Cars & Coffee in Morrisville, NC

Something about a Cars & Coffee meet pulls some of the most amazing vehicles out of their hiding places and displays them in such a way as to thrill the folks that attend.

This past Saturday brought literally thousands of cars out of their garages and barns to be gazed upon by the public.

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It was early, just a bit after seven in the morning, but they were streaming into the parking lots.

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I won’t be able to show you all of them, but I’ve picked out some interesting cars that made up one of the most attended C&C ever.

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Above is a Suzuki Samurai that was pristine.

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The Del Sol above was a work in progress, but deserved to be admired.

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The variety was amazing.

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The Ford GT

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The police were there as well..

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Above is a retired police car

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above is another retired veteran

The Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor is now a collector car with a devoted following…

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White is a popular color these days

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Above is a Mitsubishi Eclipse GST.  Wonderful condition.

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Plenty of vintage air-cooled

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The weather was beautiful  and the dogs loved the cars as much as the humans.

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The legendary Grand National

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Even with square headlights it is a great Jeep.

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How about a TVR?

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A TR6!

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Above is an early Pontiac GTO

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Every parking lot in the area was filled to capacity and the crowds just wandered from one to another with their mouths agape.

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It’s a car and a motor boat!

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a great looking VW bus

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Small, but fun – the new Mini

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Almost as petite as a Smart Car.

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The Mitsubishi Evolution IX is a rare beast that was only manufactured one year.  Its prices are climbing.

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NSX right hand drive

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Next month there will be even more!!

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Posted in Cars | 1 Comment

Muscle Car Memories

An interesting gentleman came by the shop to get some work done on his ten year old Mustang and while he was there he and I had a chance to talk.  He and I went to the waiting room where I had shown him some of the photos on the walls of some of the cars that I’ve had as track cars and then he pulled out his phone to show me a shot of an old Polaroid (before there were digital phone cameras) of a 1971 Pontiac hot rod he had once owned.  I looked at it and guessed that it was a GTO or a Judge.  Nope, a LeMans, he said.  “Let me tell you the story behind it,” he said.

He explained that he had worked while he was going to high school and not only earned a good amount, but he saved it so that he could buy the car of his dreams by the time he graduated from high school.  He had a used Cutlass with a smaller V8 with a two barreled carburetor that needed far too much to turn it into a muscle car.  He came across a classified add (the days before craigslist) of a draftee who was going to be sent to Vietnam and was selling his 1958 Corvette that he had transplanted a 327 cubic inch V8 into.  He wanted $1400 for it, so he and his father went over to take a look at the car.  The owner let him take it for a test drive and he fell in love with it.  It was everything he was looking for.  It was light, fast, and had great look.  He told the guy that he would buy it and gave him a check for $100 and told him that he would return the next day with a check for the balance and they could go to the DMV and transfer ownership,  They shook hands and he could hardly wait until the next day.

He drove over to they guy’s place and there was no Corvette to be seen.  The young soldier was standing with his check in his hand and explained that after he had left someone came and offered him much more for the car so he sold it.  Our high school graduate was not happy and went away quite angry.  A day or two later he dropped by the local Pontiac dealership.  As he got out of his car a salesman who was leaning against the building smoking a cigarette (typical back in those days) said hello and asked him what he could help him with.

“I want to buy a car.”

When the sales guy asked him what specifically he was looking for he told him he wanted a GTO.  The salesman shook his head and said that while they had two on the lot he could sell him,  that he shouldn’t buy one.  At his age the insurance company would charge him big bucks for the auto insurance.  “But,” he said, “you can buy a Pontiac LeMans and you and I will go through the order sheet with you and we can get every option you would have if you bought a GTO, yet all the insurance company will see is that it is a LeMans and your insurance will be something that you can afford.  As they picked out the big engine, the heavy duty clutch, the big rear end, the Hurst shifted four speed, etc. the dealership owner happened by and looked over their shoulders.  When he saw what options were being ordered he told the young man that since he knew his father he was going to give him a call.  His father was only a block or so away and was soon over at the dealership to see what his son was ordering.  His father shook his head in disbelief, but said that he wouldn’t stop him.  At least he would have more than a fiberglass body surrounding him.  When his new car arrived at the dealership it was a true muscle car and he promptly brought it to the local hot rod garage and had it enhanced even more.  It was a blast and his LeMans surprised many a Corvette with its power and acceleration.  But by 1974 America went through its first gas crisis and gasoline went from twenty-five cents a gallon to well over a dollar more in price.  Suddenly his gas guzzling muscle car was bleeding his wallet dry so he put it up for sale as many muscle car owners of the time did.

