Thursday, March 31, 2016

Mercedes-Benz at Techno Classica, Essen, Germany, April 6 - 10

Mercedes-Benz 300 S Roadster (W 188, 1956 to 1958).
The 28th Techno Classica will be held at the Messe Essen exhibition centre from 6 to 10 April 2016. The "World Show for Vintage, Classic and Prestige Automobiles, Motorsport, Motorcycles, Spare Parts, Restoration and World Club Meeting" ranks as the world's largest event of its kind. More than 25 car-makers and well over 200 brand clubs will be represented at Techno Classica with their own stands. In total, the organisers are expecting some 1250 exhibitors and more than 190,000 visitors. Techno Classica will open its doors for "Happy View Day" from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, 6 April 2016. From Thursday, 7 April to Sunday, 10 April 2016, the exhibition centre will then be open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Friday: until 7 p.m.).

At Techno Classica 2016, Mercedes-Benz Classic will focus on the culture of open-top motoring. In Hall 1 of the show in Essen, the Stuttgart brand will present open-top vehicles in the tradition of the C-Class Cabriolet, S-Class Cabriolet and SL. 
Stuttgart. In line with tradition, Mercedes-Benz Classic will, once again in 2016, welcome visitors to Techno Classica in Hall 1. This year, the stand will offer a journey through time, through the fascinating world of the cabriolets and roadsters of the brand with the star. In 1886, when Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler invented the automobile independently of each other, an open-top vehicle was still the only form of motoring. Starting in the 1920s, when car manufacturing began to be dominated by saloons and large-scale production, open-top vehicles evolved into the most exclusive variants of the model line-up, being especially popular among lovers of sportily elegant mobility. Luxurious cabriolets and roadsters from Mercedes-Benz have always met the aspirations of the most discerning customers, for they unite the freedom of open-top motoring with superlative comfort, refined performance and fascinating styling. The Mercedes-Benz Classic stand at this year's show will host numerous examples from these special families of vehicles.
The new S-Class Cabriolet (A 217) will be flanked by a 500 K Cabriolet B (W 29, 1934 to 1936), a vehicle of the international luxury class in the 1930s. Unveiled in 1949, the 170 S Cabriolet B is an exclusive vehicle from the early post-war years. The 300 S Roadster (W 188) dates from the 1950s. Premiered at the Paris Motor Show in October 1951, the 300 S was the most expensive German-made passenger car. Unmistakable characteristics are exhibited also by the elegant cabriolets of the W 111 series, which were the first-ever open-top vehicles to feature a safety body with crumple zones at both front and rear. In autumn 1969, Mercedes-Benz launched the 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet, a powerful and especially luxurious top-of-the-range model of this series.
Alongside luxurious cabriolets, sportily elegant roadsters have always been a Mercedes-Benz domain. An outstanding example – which will be on view at Techno Classica – is the 500 K Special Roadster (W 29, 1934 to 1936). Coming straight from the world of motorsport, another sporty roadster went into production after the Second World War: the SL. This magic abbreviation has been in existence since 1952, when Mercedes-Benz made a highly successful return to top-flight international motorsport with the 300 SL racing sports car (W 194). The vehicle proved an outright winner, securing impressive double victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico. The W 194 also gave rise to the famous 300 SL "Gullwing" (W 198) of 1954, which made its debut in spring 1957 in the open-top variant, the 300 SL Roadster. The most recent example of this tradition, unveiled in 2015, is the latest generation of the SL (R 231).
The new C-Class Cabriolet (A 205) was one of the stars at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show. There were similar plans for the compact Mercedes-Benz 190 E (W 201), whereupon a prototype cabriolet was produced in 1990. It, too, will be on show in Essen. Highly successful in terms of both looks and technology, although the vehicle did not go into series production, it served as an important decision-making aid for the series 124 cabriolet unveiled in 1991.
Open-top motoring – a guarantee for high spirits
The term "cabriolet" dates back to the age of the horse-drawn carriage. It refers to a lightweight, open-top carriage drawn by two horses and used especially in fine weather. The name says it all: the French verb "cabrioler" means "to cut a caper", "to make a playful skipping movement". In the early years of the automobile, however, open-top motoring, as a guarantee for high spirits, did not yet need a special body design. The period between 1886 and around 1920 was dominated by the open-top automobile.
As the closed body established itself in the first third of the 20th century, coachbuilders responded by offering not only the fixed-body saloon and coupĂ©, but also the cabriolet with a soft top that could be fully folded down. Already in the 1920s, the hallmarks of this style of vehicle were its sporty and elegant lines as well as – in contrast to the widespread open tourer – the option of fully closing the vehicle using the lined soft top, thereby offering the occupants the perfect protection against wind and rain associated with a saloon. In the years leading up to the Second World War, almost all Mercedes-Benz model series were optionally available in the form of a cabriolet, sometimes in a variety of versions. In 1934, for example, the company brought out the "Model 500 with Kompressor", abbreviated to 500 K (model series W 29), initially in eight different body versions, including a cabriolet in three variants, a two-door open tourer and a roadster. The situation was to change after the war. When production resumed with the extensively unchanged 170 V, there were at first no cabriolets rolling off the line. Although they soon once again became available for the most highly powered models in the line-up, the saloon had finally established itself as the standard form of body. From that time forward, the open-top body became something out of the ordinary in the product range.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The 1970s – America and the Automobile: An Era Often Forgotten, Rarely Celebrated, Yet Certainly Pivotal

