Maserati Boomerang concept car crossing the auction block

An exotic one-of-a-kind classic car is going to auction…what’s not to like?  The 1972 Maserati Boomerang has just been added to the catalog for the Bonhams September 5th sale in Chantilly, France.

For those not familiar with this concept, it debuted at the 1971 Turin Motor Show purely as a design.  The coupe was such a hit, it was transformed into a fully operational vehicle for the 1972 Geneva Motor Show.  Underneath the unique skin was the chassis of Maserati’s new Bora, including its 300 hp 4.7-liter V8.

In 1974 the one-off concept was sold into private hands.  It has remained cared for and road-ready condition.  In fact, we last saw the Boomerang on tour with Maserati’s centennial celebration.

It is hard for us to call this sale a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because this car has changed hands at least twice in the last dozen years.  Still, we will always be excited when this very unique coupe makes an appearance.  Designer Giorgetto Giugiaro was already well established in the 1970s with beautiful creations like the De Tomaso Mangusta and the Fiat Dino Coupe, but this one was truly pivotal in his career.

The Boomerang helped the market take notice of Giugiaro’s now-signature angular style.  He was not the only person to use sharp edges (just look at Bertone’s cars of the late 60s and early 70s after Giugiaro left the firm).  The difference is that Giugiaro seemed to have a bit more maturity and practicality, and that’s why elements of the Boomerang concept car are echoed in production vehicles like the Volkswagen Golf and BMW M1.

Inside, the design is arguably even more impressive.  The parameter-mounted steering wheel leaves room in the central hub for all the essential gauges.  Unlike the exterior, this unique setup did not influence any production cars, but it is still an attention grabber over four decades later.

We won’t speculate too much on price for this concept car.  We do know that it sold for around $850K a decade ago (in today’s dollars), and the current market is proving to be quite wild.  So while the Maserati Boomerang will likely not set any new records, there is potential to be quite significant.

The Wraith Dodge concept car is up for sale

Readers of this site know we’re fans of the 1986 supernatural road racing flick, The Wraith.  So we can’t help but get a little bit excited when one of the movie cars turns up on Craig’s List for sale.

Just so that people don’t get too excited, this is not the original Dodge/PPG M4S concept car, but it is an actual movie prop.  As the story goes, six stunt car copies were made using Chrysler’s own vehicle as the mold.  A couple of these were running examples, but instead of the 2.2-liter twin turbo in the M4S concept, these prop cars were Volkswagen powered.

The one for sale now is one of the drivable copies from the movie.  In nearly thirty years it has gone through many different owners, including being part of a teaching program at McPherson College’s automotive restoration facility.  In that time it there have been many improvements, including swapping VW power for a supercharged Pontiac V6.  The full story is a worthwhile read on the Allpar site.

So is this car really worth $150,000? Just like The Wraith’s star Charlie Sheen, this will likely be a lot of fun at parties, but you might regret taking it home.

Blue Bird returns to land speed record site 90 years later

A milestone car is returning home.  The 350 hp V12 Sunbeam racer is coming back to Pendine Sands in South Wales ninety years after becoming a champion.  This is the car that made Malcolm Campbell the fastest man on four wheels.

Campbell’s new car was already a champion.  When he purchased the Sunbeam-engineered, aircraft-powered car, it had completed a 133.75 mph record run in 1922 at the hands of Kenelm Lee Guinness — a speed daredevil in his own right and part of the brewing empire family as well as loosely related to the future world-record book.  Campbell would work on the car and re-christen it “Blue Bird” after its new distinctive color scheme.

In September 1924 Campbell achieved a new record speed of 146.16 mph at Pendine Sands.  By the summer he would be back to become the first man to break the 150 mph barrier.

Campbell would move on to other specialty-built Blue Birds, including the 22-liter Napier aircraft-powered car that set a flying mile record that stood until last month. His daring acts of speed earned him a knighthood in 1931, and Campbell died a national hero in 1948.  But his first and now forgotten Blue Bird did not fair as well over the decades.  It passed through a number of owners and was in a poor condition when purchased by famous auto enthusiast and historian Lord Montagu in 1957.  The car was finally recognize for its significance and was restored to a museum-quality running machine.  Today it is on display at England’s National Motor Museum at Beaulieu.

On July 21, this car will return to the same beach to celebrate the 90th anniversary of its 150.76 mph run.  Some might be disappointed that Blue Bird only plans to make a few low-speed runs, but its connection to history will absolutely be represented.  Behind the wheel will be Sir Malcolm’s grandson, Don Wales, himself a land speed record holder.  “I am really looking forward to driving the 350hp Sunbeam, which is the car that gave my grandfather his first Land Speed Record,” said Wales.  “I cannot believe that I will get this fantastic opportunity to drive this iconic machine on Pendine. It will also be fun to dress in costume to look as my grandfather did in the pictures taken ninety years ago.”

Opel/Vauxhall debuts new Astra

Opel/Vauxhall has taken the wraps off their new Astra.  The European arms of General Motors have taken their taken their premium compact to the gym to become a lighter and more economical.  While this might not seem like it applies to our side of the Atlantic, this is the face and size of the next Buick Verano.

This end of the GM corporate pool has been responsible for some of the best designs of the last decade, and the new Astra continues the tradition.  Borrowing from the Monza concept, it utilizes some of that coupe’s chiseled lines in the hood and sleek door creases to bring some style to the family car.  Vauxhall is proud to point out that designer Mark Adams is a fellow Brit, but the engineering that goes into the new Astra feels a bit more like Opel’s German roots taking hold.

According to the company they scrutinized over every component that went into construction.  This yielded a body shell weight reduction of 20%, and an overall loss of 440 lbs over its predecessor.

