Automotive Gifts for Weirdos

The Pilgrims in Bethlehem invented Black Friday 3,000 years ago so that Americans would finally start embracing consumerism, or something. Let's honor their memory by keeping this joyous shopping tradition alive.

You probably have a good handle on what to get the norms in your life... socks and fancy cheese baskets... but here's a brief guide of auto-themed gifts for the creeps and weirdos you know.

Fancy Tire Thumper: Do you have a flamboyantly-attired friend in the long-haul trucking industry who spends countless days on the road hauling machine parts and dry goods while a silk top hat rests jauntily on his head? Of course you do. The dandy trucker in your life will never again suffer the indignity of having to conceal a plain and unstylish tire thumper under his bespoke velvet tailcoat once you get him this hand-crafted beauty from Vintage Gold's eBay store. Whether checking the air pressure on his rig's many wheels or turning a rapscallion's head into a fine red mist, this splendid tool will do the job so fast his monocle will pop out!

Rubber Tire Spikes: Crazy Uncle Mitch hates it when motorists use his driveway to turn around. It's vehicular trespassing! But shooting at their cars with rock salt just isn't fun since all those lawsuits. Put his misanthropic mind at ease with these realistic-looking rubber tire spikes. A couple of these on the end of a driveway will keep hooligans and ne'er-do-wells far away. Plus, they won't actually damage tires, so those mean big-city lawyers will finally leave him alone.

Comically Oversized Rims: Just because your elderly neighbor smells of cat urine and thinks you're her dead husband doesn't mean her beige Plymouth Reliant shouldn't rock some pimping rims. Treat her to a set of 26-inch chromed beauties worth far more than the car itself. She'll appreciate how much easier it is to get in and out, now that the driver's seat is an extra foot off the ground. Sure, braking and accelerating might suffer, but she only drives three miles per hour to that church down the block, so what's the harm?

Devel Sixty Is an SUV to Storm the Gates of Hell

The age of ridiculousness is upon us my friends, and it is fantastic. We’ve got a roadster from Tesla coming that goes zero to 60 mph in under two seconds, cars lapping the Nurburgring in under seven minutes, and Level 3 autonomous driving already here. Then you’ve got Devel giving us a supercar promising 5,000 horsepower. The craziest part about it is, that’s probably not even the wildest car that that company is trying to make.

Enter the Devel Sixty. It’s a street legal, six-wheel drive turbo-charged 6.7-liter SUV built in the USA. If you took Darth Vader and built him a vehicle for a post-apocalyptic Mad Max universe, this would be the car. Devel estimates the behemoth will come with 700 hp and go zero to 60 in 5.8 seconds. It comes with military-grade tires and an adjustable suspension height. And if you’re worried about it breaking down before the zombie apocalypse, it comes with a full one-year warranty.

The interior will fit six seats with an additional option for a seventh. Each interior can be fully customized with the color or your choice. There’s air conditioning, GPS, cooled and heated seats, front and rear cameras along with night vision displays. Devel is asking for a 12-month lead time for delivery. If you’re wondering what this mutant Knight Rider on steroids will set you back, Devel wants $450,000.

Devel Sixty

While it certainly will pack a performance punch, I’d put this more in the camp of the Rhino GX than the upcoming Lamborghini Urus. Obviously the six-wheel vehicle won’t have the maneuverability of a smaller SUV, however, the independent suspension should add some agility. Bringing such a large and expensive vehicle to the market is not without precedent. The Mercedes G63 AMG 6X6 model has been a very sought-after truck since its introduction to the market in early 2013.

I can’t wait to hear about the Bond villain that has one of these in his garage right next to his Devel Sixteen.

Williams F1 Confirms Robert Kubica Will Drive Abu Dhabi Test

Wednesday, Williams Formula 1 Team confirmed rumors that the widely-hyped Robert Kubica will perform a test session for the team after the season-concluding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend. The Pirelli tire test, which will span the Tuesday and Wednesday following the race weekend, will involve three drivers: Kubica, Sergei Sirotkin, and Lance Stroll. Kubica will bookend the sessions by driving Tuesday morning and Wednesday afternoon, with Stroll and Sirotkin taking sessions in between. Williams does not make any official mention of evaluating Kubica as part of this test in the team's announcement, and though The Drive reached out to a team spokesperson for comment, none was made.

Williams has formally stated that the team has not signed Kubica, despite several media outlets claiming the contrary, though it now appears the team is not simply playing coy, as fresh details on the alleged contract suggest things are not finalized, as some claim.

Technical analyst Mark Hughes said in a Facebook interview with Sky Sports F1 that his confidence that Kubica would be driving for the team next year was 98 percent, stating that only some of the finer details of the contract between the team and driver needed to be resolved. In a column published by Motorsport Magazine, Hughes says that the biggest thing preventing the deal from being finalized was an insurance payout, which Kubica presumably received after his then career-ending injuries in the infamous 2011 rally crash which crippled his right arm.

