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KUDO’S TO CADILLAC

December 18, 2011
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I recently took a trip to Calgary and when presented the choice from the guys at National car rental I answered, Luxury. What the hell, let’s see what they got. I was offered a 2011 Cadillac CTS 3.6L V6 and I jumped on the option. Now, I’m a sworn German luxury sedan guy but I’ve owned a couple of Caddy’s when I was younger and I always liked them. I haven’t put much though into “sport Cadillac’s” when they started introducing them back in 1988 but I was always curious, In today’s automotive world where BMW, TOYOTA and VW sedans all look alike the Caddilac CTS has been catching my eye with it’s hard geometric body lines. Cadillac is currently the second oldest American automobile manufacturer behind fellow GM marque Buick and is among the oldest automobile brands in the world.

Cadillac was founded in 1902 by Henry Leland, it was formed from the remnants of the Henry Ford Company when Henry Ford departed, along with several of his key partners and the company was dissolved. With the intent of liquidating the firm’s assets, Ford’s financial backers William Murphy and Lemuel Bowen called in engineer Henry M. Leland of Leland & Faulconer Manufacturing Company to appraise the plant and equipment before selling them. Instead, Leland persuaded them to continue the automobile business using Leland’s proven single-cylinder engine. After Henry Ford left, the company needed a new name, and on 22 August 1902 the company reformed as the Cadillac Automobile Company. He named the company after his ancestor, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the founder of the city of Detroit. The company’s crest is based on a coat of arms that Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac had created at the time of his marriage in Quebec in 1687. General Motors purchased the company in 1909 and within six years, Cadillac had laid the foundation for the modern mass productin of automobiles by demonstrating the complete interchangeability of its precision parts while simultaneously establishing itself as America’s premier luxury car.

Cadillac introduced technological advances, including full electrical systems, the clashless manual transmission and the steel roof. The brand developed three engines, one of which (THE V8 ENGINE) set the standard for the American auto industry. Cadillac is the first American car to win the prestigious Dewar Trophy from the Royal Automobile Club of England, having successfully demonstrated the interchangeability of its component parts during a reliability test in 1908. This spawned the firm’s slogan “Standard of the World.”

I was presented with a sleek silver saloon,

and my mind started immediately calculating modifications to the stance, wheels and maybe some window tint. I placed my luggage in the trunk and grinned at the classic Cadillac huge dimensions where historically many an unlucky mobster had taken there last ride. When I opened the door I found a surprising black leather cockpit that fit like a race car more than the velour Caddy’s I once knew. I was a little overwhelmed with all of the gratuitous buttons, dials and switches (my 64 FORD F100 has 3, headlights, heater, wipers) but DAMN this looks like European luxury. Dual climate controls in the 1/2 deg, Bose heavy bass multi speaker system, satellite radio and sport leather heated? I turned the ignition and she fired up with dignity, red needles swiping across the gauges, illuminating their faces a moment later and immediately settling into a solid idle, it felt German? I shifted the automatic trans to a solid D, it felt German? I pulled out of the parking and noticed the close ratio steering, this feels German? As I maneuvered my way through the airport parkade to the exit the first speed bump startled me, rigged suspension with good recovery? This feels like an Audi? This feels German!!

From the airport onto the highway and I am wanting one, feels like German without the German parts and repair bill? I’m in, I want one. I’ve read and watched the reviews but similar to movie critics I just rarely agree. I like the rigid chassis feel, the harsher sport ride and I don’t mind the plastic parts. My only complaint is the 6cyl engine, I may like a lot of cars but I only like the V8 engine. I hear that can be remedied by the 500 horse power CTS-V.

My trip ended, I returned the car, landed back home and I’ve been searching the auto sale sites ever since. I want one and I want it in silver.

 

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THE HISTORY OF THE BONNEVILLE SALT FLATS

October 29, 2011
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The Bonneville Salt Flats is a densely packed salt pan in northwestern Utah formed by the last glacial period 1.806 million years BP, (before present=1950 the birth of carbon dating) AKA the Pleistocene period. It is the largest of many salt flats located west of the Great Salt Lake and is public land managed by the U.S. Bureau of  Land Management. It is however, most affectionately and commonly known for the lunatics who attempt the land speed record at the Bonneville Speedway.

