Sunday, November 20, 2016

The San Francisco Auto Show is rolling at the Moscone Center

The 59th annual San Francisco Auto show returned this past Saturday, November 19th through November 27th at the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco. Always a bargain to view over 800 vehicles at $10 for adults and children under 12 free.

This year expanded further the emphasis on electric, hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles. Test drives are offered with thirty vehicles by six different manufacturers including Mercedes and Fiat. Multiple special guests are scheduled throughout the week such as local sports mascots, the Raiderettes, radio and television personality Gary Radnich and more.

The Auto Salon which featured modified cars, trendsetters in an eclectic collection. It is in the south hall on the upper level. The signage needs to be increased, but it’s worth a visit. Yes, there were the broken-axle appearing stanced cars and plenty of lowered sedans, but there are some gems as well. Photography is a bit of a challenge due to the cars being too close together, but it’s a good display.

In a clever move, the displays for the Pacific Region Ferrari Club of America, the Aston Martin Owners Club exhibit and Dominator Street Rods was moved to a section near the South Hall main displays. Although roped off, there was plenty of room to view them.

The Academy of Art University classic car collection featured a 1959 Cadillac “Elvis III” was particularly cool, also in the South Hall. Porsche, Lamborghini, Bentley, Rolls Royce, VW, Lincoln with the new Continental and others were in the South Hall.

The North Hall has the less “exotic” makes. Honda had the new Ridgeline is very impressive as a do-everything vehicle. Of course there were plenty of other SUVs and trucks to climb in and around. Chevrolet had the Motor Trend Car of the Year, the Bolt present as well as a Corvette Grand Sport to check out and sit in. For some reason the Ford GT350 was roped off.

Always recommended, if you can suffer the traffic, it’s a great show to attend.  There are plenty of places to eat nearby, parking can be found across the street. Starting at 10am and ending at 5pm each day, be sure to wear comfortable shoes and spend hours enjoying the sights.








SEMA Las Vegas 2016 review

Is big and shiny. The 50th annual Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association features everything you can imagine in an automotive aftermarket and OEM trade show. Everyone is there with all their products and it's overwhelmingly amazing. Walking ten miles a day to see everything is not an exaggeration. The tag line this election years domestic vehicle dominated event is, "We Built This". One wonders if that isn't a coincidence. 

Attending as a social media ambassador for Shell, I was extremely fortunate to take part of in this bucket list event. Shell had a huge outdoor tent, stage, walk-in display trailer and vehicles with numerous displays and expert staff on hand full of factoids and cool, useful information. Numerous automotive celebrities were interviewed live on stage as well as Sung Kang unveiling his 1972 Ford Maverick, Project Underdog. 

One of the main products promoted is the Shell and Pennzoil synthetic oils with Pure Plus technology. The patented Pure Plus synthetic oil technology makes it the cleanest burning oil due to its purity. Check out pictures my Facebook page of the varnish-free interior engine of the Ford Fusion with 75,000 miles with 5k oil change intervals. Pretty amazing. 

The V-Power Nitro + gasoline display featured a Dodge Charger that had one cylinder bank using Shell V-Power Nitro+ premium gasoline and any available brand on the other side. With the borescope it clearly showed how there were less deposits and corrosion on the valves on the side used exclusively with Shell gasoline. Proven to reduce corrosion, wear and deposits in the engine, up to 60% less deposits on the valves by weight in a single tank full. It's time to switch to Shell. 

The stage featured numerous appearances from notables like Joey Logano, John Hennessy and many more. 
Besides the obvious draw of top notch vehicles on display there were also the Shell/Pennzoil race cars like Joey Logano's #22 NASCAR, Leah Pritchett’s Top Fuel dragster. A brief 4 question quiz won a pair of Mechanics Gloves and there were lots of hat and shirt giveaways. Notably a numerous tool sets, $100 gift cards, a four post lift and a Mini Clubman were featured raffle prizes totaling nearly $70,000 during the event and also a Camaro SS modified by Tommy Pike Customs previewed for next year! Check out the Shell website here: http://www.shell.us/business-customers/lubricants-for-business/sema-experience.html#

Mitchell and Grant, members of the Mater Dei High School team that won the Shell Eco-Marathon Challenge by hypermiling their innovative, aerodynamic vehicle were on hand as well. 901mpg due to light weight of under 210lbs, inboard carbon fiber wheels and more. So well thought out the little Yamaha 50cc scooter engine hardly had to run at all. Brilliant. http://www.materdeisupermileage.com/urban-concept-elroy.html

Ok the cars. And trucks. There were literally fleets of lifted trucks with incredible suspension, wheel and tire modifications along with other equipment and paint/wrap jobs. Despite being miserable street vehicles, they showed spectacularly. Huge, mechanical, the nuts and bolts of automotive-dom. In a way, like the nakedness of a motorcycle except the engines had to be viewed from below. 

