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In Gear

In Gear offers a fresh look at the world of cars – its technology, economics, and future – through the eyes of Monitor staffers and other automobile writers from around the world. 

A Honda logo is seen on a steering wheel of a car at the company showroom in Tokyo in this April 2012 file photo. Honda is one car company that has released blueprints for some of its concept cars, alluding to the possibility of 3D printing. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters/File)

A 3D printed car? Start up brings car enthusiasts one step closer

By Richard ReadGuest blogger / 02.04.14

3D printing is coming, and it will change the way that automakers do business. (It will also shake up the militarymedicine, and the entire field of confectionery, but those are subjects for another time.)

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We've already seen the way that Ford uses 3D printing to build prototypes. We've also read about car fans like Jay Leno, who use 3D printers to create parts for vintage rides -- something made even easier by filesharing sites like Pirate Bay, which now has a special section dedicated to blueprints for auto parts. For collectors, Porsche has published the plans for a pint-sized Cayman, and more recently, Honda did the same for five of its concept cars( Continue… )

An Audi logo is shown at the 2013 Pittsburgh Auto Show in Pittsburgh. Audi tried a new, more social, advertising scheme for this year's Super Bowl. (Gene J. Puskar/AP/File)

Super Bowl ads and Snapchat? Audi tries something new

By Richard ReadGuest blogger / 02.03.14

Yesterday afternoon and evening, millions of sports fans geared up for a Super Bowl that would ultimately prove to be stupendously underwhelming (or overwhelming, for Peyton Manning).

But despite the huge number of TV sets tuned to the big game, many viewers were glued to other, smaller screens. That's because the way we watch TV is changing. Audi understands that, so the automaker tried its hand at a newfangled marketing campaign, conducted via Snapchat. ( Continue… )

Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso steers his car through the Formula One Grand Prix racetrack in Monaco in May 2013. A car by famed Formula One racer Ayrton Senna is for sale. (Luca Bruno/AP/File)

Ever wanted a Formula One racer endorsed car? Now is your chance.

By Antony IngramGuest blogger / 02.02.14

You can barely bring up the three letters N, S and X in car-guy company without somebody mentioning Ayrton Senna. The racing legend only had a small impact on Honda's development program for the original NSX but a few photographs andvideos here and there mean the car has forever been immortalized by the late Formula One champion's input. The Brazilian racer did own a couple during his time with Honda-supplied teams too, and another of those cars isnow up for auction with Silverstone Auctions in the U.K.

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The car is a 1992 model in black, and was first owned by Antonio Carlos de Almeida Braga, a close personal friend, manager and mentor of Ayrton. The famous racer used it whenever he visited Antonio in Portugal, but the car was put into storage and not driven following Senna's death at Imola, 20 years ago in May. It was sold on two years later, before being sold on again to a buyer who has kept it for the past 17 years. It's estimated to reach $123,000-$140,000 in the auction, two to three times the price you'd pay for an equivalent car not owned by a world-famous driver. ( Continue… )

A model poses next to a Jeep Cherokee during the press preview day of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan January 14, 2014. (Rebecca Cook/File/Reuters)

2014 Jeep Cherokee: polar vortex ready

By John VoelckerGuest blogger / 02.01.14

It's winter in the Northeast, and last week's Polar Vortex luckily came along just as our weekend test car was a 2014 Jeep Cherokee.

This is the all-new compact crossover that replaces the old truck-like Jeep Liberty, going head-to-head with popular compact crossover utilities like the Chevy Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, and Toyota RAV4.

MORE: 2014 Jeep Cherokee - full review

After the Dodge Dart launched for 2013, it's the second new vehicle from Fiat Chrysler to use front-wheel-drive underpinnings adapted from Italian Fiat and Alfa Romeo models.

Adding all-wheel drive

The 2014 Cherokee, however, has a brand-new all-wheel-drive system that is designed to be as fuel-efficient as possible while still providing all the durability and off-road prowess that Jeep is known for.

On that front, we can only say that the Jeep crawled itself through 4 to 6 inches of snow and up our steep and unplowed driveway without drama or fuss, assisted by the "Snow" setting on the all-wheel drive SelecTerrain control knob.

We'd been eager to test the new Cherokee, having recently spent time in two different versions of the new Ford Escape, as well as a few diesel luxury crossovers.

The version we got, however, was a high-end model fitted not with the base 2.4-liter engine, but the more powerful 271-horsepower 3.2-liter Pentastar V-6. ( Continue… )

Volkswagen began selling the Beetle on American shores starting in 1949. In this photo, an original blue Beetle is pictured with the most recent model from VW. (Volkswagen)

Volkswagen Beetle hits 65 years in America

By Antony IngramGuest blogger / 01.31.14

There are few shapes more recognizable than the profile of Volkswagen's most famous vehicle. If you were to ask a hundred people who knew nothing about cars to pick one out in a lineup, few would get it wrong. Aside from its charm and unique shape, one of the factors in the Beetle's impact is its longevity--and this month, Volkswagen is celebrating 65 years since the Beetle hit U.S. shores, all the way back in January 1949.

