Christian von Koenigsegg, the eponymous founder of Swedish hypercar manufacturer Koenigsegg, has revealed that his company's upcoming new model is hoped to catapult production of the niche automaker into the thousands.
Details of this model first surfaced in January, when Koenigsegg revealed that the model would take advantage of a previously unacknowledged market segment. The Swede declined to give any specifics on the sports car's segment, stating that it'd give away too much but was willing to reveal its approximate price point and an outline of its powertrain. Expect a price of about $1.1 million and a CO2-neutral hybrid powertrain, capable of burning pure alcohol and making use of Koenigsegg's pneumatic "Freevalve" cylinder head.
Koenigsegg projected that the model could push his automaker from the boutique, hand-built production numbers in the two figures to the hundreds. In a recent interview with Bloomberg, he revealed an ambition to see production of the car propel Koenigsegg into four-figure annual production territory, where it would compete with older supercar manufacturers like Ferrari, Lamborghini, and McLaren.
Of those three companies, McLaren sold over 4,800 cars in 2018, Lamborghini about 5,750, and Ferrari is believed to have sold around 9,000 units. All of these automakers offer cars on the lower end of the six-figure price range, while Koenigsegg's volume model would likely remain just above the seven-figure threshold. It stands to reason that based on the unnamed model's price, Koenigsegg's ambition would be to see production reach the low thousands, and not directly compete with the likes of Ferrari or McLaren.
As for production itself, Bloomberg reports that it will kick off in 2021 at a former Saab facility owned by Koenigsegg's new partner NEVS, which scooped up the bankrupt Saab's assets earlier this decade. Employment once reached 8,000 at this plant, where production capacity used to be 200,000 cars annually, though the still-miniscule Koenigsegg—which has less than 300 employees—will need time to grow into these big new boots.
There is nothing I don’t love about the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Though it has, for the first time in its 39-year production history, been refashioned from the shoes up for this model year, the G-Wagen has the same butch profile and macho frivolity for which we have such affection: the boxy look, the two round headlamps, the dramatic verticalities, the macho bullbars, that shiny rear-mounted spare tire.
The Geländenwagen (basically, German for "off-roader") remains indifferent to radical innovation or new-timey ideas like mobility and autonomy. The G-Wagen has a piss-off-if-you're-too-poor-or-stupid-to-buy-me vibe that appeals to the same part of me that eats a 32-ounce porterhouse and then collapses on a leather sofa: You only live once, not for long, and everyone dies alone.
This year, Mercedes is selling a mostly all-new G-Wagen. I have driven it on the streets of San Diego, over sand dunes in a California State Park, and through the blanched and denatured coastal hills of Orange County. Like an aficionado, I luxuriated in its seats—not the most comfortable of Mercedes seats (that would be the S-Class thrones)—and ran my hand over leather hand-sewn by a roomful of women. (Seriously, I've been on the factory line: the people sewing the leather seats are all women.)
Do I still love it? Of course. I love it because there is nothing else like it on the road, and because I imagine the factory line in Graz, Austria, will be churning out G-Wagens long after humanity has departed this planet.
To truly appreciate the unique DNA of the G-Wagen, first, a little history: According to legend, the G-Wagen was commissioned by the Shah of Iran in 1975. The Shah, who was an investor in Daimler, wanted a military vehicle with a little more panache than a standard-issue Jeep.
The G-Class was already in development as a partnership between Daimler and Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG, a heavy builder based in Graz. The product developers wanted to create something with the reliability, durability, and off-roading chops to meet day-to-day industrial, municipal and military use in basically any environment, on the one hand. And on the other, they were aiming to produce a fully equipped, comfortable model for carrying both people and goods on normal roads, and one that would also appeal to customers looking for an exclusive leisure vehicle.
So when the Shah dialed his phone, Mercedes answered, and the carmaker took the concept it'd been developing with Steyr and fired up a factory line in Graz, Austria—the same factory line where G-Wagen is still being built 39 years later—and churned out 20,000 Persia-bound military-grade SUVs.
At least, that’s how the legend goes.
According to Daimler's official line, the Shah of Iran was a "major shareholder" in Daimler-Benz in 1975. This is when he commissioned the light all-wheel drive off-roader for the Iranian military. I have my doubts. There is no record of the Shah actually owning a stake in Daimler. In fact, according to this April 10, 1975, New York Times report, the Shah was "thwarted" earlier that year "when he sought a similar piece of the prestigious Daimler?Benz company, maker of the Mercedes automobile."
Either way, by the time the partnership in Graz started churning out completed Geländewagens, Iran was in complete upheaval. In February of 1979, the Shah fled into exile; by July he died, tragically having never driven a G-Class. Iran fell under the control of the Ayatollah and his mullahs, who, you might surmise, had little interest in taking delivery of the infidel Mercedes's lovely new SUV.
Honestly, at this point, who really cares if the legend of the Shah and the G-Wagen is real? It's a great story, and truly great stories use a kernel of truth to shape the tale into art. This SUV, which has been rebuilt from the shoes up for the first time since it came off the line in Graz, is as close to art as a truck can get. It's also still legit in every way: fitted in top trim with Mercedes' new dynamo workhorse 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8, it brims with power and bristles with elegant charisma, both inside and out. And while the designers at Benz have done away with some of the signature elements that have lent the G-Class its Euro-cowboy character, the new refinements come together nicely.
Little lost, little gained. It's a near draw that I'll gladly call a win.
The most noticeable changes to the vehicle are on the inside. If you know the G, you know it has always had the World's Most Annoying Cupholder, a good-for-nothing bolt-on basket that pinched the passenger's legroom and proved incapable of holding a cup. That's been torn off and replaced with standard in-console cupholders. There's also a new digital instrument cluster, complete with a 12.3-inch center display. Both are bonded to one glass piece, like in the E-Class.
What we feared most when Mercedes announced their plans to overhaul the G-Wagen is that the quirks and peccadillos that made the G the G would be engineered out. Historically, given the opportunity, carmakers evolve toward efficiency. And there's nothing efficient about this truck.