He wished he had been able to keep the LeMans, but time went on and many years later he was visiting with his father in his final weeks battling cancer.  His father said that he had something important to tell him.  He said that the reason the Vietnam bound soldier didn’t have the Corvette when his son went back for it, was that he had bought it out from under him the afternoon before.  His father had been so afraid that his son would end up killing himself in the fiberglass rocket of a sports car that he offered hundreds of dollars more for it and then sold it again so his son wouldn’t end up dead.  When he saw his son was buying another performance car he gave up and felt that at least he might be protected by a metal bodied muscle car.

It is tough being a parent.

Posted in Cars | 7 Comments

Just How Smoky are Those Mountains?

While enduring the isolation of COVID 19 we found a bright spot coming into our future and it was perpetrated by Classic Motorsports magazine.  Starting the Sunday of the Memorial Day weekend was this year’s Smoky Mountain Tour.  We applied for the event and waited impatiently for the Sunday to arrive when we would drive our Mitsubishi Evolution MR SE the 200+ miles to the Brasstown Valley Resort where it would commence on Monday, May31. The resort was a picturesque place tucked into the northwest portion of Georgia not far from the North Carolina border.

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It has its own golf course, riding stables and…

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friendly interiors.

A co-sponsor fo the event was Hagerty, the specialty car insurance people.  Their Territory Manager, Stephen Carey, was there and not only answered our questions on what Hagerty might do for us, but was a charming addition to the 50+ people on the tour.

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Tim Suddard, the magazine’s publisher was participating in the tour as well as Nancy Gomes, who ensured that everything went as planned and when a plan “B” was required, it fell into place as naturally as if it had been plan “A”.

Chris Tropea was the official photographer of the event and we often came around a corner to see that he had us in his viewfinder.  FB has a group for Classic Motorsports Road Tours that Chris is in charge of with hundreds of photos.

There were many different people that was part of the group and they also brought with them many different cars.

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Ron and Jerri brought their Smart ForTwo Cabriolet that was surprisingly agile in the twisties!

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Jim and Kathy had the 2007 Porsche 911, Andy and Pat had the 1969 Jaguar XKE FHC, Lony and Carla brought this Ferrari 328 GTS

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Terry and Cathy brought this exceptional 1967 Porsche 912, one of the most well balanced Porsches ever

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Next to the Mini Cooper is Steve and Debbiy’s 1989 Alfa Romeo Spider

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Ed and Rosie brought this very capable 2004 Mustang SVT Cobra

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Tony had his2009 Mini Cooper S JCW, Reg and Charlotte with their 2019 Porsche 911 Targa 4s, Tim and Teri had their 2019 Ferrari Portofino, and Tom and Tina with their 2002 Ford Thunderbird

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Vince and Angela brought their awesome 2015 Porsche 911 GT3

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Richard and Rosemary had this 2017 Ford Focus RS whose rally heritage was welcome

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John and Lolly had this 2018 Porsche Macan GTS

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Doug and Bea had their 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S

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Dwayne and Brenda 2017 Mercedes AMG C63 S was another power house car.

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David and Marilyn had this 2019 Morgan Roadster

Mike and Lucy brought a gorgeous 1966 chocolate brown 1966 Mercedes-Benz 230SL that I failed to photograph!  Trust me, it was beautiful.

Hopefully I haven’t left anyone out, but there was quite a group of drivers, co-drivers, and their cars.

