AutoDesigno Cars of Character

Designer Derek Jenkins and the  Miata©2014 Toni Avery

Designer Derek Jenkins and the Miata©2014 Toni Avery

It’s not everyday that a Cadillac El Miraj concept, 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata, BMW i8 and a Hyundai Genesis concept meet together for one occasion. Lucky enough for me, I was invited to see just that.

Earlier this week, AutoDesigno, a special organization dedicated to all design professionals in the automotive design industry, held a panel featuring designers from Cadillac, Mazda, BMW and Hyundai. Prior to the actual panel discussion I was asked to take some photos of the cars. Below are slide shows featuring my favorite images of each of the featured cars at the event.

Each manufacturer also brought out a more mainstream production car to sit beside the concept or in Mazda and BMWs case the production car. The only featured car out of the four that is actually in production is the BMW i8, while the Mazda MX-5 Miata is expected to land in showrooms late 2015. Cadillac and Hyundai’s featured cars were concepts, showcasing the most interesting and far-out design elements. The car that really made the biggest impact on me was the El Miraj concept, and you’ll see why below.

During the panel, the designers were asked a variety of design related questions including “What makes a car cute” “What makes a car mean” and a little into their history at their current positions. Of course owning a Miata, I took special interest in meeting Derek Jenkins. I told him about my Miata Club and he mentioned that he had a hand in the car, specifically the black roof and mirrors.

Anyways enough talk, now for the best part of the event, the photos:

2016 Mazda Miata MX-5

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BMW i8

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Hyundai Genesis concept

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Cadillac El Miraj concept

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Cars & Coffee Malibu

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

Car shows offer some of the best drooling material for free anywhere. Now I’m not talking Pebble Beach stuff, just good old Cars & Coffee gatherings where car guys and girls bring their prized possessions and look at others.

The biggest Cars & Coffee event near me is all the way in Irvine, CA, which is over an hours drive even without traffic. I found out about a new Cars & Coffee that just got its start this month in Malibu, CA. Most people think Malibu and picture the uber rich with beach front homes, I do, but this new Cars & Coffee might be one of the most humble shows I’ve been to in quite some time.

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The ride over to the show is also one of the best I’ve been on. From the 101 freeway to Malibu Canyon for a fun run. Leaving at 6:30 AM on a Sunday ensures no traffic, except for the occasional Volvo trundling along. The show’s right across from the beautiful Pepperdine college campus. I was one of the first cars there, behind my dad, so I got a Hot Wheels toy! Coffee, Orange Juice, Hot Cocoa and some morning pastries awaited show goers.

Standing around talking to fellow car guys/gals a nice orange 911 pulls in and someone says “That’s Chad McQueen.” My grandfather photographed Steve (Chad’s dad) and I’ve got the famous shot of Steve driving his XKSS from the perspective of my grandpa in the passenger seat, hanging on my wall.

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

I got a shot of Chad with his car and before I knew it my dad and him were talking about my grandpa and Steve and old stories they’d shared. I was lucky enough to grab a few minutes of his attention for some questions.

Tell me a little about your dad. Chad leaned back a little and replied, “Well, that’s such a broad thing. He was a wise man, very informative with cars. That’s one thing we got to enjoy together was a lot of car stuff. He had a huge collection of cars and motorcycles. I was the guy that got to wash and wax them,” he laughed. I asked if he still has any of his dads cars and Chad commented, “Yes, I’ve got the first car he ever bought new, which was a ’58 Speedster and his two-liter 911 S. It’s getting to the point where I can’t enjoy them like I used to because of the value, but I still drive them maybe 1,000-2,000 miles a year.”

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After being pulled away by other car people and McQueen fans, Chad came back for one last question. What’s one car you still lust after? “Race car or street car? I’m actually pretty satisfied, very satisfied with the Porsche’s I have. I’m a Porsche guy obviously. I just spent 1,400 miles in a 997 GT3 RS, I like that a lot. I drove the 918,” I interrupted to ask how he liked it and Chad replied, “It’s unreal.”