Mercedes was smart enough, for the most part, to agree. They found efficiencies in the important places—the engine, the displacement, the materials. But they held onto the components that makes this machine so great. The door handles, for instance. The sound and feel of the door handles are one of the most iconic sensations in automobile history: thumb on the round button, that extra bit of exertion to trip the latch, that loud and deeply satisfying mechanic clack as it opens and metallic whack as it closes. Mercedes planners did their research: That sound is what people think about when they think about the G-Wagen.
They also held onto the shiny aluminum spare wheel cover, the round headlights, complete with headlamp washer, and the passenger-side grab bar. They also kept an iconic component that was more complicated to design: the front, center, and rear differential locks. Those haven’t changed.
The interior is stripped down, simpler, with more standard Benz components. It is also significantly wider, with an additional 4.8 inches of beam overall and 1.5 inches more shoulder and elbow room on the inside. It is also 2.1 inches longer, stem to stern. That alleviates the notorious rear-seat crowding by adding nearly six inches of backseat legroom. It makes a difference—especially if your teenage kids are back there as you're stuck in O.C. traffic.
The G550 has a 4.0-liter biturbo V-8 engine that pushes out 416 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque. It is peppy off the line, hitting 60 miles per hour in just 5.6 secs. The AMG G63 version—also packing a 4.0-liter biturbo—generates a more-adult 577 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque. This is the new G-Wagen. It has a curb weight of around 5,500 pounds (having shed about 375 in the rebuild) and the drag coefficient of a warehouse full of bricks, and yet somehow, the G63 goes from 0-60 in 4.5 seconds. That's sort of speed blistering that a little weight savings, a nine-speed transmission with a wide range of ratios for on- and off-roading—and, not to mention, $150,000—can get you.
On public roads, the body-on-frame G-Class has a nicely-matured ride. It has shed its tendency to be both noisy and jerky. Brand new adjustable dampers on the chassis have solved for unnecessary pitching and rocking. Off-road, in the sand dunes, the low center of gravity and rigidity of the frame help it negotiate rugged terrain that literally not one single customer in the United States will ever experience. It can hit lateral angles of 37 degrees, and it can nail inclines that would scare off all but the most purpose-rigged SUVs out there. And it has the right bells and whistles for normal use, and technology that Mercedes has led the way on refining, such as active brake assist, lane keeping assist, Distronic cruise control, a pre-safe system that anticipates impacts, and traffic sign assist, for those Orange County busybodies who like to text while driving.
The bottom line: the more things change, the more they stay the same. This may not be the same G-Wagen built for the Shah of Iran, but it's an SUV that has earned the right to tell a damn great story.
Scuderia Ferrari revealed its 2019 Formula 1 entry, the SF90, to the world's media on Friday morning. The Italian outfit hopes this black and red-themed racer will be the one to bring them within contention of another Manufacturers' Championship in 2019.
With the SF90, Ferrari has changed the shade of red used on its F1 cars; the car bears an "opaque" matte finish that technical director and newly promoted team principal Mattia Binotto acknowledges is a performance-driven change. Though the finish reduces the car's weight by a seemingly negligible amount, winning cars in F1 have always been engineered by an "every ounce counts" philosophy.
Binotto reportedly wanted to display the SF90 in a way that it gave away fewer of Ferrari's tricks as possible before winter testing begins in Barcelona, and as such, the car displayed should not be taken as an Australia-spec car. Nevertheless, the engine cover is noticeably slimmer than that of the 2018 car, lending credence to offseason rumors that Ferrari has been working on cooling efficiency. A returning "T-wing" like that seen on 2017 cars is back in lieu of a "monkey seat" in the technical grey area above the exhaust, but below the rear wing. Like most other teams to reveal their cars so far, Ferrari has designed its front wing to brush air outward, maintaining some of the outwash that the new 2019 regulations were designed to prevent.
Though a less consequential change, Ferrari has once again changed its F1 car naming scheme, for the ninth time since 2010. While its predecessor the SF71H was named in honor of a team anniversary, the SF90 name bears no obvious relation to Ferrari's heritage or its own design specification.
Ferrari's race drivers in 2019 will be comprised of tenured champion Sebastian Vettel, now in his fifth year of racing for the Scuderia, and relative newcomer Charles Leclerc, who impressed in his rookie season with Alfa Romeo Sauber. Notorious for its favoritism, Ferrari will likely designate number one and number two drivers, which in the early season are likely to be Vettel and Leclerc respectively. If Leclerc meets Ferrari's high expectations of him, he could swap roles with Vettel sometime in the 2019 season.
The SF90 will be first fired in anger during winter testing in Barcelona, where Ferrari engineers will work out whether their radical solutions to the Mercedes-AMG problem are effective.
The world of performance-tuning is plagued with companies who always want to do bigger and better than the folks back at the factory deem appropriate. Hennessey Performance is one of the worst (best?) offenders when it comes to bolting-on horsepower to machines that arguably need more of it. However, the brand's latest creation has us scratching our head a bit.
The 2019 Lincoln Navigator is the textbook definition of a luxury family car, a true rolling palace where soft leathers, open-poor woods, and the latest in-cabin tech coexist in harmony to bring joy to every member of the family. Hennessey must think that the 450 horsepower its stock 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine makes simply isn't enough, because they've managed to squeeze an extra 150 horsepower out of the twin-turbocharged Ford engine. And by the looks of the video they've shared on YouTube, it makes quite a bit of a difference on the strip.
The blacked-out Navigator features Hennessey Performance's HP600 package, which according to the tuner's website delivers 600 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and can do zero to 60 in 4.8 seconds and quarter-mile in 12.9 at 107 miles per hour. Torque and pricing figures weren't listed.
The HP600 package also features the following modifications:
Obviously, the amped-up Navigator wins the race, but not necessarily by an enormous margin—probably about two car lengths max. Even though we don't know how much the upgrade costs, we're wondering if closing such marginal gap is really worth the most-likely hefty price?
