This weekend’s Pod Rods takes our annual peek at what’s coming at the first new car show of the year in Detroit, from a new G-Wagen to a sleek Infiniti. But first, a look at a truly hands-free autonomous car, some news from Amelia and a few cool videos to boot.
— Look Ma, no hands!
That’s right - General Motors has filed a petition with federal DOT seeking its permission to “safely deploy” a self-driving vehicle in 2019. The vehicle shown in this GM video is called the Cruise AV, which has no steering wheel or pedals, just a central screen and two rear seat screens. The automaker said will be the first production-ready car with no steering wheel or pedals.” GM filed a Safety Petition with the Department of Transportation for its fourth-generation self-driving Cruise AV, which is based on the Chevrolet Bolt electric car.
According to Autoweek, approval of the petition would allow the cars to be deployed “without meeting 16 Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards that cover vehicles with human drivers but aren’t necessarily applicable for autonomous vehicles.” That means GM would be able to launch up to 2,500 self-driving vehicles a year as a taxi service, leading the way toward fully autonomous vehicles to move from niche testing fleets into broader commercial applications.
— Big news on a little British car coming to this year’s Amelia Island Concours d’Eegance.
MG, the fabled British marque that triggered America’s postwar sports car boom, will be honored at the 23rd annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance on March 11, 2018. The sports cars from Morris Garages were founding members of postwar American sports car racing, so “Amelia” will celebrate marque-founder Cecil Kimber’s original MGs that grew from the success of Morris automobiles before World War II. The earliest MGs were re-bodied Morris models with styling and performance enhancements. By 1928, the Oxford company had become large and prosperous enough to warrant an identity separate from the original Morris Garages and the M.G. Car Company Limited was established that March. Models would be winners in decades to come - 1931 Brooklands Double 12; Tazio Nuvolari’s MG K3 winning the 1933 Tourist Trophy; MG’s first Le Mans class victory with a 750cc MG Midget J4 C.
“MG is practically the founding marque of American sports car racing,” said Mark Becker, Vice-Chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. “Their precepts of light weight construction and compactness that set the course of modern sports car design began with prewar MGs.”
The 23rd annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance will be held March 9-11 at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. For more information, visit www.ameliaconcours.org.
Speaking about Amelia, one of its other classes on display in March will be the legendary racing and rally cars that wear the iconic red and double-blue stripes of the Martini International Racing Team. Many of its race and rally cars were Lancias. And many Lancias owned by local collector John Campion have been shown at Amelia in years past, even in special displays. Now Campion has a YouTube channel called #AskCampion, where the collector (and CEO of APR Energy) talks about cars, racing and his collection. His latest video segment discusses the Lancia Stratos and Lancia brand, viewable right here.
Lots of new stuff coming this week at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit:
- BMW makes the world debut of its next-generation i8 Coupe. Auto show officials say the “enhanced hybrid 2+2” sports coupe will have increased power and range over its predecessor.
- The “Governorator” showed Jay Leno some new tricks this week. On “Jay Leno’s Garage” on CNBC, Arnold Schwarzenegger showed up in his Mercedes-Benz G-wagen, rebuilt by Austrian company Kreisel to ditch its gasoline V-8 for an electric powerplant. Check out the video. https://www.cnbc.com/video/2018/01/11/jay-leno-and-arnold-schwarzenegger-drive-a-million-dollar-electric-car.html. FYI - Mercedes-Benz unveils the newly revamped G-Class in days in Detroit.
- Infiniti will show off its Q Inspiration Concept Monday at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The exterior features what Infiniti calls “clear and concise lines and eschews classical sedan forms with its elongated silhouette.” It is the first manifestation of Infiniti’s new form language for an era of advanced powertrains and presents a design vision for vehicles in this segment. Karim Habib, INFINITI’s executive design director, said the Q Inspiration offers something “more flowing in appearance and muscular in stance,” with a shorter hood and elongated body.
