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Volkswagen’s Small Contender from Brazil
Jan22

Volkswagen’s Small Contender from Brazil

Can VW fox its rivals in the U.S. with an import from Brazil?

By Andy Bannister

01.22.2008

Recent reports that Volkswagen is considering importing its European small hatchback, the Polo, to North America, make me wonder why it isn’t also considering looking south – to Brazil.

Like most European-built cars, the Polo, which is now in its fourth generation, is going to have a tough time making money stateside at the moment; such is the level of the US dollar against the Euro. Even in its home market VW now imports a smaller sub-Polo model, the Fox, from its Brazilian subsidiary, having failed to make a profit with its own entry-level model, the Lupo.

The Fox is a designed-in-Brazil cheap and simple small hatchback which you could argue finally takes the company back towards its roots making an affordable “people’s car”. It is, however, intended for international consumption, unlike some previous local VW models which have had little appeal outside South America.


Costing around £6500 ($12,700) here in the UK, the Fox finally gives VW a chance to fight back against rivals who already have well-established factories in the eastern outposts of Europe, where labour costs haven’t (yet) caught up to the increasingly-uncompetitive rates seen in countries like Germany and Belgium (where the European Polo is currently manufactured).
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Fiat’s Polish-made Panda, the new Hungarian-built Opel/Vauxhall Agila (a joint venture with Suzuki) and the Czech-made threesome of the Peugeot 107, Citroën C1 and Toyota Aygo show how shifting production into the former Soviet bloc is paying dividends for carmakers just now.

Strangely, the Fox competes with these rivals on price but feels a class bigger than and as solid as a traditional Volkswagen should be. When you get the tape measure out the reason is evident – the Fox is in fact only three inches shorter than the Polo, and a foot longer than the VW’s previous Lupo tiddler.


The Lupo was actually a fine city car, with cute bug-eyed looks and brilliant build quality, being a cut-down version of a previous generation Polo. Unfortunately it just cost too much to be a success, and had a few other drawbacks, like a luggage compartment the size of a glove box. It will, however, be fondly remembered in years to come, particularly in its slightly manic GTI version.

In Brazil the Fox is available in three- and five-door versions, but only the former makes it to Europe, with deliberately spartan trim and an extremely limited choice of models. Perhaps VW is afraid it will become too popular and steal sales from the home-built Polo. The two cars share a couple of engines, which in the Fox’s case means a 1.2-litre 54bhp three-cylinder, and a rather better 1.4-litre 74bhp four-cylinder, meaning the car isn’t just a city player.

Stylistically the Fox looks reasonably like other VW’s, although the exterior is possibly the least successful part of the package. It certainly appears a backward step from its Lupo predecessor.

It is neat and inoffensive but somehow the proportions aren’t quite right – the Fox appears a little too tall and gawky, and very plain at the rear, meaning there’s less obvious showroom appeal than some of its European competitors.

In these days of belt-tightening, credit squeezes and fears of a recession around the corner, however, the Fox is sensible with a capital S. With its simple, solid and roomy interior – helped by a neat sliding rear seat – and a low purchase price, there is much to recommend it. The Fox is cheap to run, cheap to insure, and offers a pleasant, if unremarkable, driving experience.

Cleverly VW has managed to gloss over its exotic origins, so most buyers probably think their “good value” new hatchback is as German as sauerkraut, which should help its resale value. If only it didn‘t look quite so dull!


Even that could be fixed. Back home in Brazil a chunkier, more aggressive “soft-roader” version, the CrossFox, is also on sale, and it is a whole lot easier on the eye, even if it is still the same front-wheel-drive hatch underneath.

One snag in considering the Fox for the USA is that drivers with long memories may remember that VW tried this trick a few years ago, foisting an unrelated small car in three bodystyles – also designed in Brazil and called the Fox – on Americans from 1987-1993. History seems to record it wasn’t the one of the more successful or fondly-remembered vehicles to carry the Volkswagen badge.

So, there you have it, the VW Fox. Too small, too ordinary, too burdened by previous experience to be a success in North America? Perhaps. If so, Volkswagen’s Brazilian outpost already makes the Polo as well, and it is also already in production in China. If smaller cars than the Rabbit are the order of the day, no doubt VW will find a way.

