Ko-Op Tour of Deutschland | Going Around the Benz

As someone who is not all that into the Euro scene of car kulture, I will honestly admit that Mercedes-Benz have produced some machines that surpass other makers, even before they can put up a fight. It is fair to say Mercs have been pioneers from the get go.

The place is pretty sizeable, made obvious by the fact that upon entering the lobby you start the tour by elevating to the uppermost level of the museum’s nine planes, at some lofty height enough to make Luke a bit squeamish.

I found it amusing how the roof resembled the profile of an epitrochoid, the same shape as a rotor in a Wankel engine…

The floorplan of the Benz building is pretty cool, it flows down through the timeline of Mercedes and every significant model in their lineage can be found on each floor which signifies a decade.

Check out the gills on the side of the 300SL Gullwing! Back then, Merc’s design department were in the zone and produced some kutting edge automotive art. My favourite element has got to be the side-exit cannons coming out of the quarter-panel of that 300 SLR.

The section of the museum that was worth more than admission has got to be where I saw the 190E Evolution II. I wouldn’t change a thing on that machine.

Then we walked down a floor, and there it sat on a sloped bank stage amongst a plethora of Mercedes’ racing legends, the #3 Sonax 190E 2.6-16 Evo II DTM car of 1992. I vividly remember clocking some nuts laptime on Nurburgring (virtually) when it first appeared in Gran Turismo 4. I must have been 10 years old back then, getting giddy about my first sub-8 minute PB; that car has burnt a scar in my memory. It is the ultimate sleeper that is not sleeper at all in Evo form.

Ignore what I said about not altering the pure, elegant physique of the Merc; I would most definitely style it in the fashion of that touring car in two-tone. Maybe change the ‘BOSS HUGO BOSS’ livery to ‘BOSS COFFEE’ next to a silhouette of Tommy Lee Jones…

Once I found out Mercedes gave the rotary engine a chance, they shifted up in my rankings. The C111, although only went as so far as a design concept, is without a doubt one of the most interesting cars I saw and yeah, it’s probably because of the Wankelmotor. It was a decent attempt at defying convention, so I can’t fault Mercedes for trying back in the late 60’s when Mazda were doing the same, but disappointingly the German autogiants flipped off the possibility of a 3 or 4-rotor and developed the diesel lump that found its way into the 240D 3.0. Bit of a shame the C111 remained a development mule, since customers sent blank cheques to the company in hope that they would churn out production-models; would have been a success by the sounds of it…

Thats all for now, it was a quick one, but I feel I need to bust these posts out as I am lagging behind on the Germany content. Plus, I don’t really care for Mercedes-Benz at this point in time. I feel like the newer cars are lacking soul nowadays, and that goes for the majority of car manufacturers. I reckon Mercedes should pump out more krazy koncepts like they used to, and then find a way to go absolutely bananas on the drawing board for a flagship model…

Anyway, the real good bits are yet to come, so keep an eye or two out!

Ko-Op Tour of Deutschland | First Stop: The Ring

Just after coming back from Japan in June, returning to work wasn’t gruelling, but there’s always the helpless reminiscing about the great country no matter how many times I go back, its always an unforgettable experience.

I felt, however, I needed to do the trip that has always been within arms’ reach; the one any car “enthusiast” must fulfil as a rite of passage. Germany. Nurburgring in particular, but I wanted to ensure I got to see as much of the country as possible within a short span of time. Fortunately, I have a buddy who has featured on the site in previous posts (Luke) who has ventured twice before, so he had the Ring experience under his belt and was pretty keen on getting back out there this summer just gone. We planned the trip for about 6 nights, cramming a decent amount of highly car-related activities in. Not gonna spoile whats to come, but Nurburgring was just the beginning…

We picked the hire car up from the airport in Cologne, and made the drive down to Nurburg, home to the infamous Green Hell. It was really odd seeing the circuit, initially, as we were just rolling along the country road that lines up parallel to the Dottinger Hohe (the longest straight on the track, where we have all gone off at the end of on Gran Turismo). Luke was like, “See where that Audi gantry board is, that’s the home stretch”, and at first all I could do is replay memories in my head of watching replays of the virtual version of the Nordschleife, trying to work grasp my bearings. It was pretty nuts at first. Then it just kept getting nuttier, as the villages you drive through are littered with so much serious metal, you don’t know where to look.

A quick walk through the ‘ring`Boulevard’ where there’s a few manufacturer dealership/showrooms, a go-kart track, ‘ringwerk’ museum, a handful of giftshops, and a tattoo parlour. We then made our way back to the hero-hirecar which we spent hours debating over whether it was the update 184-bhp model or not. Turns out, it was, according to the VIN plate. Bit disappointing to be honest as I expected a bit more out of the tune-up Mazda made. Not complaining though; its boot was big enough for my camera backpack, a duffel, and a mini suitcase. Oh yeah, and it drove spektakularly.

