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Comandante Vire-ù-strikèrre!

Regione: Italy
Città: Trento

2423 Messaggi

Inserito il - 28 mar 2008 : 19:10:55  Mostra Profilo  Clicca per vedere l'indirizzo MSN di wirestriker
Mi spiace per i non-anglofoni, ma queste info che ho trovato in rete sono davvero interessanti e chiariscono molti dubbi sulla parentela Opel-Lotus.
Per esempio, sapevate che la Elise S2 è basata sul telaio della Speedster e non viceversa?

Given that Vauxhall hadn’t built an all-out sports car for nearly ninety years, the news that they were in partnership with Lotus to develop an all-new sports roadster came from a good way out of left field. Vauxhall, who were at the time only just starting to show the bold design that has led them to something of a renaissance of late, were one of the least likely picks as purveyors of lightweight sporting exotica.
That was just the first of a long line of surprises that eventually led to the sale of the VX220.

Most people believe the VX220 is simply a rebodied Lotus Elise with a Vauxhall 2.2-litre engine, but the cars share just 114 common parts from a total of over 2,500. All of the specifications regarding handling, ride and build quality were dictated by General Motors. So, it’s definitely more Vauxhall than Lotus then?
Well, yes and no. The car is referred to as the “Lotus Type 116” within Lotus and the ECOTEC engine was developed by -you guessed it - the crew from Hethel, Norfolk.
Vauxhall’s marketing machine never denies the link with Lotus but go to great lengths to point out that this is their baby. It’s easy to see why they’re so proud of it.

If the last sports car you’d developed was the Prince Henry of 1910 it’s understandable that outside help would need to be sought. Vauxhall did display the Equus, an open-topped sports car concept powered by a 2.3-litre engine, in 1978 but the car never made it anywhere near production. The company has built some very quick cars in the interim, from the Chevette 2300HS through the Vauxhall Lotus Carlton and on to latter day turbocharged Calibra and Astra Coupes but nothing that was as focused as the VX220.
The concept was originally proposed at General Motors’ European Technical Centre in Russelsheim. The car would be dubbed the Speedster for European markets and wear the Opel blaze, whereas UK cars would wear the Griffin badge of Vauxhall. Visually, the car is the work of a Briton, Martin Smith, a man with the title of General Motors Europe Design Director for Compact Models. Fairly straightforward to establish his remit, then. Boasting a CV that included the interior design of the lauded Audi TT, Smith created a stunning shape for the VX220 which at once made the Lotus Elise appear a touch quaint.

With its sharky frontal aspect and a riotous array of planes, straight edges and bisecting lines, the VX220’s styling just should not work and yet as you walk around the car it’s impossible to spot a single awkward angle. It’s an extremely photogenic car, but the best angle from which to view it is undoubtedly from within.
The sharp creases of the front wings jut into your field of view while the rear view mirrors give a view of almost unparalleled drama. The curve of the wheelarch lip, the blistered rear wings and the squared off hips remind you of why pedestrians stop and gawk at the VX220.

It’s possible to imagine some of the internal arguments that must have transpired during the VX220’s development. Lotus who know a thing or two about vehicle handling dynamics, had fitted the Elise with small wheels to reduce unsprung weight, offer lively handling characteristics and keep low-speed steering effort manageable, the car not featuring a power steering system. Vauxhall’s marketing department decreed that the Vx220 had to wear big wheels in order to fill the arches and look agreeably sexy. The result was that the 17-inch wheels had to be fitted with 175/55 tyres at the front, probably the skinniest rubber to grace any serious sports car on sale today. The narrow rubberwear was also necessary to introduce a degree of safe understeer into the car. Unlike the razor-edged Series 1 Elise which would slide the tail if you lifted off the throttle during hard cornering, the VX220 had to be a little less willing to bite back. We didn’t want a car that will cause problems in inexperienced hands, said Mark Vinnels, senior project manager on the VX220 development. We wanted a car that was very safe and predictable although we didn’t want to produce a car that was in any way dumbed down.
Much of the credit for avoiding this “dumbed down” feel goes to Gavin Kershaw, senior ride and handling engineer at Lotus. His expertise in fettling the VX220 cannot be underestimated.
Working in close collaboration with Bridgestone on the specially developed tyres, Kershaw signed off a car that offered a huge and accessible handling envelope. The Elise steering rack was modified to cope with the additional gyroscope effect of the 17-inch wheels and to offer more feedback close to the limits of adhesion.

A couple of styling feature of the original VX220 design caused many late nights at the factory. The stacked twin exhausts are purely a styling flourish but it compromised thermodynamic efficiency. Rather than sacrifice boot space to allow the exhaust space to cool, a series of holes in the subframe channel air to the rear and solve the problem this way. The frameless doors also took some time to perfect, with several designs being junked due to inadequate window positioning and sealing.

