Texas Exhibit Showcases Art of the Auto

Many eyes are on Abilene, Texas this week as Yisrayl Hawkins, leader of the House of Yahweh cult, has declared June 12 as Doomsday.

(Of course, the fact that there are no “End of the World” sales going on at Macy’s and Nordstrom’s immediately makes this information seem questionable.)

End time prophecies aside, there definitely will be something big happening in Abilene tomorrow – but it’s a grand opening, not a big finish.

June 12 marks the opening of a new exhibition from the Automotive Fine Arts Society at The Grace Museum in Abilene. And for anyone who loves cars, this exhibit is definitely worth the drive.

It’s the first time the AFAS has presented a museum exhibit, and the national organization has called on artists from all different mediums to make it a breath-taking experience for those who like to ooh and aah over all things automotive. Zero to 60 includes paintings and sculptures, pen-and-ink drawings, wood carvings and more. (Pictured is “Sex in the City” by Ken Eberts.)

“The paintings and sculptures of the AFAS relate their common love affair with the automobile and its history,” said Grace Museum curator Judy Deaton. She said the cars captured by the artists range from classics to current designs; from street vehicles to race cars.

“The subject may be the same but the results vary from the photorealism to energetic abstractions and everything in between,” Deaton says. “Jags, coups, convertibles, woodies, roadsters, Duesebergs, dragsters and Vettes – the romance of the road is in excellent and very talented hands.”

AFAS regularly exhibits its members talents at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, but this marks the first time that many of these artists have been assembled in a non-automotive setting.

So if you’re headed to Abilene tomorrow to catch the End of the World, make sure you swing by The Grace Museum first. And if you can’t make it tomorrow, you have until September 7. (Well, not according to Yisrayl, but I’m going out on a limb and guessing you’re OK on time.)

The Grace Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and until 8 p.m. on Thursday. For more information, visit their web site or call 325-673-4587.

Zemanta Pixie

Morrissette, Mercedes Get Green

Most of us best recall Alanis Morrissette as the gal who made ex-boyfriends around the world squirm uncomfortably whenever her songs came on the air. But it’s been 13 years since she gave us “You Oughta Know,” and today Alanis is singing a different tune.

No longer the angry young woman, today she is an environmentally minded artist and has gone from being green with envy to simply being green. And for her latest video, she wants to take audiences along for the ride.

To that end, she has partnered with Mercedes-Benz, showcasing their E320 BlueTEC in her latest video, “Underneath.” The first single from her new album, Flavors of Entanglement, the video revolves around Morrissette and her concern for the environment. It shows her wearing a “Save the Earth” T-shirt at a Los Angeles bus stop and then distributing fliers about the environment – presumably on recycled paper.

Mercedes gets in the act when the E320 BlueTEC passes, and she salutes the driver for their environmentally aware choice. So what made the BlueTEC her eco-friendly car of choice?

First off, it uses a state-of-the-art engine and exhaust technology, which produces the cleanest diesels available. That allows the V6 to provide the power of a V8 with the fuel consumption of a four-cylinder compact. Neat trick, huh?

Beyond the immediate benefit of fuel efficiency, the long-term benefit includes significantly lower carbon dioxide emissions. The Benz E320 BlueTEC was impressive enough to be named the 2007 World Green Car by automotive journalists – and clearly that’s good enough for Alanis.

In case the sedan isn’t your style, this fall Mercedes will roll out a trio of SUVs – the ML320 BlueTEC, the larger GL320 BlueTEC and the less-easy-to-define-as-a-SUV R320 BlueTEC. So if you want to help Alanis save the planet, check out these cars. If not, don’t worry – I won’t say anything. We’ve all seen how she can be when she’s mad…

Zemanta Pixie

Building a Better Bentley

Posted in: Bentley, General

Not that anyone was complaining about the luxury of its current and/or previous models, but now Bentley has announced plans for a new and improved car.

The British automaker has announced that, beginning in 2009, the Flying Spur lineup will be joined by its most powerful four-door to date – the Bentley Continental Flying Spur Speed. Combining the cabin comforts of the Flying Spur with the driving performance of the highly acclaimed Contintental GT Speed, this latest addition is a 12-cylinder powerhouse with 600 horsepower that will top out at around 200 miles an hour, besting the Flying Spur’s top number of 195. It will also outperform the standard Spur in the 0-60 showdown, hitting the mark in 4.5 seconds, which shaves .4 seconds off the standard Flying Spur’s 0-60 performance. (Good to know if you’re in a hurry.)

