Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Off Topic: Emotional Triggers

The Canada Geese are back in Chicagoland.

In flight, in formation, they are beautiful birds.  My dad loved them so much that he had a rather depressing "realistic" painting of some in a typical winter field hung in the condo in Florida where he wintered.

As amateur art critics, my mother and I could have picked this painting apart like... a Christmas Goose. We never said a word.  To dad, somehow, the Canada Goose symbolized freedom and elegance in flight. As a boy, he was captivated by Charles Lindberg's solo cross-Atlantic feat.  And, I'll guess, he enjoyed the Canada Geese who foraged in the field behind the house that he and my mother built when I was a teenager.

If I enjoyed those winters, the recollection is long gone.  I remember freezing my butt off at the school bus stop in my high school days.  Instead, I remember the joy of hanging out, in cars, watching pretty girls in other cars, at Manners Big Boy, in summer.  Is American Graffiti evocative for men of a certain age, even if they grew up in Cleveland, OH?  Believe it.

My own first recollection of Canada Geese is the gawdawful mess they made of the shoreline of a small pond near the house my children were raised in, outside Minneapolis.  Bird shit everywhere.  Bovine-sized-bird shit.  The mommy geese, raising their... goslings, I guess... hissed at my own small children who approached them in inter-species appreciation.  The geese were also a huge pain in the ass as they crossed the roads on my rural-ish two-lane commute to and from work.  They, and their bipedal lovers, seriously interfered with my Mille Miglia fantasies.

My next memory of Canada Geese is from where I now live.  Until last winter, my house was on a small river.  Even though the neighborhood was a subdivision, it had a rural flavor because the land on the other bank was a flood plain.  The Canada Geese loved it.  They didn't symbolize freedom or elegance to me.  Their return in the fall symbolized the arrival of winter.

Now I live on a rise that aspires to be a knoll, half a mile or more from the river.  The Canada Geese are back today, in their noisy, honking, crowds.  They are to wildlife as Roman traffic is to the Mille Miglia. The leaves on the trees have just begun to turn.  The corn isn't even harvested yet.  S** of a b****!  The damned birds are back, which means winter can't be far behind.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Scirocco Update

After a long hiatus to deal with more pressing matters, and giving  fuel line issues a good think, Hotshoe has delved into his Scirocco again.  One of the things that stalled him was an inability to find 8 m.m. tubing.

It turns out that 5/16 inch tubing (which is readily available) is 99.3% of 8 m.m., the nominal diameter of Volkswagen's fuel line o.e.m. spec.  In inches, .002 smaller.  This is a livable difference with good bell flares at the ends of the tubes.  The tubing is hard to bend--it's the same metallurgical spec. as o.e.m.  He will start in the engine compartment and work rearward, uncoiling the new tubing as he goes.  He needs to use a route adjacent to, but separate from, the old line.  That's because ripping out the old line, which is paired with the return line, would damage the latter (which itself is in good shape).  Finally, he needs to fabricate some stone shields where the new line may be exposed to road hazards.

The new tubing and flaring tool.  Hotshoe has sleeved the tubing with 18 short rubber hose "bumpers" to protect it
and clearance it where it makes bends and/or runs close to the chassis and the old tube.

Hotshoe has been practicing, and getting good at, bell flares.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Porsche 911 2.7 RS Video

Another fine Petrolicious video:


The 2.7 RS is often cited as the best model in the long history of air-cooled 911's, at least for normal road use.  There were faster ones (the Turbo), all-singing, all-dancing ones (the 959), but none apotheosized more than the 2.7.  It's the model I'd pick, if I could afford one.  (Stripe delete option, please.)

My experience has been that you are a 911 freak, or you aren't.  I've tried to explain my disease to Hotshoe, often past the point where he was interested.  And I'm not even a Porsche fanatic, at least in my own estimation.  The 911 is not necessarily, for me, the pinnacle of sports car design &c. &c. &c.  The '60's and '70's produced other iconic sports cars--more than their share.  And the most recent decade or so hasn't been too shabby either.

