Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Survey Says Buy Don’t Try

A recent survey put out by DMEautomotive looked at Americans’ car-buying habits. While some of what they found won’t surprise you, some of it might.

It seems consumers don’t trust the people selling them cars. According to the survey, only 21% saw them as trustworthy, 22% were neutral and 56% didn’t trust them. After all, like all commissioned sales people, the more you pay, the more they make, so the only incentive to give you a deal is so you don’t shop elsewhere. That being said, I’ve only dealt with one that I actually considered dishonest. And it could be worse. They ranked better than telemarketers and politicians.

The survey also said that 68% of those surveyed visited two dealerships or less before buying, while 40% only visited one. My first thought was that’s because people already know what they want before they go shopping. However, the survey noted that a decade ago, people would visit five dealers before deciding. Today they’re doing their research online instead, checking out as many as 10 different sites. Makes sense to me. It’s always better to walk into the dealership knowing what you want and how much you’re likely to pay for it. You can probably get answers a lot quicker from the internet than from a sales person.

Breaking down visits by age and gender showed women overall making fewer visits (46% visiting one or less), again not surprising. Those under 35, however, whom we’re often told aren’t interested in cars, actually visit more dealerships than the rest of us, with 63% visiting two dealerships or more. Not surprisingly, people shopping for used cars spend more time touring dealers, checking out an average of 2.3 lots, with 38% of them visiting three or more.

What also surprised me about the survey was how little test-driving people were doing. While 26% of those surveyed drove three or more vehicles, 49% drove only one or none at all. In fact, one in six bought their vehicle without test-driving it. I made a comment to my husband about how I’d never do that (I’m short and need to make sure I can reach the pedals and see over the dash) and he pointed out that we’d done exactly that with our current car. True, it was the same model, though newer, than our last car, but still…

Even more surprising is that 18% of those who bought a used vehicle didn’t bother with a test drive. It would be interesting to know why. And among purchasers of both new and used vehicles, women were least likely to test drive, with 19% declining compared to 12% of men. I know I feel uncomfortable driving a strange car with a stranger in the seat beside me, but I may not be typical.

So how about it? Do you enjoy going to the dealership and kicking the tires? Or do you prefer checking out vehicles at auto shows, where you can see everything at once? Do you test drive cars you have no intention of buying, just because they’re cool? Or do you only buy vehicles you’re already familiar with, and pass on the test drive entirely?

[SOURCE DMEautomotive,]

Monday, April 28, 2014

Lingenfelter Collection

Thought I’d pass this link to the Lingenfelter Collection’s website on. It’s well worth a look, especially if you like Corvettes. The collection itself is in Brighton, Michigan, on the premises of Lingenfelter Motorsports, and has more than 150 cars, including some very rare exotics (a 1995 Guldstrand GS90 coupe, for example). Naturally, some of the cars have a connection with Lingenfelter Performance Engineering. The owner of the collection, and current CEO, is a cousin of NHRA driver and engineer John Lingenfelter.

The collection is not generally open to the public, but is available for corporate and charity events. Fortunately for the rest of us, there are lots of great pictures online. Clicking on pictures in the Featured Vehicles section brings up more pictures and information of the vehicle in question. The Gallery section is sorted by date and type, starting with 1950s Corvettes and going to 2000s exotics. Drool. Their online store also has a nice selection of T-shirts and such at what look like reasonable prices. I’m trying to convince myself I really don’t need a T-shirt that reads “Got horsepower?” Of course, they also sell parts, which probably explains the free shipping with $500 order offer.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spotted: 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona

1969 Dodge Charger Daytona
Photo by Kate Tompkins
Saw this at a cruise night in Marmora, Ontario, last summer. Thought it was a Plymouth Superbird until I got up close, but the Daytona predates the Superbird by a year. If you’re interested in the engineering behind it, there’s some good information on the Allpar website—lots of other historical material and photos too. Seems this was the most aerodynamic car around and would have been even more so without the spoiler which was needed to keep the back end down at high speeds.

1969 Dodge Charger Daytona
Photo by Kate Tompkins
I guess I’m not the only one that thinks the spoiler looks over the top. A Hemmings article on the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona (also loaded with great info) says Dodge’s general manager, Bob McCurry, was said to have called it ugly, but still wanted it built so they could take it racing. And race it did. With Buddy Baker at the wheel, it set a speed record of 200.447 mph at the Talladega track the following spring. By NASCAR rules, any car raced had to be available as a production car, so, again according to Hemming, Dodge shipped out 503 of them to US dealers and 40 to Canada.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Classic Chevys Reinvented NASCAR Style

Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jimmie Johnson reveal their Valvoline 
Reinvention Project custom truck builds. 
What if you were given a classic Chevy truck, access to the expert mechanics at Hendrick Motorsports, and all the parts you desired? That’s what happened to Sprint Cup Series drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson, thanks to Valvoline’s Reinvention Project.

