No more online Bronco reservations, leaded gas finally gone, Audi axes IMSA entry

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Matt Tierney

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No more online Bronco reservations—for now

Intake: 190,000 reservations and a host of supply-chain issues later, Ford has finally told wanna-be Bronco owners to shut their computers and go straight to their dealer. Online reservations for the reborn off-roader are officially closed—and, according to the bronco6g forum, have been so since last Tuesday. According to Steve Gabbara, general manager of Szott Ford in Holly, who spoke to the Detroit Free Press, the underlying motive here isn’t to plug the dealer network. Ford desperately needs to buy itself time. Not only does it need to replace the roof of every hardtop Bronco delivered, it also has to approve the hardshell replacements built by problematic supplier Webasto and allow the Michigan Assembly Plant time to hack away at a stack of 125,000 orders. Coupled with Ford’s promise to provide a 2022 MY vehicle to anyone who hasn’t yet received a build date for their Bronco, that hefty production schedule will extend Bronco deliveries through the 2022 calendar year, according to Ford’s owner resources website. For context, Ford forecasts that 2022 MY vehicles will roll off the assembly line beginning in late December of this year.

Exhaust: We’re a bit surprised Ford didn’t close 2021 MY reservations earlier, given the intensity of demand (reservations stood at 150,000 a mere 17 days after the model’s 2020 debut) and the roof issues (ouch). The answer to the abrupt cutoff of online reservations could be an ominous sign—or simply a sign that the 2022 order books will open soon. UPDATE: According to a Ford spokesman identified only as Said Deep, speaking to The Detroit News, “soon” likely means October, a timeframe that aligns with the expected arrival of replacement Webasto hardtops. 

Leaded fuel is finally finished

Old gas pump
Lewis Roberts / Unsplash

Intake: Leaded gasoline is no longer available anywhere in the world after Algeria stopped selling it in July. Algeria, Yemen, and Iraq were the last holdouts for the toxic fuel after even North Korea ditched it in 2016. Leaded gas was banned in the U.S.A. under the 1996 Clean Air Act, but began to fall out of popular use in the 1970s when its terrible impact on public health became clear. Leaded gas has been linked to heart disease, cancer, strokes, and brain development problems in children yet has taken almost 100 years to leave the world entirely. First introduced in the early 1920s, tetraethyl lead enabled car engines to use higher compression ratios and thus generate more power. Frank Howard, vice president of the Ethyl Corporation, even called it “a gift from God.” The dangers of this great gift were obvious from the early days, however, when five workers at the Standard Oil plant in New Jersey died and 35 were hospitalized with lead poisoning.

Exhaust: It’s hard to believe that the automotive industry took nearly a century to officially discontinue the sale of leaded fuel, though the stuff is still available at thousands of U.S. airports. With combustion engines facing bans in many countries in the next decade, unleaded will have a much shorter lifespan.

Two Lotus EV sports cars will join pair of electric SUVs by 2026

Lotus EV range teaser
Lotus

Intake: Lotus will add four new EVs, all due by 2026, so purists clinging to the brand’s last-ever ICE coupe (the Emira) had better brace themselves. Next year brings Lotus’ first SUV, codenamed Type 132. It will be joined by the Type 133 four-door coupe in 2023, the Type 134 SUV in 2025, and an all-new electric sports car in 2026 preliminarily called the—you’re catching on now—Type 135. Each of the four vehicles will be built on Lotus’ flexible “Premium” architecture, whose generous (9.47–10.1-foot) wheelbase accommodates a 92 to 120 kWh battery pack capable of 800V high-speed charging. The new vehicles won’t all be built in the same place, however: A new factory in China will take care of the “lifestyle” (aka SUV) offerings, leaving the two sports cars and the Evija to the team in Hethel, U.K. A note on that Asian factory: China’s Lotus Technology is integrating an “intelligent test track” to hone an autonomous driving mode that will help drivers “perform as well as an F1 driver on track.”

Exhaust: We repressed a shudder at that last line, too. In a vacuum, such an effort is probably thrilling for software developers, but a sports car—let alone a Lotus—that does the fun stuff by itself reeks of video-game gimmickry. Will the Hethel contingent be able to use Geely’s dollars to preserve the spirit of Lotus in a brave, new, EV world? We’ll see, but an autonomous ride-along on track seems like the opposite of the Lotus ethos.

On this day, the Olds Golden Rocket was born

Wikimedia Commons

Intake: It was 65 years ago today that Oldsmobile’s fiberglass foray arrived at the 1956 GM Motorama. The bronze-hued, gullwing doored, bullet-shaped body covered a hotter version of Oldsmobile’s Rocket V-8, but the rest of the powertrain (automatic transmission and a solid, leaf sprung axle) was tragically mundane. The Golden Rocket shared the stage with the (Buick) Centurion, GM Firebird II, (Pontiac) Club de Mer, and two custom Cadillacs (Eldorado Brougham, Eldorado Brougham Town Car) which were the highlights for the roughly 2.2 million would-be buyers that attended this national tour of motoring’s future. The future according to General Motors, that is.

Exhaust: Show cars are rarely anything but an optimistic vision, and the Golden Rocket was no exception. While current whereabouts are unknown, there’s an ever-so-slight chance the Golden Rocket escaped the jaws of the crusher, and may one day come back to the limelight. 

Audi will not race at IMSA in 2023 after all

Audi LMDh concept
Audi

Intake: Audi’s touted return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2023 will not go ahead. The company was expected to field a car in the new LMDh class and build on its American racing legacy where Audi won the American Le Mans series from 2000 to 2008. Instead, all efforts are to go into a full factory assault on the FIA World Endurance Championship, according to a report by Racer. There Audi will face German rivals BMW and Porsche, plus Acura, Toyota, Peugeot, Ferrari, Cadillac, and Glickenhaus in the Hypercar class.

Exhaust: Audi dominated American sports car racing for almost a decade and many fans were excited about the brand getting back on track. Word is that a privateer entry could still happen. If that fails, and you really want to see an Audi prototype lapping again, then you could always buy this 2009 R15 for sale by Canepa.

Subaru’s 2023 Solterra takes shape, clones Toyota’s bZ4X concept

Intake: Subaru released new glimpses at its upcoming Solterra, what will be the brand’s first BEV SUV, on sale mid-2022. The car appears destined to be a carbon copy of the jointly developed bZ4X BEV concept that Toyota debuted earlier this summer. The Solterra is built on the incoming e-Subaru platform (a marriage of Subaru’s AWD and Toyota’s EV technologies).

Exhaust: Flat black front quarter-panels help to visually differentiate and ruggedize Subaru’s electric newcomer in familiar ways for the brand. The interior’s elevated design language, however, suggests this is not your babysitter’s Subaru, and falls more in step with BEV competitors sporting cutting edge interfaces. Beyond the outfit, Subaru is leaning even further into its claims that the Solterra will be equally as adventure-worthy as its ICE offerings, with off-road and all-weather capability. Time tells all. The Subaru-Toyota handshake has been working since 2005, and no reasons indicate that BEVs won’t soon become their most lucrative avenue yet.

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