Stewart Stogel is a veteran print/broadcast journalist whose work has appeared in Time, Newsweek, the Miami Herald, Washington Times, ABC News and NBC News. Major stories broken include the death of legendary Alabama football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, the beginning of the U.S. invasion of Iraq (Operation Desert Storm, 1991), and the failure of the U.S./UK military to find WMD in Iraq (March 2003).More ↓Less ↑
Bugatti Noir Blanc
NEW YORK – A car-plane, a car-boat, a $2.4 million dollar roadster and a $22,000 car that gets almost 112 mpg are just some of the unusual offerings on display at the 2012 New York Auto Show underway in mid-town Manhattan.
The New York showcase, the largest in North America, will attract more than 1,000,000 visitors before it ends next weekend.
With more than 200 exhibitors, products commonly get lost in an avalanche of flashing lights and neon signs, but occasionally a few do rise to the top. Here is a small sampling of the expensive, innovative and just plain odd.
If you have money to burn and the price of gas is no barrier, then the Italian-made Bugatti Noir Blanc is for you. The company refused to release the performance specs for its roadster, but did say if you want one, be prepared to dish out a cool $2.4 million. This car, Bugatti claims, is among the top .04 percent in the world, price-wise.
More than 40 of the supercars were sold in 2011, but the company refused to say how many were bought stateside.
Go back about 77 years, and you can marvel at the 1934 Ford Roadster 40 [see photo at end of article]. This 8-cylinder creation was custom-made by the Ford Motor Company for Edsel Ford, the same Edsel whose name adorned the ill-fated Ford models in the early 1960s.
Fast forward to 2012, and one car getting increased attention is the Mitsubishi MiEV, an all-electric model from Japan [see photo at end of article]. First unveiled in 2011, the 2012 model is now in showrooms. Unlike its two biggest competitors – the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf – the MiEV gets the equivalent of 112 mpg. It beats the Volt and Leaf by almost 10 mpg. And the MiEV starts at just $22,000, almost $10,000 less than the Leaf and $15,000 under the Volt.
Then comes the wierd and innovative.
In the “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” category … Mini Cooper is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and its owner, Germany’s BMW, unveiled what it called a “hot new” version of the quirky British midget sportster.
Unofficially dubbed the “aqua car,” this Mini was described as half-car, half-boat – a “mini” version of a James Bond BMW. The new Mini also had a price tag worthy of James Bond, an eye-popping $240,000.
But something just didn’t add up.
First, the car was buried at the back of the Mini Cooper exhibit. Second, the car, aside from its front modifications, appeared to look like a conventional Mini Cooper – no underwater propellers or special seals, either on the doors or in the trunk.
Mini also claimed the car was equipped with “shark resistant” paint! Huh? The car seemed so fragile that one could believe a great white might swallow it whole without blinking an eye.
Mini Cooper Boat Car
When quizzed about the puzzling specs, a Mini auto rep laughed and barked, “April Fools!”
Some attendees of the show were not amused by the strange joke.
But then came this year’s showstopper: the midget plane that folds its wings to become a conventional car.
Developed by the Woburn, Mass., based Terrafugia, the Transition is expected to hit the road – or head into the skies – in early 2013.
The Transition will cruise as high as 10,000 feet at speeds approaching 120 mph. On Earth, you could expect speeds of more than 90mph. It’s range is estimated at about 400 miles on a 22-gallon tank, which you can fill up at your neighborhood gas station.
But, says test pilot Phil Meteer, you will need two licenses – one to fly it, one to drive it.
“Make no mistake, this is a plane that doubles as a car,” he explained to WND.com. “You need to treat this as a plane that you can also drive on the highway.”
Because it is so light and small, the Transition is limited to daytime flying and in less congested airspace.
“An inexperienced pilot would not want to fly this into New York City,” cautioned Meteer.
Yet Meteer insists he could train an average driver to pilot the mini-aircraft in about 20 hours of flight schooling.
At $278,000 a copy, the Transition is more expensive than other conventional small “sport” planes.
“I was surprised, it handled like a dream,” said Meteer, who recently test flew the plane in Upstate New York.
That dream is slowly coming alive. The Transition went from the drawing board to its initial flight in less than 3 years, the test pilot boasted. It already has 10 buyers putting up a down payment of $10,000 to be at the front of the waiting line.
Terrafugia says those ten customers will also double as “beta” testers to iron out any kinks in the plane before full production begins, likely in late 2013.
So far, all has gone smoothly for the Massachusetts start-up.
But could clouds be on the horizon? When the car-plane made its debut, one of the first folks on the scene was a group of officials from Honda. The Japanese giant recently entered the private plane business. Could they be looking to reverse-engineer the Transition?
“They might, but we still have a three-year jump on them,” added Meteer, who proudly pointed out the “Made in America” logo on the plane’s fuselage, “and ours is already in the air.”