Archive for December, 2006

It’s Official: Ghost Riding Kills

Saturday, December 30th, 2006


A few days ago the SF Gate featured an article on the dangers of “ghost riding the whip”. The article discusses several people who have recently died from this phenomenon of dancing on your car while no one is driving it, and goes on to further discuss the implications of hip hop movements and their connection to ghost riding and side shows.

Here are links to 2 different side show videos, one is graffic and shows how dangerous the side show can be:
The other is looking for solutions to the side show:

There has been on going debate about these hip hop inspired activities since their conception. Opponents say that side shows and ghost riding are illegal and dangerous and have no place on public streets. On the other side of the coin participants and proponents feel that the kids in the inner cities have nothing to do so they simply have fun by doing these types of activities, some claiming that they aren’t causing any trouble and no one gets hurt. The latter argument holds little water with most people. There are statistics proving that the events are dangerous, and they are most definitely illegal. But they also frequently occur in the wee hours of the night. If you can’t find anything to do at 4am how about trying to go to sleep.

Many have called for an official forum to host such events. Bay Area rapper Mr. F.A.B., who has played a major role in the west coast “Hyphy” movement, admitted that the side shows have gotten out of control and suggested moving them into an arena, “it would be like ghetto NASCAR”.

Indeed it would be like ghetto NASCAR, BUSH league at its best complete with accidents and fights. I really like the sentiment of trying to organize an official side show, but that would be like trying to make Punk Rock music into mainstream pop, it simply defeats the purpose of why it exists. Sideshows came from kids rebelling against rules to have their own brand of fun. Trying to bottle that up and sell it may work temporarily but it certainly won’t satisfy the people who created it. Give them a little time and they’ll come up with something else to go against the rules.

Read the complete story here:

-Bill Mertz

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Is It Really “Hitler’s Race Car”?

Friday, December 29th, 2006


There has been a popular story floating around the automotive news ranks about a vehicle being auctioned by Christie’s in February of 2007. The car in question is a 1939 Auto Union D-type race car, one of only five in existence. Some of the hype over this car is justified as the rare German machine is expected to fetch upwards of 12 million dollars. But there is another buzz about this car that I find disappointing, everyone from CNN to bloggers like myself are calling it “Hitler’s race car”, as if the Fuhrer himself piloted this splendid piece of machinery.

Adolf Hitler’s only connection to this vehicle is that in 1933 he put out a challenge for German car makers to build a race car that would dominate the track over other European competition. He didn’t race it, he didn’t build it, he didn’t own it and he arguably didn’t directly commission it. I’ve heard rumors that he personally asked for this particular car to be built to show off German technology; however I haven’t been able to uncover any evidence to support this rumor. No matter, people are calling it “Hitler’s Race Car” to give the car some extra buzz, but the car has plenty of buzz without tainting it so thoroughly with Hitler’s infamous name.

The Auto Union D-type was way ahead of its time in terms of design and technology. It sported a 3 liter (sized limited by racing regulations) V12 engine with twin superchargers producing nearly 500 horse power. The car was set up in a mid-engine configuration putting the engine toward the rear of the car and the driver toward the front. The gas tank was placed directly behind the driver to keep the car’s balance from getting upset as the fuel diminished. The suspension was independent at all four corners and by 1939 the rear swing-axle design that had plagued the handling of earlier Auto Unions had been updated to a de Dion design giving the car more predictable road holding characteristics.


Nuvolari at the wheel

With a top speed of 185 mph the D-types were blisteringly fast, and with a capable driver behind the wheel they could certainly win races. In fact this particular D-type won the Grand Prix in Belgrade, Yugoslavia just as WWII was breaking out with Tazio Nuvolari behind the wheel. So while I find it mildly interesting that there is a vague connection between Hitler and this car, I think the cars racing history, design prowess and development are much more interesting and important to the car and its value. Even Christie’s own write up for the auction contains no mention of Hitler. If this race car was a member of Adolf’s personal fleet I would have no problems with his name being displayed prominently along side the D-type, but since it was not, can’t we just leave the glorious D-type to its own….glory, and leave Hitler on the side lines?