The other most frequently seen vehicles overall were stanced and many with bolted on bodywork. Sadly looking like broken-axled versions of their former selves with amateurish bodywork, they nonetheless featured some cool finishes, engine modifications and wheels. Mustangs, Challengers and Subaru BRZs seemed the most popular display cars. Lesser in numbers were Camaros, Nissan GT-Rs and various Lamborghini's. Even rarer were McLarens and Ferrari 458s and 488s. There were two LaFerrari and I believe two Porsche 918s. No P1 or other hypercars. I saw one Toyota Supra. My have times changed. 

Near Shell outside there were notable displays by BF Goodrich, Accuair and many more with the constant glorious sounds of drift vehicles putting on an all-day exhibition. Ken Bock in the Ford Mustang GT350R drifting exhibition was a the best soundtrack ever for a car show. 

The North Hall was mostly accessories, shop tools, lifts, paint and paint booths, wraps, etc. The display cars were top notch including a Ferrari F12tdf and quite a few custom motorcycles. 

The Central Hall is where the big names were. BMW, Ford and Chevrolet had large performance displays along with Toyota. Others like Magnaflow, Paxton, Factory Five and many more were there, far too numerous to list.

The South Hall upstairs was all trucks and truck oriented gear and accessories. If it needed to be lifted, off road, or trail equipped, modified and hit the outback, this was your floor. Weathertech was there with a Singer Porsche too. If I had a truck, this would be the place to be.

There were Booth Babes galore but the South Hall first floor level was where they really showed off their "style". Not coincidentally this was the wheel and tire vendors were. This wasn't just performance and pickup/SUV truck tires, but semi, forklift and other industrial tires. The further back one walked, the brands became totally unfamiliar to the car enthusiast. 

Next to the South Hall were the tents for the overflow of vendors. Carbon fiber wheels ($3000 each), Paasche airbrush where my father, Theodore Eckaus was the Sales Director, car covers, and you name it. Behind those tents was another drift display and exhibition rides, mostly BMWs from what I observed, moving fast but not even remotely as cool sounding as the domestic V-8 machines in the front. 

The Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo had a show at the Sands Hotel convention center which was more of a "traditional" show in this trade show veteran’s opinion. No music, lower key and it was like a show for suppliers to O'Reilly, Pep Boys & NAPA. OEM suppliers for parts you've heard of and some you never had. Shop suppliers, lifts, etc. 

The banquet award dinner was held at Westlake Casino and Hotel. It was enormous with seemingly hundreds of tables. First rate video production, a live band and two professional presenters honored the accomplishments over the last fifty years. The 2016 Hall of Fame inductees were Matt Agosta, Chip Foose and Gary Hooker. Other honorees were recognized as well:
Person of the Year – Tim Martin, K&N Engineering Inc.
Manufacturer of the Year: WeatherTech
GEN-III Innovator Award – Jonathan Mill, Keyway Innovations
Manufacturers’ Rep Agency of the Year – Kunzman & Associates
WD of the Year – Turn 14 Distribution Inc.

Access to the outside displays was open to all, but on Friday bleachers are set up to watch the cars leave, the event is called SEMA Ignited. Somewhat reminiscent of Goodwood but I bet a lot louder…

SEMA 2016 vehicle photos here:

Shell vehicles:

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Ban on the Internal Combustion Engine

Is headed our way. Eventually internal combustion engine vehicles will be marginalized to the point of being effectively banned and nearly extinct. Just like incremental firearm bans in several states, the restrictions will either outright keep the internal combustion engine vehicles from accessing many areas or other targeted means so that their use and in parallel, sales will diminish and they will become limited access, higher insurance, and less vehicle choices. Coincidentally it seems to follow progressions along political party lines too. Meanwhile China, Russia and India are seemingly gross industrial polluters but Russia and India have adopted European vehicle emission standards.

The ever evolving, fossil fuel consuming, emission spewing engine in modern cars in the United States are incredibly clean burning. Whether you call it global warming or climate change, the modern automobile in the US is a tiny contributor to the problem especially as more and more hybrids hit the road. And us dinosaurs; with gas consuming throwbacks should welcome electric cars so the scorn thrust upon is diminished. But the enthusiast will eventually be penalized for owning one. Yes the electric motor is more efficient, doesn’t require the fuel burning resources to operate, has less maintenance but has limitations and lacks vital interaction with the driver.

The bans and penalties are already here.  Currently London has a congestion charge, targeting the ICE. Paris has banned cars made before 1997 and Motorcycles made before 2000. Norway and Holland are moving to ban gas powered cars by 2025.  Germany just voted for a resolution to ban ICE vehicles for sale in the European Union by 2030. Nationally the ass-backwards logic of the HOV lanes already pushes the ICE into the more congested lanes. Just wait until some politician, the EPA or CARB (California Air Resources Board) decides it is time to start attacking the numerous, thirsty terrors on our roads in the US: Trucks and SUVs. It’s inevitable and it will piss you off.

This isn’t to say electric vehicles are inferior. On public roads for commuting to work, the Tesla Model S is possibly quite superior. Tesla is the only EV on sale, for years now, that is an absolutely viable daily driver for well over 90% of commuters. And when the smaller and much more affordable Model 3 comes out and is able keep up with demand, the big paradigm shift will start. Chevrolet hopes their funny looking Bolt will be the kickoff. Well, judging by the many Prius out there, maybe they are right. I mean correct.

