Blast Cars http://blastcars.com For When You Want to Take the Back Road Wed, 07 Mar 2018 13:28:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.7 53368199 Self* Driven http://blastcars.com/2016/04/18/self-driven/ http://blastcars.com/2016/04/18/self-driven/#respond Tue, 19 Apr 2016 02:04:19 +0000 http://blastcars.com/?p=1047 *Restrictions Apply By Mack Hogan A cherry-red Tesla Model S follows the curve of the shaded two-lane state road, with Duane LeFevre at the wheel. As a the car ahead slows to turn, the Tesla slows with it, keeping a safe distance. But LeFevre’s hands aren’t on the wheel, and his feet are flat on […]

The post Self* Driven appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>
*Restrictions Apply

By Mack Hogan

A cherry-red Tesla Model S follows the curve of the shaded two-lane state road, with Duane LeFevre at the wheel. As a the car ahead slows to turn, the Tesla slows with it, keeping a safe distance. But LeFevre’s hands aren’t on the wheel, and his feet are flat on the floor. The car is in Autopilot mode, and it’s one of many vehicles today that can negotiate simple driving situations like freeway cruising without driver interventions.

With the rise of technologies like adaptive cruise control and active lane keeping,  fully self-driving cars are getting closer to reality every year. Adaptive cruise control, a radar-based system that automatically adjusts a car or truck’s speed in response to other cars on the road, appeared first in its modern form on the 1999 Mercedes S-Class. The technology, a major step towards fully self-driving — or autonomous — cars, is now available on dozens of models including mainstream cars like the Honda Accord. Automakers say the technology isn’t about convenience, it’s about safety.

“Volvo has set a goal that in 2020, no one will be hurt or seriously injured in a new Volvo car or SUV. Autonomous technology is a big part of that goal,” Jim Nichols, a Volvo spokesman, said. “Computers don’t get tired or distracted. People do.”

Volvo has pioneered a variety of active safety systems to help with the goal, including software that helps to stop the car from unintentionally going off of the road and a feature that prevents drivers from turning left into oncoming traffic. The company’s new S90 sedan is the first vehicle to have Pilot Assist — which allows the car to drive without the driver’s hands on the wheel at speeds up to 80 mph — standard.

“Making these technologies standard is a big step for safety. By 2018, our entire lineup will be replaced, and every new car will have semi-autonomous technology standard,” Nichols said.

Research suggests that making the technology standard is a necessary part of bringing about self-driving cars. A study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute found that 54.6% of Americans were unwilling to pay extra for even fully autonomous vehicles. Jeff Davis, general manager of Mercedes-Benz of Boston, says despite Mercedes offering adaptive cruise control for over a decade, uptake has been surprisingly low.

“People who already have it want it again, but many people still aren’t familiar with it,” Davis said. “If those features were standard, I think everyone would like them. But a lot of people aren’t willing to pay more for [self-driving features].”

Duane LeFevre, a business professor at Northeastern University and owner of a semi-autonomous vehicle, says he wouldn’t want a car without self-driving features again. His car, a Tesla Model S fitted with what Tesla calls “Autopilot,” can completely control the cars steering, throttle, and brakes on the highway without driver input. The car will even change lanes automatically if the driver activates the turn signal.

While Tesla officially asks that drivers keep their hands on the wheel at all times, the vehicle only reminds you to touch the steering wheel every few minutes. If the driver does not respond to multiple warnings, the vehicles comes to a stop and activates the hazards. LeFevre says the system usually only requires driver input when lane markings become obscure. Any time the car has required his input while in Autopilot mode, he says, there has been a clear problem with the road markings or infrastructure.

“We were once crossing newly reopened bridge where the road lines hadn’t been repainted, so the car tried to center itself between the emergency lane and the edge of the bridge, so I had to take over. Any time the car has required me to take over, there has been a clear issue with the road markings or something like that.”

In situations where road markings disappear or are obscured, humans rely on best guesses. Computers, however, can’t do that. Joshua Hertz, a professor of engineering at Northeastern University, argues that the car has to adapt to the infrastructure, not vice versa.

““For our infrastructure, we have a solution that exists — a human driver. Until [car companies] can solve their issue with the infrastructure, I don’t see the public sinking a lot of money into changing [our road infrastructure].

The biggest change in terms of infrastructure, he says, will not be roads and bridges, but rather an end to parking facilities and lots. If the car can control itself, the idea of it sitting in a lot unused just waiting for the owner seems wasteful, as it can operate more on a need basis rather than a personal one.

“I think when autonomous cars become a reality, there will be no reason for owning a car anymore. I have a car because I want to have it when I need it, but if we have autonomous cars there’s no reason that I won’t be able to whip out my phone and call one,” Hertz said. “I think owning a car is a pain. They’ll become like a utility. I don’t own my electrical wires, but electricity is there when I need it.”

As LeFevre’s Model S comes around another bend in Autopilot mode, it approaches an intersection. When the road markings stop and the intersection begins, the car jerks the steering wheel, seemingly trying to find the center of the road without markings. The nose of the car is pointed straight at the curb, but as the camera notices the lines continuing after the intersection, the wheel twists hard left, the car overcorrecting past the median before settling back in its lane. LeFevre kept his hands off the wheel for the entire event, confident in the car. The car has more control than it ever has before, but there’s still a ways to go before drivers hand over full control.

“For the foreseeable future, every Volvo vehicle will come with a steering wheel,” Nichols said. “Volvo thinks that is an important part of safety.”

The post Self* Driven appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>
http://blastcars.com/2016/04/18/self-driven/feed/ 0 1047
5 BMWs That No One Asked For http://blastcars.com/2016/02/12/5-bmws-that-no-one-asked-for/ http://blastcars.com/2016/02/12/5-bmws-that-no-one-asked-for/#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2016 20:57:58 +0000 http://blastcars.com/?p=1027 By Mack Hogan No brand has such a special relationship with enthusiasts as BMW. While some herald the automaker’s commitment to driving dynamics, others decry them as overhyped, maintenance nightmares. But whether you love or hate BMW, few deny that the desire to fill every possible niche has lead to some unnecessary models. From luxo-barges […]

The post 5 BMWs That No One Asked For appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>

By Mack Hogan

No brand has such a special relationship with enthusiasts as BMW. While some herald the automaker’s commitment to driving dynamics, others decry them as overhyped, maintenance nightmares. But whether you love or hate BMW, few deny that the desire to fill every possible niche has lead to some unnecessary models.

From luxo-barges to little hatchbacks, the Bavarian giant makes 20 different vehicles, counting different body styles available. Available worldwide with as few as 3 cylinders or as many as 12, BMW more than anyone else is fighting to maintain exclusivity in a brand with sales rivaling the mainstream automakers. With so many models, its no wonder that they’ve produced some head-scratchers. Here’s our picks for the most confounding


BMW X6M50d xDrive

It looks wrong. It sounds wrong. It is wrong.

Say that name out loud. X6M50d… xDrive. Ugh. The fact that the X6 exists in the first place is a problem. Someone decided that they needed to make a less practical X5 that looked worse and costed more, and then they called it a Sports Activity Coupe. Whenever I hear that, I just think of some bored designer in Munich trying to see if he could get corporate to sign off on calling a product the SAC. The existence of the X6 is horrifying.

But they didn’t stop there. The suits in Germany decided that their pure, raw M division needed to be defiled by the X6. Not a hardcore coupe with a slick-shifting manual, a 5000+ pound hunchback from hell. The pranksters at corporate were shocked that their joke was actually selling, so they did the only thing that could make this thing less attractive to buyers — they made a diesel version. I can’t possibly believe that anyone at BMW thought that X6 M buyers were worried about fuel economy, so the only logical explanation is that the people of BMW are just messing around, seeing how ridiculous they can make a car before people realize the entire business structure is just one long episode of Prank’d. I hope Ashton Kutcher comes out soon, because this is hard to watch.


 

BMW Isetta

As easy as it is to pick on modern BMW for the company’s relentless creation of new niches to fill, the old BMW had some problems as well. Most notably, the Isetta. With a thundering 1 cylinder, 13 HP engine, the Isetta hit 60 mph… never. Maybe on a hill. On level ground it could manage 53 mph. And, as Jeremy Clarkson famously demonstrated, the front hinged door meant that you couldn’t pull all the way into your garage. Sound too good to be true? Well, clearly, BMW needed help to produce this leviathon of German engineering. The BMW Isetta was actually just an Italian design built under license for Germany. Other versions were licensed all throughout Europe. But, being BMW, they didn’t want to make parts that readily available, so they reengineered the entire vehicle and made it so most parts were non-interchangeable.


BMW 318ti

BMW has a terrible habit of making hatchbacks that look terrible. Just like the X6, this was designed to make a regular model look more sporty. I get the terrible roofline, because I’m used to that from BMW. But the e46 318ti manages to butcher every single aspect of the design, from the horrendous headlights to the goofy taillights and the flat butt. I’m sure it was great to drive and it might have even been good value, but one look at the 318ti makes me glad that the U.S. only saw one generation of this crime.


