Author Archives: Steve Lewis

VROOAMM!

It’s Friday lunchtime and I’m just tucking into my Chả Giò at the local Vietnamese. My phone on the table vibrates. Who’s that now?

Still with one hand gripping my spring roll I check my messages. No name, just a German telephone number and a picture of an Aston Martin Zagato with the phrase “Vrooamm!” written underneath. I know instantly who it is and excitedly text back “Where are you? Is it in Münich?” Only one person I know in Germany could have such exclusive access to rare metal like this. Kacher!

Let me explain. Georg Kacher is one of the most respected motoring journalists in the World! He writes for CAR, Automobile and Auto Bild and I just happen to know his Son ‘Basti’ who incidentally works for the Audi Press department in Italy.

After a few more messages, it’s set up for that evening, 8.30 at the Kacher residence near Ammersee, 30 minutes South-West of Münich.

Zagato1

One fast drive later, work colleague and good friend Stevie Fahr-Becker and myself arrive in a flurry of noise (we decided to take both our cars! my R8 and his 964 Turbo) The Sun is setting fast when we arrive and my priority is to snap a few photos  before it disappears completely. The Kachers come to greet us and after formalities are exchanged attention turns quickly to the car. Stevie does the taking! I do the walking, well shuffling really as I desperately try to get some good angles in the fading light. We discover that the Zagato, which has been delivered by truck from the UK, is worth a cool 500,000 Euros! No driving tonight! Dad’s tired and Juniors not insured! We admire the mighty V12 instead, it’s started and revved, not too loud though! Can’t upset the neighbours! but I’m sure these neighbours are used to the sound of a few Supercars? Doors fly open and we’re greeted to a cocoon of wavy stitched leather and suede (even the headlining is wavy!) I try the Sports seats for size ‘Like a glove!’ Head room is generous, enclosed by the trademark Zagato ‘double bubble’ roof.

With it's signature Aston Martin grille and large nostrils in the bonnet, the Zagato is powerful and purposeful. Sharp lines intersect taut surfaces and all is beautifully finished with deep petrol blue paintwork accentuated with aggresive carbon fibre diffusors and spoilers. Muscular haunches over the rear wheels are dramatically sliced to reveal the protruding rear lights that when lit look like a jet fighter in after burn!

Zagato2

The light has finally gone, time for a beer and something to eat. Talk turns inevitability to cars again and especially design. What’s new? What’s coming? Who's where? Interspersed by Stevie's incredible and amusing car engine impressions, it's a relaxing conclusion to a fantastic evening. It's getting late, we could speak all night about cars, I know! but it's time to go home. We say our goodbyes and say we must meet again. There’ll be another time, I'm sure! 

 

GENEVA REVIEW – THE FINAL CHAPTER

The Geneva car show marks the end of the winter and the beginning of spring, cosmopolitan and exciting, but above all always controversial and this year was no exception!

Now! normally when I bump into a friend or colleague at the Geneva show the first thing they usually say after greetings have been exchanged is “seen anything good?”, but this year was different. The first thing on most people’s lips was “have you seen the Bentley?” normally accompanied with a look of shock followed swiftly with one of disgust.

Yes! I had seen the Bentley, the night before in fact and yes! I too was shocked. I’m sad to report it was the biggest talking point of the show. Comments I heard ranged from the funny “Looks like a large London taxi” To just plain sad “It looks like a bad Chinese copy” But the question most people asked was “How did that get approved?” when you think how all other products from the VW Empire are so carefully considered. We may never know? The Show car was beautifully made and detailed and let’s hope that Bentley can get its act together and produce a stunning production version, as we know they are quite capable of. 

Geneva 2012a

This year I only had one day to soak in the Geneva atmosphere, flying in early from Münich and back on the last flight out of town. To see the show in a day is potentially possible due to it’s compact size, but I still had to plan my schedule carefully to see as much as possible.