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Our first day of road tour adventure was to drive to Atlanta Motorsports Park in Dawsonville, GA.  To get there we had a route book which provided us a navigation rally experience as we followed the directions and enjoyed the twisty road that we traversed.  The Atlanta Motorsports Park is quite the place and we were able to do some parade laps on their highly technical two-mile road course that was designed by F1 architect Hermann Tilke.  It reminded me of the squirrely roads I drove growing up on old Cape Cod.  It was fun and I just wished that I could return some day with racing gear on.

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Here is a drifting track where we were entertained by the tire smoke and the noise.

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We then left the AMP facility and headed for Helen, GA, for a German restaurant and lunch.  Wow.

After that we headed for a picturesque place called Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia, at 4,784 feet.

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Spectacular views that this photo does not due justice to.

Then there were more twisty roads to return us to the resort and our dinner at nearby Crane Creek Vineyards before crashing (in our beds) for the night.

Day two was following our route book to the famous Tail of the Dragon.  Famed for 318 turns in an 11 mile stretch of route 129 that crosses Tennessee and North Carolina.

Lunch was held at the Historic Tapoco Lodge which was alongside the Cheoah River.  The food was great as were the sights.  Then it was a little less than a hundred miles of more twisites that returned us to the resort.  We were rewarded by another fantastic dinner.

Day three had us navigating over 100 miles of wonderful roads with some very challenging.  We had a great lunch at a sandwich shop just next to the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, NC.

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What an amazing place!  While primarily a motorcycle museum it was nonetheless fascinating to us four wheelers.  The host knew and could share so much with us about so many facets of motorcycle history in the US>

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It was nearly 130 miles of more fun roads to drive and we returned to the resort and we found our own favorite eating place of which there were plenty in the area.

We woke up Thursday to our final day of the tour and after a fine breakfast at the resort we navigated our way to the Miles Through Time Museum in Clarkesville, GA.

It is a co-op museum which means that the exhibits rotate through with many different owners of the cars and memorabilia.

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From there we were off on several more miles of twisty roads until we reached the Wolf Mountain Winery.  This was not just a lunch stop, we also received a personal tour presented by the owner of the winery of some of his fantastic Porsche collection.

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What a special place and we had plenty to talk about during lunch!

We then headed off to return to the resort with a final 70 miles or so of our now familiar twisty roads.

That night we had our fare well dinner where we thanked our hosts and reveled in our new found friendships!

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When we awoke the next day there was a mix of feelings as, after breakfast, we gathered our bags and prepared for the road trip back home.

Many great memories…

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We can always sign up for next year’s road tour!

Posted in Cars | 2 Comments

Visiting an Old Friend and Making a New One

A few years back I shared my experiences turning a 1996 Miata M Edition into a track purposed car.  for me it was a great and fun journey being able to do things “my way” and just focusing on the build using what I had learned from both my track experiences and the many Miata’s that I had worked on.   In the end I had a fun car to drive on the street and discovered that with a proper helmet on I just didn’t fit the car.  Not that I couldn’t get my self into the seat and belt up, I just ended up with my helmet jammed into the hard top and compressing my neck vertebra.  I suppose I could have reengineered the seating but by that point I felt it better ot find a buyer of a stature where there would be no such problem and then I would move on to something else.

I was fortunate to find another track person who was looking for a car that would allow him to learn ever more on track.  He was also of smaller stature so that my problem was not his.  He came and looked the car over, took it for a test drive and we settled on a price that we could both live with.  While I kept in touch with him from time to time we didn’t see each other all that much.  Later he let me know that because of a knee problem he was putting it up for sale. 

For quite a while I heard nothing of the outcome and in the back of my mind I kept telling myself to contact him to just find out who the new owner was.

After a few years I found out that the car and the new owner was making an appearance at the shop (Automotive Performance & Chassis) to tweak the alignment, have a pre-track inspection, and a corner balance done.

By the time I got to the shop the car and its owner were done and gone.  I had to satisfy my curiosity with talking to the techs and finding out that the car looked great and that the owner was a very nice guy.

A bit later I got the owner’s contact info and sent him an email inviting him to drop by my house so I could take a look at the car and meet him.