First recognized for its racing potential in 1896. In 1907 Rishel and two local businessmen tested the suitability of the salt for driving on by taking a Pierce Arrow onto the surface of the flats. A railway line across the Bonneville Salt Flats was completed in 1910, marking the first permanent crossing. The salt flats was first used as a speedway in 1914, when Teddy Tetzlaff drove his car to an official record speed of 141.73 mph. However, the salt flats proved their excellent racing qualities in the 1930’s when Utah driver Ab Jenkins lured British racer Sir Malcolm Campbell to compete for speed records on the salt surface. Since then, hundreds of records have been set and broken in a variety of automotive and motorcycle classes. Burt Munro, who worked for 25 years on his motorcycles, set numerous land speed records with engines less than 1000 cc at the Bonneville Salt Flats in the late 1950s, and into the 1960s. On 26 August 1967 Munro was 68 and was riding a 47-year old machine when he set his last record, his engine was bored out to 950 cc and he set a class record of  183.586 mph. To qualify he made a one-way run of 190.07 mph the fastest-ever officially-recorded speed on an Indian. According to some, his records may never be broken.

Burt Munro, 25 March 1899 – 6 January 1978.

Many racing legends and innovations have been born on the 160 square mile barren patch. The 1950s saw a revolution in the hot rodding scene that learned the importance of aerodynamics and drag coefficient. There were those that held fast to their belief in success through pure, brute horsepower but many moved forward and began to find more speed by shaping and streamlining their chassis with the use of plastic and fiberglass attaining speeds in excess of 200mph forever changing the face of American racing.

195o’s racing for bragging rights.

1954

Buy the 1960’s engine and chassis builders had advanced leeps and bounds and combined, found speeds in excess of 400mph. Notably, Mickey Thompson who achieved international fame by becoming the first American to break the 400 mph barrier hitting 406.6 mph surpassing the U.K’s John Cobb’s previous record pass of 402 mph on the 16th of September 1947. This decade also brought jet-powered cars piloted by the likes of Art Arfons, Bob Summers, Bobby Tatroe, Craig Breedlove, Don Vesco, Elwin Teague, Gary Gabelich, George E. Eyston, John Cobb, Nolan White, Sir Malcolm Campbell, Tom Burkland and Tom Green.

Mickey Thompson and Challenger one after the 406.6 mph run.

By the 1970’s the jet engine became the standard as the power plant of choice for those pursuing the absolute outter edge of the land speed envelope. In 1970, Gary Gabolich’s rocket car, “Blue Flame”, attained 622.4 mph and remained unbeaten until 1983, when Richard Noble broke it driving Thrust 2.

Gary Gabolich and Blue Flame.

Today the Bonneville Speedway is currently hosting three annual meets during the months of August, September and October, where vehicles (cars, trucks, streamliners, etc) come to compete for high speeds: Speed Week (held by the Southern California Timing Association and Bonneville Nationals). World of Speed (organized by the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association) and World Finals respectively. There is also an annual meeting held for motorcycles only, namely the BUB Meet which is usually held between Speed Week and World of Speed.

There are usually two tracks prepared for the record breaking attempts: a 10 mile long straightway for speed trials and an oval or circular track for distance runs, which is typically between 10 and 12 miles long, depending on the condition of the salt surface. In recent years, there has also been a 5 mile long straightway for qualifying slower vehicles. The straightway is marked with a broad black line down its centre and has several measured mile sections after the second mile. Additional marks and cones indicate the end of the track and the position of timing equipment on the measured mile. There are few places left and few men left unchanged, by modern society and their i-wants and i-needs. It is good to know there are still sacred places, where Man has and will continue to put himself to test, against the odds and Machine.


CARROL SHELBY AND THE GT40

October 28, 2011
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When Enzo successfully crushed Henry Ford II’s quest to buy Ferrari back in 1963, the order was given to, “Kick Ferrari’s ass.” And not just anywhere, at Le Mans, the world stage of auto racing.  The ass-kicking would finally be executed using the newly developed, brutishly beautiful and iconic, Ford GT40 America’s most incredible race car EVER.