A relatively rare 4x4 Tempest mine-protected armored truck, one of only eight 4x4 Tempests to ever have served with the British Army, has come up for auction online. So, if you’re worried about increased hazards along your own commute, are looking to stand out in your neighborhood, or are looking for a new ride that can carry you safely through hordes of zombies or past wasteland bandits, you make a bid on it yourself.
British auction house Brightwells is handling the sale of the Tempest, which by all account is in running condition with a working 300 brake horsepower Cat engine. The listing, which the U.K. defense analysis site Think Defence was among the first to spot, does not make any mention of what, if any, additional ex-military equipment might still be in the vehicle. At the time of writing, the top bid for the vehicle was 2,000 pounds, or around $2,560, but it seems highly unlikely that this meets the minimum reserve price for the vehicle, which originally cost the U.K. government closer to $500,000. You’ll need to secure an export license if you want to get it out of the United Kingdom, too.
Of course, private purchases of military vehicles, including armored vehicles and even tanks, are hardly unheard of and mine-resistant armored trucks, now commonly referred to as MRAPs after the U.S. military’s particular program, have become a ubiquitous part of conflicts around the world. But having a Tempest would be owning an interesting piece of mine-resistant vehicle history. The very origins of the basic design, and how it came to the attention of the United Kingdom, are somewhat convoluted, but the vehicle served as the basis for a very popular subsequent MRAP known as the Cougar.
State-owned South African manufacturing conglomerate Denel, through its subsidiary Denel-Mechem, had developed the 4x4 vehicle first under the name Lion in the 1990s. Decades before, South African firms had already established themselves as world leaders in mine-resistant vehicle design, the vast majority of which used V-shaped underbodies to try to deflect mine blasts and other explosions as safely as possible away from the occupants.
Per a now defunct British Army Royal Engineers webpage, an archived copy of which you can fine here, the 12-ton Lion combined a new armored body with cab and chassis components from the Peterbilt 330 tractor together with a Marmon-Herrington four-wheel-drive conversion. However, other sources suggest that the primary donor vehicle was a tractor from Mack South Africa, according to Think Defence.
Eventually, the rights to the Lion passed to an American-headquartered company, Technical Solutions Group (TSG), which continued to work on the design, eventually dubbing it the Cougar. TSG, in turn, worked with yet another firm, Seafire, to market these and other vehicles in Europe.
Separately, beginning in the late 1990s, the Royal Engineers had begun looking for replacements for a small number of vehicles derived from the South African Mamba, which they had acquired for use during peacekeeping missions in the Balkans earlier in the decade. As if things were complicated enough, British firm Supacat, better known for their all-terrain vehicles, worked with Seafire to pitch TSG’s design to the British Army.
The name Tempest was chosen to help differentiate the armored trucks from other British military systems named Cougar at the time. Between 2001 and 2002, the British Army ultimately acquired just eight of these vehicles at a total cost of more than $3.8 million at the time. Supacat became responsible for making further modifications to the vehicles, including the installation of additional underbody armor and U.K.-specific radios.
But instead of going to the Balkans to replace the Mambas, the Tempests had arrived just in time for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. The United Kingdom was a major party to that operation.
As the invasion quickly turned into an occupation and the threat of insurgent attacks and improvised explosive devices grew, the Tempests, in sand-colored paint schemes, head to Iraq for patrol duties.
By 2004, some of the Tempests, in more appropriate overall green paint jobs, had finally arrived in the Balkans to join British peacekeepers and replace the Mambas, which had already gotten retired, according to Think Defence. Two years later, the mine-protected vehicles also went to Afghanistan.
It’s not clear exactly when the British pulled the Tempests from service, but by 2006, they were already buying substantial numbers of superior mine-resistant trucks. Tempest had actually paved the way for many of these vehicles.
To rewind, in 2002, TSG had found itself on the verge of bankruptcy after having trouble securing major orders for its vehicles. It eventually became a wholly-owned subsidiary of a new American company, Force Protection, Inc. Force Protection went on to market a much-improved derivative of TSG’s earlier design, which it also called the Cougar, but briefly marketed as the Typhoon.
In 2004, the U.S. Marine Corps began buying a large number of 4x4 and 6x6 variants to meet its own urgent demands for better-protected patrol vehicles in Iraq. The U.S. Army and Air Force followed suit. In 2007, continued purchases of these, and a host of other mine-protected vehicles, got rolled together into the joint-service Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) program.
In 2006, the British Army join in, purchasing a special U.K.-specific 4x4 variants known as the Ridgeback and Mastiff, respectively. This was eventually followed by orders a further modified 6x6 type with open pickup truck style rear bed, known as the Wolfhound.
Force Protection developed a number of other designs, including the Buffalo, based on Denel-Mechem’s Lion II vehicle. The Buffalo has seen modest sales, but nothing compared to the deliveries of more than 1,000 Cougar variants to more than a dozen countries.
In 2011, General Dynamics Land Systems scooped up Force Protection. The two had previously worked together as part of a joint venture company called Force Dynamics. Cougars remain in service in both the United Kingdom and the United States to this day.
Now, if you have the means, you have around six days to try to make the winning bid for one of just eight Tempests the British Army ever purchased, a unique piece of history and the progenitor of the Cougar MRAP family. You'd also certainly be starting conversations wherever you might go and be well equipped to rite out a Zombie apocalypse.
Rivian confirmed Friday morning that Amazon is leading an equity investment round of $700 million. The aspiring EV manufacturer and e-commerce company remained mum on any other details surrounding the hefty investment, only sharing that the seven-figure amount includes participation from existing shareholders of both companies.
Just a few days ago we reported on the rumor that General Motors and Amazon were considering minority stakes in Rivian, but the amounts allegedly discussed hovered around the $1 to $2-billion mark. While today's announcement doesn't mention General Motors, it confirms that the $1 billion amount wasn't far fetched. Furthermore, it leads us to believe that a subsequent round of investments from the American automotive giant or other tech companies could push Rivian's total amount raised deep into the eight figures, considering it's already collected $450 million as of the end of 2018.
