Fiat Chrysler starts production of ventilator components in Italy

MILAN — Fiat Chrysler has begun producing ventilator parts to help Italy’s Siare Engineering boost its output of the medical equipment needed to treat patients during the coronavirus crisis, the carmaker said on Friday.

Carmakers around the world are ramping up production of critical healthcare products and machines to respond to the enormous demand during the pandemic.

Italy, the epicenter of the virus outbreak in Europe, had asked Siare to triple its normal monthly production as a part of government efforts to increase the number of intensive care beds.

FCA said that with the support of luxury group Ferrari and holding company Exor, which controls both carmakers, it had produced the first electrovalves, a key part in ventilators, at its plant in Cento, in northern Italy.

The Cento plant is usually used to produces high-performance car engines for the global market. It had been closed because of the coronavirus but has partially reopened for this project.

“With the additional supply of electrovalves from Cento, Siare estimates that it will be able to reduce total production time for ventilators by as much as 30-50%”, the statement said.

In addition to the production of the electrovalves, a team of specialists from FCA is also working alongside Siare staff at their production facility near the city of Bologna.

“The objective is to help increase Siare’s total production, with a gradual scaling up of daily output beginning from the first week of April”, FCA said.


Bugatti put three generations of legendary supercars into one photo

The modern era of Bugatti has seen dozens of special-editions, limited-editions, and bespoke one-offs, but the core of the company is defined by three models that have spanned the past three decades. The EB110 marked the ’90s, the Veyron ruled the ’00s and early ’10s, and the Chiron dominated the end of the ’10s into the present. Bugatti calls the trio the “Holy Trinity” and recently brought all three supercars together for a photoshoot in Dubai. 

Against a backdrop of sweeping sands and a spiky skyline tipped by the Burj Khalifa tower, Bugatti placed a black EB110 next to black examples of a Veyron and a Chiron. It’s an awe-inspiring sight, even in photos, though it is a bit strange to see the models dressed like they’re going to a funeral rather than sporting any of the numerous iconic color schemes they’ve worn throughout the years. 

Despite the 30 years between the EB110, and the Chiron, all three vehicles are built with the same three key components: a carbon-fiber monocoque, four turbochargers, and all-wheel drive. The technologies within these three pillars have drastically changed, but the idea of what makes a true super sports car has remained the same. 

The EB110, which denotes Ettore Bugatti and his 110th birthday, debuted on his birthday, September 15, 1991, in Paris. It packs a mid-engined quad-turbo 3.5-liter V12 that has a 8,250-rpm redline. The lowest-powered EB110 had 560 horsepower, while the most powerful model made 611 horsepower. The EB110 claimed a zero-to-62-mph time of 3.3 seconds and a top speed of 218 mph. 

The Veyron entered the scene for the 2005 model year. This time around, Bugatti slapped the four turbochargers on an 8.0-liter W16, and that engine makes a whopping 987 horsepower (1,001 PS). With the added power, the zero-to-62-mph time dropped to 2.5 seconds, and the top speed increased to 253 mph, and that was before more powerful variants were released.

The Chiron, Bugatti’s current model, debuted in 2016 and continued to build on the power and speed records its relatives had set before it. The Chiron carries on with a quad-turbo 8.0-liter W16, but it now makes 1,479 horsepower. It can sprint from a stop to 62 mph in 2.4 seconds, and in 2019, Bugatti used a Chiron to reach 304.773 mph, the fastest speed for a production car ever achieved. 

To truly appreciate the greatness of these vehicles requires an in-person visit, but for now, photos will have to do. Check out the family photoshoot in the gallery above.

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The prized golden 1965 Pontiac Hurst GeeTO Tiger is headed to auction

Once upon a time, a Pontiac advertising executive named Jim Wangers created a countrywide contest with this gorgeous 1965 Pontiac Hurst GTO serving as the grand prize. The contest was centered around “GeeTO Tiger,” a song by musical artists The Tigers. A 19-year-old took home the golden muscle car at the time, but now anybody can buy the rare car through an upcoming Mecum auction. 

As a way to boost sales and awareness of the Pontiac GTO and its performance parts, Wangers partnered up with Royal Pontiac, George Hurst, and Petersen Publishing in 1965 to create a contest. Royal provided the car, Hurst dressed it up, and Petersen distributed the contest in publications across the country. 