I thought it was unreal to meet Steve’s son. He was such a cool dude, genuinely nice and just a big car guy. This won’t be my last time at Malibu Cars & Coffee. I love the feel of the small gathering, but I have a feeling with the way LA car people are it wont be small for too much longer.

Petersen Museum Gala

©2014 Toni Avery

Beach Boys ©2014 Toni Avery

One of the most well-known and beloved automotive museums in the US is closing its doors for the next year or so. As many of you have heard, the Petersen Museum is going under a complete inside and out transformation bringing it into the 21st Century.

The museum houses an incredible collection of Hollywood cars, alternative energy cars, Sport Coupes, Hot Wheels and so much more. There’s even a vault below the museum that’s open to the public select times of the year.

It’s time for a makeover, and to help kick that off, the Petersen held a special Gala honoring some industry greats while also raising money for the transformation. James Farley Jr. of the Ford Motor Company (Entrepreneur award), Keith Crain (Journalism award) of Crain Communications and Michael Love (Spirit award) of the Beach Boys were honored with awards in excellence.

Several influential members of the automotive community spoke about the honored guests including someone more in the Political side of the media; Bill O’Reilly. Bill, being a huge Beach Boys fan, made a nice video piece congratulating Michael Love on his award.

I was asked quite last minute to help out with some red carpet shooting for the event. Below in the slideshow are some automotive industry greats and celebrities that showed for the event.

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For me, two of the coolest things that happened at the Gala was the live show from the Beach Boys and seeing Ian Callum again. If you’d read my blog before you’ve probably seen a few photos of Ian and I. Every time we met he always remembers me and couldn’t be nicer! That’s one of the great things about being in this industry; you meet some of the most interesting people and for the most part they’re really nice.

Ian Callum and I

Ian Callum and I

I’m so excited to see the new Petersen December 2015 (estimated completion date). If you haven’t been or even if you have more times than you can count, trust me, this transformation is going to make the Petersen one of the best museums in the Country.

#MPGtrackdays Track Driving: Viper TA vs. Jaguar V6 S Coupe – Competing for the top spot

Toni w Viper TA

Viper TA (Time Attack)

Have you ever driven something and the only thing that comes out of your mouth is “Wow?” That was me when I drove the new Viper TA at MPG Track Days. I’m a pretty die-hard European Sports Car girl but the Viper helped me to experience the awesomeness that is American Muscle.

The first thing the instructor sitting in the passenger seat said to me was something to the effect of: “Whatever you ask it to do, it does. If you think about turning the wheel it does. Get a feel for it and have fun.” And that’s just what I did.

The seating position was perfect. The seats felt like something you’d find in a luxury sedan. The quality of the interior was nice but not flashy. The outside was already a screaming in your face orange, which made for a nice contrast to the black interior.

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*Images in slide show credited to Andrew Yeadon for SRT. Due to the limited amount of time with the cars on track I was unable to get detail/overall shots

I felt so completely comfortable pushing it in the Viper. The steering was ridiculously light, to the point where I forgot I was driving a car of the Viper’s 3,000+ pound weight. The car’s 640 bhp didn’t scare me like I thought it would. The gearbox was really smooth, it’s probably one of the best I’ve driven in a long time. Turning through the large sweeping bend at the back of Big Willow was more fun than I’d had all day and I just kept telling myself, “You’re driving a Viper! On the track!”

I thought I was going at a pretty good pace till the instructor offered to take me around in the car. That’s when I officially felt like and old lady. On every lap he hit the rev limiter BA-BABBRRAAAAA before he shifted up to the next highest gear. He was probably driving at eight-tenths his limit while that would have been fifteen-tenths for me.

For the Viper to completely change my perception of American cars, it has to be good. I’m hoping to take to the track in the Viper again very soon.

Toni w F-Type Coupe V6S

Jaguar V6 S Coupe

After making my way to Streets of Willow to drive the Alfa Romeo 4C, I discovered an F-Type V6 S Coupe just begging to be driven.

