Archive for May 2011
Summer is here and no amount of meddling from that dirty tart La Nina is going to put a stopper on the season of cars and car-related attractions. Grab the keys from the davenport, gas up the Packard and leave the motoring scarf next to your work boots – there’s automotive fun just around the bend.
Kirkland Classic Car Show (July 31st)
Like church and American football, the annual Kirkland Classic Car Show is held on Sunday. Each year the waterfront streets of beautiful downtown Kirkland close and convert to parking spaces for hundreds of classic, custom and hotrod cars and trucks.
Sponsored by Legends Car Club, the event impresses not only with a seriously eclectic grouping of automobiles, but also a number of their owners to match, most of which will be sitting in lawn chairs behind their pride and joy, willing to mix, mingle and shoot the Lake Washington breeze with passersby so long as the conversation doesn't stray too far from their vehicle.
Kirkland Concours d’ Elegance (September 11)
If the Kirkland Classic Car Show doesn’t live up to your ritzy standards, wait a few months and travel down Lakeview Drive to the city’s swankiest waterfront location at Carillon Point for the 9th annual Concours d’ Elegance.
Over the better portion of a decade, the family oriented gathering has established itself as one of the premier concours events in the country with vehicles selected from across the United States and Canada. This year’s categories include:
1. Aston Martin
2. Brass Antiques
3. Pierce Arrows
4. Blackhawk Beauties
5. Working Girls - Imported from Aurora Avenue via Metro Bus.
(Light-Duty trucks produced between 1925 and 1950 - the first time Kirkland Concours has featured a commercial class. The new category will “Provide a colorful counterpoint to the elegance and style of the other classes.”
6. Collectors Class
7. Special Display
8. Straight Axle Corvettes (1953-1962)
9. Preservation Class
10. CCCA Early / CCCA Late
11. Vintage Wooden Boats – Classic Runabouts
12. Vintage Motorcycles – American Racers
All profits from the event benefit uncompensated children's care at Seattle Children's Hospital and Evergreen Hospital Medical Center.
Greenwood Car Show (June 25th)
In terms of sheer size, car shows don’t get any bigger in Washington State than the Greenwood car show. Rolling strong into its 19th year, the Seafair Sanctioned Community Event is expected to set more records with over a mile and a half long stretch of Greenwood Avenue packed to the gills with over 700 cars.
Last year’s extravaganza drew over 200,000 people, this year is expected to lure even more. Attractions include:
Hydroplanes, live music, food, vintage fire engine displays and a kid’s zone, not to mention the various shops, bars and restaurants already lining the strip.
Leashes for dogs and children are advised.
The Evergreen State’s mecca for auto racing and its many forms is nestled in the bosom of Monroe. Along with a wide array of motorsport entertainment designed for spectating, the speedway does its best to cultivate a motorsport community.
Weekend warriors need only make a few modifications to their vehicles (or none at all) to find themselves competing in a an event.
On the speedway website, a few simple clicks and a glance into the “Schedule” tab reveals a bountiful list of titillating activity:
-NASCAR sanctioned races
-Beacon Plumbing weekly racing series
-Evergreen Street Drags
-WWRA (Western Washington Racing Association) Races
-Various school bus competitions
-Stunt & Daredevil shows
If you can only make it to one event at the Evergreen Speedway this summer, ring in the fourth of July at the Speedway’s “Les Schwab USA Birthday Bash”. The celebration promises “Stinger 8, Hornets, V8 xTreme, Demo Derby, Roll Over, Bus and Boat, Mr. Dizzy and the Biggest Fireworks Display in Evergreen Speedway History.”
To find out what all of that means and get directions, visit www.evergreenspeedway.com.
For those readers hailing from the inland portions of Washington State, the allure of these events and attractions might pale to the hue of a cruel tease in the wake of rising summertime fuel prices, an inflated Fourth of July fireworks budget exacerbated by the execution of Osama Bin Laden, and a fear of exiting a Starbucks to find yet another Starbucks.
For these “rural” auto enthusiasts, please take a look at:
Here you’ll find a comprehensive list of car shows, festivals parades and the like that reach out beyond the bustling metropolis’ of Western Washington into small towns and lesser populated areas of the state, some of which stretch all the way to the eastern and southern borders.
