Sunday, May 31, 2015

Countdown to Le Mans -- Porsche 911 RSR

911 RSR 77

Stuttgart. The Le Mans countdown has begun for the Porsche Manthey team. Sunday’s official pre-test marked the start of the critical phase in the lead up to the 83rd edition of the world’s toughest 24-hour race, contested on 13/14 June on the Circuit des 24 Heures. This race is also the highlight of this year’s Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC. After clinching a double victory in 2013, the Porsche Manthey outfit fields two 911 RSR in the GTE-Pro class. Furthermore, Porsche customer teams are back to fight for victory in the GTE-AM class. Porsche is the most successful manufacturer in the history of this long distance classic. 

The race
The world’s most famous endurance race was contested for the first time in 1923. Each year it attracts the best sports car pilots from around the globe and more than 250,000 spectators. Hollywood also set a cinematic monument with the classic: The 1970 film “Le Mans” featuring Steve McQueen in the lead role is one of the best racing movies of all time. Just as legendary as the race is the 13.629-kilometre Circuit des 24 Heures. With corners like Mulsanne and Tertre Rouge as well as the legendary five-kilometre long Mulsanne straight, the track, much of which runs over national roads, represents one of the greatest challenges motorsport has to offer. 

The Porsche drivers
Six Porsche works drivers tackle the GTE-Pro class at Le Mans for the Porsche Manthey team. At this race, double championship points are awarded in all classes. Sharing driving duties in the number 91 Porsche 911 RSR are Michael Christensen (Denmark), Richard Lietz (Austria) and Jörg Bergmeister (Germany). Richard Lietz won Le Mans in 2013, and with 13 starts under his belt Jörg Bergmeister is the Porsche GT pilot with the most Le Mans experience. The cockpit of the number 92 Porsche 911 RSR is occupied by Frenchmen Patrick Pilet and Frédéric Makowiecki with Wolf Henzler (Germany). Two customer teams contest the GTE-Am class with the Porsche 911 RSR: Taking up the race for Dempsey Proton Racing is Hollywood star Patrick Dempsey (USA), as well as Porsche works driver Patrick Long (USA) and Marco Seefried (Austria). Competing for Abu Dhabi Proton Racing are Christian Ried (Germany), the former Porsche Junior Klaus Bachler (Austria) and Khaled Al Qubaisi (Abu Dhabi). Last year the trio claimed second place. The team AAI Motorsports campaigns both a 911 RSR and a 911 GT3 RSR. With the three 919 Hybrids contesting the LMP1 class, a total of nine Porsche race cars tackle Le Mans. 

The Porsche 911 RSR
The Porsche 911 RSR is based on the seventh generation of the iconic 911 sports car and in its maiden 2013 season it clinched a double GTE-Pro class victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours. The winning racer from Weissach, mounted with a 3,996 cc flat-six engine in the rear and producing 345 kW (470 hp), is characterised by a consequent lightweight design and sophisticated aerodynamics. The insights gained during the vehicle’s development and at race outings are directly incorporated into the design of future 911 generations. Last year the 911 RSR won three of America’s most prestigious long distance classics, the Daytona 24 Hours, the 12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans, as well as the WEC races in Silverstone and Shanghai.

The schedule
Free practice for the 24-hour classic is held on Wednesday, 10 June, from 16.00 to 20.00 hrs, followed by the first qualifying session from 22.00 hrs to midnight. Two more qualifying sessions follow on Thursday, 11 June, from 19.00 to 21.00 hrs and from 22.00 hrs to midnight. The flag drops for the 56-strong field on Saturday, 13 June, at 15.00 hours. 

TV tips
Eurosport broadcasts almost the entire race live. The live transmission is only interrupted by two reports for the “24 Minutes of Le Mans” magazine with the latest news and interviews from the track on Saturday evening andSunday morning. The three qualifying sessions on Wednesday and Thursday will also be televised live. Eurosport 2 airs the free practice live on Wednesday. Eurosport’s detailed TV schedule during the Le Mans week is available on

Quotes leading up to the race
Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, Head of Porsche Motorsport: “We experienced a very productive day of testing. The different weather conditions that we had today could also occur during the race, so that suited our preparations very well. We have trialled various tyre combinations from standard slicks to wet tyres. We were able to find a setup for the 911 RSR for all conditions and the drivers are now prepared as well. Our cars run like clockwork and the drivers have become well-attuned to each other. We’re heading into the race week full of confidence.” 
Marco Ujhasi, Overall Project Leader GT Works Motorsport: “We’re heading to Le Mans better prepared than ever before. We used the test day to perfect the 911 RSR for the most important race of the year. The key to success at Le Mans is relatively simple: You have to perform at your highest level for as long as possible and make sure that your car is in top condition for the final sprint so that you can really attack. If we manage this and we get through the night intact, we should have a chance at fighting for victory.”

