The Truth About Cars » lemans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 22:57:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » lemans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com An Original Gulf Livery Car – 1968 & 1969 LeMans Winning Ford GT40 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/an-original-gulf-livery-car-1968-1969-lemans-winning-ford-gt40/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/an-original-gulf-livery-car-1968-1969-lemans-winning-ford-gt40/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 11:07:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=778369 IMG_0052

Full gallery here.

Today you can see the powder blue and marigold Gulf Oil racing colors on just about anything with wheels. A quick image search produces photos of bicycles, Mazda Miatas, DeLoreans, smart cars and even a Tata Nano wearing the livery. Gulf Oil itself has sponsored a number of widely varying race cars that have carried the paint scheme. With so many cars having worn Gulf’s iconic colors it’s easy to forget that there was a time when those colors were worn by a single racing team, running Ford GT40s. As it happens, though, the first Gulf livery GT40 that raced was actually painted a different shade of blue.

600_1049

The original Ford GT40 that wore Gulf corporate colors was raced by Gulf VP Grady Davis.

The original race car painted in Gulf Oil colors was a Ford GT40 (chassis #1049) that was raced at Daytona and Sebring in 1967 as an independent entry by Gulf Oil executive vice president Grady Davis. It carried Gulf’s corporate colors of dark blue and orange. In 1967, for the upcoming season the CSI (Commission Sportive Internationale, the sporting arm of the FIA) reduced allowable engine displacement in Group 6 prototype endurance cars to 3.0 liters. That meant that the car that won LeMans in 1967, the Ford GT40 Mk IV with its 7 liter, 427 cubic inch engine, would not be able to defend its title. Having won at LeMans two years running, Henry Ford II had nothing else to prove and shuttered their endurance racing effort. John Wyer, who had an important role in the development of the GT40, realized that the platform could compete at LeMans as a Group 4 sports car, so J.W. Automotive Engineering took over management of the team and arranged for sponsorship from Gulf Oil, renaming the cars Mirages.

Three Mirages were built and they were painted in the now familiar powder blue, not Gulf’s indigo. The colors were specified by Davis, who thought the lighter color was more exciting. Gulf had earlier acquired the Wilshire Oil Company of California, whose corporate colors were powder blue and orange and Davis wanted to use those colors. He may have been on to something. The lighter blue and that shade of orange are considered “equiluminant” colors. The human eye has a hard time perceiving the edges of objects when the objects and their background colors have similar luminance. That makes the edges seem to vibrate which give this particular color combination a lot of visual pop. The final livery actually includes a dark blue hairline border around the orange, which reduces the optical illusion and any visual discomfort while maintaining most of the visual impact.

Graphic designer Wade Johnson has an interesting post about why the Gulf livery works so well on race cars, particularly endurance sports cars like those that race at LeMans:

For me, when I think about what is from a design perspective that makes Gulf racing cars work, it is a combination of things; First there is the intense color pallet which was different from any other at the time it was introduced. Then there are the classic sweeping lines of the Le Mans cars. Long low to the ground, sinuous sweeping arcs that visually scream speed. Then There is a consistent shape that is used across all the cars in the livery. Oh, and that three prong stripe that runs along the bottom edges of the car, gathers at the nose and sweeps backward to the rear of the car. The stripe might vary slightly in shape, but it is always recognizable across all of the cars throughout Gulf’s racing heritage starting in the mid 1960′s. No matter what car this color and graphic scheme is applied to, it always reads Gulf Racing. It is an unmistakable color and design combination even almost 40 years after being introduced.

Only one of the original three Mirages has survived. Of the other two, one was wrecked and destroyed and the other was rebuilt into GT40 #1074. A new Mirage tub was used to build #1075, and a standard GT40 Mk I tub was used to build up #1076. Two more cars were built up by JWAE as spares. The cars featured something relatively new then, carbon fiber reinforced body panels. Those panels were shaped slightly different than the GT40 Mk IIs, with a wider rear clamshell that could accommodate the deeply offset wide BRM magnesium wheels, painted in matching orange.

Cars #1074, 1075 and 1076 went on to great racing success, with #1075 doing the near impossible, back to back overall wins at LeMans using a car generally considered to be obsolete. It was the first time at LeMans that the same chassis had won twice. Pedro Rodriguez and Lucien Bianchi drove 1075 to its first Le Mans win in 1968 and Jacky Ickx and Jackie Oliver won with it in 1969. In 1968, the same car won the BOAC International 500, the Spa 1000-kilometer race, and the Watkins Glen 6-hour endurance race, while in 1969 it also won the Sebring 12-hour race. Any one of those victories would give a race car unique provenance, but you’d be hard pressed to think of another single racing car with victories at so many marquee races. Though I agree with Johnson about how well the Gulf livery works visually, the fact that the car won so many important races, including the repeat at LeMans, is undoubtedly a factor in how iconic the livery has become.

Ford GT40s aren't the only shapes that look good in Gulf livery.

Ford GT40s aren’t the only shapes that look good in Gulf livery.

Ironically, it was because another LeMans winner, the GT40 Mk IV that won in 1967, was damaged that I was able to get these photographs. The ’68 & ’69 winner is currently on display in the Racing In America section of the Henry Ford Museum’s Driving America exhibit, apparently on loan. The GT40 Mk IV driven at victory by Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt that’s normally in that spot in the museum is now at Gurney’s All American Racers shop in California where it is undergoing a “sensitive restoration” and preservation after getting damaged in transit for the Goodwood Revival. One assumes the intent is to preserve some of that car’s racing scars, like the less than concours level repairs to racing damage that you can see on #1075′s rocker panels.

