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Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Best Camaro

By Miguel Caparros
Being completely caught off guard by the introduction and success of the 1964 Ford Mustang, Chevrolet took 3 years to field a competitor. The 1967 Camaro was the right response. Chevrolet went with the platform that would also be shared with the Nova. This platform also had room in the engine compartment for the full inventory of Chevrolet engines, from the inline 6 to the 327 and 396 V8's. The first year out, the Camaro had the Mustang covered on horsepower. It was this great flexibility in power trains and trim packages that helped Chevrolet catch up in sales by 1969.
 The 1969 Camaro went through a body redesign that changed the character of the car substantially. The Camaro was a larger car than the Mustang, the styling for 69 was more of a separate identity than a copy of the Pony car. For what turned out to be a one year body, the designers got it right. The Character lines on the box fenders worked real well with the new larger more distinct grill and the updated tail light panel. The roof was the only panel carried over. But it was out on the streets that the car earned its respect. With the wider stance and the way the tires sat inside the fenders the car looked great from every angle. It was Chevrolet's marketing genius that allowed the order of a six cylinder in the same package as one with a big 427 under the hood. At the other end of the spectrum a bare bones stripped car with drum brakes and no sound insulation or power steering could be had with the 427 engine for street racing and Drag racing.                                                                                                                        
The example in this video is the atypical 1969 Camaro, A Rally Sport Package 350 high performance V8 with a 4 speed. Enough power and looks to please and well behaved enough to be enjoyed in the daily commute. This was a period in time when quality was nowhere near job one. Cars were still routinely traded every 3 years, Rust and lack of proper rust prevention took its toll on these cars too. Lets not forget that the youthful age of the buyers made for a fickle bunch of owners. Somehow they survived to the point you can actually build a new Camaro or Mustang from aftermarket parts.   

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Italian Style American Power

By Miguel Caparros

The Pantera was DeTomaso's home run. He comvinced Ford, the second largest auto manufacturer in the world, to market his cars for who they provided the engines for. A car builders dream come true. There is no question that the lines laid down by American architect and designer of the Pantera, Tom Tjaarda have proven to be timeless, even if in the beginning the road was a bit rocky. The Motoring Press was not kind to the Pantera's handling and rightfully so. Tuners like me made a tidy profit from taming the over steer problem of the early Italian Mid engine cars. The Pantera was not alone, the Lamborghini Miura was introduced a few years ahead of the Pantera and suffered from severe snap over steer too, something Porsche drivers were familiar with. But the Pantera and the Miura packed a lot more power than Porsche's of the time, making the problem even worse.

Since the early 50's American car lovers have been trying to have their cake and eat it too. There is no denying that after WWII some of the most beautifully styled cars were coming out of Europe. Light in weight, sexy and slippery in shape, all they needed was a big dose of american horsepower. I had the pleasure of first hand knowledge of most of these cars that were produced by combining European Style With American Muscle.

A fellow car nut, Mike Gulett, thought enough to chronicle 25 of the best know efforts under the book titled, "European Style With American Muscle". Starting with perhaps the most outrageous, the AC cars in Britain were an upscale alternative to MG and Triumph sports cars. The swooping lines of the aluminum body AC powered by a Bristol inline six, made all the right noises and was a very pleasant car. Along came a Texan by the name of Carroll Shelby and the rest of the story is in Mike Gullet's fantastic book.

Having served time with Ferrari as a youth and owning enough Alfa Romeo's to start a museum, I was very partial to Italian coachwork. Some did the unthinkable by putting in American cast iron overhead V8 engines where Twin cam 4 and 6 cylinder engines resided. I was also warned that there was a special place in hell for those that would replace a Ferrari V12 with a cast iron Cadillac motor.

As Mike's book so clearly shows there were alternative to being Sacrilegious. Start with an Italian car with no engine affiliation. But it is not just limited to the Italians, one of my favorite is the English made Jensen Interceptor. Equipped with big Chrysler V8's, these car were referred to as "Gentleman's Express". Big comfortable, opulent, fitted with the best in leather, wood and Wilton wool carpets, only a big Chrysler V8 could provide the refinement and brutal power that this big 4 seat smoking room on wheels deserved
Mike Gulett is in my opinion one of the worlds foremost authority on Renzo Rivolta and his series of Iso Automobiles. Arguably the most successful manufacturer of American powered Italians. Get his book it is cheaper than flying me to tell you about it.

