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Audi Tech Update: Virtual Cockpit for A3, Anti-Hacking Measures, 1-Teraflop A8

Audi technology

Four decades ago, automotive engineers dealing with electronics had to make sure the distributor’s rotor kept whizzing, the air conditioners didn’t kill the alternators, and nothing would cause shorts to put the eight-track on the fritz. Times have changed. Now such engineers are involved in every area of a car company. For proof, here’s a peek at what Audi’s electronics department, headed by Ricky Hudi, has been up to lately.

Audi Virtual Cockpit

Audi’s Virtual Cockpit as seen in the 2016 TT roadster.

A3 Virtual Cockpit

Is there a limit to how low in the Audi range the automaker’s high-powered all-digital instrument cluster can go? It seems not, as next year, the customizable screen will end up in the face-lifted version of the A3 sedan and hatch, Hudi told us. “In the future, there are not so many [of our] cars that will not have it integrated, even into the smaller cars. Next year in the A3, we will also integrate the Virtual Cockpit,” he confirmed.

Developed originally for the newest TT, the system has already spread into the R8 and, as an option, the Q7 and the next A4. It can show either a digital replica of the traditional analog two-dial dash or be customized in multitudes of ways to deliver just about any information to the driver.

According to Hudi, “the customer who chooses the base A3 won’t choose this option. If they choose a higher engine or a higher, well-equipped car then they will choose it—no doubt. The price reduces very fast with more people using it and the Virtual Cockpit is an Audi signature now.”

2015 Audi S8 Plus

We don’t know what the next-generation A8 will look like, so here’s a picture of the S8 Plus.

The 1-TeraFLOP A8

A claimed auto-industry record of more than a teraFLOP of computing power will be stuffed inside Audi’s next A8, we’ve been told. With Audi spending four times as much on developing in-car electronics as it did just five years ago, everything it knows will be brought to bear on the next-generation A8, due in 2017.

According to Hudi, booming demand for gadgetry and new systems has put unprecedented strains on his department. “It is a significant double-digit percentage of Audi’s total research and development spend today,” he said. “There will be more than a teraflop of computing power in the A8. It will need it, and it’s affordable.” A large slice of that computing power will be soaked up by the adoption of touch screens for both the multimedia and ventilation systems, plus the next iteration of the Virtual Cockpit.

“If you just look to the camera in the [all-new 2017] B9 A4, it’s a 3D camera that does everything from recognizing traffic signs to active cruise control with its Mobile Eye. It has 245 gigaFLOPS of computing power. The world’s biggest supercomputers only just had that 15 years ago. To give you an example of how it’s moving, I now have a budget four times more than when I started in 2009 as the head of the electronics development.”

Staying Ahead of the Hackers

A team of professional hackers gets access to every Audi before it ever reaches the market, we were told. Having its vehicles offer constant internet connectivity is now standard operating procedure for Audi, Hudi took exception to suggestions the cars were as vulnerable to being hacked as, say, Fiat-Chrysler’s fleet.

“Our internet systems are encrypted and when we think we are at the point where the concepts are right, we regularly pay people to hack them,” Hudi said. “We pay companies to take our cars away to hack them, before they get to production. We give them our cars and say, ‘Take as long as you want, but please try to attack it, in whatever way you can.’ Basically we tell them they can use all ways available, including straight vandalism, to get access to control the car’s electronic systems. For what I can see, that’s the best way to improve security,” and he admits that the hackers have shown Audi ways to defend its cars and drivers.

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Donning the Blue Blazer: What It’s Like to Judge at the Pebble Beach Concours [Sponsored]

With 2015 marking its 65th year, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Élégance, held on the 18th green at Pebble Beach Golf Links, is the world’s premier vintage-car event. The coveted Best of Show trophy at the Concours is the holy grail of the old car world. As a Pebble Beach judge for 26 years, I’ve witnessed the joy of victory and the agony of defeat countless times. Jay Leno, a frequent entrant, likes to say that “this is the only car show where a simple millionaire can beat the billionaires.” But it’s much more serious than that. Here’s a look at what it’s like to judge the world’s most prestigious car show.

