Race Car Of The Month
Penske NASCAR Matador
Back in 1951 it was almost impossible to beat the Hudson Hornet in NASCAR competition. With drivers like Marshall Teague, Herb Thomas, and Tim Flock behind the wheel, Hudsons won 12 of the 41 races that year. In fact, Teague's "Fabulous Hudson Hornet" team was the first factory-supported team in NASCAR. In 1952 they won 27 of 34 races, then 22 of 37 in 1953, and 17 of 37 in 1954. But there was only one win by a Hudson in 1955 and then ... nothing for any make that would eventually become part of AMC (and ultimately today's DaimlerChrysler).
But there was one glorious attempt to bring the Hudson Hornet's racing legend over to AMC, and it started in 1972 with a series of Roger Penske-prepared Matadors. Penske and driver Mark Donohue had considerable success with Javelins in SCCA Trans Am racing after their legendary run from 1967 through 1969 in Chevrolet Camaro Z/28s. So even though NASCAR was something new to both Penske and Donohue, and the boxy '72 Matador couldn't have been more ill-suited to competition, they entered stock car racing with great expectations.
Besides the AMC's challenging aerodynamics, the big problem for the team was engines. Going up against the well-developed big-block engines from GM, Ford, and Chrysler, AMC had to run a 366ci small-block, which in many ways was an upsized version of AMC's 305ci Trans Am engines. Despite rules that favored small-blocks, reliability hampered the Penske effort throughout 1972. Their best finish was a Third in the Golden State 400 road race at Riverside with Donnie Allison driving.
But the team broke through during the first race of the 1973 season when they won the Riverside 500 road race. Penske's big trick (beyond having one of the all-time great road racers, Mark Donohue, behind the wheel) was their use of four-wheel disc brakes on the Matador; a NASCAR first. Those effective brakes let Donohue dive deeper into corners than the competition, and that was the difference. Four-wheel discs quickly spread throughout NASCAR and have been part of every car in the series ever since. Dave Marcis' Fifth Place in the '73 American 500 at Rockingham was the team's second-best showing.
The boxy Matador was replaced by a new fastback in '74, and that car had some success, earning one win with Bobby Allison in 1974 and three wins in 1975. But AMC and Penske parted ways in 1976 after running just one race in the Matador. Allison would return with his own team and Matador for 1977 but found little success, and Jock Maggiacomo's one race during 1978 only lasted 45 laps.
AMC was gone from NASCAR for good, but it left an impression with its red, white, and blue painted cars. And during 2003, the Penske South NASCAR team acknowledged that when it painted one of Ryan Newman's #12 Intrepids in the distinctive AMC livery for the Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400 at Rockingham. Appropriately, Newman spun and struggled throughout the race only to surprise fans by finishing a sterling Fifth. And that's the way it was.
In and Out List
In: Watching the snow melt.
Out: Getting your car out for the first time in the spring and running straight into a mud hole.
In: Switching from a mechanical to an electric fan to save a few horsepower.
In: Fourth-generation Firebird Formulas
In: Third-generation Firebird Formula 350s.
In: Second-generation Firebird Formula 400s and 455s.
Out: There's a new Mustang coming out, and no new Firebird or Camaro is on the horizon.
In: Driving cross-country with your kids.
Out: All they want to do is watch The Wiggles on the minivan's DVD player over and over and over and over again.
In: Going to Sears to buy a new 11/42-inch box wrench after losing yours.
Out: Finding the 11/42-inch box wrench just after you get back from Sears with a new one.
In: Selling your car for exactly the price you wanted for it.
Out: Having to deal with the Department of Motor Vehicles for three days trying to transfer the title.
In: The '68 Chevrolet Impala SS.
In: The '69 Chevrolet Impala SS (only 2,425 built).
Out: That there was no '70 Chevrolet Impala SS.
In: Stock hubcaps on widened steel wheels.
In: Stock wheel covers modified to fit over 17-, 18-, or even larger-diameter alloy wheels.
Out: Pulling stock steel wheels out of junkyard and mounting them to your car without balancing them.
In: Seeing that you have just enough in your bank account to cover a new set of cylinder heads.
Out: Doing your taxes and finding that what's in your bank account is going to the IRS.
In: Bolting on a new set of shocks.
Out: Having the shock boss snap off in your hands as you remove the old shocks.
Production total: 319
Engine: 327ci with 300 hp
Transmission: Three-speed manual (std.), four-speed manual (opt.), two-speed automatic (opt.).
Base price: $2,381 (base)
Everything Is A Race Car
The best thing about drag racing is that anyone can do it. The second best thing is that anything can do it. Proof comes in the form of the Diesel Hot Rod Association (DHRA), which was (quoting its Web site) "formed to promote and advance automotive sports that involve the use of diesel (compression ignition) engines." In essence, it's run-what-you-towed-your-race-car-to-the-track-with racing.
With the truck-makers in an arms race to see who can build the most powerful and technologically advanced turbo diesel heavy-duty pickup, that racing would ensue was pretty much inevitable. Ford Powerstroke vs. Dodge Cummins vs. Chevy Duramax is at least as spirited a rivalry as Shotgun vs. Hemi vs. Big-Block ever was. And the DHRA's "Weekend on the Edge" event last September at Rocky Mountain Raceway in Ogden, Utah, was indicative of how entertaining a rivalry it can be.
The two-day event started with dyno runs at Edge Products in Ogden. Spewing black smoke like the Titanic's coal bunkers as it went down, the big trucks proceeded to put up some absolutely astonishing numbers. Richard Madsen's Cummins-powered Ford knocked out an astounding 563 hp at the rear wheels, and that translates into enough torque to pull the entire state of Utah up and over the Rockies. Madsen's pickup also holds a current All Motor class quarter-mile record of 11.29 at 118 mph.
Fully 40 trucks showed up for race day, and burnouts that seemed to crack the Earth's crust were commonplace. It turns out that four-wheel-drive pickups with overwhelming torque launch best in four-wheel drive, and low 14s weren't uncommon. Power-adders like nitrous and turbos are almost commonplace, and (with these trucks at least) propane is an effective performance fuel as well.
Information about the DHRA is available on its Web site at www.dhraonline.com, and you can explore all the various classes there and the schedule of events. Here's the class we suggest: combined e.t. for both the truck and whatever race car it can tow to the event. Just have the tow vehicle performance set the handicap for the car races.
Sometimes we're just brilliant.
Movie and TV Car Web Sites
Are you fascinated with the original Batmobile from the 1966 TV series? Want to know everything about the 1968 Steve McQueen classic Bullitt? Obsessed with the Gran Torino from Starsky & Hutch? Car Craft is proudly ignorant about these cars. But if you're craving more info, we suggest these 10 sites on the Internet. Then you can stop bothering us.
None of these sites are professional efforts or tied in with the producers of the series or movies they celebrate. So cut them some slack if the coding isn't slick or a link is broken.
1. The Original 1966 Batmobile Web site: www.1966batmobile.comThis neatly laid-out site features more information on Batman and Robin's George Barris-built icon than you can shake a bat-fist at. Not only does it have info on the original Batmobile, it also tracks the replicas that have been built and the message boards are aflame with fanatics tracing where each car is today.
2. American Graffiti Home Page (unofficial): www.kathyschrock.net/graffitiNot a particularly slick site, but it does go deep into the history and fates of the '32 Ford and '55 Chevy from the classic 1974 film. But why nothing on the '58 Impala that was prominent in the film?
3. Bullitt: www.people.freenet.de/pony/bullit.htmThe chase between a Highland Green Mustang GT and a black Charger 440 in Steve McQueen's 1968 film Bullitt remains the definitive car chase for many. This page-maintained by fanatics Wolfgang Kohrn, David Kunz, and Anthony Bologna-goes into minute detail on every aspect of the film and the cars in it.
4. Death Race 2000: www.geocities.com/virtual_cinema/deathrace.html#questionsPaul Bartel's Death Race 2000 remains one of the great cheap movies of all time with a wild plot that has racers crossing the country and scoring points for knocking off pedestrians. What's interesting about this page is that it's sort of a scholarly discussion of the film-as if it had merit as a sociological treatise
5. North American General Lee Fan club: www.generalleefanclub.com This site goes on for page after page of trivia about the stunts and cars used filming The Dukes of Hazzard. It's absolutely obsessive. This must be one of the most active fan clubs ever dedicated to a car.
6. Gone in 60 Seconds, The Unofficial Fan Webpage: tcotrel.tripod.com/gone/gonein60index.htmlTom Cotrel's tribute to the original 1974 Gone in 60 Seconds includes links and information about the year-2000 remake as well. The original movie remains the only film ever to use a quote from Car Craft on its original poster.
7. Knight Replicas Database: www.knightreplicas.comKnight Rider is one of those shows that, if you were the right age (like, six), seemed to feature the coolest car of all time. For the rest of us, it was an '82 Trans Am. This site tracks replicas of "K.I.T.T." around the country, but doesn't feature much information on production of the series itself.
8. LoveBugFans.com: www.lovebugfans.comThis site includes both a list of known existing "Love Bugs" used to film the 1969 film and its subsequent sequels, and a registry for owners who've built replicas and answers to frequently asked questions about the productions.
9. Starsky and Hutch Torinos: www.starskytorino.comDedicated to not only the cars used in making the mid-'70s TV series, but the 1,000 replicas built by Ford during the '76 model year and replicas around the world. It's so comprehensive that makers of this year's big-screen version of Starsky & Hutch actually used this site to find the cars that would appear in the film.
10. Vanishing Point: www.geocities.com/algenard/directory.htmlNot only does this site celebrate the film and its star, a white '70 Dodge Challenger, it includes rare behind-the-scenes photos of the climactic crash into some bulldozers, too.
Chrysler Takes Flite
According to everything coming fromDaimlerChrysler, the five-door Airflite concept car shown by the company at March's Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland accurately reflects the styling themes that will become the hallmark of the company into the foreseeable future. But the real treat isn't the styling-it's the rear-drive chassis upon which the Airflite is built that will make or break the company.
