Wednesday, August 31, 2022

CADILLAC'S SURPRISE SEDAN CONCEPT by John Crawford

When Cadillac launched the Lyriq EV I was discussing the latest Cadillac design with GM's Vice-President of Design, Australian Mike Simcoe - who said: "You ain't seen nothing yet."

He was right. In late July Cadillac debuted its latest concept and perhaps the GM top brass has been listening to me moaning about how previous GM managements failed to elevate Cadillac to a true 'pedestal status' in the GM lineup.



Cadillac’s design team, led by Australian Andrew Smith, has revealed photos and some details of its upcoming EV sedan, named Celestiq, which was publicly revealed in Monterey, California last weekend.

Cadillac Celestiq will feature hand-crafted materials and futuristic technology, including a glass roof with programmable transparency and an ultra-modern, pillar-to-pillar infotainment system that’s incorporated into the dashboard.  Cadillac says the four-quadrant smart glass is just one way in which the Celestiq will aim to provide a unique, individual experience for each of the four passengers in the vehicle. Other top-shelf appointments include a glass-buttoned centre console.



The roof features Suspended Particle Device technology. The technology enables occupants to set their preferred level of glass opacity, thus customizing the level of ambient light entering the cabin.


“The Celestiq show car is the purest expression of Cadillac,” said Magalie Debellis, Manager, Cadillac Advanced Design. “It brings to life the most integrated expressions of design and innovation in the brand’s history, coalescing in a defining statement of a true Cadillac flagship.”

The Celestiq is to be hand-built in Warren in Michigan at the company’s factory. GM is investing USD$81 million in its Global Technical Centre there to prepare the campus for building the Cadillac Celestiq. The Celestiq will be the first production vehicle built there since the centre’s inauguration in May 1956.

“Cadillac represented the pinnacle of luxury through its respective eras, and helped make Cadillac the standard of the world,” said Tony Roma, chief engineer. “The Celestiq show car — also a sedan, because the configuration offers the very best luxury experience — builds on that pedigree and captures the spirt of arrival they expressed.”

The Cadillac Celestiq will be powered by GM Ultium propulsion technology, including Ultium batteries and Ultium drive motors.

Notably, the standard rear-wheel-drive configuration will be upgradeable to an all-wheel-drive setup, with a second drive unit added to the front of the vehicle.

Ultium highlights include:

*  Ultium energy options range from 50 to 200 kWh

*  GM-estimated range up to 400 miles or more on a full charge

*  GM-estimated 0 to 60 mph acceleration as low as 3 seconds

Most of the Ultium Drive components, including castings, gears and assemblies, will be built with globally sourced parts at GM’s existing global propulsion facilities on shared, flexible assembly lines, allowing the company to more quickly ramp up its EV production, achieve economies of scale and adjust its production mix to match market demand.


This is exactly the sort of 'exclusive' treatment I believe the Cadillac marque should have been enjoying for decades.

JOHN CRAWFORD

 

 

Monday, August 29, 2022

ASTON MARTIN VANTAGE V12 - by John Crawford

This Aston’s V12 is not just shoe-horned into the engine bay. It’s true to say that the Vantage (in both coupe and convertible form) were designed around the engine.



As I mentioned at the launch of the 5.2L V12, it’s a BRAND NEW DESIGN. There is no carryover, and of course there’s a limited production run built in, because the wacko Greens and subjugated politicians are crying out for every brand in the world to convert powertrains from ICE to batteries!




Thank God for the makers of exotica that they are ignoring the clamour, and have set out to make the ICE cars’ swansongs memorable.

 

Listen to this quote from Aston Martin’s new Chief Technical Officer, Roberto Fideli:

 

"We have worked extremely hard to ensure the V12 Vantage Roadster possesses the same potency and dynamism that characterizes the V12 Vantage Coupe while surpassing it in terms of raw sensory excitement that you only achieve with roof-down driving."

 

“With more power and torque than any Vantage Roadster before it, a wide-track chassis with precisely tuned suspension calibration, and up to ten times the downforce of the series production Vantage Roadster, this is a breath-taking machine created for our most enthusiastic customers."


That’s real enthusiasm talking.