If you’d like to read more about the Gulf livery Mirages and GT40s, there’s a website devoted to the five original cars and the Ford museum’s transportation curator, Matt Anderson has put together a history of chassis #1075. If you’d like to reproduce the Gulf racing livery on your own ride (or whatever else you think would look cool in those colors), the Llewellyn Rylands pigments are 3707 Zenith Blue, and 3957 Tangerine, with corresponding Dulux color codes of Powder Blue #P030-8013, and Marigold #P030-3393.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Porsche 919 Hybrid LeMans Racer Goes After The Two Thirds of Gasoline’s Energy That’s Wasted As Heat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/porsche-919-hybrid-lemans-racer-goes-after-the-two-thirds-of-gasolines-energy-thats-wasted-as-heat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/porsche-919-hybrid-lemans-racer-goes-after-the-two-thirds-of-gasolines-energy-thats-wasted-as-heat/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 19:19:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=763457 2014 Porsche Motorsport- Porsche 919 Hybrid- Angle

The problem with battery electric and fuel cell cars is gasoline. Petrol is genuinely a superior fuel, at least in terms of energy. It has so much energy per gallon, 116,000 btu/gal, that we can use it in an engine whose theoretical maximum efficiency is only 37%. That means that with all the gizmos a modern gasoline powered internal combustion engine has that increase fuel economy, still two thirds or more of the energy in the fuel is being turned into unusable heat, not motive force.

 

Even with all that waste it still is a more practical powerplant than using batteries or other alternatives. It’s long occurred to me that in addition to improving the efficiency of the engine itself, recovering energy from that waste heat might be a productive way of improving the overall efficiency of the car. Porsche is returning to international endurance sports car racing this year with the 919 that they plan on racing at LeMans, and as part of its hybrid system it incorporates a device that in fact generates electricity from the heat in the exhaust, recovering energy from what would normally be waste heat.

Porsche isn’t the first car company to look into recovering waste heat. In 2005 BMW announced their “TurboSteamer” test bed concept that they said gave 10-15% improvements in fuel economy and power. The TurboSteamer integrated a series of sophisticated (and probably very expensive) heat exchangers into the exhaust and cooling systems to power a two stage Rankin cycle engine that assisted the internal combustion engine. A second generation TurboSteamer was announced in 2011. By then BMW had succeeded in miniaturizing the components enough to fit in the standard packaging of a 5 Series sedan.

2014 Porsche Motorsport- Porsche 919 Hybrid- Technical Drawing- Engine

One difference between turbochargers and superchargers is that superchargers are mechanically driven by the engine while turbos’ turbines are driven by the pressure and heat energy in the waste gases that are the product of combustion. For that reason, turbocharged engines have greater thermal efficiency than normally aspirated motors. The Porsche 919′s hybrid drive puts a new spin on recovering energy from exhaust gases with turbine devices. The 919′s V4 engine does have a conventional exhaust driven turbocharger, but it has another exhaust driven device that’s part of the race car’s hybrid drive. The 919 is a through-the-road 4WD hybrid. In other words, it has gasoline power driving the rear axle and electric power that can power the front axle on demand. The batteries for the electric motor are charged by two different systems. One is Porsche’s “conventional” KERS-like system that’s used in the 918 Spyder supercar which is essentially a regenerative braking setup. Porsche’s describes the other source of electrons as “a system that recovers thermal energy from exhaust gases via an electric generator driven by the exhaust gas stream.”

2014 Porsche Motorsport- Porsche 919 Hybrid- Technical Drawing- Hybrid System

What that sounds like is that instead of driving an impeller that pressurizes the fuel/air charge, as a conventional turbocharger does, Porsche’s ”fundamentally new” device is an exhaust gas driven turbine that spins a generator. In a sense it’s a reversed setup for an electrically driven supercharger. Instead of a belt drive running off the engine, an electrically driven supercharger uses an electric motor to pressurize the induction. Porsche apparently did the equivalent of flipping one of those around and mounting it on the exhaust system.

We’ll probably seem more efforts, for both racing and road cars, to turn that 63% or more of the energy that’s currently waste heat into usable power. Turbocharging guru Gale Banks, who knows a thing or two about using waste heat energy, recently said on The Smoking Tire’s podcast that he was hopeful that engine waste heat could be recovered by large scale Peltier devices. Peltier devices are what heat and cool your drink in heated and cooled cupholders. They’re very interesting electronic heat exchangers. If you apply DC voltage, one side will heat relative to ambient temperature and the other side will cool. Reverse the polarity and hot and cold change sides. Fortunately, like piezoelectric devices, the entire process is reversible. If you make one side of a Peltier device hot and the other side cold, it will start generating electricity, something called the Seebeck effect. The term Thermo Electric Generator, or TEG, has been coined for devices that use the thermoelectric effect to make power.

Banks hope may actually see the light of day. Purdue professor Xianfan Xu is indeed heading a research team that is developing large scale Peltier devices designed to work with the temperature differentials one finds in a typical car engine and exhaust. BMW is also working on TEGs in addition to their work on the TurboSteamer concept.

Porsche isn’t saying just how many kilowatts their exhaust driven generator puts out, but it’s safe to assume that the power it harvests is worth the weight it adds to the race car or it wouldn’t be there. Race cars may use technologies that are not yet economically practical, but the engineers who design and build them aren’t going to use something that is a net energy loss.

