• Is this the greatest modified Range Rover ever?

    Is this the greatest modified Range Rover in existence? Yes it is, and if you dare to argue, you are a fool. Estimable people of, may we humbly present to you… the Startech Pickup!

    Startech - a Brabus Group company, which will explain literally all of the words on this page - is planning on showcasing its simply marvellous creation at the upcoming Shanghai Motor Show. And truly it is something to marvel at.

    Buried under all that modification and carbon fibre and red paint lies a supercharged, 5.0-litre V8 Range Rover with 526bhp. But Startech has turned the aristocratic Rangey into what it ambitiously describes as “one of the world’s most exclusive pickups following the best coach building tradition that was once common for English luxury cars”.

    So, with “harmonious fashion”, Startech has designed and manufactured 100 bodywork components from aluminium, carbon fibre and steel to make the conversion. The wall to the pickup bed - with a loading length of a whopping 110 centimetres - is welded to the shorter roof skin, and there are newly developed C-pillars to accommodate the excellence at the rear. Business in the front, party in the back: it’s the automotive equivalent of a mullet!

    It’s a plastic-lined pickup bed - almost square in shape - with a remote operated tailgate opening which gives another 60cm. Perfect, says Startech, for “customers from the Arab region [who] like to use the pickup bed also for transporting a securely fastened cage that holds their falcons for the hunt”. If you’re not squeaking with joy at the mental imagery involved here, you’re dead inside.

    And yet, somehow, it gets better. There’s a widebody version available - on either the SWB or LWB RRs - which incorporate new front bumpers, LED lights, a new front spoiler, wider arches (natch), and new air intakes for “a touch of motor racing flair”. Yep, MOTOR RACING. With falcons on the flatbed. What could be better?

    It gets modified air suspension to allow a drop of 30mm at the push of a button, a new exhaust system, 23-inch forged wheels, ‘breathable’ black leather and carbon fibre literally everywhere inside.

    And because this is officially The Greatest Modified Range Rover In Existence, Startech will even save you money. “The conversion to a pickup means the Startech multi-utility vehicle meets the prerequisites to be registered as a commercial vehicle in many countries, which often eliminates import fees,” it confidently asserts. Yep, they’re marketing this at farmers. Presumably very minted farmers of very small livestock. Premium micropigs?

    Top Gear simply cannot imagine how this work of wonder could be improved in any way. No, actually, scrap that. We’ve got it: add some perspex and a pontiff to that rear deck, and you’ve got a kick-ass Popemobile…

  • The Bentley Continental 24 is a modified 700bhp Supersports

    If you fancy helping Bentley celebrate its participation in the Nürburgring 24 hr race and have, oh, a spare €250,000 to hand, this might pique your interest. It’s called the Bentley Continental 24, and it is a factory modified Supersports.

    Indeed, you might not even be a fan of the N24, but instead admire two tone colour schemes and giant wheels. Either way, you’re in luck. This run of 24 Continental Superports (24 because 24 hrs, natch), use the 700bhp Bentley as a base, and to that, adds much colour, in honour of the Bentley Team ABT Conti GT3 cars (the highest place Conti GT3 of the three entered finished 15th overall, FYI).

    There’s the option of ‘Monaco Yellow’ over black, or ‘St James’ Red’ over black, though a single colour paintjob is available as a no-cost option. There are 21in lightweight forged wheels, that can also be matched to the red or yellow of the two-tone, while elsewhere, you’ll spot carbon fibre door mirrors, black brake calipers and black exterior finishing.

    The Supersports’ 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12 – which features high-po turbos, a new ECU, torque vectoring and a titanium exhaust system – can also be fitted with a gloss carbon fibre cover, if you wish. Fitted to this Conti 24 special edition, it matches the ‘standard’ Supersports’ performance: 0-62mph takes just 3.5s, and it’ll top out at 209mph. Opt for yellow, and you’ll be the fastest bee on the block.

    There’s a world of race-inspired nirvana inside, too: carbon fibre fascias, door panels, and individually numbered treadplates. Seats come in Alcantara with diamond quilting, and there’s a special emblem in the headrests, and ‘Continental 24’ inlays in the fascia too.

    You like? It’s for Europe only, sadly, and prices start at €250k. If you’re not bothered on missing out, a regular Supersports with identical performance and less two-tone will cost you £212k. That car, as we discovered earlier this year, “is largely magnificent.

    “The cars that stick in the mind are the ones that deliver big on the experience front, and this thing is highly seductive…”

  • America's ultimate street cars

    A lot of mud is slung around internet forums about who has the fastest modified car. But no matter how hard you tap at your keyboard (or  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ you post), the only real way to see who’s fastest is by having it out on track.