It comes down to "imprinting," I think.  The 911 made no great impression on me when first seen in the pages of Road & Track.  "Nicer than a 356," I thought, "but even more expensive."  Ed Cole had already done a rear-engine air-cooled flat six, albeit with pushrods, in the Corvair.  And 2.0 liters wasn't that much bigger than the 1.6 in the 356.  Not when Alfa's 1.6 had d.o.h.c. and Ferrari, Jaguar, and Corvette had 3.0, 3.8, and 5.4 liters respectively.  The 911 cost more than a base Corvette, as much as an XK-E.  At least Porsche finally had fully-articulated independent rear suspension...

But the first one I saw in the flesh, in the summer of 1965, stopped me in my tracks.  It was a black 911 coupe.  It's lopey idle signaled its 128 horsepower at high revs--almost 50% more than the 356 Super 90's.  At anything higher than 2000 revs, you heard the low-restriction exhaust and that aggressive-sounding cooling fan whir. "This is not your father's Porsche," I thought.  The 911 quickly established itself as the car to drive in the SCCA's C Production class (356's ran in D and E).  It could and did beat B Production Corvettes, especially on short courses or where braking and lack of fade was important.

And it looked terrific--lean and mean, but sophisticated--even better in the flesh than in pictures.  I fell in love.  Still am.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

09/14 Dragon Run: A Pass With Kamal

Kamal on his way to work (shooting pix for Killboy.com) in a slayer he built himself: a Gen. 5 Honda Civic CX.  He
 has not goosed the horsepower considerably, but he put a lot of forged parts into the engine when he rebuilt it.  So
it lives happily near the rev limit with the throttle floored for pass-after-9-mile-pass.  Sticky rubber on the widest,
lightest, wheels that will fit.  Upgraded suspension.  Wide beam driving lights for night passes.  The car weighs
under 2600 lbs., curbside, with Kamal in it.  In short, an ideal Dragon slayer.

I'm not a carsick passenger.  Not as a little kid.  Not in 3 laps around Nelsons Ledges in a Porsche 550 Spyder.  Not in laps beside a driving instructor in my own RX-7.  Not in a dozen Dragon passes beside Hotshoe in our cars at 7 or 8/10's in the past few years.

But I was getting ready to toss my dinner (eaten 3 hours before) riding beside Kamal on a Dragon pass. He took me from the south end to Shade Tree Corner and back--a little more than halfway.  Before Parsons Branch, my stomach was in trouble.  Luckily, he slowed up at the beginning of the return run to wait for a buddy who had been chasing us.  Then he went at 8/10's again for the last half of the return pass.  My stomach began to protest again.  I kept my dinner down, but was dizzy when I got out of the car.

My problem wasn't the side loads.  It was the rapid pace in change of direction on the switchbacks.
You know those little hairs in your inner ear that maintain your sense of balance?  Mine couldn't keep up with the car.  A hard pass on the Dragon has to be experienced to be believed.  Video doesn't do it justice.  But here's one anyway, from a time when Kamal was running a less aggressive wheel/tire package:


An 11-minute pass is "only" 20% faster than a 14-minute pass.  It's the pace through the bends and rate of direction change in a "built" slayer that's an order-of-magnitude above a normal, sporty, street car.

Kamal is very smooth.  Fast drivers always are.  The Dragon rewards smoothness even more than a road circuit does.  If you make a mistake in a corner, things get worse--quickly--in the next one, which is already right on top of you.  Kamal never left our lane.  It was a glorious ride, and I'd do it again. But I'd eat even earlier before the pass and make sure I wasn't already exhausted from a day's worth of my own passes.

Kamal's office: a proper steering wheel, shimmed for proper reach, a short-throw shifter, and metal pedal pads.

Kamal said "I take passengers at 8/10's--no harder.  For one thing, you're a passenger.  There's always the possibility of mechanical failure.  Or I could make a mistake.  It's best to keep a couple of 10ths in hand unless you're alone in the car.  Hard passes are why I'm OCD about maintenance, most of which I do myself, including frequent inspection of the undercarriage."

