Another Pre-Launch Update: Nissan Finally Gets Off Its Ass And Develops Anti-Soup-Spilling Tech
Look, say what you will about modern Nissan–say that their product line is largely forgettable, stale, a competent but uninspiring fruit cup with a precious few halved cherries (new Z, for example), but when they do something right, you have to give them credit. And they certainly have, developing an all-new technology that, finally, allows for ramen to be delivered at high speeds with a tiny AWD electric vehicle that can come to a dead stop without spilling a drop.
Incredulous? Of course you are. It says just that on your neck tattoo. But watch that video up there.
It’s actually pretty cool, this e-4ORCE (yeesh) tech they’ve developed. I suppose you could consider it a comfort innovation, as the main goal seems to be mitigating the momentum effects of your juicy, sloppy body continuing to move after the vehicle carrying you stops.
If you look at this in the context of future automated vehicles, it makes even more sense, as, once freed of the responsibilities of driving, people will use their in-vehicle time for a lot more and varied activities, some of which may involve the many, many liquids we like to decant into ourselves.
I bet there’s some clever physics going on here; once the site launches officially, if you’re interested, we can dig into this much deeper!
Also, that ramen looks really good.
Also, we’re getting closer and closer to the official launch date of March 32nd! There’s still much to do, but we’ll get there! You’ll see!
The Production Volkswagen ID Buzz Isn’t Quite The Retro EV Microbus The World Was Hoping For But It’s Still Great
Are you familiar with the sexual practice known as “edging?” You pretty much live on the internet, like all of us do, so I bet you have some idea of what this is. Essentially, it’s about prolonging a particular sensation as long as possible, delaying, um, completion as long as you can. That sort of feels like what VW has been doing with their resurrected and electrified Type 2 Microbus, of which prototypes and examples have been trotted out by VW for over 20 years.
Seriously, that first re-born Microbus concept is old enough to buy beer now.
I mean, look at this: modernized buses since 2001, teasing us over and over, with each new revision.
I’d also like to note that I was pushing for VW to introduce a new electric bus as early as 2015, since I saw it as VW’s best chance to get a favorable reputation back after the whole Dieselgate fiasco.
I’m going to quote myself here, and you can’t stop me:
“Volkswagen has been developing electric vehicles for a while now, and the e-Golf is already available. A purpose-built EV platform like a new EV Bus would allow for packaging efficiencies like Tesla-style floor/chassis-mounted batteries and would work especially well for the packaging of a big box like the Bus. VW has the technology to do this already.
It has to be the Microbus because a New Beetle-style modernized bus has been hoped for by a large spectrum of potential VW customers — and it’s a set of people that goes beyond the usual car-enthusiast crowd. It’s an iconic vehicle with a large reservoir of nostalgia and goodwill; it could have appeal to old people who remember the original and young people looking for something novel, with character.”
The chain of concepts ended with that 2017 ID Buzz, which I quite liked, in show-car form. The translation from concept to production isn’t easy, but I think VW pulled it off remarkably well, considering all of the significant hurdles that a production car brings.
Also, no grayish tires, which is a shame, too. Let’s take a look at some of the big differences between the concept and the production ID Buzz:
Overall, I think VW has pulled it off really well; they’ve made an EV that currently has no real counterpart in the market: a practical and fun electric van, a real van, is pretty much a category of one at the moment, and I think this should prove to be a really attractive alternative to some boring-ass crossover or SUV.
To capture the feel of the original, iconic Microbuses, VW leans heavily on that two-tone paint job to do the work, but, let’s be honest, it always was a game-day player in VW Bus design, contributing a lot to the iconic look. Plus, the colors shown are real colors, vibrant and bright and unashamed, and that alone is novel in the modern, boring grayscale carscape.
Painting the pillars black instead of white or body color is, I think, the biggest single visual departure from the concept, and I’m not sure I like it. It was the safe call, as nearly all modern cars do this, and does make the bus look a bit more sleek.
But do we want the bus to look sleek?
