Group B

This is just awesome. The first 2.5 mins are mostly (awesome) engine sounds and then it’s 8 minutes of high flying, sideways, spectator dodging Group B awesomeness. I really, really want to drive fast, sideways through the woods like this.
Do they still have racing like this?

S.A-S.H.: The 1960 Thunderbird

1960 Thunderbird Cover.JPG
In response to Hooniverse’s 4 part series of Thunderbird brochures (1, 2, 3, 4) in their R.A-S.H. series. R.A-S.H. stands for “Rusty’s Archive of Showroom Hyperbole”, so I’ve called this, creatively, S.A-S.H. or Salguod’s Archive of Showroom Hyperbole. Archive is likely incorrect as I’m unlikely to do this again, but i digress.
Since the R.A-S.H. posts were mostly taken on the ‘bonnet’ of his ’98 Audi A4, I decided it only fitting to photograph this on the hood of my 1960 Thunderbird Convertible. Let’s have a look at ‘The World’s Most Wanted Car‘.
1960 Thunderbird  Brochure 1-2
Thunderbird – one of the great all-time automotive classics!
This is year 3 of the first of the 4 seat Thunderbirds. The Squarebirds, as they’ve come to be known, were a resounding sales success. The ’60 alone was the best selling T’bird until the ’77 models came out, out selling all 3 years of the 2 seaters combined. However, until recently, the 4 seat T’birds, and the Squarebirds in particular, were the red headed step children of the Thunderbird universe. Even though the 4 seaters are gaining popularity and respect now, there’s still a 2 seat vs. 4 seat divide in the T’bird world, even among parts suppliers. It was certainly one of the most desirable cars at the time, but to call it an all-time classic when new was certainly a stretch.
1960 Thunderbird Brochure 3-4
Just say “Thunderbird”!
The very name evokes an image of glamour and spirit and distinction. This beautiful car comes by its beauty naturally. You won’t find another car with lines so clean. So unaffected. So smart.

You want hyberbole? This is 1960, we’ve got hyperbole.
Sports car roadability and luxury car comfort.
Yeah, if 0-60 in 10+ seconds, body roll and a floaty ride are “sports car roadability” and a tight-for-4 interior is ‘comfort’.
Fully automatic, the top disappears completely!
Along with 75% of the already meager trunk space. Actually, and I’m biased here, but this is pretty cool. The predecessor to the system on the 4 door Continental Convertible, the 1960 T’bird’s top goes down from the driver’s seat, with a flip of the two windsheild latches (conveniently left out of the brochure) and engaging the switch. The deck-lid rises, the top goes down and the deck-lid closes, leaving a clean, finsihed appearance. No boot to fuss with. It’s not a simple system with a hydraulic pump, 4 cylinders, 12 relays and numerous limit switches and solenoids. Should the system fail and you need to access the trunk, you jack the car, remove the wheels, drop the fuel tank and disconnect the hydraulic cylinders in back and the deck-lid latches through small access holes under the car. Thankfully, the system is actually pretty reliable if used regularly.
1960 Thunderbird 5-6
Decades before Photoshop, that top image is a retouched lie. They’ve used the split created by the lady’s arm to stretch the rear seat leg room to about 3 times actual. Compare to the green interior below.
The bellman on the left is thinking “Lady, I’m not sure this is gonna close.” Yes, the trunk is 5′ 5″ wide, but it’s not deep enough for a full paper grocery sack to stand upright. This page talks about Thunderbird’s ‘compact’ dimensions, but that only applies to the interior, it’s nearly as long and wide as my 8 passenger Saturn Outlook.
1960 Thunderbird Brochure 5-6
Accessories “To add an extra measure of comfort and pleasure.” Luxurious things like backup lights and a window washer. Check out the sliding steel sunroof, on an American car in 1960.
Thunderbird Brochure Pages 9-10
300 or 350 HP, but that’s gross, not the now standard SAE net. As I said before, the base engine isn’t particularly quick. It does feel quick, especially if you pay attention and put it in D1 so you don’t start in second gear. Note, however, that you could get your ‘luxury’ car with a 3 speed stick – on the column. Note that there’s nothing hiding those beautiful V8s and that the top image is actually a painting of the engine, not a photograph.
1960 Thunderbird Brochure 11-12
What strikes be the most on this page is how bad that top image is. Look at how blurry the people are. The image is so bad, that all the detail on the car – the grille, headlights, door cut line, quarter panel trim – is airbrushed in.
1960 Thunderbird Brochure 13-14
Oh, for the days of “15 Luxury Lounge” interiors, 56 different two tone exteriors and honest to goodness colors. Modern cars have maybe 10 colors and 6 of them are grey.
I hope the fellow Hoons at Hooniverse will forgive my plagiarism borrowing of their format. I’ve always been a fan of auto literature (I have boxes of the stuff from all the shows I’ve been to) and enjoy the R.A-S.H. posts. With their 4 T’bird themed entries this week, it seemed fitting.
1960 Thunderbird Brochure Back
Disclaimer:- All photos were taken by the author and are of genuine original manufacturer publicity material, resting on the hood of a 1960 Thunderbird, currently in hibernation awaiting warmer days. All copyright rights remain in the possession of the manufacturer.

