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Brandon Seiler's Blog on Cars

Archive for October 2010

Top Gear USA to debut November 21st (New Trailers)

That’s right kids, the American version of the UK juggernaut will premier Sunday, November 21st on The History Channel. Replacing the British power-trio of Clarkson, Hammond and May will be Adam Ferrara, an actor/comedian that starred in Rescue Me, Rutledge Wood, a race analyst best known for reporting on NASCAR, and Tanner Foust, a professional stunt/race driver whose latest television work was on the Speed Channel’s “Battle of the Super Cars”. 

To stir potential fans of the new show into a manic frenzy, two new trailers were just released to the Internet masses:

“Theater” 

“Donut”

See them both in New Videos. 

Will the Americanized version of Top Gear have the gusto to blossom in the massive shadow of its inspiration? We’ll find out in less than a month.  

Source: www.topspeed.com/cars/car-news/top-gear-usa-releases-two-new-teasers-to-promote-season-opener-ar98519.html 

Driving your car off a cliff: A deadly trend

It happens all the time. A cliff, a car, planned or not, a terrible wreck ensues. Monday, police say former Pro Bowler Junior Seau was asleep behind the wheel of his Cadillac Escalade when he drove it off a cliff in southern California, only several hours after being arrested for a domestic violence charge. From USA Today:

“Police told the L.A. Times there were no signs of alcohol or drug involvement. They told the North County Times that the tires tracks at the scene were consistent with Seau's statement that he had fallen asleep.” 

Seau survived the crash with only minor injuries; pictures show his Escalade was crushed. Rumors have been circulating that Seau may have been trying to kill himself, but his agent, Mike Kinkler, told ESPN the accident and his arrest were not related:

“One had nothing to do with the other,” Kinkler said. “It's unfortunate the two events happened so close together, but what people are reporting is completely untrue.” (1)

EXAMPLE 2

Reported right here on Brandon's Blog only several weeks ago: 

“The last tweet of celebrity plastic surgeon, Dr. Frank Ryan allegedly came moments before he drove his Jeep off a cliff and died… “Blake’s ex-girlfriend, Charmaine Blake summed up the events that led to the tragedy:

‘He lived up in Malibu on a tiny street and he was texting while driving and he accidentally went over the cliff,’ she said. 

“The California Highway Patrol confirms Ryan was texting before the crash, but investigators have not officially determined the cause of the accident.

‘It is one of the elements that we are investigating,’ CHP Officer Steven Reid says.” (2)

EXAMPLE 3

Who could forget AutoTrader’s ingenious marketing competition, “Cliff My Ride”? The concept was as simple as it had to do with cliffs: Contestants from around the world submitted videos to autotrader.ca explaining why they desperately needed their car to be thrown from a cliff to a fiery demise. 

On May 8th, the good folks at AutoTrader “cliffed” Felix Revelin-Couture’s 1992 Volvo station wagon, meaning they fired it from a launch pad into what appeared to be a gravel quarry of sorts; a classic location for such an event if there ever was one. 

Luckily, Felix wasn’t asleep or texting in the car, nor was he suicidal, though he did actually pull the lever that launched his trusty Volvo brick to its untimely death while standing safely alongside it. His prize: $30,000 towards the purchase of a new car on AutoTrader. Watch the video: http://cliffyourride.autotrader.ca/ 

EXAMPLE 4

Our third example is a serious one. Not so much of its own accord, but for the ramifications that it had beyond the silver screen. We’re speaking of course of Thelma & Louise’s 1991 stare-down with the Grand Canyon. Behind the wheel of a 1966 Ford Thunderbird, both women had nothing to lose after Louise was forced to kill a man that threatened to rape Thelma. When the police eventually corner the duo on the Canyon’s ridge, the ladies decide to cliff their ride in a much darker fashion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4z88U915uq8

EXAMPLE 5

Disturbingly, the Grand Canyon very well may be the most popular location to drive a car off a cliff, quite possibly due to the famous end scene described above. The following excerpt from Book of Odds explains why, and also sheds light on the history of car-related suicides at the canyon dating back nearly forty years:

“People really do drive their cars, on purpose, into the Grand Canyon. In fact, they do it regularly. The first occurrence was in 1967, when Osan Kang, an out-of-work Korean con man, picked up a Hertz rental car and then scoped out a spot on the South Rim with a natural ramp at the edge. He then drove the car over the rim into 1,000 feet of empty air. 

Kang had eight or nine seconds of free-fall to think about the trend he'd started—not destroying a rental car (although poor Hertz saw another of its cars take the plunge six years later), but using a car to end it all. 

It was a trend that seriously ramped up in 1991, the year of Thelma & Louise. After that, the Grand Canyon had three auto suicides in as many years, including that of Patricia Astolfo in 1993. 

