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Monday, December 10, 2007

Is It A Car? Is It A Plane? No, It's A Bicycle!

Although the first automobiles were called "horseless carriages," and they were, indeed, little more than motorized versions of horse-drawn vehicles, the automobile owes much more to the bicycle than it does to the buggy. It has been explained in a prior chapter that Daimler tested his high-speed engine on a bicycle and developed the world's first motorcycle. Bicyclists, too, generated the first movement for good roads and set the stage for motoring in America.

Automotive advancement in America was hampered by the need of roads. Bicyclists, however, generated a national good roads movement in the early 1890s, which culminated with the establishment of the U.S. Office of Road Inquiry under the Department of Agriculture in 1893. This later evolved into the Bureau of Public Roads.

In fact, the American bicycle industry of the 1890s is really a sponsor of the automobile industry. Many pioneers in automotives were men who were experienced in manufacturing bicycles. Charles and Frank Duryea introduced the first successful American internal- combustion engine in 1893. Charles was a skilled bicycle mechanic. Alexander Winston, a bicycle manufacturer, made the first American high-performance car in 1897, a twelve-horsepower model that tested out at 33.7 miles per hour. Henry Ford, a tinkerer, used many bicycle parts, including a saddle, on his first "quadricyle" in 1896. There were twenty-seven American bicycle manufacturers in 1890, and many of these played significant roles in the development of the automobile. The Pope Manufacturing Company opened a motor-carriage department in 1897 to produce Columbia cars, using the popularity of their Columbia bicycles as a sales incentive. Another manufacturer, Rambler bicycles, was so successful with their Rambler automobiles that they concentrated solely on the cars and stopped producing bicycles altogether.

The first car manufacturers were dependent on the bicycle firms for many of the parts they needed: lightweight tubing, gears, chain drives, ball and roller bearings, wire wheels, pneumatic tires, tools, and sometimes, even the space in which they needed to work. The first car dealers were also recruited and converted from the bicycle dealers. The best place to buy a really fine car at the turn of the century was at the local bicycle shop.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The global auto sales race heats up!

In the global automotive industry things are really heating up as the traditional players fight for a top spot in the race for global dominance. General Motors Corp., which has been number one in terms of global auto sales for over 75 years, is fighting to keep that title in the face of growing competition from Toyota. Last year Toyota was trailing General Motors by only 261,805 units.

Though it looks inevitable that Toyota will claim top spot, increased sales in China (GM is now #1 in China beating former top dog Volkswagen) and surging sales in India have buoyed global sales for the General despite declining sales in North America. General Motors boss Rick Wagoner recently stated "If we can keep growing where the opportunities are to grow, someone's going to have to hustle pretty hard to catch up with us like that." That said, according to the Wall Street Journal being #1 is no longer a top priority for Rick Wagoner and General Motors.

Ford Motor Company, once #2 globally, is in third place with sales at just over 6.2 million units. Strong sales in Europe have offset a seemingly endless sales decline of blue oval vehicles in North America. Once best sellers like the Ford Focus and Ford Explorer now sit on dealer lots as more innovative and fresh competition lure away new buyers. Ford would be wise to devise a more coherent product planning strategy instead of letting great cars waste away without any clear vision.

This is quite evident when you look at the recently discontinued Ford Taurus and Lincoln LS, vehicles that carried substantial brand equity at one point but failed as they became stale and irrelevant amongst their respective competition. If Honda and Toyota can keep the Accord and Camry nameplates going after more than 2 decades, why has Ford had such a difficult time doing the same?

The big news isn't just at the top of the list. Riding high on a global auto sales increase of over 11% in 2005, Hyundai Automotive Group is in high gear. The Korean automotive giant has moved into sixth spot behind DaimlerChrysler. Since 1999, Hyundai has passed established players such as Honda, Fiat, Nissan, and Renault. Hyundai doesn't plan on getting too comfy in sixth spot as they've set their sights on being in the top five by the end of the decade.

They've got their work cut out for them as fifth place DaimlerChrysler is currently selling about 1 million more vehicles annually. But I wouldn't bet against Hyundai. In the last 10 years they've beaten just about everyone's expectations. Volkswagen is holding steady in fourth place with over 5.2 million vehicles sold in 2005. 2006 and 2007 should see modest increase in auto sales with the introduction of the next generation Golf (now known as the Rabbit) in North America and new models such as the Volkswagen Eos.

Although nothing is for certain in the auto industry, one theme holds true. No car company has an inherent right to the top spot. It has to be earned through great cars and trucks. In this list the big winner is the consumer.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Scion tC: "Cheap" Killer

The compact market in the Unites States is heating up. Vehicles like the Mini, the Mazda3, and even the VW Jetta have proven that you don’t need to sacrifice quality and entertainment if you buy an (relatively) affordable and small car. They’re also proving to carmakers that if done right, quality compacts can bring in affluent young buyers that have yet to develop their loyalties and can be easily “brought into the fold,” so to speak. The sooner they drink the Kool-Aid, the better.

It is with this goal that Toyota created the Scion division. Over the last half-decade or so, Toyota has watched as their brand image became more connected with an older generation and often bypassed by younger buyers on their way to Honda and VW dealerships. Afraid of seeing their buyers age and die off, Toyota created the Scion brand under the idea that it was too late to sway the youths into accepting the Toyota logo on their new cars. Ideally, these buyers would eventually “grow into” a Toyota-brand model (and then a Lexus) after getting to trust the Toyota Motor Company’s products under the Scion brand. Of course, Scion would have to bring the right products to attract young buyers or all is for naught. Just ask Honda, as their youth-aimed Element is bringing in loads of 40-somethings.

The first two products, introduced during Scion’s rollout on the West Coast, have proven pretty successful at getting young buyers into the showrooms. Yet, the xA and xB are both essentially small wagons and wagons still have limited appeal in America. As Scion goes on-sale nationwide, another product is being launched to broaden their portfolio. That vehicle is the sleek tC coupe/hatch. The look is much less polarizing than the boxy xB and Euro-compact xA, both of which were designed for the Japanese market. The tC, however, was designed to be a Scion specifically for American tastes. It’s pretty clear this car’s direct target is the Acura RSX, a vehicle still fairly popular with younger buyers.

Inside and out, the tC looks more expensive than its price tag suggests. The smooth body has shades of the Infiniti G35 coupe in it while the front is a slight mix of Skyline GT-R and BMW 7-series. The interior is simply styled with three gauges arranged in a pod style while the instrument panel stands out with its metallic-silver highlights. Overall, it’s pretty clear that this Scion is designed for people who at least want to feel like they paid for a $30,000 luxury car even though they actually spent a little over half that. Not a bad deal at all.

Mechanically, the tC is definitely a Toyota parts-bin vehicle. The platform is from the Euro-market Toyota Avensis (competes with the VW Passat, Ford Mondeo, Nissan Primera, etc), with independent McPherson struts up front and independent double wishbones out back. Seventeen-inch wheels are standard, though 18s and 19s are available from TRD/Racing Hart. The 2.4L 2AZ-FE aluminum-alloy 4-cylinder engine is from the US-market Camry, with 160hp@5700 rpm and 163ft-lbs@4000 rpm. It’s mated to a standard 5-speed manual. Like the RSX, the tC is front wheel drive. Handling targets were said to have been the VW Jetta with sport package.

Besides the larger wheels, TRD will offer enthusiasts a whole set of factory-backed parts to tune the tC. They will offer a lowering kit, struts/shocks kid, performance clutch, short-throw shifter, sport muffler, and a rear anti-sway bar, among other things. But the most drool-worthy piece is a supercharger kit that raises horsepower to around 200.

Other than the TRD toys and stuff like LED lights for the footwells, the tC comes with just about everything standard. That includes the aforementioned seventeen-inch wheels, a panoramic moonroof, XM-ready 160 watt Pioneer 6-disc audio system, driver’s knee airbags, 4-wheel discs with ABS and electronic brakeforce distribution, cruise control, keyless entry, air conditioning, and power windows and door locks. A 4-speed auto is a $800 option, and side airbags cost $650.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Video and Specs of R35 Nissan GT-R at Tokyo Motor Show

This is a video that we took of the new R35 Nissan GT-R on the first press day at the Tokyo Motor Show.

Watch the R35 Nissan Skyline GT-R Video brought to you by directly from the Tokyo Motor Show.

Facts on this car:
3.8 Liter Twin Turbo V6 engine
Transaxle setup - transmission is in the rear of the car to aid with weight-balance
Electronic All Wheel Drive
Underbody tunnel for downforce and cooling
7:38 at the famous Nurburgring
0.27 Drag Coefficient (Cd) - lower than the Nissan 350Z (0.29)
20 Inch Rays Engineering Volk wheels and Bridgestone tires
Brembo 6-piston front and rear brakes
7-speed twin clutch automatic paddle shift transmission, eliminating the need for the clutch pedal while making the shifts seamless and significantly faster - near F1 shift speed.
0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds.
Cost: starting at near $75,000.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Appearing for Driving Theory Test Array - Wait and Read This!!!!