A quick stop at the home stand to check out everything’s in place. Yes! It’s all there, the muscular RS4 and nuts A1 quattro sit proudly near the front and our new Audi A3 is proving so popular it’s difficult to get a close look. So! It’s off to Ferrari to see if I can catch a glimpse of the brand new 740 HP F12 Berlinetta instead. Having already seen photos, expectations were high and I wasn’t disappointed. With an aggressive front and heavily sculptured flanks, first impressions in the metal are that the F12 looks stunning, but! The proportions of the rear end in side view is a bit squashed and the rear-end graphics really do look like Sid! from Ice age! and although interesting, I’m not totally convinced by the claimed extra downforce stuff about the hole in the fender thing. 

Geneva 2012c

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ONE GR8 SUMMER – PART ONE

My summer of speed kicked off at the beginning of July with Goodwood, followed just a week later by Pass Masters (previously reported by Mattijs) that was my first chance to have a proper blast with my new R8.

Yes! I did say MY! R8, admittedly a company car and only for the next 6 months, but still MINE! And Dude! Was I going to use it?

I’d been planning a mega road trip to the U.K. for some time and now I had the right tool for the job!  

Leaving Münich at 6.00a.m one misty Sunday morning in August, I literally flew across Germany, often seeing speeds hovering on the edge of 300 km/h. Rapidly dispatched Holland and France I hit the Channel tunnel only 8 hours later. The fly splattered, hot and ticking R8 deserving a well earned rest on the train ride under the sea.

Brecon3,1000x1000

First pilgrimage in the U.K. was to be the Black Mountains located on the West side of the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales. The Black Mountain road’s are favorite test routes for the U.K’s Car Magazines and especially the A4069 which has become very popular ever since it featured on BBC’s Top Gear, with Jeremy Clarkson hammering an AMG SLK along it’s route. I quickly discovered why? Long winding roads greeted me, challenging corners, a good mix of fast and tight sections all linked by a good road surface and when you reached the hairpins you were rewarded with views to die for. You just had to beware of the pesky sheep everywhere!

I spent several hours discovering the aural delights of the R8’s responsive engine and the forgiving handling. The R8 is enormously capable, with scary amounts of grip on these tight and twisting roads, but when you lift off the tail will come around and you can drift gently through the turns in beautifully predictable slides.

Brecon2,1000x1000

I was expecting to meet lot’s of other performance cars enjoying these dream roads and conditions, but I hardly saw anybody else during my time up there, this was my playground today! My Driving Nirvana!

The roads in the valleys on the North side weren’t bad either, long straights and fast sweeping bends, many snaking their way through tunnels of over-hanging trees. As the sun began to go down and with the navigation switched off! I just followed the roads where they took me.

Next stop Brooklands and a return to Goodwood, this time not just to look, but to drive!   

 

Geneva Review – The Final Chapter

Geneva was the scene and Green was the theme. Everybody was talking Lightweight and Hybrids. Everything presented in an explosion of Orange, Carbon and White and if you didn’t have an i-pad somewhere on your stand you just weren’t hip! Who would have imagined this several years ago? But it wasn’t all just tree hugging! Lamborghini, Ferrari, Zonda and Porsche were all there in force with new beasts.

Geneva 2011-A Websizez

This is what makes Geneva so special the variety of cars on show, from the crazy to the boring, small manufacturers fight with the big dog’s to get your attention. But the best part? Apart from the girls of course, is that it’s all so accessible, all in one large hall, yes your feet still hurt at the end of day, but it’s worth it.

Geneva B websizez

High points for me this year; The VW Bulli, the hippies favourite re-invented, an MPV you’d actually want to buy? The Bertone B99, nicely proportioned and surfaced coupe, inspired by the Seventies XJ. The Lamborghini Aventador, sharp suited V12 with a full Carbon chassis, the things dreams are made of. 

GenevaD Websizez 

The Ferrari FF, über cool shooting break with four-wheel drive! The Range Rover Evoque, Bold, the TT of the SUV’s? (The rear window is the size of an A4 piece of paper, honestly!) The Porsche 918 RSR, first shown in Detroit, I’m still Lovin’ it! and finally Renault, who always manage to produce influential showcars.

