Cars on the Angeles Crest Highway – Los Angeles, CA (USA) – November 2019

Most people will have, in their mind’s eye, a view of Los Angeles, and even those who’ve not visited the area, will probably be correct in what they think it is like. The Hollywood sign Sunset Boulevard, the beaches, the glamour of Beverly Hills, the legendary traffic queues, a temperate climate which sees sunshine most days of the year, they are all very real. But what does surprise many when they actually get to visit is that  the whole of Southern California is far from flat. The Greater Los Angeles area may extend a vast distance south, all the way to San Diego, more or less, and a long way east, out to Palm Springs, but head north and within 30 miles of DownTown and you get to a mountain range which has limited urban development to nothing. There are a couple of lower points in the hills, through which the 5 freeway heads up north towards Bakersfield and the central plains of the state and a bit further east, the 15 freeway heads north east to Las Vegas, but otherwise this is terrain with few roads, and scrubby vegetation which every few years suffers when a combination of tinder dry conditions and strong Santa Ana winds makes it all to easy for the whole lot to go up in smoke. But the few roads that are in this part of the State are legendary, and none more so, perhaps than Route 2, better known as the Angeles Crest Highway. The interesting bit starts from the small town of La Canada Flintridge, down in the valley and it then snakes its way up the mountains, for over 50 miles, arriving eventually at the 15 freeway en route to Vegas. The surface is good, and the bends are swooping. It is a fun road to drive on. During the week, it is not uncommon to come across at least one car manufacturer with one or more cars on camo on test duty. And at the weekend, it is definitely a place where Angelinos go out to play The road becomes quite busy with drivers out to enjoy their cars and motor bikes on a road which will always delight and thrill in equal measure. There are pull offs at frequent intervals, some used as parking places for those who wish to go hiking, whereas others make the perfect photographic backdrop, and you will see plenty of people using them for precisely this. If you are hungry or thirsty, there is precisely one place to stop: Newcomb’s Ranch. It is about 30 miles from La Canada Flintridge, by which point the road is several thousand feet above sea level (it goes even higher, with the Cloudburst Summit being just over 7000 feet) and needless to say, although a somewhat unassuming looking place, it is very popular.

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On a weekend in November when temperatures were more reminiscent of July than November, it was no surprise that the Angeles Crest Highway and the other roads that link to it in the mountains were busier than usual. I was up there both days, testing the particular rental car of the day, doing photos and enjoying the drive and the scenery. On the Saturday, as I was headed back towards the valley, I spotted Jay Leno in a Porsche 356C, no doubt heading to the Ranch, and on the Sunday morning on one of the other roads in the area I had come across what turned out to be the Press Launch of the Audi RS6 Avant. Among all the cars I saw on this road, there seemed to be an awful lot of brightly coloured Shelby Mustangs, which I assumed were perhaps part of a Club meet. I would find out in due course that this was also a press-related event. Such are the attractions and distractions of the road and the photo opportunities that it was mid-afternoon before I got as far as Newcomb’s Ranch, and many of the cars that had been there had already had their fill and left, but there was enough of interest that I stopped, to take photos, and this is what I saw.