I think the white pillars of the concept convey the original bus’ character better. The same reasoning seems to be behind VW sticking with modern, pissed-off looking headlamps instead of friendlier, more welcoming round lights per the original. Contemporary auto design seems to dictate that all cars must look, at least to some degree, like they’re sick of your shit, and I suppose VW felt they needed to play it safe there.
Maybe there will be aftermarket light kits to let these buses look happier.
The interiors look good, too: extremely roomy, as you’d guess from what is essentially a massive box, and good use of color on the inside. For vehicles that likely will be hauling families with kids and people likely doing all manner of questionable things inside them, I sure hope that white upholstery is able to be easily cleaned, though.
I’m also curious to see how those seats fold down; can they go totally flat, so you can sleep in this? I’d hope so.
The cargo version works well, too–perhaps even better, because it avoids much of the pillar-blackening issue. While there are a few other electric cargo vans out there, I think the ID Buzz can do really well in this space, because it’s inherently visually interesting, and has plenty of custom branding room on the sides.
Considering how the road from concept to production tends to be a well-oiled de-interestification machine, I think VW managed the transition remarkably well; I’m curious to see what the price and range of it will be, as those will be significant factors in how well it does. We won’t get it in the US until 2023, but I don’t think it’ll differ much from this Euro-spec one that was shown.
We’re On The Smoking Tire!
The always charming and engaging Matt Farah and Zack Klapman had us on the TST podcast when we were in LA last week, and we had an absolute blast talking about starting the new site, giving the first-gen Ford Fiesta some love, making fun of David’s ridiculous life choices, hearing Beau describe his record-setting low-speed car wreck, and generally being excitable goofballs.
It’s fun! Give it a watch or listen!
PREPRODUCTION CONTENT UPDATE
We’re still in pre-production mode here, and I suppose what you’re reading is a bit like a test mule; a little rough, kinda wonky, but figuring things out.
Of course, while we’re doing this, things are going a little nuts in the automotive journalism world (and maybe, you know, the world), and we know waiting is hard, so we’re going to try to provide at least a bit of daily content here.
Our actual website format is coming along, and we really have been listening to everyone to get things like the comment system as robust as possible. It likely won’t do everything you want at launch, but it’ll be something we’ll constantly improve and update, like how Volkswagen did with the Beetle’s ventilation/heating system, only we hope ours will work.
We may as well talk a little bit about some car news while we’re here, why not?
Today, we revealed concept images of the first-ever 100% battery-electric Jeep® SUV. This vehicle is our next step to the achievement of our brand vision of Zero Emission Freedom and will be launched early next year. More information to come! pic.twitter.com/079TeB0gKM
— Jeep (@Jeep) March 1, 2022
Jeep showed their first battery EV yesterday, part of Stellantis’ Dare Forward 2030 plan that sounds like it was named for an embarrassing early-2000s teen anti-drug campaign run by the Kiwanas Club or something.
The EV Jeep aesthetically feels a lot like an evolution of the Renegade design language, down to the jerry can-style Xs in the taillights. It appears to be a bit bigger and with sleeker proportions, though, compared to the Renegade, that’s not hard. And I like the goofily-cute look of the Renegade!
There’s no information about specs or range or anything like that, but Jeep claims it’ll be available by 2023, big talk for a company with zero battery EVs at the moment. Still, since they’re part of Stellantis now, which includes companies like Citroën that already have some battery EVs, there will likely be some platform-sharing going on, maybe with a next-gen Ë-C4?
In more internal-Autopian news, David is desperately trying today to get the engine out of that door-less Cherokee that’s been devaluing his neighborhood, and I’m happy to announce that the Lane Motor Museum will be doing a recurring column here once we launch.
It’ll be a great look at cars from the Lane’s collection each week, along with some fascinating insights into the secrets of running a motor museum. I’m really excited to have them on board!
We have an official launch date! And, I’m proud to say that despite all the work we still have to do to get everything ready to go technically, get great new staff hired, pay off the City of Troy, Michigan so David doesn’t get arrested, and generally get our collective shit together, we’re still on track to launch in March, just like we said.