Bentley has lowered the ride height, which will help the car hit its full velocity potential on the open road, and the Speed also boasts a reworked chassis that provides tauter handling and better steering response. With so many racing elements incorporated, designers also gave the car improved agility and body control … and then added thicker anti-roll bars to both the front and back of the car. Not that you’ll need them, of course – but it’s good to know they’re there.

As expected, this car isn’t designed just for superior performance, but for ultimate style and elegance as well. It has the familiar Bentley curves and styling cues, but subtle design shifts make the Flying Spur Speed stand out on the road. The dark-tinted radiator and air intake grilles are designed to emphasize the performance offered by this beauty, and it also sports wide exhaust pipes and unique multi-spoke alloy wheels – which are available either in bright silver or darkened tungsten. Bentley has also supersized the 19-inch tires offered on the Spur to 20-inch Pirelli P-Zeroes.

Like the rest of the car, the Speed’s interior also shows a darker side of Bentley, but it works exceptionally well. With expected but well-executed touches such as the gear lever in knurled chrome and hide, it is as beautiful as anything Bentley has ever put on the road. Carrying out its dark side, even the engine cover is black.

Around town, you’ll be getting about 10 miles to the gallon, although on the highway you can expect to squeeze out around 17 mpg.

Bentley’s official word on the Flying Spur Speed, according to Dr. Ulrich Eichhorn from their Board of Engineering, is that it “advances its Bentley performance credentials while delivering outstanding refinement and comfort through our unique application of advanced technology and traditional craftsmanship.”

Translation? This car has the performance power to blow other cars off the road…and the stylng elegance to knock your socks off in the process.

Zemanta Pixie

MV Agusta: It’s About Time!

Most of the ads in today’s newspapers focused on possible suggestions for Father’s Day gifts. Since it’s only a week away, I guess it’s time for all the moms/kids/wives to get out there and find a fresh new way of saying “Happy Dad’s Day.” But I don’t know that a recliner with built-in cupholders or a Nerf handle for his Wii Golf game (this year’s answer to the tie) is really what he’s hoping for. So maybe it’s time to put down the paper and find something a little more original.

If you’re looking for something truly unique – and you happen to have a motorcyle enthusiast in the house – I’ve got just the thing. The new MV 75 World Champion Collection is a stunning new line of wrist watches that will, hands-down, make your gift the best one he gets all year. A collaboration between Italian watchmaker Jean Richard and Italian motorcycle manufacturer MV Agusta, this limited edition timepiece is a beautiful combination of both company’s skill sets. The rugged details of the iconic motorcyle proves to be the perfect complement for the watch designer’s elegant heritage, and flashes of red on the dial give a nod to the bike’s famous color. You’ll see other MV touches throughout; even the face resembles the MV Agusta’s instrument dials, and it’s named for the 75 world championships the company has enjoyed so far.

Depending on how happy you want that Father’s Day celebration to be, you can buy it in one of three limited editions, that range from $8,000 (for the stainless steel model) to $21,000 (for the rose gold edition).

And just think, with that shopping decision out of the way, you can focus on what’s really important. Like which new pair of shoes you deserve after buying him such a nice gift!

Zemanta Pixie

What’s Sexier – A Porsche or a Prius?

OK, the answer to that question may seem obvious, but you might be surprised.

According to a recent poll, called the Challenge X Survey, about 88 percent of women said they would be more likely to stop and strike up a conversation with guys who are driving the latest fuel-efficient car as opposed to someone cruising around in a hot new sports car. What’s more, about 80 percent of car buyers here in the U.S. say they would rather spend quality time at a party talking to someone in a fuel-efficient auto rather than an exotic sports model.

This kind of information could cause quite a stir among males planning a mid-life crisis – in the past, they’ve been able to buy a Corvette (or some other life-affirming symbol of their manly power) and call it good. But in light of this new information, what’s a guy to do?

Does this mean that they’ll be trading their Hummers for Hondas? They just might, once they discover that more and more women are turning their attention toward cars that are green instead of admiring those fast, mean machines. What’s more, most respondents in the 18-to-43-year-old category said they consider it a fashion faux pas to buy a car that’s not environmentally friendly.

This, of course, poses questions for those tooling around in the kinds of cars that would only be green if you painted them. What does it mean for their future? That remains to be seen.

Until automakers start producing hybrid and electric vehicles that are as sleek and sporty as their gas-guzzling counterparts, auto enthusiasts are in a challenging position. Yes, I want to save the polar bears … but I’m also infatuated with the Bentley Continental. Fortunately, several automakers are trying to follow in the footsteps of the California-based Tesla Motors and give us some sexy yet environmentally friendly cars. Honestly, it just can’t happen soon enough.

