the pistons, connecting rods, turbocharger, intercooler, intake manifold, exhaust and camshafts were replaced with even higher performance versions. Because Porsches of this vintage still used air-cooled engines, the cylinder barrels were even replaced with a Ruf design sporting revised cooling fins. While Porsche only sold the 930 with a four-speed manual, citing reliability concerns, Ruf found a way to include a fifth gear without compromising durability. Suspension components were strengthened, and custom 17-inch wheels (9 inches wide in the front, 10 in the rear) were fitted. Allegedly, 17-inch wheels were required because there was no contemporary 16-inch tire capable of handling the BTR's power. For the slantnose, custom aluminum panels were crafted for the front, and the rear fenders were flared and vented. All of these modifications combined to create a 400-horsepower, 200-mph world-beating supercar.
With BTR production numbers only in the low hundreds, there is no way to say if this car is an actual Ruf without checking the VIN. However, all the unique body panels, wheels, and badges look correct. The turbocharged, air-cooled, flat-six engine has a unique sound I can only describe (and this is a compliment) as something between a WWI fighter plane and the world's angriest lawnmower. However, even if it isn't an actual Ruf-numbered BTR, Ruf retrofitted many customer 930s over the years, and even a privately-built tribute car would be an undertaking worthy of serious respect.
Also worthy of respect is the owner of this BTR. Whatever its origins, this is a rare machine indeed, and a demanding one at that. The fact that this car is driven into the city every day, even today when the temperature is in the teens and snow is falling, proves that the owner knows this car well and genuinely loves driving it.
City Survivors are photographed in public places. Every attempt is made to respect the privacy of the owner. License plates, faces and other identifying information are intentionally obscured. If the owner does not want their car displayed, Urban Gear Works can be reached through the contact form. Alternately, Urban Gear Works welcomes any owner who wishes to share more about their vehicle.
Last December, we included a diesel Jeep Grand Cherokee in our holiday wish list. This week in Detroit, that wish came true, and it is even better than what we hoped for! To summarize, our wish included not just a diesel powerplant, but that said engine would be available over the whole range. Jeep delivered, stating that the new (VM Motori-sourced) 3.0 liter turbo diesel V-6, paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission, will be available across the entire model range from the base Laredo all the way up to the lavishly-appointed Summit. Additionally, our original wish asked for a diesel SRT model. While there is no word on any such model, the new Summit trim sports front and rear fascias that are very, very close to those worn by the SRT-8 model, so buyers looking for diesel grunt and efficiency combined with a more aggressive appearance do have an option.
Other highlights for the new Jeep include:
"Fill-it-up-once-every-month-or-so" 730 mile single-tank range for the diesel
8-speed gearbox standard across the entire range, even the SRT-8
Giant, industry-leading Uconnect touch screen
Configurable TFT-screen in the gauge cluster
Revised, LED, front and rear lighting
Redesigned steering wheel with standard paddle-shifters
Overall, it looks like Jeep has taken a model that was already a star in the lineup and made it even better. There has been a fair bit of criticism already over the new lighting treatment, which in fairness does little to hide the retrofit-into-an-existing opening that it is. It doesn't seem like a necessary change, but on the other hand, automakers always seem to feel that the public won't know a model is new unless it looks different. Our opinion is that while the original headlamps didn't really need improving, the overall package is so packed with dramatic improvements that it seems childish to complain too loudly. We can't wait to see the new Grand Cherokee when it comes to Chicago next month!
Chrysler's official press release can be read here
Every decade or so for the last 60 years, something very special has happened in the American automotive landscape. 1953, 1963, 1968, 1984, 1997, 2005, and now, 2014, will bring a new generation Chevrolet Corvette off the line at Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Since 1953, Corvette has represented the absolute best that General Motors could build. That is not to say that every model was better than the last - the emission-strangled Corvettes of the early 1980's paled in comparison to those from a decade earlier - but every Corvette has been a showcase of just what GM was capable of in its day. (Don't leave, GNX fans, this is the Corvette's hour. We'll do a post on Black Air soon enough.)
