Infiniti Expands Its Lineup with the Q70L
Last year, Infiniti initiated a brand overhaul by assigning the “Q” designation to its entire stable of vehicles. Now the brand is introducing several new model variations for its flagship vehicles, beginning with the debut of the 2015 Infiniti Q70L at the New York International Auto Show.
A long-wheelbase version of Infiniti’s largest four-door sedan, the Q70L extends the length of its base model by approximately 6 inches, adding most of the space to its rear passenger cabin. The new model is Infiniti’s very first long-wheelbase model and is an indication of the Japanese marque’s new direction. “We know our customers desire more choice and prestige,” says Michael Bartsch, vice president of Infiniti Americas. “The long-wheelbase Q70 is our offer to them. The Q70 delivers on all accounts—attention to detail, highly crafted materials, rear roominess, comfortable ride, and superior levels of interior quietness.”
A recent test drive of the Q70L confirms many of Bartsch’s claims. Equipped with a 5.6-liter V-8 engine that generates 416 hp and 414 ft lbs of torque, Infiniti’s flagship sedan is as powerful as it is smooth. The cabin is quiet and refined, featuring a dial on its center console that allows for the selection of different driving modes: standard, sport, eco, and snow. The 2015 Q70L’s exterior design includes new LED headlamps that complement the car’s refreshed grille, bumper, and reshaped trunk.
The extended-wheelbase Q70L, along with the seven-passenger QX80 Limited SUV, is representative of Infiniti’s commitment to passenger comfort. Both the Q70L and QX80 Limited will arrive in showrooms later this year. (www.infinitiusa.com)
Rolls-Royce Unveils Its Waterspeed Collection of Phantom Drophead Coupés
When the Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé first rolled off the production line in 2007, it made waves around the globe. Remaining true to the marine-themed exterior of the 100EX concept on which it was based, the Drophead Coupé featured a stainless-steel hood, teak paneling in the cabin, and a two-tone color scheme that delineated the upper and lower bodywork.
Now, with the 2015 Rolls-Royce Waterspeed Collection, the marque is taking its nautical-inspired flagship convertible to the next level. Thirty-five custom-styled Phantom Drophead Coupés will be created by Roll-Royce Motor Cars’ Bespoke department to celebrate Malcolm Campbell’s September 1937 world water speed record of 129.5 mph, which he reached on Italy’s Lake Maggiore in a Bluebird K3 powered by a Rolls-Royce R-Engine.
The first of the 35 Waterspeed Collection models made its official debut on the opening day of the Concorsa d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este, on the shore of Lake Como in northern Italy. Painted in an all-new Maggiore Blue color scheme, the Waterspeed’s exterior coat—which consists of nine layers of paint—is designed to provide the illusion of water flowing over its surfaces. Additionally, for the first time in Rolls-Royce history, this bespoke Drophead Coupé’s engine is painted in a matching color, creating a visually striking homage to the power behind Campbell’s record-setting runs. Another first from the Waterspeed Collection is the inclusion of abachi wood, which has a satiny feel and is intended to mirror the wake left by a boat moving at speed. With the Waterspeed Collection, Rolls-Royce has created the ultimate land yacht and a new flagship for its fleet. (www.rolls-roycemotorcars.com)
Introducing X-Bionic for Automobili Lamborghini Performance Wear
X-Technology, in Wollerau, Switzerland, has launched a new line of performance wear called X-Bionic for Automobili Lamborghini, which is engineered to enhance the performance of runners, cyclists, skiers, golfers, and even drivers. The X-Bionic items are developed and designed by X-Technology and produced in Italian textile mills.
The Super Trofeo driving jacket ($1,005)—named for Lamborghini’s Super Trofeo car racing series—features what the manufacturer calls the 3D Bionic Sphere system, which uses inner ribs and ridges to control air movement and the distribution and evaporation of sweat across the chest and back. It is composed of lightweight Macrotermes fiber that keeps the driver warm, while additional ribs and covers at the shoulders and elbows ensure flexibility and comfort. The jacket’s collar and cuffs are designed to dispel excess heat. It is adorned with Lamborghini’s shield in front, script on the arms, and the Super Trofeo logo between the shoulders. Worn in combination with X-Bionic’s Freeride FireShield shirt and pants, which similarly optimize perspiration management and airflow, the jacket represents a stylish yet serious approach to high-performance driving wear.
