The Truth About Cars » Racing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 26 Jul 2014 01:30:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 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 » Racing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com NASCAR For The Novice (The Prequel) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/nascar-for-the-novice-the-prequel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/nascar-for-the-novice-the-prequel/#comments Fri, 13 Jun 2014 19:46:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=843553 Click here to view the embedded video.

I am pacing back and forth in a 200 square foot wooden building that I had exchanged for a 1996 Volvo 850 sedan back in 2008.

“What the hell am I going to write about? I know nothing about racing! Zip!”

“Well Steve, maybe we can arrange for a few interviews.”

“Would they be racers?”

“Aaahhh, no.”

“Owners? Hookers? How about the guy who fires the gun?”

“What gun?”

The truth was that I didn’t want to go to any race. I had a long line of issues to deal with at the used car lot. Customers that needed help either finding cars, or paying for them.  The grass was growing back where the gravel was, and I hated to leave money on the table. If I left, either some deals would be lost, or I would have my cell phone surgically attached to my ear for the entire time.

It wouldn’t be fun. But that was the big problem for me at this point. Life wasn’t fun when it came to my daily work life. I rate every working day from a 1 to 10 scale for that key elusive ingredient known as, fun. For the past year my days have been 2′s and 3′s. They used to be 7′s and 8′s, back in the time when I had not built this beast of the business up to the point where I felt like was a subservient tail of a great big fire breathing dragon.

I was dealing with too many cars with weird problems, and amateur bullshitters who thought they could get one up on me. There were countless times over the past two weeks where I just thought about taking all my retail cars, wholesaling them, and taking time off from what had become a pressure cooker of human stupidity.

Instead, I went to my first race.

I started out driving out to Atlanta and entering a humongous underground parking deck that had at least 12 or 13 levels to it.

garage

Turn right, drive. Turn right, drive. I realized that I was doing a 15 mph version of NASCAR with an opposite turn, and all the cars thankfully either gone or parked along the side out of pity.

Once I reached the bottom of the bottom,I realized something highly unusual right off the bat.

I was the only one there.

No cars. No noise. Nothing but me and my car… that happened to have nothing in the trunk. At least for now. Gulp!

As a native Jersey boy, I briefly thought about the ease of whacking someone and moving a body in this parking garage. My southern twang belies the fact that I grew up in Northern Jersey during the Reagan era. A time and place where houses mysteriously burned down, the mafia always handled your garbage, and John Gotti was considered a not-so-bad guy.

This theatrical idea was tempered by me driving  a seven-year old Corolla instead of the black 1980 Cadillac Seville I sold earlier that week. I missed that car. After about 10 minutes of quiet and no phone signal, I met my co-rider, and we quickly made our way back up to the same part of Northwest Georgia I had just left.

Camry-Hybrid-LE-interior

We would be spending our time in a 2014 Toyota Camry LE. The type of car that no supposed enthusiast or auto journalist wants to drive. Yet what did I recommend for my mom to buy back in 2012? A Camry. That is after she pretended to be open-minded and rejected everything else in the marketplace. The brutal truth of this business is that most folks have minimal needs to get from A to B, and reliability is still the #1 driver of sales in the new and used car markets.

As I exhume myself from this tomb of automotive storage, my mind wanders to the blandness of the American driving experience. Cruise at 70. Seats comfortable. Driving straight and uneventful. Talk on cell phones.  That’s what the American open road is like these days. The media driven garbage about cars representing the penultimate of freedom and sexiness is, at least in my mind, castrated by the salient fact that everyone plays the game “follow the leader” when it comes to daily driving, and detailing is already a pure misery for most car owners.

This is what I’m thinking about while going through six different lights on one of 30+ Peachtree Streets here in Atlanta.

stoplight

I enjoy a winding one lane road as much as anyone in this business, but city driving sucks and the suburbs aren’t much better these days. Traffic is a constant pain because turn signals are optional, people play with their cell phones, and drivers often turn for the hell of it.

Cars are mostly a burden in most cities like Atlanta, and what joy can be had by revving your engine every now and then is often throttled back by a city police force whose only opportunity for pay raises is to issue more traffic tickets.

The racing world is a healthy rebellion from what has largely become a speed hating society.

The light turns green. I hit Interstate 85 and after about 30 minutes of driving, we finally become free of the monetary clutches of quick changing stoplights and legalized theft cartels. I and my co-driver are hitting 80 on our way up to northwest Georgia and beyond.

crosscountryroads

The scenery gets better. I like to tell folks that when you’re in Atlanta, you’re in Atlanta, and when you’re in Georgia, you’re in JAW-JA! Never the twain do meet.

Atlanta is a bit of a weird place. Very corporate, yet not quite conservative, and often times city officials are downright delusional about where their strengths lie. A few years ago these guys wanted to get the NASCAR Hall of Fame down here, which would have been kinda like asking the New York Yankees to move to Winnipeg.

I’m not a NASCAR enthusiast at all. But one thing I do know is that the cultures of “NASCAR Country” and “The ATL” are about as close to each other as Mercury is from Pluto.

The College Football Hall of Fame will be in Atlanta, right near Georgia Tech, which is a great fit for the culture and the community. The guy I’m riding with is pretty much a foot soldier for promoting these types of projects around Georgia, and as the scenery around us changes from commercial parks to pine trees, we start changing a bit.

Our accents become a bit more country. By seeing my neck of the woods, I begin to relax. The phone gets turned off.  The beauty of North Georgia becomes all encompassing, and I realize something at that very moment.

I needed this.

 

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Energy Drinks May Follow Tobacco Sponsorship Into History http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/energy-drinks-may-follow-tobacco-sponsorship-into-history/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/energy-drinks-may-follow-tobacco-sponsorship-into-history/#comments Fri, 13 Jun 2014 12:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=843482 2014 Red Bull F1

Once upon a time, the Sprint Cup was the Winston Cup, Rothmans decorated Porsche 962s in Group C, and the Marlboro chevron was everywhere a wheel turned in anger. Though those days are long gone, energy drink makers like Red Bull and Monster have stepped in to fill the financial void left behind by Big Tobacco. At least for now.

Asphalt & Rubber says that what happened to tobacco sponsorship in Europe and, eventually, the rest of the world could soon happen to energy drink sponsorship. Sales of energy drinks have been banned for sale to consumers under 18 in Lithuania thus far, while some cities and states in the United States are considering the same. Meanwhile, the American Medical Association is advocating a marketing ban on energy drinks to under-18s, which led to industry leaders from the likes of Red Bull, Monster, Rockstar et al having to testify before Congress.

The potential result of increased regulation could mean the energy drink makers may choose to focus on one-off events instead of sponsoring events and teams in Formula One, MotoGP et al, leaving both organizations and competitors alike once again seeking out the kind of sponsorship dollars tobacco once provided prior to the industry’s exodus in the mid- through late 1990s.

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Volunteering to Work a Major Race Can Be a Great Deal http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/volunteering-to-work-a-major-race-can-be-a-great-deal/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/volunteering-to-work-a-major-race-can-be-a-great-deal/#comments Sun, 18 May 2014 11:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=820018 volunteeer

How would you like to get insider access all weekend long to a major motorsports event, complete with a catered lunch every day, a commemorative shirt, hat and lapel pin, free parking and an invitation to a gala post-race party, all for just fifteen bucks? Well, the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix still needs about 100 volunteers to make up the balance of the approximately 1,100 volunteers who make the race possible. Okay, so technically it’s not just $15, you also have to agree to work one 8 hour shift each day of the three day event, but it still seems to be a great bargain and a terrific way to get an inside look at big league racing, in this case back-to-back Indycar races, a race in the  TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, a Pirelli World Challenge Series race and the first appearance at the CDBIGP of Robbie Gordon’s SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Trucks Series.

With the race less than two weeks away, May 30-June 1, 2014, race organizers are still soliciting applications to join the Detroit Grand Prix Association (DGPA), the race’s official volunteer organization. Of particular interest to racing enthusiasts is the fact that the biggest need is for circuit marshals, the volunteers who work closest to the track controlling adjacent pedestrian and vehicle traffic and letting people cross the track when it isn’t “hot” with race cars. As a circuit marshal you may be able to get even closer to the racing action than is possible for people paying admission. Other volunteer positions still open will assist with traffic flow within the grounds of the temporary racing facility on the island, including race team and support vehicles in the paddock and near the track.

volunteer_vert

There are two overlapping shifts, with one starting about 6:30 am and another just before noon. Volunteers have to commit to work one shift per day, attend a training session (and obey all safety rules), and pay the aforementioned fee of $15. In addition to the perks mentioned above, you’ll also get a certificate of appreciation. Appreciation works both ways. The simple truth is that events like the CDBIGP just could not take place without the help of volunteers. If you enjoy motorsports, you might want to consider volunteering for the Detroit Grand Prix or at a similar event in order to give something back to the sport you love.

In case you think that you’re volunteering to help some business, the CDBIGP is not a profit-making venture. The Grand Prix’s chairman, Bud Denker, told me specifically that their goal is to be financially viable enough to be ongoing, not to turn a profit. It’s a civic minded venture, there because folks like Roger Penske and Jim Campbell (who is in charge of performance and motorsports at GM), along with more than a thousand volunteers, think the Motor City should host a major motorsports event.

If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer for the 2014 Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, you can go to the race’s website or contact Hannah Deacon with Volunteer Services at hdeacon@detroitgp.com or (313) 748-1801. If you do end up volunteering for the Detroit race, or if you’ve ever volunteered at a racing event of its magnitude, let us know what the experience is like.

 

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Sunday Story: Shade Tree Redux http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/sunday-story-shade-tree-redux/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/sunday-story-shade-tree-redux/#comments Sun, 11 May 2014 12:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=819066 800px-Catalina_Island,_La_Romana,_Dominican_Republic._A_typical_bungalow_nearby_cost_line,_shaded_with_palm_trees_(1)

Image courtesy of Mstyslav Chernov: http://tinyurl.com/k8atv8o

“Cool photo. Is that your grandpa or something?” Mark pointed to the sun-bleached black and white photo that hung on the wall of the garage. A smiling, grease-stained man in mechanic’s overalls stood proudly in front of a 1950s dirt-track racer. Sitting at his feet was a trophy.

Danny nodded. “Yup, that’s him. He’s my inspiration. He used to talk about building motors and fixing up cars underneath the old shade tree. You can see it there in the background.” Mark kept staring at the photo. Satisfaction, thought Mark. That was the only word that he could use to describe it. The pure, unbridled joy of winning a competition, based not only on one’s skill with a steering wheel and clutch, but with a screwdriver and a hammer too. Mark knew that feeling well; he loved winning as much as anybody and he built his own machines too.