In 1953, the Corvette's fiberglass construction was unheard of. 1963 ushered in an era of style and racing prowess, from the single-year split window design to technological improvements like four-wheel disc brakes and independent rear suspension. After just five years, 1968 introduced the third generation at the height of the horsepower wars, with swooping fender lines worthy of the name "stingray" and roaring monster engines like the 7-liter, LT-1 427, rumored to have produced nearly 600 horsepower. 1984 (or 1983, depending on how you count it) saw the introduction of a new, wedge shaped fourth-generation Corvette. A product of its time, the fourth generation sported a digital dash festooned with buttons and engine enhancements aimed more at efficiency than performance. However, out of those troubled times came another legend - the quad-cam, all-aluminum engined ZR-1. Through the early nineties, as all of Detroit found its way back to the path of performance, the Corvette steadily improved, and in 1997 the C5 Corvette bowed to the cheers of enthusiasts everywhere. The fifth generation Corvette cemented a return to top-tier performance for the Corvette with the re-introduction of the storied Z06 nameplate. Running from 2005 to the present, the most recent, sixth-generation Corvette somehow managed to produce the most powerful model ever, the 600 horsepower (net!), supercharged, Nurburgring-storming ZR-1 despite GM's unfortunate exodus through bankruptcy and government ownership.
Now, tonight, in Detroit, a city valiantly reaching for a return to its own glory, the sheet has finally been pulled off the seventh generation of Chevrolet's flagship performance car. For millennia, peoples the world over have assigned special significance to the number seven. From what has been shown so far, this new Corvette reinforces that significance. Chevrolet has seen fit to resurrect the "Stingray" moniker (paired with a sweet new insignia), and with good reason. This latest generation displays sculpted body panels that carry the classic Stingray shape into the 21st century. In addition, the new grille contains a pattern of horizontal and vertical bars that harken back the very first Corvette of 1953.
The NHTSA has proposed legislation requiring all electric and hybrid vehicles to emit an audible warning when traveling at low speeds, so as to warn pedestrians and cyclists of their approach. (I can't be the only one who thinks of Dwight and Andy's battle in The Office episode "The Duel" every time this comes up, right?) For most people, this probably does seem like a joke. In a city with heavy foot traffic, like Chicago, silent cars really do have the potential to become a hazard. I can't say I've ever had an issue with cars, but anyone who has lived in the city for any significant amount of time has probably at least had a close call with a bike. In fairness to the cyclists, it can be just as nerve-wracking when an unaware pedestrian steps into your path. The point is, even a small object moving at 15-20 MPH can appear seemingly out of nowhere in the absence of any audible cue. It's too bad that the soundless launch of a Tesla and the UFO-like hum of the Fisker Karma will become a things of the past, but this legislation is probably needed.
The Cadillac ELR, a car about which we've already expressed our excitement, is slated to go on sale about the time these regulations would take effect. So, it begs the question: what should the slick little hybrid sound like? The regulations say that the sound must vary depending on the vehicle's speed, so an actual engine noise isn't out of the question. The NHTSA has posted some sample sounds here, and quite frankly, they're about as interesting as all-Prius racing series. While it seems likely that Cadillac (and other EV manufacturers) will choose a sound that is as unobtrusive as the law will allow, wouldn't it be awesome if the ELR sounded like a TIE Fighter?
ELR Image © General Motors
Over the next twelve days, Urban Gear Works will be posting a wish list for the auto industry. Here's Day Twelve:
Premium American Luxury: Cadillac Ciel & Chrysler Imperial
For the final day, we've been saving something big. Last year saw the Cadillac Ciel concept debut at Pebble Beach. This four-door convertible blends the best of current Cadillac design with cues from the marque's storied, glamorous past. Cadillac has subtly hinted at plans for a new flagship to slot above the XTS, and the Ciel is a perfect candidate. The ATS and CTS have proved more than worthy challengers to Old World stalwarts like the BMW 3- and 5-series, Audi A4 and A6, and Mercedes C- and E-Class. Now is the perfect time for Cadillac to make a triumphant return as the "Standard of the World" by fielding a top tier model to compete with executive sedans like the 7-series, A8, S-class, and Jaguar XJ.
Even if the unconventional four-door droptop proves unfeasible, a sleek sedan would be equally appealing. The Ciel is a flawless design, so our only suggestions are minor. First, while the twin-turbo V-6 combined with a hybrid power system is forward thinking, to compete at the top level a V-8, if not a twelve-cylinder powerplant should at least be an option. The market for these sedans thrives on exclusivity, so having "less" of anything than the competition could be a tragic mistake. Second, for the pinnacle of the Cadillac line, it would be fitting to revive one of the great names from the past. Ciel - French for "sky" - sounds too much like "seal", and another three-letter name seems uninspired. On the other hand, "Eldorado" is a name that still carries the weight of an American icon and would further emphasize this car's exclusivity over the rest of the lineup.
From looking at the Urban Gear Works logo, our love for the Chrysler Imperial should be obvious. There were few American cars in the 50s and 60s that could outshine a Cadillac, but the Imperial was one. Exclusive, stylish, powerful, and nearly indestructible, the Imperial embodied Detroit's golden era. Sadly, as Chrysler struggled with the new realities of global competition, Imperials became simply heavily optioned Chryslers, and the final model to wear the storied name was an overstuffed K-car. There was one attempt at a concept in 2006, but its future was axed by then-owners Cerberus. However, if Cadillac does make an attempt to ascend the summit of the luxury market with a car like the Ciel, nothing would be better than Chrysler joining the fray with a new Imperial. There are no known plans from Chrysler, so what such a car would look like is limited only to imagination.
