Unique Machines


The first underwater sports car, the ultralight AirScooter II, the new suborbital space plane, and more.  Tusk & Turf: the international elephant polo championship in Thailand.  Also, Rolls-Royce redefined, the one and only 100EX convertible.

From This Issue

FrontRunners: Loud and Clear

Ferguson Hill (+44.20. 7284.0969, http://www.fergusonhill.co.uk) is already planning at least one cosmetic improvement to its new FH 001 transparent horn loudspeaker. The London company is going to add illumination along the speaker’s 6-foot-tall, 3-foot-wide oval rim. “We’ve had reports of people walking into it and earning a nasty bump on the head,” says Simon Kynaston, […]

Appliances: Brew Hubs

A jolt of caffeine has been the genesis of many a brainchild. The cappuccino Juergen Pluess was sipping late one night in Barcelona’s fashionable Marina section is a case in point. As he mused over his frothy brew, Pluess, international marketing manager for Miele kitchen products, came up with the idea of a machine for the […]

Furnishings: An Architectural Frame

Furniture created by architects has a room of its own in the world of interiors. The pieces are designed to mesh with their environments, and the most notable examples stand the test of time: Furnishings by such virtuosos of modern architecture as Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier remain icons of 20th-century design. Now […]

FrontRunners: On the Mark

The Watermark Hotel and Spa (866.605.1212, http://www.watermarkhotel.com), the newest and most elegant hotel on the San Antonio River Walk, does not offer the overt Tex-Mex ambience of its sister property, the legendary La Mansión del Rio. But the Watermark, set directly across the water from its venerable sibling, is pure Lone Star State. Occupying the […]

Travel: Compound Rapture

Willemstad is Holland in Caribbean dress, an architectural treasure trove of gabled, sherbet-colored buildings on the shores of St. Anna Bay in the Netherlands Antilles. The city, capital of the island of Curaçao, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, an act that set off a wave of historic preservation, first in Punda, […]

Journeys: Veld Done

“We’re having trouble with one of the elephants,” our guide, Piet Marimane, informs us as the safari vehicle in which we are traveling lurches to the right to avoid a tree felled by a bull looking to snack on its leaves. Though I have come here to Lebombo—one of the five lodges in this region […]

From the Editors: The Most Unique Machine

In 76 b.c., the captain of a merchant vessel from Rhodes veered too close to the cliff-lined shores of an insignificant island off the farthest southern tip of the Greek peninsula, wrecking his treasure-filled ship. As sculptures, jewelry, transport jars, and the hull itself descended to the ocean’s floor, currents of human knowledge and history […]

FrontRunners: Art Deco on Display

The aristocracy of Art Deco, the streamlined design style that swept the world in the 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s, is represented in a show at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (617.267.9300, http://www.mfa.org) from August 22, 2004, through January 9, 2005. Coco Chanel, Cartier, Lacloche, Norman Bel Geddes, Jacques Lipchitz, and others designed the jewelry, fashions, […]

FrontRunners: Solar Sweets

The ritualized use of sweets, primarily in the form of calorie-laden desserts, to mark the special occasions in our lives is an activity that can engender the conflicting emotions of guilt and pleasure. New selections from Galaxy Desserts (415.459.3537, http://www.galaxydesserts.com) of San Rafael, Calif., just might lessen the anguish for those concerned about carbohydrates. Galaxy […]

FrontRunners: From the Robb Cellar August 2004

The Glenlivet Cellar Collection 1964 While the Glenlivet arguably remains America’s most widely consumed single-malt whisky, this venerable Speyside institution has gained a substantial reputation among the cognoscenti for its vintage releases. In 2002, master distiller Jim Cryle unveiled the 1959 Limited Release—a delicious blend of floral essences, dark rum spice, and a touch of […]

FrontRunners: Select Smoke

Forbidden X In 1992, the Arturo Fuente Cigar Co. literally planted the seeds for the Fuente Fuente OpusX, which would become one of the most sought-after cigars in history. It was the first cigar with a wrapper, binder, and filler that were all grown in the Dominican Republic. Now, 12 years later, the Dominican Republic’s […]

Dining: Green Days

John Hunt’s day begins at dawn. There are hundreds of avocado trees to plant and 10 tons of fresh-picked citrus to pack. As a farmer, he always has a fence to mend, a leaking hydration pipe to fix, seeds to order, or staff to hire. But Hunt’s duties—which also include leading VIP tours of his […]

Wine: A Stag’s Leap of Faith

Contrary to the wistful pronouncements of lore, the transformation of the Golden State from bovine Valhalla to the world’s fifth largest economy was not predicated upon its natural charms, but on a succession of well-orchestrated PR campaigns, beginning with the sundry promotional guides that lured Midwesterners along the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800s. In the […]

