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The 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show

Comeback cars.

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If America truly does love a comeback story, there’s no better place to stage it than in Los Angeles. As per usual, this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show, running until November 30 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, featured a number of fantastic concepts and equally interesting production cars. But three models in particular stood out for the way they powered some legendary names back into the spotlight.

Some 45 years ago, car racer and engineer Jim Hall and his company, Chaparral Cars, began a partnership with Chevrolet. The arrangement yielded some of the most innovative racecars in history—cars that featured lightweight materials, advanced aerodynamics, and revolutionary data acquisition systems. For their latest and boldest venture, Chaparral and Chevrolet brought in a third party, Sony PlayStation, and the result is the Chaparral 2X Vision Gran Turismo (VGT) concept car. While this groundbreaking vehicle won’t land in a GM dealership anytime soon, video game players will be able to race the car in Gran Turismo 6 starting next month.

The Chaparral boasts a head-first driving position, a beamed-laser propulsion system inspired by space travel, and a top speed equivalent to 384 km/h. Under normal circumstances, a concept car that will never be produced is not worth much attention—the Chaparral 2X VGT is the exception.

When the topic of conversation turns to the best car designers of all time, Henrik Fisker will often be a central figure. The Danish designer responsible for some of the most stunning cars of all time—including the Aston Martin DB9 and BMW Z8—has had a tough time of it recently. His eponymous company, Fisker Automotive, produced another stunner, the Karma, but production difficulties prevented the plug-in hybrid super saloon from powering the company out of financial mire.

Now, the designer has partnered with Galpin Auto Sports, an L.A.-based car conglomerate featured on the former MTV show Pimp My Ride, and the result is the Galpin-Fisker Rocket, a custom Mustang dubbed the “Ultimate American Muscle Car”. The Rocket is a low-volume production car based on the 2015 Ford Mustang, with carbon fibre bodywork and a V8 engine boosted to produce 725 horsepower. The new Shelby GT350 also debuted to significant acclaim—but there’s no doubt as to which car is the more desirable one.

In 1909, what is now called the Maybach company was formed with the purpose of building gas and diesel engines for locomotives and Zeppelins. A decade later, Wilhelm Maybach and his son, Karl, turned their attention to car manufacturing, a pursuit that lasted until 1940. Twenty years after that, the Maybach brand was purchased by Daimler-Benz and new executive cars bearing the historic badge debuted in 2002.

The response to the Maybach 57 and 62 was tepid at best; while Mercedes-Benz predicted annual sales of some 2,000 models per year, this figure was never achieved. The global financial crisis of 2008 spelled an end to the Maybach offering, but as witnessed in Los Angeles, reports of the sub-brand’s death were greatly exaggerated.

The 2015 Mercedes-Maybach S 600, a stretched executive sedan based on the new and formidable Mercedes S-Class, looks to be a much better proposition than the last attempt, with improved driving dynamics and design. Although it remains to be seen whether this Maybach can challenge the likes of Bentley or Rolls-Royce, the S-Class is extremely popular around the world, so this is a great start—and another formidable comeback.


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November 24, 2014