The interior is what you’d expect from a Jaguar. Beautiful leather, high-end touches throughout and an incredibly comfortable seating position. Getting in, I headed towards the track not knowing what to expect from the British Racing Green cat.

What a car! Practically every corner where I carried even a decent amount of speed the back-end just wanted to snap out, and I loved every minute of it. It’s intentional oversteer and not the scary kind. I really believe it made my drive even more fun.

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*Images in slide show credited to Jaguar. Due to the limited amount of time with the cars on track I was unable to get detail/overall shots

The paddles offer quick up and down shifts. And the noise that emanates from the car is just to die for. A lot of SNAP CRACKLE and POP. The F-Type might have been the best sounding car of the day. The steering was insanely responsive, so much so that I caught myself laughing out loud.

At one point I got stuck behind someone just crawling in an Evo. I mean crawling. On my last lap, of course. I pull in and turn the car off only to find everyone waiting for the car smiling into the window. “We all saw that. We feel bad. You want to go out for another lap?” My eyes widened as I blurted out “Yes” and “Thank You.” Off I went for another lap in the gorgeous cat.

I’d love to get my hands on another F-Type Coupe. To me, if I had the money it’s hard to beat as a track car. But hey, I’ll take one as my grocery getter.

#MPGtrackdays Track Driving: Alfa Romeo 4C

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

You know the feeling. The one you get when something you love stops being made. Like your favorite flavor of ice cream. I feel that way when Eggnog latte’s go out of season at Starbucks. But nothing can be as heartbreaking as when your favorite automaker stops producing cars for your country. That’s what happened to me when Alfa Romeo left the USA for a “break.”

I grew up around Alfa’s. My dad time trial raced a pristine GTV6 and a 1971 1750 GTV with the Alfa Club. I watched my mom learn how to drive stick in my dads GTV6 from my baby seat, so I’ve been told. And I experienced my first broken heart when my dad sold our perfect 1972 Montreal. All 60 pounds of me running after it in the street.

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

When Alfa announced their comeback to the USA I could finally stop holding my breath. After many failed attempts to make a comeback in the US, the major tease Alfa dubbed the 8C, and again more delay, Alfa returned. The Alfa Romeo 4C is a stunning piece of metal finished in the finest materials with the heart of an Italian.

When we all realized at the street drives during MPG Track Days that the Alfa wouldn’t be available till we got to Willow Springs we signed our names away on the wait list in hopes of piloting the Italian masterpiece. I was about to be reunited with Alfa again.

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

After what felt likes decades my name was next on the list and I carefully stepped into the 4C. The car is much easier to get in than my Lotus Elise and the seats are much more comfortable, holding the driver in place. The cockpit felt more roomy with plenty of space for the driver and passenger without feeling like sardines. Even the flat bottom steering wheel was perfectly placed. Everything was just so beautifully crafted with every detail thought out perfectly. From the carbon fiber door sills to the intricate red stitching applied throughout. I went into this expecting an Italian version of my Elise, because that’s the rumor I had heard. But sometimes expectations can cloud your judgment.

Accelerating into the first turn the car felt heavier than I expected. The blip up and down shifts sounded very cool with an abrupt, short deep tone. It was harder to turn than I expected, with no power steering and feeling like it weighed more than my flyweight Elise at 1,960 pounds. I felt like it needed some sort of assistance. But again that’s because I was comparing it to my Lotus with no power steering and incredibly easy to turn.

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

One of the biggest downfalls to driving such a popular car is that once you get in it, it’s been run hard and not always right. An example of this were the brakes. I felt there was a slight delay between my pressure on them and the actual braking taking place. I’ll blame that on a whole mess of journalists ringing the crap out of the car.

The biggest letdown wasn’t the car at all, it was when I saw the checkered flag entering the straight on the beginning of my second lap. When the track closes down for lunch it really closes down, no matter how long you’ve been waiting to get into the thing.

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

They might have felt bad that I didn’t get my three laps in because when I got out of the car they asked if I’d like to take it and get a couple of shots. I said yes before they could finish their question. That’s when they handed me the keys and told me to bring it back when I was finished. You want to know what Christmas in October feels like. There you have it kids.