This time, however, he needed some help. Danny was the best shade-tree mechanic in the city, and a good friend to boot. Mark knew Danny would be able to fix the reliability problems plaguing his machine, issues that he couldn’t seem to trace. He needed Danny’s skill in order to be ready for the weekend.

“Let’s take a look at what you brought me.” Mark gladly obliged. The candy-apple-red paint glimmered in the garage as Danny let out a low whistle.

“That’s one hell of a machine you’ve got there.” Mark’s pride swelled.

“Yeah, I did the whole finish myself. Two coats of primer, then three color coats, then gloss, then wet sanding, then I hit it with gloss again. Waxed it just to be safe.” Danny admired his reflection in the shine of the surface.

“If it looks so good, then what’s the problem?”

“I think it has a short, or a bad battery, or something. At high speeds it starts blowing fuses and just dies.”

“Well, that could be a lot of things. Let’s take a look.” They gently lifted the hood off and set it aside, careful not to scratch the finish. Danny scanned the chassis code. Using his wealth of knowledge about serial numbers and build orders, he noticed something right away.

“Aha!”

“What is it?”

“See that code there? It’s a 24X97F. You have an early build.”

“Alright, so what?”

“They made a running change late in the year. They redesigned part of the voltage regulator so that the fuse wouldn’t blow when the system was running at max charge. The new part is a lot more reliable.” Mark nodded his head in understanding, but he was worried.

“Can we get it fixed in time? The tournament is this weekend!”

“Calm down, it’s an easy fix. I think I’ve got the part. We have to do a little soldering, but it’s no big deal.”

“Ah, great.” Before long, they’d yanked out the subassembly and had it in pieces on Danny’s workbench. After a good thirty minutes of rifling through various disheveled bins, they finally found the replacement part.

“Got it.” Danny held up the small clear baggie triumphantly. It was a thin piece of metal, barely an inch long.

“That’s it?” Mark was skeptical.

“Hey, I know what I’m talking about, alright? You stick to paint.” He was already plugging in the soldering iron. A couple dabs later, and the new part was secure. Danny proffered the bad bit to Mark.

“You see how burnt it looks in the middle? That’s because they cheaped out on the design. Stupid bean counters, they wound up fixing it anyway. Grandpa used to complain about them too.”

“Huh. Well, let’s get it put back together so I can check your work.” Thus began the laborious process of reassembly. After many more admonishments to not scratch the paint, Danny had successfully put the whole thing back together. A new fuse, and it was ready to fire up.

“Okay, let’s give it a whirl.” Mark’s machine turned over instantly, whirring lustily in the garage. Danny sat his biggest box fan in front of it, and they ran it flat out for a few minutes. It was solid as a rock. A few more checks, and Mark was satisfied. He was ready to stomp the competition yet again.

“Couldn’t have done it without you.”

“No problem, man. Good luck with Battlefield 4 this weekend.” They admired the freshly-repaired computer, glinting there on its stand. Danny looked back up at the photo of Grandpa on the wall. Sure, it wasn’t a car, but he figured the old man would have approved. He always admired mechanical skill of any type. They carried the machine outside and gently sat it in Mark’s car. The color of his lowered Prelude matched that of his computer.

“Now that it’s getting warm again, are you going to sign up for any more SCCA stuff?”

“Yeah, but I need to reset the suspension first.”

“Well, we can work on that next weekend.”

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Super Piston Slap: Poorvette Fever! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/super-piston-slap-poorvette-fever/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/super-piston-slap-poorvette-fever/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:12:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=775097

Aside from “real racers” who insist The 24 Hours of LeMons is a joke, everyone else understands this series’ willingness to embrace engineering and artistic creativity, providing somewhat-wholesome entertainment and—best of all– giving away a metric ton of track time for little cash.  As a member of the LeMons Supreme Court in their Texas races, well, bias from judicial bribes and heartless praise bestowed upon me aside…

…here’s a dirty little secret: you can go LeMons racing in any fully depreciated machine with ZERO PENALTY LAPS, no matter how awesome the vehicle was when new. Provided you bend (not break) the rules with your whip.  And give everyone a good reason to love/hate you.  The Poorvette is proof positive.

Now this ain’t no secret, as Murilee Martin already mentioned how the Poorvette shoulda been buried under penalty laps. But wasn’t.  Why?

  1. The team: historically they‘ve been nice to everyone, pre C4 Corvette ownership.  Sometimes that goes a long way in determining penalty laps, or lack thereof.
  2. The Poorvette’s somewhat believable story: being an earlier C4 (Tuned Port Injection) body with an LT-1/6-speed swap gone wrong (supposedly), then sold for cheap-ish and parted out to fit in LeMons rules.***
  3. Track record:  American V8 iron has rarely endured in LeMony races, much less possessing the fuel economy to match with the infrequent pit stops of more efficient metal. #notwinning
  4. Margin for error: you are guaranteed to enjoy passing every lily livered furrin’ car in your wedge-tastic Vette, to the point that euphoria nets you a black flag. Then serious repercussions (that often come with zero-penalty laps) in the judging area…resulting in no chance of winning.
  5. Not winning is a big “win” for everyone: the fanbois have grist for their mill, the haters do their thang, and LeMons tells another insane story.

Clearly this is a win-win for everyone. Especially you, oh cheaty race team.

Photo courtesy: (http://www.murileemartin.com)

And how did the Poorvette do? It led the pack, getting everyone all hot and bothered.  But then the stock fuel tank/pump had starvation issues in the corners, which was the icing on the cake after the power steering failed the day before in testing.  No matter how fast you’re going, those Z06-style wheels are too wide to ever make a lack of power steering acceptable. Even still, the Poorvette probably also set one of the fastest lap times, which totally means nothing in an endurance race.

Hare, meet the Tortoise…son!

But still, the Poorvette’s maiden voyage netted a respectable 6th place on a weekend lacking Corvette friendly weather.  Not bad considering how many Porsche 944s need far more work to accomplish similar results.  Perhaps one day we will see C4s give those Porkers the drubbing they got back in the 1980s. If so, don’t expect Judge Phil to be generous with C4s again. Ever.

No matter, the Poorvette’s crew even earned a Judge’s Choice Award, which proves once more: we need more C4s in LeMons!  Well not exactly.

Perhaps more “taboo” cars that aren’t of the E30 or retired Spec-Miata variety. Like more Porsche 928s, rear-wheel drive Maximas souped up with Z-car parts, more cheaty compact trucks (cough, RANGER, cough) and more GM sedans easily modified to DOMINATE in the slower classes: C and B.   And let’s not forget more super-durable CVPI Panthers, too.

So there you have it: good stuff happens in LeMons when you play your cards right. Thank the Poorvette for proving that.

*** Considering the early C4s utter domination in SCCA back in the day, and their still impressive autocross performances today, the Poorvette crew would do just as well in LeMons with the stock aluminum headed L98 and a close ratio 4+3 gearbox. Their LT-1 swap and wide ratio T-56 gearbox did very little for me. This is an endurance race, not a drag race!

 

 

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Announcing A (Proposed) New Grassroots Racing Series: Spec Mirage http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/announcing-a-proposed-new-grassroots-racing-series-spec-mirage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/announcing-a-proposed-new-grassroots-racing-series-spec-mirage/#comments Sat, 08 Feb 2014 20:07:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=737233 Mitsubishi Mirage Hatchback (1992-1994)

Stumbling upon old family photographs is a funny thing. Sometimes, you find out that your parents were actually pretty cool in their day, devoid of middle-aged paunches or wrinkles, and decked out in stylish clothes, with good-looking but rarely mentioned companions on their arm that elicit scowls and glares when you innocently inquire about their identity. Looking at old photos of the Mitsubishi Mirage is a little like that.

While our North American Mirage was a dowdy also-ran B-segment car for credit criminals and second-tier rental car agencies, the Japanese market Mirage fell victim to the irrational exuberance that plagued the Japanese economy, and paradoxically gave us the greatest generation of Japanese cars to ever exist.

No matter that the Lancer Evolution, Galant VR-4 and Legnum VR-4 (that’s a Galant VR-4 wagon) already existed. American sales and marketing execs were content with just the Eclipse, and aside from the cost of homologation any other nameplate, they likely would have nixed another sporty model, for fear of cannibalizing sales of the Eclipse GS-T and GSX.

But Japan is different. Having overlapping, redundant models sold under the same brand (but different sales channels) was a requirement in the Bubble Era. And so, the Lancer Evolution was joined by the Mirage Cyborg family, which was a three-door hatchback with a naturally-aspirated MIVEC 1.6L 4-cylinder engine making 172 horsepower and a VTEC-esque 124 lb-ft of torque. It wasn’t enough that Mitsubishi had conquered the four-door rally special niche. They needed a competitor to other now-forgotten bubble-era specials like the Toyota Levin BZ-R, the Nissan Pulsar VZ-R and the Honda Civic SiR (are you sensing a trend here?).

While the Levin was primarily known for its innovative 20 valve, individual throttle body engine, and the Civic became famous for arriving in America in the form of an engine with the wiring harness hacked in half, the Cyborg R never achieved much beyond appearing in Gran Turismo. But at least it was cool. Not like the one that’s for sale right now.

Today’s Mirage is either a pur sang back-to-basics subcompact or the world car on sale today, depending on the biases of the journalist reviewing it. I think it would be a great basis for a grassroots Spec Racing series that would cost very little and provide, at the very least, marginal thrills. The production spec Mirage weighs 1,973 lbs in base trim with a manual transmission, or the same as a Lotus Elise, but it puts out just 74 horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque from its 1.2L three-cylinder engine.

A freer flowing intake and exhaust system might bump up output by another 10 horsepower and 10 lb-ft, while stripping the car out for race duty should shave another 150 lbs or so out of the car. There is no real way to make these things fast while keeping costs down. Off the shelf suspension components and better brake pads might turn the car from a “jellyfish” (as one British magazine described the handling) into something tolerable. With any luck, the cars will lap as fast as an NB Miata, the ubiquitous, but slow entry-level track machine that everyone so politely describes as a “momentum car”. Think of it as a stepping stone to tin-top racing, one rung below B-Spec.

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Sunday Story: Corrupting the Youth http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/sunday-story-corrupting-the-youth/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/sunday-story-corrupting-the-youth/#comments Sun, 02 Feb 2014 14:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=707466 go_kart

“Don’t be ridiculous, young lady. You need something SENSIBLE.” Jamie sat at the kitchen table, her head in her hands. Week 5 of the search for her first car had just dawned, and she was about ready to give in.