 

BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo

 

 

Had it existed in a vacuum, the 5 series GT would have been excusable. Sure, it costs too much and just looking at it makes me want to go to confession, but every company makes mistakes. But the problem with the GT is the X6. The X6 is a lifted 5 series with a sloping roofline. The 5 Series GT is a regular 5 series with a sloping roofline. Realistically, we didn’t need either of them, but if you’re going to make a useless car at least only make one. In a similar vein, I could have put the X4 and 3 series GT, but at least they manage to look alright. The 5 series GT was the genesis of a renegade German company hellbent on making variations of variations of special versions of regular cars. This is the company that makes the 4 series GranCoupe, a four door version of a two door version of a four door car. Nothing is off limits for BMW anymore, and I blame the 5 series Gran Turismo. We could have stopped them when they were weak, and we didn’t.


 

BMW M760Li xDrive

With the new 7 series, BMW wanted to finally bring the fight to the Mercedes S Class. Long slowed by Bangle-era designs, a lackluster interior, and an inability to compete technologically with Mercedes, the 7 series has never really found its stride. For 2016, BMW decided to double down on luxury, creating a more advanced, more refined, and more comfortable car while still maintaining the essence of the “Ultimate Driving Machine.” They decided it was time for the 7 Series to grow up. And what says grown-up like an M-tuned twin-turbo V12 putting down 600 horsepower. Apparently, the V12 of the previous generation 760 just didn’t put down enough power.

Fine. That’s fair. High end luxury cars tend to put a lot of power and torque down in the pursuit of luxury. But once again, BMW has stuck an M badge on a car that should never get one. Sure, they didn’t call it an M7. But the name M760Li xDrive is so painful that it might have been worth it to just bite the bullet and make it a full fledged M car. The fact is, the BMW already had a V12 flagship and Alpina builds their B7 on the exact same production lines as the M760Li xDrive. And just like with the X6, BMW decided that an M version wasn’t heretical enough. They took their gargantuan vehicle and added on a few inches between the wheels before calling it an M car. That’s right, the L in M760Li xDrive means that it’s long wheelbase.


 

Conclusion

BMW makes some fantastic cars. Like Jelly Belly, though, if you offer enough flavors than you’re bound to get a Chili Mango every once in a while. It’s the price of doing business. As much as I’d love to say that these cars show that BMW has lost its mind, when you consider that the X6 can be made on the same assembly line for a similar price but fetch a few thousand more at dealerships, it starts to make sense. Hopefully BMW won’t take it too much further.

The post 5 BMWs That No One Asked For appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>
http://blastcars.com/2016/02/12/5-bmws-that-no-one-asked-for/feed/ 1 1027
Tesla May Have Some Growing Pains http://blastcars.com/2016/01/15/tesla-may-have-some-growing-pains/ http://blastcars.com/2016/01/15/tesla-may-have-some-growing-pains/#comments Fri, 15 Jan 2016 19:28:08 +0000 http://blastcars.com/?p=1013   By Macklin Hogan Here’s the inconvenient truth about Tesla: It’s bleeding cash. Despite all of the publicity, the praise, and the attention, the company manages to lose hundreds of millions of dollars annually. That’s been the case for quite some time, and a new player losing money is not at all unheard of. But […]

The post Tesla May Have Some Growing Pains appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>

 

By Macklin Hogan

Here’s the inconvenient truth about Tesla: It’s bleeding cash. Despite all of the publicity, the praise, and the attention, the company manages to lose hundreds of millions of dollars annually. That’s been the case for quite some time, and a new player losing money is not at all unheard of. But Tesla has ridden the wave of startup sympathy for long enough, and at some point we’re going to start looking like them as a business rather than an idea.

The business case is pretty clear. Elon Musk, internet-proclaimed savior of all things, isn’t running a car company. He’s running a marketing department. The self-presenting door handles, the 17 inch screens, the crazy safety, and the falcon doors that grace Tesla’s Model S and Model X serve far more purpose in terms of marketing than actual functionality. Like a Samsung Galaxy phone, Tesla’s are designed around features that get people talking rather. But there’s a problem that’s starting to come to light: Tesla, as it exists now, can never be a big-time automotive money maker.

The first problem comes from their position in the market. They’ve capitalized on a market that has no competition save for a Nissan economy car and a Mitsubishi that looks like an alien. Tesla is the only premium electric vehicle in town, and Musk uses this as a selling point. The novelty of the electric car is what gets people talking — a Tesla is a symbol, a declaration to the world that you are on the cutting edge of technology. That’s great, but Tesla isn’t on the cutting edge. As Bob Lutz pointed out in his column in Road & Track, there’s nothing special about Tesla’s battery chemistry that makes it impossible to replicate. In fact, the constant delays and adjusted expectations we see when Musk talks about an upcoming model proves that the small-time automaker isn’t as efficient in building batteries as they let on. Their inability to effectively mass produce is the main reason why the Model 3 is taking so long — they can’t possibly build that many batteries yet. And the more common these cars become, the less special they seem. Tesla’s growth is self-limiting, because more than any other luxury automaker they are relying on exclusivity. Because at the end of the day, people willing to spend $100,000 on a car aren’t really in it for the gas savings.

Furthermore, as Musk builds up the electric car, he invites more and more competition. As Tesla racks up more and more sales, the big name players are starting to realize that they can sell electric cars. Audi is the first company to introduce a true Tesla-fighter, and though Audis may lack the panache of a Tesla, they are also not plagued with the quality concerns that have caused headaches for Tesla in the past few weeks, as Consumer Reports removed its recommendation for the Model S. Ignoring for the moment that the car already comes with a cheaply-furnished cabin more suitable for an Accord than a $100,000 executive sedan, the quality problems are the biggest indication that Tesla’s are still in the honeymoon phase. We excuse low rent interiors, quality concerns, and useless gimmicks because they’re Tesla. But when we stop giving them a free pass, the big boys are going to steal the market back. The bigger they get, the more of a problem this will be.

Their quest for publicity also poses some interesting risks. While the ability of cars to stay in their lane and avoid collisions with automobiles has allowed semi-autonomous travel since the introduction of the W222 S-Class in 2013, Tesla is the first automaker to market the features as “Autopilot.” The capabilities aren’t new, but unlike in a Mercedes the driver is not required to keep his/her hands on the wheel. Though the fine print does warn that the system is not responsible for any collisions, Tesla’s ambitious marketing has lead to an understanding that the vehicle is autonomous on the highways. That’s far from true, as the system still has extreme limitations that are clearly demonstrated in numerous “Autopilot Fail” videos. Alex Roy, who made headlines by taking the car with two friends cross country in autopilot mode, said that, “[the Tesla] drives like a dick! Had to save our ass like 3 times. It almost went into a ditch!” Not only is Tesla hurting it’s own reputation, but they are making a bad first impression for autonomous cars, putting the entire industry at risk. Had an established automaker endangered lives with their vehicles and marketing campaigns, there would have been mass outraged. If Tesla wants big-time profits, they’ll need to do big-time quality control and deal with big-time criticism.

Finally, Tesla has a distribution problem that will further inhibit growth. For an exclusive, exciting product, company stores make sense. Musk may have looked at iPhones and thought that a constantly sought-after product deserves a fully controlled user experience, including at the store. But for cars, that is easier said than done. Many like to point to attempts by BMW and Ford to make company stores and say that the execution didn’t work out, but it’s a good idea. I disagree, as I believe that this is a fundamentally bad approach to car sales. Somehow, Musk has managed to sell the idea that a fixed-price monopoly will work out for the better for consumers. While I understand that many people hate dealerships, the idea that giving one corporation a monopoly on vehicle sales will help is absolutely ridiculous. When, in history, has less competition ever benefitted the consumer? At Tesla’s current scale, it makes sense to invest in a fully controlled dealership network to expedite the spread of sales, but long term, it’s setting a dangerous precedent. Remember, Ford’s company stores failed because they couldn’t compete with the pricing of local dealerships.

Outside of the consumer problem, the business model of direct sales poses a severe risk to Tesla. As sales grow, there will be demand for inventory in the stores so that people don’t need to wait weeks to get their cars. With a traditional dealership layout, the automaker supports the inventory of a dealership for the first few months that the car is on the lot, at which point the dealership takes financial responsibility. This protects automakers from massive inventory risks, but Tesla’s direct model means that the risk inherent in inventory will be sent straight up the food chain. That puts Tesla at the mercy of the market, as downturns in the economy will force the company to bankroll a bunch of falcon-doored vehicles sitting on lots.

The more Tesla grows, the more we will start treating it as a business. That means less forgiveness from shareholders, an expectation of profits, and an end to the hype that has fueled sales. Tesla’s about to have some serious growing pains, and if Elon Musk doesn’t adapt his strategy soon the company will face a difficult future.