Spirits: Still Life in Napa

Traditions run deep in California’s wine country. But none runs as deep, or can be traced back so far, as that of the little known firm of Domaine Charbay. Beyond the small, unassuming sign that marks its location on Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain, and within the rusticated farmhouse in which one finds a cozy tasting […]

Art: French Polish

The one drawback to the Biennale des Antiquaires, which takes place September 14 through 28 in Paris, is that it only occurs every other year. However, by staging the event on a biennial basis, the Syndicat National des Antiquaires, sponsor of the fair, ensures that the Biennale remains a rare treat. A total of 103 […]

Symposium: From Commodity to Classic

The way Bill Samuels Jr. tells it, his family had been making bourbon for seven generations when, in 1954, his father decided to create a whole new style of whiskey. To dramatize his determination to break with the past, the distiller took the only remaining copy of his family’s 170-year-old recipe and set it on […]

Sport: Fit and Finish

While veneration is duly accorded to Ferrari and Lamborghini for their iconic, candy-colored beasts, another Italian marque can claim a similar head-turning, race-winning distinction for its vehicles. The machines of Pinarello, however, race on two wheels and are powered not by 12-cylinder engines but by healthy legs and lungs. At its factory in Treviso in […]

Golf: The Rise of Falls

The current trend in golf course design emphasizes a natural approach, one in which architects move as little dirt as possible and make best use of a site’s existing attributes. But every now and then an audacious designer shoehorns a course into a site Mother Nature clearly never intended for golf. The Falls Golf Club, […]

Feature: Trunk Show

It was an idea that could have been conceived only in a bar, when the vodka was working its magic, and a fanciful notion seemed perfectly reasonable.   Two relative strangers, both Britons and both blessed with adventurous souls, were quaffing Bloody Marys together at the St. Moritz Tobogganing Club in 1981. One was a […]

Robb Design Portfolio: Time to Waist

If two wrists cannot satisfy your urge to flaunt complicated mechanical accessories, you can now enlist your waistline. The Calibre 8 collection from Geneva’s the House of Eight applies fine watchmaking principles—and the Swiss mania for precision—to the belt buckle. A complex, patented system of plates, roller bearings, and levers grips and pulls the strap […]

FrontRunners: Mythic Proportions

As the Olympic torch makes its way home to Athens this month, you can expect the usual deluge of commemorative souvenirs. Montegrappa (www.montegrappa1912.com, 866.854.1674), however, honors the event in an extraordinary way, using Italian design and artistry to convey classic Greek themes. The new limited-edition Classical Greece pen is rife with allusions to the birthplace […]

Watches: Finishing School

Is 100 years of experience really required to produce an exceptional watch? Jérôme De Witt does not think so. In only four years, he and his fledgling company, De Witt, have made significant progress in building genuine, high-quality timepieces—and he is not even a watchmaker. Jérôme acknowledges that his curvaceous New Age collection and the […]

Wardrobe: Worldly Goods

Michael Tapia has always considered himself a citizen of the world, and rightfully so. The Mexican-American menswear designer was born and raised in Southern California, earned most of his professional training working with Ralph Lauren in New York, and now heads his own signature collection based in Paris. What’s more, Tapia’s clothing is made in […]

Jewelry: British Invasion

Only the cognoscenti are aware that the venerable British crown jeweler Garrard has opened its first American salon—signage is limited to a discreet nameplate on the doorbell at 133 Spring St. in the heart of New York City’s SoHo. In keeping with this exclusive insider theme, Garrard’s new salon appears more like a chic downtown […]

Feature: Edge of Time

One-upmanship infects even those in the most sophisticated circles. Consider Swiss watch designers, who lately seem more like teenagers adding chrome and horsepower to their muscle cars and less like the keepers of hallowed tradition. This extreme turn in product development has actually been evolving for years. In theory, anyone can make a complicated watch […]

FrontRunners: Precious Plastic

Not everyone considers a restriction-laden ticket on a commercial airline a perk. The entrepreneurs behind the Stratus Rewards Visa (877.258.2360, http://www.stratusrewards.com), a new credit card concept, aim to profit from this perspective. With an emphasis on private travel, the Stratus Rewards card earns its users points redeemable for everything from flight hours with Marquis Jet […]

FrontRunners: Positive Response

Following the theme of rugged elegance set by the Range Rover, the new Land Rover LR3 (www.landrover.com) has handsome, squared-off lines and sterling 4×4 credentials that start with permanent four-wheel drive. A 300 hp, 4.4-liter version of Jaguar’s V-8 increases low-end torque and revises breathing so that the SUV can wade across rivers. It is […]