"No pictures, please!"  Kamal is camera-shy, but someone got him in his X2 natural habitat: on the Dragon, working on
a car.  His Civic has a trunkful of tools and he knows how to use them, up to and including engine rebuilds.

Before making (night-time) passes, some of us drove into Robbinsville for Mexican food (I stuck to iced tea).  The regulars who hang out at the Dragon are fast, competent, drivers, on four wheels or two.  I rode with Walter and wouldn't have dreamed of trying to keep up with them, even in a better car than my Mustang.  I don't know how this crew screens out the squids, but they do.  Maybe it's self-screening: the dinner run was very fast--not necessarily on the straights, but in the corners.  Three of the drivers were local, three from out-of-town.  The out-of-towners are on the Dragon frequently.  And it was in an interesting variety of cars:

Kamal's Civic

Killgurl's S-2000

Walter's S-2000 Club Racer Edition:  Walter runs four-season radials because he likes to slide a bit.  He also runs a completely stock car, on the theory that it's easier, more convenient, and more reliable to let Honda do the engineering for you.  Like me, Walter admires Honda beyond all reason.

Brian's BMW E-46 Coupe:  His daily driver is a stock E-46 sedan; he built  this car for track days.  Including a demon straight-6 with radical cams and special bearings, for which he claims over 400 h.p.  It's streetable, though.

Hayden's Mazda Miata: He just bought this car to turn it into a slayer.  His mods so far are a roll bar and lowered suspension.  Next (I'm guessing) wheels and tires.  Hayden's previous car was a Honda Fit that was as fast through the Dragon as some much more powerful cars--with him behind the wheel.

Hyundai Veloster 1.6 twin turbo: I didn't catch the name of this car's owner, but he had no trouble keeping up in an apparently stock car.

What this list establishes, I think, is that the nut behind the wheel is the key go-fast equipment for Dragon passes.  Or, as my club asks newbies at our Indoor Driving School, "If you had $500 to spend, would you put the money into the car or track time?"  The correct answer is quality learning time and experience behind the wheel.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

09/14 Dragon Run: Mustang, One And Done?

This was the first road trip for my Mustang: a bit under 1600 miles, including 400 miles to, from, and on the Tail of the Dragon.  I had reservations about the Mustang there: weight and size.  It turned out to be fun.

The steering feel improves closer to the limit and I enjoyed winding lock in and out on the switchbacks.   It's fun to use the torque in a rear-driver to rotate the car.  And it's a fine Lazy Man's Car: my passes were entirely in 2nd gear.  There's enough grunt at 2500 r.p.m. to pull strongly out of low speed corners.  And 2nd tops out a bit over 70 m.p.h.: plenty enough for the few short straights.  The Dragon is more enjoyable in a convertible, especially when you get held up.  Just relax and enjoy the scenery.

The downsides are what you might imagine: weight and suspension.  The car felt as heavy as it is.  After a couple of passes I no longer noticed nose-dive under braking.  But lack of agility and body roll are never far out-of-mind.  On southbound passes, in tight banked corners that quickly flattened into an uphill, I heard the limited-slip go "cht-cht-cht" as the clutches tried to make sense of the rapidly changing available grip.  That never happens in normal road use.  (And the Torsen l.s.d. in my Civic Si just locks up and goes until you back out of the gas.)

Surprisingly, the Mustang's large size was not off-putting.  I had no trouble keeping it in my lane and even hugging the white line to avoid the heavy oncoming traffic.  Again, props to the steering feel when lock is cranked in.  I wasn't pressing as hard as when I'm in the Si.  It did feel like all that weight could get away from me if I did.

The biggest disappointment was the Mustang as a road trip car.  To put it the other way, I've been taking the Si for granted.  The Mustang's ride is harsh and clunky, not firm and controlled like the Si's. (I would willingly put up with harshness if it delivered killer handling, but it doesn't.)  The harsh ride made the trunk spring squeak.  On Interstates the Mustang wanders if you don't hold it in-lane.  Take your eyes off the road for a few seconds in the Si, and it's still where you'd placed it when you look up again.  The 'Stang has found a white line on one side of the lane or the other.