"This investment is an important milestone for Rivian and the shift to sustainable mobility," said RJ Scaringe, Rivian Founder and CEO. "Beyond simply eliminating compromises that exist around performance, capability and efficiency, we are working to drive innovation across the entire customer experience. Delivering on this vision requires the right partners, and we are excited to have Amazon with us on our journey to create products, technology and experiences that reset expectations of what is possible."
The Michigan-based electric pickup and SUV maker made waves at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show with the unveilings of its R1T electric pickup truck and R1S SUV, both of which target an adventure-loving customer demographic. Rivian promises a driving range of over 400 miles for both vehicles while offering an unmatched combination of performance, utility, and off-road capability.
"We're inspired by Rivian's vision for the future of electric transportation," said Jeff Wilke, Amazon CEO Worldwide Consumer. "RJ has built an impressive organization, with a product portfolio and technology to match. We're thrilled to invest in such an innovative company."
We've reached out to Rivian for comment and will update when we hear back.
Whether you remember the old-school supercar for its sleek profile, reliability, or stick-it-to-the-Europeans attitude, the fire of that old NSX still burns hot. The new 2019 Acura NSX, with its generous dimensions and hybrid V-6, is a far cry from the original. It's taken its lumps in the press and basically no one is buying it, but we actually like this modern, American-built supercar: it's visceral, fast as hell, and runs ably with the big dogs. It just doesn't have that whoa that made the original so special.
What Does NSX Even Mean?
According to Acura, term NSX was first NS-X. In fact, neither NS-X nor NSX were originally meant to be the car's official name. But it stuck after Honda was taken aback by the buzz that gathered as the prototype was sighted around the world.
The prototype's original development team considered NS-X to stand for "New," "Sportscar" and "unknown world," with "X" being the mathematical symbol for a variable or an unknown value. But after a funky twist of events, the team at American Honda chose to run with the definition of "New Sports eXperimental."
Speaking of the Americans, the fact that the NSX was given an Acura badge rather than Honda came down to a factor as mundane as timing, since the then-new Japanese-American brand was scouting for a halo sports car to represent its all-new lineup of vehicles.
F1 Legend Ayrton Senna Didn't Care For It
In February 1989, Honda met up with three-time Formula 1 champion and racing legend Ayrton Senna—a Honda factory driver at the time—in Japan. This was right around the time the public-facing NSX prototype was being shown in Chicago. Honda asked Senna if he could test the NSX between F1 testing sessions at Honda's Suzuka Circuit. Senna agreed. Never bashful, Senna was loudly unimpressed with his first go.
Honda claims that even though the Japanese automaker had aimed to deliver Ferrari and Porsche levels of rigidity, Senna gave it a meh and said it could be better.
"I'm not sure I can really give you appropriate advice on a mass-production car," Senna told the team. "But I feel it's a little fragile."
Thanks to Senna's input, the development team raised its targets for rigidity and eventually took the prototype to the Nurburgring, where after eight grueling months of testing engineers were able to raise the NSX's rigidity by a staggering 50 percent. Good job, Ayrton.
VTEC Almost Didn't Kick In, Yo
Perhaps one of the most interesting facts about the NSX's provenance is that it wasn't supposed to feature Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control (VTEC). According to Acura, the NS-X prototype shown to the media at the Drake Hotel in Chicago in 1989 had a dual-overhead-cam V-6 engine—no VTEC. In fact, VTEC applications for V-6 engines didn't even exist at the time.
The story goes that when the prototype's engine was fired up and revved during the media introduction, Honda president Tadashi Kume took a listen and wondered why the NSX didn't feature VTEC, which was brand-spanking-new engine tech. The development team told Kume that VTEC had only been developed for the brand's four-cylinder engines, and therefore not available for the new V-6 in the NSX. Kume wasn't pleased, so he pushed for VTEC V-6 development and ultimately got his wish, but it came with a few consequences.
The new VTEC cylinder head was wider than the head on the prototype's single-overhead-cam (SOHC) engine, which meant that the original body design had to be altered to fit the redesigned block. The wider engine forced designers to come up with a slightly longer wheelbase with increased front and rear overhang for the production NSX. But in the end, it was one man's demand that ultimately delivered the NSX as we know it.
Quick Take: Loud, proud, and unapologetically fast,the Camaro ZL1 convertible is the high-speed drop-top to beat.
Set aside the polarizing looks and checkered past and you're left with this simple fact: The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is an astoundingly good time. And until the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 joins the party, it's hard to compare the 650-horsepower ZL1 to the current team of ponies on offer from its traditional rival. It deserves to be stacked up against a higher class—cars with the letters M, RS, or AMG on the back—and judged on the driver-first experience those cars purport to have mastered long ago.
Yes, others have the upper hand on some fronts—apart from the status symbol of a more expensive badge, you'll find a nicer interior and a pricier more rarified ownership experience at BMW, Mercedes-Benz, or Audi—but dig into the numbers and nothing matches the Camaro ZL1's outright dominance on so many fronts at a starting price of just $62,000 (for the coupe). Zero to 60 comes in a blistering 3.5 seconds. Lateral grip stretches past 1.1 g. Top speed is a mind-bending 195 mph.
But it's just a Camaro, the haters mewl. It's jussst a Camaro the same way that America is jussssst a little tense right now. Between that supercharged LT4 V-8, the masterful Magnetic Ride Control suspension, and the 10-speed HydraMatic transmission, there's some sort of Detroit alchemy happening in the ZL1.