Mother scowled as she scoured pans in the sink. This was all the fault of that wretched brother-in-law, Dan. Filling up her delicate baby girl’s head with GARBAGE, from the moment she could walk! The nerve of that grease-stained clown, spoiling her with all kinds of wretched mechanical excess! His help with Jamie was appreciated after Father’s untimely passing, but Uncle Dan’s idea of a good time made Mother pull her hair out. First it was the rides through the mud hole in that sky-high, cobbled-together death trap he casually referred to as “the Bronco.” Jamie would return home covered in dirt and giggling madly, throwing a royal tantrum when she was forced into the bath. Then, when Jamie was a little older, Uncle Dan seriously upped the ante. Dropping Jamie back off after another months-long summer vacation, he slyly hinted that her precious daughter was quite the talented racer. Mother demanded to know the context; go-carts were the answer. This, while horrifically dangerous and an enormity on many levels, was almost forgivable. She had known of other parents, devil-may-care types that would surely come to grief someday, who let their children pilot such contraptions at Magic Mountain. Then it emerged later that these go-carts were not of the rubber-covered, speed-limited variety, and that her daughter had been permitted to zip along at speeds nearing fifty miles an hour on an open track. THWUMP, went mother, as she fainted into the plush embrace of the carpet.

This emotional wallop wasn’t the last, though. Two summers ago, slimy Uncle Dan dropped Jamie off in his evil black Buick. He grinned sheepishly at Mother as Jamie bounded up the driveway, beaming. Then he drove off, the twin turbochargers hissing like snakes and the fat rear tires leaving ugly marks at the bottom of the driveway. With teenage boldness, Jamie proclaimed that she had piloted said machine down Uncle Dan’s nearby drag strip. A Youtube video was quickly produced as proof. There was Jamie, strapped into the five point harness, her helmet right-sized but fire suit comically overlarge. Mother watched that devil’s chariot vanish down the quarter mile. The signboard at the end flashed: one hundred and twenty-one miles per hour. Just a hair over eleven seconds. And the unmistakable cackle of Uncle Dan in the background. “Good girl,” he said. Mother wept her bitter tears, and vowed to reassert control.

Now was the time to lay down the hammer. Jamie had her own money, a cool forty-five hundred dollars. Those summer sessions as a helper in Uncle Dan’s hot dog truck had certainly been lucrative. It was enough cash for a gloriously ratty rolling wreck and the barest of minimum coverage. Uncle Dan could be counted on as a steady source of mechanical advice and assistance. But Mother did have the upper hand in one regard; all parking space privileges were her preserve. With no room on the street, Jamie was forced to comply. The first two of Mother’s ground rules were reasonable: disc brakes and seatbelts. Those could be found easily enough. Mother compromised on airbags, after Jamie showed her some suitably hysterical evening-news pieces on accidental deployments. But the last two rules were immovable, and hopelessly cruel: an automatic transmission, and a curb weight of at least two tons. Jamie threw an absolute fit, because she knew the aim of Mother’s game now: nip the enjoyment of driving, right in the bud. “Young lady, cars are appliances. They exist only to get you from point A to point B. I am not going to let you break your neck because you got some fool idea about driving over the speed limit in some tiny little car! You know that Uncle Dan went to jail for street racing once…” SLAM, went Jamie’s door, as she cut off the stream of unwanted advice from her parental unit. Tears wouldn’t help; what was to be done?

Flash forward, and Jamie was still struggling to eke any amount of fun out of the Sunday classifieds. Nothing but page after page of abused pickup trucks and underpowered CUVs in her price range. Jamie might have been satisfied with some used luxury, but nothing matched the price/weight combo. It was hopeless. Mother smiled; she could see the rebellious urges gradually disappearing in her daughter. Jamie lost focus, and daydreamed about trying to steer a whale onto a crowded freeway…

A ring on her phone snapped her out of it. Uncle Dan, to the rescue! He’d be by in a couple minutes. He had a lead on something Jamie would like, he said. Great! Mother was quite displeased, but she saw no way that Jamie could find something fun without breaking the rules. And if she broke the rules, there’d be no place to put her new toy. Mother let her run out the door to the waiting Buick, confident she still had the upper hand.

Within an hour, they were at the site of Uncle Dan’s promised killer deal. Jamie’s jaw dropped when the wizened old farmer pulled the tarp off the hulking shape. She and Uncle Dan busily inspected it. There was rust in the fenders, and a crack in the windshield. The paint was rather faded, and the interior smelled musty. Even so, the doors and trunk felt more solid than cars thirty years younger. The required equipment was there, thankfully: disc brakes, seatbelts, and an automatic. And the curb weight? It wasn’t even necessary to ask. Jamie opened the hood, and breathed a sigh of relief. The unobtanium power plant had long ago been ditched for a trusty Chevrolet small block. They gave it a jump, and it fired right up. She knew this car would handle like a boat, but the smile factor was well worth it. Even so, Jamie was afraid to hope. Surely, there was no way she could afford this thing! But the price was clear: four thousand dollars, and it was hers. Depreciation can be a good thing sometimes.  “What do you say?” the toothless agrarian chortled, waving a crumpled title in her face. “I’ll take it,” she grinned from behind the massive steering wheel.

Another hour later, and Jamie was back in the kitchen. She slapped her keys and the title of her new car grandly on the table. Mother strutted over primly. Her eyes boggled; this must be a joke. That title must be another one of Uncle Dan’s dastardly tricks! Jamie invited her disbelieving Mother to look out the window at the driveway. There, in all its faded glory, sat a 1978 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II.

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PRI 2013: Midwest Supercub Wants to Mow Your Lawn at 90 MPH http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/pri-2013-midwest-supercub-wants-to-mow-your-lawn-at-90-mph/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/pri-2013-midwest-supercub-wants-to-mow-your-lawn-at-90-mph/#comments Fri, 20 Dec 2013 17:49:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=685106 Mid West Super Cub at PRI 2013

One of the best things at PRI is a little room, tucked just off the main hall, that usually houses the first-time exhibitors or late entries. This year’s “new arrivals” included an outfit called Midwest Supercub and Midwest Supercub’s line of homemade, alcohol-burning, CNC-milled racing engines. For lawn tractors.

You read that right, kids- Midwest Supercub offers a variety of parts to make your lawn tractor the all-out fastest and baddest lawn tractor money can buy. You can get a trick carb and exhaust kit for your stock Cub Cadet tractor, or go all-out with one of these …

Midwest Supercub Brute

… that’s a 90 ci, homebuilt engine called “the Brute”. It’s based on the Cub Cadet/Kohler Courage V-Twin architecture, but it’s all CNC’ed and awesome and puts out nearly 220 hp on high-grade ethanol, and bolts up to a reinforced, Midwest Supercub-built tractor transmission that feeds power to a shortened Dodge Dart rear axle.

Really.

The big take-away from all this is that these guys are serious about tractoring- and they have put a ton of serious, Serious brainpower, math, and money into making damn sure their tractor tractors better than your tractor tractors. Or something. I have to admit, I don’t really understand what this go-fast tractoring this is all about, but something inside my little gear head soul responds to it immediately. I must have one. Maybe two. I’ll let you know if that happens.

In the meantime, why don’t you tell us what you think of Midwest Supercub’s go-fast lawn equipment in the comments, below.

 

Midwest Super Cub

Midwest Super Cub

Midwest Super Cub

Original content from Gas 2.

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2015 Ford Mustang “Body in White” Coming w/ Ford 9″ Axle http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/2015-ford-mustang-body-in-white-coming-w-ford-9-axle/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/2015-ford-mustang-body-in-white-coming-w-ford-9-axle/#comments Tue, 17 Dec 2013 19:32:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=682578 2015 Mustang

I was there when Ford debuted its new-for-1999 Mustang Cobra with its “revolutionary” new independent rear suspension. The IRS was a first for the Ford Mustang, and it was a move that Ford’s brass believed would allow the “new edge” Cobra to compete with cars like the BMW M3 for supremacy in the budget super car market. I also remember the very first question that was asked: Will a Ford 9″ bolt in? It was the first question, right out of the box … and it seems like someone at Ford remembers. The new-for-2015 Mustang is going to hit dealers with a new independent rear suspension late next year, and it seems like Ford Racing will have a 9″ live axle option ready.

According to a Ford Racing employee at PRI, the live-axle version of the 2015 Ford Mustang is expected to debut at next year’s PRI show as part of a new “body in white” program intended to attract serious racers to the platform. The body in white 2015 Mustang will also serve to take some of the shine off of bitter rival Chevrolet’s current COPO Camaro and body in white Camaro programs.

Once the live-axle 2015 Mustang racers are out “in the wild”, the parts needed to convert street-going Mustangs from independent rear suspensions to the 9″ setup should become available through Ford Racing and participating dealers. Back in 1999, SVT engineer Eric Zinkosky said the “new independent rear suspension (was packaged) in not only the same space as the solid-axle design, but we had to use the same suspension mounting points. We virtually ‘reverse-engineered’ the IRS from the known suspension hardpoints, and we had to keep everything inside the same box.” Assuming similar thinking went into the upcoming Ford Racing 9″ suspension for the bodies in white, getting a solid axle to help get a high-horsepower Ecoboost Mustang’s power down should be a lot easier than many have feared.

 

About my source: While I have opted to not give his name, this information came to me from a Ford Racing employee on-hand at the 2013 PRI Show yesterday, 12DEC2013, when I asked if I could look under the hood of the (supposedly) 4 cyl. Ecoboost Mustang spinning on the big lazy Susan at the Ford Racing stand. He said no. I told another PRI old-timer the story about the 1999 Cobra IRS reveal, which the Ford Racing rep overheard. He laughed and said, “Yeah, that’s not ’til next year. We’ll probably announce it at the same time as the body in white program …” but he got called away before he could say “That’s off the record.” Take that how you will.

 

Originally published on Gas 2.

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When Jaguar Roared http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/when-jaguar-roared/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/when-jaguar-roared/#comments Wed, 30 Oct 2013 20:59:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=638641 Mark0813JagXJSimage01

Under Indian ownership, Jaguar has descended into the sort of theme-park Engish-esque-ness that was once the exclusive property of MINI. A Britannia-flag F-Type-RS is surely just days away at the point as Tata sweats to polish the brand before the inevitable start of Asian assembly. Today’s Jags are interesting and characterful vehicles after a fashion, but as with many other brands, they are still relying on the glamor of a previous age to move the metal.