ZL1 Camaro At Horsepower Breakfast

 By Miguel Caparros
Introduced at the Chicago Auto Show the brand-spanking new Camaro ZL1 is the most powerful Camaro ever. Powered by a LSA 6.2L supercharged V-8 engine that provides 580 horsepowerl. "Camaro ZL1 is about high-tech performance and design, and is a type of car no one has ever brought to this segment previously," said Rick Scheidt, vice president of Chevrolet marketing. "It's the most technically advanced Camaro ever, so we've chosen a name from the most elite and exclusive Camaro in history." The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 has some exclusive body panels to distinguish from the rest of the brood. A new front fascia, hood with air extractors, and a signature center section constructed of carbon fiber rendered in satin black finish. Topping it all off is a set of 20-inch wheels and exhaust tips with ZL1 badge on the grille, hood, and brake calipers.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Renault Alpine Returns To Monoco With 400 Horsepower

By Miguel Caparros
See the on track video
Renault is taking the Alpine A 110-50 back to its roots.  A race car you can drive on the street, with a 400 HP V6.  This prototype is based on the Megan Trophy racer and is supposed to be very close to what will be produced.  A bare bones track ready car for club or production car racing, that can also cruise to the market. The debut was at the Monoco Grand Prix circuit where Carlos Taveres did a nice smoky burn out and drifted his way to the first turn. Not bad for being the Renault's Chief Operating Officer, "Its good to be the King". The last Alpine had taken a turn to a luxury sport about with okay power and fair looks. Not the brawler that the original A110 was. A look that preceded the 911, in a smaller lighter package with engines ranging from 1100 cc to 1800 the super lightweight made the Alpine A110 a giant killer.
The new car is aggressive from every direction. From the aero nose and spliter to the roof air intake,  the front of it looks like all business. I may want to put a wire grill on the roof scoop to ensure I do not suck in one of the cats. With a flat bottom and rear tunnels this car is very serious.  The adjustable wing just gives you one more thing to think about. This is purpose built unlike the original Alpines that were based on Renault production car platforms from the 1950's 4CV and 60's R8 R10 platform. What those cars achieved with their humble beginnings makes one wonder what the new one will do. The A110 was first unveiled at 1962 Paris Motor Show. The new car used many of the up coming R8 parts including a reinforced platform with a steel backbone.
Those R8 parts were state of the art at the time, including 4 wheel disc brakes twin control arm front suspension, a self centering rack and pinion steering rack. Possibly the thing that made the Alpine such a giant killer was the R8 5 main bearing wet sleeve design when coupled to the Gordini designed aluminum hemi head turned the 50 horsepower economy motor into a 120 horsepower beast. The body was completely fiber glass and the super lightweight versions had plexy glass windows and windshield. Even today the A110 is one of my favorite cars very forgiving at the limit, although I think the limits of the New car may be just a  wee bit higher. Happy 50th anniversary.
See the original racers

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A 12 Year Old CD Review And An Old Story

You may be wondering why I am writing a review on a 12 year old CD. My childhood friend, Leslie, Posted a coupon on Facebook for Tedeschi's Trucks Band new CD. I figured before I run out tomorrow and buy the latest CD I should review the first CD that came out a little over 12 years ago.

I was driving down 101 going from San Francisco to LA. It was warm for February in 1998, I had time to burn. The tape deck in the Oldsmobile had quit months ago so I was listening to the FM as I headed south om a Sunday morning. When I got near Salinas, I had thought of taking Route 1 along the coast, the the DJ of the Salinas radio station introduced a new CD he had just received and he had played the first track and loved it so much he was going to play the whole CD with out interruption.

The first song was “Rock me Right” and boy did Susan Tedeschi's voice rock me right. I took a turn back to head south on 101 through the Salinas Valley knowing if I took Route 1 down the coast, the mountains would block the radio signal after just 10 minutes. All of a sudden I was transported back to 1969 a rainy day Friday August 14th I played hooky from school, something I never did, but this was a special occasion. The greatest bands and artist of the time were going to be in a place I could drive to in upstate New York, Woodstock. I pointed my little red Alfa Romeo south to make the 300 mile trip To Woodstock , a town that is actually fairly close to the major metropolitan areas of New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. It had been Raining for days but I was hopeful that the rain would stop.
What a contrast from the weather I was having in California. 75 degrees sunny and with a slight breeze from the Pacific. "Rock me Baby" made me think of Janice Joplin, but in a polished control and trained way. Susan still had a slight edge to her voice but it was definitely not the drug induced, who gives a F, that Janice had that made 17 year old boys like me me shiver at the though of that kind of woman.

