The students at Nihon Automobile College (NATS) put together some pretty wild custom cars for each year's Tokyo Auto Salon. Perhaps the most attention-grabbing this year is what looks like a 2020 Toyota Supra. It features the bold orange paint scheme of the famous fourth-generation Supra in The Fast and the Furious. It even gets the fourth-generation Supra's revered 2JZ inline-six.

But this heavily Supra-inspired car is not what it seems. This is actually a Lexus SC430, the luxury retractable hardtop convertible from the mid-2000s. The main tell is the interior, which features a dashboard that clearly was built years before the A90 Supra. Of course there's also the fact that this is a convertible with a well-finished windshield header. And as you look closer, you'll notice that details such as the hood vents and the vents on the doors look just a little off compared with the real thing. That's not to diminish the work done, here — the attention to those little details is impressive.

Besides the Supra conversion, Fast and Furious paint job and the addition of a turbo 2JZ engine, the students at NATS added several other modifications. The modern Supra body parts have been augmented by the Pandem widebody kit that's been popular on new Supras at both SEMA and Tokyo Auto Salon. Inside, it has racing seats and massive nitrous tanks. Take it all in as you scroll through the image gallery above.

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Six-times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton said on Thursday he was donating $500,000 towards the rescue and care of wildlife caught in bushfires ravaging southeast Australia.

The Briton, who has adopted a vegan lifestyle and become outspoken on the environment, posted a clip on social media of a scorched koala being tended to against a backdrop of smoke and flames.

It breaks my heart to see the devastation the Australian bushfires are causing to people and animals across the country. I’m pledging $500k to support the animals, wildlife volunteers and rural fire services. If you are able to, and you haven’t already then you can donate too. pic.twitter.com/DXjScK5Oqq

— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) January 9, 2020

The bushfires have left 26 people dead and killed or injured an estimated one billion animals.

"It saddens me deeply to know that over 1 billion animals in Australia died a painful death, no way out, not their fault," commented the Mercedes driver, who will start his bid for a record-equalling seventh title in Melbourne in March.

"My love of animals is no secret and I can't help but grieve for the defenceless animals thought to have died so far, pushing certain species closer to extinction."

Animals: @WIRES_NSW @WWF_Australia

Rural Fire Services: @NSWRFS @CFA_Updates @RFBAQ_Official @TasFireService @CFSAlerts @dfes_wa#PrayingForAustralia 🙏🏾

— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) January 9, 2020

The 35-year-old urged his 14 million followers on Instagram, and 5.6 million on Twitter, to "join me in thinking about the impact we are having on our planet".

"Let's work together to make small changes, and encourage our family and friends to do the same, so we can help shift the direction we’re going in," added Hamilton, who said he was donating to Wires Wildlife Rescue, WWF Australia and rural fire services.

Hamilton, who has a home in Colorado and has posted pictures of himself snowboarding in the mountains, did not specify in the post whether he had made his donation in U.S. dollars or Australian but Mercedes confirmed it was the former.

Renault's Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo has also used social media to call for donations and saying he had contributed.

He said he would also be signing and raffling his racesuit from this year's Australian Grand Prix to raise more funds.

Other Australian sports figures and international tennis players in the country for tournaments ahead of the Australian Open have also raised funds in support of relief and recovery efforts.

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With a 760-hp 5.2-liter supercharged V-8 under the hood, the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 isn't exactly underpowered. Ford claims it can do the zero-to-60-mph sprint in 3.3 seconds and hit the quarter-mile in 10.7. But for some, those numbers just aren't enough.

Evolution Performance, a shop in Pennsylvania, got its hands on one of the first GT500s to leave the factory and immediately got to work modifying it for more power. Among the upgrades include a ported supercharger, a new pulley, bigger injectors, a bigger fuel pump, headers, an X-pipe, and a tune for race fuel. There's also drag radials out back, and additional bracing in the chassis to ensure power is transferred to the ground smoothly.

The result is a claimed 945 horsepower to the wheels—an increase of 185 horsepower compared to the stock number at the crank. REVan Evan on YouTube was on the scene at Bradenton Motorsport Park in Florida to film the car running a 9.93-second quarter-mile at 140 mph, making it, they claim, the first 2020 GT500 to break the 10-second barrier.

If achieving these speeds is possible so soon after the car's launch, we're excited to see how the tuner scene for the GT500 will look one or two years down the line.

