The 2014 Greenwich Concours d’Elegance: Part I

2014 Greenwich Concours d'Elegance

The 19th Greenwich Concours d’ Elegance: A Festival of Speed and Style was held over the weekend of May 31 – June 1 in Roger Sherman Baldwin Park by the Greenwich Harbor. The Connecticut Concours is just the right size – big enough for an incredible selection of cars, yet small enough so that every car on the field has a chance to parade by the stand at the end of the day. Concours organizers annually assemble a show of unique cars which can apply to show once every three years. Concours proceeds benefit AmeriCares programs.

Saturday is the Concours Americana where domestic antique automobiles share the lawn with 70’s muscle cars. It was a warm but cloudy day, but the passing rain ended just in time for the parade and awards, while the clouds hung around for dramatic photos. [Read more...]

Going Further With Ford Part II

Sorry for the delay folks, but I am pleased to report my second installment for the Go Further With Ford trend conference. In case you missed it, The Garage was chosen from an elite group of bloggers to attend this year’s Go Further With Ford event. Day one consisted of a series of interesting panel discussions which provided a glimpse of where Ford is headed.

For Day Two, Ford drove us to Dearborn proving grounds-the test track. Just to be there was a thrill. The cars you buy from the dealer are tested and fine-tuned right here. You get a sense of the seriousness of the facility with a control tower, much like an airport, overseeing all track activity.

As a car guy with some, but limited race track experience, my hopes of being unleashed on the proving grounds were dashed. Which I can understand. As a car guy, I was in the minority here, with bloggers representing subjects from the environment, fashion, parenting, etc. Ford would be nuts to let them loose.

But to keep things fun and interesting, we had to complete four tasks. My first challenge was to autocross the all-new 2013 Ford Escape. Our bogey time was 38 seconds, with a two second leeway. Ford’s intent was for us to push the Escape hard, which I did. I just made the cut, and have the I Love Pandora t-shirt to prove it. In my 40 seconds of driving it, the Escape was nimble and quick off it’s feet, but look for a full, proper review in the future. In fact, the new Escape will be in my driveway for Labor Day weekend.

Next up was the 2013 Ford Mustang GT. We had three choices. You could drive a Mustang with an automatic. You could drive a Mustang with a manual. You could be driven by a pro driver in a Mustang Boss 302. I’ll lay out the conversation:

Ford: “Mr. Williams, do you want to be driven on the course by a driver?”

Me: “No, thank you, I would prefer to drive myself.”

Ford: “Manual or automatic?”

Me: “Manual”

It was a brief stint, but the Mustang GT was a hell of a ride. I never got higher than third gear on the course Ford provided us. While I’ll always prefer driving myself, I have to say the drivers Ford had on hand to give rides on the Boss 302 ‘Stang put on one hell of a show. Full-on power slides and burning rubber was the order of the day for the Boss cars.

And from brute-force muscle car Ford takes me to the new Focus EV for a drive. On a short road course the Focus EV has buckets of torque, rides just as well as the conventional Focus The Garage tested, but what impressed me most was it’s greater range over the Nissan Leaf. I have been to events where EV’s were present, and there was always a desperation to keep a car plugged in. Not so with the Focus. The car simply kept plugging along.

My next challenge was to experience Ford’s latest technology. I tag-teamed another fellow. His task was to run to a Ford Escape, sync his phone and make a call. Once done, he passes a baton to me where I have to use a Ford Flex to park itself. I confess, I have had cars with this technology but was too fearful to use it. Under the eyes of Ford, I had to, and by golly, it worked. All it took was simply line up near a parking space, and the Flex uses its sensors to ‘find’ the opening. With nothing more than simple brake modulation, the Flex, by golly, parked itself. My task complete, I hand the baton back to my teammate, who samples another nifty Ford technology with the Escape. With a key on you, all it takes is a swipe of your foot to open and close the rear liftgate. Ingenious stuff for when you’re carrying a child or groceries. Yes, it was silly, but a fun way to sample the latest technology available in Ford vehicles.