- The all-new Honda Insight Prototype makes its world debut Monday, giving consumers a first glimpse of the latest model in Honda’s growing lineup of electrified vehicles, although the company teased it in a video. Launching nationwide later this year, and positioned as a premium compact above Civic in the Honda passenger car lineup, the company says “Insight elevates itself above other compact hybrid models with its sleek sedan design, roomy five-passenger cabin, and refined driving performance, along with high fuel efficiency.”It will have an anticipated EPA fuel economy combined rating of 50 mpg, using a 1.5-liter Atkinson cycle gas engine, electric propulsion motor and lithium-ion battery pack.
— BMW set a new world record this week, confirmed by Guinness World Records, for the greatest distance vehicle drift in eight hours, as well as the longest twin vehicle drift (water assisted). You may remember that BMW Driving Instructor Johan Schwartz completed a sustained drift record back in 2013 with a BMW M5. Now he’s done it again, a record 232.5 miles Dec. 11 at the BMW Performance Center in Greer, S.C. And to top it off, his BMW had to be refuled as it drifted, a sort of mid-air refueling done by a companyion M5 with Chief Driving Instructor Matt Mullins at the helm of the second car, for a second record of 49.25 miles. Doing the actual refueling with a special quick-release nozzle was Detroit Speed’s Matt Butts, suspended on a safety tether from the second vehicle’s rear window. GoPro released a video of the epic drift and refueling, which you can see right here.
Schwartz shattered the previous record by 143 miles, after driving the longest continuous vehicle drift on May 11, 2013 in an unmodified 2013 BMW M5 sedan. Since then, Schwartz’s record was broken twice – officially in 2013, then 2014. The Guinness World Records title-setting vehicle was displayed in CES2018’s BMW Experience at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
— Hemming’s Great Race, the annual cross-country classic road rally for vintage vehicles that launched last July from Jacksonville, will traverse the country from Buffalo N.Y. on June 23 and end July 1 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Great Race, which limits its participant vehicles to 1972 or older, will do the time/speed/distance rally in 17 stops along back roads, maing for a 2,351-mile journey.
— One modern (and very small) car will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a special version, since 2018 marks 10 years of smart sales in the United States (2008-present). The company has discontinued its gas version, and only sells electric smarts. So the 10th Anniversary Edition 2018 smart fortwo electric drive coupe, making its U.S. premiere at Detroit, will come in passion and prime trim lines and an exclusive Sapphire Blue Metallic paint for body panels, tridion safety cell and front grille. The Anniversary Edition also gives the car a more aggressive look with 16” BRABUS Monoblock VIII wheels in Matte Anthracite Grey and Sport Package as standard, part of $1,950 option.
— Porsche lovers have a new book. “911 LoveRS,” from publishers Delius Klasing, begins 50 years ago when the first Porsche 911 R achieved long-distance world records. It goes onto the latest 911 R. In between, numerous models. Fore more information, go to delius-klasing.de.
— Race team owner Chip Ganassi will serve as Grand Marshal for the 56th anniversary Rolex 24 At DAYTONA, giving the ‘Drivers, start your engines,’ command. The twice-around-the-clock endurance race will take place on Daytona International Speedway’s 3.56-mile road course Jan. 27-28.
“This is a really big honor for me to be recognized by a race that has meant so much to me over my career, both as a driver and an owner,” said Ganassi. “The Rolex 24 At Daytona is one of motorsport’s truly significant races. There are so many great cars, great drivers and manufacturers that all come together to make this a unique event. But it also requires so much work and coordination that when you ultimately make it to victory lane there is no greater satisfaction. I couldn’t be more proud to be named the Grand Marshal of this great race.”
Chip Ganassi Racing entered the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2004 and captured their first overall victory in the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA just two years later. That 2006 triumph was the first of seven victories in the series season-opener, with subsequent wins coming in 2007, ’08, ’11, ’13,’15 and ‘17.
In related news, Lexus announced today that veteran sports car racer Scott Pruett will continue as a brand ambassador for the luxury automaker following his retirement from racing later this month. In his new role, Pruett will continue his long-standing partnership with Lexus as a brand advocate, while also assisting with product testing and development, Lexus Performance Driving School events, select Lexus at-track experiences and special appearances at Lexus brand events. The 57-year-old Hall of Famer will compete in his final race – the Rolex 24 at Daytona, co-driving Ganassi racing’s 3GT Racing No. 15 Lexus RC F GT3.
