It’s been a while since I’ve chimed in at MFL. Work obligations got the better of me, but now I’m back and I’d finally like to put forth the first installment on a series of underrated cars – magnificent machines that won’t (necessarily) break the bank, and hold their own with the best in terms of style, performance, or at least my opinion. The idea with this series is to put forward vehicles that are often overlooked for any variety of reasons, be it ubiquity, long held prejudice, or just generally passed over for one reason or another, but are actually some truly great cars. It’s called Cars You Need To Love. For the first installment I’ve chosen my personal favourite in the category of wrongly maligned and ignored autos. So without further ado, allow me to (re)present….
The Ferrari Mondial
The Ferrari Mondial was introduced as a coupe in 1980, replacing the “Dino” 308GT/4 as the new 2+2 GT car in the line-up. The GT/4, a truly great car in it’s own right, was a bit of an odd bird for Ferrari. It was one of two Ferrari’s, along with the 206/246 GT series, that didn’t technically start out as Ferrari’s. They were built under the Dino marquee as more affordable, user friendly machines to broaden Ferrari’s consumer base throughout the late 60’s and 70’s. When the 246 series ceased production in 1974, the 4 seater 308 GT/4 was the sole “Dino” left on the market. But that didn’t last long. By 1976, the 308GT/4 had been re-branded as a Ferrari. Turns out that consumers all knew they were buying a Ferrari, and that was part of the issue. The cars were made by Ferrari and the engines said Ferrari, so it seems consumers felt the badges on the car should say Ferrari as well, and that anything less was a bit of a disappointment. Sales reflected that thinking, at least in the USA. I know Dino owners who’ve spent many hours over the years explaining to everyone from first dates to fellow car nuts that their Dino’s were in fact Ferrari’s (now an accepted fact). Additionally, the 308 GT/4 was a blip in Ferrari’s more or less strict allegiance to design house Pininfarina, with the job of the GT/4 having been given to competing house Bertone. Bertone delivered a wedge shaped car totally devoid of the rolling elegant curves that typified Pininfarina’s designs, and that also had Ferrari fans squawking at the time. When the time came for a successor to the 308 GT/4, the job went to Pininfarina.
A young man checking out a Dino 308 GT/4 in the 70’s ^
So it was that the Mondial appeared in 1980. The reaction was, to say the least, mixed. Pininfarina delivered a car that had some of the curves restored, but not all. The car lacked the arched roof and fenders of other Ferrari’s of the time. It also integrated the “cheese grater” air intake scoops on the side of the car, which were very 80’s to say the least. Additionally, being a mid-engined 4 seater, the car was elongated on the rear end, or perhaps shorter on the front end, creating an odd sense of proportional aesthetics that divided opinion. But in truth, all Ferrari’s with 4 seats have an uphill battle to climb. It seems to be the general consensus that Ferrari’s are NOT meant to be family friendly cars, but rather lean and mean 2 seaters that look sexy and go fast. At the time, Ferrari was offering the 308 GTB or GTS and the Berlinetta Boxer, two cars that certainly felt like they fell into that camp, as well as the stately 400i, a powerful but decidedly plush gentleman’s V12 2+2 touring car. The Mondial sort of fell in between the two camps, and people weren’t sure how to respond to it. Do we treat it as a really sporty GT or a sports car with a backseat? To further muddy the waters, some of the magazines got “not quite ready for prime time” cars to test drive. This resulted in some unflattering reviews that have stuck with the Mondial to this day. That’s a fair amount of baggage, so let’s unpack it…
It’s rather funny that the great house of Chanel feels the need to label Antaeus, one of their foremost masculine fragrances, “Pour Homme.” There is no female version of Antaeus and never has been as far as I can tell. One sniff tells you that you are dealing with some serious vintage man juice, not a modern unisex concoction.