There were three examples of the AC Cobra here. Likelihood is that all three of these were the genuine item as opposed to the replica and recreation versions which you tend to see in the UK. At least one of the was well-peppered with stone chips on the front, which a long with a number of scrutineering stickers suggesting it is well used. Like many British manufacturers, AC Cars had been using the Bristol straight-6 engine in its small-volume production, including its AC Ace two-seater roadster. This had a hand-built body with a steel tube frame, and aluminium body panels that were made using English wheeling machines. The engine was a pre-World War II design by BMW which by the 1960s was considered dated. Bristol decided in 1961 to cease production of its engine and instead to use Chrysler 313-cubic-inch (5.1 litre) V8 engines. AC started using the 159-cubic-inch (2.6 litre) Ford Zephyr engine in its cars. In September 1961, American automotive designer Carroll Shelby wrote to AC asking if they would build him a car modified to accept a V8 engine. AC agreed, provided a suitable engine could be found. Shelby went to Chevrolet to see if they would provide him with engines, but not wanting to add competition to the Corvette they said no. However, Ford wanted a car that could compete with the Corvette and they happened to have a brand new engine which could be used in this endeavour: the Windsor 221-cubic-inch (3.6 litre) engine – a new lightweight, thin-wall cast small-block V8. Ford provided Shelby with two engines. In January 1962 mechanics at AC Cars in Thames Ditton, Surrey designed the “AC Ace 3.6” prototype with chassis number CSX2000. AC had already made most of the modifications needed for the small-block V8 when they installed the 159-cubic-inch (2.6 litre) inline 6 Ford Zephyr engine, including the extensive rework of the AC Ace’s front end bodywork. The only modification of the front end of the first Cobra from that of the “AC Ace 2.6” was the steering box, which had to be moved outward to clear the wider V8 engine. The most important modification was the fitting of a stronger rear differential to handle the increased engine power. A Salisbury 4HU unit with inboard disc brakes to reduce unsprung weight was chosen instead of the old E.N.V. unit. It was the same unit used on the Jaguar E-Type. After testing and modification, the engine and transmission were removed and the chassis was air-freighted to Shelby in Los Angeles on 2 February 1962, By this time the small-block’s displacement was increased to 260 cu in (4.3 litre). Shelby’s team paired this engine along with a transmission into CSX2000, in less than eight hours at Dean Moon’s shop in Santa Fe Springs, California, and began road-testing. A few changes were made to the production version: Inboard brakes were moved outboard to reduce cost; the fuel tank filler was relocated from the fender to the centre of the trunk. The boot lid had to be shortened to accommodate this change. AC exported completed, painted, and trimmed cars (less engine and gearbox) to Shelby who then finished the cars in his workshop in Los Angeles by installing the engine and gearbox and correcting any bodywork flaws caused by the car’s passage by sea. A small number of cars were also completed on the East Coast of the US by Ed Hugus in Pennsylvania, including the first production car; CSX2001. The first 75 Cobra Mk1 models (including the prototype) were fitted with the 260 cu in (4.3 litre). The remaining 51 Mk1 models were fitted with a larger version of the Windsor Ford engine, the 289-cubic-inch (4.7 litre) V8. In late 1962, Alan Turner, AC’s chief engineer completed a major design change of the car’s front end to accommodate rack and pinion steering while still using transverse leaf spring suspension. The new car entered production in early 1963 and was designated Mark II. The steering rack was borrowed from the MGB while the new steering column came from the VW Beetle. About 528 Mark II Cobras were produced in the summer of 1965 (the last US-bound Mark II was produced in November 1964). In 1963 to keep production focused on producing cars for Shelby American Inc., the Ruddspeed Ace was discontinued. To supply cars to the European market, AC began to market and sell the Cobra in Europe. Advertisements from the time state that the Cobra was designed to meet the requirements of Shelby American Inc. Shelby experimented with a larger Ford FE engine, of 390 cu in (6.4 litre) in chassis number CSX2196. Unfortunately the car was not able to receive the development it needed, as resources were aimed at taking the crown from Ferrari in the GT class. Ken Miles drove and raced the FE-powered Mark II at Sebring and pronounced the car virtually undriveable, naming it “The Turd”. It failed to finish with the engine expiring due to damper failure. CSX2196 was revised for the show down at Nassau which allowed a more relaxed class division of racing. This allowed the GT cobras to run with prototype Ford GT, GM Grand Sport Corvettes and Lola Mk6. It was for this event in 1964 that the Fliptop cobra was used. An aluminium 390-cubic-inch (6.4 litre) engine was used. However, the car failed to finish. A new chassis was required, developed, and designated Mark III. The new car was designed in cooperation with Ford in Detroit. A new chassis was built using 4 in (101.6 mm) main chassis tubes, up from 3 in (76.2 mm) and coil spring suspension all around. The new car also had wide fenders and a larger radiator opening. It was powered by the “side oiler” Ford 427 cu in (7.0 litre) FE engine equipped with a single 4-barrel 780 CFM Holley carburetor rated at 425 bhp @ 6000 rpm and 480 lb/ft (651 Nm) @ 3700 rpm of torque, which provided a top speed of 164 mph (264 km/h) in the standard model and 485 bhp with a top speed of 185 mph (298 km/h) in the competition model. Cobra Mark III production began on 1 January 1965; two prototypes had been sent to the United States in October 1964. Cars were sent to the US as unpainted rolling chassis, and they were finished in Shelby’s workshop. Unfortunately, The MK III missed homologation for the 1965 racing season and was not raced by the Shelby team. Only 56 of the 100 planned cars were produced. Of those, 31 unsold competition models were detuned and fitted with windscreens for street use. Called S/C for semi-competition, an original example can currently sell for US$1.5 million, making it one of the most valuable Cobra variants. Some Cobra 427s were actually fitted with Ford’s 428-cubic-inch (7 litre) engine, a long stroke, smaller bore, lower cost engine, intended for road use rather than racing. The AC Cobra was a financial failure that led Ford and Carroll Shelby to discontinue importing cars from England in 1967. AC Cars kept producing the coil-spring AC Roadster with narrow fenders and a small block Ford 289. It was built and sold in Europe until late 1969.

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Although Alfa Romeo’s relaunch in the US was with their sports cars – initially the 8C Competizione and then, the 4C – these were never going to be volume sellers compared to the cars that now constitute the US range the Giulia and Stelvio. They’ve been on sale in America for a couple of years now, and are starting to become a reasonably common sight, at least in California, though sales remain low compared to models like the Lexus (!). Seen here was the top spec Quadrifoglio version of the Giulia.

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If I am honest, it was the sight of this amazing looking car, parked at one end of the car park, more than any other, which caused me to pull in and to get the camera out. It was nose in, so not instantly recognisable, but my first guess was correct: an Auburn Speedster. Well, more or less correct. As I went over to have a look, a couple of other guys, also with camera in hand, joined me, one of whom turned out to be French. It certainly had all the right badging on it, but the burning question was whether it was an original or not. I spotted the automatic gearbox and guessed that perhaps it was not, and then the Frenchman noticed the rear disc brakes. It was not long before the owner arrived, so I had a chat with him. He’s had it for around 15 years he said, but he believes the car was built around 1970. So not, it is not an original, This one sits on a Ford frame and has an LT2 engine from a Corvette in it which means it has far far more power than the original, and hence why it needs much better brakes. He said that he continues to evolve it, and that yes, it is indeed a lot of fun. It also makes an amazing noise, as he proved when he fires it up and set off down the road!