The Mustang's ergonomics could be a lot better.  I've grown accustomed to the Si's digital speedometer display almost in your field of view as you look ahead.  The Si's tach is centered behind the steering wheel.  In the Mustang, you need to take your eyes off the road to read the speedo.  The Civic has good-sized door pockets and cubbyholes in the center stack.  You're never at a loss for places to put your sunglasses, camera, pen and pad, cigarettes, lighter, and coins.  The Mustang's driver door pocket is full when you've put sunglasses and tissues there.  The audio and ventilation controls consume the center stack, and you must take your eyes off the road longer and further to adjust them than in the Civic.  The Mustang's center stack bumps my right knee.  Maneuvering a CD into the changer past the radar detector power cord is near-impossible.  The power outlet in the Si is below the center stack and offset: no problem.  Most of these gripes are a result of Ford giving the Mustang a "retro look" dashboard (the styling of which I do like).

There isn't much to choose between noise levels, which is high in both cars.  In the Mustang, you get road and wind noise; in the Si, engine noise.  The seats in both are uncomfortable after several hours behind the wheel--but in different ways.  Nor is there much to choose between them in gas mileage: the Mustang gets 25-27 and the Si gets 28-30.  The Mustang's mileage is impressive for a 4.6 liter engine, and the lovely V-8 and excellent Tremec 5-speed behind it remain my favorite features of the car.

I'm glad I took the Mustang to the Dragon.  But the Si is more fun in hard passes.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Last Of The Pretty Ferrari Racing Sports Cars (330 P3/4)

Here's another excellent Petrolicious video:


The 330 is better, and more fondly, remembered in Europe than over here.  A TV profile of Eric Clapton touched on his love for Ferraris (of which he has owned several).  It included a quick-cut to a model of the 330 P3 that he'd built himself.  Alain de Cadenet did a nice segment on the Equipe Nationale Belge 330P4 in his video series Victory By Design.

Over here, we were cheering on the Ford GT 40--an American car that could beat Europe's best at their own game--LeMans.  It has always seemed to me that Enzo "heard the footsteps" of the 5-liter GT 40 in 1964.  That was why he punched his 12-cylinder engine out to 4.0 liters (the 1965 330 P2) and did a new, evolutionary chassis for 1966--the P3.

What Enzo hadn't counted on (and the merits of which were hotly debated within Ford) was the massive torque of the 7-liter GT 40 Mark II and its successor, the Mark IV.  They dominated LeMans in 1966 and 1967.  As for championships in the P3/P4 era, they split: Ford won in 1966 and Ferrari in 1967.

While I love the looks of both the 330 P3/4 and the GT 40, they do reflect different design approaches. To put it in football terms, the GT 40 Mark II is a fullback, bulling its way downfield; the 330 P3/4 is a wide receiver, running a finesse pattern.

Note: while the Jaguar and Aston Martin factory teams had retired from LeMans by 1960, it was not like Ferrari was "running unopposed."  Maserati and various semi-pro privateer teams contested, and, in those days of unreliable race cars, Porsche was always in with a chance to win if the big cars faltered.  Ford itself was not ready for prime time in 1964 and imploded in 1965.  So Ford's achievement remains impressive.  Under John Wyer, the GT 40 Mark I finally realized its potential.  Then, in 1970, Porsche bent the rules again with the 917K, as Ford had done with the Mark II five years earlier.  But for ten years running, the winning car at LeMans was a Ferrari or a Ford.