Currently, range is the biggest concern about EVs. The next technological leap from laboratory-to- production battery technology will solve that concern. But, hauling and towing capacity will remain in the realm of the ICE. Proof is the most extreme example is that there are no battery or electric powered semi-trailer trucks or passenger planes, nor is it feasible at this time.

For the enthusiast, a street legal EV can’t complete a lap under full power, nor can it do back-to-back dragstrip runs without cool-downs. Powertrain software intentionally diminishes available power as motor temperatures increase and battery capacity decreases. The batteries get taxed under wide open throttle and the electric motor heats up. You know what really sucks about EVs? No sound. An enthusiast knows a great engine and exhaust note contributes exponentially to the experience. Don’t believe me? Try watching Formula One, NASCAR or NHRA on mute. Or Star Wars with only dialogue and without music. Don’t forget transmissions! Shifting gears is a very pleasurable experience and interaction with a mechanical device. It is control, involvement and response. EVs lose efficiency with multiple gear ratios and the sound difference is moot. They are also quite heavy. Battery capacity needs to take some giant leaps before 6.2lbs of battery has the same stored energy the equivalent energy gasoline of gasoline which weighs about the same.

Other manufacturers besides Tesla are delving into the EV scene. We know too well the efficient yet ugly, performance compromised wart and appliance offerings like the Leaf, i3 and Prius. Look at manufacturer participation in Formula E. Audi just announced leaving the World Endurance Challenge for Formula E. Keep in mind they are owned by Volkswagen. The ridiculously quiet Formula E racing series is with compromised cars due to a vehicle swap needed mid-race on shortened tracks because of battery capacity, without sound. Formula E currently is just a marketing appeasement for those who scoff at the fuel burners. What do you think transports the cars and crew from city to city? And they don’t all use solar power to charge the batteries, I assure you of that. They should put solar panels on semi-tractor trailers though, huh? Still don’t get it? Ask yourself why digital watches haven’t completely taken over the market for mechanical movments.

There will be several ways the ICE will be penalized and segregated. HOV lanes as mentioned. The government is mandating higher Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards that will require tiny gas engines with hybrid power or EVs. That means little putt-putt cars that can’t spin a tire or generate any thrust detected and identified by the human brain as pleasurable or satisfying. By the way, forget about diesel cars. Thanks to Volkswagen committing diesel seppuku, diesel cars in the US are doomed, let alone elsewhere. But we need diesel trucks, don’t we?

But trucks, ah yes, our trucks and for that matter SUVs. Haulers, towing, deliveries, cargo transport. Essential to our economy and weekend recreation for many. Politicians and their appointees will stand behind it. They won’t get the idea from my proclamation, they would eventually think of it themselves and probably already suggested on the deep, dark online forums for EV fanboys. Two years ago the idea for an ICE ban petition appeared on a Tesla Forum.

This is how the bans will be implemented: They will propose pick-up trucks and SUVs used as daily transportation without associated business use by registration have a very expensive registration fee or tax and of course an outright ban from certain areas. In other words, going to work in your pick-up or SUV that you use to haul the family, projects and toys on the weekend will cost you thousands of dollars versus the EV or hybrid sedan owner. This is not a big leap of paranoia. Modular auto loading rifles are being banned piece by piece and so are semiautomatic pistols. But there is a bigger killer than guns and that’s why the ICE is the target. The World Health Organization considers the direct cause of 4.6 million people dying per year is from air pollution.

A subtle change already in place is California implementing a multi-step diesel engine requirement that mandates 2010 or newer emissions on trucks phased in by weight class. Harley Davidson was fined for selling an engine tuner that wasn’t emission compliant. Vance & Hines was fined for selling CARB compliant exhaust systems. Los Gatos, an upscale suburb of San Jose banned gas powered leaf blowers due to sound, but of course there was the secondary benefit. The government agencies are going after the aftermarket suppliers of performance parts, but wait until they go after replacement parts. They will require costly compliance measures that will discourage production of said parts by registration fees, excessive taxes and more.

Why not sports cars? Because trucks are the bestselling vehicles in the US. They are the biggest target and they get driven a lot and don’t get very good mileage. Forget my earlier attack on silly lifted trucks, this time we all need to band together on this one. What if the family EV or economy car needs service or is insufficient to bring the family on a trip. Will it be chargeable, fineable or simply unlawful to drive into the city or to work because the registration isn’t tied to your business? A license plate reader can easily tack a five hundred or thousand dollar additional fee and that has the same intent and outcome of an outright ban. The penalty itself becomes the defacto ban. Incentivize the manufacturer, then the consumer. Then penalize the opposite end of the spectrum with higher fees, tougher requirements and more restrictions. That’s how you manipulate the market. Make it really tough to manufacturer, outlaw certain aspects, and suddenly the ban is in place.  