Created by the great Jacques Polge way back in 1981, the dawn of the powerhouse era, Antaeus is one of the key colognes in that period of “more is more” in fragrance construction. Auspiciously named after a Greek demigod who fought Hercules, this powerful potion is so beautiful it could well be something an immortal deity might choose to wear. A classic woody chypre, Antaeus opens with an unmistakable blast of castoreum (aka beaver musk), pleasantly sharp and stimulating but never Anchorman-like. Coming forward to join that heady, animalic vibe are healthy doses of labdanum, slightly fermented citrus and a very deep rose, as well as some spicy notes of coriander and precious myrrh. The overall effect is intoxicating like the smell of a church in the Mediterranean when it s very hot, the flowers, orange and lemon groves are ripening and incense is burning on the dais. The dry down is just as lovely as the sharper notes recede but don’t disappear and warm oakmoss, deep green sage and basil and a subtle but insistent jasmine begin to play their parts. And throughout there is the most elegant and opulent patchouli note running through the whole thing, much lusher and less dry than the one that is the centerpiece of Givenchy Gentleman. One of the true masterpieces of masculine perfumery, the first time you try Antaeus you will know its transformative and devastating power. If you’ve got the stones to pull it off, you’ll be a changed man going forward.
If that sounds a bit like a religious experience that’s because Anateus is just that sort of trip for the uninitiated. It is totally old school and unlike anything that has been created in the last 15 years or so. And yet it is still being produced, thankfully, which must mean there is a market for it above and beyond aging Gen Xers. As with many classics, I’ve heard a lot of complaining that it’s not as good as it used to be, that it’s been watered down and is thin. Especially a few years back there was a despairing chorus that under strict new regulations issued by the International Fragrance Association (IFRA, the controlling body for perfumery worldwide), which banned certain previously widely used organic and chemical ingredients due to conservation and allergy & health concerns, Antaeus had been completely neutered along with some of its other contemporaries like Kouros and Bel Ami. But I honestly feel that perfumers have now come to grips with these limitations and after an undoubted rough patch and are now recreating their classics as well or better than ever. Continue reading →
Hamilton lays down the hammer in Hockenheim, Rosberg relegated to 4th by mistakes; Ricciardo & Verstappen P2 & P3 for ascendent Red Bull
Nico Rosberg desperately needed everything to go right for him at his home Grand Prix in Germany to stanch the hemorrhaging of his once-dominant tally of championship points. Instead the Mercedes driver frittered away a hard-fought pole position with a dreadful start off the line as the lights went out, muffing his clutch bite point and bogging down. He was then overtaken not only by his hard-charging teammate and archrival Lewis Hamilton but also by the two surging Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Once again on the back foot, the would-be contender compounded his difficulties by obviously pushing Vertsappen off track on Lap 29 while attempting to claw back a position and the stewards handed down a 5-second stop-and-hold penalty. With an extra-conservative Mercedes team seeming to hold Rosberg even longer than the penalty demanded, the German’s race was effectively destroyed and he was unable to drag himself any higher than fourth for the rest of the 67-lap race. Despite threatening skies towards the end, no rain fell to shake things up and give Rosberg a chance at redemption. The German will no doubt be mulling over this poor performance — the latest in a recent sequence of disappointments since an aberrant win in Baku — for the entirety of the long upcoming August break.
For Hamilton, his results and momentum have been the complete opposite, as the English defending World Champ swanned away from the rest of the field in Germany after his excellent getaway and stayed ahead for the rest of the race. In truth the Red Bulls had nothing for Lewis and with his teammate self-destructing behind him, Hamilton was free to fly home for the victory, his fourth win in a row and remarkable sixth victory in the last seven contests. Ever since the two Mercedes took each other out in mid-May in Spain, another incident where the majority of commentators put the blame on Rosberg, Hamilton has seemed to grow in determination while Rosberg has seemed to crumble under the pressure. When push came to shove earlier this month in Austria and the two Silver Arrows came together again in the dying laps it was Rosberg who came off second best in an attempted blocking move trying to hold on to to a win but instead losing a sure podium while Hamilton sailed away unscathed to the victory. And while early in the season Hamilton suffered mightily with his starts now it is Rosberg who seems to have the yips when the lights go out. Continue reading →
Rosberg grabs pole with last gasp run in Q3, pipping Hamilton; Ricciardo P3 for Red Bull in Hockenheim
Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg took pole for Saturday qualifying at his home Grand Prix in Germany, hooking up the best lap of the day after he had been unable to bank a timed lap in Q3 due to electrical issues. That put it all down to the last 3 minutes of the session and with the pressure on Rosberg came through, pipping his teammate and archival Lewis Hamilton by 0.1 seconds. Rosberg desperately needs a good result after a string of dominating performances by Hamilton saw the Englishman wrest the championship points lead from him so he can take some momentum and confidence into the upcoming August break.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was right behind Hamilton and his wunderkind teammate Max Verstappen took P4, showing once again that the Red Bull chassis-engine combo is the most improved in the paddock, outstripping Ferrari for the claim of second best to mighty Mercedes. As if to prove that point, the Ferrrais of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel lined up behind the Red Bulls in P5 and P6 respectively. Force India continued to show renewed strength, with Nico Hulkenberg grabbing P7 and Sergio Perez taking P9 on the grid. Perez split the two Williams, a team that has definitely taken a step back this year, with Valtteri Bottas only fast enough for P8 and Felipe Massa back in P10.