Source: Porsche

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Porsche 919 Hybrid LeMans Racer to Feature 4 Cylinder Turbo, Batteries http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/porsche-919-hybrid-lemans-racer-to-feature-4-cylinder-turbo-batteries/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/porsche-919-hybrid-lemans-racer-to-feature-4-cylinder-turbo-batteries/#comments Mon, 16 Dec 2013 11:30:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=680938 Porsche-Le-Mans-2014-LMP1-919-9R9-Technik-Details-tL

It’s been 16 years since Porsche competed at the top level of endurance racing at LeMans and it’s been 37 years since a factory Porsche in the LeMans race was powered by a four cylinder engine. Porsche returns to the la sarthe circuit this year with a factory LeMans prototype team, campaigning a car that features a four pot engine, only this time their race car will have something no Porsche car has had at LeMans before. That four cylinder engine will be augmented with a hybrid powertrain. So far Audi and Toyota have raced hybrid prototypes at LeMans. The new Porsche race car will be called the 919, a nod to the hybrid 918 production supercar and to the legendary 917 that gave the company its first overall victory at LeMans in 1970.

“The vehicle name 919 hybrid follows on from the tradition of the Le Mans-winning 917, but it is also with a view to the 918 Spyder, and acknowledges the company’s embarkation into the hybrid future,” Porsche R&D boss Wolfgang Hatz said in a statement. “Maximum efficiency in energy consumption is the directive of the new WEC regulations for the works-entered class 1 prototypes–and that is also the direction for the automobile future.”

Full details haven’t been released but earlier the company revealed that the 919′s drivetrain includes a four cylinder direct injected gasoline engine and two different energy recovery systems. That energy is stored in a battery that powers an electric motor on the front axle.

Audi’s two-time LeMans winning hybrid R18 e-tron quattro LMP1 car uses a six cylinder turbo diesel for the combustion side of the hybrid equation and a F1 style KERS system that stores power in a flywheel that is used for an electric motor, again on the front axle. The Toyota TS030 LMP1 car uses a V8 and stores energy in a supercapacitor that powers an electric motor that helps drive the rear wheels.

Porsche completed their 2013 test program with the new car with their new endurance driver, Mark Webber, behind the wheels at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve near Portimão, Portugal. Webber, who is technically still under contract to the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team, got clearance from his soon to be former F1 team to participate in the testing. It was the first time Webber has been in the car and he said,  ”My first day in this fascinating project was an intense experience for me. I would like to thank Red Bull Racing for giving me the chance to join the project so early. This is a major and important step for us all. It allows me to integrate with the team quicker and to contribute to further developing the LMP1 race car. We have a long way to go and it involves a lot of hard work. I have no misconceptions about this.” Fritz Enzinger, who heads Porsche’s LMP1 team, thanked Red Bull, “I’m delighted to have Mark in the team so early. Red Bull Racing has helped us considerably in allowing this!”

Enzinger is pleased with the progress of the new race car: “Between the roll-out of the completely new car in June and now we have made significant progress. Every single kilometre was important, providing us with new data that brought the development forward. The whole team has worked extremely hard and I would like to express my sincere thanks for this. Our efforts will continue unabated in 2014. Until the start of the season at Silverstone mid-April there is still a lot to do.”

Wolfgang Hatz,  who heads R&D for Porsche AG, added, “We always knew it wasn’t going to be easy to return to top endurance racing after 16 years. Hence, our efforts in developing a competitive Porsche LMP1 race car are immense. Up to this point, our engineers in Weissach, the drivers, and the entire team have performed impressively. We are finding new approaches in the development, implementation and application of leading edge efficiency technologies. This also leads to further improvements of the entire hybrid technology in our production cars. Ultimately, our customers will benefit the most.”

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Junkyard Find: 1988 Pontiac LeMans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-1988-pontiac-lemans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-1988-pontiac-lemans/#comments Sat, 09 Nov 2013 14:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=646082 01 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWe haven’t seen many Daewoo products in this series— in fact, just this ’00 Nubira wagon has made the cut, out of all the expired Lanoses and Leganzas I see— but there was a time when The General saw fit to sell a Pontiac-badged, Opel-based Daewoo LeMans next to its Chevrolet-badged Suzuki Cultus and Geo-badged Toyota Sprinter and Isuzu Gemini. The 1988-93 Pontiac LeMans never was a common sight on American roads, and its iffy reliability and plummeting resale value sent most of them onward via the Great Steel Factory In the Sky by the late 1990s. Still, someone has to win the lottery, and some Daewoontiacs have to survive on the street for as long as Grandpa’s Plymouth Valiant hung on to life. Here’s a miracle LeMans I found at a California self-serve wrecking yard a few weeks back.

GM’s marketers did their best to spin the LeMans as a sexy-yet-sensible ride for big-haired 80s women with tiny bank balances, but the Ford-badged Kia Pride and the first-gen Hyundai Excel proved far more popular.
16 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one made it to just 127,990 miles, which suggests either long-term inactivity or a meticulous drive-only-to-church-on-Sunday long-term owner.
18 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHere’s an engine that ought to provide good trivia-question material at your next Pontiac car show: the Daewoo G16SF.
20 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOverhead cam! The future, it has arrived!
12 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMore or less your standard-issue late-80s cheapskatemobile interior.
07 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHow many of these things are left today?


The German-market Opel Kadett GSi version of this car got a sportier-looking ad campaign to go with its allegedly high-performance option package; the US-market got a GSE version with a whopping 96 horses, starting in the 1989 model year.

01 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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After The Tragedy, Some Thoughts About Racing Injuries http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/after-the-tragedy-some-thoughts-about-racing-injuries/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/after-the-tragedy-some-thoughts-about-racing-injuries/#comments Mon, 24 Jun 2013 12:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=493098 Picture courtesy Canberra Times

When Allan Simonsen crashed his Aston Martin in the opening minutes of LeMans and lost his life, it was a brutal reminder of the fact that auto racing has not, despite the vast amount of intelligent effort put into safety and crash survival, lost its power to end a driver’s life.

