08 December 2015

Harley-Davidson: Go the whole hog

As published in in Crown Lounge Magazine Issue 3 (read full issue)

Closet biker, Roderick Eime, examines the allure behind this robust and respected brand and finds it’s getting easier to get on a ‘hog’ than ever before.

When anyone mentions the word ‘iconic’ and ‘motorcycle’ in the same sentence, chances are they’re talking about the venerable US brand, Harley-Davidson.

Since the first prototype was tested in 1903 and for the next century and beyond, the Harley-Davidson brand has continued to reflect freedom and hard-edged glamour with an exceptional degree of brand loyalty and admiration. A 2013 survey placed Harley-Davidson as the fourth most respected brand in the USA with global sales in excess of 250,000 bikes.

But ask any owner, even aspiring ones, and the purchase of a Harley-Davidson is not based on any financial analysis. It comes from within and is driven by a desire for self-expression with a middle-finger salute to the conformity and mundanity of modern life. Let’s not beat around the bush here, it’s pure escapism in the form of a raw, aggressive, sexualised icon.

Just like cosmetics, soft drinks and fast food, brand alignment is key and product placement crucial. The number of celebrity owners reads like an Academy Award roll call and the motorcycle itself is a star in its own right with innumerable movie appearances throughout the decades.

Captain America and Billy Bike, ridden by Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda
Cinema-goers will be quick to recall the scene from 1991’s Terminator 2 when Arnold Schwarzenegger rode the Harley Davidson "Fat Boy" like he stole it. Which he did. Or 1969’s unforgettable Easy Rider, where ex-police Hydra-Glides were converted into the famous pair of choppers, Captain America and Billy Bike, ridden by Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda.

Movie trivia buffs will know exactly which motorcycle Marlon Brando rode in the 1953 classic, The Wild One - and it wasn’t a Harley. But notwithstanding, the star did own a black 1970 FLH Electra-Glide and it recently fetched more than $250,000 at auction.

Other high profile actors on Harleys include George Clooney (Road King), Elvis Presley (‘56 KH), Justin Timberlake (several) as well as the original ‘wild hog’, John Travolta, who owns a Fat Boy. *

Many Hollywood stars are so enamoured with their brush with Harley-Davidson fame, that they have become owners. And we’re not just talking about the stereotypical tough guy either. Many no-nonsense glamour gals don’t mind their million dollar bottoms in the seat of a Harley-Davidson.

In fact the list of leading ladies astride Harley-Davidsons includes Brigitte Bardot, Elizabeth Taylor, Tina Turner, Angelina Jolie, Bree Turner, Cameron Diaz, Cher, Demi Moore, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Lauren Hutton, Lindsay Wagner, Lisa Hartman Black, Pamela Anderson, Queen Latifah and Sheryl Crow.

American supermodel, Marisa Miller, and her customised H-D
Cashing in on the feminine appeal, Harley-Davidson commissioned a series of titillating video- and photoshoots with American supermodel, Marisa Miller. Instead of just being a bit of pinup decoration for the boys’ workshop or shed, the leggy blond whose credits include Sports Illustrated and Victoria’s Secret, is also an owner of a 1200 Nightster and an ambassador for the brand.

“People see me as a supermodel on the cover of magazines but no one would ever guess I do actually ride a Harley,” says Miller, “so it’s important to see that if I can do it, anybody can do it. Whether you are a guy thinking about it and don’t know how to go about getting into it, or a woman who may be intimidated, just go for it, challenge yourself and break free!”

Harley-Davidson's learner-approved Street 500
The model range of Harley-Davidson motorcycles has been static for some time, with the staple models regularly receiving cosmetic and equipment updates instead of major re-engineering. Brand diehards were set all atwitter, however, when Harley-Davidson introduced its first all-new model in 13 years with the radical, lightweight, liquid-cooled Street range comprising a learner-approved 500cc and a bigger 750cc unit. Only the smaller 500cc bike is available in Australia. The thinking behind this departure was to allow Harley-Davidson an entry point into the SE Asian market, in which it currently has little impact.

