Driving Torque

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Archive for the tag “911”

VW buy Porsche, what’s the big deal?

vw buys porsche logoSo, in a bizarre twist of events, Volkswagen have finally bought the remaining 50.1% shares it didn’t already own in sports-car giant Porsche in a deal that cost VW  a whopping £5.4bn including repaying Porsche’s £1.9bn debt. I say bizarre because in the not too distant past, Porsche were raiding their own copper-jar to amass the funds needed to buy Volkswagen. Confusing, eh?

If you’ve been living on Mars for the last four years, you’ll be blissfully unaware of the changes that have occurred to the global economic climate. Porsche haven’t been afforded this luxury however and it’s this worldwide recession, coupled with tragic timing that has left them in a position of unaffordable repayments on the loan they acquired in order to purchase Volkswagen.

1970's Porsche 914 in green

Porsche 914

So, that’s a brief history of how we came to be in this position but what does this unification mean in the real world? Volkswagen and Porsche have been inextricably linked since a certain German megalomaniac ordered Ferdinand Porsche to build him a car for the people and the VW Type 1 (Beetle) was born. Since then, the two marques have never been poles apart, even co-producing the mid-engined Porsche 914 in the 1970s. More recently, the two companies have shared various components on their Touareg and Cayenne models, along with Audi and their Q7.

This new German ‘supergroup’ contains more than just VW and Porsche however. Volkswagen also bring to the party Skoda and Seat and when you add Audi to the equation, there’s all of their models and, as if we could forget, Lamborghini to throw a bucketload of spice into the mix.

audi a7 sportback grey

Audi A7 Sportback

It has been suggested that there are too many elements here to make up a happy family, that certain models from this amalgamation of brands are competing against each other and will simply take their market share from within the group, particularly from Audi. I’m not sure that I subscribe to this theory however; Both VW and Porsche haven’t proved themselves to be highly resilient manufacturers in tough economic climes without good reason. If we take the models that Porsche bring to the fold, they are very much in a sub-category that shouldn’t affect the rest of the group. As previously mentioned, the Touareg, Cayenne and Q7 have always shared components yet seemed to have found their own niche in the large 4×4 segment. The Cayman is a class above the TT coupe and a class below the R8, both in terms of cost and appeal. The Panamera is too much car for Audi’s A7 to compete and the upcoming 918 Spyder is an unknown quantity as yet that will undoubtedly now be marketed to avoid it detracting from the Lamborghini stable.

1963 porsche 911 in red

1963 Porsche 911

That leaves the Boxster and the 911 which could be argued to face direct competition from the TT and R8 respectively. This is certainly feasible but in the case of the Boxster vs TT, I feel that the different drivetrains and layouts of these models means that they can co-exist in their current guise and with a little tweaking from within the group, they’ll start to drift apart in terms of consumer appeal. That leaves just the 911 and the R8 but the evergreen Porsche with its four seats and rear engine layout seems to offer so many ticks in so many boxes that it’s hard for anything else to compete. This, combined with a seemingly infinite choice of models may explain the longevity of the 911 which now covers nearly 50 years.

What’s pertinent to remember  is that this wasn’t some oil baron buying a football club on a whim. This multi-billion pound deal will have been scrutinised to within an inch of its life and, historically speaking, both marques are prone to making good decisions where others have fallen. In my opinion, both VW and Porsche will profit hugely from their coming together and form a beautiful union. I might be wrong, but I doubt it.

By Ben Harrington

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An Idiot (hopefully) Aboard – The Bucket List (cars to drive before you die)

Having been recently inspired by the hilarious second series of ‘An Idiot Abroad’, I’ve decided that it is my duty to draw up a bucket list with a difference. Instead of a predictable procession of things to do before you die, I feel that what would be far more interesting (to those of a petrol obsessed nature anyway) is a list of vehicles I feel I must own before I die, or the DVLA revokes my licence due to 90% blindness – whichever comes first. Obviously this list is by no means exhaustive and will be updated when I see something else that takes my fancy.

Just to clarify, this is by no means a wish-list of unobtainable, ridiculously priced automotive rarity. Only vehicles which are realistically affordable to the average person are permitted, although I can’t be held responsible for any astronomical running costs that may be incurred.

1. FordCapri280 Brooklands                  Current Purchase Price – Circa £7,000

Ford Capri 280 Brooklands

Ford Capri 280 Brooklands

Having been brought up on a strict diet of various Capris, I can’t even look at one now without going all misty eyed and nostalgic. The sleek Mk111 has always been my favourite, its ultimate incarnation undoubtedly being the limited edition 280 Brooklands. Only 1038 were made, all in metallic ‘Brooklands’ green and signalled the end of the line for  the capri in Europe. Even as a child, I recognised that these were the Capris to own and begged my dad tirelessly to buy one, but unfortunately to no avail. I feel I must right a wrong.