In order to participate, people were asked to provide a reason why they wanted the car and identify how many times the word “tiger” was used in the promotional song “GeeTO Tiger” (pronounced G-Tee-Oh) by The Tigers. A 19 year-old kid named Alex Lampone from West Allis, Wisconsin, won the contest and took delivery of this jazzed-up GTO at the 1965 NHRA Indy Nationals. 

The prize car was completely kitted out and described by Wangers as “the nicest GTO you could put your hands on.” It had more than 28 factory options, including a black cordova top, power windows, power steering, power brakes, a tilt steering wheel, a power driver’s seat, dual-speed windshield wipers, a custom sport steering wheel, a rally gauge cluster, a push-button AM/FM radio with power antenna, and a Verba phonic rear speaker. What makes it stand out is the Hurst-inspired gold theme, which includes gold paint, gold mag wheels, and a gold-plated Hurst Shifter.

Under the hood, this GTO has a Tri-Power 389 V8 engine that pairs with a four-speed manual transmisison. It also has a 3.55 Safe-T-Track rear axle and dual exhaust.

Throughout the years, this car has exchanged hands many times and has undergone a few changes. It’s been repainted, and the engine has also been rebuilt, but Mecum says it’s otherwise highly original. Ony 59,000 miles have turned over on the odometer. 

The GeeTO Tiger Pontiac is scheduled to go up for auction in Indianapolis this June. Visit Mecum for more information.

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Uber to start shipping car disinfectants to drivers

Uber will begin shipping disinfecting car spray to selected drivers in areas most affected by the coronavirus outbreak, an executive said on Thursday.

The company promised to supply drivers with sanitizers in early March. Then it closed all of its local hubs, places where drivers can go to receive in-person help or use the bathroom, leaving drivers in the dark over where to receive supplies.

Uber senior vice president of global rides and platform operations, Andrew Macdonald, said on Twitter that the company had received an initial batch of 30,000 bottles of cleaning spray by Atlanta-based company Zep Inc.

He said select drivers could place an order in the app and receive shipment free of charge.

“As a start, we’re prioritizing the most active drivers in a few cities, incl. NYC,” Macdonald wrote on Twitter, adding that the company was working on securing more supplies.

Previously, Uber said suppliers had prioritized orders for healthcare, with its own orders being moved down the queue several times.

Lyft last week said it had distributed many supplies to drivers while its hubs were still open and was working a way to distribute them now, but declined to provide additional details.

Lyft did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Ride-hailing demand has ground to a halt in most U.S. cities, with a majority of Americans now under some form of lockdown.

The epidemic has also exposed drivers and companies to the downside of an ambiguous contractor model, leaving drivers more vulnerable than traditional employees.

Reporting by Tina Bellon in New York; Editing by David Gregorio

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Junkyard Gem: 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage Hatchback

Remember the front-wheel-drive Dodge and Plymouth Colts (not to mention the Plymouth Champ and Eagle Summit) of the late 1970s through the middle 1990s? Those were Mitsubishi Mirages, and you could buy them here with Mitsubishi badging from 1985 through 2002. Then, for the 2014 model year, the Mirage returned to North America, as the cheapest new car you could buy here. Now, barely a half-decade later, I’m seeing significant quantities of these Mirages in the car graveyards I frequent. Here’s a pretty clean ’15 in a yard located within sight of Pikes Peak in Colorado.

I began seeing the current generation of Fiat 500 in the cheap U-Wrench yards when those cars hit about six or seven years of age, and the same goes for the Sebring-based Chrysler 200s. The Mirage beats that dubious distinction by a year or two. Really, the only shorter showroom-to-junkyard average interval I’ve witnessed in my 38 years of junkyard crawling was achieved by the genuinely miserable early Hyundai Excels, which started to be discarded in quantity when they hit about age four; I recall seeing dozens of them in Southern California yards with 25,000 miles on the clock and hardly any interior wear-and-tear. Even the Yugo did better (and this is why I remain amazed by the generally high quality of Hyundai products starting in the early-to-mid 1990s; Hyundai gets my personal “Most Improved Automaker” award for that achievement).