The post Tesla May Have Some Growing Pains appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>
http://blastcars.com/2016/01/15/tesla-may-have-some-growing-pains/feed/ 1 1013
A Car Lover’s Gift For Black Friday http://blastcars.com/2014/11/21/car-lovers-gift-black-friday/ http://blastcars.com/2014/11/21/car-lovers-gift-black-friday/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 12:37:22 +0000 http://blastcars.com/?p=1000 We are totally connected to our cars and trucks. They take us to work, to the grocery store and even help us navigate parking lots at the mall. Which reminds me of an experience – a valuable gift to you — that I want to share before the start of this year’s shopping season. Several […]

The post A Car Lover’s Gift For Black Friday appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>

We are totally connected to our cars and trucks. They take us to work, to the grocery store and even help us navigate parking lots at the mall. Which reminds me of an experience – a valuable gift to you — that I want to share before the start of this year’s shopping season.

Several years ago, a girlfriend decided to take advantage of those Black Friday deals. It was time to unload her first grouping of gift bags — tote sacks dangling off of her arms, talking on her cell, purse hanging off her shoulder — she juggled with her keys to pop the trunk. The next thing she knew, the bags were gone, her purse was gone, the cell phone was nowhere to be seen and she was sitting in the hatch of her SUV. All she heard were footsteps running away from the scene. She never knew what hit her. And, this wasn’t even in a large metropolitan area. This was at her favorite, hometown shopping mall that she had visited thousands of times beforehand. Her shopping spree was a total loss along with her identification, a cell phone and her sense of security.

Unfortunately, this scenario – and many others like it – will be reported to local law enforcement throughout the holiday shopping season. And, it’s all preventable.

How?  I’m glad you asked! The fix is simple with a touch of common sense. Follow these tips and you are almost guaranteed a great ending to your shopping experience this season.

  • Don’t keep any valuables inside the cab of the car or truck – where you sit inside the vehicle. Place your packages inside trunk or back hatch, out of sight. It takes a thief seconds to break the side window and remove items. Without a receipt, you can’t prove purchase. Without proof of purchase, you can’t claim the loss. Keep receipts separate from items purchase.
  • It was common place to take packages to the vehicle and return to the mall. Don’t do it! Opportunists are looking for you to deposit the gifts in the trunk. It takes only seconds to pop a trunk and remove packages. After placing packages inside the trunk so you can go shop some more – I know it’s a pain – move the car to a different location in the parking lot. Don’t give thieves the opportunity to get free presents from your vehicle.
  • Make sure you walk to your vehicle in the middle of the parking lot’s roadway. You don’t want anyone to have the opportunity to pop out from the side of a parked car, grab a bag and run.
  • No cell phone use while in the parking lot. You need to pay attention to your surroundings to keep safe. If you are uneasy, follow other shoppers walking out into the parking lot. Or, ask the shopping plaza security for an escort. It’s part of their job to keep you safe!
  • Have your keys in hand before leaving the shopping mall. And, keep that thumb on the emergency button for a just in case moment. Speaking about the key fob: Can’t find your vehicle in the sea of cars and trucks? Hit the emergency or lock (only) button and listen for that chirp.
  • No purse, no target: Keep your credit cards and identification in your front pocket and leave the purse at home. This is something I do all the time. Make sure that it’s secure and that those plastic credit cards and ID can’t fall out of your clothing. Make sure it’s easily accessible to you, only!
  • Don’t overload your arms. Make several trips to your vehicle to avoid stacking up too many bags of gifts. You want to be able to navigate the keys, trunk and your safety, at all times. Thieves are looking for people who cannot maneuver because they are overloaded with packages – just like my girlfriend.
  • If shopping at night, park in lighted areas. Opportunists don’t want to be seen by others and prefer areas of the parking lot that doesn’t have a lot of light or traffic. Avoid these areas and be safe.
  • Make sure your vehicle is in proper working order – you don’t want to get stuck in the parking lot. Keep your car or truck properly maintained with a good, quality battery. And, make sure that you keep more than a quarter tank of fuel in your vehicle – at all times. There is nothing worse than having to sit in a parking lot – especially at night – waiting for a road service that may take an hour or two to rescue you.
  • Go with a buddy or three – and have a good time. There’s always safety in numbers and that includes walking to your vehicle in the parking lot. An added bonus: more friends, more arms to help you with your packages.

It’s all about using your common sense and taking safety precautions while shopping this season. Most of all stay focused on where you are, what you are doing. Follow these tips and it will help you have a great time shopping this season.

The post A Car Lover’s Gift For Black Friday appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>
http://blastcars.com/2014/11/21/car-lovers-gift-black-friday/feed/ 2 1000
Roadside essentials you can’t do without http://blastcars.com/2014/05/29/roadside-essentials-cant-without/ http://blastcars.com/2014/05/29/roadside-essentials-cant-without/#comments Thu, 29 May 2014 22:09:15 +0000 http://blastcars.com/?p=983 Hitting the highway this summer? Don’t forget your emergency kit The snow is long-gone and it’s time to get those vacation brochures out and plan that summer trip. What about an outing to an amusement park or a camping trip? Maybe a tour of the national park system is on your agenda this season? But, […]

The post Roadside essentials you can’t do without appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>

Hitting the highway this summer? Don’t forget your emergency kit

The snow is long-gone and it’s time to get those vacation brochures out and plan that summer trip. What about an outing to an amusement park or a camping trip? Maybe a tour of the national park system is on your agenda this season? But, there is one thing that needs to be on that list: An emergency roadside supply kit to get you out of that situation and back on the road to fun. You know, it doesn’t matter if you had your vehicle checked from “bumper to bumper” before hitting the highway — stuff happens, doesn’t it?  A flat tire, a fender bender, you run over something in the road that gets caught up in a belt, Car Care for the Clueless wants you to be prepared and safe this summer vacation season.  We’ve got your back.

There are a handful of items that every caravan should have in its trunk. Most of these objects can be located around the house or garage. A couple of the selections can be picked-up at a hardware or parts store, at a minimal cost. Trust me. The benefits out-weigh the price tag. And, best of all, these items will fit into a portable file box or old duffle bag you may have sitting around your basement.

1)      Battery jump box: Throw away those jumper cables! A battery jump box – which has 101 uses – can save your summer vacation. Accidently leave the lights on while trying to get the family out of the car for an event? Need a quick charge on your cell phone? Need an extra electrical outlet for a camping item? The battery jump box is your answer! The cost is around $35 to 45 and can be purchased at a big box retail or home improvement store.

2)      Tire puncture sealer: This easy to use tire inflator, sealer is a great get you out of a jam product. There is nothing more deflating during a summer trip to come out into the parking lot and see a tire flat on your vehicle. The quick fix to get you to the repair shop for a proper fix? Self-inflating, sealer all compact into a pressurized can. Remember: this is a point A to point B – from the incident to the repair shop — fix! Don’t rely upon it long term! As a courtesy, let the shop know you installed the additive when checking in with the advisor.

3)      First aid kit: You never know when walking in the wrong shoes will give you a blister. Catch yourself on a sharp object and cut your finger? How many times have we been looking through papers and got one of those notorious paper cuts? Why do a search and rescue in a strange town for a drug store when you can have all the essentials in your emergency tool kit? Band-Aids, antiseptic, sunburn spray – items you already have in the medicine cabinet – can be within reach within seconds in your kit.

4)      Small tool kit: You never know when you might need to make a minor repair on the family truckster this vacation. A burned out tail light bulb? A dangling front bumper air dam? Something you can repair in the driveway with little effort, but need to fix before traveling forward. Small screwdriver set, utility knife, tie-straps, small socket set – all things you find in your garage – can mean the difference of going forward fast or  wasting time waiting for a repair at an out of town shop.

5)      Duct tape: What a great product with a 1001 uses – at least! Whether it’s putting a temporary fix on an inflatable beach toy, anchoring an object to another or securing a bumper skin after a minor fender bender, this product is a must in every emergency tool kit. And, you don’t have to get the fancy colors or designs. This is strictly for utility use and recommend keeping your monies for souvenirs and purchasing the plain-Jane, gray tape. It’s just as effective.

6)      Sealed snacks and drinks: You never know what life’s going to throw at you and this includes a road-side breakdown or accident. Waiting for emergency personnel or a tow truck is no fun. And, sometimes, events like these can turn into hours, so if you or a loved one needs to have a snack every so often to keep health issues in check, I always recommend having sealed snacks – like peanut butter and crackers or sealed packet of fruit juice — to keep you on the road, even if your vehicle isn’t.

7)      Mosquitospray: No one likes dealing with the discomfort of a mosquito bite – especially while trying to enjoy a game of mini-golf, outdoor movie or a fishing expedition during summer vacation. The easy fix? Keep mosquito repellant ready. It doesn’t matter if it’s an organic or commercial product, whatever the medium, keep it handy for those after dusk, pre-dawn activities

8)      Second set of keys: And, I’m not talking about going out and purchasing another $300 to $500 key to start your vehicle. Everyone needs a backup key. Moving suitcases out of the trunk and the keys accidently get locked inside? Preoccupied with children only to find your keys in the ignition after the doors are locked? Keep money in your wallet and purchase a $10 door lock key – cheaper than a locksmith – to get you out of that jam. I recommend keeping it in an under the car “hide a key” container – easily accessible to you.