The 1970s – America and the Automobile: An Era Often Forgotten, Rarely Celebrated, Yet Certainly Pivotal


Perhaps it was fitting in opening the decade of the 1970s that the first advertisement found in the January 1970 issue of Popular Science was from the French auto manufacturer Renault, proclaiming that “the Horse is Better than most 1970 Cars.” The ad copy went on to state that “we are not joking. The run-of-the-mill 1970 car is an affront to progress. It’s too expensive to buy. And too expensive to run. It’s almost impossible to park and maneuvering it through city traffic would try the nerves of a saint.”  Truthful but ironic, since early 70s Renault automobiles were prime examples of poor quality and unreliability.  Renaults might be easy to park, but they had first had to start and run without the constant intervention of a skilled mechanic!  Yet the ad made several points. First, the American automobile industry had been deliberately going sideways in terms of progress and technological innovation for decades, the consequence of “Big Three” annual model change, and the primacy of styling and gimmickry over engineering.  Additionally, automobiles were expensive proposition for the average American, even with prevailing gasoline prices hovering around 25 cents per gallon. The cost of repairs – all too frequent given product quality – along with depreciation, and increasing insurance rates, began to sour a tenuous love affair.  Despite the fact that the times were changing during the 1960s,  Americans for the most part were big people, with still large families (averaging three children), who enjoyed big cars. But urban areas were becoming increasingly congested, and the automobile, for decades seen as integral to American freedoms and prosperity, began to be questioned by critics as a social problem instead of a unbridled blessing.
The decade of the 1970s, at least from the vantage point of the history of the automobile industry, began in 1968, a year of momentous change politically, socially, economically, and technologically. Vietnam and the draft, Richard Nixon, and the advent of the Intel 8088 microprocessor provide a broad context and background to the widespread appearance on American shores of Datsun, Toyota, Honda, and BMW vehicles and their gradual acceptance. It was the opening scene in a story that witnessed a decade during which America moved away from manufacturing to finance, from energy independence to dependence, and the painful recognition of limits of power.