That said, I don’t agree with the legions of my car-writer colleagues who love to trash the humble Mirage. I reviewed the 2014 Mirage, and then— just because I feel such affection for cheap commuter-mobiles— went back and wrote up the 2017 Mirage GT. These cars aren’t much fun to drive, they have decidedly low-rent interiors, and you don’t look like a serious car expert when the masses see you behind the wheel of one. And yet, if you’re 22 years old in your first “real” job and you’ll get canned if you’re late even once, choosing a new car with a strong warranty, with non-ball-busting credit terms and a somewhat lower monthly payment than those other subcompacts that provide more road feel when you’re at the limit of the performance envelope, you know, when you’re trail-braking for a late pass on your favorite two-lane freeway offramp… well, the Mirage looks like a pretty good deal on a transportation appliance.

Anyway, cheap vehicles these days that don’t look even a little bit like trucks tend to depreciate in a hurry (especially in truck-crazed Colorado), and so your typical ex-fleet Mirage gets snapped up for nickels and dimes, driven for a while, and then discarded when the owner realizes that a $900 repair just isn’t worth the money and hassle (or when the parking tickets build up and the car gets towed, resulting in fines worth more than the probable real-world value).

This one appears to have started out in East Texas and then made its way to Colorado last year.

Look at that, air-conditioning, auxiliary audio input jack, maybe even Bluetooth in a super-cheap car! Did the supremely horrible Subaru Justy have features like that? The Chevette? We’re all spoiled these days.

It has three cylinders making 74 horsepower, and it uses them all, which is enough to pull this car up Grapevine Hill at 80 mph with the A/C on.

The US-market ads for these cars are on the dreary side, so let’s watch this lysergic Japanese-market one instead. Check out those pungent Mirage colors!

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BMW Motorrad unveils R 18 cruiser with 1.8-liter Big Boxer engine

Today, BMW unveiled the 2021 R 18, a retro-style cruiser that looks nothing like any other BMW motorcycle currently available. Inspired by the BMW R 5 from the ’30s, the bike has an open-running driveshaft, a double-loop frame, and a 1.8-liter horizontally opposed two-cylinder engine that’s called the Big Boxer. With a relaxed seating position, a “no-frills technology” approach, and a frame design prepared for the aftermarket scene, the R 18 strives to please purists and customizers alike.

BMW has been previewing the R 18 throughout the past year with numerous development projects. First came a trio of concept bikes — the Concept R18, the Custom Works Zon Departed, and the Birdcage — that used prototype versions of the modern Big Boxer engine seen in the R 18. Then came the R 18/2, which gave a clearer look at what a modern BMW cruiser could look like. In its final form, the R 18 is so clearly traced to the R 5 that it nearly looks like a replica at a quick glance. 

The R 18 has nearly every design cue the R 5 had to offer. It has a single front headlight, a pear-drop gas tank, a double-loop steel frame, metal bodywork, a single seat, pinstriped paint, and a shiny chrome exhaust. A First Edition, seen here, includes small distinctive add-ons such as white pinstripes over black paint, chrome detailing, a seat badge, and a chrome clasp on the side covers. It’s jarring how similar two motorcycles separated by 84 years can look and demonstrates a true example of timeless styling.

At its core, the R 18 has a boxer engine, just like the R 5 did. This modern iteration is 1,802 cc and claims the title of the most powerful BMW boxer ever built. It harbors 90 horsepower at 4,750 rpm and 111 lb-ft of torque between 2,000 and 4,000 rpm.

The classic setup carries over to the suspension, as well, as the R 15 has a telescopic front fork with 1.9-inch tubes. The centrally mounted cantilever suspension strut has travel-dependent damping and an adjustable spring preload, and the rear features a double-sided swingarm with an enclosed axle drive. Suspension travel up front is 4.7 inches, while the rear is 3.5 inches. Braking is handled by twin-disc brakes up front, a single-disc brake in the rear, and four-piston fixed calipers.  

Although the R 18 is meant to have less technology, it still has numerous updated features such as LED lighting, an adaptive turning light, keyless ride with remote control, reverse assist, and hill start control. It also Automatic Stability Control, engine drag torque control, and three drive modes: Rain, Roll, and Rock. 

The R 18 is ready to rock and roll right into aftermarket custom garages right off the lot, too. It has an easily removable rear frame, and BMW says the brake lines, clutch lines, and cable harness are built to allow for easy handlebar installation and adjustment. The visible valve covers and belt cover were also designed to be outside of the oil chamber for easy changing.