Gas up the Packard, the Datsun, whichever is clever and enjoy the car lover’s season.
Its true - Randy savage, the Macho Man, king of the flying elbow drop, legendary Slim Jim spokesman, died in a car accident in Tampa, Florida on Friday (1). He was 58.
“According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Savage (legal name Randy Mario Poffo) was driving his Jeep Wrangler when he veered across a concrete median, through oncoming traffic, and “collided head-on with a tree” around 9:25 a.m. He was transported to Largo Medical Center, where he died. Savage's wife of one year, Lynn, was a passenger but sustained only minor injuries, according to TMZ. The police report noted that both Poffo and his wife were wearing seatbelts.”
“Savage's brother, Lanny Poffo told TMZ that the wrestler suffered a heart attack while he was driving and then lost control of the vehicle. The website also reported that doctors are scheduled to perform an autopsy on Saturday, May 21.”
“Frequent ring opponent Hulk Hogan tweeted:
“I'm completely devastated, after over 10 years of not talking with Randy, we've finally started to talk and communicate. He had so much life in his eyes & in his spirit, I just pray that he's happy and in a better place and we miss him.”
Savage’s cause of death is still pending. Toxicology results could take 4-6 weeks to be completed.
In the meantime, take a deeper look into a lesser-known side of the Macho Man by listening to his 2003 hip-hop release, “Be a Man”:
Automobiles are a lot like love; it’s not always possible to buy either, but both can be rented for a while. From the trusty moving truck to a limo designed to house a rolling party, the transportation of our lives will inevitably need to be borrowed at some point, regardless of the reason. The following is an examination of the vehicles that fulfill this universal need and the diverse roles they play in our society.
Are as eclectic a bunch as the reasons for which they’re rented. Whether it’s a Cadillac picked up by a traveling businessman to impress his colleagues or an economy car destroyed by the cast members of “Jackass” to celebrate a loophole in the insurance policy, cars that are rented are notoriously abused, contributing to the happy phrase, “Drive it like it’s not yours.”
Perhaps the most cult-famous representation of this call for automotive debauchery came in 1966 when Shelby convinced Hertz rental cars to produce a special line of G.T. 350s for rent:
“Early Hertz (G.T. 350) cars were available with four-speed manual transmissions until so many cars were returned from rental with burned and broken clutch assemblies that all of the later cars shipped to Hertz were equipped with an automatic transmission. Many were rented to use as production class cars at SCCA events, returned with different engines, holes where roll bars had been welded in, etc. This earned them famous nickname “Rent-A-Racer”.” (1)
Despite the spirited abuse, the rentable G.T. 350s were sold to the public after their rental car lives expired - some for more than $200,000. (1)
Having someone else drive you about either implies you’re too drunk to do so yourself or have the disposable income to afford a chauffeured ride in a vehicle more luxurious than a taxi. Either way, limos are symbols of elegant excess, chariots of the privileged, even if the privilege is only rented for a night.
The world’s heaviest limo as championed by The Guinness Book of World Records is “The Midnight Rider”, a massive tractor-trailer combination that might also deserves rights to the title of largest limousine in the world.
Inspired by “The luxury days of railroad travel”, The Midnight Rider dandifies its guests with over 460 square feet of luxury, including:
-Crew of five, with driver, co-driver, hostess and two bartenders
- Full commercial sized bar with air ride seating
- 3 separate lounges (forward, rear & observation), each with an 1800 watt Sony surround sound system
-Onboard restroom with hammered brass sink and brass fixtures
-40 passenger capacity
Do you know the difference between Kleenex and facial tissues?
The same can be said of U-HAUL and moving trucks. No brand name is more ubiquitous with the genre than U-HAUL - THE name in the moving biz.
U-HAUL’s history is one of rich mundanity. In 1945, Twenty-nine year old Leonard Shoen founded the company with his wife, Anna Mary Carty in the town of Ridgefield, Washington. Nearly seventy years later, U-HAUL holds a secure place in American history as a dutiful staple of rental culture.
