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Brandon Seiler's Blog on Cars

Archive for November 2008

Advice for Poor Car Enthusiasts (Happy Holidays)

Grifting is a necessity for those of us driving a POS. Whoever can still afford to cruise around town in a giant lifted show truck with the turbocharger whistling Dixie out its chromed duel exhaust is definitely not at the mercy of the real car world just yet. 

My 1991 Dodge Dynasty has a dent torn into the side that resembles a guardrail in Othello Washington, but I love her anyway. Last week the ignition began to stick, temporarily stranding me in a 711 parking lot while a bag full of freshly bought yogurt went sour. Instead of a tow truck, I called my father for a quick and free diagnosis. 

He suggested I grab a cold one at the nearest bar and come back when my luck had improved. After forking over $46.50 of my paycheck at a local mechanic for a “steering column greasing,” dad’s wisdom rang true. These are trying times for car enthusiasts; until Uncle Sam’s bailout package kicks in being frugal with our rides is more a test of survival than resourcefulness. 

Gas prices are temporarily down but after the corn-holing the oil companies gave us over the last several years filling up your gas tank could still drain a ravaged savings account so low that purchasing a relaxing beverage might seem out of the question. But wait! 

Instead of blowing your wad, now would be the time to make a sound investment. Buy a water filter, the pitcher kind you keep in the fridge. Running cheap alcohol through it several times makes the booze taste like the good stuff and after only a few bottles it pays itself off risk free. 

As situations arise that threaten to pick your pockets, you might have to stay on your toes in order to Dodge the man’s sticky fingers in order to stay irresponsibly intoxicated long enough to make car-related purchases (I do not advocate drunk driving, MAAD). 

Say you come out of snooty bar after a night of overpriced drinks, your ears abuzz with pseudo–intellectual conversation from business types trying to tell you that it’s a bad idea to top out your 1991 Dodge Dynasty after knocking over the Karaoke table on your way to puke up a pitcher of Bush Light in the bathroom. 

Noticing your coin and tolerance for judgmental advice are nearly depleted, skip across the road to a pizza joint and have a side of bread sticks sent to your home address. Chances are the late night delivery character will be lonely enough to let you hitch a ride in his pizza-mobile free of charge. Tip him and you have a friend for life, just make sure not to slip up and give him your number or offer to race him in the Dynasty. 

There are plenty of ways to cut corners as the recession trickles down to car lovers. Being ruthlessly frugal is the true system of checks and balances that keeps the whole capitalistic charade from imploding in our faces…again. 

If you think you might be too broke to afford buying spinners for a Dodge Neon or add another layer of duct tape to the borders of a plastic-wrap window, break the system down and take the power into your own greasy hands. 

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Jay Leno Builds Super Car

In Jay Leno’s 17,000 square-foot Big Dog Garage his crack team of car experts are designing a jet powered super car. It’s called the Eco Jet and once it’s completed the long chinned comedian will have crossed into a realm of car enthusiast fantasyland few of us will ever by able to experience.

While the Eco Jet was built nearly entirely at Leno’s garage, the design and engineering was done with help from GM, specifically Ed Welburn, GM Vice President of Global Design and Frank Saucedo, head of GM’s Design Studio in North Hollywood California. Presumably that had something to do with the Eco Jet’s slight Cadillac resemblance. 
  

The carbon-fiber body of the Eco Jet looks somewhat like a Caddy on the front end before turning into something entirely unique beyond the headlights. A rear mounted 650-horsepower Honeywell LT-101 turbine engine will power Jay around California and beyond as he sees fit. It’s an engine similar to those found in Coast Guard helicopters and now Leno’s dream car. 

Exhaust from the engine at idle scorches out the rear of the car at 1,000 degrees and 1,800 at its peak performance. Surprisingly enough, it might smell a bit like French fries to other motorists on the road. That’s because the Eco Jet is an “environmentally friendly supercar.” It comes equipped with two twenty-five gallon fuel tanks, one with Kerosene or JP4 and the other with bio-diesel. What looks a lot like a stainless steal body is painted with environmentally friendly paint from Glasurit’s 9 Line Waterborne Technology lines to reduce emissions during it’s application. 

Corvette pieces comprise much of the Eco Jet’s guts. The 240-pound aluminum hyrdoformed frame is based off the Corvette Z06 with Z06 brakes and many Corvette suspension elements. The crew was forced to install a modified Z05 automatic transmission as the jet engine would instantly rev out of control if it were ever disconnected from the drive train during shifting were it applied to a manual. 

All told, the entire car is estimated to weigh between 2,400-2,500 pounds upon completion. One can only assume that a jet engine harnessed to a car weighing well under three grand will have no problem achieving ridiculous performance numbers, especially considering Jay Leno will be at the helm. 

With Jay’s funding and help from GM the Eco Jet has already garnered a fair amount of press buzz surrounding its increasingly baited completion. Look for updates on the progress and the story thus far at www.jaylenosgarage.com. 