The precise mechanism of, and reasons for, Mr. Simonsen’s death are not yet known. However, on Sunday night noted racing instructor Peter Krause shared a new article that delves into the risks drivers face and offers reasoned, intelligent explanations as to how these things happen.

Written by Dr. James Norman, Race Car Deaths: The Medical Causes of Racing Deaths with Examples and Resulting Race Car Improvements discusses how drivers are critically injured and how those injuries can be prevented. It’s worth reading, even if you aren’t particularly concerned with competition, because many of these injury mechanisms also occur on the street. If you want to know how people are killed behind the wheel, this will explain that without hyperbole.

Some of my racer friends are extremely upset at the fact that the barrier at Tertre Rouge was pretty close to a tree and that the LeMans course doesn’t really measure up to F1 safety standards even though the cars reach F1 velocities. They have a point, but I don’t think it will ever be possible to take the risk entirely out of wheel-to-wheel competition. Speaking frankly, I wouldn’t want them to… but I’m still above ground, and I still have my choices, don’t I?

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Racing Fans Look Forward to Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix Paul Newman’s Winning LeMans With Steve McQueen Ron Howard’s Rush http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/racing-fans-look-forward-to-frankenheimers-grand-prix-paul-newmans-winning-lemans-with-steve-mcqueen-ron-howards-rush/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/racing-fans-look-forward-to-frankenheimers-grand-prix-paul-newmans-winning-lemans-with-steve-mcqueen-ron-howards-rush/#comments Mon, 08 Apr 2013 22:30:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=483986  

Click here to view the embedded video.

The people running the low key publicity campaign for director Ron Howard’s upcoming Formula One based film Rush have done their job well, at least as far as car enthusiasts are concerned. Howard’s an A-list and very bankable director with a string of critical and commercial successes so it will be interesting to see how general audiences, as opposed to racing fans, respond to the movie. Since plenty of folks who weren’t space buffs enjoyed Howard’s Apollo 13, I don’t think that will be a problem. If you’ve seen Apollo 13 then you know that Howard is a stickler for authenticity. Howard has made sure that car blogs and the like have been teased with tweeted cheesecake shots of umbrella girls and  information about how realistic the racing footage will be in the movie, centered on the 1976 rivalry between playboy James Hunt and methodical Niki Lauda.  The theatrical opening of Rush is scheduled for September but the film’s official trailer has now been released. You can’t tell a book by its cover nor a movie by its trailer but it does look promising. It also looks kind of familiar, there’s a sense of deja vu about it.

Ford GT40 camera car used in John Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix

They didn’t have car blogs in 1966 when John Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix, starring James Garner, debuted. They did, however, have magazines and well before Grand Prix’s release date the car magazines and publications like Popular Mechanics had a number of articles about how Frankenheimer was filming the movie to achieve realism. An important part was the use of actual race cars, a Ford GT40 and a Cobra, as camera cars so shooting could be done at actual racing speeds. For additional realism, Grand Prix was filmed in Super Panavision 70 and the movie was shown at Cinerama theaters. Frankenheimer has a way with cars. He also directed Ronin, which is a usual pick for lists of the best movie car chase scenes of all times.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Three years later, another actor who, like Garner, got bitten by the racing bug after taking a role as a racer, Paul Newman, starred in Winning, centered around Newman’s character Frank Capua’s quest to win the Indianapolis 500, though there appears to be some CanAm type racing footage as well. Newman’s wife in the James Gladstone directed movie was played by his actual wife, Joanne Woodward. Some of Mr. & Mrs. Newman’s co-stars were Bobby Unser, Tony Hulman, Dan Gurney, and Roger McCluskey.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Then there is 1971′s LeMans. Just saying Steve McQueen gives the film credibility with car guys. McQueen was the quintessential car guy and the mere fact that a car, or motorcycle or even a racing suit has him in its provenance will drive its price up to silly levels. Unlike Garner and Newman who got into racing after playing the part in movies, McQueen had been racing for more than a decade when LeMans was made. As a matter of fact, after his LeMans Healey co-driven by toothpaste heir John Colgate led the 1962 Sebring 12 hour race for 7 hours, McQueen was offered a factory ride by BMC, which he declined because it would have conflicted with his acting career. “I’m not sure whether I’m an actor who races or a racer who acts,” McQueen was quoted as saying.  LeMans was the movie McQueen wanted to make about racing, having earlier turned down the role in Grand Prix offered to Garner. Director Lee Katzin used actual race footage from the 24 hour race in 1970 along with staged action to give the film a documentary feel – perhaps too much so because the film was a relative flop and didn’t do nearly as well at the box office as Grand Prix did.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Grand Prix, Winning and LeMans are almost a trilogy about auto racing in the 1960s and early 1970s. All three of those movies were praised for their cinematography and documentary-like look at auto racing. All three were criticized for dramatic shortcomings as films, with the New York Times calling Grand Prix “Formula B” and LeMans “monotonous”, and  the late Roger Ebert describing Winning as “drearily predictable”. All three have romantic subplots. Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy wins race. Boy gets girl. Though not necessarily in that order. The movies appeal to the same audience, Amazon says that they are frequently bought together as a bundle. Though there have been racing movies made since then like Sylvester Stallone’s mediocre Indycar based Driven and Tom Cruise’s NASCAR movie, Days Of Thunder, none seem to have grabbed car enthusiasts’ affection like the Garner/Newman/McQueen racing trilogy.

