New Car Introductions

Oh how I remember those new car introductions in early September every year. With the unveiling of the new 2014 Corvette, the Auto Show in Detroit, and the auctions in Arizona there is a lot of activity in the automotive world. Course then again, if you are not a car guy, you probably are unaware of any of this. However, it has caused me to reflect on growing up with new cars being introduced in September for the coming year. Not in January for the next year!

It’s hard to believe that in the 50’s and 60’s we were treated to new designs, generally requiring substantial retooling, each year. As teenagers, my buddies and I would try to see through the cracks in the construction paper that went up every year, shielding the new models from the public driving by. We couldn’t wait to see what Detroit was offering for the new year.

When one looks back at the model years of GM cars for example, consider the changes made to the general sedan 1956 to 57, 57 to 58, then again 59 thru 63, on and on. Now the car you buy this year will resemble very close the same model next your and the year after, especially in the look. And, there is little to any excitement generated as to the new models. The closest to anticipation lately was with the new Ford Taurus and the Chevrolet Corvette.

How I miss the construction paper and painted out windows in the old days.

Daytona 500

“I am okay.” That was perhaps the most quoted phrase following the big crash during the Nationwide race. My guess is that, like me, if someone told people that their seats were near the start/finish line, they received a number of texts and emails and calls regarding their safety.

It was a horrendous crash in the last lap, racing to the finish line. One driver tried to block another and miscalculated. The result was a mess to say the least, including one car that catapulted up into the catch fence. Unfortunately, the car was demolished and not only did small debris come through the fence but a wheel soared over the fence into the stands and the engine, whole thing, ended up through a gate in the fence that gave way under the force of the engine block. I believe that the last I heard was 28 injured including two hospitalized.

From my vantage point, just above and a little down track, I saw it set up, the cars tumbling and then the debris field obscured the view. I couldn’t take my eyes off the car that ended up with literally no front or back, and the driver basically unhurt climbing out. Wow.

It happened and everyone knows that it can at any time. In fact, many go to the races hoping to see wrecks. To me, while always “fun” to witness, wrecks mean delays for cleanup, and quite frankly I would rather see good racing, something that is in short supply these days. But that’s a rant for another day.

So now we have a driver from outside NASCAR spouting off about the need for better fan protection, though he offered no ideas. There is at least one attorney preparing a lawsuit. I would claim that the catch fence did a great job considering the violence of the collisions. And, the folks sitting down there near the track do so willingly, probably to feel the rush of the cars going by at 190+ mph. Stuff happens. Why can’t we accept that?

I think of the call I received from an attorney as his client was suing his golf partner for driving through a rope, releasing a metal stake which stabbed his leg. Or the call I got from an attorney, whose client was trying to sue everyone for the loss of his eye after driving/rebounding his ball off of the tee marker. Maybe my favorite was the attorney who called me as he had caught his Bobby Jones shirt on the ball washer and ripped it. I was supposed to replace his shirt. All of these eventually went away.

I am sure some of you have stories to tell as well. Let’s hear them.

The Car Show of Car Shows

At least in a sense it sure is. Two million square feet of convention floor space of wheels, tires, parts, paint, performance parts, accessories. Well, if it can go on a car or truck it’s there. It’s called SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association. For comparison, I think the largest GIS took up a quarter of that space.

Anyway, through a nice friend, I had the opportunity to spend a couple days in car guy heaven. This show is not open to the public and is not an easy ticket. For good reason; with already around 100K industry people there, adding the public would create a huge logjam of humanity.

My goal in going there was to check out the car kits. These are the ready to assemble kits to create your own 32 Ford or Cobra or any number of other classic designs. While you can get these kits assembled for you, I think for most it is the challenge of doing it yourself. After I spent a good bit of time questioning a rep there and asking in as many ways possible if a total klutz could make his way to the finish line, I decided that one day I am going for it.

I already have an engine that I rebuilt with a LOT of help, a transmission that I took from one of my cars, and even a couple of Saturn bucket seats (a $50 find on Craig’s List), heck I am almost there. Except for that one nagging question – are the instructions really clear with lots of photos?

Here are some photos from the SEMA show.

First Time for Everything

Swamp Buggy Racing. If I didn’t have the included photos I wouldn’t even try to describe this SW Florida “sport”. What a blast! Though I still don’t know what the various classes were, I did find out that the big boys were running about 800 HP.

These buggies only race three times a year and only at this track in Naples area. The idea is to win a race through water with a couple sippies (that’s at least what I heard). A sippy is about a 3’ hole on the bottom of track that the big guys jet across and the little guys go down into and then back up and out (most of the time). Definitely slows them down.