Drivers 911 RSR #91
Michael Christensen: “I came to Le Mans as a fan in 1999 and 2000 and I was completely bowled over even then. To now race there myself is a dream come true. I’m looking forward to the 20,000 Danish fans expected there again this year. It’s hugely motivating. Le Mans is a race that every driver wants to win. This increases the pressure but it adds to the attraction. There is no greater challenge in our sport.”
Richard Lietz: “It’s wonderful to come home again. We all feel really great at Le Mans, not least because Porsche has celebrated its greatest successes at this race. A victory at Le Mans eclipses everything else. It’s the most important race of the year. I love it. If I couldn’t be here as a competitor I would buy an entrance ticket and watch the action from the grandstand as a spectator.”
Jörg Bergmeister: “I’ve won Le Mans once, but that was eleven years ago. It’s high time for another victory. Le Mans is the absolute highlight of the year and it’s particularly important for Porsche, of course, because of the history. We finished in second two years ago, so it’d be great if we could climb to the very top of the podium this time.” 

Drivers 911 RSR #92
Patrick Pilet: “Le Mans is unique. It’s a race we can’t wait to contest every year and every one of us is determined to win. Winning Le Mans makes your season an instant success – regardless of what comes afterwards. So we’ve prepared ourselves accordingly. The pre-test under difficult weather conditions was a good conclusion to our preparations. We’re fit for Le Mans.”
Frédéric Makowiecki: “Le Mans is something very special. It’s almost like the whole season in one race. When you win at Le Mans you’ve achieved the ultimate goal. Its appeal and tradition puts it on a par with classics like the Indy500 and the Monaco Grand Prix. I came to Le Mans often as a child and I always dreamed of being able to eventually race here myself one day. This fascination has grown stronger from year to year.”
Wolf Henzler: “It’s great to be back at Le Mans after a year’s break. The atmosphere is unique. No other race has such charisma. It’s a very special challenge for me to support my teammates Patrick and Fred at this critical race. I won Le Mans in 2010 with Richard Lietz and Marc Lieb. That was an unforgettable experience.”

Customer team drivers
Patrick Dempsey (911 RSR #77): “There’s something magical about coming to Le Mans. It’s incredibly special to contest this classic with Porsche, the most successful brand in the history of the race. Porsche’s great Le Mans victories were part of my childhood and youth. As a team, we’ve made great progress this season and we’re at a good level. Testing in the rain was a valuable experience for me. I felt good and safe in the 911 RSR. Now I’m looking forward to the race.” 
Patrick Long (911 RSR #77): “This is my twelfth time here at Le Mans. Of course I try to share as much of my experience as possible with my teammates. But once the race starts, they all know what they have to do for us to fight for victory.” 
Klaus Bachler (911 RSR #88): “The day of testing was not easy because of the rain, but we learned a lot. I’m so excited to race here. Le Mans is the highlight of my year. Second place last year was one of the greatest achievements of my career. In my entire life I’ll never forget that day.

Ed's Adventure on Route 66

We tried to travel nearly all of the marked Route 66, apart from the Interstates, from south of Chicago all the way to Springfield, Missouri.  Some stretches of 66 were 30 miles or more with lots of quaint gift shops, restored motels, cafes, one drive-in-theatre, etc.
A few photos from the "Elvis Suite" at the Best Western Rail Haven Motel where my grandfather's drive-in-theatre is now featured as a wall mural over the king sized bed.  You will note yours truly relaxing in the Jacuzzi in that room after a long drive.  This is documented as the room that Elvis Presley stayed in sometime in 1956 and years later it was documented that country great Loretta Lynn stayed there as well.  Ah, the joys of being "mostly retired."

Here is a photo we took near the town of Cuba, Missouri, where a gift shop on Route 66 has built the "World's Largest Rocking Chair."  (We were underwhelmed).