The pre-release publicity and Ron Howards track record lead me to believe that Rush will at least equal the three racing “classics” in terms of racing cinema. The fact that it’s based on a true story, including Lauda’s horrific, life threatening burns and his near miraculous recovery and return to racing, bodes well for the film’s dramatic success. Howard showed in Apollo 13 that he has a fairly deft hand when portraying actual human drama.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Junkyard Find: 1976 Pontiac Grand LeMans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/junkyard-find-1976-pontiac-grand-lemans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/junkyard-find-1976-pontiac-grand-lemans/#comments Mon, 04 Feb 2013 14:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=476159 Personal luxury” became one of the few showroom bright spots for Detroit during the darkest days of the Malaise Era. The definition is a bit fuzzy around the edges, but the basic formula always involved a midsize-or-bigger two-door with a generous helping of disco-grade bling, maybe with some heraldic crests and pleather upholstery. Chrysler had the Cordoba, Ford had the Cougar, and GM had the Grand Prix, to name just a few of many examples of the genre. Why, even dowdy AMC got into the act with their Matador Barcelona. So many of these cars were built that you’ll still find examples now and then at self-serve wrecking yards. By 1976, personal luxury was being applied across whole lines, with broad strokes. Today’s find is one of the last of the big A-body LeMans family, built before the LeMans became a cruel Daewoo joke.
You had your Luxury LeMans, of course, but that car just wasn’t grand enough for the America of Watergate and the Fall of Saigon.
The French Cathouse Red interior fad reached its zenith with Japanese cars of the late 1980s (though Chrysler was still using up its stockpile of red velour well into the 1990s), but The General sure didn’t pull any punches with this car.
The Pontiac 350-cubic-inch V8 was one of the more reliable pushrod V8s of its time, but I’ve learned that I just get depressed when I look up horsepower figures on Malaise Era Detroit engines. Let’s pretend that this one made, say, 340 horses and leave it at that.
This clock almost certainly stopped working before the end of the 1970s, so I didn’t buy it for my collection. It looks cool, though.
Pontiac wasn’t going to let those 5 MPH crash bumpers take away their cars’ pointy snouts!

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Junkyard Find: 1973 Pontiac Luxury LeMans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/junkyard-find-1973-pontiac-luxury-lemans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/junkyard-find-1973-pontiac-luxury-lemans/#comments Fri, 20 Jul 2012 13:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=453339 We’ll follow up yesterday’s ’73 VW Super Beetle Junkyard Find with another car from the same year. The Super Beetle listed at $2,499 and the Luxury LeMans four-door hardtop at $3,344… but now they are just so many tons of scrap metal.
The LeMans and its GM A-body siblings got a lot bigger in 1973, and— thanks to Malaise Era legislation under the watch of noted eco-socialist Richard Nixon— cleaner at the tailpipe… at the cost of engine power.
This Pontiac 350 was rated at 150 net horsepower, versus 250 for the 350 in 1971. Some of this was just the difference between gross and net horsepower, and some was the result of a big drop in oxides-of-nitrogen-producing engine compression.
Still, these were nice discount-luxury machines in their day, even with fewer horses under the hood. Unfortunately, certain events late in 1973 really trashed the resale value of cars like this one.
Even in the 5% humidity of Great Plains Colorado, GM cars of this era still manage to rust around the rear window.
If you’re bothered by the confusing climate-control interfaces in modern cars, check out this vent-control lever.
The same goes for this one-speaker “sound system.”

Billy Preston would have sounded just fine on this radio— who cares about those embargoing Arabs when you’ve got music like this on every station?

For free junkyard wallpaper images in all the popular computer monitor resolutions, check out the wallpaper downloads at the headquarters of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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Curbside Classic: 1963 Tempest LeMans- Pontiac Tries To Build A BMW Before BMW Built Theirs And Almost Succeeds http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/curbside-classic-1963-tempest-lemans-pontiac-tries-to-build-a-bmw-before-bmw-built-theirs-and-almost-succeeds/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/curbside-classic-1963-tempest-lemans-pontiac-tries-to-build-a-bmw-before-bmw-built-theirs-and-almost-succeeds/#comments Tue, 14 Dec 2010 17:25:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=376863

In the thirties and forties, GM pioneered and brought to market some of the most innovative, successful and lasting new technologies: diesel-electric locomotives, the modern diesel bus, automatic transmissions, refrigeration and air conditioning systems, high compression engines, independent front suspension, and many more. But GM’s technology prowess was just one facet of its endlessly warring multiple personalities. Planned obsolescence, chrome, fins and financial rationalization were the real moneymakers, especially during the technically conservative fifties. But in the period from 1960 to 1966, GM built three production cars that tried to upend the traditional format: the rear engined 1960 Corvair, the front-wheel drive 1966 Toronado, and the 1961 Tempest. And although the Corvair and Toronado tend to get the bulk of the attention, the Tempest’s format was by far the most enduring one: it was a BMW before BMW built theirs. If only they had stuck with it.

A high performance four cylinder engine with four-venturi carburetion, four-wheel independent suspension; four speed stick shift; perfect 50-50 weight distribution; a light, compact yet fairly roomy body; decent manual steering; and neutral to over-steering handling qualities: sounds just like the specs for the all-new 1962 BMW 1500/1800. Or a Mercedes, or a Rover 2000 perhaps? But none of them had this: a rear transaxle and a totally revolutionary flexible drive shaft.  When GM gave its engineering talent the freedom to innovate, the results were often extraordinary. But in true GM fashion, penny-pinching resulted in the 1961 Tempest arriving flawed, like the Corvair. But unlike the Corvair, The Tempest never got a second chance to sort out its readily fixable blemishes. If so, the result would have been even more remarkable than the 1965 Corvair.