YEAR     WINNING CAR                           DRIVERS   
1960         Ferrari 250 TR                         Olivier Gendebien/Paul Frere
1961         Ferrari 250 TR-61                    Olivier Gendebien/Phil Hill
1962         Ferrari 330 TRI/LM              Olivier Gendebien/Phil Hill
1963         Ferrari 250 P                              Ludovico Scarfiotti/Lorenzo Bandini
1964         Ferrari 275 P                              Jean Guichet/Nino Vaccarella
1965         Ferrari 250 P                              Jochen Rindt/Masten Gregory
1966         Ford GT 40 Mark II                 Bruce McLaren/Chris Amon
1967         Ford GT 40 Mark IV                Dan Gurney/A. J. Foyt
1968         Ford GT 40 Mark I                   Pedro Rodriguez/Lucien Bianchi
1969         Ford GT 40 Mark I                   Jacky Ickx/Jackie Oliver
1970          Porsche 917K                              Hans Herrmann/Richard Attwood

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Random Thoughts On The 2014 Goodwood Revival

The live video stream on the internet was entertaining and well-directed and produced.  Here's a link to The Chicane Blog's posting of video highlights (09/15/14 post):


It was great fun to watch the suspensions working on Formula 1 cars from the 1950's.  Nose-dive under braking, squat on acceleration, roll in the corners, jumps over bumps.  Who knew that F-1 cars did that?  It was fun to watch Scarabs set the pace.  Apparently the restored Scarab F-1 cars run on alcohol, which their Offy engines were designed for.  This is exactly the reverse of their miserable performance in 1960, when the team couldn't get them to run properly on gasoline.

It was fun to see Jaguar Mark I sedans and Cobras counter-steered before apexes, as their drivers tossed them into corners.  The Brits race vintage cars harder than we do in the States.  Like American clubs, they have a No Contact rule.  But racing incidents are apparently dealt with after the flag falls. The racing was clean but hard, and "mistakes were made," as the passive form of the expression goes.

Jackie Stewart was the Honored Driver this year, and there was a parade of race cars he'd driven, led by him in his Tyrrell F-1 machine.  Jackie and Stirling Moss had some pictures taken together at the end of the parade.  John Surtees was on the grid with them, in the background, and I wish they'd invited him into the pictures too.  Moss and Stewart were pioneers in self-promotion, which is partly why their reputations remain evergreen.  And props to Stewart for using his reputation to promote racing safety. But Surtees was a better racing engineer than either and has more championships than both together, if you count motorcycles.  He deserves the honorific "Sir" in front of his name too.

This year the Jaguar D-Type was the Honored Car and there was a race for D-Types only, with a full field.  Stirling Moss did a Lap of Honor in a D-Type, and his wife Susie hovered over him like the National Treasure he is.  Moss will be 85 years old this week.  It was a fine thing to see him do a demo lap, even if Susie had to help him get out of the car.

In the race for GT cars 1960-1964, Derek Hill and the owner of a Maserati Tipo 151 came 2nd, behind a very fast FIA Cobra (after a late-race DNF by another one).  I was glad for Derek, who deserved a longer and better career pro racing career than he had.  I had completely forgotten about the Maserati Tipo 151, if I noticed it at all back then.  And it was a kind of Promoter's Option at Goodwood.  The Tipo 151 ran in the Experimental Class at LeMans in 1962, along with the Ferrari 330 TRI/LM's that beat it and several others.  This class had formerly been Sports Racing and soon would be Prototype.  So the Tipo 151 was not a GT like the Cobras, XK-E's, GTO's and SWB's.

Above: the Tipo 151 at the 2013 Goodwood Revival.  If the race number is the same as it was at LeMans in 1962, this
is the Bill Kimberly/Dr. Dick Thompson car, which was retired after an accident in 1962.  The other two Tipo 151's
also retired: the Walt Hansgen/Bruce McLaren car with engine failure and the Maurice Trintignant/Lucien Bianchi
car with suspension failure.  The Cunningham Tipo 151's went on to be equally unsuccessful in SCCA racing here in
the States.

Although the Tipo 151 looks like a Tipo 60/61 "Birdcage" with a roof, it had reverted to a much simpler tubular frame.
Maserati had also abandoned the large rear-engine spider concept of the also unsuccessful Tipo 63/64 V-12.  None
of these cars had the balance of the sweet-handling Tipo 61 with its smaller 4-cylinder engine.

