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New Jaguar Concept Pays Tribute to Le Mans Winners

Matt Delorenzo

A variant of Jaguar’s new F-Type roadster, called Project 7, was developed as a way to pay homage to the marque’s seven victories at Le Mans between 1951 and 1990. The vehicle, only one of which was produced, showcases the powertrain of the supercharged V-8 F-Type and incorporates unique design elements that connect the car to Jaguar’s racing heritage. The concept vehicle made its debut in July at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, in the UK, and is expected to be shown during the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Painted the same color blue as the Jaguar D-Types that won at Le Mans in 1956 and 1957, Project 7 is a single-seat open car with a fairing behind the driver’s headrest and a unique helmet holder in place of the passenger seat. The cockpit is equipped with a carbon-fiber racing seat with a four-point harness.

Other modifications include a cut-down windscreen, a front air dam, side skirts, a rear diffuser, and a revised nose with additional air intakes. The car also has suspension modifications and a freer-flowing exhaust. It delivers power to the rear wheels via a sequential-shift 8-speed automatic gearbox.

Project 7 is not just a show car, but a fully functioning racer, with a top speed of 186 mph and an acceleration time from zero to 60 mph of 4.1 seconds. The supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 engine produces 550 hp and 502 ft lbs of torque, a boost of 55 hp over the stock engine found in the F-Type V8 S. (201.818.8500, www.jaguarusa.com)

The Concours d’Elegance Makes Its Canadian Debut

Christina Garofalo

Automotive buffs will have a new destination this fall, when Canada’s first top-level concours d’elegance makes its debut. Held on September 14 at the Cobble Beach Golf Resort Community in Kemble, Ontario, the inaugural Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance will feature more than 100 pristine automobiles from the past 100 years.

Highlights will include the 1978 Ferrari 312T3 F1 that won Gilles Villeneuve his first Formula 1 Grand Prix; a 2013 Allard J2X MKII, handcrafted in Montreal, which will be shown alongside the original British-built Allard J2X road car that competed at Le Mans in 1953; and the 1949 Cadillac concept Coupe de Ville, which will make its first appearance in 64 years outside of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. Margaret Dunning, the 103-year-old car collector and restorer from Plymouth, Mass., will showcase her trademark 1930 Packard 740 roadster, which also appeared at the Amelia Island concours in March.

Tickets to the event are priced from $25 for general admission to $1,100 for the top-tier VIP package, which includes a flight from Toronto Island Airport to Wiarton Airport; a shuttle between Wiarton Airport and Cobble Beach; a $300 charitable-donation receipt from the event’s charity, the Sunnybrook Foundation—which funds a helipad on the rooftop of Toronto’s Sunnybrook hospital; entry to the VIP Clubhouse; meals; and VIP parking. (416.366.4820, x224, www.cobblebeachconcours.com)

Aston Martin’s Centenary Celebrates Italian Designs

Matt Delorenzo

When the 100th anniversary of Aston Martin was celebrated in July with a display at London’s Kensington Gardens, much of the focus was on cars ranging from the earliest production models to the DBR1 that won at Le Mans in 1959—not to mention the DB5 of James Bond fame. But perhaps the most underappreciated aspect of Aston’s history is its long association with Italian coachbuilders, most notably the Turin-based design house Zagato, which unveiled two all-new customized Astons commissioned specifically to commemorate the marque’s centennial.

The DB9 Spider was built for the noted U.S. Aston collector Peter Read, and the DBS Coupe was built for a Japanese collector whose name has not been disclosed. Both cars feature an oversize grille in Aston’s traditional shape with projector-beam headlights tucked into the corners. The body panels have been reworked with crisper, tauter lines that give both models a dynamic, muscular appearance.

These are just the latest in a series of specials from Zagato dating back to the DB4GT, a limited run of 19 cars in the early 1960s that featured “double bubble” rooflines. More recently, a limited run of V12 Zagatos was unveiled in 2011. But Zagato is not the only Italian design house to have worked with Aston. The Superleggera (superlight) body-construction technique, which employed aluminum panels over a steel space frame on the DB4, DB5, and DB6, was licensed from Touring; and Bertone built such classics as the 1961 DB4GT Jet.

The Italian connection is part of a philosophy that has developed over time at Aston Martin: The cars must not only go fast—they must look stylish doing it. (www.astonmartin.com)

2013 Lincoln MKZ Goes for Luxury

Matt Delorenzo

Lincoln has embarked on an ambitious program to remake itself, turning away from such traditional fare as the full-size Town Car and banking on a new generation of midsize cars and crossovers with new styling and advanced technology.

