For those of you depressed by the gloomy start to 2009, and the feeling that both motorsport and the right to own any vehicle more exciting than a Renault Clio are luxuries we may not enjoy for too much longer, here’s a little light relief.
We bring, for your reading pleasure, a round-up of some of the more glamorous, weird and wonderful or simply downright eccentric British vehicles making headlines at the moment:
- Aston Martin’s Routemaster bus
- Here’s the ultimate democratisation of the luxury car market for our straitened times – news comes from City Hall in London that the prestige carmaker is one of two winners of a competition to produce a modern re-imagining of the iconic Routemaster bus. Aston was working in partnership with the architects Foster and Partners. The prize was also awarded to Capoco Design Ltd, an automotive design company based in Wiltshire whose submission is reminiscent of the successful Millennium Taxi design. The winning design ideas will now be passed on to bus manufacturers to develop into a final proposal and Transport for London expects to award a contract to develop and build the first new bus for London towards the end of next year. The first of the new buses will be on the streets of London by 2011.
- British Steam Car Challenge
- Nicknamed “the giant kettle” by the team at Top Gear, this is a fairly remarkable project – two miles of pipes under an aerodynamically-designed body that works on the principle of a hydrocarbon-fuelled external combustion engine promising to drastically reduce the production of polluting gases. Making a noise that you would not believe. And putting a nice crease in the driver’s trousers at the same time. No, we didn’t say that. The British Steam Car Challenge was officially launched in June 1999 and is going into its 10th year having completed its first run. The project’s patron is Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and the car is eventually to be retired on loan to the Motor Museum Trust at Beaulieu. The aim is to break the 145-mph steam land speed record set by Bob Barber in Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, in 1985 and it is hoped that the BSCC vehicle will be able to reach the dizzy heights of 170 miles per hour. You can learn everything you ever wanted to know about steam-powered vehicles by visiting its website or see it in action below:
- iMo robotic car – the latest must-have Apple product?
- Billed as the next generation of robotic vehicles, the egg-shaped, two-wheeled iMo can turn up at a party when you’re ready to leave and ensure you get home safely. It can drop the kids off at school and act as a transporter for your possessions as well as being easy to use thanks to its artificial intelligence and gesture recognition control system. Based on the same two-wheel gyroscopic drive that powers the Segway, production is slated for 2024… In reality, things are little more prosaic. Designer Anthony Jannarelly is completing a masters degree in automotive design at Coventry University and put together the iMo project as part of his studies. Many will think it’s a shame this little gem isn’t already in production, especially as Jannarelly told Wired magazine: “We need to drive iMo-like cars to preserve our petrol dream cars. iMo has been designed for saturated cities, so maybe if gearheads find out that by commuting much faster and easier with iMo, they’ve got extra time to really enjoy what their Challenger is best at.”
- Mercedes McLaren SLR Stirling Moss
- And finally – we couldn’t do this roundup without including the ultimate piece of car porn soon to be produced by Mercedes Benz. We say car porn because it’s so exclusive that, to all intents and purposes, it’s not actually a real car. That’s because you’re unlikely ever to see one in real life, and ownership remains unachievable to all but a lucky 75 existing Mercedes McLaren SLR owners who have put their name down for this £700,000 ultracar marking the end of the production run. A few stats just to round out the experience: it does a top speed of 217mph thanks to its 5.4-litre V8 Mercedes engine offering more than 640bhp. And all the superflous extras – you know, the windscreen, the roof, the windows – have simply been dispensed with Click this link for a photo gallery – but make sure you’re sitting down. And there’s a moodily-shot video below that’s likely to play havoc with your oil pressure…