9)      List of emergency phone numbers: You’ll never know what to do when you’re in a jam and your cell phone is MIA. A printed, emergency phone number list will help get you out of that situation. Accidents, lost smart phones, strange cities can really get a person discombobulated. But, getting in touch with a trusted friend or relative for help is your key to getting you back on the road – fast!

10)  Clear painter’s tarp: Want to keep those wet, sandy beach toys from soaking into the car carpet? Have a window that is in the stuck-down position and it’s going to rain? Trying to keep that dirty, nasty blown-out tire away from the suitcases? No time like the present to get out your $1.99 clear painter’s tarp from your emergency roadside kit! This compact, disposal item is a must for that emergency tool kit in the trunk. With a 101 uses, clear painter’s tarp will make life a little easier this summer vacation.

11)  Pet provisions: Taking Fido and Fluffy on the road with you? Don’t forget a 1-day backup supply of food, water and pet waste pickup provisions. Also, that list of pet-friendly hotels and restaurants, too. You want to make sure that your furry friends are stress-free, making your trip worry-free.

12)  Backup ATM card: Lost your wallet? Need funds fast before the credit card company overnight’s your replacement? Nothing like a pre-paid ATM card to rescue your trip. You can choose any amount according to your budget. And, if you don’t need it for an emergency during your trip? Use it to pay for pizza and drinks when you get back home.

13)  LED flares: Remember those nasty, smoky flares you would see on the road when someone “broke-down?” Fast forward to the future: Reusable, LED emergency road flares are now available at a minimal cost – between $10 to $14 – at major home improvement stores or auto parts store.

It’s all about keeping you on the road this summer with Car Care for the Clueless.Com Making you a savvy car consumer!

The post Roadside essentials you can’t do without appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>
http://blastcars.com/2014/05/29/roadside-essentials-cant-without/feed/ 7 983
The Truth About the “10 Cars that Should Have Never Hit the Road” http://blastcars.com/2014/05/13/truth-10-cars-never-hit-road/ http://blastcars.com/2014/05/13/truth-10-cars-never-hit-road/#comments Tue, 13 May 2014 14:34:10 +0000 http://blastcars.com/?p=971 I recently came across an article by Justin Lloyd-Miller that describes what he feels are “10 Cars that should have never hit the road.” While his list parrots other “worst car” lists, I take exception with some of these cars since their contribution was greater than a lot of people realize. Albert Einstein once said, […]

The post The Truth About the “10 Cars that Should Have Never Hit the Road” appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>
I recently came across an article by Justin Lloyd-Miller that describes what he feels are “10 Cars that should have never hit the road.” While his list parrots other “worst car” lists, I take exception with some of these cars since their contribution was greater than a lot of people realize. Albert Einstein once said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” The same can be said about this list. While these cars certainly have their low points, they have some redeeming qualities that should spare them from such animosity, except the Yugo, that car really sucked:

1. AMC Pacer

JLM Says: More denounced for its unusual styling than its actual performance as a car, the AMC Pacer is a classic automotive flop. Hagerty Insurance issued a poll asking for the enthusiasts to name the worst car design of all time, and the Pacer was bestowed with the unfortunate honor. In addition to its bulbous appearance, cheap materials and subpar build quality didn’t help the Pacer in the court of Public Opinion.

20 years before Chryslers Concorde and Dodge Intrepid brought “cab forward design” into the lexicon, the AMC Pacer was the first American production car to introduce us to the concept. In an effort to make an economy car that separated itself from the Hondas and the Toyotas starting to flood our shores, AMC_pacer_082009_D42119AMC designed and built the Pacer. The Pacer was a departure from the boxy look that was considered the design norm at the time. The Pacer was wide and extremely spacious for it size, thanks in part to its cab forward design and massive glasshouse. Love it or hate it, the Pacer brought auto design up front and now how a car looks is as much of a brand feel as how the car drives. For a car that was only in the market for 5 years, 30 years later it is still a recognizable iconic car and name, hardly a flop.
2. 1981 Cadillac Fleetwood V8-6-4

JLM Says: The Cadillac Fleetwood V8-6-4 had the potential to be a good car, had the engineers at Caddy stuck with a traditional engine. Instead, they got a little ahead of themselves and opted to add a primitive form of cylinder deactivation to keep up with the CAFE standards. The result was a jerky ride in a car that stalled consistently — and made unusual noises that cars probably shouldn’t have been making. It turns out the car was ahead of its time, as cylinder deactivation systems are found throughout industry today.
You cannot ignore the value of the technology the V8-6-4 brought to the auto industry. Say what you will about the Cadillac L62 engine’s reliability; it introduced the automotive world to “Modulated Displacement.” While it was plagued with electronic issues, the V8-6-4’s idea was revolutionary. Eventually automotive electronics caught up with the idea. “Modulated Displacement” became “Variable Displacement” and drive-by-wire technology has vastly improved the performance results, as well as an improvement in MPG figures. Considered a novelty in the 80’s, you will be hard-pressed to find a manufacturer today who is not using “Variable Displacement,” especially in their bigger engines.
3. 1971 Ford Pinto

JLM Says: The Ford Pinto is one of the most infamous examples of automotive flaws, for the unfortunate placement of the fuel tank behind the rear bumper. It also had a penchant for rupturing in accidents over 25 miles per hour. Conservative burn death estimates associated with the faulty tank design hover around 500 during the eight years before Ford redesigned the fatal flaw.

There is certainly no way to avoid the controversy around the exploding gas tanks and the deaths they claimed. In the late 60’s as “self-serve” gas started becoming a common option, a lot of car manufactures put gas tank fillers in the rear of the car, which allowed the driver to fill up at any pump no matter what side it was on. A large majority of cars of this era have rear-fill tanks. The Pinto was intended to be an import fighter, with its small size and excellent mileage. It came in a coupe and a wagon, which had a side-mounted gas filler. Despite the controversy, the car sold very well. In 1974 alone, Ford sold over 500 thousand pintos. Over its 9-year run, Ford sold a total of 3 million Pintos. The equally despised and loved Escort replaced the Pinto in the 80’s. The Pinto remains popular in the automotive subculture as it an easy car to find and a cheap car to buy. It shares a platform with the extremely popular Mustang II, so it has a wide range of high performance parts available. A 427 Pinto? Yes, Please! Oh but, fix that gas tank first.
4. 1996 Suzuki X90

JLM Says: The X90 wasn’t really a sports car or an off-roader like the earlier Samurai, but sort of a odd and impractical combination of both. It had all the drawbacks of a small SUV, coupled with the worst parts of a sports car, like the conspicuous lack of seating for more than two people. Needless to say, it sold terribly, but found limited success as the choice car for Red Bull — that is, until Red Bull moved on and adopted the Mini.3584920003_large

I am not sure why the X90 is on this list. Sure it’s confusing. It’s a two-seater with 4WD it has a removable roof and Recaro racing seats. Not enough room or equipment to do any real off-roading. Not enough power or style to make it a real roadster. It’s a perfect example of how auto manufacturers try to create very specific niches in the auto market. It did precede the much more successful Isuzu Vehicross. The Auto industry is still trying to create new niches and markets to exploit. The X-90 sold horribly because there was no market for a 2-seat off-road vehicles or a roadster with 4-wheel drive. At least they never killed anyone.
5. 1991 Chrysler TC By Maserati

JLM Says: Though intentions were pure (as they most often are), the Chrysler TC by Maserati was a Frankenstein of vehicle, with adopted parts and badges thrown together to create what would ultimately become a bit of an embarrassment to the two companies it was trying to promote. Over three years, the car only sold 7,000 examples, and successfully butchered the friendship between Chrysler and the Italian automaker.

While at Ford, Lee Lacocca was responsible for the creation of the Mustang and the De Tomaso Pantera. No one will deny that Lacocca saved Chrysler with the legendary but extremely ugly K-Car. Like a single guy in a bar at last call, Lacocca struggled to keep the K-Car momentum going into 2nd and 3rd generations. Lacocca called his old Pantera cohort Alejandro De Tomaso, who was now head of Maserati. Together they concocted what they hoped would be a car as magical as the Pantera. The TC was never intended to be a massive production car. Promises of a rare and exotic Italian import were dashed as soon as everyone realized the car was basically a Chrysler Lebaron Convertible with very expensive Maserati badges. While essentially a Chrysler Lebaron on the outside, it does boast an Italian motor and exquisite interior on the inside. The cars were partially built by hand in Italy. At $35,000, it cost way more than a fully optioned Lebaron. At the time it was the least expensive hand-built Italian car you could buy. The TC club of America boasts 700 members, 10 percent of the amount of cars sold over the 3-year run, not bad for a 25-year-old car.
6. Cadillac Cimarron

JLM Says: In what has become known as the most shameless example of horrific badge engineering to date, the ‘Cadillac’ Cimarron was little more than a Chevrolet Cavalier in a fancy suit — but not a nice suit. More like an ill-fitting one bought off the rack during the 70 percent off-everything-must-go sale. In the words of Pulitzer-prize winning automotive journalist Dan Neil, “Everything that was wrong, venal, lazy, and mendacious about GM in the 1980s was crystallized in this flagrant insult to the good name and fine customers of Cadillac.”