A Day at Mid-Ohio

This past weekend I had the privileged of attending Saturday’s races at Mid Ohio including the American Lemans race (Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge), USF2000 National Championship race #1 and Pirelli World Challenge Championship race #1.
The weekend was sponsored by Honda (who did well this weekend, winning both prototype classes of the ALMS race and Sunday’s Indy car race) and a buddy who works at Honda had tickets for the weekend and invited me to come along. It was the first race I had been to in over 30 years. The last race I attended, I believe, was also at Mid Ohio, the Champion Spark Plug Challenge race (IMSA?) in the late 70’s or early 80’s when I was in middle school, I think. Yeah, I’m old.
Anyway, in the spirit of the olelongrooffan from Hooniverse and his visits to the birthplace of speed, I kept my eye out for interesting cars in the parking areas of the track. We spent most of our time in the infield, wandering from corner to corner to take in the race from different vantage points. Along the way (and in the parking lot) we were greeted with a nice variety of nifty machinery.
Lincoln_mark VII LSC
First up was this very clean, and wonderfully brown, Lincoln Mark VII LSC. Judging by the BBS inspired wheels, this is a 1990-1992. I’ve always liked the looks of these.
I didn’t bring my good camera, choosing not to lug it around, a bad move in hind sight. Instead I just snapped pics on my cell phone. It’s got quite a decent 8MP camera, but it’s still a phone camera and, as this shot proves, has limitations. Several came out like there was schmutz on the lens, but not all of them and I never cleaned the lens, so who knows. Anyway, I thought these two late model beauties from Stuttgart were worth an image, even if it is a bit fuzzy.
Porsche 944
Just up the isle from the new and shiny Porsches was this clean, older 944. The 944 never did much for me growing up, no Porsches did frankly, but it was nice seeing this one now 20 some years old.
1959 MGA
Another victim of the cell phone camera was this real clean 1959 MGA (I read license plates well). I must have caught the sun on the rear view mirror or something. Look how big that new Mini looks in comparison.
Honda S2000s
Honda’s S2000 was well represented along the road toward the main bridge to the infield. As a Honda sponsored event, they were well represented period. In fact, I saw more Crosstours and CR-Zs here than I think I had everywhere else to date.
60s Cadillac
Several manufacturers were represented, both in official displays like the SRT display in the background (this was the first race for the new Viper GTS-R), or in owner’s infield parking areas. This very clean early 60’s Caddy was parked last in a row of newer Cadillacs. The wheel covers and extra wide whites are a bit too much for me.
Ford Focus RS
I can’t really blame the phone camera on this one, I was clearly in too much of a hurry to catch up with the group and moved the phone before the shot. I didn’t realize it until we were down the road a ways. The car in question was worth including anyways. No, not the CRZ but the Europe only Focus RS Mk2 in Ultimate Green. There it was, hiding under the trees among the more common riff-raff in the infield. Man, I wish I had gotten a better shot.
VW Camper
This pristine early VW Type 2 T2 camper (Westfalia?) looked like it just rolled off the showroom floor, not like it had been driven from Indiana like its plates indicated. It didn’t even look like it could have been driven up the dirt path through the infield.
VW Van
This later Type 2 T2 was every bit as clean, if not quite as appealing as the older pop-top.
VW Van
But the best was the awesome Type 2 T1 camper (or is it a Combi?) with what looks like a period roof top tent on a modern roof rack. My only disappointment was that they weren’t up in the tent watching the race. They were parked right along the fence, after all (see the Porsche on the track on the left?).
Cadillac XLRs
When was the last time you saw a single XLR, let alone 5 together and 2 of them V-series?
This was only half of the Corvette area. There must have been 100 ‘Vettes, and all but this ’59-’60 were late model, C4, C5 or C6 models.
1962 Porsche 356 Notchback
This was an interesting car that I wasn’t familiar with. A 1962 Porsche 356 notchback. Built, according to the owner, to give a bit more head room for the rear seat. Only built in ’61 & ’62, the first few were converted convertibles and later in life many got converted back, as the rag-top was more desirable. One of a couple thousand made.
Porsche 928
Another blast from the past was this 928. I didn’t even see the 300 ZXs right behind it. I wish I had, I would have gotten a shot of them too. Can you spot the surf board?
Oh, and yes there was a race going on, so here is a shot from each of the three races on Saturday.
ALMS MidOhio Front Straight
This is the ALMS race, with a couple of the GT cars and a couple prototypes heading into the front straight. These were all impressive machines, watching the prototypes corner was a treat as they simply changed direction with no perceivable body roll. I loved listening to the GT cars, the Ferrari 458s and BMW 3 series had a wicked wail, but the Corvettes had a low rumble that you could feel. The Vipers didn’t sound good at all, they sounded out of tune, and maybe they were, they weren’t competitive at all.
These are the Mazda powered USF2000 cars heading into the esses after the long straight at the starting line. A series with one chassis and running sealed 2.0 liter Mazda engines, this one was all about driver talent.
World Challenge Esses
This is the first lap of the Pirelli World Challenge race. The cars have just come off the starting line up to the left and are headed into the esses. This looked like it was going to be a great race with 54 cars on the track ranging from the Volvos and Caddy CTS-Vs you see up front to a couple GTRs, A8s, Camaros, Mustangs, a flock of 911s down to a Kia Optima, Mazdaspeed3s and Civics. There was even a guy campaigning a Solstice coupe. Unfortunately we had to go, so we only saw a couple laps. According to their website, a Volvo took the GT class, an Acura won the GTS class and Mazda (Go Zoom Zoom!) won the TC class.
All in all a fun day, even though it was real hot and we walked a lot. I hope to get back to another race before another 30 years goes by.