Tomorrows race airs live from Hockenheim beginning at 8AM Eastern on NBC Sports Network here in the States. Can Rosberg put a stop to Hamilton’s blistering momentum before the summer break? Hope to see you the to find out!
On offer as we wind down July is an always in-style classic vintage Rolex Datejust in steel. Only this one has a special twist — a very uncommon textured blue dial. Dating from the early 1970s, this is a reference 1603, which means a Datejust with steel “Castellated” patterned engine-turned bezel, and it come from an era when Rolex simply didn’t produce that many DJs in blue. Relatively common in 35mm Date models but not a lot of Rolex’s full size 36mm flagship model had them for whatever reason.
Like a lot of blue dials from back in the day, this beautiful pie-pan shows signs of oxidation and reaction to the Tritium luminous plots. But that only adds to the overall vintage charm of this handsome and versatile watch. Built Rolex tough, I don’t really think the stainless steel case has ever been polished. Well worn, yes, but polish is not really evident, as it features thick lugs, undistorted lug holes and sharp edges.
It comes on its original Rolex USA-made Jubilee style bracelet and better yet, the great caliber 1575 workhorse movement has just been fully overhauled for years more faithful service. If you’re seeking the classic look of a vintage Rolex Datejust but one with a dial color that elevates it to something a little more special, you may well have found your watch.
Hamilton overhauls Rosberg with victory in Hungary; Ricciardo 3rd for Red Bull
In something of an anticlimactic procedural of a race, Mercedes Lewis Hamilton jumped his pole -sitting teammate Nico Rosberg right at the start and then drove flawlessly to take victory at the Hungaroring. Hamilton’s third victory in a row and his remarkable fifth in the last six contests saw the current World Champion leap past Rosberg into the points lead for the first time this season. Rosberg, who had never been out of the top position in 2016 and trails Hamilton by 6 points, did come home P2. But now he will now have to face the psychological pressure of once again finding himself behind his nemesis and archival just as he has the prior two campaigns when he was runner up. After getting off to such a blistering start by winning his first 4 GP, Rosberg’s season has foundered amidst controversies and internecine warfare between the two Silver Arrows in which Rosberg always seems to somehow get the blame and the short end of the stick. He will be desperate to get a decent result in Germany next week to regain some sort of momentum to take into the long. lonely August break.
Further back in the field, the two Red Bulls diced all race long with the two Ferraris, with Daniel Ricciardo able to hold off Sebastian Vettel for the last podium spot and wunderkind Max Verstappen playing rough with an increasingly irate Kimi Raikkonen to best the veteran Finn, P5 to P6. Fernando Alonso did excellent work for McLaren with a solid P6, finally showing signs of the legendary F1 powerhouse getting back towards the top with a solid P7. But his teammate Jenson Button was plagued by mechanical gremlins and had a nightmare race, running 60 laps at the back of the field before retiring, so reliability on the Honda-powered McLaren MP4-31 chassis remains a serious issue. Carlos Sainz was string again for Toro Rosso, coming home P8, while Valtteri Bottas had to settle for P9 in his rather uncompetitive Williams, a team which has definitely taken a step or two backwards this year after a couple of improving seasons. Nico Hulkenberg grabbed the last points paying position for Force India with P10 and his teammate Sergio Perez might also have been in the mix had the team not inexplicably been caught unprepared on a pit stop for tires.
The next race is in but a week, the German Grand Prix from Hockenheim. It’ll be the last race for nearly a month as the F1 circus gets ready for its enforced summer break. Hope to see you then to find out whether Rosberg can recapture some of his mojo or if Hamilton will keep laying down the law!
