AEV Jeeps make Icelandic landfall

Sean McFarland

This article was originally published on BBC Autos.

Who said fun had to be good and clean? Sometimes the best adventures are those that leave calloused hands and scuffed boots.

Ever since BBC Autos’ recent muddy mingle with Land Rover in Kentucky, a palpable craving for off-road adventure has coursed through our ranks. Vicarious thrills have had to do, but as this video from American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) demonstrates, the thrills can still be quite visceral.

This production comes from Iceland, a place that is – as we’ve learned – tailor-made for off-tarmac adventuring. With a population of less than 300,000 and a bounty of craggy landscapes and slippery surfaces, Iceland is prime country for an off-road tuning company like AEV. The Michigan-based modifiers of all things Jeep Wrangler took a pair of their JK350 Wranglers on the expedition through Iceland’s deep ravines, vast rivers and gritty sands.

This isn’t your average slushy drive to the grocery. AEV’s purpose-built rigs have lifted suspensions and knobby off-road tires designed specifically to handle this type of pockmarked landscape without hesitation.

Slipping and sliding in the colder months is a skill worth acquiring, even outside the confines of a nearly indestructible 4×4. Meantime, spend some good, clean fun inside AEV’s cinematic road trip.

The hardcore hooligans: Ten cars with a little extra

Sean McFarland

This article was originally published on BBC Autos.

Carmakers push. If they create a widely loved vehicle, they tend not to sit back and admire their work. They ask, “Where to next?”

Such carmakers may try their hand at tuning: modifying their already impressive cars even further to create distillations – not distortions – of what makes them special. What follows is a group of cars that have received a little something extra; something that distinguishes them, and their drivers, from the norm. (Photo: BMW Group)

Mazda RX-7 Spirit R

The third generation of Mazda’s rotary-powered RX-7 is perhaps the most coveted of the breed. The curvaceous body, curious-sounding Wankel rotary engine and overall performance ticked all the right boxes for enthusiasts. So when the RX-7 was in its final years in the early 2000s, Mazda engineered a version specifically for the car’s most fervent fans. The Spirit R offered a 276-horsepower engine, a choice between an automatic and manual gearbox, and eye-catching aero tweaks, making it a faster, lighter and more aggressive proposition. Not only did it come in two-seater and 2+2 configurations, but the R also bore a Nardi steering wheel, lightweight Recaro seats and BBS wheels. All 1,500 Spirit R models were sold exclusively in Japan, save for one special unit produced for a Mazda executive in the United States. This car, the only existing left-hand-drive Spirit R, sits below Mazda’s Irvine Headquarters. (Photo: Mazda North America)

Ferrari 458 Speciale

Making its debut at the 2013 Frankfurt motor show, this track-focused version of the 458 Italia coupe boasts Maranello’s most powerful naturally aspirated V8 engine, as well as active aerodynamics in the form of flaps that open and close at various speeds. This stripped and striped version of the 458 produces 34hp more than the base car, in addition to weighing a remarkable 200lbs less. The Speciale also introduced Ferrari’s Side Slip Angle Control system, giving the car a welcome dose of good sense at the limit. Combining all of this with the Speciale’s wider tires and lower stance means a zero to 60mph time of less than 3 seconds and a top speed in excess of 202mph. (Photo: Ferrari North America)

Honda S2000 CR

The S2000 was Honda’s answer to the Porsche Boxster: a lightweight, free-revving two-seat roadster that emphasised driving dynamics above all else. The Honda won over enthusiasts, but never sold in the volumes that would ensure it any more than sleeper status. In 2008, Honda introduced a club racer variant of the S2000. Though it retained the 237hp 2.2-litre four-cylinder engine of the standard car, the CR was given a removable aluminium top, firmer track-oriented suspension and a quicker steering ratio. In its zealous quest to further reduce weight, Honda removed the spare wheel and made systems such as air conditioning and audio optional – the better to enjoy the CR’s superbike-calibre engine whine. (Photo: American Honda)