Last event was an offroad romp in a 2012 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor. With a mighty 6.2L V-8 belting out 411hp, the Raptor is the ultimate truck for a muscle car fan. No, we would not be able to drive them-instead members of the Ford SVT team would take us out on Ford’s off-road course, and positively punish and beat the living snot out of the Raptor. Yes, there were some slow, and extreme angle off-roading that would match any Land Rover, but the emphasis was on the brutal power of the Raptor, as we drifted in a cloud of dust, its V-8 wailing as we pounded the truck. This was no burst of the throttle, dog and pony show. No. I had to wear a race helmet. By the time my ride was over, hanging on for dear life, my camera, cell phone, and car keys had been thrown from my pockets throughout the Raptor’s interior. In other words, way harder than I ever would have driven it. When I asked the driver after a long morning of punishing the Raptor if it was getting tiring, he simply replied ‘Hey, any other day I’d be sitting in a cubicle!’

After a catered lunch and some formalities, that pretty much closed out Go Further With Ford for 2012. Leaving Ford’s proving grounds, I looked on as cars continued to race around the track, the new Fusion more than any other car. For a moment I thought ‘This car is ready for production’, but in reality development and fine-tuning never stops. And I did  a double take when I saw a car I’d never seen before with no badges whatsoever as it made its way to the track as we pulled out. Hmmm….

With a couple hours to spare at the Detroit Airport, I contemplated the Go Further event. It was my second trip to Dearborn this year, having been in Detroit for the global reveal of the Fusion. There were fewer of us then, and a pronounced international presence. This time around, with about 250 of us who mostly seemed to be American. As a car guy, again, it was interesting to be hosted by a car company with a group of people who have nothing to do with cars. If that doesn’t make sense to you, hear me out. Ford is using social  media to promote its product, and as a fellow blogger told me, not all car buyers seek out automotive media outlets to learn about cars, and he is absolutely right.

In the span of two days Ford not only showed the technology they have now, but are fully prepared for a car market that is changing, and by all accounts Ford seems ready for it. Exhausting, yes, but extremely informative and entertaining. It was an honor to be Ford’s guest, and receive a front row seat to where the company is headed. It was a pleasure sharing the experience with you.

Ford Motor Company paid my airfare, hotel room and meals for this media event, but I was not compensated monetarily.

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Automotive Legend Carroll Shelby Passes at 89

By now you may have heard that the great Carroll Shelby, one time race car driver and constructor has passed away at the age of 89 on Friday, May 10, 2012. The automotive world has truly lost one of the greats who lead a full life and accomplished feats few men can imagine. On the news of Mr. Shelby’s passing, my thoughts were he may be the last man to have such a singular impact on racing history and the cars that bear his name. My next thoughts brought me back to August, 1988. I was all of 15 years old at the time, while on vacation in Cape Cod, Massachusetts had read that Enzo Ferrari had died. An ocean and generation apart, Mr. Ferrari and Mr. Shelby had some similarities, but for now let’s talk about Mr. Carroll Shelby.

My fear is the current generation of gearheads are watching too much Barrett-Jackson auto auctions on Speed TV, where over the past few years Mr. Shelby has gone on stage to auction off one of his latest Mustang-based creations to charity, and there is no doubt the hundreds of thousands of dollars Shelby has raised has helped many people. Where my discontent lies is in the portrayal of Carroll Shelby, often depicted as a simple chicken farmer from Texas, and oh, he makes chili too! How cute.

Kids, that is not the Carroll Shelby that impresses me. In the 1950’s, Shelby won races in an MG TD, set 16 US and International speed records in a specially modified Austin-Healey 100S. In 1959 he drove the winning Aston Martin DBR1 to victory at the 24 Hours of LeMans-one one of only two victories Aston Martin can claim. Shelby also competed in Formula 1 racing from 1958-59. Due to heart problems that plagued Shelby from youth, he was forced into retirement.

This is where the magic happens-as if winning LeMans is not enough. Shelby was able to seal a deal with British sports car maker AC to drop a Ford V-8 into their AC Ace, creating the AC Cobra, pictured at top. Spawning the ultra-rare and desirable Daytona Coupe, the Cobra is one of the most desirable and iconic exotic sports cars of all time, and the most copied car ever built by kit car companies, although Shelby and his lawyers spent years fighting this.

It is well known that Ford had attempted to buy Ferrari in the 1960’s, and with the deal nearly sealed, Enzo Ferrari backed out at the last minute. With the deal off, Ford vowed revenge on Ferrari, and Ford was going to beat them on their own turf. Ford called Carroll Shelby for help. The result? The Ford GT40 won LeMans four years in a row. It is the only American built race car to ever win at the historical Circuit de la Sarthe.

