30 November 2012

2010 Cadillac VSR Concept

Transcribed from the July, 2010 issue of Motor Trend

Q.What do you do when you've spent 42 years working on concept cars for GM?
A. Build one for yourself, of course

'You'd think that after 42 years in the saddle at a single company, a guy might view retirement as a chance to kick back a little. Travel, maybe. Play a little golf. Or just sit around the pool with a tall cold one and a contented smile. Not Wayne Cherry. After a distinguished career at General Motors that culminated in his being appointed only the fifth vice president of design in the company's history, he decided to build a concept car of his own.

"You just can't stop designing, you just can't stop being involved with cars," Cherry explains. "You start to do something like this, and it turns into a concept vehicle." He makes it sound like a winter garage project that got a little out of control, which at a basic level perhaps isn't a million miles from the truth. Then you take a close look at Cherry's VSR street rod, at the hardware, the workmanship, and, most of all, the design, and you realize it could easily take centre stage as a concept car on the GM stand at the next international auto show.

Wayne Cherry has always loved concept cars. He joined GM in 1962, straight out of California's Art Center (sic) design school, and was assigned to the advanced design studio at the Tech Center, where, among his first assignments, he assisted on a project that became the first Oldsmobile Toronado, one of the high watermarks of Bill Mitchell's stint as GM design chief. He also worked on the design for the '67 Camaro, before shipping out in 1965 to work at GM's British subsidiary, Vauxhall. What was meant to be a three-month assignment turned into a 26-year stint that culminated in his being made head of GM's European design operations. 

At Vauxhall, he worked on the gullwing XVR, the brand's first-ever concept car, which was unveiled at the 1966 Geneva show. His wild, mid-engine SRV, shown at the 1970 Earls Court Motor Show in London, was a four-door, four-seater that stood just 41 inches tall. The Equus, one of the star concepts of 1978, was a crisp, state-of-the-moment roadster that rivaled the best from Bertone and Pininfarina. "That's the most uncompromised design I've ever worked on," Cherry said at the time.

Back in Detroit, he was appointed vice president of design in 1992. It should have been the dream job, but by 1992 design no longer enjoyed the primacy at GM it had commanded during the Earl and Mitchell eras. Instead, as GM's product development processes became hopelessly entangled in the disastrous reorganizations of the 1980s, design was subordinated to engineers and newfangled "brand managers." That the Pontiac Aztek was launched on Wayne Cherry's watch was less an indictment of the man's design sensibilities than an indication of the catastrophic mess GM's product development process had become by the 1990s.

While getting great-looking production cars through the system was a tough slog, at least until Bob Lutz arrived in 2001 and started to reorganize GM's product-development process, Cherry had more leeway when it came to concept cars. At one point, his team churned out no fewer than 45 concept vehicles in six years, with more built for internal design reviews by senior GM brass. "I think the concept vehicles really showed the capability of the design organization," he says. He views the extravagant Cadillac 16 concept, revealed in 2003 and regarded by many rival designers and critics alike as the finest piece of work from GM Design since the Mitchell era, as his crowning achievement.

The 16 was a vision of Cadillac's future, a mobile storyboard for the brand's return to the top echelon of the luxury-car business. It evolved the Art & Science design language that was first revealed with the mid-engine Cien and Evoq roadster concepts and had started to appear in production Cadillacs like the first-gen CTS and SRX. There's a clear link between all these cars and the VSR. But why an Art & Science street rod? And why now?

Cherry says his return to the U.S. in the early '90s rekindled an interest in street rods he'd had in the '50s, when he'd raced a D/Gas Chevy on Indianapolis dragstrips. So he figured he'd design a rod, a fairly simple, straightforward roadster. With a twist. "When you look at the diversity today in rods, you've got the big buck expensive stuff; you've got 'new-old' rods with bodies and frames out of a catalog; you've got people restoring '50s rods, which are now a class at Pebble Beach; and you've got Rat Rods, where there's some real creativity. But from a designer's perspective, there is a repetitive and traditional design language. I wanted to do something contemporary that would expand the conventional wisdom of a street rod and cross over to a sports car or a supercar."