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This first generation R8 model arrived, in convoy with a Lamborghini, just as I was preparing to leave. It made a noisy entrance, and was only on site for a few minutes before making an equally noisy exit.

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When I was in the US in September, I saw a press release that Hertz were going to add a limited number of very distinctive Hendrick Camaro models to their fleet, as the latest in a now quite long line of special rental cars. The expectation was that they would on fleet by November, however, every time I had been at Hertz’ LAX facility on this trip, I had not seen one, so assumed that they had not yet been made available. And then I saw this car drive past. A few minutes later, it was back and the car pulled in. I went over to chat to the driver and was slightly surprised to find I was listening to an English accent. He told me he had collected it on the Wednesday from LAX, so yes, they clearly did have some of them on fleet after all. There are actually 2 different versions, a 750 bhp ZL1-based car  or a 480 bhp Camaro SS variant, both painted in Hertz’s signature black with yellow striping and given performance upgrades. Both are courtesy of the partnership between the car-rental giant and 12-time NASCAR Cup Series champs Hendrick Motorsports, with a total of 224 examples available at selected airport locations across the US. The Hertz-Hendrick Camaro ZL1 comes equipped with the same 6.2-litre V8 as the original, but it has a larger Callaway Supercharger to boost output to 750 hp, up from 650. It also comes equipped with custom Hertz wheels and lighted door sill plates, fender badges. The headrests are embroidered with the signature of Hertz-sponsored Hendrick driver William Byron and the No. 24 team logo. Fittingly, there will be 24 examples built, all with a Hertz-Hendrick Motorsports plaque the individual numbering of each model. For the Camaro SS, Hendrick engineers wrangled an extra 25 hp out of the 6.2-litre LT1 V8 to get 480 hp. They added a performance upgrade package including a cold air intake and cat-back dual exhaust upgrade system, both from Chevrolet, 20-inch satin black wheels, custom exterior graphics, a strut tower bar with Hendrick Motorsports branding, custom Hertz lighted plates on the door sills, and the same embroidered headrests as on the ZL1. It also gets the same plaques, but these mark the individual numbering of 200 examples. The car seen here was one of the SS-based models, and according to its driver – whose daily back in the UK is a C63 AMG Mercedes, is a lot of fun. I did see this very car back at Hertz on the following Wednesday and one other, later in the trip, but these cars are proving very popular at present, Hopefully, by the time of my next trip, initial demand will have reduced a bit and I will get to try one.

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Looking rather small compared to more modern cars was this 328 GTS. The 328 Ferrari models were introduced at the 1985 Frankfurt Show alongside the Mondial 3.2 series, successors to the Ferrari 308 GTB and GTS which had first been seen in October 1975. While mechanically still based on the 308 GTB and GTS respectively, small modifications were made to the body style and engine, most notably an increase in engine displacement to 3185 cc for increased power and torque output. As had been the case for a generation of the smaller Ferraris, the model name referred to the total cubic capacity of the engine, 3.2 litres, and 8 for the number of cylinders. Essentially the new model was a revised and updated version of the 308 GTS, which had survived for eight years without any radical change to the overall shape, albeit with various changes to the 3-litre engine. The 328 model presented a softening of the wedge profile of its predecessor, with a redesigned nose that had a more rounded shape, which was complemented by similar treatment to the tail valance panel. The revised nose and tail sections featured body colour bumpers integral with the valance panels, which reflected the work done concurrently to present the Mondial 3.2 models, with which they also shared a similar radiator grille and front light assembly layout. Thus all the eight-cylinder cars in the range shared fairly unified front and rear aspects, providing a homogeneous family image. The exhaust air louvres behind the retractable headlight pods on the 308 series disappeared, coupled with an increase in the size of the front lid radiator exhaust air louvre, which had been introduced on the 308 Quattrovalvole models, whilst a new style and position of exterior door catch was also provided. The interior trim also had a thorough overhaul, with new designs for the seat panel upholstery and stitching, revised door panels and pulls, together with more modern switchgear, which complemented the external updating details. Optional equipment available was air conditioning, metallic paint, Pirelli P7 tyres, a leather dashboard, leather headlining to the removable roof panel plus rear window surround, and a rear aerofoil (standard on Japanese market models). In the middle of 1988 ABS brakes were made available as an option, which necessitated a redesign of the suspension geometry to provide negative offset. This in turn meant that the road wheel design was changed to accommodate this feature. The original flat spoke “star” wheels became a convex design, in the style as fitted to the 3.2 Mondial models, whether ABS was fitted or not. The main European market 328 GTS models had a tubular chassis with a factory type reference F 106 MS 100. Disc brakes, with independent suspension via wishbones, coil springs, and hydraulic shock absorbers, were provided all round, with front and rear anti roll bars. There were various world market models, each having slight differences, with right and left hand drive available. The V8 engine was essentially of the same design as that used in the 308 Quattrovalvole model, with an increase in capacity to 3185 cc. The engine retained the Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection system of its predecessor, but was fitted with a Marelli MED 806 A electronic ignition system, to produce a claimed power output of 270 bhp at 7000 rpm. As with the preceding 308 models the engine was mounted in unit with the all synchromesh five-speed manual transmission assembly, which was below, and to the rear of the engine’s sump. The 328 GTS continued in production for four years, until replaced by the 348 ts model in the autumn of 1989, during which time 6068 examples were produced, GTS production outnumbering the GTB (1344 produced) version almost five to one.

