Archive for January, 2007

Legendary HKS Skyline R33 Drag Car to Be Retired

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

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If you are a fan of import car scene, drag racing, turbo chargers or the video game Gran Turismo, then you no doubt have encountered the HKS Skyline GT-R R33 drag car. The HKS Skyline is truly a legend in the drag racing world. With all wheel drive and a monster turbo the HKS sponsored and tuned vehicle was a monster at the strip. In fact the HKS GT-R Skyline has held the title of fastest all wheel drive drag car for almost 5 years with an amazing 7.671 second pass at Japan’s Sendai circuit in October 2001. Not only that but the HKS drag Skyline was also the fastest drag car in Gran Turismo 3 (or was it 2).

The R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R was quite a performer right off the showroom floor, but after it was handed over to the tuner company HKS the skyline became a screamer with over 1000 horsepower driving all four wheels. Now HKS has announced that it will be retiring the monster Nissan. The decision wasn’t an easy one, but the vehicle was in a state of disrepair. Along with a full motor overhaul, the Skyline needed many parts that were no longer available from Nissan and it had serious chassis woes due to the extreme torsional forces exerted upon it during racing. Without major surgery the GT-R would not be safe to run. The car will most likely become a static display now, but its prowess on the drag strip won’t be forgotten.

Here’s a clip of the HKS R33 in action:

-Bill Mertz

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Talking Billboards For Mini Drivers

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

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In 2002 a Steven Spielberg movie called Minority Report became a big screen success. This sci-fi film was set in a Washington DC of the future where cars were controlled by autopilots and traveled on massive highways that wound up and down the sides of tremendous skyscrapers. One of the cooler elements of future America was the retinal scanning technology which allowed advertisers to create custom on the spot advertising to fit each individual that walked by.

It is beginning to look like that future was not so distant. According to a news release from the BMW Group, Mini drivers can now be treated to a customized “talking Billboard” that will deliver a personalized message whenever they pass by. The Motorboard doesn’t talk in the audible sense but it does communicate with lighted written messages. This new idea from Mini USA, dubbed Mini Motorby, will be the first to use advanced technology to communicate directly with its consumers.

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Mini owners will be treated to cute messages like this one. Maybe it should say “Watch where you’re going Jim!”

All though it sounds futuristic the concept is remarkably simple. Mini drivers who wish to participate in this program can hope on the internet and go to the MINI Motorby website where they will answer questions about themselves, their Mini’s and how they feel about the Mini experience. An electronic key fob with a built-in authentication mechanism will then be sent to the owner. Every time this key fob passes a Motorboard it communicates the drivers info triggering a personalized message to appear on the board that will “entertain awe and delight the driver”, not to mention distract them from driving their cute little cars. The key fob relies on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology — or, as MINI likes to call it, “Really Fun Interactive Devices” to transmit data. The RFID is similar to what is used in credit cards, however the key fobs have a useable range of 500 feet.

For the time being Mini is only setting up these special billboards in four cities, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami and New York. But if it is a successful program, look for the ad campaign to spread to different cities and certainly different auto manufacturers.

-Bill Mertz

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Can A ‘57 Belvedere Survive 50 Years Under Ground?

Monday, January 29th, 2007

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On June 15, 1957, the city of Tulsa was celebrating the semi-centennial of the state of Oklahoma. One of the features of the Tulsarama celebration involved a new gold and white 1957 Plymouth Belvedere Sport Coupe. The Plymouth Belvedere was lowered by crane into a giant time capsule where it was destined to stay for fifty years, until the year 2007. At the time the Plymouth was seen as a futuristic vehicle that would be an excellent representation of the finest that 1957 had to offer. As the events chairmen Lewis Roberts Jr. put it the Belvedere was “an advanced product of American industrial ingenuity with the kind of lasting appeal that will still be in style 50 years from now.”

Well here we stand in 2007 and 1950’s Americana is still in style to some people. In fact ’50s American cars have been doing amazingly well on the market place over the last few years. This probably isn’t the personal rocket ship George Jetson future that Roberts and others envisioned in 1957, but there are plenty of Tulsa residents and people all over the US who are anxiously awaiting the opening of this time capsule to see what the Belvedere looks like and who will end up going home with the Plymouth.