But in front of the rocking chair are two Corvettes, owned by couples who live in the same neighborhood in Alabama.  They were headed on 66 all the way to Santa Monica, CA.  We chatted with them a few minutes and shortly thereafter came a German couple, then a Russian couple..........all traveling in rented cars on Historic 66.  The owner of the gift shop here told us that there is not a week that goes by in the summer when they have visitors traveling Route 66 coming from the UK, Germany, Belgium, Spain, or Italy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Rise of the Dash Cam

A guest post -- a useful technology for a good number of folks.

University of Dayton HST 344 Student Autobiography -- Matthew Trem -- Chevrolet Cruze

            It’s kind of funny to think back to the time when I did not own a car and even before that a license. It feels so natural for me to grab the keys off the countertop, hop into my car, and then zip miles down the road to get to school, work, or to hang with my friends. I remember when I was too young to drive a car and was bound to my bicycle which took an exceptionally longer time to reach wherever I was heading. Having to pedal a few miles might have been good for my health, but nothing compares to possessing the ability to travel fast wherever you desire. The car is an amazing example of man’s capabilities and desire to mobilize society.   
I was lucky enough for my parents to be able to lease a car for me once I passed my driving tests. When the day finally came my parents gave me three cars to pick from: a Hyundai Sonata, a Mazda 3, or a Chevrolet Cruze. After carefully examining the features and design of each vehicle I selected the Cruze to be my hot ride for the next three years. I knew that since this was my first car it would be the perfect time to experiment and gain valuable skills, so I asked for a manual transmission. The day I walked into the garage to see my brand new red, 1.4 liter turbocharged, 4 cylinder, 6 speed transmission 2012 Chevrolet Cruze I was ecstatic. I quickly asked my father to come along and show me how to drive a manual which I had no experience operating. I guess my dad knew what he was doing because he drove it first to my school’s parking lot before he gave me a chance to sit behind the wheel. We must have been there for two hours as I struggled to master the timing of the clutch, constantly giving my father and I whip lash. It took a couple days to be able to smoothly shift and beyond that a couple months before I trusted myself to stop on a hill. The Cruze was a fantastic model for my first car which I will use as a benchmark for my future purchases. Possessing a car was honestly a new chapter in my life because it opened up so many opportunities because I gained mobility and personal freedom.
When I received my first car naturally I no longer needed my parents to chauffer me around town. I was able to drive to school instead of taking the bus which spared me from having to wake up early. I could go to my friend’s house and drive around at night wherever I pleased. Most importantly this was when I got my first job to pay for the expenses that came with the car and earn that extra spending money for myself. This was vital because it was my first taste of being in the work force and understanding the importance of the automobile. Our society revolves around the automobile almost to the point where it would be very difficult to not own a car. Public transportation is underdeveloped and only exists within certain cities. Out in the country people are dispersed so the only way of connecting or obtaining supplies is by vehicle. On top of this nearly every person works at a jobs several miles away transforming the car from a rare oddity into an absolute necessity for our lifestyle. Overall the Cruze gave me a lot of power over my life and gave me several opportunities to discover what the world had to offer.
While sharing a few memories I have noticed all that owning a car has done for me. It has taught me valuable skills like how to work a manual transmission which in today’s ge has almost come to the point of being a rare ability. Also owning the Chevrolet Cruze has made me understand more about what I want in a vehicle like what features I want included in a package, what I desire in terms of gas efficiency since I paid for fuel, and whether or not I should lease a car or hope that purchasing one would pay off in the long run.
People honestly take this incredibly complex piece of machinery for granted and don’t even stop to think about how easy we have because of the automobile. Cars have come such a long way in only a hundred years and there is still plenty of room for improvement. It will be exciting to watch the automobile further evolve as the industry continues to push the limits of human capabilities and imagination[

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Porsche 919s at Le Mans

Tradition, Technology and A Return: the colours of the Porsche 919 Hybrid
Stuttgart. The official Pre-test will see the world debut of the 2015 Porsche Le Mans race cars in their individual colours: The three Porsche 919 Hybrids will appear for the first time in their base colours of red, black and white.

Tradition – The red prototype with starting number 17 will be driven by Timo Bernhard (34, Germany), Brendon Hartley (25, New Zealand), and Mark Webber (38, Australia). Its car number and colour are a tribute to the Porsche that in 1970 took the first of what are now a total of 16 overall victories for the brand in Le Mans. No other brand has claimed so many victories in what is believed to be the world’s most demanding endurance race. The base colour of the Porsche 917 KH ("short-tail") in "Salzburg Design" that won the race 45 years ago on June 14, 1970 was also red. The winning drivers then were Hans Herrmann from Germany, who is now 87, and Richard Attwood from the UK, who is 75 today. 