In an attempt to recapture that magic Cadillac introduced the Cimarron, Cadillac had a huge success with its first foray into “compacts” with the Seville in the 70’s. The Cimarron, however, was completely identical to its GM sisters the Oldsmobile Firenza, The Buick Skyhawk, The Chevrolet Cavalier, and thecimarron-82-2 Pontiac J2000. It was hard to make the Cimarron stand out when there were 4 identical versions with much smaller price tags available. What people don’t know is that most of the people who bought Cimmarons went on to buy other (read more expensive) Cadillac models. The Cimarron also increased the brands awareness to a younger market, something its sister Buick still struggles with. While seeing the end of the Cimarron, the 90’s also saw the end of re-badged clone cars. Automakers now concentrate on making each brand unique and, while platforms and parts maybe interchangeable, there is no way anyone could mistake a Cadillac for a Chevy in today’s market. You can thank the Cimarron for that.

 

7. 1997 Plymouth Prowler

JLM Says: Around the mid-nineties, Plymouth set out to create a factory-rendition of the iconic hotrod. It’s open wheel design, wedge-shaped fuselage, and sloping arches hit all the right hotrod notes, until one opened the hood to see Chrysler’s 3.5-liter V6 and all of its 250 horsepower — the car was more of a rod, but not really a hot one. While 250 horsepower could be written off as respectable when it was released, the lack of a manual transmission humbled the car’s performance significantly.

In 1993 Plymouth introduced us to the Prowler Concept Vehicle. Designed to be a modern retro hot rod, it was a smash hit at the auto shows and rolled off the production line 3 years later. During that time, Volkswagen announced its concept of the New Beetle. New Beetles hit the show rooms a few months after the Prowler. The world was quickly introduced to Heritage Styling also known as Retro styling. Over the next decade, we would be see a multitude of heritage styled car: The Chrysler PT Cruiser, The Chevrolet SSR and HHR, The Ford Thunderbird and Mustang, and the Dodge Charger. The heritage style continues today almost 20 years later with the Dodge Challenger, Mini Cooper, Fiat 500, Chevrolet Camaro and 2nd generation New Beetles. While not heritage styled, this increase of nostalgia encouraged automakers to revive previously dead badges. Brought back from extinction are names like, the Chevy Malibu and Impala, The Dodge Aspen and Dart, and the Lincoln Zephyr. The Prowler may have come and gone, but it has left its odd little triangle-shaped footprint on the automotive industry.
8. 1958 Ford Edsel

JLM Says: The Ford Edsel is one of, if not the most, famous — or infamous — of automotive blunders. Despite being kind of homely, fuel thirsty, and quite pricey, the Edsel was actually a pretty decent car. The big shortcoming here was Ford’s overhyping of the vehicle, promising it to be much more than the Mercury ultimately was.

The Edsel, much like the AMC Pacer, has lived a much better life after it stopped production. With less than 10,000 Edsels know to exist, the pristine examples will fetch more than 100 thousand dollars. There are many possible reasons for the Edsels commercial failure. The main reason is that the market research that Ford used to create and build the “perfect car” did not accurately reflect what the buying public wanted. Give the car a weird name and a grille that looks like a toilet seat and no one is going to buy it. Ironically, many other carmakers had success with vertical grilles. Mechanically most people believe the Edsel was no more or less sound than Fords other offerings of the day. The Edsel gave the world self-adjusting brakes and a gear selector on the steering wheel, something that is only found in luxury sports cars today. What most critics don’t know is, at the time Ford ended the Edsels run they were working on the Edsel Comet. The Edsel Comet was given to Mercury as a stand-alone product and developed side-by-side with the Ford Falcon. The Mercury Comet was a success and was replaced in the 70’s by the Pinto/Bobcat.
9. 1985 Yugo

JLM Says: The Yugo. The pinnacle of automotive imperfection. The gold standard of inferior craftsmanship that gave off the impression “of something assembled at gunpoint.” It’s the car that all crappy, poorly made subcompacts strive to be when they grow up. The engine had a tendency of not working, bits of the car would fall off, and the electrical system seemed to be more for show than anything else. “Yugo” was probably an ambitious statement in this case.Yugo_sedan_1990-590

 

Malcom Bricklin just wanted the world to be able to afford a car—a basic privilege we should all enjoy. Or maybe he hated the automotive industry so much he wanted to destroy it from the inside out. Sadly, Malcom Bricklin’s wonder car came from soviet block Yugoslavia. Known to Eastern Europe as the Zastava Koral, it became the Yugo GV in the United States. In 1986, the average price of a new car was $10,000 and the Yugo clocked in at $3,500. Overpriced is an understatement. The car advertised its carpeted floors as a feature. It came standard with a rear window defroster (to keep your hands warm while pushing it) and the car was a giant flop in the U.S. At the time, America was living off a brief resurgence of muscle cars and big car bourgeois. Maybe in today’s climate the Yugo could have been a success. Who am I fooling? This is probably the one car that deserves to be on this list.

 

10. 2001 Pontiac Aztek

JLM Says: No terrible car list is complete without the dearly despised Pontiac Aztek. In efforts to appeal to a younger crowd, Pontiac cosmetically botched its result so badly that even though the underlying vehicle was relatively decent, its outward appearance scared off buyers before they could get close enough to unlock the damn thing. ”It’s undeniable that the Aztek’s utter hideousness drove the biggest and last nails into Pontiac’s heavily side-clad, plastic coffin,” says Edmunds.com Editor-in-Chief Scott Oldham.
Some people think the Aztec killed Pontiac. At this point in time, all Pontiacs were just re-badged Chevrolets. The Aztec, while aesthetically unpleasing, was a well-equipped crossover vehicle with optional fulltime all-wheel drive. The Aztec was essentially the same vehicle as the Buick Rendezvous. The Rendezvous, which was not quite as funky looking as the Aztec, outsold the Aztec 3 to 1. Despite its looks, the Aztec sold very well from 2001-2004. In 2005, Pontiac replaced it with the Torrent. When Pontiac finally died in 2009, the car was replaced by the GMC Terrain. Recently, the Aztec has had a brief resurgence in popularity. In 2008 a little TV show called “Breaking Bad” used a Pontiac Aztec for its main character Walter White. Much like the small group of fans devoted to the Delorean time machine from “Back to the Future” fame, I envision many years in the future groups of people with their greenish-tan Pontiac Aztec’s lovingly restored to look Walter Whites famous car. Then maybe the Aztec will lose its bad reputation.

The post The Truth About the “10 Cars that Should Have Never Hit the Road” appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>
http://blastcars.com/2014/05/13/truth-10-cars-never-hit-road/feed/ 1 971
Is there an “end to the road” regarding fuel prices? http://blastcars.com/2014/03/26/end-road-regarding-fuel-prices/ http://blastcars.com/2014/03/26/end-road-regarding-fuel-prices/#respond Wed, 26 Mar 2014 21:53:50 +0000 http://blastcars.com/?p=968 When will it stop? Every time I turn the corner, that electronic gas price board is changing! When will the petroleum companies put the brakes on consumer fuel costs? Don’t hold your breath! There are a lot of variables out there that dictate what we pay at the pump. While the sweet crude barrel of […]

The post Is there an “end to the road” regarding fuel prices? appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>

When will it stop?

Every time I turn the corner, that electronic gas price board is changing! When will the petroleum companies put the brakes on consumer fuel costs? Don’t hold your breath! There are a lot of variables out there that dictate what we pay at the pump.

While the sweet crude barrel of oil is priced lower than last year – with May delivery prices at $99 a barrel – we are at an all-time high for fuel prices. Why? There are many factors and they are all based on speculation: Will there be a slow down or stop of production in one of the OPEC states? How much will China want for their industrial growth? How’s the dollar looking on the international scene?

There’s a lot to it. And, the average car owner is not in the driver’s seat when it comes to how much green he’s going to give up for that liquid gold in the gas tank.

But, there are ways to ease some of the pain.

Instead of the petroleum companies taking your paycheck for a ride, let’s use some common sense to combat those volatile fuel prices. Below is my list of the “dirty dozen” gas savings tips. It’s all about keeping money out of the gas station cash register and into your wallet.  

1)      “Keep the Junk out of Your Trunk”: (This is one of my favorites!) When did our trunks and truck beds become storage areas? Each bowling ball, every bag of mulch is helping itself to a healthy drink of your vehicle’s gasoline. Over time, these items noticeably weigh down your fuel economy.