So, with that in mind, I’m proud to announce that on March 32, 2022, The Autopian will be officially live and posting top-notch car-content!
I’ve been informed that some calendars list March 32nd as April 1st? That seems like a weird error, but if your faulty calendars do it that way, then that’s the date to expect us live.
But, to us, it’s March 32nd.
Jason spotted an Amazon delivery van whose upper taillights had been replaced with amber housings. The result was AMBER BRAKE LIGHTS. When Jason, a world taillight expert, spotted this abomination, things went absolutely haywire:
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In exchange for you clicking that link above and subscribing to our newsletter, we’ve made you this video of Jason trying to identify all the cars on Target greeting cards:
Just so you all know, David Tracy is focusing hard on building The Autopian. So hard, in fact, that he’s neglected a few things back home:
The good news is that this letter from the city has inspired David to name his Moab 2022 project the “Greep Jeep.” Such a great name.
David Tracy, Jason Torchinsky, And Beau Boeckmann Welcome You To The Autopian
Jalopnik’s most-read writers of the last decade (and probably ever), Jason Torchinsky and David Tracy, have left a job they love to create their dream car website — an enthusiast-focused publication written by car lovers, for car lovers. The engineer-turned-journalist and artist/comedian-turned-journalist have been paying attention to what car enthusiasts say they want out of an automotive publication — a clean user interface not choked with ads, excellent content, a staff that lives the automotive lifestyle — and the two are determined to build just that.
[I’m going to switch to first-person now. Also, please bookmark this page and subscribe to our YouTube channel if you haven’t already. – DT].
Jason and I make an excellent team. I’m a numbers guy, his background is in the arts — both are important. The two of us have a combined 9,000 posts and sixteen years of experience writing for the biggest general-interest car enthusiast website in the world, not only leading Jalopnik in traffic over the span of our employment, but also acting as two key players in solidifying the site’s legendary voice (a voice established by the incredibly talented writers and editors who came before us). Now it’s time to combine our skills into something that we can call our own — all with the support of a business partner who lives and breathes cars, and who has chosen to invest in the talents of two of his favorite automotive writers.
The Autopian’s Goal
The Autopian’s goal is to create an inclusive and interactive automotive community, with a focus on growing car culture. We are a pro-car publication, though one that won’t be afraid to intelligently highlight the complexities of the automotive hobby and how those complexities interact with climate change, safety, and government policy.
Every story we write will offer either entertainment or deep insight; often both. The Autopian will be the ultimate inclusive automotive community for people who want to learn about cars and have fun doing it. Whatever your particular automotive interests are, and no matter how strange everyone else may find you, the Autopian will welcome you with open arms.
My goal with The Autopian is to bring true technical expertise to the masses. I did this while at Jalopnik, interviewing scores of engineers for ridiculously detailed technical deep-dives that hundreds of thousands of you readers devoured (thank you!). I will scale this up like never before, hiring engineers, designers, product planners, technicians and others with industry experience to provide insight based on real-world experience. If you fall into one of these groups and are interested in writing either full-time or as a freelancer, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org (note: freelancers have the option of remaining completely anonymous).
The world deserves real experts explaining how cars work, especially now in the midst of the automotive industry’s greatest technological transition. As someone who knows how to turn a bunch of technical geekery into articles that even the layperson can enjoy, I’m excited to work with fellow nerds to develop their creative sides so they can make truly insightful content.
Of course, I plan to continue my wrenching escapades and adventures that you’ve come to know and love, and I will keep writing fascinating tales about car culture. Jason and I will go on cranking out news and reviews and anything that we’d chat with our car-friends about at a bar. But my personal priority is to spread the nerd-word.
[Hey, it’s Jason. I’m going to take over for a bit. Man, David left this keyboard all greasy! I can’t tell if this is BBQ sauce or motor oil. Eeech. It’s both. – JT].
