Cadillac Allante

Cadillac Allante: the curious motoring disaster that had its own private jets

Cadillac AllanteWhen it comes to building cars cost-efficiently, it’s generally a good idea to manufacture the body somewhere in the vicinity of the final assembly line.

Next door is ideal, the freshly stamped and welded body immediately making its way to the paint shop, before being baked, undersealed and despatched to the moving conveyor that will see it built into a complete car.

It’s a manufacturing sequence that most car-makers follow, although there have been a surprising number of models whose bodyshells have been built on sites some distance from the assembly line.

Rolls-Royce used to buy in shells for its Silver Shadow and Silver Spirit from British Leyland, which manufactured them on what is now the site of the BMW Mini factory in Oxford. And today, a Roller’s bodyshell comes from Germany.

Ferrari sourced bodies from coachbuilders Scaglietti, Lamborghini from Goldencar, both of these local to their factories.

Less clever was British Leyland’s habit of transporting primered bodyshells around the Midlands during the ‘60s and ‘70s, a pretty inefficient activity when most of a raw shell is air.

Cadillac and Pininfarina

Cadillac Allante

But that was nothing to the manufacturing process that produced the Cadillac Allante. This two-door convertible, which debuted in 1986 as an alternative to the Mercedes SL and Jaguar XJS, was the progeny of America’s most upscale car-maker and Italian design house Pininfarina.

Cadillac had flirted with the Italian company before, the body of its ’59 Eldorado Brougham saloon handbuilt and assembled in Turin on chassis’ sent from the US. Once Pininfarina had finished with it, the Brougham was shipped back to America for final finishing.

This was the last hand-made, coach-built Cadillac and you certainly paid for it, the Pininfarina Brougham costing three times the price of the spectacularly flamboyant standard version made in the US.

Unsurprisingly, this US-Italian hybrid sold slowly despite its more tasteful elegance, only 200 finding homes in 1959-60. There were quality problems too, the lead-loading used to smooth its hand-beaten bodywork causing the paint to fracture.

How not to learn from history…

Cadillac Allante

Despite such mixed results, GM decided to have another crack at creating something special with Pininfarina a couple of decades later.

This time, Italy got the task not only of designing a classy two-seat roadster, but also of building and painting its body as well. The broad basis of the Allante was Cadillac’s front-wheel drive V8 Eldorado, although its bodyshell, and most of its platform, were unique to the convertible.

And the name? That was generated by a computer that produced 1700 possibilities, the chosen badge being meaningless, although its did sound a little like the sea that this Cadillac’s body had to cross.

Cadillac Allante

That body was neat, slender, crisp and excitement-free, the Allante’s potential athleticism undermined by an over-short wheelbase, a curiously high-riding stance and a powertrain that was never going to threaten a sprinting SL or an XJS.

There may have been 4.1 litres of V8 beneath its long bonnet, but this engine was good for no more than 170bhp and a 0-60mph time of 9.8 seconds, languidly delivered via four-speed automatic.

All of which meant that the most dramatic aspect of the Allante was not the car itself but its crazy method of construction.

Building cars with Boeing

Cadillac Allante

Once Pininfarina had finished the bodies, which were painted, fully trimmed and equipped with their folding roofs, they were transported from Turin to America by jumbo jet.

GM called it the ‘Allante Airbridge’, a trio of Boeing 747s specially modified to carry the part-finished Caddys across the pond. Detroit installed the sub-frames, suspension, drivetrain, fuel tanks and wheels to complete the car.

Cadillac Allante

Although it was not quite complete when Cadillac launched it in autumn 1986, Pininfarina having realised that the soft-top was prone to leaks and squeaks. They wanted to delay the launch and fix the problems, but GM insisted on sticking to its timetable.

And Mother Earth stuck to her familiar weather patterns, unhelpfully showering the Allantes bought by eager owners. Who soon found that some of that rain wasn’t returning to earth, but pooling in the footwells of their prized new convertibles.

