Twelve Days of Christmas Wish List - Day Six

12/17/2012 7:26 PM

Over the next twelve days, Urban Gear Works will be posting a wish list for the auto industry. Here's Day Six:


Cadillac ATS Wagon and Coupe


Cadillac ATS, © General Motors


The Cadillac ATS equipped with the optional 2.0L turbo four-cylinder motor (named to Ward's 10 Best) is, in a word, awesome. Rear- or all-wheel drive, a choice of six-speed gearboxes ("flappy-paddle" or manual), 30 miles per gallon, 270 horsepower, and 260 pound-feet of torque available so low in the rev band they might as well be from idle give Cadillac's smallest offering specs that genuinely feel next-generation. As if that wasn't enough, it starts under $35,000!


What else could anyone ask for? Well, more! There have been on-again, off-again rumors of coupe and wagon ATS variants. Our love for wagons at Urban Gear Works should be obvious by now. They pack enough utility to handle almost any task without the cumbersome size and extra cost of an SUV, and unlike a minivan, they haven't completely surrendered style and enjoyment for the sake of practicality. As for the coupe, the larger CTS coupe has the "I-still-can't-believe-they-actually-built-it" looks of a stealth fighter, and there is no reason that style couldn't be scaled for an equally sharp ATS two-door. The ATS is sized and priced perfectly to be a better-looking, more powerful, and even less expensive alternative to premium small cars like the BMW 3-series, Audi A3, Mini Countryman and Clubman, and Mercedes C-Class. Almost all of the aforementioned models have wagon and coupe variants - why shouldn't the Cadillac? It might be a bit much, but with such formidable engine choices, a properly sorted ATS coupe could even be an alternative to more dedicated performance cars like the Porsche Cayman, BMW M135i, and Subaru BRZ. On the other hand, a 270-horsepower ATS wagon would be one of the most stylish, versatile, and outright fun options in the "just one car for everything" category.


ATS Image © General Motors


Read Day One | Day Two | Day Three | Day Four | Day Five

Twelve Days of Christmas Wish List - Day Five

12/16/2012 7:10 PM

Over the next twelve days, Urban Gear Works will be posting a wish list for the auto industry. For Day Five, there's a slight detour into the land of cinema:


More Car Movies: Rush, Go Like Hell, and Snake & Mongoose


2010's outstanding documentary Senna by Asif Kapadia proved that American audiences would, in fact, pay attention to a film about F1 racing. Composed entirely of archival footage, Senna also proved that motor racing could provide more than enough excitement and drama without resorting to a fictional script.


Now, Ron Howard (himself a major figure in the history of automotive cinema) has put his name behind Rush, a film detailing the razor-edged, nearly fatal rivalry between Formula One legends Niki Lauda and James Hunt. For the sake of avoiding spoilers, the plot won't be recounted here, but it should suffice to say that, like that of Ayrton Senna, this is a story that needs no Hollywood embellishment. Already in post-production, this film made the wish list because of what its success could mean for other films.


Go Like Hell, by A. J. Baime

One of those other films is Go Like Hell. Based on A. J. Baime's excellent book (recommended reading for anyone who loves racing) by the same name, Go Like Hell is the story of the clash between motorsports titans Enzo Ferrari, Henry Ford and Carroll Shelby. When Enzo Ferrari snubbed Henry Ford's attempt to purchase the firm that bore his name, Ford turned to Shelby to construct a racing program that would beat Ferrari in the most grueling of competitions: the 24 Hours of LeMans. Michael Mann, director of critical and box-office successes like Collateral and The Last of the Mohicans, has been picked to direct the film adaptation. Sadly, the last news reports on Go Like Hell indicate that the project is on temporary hold, awaiting the success or failure of Rush. The book was a page turner, and the movie simply needs to be made.



Finally, in a completely different part of the racing spectrum, we have Snake & Mongoose. The story of 70's funny car racers Don Prudhomme ("The Snake") and Tom McEwen ("The Mongoose"), this film is already generating buzz despite lacking the big name endorsement of the two previously mentioned. For as much fun as drag racing is to participate in or watch live, making nine seconds in a straight line interesting is no easy task. Urban Gear Works is eagerly awaiting the finished product!