What did they come up with? You can see their trucks in the top photo. Johnson started with a 1955 Chevrolet farm truck. Naturally, he upgraded the engine and drive train, to a Chevy LS3 V8, and treated it to a rhino-lined engine compartment. He protected the original paint with a flat clear coat, added American Boss 338 wheels shod with Goodyear high performance tires, and had the truck lowered. New chrome bumpers finished it off. I think it looks great.

Jimmie Johnson's finished Reinvention Project truck 
in the garage at Hendrick Motorsports. 
 Earnhardt Jr. picked a more recent vehicle, a 1974 Chevrolet Cheyenne Super 10. Like Johnson, he upgraded the engine to a Chevy LS3 V8. He also kept the original paint job, and selected the same tires as Johnson, setting it all off with a custom grille insert. Sweet.

"This was so much fun to be a part of from start to finish," Earnhardt Jr. said. "It was really exciting to see the finished trucks and compare notes with Jimmie on the finer points of our builds. Thanks to Valvoline and the expert craftsmanship from Hendrick Performance, the trucks are incredible."

Naturally, they didn’t leave the trucks in the garage. You can find footage of them doing burnouts, autocross, and even drag racing, on the Reinvention Project website.

"I loved feeling the power jumping off the line during the drag race," Johnson said. "It's not often Dale and I get to combine our creativity and passion for cars together into one effort. I can't think of a better way to kick off our team's partnership with Valvoline."

Want to build your own virtual classic? You can do that on the Reinvention Project page as well, where there are five classic Chevy trucks to choose from. Here’s the one I built for the virtual garage.

Courtesy Valvoline

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sunbeam Tiger Turns 50

1967 Sunbeam Tiger
Photo by Kate Tompkins
 Saw a reference in a recent issue of Sports Car Digest (a great read if you like vintage racing) that this year is the 50th anniversary of the Sunbeam Tiger. How could I not write up the car that’s probably responsible for my love of red convertibles? Blame that on Get Smart, which I used to watch as a kid. I loved Max and his cool car. I’ve kept my eyes open for a red one ever since, so I was quite excited to come across one at a local show for British cars a couple of summers back.

1967 Sunbeam Tiger
Photo by Kate Tompkins
The Tiger was built by British company the Rootes Group from 1964 to 1967, and only 7,083 were built, so it’s a bit of a rarity, especially in England (the majority went to the US). Most of those are Series I, with only 633 Series IIs produced. The Tiger’s basically a souped-up version of the Sunbeam Alpine, with a Ford V8 stuffed under the hood. Carroll Shelby had a hand in its design, which probably accounts for the fact that, according to Wikipedia, “for two years it was the American Hot Rod Association's national record holder over a quarter-mile drag strip.”

1967 Sunbeam Tiger
Photo by Kate Tompkins
Unfortunately for the Tiger, Chrysler bought the Rootes Group. Seems the Ford engine was the only one that could be squeezed into the space available, and Chrysler dropped the car from its line-up. Pity.

1967 Sunbeam Tiger
Photo by Kate Tompkins


Monday, April 14, 2014

Porsche Museum Celebrates Le Mans

New Special Racing Exhibition: "24 Hours for Eternity. Le Mans."
(PRNewsFoto/Porsche Cars North America, Inc.)
The Porsche Museum has announced a special exhibition, “24 Hours for Eternity,” to celebrate its return to the track for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans (June 14-15). If you’re in the Stuttgart area between now and July 13, you might want to check it out. I mean, you were going to go to the Porsche Museum anyway, weren’t you?

While Porsche’s spanking new 919 Hybrid will be the centre of the exhibition, there will be lots of past racing Porsches to ogle as well in a setting designed to look like the Le Mans track. That includes a 1969 Porsche 908/2 Spyder long tail, a 1979 Porsche 935, the 1994 962 GT Dauer Le Mans, and more. And if you happen to be there on race weekend, the Museum will be open more than 24 hours straight (9 am June 14 to 6 pm June 15) and showing the race live in various locations around the Museum. There’s no admission that weekend, either.