2.  1968 Dodge Charger                            Current Purchase Price – Circa £25,000

1968 Dodge Charger in black

1968 Dodge Charger

Possibly at the limits of my realistic ambitions this one, 12mpg from a 7 litre engine is enough to worry the most committed of petrolheads but, oh my, does that V8 snarl sound tempting. The Charger just edges the Ford Mustang for the title of my ultimate muscle car but it’s got to be a ’68 and it’s got to be black. Slim hopes of actually owning one are only kept alive due to Mrs Harrington also wanting one, although she would insist on it being bright orange with a confederate flag on the roof, can’t possibly think why!

3. Harley Davidson Fat Boy                      Current Purchase Price – Circa £15,000

Harley Davidsom Fatboy Motorbike

Harley Davidson Fatboy

There’s nothing quite like a Hog for fulfilling those Route 66 fantasies and the Fat Boy is the most fantastic. Arnie riding one down a storm drain in Terminator 2 was enough to sow the seed for me and I still can’t hear that distinctive air-cooled, V twin sound without yearning to own a Harley. Fitting a 1.3 litre engine to a motorcycle may seem excessive to us Britons but surely that’s the whole point of an All American Fat Boy – excess.

4. Volkswagen Karmann Ghia                 Current Purchase Price – Circa £10,000

1960's Volkswagen Karmann Ghia in blue

Volkswagen Karmann Ghia

Here’s a little tale for the romantics amongst you. Back in 2002, I was left in no doubt that I had met the future Mrs Harrington when a conversation I was having with my girlfriend got onto cars. Being a devoted lover of all things Volkswagen and air-cooled, I was left awestruck when she told me, without prompting I may add, that the car she desired most was the Karmann Ghia. That’s right, not the latest Range Rover or the most expensive Mercedes sports but the relatively unusual, chirpy coupe from VW. We promised ourselves there and then that we’d buy one but in the end opted for a more practical Type 2 instead. Got to have one someday – it’s our destiny!

5. Jeep Wrangler 4.0                                   Current Purchase Price – Circa £4000

4.0 litre Jeep Wrangler

Jeep Wrangler

I think that my passion for no-nonsense engineering is aroused by the notion of owning a Wrangler. They’re so simple and in some ways antiquated yet undoubtedly a design icon that’s never been bettered. Ok, so the 4 litre – straight six can’t exactly be described as frugal and the ride quality may be a little pony and trap but who cares? This car costs peanuts, typifies the American dream and yet has the steering wheel on the correct side and a main dealership in Stockport.

6. Ferrari 355                                               Current Purchase Price – £35,000 min

Ferrari 355 in Red

Ferrari 355

This one’s really pushing my ‘available to the average man’ rule, I know but their purchase prices are creeping down all the time so maybe with a little windfall, this could be a realistic purchase. Running the thing would obviously be a different kettle of fish, more of a money-pit than a kettle if I’m honest but personally, I’ve got to hold onto the dream. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is the last truly beautiful car to have rolled off the Modena production line. Its graceful angles and purposeful stance are such a visual treat that I couldn’t really care less if it drives like a complete dog, which of course it doesn’t.

7. Ducati 916                                                 Current Purchase Price – Circa £7000

Ducati 916

Ducati 916

When it comes down to motorbikes, my knowledge is, shall we say, sketchy at best. Sure, I admire some of them, I even own one (sort of) but at 31 I’m still a beginner when it comes down to controlling one and when it comes down to superbikes especially, I’d have to look for the manufacturers badge in order to pick one out of a line up. Nope, when compared to the cars, my emotional attachment to bikes is miniscule. All except that is, for the Ducati 916. As a teenager, our neighbour had one and if he were to start it up in his garage, I swear our house used to shake. Visually, it’s typically Italian – audacious yet delicate. Acoustically, it initially gives you a little shock on start-up but turn the accelerator round a fraction and it gives you the fright of your life. Like all the best Italian operas, both overwhelmingly beautiful and crushingly dramatic in equal measures.

8. 1977 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II                Current Price – Circa £10000

Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II

Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II

I don’t care that I’d either look like a dodgy second-hand car dealer or I was transporting the bride to her beloved. I don’t care that the ancient 6.75 litre engine would struggle to achieve over 10mpg yet only provide a somewhat pathetic 189bhp. I don’t care that the wallowing suspension is bound to bring on sea sickness. I don’t even care that many of them were sold in delightful colours, the most popular shades being Costume Jewellery Gold and Angel Delight Brown. What I do care about is that for me, the Silver Shadow is the archetypal Rolls Royce. Yes, it’s still as subtle as a sledgehammer but it also has a certain grace that was lost on later models – it’s slightly round at the edges –a look Rolls Royce have reverted to with their recent land yachts. I honestly can’t think of a more rock and roll car.

