Carroll Shelby, a Texas chicken farmer who went on to build some of the most iconic cars of the 20th and 21st centuries, passed away in a Dallas hospital Thursday night. The founder of Carroll Shelby International was 89.
Shelby was a winning racer who became an automaker in the 1960s after his driving career was sidelined by health problems. He will long be revered as the creator of the Cobra, a British sports car that benefited from American hot-rodding’s basic ploys: an engine swap. In this case, it was Ford’s V-8. The Shelby cars evolved, won races and sold like hotcakes, especially after Shelby and the Ford Motor Co. inked a deal in which he would apply his magic to Ford’s wildly popular small coupe, the Mustang.
The Texan helped Ford’s GT40s beat the likes of Ferrari to capture first, second and third place wins at LeMans in June of 1966, the first time American iron had won the famed race. Shelby’s road and track cars became collector items long ago, with price tags outstripping house mortgages in many towns.
Although most commonly associated with Fords, Shelby also developed high-performance Chrysler and Dodge vehicles after his friend Lee Iacocca took over the reins there. Bill Neale, a world-renown artist, gentleman and Texas Auto Writers Association member, tells some great stories about his long-time friend. Here’s one that’s particularly “spicy,” about Shelby’s Terlingua Ranch, racing team and chili cook-offs. For more insights on Shelby and his era, check out this Dallas Morning News slideshow and a profile on Shelby at the blog, “Natural Born World Shakers.”
While the vast majority of young drivers aged 16-21 agree that texting, using smart-phone apps, or accessing the Internet while driving is very dangerous, nearly a third (29 percent) own up to texting while driving, Consumer Reports says. In a survey conducted late last year, 47 percent reported that they had made a phone call without a headset while behind the wheel, even though nearly two-thirds (63 percent) acknowledged that the practice was dangerous.
When Consumer Reports asked the young respondents why they had reduced or stopped distracted driving, 61 percent said it was because they had heard about the dangers of it. Other important reasons were laws banning cell phone use and/or texting in cars (40 percent) and family members urging respondents to stop (28 percent). Nearly 20 percent knew someone who had been in a crash caused by distracted driving.
The Consumer Reports survey also revealed that having peers in the car may help curb distracted driving. Almost half who have driven with friends said they were less likely to talk on a handheld cell phone or text when friends were passengers. The magazine’s editors noted that one reason for this may be that many young people are speaking up; almost 50 percent said they had asked a driver to stop using a phone in the car because they feared for their safety.
“Our survey showed that while far too many young people are driving while distracted, they are less likely to do so when their parents, friends, or siblings set a good example,” said Rik Paul, Consumer Reports auto editor. “We encourage everyone to stop the car in a safe place if they need to use a cell phone. And if they’re riding with a driver using a handheld phone, ask him or her to put it down and stop gambling with their safety.”
Additional findings from the Consumer Reports survey of 16- to 21-year-olds include:
- 84 percent saw other young people talking on a handheld phone while driving
- 71 percent saw a peer texting while behind the wheel
- 48 percent witnessed their mom or dad talking on a handheld phone while driving
- 15 percent witnessed their mom or dad texting while behind the wheel
- 8 percent operated smart phone apps while driving in the last 30 days
- 7 percent used e-mail or social media while behind the wheel in the last 30 days
The full report can be found in the June 2012 issue of Consumer Reports on sale today and online at www.ConsumerReports.org. What we’d like to see is the same survey done putting 22-65 year-olds under the spotlight. What are your thoughts?
When it finally hits showrooms in a couple of months, the Scion FR-S, a much-heralded two-door sports coupe, will have an MSRP just under $25K. That’s with the 6-speed manual transmissions that purists and budding drifters will go for.
Want or need an automatic? That paddle-shift equipped 6-speed self-shifter will bring the price of an FR-S to just a sliver over $26,000. (It’s worth noting that Scion adheres to its “pure price” policy, meaning haggling over the vehicle’s price is theoretically eliminated.) So it could come down to having to choose: not having to worry about the ol’ clutch-and-shift dance in stop-and-sorta-go traffic, or a set of aftermarket rims. I know which way I’d go.