Of course, even if the financial details are worked out, things going less than stellar at the Abu Dhabi test would still leave the team with a backup option. Motorsport Italy describes recently-dropped Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat as Williams' second choice, though the apparent departure of two of the team's sponsors at the end of the season could require Kvyat to come up with a financial package that competes with that offered by Kubica, should the Polish man underperform next week. Going by Hughes' description of the situation, however, that looks to be the least probable outcome.

Watch NASA’s Autonomous Drone Race a Human Pilot

In October, NASA’s California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory pitted a drone controlled by artificial intelligence against a professional human drone pilot named Ken Loo. According to NASA's press release, it had been researching autonomous drone technology for the past two years at that point, funded by Google and its interest in JPL’s vision-based navigation work. The race consisted of a time-trial where the lap times and behaviors of both the A.I.-operated drone and the manually-piloted drone were analyzed and compared. Let’s take a look at the results.

NASA said in its release that the company developed three drones; Batman, Joker, and Nightwing. Researchers focused mostly on the intricate algorithms required to navigate efficiently through a race like this, namely obstacle avoidance and maximum speed through narrow environments. These algorithms were then combined with Google’s Tango technology, which JPL had a significant hand in as well.

Task Manager of the JPL project, Rob Reid said, “We pitted our algorithms against a human, who flies a lot more by feel. You can actually see that the A.I. flies the drone smoothly around the course, whereas human pilots tend to accelerate aggressively, so their path is jerkier.” As it turned out, Loo’s speeds were much higher, and he was able to perform impressive aerial maneuvers to his benefit, but the A.I.-infused drones were more consistent, and never gave in to fatigue. “This is definitely the densest track I’ve ever flown,” said Loo. “One of my faults as a pilot is I get tired easily. When I get mentally fatigued, I start to get lost, even if I’ve flown the course 10 times.”

Let's take a look at the race footage released by JPL Tuesday.

Loo averaged 11.1 seconds per lap, while the autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles average 13.9 seconds. In other words, while Loo managed to reach higher speeds overall, the drones operating autonomously were more consistent, essentially flying a very similar lap and route each time. “Our autonomous drones can fly much faster,” said Reid. “One day you might see them racing professionally!”

Of that latter statement, there’s certainly no doubt. A future where companies like Google and NASA square off in public arenas where their autonomous drones compete against one another is definitely plausible. It wouldn’t be shocking to see such an event televised, either, as we’re already seeing similar results with the Drone Racing League.

Formula 1 Bans Shark Fin Bodywork for 2018

Formula 1 held an official Strategy Group meeting earlier in November, discussing a list of concerns and possible mandates for the 2018 season. The Halo cockpit safety device remains a hot topic at these gatherings among teams, and as this month's meeting shows, the "shark fin" engine cover has also been up for debate. Used primarily as a stabilizer for the rear wing, the equipment was originally fitted to promote improved downforce and increase cornering speeds.

Although a majority of teams voted in favor to keep the "shark fin", a unanimous decision was needed to keep them in F1 next season, a movement which was promptly halted by McLaren. The Woking-based racing outfit opted out of joining the rest, saying it wished for a smaller, more streamlined design. With the deadline looming, the collective efforts of Formula 1 teams were not enough to form a compromise, eventually ruling out the aero aid completely for next season.

"It's going to complicate matters slightly," said Force India technical director Andrew Green. "It means we have to redevelop part of the cars which hasn't been developed because we assumed the engine cover was going to say the same."

Green and the Force India crew have already expressed the difficulties of developing a car for 2018 while also having to incorporate the Halo device. Both of these decisions to change the racecar's design have influenced their integral structures and aerodynamic properties. As a result, engineers will have to work around these shifts to create competitive machines for next year's 21-race calendar.

"Now it's not so we have to redevelop parts of the car accordingly," Green continued. "It's not a big thing but it's still something we have to do that we didn't think we would have to do."

Ferrari's version of the 'shark fin' can be seen here at the United States Grand Prix.

McLaren team director Eric Boullier explained his team's opposition despite the equipment being a major part of its car's form.

"I don't understand why everyone went to do something else other than the regulations," he said. "It has been voted months ago to go with no shark fin – a sort of mini shark fin.

"This is in the regulations for next year. Some teams believed it will change again, and wanted to keep the big fin."

Boullier suggested that teams had considered working on a hybrid fin of sorts, much like that of the Mercedes-AMG F1 car. This would allow for a lower drag coefficient as well as improving the center of gravity, aiding both speed and cornering efforts. Current shark fin designs have also been criticised for catching strong crosswinds on-track, unsettling the cars and causing a potential safety concern. Boullier and others believe that a shorter construction could help in that area as well.