The chief engineer for the C8 Chevrolet Corvette, Tadge Juechter, made an appearance on Jay Leno's Garage last November with a 2020 Corvette convertible. During the drive portion, after Leno gave the 'Vette the whip, Juechter mentioned that the C8 Corvette is "torque managed," meaning that the software limits torque output until the driveline has done 500 break-in miles. Juechter didn't go into more detail, and Leno seemed to think the torque management was a pre-production issue. Corvette Blogger picked up on a thread at Corvette Forum where a member submitted a question to the forum's "Ask Tadge" series. Forum user JVP wanted to know from Juechter, "Can you elaborate on the purpose for that [torque management], and explain to folks what happens at 500 miles? Does the engine's full output happen automatically due to programming or is it something that will require a maintenance visit?"

The engineer replied in detail, first explaining that GM has recommended a 500-mile break-in period "for as long as I can remember," then revealing that he would go even further and "try to be patient for 1,000 miles." On the C7 Corvette, to give owners a guide to driving responsibly while the driveline components bedded in, Juechter said engineers programmed "a variable red line on the tach to give drivers a visual indication on when it would be advisable to take it easy on the car. We used it for the first 500 miles of driving and when the engine was coming up to operating temperature after break in was complete." Drivers had the car's full power available at all times, though, and used it in spite of the visual warning. He said that led to "customers not observing the break in guidelines and then returning the car to the dealer with complaints of gear noise or differential whine."

The switch to a mid-engined layout and more horsepower in the C8 Corvette means the driveline and gearing cope with more force, weight, and traction. Juechter's team decided to go further in encouraging new owners to give the car's components a chance to seat properly. In first and second gears, software reduces torque by about 25 to 30 percent for the first 500 miles. That means that, at most, torque drops to 329 pound-feet compared to the normal 470 lb-ft – still enough, Juechter says, to "easily spin tires on some surfaces." Doing so "limits the [worst] of potential break in wear," yet even so, "We will still be asking customers to stay well off max torque and speed for the first 500 miles."

The honcho didn't answer the question of whether full torque is released after the car reaches 500 miles or a maintenance visit will be required, but our guess is that the electronics will know what to do. And as forum member Ragtop 99 pointed out further down the thread, the C7 owner's manual also recommended driving at varying speeds, a personal recommendation being, "If you have to be on the highway for a long stretch, use the paddle shifters to alternate between 5, 6, 7, and 8th gears so that you don’t stay in 8th for long periods of time" during break-in.

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Carlos Sainz will take the Dakar Rally lead into the rest day after losing a duel with teammate Stephane Peterhansel on the sixth stage on Friday.

Peterhansel won his second stage, the 78th of his unparalleled career in the Dakar, but Sainz trailed him to the finish outside the Saudi capital Riyadh only 93 seconds behind.

The 477-kilometer route south from Ha'il on open desert saw drivers press their accelerators for at least 4 1/2 hours, though defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah was slowed at the end and conceded more than three minutes.

That dropped second-placed Al-Attiyah to eight minutes behind Sainz overall, while Peterhansel was 16 minutes back. Local driver Yazeed Al Rajhi was fourth on the stage and fourth overall, nearly 37 minutes behind.

“I need the rest day now,” Sainz said.

His Mini teammate Peterhansel agreed.

“It's more mentally tiring,” the Frenchman said.

American rider Ricky Brabec maintained his motorbikes lead heading to the rest day on Saturday, improving it to more than 20 minutes overall.

Brabec won his second stage at the head of a bunch including Joan Barreda, Matthias Walkner, Pablo Quintanilla, Luciano Benavides, and Jose Ignacio Cornejo.

Overall, Brabec led from Quintanilla, followed by defending champion Toby Price more than 25 minutes back, then Barreda and former champ Walkner.

Price lost more than 16 minutes after a back wheel problem about 30 kilometers from the finish. Kevin Benavides, who started the day third overall, saw his title hopes disappear when his engine broke down near the end, too, and he lost more than 3 1/2 hours.

Racing resumes on Sunday. The race ends next Friday.

___

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

    Hummer is returning to the General Motors lineup after more than a decade, preparing a Super Bowl commercial and releasing a GMC electric pickup in early 2022. That's if you believe a Wall Street Journal report today citing unnamed "people familiar with the matter."

    C/D previously reported on rumors back in October that Hummer would come back; at the time, the Reuters news service said the vehicles would be built at GM's Detroit-Hamtramck plant. No further detail on that topic appeared in the WSJ story.

    The current report says we'll see the first commercial for the big H featuring the NBA's biggest superstar, LeBron James, when it airs during next month's Super Bowl. It's not like LeBron really fit in a Kia, anyway.