Stemming the leaks cost Cadillac tens of thousands of dollars, besides staining the Allante’s reputation. And its carpets.

Leaks were not the last of the Allante’s functional troubles. Bosch discovered problems with its ABS anti-lock brake system, and the Bose sound system made strange cracking noises that could have been mistaken for failing trim.

Cadillac didn’t give up

Cadillac Allante

By the early ‘90s, the Allante’s reputation was glittering like an old tyre. But Cadillac didn’t give up on it, despite slow sales.

The pushrod 4.1 motor was tuned to produce 204bhp before being replaced in 1992 by GM’s excellent new 4.5 litre 32-valve quad cam Northstar V8, which delivered a far more convincing 285bhp.

Despite its front-drive chassis, the Allante drove well, too, blending refinement with a decent show of twisting road agility.

And it had plenty of the toys that Cadillac owners expect, including sumptuous power leather seats, digital LCD instruments, traction control – necessary, with front-drive and 285bhp – and later in life, electronically controlled suspension too.

‘Quite decent’, eventually

Cadillac Allante

By the end of its career, the Allante had become quite a decent grand touring convertible. Trouble was, the 1989 Mercedes SL, a tour de force of engineering and quality, had the one thing that the Allante was missing, in the shape of a one-shot power roof. Which didn’t leak.

Cadillac ran hard to fix and improve the Allante in the first few years of its life, but it never ran hard enough to keep up with the SL and XJS despite some substantial improvements.

Like most cars that gain an unsavoury early reputation, it never fully recovered. Still, the ’93 model year Allante was the best yet, featuring revised rear suspension with electronic dampers, upgraded brakes and myriad detail improvements.

It was also the best sales year for the car, the 4670 sold far higher than had been achieved in earlier years. But Cadillac nevertheless announced the Allante’s demise in the same year, the model still falling short of its 6000 annual sales target.

Profligate, yet loss-making

Cadillac Allante

It’s hard to imagine GM making much money on this car when it sold an average of around 3000 copies a year, was produced by such tortuously profligate methods, shared relatively little with other Cadillacs and almost nothing with Oldsmobiles and Buicks.

The total Allante production tally was 21,430. Today you can find them on sale in America from around $8000, while the best examples, often with mileages well below 40,000, cost under $20,000 – a third of the $60,000 or so that this Cadillac cost at the end of its career.

The Allante was not Cadillac’s last two-seater, the company taking another shot at the SL with the XLR. This time without the help of Pininfarina and a small fleet of jumbo jets.

LG Rolly Keyboard

LG reveals ‘rollable’ portable keyboard

LG Rolly KeyboardLG will unveil a world-first solid rollable wireless keyboard at IFA 2015 in Berlin next month.

Fittingly called the LG Rolly Keyboard, it folds along four rows and comes with a ‘stick’ to carry it in (or chuck into your handbag or manbag).

LG says it’s extremely comfortable to use because the 17mm key pitch is almost identical to the 18mm pitch of most desktop keyboards.

Because it’s made of polycarbonate and ABS plastic, it has ‘satisfying tactile feedback not found on flexile silicone keyboards’.

Keys are high-contrast and there’s a fold-out section to stand a mobile device on.

Folding out the KBB-700 Rolly Keyboard turns it auto-on, connecting via Bluetooth 3.0. It’s powered by one AAA battery, good for three months’ use reckons LG.

Cleverly, it can be connected to two devices at the same time: users toggle between the two by pressing a key.

And if you thought this tech accessory was clever, stay poised, said Seo Young-jae, vice president in charge of Innovative Personal Devices at LG Electronics.

“LG Rolly Keyboard is just one of the many premium input devices we’ll be unveiling in the coming months as we expand our accessories offerings.”

Gerhard Berger

Britain celebrates F1 legend with National Berger Day

Gerhard BergerBritain is today marking the 56th birthday of Formula 1 hero Gerhard Berger with an official national day.