Susan Tedeschi “Just Won't Burn,” her break out album produced By Tom Hambridge who has single handed kept the blues alive. That is a slight exaggeration but not a bold face lie. Tom is a complete music company onto himself, has the awards to prove it and a who's who of friends to back it up.
Susan's rendition of Hambridge's “It Hurt So Bad” put me over the top when I heard it leaving Salinas. Right then and there I made up my mind I had to have that CD.

The rain did not let up and a mountain of traffic seemed to be heading to Woodstock. It was dark and dreary with sprinkles of happiness braking out along the road with cars stranded by the side and folks getting together to make the best of it.

The CD's title song “It Just Won't Burn” written by Tedeschi, not only showcases her voice and guitar work but also her feeling for writing the blues, the lady has soul. You can feel the passion in her voice.

I have listened to this album so much over the years, usually as prelude to  “Big Brother And the Holding Company” . By the time “Angel From Montgomery” written by John Prime, the radio in the Oldsmobile was having troubles staying locked in. I stopped the car in a spot with good reception to listen to the rest of the CD.

The road to the hamlet of White Lake in Bethel New York where the concert was to happen was clogged with at least half a million happy souls. The dirt road got so rutted and muddy that I knew it was just a matter of time before the little sports car would get high centered. I saw a clear spot on the shoulder of the road and dove for it. Safely parked between a late 50's VW Camper Bus and a converted bread truck I made new friends and contributed the wine I carried in exchange for food and shelter.
The last song in the Album is a collaboration by Tedeschi and Hambridge “Friar's point” A classic blues rift. that closed out my 45 minutes of driving and day tripping. It is interesting how many people like me there are that love cars and music but more so the blues "the peoples music". We could hear the concert off in the distance as the rain continued but it did not matter as a bunch of strangers became friends for one night and partied away safely in the bus and the bread truck. In the morning the National Guard was offering free pulls for those that wanted to get back on pavement. I took them up on the offer said good bye to my mates and headed home to Plymouth New Hampshire, dropping chunks of mud on the way. Thanks Leslie, I promise the next time I will tell you ahead of time.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Future Ford Mustang

Ford Motor Company Photo
Your Halo Car is selling real well, it ranges in price from very affordable to outrageous. But it sells to a cross section of buyers from the youngest to the oldest and it is selling. So what do you do? Abandon the plan and start with a completely new design! According to the Wall Street Journal this is the direction Ford is taking the Mustang. Could this be 1974 all over again? For those that were too young to remember or those who are the at age of forgetfulness, Ford did a complete redesign of the, by then bloated 1973 Mustang. The first fuel crisis was in full swing and Ford execs decided to make the Pinto into the new Mustang II. It was a very painful 4 years and the car did not sell well.
This great looking car made its debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show last year. The thought is to attract the tuner class of younger customer and go head to head against the imports. All fine and good but just branding a car a Mustang does not make it so. I think they under estimate the draw to the younger set of the Mustang brand as it stands. The older customers are the ones that are buying the $40,000 plus Shelby and Roush special edition cars. It is the 20 somethings that are signing for the notes on the equally stylish $22,000 V6 powered cars. Although they do not posses the gravity bending horsepower of  the Mustang Boutique cars, the 300 horsepower and relative light weight equate to fantastic performance and great fuel millage of 30 MPG on the highway.  The younger set is willing to pay a slight penalty for the uniquely iconic Mustang look, it is just so right. It also has to be a rear drive car. All you have to do is to look at the Super Coupes from Toyota, Hyundai, and Subaru, they are making turbo powered smaller copies of the Mustang and in my opinion the Mustang as it is does not need to make any apologies, or be redesigned to look like the imports. If you agree send me a note and I will forward it to Ford.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New 2013 BMW 3 Series Wagon

Revealed at the Leipzig Auto Show
Even sweeter for the BMW 3 Touring to be revealed at the Leipzig Exhibition
The new 2013 BMW 3 Series Touring is unveiled at the Leipzig Auto Show. Here is what we have so far. It is wider, has a longer wheelbase, rear seat room for real adults. When will it come To the US? We will keep you informed.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Carroll Shelby Crosses Life's Finish Line

Remembrances and Photo by Miguel Caparros
A mentor, a friend, passed on yesterday. I first met Carroll Shelby, when I was too young to know, I was 6. I was with my Father at the 1957 Nassau Speed Week, I was introduced to many of his friends including Carroll Shelby. At the April of 1965 New York International Auto Show I saw Carroll Shelby again. He had a small space where he was displaying the new Shelby GT350, a Cobra, a Sunbeam Tiger and a Ford GT40. I was 14, he said he remembered me and wondered if I was going to follow my fathers footsteps in racing. In spite of the demands on him, he took the time to walk me through and explain all the cars to me. As I was leaving he gave me a poster of the GT350 that was a reprint of an ad that ran in Competition Press and Autoweek. I still have the poster. He shaped mine and my families life, he goes across life's finish line with yet another first. He is the longest living heart transplant survivor, by a mile. May we learn from all the giving you have done of yourself Carroll Shelby.