John DeLorean may be more famous for the ’59 Wide-Tracks, the GTO, the Pontiac OHC six, and the ’69 Grand Prix during his tenure at Pontiac, but in my opinion, the 1961 Tempest is his most ambitious and creative engineering effort. He was aware as anyone of the limitations of the Detroit big car formula: too big, thirsty, front-heavy and dull-handling. With the 1960 Corvair in the wings, DeLorean’s lingering plans to build a truly advanced and practical car finally came to (not quite ripe) fruition.

DeLorean was particularly interested in the benefits of independent rear suspension that so many European cars like the VW, Porsche and Mercedes had been using since the thirties. In the mid fifties, his engineering team developed an even more radical evolution of the Mercedes approach for the 1959 full-sized Pontiacs: a rear transaxle to balance weight distribution, and connected to the engine with a flexible shaft drive inside a rigid torque tube. That innovation was his alone, and he received a patent on it. And please don’t call it “rope drive;” good luck trying to send power through anything resembling a rope. It was a single flexible piece of steel, more akin to a torsion bar or a speedometer drive shaft.

The big 1959 Pontiacs arrived with their ad-friendly wide tracks, but were otherwise utterly conventional. But GM wanted to foist the new rear-engine Corvair on Pontiac, in order to spread its high development and production costs. The prototype Pontiac Polaris (above) was classic badge-engineering: a ’59 Pontiac-ish front end grafted on an otherwise unaltered Corvair. But the Pontiac brass Bill Knudsen, Pete Estes and DeLorean weren’t buying it, in part because DeLorean was already familiar with the Corvair’s tricky handling and nasty habit of spinning or even flipping when it got pushed too far.

DeLorean’s initial plan was to use the Corvair body, but turn it into a front-engined car while leaving the whole Corvair rear suspension and its transaxle in place, not even turning it around to face the motor. By using a hollow shaft, the Corvair transmission would actually be “driven” from the rear of the car, resulting in the torque converter hanging off the back of the differential, where it would normally have mated up to the Corvair’s rear engine.

Very creative indeed, and rather bizarre to see the torque converter just sitting there in the open like an appendage (above).  The drive shaft had three inches of deflection (curvature), and that curvature was strictly induced by applying the appropriate stresses on each end; there were no intermediate bearings necessary to locate it within the torque tube.

The rigid torque tube’s benefits went well beyond resulting in an almost-flat floor. It was a key component to adapt the four cylinder engine and help tame its vibrations. A four cylinder theoretically has perfect primary balance. But because it has only two power impulses per crankshaft rotation, second order and torsional vibrations can be quite significant, especially in a larger displacement motor. Traditionally, Europeans kept fours to two liters or less for that reason. Mitsubishi reintroduced the balance shaft with its 2.6 liter four in 1975, and it is highly effective and now very common in smoothing large fours.

This is why Detroit shunned fours like the plague; in order to provide American-style torque and power, American fours had almost always been large. At low engine speeds, like in the Ford Model T and A, this was not too bothersome. A suitable six might have been perfect, but Pontiac had little choice but create a compact and low-cost four by building it the quick and dirty way: eliminating one of the banks of its 389 CID V8. This was very cost effective, because it used a high percentage of the V8′s parts, and could be machined on the same lines as the V8.

Rigidly mounting the four to the front end of the torque tube eliminated the need for the engine mounts to control its front-to-back movements, so it was possible to isolate it and its vibrations from the body to a much greater degree than if had been mounted in the usual fashion. The mounts on the four only had to control its vertical movements, so they could be very soft. That does result in an impressive display of vertical “jumping” when the throttle is opened from idle.

That’s not to say that the 195 cubic inch (3.2 L) four’s noise, vibration and harshness issues were all miraculously solved by DeLorean’s innovative mounting solutions. It’s a very big four, for better or for worse. It does have a fatter torque curve than a comparable six or eight for its displacement, and therefore is very responsive. And thanks to Pontiac’s high performance experience, it could be quite powerful; output started at 110 hp, and went up to 165 hp with the optional four barrel carburetor. That overshadows the 1961 Corvair’s 98 hp optional engine.

As it turned out, Pontiac didn’t have to use the actual 108″ wheelbase Corvair body after all; GM relented and let them share the Corvair-based but slightly larger 112″ wheelbase Y Body that Buick and Oldsmobile were preparing for their 1961 compacts. But Pontiac was given a very tiny budget to adapt it, so the 1961 Tempest (above) used most of the Olds F85 sheetmetal with a ’59 Pontiac-derived front end and a new rear end grafted on. But the four cylinder, flex-drive and Corvair transaxle and its rear suspension were retained, for better or for worse.

The worst was that it was a simple swing axle: rigid half-axles jointed only at each side of the rigidly mounted differential. This was the hot new thing in Europe back in the thirties, but its tendency to jack up in fast corners and create snap oversteer and flipping had become all-too well known.

That’s why Mercedes developed its innovative single low-pivot rear axle (above) with an anti-jacking compensating spring in the early fifties, a temporary step before it adopted a double-jointed irs in 1968. BMW’s “Neue Klasse” 1500/1800/2000 sedans first arrived in 1962 with a double-jointed rear suspension. As did the Jaguar S sedan. Europe was moving on, and GM would quickly learn this painful lesson in penny-pinching. The 1963 Corvette Sting Ray had a new double-jointed rear axle, which the 1965 Corvair also adopted to great effect.

