• Thread starter VXR
Wow, thank you @SlipZtrEm that's high praise indeed, humbling even.

The game feels so sweet to play that writing these has become something I really enjoy and it's inspired me to take better photos at the same time.
Amazonian Leaf - Volvo 123 GT

Back in the fifties and sixties, rear suspension technology was still rudimentary, with the leaf spring a popular choice. Unfortunately, the tuning capabilities of this suspension and its inherent weaknesses caused hairy handling for the unsuspecting. Volvo marketed their 120-series from 1956-1970 and here we have the '67 123 GT with a 95bhp 1.8, shared with the popular P1800ES. Known as Amazon in Sweden, this Torslanda produced GT model wears its export moniker here. A favourite of the Scandinavian rally scene, the car has a cult following today.

The order of the day at Watkins Glen is body roll, body roll and more body roll for good measure. Despite this, the car responds well to controlled driving.


Braking has to be taken into consideration, as the forward weight shift can overpower the nose, with understeer the effect.


The super-soft rear end will see the inside front tyre lift, either off a curb or to a lesser extent, in quicker corners.


This cornering shot is typical, with the rear hunkered down and the front pushing up in the air. It's a tidy drive when left within its limits, which are pretty high, given the vintage.


When taken spiritedly, the car will easily get airborne over the kerbs, but the landing doesn't overly affect the car.


The car often shows a willingness to understeer, but here it was quite terminal and the car was unable to stay on the track. This isn't seen often; here it was caused by coming off the kerbing and letting the back go light. The yaw effect manifested in understeer, thankfully.


Typical of older cars with soft suspension and less developed tyre technology, oversteer is never too far away. However, in Volvo's case, their safety first approach means it is dialled out as well as it can be. This type of small slide didn't happen often.


It was even harder to elicit any tyre smoke and it took some gusto to create it.


For the dramatic oversteer, you find yourself really tipping the car in and letting the grip ebb away as the weight transfers from back to front. By keeping a higher entry speed as you do so, only now do you get beyond the car's inherent safe nature.


For the final party piece, it took an almighty leap into lift-off oversteer to get the car into a decent slide. Fortunately, that cautious chassis set-up makes this easier to catch than in something more lively.


There's much to enjoy with this Volvo. The sound of a rasping four is pleasant and the softer chassis provide its own fun. Allowing the car to roll and pitch into corners rarely causes great alarm and you can appreciate why it would've been popular as a rally car. In a lower-powered car, maintaining momentum is vital and in having the understeer dialled in, it allows the Volvo to remain unflustered in all but the most violent cornering.
I feel you can produce better updates compared to your latest update. However if each shot looked more different in terms of angles, layouts and lighting. Then the shot would of turned out better.
It was rushed and I've not played it properly since, as I felt burnt out on it. Thanks for commenting, it's always appreciated.
I think these are great, and the way you presents these are your unique style! Keep up the good work and do what you do because it's your work on your free time. These help me big time when I need a good read, I actually do something similar to what you do. I haven't had much free time but when I do I will venture in these unique reviews. I actually suck at taking pictures so I'm going to have to work on that big time. Keep up the good work!
Red Letter Day - Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6


In this age of downsizing where sporting models of family cars have as little as a 1.0 triple aided by turbocharging, big, nose-heavy bruisers are a thing of the past. 2.0 fours were the popular choice for European hot hatchbacks for many years; the early 90s Clio Williams, Astra GSI and Mark 3 Golf GTI all featured one. Whilst that model came with 150hp like its rivals, Volkswagen wanted to chase bigger prey. Using their narrow-angle VR6 from the Corrado, but in 2.8 form, the European VR6 model was after the BMW 3-series with its purposeful inline sixes. Offered in a Highline spec here, it was equipped and appointed as well as a 325i, but offered the convenience of a hatch.