Cars are ridiculous things. We don’t treat them like the other machines in our lives, and I think this is at the root of why I love them so much. I’ve been writing about cars for over ten years at Jalopnik–over 6,700 posts–and I’ve been given absurd amounts of freedom to pretty much write whatever I want, and I think I’ve taken advantage of that. And, maybe more importantly, I’ve never forgotten what an incredible gift that is.
I have no intention of quitting, either. There’s still so much to explore in all of my usual fetishes and areas of fascination, from taillights to automotive history to the complexities of autonomy to wildly obscure cars, to dirt cheap Chinese EVs, fascinating failures, brilliantly clever details, and so much more.
Everything you’ve known me for before, I plan to continue doing, just more, better, bigger, weirder—everything. I want to share with you the fascinating and bizarre details about cars no one near me will let me tell them about. I want to drive more ridiculous and difficult and obscure vehicles; I want to make up new car-related things that I somehow think are funny; I want to hold carmakers accountable for the machines they make; I want to delight and entertain and baffle and inform you in every way I can, because I love doing it and I don’t think I could stop if I wanted to.
I want you to feel welcome and appreciated at The Autopian no matter what you drive, what cars you love, what fascinates you, or who you are. No matter what everyone says about you and your weird, car-pervy interests, I’m certain someone reading The Autopian alongside you will find your particular, idiosyncratic take on cars or automotive culture fascinating.
I want you to be excited to visit The Autopian every day, and I will work hard to earn that excitement, every day. You’ll see.
A Bit About Our Business Partner And Editorial Independence
[Back to David]
When Jason and I set out to build our own car website, we knew we’d need some financial support. Early discussions involved conference calls with private equity firms, not unlike the ones currently financing many of your favorite car publications. The firms seemed excited about the prospect of the two of us running a site, but they wanted to install their own leadership, and Jason and I never really felt right about that.
So we thought about other options, and one popped up in Jason’s mind immediately: His friend Beau Boeckmann. Beau is a true car nut (he owns an 1897 Bolée Voiturette!—the first sports car ever made). And what’s most important is that he’s not just offering financial support; Beau has more car resources than anyone could possibly imagine. These resources, along with his deep knowledge of the industry, offer tremendous value that no private equity firm could ever match; the opportunities for content creation are staggering. Even better than all that: The man just loves cars, openly, unashamedly, and completely.
Beau makes a living selling cars from a number of brands, including Ford, VW, Porsche, Aston Martin, Mazda, and a bunch more. This may lead some of you to wonder about editorial independence — How can we be objective when our backer sells cars for a living? The answer is that we’ve created an ironclad operating agreement that ensures full editorial independence. And if you don’t believe that, allow me to criticize some cars built by manufacturers whose cars Beau sells: The Ford EcoSport is garbage. The VW ID4 needs a frunk in a bad way. Mazda’s new MX-30 EV’s range is embarrassingly low. See?
Jason and I will be the decision-makers when it comes to what makes it onto our website, and we’ll determine the tone of the coverage. We will not partake in the business side of Beau’s other companies, just as we didn’t partake in the business side of Jalopnik (which, like most car websites, gets much of its money directly from automakers who buy ads).
It’s not just about resources, it’s also about energy. In our first pitches to Beau, we could feel the excitement. He’d derail meetings talking about restoring the legendary Bathtub hot rod and pondering what he might do with the trashed DKW Schnellaster he has (shove in another three-cylinder two-stroke or something more potent?); it felt like magic.
The three of us literally created our company’s mission statement while sitting in a 1901 Sunbeam-Mabley, surrounded by postwar microcars like a Messerschmitt Tiger (see image above). That mission statement, by the way, is:
The Autopian exists to serve the car enthusiast community by creating content that informs and entertains, while celebrating the unifying quality of automobiles.
The mission statement is a constant reminder that our site’s goal is to bring genuine automotive insight and entertainment to readers in a way that celebrates car culture. The Autopian is pro-car, pro-fun, and pro-learning.
[Hi, I’m Beau!]
When Torch and Tracy first approached me about starting a new automotive website, I was instantly geeked out and excited. After all, I have been a fan of Jalopnik for a long time, and Jason and David are two of the most entertaining and insightful writers in all of automotive journalism. I am so honored to be included in this journey!