So let’s return to that age, when John Egan ruled the roost and the pennies were pinched properly and “heritage” was a concept honored mostly in the breach, not the observance.


Mark0813JagXJSimage08

Your humble E-I-C’s quixotic love for the Jaguar XJ-S is relatively well-known, or should be, but it’s worth noting that the XJ-S represented the best of the company as well as the worst. No, it was never fully sorted, and no, none of them ever ran particularly well, but it was a Jaguar in the proper sense: the most grace, space, and pace for the money, and forward-thinking with it. No retro foolishness, no harkening to a past era of glory. Better to have the glory now.

And with the help of Tom Walkinshaw — hell, because of Tom Walkinshaw — glory was had, in 55-gallon-drum quantities. One free car was all that Jaguar provided to begin with, and from that seed a race-winning tree sprouted. No, there’s nothing “classic” or “retro” about the cars you’ll see if you click the above link, but do you care? Of course not. The star-crossed big coupe caused its owners enough grief to last most of them a lifetime, but when it shone, it truly shone. Will those days ever return? Will Jaguar, under Tata ownership, ever shoot the moon for a super-aerodynamic, high-speed, high-drama coupe again? We can only hope.

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Big Iron: How Marty Robbins Became A NASCAR Legend http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/big-iron-how-marty-robbins-became-a-nascar-legend/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/big-iron-how-marty-robbins-became-a-nascar-legend/#comments Wed, 11 Sep 2013 14:55:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=515665

The number 42 Dodge Charger was running well. Although it had qualified in 9th position with a top speed of only 177 miles per hour, during the race it was clocked as high as 188 miles per hour and its driver, an amateur racer who made his living singing cowboy ballads at the Grand Ole Opry, was really mixing it up with the professional drivers. The Winston 500 was a big deal and, as one of the premier NASCAR races, there as a lot at stake. Talladega was one of those legendary places that captured the imagination and the attention of every race fan in the nation was focused on the event. For older, more experienced drivers a good performance meant job security while for the new guys, like Darrell Waltrip who was making his first ever Sprint Cup start in the race, a good performance could mark a man out from his peers and maybe garner the attention of one of the big teams. Given the expense, the effort, and the experience that it took to even field a car in the race, how was it that a country and western singer in a car paid for mostly out of his own pocket could be running so well? The answer is simple, he was cheating.

I can’t imagine my childhood without the deep soulful voice of Marty Robbins coming out of the single speaker on my oldest sister’s record player. The voice demanded attention, but it was the words that captured my imagination as they spoke of gunfighters and Texas Rangers, of long forgotten adventures on the vast plains of the American southwest and of a time when men carried big irons on their hips, drank red eye whisky and fought jealously over the affection of dark-eyed women in small town cantinas. Every song, it seemed, painted a picture of a vanished life where men were men and, because of the personal way his songs spoke to me, I imagined Robbins among them, a giant of a man from another era.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The reality of Robbins’ life was somewhat different than what I imagined as a child. Born in 1925 in a suburb of Phoenix Arizona well after the wild west had been tamed, he was not the tall, blond-haired blue-eyed giant of my fantasy. He was instead only a modest 5’4” tall with a slight build and a dark complexion. Like so many of the greatest generation he emerged from hardship. His father was a drinker and as a boy he frequently sought to escape reality through the films of the singing cowboys that were so popular in the 1930s and in the wild west stories of his maternal grandfather.

At 17, Robbins left home and joined the Navy and served as coxswain on an LCT in the South Pacific during the second world war. To pass the time he learned to play the guitar and upon his discharge in 1947 began to perform professionally at local venues in Phoenix. Eventually, after a stint as the host of his own radio show, Robbins attracted the attention of Columbia records and began a career as a recording artist that would eventually see him emerge as a true giant of country and western music and a regular performer at the Grand Ole Opry.

Robbins loved racing. He was the driver of the 60th Indianapolis 500 Buick Century pace car in 1976 and competed in 36 NASCAR races over the course of almost two decades, garnering six top-ten finishes during his fairly limited racing career. He was partial to Chrysler products and owned several Dodge Chargers in the 60s and early 70s and by 1978 was racing a Dodge Magnum. His last race was in a Junior Johnson prepared Buick Regal which he drove in the Atlanta Journal 500 in November of 1982, just one month before he died from a massive heart attack. In 1983, NASCAR honored Robbins by naming the annual race at Nashville the Marty Robbins 420.

Robbins’ performance at Talladega that May day in 1972 was amazing. Turning laps more than 15mph faster than which he had qualified with, he was on a tear. It seemed he could run anywhere he wanted during the race, often jockeying with race leaders and climbing as high as fourth place before eventually losing steam and dropping back in the pack where he finished in 18th place. Despite finishing back in the pack, his performance was so good, that NASCAR determined that he warranted the “Rookie of the Race” award. Robbins, however, knew he could not accept the award.

Like the men he sang about Marty Robbins was an honest man and he knew what had to be done. After the race he drove straight to the impound area and told race officials to check his car. Sure enough, he was running a modified carburetor and Robbins’ finish in the race was voided. He was moved to the back of the pack, receiving just $745 for a 50th place finish and a fine of $250 for his antics. Later, Robbins told people, “I just wanted to see what it was like to run up front for once.”

Robbins continued racing right up to the time he died and although he only competed occasionally he was well thought of by the men he competed with. In 1974 he purposely drove into a wall at 160mph, suffering a broken tailbone, broken ribs, 37 stitches to the face and two black eyes, rather than T-bone Richard Childress whose car had been left sideways across the track after an accident. It takes a lot of guts to do something like that, but that’s the kind of guy Marty Robbins was.

Today, the most compelling story in NASCAR racing is which racer is dating Danica Patrick. The cars are all the same and drivers seem to be raised from childhood with the goal of becoming professional race drivers. They are thrown into karting as children and then move up through the ranks until they finally hit center stage on the big oval. The racing is dominated by just a few teams, each of which field multiple cars and drivers often work together in order to ensure that the team as a whole dominates. The days when drivers were men hewn out of live oak and thrust behind the wheel by their own fierce desire to win at all costs seem to be gone. It’s too bad Robbins is gone as well. I’m sure the songs about those great, bygone glory days, when men were men and they slugged it out on the track with honor, guile and a surprising amount of good humor would be magnificent. Best of all, his place among the legendary heroes doesn’t need to be imaginary, it is something he earned.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Down From the Mountain: 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/down-from-the-mountain-2013-pikes-peak-international-hill-climb/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/down-from-the-mountain-2013-pikes-peak-international-hill-climb/#comments Wed, 03 Jul 2013 13:15:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=493986 63 - 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSince I became a Coloradan a few years back, I’ve joined all the other car freaks in the Mountain Time Zone for the annual pilgrimage to the 30th-tallest mountain in the state for the big race. I shared my photos from the year Monster Tajima broke the 10-minute barrier, and from from the year the course became all-asphalt, and now I’ve got some shots from last weekend’s event.
67 - 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinImagine tens of thousands of rowdy race fans, mostly with better access to beer than to oxygen, scattered along the 12-mile course at elevations ranging from 9,390 feet to 14,110 feet. Most of them will bring the coolest vehicle they can lay hands on, which means you’ll see a lot of ancient German sports car, zero-ground-clearance JDM-ified street racers, camper vans outgassing That Junkyard Car Smell, and classic Italian scooters. These guys, who race a Suzuki Swift GT in the 24 Hours of LeMons, rode their scooters 100 miles from Denver and then up to 12,000 feet on the mountain.
22 - 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe bikes ran first, which turned out to be a good idea— thunderstorms rolled in later in the day.
66 - 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinEven with a dry racing surface, bad things can happen. Right off the bat, a couple of bike racers crashed and had to be airlifted out. The increased speeds resulting from the all-asphalt course meant that crashes may be even hairier than before.

Motorcyclists weren’t the only racers to wreck; the electric car of Latvian Janis Horeliks spun out at the end of the long straight at Halfway Picnic Ground, slid into the mountain, and sent up choking clouds of electrical-fire smoke for quite a while.
40 - 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinEveryone knew that Sebastien Loeb had the best shot at blowing away the record time, so the spectators were quite worked up by the time Loeb’s Peugeot screamed by. So worked up, in fact, that this one leaped right in front of my camera at the crucial moment.
37 - 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s going to take a few more years before the electric cars beat the gasoline ones to the top— it’s coming, though; EVs don’t need oxygen, and battery capacity isn’t a big deal when the course is only 12 miles long— but the electric motorcycles are already there. The Lightning electron-fueled bike (not the bike in this photo) beat all the fossil-fueled two-wheelers with its just-a-hair-over-10-minutes run.
64 - 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHonda brought a mean-sounding Odyssey minivan.
49 - 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis Pontiac Solstice clattered by, trailing a cloud of unhappy-engine smoke.
42 - 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNot many vintage cars entered this race (the organizers have decreed that only race cars that have competed in a previous PPIHC race may enter the Vintage class), but at least we had a couple of yowling Minis as sort of a consolation prize.
62 - 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Banks Power Freightliner was apocolyptic.
68 - 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhen it was all over, the racers rolled back down the mountain for 12 miles of high-fives from the spectators.

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Memoirs Of An Independent Repair Shop Owner: “TRAINING WHEELS”—or How Motor Sport Influenced My Formative Years—Part Three http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/memoirs-of-an-independent-repair-shop-owner-training-wheels-or-how-motor-sport-influenced-my-formative-years-part-three/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/memoirs-of-an-independent-repair-shop-owner-training-wheels-or-how-motor-sport-influenced-my-formative-years-part-three/#comments Sat, 22 Jun 2013 17:20:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=493009 LaPorte2003--Courtesy www.motorcyclemuseum.org

Just to set the record straight, my use of the phrase “Wonder Years” (in Parts One and Two) is not sourced from any past television series, but rather, from the original source: an advertising campaign from the ‘60’s (it may go back further than that, but that’s when it was introduced into my consciousness) featuring a brand of sandwich bread. That’s the impact that television had back in earlier times. To be able to lay down a form of written history that includes such occurrences is one of the main reasons I’m logging all of these “Memoirs”. A forum is thereby provided that can be both informative to younger generations, and allow the generations that “were there” to recall and discuss these events.

374460_381327455289638_811075881_n--Courtesy www.facebook.com

Not to put too fine a point on it, but my old stomping grounds—and the surrounding Greater Los Angeles Area—were really a Motoring Mecca, in so many ways. Due to the favorable economic climate, and the general interest in things mechanical and motorized, many people had the time, inclination and funding to get involved in some form of recreational motor sport.  Motorcycling was gaining traction, and really started to come of age during this period.

We had a neighbor across the street that was into—what were even then—Old Harleys, especially “choppers”. They complimented his fleet of pre E-Type Jaguar XK’s rather nicely, I thought. None of his cars or bikes were showpieces—some even had a post-apocalyptic kind of vibe—but most were functional, and his presence definitely added character to the neighborhood. When there wasn’t an English twin-cam six exhaust purr and rap or the flatulent bellow of a straight-piped Shovelhead emanating from his tree-sheltered driveway or garage, he’d have some hard-rocking tunes blasting from his large stereo system through open living room windows.

Most of the neighbors were pretty cool with the motorized stuff, although some had some trouble with the music. I dug it all!

One of the greatest expressions of “Neighborhood Tolerance”, however, related to a couple of neighbors and their grade school sons, just a few houses down the street from us.

They were both pretty serious about dirt biking—one of them actively racing on weekends at LA area tracks (R.I.P. Bay Mare, Indian Dunes, Saddleback Park, Osteen’s, et al).

Danny_LaPorte1--Courtesy www.motorcyclemuseum.org

 

They got this idea to convert the back lot of one of their houses into a small “Motocross” track—accessing it by using the driveway on the side of the house, and making U-turns in the street, so as to run a continuous circuit. They would do this mock racing for hours on weekend afternoons (and mid-week, during the summer break), using minimally silenced two-stroke motocross bikes!

I can remember them engaging in this pursuit over what must have been a few riding seasons, with no real complaint from the neighbors! I think the general consensus was that they weren’t really hurting anybody, they were otherwise staying out of trouble, and maybe something good would come of it. By today’s standards, such a collective neighborhood rationale—and mind you, this was NOT a rural neighborhood by any means; it was a fairly tightly populated subdivision—would be very unlikely, to say the least.

Danny_LaPorte2--Courtesy www.motorcyclemuseum.org

But happen, it did; and a great deal of “good” did “come out of it”. One of the two lads, by the name of Dan LaPorte, went on to become only the second  U.S. Citizen to take an FIM World Motocross Title (missing being the first by a mere weeks), in 1982. The previous year, he was a key member in the U.S.’s first-ever winning Trophee des Nations team. The year before that, he won the AMA 500cc Motocross Title.

That’s the kind of stuff that can be accomplished when a “sense of community” exists (not to mention prodigious talent). It, no doubt inspired what subsequently became an onslaught of similar Motocross talent out of the U. S. —and it sure inspired me to pursue excellence in my field.

More stories have been and are coming to mind, as I continue to impress the “Wayback Machine” into service. Perhaps I’ll relate more in the future, as time and space allow.

Phil ran a successful independent repair shop on the West Coast for close to 20 years, working over a decade before that at both dealer and independent repair shops. He is presently semi-retired from the business of auto repair, but still keeps his hand in things as a consultant and in his personal garage.

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The Greatest Spectacle in Racing – Indianapolis 500 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/the-greatest-spectacle-in-racing-indianapolis-500/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/the-greatest-spectacle-in-racing-indianapolis-500/#comments Tue, 04 Jun 2013 11:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490390  

IMG_9209 

Having just attended the 97th Indianapolis 500, I’m feeling especially passionate about telling others to get there in person someday. I believe Indy to be one of those special experiences that you have to see in person to appreciate. I’ve attended IndyCar, NASCAR, American LeMans, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, and many other sporting events, but the Indy 500 stands out as something special.

Speeding at the 500 – Personal History

My personal journey to the Indianapolis 500 began before I was even born. It was way back in the 1930s when my great grandfather was a mechanic for various teams at the event.

In those days one mechanic would actually ride with the driver during the race, while another mechanic was in charge of warming up the car before the start. While warming up the race car my Great Grandfather was caught speeding… while driving on the track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Makes me proud to be a Fink. Not many people can claim they were punished for speeding while on the track at Indy. That love for motor sports was passed on to my Grandfather, then to my father.

You Always Remember Your First 

My father began taking me to sports car races at the age of 9. Early on he would tell me stories of Indianapolis. He said the cars were so loud that the grand stands physically shock when they went by. As a kid, that actually made me quite nervous and I distinctly remember telling him I didn’t want to go to Indy. Let’s stick to the Mid-Ohio Racetrack dad, where my seat stays perfectly still thank you very much. Well, my dad knew better than that. He began by having me watch the 500 for a couple years. Back then I would choose who I was going to root for based on the color of their car. Cheering for the “black car” was how I began. Then it was little Al. Always little Al in that Valvoline car. I’m going to assume all kids in America rooted for him because somehow we felt he was like us. Ya know, raised by a millionaire Indy 500 winning racing legend father… just like the rest of us. Finally in 1992 my dad took my brother and I to our first Indy 500. For years the Indy 500 was held on a Saturday out of respect for local churches. In 1974 the owner was given the blessing of local churches to hold the event on a Sunday. So we felt it only right to support a church by paying to park in their lot. You could even pay them to drive you to the track in the back of an old U-Haul. With over 300,000 people trying to find parking spots, every front yard within 2 miles of the track has a kid trying to get you to pay $10 to park in their lawn.

 

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Our tickets were on the inside of turn 4. Not great, but we were there. That also meant we had to walk through the infield. The infield, well, has a certain reputation. As we came up out of the tunnel to the infield we were approached by a man using a keg of beer like a unicycle riding it around greeting fans. There were thousands of fans that had been partying there for days. Many I assumed would never actually know there was a race going on around them. Due to the sheer number of people wearing shirts that read, “Show us your tits”, my Dad had to keep my eyes covered for much of the walk to our seats.

 

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The infield is just, well, a different experience.

 

The one thing you know for sure is that when you’re at Indy, you’re experiencing history. For my first trip to Indy, that meant attending the coldest Indy 500 in history. Of course this was 1992 and weather.com wasn’t around yet so we were wearing shorts and t-shirts in 37-degree wind chill that day. No worries, Dad had a fix for that. Taking extra trash bags out of a nearby can, he tore a hole in the top and put them over our heads. Instant windbreakers. To be clear, he did NOT win ‘Father of the Year’ that year. Who am I kidding, he took us to Indy, who cares if he dressed us in trash bags he should have at least been in the running. Before the race even began 2 cars wrecked on the parade lap, including one right in front of us. I was hooked. The first time by the cars were so fast and so loud it was hard to distinguish any one car from the mass of colors blurring by. It was an adrenalin rush and it was when IndyCar racing became an addiction to me. The sight, the sounds, the smells, and the color were incredible. That 76th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing is most famous though for the battle between winner Al Unser, Jr. and 2nd place finisher Scott Goodyear. It was also the record 35th consecutive start for AJ Foyt. The cold temps and high winds turned the race into a crash-fest. In other words, exactly what a 12-year-old kid would love. Being on the inside of the turn severely limited our view that’s hard to describe unless you’ve been there. We could see cars loose control and hear the tires screeching… but never actually see them hit the wall. We couldn’t even see any scoring stands to tell who was leading; we had to rely on those listening to radios nearby to shout out the standings. I remember being ecstatic to hear Michael Andretti, who had seen his dad and brother both wreck and be taken to the hospital with injuries earlier, had broken down after dominating most the race. That ended up being the final race for many Indy legends including AJ Foyt and Rick Mears. The race ended with the narrowest finished in Indy history, .03 seconds. To compare, 100 years ago at the race first place had 13 minute magin of victory. I had had my mom record the race on something called a “VCR” so when I got home I could find out what had happened on the other parts of the racetrack – something those of us in the infield only knew about by listening on the radio.

The following year we returned to sit in the pits. Again in the infield, again an amazing experience. That year the big news was Bobby Rahal failed to qualify. Indy is a big deal and just getting in some years is a huge feat. Note to NASCAR fans, IndyCar does not give a free entry to past champions. They have been doing things the same way for decades. Even the track itself has never changed since it was built over 100 years ago. Still exactly 9 degree banking in 4 identical corners around the 2.5 mile track.

History is Made

It had been 20 years, but I attended my 3rd Indy 500 this May. It is still the world’s largest single-day spectator sporting event and as usual, history was made. It was the fastest Indy 500 in history finishing in just under 2 hrs 47 minutes at an average speed of over 187mph beating Arie Luyendyks record of 185mph set in 1990. Back then they never closed the pits and didn’t packed up the field allowing them to keep the race speed very high so many expected that record to never fall. They didn’t even have a pit speed limit! Oh, and it also DOUBLED the most lead changes in history with 68! Would I like to go to Monaco someday? Of course, but you may not see 68 lead changes in a whole season of F1. This years 500 also had the most different leaders in history, with 14. Pole sitter Ed Carpender is an Indianapolis native so the cheers were audible over the sound of the engines whenever he went to the lead. Ever more crazy though was when Tony Kanaan took the lead, the crowd went bonkers.

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What the crowd looked like every single time Tony Kanaan took the lead.

 Maybe it’s because he led the 500 ever year from 2002-2008, yet had never won one. Or maybe it’s because he’s a laid back middle-aged man that men like me somehow feel like we can relate to. The race finished under yellow because as 3rd place finisher Ryan Hunter-Reay said, “This is Indy. There’s a certain way things are done. Tradition is tradition, we don’t try to produce results out of green-white-checkereds.” Speaking of middle-aged men, Buddy Lazier who raced in the 1992 event I was at, once again raced this year.

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Why You Should Go Next Year 

-Well, to experience history. Indy officials have already said they want to break the all time qualifying record set by Arie Luyendyk. He did a lap at over 239mph with a 4 lap average of 237.4mph.

-To see the size of it. Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) is the world’s largest spectator sporting facility. You can fit the Rose Bowl, Yankee Stadium, all the courts at Wimbelton, the Kentucky Derby, the Roman Colliseum, and all of Vatican City… just in the infield at Indy.

 

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-To people watch. In my Great Grandfather’s day everyone came to the track wearing full suits and hats. Now you will see people like this:

 

 

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-For the tradition. Indy sticks to their traditions and that’s part of what makes it great. Hearing Jim Nabors sing ‘Back Home Again in Indiana’ (for the 43rd consecutive year) as the Balloon Spectacle takes place along the front stretch is something you need to see in person. Then there is the field starting 3 wide, the winner getting to keep the pace car and drinking the milk, and so much more…

 

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-It’s more than a race. The parade of bands around the track begins at 8am and there are on track activities up until race time. You may even get to see a childhood hero like Parnelli Jones or Mario Andretti.