We found a day and afternoon that worked for the both of us and I smiled as the satin black Miata pulled into my driveway.  Andrew was a very nice guy indeed and we hit it off talking all about the car and what he had done and how he envisioned it evolving over time.

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The first thing I noticed when he popped the hood was the engine.  He had another block rebuilt and a very nice job was done.  It ended up with a higher compression (11:1) which turned it into a leak-free responsive four cylinder engine.  He retained the light flywheel and heavy duty clutch along with the header and exhaust system (which he liked).  He did some nice things to ensure that it would not be an oil burner (my old engine did receive all new seals and timing belts, but I knew it really deserved a proper rebuild.  He changed the air intake so that it captured cooler air in front of the radiator and was a little more isolated from the engine compartment heat.

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He said that he loved the brakes and added a bias valve as well as  support for the front of the master cylinder.  All very nice.

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He had also removed the Hard Dog side door bars and changed out to a pair of seats that could be lowered down far more than I had done.  It was a very smart move and one that I probably should have considered. 

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He was continuing to work on the interior.  He swapped out the hub release on the Momo steering wheel for a much easier or should I say one with a more natural way of connecting and disconnecting.  He also changed the transmission to a six speed!  That was a very nice change.  He is still working on gauges and finding ways to simplify and clean up the dash structure.  While I had retained the heater and such he now knows that he can easily live without all that and will be removing it soon. 

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Due to time much of the suspension’s joints and bushings needed to be replaced and updated.  So while he was in there he swapped to a NB front subframe which allowed for a bit more enhanced suspension along with the rebuild.  He got higher rated springs for the Flyn’ Miata coil-overs and expects to upgrade those to something even more track appropriate soon.  Andrew is not only  “track rat” , but an instructor as well. 

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Next thing I knew Andrew was asking me if I wanted to take it for a spin.  Grinning I could not say no.  He was anxious for someone else to experience the results of his efforts and I was the lucky  one.  I got in and it was marvelous!  We drove to an abandoned mall where there was a lot of open parking lot available to safely put it through some paces.  It was such a treat.

Andrew and I enjoyed talking cars and he has some wonderful plans to further increase the fun and performance factor of the Miata.  It was such a treat to meet him and see the car again.  When you sell a car anything can happen and usually does.  Some times for the better and sometimes it just ends up bad.  But certainly not this one.  I could not be happier.

We spent well over an hour talking and exploring the black beast.  It is such a fun car and Andrew is the perfect owner. We had a great meeting and I expect it will not be the last.

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How About a Nice $400,000 Westfalia?

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Transporter Werks out of Dunn, NC has this fantastic project they are working on.  It is a Westfalia Syncro, which means that it is based on the VW AWD transporter.  It is a completely rebuilt and customized version of the very capable van.

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While it is not yet complete you can get a very good idea of just what an amazing camping/go anywhere vehicle this will be once it is completed.

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It is powered by a more than adequate Subaru engine and has a suspension to die for.

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The interior is hand stitched leather customized by a talented specialist.

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This will not just be some kind of show car trailer queen either, the owner is going to use it for lots of off road travel, explorations and camping.

Good show!

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Does This Car Regulation Make Me Look Alike?

Every automotive brand has their own distinctive look, or at least they used to.  Get out on the highway and quickly scan the cars around you.  For one thing, SUV’s predominate.  Be they crossovers, full fledged Sport Utility Vehicles, or the styles in-between, they have pushed out sedans, roadsters,  coupes, and most every car type with the exception of pickup trucks, which also abound.

Wait a minute, you say, they all have their individual style and brand identity, don’t they?

Yes, and no.  Certainly each brand has their own distinctive grill, right?  Hmm.  Not so much any longer. Taillight and rear gate treatments may not be exact copies, but the similarities are profound.

Why would that be?  Isn’t it a marketing advantage to have your brand retain its own distinctive look?

Maybe.  Or perhaps if your brand’s price range makes it more available to a larger segment of the car buying population it might be to your advantage to imitate the looks of a brand that denotes wealth and luxury?