Let’s start with the cars. To show a car at “Pebble,” you first must apply. More than 750 would-be entrants annually vie for about 220 places. It’s hard to get in, difficult to win your class, and nearly impossible to capture the top prize. The finest and often the rarest automobiles ever built are divided into twenty classes, several of which may change each year.

Splendor in the Grass

Entrants often work for years to restore their cars, although well-preserved cars are equally welcome in the Preservation Class. From the moment the show cars emerge out of the early morning mist and take their assigned positions on the 18th green in front of The Lodge, Pebble Beach becomes a colorful and dramatic pageant. Suspense builds throughout the day. While elegantly dressed men and women sip champagne and crowd around the cars, knowledgeable class judges in blue blazers meticulously scrutinize each car for restoration accuracy or preservation integrity, as well as for mechanical function. Points are deducted for any imperfections, inaccurate details, and over-restoration, and are awarded for style, beauty, color, and field presence. A perfect score is 103 points. Each winning entry must be driven over the show ramp to claim an award.

A class victory at Pebble Beach confirms that a car is historically correct, very close to the way it originally came from the factory or coachbuilder, and arguably perfect. But even that’s not enough. From those class winners, the Best of Show is chosen by a secret ballot cast by the Chief Class Judges, along with a cadre of Honorary Judges, many of who have been or are presently automobile designers, along with the event Chair, Sandra Button.


A 1937 Delahaye at the 2015 Concours.

Any Pebble Beach award increases a car’s value, compliments its owner, and honors its restorer. Once you and your car have won an award at Pebble Beach, recognition follows you throughout the old-car world. Multiply those accolades by a big factor for winning Best of Show. Although a few past Best of Show winners have restored their own cars, most have been restored professionally. Very few people have the talent or the equipment to do a car on their own.

“Winning Pebble Beach establishes your shop as a brand,” says Paul Russell (whose entries for Ralph Lauren and for Paul and Chris Andrews have won Best of Show three times), “and it establishes the credibility of the winning car. There’s not much you have to say after that. You’ve added another important chapter to the car’s story.”

Serving as a judge at Pebble Beach is a great honor. I have done it 26 times, and it’s still a thrill. This is what it’s like.

The Long Road to Pebble Beach

It all starts with car selection. The Pebble Beach Selection Committee—of which I am a member—meets in January or February. During the three-day meeting, which usually involves a side trip to a prominent collection or two, we review as many as 750 cars and finalize classes. Applicants send lots of information on their cars including vintage and recent photographs, the car’s history, provenance documents such as old registrations, previous awards, etc. You can’t carbon-date a car, but it is easy to fake photos and documentation, so we like to see as much information as possible. The combined automotive knowledge on the committee usually ensures an applicant’s car is the real deal—we don’t accept replicas—but we can’t be too careful. Each of the 20 members is an expert on several makes. Their combined knowledge helps ensure we don’t accept any ringers or fakes.

We vote to accept or reject each car. Sandra Button, as chairperson, has final approval. The results are posted on a special website that only the committee members can access.

The official Pebble Beach Concours acceptance letters—addressed to the owners of all the cars that have been approved—are then mailed, usually in April, to their delighted recipients. Rejection letters are sent at the same time. Class Judges receive assignments shortly afterward.

The Scottish race car driver Jackie Stewart, center, and other former racecar drivers judge classic cars at the 35th Annual Concours D' Elegance Competition, ca. 1985

Racing legend Jackie Stewart, center, has been a judge at Pebble Beach. Flanking him here are the late Otis Chandler, left, and Briggs Cunningham.

Here Come the Judges

The strength of Pebble Beach lies in its judges and its judging system. Pebble Beach judges are the most qualified experts available. Many have been Pebble judges for decades, and they often judge the same classes each year. They know the cars; they know the details, from correct hose clamps to paint type. “We’re preserving history,” former Chief Judge Ed Gilbertson likes to say. Generations from now, people will look back on these cars and know, that for this moment in time, they were the best they could be.

Depending upon classes, we will have about 100-to-110 class judges and about 50 Honorary Judges (more about them in a moment). Most class judges have gained prior experience as CCCA (Classic Car Club of America) or AACA (Antique Automobile Club of America) judges. Ferrari, Rolls-Royce, Bugatti, Bentley, and other important marques are almost always judged by qualified people from those marque clubs.