Above and below: the office, and the engine bay, of the Tipo 151.  The engine was Maserati's old 4.5 liter V-8,
downsized to 4.0 liters.  The extra weight over the front wheels in a wheelbase not much, if any, longer than
the Birdcage's, likely contributed to the poor handling of the Tipo 151.  Three uncompetitive sports models
in a row (the 63/64 and the 151) spelled the end of Maserati.  Obviously, the handling of the restored car
at Goodwood has been sorted.  Well... as much as a 289 Cobra's, anyway.  ;-) 

Goodwood may be short (2.4 miles) but it's fast.  Here are some representative times from this weekend:

1:19's       110  m.p.h.     early (no wing) Can-Am cars
1:23's      104  m.p.h.     rear-engine Formula Junior
1:25's      102  m.p.h.     1950's Formula 1 cars
1:27's       99  m.p.h.      1960-64 GT's (Cobra, E-Type, Sting Ray, GTO's and SWB's)
1:32's       94  m.p.h.      1960's small-bore sports cars (Triumph TR-4, Porsche 911)
1:35's       91  m.p.h.       1950's sedans (Jaguar Mark I's)

If someone had offered to bet me that a rear-engine Formula Junior was faster around Goodwood than a 289 Cobra, I'd have taken that bet.  But it makes sense when you think about it: Goodwood is a fast, technical, course.  Momentum is key.  Once a Formula Junior gets up a head of steam out of the chicane, it can slice and dice those sweepers and dipsy-doodles.

Monday, September 15, 2014

British Car Show (2014): The Lotus Post

For 50 years, I've wanted a Lotus.  And for 20 years, more or less, I've been able to afford one.  I looked Elises over at the Chicago Auto Show in 2005.  And bought a Mustang instead.  More bang-for-the-buck, especially in the upper Midwest.  Ahh.... but if I lived in Knoxville, and it was a weekend toy...  In Fantasy World, I still want a Lotus.

Above and below: a tasty Elise.  The owner must have to be as careful about ramps with
his rear diffuser as supercar owners are about their front splitters.

This was one of the most interesting and puzzling cars at the show.  The display card listed it as a "Lotus 15
Custom".  Clearly it is not a fiberglass-bodied kit car: the body is aluminum, fastened in the same places
and in the same ways as the Lotus Elevens and 15's were.  There may be an engine transplant: I don't
recall a hole cut in the hood for induction on the original 15. 

Above and below: an original, street-spec, Lotus 7.  Go find one.  Most of the (rare) street-spec cars were long-ago
converted to race cars.  There was an even older one (1954, I think) at the BCS, with the original front suspension
made from a sawed-in-half-and-pivoted solid axle, but, fool that I am, I didn't get a picture of it.

The (English) Ford Cortina 105E engine that powered later street-spec Lotus Sevens.  This one has been
Cosworth-ized, with Weber carbs.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

FINE Dragon Pass

We interrupt pix posts of the British Car Show to bring you this Dragon pass.  Like the Mysterious Stranger in an old Western, he rode into town, made a pass, and left.  Who are you, "Stig-like Adonis?"  ;-)


The most intelligent Facebook comment I saw on this pass was "If someone is on your ass, then it's obvious that your ass is slow.  Please get over and out of the way."  And I say this as a maker of slow-assed passes, who has done exactly that.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

British Car Show (2014): Just Purdy And "Special Relationship"

Above and below: if there is a prettier modern GT than the Aston Martin, in A M green, I don't know what it is.

The "special relationship"--that is, sticking American V-8's into British sports cars--goes back almost as far as Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt.  Right after World War Two, Sidney Allard put a flathead Ford into his own chassis.  Other Brits did the same for another 20+ years.  Of course the most legendary transplant was done on this side of the pond: Carroll Shelby's Cobra.  Then Walter Hayes of Ford of Britain funded the development of the Costworth DFV Formula 1 engine for Colin Chapman's Lotus 49, and put cam covers on it that said FORD.

Above and below: a TVR with a small-block V-8 in it.  This one looks to be an aluminum Rover (formerly Buick), but
the Ford 289 was more common.