"Then it was discussed to have a Mercedes style fin and in the end we just remind everybody what was voted six months ago. People have said: 'We have to change it, we've worked in the wind tunnel.'

"No problem, but you know regulations. There is no debate. So that is it."

Meet the Incredibly Angry, Incredibly Capable Mini John Cooper Works Dakar Buggy

The Mini-backed X-raid team has found major success in the fabled Dakar rally, scoring four successive overall victories in the race from 2012 to 2015. Usually found in the desert muscling the best efforts from Peugeot, the German racing outfit is now looking to capitalize on previous triumphs with a new entry in the 2WD Buggy segment. This 2018 Mini John Cooper Works Racing off-roader will be just that, accompanying its traditional 4x4 stablemate at next year's event.

Spanning Nov. 6-20, the two-week race will hop from Peru and Bolivia to Argentina. World Rally Championship veteran Mikko Hirvonen will be one of the drivers in the Mini buggy's inaugural campaign alongside Bryce Menzies and Saudi Arabian pilot Yazeed Al-Rajhi. There, they will compete with the Peugeot 3008DKR Maxi while its Mini John Cooper Works Rally brother will battle for the overall win in what is expected to be Peugeot's final year at Dakar.

Mini deemed the 2WD vehicle "the biggest project in the company’s history" The buggy will use the same 3.0-liter diesel as its tried and tested Dakar comrade, producing 340 horsepower and a mountainous 590 pound-feet. of torque. This healthy dose of power will help Mini stay competitive in the 2WD category, one that has been commandeered by its French rival in the last two races. Its carbon fiber and Kevlar bodywork are molded around a tubular steel frame with plenty of aerodynamic influence, promising better performance and reduced fuel stops in the 5,000-plus mile event.

Additionally, significant weight reduction and suspension work are expected to help improve times by three seconds per kilometer in 2018.

The Mini JCW Racing dune machine has been in development since February 2017. According to team manager Sven Quandt, it has proved resilient through testing in Morocco and Hungary as it “never had to stop once due to a technical problem”. With its added speed and agility, the X-raid squad hopes that reliability will bring together the total package and better its results from this year's event. During January's running, the team failed to capture a stage win and finished in sixth position behind a dominant reign by Peugeot.

Gran Turismo Sport Free Updates Add Singleplayer Campaign, 15 New Cars

While Gran Turismo Sport and its new, online-only e-sports focus were released to a generally positive critical reception in October, old-school fans of PlayStation's flagship racing title—your humble author included—were left craving for a traditional, singleplayer campaign experience that defined Gran Turismo games of yesteryear. Luckily for us, developers Polyphony Digital are addressing those criticisms head-on.

In a blog post, Polyphony has detailed a series of free updates coming to GT Sport over the next couple of months that promise to deliver a full-fledged singleplayer campaign dubbed the "GT League" in addition to 15 new cars. "GT League" should look and feel familiar to whoever played a game in the franchise that wasn't GT Sport, incorporating classic championship labels such as the "Sunday Cup" and "Clubman Cup." While the 15 new vehicular additions don't exactly turn the game into the automotive collectathon that most GT traditionalists yearn for, it's a step in the right direction. Also, the fact that all of this comes at the price of free feels like a breath of fresh air in the midst of gaming's current controversy.

Scheduled for Nov. 27, the first update will whet players' appetites with three new cars including the IsoRivolta Zagato Vision Gran Turismo, Audi's R18 e-tron quattro Le Mans racer, and a Shelby Cobra 427. The game will also get some under-the-hood enhancements in the form of physics tweaks, Sportsmanship Rating algorithm improvements, Driving School and Mission Challenge difficulty adjustments, and the added ability to use the Campaign Mode, Livery Editor, and Scapes photo mode offline. Speaking of Scapes, the November update will also come with several new photo locations including "Autumn Leaves," seen below.

Set to be ready sometime this December is the "GT League" campaign and 12 new cars. Without further ado, here they are:

  • Mazda RX-7 Spirit R Type A (FD)
  • Nissan Skyline GT-R V?spec II (R32)
  • Nissan Skyline GT-R V?spec II Nür (R34)
  • Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
  • Lamborghini Countach LP400
  • Ferrari F40
  • Ferrari Enzo Ferrari
  • KTM X-BOW R
  • Suzuki Swift Sport
  • Volkswagen Samba Bus Type 2 (T1)
  • Chris Holstrom Concepts 1967 Chevy Nova
  • Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible (C3)

The blog post ends with the promise of more regular game updates throughout 2018, including 50 more downloadable cars by March in addition to new tracks.

Fans who held out on Gran Turismo this time around might just find themselves back behind the virtual wheel in the new year. Gran Turismo Sport is available on PlayStation 4 now.