The Chief Judge is Chris Bock, from Nevada City, California. He attended the event for the first time at age 18, and has been a Judge or a Chief Class Judge since 1973. Glenn Mounger, formerly co-chairman of the event for many years, is the Chief Honorary Judge. Jules Heumann, Pebble co-chairman from 1972 to 1998, is the chairman emeritus. He’s over 90 years old and sharp as a tack. As you can see, long experience abounds. We have twelve judges with more than 30 years experience at Pebble, thirteen judges with 25 years experience, and eleven judges with more than 20 years experience. Chris Bock told the assembled judges this year that the combined Pebble Beach judging experience in the room exceeded 1970 years.

Honorary Judges are industry luminaries and many of them are automotive designers, retired and active. This year, Honorary Judges included former Chrysler design chief Tom Gale and the present head of Fiat-Chrysler Design, Ralph Gilles; Pulitzer Prize-winning author Paul Ingrassia; former racer Jochen Mass; former Mazda head of design Tom Matano; Gordon Murray, the designer of the McLaren F1 and the Mercedes-Benz SLR; the Wall Street Journal auto critic and Pulitzer Prize winner, Dan Neil; Jackie Frady, Director of the National Automotive Museum; Sir Jackie Stewart, former F1 champion; racing icon Sir Stirling Moss; and Design Directors Christopher Svensson (Ford Motor Company), Freeman Thomas (Ford Motor Company Strategic Design Group), Dave Marek (Acura Global Design), and Shiro Nakamura (Chief Creative Officer for Nissan Motor Corporation), to name just a few. Past Honorary Judges have included Bob Lutz, Jim Farley, Keith Crain, Parnelli Jones, Piero Lardi Ferrari, and the late Denise McCluggage.

Pebble, custom Merc

Dawn Patrol: A ’51 Mercury custom enters the show field.

Chief Class Judges and team members include this writer, along with Leigh and Leslie Keno (whom you may know from Antiques Roadshow); restorers Scott Grundfor, Ivan Zaremba and Patrick Ottis; Villa D’Este announcer and columnist Simon Kidston; writer/photographer John Lamm; and knowledgeable enthusiasts/editors such as Jonathan Stein, Don Montgomery, Peter Larsen, Alan Boe, and many more.

If there’s a one-time featured class, like Facel-Vega or Pegaso, the judging team will consist of an experienced Pebble Beach judge and a marque expert or two. That’s a good way to become a judge, at least for that one time. Once you’ve had that experience, and if you have expertise in other brands, you may be asked to return in the future, if there’s a vacancy. The best advice is to watch the Pebble Beach announcements about what’s coming. If there’s a rare marque like Ruxton or DuPont coming up and you can prove your expertise, you might ask to be considered. People joke that someone has to die before a new person can be a judge at Pebble Beach, but that’s not really true. That said, there’s very little turnover. And there’s a long waiting list.

The Judges’ Meeting

The official judges’ meeting, on the Friday afternoon preceding the Concours, runs about two hours. It’s not mandatory but the discussions are always interesting. For new judges, it’s helpful to know the procedures and timing. If you’re an experienced Pebble Beach judge, you benefit from discussing topics like what constitutes over-restoration. Or how much of a car’s original bodywork must remain before points are deducted. And considering questions like, which period accessories are acceptable? When was metallic paint first used? How long after a car was built can the bodywork be changed, and will it still be eligible? And so on.

After 10 years of service, The Concours rewards judges with a commemorative pin in five-year intervals. Judges wear these proudly, like decorations on the chest of a service veteran. It’s a badge of honor. Every judge is a volunteer. If there’s anything that could be construed as a perk, it’s a posh Robert Talbot necktie that’s given to each judge each year, usually commemorating the featured marque from that year. They can choose to wear it that day or not.

Degrees of Perfect

The comprehensive, 103-point judging sheet, derived from Classic Car Club of America criteria, has been carefully refined over the years. There’s a subjective factor of three points for elegance, presence, historic significance, color, etc., so a perfect 100-point car—and there are several of those each year—may be out-pointed by a 99-point example with better field presence, more sheer elegance, etc.