The rear-wheel-drive “sports car” (Toyota’s term, not ours) is the first Scion to break the division’s $20K MSRP barrier. The FR-S, fruit borne from a joint venture by Subaru and Toyota, is built by Fuji Heavy Industries. Subaru’s version is the BRZ.
In an age where some Cadillacs, let alone Corvettes and Lamborghinis, are rocking 500 horsepower, the BRZ/FR-S twins’ 200 ponies may seem limp. But what’s important here is attainability and balance.
How many of us can afford the insurance, let alone the car note, on a Vette, Porsche 911 or CTS-V? Toyota and Subaru are banking that there’s plenty of pent-up demand for a sharp looking, affordable rear-driver with a decent power-to-weight ratio. Sort of like the Corolla GT-S from the mid-1980s, known as the AE86. (This isn’t lost on Toyota, in Japan, the FR-S is called the 86.)
Alas, we are not able to tell you what the power/weight spec is for the FR-S. Toyota wasn’t ready to reveal the mass to the mass media; an official saying only that the FR-S will come in below 3,000 lbs. Subaru, meanwhile, isn’t so coy, putting the preliminary weight of U.S.-spec BRZs at 2,762 lbs. That means each horsepower has to drag around 13.81 pounds. (Reality check: The burden is actually worse because not every one of those 200 horses is going to make it to the back wheels.) Still, to put the fun/value factor in perspective, the 2012 BMW 328 sedan – selected because the base “ultimate” rear-wheel-driver also has a 2.0-liter four-banger this year (but turbocharging boosts output to 240 horses) has to lug 14.2 lbs. per pony. BMW claims their driver at their test facility piloted the base 3 Series to 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds.
Does this mean we could see low six-second 0-60 times from the FR-S or the BRZ? Can a new car that costs $25,000 run with a $38,295 Bimmer? (The BRZ MSRPs were not available. Subaru has said GPS navigation will be standard so the cost could be north of $25K.)
But it’s not just straight-line performance that’s promising. The center of gravity will be in the weeds, thanks to Subaru’s new 2-liter FA boxer engine. Along with its 86mm bore and stroke “square” layout and a Toyota fuel-injection system that feeds premium gas straight into the combustion chamber, the Scion/Subaru twins will boast 12.5:1 compression, a 7,400-rpm redline and work the hell out of their limited-slip differentials. As they say, stay tuned.
As for these photos, the red car is the FR-S. The blue’s the BRZ.
Heavy-duty pickup trucks were once the domain of the commercial customer. And when you depend on a truck for work, what you focus on is capability, durability, operating cost and fleet-friendly maintenance.
But that’s so 49 minutes ago.
Nowadays, what the old-school pickup truck community grew up calling “three-quarter ton” and “one-ton” pickup trucks are winding up on the driveways of the common consumers; but these buyers have above-average hauling requirements due to hobbies and myriad outdoor activities.
And when today’s consumers strap one of these bad-boys on, many of them expect the same plushness, convenience and tech gadgets typically found on their cars.
Accordingly, Ford’s Super Duty F-Series trucks have earned Platinum status for 2013.
The Platinum, Ford’s new top-of-the-line model, comes with standard goodies like SYNC, MyFordTouch navigation, rear-view camera, remote start, powered telescoping mirrors and adjustable brake and accelerator pedals.
Mike Herzing and I were in Detroit last week when Ford took the wraps off its new fancy F-Series before a Professional Bull Riders (PBR) event at Ford Stadium. (The automaker is a longtime sponsor of PBR.)