 

Music to my ears. And, just when I thought Chief Creative Office Marek Reichmann and his team have teased out every possible new design tweak from the AM design language, they hit the ball out of the park again.





I have lusted after quite a few Aston Martins since Marek took over design duties, my favourite to date being the DBS Superleggera, but I’m afraid this new Vantage roadster tops my bucket list. I like the coupe, but I LOVE the roadster.

 

Don’t expect me to start quoting wads of data to convince you of the lust-ability of this car. You just get the basics - the 12-pot pumps out 690hp (515kW), gets to 100km/h in 3.5s, and its power-to-weight ratio is enhanced big time by ‘mostly’ composite body panels sitting on the VH aluminium structure.



No, it’s just the way it looks that grabs my attention. If political and community pressures are forcing sports cars south in our motoring future, I may have to sell house, wife, dog, car and my Mac to buy a ‘used’ version. Why ‘used’, you say?

 

Because Aston Martin will only make 249 cars, and they are all sold! Sorry ‘bout that.

 

JOHN CRAWFORD

Saturday, August 27, 2022

BENTLEY DESIGN COMES FULL CIRCLE by John Crawford

Take your mind back to December 1998. VWAG has owned Bentley Motors (sans Rolls-Royce) since September and Ferdinand Piëch has dictated that Bentley must make a splash at the Geneva Salon in March 1999.


He calls up Design Director Dr. Hartmut Warkus and says: “Do something spectacular.”

 

Dr. Warkus turned to one of his young designers, Andreas Mindt, with a brief to develop a sleek supercar with a devastatingly complex W16 twin-turbo motor.


There’s no time to waste, so the design team ex-appropriates a ‘used’ Lamborghini Diablo, and chops it off at the sills. The result is a concept car which indeed turned onlookers breathless as the covers came off the Bentley Hunaudieres.


 

Twenty-three years later the circle is complete when Andreas Mindt is named Head of Bentley Design in January 2021. Having spent the last 15 years working on concept cars for the VW Group brands, and contributing design ideas for VW’s future electrified models, Andreas takes charge as the Bentley ICE models are succeeded by a range of electrified cars.

 

During the 2022 Monterey car week the world saw the first fruits of his efforts with a stunning coupe called the Batur, named after the 90m deep Kintamani crater lake on the island of Bali. The name suggesting a great depth of design thought directed at future Bentleys.



The new coupe follows the beautiful Bacalar convertible, named after Lake Bacalar in Mexico, designed by Mindt’s predecessor – Stephan Sielef.




There are to be 12 Bacalars built, and Bentley appears to have been encouraged by the rapid takeup of all of them, as it has announced the exclusive Baturs will go to just 18 new owners with a pricetag of USD$2 million dollars each!



Andreas Mindt has definitely evolved the Batur design from the Bacalar, and this is especially evident with the new approach to front lamps. For the first time in its history Mindt has eschewed Bentley’s familiar circular headlights, for teardrop examples.

 

The side profile and rear reveals a more curved, organic design moving away from the crisp-edge shape of the current Continental coupe.




Batur will also be powered by the most powerful version ever of the venerable W12, pushing out 729hp (544kW) as the 6.0L monster farewells the ICE age.

 

The Batur is built on the Continental platform, utilising its suspension and powertrain, but all the exterior panels are new. The only carryover is the exterior rear view mirrors, because they contain so many sensors, it made no financial sense to replace them for a run of 18 cars. The fascia includes a laser etched sound wave of the W12's sonorous exhaust note!




 

The familiar long Bentley hood trails back from a spectacular red and black honeycomb grille set between the teardrops.



It is one hell of a design statement, and confirms all the faith I had in the future of Bentley when I witnessed the unveiling of the original Continental production coupe in Dr. Piëch’s private studio, ‘Valhalla’, on the top floor of the VW corporate HQ in Wolfsburg back in November 2000.

 

You could say that Batur is a ridiculous example of extremes, but the design work executed by Andreas Mindt is just another example of the exalted position Bentley now occupies in  Volkswagen’s ambitions for its leading marque – especially now that Bugatti has gone to Rimac.