What needs to be done? Our engines need to be clean burning in the US and the rest of the world needs to catch up because they very well may be ruining it for us. Vehicles in China, the largest vehicle market must be clean burning like ours. Don’t get upset, we have 175hp per liter turbo engines and 770hp naturally aspirated engines that are emission compliant, the fun won’t go away. Small engines like leaf blowers and lawn mowers must be clean burning. Modifications for increased power must be allowed and not banned with excessive costs and unrealistic requirements. ? The time of throttle opening for excess-than-stock power is miniscule in comparison to the total engine hour lifespan. EPA compliance must continue, but I wonder what CARB requires for an approval and cost


We need to continue with solar development and make it common and widespread. The more clean energy use, the better chance the enthusiast will be forgiven and hopefully not targeted. Vote for realistic politicians who don’t think the wonderfully complex ICE is a threat. Continue to encourage development for efficiency and low-emissions. Buy the fossil fuel burning car, truck or motorcycle you intend to keep.

Pictured: Sources of great sound, great sensation generators and killers of millions. :rolleyes:


Don’t destroy it, restore it. Support the major gas producers on social media and their investments in hope the gas prices don’t increase as demand drops. There are a few spectacularly miserly hybrids that can deflect the scorn, but only a few fun ones, to borrow the line, burn gas and rubber.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The captivating Ferrari F12tdf

Oh I’m so in love. I’m writing this right after getting home. First it’s a Ferrrari V-12, that’s usually enough right there. It’s like a regular car though, a traditional one with the engine in front, doors that open out instead of up, rear glass you can see out of, the door sill isn’t too wide so ingress and egress is easy and it’s quick, insanely quick. It’s not a space-shippy, UFO looking oddity and actually, seemingly obtainable because of the natural shape. It has swoops and curves like a beautiful woman lying down (on either her front, back or side). It’s the car a Maserati Grand Turismo wishes it could be. Behold! It’s the Ferrari F12tdf! Now bow down in reverence!

The F12tdf is the monster from Maranello named after the Tour de France race Ferrari dominated in the years before the bicyclists, winning ten times from 1951 to 1964 almost all with the 250 GTO, a similar looking car. The F12tdf is a F12 Berlinetta that’s been lightened, more powerful, revised suspension, transmission, aerodynamic enhancements, rear steering added and a sharper edged version of the F12. This particular version has upgrades including a front axle lift, upgrade audio and a stunning selection of personalization with blue tinted carbon fiber. The blue helping highlight the various aerodynamic upgrades over the standard F12 that create 500lbs of downforce at 125mph.

The 6.3 liter V-12 has a horn section. It blares, blasts, plays notes and talks to you with aural feedback like only a Ferrari V-12 can. The brass section changes tunes depending upon the gear and throttle position. Rated at 769hp at 8500rpm, up from 730hp in the Berlinetta. The torque peak is 519lb-ft. at 6250rpm but 80% of that available from 2500rpm and the redline is 8900 rpm. The power builds in a linear rush with no dead spot or lacking under a particular rpm, a rheostat connected to the foot similar to the wife’s LaFerrari. And as he says, it is a front engine LaFerrari, albeit noticeably slower. Well slower to him.

The transmission upshifts are 30% quicker and the downshifts 40% quicker with 6% shorter ratios, turning roughly 3000rpm at 80mph in 7th gear. The suspension features magnetorheological suspension control (generations beyond the first system developed by Delphi) with dual coil system. In order to help with immediate turn-in, the first application of rear steering by Ferrari is with a controller by ZF and software by Ferrari, the system is called Passo Corto Virtuale which basically means short wheelbase. It allows for rapid rotational change as if the wheelbase was shorter and helps keep the rear end stable. For ultimate grip, tires are 275s in front and 315s in the rear and the overall weight is reduced a reported 220lbs.

The owner said the standard F12 Berlinetta was a very good car but wasn’t passionate about it and his wife wasn’t really a fan, but this car is on an entirely different level. More reminiscent of his 599 GTO which he thoroughly enjoys, this F12tdf handles extremely well, rotates immediately, and feels lighter than the weight reduction would indicate which many attribute to the rear wheel steering. The owner, now very experienced and frequent track day participant in extremely high horsepower cars scoffs at reports the car is tricky to drive at the limit. Who goes ten-tenths on the street anyway? However feeling that turn-in a level of effortless grip shames many street legal cars.

Opening the passenger door the custom color choice glossy carbon fiber door panel is stunning, as it contrasts nicely in the interior. The shifting paddles are very long and the steering wheel has multiple functions on the front versus levers behind it.  The display in front of the driver includes front and rear camera views. There is a lot of finished details inside with the carbon fiber and it works great. Plenty of legroom in the footwell was another pleasant surprise and the thin backed carbon fiber seats are perfect with an interestingly firm center section in the back that, while noticeable for a new passenger, were very comfortable. The yellow mesh headliner helps brighten the interior and the blue Alcantara compliments without being garish. Peering in the rear, the hatch opens up revealing a cargo area sufficient for a small suitcase and gym/duffel bag. It’s not a small coupe with a 107.1” wheelbase but under the hood long, blue carbon fiber airboxes lead to the V-12 that actually sits behind the front axle line.

