Thursday, March 20, 2008

Goodguy's Hot Rod & Custom Car Show

Last Saturday I made it out to Goodguy's Hot Rod & Custom Car Show at the Orange County, California fairgrounds.

For the most part it was your typical hot rod car show. There was the "show & shine," featuring a wide variety of American muscle cars and trucks, some in crisp showroom condition, others modified to an extreme. A rockabilly band played, and there was a swap meet in case you're still looking for motor mounts for your '71 Charger Super Bee. A bunch of aftermarket vendors had convention style displays. Edelbrock's stood out since they had actual physical parts to look at and fiddle with. Chip Foose was there with his daughter, driving around in his Hemisfear.

This show had the highest proportion of kids in rockabilly getups, and rat rods on display, of any show in recent memory. Maybe it's Orange County, or maybe that stuff is picking up steam.

The highlight of the show was definitely the autocross. It seemed to be open to anyone who wanted to participate, and the participants were all manner of wild street rides. About half the cars were spare-no-expense Camaros and Chevelles; other notables were a couple hairbrained rat rods, an honest-to-goodness Ford GT, a Z06, an 80s C/K pickup truck from Car Craft magazine, and a Jaguar XJ with a Chevy 502 big block swapped in.

What can I say? Top three impressions:
  1. Reading, thinking, and talking about cars is great and all, but there's no replacement for seeing them actually tear around a track. Driving around a track is even better.
  2. In autocross skill is at least as important as hardware. The fastest cars on Saturday were definitely not the fastest cars on paper.
  3. Why was every single hot rod a Chevrolet? It would have been nice to see a classic Ford, Mopar, or even non-Chevrolet GM make a showing.
If you have the opportunity to attend a show like this, by all means do. It really gets the juices flowing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Here is Your Future Car

The future is now. The solution to solving foreign oil dependence and air pollution is not going to be corn based ethanol or fuel cells that mix oxygen and hydrogen to provide energy. The soultion is in advanced lithium battery technology. An American company, based in Watertown MA, is the leader in lithium battery technologies that provide power to automotive electric engines. This company, A123 Systems, already has a deal with GM to help produce the batteries for its much anticipated Volt. Now they have released an upgrade kit for a normal Toyota Prius at the price tag of $10k. Why isn't Toyota producing a Prius that allows it to be plugged into the wall already and has advanced batteries? Either A123 Systems is a technological leader far ahead of the world, including Japan, in battery technology or there is not enough profit in it for Toyota.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

12 Hours of Sebring

12 Hours of Sebring
The 56th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring has been run. A previous Street Level entry covered particular things to watch for. Here's how they turned out:

Peugeot vs. Audi
As predicted, the diesels had problems with reliability. although admittedly almost none of the issues were engine related. A hydraulic pump failure eventually ensured that the lone Peugeot would trail the Audis across the line. The Peugeot's fastest lap was quicker than the fastest Audi lap, so the 24 hour French classic in June should be a close fight.

Porsche RS Spyders vs. Audi, Peugeot
Also as predicted, the Porsche RS Spyders were just as fast as the Audis and the Peugeot despite being in the "slower" LMP2 class. Few people were surprised by Porsche's overall victory, although just as few predicted the podium sweep of LMP2 cars. An Acura squeezed its way between the first- and third-place Porsches, relegating the lead Audi to fourth.

Risi Competizione vs. Flying Lizard Motorsports
The Risi Ferrari was poised to take a second-straight Sebring victory until about the halfway point of the race. Jamie Melo, the driver who took the Ferrari across the line at the incredible end of last year's race, got into the grass on the inside of turn 7, then came across the track into the front corner of Dirk Werner's Porsche. Both cars limped through the grass in an attempt to get back to the pits, but both cars ended up parked in the grass. Jörg Bergmeister and Flying Lizard Motorsports took full advantage and the class victory.

Chevy vs. Ford vs. Dodge
This classic battle played out roughly as expected. The LG Corvette seemed to have the edge and posted the fastest lap time of the three, however it succumbed to overheating problems after less than 100 laps. The Viper then pulled from the Ford, which planted itself into a wall about 100 laps after the Corvette's exit. All three are expected to improve over the course of the season, so look for this battle to heat up.

The final class victors of the 2008 12 Hours of Sebring were:

LMP2: Romain Dumas - Porsche RS Spyder - Penske Racing
LMP1: Tom Kristensen - Audi R10 - Audi Sport North America
GT1: Johnny O'Connell - Corvette C6.R - Corvette Racing
GT2: Marc Lieb - Porsche 911 GT3 RSR - Flying Lizard Motorsports

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Formula 1 - What To Watch For

Formula 1
Early Sunday morning will mark the start of the 2008 Formula 1 season. After an incredibly exciting championship battle last season which saw Kimi Raikonnen edge out both McLaren-Mercedes drivers in the last race to win the season, several changes to the rules and teams should keep this season entertaining. Here's what to watch for:

Traction Control
For the past few years, drivers have employed the use of electronic traction control to get their cars off of the line and out of the corners. Starting this season, traction control of any kind is banned, and should add quite a bit of spice to the races. Drivers who have previously just powered out of corners or through difficult sections will have to carefully modulate the throttles on their cars or lose control of the back end. Watch closely during wet races or on tracks with limited grip, like the season-opening Australian GP.