They’re Gone

Empty Lot
Dad was in town this weekend and after stopping by Cars and Coffee on a beautiful Saturday morning, I decided to take him downtown to see those old cars. Instead, we were greeted with the scene above. After sitting there for months, perhaps years, they’re all gone.
Did the owner find more suitable storage? Did they get sold off to other collectors? Did he finally embark on those restorations that he’d been meaning to get to? Or, perish the thought, did he stop paying his parking fees and they get towed away and sold for scrap?
We likely will never know.

Rare Cars Decaying Outside in Downtown Columbus

UPDATE 9-19-2011:They’re gone, see my update here.
A while back, bprosperi on twitter posted about a bunch of old cars sitting out in a pay to park lot near downtown Columbus. These were old collectables, luxury cars, just sitting in the open and had been there forever. In fact, you can see them on Google Street View.
Finding a bunch of cars rusting away quietly in a field or behind a country house is not unusual, it happens all the time. Some car guy buys ’em up, thinking he’ll get around to restoring them some day, or just because he likes having them. The unusual thing here is that these cars are in a commercial parking lot in a business district right on the fringe of downtown Columbus, a mere two blocks from Huntington Park, the Columbus Clippers’ new ballpark.
This summer I’ve been down to Huntington Park a few times and stopped by to check these cars out.
Looking at them in person, they appear not to move and to simply have been abandoned. Abandoned cars on pay to park lot don’t last long, however. Closer inspection reveals that they all, save one, have current Ohio license plates with current year stickers. The other one has blue California plates. Furthermore, the street view image shows the cars in a different order meaning that at least some of them do move.
So, this is a collection of run of the mill old luxury cars, right? Hardly. What I found was an odd selection of rare high end Mercedes book ended by classic and rare American iron.

1961 Imperial Lebaron 1961 Imperial Lebaron

At one end is this 1961 Imperial. And not just any Imperial, the formal rear window means this is a $6,428 (in 1961) Imperial Lebaron, one of 1,026 built according to the Imperial Club site. While rough around the edges, it appears surprisingly solid and complete for a car stored outside in an urban area. I’m hoping the hood being ajar (it’s closed on Street View) means it’s getting some attention from its owner, not from vandals.