After watching her Thelma & Louise tape 50 times, she took it upon herself to drive her Chevy Suburban into the pit. Just before the rim, its suspension got stuck on a rock outcropping. Still alive, Astolfo got out and simply jumped off the ledge—only to fall 20 feet onto another ledge. Still alive, and badly hurt, she crawled off the second ledge and finally jumped to her death.” (4)

Sources: 

(1) http://content.usatoday.com/communities/thehuddle/post/2010/10/police-junior-seau-was-asleep-when-car-drove-off-cliff/1
(2) http://motorspacenw.com/member/blogentry.php?b=999&u=144&page=0
(3) http://cliffyourride.autotrader.ca/
(4) http://www.bookofodds.com/Accidents-Death/Accidental-Deaths/Articles/A0768-The-Grand-Canyon-and-the-Great-Beyond
Picture: TechDigestTV

Toyota of Seattle presents: “Pink Warrior” Prius

As a result of the Susan G Komen ‘Paint it Pink’ campaign there are splashes of the signature color wherever a North Westerner’s eye might wander. I have a slight astigmatism in my left eye, which may have contributed to the random glimpse I caught of a “Pink Warrior” Prius on my way past Toyota of Seattle. 

Story time.

Several hours earlier, my roommate and I had departed from our villa in West Seattle on a mission to find a car dealership in the area willing to let us test drive one of their exciting new models. Downtown, the idle on my Civic decided to give out and the little engine’s RPM’s skyrocketed to a dangerous level just a block down from Toyota of Seattle. 

We scrapped the excitement angle and swung into the back lot of the dealership. My googley eye wandered dangerously from the sudden stress and just so happen to fall on something… Pink? 

Pink Gold. Toyota of Seattle’s Pink Warrior Prius was positioned proudly in a stall near the front of the lot, set apart from the other rows of vehicles.

Out came the note pad, down went the questions, in we went to the dealership floor to find the man with the answers. Mr. Jason Perry, Used Car Manager of the dealership, greeted us. 

I positioned my face next to MotorSpaceNW on one of his computer monitors and he matched my mug to the one on the screen. 

(Note to self: Order business cards)

“I’m convinced,” he said, and led us out to the Pink Warrior. 

We stood in front of a 2007 Toyota Prius with a custom pink graphic package set against a white paint job, a rolling show of support for the Susan G Komen Foundation; Jason’s brainchild. The Deal:

Toyota of Seattle will donate $500 to the foundation or a related cause in the name of whoever purchases the car. 

When asked what inspired him to create such a bold vehicle, Jason was eager to respond:

“I wanted the person to feel good about driving it,” he said, “I wanted the dealership to feel good about donating the money, when people see it I want them to say, ‘hey, you know what? We see this on cereal boxes, we see it on Monday Night Football, we know what the pink ribbon stands for,’ I want the person who’s driving it to feel good and to know that they’re making a statement.” 

It didn’t take long for the Pink Warrior to begin catching the public’s eye. Shortly after posting pictures of the car online at toyotaofseattle.com, Jason was contacted and asked if he would be willing lend the car to the recent Paint it Pink event at Qwest Field. 

He agreed and the Pink Warrior was displayed for all to see. Despite the public success, Jason found the most profound effect of the car might have occurred in his own dealership: 

“Probably the most powerful reaction that I got was when we first got the vehicle back on the lot. I took some pictures on my Iphone and sent them out company-wide. We have an employee, I didn’t know anything about this person, they work in a different department, this person sent me an email and said, ‘I just want to let you know what that means to me, to see that. My daughter is fighting the disease. I lost my wife to it and some other family members.’ Here’s somebody that I’m not in close contact with but I see everyday and I had no idea how close that person felt to this, and what they had gone through. That tells me that there are a lot of other people in that same situation.”

Jason explained that Toyota of Seattle would outfit any car on their lot with the Pink Warrior package. Or, if a customer doesn’t want the package, the dealership will remove it and still make the same donation. 

Even though his dealership is not directly affiliated with the Susan G Komen Foundation, it was obvious Jason was excited about the prospect of seeing the Pink Warrior ensemble make its presence known in Seattle. 

“I don’t want it to get to the commercial type point,” he said, “But the level of awareness for the Susan G Komen Foundation is probably at its all time high, as far as being accepted, being out in the open, people understanding it, becoming part of the mainstream, becoming part of our everyday lives.” 

“I want this car to be driven around Seattle and the thousands, millions of people that come downtown to see this car, to know that it was Toyota of Seattle that put it on the road and know the customer said, ‘Hey, I’m a Pink Warrior and I’m driving this thing and I hope you know it.”  