Another factor is the multitude of automotive design regulations that permeate the industry.  The EU has its requirements as does the US.  Other countries end up adopting by default.  Just consider the multitude of US regulations that exist to minimize your chances of death or injury should you and your vehicle exceed the laws of physics.  Mandatory crash (from various angles) and roll-over standards.  SRS (air bags) technology that permeates the interiors of our vehicles.  Cars have to have crumple zones.  Areas of the body and unibody that will crumple in order to enhance energy loss before it gets to the cabin area.  The location of fuel tanks to prevent the fire balls of the Ford Pinto era.  Stability control that is mandatory now.  It monitors your drive train for things such as wheelspin and the dangers of the overproduction of torque.  Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) communication between your tires and the car’s computer(s ) to ensure that you don’t drive on soft tires.  Sensors on the front and rear to alert you to the proximity of objects (perhaps even other vehicles) front or rear.  And often other monitors to detect traffic that might be hanging in your blind spot, or, since these SUV-types tend to be tall, anything close to the perimeter of your vehicle.  Need I mention seat belts, ABS, and on and on?

So what does all this have to do with how your vehicle looks?  Everything.

If your image of a modern automotive design department is artists and engineers sitting at drafting tables and sketching boards along with large clay models of the next generation coming to your neighborhood dealership, forget it.  It is now the 21st Century, and while we may not have flying cars, the world of computer and design and rendering software pervades the industry.  For good reason.  Or at least understandable reasons.  With the leveraging of computer graphics and software in design there is a short and efficient path to production.  Keep in mind that automotive production is no longer a car company producing every piece of the vehicle with the exception of the nuts and bolts.  The vast majority of automotive components are produced by vendors and companies that specialize in production for many automotive manufacturers.  So it makes sense that common CAD/CAM (computer aided design/computer aided manufacturing) software is used across the industry.

So when a design of a future vehicle is planned there may be some preliminary sketches that are turned into three dimensional computer renderings to evaluate a look, but once the CAD software is loaded with all the mandatory demands of governmental regulations the designs quickly lose any look of brand individuality.  Remember that this software also produces what the vendors need to produce parts that will fit as if they were made by a single automotive company.  And they do this for most automotive companies out there.

So with automotive companies all pretty much using the same design software and certainly the same parameters necessary to comply with the multitude of governmental mandates why wouldn’t you expect the end products to lack much individuality?

We also see companies such as Toyota and Subaru, Ford and Mazda, Fiat and Mazda, and others colluding on designs that will be marketed as their own brands.

Between 1896 and 1930 there were somewhere around 1800 different brands of car manufacturers in the United States.  By the close of the Great Depression there were eight.  Today There are three, if you count Chrysler as an American company.

When government mandates for the elimination of internal combustion vehicles come about in the next few years there will be a further decline in the “brand look”, if there is any at all.

Future generations will gape at the kinds of cars that were produced back in the ancient days of the mid-twentieth century, and wonder.

Will they wonder why there is no longer any individual brand look, or will they distain the diversity?

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One KEWL chic

3 year old driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 with 320hp MUST SEE! – YouTube

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Scrunch! The Sound of Your Front Lip Scraping.

If you have lowered your street car or have a car that you drive to the track for track day events it is likely that you’ve experienced the down side of getting your car closer to the ground.  All of the sudden driveway ramps become a challenge to go up or down without removing paint and the bottom edge of your front lip.  We all know that it helps to keep fast moving air from underneath your car and we see how the professional race series have altered their cars so that they barely miss touching the race track surface, but that does not translate well to the unforgiving aspects of the road surface we find on the street.

Even with a modest lowering of your car you can still discover that it results in damage.  My 2006 Evo IX MR has gone from stock springs from Mitsubishi, to Swift Spec R springs which provide better performance and a lower stance without going crazy.  But with public roads it is crazy enough that it has seen how quickly an even carefully navigated driveway ramp can leave scars.

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While I don’t want to drive around looking like a jacked up SUV, I knew I could not continue to damage my body work.  I had seen a product called SlipLo advertised, but frankly, it was an expensive solution.  When I saw that they had a Black Friday sale that just about cut the price by 50% I was in. 