Porsche 911 GT3 RS

Wearing letters that hark back to the iconic 1973 Carrera RS, the GT3 RS of the mid-2000s was the 911 for a very particular Porsche buyer. The 3.8-litre 450hp flat-six-cylinder engine, sizable carbon-fibre wing and no-nonsense interior indicated these were not intended for idling in highway traffic. With the RS, Porsche flared the already-widened GT3 fenders to accommodate the nine and twelve-inch wheels at the front and back, respectively. But for a select 500 customers who craved an even more savage GT3, there was the GT3 RS 4.0, with 500hp and a curb weight just under 3,000lbs. (Photo: Porsche Cars)

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X MR

A rally car for the street, the Lancer Evolution has seen 10 generations. The formula has always been simple: a turbocharged engine, all-wheel-drive, four doors. The last three generations of the “Evo”, as the car has come to be known, have featured a more race-focused MR trim. Included in the 2014 MR is a twin-clutch automatic transmission, Bilstein shocks with Eibach springs and BBS wheels. The MR’s flappy-paddle gearbox also had three drive settings: Normal, Sport and an S-Sport optimised for high-revving track days. The only thing missing? A proper rally spoiler. (Photo: Mitsubishi)

Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

At first blush, the Z/28 may not seem anything more than a standard Camaro with a body kit. The shelf-like front splitter and aggressive aero tweaks are hardly an indication of its performance. The Camaro Z/28’s 505-horsepower 7-litre LS7 is roughly the same engine found in the previous-generation Corvette Z06. Chevrolet also put the Camaro on a diet, giving it thinner glass, optional air conditioning and lightweight wheels and tires that all told render the Z/28 some 300lbs lighter than the ZL1, previously the ultimate expression of Chevy’s muscle car. Granted, $75,000 for a Camaro may seem exorbitant – that is, until the spec sheet comes into view. Buyers get carbon ceramic brakes, five drive modes and a high-performance limited slip differential, all adding up to a faster lap around Germany’s Nürburgring Nordschleife than the Lamborghini Murciélago and Porsche 911 Carrera S mustered. (Photo: General Motors)

Dodge Viper SRT-10 ACR

Already one of the most raw of American sports cars, the Viper SRT-10 became one of the more frighteningly capable supercars on the market when it began sales in SRT-10 ACR form during the late 2000s. The American Club Racer package transformed the Viper into a track-gobbling carnivore. A carbon-fibre splitter, motorsport-style spoiler and eye-catching paint gave only a brief hint of the ACR’s capabilities. Its massive 8.4-litre V-10 churned out 600 horsepower and propelled the ACR to 60mph in under 4 seconds. Plus, with 14-inch vented brakes from Brembo, this striped serpent comes to a stop almost as quickly. So quick was the ACR, in fact, that it broke the unofficial lap record for a production car at the Nürburgring. (Photo: Chrysler Group, via Newspress)


Racing homologation is a simple rule: in order for a manufacturer to enter a car for motorsport, it must produce and sell a certain number of road-going versions of the car it wishes to race. In the early ‘70s, BMW produced the 3.0 CSL. The nameplate addition stood for “Coupe Sport Lightweight”, and it wasn’t a hollow marketing ploy. Aluminium body panels, thinner glass and a lack of soundproofing made the 3.0 CSL a canvas for high-speed motoring. So spirited was the car that the eventual racing version – nicknamed “The Batmobile” for its massive rear wing – became BMW’s first so-called Art Car, painted for competition by American abstract expressionist Alexander Calder. With just over 1,000 units produced, a clean 3.0 CSL commands over $100,000 at auction. (Photo: Benson Chiu/RM Auctions)

Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca

For the 2012 model year, Ford offered a multitude of trim levels for its pony car, but with apologies to the 500-horsepower Shelby GT500, this was the year of the Boss – namely, the Boss 302 Laguna Seca, a track-optimised version of the already potent Boss 302. Both cars came with a 5-litre V8 engine that churned out 444hp. But only the Laguna Seca, named for the race circuit in northern California, was stripped of its rear seats in favour of a chassis-stiffening X-brace; received a massive, downforce-abetting front splitter; and ultra-sticky R-compound race tires. Regardless of whether you opted for black or silver exterior paint, the body came adorned with bright red accents. (Photo: Ford Motor)

