The Autoweek Dispatch, 4\/24\/20: Glimmers of Hope (?)

Welcome to quarantine week six, another seven days of cancellations, postponements, shutdowns … you know the drill. That said there was a tiny—tiny—light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, as automakers at least started discussing when they might crank up car and truck production again. But then on the other hand we hear something like Pebble Beach getting canceled. This week feels mostly like we’re just treading water. Here’s what’s happening in the car world:


“You have to be careful because when you try to make it where you add tech and add power and add this and that, then you become Formula 1. Can an Indy car go 250 mph? 100%, tomorrow. The problem is how you approach it.”

—IndyCar driver and good guy Tony Kanaan when asked, in a wide-ranging Autoweek interview, what he would do to take his sport to the next level.


Our weekly Talks features have been repackaged and renamed Autoweek Breaks Down. The aim remains the same: to bring delightful car stories to entertain and enlighten you without necessarily following the news cycle. We kick it all off this week with Mysteries—automotive riddles and their answers. What kind of van did the crime fighters in Scooby-Doo drive? What’s a ZiL? What are some great, but missing, concepts? Check out Autoweek Breaks Down for answers to these (and more) burning questions.


As this is being written no sanctioning body has announced an official start date for their 2020 seasons, begging the question, which one is going to pull the trigger first? F1 looks like the least possible, with various countries imposing different stay-at-home orders, though there’s talk of a Silverstone doubleheader July 18-19. At this point IMSA is sticking to its scheduled opener with the June 28 Watkins Glen 6 Hour. It looks like NASCAR could be first to restart, for a couple main reasons: Southern governors seem a bit more itchy than others to get their economies up and running, and the stock car series is making noises that it could be willing to give real racing a go without fans in the bleachers.

To that point Texas Motor Speedway was supposed to host IndyCar’s season opener June 6, but track president Eddie Gossage said a couple weeks ago he wouldn’t “consider running Indy cars without fans in the stands.” A fan-less NASCAR/IndyCar doubleheader might be a solution, though, because NASCAR pays a percentage of TV revenue to tracks, while IndyCar doesn’t.

At least we still have virtual racing (even the World of Outlaws is getting into it! And Jeff Gordon!!), and you betcha: We’re once again taking on our Car and Driver and Road & Track Hearst Autos brethren, with the Forza Work from Home Cup 2020. Round 5 is at 3:30 this afternoon (4/24) on Twitch. Surely you saw our podium finish last week, right? RIGHT?!? Look for more of the same!!!


The same week the word leaked out that Ford is killing the Focus RS, the company said it was launching a one-off (so far) electric Mustang drag racer and calling it the Cobra Jet 1400. Waitwhat? Cobra Jet?!? Many will cry sacrilege for using the legendary name, even though Ford says the electric powertrain produces 1,400 hp and 1,100-plus lb-ft of torque. The automaker projects quarter-mile runs in the “low-eight-second range at more than 170 mph.” Those numbers could well shut people up, but we predict plenty are still going to cry foul. Heck, we know people who still aren’t over Ford using the Mustang name on the Mach-E.

As mentioned up top, U.S. automakers are in discussions with the United Auto Workers to restart production sometime in early May, after a month or more of downtime, and after several European automakers have restarted assembly plants. VW was planning to restart its plants in Germany and Slovakia this week, with plants in other countries to follow on Monday, April 27, and Polestar 2 production began this week in Luqiao, China.


COVID-19 blew up Mark Vaughn’s planned Mojave Road trek in a Rolls-Royce Cullinan, but the former state prosecutor turned west coast editor did manage some seat time in the 6,000-pound monster. Thanks largely to the self-leveling air suspension, “the Rolls is the smooth-sailing-est cloud ride you’ll ever experience,” says Vaughn. For $406,225 it better be!

Graham Kozak’s time in Mercedes-Benz’s 2020 GLE350 4Matic taught him that entry level doesn’t always mean entry level. Kozak writes that the Benz looks good with a few AMG Line exterior goodies, and the turbo-four hauls the thing along decently. His only wish is, well, check it out for yourself.


Ever hear of a guy named Najeeb Khan? He’s an Indiana businessman accused of a multimillion dollar fraud. Pfffft, those guys are a dime a dozen, you’re thinking. Ah, perhaps, but few have spent decades putting together a car collection with the style and degrees of rarity of Kahn’s—not one but two Tatras! And it’s all going up for sale, with proceeds going to paying down the debt Khan owes creditors. RM Sotheby’s is handling the sale Oct. 23-24 so you have plenty of time to peruse.


Natalie Neff kicks off the 106th “Autoweek Podcast” discussing the inaugural Breaks Down section with a dive into some of the car world’s mysteries. Kozak spins a yarn about missing cars, and Jake Lingeman talks about the history of Scooby-Doo’s Mystery Machine. Later in the episode, Mike Pryson and Wesley Wren digitally sit with NHRA Top Fuel Funny Car pilot Alexis DeJoria. Then Lawrence Ulrich joins Wes Raynal and Patrick Carone to dive into the ethics of driving during the coronavirus pandemic. Closing the show, Lingeman joins Vaughn to talk about Mark’s recent time with the Rolls-Royce Cullinan and Lingeman reviews the BMW 840i. Tune in here, on Spotify or wherever podcasts are played.


As always we’ll be around all weekend keeping up with and reporting on the sanctioning bodies’ and automakers’ efforts to maneuver through the COVID-19 nuttiness. You’ll know what’s new when we do. Check back often!

And please stay safe.

Source: Read Full Article