It seems General Motors had a clear view as to who the target customers were and what their expectations would be. As Lotus pushed for a lightweight, no frills machine, Vauxhall/Opel pulled the design back with refinements such as air conditioning, electric windows, anti lock brakes and a Lamborghini-sourced airbag. As Vinnels notes, “What we didn’t want to do here was create a car that was boring to drive, that was bland, that was understeering everywhere”. Yet at the same time, the designers had to stick to a brief that was all about taking the fun factor of the Elise and adding a measure of refinement and daily usability. The soft top roof was redesigned to make it possible to fit without the use of tools, the sills were lowered to enable easier entry and egress and sound deadening foam was used to mask excess engine noise. Despite this, Vauxhall claimed that the VX220 could be assembled in half the time of an Elise Series 1 on its parallel production line in the Hethel plant.

Although sales have been slow, there’s a growing appreciation of the VX220. Vauxhall will probably admit off the record that the adverts featuring Griff Rhys-Jones in a nappy didn’t help the car off to a flying start and subsequent pricing fluctuations served to antagonise those who bought early still further. The VX220 Turbo, a car that followed soon after, offered genuine supercar performance for the price of your usual salon chariot roadster. Make no mistake, the VX220 is a landmark car. Quite how history will remember it has yet to be decided.

Modificato da - wirestriker in Data 28 mar 2008 19:27:55

Comandante Vire-ù-strikèrre!

Regione: Italy
Città: Trento

2423 Messaggi

Inserito il - 28 mar 2008 : 19:29:35  Mostra Profilo  Clicca per vedere l'indirizzo MSN di wirestriker
Poi, dal libro "Elise, Rebirth of the true Lotus"
di Alastair Clements pubblicato nel 2003:

Lotus by another name

Versatility is a word that continues to reappear when referring to Richard Rackham's innovative Elise chassis design and it was a feature that was to rear its head again at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1999. On the Opel stand sat a dynamic new two-seat roadster, with angular and aggressive styling by General Motors's design director Martin Smith and with remarkably similar dimensions to the Lotus Elise. The reason soon became clear. The Opel Speedster was a collaboration between GM and Lotus, mating a modified version of the extruded and bonded Elise chassis to the Astra Coupe's all-aluminium 2,198cc 16-valve Ecotec "four" in an effort to boost the brand appeal of GM's staid Opel and Vauxhall marques. "We've worked with them before and in effect they wanted a piece of Lotus," explained Gavan Kershaw, who worked with the engineers from Vauxhall in developing the car, tagged VX220 in the UK. "They can't understand why people buy Lotuses, but they realised it was exactly what their brand needed. They needed a sports car, for Germany especially, to gve the brand some hype".

There was also assistance from Lotus Design to productionise the GM concept and at the 1999 Earls Court Motor Show, Lotus announced that they would build 2,000 Opel Speedsters and 1,000 Vauxhall VX220s annually at Hethel. "We were making Elises on quite a small production line," said Kershaw, "then someone sat down and said "we want to build 3,000 of these things as well", which means we've got to build a whole new factory with a capability of building 6-10,000 cars per year." Given the codename Skipton by the factory, the GM car was far more than just an Elise with a makeover, as Kershaw explained: "We're looking at 10 per cent carry-over components between the two: fixings, radiators, indicator stalks and stuff like that. And that's fine because it doesn't interfere with how the car drives, it's got a different interior and it drives differently."

Although based on an Elise tub, with the sills cut down by 50mm for easier access, the Vauxhall boasted a longer wheelbase, a wider track, particularly at the rear to accommodate the beefier new motor, and larger overall dimensions meaning it was never likely to be quite as agile. It was also substantially heavier at 875kg (1,929lbs), but there was superbly direct steering and a similar double wishbone set-up giving the expected excellent ride/handling compromise, if a little softer. But with new Bilstein dampers, wider rear track and the skinny 175-section front tyres adorning those hefty 17in alloys, there was the safe mild understeer expected of a Vauxhall model. A standard servo and anti-lock system were sensible additions to the brakes, boosting both comfort and safety. However, the new car's trump card was its engine, with a useful 145bhp at 5,800rpm and a massive – in Elise terms – 150lb ft (203Nm) of torque at 4,000rpm from a totally unstressed unit. Power was delivered via a slick Getrag five-speed gearbox, but despite the extra grunt the Vauxhall's weight meant both its economy and performance lagged behind its Lotus sibling, with 0-60mph reached in 6.1 seconds, although the extra torque boosted top speed to 132mph (212km/h).

The Lotus ride and handling enghineers, assisting representatives from Vauxhall, were able to ensure that the VX220 behaved differently enough to the Elise to ensure there was a marketplace for both cars. "There was a reasonable amount of input from Lotus Engineering," Kershaw admitted, "they've set their car up for the way they want an Opel or Vauxhall to drive. I don't think they wanted an Elise, they've got a totally different customer range to us." Kershaw rates the Elise and VX220 as horses for courses: "In certain circumstances and on certain days of the week I do enjoy how the VX drivest. IT is a typical large capacity, very torquey unit and there are days of the week when everyone cries out for a car like that. And then other times, when you get to blast around a B-road or a track, you want to be at maximum rpm."