The new LX chassis is DaimlerChrysler's first rear-drive platform since the old New Yorker left production after the '89 model year. In the Airflite, power comes from a heavily styled 3.5L V-6, but this platform is fully capable of supporting V-8s, and at least one Hemi-powered version will be in production for the 2005 model year. The high-performance Mopar musclecar could very well be back in full force by the middle of this decade.
The Airflite looks muscular without being cartoonish, the front end shares a family resemblance to the Crossfire, the wraparound windshield is reminiscent of '65 Imperial, and the pillarless four-door design is something the world desperately needs. We're also growing fonder of the sweeping Marlin-like roof too-despite our best efforts to continue mocking it.
Our advice to DaimlerChrysler is to drop out a couple of doors, toss in a 5.7 Hemi, and call it Barracuda.
There are great forces out to get you. Everybody knows it but-and this is the sinister part-no one will talk to you about it. Sure your doctors are dismissing your thoughts as delusional paranoia, but they're in on the conspiracy too. How will you be safe? How will you be safe?
What you need is the new Lincoln Town Car Ballistic Protection Series (BPS)! It's an armored vehicle that will protect you from small arms fire whether it comes from black helicopters or that grassy knoll over there. It's not perfectly impregnable, so you'll still have to look in the shadows for agents of the CIA, KGB, and AARP, but it offers some protection.
To fortify the Town Car, Lincoln has employed five basic technologies. Advanced ceramic composite materials are used as a bulwark along most of the vertical surfaces and they work by breaking up bullets and dispersing their energy. Ballistic steel is used on other surfaces and supplements the ceramics in others. Ballistic transparencies make up the windows, which, at nearly twice the standard thickness, can stop rifle shots. An interwoven Aramid blanket insulates the bottom of the BPS to keep shrapnel from intruding from below. Polymer inserts allow the tires to keep rolling up to 30 miles at 30 mph after they've been shot out.
"About 300 OEM tests will be performed on Town Car BPS, including crash tests, which will make it one of the most thoroughly tested armored vehicles in the world," said Lauren Schafer, director, Lincoln Special Engineering Operations. "Additionally, we've conducted extensive ballistic testing at independent labs to validate the ballistic performance of our materials."
Despite the armor, the BPS Town Car is designed to appear to be any other Town Car clogging the Hertz lot. Because when you've been targeted (and you have been) anonymity is your only friend. The irony that you're driving a car designed to protect you from assassination that's named after someone who was assassinated is just something with which you'll have to live.
The merger between Chrysler and Daimler-Benz is paying off. Coming some time in the next year is a return to rear-wheel drive for Dodge and Chrysler large sedans (think Intrepid and Concorde). Much of the engineering expertise for rear-drive cars is coming from Daimler, which has never stopped building rear-drive cars. Think about it; the last Chrysler rear-drive passenger car was sold in 1989 and the last time the company designed an all-new rear-drive car was, like, 1970. Anyone who was at Chrysler then is probably in the twilight of his or her career now.
Anyhow, at January's Detroit Auto Show, Dodge showed the Magnum SRT-8, a concept car that's rumored to be an only slightly disguised version of a rear-drive sport wagon that will soon enter production. The looks are obviously influenced by Dodge trucks, and we think they're attractive in a muscular American way. More interesting is the chassis underneath that uses A-arms in front, a multilink independent system in the rear, four-wheel disc brakes, and big 20-inch wheels.
Most thrilling of all is the powerplant-a supercharged version of the 5.7L Hemi V-8 that's currently being installed in Ram pickups. The Whipple blower on this monster boosts output from the normal 345 hp up to a muscular 430 hp. Frankly we don't expect the iron-block Hemi to make it under the new rear-drivers' hoods with or without a blower. Instead we hear it will be an all-aluminum Hemi with a reduced-mass reciprocating assembly and higher compression ratio making nearly 400 hp in naturally aspirated state. However, we fully expect the Mercedes-designed five-speed automatic behind the Hemi to be there in production.
A look at the Magnum's interior shows a mix of new stuff, Dodge stuff, and Mercedes stuff. The sound and navigation system is swiped straight from the current Mercedes line (so is the turn signal stalk), the ventilation controls are pure Mopar, and that shifter and other controls look brand new.
The fact that the Magnum is a wicked cool looking wagon is a plus, but it's the rest of the machine that has us thrilled.
It's obvious that the same numbers mean different things to different car guys. Say "427" to a Chevy guy and his thoughts turn to Rat-powered Corvettes or the awesome Camaro ZL1. Say it to a Ford guy and thoughts turn to the titanic powerhouse motor from the mid-'60s that powered Carroll Shelby's awesome Cobra and the brick-like '65 Galaxie to NASCAR glory. The 427 concept vehicle shown by Ford at this year's Detroit auto show was intended to evoke memories of that Galaxie, and it does so surprisingly well.
The bent bars crossing the car's nose framed by large vertical headlamps and the general blockiness of the body are reminiscent of the square-cut '65 Galaxie, though the '65 was never this muscular looking. Ford calls the look "almost sinister," but that's wrong. It's just clean and upright, and hopefully it will inspire some better looking Ford sedans in the future.
Power for the 427 does, in fact, come from a 427ci powerplant (that's 7.0L in euro-speak). In this case, it's a version of Ford's Triton V-10 with siamesed 95-millimeter bores and four-valve cylinder heads. Ford claims a paranormal 590 hp for this engine that, despite the extra cylinders, weighs in about 70 pounds less than the 5.4L, 32-valve V-8 used in the '01 Mustang Cobra-R. What are the chances of the 427 V-10 becoming a regular production item? Absolutely subterranean.
Ford Gambles On a New F-150
Ford sells about 800,000 new F-Series pickups every year. It's the best-selling vehicle on Earth. It's the source of much of Ford's profits. When they redesign it, they risk everything.
Ford is rolling the dice big-time with the all-new '04 F-150 due to go on sale later this year. However, the old F-150 (introduced as a '97 model) will stay in production at the base trim levels to keep prices down.
There's nothing really startling about the new F-150, but its obviously been refined to the Nth degree. That's one better than the Mth degree.
The most radical element in the new F-150 sure isn't the square-cut exterior styling, but it may well be the interior. Or make that interiors. The F-150 will be available with different interiors Ford describes as "custom environments ... developed for each series." So the FX4 interior (shown) is completely different than that of the Lariat or XLT. And the interiors are larger with regular and extended SuperCab models both stretching another 6 inches in length. The SuperCrew crew-cab model is also back with seating for up to six. The three cabs are available with three different-length boxes with either "Styleside" or "Flareside" fenders.
The fully boxed frame is stiffer, and the front suspension now mounts the coil spring around the shock and incorporates aluminum lower control arms. The solid rear axle still rides on leaf springs. Steering is by rack-and-pinion, braking is by four-wheel discs, and ABS is standard.
While the 4.6L, SOHC Triton V-8 carries over unchanged except for an electronic throttle, the 5.4L version now sports three-valve heads that push output to 300 hp. It also gets the electronic throttle.
The new F-150 will go on sale this fall.
Fact: Ford will offer an onboard fire-suppression system on the '05 Crown Victoria Police Interceptor.
Fact: According to a report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), thieves have been taking Cadillac Escalades at a higher rate than any other vehicle. In fact, five of the ten most stolen vehicles are high-end SUVs.
Fact: Our favorite band name this year? "Camaro Hair" out of Oregon plays "energetic, engaging power pop, harking back to early-'80s New Wave" according to the Portland Oregonian newspaper. Their new album is entitle "Far From OK," which we guess means they're still nowhere near Oklahoma.
Fact: According to a report in the Rocky Mountain News, two brothers died when testing their modified Chevelle on the roads around a Denver warehouse district. Both men, in their 40s, died when the car hit a loading dock at more than 100 mph.
Facts And Rumors
Fact: William J. Faenza Jr., 35, was charged by police in Lehighton, Pennsylvania for allegedly driving 182 mph in his Lamborghini Diablo while drunk. The speed was calculated by timing the Diablo over a fixed distance according to a report from the Associated Press. Dang, we were hoping that some trooper in a really bad-actor Crown Vic had chased him down.
Fact: The Los Angeles Police Department confiscated its first two cars under a new municipal law that allows them to seize cars involved in illegal street races. "We're taking lethal weapons off the streets," Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo was quoted as saying by the Long Beach Press Telegram. "We're taking them and we're not giving them back." The disposition of the two cars, a '89 IROC Camaro and a similar '90 model, hasn't been determined yet. However LAPD Chief William Bratton has suggested crushing them in front of their drivers. Ouch.
Fact: Ford is spending at least $200 million to advertise the new F-150. This is supposedly the most expensive vehicle launch ever.
Fact: In August 2003, Toyota sold more vehicles of all types (cars and trucks) in the United States than did Chrysler.
Fact: Pontiac will call its '05 replacement for the Grand Am the G6.
Taste O' Trivia
The front fenders on the '70 Plymouth Superbird were actually from a '70 Dodge Coronet, not a regular Plymouth Road Runner.
Before it built an automotive Hemi V-8, Chrysler first used hemispherical combustion chambers on this XI-2220 experimental aircraft engine developed during World War II.
Comedian Sam Kinison was driving a limited-edition '89 Pontiac Trans Am Turbo when he was struck and killed by a drunk driver in April 1992.
On April 6, 2003, the Hostess Twinkie turned 73 years old. And it's still fresh!
The first car to win a NASCAR race was Jim Roper's '49 Lincoln. It won the very first NASCAR race, 200 laps of a 31/44-mile dirt track in Charlotte, North Carolina, on June 19, 1949.
The '64 GTO used by GM on the runway of its second annual pre-Oscar fashion show in Hollywood was driven by Car Craft staffers across the country in the late-'80s "Americruise" feature. Surprisingly, they were dressed exactly how singer Jewel and actor Michael Chiklis are in this photo-even though there were no female writers on staff at the time.