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Being lowered into the hole

Before the time capsule was sealed several items were added to the Belvedere:

* A womens purse containing a bottle of tranquilizers, cigarettes, an unpaid parking ticket and some bobby pins.
* 10 gallons of gasoline and 5 quarts of oil
* A Douglas Aircraft Co. aerial map of airport facilities and legend
* Statement from Tulsa council of Churches and prayer for greatest good next 50 years a recently completed history of churches in Tulsa and a directory of the present churches
* Statement from board of education - historical data related to 50 years of education in Tulsa and copies of “School Life” all-high school publication issued by Tulsa high schools each month
* Statements from Mayor and Chamber of Commerce officials
* Flags which have been flown over the national capitol, state capitol and in the county and city
* Other aerial photos of the area
* Statement from Tulsa Trades and Labor Council
* Statements from all former mayors of the city - their record of service and civic accomplishments in the city, state and nationally.

But the most important addition to the time capsule was submitted by the citizens of Tulsa, OK. The people were told to guess what the population of Tulsa would be in the year 2007. All the guesses were recorded on microfilm and sealed in the time capsule along side the car. When the vault is opened in June, the closest guess to Tulsa’s ‘07 population will win the Plymouth Belvedere. Pretty sweet deal. I just wonder if they will be able to drive it home.

-Bill Mertz

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The Sounds of Formula One

Friday, January 26th, 2007

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After a stellar F1 season the Renault team seemed like they had done it all; a driver’s championship, a constructor’s championship, what more could you ask for? How about getting your team car to play “La Marseillaise” on its finely tuned engine; well they can do that too.
While I prefer the sound of wide open throttle under load ripping through a tunnel, I must admit this is a pretty neat trick. I tried to replicate this with my Jeep but I can only manage a crude version of “Hot Crossed Buns”

For all you French hating Brits out there here is “God Save the Queen”. But I worn you it may sound out of tune being played by a Renault.

-Bill Mertz

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Dodge to Produce Clean Light Duty Diesel

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

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Good news for all the Dodge truck fans out there. Dodge says it will introduce a new turbo-diesel engine for its light-duty truck line in 2009. With the help of the new Cummins clean-diesel technology this new power plant will be 50 state legal meeting 2010 emission standards. According to Dodge the new turbo-diesel will give a massive boost in low-end torque, be 30 percent more fuel efficient and produce 20 percent less carbon dioxide (CO2) compared to a similar gasoline engine. This new clean diesel will provide plenty of hauling and towing capacity while being both cleaner and more efficient than previous motors of this size and power potential.

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For those who don’t want to wait until 2009 to get their hands on a Cummins clean-diesel Dodge has announced it will be putting a 6.7-liter Cummins turbo-diesel in its Ram Heavy Duty trucks starting in March of this year. Like its smaller counterpart the 6.7 liter giant will meet 2010 emission requirements for all 50 states.

Dodge deserves some kudos for changing with the times and putting cleaner more efficient engines into their trucks. Any time you can get more power while being cleaner and more efficient you are taking steps in the right direction, and it seems that Dodge and Cummins have done just that.

-Bill Mertz

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Lack of Towing Causes Obesity Update

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

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Fighting obesity and towing a trailer without an SUV

Just one day after getting riled up over a Sport Utility Vehicle Owners of America (SUVOA) press release that linked America’s growing problem of obesity and diabetes to the lack of towing capacity in passenger cars I received another release from the SUVOA and they are still at it. This release didn’t start out targeting lack of towing capacity in fact the headline, “Proposals to Increase Fuel Economy Standards Could Cause More Highway Deaths, Limit Vehicle Choice”, lead me to believe that there would be no mention of towing. But as I read through the text I came upon this paragraph:

“Faced with a shrinking selection of passenger cars with sufficient towing power, America’s outdoor enthusiasts have turned to light trucks for recreation. Light trucks have become workhorses for families heading out on vacations, towing trailers and hauling clothes, mountain bikes, skis, fishing and camping equipment, and other outdoor gear. If they tried to do that in high-miles-per-gallon compacts, the better decision probably would be to stay home and add to the pattern of physical inactivity and the obesity epidemic it has spawned.”

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Maybe motorcycles are the solution to our small vehicle towing woes.