Above and below: a SuperFormance Ford GT 40.  On first, second, and even third glance, I
mistook this for an original GT 40, even after noting the Roush engine.  The interior looks
authentic, the badging is correct, and the build quality is outstanding.  It looks like a
restored GT 40 with a Roush replacing a blown racing engine.  Gorgeous car.

Above and below: of course we stopped in at our pal John Saccameno's S&S Specialties (restoration and racing prep
shop) on vendor row.  The big Healey was completed last spring and has been vintage racing this summer.  The Jag
XK-E in the foreground has "been in the shop forever, but the owner and I have agreed that it will be finished,
delivered, and final-billed by year-end."  The car is 85% finished.  The power train, paint, and most of the
interior are done.  But it still needs brakes, some glass, and a completed dash.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

British Car Show (2014): The Miscellaneous & Oddities Post

The British Car Show has become a regular event for me and Hotshoe.  It is like a cruise night, in that we see many of the same cars year after year.   But we almost always see something rare too.  The car count was very good this year, doubtless in part because of the superb weather.  There were about 20 "big" Healeys, 30 MGA's and MGB's, 40 Triumphs and Lotuses.

Even the parking lot is fun.  Besides this very nice Giulietta (vanity plate ALFA 61), we saw some interesting 'Vettes
and a Ferrari 430 in Fly Yellow.

Above and below: speaking of the parking lot, this was in it (not in the show)!  The engine is an S&S ("improved
Harley").  To my eye, it is the prettiest modern Morgan 3-wheeler I've seen: no silly graphics--nothin' but the car.
That is, if a Morgan three-wheeler is a car...

A row of Rolls.

At the other end of the spectrum, a Mini panel truck.  Not imported to the U.S. (as far as I know), and even more rare
than a Mini "woody".

A rare-ish Jag XK-140 MC.  The MC model featured the C-Type high-performance cylinder head, which raised the
horsepower from 190 to 210.  Either was a big number from a 3.4 liter six in the mid-1950's.

The first one I've seen with my own eyes: an MGA Twin Cam head.  Originally developed
for the 1.5 liter class at LeMans, it was later offered for sale in the MGA at a hefty price
premium.  It had a reputation for burning valves, leaking oil, and warping--which blew
head gaskets.  Other than that, it was fine.  ;-)  But based on my visual inspection of
this one, it also weighed 3X as much as the pushrod head.  In the 1950's, British
manufacturers persisted in the use of cast iron even for DOHC heads, after the
continental carmakers had graduated to aluminum.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

True That!

A lol picture, pulled from my club's corner workers' Facebook page.

Friday, September 5, 2014

James May's "Cars Of The People"

James doing what he does best: arched-eyebrow satire.  In this case the happy, pre-war Nazi family vacation in a
Strength-through-Joy (KdF)-wagen.  As May explains in detail, World War Two intervened and no KdF-wagens
were delivered to the volk who had saved up for them on the lay-away plan.

I've swooned before over the linguistic stylings of James May: All Hail James, Master Presenter!  (He has the assistance of some excellent co-writers and production teams.)

May's Cars of the People seems to be a 3-episode mini-series filling in for the suspended Top Gear.  I like to be educated, and even moved to thought, while being entertained.  If the show includes British satire and irony, so much the better.  My sister often holds up the BBC as an example of what television could be.  Cars of the People is the automotive example of her point.

The for-UK-consumption programs, available on the internet, are both better and longer that the editied-down ones now running on BBC America.  Here are the links to each hour-long episode (British version).

Episode 1: totalitarian cars of the people.  I should mention here that I owned a 1968 Fiat 124 sedan, and it was fun.  Way more fun than a Beetle (which I also owned), but not as much fun as a Mini (ditto). That's what state-of-the-art suspension and an Italian power train will do for you.


Episode 2 is brilliant about my special weakness: the French generally, and the Citroen 2CV in particular.  Viewer Advisory: brief scenes of the customary Top Gear mayhem appear.