Minimum ages and rules
You can take your theory test once your provisional licence becomes valid.

Normally, for car drivers, the earliest date your provisional licence can become valid is your 17th birthday, however you can apply for the licence up to three months before your 17th birthday.

So, if you apply for your provisional licence before you are 17 you will still have to wait until your birthday before you can take your theory test.

Disability living allowance
If you are receiving disability living allowance at the higher rate your provisional licence will come into effect when you are 16, but you can apply for it within three months of your 16th birthday.

Motorcyclists Direct access scheme
Direct access is a scheme, which allows a person over the age of 21 to avoid the two year/25 kW restriction by taking a test on a machine of at least 35 kW (46.6 bhp). A pass allows you to ride any size of bike. Any instruction given on a machine that exceeds the normal learner motorcycle specification must be supervised at all times by a certified motorcycle instructor who should be in radio contact. You should also wear fluorescent or reflective clothing and follow all other provisional licence restrictions.

Accelerated access
Riders who reach the age of 21, while still within the two year period where they are restricted to maximum 25 kW (33 bhp) machines, but who wish to ride larger bikes need to pass a further test on a motorcycle of at least 35 kW (46.6 bhp). They may practise on bikes over 25 kW (33 bhp) under the same practice conditions for direct access riders. You will revert to learner status while practising (on a motorcycle greater than 25 kW (33 bhp) although test failure will not affect your existing licence.

Mopeds and tractors
If you want to ride a moped you can take your theory test when you are 16, but again you must make sure you have a valid provisional licence. If you are 16 and already have a provisional licence for an agricultural vehicle or a moped, this will give you provisional entitlement to drive a car when you are 17.

Rules for learner drivers

Before you start to drive, you must:

• Hold a valid, provisional driving licence for Great Britain or Northern Ireland

• Make sure that any vehicle you drive is roadworthy and properly taxed and insured

• If you want to practise your driving with an accompanying driver, the accompanying driver must be over the age of 21 and must have held (and still hold) a full licence for three years.

• As a learner driver, you must display 'L' plates ('L' or 'D' plates in Wales) in a conspicuous position on the front and rear of the vehicle you are driving.

• You're limited to less powerful motorbikes.

Apply for provisional license

If you have never held a driving licence before you will need to apply for a provisional licence. You cannot start to drive a car until your provisional driving licence has been accepted and in your possession.

About driving theory test

Preparing for your theory test is essential if you want to become a safe, responsible driver or rider. If you are a learner driver, you must take and pass your theory test before you book your practical test. The theory test is a computer based test and can be taken at various tests centres around the country.

Passing your driving theory test is your first step towards being a safe driver on the road.

DSA driving theory test consists of two elements:

A. Multiple choice questions
This section is designed to tests your understanding of the theory behind driving. There is a 15-minute practice session you can work through before starting the tests. There are 50 randomly selected, multiple-choice questions and you need to get at least 43 answers right to pass.

B. Hazard Perception Test
This is the second section of the theory test and must be passed at the same time.
Hazard perception test is conducted to test the ability of learner drivers how they will respond to hazards on the road while driving. There are 14 videos, each about a minute long.

This section is designed to tests your awareness of potential hazards whilst driving.

The videos feature various types of hazard, such as road conditions, vehicles and pedestrians. The earlier you spot a hazard developing that may require the driver to take some action, the higher the score.

There are 15 scoreable hazards in the tests and candidates can score up to 5 points on each hazard. The pass mark is 44 out of 75.

Preparing for your theory test
We recommend you to study following -

? The Highway Code -
The Highway Code is essential reading for everyone. Its rules apply to all road users: drivers, motorcyclists, cyclists, pedestrians as well as horse riders. It contains most up to date advice on road safety and the laws, which apply to all road users.

? Traffic signs -
It is important to know road signs and markings that you are most likely to encounter.

? Driving Theory test questions -
Is a set of latest questions published by DSA from which the exam questions are taken. DSA may change questions time to time it is important that you study the books where latest questions are published.

Preparing for hazard perception test -
It is best to practice hazard perception skills on the computer if you have access to one. There are many websites and PC-CD ROMs in the market, using which you can practice your hazard perceptions skills.

About car practical test

The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) is now able to offer tests outside the normal test times at a number of test centres. This provides customers a wider range of appointments over an extended working day.

Practical tests are generally available at all permanent test centres. Saturday and weekday evening tests, subject to resources being available, are offered at a premium rate. Non premium rate tests are available at various times between 7.30 am and 3.27 pm Monday to Friday.

The driving part of your test lasts about 40 minutes. Throughout the test, your examiner will be looking for overall safe standards of driving, including when you are carrying out the set exercises. You can make up to 15 driving faults and still pass the test (16 or more results in failure). However, if you commit one serious or dangerous fault you will fail the test.

About motorcycle practical test

Minimum test vehicle requirements
Any vehicle presented for use in a driving test must meet minimum test vehicle standards. These standards are part of European Community legislation on driver licensing. Great Britain as a member of the European Union is obliged to comply with these requirements. Below are the minimum test vehicle requirements for mopeds and motorcycles.
Minimum test vehicle requirements for mopeds
A moped must have an engine capacity not exceeding 50 cc, and a maximum speed of 50 kilometres per hour (km/h), which is approximately equivalent to 31 miles per hour (mph). If first used before 1 August 1977, it must be equipped with pedals by which it can be propelled.
Minimum test vehicle requirements for motorcycles

If your motorcycle is less than 75 cc it is not acceptable for the practical motorcycle test. If you pass your practical test on a motorcycle with automatic or semi-automatic transmission, this will be recorded on your licence. Your full licence entitlement will be restricted to motorcycles in this category.
A light motorcycle (category A1) is defined as a solo motorcycle between 75 and 125 cc, with a power output not exceeding 11 kilowatts (kW) (maximum 14.6 brake horse power (bhp)). Please see note 1.
A standard motorcycle (category A) is defined as a solo motorcycle between 121 and 125 cc, capable of exceeding 100 km/h (62.5 mph). Please note that the BMW C1 motorcycle is not a suitable machine for a practical test. Please see note 2.
Vehicles used for the accelerated access and direct access scheme can have an unspecified engine capacity of at least 35 kW (46.6 bhp), with an unspecified speed. Please see note 3.
The minimum test vehicle requirements for a motorcycle and side-car are the same, as the solo machines, but categories A and A1 must not exceed a power to weight ratio of 0.16 kW/kg. Passengers are not allowed to ride in the sidecar during the test. Only candidates with certain disabilities can use a motorcycle and side-car combination for the test. The licence obtained as a result of this test will be restricted to this combination of vehicle.

A light motorcycle licence (category A1) will give you full licence entitlement to ride machines up to 125 cc with a power output of up to 11 kW.
A standard motorcycle licence (category A) will restrict you for a period of two years to riding machines with a power output not exceeding 25 kW and a power/weight ratio not exceeding 0.16 kW/kg. After the two year period you may ride any motorcycle.
If you are aged 21 or over you can take the test on a motorcycle with a power output of at least 35 kW (46.6 bhp). If successful you can then ride any motorcycle.
The practical motorcycle test is made up of lots of different elements, an eyesight test, vehicle safety questions, a test of driving ability, a test of specific manoeuvre and a question about riding with a passenger.
At the test centre you must present a valid certificate DL196 unless the test is being conducted on one of the exempted islands. A rider who is upgrading a full moped licence obtained by passing a two part test since December 1990 is exempt.
Vehicle safety check questions and eyesight test
Before you actually start your practical riding test you will be asked to read a number plate to prove you can meet the eyesight requirements. You will also be asked two machine safety check questions before moving away.
The practical test
After the usual pre-test preliminaries e.g. licence and identification check the examiner will help the candidate with the fitting of the radio and earpiece.
While accompanying the candidate to the machine the examiner will explain how the test will be conducted and how the radio equipment works.
The law requires anyone riding a motorcycle, scooter or moped, with or without sidecar, to wear protective headgear securely fastened. The test cannot therefore be conducted unless the candidate is wearing properly secured protective headgear.
An exemption to this requirement exists for followers of the Sikh religion if they are wearing a turban.

At the end of the test
When the practical testis over, the examiner will tell you whether you passed or failed. You can request feedback on your test from the examiner, who will then go through your performance during the test.
If you pass...
If you pass and have a photocard driving licence issued after 1 March 2004, the examiner will ask you,if you want your full driving licence issued to you automatically. If you want to use this service, the examiner will take your old licence off you, scan the details and send them electronically to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). You will then be given a pass certificate to prove you passed your test. DVLA will then send you your new full licence by post within three weeks of you passing your practical test.
If you pass your test but do not want to use this automatic service, or have a licence issued before 1 March 2004, you will be given a pass certificate by the examiner. On the back of the pass certificate it tells you what you need to do next. This involves sending your licence to DVLA who will then check your application and issue you with a new full licence.
Once you pass your standard motorcycle test you are restricted to machines of 25 kW (33 bhp) with a power to weight ratio of 0.16 kW/kg for two years.
If you fail...
If you fail the test you should ask the examiner for some feedback to help prepare yourself for your next test. Your driving report form will also show you where you made any mistakes. You must wait 10 clear working days after your practical test before you can book another one.
For More Details Download Free Pass Test Driving Theory Test Software at :
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Recycled Plastics: Alternative Fuel

With the increasing price of petroleum fuel and the threat of climate change, the global community is on the lookout for technologies which can be of great help towards energy sustainability. Automakers like Toyota, Honda, Ford, and Volkswagen are developing different engine technologies to make greener vehicles. Japanese automakers are known for hybrids while European car manufacturers are more inclined on the development of diesel engines. But these engines still burn petroleum fuel and thus produce greenhouse gases.