JOHN CRAWFORD

HOPE FOR HEMP by John Crawford

My son Ben has been a disciple of using hemp fibre in everything from clothes to couches to cars for a very long time. He rightly points out it is a bio-environmentally friendly plant with a multitude of uses where you need high integral strength combined with flexible, low carbon manufacturing processes.

 

No, I didn’t miss the connection with marihuana, but be sensible, we’re talking here about hemp fibre. As Ben points out, often, it’s easy to grow, doesn’t degrade the soil, is a low carbon solution and best of all – it’s cheap to produce, and as I said offers a multitude of uses.

 

Of course, the metal industries will mount a huge lobby to stop this idea going very far, but that hasn’t stopped Motive Technologies, located in one of my very favourite cities – Calgary, Alberta. Something else that’s worth knowing is that the Canadians are not nearly as hysterical as Americans in their fervour to forbid the growing of ‘hemp’ – Danger alert !!! it’s connected to pot!

 

Motive Technologies has produced the Kestrel, and from all the signs, it’s a project ready to go into production as a city commuter car at this stage. The three-door hatchback weighs just 860kg, and the prototype (with a 16kWh battery pack) provides 160km of range, with a top speed close to 130 km/h.

 

The Kestrel’s platform and body is made from hemp stalks infused with polyester resin. It’s safe, strong and impact-resistant. 


Moreover, hemp complies with every possible eco standard we have today.



Hemp has been around for millennia, first recorded in China 5000 years ago used in ropes and sails.

 

Hemp production shows enviable and tremendous benefits and not only are Canadian investors interested in the potential, but Indian investors say that because the country already grows hemp in commercial quantities, it could easily leverage the production into a viable car project for India’s masses very quickly.

 

Okay, fantastic potential, and super eco-friendly, and 100% recyclable! Let’s see how long before the opposition to using hemp takes to kill this really good idea!

 

JOHN CRAWFORD

ALWAYS GOOD MONEY IN CLASSIC BENTLEYS by John Crawford

A 1960 Bentley S2 saloon, shipped from Canada to Australia contained more than USD$108 million in illegal drugs. There was 161 kg of methamphetamine, and 30 kg of cocaine in a variety of different sized ‘bricks’. 


Border Force intercepted the car, and Xrays revealed suspicious ‘packages’.


There were even some hidden behind the headlights.


They partially dismantled the car, but then allowed it to be shipped to its destination, where they concealed themselves.


After two men (aged 22 & 23) removed the first headlight, the Border Force agents moved in to arrest them and impound the car.



Separately, Border Force intercepted two tonnes of meth hidden in marble tiles, shipped from the Middle East. It was the largest quantity recovered in recent seizures.

 

Sadly, I don’t think the Bentley remains as valuable now, as it was pre-seizure.


JOHN CRAWFORD

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

TWELVE YEARS OF PUTTING RUBBER ON THE ROAD by John Crawford

It’s fast approaching the 12-year anniversary of starting DRIVING & LIFE and I’ve covered a lot of distance in that time with a huge variety of cars, most times thanks to my good friend Paul Gover (who’s now on the editorial team at drive.com.au).

 

The Blog has morphed into a personal car magazine for me with driving impressions, technical features, political comment and observations based on a 40+ year career in and around cars.

 

I started, like many, with Dinky Toys and a tricycle.



Then, probably unsurprisingly, joining the ranks of automotive journalists before starting a long career in the automotive industry in 1977, after completing the Singapore Airlines London-to-Sydney Car Rally – the longest in modern history – 30,000km through 30 countries, in 30 days.




Along the way the most important thing I’ve collected are great friendships with a huge variety of car people, some fabulous driving experiences and been exposed to some great technology. All of which has combined to give me some critical insights to developments in the auto industry which inform the Blog.

 

I really enjoy research, bringing my friends into the orbit of the Blog and most importantly of all, putting plenty of rubber on the road whilst writing the words.



In the last 12 years there are a lot of cars which I remember fondly, so I’ve gathered a couple of collages of my favoutites.



Not sure how long the Blog has in its tank, but it seems that there’s always something new happening which snags my attention – so you’ll have to put up with me for a while longer. Thanks for hanging around with me, I’ve really enjoyed it.