Weight distribution is 46% front, 54% rear. Despite the engine not being behind the driver, traction off the line at a stop light is fierce and even with wheelspin, the fantastically responsive traction control allowed the car to accelerate extremely hard. This is a sub-3 second 0-60mph car with proper traction and run the quarter mile deep in the low 10s and trap speeds likely in the upper 130s. For comparison sake, a heavier, lower horsepower Lamborghini LP750 SV clocked a 10.5 @ 136mph.

One would think this is a numbers car with all the figures tossed around. It’s not, it becomes immaterial when going for a ride in this. Would it matter if it only ran low 11s? What if it only turns 1:35s at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca? It doesn’t matter. The numbers simply aggregate into an audible, visual, and g-force sensation experience. A seriously sexy beast, the owner loves it, even more than expected. It’s just so cool, especially as bespoke as this one. Possibly the pinnacle of front engine, rear wheel drive cars, it also may be the last of the naturally aspirated and non-hybrid Ferraris. This may be the last of the standalone V-12s with Ferrari. If you ever see one, take your time and really examine it, take it all in. Why? Because V-12, that’s why.

Link to pictures and video:  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.887414341363278.1073741878.378354382269279&type=1&l=0b37f84926






Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering was a visual and digestive feast

The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering held on Friday, August 18th once again proved itself to be the finest gathering imaginable for cars, food and drink. Held at The Quail Lodge Golf Club in Carmel Valley, this year it expanded once again and featured another world class gathering of greats.

Pictures can barely capture what is seen in person. The Bugatti Chiron, Bentley’s entire display, Pagani with multiple cars, Singer Porsche, the 50th Anniversary of the Lamborghini Miura lined up like a bunch of sexy skittles, 100th anniversary of BMW with a couple of F1s (street and GTR long tail race car) a bunch of Z8s off in the corner, great Ferraris, super cars and much more.

Lamborghini introduced the Centario Roadster and also a present was a Miura Homage Aventador and Huracan Spyder. Porsche had a very clean display with the revered 911R as the centerpiece. Ken Okuyama design introduced a stunning one off V12 front engine roadster called Kode57. This is a judged car show, the winner being a 1953 Ferrari 375 MM Pinin Farina Spyder. The only black Maserati MC12 produced made women and men weak in the knees.

Now in the inaugural year, the The Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award was awarded to the stunning 1937 Talbot-Lago T150-C SS, Chassis No. 90106 Coupé aérodynamique ‘Goutte d’Eau’, Figoni & Falaschi. It was chosen among six of the world’s finest automobiles from top concours events internationally, to compete for the title of the most exceptional car in the world. Of the contenders, the most recent model year was 1968. The judging panel was twenty-four of among the most renowned designers, collectors and enthusiasts. Unfortunately it was in one of the food tents rather on a turntable on prominent display. If you’re a foodie, plan on eating multiple gourmet meals with menus from Beverly Hills, Chicago, New York and Paris.

Among various vendors, the achingly gorgeous stone automobile sculptures from Kellen Silverthorn http://kellensilverthornsculptures.com/ captured the essence of the rolling sculpture at the event. Using a high tech process with careful staging, locations, props, photoshop and expert photography, Unique & Limited s.r.o. from the Czech Republic doesn’t capture magic, they create it with incredible scenes of cars and even aircraft. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen and a must if you collect automotive art. http://www.unique-limited.com/

Outside the show, Porsche has a destination display in itself and on the opposite side, the Bonhams auction took place. The program and poster themselves are collector quality. Of course a car enthusiast would just go crazy here, it’s so good, so overwhelming, when it’s over you don’t even want to leave. You secretly hope a car is left over on the field and you’re asked to drive it away. Instead, you reluctantly leave, the greatness gently tugging at your soul, with memories and photos to hold you over until next year.

Album here:  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.869913093113403.1073741876.378354382269279&type=1&l=46b1b92b1f

Scott Campbell Photography







Monday, August 29, 2016

McCall's 25th Motorworks Revival Party rocked the Monterey Car Week kickoff


Gordon and Molly McCall celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Motorworks Revival at the Monterey Jet Center on Wednesday, August 17th with a proper party that continues to evolve. It had all the requisite aircraft, cars, appetizers, and ambiance. This year a live DJ at 9pm was joined by a live drummer and violinist for a modern dance party. Needless to say, this party rocked.

Non-Red Carpet parking was well organized with comfortable shuttles delivering guests to the Monterey Jet Center. The caliber of cars in the remote lot and the number of helpful attendants made it hassle free. The complimentary professional photography at the entrance is always a treat.

Once past the entry its always, “Mind blown” with photography and ogle time. Modern and classic aircraft, specialty vehicles and stunning examples from various manufacturers. In the hanger itself, Koenigsegg had the Regera, Agera S and CCX there. Pagani had several models, McLaren, Alpha Romeo including the upcoming Giulia, Acura with the NSX, and Toyota had the Kyle Busch 2015 Sprint Cup Camry along with other Toyota racing standouts. Vintage motorcycles and war planes, executive jets, fine jewelry and more offered an incredible variety of visual treats.

