Saturday, April 30, 2016

World War I and the American Automobile Industry

By June 1916 the number of vehicles making the endless round trip between Verdun and Bar-le-Duc to the south would rise to 12,000,

Major Henry H. "Hap" Arnold with the first Liberty V12 engine completed

World War I:  The War Without End

While strict American involvement in World War I was relatively brief (March 1917 to November of 1918), the event’s long term consequences to the development American automobile industry beyond 1918 was significant. The War brought to completion the establishment of industry standards, a problem recognized as early as 1911.  For example, by 1918 some 200 different tire sizes were reduced to only 32 used by manufacturers.  Standardization was led by Hudson’s Howard Coffin and the Society of Automotive Engineers(SAE). Initially a fringe group, by the end of the war the SAE took a leadership role in the creation and dissemination of automotive technology, a place it holds to this day.   Automotive technology would be critically linked to the development of aviation engine technology during the war; most significantly Packard’s Jesse Vincent played the key role in the design of the Liberty V-8 and V-12 engines.
A further development of note was that of the burgeoning growth of truck manufacturing.  Charles Nash, formerly of General Motors and the head his namesake firm in 1917, became the leading manufacturer in assembling trucks.  Trucks were increasingly seen as being pivotal to the war effort, and particularly important to the French success in holding the Germans at bay during the battle of Verdun in 1916. It was said that without motor trucks Verdun would have fallen to the Germans in this struggle of attrition. Pierce-Arrow trucks were among those supplying the front lines during this battle that was described as a “crucible.” American luxury automobile makers, with long wheelbase vehicles, converted their products to trucks, and output doubled between 1917 and 1918.

In sum, despite a record year of production in 1917, American automobile manufacturers also found capacity to make tractors, airplane engines, tanks, marine gas engines, armored cars, motorcycles, bicycles, ammunition, antiaircraft guns, helmets, caissons, submarine chasers, ambulances, and field kitchens. And while 1918 resulted in reduced car production, a real or imagined gasoline shortage, and a voluntary Sunday driving abstinence day, the auto mobile industry bounced back with a peacetime reconversion in 1919 during which 820,400 motor vehicles were made. The entire episode foreshadowed WWII productivity, when Detroit automobile manufacturers could rightly be labeled as the “Arsenal of Democracy.”

Friday, April 29, 2016

Vehicles at the Wasteland Event

Do to each his/her own. This event takes place in the Mohave Desert. Mad Max folks can do what they want for three days. The rides are trick! This year it will take place September 22-25.  See you there!

Another example of moral decline in America?  Or are we just bored?

Porsche 924, 928, 944, 968 -- The Transaxle Porsches

In 1976, Porsche introduced the transaxle powertrain configuration in the type 924 and embarked into new territory. The engine is mounted in front, but the transmission is at the rear axle. Between 1976 and 1995, Porsche built a generation of sports cars that deviated far from the established principles of the 911 – in the types 924, 928, 944 and 968. On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of these models, the Porsche Museum is showing 23 exceptional examples of these cars in the framework of the special exhibition "The Transaxle Era. From the 924 to the 928." Over half of these cars are being exhibited at the museum for the first time ever.

A perfect combination of sportiness and everyday practicality

The transaxle models were a great economic success for the sports car manufacturer in this era. Porsche was able to sell cars built with the new drivetrain configuration to nearly 400,000 customers worldwide. Underlying this success is a philosophy that is typical of Porsche: a perfect combination of sportiness and everyday practicality.
In addition to exhibiting a selection of production and race cars, the Porsche Museum also shows select prototypes and concept cars that have so far never left the museum's exhibit hall. For instance, a number of different derivatives of the Porsche 924 that initially served as an entry-level model are on display. The 924 Turbo Targa prototype of 1979 is being shown for the first time. Although this model never went into production, its design flowed into the development of the 944 cabriolet.

