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Cutaway Miata NC reveals all the details

img_1213With a new Miata (finally) on the way for 2015, it’s time to go back to 2005 when Mazda revealed the 3rd-generation Miata to members of the press. We were there, and thrilled to find a cutaway Miata, with all the details large and small opened for our eyes.

Several cutaway cars, chassis, and engines were available for photography.

Take special note of all the weight-savings measures designed  into this car. Mazda went to extraordinary lengths to keep the weight down, while increasing strength and keeping costs in line.  This is known by Mazda as a “gram strategy”, where each piece is weighed down to the gram, and every gram has to be justified. This is even more amazing when you consider that the MX-5 doesn’t share chassis parts with any other product.

Enjoy our gallery of over 50 cutaway images – the most unique on the web.

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Esotico Italiano car show with Valentino Balboni [Gallery]

At an Italian car show today in Austin TX, besides a great collection of Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and other Italian classics, we were pleasantly surprised to find Valentino Balboni.

If you don’t know who he is, you haven’t been doing your reading for the past 40 years. Valentino spent 40 years with Lamborghini, rising from an apprentice to a position as chief test driver and ambassador for the company. He only left due to Italian Government regulations forced him into an unwanted retirement.

The picture shows him graciously signing cars at the show today.

He was a really nice guy, great to talk to, and so very much a tremendous part of the history of Lamborghini.

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Austin Cars and Coffee Feb. 2014: Tesla Model S dyno

2014.02.09 austin cars and coffee tesla model s dynoWith a record 750 cars showing at the February 2014 Cars and Coffee monthly event in Austin Texas, there were all sort of unusual cars to get up close to. Including classic, exotic, European, Japanese, off-road, military, race cars, tuner cars, drift cars, stretch limos, and the usual assortment of the usual muscle cars.

But perhaps the most unusual car here, a Tesla Model S, is one of the most interesting because it is so different from the rest. We had an extended test drive last year and it was the most unusual car we drove in 2013… and yet it was as easy or easier to drive than a conventional car. And surprisingly fun with its enormous – and instant – torque. If this is the future, it’s terrific. And a large and very active Tesla owners association in Austin proves it.

An attempt was made today to dyno one particular Model S – an attempt that failed.

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1983 Lotus Esprit S3 with SHO engine swap

This 1983 Lotus Esprit Turbo is packing something different in the engine compartment: a 1989-vintage Yamaha SHO 3 liter DOHC V-6 engine, courtesy of a Ford Taurus SHO. Catch it for sale on eBay, before it expires on 13 Nov, 2012.

This is the second Esprit we’ve seen with an SHO engine swap. This example is a 1983 S3 model. It’s original Lotus 2.2-liter belt-driven SOHC engine is an “interference engine” – meaning that when (not just if) the timing belt breaks, the valves and pistons will collide. Religious replacement of the belt is a must, a thankless task which requires very serious close-quarters wrenching skills if not an outright engine removal (depending on who you ask).  So unless you’re an absolute purist, the SHO engine makes better sense with the advantage of more power out of the box as well as more potential.

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Jay Leno visits the Nissan design studio for a 1st look at the next Z

Jay Leno recently visited the Nissan design studio in Japan, where he met with Chief Creative Officer Shiro Nakamura and found designers hard at work styling the next Z. The Z is clearly in the design phase where hundreds of drawings will be made and final styling elements will be selected. That probably puts the timeframe of the debut out 2-3 years… depending on which platform will be used. If it will again be shared with the upcoming Q50, then sooner. Otherwise later.

Looking over all the drawings and video below, and knowing how the process works, we note that the basic proportions are all nearly identical – so it’s clear that the chassis underneath and the resulting hard points have in general been determined. And it’s clear that a return to the proportions and styling cues of the original 240Z is the plan!

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The cars of The Munsters

The Munster CoachClassic television of the 60s gave us a number of TV shows where cars were a central or major supporting element. Two of the most famous and well known were from The Munsters: the Munster Coach and Dragula. Both were built by George Barris and were probably the coolest TV cars of their age. And who else could have built them? Barris was the king of customizers in the 60s.

The definitive website of the Munster cars is here:

Update: replica Munster coach startup and run by Herman himself.

The Munster Coach was the family vehicle, carrying the family on their trips. Where did they go? All the same places any normal family would, and probably a few more (tar pits, bat caves, graveyards, ghost towns). Of course Herman also used it to get to his job at the local funeral parlor – euphemistically referred to as the “parlor”. Whatever tasks it was that he did there certainly couldn’t be mentioned on the air in the 60s!