Can’t get enough Porsche? Try their new Facebook app to create your own Porsche timeline cover. Here’s one I threw together. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

BMW-Designed Subway Trains

BMW Group DesignworksUSA designs new Siemens
metro for Kuala Lumpur. Train head with modern light
concept. (03/2014) 
Kuala Lumpur must be one classy place. They’re having 58 new self-driving trains built for their underground transportation system—trains designed by BMW. Well, designed by DesignworksUSA, which is a subsidiary of BMW Group. More like interior and exterior decorated. They’re actually based on the existing Metro Inspiro design by German train manufacturer Siemens and being built by Mass Rapid Transit Corporation.

Kuala Lumpur is very much a mix of cultures and religions and the design takes that into account. According to Laurenz Schaffer, President of BMW Group DesignworksUSA, “The exterior design is a bold statement of dynamism and strength. It symbolizes self confidence, technological leadership, progress and safety.” The press release goes on to say that the lights on the front refer “to the facetted architecture of the capital,” while the interior patterns and colours are “a fresh interpretation of the vitality and cultural diversity of Kuala Lumpur.”
BMW Group DesignworksUSA designs new Siemens
metro for Kuala Lumpur. Fresh colour concept inspired
by traditional elements. (03/2014)

Gotta love designer speak. All I get out of the photos is “sleek, modern, clean,” all of which suggests efficiency, but that’s what you want out of a transit system. Now if we could only get our local one upgraded.

[SOURCE: BMW Group DesignworksUSA]

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Barrett-Jackson’s Palm Beach Auction Has Need for Speed

2014 Ford Mustang from Need for Speed
Photo courtesy Barrett-Jackson
Barrett-Jackson always puts together an exciting auction, and part of the excitement is the vehicles auctioned off for charity. Their 12th Annual Palm Beach Auction, running from April 11-13, will be no exception. To help raise money for the Henry Ford Health System, they’ll be selling off the 2014 Ford Mustang from Need for Speed. Yep, not just a Mustang, but a Mustang from a movie.

2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
Photo courtesy Barrett-Jackson
Not into Fords? How about the first production 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (proceedings going to the Karmanos Cancer Institute)? And yes, it’s ridiculous that there are already 2015 cars on the market.

Maybe Mopar’s more your thing? While they’re not being sold for charity, there are two 1969 Dodge Chargers slated for the block, one from Fast 5, the other from the Dukes of Hazzard movie. Yee haw!

For those of us who can’t get to the auction in person, it looks like Fox Sports will be providing coverage most days, with Saturday being picked up by National Geographic.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Classics at Beaulieu: 1973 JPS Lotus Europa

1973 JPS Lotus Europa
Photo by Kate Tompkins
Here’s the last of my classics from Beaulieu, a John Player Special Lotus Europa from 1973. Only 100 were built with the JPS colours, meant to commemorate Emerson Fittipaldi’s 1972 F1 World Championship. In fact, according to Wikipedia, only 9,300 or so Europas were produced between 1966 and 1975. Despite that, the plaque beside this car at the National Motor Museum said the original price was only £2,761.
1973 JPS Lotus Europa
Photo by Kate Tompkins

With a 1,558 cc in-line 4, this mid-engined car could do 0-60 in 6.6 seconds, reaching a maximum speed of 120 mph. While that sounds slow by today’s standards, it was more than respectable at the time. Don’t think I’ll be putting one in the virtual garage, though. I’ve never liked the rear end on the classic Lotus—too boxy for me and doesn’t mesh with the front. Obviously others think differently.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Villeneuve: Rally or Won’t He?

Jacques Villeneuve and Albatec Racing Peugeot 208
Photo courtesy FIA World Rallycross

I’ve been getting a lot of press releases over the last few weeks about the FIA World Rallycross Championship (World RX), and Jacques Villeneuve’s participation in it. First up was one dated February 13 announcing that Villeneuve had signed on to drive a Peugeot 208 for the Albatec Racing team, based in Dumfries, Scotland.

Why not? I thought. He’s already done F1 and Indy Car, not to mention NASCAR, and could use a new challenge. Then I wondered what on earth rallycross was. Nothing to do with rally racing, to my disappointment, but it still looks like fun. You can find the official page here, but basically, it involves 600bhp cars racing around a mixed surfaces track—that could include asphalt and gravel. While rallycross has been around since 1967, this will be the first year for World RX.