Give me a break. The better decision probably would be to leave your big honkin’ trailer behind and stay in a tent instead. I know for a fact that you can fit bikes, skis, fishing gear and camping equipment in or on extremely small cars. As a matter of fact I’ve taken my MGB camping on many occasions, and fit a tent, stove, clothes, food and fishing pole in it with no problem. I could have put a rack on the back and taken my bike or skis as well. If I want to do all that and take a trailer than I would have no problem with taking a truck or SUV, that is what they are for. But the idea that if your car can’t tow a giant trailer you would probably just stay at home and add to the obesity epidemic is freaking ridiculous and absolutely hilarious.

Watch out Prius owners, your cars can’t tow much so obesity and diabetes are knocking on your door.

-Bill Mertz

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Obesity and Diabetes Linked to Lack of Towing Capacity?

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

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I was reading through press releases today when I stumbled across a particular item put out by the Sport Utility Vehicle Owners of America (SUVOA) that I found to be extraordinary. Many releases contain obvious propaganda but this press release took things further using scare tactics to push for more towing capacity.

The headline stated “99% of Car Towing Capacity Lost Since 1970s”, a fact which on its own might be just an interesting tidbit, but in the context of this article was a frightening sign of the towing apocalypse. In fact I’m a bit surprised that the Jehovah’s Witness pamphlet I got today didn’t contain any info on the demise of towing capacity in passenger cars. According to the SUVOA President Barry W. McCahill, “The gutting of car towing capacity should be a wake up call that major lifestyle consequences could loom large as the nation contemplates the next wave of energy policy changes”. Sounding like another President I know McCahill continued, “The threat is on several fronts — California’s carbon dioxide law and the 10 states that have chosen to follow suit”.

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SUVOA is deeply concerned that cars no longer have the towing capacity that they use to in the 1970’s. Their fear is that this lack of towing capacity will have a negative impact on our ability to recreate outdoors. But the SUVOA is not alone in this feeling; the American Recreation Coalition (ARC) sees the end of (towing) days coming as well. Derrick Crandall, President and CEO of the ARC, says that trucks and SUV’s are under siege as well, “Ironically, the only vehicles left that enable people to enjoy the great outdoors — SUVs and pickups — are under attack and could also lose towing capacity. Nobody intended to kill off the station wagon that was the mainstay for family transportation and recreation. But it happened”.

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In a bold move worthy of a Ford commercial Crandall brought out the big gun and used the rise of obesity and diabetes over the last 20 years to his advantage. Cleverly, he pointed out that these health problems can largely be prevented by a good diet and plenty of exercise, like the type of exercise you get doing outdoor recreation… the kind of out door recreation that requires towing. Ah ha!

The war on towing capacity is upon us ladies and gentlemen and if we don’t act now, pretty soon our children won’t be able to tow little red wagons behind them as they walk down the street.

Sarcasm aside, I like towing just as much as the next man, but I don’t feel threatened in the least bit that passenger cars tow less then they did 30 years ago. It isn’t a conspiracy; it is simply that the demand for cars with high towing capacities isn’t substantial. That’s why we have trucks and SUV’s that can tow Boeing 747’s, and no I don’t think pickup trucks are at risk of becoming wimpy little toys that can’t tow a thing. Also who said the station wagon is dead? Last glance up and down my street and I saw about 5 of them, a Dodge Magnum, two Volvos, a Subaru Legacy, and a Mercedes.

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Now my biggest point of contention with this article is the link between towing, outdoor recreation, and health. I spend plenty of time doing motorized recreation from four wheeling to vintage rallies and I would never claim that it helps reduce my risk of becoming obese. Similarly I feel that the majority of tow-related recreation won’t help much either. Just think of the things that people tow for recreation, Jet Skis, boats, 4×4’s, motorcycles, camping trailers etc… All of these things help you see and enjoy the outdoors in some manner but do any of them really reduce the risk of diabetes (ok dirt bikes are pretty physical)? But when doctors tell you to get outside because you need more exercise they mean go for a hike or a swim not go blasting around in your power boat. I know you can swim from a power boat, but you certainly don’t need a power boat to swim, see what I’m getting at?

So fear not, we won’t become a nation of obese people with trucks that can’t tow a thing. Obesity may be inevitable but towing capacity is here to stay.