 

JOHN CRAWFORD

Monday, August 22, 2022

LITHIUM HUNTING - GOOD LUCK WITH THAT THEN - by John Crawford

As the modern world rushes to replace ICE cars with EVs there is a big problem facing EV proponents that not everyone has yet come to terms with.


The available supplies of lithium are concentrated in three areas around the globe. China, Australia and South America.

 

First, you can discount China exporting lithium, because President Xi and the CCP has already announced China will not share its lithium supplies with the world!

 


This ramps up pressure to mine lithium from Australia and South America. You may think that the relative scarcity of lithium relegates it to the status of ‘the new oil’ – given that it’s a vital resource for the manufacture of EV batteries, as well as many other products like smartphones and x-ray machines, as well as in the production of glass and concrete.

 

However, the issue is that lithium is not only expensive to mine, but also totally degrades the landscape left behind. Also, whilst the current reserves may sound like a lot of lithium, it is a finite resource, just like oil.

 

In South America, lithium comes from ‘The Lithium Triangle’ – an area about the size of California, spanning the borders of Chile, Bolivia and Argentina.


The valuable resource is a brine, which sits below the surface of salt flats in places like Chile’s Atacama desert.

 

It has to be pumped to the surface, then stored in ponds to evaporate.



As many as 2,800 cubic meters of water are needed to make a ton of lithium in Chile; that's about 40 times the water required to make a ton of copper. Note that Chile is the world’s largest copper supplier. Once the salty brine has evaporated, it’s collected to be processed – and the mined areas take on the appearance of a moonscape.




In Australia lithium is mined from hard rock, but once extracted the pits also look like a moonscape.



 

The next problem facing the South American companies is two-fold. First, there is a huge groundswell of protest from governments and indigenous peoples, not only because of the degradation of the landscape and possible poisoning of the arterial water supply – but, more importantly, the three national governments are extremely concerned about huge mining companies gaining mining contracts and retaining the bulk of the profits, which will not benefit the local communities.

 

Bolivia decided, in 2018, to nationalize lithium, and both mine and process it themselves, cutting out the mining companies. The problem is Bolivia simply doesn’t have the financial resources for to develop new mines, nor the required expertise to extract the lithium and process it profitably. The first mine, established in 2019, remains idle. Another obstacle is that a new mine takes about eight years to set up.

 

Australia currently leads in mining and exports of lithium, but again, the process depends on mining companies – who want a big cut of the profits.




So, how does this impact the manufacture of EVs? Well, EVs can’t operate without a large supply of lithium to make the batteries, so if you think about the scale of the number of EVs that the Greens and other ratbags are suggesting the world will need to completely replace ICE cars by 2030 – then it occurs to me there is a built-in handbrake on lithium extraction, and that limits the number of batteries that can be produced – QED, that limits the number of EVs, which are currently in high demand by the early adopters, currently with 18-24 months wait times.

Oh, and there’s another consideration – if you own an EV, and prefer to keep driving it, what impact will the falling availability of lithium have on the manufacture of replacement batteries? They’re gonna cost – big time.

 

As I have pointed out many times before. Lithium like oil and gold, is a finite resource and once you’ve mined it, you can’t extract any more supplies from that source.

 

This whole scenario has not been thought through very well. The idea is a glamorous one for governments, environmentalists and car companies, but it seems to me there are some serious practical barriers to BEVs becoming the ‘silver bullet’ to replace ICE cars and totally reduce vehicle emissions.





All thoughts on the way out of this dilemma are welcome.

 

JOHN CRAWFORD

Saturday, August 20, 2022

THE LAST MOTOR by John Crawford

MODERN MOTOR magazine absorbed five years of my working life between 1972 and 1977, and now we see the final edition in print, after 68 years of covering the Australian automotive landscape.

 

For my part, my five was a fabulous trip. As Editor I delivered three of the biggest scoop stories, which in the early days of the magazine was what set it apart from its competitors. I and my team (which included my dear friend and brilliant colleague, the late Matt Whelan) broke the Holden Torana hatchback, the Holden Gemini sedan, and the pick of the bunch, the Holden Commodore – two years before it was launched!

 

Modern Motor debuted in 1954, and during the reign of the editorial team led by Colin Ryrie and Jules Feldman there were numerous scoop stories and lots of driving challenges. The magazine was always on top of the big news stories, or making its own headlines. 