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The Ferrari FF (FF meaning “Ferrari Four”, for four seats and four-wheel drive, the Type F151) is a grand tourer presented by Ferrari on March 1, 2011 at the Geneva Motor Show as a successor to the 612 Scaglietti and is Ferrari’s first production four-wheel drive model. The body style has been described as a shooting-brake, a type of sporting hatchback/estate car with two doors. With a top speed of f 335 km/h (208 mph) and it accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 3.7 seconds, Ferrari stated that the FF was the world’s fastest four-seat automobile upon its release to the public. At the time of its reveal, the Ferrari FF had the largest road-going Ferrari engine ever produced: an F140 EB 6,262 cc naturally aspirated direct injected 65° V12, which produced 660 PS (485 kW; 651 hp) at 8,000 rpm and 683 N⋅m (504 lb⋅ft) of torque at 6000 rpm. The FF is equipped with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and paddle shift system similar to the California, the 458 Italia, and the Ferrari F12berlinetta. The new four-wheel drive system, engineered and patented by Ferrari, is called 4RM: it is around 50% lighter than a conventional system, and provides power intelligently to each of the four wheels as needed. It functions only when the manettino dial on the steering wheel is in the “comfort” or “snow” positions, leaving the car most often in the traditional rear wheel drive layout. Ferrari’s first use of 4RM was in a prototype created in the end of the 80s, called 408 4RM (abbreviation of “4.0 litre, 8 cylinder, 4 Ruote Motrici”, meaning “four-wheel drive”). This system is based around a second, simple, gearbox (gears and other components built by Carraro Engineering), taking power from the front of the engine. This gearbox (designated “power take off unit”, or PTU) has only two forward gears (2nd and 4th) plus reverse (with gear ratios 6% taller than the corresponding ratios in the main gearbox), so the system is only active in 1st to 4th gears. The connection between this gearbox and each front wheel is via independent Haldex-type clutches, without a differential. Due to the difference in ratios “the clutches continually slip” and only transmit, at most, 20% of the engine’s torque. A detailed description of the system (based on a conversation with Roberto Fedeli, Ferrari’s technical director) has been published. The FF shares the design language of contemporary Ferraris, including the pulled-back headlights of the 458 Italia, and the twin circular taillights seen on the 458 as well as the 599 GTB Fiorano. Designed under the direction of Lowie Vermeersch, former Design Director at Pininfarina, and Flavio Manzoni, Ferrari’s Styling Centre, work on the shooting brake concept initially started following the creation of the Sintesi show car of 2007. Distinctive styling elements include a large egg-crate grille, defined side skirts, and four exhaust tips. The shooting brake configuration is a departure from the conventional wedge shape of modern Ferraris, and the FF has been likened to the similarly-shaped 1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Drogo race car. The combination of hatchback-like shooting-brake design and collapsible rear seats gives the Ferrari FF a boot capacity of between 16 and 28 cu ft. Luxury is the main element of the interior and the use of Leather is incorporated throughout, just like the predecessors of the FF. Creature comforts like premium air conditioning, GPS navigation system, carpeting and sound system are also used. An updated version. called the GTC4 Lusso was launched in 2016 by which 2291 examples had been built.