Today's car is a US-spec GTI VR6. Without the full-colour coding of the Highline or the wheelarch trim of the GTI 2.0, it looks neither fish nor foul when left in its stock appearance. This test car has been slightly altered to my taste to evoke some of the 20th Anniversary GTI that I adored back in the day. In come a set of split-rim BBS and the top bumper trim has been reverted to dark grey. Other than that, this is the stock 172bhp hatch.

Initial impressions are not great. A lot of roll means it is hard to keep a decent line through a longer corner, with an inevitable latitudinal drift to the outside of the track. A tuck of the line results in an unpleasant bobble from the soft rear suspension.


When you turn into a narrower corner, the nose pitches in with the weight of the engine over the front axle and the rear leaves the inside tyre loose in that classic GTI way. I didn't witness it lift a wheel, but it felt like it might several times.


With this chassis set-up, unless you slow right down, you will struggle to kiss the apex of any tight corner. There are a few at CotA, and trying to keep up speed and use a little bit of weight shifting to trim the line often resulted in understeer. It felt odd that the light rear was trying all it could to unstick, but that heavy front end dominated proceedings.


Of course, corner exit with 173 lb ft of torque at the front wheels will result in regular tyre smoke. Here is out of a second gear corner, but rest assured, it did it in third as well.


Here is the result of taking a deep breath and letting the rear take charge and front grip finally ebbs away. It is evocative of the classic European hatch tradition, but cars like the Mark 3 Golf had become more rounded, less hooligan, so there wasn't much playfulness in the chassis and steering to catch this one...


Which meant the Golf had to come to a stop, dust off and start again. Oversteer 1, Golf Nil.


When trying to keep things neat and tidy to set a decent fast lap, the car's composure goes out of the window. Unfamiliar with the US version, I don't know if it was tuned for comfort or not, but I'd expect a lowly CL to drive like this, rather than something with a GTI badge. All of the previously mentioned body roll and tyre shredding mean you never achieve a clean flow with the car. It's a shame really, as the engine sounds so up for it and is rightfully considered one of the all time greats in that regard.


Another cornering shot to drive home just how much it tips into corners. It makes for interesting photos, but on track it just feels a hinderance.


After all this negativity, it isn't a car I dislike. There's an unruly puppy charm to cars that drive this way on a track and it would be boring if all cars were totally composed and happy in this environment. As a car to drive to work, I'd happily take a European Highline five door in the dark purple colour and enjoy opening up the engine as often as possible. For that, it'd be perfect and make you feel good every time.


I don't think it is many people's favourite Golf body-style, but the 'A3' third gen is mine. I love how it updates the Mark 2 with softer, turn of the 90s design. It looks contemporary with the 1990 E36 3-series and later B5 Audi A4. Just very German. Understated, yet still with character.

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A Fading Glory - Lexus IS350 FSport


There was a time when a big, naturally aspirated engine in a four-door was the 'norm'. When the diesel was still an oddity and the turbocharged petrol engine was an alternative high performance option. In 2015, the oddity is a petrol without forced induction, base models feature turbos of three cylinders and the diesel has evolved into a genuine sports engine with torque monsters such as the BMW M550d and its three turbochargers(!) So this Lexus - which has now been replaced with a 2.0 turbo in some markets - is a real dinosaur. A 3.5 litre V6 with 306hp and a fat 277 lb ft of torque at 4,800rpm would have been chasing the E36 M3 Evo on the spec sheet in the late-90s; in today's market, that high torque peak is at odds with the mid-range slug typical of its rivals. In maintaining the natural aspiration, Lexus has at least given buyers the chance of a last hurrah, a sports saloon like no other for the rest of time. Sadly, what I found is something of a letdown.

When I first started to drive the Lexus, it was on cold tyres, so I didn't exactly put the hammer down. The car felt softer than expected for a trim roughly equivalent to BMW's M-Sport or Audi's stiffly sprung S-Line models. A rear-end that was susceptible to bobbling over humps was the first downside, one that could indicate a lack of body control in corners. Braking for the first tight hairpin at the Nurburgring GP circuit was a little less eager than I'd have liked. Whilst still taking it easy, the car displayed the modern neutral-to-understeer tendencies you'd expect, even in rival cars. So far, so ordinary.


