Video: I want to be Jim Glickenhaus when I grow up!

James Glickenhaus is the kind of car collector I would be if someone dropped a huge pallet of freshly printed hundred dollar bills in my backyard.  With the fortune he’s amassed, Glickenhaus has acquired a stunning collection of machinery, much of it extremely rare, and in several cases, one of a kind.  This includes his 1967 Ferrari Dino 206 Competizione by Pininfarina that won best in class at the 2009 Meadowbrook Concours.

Glickenhaus’ most famous car is the luscious Ferrari P4/5 that he commissioned from Pininfarina.  Not content to be one of 400, Glickenhaus sent his Enzo for a custom body inspired by the 330 P4 racer and other 1960s Ferraris. When it hit the grass at the 2006 Pebble Beach Concours, it caused a a sensation.

Our biggest respect for Mr. Glickenhaus comes from the fact that his cars aren’t just museum pieces rotting in a warehouse like another famed collector. Glickenhaus drives the P4/5 and the 206 Competizione on a regular basis on public roads.

Using the one-off $4 million P4/5 as a daily driver wasn’t enough for Glickenhaus.  He wanted to go racing with something that looked much like it. Thus was born the P4/5 Competizione.  Unlike the V12 powered road car, Glickenhaus and his partners at LM Gianetti, N Technology and Pro.To. in Torino decided to build the race car on the platform of the V8 powered F430.

A road going F430 Scuderia provided the chassis while the running gear, including the 450 hp V8 and six-speed sequential Hewland gearbox, came from the multiple race winning F430 GT2. Construction of the car was completed earlier this year and it has since undergone testing at several tracks including Vallelunga in Italy.

The plan is to have the P4/5 Competizione run in the 24 Hours of Nurburgring this June in the hands of ex-F1 drivers Mika Salo and Nicola Larini, test driver Fabrizio Giovanardi and another veteran racer Luca Capellari.  The Nurburgring enduro is an amazing race with a wide variety of GT and Touring Car competitors as well as an experimental class that has seen the likes of the Porsche 911 GT3R Hybrid and Lexus LFA prototypes in recent years. Check out the video to hear Glickenhaus talk about his latest project.  Hopefully other collectors will take inspiration from Jim and let some of their special machines run free as they were meant to.

 

Ferrari shows “High Emotion-Low Emissions” and novel 4-wheel torque vectoring in Geneva

 

At last week’s Geneva Motor Show, Ferrari announced that its two newest cars, the 458 Italia and the FF shooting brake, would be equipped with High Emotion Low Emissions (HELE) technology. Like every other automaker doing business in Europe, Ferrari will have to address pending CO2 emissions limits. Even though its fleet will be averaged with the much more efficient mainstream Fiat lineup, Ferrari still needs to slash its emissions.

To that end Ferrari is following a similar path to Porsche and adding automatic stop-start capability to both models, at least for Europe.  Unlike the current EPA tests, the European test cycle actually includes full stops and starts, thus showing the benefit of stop-start with a 15 percent reduction in CO2 emissions. The FF is rated at 360 g/km for CO2 while the 458 is down to a “mere” 275 g/km.

Of course, this technology only provides a benefit in urban driving. Take one of these Ferraris out on the open road and you can easily consume almost as much fuel as ever, especially in the 660 horsepower FF.

That’s not to say there aren’t any improvements elsewhere in the FF. Like the 458 and California, the 6.3-liter V12 is now equipped with direct fuel injection for both a power and efficiency boost. The charge cooling effect of spraying the fuel directly into the combustion chamber allows the FF’s engine to run reliably with a 12.3:1 compression ratio. The FF is also the first V12 Ferrari equipped with a dual clutch gearbox for very fast automatic shifts without the losses inherent in a torque converter automatic.

Ferrari has also concocted a rather novel four wheel drive system for the FF that is claimed to weigh only half as much as a typical system. Rather than a complex transfer case to split the torque between the front and rear axles, the 4RM system actually consists of two independent gearboxes. The 7-speed DCT transaxle is mounted at the rear axle to balance the mass.

A second two-speed gearbox hangs off the front end of the crankshaft exclusively to send up to 20 percent of the engine torque to the front wheels. The gearing of the two ratios spans the range of the four lower gears in the 7-speed. At higher speeds, the reduced mechanical advantage means that all of the torque can go to the rear wheels with ease.