Technology – The black LMP1 with starting number 18 is a symbol of the close technical relationship between the Porsche 919 Hybrid racing car and the Porsche 918 Spyder super sports car, which is also equipped with a hybrid drive. It was also a black 918 that on September 4, 2013 set a new record for a street-legal production sports car by completing a lap of more than 20 kilometres on the North Loop of the Nürburgring in six minutes and 57 seconds. The record-breaking driver there was Marc Lieb, 34, from Germany. Lieb will also drive the black 919 in Le Mans this year – together with Romain Dumas (37, France) and Neel Jani (31, Switzerland).

A Return – The team’s third car – the white 919 Hybrid with starting number 19 – will be competing in Le Mans in the colour Porsche chose for its return to top-notch racing after a 16-year absence. White, which is a traditional colour for racing cars from Germany, will also be used with the two Porsche 911 RSR factory cars that will race in the GTE Pro Class. In Le Mans the third 919 will be driven by Earl Bamber (24, New Zealand), Formula One driver Nico Hülkenberg (27, Germany), and Nick Tandy (30, Great Britain).

Despite their individual colours, the liveries of the three Porsche 919 Hybrids and the two Porsche 911 RSRs share the same philosophy. All the chassis are covered in the words “Porsche Intelligent Performance”. Those three words summarise the brand’s core ambition for maximised sportiness and highest efficiency. 

Style icons and a provocative livery in Le Mans

The livery of a race car is a science in itself. It should highlight design and proportions, cover design secrets and it must look good when the car runs at high speeds. In the old days cars were painted, nowadays they are covered in ultra-thin material. Often the colours and looks are influenced by sponsors and partners like the never forgotten Porsche Le Mans race cars in the colours of Gulf, Martini, Mobil1, Rothmans or Shell. Also still famous are the extravagant creations by Anatole Lapine. The Latvian Porsche chief designer was responsible for the 1970 psychedelic purple-green Porsche 917 long tail, which was quickly given the nickname “Hippie”. One year later Lapine let a ‘pig’ run. The pink 917 is known as the “Sau” which translates into sow, which, of course, is a female pig. It is said it is the most photographed Le Mans race car ever. Lapine even put a schematic drawing on it with red lines separating and naming the various parts of the body – just like those displays you’ll find in a butcher’s shop. Internally this was provocative, externally it was a sensation. Without this livery the 917 would have been long forgotten after its retirement in the race. Instead it is still the favourite car of the children visiting the Porsche Museum in Zuffenhausen. 

Twenty years earlier the first race car entered by Porsche in Le Mans had no such issues. The class winning 356 SL 1100 from 1951 had a bare aluminium body. It was a pioneer in terms of light-weight construction and aerodynamic efficiency. 

University of Dayton Student "Auto" Biography -- Andrew Shoemaker and his 2005 Honda Civic

My first car and my car still is a red 2005 Honda Civic. I definitely have first love syndrome with this car. I have had this car since I was a junior in high school which now is six years. It has been an integral part of almost everything that I have done in that time. From crazy road trips to driving to work, that car has taken me pretty much every place that I have gone. Just recently I was in my first accident. I was turning left at a busy intersection and three of the four lanes of traffic were stopped as I was crossing the 4th BAM suddenly I was facing a different direction. I had no idea what had happened. Slowly it dawned on me what had happened. I am happy to report that my little Civic lived to drive another day. Overall from the experience I was not as shaken up as I thought I would be[A1] . I was cited as being in the wrong but after much after thought I don’t personally think I made a mistake while driving.  So I was at peace with my actions I am just much more carful at intersection now.
Driving is something that I really enjoy. I find the whole experience to be very relaxing. I almost always insist on driving when going on a road trip just because I enjoy it so much.  This has not always been the case when I was first learning how to drive as I was petrified of driving. I could barely keep myself from shaking when I first took the wheel. This might also have something to do with their being 4 inches of snow in the parking lot and the car being possible the worst car you can put in the snow but none the less it was a very unnerving situation for me. Since that time though I have learned to love driving and learned a love of speed. I feel that I am a better-than-average driver, but I heard a statistic that something like 70% of drivers think that they are above average so I guess many people feel the same way. The reason I feel this way though is because unlike most other drivers I learned to drive in the snow. Almost all of my practice driving was done while there was snow on the ground in this way I really learned how to control the car even if the car was out of control. On a side note I also learned to drive in the snow with a Honda Civic with balding tires making it the worst car in the snow that I have ever driven.  I have always wanted to go to a track day but I don’t have a car that would be very good on a track day. So until the time I get a car I can take out on a track I will have to get my speed fix from roller coasters and go-karts. 
Something new that I have learned coming to Germany is that I really like European cars. Back in the states some of my favorite cars are wagons and hatch backs and they are few and far between. Here in Leipzig it seems like every car is a little hatchback which is precisely the kind of car I would like to drive. The only “cool” hatchback that there is in the United States is the VW golf. I do really like this car but I mourn the fact that there are so few options when it comes to hatch backs. I thought that hatchbacks were slowly dying out but low and behold here in Europe almost all cars are hatchbacks.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Last Call! Society of Automotive Historians (SAH) Scharchburg Student Paper Award is Due June 10