    The Journal said there are "no plans to establish Hummer as a stand-alone brand," which means it'll be either relegated to a GMC trim level like Denali or as its own model (GMC Hummer?). C/D contacted a GM spokesman, and we were told, as we were last time we asked, only that the Hummer news is "speculation."

    Even as Rivian, Bollinger, Tesla, and Ford make news for their plans to roll out EV pickups within the next two years, there hasn't been a peep from GM until now. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the old Hummer's most loyal fan, converted one of his H1s to battery-electric power in 2017, but that's just about the last Hummer news that has been definite.

    The Hummer brand came to an end in 2010 after no one in the U.S., China, or elsewhere wanted to touch this brand during GM's post-bankruptcy meltdown in 2009. Maybe this time around, the young environmentalists who once disparaged H2s will be grown, starting families, and ready to come in to their friendly GMC dealer.

    LAS VEGAS — We broke down Nissan’s 2019 sales doom and gloom the other day. There are multiple factors that contributed to it being a particularly down year for Nissan and Infiniti, but at the end of the day, it all comes back to the product sitting on dealer lots.

    To that end, we sat down with Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan’s senior vice president of global design, to hear about where he thinks Nissan is now and where he wants to take the brand in the future. What we heard was a bit surprising to start, but it also left us with a glimmer of hope for future products from one of Japan’s most important brands.

    Beginning with a reality check, Albaisa opines that somewhere along the way, Nissan design has lost its way in Japanese culture. Nissan/Datsun has an epic history of making iconic cars — the list of sports cars and properly wonderful road cars is far too long for us to recount here —  but right now, the company isn’t leveraging that history the way it should. Albaisa wants to change this.

    “We re-studied what it meant to be Japanese ... let’s all take a moment and understand who we were,” Albaisa says. “We are not just known for being one of the oldest brands at the beginning, a pioneer of the Japanese industrial era, we are a key player, and I studied all of that stuff."

    Albaisa's quest to re-learn what it means to be a Japanese icon involved more than just staring at old Nissans. He went back over 400 years of history to gain a better grasp of Japanese culture over time. He studied Tokyo in the Edo era and the birth of the Japanese middle class in the 1950s. Albaisa meets every two months with Nissan designers of years past, some over 90 years old, in search of inspiration for the new era of Nissan.

    The emergence of the Japanese middle class is the part Albaisa really wants to key in on, though. Nissan/Datsun aggressively went after this segment in that era (1950s-1960s), with the halo result of it all being the birth of the Z car, the 240Z. Nissan was democratizing the sports car at that time, and the gorgeous coupe is still revered by enthusiasts today. However, Honda and Toyota have since emerged as the Japanese brands to beat in this segment, leaving Nissan wondering where it went wrong.

    So, there’s a solution here, right? Albaisa points to the Ariya Concept as the new direction for Nissan design in the company’s upcoming electrified era. Nissan has previously said it’s going to introduce a production version of the Ariya, and Albaisa told us this concept is “really close to a real car."

    “They are almost identical to see them,” Albaisa said, comparing the Ariya Concept with the production car. “It’s just a matter of degree of expression. The wheels are an inch bigger. The Ariya is 7 mm wider.”

    Expect to see Ariya-like looks for the other six to eight EVs Nissan says will come to market eventually. Albaisa calls the design theme “timeless Japanese futurism.” There’s a distinct sense of minimalism we feel when looking at the crossover in the flesh. Albaisa echoed our thoughts exactly: “We’re intentionally going to take the brand more minimalist,” he told us. We couldn’t be more thankful for this, as some new Nissans are a total mess on the interior. Mazda nailed it with the new Mazda3 and CX-30 minimalist interiors, and we hope Nissan manages to pull through with its own interpretation of minimalism.

    As of right now, Albaisa says he has 26 cars (many electrified) in his design studio, and a lot of those are Infinitis, too. Unfortunately, that means that those cars are still in progress and not on dealer lots where they need to be. If the Ariya Concept really is an indication of what we’re going to see from the newly Japanese-enlightened Nissan, the future may end up being far sunnier than the dismal numbers Nissan is looking at today.

    image

    Michael SimariCar and Driver

    image

    It may seem crazy to compare the Ford Mustang to a Porsche 911—until you consider the growing size of the Mustang lineup. Like the 911, there's seemingly a Mustang for every buyer. There's an entry-level turbocharged four-cylinder all the way up to the 760-hp Shelby GT500 and even an EV with the Mustang name is coming soon. Right in the middle of that range are the GT and the Shelby GT350. Both bring impressive yet still relatively affordable performance and track-ready handling. But which is the better value? Is the GT350 worth the extra cash? We took these two pony cars to the track to find out.

