The Magnolia Special. Image: Amy Jett for Bienville StudiosEnlarge Photo
We may be having a natural-gas moment.
Next week, we'll test-drive a 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas, the only factory-built passenger car sold to retail buyers that runs on compressed natural gas. We drove its predecessor, the Honda Civic GX, last year.
Now noted auto collector and fan Jay Leno (he has a second job, we hear) has done an episode of Jay Leno's Garage on the remarkable hand-built "Magnolia Special" natural-gas roadster.
The featured car was hand-built in Thirties retro racer style by New Orleans designer (and crazy man) J.T. Nesbitt. As our colleague Kurt Ernst says, Nesbitt is "our kind of crazy."
After building the car, he drove it from New York City to Los Angeles, a trip of 2,500-plus miles, in a mere 89 hours. That included a cold night spent by a campfire waiting for a supposedly 24-hour natural-gas fueling station in North Carolina to open up in the morning.
The Magnolia Special was entirely hand-fabricated, much of it by Nesbitt himself. He formed the fenders out of metal sheet on an English wheel, and cast other items in his New Orleans shop, Bienville Studios.
The motive power is a 4.2-liter Jaguar straight-six engine, which he converted to run on the gaseous fuel. It is supplied from a total of five tanks holding compressed natural gas (CNG), giving it a range of roughly 600 miles (range being the weak spot of Honda's Civic NGV line).
The car is street-legal and, despite its looks, has fully modern brakes, lighting, and the rest. Nesbitt says it's run reliably for more than 5,000 miles thus far.
There are fewer than 1,000 natural-gas fueling stations in the U.S. currently open to the public, so careful route planning and navigation was required, even with a 600-mile range.
Watch the episode below, and then tell us: Doesn't it make you want to drive a natural-gas retro roadster across the country too?
Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.