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Ultimate SHO Engine Swap? 1980 Lotus Esprit with Ford SHO = “SHOtus”

This site has covered a lot of different engine swaps, particularly SHO Taurus engines of the V-6 Yamaha variant. Whether it’s going into a Focus, a classic British car, or a classic Japanese car like the 240Z, we’ve got it here. Follow our Engine Swap or SHO categories in our blog for the full stories.

But this swap is the king of all SHO engine swaps. When the original Lotus Esprit debuted, it was powered by a straightforward but not particularly exciting 4 cylinder naturally aspirated engine. The turbo and the V-8 models came along later, along with major chassis improvements. But the styling of the car stayed basically the same: a classic wedge shape as only Lotus has done so well. The early models, such as this 1980 model, were unencumbered with spoilers and other paraphernalia that some believe took away from the basic shape that made the car so famous.

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MotorWeek Retro Review: Honda S2000

MotorWeek is putting high-res videos into their YouTube site of old road tests… and here is one of their favorite cars of the last 157 years: the model year 2000 Honda S2000.  And in 1080P too~!

The S2000 has been out of production since 2009… but it keeps coming back in road tests and – no kidding – comparisons like this one – where it wins hands down against the FR-S and RX-8.

Is Honda listening? Will there be a new S2000 someday? Honda seems almost to have all but forgotten about performance cars… other than the hyper-expensive NSX (designed and to be built in the United States) and the upcoming Europe-only Civic Type R (with a great new turbo engine, very nearly state-of-the-art, except for the beam axle out back!).

Where is the Honda performance car for the rest of us? In our case, it’s in our garage, which has had an S2000 in it all the way back to the year 2000.

Enjoy the following video: turn up your sound, go full screen!


Robert Llewellyn’s Carpool series features Sir Patrick Stewart

carpool-show Here’s a web series that originally ran from 2009 to 2011 (112 episodes and 4 million views), and is returning to the air shortly. Comedian, liberal activist, actor and writer Robert Llewellyn, better known in some circles as Kryten in the British science fiction series Red Dwarf, is also a certified car enthusiast. And while he used to be a petrol head, he is these days an electric car enthusiast.

The format of this weekly show is simple: Robert picks up the celebrity (actor, actress, political activist or similar), drives them around town (or in the case of Stewart, countryside) and have a nice informal conversation to learn something about. And with Sir Stewart, there is a funny story (which we heard Stewart give once before in a convention talk). But most of what you hear will be new to Star Trek fans, including Stewart talking about his love of fast driving and his stay at the Bondurant school. That makes him OK with Driving Enthusiasts!

Enjoy Carpool with Sir Patrick Stewart:

Follow the Carpool series:


2014.11.09 – Cars and Coffee Austin [Gallery]

November in Central Texas is known for its terriffic weather – perfect for a Driving Enthusiast. Be it a track event, a drive in the famous Central Texas hill country, or just a visit to a car show, November has the perfect weather for it. And with an 80-degree day at hand, we visited Cars and Coffee at The Oasis outside of the city of Austin Texas.

We’re always asked what our favorite car of the show was… and at any Cars and Coffee event it’s a hard question to answer because there is something for everyone. All types of cars, from classic sports cars or salons, to muscle cars, to Japanese cars such as S2000s and Skylines. This is the show that has it all.

So our choice today goes to the person who put the most work and creativity into their ride.  And while this most definitely isn’t a car for a Driving Enthusiast, it does most definitely show an enormous amount of creativity and hard work. And the result has serious impact – you would spot this car a mile away. Here is our choice for best in show, a retro-mod Buick Riviera GS.

Taking a look at the opposite side of the spectrum, here’s a terrific right hand drive Prelude:

Looking for something newer? Here’s a Scion FR-S we’ve run into before.. An extensive project with a very highly evolved turbo motor and suspension:

There is the bizarre… two cars we definitely don’t agree with (but to each his own).

First, this pointlessly slammed Miata:

And then this late-model Mustang, with Coyote engine removed and replaced by a stroked and carb’d small block. It makes no sense at all.

Like we said, something for everybody…. visit our complete gallery of images here:


The Munster Mansion: Herman starts the Munster Coach

Munster Mansion - the Munster CoachIf you are a fan of the classic ’60s TV show The Munsters, you know all about the family, their odd friends, their house, their two hot rods, and even the family pet Spot. But what you might not know is that all of this has been recreated in exacting detail by Sandra and Charles McKee in Waxahachie Texas.

They started by building – from scratch – the Munster Mansion. It’s not just a prop – it’s a real house and they actually day-to-day live in it. It was purposefully built from the ground up to be exactly as the real house would have been. Of course the exterior of house used in the TV show was a facade – the interiors were on a sound stage. So the McKees set out to build the real thing, in amazing detail taken from watching the show hundreds of times, measuring everything possible, calculating dimensions from measuring the strides of the actors, etc.

