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Jay Leno explains why the 2002 Pontiac Firebird is an overlooked gem

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2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am WS6 on Jay Leno's Garage

Several names from the 1960s’ golden age of muscle cars have been revived in recent years, but one is likely never coming back—the Pontiac Firebird. This episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage” features one of the last Firebirds, a 2002 Trans Am WS6.

The Firebird was launched in 1967 as a twin to Chevrolet Camaro, sharing General Motors’ F-Body platform. By the dawn of the 21st century, both the Camaro and Firebird had gone through four generations and were about to be phased out. While the Camaro was revived for the 2010 model year (and remains in production today), 2002 was the last year for the Firebird. The Pontiac brand followed it into oblivion a few years later.

While the styling was thoroughly modern (for the period, at least), Pontiac relied heavily on nostalgia. The Trans Am had been the top performance variant of the Firebird since its introduction in 1969. Pontiac no longer offered the iconic “Screaming Chicken” hood decal, substituting bulging ram air hood scoops. The WS6 package was also a callback, having first appeared in 1979.

2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am WS6 on Jay Leno’s Garage

In 2002, the Trans Am WS6 was powered by a 5.7-liter LS1 V-8, which made 325 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. It was available with a 6-speed manual transmission, and the WS6 package added suspension upgrades and slightly more horsepower and torque than the base Trans Am. Leno’s car is a coupe with a T-Top, but you could also get a Trans Am convertible in the car’s final year.

Leno got his Trans Am as payment for driving the pace car at the 2002 Daytona 500. That car was—you guessed it—a Trans Am, but with a louder yellow exterior. Leno said he specifically asked for the more toned-down dark blue color.

Watch the full video for more on the Firebird’s swan song, and see why Leno thinks the final Firebird was “the best one they ever built.”

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One-off Bugatti Divo “Lady Bug” took two years to create

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Bugatti Divo

With production limited to 40 examples, the $5.8 million Bugatti Divo should stand out at any cars and coffee event. But that wasn’t special enough for one customer, who commissioned a customized Divo dubbed “Lady Bug.” The one-of-a-kind supercar took two years to develop, Bugatti explained in a press release.

Bugatti was approached by the customer shortly after the Divo’s August 2018 reveal with a request for a color-contrasting geometric pattern. The automaker’s design department then got to work, creating not only the pattern but custom colors, specifically “Customer Special Red” and “Graphite.”

The design features painted diamonds, which was surprisingly complicated to execute. While designing the livery took a few months, getting it right on the car took one and a half years, according to Bugatti.

Part of the problem was translating two-dimensional CAD drawings onto the three-dimensional surface of the bodywork, which required numerous adjustments to the roughly 1,600 diamonds that make up the design, Bugatti said. To allow for these adjustments, designers initially printed each diamond onto transfer film, but that still had to be precisely applied to the car as if it were a life-size model kit.

Bugatti Divo

Once the design was finalized, the transfer film was applied to the customer’s car, a process that involved a rehearsal and several days of checks, according to Bugatti. The car was then painted, after which the transfer film was removed, revealing the final pattern.

Bugatti has declared that the Divo is “made for corners.” It uses the Chiron’s 8.0-liter quad-turbocharged W-16, which produces 1,480 horsepower and allows for 0-60 mph in 2.5 seconds. Those figures match the Chiron, but the Divo also is also 77 pounds lighter and has 198 pounds more downforce, making it more capable on a track. The Divo even visited the Nürburgring, although Bugatti never released a lap time.

Deliveries of the Divo began in August 2020—two years after it’s unveiling—but the first cars didn’t reach the U.S. until this January.

Since the Divo’s introduction, Bugatti has rolled out more limited editions, including two more track-focused models—the Chiron Pur Sport and Bolide. Perhaps a buyer of one of those supercars will request another unique livery.

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Fisker has “completely dropped” solid-state battery dreams

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Henrik Fisker and the Fisker Ocean

Back in 2017, Fisker was touting plans for solid-state battery technology that could enable a range of 500 miles and a charging time of just one minute for electric vehicles.

Fast forward to today and Fisker CEO and founder Henrik Fisker has revealed that his company has abandoned those plans.