-Bill Mertz

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Millen Wows the Crowd in a Toyota Tacoma

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

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For those who don’t already know, Rod Millen isn’t just your run of the mill race car driver. Millen was born in New Zealand where he loved to surf and sail and occasionally pop around in a dune buggy. His love for cars, and particularly sliding them, grew into an obsession and quickly Rod Millen became involved in the New Zealand rally scene. After proving his worth in the southern hemisphere Millen came to California where he continued to show his rally prowess. He signed on with Toyota’s off road racing division and became a hero to thousands of little kids by dominating the Mickey Thompson Stadium Off-Road Racing series. But the real legend of Rod Millen involves a Colorado mountain called Pikes Peak.

This 14,110 ft. mountain is home to possibly the greatest hill climb in motor sports. With a massive change in altitude, 156 dangerous curves, slippery dirt and sometimes inclement weather the 12.42 mille Pikes Peak hill climb is not for the faint of heart. For Rod Millen this is simply another day at the office. Pikes Peak is Millen’s home turf and he has proven himself time and time again in a myriad of different vehicles and classes. In 1994 Millen charged is all wheel drive Toyota Celica turbo to the top of the mountain in a record time of 10:04.06, a record which still stands today. This is just one of many titles and records that Millen holds on what many call “Millen’s Mountain”.

In 1998 Millen and his company MillenWorks built a custom Toyota Tacoma race truck to bring to Pikes Peak. The low slung rally truck won the unlimited class at Pikes Peak two years in a row. Millen decided that it might be fun to bring some of his Pikes Peak vehicles out to another great hill climb, the Goodwood Festival of speed, so in 2002 he brought his record holding 850 horsepower Celica to the hill at Goodwood and put on quite a show. Not to be outdone by… himself he vowed to return the next year with something even faster. That of course would be the 900 horsepower turbocharged Toyota Tacoma, and again Millen wowed the crowd with an even faster run than the previous year.

A friend of mine alerted me to this great video of Millen’s Goodwood run from YouTube.
Enjoy:


Running his Celica


Running his Tacoma

-Bill Mertz

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Four Million Dollar Cuda

Friday, January 19th, 2007

This weekend Barrett-Jackson will be opening its doors to some of the fattest pockets in the automotive world to bid ridiculous amounts of money on lumps of steel with four wheels and an engine. Sorry I get a little upset when I hear about Richie Rich paying six or seven digits for a car that rolled off a Detroit assembly line, and that is exactly what is expected to happen when a 1971 Plymouth “Hemi” Barracuda Convertible crosses the auction block this weekend.

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The car is rare, one of only eleven built, has only 282 miles on the ticker and was raced on the pro-stock drag circuit so it certainly is a unique vehicle, but is it unique enough to fetch the four million dollar value that was given to it in the pre-auction inspection? I guess we will have to wait and see if the trend of spending absurd money on rare muscle cars will continue. But honestly folks, if you really feel like all that money is burning a hole in your pocket, give me a call I’d be happy to look after it for you.

-Bill Mertz

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Top Ten Collector Cars of the Future

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

Hagerty Insurance, the same company that is famous for its classic car insurance, has announced a top ten list of future collector cars. According to Hagerty the list is based on research they did analyzing the reasons today’s collector cars are such hot commodities: pop-culture popularity, limited production numbers and the style of the next generation of collectors.

Without further a due, here is the list.

*Toyota FJ Cruiser
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*Mini Cooper
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*Lotus Elise
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*Dodge Viper
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*Acura NSX
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*Toyota Scion
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*Audi TT
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*Chrysler 300
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*Smart Car
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I’m pretty conflicted on this list. I like the fact that Hagerty made it diverse instead of simply throwing a bunch of Ferraris and Lambo’s together, which would be too obvious. But at the same time I’m not really sure that all of these cars embody the ideals of a true collector. Right off the bat I liked the Lotus Elise, the Acura NSX and the Dodge Viper. These cars are rare, have unique style, and are amazingly fun to drive. I feel that possessing all of those qualities all but guarantees you a spot as a future collector car.

