17th September 2014

24 Hours of LeMons Northern California: The Winners

What a race! We saw a record-breaking number of teams show up for the car inspections on Friday, what seemed like most of those cars break down during Saturday’s race session, and exciting battles in all three classes on Sunday. Here’s what happened.

Two years ago, we listed Cerveza Racing and their 1983 BMW 533i as one of the contending teams to watch in the future; they’d never taken an overall win at a LeMons race at that point but seemed poised to do so. Since then, they’ve won six races in the toughest region in the LeMons universe, with the most recent win coming last weekend at Thunderhill Raceway. Once again, the Cerveza drivers were careful-yet-fast on the track and the team’s communication and pit-stop skills were exemplary. Others had faster cars, but Cerveza took the win by a single lap.

For a while, it looked like Eyesore Racing would get the win with their “ghettocharged” Miata, but an airborne, suspension-bending crash took them out of contention.

Winning Class B and finishing in an astonishing P8 (out of 228 cars that made it onto the track during the weekend) was possibly the worst Datsun 280ZX in all of LeMons racing. Somehow, the Tartan Brigade stayed out of the Penalty Box and didn’t have to run to U-Pull-It for any replacement L28 engines during the course of the weekend.

Just a lap behind the Tartan Brigade Datsun and closing in fast on the Class B leader when the checkered flag waved, the Flailing Lizard Motorsports 1999 Ford Escort ZX2. This team finished in the top 10 with a car whose best lap was a full 21 seconds slower than the overall winner’s quickest lap, and 28 seconds slower than the quickest team of the weekend.

The Class C race ended up being a bare-knuckle brawl between the Billy Beer straight-six-powered 1979 Ford Fairmont and the Volkswagen TDI-swapped “Ferkel the Nein-11 1983 Porsche 911SC of Hella Shitty Racing. The Nein-11 was (slightly) quicker than the Fairmont, but excelled at breaking parts and/or going into limp mode. In the end, Hella Shitty Racing beat the Billy Beer Fairmont by a single lap.

The LeMons Supreme Court is now confronted with a classing dilemma for the Nein-11 TDI’s next race. The car is slower than most of the Class B competition (for example, the Class B Licensed To Ill Chevy S-10, with 600 pounds of sound-system hardware, turned a best lap more than five seconds better than did the Nein-11 at Thunderhill last weekend), but is now sufficiently reliable to be kicked out of Class C.

The 911 was a rollover-victim that was purchased as an engine donor for another project, and sufficient parts were sold off the carcass to fit it under the LeMons $500 budgetary limit (not that we’re going to be too strict about the budget of a car so perfectly suited for angering the pain-in-the-ass members of both the 911 Jihad and the Angry TDI Zealotry Brigade). As for TDI engines, you can buy 300,000-mile engine-donor cars and sell off the parts for enough to make this allegedly good (but terrible-in-reality) engine a freebie.

The Billy Beer Fairmont, meanwhile, will keep getting placed in Class C as long at it keeps the 200cid straight-six engine under the hood. Actually, we’d probably keep it in Class C if the Billy Beer crew dropped in a monster 250cid six.

The Organizer’s Choice decision was very easy, in spite of the vast breadth of machines that pleased the organizers at this event: Spank’s Caterpillar 416F Backhoe Loader.

Actually, this “Cat” was really the much-battered-and-glued-together Austin Mini Moke campaigned by Spank since the 2010 season. Built from possibly the worst Mini Moke available in the Western Hemisphere and on (we estimate) its 119th engine, the Cat 419F finished a respectable 155th place, beating plenty of Miatas, E30s, Integras, and Golfs.

In honor of their five years of West Coast LeMons awesomeness, the Faster Farms Chickens and their 1966 Plymouth Belvedere received the newly-invented Lifetime Achievement Award. The Belvedere suffered from overheating woes and a melted shifter cable, but still provided inspiration for all present at Thunderhill.

The Killer ZomBees and their MGB received the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Fighting Spirit Award, for their refusal to allow the Prince of Darkness to sideline their car.

Most Heroic Fix went to the Pistola Alto team, who bought an ancient and long-forgotten Thunderhill pace car, found in the weeds behind the garages, to serve as an engine donor for their thrown-rod-victim Nissan 300ZX. There were many issues with the new engine, but the team got back onto the track before the end of the race.

IMG_9340The other side of the Most Heroic Fix award is the I Got Screwed award. This time, Team Breakin Werkz picked up this not-so-sought-after award for their misadventures involving the wiring on their Honda Civic. The car had some electrical problems early on Saturday, so the team decided that creating a brand-new full-car wiring harness from scratch (for a mid-90s computerized engine), using wiring diagrams found on their smartphones, would solve their problems.