The guys thought it would be good to give you a little background about myself, so you don’t just think I’m some weird car dealer from the San Fernando Valley (although that is a good start). I was blessed and privileged to literally grow up on the showroom floor of Galpin Ford in the 1970s, with the two best parents I could ever hope for, Bert and Jane.
Seventy years ago, my dad dropped out of USC and quit his graveyard shift at Lockheed Martin to sell cars to make extra money for his family; he’s still at it to this day. He has been extraordinarily successful as a sales person, manager, and dealer by being something that was rather revolutionary back when he started — honest! And by actually caring from his heart about customers and his fellow employees. (And yes, I realize all car salespeople say this; but I mean it!).
My mom was a significant influence on my decision to join Torch and Tracy in building The Autopian. She was simply incredible, and losing her last year was the most heartbreaking experience I have ever been through in my life (reminder: If she is still with you, call your mom!). My mom taught me about love and passion in life and to pursue your dreams and not have fear. She had no fear when it came to driving too, and always had the pedal to the metal without endangering others or ever getting in a crash. (My favorite picture is of my mom driving for Galpin‘s 24 hour endurance record set at Willow Springs!). She’s also where I got my love of journalism, and my dream to one day be an owner of an automotive publication (today that dream finally comes true!) as she published and was editor-in-chief of Valley magazine, a local publication here in Los Angeles.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg with my folks. They taught me so much including philanthropy and the value of always doing your best to help others, your community, and your world. They also introduced me to some of the most legendary people in the automotive industry, and led me on some wild adventures all over the world! I’ll never forget when John DeLorean showed up for dinner at our house wearing the loudest green pants you’ve ever seen. At a subsequent dinner, he told us about his next car project that would have 700 to 800 hp and get 150-200 miles per gallon as I recall — and this was in the ’80s!
Carroll Shelby was a dear friend, and made a huge impact on my life. He and dad go back to when Shelby personally delivered Galpin’s first shipment of GT 350s in 1965. It was surreal when he was in my dad’s office asking for our advice on the future of Shelby American.
Another huge influence in my life was George Barris. The first car show where I displayed my own custom car was Big Daddy Roth’s second annual Rat Fink reunion. I was like a giddy child when the Barrises set up shop directly across from us. “Mom, dad- there’s George Barris himself!” I exclaimed, like a total fan. Without a word my dad walked over. ““Hi George!” without a beat he came back “Hi Bert!” Of course they were old friends. And that became another unbelievable honor – designing and customizing cars with the King of Kustoms.
Not too long after that, I was introduced to the producers of Pimp My Ride, and before I knew it we were doing the show at our newly formed Galpin Auto Sports. That’s when things began to get really crazy. I know all the wild things that you’re probably thinking right now, and some of it is probably true! However, when Galpin was involved in the show, we tried to do much more mechanical and performance modification in addition to all the outlandish things. And we actually fixed the cars too, so the owners had a real car they could safely drive.
Most recently I got to fulfill a dream to do Galpin’s own car show for Discovery Network—a show called DRIVEN, later renamed Car Kings. The goal of that show was to tell fascinating untold automotive stories by restoring historic cars and building new ones. It was also very important to us to shine some light on some of the most influential people in automotive history who may have never gotten the credit they deserved.
That is similar to my goals with The Autopian. I have a love and passion for cars, our industry, and the people who make it all happen. I love just about anything to do with cars – I call it automotive ADD. Sure I love the normal stuff, how can I resist? I grew up with muscle cars and racing (Galpin won the West Coast NASCAR championship four years in a row), 4x4s and off-roading (Galpin sponsored Baja racing and started building off-road trucks half a century ago). Yes I love European sports cars (I tried to resist becoming a Porsche fanatic but just drive one and you’ll understand) and appreciate obnoxious exotics for all of their impractical technological wizardry.
But I really love weird cars. Torch got me into veteran cars like the Sunbeam Mabley and gave me an appreciation for forgotten heroes like the Bollee family. He has also been a terrible influence on my microcar fetish and has led me to seek out the strangest cars from every corner of the earth.