-Bill Mertz

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Topless Car Wash

Friday, December 29th, 2006

Warning: This video is not for the faint of heart.
While I was searching for sexy car commercials I accidentally stumbled across this video of a topless car wash prank. Theres nothing funnier than watching guys who think they are about to see naked women, but instead only get to see scantily clad fat men. Very well done. Anyone who would pay for a topless car wash deserves that fat male version.


-Bill Mertz

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Wiper Bender!

Friday, December 29th, 2006


Christmas always makes me laugh. Well it is not the holiday itself that makes me smirk but rather the ideals that this time of year supposedly represents and how people actually act in real life that makes me chuckle. To give a good example, I often eat lunch on a popular shopping strip in Berkeley (they also happen to have good cheap eats). Most of the year the street is heavy with foot and car traffic and everyone seems friendly and happy to be out. Around Christmas time things change dramatically. Suddenly there is a huge wave of traffic, gridlock on both the sidewalk and the streets as people scramble to do their business, and while you may never hear a single horn the rest of the year, the two weeks before Christmas sounds like a Ricola commercial. Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like a loud horn and a middle finger.

While I’m somewhat amused by this contradictory behavior a part of me is also saddened that the real meaning of the season has become lost. But on Christmas day everything seemed great, nothing was going wrong, “was the Christmas spirit really lost” I wondered? I had pulled my MG hurriedly into my driveway partially blocking the sidewalk. Normally I would pull all the way into the garage, but I was in a hurry to make it to Christmas dinner and I figured their wouldn’t be a lot of foot traffic today so I left my little car there while I went to a relatives house for a few hours then returned home. I climbed into my MGB to go meet up with some friends when I noticed that the windshield wiper was bent 90 degrees. It was mangled in such a way that the wiper arm was still contacting the windshield but the blade was facing up to the sky instead of toward the glass. At first I thought it must have been a freak accident, maybe the wind had done it. But there was no way the wind could twist the metal arm so perfectly, this must have been a person giving me a late Christmas present.

Fortunately for me my MG currently only has one wiper (it has since I’ve owned it and I’ve never bothered replacing the other), so there was less damage to be done, but still the prank was starting to make my blood boil. As I sat there I couldn’t help but imagine some 14 year old punks twisting up my already battered automobile on Christmas day; what the heck is wrong with this world? Then it occurred to me that I could probably just bend the thing back and it would be as a good as new. So without moving from the driver’s seat I unrolled my window and reached my ape-like arm around to the wiper. With a simple twist the wiper arm bent nearly perfectly back into position. A quick test of the wiper revealed it was working perfectly, no harm done. My mood changed drastically from furious to jovial. Suddenly I wished the wiper bender could have been there to see me effortlessly fix his vandalism without breaking a sweat or losing my composure. I felt like car-Gandhi practicing non-violent resistance to the British Empire of car vandalism.

As I drove off feeling merry, I couldn’t help but remember when I was a young and rather destructive child. I used to walk around my neighborhood looking for cars that had metal valve stem caps, if I spotted a car that had them I would promptly take them off. I can even remember putting nails under people’s tires when I was really young and especially stupid. So maybe whoever bent my wiper isn’t such a bad person, they are just going through that destructive phase of youth. I still think they should be punished if they get caught, just as I was when I got caught, but I can’t help but laugh at how life goes full circle some times. I guess that’s what they call Karma.

-Bill Mertz

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Inventor of Water Powered Car Murdered

Friday, December 29th, 2006

I found this story and video while browsing the internet today and thought I’d share it. While I’m always a bit skeptical of conspiracy theories this one certainly seems plausible. I do find it odd that I never remember hearing about this man and his inventions back in 1998. It seems like it would have been a bigger deal. But maybe with cheap gas prices it got put on the news back burner.

Here’s the video:

Here’s a link to a full story:
Inventor Of Water Powered Car Murdered?

-Bill Mertz

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Why Does the Bentley Azure Cost So Much?