Read Day One | Day Two | Day Three | Day Four

Twelve Days of Christmas Wish List - Day Four

12/15/2012 7:23 PM

Over the next twelve days, Urban Gear Works will be posting a wish list for the auto industry. Here's Day Four:


Return of the Firepower!


Chrysler Firepower!

In 2005, Chrysler unveiled a beautiful grand touring coupe called the Firepower!. In addition to a name that included rather pompous punctuation, it featured a flowing, almost Aston Martin-like, but distinctly Chrysler-styled body fitted over a Viper chassis paired with a 6.1-liter Hemi engine. As with so many Chrysler concepts, it was fully operational and many magazine tests sang praise for the Firepower!. With so many mechanical components already in use around the company, production seemed like a forgone conclusion, but the Great Recession and Chrysler's subsequent bankruptcy killed all hope for a low-volume halo model. Even the mighty Viper became temporarily extinct.


Chrysler Firepower!

Now, seven years later, the Viper is back, Chrysler has its strongest lineup in years, and we hope it might be time for the Firepower! to get a second chance. Lexus has (probably) greenlit the LF-CC, and Cadillac's CTS-V coupe is without an American rival. On the other hand, realistic sales volumes for such a car would be very small. In our eyes, the design for the Firepower! could be easily stretched into a four-door fastback to compete with the Mercedes CLS and the Audi A7. Just drop the exclamation point - it wreaks havoc with grammar check.


Car & Driver wrote a fairly extensive review of the Firepower! when it was new. Read it here.


Read Day One | Day Two | Day Three

Twelve Days of Christmas Wish List - Day Three

12/14/2012 8:49 PM

Over the next twelve days, Urban Gear Works will be posting a wish list for the auto industry. Here's Day Three:


Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel and Wagoneer


Yes, more diesel begging.


A turbodiesel V-6 for the 2014 Grand Cherokee is already confirmed. If the European model specifications are any indication, we will see more torque than any model without an SRT badge, and better mileage than the smallest available gasoline engine. Since the motor is already confirmed, this wish list relates to details as yet unconfirmed. First, it is our hope that Jeep won't limit the oil-burner to specific trim levels. There are definitely people who will buy the diesel in a base model because they want a long-range, rugged, workhorse. On the other hand, the Overland package has one of the best interiors to be found in an SUV. There are certainly customers who want the torque and mileage advantage, but are also willing to sign on for luxury options. In the "asking world peace" category of Christmas wishes, how about an SRT-D? The SRT package for the Grand Cherokee is a monster - it can't be that hard to turn up the boost on the diesel's twin turbos and carry over the exterior modifications.


Jeep has also confirmed a new Grand Wagoneer, marking the return of a seven-passenger vehicle to the company lineup. Not much is known other than the passenger capacity, and that the new Jeep will likely share a platform with the existing Dodge Durango, itself a stretched version of the current Grand Cherokee underpinnings. With details scarce, Urban Gear Works would love to see some of the following requests granted. First, please no fake wood grain. Some things just don't work in the present. We've seen it done to enough PT Cruisers, and even a new Grand Cherokee, and it just doesn't work for us. Leave this option to the aftermarket. Second, since there will likely be a common stucture between the Wagoneer and the Grand Cherokee, please include the diesel engine option. A vehicle this size with decent fuel economy would be a class leader for sure. Third, keep up the current Jeep trend of wonderful interior quality. And, finally, keep the retro styling within reason. The original Wagoneer has a devoted following which must be respected, but don't let that turn the design into a caricature.