A couple of my favorite features were the Platinum’s highly useful storage bin integrated into the instrument panel atop the center stack and the comfortable seats, front and back. The new storage area looks like it will be a boon for those of us who live “tethered” lives; lift the cover reveals two USB ports, inputs for audio and video, a 12-volt port for cell phone chargers, GPS or radar detectors. It even outshines my MacBook Pro notebook computer in one regard: this Ford has a slot for an SD memory card.
And while we’re talking tech, the 2013 Platinum Super Duty F-250, F-350 and F-450 will have SYNC with MyFordTouch. It’s running MFT V.4, which has been reworked to take advantage of the 2013 Super Duty’s 8-inch monitor so it’s more user-friendly, visually appealing and faster. The screen, like the 8.4-incher introduced in the 2011 Chrysler 300, is handy for monitoring what’s happening once the rear-view camera kicks in. I’m guessing most of Ford’s vehicles will offer similarly large displays within a couple of years.
Like the Platinum F-150, the Super Duty Platinum also comes with more polish. In fact, depending on your tastes, you might say the Platinum fairly drips chrome with specific 20-inch wheels, front grille, tailgate, door handles and mirrors. If you’re from the “If it don’t go, chrome it” school, don’t worry.
Buyers can still get the pampering of Platinum by carefully selecting option packages. Ford officials weren’t ready to announce prices for the Platinum Super Duty, which will be available later this year. But a 4×2 King Ranch with the 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel, crew cab and standard bed (6.75 feet) has an MSRP of $55,145. Ford says the 2013 Platinum is its own model and will be at the top of its heavy-duty pickup food chain.
For more details, check out this Ford posting.
Not a car junkie? Still getting by on dial-up Internet? Then you may not be aware that Toyota is bringing out a new Scion and this puppy is not just about fuel economy, maximum features, compactness or a sub-$20,000 MSRP.
The 2013 FR-S, as the new Scion is dubbed, stands for “Front-engine, Rear-wheel-drive, Sport. But what the FR-S really is is Toyota rebooting a classic Eighties hit – the Corolla GT-S. Toyota tells us the FR-S will be in showrooms in June.
The 1986-87 Corolla GT-S has attained cult status among motorsports enthusiasts for its balance in price, performance and handling. Car nerds refer to those models – either coupe or three-door liftback — as the AE86, Toyota’s internal nomenclature. In drifting circles it’s also affectionately called the hachi-roku (“Eighty Six” in Japanese.)
Here’s a very nice GT-S: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoys/289282405/lightbox/
And does anyone remember this Toyota commercial?! http://youtu.be/luPAnY7SfeY
Who among us, let alone Toyota, could foresee that Toyota could sorely use a halo car in 2012? For any number of reasons – the unintended-acceleration/brake pedal public relations disaster, intense competition from Kia, Subaru and Hyundai, Ford and General Motors – Toyota can surely stand to generate some excitement and engagement.
And that’s what I witnessed last November at the Specialty Equipment Market Association’s annual trade show in Las Vegas. After covering press conferences and seminars for three days straight and firing off my reports and photos, I finally got a chance to cruise the vast halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center to marvel at the spectacle of speed, sound, technology and testosterone.
I started covering the SEMA Show about 20 years ago when I was a staffer at the Los Angeles Times and it was operated under Otis Chandler, a hardcore car guy. So trust me when I tell you that Toyota (er, Scion) has a hit on its hand if the crowds milling about the sexy FR-S concept car was any predictor. Keep in mind this was Friday, the show’s last day, and attendance and activities fall off sharply. The enthusiastic comments from FR-S admirers were startling, especially after the dreadful 2008 and 2009 SEMA Shows, when the economy nearly flat-lined. (When you’re worried about keeping your job and a roof over your head, the market for aftermarket rims, tires and electronics has a tendency to nosedive.)
From what I overheard, I’m not alone in being disappointed that the FR-S won’t be wearing a Toyota nameplate. This “new 86” needed and deserved to be true to its legacy. Why didn’t Toyota throw a bone to those who know Toyota for its traditional core value of reliability, and remember the fun-to-drive GT-S, MR-2 and Supra?