One company which has taken a major step towards developing technologies to solve the world's energy problem is Clyvia Technology GmbH. The said company has succeeded in harvesting diesel from waste materials such as plastic bags, cable sleeves, and even vehicle components. These materials contain petroleum in varying amount. The German company has shown that it is possible to get heating oil and diesel from these trashes.

Christopher Stampfli, the designate CEO Clyvia which is based in Schaffhausen, said: "This process is attractive not just to public and private waste disposal operators, but many industrial corporations and freight operators can apply it to cut their disposal costs and simultaneously generate energy - either for their own vehicle fleet or to sell at the gas station."

According to statistics, about 20 million tons of plastic waste is produced in Europe every year along with 2.5 tons of waste oil. Of the plastic wastes, only half or ten million tons are being reused. This means that a huge amount of plastic wastes can be tapped to produce quality fuel. By recovering the petroleum contained within these materials, a lot of sectors will be benefited.

Plant operators will be raking in profit and consumers will have a better alternative to conventional diesel fuel. According to reports, diesel fuel produced from Clyvia's technology is priced about 25 cents lower than conventional diesel fuel used in the regular distributor rotor -equipped vehicles. The environment will also be benefited as this process will reduce the amount of plastic wastes being tossed into landfills.

The Auto Channel describes the process as: "The company uses the method of ‘fractioned depolymerization’, which is similar to cracking crude oil. In a thermal treatment process, long hydrocarbon chains are shortened until they are as long as heating oil or diesel. The method was developed and tested at the end of the 1970s and was proved to work even then, although the general conditions at the time were not suitable for profitable operation of the plant. In its own laboratories, Clyvia Technology GmbH has proved that the transformation of used oil, flushing oil and polymers into diesel or heating oil works."

Mitsubishi Concept Poised for Motor City Launch

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. will set free a powerful concept car poised for launch at the North American International Auto Show next month. The concept is designed to give aficionados some hints about the forthcoming Eclipse.

Called the "Mitsubishi Concept," the stunning coupe is powered by what the Japanese automaker describes as a "new high-efficiency, low-emissions 2.2-liter four-cylinder DOHC 16-valve turbodiesel engine." The said engine, equipped with a new catalytic converter, generates 201 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. It also gets a new catalytic converter system. Mitsubishi did not release fuel economy numbers, only noting that the concept has "a high degree of fuel efficiency."

The Eclipse sports coupe has been a cornerstone of Mitsubishi's American lineup since 1989 and helps to draw the Y generation, often first-time buyers to the brand. The Concept-RA, designed in Japan with a more aggressive profile than recent concepts from the automaker, is powered by a new 2.2-liter, 4-cylinder turbo diesel engine that harks back to the Eclipse's roots, reported The Detroit News.

The car’s engine delivers power to all four wheels through a dual-clutch automated manual transmission. The Concept-RA borrows many parts from the Lancer Evolution and Evo X, including anti-lock brakes and stability control, but is also equipped with active steering and active suspension control to advance driver input over torque and braking, while enhancing traction control, cornering and vehicle stability, the report continued.

The Concept has a new body structure using an aluminum space frame. Some exterior parts, including the hood and fenders, are made from plastic resin. According to the automaker the plastic resin has high impact resistance compared to the traditional material. The concept coupe also gets the S-AWC vehicle dynamics control system driveline and the Twin Clutch SST automated manual transmission used in the Lancer Evolution X.

The concept is also equipped with an aluminum space frame, and engine hood, fenders and other body panels constructed of plastic resin, to enhance crash protection and reduce weight. With less weight, the smaller engine does not have to work as hard to propel the Concept-RA. The next-gen Eclipse will showcase advanced auto technology developed by the Japanese automaker. The technology will also be featured on forthcoming models of the automaker.

The sales of Mitsubishi's American division have rebounded 16 percent this year. So far, the maker of Mitsubishi pickup radiator hose has the Eclipse and Eclipse Spyder convertible as the second best-selling models in its lineup, behind the Lancer.

The fifth-gen Eclipse was launched as a 2006 model, and the next-gen version of the car, meanwhile is not unexpected until 2010 or later.

Monday, September 17, 2007

2008 Porsche Cayenne Preview

Enthusiasts, especially Porsche purists, relentlessly criticized the German sports car manufacturer when it decided to build an SUV at the height of the sport-ute heyday. That the vehicle was co-engineered with Volkswagen didn’t lend the Cayenne credibility with that crowd, and the underpowered price-leading V6 model undermined the company’s fundamental promise of performance. Nevertheless, the Cayenne was good on the road as well as off the road, in the dry or wet, making it an impressive do-everything kind of vehicle. Now, the 2008 Porsche Cayenne gets a thorough update that makes it better in almost every regard.

More powerful, more fuel-efficient direct-injection engines are the main upgrade for the 2008 Porsche Cayenne. The standard Cayenne’s V6 increases from 3.2 to 3.6 liters in displacement, making more torque and about 290 horsepower. Still, acceleration to 60 mph takes eight seconds, which is not respectable enough for a Porsche. The new 4.8-liter V8 in the Cayenne S does better, making about 385 horsepower and getting to 60 mpg in 6.5 seconds. The top-shelf Cayenne Turbo spools up about 500 ponies for a 60-mph acceleration run in about five seconds.

Porsche Traction Management doles power out to all four wheels in a 62:38 rear-to-front split, with up to 100 percent of power going to either set of wheels as conditions warrant. Porsche Active Management Suspension can now be equipped with the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control roll stabilizer system on Cayenne and Cayenne S models, limiting and counterbalancing roll and maximizing wheel articulation for improved handling in all situations. Porsche Stability Management includes brake assist, active trailer stabilization, and off-road ABS.

Based on a cursory examination of the Cayenne’s updates, we think an impressive performance SUV has gotten better. But the question remains: What price performance? As capable as the Cayenne is on any kind of surface, is it ultimately worth the price premium paid? We’ll be driving the new 2008 Porsche Cayenne soon to find out.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Hummer H3 Road Test

It’s a mystery of the automotive universe: While gas prices spike and SUVs tank, the one maker of things large and cumbersome always seems to be able to bounce back. Just when conventional wisdom dictates that your local Hummer dealership should be the quietest place in town, it proves to be more resilient to the continuing fuel price crisis and environmental awakening going on in America.
We Americans sure love being King of the Road – even if it costs $80 per tank. We also like to drive exciting vehicles, and the Hummer brand has adrenaline running through its sheetmetal: it goes off-road better than the best of ‘em, and looks like it eats Hondas for a late night snack. The new 2006 Hummer H3 falls right in line, too, in a package more people will find appealing. Call it a 9/10ths-scale Hummer, and for most folks, that’s more than what they really need. Stem to stern, the H3 is a commendable vehicle that delivers a smooth, if truck-based, handling character, extreme off-road capability, a comfortable and usable interior, and that appealing Hummer design. On that basis, it’s a good buy for a mid-sized, five-passenger SUV, at a starting sticker price of $28,935.
Ah. But there’s a price for all that good Hummer stuff, and it starts with fuel economy, that old SUV bugaboo. Rated at around 20 miles per gallon, the H3 will achieve that if you park it. Hurting the H3’s efficiency is a 3.5-liter, inline five-cylinder engine that feels overmatched for the job of lugging 4,700 lbs. around town. And even what you love – that Hummer design – comes at price. It’s okay to put form ahead of function, but when you combine large headrests, small windows and a spare tire stuck on the back door, seeing out of the Hummer H3 is like playing peek-a-boo with nearby motorists.
Still, the price is aggressively set. Add options such as side curtain airbags ($395) and the Luxury Package ($3,125), and you’re looking at a real-world cost of around $34,000, a fair price for a comfortable vehicle that offers all that comes with the Hummer name – the good, and the bad.

For such a tough guy, the 2006 Hummer H3 sure lacks punch, and for an otherwise excellent SUV, that’s its biggest flaw. The H3’s 4,700-lb. curb weight is pulled by a 3.5-liter, inline five-cylinder engine that makes 220 horsepower at 5,600 rpm, and 220 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,800 rpm. Power is managed by either a standard five-speed manual or an optional four-speed automatic transmission. Such a powertrain package means that the H3 really gets a sweat up during anything beyond normal driving situations. Uphill or during hard acceleration, it squeals like a pig with a hot foot, and you can almost hear the fuel slushing out of the tank. After a combination of freeway, off-road and city driving, we logged just over 14 miles per gallon, thanks at least partially to an overworked engine. At $3 or more per gallon, you should figure that into your purchase of this vehicle, especially if you plan to use it as a daily driver. Once you get the H3 up to speed, however, it’s a nice cruiser and an excellent freeway vehicle, gobbling up miles with an easy pace and nicely handling traffic. Better still is a cabin that, despite the steep angle of the windshield, stays quiet under most driving conditions.
Stopping also comes with some compromises, though the H3’s four-wheel-disc brakes come standard with ABS. It’s a good thing, for the vehicle more meanders to a close than just flat out stops, its weight settling in and shifting as it loses energy. The pedal is sloppy underfoot, and, as a result, fails to give the driver much confidence in its braking ability. It is what it is, though, so it’s hard to expect stop-on-a-dime reaction from a vehicle as heavy as the H3. Other critical aspects of safe driving are better: the Stabilitrak stability control system works well to keep the car on the road, and the rack-and-pinion steering communicates road irregularities and responds well to commands, even though the H3 is outfitted with big 32-inch wheels and 285/75R16 tires. You’d think that such big tires would make the asphalt sing like a bumble bee choir, but the H3 was actually quite quiet. We’re not sure if we were overcompensating, but the feel and noise that came from the tires sure sounded muted, and the ride was quite compliant for a truck.
Aside from going and stopping, then, the H3 performs admirably, with excellent maneuverability, the kind one would expect from a smaller SUV. In that way, the Hummer H3 drives small, and it’s good. Unfortunately, the H3 also drives small in other areas, such as power, and drives bigger than it is when it comes to fuel economy, braking and cornering.

Hey – 2006 Hummer H3 is a truck that weighs 4,700 lbs. and is designed to travel the Rubicon Trail. If you want a smooth ride, go buy a Honda Pilot. But if you don’t mind a little harshness and body roll in return for awesome off-road capability, the H3 does the job nicely. Just avoid taking corners sharply, or entering into an autocross competition. Seriously, though, push the H3 hard and you’re sure to get plenty of a-rockin’ and a-rollin’, not to mention loud complaining from the big 32-inch tires. This is not the type of vehicle you ever drive aggressively, unless you’re fording a stream.
Once again – it’s a truck, bubba, with a ladder-type frame, basically from the Chevrolet Colorado pickup platform. Drive it like a truck and you’ll be content with its handling. Indeed, chances are that you’ll be very happy with its handling on a day-to-day basis, given the H3’s tight turning radius and overall easy maneuvering character. In traffic or on city streets, the H3 handles adeptly, and the 9.1-inch clearance gives drivers a nice view of the road ahead. The result is an SUV that overcomes a critical shortcoming in terms of rearward visibility and reacts to commands in a nimble fashion during urban driving chores such as changing lanes, turning, and merging into traffic. It’s the more civilized Hummer, indeed, one that feels at home on city streets as well as canyon trails.

True to its Hummer nameplate, the 2006 H3 excels off-pavement, tracking down virtually any trouble you can drive yourself into, whether it’s hills, rocks, sand, or streams. In fact, in some respects it’s an easier vehicle to drive off-road than its larger brother, the H2, as it’s smaller, with better visibility to the front and sides. It’s a real Hummer, though, with the pedigree you expect to come with the name, able to tackle 31-degree grades, slick side slopes and up to 24 inches of standing water. Best of all, at least for novices, is that the H3 is easier to maneuver, easier to switch into low gear, easier to see out of and, as a result, much more enjoyable for those who really just need to get to that great fishing hole. And while we didn’t stretch the H3’s off-road capability, we did give it a work out, chasing fire trails and climbing hills in southern California.
As a result of its capability and the ease of use built into the vehicle, it’s one of our favorite off-roaders. In one setting, we found ourselves at the top of a small hill. The H3 was able to complete a three-point turn using very little real estate, and, traveling slowly down a medium grade marked with rocks and loose soil, the H3 kept its composure nicely, never really threatening to lose traction. Add the Off-road Package and get 33-inch off-road tires, an electronically controlled locking differential, a 4-to-1 transfer case, and off-road shocks. For serious off-roaders, we can only imagine how far one can go with the H3.

2006 Audi A3 3.2 S Line Review

Purchasing an Audi A3 3.2 S Line is much like buying a nice shirt from Saks Fifth Avenue. Shoppers arrive at the well-known department store knowing that the items within are more expensive than they’ll find at the mall, have a respected brand label sewn inside, and are more stylish than a pair of Levi’s from Sears. Try the $100 shirt on, notice that it’s not quite you, but conclude that maybe that’s a good thing – with its well-known label and expensive price, this shirt is a must-have in your fashion-conscious town. The next week, you pull the shirt out from your closet, throw it on to head out for some beers, and realize that, indeed, it’s not your style, it’s not even comfortable, and it constricts rather than hides your love handles. Not good.
It’s the same deal with a 2006 Audi A3 3.2 S Line. Pull into the Audi lot, notice the hot-looking hatch that’s been filling the highways since its debut earlier in the year, admire the fine interior materials, and be impressed by the power and handling during the test drive. Shell out 40,000 hard-earned dollars and head home. And then, as was the case with the shirt, experience buyer’s remorse as you slowly realize that the seats are too small, your knees are hurting, your friends refuse to ride anywhere with you, and you’re getting dusted by Subarus. Once again, style, brand image, and the idea that more expensive equals better have gotten the best of you. Make purchases based on value, or what you realistically get in return for what you pay, and both the shirt from Saks and the A3 3.2 S Line will likely exist outside of your ownership.
Ah, but the A3 3.2 S Line is nevertheless special. Accompanying the S Line badge is a 3.2-liter, dual overhead cam, 24-valve V6 good for 250 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 236 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,800 rpm. That equates to a jump of 50 horsepower and 29 lb.-ft. of torque versus the smaller, turbocharged four-cylinder engine housed in the standard A3 2.0T. A six-speed, Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) automatic transmission with a manual mode and paddle shifters is standard, as is Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system. Like the 2.0T version, the 3.2 S Line uses a MacPherson strut front suspension up front and multi-link setup in the rear, both tuned for a more athletic ride. Sway bars and rack-and-pinion steering are standard equipment, and the four-wheel antilock disc brakes are aided by electronic brake force distribution. Hiding it all are 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 225/45 tires that maintain grip thanks to traction and stability control systems. With the quattro AWD and various tweaks, the A3 3.2 S Line comes in about 350 pounds heavier than a DSG-equipped 2.0T.

That 2.0T with the paddle shifters is one of three A3 models, the others being a 2.0T equipped with a six-speed manual transmission and the 3.2 S Line. This review focuses on the big dog, priced at $34,700 including a $700 destination charge. Each 2006 Audi A3 comes with a long list of standard features, such as a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, automatic climate control, the usual array of power functions, front side-impact airbags, and alloy interior trim. The 3.2 S Line adds a rear spoiler, front fog lights, leather instead of cloth seats, a Bose sound system that bumps wattage to 195, a six-disc CD changer and a subwoofer, and sport seats with power adjustments for the driver.

Then there are the multiple options, like power front and rear sunroofs, rear side-impact airbags, a navigation system, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, high-intensity discharge headlights, XM or Sirius satellite radio, and a Cold Weather Package featuring heated seats, heated washers, and heated mirrors. Also available are 18-inch alloys rolling on Continental 225/40 performance tires and upgraded leather upholstery.

As is typical with most press vehicles, our Brilliant Red 2006 Audi A3 3.2 S Line tester came pretty well loaded, to the tune of $38,735. That price included the destination charge ($700), power sunroofs ($1,100), 18-inch wheels and tires ($1,000), high-intensity discharge headlights ($800), the Cold Weather Package ($700), and setup for Bluetooth ($435). Over the course of a week, this little ride was put through the wringer all around southern California, from the stiff and bumpy highway drives, the spirited canyon carving, city traffic jams, and even attempts by adult-sized editors to squeeze into the A3’s ridiculously tight rear seat.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Aston Martin V8

It's tough to carry on a family name, especially in the land of the blue bloods. And it's not only a challenge faced by the privileged occupants of Buckingham Palace, but also by the engineers at Aston Martin. With a multitude of high standards, lofty expectations, and the incessant public scrutiny, it's a miracle that they can get out of bed in the morning. But, like their royal brethren, Aston's best put on their game faces and take on the world each day.
Introduced at the 2005 Geneva Auto Show, the 2006 Aston Martin V8 Vantage is the newest member of this historic British automotive brand's lineup. The family resemblance is unmistakable, with the V8 Vantage almost mirroring the DB9, albeit with somewhat smaller dimensions and four fewer cylinders. But, the V8 Vantage packs a lot of punch into its relatively diminutive package, and aspires to equal its big brother's athleticism.

The Aston Martin V8 Vantage's top is a bit more arched than that of the DB9. Gone is the DB9's trunk, replaced on the V8 Vantage with a hatch. The overall weight is kept down with the liberal use of aluminum throughout the body and frame, with further savings from magnesium inner door panels. Holding it all together are aerospace-quality adhesives and self-piercing rivets.