As winter wanes, not a l0t of automotive action. But here’s our calendar of events:
• The 16th annual Jacksonville 6-Hour Grand Prix runs April 7 at the 103rd Street Sports Complex at 10271 103rd St. Eight teams have signed up for the go-kart endurance race, which has raised funds for Only 16 teams left!The 16th annual Jacksonville Grand Prix to benefit Spina Bifida of Jacksonville, founded in 1973 to advocate for, educate and serve patients and families living with Spina Bifida. The race is open to anyone who wants to race celebrities, local busineses and family teams in multiple stints over six hours in many classes: Rookie, PRO, Semi-Pro, Masters (Average age 40-plus), Big Boy (Min Weight 220) and Legends (55-plus). For information and the link to register, go to https://www.facebook.com/pg/jaxgrandprix/posts/?ref=page_internal.
• Florida International Rally and Motorsport Park Track Attacks days: Most Saturdays at the on-road and off-road racing and testing facility located at 7266 Airport Road in Starke. The track days allow car owners to test their setup and improve driving skills. The cost is $214 per driver in advance, or $250 the day of the event. Guests and crew pay $10 each to enter. Online registration ends at 11 p.m. the day prior to each event. For more information on all events at The FIRM, go to gorally.com.
• Jacksonville Boat Show: Jan. 26-28 at the Prime F. Osborn Convention Center, 1000 Water St. The 71st annual show, presented by the Jacksonville Marine Association, will have a large variety of boats on display, plus children’s activities. For information, visit boatjax.com.
• Jacksonville RV MegaShow: Feb. 8 to 11 at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center, 13611 Normandy Blvd. More than 400 new recreational vehicles of all types, including motor homes, travel trailers, fifth-wheels and tent campers, will be on display. For more information, visit the Florida RV Trade Association’s website at frvta.org.
• Jacksonville International Auto Show: Feb. 16 to 18 at the Prime Osborn Convention Center; sponsored by the Jacksonville Automobile Dealers Association. For more information, visit jaxautoshow.com.
• Mandarin now has two weekly Saturday morning informal cruise-ins: The newest is 7 to 9 a.m. at Village Bread Cafe at the Crown Point Plaza at 10111 San Jose Blvd. The original has re-formed from 6 to 9 a.m. in the parking lot outside Panera Bread at 11111 San Jose Blvd.
• Automotive Addicts Cars & Coffee: Monthly cruise-in from 7 to 10 a.m. Saturday at The Avenues mall. The cruise-in is free. For information, visit AutomotiveAddicts.com.
• First Coast Car Council: 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Medical and Merchants Center of Mandarin, 11701 San Jose Blvd.
• Callahan Cruisers: 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Dick’s Wings, 450077 Florida A1A in Callahan. The club also holds a third-Saturday cruise-in from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Sonic Drive-In, located at 7045 Normandy Blvd. in Jacksonville.
• Jax Beaches Cars and Coffee: Classic Car Cruise from 5 to 8 p.m. every third Tuesday (Jan. 16) at the Sea Walk Pavilion and Latham Plaza between 1st and 2nd Street. Information: betterjaxbeach.com.
• Sunshine State Chevelles’ third Saturday cruise-in: 4 to 7 p.m., Saturday at PDQ restaurant, located at 194 Florida 13 in Saint Johns.
• Johnny Angels Cruise-In: 5 to 9 p.m. every third Friday at the diner at 3546 St. Johns Bluff Road S.
• Amelia Cruizers: 5 to 8 p.m. each third and fifth Saturday at Dick’s Wings and Grill, 474313 Florida A1A, in Yulee. Info: ameliacruizers.org/NewSite.
Send information on automotive and motorcycle events to email@example.com or Dan Scanlan, Florida Times-Union, 1 Riverside Ave., Jacksonville FL 32202.