Interestingly the second hanger wasn’t open this year without any detriment and kept the crowd from thinning out too much. One complaint was that there needed to be more places to sit, either to take a break, enjoy the wine, or rest some weary feet especially for the ladies in heels. There was no goody bag this year but the event lifestyle program is excellent and the branded wineglasses were favorite keepsakes so the bags weren’t necessary.

Food and drink seemed endless with four top chefs and six wineries kept the crowd well fed and in a party mood.  Tickets are available far in advance every year, this year for $395 and the excellent CHP 11-99 foundation continues to be the beneficiary of the raffle. Every year Gordon and Molly McCall continue to evolve the party with world class vehicles, food, drink and entertainment. It’s the Monterey car week kickoff party that should not be missed.













Thursday, July 21, 2016

Lamborghini Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce Roadster

The answer is V-12. The question is what is rare, powerful, makes extraordinary noises and in this case sits all by itself? All alone as in no turbos, no hybrid assist and of course, no supercharger. It is a 6.5 liter, 740hp, 12 cylinder, 48 valve wonder in the 2016 Lamborghini Aventador LP750-4 Superveloce.. An amazing, outrageous V-12 monster!

It features a carbon fiber 2-piece removable top, a carbon fiber passenger tub, scissor lift doors and
much more. This yellow example stands out like nothing else, it might be the least subtle car on the road. Deep rear diffusers, a carbon fiber wing, and the breakup of the lines with the roof removed is striking. A large, wide hood finishes off the front and the headlights feature an outline of LED running lights. This car is more transformer than anything else on the road.

A wide button on the door under the character line opens the swing-up scissor door by itself with an excellent damping motion, no worry about it swinging open too hard. Getting in is easier than some other cars with a particularly wide sill (McLaren P1), although it was still butt first. A yellow pull strap is used to bring it back down and the mechanical tolerance to close it is absolutely perfect, not even the slightest hint of slack.

Surprisingly roomy, it has good outward visibility with a very small triangular window at the base of the A-pillar that gives peeks of speed. Legroom is easily sufficient for a 6-footer and the carbon fiber backed seats were extremely comfortable, not even noticing any adjustment was needed in seat back or bottom, a very rare occurrence. Remember the Honda Del Sol? No? Well no matter, the Roadster has a small rear window that retracts downward. The gloss coat carbon fiber interior door panel isn’t for watches and bracelets though.

Turbos will muffle, electric vehicles may eventually kill it, but the V-12 is both a symphony and rock concert with volume control by the right foot and eagerly feeding the ears. Sound is such a necessary ingredient to the enthusiast’s driving experience and this monster has it in spades. Buffeting is minimal at speed and during start-up a whirring from the starter then a whoomph as the engine engages. Other sound bits include shrieking at full throttle, a zing during a rev matched downshift, rumbling at part throttle, a faint humming while driving during the cylinder deactivation, fans heard on the side from the huge intake at stoplights. Someone could write code for an EV’s sound
system to recreate this, but it would be really fake and really cheesy. Bystanders enjoy the concert from this marvel, but an intentionally fake-sound transmitting EV just begs for regulation and posers in skinny jeans.

When Lamborghini added magnetic shocks and revised the shifting of the single clutch automated transmission, and the stiff monocoque carbon fiber passenger tub, and improved steering it became a more attractive option to the owner, especially relatively uncompromised in terms of weight and stiffness as a roadster. And now, it’s a surprisingly good GT car. It’s a bit heavy and doesn’t flick in
transitions as easily like a lighter car, but it sure talks to you. In the Strada mode the ride is excellent, thanks to the inboard magnetic shocks, its firm but not punishingly so. The owner likes the Sport mode, right in between.

It isn’t without faults. The stereo is reported as terrible by any production car standards (I was busy listening to the other concert), and it needs an annoying manual re-shift to first gear when sitting at light for about five seconds. In the quest for higher horsepower, some low end torque is missing, if you can consider 509 lb-ft at 5500rpm a sacrifice, and the hit occurs at about 3500rpm. The stock exhaust sounds amazing and doesn't need modifying. The YouTube videos of exhaust revving mishaps are not from stock exhaust cars...

The owner weighed it at 3950lbs but it does have carbon ceramic rotors as standard to reel it all in. Despite the weight, the coupe still clocked a 6:59.73 at the Nurburgring. Essentially the record among all cars still in production. And one of the leading magazines ran a 10.6 second, 135mph quarter mile, it’s in a particularly rare field of performance especially among unboosted and non-hybrid vehicles.

Normally aspirated performance cars are becoming rare, and some are already commanding a premium new and on the used market. V-12s in particular are a dying breed. Hopefully they won’t be totally obsoleted, after all these rolling pieces of craftsmanship and engineering may stay around in the digital age the way analog watches have. The Aventador leads the way right now in purity and
outrageousness.