Turning the rear tires is an all-aluminum, 4.3-liter, 32-valve V8, which is bolted in up front and should crank out about 380 horsepower. A six-speed manual gearbox is mounted in the rear. Specific placement of the powertrain components helps the 2006 Aston Martin V8 Vantage achieve near perfect weight distribution, a big plus for handling.
Upon quick glance, only the discerning eye will notice the subtle differences between the 2006 Aston Martin V8 Vantage the larger DB9. Aside from its obvious smaller dimensions (it is the smallest Aston Martin model), a close inspection reveals revised front and rear fascias and a shorter rear overhang.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

But Wait...there's More!

The Ford Model T (introduced in 1908) sold for about $290 without extras. Because it was so simple, it lent itself to becoming the most adaptable car in history. Some of the aftermarket extras included tool chests, rubber hood silencers, tire-patching kits flower vases and clamp-on dash lights.A farmer could reasonably afford a set of tractor wheels to fit a model T. If he needed to use his car in the fields, he could mount the tractor wheels and hitch up his plow, or whatever.The car made an excellent power plant. If you jacked up the rear wheel and removed the tire, you could attach a belt from the wheel to your buzz saw to cut wood.Model T's were used to generate electricity, pump water, grind feed, shear sheep, shred corn, churn butter and grind sausage. The Model T was the first snowmobile in the 20's. A special undercarriage was developed, the front wheels were moved to the rear, and each double set of wheels was fitted with steel caterpillar treads. After steel sled runners were attached to the front axle, the snowmobile was ready for the farmers and woodsmen in the deep northern snows.

Friday, September 7, 2007

2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder

In less than three years, the Gallardo has become among the best-selling Lambos ever. The company showed a dazzling Spyder concept at Geneva last year, and the production version made its first world appearance at Frankfurt last September. Los Angeles represents its North American debut. Modified so significantly that it’s considered an all-new model by Lamborghini, the Gallardo Spyder has several key structural differences from the coupe, including A-pillar and side sill reinforcement, in order to shore up torsional rigidity and stand up to rollovers. The Spyder is further guarded by an automatic rollover safety system, with protective pop-up bars that are integrated with the airbag system. The top mechanism can tuck the roof away in 20 seconds. The top folds up, essentially, on top of the engine and is covered by a carbon-fiber hood. The process automatically raises/lowers the rear glass as the cloth top goes through its motions. The mid-mounted V-10 has been enhanced to produce 512 horsepower in US trim, and the six-speed autoclutch manual gearbox carries revised gear-ratio spacing for even better acceleration (as if that was an issue…). It’ll be on sale shortly, and cost around $200,000.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Believe It Or Not...

Believe It Or Not...

Since horses were quite frightened of cars, they were a great worry for the first drivers. Uriah Smith, the founder of the Horsey Horseless Carriage Company in Battle Creek, Michigan had a solution. His motor car came with a wooden, life-sized horse head on the front. No mention was made of the fact that this did nothing to quiet the noise of the engine.The 1955 Dodge Custom Royal LaFemme was equipped with a matching rain cape, boot, umbrella and purse

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Automotive Developments 1908-1929

1909 - William A. Besserdich and his brother-in-law, Otto Zachow, were young blacksmiths in Clintonville, Wisconsin, when they built America's first successful four-wheel-drive motor car. Their "Badger Four Wheel Drive Auto Company" was formed on January 9th; later the "Badger" and "Auto" dropped from the title. The firm finally switched from cars to trucks.Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (Delco) was founded. Charles F. Kettering, a genius of the automotive industry, was one of Delco's founders. 1910 - The Fisher Body Company received an order from Cadillac for first quality production of closed bodies - 150 units. Curb- side pumps began to appear about this time, though they were forbidden by law in some communities. Custom-made ambulances made an appearance in the first decade of 1900 and played a major role in World War I.1911 - By this time, the automobile industry had, for the first time, securities listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The Buick Motor Company, the Olds Motor Works, the Cadillac Automobile Company and the Oakland Motor Car Company had already achieved success and had been combined with other firms by William Crapo Durant into the General Motors Company. Durant, having lost control of the company, moved into building and selling a new auto, designed by and named for Louis Chevrolet, a French race driver. Another manufacturer-promoter, Benjamin Briscoe, had brought some 130 different companies together to form the United States Motor Car Corporation. This ambitious combination ran into financial difficulties and was doomed to receivership in 1912. The first production four-wheel-drive automobile, built by FWD Corporation, rolled out of Clintonville, Wisc. It was first used as a demonstrator, and when the firm shifted entirely to truck manufacturing, it was used for nearly 35 years to haul mail to and from the post office. First four-wheel braking was employed by the Italian company of Isotta-Franchini. Other innovations were an improved electric starter, the dynamo, and a car telephone.1912 - Edward G. Budd, a young Philadelphia engineer, is credited with the concept of the all-steel auto body. In 1912, he convinced the Oakland and Hupmobile people to try his all- steel body frames, and the next year received his first large contract from John and Horace Dodge. Charles F. Kettering introduced his greatest contribution to the automotive industry, the electric self-starter. Henry M. Leland introduced the self-starter in his 1912 Cadillac.1913 - Dr. William M. Burton improved production of anti-knock additives for gasolines, but not the firing of the larger kerosene molecules mixed in with gasoline. Henry Ford`s first moving assembly line revolutionized auto production. The Gulf Oil Company was the first U.S. petroleum firm to distribute free road maps. 1914 - Horace and John Dodge were wealthy manufacturers of components for Olds Motor Works, then for Ford Motor Company, before they introduced their own automobile. The first Dodge was delivered to them on November 14, 1914. Cleveland, Ohio, installed the nation's first traffic lights. At about this time, the International Harvester Auto-Wagon, a high-wheeled, hard-tired pioneer version of the pickup truck, appeared. Most pioneer motorists stored their cars in the winter months, due to clogged roads and operating difficulties. Anti-freeze, winter oils, efficient heaters and other cold weather needs were still to come.1915 - Ernest Holmes Company of Chattanooga, Tennessee, was one of the pioneers in the field of auto rescue, although the mechanism of the wrecker was pretty complicated.1916 - Studebaker instituted the "pay-as-you-ride" slogan and sold automobiles on time payments.1917 - From 1910 to 1917, company crews from B. F. Goodrich erected thousands of signs on some 110,000 miles of U.S. roads. These were guide posts - round metal signs on twelve-foot poles, each of which gave the name of the nearest town, the next large city and the ultimate destination of the route.1918 - A German named Lankensperger took out a British patent on a system of steering in which the steering wheels are separately pivoted at the ends of the shaft.1919 - The U.S. Army started its first transcontinental truck convoy. Second in command of the caravan was a Lieutenant Colonel, Dwight D. Eisenhower.1920 - Jonathan Dixon Maxwell's popular automobile succumbed in the mid-20s. It had spring-suspension wheels (unusual for the times). Hydraulic braking was introduced. By this time, mass production methods were well-established, and this led to the availability of a wide range of cheap, reliable and comfortable cars which found a ready market in the affluent '20s.1921 - The U.S. Bureau of Public Roads was created right after WWI. In 1921, a second Federal Highway Act more clearly defined the aid program to develop a gigantic national road system. The Kahn-Wadsworth Bill made possible the distribution of more than 25,000 surplus army trucks and other equipment to the state highway departments for road-building purposes.1923 - Tetraethyl lead was discovered.1924 - Walter P. Chrysler, the head of the Maxwell Motor Corporation, introduced an auto bearing his name. Fred Zeder was one its key designers. The Chrysler was so successful it brought about the death of the Maxwell. A California innkeeper erected the first "Motel" sign outside his establishment.General Motors and Standard Oil Company of New Jersey formed Ethyl Gasoline Corporation to make and sell the new additive, tetraethyl lead.1926 - The first "Burma Shave" jingles were posted in Minnesota.1927 - The first drive-up mail box was installed in Houston, Texas.1929 - The short-lived Ruxton was an unusual front-wheel-drive luxury automobile manufactured by New Era Motors of New York from 1929 to 1931. Although it did not fare well, it marked a new beginning in the automotive age.