Other items in the X-Bionic collection include the Limited Huracán Edition runner’s shirt and shorts and the Xitanit 2.0 ski overalls, bike bib, bike socks, and golf shirt, all of which marry technology with style to help athletes reach their peak performance—or at least look like they are. Prices for many of the X-Bionic items are not yet available.
Carrozzeria Zagato Reinterprets the Lamborghini Gallardo
In the latest in a series of collaborations that began in 1965, the Italian carrozzeria Zagato has teamed up with Lamborghini to reinterpret the marque’s most successful model to date, the Gallardo. Commissioned by the car collector Albert Spiess, the Lamborghini 5-95 Zagato is mechanically identical to the 562 hp stock Gallardo, but sports an eye-catching, futuristic new exterior. Instead of the two front intakes that marked the front bumper of the Gallardo, the 5-95 Zagato is equipped with a large, gaping grille that houses a floating front spoiler. Its fenders, which slightly overlap the forward bodywork, house the headlights and form secondary air intakes. A wind deflector just below the windshield improves airflow while increasing the perceived length of the hood.
The 5-95 Zagato’s double-bubble cockpit is surrounded by continuous glass surfaces uninterrupted by pillars. The Gallardo’s large side intakes have been reduced, though proper aspiration is maintained by the addition of an air scoop on the roof. The rear end of the car has been shortened to emphasize its aggressive forward stance. The sharp lines of the Gallardo’s rear have been softened on the 5-95 Zagato, a visual cue that is reinforced by swapping rectangular taillights for round ones. Though the first example of the car is obviously spoken for, the company will produce additional 5-95 Zagatos (price upon request) as demand warrants. (www.zagato.it)
Exotics Racing Opens New Southern California Race Course
With a fleet of cars that includes top performers from Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Aston Martin, and others, Exotics Racing offers the opportunity to race these high-performance vehicles at its 1.2-mile, seven-turn course at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where the company offers fun and instructional sessions. Earlier this year, Exotics began offering similar services at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., about an hour east of Los Angeles and just a few minutes from the Ontario International Airport.
The brand-new and beautifully demarcated course is also 1.2 miles long, but unlike the Vegas course, it runs counterclockwise through eight turns and includes a 1,600-foot straightaway that lets drivers reach speeds of up to 130 mph. Like the Vegas track, though, the new course gives drivers the opportunity to sample a car that they are considering for a personal collection or simply the chance to fulfill a lifelong fantasy of driving a supercar on a track. (702.802.5675, www.exoticsracing.com)
A Brief History of the Ford GT40
Loudly proclaiming its presence, a 1965 Ford GT40 Roadster Prototype will cross RM Auctions’ ramp during Monterey Car Week, at a sale that takes place August 15 and 16. The rare prototype—which has spent more than two decades in single ownership—represents an important moment in the history of not just Ford but also Shelby American and the racing luminaries of the era who were involved in its development.
The GT40 is perhaps the most interesting footnote in Ford history, a hot potato of a racecar created in response to Henry Ford II’s failed attempt at acquiring Ferrari in 1963. The mercurial Enzo Ferrari quashed the deal at the last moment and Ford switched gears, vowing to beat il Commendatore at his own game by building a Ford endurance racer that would establish his supremacy over his Italian rival.
Ford engineers collaborated with the engineer Eric Broadley, owner of the British racecar manufacturer Lola Cars, whose Lola Mk 6 showed great potential but required further development to fulfill its promise. Surrounded by front-engine competition, the mid-engine Mk 6 used a Ford V-8 engine. After making an agreement with Broadley to build the GT40, Ford produced five prototypes and then Broadley opted out of the contract, which led to the establishment of Ford Advanced Vehicles Ltd in England under the aegis of John Wyer, a former manager of the Aston Martin racing who went on to run many a Gulf Oil–sponsored team.
The initial Ford GT, GT/101, was unveiled in April 1964, and the first GT40 went to the Nürburgring a month later. Following a season of lackluster results, the cars were sent to Shelby American in California for further development, and the rest really is history. A trio of Ford GT40 MkII cars took a 1-2-3 victory at Le Mans in 1966, proving the mettle of Ford and cementing Carroll Shelby’s reputation for the ages.
Along the way, four roadsters were constructed, with the first, chassis GT/108, completed by Ford Advanced Vehicles in Britain in 1965 and shipped to Shelby American after initial testing at Silverstone. Subsequently, it was used as the development prototype and demonstrator by Ford and Shelby American, and was driven by the Shelby team driver Ken Miles for additional testing.