My own experiences – automotive and otherwise – mirror the ambivalence of the age.  Astonishingly, perhaps, my best car during the decade was a 1973 Ford Pinto! No wonder this time has to be forgettable, you may ask! That Pinto was a trooper of a car, powered by a 1.6 liter Kent engine that never quit. And contrary to my student’s perceptions, that car did not explode and kill its occupants! In contrast, my 1974 Capri V-6 was my first (and last) new car, a vehicle plagued with issues that included a clutch cable that kinked no matter how many times replaced, often at the most inconvenient times as I was crossing the Mississippi River Bridge in New Orleans.  The Capri was equipped with water pumps that lasted less than 1000 miles. And those were the good ones, as several pumps could not be bolted on properly because flanges were not machined flat and thus the uneven pumps fractured when bolted down!   To add insults to injuries, at the end of the decade my family purchased a 1979 Chevy Malibu that I subsequently inherited, featuring the infamous THM-200 transmission that consistently overheated before blowing the pan gaskets and spilling the tranny fluid.. That problem was only solved after I tore that transmission out and replaced it with one proper for a V-8 engine. And it seems that everyone from my generation has similar car story disasters to tell, whter it be about Ford Mustang IIs or an Oldsmobile with Chevrolet engines.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Cars and Coffee at the Greene, Beavercreek, Ohio, March 26, 2016 -- Datsuns, Toyotas, VWs and more!

This was a 1966 VW Slantback (Type 3?) that had a starter problem. Nothing worse than having a mechanical problem at a cruse-in, although there are plenty of folks who are willing to help out.

Maybe a 1970 or so Camaro?

About a 1969 Firebird?

1986 and 1/2 Toyota Supra

Datsun 510 -- don't see many of these around!

Some sort of a 1970s Datsun

It was a cold and clear morning, the day before Easter and the first meet of the year.  Great fun!  Not very many American Classics, but plenty of more recent cars that are of interest.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The 2016 Porsche 919 Hybrid: World Endurance Championship (WEC)

The new 919 Hybrid
For the 2016 Porsche 919, the basis of the chassis structure remains unchanged, as does the hybrid drive concept with its two-liter V4 turbocharged petrol engine and the two different energy recovery systems (braking energy from the front axle and exhaust energy). Right from the start, for the 2014 season, Porsche had this spot-on concept in place. But the first car showed exceptional potential, especially in terms of weight, and is why a new car for 2015 was built. For 2016, there is less need to change and Porsche is benefitting now from stability for the concept.

The WEC regulations back the hybrid
The regulations for the LMP1 category require manufacturers to use hybrid drive systems and establish a direct link between performance and energy efficiency. This means that a large amount of energy from recovery systems may be used, but entails a proportional reduction in the permitted amount of fuel per lap. The quantity of fuel consumed in each lap is counted.
The WEC allows engineers a great degree of freedom in terms of the hybrid drive concepts. The teams can choose between diesel and petrol engines, naturally aspirated or turbocharged engines, various displacements, and one or two energy recovery systems. This formula puts the focus on innovations with high relevance for future production sports cars – and this was the main reason why Porsche decided to return to the world of top level motor racing.

V4-turbo with direct injection
The combustion efficiency and mixture preparation of the 2-litre V4 turbocharged petrol engine, driving the rear axle, was further increased in close work with the engineers from production development in Weissach. Also the 90-degree V-engine shed some more weight. Last season, the output of the combustion engine was well above 500 hp. But the 2016 regulations stipulate a lower amount of energy from fuel per lap and reduce the maximum fuel flow for prototypes.
In this way, the regulations prevent the LMP1 cars from becoming increasingly faster, yet at the same time fuel the engineers’ efforts to generate more power from increasingly less fuel. For the 919, this means around eight per cent less fuel and power. In other words: ten megajoules less energy per Le Mans lap from the fuel. That costs about four seconds for every 13.629-kilometre Le Mans lap. Through the new restrictions, the combustion engine has dropped to below 500 hp.

Two energy recuperation systems
The kinetic energy produced at the front axle when braking is converted into electrical energy. The second recuperation system is installed in the exhaust tract, where the exhaust-gas stream drives a second turbine in parallel with the turbocharger. It uses excess energy from the exhaust pressure that would otherwise escape into the environment. The VTG technology used here – that is, the variable adaptation of the turbine geometry to the level of exhaust pressure – drives the turbines, even at low engine revs and low pressure.
The additional turbine is connected to an electric generator. The electricity produced – along with that generated by the KERS at the front axle – is temporarily stored in lithium-ion battery cells. When the driver calls up the full-boost, additional power output of more than 400 hp will thrust him back into his seat. This power is applied to the front axle by the electric motor, and it temporarily transforms the 919 into an all-wheel drive car with system power of around 900 hp. For each circuit, the team works on developing the strategies for when and to what extent energy is recuperated and called up.