My other passion is obviously custom cars. We built so many wild “Galpinized” cars, trucks, and surfer vans (that’s a whole other story) that stock vehicles often don’t quite look finished to me. I appreciate all of the genres: lowriders, hot rods, Kustoms, show rods, resto mods, and others from all over the world (Bozosuko, anyone?).
A lot of people wonder how I feel about electric vehicles. They have become amazing to drive, and I fully embrace our EV future and the climate-positive auto industry. When the EV1 first came out, I remember how much I loved the torque and eerily quiet drive. Now EVs have it all, and a Porsche Taycan is the closest thing I’ve ever driven to a spaceship!
I believe an automotive community should be inclusive, and never look down at anyone. When we do car shows, it’s about bringing people together with our common love of cars, and that’s what The Autopian will be, too! When Galpin first started doing car shows people said you can’t mix certain crowds. Exotics and rat rods? Muscle cars and a lowrider hop? Monster trucks and million dollar concourse winning coach built works of art? Hot rods and JDM? As I’ve found: Actually, you can, and people love it. We all gravitate to what is familiar, but when you put us all together you realize that we are all just car people. Or as I call us now, Autopians.
So welcome fellow Autopians! We are here to serve and fuel your passion!
Let’s Do This!
[Again, it’s David here]
Right now, Jason and I are in the process of building a team of staff writers and freelancers. We’re looking for car and truck nuts [to clarify, not Truck Nutz, of which we have plenty – JT], especially those with auto industry experience. Obviously, some writing background would be preferred, but as long as you enjoy writing and you like problem solving and improving, drop us a line at email@example.com using the subject line “[Your name] : [Something interesting about you].”
Once we’ve got a small team built, we’ll begin publishing, with a launch goal of the end of March. Like Ford did when it launched the first Mustang in March (of 1964), we’ll gradually ramp up output, and iron out kinks in the process. We’ll try to avoid the use of large hammers. Customer feedback will be greatly appreciated during this time, of course.
Until then, please create a login here and comment (we’re still ironing some things out on the site, so please bear with us for now) on this post with suggestions/ideas/feedback. Also, follow The Autopian’s Facebook page (TheAutopian) to be notified on your feed anytime we publish an article. Check out our other social media accounts, too, and follow along with our everyday lives as we work to build this new online community:
Jason and I realize that starting a car website from scratch is an extremely difficult endeavor, especially considering the complexity of the current media climate. Honestly, even trying to make a new site requires a certain level of weirdness that, if we’re honest, the two of us have in spades. But we’re wacky, not hubristic. We know that, though we’re both skilled in the area of content creation, running a website and especially making it profitable requires a whole different set of talents — management, finance, and marketing acumen, to name a few. But we have faith in ourselves, and we know that our business partner and his Vice President Jeff Skobin can really help us in those areas.
An artist, engineer, and businessman start a car website. What’s the punchline? We’re about to find out.
Tomorrow is March 32, so I’ll watch this space in case something turns up 🙂
I still keep this as my bookmark for the site. Which makes it a good place to see how three tags at once works.
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Why am I suddenly in a February 2022 time warp?
(No surprise — my bad.)
It is far too early for re-runs!
The ramen delivery vehicle is cool. Can’t believe you all didn’t drop an initial-D reference (or Nissan either, for that matter).
That ramen delivery RC car is pretty neat – though I’m not so sure how novel it is. I suspect they are controlling the deceleration of the car to control down to 4th derivative (Jerk) – i.e. reducing the rate of deceleration to zero at the same time velocity equals zero. I wondered if they coupled that with some active ride height control of some sort, but if they did I can’t see it – maybe that’s part of what they’re doing with the dual-motor control, maybe adjusting torque split in combination with an anti squat / anti dive suspension setup to control pitch. Otherwise you wouldn’t need dual motors just to control jerk.
Either way, someone at Nissan has a deep seeded ramen-eating-footage fetish…