One of only 12 prototype Ford GT40s built (the “40” refers to the car’s height in inches), GT/108 is a rare survivor, with a low tail section unique to the roadster body. Importantly, it is accompanied by the same Ford 289 V-8 engine that was installed in it in 1965 when it was sold into a private collection from the Ford factory via Kar Kraft. While RM Auctions discreetly offers “estimate upon request,” betting types may wager that a hammer price well north of $8 million is not unlikely, given the climate in today’s very heated collector-car market. (www.rmauctions.com)
BMW’s Vision Future Luxury Concept Perhaps Hints at Its Next Flagship
At the recent Beijing International Automotive Exhibition, BMW took the wraps off a concept vehicle that may very well hint at the German automaker’s plans for its next flagship sedan. The cabin of the BMW Vision Future Luxury concept features everything one would expect from the company’s top-of-the-line four-door—premium leathers, CNC-machined aluminum details, hand stitching, and natural woods—but the car’s exterior lines seem to apply those of a sport coupe to a larger and statelier body shape.
Exterior design cues include wider gaps in the dual front grilles, dramatic front-fender vents, forward and rear scoops in the side panels, and a flowing transition from the trunk to the rear fender. Interior elements unique to the Vision Future Luxury include floating bucket seats and a B-pillar that matches the profile of the contoured front seats—an integral part of the cabin’s mounting and support system.
BMW says that it uses concept vehicles like this one to showcase where the company may be going in terms of design. If its concept cars of the past several years are any indication, elements of the Vision Future Luxury will likely appear in the BMW lineup at some point—if not the entire concept as a new flagship 7 Series sedan. The company has neither confirmed nor denied such assumptions. (www.bmwusa.com)
Rob Kauffman opens the door into his automotive showroom, and it is hard to know what to drool over first. Corvettes, Mustangs, Camaros, Firebirds—250 or so of the greatest expressions of speed, power, and ingenuity Detroit ever produced—glow as if they just rolled off the production line. Some of these cars are in Kauffman’s personal collection; the rest belong to RK Motors, his vintage car dealership in Charlotte, N.C. As Kauffman cuts left and walks toward his personal cars, the first one that commands attention is a black 1977 Pontiac Trans Am with a golden Firebird emblem emblazoned on the hood, wings spread wide, ready to hug the world at 100 miles per hour. All that is missing is Burt Reynolds leaning across the center console to kiss Sally Field.
A few cars behind the Firebird sits a 1963 Chevy Impala SS with a red “3” painted on each door and “Holly Farms Poultry” on the rear quarter panels. Kauffman points out the steering wheel, still wrapped in black electrical tape wound just so more than 50 years ago to precisely fit the meaty grip of NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson. The car remains almost unchanged from 1963, when Johnson won seven NASCAR races driving it, powered by a “mystery motor” that was soon outlawed. Kauffman plans to take this muscle-car-on-steroids to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, held every summer at the estate of Lord Charles March in England. “It’s an irreplaceable motor, so I’m not going to try to set the land-speed record with it,” he says. “I’m going to start it up and let people hear it run.”
The fact that Kauffman, a racecar driver and NASCAR team owner, eagerly anticipates cruising slowly up a driveway partly explains why he collects cars: He wants to share the rolling thunder escaping from under the hood. An equal opportunity car fanatic, Kauffman is as apt to wax poetic about his 1928 Bentley as he is about his Bandit Firebird. But he has always had a particular affection for American cars, especially muscle and pony cars—no surprise, considering his first two cars were 1967 Firebirds. When he talks about those cars, the word he uses most often is “fun.” He loves them for the glorious sound of their V-8s, for the way speed translates to the driver’s seat, and for the way driving one transports him to that era.
Take, for example, the 1970 Camaro that he races in the Historic Trans Am series. “What’s fun about it is you’re driving this beast with bias-ply tires and crappy brakes,” he says. “This is how Mark Donohue [the late and legendary driver] and those guys did it. Those guys were studs.”
His dealership, car collection, and NASCAR team do not completely overlap in a business sense, but they all spring from the same passion for loud things that go fast. He likes the NASCAR world because he likes the sport of racing, the camaraderie with like-minded individuals, and the thrilling but frustrating pursuit of trophies, which are given only to the most perfect combination of car and driver on each race day.
Kauffman’s obsession with cars dates back as long as he can remember—and even longer than that. “The story that I’ve been told, my first word was ‘mom,’ and my second was ‘car.’ That’s according to my mom,” he says. “Somehow, I came out of the factory that way.”
