Japanese van racing and drifting is a good way to kick off your week


Joy. #dajiban @axlejor

A post shared by Sam Smith (@thatsamsmith) on

There are a number of automotive writers whose content I enjoy reading, but there are very few whose stuff I love. Generally, it’s the stories crafted by Zach Bowman, Brendan McAleer, and Sam Smith that remind me when I’ve been stationary for too long and need to head out in search of adventure. Mr Smith is currently doing just that in Japan, as he’s on assignment for Road & Track, and this particular tale looks to be one filled with larger than life characters driving oversized and unexpected track machines.

This is Japan’s race van culture, and it appears to be amazing.

Sam has been sharing his trip on his Instagram page, and I highly recommend you follow along. The video clip above is just the tip of the iceberg, but it’s a fantastic place to start. Did you expect to see a full-size van drifting around a corner at Ebisu to start your day? No, but it’s a great way to get up and tackle Monday head on.

These Japanese van lovers are living their best life… so how about you? 

Personally, I can’t wait to read about this adventure when it arrives in either print or web form for R&T.

Aston Martin Vantage V600 fitted with a boost gauge from a Spitfire

When you’re looking at ways in which you can personalize your (then) new Aston Martin Vantage V600, there are a handful of ways to go. Some might go with an off-the-book color choice. Others might slap on a set of unique wheels. One delightful person decided to have Aston Martin fit their car with the boost gauge plucked from a WWII Spitfire.

That, folks, is how you do it.

Jalopnik posted the listing after I came across it on the Aston Martin heritage website. You can find more great photos of the car over at the J. Here though, is our clearest look at that brilliant decision in gauge form.

What it displays is boost pressure from the supercharger. Actually, that would be superchargers because Aston Martin fitted a pair of spinny, breathy bits atop the 5.3-liter V8 sitting under the hood. With the V600, you’re now working with 600 horsepower. 

Aston Martin didn’t build a ton of these Vantage models between 1993 and 2000, and far less were of the V600 variety. This specific car is in fact the last one upgraded by Aston Martin Works.

It’s for sale. It’s expensive. And it’s pretty damn wonderful.

Podcast: Episode 252 – Exploring the new space

We’re in Chris’ new apartment and we’re not in full studio mode yet, but we still want to run things a bit old school while exploring the new. So for Ep252 we bring it back to the original format; The News!

We kick things off by talking about the Aston Martin Rapide AMR, Forza Horizon 4, the Shelby GT350, and Rolls-Royce’s Cars and Cognac event. After that it’s time to talk about our own cars and what we’re driving. This week I’m in an Audi R8 Spyder before I swap into a Lexus LC500. The following week I get a chance to sample the new F-150 diesel and I’ll be towing a small Airstream behind.

Finally, we move on to your questions. Patreon first, as always, then Twitter and Facebook. This old format feels right, so we’re going to run it this way for awhile and get back into our groove.


Hooniverse Asks: What’s the most car for under $30k?

I’ve just spent a week with a very simple yet solid means of transportation; the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. This was the base model packing a non-turbocharged 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine that cranks out 185 horsepower. That’s a healthy drop compared to the more potent 2.0T also available, which makes 240 horsepower. This front-drive model starts at $24,950 and the as-tested price is $26,310. For that you have a crossover with fine styling, a sharp interior, and plenty of space in the rear. It’s a lot of vehicle for well under $30,000.Does it drive as nice as my Mazda CX-5? No, the steering isn’t as sharp. But Hyundai has greatly improved its steering over the years, and the Santa Fe Sport is nice off center with some mild rubber-banding on it. The interior looks nicer and more interesting though, compared to the Mazda and it feels like there’s a lot more space inside.

Once you swap to the 2.0T though, you cross above the $30k mark. I want to focus on the good on the better side of $30k. What else out there gives you the most vehicle for your dollar?

The Volkswagen Golf SportWagen and Alltrack are excellent answers, surely. A Ford Transit Connect Wagon starts right around $26,000 and is plenty of Euro-style van for most. Even the 2018 F-150 starts below $30k. Subaru has a few models that might also qualify depending on what “most vehicle” means to you.

The Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is a nice break between a slew of more super and expensive (and less useful) vehicles. That fact that it’s $10k below the average new car transaction price is also refreshing, as I believe that pretty much everything I drive lately is overpriced (relatively speaking).

So what new vehicle seems to offer the most, well, vehicle for below $30k?

Hooniverse Asks: What’s the worst production car ever built?