928 S4 cabriolet concept car is being shown

The Porsche 928, which celebrated its premiere at the Geneva International Motor Show in March 1977, was initially intended to replace the 911. As a Gran Turismo and luxury sports car, it forged entirely new paths with much better ride comfort and a large boot. Just one year later, in 1978, the 928 became the only sports car to date to be named "Car of the Year". As part of a potential extension of the 928 model line, work began on a cabriolet version of the Gran Turismo in the spring of 1987. This resulted in the 928 S4 cabriolet concept car, which – despite its harmonious design – would never be produced. This one-of-a-kind prototype is also being shown in the special exhibit along with five other 928 models.
The 928 S4 cabriolet concept car
The type 944 followed in September 1981. It was positioned as a link between the 924 and the 911 with its 163-hp four-cylinder engine. Right from the start, the 944 was accepted as a "genuine" Porsche, not least because of its Porsche engine that was derived from the 928. No previous Porsche model had sold so well or quickly as the 944. By the time its production ended in 1991, a total of 163,302 units of the 944 model line sports car had been produced. The special exhibition includes such items as the cabriolet concept car from the year 1985, which is being shown in public for the first time. This model, painted in flamingo pink, is distinguished by a 183-hp four-valve per cylinder engine with a catalytic converter, airbag and ABS. The first concept of a 944 cabriolet was presented in 1985 at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt am Main.

Porsche 968 marks the end of the transaxle era

Other 944 models of the special exhibition include the "Luna" project, which was essentially an endurance test conducted by the Austrian endurance specialist Gerhard Plattner in 1987. He travelled from North America across Europe to Asia in a period of 258 days, covering 384,405 kilometres – equivalent to the distance from the Earth to the moon.
The Porsche 968 – a product of 15 years of technical evolution – marks the end of the transaxle era. Its centrepiece is a 240-hp three-litre engine that is one of the world's most torque-strong four-cylinder naturally-aspirated engines. Visitors will also enjoy to seeing a roadster concept of the Porsche 968 that was created in 1992 under the leadership of the former head of design, Harm Laagay. The main traits of this prototype are the soft and muscular form of its wings, a dynamic cockpit section and an emotionally-charged interior. At the end of 1992, the 968 roadster project was retired in favour of the Boxster concept car that was presented in early 1993.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Automobile Racing History in the U.S.: Essential Reading in the Period Pre-1920

Hi folks -- this is the first of a series of posts on suggested reading on automobile racing history in the U.S.  Your suggestions for additional sources is always appreciated.

1. Russ Catlin, The History of AAA National Championship Racing, 1909-1917. Published as a series of installments in Speed Age magazine from December 1954 to August 1955. Russ put considerable effort and work into this first attempt to record the AAA's glorious past. While problematic, you should take a look at it. Of the nine seasons covered, only 1916 had an AAA National Championship.  the 1909-1915 and 1917 "National Championships" and their corresponding point distribution distribution charts were in fact later retains of AAA official Arthur H. Means during 1926-1928. Catlin did not know that when he did his work, and created a lengthy and detailed but totally anachronistic narrative.

2. Peter Helck, The Checkered Flag (1962). Coverage from 1894 to 1916. Mostly deals with Gordon Bennett series, the Vanderbilt Cup and American Grand Prize races. Carefully written with few errors. The first printing is an art book (Scribners).

3.  Griffith Borgeson, The Golden Age of the American Racing Car (1966). This was the book I started reading first when I got interested in the racing history topic. With a focus on the 1920s, the author can get plenty technical in terms of engine development. Important book without a doubt.

4. William F. Nolan, Barney Oldfield, the Life and Times of America's Legendary Speed King (2002, 2nd edition).

5. Gary D. Doyle, Ralph De Palma. Gentleman Champion (2005). Fine biography, excellent bibliography.

6. John M. Burns, Thunder at Sunrise. A History of the Vanderbilt Cup, The Grand Prize, and the Indianapolis 500, 1904-1916 (2006). No real technical information on the cars, but good, basic background study.