Cherry wanted his rod to be Cadillac-powered because, in early '50s, before the small-block Chevy was available, Cadillac engines were the premium motors in rods, race cars, and sports cars. "But none of these vehicles had any indication of what the engine was," he recalls, "so I wanted the exterior design to suggest or introduce or set the expectation for the engine. And I wanted to build on all the work we had done on the new Cadillac design language."

The VSR is a lean, edgy, modernista rod that makes Tom Gale's Plymouth Prowler look soft and flabby by comparison. Cherry approached the build as with a proper concept car, taking it from sketches and theme drawings that evolved the idea, to scale drawings that, among other things, ensured the driver and the mechanicals would all fit, to a full-size clay to refine the surfaces and the detailing.

The VSR was constructed at Race Car Replicas, the Michigan-based shop responsible for exquisite recreations of Porsche 917s, Ford GT40s, and Ferrari P4s, among others. The frame is a race-car-style TIG-welded aluminum monocoque with Indy-car-style pushrod independent suspension front and rear with height-adjustable air springs. The engine is a 400-horsepower V-8 from the first-gen Cadillac CTS-V, driving through a GM 4L65E four-speed automatic with paddle-shifters and a quick-change differential. The four-wheel disc brakes feature 13-inch rotors and six-piston calipers, and the steering is rack and pinion. The interior includes carbon-fiber seats by Lear and digital instruments. You can clip an iPod into the center console and control the interior lighting via a touch panel.

The VSR's basic form and proportions might be classic street rod, but the technology and detailing are pure concept-car stuff. Azko-Nobel created a special silver paint for the VSR, for example, and even the wheels are Cherry's own design, milled from billets of aluminium by Alcoa. More than 30 companies contributed products or services during the build.

Cherry used his vast network of connections around the Detroit area to pull it all together, but even so he found it a daunting task. "After 42 years with GM and then you're on your own, it's a whole other world out there," he says. "When I called [suppliers] on behalf of GM, it was part of my job and I never thought about it twice. But when you're calling on your own project it's a lot different. Sometimes I'd put the call off, to get the courage to do it." He now understands just how much creative freedom the GM design studio system allowed him: "Someone said to me it must be terrific not having to make any compromises, but when we did concept cars at GM, our shops were so creative and capable they could do anything. When you're out on your own working with different shops and different people, you have to think about what all the capabilities are and some of the things you can and can't do." 

Wayne Cherry's VSR street rod is an extraordinary achievement: a D-I-Y concept car the equal of anything you'd see at an international auto show. So is it time now to kick back, relax? Not exactly. Cherry wants to design another car, this time to win hot rodding's premier show-car prize, the prestigious Ridler Award, which is judged on creativity, engineering, and workmanship and is presented at the annual Detroit Autorama. All he needs is a wealthy patron, someone who's prepared to pay for a concept car of his own.'

On Top Of The World

29 November 2012

T.W.O. - Chicara Nagata's Art 1 Bike

Chicara Nagata is Japanese designer and artist renowned for his extraordinary line of 'Art' motorbikes, which are considered as stunning works of art in their own right. For the past 20 years, this Japanese artist has been dedicating his entire energy to the creation of these insanely detailed masterpieces.
But Nagata's ambition to design and build his own machines was almost ruined when he was involved in a near-fatal bike accident at the age of 16. Nagata spent 8 months in hospital fighting for his life. But thanks to the skill of the medical staff and multiple blood transfusions, he survived the terrible ordeal.