Historic significance, while not specifically judged, is an intangible that can help a car’s worth in some classes. For example, the Dean Batchelor Memorial Award, presented when there’s a biannual Historic Hot Rod Class, is given to the most significant car in the class. For 2015, it was awarded to the ex-Bob Hirohata 1951 Mercury owned by Jim and Sue McNiel.

“Pebble Beach is the toughest concours,” Paul Russell says. “The judges there are the most knowledgeable of any show. They’re judging technical authenticity, competence, style and elegance, compared to events where judging is purely subjective in the ‘French style.’ We don’t prepare a car any differently for Pebble, but we do mount a spirited defense for our authenticity choices. It starts with extensive research on each car. We make that into a book that we have on hand during judging.”

PB Tour, pr

A Concours entrant, out on Highway 1 during the Tour d’Élégance.

The Pebble Beach Tour

Preparing a car for the Concours is hard enough, but then there’s the Pebble Beach Tour d’Élégance, a 65-mile drive around the Monterey Peninsula that occurs the Thursday before the concours. About 120 cars destined for the show field typically participate. There are no points for the Tour, but if two cars are tied in points, and one of them has completed the Tour, that car wins. “The Tour is a challenge, because we’re pretty much sticklers for authenticity,” says Russell. “We don’t use auxiliary fans or electric fuel pumps. So you might have a Ferrari that’s built to run well on open roads, stuck in a long line of traffic. But it’s a chance to see the cars dynamically, to hear them run, and that’s important.”

“The Tour is a grueling trip, a real test of the car,” says Mario Van Raay, whose RM Restoration cars have won Best of Show five times (including 2015), “but we try to encourage the owners to enter. It creates a lot more work for us, but we’ve never had a car fail. We are set up to help anybody’s car and we will if we’re needed.”

“I have mixed feelings about the Tour,” says Rich Fass, owner of Stone Barn Restorations and a past Best of Show–winning restorer. “But I think it’s something that should be done. You want the cars to run as good as they look. Customers feel they spent all this time and money getting the car ready, having it trucked out to California, getting it prepped, then you go on the Tour, and there’s more dirt and more cleaning. Each car is the best when it leaves the shop, so you’ve kind of wasted all that [preparation] time.” Stone Barn works with its customers to compensate. “When you leave my place,” Fass says, “the billing is finished. Now it’s up to the Judges.”

On the Show Field

On Concours Sunday, we start with another Judges’ meeting at 8:30 a.m., but this one is just to introduce everyone, have breakfast, and for Chris and Sandra hand out the coveted long-service pins. Judges get their show folders, score sheets, and those neckties.

“Official” attire on Sunday is a blue blazer and tan slacks or a tan skirt. Most people wear straw hats. It can be cold in the early morning hours at Pebble but it warms up in the 80s before the day is over and the sun can be brutal. It’s only rained once in 65 years, so that’s not an issue.

About 350 people are on the field at 5 a.m. to watch the cars come in. Hagerty Insurance sponsors this popular “Dawn Patrol” event and distributes coffee, donuts and commemorative hats. Meanwhile, on the lawn, owners are giving their cars final wipe-downs. We walk right to where our class is placed on the field, and we greet the Class Host, who’s there to round up owners and help with last-minute details. Then we walk the row of cars, not really judging, just seeing how they look and whether any car or cars just jump out. Then it’s time for business.

Rolls-Royce At Pebble Beach Concours D'Elegance

Pebble Beach judges doing their thing.

Judgement Time

If there are eight cars to be judged in the class, which is typical, we start at 9 a.m. sharp and allow about 20 minutes per car. We introduce ourselves the owner or his representative—sometimes it’s the restorer himself—and ask how they obtained the car, what they know about its history, and what they did to the car: i.e. a full restoration, a partial redo, etc.

This is as much to help the owner relax as it is for our information. Most judges have done their homework already because the Chief Class Judge is allowed to let Class Judges access the application forms and photos filed online on the special Pebble Beach Judges’ website for their particular class. So we know the cars we’re going to see, we just don’t know how they will actually appear on the field.

For my classes, I always ensure my team has read this online material. In some case, I have even gone to see a car while it’s in restoration. One year, I drove from Virginia up to Baltimore to look at a historic hot rod. The owner was appreciative that I had gone to see his car, and he offered to pay me for my time and for travel expenses. I said that wasn’t necessary and that we weren’t allowed to be paid. He said, “I am a florist. Can I at least give you a bouquet for your wife?” I decided that was probably okay.