A few years ago, a guy (who drove a minivan) tried to convince me that the car you drive has nothing to do with who you are. But we all know that it says as much about you as the music you listen to, the clothes you choose to wear and the style of home you live in. That’s not a shallow indictment of an individual’s strengths and shortcomings, but rather an outward indication of what matters is most important to them.

Perhaps what this survey is saying is that it really is what’s inside – or in this case, under the hood – that counts. What we need now are more cars that take that inner beauty and look as good on the outside as they do under the hood.

Zemanta Pixie

Need a Boost? Do Some Shotz!

It’s Wednesday, that inevitable middle-of-the-week moment when the end is in sight, but you’ve still got to get through the day before you can claim the joy of sliding toward the weekend.

In my ever-present quest to find new and improved ways to increase my energy, I found the perfect companion for those weekday blahs. And it just might be the best buddy you could have on a road trip, too. If you’ve ever hopped yourself up on a Venti Latte to keep your eyelids open for the drive … only to find yourself in the middle of nowhere desperately searching for a bathroom … this drink’s for you.

Shotz is the latest addition to the burgeoning energy drink market, and it offers a healthier alternative to caffeine-based energy drinks. (Another plus about this particular array of products is that they aren’t filled with the kind of sugary sweetness that makes you feel like you’re sneaking a drink of your kid’s Kool-Aid.) The two-ounce bottles pack an energy punch that will give you a boost for about six hours and, since it relies on vitamins (mostly B6 and B12) for its main source of fuel, instead of sugar and caffeine, you won’t get that jittery feel after you’ve used it. Instead, it’s just a nice little boost to help you make it through the day.

It has about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, so if you’re not a java junkie you’ll probably feel this a bit more than your caffeinated friends. But it’s not going to send you flying and then leave you face-down on your desk (or dashboard) when it wears off.

My favorite flavors are the Watermelon and the Sour Apple, both of which taste kind of like a Jolly Rancher. And again, I just have to give a thumbs-up to whomever came up with the idea of putting all that fuel in such a small package. Six hours of energy from a two-ounce drink is much better than four or five hours of turbo power from a 12-ounce bladder buster. (Fewer bathroom breaks = more productivity and/or more time on the road instead of beside it.)

So whether you need it to get through this mid-week workday, or want an extra boost on your next road trip, I strongly recommend you check it out.

Bugatti Veyron – The Sexiest Car You’ll Never Drive… Or Will You?

Posted in: Bugatti, General

Calling the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 a beautiful car is a lot like saying Samantha on Sex and the City has “had a few boyfriends.” The Veyron so far exceeds the expectations of most sports cars that it is truly in a class of its own. This stunning mid-engined racer sports a W16 under the hood and an elegant two-tone exterior with sleek, fluid lines that give it instant grace and beauty. The oversized grill gives a nod to its racing roots, while everything else about this car exudes modern elegance. And flat-out speed.

With only 300 of these 1,001-horsepower cars planned for production, however, the chances of sitting in one – let alone driving it – seemed slim at best. For most of the world, the only experience they’ll have with the Bugatti is through web images accompanied by such staggering facts as its top speed (over 250 mph), it acceleration (0-100 in 5.5 seconds) and its price tag (around $1.2 million).

However, for those who really have to add “Driving the Bugatti” to their own personal Bucket List, Beverly Hills Rent-A-Car has a deal for you. They’ve added a gorgeous blue-and-white Bugatti to their stable, and you can spend a day inside this dream car for just $25,000.

At just over $1,000 an hour, it’s cheaper than a good divorce attorney and a lot more fun to spend time with. And who knows – maybe if you just can’t part with it after a day on the road, they’ll give you a special deal on a weekly rate.

Let me know how that works out for you.

For The Vette Set

The Corvette is arguably one of America’s best-loved sports cars. Throughout its 50-year history, the Corvette has been at no shortage for attracting ink, but few books talk about this car as thoroughly or eloquently as Jerry Burton in his new book, Corvette: America’s Sports Car – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

Packed with previously unpublished photos from the GM archives, as well as interviews with the engineers and designers who first gave birth to this iconic auto, Burton unfolds the car’s fascinating history and then supplements his facts with vintage magazine stories and ads. All in all, it makes for a great read for ‘Vette fans and becomes a must-have reference book for anyone with an interest in sports cars in general.

The pictures alone make this worth an hour or two of your time; the images are gorgeous and are beautifully showcased in this oversized tome. It even includes images of the 2009 ZR1 Blue Devil, which is Chevrolet’s 600 horsepower supercharged 6.2 liter V8.

Pulling it all together is an impressive binding which makes this book an instant eye catcher. The brilliant “Corvette Red” padded vinyl cover is topped off with Corvette’s crossed-flags hood emblem, meaning you won’t want to put this one on the shelf – you will absolutely have to leave it out for guests to admire.