National Berger Day 2015 on 27th August sees the country celebrate everything that’s so great about Berger with nationwide events; some businesses are even running special National Berger Day promotions.

Many are planning their own National Berger Day barbecues and others are planning on dining out at restaurants to mark the big-eating F1 driver’s birthday.

#NationalBergerDay is actually trending on Twitter as Brits tweet pictures of the treats they’re devouring in honour of the great man.

And why not: Berger is, after all, famous for hilariously throwing Ayrton Senna’s briefcase out of a helicopter. Senna responded by hilariously filling Berger’s shoes with shaving foam.

Berger also won some F1 races and finished third in the F1 World Championship an almost unprecedented twice.

How are you celebrating #NationalBergerDay? Share what you’re up to with us

Blog: could motorists be forced to pay millions more in tax to compensate for exaggerated efficiency figures?

Over half a million drivers ignore fuel warning light

Over half a million drivers ignore fuel warning light

An increasing number of UK drivers are risking running out of fuel – with over half a million ignoring the warning lights, and a further 267,000 simply not noticing it.

The shocking figures come from LV Road Rescue, amid claims that 827,000 motorists were rescued for running out of fuel last year.

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That is an increase of 50,000 compared to 2013 – a rise that can be put down to increasing fuel costs, says LV.

LV Road Rescue managing director, John O’Roarke, said: “Having to buy expensive motorway fuel can be frustrating, but if it saves you the stress of running out of petrol and potentially causing damage to your engine then it’s worth the cost. Roadside assistance is there to help should a motorist find themselves in a sticky situation – but being diligent with topping up soon after the light comes on will help to avoid the headache that a breakdown can bring.”

More than a half of drivers surveyed admitted to driving past petrol stations when they needed fuel in the hope of finding it cheaper elsewhere, while many overestimate how far they can travel once their warning light comes on.

How far can I drive once my fuel warning light comes on?

The distance you can drive once the fuel warning light depends on a number of factors such as how efficient your car is and how you drive.

However, you can get a rough indication from tankonempty.com. Here’s a handy table featuring the UK’s bestselling cars.

Ranking, in terms of popularityCar model Number of miles left in the tank after the petrol light comes on
1Ford Fiesta37 miles
2Vauxhall Corsa29 miles
3Ford Focus40 miles
4Volkswagen Golf42 miles
5Nissan QashqaiNot currently available
6Vauxhall Astra26 miles
7Volkswagen Polo39 miles
8Audi A342 miles
9Mercedes-Benz C-Class46 miles
10MINI Cooper45 miles
Renault Talisman

Renault Talisman Estate revealed – but it is NOT for Britain

Renault TalismanRenault has revealed a stylish estate version of its new Talisman large car – but confirmed once again there are no plans to sell it in the UK: the firm won’t even build it in right-hand drive.

Debuting at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, the large new Renault rival to the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia is a big car (it’s nearly 4.9 metres long) but this pays off inside: it has almost 1,700 litres of boot space with the seats down.

Even with the seats up, there’s 572 litres of space and the total load length stretches to more than two metres.

Renault even offers a foot-operated electric tailgate for the new Talisman Estate.

Renault Talisman

The firm is claiming class-leading interior space, with the estate getting even more headroom in the back plus new ‘Cover Carving Technology’ seatbacks that liberate an extra 30mm of rear kneeroom.

Massaging front seats are offered, they can be ventilated, and even the headrests are ‘aviation-style’ and adjust in six ways.

Outside, Renault’s fitted aluminium roof bars and chrome-edged side windows: the subtle kick in the rear windowline is a neat touch and the rakish rear is smart.

Renault Talisman

Although the large family car D-sector market has declined over the years, it still accounts for more than one million annual sales across Europe, says Renault.

