Aftermarket auto news

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BMW X4 reclaims dash of utility with Clemson student project [w/videos]

08/06/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Aftermarket, Concept Cars, Trucks/Pickups, Videos, Crossovers/CUVs, BMW, Design/Style

BMW X4 Clemson University Project

BMW seems willing to exploit every automotive niche it can find with creations like the four-door, 'crossover coupe' X4 and X6. Of course, these designs come with a compromise. That svelte fastback means that they just can't haul as much cargo as a more traditional, boxier hatchback. Fortunately, students at Clemson University's International Center for Automotive Research might have a novel solution: the engineering graduate program has turned the crossover into a unique pickup.

Dubbed Deep Orange 4 concept, this functional prototype has an enclosed cargo area with a sliding glass panel that opens up to expose a pickup bed if more room is needed. Think of it as the GMC Envoy XUV of German crossovers. This isn't just an X4 with its roof hacked off, though. The students actually started with an X3 and grafted on this top later in addition to the two barn doors for access to the bed.

To make this project even more impressive, this pickup-crossover could conceivably be produced. The graduate students conducted an in-plant analysis of BMW's manufacturing abilities and went back to the university to create a plan for a low-volume vehicle that could actually be built. "The students working on this phase of the project did an excellent job of keeping costs down while finding optimal integration opportunities," said Rich Morris, vice president of assembly at BMW Manufacturing, in the university's release.

Deep Orange 4 is now on display at the CAR Group Management Briefing Seminar in Michigan. Scroll down to read the university's release and watch two videos about the concept; one shows the final product and the other a time-lapse of the build going from X3 to X4-looking pickup.

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Get ready to Camino-ize your fourth-generation VW Jetta with this kit

08/06/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Aftermarket, Sedans/Saloons, Trucks/Pickups, Volkswagen

Volkswagen Jetta Ute

Inexpensive, small pickup trucks used to be everywhere in the US, whether they were from Japanese brands like Datsun or Toyota, the truly weird Subaru Brat or even from Europe with the Volkswagen Caddy based on the Golf. These days that market has completely disappeared, but if you're willing to pick up some tools to build your own, there's a company out there bringing the Caddy back as a kit for the Jetta.

Mark Smith knows a thing about building a vehicle at home. He has over two decades in the DIY-car business as a co-founder of Local Motors and the company that became Factory Five Racing. His latest venture is Smyth Performance and already offers a mid-engine, VW-based kit called the G3F. His new product, though, started as a fluke. "I just wanted a shop truck," said Smith to Autoblog. He already had a Ford F-450 but found that he was driving around with the bed empty most of the time. The result was a pickup truck based on the fourth-generation Jetta that he dubbed the Ute.

The kit retails for $3,500 and ships in three, big boxes, and it's designed to be built and painted in a weekend. Buyers get fiberglass exterior panels, a fiberglass rear window surround, sliding rear window, an aluminum reinforced bed with a tubular steel subframe, taillights, a fully functional steel tailgate, and other parts. In the end, you get a vehicle with a six-foot bed and a payload of around 700-750 pounds. The Ute maintains all of the factory suspension, fuel tank and emissions equipment and requires just a few cuts in the body to complete. "We did a modern Caddy," admits Smith.

Sales are already progressing well for the Ute with "hundreds, not thousands" moved so far, Smith said. You can learn more about this reborn compact pickup at the Smyth Performance website.

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Navdy is portable HUD with smart phone integration and a sense of humor

08/06/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Aftermarket, Tech, Videos, Infotainment

Navdy Portable HUD

Automotive head-up displays were once limited to high-end luxury sedans and sports cars, but in recent years they have started trickling down to affordable models like the latest Mini Cooper and Mazda3. Navdy, a startup from San Francisco, is aiming to broaden this tech even more with its new, portable device that combines all of the features of a HUD with apps and smartphone controls.

The Navdy sits on a vehicle's dashboard and has a tiny screen that seemingly projects information about six feet in front of the car. It plugs into the model's OBDII port for data and syncs with Android 4.3+ or iOS 7+ smartphones. When driving normally, Navdy displays important info like speed and direction, but with hand gesture and voice recognition the user can also control apps, take calls and dictate text messages.

Navdy is pitched as much for its safety benefits than as a cool toy. According to the company, it keeps your focus on the road and eliminates the need to look down at a phone. The device already supports popular apps like Google Maps, Spotify and iTunes Music and can read text messages.

"Touchscreen-based apps force you to take your eyes off the road. So we started by completely rethinking what the experience of using apps behind the wheel should be like," said company co-founder and CEO Doug Simpson in the company's release.

Pre-orders for the Navdy are available now with shipments starting in early 2015, and for the first 30 days it's priced at $299 - $499 after that. The company is also borrowing from Kickstarter and allowing early-bird customers to vote on what apps and features the device should support later. The company's humorous video showing off the product (above) has some funny Easter eggs - check out the logo on the Ford Fusion.

