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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Affordable Supercar Series: Maserati

It may seem odd to some that the Affordable Supercar Series has yet to cover an Italian marque. Most people do think of that boot-shaped country whenever they hear the word "supercar." Well, there's good reason for such a delay. To tell the truth, very few cars from Italy can be described as both "affordable" and "super." However, we at Flappy Paddle Heads have persevered to find a car more super than a Fiat Panda and more affordable than a Lamborghini Countach.

This is the Maserati Coupe. It was Maserati's re-entry into the United States in 2002 under the ownership of Ferrari. Yes, the same Ferrari that makes your neck hurt every time one flies by in the other direction. This car could also be had as a convertible, or spyder in Italian parlance. The only other options to really consider are a proper 6-speed manual versus a automated single clutch manual called Cambiocorsa and a conventional suspension as opposed to the adaptive Skyhook suspension. I'll give you a minute to digest all that.

Luckily, there was no decision to be made when it came to the engine department. Stuffed in this gorgeous wrapper is a 4.2 liter V8 that produced atleast 385 horsepower and 333 lb-ft of torque. This was enough to catapult this 3700 pound grand tourer to sixty in 4.7 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 13.2 seconds. Even with all that weight, it could still hold on to the skidpad for .88g and be hauled down repeatedly with fade free brakes.

All this performance and sexy understated sheet metal can be bought for as little as $27,000 according to current Ebay prices. My personal choice would be a 2004 Gransport which has a few more horses but a much better sorted set of suspenders. With prices that low, you won't be relegated to boxed wine and Chef Boyardee for a matching Italian dinner.

Specs courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Emerging Automakers: Pt. 4 of 4

Finally! I know, I really took my time here. On my defense, there were two attempts made to begin Pt. 4... unfortunately both ended abruptly with the computer freezing. Is my computer secretly a gear head? Is it trying to send me a message?

Nevertheless, deep apologies to whoever held their breath in anticipation. You’re probably already dead…

In my last post, readers may recall that I had little praise for the Chinese automakers (links here: pt.3, pt.2, pt.1).

In short, I signed the Chinese automakers off for being overambitious. I think we can all agree that a good way to judge whether a brand new automobile will be successful is by considering whether it has what it takes to be competitive in the segment it is entering in. It does not make any sense at this time for the Chinese to try and emulate German cars. For one reason or another, that is exactly what the Chinese has chosen to believe as the recipe for success. In the international market, however, consumers will not be fooled and no one is cross shopping between a BYD and a BMW. Period.

However, I ended the last post with a hopeful suggestion—“Can there be any emerging automaker that I do appreciate coming from Asia?”

Oliver Enojado, a friend and an early reader of our blog, messaged me with a very short answer. “No.”

But I have an answer. Ready? Tata! Does it sound familiar? No, it's not to be mistaken with tatas, you’ll have to get your fix of sleaze on some other website!

Tata is an Indian motor company famous for their purchase of the Jaguar and Land Rover brands from Ford. That’s for another time. In this post I want to talk about the Tata Nano. They made a car that made sense.


A particular issue Tata addressed, and this deserves a bit of discussion, is the global economy. The Tata Nano’s MSRP starts at an approximate $2500 USD, effectively honoring Nano as the least expensive car in the world.


The country of India did not receive as much media hype as China but there is no doubt that they are a major player in the current economic climate. Their cities are growing extremely rapidly and Tata sees the importance of not allowing the people become left behind by poor infrastructure. Cars are more expensive than what the average family would be able to afford so many families purchase a motorcycle instead. Fatalities from traffic accidents are notoriously high and with an ever growing population and the country in economic boom, safe mobility for the millions of families became Tata’s priority.

All in all, the result is incredible! Let’s be realistic people, going fast or being fun to drive is a luxury and there will be none of that in the $2500 Nano. Honestly, there won’t even be air conditioning. But life is most precious of all and luckily, that has been important to the engineers since the very beginning. The Nano offers ABS as an option and it passed both EURO III frontal and side impact crashes without a hiccup. A number of Chinese automakers cannot say the same.

Go ahead and call me a hypocrite for criticizing the Chinese for making cheap cars and then choosing the cheapest car of all as the car that I appreciate the most. But the fundamental difference of it all is that the Chinese cars were made in an attempt to fool buyers into believing that their cars are more premium than they really are. Tata created a car that was honest and built with more noble intentions.

Sometimes we get all caught up with numbers. Spec sheets and dynos cannot begin to describe the number of families the Nano improved the quality of life for.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Update: Jeep Wrangler Unlimited final impressions

First, I must apologize to the readers who have been eagerly awaiting the conclusion of the Wrangler article.

As I mentioned before, the Wrangler drove terribly. Of course, this opinion is coming from a guy who spends seventy percent of his time driving in an urban jungle. I don't do any off-roading and articulation is used to describe a person's ability to speak well and not the suspension of a vehicle. I understand the vagueness of the suspension on the Jeep and its ability to traverse less than perfect terrain. What I don't understand is the lack of power for such a large vehicle.

This is a sideshot of the engine bay. There's definitely enough space to fit a proper V8. Now, I wouldn't have minded the lack of power or the vague steering if the interior was comfortable and welcoming.