Rosberg nabs pole as Hamilton catches ill-timed yellow, Ricciardo starts P3 for Red Bull in wet & wild qualifying
On a wet and wild qualifying contest Saturday in Hungary featuring multiple Red Flags and crash outs in the first session and rapidly drying conditions in Q3, Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg pipped his teammate for the pole when Lewis Hamilton came upon a yellow flag in Sector 2 when McLaren’s Fernando Alonso spun, forcing the Englishman to lift. By the time Rosberg came to the scene Alonso had got back underway and the yellow flag was gone, enabling the German championship points leader to go flat out for the entire lap and beat Hamilton to the pole by half a second. It was a much-needed boost for Rosberg whose luck turned after his sterling start to the season and who saw his once-might points lead dwindle to a measly 1 after Hamilton’s victory two weeks ago at Silverstone, England. But come Sunday, the two Mercedes combatants will find themselves in the familiar position of duking it out from the front row and, should they make it through Turn 1, likely all race long. With this contentious dynamic duo’s history of contact throughout the 2016 season, is it so far-fetched that we might see another race-altering donnybrook in the second-to-last last race before the long August break?
The Red Bulls once again showed that they have succeeded Ferrari’s early season position as Mercedes’ main competition, with Daniel Ricciardo besting his teenage teammate Max Verstappen, P3 to P4. As if to prove how much their own luck has done a 180, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was also slowed by Alonso’s spin and was only able to muster P5 in his Ferrari. Meanwhile his teammate Kimi Raikkonen got caught out by the rapidly drying track in Q2 and could do no better than a disheartening P14 for the Scuderia. On the other end of the emotional spectrum, Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz was an impressive P6 and both McLarens made the Top 10 for once, with Alonso’s earlier pre-spin Q3 time still good enough for P7, bettering his fellow veteran teammate Jenson Button by one grid spot. Rounding out the upper echelon, Nico Hulkenberg was fast enough for P9 in his Force India and Williams’ Valtteri Bottas took the last top 10 starting spot.
The first quali session was delayed by deluge of rain, interrupted by 4 Red Flags and disrupted by day-ending accidents by Williams’ Felipe Massa, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and Manor’s Rio Haryanto. Hopefully the weather on race day will be better, although the sketchy conditions made for an exceptionally exciting and scrambling qualifying session.
We’ve all seen every James Bond movie multiple times and have our own firm opinion on who is the best Bond — Connery? Moore? Craig? Brosnan?? But how many have read the original Ian Fleming novels? Well, if you’re a true Bond aficionado you really should check them out. And if you’re looking for enjoyable, action-packed summer reading it’ll be a win-win. While the films jump off to an entirely more fantastical level and become their own distinctly grandiose vision of 007, the stripped-down genesis of the Bond phenomenon is in the books. There isn’t close to the gadgetry in Fleming’s original conception, although there are some impressively explosive high-concept climaxes, and the bon mots are a little more subtle. Bond himself tends to be more grim, fallible and vulnerable and less of an glibly unstoppable killing machine than in the films. He comes across as a diligent, well-trained espionage professional with above average self-defense skills and an expert with firearms, a top agent with a sharp, opportunistic mind and a cold reserve covering up signs of doubt and melancholia. It’s a definite key to Daniel Craig’s success that his Bond hews more closely to Fleiming’s original dour conception.
The first novel in Fleming’s massively successful opus is the notorious Casino Royale. I say notorious primarily because the film rights were tangled up for so long that it was the only Bond novel not to make it to the big screen… in recognizable form — the very poor 1967 Woody Allen-David Niven parody shares only the name. It took more than half a century for it to be properly adapted for the cinema via 2006’s explosive blockbuster, Craig’s excellent debut and a film many Bond fans consider one of the best in the franchise. Coming as it did after the ever more elaborate and bloated Brosnan films (although one could see some darker foreshadowing in his last, Die Another Day, where Bond is subjected to harsh torture at the hands of the North Koreans), it was no accident that finally having secured the rights to Fleming’s elusive first work, Broccoli & Co.’s franchise reboot would also try to stay true to the elements that made the start of the Bond story so special. But Casino Royale was also notorious when it was published in 1953 for its violence and sexual content, as well as the very frank and graphic way Fleming approached both issues, with many critics lining up to deride it as pornographic garbage. More than 60 years on it’s Fleming who has the last laugh because his debut novel still holds up very well.