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This is a Fisker Karma. Revealed at the 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, this was the first car from Fisker Automotive, a new auto maker based in Anaheim, California, founded on 5 September 2007. The Karma was a range-extended electric vehicle, driven by a pair of 120 kW (161 hp) electric motors that receive power from a 20.1 kWh lithium ion battery supplied by A123 Systems and/or an engine powered generator. The battery pack ran down the centre of the car, between the pairs of left-hand and right-hand seats, preventing a rear bench and seating four rather than five passengers. Once the battery is depleted, or when the driver presses the “Sport” mode button, the front-mounted 260 bhp, 2.0-litre  Ecotec four-cylinder direct-injection turbocharged petrol engine powers a generator that sends electricity directly to the drive motors. The engine was sourced from General Motors. The battery can also be charged from the grid, making the vehicle a type of plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). The Karma’s engine is mated with a generator to provide an electrical connection to the motors and also recharge the batteries, and as such the electric motors are the only mechanical driving force connected to the wheels. However, in all-electric mode, the Karma is around half as efficient as the Chevrolet Volt. The proprietary Q-Drive hybrid drive train was supplied by Quantum Technologies, operating in a joint venture with Fisker Coachbuild known as Fisker Automotive. The Karma’s curb weight was 5,300 lb (2,400 kg).The Karma includes as standard a solar panelled roof manufactured by Asola Advanced and Automotive Solar Systems GmbH, a Quantum Technologies affiliate, to aid the cabin climate control system. The solar roof is capable of generating a half kilowatt-hour a day and was estimated to provide up to 4 to 5 miles of additional range a week assuming continuously sunny days; however, the solar panels as delivered only recharge the 12-volt lead-acid accessory battery. The base model featured an ‘eco-friendly interior’, including salvaged/reclaimed lumber. Optional leather seating was available, and it used much more of the cow hide than would customarily be found on luxury models; hides with scratches and other marks (which should not affect functionality) were used. There was much enthusiasm for the car when it was first shown. Fisker Automotive and Valmet Automotive reached agreement in 2008 to manufacture the Karma in Uusikaupunki, Finland, with the final assembly contract signed by both parties on 13 November 2008. In 2008 Fisker Automotive began accepting pre-orders in the US, and Europe and initially scheduled sales of its Karma PHEV by the fourth quarter of 2009 in the US, and starting in 2010 in Europe.  In 2009 Henrik Fisker reported 1,300 orders for the Karma. The first production model Karma was shown at the 2010 Paris Motor Show. In July 2011, Fisker stated that it had received 3,000 pre-orders and that the plug-in hybrid was sold out until early 2012. After re-scheduling the Karma market launch to September 2010, and missing its target to build 70 to 100 test cars in 2010, production began in July 2011, and the two first deliveries took place in the United States during the same month.  The first US market vehicles were sold for US$95,900 for the basic model, and US$109,850 for the top model. In December 2011 prices were raised to US$102,000 for the basic model, and US$116,000 for the top model. The Valmet plant in Finland began production with five cars a week. By December 2011 the production rate was 25 units a day. Production was suspended in November 2012 due to financial difficulties. As a result of flash floods caused by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, 16 Karmas caught fire and another 330 units were lost when an entire shipment from Europe was flooded while being parked at Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal. Over 2,000 Karmas were delivered to customers in North America and Europe through December 2012, of which, around 200 were delivered in 2011 and approximately 1,800 in 2012. About 1,600 units were sold in the United States through December 2013.  A total of 533 units were sold in Europe through December 2014. The Netherlands is the top selling European market for the Karma, with 166 units sold through June 2013. A total of 55 Karmas were sold in Switzerland through June 2013, 52 in Belgium through November 2012, and 44 in France through December 2014.

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Having seen a number of  the latest Selby Mustangs on the roads en route here, the reason why became more apparent when I got here. A couple of them were parked up, but left as I was walking across the parking area, but this Mustang Bullitt was there, on Manufacturer plates, and there was also a Ford Expedition here, also on Michigan plates, with those associated with it, clearly associated with the Mustangs. The following day when I was back on the road, I returned to the Ranch, which was full of  Shelby Mustangs, and I was asked – firmly and in a manner which was almost rude – to leave, as there was a private event taking place. Two days later, launch of the 2020 Shelby Mustangs was reported on various online motoring websites. Clearly this was the base for the press drive.

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Arriving with the Audi R8 was this Texas-plated Huracan Performante. The track-focused Huracán Performante was revealed at the 2017 Geneva Show a week after a camouflaged version smashed the Nürburgring production car lap record, beating the Porsche 918 Spyder’s time by 5.0sec. Driven by Lamborghini test driver Marco Mapelli, the Performante recorded a lap time of a 6min 52.01sec. The Huracán Performante uses a  631bhp, 443lb ft mid-mounted 5.2-litre V10, which is the most powerful engine of its type yet produced by Lamborghini. The model can hit 62mph from rest in 2.9sec, 0.3sec faster than the regular Huracán, and top speed is 202mph. With a dry weight of 1382kg, it has a power-to-weight ratio of 464bhp per tonne. Lamborghini said the engine has an “optimised” torque curve, with 70% of torque available at just 1000rpm. The car’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission has also been “optimised in order to match the increased performance”. The Performante features a new, ultra-lightweight forged carbonfibre composite material, which has been patented by Lamborghini and allows complex moulded shapes to be made in one piece. Use of the new material is focused on active aerodynamic elements. The Performante’s fixed rear wing, including its air ducts and flaps, is made from a single piece of forged carbonfibre. The flaps close for maximum downforce and open for maximum air flow using an electro-actuator system, which gives an 80% reduction in weight compared with a hydraulic system, the supercar brand claims. The rear wing also features an inner air channel, which splits to the left and the right to allow aero vectoring for high-speed cornering. The duct can be closed on either side depending on which way the car is cornering, in order to generate low drag on the exterior wheel and high downforce on the inner wheel, all of which improves the cornering performance. According to Lamborghini, the wing gives the Performante 750% more downforce than a standard Huracán with no wing. At the front of the car, flaps inside the spoiler close when the active aerodynamic system is off and then open when it is on, reducing frontal air pressure and directing it through a channel under the car in order to reduce drag for optimum acceleration and top speed. The Performante uses a Haldex permanent four-wheel drive system, with full electronic control and a mechanical self-locking rear differential. Specially developed Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres have been designed perform with or without the car’s active aerodynamic systems applied, for both road and track conditions. A high-performance track tyre, the Pirelli Trofeo R, with street homologation is also an option. The design of the model heavily reflects that of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo racer. The redesigned front end is “much more aggressive and aligned to a race car”, according to Lamborghini. Other bespoke touches include a bronze engine manifold cover, which has been used on past Lamborghini special editions such as the Diablo 30th Anniversary. The car was launched at £213,000 and there are no limits on production volume.