That predator mouth might look imposing in a rear-view mirror, but the noises created behind it are a little short of intimidating. V6's aren't my favourite go-to sound, but this one is too pared back for its own good. Muffled up to 4k, the higher end of the scale doesn't sound much better. The best sound can be heard in a higher gear at roughly 2,000 rpm, where a decent growl is audible. A sports exhaust could pay dividends on this car.


When you look at this car's styling, the influence of the original Altezza/IS is evident in profile and the nose is quite reminiscent of the last IS, with its beaky slope. The grille is a big departure from Lexus' past and a massive talking point of the brand's new image. My favourite detail is the visual line running from beneath the tail lights and under the rear door. It's harmonious from side on, but dramatic from the rear three quarters.


Pushing on once there was heat in the tyres, the experience veered from one thing to another. Here, the car was quite planted, but pushing wider than I'd have liked.


Whilst exiting this corner lit up the rears like a true hooligan. Still, I'd rather shoot this than the above.


The gratuitous drift shot on another corner. The torque figure is pretty high and mid-range oomph in third will get the tail out in most situations. Steady state cornering, where the car is more settled is likely to induce that safety understeer, though.


Whilst it is safe, on a track this is the last thing you want. If you're not slow into the apex, you definitely won't be fast out. The nose is too willing to get wider and wider, as can be seen here.


Again, this time out of a tighter radius corner and my entry was less than ideal. In a bid to avoid the gravel, the impressive torque was enough to get a little oversteer to trim its line. I can imagine the typical IS owner will never get into this situation with their car, but sometimes oversteer is a handy last resort.


As I mentioned earlier, braking is not the car's forte. Sure, a Lexus IS isn't going to be spending much time on track days, but on the motorways of Europe, it is likely to be braking from 100mph, especially in Germany. Late-braking is not encouraged, with the orange glow of the discs telling its own story. I managed to slow in time to take the 'Veedol' chicane, thankfully, but lost time having to pick up speed again. A better braking system or slowing down earlier than you'd desire will see the car get through with minimal fuss.


Aware of the car's failings as a premium sporty saloon, I still decided to get a little wild with it. The tyres were feeling a little short of their best by this point and the car started to get hairy. After the slightly anodyne nature of the test, the driver input required to catch it was proving to be better entertainment.


When Toyota first decided to create a credible 3-series rival in the late nineties, their efforts were very much linked to the BMW method; RWD, inline six and good weight distribution. In some ways, it was the more charming effort, especially the Sports Hatch. I'll always like the chronograph inspired dials of the Lexus. 15 years later, the Lexus is arguably an evolution of the 'E36' way and is ill at ease with the current market. As a fan of those older inline six BMWs, it pains me to admit that despite being a package I prefer, it's small wonder a car like the Lexus is the last of a breed. It simply isn't a very good breed, if this is what it has become. An E46 330i would run rings around this car I suspect, let alone a current 328i M-Sport. Through a lack of driver involvement, aural drama and general feeling of competence, this car is a low note, when it could've been a crescendo.


*Tester's note; whilst I alluded to torque several times, I want to qualify my statement about modern cars being more about mid-range torque and this car being different to that. On this track, I never got higher than fifth out of an eight speed box. In this scenario, third gear is a well-defined ratio, making the most of the high torque peak and a credit to a car I mostly criticised.

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The Maleficent Seven - Caterham Superlight R500


Maleficence; performing evil or harm. In a vehicle, these are not the concerns of manufacturers or law makers and for 99.9% of the public. Yet there will always be that tiny percentile who will actively seek danger and the thrill of being on, or over the edge. So naturally, they will seek exhilaration and risk at every opportunity and when they wish to obtain a car, there's few better for this crowd than Caterham. The original, simplistic Lotus Seven from which Caterham licensed in 1973 was a machine of modest output. From the 1990s onwards, however, Caterham sought bigger, quicker, ballsier goals. The luminous, Vauxhall-powered JPE begat the Rover K-series Superlight R and we're now driving Ford Duratecs in ever expanding performance levels.

