PRI 2015–more cars

In our last post there were celebrities of the human kind and many of the four-wheeled kind.  Plenty to view, but there were more, much more.

Here are some for the Chevy fans out there:

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Putting cars on their sides to view has become very popular at these shows.

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The perspective above shows off many of the performance suspension features of the new Corvette.

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…and the Camaro

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How about a classic Camaro?

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With a modern twist…

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The folks at Optima batteries had various race cars on display…

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This truck had been at the VIR races earlier this year.

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and this Chump car was at VIR, too

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Ford was well represented.

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Another car on its side.

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Remember the Capri?

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One of the big stars of the show was the new Ford GT.  I first saw the new Ford GT at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit early this year, but this is the LeMans race car in full race trim.  There will be changes before the 2016 Le Mans race, but this give you a good idea of some of the features on this amazing race car…

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PRI 2015 was held in Indianapolis, Indiana, so the home of the Indy 500 showed off many examples of the race cars as well as the Borg Warner trophy.

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Ed Carpenter’s team car…

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Every year some company comes out with a new exotic track car and here is the one introduced at this year’s show:

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So reach into your pocket for about $150,000 and get ready for an exciting track day.

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I hope that you’ve enjoyed this view of the show.  Unlike SEMA it is only for racing industry folks so this is your exclusive peek. :-)

Posted in Automobiles, Car Shows, Car Stuff, Cars, Racing, Rally Cars, Road Racing, Road Trips, Sports Cars | Tagged | 1 Comment

PRI 2015–Celebs

PRI may be over, but it is not forgotten by a long shot.  This racing industry show gave many thousands the chance to see and talk to many critical vendors that support the sport.  In addition there were many celebrities there to talk to the attendees and share their perspectives on this world-wide industry.

The first morning’s breakfast had Dave Despain’s commentary on the industry as well as a lively interview with Brad Keselowski.

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Over the rest of the days there were seminars on Land Speed Racing with Louise Ann Noeth of Land Speed Productions, Derek Daly speaking on how to position your self for success, and EricTheCarGuy talking on how he has become a YouTube phenomenon and what that can mean for racing entrepreneurs.

There were many others as I walked about the show floor:

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John Force, multi-championship funny car driver.

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Indy’s own Borg Warner trophy.

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Lynn St. James later put in an appearance at the Sportscar Vintage Racing Booth.

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World-wide TV coverage.

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REVTV had coverage as well.

Plenty of stars were there on the people side of things, but perhaps the most exciting celebrities for the folks that attended PRI 2015 were the cars:

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How about a Mustang body? That weighs only 115 pounds!

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And who doesn’t smile to see a vintage air-cooled VW racer…

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There were drag cars, too.

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I just love the supercharger butterflies on this…

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From cages…

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To rally cars…

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Some wilder cars, or trucks…

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Tractors, too…

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Some land speed record cars:

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This will be continued in the next entry….

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PRI 2015–taking a Brake

Performance and racing is often all about power.  Achieving the most horsepower and torque you can and pulling away from your competition. Then come the corners and physics insists that you don’t ignore its properties or off you go. 

To help with that you need a set of high performance brakes.  Some classifications of racing allow you a great deal of latitude and many of today’s performance cars come with performance brake upgrades that rival what were exclusive to race cars less than a decade ago.

PRI has a lot of floor space dedicated to the competitor and enthusiast who need more brake options and many of the top brands are represented this year.  Here are but a few.

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Stainless Steel Brakes started out years ago with a unique solution to Corvette calipers rusting and jamming.  Today their product line is vast and wide.

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Baer is a brand associated with muscle car upgrades and resto-mods.

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Stop-Tech has an excellent reputation in the aftermarket world for high performance alternatives to stock brake components and fluids.

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Power Stop is another similar supplier.

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They are offering brake kits through a range of hot rod and replacement suppliers.