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I ordered a kit and then went through the directions (now how many of you do that?).

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It came with the protective pieces and a chemical primer to ensure even more effective adhesion.

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The next step was to get the car up in the air so I could work on the bottom of the front lip.

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As directed I fitted each section ahead of time and made certain that it would be mounted so as to not block any mounting holes, screw, etc.

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Then I marked the strip’s placement as directed and cut the strips shorter so that I only had as much no mount as I needed.

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On one section There was a place where I needed to cut some of the tips off because the actual bumper cover’s lip was narrow and I had to accommodate where the under-tray connected to the bumper cover.

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Once I knew placement and had trimmed the pieces that I was going to use I cleaned every surface that would be getting the strips with isopropyl  alcohol, dried the area with a paper tower, and then used the adhesive promoter that came with the kit.  I had to use nitrile gloves to protect my skin doing the last part.

Then I put the pieces in place.

I let everything cure and went out for a drive knowing that if I came to a situation that I was likely to scrape the lip, I would not be cringing because I now had to fix things.

I liked how this installation went and I expect I will feel much better the next time I have an unavoidable scrape.

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Studebaker on the Side of the Road

We were traveling back from the “Claw of the Dragon and went through a small North Carolina town when we spotted this store that was no longer in business.

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Off to the right you can see there are some old vehicles parked and sitting there waiting for someone to notice them.

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In a shed to the left of the building there was this International Scout.

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Just beyond the parked cars was this Dodge Dart with weeds and plants growing around it.

But these two were not the cars that got our attention.  Instead it was the three Studebakers lined up and waiting for their owner.

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Here are some other views:

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A pair of Studebaker Cruisers.

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We hope that some day the right person will drive by and see their way to preserve these vehicles. 

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What a Great Day for Cars & Coffee!

It was fantastic day to go to a Saturday morning Cars & Coffee here in the middle of North Carolina.  The weather was beautiful with cool breezes and partly cloudy skies.  Hundreds of cars and more than a thousand people viewing the cars.

There were the new mid-engine Corvettes, the hot Shelby Mustangs and many Subaru’s and BMWs.   I know that you have probably seen many of these so I’ve picked out some that really caught my attention.

The Porsche Panamera has been around for a few years, but here was a black one that was a GTS:

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It was very pretty in black, which is not an easy color to keep looking nice.

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There were other Porsches that caught my eye including this early Carrera.

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Now what do you think about this whale tail Porsche?

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Do any of you remember the first International Race of Champions?  This was the first car used for the IROC series.

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The next car I spotted was this Morris…

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The special part about this one was that it is a woodie wagon.

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The next car that caught my eye was a Lotus Elise.  We saw a lot of Lotus cars several years ago, but much has changed and Lotus has just about disappeared from these shores.

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This Elise was a very nice example.

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The Civic Type R was the hot hatch that handled far better than any front wheel drive car prior to it.

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It really performed as good as it looked.

Let’s drift back in time a bit and experience one of the most beautiful cars ever – the E-type Jaguar!

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This example was the straight six that pulled like a V8.

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What gorgeous lines!

Next to it was this grey Ferrari…

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Who remembers the Mitsubishi 300GT VR4?  This one was a primo example:

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I Japan they were known as the GTO, but someone in the US (Pontiac) already had dibs on that name.

Now how about this example of the 3000 GT’s cousin, the Dodge Stealth?

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It was amazing to see the pair within a couple of parking spaces of one another.

Now, how about this classic VW Rabbit?

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I loved the rear window sticker on the first photo.

How many of you have seen a Panoz?

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Those of you that have a soft spot for the VW’s cousin Porsche, need to feast your eyes on this early example.

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Let your eyes take in this example of what gave BMW its name and reputation – the 2002.  This one is a 1973.

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What could be better than the original Mini Cooper!

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Yes, right hand drive, too!

Finally, this Corvette Rat Rod!

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Have a great weekend and go find a Cars & Coffee near you!

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