Mini Cooper John Cooper Works GP Edition

The GP was an effort to take the already tuned JCW Mini Cooper to the next level. Mini removed the back seat to save weight, introduced an adjustable coil-over suspension and tuned the turbocharged four-cylinder engine to 218hp – up from 208. The GP edition was also distinguished by Recaro seats, ensuring driver and passenger would reach a well-bolstered 60mph in about 6 seconds. Only 2,000 of these Coopers were produced, making them some of the more coveted modern Minis. (Photo: BMW Group)

Wringing out the minimalist’s Porsche 911

Sean McFarland

This article was originally published on BBC Autos.

They say you shouldn’t mess with success. That is the philosophy that has guided Porsche in its treatment of the 911 since its birth in 1963.

Some of the most coveted editions of Porsche’s venerable sports car are the earliest examples.

Much like Florida’s Collier Collection, the rare museum that actually exercises its stock of classic metal, the owner in this video puts his original 911 through its paces without any reservation. Though it may seem like brutal punishment for such a beautiful classic, this Porsche has a secret: it’s not an early 911.

It’s a 1981 911 SC, modified to resemble one of the earlier models in the 911 lineage – and it’s the finely tuned creation of Bugatti’s head of design, Achim Anscheidt.

Videographer Christopher Kippenberger lavishes Anscheidt’s Porsche with lingering, languorous shots befitting an original early model 911.

Why, though, would anyone tamper with even an otherwise original ’81, no slouch in the desirability department? Anscheidt told multiple sources that he wanted his 911 to be the ideal minimalist sports car. That’s why he completely disassembled and rebuilt it with lighter body panels, a stripped interior and plastic windows. The result of this weight-saving regimen is a claimed 820kg (1,808lbs) curb weight, lighter than a Mazda Miata. Coupling this lightness with a 310-horsepower 3.2-litre flat six-cylinder engine translates to proper swiftness.

With all this in mind, the radical surgery seems less cruel. Anscheidt’s 911 becomes a perfect tool for a high-rpm sprint. And as your headphones will communicate, without the weight and muffled noise from the sound-deadening components of an unmodified 911, this Porsche is loud.

JDM gems shine – in Utah

Sean McFarland

This article was originally published on BBC Autos.

BBC Autos’ recent visit to the quasi-museum lurking beneath Mazda’s Irvine, California, headquarters stirred a hankering for some classic Japanese metal.

At a time when muscle cars reigned in America, the Japanese domestic market – also known as JDM – was busy fabricating what would become some of the most coveted designs on the road. Models like the Nissan Skyline, bearing a nameplate traceable to the late 1950s, established themselves as some of the most respected and tunable sporting cars on the market.

The above video, by Utah-based videographer Josh Clason, showcases several flawless examples of rare and sought-after Japanese vehicles, including a first-generation Toyota Celica, a Nissan Skyline in the four-door 2000GT and two-door GT-R trims, and even a modified Toyota Starlet hatchback. These cars aren’t garage queens, however. Check out the shots at 2:47, when three of these classics take to the streets in a cruise that would please many a JDM fan.

Clason’s video artfully highlights the aspects that made these cars famous: the furrowed brow of the earlier Skylines, the narrow stance of the Celica and the low-slung body of the 2000GT. JDM Legends, a garage based in Murray, Utah, has restorations ranging from the faithful to the subtly modified – the white Skyline GT-R coming with a twin-turbocharged RB26 engine swap from a late ‘80s Skyline. With the right parts, this power plant can be tuned to over 1,000 horsepower. Love them or hate them, era-specific fender mirrors adorn each of the cars.

For North American fans who might fancy these gems from the land of the rising sun, JDM Legends maintains a selection of clean examples for sale. Meantime, savour the sight of these vehicles in high definition.