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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Testosterone Running Poor Decisions

by Miguel Caparros
Testosterone running poor decisions has been the undoing of many men and women. Poor judgement in the effort to show off, rears its ugly head. At some point it happens to us all, it is part of what makes us tick and also so dangerous. My earliest memory of testosterone experience was when I was maybe 5, I really wanted to ride my big sisters 26 inch bicycle. She asked me to watch it while she visited a friend. The temptation was too great. I hopped on pushed off and took off on the downhill run on the sidewalk. As momentum turned into speed  I was in ecstasy with the resulting increase, fear gave way to the accomplishment that I was riding a BIG bike! As gravity accelerated the bike, I had to face the reality of figuring out how to stop. I was too small to activate the brakes.  Nearing our house and quickly reaching the end of the sidewalk I chose to run into a hedge as a way to stop. It did not do the bike much good, broke the fork and bent the front tire, I sustained minor scrapes and scratches and had to face the wrath of my 13 year old sister who on one hand wanted to kill me on the other she was worried that I was seriously hurt. I was not and Federico, our handy man had her bike fixed as good as new in a couple of days. This adventure eventually led to me to be a professional risk taker. I have spent a lifetime on the edge and perhaps that may be the reason that the survivor in me figured out early on were the limits are. But most of all, the need to show off always was balanced by the need to do no harm to others. I have done a thousand burn outs at the drag strip, never once on the street or a parking lot full of people, NEVER. I have raced on the streets, but always in a controlled environment. The consequences to innocents in my mind, has always overruled the need to just show off. I am guilty of trying to set land speed records at 3 am, again with the though of doing no harm.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Who Are We

Meet the contributors. Jason Cole, Photographer.
Text by Miguel Caparros Photos by Jason Cole and Miguel Caparros
I am the luckiest editor in the world. I some how manged to get some of the best photographers tojoin me in this adventure. Jason Cole is one of our "youngsters", when I first saw his wheel standing photos from Paradise Drag Strip Calhoun Georgia, where he is the official photographer, I knew I was looking at a special talent. As a motor sports photographer I can really appreciate just how difficult it is to get consistent action shots. Jason is like a pro gunslinger, he never misses. His first submission was a wheel standing Mustang, I inspected the image it is crystal clear and sharp as a tack. I immediately went to his web site. Shot after shot of great images and he can write to! He has a "day job" working at a carpet manufacturer in Dalton Georgia and a wonderful family. I briefly got to meet the Cole clan at Road Atlanta where Jason also proved his mettle at shooting the Formula Drift like a true Pro, he also caught the action of the formula cars that weekend too. I hope this evolves into a long relationship and a full time living for this very talented, professional "youngster".
Who is driving and where are we going?
Words and photos by Miguel Caparros. Last Sunday, the first Sunday of the month, a monthly ritual takes place in the Atlanta area. At 6 am people begin to gather at a parking lot in Alpharetta Georgia. The event is the Caffeine and Octane cruise, now its sixth month at the Barnes and Noble's and Starbucks coffee Parking lot. It is a rather large lot, with 750 parking spots with an additional parking lot available for another 600 cars. Last Sunday by 8 am the main lot was full by 9 am the overflow lots were filled and spectators were parking across the street in the Toy's R Us lot. They come to the cruise to see the most eclectic collection of vehicles that gather anywhere. From the exotic to the unusual and sometimes the absurd, at one point or another they all show up here. There is no judging no prizes no cost except the fuel to get there, and maybe a pastry and some Starbucks coffee. The exit parade begins at about 10:30 by 11:30 the lots are empty.

This event began almost six years ago at another mall when some enthusiast got together to bring customers to a friends Panera Bread store. Five cars showed up on that first Saturday. When the numbers got to be in the hundreds the mall management requested they move it to Sunday from 7:30 am to 11 am. Last November and December the attendance of cars went over 700. The mall management had enough, the event had to go. Much to the displeasure and financial loss of the Panera Bread and some of the other stores that did a thriving business by opening early on one Sunday each month. The big blow was to the Panera Bread that could cover all of their expenses and rent for the month being open from 6 am to 12 noon on that Sunday.
One of the participants at the original gathering is a police Sargent from Alpharetta, he paved the way for the seamless move, seeing the financial gains that would also help the local coffers in these lean times. 
While other venues are loosing participants we are seeing a resurgence of the cruises. This does not bode well for the promoters that charge gates or for the trophy makers. At first I thought it was a cultural thing, the baby boomers trying to turn the clock back, but it is much more than that, it is not age specific as the participants are a total cross section of the age groups. Maybe it is better to call it the California factor. Cruises never waned there and if anything they have flourished and become very sophisticated. I was rather taken aback when I first started to pay attention to the Atlanta area events, and how different they were from what I was accustomed to in California.
There have been some distinct diversion. The bar/restaurant shows, designed to attract customers to those venues and draw from 40 cars to 100 people, the larger numbers being rare. The Corporate fund raisers such as the annual UPS Kimberly Clark show are very well organized, regarded and attended. They are growing and last years event had 350 entries. The promoted out door shows are risky at best here in the south, they need large numbers just to make the nut and there is always the threat of wet or too hot weather. Mostly held at county fair grounds and race tracks, I have noticed a large drop in attendance at these venues.
The tuner market has had a major set back as there have been internal and external battles with NOPI, who was the major tuner events promoter.At this point NOPI has shut down their travelling tuner shows. who was at one point a sponsor of NOPI and then a competitor seems to be very quiet too. The only big thing in the tuner community is the Import alliance event that was huge and again it was a cruise in of major proportions. See my April article here. Even the big events such as, The International Auto Shows and World of wheels have to compete for attendance with professional sports events such as football, basketball and baseball.  Tthere may be to many events as the non profits, churches and the schools have hopped on the car show wagon as a way of raising funds. Thinks are changing stay tuned.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Chevrolet Re-Inventing The Corvette With The C-7 To Lure Younger Buyers