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

The huge, gaudy, over the top Bentley Azure costs about as much as a nice house in many places. But why is the price tag on this Bentley drop top so high? Tom Ford of Fifth Gear sets out to answer this question in this marvelous clip from the show. The best part is toward the end when Tom has the famous British film director Michael Winner review car; so British, so hilarious.

-Bill Mertz

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1972 Chevy Nova: Building the Ultimate Sleeper

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

1972 Chevy Nova before build up

A sleeper car refers to a vehicle that has lots of go with minimal show. The term is most commonly heard in drag racing and muscle car circles when a vehicle shows up that looks virtually stock but is packing a punch under the hood. In my own experience real sleepers are few and far between. Some people claim to have sleepers but their cars always have major give aways to what lies under the rough exterior such as loud exhaust, drag slicks on super wide wheels, a host of after market gauges in the interior or an after market steering wheel and race seats.

When Wheel to Wheel Powertrain set out to build the ultimate sleeper they weren’t messing around. Starting with a shabby green 1972 Chevy Nova complete with straight six motor, they boys at Wheel to Wheel went to town creating one of the meanest Nova’s ever to hit the streets, but the best part is you would never know by looking at it.

If you’ve ever driven a six cylinder Nova then you know what the true meaning of “slow car” is. But gone are the days of snailing around in this ‘72 Chevy. Now the Nova sports a 402 cid LS-2 V8 with twin whisper quiet Rotrex C38-81 superchargers and twin liquid to air intercoolers. With all the goodies this Wheel to Wheel motor is good for 1100 horsepower, and thanks to a nifty octane on demand fuel system it can be run on pump gas without problems. Thanks to the blowers and a hefty set of mufflers the car is still able to maintain a low profile.

Inside the car looks remarkably stock. The original bench seat was left in tact with an old cover draped over it for affect. The two spoke steering wheel was left in place and the dash board was untouched; all the after market gauges were cleverly hidden in the glove box. The backseat was modified slightly to hide wheel tubs and a 10 point gauge was blended into the car, but even with the gauge it is really hard to tell that this Nova isn’t bone stock.

A look at the interior of the finished vehicle. Note the gauges in the glove box.

The Nova’s brakes were ditched in favor of a high-tech set of four wheel discs. The rear end and suspension were beefed up to handle the additional power. Twin fuel cells-one for pump gas one for race gas-were hidden in the trunk along top of the line fuel pumps and an easily accessible drag parachute. No expense was spared on turning this Nova into a full on race car that could still drive on the street and look like a stocker.

So what do all these high performance goodies add up to? The SS Nova (super sleeper) will run the quarter mile in the low nine second range all day long, and you can still drive it across the country. This is one impressive sleeper. If it weren’t for the wider tires and lower stance you would never know it wasn’t a six cylinder Nova.

The finished product. Doesn’t look like 1100 horsepower.

For the complete build up go to: Wheel to Wheel Powertrain

-Bill Mertz

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Another Mustang Based Car to be Unveiled in Detroit

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

With all the buzz surrounding the next generation mustang, the potential expansion of the platform and the new Ford Interceptor concept car it should not be surprising to hear that Lincoln has lifted the curtain on another vehicle that is being called a four door mustang in Lincoln clothing.


The Lincoln MKR concept car is set to debut at the Detroit auto show. The car features a 415 horsepower twin-turbo V6 engine that runs on E85, the ethanol based fuel. The rear drive MKR also features four wheel independent suspension, extremely high door sills (yuck) and eye-catching double wing grills. While this vehicle isn’t my cup of tea I seldom complain when another rear drive car threatens to go into production.

To see more of the Lincoln MKR you can watch Automotive News’ Dave Sedgwick interviewing Peter Horbury with some video of the concept car:
MKR Video

-Bill Mertz

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New Supra in the Works?

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

It appears that Toyota is putting some serious consideration into adding a sports car to their lineup. They are so serious about it that they have just unveiled a new concept of what this future car might look like. The concept car, called the FT-HS, isn’t your run of the mill sports car. Toyota feels that customers of the future will want something that is both eco-friendly and high performance so the FT-HS is set to be a hybrid sports car that will bridge the worlds of economy, ecology and speed.