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Road Race Motorsports rolls out Fiat 500 M1 Turbo Tallini Competizione

08/01/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Aftermarket, Sports/GTs, Hatchbacks, FIAT

Fiat 500 M1 Turbo Tallini Competizione

We've seen some pretty radical modifications based on the Fiat 500 - from the Abarth 695 Biposto to that ridiculous idea to put a Ferrari engine in the back of a Cinquecento - but we never seem to get tired of it. On that note, we bring you the Fiat 500 M1 Turbo Tallini Competizione.

Built by Road Race Motorsports, the M1 takes a tarmac-rally approach and features an extensive list of modifications. For starters, the engine has been retuned to produce 250 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque, helping to knock a second off the 0-60 time (7.2 seconds from the factory). Upgraded brakes net a 20-percent improvement in stopping distance, and Road Race has put a special emphasis on high-speed stability and cornering performance.

Other modifications include a limited-slip differential, carbon-kevlar clutch and a reworked suspension with Bilstein shocks, stiffer bushings and upgraded sway bar, with 16-inch wheels wearing Toyo Proxes rubber. In addition to a full carbon-fiber widebody kit that helps cut 120 pounds off the curb weight, Road Race has given the M1 a new front air dam, side skirts, hood vents, brake ducts and rear spoiler. The interior has similarly been upgraded with racing buckets, five-point harnesses and a roll cage.

Road Race will only build 50 individually numbered examples of what it calls "the only Special Edition Fiat built in the Western Hemisphere... since Fiat's reintroduction to North America." With an extensive list of options, prices range from $15k to $100k.

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Jay Leno puts focus on some retro-inspired BMW bikes

07/29/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Aftermarket, Videos, BMW, Motorcycles, Celebrities, Special/Limited Editions, Design/Style

Quartet of retro-inspired BMWs

Jay Leno puts eight wheels on display this week for Jay Leno's Garage from a quartet of retro-inspired BMW motorcycles. They are the creations of husband and wife team Larry and Carol Romestant, who build each one in their home garage.

Larry is a former aerospace engineer who loves BMW bikes, especially the K models. Now, he's combining his passion with a real talent for fabrication to build his own cycles with his wife. With Larry and Carol the only ones working on these projects, it takes them six to nine months to build each one. In addition to the old-school looks, the motorcycles are supposed to be a bit more user friendly than stock. For example, one of them ditches the standard five-speed gearbox in favor of a six-speed unit to be a little more comfy when cruising at high speeds.

Since there isn't enough time to take all four of them for a ride, Jay picks his favorite to test out on the open road. Scroll down to see which one he chooses.

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Father-son team grows close by building tuned Porsche

07/22/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Aftermarket, Time Warp, Coupes, Sports/GTs, Videos, Porsche

Porsche 911 father-son project

We've seen several heartwarming videos of kids bonding over cars with their parents, whether racing together or giving them as gifts. The story of Leh Keen and his father McGrath, though, is somewhat different. Not many dads are looking for a vehicle quite this mental.

As Leh tells it, his dad saw a video online of one of the wild Porsches from Japanese tuner Rauh-Welt Begriff and decided that he needed one of the creations in his own garage. Since Leh knows something about cars himself as a driver for Alex Job Racing in the United SportsCar Championship, McGrath put his son in charge of managing the build from the company.

When the car made it to the US for completion from Rauh's famed builder Nakai, father and son bonded over the red, widebody 993-platform 911. The final product is certainly eye-catching. Scroll down to watch the video that features not only an engrossing father-son tale but also a seriously wicked, tuned Porsche from one of Japan's finest.

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Chop the top of your new Dodge Viper for $35,000

07/22/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Aftermarket, Convertibles, Sports/GTs, Dodge, Special/Limited Editions

Prefix Performance Dodge Viper Medusa convertible

We have good news, and we have bad news. First, the good: It's now possible to get a brand-new Dodge Viper roadster, which is nice, considering we're in the dead of summer and many of us like wind-in-the-hair motoring. Now, the bad: This is not a factory option from the automaker, instead coming courtesy of an aftermarket company called Prefix Performance, and that means it's going to cost you some serious coin.

Called Medusa, this drop-top Viper was created without the knowledge or consent of Dodge, but that's probably fine because Prefix works with the automaker already for the final preparation of the American supercar, including paint. According to the company, the current, fifth-gen Viper was built with a convertible version in mind, so no chassis strengthening is required. From the looks of the somewhat grainy photos available, the conversion appears of very high quality.

Want one? Well, that means you're going to need to procure a Viper - Prefix has 10 units ready for transformation as it stands - and that's going to cost at the very least $102,485. Then, you'll need to write a check for an additional $35,000 for Prefix to surgically remove the car's roof. Thing is, for that kind of cash, a prospective owner could buy, among other very nice options, a Viper hardtop and a loaded Miata, or a Corvette Stingray convertible and several pockets full of change. Or, perhaps a new Viper hardtop and a used, first-gen Viper convertible?