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Toni w Alfa 4C

#MPGtrackdays Street Driving: BMW M4 vs. Ford Mustang GT

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

Motor Press Guild, or MPG, is an organization dedicated to bringing automotive related press together for networking, events, dinners and drives. One of the perks of being a member is access to cool cars on events such as Track Days, a two-day event dedicated to allowing members access to the latest and best cars available.

Day one consisted of street driving in and around the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. With an array of cars to choose from I was like a little kid Christmas morning. Group 1 got access to the street drive cars first with an optional second outing later in the day. Those cars are coming up soon in another post. Toni w Mustang Mustang GT: With all new styling and features like IRS (independent rear suspension) I knew this would be a fun drive. First impressions of the interior were very positive. The two-tone seats and doors were a very cool alternative to the traditional and popular black on black color combination. This GT came equipped with the Performance Package that includes a strut-tower brace, Brembo brakes, special wheels and tires and 3.73 Torsen rear axel. These are just some of the great items included in the package.

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After shifting into first gear, I felt the gearbox was very easy to navigate and not as clunky as I expected. The car felt more nimble around corners and more tossable. It felt as if it wanted to be driven hard and liked to run at higher speeds. The new GT is not lighter than its predecessor, while feeling as though it was, weighing in at 3814, a total of 196 pounds over a similarly equipped last gen GT. Engine noise and exhaust notes were nice but not too overwhelming. With a nice Borla or Ford Motorsports exhaust swap, this GT would surely wake up all the neighbors. I didn’t want to put the windows up.

As my short drive came to a close I couldn’t help but keep the huge smile I had plastered on my face. Having driven the last gen Mustang and then this, I have to say I wouldn’t be unhappy for one second owning this car. Toni w M4 BMW M4: I’ve been a huge M fan since the day I took to the track in an M3 a couple years back. Ever since that first press of the accelerator I was hooked. Sometimes I spend hours just building my very own M on the BMW website just to see how much I’d have to be broke to get some M in my life. So going into this I very much wanted to fall in love all over again.

First disappointing item was the transmission, an M Double-clutch auto. I’m a diehard manual fan and BMW has one of the best manual transmissions in the business. I had to get over my disappointment quick because I was about to take to the street in the beast.

There were two drive modes for this M4: M1 and M2. M2 is the mode for more sport driving with the mandatory use of the paddles. I started in this mode to get the most fun out of the car that I could. The exhaust note and engine noise was good but not great. I’m sure at higher speeds the car would sound pretty mean. I found that in the lower gears when the car would near redline that it would buck like a wild and angry horse. That was pretty uncomfortable. But acceleration was quick and so were the shifts.

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As much as I’d like to of driven the entire drive in M2 mode I figured I needed to experience M1 even if for a couple blocks. And that was about all I could take. Once switched to M1 mode, or comfort mode, the nice exhaust note was barely audible and I felt like I was in a standard 4-Series Coupe. After about three blocks I couldn’t take it anymore and I switched back to M2 for the last couple of blocks of fun.

Between the Mustang and the M4 just based off the street drive I felt the Mustang was more tossable and nimble. Impressions of the interior were underwhelming. I actually thought the Mustang interior looked more expensive and well thought out. It was pretty dark in there with everything finished in either black or dark grey. But the exterior is great. BMW has always built and deigned beautiful cars and the M4 is no exception. Just for the looks and name alone I’d take an M4, but a manual please.

Final thoughts: Overall I really enjoyed driving the Mustang GT and the BMW M4. Both are totally different cars with different feelings, noise and price points. I’d really love to spend at least a week with each of these to get better acquainted and to possibly change my mind or just to fall more in love with both.

P.S. There’s more to come! I just wanted to share these first two drives as a comparison, but I’ve got more coming including some track drives…..stay tuned!