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Britax Marathon Convertible Car Seat Review
Jan22

Britax Marathon Convertible Car Seat Review

We all love cars here at Techshake, and some of us also love very small people that ride in our cars. Therefore –

By Victoria Mason

01.22.2008

Buying a car seat can be confusing and daunting task for many parents. When my daughter outgrew her infant car seat, I knew I was in for quite the task. There is a lot to consider when buying a car seat. Do you want a convertible car seat or a seat that works for only one stage of the child’s life? Is safety or price guiding your decision? There are as many car seat options as there are rules and guidelines to remember when buying one. Who is the best manufacturer? Does the size of my car factor in? Your mind reels and you begin to feel overwhelmed. Parents need to figure out what is most important to them and work from there. When it was my turn, I just wanted a car seat that was safe, would stand the test of time and my child. The Britax Marathon is a very popular convertible car seat. Being a product reviewer, I had to check it out.

First, ask yourself how much depth and width do you need and/or want in a car seat. The Marathon is great in both these departments. It is 9 inches deep and 11 inches in width. As a convertible car seat, it does double duty. It can handle children weighing five to thirty-three pounds as a rear-facing seat and upwards of sixty-five pounds as a forward facing one. When buying a forward-facing car seat one needs to remember that the seat should last until your child is about four years old or over sixty-five pounds depending on your . As an example of a typical forward-facing car seat, Graco’s ComfortSport convertible car seat can only handle up to forty pounds, which seems to be an industry average. The car seat will be in the car most of the time so weight you might have to lift should not really factor in your decision. For many parents the Marathon is an ideal forward-facing seat. And this is the biggest reason for its popularity as well. It has a high back (24.5 inches) and a roomy seat. It offers the greatest width of any child car seat to date with 1.5 inches more shoulder room. The child feels as if they are finally part of the family in the Marathon. My daughter took to it like Captain Kirk took to his captain’s chair. It seemed heavy at 16.5 pounds, but when I realized it is primarily a stationary seat, I no longer viewed this as a problem.

The Marathon is a full-featured car seat meaning it has some unique features. The sculpted base secures well and fits easily into many vehicles. A car seat should never jut out beyond the seats in your vehicle. The base on the Marathon has a push button release LATCH system with patented Versa-Tether that allows for quick installation. In only minutes and with minimal effort you can install the Marathon. It took me less than ten minutes, and I have never been able to master the art of putting a car seat in a car. However, the first time I had to put the Marathon into my in-laws vehicle I had no trouble removing it or placing it into their car. It was almost intuitive and very logical. There is also the one-handed recline feature. It is hard enough driving with an upset child in the car, and therefore, it’s important that the one handed recline is simple to use even if you are driving. Britax knew what they were doing when they created this feature. It must have been the same day that they decided to create not just one cover, but multiple fashionable car seat covers at moderate prices that are also easy to remove and washable. The ability to remove a car seat cover quickly and wash it is heaven-sent. “Is it washable?”, is one of the first questions a parent asks when purchasing any type of baby gear. If it is, the product sells. What’s more, Britax has added a belly pad and foam (aptly called comfort foam) for additional comfort. My child is not only safe but she is secure and happy in this car seat.

If it is possible to fall in love with a piece of child safety equipment then I did. I fell hard too. The Velcro stays on the sides of the seat are a thing of beauty. This is by far my favorite feature on the Marathon. The stays hold the harness straps in place so that your child does not end up sitting on the straps or tangled in them while you wrestle the tot into place. It is a wonder to me that more seats do not come with this feature. There are multiple slots, four in total, on the back of the seat to re-position the straps as the child grows. Each strap contains a sliding pad so that they do not rub on the child’s neck. The polyester webbing of the straps is strong and the chest clip comfortable. If an accident did occur, I feel confident that the five-point harness straps combined with Britax’s Patented “Floating” HUGS System would keep my child safe. The HUGS System distributes the seats strap loads to reduce head movement and minimize the chance of the straps edges digging into the child’s neck. The HUGS System reduces the chance of improper positioning of the chest clip as well. While one can never be too careful or guarantee anything the Britax Marathon has stood the test of time and .

The Marathon by Britax is just one of many car seats manufactured by Britax, but to me it is the ideal one. It is one durable and sturdy convertible car seat, and just as importantly, it is also easy to use. That last fact alone ensures that it will be in use at our house for years to come. The snugness of the harness combined with the Marathon’s comfort, versatility and safety record make it the best seller that it is today. I find the Marathon as a whole package a tough combination to beat. I have total piece of mind in the Britax Marathon. While some may say that the $299 price tag is steep, I say you get what you pay for and the Marathon is worth every penny. Now if only Britax could just figure out a way to make the Marathon crumb repellent.