Our test car is a 2.0 litre four with a 520bhp per tonne figure, thanks to peak power at 263bhp and a svelte 516kg on the scales. After Tony Fernandes bought the company to run alongside his formula one team, Caterham were now a grand prix racing concern and this car wears a livery inspired by that of the F1 entry. A striking green, yellow and white get up, it looks at home on the Seven and is relatively tame compared to some of its forebears. We initially took the R500 to Silverstone to see how it behaved at the UK's home of Formula One racing.


Initial impressions on cold tyres were alarming. Standing starts required heavy concentration, with wheel spin well into third gear before the car tracked straight. Entering the first few corners was a mix of terminal understeer or if you were brave with the throttle, excessive oversteer. The first lap or two were definitely exploratory, for the car and the driver. Just when you thought it was ready for some hot laps, it was quick to tell you it wasn't.


Dominating proceedings is the rear view mirror, which rather gets in the way of the apex sight lines. You have to admire the trick aero screens and carbon fibre fascia, though. Everything looks high-tech and totally fit for purpose. The mixed analogue and digital instruments leave you feeling like you've purchased a race car with number plates and the 12V socket will be a boon for those who like to data-log their track days. It's a car for those who wish to master it, which is well advised given the grunt involved.


Oversteer was now becoming small degrees of opposite lock once we had reached the requisite tyre heat. As I was gaining confidence in the car, this corner exit provided a quick way to link corners and of course was good fun to boot.


Little touches such as the naked flames emanating from the glorious side-exit exhaust remind you that this car is ferocious. For those of a more reserved bent, the three-pot 160 would be more your thing. I expect that would make a more suitable fast road car, too.


To enforce that last statement, the opportunity to go too far presented itself readily. Trying to exploit the rear-end for the photographer netted us nothing more than static, smoke-filled scenes such as this. With such skinny proportions, even a sticky cup tyre can't defy the force being sent through them. Fine in the confines of a race track, but potentially ruinous on the typical British B-road.


The Ford-sourced engine is a high revving sort, with runs towards 9,000rpm the reward for the spirited driver. Unfortunately, the sound is not a highlight, being much too buzzy and tuneless. Typical of the car, it is no-nonsense. If you wish to have aural theatre, buy an F-Type.


Not every moment of oversteer was an exercise in futility. Here the car is pushing itself happily sideways. On a track as relatively flat as Silverstone, there's little to corrupt the car's balance. That said, it's a car you'd have to be very committed to drive flat-out on the public highway and fortunately, the Nurburgring Nordschleife can provide an experience not dissimilar to rural British roads when it comes to camber and elevation.


As we all know, the Green Hell is a track with a reputation for danger and mishaps, so where better to take an adrenaline junkie car than this? The run to Flugplatz was taken at 6 to 7 tenths, although it was only right I gave the car the berries over the crest and yes, the car did get off the ground. It can be seen landing in the photo.


Where possible, I got the car close to its limits, but as with road driving, you really have to flow with the tarmac. You don't want to be fighting the car over adverse cambers and lumps in the surface. Keeping the car settled is a task in itself here, but the chassis is so compliant that it's not one to constantly buck and writhe like typical modern sports saloons. The Lotus ethos is still alive in the Caterham in that regard.


By now I was getting well acquainted with the Superlight again and I began to lean on it more where I could. It still paid to be cautious on tighter turns, as the threat of sudden oversteer when trying to steamroller through the course would've been highly reckless and potentially fatal in a car of this exposed nature.


Even accounting for this, I was enjoying the car so much, there was very little to make me feel reserved in opening it up more and more often . It really was incredibly agile and the only thing causing concern was the way the front axle got awfully light on uphill sections. Chalk this up to the driver sitting over the rear-end and the engine being well back towards the middle of the car. So it was a false sense of security that saw me have a moment and I ended up mowing the lawn. It was a relief that I didn't collide with the Armco and I was able to continue my lap, suitably chastened.