I showed you the odd Tempest automatic transaxle earlier, but here’s the (leaky) four speed in the featured convertible. That round bolted cover on the end is where the Corvair bellhousing would have attached.

And here’s the front of the same unit, showing the shift linkage which the Tempest conveniently shared with Corvair too. It wasn’t a model of precision and quickness, but Porsche had to have something left to improve when it adopted a highly similar torque tube rear transaxle for their 928 and 924/944/968. The 968′s three liter four was only slightly smaller than the Tempest 3.2, and its ferocious torque showed to best advantage the benefits of a large displacement four with balance shafts. If John Z. had remembered about the 1904 Lanchester’s patented balance shafts and adapted them, the Tempest would really have been a milestone car.

Speaking of Porsche’s claims about their pioneering:

a minor error in the text

The ’61 and ’62 Tempests did also offer a version of the aluminum Buick 215 CID V8 optionally, but only 1-2% of them were built with it, and only a tiny handful with a stick. Theoretically, the combination of the light and smooth V8 with a four speed and the Tempest’s independent suspension and perfect weight balance would have potentially made a very appealing package. But the V8 was troublesome from the beginning, and Pontiac had to “buy” it from Buick, so the four was pushed heavily. And the hi-po four did make almost as much horsepower as the V8.

The Tempest was widely (and rightfully) hailed when it arrived. It won Motor Trend’s COTY, and accolades from the press: “a breakthrough for Detroit”…”a wonderfully refreshing automobile”…”a significant coup of major import”…”may be the forerunner of a new generation”…”unquestionably a prototype American car for the sixties”. Testers praised its 50-50 front-rear balance, which resulted in lighter steering, less understeer, better traction and braking, and a good ride. But its ability to create the dreaded snap oversteer in the wet or on quickly driven curves was not left behind with the Corvair’s rear engine. The Tempest’s handling could also be tricky, and its agricultural sounding four could not be fully tamed, even if some of its shaking was mitigated. Consumer Reports was not so enthralled.

1962 Tempest LeMans

The Tempest met its sales expectations, selling 100k in 1961, 140k in ’62, and 130k in ’63. That helped Pontiac clinch third place in the sales stats. But it suffered the same problem as the Corvair: profitability was not up to snuff. The extra costs in converting the Olds body and the drive shaft and rear transaxle bit into the already slim margins on compact cars. The whole ambitious Corvair/Tempest/Olds F85/Buick Special Y-body experiments left GM with a bad aftertaste, especially since Ford was doing so well with its utterly conventional Falcon and Comet. The dull 1962 Chevy II was the effective replacement for the Corvair, and the B-O-P compacts became highly conventional mid-sized cars in 1964.

Our next door neighbor in Iowa City, a Russian professor, drove a white ’62 LeMans convertible like the one above. I vividly remember the throb of the big four as I rode with her to Sears to get her lawnmower fixed. But the open top was even more effective than DeLorean’s other efforts to drown out its agricultural sounds, at least above thirty or so. And I once briefly drove a co-worker’s base ’61 sedan in LA: despite being elderly, its intrinsic balance (which could be all-too easily upset for amusing purposes) and decent steering for an American car was downright un-American. If only its engine ran sweetly like my Peugeot 404′s. But the trade-off was the torque: very American indeed.

Our featured car is a 1963 LeMans, which was the sporty/upscale variant analogous to the Corvair’s Monza with the same bucket seats and higher trim. The ’63s were restyled to make them appear bigger, wider and longer. This convertible has all the right options, at least for those that have a soft spot for the four. I found it in front of this shop where it had just been converted to the factory 165 hp four barrel setup. And it also has the four-speed stick. Not surprisingly, its owner turns out to be a ’63 Tempest junkie; it was the car he always wanted in high school.

Norman has over half a dozen ’63s in and a round his shop and back yard, including this sedan still on the trailer that he just picked up. And he has another convertible (below) with the optional 326 V8 that replaced the aluminum V8 for 1963. This was a prescient move by DeLorean, and foreshadowed the 1964 GTO.

The 326 is a 389 with smaller bores (and actually displaced 336 cubic inches), and although no lightweight, it still results in a quite decent 54/46 weight distribution because of the rear transaxle. With a two barrel carb, the 326 made a fairly modest 260 hp, but the Tempest was light (2800-3000lbs) so with the V8 it scoots right along.  Because of limited funds, the four speed was not upgraded to handle the V8′s torque, so as far as is known, all the 326s came with the three speed stick or the two-speed Powerglide/aka: TempesTorque automatic. Norman says his fours get 18 – 20 mpg, and the 326 around 16 – 18 mpg.

To mitigate its handling rep, the 1963 Tempest’s rear suspension was revised with a modified control arm geometry and other tricks. But it was still a swing axle, and the Tempest’s end was already in sight, to be replaced by live-axle conformity.

But in my imagination, I see a 1965 Tempest coupe based on the stunningly beautiful ’65 Corvair body, with the 230 hp Sprint OHC six under a lengthened front end and sharing that Corvair’s new Corvette-based rear suspension. What a genuine American BMW that would have been, right down to the dash (the BMW’s Tempest look-alike dash appeared on the ’66 1602). In my oft-repeated GM coulda-shoulda dreams.

A scan of an in-depth SIA article on the Tempest is here

Over two hundred other Curbside Classics are here

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Between the years 1988 and 1993, GM decided to use Americans in a mass experiment, in which I found myself  an unwitting participant. Seemingly unable to determine on its own whether Korean-made cars would pass muster here, GM just sent boatloads of them over and slapped on the storied Pontiac LeMans name, no less. Then it looked for suckers/participants, both long and short term. Oddly enough, one actually had to pay to play. I ponied up for a week’s worth in the summer of 1990, and put it through the most difficult torture possible to try to kill it, in revenge for having been drafted by Hertz to do GM’s work. I hereby submit my results, in the hopes of getting my money back. Oh wait; that was the old GM. Well, someone’s going to pay to hear my evaluation, twenty years late or not.