Lithium-ion battery for energy storage
The WEC regulations allow engineers plenty of scope with regard to the energy storage medium: Initially, the competition used flywheels and ultracaps (electrochemical supercapacitors). For 2016, they are all following Porsche’s lead of lithium-ion batteries. Another important fundamental decision with the 919 Hybrid was the high voltage of 800-Volt – a technology that series developers are adopting in the Mission E concept car.

Energy classes in the WEC
The regulations distinguish between four levels ranging from two to eight megajoules (MJ) of deployable energy. The calculation is based on the 13.629-kilometre lap in Le Mans, and is adjusted for the other eight racing circuits. The high level of efficiency of the combustion engine, the recovery systems and the energy storage enabled Porsche in 2015 to become the first and only manufacturer to choose the 8 MJ class.
In this highest recuperation category, an FIA flowmeter device will limit the permitted amount of fuel per lap to 4.31 litres. Engineers also have to take into account the fact that the more powerful the energy recovery and storage systems are, the bigger and heavier they tend to be.

Proven chassis with high safety margins
Like in Formula 1, the Porsche 919 Hybrid monocoque is a carbon-fibre sandwich construction that is manufactured as a single unit. The monocoque, combustion engine and transmission as one unit ensure optimal rigidity. While the V4 engine fulfils a load-bearing function within the chassis, the hydraulically operated sequential 7-speed racing gearbox made of aluminium is mounted in a carbon structure. For 2016, the gearbox and gearbox mounting remain structurally identical. The focus for development on the gearbox was on weight reduction.
For even better driving dynamics, balance, traction, grip and set-up options, the Porsche 919 Hybrid received a new front axle and an optimised rear axle for 2016. After intense testing in February, an increase in performance on the part of the Michelin tyres is expected.
Efficient aerodynamics for every race track
Porsche took a three-pronged approach to aerodynamic improvements for the first time in 2016. Until now, Porsche settled on a compromise for the season-opening round of the World Championship and campaigned the 919 with lower downforce than would have been ideal for the Silverstone circuit. This compromise was for the sake of the season highlight at Le Mans.
The French racetrack with its long straights requires very low drag, which means downforce must be limited to what is absolutely necessary. In 2016 the 919 will start the season running a high downforce package. It will be tackling Le Mans with an extremely low downforce configuration and will have another high downforce package for the following six WEC races. The regulations prohibit more than three aerodynamic configurations per year.
The changes to the aerodynamics were driven by further improvements in efficiency and more stable handling in different driving situations. Influences such as side winds, changes in balance under cornering as well as yaw and roll angles were further reduced.
Energy/fuel use formulas for one lap in Le Mans* (13.629 km)

2 megajoules recovered energy = 4.70 litres petrol = 3.70 litres diesel
4 megajoules recovered energy = 4.54 litres petrol = 3.58 litres diesel
6 megajoules recovered energy = 4.38 litres petrol = 3.47 litres diesel

8 megajoules recovered energy = 4.31 litres petrol = 3.33 litres diesel

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Letting the Sun In: Heinz Prechter and American Sunroof Industry during the 1960s and 1970s

During the 1960's, Heinz Prechter (1943-2001) attended school in Germany with the son of Dr. Golde, who was the head of the family that owned Golde Schiebedächer (German for "sunshine roof" or "sunroofs"), a company located in Germany. Golde built and installed a high quality, cable driven sliding steel sunroof panel that could be cranked open and closed, or could be operated by an electric motor.

In 1963, Prechter moved to San Francisco, California to attend San Francisco State University. While a student, he worked part-time in an automotive shop. This shop did quite a bit of work for local car dealers to install Golde sunroof kits imported from Germany for customers who wanted the benefits of a convertible without any of the disadvantages. While there, Prechter learned how to install the sunroof kits and became convinced it was a feature with great commercial potential.