The GM car's sharp-suited glassfibre body has a bulkier look with some great details such as the neat rear lights or the up-and-over tailpipes, but the Elise bloodline remains obvious, with innovative details including making the exhaust silencer part of the rear crash structure. The vuaxhall VX220 was a little less attractive to buyers than the near-identical Opel Speedster, thanks to an uninspiring name and less pleasing grille and badging.

But it was inside that a VX might have tempted potential Elise buyers away from a Lotus showroom and into a Vauxhall one. There was more comfort, a few more toys, it was a bit more Vauxhall. There was still lots of exposed aluminium, including a stylish optional extruded aluminium brace bar, but there was a conventional dashboard, albeit with a set of Stack instruments and a starter button mounted in the centre. In addition to the cut-down sills, longer doors aided entry and exit, although it was still not the most gracefull operation, and there was sound deadening injected into the body cavities to add refinement. The driving position would be familiar to Elise owners, but gone were Richard Rackham's lovely extruded pedals, although their drilled replacements were not unattractive, and ahead sat a tiny Momo wheel, the smallest ever to come complete with airbag. To add a bit of practicality there was a more user-friendly and watertight hood and a bigger boot. And the price for this extra power and comfort? Just £320 more than a basic Elise with a launch price tag of £22,995 plus £1,200 for a stylish optional hardtop.

The VX220 suffered from something of an image problem, in the UK at least, seen as a poor relation to the Lotus that sired it, a dilution of the purity of the original, or worse, a cynical cashing-in on the Elise success. It was a situation that wasn't helped by Vauxhall launching the car with a disastrous advertising campaign featuring comedian Griff Rhys-Jones clad in ginger beard, vest and Y-fronts to explain that the VX was the sexiest Vauxhall ever built. Cheap images of it toddling round the military test track at Chobham, Surrey, and Rhys-Jones's irritating voice-overs did little to endear the new model with an already sceptical buying public. The press acclaimed the new car however, praising its mixture of friendlier Elise handling, torquey engine and improved interior, with What Car? presenting the Vauxhall with "Best Roadster" in its Car of the Year Awards for both 2001 and 2002.

Channel 4's "Driven" television programme pitted a VX220 against its blood brother when the Elise Series 2 arrived (see Chapter 6) and found the Vauxhall the more practical car with a bigger boot and an easier and more leak-resistant hood. Former rally ace Penny Mallory commented: "Inside it's got a lot more creature comforts, and of course that lovely 2.2-litre Vauxhall engine". Mallory raised a point that a lot of enthusiasts will undoubtedly have asked themselves: "It's so similar to the Elise it could have been cloned, it does make you wonder if Lotus haven't shot themselves in the foot by selling their best trade secrets to a direct competitor". Driven found the Vauxhall to be brilliant fun to drive and controllable on the limit, but Mallory highlighted the car's biggest disability: "Ultimately, a Lotus badge is going to have a bit more pull."

This was confirmed in the showrooms. In 2001, Vauxhall shifted just 450 cars, little over half the projected target, although it was snot aided by early production problems at Hethel. To try to boost sales, Vauxhall offered 0 per cent finance for the first three months of 2002 and launched a limited edition run of 100 aggressive-looking "Lightning Yellow" VX220s. For an extra £2,000, each car bore bright yelow paint and matching hardtop, anthracite alloy wheels and a black windscreen surround, while inside were black leather seats, a CD player and a build number on the dashboard. Also announced in 2002, and due the following year was the much-anticipated VX220 Turbo. A 178bhp Vectra V6 engine was considered, but it was heavy and the Astra Coupè's 2.0-litre turbo offered 187bhp and a whopping 184lb ft (249.5Nm) of torque, giving it the potential to be one of the best Elise-based cars yet. The model was delayed by problems with heat dissipation in the engine bay, but once resolved it promised 0-60mph in well under five seconds, with a target price of £25,000.

Like Lotus, Vauxhall offered an "Advanced Driver Training" scheme, although for VX220 customers it was free. Held at and developed in conjunction with Jonathan Palmer's PalmerSport school at Bedford Autodrome, the day involved tuition on road driving, handling and skid control, with the aid of on-board cameras and data logging systems. To suggest the VX220's potential as a track day car, Vauxhall also built a Sprint version in mid-2002, using mainly off-the-shelf Lotus Motorsport items such as Sport Elise adjustable suspension, and black Exige wheels . A revised version of the standard engine gave 165bhp some 195bhp/tonne and together with some weight reduction cut the 0-60mph dash by nearly a second. Inside the car was also closer to the Elise, with all luxuries stripped-out to be replaced with electrical cut-out, roll bar, plumbed-in fire extinguisher and competition seats."

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Al prossimo raduno vi interrogo

Handling like a turd floating down a river since 2009

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