I’m assuming the overall experiment didn’t go so well even without my input, because GM and Daewoo broke up in 1992, right about when the US-LeMans experiment was ending. It wasn’t the first time Daewoo got kicked out of bed for a poor performance, having previously shared sheets with both Toyota and Datsun.  Daewoo then went through its brief independent single era, which ended in tears and bankruptcy, and back in the General’s loving arms in about 2002 or so, despite the LeMans experiment, or maybe because of it. They were obviously meant for each other.

It was a particularly rude choice of GM to inflict the LeMans onto Americans via Pontiac, since historically the once-proud Indian brand occupied a notch above Chevrolet in the corporate pecking order. And Chevy/Geo was selling some quite decent Japanese cars at the time, both the Corolla-clone Prizm, as well as the Isuzu-built Spectrum. Saturn was also still in its heyday. So why dump this on poor Pontiac?

I suppose one could argue that Pontiac was already the GM cesspool of small cars at the time. Its Chevette-clone 1000 began rotting before it was introduced almost ten years earlier, and the Sunbird was no gem. And there was the not-so Grand Am. How’s another piece of crap dumped on Pontiac going to hurt it? It’s not like it’s going to go under or anything like that.

The Daewoo LeMans actually had some pedigree. It was heavily based on the Opel Kadett E, the lead member of GM’s global T-Platform that found its way around the world. But something go lost in the translation into Korean, because the real McCoy Kadett/Astra was generally able to give the Golf a reasonable run for its money on its home turf.

In the summer of 1990, my younger brother and I both needed a break from our jobs and young families. My parents were heading to the mountains of Colorado for a vacation, so we played hookie and joined them. My rental was a 1990 LeMans four door. It was almost brand new, but felt like it had already spent a lifetime being abused: the steering was sloppy, the suspension felt like all the bushings and shocks were worn, the engine moaned like it was about to die. And the interior was deadly. “Use Me – Abuse Me” was etched all over its thin paint.

With a 74 hp 1.6 L four hooked to a three-speed automatic, the LeMans was feeble enough at Denver’s altitude; but we were heading to Leadville, the highest town in the continental US. Taking the Hwy 6 bypass at the Eisenhower Tunnel to Loveland Pass took us to 12,000 feet, and the Daewoo was already wheezing and staggering with altitude sickness. But that was just the warm up act.

We came here to climb the 14,000 ft. peaks of the Collegiate Range, but my seventy-year old father needed a one day break between hiking, and my mother couldn’t hike at all. So on alternate days, I took them mountain climbing in the LeMans. There are numerous old wagon and mining roads all over that part of the Rockies; I can’t remember exactly which ones we took, but if they were headed up, so did we.

These rough rock and gravel “roads” that sometimes reach 13,000 feet or so are normally the exclusive domain of genuine four wheel drives. In the old days, tall and rugged two-wheel drive trucks were adequate, and I had conquered a few with my old VW Beetle. But a rear-engined high-clearance 15″ wheeled VW is not a low-squatting, FWD LeMans. Just for the record, a light FWD car with four adults aboard on a very steep grade is the worst drive train configuration possible, except perhaps a rear-engined car with front wheel drive, which I don’t remember ever being built (please, someone prove me wrong).[Update: the Dymaxion]

But we gave the LeMans the spurs, and it scrabbled its way up most everything we could find, although I seem to remember backing down one at some point when the wheels just couldn’t find traction anymore. I might have tried going up backwards; if necessary; that’s the way to go up a too-steep hill in a FWD car. We got high enough as it was, and the boulders we scraped on its bottom were fortunately well inside of the rocker panels.

My mother took and sent me the picture above, which was taken on one of our “climbing expeditions”. On the back, she wrote: “this was taken on one of the lower peaks we reached. A triumph for the car and your driving, Paul!” Aw shucks, Mom! I was just doing my job for GM! But I’ll pass on the compliments belatedly.

Since I’ve already hijacked the main LeMans thread, I’ll share another brief story from that trip. My father, a medic, was captured by the Allies near Normandy during WWII, and likely owes his life to being one of a fairly small number of POWs to be sent to the US, where he was well-fed. In the the large POW camps in France, he saw his weight and health decline precipitously, and attended to many starving POWs. Since the war was as good as over by then, his group was sent to various military camps to tear them down. One of them was here at Camp Hale, also near Leadville, where the famous 10th Mountain Division trained before heading to Italy. Here my father stands at the foundations of the buildings he helped dismantle forty-five years earlier. And we got there courtesy of the LeMans.

OK, so the LeMans never gave up regardless of what I dished out. Getting there is one thing, how it feels getting there is what makes the car. And what really put the LeMons into perspective was that my father’s rental was the all-new Mazda 323-based gen2 Ford Escort. The difference between the two was huge. The Escort felt so buttoned down on the (paved) winding roads; it was a pretty impressive small car for the times. Of course, he wouldn’t dare let us compare its climbing abilities to the Daewoo, so that aspect will be forever unknown. But then Ford wasn’t asking us to be their guinea pigs.

Even if Americans didn’t end up embracing the Korean LeMans, it has found a more loving home elsewhere. And a more enduring one too. They’re still being made today as the UzDaewoo Nexia in Uzbekistan (insert Borat joke here).

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