    The Matchup

    On paper, both the GT and the GT350 are very similar. Both have a naturally aspirated V-8, a six-speed manual transmission, rear-wheel drive, and are within three pounds of each other on our scales. But a closer look reveals some major differences. Under the GT's hood is the Coyote 5.0-liter V-8 with a conventional cross-plane crankshaft and a 7400-rpm redline. Output is a glassy smooth 460 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. The Shelby GT350, however, has Ford's Voodoo V-8, one the most special engines of the decade: a rev-happy and gritty 5.2-liter V-8 with a flat-plane crank and a hair-raising 8250-rpm redline. The GT350 delivers 526 horses and 429 lb-ft of twist. The GT's six-speed is a Getrag unit, while the GT350's stouter gearbox comes from Tremec, with each transmission having unique gear sets tailored to the very different engines.

    Michael SimariCar and Driver

    To even up this matchup, we selected a GT coupe with the optional Performance Package Level 2 (PPL2), which, for $6500, adds magnetorheological dampers and larger front and rear brake rotors with six-piston Brembo calipers in front. Additional goodies include extra chassis bracing, additional cooling capacity, aerodynamic enhancements, a Torsen limited-slip differential, and super-gooey 305-section-width Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 summer tires at all four corners. An active exhaust system is $895, leather-wrapped Recaro buckets are $1595, and our test car came with $2200 in creature comforts that pushed our test car's bottom line to $51,640.

    In addition to its unique and more powerful V-8, the Mustang Shelby GT350 justifies its higher asking price with additional chassis updates that sharpen its already honed reflexes. For 2019, Ford recalibrated the standard magnetorheological dampers, stiffened the front springs by 10 percent, softened the rears by six percent, and fitted a stiffer rear anti-roll bar. Like the GT PPL2, the GT350 now rolls on standard 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, albeit in a staggered setup with 295s up front and 305s in the rear. Our test car was fitted with the optional $850 Handling package, which adds a Gurney flap to the rear wing and adjustable camber plates for a more aggressive setup. Add in-dash navigation, an upgraded stereo, and some driver-assist features for $2000, as well as vinyl stripes for $475, and the total came to $64,860.

    Michael SimariCar and Driver

    At the Track

    To see how the GT fared against the GT350, we headed to the 2.2-mile road course in nearby Grattan, Michigan. Both the GT and the Shelby GT350 thunder down the track's long front straight and make ferocious noises. The GT's 5.0-liter emits a deeper and more guttural exhaust note versus the menacing high-rpm wail of the Shelby's 5.2-liter. Both cars arrive to the Turn 1 braking zone at speeds above 130 mph, but how each reacts to the big braking event reveals some differences. The GT PPL2's slightly wider front tires bring plenty of stopping grip—stops from 100 mph require 281 feet to the GT350's 289—but the PPL2 squirms and dives onto its nose in a way that unsettles it. Do the same thing in the GT350, and it remains relatively level and planted, which helps its pilot focus on not blowing the corner entry.

    The PPL2 has more grip than the GT350—1.13 g versus the GT350's 1.09 g. That advantage aside, we prefer the way the GT350 rotates and responds to weight transfer. The GT350's loss of grip is more fluid and easier to predict. Both Mustangs have minimal body roll, but the GT350 is more composed in quick left-right-left transitions. The PPL2 isn't as responsive and feels a bit skittish as a result. There's more boost and lighter efforts through the GT's steering wheel, and, at times, it can feel a bit nervous. It's a good setup for track work, but the GT350's steering is even better, more alive, communicative, and better at placing the car within an inch of where you want it. Perhaps it's the additional camber provided by the Shelby's camber plates that allow it to change direction more assertively, but it's clear that the recent refinements to the GT350's track-tuned chassis have resulted in very special handling.

    Michael SimariCar and Driver

    You get what you pay for in the GT350 when it comes to what's under the hood. Not only is the Voodoo V-8 more powerful, but the 5.2-liter's sky-high redline keeps it churning away after the GT has to shift. The GT PPL2 does have a rev-matching-downshift function that the GT350 lacks, but it's slow to call up the right rpm on really quick gear changes. You're better off blipping the throttle with your foot. We also prefer the greater accuracy and lighter effort of the Tremec TR-3160's shifter in the GT350 to the GT's Getrag 'box. As a result of the additional power and superior handling, the GT350 turned laps that were nearly two seconds quicker around Grattan than the GT PPL2.