They have also reproduced every other single thing that could be discerned from the show – all the rooms, the furnishings, everything seen in the show as props, hundreds of items. Even the spider webs and dust. It’s incredible.

Every year they very generously open the house and grounds for a 2-night charity event. The surviving actors from the original show participate… this year it’s Pat Priest who played the “plain” (normal) daughter. The McKees themselves dress as Lily and Herman, a friend from PA plays Grandpa (the original Al Lewis was here before he died), and volunteers are dressed as all sorts of similar TV and movie characters. The McKees are superfans of The Munsters and the attention paid to their exact reproduction of the elements is amazing. And every year for two nights they generously open their house to the public for a charity event. Our first visit to the Munster Mansion was in 2007, where we could barely believe our eyes at the attention to detail.

But of course it’s the two Munster hot rods that attract us as car enthusiasts. We’ve covered the original cars of the show before. And since then the McKees have built fully functional replicas of both the Munster Coach and DRAG-U-LA. DrivingEnthusiasts will recognize them both since the original Munster Coach was built by George Barris. Like The Munsters, George Barris was an icon of the ’60s.

Let’s start with some of the images from this year’s event. First, the Munster Coach itself, along with video of it starting.

Munster Mansion - the Munster Coach
Munster Mansion - the Munster Coach
Munster Mansion - the Munster Coach
Munster Mansion - the Munster Coach
Munster Mansion - the Munster Coach
Munster Mansion - the Munster Coach
Munster Mansion - the Munster Coach
Munster Mansion - the Munster Coach
Munster Mansion - the Munster Coach
Munster Mansion - the Munster Coach
Munster Mansion - the Munster Coach
Munster Mansion - the Munster Coach
Munster Mansion - the Munster Coach
Munster Mansion - the Munster Coach
Munster Mansion - the Munster Coach
Munster Mansion - the Munster Coach

Watch as Herman starts up this fully functional recreation of the Munster Coach !

And then there is DRAG-U-LA, ostensibly Grandpa’s car but both drag raced and (back) road raced by Herman. This dragster is built form a coffin and is powered by a Chevy small block.

Munster Mansion - DRAG-U-LA
Munster Mansion - DRAG-U-LA
Munster Mansion - DRAG-U-LA
Munster Mansion - DRAG-U-LA
Munster Mansion - DRAG-U-LA

We heard a story that was new to us about the creation of the original car. In California at the time, it was illegal to purchase a coffin unless you were a registered mortician. So a deal was made with a funeral house for a coffin, and it was left outside where it then conveniently “disappeared” overnight. And DRAG-U-LA was born.

The event itself was attended by thousands of people over two days. The highlight was meeting the characters, as well as an original actress from the show Pat Priest. Pat played the daughter “Marilyn”, who was the only one that we would consider “normal”, but who was considered by the other characters as “the plain one” for her obvious birth defects – she wasn’t a monster. Pat is in great shape after all these years, and graciously greets fans and signs autographs.
Munster Mansion - Pat Priest

Lily Munster, Herman Munster, and Grandpa.
Munster Mansion - Lily Munster
Munster Mansion - Merman Munster
Munster Mansion - Grandpa Munster

The house is another highlight of the visit, and a long line formed each night to tour the interior (where, unfortunately, photos were not allowed).
Munster Mansion
Munster Mansion
Munster Mansion
Munster Mansion
Munster Mansion
Munster Mansion

Event flyers:




2014.10.12 – Cars and Coffee Austin [Gallery]

A beautiful October day in Austin, TX – what Austin is known for and of course a perfect day for Driving Enthusiasts to get their cars on the road for a hill country drive to enjoy a car show. So we started the day at Cars and Coffee at The Oasis outside of Austin. Attendance was excellent, and an hour before the show started the lot was already filling up.

Our favorite car of the show? As always, lots of choices at a Cars and Coffee event – but today we’d have to say this Jaguar Mk2 3.8 Automatic. Gorgeous is the word that fits.

And, stopping by the opposite end of the world, we also noticed this 1998 Skyline GTS-t, complete with RB20DET.

Enjoy our complete gallery here:


2014.09.14 – Cars and Coffee Austin [Gallery]

It’s a fine September day in Texas, just a bit cooler than the last several weeks and with cloud cover. Otherwise the perfect day to look over hundreds of cars at our local Cars and Coffee.