Victoria Mason is a freelance writer and product reviewer based in the DC Metro area. She writes frequently for DC Metros Moms, Moms Speak Up and the blogs, and

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The Perfect Design
Jan21

The Perfect Design

By Bruce McCulloch

01.21.2008


The ever-daunting question on the mind of any enthusiast: is there such thing as the perfect design? That special design that you consider just perfect, that design that you honestly think could not have been better?

Evidently, opinions on this matter are to greatly differ. Some enthusiasts think that there is no such thing as the “perfect” design; always implying that something can be “near perfect”, but not “perfect” per se. And on the same note, there are just as many enthusiasts who do indeed feel that there is such as the perfect design.

Now, obviously, us car-nuts are not going to find just one design that we’re all going to agree is perfect. That being said, finding the “perfect” one is of course all down to personal opinion and taste.

I found myself pondering over this question in my kitchen this morning, while eating my delicious left-over cold Hawaiian pizza (what else?). I thought to myself, “surely there must be at least one design that I consider “perfect”, and indeed there is. However, before I came to that solid conclusion, I did a little bit of a look-see into what some of my favourite automobiles were.

And with that on my mind, I was able to come up with a small list of my favourite cars that boast designs that I just happen to love for one reason or another. The first of many which came to mind was that of the Pagani Zonda. If you read my articles on a regular basis, you’ll by now know that I’m highly fond of the Pagani Zonda’s extroverted insaneness when it comes to its exterior. But then I thought, “No” – as much as I like the Zonda, I cannot say that it is the perfect design in my eyes.

But surely, there must be some other considerations from the great (and stylistic) country that Italy is. Well, to be honest, I’ve never been all that fond of the designs that come out the wine-grove. Of course, to say there are no designs from Italy that I appreciate would be trite. I mean, who could ignore such stylistic greats such as the Ferrari 257 GTB/4, Maserati Bora (a personal favourite of mine) and the Lamborghini Miura? But even though I have great deal of appreciation for those designs, I’m going to have to pass on the prospect of referring to any of them boasting a “perfect design”.

Shortly thereafter, I gave thought as to some of my favourite German metal and their many fantastic designs. The BMW Z8 immediately came to mind, as did Porsche’s 993 Turbo and their exclusive flagship, the Carrera GT. Though the three are of an entirely different design language, it must be noted that they’re all so equally fantastic. I had thought that the 993 Turbo with its quirky design and solid-brick metal made finding that perfect design all that bit easier, but then I thought that about the Carrera GT too…

And one cannot forgot such greats from Mercedes-Benz as the good ‘ol 560 SEC and in modern times, the 2008 CL-Coupe. Though, as great as they are, I don’t feel as if I have that whole “spiritual-connection” thing with either of two.

So then, over to the great isle of the United Kingdom and see what they’ve to offer. Well, there are the obvious candidates such as Jaguar and Aston Martin. These two manufacturers have been offering some of the most jaw-slackening metal over the last, oh, some 70+ years. With Jaguar on the map, there’s certainly no shortage of eye-candy; examples such as the XK120 SS, the E-Type and even the XJ220 are proof of this. Naturally, Aston Martin certainly doesn’t disappoint in this regard either. With early-day giants such as the DB4 and the DB5, you might wonder why one (particularly myself) should be looking elsewhere for that perfect design. And then advancing into a more modern era, you’ve got such vehicles as the V8 Virage, the Vantage 600, the DB7 GT and even modern greats such as the DB9 and the V8 Vantage. I must admit, the latter two in this long line of amazing cars, were of great consideration for my pick of the perfect design. These two luxurious GT’s are so perfectly designed from an exterior point of view that it’s hard to find any real faults.

I mean, quite honestly, can you think of anything on the design of either modern-era Aston that’s likely to offend?

Or, if crazy fits your tee, there are always specialist manufacturers such as TVR, Noble and the recently-closed Marcos. All three offer a look into a very different world of design philosophy, and they’re undoubtedly interesting, but are any of them perfect per se? No, I don’t believe so. The vast of them are just too fussy and convoluted to be considered a perfect design in my eyes.