The second car to win a NASCAR race was Red Byron's '49 Oldsmobile in a 166-mile race on the sand at Daytona Beach, Florida. Byron won two of the eight races held that year and took the first NASCAR championship.
Buick introduced its first "Century" in 1936, making it the oldest nameplate currently in use on a U.S. market vehicle. However, the Century name was not used from 1943 through 1953 or from 1959 through 1972.
An L.A. Kind of Thing
Ford has been testing prototypes for its upcoming GT throughout Southern California and haven't been shy about it at all. In these photos supplied by Ford, the GT is speed testing on the dry bed of the L.A. River (famous from Grease, Gumball Rally, Terminator 2 and at least one good episode of Starsky & Hutch). It's been pounding down the freeways evaluating everything from sound levels to brake squeal to the ability to not overheat on the way to the airport, while making sure it runs good on the weird civilian gas they sell out here on the left side of the country. It's all really cool.
The black car in the photos is actually, from what we can surmise, the second GT prototype. The first test mule was finished in red paint with a big numeral "1" on the sides and is rumored to be testing in Michigan. Interestingly, the EPA fuel mileage loop is based on a route that runs directly in front of CC's palatial offices, and prototypes pass by regularly. We have yet to see the GT on Wilshire Boulevard however.
An SSR in Indianapolis
In May, a truck paced the Indianapolis 500 for the first time. Sure it wasn't a "real" truck towing a load of roofing tar, but the Chevy SSR does in fact have a bed.
The actual pace vehicle for the 500 looks just like one of 25 Signature Series models that are starting the SSR's production run, but it is actually a preproduction example that is now on permanent display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. The back-up vehicle was actually number four of the Signature Series run and will eventually be auctioned off. A third pace-looking SSR (again, not an actual Signature Series SSR) was put on display at the museum in May.
Little was done to the SSRs to make them ready for pace duty. Each got some neat ghost flames on its nose, safety strobe lights were sunk into the tailgate, the aluminum wheels were polished, the suspension was slightly stiffened, oil and transmission coolers were added, and a low-restriction exhaust was bolted up. Left alone was the 290hp aluminum-block 5.3L Vortec 5300 OHV V-8 and the four-speed automatic transmission behind it.
GM racing honcho Herb Fishel did the driving in celebration of his 40 years promoting the sport within GM. By the way, this is the 14th time a Chevy has paced the Indy 500. It's also the sixth Chevy two-seater to pace the race-five Corvettes proceeded it.
Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers
GM is developing new technologies like forward-looking collision warnings and adaptive cruise-control systems that need to be tested, but the very nature of the testing could wind up with cars bounding into the backs of other cars over and over and over again. So GM has developed a special car other cars can run into with virtually no damage.
Towed behind a Suburban, the rubber car looks sort of like the back half of a Monte Carlo on a small trailer, and it's perfect for testing radar and other sensing technologies with minimal sheetmetal destruction. Of course this begs the question of why they don't just make whole cars out of rubber in the first place?
Bad Boy Focus
Ford has found itself playing catch-up to Peugeot in the World Rally Championship with its Focus WRC cars. So it has gone back to the drawing board and redesigned the competition Focus for 2003.
The new Focus RS WRC '03 is over 80 percent brand-new according to Ford. The styling has been twisted with a new rear wing and a deep front air dam to improve stability, and the body shell itself is significantly stiffer. The turbocharged 2.0L Cosworth-built Duratec four's mass has been reduced, and a new rear suspension is aboard to take advantage of the improved weight distribution.
The new car debuted at the Rally New Zealand on April 11th. Expect the Focus WRC '03 to wind up programmed into video games by the end of the year.
Singer Christina Aguilera shot a music video to promote the NBA Playoffs and we snagged this photo from the resulting PR fusillade. This gave us a chance to use the word "skanky" as a headline.
Lincoln of the Sky
The words "limited edition" have been used so often lately that it's impossible to tell when they actually indicate anything. Here, for instance, is the Lincoln Aviator Kitty Hawk Edition; a version of Lincoln's smaller SUV designed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903. Prices start at $45,210.
What makes the Kitty Hawk Edition a Kitty Hawk Edition is a monochromatic black exterior, a rear spoiler, an "argent grille with chrome surround," chrome-tipped exhaust, special badging, special floor mats, black leather seats with black stitching, and mink zebrano wood trim on the interior.
Available in two- or all-wheel drive, the Kitty Hawk also comes with standard Lincoln stuff like 17-inch wheels, heated and cooled front seats, power adjustable foot pedals, and HID headlights. Power comes from a all-aluminum 302hp 4.6L DOHC 32-valve V-? feeding a five-speed automatic transmission.
Coincidentally, Ford is also celebrating its 100th anniversary during 2003, and it's making a big deal about the company's aviation history-including the classic Ford Tri-Motor airliner and the B-24 produced in great quantities by Ford during World War II. Ford and The Discovery Channel will present documentaries about the Wright brothers and Henry Ford's involvement with airplanes. Ford will also sponsor the "Countdown to Kitty Hawk" (www.countdowntokittyhawk.org), a program that will reenact the Wright Flyer's historic flight with the launch of an accurate reproduction at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17. That's exactly 100 years after the first flight. The reenactment will be telecast live and should be fascinating if for no other reason than that the Wright Flyer was notoriously unstable.
We Have Winners
Castrol North America's Top Techs program recognizes the best of America's automotive students every year as chosen by a "blue-ribbon" panel of judges including CC's own Matt King. Matt's parents are really proud of his blue ribbon too. Automotive students submitted 150-word essays through GTXTopTechs.com explaining why they should be considered as finalists, and judges pared those hundreds down to just eight. Each of the eight will serve as an honorary crew member on John Force's Funny Car crew during an NHRA event, and one will win a $7,500 scholarship to continue his (or her) automotive service education.
The eight finalists are Randi Reel of Bellville High School in Belleville, Texas; Daniel Gilbert of Flower Mound, Texas, a freshman at Universal Technical Institute's Houston campus; Chris Bohland of Half Hollow Hills East High School in Melville, New York; Dan Dorset, a senior at Bright High School in Brighton, Michigan; Michael Bretl of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, a freshman at Madison Area Technical College; Carl Jones, a junior at Edwards County High School in Ellery, Illinois; Brian Millington of Belleville, Kansas, a freshman at Wyoming Technical Institute; and Pete Johnson of Mooresville, Indiana, a sophomore at Lincoln Technical Institute's Indianapolis Campus. They'll each get two tickets to the NHRA event they're attending plus a Castrol GTX hat and T-shirt, a Mac Tools toolbox filled with $1,000 of new tools, and a donation of both Castrol GTX motor oil and Castrol GTX High Mileage motor oil for use in his or her vocational education/automotive program.
Castrol will start accepting nominations for its 2004 GTX Top Techs program in September.
We recently had the opportunity to attend the Westec Metalworking and Manufacturing exposition at the Los Angeles Convention Center in March. The Westec expo is a trade show put on by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) featuring the latest in equipment and technology for those that turn metal stock into functional parts and pieces, and the level of sophistication available today is astounding. Still photos don't do justice to some of the equipment we observed-huge "cabinet"-based apparatuses that can perform multiple milling, drilling, and even threading processes without human intervention, short of loading the part and initiating the program. Just imagine what you could build if you had access to this stuff ... along with the knowledge to make it work. If this sort of thing interests you, check out www.sme.org.
There were many automated machine tools being demonstrated at the show. This is just one of the steps performed by this machine, which is capable of automatically switching drilling/cutting bits and then performing the actual operation. Although stuff like this is becoming commonplace in the manufacturing world, to motorheads like us, the possibilities seem boundless. Need a bellhousing adapter? Mill it up. A new set of pistons? Start carving.
A large portion of the show was dedicated to the computer hardware and software used to control the machines, design parts, and create prototyping models. One vendor explained that his company could accurately design a complex piece like a cylinder head on screen while also generating flow figures, and then transfer the design to a three-dimensional model (also done by computer), and then use that model to create molds for the actual parts. Technology like this partially explains the boom in aftermarket heads and intakes in recent years.
In And Out List
IN: Old cars that look like they're beat to hell, but run great
OUT: Old cars that look great, but run like they're beat to hell
IN: Wheelstanding your 5.0 Mustang
OUT: Coming down from a wheelstand in your 5.0 Mustang and seeing the front struts burst through the hood
IN: Old-timey-looking dashboards with classic supplementary instrumentation
OUT: Welding a late-model dash into an earlier-model car
IN: Five-spoke wheels
IN: Six-spoke wheels
IN: Seven-spoke wheels
OUT: Four-spoke wheels
OUT: Three-spoke wheels
OUT: Two-spoke wheels
IN: Taste O' Trivia
IN: Muscle Car of the Month
OUT: Quote of the Month
OUT: Winner of the Month
IN: Estee Lauder supermodel Carolyn Murphy
IN: Estee Lauder supermodel Liya Kebede
IN: Estee Lauder supermodel Elizabeth Hurley
OUT: Writing items like this just so we can run photos of Carolyn Murphy, Liya Kebede, and Elizabeth Hurley
IN: Mercury Meteor
OUT: Mercury Turnpike Cruiser
IN: Four-wheel-steering pickups
IN: Four-wheel-steering SUVs
OUT: Four-wheel steering because your rearend is tweaked
IN: M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank
OUT: Toyota pickups with .50-caliber machine guns mounted in the bed
Chrysler's Fastest Sedan
[Photos 116-0308.SCUP 4A through 4D on disc]All that mid-'90s "cab-forward" styling has been banished from Chrysler-and it's about time. The new theme is "classic proportions," and the Chrysler 300C concept car shown at the New York Auto Show indicates that "classic" means "shouldn't have changed in the first place." And the 300C is only a slightly disguised version of the next Chrysler 300 that goes into production next year.