Pebble Beach Concours Judging Sheet

The official scoring sheet used by Pebble Beach judges (click to enlarge).

The 103-point judging form procedure mandates that we ask the owner to start the car and let it run for a few minutes. Once it’s started, one of us looks under the hood and under the car for leaks (sometimes a float sticks and a carburetor is dripping), another ensures all the instruments are operating, and we then we check headlights and taillights, the brake lights, and, if installed, directional signals. If the car won’t start, we move on to the next car. The owner has until we finish judging that next car to get his car running. This year, one car’s horn didn’t work. That half-point deduction became critical when the final tallies were made.

It’s hard to get under a car when you’re wearing a blazer, a tie, and slacks, but I usually manage. People love to take photos when you’re bent over on the ground, as they think that such a thing never happens. They’re wrong—we do it all the time. Undeterred by onlookers, oblivious to them really, we carefully examine the engine, the exterior, and the interior, looking for paint flaws, blemished chrome, incorrect equipment—anything that’s not correct. We never touch a car, not even a door handle. We ask the owner or presenter to do that.

High Anxiety

Owners are often very anxious, even though they may be captains of industry. We try to put them at ease, but sometimes, they’re so nervous they can’t even get the key in the ignition.

Jay Leno likes to tell this story: “Years ago, a guy, who should remain nameless, had a car there. The judges came around with their clipboards. The car looks good. Oh! The clock is not working. The owner said, ‘Oh, um, let me get my restorer, okay?’ Now the owner is frantically looking; he can’t find the restorer. The judges say, ‘We’re going to have to deduct points because the clock doesn’t work.’ He goes, ‘No, no, hang on.’

“He runs off. He can’t find the restorer. So the judges say, ‘Tell you what, we’ll make our rounds. On the way back if you’ve got the clock running, we won’t deduct any points.’ He’s frantically looking all over for the restorer and can’t find the guy. Finally, the judges come back and the clock is still not working. They go, ‘Sorry, we’ve got to deduct two points.’ As the judges walk away, the owner sees the restorer, with a Coke in his hand and a sandwich, eating it. He starts screaming at the guy: ‘They dinged me and the clock doesn’t work!’ The restorer says, ‘Did you wind it?’

“That owner just assumed it was an electric clock. He didn’t even know.”

That’s not typical of every owner, but it’s pretty funny. (In reality, we’d deduct only half a point for an inoperative clock—but I’m not telling that to Jay.)

Cadillac's Centennial Celebration at the Concours d'Elegance in Pebble Beach

Jay Leno is a regular at Pebble Beach.

Keeping Score

My team and I carefully score each car against its individual judging sheet. The goal is to hurry without looking hurried. If owners have a restoration book with before and after pictures, we give it a look. Then we walk to one side, out of earshot of the owners, to do our deliberations. If we deduct, say, half a point for a slightly wrinkled convertible top, we make sure to be consistent with that deduction from one car to another, for the same penalty.

The entrants needn’t worry. We judge the car, not the owner or the restorer. And we don’t judge the trunks, so entrants have a place to store anything they bring on the field. If a car is a convertible, we judge it the way it’s presented. If the top is up, we judge the top. If not, we check to see that there is a top, and proceed accordingly.

I act as scorekeeper, deducting a point or a half point where applicable, if a detail is incorrect, or if a component is not up to original standards. Over-restoration—excess plating or a polished part that should be unfinished or simply painted—is discouraged and penalized. A car can be painted a different color than it was originally, but the paint type must be correct for the period.

Tasteful vintage accessories, like Trippe spotlights, which are mounted on a bar with a bellcrank that lets the lights turn with the front wheels, are permitted on classics, but if a car is over-accessorized, it may lose a half point, a point, or more. We see a lot of Trippe lights on classics. Most are exact reproductions, and that’s permitted. But if every car in the classic era had been equipped with Trippe lights when it was new, the Trippe Lighting company would still be in business. Radial tires in the correct size are permitted, but I have a preference (and that’s allowable) for the correct vintage tires. The same is true for halogen bulbs.