One of the ways they saved weight was just simply by making a smaller car.   The new Astra is a few centimeters shorter, including 2 cm taking out of the wheelbase.  While this is not a major difference overall, Opel/Vauxhall are actually touting an INCREASE in interior space.  This uptick is due to a reconfigured interior with seats designed to yield more overall space.  The instrument cluster carries the attractive dials of the previous Astra, but the waterfall design of the dashboard and center console has been traded in for more of a wave-like appearance.  This will even be the first Vauxhall available with OnStar (that’s not a huge deal, but it is mildly funny that the U.K. will just now be getting a service we’ve been ignoring since the late 1990s).

On an international scale, the new Astra’s engine lineup ranges from a 95 hp turbo diesel to a 1.6-liter turbo gas motor making 200 hp.  In between are some interesting powerplants like the 1.0-liter three-cylinder motor from the ADAM.  We’re not sure yet what will make it to us, because the Buick version is currently powered by 2.0-liters or more.

Don’t be too concerned that this is only being shown in a five-door hatchback right now.  When the new Buick Verano is ready to hit the streets, it will come with the much more U.S.-friendly sedan body.  The Astra’s main market is in Europe.  Opel sells a four-door Astra as an afterthought, and Vauxhall doesn’t even offer the sedan version at all.  But the global platform supports the trunk-back version for markets like China and the USA.  So, with a little imagination, it is not hard to see the car that will be premiering on our shores in about a year.

Ford flies into Casablanca

Ford announced today plans to expand their operation in North Africa.  This means a new regional sales office in Casablanca and a purchasing office in Tangier.

This is part of an expansion that includes thirteen new retail facilities and seven new models.  Ford already sells cars over there that are familiar to us such as the Fusion, C-MAX, Focus, and Fiesta.  They also have some of the global vehicle lineup such as the Ranger midsize pickup, the Ka city car, and the Kuga (very similar to our Escape).

Morocco is already the best-selling market for Ford in North Africa, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the company’s volume leader.  Ford’s operations over there have sold 3,400 vehicles from January to April this year, which is less than two days worth of F-150 truck sales in North America.

So why are we reporting on an expansion in a small market? Well, it’s just nice to share good news in a country that has quietly been part of the Ford family since it began importing Model Ts over a century ago.

Also, we can’t resist inserting Ford into a few Casablanca movie quips:

“Play it again C-MAX.”

“Here’s looking at you Kuga.”

“You better hurry. You’ll miss that sale.”

“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful Fusion ownership.”

“If that pickup leaves the lot and you didn’t buy it, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon because that Ranger will last you the rest of your life.”

Ok, that last one was a bit of a stretch (actually, maybe all of them were a bit to punny). But there is just too much fun to be had with an American making waves in Casablanca.  Besides, we’re taking this one a bit lightly considering Ford has an open target with Louis Renault.  His character is the movie’s corrupt police captain, but the car manufacturer that shares the name also happens to own Morocco’s largest car plant.

BMW latest tribute is the 3.0 CSL Hommage

BMW is proud of its history.  That’s why the twin-kidney grille is as iconic as its propeller badge, and its headquarters is shaped in a tribute to the four-cylinder motor that saved the company.  So it should be no surprise that they would re-create one of their most famous cars to show off at the Villa d’Este concours.

The BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage is European in spelling and appearance.  This concept design looks a bit ornate for a good reason.  The company needed to homologate a racer for the 1972 European Touring Car Championship season.  This resulted in a handful of road-going versions of the 3.0 CS coupe with thinner steel and an outrageous aerodynamic kit that helped the car earn its nickname as the Batmobile.  The 3.0CSL (“L” for lightweight) proved its wings could fly on the track, and the road and racing cars have been cherished ever since.

“Our Hommage cars not only demonstrate how proud we are of our heritage, but also how important the past can be in determining our future,” says Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President BMW Group Design.  “The BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage represents a nod to the engineering achievement exemplified by the BMW 3.0 CSL in its lightweight design and performance.”

The original 3.0 CSL car was about 440 lbs lighter than the standard production coupe.  BMW did that by not only thinning out the steel, but also they got creative with aluminum and Plexiglas.  This tribute concept didn’t have this same problem because it is a one-off build that can take advantage of modern materials, including carbon fiber that is stronger and lighter than any alloy from the 1970s.

BMW says that some of their Hommage coupe has subtle hints at the past. “We wanted people to sense the family resemblance rather than see it straight off,” Karim Habib, Head of BMW Design.

Still, there are plenty of obvious signs of this concept car’s inspiration.  The fender blades, double rear spoilers, and exaggerated Hofmeister kink are all directly borrowed from the original.  The extra wide fenders are from the racecars like the one that won its class at Le Mans in 1973.  Also, the grille that dives below the headlights is not from the CSL, but it does resemble the iconic design of its 2000 CS predecessor.

BMW says the interior is minimalist, but to enthusiasts of a certain age, it just screams Knight Rider. After all, the handgrip steering tiller is exceptionally cool, but anyone who has ever hit the racetrack knows the importance of having a full circle.  A lot of this is actually borrowed from the i8 hybrid supercar, but the driver’s deep center tunnel with a big red light still makes us want to see if KITT will respond.

While we know the technology under the hood is going to be more advanced than 1970s engineering or 1980s TV fantasy, BMW is not offering any hints at the 3.0 CSL Hommage’s real power.  We’ll put some bets down on a variant the 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-six cylinder that powers the M3/M4.  That one would offer the right historical tribute while still keeping a forward-thinking Germanic attitude.

Will a new CSL make it into limited production? We don’t have a crystal ball; we just have high hopes.