If you're still interested (and we wouldn't blame you if you were, regardless of the value debate), we'd suggest getting in touch with Prefix and getting yourself in line. In the meantime, feel free to check out the images above and below.

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Leno lives the lowrider life with a pair of Chevy Impalas

07/21/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Aftermarket, Time Warp, Convertibles, Coupes, Videos, Chevrolet, Special/Limited Editions, Design/Style

Jay Leno lowrider

Jay Leno gets low in his latest episode of Jay Leno's Garage by showing off two custom lowriders based on a pair of '60s Chevrolet Impala classics and talks to some experts in the field. The whole culture surrounding these cars is a product of Southern California; so it makes sense for Golden State Jay to finally put a spotlight on them.

Leno focuses on different flavors of lowriders. First, there is a sinister-looking '66 Impala coupe with simple black and chrome styling. It's just a clean-looking vehicle without much bling to attract attention, but it still shows a great eye for detail. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there's the '63 Impala convertible shown above with a tuned 409-cubic-inch (6.7-liter) V8 that just screams "look at me!" from every angle. Owner Brandon Brusca says that the paintwork alone took nearly five years to complete. Possibly even more impressive is its hydraulic system made from airplane parts. The attention to detail is pretty incredible, with portions of the suspension featuring engraving that most people would never see.

Jay admits that lowriders aren't really his style, but that doesn't keep him from gushing about these classic Chevrolet cars. The amount of work and that goes into them is something that any auto enthusiast ought to appreciate. Scroll down to watch Leno take a cruise.

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Kahn and Evanta team up for hot-rod Defender, custom Barchetta

07/10/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Aftermarket, Convertibles, Sports/GTs, SUVs, Aston Martin, Land Rover, UK

Ant-Kahn Evanta Barchetta

If you're familiar with the work of Afzal Kahn, it's probably for his tuned Range Rovers. And if you live in London, you may have seen his Bugatti Veyron with the F1 license plate. But the British tuner and self-styled "automotive fashion designer" is now embarking on a far more ambitious project.

Kahn is teaming up with Ant Anstead of Evanta fame - responsible for rebodying Aston Martin DB7s to look like DB4 GTs and that full-scale DBR1/2 model kit - on a new outfit called Ant-Kahn. Far more than a tuning endeavor, Ant-Kahm is setting about creating truly unique (and uniquely British) automobiles.

Their first project is called the Flying Huntsman, a long-nose Land Rover Defender that we imagine will emerge as something like a British take on the 1998 Jeepster concept crossed with something Icon might concoct. It'll pack a 6.2-liter GM LS3 V8 producing 550 horsepower, mated to a push-button six-speed automatic transmission, mounted close to the bulkhead with over 15 inches of extra bodywork and set to be unveiled within the coming months.

Their second collaboration is set to yield the Evanta Barchetta previewed by rendering above. "Inspired by the design language of 1950s motorsport," the Barchetta pays homage to classic British and Italian roadsters. It's being built around a tubular frame with handcrafted composite Kevlar bodywork and powered by that same LS3 tuned to 450 hp but in a much lighter form than the Flying Hunstman. Only 20 examples will be made after its debut at the Goodwood Revival come September.

An Aston Martin project codenamed WB12 is also in the works, painting a picture of an ambitious startup backed by two experienced operators whose projects we're looking forward to seeing come to fruition.

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Corvette Stingray whipped up to 627 hp by Callaway

07/09/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Aftermarket, Convertibles, Coupes

2014 Callaway Corvette

Callaway Corvette Dyno GraphIf you under promise and over deliver, you can never disappoint people, and apparently the tuning mavens at Callaway know that lesson well. When the company announced its latest tuned Corvette a few months ago, it said that it would have roughly 620 horsepower and at least 600 pound-feet of torque. That would have been impressive gains over the stock 'Vette by itself, but the new supercharged sports car has actually been rated at 627 hp and 610 lb-ft as its final specs. Job well done.

The key to the latest Callaway Corvette is its 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that gets a redesigned, patent-pending supercharger with a new intake manifold and an intercooler with three liquid-to-air cooling elements. The supercharger housing also protrudes through the hood to aid cooling even more.

According to the dyno (right), Callaway's Corvette reaches its peak 627 hp at 6,400 rpm, an additional 167 hp over the standard car and 23 hp less than the upcoming Z06. The Callaway's max 610 lb-ft comes on about the same time as the stock 'Vette at around 4,400 rpm. However, the supercharged engine has an impressive 145 lb-ft more than normal, but 40 lb-ft less than the Z06. The tuning company claims that it uses the same SAE-certified power correction method as Chevrolet to calculate the specs.

With the numbers official, the latest Callaway Corvette is now in production, and the company is already shipping them out to waiting customers. Prices start at $22,995, plus the cost of the donor car. Scroll down to read the full press release about the tuner's latest supercharged creation.

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