GenevaC Websizez

Unexpected High point? Taking a break to get some fresh air outside behind the Lamborghini stand, I discover the highly polished corporate limos waiting to whisk away their VIP’s. Lines of shiny A8’s, Bentley’s, Panamera’s and the odd SLS contrast starkly against the industrial exhibition hall and a wall of blue containers, fantastic photo opportunities.

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Pagani Zonda R – Nürburgring Lap

I just had to post this! The Pagani Zonda R smashing the record for fastest production car around the ring. 

The previous record was held by the Ferrari 599XX with a time of 6:58.16. The Zonda R does it in 6:47.5 and the driver even makes it look easy! Put it in HD mode and crank up the volume. I have to go now! time to switch on the Playstation and practice a few laps on Gran Turismo. 



Thought I'd include this too, this guy's even more crazy!


Pomona

During my two years in California with Audi I had the chance to discover the incredibly rich car culture that exists there, either every day on the street or at car-meets and organized events.

Pomona is just one such example I’d like to share with you. In 2008 I compiled a book which try’s to capture the spirit and color of this fantastic event.

In the coming months I hope to be bringing you some more stories and pictures from my times in California. 

Enjoy!

THE DAUPHIN COLLECTION

Our Audi Design team in
Munich thought it was about time we had a “workshop” Now, for me workshop is
somewhere you do woodwork or repair cars. But no, apparently für zee Germans a workshop is a long, long meeting to
discuss future projects and scenarios. Luckily someone had the
bright idea of kicking off the workshop day with a visit to the Dauphin private
collection.

Dauphin Collection1a

 Ignorant Englander Das ich
bin, I hadn’t heard about Herr Dauphin or his collection. First stop then, Internet, www.dauphinspeedevent.de to find out
more about this mysterious museum.

Friedrich-W. Dauphin made his
fortune designing, manufacturing and selling ergonomic office furniture under the brand label Human Design® (no! I hadn’t heard of them either) 

Founded in 1969, the Dauphin
group today employs over 820 staff and produces approx. 2500 chairs a day. In 2008 Dauphin achieved a
turnover of 153 million euros. 

Originally an enthusiastic
collector of historic firearms, Friedrich-W. Dauphin’s interest in classic cars
was initiated by his wife who told him to “collect something that interests the
whole family” Two weeks later, the Dauphins
had their first classic: a Bordeaux colored Mercedes 280SE convertible from
1971. A 300SL roadster from 1961 quickly followed. 

Dauphin Collection3a

The Dauphins have now been
collecting cars for almost 30 years and have accumulated 130 classic cars and
200 classic motorcycles. Located near Nürmburg just off the A9 their 18,000 square meter hall houses
one of the biggest private collections of classic cars in Germany. Under the guise of the
Dauphin Speed Event Company, the collection hall with its dramatic backdrop is
often booked out for auctions, fashion shows, concerts and company events.

Dauphin Collection4a

Well, that’s enough facts,
let’s get to the juicy part!

We found ourselves at 8.00
a.m on a wet and windy day in November entering the warm, inviting foyer of the
Dauphin collection.  One cappuccino later and my
shutter finger is twitching to start clicking and we only have
3
hours to see everything before our “werkshop” starts.

The website hadn’t given a
great deal of information about the car collection, so I really wasn’t
expecting too much, but boy! was I in for a surprise!

Dauphin Collection2a

We move towards the 3-meter
high glass walls that divide the entrance from the exhibit area. A Bugatti
Atlantic (which I later learn is a replica built on an original chassis) and
Mercedes 300 SL Gull-wing guard the entrance and beyond these are just rows and
rows of cars.

Dauphin Collection6a
 Dauphin Collection5a

Dauphin Collection7a 

The first thing that hits you is the amount of exotic metal on display, Bugatti’s, Ferrari’s, Porsche’s, Jaguar’s and Lamborghini’s. All compete to attract your attention, but in-between you see the occasional Alfa or Lancia and look even harder and you find more humble cars, like Fiat’s, MG’s and Austin’s.