With Ford’s connection to Shelby cemented with its AC chassis and involvement in Ford’s domination over Ferrari with the GT40, Ford sought to build on the equity of its new pony car, the Mustang. While there are rumors that Shelby’s initial reaction was of zero interest in modifying Mustangs and refused the project, under pressure from Ford management Shelby gave in and agreed to put his name on the Shelby Mustang GT350, the purist example of a Shelby Mustang. Later iterations of Shelby ‘Stangs seemed counter to Carroll’s original vision, and by 1970 Ford and Shelby parted ways.

Carroll Shelby slipped into obscurity it seems, until the very man who demanded a Shelby Mustang-Lee Iaocca, called on him to inject some badly needed adrenaline to the ailing Chrysler Corporation. At its inception the Omni was a crude answer to VW’s Golf, but with Shelby’s hand Dodge created a GTI killer with 175hp on tap for an impressive 0-60mph time of 6.5 seconds with a top end of 130mph. Shelby had a hand in several other high performance Dodge products, and was an integral part of the creating the Dodge Viper.

Shelby’s history with Ford resumed again with his input in the modern iteration of the Ford GT, an homage to the GT40 and Shelby Mustangs once again hit the showroom floor in 2005. Fittingly, Carroll Shelby’s last car with his own input was the Shelby 1000, the most powerful Shelby to ever hit the street or track. And so we draw the circle back to Enzo Ferrari, the man Shelby beat on relentlessly at the most prestigious stage of endurance racing. When Enzo Ferrari died, the twin-turbo V-8 Ferrari F40 was the last car he oversaw was ready for market, the most powerful, fastest, and expensive Ferrari of all time. For Carroll Shelby, the Shelby 1000 holds that same distinction.

This puts Mr. Shelby in some elite company, and proves again if the will is there, Americans can beat the best the European exotics have to offer. Carroll Shelby deserves to be remembered as more than a chicken farmer, he is the singular American figure to absolutely punish the best Europe had to offer on their own soil. For that, we thank you, Carroll Shelby.

The Garage offers our sincere condolences to the Shelby family and all of his friends and co-workers.

When Mustangs and 7-Up Mixed

I subscribe to a fun little site called Bring a Trailer, which features classic, unique, rare, and plain odd cars for sale. I was especially intrigued at a recent post about a highly original 7-Up Mustang. Um, a what? It’s no secret that Ford is famous for trotting out limited, or special edition Mustangs on a regular basis, but there was some mystique to this, so some exploration was needed, since a little notoriety always adds interest.

Apparently, in 1990 7-Up teamed up with Ford in a promotion to give away 30 7-Up Edition Ford Mustangs for the 1990 NCAA Basketball finals. Audience members would have to sink a shot from center court, and win the car. At the last minute, the promotion was scrapped, but the car was essentially ready for production. Ford went ahead and built the car, which is essentially a 1990 Mustang LX 5.0 Convertible, and sold it as a limited edition model, with no mention of 7-Up. But the looks of the car make the relationship clear, with Deep Emerald Green Clearcoat paint, white leather interior, and white canvas top (trademark 7-Up colors) and Mustang GT alloys.

Ford had intended to build a total of 5,000 of the ‘7-Up’ cars, but stopped at 4,103. Of those, 1,360 were 5-speed manuals, the remaining 2,743 were equipped with an automatic. Interestingly, 261 cars were exported. While little more than an appearance package, the 7-Up Mustang is a fun and interesting little factoid from the history book of one of America’s most beloved cars.

The Garage thanks a dedicated 7-Up Edition Mustang site for the useful information cited here.

A Legendary cruise with the Durham Region Classic Mustang Club

On June 11,2010 we all met at the corner of Highway #2 and Brock St in Whitby in front of the Canadian Tire and I got my initiation into the Durham Region Classic Mustang Club. I was invited by a friend and brand new 2010 Mustang GT owner Ron Daher to travel with the group and take a few photos for their club.

Rainy days sometimes keep the best cars away but only a couple of the best were kept indoors and the boys rolled on a day trip to Legendary Motorcar on the Halton Hills. I have always seen Legendary on TV and at the track, but never visited so this was a great opportunity to see what everyone has always been talking about.

