This week in Jalopnik: A luxury wheelmaker offers a free Bentley with a set of gem-encrusted rims; XM Satellite builds our dream traffic app; design students compete to design a killer Ferrari prototype; we review Honda's newest (and wonkiest) Civic; a Michigan man redeems the honor of a lost hot rod legend of the '60s; a German carpenter carves a full-sized classic Mercedes out of wood; and BMW is the first to launch a car that uses a new, high-speed data standard.
Dropping the word "bling" into conversation (or a column) may be as tired as "Will and Grace," but the concept of blingage has never been more blindingly alive. In what could be the long-lost eighth sign of the apocalypse, luxury wheel brand Asanti has introduced a set of diamond-encrusted 22-inch rims that cost a million bucks for a set of four. Here's the upside — they come with a free, $150,000 Bentley Continental GT. Wither, Marie Antoinette?
XM Satellite Radio is working on a system with which drivers in urban areas can find available parking spaces. Sensors embedded in private parking lots will detect whether or not a space is in use, and that data is conveyed to drivers via their navigation systems. Still, the system won't be a truly killer app until cities embed the sensors into public parking spaces. That's when we'll show up at XM's office with cake, to say the least.
Students from top auto design schools are competing to come up with the most compelling new Ferrari design. It's a contest sponsored by Ferrari and Pininfarina — "Ferrari: new concepts for the myth" — and the students are from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Tokyo Communication Arts, Coventry University School of Art and Design, and the European Institute of Design in Turin. The winners will receive an internship at Ferrari or Pininfarina.
According to our own Robert Farago, the recently redesigned Honda Civic could bet the first car designed for the vid kids, the "first mainstream motor to reflect, represent and personify the Playstation Generation s digitized automotive sensibilities." Bloop.
Ed "Big Daddy" Roth s Mysterion was once one of the most recognizable custom cars from the radical 1960s hot rod generation. But the cycloptic beast didn't stand the test of decades; the lost machine likely turned to dust in the back of some defunct SoCal garage. But one Roth fan set about to recreate the Mysterion, only with a build quality exceeding that of, say, a paper-towel holder from Target. He did it.
Not all replicists, of course, aim for perfection. Some switch media and just keep right on going. One seriously skilled carpenter from Germany, Udo Haase, carved a replica of the famed Mercedes 300SL gullwing out of pine, just for the hell of it. And we couldn't even finish that baseball-card box in shop class.
And finally, BMW will be the first to apply a new data-transfer standard to a new car. The company's next X5 will be fitted with a suspension-damping application that uses the new FlexRay high-speed data transfer system. That system, developed by a consortium of carmakers and electronics suppliers, will likely form the infrastructure of new drive-by-wire functions that will one day replace mechanical systems for acceleration and braking. The X5's use of it is a kind of soft launch, a dry run to see how close to a zero failure rate can be achieved.
[Jalopnik s The Week in Cars appears every Friday (normally, but Monday today)]