Monthly Archives: June 2014

Jaguar Project 7

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Jaguar debuted its Project 7 sports car at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Named after its seven 24 Hours of Le Mans victories, 250 copies of the fully street legal roadster will be hand-built by the company’s Special Operations Team. Customer deliveries will begin in mid-2015.

Based on the F-Type it features a distinctive driver fairing and other styling elements inspired by the  Jaguar D-Type, now celebrating the 60th anniversary of its launch.
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Seven Car Magazine Observations

McLaren MP4/4 F1 Car in the Road & Track Magazine lobby

McLaren on display at Road & Track Magazine lobby

I recently scoured a huge part of my magazine collection indexing notable sports cars of the past 15 years. In doing so, besides spending a ridiculous amount of time rereading many blasts from the past, several observations stand out.

Between the likes of Automobile, which sadly dismissed its Editor In Chief, Jean Jennings, last month, Road & Track, which was relocated from Southern California to Ann Arbor, Michigan amid a reorganization a couple of years back, and Sports Car International which ceased publication in 2008 it’s clear that the magazine business is in flux and shifting online.

1. Time Moves Faster Than It Seems

So many cars seem like they were launched recently but were actually on the market much earlier and are now out of production. This is actually good. Well styled cars that are five, ten and even fifteen years old have now heavily depreciated but still look great. These are the performance bargains a lot of sports car investors look for. Not because we expect values to actually rise (don’t hold your breath) but because these cars can be less expensive to own than new ones and they offer tons of fun as well.

2. Road & Track Is the Enthusiast’s Magazine

R&T consistently delivers content on sports cars, driving roads and motorsports, with an international flair. The magazine’s lobby has a McLaren F1 car on display for a year too (shown in photo above).

Automobile is also very good. I seem to remember their motto of “No boring cars” and will give them the benefit of the doubt despite the occasional Chrysler Sebring convertible review. They make it up on volume with pieces on cars like the Aston Martin V8 Vantage roadster and the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera.
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Aston Martin DB9, A Modern Sports Car For Old Money

Aston-Martin DB9 and DB9 Volante

Aston Martin DB9, humming along on 12 cylinders since 2004…

Aston Martin unveiled the DB9 at the 2003 Frankfurt motor show as the replacement for its highly successful DB7, of which more than 7,000 units were sold during its 11 year production run.

Designed by Ian Callum and Henrik Fisker, the DB9 used Aston Martin’s then-new VH (Vertical/Horizontal) platform, which has underpinned most of the company’s lineup since.

Available as both a coupe and convertible (Volante in Aston-speak) and sporting an unmistakably Aston Martin body, its aerodynamic drag coefficient was a conservative 0.34 Cd to favor style and high speed stability.

The chassis consisted largely of aluminum extrusions, forgings and castings joined with structural adhesives and self-piercing rivets. Aluminum was also used for the hood, roof and rear fenders. Door frames were of cast magnesium while front fenders and the trunklid were formed from composite plastic.
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Estimating Intrinsic Value Like A Boss

The main idea of this post is really simple.

Just keep in mind that if you receive a payment of $100 at the end of each year for the next ten years, those payments are not worth the same in today’s dollars. A $100 payment one year from now is worth maybe $95 in today’s money, while a $100 payment ten years from now may only be worth $60 right now. The total of those payments in today’s dollars is the present value.

Okay, onward…

Every publicly traded stock has more than one value. There is what other people (i.e. the market) say it’s worth at the moment, and there is what you think it’s worth if you were to buy and hold it indefinitely – its intrinsic value.
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24 Hours of Le Mans Review [SPOILER ALERT]

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The 2014 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is now in the books. One of the three top contenders won the race as expected… but a whole lot of other things happened too. Here’s the short, short version of  events:

LMP-1

Audi took the overall and LMP-1 win with a 1-2 finish, an amazing 13th victory in 16 attempts, though it was not without drama. The third Audi (#3) and #8 Toyota were involved in a crash in wet conditions about 90 minutes into the race. The Audi was unable to continue while the Toyota limped back to the pits and was in the garage for about 50 minutes to repair the damage.