Automotive Developments 1895-1907

1895 - The Duryea brothers established the Duryea Motor Wagon Company which was the first firm in America organized to make gas cars commercially. Charles R. Black had a Benz-type auto in Indianapolis and John Lambert had operated a gas-mobile in Ohio. Ransom E. Olds had also constructed a workable gas-burning automobile. Lancaster introduced a propeller shaft transmission. Mors and Daimler built a multi-cylinder (V4) engine (four in line).1896 - Henry J. Ford built an internal combustion engine from plans he read in a magazine. He mounted it to a bicycle-wheeled, tiller-steered two-seater, which had neither brakes nor reverse gear and was so noisy it was condemned as a public nuisance. Alexander Winton, a bicycle builder in Cleveland, Ohio, pro- duced his first experimental car. Years later, he formed the Winton Motor Carriage Company, and started to sell two-seaters (one seat faced frontwards and the other faced the back). In England, the "Red Flag Act" was repealed. This was cele- brated by the first Emancipation Run from London to Brighton, about 60 miles (96 km), which is still held annually as a reliability trial for Veteran cars. (Veteran cars are those built before 1918; "Vintage" cars were built between 1918 and 1930.)1897 - Thomas B. Jeffery built his first experimental Rambler in a machine shop of his Chicago bicycle factory.1898 - Ford built a second motorcar which was a vast improvement over his first. He persuaded a few people to back him in producing it commercially, but the enterprise failed after only one year. Pioneer designers experimented with seating arrangements as they did with all other details on the first cars. One of the most impractical was a two-seater in which lady passengers sat in the front seat to serve as windbreakers (and presumably bugcatchers as well), while the gentlemen steered from the rear. The ladies didn't help the driver's vision much either.1899 - Camille Jenatzy, of France, drove a Jeantaud electric a record of sixty miles an hour on April 29. The high speeds, however, burned out both the specially fabricated batteries and French interest in electric cars. The Studebaker name had been applied to vehicles as early as 1852 when the products were wagons, buggies, and carriages. In 1899, the firm entered the auto industry as a body-maker. Three years later, it produced its first car, an electric runabout. The first Baker Electric was manufactured by the Baker Motor Vehicle Company of Cleveland, Ohio. The Akron Police Department acquired a brand-new motorized wagon to speed up the business of hauling lawbreakers off to jail.B. F. Goodrich pioneered pneumatic tires for automobiles. Freelan O. Stanley demonstrated the power of the Stanley Steamer by driving one up Mr. Washington in New Hampshire. The following year, John Brisben Walker drove another to the top of Pikes Peak. The U.S. Post Office Department bought its first motor vehicle on an experimental basis. In Milwaukee, the Johnson Service Company built 8 custom steamers to fulfill postal contracts there.Other innovations in 1899 were the honeycomb radiator, gate gearchange, and floor-mounted accelerator (Daimler); and the universal joint for shaft drive to sprung rear axles (Renault).1901 - Ransom E. Olds became the first mass-producer of gasoline automobiles with the completion of 425 curved-dash Oldsmobiles in a single year. Olds instituted a system of contracting with several machine shops to make required parts for him to his design specifications - transmissions from one shop, steering gear from another shop, carburetors from another, etc. The first changes from tillers to steering wheels were made at about the turn of the century.By the early 1900s, induction coils were being used to produce electrical discharges in low pressure gases, leading to the discovery of x-rays and cathode rays.1902 - The American Automobile Association was organized in Chicago on March 4, symbolizing the broad interest in the new mode of transportation. The one-cylinder, 3-hp, tiller-steered model Olds with bicycle type wheels and a curved dashboard sold 2,500 automobiles by introducing quantity production to the industry. Thomas B. Jeffery and his son, Charles T., began manufacturing one-cylinder Ramblers for public sale in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The first horseless carriage in Minnesota was an electric six- seater (three rows of seats) with high wheels and friction brakes applied to the surface of the rear tires. It had an unusual bare bulb headlight. David Dunbar Buick, a successful manufacturer of enamel bath- tubs and other plumbing fixtures, ventured into the automobile business. He produced his first car with the help of Walter L. Marr, but his company was not successful until William Durant bought it and reorganized it. The disc brake was invented by Frederick Lanchester.1903 - The Ford Motor Company was established in Detroit with the Model A, a small, light-weight, powered by a 2-cylinder, 8-hp engine which sold for $850. The invention of demountable rims helped the tire situation somewhat. It was no longer necessary to change tires at the scene of a flat tire; mounted spares made it possible to make a reasonably fast switch-over, but road conditions made it common practice for a driver to limp home on flats or a bare rim even after using a couple of spare ties. Two Frenchmen, Georges Bouton and Count Albert de Dion, led to the development of lightweight, high speed engines. Their 1903 "Polulaire" produced 8 hp at 1500 rpm, with a cubic capacity of 846 cm3 (52 in3) and a weight of only 40 lb (18 kg). To handle the requirements of this high speed air cooled engine, Bouton designed an ignition system that bore many similarities to the modern contact breaker ignition. The Mercedes Company (formerly Daimler) made a braking system with internally-expanding shoes inside a brake drum. 1904 - Ford added the Model B, a 4-cylinder, selling for $2,000. Carl Graham Fisher and James A. Allison organized the Prest-O- Lite Company and introduced a new system of acetylene gas head-lights. Automatic transmissions were also innovated.1905 - Electric cars and trucks were efficient for in-city driving, but drivers had to be alert to get back to garages before the batteries ran down.1906 - The Stanley Steamer, nicknamed the "Flying Teapot," clocked a remarkable 127.6 miles per hour in Ormand Beach, Florida. Ford added the Model K, which made that year and that car model important milestones in automotive history. Ford's Model K had a 40-horsepower engine and could push its 2,000-pound weight up to 60 mph. It was a dismal failure to the company at $2,800 per car, but turned out to be the making of the Ford Company. In this year, cars began to abandon their carriage look and to assume a motor-age appearance.The "Coyote," produced in California, introduced a power plant very different from those of the past: a V-8 engine. A very frail front bumper was the beginning of many important safety devices. The first driver's license was issued in Denver, Colorado, for a cost of $1.00. Other cities required engineers' permits to operate steamers which were classed as mobile boilers. The Waltham (Mass.) Manufacturing Company introduced the Orient buckboard for postal delivery. It had a mail case with pigeon- hole compartments directly in front of the driver. 1907 - In Seattle, Washington, John McLean, a representative of the Standard Oil Company of California, opened what is claimed to be the first service station in America. It consisted of an old hot-water tank and a hose under a rough wooden canopy. The gas was delivered into the tank by gravity. The Automobile Gasoline Company and the Oriental Oil Company opened stations in St. Louis, Missouri, and Dallas, Texas. The former is credited with the first chain of automobile service stations.Within five years, Memphis, Tennessee, could boast a thirteen- pump outlet, complete with a ladies' restroom and a maid who served ice water to the customers. The pumps, however, were in the backyard, not on the street, and the super-service was ahead of its time. 1908 - The Ford Model T was unveiled for the first time. It was powered by a 4-cylinder, 20 hp engine, had two forward speeds and a reverse controlled by pedals. It was also equipped with a throttle mounted on the steering column, and got about thirty miles to a gallon of gasoline. If the purchaser requested it, he could have extra-cost options of headlights, speedometer, and a spare tire. Buyers could choose their cars in red, green, or baby blue. Later, it could be purchased in any color the buyer desired, "as-long-as-it's-black." The automobiles of this year had air-cooled motors, since there were no water-filled radiators to freeze in the winter time; the passengers were usually air-cooled as well because there were usually no roofs over them. C. Harold Wills developed the use of vanadium steel for Ford. Charles Y. Knight was perfecting his sleeve-valve engine. The Fisher brothers founded a company which gained rapid fame as a producer of closed auto bodies. The Fisher Body Company was established by brothers Fred and Charles (there were five other brothers). Charles Frank Kettering of the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company helped bring about innovations in the electric starter and ethyl gasoline. Harvey S. Firestone, B. F. Goodrich, Arthur W. Grant, and many others struggled to overcome tire deficiencies.The first brakes were based on those used on the horse-drawn vehicles and on bicycles. A solid block of wood, leather or metal was forced against the wheel rims by a hand-operated lever, or a contracting band of friction material acted upon the propeller shaft in conjunction with externally-contracting brakes fitted to drums on the rear wheels. In 1908, Herbert Frood patented the asbestos brake linings in England. These were much more effective than the cotton based linings then in use. The coil and distributor ignition was introduced, comprised of a battery, contact breaker, induction coil and spark plugs.