7. Jack C. Fox, THE INDIANAPOLIS 500 (1966, AND LATER EDITIONS).  One of the best books on the history of Indy 500.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

GT 4 European Series at Monza, April 24

Anselmi-Sernagiotto, Villorba Co ... GranTurismo MC GT4

A Maserati one-two at Monza in the Competition102 GT4 European Series
Fine results in the AM category
Monza (I), 24 April 2016 –  Maserati claimed both races at Monza in Round 1 of the Competition102 GT4 European Series. It was an fine achievement for the Maserati GranTurismo MC GT4s as they made their debut in this European Series in the best way possible. Race 1, held on Saturday afternoon, saw the Luca Anselmi-Giorgio Sernagiotto crew from Villorba Corse take the win. On Sunday, victory went to Romain Monti.
It turned out to be a fantastic weekend for the team from Veneto: they also celebrated Patrick Zamparini-Alessandro Fogliani's win in the AM category (fifth overall), the third spot claimed by Piotr Chodzen and the twelfth place secured by his son, Antoni, in Saturday's event.
Romain Monti, was able to count on the backing of the staff that oversaw the Maserati Trofeo in years gone by and, thanks to his 2015 title in the single-make series, he earned the right to drive a round in a European GT4 series. The Frenchman pocketed top spot in Race 2 as he left the pit lane following his compulsory stop; he was fourth in the early stint.  Monti claimed victory even though he was overtaken by two Chevrolet Camaros because the red flag was flown two minutes from the end, freezing the positions as they were on the previous lap when the safety car was on. Race officials decided to call time on the race as one of the cars had leaked oil all over the track, making racing too risky.
In Race 2 came another encouraging result for Villorba Corse as Anselmi/Sernagiotto took eighth and the pairing of Fogliani-Zamparini again finished on the podium with third in the AM category (tenth overall).
Completing the “Squadre Clienti Maserati” line up was Swiss Team, with its crew of Giuseppe Fascicolo-Mauro Calamia, winner of the 2014 Maserati Trofeo World Series. The Italo-Swiss pair were hampered by a suspension problem, one that made qualifying tough and race results a struggle.
Another name from Maserati Trofeo history, Alessandro Iazzetti, appeared behind the wheel of a GranTurismo MC GT4. He finished in eighteenth and twelfth, respectively.
Luca Anselmi (Villorba Corse) – Race 1 winner: “I am really pleased with this result. It was my first race in a GT Championship and it took a bit of time to get used to the car, one that I feel is very competitive for this series. I would like to thank the entire team and my team-mate, Giorgio”.
Giorgio Sernagiotto (Villorba Corse) – Race 1 winner: “It is always a pleasure being linked to the Maserati name. I am proud to have made a winning debut; it is a great start to the championship”.
Romain Monti – Race 2 winner: “I'd like to thank Maserati for giving me this opportunity. The car is really quick and competitive and I'm happy to have won again in a Maserati. I couldn't defend my first position once the safety car had gone off as the other cars were faster in the straights. Then came the red flag that gave me the win”.
Race 1 result
1) PRO Anselmi/Sernagiotto, Villorba Corse, Maserati GranTurismo MC GT4, 25 laps in 53:44.362 minutes
2) PRO Van der Ende/Van Oranje, Racing Team Holland, Ekris M4 GT4, +6.034
3) PRO Knap / Severs, Racing Team Holland, Ekris M4 GT4, +7.543
5) (1 AM) Fogliani/Zamparini, Villorba Corse, Maserati GranTurismo MC GT4, +10.691
12) (3 AM) Piotr Chodzen/Antoni Chodzen, Villorba Corse, Maserati GranTurismo MC GT4, +1:00.780
Race 2 result
1) PRO R. Monti, Maserati GranTurismo MC GT4, 20 laps in 45:02.297
2) PRO D. Huisman/L. Braams, V8 Racing International, Chrevrolet Camaro GT4, + 0.196
3) PRO J. Beelen/M. Nooren, V8 Racing International, Chrevrolet Camaro GT4, + 0.533
10) (3 AM) Fogliani/Zamparini, Villorba Corse, Maserati GranTurismo MC GT4, + 5.432

Unified Standards: China and the Future of Self-Driving Cars

Li Zengwen, a development engineer at Changan Automobile, lifts his hands off the steering wheel as the car is on self-driving mode during a test drive