1960 Lincoln Continental Mark V 1956 Lincoln Capri

Just down from the Imperial is this white 1960 Continental Mark V and a black 1956 Lincoln Capri. Both appear complete, but the the Capri seems the more solid of the two.

1967 Cadillac De Ville

At the other end is this rather sad looking 1967 Cadillac De Ville Convertible. It looks to be rather rusty, but it also appears to be the only American in running order here. The Street View image shows it in a different spot, so it’s been mobile recently. Still, a lot of work needed here.

Mercedes Mercedes 6.9

In between (mostly) are 7 big late 70’s Mercedes sedans and one 280 CE coupe. But get this – among the sedans, one is a 450 SEL and four of them wear 6.9 badges on their rumps. The 6.9 was Mercedes high-performance big sedan in the late 70s and was a rare bird with only 1,816 brought to North America between 1977 and 1980 according to Wikipedia. One of the others is a 280 SE, not sure about the last one.
So many questions: Who owns these cars? What are they doing here? What is their fate? Will they continue to rust and rot away, or will these rare and magnificent examples of big German and American transportation someday get the attention they deserve? I hope that they do.

Mazda Rust Warranty

Q – When is 5 years not 5 years?
A – When it’s your Mazda corrosion warranty.

Update 2/26: I added some pictures to my Flickr account, for those who want to see. The Driver’s rear door is the one getting fixed.
Today, 2/25/2011, marks the end of my 5 year Mazda corrosion warranty and today it goes in to have 1 of 3 rusty doors repaired. I’m grateful that I’m getting one fixed, but very frustrated with the process and wonder why the other two didn’t qualify.
The Mazda rust warranty, like most I think, only covers ‘perforation’. On the face of it, that would seem easy to identify, if there’s a hole or not. But in practice it’s not always that easy to see. The metal might be perforated but the paint still intact, but bubbled. The perforation might be hiding behind trim or overlapping panels might make it hard to see.
My car has rust mainly in 3 of the 4 doors on the bottom edges, inside where the outer skin and the door frame meet. There is also rust in the driver’s side rear quarter panel. As my warranty was coming to a close soon, I contacted the nearest Mazda dealer, Byers Mazda, last week to have it evaluated. That’s when the drama began.
As soon as it became clear the time frame involved, the service manager became quite agitated. Evidently, the regional Mazda rep has to make the evaluation and determination on rust issues and he was just there in the last week or two and wasn’t due back until April. Without his evaluation, there was nothing they could do and pictures aren’t generally acceptable. (That’s understandable, they don’t always tell the entire story.) Once the 5 years expire, there’s nothing that can be done, period.
So, because he had already been and gone, I may be out of luck. I told him that there was no way I could have known his schedule (nor that he was required to see the car), and that there was clearly rust and I was clearly still within the 5 years, so I had no reason to doubt my coverage, which now seemed to be in jeopardy. He said something like “Yes, but this didn’t just happen.” a phrase he’d repeat many times over the coming days. We agreed that I would bring the car in on Friday AM, he would take some pictures and send them to the rep and we’d go from there.
The rep reponded and agreed to cover one of the rear doors, but there was another catch: The car had to be at the body shop, and work started by Friday (today) or the coverage would expire. Again, there was no way I could have known that not only did the evaluation had to be done prior to the warranty end, by the regional rep who only comes every 6-8 weeks, the repair had to begin prior to the end of the warranty. I mentioned this to the manager and he responded, “Yes, but this didn’t just happen.”
When I asked why that one and not the others, all he could say was it was the only one that showed perforation. To me, they all show the same symptoms – obvious rust, cracking and separation/splitting. I asked for the rep’s contact number or to receive a call from him to talk about it, and he gave me the general customer service number for Mazda, but with an ominous, slightly threatening warning: He said that if I contacted Mazda (this was yesterday) and they open a case, then things may change. I asked if they would revoke the coverage already granted and he said maybe or they may insist that the rep see the car which would go beyond the warranty and the coverage would expire. Again he said, “If you had come to your dealer sooner …”
At this point, I’m pretty ticked off and I want to call the corporate office, but I don’t want to jeopardize the coverage I’ve already been granted. The dealer has been doing as little as possible and blaming the inability to resolve this on my procrastination. Frankly, I don’t think matters one bit, five years is five years, and to mention it is frankly insulting and condescending. So, do I call or not? All this time, I’ve been tweeting about details of this, including the @MazdaUSA twitter account when I did. I had gotten no response until yesterday afternoon, after pointing out how fast GM responded when they thought my issues were with the Chevy dealer (my Saturn had warranty work this week too), I got a message from Mazda asking form my contact info. I gave it and received a call from them yesterday evening. He expressed sympathy, but he too seemed to have an urgency to get resolution before today’s blasted, arbitrary deadline. I’m supposed to get a call from the rep today, but as of 1:15 PM, I haven’t.
All of this could have been avoided. The bottom line here is that your 5 year warranty isn’t really 5 years, in my opinion. Because the car has to be evaluated by a rep who only comes by every few weeks and the repairs have to begin prior to the end of the warranty, you really need to get the car in probably 2 months before the end if you want to be sure that he’s able to see your car. Simply communicating this in the warranty documentation would help, but really that only covers Mazda’s behind on what is, frankly, poor policy.
The real solution here is to honor claims brought into the dealer up until the final hour. There’s no reason this could not have been evaluated and repaired after the expiration of the warranty, as long as the original claim was made within the warranty period. As it is, the 5 years is an illusion, it’s effectively only 4 years and 10 months.

