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18 Jul 2014

Meet the Kanjozoku, Osaka's infamous street racers

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Kanjozoku video

Street racing is obviously illegal and incredibly dangerous, but that has never stopped people from doing it. While we don’t hear nearly as much about the scourge of Japanese tuner cars as when The Fast and the Furious first hit theaters over a decade ago, illegal street racing is still bubbling under the surface all over the island nation. An excellent new documentary short from Bowls Films takes a look at the Kanjozoku from Osaka, Japan; a group that claims to be partially responsible for the tuning style known as JDM.

The group gets their name from their preferred route known as the Kanjo. It’s a 4.77-mile long loop of connected highways running right through the city of Osaka. You might expect a hardcore group of illegal Japanese racers to show up with highly tuned Nissan GT-R and Toyota Supra coupes, but the Kanjozoku evidently eschew all of the others in favor of one particular car that they love: the Honda Civic.

According to the video, that vehicle of choice came in part from the city’s location. Osaka was relatively near the one-make Civic races held at Japan’s legendary Suzuka racetrack. The hatchbacks thus became the default weapons for the Kanjozoku’s street battles.

The guys interviewed for the documentary go so far as to claim that their scene created the whole concept of JDM tuning. The whole video is a really interesting portrait of an illegal racing scene crafted out of friendly competition. Scroll down for a brief look at the Kanjozoku of Osaka – it’s worth it.

Continue reading Meet the Kanjozoku, Osaka’s infamous street racers

Meet the Kanjozoku, Osaka’s infamous street racers originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 17 Jul 2014 19:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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18 Jul 2014

Imported Land Rovers being seized as part of Federal investigation

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Land Rover Defender

Early Tuesday morning, federal authorities from the Department of Homeland Security allegedly seized 40 gray-market Land Rover 90, 110 and Defender SUVs in what is believed to be part of an ongoing case that has already resulted in 20 of the iconic SUVs being taken from their US owners in May of last year.

The important bit of that opening statement is “allegedly,” as at least one of the victims of the seizure claims that the Vehicle Identification Number on his 110, which he purchased last year, is from that of a 1979 to 1984 model, with his particular example being from 1983. Police and the feds, though, apparently think otherwise, arguing that the truck was imported illegally shortly before the unlucky owner purchased it.

Jalopnik has the entire rundown of this sad, depressing story, including first-hand testimony of the seizure from the unfortunate (and probably former) Land Rover owner. Head over and take a look, it’s worth a read.

Imported Land Rovers being seized as part of Federal investigation originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 17 Jul 2014 17:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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17 Jul 2014

Nuclear-powered concept cars from the Atomic Age

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In the 1950s and early 60s, the dawn of nuclear power was supposed to lead to a limitless consumer culture, a world of flying cars and autonomous kitchens all powered by clean energy. In Europe, it offered the then-limping continent a cheap, inexhaustible supply of power after years of rationing and infrastructure damage brought on by two World Wars.

The development of nuclear-powered submarines and ships during the 1940s and 50s led car designers to begin conceptualizing atomic vehicles. Fueled by a consistent reaction, these cars would theoretically produce no harmful byproducts and rarely need to refuel. Combining these vehicles with the new interstate system presented amazing potential for American mobility.

But the fantasy soon faded. There were just too many problems with the realities of nuclear power. For starters, the powerplant would be too small to attain a reaction unless the car contained weapons-grade atomic materials. Doing so would mean every fender-bender could result in a minor nuclear holocaust. Additionally, many of the designers assumed a lightweight shielding material or even forcefields would eventually be invented (they still haven’t) to protect passengers from harmful radiation. Analyses of the atomic car concept at the time determined that a 50-ton lead barrier would be necessary to prevent exposure.

Although hope is still alive for nuclear-powered cars – engines powered by lasers and Thorium salts have been suggested – it’s amusing to think that there was a time when these cars were seriously considered the future of transportation. Our love affair with nuclear energy has waned considerably since the catastrophes at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and, most recently, Fukushima.

Take a trip back in time to when creativity was out matched only by naïveté by checking out these nuclear-powered car concepts from automakers like Ford and Studebaker-Packard. Radiation suit not included.

Continue reading Nuclear-powered concept cars from the Atomic Age

Nuclear-powered concept cars from the Atomic Age originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 17 Jul 2014 12:31:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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17 Jul 2014

Carpool Deville aims to be the world's fastest hot tub

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Carpool Deville

The world needs crazy inventors with wild dreams. While we might not long for the things that they create, their contraptions certainly make the day a little more enjoyable. Take the Carpool Deville as an example. Nobody (well, almost nobody) is asking for a hot tub fashioned from a 1969 Cadillac that is still drivable. But now that you know that such a beast exists, don’t try to tell us you aren’t at least intrigued.