That being said, I suppose it’s only fair for me to explain how I’m judging my criteria for such an honourable award. For me, the perfect design must be, well, perfect. Perfect in the sense that when I see one in the street, I get that good old car-nostalgia; you know; that feeling that you had when you found your first “car love”? A feeling that makes you say think to yourself: “it’s perfect”; “it’s timeless”; “its classic”; “they couldn’t have done it any better”.

And being naturally biased towards Japanese automobiles, I thought I’d take a look over into the country of the Rising Sun and see what lies-in-wait. Toyota being my natural preference when it comes to Japanese autos, I assumed that would be the place to find that perfect design I ever-so seek.

Naturally, the first of many impressive designs that came to mind was that of the Toyota 2000GT. I love this car with a great passion and quite frankly, think it looks just as, if not better than many Italian supercars. With its small proportions and sleek body, Its design is nothing short of lustful. In other words, a worthy contender, you might say.

Meanwhile, more recent designs such as the Celica of 1985 and the Lexus SC400 of 1991, are also very influential and do well to get my motor-inspired heart running at high speeds. But still, I feel there’s something missing; that degree of allure I’m looking for seems to be non-existent in either of those designs.

Nissan has offered a-many interesting designs since it’s founding, but nothing that I deeply desire to be honest.

So, that can only leave one car company left – Honda and affiliated. I must admit – that by and large – to regarding Toyota higher than Honda, but when it comes to designs, I find myself less annoyed with Honda’s themes. Thus my point being, I not only find Honda designs to be a tad more interesting, but also less fussy and ultimately, better looking than Toyota’s.

The NSX is one of those cars, which in my eyes, is just simply amazing. It’s one of those cars that I never tire of – seeing one on the road always induces the same jaw-slackening response from my face. And as much love as I have for the NSX, I’m going to have to pass on the prospect of naming it the perfect design.

But then one particular car came to mind… It’s a car that I must admit to being highly biased towards because my father owned one a couple of years back. And I’m not going to lie, it’s a choice which will surely shock enthusiasts world wide.

Hints: It’s from Honda; it’s small; it’s RWD; it has a four-cylinder engine and it’s a roadster. If you’re familiar with Honda’s history, you know that these characteristics reduce the overall tally to just a few choices: the S500, the S600, the S800 and the S2000.

And the winner is?

Honda S2000:
First generation (Year: 2000-01)


Now, I haven’t any doubt that enthusiasts reading this are going to be wondering what drugs I’m on and how I could possibly place this understated roadster from Honda (of all companies) as my perfect design; even after I’ve ignored such vehicles from Porsche, Aston Martin and Ferrari.

Though, I can’t say I’d blame anyone for wanting a bit of explanation as to my rather surprisingly (and oddball) choice. I specifically remember the day when my father went to dealer to test drive his then later S2000, and as the car had just two seats – I had to be left behind while my father and the dealer took it out for a spin. Disappointing? Surely, but as the car pulled away from the dealer, I had some sort of an automotive epiphany which made me see the S2000 in a different light.

Oddly enough, I had this same epiphany a few months later: as the sun began to set on a warm and vibrant day, the glow of the halogen bulbs and the Silverstone Metallic paint gave off a strange aura. An aura I can only describe as seeing the vehicle as some sort of design perfection. I looked at it and not only thought, “my dear, could they have done that thing any better?”, but I also remember thinking, “I can’t believe that thing isn’t worth twice what its MSRP is”. Dramatic you say? Well, surely it is, but hey – it works for me. It’s still something that I happen to believe to this day. Whereas others might see the S2000 as some low-grade roadster with an understated (perhaps even boring) design, the vehicle in my mind looks to be quite high-class. It’s not a forceful design by any means, but it’s very well conceived; its proportions are all very well thought out with nothing looking too “out there”. As a result, I also happen to feel to the S2000 is quite timeless. Despite the fact that it’s been on the market for nearly eight years now, I don’t think it has managed to date even the least bit; it still looks every bit as fresh today as it did when it was first released.

And as I mentioned above, its proportions are just sublime. Take a look at the front fender, for instance – it’s hard edged, thus keeping the design blocky and compact at the front, whilst managing to give the car a style-theme that gives the nose the classic appearance expected from any front-engine sports car. The under-grill arrangement, albeit simple, looks to be simply awesome. All of which makes for a very clean component of the design, which naturally matches perfectly in-line with the vehicle’s headlamps.