Oil change interval advice from Ask Rob About Cars

The shop where I have my car serviced has been urging me to change my oil in my 2013 Mustang GT California Special more often. I've owned this vehicle since May 2012 and have 11K miles on it. Since I don't have time to drive it much I change the oil once a year since Ford recommends every 10K. The question is should I change it more often or is once a year with synthetic oil okay? Thank you, Russell in San Jose

Answer: Russell, modern engine oils and engine technology allow for the 10,000 mile oil change intervals. Keep in mind the manufacturer also offers a powertrain warranty for up to 100,000 miles so a 10k oil change interval is not harmful under “normal” conditions.

If your trips allow the engine to fully warm up and the oil temperature to get over 200 degrees regularly to evaporate moisture, you’re probably just fine. Keep in mind the manual says to start the engine every 15 days and allow it to reach normal operating temperature.

Ford puts particular emphasis on their oil life monitor stating a the oil change must be done within two weeks or 500 miles of the ENGINE OIL CHANGE DUE or OIL CHANGE message. Should the monitor be accidentally reset or inoperative, Ford states to change the oil at six months or 5000 miles and never exceed one year or 10,000 miles between oil changes. More extreme use as described in your manual will require more frequent changes and the readout should reflect this.

If you want laboratory data to compare, I highly recommend Blackstone Labs for a $28 oil analysis www.blackstone-labs.com. What would be interesting is how the oil life display readout correlates to the vehicle miles and the lab analysis.

The Ford Mustang GT350 and GT350R review

It’s the exhaust system. It’s an eye widening, amazing mechanical roar, both exotic and muscular at the same time. And that is in the Sport mode. In the standard mode, it’s a quiet cruiser and an excellent grand tourer. Comparisons to the BMW M4 are immediate and inevitable, it is that dialed in. Ford took the already very good Mustang platform and enhanced the suspension and drivetrain, and based on past drives of the current the model, the some interior bits as well.

The 2016 Ford Mustang GT350 is Ford’s flat plane crankshaft V-8 answer to the Camaro Z/28 but is absolutely street friendly and less expensive. The non-R version has a starting MSRP $47,995. It features a 5.2 liter V-8 rated at 524hp at 7500 rpm and a healthy 429 lb-ft. torque at 4,750 rpm. The 8000rpm redline makes for a long, hard pull to redline. With the exhaust in the quiet mode, and 80mph cruise is as silent as the BMW 3-series.

Styling takes the great lines of the current GT and adds more aggressive touches without overtly showing off, besides the stripes, of course. Two sets of twin exhaust tips are on either side of the rear fascia. The rear spoiler highlights the rear fascia and which had brilliant styling already. The front end slopes downward more than the standard GT. It’s subtle and very well done.

This particular one is owned by an avid collector and track day enthusiast, who also happens to have a GT350R as well. The R is reportedly the most track focused of the street legal factory track oriented versions of various cars he has experienced. The exhaust is louder (if you can believe it!) due to the lack of an intermediate resonator.  His opinion is that the GT350R was an
extreme choice for daily driving, and offered a quite different driving experience than the wonderful non-R GT350 changed when it was discovered the shipping blocks in the springs weren't removed.  However the Pilot Sport Cup 2s are temperature sensitive in case you want immediate fun. He knows what he’s talking about, with plenty of wheel time in nonstreet legal factory race cars.

There are no complaints about the car. It noticeably comes into the power band at 3500rpm, even to a passenger and is fully exploitable. The GT350 and R have been clocked running low 12s in the high teens in the quarter mile. A very similar trap speed to the BMW M4 and Corvette C7 manual.

The seats are excellent and the available features and amenities include a navigation system, rearview back-up camera and heated and air conditioned seats with the Technology package. MagneRide magnetic shocks are included in both the Technology and Track packages make for a firm, not harsh and nearly perfect for a performance car on the roads that were driven. A standard feature, and unheard of in street legal production cars until now, Electronic Line-Lock. It keeps the front brakes engaged while power can be applied to the rear wheels to spin the tires and warm them up for an ideal launch at the dragstrip.

Fortuitously the opportunity to hot lap a GT350R and quite a few others at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca presented itself shortly after the GT350 ride. And the R was simply fantastic. Everything about it was dialed in and despite a somewhat high hood line (not as bad as a Camaro SS), the only other two vehicles that have made such an immediately impression were the Audi R8 and Ferrari 458 despite having radically different layouts. It’s that good. The new Camaro SS, far better than the Gen. 5 from last year has the potential in Z/28 form but still will have detrimental sight lines. The ATS-V with its odd gearing, severe turbo lag and terrible Cue system isn’t even a contender. The BMW M4 is close, but the soundtrack isn't engaging and the limits aren't as brutal. Considering it further, it is reminiscent of the CLK63 and C63 Black Series cars on the track. Simply brilliant considering the weight and front engine layout.

Although dynamically different than the mid-engine exotics, the GT350R is supremely driver oriented with supportive seats, an excellent shifter, great turn-in, and a confidence inspiring level grip with no body roll and extreme traction that made one feel like a hero on the track. The engine sound with the windows open was awesome and the engine revs so high, one instinctively shifts early at 7,000 rpm. It is at that high rpm can the vibration from the engine can be felt in the shifter but that was only at full throttle. Makes one wonder how much vibration can be felt in other cars at high rpm when hiding vibration isn't a priority.