In 1992, at the age of 21, he launched his own design studio, Chicara Inc. and started creating Harley-based custom motorcycles a year later. In order to honour the machines that nearly took his life, he describes his art as an expression of gratefulness to the people who donated their blood and worked to save his life; his way to give something back.
In 2004, he took his passion one step further, elevating his work to what can be considered an art form. He started a series of unique pieces he now named Art bikes (I to IV) which garnered 6 consecutive awards at shows in Belgium, France, and Germany in succession before garnering global recognition at the AMD Championship of Bike Building (the most recognised custom bike award worldwide.) Chicara Nagata became the World Champion of Custom Bike design when he took the 1st place for Art 1 in 2006 and 2nd place the following year with Art 2, both in the freestyle class of the AMD.

If you picture Chicara as a bosozoku- a member of a rebel Japanese bike gang, hairy, tattooed, driving around with a bad boy style, you'll be wrong. Nagata is actually a peaceful and passionate artist who lives in Kyushu island, 18 hours away from Tokyo; his mindset seems to be one of a perfectionist, which shows in his creations.
Nagata's style uses the details of the vintage engines to figure out a look that matches, and then beautifully finishes and blends it with as many as 500 components he manufactures himself. He draws, crafts and assembles close to 500 components that he adds to a vintage engine. The amount of pieces and time spent on each machine gives a completely different dimension to the motorcycle. His obsession for detail is not surprising when you consider his graphic design roots; he spent nearly 3 years into the completion of Art 1, which is based around a 1939 Harley Davidson V-twin, in which he invested 7,500 hours of work.
The combination of a classic engine with his distinctively-styled frames, drive trains, steering components and suspension systems give rise to creations that could be described as retro-futuristic. Thinking about Chicara Nagata’s motorcycles as a simple mean of transportation is redundant; You could ride them on the road, but unfortunately, they're no longer road legal, adding to the art exhibit ethos of the bikes.
More in the rest of the Nagata Art bikes in due course.

Let's take a tour around the Art 1 bike; the level of detail really is staggering.

Man & Machine - Chicara Nagata with Art 1 at the M.A.D. Gallery in Geneva

28 November 2012

Pontiac Tempest Custom Station Wagon - Storm Chaser

The uninitiated may have taken this for a Pontiac GTO Station Wagon at first glance. Well tough luck buster: Pontiac never produced one. If ever a niche would have long been plugged in today's market-researched, niche-in-a-niche obsessed car world, this would have been it.
But since when does the lack of an off-the-shelf model stop the average car modder? This second-gen Pontiac Tempest has a 455ci Poncho lump under it's GTO bonnet scoop to back up the Goat-wagon toughness, but other than the addition of those American Racing mags and a sympathetic drop, the A-body lines create their own Shakespeareanesque disturbance.
Blow on over to here for the full info.

The Cutaway Diagram Files: Maserati 425

26 November 2012

Race Car Of the Day: Broadspeed Jaguar XJ12C

The unlikely race car. A car that by all rights should be no nearer to a race track than the car park, not racing around it. A car that looks like it's bending the laws of physics, which pretty much explains any large saloon converted to race trim and especially the larger Jag saloons. A MKII looks at home bombing round Silverstone or Goodwood, but a MKIX? A MKX?? An XJ12 coupé?
Thats just what happened in the 1970's when British Leyland and Ralph Broad's Broadspeed racing team collaborated to make the big cat into a big race car. And a race car that still had it's wood dashboard and electric windows, to boot.

Unfortunately, the Broadspeed cars were utter failures in terms of race wins but were often extremely fast on the track, setting record qualifying times. The first cars suffered from oil starvation problems, tyre and halfshaft failures. This, combined with a string of mechanical reliability problems, resulted in the cars not being able to finish a race, let alone win one. The reliability record, in conjunction with a typical lack of long term BL financial commitment, eventually forced the retirement of the cars and the team after a very short racing career. Later on though, privateers were quite successful once the initial problems of the car were worked out.