The classic proportions are possible because the 300C uses a classic drivetrain configuration: a Hemi V-8 up front powering the rear wheels (any similarity to the original '55 Chrysler 300 is purely intentional). In this case, it's the new 5.7L Hemi introduced in the Dodge Ram pickup, but with an aluminum block to go along with its aluminum heads. Chrysler isn't talking about output for the car version of the Hemi, but we're hearing that 380 hp is in the ballpark. Behind the Hemi is an electronically controlled five-speed automatic from the Mercedes parts warehouse feeding a limited-slip differential. The suspension uses short and long arms up front and a five-bar multi-link system in the back, but to the great disappointment of hard-core Mopar enthusiasts, no torsion bars.
From every angle, the 300C looks the way a big, confident American sedan should look. That grille kinda/sorta looks like the '57 300C's, the windshield isn't raked back like a rocket ship, and the greenhouse is squat over the car's big shoulders and 20-inch wheels. If the production version comes out this bold, it will be the best-looking Chrysler sedan since ... well, ever. The interior carries over the themes of the outside with a restrained use of wood trim and chrome rings around the vintage-looking instrumentation.
Chrysler's new rear-drive platform should produce a host of new vehicles including, if we're very lucky, a new Dodge Charger. Maybe the musclecar isn't dead after all.
T-Bird Es Muerto
@bc:Ford has announced that it will conclude production of the revived two-passenger Thunderbird after the 2005 or 2006 model year. The retro-styled, $35,000-plus T-Bird was supposed to sell in quantities of about 25,000 a year, but sales have been disappointing. During 2002, just 19,085 were sold, and through the first three months of 2003, just 4,065 had been put under buyers' butts.
The current T-Bird isn't a bad car. But as with the very first T-Birds back in 1955, Ford has discovered that there just isn't much of a market for a two-passenger luxury convertible. Now that it has relearned its lesson, will Ford, as it did in 1958 with great success, bring out a four-passenger T-Bird to succeed this two-seater?
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 members.aol.com/thomasv12/private/deora/deora.html 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 www.hotwheels.com and the Petersen site is at www.petersen.org.
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?
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
The very first Mustang ever seen in a motion picture was the '64 Wimbledon White convertible driven by "Tilly Masterson" in the classic 1964 James Bond picture Goldfinger.
A Wimbledon White convertible with a 260 V-8 was the first Mustang ever built, coming off the assembly line on March 9, 1964. Once sold to a Canadian airline pilot, it's now on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
The first publicly shown Mustang prototype was a mid-engine, V-4-powered two-seater.
The first Ford Mustang with rack-and-pinion steering was the '74 Mustang II. All Mustangs since then have had rack-and-pinion steering.
The Chevy Bow Tie logo was supposedly lifted from a wallpaper design in a Paris hotel.
Buick's round "mouse-hole ventiports" first appeared on the hoods of '49 models.
The first known legal drag race took place in 1949 on an access road to the Santa Barbara Airport in Goleta, California. Organized by the Santa Barbara Acceleration Association with the permission of the California Highway Patrol, a half-mile of roadway was fenced off for the competition.
America's Fastest Sedan
It's no surprise that Cadillac is going to start shoving the Corvette Z06 LS6 V-8 into its smallest car, the normally V-6-powered CTS sedan-the company has been talking about it for years. But still, there's something satisfying about seeing the car, called the CTS-V (as in V-Series), in actual sheetmetal at April's New York Auto Show. The CTS-V goes into production late this year and will be on sale early in 2004.
The core of the CTS-V is the 5.7L LS6 V-8. While the LS6 knocks out 405 hp in the Corvette Z06, in the Caddy it will be rated at 400 hp (most likely due to intake and exhaust differences). The engine will be backed by the familiar T56 six-speed manual transmission making this the first Cadillac available only with a manual transmission since 1941. The limited-slip rear differential carries a set of aggressive 3.73:1 gears and the CTS's brakes have been upgraded to giant Brembo discs up front and four-piston calipers on the rear discs. The six-lug hubs mount seven-spoke 18x8.5 wheels inside Goodyear P245/45WR18 EMT run-flat tires. The all-independent suspension has been lowered, a strut-tower brace is aboard and the interior is buffed up with thicker seats, a three-spoke steering wheel and metallic trim. The only colors offered will be Light Platinum and Black Raven.
The CTS-V ought to be fully competitive with the cars like the BMW M5, Jaguar S-Type R, and Mercedes E55, while carrying a much lighter window sticker. Pricing hasn't been announced, but expect it to run somewhere in the mid-$40,000 range-about $30,000 less than its euro-weenie competition.
What's not to love about this car? It will be the most powerful Cadillac ever, it's about the size of a Camaro, and it looks rather nasty. Could it be that here's a Cadillac worth saving up to own? We eagerly await thrashing the Hell out of one of these.
When it goes on sale early next year, the 2004 CTS-V will also be the first rear-drive, V-8 powered Cadillac since it executed the Fleetwood back in '96.
For the 2004 model year, the supercharged, 390hp Ford Mustang SVT Cobra will be offered in limited numbers painted with color-shifting MystiChrome paint. According to Ford, depending on lighting conditions and viewing angles, the MystiChrome Cobra's paint appears to change from topaz green to cobalt blue to royal purple, and finally to deep onyx black. Chrome wheels and an interior finished in MystiChrome leather on the seats and steering wheel complete the package.
Only about 1,000 Cobras will be equipped with the MystiChrome package during 2004, and since the paint and stuff shouldn't affect the car's performance in any way whatsoever, we enthusiastically endorse it for people who like it.
Last month all we had was an illustration of the upcoming '04 Ford Harley-Davidson F-Series Super Duty. Now we have actual photographs and even some facts to report. We really dig for this stuff.
The new orange-and-black Harley pickup is based on the F-250 or F-350 4x4s, and features 18-inch wheels, unique badges (naturally), chrome step bars, a chrome exhaust tip, and all sorts of trim on the inside including "spun metal" instrument faces, black leather seating, and a load of Harley-Davidson logos. Power comes from the usual selection of Ford Triton V-8 or V-10 gasoline engines or the 6.0L turbocharged PowerStroke diesel V-8. Base price starts at $40,690 with the first 1,000 buyers eligible for a drawing to win a matching '04 Harley-Davidson FLSTFI (pronounced just the way it's spelled) Fat Boy motorcycle.
There will also be an F-series offered in the more traditional gray-and-black paint scheme, but they're not part of the contest to win the motorcycle. What a gyp.
Race Car of the Month
Sox & Martin Pro Stock 1970 Plymouth Hemi 'CudaPhoto courtesy of Bob Plumer/Drag Racing Memories, 717/259-9341, email@example.com
When people talk about the "legendary Hemi 'Cuda" it's this car that created most of the legends-the first NHRA Pro Stock champion.
When Pro Stock began, the cars that ran in the class were still very stock. These early cars still used a stock roof, rear fenders, decklid, and floorpan. And the engines actually came installed from the factory. That gave the Mopar contingent a big advantage going into the 1970 race season because there's never been a better drag-racing engine than Chrysler's 426 Hemi.
The Sox & Martin team was already dominating Super Stock with its '68 Hemi 'Cudas when the NHRA created Pro Stock to take advantage of these four-speed, 9-second machines. The '70 was a new body style, and manager Buddy Martin and chief mechanic Jake King were two of the most methodical men on Earth. The result was domination-a car clearly better than the rest of the early Pro Stock field driven by Ronnie Sox, whose reputation as "Mr. Four-Speed" was well-earned. He won three of the seven NHRA Pro Stock events in 1970 to take the first championship, and then won six races in 1971 to win the championship again.
The Hemi 'Cuda's obvious superiority led NHRA to futz with the rules, creating a series of bizarre weight formulas that resulted in Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins' tube-frame small-block Vega heralding the future (and taking the wins) during the '72 season. When the Lenco transmission came into the series in 1973, Sox's lightning shifting skills were no advantage at all.
Sox & Martin's race cars were always gorgeous, but none were more seductively beautiful than their '70 Hemi 'Cuda. And it was this car's obvious star power that was a big part of Pro Stock's early success.
Back To The Futurliner
Back when progress was actually something the country believed in (that was the '40s and '50s), GM had a caravan of 12 purpose-built buses touring the country displaying the technological wonders yet to come. Most of the futuristic displays in the "Parade of Progress" have long ago been superseded by our own reality, but at least some of the "Futurliner" buses have survived and one of them, fully restored, made an appearance during the 16th Annual Eyes on Design Auto Exhibition at the GM Technical Center in June.
Stretching out 33 feet long, standing nearly 12 feet tall and weighing in at over 27,000 pounds, the Futurliner relies on a 302ci GMC straight-six producing 145 hp to keep it moving. Slow? Agonizingly so, we assume. But the Futurliner was a startling piece of design at a time when many commercial vehicles were hardly styled at all.
This particular Futurliner was built in 1953 and is owned by the National Automotive and Truck Museum in Auburn, Indiana, where Don Mayton, a retired GM plant manager found it in deteriorating condition. In 1999 Mayton organized the reconstruction of the Futurliner by enlisting help from his own small network of restoration experts along with some help from GM to do such intricate tasks as rebuilding the archaic transmission. He also accumulated some volunteers who just happened to surf into the project's Web site at www.futurliner.com.
After exhibition at Eyes On Design, the Futurliner will eventually make its way back to its home in Auburn. However, the restoration crew is looking for a display to fill the bus, and who knows what kind of tour that might inspire?
So-Cal Gets Tanked-Again
Photos by Ron Read/SO-CAL Speed ShopIn the history of speed-record runs on the dry lakebeds of California and Utah, no car is more honored or famed than the SoCal Speed Shop's belly tank. Built during 1948 from two bottom halves of war-surplus belly tanks for the P-38 Lightning fighter, the tank was powered by a Ford V8-60 flathead and set a record of 195.77 mph for a Class C Lakester and had a best one way run of 198.34 mph with Alex Xydias behind the wheel in 1952. Both SoCal and the 82-year-old Xydias are still around (so is the original tank for that matter-in a museum) and SoCal Speed Shop is putting together a new tank for the 21st century.