Torque was abundant on the track, following in a supercharged Cadillac CTS-V, the R would accelerate out of the turns quite nicely. Its performance level limits are seemingly immediately obtainable and not as intimidating as the Viper ACR. In a head-to-head comparison versus the amazingly capable Camaro Z/28, both driven by pro driver Randy Pobst, the R
was over a second quicker on the track. The only thing missing is a rev-match feature for downshifting. Note to Ford if ever offered: Don't put redundant buttons behind the steering wheel, the worst possible location.

Factoring in price, it truly deserved the Road & Track Performance Car of the Year. It doesn’t compromise, it is practical, has a quality feel, it's engaging and an excellent choice for a do-anything performance car. If you can give up the rear seats and plan on tracking it, get the R. It is simply a supreme track monster.

Update: Randy Pobst clocked a stunning 1:36.11 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the GT350R. An absolutely amazing time!

Photos here:  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.917600731677972.1073741881.378354382269279&type=1&l=b3ef041c3b



Ferrari 488 GTB owner interview

Over three years ago I published a comparison article of the Ferrari 458 Italia versus the McLaren MP4-12C. Now the same owner has a Ferrari 488 GTB and was gracious enough to share his insights. Tony Gaples, owner of the Blackdog Speedshop and driver of the #11 Blackdog Speedshop Chevrolet Z/28.R Camaro in the Pirelli World Challenge GTS series broadcast on CBS sports is the very happy owner of the black model pictured here.

First some background on the Ferrari 488 GTB which is the replacement for the 458 Italia, considered by many to be the best sports car in the world. Dropping the normally aspirated 4.5 liter V8 engine that peaked at 597 horsepower in the Speciale model, the engine is now a 3.9 liter twin turbo V8 producing 661 horsepower and 561 lbs ft of torque at 3,000rpm. By all accounts it is an improvement over the 458 except in one area. Read on.

Q: How would you sum up the Ferrari 488 GTB?
Everything is amazing except the exhaust sound which is exactly the same as my M5. You can't feel the turbos, I think Ferraris should always be naturally aspirated.

Q: What is your overall impression of the 488 GTB?
My overall impression of the car is Ferrari makes some of the best cars in the world. The 488 is a quarter step past the 458. I would still say the 458 is the second best manufacturer built performance car you can buy. This after its replacement, the 488. It is fast, with physics defying handling and amazing brakes all wrapped in a user friendly package with some of the best looks, which were carved in the wind tunnel.

Q: What do you like the most about it?
What I like the most can also be said about all the mid-engine Ferraris. They are like a motorcycle on four wheels. Frantic acceleration with an incredible suspension, stop-now brakes and great ergonomics.

Q: Is there anything you don’t like about it?
There isn't much to not like with the 488. Even though the turbo power comes on as if they weren't there, I feel Ferraris should be naturally aspirated. The exhaust note still has a Ferrari sound to it but not as intense as prior models without turbos. I'm not sure if I have an electrical glitch, but under heavy braking it turns on the hazard lights. This I don't like at all. I don't want to advertise how fast I'm scrubbing off speed.

Q: Any surprises with the car?
No real surprises, but I'm glad Ferrari has finally adopted a keyless ignition since you had to hit a start button anyway. Also it’s neat to have a speedometer and tachometer for the passenger. The exhaust note is reminiscent of a BMW M5, yet louder and more bravado but still definitely a Ferrari.

Q: Ferrari purposely tuned the power delivery to mimic a naturally aspirated engine. What is your feedback having experienced this?
The power and torque curve has a very naturally aspirated feeling. There's always a kick in your back with any press of the go pedal in any gear. Hard not to like, but again I prefer naturally aspirated.

Q: What differences and improvements that you noticed versus the 458 Italia?
If you had a 458 it's a natural progression sitting in the cabin if the 488, not much has changed and what has is for the better. I'm not missing a thing. The improvements are all small. More power and better usability over the 458.

Q: What about a 458 Speciale, the last normally aspirated, non-hybrid assist, mid-engine Ferrari?
I also own a 458 Speciale and will probably keep that car forever. The pinnacle of the 458's.

Q: Any plans to track the car, especially given your level of experience and knowledge?
Even though the 488 GTB comes out of the box ready for race track, I suspect I'll never take on there because if I'm at a race track I'm generally working on my #11 Blackdog Speedshop Chevrolet Z/28.R Camaro or trying to squeeze out better times from my 2014 COPO Camaro depending on the track. Note: Tony’s Copo Camaro is a deep 9-second, 140+mph dedicated drag car.

Q: Turbo cars are easy to modify with increasing boost, would you ever consider it or have you looked into it?
I don't anticipate playing with the turbos on the 488 for more power, but we may see some Blackdog turbo packages for Camaros and Corvettes in the future.

Q: Assuming McLaren has made improvements to their cars over the years, would you consider a 650S or 675LT?
After the McLaren MP4-12C I've been soured on buying another McLaren. They may be much better cars now, but I'm not going to take the risk to find out.

Q: Any final words?
It’s fast as (insert favorite expletive here)! In any gear.