Thursday, 18 December 2014

Sub-Zero Advance Design

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Chevrolet's 'Advance Design' series was the company's first major conceptual overhaul since the end of World War II. Billed as 'bigger, stronger, sleeker', the design language and structure was shared across station wagons, panel trucks and cab-over-engines. And trucks such as this beautifully patinated example are arguably the best-known of the breed.
'Advance Design' was, of course, a long time ago. Debuting in 1947 and running to '55, even the youngest models have had six decades in which to slowly decompose. Although this particular one, as you may have deduced, is rather well looked after - the clues are obvious; the new bumpers, badges and brightwork, the modern gauges, the lo-pro whitewalls, it all suggests a build that's in tip-top running order, but wears its years of paint degradation with pride.
There's evidence of previous signwriting on the doors, but in its current guise it's wearing the livery of a London-based purveyor of high-end ovens and fridges. To be honest, I can't think of a better truck for the job.

Spotted at the Goodwood Revival - click here for more photos.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

On the one hand, the new S63 AMG is a very surprising thing - a large, imposing brute that somehow manages to be supremely rapid. But on the other hand, it's not surprising at all: it takes all of the headline-grabbing attributes of the monumental and statuesque S-Class ubersaloon, and smooshes them into a cookie cutter that's shaped like a sports coupé. Bravo on toast.

The numbers stack up rather boisterously. Under the bonnet is a 5.5-litre biturbo V8 offering a robust 585bhp, which rumbles like stampeding cattle and rolls along sufficient torque to always offer urgent acceleration whenever you feel like burying the throttle into the carpet for kicks. It's got multi-link suspension with air springs, sodding great brakes, and AMG's Speedshift 7-speed 'box, so it's eager - and yet it's still an S-Class limo at heart. That's why you find massive TFT screens forming the dash displays, little seatbelt butlers that reach out and hand you a belt when you shut the door (a door, incidentally, that is happy to shut itself if you can't be bothered), sumptuously crafted front seats that soothingly massage your kidneys, lane assist, steer assist, heated rear seats... if you're the sort of person who has a demanding family to cart around (but they don't have too much luggage), you enjoy a spirited drive when you're on your own, and you've got £150k to drop, this is the car for you.

Some solid consumer advice there. You're welcome.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Mercedes-Benz GLA45 AMG

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

I think this might be my new favourite car. OK, it may be a bit of an ugly duckling, but my goodness, it's fun to drive.
Imagine a slightly scaled-up version of the revered A45 AMG, so that you get the same engine and 4WD along with a bit more legroom in the back and a bigger boot. That's basically what the GLA45 is. It has a hand-built 2.0-litre turbo motor producing a frankly rather silly 360bhp, which is mated to a paddle-shift 7-speed DCT 'box. The optional AMG exhaust - which you can spot by its central vertical divider on either tailpipe - is probably the best box you can tick on the options list, as full-bore flat upshifts are rewarded with a hilarious crackle that sounds (to wheel out a hackneyed but entirely appropriate cliché) like rapid artillery fire.
The handling is utterly sublime, the 4Matic system shifting the oodles of torque around with pocketfuls of witchcraft and sorcery, so that even greasy roads plastered with wet leaves offer no impediment to supersonic progress. And those AMG bucket seats? Just wonderful. All cars should have these.
I'm totally in love with the GLA45, from its motorsport-inspired aero addenda to its incredible brakes, everything about it is flawless. And it's not often I drive something that I can't find fault with. Yes, the looks are polarising, but I reckon that the brutality of it has a certain functional charm. It's definitely made it onto the lottery wishlist...

Monday, 8 December 2014

VVT MkI Golf TDI Racer

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

As aficionados of the VW scene will attest, there's not a lot that hasn't been done to the mkI Golf over the years: RWD conversions, V8s, bike engines, you name it. But this one, from Van Vught Tuning in the Netherlands, eschews the conventions of the entire genre by, er, not actually being a mkI Golf at all. Cunning, eh?
It's actually a bespoke spaceframe with a Golf-alike plastic body plonked on top. There's a 300bhp 2.7-litre V6 turbo-diesel sitting way back in what I suppose we can call the engine bay, right up against the place you'd normally find the bulkhead (sorry, the terminology's tricky when you're talking about a wheeled climbing frame), while elsewhere you'll find such natty features as remote-reservoir coilovers, a Stack dash, a rear transaxle, and a minimalist Kirkey bucket. All in all, a pretty savage creation.

Spotted at the 2014 Apex Festival - click here for more.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Racy TR4

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The Triumph TR4 was a plucky little thing - popular because of its keen pricing, Michelotti-styled curves, surprising practicality and eager performance, and desirable thanks to its motorsport prowess. The combination of a sub-1,000kg kerb weight and a 2.2-litre four-pot ensured that the wide-tracked, rack-and-pinion equipped TR4 was a keen competitor (they often raced at Sebring and Daytona, as well as rallying across Europe) in addition to being a hairy-chested B-road blaster.
And this particular TR4 looks just about as serious as you'd want one to be. It eschews the usual wire wheels for a set of solid pressed steels, there's a sturdy roll-bar - which, judging by the scuffs, looks like it's been over once or twice already! - and it's stripped back to the bare bones: no bumpers, no carpet, just wide-eyed early-sixties chic and sporting intent in spades. Lovely stuff.

Spotted at the 2014 Goodwood Revival - click here for more photos.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Substandard Eight

Word & photos - Daniel Bevis

This rather brilliant contraption is something that a number of you may recognise, being a darling of the retro scene. It has been featured in PPC and Dep-O, and pops up at shows across the country, variously attracting cheerful applause and dirty glares.
It's a 1954 Standard Eight: a marque that enjoys a keen following, with many purists being none too happy about this project. There's a Pinto under the bonnet for a start, which came from a 1990s Transit and is mated to a Type 9 'box, a custom prop running to the Standard rear axle (which has a Triumph Herald diff). The Eight sits low on Gaz suspension - Triumph Spitfire coilovers up front, Mini dampers out back - and it hasn't been painted satin black for fashion purposes; that's the original paint, gently patinated and weathered by the ages. All artfully bolstered by some custom signwriting, of course!
A polarising build, but a thoroughly interesting one. SSBB approves.

Spotted at RRG14 - click here for more photos.