Some wags are speculating it may have something to do with the FR-S not being “pure” Toyota. In its engine bay you’ll find a Subaru 2.0-liter naturally aspirated boxer engine closely related to the one found in Subie’s performance halo model: the WRX. Toyota brought its fuel-injection system to the table and it features direct and port fuel injectors. By the way, the FR-S will not be the first rear-wheel-drive Toyota to have a front-mounted boxer engine. That distinction is owned by the Sports 800, Toyota’s first sports car, which was offered in the home market between 1965 to 1969. (Those weren’t bad years for Rivieras, Mustangs and Corvettes!)
The modern powertrain partnership – the horizontally opposed four has a remarkable 12.5:1 compression ratio – will also be used in Subaru’s own sports coupe, the BRZ. We’ve seen these short-term brand relations before, of course. Anyone remember the Dodge Stealth and Mitsubishi 3000GT or the Honda Passport/Isuzu Rodeo twins-under-the-skin?
Other than price and weight, which are conspicuously absent, you’ll find good info and photos of the production FR-S at http://www.scionfirst86.com/ On the matter of MSRP, we’d venture that a base FR-S will list right around $25,900. With initial demand sure to be high, at least Scion’s no-haggle “pure pricing” should put the brakes on price-gouging that happens at some dealerships anytime a hot new model comes out. Who sees bottom-line inflators like window tinting and “paint and Scotchgard™ protection packages” tacked on.
The other sport coupe in the Scion family, the tC, is $19,305. And no Scion should ever carry a Monroney starting north of $26,000 with Toyota’s primo line, Lexus, offering its rear-wheel-drive IS 250 at $33,595. These prices are for cars equipped with manual transmissions and before destination and shipping charges.
Keep in mind that if you don’t have used-car phobia, you can still reap rear-wheel-drive performance and save thousands of dollars. Current generation Infiniti G37 coupes, Chevrolet Camaros and Ford Mustangs, as well as the most recent Toyota that comes closest to the original GT-S spirit — the first-generation Lexus IS 300 – can be found for $19,000 or less.
Check out the photos of the FR-S concept, the production model, and the drift car being prepped by GReddy Performance Products for battle in this year’s Formula Drift series. You can bet the high-output four-banger’s compression ratio will be dialed back when GReddy adds turbocharging and other goodies to bump the stock horsepower of 200 to nearly 600. The car will be driven by Los Angeles-based drifting star Ken Gushi.
It’s not easy to kill a mean snake.
In July 2010, the “last” Dodge Viper to come off the assembly line made the evening news, created a little online buzz and saddened more than a few Viper fans, especially those who couldn’t afford – or couldn’t grab – one of the “Final Edition” Vipers — a batch of 50 specially configured cars to mark the end of an era.
But in a twist Mark Twain would have appreciated, proclamations of the Viper’s demise were premature.
Chrysler’s Street Race and Technology (SRT) crew was able to convince the powers-that-be to bring back its halo supercar. In April, the next generation Viper, reported to be a very different beast and integrate Fiat technology, is scheduled to debut at the New York Auto Show.
But certain parties weren’t about to let the “swan song” Viper glide quietly into that good night. Last fall, the Chrysler Group’s Street Race and Technology team hooked up with the Viper Club of America, Houston-area Viper maven, Ben Keating, and veteran racing driver Dominik Farnbacher to take on the Nürburgring Nordschleife, a 12.9-mile German road course with something over 700 turns that’s the gold-standard when it comes to performance-car bragging rights.
The crew accomplished their mission. At the helm of one of Keating’s showroom stock 2010 Viper SRT10 ACRs, Farnbacher eclipsed the production-car record with a blistering 7:12.1 run, just weeks after a Corvette ZR1 had run a 7:19.6 and a “Nurburging Edition” Lexus LF-A supercar put down a 7:14.6.