By Miguel Caparros GM file Photos
In a bold move Chevrolet is opening up a Pandora's box by announcing a new power plant package to debut with the upcoming C-7.  Not wanting to shun the Corvette faithful, Initially the current engine line up will be continued. With the General looking at the future, a reality has set in. The younger well heeled customers are buying tons of Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Infinity, Ferrari and Corvette's.
The big difference in this group is the age of the Corvette buyer. An on line survey that has been running on the Corvette Action Center Forum, polled C-6 owners. According to the Survey 22% of the participants are over 60 years old. In a more telling number the 50 to 59 age group represents a whopping 40%. To put it in perspective, 62% of the respondents to this survey qualify to carry an AARP card. 
The new V8 engine is rumored to be a 3.2 liter 4 cam Turbo Charged 10,000 rpm motor with 125 horsepower per liter. My math tells me that is 400 hp. That is a long ways off the ground ripping C-6 7 liter 505 HP and another galaxy removed from the 6.2 liter 638 hp ZR1. So is the Corvette group going to get any cross over from Porsche 911 buyers who are a little younger with an average age of 50 or from BMW M3 owners who's average drivers age is a lot younger at 38. Not with 400 horsepower, if you want to play in this league, it is a power to weight ratio game. Unless the Corvette engineers are dropping 350 pounds of weight from the C6, the new car is going to need 500 hp to compete with the 911.
There are many photos of concepts for the C7 including the split window retro mix from the 63 Sting Ray and the Coke shape of the Maco Shark concept of the 60's. Can Corvette make inroads into the younger import market with a low-cal version of Americas Super Car? They are apparently selling a lot of V6 Camaro's so maybe there is a market for it. But personally I think such a move would weaken the status of the brand. The current car is one that can take on any of the worlds super car and if not beat them all on absolute performance it definitely beats them all in usability and daily comfort. 
Sometimes, we need to go outside and look at what the end users are doing and take some clues from what they are building.
The GM LS family of engines are extremely successful in the after-market, They are transplanted into every kind of car. One of the more popular conversions is into the Pontiac Solstice Saturn Twins. Except for a few crude homebuilt the quality of most that I have seen are outstanding. These enthusiast are not doing this with old crashed cars but very nice used cars that are holding their value, then they drop another $7,000 to $10,000 for the V8 conversion. The end result is an investment of $20,000 to $30,000 for a very good performing sports car
I think GM threw out the baby with the bath water when they retired the Solstice concept. With some parts bin engineering, the new 400 hp V8, I would name it the Chevrolet Corsa, equip it to a $50,000 price tag and evolve the Corvette with more sophistication and keep it the world car it is. Corvette fans and owners don't care about gas millage or 4 cam motors They just want a mean looking car that will go 200 mph.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Flying in a B24 Libirator

Story and Photos By Steve Natale

An opportunity to fly in a World War Two bomber is a rare honor and privilege, and truly a dreamcome true for anyone interested in aviation.  Fortunately, thanks to the Collings Foundation, dreams can come true.  The non-profit Collings Foundation, as part of their Wings of Freedom Tour, visits over 120 US cities a year.  They display the planes, educate people on the planes and their role in history, and offer rides.  This year the planes on tour are a B-17 bomber, a P-51 fighter, and the plane I flew in, a B-24 Bomber.
About the B-24
The Consolidated B-24-J Liberator operated by the Collings Foundation is named “Witchcraft” and is painted to honor the 8thAir Force plane that was assigned to the 467BG, 790BS that completed an astounding 130 combat missions.  Although the B-24 was the most mass-produced military aircraft, it is a rare bird today, and according to the Collings Foundation, America’s only flying B-24.
The Flight Experience
Entrance to into the B-24 is gained through the bomb bay doors, and you climb in and grab atwhatever you can to pull yourself up into plane.  The interior is all business. Passengers sit on a variety of small seats, benches, or on the floor of the plane.   I had rear facing seat, with the bottom ball turret below my dangling feet.  I strapped on the military safety belt and got ready for take-off.  Next, I heard the loud sound of four giant Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engines come to life and begin to roar.  Soon the plane lifted off, and  I was  free to roam the plane, being careful not to knock my head, and remembering what I was I was told in the pre-flight safety briefing, not to pull on any of the dozens of cables running the length of the plane. The cables are what the pilot uses to control the plane.  There are large openings on both sides of the plane with guns hanging out of them, and the rush from the air blasting in from them is strong, but adds to the fun.  I went down the narrow cat walk to the tail gunner seat where once a crew member defended the plane from attack.  What a view!  I then twisted, wiggled, and crawled to the front of the plane and sat in the nose gunner’s seat.   The view from there was breathtaking!  Before I knew it, the flight was over, but the memories will last forever  See more of Steve's B24 photos

I had the honor and prilivage to fly in a B-24 Liberator last weekend.  Check out the story and in-flight photos here: