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1966 Batmobile - Auto News and Events

Gearhead News

Photography by Courtesy Of The NHRA

Small Cars in a Big Museum
You know you're old when the toys of your youth wind up in museums. And now Mattel's Hot Wheels toy cars are on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, California. If you're old enough to remember when Hot Wheels first came out in 1968, you should feel very, very old right now. If you're so young that you've never lived in a world without Hot Wheels-screw you!

The Petersen Automotive Museum is commemorating Hot Wheels' 35th with what it calls the Hot Wheels Hall of Fame exhibit that runs through September 2003. Thousands of the small cars are on display, along with such full-size Hot Wheels icons as Don Prudhomme's legendary Funny Car and the amazing Dodge Deora pickup that was built by Detroit's Alexander Brothers in the '60s (Former CC Art Director Thomas Voehringer has a great Web site about the Deora up at if you can survive typing in all those slashes).

Also on display is what's believed to be the most expensive Hot Wheels car of all time, the "Beach Bomb" VW minibus seen here. This prototype - with the surfboards coming out of the back window-differs from the more common production Bomb that had the boards in pockets along the sides of the vehicle. A very few of these prototypes snuck out of Mattel in 1969, and this one was purchased for an astounding $70,000. That's about $69,999 more than it would have cost new.

Information on Hot Wheels is available at and the Petersen site is at

A Jet for Tony
Thinking about buying a business jet? Then consider the Learjet 40 with its available "racing-inspired" interior. That's right, you can now buy a jet with an interior officially certified as racy by the president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and founder of the IRL, Tony George, who's seated second from the left in the photos. The other two guys in the photo work for Bombardier, the company that owns Learjet.

It's only a matter of time before there's a competing jet with a NASCAR interior, right? How about a Funny Car theme where one of the engines is installed inside the cockpit, right in front of the only passenger seat?

Totally Ionized
The bling-bling assault on all things automotive continues in 2004 when Saturn puts its Ion Red Line on sale. Based on the Ion Quad Coupe compact, front-drive, two-door it's performance credentials mainly boil down to one word: supercharger.

An Eaton Roots-style blower shoves air through an intercooler into a 2.0L version of the usually 2.2L Ecotec DOHC 16-valve four that powers the Ion (and the Chevy Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire). Peaking at 12 pounds of boost, the blower thumps the Ecotec's output to, Saturn predicts, 200 hp. That's a thick 73 more ponies than the unblown 2.2L Ecotec makes, but it's still down from the 215 horses Dodge is claiming for this car's direct competitor, the turbocharged Neon SRT/4. However, the Saturn's belt-driven vanes may have a low-end torque production advantage that could show up in initial acceleration.

Behind the fortified engine is a heavier duty five-speed manual transmission feeding equal-length axles to the front wheels. Of course the Red Line also gets a new exhaust system, four-wheel disc brakes with standard ABS, a revised and lowered suspension, 17x7 five-spoke wheels inside Continental P215/45WR17 tires, revised front and rear fascias, new front seats, and (Saturn promises) "a family of available rear wings." "A family of available rear wings?" You mean those damn things are ... breeding?

The Red Line should hit dealers by the spring of next year.

Taste O' Trivia

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