Friday, 5 June 2009


MINI South Africa launched the MINI Convertible two months ago. Well-known BMW tuner AC Schnitzer is now offering a new range of accessories for the car. Even the power has been upped in the Cooper S, from 128kW to a hectic 166kW. That’s as powerful as the previous generation MINI GP and the Ford Focus ST, but more powerful than that new Golf GTI!

The kit includes things like a new rear skirt, a new front spoiler, a sports exhaust system with chrome finishings and new front styling. Even the interior has been “improved” to show that this is a special car indeed.

I’ll tell you later if AC Schnitzer South Africa/ JSN Motors will offer this new kit as well or not.

*UPDATE: AC Schnitzer South Africa/ JSN Motors said they will not be offering the new MINI kit for the Convertible because they are not a MINI agent anymore and they would lose money by doing so. But if a customer asks they will do it, so I imagine the price would be quite steep.


PEUGEOT SAYS: After the disappointment which followed its unsuccessful bid to win the 2008 Le Mans 24 Hours with the 908 HDi FAP, which stood out as endurance racing's best car, Peugeot Sport has not eased up in the slightest. Twelve months on, it returns to the French classic even stronger thanks to the invaluable additional experience it has gained during its build-up to this year's competition.

Having been able to focus solely on the race, the team goes into the 2009 event feeling composed and confident. That said, surprises are always possible in such an unforgiving contest as Le Mans, an event with a unique blend of human emotion and technical prowess which all manufacturers dream of winning one day, and the legend of which has been forged by countless dramatic turnarounds.

Peugeot Sport has taken onboard the troubles it encountered in 2008 and its programme has since focused on working on the traction control system which gave rise problems when rain started to fall in last year's race, as well as on preventing the radiators from becoming soiled, optimising the tyres with the efficient help of Michelin to match the characteristics of the 908 HDi FAP and on improving wheel-centering to assist the mechanics' work during wheel changes.

In parallel to this work, and to the experience the team has gained at the different circuits it has visited since last June, Peugeot Sport's technical staff have also had to deal with the regulation changes introduced by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest with a view to curbing car performance in 2009.

Thursday, 4 June 2009


Ford has the Ranger, Mazda the BT50, Mitsubishi the Triton and Toyota the Hilux. Now Volkswagen has the Amarok. Entering a new vehicle segment is never easy for any automaker but VW is confident the Amarok will do well. What in the world is an Amarok anyway? I mean VW has been giving its new cars very strange names lately. First it was the Touareg, then the Tiguan and now we have the Amarok bakkie (pick-up truck).

Amarok means “wolf” to the Inuit Eskimos of northern Canada and Greenland. Whether this will be a wolf in sheep or wolf’s clothing will only be confirmed by the passing of time. But its makers are pretty confident that this is the bakkie of the future.

“This name fits the characteristics of our pickup perfectly, which will set new standards in its class,” says Stephan Schaller, CEO of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles. “We took great care selecting this name, which can be used globally and is meant to invoke positive associations in all relevant international markets. The Amarok is a powerful and robust vehicle with great stamina - just like the wolf.”

A range of engines can be expected, mostly turbo diesels, some of which are already found in cars like the Jetta and Tiguan.

The first continent to get the Amarok will be South America in early 2010, then Central America, followed by Europe and then Africa and Australia. For South Africa it means the Amarok could be the second major VW launch for 2010, after the upcoming Polo.

*Pictures show a concept version of the Amarok, the VW Pickup concept first revealed at the 62nd IAA Commercial Vehicles Show in September 2008.


BMW was widely criticised, yours truly contributed his 5c worth to the criticism, when the current 4.0-litre V8 M3 Coupe came out. Absolutely nothing wrong with the driving experience of the M3 but we, I, felt the car could be more distinguished from its lesser siblings, most especially from the 335i Coupe.

I’d like to think some of those calls fell on BMW executives’ listening ears because the M3 is now offered in a limited edition Edition model that addresses some of these concerns. The M3 Edition has a few unique styling characteristics that other M3s do not have.

The car’s interior is matched with one of four exterior colours which are Alpine White, Dakar Yellow and Black, all of which are non-metallic. The one metallic hue is Monte Carlo Blue. I was especially chuffed that the Yellow has returned to M3. I just wish I had pictures to show you. After all, what is an M3 with no yellow option?

All four models come with their tail pipes covered in dark chrome, same as the engine compartment lid and side gills. Even the exterior mirrors are coloured black. Special 19-inch alloy wheels are fitted for that extra touch of exclusivity.

Of course the interior, as mentioned before, is matched to the exterior as far as colours are concerned. Carbon structure leather is included while the centre console and arm rests on the doors panels are done in white on the Alpine White and the Black models.

Power remains the same at 309kW (420hp) and torque is still 400Nm. BMW says the M3 will hurl off into the bright 100km/h horizon from standstill in just 4.6 seconds for the M-DCT double-clutch transmission and 4.8 seconds for the 6-speed manual.

The cars are priced at R831 000 for the Black and the Alpine White models while the Yellow and Blue cars cost R837 000. A standard M3 will set one back R762 000.

Only 20 M3 Edition models are coming to South Africa. How exclusive is that?

Wednesday, 3 June 2009


One McLaren F1 down, more to go? That’s the sad question on many enthusiasts’ lips after another example of these magnificent supercars was partly destroyed in a fire. Owned by this guy called Irv Kessler from Santa Rosa in California, the car is now appears to be a write-off.

There’s currently no word yet as to what exactly happened but the story is that Mr Kessler, 53, was driving down a local road when a fellow motorist pointed out to him that smoke was coming out of his McLaren. Then the engine which is mounted in the middle-rear caught fire.

Fire fighters were able to douse the blaze before it entered the cabin. Kessler has apparently not driven his US$1.8 million prized possession in the past 6 months. He told one fire fighter that it is insured for up to US$3 million. McLaren Automotive has some 8 dedicated service centres around the world for the F1. Technicians can even be flown in to work on them but if there’s extensive structural damage then the car will be flown to England for repairs.