The team behind the six-year-long project has a pretty ingenious setup worked out. The Caddy’s original 472-cubic-inch (7.7-liter) V8 both provides propulsion and heats the water. The interior is entirely replaced with a watertight, fiberglass tub that includes working jets, and the controls are all done by hand.

As if just building a mobile hot tub isn’t enough, the team behind the Carpool Deville plans to take it racing too. Specifically, they intend to go to the Bonneville Salt Flats later this year to make a top speed run while immersed in water at over 100 degrees. They even have a roll cage all set to install to meet the safety requirements there.

Everything appears to be all set to make the run in August. The team recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $11,251 from a $10,000 goal to cover transportation expenses. Check out the Kickstarter page for a complete history of the whole project, including a previous attempt at making a carpool, and scroll down to watch their promotional video.

Continue reading Carpool Deville aims to be the world’s fastest hot tub

Carpool Deville aims to be the world’s fastest hot tub originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 16 Jul 2014 19:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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16 Jul 2014

Submit your questions for Autoblog Podcast #389 LIVE!

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Autoblog podcast graphic

We had to postpone it by a day, but we’re now set to record Autoblog Podcast #389 this evening. Check out the topics below or drop us your questions and comments via the Q&A module. And don’t forget to subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes if you haven’t already done so. To take it all in live, tune in to our UStream (audio only) channel at 10:00 PM Eastern tonight.

Discussion Topics for Autoblog Podcast Episode #389

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Submit your questions for Autoblog Podcast #389 LIVE! originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 15 Jul 2014 17:15:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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16 Jul 2014

Jay Leno tumbles in a '69 Oldsmobile 442

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1969 Oldsmobile 442 restomod

Jay Leno isn’t really known as a punishing driver. If Jay Leno’s Garage is any indication, you know that he might get on the throttle a little bit, but he’s hardly reckless. However, this week Leno actually does a little damage to the car he’s driving while showcasing the 1969 Oldsmobile 442 restomod owned by his buddy, guitarist Paul Jackson Jr., formerly of The Tonight Show Band.

The Olds received a two-and-a-half year restoration to get the muscle car to its current condition. Other than its big wheels, it looks pretty stock on the outside. Once the hood is opened, all is revealed, though. It packs a big-block V8 crate engine with a meaty 750 horsepower and 750 pound-feet of torque that routes to the rear via a three-speed automatic with overdrive. With all that power, fuel economy isn’t stellar; Jackson says that the 442 gets in the neighborhood of just 5 miles per gallon.

The two guys spend a long time taking it for a drive this week, and you really get a chance to hear the growl of that big V8. All the conversation almost channels Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, just without the java. Also, make sure to stay tuned after they return to the garage. That’s when Jay puts the Olds up on the lift to inspect the damage. Scroll down to check out an enviably updated piece of American muscle, abysmal fuel economy or no.

Continue reading Jay Leno tumbles in a ’69 Oldsmobile 442

Jay Leno tumbles in a ’69 Oldsmobile 442 originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 15 Jul 2014 12:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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16 Jul 2014

Porsche 991 vs. 930 Flatnose in 911 Turbo convertible faceoff

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Porsche 911 Turbo video

The Porsche 911 Turbo has a legacy of being a tough car to drive. With a ton of power set right over the rear wheels, its reputation is to lose control as soon as the driver stops concentrating. However, this isn’t quite so true anymore. The modern ones are tamed through technology with things like hydraulically controlled engine mounts, not to mention all-wheel drive. In its latest video, Autocar tries to decide whether 25 years of progress really makes the turbo a better vehicle.

It’s summer, so what better version to compare than the 911 Turbo Cabriolet? In one corner, Autocar has the latest and greatest 2014 version pumping out 513 horsepower and 486 pound-feet of torque with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Its challenger is a 1989 911 flatnose convertible sporting 326 hp and 347 lb-ft of torque. It’s a truly rare car in the UK with only eight of them remaining on the roads in that region.

Granted, this test isn’t so much a battle as it is a comparison. There’s no question that the modern 911 would beat the classic in practically every objective category. What the video aims to find out is whether the flatnose is better in subjective measurements like its “feel.” Scroll down to watch these two droptop Porsches square off.