Jacques Villeneuve and Albatec Racing Peugeot 208
Photo by and courtesy of Gary Hawkins/Ebrey Photographic
According to Villeneuve, “I am really looking forward to entering the rallycross arena with Albatec Racing. With my previous ice-racing experience, I’m excited about driving sideways in a 600bhp, four-wheel-drive Peugeot 208 over the combination of loose and tarmac surfaces, not to mention the jumps. With the added incentive of it being an FIA World Championship, the opportunity was really too good to miss.

“We had a very successful test in France. I was very impressed with the quality of the team, particularly on the engineering side – it reminded me of my time in F1. The car is just so responsive, the power is amazing and with 600bhp to play with, who wouldn’t be excited? I was pleasantly surprised by how reactive the car is to any changes, and I’m very much looking forward to getting into the events.”

A second press release dated February 22 from Albatec Racing said Villeneuve got to properly test his new drive in ten 4-lap stints at the Lydden Hill circuit, to ready him for his May debut. According to Albatec’s Team Principal, Andy Scott, “Jacques proved his speed straight of the box during the test in France, but it is vital that he gets as much track time as possible, on different circuits, to help him acclimatise to a world rallycross car. We chose Lydden Hill, the home of rallycross in the UK as it is the perfect circuit for this, providing a good mixture of challenges, requiring very fast and precise lines and braking points.

“It was also good for him to drive on a rallycross circuit that’s on the world championship schedule as it gives him the chance to experience the whole atmosphere of racing in an amphitheatre circuit. As expected, he was immediately fast once we’d addressed the power steering issue this morning, and just got quicker and quicker as the day progressed. We will test again before the season starts, but where and when has not yet been decided.”

Two more press releases dated February 24, one from Lydden Hill, and one from World RX, were singing the same tune.

Two days later, in comes another press release from Albatec Racing. Seems Villeneuve had been offered a chance to race in the Indy 500. At that point, he was still slated to do the World RX debut race in Portugal in May, but would have to miss the Lydden Hill race later in May as it would conflict with the Indy 500. Hmm. Could this be the start of a new F1 career? Not that I’d blame him.

Villeneuve stated“After the test in Kent, it really fired me up for the FIA World Rallycross Championship, and I remain committed to giving my very best to the team and the Championship, starting at the opening round in Portugal. However I’m a racer, with a passion for racing, and the Indy 500 is without question the biggest event on the motorsport calendar – not many drivers get the chance to drive on that track, and for me it’s a personal challenge, with a first and second there already, I need to finish in the top two to keep up the average!”

At the moment, he’s still expected to return to World RX in June for the third race in Norway. I can’t help wondering if that will depend on how he does at the Indy 500.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Has Mustang Nailed the Anniversary Swag Market?

OPI Joins Ford Mustang to Launch
Limited Edition Nail Lacquer Collection.
(PRNewsFoto/OPI Products Inc.)
I don’t know if I should be amused or appalled by this. In honour of the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang (technically this month, but being celebrated all year), Ford Motor Company and OPI Products Inc. have announced the release of a limited edition nail lacquer. Yep. Nail polish. Coming to a store near you in July. It will be called Race Red.

Why? According to Suzi Weiss Fischmann, OPI Co-Founder and Executive Vice President, "For women, cars and nail lacquer offer a way to express personality. This new collection will deliver elements of sophistication, luxury, power and style fitting for both OPI and Mustang consumers."

I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m not a girly girl, but anniversary merchandise without the Mustang logo on it seems odd. Maybe if it came with a set of stick-on Mustang decals for your nails. What do you think?

[SOURCE OPI Products Inc.]

Maserati Alfieri Concept Car

Maserati Alfieri Concept Car
Photo courtesy Maserati USA
Seems Maserati introduced a concept car at the Geneva motor show last month. The Alfieri, named after one of the Maserati brothers, is meant to celebrate Maserati’s centennial. It’s a look both back and forward, with links to its GT predecessors, especially the A6 GCS 53. Check out the photos. It’s sleek and beautiful. The “Steel Flair” paint, designed specifically for the Alfieri, really sets it off.

Maserati Alfieri Concept Car
Photo courtesy Maserati USA
So are there any plans to build this 2+2, or at least something similar? There are no promises, but lots of hints. Since the Alfieri is a working prototype, with a real engine (the same 4.7 litre found in the Maserati Gran Turismo), chances are good it will end up in showrooms a few years down the road.
Maserati Alfieri Concept Car
Photo courtesy Maserati USA