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Sole Maserati here was a 4200 Spider. After producing BiTurbo based cars for 17 years, Maserati replaced their entire range with a new model in July 1998, the 3200 GT. This very elegant 2+2 grand tourer was styled by Italdesign, whose founder and head Giorgetto Giugiaro had previously designed, among others, the Ghibli, Bora and Merak. The interior design was commissioned to Enrico Fumia. Its name honoured the Maserati 3500 GT, the Trident’s first series production grand tourer. Sold mainly in Europe, the 3200 GT was powered by the twin-turbo, 32-valve, dual overhead cam 3.2-litre V8 engine featured in the Quattroporte Evoluzione, set up to develop 370 PS (365 hp). The car was praised for its styling, with the distinctive array of tail-lights, consisting of LEDs, arranged in the shape of boomerang being particularly worthy of comment. The outer layer of the ‘boomerang’ provided the brake light, with the inner layer providing the directional indicator. The car was also reviewed quite well by the press when they got to drive it in early 1999, though it was clear that they expected more power and excitement. That came after  4,795 cars had been produced, in 2001, with the launch of the 4200 models. Officially called the Coupé and joined by an open-topped  Spyder (Tipo M138 in Maserati speak), these models had larger 4.2 litre engines and had been engineered so the cars could be sold in America, marking the return to that market for Maserati after an 11 year gap. There were some detailed styling changes, most notable of which were the replacement of the boomerang rear lights with conventional rectangular units. Few felt that this was an improvement. The cars proved popular, though, selling strongly up until 2007 when they were replaced by the next generation of Maserati. Minor changes were made to the model during its six year production, but more significant was the launch at the 2004 Geneva Show of the GranSport which sported aerodynamic body cladding, a chrome mesh grille, carbon fibre interior trim, and special 19-inch wheels. It used the Skyhook active suspension, with a 0.4 inch lower ride height, and the Cambiocorsa transmission recalibrated for quicker shifts. The exhaust was specially tuned to “growl” on start-up and full throttle. The GranSport was powered by the same 4244 cc, 90° V8 petrol engine used on the Coupé and Spyder, but developing 400 PS (395 hp) at 7000 rpm due primarily to a different exhaust system and improvements on the intake manifolds and valve seats. A six-speed paddle shift transmission came as standard. The GranSport has a claimed top speed of 180 mph (290 km/h) and a 0–62 mph (0–100 km/h) time of 4.8 seconds.

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The AMG GT series of cars, known internally as the R190 and C190), in coupé and roadster bodystyles, respectively, took the place of the SLS models. The car was introduced on 9 September 2014 and was officially unveiled to the public in October 2014 at the Paris Motor Show. After the SLS AMG, it is the second sports car developed entirely in-house by Mercedes-AMG. Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton assisted with the development. The Mercedes-AMG GT went on sale in two variants (GT and GT S) in March 2015, while a GT3 racing variant of the car was introduced in 2015. A high performance variant called the GT R was introduced in 2016. A GT4 racing variant, targeted at semi-professional drivers and based on the GT R variant, was introduced in 2017. All variants are assembled at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Sindelfingen, Germany. the version seen here was the S model, The GT S is a more highly equipped variant of the Mercedes-AMG GT. The M178 engine in this variant is tuned to an output of 516 bhp and 671 Nm (495 lb/ft) of torque. The key mechanical differences the GT S gains over the GT include an electronically controlled limited-slip differential, “Race Mode” and “Race Start” mode settings in the AMG Dynamic Select adaptive drivetrain system, AMG Ride Control adaptive suspensive system, an AMG Performance Exhaust System with dynamic flaps, and a lithium-ion battery. Keyless-Go is standard equipment, as is a staggered set of wheels (19-inch at the front, 20-inch at the rear).

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Newcomb’s Ranch, as indeed the whole road, attracts vast number of bikes and you often see rows and rows of them parked up here. Compared to this, there were relatively few here on this occasion, but I did take a couple of photos of those which were present.