Wholesome and family-oriented as they may be, U-HAUL harbors a little-known secret within the walls of their noble steeds’ low-rise beds. Perhaps begrudgingly, the company refuses to rent trailers to be towed behind any Ford Explorer:
“U-Haul has chosen not to rent behind this tow vehicle based on our history of excessive costs in defending lawsuits involving Ford Explorer towing combinations. This policy is not related to safety issues. This is an unusual circumstance for U-Haul.”(2)
Curiously enough, the ban extends to all production years and variations of the Explorer, including the pickup-based Ford Explorer Sport Trac, regardless of the tire brand attached to the vehicle.
Are usually applauded when they rollover, whether the wreck is caused by a horrific tire blowout or not. If watching them roar around daytime television on Monster Jam doesn’t get you your jollies, it's possible to rent one for personal and group entertainment.
A simple Google search produces a number of monster trucks ready and willing to make appearances and give rides at parties, shows, fundraisers, bar mitzvahs and pretty much any other event that could only be improved by the presence of a monster truck. Examples include:
“Mean Streak” – 12ft tall 1988 Chevrolet Silverado with 6ft tall tires and seating for passengers in the bed. Mean Streak’s website declares they’re pretty much down for anything:
“GET MARRIED IN THE BACK OF THIS MONSTER TRUCK then after the ceremony give the kids something to do or even grown-ups that need a sitter!!! THE MEAN STREAK never gets tired of giving rides” (3)
White Lightening – 2003 Ford F-350, about the same size as Mean Streak, yet conveniently located in Bellingham, Washington. The newer body style makes this monster a good choice for events in less rural areas.
La Supertrux - For the serious monster enthusiast in the United Kingdom, La Supertrux will rent out Big Foot #17 and its pink counterpart, “Monstrous”.
The dazzling duo represent the most professional and technically advanced Monster Trucks the industry has to offer, but Big Foot does concede to the more grassroots operations mentioned above in certain ways. From the Supertux website:
“*Please note that Bigfoot is a single seat racing monster truck and as such is not suitable for prom hire*” (4)
You won’t be able to be wed in the back of it either. For that, Mean Streak is the most practical choice.
And there you have it, a brief glimpse into the ever evolving world of rentable vehicles. Unlike many other rentable things, such as a rototiller or Kardashian, renting an automobile comes with the liberation of experiencing the freedoms of personalized transportation.
Until next time, opt for the insurance and drive it like it’s not yours.
Nearly two years ago, I swore on this blog I’d test-drive a new model year Chevrolet Camaro SS. Since that fateful day the muscly bowtie has been the white whale that haunts my dreams, the one that got away, the reason I wear mittens to bed to keep my fingernails harmlessly sheathed when the night terrors come.
Here today, reeking of saltwater and premium grade fuel, I’m proud to announce the great Detroit beast was lanced from my “to do” list in Yakima, Washington of all places.
My family and I were in town for the weekend to visit the grandparents for Easter and celebrate the triumphant return of Jesus. Unable to suppress smart-ass remarks for extended periods of time, my spirit was broken when an innocent joke implying Christ’s resurrection was dependent on whether or not he saw his shadow was ill-received at the old folks’ home.
Back at our hotel room, I turned off the lights and stared blankly through the half-shuttered blinds of a fourth story window, broken and fraught with guilt.
Then, from the darkness, an inexplicable force guided my eyes across the street to one of the few things in life that could have lifted me from such a hopeless low: A corvette-powered 2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS, heavenly white with zesty orange racing stripes. It glowed with an aura, as both the egg and the prize within it.
Apparition or not, it appeared to be parked directly in front of Bob Hall Chevrolet, home of “Bob Hall’s Bottom Line Pricing 24/7”. Sweetening the small town “good people” reputation, Bob Hall’s sales staff isn’t paid on commission, but solely on volume and customer satisfaction.
Maybe, just maybe on this Easter morn…
I emerged from my rented man cave into the blinding 68 degree Yakima sun, reborn with the prospect of performing a miracle of human proportions: Successfully test-drive a muscle car the salesman knew full well I had no intention of buying.
In the showroom, I introduced myself, explained my credentials and handed a salesman my stylish yet classily understated (cheap) business card.
“Sure. Do you want to drive an Automatic or manual?”
If Cadbury made dreams, this would be the dollop of yellow cream in the center.
Behind the wheel of the white Camaro, I found myself in another cave. The low-slung roof line that topped off the car’s menacing look reduced its interior visibility to what I imagined it would be like to peer through Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge’s visor.