9. 1987 Porsche 911 Carrera                                 Current Price – Circa £15000

1987_porsche_911_carrera_26864627

1987 Porsche 911 Carrera

I know I’m forever prattling on about Porsche, this model in particular but no bucket list of mine would be anywhere near complete without this car. Flawed in almost every aspect of its design and constantly looking for new and exciting ways to launch its driver into the nearest large oak tree but still, every inch an icon. Ultimately, mine would be black with a red leather interior although I can be swayed on colour. What is an absolute must however is the oversize, whale-tail spoiler that must protrude from the Porsche’s rump. I’ll even play nothing but 80’s power ballads on the stereo.

By Ben Harrington

Frankfurt Motor Show 2011

Ferrari 458 Spider

Well well well, the Frankfurt motor show opened its doors to much fanfare on Tuesday and I’m delighted to say that it appears to have on show some of the most interesting new models I’ve seen for years. There really is a plethora of eye-catching cars, not always for the right reasons but hey, it wouldn’t be a motor show without the weird and wonderful, would it?

‘All new’ Porsche 911 991

To name but a few of the headline grabbers on display, Porsche left us all dumbstruck with their, ahem, all new 911….wing mirrors.

Ferrari’s decided to take their styling cues from Renault these days by emulating the very clever folding hard top as previously seen on the Wind. Joking aside however, this is one of those very rare occasions when I’m prepared to admit that a car looks better in convertible guise than hard top.

Land Rover DC100 Concept

It was inevitable that this day would come eventually. Some poor soul at Land Rover has finally been tasked with replacing the iconic 67 year old design of the Defender. Re-inventing the wheel seems preferable to me as you’re only going to upset millions of purists, however good the replacement may look, drive or feel.

Ford Evos Concept

Having been brought up on a staple diet of Capris, I was very excited when Ford unveiled their latest design concept, the Evos. As usual, Ford were keen to deny that this would go into production and even more keen to distance themselves from the Capri name. Why Ford, why? Embrace this much loved icon and do us all a favour by dispelling the memory of, I can barely say it, the Cougar!

Jaguar CX-16

Undoubtedly the star of the show for many people, myself included is this car, the Jaguar C-X16. I know I keep saying it but the way Jaguar has been turned around of late is nothing short of staggering. If it performs anywhere near as well as it looks, I can honestly say that if I was in the market for a car of this genre, I would march straight past the Porsche 911’s in their showroom and place my order for one of these, and that’s saying something.

Bugatti Veyron L’Or Blanc

One for those of you who were reluctant to invest in a Veyron due to its abhorrent lack of porcelain, this one’s got it in abundance, inside and out. There you go, your prayers answered. I did say that not everything was in good taste!

By Ben Harrington

Early to Mid Life Crisis – Only a 911 can save me

Nineteen and a half years. Assuming every penny of it was banked, that’s roughly how long it would take Mr U.K. average to earn the amount that I’ve recently valued my life at for insurance purposes. Unfortunately this figure doesn’t take tax or National Insurance into account so unless you live in Switzerland or have an extremely clever accountant, it’s more likely to take around thirty years, with no outgoings, at all.

I’d always been led to believe that mid-life crises occurred when one hit the big 4-0 but as I approach my 31st birthday, I can only assume that mine decided on an early start. A few years ago I wouldn’t have even contemplated doing something as boring as taking out life insurance, why would I when I was invincible? Yet recently I’ve been struggling to sleep at night in case an errant satellite felled me in the street before my policy details were finalised – how middle aged is that?

It gets worse though. In true ‘Bucket List’ fashion, I’ve decided that it’s time for a long term ambition to be realised, possibly before it’s too late. I’m going to buy a Porsche 911. Since their images adorned my walls as a child, owning an 80’s 911 has been an inevitable event in my life, a box that simply must be ticked. Recently however, this need has escalated from ‘I’ll get round to that one day’ to ‘I’d better start seriously considering that’. My amateur psychoanalysis has reached the conclusion that this is partly due to turning 30 but more importantly is due to the overwhelming terror of my next milestone being 40!

porsche-capI do adore the 911, especially air-cooled examples from the 1980’s with their dramatic styling and big wings. Whenever I see one, I can’t help but take a glance at the lucky sod driving it and this, is I think what’s persuaded me it’s time to take the plunge. For me, the whole image is ruined if I see Bob the scaffolder behind the wheel, well into his 40s and well over a 40 inch waist, light reflecting off his balding pate or worse still, a Porsche baseball cap attempting to disguise said pate. This is certainly not how I want to be seen in my 911. I want young blondes to take a glance and see someone with youth, vigour and his own teeth, someone who’s still in his prime, not incontinence pants. This may be the sad attempt of a thirty something father of two trying to kid the world but as long as I’m convinced, I don’t care.

Of course, deciding to buy a 911 is just the first step, achieving it may be a couple of years down the line as I’ve got to save up the cash. Well I’m not going to get a loan am I, that would be far too irresponsible!

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By Ben Harrington

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