The first all-new entry for the revamped Lincoln Motor Co. is the MKZ, a four-door sedan that is similar in size to the successful Ford Fusion but sports a dramatically different exterior. Add its winglike front grille, fastback rear window, and one of the largest glass sunroofs in the car’s class, and you have a decidedly upmarket offering that fits the new Lincoln mold.

Beneath the skin, the top-spec all-wheel-drive model—which, when fully optioned, costs just over $50,000—is powered by a 300 hp 3.7-liter V-6. Delivering the power to all four wheels gives the MKZ the ability to step out smartly. The car is quick, and thanks to all-wheel drive, the handling is what you’d expect from a similarly priced European sport sedan. For those looking for better fuel economy than the 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway that the V-6 delivers, there’s a 240 hp 2.0-liter base model with front-wheel drive that delivers 22 city/33 highway and a fuel-sipping hybrid that clocks in at 45 city/45 highway.

But the essence of Lincoln’s new approach to luxury is best expressed in the interior layout and controls. Almost all the controls, save for the turn-signal/wiper stalks and the headlamps, are push buttons—including the starter and automatic transmission. The Lincoln MyTouch screen in the center dash is also activated by touch. The result is an extremely clean-looking, almost sterile, interior. And it’s a little off-putting for traditionalists looking for knobs to turn or switches to flip. But this is all part of a larger plan of Lincoln’s to lure younger buyers brought up on touchscreens and Bluetooth-connected devices.

While Lincoln hopes to dazzle with technology and redefine luxury as connectivity, there are still some other areas in which the MKZ excels in the traditional sense—the ride is quite supple and the cabin remarkably quiet, especially at highway speeds. This is an easy car to drive, whether on a cross-country jaunt or the slog of a daily commute.

A few changes to consider would be some redundant controls to make it easier to handle routine functions like sound-system volume, station tuning, and fan speed. And for traditionalists, maybe just an old-fashioned, high-quality analog clock. Overall, though, the MKZ is a step in the right direction toward updating Lincoln. (www.lincoln.com)

A New Era for BMW: Pininfarina Gran Lusso Coupe

Matt Delorenzo

When BMW unveiled the Pininfarina Gran Lusso Coupe at the Villa d’Este Concours, it represented a change in direction for both the famed Italian design house and the German automaker. For Pininfarina, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship, especially in light of the decision of the firm’s long-time client Ferrari to go with an in-house design for its LaFerrari supercar.

And while BMW has done show cars with Italian carrozzerias in the past, most notably with ItalDesign and Bertone, it hadn’t reached outside its own design department in some time for projects that could eventually lead to production models.

The stylish Gran Lusso Coupe, based on the 7-Series architecture, is a stunning two-door powered by the flagship sedan’s 6.0-liter V-12 engine.

The design perfectly blends the elegant, flowing lines that are a Pininfarina specialty with traditional BMW cues that include the split-kidney grille, hooded slits for the headlamps, and the traditional Hofmeister kink that defines the back part of the rear window that angles back towards the front of the car—a design signature that first appeared in 1961 on the 3200 CS and the 1500.

The interior of the four-seat coupe features kauri wood from the supplier Riva 1920. The trim comes from a single piece that has a unique grain that shifts its color from gold to red to brown depending on the light. The wood surfaces are simply polished and oiled to retain their natural appearance.

Although presented as a one-off concept, the BMW Pininfarina Gran Lusso Coupe has fueled speculation that the German automaker may be developing a new flagship coupe to complement its 7-Series sedan. And with the recent introduction of the 4-Series, formerly the coupe version of the 3-Series line, BMW may be preparing for the reintroduction of a similar two-door in the spirit of the original 850i, which was launched in 1989. (www.bmw.com)

Mainstreaming, Italian Style

Matt Delorenzo

The introduction of the Maserati Ghibli next year will mark the first time that the Italian automaker has two four-door models for sale at the same time. This midsize sedan to the venerable Quattroporte is part of a larger effort to lift worldwide Maserati sales from last year’s 6,288 to 50,000 by 2015. While Maserati does not envision itself in the same league as BMW or Jaguar when it comes to volume, this new lofty goal will break it out of the territory occupied by such boutique makes as Ferrari and Aston Martin.

The Ghibli is a more compact version of the recently redesigned Quattroporte, with a wheelbase that is 7.9 inches shorter at 117.7 inches. The overall length, at 195.7 inches, is 11.4 inches less. The Ghibli will be available next year in both two- and all-wheel drive, with a choice of three V-6 engines: two turbocharged 3.0-liter gasoline units, producing 345 hp and 404 hp, as well as a 3.0-liter turbodiesel, the first oil burner in Maserati history, available overseas. The company says the top-spec Ghibli with all-wheel drive is capable of accelerating from zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds.

