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The Petrolhead Corner

A Quartet of this Year’s Highlights from our Weekly Automotive Column

From a year of car stories, we've picked just four that stuck with us for various reasons. Enjoy!

| By Robin Nooy | 7 min read |

Back in 2019, we inaugurated the Petrolhead Corner as a way to provide a break from all the watch-related news we bring you and to share another passion that runs deep for several members of MONOCHROME’s Editorial Team. Our love for cars has since grown into a weekly column full of amazing car stories from all over the world. We try to mix things up by bringing you fascinating tales from the world of motorsports, super- and sports cars, classic cars, auctions, events, movies, restomods and whatever else excites us. And with a year of content to look back on, even though it’s just one story per week, there’s plenty of cool stuff to revisit! So, with this in mind, we’ve put together some of our favourite episodes from the past twelve months.

Max Verstappen’s record-breaking year in Formula 1

There’s no denying that Max Verstappen has utterly dominated this year’s Formula 1 season in his Red Bull Racing RB19. With 19 wins out of 22 races, he outclassed the rest of the field by a country mile. You can argue about whether or not this is good for the sport, but the fact of the matter is that we’ve seen history in the making every single racing weekend. The team, with Max at the helm, has rewritten the record books in an unprecedented way, and one that is likely never to be repeated. But then again, people said that about the 1988 season McLaren had, which long stood as the best performance by a team in a single season.

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Some of the stats are just insane to me and showcase just how well-oiled the team has performed this year. Leading for 1,003 laps in a season out of a possible 1,383 or completing every single lap in a race is a testament to how ‘in the zone’ Max was this year. But it doesn’t end there, as he also accumulated the most points ever during a season and had a bigger margin to second-place finisher Sergio Perez than Perez had over the man in last place. And even though some might not want to see this kind of dominance by a single team, there’s a silver lining to all of it. Behind the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, there were some intense battles, rising future stars, old dogs returning to the podium, and closely fought title battles between multiple teams and drivers!

For more details on the incredible 2023 Formula 1 season, please check out the original Petrolhead Corner recap right here.

Becoming Bond, James Bond

Every now and then, I’m sure we’ve all pretended or at least imagined to be someone we’re not. For me, it’s been the case for many years with James Bond, the world’s most famous spy. Travelling to some of the most beautiful locations on Earth, driving the finest cars imaginable (often in good company) and having access to some of the coolest gadgets around really sparked my imagination growing up. This year, the chance to become Bond, James Bond became a bit more real, as RM Sotheby’s auctioned off a genuine movie-prepped Aston Martin V8 used in the 1987 Bond classic The Living Daylights.

I could have gone for any of the auction stories we ran for the Petrolhead Corner, including a record-breaking Ferrari 250 GTO or the legendary 1973 Porsche Carrera RSR, but this one is a bit more special than others. I have watched every single James Bond movie multiple times and have always enjoyed the special cars on display in every instalment of the franchise (ok, maybe not so much the BMW Z3 and 7-series from Goldeneye). This particular Aston Martin V8 that was used in the movie still comes with some of the cool modifications Timothy Dalton had at his disposal, like the working rocket booster and removable outriggers that were used to drive on an icy lake (in the movie, that is). It was one of four driveable cars produced for the movie, of which this one was up for auction with full history at the Monterey Car Week auction in August of this year, although it failed to find a new owner. Nevertheless, a very cool car with a very cool history!

For the full rundown of this James Bond-driven Aston Martin V8, please head over to the original Petrolhead Corner episode here.

The Wonderfully odd Bell Aurens Longnose

The Petrolhead Corner has gone through some weirdly wonderful stuff this year again, including the fascinating Bell Aurens Longnose. It looks like a thing from a movie or TV series, but in fact, it’s a working, running custom creation based on a Land Rover chassis. Heck, it’s even styled like a Land Rover, just… longer and more luxurious. And there’s a perfectly good reason for that extended profile, as originally, this car was intended to house a monstrous 27-litre tank engine! The Bell Aurens Longnose was built somewhere between 2005 and 2009 on the chassis of a 1967/1968 Series II Land Rover with the idea to produce it in low numbers for a couple of wealthy individuals who fancied an ultra-luxurious off-roader beast.

The result is equally wacky and wonderful, as it looks a bit out of proportion but, at the same time, looks damn cool too! The long bonnet, the exposed exhaust pipes, the cabin pushed as far back as possible, the removable roof structure… it all adds to the unique character of the Bell Aurens Longnose. Sadly, though, it didn’t end up with the aforementioned tank engine (a Rolls Royce Merlin, just as in John Dodd’s ‘The Beast’) but comes with a V8 from a Range Rover. That means it doesn’t have the intended 1,500 horsepower but a more sensible 350bhp. The story of the Bell Aurens Longnose and how it never came to production is a sad case of wrong place, wrong time. Nowadays the restomod business is thriving, but that wasn’t the case a decade and a half ago.

For the full story on the ludicrous Bell Aurens Longnose, please check out the original Petrolhead Corner episode here.

A restomodded diablo

The restomod game is usually reserved for icons of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s but rarely looks at cars from the 1990s, let alone a Lamborghini! Such is the case, though, with the Eccentrica Lamborghini Diablo, a fresh take on one of the most emblematic supercars from the 1990s and a car that our managing editor (and fellow Petrolhead) Brice covered halfway through the year. The Diablo was the replacement for the Countach and was in production from 1990 to 2001, fitted with a 5.7 litre V12 that grew to 6.0 litre towards the end of its lifespan. Eccentrica has taken it upon themselves to improve on this legendary Italian machine, which was known as quite the handful to get the most out of it.

And the result is genuinely amazing! The donor car is a first-gen Lamborghini Diablo, so with a 5.7 litre V12 and rear-wheel drive to start with. The Eccentrica team has completely redesigned the exterior of the Diablo yet has perfectly retained its essence. In a way, it looks like a continuation car, which is saying a lot from a restomod car! The design is enhanced with new bumpers, new headlights, a sleeker rear section, two air-intakes on top, LED lights, and an amazing new exhaust setup. The upgrades don’t stop there as the interior is completely redone, and a technical touch-up on the engine results in 550bhp (up from the original 485bhp) fed through a gated six-speed manual transmission. But most importantly, Eccentrica has worked hard on the car’s handling, making it as sharp as it can be and better than it ever was. Very cool stuff, right?

For more details on this incredibly cool Eccentrica Diablo restomod, please check out the original Petrolhead Corner episode here.

Stay tuned in 2024 for more automotive goodness, as we’re already lining up the first few topics for the new year. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I do writing them; even for me they are a fun break from watches. So, that being said, all that’s left for me to say is thank you for checking in every week!

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