About 20 hours of work later, it turns out that the wiring harness hadn’t been the problem. With about an hour to go in the race, the Breakin Werkz guys figured out that a bad distributor had been to blame all along. Screwed!

The justices of the LeMons Supreme Court, including your LeMons correspondent, Eric Rood of The Rusty Hub and Tim Odell of Hooniverse, decided to give the Judges’ Choice to NAFM Racing, whose hand-built mid-engined Chevy S-10/Olds Bravada/Pontiac Fiero creation made a big impression.

The NAFM car, or truck, or whatever it is, suffered from fuel-delivery problems and didn’t make many laps, but the judges liked the engineering and fabrication on display with this vehicle.

Not winning any awards but still deserving a mention was the Rover-with-Lexus-engine (dubbed the RoLex) brought by the Pit Crew Revenge team. Thanks to problems with the wiring harness of the 1UZ-FE Toyota V8, the RoLex wasn’t ready to go until about 30 minutes before the end of the race. We look forward to seeing the RoLex in future races.

Another engine-swap project that didn’t work as well as planned was the Zero Below Racing Chevrolet Corvair, which featured a mid-mounted Buick/Rover 215 V8 engine.

The big prize, the Index of Effluency, was never in any doubt: the Peugeot Daddy 1963 Peugeot 404 sedan.

The Peugeot 404 was locked in a deadly battle for French-car supremacy with this Renault 10, and ended up finishing in P174.

The Peugeot Daddy car was by far the slowest thing on the race track (in fact, its fastest lap was under full-course caution), but it ran for much of the weekend, played accordion music the entire time, and beat 54 much faster teams. Congratulations, Peugeot Daddy!

To see more photos from this race, be sure to visit Judge Phil’s gallery page. To keep up with all the latest LeMons news, go to the Car and Driver Inexplicably Presentation page.

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17th September 2014

GM dealers have ordered 30k Colorado and Canyon pickups, 3rd shift added

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2015 GMC Canyon

General Motors has an early success on its hands in the form of the initial rollout of the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickup trucks. According to the automaker, dealers have ordered nearly 30,000 of the trucks thus far, a number that far exceeded GM's early expectations.

This high demand for the Colorado and Canyon twins has prompted GM to add a third shift to its Wentzville Assembly plant where the trucks are built, starting early next year. An extra shift will add an additional 750 jobs at the location to the 1,315 that were already employed there, according to the press release that you're welcome to read down below.

Such positive sales projections for the Canyon and Colorado may portend good things for the midsize pickup segment, which was once hugely popular but has more recently contracted, with the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma standing firm as the market leaders. Now that GM's entries are the most up-to-date, and with the segment's first diesel engine on the way, it will be interesting to see how the trucks continue to sell and if their hopeful success leads more automakers back onto the playing field.

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17th September 2014

Bristol Cars Returns From the Dead

Bristol Cars Project Pinnacle teaser

Even by the high standards of eccentricity set by Britain’s small sports-car makers, Bristol was always in a class of its own. This is the carmaker that made Morgan look like Mitsubishi.

Bristol’s former boss, Tony Crook, refused to let journalists drive its cars for many years on the (possibly reasonable) grounds that they “wouldn’t understand them.” The company last published production figures in 1981, when it built 104 cars, and the leisurely pace at which the carmaker operated in its later years was demonstrated when thieves stole several body presses from its Filton factory and it took several days for the theft to be noticed.

So there was sadness, but little surprise, when Bristol folded in 2011.

Now it’s coming back. The Bristol brand was bought by a subsidiary of the Frazer Nash engineering consultancy (itself evolved from an only slightly less-eccentric British sports-car maker), which has now announced plans for an all-new Bristol model next year.

Bristol 411

The way things used to be—the Bristol 411.

Bristol began as an aircraft company in 1910 and built its first car in 1946, in association with Frazer Nash. The bad news today is that Bristol’s former recipe of lightweight, aerodynamically efficient bodies propelled by large, American-sourced engines has been abandoned, for now at least. We’re told the new car definitely won’t owe anything to previous models such as the Beaufighter, Blenheim, or the spectacular Fighter—the most recent Bristol, which used a Viper V-10 engine. Instead, the new car—currently being developed in the U.K. under the code name of Project Pinnacle—will be a “range-extended electric grand tourer.” Beyond that, and a single teaser image (shown above) that reveals little more than some leather hood straps, we’ve got to use our imagination.