Upgrading to disc brakes, adding power steering, installing an electric fan (except in race cars which weren’t designed to be on a show field and run cool), modern Aeroquip fittings, incorrect modern brake lines, etc., are all frowned upon and you will lose points.

Cars must be clean but we don’t obsess about it. After all, many of the entrants drove in the Tour and inevitably, the owner will miss some dust or the odd grease spot. That’s okay, as Ed Gilbertson, former Chief Judge liked to say, “Cars are meant to be driven; motorcycles are meant to be ridden.”

And the Winner Is . . .

After we finish judging each car (and we do judge each car, even if an entrant is display-only), we sincerely thank the owner, then step away to double check the deductions. We don’t add the scores and we don’t add any points—at this time—for presence, elegance, etc. That’s done after we’ve completed all the cars and we’re back in the judging room.

Owners and restorers watch our every move so we take copious notes as to why we’ve deducted points. “Pebble Beach judges know what they’re looking for,” says Rich Fass. “They key into every little aspect of the car. You have to be good to be invited out there in the first instance, so the judges have a very hard job, but they do a very good job of judging. As a restorer, I appreciate that.”

Finally, we check all the scores one more time, pick the first three winning cars (and a fourth in case one won’t start—they have to drive over the ramp to claim their trophy), and turn the forms in by noon. We’re treated to an elegant lunch in the Judges’ room while score sheets are reviewed and results officially tallied. Sometimes, Sandra Button or a member of the team that tallies the scores has a question, so we stay briefly after lunch, just in case.

Many times, like this year, it’s very, very close. Sometimes we have several cars with perfect 100-point scores, so it boils down to the subjective factor of the last three points.

For the 2015 concours, I judged historic Mercury customs, with restorer David Grant and hot-rod racer and author, Don Montgomery. We three have judged together for many years, so we work very smoothly. We’ve had hot rod classes since 1997 in alternate years. This was the first time we’ve ever had Mercury customs on the show field, and it was a trip to see the chopped ex-Bob Hirohata and Fred Rowe Mercurys, cars that starred in classic B-movies like Running Wild with Mamie Van Doren, displayed on the same field as Delahayes and Duesenbergs.

With the results submitted, we’re then free to enjoy the show, and I like watching the cars being announced and crossing the ramp. Most people are good sports—after all, it’s an honor just to be on the field with your car. But we’ve had whiners, complainers, and even one disgruntled loser who trashed his room at The Lodge when he failed to win a trophy—but thankfully, that’s the exception.

As a Chief Class Judge, I have one vote for Best of Show and that has to be tallied after all the class winners are selected. As each first-in-class winner is named, the owner is directed to a special holding pen that’s set up near the oceanfront. When all the class winners are finalized, the Chief Class Judges and Honorary Judges are asked to walk down to that area, and select the car they’ll nominate for Best of Show. After that’s done, I drop my ballot in the box and head to the Mercedes-Benz balcony for a glass of wine with my wife, Trish, and a birds-eye view of the last cars to cross the ramp.

1924 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A cabriolet

The 2015 Pebble Beach Best of Show, a 1924 Isotta Fraschini.

The Moment of Truth

Best of Show is the big moment everyone’s waiting for. It’s always exciting, and while I’ve correctly picked the winners some years, and I’ve also missed. The three or sometimes four finalists gather in their cars at the foot of the ramp. Everyone holds his breath. Who will win? Will it be prewar or postwar? Will the car start?

When Best of Show is announced, the runner-ups stay in place and the winning car slowly drives over the ramp where the excitement quickly reaches fever pitch: Trumpets blare, cameras snap, confetti and streamers fly, and, more often than not, there are a few happy tears from the owner. The restorer breathes a sigh of relief.

“Best of Show is like winning the World Series,” says restorer Rich Fass. “The enthusiasm, the tears coming out of their eyes, it’s special. I want to be there every year and I love the competition. When there’s only one winner, it means a lot to them, and it means a lot to me. There’s not another show in the world like it.”

In 2014, when John Shirley’s 1954 Ferrari 375MM Scaglietti Coupe became the first postwar car to win in decades, there was a lot of high-fiving on the balcony. The 2015 winner was Jim Patterson’s 1924 Isotta-Fraschini with body by Worblaufen, so you could say things have returned to normal at Pebble Beach. That is to say that the winner is an exotic marque from the prewar period with a custom-built body, in either coupe or roadster form, with a majestic grille, a long hood, a little cabin, and a flowing tail. This was Jim Patterson’s second Pebble Beach Best of Show win, but judging from his smile, it was just as exciting as the first time.