At the same time the Smart Car, Scion xB (I’m assuming they meant the xB) and the Mini Cooper are all small, practical, unique looking and fun in a slightly different way. They are also affordable meaning the masses can easily buy them and fall in love with them much like they did with the original VW Beetle and Austin Mini. While I’m not dead sure that these three will all be collectors I would say that there is a good chance that one or more of them will end up being a coveted car in the future.

The remaining four cars I have some doubts about. The Jag XK has nice styling but it wasn’t a revolutionary car, it isn’t a remarkable performer and it wasn’t a limited production car. It also wasn’t that cheap off the show room floor so the mass appeal isn’t their either. Not too mention poor quality control. That being said it does have Jaguar cache which has worked for other Jags in the past. But with so many other good sports car/touring car/convertibles available would you want to own an XK in 30 years? I don’t think I would.

The FJ Cruiser doesn’t fit the bill to me at all. Sure it looks like the old FJ40, so what. It is still a mass produced SUV, and I don’t think the nostalgic look and name are enough to make it a collectable.

The Chrysler 300 has me on the fence. It does have unique styling for the times. It is a rear drive V8 sedan, which is rare unto itself, but it is also somewhat affordable. I could see it become collectable much like a Chevy Malibu, Biscayne or Impala from the 1960s is a collector now. Kids down the road may be fond of them because they remember sitting in the back on family trips or remember seeing one at a stop light that had giant rims, but they I don’t think they will ever be coveted like cult cars or exotics.

The Audi TT I just plain disagree with. There are a lot of cars like the TT that look better, perform better and/or are more affordable. This would probably be the first car I ax off this list.

I also think there are some cars that should definitely be on the list that aren’t. I’m assuming they mean current production cars so I would include the Mustang, Corvette Z06, Mazda Speed 3 or RX-8, and Honda S2000. I know there are a lot more that deserve consideration so let me know what you think should have made the list.

-Bill Mertz

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Can Robby Gordon Win the Lisbon to Dakar Rally?

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

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After winning the Baja 1000 Robby Gordon had high hopes for his third run at the infamous Dakar Rally. This year Gordon is driving a fully customized H3 Hummer desert race truck with all the bells and whistles. While a little on the big side for some of the tighter sections the hope was that the big hummer would dominate in the open desert and dunes with its powerful engine and massive amounts of suspension travel.

Starting out in Lisbon, Gordon hung tight for the first stage staying close to the front of the pack through the tight sandy course. While not stellar, his performance was strong enough to put him with in striking distance of the leaders during the higher speed stages, however the next day the team suffered a speeding penalty and an off course excursion which set them back into 46th place for the day and 18th in the overall standings. The next day Team Dakar USA and the Monster Energy Toyo Tire Hummer (sound like NASCAR?) made up some ground on the faster 3rd stage only to have their fortunes turn with a fuel problem in stage four.

It turned out this fuel problem had nothing to do with the vehicle itself but was simply tainted gas. However, after limping the Hummer through much of the stage due to low horsepower from the bad gas, and lot of diagnosing time, the team fell way off the pace. The poor performance in stage 4 meant that Gordon had to start from the 77th position. Unfazed by his bad luck Gordon had a brilliant drive and brought the Hummer in with a 15th place finish good enough to bump the team up to 36th in the overall classification.


Gordon during the 5th stage

As is often the case in the Dakar rally things come in waves, both good and bad, and Gordon’s good fortune continued for stage 6. After a night of wind and rain, the dust subsided the next day and conditions proved to be perfect for the H3 Hummer. Robby Gordon went on to capture the stage win becoming the first American Team to do so in this year’s event. The victory gave the team a large boost in morale and bumped them up to 19th in the overall standings. Over the next few stages the team had a mixed luck, but most of it was good. With some great driving and good strategy for the longer marathon stage, the team broke into the top 10 of the standings. After 9 grueling stages Team Dakar USA is now in 8th position overall. Gordon himself remains very upbeat as there is still a great deal of racing left. When speaking of the 10th stage Gordon said “Tomorrow we are going to try to win the special. I think the special is especially well suited to the Hummer so the 10th stage might be Hummer time.”

U S A! U S A! U S A!

I should also mention that US driver Mark Miller, who is driving a diesel Volkswagen Toureg, is currently 6th in the overall standings. This means there are two very legitimate contenders to become the first American ever to capture a victory in the Dakar Rally, and one of them is an entirely American team, car and driver. I’m actually not a big Robby Gordon fan and I really don’t like Hummers, but I would love to see one of these teams snag a victory for the US, so go get ‘em boys.