Automotive Developments 1600-1894

Automotive Developments 1600-1894

No matter how well automobiles run, people complained about this or that and wanted continual improvements made. Pioneer drivers fretted about pesky details such as the buttoning down of side-curtains in a sudden storm; the stoking of a Clark charcoal auto heater; the frustration of a broken drive-chain wrapped around a rear axle and the feeble flicker of the carbide lamp on the dark country roads. Something had to be done to stop all the complaining! 1600 - The Dutch employed wind power to propel sail-mounted carriages which raced along at 20 mph and held scores of passengers. It is quite probable that both speed and load capacity were exaggerated. Later, small carriages were equipped with wind- mills, the mill vanes geared to the wheels. These were probably the first land vehicles to be propelled by anything other than animal or human muscle power, but people complained because the vehicles depended on the whim of a breeze.1680 - Sir Isaac Newton conceived of a vehicle propelled by a "rear- wardly directed jet of steam." This idea didn't evolve for use in the automobile, but it was later used in rocket thrust. 1698 - Thomas Savery invented the first steam engine in Britain. It was crude, inefficient, and even dangerous, since it blew up quite often.1711 - Thomas Newcomen, an English blacksmith, improved upon Savery's engine.1769 - James Watt, a Scottish instrument maker, patented a steam engine that became widely used in British mines, mills, and factories. Nicholas Joseph Cugnot, an officer financed by the French government, built a steam-propelled, 3-wheeled artillery wagon, which raced along at 3 mph. In a demonstration, it went out of control and ran into a wall. Most automotive historians trace the beginning of the true automobile back to Cugnot's cannon.1801 - Richard Trevithick, an engineer in Cornwall, built an experimental road steamer. Two years later, he improved on his invention, which was demonstrated in London and proved itself to have sustained, reliable performance at its maximum speed of 12 mph.1804 - American road steamers were built by Apollo Kinsley in Connecticut, Nathan Read in Massachusetts, and Oliver Evans in Pennsylvania. Evans' vehicle was 30 feet long and weighed 15 tons. Evans had applied for a patent on a "Steam Land Carriage" in 1792. He was commissioned in 1805 by the city's board of health to build a versatile steam-driven dredge. He added the idea that the machine also travel on land under its own power. A series of belts and gears transmitted the power of the boat's engine to the wagon wheels. On its first run, it clanked slowly along on huge iron wheels, frightening onlookers on its way to the Schuylkill River where its energy was diverted from the land wheels to a paddlewheel in the stern.1830s- Britain was providing a network of passenger and freight services which were steam-powered in a handful of cities.1831 - Michael Faraday discovered the principles of the induction coil.1839 - The first electrically-powered road vehicle is believed to have been built in Scotland by Robert Anderson, but it and others built in Britain in the next several years were mostly unsuccessful. Around 1880, longer-lasting batteries were developed, but these were cumbersome and bulky and needed frequent recharging. Electric cabs, however, appeared on the streets of London in the late 1800s.1845 - A Scot called Thomson patented a type of pneumatic tire, but John Boyd Dunlop is usually given credit for their development.1850 - A method of obtaining liquid hydrocarbons from coal and shale was patented by James Young, a Scotsman. This "coal oil" took the pressure off the dwindling numbers of whales which until that time had been a prime source of oil for lamps.1859 - On August 27, an ex-railroad conductor, Edwin L. Drake, made a revolutionary discovery with a 69-foot well at Titusville, Pennsylvania. "Rock oil" had previously been collected from ground seepage pools and used for medicinal and other limited purposes. With Drake's discovery on Oil Creek leading the way, great volumes of petroleum became available in the United States. It provided kerosene for millions of lamps, paraffin for candles and candy, hoof and harness oils, lubricants for ships and mills, a "miracle" salve called Vasoline, and many by-products to make varnishes, lacquer, oilcloth and patent leather. One of the waste products of the distilling process was an explosive, inflammable substance called "gasolene."1860 - Etienne Lenoir built and patented the first commercially satisfactory gas engine. Two years later, he constructed a crude vehicle on which to test his engine. Although it was crude, it worked, but ran so slowly (about 1 mph), he became discouraged and stopped his efforts. Lenoir's engine used an electric spark plug system.1864 - In Vienna, Austria, Siegfried Marcus built a one-cylinder engine that used a primitive carburetor and a magneto arrange- ment to create small explosions that applied alternating pressures against the piston within the cylinder.1872 - George Brayton of Boston patented a gasoline engine.1874 - H. J. Lawson invented the first so-called safety bicycle, a chain-driven device with two medium-sized wheels of equal diameter.1875 - Siegfried Marcus built his second gasoline-powered vehicle, which is preserved in the Technical Museum in Vienna; Marcus mysteriously washed his hands of the whole idea, deciding it to be a waste of time.1876 - In Deutz, Germany, Eugene Langen and Nikolaus August Otto improved upon Marcus' engine and introduced the first workable 4-stroke internal combustion gas engine after many years of experimental work. Gottlieb Daimler, an employee of Langen and Otto, was involved in the engine's design.1879 - George B. Selden, an attorney in Rochester, New York (who, at the time, had never built a motor vehicle), applied for and finally received U.S. patent No. 549,160 (1885)). As a result, claims against automobile manufacturers clouded the industrial scene for years.1883 - In Bad Cannstatt, Germany, Wilhelm Daimler succeeded in producing a more efficient, 4-stroke, gasoline-fueled engine which was granted a patent. (Earlier "gas" engines had been fueled by hydrogen or turpentine vapors or by coal gas.) Daimler's first engine was mounted on a sturdy bicycle and operated well on a test run in 1885. This is the prototype of the modern motorcycle.1885 - Carl Benz successfully tested his first gasoline engine motor vehicle at Mannheim, Germany; a 1-hp, 1-cylinder engine; a refinement of the 4-stroke engine which was designed by Otto. This 3-wheeler had all the essential elements characteristic of the modern automobile: electrical ignition, differential, mechanical valves, carburetor, a water cooling system, oil and grease cups for lubrication, and a braking system. He received a patent for his "carriage with gas engine" in 1886. It had a tubular steel chassis and an open wooden two-seater body. The single front wheel steered by means of a tiller, and the two large rear wheels were driven by chains. The single-cylinder engine was mounted horizontally over the rear axle. At 250 to 300 rpm, it produced about 1/2 horsepower and drove the car at about 8 to 10 mph (13-16 kph).1887 - Building on his experience with the motorcycle, Daimler built and installed his vertical single-cylinder engine into a 4- wheeled, converted carriage with encouraging results. It had an increased horsepower of 900 rpm (as compared to Benz's 300 rpm) and was the first high-speed internal combustion engine, developing one and one-half horsepower.1888 - John Boyd Dunlop introduced pneumatic bicycle tires for the safety bicycles.1892 - The Harris motor wagon, built in Baltimore, operated success- fully before Duryea brothers' cars. It was a sightseeing bus rather than a conventional auto and ran on hard rubber tires. Maybach introduced the first float-type carburetor at this time.1893 - Charles E. and J. Frank Duryea introduced what has been recognized as America's first successful internal combustion horseless carriage at Springfield, Massachusetts. This vehicle, called a "buggyaut" by its producers, was a well-worn, high- wheeled carriage with a small, one-cylinder gasoline engine mounted on its back.1894 - Vacheron introduced the steering wheel. The Michelin brothers produced a pneumatic tire for cars. Edgar and Elmer Apperson celebrated the 4th of July in Kokomo, Indiana, by unveiling a car they had built, based on plans conceived by Elwood G. Haynes.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Automobiles In History

In the annuals of history, the automobile flashed onto the scene like a meteor, changing the entire economy and the national way-of-life. No one was really prepared for it. Generations of horse-drawn road transportation had created a complex system of industries on which the automobile had a damaging effect; everybody from horse doctors and harness-makers to blacksmiths. The continuing changes and the reasons for them are obvious to us, but probably were not so obvious to automotive pioneers. It was, after all, a learn-as-you-go process with no precedents. For every inventor who made a fortune, hundreds had their dreams crumble. Automobiles have ended the isolation of rural communities and set an example of industrial efficiency for the world to copy. It has also spoiled the cities and small towns as neighborhoods are obliterated by highways smashing through; it has polluted the environment, and caused shortages in natural resources. Yet the car itself is still the object of endless fascination.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Automobiles In Art And Literature

Cars have frequently played a major role in literature. They are even used at times to comment on the state of humanity. Carl Sandburg wrote "Portrait of A Motorcar" in 1918 and almost twenty years later, made the automobile the center of his long prose poem, "The People, Yes." Joyce Carol Oates, in 1979, wrote a provocative poem entitled "F---"; for Ford, of course.In 1919, Sinclair Lewis wrote whimsically of his adventures in a Model T. Six years later, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote his masterpiece, "The Great Gatsby," portraying the cynicism of post-World War I by the use of Gatsby's cream-colored Rolls-Royce. In 1962, William Faulkner wrote humorously about human frailties against the backdrop of an early Winton Flyer automobile in his literary classic, "The Reivers." Some poets and novelists were drawn to the car culture, but others were depressed by it. Either way, the automobile was the hub of human commentary for a long list of writers.Even more than writers, composers of popular music are attracted to cars. They jumped in almost as soon as the first car drove past and have never gotten off. Many of the songs are sexually oriented. Titles include "In My Merry Oldsmobile," "On The Back Seat of A Henry Ford," "Tumble in A Rumble Seat," "Keep Away from The Fellow Who Owns an Automobile," up to the contemporary songs such as "Maybelline," "Mustang Sally," "Little Deuce Coupe," "Pull up to The Bumper," and "Little Red Corvette." Trucking songs, such as "King of The Road," "On the Road Again," and others too numerous to mention are immensely popular. The Los Angeles Music Center and Museum of Contemporary Art commissioned several playwrights to create original ten-minute scripts to be acted out in automobiles. The film industry has relied heavily on the automobile, ranging from the humorous "The Long, Long Trailer" and "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" to "Bonnie and Clyde" and hundreds of chase scenes. Television made the automobile the very star of the show in "My Mother, The Car" and "The Knight Rider," in which "Kit" is smarter than any of the rest of the cast.Artists followed Toulouse-Lautrec's lead from his 1896 lithograph, "The Motorist," to take up brushes and portray the essence of the automobile. Some used their brushes in cartoon fashion to show it as a toy of the idle rich. Some saw it as a symbol of mankind's dynamism and vitality. Andy Warhol, who saw art in a Campbell soup can, painted a series devoted to gruesome car wrecks. Other artists see the automobile as a graceful, flowing form of man-made beauty, an art in itself.