By Jake Spring
BEIJING (Reuters) - In the race to develop self-driving cars, the United States and Europe lead in technology, but China is coming up fast in the outside lane with a regulatory structure that could put it ahead in the popular adoption of autonomous cars on its highways and city streets.
A draft roadmap for having highway-ready, self-driving cars within 3-5 years and autonomous vehicles for urban driving by 2025 could be unveiled as early as this year, said Li Keqiang, an automotive engineering professor at Tsinghua University who chairs the committee drafting the plan. The panel is backed by the powerful Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
The draft will set out technical standards, including a common language for cars to communicate with each other and infrastructure, and regulatory guidelines - a unified framework that contrasts with a patchwork of state laws and standards in the United States.
Without coordination, that patchwork could hold back the development of self-driving cars in the U.S., David Strickland, a former safety chief for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said at an event in Beijing this month.
China's top-down approach could see it overtake the U.S. and Europe, where automakers have generally been left to agree among themselves on industry standards. A push for self-driving and electric cars also fits with Beijing's shift to an economy driven by high-tech and consumer industries rather than heavy industry and low-end manufacturing.
"If we can convince the government that every company, every car on the road must use this (single standard) ... then there is a chance China can beat the rest of the world" to the widespread use of self-driving cars, said Li Yusheng, head of Chongqing Changan Automobile's autonomous drive program.
China is ripe for the advent of self-driving cars. It's the world's biggest autos market and is blighted by choking air pollution, traffic congestion and often erratic driving. More than 200,000 people die each year in road accidents, according to World Health Organisation estimates.
As relative newcomers to mass car ownership Chinese also tend not to share the West's love affair with driving. In a 2015 World Economic Forum survey, 75 percent of Chinese said they would likely ride in a self-driving car, versus half of Americans. Within 20 years, China will be the largest market for autonomous features, accounting for at least a quarter of global demand, says Boston Consulting Group.
The China draft would be opened up for industry comment and input from a range of ministries, ultimately going to the State Council, or cabinet, for approval.
At a most basic level, the committee will define a 'self-driving' car and set a minimum level of functionality, said Bai Jie, a professor at Tongji University who also sits on the expert committee.
In other respects, China plans to be more ambitious. It may adopt cellular data technology - already used in many cars to access the Internet - for cars to communicate, rather than the dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) standard used in the U.S. and Europe, said Li, the panel chairman.
"The U.S., Europe and Japan spent so much time developing DSRC, so they strongly recommend it for China," Li said. "Here, we're just beginning so why not choose advanced technology like LTE (Long Term Evolution wireless broadband technology) or 5G?"
China's provisional timeline would put it at least in line with, if not ahead, of others developing self-driving cars.
By 2020, Toyota Motor aims to market a car that can drive by itself on highways, and Mercedes, after two decades of research, plans to launch a self-driving car, though drivers would be required to take control in certain situations.
Chinese automakers including SAIC Motor and Ford Motor's local partner Changan have internal targets that match the likely draft roadmap, and are represented on the experts committee, Li said, while foreign car makers are not.
To be sure, China has some way to go to become a global pacesetter in autonomous driving.
Li, the committee chief, said the panel was only now looking into legal issues around self-driving cars, such as who is liable in any collision.

Li Shufu, chairman of automaker Geely [GEELY.UL], has said China must revise its laws so the manufacturer, not the driver, is held responsible for accidents when a car is in self-drive mode. "If (our) legislation lags behind, self-driving cars will be difficult to sell in China," he said.
"It's certainly possible for the Chinese auto industry to make significant headway with government backing, but there's still a lot going into developing that technology, making sure it's safe, and that means a certain number of miles driven," said Jeremy Carlson, an analyst at consultancy IHS Automotive.
Ahead of next week's Beijing auto show, Changan took a couple of its prototype self-driving sedans for a 2,000 km (1,243 mile) trip from its Chongqing headquarters to the Chinese capital.
With a test engineer behind the wheel, but with his hands in his lap, the automated system guided the car along the highway at 80 km per hour, adjusting speed for traffic and speed-limit signs, while keeping centered in its lane - roughly on par with the self-drive capabilities of Tesla models already on the market.
Changan's Li said a self-driving model should be on the market in 2-3 years, with the automaker spending 5 billion yuan ($773 million) to further the technology by 2020. It is also in talks with Internet giant Baidu on developing automated driving technology.
"The intersection between technology companies and automakers is the space to watch," said Wang Yanmin, a professor at Beijing Normal University.