FrontRunners: More Power to It

The second-generation Mercedes-Benz SLK (www.mbusa.com) will arrive in September displaying style references to the Formula One–inspired SLR McLaren: pointed nose, sloped windshield, long hood. But such cosmetic changes are not the only improvements made to the SLK350, which is expected to debut in the mid-$40,000 range—a mere fraction of the price of a McLaren. The […]

FrontRunners: Flagship Ahoy

As a follow-up to the fast-moving SRX and the surprisingly swift CTS-V, and as part of its return to relevancy, Cadillac (www.cadillac.com) is releasing the next version of the STS. The 2005 STS, which shares the same Sigma platform as the SRX and CTS-V, is a rear-wheel-drive executive sedan that boasts the power and luxury […]

Feature: A Grand Experiment for the 21st Century

The auspicious year 2004 finds a spate of automobile manufacturers celebrating their centenaries, and more than a few relative youngsters ushering in their 50th and 75th anniversaries. The avalanche of marques turning 100 is no surprise if one recalls that the automobile industry had hardly chuffed and lurched into the new 20th century when Rolls-Royce […]

A Grand Experiment: Far from the Maddening Crowd

With its 75-year history, the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este is the quintessential old-world concours for automobiles. As upscale as it is understated, the event is a striking contrast to the frenetic, crowded, commercial endeavors such as our own Pebble Beach. While Pebble may attract the largest assemblage of the world’s most perfectly restored cars, no […]

Unique Machines: Bother of Invention

Some years ago, an entrepreneur wrote a two-page note to the Smithsonian Institution on his company’s letterhead. It was the type of letter that the Smithsonian often received, requesting information relevant to a project the sender was interested in pursuing. “I am an enthusiast,” the writer scribbled, “but not a crank in the sense that […]

Unique Machines: It’s Electrifying

The Tzero is an electric-powered, zero-emissions sports car that can accelerate from zero to 60 in 3.6 seconds and reach a top speed of 102 mph. It does this with the assistance of lithium-ion batteries that can be recharged by plugging the car into a standard household outlet for no longer than three hours. A […]

Unique Machines: Lean Machine

Fifteen years ago, the designers at Vandenbrink, a company in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, set out to build a slender, two-seat vehicle in which the passenger would sit behind the driver. What they ultimately created is the Carver, a three-wheeled car that requires drivers to lean into turns as they would if piloting a motorcycle. The […]

Wheels: Master and Commando

In addition to death and taxes, the life of a farrier, a person who shoes horses, includes another certainty: At some point, an ornery client will deliver a potentially lethal kick. When that time arrives, a farrier’s second hope—the first is that the horse misses—is that the kick connects early in the swing; such a […]

Back Page: Futures That Never Were

As intriguing as current concept cars are, past models can be even more compelling, especially those that never came to fruition. These cars, while now an easy target for derision, also offer a glimpse of how car design might have unfolded—if DOT regulations in some instances and good taste in others had not prevailed. From […]

Boating: Ranger Reborn

During their prime in the 1930s, J-boats, vessels measuring from 75 to 87 feet on the waterline, dominated international racing, and among this elite fleet, Ranger was the swiftest. Harold Vanderbilt’s boat, launched in 1937, successfully defended the America’s Cup that year and went on to win 35 of 37 races in its career—averaging speeds […]

Unique Machines: Scooting the Breeze

Inventor Woody Norris is on the verge of realizing his dream of building an inexpensive personal flying machine. When it goes into production sometime in 2006, the AirScooter II will cost around $50,000, should fit in an automobile garage, and will lift a single occupant into the air on the strength of an innovative four-stroke […]

Unique Machines: Making a Splash

The English language lacks a word that adequately describes the Rinspeed Splash’s capabilities. More than merely amphibious, the Splash is apparently the first vehicle that can travel across the water, on land, and through the air, and its Swiss engineers claim that it posts respectable speeds in all three environments. As a hydrofoil, the two-seater […]

Unique Machines: Sports Sub

Robert Leeds has designed what he calls the first “underwater sports car.” Subeo, his company in Essex, England, is now taking orders for the Aquarius, a submarine available in two commercial versions, one that dives to 50 meters (164 feet) and another that can reach a depth of 100 meters (328 feet). The prototype, the […]

Unique Machines: Sky’s the Limit

The Moller M400 Skycar, a personal vertical takeoff and landing vehicle, represents every gridlocked commuter’s dream: Move a lever, and your vehicle rises off the ground and speeds you to your destination through traffic-free skies. Unlike past flying-car concepts, the Skycar will be most at home in the air. In fact, its earthbound abilities are limited […]

Unique Machines: Fly Me to the Moon

The smart money is on Burt Rutan and his aerospace company, Scaled Composites, to win the Ansari X Prize. The $10 million reward will go to the first privately funded team that successfully launches the same piloted, three-seat craft into suborbital space twice within 14 days. In April, the FAA awarded Rutan’s Mojave, Calif., company […]