Friend of Hooniverse Jason Torchinksy is a connoisseur of crap. Crappy cars, that is and Mr Torch recently spent time with Jay Leno for a segment on the great Denim One’s television show. The subject of the segment is the Hoffmann. This is a car which Jason considers to be the worst of all time, and with good reason.

You out there reading this are a fountain of knowledge though, and I wonder if you know of anything even worse? I am counting a production car as anything that was sold to the public, be it in a run of 300,000 or 3.

Shout out with your best worst cars below.  

These are the Top 10 fastest runs up the Goodwood FOS hill climb course

One of the reasons I love the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and there are many, is that it brings together such a diverse collection of astounding machines. These cars, trucks, and bikes bridge a gap that spans centuries and the collective people in attendance are there to celebrate all of it. One of the highlights of the weekend, however, is when the fastest machines in attendance line up for a crack at a full-tilt run up the hill.

The fastest car ever to do the dash is a McLaren-Mercedes MP4/13 Formula 1 race car driven by Nick Heidfeld. His time is an astonishing 41.6 seconds. Any time below the one minute mark is very quick, and the fastest cars dip down below 50 seconds.

The top ten fastest, however, cluster around 44 seconds. A focused hillclimb racecar sits at number two with a time of 42.95 (It’s a Gould-Cosworth GR51), while Heidfeld remains the lone figure in the 41-second club.

Can that time be topped? Could someone actually dip below 40 seconds? It would take a monumental effort… but Porsche might have something ready for such a heroic effort.

Some hot hot heat on McLaren’s Facebook page

McLaren are teasing a new variant of the 570. This one should be a 600-horsepower 570LT, and McLaren are teasing the fact that the exhaust has been rerouted. But it’s the first comment on the FB teaser that has us howling like the reworked exhaust tips.

That’s some Grade-A eBurning going on right there.

Hooniverse Asks: Where has your car let you down?

Last night, I ran out to pick up dinner for my wife and I. The location of said food was a mere 5-7 minute drive from our house, and my 1974 Mercedes-Benz had no issues on the drive over. When I received my food and returned to my car, however, the old blue baby was acting up. Actually, it wasn’t acting at all… because putting the key in the ignition and turning resulted in nothing.

The battery is fine. All the gauges sprung to life and the radio would turn on. The buzzer would let me know the door is open with the key in the ignition. But turning to the final spot where I’d normally hear my M110 engine work its way to life, I got nothing.

No clicking. No straining. No four-barrel Weber (someone in prior ownership of the car replaced the Zeniths with a Weber) coughing air and fuel into the engine. My Benz would be sleeping in this spot for the evening.

This isn’t the worst spot to be let down. I called my wife and she came to pick me up along with our slightly colder than anticipated dinner. The car is now at a local shop getting work done, including other items that were on the schedule so the timing is fine.

Where have you been let down by your vehicle? Share your stories below.

Hooniverse Asks: What alternative fuel source would you like to see explored?

The internal combustion engine has ruled the roost for over a century now. Electric vehicles are growing in popularity to meet rising demand. There are a number of hydrogen offerings in the marketplace, should you live in a state or country that has the infrastructure to support those vehicles. You have a few choices when it comes the way in which your vehicle derives its power.

What are some other options you wish we’d explored, be it today, tomorrow, or in the past? Should solar-powered cars have received more attention? Coal cruisers could’ve been a thing. Perhaps nuclear hot rods could have you living out your Fallout-inspired fantasies.

What would you like to or liked to have seen in the space of vehicular powerplants? 

Aston Martin DB11 AMR – First Drive

Aston Martin has hit the rest button on its V12-packing DB11. The updated version is called the AMR, and it’s received adjustments to the engine, exhaust, steering response, suspension, and stability control.

There’s more horsepower (630 hp) from the 5.2-liter twin-turbocharged V12, and there’s also more noise. An ever slightly stiffer front roll bar dials in a dash more response from the nose while revised suspension damping flattens rear roll.

This is the DB11 V12 that Aston Martin should’ve launched with from the get to, but the car rides on a brand new platform and it comes with a learning curve. A curve that’s been aggressively tweaked thanks to former Lotus chassis tuning boss Matt Becker.

In short, Aston Martin looked at the issues from the first run on the DB11 V12 and fixed them. Thus we’ve arrived at the DB11 AMR… a smarter, sharper, louder, more focused grand tourer that’s still dripping with style and luxury.

Now it’s just got a bit more bite to go with its improved bark.

[Disclaimer: Aston Martin put me on six planes in total to get me to Germany to drive the car. There were hotels, food, and drink along the way.]