TransSport 2014 Part Two

While SMX is a much smaller venue than the Philippine World Trade Center, there’s still a lot of space for a good number of cars to be shown. Besides, with the lack of manufacturer presence, the quality of the cars on show will most certainly make up for the smaller numbers.

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Try cutting this off.

We left off with the burgundy Mustang Mach 1, and we continue with the hulking thing on wheels that was parked across it.

You might recall the early 1990’s when the military-spec AM General Hummer was made available for civilian purchase, and every Schwarzenegger-wannabe had to have one. Those civilian Hummer H1s were available up until 2006 as a ridiculous toy for those who could afford it, even if it was hilariously capable off-road.

Well, Alana Motors Corporation (AMC) decided to try their hand at giving Filipinos a taste of the H1 at a steep discount with the AMC Hammer. Today they have a slew of models based off the Hammer, and have a new one in the stable: the KR1. If you’ve seen the movie Fast Five, then this SUV-on-steroids will look familiar. Or maybe you’ve seen the armoured, whale-leather-lined SUV’s that Dartz makes.

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It looks all business with the flat black paint and exposed rivets, but I’m not entirely sure this actually carries armour plating. A quick knock on the panels would answer the question, but the plastic chain links told well enough to keep away unless invited. Besides, the polite thing to do when dealing with anyone else’s property is to ask before touching. That being said, the design looks ready to accept armour plating and reinforced glass, plus there’s a lot of suspension travel available to handle the extra weight.

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Also, you can stuff a whole lot of tire under the fender, as the show car exhibits, for all that extra weight. The AMC Hammer (one of which was sat beside the KR1), uses Patrol hardware under the body, so it’s still pretty capable off-road. I’m not sure what hardware the KR1 uses, but it’s probably not completely useless when the pavement ends. The likely scenario, judging solely on the design, is that it is marginally less capable than the Hammer.

Still, I have to admit that I can’t find the question to which the KR1 is the answer. While it can be armoured, it’s much too obvious for a person of high profile and high risk; an armoured Range Rover still blends into traffic better. Those looking for an off-roader will go towards something less cumbersome, and turning one into a family hauler is just silly. For collectors, the truly extroverted and the lovers of the eccentric perhaps, this vehicle makes sense, but otherwise I struggle to find the question mark to the KR1’s battalion of exclamation points.

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Up next is a car that doesn’t need to be questioned: the VW Type 34 Karmann Ghia. The Type 34’s creases, edges and flat surfaces are a sharp contrast to Type 14 Karmann Ghia’s flowing curves. The Karmann Ghias were Volkwagen’s attempt at creating a halo car for the brand, in response to the growing affluence of the world. Styling for both the Type 14 and 34 came from Carrozzeria Ghia, and construction was carried out by the German coachbuilder Karmann, hence the name. Don’t let the styling fool you though, as both cars shared their platforms and drivetrains with VW’s more pedestrian models; the Type 14 was a Beetle underneath, and the Type 34 was a 1500 in designer clothes.

This particular Type 34 is picture-perfect in its somber shade of grey-blue. The front end, with the integrated fog lamps and that swooping crease, is extremely distinctive, while the rear end might be mistaken for a contemporary Corvair. In my opinion, the crease is one of the best styling features of the Type 34. It starts from the front bumper, swoops right around both front lamps and terminates at the door handle. A second crease drops down just behind the door and picks up right where the first one drops off, forming a brow over the rear lamps and going right around to the other side. It’s all the decoration the car needs, and gives the design a distinct break right in the middle.

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Those are wax swirls.

While I prefer the Type 14’s curves, the Type 34 does have its own appeal about it. The Type 14 is far more Italian in its execution, with its “pontoon” fenders, barely-ornamented body and shrink-wrapped packaging. Meanwhile, American influence is very clear in the Type 34’s design, with the aforementioned crease, integrated fenders and the general uprightness of the design.

According to the Type 34 Registry, 42,505 cars were produced, and only at least 1,500 remain today: that’s quite an attrition rate. The registry also reports that there are 15 of these cars in the country. Here’s a sample of how put-together the registry is. If my eyes don’t deceive me, then the body colour is Bermuda, colour code L288, and offered from 1965 to 1968; the roof is in Lotus White, code L282, offered from 1967 to 1968. However, the registry shows that roofs were painted the same colour as the body starting 1967, and the factory never paired Bermuda with any shade of white, so this is probably a repaint, albeit a very high-quality one. Frankly, it’s amazing what a following these cars have garnered over the years, with the extremely put-together online registry as prime evidence.

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Beside the Type 34 we have this mind-numbingly fresh E30 BMW 325i from 1987. According to the card placed on the windshield, this example has 2,900 kilometres on the clock, which is just a ridiculous number for a car like this. Yes, older cars with less mileage have turned up in the past, but for an E30 3-Series sedan it’s a silly number. The E30 is one of the most celebrated generations of the 3-Series, having given rise to the original M3 and helping cement BMW’s reputation as the enthusiast’s choice of practical German performance machines.

The 3-Series follows the stead of the “New Class” 1968 2002 two-door sedan. Armed with the venerable M10 four-cylinder, fully independent suspension, tidy dimensions, and an engaging drive, the 2002 – and New Class cars in general – captured the hearts of enthusiasts.