2)      Proper tire pressure: Notice I said proper. The tire pressure info is located in the driver’s door jamb of every car or truck. There is a reason that the tire pressure reads both front and rear PSI. Your particular vehicle has been painstakingly designed by the manufacturer’s engineers. This includes a specific tire size and tire pressure. Not only will keeping the proper tire pressure ensure the maximum MPG (miles per gallon), but influences braking, steering and handling.

3)      Alignment/tire wear: If your tires are not tracking the pavement properly, you ride is wasting fuel.  That’s right! The extra “drag” from misalignment will hit you in the wallet twice: new tires, low MPG. I always tell people that when they fuel up, turn the steering wheel so that the tires point AWAY from the pumps. Before pumping gas, go around to the front of the vehicle and visually check the tire tread condition. Do they look worn? Does one side of the tire have more tread than the other? If so, go straight to your ASE-Blue Seal shop or dealership and get an alignment.  Save money on tires and fuel!

4)      Any “warning” light illuminated: Don’t drive with any warning lights illuminated on your instrument panel. These red and orange symbols are telling you that the onboard computers – yes, there are dozens of them in your vehicle – have picked up a fault (or two) and your vehicle needs attention. Ignoring this warning sign will kill your MPG.

5)      Top-Tier fuel: In the early 2000s, six vehicle manufacturers got together and asked petroleum companies for a specific fuel composition. This special, gasoline blend would make vehicles run at peak performance (no carbon buildup), best MPG and least amount of emissions. Quite a few oil companies complied and have been deemed “Top-Tier” gasoline.  Just Google the term “Top-Tier” to find a fuel facility near you.

6)      Cruise control: Even in your daily drive to the office, you can take advantage of this highway helper.  A driver’s foot naturally flexes while resting on the accelerator pedal. Since the onboard monitors for fuel are measured in hundredths – sometimes thousandths – it can easily pick-up your natural foot motion. This means more fuel consumption. The cruise control option eliminates this movement, therefore higher MPG.  Use cruise control in light traffic and take advantage of the savings. (Note: The driver must pay attention to the road and vehicle operation. Cruise control activation is not an invitation to talk or text.)

7)      Jack rabbit starts/hard stops: (This is a no-brainer.) If you put the pedal to the metal your fuel economy is going to suffer. (So where are you going? To the next stop light?) And, this goes for waiting for the last second to brake your vehicle – hard, fast stops — at a safety signal.  Wasting fuel and abusing your automobile:  A double-hit for your wallet.

8)      Rush-hour traffic: Don’t you hate idling in traffic? Check out your route. Look and see if there is an alternative map to work or school. Ask your employer if you can change your schedule and start work an hour earlier or later to avoid the gridlock.

9)      Long idle times: Waiting to pick up the kids from school?  Soccer practice? Turn-off the ignition! Long idle times put a big dent in your MPG, and it’s not so good for the engine and supporting components.

10)   Vehicle service: Keep your vehicle running strong with the help of your ASE-certified technician. Make sure that your vehicle is getting the proper maintenance (oil change, tire rotation, etc.) when due.  A well maintained car or truck will give you the best fuel economy.

11)   Plan your trips:  Saturday morning tasks have you running around town? Have a plan of attack and map out the most efficient route. No brainer when it comes to saving fuel, wear-and-tear on your automobile.

12)   “Gimmicks”: There are contraptions and additives out there that promise you the Moon when it comes to saving gas. Don’t buy it – either way! Your vehicle was designed by a team of automotive engineers that know what’s best for your car or truck. Listen to your ASE-certified technician when it comes to servicing your vehicle and doing what’s right for car or truck.

We don’t have re reinvented the wheel to keep money in the wallet. Practice these car care tips and you too can become a savvy, car consumer. It’s that simple.

The post Is there an “end to the road” regarding fuel prices? appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>
http://blastcars.com/2014/03/26/end-road-regarding-fuel-prices/feed/ 0 968
A Bugatti Plane of the Future…From the Past is Ready to Fly http://blastcars.com/2014/02/25/bugatti-plane-futurefrom-past-ready-fly/ http://blastcars.com/2014/02/25/bugatti-plane-futurefrom-past-ready-fly/#respond Wed, 26 Feb 2014 02:50:31 +0000 http://blastcars.com/?p=964 In the 1930’s, Ettore Bugatti worked day and night to create his 900bhp, 500mph racing plane. This 100P was going to be Bugatti’s meal ticket in the Deutsch de le Merthe Cup, a race of the skies over Paris. The original plan was to build a plane with two 4.9-litre engines that each got a […]

The post A Bugatti Plane of the Future…From the Past is Ready to Fly appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>

In the 1930’s, Ettore Bugatti worked day and night to create his 900bhp, 500mph racing plane. This 100P was going to be Bugatti’s meal ticket in the Deutsch de le Merthe Cup, a race of the skies over Paris.

The original plan was to build a plane with two 4.9-litre engines that each got a whopping 450 horsepower to build a plane that could easily fly 500mph and beat the competition.

By June 1940, though, World War Two put a damper on Bugatti’s plans. Instead of letting his plane get into the hands of the Germans, he hid it away. After the war, it was still intact, but nowhere near ready to fly.

John Lawson and Simon Birney of California decided to put their own mark on the project in 2009. After building a replica of Bugatti’s 100p that included five patents Bugatti earned for his original design, they have officially finished the project that took so much of Bugatti’s time.

The plane will fly on its first trip on March 25 in Oxnard, California. The plane’s unique shape, including a V-shaped tail, wings that pitch forward, and a cooling system that gets zero-drag is bound to draw out flying aficionados from all over.

The post A Bugatti Plane of the Future…From the Past is Ready to Fly appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>
http://blastcars.com/2014/02/25/bugatti-plane-futurefrom-past-ready-fly/feed/ 0 964
Pope’s Harley Sold for $327,000 at Charity Auction http://blastcars.com/2014/02/20/popes-harley-sold-327000-charity-auction/ http://blastcars.com/2014/02/20/popes-harley-sold-327000-charity-auction/#respond Thu, 20 Feb 2014 23:11:59 +0000 http://blastcars.com/?p=951 Pope Francis’ Harley-Davidson is back on the roads.  However, the Pope is not the rider – no matter how modern he is.  The bike was purchased for 241,500 euros ($327,000) by an unspecified European buyer at a Paris auction to benefit charity. The Bonhams auction house said the telephone buyer agreed to pay much more […]

The post Pope’s Harley Sold for $327,000 at Charity Auction appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>

Pope Francis’ Harley-Davidson is back on the roads.  However, the Pope is not the rider – no matter how modern he is.  The bike was purchased for 241,500 euros ($327,000) by an unspecified European buyer at a Paris auction to benefit charity.

The Bonhams auction house said the telephone buyer agreed to pay much more than the expected pre-sale price of 12,000 euros ($16,000) at the auction at Paris’ Grand Palais.

The money will be donated to Caritas Roma, a charity which runs a soup kitchen and hostel for the homeless in Rome.

Also at the auction, a Harley-Davidson jacket signed by Pope Francis sold for 57,500 euros.

It is unknown whether the Pope ever rode the custom 2013 Dyna Super Glide.  It was a gift from Willie Davidson, a retired Harley-Davidson designer and grandson of the company’s co-founder.

The post Pope’s Harley Sold for $327,000 at Charity Auction appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>
http://blastcars.com/2014/02/20/popes-harley-sold-327000-charity-auction/feed/ 0 951
Tesla Breaks into Top 5 Car Brands http://blastcars.com/2014/02/20/tesla-breaks-top-5-car-brands/ http://blastcars.com/2014/02/20/tesla-breaks-top-5-car-brands/#respond Thu, 20 Feb 2014 23:09:46 +0000 http://blastcars.com/?p=954 Despite being the youngest automaker in the nation, Tesla Motors Inc. ranks in the top five brands among people surveyed by “Consumer Reports.” Tesla was fifth in the poll, a large gain from 11th last year.  It ranked behind Toyota, Ford and Honda, as well as General Motors’ Chevrolet.  The results are from a December […]

The post Tesla Breaks into Top 5 Car Brands appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>

Despite being the youngest automaker in the nation, Tesla Motors Inc. ranks in the top five brands among people surveyed by “Consumer Reports.”

Tesla was fifth in the poll, a large gain from 11th last year.  It ranked behind Toyota, Ford and Honda, as well as General Motors’ Chevrolet.  The results are from a December survey of 1,578 vehicle owners who were asked to rank brand attributes including quality, safety, value, design and technology.

“Over the last six months or so there has been a lot of visibility for that brand,” said Tom Libby, an auto analyst for Polk in Southfield, Mich. Tesla’s rise in the rankings “can’t hurt as that is a highly respected publication that has no need to respond to any constituency.”

The magazine also rates Tesla’s Model S among the best cars it has ever tested.