The six-speed manual is standard, and a standard of excellence—but you shouldn't discount the simplicity of the optional $1,595 automatic, which GM claims can pop off an upshift faster than a Porsche PDK. It was...finein the Camaro SS I drove last year, but the increased torque in the ZL1 snaps the gearbox to attention. The way the automatic transmission turns the Camaro ZL1 to a full-bodied rocket is nothing short of remarkable. Drop the hammer at 50 mph and WHAM, the 4,100-pound 'vert kicks down six gears and punches forward with ferocity. It's classic fun in the most all-American way possible, at once friendly, accommodating, and always ready to knock your head off. Send it down a mountain pass and suddenly you're Major T. J. "King" Kong, a cowboy atop a hydrogen bomb hurtling earthward. [Look it up, Gen Z. —Ed.] Fortunately, you've also got brakes—15.35-inch rotors and six-piston calipers up front, specifically. It shouldn't be this easy to turn lead into gold.
Without the insane 1LE track package, though, the ZL1 is a smidge less sharp through a high-speed corner than something like the BMW M4 or the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R. Subtracting a roof makes it even looser; going the convertible route also precludes the ZL1 coupe's electronic limited-slip differential and Performance Traction Management system. Still, direct steering, predictable grip, Track mode, and that Stage 2 rocket booster under the hood make for one hell of an open-topped motoring experience that can't be captured on a timesheet. The ZL1 shines in its everyday usability, slinking about with a subdued presence. Credit the fancy magnetorheological dampers and the cabin's overall build quality, but puttering around in Tour mode delivers more of a luxe cruising vibe than you'd expect given the angry V-8 under the hood.
That said, the interior is what it is: long-established, full of compromises, and tight in every sense of the word. The most noteworthy addition is the latest version of Chevrolet's infotainment system, also seen on the new Chevy Blazer (along with the rest of the Camaro dashboard). It's fast, crisp, and far easier to navigate than the prior iteration. Goodies like wireless charging, a 4G-LTE connection, and heated/ventilated Recaro seats are standard.
As you'd expect, the convertible brings some much-needed joy (and outward visibility) to the guts by Marie Kondo-ing the roof. Stop and reflect on that what that means for a second: The Chevrolet Camaro is now a four-seat, 195-mph drop-top. Only the Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible is faster among family convertibles, at 205 mph, and it costs over four times as much as the $67,500 Camaro ZL1 'vert. Do I recommend trying to max it out with the top down and four adults on board? Not especially. But like America, the ZL1 won't stop you from trying.
If you're really looking to blend in, know that few things stand out in a traffic jam like a Garnet Red Chevy Camaro with a loping idle—and doubly so if you're going topless. Weather permitting, that should be the ZL1's default state—lowering the roof masks the high beltline and gives it a flat, almost retro profile. Raising all four windows does a pretty good job of insulating the cabin from swirling winds when you're doing the speed limit. Push it above 80 with nothing but the great beyond above your head, though, and things get a little chaotic.
Realistically, the people cross-shopping something like the 2019 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 with something like the Audi RS 5 or Mercedes-AMG C63 are few and far between, even if the ZL1 is more accomplished on paper. Camaro and Mustang cultists aren't known for switching sides, either. The more relevant question for General Motors might be, this or a Corvette Grand Sport? I'd have to say the Camaro. You get more power, precise handling, and an interior that feels slightly more appropriate at the price point. For those crucial buyers who are totally new to Chevrolet, that might be the winning formula.
It's too simple (and also, wrong) to say the Camaro is the real performance standard for Chevy, even if it's consistently outsold the 'Vette since its re-introduction at the beginning of the decade. (Still, sales for both plunged more than 20 percent last year; Camaro sales have actually been down every year since 2014). The public is clearly turning away from these cars in their current form.
And that's a shame, because what Chevrolet has built in the Camaro ZL1 is damn impressive. Of course, so were 20-foot land yachts, pre-recession McMansions, post-crash social media advertising budgets, or any number of things that have since run their course. So before it slips into the past, let it be known: The 2019 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is a giant in its own time.
Derek "Maestro" O'Malley was a young fighter pilot rising quickly in the ranks when he decided to make a particularly crass gag video. What came next was nothing he ever imagined. All that he had worked for was suddenly at stake. But the Air Force gave him another chance, one that he ran with and has since achieved incredible heights of success, becoming the wing commander of the prestigious 20th Fighter Wing based at Shaw Air Force Base. Then, just days ago, it was his turn to make a disciplinary decision just like his superiors had in regards to his mistake a decade and a half ago. This one would be far more publicized. Now Colonel O'Malley relieved the first female demonstration team leader the Air Force ever had, Captain Zoe Kotnik, after just two weeks on duty. His decision made international headlines and the details surrounding it are still shrouded in secrecy.
After the video he created years ago, which is infamous in the fighter pilot community, was published on this site in relation to the ongoing story about the dismissal of Zoe Kotnik, O'Malley made the decision to reach out to us to share his story publically for the first time. And an amazing and intimate one it is. It speaks to the failings in all of us and how it's not necessarily how you fail, but how you redeem yourself and use your experiences, no matter how unpleasant, to become a better person and a more thoughtful leader.
Judging by his responses alone, we need more people like O'Malley in the top echelons of the USAF's leadership, ones who have learned to see the potential in people even when it is highly inconvenient to do so. For a force that is struggling to retain personnel, including pilots and maintainers—those who are absolutely critical to its core mission—giving people a second shot when it is possible to do so is really a necessity not a luxury.
So, without further ado, here is my remarkable interview with the colorful commander of the 20th Fighter Wing:
Can you tell us the entire story of how this video came about?
I'll start early just to give you context. I have an identical twin brother. His name is Colin O'Malley and he and I are very right-brained, creative people, we've got a very active sense of humor. In high school, I was the student body president, he was the vice president and we had our own "Colin and Derek O'Show" and we would do funny videos, so comedic videos and having a sense of humor, is something that's been a big part of our lives. My brother is a professional composer and musician, he's actually an orchestrator, Yanni's primary orchestrator... He does a lot of work for Disney and television, so he's very successful. He writes a lot of jingles as well
With that background, I am now many years later, a young fighter pilot, a young captain in Kunsan Air Base, Korea. That's a one-year remote assignment, so you're there without your family in a very remote location. It's a lot of fun, but it's a very different environment.