The new tank is being built at the urging of Mark Reuss, the Executive Director of GM Performance Division and Frank Saucedo, the Director of GM's West Coast advanced design studio as a showcase for the 2.0L, DOHC supercharged GM Performance Parts Ecotec four-the engine that's being installed in the Saturn Ion Red Line coupe.
"We're pulling people together from all over the corporation to leverage the best talent and the best ideas," said Reuss. "We're also utilizing SoCal as a center of expertise, learning from its rich racing history. This is a classic grass-roots effort in the spirit of the original Bonneville racers."
With the 200hp Ecotec mounted transversely in the back, the ultimate goal is to push the new tank past 200 mph. And this new racer, instead of being built from an actual fuel tank, will instead by constructed around a red carbon-fiber tub. "There'll be plenty of other techno tricks in this car, and it will look very cool," commented project leader David Bolognino. "However, our goal is to go fast, and to that end we have to meet a lot of stringent regulations."
SoCal is on the Web at www.so-calspeedshop.com.
Yeah, But Can He Design a Good Cylinder Head?[Photos 116-0311.SCUP 9A through 9B on disc]To celebrate his 700th Winston Cup start at July's Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono, driver Ricky Rudd had his 8-year-old son Landon design the paint job on his Taurus for that race. Of course die-cast versions of this one-race-only car are already available on NASCAR's Web site.
But what did his kid's paint job do for the elder Rudd on the track? He started 27th and went out with a blown motor on lap 121. Oh well, at least he looked good for a while.
Yet Another Centennial
For the entire century that Ford has been building cars, it's been buying tires from BFGoodrich. In celebration of that very long, mutually beneficial relationship, here's Bill Ford, Chairman and CEO of Ford Motor Company in a completely candid and comfortable photo with Bob Carroll, International VP, Michelin Group, the parent company of BFG.
Bet you were expecting us to whip out some snide remark about that purple tie, weren't you?
One Million Kilos on the Street
Very few cars will last a full million miles, and so far Rodney Baron's '96 Lincoln Town car hasn't hit that mark either. However, since Baron is Canadian, he can take a small bit of pride in his car passing the million-kilometer mark. That's about 621,400 miles to those of us with the good sense to live in the bottom half of North America. Most of this Town Car's mileage was racked up during the car's service with Airline Limousine (which employs Baron as a driver) around Toronto before it was retired to the Baron family's personal use. It retains the original engine, transmission, and paint and underwent its 161st oil change just as it reached the million-kilo mileage.
We've got plenty of cars down here that have passed the grueling million-inch mark.
Holy Cola Cow
On June 26th, artist Peter Max presented "Cindy" the Coca-Cola cow. A bovine in fiberglass, Cindy was created for the CowParade Atlanta that features 150 artist-painted cows on display around the Georgia city that is Coke's hometown.
Lousiest Years for the Corvette
With the 50th anniversary year of the Corvette now winding down, you may be a bit exhausted by the constant (and mostly deserved) praise for Chevy's plastic wonder car. So, only in the interest of perspective, we offer the 10 worst years for the Corvette. And frankly, some of the worst years for the Corvette are better than the best years of other cars.
1. 1980-The Corvette was mildly restyled for 1980 and lost about 250 pounds through the elimination of some structure, lighter doors and hood, and thinner glass. But the worst news was in California where the only available engine was the 180hp 305ci, and the only transmission was a TH350. That made for a floppy-feeling Corvette that was dog slow. Sure, the L48 and L82 350 small-blocks were still available in the rest of the country, but Chevy shouldn't be forgiven easily for those California cars.
2. 1983-The Corvette was so bad they didn't even make it.
3. 1981-Just as lame as the '80 model, but Chevy eliminated the L48 and L82 altogether in favor of just one "L81" 350 rated at a pathetic 190 hp.
4. 1982-See 1980 and 1981, add the stillborn Cross-Fire fuel-injection system, and eliminate manual transmissions.
5. 1953-This was the first Corvette, but it was also saddled with a mundane 150hp six and a mandatory two-speed Powerglide automatic. An inauspicious start for a car that would go on to greatness. But hey, didn't Abraham Lincoln start out in a log cabin?
6. 1954-Just slightly better than the '53.
7. 1984-The first C4 Corvette rode as if its shocks were made of granite, the Cross-Fire injected engine was flabby, and the 4+3 manual trans was questionable. The C4 improved markedly with the '85 model year and the introduction of the L98 Tuned Port Injection small-block.
8. 1975-The big-block was gone, and the base engine was a small-block 350 making a lame 165 hp (the optional L82 brought just 205 hp). The saving grace was that this was the last year for the C3 convertible. Perhaps it was not a coincidence that Zora Arkus-Duntov retired this same year.
9. 1974-The last big-block 454 only made 270 hp and the new rear bumper cover had a misguided split through its center.
10. 1958-After the utterly gorgeous, nearly perfect '57, Chevy mucked up the '58 with four chrome-ringed headlights, big ugly teeth in the grille, and a phony vent on the hood. Still a solid car mechanically, the '58 was a styling disaster.
If all the petroleum left on the planet were to suddenly vaporize, would drag racing survive? That's just the sort of what-if scenario that keeps tenured philosophy professors up at night.
GM is preparing for just such a contingency with its electric wheel-hub-motor concept. Essentially a hub motor is an electric motor fitted inside the rear wheels of, in this case, a Chevy S-10 pickup. The motors supplement the output of the S-10's normal drivetrain, adding about 70 hp while grabbing power from a battery pack. The result is better acceleration (or, theoretically, towing) with little effect on fuel economy. The hub motors function, in effect, something like electric nitrous.
Right now, the hub motor concept is just that: a concept. But the potential is obvious for enhancing performance through the use of such gas-electric hybrid technologies-and, should anyone come up with a long enough extension cord, pure electrics that might actually be exciting to drive.
Stone Soup Pony
The story of stone soup goes something like this: A long time ago there was a famine in Europe (a pretty regular occurrence) and everyone was hoarding what food they could. Then one day a peddler came into a village, sold some of his things, and then was told there's not a bit to eat in the whole province.
"That's OK," he replied, "I'll just make some stone soup to share with all of you." With that, he took out a cauldron, filled it with water, lit a fire beneath it, and with a flourish, added one ordinary stone. "I love stone soup," he went on, "but I once had stone soup with cabbage, and that was even better." Soon a villager brought back a cabbage from his hoard and added it to the pot. Then a butcher added some beef. Someone else a few carrots, and someone else some peas, and pretty soon they had a great soup that everyone enjoyed.
Using the same principle, Detroit classic rock radio station WCSX's morning team of JJ and Lynne decided to build a Mustang in order to support the work of the Children's Leukemia Foundation of Michigan. Starting with a ratty '67 notchback, they solicited donations from throughout the Detroit region to turn it into a stout street machine. Parts included a Roush Performance-built 430hp 347Rci small-block Ford crate engine, seats from Recaro, shocks from Bilstein, Bendix brakes, Auto Meter gauges, Hedman headers, and a Flowmaster exhaust system. Whatever parts they couldn't get by donation were paid for through an "Adopt-A-Part" program that allowed individuals to pay for specific pieces needed to complete the car. Every part was acquired.
Built at shops like Great Lakes Customs, Collision Craftsmen, and Livernois Motor Sports, the tubbed Mustang was completed in time to trawl along the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise in August. WCSX sold 4,000 tickets at $25 each to raffle the Stone Soup Mustang with all proceeds going to the Children's Leukemia Foundation. That's $100,000 for a really good cause.
The raffle itself was scheduled for early October (about a month after this was written) as part of JJ and Lynne's drive to raise money for the foundation that week. Will they do another stone soup car? "That's up to the listeners," the radio team told us.
Lightning Goes For Guinness
The Ford SVT F-150 Lightning has set the standard for production pickup performance for years. But with competition growing stiffer-particularly from the upcoming 500hp, Viper V-10 powered, Dodge Ram SRT-10-Ford decided to take the Lightning on a run for the record books while it still could.
In August, Guinness World Records certified the '03 Lightning as the "World's Fastest Production Pickup Truck" after an example hit 147 mph around the five-mile high-speed oval at Ford's Michigan Proving Grounds. "This may seem like fun and games, but high-speed stability is critical for a performance vehicle, even a pickup truck," says Tom Chapman, Ford SVT chassis systems supervisor and driver for the record-setting run. "The SVT F-150 Lightning is just as stable and planted at 147 miles per hour as it is at 55 mph; only the scenery's going by faster. That stability is a testament to the solid foundation of the Ford F-150, and the performance engineering found in Ford SVT products."
Expect a response from Dodge when the production Ram SRT-10 is available to challenge this record.
Australia Gets the Cool Stuff, Part XXVIII
Proving once again that GM is keeping too much of the good stuff down under, GM's Australian subsidiary Holden announced the new Crewman four-door light utility vehicle. Based on the same chassis and platform as the '04 Pontiac GTO, the Crewman is available with V-6 or, in the case of the Crewman SS, full V8 power. It's not just any V-8 either, but a lusty 5.7L LS1 making 225 kilowatts! Let's see, 225 kilowatts is (sounds of ruffling papers and tapping on a $5 solar-powered calculator) 302 hp!
While the GTO has an independent rear suspension, the Crewman, like other Aussie utes, uses a leaf-spring and solid-axle rear suspension for ruggedness and load carrying. Otherwise the four-door cockpit carries over almost directly from the four-door Holden Commodore with room for five.
OK, here's the deal. Slap some Bow Ties on this thing, call it an El Camino, and we'll buy two.
It's now almost a tradition that at the time of the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise, Chrysler releases a new special version of the PT Cruiser in celebration of the event. The Series 3 PT Dream Cruiser arrived just in time this past August.
Built around the 220hp turbocharged version of the '04 PT, the $28,810 Dream Cruiser features special two-tone blue and silver paint, blue-tinted glass, special chrome exterior accents, 17-inch chromed aluminum wheels with special center caps, and two-tone upholstery and heated seats inside.
The Series 3 is the seventh special-edition version of the PT Cruiser and follows the Flames, Woodie, PT Dream Cruiser Series 1, PT Turbo, Chrome, and Dream Cruiser Series 2. And we hear there's a convertible due next year.