The post Tesla Breaks into Top 5 Car Brands appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>
http://blastcars.com/2014/02/20/tesla-breaks-top-5-car-brands/feed/ 0 954
Stern Pinball Unveils Mustang Game at Chicago Auto Show http://blastcars.com/2014/02/20/stern-pinball-unveils-mustang-game-chicago-auto-show/ http://blastcars.com/2014/02/20/stern-pinball-unveils-mustang-game-chicago-auto-show/#respond Thu, 20 Feb 2014 23:08:34 +0000 http://blastcars.com/?p=957 Stern Pinball unveiled its Ford Mustang-themed games at the Chicago Auto Show on Feb. 6 and 7, during media preview’s prior to the show’s public opening on Feb. 8. Ford spotlighted its eagerly anticipated 2015 Mustang 50th anniversary model at the show.  The exhibition was open to the public through Feb. 17 at the North […]

The post Stern Pinball Unveils Mustang Game at Chicago Auto Show appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>

Stern Pinball unveiled its Ford Mustang-themed games at the Chicago Auto Show on Feb. 6 and 7, during media preview’s prior to the show’s public opening on Feb. 8.

Ford spotlighted its eagerly anticipated 2015 Mustang 50th anniversary model at the show.  The exhibition was open to the public through Feb. 17 at the North and South Halls fo the McCormick Place exhibition center.  The new Mustang was also displayed at January’s national auto show in Detroit.

At the media preview, six brand-new Stern “pro-level” Mustang pinball machines were on display, alongside the new Ford Mustang.  Top-ranked competitive pinball player Zach Sharpe will demonstrate the game.

Ford announced the redesigned 2015 Mustang on December 5, 2013, with showings in major cities around the world.  Stern announced its plans for a line of pinball machines commemorating the automobile around the same time.

The Mustang was first introduced at the New York World’s Fair in 1964.

Developing the new Stern flipper game was an important project for designer George Gomez.

“The first car I ever bought was a 1970 Mustang Sportroof with a 302, and I’m currently restoring a 1969 Mach 1,” said Gomez, Stern’s vice-president for game design. “In designing these new games, we wanted to celebrate the freedom and fun of driving a Mustang.”

The Stern-Mustang line includes three models:  the pro-level machines, the premium edition and the special limited edition.  The pro-level is designed for arcades and features Mustangs from the past five decades.  The premium edition focuses on Mustang Boss 302, Boss 351 and Boss 429 of 1969 to 1971 and 2012 to 2013.  The limited-edition model features the 1965 original and the new 2015 Mustang.

The new games incorporate a mix of classic pinball play features and modern technology to let players “go racing” with the Mustangs and even assemble a dream collection as they progress, Stern reported.

Different interactive playfield sections and shot sequences permit players to go drag racing, rallying, drifting and road racing in pursuit of a high score.  For example, hitting specific targets with the ball enables gear shifting.

The games incorporate video on the backboard and audio with real Mustang sounds.  The goal is to recreate the experience of driving a Mustang.

Steve Ling, car marketing manager of Ford, welcomed Stern’s celebration of the iconic Ford “pony” car.

“For five decades, Mustang has represented some of the best of American culture, inspiring a feeling of freedom and independence for people around the world,” he said. “We’re excited to have Stern Pinball join us here in its hometown of Chicago with its brand-new games featuring Mustang.”

Stern recalled that the first Ford Mustang was the theme for a pinball machine introduced in 1964 by Chicago Coin, a postwar pinball machine manufacturer that failed to overcome the competitive threat of videogames that arose in the 1970s.

Stern was founded to fill the resultant void, and is committed to creating games that combine the original play action of classic pinball machines with modern design and mechanical systems to challenge contemporary players.

“The beauty of pinball is that there is no set outcome, and it can’t be programmed like a videogame,” said Gary Stern, founder of Stern Pinball. “That makes pinball a perfect match for Mustang, taking drivers anywhere they want to go.”

The post Stern Pinball Unveils Mustang Game at Chicago Auto Show appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>
http://blastcars.com/2014/02/20/stern-pinball-unveils-mustang-game-chicago-auto-show/feed/ 0 957
Sinkhole Swallows Eight Corvettes in the National Museum http://blastcars.com/2014/02/12/sinkhole-swallows-eight-corvettes-national-museum/ http://blastcars.com/2014/02/12/sinkhole-swallows-eight-corvettes-national-museum/#comments Wed, 12 Feb 2014 22:05:46 +0000 http://blastcars.com/?p=948 Bowling Green, KY– The National Corvette Museum has eight fewer Corvettes in its possession today after a sinkhole that stretches to 40-feet-wide and 20-feet-deep literally swallowed them whole. No one was in the museum when the sinkhole occurred and the Bowling Green Fire Department quickly sealed off the affected area. The museum was home to dozens […]

The post Sinkhole Swallows Eight Corvettes in the National Museum appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>

Bowling Green, KY– The National Corvette Museum has eight fewer Corvettes in its possession today after a sinkhole that stretches to 40-feet-wide and 20-feet-deep literally swallowed them whole.

No one was in the museum when the sinkhole occurred and the Bowling Green Fire Department quickly sealed off the affected area. The museum was home to dozens of Corvettes and is a favored destination of Corvette enthusiasts from around the world.

Six of the cars that fell into the sinkhole in the skydome were donated by eager ‘Vette fans and the other two are owned by General Motors. One was a 1962 Black Corvette and another was a 1984 PPG Pace Car. A 1993 ZR-1 Spyder is also currently sitting at the bottom of the sinkhole. A 1992 White 1 Millionth Corvette, a 1993 Ruby Red 40th Anniversary Corvette, a 2001 Mallett Hammer Z06 Corvette, and a 2009 White1.5 Millionth Corvette also fell victim to the hole.

The museum has been working on a 184-acre raceway and Motorsports Park that has a scheduled opening date of August 2014. It is still unclear if this incident will affect the opening, but the museum remains optimistic about maintaining the original date.

According to the museum’s Facebook page, it will reopen with normal business hours starting tomorrow, February 13. Fans can still check out the rest of the museum from 8:00 AM until 5:00 PM, but the skydome will remain blocked off.

Structural engineers are checking out the damage to determine if the areas around the hole are stable.

The post Sinkhole Swallows Eight Corvettes in the National Museum appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>
http://blastcars.com/2014/02/12/sinkhole-swallows-eight-corvettes-national-museum/feed/ 11 948
Keep money in your wallet: Get your vehicle get the proper repair at the right price http://blastcars.com/2014/02/08/keep-money-wallet-get-vehicle-get-proper-repair-right-price/ http://blastcars.com/2014/02/08/keep-money-wallet-get-vehicle-get-proper-repair-right-price/#comments Sat, 08 Feb 2014 13:23:52 +0000 http://blastcars.com/?p=945 I love that word:  bamboozled. It fits so well into so many applications. Card games, touch football, and auto repair. Yes, you heard me right. There are thousands of qualified mom and pop shops out there. They are active in our communities. Their kids and you kids go to the same school. They’re one of […]

The post Keep money in your wallet: Get your vehicle get the proper repair at the right price appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>

I love that word:  bamboozled. It fits so well into so many applications. Card games, touch football, and auto repair.

Yes, you heard me right.

There are thousands of qualified mom and pop shops out there. They are active in our communities. Their kids and you kids go to the same school. They’re one of the first to get to work and the last to leave. They care about the quality of service and make sure to fix the vehicle right – the first time! It’s the love and life of an independent shop owner and technician.

But, that’s not who we are talking about. This month’s spot light is on that bad apple in the bunch. That unscrupulous mechanic  with the “free” services to get you into the door by promising lower-than-normal pricing, to make you believe that you are getting a good deal. You know who they are: That shop that offers the $19.95 oil change coupon. The auto center that promises “buy-one, get one free.”

The automotive bamboozle.

Let’s visit the “free” safety inspection with oil change. I had a customer who was visiting relatives out of state. They had to visit the local garage to get a tire puncture patched. While the couple was sitting in the lobby, a service writer approached them and advised that their window sticker indicated that the oil change was overdue. And, the repair center provided “free” safety inspection with every oil change. Not wanting to jeopardize their engine, they agreed. The tech performed the oil exchange and performed the “free” safety inspection. Of course, the service writer reappeared to tell the couple of concerns that the mechanic “found.” One of those was the poor condition of the front pads. That’s when the customer put the brakes on. He recently had that material replaced, just before his vacation north. He made sure to let the service write know this fact, too. The customer noted on his bill that there was no comment regarding the brake condition.  Enough said.

That’s why it is so important to keep records of maintenance, repairs. And, ask questions. A lot of questions! I always stress for the consumer to remember the word: why.  As in, “Why does my car need brakes? Show me why the car needs brakes.” And, the other popular word that should be in every car consumer’s vocabulary: how. “How will this repair affect my vehicle’s performance? How will it affect my wallet?” These two simple words will keep you out of trouble and keep money in your wallet.

Speaking about oil changes, what about those oil change coupons that the mail has delivered to our post box lately? I tell people to take advantage of these coupons, but beware!

They promise an oil, lube and filter, tire rotation — plus fluid top off — all for an auspicious price of $24.95. What a deal. But, before you take advantage of such a coupon, do you homework. Are their disposal and shop fees? Does it include tax? Are their extra fees if your vehicle requires extra oil? You need to know before signing on that dotted service order. That’s right. You need to know the out-the-door price for the entire job.