    The Bottom Line

    Even at the well-optioned $51,640 as-tested price, we can't deny the GT PPL2's price advantage. It becomes an even better value if you consider the PPL2's $44,950 entry point. For those looking for a Mustang that'll tackle a track, the PPL2 will never fail to impress and delight, but consider investing some of the savings into a differential cooler. In other track tests we've managed to overheat the GT PPL2's differential in just a few laps. You might also want to put $1800 of the savings aside to replace the sticky and relatively short-lived Michelin tires. The GT350's narrower front tires will save you $400 when it comes time to buy a new set. While both of these Mustangs boast serious performance chops, as our last comparison test of $60K sports cars showed, the Mustang Shelby GT350 is a very special car. The bigger price on the window sticker is commensurate with its added benefits.

    Michael SimariCar and Driver

    Specifications

    Specifications

    2019 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack Level 2

    VEHICLE TYPE
    front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 4-passenger, 2-door coupe

    PRICE AS TESTED
    $51,640 (base price: $49,150)

    ENGINE TYPE
    DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, port and direct fuel injection
    Displacement
    307 cu in, 5038 cc
    Power
    460 hp @ 7000 rpm
    Torque
    420 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm

    TRANSMISSION
    6-speed manual

    CHASSIS
    Suspension (F/R): struts/multilink
    Brakes (F/R): 15.0-in vented disc/13.0-in vented disc
    Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2, 305/30R-19 (98Y)

    DIMENSIONS
    Wheelbase: 107.1 in
    Length: 188.5 in
    Width: 75.4 in
    Height: 54.9 in
    Passenger volume: 85 cu ft
    Trunk volume: 14 cu ft
    Curb weight: 3821 lb

    C/D
    TEST RESULTS
    Rollout, 1 ft: 0.4 sec
    60 mph: 4.1 sec
    100 mph: 9.4 sec
    130 mph: 16.3 sec
    Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 5.0 sec
    Top gear, 30–50 mph: 9.8 sec
    Top gear, 50–70 mph: 9.2 sec
    ¼-mile: 12.5 sec @ 114 mph
    Top speed (governor limited): 154 mph
    Braking, 70–0 mph: 139 ft
    Braking, 100–0 mph: 281 ft
    Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 1.13 g

    EPA FUEL ECONOMY
    Combined/city/highway: 18/15/24 mpg

    2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350

    VEHICLE TYPE
    front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 4-passenger, 2-door coupe

    PRICE AS TESTED
    $64,860 (base price: $61,535) 

    ENGINE TYPE
    DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection
    Displacement
    315 cu in, 5163 cc
    Power
    526 hp @ 7500 rpm
    Torque
    429 lb-ft @ 4750 rpm

    TRANSMISSION
    6-speed manual

    CHASSIS
    Suspension (F/R): struts/multilink
    Brakes (F/R): 15.5-in vented disc/15.0-in vented disc
    Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2, F: 295/35R-19 (104Y) FP R: 305/35R-19 (106Y) FP

    DIMENSIONS
    Wheelbase: 107.1 in
    Length: 188.9 in
    Width: 75.9 in
    Height: 54.2 in
    Passenger volume: 87 cu ft
    Trunk volume: 14 cu ft
    Curb weight: 3818 lb

    C/D
    TEST RESULTS
    Rollout, 1 ft: 0.4 sec
    60 mph: 3.9 sec
    100 mph: 8.7 sec
    130 mph: 14.7 sec
    Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 4.5 sec
    Top gear, 30–50 mph: 10.0 sec
    Top gear, 50–70 mph: 10.8 sec
    ¼-mile: 12.2 sec @ 119 mph
    Top speed (drag limited, C/D est): 180 mph
    Braking, 70–0 mph: 150 ft
    Braking, 100–0 mph: 289 ft
    Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 1.09 g

    EPA FUEL ECONOMY
    Combined/city/highway: 16/14/21 mpg

    Welcome to a new decade of the Autoblog Podcast. In this week's episode, Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore is joined by Senior Editor Alex Kierstein and Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder. First they talk about their early impressions of CES 2020 in Las Vegas, in particular how interesting Sony's Vision-S Concept is. Then they talk about the intriguing saga and daring escape of former Nissan boss and global fugitive Carlos Ghosn. After that, they turn their attention to what they've been driving, including the Genesis G70, Chevy Blazer and Hyundai Santa Fe. Finally, they help a listener pick a new fun toy to replace an unloved Porsche Cayman in the "Spend My Money" segment

    Autoblog Podcast #609

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