Big Tire Is Better
Head into Detroit from the Metro Airport and you can't miss the giant Uniroyal tire along I-94. Built originally as a Ferris wheel for the 1964 New York World's Fair, the big whitewall has stood silent sentinel at the gates of the Motor City for decades. It was about time it was spruced up.
Uniroyal will spend more than $1 million updating and renovating the 80-foot-tall tire. While it's thrilling that Uniroyal will add its Web address to the tire's sidewall, how about dumping the hubcap for a good set of Torq-Thrust II wheels, huh?
Europeans won't be getting a version of Dodge's upcoming Magnum sports wagon this year. Instead they'll get a wagon version of the Chrysler 300C that should be quite similar to this concept shown at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September.
Like the Magnum (with which it obviously shares plenty of parts) and the 300C sedan, the 300C Touring is based on Chrysler's new rear-drive car platform upon which the new Dodge Intrepid and Chrysler Concorde will be based. The concept version of the 300C Touring, like the sedan shown last year, was shown with a 5.7L Hemi V-8 under the hood, though it's likely a V-6 will be standard with the Hemi as an option. Many of the suspension and chassis components (and the five-speed automatic transmission) are proven pieces from the Mercedes parts bin, but the Hemi and its heritage are pure American (if you look past the fact that the Hemi engine is made in Mexico).
The wagon version of the 300C isn't likely to be offered here, as the Dodge Magnum carries that banner in America. But in Europe, where Dodges aren't sold but Chryslers are, wagons attract as much as 40 percent of the buyers in this size car and it makes sense to offer them this 300C version
The 300C and Magnum are about as eagerly anticipated machines as have ever worn the Chrysler pentastar, heralding the return or rear-drive and V-8 power to the company's mainstream offerings. We won't cry about not getting the 300C Touring as long as the Magnum lives up to expectations.
Every maker of 4x4s supports the Tread Lightly! program that promotes the responsible use of public lands. So it's no big whoop that Hummer is on board with such a wholesome idea too. But Hummer has gone one step beyond and established "Hummer Helps," which aims to promote socially responsible four-wheeling and included a grant of $100,000 for Tread Lightly! to distribute to clubs helping restore recreation areas that need care and cleaning.
To demonstrate what they have in mind, Hummer helped clean up a trail in Drummond Island, Michigan, where they found this derelict International Travelall to tow out of the woods and back into our collective consciousness. We'd forgotten all about the Travelall... Hey, we left some luggage in one back in 1972 while shuttling to Detroit Metro! Was there a gray American Tourister two-suiter in there?
Racecar Of The Month
Richard Petty's '72 Plymouth Road Runner
When Richard Petty was creating the legend that would lead him to be called "The King," it was mostly in a series of Petty Blue Plymouths. But Petty's last Plymouth added a second color and ushered in a whole new era for NASCAR.
With the factories fleeing in the early '70s, NASCAR needed to attract new sponsorships to the series. In 1971, they snagged the R.J. Reynolds to sponsor the whole series and create the Winston Cup. And every team was going to need a consumer product sponsorship of its own if it was going to thrive in what NASCAR now calls the modern era.
The agreement Petty signed with Andy Granatelli's STP was a state-of-the-art sponsorship. Theoretically, STP "bought" the Petty Enterprises team, but in reality it was a long-term sponsorship agreement intended, at first, to promote STP's then-new oil filters. It was generally assumed at the time to be the most lucrative deal in stock car racing up to that time.
But would Petty now drive an "STP Red" car? In a compromise, the mostly Petty Blue Plymouth wore thick STP red stripes to create a distinctive paint job that would last as long as the sponsorship right through the 1990s.
Petty had a stunningly successful '72 season winning 8 of the 31 races, finishing in the top five 25 times, and in the top 10 a full 28 times. But by the time of Talladega's Winston 500 (the 11th race of the season) Petty was swapping between his trusty Plymouth Road Runner and a sleeker Dodge Charger (both ran 426 Hemi engines). All of Petty's wins came in the Plymouth and he won the Winston Cup that year, but it was obvious that the Dodge was the future. During the '73 season, Petty would be in a Charger at every race.
So the '72 Road Runner was Petty's last Plymouth.
NHRA Museum Invaded by a Mazda!
In a direct assault on all that is V-8 and wonderful about drag racing, the NHRA inducted Abel Ibarra's rotary-powered Mazda R-100 into the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in October. It becomes the first sport compact-or import-racer so honored by the museum. The induction ceremony was part of the NHRA Sport Compact Night of Champions. Who knew that there were sport compact champions?
"We're really excited to bring Abel's R-100 to the Museum," said Sam Jackson, executive director of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. "I helped organize Abel's first exhibition run at an NHRA national event in this dynamite car, and he made a great pass that had the crowd on their feet and folks in the tower wondering what they had just seen. Abel's classic Mazda R-100 is the perfect car to represent sport compact pioneers in the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum."
The R-100, which was built in 1996 and campaigned by various drivers until this year after Ibarra moved on to an RX-7, joins a hall that is otherwise almost completely filled with V-8 machinery. Should you visit the NHRA Museum in Pomona, California, we suggest shielding your children's eyes when approaching Ibarra's Mazda.
Top 10 List
Dumb Things to Look for in 2 Fast 2 Furious
As sequels go, 2 Fast 2 Furious at least cleared the low bar of not being worse than the original The Fast & The Furious. Was it better than the The Fast & The Furious? That would be pushing it. So it's not a good movie by any critical standard, but at least Universal Pictures has to be happy with the $127 million it brought in the U.S. alone, and now sales of the DVD (Amazon.com is getting $18.89 a pop) have been brisk.
In a movie bursting with a bizarre take on automotive culture, lame dialogue, unbelievable situations, a thirst for mayhem, and a casual disregard for death, what are the lines of dialogue and situations we here at Car Craft cherish most? Here are ten of the lamest moments with the time when they appear on the DVD.
Oh yeah, the best moment? That's 31:07 (31 minutes, 7 seconds) into the film.
1. 02:41-"Either you find a fourth or you don't race." Race organizer Tej announces a rule never before enforced at any street race.
2. 06:31-"Damn, Suki. Uh, when you gonna pop my clutch, huh?" That's Tej saying the most ridiculous seduction line in the history of cinema.
3. 12:59-"Smack that ass!" That's street racer Suki in mid-flight as her Honda S2000 reaches low-earth orbit after jumping a drawbridge. In real life the landing would have been fatal, but who's counting ...
4. 15:00-Brian O'Conner flees from the police in his Nissan Skyline GT, but thoughtfully leaves the glowing blue neon undercarriage lighting on.
5. 24:18-"I'm not going back to Barstow!" Words to live by from Roman Pearce.
6. 25:04-"Dang! Where you all confiscate those rims from man?" Roman Pearce correctly using the word "dang."
7. 32:13-"That's the Brian O'Conner school of driving right there, baby." Said while driving backwards on a freeway at 70 mph indicating that his Mitsubishi Evo VII had a rather tall Reverse gear.
8. 43:11-"The D.I.S. box, the engine management system ... hell, the main harness. The G.P.S. is spidered into all of that." That's master mechanic Jimmy spewing the largest chunk of technical gobbledygook ever uttered outside of a Star Trek episode.
9. 48:25-"All right, check it out. There's no way we're gonna beat these guys straight up. The Hemi is puttin' out about 425 and that Yenko will snap a speed on about 5 seconds flat. We're gonna pull somthin' out of our ass." Brian O'Conner is probably referring to the same place they pulled this dialogue.
10. 1:11:25-"Hey man, this thing's clean." Brian O'Conner expresses his admiration for the Yenko without noting that the left header is disconnected from the rest of the exhaust system.
Race Car Of The Month
The Parnelli Jones and Bill Stroppe "Big Oly" BroncoOff-road racing was a purely funky affair in the '60s and early '70s. Drivers would enter everything from crusted-over Edsels to motorhomes in races like the Baja 1000, and the winners would often be driving some homebuilt contraption that appeared cobbled from plumbing supplies, duct tape, and improvisational engineering. Then came the Big Oly Bronco-a real race machine that revolutionized off-roading.
Parnelli Jones, whose storied driving career includes winning the '63 Indy 500, had been introduced to off-road racing during the late '60s but found the stock-based, four-wheel drive vehicles of the time didn't respond to his aggressive driving style. So, enrolling fabricators at Bill Stroppe's Long Beach, California, race facility, he decided to build a two-wheel-drive tube-frame '69 Ford Bronco that could, it was hoped, even beat the motorcycles.
Using a Twin-I-Beam front suspension, a fiberglass Bronco body subtly channeled 3 inches, a massive wing built atop the rollcage, and a 351 V-8, the "Big Oly" (Olympia beer was the major sponsor) Bronco dominated both the '71 and '72 Baja 1000s and ran consistently well in almost every other race it entered. This paved the way for how off-road race machines would be built from then on.
The New Faces of Hemi
[Photos 116-0402.SCUP 4A through 4G sent via e-mail]Everyone has seen the concept versions of the Dodge Magnum and Chrysler 300C, but now we can finally show you the production versions of these cars that will reintroduce rear-wheel drive to mainstream U.S. car buyers and could reignite the legend of the street-going Hemi.
The silver 300C sedan and the red wagon Magnum aren't much different from the concepts. The wheels are slightly smaller (the production 300C runs 18-inch wheels instead of the show car's 20s), but otherwise, except for some trim changes, they look exactly the way the concept cars suggested they would.
All 300Cs and Magnums will be rear-drive with the base cars receiving a version of the 2.7L V-6 that's currently used in the Concorde where it makes 200 hp. There will likely be one or two other V-6s offered, and at the top will be the 5.7L Hemi V-8 making 340 hp at 5,200 rpm and 365 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. Combine that with a five-speed automatic transmission with AutoStick manual shifting, and these large cars should offer impressive musclecar performance.