In Australia, the Street 500 is the only bike approved for LAM scheme in all states, providing an opportunity for new riders to join the brand and ride with dignity while serving their time on L-plates.

The recent launch of the 2016 range of full-size ‘heavy’ motorcycles is spread over seven model categories with the new Street making eight.

The new Iron 883 and Forty-Eight models, Harley-Davidson claim, are the purest expression of their Dark Custom design movement yet. Add to this the most powerful cruiser lineup in company history, and a broad range of performance and styling enhancements throughout the range and you have an eternally exciting offering that keeps the brand relevant and highly desirable.


Enter the Dark Custom




A bold new styling initiative, Harley-Davidson, makes no bones about it: these bikes aren't for everyone. It’s their special antidote to ‘bland leading the bland’. 

“Harley-Davidson's new Dark Custom range is aimed at the customer who wants that bare bones stripped-down look around the 'chrome don't get you home' theme,” says John Buckerridge, GM Fraser Motorcycle Group

They claim not everyone appreciates a motorcycle stripped down to its raw, custom essence and it takes a one-of-a-kind rider to appreciate the potential of a bike that’s ready to be customized any way they see fit.

No frills. Pure thrills. For the chosen few willing to ride like this, these basic bikes are positioned at an equally aggressive price point, making them easier than ever to throw a leg over.


Did you know?




In the 1920s, a group of tearaway farm boys raced Harley-Davidsons with a piglet as their mascot. Now the term is used as an acronym for ‘Harley Owners Group’. True story.

==

Related story: Get out on the highway. Motorcycle touring in Australia

02 June 2015

Lexus RC 350 and RC F: Throwing Down the Gauntlet

2015 Lexus RC F Coupe

The new Euro-challenging RC 350 from Lexus represents a quantum leap for the soon-to-be 25 year old marque.

Roderick Eime examines Lexus’ newest offering designed to tempt sports car buyers away from the big European rivals.

While it borrows cosmetic and engineering cues from other vehicles in the range, like the GS and IS models, Lexus maintain the RC 350 is not a reconfigured sedan. The purpose-built chassis comes with a unique blend of stiffness and strength needed to accommodate sporting yet supple suspension.

As with the LFA supercar, first unveiled in 2009, the RC 350is designed to reinvigorate interest in this prestigious marque, except that the RC (for Racing Coupe) series will reach out to a younger, sporty demographic in Lexus’ lower/mid price range.

"The RC 350 is a very important vehicle for us - it provides a clear aspirational target and injects a stronger connection to the brand, combining with its strong quality and innovation hallmarks," said Lexus executive, Sean Hanley, at the vehicle launch last year.

2015 Lexus RC F Coupe
RC F looks at home on the track (supplied)

"Our LFA supercar previously embodied Lexus' passion and acted as an emotional drawcard, and it was one of the most important models we've ever produced. However, it was off limits to most buyers.

"This new vehicle brings a portion of LFA's excitement to a more attainable market segment, and will boost the brand's appeal even further," he said.

Lexus RC 350 follows Lexus' 'Y' model marketing strategy with three offerings. Starting with Luxury, it then follows with two arms: F Sport and Sports Luxury.

Those with deeper pockets and a lust for performance and luxury perfection will want to examine the top-of-the-line Sports Luxury which adds a host of features befitting the discerning sports car enthusiast.

The basis of the RC 350 is the ultra-responsive 233kW 2GR-FSE 3.5-litre quad cam, direct injection V6 powerplant and eight-speed Sports Direct Shift transmission driving through the rear wheels.

“RC 350's spirited handling and performance were born on the track,” said Lexus Chief Engineer for the RC 350, Eiichi Kusama, “I spent considerable time working with the chief engineer of the RC F - Yukihiko Yaguchi - and we benchmarked both vehicles against the competition over many days and countless laps.”

2014 Lexus RC 350
RC 350 cuts a striking line even in basic trim (supplied)

The engineering team proceeded to fine tune the chassis and front double wishbone and rear multi-link suspension to optimal levels. The super hi-tech electronically controlled centre differential, offered as an option in some markets, varies the front-to-rear torque balance to provide optimum traction in all weather conditions and Dynamic rear-wheel Steering System (DRS).