(Blind guy on Star Trek)
No matter. The view was fine from my vantage point. The Camaro’s orange racing stripes were pulled taught over the bulges of the lengthy muscular hood. A turn of the key brought the LS1 V8 to life with the sound of 426HP burbling happily out the dual exhaust.
Whenever traffic allowed it I pressed the gas pedal to the floor, sometimes in a stomping fashion that made the engine roar with a manic ferocity, other times in a slower manner that growled steadily through the power band. Both scenarios contributed to the development of a megalomaniac complex in my right foot.
On the highway leading back towards Seattle, we hit 112mph passing one of the iconic white fruit warehouses with massive red lettering painted on its side. There was nothing to it. At 70mph the Camaro was nearly at an idle. A sharp dip into the throttle grunted us casually up to 100mph as though we were only merging into the carpool lane to avoid slower moving traffic.
The friendly salesman riding shotgun didn’t make a fuss about the liberating speed; like a gun, muscle cars are only good for one thing and the purpose is rarely legal.
It was impossible to drive the Camaro as if it were a normal vehicle for more than a handful of minutes. People who are dead inside might argue, but true freedom is defined by the sorts of pleasures the Camaro SS provides-Sweet escapes from the drudgery of mindless commutes, the joyous obliteration of practicality, they're only a flick of the foot away.
I removed the mittens from my hands and thanked Bob Hall’s salesman for his time. Leaving Yakima would have closed the book on the last unfinished chapter of my muscle car odyssey, were it not for another fateful glance on the internet. From autoblog:
“The 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was a performance monster, featuring an all-aluminum engine displacing 427 cubic inches that was originally intended for racing. Just 69 units were built, and they are highly coveted by collectors today. Perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that Chevrolet chose to resurrect this classic moniker for what it is calling the fastest and most technologically advanced Camaro ever built.
At this point, specifications are still preliminary, but Chevrolet is estimating that its supercharged and intercooled 6.2-liter LSA V8 engine will put out around 550 horsepower and 550 pound-feet of torque. Those ponies will be sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission using a dual-disc clutch that's necessary to properly harness all those horses. There's also a dual-mode exhaust system that alters the sound level and character in response to engine rpm.
Chevrolet tells us that its goal was to build “a Camaro intended to reach optimal lap times on top road-racing circuits and excellent driving dynamics on the street.” (1)
Car & Driver estimates (conservatively) the ZL1 will reach 60mph in four seconds flat and hit 100mph in 9.9 seconds with a quarter-mile time of 12.5 seconds. (2)
This blog was typed wearing mittens.
And then there were two. When Land Rover caught wind the Mini Countryman drove by the entrance of the “Hard” off-road course and exploded, they refused to let their LR4 on the trail any longer, unofficially disqualifying them from the off-road division battle. Only the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Toyota FJ Cruiser Trail Edition were left to mud wrestle for the gold.
On the way back to the garage the ambiguous mouth to the hard course appeared in the muddy window of my Kia Sportage. There were no signs or little orange road cones to mark it, only a slight opening in dense brush that resembled both a place in a children’s book where a monster might live and several uninhabited areas around my high school where we would ride along with Andy while he trashed a $300 car purchased from an Albertson’s parking lot.
Jeep’s Grand Cherokee rolled up to the entrance, stopped for about twenty seconds, and disappeared into the foliage. There was a sense of bravery about it that evoked emotions of patriotism and images of George Washington punching Hitler in the throat.
I sped back to the garage and found the Toyota FJ dripping with brown water and fresh mud, waiting dutifully for another driver.
TOYOTA FJ CRUISER TRAIL EDITION
From the second I opened the door to the FJ Trail Edition, it was glaringly apparent Toyota used the vehicle as a platform to shove a massive capitalized U between the ‘S’ and ‘V’ of Sport Utility Vehicle .
The seats were made of tough water-resistant material. The floors and rear deck were coated with a rubber-type material. The dashboard barely had a gauge in it beyond a couple knobs and buttons.
Instead of a handy little switch to engage the four-wheel drive, a stick shift jutted defiantly up from the floor like it’s supposed to in a truck, as if to say, “Hang a plastic grocery bag around me to collect trail mix wrappers, curse me with flashes of white-hot rage when I refuse to shift at inopportune times.”