Known as the LX cars within DaimlerChrysler, they share roughly 20 percent of their mechanical design with Mercedes-Benz products, including the all-independent suspension design. Four-wheel ABS controlled disc brakes will be standard along with traction control and electronic stability control. All-wheel drive will be optional on the Magnum should any buyers want to pretend it's really an SUV and not a station wagon.
Why isn't there a sedan version of the Magnum-or, conversely, a station wagon version of the 300C? Rumor is that a revived Dodge Charger is coming based on the LX and that car (it's a four-door, but designed to look coupe-like) will fill the role of Magnum sedan. Meanwhile, a 300C wagon will be sold in Europe, but over here the Pacifica fills that role for Chrysler.
The second-generation Dodge Durango SUV is now in production. It's bigger, it still has a solid rear axle in the back (now on coil springs), and it's available with a standard 210hp, 3.7L V-6 or either the 230hp, 4.7L SOHC V-8 from the Jeep Grand Cherokee or a version of the Dodge Ram's 5.7L, OHV Hemi V-8 rated at 335 hp. When we can drive one, we'll tell you more.
ASC + SSR = This Drawing
The problem with deadlines is that as we write this, the SEMA show in Las Vegas is still weeks in the future. And as you read this, the SEMA show is already history. Anyhow, somewhere in the cavernous cavity of the Las Vegas Convention Center, ASC Inc. (big-time Detroit supplier to big-time car-makers) and the So-Cal Speed Shop will be displaying-er, displayed-a Chevy SSR something like this illustration during the SEMA event. More later ... maybe.
Wright Way Dyno
While Orville and Wilbur Wright are famed for the aerodynamic achievement of the first powered human flight in history, almost as remarkable was their ability to build an internal combustion engine light enough and powerful enough for that first airplane. So in order to recreate that first flight exactly 100 years later on the same spot in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, it was necessary to recreate that first engine.
Steve and Jim Hay of Hay Manufacturing in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, researched the Wrights' engine designs for decades, and though the original drawings are long gone, they were able to faithfully reproduce the 1903 engine. The handbuilt engine, pieced together using authentic materials, would then power the absolutely authentic 1903 Wright Flyer reproduction built by The Wright Experience of Warrenton, Virginia.
Ford, which is a sponsor of The Wright Experience, helped by allowing the Hays to use one of its engine dynos to tune the Wright repro and offered some high-tech analysis. Multiple sensors were installed on the Wright engine while it was on the dyno to provide torque, speed, and temperature information. In-cylinder pressure transducers were also used to explore activity in the combustion chambers.
The Wright engine, which used four cylinders with 4-inch bores and a 4-inch stroke in an aluminum block, peaked at 17 hp on Ford's dyno. That's a rounding error for today's engines, but a remarkable achievement for a 180-pound engine in 1903.
As this is written, the December 17th re-creation of the Wright flight is still more than a month away. This is just cool. More information is available at www.countdowntokittyhawk.org.
The Australian-built Holden Monaro coupe is the base upon which the '04 Pontiac GTO is built, and starting in June the Monaro will be sold in a new all-wheel-drive version in its home country.
Called the HSV Coupe 4, most of the car is familiar to anyone following the current GTO saga. But added to it is "HSV Quad Drive," a full-time all-wheel-drive system pumping 38 percent of the available torque to the front wheels and 62 percent to the back. According to Holden, that additional traction allowed one Coupe 4 to rip from 0 to 100 kph (62 mph) in just 6.6 seconds-on a gravel road. Power for the Coupe 4 comes from a 362hp version of the LS-1, 5.7L V-8, and the only transmission offered is the 4L60E four-speed automatic.
Does this mean an all-wheel drive GTO is inevitable? No, only that it's possible.
The Edelbrock Army
Edelbrock is certainly a major force in the performance aftermarket, but they're not quite at that point where they need an army. At least not yet. The real deal is the company sent a collection of Edelbrock hats and T-shirts to a unit over in Iraq commanded by Army Major Victor Bakkila who is related to Vic Edelbrock Sr.'s wife Nancy. "The guys are enjoying them very much," the major wrote Edelbrock. "As a matter of fact, on a recent mission, a few got into trouble for wearing their Edelbrock hats instead of their helmets!"
"We just wanted to show our support for them," Vic Edelbrock said. "I hope they all come back soon, safe and sound."
Goodyear Goes Wrangling
Is your mind free of obscure, useless knowledge? Then let us clutter it up! It's important that you know that Goodyear will brand the race tires it fits to vehicles in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series as "Wranglers" instead of "Eagles" during 2004.
"In reality, the tires are the same as those used under the Eagle name, with the only difference being the sidewall nameplate," explained Stu Grant, Goodyear's general manager of global race tires. "We will be using the same Goodyear tires for the Craftsman Truck Series as we will for the Nextel Cup Series and the Busch Series next year when they race at the same track on any given weekend."
Goodyear's race tire warehouse in Concord, North Carolina, will convert tires from Wranglers to Eagles (or vice versa) for Craftsman, Busch, or Nextel teams.
We've seen Focus subcompacts converted to rear drive and V-8 before, but this one was the cleanest and most intriguing yet. Built by Ford Racing Performance Parts (FRPP) and based on the European market Focus RS, the RS8 uses an all-new suspension with pieces inspired by Kugel Komponents' kit up front and a 8.8-inch solid rear axle in the back on coil springs. Four-wheel disc brakes and 18x8-inch European RS wheels inside Michelin rubber are supposed to keep this rocket planted to the ground and somewhat stoppable. The 420hp, fuel-injected Cammer itself is backed by a Tremec five-speed manual transmission. Where's the production version?
FR100 Panel Truck
Based on the same chassis as the FR100 pickup shown last year, the FR100 Panel Truck uses a '53 F-100 body over a tube chassis using the front suspension from the FR500 Mustang project and a modified IRS from the SVT Cobra. The UPS paint job just makes it that much more bitchin'. With an Eaton blower, the injected Cammer in this wicked panel is projected to make 600 hp ... which should be enough to challenge the 18-inch wheels and Goodyear Eagle F1 tires.
By the way, this truck is officially certified as a part of the UPS fleet as truck number 019530. If only we lived in a world where all UPS trucks were this nasty.
Viper SRT-10 Carbon
The Viper also got the lightweight treatment in the form of this Viper SRT-10 Carbon. Coming in about 150 pounds less than a standard Viper, this one uses a carbon-fiber hood, decklid, and custom hardtop along with lightweight 18- and 19-inch diameter wheels (18s in front, 19s in back).
More interesting than the diet were modifications made to the 8.3L V-10. A throttle-body for each of the cylinders, matching velocity stacks, a cowl induction air intake, oversize valves, and massaged heads pump the monstrous engine's output up to 625 hp from the stock 500. Remember when 500 hp used to seem like a lot?
Jay Leno's '55 Buick Roadmaster
This seemingly innocuous '55 Buick Roadmaster, owned by Tonight Show host Jay Leno, was on hand at SEMA to showcase the new 572 big-block. Leno bought this car when he was a struggling young comic in Los Angeles and supposedly lived in it for a while. It was saved from decrepitude by Leno's own shop in Burbank, California.
The stock appearance is completely deceptive; the chassis features a mix of C5 front and C4 rear suspension pieces, the wheels are really 17-inchers in diameter, and those wide whitewalls are really Z-rated performance tires. In other words, the car is totally a sleeper. That is, it's a sleeper until the moment the ignition is turned over and the 572's carburetor sucks in the hood and spits it out the exhaust system with a monstrous belch.
Pontiac GTO Autocross
And the award for the first modified '04 GTO goes to ... GM! Modifications to this Aussie wonder included 18-inch wheels and tires, the camshaft and heads from the Corvette Z06's LS6 V-8 on the 5.7L LS1 V-8 to thump output up to about 400 hp, front and rear fascia extensions, a rear spoiler, and a symmetrical dual exhaust. All the parts and pieces should be available as SPO accessories now that the GTO is on sale.
Toyota Builds a Small-Block
It's no secret that Toyota is running NASCAR Craftsman Truck races this year. But until SEMA it hadn't shown the engine it will use in the series-or in its soon-to-commence assault on the Nextel Cup series.
Toyota's OHV, pushrod racing V-8 displaces the full 358 ci NASCAR allows and looks very Mouse motor-like in many ways. That includes the siamese center exhaust ports in the aluminum cylinder heads, and that this engine can be bolted up to any Chevy small-block bellhousing without further modification.
Toyota's NASCAR engine was designed by their TRD operation in California, but parts for it are made around the world. The block, for instance, is cast by a foundry in Japan. "It's cast there," one TRD engineer told us, "because they do the best castings in the world." The only stock component shown on the engine trimmed for the Craftsman series was a Tundra pickup power steering pump.
Toyota has been testing this engine with an 850-cfm Holley carb, which is the specification for the Nextel Cup series, even though Craftsman trucks are limited to a 390-cfm specification. You can fill in the blanks.
On November 6, 2003, Regis Philbin and former Survivor competitor Elisabeth Hasselbeck (just to Philbin's right-and for some reason not wearing lingerie) hosted a fashion show inside a former New York City bank. The show was to launch a new line of Hanes "intimate apparel."
We knew you wanted to know this.
Indy on the Side
At this year's Indy 500, all the Firestone Firehawk tires on the cars will feature the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's "wing and wheel" official logo beside the Firestone logo.
Now you'll know what to look for after the race when these tires end up on eBay.
Putting the Factory Back in Racing
With Toyota fully committed to running NASCAR's Craftsman Truck series with overt factory support, how should Chevy (and Dodge and Ford for that matter) react? Well, Chevy will be there with factory trucks itself.
During 2004, the #46 Silverado prepared by Morgan-Dollar Motorsports and driven by Dennis Setzer will carry "Silverado" as its primary sponsor. Beyond that, the #16 Xpress Motorsports Silverado driven by Jack Sprague in the series will be sponsored by "Chevy Trucks." These become the first vehicles to campaign in NASCAR with sponsorship from a GM vehicle line since ... well, since ever. GM's traditional Goodwrench will wind up on a new truck for driver Matt Crafton, and the Spears Motorsports #75 will also get substantial support-but neither will feature vehicle-line sponsorship.