Take things to the extreme with the RC F, a performance package that critics admit rivals some of the best European vehicles in this sector.

Lexus’ new ‘halo’ RC F coupe is the third Lexus to wear the F badge, after the IS F and LFA supercar. F models are built for true drivers who want to immerse themselves in pure driving pleasure and satisfying performance.

The RC F comes loaded with a 5.0 litre 351kW V8 engine, stiff chassis, racetrack-developed suspension and brakes, with power delivery via an eight-speed transmission and unique torque vectoring differential. The maximum power is delivered at 7100rpm, while the 530Nm of torque kicks in between 4800 to 5600rpm.

2015 Lexus RC F Coupe

Not only does this race-bred weapon look the goods, it sounds every bit on the money too. Active Sound Control creates a deep ominous tone up to 3000rpm, then a higher-pitched tone as revolutions rise with the sensation of the engine soaring freely above 6000rpm, which it does thanks to titanium valves, forged connecting rods and an optimised exhaust layout to more effectively harness these musical exhaust pulses.

With the LFA out of production, the RC F now assumes the mantle of F image leader and is also the basis of Lexus' entry in the World FIA GT3 Championship as well as the Japan Super GT championship.

If this neck-snapping performance and head-turning good looks weren’t enough, Lexus RC F is offered with an optional carbon fibre pack, developed using technology from the LFA program and CCS-R race car.

Designed to save weight, the carbon-fibre pack includes the bonnet, roof and active rear wing and interior cabin decoration to match the mean exterior look. This includes alcantara seat trim with 20-spoke High Plus forged aluminium wheels and ventilated front seats as further options.

With the new RC 350 and its high performance F derivatives, Lexus has stamped its authority yet again on the ultra competitive luxury performance sector with styling that will certainly make anyone look twice - at least.

Lexus RC F Specifications


ENGINE

Engine code 2UR-GSE
Displacement (cm 3 ) 4969cc
Engine type: All-alloy 90-degree V8, 32 valves, double overhead cams with dual VVT-i and electronic inlet timing actuation.
Fuel type: 98 RON or higher
Bore x stroke (mm) 94 x 89.5mm
Compression ratio 12.3:1
Max. power# 351kW @ 7100rpm
Max. torque# 530Nm @ 4800-5600rpm

TRANSMISSION

Type: Eight-speed SPDS automatic. Electronically controlled with sequential shift, artificial intelligence shift control and 2nd to 8th gear torque converter lock-up.

PERFORMANCE

Max. speed (km/h) 270 (electronically limited)
0-100 km/h (sec) 4.5



As published in SCION



14 March 2015

Toyota 86: 21st Century Cult Racer



Roderick Eime test drives the MY2014 Toyota 86

You’ve seen them on the street, parked in front of hip cafes or roaring noisily past the kebab shop in second gear.

The sleek Toyota 86, styled after a smooth wedge of Devondale cheddar, has certainly gained a loyal (some say ‘cult’) following since its sensational introduction in 2012. I say ‘sensational’ because here is a genuine, fully-imported sports car, beautifully engineered, for under $30k.

But that admiration goes back further than the 86’s current incarnation - and the number is the clue.

A 1983 AE86 Levin and current 86 side-by-side at the Toyota Museum, Japan

‘Hachi-Roku’ or ‘eight-six’ has its roots in Toyota’s 4-cylinder racing heritage that goes back to the mega-popular AE86, introduced in 1983. Ahead of its time, the fuel-injected, 4 cylinder twin-cam 1587cc 4A-GE engine delivered a decent 130kW and is still in favour with racers and rally drivers today.