In Korea, of course, it's very humid and it's a very high operations tempo, so we're flying a lot. There's a lot of big exercises as you're practicing being in a high state of readiness in case something happens in Korea, and as we fly out over the Yellow Sea, we have to wear anti-exposure suits. And these are, you know, effectively dry suits. And they're very hot.
When you're flying you're okay, but you can imagine wearing these in the hot summer in Korea? So, Gold Bond powder is a primary product.
One day I'm talking to some of my fellow fighter pilots and we're joking about Gold Bond, I just started talking to them—"Hey we should do a little commercial." As the Chief of Weapons and Tactics—I was the chief instructor in the squadron—I'm in charge of all the upgrades and making sure everybody is the best they can be, I've been through our equivalent of Topgun to the Air Force, the U.S. Air Force Weapons School. So, I'm in a very prominent role there in the squadron to lead these fighter pilots.
When your weapons officer says "Hey let's make a commercial" everybody jumps says "Yeah that sounds like a great idea." So, I told my brother about Gold Bond, and he came up with the jingle that you hear in the video, which is very catchy. And that's him singing on there, so he composes that and sends it to me there in Korea, and I play it for everybody and it's a big hit.
That morning, Saturday morning, I get everybody up and we're there in our dorms, and we filmed the little commercial that you saw. In every fighter squadron on Fridays, you usually get together and you’ll tell stories about flying from the week. Mistakes people made, funny stories, those kinds of things, and then we’d show funny things like the Gold Bond video. I showed the video, it was a big hit, everybody laughed, and then that's the end of it, it was not ever intended to go anywhere else of course.
This is pretty much pre-YouTube at that time right?
It is. I think YouTube was just emerging, but certainly, the notion of a viral video is not a term that any of us had heard yet. This is late 2004 timeframe. Eventually, this video gets in the hand of our rival squadron and they start sending it to each other. And then it gets emailed all across the base and then very quickly gets emailed all across the Air Force, and quickly spreads. You know, it becomes truly a viral video.
I was actually traveling home, it was around December time frame, going home for Christmas. You get a mid-tour when you're there in Korea to go home, and as I'm walking through the airport somewhere in the United States, I see on somebody's laptop the video playing.
And I remember looking at the guy I was traveling with saying "Uh-oh, I think I might be in trouble." Because we just had no idea that the video would go outside the squadron. And now here I am, across the world, and it's on somebody's laptop! So, at that point, I got the sense of how big of an issue this was.
Of course, you've seen it, it doesn't represent the Air Force the way I want to represent the Air Force, it doesn't represent me the way I want to represent myself. As they should have, the Air Force looked into it, they weren't happy with the video, and I definitely got in some trouble. I won't go specifically into the punishment that I received, but I definitely got in trouble, to the point where I had to work hard to recover.
I remember when I was called into the Wing Commander's office, there to receive my punishment. I looked at him said "Sir I'm so sorry, this is totally my fault. Please don't punish all the other guys that were in this. They followed their Weapons Officer into this, so please just let me take the brunt of it." And for the most part, that's what happened. I was grateful that they let me own that.
After my one-year assignment in Korea I’d been invited to go teach at our Weapons School, which is very prestigious—our F-16 Weapons School. Weapons School is the Air Force’s version of Topgun where you graduate you get the trophy and you get invited back as an instructor. That is what I had been given the opportunity to do. Once this video broke, the Air Force was considering changing my assignment and was really looking hard at what they were going to do with me. Fortunately, they ended up letting me go to Nellis, to the Weapons School to be an instructor.
When I got to Nellis, my Wing Commander pulled me aside and said "You know Maestro, if you work hard, you're going to be able to redeem yourself from this. So, just put your nose to the ground and get to work and be the best instructor officer you can be, and we're going to put all this behind you." And I really appreciated that, and I took him at his word, and I worked really hard at the Weapons School, won many awards there as a top instructor, used a lot of my video skills for the forces of good—I did a lot of videos for the Air Force and for the Weapons School that to this day are still used there.
I just tried to really prove to the Air Force that this was not who I was and that I was willing to do what I had to do to make things right.
I remember during all this, I would get a lot of emails from people that were angry about the video and I didn't blame them. I remember one, in particular, was from a commandant of cadets at an ROTC detachment at a college and he wrote me on my government email and said "If this is the Derek O'Malley that did this video, you just took us back 30 years. Please keep this junk off the internet, you're really shaming the Air Force, shame on you." That was an eye-opening email to me, so I wrote him back and I still have the email to this day. It's something I read, and I remember when I shared this with my squadron at a commander's call I read the letter to them. Not only what he had said, but my response to him.
I explained "I lead men and women in combat, I'm a Weapons Officer, I have a Distinguished Flying Cross, I’ve done all these things, and I should’ve known better. Maybe it is easier to dismiss me as an officership failure. And I don’t blame you if you do. Fortunately, the men and women I’ve led into combat, and now lead recognize that good people, even great people, make mistakes. Maybe that’s the best lesson for your cadets. Regardless of our intentions with this video, I take full responsibility.”
He wrote me back and thanked me and shared the message with his cadets. It's been a memorable lesson for me. It's shaped the way I handle command, and the way I handle Airmen that make mistakes under my command.
Next, I was selected to the F-35 initial cadre. At this point, I definitely was in a position where from an Air Force perspective I was on the road to full recovery and I had the opportunity to do wonderful things. I was flying the F-35 at Nellis and I was commanding an operational test squadron that was testing the F-35 along with other aircraft, and this was around the time when General Welsh [Air Force Chief Of Staff at the time] implemented what I'll call a cultural revolution across the Air Force, but particularly in fighter pilot circles.
He pulled all the wing commanders together and said "It's time to clean up the crudeness and some of the things that have been propagating across our culture. This isn’t the environment that we want.” He knew it wasn't how we wanted to represent ourselves as the Air Force and he took the initiative to correct it.