The 1966 GT40

The Americans had up until then a history of racing development born of back yard gear heads-turned drag racers and transporting moonshine liquor. As much as I love this pedigree it wasn’t going to cut it internationally, so naturally the GT40 would have to be developed across the ocean where auto racing was a game of cornering, as well as speed. In England to be exact, by Ford Advanced Vehicles LTD under the direction of Aston Martin’s former team manager, John Wyer. Unfortunately the first GT40 failed to vindicate at Le Mans in ’64 & ’65, as Ferrari finished 1-2-3 both years. With failure no longer an option for anyone who wished to remain employed by Ford, Carroll Shelby was tagged in to give the GT40 the necessary strength to beat the Italians.  Shelby’s success at Le Mans in his own Cobras, and again with the GT40, was not about technology, but by being crafty and using American brute force, the BIG block the V8.  He replaced the 289 c.i. GT40 engine with the same powerful, big block 427 c.i. V-8 that powered his Cobras.  With lower revving and larger displacement, the V-8′s were more able to take the stress of long endurance races than the higher-revving, small displacement engines used by Ferrari.

Shelby not only ended Ferrari’s racing dominance, he exacted sweet revenge for Enzo’s snub and garnered Ford a remarkable four-year winning streak from 1966 – 1969.

The 1969 GT40

June 13th 1969


THE HISTORY OF THE CHAMPAGNE FINISH

October 28, 2011
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You’d think that the tradition of spraying a bottle of champagne from the winner’s podium after a race was as old as sports itself. It isn’t. It didn’t start until 1967 when Dan Gurney did it for the first time after winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This was the bottle he used.

When Dan Gurney and A. J. Foyt won the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Ford GT40 Mark IV, Gurney spontaneously shook his bottle of Moët & Chandon and sprayed it on everyone in reach. This included Henry Ford II, Carroll Shelby, and whoever else happened to be standing around the podium. Normally after winning a race to this point, drivers would take a sip from the bottle or from their trophy cup. One of the sprayees was LIFE magazine photographer Flip Schulke, who kept the empty bottle, signed by Gurney after it was all over. He held on to it for decades before returning it to Gurney, who now keeps it in a display case along with the famous photo of the 1967 podium. The bottle was a pretty good omen. A week after winning Le Mans, Dan Gurney drove his impossibly gorgeous Eagle to victory at the 1967 Belgian Grand Prix.

This became a tradition we’ve all come to expect and love as every years champion earns his podium ceremony and thankfully, there is no sign of it ever ending.


THE SEDAN

October 26, 2011
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When I was in my later 20’s I bought a 5 series BMW which caused my friends and cohorts to ridicule and tease me to no end for my choosing of, “an old man’s car”. I’ve just always liked sedans. I like the spacial attributes afforded to you, but I also like to spin the tires once in a while and so my love for the sport sedan was born.

When cars were first developed there quickly became a want for the thrills a sports car might provide and the space you needed was sacrificed for the sportiness you wanted. In time, sedans could and would be made to also go fast (witness the Ford V-8s of the ’30s), but the full package, acceleration, sports-car handling, and brakes, with a back seat and a spacious trunk? That was largely a choice for the wealthy until the ’60s, when the sports sedan concept of total performance for the family man or woman (at an affordable price) flowered for real. Two seats and a rag top were no longer the keys to driving smiles, and performance sedans were no longer the playthings of spoiled playboys and wealthy lay-abouts, but rather within the reach of anyone who cared to choose their transport based on the balance between want and need. There are many modern machines that fill this bill, but each, in its way, hearkens back to the great classic sports sedans that started it all. These are some of MY personal favorite sedans, past to present. I encourage you to research each if they are unfamiliar to you.

Mercedes. I love them, I’ve owned alot so I am biased.

W120/121 1953-1962

W114 1968 1976, This one was mine A 1969

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W201 190E 1982-1993, this one is currently mine a 1992

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W124 1985-1995, this one is currently mine a 1993 400e V8 ROCKET

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W124 500E, designed and hand assembled by Porsche, enough said

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W219, for me, this the 2004-2006 body line and styling are timeless

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W204 2007-present C64 AMG, the “DR520”. 518hp, 480 lb.ft torque and 4 doors

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Jaguar, only the oldies.

MKII 1959-1967

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XJ6 SERIES II 1973-1979

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XJ12 INTRODUCED IN THE SUMMER OF 72

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XJ6 SERIES III 1979-1992

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BMW, the M’s I love. The M5 1985-present.

E28 M5 1985-1988

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E34 1989-1995

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E39 1998-2003

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F10 M5 2011

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Audi, sensible like a Rolex.

1985-1991 Audi 500cs Turbo Quattro/200. Their entrance into the lux sedan market.

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Audi A8 1994-present BIG and FAST

1st Gen

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2nd Gen

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3rd Gen

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There are other sedans I like, but I’ll end here. I’m Audi 5000.