  

Dauphin Collection9a

We are being guided around by
a very well informed white haired gentleman, most of his words are wasted on
this group of petrol heads, we just want to drool over the curves of the
beautiful metal.

Dauphin Collection10a

 Some of our group politely
follows him round, pretending to listen, but they secretly wish they had
brought their cameras too, because
this
gives me the licence to lag behind a little. I have a new camera, an
Olympus Pen and it’s the first time I’m using it in anger! The light is terrible and I’m
fumbling to find the right settings on my camera, which doesn’t have a flash. I
should have read the instruction manual a bit more thoroughly! But, importantly
I’ve remembered the spare battery and the cameras loaded with an 8GB memory
card. As we walk slowly among the collection
I hear the occasional rumble of approval from the group as a dream car is
discovered.

Dauphin Collection8a

When I hear a louder rumble it attracts my attention, and I find my colleagues gathered around a bright
green Lancia Stratos with it’s matching green helmet tucked into the door pocket.
I wait for the last of the droolers to leave before I click off a few photos.

Dauphin Collection12a

Time is running short, we’ve
already been here over two hours, I’m on my second battery and it’s time to
move on to the motorcycle section.

Dauphin Collection15a

 I’m not really a motorcycle freak,
but I can admire the design and exposed mechanics of these machines and I have
to admit the sight of 200 bikes all neatly lined up is very impressive. At least half the bikes are
BMW’s, but being a Brit the Norton’s and Triumph’s appeal to me the most.  

Dauphin Collection16a

The time has come to leave,
and as we walk out from the showroom I can’t help but admire how clean
everything is, I can only begin to imagine what it costs to maintain this
superb private collection. 

Dauphin Collection13a

The collection is apparently
missing 15 extremely rare cars, including a Porsche 356 Carrera Abarth, a
Talbot-Lago 150 SS “Teardrop” and a 1947 Cisitalia 202 coupe.

But I never missed them!

 

 

 

PORSCHE 904

 A few months ago I got into a conversation about cars with a work colleague. Nothing unusual about that you may think for a car designer, but we were arguing over what was the greatest Porsche ever. Nice chap that he is, my colleague can be a bit of a car bore and is full of useless information, facts and figures plus he is an absolute Porsche freak.

“The 917” I say without hesitation, but my colleague said “No! No! No! What about the 904?” with a smug smile on his face. The proportions of the 904 were never quite right for me "It looks too narrow and the front overhang looks like Barry Manilow's nose" I blurted, and to my surprise he sort of agreed with me, but it was what he said next that surprised me even more " You wanna see the one I’ve got?” Apparently he was storing a 904 for a friend in his underground garage. Luckily I had my camera with me and it was close to lunch time, so we immediately set off to his home in the centre of Munich.

The garage was dark and cold, I waited with anticipation as he flicked the lights on and operated the double-deck parking system. Slowly the 904 revealed itself, the car lift clunked to a stop and my colleague rolled the car off its ramp. In the stark fluorescent light I could see it had been well used, but it was clean and straight and looked tiny in this huge underground garage. As I slowly moved around the car snapping off photos my colleague filled me in with a brief history of the 904.

Porsche 904a 

“It weighs only 650 kilos, you know? the bodywork is made from fibre-glass and bonded to the frame” He opens the rear to reveal a clean looking engine. “Its a 2-litre 6-cylinder, which was later fitted to the 911. Early cars only had 4-cylinder engines with 180 hp, you know? and in 19……” he continues reeling off other detailed information about the engine, but it’s just lost on me. He attempts to start it, nothing, not even a click, the battery is flat, he curses loudly and the sound of “Fuck it!” echoes around the room. He also realizes for the first time there's no heater and I later learn he has to deliver it to the owner in Turin the next day. It’s March, very cold and the 904 has no heater!

I have to admit after spending some time studying the 904 you become aware of how delicate and minimalistic its design is and after learning about its racing achievements it just makes It that little bit more desirable, it’s a no compromise tool designed to win races. 