The side profile is really no less impressive with its interesting mix of classic sports car cues, which yet at the same time, manage to be undeniably Japanese. The front end is just right, the windscreen height it set perfectly in cue with the bonnet and the rear is classically short, without being too short. Even the mirrors fixed on the body rather than connected to the windscreen A-pillar, do well to illustrate that the S2000 is indeed a sports car.


And speaking of the rear-end, I cannot for the life of me think of anything that I do not like about it. The exhausts, the diffuser, the light-bar and the tail-lamps are all so perfectly laid out; the latter of which especially with it’s multi-coloured arrangement of lighting. Even the way in which the white coloured lamps divide between the reverse lamp and the signal lamp (orange signal on top, white reverse on the bottom) of the circle is too –oh, how should we say it? – awesome (again). The roll-bars are also well thought out as they are not only functional (as they bloody well should be), but happen to look just right; not only are they not tacky, but they’re – unlike the vast of roadsters – not too big either.


When Honda gave the S2000 a relatively small facelift in 2004, I must admit that I had felt perfection had been needlessly toyed with. Certainly, I understand the need to boost the sales of the already exclusive vehicle, but I couldn’t help but feel that what was added was just knick-knack. Don’t get me wrong, the facelift produces what is still a great looking car, but the original seemed so much more authentic.

When Van Gogh painted his all-famous “The Sunflowers”, did he know what he was onto? After all, he painted so many iterations of this fantastic painting, one has to wonder. His first – painted in 1888 – with its vibrant 12 flowers is undoubtedly his finest, but in the following years Van Gogh completed six more versions. But none of them had the impact of the original. And the same can be said for the Honda S2000. I believe Honda struck perfection when they designed the first generation S2000, and I believe they’ll never top it.

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Bertone Trying to Get Sale Done by Feb 1
Jan21

Bertone Trying to Get Sale Done by Feb 1

Italian design firm has fallen on hard times

By Brendan Moore

01.21.2008

Legendary design house and car maker Carrozzeria Bertone is desparately trying to get a deal done through which Domenico Reviglio will acquire the bankrupt coachmaker. Reviglio, a turnaround specialist, is proposing to save the company by purchasing Bertone from Lilli Bertone, the company’s majority shareholder, chairman, and CEO.

An Italian bankruptcy court placed Bertone in court administration on January 15, and also rejected a previous turnaround plan submitted by Bertone officials, so there is some urgency to consumating the acquisition before the court decides to recommend some other action. Bertone has not built a single car since 2005, and it has gradually fallen into insolvency since that time.

Reviglio’s plan for Bertone says the company will pick up a contract for a small commercial vehicle, an electric version of an existing gasoline engine car, and a havy-duty commercial truck. All of this expected to bring in approximately 39 million euros in revenue in 2008, and 62 million euros in 2009. No word yet on how that business will be sourced at this time.

2008 Bertone Barchetta concept

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Hummer HX Concept is Small, Runs on Ethanol
Jan19

Hummer HX Concept is Small, Runs on Ethanol

By Mike Mello

01.19.2008
Would you buy a Hummer if it was smaller than the brand’s current models and also ran on ethanol? Do you appreciate the Hummer look, or, even want something like today’s H3, but avoid the brand because there’s no alternatively-fueled power plant?

On display now at the Detroit Auto Show is the Hummer HX concept that runs a 3.6L V6 that can burn E85. Smaller than the Hummer H3, the HX rides on a 103 inch wheelbase, is 171 inches long, 81 inches wide and 72 inches tall. This seems to signal that Hummer knows it needs to get smaller and leaner in order to attract new buyers. For people already enjoying their H2 and H3 models, the HX could work for them too, since it maintains the Hummer look.

What’s the Hummer look? A few years ago, I was on a date and told a girl that I thought H2s looked cool and that I was into the styling of the window openings, grille, and overall stance. Even though I said that I wouldn’t be buying one because of gas mileage concerns, the date ended there. Would there have been a second date if I was driving the more environmentally-friendly Hummer HX? I think so. Obviously, if more people considered the HX because of its ability to burn E85, this would be quite a triumph of design, engineering and especially marketing. Right now, it’s no secret that a vehicle like the H2 symbolizes a certain amount of excess, but the HX appears to be up to the challenge of changing some minds.