From what I was told, I expected to see a crowd of rednecks and it seemed to be true based on one of the first t-shirts I saw (photo below) and the few confederate flags. But it was really a bunch of good ‘ol boys who just like their swamp buggy racin’. And, I might add, they clearly come from all walks of life. They also are very focused on raising money for scholarships in their area. In fact, they sold raffle tickets for roughly $1 a piece with the winner splitting the pot with the charity. Winner got $5100! Yes, they raised over $10K on the raffle. Hard not to support that kind of community outreach. More surprisingly, they also sold tickets to support a former racer with issues. That wasn’t surprising but what was, was that what you would win were firearms.

During an intermission a model airplane club put on an air show of their sophisticated models, one of which hit speeds of 120 MPH. However, for my turf friends, you might be more interested in the flying lawnmower. You read it right – a flying lawnmower! They also offered rides around the race course. Could you resist?

Finally, the new Champion throws the Queen (reigning scholarship pageant winner) into the sippy. Don’t know why but they’ve been doing it for over 65 years! Gotta love the South!

Next races? Last weekend in October. I hope to be there.

NASCAR Surprise

Got a surprise at the Daytona 500 couple weeks ago.  Thanks to Great Clips, we got passes to the infield.  This allows one the opportunity to really see the cars, drivers, crews and all of the activity that goes on behind the scenes prior to a race.  After a stroll through the garage area, we went out on the grass in between the pits and the grandstand to watch driver introductions.  At Daytona, it’s almost mandatory that when there you sign the black and white checkered finish line stripe.  What amazes first timers is the degree of banking on the front straight away that looks level on TV.  It’s substantial.

However, though I had been there before both at this track and others, for the first time I recognized that the stripes that are so beautiful from both the stands and on TV are not just the result of a mowing pattern.  They actually have two different species of grass planted.  Unfortunately, though all these years in this industry and even longer as a golfer, I still only recognize two different grasses, green and brown.  However, there were definitely two different grasses out there.  One was clearly a fine fescue and the other wasn’t.  They were two very distinguishable shades of green.  Maybe my photos will show what I am trying to explain.

For three Minnesotans used to only seeing snow on the ground in February, it was all we could do from rolling around on it.

82 Days and Counting

Yes, as I write this there are just 82 days left till the Daytona 500 which marks the beginning of NASCAR season 2011!  I can’t wait. It’s been almost 10 days since Jimmie Johnson won his 5th consecutive Championship in one of the closest finishes in recent years. To win 5 consecutive championships is not unlike a NFL team winning the Super Bowl 5 straight years or perhaps an even better comparison is Tiger Woods’ domination of the sport a few years back. Even if NASCAR for you is simply 43 cars going round and round for 4 hours, I hope you can at least appreciate what the 48 team has accomplished.

As it happened I found myself in Florida the weekend of the final race at Miami Homestead Speedway and only a couple of hours away. Of course, I drove down for that final race. I took a few photos but I will not embarrass myself by showing them here. Instead, I am attaching a few I found on-line of the repaving going on now at the Daytona Speedway.

The Daytona 500 kicks off the NASCAR season each February and the track is currently being repaved, no small challenge considering the steep banking on the track. Enjoy.

Stupid Is as Stupid Does and You Can’t Fix Stupid

Ever heard that saying before?  I have lived it on occasion and did so again recently.  By confessing, my goal is twofold; get it off my chest and help someone else feel better.  Here are a couple of my bigger bonehead moves.  Both involve my passion for all things automotive.

A few years back, I picked up a beautiful 1989 Porsche 944 S2 to replace the 1986 944 that I had been putting on the road course.  The 944 was fun and I did well in the corners but then had to move over on the straight-aways to let everyone else go by.  Got tired of that.  Anyway, first time out on track with S2, I decided that rather than take it easy and go slow, getting used to handling and power of this much faster car, I decided to go for the track record.  Guess I was excited and confident all at the same time.  As you might guess, in the third turn of first lap, I lost it and after a spin went into the wall, causing not only some body damage but engine and frame as well.  I was also in the first group to go on track that morning and so everyone else now had to wait for me to be towed back to the paddock.  I apologized to all I saw but was told over and over that all had done the same.  Lies, I am sure, but still made me feel a little better.

My most recent dope move resulted in a 4 car pile up in my garage.  Pile up might be a bit harsh but 4 vehicles were damaged.  One morning in my normal hurry, I pulled into my man cave in my SUV planning to drive my Porsche that day.  As this particular 87 Porsche was a bit cold-blooded, I figured I would start it up and let it run a couple of minutes before driving it out.  Generally, I back in and take the car(s) out of gear.  You know what is coming.  Yes, I opened the door and turned the key.  It was still in reverse.  Of course it jumped back the open door catching on the SUV bumper, folding it in half and scraping the SUV.  That didn’t stop it.  Back into the front grill of the 57 Corvette, which in turn rolled back into the 77 Trans Am. I didn’t cry.  I screamed and would have knocked myself out cold had I been able to do so.  Then I cried.

When I get the Porsche door back, as it has to be replaced, I am going to write Stupid Is as Stupid Does and you Can’t Fix Stupid! on it in black paint and hang it from the wall.  There, I feel better now.