We’ve got a gallery of over 100 cars, just a small sample of all the cars present. As usual, it’s a tough time picking just one car that stands out. There are so many choices. So we’re picking this immaculate Renault Alpine. We’ve seen this car before, but not in the last several months. It’s good that it’s back. And, in answer to that over-excited journo at that “other site”, there are several Alpines in Texas and this is just one of them.

Beautiful, and we’d take one in a minute.

Here’s our full gallery of 140 images, covering just some of the cars there.


The Hot Wheels Double Loop Dare from Hot Wheels

In case you missed it, from 2012, the Guiness World Record stunt that sent Tanner Foust and Greg Tracy in two vehicles through a six-story double vertical loop at the 2012 X Games in Los Angeles! It’s the behind-the-scenes documentary from Hot Wheels!


Mazda Unveils All-new Mazda MX-5

2016 MX-5  (8)Mazda Unveils All-new Mazda MX-5

HIROSHIMA, Japan—Mazda Motor Corporation today celebrated the unveiling of the fourth generation Mazda MX-5 (known as Roadster in Japan) together with fans at events held simultaneously in Japan, USA and Spain. The all-new MX-5, which adopts both SKYACTIV technology and Mazda’s KODO-Soul of Motion design language, will be rolled out to global markets starting in 2015.

The MX-5 is an iconic model representing Mazda’s vehicle-engineering philosophy—the pursuit of driving pleasure. “Innovate in order to preserve” was the motto for the fourth generation, as the development team searched for innovations that go beyond simple evolution. Environmental and safety demands are much more stringent than they were when the first generation MX-5 was introduced 25 years ago, but the fourth generation stays true to the model’s original aim of offering the pure driving fun that only a lightweight sports car can. It achieves this through the adoption of SKYACTIV technology and refinement of its appeal to the senses and sensations through which people enjoy cars.

The design of the all-new MX-5 reveals another layer to Mazda’s KODO design language. The exquisite proportions make the driver and passenger stand out, and both the interior and exterior evoke the exhilaration of open-top driving. It is the most compact of any generation MX-5 so far and is more than 100 kilograms lighter than the model it replaces, promising a dramatic leap in Jinba-ittai driving fun.

As of July 2014, total production volume of the Mazda MX-5 exceeded 940,000 units and it continues to hold the Guinness World Record for the best-selling two-seater sports car. This highly-celebrated model has received over 200 awards from around the globe including Japan Car of the Year 2005-2006.

Moving forward, Mazda will continue to develop products which offer all customers driving pleasure and outstanding environmental and safety performance.

Mazda MX-5 25th Anniversary Website


For more information about SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY, please visit:

For more information about KODO-Soul of Motion design theme, please visit:


2016 Mazda MX-5 (Miata) announced

Mazda announced the 2016 MX-5 tonight in simultaneous worldwide events, and provided 10 images (below). But no technical details whatsoever, other than that is has a “SKYACTIV” engine. But no displacement. The only other fact revealed is a weight loss off 220 pounds, which will take the base weight down to approximately 2260 pounds. Note the 4-bolt wheels… a couple of grams were saved there.

The fact that it is a 2016 suggests a production date of next spring at the earliest, although again nothing was announced.

The styling is entirely different from any Miata that came before. A very radical change, and an all-new chassis as well. It’s controversial to a degree.. .we’re undecided. At first we thought we liked it from a high angle, where it showed a considerable degree of motion across its front fenders and hips. But then lower… well, the jury is out. The headlights look almost too low, and the sunken backup lights serve no purpose. The low nose and sharp rise to the hood serve pedestrian crash standards.

But this is a car about driving, and hopefully this 4th generation “Miata” (a name which wasn’t used at all tonight… it may finally be dead) will have a lively engine (instead of a so very slightly warmed over Ford Focus engine) and world-class handling (instead of terrible body roll). The seats look better bolstered than before – which is much-needed, especially against the flat seats of the 3rd generation car (and we own one, so we can say that). The nav screen is much appreciated (apparent lifted from the Mazda3), and the very low belt-line is also appreciated. We’d guess that the car shown was a loaded “Grand Touring” model. With that said, we’ll probably have to wait a number of months for more details, and until sometime in 2015 to get the power figures and first performance tests.

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Relax this holiday weekend with the 2014 Mille Miglia

On a hot summer day, when some car work is awaiting us (but just too hot to do), we’re relaxing watching films of the Mille Miglia. Here’s the 2014 run, with Jay Leno and others competing.

If there could only be one automotive event in Europe on our personal bucket list, this would be it. Or at least to drive the route at some other point in time. We’ve driven some roads in Italy and it’s not easy, but the scenery and history are unbelievable and make it unforgettable.