In order to encourage research and writing effort among university students in the area of automotive history, the Society confers its annual award for the best student paper in the auto history field.  The award is named for Richard Scharchburg, the late Professor of History at Kettering University, eminent automotive historian, and past vice president of the Society of Automotive Historians. Persons submitting papers must be enrolled at educational institutions (upper-class undergraduate or graduate level) at the time of submission.  This competition is international in scope, but papers must be in the English language.  Papers already published or scheduled for publication will not be accepted.

Manuscripts should not exceed 10,000 words, and should be double-spaced.  An abstract is requested.  Judging criteria include clear statement of purpose and testable hypothesis, accuracy and thoroughness of research, originality of the research, documentation, quality and extent of bibliographic resources, and writing style.  Diagrams, graphs, or photographs may be included.  Submissions are to be electronic, in Word format or pdf files only, to the e-mail address below.

Possible subjects include but are not limited to historical aspects of automobile companies and their leaders, regulation of the auto industry, financial and economic aspects of the industry, the social effects of the automobile, highway development, environmental matters, and automotive marketing, design, engineering and safety.

A cover letter should be included stating the student’s address, school, program, advisor, and stage in studies.  The student should indicate how the paper submitted will relate to his or her professional future.  Submissions must e-mail dated by June 10, 2015.  All papers submitted will be acknowledged.

Recent Previous Award Winners:
2014 – Sarah Seo, Princeton University and Amanda N. Johnson, Utah State University.
2013 -- John Emerson Mohr, Auburn University
2012—Samuel Kling, Northwestern University
2011 – Andrew Mabon, James Madison University
2010 – No award
2009 – Peter Cajka, Marquette University

Upon recommendation of the judges, the winning paper will considered for publication in the Society’s Automotive History Review.   The award consists of a plaque and a cash prize of $500.00.