On the Thursday we landed, practice for the VLN 4 hour endurance race was already in progress, so we headed to a couple corners where you can park up and spectate till your heart’s content, watching the beast-mimicking GT4 & GT3 cars blitz by, before we drove to our airbnb.

Took this just before I got shouted at by the giftshop saleswoman for pointing my camera at basically everything…

Castle Combe Circuit – Spring Action Day 2019

We now enter the seasons where daylight lingers, less layers are worn, and of course when nearly everybody gets their pride and joy out to get their respective motors’ rubbers and fluids warm because they have been sat stone cold in the lockup.

The car show season kicks off unofficially at Castle Combe Circuit nestled in its home village of which it is named after, located in Wiltshire, UK. This track is quite a trek for someone who lives ‘up north’ so that is probably why I have never ventured this far before, but I can honestly say I did not regret the early start that Saturday morning. With a mix of ‘show & shine’ cars sitting pretty in their club stands and vendor tents, and track-ready monsters hauling ass on the tarmac, it was kinda like a small scale Goodwood, but instead of elite-level four (and sometimes 2 or 3) -wheeled weaponry, you have normal guys and gals who cherish their cars and just want to enjoy them however they like. Saying that, a Mclaren did show up, so…

Upon entering the circuit’s premises from across the road where we parked up the Demio in a grass field, I was drawn to this R35 and its clean and sharp look. The all carbon Knight Racer rear wing compliments the back end quite tidily, and even though its probably not all that functional, I can still appreciate the uniqueness of those bowed ends.

Innocent Blue Mica. I reckon the ability of the powertrain – from the looks of that single-turbo conversion – is nothing like the innocuousness of the name Mazda gave their colour option.

A stock-bodied S15 Silvia sporting the stylish Spec-R aero kit that could easily be mistaken for an aftermarket setup, especially with the rear-wing’s extravagant design including its integrated third brake light. The late 1990’s to early 2000’s gave birth to some of the most modern and fresh looking Japanese cars, that even to this day, pushing nearly 20 years old, still remain youthful in appearance.

Questionable styling on the rear end of this FD RX7. The rest of it including the fine details such as the metal flake paint and FEED carbon door handles add to the Mazda’s already characterful presence. The Scoot ‘Viper-style’ bonnet rounds it off nicely aswell. Very 1990’s Japan feels when I spotted this.

Ahh, the LanEvo IV. These generation of rally-bred beasts always make me swoon and I put it down to two things: the aggressive look without very much sharp lines on the car, and the analogue nature of the chassis, which in fact weighs ~1260kg in RS trim, which is unheard of in the modern gizmo-filled AWD performance cars of today!

These E30 M3s do give off a cool vibe, I will have to admit, even if I am more swayed by the 190E. You could tell the owner really treasured his Evo II model, as he had the boot stuffed with detailing kit which he obviously uses well enough to make the purple body gleam when the sunlight beams off the paint.

White on white RX7 looking healthy with its Borg Warner snail sitting snug in between the engine and chassis.

Walking through the paddock area, we stumble upon a set of rough looking, but well put together drift machines, mainly Silvias and Skylines, the odd Soarer, and then one brown coloured FD sat in the corner patiently waiting to rip up the course.

The ER34 Skyline you see above is easily ranked highly in my books for best in show. Very well executed, but I find it hard to imagine making a 4-door R34 ugly to be honest.

I am consistently irritated/saddened by the lack of well-built and styled Mazda 3/Axela MPS chassis, in the UK especially. I know of a few cool looking ones overseas, but never have I ever encountered one over here that hasnt been wrapped awfully or specced with distasteful wheels/aero. The limitless potential of both generations of Mazda’s hot hatch have been suppressed, I feel.

Another highlight of the show was this early generation VW Scirocco. I love the look of headlight deletes, do you reckon new cars would look cool with this mod? I wish I got more shots of this raw beast but thats my retrospective bane in life as a photog. Shame I did not see it out on track either.

This E46 in Alpine White wowed me, which isn’t difficult when I am met by one of the best M3 models to come out of Munich. Someone is ballsy/experimental when fitting current-gen M4(?) wheels to the predecessing coupe. It surprisingly suits the car almost perfectly, going to show how timeless this BMW is.

Now this is where the action takes place. Castle Combe is actually bigger than I imagined, and lapping the grounds’ perimeter is atleast more than a couple of mile. Sessions were split into the standard ‘Run What Ya Brung’ format and drift demonstrations performed by those more familiar with track work. Its refreshing to go to a show where you can see cars in motion, thats when they come alive in a sense.
I’ll let the photos do the talking.