The shape of the FT-HS is forward thinking. The overall platform looks not unlike a 350Z, but with sharp angles and lines flowing every which way, the FT-HS certainly carries a distinctive look. I’ve already heard people griping about its ugliness, but I for one think it is right on the mark for a hybrid sports car concept. It is aggressive, sleek and uniquely Japanese, what else could you ask for in a Toyota sports car?

STS Sponsored Drift Corvette Caught on Film.

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

Squires Turbo Systems (STS) is up and coming after market company that specializes in remote mounted turbo systems. Conventional turbo chargers mount under the hood and can prove to be very difficult to package especially in modern cars where engine compartments can be extremely cramped. STS came up with the idea of moving the turbo charger further back in the exhaust system giving more space and lower temperatures in the engine compartment and better cooling for the turbo.

The art of drifting

Eager to show off their wears, STS has sponsored a C5 Corvette for the Formula Drift series. What better motor sport to show the abilities of your turbo charger than one that is all about getting sideways, way sideways, and staying out there as long as you can; in a nut shell that is what Formula Drift and drifting in general is all about. Sporting a Z06 motor with an STS remote mounted turbo, this Vette can certainly spin the rears. The car was just up at Sears Point doing a photo shoot for Corvette Magazine when this video was shot. Enjoy:

-Bill Mertz

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Rare Cobra Heading For the Auction Block

Friday, December 22nd, 2006


Starting on January 13th Scottsdale, Arizona will play host to the 36th annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction. Every year this event brings together a collection of some of the finest vehicles on the planet and puts them up for sale to the highest bidder, often fetching astronomical prices. This year there will be one exceptionally rare Cobra joining the ranks.

The car in question is 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 “Supersnake”, CSX3015. So what the heck is a “Supersnake” you ask? It is one of only two custom Cobras commissioned by Carroll Shelby that sports an 800 horsepower twin-supercharged 427 V8. The “Supersnakes” are extra rare because they both started life as Competition Cobras of which only 19 were produced. This particular car was Shelby’s personal “Supersnake”, the second car (CSX3303) was built for Bill Cosby. As a kid I remember my dad telling me stories about these two Cobras. I think it stands out in my memory because I really liked Bill Cosby. I remember my dad telling me about the twin superchargers and I swear he said they went from 0-60 in under 4 seconds. Maybe that was just my active imagination but 800 horsepower in a lightweight Cobra makes the story sound plausible. In a 1968 road test, Road & Track called it “The Cobra to End All Cobras” and I certainly believe it.

A vintage snap shot taken of the engine during restoration.

This car has a great history, is extremely rare, has all the documentation and is highly touted by the Shelby American World Registry. So are there any guesses what this rare snake will fetch on the auction block? My guess is about 1.2-2 million, but I know next to nothing about Cobras. Last year a 289 Competition Cobra fetched roughly 1.2 million but there were others that went for much less. With no real racing history it is a little hard to guess how much interest this car will get, but it will definitely be big money. In fact some are guessing it will be the most valuable car ever to cross the stage at Barrett-Jackson.

-Bill Mertz

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Car Safety Studies Undermine Report by Energy Security Council

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006


According to a new crash study small cars are less safe than large cars. That seems fairly obvious and shouldn’t be a big deal except that another study by the Energy Security Leadership Council urges Congress to increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) mandates, which most likely means more small cars, and contends that this would have no safety impact.

The rightward leaning Competitive Enterprise Institute is against more stringent CAFE standards claiming that they cause more deaths on the highway. According to CEI’s own Sam Kazman, “New technologies may well improve fuel economy, but stringent CAFE standards will restrain the production of larger, heavier and safer vehicles regardless of what technologies they utilize.” Kazman also pointed to CAFE’s lethal past, specifically a 2002 study that showed that the program contributed to 2000 deaths a year by its downsizing effect on vehicles.