On the outside, the liberal use of aluminum caught my eye as its employed in the door handles, windshield frame and rear independent suspension trailing arms. The functional air intakes mounted near the windshield base drew me in because of their low-profile, distinctive placement, which is up and out of the way of deep water. Aluminum is also used on the hood vents which open and close in order to relieve under hood temperatures.

All four fender flares are removable on the HX, as well as two roof panels, the slanted rear roof assembly, and the doors. Stored inside the doors are a flashlight, first-aid kit and shovel. The overall size and profile of the HX reminds me of a lifted, convertible Jeep Commando from the late 1960s or early 70s. Is Hummer heading into Jeep territory? Yes. Competition is a great thing, so I can’t wait for the head-to-head tests if the HX becomes a reality. Also planned for the HX is a wagon-like rear enclosure for when you need a little more storage space.
On either end of the HX, you get the expected approach and departure angles thanks to very little bumper overhang. On those bumpers come the signature Hummer font and rear pair of D-rings for off-road recovery and an electric winch is mounted within the front bumper. When traveling at night, the headlights on the HX make use of focusing rings that work like the lens of an auto-focusing camera.
The HX’s interior is full of thoughtful features that will hopefully make it into production. A forward-facing camera built into the rear view mirror is ready to record your off-road adventures, or anywhere else you drive for that matter. After the drive, you can play the video back on the monitor inside the cab or send it to your chosen electronic device. Interestingly, the HX doesn’t come with a radio – only speakers which allow you to plug in your own MP3 player or similar device.

When you’re ready to put the six-speed automatic transmission in gear, the shifter, shaped somewhat like large, sideways “D” is concealed below a lid that pops open to reveal the gearshift. On the dash, the speedometer can change its display, depending on where you’re driving. For off road situations where wheel direction is critical when negotiating rough terrain, the center gauge can switch from MPH and RPM readings to display which direction the front wheels are facing.


The four bucket-style seats are situated on sliding aluminum structures that have been drilled out and fashioned for weight reduction. A weather-resistant neoprene fabric, which seems to be a popular concept car seat material, is used on the HX and the rear seats are removable. Also, each seat is mounted on its own suspension system, where the seat mounts to the exposed track.
The HX looks quite buildable, so I hope we soon get word of a production model. If that happens, the HX would be part of a Hummer lineup that GM says will be completely flex-fuel capable by 2010.
See more photos of the HX concept at .
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Suzuki X-HEAD Hits the Bullseye in Detroit
Jan19

Suzuki X-HEAD Hits the Bullseye in Detroit

By Mike Mello

01.19.2008

Suzuki’s next big ticket could be the X-HEAD concept which is currently revolving on a turntable in Cobo Hall at the Detroit Auto Show. This is the first look at the X-HEAD in North America and I think it’s going to generate a few conversations about Suzuki that will keep people talking. Remember how much fun the Samurai was? This truck has that kind of potential.

To me, the X-HEAD has an appeal similar to that of a Kubota tractor or a John Deere Gator. It looks like the kind of tough, fun, versatile vehicle that makes you want one of your own. Suzuki says the X-HEAD can be outfitted in three different ways: A “Camper” version with sleeping space for two adults, a “Fashion” model that’s geared more for the city, and a “Rescue” edition designed to serve in search and rescue environments.

As you would expect from its looks, the X-HEAD is equipped with four-wheel-drive enhanced by a limited slip center differential. Ground clearance appears to be adequate although I don’t think this is the kind of truck I would want to lift without widening the track width. The overall height appears to be a bit on the tall side, but that’s only from where I’m standing on the show floor in Detroit. A 16-valve DOHC engine powers the vehicle, is backed by a six-speed dual-clutch transmission but there’s no word on what kind of fuel the engine uses.

The X-HEAD’s angular, capable looks continue on the inside where a flashlight that can also function as a hammer is included and a rear-facing camera displays images on a monitor. Those seats with the X-shaped seatbelts are made of neoprene and netting designed to be waterproof and comfortable.


Out back, the bed gives you the opportunity to stow a considerable amount of tools and equipment. I’m not sure if the roll bar is functional but based on the truck’s intended use, one would hope that it is tied into the frame or chassis. Speaking of protection, I wonder if the X-HEAD could be built with some kind of rocker panel protection. The look is great the way it is, but rockers are among the first panels to go when negotiating tough terrain.