When he turned 13, his parents gave him those 1967 Firebirds from a junkyard, put them on blocks in their Mahopac, N.Y., backyard, and told him to build a car that worked out of parts from the two wrecks. “I froze my butt off for a winter trying to unfreeze rusted bolts,” he says. “At one point the lightbulb came on: They had paid $70 for the two cars. I sold the taillight of one for $20. I was like, Hmm, I still have a lot of stuff left. So I promptly changed my business plan to selling parts off of cars. I took that money and bought another one, and so on. That began my trading career.”
A few years later, when Kauffman had a job as a mechanic, his dad gave him advice that still resonates with him: If you go to college, maybe you could hire people to work on your own cars, rather than the other way around.
Kauffman, who is now 50, graduated from Northeastern University and launched a career in finance. He cofounded Fortress Investment Group in 1998. He sold his stake in the company to his cofounders in late 2012 in part so he could devote more time to his car passion, which had blossomed into several car and racing businesses. “You’ve heard that saying, ‘a mile wide and an inch deep?’” he says. “My wife says I’m an inch wide and a mile deep. I like cars, and I know about finance. Everything else kind of fades out.”
He bought cars here and there over the years and eventually decided he needed a place to store them. He chose Charlotte for its proximity to the East Coast, nice weather, and windy roads. It also helps that the city teems with car nuts, home as it is to almost every NASCAR team, including the one Kauffman co-owns, Michael Waltrip Racing.
Once Kauffman’s cars were in one place together, he proved his dad a prophet: He hired people to work on them. In 2010, he opened RK Motors, along with Joe Carroll, founder of Best Show Automotive. RK Motors buys and sells primarily classic American cars. Kauffman says he made “almost every mistake in the book” in the first few years of RK Motors, but the company sold 400 cars for roughly $35 million last year and is thriving now. Kauffman also owns a web site—www.myclassicgarage.com—that allows car collectors to catalog what they own. His personal account features 27 vehicles—all those muscle cars, as well as Ferraris, a Bentley, a Duesenberg, and more.
The tour of RK Motors over, Kauffman exits into a glorious spring day, 80 degrees, not a cloud in the sky. He opens the door to his 1963 split-window Corvette, arguably the most visually striking of that line of iconic Chevys and the car from his collection that he drives on his frequent trips to Charlotte. It is silver blue, the color of the ocean meeting the sky, and looks fast just sitting there. “Enough jibber-jabber,” he says. “Let’s drive a car.”
While some collectors stockpile cars but never drive them, Kauffman does the opposite. He sees little point in owning a car and never driving it. He buys cars to let them take him places, whether it’s to the drugstore or back in time. His 1960 Willys wagon, a forerunner to SUVs and Suburbans that he drives when he’s at home in Greenwich, Conn., does both. “Anyone can go to CVS in a Lexus,” Kauffman says. “But that thing? Top speed is 62 miles per hour, you’re grinding gears. It’s totally fun. When I bought it, the guy had done a total restoration—interior, headliner, inside, the wood on the inside, mechanical stuff. We paid a sum total of $27,000 for it. When I told the guy I was going to drive it, a tear almost came to his eye.”
He climbs into the ’63 Corvette. The numbers on the gauges pop like someone stenciled them in this morning. The interior is well kept but lived-in, with a guide to wineries, a duffel bag full of tools, and a fire extinguisher (a nonnegotiable requirement in all of his cars) scattered in the back. As Kauffman’s left foot pushes the clutch, his right foot feathers the gas, his right hand twists the key, and he brings the engine to life. It plays music to his carbureted soul, a roaring V-8 staccato beat that transcends all language barriers. “People say, ‘Rob, I can’t believe you drive it.’ I say, ‘I can’t believe other people don’t,’” he says.
He drives like a normal person, maybe even slower—usually, at least—partly because he fears other drivers and partly because he drives racecars 180 miles per hour, so going fast down the highway does not have the same effect on his heart rate.
Which is not to say he always follows all traffic laws. He owns another Corvette, a 1967 convertible, the Corvette of Corvettes, a car so cool that “Ode to Joy” should play whenever someone opens the door. A 427 cu in engine graces the engine compartment and creates 435 hp. He drove it recently from Charlotte to Martinsville, Va., and back to attend a NASCAR race. That is more than 250 miles round-trip, mostly on two-lane highways crisscrossing northern North Carolina and southern Virginia—beautiful, albeit blurry, countryside, the way he blitzed through it. “I can tell you that at 4,000 rpm in fourth gear the speedometer reads 110, and on the GPS it’s 98,” he says.