The R 18 is available for preorder right now with a starting price of $18,190, including $695 destination charges. The First Edition package is $2,150. 


Turns out Mitsubishi’s history is far more interesting than we thought

Former Autoblog editor-in-chief Mike Austin was kind enough to drop this little nugget onto Twitter yesterday: the history of Mitsubishi timeline on the company’s press website. Basically, it’s a virtual museum, spanning from the 1917 Mitsubishi Model A to the 2008 Galant Fortis Sportback. Frankly, it’s not that surprising that they didn’t go much further beyond that, but still, the timeline provides both a fun trip down memory lane and an introduction to fun and/or wacky JDM models we never got. 

Besides showing photos, there’s actually a sizable amount of info for each, which has quite clearly and often delightfully been translated from Japanese.

Take the New Minica Toppo that “adopted a 1:2 door configuration with a single door on the driver’s side and two doors on the passenger side (think a Hyundai Veloster), as well as a ‘Super High Roof’ that added 70 mm to the height of the standard roof … Addressing the desire to drive something a little different, the lineup was soon joined by a number of variants with personalities designed to bring more fun to the class and including the recreation specification Carabosse, the young mother and baby-oriented Marble, and the Town Bee with its round frog-eye headlamps projecting just forward of the leading edge of the engine hood.” Also, check out those diagonal door handles.

There are more than just JDM kei car oddities, however. There’s the Mitsubishi FTO, which you may remember from Gran Turismo and other racing video games from back in the day. It was “a car that delivered fun-to-drive qualities in abundance (and) was selected 1994-1995 Japan Car of the Year.” If you didn’t know, it was called the FTO because it slotted below the Mitsubishi GTO, the car you know as the 3000GT. I didn’t know that before. Thanks, timeline!

There’s also the off-roady JDM Delica vans that are now all over the Pacific Northwest having surpassed the 25-year import embargo. The 1994 Delica Space Gear (above left) was notable in that it moved the engine under the hood rather than beneath the front seats where it was previously (above right with the Delica Star Wagon), but according to the timeline “The Gear variant name was added in the belief that customers would become attached to it as a familiar ‘piece of gear’ for leisure and everyday purposes.” Judging by the ones I see around here in Portland, mission accomplished. “Suspension was by double wishbone at the front and a 5-link with coil spring arrangement at the rear. The 4WD model used the Super Select 4WD driveline popular on the Pajero and with ample obstacle clearance angles and ride height delivered outstanding off-road performance.”

There are also just some handsome regular cars we never got, including the Emeraude, a name adapted from the French word for emerald. Fitting, as the car above it was the Diamante (we DID get that; two generations, in fact). It’s quite the handsome thing. There’s a bit of early 1990s Mazda here, second-gen Integra there … It had a 2.0-liter V6, which is definitely the smallest displacement V6 I’ve ever seen. 

Finally, I got to take a trip down memory lane. At some point in the late ’80s, my family took a trip to Florida and rented a car. Eagerly awaiting to find out what neat new car we’d be getting, my father reported that it was a Mitsubishi Mirage. We didn’t have Mitsubishis in Canada, nor did I own any made by Matchbox or Majorette, so my dad might as well have said we were getting a Gerflounden Marflockel. I didn’t believe him. I thought he was joking. Any way, judging by the timeline, the car we had belonged to the mid-80s generation introduced for 1983. In Japan, it was called the Lancer Fiore (shown above). It was also very ugly, which I also remember.

Things would soon change, however, as the timeline says “In January 1988, the 4-door sedan range underwent a full model change to a ‘high-quality sedan for the style-conscious adult’ theme (no word on five-year-old Canadian boys). This series also used personality distinguishing variant names include Vie, Fabio and Cyborg.”

And now I want a Mitsubishi Mirage Cyborg. Actually, I definitely don’t, but I’m glad it existed. Just as I’m glad this timeline exists. Thanks for the distraction, Mitsubishi. 


This custom Mercedes G63 Yachting Edition likely smells like a sauna full of cowboys

Carlex Design makes cars you can smell. Each of the company’s custom vehicles, whether it be a Yamaha V-Max or a Ferrari F12 or a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, strictly features high-quality materials that tickle the tactile and olfactory senses. Its newest creation, the Mercedes-AMG G63 Yachting Limited Edition, is no different. Carlex announced the new G-Class this week, and it features a wood-laden interior that likely smells like a sauna full of cowboys.