So, thats your lot. Making the trip down south was worth it, especially when it can get tiresome seeing some of the same cars when attending shows in the northern part of England. I suppose it also gave me some practice taking panning shots, obviously I have loads to improve on in terms of composition and tracking, but for my first time these came out better than I expected. Stay tuned for future posts and let me know in the comments what your favourite car was out of the set!

Thanks for reading if you stayed this long!

Below the Surface: Tom & Co’s Underground Unit

It was a bit miserable and rainy last Saturday, but I had been meaning to utilise my workpal’s (Tom, who might pop up in another story if and when he completes his 1st Gen Mustang Fastback) car lift in a den he shares rental with.

Long story short, I ended up doing no “work” on my car but that can be rationally excused due to the unnecessity of a 2010 Mazda 2 fuel filter change. It’s one of those inline filters and we couldn’t work out where it lived under both the car and bonnet, so I thought frig it, theres a fresh Lotus outside thats waiting to be drooled over…


This Series 2 Elise belongs to Nev, a resident (literally) of the decently sized industrial unit Tom and his mates share to store and fiddle with their cars, bikes, vans, and tractor.
I met with Nev once before, when I was running the MX5, and I think it was he who kindly donated a set of wheels for me to drive about on whilst my Buddyclub SFs went in for a desperate powder coating. He happened to be working on his El Camino on that day, but immediately got distracted when I asked if it would be cool if I shot some pics of his Lotus parked up outside under the dull sky. Kindly agreeing, he then jumped at the opportunity of whipping his own pair of compact-system cameras out and decided to join me in capturing as much of the iconic aesthetic of this 2-seat B-road-beater.
Every curve on the car is near perfect, and that is probably why this car has not aged in all those 18 years of existence. It is extreme in its nature, but the intensity of its striking demeanor is not overpowering or distasteful. In a subtle way the Elise is graceful, perhaps it is this colour that makes it so.
I had never seen an S2 in this colour, both in real life and Gran Turismo (virtually the same thing). When I made my thoughts known to Nev, he informed me that his car was in fact of a darker blue hue before his ownership which could be seen by the graze on the passenger side’s wing mirror. This meant that it has had a respray in the blue tone seen on the latest S3 Elise, which suits the S2 sweetly.
As the rain kept on coming, Nev decided to bring his car into the unit, which is access only by a cobbled driveway tilting downward, which was scarily dodgy for me when I brought my MX5 down for the first time. Once through the roller shutter, you are greeted by this place that is booming with character. In some way it is an escape from the bores of everyday life; guys just wanting to let their creativity and madness loose.

Nev plans on taking this thing out on a track once the weather pick up and he finds the time. I hope I am able to join him to catch it flying on some open road and hearing that 1ZZ-FE engine emit its signature exhaust notes when that does happen. Lotus geeks will also be wondering what a pre-2008 model Elise is doing with the Toyota engine as opposed to the Rover K-series that the first batch inherited from the S1. I am told, this non-swapped example is a pre-production test model that Lotus built back in ’03, but even I am surprised at the fact they chose to sell it to the public. Were they that confident in the new powertrain configuration? Well, it is a Japanese unit after all…

The ‘Unit’ as its referred to, is a pretty cool hangout built up by all those that occupy it. I don’t know the exact count of heads who rightfully own the garage, but Tom is kind enough to let anyone he knows to freely use his and his mates’ gear for any repair or maintenance.

The Mercedes-Benz van you see before you, roller-painted in a military-esque grey, is where Nev and his girlfriend Neo dwell. You can catch them on their travels on Instagram [@vanwankers]. It is cool to meet people who steer off the beaten track and I admire their free-spirited personality.

Internally marrooned. Tom needs to get in gear and make progress on this classic machine.

Here we have yet another dusty item on the racking. This RX7 FD shell belongs to guy from my workplace. He rolled it into the unit more than a year ago, no engine or gearbox, along with a half empty interior. I am unsure on what the planned future is for this car, but I am praying that it has a long and prosperous one, with a rotary motor (queue jokes about the “unreliability and short lifespan of rotaries”).

I will end this entry with some of the shots I got when light-painting for the first time. This photography technique is epic if you can get it right, so that is going to be my mission heading forward so you might/will see more. Low-light/Night environments are not favourable when it comes to getting the best out of your DSLR, as you tend to get noisy and not-as-crisp shots unless you use a tripod and keep the camera as still as possible to draw sufficient enough light.