If you already own the car, you might as well read the book! And if you don’t own the car – this just might be the book to convince you to give it a second look. The book retails for $75, and of course you can find it online at Amazon.com.

Using Karma to Save the Planet

Posted in: General, Hybrid cars

One of the biggest conflicts facing many auto enthusiasts comes from knowing the atrocities that their vehicles commit upon the environment.

While I won’t drink from a landfill-clogging plastic bottle, I will happily jump inside a gas-guzzling sports car with a carbon footprint that rivals Bigfoot. I know it’s wrong.

And I know I’m not alone in this conflict.

About a year ago, I was talking about cars and biodiesel fuel with Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing to you “Dallas” fans…) and he touted his passion for the Prius. Yep, the man who played the King of Oil in the ’80s drives a hybrid. His wife, Maj, meanwhile, confessed to absolutely loving her Ferrari – even though she knows it doesn’t fall in the eco-friendly category. Not even close. So what’s a girl to do?

Up until now, the options have either been to park it and assuage your guilt, or ignore that pesky conscience and hit the gas. But Fisker Automotive has a better plan.

The California-based car company first introduced its prototype, the Fisker Karma, five months ago at the North American International Auto Show. Since then, they’ve received some 500 orders for the luxury hybrid car, which is slated to be on the market in 2009. The company plans to hit a production schedule of 1,250 cars per month in 2010.

The numbers are impressive – this plug-in hybrid will hit 125 mph in sport mode, and tops out at 95 mph in electric (or “stealth”) mode. And the styling lets you know that this is no ordinary plug-in. With a sleek, low-slung profile, the Karma hugs the ground and stands about as tall as the Porsche 911 and is about as wide as BMW’s M-series cars.

The Fisker Karma goes from 0-60 in less than six seconds, and includes a full-length solar roof to help charge the car – and keep it cool – while it’s parked.

Inside, you’ll find all the electronic creature comforts required for today’s driver, including a built-in navigation system, DVD system and state-of-the art push-button controls. Of course, we’ve yet to see how this dream car translates from the showroom to the open road, but it looks like one of the most promising things to jump off the drawing board in quite some time.

And with a price point of $80,000, it’s easier on the checkbook than many sportsters out there – even before you start saving money on fuel.

Great styling and performance without the guilt? Now that’s what I call great Karma! Maj Hagman, I think your car is calling…

Luxury Automakers Still Missing the Mark

Posted in: Cadillac, General

Although women are buying about 60 percent of the cars out there today – and influencing the decision inCadillac CTS 85 percent of all new car purchases, luxury auto manufacturers are still falling short when it comes to marketing.

“In terms of the luxury auto market, they could do much better at reaching women,” says Milton Pedraza, CEO of The Luxury Institute. “When you look at the ultra-luxury automakers, like Rolls-Royce, Ferrari and Maserati, they really have a long way to go.”

Pedraza says that a male-dominated industry has led to male-oriented marketing – even though the marketing firms behind the campaigns oftentimes are led by successful women.

“It’s an industry dominated by men, so they haven’t gotten the message that wealthy women are a force in their own right,” Pedraza points out. “You see it in every aspect, from the way the cars are marketed to the way women are treated in dealerships. A lot of them are not sensitive to the needs of a female driver and the buttons they need to press. Women are equally interested in [a car’s] performance, but also are drawn to the idea of achievement and rewarding yourself. This is what they luxury car manufacturers should be looking at.”

Those who do start paying attention to the fairer sex could find big rewards. With more and more women earning six and seven-figure incomes, they have the purchasing power that luxe auto manufacturers crave. Pedraza says that appealing to women’s more emotional side – as opposed to touting horsepower and speed – will be the key to success.

For proof of that, he points to Cadillac, which has found success in branding among women, thanks to some ads that show successful, attractive women enjoying their cars – and leaving male drivers in their dust.

“They’re showing women who are strong, powerful and functional,” says Pedraza. “But the one thing Cadillac still struggles with is identifying their market brand. On the one hand, they give us these great commercials with powerful, successful women, but then they also give us commercials featuring rappers, where women are used as a showpiece. In order to do better, they have to quit sending confusing signals.”

When brands like Aston Martin, Bentley and Ferrari refocus their campaigns, they could find a new following with a powerful, brand-loyal female marketplace.

“There’s a segment of women out there that like powerful cars, great styling and who love the driving experience,” Pedraza notes. “Luxury car brands need to understand that and speak to them as women. They need to be clear, distinct and respectful. But luxury car firms just haven’t gotten that yet.”