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Three had been plenty of Porsche models which I had seen whilst en route here, but the sole one parked up was this 991 generation GT3. Porsche introduced the 991 GT3 at the Geneva Motor Show in 2013, featuring a new 3.8 litre direct fuel injection (DFI) flat-six engine developing 475 hp at 8,250 rpm, a Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) double-clutch gearbox and rear-wheel steering. The engine is based on the unit fitted in the 991 Carrera S, but shares only a few common parts. All other components, particularly the crankshaft and valve train, were specially adapted or developed for the 991 GT3. For example, the 991 GT3’s engine uses titanium connecting rods attached to forged piston, in order to allow the engine to reach up to 9,000 rpm. The dual-clutch gearbox is another feature specially developed for the 991 GT3, based on sequential manual transmissions used in racing cars. After a number of engine failures, it was discovered that the supplier of the connecting rod bolts had made a production error in the alloy of the bolt. Subsequently, all 785 of the GT3s that had been produced up to that point were recalled to the dealership organisations and fitted with new engines, and all owners were issued with an extra year’s warranty. The 911 GT3 is claimed to be able to accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 3.1 seconds or less, and the quarter mile in 11.2 seconds at 126 mph (203 km/h). The GT3 has a claimed top speed of 202 mph (325 km/h). The lap time on the Nürburgring Nordschleife is 7 minutes and 25 seconds. Porsche unveiled the facelifted 991.2 GT3 at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show. Extensive changes were made to the engine allowing for a 9,000 rpm redline from the 4.0 litre flat-six engine. Porsche’s focus was on reducing internal friction to improve throttle response. Compared to the 991.1, the rear spoiler is higher and located farther back to be more effective. There is a new front spoiler and changes to the rear suspension. The 991.2 GT3 brought back the choice between a manual transmission or a PDK dual clutch transmission.

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Final car of note was a Subaru WRX STi, a car you can buy in Europe, though these days very few people do. For the VA series WRX released in 2014 for the 2015 model year, Subaru took a different approach with the model when compared to past generations. This time, the Impreza name was dropped in all markets in which the new model is named simply as the WRX, as had been the case in North America with the previous model, while in Japan it was sold as the WRX S4. The body design also took a stronger departure from the Impreza donor model than in the past. The general WRX profile/silhouette was carried over from the Impreza, as were the front doors, trunk lid, and interior. However, the entire front end bodywork plus the rear quarter panels were unique to the WRX. The rear doors received a subtle reskin with an upwards kink and revised character line, but retained an otherwise identical shape.  STi models were added to join the standard WRX cars. This model retains the same engine as the previous generation STI, which is a 2.5-litre EJ257 with dual AVCS however with modifications to the ECU which have increased fuel economy slightly, and has given a 8 bhp boost in power to 305 bhp. Torque, however, has dropped from 407 Nm (300 lb/ft) to 394 Nm (291 lb/ft) at 4,000 rpm and top speed is now 160 mph (258 km/h). There are also reports that along with the ECU changes, the rev limit was raised to 7,100 rpm to support the power increase at the upper rev range to support a stronger top end.[citation needed] It also retains a hydraulic power steering system as opposed to the WRX’s new electric-assisted rack. The steering rack was changed to a quicker 13:1 ratio, as used in the Japan delivered vehicles, as opposed to the 15:1 ratio of the previous models. Also, the 2.0-litre EJ207 that is standard for Japanese STIs was retained specifically for the Japanese market in the new 2015 WRX STI. A sound tube device, also seen on the BRZ, has also been fitted to the air intake system to channel certain induction and turbo frequencies into the cabin, reports show this is only fitted to vehicles in some markets. In Europe, Australia, Canada and Japan, the STI is available with and without the wing. Starting in 2016 the US version of the limited STI was also made available with either the traditional high wing or, optionally, with the standard WRX low profile wing. In 2013, British rally champion Mark Higgins lapped the Isle of Man TT course in 17 minutes, 35.139 seconds. In 2015 Subaru released the WRX STI Launch Edition that came in World Rally Blue Pearl exterior paint combined with gold-painted, 18-inch, BBS alloy wheels. Only 1000 Launch Editions were released in North America. In 2015 Subaru released the WRX STI S207, limited to 400 units sold only for the Japanese market. The S207 used the 2 liter EJ20 engine which was tuned to 323.5 bhp and 318 lb/ft (431 Nm) of torque. Upgrades also include a quicker-ratio 11-to-1 steering rack (compared to 13-to-1 for the stock unit). STI-spec Recaro front bucket seats, Bilstein’s adjustable DampMatic II front suspension, and drilled rotors clamped by Brembo monoblock six-piston front calipers and four-pot rear calipers. Up to 200 of the units could be equipped with the NBR Challenge Package, which features a carbon-fibre wing and a badge commemorating Subaru’s class victory at the 2015 Nürburgring 24 Hours. In 2016 Subaru released the WRX STI Hyper Blue special edition series, with production limited to 700 units for the United States. The new color covers the outside, and it is also offset with gloss black 18-inch BBS wheels, badges and mirror caps. Blue stitching brings the colour into the interior, and Subaru’s seven-inch navigation system with a nine-speaker stereo is standard for this version. In Australia, Subaru announced the WRX Premium Hyper Blue special edition with the CVT automatic will be limited to 200 units targeted to customers, and WRX STI Premium with the six-speed gearbox will be limited to just 50 units. As a way of celebrating 30 years of the STI nameplate (in 2018), Subaru offered a limited edition WRX STi Diamond Edition which was developed by Subaru Southern Africa’s technical team making it exclusively available to the region with only 30 being produced. The WRX STi Diamond Edition is powered by a fettled 2.5-litre, high-boost turbocharged Boxer engine that offers 350 bhp at 4,500 rpm and 464 Nm (342 lb/ft) of torque at 4 000 rpm. The remapping of the Electronic Control Unit and the fitment of a performance exhaust system has contributed to improved performance. A new engine brace has been fitted for better stability and balance. The WRX STi Diamond Edition rides 20mm lower than the standard WRX STi and the body kit, in a High Viz yellow further lowers the front-end by 10 mm. The spoiler vane gets a stainless steel STI badge unique to this limited edition model and high gloss black Diamond Edition badges appear on the sides of the rear wing. The WRX STi Diamond Edition rides on 19-inch lightweight and darkened aluminium Y-design alloy wheels. For the 2018 model year, Subaru of America introduced the WRX STI Type RA to celebrate the successful record attempt at becoming the fastest sedan around the legendary Nürburgring. This numbered limited edition was restricted to 500 examples for the United States and 75 examples for Canada. The WRX STI Type RA featured 19″ gold forged wheels and was available in a choice of three colors: World Rally Blue Pearl, Black and White. As well as various mechanical upgrades the car also featured a carbon fiber roof and rear wing.