Donington Park – Caters to the Believers in Motoring Sport

Last month I was invited by Luke, again, to act as personal photographer/pit crew member/brake checker at a track day put on by ‘Circuit Days’ over in Donington Park. This venue is located in Derby, UK, and has its roots in the birth of MotoGP. Noteworthy is the fact that Ayrton Senna put some rubber down on the circuit in the European Formula 1 Grand Prix during the early 1990’s.

Donington Park is a really well done and sorted race track, which is most likely due to the acquisition made by MSV (Motorsport Vision) in 2017. This organization clearly want to see British motorsport grow, and this is evident in the quality of their facilities.

You will see this wheel frequently throughout this post
With the Caterham race series nearing, some of the entrants were getting as much valuable seat time as possible; and where else is better than the 2.487 mile-long GP Course at Donington.
I have always respected the Caterham marque. This was the first time I was exposed to the ‘scene’ and I now realise how sharp these cars can handle the asphalt.
That day was not the warmest, as you would expect in England during the winter season, but the onslaught of 50+ mph winds didn’t make it easy for us bystanding spectators.
The basic yet bold look of this deep-blue example caught my eye as it pulled back into the pits. I also thought the clean look of the side panelling, with the roll cage outboard of the body, suited the car much better.
Caterhams forcing much higher powered machinery to fall to the side is a common sight.
Lucky Number Seven
Luke sold his MNR Vortx last year, and shocked us with this new investment. Specifically, a 310R model, equipped with a 1.6l inline-four Sigma engine produced by Ford, power output close to 150bhp. But lets not forget, this thing weighs around 600kg, so it gets about if you tune in to its very sensitive chassis.
Avon ZZ-S tyres did for the time being, but Luke has now wrapped the wheels in Yokohama Advan A048s instead. Trust the Japanese to make it right I guess…
Thankfully, we had our own pit garage all to ourselves since our neighbour was a no-show. As soon as we stepped outside though, we get slapped by the cold breeze.
Later in the day as the track surface dried up, adjustments were made to the anti-roll bars for additional stiffness in the rear, which allowed for more rotation in corners, especially the two extra hairpins you run on the GP layout of the circuit.
As you would expect, the “interior” of this car is not that of a normal road-going vehicle. The fixed-back bucket seats and four-point harnesses secure both the driver and passenger in as safety is critical.
Here is what is known as ‘craner curves’, a right then left down a fairly long decline, where speed can be gained in dangerous measures before ‘old hairpin’ right-turn.
Not an engine I have ever come across, maybe because they are originally made for and found in Ford Fiestas (yawn), but with a short-ram intake and opened up exhaust, the straight-four does make a healthy buzz when you stomp on the gas.
That MX-5 in the distance seems like it ran a bit wide from this angle.
Very interesting colour combination here
Similar to Cadwell Park, this track has some great views as the elevation difference adds a dynamic element to both the course and trackside.
I wish I got a closer look at this – what seems to be – E46 M3 CSL (‘CoupeSportLightweight’ for those wondering).
Amazing design and still sharp-looking to this day. This was the BMW M3’s more athletic version, with only approximately 15bhp more than the standard car, this machine makes up for through the extensive use of carbon and fibreglass on the bodywork and windows, and shed a whopping 110kg in kerbweight!
This E92 M3 was spotted doing plenty of rounds which was nice to see, as they are usually rolling slow on public roads, with some smug-faced driver behind the wheel. The pilot of this white-on-black example seemed to be having a laugh throwing into every corner, as you should do in a car with this level of capability.
A serious track weapon E46 stormed by a few times. The straight-six note is one you cannot hate, to be honest.
Another top BMW, this E82 1 Series was modified tastefully and with an obvious functional focus.
Here is a shot I took trying to depict the dramatic dip in altitude, but it is only when you experience it for yourself that proves how intimidating this section of the track in particular is.
The many ‘offs’ drivers have should they push too early on corner exit
Apparently so…
Me and Luke saw the behind of this car quite frequently when out on track. It is astonishing how capable the GT-R is when you put into perspective the weight difference between both cars. But it is equally, if not more astonishing, how much pace a Caterham can keep with a lacking power & torque spec. The chassis is impressive and extremely well balanced, and there is still more room for improvement.
Must be nice running errands in this. Belonged out on the field!
I have no clue what this was. A Volkwagen of some sort. The engine/exhaust sounded phenomenal.
Here is the trusty chariot. All I will say about the Benz is that it is comfortable, but I cannot get over the mundanity of it.
Thats a wrap. Hopefully you enjoyed the read and the photos, log on next time and you might see the Caterham in a more competitive environment. Thanks to Luke for trusting me to drive his new machine a few laps around the exciting circuit. It was eventful, but I learnt a lot in the limited seat time I had. The car isn’t so much twitchy, but the controls take some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, the satisfaction of tracing clean lines on a racetrack is unmatchable. More car fun!