Submissions should be sent to:      Dr. John A. Heitmann,

University of Dayton HST 344 Student "Auto" Biography -- Collin Coates

I have always been an automotive guy.  The automotive lust struck me as a little kid when my father was in and out automotive plants and expos for work. He would occasionally take me to a car show, or show me the work he got to witness.  By the time I was just 10 years old I was naming the cars that drove down the street and had managed to steal almost every car key I could find in the house.  I couldn’t wait till I could call one of those keys my own, and have a vehicle in which I could take as my own and be proud of.     
               I got my first car when I was 16 and was absolutely fascinated with it.  It was a 2005 Acura TSX, a beautiful sedan for a young kid. I managed to put an aftermarket air intake into it, a set of subwoofers, and a fancy spoiler before I sold it off a year and a half later.  Fast-forward 6 years, now 22, I own my fourth automobile and it is extremely special to me.  This automobile has taken me places unimaginable and opened my eyes to a life I never thought I would be blessed enough to enjoy.
               It all started with the University of Dayton, believe it or not. In my sophomore year I landed a co-op position with General Electric, giving me sufficient funds to buy a vehicle on my own, with no help from my parents. I sold my second car, a Subaru WRX hatchback that I had built as a stage II performance car, and my parents split the proceeds with me.  I used this amount of money to put a down payment on a two-door Jeep Wrangler Sport.
               I had always wanted a Jeep as I always enjoyed the outdoors and the thought of adventuring places other vehicles could not.  Throughout the duration of the first year owning my Jeep, I did what I had done with my first two vehicles. I began to build it into an off-road machine.  I got to a point where I was no longer satisfied and longed for more space for camping gear and a more off-road capable vehicle.  Two more internships had fallen into my lap with Marathon Petroleum and I had a chance to do something most 21-year-old kids would not.  Given my father’s automotive background with Chrysler, I had been offered an employee discount of 5% below factory invoice of a brand new jeep.
               So I did it, I sold my previous jeep and sprung for the most capable off-road vehicle off the lot, a 2014 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited.  This time a 4-door, offering the space I wanted, as well as a Rubicon, offering the off-road features I wanted such as front and rear axle lockers and an electronic sway bar disconnect feature.
               Given the habit of building vehicles I developed, it should be no surprise that I would do the same thing with this Jeep.  Over the course of a year and a half I have built my Jeep into a fully built, seriously capable on and off-road driving machine.  It has a 3” long travel suspension with 37” mud terrain tires, steel front and rear bumpers, rocker armor, and flat fender flares allowing for more suspension travel and protection to rocks and trees off-road.
               This summer, before traveling to Leipzig, I took my jeep across the country and through a few technical trails in Colorado and Utah.  One of them being a famed trail in Moab, UT called “Top of the World”.  We made it to Moab late the night before, camping in the canyons at the head of the trail.  As the sun rose and my body awakened, I was instantly filled with a sense of anxiety and adrenaline. I did not have anyone to do the trail with to help me in the event that I needed backup, and I was about to take my jeep on one of the most technical trails it has ever seen.
               The trail started easy on fire roads, and then the slick rock started to appear.  This required perfect lines and axle lockers in order to climb over the stair like cliffs along the trail.  About half way as I continued my way to the “Top of the World” rain began to fall, making the trail seem even more sketchy.  However, my jeep proved worthy, only asking for more. The minute I reached the top was one in which I will never forget. Over looking a scenic canyon and parked at the edge of 1,000 foot cliff, I have never been in so much awe at nature before.  After snapping a few photos and collecting my adrenaline rushed soul, I began to make the trip back down the way I came up, continuing on west to California where I was heading.
               My Jeep now waits for me in California where I will be co-oping for Boeing upon my return from Leipzig.  I have a trip planned for the 4th of July weekend to run the Rubicon Trail, a seriously technical trail in Northern Lake Tahoe in which my very jeep was named after.
               If it weren’t for my Jeep I would never have had the opportunity to travel across the country and experience the wonderful outdoors that our country has to offer. Having a Jeep has made me more adventurous, taught me to work harder to afford the expensive hobbies I have taken a liking to, as well as allowed me to connect with other off-road enthusiasts.  It has changed my life style and I am forever grateful.  At this point in my life I tell people that I will always own a Jeep!

HST 344 University of Dayton Student "Auto" Biography -- Jacob Browning -- the Church of the Open Throttle

Robert Schuler Preaching at his Drive-In Church

My step father owned a foreign car auto parts store for more than thirty years.  Some people talk about small business as having less than fifty people so we must have been a nano-business.  Mom ran the books and took orders over the phone.  Dad knew all the parts and had thousands of part numbers in his head.  He juggled multiple phone lines like it was the auto parts circus.  I spent a good portion of my childhood there, especially when I was sick or they couldn't afford childcare.  My mom would put some dirty blankets on the floor so that I could waller around in my illness with brake pads and clutch kits.  Later, they expected me to do homework or contribute to the business.  Sometimes we had a delivery driver and after I was sixteen, I got to drive whichever old Toyota or Nissan mini pickup truck we owned at the time to every repair shop within thirty miles.  The building had two store fronts and walk out basement garages where we stored and worked on the toys.  Many shops closed at noon so business trailed off as the clock approached lunchtime.

On Saturdays, we were open 9 to 1 and that is when church met.  Folks would start rolling in about eleven or twelve, mostly men but occasionally a woman would visit.  We met in the basement garages with the tools and the grease and whichever car we were working on at the time.  My brother and I were the ones in coveralls underneath the car, usually with grease covering our hands and forearms up to our elbows where the sleeves would protect us from the gritty “schmutz.”  We recognized the members from their shoes and pant legs.  My dad would preside from a naugahide swivel chair with armrests, McDonald’s coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other.  I feel that he only had one hair style my whole life: blond wispy hair simply pushed back with his hands in the morning.  I used to joke he kept it a bit long since he was a teenager in the 60s and it just stayed that way.  Dad was thin and muscular and my parents were quite tan in the summer because they spent plenty of time on one of those TVA lakes down in Kentucky. 