    Thankfully, events like the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI) exist specifically for this reason. It’s an annual call out for people in the tuning scene to step away from their keyboards and track the hell out of their car to prove it’s no show pony.

    It started in 2008 when people were sick of seeing SEMA cars hurriedly finished to just sit on carpet – paint barely dry – for a week without proving their performance claims.

    So now after the show, close to 100 cars head from the convention centre to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a variety or tests to find the greatest modified car in the land.

    And don’t think you can enter a stripped-out, dedicated racer. Entrants have to be bona fide street cars – albeit fitted with aftermarket parts – and have DOT approved, non-competition, treaded street tyres at each corner.

    Hired hot shoes aren’t allowed either. You have to have the ability to drive your car as much as you run your mouth.

    Cars are split into four classes depending on their weight, powertrain and spec. If yours was built between 1990 and now, weighs at least 1,451kg, is a 2WD saloon, four-seater coupe or late model truck (5th Gen Camaro, BMW M3/M5, late model Mustang, that kind of thing) ‘GT’ is your class.

    ‘GTS’ is reserved for two-seat sports cars from 1990 to now or all-wheel drive vehicles that exceed the 1,451kg limit (C7 Corvettes and Nissan GT-Rs).

    Vintage cars fall into ‘GTV’ class. It’s our personal favourite with good old stuff like Mustangs, Monte Carlos, Pontiac Firebirds and Camaros. While featherweights that fall under the 1,451kg weight limit get pigeon-holed into the ‘GTL’ class.

    As you can see from the gallery above, these radical classes create quite an eclectic collection of cars that thrash it out on track simultaneously.

    So how does it work? Well, over two days five different disciplines are completed and scored out of 100 to find an overall winner. This is repeated at various tracks around America to create a championship, with the overall winner being the person who has accumulated the most points over the season.

    First of all, there’s a design & engineering challenge that evaluates the build quality and mods that have been added. Cars that score well retain the look and feel of a high-performance daily driver and innovation in either performance, fit and finish or comfort is praised. 

    Then all the cars have to prove they’re capable of a long slog on a road rally, before hitting the track for three further disciplines; acceleration and braking tests, an autocross competition, then flat-out hot laps. 

    It’s a rigorous event that makes for interesting viewing. Primarily because the drivers are incredibly competitive. But also because they’re not pro drivers, so fall off the track a lot more than you’d think. But seeing a track day with old muscle cars, British lightweights, humble hatchbacks and proper performance cars all going at it is pretty special. Seeing them spin off and crash is just a slightly morbid bonus. 

    So which was the fastest car of them all this year? Danny Popp’s 2003 Chevrolet Corvette… for the third time in a row. A fact that we’re sure will result in some mud-slinging below. *Ducks for cover*

  • Shelby's 50th Anniversary Super Snake Mustang is here

    Super Snake. It’s just a cool, cool name isn’t it? Shelby, long the purveyor of rather astonishing modified Ford Mustangs and, more generally, Cars With Excellent Names, has revealed a ‘50th Anniversary’ edition of its iconic Super Snake.

    It celebrates 50 years since the ‘67 SS ‘Stang (duh), and was revealed over the weekend at the Barrett Jackson auction. According to Shelby president Gary Patterson, the new model is “extraordinarily fast and a thrill to drive”.

    He’s certainly not wrong on the fast thing. The standard version which you don’t want pumps out 670bhp from that 5.0-litre V8 via means of a supercharger. The version you do want is the more powerful 750bhp V8, using either a Kenne Bell or Whipple supercharger, to allow a 0-60mph time of 3.5s and a quarter mile time of 10.9s. On street-legal Michelins. With an automatic gearbox. Sheesh.

    Elsewhere you’ll find Ford/Shelby spec new dampers, sway bars, springs and bushings, Wilwood six-piston calipers with floating rotors (four-pot at the rear), a Shelby brake/bearing duct cooling system, and 20in forged aluminium wheels. And yes Mr Wayne, those wheels do come in black.

    If it all sounds a bit familiar, it’s because we saw the first iteration of a modern Super Snake Mustang GT in 2015. For this anniversary edition, Shelby has fitted a new bonnet (with nostrils), new rockers, new spoilers, a new grille and fog lights, a new rear tail panel and refreshed diffuser assembly. Oh, and many stripes and Super Snake badging both inside and out.

    You want options? You’ve got options. Many of them. There’s the 750bhp package that you definitely need, a more extreme cooling pack, Ford Performance half shafts and wheel studs, a short-throw gear shift, and track suspension/coilovers.

    Only 500 50th Anniversary editions will be built, and each one will cost just $69,995, which includes the matter of the base Mustang GT. That is good value whichever way you cut it.

    “In a world filled with sterile cars,” Patterson adds, “it’s a throwback to a time when people enjoyed driving.”