It's not often you get such purity in modern cars, but apart from the construction materials and motive power, this isn't a modern car at all. It's still in the 1970s and essentially the fifties, but that old world charm is what makes the Seven such a revered success story for Caterham. Colin Chapman would be instantly at home with the Superlight, although the performance envelope would be so far removed from what he knew, of course. Across two very different circuits, the Caterham has proven to be nothing short of enthralling, holding its driver to ransom; it wants to chew you up and spit you out, but it gives you a chance with its compliant chassis. If I could change anything, I'd want a slightly slower steering rack to aid turn-in, but getting used to it is all part of the game. Treat it like a hooligan and you'll rarely win, if ever on the road, yet be a willing accomplice in a ballet of throttle and steering control and you'll never experience anything else like it. Is it maleficent? Only if you mistreat it.

Amazonian Leaf - Volvo 123 GT
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I like all your sets, and the VW Bus was a particular favorite, but I also really like this particular image of the Volvo 123GT. Magnificent demonstration of the body roll and understeer. It's a very lively, dynamic shot.
Well, I'm totally down for the SVX at the minute. I've got three so far; stock, an S4 with a six-speed swap and sports exhaust (245bhp) and an XT Turbo homage with a twin turbo upgrade (280bhp).


I look forward to putting together a review shortly.
Third Time's a Charm - Porsche 911 GT3 Typ 996.2

In the Porsche 911's storied history, there has always been iteration. 50 years of evolution to perfect the supposedly flawed rear-engined layout their standout aim. A true sporting car, the 911 found great success in motor racing from its earliest days. Its predecessor the 356 was a capable road racer for the time and in the transition to the new car, Porsche continued to offer better performing models. From the T to the S, the engines got incrementally more powerful, with the chassis being massaged into the longer-wheelbase model for greater stability. 1973's Carrera RS was the first arguably iconic model. Available in standard, stripped out form, or more road oriented Touring spec, this 2.7 litre dream on wheels remains the archetypal Neun-Elf for many. A ducktail spoiler and bright contrasting trim for the flanks and wheels meant that this was a Porsche that truly stood out and left a mark on the company. The 80s saw the new Club Sport nameplate introduced on the 930 Carrera CS, an enthusiast's model spoken of by marque afficianados. This car wasn't the poster boy like its predecessor, simply because in the era of Yuppies and excess, it was the Turbo models that were synonymous with Porsche at that time. The 964 of 1990 and 993 of 1994 respectively saw the RennSport moniker return for several models (964 RS, RS America, 993 RS and RS Clubsport), so it wasn't until the 996 generation from 1997 onwards that Porsche saw fit to introduce a new nameplate.


First used by Lotus for their turbocharged Esprit of 1996, the GT3 model name has become its own legend alongside RS. When the FIA chose to incorporate cars of the 911's ilk into a single series in 2005, they called it Group GT3. Introduced as a 911 variant in 1999, that first GT3 brought about a marked improvement of perception of the new liquid-cooled 911. It's fair to say that the 996 generation hadn't been very well received in relation to its predecessors. The GT3 added more power via the now fabled Mezger engine, which had seen service in racing Porsches and removed weight, the perfect recipe for sports cars. When the facelift 996.2 launched in 2002, it was a two year wait before the GT3 was upgraded, to the car we see here. 380hp and bespoke styling lets it cut a stylish dash. Aside from the 997.2 GT3, this is my favourite version to look at. Guards Red helps, massively of course.

First impressions reveal a car that must have bags of depth. It seems set-up for understeer when you take it for an opening lap, especially on cold tyres. A sighting lap is required for those unfamiliar with 911s, as the dynamic repertoire is one that needs to be discovered at the driver's patience and not mid-corner with an arm full of corrective lock and fast-approaching scenery. The experience is one that leaves you questioning the legend of this line of cars. Crisp turn in is evident, but without exploring the chassis, it sure does feel overly benign.