Continue reading Porsche 991 vs. 930 Flatnose in 911 Turbo convertible faceoff

Porsche 991 vs. 930 Flatnose in 911 Turbo convertible faceoff originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 15 Jul 2014 19:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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15 Jul 2014

Daughter has great taste, gives stepdad Porsche 914 of his youth

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Children require a ton of sacrifices; even people without kids know that. Whether it’s the time to watch a baseball game or the money just to get there, parents have to give up something for the betterment of their offspring. Of course, once a child grows up, it’s finally possible to repay mom and dad for all of their hard work. In the case of Kristin Russell and her stepdad, Dave, that involves a surprise 1973 Porsche 914.

Before he got married, Dave had a sweet, white 914. He even had the money saved up to restore it, but spent the cash on the wedding instead. The Porsche languished in the garage until Dave eventually parted it out and sold it off. Years later, Russell wanted to do something to thank her stepdad for all of the things he had done for her and her mom. The only fitting thank you was an identical 914 to the one that he gave up. Scroll down to watch Dave’s reaction of getting his dream car as a surprise Father’s Day gift.

Continue reading Daughter has great taste, gives stepdad Porsche 914 of his youth

Daughter has great taste, gives stepdad Porsche 914 of his youth originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 14 Jul 2014 20:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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15 Jul 2014

Submit your questions for Autoblog Podcast #389 LIVE! [UPDATE]

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Autoblog podcast graphic

We’re set to record Autoblog Podcast #389 this evening. Check out the topics below or drop us your questions and comments via the Q&A module. And don’t forget to subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes if you haven’t already done so. To take it all in live, tune in to our UStream (audio only) channel at 10:00 PM Eastern tonight.

Discussion Topics for Autoblog Podcast Episode #389

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UPDATE: We regret the short notice, but this week’s Autoblog Podcast recording is being postponed until tomorrow, Tuesday, July 15th. We’ll be using the same topics, and hold on to your questions for that show. See you tomorrow!
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Submit your questions for Autoblog Podcast #389 LIVE! [UPDATE] originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 14 Jul 2014 16:15:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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14 Jul 2014

Bertone can't part out historically protected collection despite looming bankruptcy

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1970 Lancia Stratos HF Zero

Some companies can survive long after their founder has left the building, while others are so centered around the identity of one individual that everything unravels in their absence. And there’s arguably no place that can be seen more clearly than in the Italian automobile industry.

Companies like Ferrari and Lamborghini have thrived even after the passing of the founder for which they’re named, whether or not that founder’s family remains involved in the business. Other names like De Tomaso and Isotta Fraschini have disappeared from the scene in the absence of their namesake founders. And the same can be seen in the coachbuilding and design scene. Pininfarina remains a fixture of the industry even after Battista “Pinin” Farina, Sergio Pininfarina and Andrea Pininfarina all passed. As has Zagato since the passing of Ugo Zagato. Things have not gone so well for Bertone, however.

The carrozzeria founded by Giovanni Bertone thrived under the leadership of his son Nuccio, but after the latter’s passing in 1997, it all started falling apart. Fighting broke out between Nuccio’s widow Lilli and other people closely involved with the company, and the business began to fragment. Now there are so many splinters of the once-great Gruppo Bertone that it’s hard to keep track of them all. But arguably the most important of them is Stile Bertone. Or, we should say “was” Stile Bertone, because that outfit has gone bankrupt more times than we can count, and now seems destined to stay there.

With its final dissolution looming, debts skyrocketing and no savior in sight, it looks like Stile Bertone is about to fall of the map (unless a major automaker swoops in to save it like Volkswagen did with Italdesign Giugiaro, like Ford rescued Ghia or like Ferrari absorbed Scaglietti). But what will happen to its assets once it’s gone? Well, whatever can be liquidated will be in order to pay off its debtors. But there may not actually be that much that can be sold. The factory at Grugliasco was sold to Fiat, which is using it to manufacture the latest Maserati Ghibli and Quattroporte. The Bertone name and logo are licensed to it by Lilli’s holding company Bertone Cento. And even its reportedly extensive concept car collection might not be so easy to offload.

That’s because the collection, according to WardsAuto, is classified as an item of “historic national heritage” in Italy, which means that it can only be sold as a whole, in its entirety, and cannot be split into individual lots like the ones (pictured above) that RM Auctions sold off at Villa d’Este three years ago. What exactly made those examples eligible for liquidation and the remaining collection not, we don’t know. Nor do we know which cars are currently in Stile Bertone’s possession and if they were to be sold, whether they would be allowed to leave Italy or Europe. But we’re looking into it, so watch this space for more.

Bertone can’t part out historically protected collection despite looming bankruptcy originally appeared on Autoblog on Sun, 13 Jul 2014 15:11:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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