Month: November 2013
If you’re into scooters here’s a great article about monocoque vs. frame/metal vs. plastic. Good stuff for us two wheeled gear-heads!
In the utopian view of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there will be no car accidents. There will be no injuries. Death by Motor Vehicle will be an unpleasant memory in the annals of the Unregulated Times. We will all be shuttled about in expertly engineered and regulated boxes, each with 8 airbags per passenger, fully restrained in the latest and greatest in “Passive Restraint Systems,” comforted by the knowledge that the vehicle its watching for any possible scenario that may cause harm. And secure in the belief that in the unlikely event anything should happen, our beneficent benefactors will know exactly where to send help, because our cars will tell them exactly where we are. No need to concern ourselves with anything bit the ride. The car knows what to do.
Think this is far fetched? It may be closer than you think. Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) communication systems have been in the works for some time. There are already cars on the market with the ability to park themselves, see behind them and apply the brakes if you get too close to the car in front of you. They also monitor more systems than the Lunar Modules, and control consoles with everything from GPS to Bluetooth to entertainment are becoming the norm. Cars are now equipped with “Black Box” technology as well.
So, what’s the problem? Well, it seems our friends at the NHTSA are poised to require all new cars and trucks to be equipped with all the gadgetry that will broadcast speed, location, and perhaps number of passengers. The technology will also relay whether a car’s systems are all functioning, or if it’s been “hacked.” That’s right, Large Sibling even wants your car to snitch on you.
Of course, the current administration denies it wants more spy power: “NHTSA has no plans to modify the current V2V system design in a way that would enable the government or private entities to track individual motor vehicles,” a NHTSA spokesman said to CNSNews. But note the word “current.” Nothing said about the future systems that will be developed. And according to the Government Accounting Office, the DoT does want any new tech to be able to detect “Bad Actors.” And who are these miscreants?
Cars with malfunctioning parts, or have been hacked. In other words those who may choose to modify the car so it behaves as the driver wishes, not the government. Replace the factory exhaust with a less restrictive one? Install a Stage II chip to override factory settings? No, no, no, my friend!
Oh, and Data from EDRs has already been accessed and used by law enforcement authorities in court to contradict testimony.
So what? Don’t we want to be safer? Don’t we want The Children to be protected? If you want an honest answer, no. Not at the excessive reach of an overbearing tyranny anyway. You see, most accidents are caused by driver inattention, distraction and general incompetence, not a lack of tech. This is an excuse to control not only cars, but the people as well. Not to mention the corporations who will root on these new regulations, rather than let the market decide whether their toys are wanted. All in all, if you want safer cars, educate yourselves as drivers. Stop looking to gadgets or government to save you.
Human nature has always been driven by competition, especially the quest to see who is the fastest. From the Greek Olympics to Roman chariots, From steeple chases to the Triple Crown, From the first time two horseless carriages tested each others mettle, To today’s high tech racing machines, man has an innate desire to out duel his competitors in tests of speed. I imagine that it takes a certain mentality to rise to the top of such a game. After all, skill will take one only so far. Mindset is what makes winners. As it has been said, maybe race car drivers are wired differently.
Two of these men have been in the news this week; one to end a career, the other to soldier on in the face of adversity.
Dario Franchitti became interested in racing in the mid 80’s, rising through the ranks of various European circuits, eventually landing a ride with Hogan Racing in the PPG/CART series in 1997. In 2000, he suffered a heavy crash which ended his season. In 2003, he moved with Andretti Green Racing to the IndyCar series, but an injured back due to a motorcycle crash ended his year. In 2007, he survived two massive crashes, each one seeing him flip upside down. And yet he still managed to strap into the cockpit, and his focus won him 21 races, 57 podiums, 23 poles , 3 Indianapolis 500 races, and 4 IndyCar Championships with Chip Ganassi Target Racing. Oh, and he also competed in NASCAR and sports car racing.
Then at the 2013 race in Houston, Franchitti collided with Takuma Sato on the final lap, sending him into the turn five catch fence. The crash injured 13 spectators, and he suffered a spinal fracture, ankle fracture, and concussion. After a month of tests and treatment by some of the best physicians in the world, it was determined that to the risk of detrimental injury in a future crash was too great. Dario Franchitti announced his retirement on November 14.2013.