Frazer Nash’s involvement means we should certainly take the project seriously. The company now specializes in engineering electric drivetrains—it put one under the Giugiaro Namir concept back in 2009—and has also developed a new electric London taxi that’s slightly less ugly than Nissan’s NV-based version. The fact that Bristol is both renovating its traditional showroom in Kensington, London—one of Europe’s most expensive areas—and planning to expand to another unit on the same streets proves there’s some serious investment behind the prelaunch. The company also confirms that the new car will be designed for every major market, including the United States.

Bristol Fighter

The Bristol Fighter had a Dodge V-10 but sold in tiny numbers.

“The brand’s reputation was damaged during the last years under the old management,” general manager Julian Ramshaw told us. “It’s been through some difficult times, but we’re determined to build it back up with Frazer Nash. We’re very aware of how important the brand’s heritage is, and we’re working very closely with the [Bristol] Owners’ Club.”

That leaves the burning question of what Bristol’s traditional buyers are going to think of a new car that runs on this newfangled electricity. Wouldn’t they rather just have a big V-8?

“If we produced a car like that then there are people out there who would buy it,” Ramshaw cautiously admits. “But the luxury-car market is changing and we want to be part of that change.”

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17th September 2014

This Is the World’s Smallest Functional V-12 Engine

The Smallest V-12 Engine in the World

You’d never guess it judging by the collection of tiny, intricate works of kinetic art on display in his workshop, but José Manuel Hermo Barreiro, a.k.a. “Patelo,” claims to be a “very impatient person.” A retired naval mechanic, Patelo continues to create after his contemporaries have ditched their tools for the last time, trading the industrial-size marine equipment of his working years for the small-scale precision engines seen in the video below, including what Patelo believes is the smallest V-12 engine in the world. Only when he balances a coin on its side atop the V-12 is its diminutive size put in perspective.

Patelo’s creations made the rounds in the internet’s geekiest corners a couple of years ago—yes, we hang out there sometimes—but we rediscovered them and had to share. The engines run only on compressed air, but that does nothing to diminish the remarkable feat of constructing a fully operational engine on this scale from scratch. As for Patelo’s claim that it is the smallest V-12 in the world, he concedes with a hint of pride that he has no internet connection and doesn’t know how to “surf the web.” Indeed, a quick search will turn up a few practitioners of the art, including a fully operational V-8 engine or two—and then there’s this gas-burning 6.09-cubic-inch V-8 we covered in great detail last year—but our efforts failed to find a tinier V-12.

The Smallest V-12 Engine in the World

Yearning for a time when repair shops actually crafted parts, Patelo laments that modern mechanics have become simply “parts fitters.” If you doubt his commitment to craftsmanship, check out this in-depth video look at the amount of fabrication involved in creating Patelo’s V-12. And if that’s not mind-boggling enough for you, check out his miniature W-18 build:

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17th September 2014

Trophy Truck Madness: Recoil 2: The Recoil . . . ing

Trophy Truck Madness: Recoil 2: The Recoil . . . ing
As if you needed further proof of how obscenely cool Trophy Trucks are, here comes the latest video from Monster Energy driver BJ Baldwin.

In “Recoil 2,” Baldwin’s 800-hp Chevrolet Silverado Trophy Truck cuts a swath through Ensenada, Mexico—home of the Baja 1000—as he sets out to get from the mountains outside of town to the beach in less than 20 minutes. The route chosen conveniently allows for Baldwin to pull 360s through flaming tunnels and to jump everything in sight.

Please excuse us. We have to go scour classifieds for old pickups and crate engines right now.

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17th September 2014

Apple Maps for iOS 8 and iPhone 6: Here’s What You Need to Know

Apple iOS 8 Maps syncing

Even if you have a factory navigation system, it’s often still faster, easier, and more useful to run a smartphone navigation app (with a mount—stay safe!) for guidance from point A to point B. Apple is well aware of this fact and so it’s rolling out some features for its upgraded Maps app that will make navigating while driving easier when the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and iOS 8 launch this Friday.

Apple’s Maps app was powered by Google data from its launch in 2007 until the debut of iOS 6 in 2012, but the switch to Apple’s own platform was plagued with so many problems that CEO Tim Cook wrote a rare letter of apology that even pointed customers to competing apps. Among the issues: addresses went AWOL, known landmarks were missing or badly mislabeled, traffic data was poor, and public-transit directions weren’t available. Many of these errors have been fixed—Apple says that it updates map data every day at 3 a.m. with user corrections—but there are still no train or bus routes, and traffic isn’t rendered down to Google’s red-yellow-green accuracy. So there’s always something brewing with Maps, but since we’re car people, we’ll focus on the latest version’s driving-focused improvements.