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Wilwood is a supplier many race and track day folks turn to for their upgrades.

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Brembo is one of the premiere suppliers of performance brake solutions to race teams, OEM automobile manufacturers, as well as aftermarket upgrades.

This year the Brembo folks have made themselves very open and friendly to the enthusiasts that come to PRI helping them understand the product line and the applications that are available to enhance the racer’s needs.

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Another high end brake supplier is Alcon.  There is at least one F1 team that uses their brake technology as well as the Bentley Car Company.

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…and clutches, too.

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A popular track alternative to OEM brake pads is Hawk.

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…and Motul as a brake fluid upgrade.

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Lest we forget the tubing and lines that is the transport layer of brake fluid.

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Finally there was Ultra-Lite brakes, a relatively new vendor that supplies a lot of titanium hardware and other components at reasonable prices.

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No doubt I missed one or two, but the above represent many of the supplier choices that came to PRI 2015 to show off their products.

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PRI 2015 in Indianapolis

Its December and time for a flight to Indy to see the largest racing industry show on the planet.  PRI (Performance Racing Industry) is all about the racing world and the myriad of companies that support it with parts, services, and technology.

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A couple of years ago it was purchased by the folks at SEMA and since that time Indianapolis has become its home in December.

There are thousands of people here and nearly a million square feet of space for exhibitors to show off their wares.

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But before all that begins the folks that run PRI have a breakfast for the attendees with some entertainment and some interesting interviews.  Yesterday’s breakfast featured some country singing and yodeling from a Texas girl followed with some comments from Dave Despain.

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Dave also interviewed Brad Keselowski, the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion and 2010 NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion.

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With the festivities complete the crowd moved to the show floor area where major and minor brands had their exhibits for all to see.

PRI is only open to racing folks, unlike the big SEMA show in Las Vegas, but if you are serious about racing then you should put this on your calendar.

So what is it like?  Lets take a look at the many vendors…

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One of the most fascinating areas of the show is known as machinery row.  This area is packed with fabricating machines, welding machines, and huge five axis milling machines along with smaller providers of machine tools and cleaning supplies.

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the Lincoln welding display showed a welder that does, both TIG and MIG off the same machine with automatic adjustment for type of metal and thickness.

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It’s a fascinating area to wander around in as I mingled with the crowds, and there are plenty of crowds.

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PRI is easy to find your way around in and there are plenty of guides around the area to help you find a specific vendor or area of interest.

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It was nice to see some young faces in the crowd soaking up the racing technology.

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I will be back with another entry later where I’ll showcase the cars, the celebrities, and some specific areas of interest.

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Why Are We Still Talking About Electric Cars?

A couple of months ago I wrote about my experiences test driving a Tesla motorcar. I think it might be more appropriate to consider these as battery cars.  Certainly they are rechargeable batteries, but batteries non-the-less.  Electricity being the power source and motors (electric) being the power plant that drives the wheels.

Battery power for cars is the key to its success or lack of it.  The ideal battery would recharge from zero (or nearly zero) to 90% in minutes and provide power to allow for a few hundred miles of cruising at highway speeds between charges.  Such an electric vehicle would compete successfully with gasoline powered cars even when fuel prices were at the $2 a gallon price (or less).

In a brilliant (maybe) move Tesla made its patentable technology open source right from the get-go.  The stated aim was to foster faster development of electric-powered vehicles.  Be careful what you wish for Tesla as another luxury brand, Audi, is getting into the EV market.  If Mercedes and other established luxury car companies step into that space what chance does Tesla have.

Without dealership franchises, not much.  While it was an interesting concept for a business model it is also a business model that will likely be the tapeworm that sucks away the profit potential of Tesla.  Has any car manufacturing company had a successful business model that included company owned dealerships?

With the currently low gasoline prices in America Prius and Volt are struggling yet out of the twilight zone comes yet another Electric Car company.  Faraday Future, another EC company borrowing the name of a nineteenth century electrical genius.  What is next, the Steinmetz Car Company?