But real Toyota know-it-alls will stop me here and quickly tell me that the iconic 2000 GT from 1967 was the first real Japanese supercar. A hastily modified 2000 GT even appeared in the James Bond movie “You Only Live Twice”. Modified because the 189cm Sean Connery could not fit in the tiny cockpit unless the roof was sawn off. Which it was, creating the two supremely rare 2000 GT convertibles. One is part of the James Bond collection and the other is in the Toyota Museum in Japan.
fe_10151210_815.jpg
The 2000GT is quite possibly the most collectable Japanese car of all time

But the gorgeous 2000GT, perhaps the most collectable Japanese car ever, is a six-cylinder. The rest of the Eight Six clan are fours.

Just this year, Toyota have decided to further tweek the 86, adding more value to this bargain blazer.

A reversing camera and a touch-screen display audio system can now be found in the GT variants, adding at least $1,000 value at no extra cost on the GT manual while the GT auto is actually cheaper by $300.

A full-size spare wheel can now be ordered at no extra cost, giving customers an alternative to the weight-saving tyre-repair kit which is fitted as standard, but no popular with all customers.

Prices are also down on the GTS grades - the manual by $500* and the auto by $800* as a result of recent duty reductions. Yay! So, the price for the most affordable 86 remains at $29,990 - the same as the launch price more than two-and-a-half years ago.

The racing heritage is not forgotten either, and Toyota have just announced that a one make series for both professional and amateur drivers will take place at V8 Supercar events in Australia and will be similar to thos run in Japan, Germany and New Zealand.

The series will launch next year with up to five selected professional drivers who will mentor and compete against a larger field of amateur drivers who must qualify for a spot on the starting grid.

The Toyota 86 Pro-Am race series, under the official banner of Toyota Racing Australia, will be sanctioned by the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS).

The race cars will be based on the GT manual with key specifications controlled to ensure their suitability and reliability while keeping costs as low as possible.

Interested in going racing? Visit the Toyota website at www.toyota.com.au/86/pro-am
The marvellous 147kW D4-S 2.0 litre boxer motor developed in conjunction with Subaru



Specs:

TOYOTA 86 PRICES*

GT manual
$29,990
GT auto
$32,490
GTS manual
$35,990
GTS auto
$38,490


Options
Full-size spare No cost 
Premium paint $450 Aero pack (GTS) $3,000

Engine 
Boxer 4/16V 2.0L-Boxer 4 Capacity (cm3) 1998
Four cylinders, horizontally opposed, 16-valve, DOHC, four valves per cylinder and alloy cylinder block
Bore x stroke (mm) 86 x 86
Compression ratio 12:5:1
Max. output 147kW @ 7,000rpm
Max. torque 205Nm @ 6,400-6,600rpm
Recommended fuel type98 or more Octane
Fuel-tank capacity (L)50

Performance
0-100km/h (s) 7.6 (manual), 8.2 (auto)
Max. speed (km/h) 226 (manual), 210 (auto)

09 February 2015

Bathurst Mount Panorama Lap Records rewritten

Laurens Vanthoor in his Audi R8 LMS Ultra (R Eime)

The Mount Panorama circuit in Central New South Wales has always been a great leveller. The steep upward climb and precipitous downward plunge, has humbled many of the world's great drivers.

Last weekend's Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour saw several historic milestones fall.

Two of the three Bentley Continental GT3s brought out from England to compete at Bathurst for the first time. (R Eime)

It was the first appearance of the Bentley marque at the mighty mountain, with the prestigious British brand sharing the lead at several times during the race, including the controversial dash to the finish.

It also saw the fastest qualifying time by a race car ever, including times laid down prior to the introduction of 'The Chase' in 1987, designed expressly to slow cars down on the long, downhill Conrod Straight.

Audi factory driver Laurens Vanthoor blasted his Audi R8 LMS Ultra around Mount Panorama in 2:02.5, eclipsing the time of 2:02.6701 set by Simon Hodge in an F3 Racing Car last year. The car continued its pace on race day with a lap record of 2:03.3091 (Lap 29) and finishing second outright.

Jensen Button at the wheel of his 2011 MP4 setting the fastest unofficial lap time around Bathurst (News Ltd)

The fastest unofficial time still stands at a mesmerising 1:48.88, set by Jensen Button in a publicity event for McLaren and Vodafone in a 2011 MP4 Formula One car.