Maverick Flying Car

We’re supposed to have flying cars by now, right? Well, now we do.
The Maverick is a car that flies. Because most flying car concepts to date have flown, but would not really drive, to demonstrate it’s car abilities they drove it from Florida to Oshkosh Wisconsin for the big air show there. It doesn’t fly very vast (only about 40 MPH), but it will take off and land in a space as small as a football field. And, it hits 0-60 in under 4 seconds and gets about 25-30 MPG on the highway.
The best part is the motivation for building it. Profit? Love of flying? The challenge? Nope. They did it for the Gospel.
The Maverick’s main raison d’etre is to bring Jesus and medical relief to remote areas of the world where regular cars and planes cannot go.
Very cool.

How to Adjust Your Mirrors

A couple of months ago, Car and Driver wrote a short story about a 15 year old SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) paper that told how to adjust your car mirrors to eliminate the traditional ‘blind spot’ just behind your car in the adjacent lane. Funny thing was about 15 years ago I heard about this very technique on the old WXYT talk radio in Detroit on the excellent David Newman program. I gave it a try and have used it ever since.
While I appreciated Car and Driver’s write up (and their excellent graphic below), I felt like it really only adequately described the goal of adjusting the mirrors like this (no overlap between the center mirror and the outside mirrors) it didn’t give an adequate ‘How To’. It’s a slightly tedious process, but if you’re the only one driving the car, you only do it once.
The key to making the adjustment is to do so while the car is parked.  Don’t do it while driving because it distracts you from the road and the changing scenery in the mirrors makes it hard to do. You’ll also need several points of reference about 2-3 car lengths behind the car, so an open lot isn’t the place to do it. Parked in my suburban driveway, the far curb or something in the neighbor’s yard across the street is good. Parked in a parking lot, the cars on the opposite side of the aisle are pretty good too.
Adjust your rear view mirror so you can see the entire rear window.  Find something at the right edge of the inside mirror (or, more likely, at the right edge of the back window) at that 2-3 car length reference distance. Now, adjust the passenger side mirror so that the same object is at the left edge of the passenger mirror. You only want the tiniest sliver of duplication between the mirrors. The green car in the C&D illustration is a good example.
Now repeat the process for the driver’s mirror, using the left edge of the center mirror and the right edge of the driver’s mirror.
That’s it, no more blind spots.
There are some drawbacks:

  1. Some cars I’ve driven will not allow the mirrors to adjust outward adequately to achieve the full panorama. This is especially true if, like me, you need the seat all the way back.
  2. If you use an object too far behind you as a reference, the blind spot in traffic isn’t fully eliminated.  After the initial setting, you should check the positions on the road and tweak it if necessary to eliminate the overlap.
  3. On a multi-lane road, this does NOT eliminate the blind spot for the cars two lanes over. Mostly that’s not an issue, but if you both change lanes at the same time or if you need to move over two lanes, it may be.

Once you get used to seeing only the passing grass in the side mirror, this technique is amazing.  You now have a panoramic view to the rear between the three mirrors.  As you drive, passing cars in the adjacent lanes will approach in the rear view mirror. As they leave that mirror, they’ll appear in the side mirror and as they leave that mirror they appear in your peripheral vision.  They are never out of your sight.  It’s beautiful.
Adjust Your Mirrors
Image Credit: Car and Driver

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