For more coverage of the event go to www.dakar.com or watch the Versus Network.

-Bill Mertz

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That Kit is Hella Crazy Dude.

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

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The import car scene has always made me chuckle a little. It is really hard to take people seriously when they think things like Combat wings and Weapon R intakes are God’s gift to the car world. But I’m not one to hate, if they like it who am I to disagree, I drive a crappy old British car with a giant Union Jack on the hood, but I’m getting off topic. If you have ever been to an import show, you know that your car is nothing if it doesn’t have a body kit. The challenge with body kits is to come up with something that is wild, crazy (or cracy) and most importantly unique. Well I think I have found the body kit to top all body kits.

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A friend of mine was cleaning out his email box and sent this link my way. Mental Motors has created a “How To” site detailing among other things how to build your own The Fast and The Furious style body kit out of wood, and they did an awesome job. This kit looks amazingly authentic from the hood scoop to the ridiculous wing. Attention to detail was not overlooked. A close examination of the photos reveals Ferrari style faux slotted side intakes and a bulbous rear valence that serves absolutely no purpose. I can’t wait to build one for Jeep. It’s gonna take a lot of plywood.

Check out the boys at Mental Motors

-Bill Mertz

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Shelby GT500: Horses and Ponies and Snakes, Oh My!

Monday, January 15th, 2007

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I don’t get a ton of press vehicles passing my way, and the ones that do come always take awhile my poor (look at my paycheck some time) desperate hands. The bright side of this is that when I do get a press vehicle it is usually more impressive and capable than I deserve. Such was the case when I was tossed the keys to a 2007 Shelby GT 500 Mustang.

A lot of the car magazine guys I know snickered at the regular old Mustang GT when the most recent version came out. “It’s cheesy”, “handles like a pig”, “awful interior” the comments went on and on. But a few of us were impressed by the car, after all it is a Mustang, not an exotic sports car, and I thought it was fast, comfortable, the interior was good by Ford standards and most importantly it was fun. What more could you want from a Mustang?

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5.4 liters, 32 valves, and overhead cams topped off with a supercharger

Well I found the answer to that question: 500 horsepower. Driving the Shelby GT 500 is not unlike driving the GT, the main difference is power and speed. For a car with 500 horsepower the Shelby is remarkably easy to drive. The clutch pedal was on the heavier side which I actually prefer in a car with this type of performance. The six speed transmission shifted flawlessly through the gears and the limited slip rear end really proved its worth putting the power to the ground. Although the big Mustang really liked to get sideways it never felt twitchy or harsh like the Z06 Corvette I drove earlier this year. The GT 500 did show a bit of axle hop when dropping the hammer in first gear, but otherwise it handled great for a live axle.

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High booty!

The best part of this car is its power plant. The 5.4 liter 32 valve supercharged V8 performs like a champion. Delivering smooth and steady power that builds gradually as revs go up this motor will definitely pin you to your seat. With the help of 8.5 pounds of boost from a roots type blower, not to mention the cool supercharger whine, the Shelby Mustang puts out a healthy 500 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque. Despite the Moby Dick curb weight of 3,920 pounds the Shelby can dash from naught to 60 in only 4.5 seconds. Not too bad for a car that only cost $43K.

There are some down sides to the car however and one of them is the brakes, they just aren’t as spectacular as you would hope. They stop the car ok, but you get the feeling that a few laps around a race track, or 20 minutes of hard driving on a twisty road would cook them pretty good. My other complaints are pretty minor and subjective. The dashboard has a really ugly cap on it that looks like a total after thought that was glued in place at the last minute to add more leather to the cabin. The ride height also looks a bit on the tall side in the back, giving the car that already looks like a hooligan should be driving it and even more Stockton high school kid look.

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Those complaints aside the Shelby GT 500 is good package. No it doesn’t perform like a Corvette and it isn’t as nice as an M6, but it cost a lot less and it offers a remarkable amount of fun for the dollar. If I had $43,000 I would still probably just by a GT and take a nice vacation, the Shelby is a little too flashy for me, but that’s taking nothing away from the car. It was a blast to drive and doesn’t pretend to be anything it is not. It is just one fast Mustang, nothing more.