Although prices have yet to be announced, the Ghibli is expected to start under $100,000—considerably less than the $140,000 all-wheel drive Quattroporte. In looking to expand the market for its flagship sedan, Maserati will also be offering that car with the Ghibli’s twin-turbo 404 hp V-6 in addition to the 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-8. Both Ghibli and Quattroporte are equipped with 8-speed automatic transmissions.

Even with the expansion of the car line to two sedans in addition to the Gran Turismo Coupe and Convertible, Maserati is counting on two other factors to push it to its 50,000-unit goal—the first is robust sales in China, and the second is a new luxury SUV based on the Jeep Grand Cherokee, called the Levante. That model will use the Jeep architecture, but will come equipped with Maserati engines and will be built in Italy. (www.maserati.com)

Happy 50th Birthday to an Icon

Matt Delorenzo

A half century ago, Porsche presented the successor to the venerable 356 coupe in the form of the all-new 911 at the Frankfurt Motor Show. This flat-six rear-engine sports car would go on to become a legend in its own right. To mark this milestone, Porsche will bring the 911 50th Anniversary Edition to Frankfurt in September and then begin a production run of just 1,963 units, in honor of the year the car was introduced.

The anniversary model is based on the wide-body chassis reserved for the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4 model and has the drive train of the rear-drive Carrera S. The 3.8-liter six is equipped with the optional Powerkit engine-management system, which boosts output from 400 hp to 430. According to Porsche, the 7-speed manual accelerates to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, while the 7-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic turns the trick in 3.8. Top speeds are 186 mph for the former and 185 mph for the latter.

In addition to the 50th-anniversary badges on the exterior, the interior—which comes in agate gray or black with decorative stitching—features patterned cloth inserts on the leather-trimmed sport seats that recall the Pepita tartan design of the 1960s. The instruments feature green labeling, white pointers, and silver caps on the needle pivots, recalling the original car—which incidentally was introduced as the 901 but later renamed 911 when Peugeot protested that the original model number duplicated part of its naming convention.

The Porsche 911 50th Anniversary Edition will be available this fall at U.S. dealers with a sticker price of $125,050, including destination. (www.porsche.com)

Auctions Set to Rock Monterey Car Week

Matt Delorenzo

Car enthusiasts are set to converge on the Monterey Peninsula in mid-August for nearly a week of concours, tours, vintage races, and auctions.

While the main draws are the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance at the tony Lodge at Pebble Beach on Sunday, August 18, and the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca over the entire weekend, there’s no shortage of other gatherings. These events range from the exclusive Quail, A Motorports Gathering—where tickets are $450 each—to the free Concours on the Avenue in Carmel on Tuesday, August 13.

If you have the itch to get into the classic-car scene, there are five major auctions conducted over the long weekend. These events, by Gooding & Co., Bonhams, RM Auctions, Russo and Steele, and Mecum, offer up lots featuring both concours winners and humble cruise-night muscle cars.

The adage “race on Sunday, sell on Monday” has its analog among the classic-car set, where best-of-show honors can translate into big bucks—it’s “win on Sunday, cash in a year later.” RM Auctions (www.rmauctions.com), whose sale will be held in downtown Monterey at the Portola Hotel & Spa and the Monterey Conference Center, has snagged last year’s Pebble Beach Best of Show winner, a 1928 Mercedes-Benz 680S Saoutchik-bodied Torpedo Roadster owned by Paul and Judy Andrew. While no preauction estimate for the car has been released, it is bound to draw a winning bid in the multimillions.

At Pebble Beach itself, Gooding & Co. (www.goodingco.com) will auction off a 1935 Avions Voisin C25 Aerodyne, an exquisitely eccentric French classic. While not a big prizewinner like the ’28 Benz at RM, this car’s older sibling, a 1934 model owned by Peter Mullin, was Best of Show at Pebble in 2011. Other classics set to cross the block at Gooding include a handsome 1948 Alfa Romeo 6C2500 Competizione, which is expected to go for between $2.8 million and $3.5 million, and a 1929 Bentley Speed Six Grafton Coupe with an estimated sale price of $3 million to $4 million.

Over at the Bonhams auction (www.bonhams.com/quail), which is being held in conjunction with the Quail, one of the star attractions is a 1924 Bugatti Type 35 Grand Prix, a prototype racer built for the 1924 Grand Prix of Lyon. It has a well-documented history that includes vintage racing under the ownership of the late Henry Haga, one of GM’s top designers.

Russo and Steele (www.russoandsteele.com) features the first Shelby Cobra sold to the public. Chassis number CSX2012 was sold to Carroll Shelby’s friend Robert Neville and then fitted with a high performance 289 V-8. These narrow-body small-block V-8 Cobras typically sell for upwards of $600,000, but given this car’s pedigree, it’s likely to top $1 million.