Prechter met George Barris of Barris Kustom City in North Hollywood, California, who was very busy creating custom show cars and street rods, as well as doing special projects for Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. Before long, Prechter found himself in Barris' shop in Los Angeles installing sunroofs in some of the customs and show cars, and the idea was beginning to catch on with the public. Barris introduced Prechter to Ford Motor Company executives, and subsequently  Prechter was in talks with Ford about installing Golde sunroofs in new Ford cars as a factory option. In 1965, American Sunroof Corporation was established in Detroit. Prechter started with a $764 in cash, and he purchased used sewing machine, an old door converted into a work bench, and other items—many of them scrap parts.

Ford had previously experimented with offering a sunroof back in 1960 as a factory option for its popular Thunderbird, and it was obtained from Golde. Once testing by Ford had been completed and the decision had been made to offer the option, Ford promoted it heavily. An advertising campaign that emphasized the availability of the 1960 Thunderbird Hard Top with Sunroof followed, and the open roof feature was displayed prominently in brochures, magazine advertisements, and a television commercial was even filmed showing a Diamond Blue Thunderbird with the sunroof. Unfortunately, the sunroof option was not a popular one with the Thunderbird's customers, and Ford only sold about half as many as projected. Cars with the sunroof had to be moved to a separate section of the assembly plant for installation of the special sunroof parts as well as unique trim, such as headliners, which increased production costs and slowed the assembly line. Subsequently the option was dropped for 1961, but this reversal proved to be only a minor setback

Prechter kept in touch with Ford and continued to install the Golde sunroof kits in cars at the request of dealers and individuals who desired the feature. In 1966, plans were put in place to grow the business by focusing on working with the automobile manufacturers in Michigan to install sunroofs in new vehicles as original equipment. By 1967, Ford was again interested in offering a sunroof on some of its production cars. Convertible sales were beginning to slow since more and more people decided they preferred the look of vinyl tops and the comfort of factory air conditioning and stereo sound systems in their cars, and a sunroof was perfect for those requirements since when shut the vehicle was basically a normal closed car. For 1967, a power-operated Golde sunroof was offered as a factory option on Mercury's new 1967 Cougar, which was incredibly popular and became Motor Trend Magazine's Car of the Year for 1967. Enough 1967 Cougars were sold that the option was continued for 1968 on the Cougar, with plans to expand it to the Thunderbird line as well for 1969.

Advertising for the 1969 Thunderbird was virtually dedicated to the sunroof option, as every print ad depicted the car with an open sunroof with an attractive young lady standing up through the opening. For 1970, factory power sunroofs were being installed in not only Cougars and Thunderbirds, but also in Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorados, Fleetwood Broughams, Sedan deVilles, and Coupe deVilles. The Continental Mark III also began offering it in late 1969 (it was a late year offering on the 1969 Cadillac Eldorado as well). In 1971, with the power sunroof option being offered on Ford LTDs, Buick Rivieras, and other cars. It would only become more popular in the coming years.

Working with the Lincoln Division, Prechter designed a power glass panel Moonroof for installation in the 1973 Continental Mark IV. The silver-tinted, tempered glass panel featured a sunshade that could be opened to allow light in with the panel closed.? At this point, American Sunroof Corporation was doing quite well, and demand for their services was steadily increasing in the North American market, as well as in other parts of the world. It was later acquired by North American Rockwell, and is still an OEM supplier to many automotive manufacturers in the United States and Europe.

Today, ASC is a supplier of highly engineered and designed roof systems, body systems and other specialty-vehicle systems for the world’s automakers. Headquartered in Michigan, the company employs approximately 1,000 employees at facilities throughout the U.S.

In addition to ASC, Prechter founded Heritage Network Inc., a group of Michigan companies involved in the transportation, hospitality and communications industries. His Heritage Network group included a weekly newspaper chain (one of the largest in the state of Michigan) real estate development company and a beef cattle business. In early 1997, he created Prechter Holdings, which owned the ASC and Heritage businesses. Heinz Prechter was recognized for his entrepreneurial accomplishments, broad community involvement and political achievements.He was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Harvard Business Club and received the Automotive Hall of Fame's Automotive Industry Leader of the Year award. Prechter committed on July 6, 2001, after battling intermittent bipolar disorder for most of his adult life.