A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird:
Miata turns 25
Twenty-five years ago today, the world saw the introduction of what would become the most successful convertible ever made. This week in 1989, the Mazda Miata bowed at the Chicago Auto Show. In February. Well, at least they hold the thing indoors.
The Miata had a unique and slightly protracted birth, generated from the seed of an idea planted by Bob Hall, an American auto-journalist. It was styled in California by Mazda North America under the pen of Tom Matano, and the running prototype was made in Worthington, England.
It was a truly international design that took the best of California dreaming, infused a little of that British roadster magic into the chassis, and then kept at least two oceans between the Brits and the factory where these little cars would be made - thus making them reliable.
Today the Miata is the quintessential sportscar, available brand-new at a relatively accessible price, or used for the cost of a pretzel at a hockey game. They're tough, they're durable, and even if they've been driven to within an inch of their life, they're still a barrel of laughs.
What's more, an entire aftermarket has sprung up over the quarter-century, and if you'd like to, say, turbocharge your Miata or swap a Chevy LS-series V-8 under that hood, both can be accommodated. With a Guinness World Record for sales the Miata is, after 25 years, THE sportscar.
Sinkhole attacks Corvette Museum
How's this for a nightmarish scenario? This week, a huge, 30-foot deep sinkhole opened within the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky., and dragged eight 'Vettes to their doom.
Forty feet across, the gaping maw of the giant hole greeted museum employees as they opened up for the day on Wednesday. Down at the bottom, a jumbled mass of metal and fibreglass is all that remains of the historic Corvettes.
The cars affected are priceless, including the millionth and 1.5 millionth 'Vettes ever produced, an early 1962 model, and a 1993 and 2009 ZR-1 on loan from General Motors. Oof, I wouldn't want to be making that particular call to GM headquarters.
So far, one Corvette has been saved, lifted out with a crane, though damaged. It's a 1983 'Vette, the last known survivor of a very short production run.
The good news here, such as it is, is that the cars swallowed up are valuable enough to be worth spending the thousands required to bring them back to factory condition. The bad news is what this structural instability might mean for the rest of the museum.
New Mercedes-Benz S-Class coupe dances through corners
Between BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz, soon there won't be an unexplored niche in the automotive kingdom. Happily, M-B's latest update isn't a crossover, but a stately coupe version of their rangetopping S-Class.
Considering Mercedes hasn't really had the best styling of late, the new coupe manages to look really quite sleek and modern, and at the same time more athletic than earlier offerings. The rear, for instance, contains elements of the mighty SLS AMG.
More interesting is something M-B calls "active curve tilting function," an electronic ride-control mechanism that works with the air suspension to tilt the car into a turn, like a motorcycle rider setting up to carve through a corner. Neat stuff. With the ability to recognize a turn up to 50 feet ahead, the big coupe will brace itself for the curve.
Come to think of it, it's more like sailors lining up on the railing of a racing yacht than a motorcycle rider.
Of course, all this tech will set you back a rather impressive amount of money, and will be combined with the full S-Class suite of unique driver's aids and a range of powerplants underhood.
Volvo promises Polestar power for V50 wagon
At the Chicago Auto Show over the weekend, Volvo pulled the wraps off two bright-blue machines with a little more Swede speed than is usual. Hearkening back to the mighty R badge that used to signify an interesting combination of turbocharged bork with all-wheel-drive capability, the Polestar concepts come with 345 horsepower and 369 foot-pounds of torque; not quite as exciting as the 500 h.p. concepts, but certainly a little bit more zip than you can get now.
The V50 Polestar is a particularly handsome wagon, and comes with a suspension set up for real Swedish-style hoonery, uprated brakes, and a rear-drive bias to its AWD system. There won't be very many of these blue beauties available, sadly, and no, they won't be making one with a manual transmission. What's the Swedish word for "drat"?
Aston Martin recalls cars for counterfeit accelerator pedals
When Aston Martin and counterfeit appear in the same sentence, one might expect the story to be about a fibreglass body-kit on a Jaguar, or an unlicensed jacket found hanging in a shop in Hong Kong. You wouldn't really expect fake accelerator pedals.
However, it turns out Aston has to recall nearly 75 per cent of their cars built after 2007 for a different sort of counterfeiting issues. The accelerator pedal arms, which were supplied by a sub-contractor in China, were made of an off-brand plastic and rebadged as a tough DuPont plastic before being passed along.
Nobody has been injured, and no deaths have been reported, but there's certainly a bit of carnage here for Aston's rep. First of all, at nearly $300,000 for some of their offerings, why aren't the accelerator arms on these cars made from teak, and sterling silver, and mastodon ivory? Secondly, if even Aston can't keep an eye on suppliers with only 75,000 cars sold over the last seven years (or thereabouts), how difficult must it be for a Ford or Toyota to keep their eyes on material quality?
Frankly, one longs for the days when the English motoring industry could supply their own inferior building materials. As it happens, Aston Martin plans to relocate sourcing of their plastics to the U.K. as soon as possible.
Watch this space for all the week's best and worst of automotive news, or you can submit your own auto oddities to email@example.com. Follow Brendan on Twitter at @brendan_ mcaleer