After realizing he's going to have to charge the battery overnight and wear an Antarctic survival suit to to drive it to Turin, he still hits me with the facts "Its very rare, you know? Only 120 cars were ever built from 1963 to 1964 and most of those were homologated for racing, you know? It won at Lemans, Targa Florio and,and……"I interrupt him before he can continue “With no heater of course! You know?”  

The echoes were much louder this time!

Goodwood

Finally, My first Blog for Carfreax. 

Let me briefly introduce myself. My name is Steve Lewis, a Car designer working within the VW group since 1990. I've been around a bit, England, Germany, Spain, California and now I'm back in Germany again. 

I Love cars! designing them, driving them or photographing them, and now I have the chance to write about them as well.

CarFreax Me a

I have known Mattijs now for several years and it was through him I was introduced to the world of Carfreax and also the chance to meet some other members at Geneva this year. It was here we first talked about me joining the team and the concept of Carfreax International. 

Well, I am honored to say I have received an invitation and hopefully this is the beginning of bigger things to come! 

Goodwood Day 1

The sound of Revving engines, the smell of burnt rubber and the flash of shiny metal.I feel like I'm in Carfreax heaven, but no, this is Goodwood. This is the Festival of Speed.Held every year in the back garden of Lord March's little house in the country. Racecar enthusiasts flock from all around the world, driving on the limit is their Faith and Goodwood is their Cathedral.Together with a work colleague, Stephan, I've managed to escape home for a long indulgent weekend in the South of England as the guest of my friends at Audi U.K. It starts already at Gatwick Airport late on Thursday night where a brand new Red S4 will be our wheels for this weekend of car pornography.

The next morning we leave our hotel early, but as we get closer to Goodwood we hit traffic, but not just any traffic, Ferrari's, Lamborghini's, Bentley's, Maserati's and Porsche's all fight for attention, this is probably the most valuable traffic jam in the world, Stephan and I just don't know which way to look. The torture continues in the car park, this is just the starter! and we have to force ourselves towards the main course! We are not disappointed, it's even better. What Woodstock is for music, Goodwood is for cars.

Goodwood2a 

Starting in the race car paddock we soak up the atmosphere of the amazing amount of racing heritage on display, we jostle with other enthusiasts to get the best photo opportunities, stare in disbelief at the collection of Porsche 917's and almost wet our pants when one of them explodes into action in a fantastic symphony of revving.

Goodwood-1a 

Audi is celebrating 100 years and it seems they have brought with them almost half of their museum to Goodwood. Auto-union's, Quattro rally cars, IMSA race cars and the Lemans R15 still covered in the oil and flies from it's hard race three weeks earlier.

Goodwood3a

I've lost Stephan! but find him oddly chasing a Pikes-Peak Quattro down the pit lane with his telephone almost stuck up it's exhaust pipe! I catch up with him after he loses the Quattro in the crowd to hear him screaming into his phone " that's what your missing sucker, you've got to come next year, this is better than all those poncey motor shows put together" Stephan I have to explain is a Goodwood virgin, I've been here several times before, I can fully understand his enthusiasm and Goodwood never fails to amaze me either.

Goodwood4  

We have an invite for lunch to the "Orangery" hospitality from Audi which is located in the surprisingly quiet private gardens of Lord March. We don't quite make it because scattered among the trees on the main lawn in front of the house are several dream concept cars from the 70's, cars that inspired us to be car designers. The Bertone Carabo, Navajo and an original Countach. Stephan looks like he's on his knees praying, but he's just taking photos of the cars from every angle, click, whir, click, whir, click, whir, the motor drive on his camera is almost smoking under the pressure. I myself have already shot over 200 photos and we haven't seen a third of what's on offer yet! Luckily I've brought a spare battery and remain calm, that's on the outside, but inside I still fear missing some cool cars.