Since the introduction of Acura’s Super Handling-All Wheel Drive several years back a number of automakers have incorporated torque vectoring to actively distribute the propulsive effort for better handling.  All of those systems only worked on the rear axles, typically sending more torque to the outside rear wheel, thus increasing the yaw moment and helping to counter understeer.  Another unique element of the 4RM system is a pair of electronically controlled multi-plate clutch units on the front gearbox which enables torque vectoring for all four wheels. All told, 4RM only adds 90 pounds to the FF which still leaves it at rather chunky 4,144 pounds.

Ferrari hasn’t yet given any indication when the HELE package will be offered on US market models but we wouldn’t be surprised if it happens sooner rather than later.

 

2011 Nissan Leaf outsold by Ferrari, Maserati and Bentley

 

2011 was supposed to be the year of the electric car. The Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf both went on sale in late 2010, but based on two months of sales, it ain’t anything worth getting excited about yet.

602 Chevrolet Volts were delivered by the end of February 2011. January sales, at 321 vehicles, were stronger than February’s 281 units. There aren’t as many days in February, of course, but there’s more to the Volt sales story than slackening demand. In fact there is no evidence of sales going flaccid as dealers continue to gouge well over the $41,000 sticker price. Even Consumer Reports, the magazine that buys all the cars they test had to pay $5,000 over sticker for its Volt.

In fact, General Motors built 624 Volts in February. Where are they? Many are apparently going to dealers as demo units which started to arrive last month for the first time.  Several hundred Volts are being kept in stock in the launch markets so that potential customers can actually drive the cars before signing their loan or lease papers.  In total, the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant has cranked out 2,423 Volts since production started in earnest sometime last year. Several hundred of those are part of GM’s captured test fleet being driven by GM employees to gather more real world data before ramping up production further for retail customers. Just shy of 1,000 had gone to customers by the end of February with the rest being demos, in transit or inventory. At the current pace, Chevrolet will have delivered more Volts to customers sometime in April than Tesla has delivered since it began production of the Roadster in 2008.

What of Nissan and its vaunted Leaf?  Nissan is not being particularly clear what the issue is, but February sales dropped to just 67 units from 87 in January with no indications that dealers are getting demo units from the factory.  Apparently, there are supplying issues and also some reports that a number of people that made $99 reservations are walking away when the time comes to firm up their orders.  Whatever the case, only 154 Leafs had found American homes by February 28.

Let’s take a look at some other brands with comparable sales numbers.  In the first two months, such mainstream environmentally friendly and affordable brands as Maserati, Ferrari and Bentley have delivered 273, 262 and 183 units respectively. It doesn’t look like an auspicious start for the Leaf, but once the kinks are taken out of the supply hose, electric Datsuns will start flowing more freely.

American Le Mans Series 2011 preview

We’ve passed the midway point between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox, so it’s time to start thinking about motorsports again. That means getting ready for the 2011 American Le Mans Series (ALMS), which rose from the ashes of IMSA in 1999 and has since become the preeminent sports car racing series in North America. Despite the economic slowdown of the last several years, ALMS has grown its fields and its attendance, thanks to CEO Scott Atherton’s collaboration with Le Mans organizers Automobile Club de L’Ouest (ACO) and an emphasis on relevant and green racing. It’s far more exciting than the F1 space race or NASCAR’s same-sameyness.

Atherton has promoted the idea of alternative fuels and alternative drivetrains along with a mix of high-tech prototypes and recognizable GT cars. ALMS is the only series North America with such a diverse mix of propulsion systems. The base fuel for cars in the series is E10, a blend of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline. Many of the cars including virtually the entire GT field now run on cellulosic E85 a next generation biofuel made from organic waste materials. Though the Audis no longer run the full season in America, they and the French Peugeots still appear at Sebring and Petit Le Mans with their diesel powered prototypes and in 2010, Dyson Racing began running on biobutanol, another biofuel with characteristics more like gasoline.

For 2011, the fuel situation remains the same with four approved fuels but the other technical rules have been modified to align with the updated ACO specs. In 2010 ALMS ran the former LMP1 and LMP2 cars in a single class with weight and air restrictor adjustments to even out the performance. This year we are back to two prototype classes with the new LMP1 largely following the former LMP2 specs. The most significant change for the P1 cars is that hybrid powertrains are now officially allowed.