Keating’s a car dealer who happens to be one very hot shoe. He was bitten by the racing bug about a decade ago when his wife bought him a performance-driving course as a present and the school was Texas World Speedway.
It didn’t take long for the greenhorn to become hooked. “I call it an adrenaline flush, because it was one of the most relaxing experiences I have ever had,” Keating said, recalling what it was like to be on a hot track for the first time. “You got 20 minutes of total, intense focus and adrenaline, followed by an hour of total relaxation, over and over, all day long. It was the most fun I had ever had.”
The fact that he won the 2011 Viper Cup championship and came in 7th in the GT class at this year’s Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona is testimony that he was a fast learner.
Keating and Bernie Katz, a fellow racer and Viper expert, have created a Viper nest at Tomball Dodge they call ViperExchange. In the tradition of legendary hard-core performance/racing dealerships in the ’60s like Baldwin-Motion and Fred Gibb Chevrolet, ViperExchange caters to the full spectrum of Viper owners, whether they just enjoy cruising or bring their cars in for modifications and take them to the track.
The two cars shipped to Germany for the record attempt were among ten 2010s the Tomball dealership had ordered with paint livery exclusive to ViperExchange. Farnbacher’s assault on the “Ring” was made with a black-and-silver Viper ACR. And it’s worth repeating: Keating and Katz report these were “showroom stock” cars – but these showroom queens pack a 510-cubic-inch V10 that crank out 600 horses.
You can learn more about these $110,000 machines, the achievement, and two “7:12” editions that are still available of the Viper at ViperExchange.com
Turkey gluttons, trust me — there’s never been a more painless way to burn off calories.
Properly cruising the aisles, appreciating the national and local workmanship, finding car-related memorabilia; meeting people, checking out cars for sale and taking photos will take hours.
The AutoRama is an American phenomenon. The stars of the show are the hot rods and customs, whether it’s a racecar, a sedan, a muscle car, truck or motorcycle. Or the big draw may be the celebrities, like Billy Bretherton, the star of “Billy the Exterminator,” WWE champ Rey Mysterio or R.J. and Jay Paul Molinere from “Swamp People.”
But don’t overlook the spirit and craft of the regular guy or gal. They’re the everyday heroes who take a four-wheeled hand-me down or a victim of neglect and turn it into something that turns heads, revs up hearts, and most important, are driven – at least to the frequent local cruise spots, club events or car shows that Houston offers.
Our friend and co-host of InWheelTime, Don Armstrong, dreams of a 1969 Z/28, a very special Chevy Camaro indeed. I wish I had had the chance to pick up the Pontiac Firebird 350 HO a girlfriend from my college years drove. And on and on it goes.
You get it in a heartbeat — the AutorRama is fueled by nostalgia. And the beauty of the whole thing is that you are free to make anything you want into an object of art, if not lust.
Take Eric Bremer. He’s been a Mopar (Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge and, nowadays, Jeep) man since his first car. Like a lot of guys, he put his car hobby on hold when he got married, bought a house and started a family.
But now that his daughters are grown – he’s even a grandfather — the 49-years-young car enthusiast has dived back into the car life. Bremer will have his 1977 Dodge Aspen R/T in the show. Yeah, we know not everyone dreams of an Aspen R/T. And 1977 wasn’t exactly a bumper-crop year for collectible American iron. Bremer, in fact, chuckled when I asked him if he thought it was one of Dodge’s last muscle cars. “A lot of people would laugh if you asked them that question,” he told me.
That might have something to do with the 318 two-barrel being under the hood. It put out well under 200 horsepower. Or it could be that three-speed-plus-overdrive manual trans. But that’s missing the point, I argue. This is an affordable project – the car only set him back $14,000. Aspen R/Ts aren’t common in shows or on the street. And this gem is not only squeaky clean; it had only 21,868 original miles on the clock when I showed up to snap a few pics. About 98 percent of the Spinnaker white paint is original. He’s poured a lot of TLC into his R/T, even adapting an iconic Hurst competition shifter to the Aspen’s trans.