Episode 3 is about "aspirational" cars, like the Lamborghini Countach and the Porsche 911 Turbo.  My teenaged son had a Countach poster on his bedroom wall, along with one of Farrah Fawcett.  May demonstrates the lethality of the 911 Turbo in the hands of amateurs.  The Traveling Salesman Race is one of the funniest Top Gear-style bits I've seen.  Probably because I used to work with traveling salesmen and have an appreciation for the indignities they suffer.  This episode is marred only by a lame ending.


Let's have more automotive history from James May!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wanted: Semi-Stickies

Above: Michelin Pilot Super Sports off the truck; below: on the Bullitt.  Watchtower likes the "less mud-grippy" look
of the shoulders.  So do I.  The contact patch looks good too.

A recent post mentioned that some of the Killboy crew run fairly exotic tires and suspensions.  Kamal says the suspension on his Civic Si is so stiff that he doesn't enjoy it much except on the Dragon.  Some run near-slick stickies just this side of DOT-legal.  My crew isn't that hard-core.  But Dragon passes have left us somewhat dissatisfied with our all-season tires.

Hotshoe's new Focus ST came with summer-only Goodyear Eagle F1's as o.e. tires.  In northern climes, if the car is your daily driver, that means buying an extra set of rims with winter tires, which he did.  He also raved about the grip of his F1's.  "Whatever," thought I, until last spring when I got into a Dragon bend a bit too hot in his car.  I cranked in some more lock, and the ST took a tighter line.  My Civic Si, with all-season tires, would have washed out into terminal understeer.  "I gotta get me a set of these," I thought.

Watchtower beat me to it.  His Bullitt was factory-equipped with the same, sad, Goodrich all-seasons that are on my Mustang.  (Why would Ford do that?)  But now it wears Michelin Pilot Super Sports.    He drives this car very little in the winter, so an extra set of rims and tires are not necessary.  Here's his report on his new shoes:

     "I got down the road maybe a mile or two and the heavens opened up.  I managed a 'skidpad'
     test in a deserted parking lot, in a deluge of now-Biblical proportions.  When the front end
     started plowing, I stepped on it and got the rear end to swing out.  Seemed manageable at the
     limit.  After that I tried some tight curves in a deserted Interstate rest area.  The traction is mind-
     blowing.  It feels like the PSS's grip better in the wet than the old Goodriches did in the dry.
     "These tires seem just as quiet as the old ones and might even ride a little softer.  I can live with
     them from an every-day practical point of view.  As for steering feel, they give more feedback,
     especially when you get up around 8/10's."

Well... that settles it: lots of upside and no downside.  I'll get a set of summer-only tires, so I won't be outgunned on the Dragon by Hotshoe and Watchtower.  You could make an argument (and I do) that semi-stickies also provide an extra margin of active safety in evasive maneuvers.  The o.e.m. wheels and tires for my Civic Si are still in the garage for winter use.  When my current tires are worn, the OZ wheels will wear semi-stickies.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Purdy Car, Historical Reference

I don't need much of an excuse to post pictures of the lovely Aston Martin DB3S with recognition blazes (that is, differently colored stripes around the radiator intake and on the front fender flares).  The point of the blazes was to make the individual identity of team cars more clear to people scoring laps from the pits in those pre-transponder days.  In this case, my excuse is a current racing Aston with a referential paint scheme.

Aston Martin Vantage, run by TRG in the Tudor Sports Car Series, 2014.  Let us overlook the flat black paint and the
competition number.  James Bond drove a DB 5 because it made him cool, not the other way 'round.  Mr. Bond
would look just as cool in just about any Aston Martin made in the past 60+ years.

A DB3S with its original, traditional, grille shape and the older Aston shade of British Racing Green; this one with red
"recognition blazes."

DB3S 009 and 010 with the later (ugly) front end: faired-in headlights and a flat, lower, radiator intake.  These cars are
also in the later, lighter, shade of British Racing Green made famous by the much more successful DBR1 race car.

Stirling Moss in the DB3S at Sliverstone.  Pictures like this were the iconic representations of speed, sophistication,
and fun to me in my youth.