Estates are actually more important than saloons, taking 54% of overall volumes: that’s why it’s been so quick to launch the new Talisman Estate.

Underneath, it has 4Control four-wheel steer and active damping tech, plus familiar TCe petrol and dCi diesel engines.

See it for the first time at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show next month. But, Mondeo-owning Brits, don’t get too excited…

Kia Sportage

New Kia Sportage revealed ahead of Frankfurt 2015 debut

Kia SportageKia has revealed the all-new fourth-generation Sportage compact SUV that will be the centrepiece of its stand at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show.

The new Sportage boasts a bolder front end than the current car, with high-mounted headlights now split from the latest Kia grille and extra-large foglamp housings.

On the GT Line-spec launch car, these feature the smart ‘ice cube’ LED lights currently seen on the Kia cee’d GT: looks like they’re going to become a design feature for the brand.

Kia describes the front end as having “a more imposing appearance and a more stable-looking stance”.

Overall dimensions are similar, but the details have been altered: the front overhang is longer, as is the wheelbase, but the rear overhang is shorter.

Other Sportage styling cues from the breakthrough third-generation car remain in tact: the new model has the same strong shape to the rear C-pillar and windowline, and boasts similarly bold black-framed wheelarches.

Kia_Sportage_02

The rear end is cleaner, with a tidier tailgate design, smart slim lamps and a posh chrome bar connecting them together. Kia says it’s been inspired by the controversially-named 2013 Kia Provo concept car.

It’s fitting that the new Sportage will be launched in Frankfurt: Kia’s design studio there has led the design, with input from its designers in Korea and California.

Expect more details in the build-up to the Frankfurt Motor Show ahead of the new Sportage’s public debut there on 15 September.

Hyundai N 2025 Vision Gran Turismo teaser

Hyundai N performance brand to launch at Frankfurt 2015

Hyundai N 2025 Vision Gran Turismo teaserHyundai N, the firm’s performance sub-brand rival to Nissan Nismo and SEAT Cupra, will make its world debut at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show next month – on a radical supercar concept.

The brand will feature on a concept created for the Gran Turismo franchise, called Hyundai N 2025 Vision Gran Turismo: yes, Hyundai’s using its opportunity of becoming the latest maker to roll out a Gran Turismo ‘vision’ car as the chance to launch its new performance car division.

The extra publicity from the younger audience it’s targeted with appealing to thus comes for free. Clever Hyundai.

Hyundai will also show a mid-engine concept car called RM15 that will show “how the Hyundai N driver-focused technologies could come into production”.

Hyundai RM15 concept

Curiously, this appears to be a mid-engined version of the Hyundai Veloster, a car that’s long since been withdrawn from the UK due to slow sales. Could Hyundai possibly be planning a Renault Clio V6-style low-volume special..?

We also wonder if the 300hp 2.0-litre engine it uses is a preview to the motor we’ll perhaps see in a Hyundai i30 N hot hatch rival to the Honda Civic Type-R.

N “capitalises on Hyundai Motor’s fast-growing strength and signifies the pace of change within the brand,” says the firm.

It’s all about “matching the company’s ambition to challenge perceptions by making real and emotional connections with customers”.

All will be revealed about Hyundai’s first-ever performance sub-brand at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show on 15 September.

Go Ultra Low

Plug-in Car Grant extended to ‘at least’ February 2016

Go Ultra LowThe government has guaranteed the Plug-in Car Grant, offering up to £5,000 off the price of an ultra-low emission car, will continue for “at least” the next six months.

Previously, the grant was due for review once volumes hit 50,000 units: a recent boom in ULEV registrations – they’ve grown 256% so far in 2015 – means the SMMT expects that benchmark to be reached in November 2015.

The government has responded early though, by committing the Plug-in Car Grant to at least February 2016: it means cars emitting 75g/km CO2 or less remain eligible for the £5,000 grant for at least six months more.