That first car was imported by Ben Pon Sr., a Dutch businessman who shipped the car to New York City. From that first car, sales built rapidly. By the mid-1950s more than 35,000 had been sold, and given another five years that figure was up to 300,000. ( Continue… )

A woman stands next to the 2014 Porsche 911 50th anniversary edition at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles. The first car designed by Ferdinand Porsche in 1898 was actually an electric vehicle. (Jae C. Hong/AP/File)

Porsche started with an electric car. Really.

By Stephen EdelsteinGuest blogger / 01.30.14

Here's a great piece of bar trivia: The first-ever Porsche was ... an electric car.

While any ardent Porschephile knows that the first Porsche-branded vehicle was the 356 sports car of 1948, the first car designed by Ferdinand Porsche was actually the 1898 "Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, C.2 Phaeton model," or the P1 for short.

The P1 was recently recovered from a warehouse where it had reportedly sat untouched since 1902. It will be displayed in original, unrestored condition at the Porsche Museum in Zuffenhausen, Germany.

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Designed by Ferdinand Porsche when he was 22 years old, the P1--or Porsche, number one--is powered by a rear-mounted electric drive unit that produces 3 horsepower, harnessed to a 12-speed controller.

The 2,977-pound vehicle had a reported range of 49 miles, and could briefly reach a top speed of 21 mph when in "overdrive" mode, which extracted a full 5 hp from the motor.

One unique feature was the Lohner "alternating" body, which was designed to be detached from the chassis and swapped for another body depending on the driver's needs. ( Continue… )

The 2014 Acura NSX concept car at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show. (Joe Nuxoll/MotorAuthority.com)

Make your own Honda... sort of

By Stephen EdelsteinGuest blogger / 01.29.14

It's still not possible to 3D print an entire car, but Honda will offer the next best thing.

The Japanese automaker is making data from old concept models available so people can print them out at home. Through the Honda 3D Design Archives website, users can download files and make their own miniature Hondas under the Creative Commons 4.0 license. ( Continue… )

In this Nov. 4, 2007, file photo, unsold 2008 Prius hybrid sedans sit on a lot at a Toyota dealership in the southeast Denver suburb of Centennial, Colo. U.S. safety regulators are investigating complaints that power-assisted brakes can fail at times in Camry gas-electric hybrids. (David Zalubowski/File/AP)

Safety regulators investigate Toyota Camry hybrids

By Associated Press / 01.27.14

U.S. safety regulators are investigating complaints that power-assisted brakes can fail at times in Camry gas-electric hybrids.

The probe covers about 30,000 of the midsize cars from the 2007 and 2008 model years.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it has 59 complaints about intermittent loss of power-brake assist. The agency says the problem happens without warning. It causes increased stopping distances and requires more pedal pressure to stop the car. ( Continue… )

In this July 17 photo, a new car seat model made by Dorel Juvenile Group, on display, in Columbus, Ind., is inspired by Indy cars. Car seats may soon have to pass a side impact test. (Madeline Hodek/AP/File)

Will a side impact test soon be required for car seats?

By Suzanne KaneGuest blogger / 01.25.14

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is seeking to upgrade standards for child car seats for children weighing up to 40 pounds to include a new test that simulates a side crash.

According to conservative NHTSA estimates, some five child deaths and injuries to 64 other children will be prevented each year if the new standards are implemented.

The NHTSA proposal would require the first-ever side impact test for child car seats sold in the U.S.

What the test entails

Under the proposal, the new tests use a specially-designed sled to test car seats and will simulate a “T-bone” crash, where the front of a vehicle traveling 30 mph strikes the side of a small passenger vehicle traveling 15 mph. ( Continue… )

Aston Martin will is expected to race three cars based on its Vantage design during the Rolex 24 At Daytona race this weekend. Aston Martin hasn't run the race since 1985. (The Car Connection)

Aston Martin returns to Daytona's Rolex 24

By Viknesh VijayenthiranGuest blogger / 01.24.14

Aston Martin will be on the starting grid for the world famous Rolex 24 at Daytona this weekend, for the first time since 1985. The historic British automaker’s motorsport division Aston Martin Racing together with The Racers Group will be fielding three Vantage-based race cars in the upcoming event, which is also the opening race of the inaugural TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

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One V8 Vantage GTE will compete in the championship’s new GTLM class, and a pair of V12 Vantage GT3s will be entered in the new GTD class. Drivers will include some of Aston Martin’s World Endurance Championship drivers; the list is Darren Turner, Stefan Mücke, Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana, Jonny Adam and Richie Stanaway. ( Continue… )

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