In Casino Royale the novel we meet Bond for the first time, a WWII naval veteran (presumably an ex-commando) and now an agent in England’s Secret Service with a Double-0 classification, which, as we all know, is a license to kill on behalf of the British government. Continue reading →
Hamilton triumphs for 3rd straight win at Silverstone; Rosberg loses P2 to Red Bull’s Verstappen on radio penalty
In a remarkable race in front of his countrymen and with typically rainy English summer weather as a key subplot, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton triumphed over the elements and his rivals, taking a remarkable third consecutive victory at the historic Silverstone circuit in Great Britain. Not only did Hamilton beat his points-leading teammate, Nico Rosberg, but he continued to ratchet up the pressure on the German contender by taking victory in four out of the last five contests. Hamilton even got a bonus — and Rosberg another psychological blow — when the stewards penalized Rosberg and his race engineers for disclosing too much “driver coaching” information over the radio late in the Grand Prix when he had a problem with 7th gear. The 10-second time penalty subsequently imposed meant that P2 went to Red Bull’s wunderkind, Max Verstappen, rather than to Rosberg’s true positional second-place finish, doubly galling for the Mercedes driver, as he had spent so much of the second half of the race trying to get by Verstappen. After his win at the British GP, Hamilton now sits only one slim point behind Rosberg in the Drivers’ Championship and also seems to have the lucky breaks back on his side again. With only two contests remaining before the long August break, Rosberg has got to try to recapture the momentum that propelled him to four straight wins to start the year, lest his fragile psyche crumbles in the face of Hamilton’s typically ruthless onslaught.
For Verstappen and Red Bull, Rosberg’s technical misfortune was their boon. The 18-year-old Dutchman and his RB-12 chassis excelled in the wet conditions that prevailed in the early part of the contest. With a little more oomph from the “Tag Heuer” (really a beefed-up Renault) engine, it’s possible that the Red Bulls could be a legitimate threat for victories against the mighty Silver Arrows. And Verstappen is certainly living up to the hype despite his tender years. With more wet weather performances like the drive he put in at Silverstone, Verstappen could well inherit the “Rain Meister” title that has been in mothballs since Michael Schumacher’s retirement. Daniel Ricciardo was again not as fast as his precocious teammate and something about his demeanor seems to have darkened considerably since his massive disappointment at Monaco this year when poor pit work by the team literally threw certain victory away. The normally ebullient Aussie did manage a solid 4th-place finish but his 18-second deficit to Vertappen extinguished his normally electric smile.
Ferrari had another tough race weekend and must be wondering if their early season improvements have been caught up by the other teams. Continue reading →
Gucci Nobile is a prime example of a discontinued cologne becoming a cult object, right up there with the original M7 by YSL (one of Tom Ford’s most influential early efforts) and the beautiful Krizia Moods Uomo. There are others, of course, like Guerlain’s original formulation of Derby and the highly sought after Jean Patou Pour Homme that go for even bigger bucks on eBay and the secondary market. But in terms of relatively recent offerings that have gone extinct there are few if any that inspire the hushed reverential tones of awe that Gucci Nobile’s ultra-green juice does.
So then the question becomes, is everybody so taken with Nobile simply because it is no longer readily available or is it actually worth the $200+ bucks sellers are asking for a full sized 3.4oz EDT bottle? First off, Gucci Nobile is one of three men’s fragrances that were abruptly discontinued when Frida Gianni became creative director of the house in 2006, along with 2003’s ultra-woody Gucci Pour Homme and the equally beloved Envy for Men from 1998, both of which also command high prices on the secondary market. And one can see why a new creative chief might ditch these three classics in one fell swoop, especially a female one: all three are different facets of old school men’s fragrances, miles away from sweet, loud things like One Million and Versace’s Eros. In the case of 1988’s Nobile, it is quite simply an archetypal Aromatic Fougere with a scent as green as the juice in the bottle.
It opens with a refreshing blast of herbal high notes, including rosemary, lavander, bergamot and a distinctive, unusual hit of tarragon. Interestingly, most reviewers do not mention much in the way of animalic qualities in these top notes but combined I get a strong civet-like slap (i.e. a bit like urine), one which took me a while to come to grips with. It’s not quite the nose-singeing effect of a Kouros but I definitely get a touch of that sharp, tangy sting. And so while almost all reviewers will call Nobile smooth and discreet, I have to put it a little more into the Drakkar Noir powerhouse category. Yes, it’s more subtle and brighter than that dark legend but still there is something… pleasantly unsettling and animalic there, especially when first applied.
This cologne is also so smoothly blended that while you’re getting those sharp top notes the middle of masculine flowers, a little piney fir and the basenotes of crisp vetiver, musky oakmoss and a rather rough-edged sandlewood are likely to bubble to the surface and join the party almost from the get go. Continue reading →