It’s not often the interior of a car achieves Lead Image Status, but in the case of the Carlex Design Mercedes-AMG G63 G-Yachting Limited Edition, there was no other choice. Taste is up to the personal eye, but this is a rare overly done customization that works well and maintains class. Two interiors are previewed in the gallery, one light and one dark, but both feature the same central nautical theme. 

The ceiling of the Yachting Edition features striped slats with a large branded compass in the center. The slats mimic the design of the wood paneling that is seen on the floor, the doors, the dashboard, the seatbacks, and most significantly, on the rear cargo area. The wood is complemented by supple leather, Alcantara, and real metal accents. Ribbed seatbacks and door panels continue the marine vibe, as do small circles on the seats and trim pieces that seem to mimic rivets. One interior design features a nearly all-white look, while the other offers a two-tone brown and white appearance.

The exterior, though not as wild as the interior, was also customized. Much of the body is crafted from brushed metal panels, and the G63 sits on 22-inch wheels. The hood and greenhouse are painted flat black, and the spare tire cover also features a branded compass. 

The G63 Yachting Limited Edition is available now for custom ordering at a custom price.

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Nissan Titan Pro-4X, Hyundai Kona and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV | Autoblog Podcast #621

In this week’s Autoblog Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore is joined by Consumer Editor Jeremy Korzeniewski and Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder. They talk about cars they’ve driven recently, including the 2020 Nissan Titan Pro-4X, Hyundai Kona and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Then they talk news, starting with Volvo’s new pick-up and drop-off service. Then they talk about Q1 U.S. sales figures. Lastly, they discuss the possibility of new styles of motorcycle from Harley-Davidson, including a flat-track bike and a cafe racer.

Autoblog Podcast #621

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  • Cars we’re driving
    • 2020 Nissan Titian Pro-4X
    • 2020 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD
    • 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
  • Volvo Valet
  • U.S. car sales plummet
  • Harley-Davidson cafe racer and flat track motorcycles


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2020 Audi RS 3 Nardo Edition is aimed at enthusiasts who revere handling

Audi expanded the RS 3 range with a sporty, well-equipped limited-edition model named after the famous Nardo track in southern Italy. Unveiled online (regrettably with only this single poor photo), it’s aimed at enthusiasts who value handling above all.

Car-spotters will tell the Nardo Edition apart from the regular-production RS 3 thanks to a light shade of gray paint appropriately called Nardo Gray, contrasting black trim all around, and red brake calipers visible through 19-inch alloy wheels. Inside, stylists added red accents, floor mats embroidered with the RS logo, plus Audi’s Carbon trim. Photos of the interior haven’t been published yet, so we’ll need to take the company’s word for it.

Navigation — a $2,000 option on the standard RS 3 — comes standard. Nardo buyers will also get a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, as well as an infotainment system compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

There are no mechanical changes to report. The Nardo keeps the RS 3’s 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine. It develops 394 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque, and its distinctive exhaust note serenades the passengers with a sport exhaust system that features black tips. The turbo-five’s output travels through a seven-speed automatic transmission and Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system to send the RS 3 from zero to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds, and the Nardo model’s top speed checks in at 174 mph, 19 faster than the standard model’s.

The electronic magnetic ride suspension technology also found in the TT and the R8 stays in the parts bin. Instead, Audi fitted the Nardo with a fixed sport suspension that promises to make the RS 3 sharper to drive (though almost certainly less comfortable).

On sale now, the 2020 Audi RS 3 Nardo Edition is limited to 200 units in the United States. It carries a base price of $60,895 once a $995 destination charge enters the equation. For context, the regular 2020 RS 3 starts at $57,195, so the Nardo package adds $3,700 to the bottom line. Ticking the option boxes that correspond to the extra equipment would bump the sedan’s price by $5,400, so Nardo buyers will comfortably come out ahead.

The Nardo Edition is one of the last variants of the current-generation RS 3. Although the model remains on sale across America, Audi started replacing the A3 it’s based on when it released the fourth-generation hatchback in early 2020. Replacements for the A3 sedan, the S3, and, of course, the RS 3 are on their way.