 

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-For the danger. Today’s drivers aren’t quite the dare devils that they were 100 years ago, but there is still something about watching a race that you know has had so many horrific wrecks over the years. TV doesn’t do justice to how fast a pack of cars at over 225mph looks.

-Because it’s cheap. I couldn’t get over the fact that you can bring in coolers to the track. I literally saw hundreds of people carrying cases of Natty Light right to their seats. That’s some cheap entertainment.

 

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-If you’re not into the race (then I can’t relate to you), you can pay $30 to get into the infield. There you will find bands playing, sand volleyball courts, zip lines, fair rides, and more than a few people using a keg of beer as a form of transportation.

 

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Why oh why are these people playing volleyball DURING THE RACE!

 

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-You can hear Bob Jenkins’ voice as the track announcer (I miss him!).

-You never know what you may see like this year when Chip Ganassi gave Alex Zanardi his Reyanrd-Honda IndyCar that he was driving when he made “The Pass” at Laguna Seca in 1996.

Walking out of the race 20 years ago I saw a guy carrying out a race used wheel and tire from a wrecked car. Sure it’d be cool to catch a foul ball someday, but this guy was taking home part of the freakin car! To this day my dream is to get a wheel and tire from an Indy car and put a piece of glass over it for a coffee table.

My father taught me several things that I take with me today, including how to be a Buckeye fan, and to appreciate the smell of race fuel in the morning. Thanks dad. How many more years before I can take my 3 year old son here?

 

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Video of the 1939 Indy 500. Warning: a little graphic. Crazy how lightly they treated death in motor sports then.

Get there early. The race starts just after noon, but there is a lot of traffic. Indianapolis does know what they are doing after putting on the event for a century though and it’s not as bad as you’d think. Especially if you have a GPS and can cut through the neighborhoods instead of staying on the main streets.

 

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Give yourself time to get into the gates. There was probably 20,000 people trying to get into this one gate. As it got closer to race time, they just stopped inspecting bags and just let everyone in. Safety-first boys.

Obviously IndyCar racing isn’t what it used to be… but IMS is still The Racing Capital of the World. 

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Generation Why: A Brief History Of Import Drag Racing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/generation-why-a-brief-history-of-import-drag-racing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/generation-why-a-brief-history-of-import-drag-racing/#comments Thu, 23 May 2013 15:35:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489380 8057152832_b56038d1d3_z

Confession time: I used to be really into Import Cars and the tuning scene. My high school years coincided with the rise of The Fast and the Furious franchise, and having already been pre-disposed to loving Japanese cars, it was natural that I’d gravitate towards this niche.

Rather than the winged-and-decaled tuner show cars, I was more of a “Sport Compact Car” guy, interested in performance vehicles rather than stereos and bodykits. But every now and then, I’d pick up Super Street magazine. Not only did their coverage of domestic Japanese tuner shops and tuner cars far exceed SCC, but they also ran a sporadic series entitled “Back In The Day”, that featured interviews and archival photographs of the import car scene from as far back as the late 1970′s.

For someone who thought that the tuner scene began with the advent of the EG Civic (not really, just that was my frame of reference), it was immensely satisfying reading about the early days of modifying Toyota 22R and Datsun L-Series engines when there was next to no knowledge about modifying anything but domestic V8 engines. Reading about the early days of modified Japanese cars made me able to better relate to the enthusiasm that my parents’ generation felt for American Graffiti. As unlikely as it is, I would love to see a movie or a book that explores this era in America’s automotive history.

Sadly, most of my tuner magazines were discarded over the years, and all I have left are a few clippings from the Back In The Day Series. I have managed to find exactly one article archived online, and wanted to share it with you all. The series has no morphed into profiling vintage Japanese cars that have been modified in a contemporary style. What a shame it is that such an extensive history is inaccessible on the web.

By the way. if anyone has an extensive archive of Sport Compact Car back issues, email me, derek at ttac dot com

 

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MEMOIRS OF AN INDEPENDENT REPAIR SHOP OWNER: “TRAINING WHEELS”—or How Motor Sport Influenced My Formative Years—Part One http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/memoirs-of-an-independent-repair-shop-owner-training-wheels-or-how-motor-sport-influenced-my-formative-years-part-one/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/memoirs-of-an-independent-repair-shop-owner-training-wheels-or-how-motor-sport-influenced-my-formative-years-part-one/#comments Thu, 09 May 2013 14:05:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=487965

 

As with many young lads growing up as the motor sports world was rapidly advancing in the 1960’s, I was totally fascinated with just about anything sporting wheels—especially if there was a powerplant involved. And especially if it involved head-to-head competition with such devices.

 

While not exactly being raised in a household favoring such a paradigm, I did have a sufficient amount of positive experiences with more distant relatives, close friends and neighbors. This enabled me to gain the impetus required to achieve the “escape velocity” necessary to make a go of it in the new and exciting world of motor vehicles.

 

We had a family friend we’ll call “Uncle D”, who was one of the first people I can remember laying a fairly impressive, first-hand, full-contact high-performance driving revelation on me. He took my younger sister, older brother and I out in his early sixties Ford Galaxy Convertible (it was pretty much brand-spanking new at that point) for a “joy-ride” around the streets of San Francisco, CA. It soon became an “overjoy-ride”—as he engaged in a series of tire-smoking launches, connected with some zero-G hill cresting, and power-slide cornering! This was before the advent of seat-belts  so—with the exception of my brother, who was fairly secure in the passenger front bucket seat—my sister and I were experiencing the full effect of the amusement park dynamic in the back seat!

Fortunately for Uncle D, this also predated the Child Protective Services Bureau, otherwise he most assuredly would have been called to task for “child endangerment”!  We, the fortunate “endangered”, would have argued in his favor, however—so much fun we had on that “Pre-Bullit” romp!

Aside from that experience, some of my earliest recollections involve the wide variety of performance vehicles in my immediate neighborhood of Walteria, CA.

We had everything from gearheads with modified ‘50’s Chevy’s and seminal “Rat Rods”, musclecars (note worthily a rally orange Pontiac GTO “Judge” and a Hertz Shelby GT350, with its gold racing stripes on black paint), and sports cars of many stripes (early Jaguar XK’s and MG’s come to mind). I remember a teacher at my grade school rolling in a red Mustang fastback, and one (that I didn’t particularly like) cruising a very likeable silver Corvair Monza Spyder!

 

Punctuating all of this motoring overload were periodic visits by my uncle and cousin as they were on their way to Riverside Raceway (R.I.P.) with some form of race-car in tow. The orange Formula Ford they brought by one summer was a definite highlight here. To imagine that someone related to me had an actual open-wheeled racing car parked in front of my home base!

 

Then there was my childhood friend just around the corner. We hit it off trading tricks we were learning on our Schwinn Stingrays—not realizing at the time that we were actually participating in the creation of a biking genre, which would eventually become known as Bicycle Motocross (BMX). Not uncoincidentally, his pop was big into off-road motorcycling, and it was a “family thing” for them at that point in time.

One of the highlights of that friendship was being invited to trek with them to the Mojave Desert, in the fall of 1972, to witness the start of the legendary Barstow-to-Vegas motorcycle race. Of course, the plan was to make a long weekend of it; so we were equipped with motor-home accommodation—and a trailer full of dirtbikes to test out and explore with.

There were many highlights to this trip, the most memorable being a ride out to the “smoke bomb”—a pile of worn auto and truck tires, placed on a hill about five miles away from the starting line, then set ablaze to serve as a marker for the start of the actual course—in between the start of each class grouping. (There is a depiction of this in the Bruce Brown movie “…On Any Sunday”.) The grouping we watched from this vantage point must have included not less than a few hundred riders, collectively making a sound like a low-flying 747 coming at us across the valley!

Yeah, some would even consider the RECOUNTING of this experience as politically incorrect and environmentally unsound—let alone it’s actual occurrence—but there it is, in the history books (and indelibly etched into my memory)!

Stay tuned for Part Two, and more accounts from my automotive “Wonder Years”…

Phil ran a successful independent repair shop on the West Coast for close to 20 years, working over a decade before that at both dealer and independent repair shops. He is presently semi-retired from the business of auto repair, but still keeps his hand in things as a consultant and in his personal garage.

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The Best Dash Cam Footage: Sebring 1965 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/the-best-dash-cam-footage-sebring-1965/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/the-best-dash-cam-footage-sebring-1965/#comments Sat, 20 Apr 2013 17:04:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=485649 Click here to view the embedded video.

Since the Mosport footage was so well received  here’s another one from the archives. Sebring, 1965, with some very crude dash cam-style action.

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Set Your Time Machines To 1962 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/set-your-time-machines-to-1962/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/set-your-time-machines-to-1962/#comments Fri, 19 Apr 2013 17:19:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=485613 Click here to view the embedded video.

And now a treat for the weekend. An original documentary about the Players 200 race at Mosport in 1962. Jo Bonnier, Masten Gregory and other racing legends all appear. Who doesn’t long for the days when men were men and cigarette companies were the largest sponsor of motor racing events?

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MEMOIRS OF AN INDEPENDENT REPAIR SHOP OWNER: Racing Season And Brushes With Greatness http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/memoirs-of-an-independent-repair-shop-owner-racing-season-and-brushes-with-greatness/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/memoirs-of-an-independent-repair-shop-owner-racing-season-and-brushes-with-greatness/#comments Fri, 19 Apr 2013 09:33:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=485515  

 

Shifting gears into the warmer seasons affords the motoring aficionado many joyous opportunities.

Up here in the Eastern Sierra, with the threat of big winter storms passed, road crews sweep off the gravel concoction they’d spread during the thick of it—allowing for more spirited driving (and additionally, in my case, riding the superbike). Snow finally melts in the forested areas, opening up the gravel roads, Jeep trails, and whoop-de-doo punctuated singletrack to all manner of Off-Highway Vehicles (I like to rock a two-stroke dirtbike for this application).

The opportunity for really epic road trips can also be realized.

Often, my road trips are done on two-wheels (on a superbike, not Chitwood-style in an automobile!), and involve—often as the focal point—some form of motor racing event, along the way.

Which brings us to our topic for the week.

While my experience in the actual participation of sanctioned motor racing is fairly limited, I’ve had some memorable ones, nonetheless.

I imagine that anyone as involved in wrenching on automobiles as I have been will at some point cross paths with the racing world, even as I have.

So, for the next couple of weeks, I’ll be relating some of the more interesting stories I’ve had, courtesy of the portal extant from my auto repair connections.