Trevor Bayne is an up and coming NASCAR driver. Just 22 years old, he as been steadily climbing the ranks, beginning with karting, moving into the lower series, eventually driving for the likes of DEI, Michael Waltrip, Jack Rousch , and the Wood brothers. It was with the latter that he reached the highlight of his career to date; becoming the youngest winner of the Daytona 500 in 2011.
In 2012, Bayne was hospitalized for 5 weeks with a mystery disease that was originally diagnosed as Lyme disease. Earlier this year, he determined to find out the true cause. In June it he was officially diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. He has been cleared to race, and will continue undeterred.
Two drivers. One, a multi-time champion forced to retire, and we can assume that if he could continue, he would. The other, a young gun determined to make his mark, despite what could become a debilitating illness. Both driven to be faster than the other guys. Both single mindedly pursuing their dreams. Both apparently wired differently.
So, what’s your excuse?
Airbags saved my life. A distracted driver ran a stop sign, and I T-boned him at 35 miles per hour. And while there were a host of injuries, head trauma wasn’t one of them. So one would think I favor their mandatory installation in all vehicles right?
Oh how wrong you are.
Mandating safety equipment, “average” MPG standards, and a host of other helpful hints have driven car prices to unbelievable levels. The average transaction cost for a new car was $12500 in 1993. Adjusted for inflation, that’s $20,255. Today, on the cusp of 2014, it’s $32,252. And true purchase price is further hidden by all the 7 year finance schemes out there. But that’s a story for another day.
In reality, government mandates not only drive up the cost of cars, they actually hinder some of the goals they are trying to achieve. In the case of MPG standards, all cars must achieve 54.5 MPG by 2025. This is up from 36.5 in 2016. Setting aside the fact that government should leave market forces to determine these things, the simplest way to achieve these numbers is to shed weight. However airbags, back up cameras, and all the electronic stuff needed for an engine to run at these levels adds to the total.
Here’s the kicker. In 1984, Chevy re-branded a Suzuki and called it the Sprint. It was bare bones. It weighed only 1600 lbs. It was stark slow, and pretty much a tin can. Yet it achieved an amazing 44/53 mpg without the benefit of modern electronics. Take the same idea (less weight, but with modern materials for strength,) make airbags optional, drop in a modern efi direct injection dual overhead cam 4 cylinder SIDI, maybe 6 cylinders even, and higher mileage is easy peasy. But all the mandatory crap would really drop the numbers.
“But that’s where hybrids and electric cars come in! This will force the evil corporations to develop these alternative vehicles!” Yes it will, at taxpayer expense. Currently, the production of electric cars is subsidized; Nissan and
Chevy and Toyota are producing cars witch are purchased with tax incentives. Which is a fancy way of getting others to partially pay for an overpriced car. And why are they overpriced, you ask? Incentives. When one gets tax money back, it’s taken from someone else. Take away the incentives, and my guess is sales would plummet. Then there’s that word “
force.” In other words, build this or else.
So what all this means is if those who would want to make our lives better by fiat, (Laws, not the Italian car) would just get out of the way and let us decide for ourselves what we want, they would be surprised by how far we can go without their help. If we want hybrids and alternative cars, we’ll have them. If we want massive SUV’s, ditto. Insanely fast muscle cars. Yes please!
I can dream, can’t I?
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Among the sights and sounds of the car show circuit, I must confess one of my favorite things is the variety of foodstuffs I can savor. It may be the hot dog vendor, sausage stand, or confectioneries galore. Food is a big part of the festivities, and nothing says Car Culture like big blocks and burgers. And an ice cream on a hot day makes the whole party that much more enjoyable.
But it goes without saying that chocolate sauce and leather upholstery just aren’t meant for each other. And litter just brings the whole atmosphere down. Common courtesy also seems to be in decline these days. With that being said, there are some basic rules of etiquette that we must adhere to. Following these simple courtesies will enhance the experience for all.
Here are just a few…
- Try to keep the sloppy sandwiches and ice cream away from the exhibits. The $30,000 paint and interior will not be greatly enhanced by you dripping mustard all over them.
- You’re walking about with beverage in hand and decide you need two hands to examine the fine metalwork of a master craftsman. Don’t put the drink on the fender, hood, or heck THE CAR!!! Doing so will not make you any friends.
- This may sound basic, but carry your trash with you until you find a waste can. Nothing takes away from a fine event like seeing trash and litter all over. Clean up after yourself, mommy’s not here to do it for you!
These are just a few common sense tips to make the day enjoyable for everyone.
See you on the road!