In 2009, Corsa Motorsports ran an LMP1 car with a Zytek hybrid drive system that had some success but inadequate funding sidelined that car last year. Porsche’s 911 GT3R hybrid made its North American debut at the season ending Petit Le Mans last fall with its electro-mechanical flywheel energy storage system. Porsche has yet to announce 2011 hybrid racing plans, but the 918 RSR may well appear on the track before the year is out.

2011 LMP1 cars will continue to run with race-bred engines limited to 3.4 liters normally aspirated or 2.0 liters turbocharged if running on gasoline or ethanol blends and 3.7-liters if diesel fueled. Dyson Racing is back this year with its butanol-fueled Lola coupe powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged Mazda four cylinder engine. The diesel powered Audis and Peugeots will also return for at least the enduros at Sebring and PLM since both races are part of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup that also includes the flagship race in France and four other events in Europe and Asia.

Audi will contest Sebring with an updated version of the R15+ TDI that won at Le Mans last year while it continues testing of the all-new R18 TDI for its race debut in France. Unlike the open-top R15 and its predecessors the R10 and R8, the R18 is a closed coupe. This echoes the more aerodynamically efficient approach taken by Peugeot. The 5.0-liter V10 diesel has been supplanted by an all-new 3.7-liter twin-turbo V6 diesel. At PLM last year, Audi motorsports chief Dr Wolfgang Ulrich declined to comment on whether the new car would use a hybrid drive, but if it does, we wouldn’t be surprised to see it adopt a version of the flywheel system from the 911.

In addition to the new body style, the R18 also adopts a feature that debuted on the 2009 Acura ARX-02a, identically sized front and rear wheels and tires. For many years, most race cars have used smaller front wheels, but the new configuration allows for a more balanced weight distribution and handling.

Peugeot is also back with an all-new diesel prototype that retains the 908 designation of the old car but not much else. The 3.7-liter diesel in the 908 has eight cylinders and two turbos, down from the old car’s V12. Peugeot has been testing a hybrid version of the old 908 since September 2009 but hasn’t indicated if the electric boost and regenerative braking system will be used on the 2011 car. The French manufacturer has also opted for a equal front and rear wheel/tire combo used on the Audi. All of the new prototypes are also equipped with vertical “shark-fin” aerodynamic panel on top of the engine compartment, a change mandated by the new rules to help prevent the cars from getting airborne if they spin.

Both Audi and Peugeot are planning full campaigns in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) which means that they will be at both Sebring and Petit Le Mans as well as five other races in Europe and Asia. Peugeot has not indicated whether the new or old 908 will run at Sebring.

Among the ALMS regulars, two-time prototype champion Highcroft racing is back again with Honda power shifting back to the P1 class. Highcroft will be running an updated ARX-01e with the 3.4-liter V8 used so successfully for the last several years. Highcroft has been a Honda factory development partner since Acura entered the ALMS in 2007. The Connecticut based team spent much of the off-season testing a modified ARX-01c P2 car fitted with the new twin-turbo 2.8-liter V6 from Honda Performance Development (HPD).

The new HPD engine conforms to the 2011 LMP2 rules that require production based engines that cost no more than $35,000. The HR28TT is based on Honda’s global V6 that sees use across most of the Honda and Acura lineup including the Accord, Odyssey and MDX. In ALMS defending prototype challenge champions Level 5 Motorsports are moving up to the P2 class with a pair of Lola chassis using the new HPD V6.

In addition to Highcroft and Dyson, LMP2 stalwarts Muscle Milk Cytosport are also moving up to P1. The Porsche RS Spyder has been retired from ALMS competition so the squad owned by Greg Pickett has taken over one of the former factory Aston Martin Lola coupes. Like other older P1 cars, this one is grandfathered in with tighter air restrictors on its 6.0-liter V12 but that didn’t seem to cause much grief at last week’s annual ALMS winter test at Sebring where it outpaced all other challengers.

Last summer Roush Yates Engines announced plans to produce an LMP2 spec engine based on Ford’s 3.5-liter Ecoboost V6 and Lola announced that it would produce an installation kit for its chassis.  However, no team has publicly announced plans to compete with the Ecoboost engine.

In the GT ranks, the fields will again be full for 2011 with all of last years marques returning. Corvette Racing is back with two freshly built C6.Rs. The team experienced more difficulties than usual in 2010 including a double DNF at Le Mans. However, the Detroit based squad brought it all together at the season-ending Petit Le Mans with a last lap victory.  That momentum carried through to 2011 where the new car topped the GT class at the Sebring test.