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Utterly perfect.

In the 80’s, BMW occupied an enviable place in the luxury market. They were charging premiums the Japanese and American brands could only wish for, and yet the average age of their market was lower than that of Mercedes. BMW was the poster child of new 80’s luxury, sidestepping the dowdy old-world image of Mercedes-Benz and turning a nose up at the gaudy, tarnished image of Lincoln and Cadillac. The E30 was the benchmark of its class, and the M cars were setting records on the track and helping to move the more pedestrian models.

I like the boxy goodness of the E30, especially the sedan, but my favourite BMW is the E24 6-series, preferably in M635CSi trim. As for the evergreen 3-Series, the E30 sedan is only second on the ladder; the one at the top of the heap would be an E36 325is coupe, in silver, riding on Throwing Stars.

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Up next we have a pair of nicely-kitted sedans. The red wheels on the Vios are a bit much, and it does seem like the aftermarket has yet to decide how to alter the new Vios’ looks. There is nothing more than a lip and some skirts on the Vios, while the grey Elantra has a new bumper. The shapes of the new intakes are an improvement in my eyes, but they could stand to be smaller. I get that large intakes are a calling card of huge power, but when most of your “intake” is actually blocked off, then it’s probably a good idea to downsize your intakes.

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More bodykits, more intakes, but this time with more power to back it up. These three cars are from Autoline Motorsports, showing off what they can do with modern Japanese iron. Of the three, the blue BRZ in the middle is the most conservatively kitted, although “conservative” here is best applied relatively.

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The kit on the GT-86 builds on the basic lines of the stock machine, extending the bumper but keeping the overall shape of the central intake. The head lamps are the higher-end items, with the LED daytime running lamps and projectors. Looking at it from this angle, it kind of looks like a snake extending its fangs in warning. If the exposed intercooler peeking out under the bumper is anything to go by, then there’s probably some venom under the hood.

On the other hand, for some reason I’m also reminded of Kermit the Frog when I look at this car. It’s probably just the shade of green it’s in.

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What doesn’t remind me of Kermit is this Impreza. First things off, there are a lot of scoops, vents and flaps on this car. You have the usual scoop on the hood, plus some extractors on both sides. Then you have the intakes on the bumpers, accompanied by the front lip and the canards. Then as if those weren’t enough, even the grille has a slot cut into it; all in the name of managing airflow around the front of the car to cool the engine and produce downforce. Autoline had a TV beside the Impreza, showing off some speed runs they did along highways. While I don’t condone reckless driving, these guys seemed to know what they were doing, and there is enough power in the car to warrant all those vents and flaps, along with the huge wing on the back.

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Now we move on to something a little more extreme. This little orange number – and yes, it is a small car – is from Factor Aurelio, and this is their first attempt at making a homegrown, all-Filipino supercar. Yes, supercar; this one is fitted with a turbocharged Mitsubishi 4G63T, tuned up and mounted behind the passenger cab in the rear mid-engine layout that has been typical of supercars since the 1966 Lamborghini Miura.

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The vents tell all of where the engine is. While the engine’s numbers are yet to be released, that 4G63T is going to need a lot of air if it’s going to make supercar numbers. Well actually, if Factor Aurelio manages to keep the weight down, then they won’t need that much power and engineering trickery to produce a great car. Remember, weight is the enemy, especially when it comes to producing driving enjoyment.

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This car is supposedly the closer to production of the two cars Factor Aurelio brought to the show, but looking at the car reveals some areas that are still to be refined. Just to be clear: this is not a negative comment on the cars that Factor Aurelio brought. We can all understand how hard it is to build anything from scratch, and a car company is right up there at the top of the difficulty ladder, just below finding true love. The McLaren F1’s influences are very clear in the design of the car, and as starting places go you can’t do much better than Gordon Murray’s masterpiece.

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This yellow car is fitted with a tuned B16A engine from Honda. The choice of engines tells me that Factor Aurelio know what they are doing. So long as the details are all sorted out, the 4G63 is a good base for a turbo build, and the B-series engines from Honda are very easy to exploit and tune. If they were looking for a more reliable base for a turbo build, they probably could have gone for either a Toyota 2JZ or a Nissan RB-series straight six, but those engines are much harder to package in small cars, aside from being quite expensive.

With a carbon fibre body and a tube frame chassis clothed by a body that has been aerodynamically tested, I’m pretty excited to see Factor Aurelio start turning out these cars. Apparently the orange car, with the turbo 4G63, is pegged to sell for around PhP1.6 million. A B16-equipped version will probably sell for less, and is the one I’d take. As addicting as turbo power and the wooshing of a blow-off valve is, I would much rather run gears right up to a dizzying redline.

I am genuinely excited to see what Factor Aurelio can produce. So far all homegrown Filipino cars have been decidedly utilitarian efforts, from the passenger jeepney to the Anfra from FMC. It’s about time we started making cars that can set hearts and roads on fire.

We’re not done yet, as we still have some vintage American and European iron to look at, along with another homegrown sports car and a couple of rave clubs loosely disguised as trucks.

-Words by Kristoff, pictures by Eugene

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