I remember my Wing Commander talking to all the squadron commanders explaining "Hey, we need to straighten up, clean this stuff up in your squadrons, and get back to the professional environment that we need. Doesn't mean we can't have fun, but there are some lines that we just shouldn't be crossing."
I remember standing up in front of my squadron and telling them the changes that were happening, the things that we weren't going to do anymore, and that we never should have been doing. And I shared with them this entire experience as I'm sharing it with you, because I wanted them to hear it from me, and then to know that these changes that General Welsh was rolling out, that I believed in them. That I knew that they were important and that I wasn't just spouting the party line and then saying "Oh, wink wink, I'm the Gold Bond guy, we're going to keep doing things the way we always did it on the side here." I've done that same thing at every level of command and shared the same experience.
We all do things that are stupid sometimes, but in the business that we do here in the Air Force, we've got to have an environment where everybody feels safe. And I feel like anything that I did in the past, or that we all did without even realizing it, that made this environment feel unsafe, or a place where people didn't want to work, was wrong. We've got to get away from that.
I'm grateful for the changes that I've seen across the Air Force in that respect.
When you talk to younger pilots under your command about your experience, you have a bunch of them there at Shaw AFB, what's their reaction?
Just recently when I first took command, I sat down and did an all call with the pilots and officers and shared this story. This video, at least in the fighter pilot world, while I'm not happy about it, is well-known. There's probably not an F-16 pilot in the Air Force that doesn't know of that video and that I did it. So, when I became the Wing Commander, I thought it was important to discuss it with the pilots.
I shared it with them and it was a good opportunity to be real, to show them that I still have a sense of humor and that we can have fun and joke around and be human. But at the same time, we've got to remember that we should hold ourselves to a higher standard. I felt like that resonated. I'm not telling them to change who they are, I just want them to recognize that who we were before isn't who we want to be anymore, we're better than that now.
When you talk to younger pilots under your command about your experience, you have a bunch of them there at Shaw AFB, what's their reaction?
Just recently when I first took command, I sat down and did an all call with all the pilots and officers and shared this. I worried that it would come off like kind of a lecture of "Hey don't do this kind of stuff," but really... they all know this. This video, at least in the fighter pilot world, you know I'm not happy about it, but there's probably not an F-16 pilot in the world that's in the Air Force that doesn't know of that video and that I did it. So, you know when I became the Wing Commander I thought about saying "You know this is going to pop up" and I thought that it would, I thought it was important to discuss it with the pilots.
So, I guess as I shared it with them it was a good opportunity to be real, to show them that I still have a sense of humor and that we can have fun and joke around and you know, be human. But at the same time, we've got to remember that people are watching us and that we've got to be better than some of the stuff that we used to do. And I felt like that resonates to some extent. I'm not telling them to change who they are, I just want them to recognize who we were before isn't who we want to be anymore, we're better than that now.
Are airmen being systematically trained to realize the pitfalls of this type of thing? Is there just a training video they see or are they actually hearing about stories like yours in context to the current environment that's out there right now, especially in regards to social media?
The Air Force core values and the way we train people to conduct themselves would lead you towards "Hey let's not post ridiculous stuff about ourselves on the internet." And I think there are enough examples out there like mine that people know "I probably shouldn't do that." I also think our young officers are way smarter on social media than any of us are.
Hearing it from people that are just repeating a message is one thing, hearing it from someone like you has an entirely different impact. If I was a young airman, I'd listen to this and say "Hey this is where I want to be in ten years, and after hearing this, yeah I wouldn't pick up the camera and do that." Maybe there's a greater opportunity here?
I agree, and when I share this story, it isn't just about social media and how you communicate on those platforms. For me, it's broader. It's about recognizing that every one of us has done something we regret. And you can learn from it, you can move on. Don't forget that you're not defined by the mistakes you make unless you choose to let them define you."
So, on second chances. This is your story and obviously there's an issue that's ongoing. In your letter that you published [about removing Zoe Kotnik from her command] I believe you said that you hope that the individual takes the best advantage of a second chance or something along those lines. Is that something that is your position or do you see that more of as an Air Force position?
I wrote every word of that, that was not a prepared statement that anybody gave me, it is absolutely how I feel and embodies the way I lead. That was right from the heart.
What goes into making a disciplinary decision? How does the process work?
For most issues on Shaw Air Force Base—the 20th Fighter Wing—I am what we call the 'convening authority.' So, I have jurisdiction on what happens. But the Air Force widely tries to push autonomy and decisions down to the lowest level possible.
For example, I have 18 squadrons in my wing and those squadron commanders handle their own disciplinary actions within the squadron. They don't funnel that all to me. It's only when we're talking about more significant offenses, where maybe somebody might get discharged, those kinds of things, that it starts to come up to a higher level.
You have this experience in your past, yet look how far you've come. I've read your resume, it is filled with some of the most incredible flying positions the Air Force has to offer. Today you command thousands of people on one of the service's most important bases. What advice can you give those that find themselves in a 'Gold Bond' like predicament now? Not just in regards to not doing something stupid, but after the fact, once a bad decision has already been made? What can they do to make the best out of a bad situation?
That's a great question. I'll just talk broadly instead of talking about specific situations, but I can think of several cases here since I've been a wing commander where I've had someone in my office because something didn't go well for them. And of course, when you're coming to the wing commander's office and you've done something wrong, you're fearful. They are worried about what's going to happen.
One of my favorite memories here in the wing was a time where a young man came into my office who made some significant mistakes, and I suspect he thought that his career was over. I sat there and talked to him, I was very stern and I think he thought "Okay here we go."
I paused for a second and I held up what was potentially a discharge letter, and I tore it up right in front of him and I said "You know what? I believe in you, and my Command Chief believes in you, and your Squadron Commander believes in you. I want you to go back down to your squadron, I want you to learn from this, I want you to put it behind you, and I want you to move on and be the best Airman that I've ever seen in this wing. Prove to us that we made the right decision."