By welcoming, I don't mean welcome me back to the 80s. As my girlfriend pointed out once she got in the beast, "everything just seems so archaic." The designers and engineers definitely didn't burn the midnight oil designing this. The stalks have little to no tactile feedback to tell you that they've been engaged. The wiper stalk on the right is positioned with about a half inch of clearance to the steering wheel in front or the center stack to the rear. I would go to turn on the wipers and next thing I know the radio is blaring Lady Gaga (like I said, my girlfriend was in the car).

Here's the radio, climate control, and... WINDOW SWITCHES?!?! Yes, the window switches as I've complained about earlier are on the center stack. Choy and I have tried to figure this out but to no avail. Our main thought was that the switches are there because the doors can come off. This idea was put to rest on the realization that the switchgear for the locks are on the door. And yes, that center stack is made of acres and acres of the highest quality hard plastic.

Forget all this nonsense. This Jeep was made to take you and your gear to the great outdoors. That is true if all your gear is tiny, it seemed.

Recently, I purchased a road bike and love the fact that I can transport it in my Mazda because it's a hatchback. So I thought the Jeep should swallow the bike whole without a problem... until I opened the rear gate and glass. That thing bisecting the giant cargo compartment is the convertible top. I couldn't find a way to get it out of the way (I wasn't supplied an owner's manual). Instead of being able to throw my bike in the back and go, I had to take the front wheel off and ever so carefully slide it in sideways under the convertible top.

In conclusion, if you need tons of cargo space and don't care about the driving experience get a real SUV or large crossover. If driving is important to you, a hot hatch will fit mostly anything. If you want to go off-roading, I'm not the guy you should be asking for advice.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

2010 NYIAS

update-- My high school friend, Johnathan Cornell, was kind enough to contribute his photos for our blog!

Lamborghini Gallardo Valentino Balboni
Lasso'd buckin' mini!
12:30pm, April 3, 2010[Ford Fiesta sedan] We were impressed by the interior qualities of modern sub-compacts.
We weren't especially fans of the Mercedes Benz SLS AMG. I posted these photos because I feel that the car's shape translated very well in photo.
BMW... Z4... S-drive... 35... i... s. Is there a record for the car with the longest alpha-numerics? Say it 10x fast and I'll give you a cookie. Danny Chin pointed out that "S-drive" meant rwd (did BMW really need to tell us?), "35" for the 3.0 liter engine with turbo, "i" for direct injection, and the "s" is for sport (I couldn't tell that a Z4 was meant to be sporty. Thanks for that.)
Dodge Viper ACR 1:33. Even with the two tone paint,the racing stripe, the red rims and side mirrors, the carbon fiber wing, and racing spec seats, the Viper no longer gives me that shock factor. This generation is really showing its age but the "1:33" is there to remind us all that it is still ridiculously fast on the racetrack, punching in a 1 minute 33 sec. lap around the Laguna Seca race track.My prized photo capture of the day! I waved my arm to catch their attention. Later, the one on the right blew me a kiss! huzzah!!!

Black Lamborghini Gallardo Valentino Balboni. This is a special car that fortunately did not garner much attention at the show. This gave me a really great opportunity to take a picture of it. Alas, it had to be a black car on black carpet... Also, note stormtroopered out Lambo in the background!Lotus Evora. Svelte looking thing. I'm a sucker for Brits, I guess.
Spyker C8 swb. Introduced in 2000 (Back when DVDs and the Sony PS2 were awesome and the Ferrari 360 Modena was only a year old), this is a very old car and shouldn't belong in this year's auto show at all. That said... I love this car with all my heart, and I would seriously consider owning this as a weekend toy over an Aston Martin DB9. Are you reading this, Danny Chin?Danny Chin likes the shape and argued that if it weren't for the Lexus emblem, he'd actually want one. I call "meh."The Lexus LF-A is a car for the person who really appreciates the little things. There were so many small little carbon fiber details we've noticed that I'll admit right now that my camera was not able to capture most of it. Still though... way overpriced. Not worth the money.The Lexus LF-A speaker playing with his Apple iPhone while on stage... probably tweeting to his Facebook. OMG, it's the Godzilla in glossy black gorilla!I really appreciate the designer's execution here. Classic avante garde yet very sporting.
The FIAT 500 had two lovely models. Lexus LF-A had a yuppie on an Apple iPhone. Rolls Royce hires an accountant for its venue.Porsche Boxter Spyder. This would have been a better picture if its top was down and if it were not for the crowd groping my ass.So yeah. No idea what Danny Chin was trying to accomplish here.
Images projected onto the Mini's roof! We liked its display best.2 Mazda 2 hatchbacks. The doors were locked for these hatchbacks at the show. disappointed. =(Rolex 24 Speedsource # 70 Mazda RX8. Chevrolet Volt. All I'm saying is that it better be worth all the trouble for GM.The van pities the fool.Aston Martin Rapide. Slightly awkward C-pillar or not, the shape is spot on. Good job, Aston.I predict that 007 will skip the hotel and just sleep with the Bond girl in the back seat.
Aston Martin V8 Vantage with Gulf livery and a union jack. It would have been more awesome if it were a V12 Vantage. Just saying.

Hope you enjoyed this incredibly long post.

Lastly, a thank you to my cousin Emily for letting me borrow her DSLR.