Ralph Broad’'s Southam, Warwickshire, based racing team had excelled in Touring Car competition since the early 1960s, running Ford Anglias, Mini Coopers and Triumph Dolomites. Broad believed in the competition potential of the Jaguar V12 engine and the idea was discussed with Leyland Cars management to prepare a Group 2 Jaguar XJS to confront BMW and Ford in the European Touring Car Championship. But  Leyland wanted the XJ12 Coupé to be used, to help increase sales of the XJ range. The marketing men won out and the big coupé was chosen.
The XJ12 Coupé was larger and heavier than its German rivals, but an heroic development period from October 1975 saw two cars built for the 1976 racing programme. The cars had radically modified bodywork and race-prepared 550 hp versions of the usual V12. The suspension was still basically the XJ design, but with uprated double coil springs and shocks. The coupés were extensively modified on the inside and the exterior shell was lightened by way of acid-dipping.

Broadspeed team photo, 1976
The newly-minted Broadspeed Jaguar team missed the first five rounds of the 1976 Championship series for which their big, beautiful XJC's were intended, and the programme did not make its race debut until September that year, in the RAC Tourist Trophy race at Silverstone. There in qualifying, Derek Bell lapped at 1 min 36.72secs, which was nearly two seconds faster than European Champion-elect Pierre Dieudonné in the fastest BMW 3.0 CSL rival. Bell led the opening stages of the race until tyre wear became a factor and a puncture interrupted the car’s race. Thereafter the Broadspeed Jaguar XJ12C ran spectacularly until co-driver David Hobbs had a driveshaft break and lost a wheel.

Fixing a flat - Silverstone, 1976
Keith Fell, Ralph Broad and Andy Rouse pose with the then-new 1977 season XJ12C racer, which would battle the BMW CSLs in the 1977 European Touring car Championship. It was considerably developed over the '76 car: note the modified front spoiler, new rear 'ducktail' spoiler, 19 inch wheels, and now even more power under the long bonnet. The last engines had dry-sump lubrication to combat oil surge, but it did little to help, as we shall see.
Driver-wise, Bell was joined by Broadspeed engineer and British Touring Car Championship driver Andy Rouse, John Fitzpatrick, whose CV was impressive; BTCC champion in 1966, European GT Champion in 1972 & 74, Porsche Cup Winner 1972 & 1974. Rounding off the line-up was Australian Tim Schenken, experienced F1 racer.

At the first round at Monza, ‘Fitzpatrick qualified on pole position, again upstaging the BMW's three-quarters of a second. But there was this problem. Jaguar already lost two engines in practice - with the same oil surge problems because of the cornering forces as had driven other teams mad the previous year. The Alpina team sportingly offered advice on how to combat this, as they had experienced the same problem on their CSLs the previous year. At the start Fitzpatrick took the lead and disappeared into the distance - but after a little over an hour the engine cried enough - the car had spun its crankshaft bearings.

Salzburgring saw the Jaguars of Bell/Rouse and Schenken/Fitzpatrick qualify on pole position and 4th fastest. At one point, both XJ12Cs were 1-2, but when the first pit stops were made, the picture was already clear; both cars were already out, with halfshaft failure.

At the 3/12 hour long CSSR Grand Prix Brno, Czechoslovakia, the XJ12Cs locked out the front row of the grid, but they were both in trouble within a quarter of an hour; gearbox failure took out the Bell/Rouse car, and only a fantastic display of sheer dogged determination from the Broadspeed mechanics got the sickly Fitzpatrick/Schenken Jaguar home in a lowly 16th.

Mugello saw more heartbreak; neither car started. Broadspeed withdrew the Jaguars before the start of practice, still working out a solution to the crippling driveshaft problem.
For the Nürburgring round Jaguar, the 1963 winners, brought 12 engines with them, although there should have been a simple solution to their oil surge problem: from July 1st (nine days previous), the dry sump system Broadspeed had developed was finally allowed but inexplicably it had not been homologated, so therefore couldn't be used. Fitzpatrick’ then qualified his XJ12C on pole position for the Nurburgring ETCC round, before setting an extraordinary new lap record for the class from a standing start on the opening lap. But, yet again the same old oil pressure problem struck, and he was out on lap one. Bell and Rouse bought consolation by bringing their car to a well deserved second.