“It’s the kind of technology where, when you feel like you’re 90% there, you’re almost there, until you realize the last 10% is much more difficult than the first 90,” he told The Verge in an interview published last week. “So we have completely dropped solid-state batteries at this point in time because we just don’t see it materializing.”

Henrik Fisker and the Fisker Ocean

Fisker was developing the batteries in-house and had hired people from leading battery startups such as Sakti3 and QuantumScape. The latter is the Volkswagen Group-backed battery startup that aims to commercialize solid-state batteries by 2025. It turns out Fisker and QuantumScape were involved in a lawsuit but the two companies settled out of court in 2020, according to The Verge.

In addition to VW Group, Toyota has promised to deliver EVs with solid-state batteries.

As the name suggests, solid-state batteries use a solid electrolyte instead of the liquids or gels that most EV batteries use today. They are seen as the next major step in performance as they can deliver greater range and safety over current liquid-type batteries like lithium-ion units. But while they are already used in some small devices, building them on the scale that automotive production requires isn’t possible yet. The batteries also suffer from longevity and cold-weather issues with current technology.

Fisker EMotion

Fisker EMotion

In his interview with The Verge, Fisker said he estimated the technology still being at least seven years out from becoming viable for electric cars. That would put its release at around 2027/2028.

Fisker had planned to introduce its solid-state battery in the EMotion super sedan which was previewed as a concept in 2018. The company still plans to launch the EMotion but will focus on more affordable models first.

Fisker’s first model is the Ocean SUV which is being developed with Austria’s Magna Steyr and due to start production at a Magna Steyr plant in late 2022. It is expected to arrive with an 80-kilowatt-hour battery offering a range of 300 miles. Fisker last week revealed that it is also developing a vehicle with Taiwan’s Foxconn, due in 2023. Fisker hasn’t detailed the type or supplier of the batteries these initial models will use.

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First Aston Martin F1 car in 60 years revealed

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2021 Aston Martin AMR21 Formula One race car

Aston Martin is returning to the Formula One grid in 2021 for the first time in over 60 years via a rebranding of the Racing Point team.

Aston Martin’s team, officially known as Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team thanks to a sponsorship deal with IT services provider Cognizant, on Wednesday unveiled its new race car. Alfa Romeo, Alpine, McLaren and Mercedes-Benz AMG have also shown their new cars.

Called the AMR21, Aston Martin’s car is an evolution of Racing Point’s RP20 from the previous season, and naturally it’s been decked out in green. There are also some pink accents to highlight the sponsorship of water technologies company BWT.

2021 Aston Martin AMR21 Formula One race car

Powering the AMR21 is a power unit sourced from Mercedes-Benz AMG, reflecting a strategy Aston Martin is also using for some of its road cars. The powertrain in the AMR21 consists of a 1.6-liter turbocharged V-6 working with two motor-generators, one integrated with the turbocharger and the other with the engine in the main driveline.

Confirmed drivers are four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll. Stroll’s father Lawrence Stroll is both chairman of Aston Martin and the Aston Martin F1 team. Otmar Szafnauer has been named CEO and team principal of the team.

The AMR21 will stretch its legs for the first time at a promotional event to be held Thursday at the Silverstone Circuit in the United Kingdom, where Aston Martin’s F1 team is located. The team is using Racing Point’s former digs but will move into a new 200,000-square-foot facility under under construction at the same site around mid-2022.

Lance Stroll (left) and Sebastian Vettel

Lance Stroll (left) and Sebastian Vettel

The pre-season tests are scheduled for Mar. 12-14 in Bahrain ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on Mar. 28. The season was meant to start as always with the Australian Grand Prix but due to Covid-19 restrictions the Australian race has been delayed until November.

Aston Martin’s first and only stint in F1 started in 1959 and ended the following year. The team competed with the DBR4 race car (and later the DBR5) and listed Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori as drivers. The team would have just five starts over the two years of competition and ultimately pulled out to focus on sports car racing, having failed to score any points.

Speaking of sports car racing, Aston Martin last December announced its exit from the World Endurance Championship, where it had competed in the GTE class with a race car based on its Vantage sports car. It means the automaker is no longer competing in sports car racing, though it will still build Vantage-based race cars for customer teams.

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