After a stop at the local Sunoco to fill up and claim their donated gas gift cards there was time for an informal group photo and then on the 401 westbound; keeping everyone in line is sometimes like herding cats. Unfortunately it rained most of the way and the beautiful Halton Hills was shrouded in fog and mist, not as many photo opps’ as expected. But when we pulled up through the front gates at Legendary the sun started to come out and we were greeted by Peter Sauer and our tour was to begin.
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2011 BMW 135i Coupe takes over top spot on the wish list

It goes without saying that most auto writers drive a lot of different cars on a week to week basis. As a result, many tend to get a bit jaded when it comes to driving something new. It also means that a car has to be pretty special in some way to elevate it to a position on the personal wish list. My own list to date has consisted of 2 very different sports coupes, one from Japan and one from North America.

When I say different, I’m not kidding around. The Nissan 370Z has killer looks and the driving experience is everything one might want of the street or the track while the Mustang GT offers killer V8 grunt and growl yet adds in a touch of practicality. For a Dad with a flock of kids, the Mustang’s usable rear seats and decent sized trunk are most welcome. Both are 2 door coupes with in excess of 300 horsepower reaching the road through the rear wheels. The 135i follows the same pattern. Like the Mustang, it offers the functionality of a real back seat.
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Lucky nominated for 2 awards

Long time readers will recall that contributors to The Garage Gary Faules and Jon Emerson competed in the 2007 La Carrera Panamerica in a Shelby GT350R named Lucky. That trip to Mexico was filmed for a documentary called Rebirth of a Legend which not only records the race but also the rich history of the event.

That video has been nominated for Best Sports Documentary and a technical achievement award for Best Cinematography – Documentary at the Action On Film International Film Festival later this month.

The film can be purchased through Gary’s blog and is certain to become a favorite in the library of any gearhead!

2011 Ford Mustang launch montage

When Ford launched the completely revamped 2010 Mustang, there were many who decried the carryover of the old drivetrain which was less of a performer than the 2010 Camaro. The product folks at Ford promised that more juice was coming for the 2011 model in the form of a new V-6 and the return of the 5.0 name.

That new V-6 puts out 305 horsepower, almost as much as the previous V-8, while the 5.0 puts out a whopping 412 ponies. That means the aluminum block twin-cam churns out close to twice as much horsepower as the original 5.0. Oh yes, it also creates a whopping 390 ft/lb of torque. If those numbers are impressive, then get ready for the 5.4 in the GT500. 550 horsepower. 510 ft/lb of twist. This thing should have a PTO it makes so much power!

After driving all of the new Mustangs back to back with a couple of Camaro’s on the track and the acceleration and braking strip, it is pretty clear that the folks at Chevy have some tuning to do as Ford has raised the bar.

We’ll go into more detail about the different variations in another post, but for now we’ve got a gallery of images from the launch. We’ve also got a short video montage of the action at Calabogie Motorsports Park.
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Ken Wilden to run a Corvette in Mosport round of Trans-Am series this weekend

These days, Canadian racer Ken Wilden is best known as a Ford driver thanks to his efforts in the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge where he is the defending Champion. Wilden’s popularity with Canadian race fans however goes back much farther. Wilden won the Canadian Firehawk series and the wildly popular Player’s GM series back in 1992. Later, he moved on to Formula Atlantic and Trans-Am, where he drove for Jim Derhaag. In fact, Ken and Derhaag Motorsports won the Trans-Am race at Laguna Seca in 2000.

This weekend, Wilden will be piloting one of Derhaag’s Chevy Corvettes at the Mosport round of the SCCA Muscle Milk Trans-Am race. Not only can we expect him to be a front runner, but certainly the fans will be cheering hard for one of their long time favorite drivers.

Ron Fellows confirmed for World Challenge at Mosport

If there are two things that excite Canadian race fans more than just about anything else, it is Mosport’s season opener on the May 24 long weekend and long time racer Ron Fellows. This year, the two four actually lands on May 24th and will be even sweeter with the announcement that the local favorite will be on hand.

NASCAR road course regular Fellows has also been an integral part of Corvette Racing’s ALMS program for years. This year, Big Ron is also driving in the World Challenge series in a Corvette entered by CRP Racing.

The Mosport event overlaps with another driving commitment south of the border, but Fellows will be jumping out of one car and heading north to keep the World Challenge fans happy on Sunday.
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