While I can see CEI’s point of view I still feel it is possible to manufacture cars that are both safe and efficient. I also think that reducing the number of massive vehicles on the road would benefit everyone’s safety. After all, you don’t stand a chance if you are driving a small car on a road full of tanks, but the more small cars on the road and the fewer tanks, the better your chances of survival get. Or maybe the folks at CEI should start pushing people to drive even larger cars. If we all drove busses and sat right in the middle surely fewer people would die in accidents.

-Bill Mertz

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Camaro Concept Featured in New Transformers Trailer

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

If you are an avid Transformers fan than you may have already seen the new trailer being shown on the UK website. The extended version of the movie trailer looks very exciting indeed. But the big news for GM is that they managed to sneak their new Camaro concept vehicle into the movie trailer somehow. This could prove to be a great move for the American automaker if the new Transformers movie becomes a huge summer success as many are predicting. To have a look at the trailer for yourself go to:

-Bill Mertz

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Citroen Does the Robot.

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

French carmaker Citroen recently launched an ad campaign involving cars transforming into robots and then doing various things like ice skating and dancing. At the end of the commercials the robots transform back into vehicles and the Citroen catch phrase “Alive with technology” flashes across the screen. I really like the ad spots, they are creative and well done, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t ripe for a parody or two.

Here is a clip of one of the real ads:

Now here are two great parodies. The first using the classic Citroen 2CV:

The second and even lower budge spoof but some seriously good dancing:

Maybe I just like the second one because I would totally do the same thing if I had a video camera.

Ok, just one more involving a cat:

Now don’t tell me you didn’t laugh at least once.

-Bill Mertz

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Ebay find: Fiat X1/9 Hotrod?

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

One of the perks of having car-type friends is about once a week you get emails full of whacky car stories or strange vehicles for sale. Yesterday one of my friends struck gold with this eBay find.

I know it doesn’t look like it, but this vehicle started out as a 1979 Fiat X1/9. As if the smog era Fiat wasn’t terrible enough the owner hand made this special metal body and transplanted in a giant Chevy V8 and Olds Toronado transaxle. At first I was hesitant to poke fun at this vehicle and its creator because deep down inside I am all for attempting crazy projects. If you want to shoe horn a giant motor into a flimsy Italian car I say go for it, unless it is some rare 1 of 5 Ferrari who cares. It’s your time and money not mine, and it may give me fodder for another blog. But after reading the vehicle description I realized that this one needed a good roasting.

If you run up the front you can dunk.





No garage door needed. Just drive straight in and the back of the car becomes the garage door.

There are a couple statements in this description that are telling.
First statement: “needs to be in a museum somewhere.” Now I’m not sure if there is any museum that would take this car, and if there was who would want to pay to get in?


The true meaning of hot rod!

Second statement: “This is the true meaning of Hotrod.” Really? When I think of hot rod I usually imagine a Deuce Coupe, or a Model T Ford with a flathead in it, but what do I know?

Third statement: “Vehicle has no power steering or brakes, is licensed and streetable but seldom driven and is hard to drive. (auto trans big cam) But looks like a million bucks.” I have the pleasure of working on plenty of Italian cars with hand made metal bodies and I’ll be the first to admit that few if any are ever perfect; especially Zagato bodied cars they can be downright sloppy. But this car makes a Zagato look like Michelangelo sculpture, the fender cutouts aren’t even round! This creation looks more like a million pesos than bucks. I can understand having a car that isn’t drivable but looks great or vice a versa, but what good is car that looks bad, drives bad, and costs $40,000 plus? Maybe Disneyland can buy it and stick it in future world right next Star Tours, at least it might look the part there.

Note the angular fender cutouts.

Actual auction:

-Bill Mertz

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About Automotive Blogger

Some people use their automobiles only to get from Point A to Point B. You know there's more than that. You get mad when someone makes a remark about your car that's less than flattering. You get riled when a cool car is destroyed in a straight-to-video movie. You realize when a new car doesn't deserve it's name of a great car of the past. When you see someone driving a boring vehicle, you feel sorry for them. You know it's not the destination that counts - it's the journey. Welcome home gearheads. Welcome home, car freaks. Welcome to the site that fuels your automotive obsession -

Automotive Blogger Author(s)
    » Mike-Mayder

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