He came across the car by chance. Last year he flew to Michigan to make a deal on a 1971 Plymouth Scamp. “I changed my mind the next morning, because when the owner lifted the car cover off of the Aspen I was amazed that the factory would create such a car in the 1970s.”
Bremer documents his work to get the Aspen ready for its second Houston AutoRama at his website: Aspen and Volare.com
Here are a few peeks at Eric’s cherry “baby” . . . .
– Jeff Yip
If you go:
The 52nd annual Houston AutoRama is sponsored by O’Reilly Auto Parts. Hours are Thursday from 3 to 9 p.m.; Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Discount tickets are available at Houston-area O’Reilly Auto Parts stores; regular admission tickets may be purchased at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Children 5 and under admitted free.
On Friday at 9 a.m., Kevin Tetz of Spike TV’s “Trucks” will host student career day. Participants will get to meet with industry leaders and hear how to make math, science and technology a cornerstone of their job future. Tickets are $10 and that covers admission to the show each day. For more information: houstonstudentday.com
1001 Avenida De Las Americas
Houston, TX 77010
A Philadelphia museum dedicated to racecars has, itself, wound up in victory circle.
The Simeone Automotive Museum was named “Museum of the Year” during Wednesday night’s International Historic Motoring Awards dinner in London. Judges included late-night television host Jay Leno; five-time Le Mans winner Derek Bell; Lady Susie Moss, wife of the late racing icon Stirling Moss; Pebble Beach chief judge Ed Gilbertson; and Nick Mason, vintage car racer and Pink Floyd drummer. Among the contenders for the title were the National Motor Museum of England, the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles and the Auto Museum Prototyp in Germany.
“This is an enormous honor for the Simeone Automotive Museum, especially considering the quality of the other institutions that were considered,” said Fred Simeone, the museum’s founder and executive director. “These are the very best automotive museums in the world and we were humbled just to be considered. To actually win was beyond our wildest dreams. This award is the greatest international recognition to which an automotive museum can aspire.”
I can attest that the honor is well-deserved. In 2009, my wife, Molly, discovered the Simeone Museum in a hotel magazine while we were in Pennsylvania for a wedding. Being the great sport that she is, we carved out time to visit.
We were somewhat surprised to find that the museum, which had opened just the year before, is in a nondescript industrial strip near the Philadelphia International Airport.
Even though we showed up unannounced, Harry Hurst, the museum’s public relations chief, graciously took time to come say hello and shared the fascinating details of the history of the museum and the passion of its director, Dr. Simeone, a retired neurosurgeon.
We were blown away by this gem. If you like Houston’s annual Classy Chassis Concours d’Elegance weekend at Reliant Stadium, you’ll love the Simeone. The museum features some of the most important competition sports cars ever built, grouped in beautiful settings that depict their era. You’ll want to dedicate several hours to learn about the competition and the machines, which span seven decades.
All the machines were gorgeous and I can’t wait until we can return. There’s no question that the most memorable car, for me, was the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe (CSX2287) above. This was the first of a fabled batch of racers run by Carroll Shelby and designed by Pete Brock, also famous for his contributions to the Corvette Sting Ray and the Datsun 510 and 240Z “BRE” racing efforts.
This Cobra Daytona Coupe is no over-restored millionaire’s toy. You won’t find any hype or guys in bright blazers working the crowd like you encounter at many high-profile auctions. Instead, you can quietly reflect on the car, its amazing race history and Texas-born Shelby. And if you’re a fan of mysteries and Law & Order, CSX2287 has a rather macabre past that’s riveting. You can read about it here and here.) More photos at the end.
– Jeff Yip
If you go:
Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum
6825-31 Norwitch Drive
Philadelphia, Penn., 19153
1954 Ferrari 375MM
1966 Ford GT40 MkII
1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Mille Miglia
Molly admires 1952 Cunningham C4R that won the 12-hour race at Sebring in 1953