About the photo. I have owned a GT350 and drove countless other Shelby cars over the years, the Dodge Shelby Turbo we bought it new, we still have it. All the children learned to drive in this car. We even have a daughter named Shelby. We miss you already Carroll.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Ferrari 365 GTB (Daytona)

Story, Video, and Photos By Miguel Caparros

One of the true automotive icons. The Daytona enjoyed a long tun being in production from 1968 to 1976. A true Super Car, even by today's standards, the 365 GTB/4 is a car that can be driven comfortably. The car designation from Ferrari was the 365 GTB/4 or GTS/4. The Daytona name apparently was atthached by the press in celebration of Ferrari's 1,2,3 victory at the 24 hrs of Daytona in 1966. A total of 1,284 of this incredible car were produced, Of that number only 122 GTS (Spider) were produced, the first 25 actually started life as Spiders, the rest of the were converted from coupes.

The US cars were slightly de-tuned with lower compression and a more restricted and quieter exhaust. That did not slow the cars much as they still were able to do 0-60 in around 5 seconds and hit a top speed of 170 mph. I can tell you from experience that very few of the U.S. cars stayed in the de-tuned state for long. The Ferrari 4.4 liter (268 CID) V12 was delivered with 347 HP. The Lampardi designed engine was nearing the end of its life, but it had been in production so long and powered so many race winning cars that tuning to 400 HP was easy, all it took was money. For those that wanted the ultimate rush, 450 horsepower was available. If of you thought breaking 200 MPH in a production 1960's car was unlikely, the slippery shape and a 450 hp Daytona could do it with ease.

There is no question that the 365 GTB/4 and GTS/4 are already in the extremely rare and a pricey category. Prices on these cars are in the clouds and have been so for a long time. A GTS/4 we owned in the late 70's sold in the late 80's at auction for 6 million, yes it was one of the 25. Unlike the similar Maserati Ghibli that is still affordable the Daytona sets the standard as the most Collectible car of the 70'S.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

SHOGUN Prototype

SHOGUN Article and Video by Miguel Caparros

Late last year, Chuck Beck arrived at a car event I was at, not driving his usual Porsche 904A, but this little yellow Bomb. Chuck is known for his incredible Porsche 904A recreations that are absolutely fantastic. Aside from the fact that they look like a 904, these cars can actually be used on a daily basis as they have all the latest technology. Chuck's shop fabricates everything, the quality is beyond reproach, there is usually a waiting list for his cars. He opened his first shop after he left Shelby American where he was one of the original crew involved in the Cobra and GT 40 projects. He opened his own shop in Southern California. I have known about Chuck for a long time.

A crowd gathered around the little yellow car wondering what it was, Chuck was having fun as everyone guessed wrong. Being the show off that I am I chimed in with the correct answer. Chuck then started to explain about the origin of the SHOGUN.

Rick Titus, a race car driver, who had some connections at Ford, brought the idea and some drawings of the SHOGUN to Chuck Beck's Southern California Shop. With some mild blessing from a Ford executive that Rick worked with, Chuck located a crashed Festiva and got to work on building this car. If I recall correctly for this prototype the engine came from Ford via a damaged Taurus SHO that also donated many of its parts to make the whole thing work. The Yamaha built Super High Output engine is a 4 cam with 4 valves per cylinder. At the time the 220 horsepower was stout for a 3 liter 6 cylinder, being transplanted to a car that is 1,000 lbs lighter you end up with Supercar performance. Where the original Festiva engine was located, a radiator and fuel cell went in. The rear seat and floor were cut out and a fabricated sub frame with race inspired suspension went in along with the now mid mounted engine.

This car was a media Super Star from day one, even making the cover of most auto publications including Road & Track. There is no denying that this car was the right Idea at the right time. What was wrong was that it took two new cars to build it. You needed a new Taurus SHO and a new Festiva. Economically it made no sense but what killed it was Fords legal department. At the time that the SHOGUN came out I was peddling around in the car that looked very similar to it, and some said that the Renault R5 Turbo was the inspiration for the SHOGUN. Jay Leno used up a little of his Tonight Show salary and bought the first production car from Chuck Beck.