There’s a Night Mode

Apple Maps iOS 8 at night

Automakers know that dimming bright displays in the instrument panel or on the center stack is a really good idea when it’s dark outside. The newly full-screen Apple Maps will now leverage the device’s light sensor to automatically switch the Retina screen’s display to night mode and give your actual retinas a break.

You Can Sync Directions with Other Devices

Bookmark a spot on your iPad, and, when shared via iCloud, your iPhone’s Maps app will load every place you’ve saved. The same goes for directions that you start on another iPhone (if you’re lucky). For now, Apple is restricting these syncing features to Mac computers running OS X Yosemite.

You Can Switch to Other (Better) Nav Apps

Perhaps realizing that iPhone users should be able to choose the best application for a given task—hello, Android!—the new Maps will let them open searches and directions in other apps, such as Google Maps. It will also provide App Store links to relevant transportation apps that aren’t installed.

You Can Tour Cities without Touching Anything

Google Earth’s 3-D topography first enabled us to visually inspect distant places, and Apple itself offers a “flyover” function for certain world cities. Now, beta testers have discovered as-yet unactivated code that indicates Apple will be expanding 3-D city views with a “Flyover City Tour” that zooms in and out of specific, fully rendered landmarks (such as the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris) without any user input. Check it out via this demo video from Swiss site Mac4Ever:

More Mappiness within iOS 8

You can now search for a place directly in the iPhone’s Spotlight master-search field and access Maps (or other apps) that way. There’s also the ability to share locations directly in the Messages app, instead of going through the extra step of dropping a pin on the Maps app and sending it to a desired contact.

Everything else, including turn-by-turn directions, integration with Siri voice commands, and in-map searches, appears to carry over largely unaltered. We’re sure to learn more once folks can upgrade to iOS 8 and fiddle with the latest version of Maps.

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17th September 2014

2015 Kia Soul EV First Drive: Kia’s Electrified Sensitive Side

2015 Kia Soul EV
Kia calls the Soul a UPV—Urban Passenger Vehicle—a classification that’s particularly apt for the new EV version, the brand’s first zero-emissions offering. With a fully charged battery pack, the car earns an EPA operating range of 93 miles, but that still means sightings of electric Souls beyond city limits will be extremely rare. READ MORE ››

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17th September 2014

Cadillac Chief Says Brand Won’t Go Back to Cut-Rate Pricing Despite Blowback from Some Customers and Dealers

Tim and Pat Whited buy the first Cadillac CTS Vsport in Boulder, Colorado.

The most recent crop of Cadillacs wear MSRPs commensurate with those of the German competition—as opposed to undercutting them, which was the previous strategy—and brand chief Johan de Nysschen says that’s not going to change despite receiving some complaints from both dealers and customers.

In an interview with Automotive News, de Nysschen said Cadillac models need to be priced closer to the German luxury brands to reflect their quality and that he’s comfortable with the brand dumping its traditional customer base in order to attract import buyers. ”I think the logical conclusion is that it’s better to build off a very solid base in terms of [product] credibility, charge a fair price for the car and realize you have to wait until the volume comes,” he said.

De Nysschen, who joined Cadillac in August after a two-year stint with Infiniti, seemingly has both the current and future product to back up any perceived hubris. Among the many new Cadillacs in development are two new crossovers, a full-size flagship sedan, and a sub-ATS compact. Recent introductions such as the ATS and the CTS deliver world-class dynamics, the new Escalade prints money, and the BMW M3–baiting ATS-V is scheduled to debut in Los Angeles.

Still, whether you blame its elevated prices or the 65 recalls General Motors has issued this year, Cadillac is underperforming its peers. Through August, Cadillac sales in the U.S. are down 4.7 percent year over year, compared with huge gains at Lexus (16.1 percent) and Audi (14.5 percent). BMW (up 11.6 percent) and Mercedes (up 8.2 percent) look healthy, and even de Nysschen’s old company has registered a 7.2-percent increase. At 114,008 total sales, Cadillac is certainly stronger than Infiniti’s 77,043, but de Nysschen’s old old company, Audi, sold 116,066 cars.

“It will take several years before a sufficiently large part of the audience who until now have been concentrating on the German brands will find us in their consideration set,” he said.