Volkswagen Sees a Future in 3D Printing Car Parts

Imagine: A laser fuses layer after layer of razor-thin powder until it forms a solid metal shape. This process, known as 3D printing, is Volkswagen’s newest method to create car parts.

Last year, Volkswagen Autoeuropa began to 3D-print parts for its machines that create car parts. The factory produced more than 1,000 machine tools last year, which saved the company $160,000 in assembly line components. Now, the company is using the process to create car parts.

VW makes 3D-printed gear shifters, water connectors for engines, and metal pieces to connect door handles to leather interiors. In May, the company created 3D-printed side and loudspeaker trims for the Worthersee GTI Volkswagen, a show car at the company’s plant in Wolfsburg, Germany.

Printing is performed on site by machines such as the Ultimaker (a $200,000 machine which paid for itself in two months last year). This eliminates lead time, lowers production costs, and even frees up space in manufacturing plants.

The process can also produce lighter-weight car parts. For example, a 3D-printed A-pillar window support weighs 74 percent less than the original piece. This, in turn, makes the car more fuel efficient, cutting costs for the customer.

According to Knuth Walczak, head of Porsche’s innovation and development management department, “Even highly stressed parts like pistons can be printed. Because the material is laid layer upon layer, you can systematically affect the microstructure. The mechanical properties differ significantly from those of conventionally produced parts.”

Small, complex parts are the easiest, most effective models for 3D printing, while larger parts will continue to be produced traditionally.

Jörg Spindler, who heads equipment and metal forming at Audi’s Competence Center in Ingolstadt, Germany, said the process doesn’t pay off until around 200 of each item are made, and larger items like engines can take more than 100 hours produce.

3D printing isn’t a total replacement for manufacturing, but rather a step in the right direction.

“The new technology will not replace conventional processes," Spindler said. "But it will create new, fascinating possibilities.”

The company will continue to conduct research in 3D printing at the Audi Competence Center. VW just announced that it would invest $14 billion in its Germany plant from 2018 to 2025. The money will go toward VW’s technology strategy, which will focus on producing electric cars that will include 3D-printed parts.

Suzuki Wagon R Stingray Resembles a Stampeding Bull

Even though Suzuki ended American sales back in 2012, its vehicles are still popular in its homeland of Japan, where the automaker remains successful in selling millions of Wagon R cars. The redesigned Suzuki Wagon R and Stingray were unveiled earlier this year with a boxier look and reduced weight figures. The Stingray, specifically, received a prominent single-piece front grille with sleek, vertical LED headlights. Its bumper, unique to this model, seems to have taken some inspiration from the Cadillac Escalade. The interior is equipped with an all-new dashboard with a center-mounted instrument cluster and smartphone-like touchscreen infotainment system below it.

This wagon is powered by a 660cc three-cylinder petrol engine that puts out 52 horsepower and 60 newton-metre (44.2 pound-feet) of torque. Aside from the standard model, the Stingray is also available as a hybrid form with an engine tweaked to deliver 66 horsepower and 98 N. m (72.2 lb-ft) of torque. A CVT gearbox comes standard on all versions, and all variants receive the option of either two- or four-wheel drive.

Check out the video below featuring a Japanese television advertisement for the 2017 Wagon R Stingray. The commercial presents the car as a massive, muscular bull that seems determined to charge its owner to death. If that type of marketing doesn't get the point across, I don't know what can. The ad is short, quick, to the point and leaves a lasting impression of the wagon.

Behind the Scenes of Ryan Tuerck’s GT4586 Portland Shoot

We featured footage of Ryan Tuerck sending his Ferrari 458 V-8 engined Toyota GT86 affectionately named the GT4586 into the side of the hillside during part of a hillclimb shoot for Donut Media two months ago. This week, Donut released a short behind-the-scenes video of filming that GT4586 clip.

The best part of being a legit filming operation is when the cops come, you flash your fancy permits and the cops leave. That is what happened at the shoot. According to Tuerck, cops were called and they showed up, but the film crew had the correct permits to shut the street down and film there. While checking on the crew, the cop wanted an autograph from Tuerck. Tuerck wanted to sign the ticket book, but was only allowed to sign his notebook instead.

The behind-the-scenes video features the "Tuerck'd" wreck when he sends the GT4586 into the hillside and it shows the logistics of fixing it to continue the shoot. I think the best part is, how do you fix your one of one race car build? You lift it with the same tool enthusiasts around the country do. With a Harbor Frieght floor jack. The crew laid out tools all over the road to get the car fixed.

Tuerck goes through a few of the issues they had to deal with during shooting the clip. Apparently, a crazy neighbor came down and yelled at the film crew. They were filming on a road, after all. Also, according to Tuerck, someone robbed a few people at gunpoint, drove by the shoot, and was followed by cops about 10 minutes later looking for the robber. The things you will find at a car shoot.

Check out Donut Media's GT4586 Behind-the-Scenes-Facebook video below.