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As this is such a fun road to drive on, and perfect for the photographer, it was no surprise that I found myself up passing the Ranch again on the last day of the November 2019 trip. Although the weather was beautifully sunny once more, by the time of my mid afternoon arrival, the parking area was nothing like as busy as it had been the weekend before, and in the 30 minutes or so that I was there, only a small group of cars in convoy arrived, so there was rather less to photograph this time.


Catching my eye as I pulled past the first part of the frontage, looking for a parking spot, was the  latest Vantage, a model launched in Europe in 2017, with sales starting in early 2018, and finally reaching America later in the year.

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There was a different example of the first generation R8 supercar here from the one I had seen on the previous visit.

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Parked alongside it was this Gallardo Spyder. The convertible variant of the Gallardo, called the Gallardo Spyder, was unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show in January 2006. It was considered by the company to be an entirely new model, with the engine having a power output of 520 PS and a low-ratio six-speed manual transmission. The Spyder has a retractable soft-top. It evolved in parallel with the fixed roof model, with a number of different versions being produced before the car was deleted in 2014, replaced by the Huracan.

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A further modern sports/super car present, also painted in a nice bright colour, was this  570S Spider, the open-roofed version of McLaren’s “entry level” car.

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A couple of AMG GT-S models were here, and parked next to them was an AMG C63S Coupe, the top of the range version of the mid-sized and epic-sounding AMG model.

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This is an Evo X, the last (for now) of a series of highly-regarded performance saloons generated by Mitsubishi’s rally program. In 2005, Mitsubishi introduced a concept version of the next-gen Evolution at the 39th Tokyo Motor Show named the Concept-X, designed by Omer Halilhodžić at the company’s European design centre. Mitsubishi unveiled a second concept car, the Prototype-X, at the 2007 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). The Lancer Evolution X featured a newly designed 4B11T 1,998 cc turbocharged, all-aluminium alloy GEMA Inline-four engine. Power and torque depend on the market, but all versions had at least 276 bhp. UK models were reworked by Mitsubishi UK, in accordance with previous MR Evolutions bearing the FQ badge, with power between 300 bhp and 360 bhp.  It also featured Mitsubishi’s new sequential semi-automatic six speed SST twin-clutch transmission with steering-mounted magnesium alloy shift paddles. It replaced the Tiptronic automatic transmission, hence the SST version replaced the GT-A version (which was used in Evolution VII and Evolution IX Wagon). A five speed manual gearbox was also available. Two versions of the car are offered in the U.S. The Lancer Evolution MR, with 6-speed Twin Clutch Sportronic Shift Transmission (TC-SST). The other version is the GSR which has a 5-speed manual transmission system. The car also has a new full-time four-wheel drive system named S-AWC (Super All Wheel Control), an advanced version of Mitsubishi’s AWC system used in previous generations. The S-AWC uses torque vectoring technology to send different amounts of torque to the rear wheels. The Evolution X went on sale October 1, 2007 in Japan, January 2008 in the USA, February in Canada (as the first version of Evolution in Canada) and in March 2008 in the UK. The Twin Clutch SST version was available in Japan from November 2007. The introduction of the 2010 MR-Touring moved the car even further upscale. Leather and a sunroof became standard while revising the rear spoiler to just a lip spoiler. The car remained on sale until 2017, though as the market focus moved elsewhere, relatively few were registered in the model’s later years and there was no direct replacement.

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Just as I was thinking of leaving, a group of Subaru models arrived, in convoy, all of them WRX models, some the standard car and some the STi model, They were all being driven by shall we politely call them, the “younger generation”.

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In a way, you could think of Newcomb’s Ranch as a sort of Californian mountain version of the Ace Cafe or Caffeine & Machine – a mecca for car and bike enthusiasts, with plenty of variety and a few surprise likely on every visit. It is certainly a place I will return to on my future trips to the area.

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