"Chevrolet is committed to NASCAR and the Craftsman Truck series for the long term," said Jim Campbell, marketing director for Chevy Racing in a press release. "We know from our research that racing fans are extremely loyal and passionate in their support of racing, and we want to reinforce our commitment to making the Chevy Silverado the 'Right Truck' for their needs. The Craftsman Truck series continues to provide us with a strong platform for making that connection of dependability and performance between Silverado, Chevy trucks and consumers."
With Toyota headed to Nextel Cup by probably 2006, the pressure on traditional Detroit makers to increase their support will only increase. Who knows what this could lead to?
A Dash of Rainbow
The all-new '05 Mustang will be here shortly, and while most of the car is still under wraps, Ford has leaked out photos of the multicolor dashboard with which it will be equipped.
Mustang owners will be able to choose exactly the color of instrumentation lighting, ranging from flat white to vivid blue, green, or red. Also note the throwback instrumentation including the gauges clustered between the tach and speedometer.
It's just a glimpse of the production car, but it's a tantalizing one.
Racecar of the Month
The Parnelli Jones and Bill Stroppe "Big Oly" Bronco
Off-road racing was a purely funky affair in the '60s and early '70s. A driver could enter everything from crusted-over Edsels to motorhomes in races like the Baja 1000, and the winners would often be driving some homebuilt machine. Then came the Big Oly Bronco-a real race machine that revolutionized off-roading.
Parnelli Jones, whose storied driving career includes winning the '63 Indy 500, had been introduced to off-road racing during the late '60s but found the stock-based, four-wheel-drive vehicles of the time didn't respond to his aggressive driving style. So enrolling fabricators at Bill Stroppe's Long Beach, California, race facility, he decided to build a two-wheel-drive, tube-frame '69 Ford Bronco that could, it was hoped, even beat the motorcycles running in off-road events.
Using a Twin-I-Beam front suspension, a fiberglass Bronco body subtly channeled 3 inches, a massive wing built atop the rollcage, and a 351 V-8, the "Big Oly" (Olympia beer was the major sponsor) Bronco dominated both the '71 and '72 Baja 1000s and ran consistently well in almost every other race it entered. This was the way off-road race machines should have been built, and extensive suspension developments over the years have made current off-road race vehicles a study in engineering excellence.
A Smaller Better Hummer
The Hummer H2 has been at least two things since its introduction: (1.) a lightning rod for environmentalists convinced that SUVs are a threat to the Earth, and (2.) an amazingly popular machine that's sold in huge, profitable numbers for GM. Can what comes after the H2 be, if not popular with environmentalists, at least less antagonistic towards them while still bringing in throngs of buyers attracted by the vehicle's marauding attitude? We'll find out when the H3T, shown in concept form at the '04 Greater Los Angeles Auto Show, goes on sale in a coupe of years.
Built atop the basic structure of the new Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon midsize pickup, beyond its Hummer family styling, it features neat plucks like side access doors for the bed, dropdown assist steps which become storage bins when the gate is closed, a folding power canvas sunroof, and dropdown rear window. Of course it has four-wheel drive, and power comes from a turbocharged, 350hp version of the Colorado's Vortec 3500, 3.5L, DOHC, 20-valve inline-five with variable valve timing.
The turbocharged five may sound too radical for production, but Saab will be selling a version of the Trailblazer SUV next year and turbocharging is a tradition with that manufacturer. Also, turbocharging for truck use has come a long way thanks to the battle for diesel supremacy, and GM is claiming a stunning 474 lb-ft of peak torque for this engine at a reasonably low 3,600 rpm. If the blown five happens at all, it's likely to go in that Saab and the H3T to differentiate them in the market place.
Even though the H3T is smaller than other Hummers, it still weighs in at a stout 4,650 pounds. So it's not small. Don't expect all of the H3T Concept's features to make it into production, but most will. A version of this truck should be in showrooms some time during 2005.
More and More Ram
Probably the most active performance battle among what used to be called "Detroit's Big Three" is the one to see who can build the most powerful turbodiesel pickup. Dodge fired the latest salvo in this battle with new Cummins "600" turbodiesel making a simply stunning 600 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 rpm and 325 hp at 2,900 rpm. This trumps the previous champ, Ford's 6.0L Powerstroke turbodiesel introduced last year, which makes 560 lb-ft of heave at 2,000 rpm and 325 hp at a relatively free-revving 3,000 rpm. The extra pulling power means that, if properly equipped, the Dodge Ram Heavy Duty can now tow 16,400 pounds-that's a ton and a half better than a Ford F-350 with the Powerstroke.
Priced at just $135 more than the previous "High Output" Cummins, the 24-valve, 5.9L six is available lashed to either a standard six-speed manual transmission or an automatic (with a number of gears yet to be announced). The 600 has so much torque, says DCX, that it is capable of zero-throttle launches-that is, it will leave the line while the engine is still at idle-even under load. It's also pre-equipped to accept an exhaust brake should you really want to rile the neighbors.
The Cummins 600 should be on sale now.
Do you remember the mid-'60s TV show Thunderbirds? You know, the show filmed in "Supermarionation," meaning it was a bunch of puppets running to save other puppets while flying around in cool aircraft. Yeah, well, if you remember it, you're really old. And if you don't remember it, you've been missing something cool in one of those ironic, www.aint-it-cool-news.com sort of ways.
Anyhow, Thunderbirds is coming to the big screen featuring real human beings, and the glamorous Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward's legendary six-wheeled pink "FAB1" is coming too. However, unlike the FAB1 in the old TV show, which was a Rolls-Royce, this one will be a Ford-a Thunderbird in particular (Rolls wasn't interested in licensing its trademarks for this film, and Ford's compatibility was obvious). Ford was directly involved in developing the 27-foot pink beauty, which features a bubble canopy and can (at least fictionally) turn into a jet and hydrofoil. The styling cues lifted from the current Ford Thunderbird are obvious, including the front grille shape and the hoodscoop. Other Ford concept and production vehicles are also in the film, which is set in the year 2065.
What's really underneath all that pink fiberglass and movie magic? Who knows? And really, who cares?
Soon Appearing in a Rearview Mirror Near YouChevy has added a police package version of the Tahoe SUV to its 2004 special service lineup. Like the previous Special Service Tahoe, this two-wheel driver has been engineered as a day-to-day patrol vehicle with high-speed pursuit capabilities. The suspension has been upgraded for better handling, and it rolls on P245/75R16 S-rated tires, which means the speed limiter cuts in at about 125 mph-should you have a reason to know that.
Power for the cop Tahoe comes from either the Vortec 4800 or 5300 V-8s backed by the 4L65-E four-speed automatic transmission. The interior is stark, but so is the interior of most cop cars, and it's pre-wired to accept all sorts of lights, radios, and shotgun racks. A four-wheel-drive model will also be offered for agencies that need one.
If you're not a police department, you can't buy one of these. However, it's rumored there's a civilian Tahoe SS on the way that uses the Special Service's suspension package inside a more comfort-oriented civilian wrapper.
Racecar Of The Month
Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe
You've heard of Carroll Shelby. Now here's the car that made Shelby someone worth hearing about.
As great as Shelby's Cobra roadster was in competition, it was aerodynamically atrocious, and there was no way it could be competitive against Ferrari in international sports car competition-and Ferrari was the only competition that mattered. So in the spring of 1963, the Shelby brain trust started scheming to make the Cobra a car that could dominate the world.
This called for an all-new aerodynamic body for the otherwise stellar Cobra chassis, and It was designed by Pete Brock using instinct and eyeballs instead of a wind tunnel. The Cobra Daytona Coupe was significantly slicker than the roadster thanks to a shape that started with a shark-like front prow that melded into slick flanks and abruptly ended with a large Plexiglass-covered fastback. It would gain the name "Daytona" because the first race it entered was the Daytona Continental in February, 1964.
The first 289-powered Daytona Coupe was built at Shelby's California facility and trucked to Riverside Raceway, where it was instantly 20-mph faster on the long straight than the Cobra roadster. More importantly, with it's strong Ford V-8 doing the pulling out of corners, it was potentially quicker than the Ferrari GTOs, even though the Ferraris had a higher top speed.
Shelby built a total of six Daytona Coupes (with much of the construction subcontracted), and they were intimidating enough during the '64 racing season that Enzo Ferrari decided that his championship-winning factory team didn't need to participate in the '65 season.
During 1965, the Daytona Coupes thoroughly dominated the GT class, winning their class in six of the eight major races and challenging the more exotic prototype racers (where Ford's own GT40 was running) on occasion. However, it didn't win at Le Mans, with four of the five entered Daytonas dropping out and the fifth finishing eighth overall and second in GT. The 1965 FIA World GT Championship was Shelby's.
The Daytona Coupe project was abruptly dropped when Ford asked Shelby to take over much of its floundering GT40 program, but the six Daytona Coupes are still clearly the greatest Shelby products of all time.
Taste O' Trivia
* The Corvette's first appearance in competition with factory backing was at Daytona Speedweeks in February 1956. Among those hired to drive the Corvettes was Betty Skelton who piloted her '56 Corvette to a 137.773 mph trap speed.
* This '55 Lincoln Futura concept vehicle would be rebuilt as TV's Batmobile in 1966.
* On September 3, 2003, Zippo made its 400 millionth lighter since starting production in 1933.
* Chevrolet first used its famed "SS" model designation with this '57 Corvette SS concept car. However, there has never been a Corvette SS production vehicle.
* The '76 Thunderbird, at 225.7 inches, is tied with the '78 LTD station wagon as the longest car ever sold by the Ford Motor Division.
* 2004 is the 20th anniversary of the Chrysler minivan. Celebrate accordingly.
* There's no good piece of trivia to go with this, but this photo of the legendary Jim Clark skipping a Lotus Cortina around a racetrack in the early '60s is just wicked sick.