Transport Minister, Andrew Jones MP said: “The UK is now the fastest growing market for electric vehicles in Europe. We will continue to invest to help make this technology affordable to everyone and to secure the UK’s position as a global leader.”

The SMMT welcomed the announcement. Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “With British buyers taking to ultra-low emission vehicles faster than anyone else in Europe, the extension of the Plug-in Car Grant is good news.”

Hetal Shah, head of Go Ultra Low, said: “This announcement demonstrates the government’s commitment to supporting the growth of the ULEV market.”

With one eye to future CO2 targets, Shah said this commitment is almost an imperative: “If we are to meet ambitious targets for ULEV uptake, continued investment is paramount.”

Hawes added: “The market for these vehicles remains small… it is essential that government continues to provide effective incentives for their uptake – including the Plug-in Car Grant and other measures.”

This makes it unlikely to government will completely withdraw the grant when February arrives: indeed, the government has recently announced that “at least” £200 million has been made to continue it.

Expect more details about the next step in the Plug-in Car Grant to be announced in the spring 2016 budget, coincidentally likely to take place soon after the current extension to today’s incentive is due to expire…

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

The best new mobile apps for August 2015The ingenuity and skill of app developers across the world continues to amaze us, and once again they’ve been busy putting out new apps for the popular smartphone platforms this month.

The range from making yourself understood while abroad and improving your mood, to making your own music and video messaging friends more easily…

Moodnotes

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

Moodnotes is a journal-style app that aims to improve how you feel by getting your thoughts down on (digital) paper and working through the feelings they bring up. The idea is that by identifying what influences your mood you can change your perspective and develop healthier thinking habits.

The only downside is you need to pay £2.99 to see if it works, but the developers are the same team behind the excellent Monument Valley. [£2.99 on iOS]

InboxVudu

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

The latest in a long line of apps promising to help you get your inbox in order and prevent email from taking over your life — as long as you use Gmail.

Once you’ve connected InboxVudu to your Google account, it can prioritise the most important messages, remind you about emails you need to follow up on, and schedule meetings effectively. You can also use InboxVudu’s magic with Gmail on the Web. [Free on iOS]

MSTY

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

MSTY — which stands for My Song To You, in case you were wondering — is a new twist on the instant messenger and is based around music. Pick a song from the extensive catalogue, add an image, write your message and you can send the whole package to a contact of your choice.

You might find it easier to just send a track through Spotify’s messaging system but MSTY is an interesting idea and well worth a look. [Free on Android and iOS]

Microsoft Translator

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

Google Translator isn’t the only app in town for getting your phrases from one lingo into another. 50 different languages are supported and because the app works with audio as well as text you can practice your pronunciation too.

If you’re a paid-up member of the smartwatch revolution then the app can be accessed from Android Wear devices or the Apple Watch for even easier translations on the move. [Free on Android and iOS]

Sway

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

Sway is another app from Microsoft, this time one designed to help you pull together text, images, links and other elements in an appealing format that’s a breeze to swipe through — it’s pretty much PowerPoint for the mobile generation and it’s also available on the Web (though not on Android yet).

Use it for reports, presentations, newsletters, personal stories and more. [Free on iOS]

Ninja Jamm

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

Out for a while now on iOS, Ninja Jamm makes the jump to Android devices this month and so earns a spot in our round-up. It’s a music-making workflow that manages to strike the right balance between accessibility and sophistication: anyone can dive right in and start creating, but there are more advanced tools here too if you need them.

You get four packs of content free and you can pay if you need more raw material. [Free on Android and iOS]

Wildcard

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

There’s an awful lot of news and gossip to keep up with on today’s Web, and working your way through it isn’t easy.

Wildcard wants to help out by giving you the most important stories in bite-sized chunks that you can digest whenever you have a spare moment: it’s not a completely new app but the version 2.0 released this month is a significant upgrade. Popular stories you like can be browsed in depth. [Free on iOS]

Kaboom

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

Kaboom takes the Snapchat idea of disappearing messages and applies it to your other social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter (it also works with email, SMS and WhatsApp).