In any case, both of these cars would represent a luxury that is distinctly American, with glistening chrome and creased edges. This is the kind of luxury that channels the Chicago of the roaring twenties: big shouldered, stylish, and unashamed of success. We genuinely wish to see at least one of these concepts as a reality on Michigan Avenue someday soon.
Merry Christmas from Urban Gear Works!
Ciel Image © General Motors
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Over the next twelve days, Urban Gear Works will be posting a wish list for the auto industry. Here's Day Eleven:
The Urban Gear Works Twelve Days of Christmas are almost over! Today's wish features an upcoming car we couldn't be more excited about - the Cadillac ELR. The ELR is the production version of the Cadillac Converj concept. While it looks very similar to the CTS coupe, (and that's not a bad at all) the ELR skins Cadillac's "Art and Science" design language over the Voltec architecture to create GM's first premium electric vehicle. In our opinion, this is one of the best ideas GM has had in a long time. The Volt is very good in its intended role, but a premium vehicle would help justify the necessary price tag. In addition, platform sharing should help reduce the cost of all GM vehicles using the technology. The market is ready, too. Tesla has a waiting list months long for the Model S, and the Karma has been a bit "hotter" than Henrik Fisker would have liked. These newcomers have proven that the iPad generation is ready for a stylish electric vehicle, but the market hasn't been able to meet demand. The General has an excellent opportunity to take the lead with the ELR.
Like many alternative/electric vehicles, the ELR is perfectly suited to city living. Gas is expensive, driving is frequently the low speed, stop-and-go variety, and trips are rarely more than a few miles. Like the Volt, the ELR has an added advantage over pure electric vehicles like the Tesla: its on-board gasoline engine means that it has a unlimited range. The fact that pure-electric vehicles still require hours to recharge is a major sticking point for many potential buyers. The ELR has the ability to operate in electric-only mode for daily use, but is still capable of a multi-state road trip when necessary.
However, there is a major paradox when it comes to electric vehicles and city life. While electric cars are well suited to city driving, they need a place to recharge. This excludes many people who would otherwise be well suited to a car like the ELR. In many parts of Chicago, parking is majority street-side or in public garages, with no place to connect a vehicle charger. There are a few parking garages near the city center that provide charging stations, but for the most part, owning an electric vehicle also requires owning a private garage. It seems unlikely, given that the city of Chicago is already selling or taxing everything it can just to stay afloat, but it would be wonderful to see a plan for street-side charging. If the city can't, it seems there could also be an opportunity for a private company. Also, with so many new high-rises touting various "green" certifications, it would be a great step forward if planners could at least build provisions for future electric charging into the parking structures. With the ELR already confirmed for production, our biggest wish is just that charging in the city will become more widespread.
Subscribe to ELR official updates here.
ELR Image © General Motors
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Over the next twelve days, Urban Gear Works will be posting a wish list for the auto industry. Here's Day Ten:
Chevrolet SS, Nomad and El Camino
It's no secret that Chevrolet is getting a rear-wheel-drive sedan for the first time since 1996. The web has been buzzing ever since the Australian-built Holden Commodore returned to US shores as a police-only interceptor called the PPV. While Americans had previously sampled, and universally praised, the Holden when it was sold as the Pontiac G8 from 2008-2009, the unfortunate demise of the once-great Pontiac brand yanked it from dealer lots almost as soon as it arrived. Now, GM has seen fit to give the platform another chance, as the next generation Commodore will be sold to the American public as the Chevrolet SS.
The demand for a V-8 sedan wearing the Chevrolet bowtie is something that GM has ignored for too long, as evidenced by the still-high prices commanded by the final "true" Impala SS (seriously, name any other GM sedan from 1996 that is still worth five figures) and the buyers who quickly purchased the new police interceptors before GM could close a sales loophole. This new SS should be a new American icon, with a spiritual heritage that includes not just the last Impala and Caprice, but the Chevelles of the early 70s, the Impalas of the 60s, and even the very first small-block sedans of the 50s. Our hope and wish is that GM will see fit to bring back two other icons. Trademarks for "Nomad" and "El Camino" have been recently renewed. While it may not mean anything, as corporations routinely retain trademarks of past models, Holden does manufacture Commodore wagons and utes (car-like pickups popular with Aussies) for the home market. Since the development and manufacturing costs are already handled, it shouldn't be that hard to bring these variations to the Chevrolet lineup as well - in fact, Pontiac was actually going to do just that, if things had gone differently. Both should sell well enough to offset what should be a small additional cost, and the idea of a V-8 GM wagon at a lower price than the CTS-V is something Urban Gear Works can really get behind.