PS. I had to share the best quote I heard when someone was checking out the interior of the Shelby Mustang.

Guy1: “These seats are like MGB seats.”
Guy2: “What do you mean?”
Guy1: “I mean they’re sh***y.”

-Bill Mertz

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Acura ‘Advanced Sports Car Concept’ on Display in Detroit

Friday, January 12th, 2007

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As many of you know the North American International Auto Show is in full swing in Detroit and for the most part I have been steering clear of covering this automotive circus. But there were a few stand-out concepts in the motor city this year that certainly warrant a few paragraphs on this site. One such vehicle is the Acura Advanced Sports Car Concept. While the name is unimpressive the concept itself offers a glimpse at the future of Acura’s exotic sports car designs.

When the NSX first hit the road it was considered a pretty wild car, especially coming from a company like Acura. Now the NSX design is getting cobwebs and it looks like Acura is prepared to bring in an all new exotic car contender. The Advanced Sports Car Concept is definitely a new design direction. Unlike the NSX this concept houses its engine up front like a traditional sports car. While nothing is written in stone Acura says it plans to run a rear-drive based version of its Super Handling All Wheel Drive system mated to a front mounted V10 power plant. That sounds like a good start to me. And if Acura can make a V10 like they made the NSX’s V6 than consumers are in for a treat.

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Visually the Acura concept is aggressively styled with lots of deep lines and radical angles that start and finish at sharp points at the front and rear of the car. The canopy of the car is entirely made out of glass from the rear window all the way to the windshield, giving the concept a distinctive “car of the future” look. But the NSX isn’t gone entirely; subtle cues incorporated into the new concept give a definite nod to its predecessor. The headlights for example are pencil thin and stretched out wide to look like NSX with its pop-up headlights down. The rear also uses the NSX full-width taillight and incorporates it into the cars more modern theme.

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I’m glad to see that Acura has started thinking sports car again, and by the looks of the Advanced Sports Car Concept they are really pushing the envelope. While the design doesn’t exactly make my heart skip a beat (chalk it up to personal taste) I do recognize that this design is a bold and well thought out statement about Acura’s future. I’m curious to hear what you think.

-Bill Mertz

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STi-ATV: Kiwi’s Just Wanna Have Fun

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

What has four wheels, a turbo boxer four cylinder motor, all wheel drive and a metallic blue paint job? If you answered “Subaru Impreza STi” you would be right, but “a custom STi powered ATV built by a nutty New Zealander who clearly has a death wish” would also be acceptable.

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Actually Ken Brough isn’t unlike many in the world of cars; he likes to go fast, likes to tinker with things and is a big kid at heart. It was these qualities that lead him on the path to build a road going ATV that could put the fear of God into most Subaru drivers. When he started the project Brough enlisted the help of auto dismantler/friend who sourced parts and gave tech support when needed, but the rest was up to him. The super quad was running in roughly 10 months which is remarkable considering that the there was no real design or plan for the vehicle, but the finished product is pretty amazing.

sti3.jpg
STi-ATV without its clothes on.

The frame for the ATV is made of roll cage tubing that doubles as a hard water line to carry coolant to the rear mounted radiator. The gearbox uses the standard H style shift pattern thanks to a clever design using a toe stirrup and a telescoping 90 degree shaft coming out of the back of transmission. The motor of course is the turbocharged STi unit in basically stock form except for a custom exhaust built to fit the quad. All this adds up to a vehicle that weighs 530kg and produces 170kw of power. For us Yanks (what’s a kilowatt?) that’s roughly 230 horsepower pushing around a little over 1100 pounds. Not a bad power to weight ratio if ask me.

Unfortunately Brough failed in his quest to get the STi-ATV registered for the street in New Zealand, something about the wheel track being too narrow for the power and it having the potential for such high speeds blah blah blah not suitable for the road blah blah. But like a good lad he went and drove it on the road anyway and put a good video of it up on his site here.

sti2.jpg
Go Ken Go!

Well it looks like Ken Brough is hunting for a new home where his creation will be road legal. But until then I’m sure he will continue to make due in New Zealand. Maybe he should start a business building these things for export. Any takers?

-Bill Mertz

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About Automotive Blogger

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