The winning team consisted of Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer in their R18 etron quattro. Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen was part of the team that finished second in the sister Audi after the car experienced turbo problems. His teammates were Lucas Di Grassi and Marc Gene, both ex-F1 drivers.

Gene was called in at the last minute to replace Loic Duval, who was not cleared to race as a precaution following the massive practice crash on Wednesday from which he fortunately emerged largely unscathed.
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24 Hours of Le Mans Preview: Porsche, Audi or Toyota?

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The 82nd running of the French classic takes place this weekend, June 14th and 15th, at the Circuit de la Sarthe, a high speed track nearly 8.5 miles in length. Fifty-six cars are entered across four classes of prototype race cars and production-based GT cars.

One surprising fact: Fully half of the entries are powered by Ferrari and Nissan (14 cars each). However, it is unlikely either will take the overall win since the top LMP-1 class is composed primarily of seven manufacturer-backed hybrid-electric prototypes from Audi, Porsche and Toyota.

The LMP-2 class has largely privateer teams running prototypes (17 cars), while the GTE Pro class has nine cars entered and the GTE Amateur class has 19 entries. However, some of those entries are really stretching the definition of  “amateur” with several ex-F1 drivers and Ben Collins (formerly The Stig on BBC’s Top Gear) in their line ups.
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Warren Buffett’s Words of Wisdom

Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and the world’s most successful investor, writes a much anticipated annual letter to shareholders. He has done so each year since 1965. His letter about the company’s 2013 performance (published March 2014), provides enlightening insight through two successful real estate investments he made.

One is a farm in Nebraska he purchased in 1986 for one of his sons to operate. The other is a retail property in New York City he purchased in 1993 as part of a partnership. He has been to the farm twice, and has never been to the NYC property.

The gist of his advice is to buy investments at a discount to their intrinsic value. And by intrinsic value he means value based on what it is expected to earn or produce over the coming years. Those with steady earnings, low potential downside and high potential upside are solid investments. Once those aspects have been evaluated, with emphasis on future productivity or earnings relative to today, then it comes down to purchasing them at attractive prices.
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Building A Better Race Car For Formula SAE


Last month I attended the annual Formula SAE competition at Michigan International Speedway as one of about 400 volunteers. My last outing there took place years ago as a student. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) sponsors a range of collegiate design competitions, and FSAE is one of the biggest.

Since 1981 teams of engineering students at an ever expanding roster of universities design, build, test and race their very own formula-style race cars each year. FSAE is where they go to race.

This year it was cold and dreary most of the time. Mobile phone signals weren’t great either. I could go on. But it’s not like it was much different from where it used to be held: The Pontiac Thunderdome Silverdome parking lot. Except back then pretty much no one had cell phones. But the real world doesn’t promise ideal conditions so this was as good a venue as any to put the cars to the test.

The rules are fairly open to encourage innovation: Create a race car for autocross courses within certain safety parameters, with a maximum engine displacement of 610 cc, and then race it against other teams that have done the same thing to see who does best.
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How the Less Was Won By the Lotus Elise

Lotus Elise Supercharged

Lotus Elise sports car

There have been a number of landmark designs since the earliest sports cars were introduced. In the post-WWII era that has included classics like the Jaguar E-Type, Ferrari Dino, and the original 1960s Elan. Usually such cars are supplanted by heavier, larger and more luxurious models in an effort to broaden the market appeal and expand sales. Or they die. Or the companies behind them flirt with bankruptcy.

By the 1990s Lotus Cars, had taken the Esprit far upmarket, and then went into a front wheel drive cul-de-sac with the unloved M100 Elan. The company returned to the basics with the Elise, a featherweight really no-frills, mid-engine sports car with an aluminum chassis and fiberglass body.

The first generation was not available in the U.S. market. But the following “Federal” model was introduced to the U.S. for the 2005 model year and facelifted versions remain in production. It carved out a unique place for itself on the sports car scene as the lightest and arguably the most exhilarating machine in terms of handling prowess. It is still the purest production sports car on the market.
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