65th Annual Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance

Jim and Dot Patterson and their winning 1924 Isotta Fraschini.

Our work as judges for the year is over, but the Selection Committee work begins again almost immediately. Each year always feels like a tough act to follow, but in an effort to help create the best Concours d’Élégance in the world, we’re always up for the task.

I love attending this event more than anything I do all year in the car world. I was surprised and honored to receive the Lorin Tryon Trophy in 2014—it’s the only award at Pebble Beach that’s given to a person, not to a car, and it’s for contributions to Pebble Beach and the old-car hobby. I was very proud.

And lastly, a confession that reveals how deeply I love this event: Some years ago, my brother called to say that he was remarrying; he had met his high-school sweetheart after decades had passed and they planned an August ceremony. When he told me the dates, I said, “Oh, Pete . . . it’s Pebble Beach weekend.” He said, “So just skip it one year.” I replied, “I can’t skip it.” Bless their hearts, they changed the date of their wedding.

There’s only one place I’d rather be in the third week of August, and now you know why.

Author Ken Gross has been a judge at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Élégance for more than 25 years. He’s written more than half a dozen automotive books and has placed articles in magazines ranging from Playboy to Road & Track. A few prewar Fords highlight his personal car collection. 

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2016 BMW 750i xDrive First Drive: A Luxury Barge with Several Barges’ Worth of Features

2016 BMW 750i xDrive
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2016 BMW 7-series / 750i xDrive – First Drive Review

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How to Jump Start a Car in 13 Easy Steps [Sponsored]

Sponsored: How to Jump Start a Car in 13 Easy Steps
-Whether it’s the rattling that comes and goes with the moon phases, a timing belt that obeys only changes in barometric pressure, or the sudden flickering of that dreaded check engine light, certain car problems require the professional experience and honest technical knowledge only a mechanic can bring. This doesn’t mean you should be afraid to approach your car with a tool though. There are certain car fixes that every man should be capable of doing himself. Your mechanic might not thank you for learning them, but your wallet surely will.

How to Jump Start a Car

Whether you left your lights on or you’re just being a good Samaritan, jumping a car is an essential skill that when done with confidence is quick and easy. Just make sure you’ve always got a pair of jumper cables in your roadside emergency kit.

1. Park both cars nose to nose about a foot and a half apart. For automatics make sure the car is in park, for manual transmissions keep the car in neutral and set the parking brake.

2. With both cars turned off and the key out of each ignition, pop the hoods and get down to business. If either car’s battery is corroded or looks suspect, don’t attempt to jump the car yourself—instead call a pro, the battery may need replacing.

3. Identify the positive and negative terminals on each battery. Along with a plus-sign, the positive terminal can be identified by red coloring; for the negative side look for a minus-sign and black coloring.

4. Now identify the positive and negative ends of your jumper cables—red for positive, black for negative. Make sure the metal ends don’t touch one another throughout the process. Note: Different jumper cables have different markings. Our advice? Go for the most simple color-coded option.

5. Start by attaching the red/positive jumper cable to the dead battery’s positive terminal.

6. Attach the other end of the red/positive cable to the live battery’s positive terminal.

7. Now attach the black/negative end of the cable to the live battery’s negative terminal.

8. Take the other end of the negative cable and attach it to a metal non-painted part of the car under the hood with the dead battery. Stay away from the battery itself and attach the cable to the engine block—unpainted bolts are a good go-to. Some cars have a jumping post for this purpose—check your owner’s manual and be sure to avoid moving parts like belts or fans.

9. Now clear the area.

10. Start the engine of the car with the live battery. Let it run for a few minutes and lightly rev the engine.

11. Now start the car with the dead battery. If it turns over, let it run for a few minutes. If it doesn’t start the first time, give it another minute to two of rest with the good car running. If it still doesn’t work, you may need to check your connections or call for a tow.