It was in 1955 that James Dean was killed in a Porsche 550 Spyder while driving to races near Monterey in Salinas. At the Mecum auction (www.mecum.com), one of the star cars will be a similar 1955 Porsche 550/1500 RS Spyder. Bring a big wallet to live your James Dean fantasy: A 550 Spyder sold a little more than a year ago at the Amelia Island Concours for $3.7 million.

Finally, one car to watch is the little-known Lancia Stratos—this year at the Monterey Car Week there will be three 1970s mid-engine street-going versions of this rally racer, which is powered by a modified version of the V-6 used in the Ferrari Dino. A 1972 model will be at Bonhams, a 1974 at Gooding, and a 1975 at RM, and all will be looking to break the $400,000 barrier.

The pecking order and types of cars at auction are related to the sales’ venues—Gooding & Co. stages its auction Saturday and Sunday evening next to the Pebble Beach Concours on the grounds of the Equestrian Center and is heavy with grand classics. It charges $100 per catalog (admitting two to the viewing and the auction), and $40 per individual ticket. Bonhams’ auction is adjacent to the Quail and is a one-day affair on Friday, costing $80 for a catalog, admission for two, and registration for one bidder. The Quail’s forte is also classics, skewed towards racing machines.

Two of the largest auctions, the ones by RM and Russo and Steele, are held next to each other in downtown Monterey. RM’s sale runs Friday and Saturday nights, while Russo and Steele’s begins Thursday and ends Saturday, with gates opening at 10 a.m. Both have more of a cross section from classics to exotics and racing cars. A guest pass is $50 at RM, and general admission is $20 at Russo and Steele. Bidders get two tickets for $300 at RM, while Russo and Steele charges $150 for one bidder and one guest.

Finally, Mecum’s Muscle Car & More auction is a Thursday–Saturday daytime event that features more affordable muscle cars, street rods, and racing machines, though there are a few classics and other high-dollar exotics in the 750-vehicle lot. General admission is free; bidders pay $100. The auction will be televised live on Discovery’s Velocity Channel.

Ultimate Open Aston

Matthew DeLorenzo

If you missed your chance to snag one of the 77 Aston Martin One-77 supercars and feel that the new flagship Vanquish Coupe just isn’t your cup of tea, then the new drop-top version of the company’s top-of-the-line V-12 may be just the ticket.

The 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante not only offers top-down thrills from its 565 hp, 6.0-liter V-12 engine but also is the first convertible from the famed British marque to have a body completely composed of carbon fiber. Like the Coupe, the Volante is equipped with a paddle-shift 6-speed sequential Touchtronic 2 automatic transmission. The lightweight body and massive output from the new AM11 engine translates to a top speed of 183 mph.

But the Vanquish Volante isn’t just about speed. Its nearly perfect 51/49 front-and-rear weight distribution contributes to surefooted handling. And standard Brembo Carbon Ceramic Matrix disc brakes provide massive stopping power.

Following in the footsteps of the recently redesigned Vanquish Coupe, the Volante sports a Coke-bottle shape inspired by the One-77. Unlike the current fad of convertible hard tops, the Vanquish Volante retains a triple-layer fabric top that can be raised or lowered while driving at speeds up to 30 mph, an action that takes a scant 14 seconds. The material also means that the top stows in a much more compact space than a hard top, ensuring that the sleek lines of the coupe are retained whether the lid is up or down and offering a trunk space that is 50 percent larger than that of the DBS Volante that this car replaces.

Sales of the handsome 2-plus-2 Vanquish Volante, priced at $297,995, have already begun; deliveries start next year. (www.astonmartin.com)

Barrett-Jackson Hosts Its First Auction at the Hot August Nights Auto Show in Reno

Jessaca Brandt

Calling all classic-car enthusiasts: For the first time, Barrett-Jackson has partnered with the Hot August Nights auto show in Reno to host a three-day auction, from August 8 to 10, of more than a hundred classic-car models at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. The auction will also coincide with the downtown Reno Show-n-Shine competition, which will be judged by officials that were selected by Barrett-Jackson and Hot August Nights. A total of 45 winners will be chosen from the competition to move on to the finals on August 10, in which the top five vehicles will be selected for final judging. The title of Ultimate Best of Show comes with a prize of $20,000 and the inaugural Barrett-Jackson Cup. The awards presentation will take place in downtown Reno, under a fireworks display and followed by live entertainment. Those looking to register a car for the downtown Reno Show-n-Shine competition should visit the Hot August Nights website; spectators can purchase tickets for general admission or consign a vehicle for the auction through Barrett-Jackson. (www.barrett-jackson.com, www.hotaugustnights.net)