Ultimately, success and the XJ12C were passing ships in the night in the remaining races too; Zandvoort, August 1977 saw a cold and wet practice, in which the Jaguars did not shine: third and fifth on the grid. After a spirited scrap between Rouse and Hezemans in the Alpina-BMW CSL, but after ten laps, the Jaguars’ rear tyres overheated and its pace slipped.It eventually retired with a broken differential. The Fitzpatrick/Schenken car was fitted with a dry sump system for the first time - which lasted for 8 minutes, then the pump failed. A beefier type was fitted in the pits which was an improvement, it held for 39 minutes. The next pump change took 56 minutes and lasted only 9 minutes, the last one took only 40 minutes to fix - and then the car retired with engine failure.

The no.5 Fitzpatrick/Schenken car:

While Derek Bell and Andy Rouse co-piloted the no.6 sister car:

The '77 Tourist Trophy at Silverstone was a decent outing, as both Broadspeed XJ12Cs filled the front row of the starting grid and Schenken led from Rouse at the start. The Jaguars had to pit for fuel twice this race, while their big competitor the Alpina team only had to stop once, not surprising when comparing a big V12 against a 3.5 litre straight six. Therefore, the big cats had to create a gap big enough, but the Alpina BMW would have nothing of it; they managed to stay in touch. When Schenken spun in the drizzle, Quester was second and started to attack Rouse. He managed to pass, and after the first Jaguar pit stop Fitzpatrick retired with a broken rear axle. Bell took over from Rouse, Walkinshaw from Quester and Bell took the lead again, its lead growing when the BMW ran into temporary brake trouble. The Jaguar had to stop again for fuel, and Rouse charged off in search for the now leading BMW. He closed the gap to 10 seconds, before he spun into retirement on oil only 9 laps from the end; he was classified as finishing fourth.

Although the ETCC season hadn't ended, Zolder marked the last appearance of the Broadspeed-prepared Jaguars.After running second and fourth in the early stages, the two Jaguars were both back in the paddock after an hour and a half. Fitzpatrick/Schenken, who had been in the lead, then dropped to second, went out with a dropped valve. Rouse and Bell retired with gearbox woes.

In hindsight, it was unfortunate that British Leyland denied the team a third season’'s competition; with the XJ12Cs fully developed and equipped with the dry-sump engine, it seemed very likely that the Coupés could have been race winners, and there is no doubt that during 1976-77 the car was much quicker than its BMW CSL competition, but the CSL by then was a race-proven commodity, with reliability the Jaguar could only dream of.
The plug was pulled on the operation, and the Broadspeed XJ12C roared no more, at least at an official level; the cars were sold to privateers and collectors and saw success in more colloquial championships, with ironically most of the reliability problems ironed out.
The car here is no 2 of four built by Broadspeed in 1976-77,  chassis number ‘BELJC002’. Upon Broadspeed's closure it was rebuilt by Bob Kerr and features uprated 1977-specification suspension. It formed part of Jaguar enthusiast Allen Lloyd’s private collection before being acquired by its current owner. It's run no fewer than three times in the Goodwood Festival Of Speed and could also race in historic touring cars. The roof is signed by both Derek Bell and Andy Rouse.

The Broadspeed XJ12C was a sadly infuriating what-if;, in just two seasons they at times showed fantastic potential, but sadly never realised it by winning a race. One more season of development may have changed all that. But we shall never know.
Derek Bell probably summed it up best in an Autosport interview when he stated 'I enjoyed the cars, and they could have been very good, if they had been persevered with a little longer.'

At Goodwood Festival Of Speed:

At the Nurburgring round of the '77 ETCC; We'd love to see more footage of this:

With grateful thanks to all concerned for the raw info and pictures.