Fernando Alonso
After winning two consecutive world championships, Fernando Alonso left Renault for McLaren-Mercedes, where he placed third in 2007 and had a much-publicized feud with his rookie teammate. This season, Alonso is back at Renault where he is apparently much more comfortable. Unfortunately, Renault has lost their way and did not regularly compete for podiums in 2007. Watch for Alonso to try to right this listing ship in spectacular style.

Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton put together a sensational rookie season in 2007, very nearly becoming the first ever rookie world champion. Now the darling child of McLaren-Mercedes, look for him to try to prove that his success was not a fluke.

Sebastien Bourdais
Winning four consecutive Champ Car World Series championships finally scored Bourdais a Formula 1 ride. Driving for Scuderia Toro Rosso, Red Bull Racing's "little brother," Bourdais brings plenty of talent and open-wheel experience to the table. STR has had trouble scoring points, let alone fighting for podiums, so Bourdais will certainly have his work cut out for him. Ex-F1 backmarker Robert Doornbos had a moderate amount of success in Champ Car (winning Rookie of the Year in 2007), so few are expecting Bourdais to catapult STR to the front of the field. Like him or not, Bourdais is essentially representing the full might of American open-wheel racing, however ailing it might be, so it will be interesting to see how much success he finds in open-wheel's top tier series.

Friday, March 14, 2008

2008 12 Hours of Sebring - What To Watch For

12 Hours of Sebring Logo

The 56th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring begins Saturday, March 15th, at 10am. The race is almost always exciting and this year should be no exception. Here are a few specific things to watch for this weekend:

Peugeot vs. Audi
Last year, Audi stood alone in the (competitive) diesel camp, but will be joined this year by one of the diesel Peugeot 908s that ran at LeMans last year. While the 908s couldn't stay with the Audis last June, the practice times in Florida have been incredibly close. Reliability will be a factor here, as the close competition will push the still-relatively-new engine technology to its limit.

Porsche RS Spyders vs. Audi, Peugeot
Last season, the Porsche RS Spyders of Penske Racing were constant threats for overall wins, scoring several over the theoretically-faster Audis. Look for them to continue to pressure the bigger, more powerful LMP1 cars. Audi is going for its ninth-straight win at Sebring, and may get as much trouble from Porsche as from Peugeot.

Risi Competizione vs. Flying Lizard Motorsports
Last year, Jamie Melo in the Risi Competizione Ferrari 430 beat Jorg Bergmeister in the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 by a scant .2 seconds in what was one of the most exciting finishes in the race's long history. The Risi Ferrari ultimately took the championship as well, but look for Flying Lizard to try to take back what they feel was stolen from them last March.

Chevy vs. Ford vs. Dodge
For the first time in ALMS competition, Chevy, Ford, and Dodge will all be represented in one class on Saturday. Operating outside the factory-backed GT1 effort, three-time Speed World Challenge champions LG Racing are bringing their Corvettes to Sebring to compete in the GT2 class. Robertson Racing has brought a Ford GT-R to the party (one of the first to compete in the U.S.), reminding us of the mid 60's when Ford developed the original GT40 specifically to beat Ferrari on the racetrack. Also unrelated to past GT1 efforts is Primetime Racing's Viper Competition Coupe, which ran in a few events last season in preparation for a full 2008 campaign. All three of these efforts are without factory backing or extensive ALMS experience, so none are considered significant contenders for a class win, however the fight to be the Fastest of the Slowest should be entertaining.

While we can only hope for a finish as riveting as last year's GT2 battle, the 56th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring is almost certainly going to be one of the best races of the season.

Pontiac Spy Hunter Ad is Badass

Pontiac G8 Is Car
Pontiac has a new ad for their new car, the G8, that is a must-watch. Click here to check it out on There's a story about Pontiac's ad agency trying to force the video to go viral, but the real meat is the ad itself. It is a positively genius play on the classic game Spy Hunter, proof that all is not lost in the realm of automotive advertising.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Muscle Cars

Muscle Car
This morning in his blog, Dilbert creator Scott Adams hypothesized about how the efficiency of the human body could translate to alternative automotive propulsion. His theory is that a human body can "eat a pork chop and run 26 miles," which far surpasses the efficiency of the internal combustion engine. Other creatures such as ants exhibit even better efficiency. Further, scientists have been able to create working muscles from cells grown in a lab. Putting all of this together, could muscles be grown and used in some form of power-generation system for cars?

Mr. Adams' hypotheses are typically well outside the box and this is no exception, however it does provide an interesting alternative to consider (along with some great mental imagery). Is there a place in automotive technology for "living" components like muscle motors, plant-based upholstery, photo-luminescent marker lights, etc?