He likes Corvettes because the speed feels so much faster, especially relative to how speed feels in a supercar. Indeed, 100 miles per hour in the passenger seat of the 1963 Corvette feels every bit that fast and more. (Just kidding, officer.)
At a stoplight, a guy in a truck eyes the ’Vette with lust in his heart. Other drivers and men working on the side of the road honk, wave, and flash thumbs up. Kauffman waves back. Even the Willys wagon, which makes a school bus look sleek, draws similar reactions, he says. When Kauffman drives his 1958 convertible Eldorado, a cruise ship atop four wheels, old men tell him stories of their own Eldos. Kids often ask to sit in Kauffman’s cars, and he always obliges them, his way of paying his good fortune forward. “They’ll want a picture,” he says. “Sometimes the dads do too.”
None of the old men’s stories, none of the smiles, none of the pictures would happen if Kauffman kept his cars locked in a warehouse all day, as quiet and useless as an unskinned drum.“I’m lucky enough to have all this stuff, “ he says, “so I like to share it with people.”
Rob Kauffman buys what he loves—and uses it. Here is how he describes his philosophy on car collecting.
On buying: “It’s not a pie-eating contest. It’s not a matter of who has the most. Where I am right now, I have a decent number of cars. Each one I’ve got is to do something specifically that I couldn’t do with something else.”
On curating: “No matter how much money you have, no matter how much time you have, the one constraint you’re always going to come up against is you can only drive one at a time. I have a ’58 Eldorado Biarritz convertible. Big, boat, totally fun. When I bought that, I had a ’57 Bel Air convertible. From my standpoint, the occasion I would want to drive the Bel Air is the exact same I’d want to drive the Eldo. So I sold the Bel Air and got the Eldo.”
On his wish list: “Right now I don’t have any brass-era cars [pre–World War I cars with brass detailing], and I like them a lot. So I’m just kind of quietly keeping track of what’s at the auctions, what’s trading. Something will come up at some point that seems like it makes sense, the right thing at the right time. If it’s not this year, it could be 10 years from now. I plan on being around for a while, so it’s not a rush.” —M.C.
Top Shops June 2014: In the Fast Lane
On February 14, a Venom GT supercar by Hennessey Performance (www.hennesseyperformance.com) reached a speed of 270.49 mph at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and became the world’s fastest two-seat production sports car—a distinction that once belonged to Bugatti and Swedish hypercar manufacturer Koenigsegg. The feat also made Hennessey arguably the world’s top tuning shop: For $1.2 million, speed lovers can purchase one of the 29 1,244 hp Venom GTs Hennessey is producing. Founder and president John Hennessey and his team of mechanics and designers, in both the United States and England, built the supercar from a Lotus Exige base and a Venom 1,000 twin-turbo engine.
Other Hennessey packages include the VR1200 Twin Turbo upgrade for the Cadillac CTS-V ($295,000 installed, not including the initial price of the car) and an HPE700 Twin Turbo upgrade for the C7 Corvette Stingray ($39,500 installed). An à la carte list of options including H10 forged monoblock wheels ($8,000 installed on the Corvette) is also available.
Hennessey is based about 45 minutes west of Houston, with a 37,000-square-foot facility that includes a welding and metal shop, chassis dynamometers, and access to the Lonestar Motorsports Park drag strip and track. A smaller shop is located in Lake Forest, Calif.
Maserati Reveals the GranTurismo MC Centennial Edition
At the 2014 New York Auto Show, to mark 100 years since the company was founded in Bologna, Italy, Maserati debuted its GranTurismo MC Centennial Edition coupe and convertible. Each Centennial Edition will be available in a trio of new three-layer color schemes in addition to the four currently available for the GranTurismo MC. Other notable exterior treatments include four special finish options for the wheels and a medal-shaped centenary logo on the hubcaps that is available in either a matte smoke-gray or a charcoal-gray finish.
The cockpit’s seats—available in black or white leather—are offset by a stripe design in red, white, or blue (as well as stitching on the seats and headrest), generally in the same color as the laser-engraved details on the wheels. Lightweight carbon-fiber fittings on the dashboard, seats, and kick panel further enhance the aesthetic of the Centennial Edition.
The GranTurismo MC Centennial Edition—which is expected to start at around $145,000 for the coupe and about $155,000 for the convertible (though official pricing has not yet been released)—will be available alongside Maserati’s current lineup; dealers are accepting orders now, with showroom arrival scheduled for September. (www.maserati.us)