Be on the lookout for any updates on the X-HEAD, which has my vote for a total go-ahead in the production department. Hopefully we’ll see some detailed specifications soon accompanied by an arrival date. If that’s the case, the small truck market could get exciting really quickly.

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More F-150 News Coming at Chicago Auto Show

But what will it be…

By Igor Holas

01.18.2008

When Ford revealed the 2009 F-150 in Detroit a almost a week ago there were only a couple details missing from the releases. Among them most notable was the lack of horsepower and torque figures for the engines. All the engines we re-tuned and the 5.4l actually upgraded, so releasing these figures will be more than just a mere formality. Other missing information included mileage, pricing, and other details usually revealed closer to production start. Finally, we would all like to know more details on the upcoming 4.4l Diesel, the 6.2l BOSS, as well as the EcoBoost V6 engine, and the timeline of their introduction to the big truck platform.

However, Ford has alerted some journalists, a couple of the Techshake writers among them, that there is more F-150 news coming. More specifically, this news is supposedly of high importance to people using their F-150 for work. We should know more at the Chicago Auto Show in less than three weeks.

The “working man” focus of this announcement rules out SVT Lightning – probably the most hoped-for announcement from the enthusiast community. Once again, prying more from Ford is a difficult task, so we do not know what this new announcement will be. Speculating, however, we can guess Ford might be finally ready to unleash details about the new engines coming to the F-150 soon after its launch, but we might also be stunned by some unexpected news – we will see in three weeks.

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Riding with Beckett
Jan18

Riding with Beckett

By Roger Boylan

01.18.2008

A while back I was browsing automotive websites, as is occasionally my wont, and I came across an online ad for a well-maintained 1963 Citroen 2CV, a car I’ve always admired for its quirkiness and personality and simplicity of design. A normal car of that type and vintage–it must have been 40 years old at the time, with 80K+ kms. on the clock–would have fetched little more than pocket change, regardless of its condition. But this was no normal car. It had belonged, said the online tout, to “the Irish author Samuel Beckett, who wrote Waiting for God.” (Well, close enough.) Beckett died in ’89, following his wife Suzanne by a few months. They were childless; the car was their sole survivor. And there it was, online; hence the startling starting price of several (five, I think) thousand euros. And it sold, too, within days, to an anonymous buyer, who has remained anonymous.

Not Beckett’s car, but rather one similar used as an example

Beckett, an Irishman who lived in Paris, was raised on long walks in the Dublin hills and preferred that method of locomotion to all others, although as a boy he wrecked a motorbike. He owned no vehicles for the first twenty years of his lifelong residence in Paris; with his feet and the Metro, he didn’t need one. Anyway he was broke, or virtually so, despite–or because of–having written a couple of brilliant comic novels (Murphy and Watt). Then came his famous play Waiting for Godot, but it was more of a critical than a financial success, at first. Not until he was well into his fifties could he afford a car, and by then he needed one to drive from Paris to his newly built country house at Ussy, about thirty miles away. With his working-class sympathies he unhesitatingly went for the French blue-collar workhorse: the 2CV. He bought a new one in 1963. The color suited him fine. To paraphrase Henry Ford’s comment on the always-black Model T: You could have any color you wanted, as long as it was gray. Beckett liked gray. It matched the Paris sky most days, except in summer, and it suited his temperament.

Beckett drove his “Deuche” for 20 years, mostly to and from his country house (a very modest place, more like a cottage than a manor), and to the train stations and airport to pick up visitors. He maintained the car meticulously, and once sprained his arm when he fell into the oil pit at a local service station because he’d just thought of something the mechanic should check for and, in his haste, lost his footing. Another time he drove from Frankfurt to Amsterdam at such (relatively) high speed that he was stopped in Holland by a policeman whom he initially addressed in German, only to find himself threatened with a hefty fine; after switching to French, he received nothing but apologies and wishes for a pleasant journey. “The Dutch still don’t like Germans,” explained his passenger, a German.

In the early 1980s, the garagiste in Ussy who routinely serviced Beckett’s car, who was also the local Citroen dealer, tried to persuade his Nobel-Prize winning customer of the virtues of trading in the old motor for a newer model. Beckett’s 2CV was by then 20 years old and getting a little creaky, but still ran well, and he was attached to it. When the dealer offered him a good trade-in price, Beckett warily inquired what color the new car was. “Yellow,” was the response. Beckett recoiled. “I could not drive a yellow car,” he said, firmly.

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