(Reporting by Jake Spring, with additional reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu and Sue-lin Wong; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Cars & Coffee April 23 At the Greene, Beavercreek, Ohio

So I got there at 8:45 a.m., and maybe got the last open parking spot!  Clear and cold this morning.  And the reputation of the event is growing -- I talked to one guy from Columbus who came with 20 others and their cars.

The event clearly has one of the most eclectic group of automobiles you will find anywhere. Here are photos of cars that I found of interest. One regret -- I did not photo a Laser 917 kit car, and hope I get another chance in two weeks!

About a 1971 Alfa GTV?

What can I say -- a clown car!  But I liked it.

1964 Pontic GTO -- always a favorite, as my older cousin Fred bought a midnight blue convertible new in 1964.

I always had a soft sport for Triumph TR4s

My own ride this day.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Automobile Industry Deceit and Denial -- Volkswagen and Mitsubishi

"Honesty is the best policy," so they tried to teach me as a child. That principle, however, seemingly has not caught on in the global auto industry. It seem that the industry, always blinded by hubris, lived in a world past. But 2015 is hardly anything like 1975, or even 2000. GM had its ignition switch, and  an embarrassing and costly fix. Now Volkswagen is in superheated water, with alleged civil violations that could cost more than $42 million as well as buy backs totaling $9.4 billion. It seems that VW will have to get 600,000 vehicles off the road one way or another. the initial monies set aside for damage control pale what might be the realities. Currently individuals ware being investigated as well.

Mitsubishi, always running at the edge, is also in trouble with shares falling today 15% as the result of manipulating fuel economy tests.

What has happened is that government as regulator has become far stronger in the past few years.  It began in the 1970s, but hardly took on the cast then as it exists today. Most consumers don't love their cars they way they once did, and thus are hardly as forgiving to an industry as in the past. Cars increasingly seen as appliances with expected performance ratings.  

The Gasoline Price Grade Gap and the Need for Higher Octane Fuel

Over the past few yard, I have been shocked at times by the price differential between regular and premium grade gasoline. For years one paid about 10 cents a grade step for gasoline -- thus 20 cents to jump from regular to premium. But now the gap is much higher -- 45 cents or more, thus causing one to go with lower grade fuel and trusting the knock sensor to compensate for the loss in efficiency.

We know that higher octane fuel allows engines to be designed with higher compression and thus higher thermal efficiency.  We also know that higher octane fuel is a low cost remedy to carbon-dioxide reduction.  It seems that the oil companies and auto manufacturers need to come together on this important issue.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Insurance Wars: Minimo Verses The General

 On antenna TV (we do not have cable or satellite) we are bombarded with insurance ads.  Minimo and The General represent two insurance companies that sell the minimum coverage required in the state of Ohio.  Minimo is a particularly interesting character -- a white guy with a South Beach tan with an obviously black speech intonation. The General has his iPad ready to go for customers.

As an aside, my wife often thinks I am a Minimo in terms of work around the house.  I do the minimum!  I am also known around here as "chief of the half-assers."

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Cars and Coffee at the Greene, April 16, 2016

It was an absolutely beautiful morning for a cruise-in!  This event is quite different than the one I wrote up last night that is held on Friday evening.  Friday it is mostly American muscle and old guys.  Saturday morning that the Greene parking garage it is foreign cars and young people -- many kids!  Also there were many Porsche owners there, mostly newer and very expensive Porsches.

Just a few photos -- a sample of Porsche row; a nice Bug Eye Sprite, and a pair of Land Rovers.

Friday, April 15, 2016

1919 Ford Model T Roadster Converted to a Speedster in 1929

Interesting car at the Beavercreek, Ohio Cruise-In tonight.  this is a 1919 Ford Model T that the owner's grandfather purchased in 1927 and then home built a speedster from.   The speedster has been rebuilt but following the layout of the original version going back to the late 1920s.  There were plenty of these kind of modified cars around between WWI and WWII.  One might say that these cars were the first "hotrods."