Friday, August 24, 2007

America! America!

The greatest legend in the American automobile development is the common belief that the car is an American institution. The American car inventors were really Johnny-come-latelys, when it came to producing the automobile, but once they got going, they made up for all the centuries of lost time.Although the automobile was becoming an increasingly familiar sight in Europe in the 1890s, it was considered a freakish contraption in the United States. Roads were poor and few. Americans finally became receptive to the idea of the automobile when they realized that, with a car, they could go where they wanted to go without having to use the railroad.Detroit is not the original forge where the U.S. auto industry took shape: Hartford, Cleveland, and at least a dozen other places have better credentials. Many men and hundreds of hours of creating, designing, and hard work went into the creation of American cars. Several crude, experimental motorized buggies had been built in the U.S. before the Duryea brothers built the first successful, internal-combustion car in 1892-93.A carriage maker in Flint, Michigan, William C. Durant designed a motorcar and went on to organize Buick, General Motors, and Chevrolet. George M. Pierce made bird cages, bicycles and finally, automobiles--Pierce-Arrows. Charles W. Nash made the Nash. In 1954 the Nash Kelvinator Corp. merged with the Hudson Motor Car Company to become the American Motors Corporation.Car designers came from all areas and occupations. Some succeeded, but most failed. Then, along came the son of a Michigan farmer. His name was Henry Ford.In 1879, Henry Ford was sixteen years old when he got a job in Detroit. In his spare time he built an internal-combustion engine from plans he found in a magazine. It was a bicycle-wheeled, tiller-steered two-seater, without brakes or reverse gear. It was so noisy that it was condemned by the public as a nuisance. In 1898, he built an improved vehicle, but it failed in a year. Finally he produced an automobile that was bigger, more powerful, and much faster. A well-known bicycle rider drove the car in a race and won. The publicity got Ford financial backing.The first popular car was a roadster, the "Oldsmobile," designed as an economy car by Ransom E. Olds. This car had two seats and a one-cylinder, three-horsepower engine.In 1900, only 8,000 cars were registered in the U.S. Olds introduced quantity production, and became a very rich man. The car sold for $650, about half the price of competitors. Sales zoomed from 425 in 1901, to 6,500 in 1905.Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company in 1903. Ford first brought out the Model A: a small, two cylinder car with an eight- horsepower engine, which sold for $850. The next year, the Model B Ford was added, a four-cylinder, which sold for $2,000. In 1906, Ford added the Model K, an important milestone.In 1906, New York held two auto shows. In Madison Square Garden, there were 220 exhibits; the 69th Regiment Armory show had 205 exhibitors. Ford's Model K, introduced at Madison Square Garden, was big, heavy, expensive and a mistake. It could go 60 mph with its six-cylinder, 40-horsepower engine. It sold for $2,800, $2,000 more than a Cadillac. Ford lost money on every one sold, so he concentrated on a light, simple, rugged model that could be sold inexpensively; what he termed "the universal automobile." The new design was called the Model T. Adapted from the model N, it was solidly constructed, and easy to operate and repair. Its chassis was high to provide good clearance. A four-cylinder engine produced 20-horsepower in two forward speeds and a reverse. In 1909, the least expensive Model T got about thirty miles to the gallon. Customers responded to the advantages of the Model T, and new, plants were constructed. Production increased from 10,000 in 1909 to 78,000 in 1912. In 1913, Ford found a better, faster way to build cars.In 1914, Ford opened the world's first auto assembly line. Production jumped to 472,000; a car could be turned out in 93 minutes. In 1924, when half of the cars in the world were Fords, the Model T sold for $290 and profits piled up. The last "tin lizzy" (the 15,007,003rd) rolled off the production line in 1927. It was truly the "universal car," in every corner of the world.The eighteen-year supremacy of the Ford caused the disappearance of many of the smaller car companies and the emergence of others. One of the consolidators was the General Motors Corporation. William C. Durant bought out the Buick Motor Company in 1904. He incorporated General Motors in 1908 and merged Buick, Cadillac, Oldsmobile and Oakland (Pontiac) into a single corporation. Ford's monopoly ended after WWI; other manufacturers began to make cheaper, more attractive cars. In 1916, the Chevrolet Motor Company put out a four-cylinder model that eventually passed the Ford as the best-selling car in America.Another strong competitor of the Model T was a tough four-cylinder Dodge manufactured by John and Horace Dodge. By 1924, they assembled 1,000 cars per day. Four years later the company was purchased for what was then a world's record price of $175,000,000 by Walter P. Chrysler, of the Chrysler Corporation. In 1928 the Chrysler Corporation started selling Dodges, DeSotos Plymouths, and Chryslers.By 1928, competition had forced new standard equipment. The self- starter was invented in 1911, resulting in more drivers. The car had gone from a wooden, open vehicle to a steel, fully enclosed year-round sedan. The modern automobile was mechanically "complete" by 1929, when 4,587,400 cars were sold in the United States. All the major mechanical developments since then have been improvements or refinements of existing systems.Henry Ford did not create the automobile nor the automobile industry. When he built his first internal-combustion engine from magazine plans in 1896 and mounted it in a carriage, others had already built better motor vehicles than his crude attempt. Those others must yield the stage to Henry Ford in one aspect; it was he who captained the manufacturing revolution. He jacked up the world and slid four wheels under it. He said he would democratize the automobile and when he was through, just about everyone would have a car. He kept his word. Life would never be the same again.

A Few Facts About Oil

When oil was struck in the Forties Field under the North Sea in 1969, it led to the discovery of at least 350 million tons of oil. However, by the year 2020, the world's known oil reserves are due to run out. By then, new oil fields will need to be found, probably in more and more inaccessible places. Prospectors looking for oil look for sedimentary basins which could be oil-bearing, magnetic surveys and gravity surveys are often used. All rocks are magnetic, but the magnetism varies slightly from one rock to another, giving geologists clues to the structure and type of rocks that lie underground. Other clues include the density of the rock. When the production wells have been drilled and lined with casing, a perforating gun is lowered down them to drive explosive charges through the casing and cement and into the rock beyond to allow the oil to get into the wells. As oil is extracted, pressure may be maintained by injecting water or gas into the reservoir rock to displace the oil towards the production wells. Even with the help of modern techniques, however, such as electrical and mechanical pumps, it is seldom possible to extract more than 30%% to 50%% of the oil in a field. Perhaps a means will be found to get all the oil out of a "dig." If so, millions more gallons would be available out of the wells which have previously been drained "dry."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


How Cars Are Assembled

Ford's revolutionary concept of the assembly line to make cars included a rope which pulled a line of chassis along a track, at which stood fifty workers, each fixing their own allotted part to each chassis as it moved by. Assembly time for a chassis dropped from twelve to one and a half hours. In less than ten years, the price of a Model T dropped from $850 to $250. Ford sold 1.8 million Model T cars. In 1951, Ford led the way in using automatic equipment to produce engine blocks. The urge to save labor has continued to inspire new developments, with robots replacing workers, cutting out tedious tasks and guaranteeing greater accuracy. On the Fiat Uno, 30 of the 2700 welds are done by hand. Only specialized crafts, such as electrical wiring, now remain in human hands.In a typical car assembly in the 1980s, the first stage was sheet steel arriving at the press shop. In areas as large as three football stadiums, robot cranes supplied rolled sheets of steel to giant stamping machines, which cut the pieces of metal to make up the car body. Then robots built the underbody or floorpan, making numerous welds and creating a complex shape with spaces for wheel arches, boot wells and spare wheels.In the next stage, large jigs positioned the body sides and roof to be welded into place automatically. In the meantime, the doors had been made on nearby assembly lines in a process that involved several different pressings to create an outer skin clinched over an inner frame. Finally, lasers checked every car body for the smallest flaw, distortion or irregularity.The car, now largely assembled, was cleaned in a degreasing tank, rinsed and coated with phosphate to make it more receptive to the paint. After further rinses, base primer coat was applied, in several layers. These primer coats were sprayed on electrostatically, using an electric field to attract the paint. The last layers, usually three, were glossy acrylic paint. The paintwork on most mass-produced cars is 0.1mm thick; although on a Rolls-Royce, there are 22 layers of paint, giving a thickness of 0.2mm. Special wax was then applied to protect against water, snow, grit and salt. This was injected into hollow sections such as pillars and sills.The next stage, the trim, fitted out the interior. The car was wired with its electrical system. Robots fitted underfelt, carpets, seats and other fittings. Windscreen and some other windows were often glued to the car to make a better fit and reduce wind resistance and noise. Robots applied the glue to the edge of the glass and then put it in place on the car with sucker grips.Finally, the car was hoisted up, and a jacking system brought the engine, complete with clutch and gearbox, into position. The fuel tank was mounted at the rear end of the car. Next came suspension, steering, radiator and battery, and then the wheels and tires. When water, antifreeze, oil and gasoline were added, the car was ready to run. Inspectors examined it at the gate before its final road tests. When the car was given it final checks, it was ready for the dealer.