Faraday Future has no EC, yet.  They are promising one will come to market in 2017.  If you look at their staff of executives you can see that they have raided several from Tesla and at least one from BMW’s ranks.

Rather than shout to the world what automotive rechargeable wonder they are going to enter the marketplace with their descriptions of their vehicle to be are soft and filled with marketing speak phraseology.

In the background are rumors of associations with companies such as Apple, and the Beijing Automobile Industry Holding Corporation, as well as the Leshi Internet & Technology Company.

Just a few clues have emerged on what a Faraday vehicle might be like.  It’s first iteration is to have a battery pack larger than what is available in a Tesla model S. It is to have “seamless connectivity to the outside world” with the promise of autonomous driving.  Also mentioned is “unique ownership models”.  Could this be a lease-only situation much like occurred with the Chevy EV?  If you remember in that case it meant that when Chevy puled the plug, all examples of the EV car had to be returned to GM and were destroyed.

What is the future of battery-powered cars?  Murky

Posted in Automobiles, Car Stuff, Cars, Electric Cars | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Our Computerized Cars

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It should be no secret that our automobiles now run on computers.  In fact, since the advent of OBD (Federally mandated On Board Diagnostics) we are very dependent upon computers, sensors, networks, and software to allow our cars and trucks to do what we expect them to do – provide transportation.

Outside of transportation duties our vehicles now provide guidance, entertainment, and watch over our environmental needs. They also manage our braking, steering, ride qualities, and when our lights come on.

The current crop of new vehicles have more processing power than the military’s F-35, Joint Strike Fighter.

Key to all this is the software magic that control every aspect of a car’s functions.

Hardware wears out and deteriorates, but software is written broken.  How broken?

A modern car has 10,000,000 lines of code running.  A statistic of the programming industry is that the average is one software bug per thousand lines of code.  So that means that this average car has 10,000 errors waiting to cause who knows what kind of failure.

Half of today’s recalls are the result of software bugs.

That means that 253 million cars and trucks are carrying 2,530,000,000,000 software bugs around on their four wheels averaging nearly two tons apiece. Think about that on your next commute to work.

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But wait, there is more.  Since our cars have become dependent upon computers, their software, and the networks that interconnect every part of the car’s systems together they are also susceptible to being hacked. 

Just a few years ago hacking of automobiles was demonstrated by physically connecting to the diagnostic port and then using a laptop to command brakes not to function or steering to malfunction along with no control over the accelerator.  Interesting but who would let someone attach a laptop to their car?

Now that cars have Internet connectivity, wireless monitoring of tire pressures, OnStar, and a myriad of wireless connections. A cellular modem, Blue Tooth, and who knows what is really on that USB jump-drive that you plug into your MP3 playing radio.

In the old spy movies of the sixties the trick was to plant a transmitter on the bad guy’s car.  Today the car is already a transmitter and the passengers are all carrying their multi-functional cell phones that tattle on them constantly.

In their haste to provide all our automotive wants and needs the car companies have left our cars unlocked and available to hackers and trackers.

If you are counting on our legislators to regulate this aspect of cars and mandate security you can pretty much rule out seeing anything that could keep up with the troublemakers because our legislators haven’t got a technological clue.

Yes, the NHTSA has recalled 1.4 million Fiat Chrysler vehicles to fix their hacking threat, but that is just the one vulnerability that is known.  More will come.

So ask yourself, just how comfortably will you sleep in your self-driving car?

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A Moment with Sam Posey

He’s a man with many talents and you might say has everything, including Parkinson’s.

I have two books by Sam.  Mudge Pond Express, an autobiography published in 1976; and Where the Writer Meets the Road, a compilation of his writings, broadcast introductions, and recollections of fellow drivers and events. 

