AC’s heroic mid-engine failure, Land Rover’s space-going lottery, $2B cradle for VW’s flagship EV

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ac 3000me turbo weird 80s british car
Bonhams

Like heroic failures? You’ll love this mid-engined AC

Intake: An AC, the likes of which few have ever seen, is to be auctioned at Bonhams’ Goodwood sale in April. Only around 100 AC 3000MEs were built at the end of the 1970s and early 1980s, based on an original idea from an ex-Ford GT40 engineer. Peter Bohanna, and his race mechanic partner Robin Stables, actually began working on the car a decade earlier, fitting a fiberglass body over a tubular steel chassis and installing a 1.5-liter engine from an Austin Maxi amidships. Their prototype was displayed at the 1973 Olympia Racing Car Show, where it caught the eye of AC Cars’ Keith Judd.

Once under AC’s supervision, the car was developed further, with changes to the chassis design and, most importantly, to the power unit. Out came the weedy Maxi motor and in went a three-liter Ford Essex V-6. AC built less than 80 examples from 1979 to 1984, then sold the rights to a Scottish firm who assembled another 30 cars before it closed in 1985. The car for sale at Bonham’s is a 1980 model which was turbocharged to more than 200 hp. Currently with only its second owner it has 47,935 miles on the clock and is estimated to bring between $16,000 and $20,000.

Exhaust: Pitched against the even more wedgy Giugiaro-designed Lotus Esprit, the 3000ME didn’t really stand a chance, but if you’re a fan of heroic failure, then at least the price isn’t preposterous.

New Kansas bill could save your vintage car from legal limbo

1959 Corvette
Kyle Smith

Intake: A new bill (HB 2594) has recently passed the Kansas senate that allows vintage car owners to sweat less when it comes time to interact with the DMV. After a 1959 Corvette spent five years stuck in police impound following evidence the VIN plate was removed during the car’s restoration, Kansas lawmakers are acknowledging that an exception needs to be made. This bill recognizes that ownership of a VIN-less vintage car should not be brought into question without additional cause for concern.

Exhaust: We aren’t going to go all “ship of Theseus” here, and we understand why the law needs to be cut and clear regarding who owns what. This change is a positive one for the restoration community and allows owners to enjoy and properly register their cars without fear of legal repercussions.

Never mind off-road, one lucky Land Rover owner will get to go off-world

Land Rover-Virgin-Galactic-Hero
Land Rover

Intake: Land Rover has a well-earned reputation for making some of the world’s best off-roaders, but now the British 4×4 firm is offering owners the chance to go off-world. The Land Rover & Virgin Galactic Adventure of a Lifetime Sweepstakes is open to all U.S. Land Rover owners with the prize being a seat on Richard Branson’s space plane. The 90-minute flight starts with the Virgin Galactic spacecraft attached to its jet-powered mothership taking it to a height of 50,000 feet. It’s then released and its rocket motors fire for 60 seconds, accelerating it to 2600 mph. At 50 miles high the engine shuts down and passengers experience four minutes of weightlessness before descending back to Virgin’s New Mexico space port. Quite the ride. American Land Rover owners can enter the sweepstakes at LandRoverAdventureofaLifetime.com

Exhaust: A full-price ticket on Virgin’s space plane costs $450,000, so this is an impressive prize, one that’s in keeping with Land Rover’s adventurous DNA and upscale ambitions. 

Aston Martin taps U.K.-based firm for hi-po batteries

aston martin DB11 AMR in UK
Aston Martin | Dominic Fraser

Intake: Aston Martin’s first EV is due in 2025 as a replacement for one of its front-engine models—likely the DB11, shown above in AMR configuration. Now we know which company will manufacture its batteries: Britishvolt. Based in the Midlands, the firm has ambitions to build its first gigaplant in Northumberland. The company, which was founded in December of 2019, has received £1.9B in private funding as of January 21, 2022, enabled by government support through the Automotive Transportation Fund. Britishvolt also has a Memorandum of Understanding with Geely-owned Lotus as of January 28, 2022. 

Exhaust: The U.K.’s Brexit deal, which was solidified last month and will go into effect in 2027, punishes British automotive manufacturers for importing batteries from outside the country. To make the situation comparatively worse, the EU announced this January that it would set aside $3.5B for battery tech within its boundaries. So despite Britishvolt’s infancy, it’s a logical supplier choice for Aston Martin, whose hands are a bit tied here.

VW’s flagship EV, due in 2026, gets its own $2B factory in Wolfsburg

Volkswagen Trinity EV silhouette
Volkswagen AG

Intake: Volkswagen’s supervisory board has approved construction of a new $2B facility in Wolfsburg, Germany, which will build its new “lodestar” EV, called the Trinity. Work on the net-carbon-neutral facility is slated to begin next year and is a key part of VW’s recent spending shift, which now sees over half of the company’s total spending go towards electrification. The Trinity EV will debut the VW Group’s new Scalable Systems Platform (SSP), which the firm says is technically ready for level 4 autonomous driving (fully autonomous, but able to hand control over to a human upon request). The Trinity is also targeting over 700 kilometers (434 miles) of range and high-volume production. The SSP platform will also underpin the first (2025) offering from Audi’s Artemis, a startup-like group that is more operationally nimble than the ICE-focused bulk of the four-ring company. (Think Ford’s newly announced Model e group, but without the separate P&L statement.)

Exhaust: The Wolfsburg facility is VW’s home, so opting to develop what appears to be such a pivotal EV from home base is a smart move (economical, too, for EV-hungry Europe). Trinity will be developed at its own separate facility, but most of VW’s European lineup hails from the main production facility nearby: Most variants of the Golf and the Tiguan—two of VW’s most prolific nameplates—are made in at the plant. VW’s not off to the best start with EVs here in the states. The ID.4 hasn’t taken the market by storm, and while VW’s forthcoming ID. Buzz has promise of a neat retro play, this Trinity EV—should it make it stateside, which is likely—may help shift that narrative.

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