On the website, outside of the Eco Jet, you’ll find a car collection that would make any car lover drool. Everything from turn of the century steam powered cars, vintage motorcycles, and even Jay’s first Buick are featured and driven like they were new. Each of the rides is given a video segment where Leno talks about what makes them special before tearing around the surrounding California area in them, complete with burnouts when the cars are capable. 

If you’ve ever wanted to see Jay Leno smile at you through a computer screen while he roasts the tires on an antique car worth more than your house, there are plenty of opportunities to fulfill the dream at his garage’s website. Check it out and enjoy a vicarious journey into car collector heaven.

Spanky Spangler: American Stuntman

I first saw Spanky Spangler botch a stunt at a monster truck rally in the Tacoma Dome when I was in middle school. 

He was scheduled to jump a custom Honda Odyssey dune buggy off a giant motorcycle ramp into a pile of cardboard boxes. After several practice runs he hit the ramp balls to the wall bringing the entire dome to a hushed silence. 

Man and buggy soared magnificently through the high-octane exhaust clouds of the Tacoma Dome’s atmosphere with the bug-like wail of the buggy’s motorcycle engine screaming like a crazed wasp. 

He completely overshot the boxes and began downshifting desperately as the cart passed its pinnacle and descended into a nose-dive, still a good forty feet above the concrete. The awed silence of the crowd changed to a hushed gasp as they realized doom was fast approaching and there was nothing they could do but watch as Spangle dropped from the heavens.

Budweiser sat dormant in thousands of mouths too tense to swallow. 

Spangler’s car fell with the angle of a Hail Mary pass; there was no chance his tires would be able to absorb the impact, it was going to be the nose of the buggy that met the concrete with Spangler’s legs tucked inside it’s tube frame. 

Crunch. It made a noise like a steel garbage can crumpling upon impact, bending the frame of the car into a “V” before it summersaulted onto the roll cage and slid into the opposing wall. 

The announcer began to babble over the stadium speakers as Spangler’s pit crew rushed out past the massive unaltered pile of boxes to the wreckage just beyond it. Spangler dropped from his harness into his crew’s arms and they pulled him out. 

“Look’s like he’s alright folks!” The announcer beckoned, “Let’s hear it for Spanky Spangler!” 

The crowd swallowed and erupted into cheers of support. Spangler waved to them as his crew carried him out of the arena with his arms slung over their shoulders. It was obvious his legs or ankles were either broken or messed up to the point that he couldn’t walk on them, but the audience was satisfied knowing there would be no downer before the freestyle monster truck event that night. 

That was the first time I saw Spangler botch a stunt and take it like a pro. The second was on Fox’s “Daredevils Live” special, (Not sure about the name, but it sounds right doesn’t it?) Spangler came equipped with a souped-up Monte Carlo intending to launch it off a “Corkscrew,” or a curved length of tubing atop a ramp that would send the car spinning through the air like a shot duck when he ran over it at high speed. The landing was planned to take place safely on a pile of junker cars. Having seen the dune buggy routine years earlier I was skeptical. 

This time the blunder was not Spangler’s fault. After close to an hour of build-up by Fox complete with plenty of commercial breaks, Spangler charged the corkscrew in his stunt car. Only, just before he reached the ramp his steering column locked out on him sending the jump-rod under the wrong side of his car. 

It launched him hard right into a beautifully disastrous corkscrew high above the parking lot instead of the intended landing pad of cars. Just as the mistake become apparent mid-air, the car turned level upside down and dropped like a rock to the unforgiving concrete directly on its roof. 

Once again Spangler’s crew was at his side nearly before the car came to a stop and he emerged from the wreckage uninjured so far as the Fox cameras could portray him to be. He looked like he needed a beer or twelve but was able to relay to a reporter what went wrong with the car and thank his sponsors before being led towards his trailer. 

I found out later that Spangler’s forte is actually jumping from buildings, cranes, and hot air balloons onto stunt bags. He does however claim to hold the world record distance jump in an automobile at 328 feet (100 meters), and to have been the youngest ever Green Beret in United States military history before getting into the stunt business. 

His other claims to fame include jumping a rocket-powered truck over a portion of the Rio Grande River, and being the greatest stuntman in the world. 

Personally, the two times I’ve seen Spangler do his thing were uncomfortably entertaining. With a beard and a beer belly, he looks like a guy more likely to be watching a stunt on television than performing one himself. Yet, apparently he pulls them off more often than my own experiences would have you believe. 

Feel free to check out a good cross section of his more successful stunts at www.spankyspangler.com. As always, don’t try them at home, even if you appear to be more capable than Spanky.

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About this blog

Brandon Seiler is a bonafide car guy, member of the Northwest Auto Press Association and proud Washingtonian. He covers the latest auto news, technology, and pretty much anything having to do with car culture. You don't have to like cars to read his blogs, you just have to be able to read.

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