American Pocket Rocket: 350hp EcoBoost Ford Fiesta

It was only a matter of time before the gentlemen at Ford Racing got their hands on a Fiesta, and yes, they went so far as to milk 350hp from a 2.0L Ecoboost inline four. That’s comparable power to the 2010 Ford Taurus SHO between the fenders of a 2,500lb compact… 

How, why, Gremlin, you ask? From the press release:

“Ford Racing Performance Parts is putting its own spin on a Fiesta at SEMA, outfitting a concept Fiesta in a way that is sure to get the hearts of high-performance enthusiasts pumping. The Fiesta will have a production-based 2.0-liter EcoBoost™ engine, enlarged to 2.3 liters to pump out 350 horsepower.

“The goal of our 350-horsepower Fiesta is really twofold – first to reinforce Fiesta’s fun-to-drive nature with an extreme version that captures the attention of the influential enthusiast, and second, to introduce the Ford Racing/EcoBoost connection in a way that’s unexpected and outrageous,” said Mickey Matus, Ford Racing Performance group marketing manager. “In both cases, we’re targeting the discriminating performance enthusiast with our message. After all, they are the people others rely on for automotive expertise and recommendations.”

But is it a Gremlin?

“The car comes equipped with several Ford Racing Performance Parts options that are currently available at www.fordracingparts.com. A short-throw shifter offers more precise shifting, while a Ford Racing exhaust gives off a deeper, throatier exhaust note. Also available are 17-inch wheels that are cast-aluminum and painted in charcoal gray.

Additionally, the car features Brembo brakes that offer the ultimate in stopping power, and
Ohlins dual-flow valve dampers that deliver comfort and agility.” 

Gremlins didn’t’ have those things. And were ugly. 

To drive home the point that Fiestas are highly customizable both from the dealership floor and beyond, Ford will also be displaying versions of the car at SEMA built specially by some of the most respected names in the business. The list includes:

-Universal Technical Institute
-3D Carbon
-L&G Enterprises 
-H&R Springs
-Steeda Autosports
-FSWerks 

Don’t miss these dandies and many more at SEMA, November 2-5 in Las Vegas.  

Air Force Monster Truck Blasts T-Shirts from Gatling Gun

The U.S. Air Force has a new recruitment tool: Monster Trucks. Specifically, a Cadillac Escalade monstrosity designed to resemble an A10-C Thunderbolt Warthog, equipped with a Gatling gun that shoots t-shirts. You heard right, son. From Jalopnik:

“The U.S. Air Force outreach project launched earlier this year and, like the Army with its Hummers and climbing walls, involves outreach mostly at sporting events. And in case getting blasted by t-shirts out of the nose of a monster truck wasn't persuasive enough, they're handing out ringtones that sound like the the actual 30-mm gun on the A10. Epic.” (1) 

Some might say there are better ways to spend taxpayer money than to build a recruitment tool for the military that epitomizes excess (perhaps a teacher’s union monster truck? ((A ’96 Dodge Caravan?)). 

Others would argue this is the U.S.****in’A. and it’s only fitting our Air Force should blast T-Shirts from a 10,000 American-made SUV; that’s just how we roll. 

Whatever your opinion on the matter, the balls-out invitation to join up with the world’s finest Military power has caused enough of a stir to catch the attention of the New York Times. Here’s the in-depth scoop:

“…The A-10 Monster Truck, which we first spotted on Jalopnik, has been touring air shows, sporting events and, indeed, monster truck rallies all year long, engaging passersby with its supercharged, methanol-injected engine’s stirring ruminations on post-Soviet multipolarity.

The pitch might appear unambiguous, but the A-10 also travels with enlisted recruiters who answer attendees’ questions about the truck, as well as about the Air Force.

“Anywhere there’s a crowd, it’s a magnet,” said Maj. Bobby Holland, an Air Force spokesman, in a telephone interview from Randolph Air Force Base, in San Antonio, where the military branch’s motorsport-based recruiting initiatives are organized.

“People come check out the recruiting truck outside the Monster events or at the air shows, and we can offer digital rewards, ring tones, little ways to introduce people to the Air Force,” Major Holland said. Though he could not provide actual numbers, Major Holland feels that the A-10 has served his recruitment targets well. “We have a data capture system where people register at the truck for more info about the Air Force, and that’s definitely well into the hundreds,” he said.

The A-10 was at the Wichita Flight Festival last weekend and will stump throughout the South and Southwest in coming weeks, traveling in its custom 85-foot trailer. Major Holland does not anticipate the truck will be decommissioned any time soon. “It has a really large promotional footprint,” he said, without a hint of deadpan.” (2) 


Sources:

(1) http://jalopnik.com/5646965/t+shirt+shooting-a10-warthog-monster-truck-is-everything-right-with-america 
(2) http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/28/air-force-a-10-monster-truck-fires-t-shirts-not-bombs/

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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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