Goodwood5a

After spending a few more minutes stretching our necks to photograph the amazing Audi sculpture by Gerry Judah, finally we make it to Lunch. A time to refuel and review the photos we've taken. A swimming pool is on offer and Audi will provide us with a costume and robe if we want to take a dip, but were here to see the cars although the cool water is very tempting. Already drunk from the amount of precious metal we've seen, we add to the feeling downing a couple of Pimm's cocktails each (very British)

Goodwood6a

We are off again, this time to the supercar paddock, where as the name says all the current supercars are on display. Bugatti's, Zonda's, Ferrari's and Lambo's. We arrive in time to hear all the cars start their engines together in a glorious chorus ready for the run up the 1.16 mile hill climb. But their party is gatecrashed by an intruder, over head the new Euro-fighter sweeps into view and everybody just stands still, mouths open in amazement. The aircraft skillfully flown dives down at an alarming rate, but accelerates up and away even faster, Stephan and me are truly impressed and compare it to something out of Star Wars, it was impossible to photograph.

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Next on the list an all to brief visit to the 'Cartier Style et Luxe' Goodwood's version of a Concours d'Elegance to drool over various Bugatti's and a fabulously extravagant Hispano-Suiza. Lastly, we manage to blag our way into the Bohnam's auction (you usually need to buy a catalogue) a huge hot tent bursting at the seams with exotic machinery for sale. 

The first day is almost at an end and as we wander back to the car park our feet in tatters, our backs and legs aching from all the bending we are already planning tomorrow, we stop to take a few more gentler photos of the cars as their owners put them to bed, tucking them in for the night under their soft car covers as the sun goes down.

Goodwood8a

Goodwood Day 2 


We arrive early, watch the 917's being unwrapped for another 50'000 people, click off even more photos, it's our favorite car, why not? You can never get bored with a 917.

Porsche1a

Porsche Too a

Today we want to see the Rally cars in action, it's a long trek, but we've heard it's worth it. In all the years I've been coming here, I've never ventured to the rally stage. There's a shuttle service if you want, but we decide to walk. As we get closer to the forest we can hear the rally cars, our pace quickens, we can now see the dust clouds trailing through the trees and then it explodes into a clearing, a Lancia Beta in Martini colors. I just have time to snap it as it shoots by. Wow! what next? oh no! a Stratos, click, click, shit! "did you get it?" Yes, yeess, oh yes! Then we hear the unmistakable sound of a 5 cylinder Turbo, an uneven deep growl, interspersed with the screech of a turbo waste gate. The king of rallying  the mighty Quattro slides into view and exits the corner throwing a fog of dust over us. We look like snow men, but we are laughing in-between our coughing and spluttering at what we have just experienced. After dusting ourselves off we continue trekking through the forest snapping the occasional rally car flashing between the trees, but mainly a load of dust.

Gooddust1a

Just like an Oasis, the rally car paddock is bathed in bright sunlight and overflowing with famous rally cars. Quattro's of course, Lancia Delta's, Peugeot's, Ford's, Classic Mini's but in-between there's the rarely seen Renault Alpine or Lancia Fulvia, even a Paris-Dakar spec. Porsche 911.

Goodwood9a

As we wander back down the hill we stop occasionally to look at the famous cars racing by, meet Stig's fat cousin for the umpteenth time and listen to the marshal's boasting about past events and all the time the Land Rover Bowler is performing huge leaps in the fields behind us, eager for our attention like some frisky puppy. 

Goodwood10a

We arrive at the start line, satisfied, our camera batteries dead. We enjoy a well earned hamburger while watching several F1 cars launch themselves into the distance. We are mentally and physically worn out, but we've had a hell of a time. We pull ourselves together one more time to search the stalls for model cars, books, magazines and T-shirts.

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Goodwood is an amazing experience, it's been described as the "garden party of the Gods" In July Goodwood is the centre of the universe for car enthusiasts, the summer mecca for car lovers and owners of beautiful cars. Where else in the world would you get to see so many cars spanning so many decades, but not just cars, throughout the weekend we spotted so many famous drivers, Walter Rohrl, Stig Blomqvist, Jenson Button, Stirling Moss, Andy McNish and Mr Bean! 

Goodwood12a

Over 160,000 people experienced the Festival of Speed over the course of 3 days.

All enthusiasts, petrol-heads and car-nuts, but above all Carfreax!