Cigarettes were our incense and we were a Winston family.  Dad smoked full flavors, Mom smoked mediums when she started again, and my brother and I smoked ultra-lights before we developed a tolerance for the stronger versions.  The congregation smoked other flavors and the minority nonsmokers were blessed with our second hand smoke.  I imagine they walked out of service with a headache. 

There was no sermon, yet truths of life and the automobile bounced around between the men and my dad.  They were sometimes there to pick his brain, but mostly for the holy fellowship of horsepower.  I never heard my father swear until I was almost 30 but one could hear in the exchange plenty of cursing.  It was a garage full of men, after all.  The talk of the newest BMW or the finer points of Porsche mechanicals was always sprinkled with colorful language and it is here that I learned the art of swearing.  My cursing usually was the result of a stuck bolt or my greasy hand slipping from a wrench and meeting sharp metal underneath the vehicle.  As each fellow would enter the garage, they would come over to the vehicle and peer through the compartment to see what we were working on.  I learned about patience from those men and there usually was a nugget of golden wisdom in their advice.  Towards its heyday, the congregation would swell almost to ten men if you counted us boys. 

Women’s service was in the office as my mom always had something to do at her desk and the women would drift into the office after about 5 minutes of interaction in the garage.  The cigarette smoke was substantially less dense in the office.  My mom’s friend Susan rolled up one day in her Porsche Targa to see us standing around worshiping at the workbench and hollered, “Is this the Church of the Open Throttle?”  As we looked to each other with a chuckle, we all knew the name would stick and she would eventually make stickers for our tool boxes so that we could display our membership.  The decal had a round female ass in a thong superimposed over my dad’s Porsche 911 and read, “Church of the Open Throttle, John C. Struve presiding, services Saturday, 9-?? and some Tuesday nights.”

You might think with all this talk of sports cars, motorcycles, and boats that we were wealthy people.  This was not the case.  My parents never purchased any vehicle that was not in a state of disrepair.  Dad would buy two wrecked Porsches and make one good one.  My first car didn’t run.  Their houseboat had been a twenty year old rental.  I grew up with the idea that you make money when you sell a car, usually because you bought it broken.

Dan was the member who made me laugh the most as a young man.  Dad and Dan had worked together at the original parts store before my dad bought and moved it.  He was a parts manager at a foreign garage where I saw my first Ferrari as a boy and I was allowed to sit in it!  After the name stuck, he would do the faux preaching, Holy Roller revival style to amuse us when he came in.  “Ch-ILL-dren, I ahsk, do ya ba-leeve in grease? Do ya ba-LEEVE in drop forged wrenches?  Do ya ba-leeve in black motorcycles?  If ya be-leeve in holy black motorcycles, (pause), say Amen!”  And we would all say amen unless you were in the middle of lighting a smoke.  Once when I was about 13 and not yet a proficient mechanic, Dan saw me throw a tool to the ground in frustration while working on my dirt bike.  He rushed his short legs over to me and the look on his face put the fear of black motorcycles in me.  I received a scolding while my dad looked at me with disapproval.  I thought for a moment that I would be spanked by a non-family member right there in the garage.  Dan explained to me a bit later why it is important not to throw tools and what a tool means and costs.  Of course, my motorcycle today is black.

Alan was the misfit of the bunch.  Not only was he English, but he was also the CFO of a very large multinational corporation.  This made him considerably wealthier than the rest of the congregation and able to afford classic examples of British sports cars such as Jaguar E-types and Lotus Elans.  At 6’4” and near 17 stone, I’m not quite sure how he fit in those cars.  Unlike some chaps who wear a driving cap while motoring in a British convertible, Alan could not as his dark gray curls protruded above the windshield and those little cars seemed to lean a bit to the driver’s side.  He once took me on a spirited ride in an old Jag as ballast, twisting through the roads as suburb turned to country.  He must have smoked the most of the bunch and made the rest of us look like casual smokers.  Many times he was a bit early and we would still be running the shop from the front of the store.  My dad had a stool behind the counter but employees were prohibited from sitting on it as he thought we should be doing something.  Alan would move this stool to in front of the counter, grab one of the ashtrays and sit at the glass display as if it were a bar serving auto parts, smoking and chatting with dad between calls or with the other customers.  We were all sad when he went back to England to run another company from the top.