Drop the GT3 into a succession of apices, however, and feel the smile grow on your face. Into the corner, feel the wheel dip towards the kerbs and simply enjoy the scalpel-like precision. Cliches were formed for cars like this one, it seems. Traction on corner-exit is impeccable, thanks to the engine weight over the rear axle. Over a few laps of smooth driving, the car is really starting to impress me.


Rear-end mobility comes with trail-braking, which will get the nose rotating to aid entry. Lift-off oversteer is best avoided, as the Rear-Rear chassis dynamics will result in terminal understeer once the initial slip has occurred. Where proper FR cars feel like you're being pushed through a corner and FF cars feel like you're being pulled, the 911 feels like you're being spun into a corner. It loves to get up on its toes and allow the slightest amount of slip; as soon as it starts and you're pointing through the corner, it seeks traction and just goes. A kerb can unsettle it in this state, but it's highly unlikely you'd get out of shape otherwise.


Slow in, fast out is the maxim for this car. It'll still push wide under throttle, but in accelerating once the tyres are mostly pointing straight, it's not going to result in trips to the scrub. In classic racing car tradition, it uses every inch of the track when driven like this. Up to this point, the car is an absolute track weapon, one that appeals to anyone who enjoys the technical side of fast driving. Its dynamic formula is perfect on circuit, as it doesn't promote waste. Waste of speed, waste of tyres, waste of time. It hates it.


In a tight corner such as Nurburgring's Castrol S, the GT3 requires a good old fashioned bung to unsettle the rear. The tyres squeal, the tail slides and you assume the car is taking it in its stride.


To think so would be unwise, with the slip angles getting wider and wider, which is OK on a huge corner like this one, but woe betide anyone who gets into this mess in narrow spaces. It makes spectacular smoke and photos, naturally, but calling your car GT3, you aren't buying one suited to Formula Drift.


Another brave corner approach and the pendulous rear end is on its merry way again. This was initiated by very late trail-braking and a full, second gear mash of the throttle.


Naturally, the weight shift onto the rear axle overwhelms the tyres and you become that guy.


That guy also likes to apply too much throttle mid-corner without slowing down enough and frequently enjoys trips to the gravel traps. That guy is wasted on a car like the GT3.


Back to measured, smooth driving and the GT3 is beaming again. Approach the corner, lose speed to meet the apex, straighten up and now, accelerate. Second gear works on almost every corner here and it's so well suited to the natural traction of the rear-engine layout, that the silly oversteer antics of the previous lap are easily forgotten. You don't need to be that guy in this car and you shouldn't want to be. It would be a massive waste of a car's potential. The image below highlights the squat, up and at 'em stance when driven this way and to me, it looks and feels marvellous.


After flirting with luxury sports cars in the 1980s, a braver Porsche wanted to cover its more familiar ground with much more vigour in the '90s. For the last two decades, the company has grown exponentially, with the highly profitable Cayenne and Macan lines funding their typical sporting models wonderfully. The GT3 came before the SUVs of course, but it could've easily disappeared like the Club Sport and RS names tended to; there was a two decade hiatus between RS models, after all. As iconic as the RS model is in company lore, it's now an appendix to GT3 in the way the Club Sport name was for the first model. GT3 is the true icon in the Porsche family tree now and long may it continue.

Alfa Romeo 155 Q4 and 155 Q4 Autodelta

When left standard, you can easily see the lean as the car enters a fast right-hand corner. The car seems to have a soft nature, but the Q4 set-up gives it worthwhile bite at the front, without being totally front-lead.

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Some handbrake antics are required to loosen the back end at Hockenheim's near-90 degree left. The rear is able to get lose, but only with severe provocation and rarely does it become a handful.

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Another shot taken at maximum attack. A credit to the car that it could do this time and again without much cause for concern.

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This fictional modified model sees a modest increase to 235bhp via an enlarged displacement, sports intercooler and race exhaust. The 17" wheels and touring car stance give it a purposeful look.

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The race suspension keeps the body in better check, whilst the couple of degrees negative camber affords decent turn in for FWD-based platform.

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Do You have A You Tube channel?