You craft your message, set when you want it to expire, and Kaboom takes care of the rest — your friends don’t even need to be using it for it to work. Just remember a quick screenshot can make your post a lot more permanent. [Free on Android and iOS]

Drupe

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

As mature as our smartphone platforms now are, developers are still trying to crack the challenge of bringing together contacts from various different services into one central hub.

This is easier on Android of course, where you can completely replace the dialler app, and that’s exactly what Drupe does: recent interactions are collected by contact and you can simply swipe someone’s avatar over to an app shortcut to get in touch. [Free on Android]

Morpholio Journal

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

Morpholio Journal isn’t the first app we’ve seen to let you jot down your ideas and imaginings on a digital scrap of paper, but it’s certainly one of the best-looking and easiest to use. Who knows, you might find yourself coming up with an idea that makes you famous.

Photos and text can both be added in, and if you want some more drawing and background options you can pay inside the app. [Freemium on iOS]

Yahoo Livetext

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

Yahoo was one of the original dot com companies but it’s struggling to stay relevant in the new mobile-first world. Livetext is its latest attempt to get traction with smartphone users: it’s a live video messaging service reminiscent of Snapchat or Periscope, but the twist is there’s no audio, so you can view your messages in the library.

It could still use some polish but it’s a promising start for Yahoo’s latest venture. [Free on Android and iOS]

Down The Mountain

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

If you’re looking for a new game to while away those spare moments in the office canteen or on the train, you could do a lot worse than Down The Mountain.

Okay, it’s not the most original game in the world in terms of either mechanics or appearance, but it’s still a lot of fun and nicely designed — your aim is to make your way down an infinite mountain, picking up stars and power-ups and avoiding enemies along the way. [Freemium on Android and iOS]

Farms & Castles

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

Our second game pick of the month is a far more sedate affair. Farms & Castles uses a simple puzzle gameplay mechanic but it’s very addictive and you’ll find yourself constantly wanting to dip back into the game or spend just a few more minutes trying to build your empire.

The appealing visuals and option to compete against your friends both help, and the magic orbs and trading possibilities keep the game from being boring. [Freemium on Android and iOS]

Lrn

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

Lrn promises to help you “learn to code at your convenience” — it introduces you gently into the basics of coding for the web and for mobile devices.

Rather than giving you stacks of dry and impenetrable information, it uses interactive mini-quizzes to help you remember different terms and functions, though you need to pay within the app once you move on to more advanced topics. An Android version is coming soon. [Freemium on iOS]

Monospace Writer

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

Get some clarity in your writing with the help of Monospace Writer, a pared-down, minimalistic word processor for Android with a beta label still attached. It supports basic text formatting, Dropbox syncing, Markdown exports and a simple tagging system to keep your notes organised.

Whether you want to write the next great novel or just keep a shopping list close at hand, Monospace Writer is worth checking out and designed specifically for touch interfaces. [Free for Android]

RMCTF Aston Martin

Win an Aston Martin and help the Royal Marines

RMCTF Aston Martin£10 could buy you a brand new Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster if you’re the lucky winner of this year’s Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund raffle.

The top prize of the £90,000 car has been donated by entrepreneur and TMCTF trustee David Weil: he wants to see it raise more than twice its value for the fund.

At least £9 from every £10 ticket sold will go directly to the trust, said head of fundraising Richard Kenworthy.

“In effect, you are donating at least £9 to the RMCTF, with the added chance that you may also become the proud owner of this fantastic vehicle.”

If a brand-new Aston Martin isn’t for you, a £75,000 cash alternative is up for grabs.

You have to be quick, though: closing date for the competition is 4 September, and the winner will be announced in 11 September.

Want to enter? Here, you are in luck: head to the RMCTF’s online raffle page to buy your tickets.