The first one I’ll relate, while by no means near the beginning of events chronological, seems to be the appropriate choice.

When I was transitioning into my own auto repair business, I did a relatively brief stint sharing shop space in a garage that serviced mostly German cars. The proprietor—who I will refer to as “Joe”—had some interesting racing connections going back to when he lived in an “Eastern Bloc” country, some years before. (Hopefully, I’ll one day be able to relate many stories about my experience working with Joe—especially regarding his “Old Country” wisdom.)

Apparently, Vasek Polak—who can, among other cool things, be considered a central figure in post WWII sports car racing here in the U.S. (esp. involving the Porsche brand and here on the West Coast)—was instrumental in getting Joe and his family here to The States.

Not long after Vasek died, Joe came by my shop and invited me to a sort of underground open house/ estate sale at Vasek’s race warehouse in Torrance, CA. Sounded like a good idea to me, so we went later that day.

To say it was a revelatory experience would probably be an understatement! There was stuff of all sorts, spanning Vasek’s entire saga in motor racing: boxes of used Speedster and 550 components, vintage Martini & Rossi promo items, including racing calendars, complete racecars and rolling chassis’ from a variety of classes—more cool material goods than I can recall, right now.

But to me, the real mindblow was what had to be at least a half-dozen COMPLETE 917 (as in the boxer-twelve turbo-powered nineoneseven) engine/ transaxle units, stacked in sturdy wire-mesh cages opposite the race car “display”. Even then—or maybe, especially then—as vintage road racing was approaching a zenith in popularity, I understood the gravity of what my eyes were taking in. I mean, what were the odds that so many of what had become so rare and important an item in auto racing history could be in the same place at the same time?!!

Not to mention the “street value” of such a stash—in whatever currency you care to apply to it!!

I don’t know where all of that wonderful stuff ended up (I did snag one of those 1972 M & R racing calendars, which is still on regular display), but undoubtedly the proceeds from its sale went to honorable use. The V. Polak name is on display prominently at the local medical center, for instance.

But while it was being used for its first intended purpose, it made automotive history, for sure!

 

Phil ran a successful independent repair shop on the West Coast for close to 20 years, working over a decade before that at both dealer and independent repair shops. He is presently semi-retired from the business of auto repair, but still keeps his hand in things as a consultant and in his personal garage

 

 

 

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Shameless Plug: Come Kick My Ass On The Track http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/shameless-plug-come-kick-my-ass-on-the-track/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/shameless-plug-come-kick-my-ass-on-the-track/#comments Wed, 03 Apr 2013 16:53:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=483468

If you live in the Greater Toronto Area and hate me despite having never met me in person, I am inviting you to come kick my ass – at karting.

In 2011, I competed in the Mosport International Karting Arrive and Drive Series, and this year I’ll be back at it again (after sitting out 2012 to spend my weekends with my then girlfriend).  The karting series held at Mosport is one of the best mosport bargains in North America. Registration is $149, while each race cost $60. For all that, you get a full season of karting (May-October) at one of North America’s great historic tracks.

The karts are brand new CRG chassis for 2013, with 6.5 horsepower 125cc 4-stroke Honda motors. Speeds top out at about 50 mph, which feels frighteningly fast without a seatbelt or any kind of protection from the elements. You will need a helmet and a karting suit to compete, and I highly recommend gloves if you don’t want to flay the skin off your palms.

I’ll be competing in the Sunday Afternoon group, and any TTAC readers are invited to come out and try and beat me. Be warned, I have been engaging in a fitness program to ensure success for this year – though it’s more Nigel Mansell than Michael Schumacher.

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Super Piston Slap: The Life and Death of a Proper LeMons Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/super-piston-slap-the-life-and-death-of-a-proper-lemons-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/super-piston-slap-the-life-and-death-of-a-proper-lemons-car/#comments Mon, 25 Mar 2013 10:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=482191 Sajeev writes:

One of the more (in)famous vehicles in junk car racing recently visited the big boneyard in the sky. It’s particularly sad for me, as this vehicle helped me back into the driver’s seat when I needed all the help I could get. The tenacious handling, phenomenal power complete with a BULLITT-worthy soundtrack in a brown station wagon; it was all positively insane. A sad tale indeed, but worth sharing from start to finish. So here’s Mr. Brian Pollock, owner of this brutally competitive Ford Fairmont Wagon, to tell the tale.

Brian writes:

It started by accident: I was killing time browsing a local Mustang forum and saw a post titled “The 24 hours of LeMons is coming to Texas”. I confirmed the information and called my friend Dave, who bluntly told me, “I won’t let you not do this.” Next call was to another friend, Marty, because he’d been autocrossing before and we needed a guy who had some idea how to make a car turn. We applied for the race and started talking about potential cars. We settled on the world’s rattiest fox Mustang. The car was terrible in every way, but it finished the race in a remarkable 35th place and we were hooked.

By the end of the second race we had figured out how to make the car stop and turn and were talking about building a second car instead of a V8 swap in the Mustang. The hunt was on for a cheap, unusual Fox body. I really had my heart set on either a fox LTD, a Fairmont sedan, or the holy grail of oddball foxes, the 1980-82 fox-box Thunderbird. I ignored the guy who contacted me with the wagon while I waited for something else, but time, the lack of a better (worse?) option and the wagon’s steadily lowering price convinced me otherwise. One trip to Waco and $150 made it mine.

Click here to view the embedded video.

(Start the video at 2:15 for maximum effect.)

Now we needed parts, lots of them. How do you build a fast LeMons car on anything resembling a $500 budget? You do research, lots of it. You figure out what parts from what depreciated wrecks will make your depreciated wreck better. You figure out who the nearest car crusher is and you follow the fluctuating price of scrap steel. You live on Craigslist. You buy cars from sketchy tweekers so you can get the right master cylinder. Then you list that car on Craigslist so his buddies can buy a fender, or window, or something, so when it makes its final trip across the scales you get back in the black. You do that a lot. I stopped counting, but my running guess is we’ve been through somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 parts cars to build three LeMons cars.

Sometimes you’ll be forced to buy used car parts instead of used parts cars. Try to avoid this. If you can’t, buy in bulk. I needed a set of pistons and found what I was looking for in a damaged short block. I bought the whole short block, two aluminum intakes, a pair of wheels, a nitrous system, and a Mustang. After selling what I didn’t need, I got what I wanted for free and turned a profit.

Now you have to figure out how to assemble these bits into a car. Learn to weld. You’ll need piles of metallic detritus. Our seat brackets are made from frame sections from a wrecked trailer. Rear spring locators are old header collectors. The sheet metal covering the fuel cell is a ’69 Camaro hood. The access door has been a tool box, a fruitcake pan, and a metal box from a nut and bolt assortment. Another team covers their cell with the top of an old dryer. License plates are invaluable, we use them for everything, including the switch panel.

Your labor is free. Use it: we put around four-hundred man hours a year maintaining the car when we’re not racing.

We debuted the Fairmont wagon in October of 2009. We blew up the motor in practice Friday. We worked all night assembling another and getting it in the car. It blew up mid-day. By Sunday morning we had a borrowed car repaired and through tech, but I was too tired to drive. We won the LeMons “I Got Screwed” award.

For what seemed like forever, the Fairmont spent more time with the engine out than it did on track. It took until November of the following year to finish a race. When it did, our 22nd place finish came with the top prize in LeMons, “The Index of Effluency” and a check for $1501.

2011 Racing Season: it started with a series of unpredictable oil pressure issues. In three races we had one oil pump seize, one break, and we mysteriously lost oil pressure on the track but got it back while putting the car on the trailer. By June we had the Fairmont in pretty good shape but our “Arrive and Drive” drivers were lacking. By the end of the year we had our act somewhat together. We finished the year with a class “B” win and 11th overall.

2012 Racing Season: the year we almost made it. At Texas World Speedway (TWS) in February we led for the first four hours and had two laps on the field when a rear shock broke. One driver spun, and a control arm bolt broke. We finished 4th and won class B again this time with a $500 check. In March, we were in 2nd place in Chumpcar on the first day (Saturday) when we burned through the brakes: we finished 7th overall. We were leading day two’s (Sunday) race when another weird oil pressure issue popped up. We parked the Fairmont and found a cracked pick up screen swinging in the pan.

May brought LeMons to Eagle’s Canyon Raceway (ECR). We did an emergency re-ring job instead of practice, and had driver issues. I never looked at the final results. September in Houston had rain. I should mention that a heavy, stiffly sprung station wagon is undriveable in the rain. In the wet we were fighting to stay in the low 20s, when it dried up we dragged up to 8th place. Chumpcar came back to TWS in December. We just weren’t competitive there with that series: Saturday 12th place, Sunday DNF with a broken T-5 transmission.

Which brings us to the end of the line: Lap 2 of the 24 Hours of LeMons season ender at ECR. After a minor in-and-out penalty for going 2 wheels off, we were in 3rd place and about to lap the leader. We came up on him fast and spooked the driver into missing his turn in point.

Click here to view the embedded video.

He went wide and looked like he was giving up the inside line. He lost control and came across the track in to the Fairmont’s left rear tire. The crash did extensive damage to the rear end and rear suspension mounts. We limped the car around the track until mid-day Sunday when it finally became undriveable.

In the end it wasn’t the crash that took out the wagon. The 1978 Fairmont was Ford’s clean sheet design during a fuel crisis, and the nationwide 55 mph speed limit. I doubt the fox chassis was intended to peg its 85 mph speedometer, certainly not to come down the steep banking at Texas World Speedway at a stomping 135 miles per hour.

Three years of racing just wore out the car. Everything from the cage forward bent, shifted, and sagged. The car droops when it goes on the lift and collapses when it comes down. It’s just not safe to drive anymore. Marty summed it up best while disassembling it:

“I’ve had more fun with this car than anything else in my life.”

We built the car, not as a joke, per se, but to be preposterous. We knew we could make it fast, and we knew we didn’t want another Mustang. There were 11 Mustangs in our Mustang’s last race. From the beginning we set out to have a winning car, but mechanical issues held us back for a long time. We prided ourselves on being able to out run the sports cars.

Loaded with junk, the last remnants of the Fairmont wagon went over the scales for $200, $50 more than I paid for it.

One of my favorite moments was coming up on a pack of three 944s and two Miatas just before a multi-turn complex at ECR. It took me two corners to pass 4 of the cars and one more to get the 5th. I don’t consider myself to be anything more than a competent driver, so I loved being able to get off line and pass cars that have some business being on a race track.

