crankandpiston 2014 Highlights. Pt 1

It’s had its ups and downs, but 2014 has seen some AWESOME machinery make its way through crankandpiston’s hallowed doors. Join us then as the C&P Team selects ten of its highlights from the last 12 months.

Porsche 991 GT3 vs Mercedes SLS AMG Black (January)

Words: Phill Tromans     Images: Arun M. Nair and Phil McGovern


The year started with two of the best cars we’ve ever driven, and my my, the arguments they caused. Not just about what would win this shootout, but also who would drive them to the photoshoot. Once the hair pulling was over though, each was put through its respective paces, the 622bhp Mercedes SLS AMG Black Series delivering its power like a sledgehammer while the more sedate (insert inverted commas) Porsche 911 GT3 dished out its performance with scalpel like precision. But before putting this monumental power to the test, the team had to face hidden police cars and get off a petrol forecourt without clouting the nose of either sextuple digit sports car on a kerb. Breathe in…


Volkswagen XL1 DRIVEN. The future is light (January)

Words: Phill Tromans     Images: Arun M. Nair


In January, we were also given a peak into the apparently not too distant future via the Volkswagen XL1. The product of a decade of development (plus a five-year, boardroom encouraged hiatus), only 200 rolled off the production line complete with VW-familiar air conditioning and infotainment screen. Yes, the gherkin shaped extra from Alien focused on efficiency and saving the planet, but beautifully direct steering, a lightweight build and its surprisingly chuckable nature meant the XL1 had the hallmarks of a seriously impressive sports car. Appropriate that just a few months later, its 47bhp 800cc diesel two-cylinder was ditched in favour of a 1199cc V2 from a Ducati 1199 Superlegerra superbike and the XL1 Sport was born.


Caterham Superlight R400. Arming the weapon (March)

Words: Phill Tromans     Images: Arun M. Nair


Remembered as the shoot in which our man Phill couldn’t – rather than wouldn’t – exit the car between shots, the Caterham Superlight R400 proved one of the purest forms of driving pleasure PT had enjoyed in some considerable time, even if getting in and out was a bit of a faff. A rare sight on the roads, this particular Caterham – nicknamed ‘Catsuma’ by its owner – took 150 man hours to build from scratch. It’s based on the same near 60-year old design as its forebears, but packs a more powerful 263bhp 2-litre four-cylinder under the removable hood, giving Phill one or two butterflies the first time he pulled onto the big-rig laden highway.


MINI ALL4 Racing DRIVEN. A Mini Adventure (April)

Words: James Gent     Images: MCH Photography


Only when he’d plonked myself into a driver’s seat with the name ‘N Roma’ stitched on it – that would be 2014 Dakar Rally winner Nani Roma – does our deputy editor truly appreciate what he’s about to do: drive the 2014 Dakar X-RAID MINI ALL 4 RACING endurance rally car. Through the windscreen lies several kilometres of amateur rally stage, including high-speed gravel runs dotted with dunes of all shapes and sizes. And in his stomach lie butterflies the likes of which he’s never encountered before, or indeed is ever likely to again. He understands pretty quickly that he’ll never be a professional rally driver, is unlikely to ever compete on the Dakar, or will drive anything as adrenaline-pumping as this magnificent piece of kit. He’s still screaming.


*Be sure to check out our MINI ALL4Racing teaser clip HERE

Barnard. The new hypercar company that’s 12 years old (April)

Words: Phill Tromans     Images: Arun M. Nair


Automotive history – littered with the carcasses of independent supercar companies who came, promised the world and were promptly stuffed into bankruptcy – suggests at face value that South African enterprise Barnard had their work cut out for them. But when went to take a closer look at the BTR700 – the company’s headline model, based on the monocoque of a Porsche 962 Group C Le Mans prototype – Barnard had already been in business for ten years. The ear-splitting roar of the 700bhp 7-litre V8, steel-fabricated bodywork and a stonking 1300kg kerb weight were just the tip of an extraordinarily heavy iceberg.