12. Once the dead car is running, disconnect the cables in the reverse order you put them on (i.e. negative connection on dead car, negative connection on good car’s battery then positive cable from good car’s battery and finally positive cable from bad car’s battery). Always check the owner’s manual to see if your car requires a different process.

13. You’ve just saved your day or someone else’s—celebrate by studying up on your owner’s manual.


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Cheap(er) Thrills: 2016 Subaru BRZ Sees Price Decrease


Buy a 2016 BRZ and Subaru will throw in a free 32-inch LED TV or a fancy dinner for two in Manhattan. Okay, so there’s not actually an incentive program like that on the car, but the cost of such things is what buyers of this lightweight, rear-wheel-drive sports car will save on the 2016 model versus the 2015.

Prices are down $300 on all three BRZ trims. The manual Premium ($26,190), manual Limited ($28,190), and automatic Limited ($29,290, but why even?) bring more electronic goodies to the cabin, as we’ve previously detailed. To recap: The 6.2-inch Starlink infotainment system is standard and comes with a backup camera, HD radio, satellite radio, a single-disc CD player, Bluetooth, and USB. Subaru hasn’t releases pricing on the 2016 BRZ Series.Hyperblue model, which wears electric blue paint, gloss black trim, and black wheels. All the 2016s will be out this fall.

For reference, the one-trim 2016 Scion FR-S is a hair cheaper at $26,075 with the six-speed manual and $27,175 with the six-speed automatic. So with the $110 you save on the Scion over the base BRZ, you could buy some socks and a pair of driving shoes for heel-toeing. Better yet, put the savings toward performance upgrades.

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TVR’s 2017 Sports Car Is Sold Out Despite Not Existing Yet

A man drives his sports car 26 November
-TVR is back from the dead, again, again, and its already having some sales success—despite the fact that it doesn’t actually have a car yet.

That’s the word from Autocar, which reports that the newly revived British sports car company has accepted deposits for every car it plans to build in 2017. All 250 of them. The sports-car marque will continue to take £5,000​ deposits (around $7700 at today’s exchange rate) for vehicles it plans to build in 2018.

“This a heart-warming situation we find ourselves in,” TVR chairman Les Edgar told Autocar. “We are mindful that we have taken deposits from customers who have not even yet seen official pictures of the car. We look forward to revealing more details soon, and to all our customers who have shown their faith I can promise that the new car will exceed expectations in every way.”

While the car’s design hasn’t been revealed yet, it will be designed in collaboration from Gordon Murray, iconoclast engineer and maker of the McLaren F1, and will feature a Cosworth-built V-8 engine sending power to the rear wheels through an honest-to-goodness six-speed manual. It’ll be built using Murray’s iStream construction method, devised for the designer’s T25 and T27 city cars, with what Autocar describes as a steel tube chassis with lightweight composite and aluminum body panels. The British magazine claims the car will weigh less than 2500 pounds and deliver “450 to 470 hp, plus a magnificent exhaust note.” The upcoming sports car will be the first of at least four new TVR models the company plans to unveil.

This story originally appeared on via TTAC.

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2015 Toyota Prius Reviewed: 50 mpg Isn’t Easy

2015 Toyota Prius
Combine an engine, an electric motor, and a battery pack and you get the hybrid car, a chimeric mixed-breed vehicle that has existed since the late 19th century but which never got much mainstream traction until Toyota gave us the Prius 15 years ago. This third-generation model arrived in 2010, which is the last time we were motivated to put one on a test track. It placed second to the Honda Insight in a three-way comparison test, soundly tromping a 1998 Chevrolet Metro but otherwise failing to impress anyone who loves cars and driving. It sells exceptionally well, however, to those who don’t fall in that category, largely on the strength of its other virtues. The primary one appears on the mid-dash information screen every time you shut it off, like a yummy food pellet that motivates lab rats to run mazes: fuel economy that can top 50 mpg around town. With a fourth-generation model imminent, it’s time to gather some last impressions on this one. This generation was initially marketed in five trim levels, Prius One through Five, but the range now goes from Two to Five (the latter is not to be confused with the Prius V, a different, larger, wagon-y model). That’s because even buyers of an anti-car eschew base models and love added features and comforts. This example was a Prius Three (same as a Two but with proximity entry and navigation, basically). READ MORE ››

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2015 Toyota Prius – Quick-Take Review

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