 

WHEELS suffered from longer deadlines, which meant that as far as breaking news went, it wasn’t quite as nimble as Modern Motor. However, it more than made up for that with outstanding writing from a stream of hugely skilled journalists, and also striking layouts and great cover artwork.


I should also mention that throughout their competitive history WHEELS nearly always clearly outsold Modern Motor. Must have had something to do with the writing.

 

With the final edition of the magazine, now simply called MOTOR, it’s very sad to see that the current editorial team completely failed to pay any respect to the dozens of people who went before. This photo of the cover of the last magazine, and the contents pays no respect to the people, the stories, and in fact the history of a publication which covered the Australian motoring scene in great depth, and when there was a big scoop, disappeared from newsstands in just a few days.



 

The failure to match the outstanding writing and artwork in WHEELS led me to take the decision early on in my time as Editor, that Modern Motor would become THE automotive news magazine. I completely reworked the editorial formula to ensure that HOT NEWS was its trademark.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset by the fact that my five among 68 never rated a mention. However, I must say that the opening editorial by the last editor is among the most tasteless, puerile and uninviting examples of journalism I have seen as the ‘gateway’ to the magazine. It's symptomatic of the lack of recognition of its past in the pages that follow.

 

The editorial page was where the current editor either commented on important new cars, historic events in the industry, or raised questions of our political class about laws and regulations which affected the nation’s motorists. It was a serious look at a topical subject.

 

Farewell MOTOR, it was a great ride!

 

JOHN CRAWFORD

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

TOURING - THE GRAND ST. BERNARD PASS - by John Crawford


Possibly the oldest of the mountain passes which cross the Swiss Alps, the Grand St. Bernard’s first mention was in 390BC, when Celtic tribes crossed over to conquer Italy. Julius Caesar sent one of his finest generals to claim the pass in 57BC, but he turned back, when faced with a superior force of Celts.

The Emperor Augustus returned in 16BC, defeated the Celts and claimed the Pass, which then became the major route between Switzerland and Italy.

The most significant crossing occurred in May 1800 when Napoleon Bonaparte, led 40,000 troops, with heavy artillery over the Pass to invade Italy. That tells you the little French General wasn't short on confidence.


As you reach Lac des Toules you will pass the Hospice du Grand-Saint-Bernard (below), which was opened by St. Bernard of Merthon in 1049, and where he bred the dogs famous for alpine rescues.


An interesting sidelight to Lac des Toules is the innovative way the Swiss developed renewable energy from a huge bank of solar panels floating on the lake.


The road has not changed since the track was first created, and today it is well-surfaced, and not nearly as difficult as the other passes I've written about. However, it is certainly scenic.


On the Swiss side heading south from Martigny, you will find a few switchback corners as the road runs along ridges in the foothills.

St. Rhemy-en-Bosses (left and top), Martigny (lower right)

It reaches its highest altitude at 2469m.

And yes, it's very popular with cyclists.

At that point, in summer, check out the monastery, and the hotel (owned by the monks), plus an excellent restaurant.


There is also a ‘tarn’ (alpine lake) called Lago del St. Bernard, which you skirt to begin the descent towards Aosta, through a series of beautiful valleys.


As you descend on the SS27, at St. Rehmy-en-bosses, you will find a 4-Star hotel called Casa per feria Don Angelo Carioni (above) – completely isolated by heavy snowfalls in the winter. Lunch is a ski in/ski out job.

Just after this landmark, there’s the confluence of the mountain road, with the entrance/exit to the Grand St. Bernard Tunnel, which now carries most of the traffic between Switzerland and Italy. From this point you have to again do battle with heavy trucks, as this is a busy freight route between the two countries.

Tunnel or Col (Pass)? In winter tunnel is the only way to the Val d'Aoste (right)


Aosta, in the Val d’Aoste is a gateway to a large number of ski resorts in the immediate area, and the city has a vibrant feel to it - especially so in the heart of the ski season. 

There’s a wide variety of accommodations and restaurants, and for those who vacation in Europe to ski, skiing in Italy is a wonderful experience, not just for the wine, food and culture, but the Italian spirit, and zest for living pervades the entire ambience.




JOHN CRAWFORD