Ferrari North American 60th Anniversary Car Show

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

Beverly Hills residents woke to the wonderful sound of Italian engines roaring to their resting place honoring 60 years of Ferrari in North America. Rodeo Drive was flooded with Roso Corsa Ferrari’s and millions of dollars worth of rolling sculpture.

Spectators were greeted by a sea of historic, stunning, rare and treasured Pracing Horses. Anything from the ultra rare racing beauty 330 P4, considered by some to be the most beautiful racing Ferrari ever built, to past celebrity owned 275 GTB/4 purchased new by Steve McQueen. Whatever your preference, this historic show had it all. The below slide show features some celebrities who showed for the event.

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Not only were there Ferrari’s parked on Rodeo Drive for the show, but there were Ferrari’s parked for blocks and blocks totaling 1,000 Ferrari’s in and around the show premises.

Below you’ll find slideshows of some stunning examples that caught my attention in addition to a special reveal of the F60 America built to honor 60 years in North America.

512 M Penske/Sunoko

Raced in North America, this car was purchased in 1970 by Roger Penske and was sponsored by Sunoko. Mark Donohue and David Hobbs raced the 512 M, which was usually fastest but never took a win due to accidents and misfortune.

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330 P4

The 330 P4 is considered to many the most beautiful Ferrari racecar ever built. It took second place honors at 24 Hours of Daytona (piloted by Mike Parkes and Lodovico Scarfiotti) in 1967 as part of the 1-2-3 finish among other significant achievements. Out of the three 330 P4s built this is the only original car remaining with the others converted to Spyders with larger engines.

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 312 PB

The 312 PB was Ferrari’s answer to the new rules for 1972 World Manufacturers’ Championship limiting entries to 3 liters. The 312 PB was essentially a two-seat version of the 312 Formula One car. This resulted in a sweep of the 1972 Championship except LeMans, which the car didn’t enter. After two races in 1973 it was not raced again. As seen on the side of the car, it was piloted by Brian Redman and Arturo Merzario.

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1958 Pontoon Fender 250 TR

This car was raced in LeMans and other international events in 1958. The car changed owners throughout its life finally being restored to its original 1958 LeMans appearance.

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1957 625/250 TRC

This car possibly has the best racing record of any single car of the period with at least 25 wins driven by John von Neumann (West Coast Ferrari Distributor), his step-daughter Josie, Richie Ginther and Ken Miles.

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275 GTB/4

Purchased new by Steve McQueen, this particular car was ordered to be driven while his NART Spyder was being repaired. Somewhere along the way, through owners changing hands, the car was sinfully converted to a NART Spyder but has been recently restored back to the way it was when Steve owned it.

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375 MM Coupe

Originally ordered as a 375 MM Pinin Farina Spyder, the owner, an Italian movie director, had it rebodied by Scaglietti as a coupe after a minor accident. Purchased by the current owner in 1995, it underwent a comprehensive restoration recently taking “Best of Show” honors at Pebble Beach Concours. This 375 MM Coupe is the first post-WWII car in over 50 years and the first Ferrari to ever win that title.

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250 Europa GT

The 250 Europa GT differs from the 250 Europa in these ways: The GT rode on a 2600 mm chassis while the Europa’s was 2800 mm, the GT used a smaller Colombo-designed block in its 3 liter engine making it more nimble.

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365 GTS/4 Daytona Spyder Speciale

Shown by Pininfarina at the 1969 Paris Auto Show, this Daytona features a brushed stainless steel roll bar with a zip-out plastic rear window, resembling a Targa top. This car is described as a special prototype and remains in original condition.

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250 GT LWB Berlinetta “Tour de France”

This car is a Scaglietti built lightweight competition oriented berlinetta body built on a 250 GT LWB chassis. After multiple successes at Tour de France, the car was nicknamed as so. This is a later version with the single louver/air vent on the sail panel.

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458 SpecialeA

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F60 America

Built in celebration of 60 years in North America, the car features a V12 engine, finished in Blu Nart (but can be ordered in a different color), an all-red driving position/cockpit and is based on the F12berlinetta. Limited to just 10 examples, each and every one has already sold.

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