People generally loved the car…but some hated it.

We were even accused of cheating! Ratted out for our roller rockers when the motor was disassembled on the trailer, in a race where we didn’t complete more than 25 laps, of all things! We had the fox body’s historical successor, the Taurus SHO teams vote us for “The People’s Curse,” which Jay Lamm quickly, logically ignored.

I guess people couldn’t understand how a station wagon could out handle a Porsche.

They didn’t figure the hundreds of hours we put into the car in a year and our creative ways of solving problems, they assumed we were throwing money at it.

We did get a lot of positive comments on the car. At every race we would meet new people who wanted to introduce themselves and talk about the car.  (including myself – SM) I heard a number of people laugh as it rolled out on the track, only to be amazed once they saw it run. We got word from strangers all over the country who loved the car and wanted to drive it someday.

The comments from friends who heard of its demise meant a lot to me.

Todd Nelson: This is a sad day indeed…for you. For the rest of us, we will no longer have to live with the image of being overtaken – often rapidly – by an old, brown, beat-up relic from yesteryear…with tremendous horsepower. I’ll pour one out with ya at the next race.

Douglas Narby: I remember the first time I saw the wagon (from our 240SX) I said on the radio “I am going to pass this wagon”. A more experienced teammate came back with something along the lines of “good luck with that”. He was right. Great job while it lasted, y’all!

Mark Da Silva: The wagon was amazing! You guys know the huge amount of time that damn boat made our BMW E30 work overtime just to keep up! I had the privilege to drive it at ECR too, so it’s a shame to put the car into retirement!

 

 Good bye, Fairmont Wagon.  We’ll miss you. – SM

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The Most Expensive Supercharger Kit…In The Wuuurrrlllllllddd http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/the-most-expensive-supercharger-kit-in-the-wuuurrrlllllllddd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/the-most-expensive-supercharger-kit-in-the-wuuurrrlllllllddd/#comments Fri, 22 Mar 2013 15:35:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=482013

Have you ever seen a supercharger kit that costs more than the car in question?  TRD’s new supercharger kit for the Scion FR-S costs an astonishing $26,000, more than the MSRP of the FR-S itself.

The supercharger is meant primarily for the SCCA Prielli World Challenge Series, but for it to be legal, it must be offered for sale. Prospective buyers are required to order a minimum of two kits, and must supply their own engine management. Presumably, this is done to keep the kit out of the hands of the “IMPORT 2NR” crowd, but this still seems like an exorbitant sum for a mid-level sports car racing series.

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This Just In: Crashing A Kart At 114 Km/h Hurts http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/this-just-in-crashing-a-kart-at-114-kmh-hurts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/this-just-in-crashing-a-kart-at-114-kmh-hurts/#comments Wed, 23 Jan 2013 14:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=474490 Click here to view the embedded video.

Rising star Evan York shared this on Facebook, noting that the crash was due to “tucking”. But before you start picturing Ted Levine in Silence of the Lambs, let’s figure out what that really means, and why it’s done…

The crash happens because the driver has elected to “tuck” behind the wheel for an aero boost. Nearly every serious kart competitor does this at some point, because the benefits are very real. Even in recreational rental karts, particularly at longer outdoor venues, tucking is the difference between competing and merely observing. I usually tuck by crouching behind the wheel to eye level, but this fellow takes the more aggressive step of putting his head farther down and letting the airflow over the top of his helmet work for, not against him. As a result, he’s doing 114 km/h, which is about 70 mph, when he hits the kart coming out of the pitlane…

…which brings us to the controversial aspect of the video. Most trackday rats think of safe pitlane exits as a shared responsibility between the flagger who waves drivers out onto the track after checking for traffic, the driver entering the track, and the drivers who are already on the front straight and making passing maneuvers. In racing, however, all responsibility is given to the driver who is entering the track. The flagger doesn’t check for safe entrance and the drivers on the track have a right to all the road on their side of the blend line.

I’ve seen situations like this happen in open lapping days too many times to count. Since “tucking” isn’t necessary when you’re driving your GT-R (or Miata) at a track, keep your head up and watch the blend line. It’s made of paint, not Armco, and it won’t keep someone from pulling out in front of you. Even the pros make mistakes…

Click here to view the embedded video.

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François Bruère, Artiste Officiel Des 24 Hueres Du Mans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/francois-bruere-artiste-officiel-des-24-hueres-du-mans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/francois-bruere-artiste-officiel-des-24-hueres-du-mans/#comments Thu, 29 Nov 2012 14:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=468359

Some positions are dream jobs. Let’s say that you’re a car guy and that you like to paint and that you also happen to live in France. What could be a better job than being the official artist of the 24 Hours of LeMans race? François Bruère is that car guy and that’s his dream job. I first came across François while he was setting up his display at the automotive art show & sale that was part of the Concours of America at St. John’s festivities in suburban Detroit. Bruère has spent 30 years refining a style that combines hyperrealistic renderings of automobiles with sepia toned backgrounds, often historic, that give his work a distinctive, immediately recognizable style.

In addition to showing his works regularly at the Concours, Bruère has also been commissioned by the Concours to produce a poster of this year’s two Best of Show winners. The American winner was a 1933 Chrysler Imperial CL Sport Phaeton owned by Joseph and Margie Cassini, and the Foreign winner was also a 1933 model, a Delage D8S Coupe Roadster owned by the Patterson Collection. In a manner of speaking Bruère’s painting is one artist rendering the work of other artists, though they worked with steel and chrome instead of paint and canvas. Both of those cars have custom bodies. The D8S was was a design exercise, a concept car if you will, a collaboration between Delage and one of the most prestigious French coachbuilders, Carrosserie de Villars, for the 1934 Paris auto salon. The Chrysler has a body made by the equally prestigious American coachbuilder LeBaron. The car and its provenance are unique. By 1933 LeBaron was part of the Briggs body company and it was being run by designer Ralph Roberts, who would go on to design Chrysler’s dual cowl Newport show cars. This Imperial Sport Phaeton (it’s not quite a dual cowl body since the rear passenger’s windshield cranks down into the thin panel behind the front seat) was customized by LeBaron per Roberts’ direction and given by him as a present for his wife. An automotive rara avis : a one of one designer’s car, an already custom car further customized by the factory. The Imperial was part of the esteemed collection of the Milhous brothers and the Cassinis paid $1.21 million for it last February.

The Chrysler dominates the painting, sitting in front of the Delage in the foreground while in the background is the valet entrance and bell tower of St. John’s, a former seminary. Because of Bruère’s sepia tone backgrounds, the Chrysler particularly stands out since the white Delage tends to blend in. It’s not surprising that the artist highlighted the Chrysler. It’s an impressive car, one of the first American cars to have a hood that extended to the base of the windshield. Roberts had earlier done a proposal for Lincoln with that cowl-less feature that had been rejected by Edsel Ford so he just parked it in the garage at LeBaron’s Detroit facility. Later, when Walter P. Chrysler was at the same garage inspecting a proposal for the Imperial, he saw the Lincoln and told Roberts that was what he wanted. Already sleek by 1930s standards, Roberts customized his wife’s car with lengthened front fenders and skirted fenders in the back, lowered headlights, “French disc” wheel covers, and a radiator shell that was painted, not chromed. Also, Roberts moved the sidemounted spare tires to the back of the car.

More pics here.

Though I think he has the color a bit more aqua than the darker steel greyish green of my own photos of the car, Bruère captures the magnificent Chrysler quite well. If you want a copy of the poster, you’ll have to wait until next year’s concours. In the meantime, though, you can buy signed prints of the poster Bruère did of an Auburn roadster for the 2006 show as well as other historic show posters at the Concours’ web site store, starting next week. Bruère sells prints of his other works at his own website, Orpheograff.com.

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 dig deeper 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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Carrera Panamericana Crash Destroys Studebaker, Porsches, Alfa, and a Benz; Everyone Survives http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/carrera-panamericana-crash-destroys-studebaker-porsches-alfa-and-a-benz-everyone-survives/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/carrera-panamericana-crash-destroys-studebaker-porsches-alfa-and-a-benz-everyone-survives/#comments Mon, 22 Oct 2012 16:21:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=464488 La Carrera Panamericana 2012 ran its third day yesterday, and we’ve got a report of a five-cars-over-a-cliff wreck during yesterday’s race segment ending in Querétaro.
TTAC’s correspondent in Mexico is Christine The Arc Angel, known to thousands of 24 Hours of LeMons racers as the woman who welds the barnyard animals to their cars after a bad-driving bout. She’ll be sending us photos and descriptions as cellphone service in rural Mexico permits; you can also keep up with the action by reading her blog.
Christine is serving as interpreter for Taz Harvey’s and Rudy Vajdak’s Datsun 510 team, which took the Class A Historic win for Sunday’s race session.
Here’s Doug Mockett’s amazing ’54 Olds, which you may recall hauling ass up the mountain at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb.
The hot topic in Santiago de Querétaro was the five-car crash that ate some very nice machinery. Here’s Christine’s account.
Paul Hladky and Adrian Gerrit in a Studebaker lost it on a corner and stopped , when a Porsche hit them and pushed them about a off the road on the hill. They were fine, until another Porsche lost it and hit the first Porsche, who hit the Studebaker and stuffed it down the rest of this small hill. But then, the story gets crazier. An Alfa driven by Trevor Pettennude and Joshua Finkleman spins out at the same turn and stops, both driver and navigator get out just in time to have a Mercedes lose it and hit their car, bringing the car collection at the bottom of the hill to a ridiculous toll of FIVE cars! Incredibly, everyone is fine, only one broken ankle to report.
Sadly, the first day of La Carrera claimed the life of Javier Dávalos Valenzuela, whose Studebaker rolled in Puerto del Aire.
It’s a shame for classic race cars to go out like that, but we’re sure at least a couple of them will be fixed up to race again. Meanwhile, the trophy girls are getting ready for tonight’s awards ceremonies in Morelia.

Wrecked Cars at 2012 La Carrera Panamericana - Picture courtesy of Christine Rotolo.jpg 1954 Oldsmobile 88 at 2012 La Carrera Panamericana - Picture courtesy of Christine Rotolo Arc Angel Christine at 24 Hours of LeMons - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin Awards at 2012 La Carrera Panamericana - Picture courtesy of Christine Rotolo.jpg Datsun 510 at 2012 La Carrera Panamericana - Picture courtesy of Christine Rotolo Wrecked Cars 2 at 2012 La Carrera Panamericana - Picture courtesy of Christine Rotolo.jpg Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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