I bought Mudge Pond Express as soon as it came out and devoured the pages, soaking up all the information on Sam’s life that it contained.  For me he was one of the hero’s of racing having competed in many series, including Can-Am, Indy, Formula 1, and Trans Am.

In 1968 he teamed with Mark Donohue on Penske’s unbeatable Trans Am race team.  He competed in the Can-Am series which was practically unlimited in terms of rules.  The cars had to have two seats, have the bodywork enclose all the wheels and meet the minimal safety standards of the day.  The engines were unrestricted and could be supercharged or turbo-charged. Tires could be as big as you could fit and aerodynamic bodywork was open to just about anything.  Jim Hall even introduced a vacuum system to suck his car to the track.  It was one of the rare times technology was banned by rules.  While it created a huge advantage it also blew huge amounts of road debris into any car unlucky enough to be in its wake.

Sam was no second string driver either.  In 1969 he won the Trans Am at Lime Rock in Connecticut.  Posey was a driver at Le Mans 10 times and won the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1975. 

Sam is also and architect, designing the timing tower at Lime Rock Park.  The front straight there is named Sam Posey Straight.

Friday I was on my way to see the man of legend and have him autograph my copies of his two books mentioned above.  He has also written a book about model trains (Playing With Trains) as he is a collector and aficionado of same.  I had been reading his latest book, Where the Writer Meets the Road, and it brought back so many memories as well as filled a couple of pages of note paper with questions that I hoped he would have time to discuss.

I was about an hour away and called to let him know my ETA. His wife Ellen answered and let me know that he would be engaged painting a model (he still paints nudes) and would I be able to time my arrival with the model’s departure.  Not a problem, of course.

I drove up to his studio and parked the P71.  Ellen greeted me and let me in and Sam was in the back of the studio contemplating his art work.  He transferred himself to a electric chair and we moved to a sitting area where he transferred to a regular chair and we talked.

It was so nice to be able to meet with Sam that I almost forgot my notes full of questions.  He shared his feeling on the current state of Formula 1.  It is not in a healthy state and time will tell if there are any changes that can be made that will facilitate a turn-around.  Mixed with that were the memories of the era of racing where death was a constant specter, removing some great and talented from the ranks of drivers.  Jimmy Clark and certainly Mark Donohue.  With Mark’s accident Sam realized that no matter how talented or lucky a driver might be there would be a bad day to come and with that he let his wife know that open wheeled racing was no longer an option for him.

We talked about his time as a color announcer with ABC sports at Indy and even the F1 races.  He asked for my pen and notebook and traced the first and second turns at Monaco where he explained how Aryton Senna’s driving took him through those turns, looking as if he was colliding with the guard rails, but instead slithering his car in impossible fashion through them with equally impossible speed and grace.

I asked him what movies he found that represented the true feeling of racing.  Heart Like a Wheel, the 1983 movie of Shirley Muldowney who became a top fuel dragster champion driver, was the answer.  Then Sam got a twinkle in his eye and asked if I liked Red Line 7000.  This is a 1965 film directed by Howard Hawks.  Clearly he enjoyed the movie.

Soon I was feeling guilty about how much of this man’s time I was taking up.  I probably could have pestered him with questions for days.  He bent over and signed both my books and explained what he wrote and why.  I was honored. Then he asked me if I liked coffee.  Of course I said.  “Well over there I have some coffee cups that I’ve painted and designed, go an pick out one you would like”.

I was all smiles and felt like a kid at Christmas, trying to choose one of the many personal designs.  The red hand caught my eye.  “This one,” I said.  “That’s a good choice,” said Sam.  I suggested that he should do one with his iconic helmet design on it, “great idea,” he said.

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I bid farewell and thanked his wife for the time and floated out the door to the P71.  Ready to get on the road once again.

Posted in Automobiles, Car Movies, Car Stuff, Cars, Great Drivers, Life and Cars, Racing, Road Trips | Tagged | 1 Comment