While no one can deny his success at pushing Audi to prominence, de Nysschen has a lot to prove as a GM man (which is somewhat ironic, considering he called the Chevrolet Volt a “car for idiots” in 2009). He wants Cadillac to operate as a “stand-alone entity” within GM and have the final say in nearly every facet of the brand, from engineering to sales to marketing, although there’s no indication from top GM brass that this will actually happen. Whatever happens, it’s clear that renaming every car won’t work for Cadillac—although we’d love to see us some Fleetwoods and Coupe DeVilles roaming the boulevards again.

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17th September 2014

EXCLUSIVE APB: Lt. Jim Dangle on Elon Musk, the Tesla Gigafactory, and Rumors Reno 911! Will Return to Netflix

Lt. Jim Dangle
Lieutenant Jim Dangle led Reno Sheriff’s Department on the Comedy Central mockumentary Reno 911!. So when we heard the news that Tesla’s Elon Musk—technophile, playboy, space junkie, automotive executive—had unveiled plans to build his battery-manufacturing Gigafactory smack dab in Dangle’s Washoe County, we contacted the top cop to get his thoughts. (As it turns out, Thomas Lennon, the co-creator of Reno 911! and the actor who squeezed into the shortest shorts in the history of law enforcement for 88 episodes and one feature film, also happens to own a Tesla. So, kismet.)

C/D: The “electric-car” company Tesla is plotting to build something called a Gigafactory in your territory: Reno. What is your department’s planned response to this potential invasion?

Lt. Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon): If I recall correctly, Nikola Tesla is to Thomas Edison like Vince Clarke was to Depeche Mode. They stole all his secrets and went on to huge success and multiplatinum albums. So, congrats on that. I might not have all the details on this exactly right. I’m happy for the investment in Reno, jewel of the Sierras. I should point out that we already have a very fun piano bar called “The Gigglefactory”—so I hope there’s no confusion.

Tesla is led by a billionaire entrepreneur/men’s cologne named Elon Musk. Friend or foe? 

Any man who’s working on a tube that can get me to San Francisco in forty-five minutes is an angel.

There are claims that this Gigafactory will be solar-powered. Is it a crime to steal energy from the sun? Doesn’t this energy rightfully belong to the people of Reno?

It’s hard to say. Possession is nine-tenths of the law. And a lot of what Reno possesses was stolen from the cars of dirty California hipsters who came up here for Burning Man. Sorry, I actually forgot the question . . . as long as it’s not moon power. We had a sort of a moon cult out here a while ago that was doing some stuff on the full moons that was pretty unsavory.

Tesla, the aforementioned “electric-car” company, claims that this factory will bring thousands of new jobs to Reno. Factory workers tend to be a rowdy bunch. Might the factory attract an unsavory element? 

If you’ve ever seen the Billy Joel video for “Allentown,” you know that we’ve got exactly the kind of strapping lads you need to run a hot, sweaty factory with sparks bouncing around all over the place. (We also have a place called Sparks.) I’m not sure how accurate to factory life that Billy Joel video was. But remember the end of it, when a guy in his underwear twirls a flaming baton? Well . . . if this Tesla factory needs one of those guys—I’m your man, Elon Musk.

Is “electricity” safe? 

At the time of this writing, there’s simply no way to test that.

We’ve seen the way that Tesla’s vehicles have taken over the more influential portions of cities like Los Angeles and San Jose. If this Gigafactory succeeds in colonizing Reno, as well, what’s to stand between us and a robot takeover of the world?

The scariest question to ask is not when will robots take over the world, but rather when did robots take over the world? I should point out that I just did a whippit, so I’m a little dizzy as I’m typing this. Think about it.

Is there any truth to the rumors that Reno 911! will be returning to television via Netflix?

I can neither confirm nor deny these allegations. But the shorts are always on, under my other shorts. When we see the signal in the sky, we’ll be there.

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17th September 2014

2015 Ford Mustang 2.3L EcoBoost Tested! Less SVO, More American Audi A5

2015 Ford Mustang 2.3L Ecoboost
The 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost is the answer to a question that was asked during the last oil crisis. Which, if you were born later than 1979, was blessedly over by the time you arrived. In the aftermath, Ford took a whack at the challenge of creating a sporty fuel-sipper with the turbocharged four-cylinder SVO, which was available from 1984 through 1986. The market yawned. Fuel prices crashed, and anyway, we don’t buy pony cars for their efficiency. A four-cylinder, no matter what its output on paper, is nothing short of the downright emasculation of the American dream. READ MORE ››

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