While the Corvette is basically the same as the 2010 model, the driver lineup will see its biggest shakeup in several years with decade-long veteran Johnny O’Connell leaving the Vette squad to pilot one of the new Cadillac CTS-Vs in the SCCA World Challenge series. Tommy Milner is moving over from the Rahal-Letterman BMW squad to join Olivier Beretta in the #3 car.

One on only two all-new cars in GT for 2011 is the gorgeous Ferrari 458 Italia, four of which will be operated by Extreme Speed Motorsports and Risi Competizione. The 458 gets a larger engine, new gearbox and of course completely different aerodynamics from the 430GT it replaces. Speaking of the 430GT which has been so successful over the past several years, Tracy Khron is back in 2011 running one of the “obsolete” Ferraris.

The other new entry this year, is the 458’s most direct market competitor, the Lamborghini Gallardo which will be run by the freshman West Racing team.

Of course this wouldn’t be GT racing with a complement of Porsche 911s and the GT3 RSR is back in the hands of Flying Lizard and Black Swan Racing which is moving up from GT Challenge. Also returning is Rahal-Letterman Racing with its factory backed pair of BMW M3 GTs.  Robertson Racing returns and will be running two of its Ford GTs for the full season after debuting the second car #04 at Petit Le Mans.

Also expanding to two cars is the JaguarRSR team which is back for its sophomore attempt. 2010 was pretty much a disaster for the Jaguar XKR-GT with a string of mechanical and electrical failures that usually it retire very early on. With two cars, the team has brought three veteran racers in P.J. Jones, Bruno Junqueira and Cristiano Da Matta to join team owner Paul Gentillozi. Hopefully with the experience of 2010 behind them the pretty green and black Jags can actually finish races this year.

The LMP Challenge and GT Challenge classes are back again for a second season with their lower cost and fixed specifications and several new teams joining the party.

The 2011 ALMS and ILMC seasons kick off on March 19 with the 12 Hours of Sebring with a massive 59 car grid. If 2010 is anything to go by, 2011 should be another bang up season for sports car racing fans in North America and the around the world.

Return of the “Breadvan”: Ferrari reveals new FF shooting brake to replace 612

Ferrari today released the first images and details of its new four-seater GT dubbed the FF which will be taking the place of the long-running 612 Scaglietti in the Maranello lineup. The FF has a decidedly different shape from its predecessor, instead hearkening back to the one-off 1962 250 GT Breadvan.  The so-called “Breadvan” wasn’t actually an official Ferrari, having been modified by a group of employees that left the company in 1961. That however, is a story for another day.

Today we are dealing with an all-new gran turismo that not only takes Ferrari design in a new direction but in many respects may well be the most practical Ferrari of all time.  While the 612’s long wheelbase offered more rear seat leg room than past Ferrari four seaters, the FF’s extended roofline now opens the possibility of some head room as well.

The hatchback layout allows the FF to have a surprisingly ample 15.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the back seats, something previously unheard of in Ferrari, almost making it suitable for a road trip for four.  The back seats apparently fold forward expanding that volume to over 28 cubic feet.  While this is thankfully no SUV, the FF certainly seems capable of being an everyday car, assuming of course that you have well north of a quarter million dollars to drop on a daily driver.  Being devoted fans of the wagon form factor, we could certainly learn to love a Ferrari of this shape.

Underneath the bodywork, the FF also becomes the first production Ferrari to incorporate all-wheel-drive. Ferrari has been testing all-wheel-drive systems since at least the 408 concept of 1988 but none of these systems have ever made it to the Maranello production line. The system used on the FF is claimed to weigh just half as much as other similar systems although few specifics have been revealed. Like other high performance all-wheel-drive systems in recent years, the Ferrari layout is integrated into the electronic stability control to provide full torque vectoring capability to help the FF go exactly where the driver points it.

Speaking of torque, the Italian boffins have now applied direct fuel injection to the 6.3-liter V12 powerplant bringing its output to 651 horsepower at 8,000 rpm and 504 pound-feet at 6,000 rpm.  All of that thrust is routed through one of Ferrari’s lovely seven-speed dual-clutch gearboxes mounted at the rear axle giving the 3,938 pound FF a 53 percent rear weight bias and acceleration to 62 miles per hour in a just 3.7 seconds.  So far there is no indication that the FF will be equipped with the rumored KERS or hybrid powertrain so we’ll probably have to wait for the successor to the 599 to get that.

Ferrari will put the FF on public display for the first time in March at the Geneva Motor Show.