That's the message, right? I think it's so important to have a commander, and I hope my commanders embody this, it can't just be me, where we see the best in people. So, even when people do things that are just bad sometimes, we look at them and we see through that and we see past it and we recognize that there is so much potential here that we need to harness. That is how I approach it.
From the Airmen's point of view, as I interact with them, it’s important that they can see themselves in me. If I’m always perfectly articulate and don’t show any vulnerability, I think it makes me seem unreachable. Nobody can relate to that. I want them to see that we’re very much the same and that there is no reason they can’t be a wing commander or whatever else they want to become. So, I start there. I sit down with them. I call them by their first name. I ask them about their family, their interests, their goals.
Now getting directly to your question, I tell them I know what it feels like to think that you’ve disappointed everyone that believes in you and that you’ve destroyed your career. And the easiest thing to do right now is to give up. But we need leaders in our Air Force that know what it’s like to be in their shoes. We need leaders that can look beyond a mistake or a momentary lapse in judgment and see the hidden potential in our Airmen. That’s the kind of leader I want them to become, so I ask them if they’ll take the steps necessary to put their mistakes behind them and join me in the revolution. Some say this is a one mistake Air Force. Not on our watch!
Obviously, it's not easy in the internet age where social media can keep circulating something that you find personally and professionally unpleasant. But you combated this for years, didn't you?
I thought to myself "Once something is on the internet it never goes away." People always say that and I thought "Is that really true?" I mean of course an EMP, that could wipe it out, but that's not an option! So, I did some research on copyright and realized that I had grounds to have it copyrighted. In fact, even by making the video I already had the copyright of it. But just to make it official I filed a copyright, I have the certificate to this day, and for the past fourteen years, every month, maybe twice a month, I go through the internet and I do 'Gold Bond cleanings.' I find the video and I reach out with the DMCA notices and I have it taken down. This thing pops up probably every month, I'll see at least one, and I just snipe it. I’ve spent hundreds of hours over the past 14 years suppressing this video!
And it's funny because you'll see commentary on the internet, maybe you did as you researched this story. People think the government is doing this and the Air Force is somehow involved in this big conspiracy to keep 'Gold Bond' off the internet. Little do they know it's just little old me. I don’t do this because of my Air Force career, I received my punishment and I had the opportunity to recover. It's never been about preserving my career, and I always knew eventually it could come out as it did this week, but I had a young son at the time, he's 18 now, and I challenged myself thinking "I don't want him to come across this."
And I did, I kept it away from him, he didn't see it until he turned 18 and I finally showed it to him. He actually didn't think it was that funny. He was disappointed after all those years. I guess I overhyped it.
There is another video of me on the internet that ties to my twin brother. As you may know in the fighter pilot world we have callsigns, you get a nickname and it's kind of who you are. My call sign is 'Maestro.' And that's based on my twin brother being a Maestro... And that's just another one that's out there. I haven't tried to suppress that one.
At this point, why even chase it anymore? Why not let people learn from it? You're a man of very high stature, you've done amazing things in your life and are clearly a huge asset to the USAF. What's there to hide from? It's an inspiration to people who do make a mistake and look to come back from it to go on to incredible success.
Yeah, it does change things now. This is very different, this is the first time someone has publicly told the whole story. While I’m not proud of the video, I wouldn’t trade the lessons I learned from those experiences. I wouldn’t be the father, friend, Airman or leader I am today without them.
As I look at the video now, I am grateful that’s not who we are as an Air Force anymore. Still, young Captain O’Malley should have known better. I’m grateful that my leaders saw something in me that was worth saving and gave me a chance to reach my full potential. That’s exactly what I will do every single day I have the privilege of leading Airmen.
But you're right this does change things. This may finally free me from my penance of monthly 'Gold Bond cleanings.'
We have been following the production of the highly anticipated sequel to Top Gun closely, a movie that is now deep in production. Last time we discussed the movie's development was in regards to the revelation that the F-14 Tomcat would make at least a cameo appearance in the film, if not having a starring role. This came as photos leaked of Tom Cruise interacting with an F-14 at a snow-covered aircraft shelter at an airport near Lake Tahoe and also shooting some scenes in the vicinity around it. The jet, which was a real aircraft that was likely pulled from a museum, had special phoenix markings unique to the movie, as well. Now that same jet has appeared aboard an operational U.S. Navy aircraft carrier at Naval Station North Island in San Diego.
Images of the jet show Cruise and a production crew working around the Tomcat that is positioned on one of the carrier'stwo bow catapults. So it, is quite likely that this aircraft will be seen operating from an aircraft carrier in the film and is more than just a single scene plot tool within the script. Apparently, the airframe was also used for scenes shot at NAS North Island, which is colocated with the naval base.
In the photos, the Tomcat is also packing an AIM-9 Sidewinder with orange bands, indicating it is a live round. This is certainly for the purposes of filming. The USS Theodore Roosevelt is rumored to be used for the movie's production, so that is likely the carrier we are seeing the Tomcat on. There is a chance that it will set sail with it onboard, which would indicate extensive shooting of the Tomcat while at sea.
Also, keep in mind that this is not a flying aircraft. It is being used as a static prop for ground footage. There are no flying Tomcats anywhere in the world aside from in Iran. The Navy retired the type in 2006 and most were either chopped up or demilitarized and sent to museums. Getting one flying for the movie would be very costly and nearly impossible due to red tape surrounding the Tomcat's sensitive export controls due to their continued use by Iran. There are plenty of other issues as well.
In other news, I have heard from two sources that aerial filming is ongoing and actual footage of aircraft in flight be used extensively in the movie. This is great news as it was worried that nearly all of the flight sequences would be fabricated with CGI, negating one of the original film's best attributes.
Regardless, the Tomcat is back aboard an operational supercarrier for the first time in over a decade which is bound to warm the hearts of many who remain superfans of Grumman's swing-wing Fleet Defender.