Read Day One | Day Two

Twelve Days of Christmas Wish List - Day Two

12/13/2012 7:55 PM

Over the next twelve days, Urban Gear Works will be posting a wish list for the auto industry. Here's Day Two:


A Volkswagen Golf GTD for the American Market


The Golf GTI is a versatile little go-kart of a hot hatch, and VW's TDI powerplants have been universally praised by fuel misers and torque enthusiasts alike for years. The European market already has access to the dream match-up that is the Golf GTD - GTI suspension, interior, and exterior bits with a tuned turbodiesel mill. The GTD could be the perfect car for enthusiast city life. It's small and nimble, which makes it great for traffic and parking. The diesel motor means mileage to rival a hybrid, which is ever so important when Chicago's fuel prices are consistently among the highest in the nation, plus big-block torque for battling the cabbies on Lake Shore Drive. On top of that, as four-door hatchback, the Golf is one of the most practical small cars on the market. For someone who can only have one car for every task, but wants some fun, the GTD checks every box. Why won't Volkswagen bring it to American shores? Please?


Read Day One

Twelve Days of Christmas Wish List - Day One

12/12/2012 8:58 PM

Over the next twelve days, Urban Gear Works will be posting a wish list for the auto industry. Here's Day One:


Rear-Wheel-Drive Models from Buick and Lincoln


There are already semi-official whisperings from Buick regarding the revival of the storied Grand National and GNX nameplates. Promises have been made that whatever vehicle wears the badge will be worthy, albeit with four doors instead of the customary two. Purists will wail and gnash their teeth as always, but our wish is that Buick will take a page from Chrysler's recent history and produce an elegant American bruiser a la the Charger and 300, while leaving Cadillac to challenge the likes of AMG and BMW's M division. The future of Lincoln is less clear, but there too have been rumors of a return to RWD architecture. It would be wonderful to see Lincoln once again competitive among America's luxury brands - rear-wheel-drive, Ford's Coyote 5.0 V-8, and homage to Engle-era styling would go a long way to that end.


City Survivor - Thanksgiving MGA

11/22/2012 4:15 PM

Thanksgiving MGA


I came upon this MGA on my way out of the city this morning - a clear November sky, Lake Shore Drive, and an iconic British roadster is certainly something to be thankful for.


Personally, I'm thankful for my wife, who humors me when I stop mid-conversation because I've sighted yet another vintage car, and who takes amazing cellphone pictures from the passenger seat of a moving vehicle.


Happy Thanksgiving and God bless from Urban Gear Works! 

City Survivor - Mazda RX-7

11/15/2012 8:04 PM



I was thrilled to discover this Mazda RX-7 parked on the street last Sunday. When I started Urban Gear Works, I wanted to represent the whole spectrum of automotive culture in Chicago, just like this city showcases the whole spectrum of human culture. That goal is probably still a long way off, but I'd been looking for an import to feature in City Survivors. I've had no problem finding classic American cars, and this Triumph is technically an import, but the tuner scene has been conspicuously absent.

Election 2012 - The Beast

11/6/2012 9:29 PM


News outlets are declaring Barack Obama as our nation's president once again. Just as in 2008, President Obama has chosen Chicago as the seat of his victory celebration, and when he leaves that celebration, he will no doubt be leaving in The Beast.
Built on a GM commercial truck platform, and looking like the offspring of an Escalade and a DTS, the size of this vehicle isn't readily apparent until seen in person. While specifications are understandably scarce, it has been frequently reported that The Beast can withstand an attack from an RPG, the windows are bulletproof at point-blank range, it is sealed against chemical attacks, and there is even an emergency blood supply matched to the president on board. In the past four years, I've experienced the presence of the presidential motorcade in Chicago more than once. While we will likely have to wait decades before the details of the presidential limousine are declassified, I can say that it's one of the few vehicles I've ever encountered that actually shakes the ground – this car literally thunders down the street.
There's a great list of presidential limousines and other transportation, including The Beast, here.
Image Credit: US Secret Service

City Survivor - Cold Weather Mustang

11/2/2012 10:34 PM



I wasn't really expecting to come across many more classics now that the weather has turned, but I saw this on my way home tonight. Actually, I heard it first, and then I saw it - from the sound, it may have had a late-model engine swap. I couldn't get a close look, but the white-letter B.F. Goodrich tires and Torque-Thrusts are a look that never gets old. As always, hats off from Urban Gear Works to the driver!