• GM to close "hand built" engine plant in Michigan

    September 16, 2013
    General Motors has announced the closure of its Wixom, Michigan, Performance Build engine plant effective in January, a move that will temporarily halt the automaker’s popular program that allows buyers to take part in the assembly of V8 engines bound for Chevrolet Corvettes and Camaros.¬


    GM is shuttering the Performance Build Center, its only dedicated hand-built engine plant, after about a decade’s run. The facility was created in 2004 to bolster the automaker’s “craftsmanship” image for certain high-performance vehicles, but an overall reduction in the number of powertrains the company offers has prompted it to close down the facility.¬†

    That’s not to say that GM won’t continue building performance engines by hand, only that it will no longer have such a dedicated facility. The 30 workers at the Performance Build Center have been offered positions at other GM facilities nearby,¬†Automotive News¬†reports.


    In addition, GM has confirmed that the relatively popular $5,000 option that lets Corvette and Camaro buyers take part in the assembly of their cars’ engines will continue. For now, GM has stated that it is planning a more comprehensive program better integrated into the Bowling Green, Kentucky, plant that builds both Corvettes and the sports car’s 6.2-liter V8 engine.¬†<![CDATA[
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  • Pope Francis given 29-year old Renault 4

    September 16, 2013
    A 69-year old priest from northern Italy has given Pope Francis a 1984 Renault 4 hatchback with about 300,000 kilometers (roughly 186,000 miles) on the clock to use on Vatican grounds.  The car was delivered to its new home last week, and the Pope reportedly grabbed the keys and took the car for a spin immediately.


    The news comes after the 76-year old Pope urged priests worldwide to drive cheap, humble cars and donate the money they save to charity.  A spokesperson indicated the Pope will drive the 4 himself when running errands around the Vatican grounds, but his official car on trips worldwide will remain an armored and heavily modified Mercedes-Benz M-Class (generally known as the Popemobile) for evident security reasons.

    The plastic cladding on the lower portion of the 4′s doors and the air vent above the front bumper – partially covered by the license plate – indicate the Pope is putting around the Vatican in a GTL model. ¬†GTLs are equipped with a larger 1.1-liter water-cooled four-cylinder engine that sends 34 horsepower and 54 lb-ft. of torque to the front wheels via a four-speed manual transmission. ¬†Changing gears is done with a dash-mounted shifter whose linkage goes through the firewall, over the engine and down into the transmission. ¬


    Inside, the 4 reflects the Pope’s call for more humble cars: The seats are upholstered with a combination of cloth and vinyl, the windows slide vertically rather than roll down and features such as air conditioning, soft-touch plastics, power locks and power steering are nowhere to be found.


    Renault’s People’s Car

    The 4 was launched at the 1961 Paris Motor Show and phased out in 1993 due to looming European emissions and safety regulations that made carburetors and dash-mounted shifters obsolete.  Offered as a five-door hatchback, a convertible and a van with two wheelbase lengths, it changed little during its long production run and over eight million examples were sold in numerous countries around the world.<![CDATA[
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  • Details emerge on next-gen Fiat 500

    September 16, 2013
    A new report indicates the all-new 2016 Fiat 500 might be longer and wider than the current model in order to better cater to the needs of consumers in the United States, the city car’s biggest global market. ¬†Fiat is still split on what direction to take the car in because noticeably increasing its size would make it less practical in big European cities.


    Currently under development in Fiat’s headquarters in Turin, Italy, the next 500 will follow the path blazed by BMW’s MINI Cooper and gain evolutionary styling updates rather than an entirely new look. ¬†The print edition of trade journal Automotive News finds Fiat might take advantage of the new model’s arrival to shift production in Poland, a move that would boost productivity in Europe and clear up much-needed production capacity for high-volume models in Toluca, Mexico, where U.S.- and China-bound 500s are currently built.

    Unlike the MINI, the next 500 will be offered exclusively as a three-door hatchback but Fiat is plotting a larger five-door hatch with a 500-inspired design to slot in between the entry-level hatchback and the family-focused 500L. ¬†Expected to ride on the Dart’s Compact U.S. Wide platform, the yet-unnamed car will replace the Fiat Punto and go head-to-head against the Ford Fiesta in key markets all around the world. ¬


    Official details about the next 500 will begin to emerge next year.  The car will debut as a three-door hatchback, and the Abarth and C-badged convertible variants will arrive before the end of the decade.


    Photo by Ronan Glon.<![CDATA[
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