05 February 2015

Chartering Superyachts - The Life Aquatic





By Roderick Eime

There's a tired old saying in the private yacht business that goes: "A boat is just a hole in the water you pour money into."

Owning the superyacht of your dreams is a defining symbol of your arrival. It's the ultimate imprimatur of success and your membership card to the super elite club.

The world's richest men are in a continual, never-ending contest to build and own the largest, most expensive superyachts on the ocean. Roman Abramovich's $500 million 162m Eclipse currently holds top honours and Larry Ellison's 138m Rising Sun, recently changed hands for a rumoured $300 million.

For even the most successful of businesspeople, ownership of a massive superyacht is an unrealistic exercise. Even for those particularly well-healed captains of industry with a high enough Plimsoll line on their pockets, the logistic and adminsitrive issues are prohibitive.

According to Hugh Simson, general manager of Australian yacht brokerage GTIM, you can quickly estimate the build cost of a large superyacht.

"After you reach the critical length of 100' (30m) it can safely be estimated that build cost is around $1 million per metre."

But don't take your hand out of your pocket yet.

"You can then budget for annual upkeep of your vessel at around 10 per cent of the build cost," says Simson.

It can be easily deduced then that the size of any superyacht is directly connected to the net worth of an individual, or in many cases, their exposure.

So, if the pleasures of a 50 metre floating pleasure palace appeals to you, but the ongoing fiscal commitment does not, chartering is a realistic option.


What does chartering involve?

Chartering any vessel is just a nautical term for 'hiring' and that hire can come with or without lots of options. From 'bareboat', where you are effectively handed the keys to an empty ship, to a 'time charter' where, as the term suggests, you hire the vessel complete with all crew and facilities for an agreed period.

You can charter anything from a dinghy to an ocean liner and many people and corporations do just that.

Want to take a few friends or family fishing? Then a 10 or 15 metre sport cruiser with game fishing chair will get you started.

Organising a global sales meeting at sea? Then, look at a 100m mini cruise ship for 100 delegates complete with catering, entertainment and conference facilities.

There are lots of good reasons to charter besides dodging the hassles of ownership. Your CFO can probably tell you that chartering can be tax efficient under certain circumstances.


What does it cost? (ex-Singapore source: http://www.boatbookings.com)

A smaller power boat with crew suitable for fishing or simple excursions should start at around SGD$2000 for a decent vessel.

Getting fancy with a proper superyacht for around 30 persons on a day trip will set you back around SBD$15000.

Looking for a longer experience? Here's an example. The ex-Jack Nicklaus superyacht 'Sea Bear' is based in Singapore. This 40m Westport vessel was built in 2005 and sleeps 10 guests in five luxury luxury. With a crew of seven, it's yours for US$80k a week. You pay for fuel and food.

Going a bit crazy, or looking for a corporate gig? The two luxury twin cruise ships from the SeaDream Yacht Club (call them megayachts if you like) carry 112 guests in 56 twin staterooms. In between scheduled cruises, you can charter the entire vessel, with all 95 crew and everything on board from around $500,000.


Yacht Speak


Walk the walk, not the plank.

A superyacht, while not a precise term, is generally understood to mean any vessel over 24m (79') in length. It should be privately owned and is almost always crewed by professionals. Can apply to both power and sail.

A megayacht is another term that came into popular usage to describe the largest superyachts of which there are around 25 currently operating. Again, not a precise term, but anything over 50m can be called a megayacht.

The term gigayacht has also appeared to describe apex vessels 100m and over.

Vessels up to 100 feet (30m) are commonly measured in feet, and over that, in metres.

The entertainment area on a superyacht is called the saloon (not salon) and beds are called berths. Fancy cabins are often called staterooms and those with private facilities, just like a hotel, are called ensuite.

A vessel with a 'flybridge', or more correctly, 'flying bridge' has a separate set of controls on the cabin roof to allow the skipper a full 360 degree view. Otherwise, it's just a normal enclosed 'bridge' with limited field of view.