Another ploy to watch out for: the services needed strategy. You know the drill: “Mrs. Smith, you vehicle needs a radiator flush.” “Mr. Jones, you vehicle needs a transmission service.” That’s right, kids. This is how these shops make up for the discounted price of $24.95. Logically think about this price. How can the company keep the lights on, the water running, the employees paid for $24.95? The math doesn’t work, does it? They have to sell more than the oil change to make that service bay profitable. And you’re the person to do it. Right? Not anymore. You know better on how to keep your vehicle costs down. And, if you are second guessing your decision, get a second opinion at a reliable, ASE Blue Seal shop or dealership.

I had a customer test drive one of these specials. Her four cylinder vehicle stayed within the offer boundaries regarding oil amounts and fluid top-offs. But, before the car came off the lift  — you know where this is going —  the service writer presented the customer with a $1,200 grocery list. But, she knew better and brought the recommended repair list to me. The vehicle didn’t need anything except a wiper blade exchange – the other shop missed that on their check list!

Talking about keeping costs down, there is nothing more tempting that the “buy one, get one” sales ploy. As in: “Buy one tire, get the second one free!” Again, let’s think about this logically. How can a tire manufacturer sell one tire and give another one away? It can’t. Therefore, there are “tire install packages” and required alignment checks or services to make up the bait and switch. Another popular fee is the used tire disposal. Some auto centers charge up to $5 per tire to get rid of your old sneakers. Again, before approving any repairs, ask for the “out the door” price tag.

I had a radio listener email me his “buy one, get one” tire receipt. The only way he could take advantage of the special offer was to purchase a “tire install” package and “lifetime” alignment package. If he did the math before making this purchase, he would have realized that quite a few other shops would have beat the auto center’s “special.” Comparison shop – apples to apples – and it will save your auto repair budget.

Now, you’re on the road to becoming a savvy, car consumer. And, one less consumer that an unscrupulous shop can bamboozle.

The post Keep money in your wallet: Get your vehicle get the proper repair at the right price appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>
http://blastcars.com/2014/02/08/keep-money-wallet-get-vehicle-get-proper-repair-right-price/feed/ 3 945
The Shop Truck: Why would I want exhaust headers? http://blastcars.com/2014/02/06/shop-truck-want-exhaust-headers/ http://blastcars.com/2014/02/06/shop-truck-want-exhaust-headers/#comments Thu, 06 Feb 2014 15:57:35 +0000 http://blastcars.com/?p=934 Ever since we ran our exhaust replacement story in the fall, we’ve been asked (and have started debating) why exhaust headers are such a good thing, given the price, installation difficulties, and maintenance they require. So let’s talk about that. First a quick progress update: If you are a Blast Cars reader, and you’ve followed […]

The post The Shop Truck: Why would I want exhaust headers? appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>

Ever since we ran our exhaust replacement story in the fall, we’ve been asked (and have started debating) why exhaust headers are such a good thing, given the price, installation difficulties, and maintenance they require.

So let’s talk about that.

First a quick progress update: If you are a Blast Cars reader, and you’ve followed The Shop Truck’s progress, you know that we have a long way to go in restoring our 1987 Dodge Power Ram W150 pickup truck. Right now, the truck is in the shop getting its camshaft and lifters replaced, which we’ll discuss later this month.

Anyway, HEADERS.

Your car’s engine works by mixing air and fuel with an electrical spark in combustion chambers. The resulting small explosions in the chambers cause pistons to move up and down in a specific order, which turns the crankshaft and a series of gears eventually leading to the wheels spinning.

Click to view slideshow.

The air comes in through the air take or air cleaner, which removes dirt and dust from the air, because you don’t want that getting into your engine. (This is where Cold Air Intakes and companies like K&N come into play. They try to get the air flowing as quickly and as unobstructedly as possible without allowing dirt inside.)

Once the engine has used the air and burned the fuel to make magic, the waste leaves the engine via the exhaust system. On most cars, the exhaust system starts with an exhaust manifold:

RNB-674-233

Exhaust manifolds connect to the engine and direct all the exhaust gases outward, through the catalytic converters, mufflers, and tailpipes.

On the plus side, exhaust manifolds are cheap (at least for the company that makes them), durable, and are made by your OEM company, so they fit perfectly and don’t require adjustments or much, if any, maintenance.

On the negative side, exhaust manifolds are cast iron, so they are extremely heavy and love to rust. They also rob engine performance by creating what’s called back pressure in your exhaust system. Back pressure is really just an air traffic jam in your exhaust system, and if you look at the manifold you’ll see why. The air from each cylinder is fed to a central pipe, but there’s only one pipe to collect the gases. With thousands of tiny explosions happening every minute, an inefficient manifold is one of the main sources of performance robbing back pressure.

This is why hot rodders and tuners love exhaust headers. Take a look:

Hooker headers

As you can clearly see, headers, like these Hooker Competition Headers, have a dedicated pipe for each cylinder, allowing air to travel into the exhaust system more freely. This reduces back pressure, thus increasing engine performance. Some people will tell you that installing headers is one of the easiest and cheapest things you can do to add performance.

On the plus side headers increase performance and are much, much lighter than manifolds.

On the negative side, cheaper headers (“store brand” products especially) are often poorly made and fit poorly to your engine. Lighter metals will also tend to warp under the high heat generated by your engine, causing more problems with fit. Headers also require tightening/adjusting periodically, and inexpensive headers will also tend to blow gaskets — not an expensive fix, but a pain in the ass nonetheless.

As an added problem, headers are illegal in some states, like California, because they reduce the effectiveness of your catalytic converters.

So what do we do?

Well The Shop Truck is considered an antique in Massachusetts, so headers are legal, and catalytic converters are not required anyway in vehicles of a certain age.

We have another problem with our 80s beast: It has that pesky A.I.R. system that blows fresh air through the exhaust in an attempt to reduce emissions. If I want to install headers, I have to remove the system and plug the air holes in all eight cylinders. By all accounts, this is a $500 job by itself.

What would you do if you were in my shoes? Leave the manifolds? Yell YOLO and rip the A.I.R. and manifolds out? Let me know what you think below.

The post The Shop Truck: Why would I want exhaust headers? appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>
http://blastcars.com/2014/02/06/shop-truck-want-exhaust-headers/feed/ 12 934
Ford Teams Up With MIT, Stanford to Advance Automated Driving Research http://blastcars.com/2014/01/30/ford-mit-stanford-automated-driving/ http://blastcars.com/2014/01/30/ford-mit-stanford-automated-driving/#comments Fri, 31 Jan 2014 02:46:40 +0000 http://blastcars.com/?p=928 Ford is embarking on new automated driving research projects with MIT and Stanford as part of its Blueprint for Mobility project, which envisions fully automated vehicles on the road around 2025. The research with MIT focuses on scenario planning, which will allow cars to predict the actions of other vehicles and pedestrians.  The work at […]

The post Ford Teams Up With MIT, Stanford to Advance Automated Driving Research appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>

Ford is embarking on new automated driving research projects with MIT and Stanford as part of its Blueprint for Mobility project, which envisions fully automated vehicles on the road around 2025.

The research with MIT focuses on scenario planning, which will allow cars to predict the actions of other vehicles and pedestrians.  The work at Stanford is more geared towards finding a way for sensors on a vehicle to see around obstructions.

Through these programs, Ford is exploring potential solutions for the long-term societal, legislative, and technological issues posed by a future of fully automated driving.

“To deliver on our vision for the future of mobility, we need to work with many new partners across the public and private sectors, and we need to start today,” said Paul Mascarenas, chief technical officer and Vice President, Ford research and innovation. “Working with university partners like MIT and Stanford enables us to address some of the longer-term challenges surrounding automated driving while exploring more near-term solutions for delivering an even safer and more efficient driving experience.”

The automated Ford Fusion Hybrid that was unveiled last month is Ford’s first step in the direction of automated cars.  It uses the same technology as other Ford vehicles, but adds four LiDAR sensors to generate a real-time 3D map of the vehicle’s surrounding environment.

The Fusion Hybrid is not yet capable of planning future paths for the car.  This is what the MIT research aims to look into – how a car can plan a path to safely avoid other moving objects.  The Stanford research looks to make cars capable of knowing the surrounding area, even when it is not in direct view.  This would be useful if a vehicle is stuck behind a large truck.

“Our goal is to provide the vehicle with common sense,” said Greg Stevens, global manager for driver assistance and active safety, Ford research and innovation. “Drivers are good at using the cues around them to predict what will happen next, and they know that what you can’t see is often as important as what you can see. Our goal in working with MIT and Stanford is to bring a similar type of intuition to the vehicle.”

The post Ford Teams Up With MIT, Stanford to Advance Automated Driving Research appeared first on Blast Cars.

]]>
http://blastcars.com/2014/01/30/ford-mit-stanford-automated-driving/feed/ 4 928