Real trucks used to be built this way, and men loved it.
A turn of the key brought the 260hp/271lb-ft of torque 4.0L V-6 to life. It purred the unpretentious sound of a diligently humble engine, designed to do little more than provide respectable power and run without major incident into the next century – Another telltale mark of a salt of the earth 4x4.
The next came when the trail-ready suspension rattled us down a quarter-mile stretch of pavement to reach the hard course. If there had been a case of beer in the back we would have exploded faster than Michael J Fox wearing a backpack full of Nitro Glycerin.
At the entrance to the hard course I shifted the four-wheel drive into gear and we proceeded to march through the trail without as much as a hint of becoming stuck. The trail had indeed deteriorated into a goopy series of menacing ruts and bogs that reached the bottom of the FJ’s doors in places, but it didn’t take anything more than a steady foot on the gas pedal for the Electronically Controlled Locking Rear Differential and Active Traction Control (A-TRAC) to do all the work for me.
And that was it. We plopped off the Exit Bridge and back onto the pavement behind the garage. I was flattered pink by the FJ, so much so I couldn’t help but feel a bit patronized.
JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE
I waited anxiously at the garage for its return, wanting to discover for myself if Jeep’s recent advertising push to establish the newly redesigned Grand Cherokee as a serious off-roader would hold water, or if they would also have me believe George Washington’s white stallion was named “Hemi”.
A quick glance at the Grand Cherokee’s press kit left me feeling clammy and cheated; Chrysler’s new flagship “4x4” was chalked to the gills with a disturbing laundry list of ON-road luxuries:
-Unibody platform sharing the same underpinnings as the Mercedes-Benz ML, complimented by torsional stiffness 146 percent stiffer than current model for improved durability and reduced noise, vibration and harshness
-World-class interior featuring real wood and leather, heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, four-way power lumbar controls, rain-sensitive wipers, ParkView rear back-up camera and power tilt/telescoping steering column with memory
-Standard Electronic Stability Control (ESC) including Electronic Roll Mitigation
-Sexy exterior remodeling
WTF? If I throttled my hot-rodded ’79 Cherokee coming out of a tight corner in my college days I’d have been put on suicide watch. When I tried it on the road course in the 2011 Grand Cherokee earlier on in the day the beastly grunt of the-5.7-Liter (360hp/390lb-ft torque) Hemi felt controlled, calculated, making me feel as though I’d won an episode of Jeopardy as the only contestant allowed to Google the questions.
Impressive? Meh; the Grand Cherokee was competing in the off-road division. Luckily Jeep sent an honest contender to represent their newly-redesigned flagship SUV, equipped with their top of the line:
OFF-ROAD ADVENTURE II PACKAGE
-Quadra-Trac II 4WD System, featuring five distinct drive modes:
1. Sand/Mud: Traction control and Quadra-Lift operate with sensitive response to wheel spin, and torque
2. Sport: Provides enhanced on-road capability
3. Auto: Automatically adapts to any on- or off-road situation
4. Snow: Vehicle traction and Quadra-Lift adjust automatically over snow-covered roads
5. Rock: Quadra-Lift suspension raises to maximum height (11.1 inches) and the transfer case, differentials, and throttle coordinate to provide low-speed control
-Electronic Limited-Slip Rear Differential
-Skid Plate Group
-Hill Descent Control
At the entrance of the hard course I flipped a handy knob to the “Mud” setting and the suspension pumped up to give us another 4.5 inches of ground clearance. We plopped off the exit-bridge and back onto the pavement behind the garage.
It was easy.
And that was it. The Jeep Grand Cherokee won the off-road division of 2011 Mudfest as well as the event’s top honors as “SUV of the year”. If you read between the lines, the latter award celebrates the vehicle that best encompasses every division of the competition:
Luxury, Affordable, Off-Road and Family - in essence, every quality that still defines the modern “SUV”.
Congratulations to Jeep, and all of the 2011 Mudfest winners:
-Best Affordable SUV: Kia Sportage
-Best Family SUV: Ford Explorer
-Best Luxury SUV: Volvo XC90
-Best Off-Road SUV: Jeep Grand Cherokee
-2011 SUV of the Year: Jeep Grand Cherokee
Picture: Driving Sports (www.drivingsports.com)