Holden Commodore Image © General Motors
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Over the next twelve days, Urban Gear Works will be posting a wish list for the auto industry. Here's Day Nine:
Donate to Wikipedia
I actually had a completely different topic planned for today, but I decided it was time to make a socially responsible wish. Instead of asking for another dream car, I'd like to ask Urban Gear Works readers to please consider making a small donation to Wikipedia this holiday season.
Wikipedia runs completely on donations, and is authored by volunteers who would just want to share thier knowledge. Most significantly to Urban Gear Works, Wikipedia is a treasure trove of automotive information and history. Did you know:
How an Atkinson cycle engine works?
The Chrysler Norseman was lost at sea before it could be shown to the public?
A.J. Foyt is the only driver to have won the Indy 500, Daytona 500, 24 Hours of Daytona, and the 24 hours of LeMans?
Edward Hall raced the entire 24 Hours of LeMans without a driver change?
The Rover V-8 is based on a Buick design from the 1960s?
BRM built a 1.5 Litre V-16 capable of 600 horsepower at 12,000 RPM?
The Aston Martin Lagonda had CRT screens instead of gauges?
The Bugatti Atlantic had body panels that were riveted instead of welded, because the original prototype panels were constructed of magnesium alloy?
This is just a tiny sample of the information hosted on Wikipedia. There is hardly a day that I don't reference it for one purpose or another. If you feel the same way, why not make a small donation to keep it going? Or, if you can't donate money, why not find an article where you can contribute your personal knowledge? If you aren't one for writing, there are many articles with no pictures - maybe you have a picture somewhere that would make the article more complete. Let's all make sure that this information stays free and available to everyone.
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Over the next twelve days, Urban Gear Works will be posting a wish list for the auto industry. Here's Day Eight:
Nissan Juke-R and Juke NISMO
The Nissan Juke is a quirky, but very fun little car for city living. It's a car that seems to defy classification. It has four doors, but it's almost too small to be a sedan. The interior layout and rear hatch would suggest that it may fall into the five-door hatchback category, but it seems too tall. So, it's small, sits high, and has available all-wheel-drive - is it a CUV? That doesn't seem to work either, because the design shows absolutely no intention toward ever leaving pavement. Admittedly, most CUVs are really just pretending anyway, but the Juke doesn't even pretend. Throw in the turbocharged four-cylinder, (from Nissan, a company that has made some very respectable turbo fours) and it becomes even more confusing. However, all of the traits listed make it a very good choice for the city-dwelling enthusiast who needs a fun, small car that can do everything. The exterior styling can be avant-garde, but so much so that it's clearly intentional.
What we would like to see for the future of the Juke is more power and performance. Nissan has already produced a handful of the absurd Juke-R, (shown above) a Juke body mated to GT-R running gear. The more reasonable, but still agressive Juke NISMO (Nissan's in-house performance division) has been confirmed for Europe, but details on an American version have been scarce. The Juke-R is a supercar in disguise, and the NISMO adds just enough performance to the "normal" Juke to appeal to the enthusiast. Urban Gear Works hopes to see more of both models in the year to come.
Image Credit: Nissan
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Over the next twelve days, Urban Gear Works will be posting a wish list for the auto industry. Here's Day Seven:
Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo
We've covered the Panamera Sport Turismo before. Since last time, Porsche's wagon concept has garnered a lot of love. (And, there has been surprisingly little hate, given how much bile was directed at the design of the Panamera sedan.) It seems that Stuttgart is at least considering a production future for the Sport Turismo, because lately a few journalists have had the privilege of a test drive - something that rarely happens with one-off concepts.
First and foremost, Urban Gear Works just wants to see this car built. If we're going to ask for more, we'd love to see the Sport Turismo inherit the entire range of the Panamera's trim levels and options, all the way from the Euro-market diesel (Diesel, Porsche, wagon - it couldn't be more German if it was built according to the Rheinheitsgebot) to the monster Turbo-S. In addition, the Panamera sedan already provides cavernous hauling space with the back seats folded down, so why not give the Sport Turismo the added utility of rear-facing jump seats? Currently, there is no car in Porsche's lineup that seats more than five passengers, and the Panamera sedan only seats four. It seems rational that the potential buyer of a wagon might occasionally need more than four seats. The Sport Turismo's (theoretical) closest competition, the Mercedes E63 AMG, offers a third row, so there must be some business case, right?
Image Credit: Porsche
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