The Church of the Open Throttle was not always the safest of places and I probably injured myself more than anyone.  We didn’t try to be unsafe, we just didn’t have the proper tools or weren’t using them as intended.  “Adapt and overcome” was an often overheard slogan when you got stuck.  This meant you were to forage around the shop until you found something to use, either in a big bin of rusty nuts and bolts or for a tool to misuse.  I am proud to say that cars never fell on anyone and my stitches were probably the most acute injury.  While trimming some plastic from a license plate frame, I sliced deep into my palm with a razor blade.  Although church was in session, my father said I would have to deliver myself to the emergency room.  A new faded shop rag was located and carefully secured to my left hand with duct tape.  I was also instructed to come back after repair as the vehicle I was working on would need to be finished and moved out of the garage.  Driving a manual transmission was interesting and I was lucky the seating position inside a Volkswagen Golf allowed me to steer with my knees.  Once off the garage floor and into the emergency room, I felt ashamed to be so dirty and had a fear that my “schmutz” would infect another patient or cause the hospital staff to clean up after my departure.  

Drivers are not sure about whether they will like autonomous cars

From Drew Harwell at the Washington Post;

Loaded with cameras, sensors and computing power, the cars’ performances have been, in tests, more sharp and consistent than human drivers without fear of drowsiness, drunkenness or distraction.
Yet the tension comes from a puzzling inconsistency traced in a survey by, which found that although most Americans say they are unnerved about ceding total control to a driverless car, they are happy to pay for all the piecemeal upgrades on which that car is built.
“When polls ask about driverless cars, people are nervous, they’re fearful,” said Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst with AutoTrader. “But when you ask them about all these individual technologies — lane assist, help parking — they say, yeah, we want all those.”
Researchers at HERE, a Nokia offshoot building maps for self-driving cars, also found a similar impression in surveys. Drivers still believe that cars make their lives easier, more free, more fun — though they also crave the next big thing, even if it weirds them out.
Industry officials acknowledge that self-driving cars may never be universally accepted by drivers, especially those who value being in control of their car. In the self-driving mode of Mercedes’ F 015 concept car, for instance, passengers can’t steer or brake and can use a touch-screen to request the car to speed up or slow down — but only if the car thinks that’s a good idea.
But engineers have made efforts to make the driverless technology act more familiar and human. In some earlier Volvos, for instance, the automatic brakes allowed such a wide and safe distance from the car ahead that the feature annoyed many drivers, who ended up disengaging it altogether.
The updated feature stops the car far closer, Volvo technology spokesman Jim Nichols said, in hopes that “the driver doesn’t have the desire to turn the feature off.”
Where the cars once made their decisions silently, they have begun to sound out their thinking in ways that drivers can understand. Cars will now explain their sudden slowing by saying, for instance, “Crosswalk ahead,” and dashboard screens will show directions and obstacles such as construction or broken-down vehicles.
But they are also designed not to be overly obtrusive. If too many unsignaled lane changes or other errors lead the safety system in Volvo’s newer S60 sedans to believe its driver is losing attentiveness, the car’s dashboard will flash a coffee cup and the words, “Time for a break.”
For the XC90, Volvo’s “semi-driverless” crossover SUV, sound engineers measured drivers’ reaction times and led focus groups in several countries to gauge which of a series of specialized chimes showed the “appropriate urgency.”
The big question: Should warning sounds be calming and subtle, to not shock the passenger, or shrill and insistent, to underscore how important it is for the computer to take the wheel?
The answer, Nichols said, was both. The car was given “psychoacoustic design elements” to heighten drivers’ focus on their surroundings when necessary, while less-urgent sounds were designed to be “much more calming, almost a melody.”
Automakers’ worry over the mixed feelings about driverless technology has kept several big safety improvements off American roads.
In Europe, Ford sells cars with sign-reading “Intelligent Speed Limiters” that ensure drivers can’t sail above the speed limit. Yet despite the safety benefits, Ford has not rolled the technology onto American roads because of concerns that drivers here may simply steer clear.
“There’s not a technical impediment,” said Alan Hall, a Ford spokesman. “The most important part is if they’re willing to pay for it.”
Ultimately, car companies and their engineers hope the benefits of driverless technology, which offers a relief from the annoyances of highway commutes and heavy traffic, will persuade buyers to let go of the wheel.
“Today, when you sit in a car, it doesn’t feel like freedom. You feel frustrated. What you’d rather do, you can’t do, because you’re stuck in a traffic jam,” said Erik Coelingh, a Volvo senior technical leader in Sweden.

“I don’t know if it’s old-fashioned, but we still think it’s a lot of fun to drive a car. For many customers that ... is really important. We don’t want to take that away.”