Porsche 911 Turbo S vs McLaren 12C Spider. Twin Turbos (May)

Words: James Gent     Images: Arun M. Nair


After a full day exploring the performance of both the Porsche 991 Turbo and the McLaren 12C Spider, I actually declared this particular twin test one of the hardest I’d ever undertaken. In the yellow corner lay the 552bhp Turbo, a more powerful, arguably more lairy and easily more shouty example of the 991. In the mellow silver corner, the 616bhp 12C, now four years down the road from its original launch and heading into retirement following the arrival of the new 650S. But members of the team suspected Woking’s prodigal son had a little left in the tank, and what better competition to prove that than against Stuttgart’s latest?


*Be sure to check out our 911 Turbo S vs 12C Spider teaser clip HERE

2014 Mille Miglia. Jaguar Heritage Racing (May)

Words and images: James Davison


For the second year in a row, was invited to join the event that a certain Enzo Ferrari once called ‘the most beautiful race in the world’, the Mille Miglia. Across a four-day, 1600km journey with Jaguar (at the helm of the new F-TYPE Coupe no less), we took in the sights and sounds of both rural and urban Italia from Brescia to Rome to Brescia, the screams of adoration from fans (directed at the cars obviously, not us), and the influx of celebrity names on the entry list, including Martin Brundle, AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson and petrolhead Jay Leno. All of which were enjoyed from behind the wheel of a brand new F-TYPE R Coupe.


MINI Cooper S vs Sodi go-kart. That ‘go-kart feeling’ (August)

Words: James Gent     Images: Harisanker S


It’s not that often I’m left speechless, but one (incredibly hot) afternoon at the Dubai Autodrome in September took care of that. Bigger and more practical, the new Cooper S was still – at heart – a MINI, capable of being chucked about with aplomb and offering that ‘go-kart feeling’, a company mainstay for many years. Enough was enough though. What proof had we that this so-called ‘go-kart feeling’ was anything more than a hackneyed sales pitch from MINI marketing? So, with the help of a former Formula 3 driver and a lightweight Sodi go-kart, we decided to find out. And couldn’t believe it when the MINI won.


*Be sure to check out our MINI Cooper S vs Sodi go-kart teaser clip HERE

Aston Martin Vantage N430. Race against time (September)

Words: James Gent     Images: Arun M. Nair


Sports cars like the Aston Martin N430 Vantage don’t come around very often. Well, not TOO often anyway. The first special edition Vantage was the 400bhp N400, made to celebrate Aston Martin’s success at the Nürburgring 24 Hours. Then came the 420bhp N420 of 2010, a road-going model offering GT4-levels of intensity. So when the N430 – yep, all 430bhp of it – appeared this year, we figured a commemorative photoshoot would be just the ticket. Of course, this plan was made slightly trickier by misplacing our shooting location. And the sunlight disappearing. It’s with ever-quickening heart rates we raced the sun in the limited edition Aston, cursing at the gearbox as we do.


’84 Porsche Outlaw vs Porsche Targa 4S. Targa vs Targa (November)

Words: James Gent     Images: James Davison

Porsche Targa

In the blue corner, we have the brand new Porsche Targa 4S, a mix of contemporary engineering and iconic charm from a near-50 year lineage. And in the, er, blue corner, we have a 1984 Outlaw Targa, restored to meticulous detail – at vast expense – by its enthusiastic owner and a hallmark of the generation that arguably brought the ‘targa top’ to the mainstream. But how much can a model line change across three decades? How on earth could we slide those seats forward to reach the steering wheel? And where on earth do you put the roof when you’ve finished injuring yourself by taking it off? Just some of the many questions we asked ourselves in November.


*Stay tuned for crankandpiston 2014 Highlights Pt 2, coming soon

Categories: Lifestyle

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