While there was a curious lack of rally cars on the show floor of the 2019 New York International Auto Show, there were still a few race cars to drool over.
On a Friday evening with a thunderstorm slowly building in the distance, a gorgeous piece of automotive history changed hands off Park Avenue in upper Manhattan. The 1964 Cheetah, one of only eleven original design ever made, was auctioned off by its owner of 53 years who was only the second owner of the car. Built by Bill Thomas with Chevrolet to be their answer to the Shelby Cobra, Cheetah #4 was the first to be made of fiberglass after the aluminum prototypes. The unmodified, un-refinished car was raced extensively in its early years – and it’s got the pitted paint to prove it. Talking to the family, it’s amazing how many original parts it has. It was built with three fuel tanks for racing, but the two on the side were taken out (but kept), the injection holes visible in front of the side mirrors. Two original magnesium wheels – with original tires from the 60’s! – come with the car, though they aren’t on the car in the pictures. Even the headlights are original – in fact, the owner’s son-in-law said that this was the first time he had ever seen them in the car, re-installed for the sale.
Designed as a coupe for better aerodynamics, the Cobra Killer’s slim gullwing doors are lifted by hand for the driver to slide in. The driver’s legs are by the engine, and it can get a bit hot very quickly. Chevy influence is under the hood powered by a Chevrolet Corvette 327 Rochester in the front and a C2 Corvette rear differential. It was clocked at speeds up to 215 MPH. It hasn’t been driven than hard for years though; it has enjoyed a long retirement being displayed at classic car shows and driven moderately at vintage races. Either way, there’s no way to tell tow many miles have been put on the car as the original design did not include an odometer.
The Cheetah was much-loved by the family gathered in New York City, and the auction was bittersweet. While sad to see such a cherished member of the family go, they were also excited about selling the car and passing it on to the next owner to be enjoyed. Held outdoors in the courtyard between Guernsey’s auction house and the Russian Orthodox Church, there was no reserve – the car was going to be sold no matter what. Sam Goins, the seller, started the engine for the very last time before bidding started. Bidding began at $300,000, with several bidders present and on the phone. The bidding slowly went up, up… until the auctioneers on the phone both gave the cut-off signal. The final in-person bidder won the auction and the car for $625,000. After chatting so much with the family about the car, I even got a little lump in my throat when the bidding was over. The old and new owner shook hands and the Cheetah legacy was passed on to another enthusiast.
This will not be your usual new car review. It has been said in recent years that there are no bad cars any more. It is more about individual taste. Like just about every car built these days, the Chevrolet Cruze is a good car. The good car, a close cousin of the nice car, can be very difficult to write about, as there is nothing much that sets it apart from the rest of the good cars. The addition of a diesel engine gives the Cruze an economically geeky edge over some of the other small sedans on the market. So what I am writing about?
Well, perhaps the answer is not so much what, but where.
As I write this, I am sitting in a random parking lot in south Oshawa, with my tablet wedged between the steering wheel and my ample belly. Writing an automotive story.
I just took a little break from working to watch an episode of Colony on Netflix on my tablet. Great show.
I’m going to go way out on a limb here and suggest that where modern vehicles from The General, including the Cruze, shine more than the competition is in their ability to improve one’s productivity. You see, part of the modern OnStar functionality is the ability to offer 4G WIFI access in the car. This isn’t any spotty, unreliable public space type WIFI either, OnStar offers super strong, consistent signal. Strong enough that watching shows on your tablet is a very happy experience.
GM products are not the only cars on the market which offer WIFI, as several others are beginning to jump on the bandwagon, but GM was the first and has perfected the technology. While the functionality is beginning to appear on other product lines, it does tend to be on more expensive brands and models, whereas GM has stuffed it into just about everything. That is good news for buyers of entry and mid-level cars.
For comparison sake, I recently tested the WIFI offerings of a 2018 Lincoln MKZ (starting MSRP $42,300 versus $16,395 for Cruze) and couldn’t even check email without the signal stuttering. Netflix was a no-go. The router signal was strong, but the data supply was poor. Your experience may vary.
Some number of years ago now, I visited Sweden to learn more about autonomous vehicles. While I had previously thought that the whole self-driving car thing was all about safety, I quickly learned that automakers believed that modern consumers care more about multi-tasking than they do about safety. Autonomy is about allowing drivers to remain productive and for that to work, the WIFI has to be consistent and strong! We are a long way from seeing fully autonomous vehicles on our roads, but that doesn’t mean that the car can’t improve our ability to be productive.
Chevrolet uses a stronger antenna than cell phones carry to receive signal that powers a 4G LTE wireless hotspot whenever the ignition is turned on. Another cool aspect is that the service works across North America, which means that cell phone data charges don’t need to be an issue on long road trips.
Data can be purchased monthly or in one time blocks as needed:
The Chevrolet Cruze proves that, one doesn’t need to drive an expensive car to make use of the most important innovation in working from home since the invention of the internet!
In addition to organizing the Canadian Car of the Year awards testfest event last month, I had also been tasked by a print editor to evaluate the small car category. Doing double duty means that I typically don’t have time to actually write about the cars during the event.
Unlike some of the old guard, paper note pads aren’t my thing. Instead, I use Google Keep, which allows me to keep great notes. It occurred to me while writing the story yesterday that it also allows me to share my scribbles with you.
In no particular order, here are my roadside observations of the vehicles entered in small car this year.
Mini Cooper Clubman
Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback
Once upon a time, the six cylinder versions of muscle cars were sort of the red headed step-child of real muscle cars. Those days are gone and the V6 version of the sixth generation Camaro is a real contender.
After spending a year in rehab following a devastating car accident, Jessi Lang takes the bull by the horns so to speak with her first automotive assignment. As part of Motor Trend’s lead up to the Monterey Historics, Lang had the opportunity to take a couple of hot laps around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in a full on ’69 Camaro Z/28 from the glory days of the Trans Am series. Sadly, a couple was all she got in, as the beast clocked in at 113 db, which is above the sound limits at the track.
Even though my Dad raced an AMX and not a Camaro, I am oh so jealous!
Source: Motor Trend via Youtube
Stereotyping. It’s an ugly habit of us humans, and as much as we show disdain when we see others engaging in this behavior, we’re all guilty of the same. A couple of weeks ago my family was sitting outside a four star restaurant in Florida waiting for our table. We got up for a minute to take a selfie of the three of us, my wife’s purse and bag still on the bench we had just gotten up from. In an instant, an impeccably dressed family of four descends upon our bench, with our belongings on it. I hear them talking to each other. They were French. My reaction? I thought to myself “Typical French arrogant bastards. They think they are so much better than us.”
That was not very nice of me. I personally do not know any French people. I just buy into the stereotype. To flip that around, I often hear ‘Oh, typical American’, which usually means lazy and stupid, or a myriad of things. It’s never meant as a compliment. And if you judge Americans by what cars we buy, well, the numbers tell a story. Of the top ten best selling vehicles in America in 2013, three of them were full-size pick-up trucks. So, yes, we are as a nation, collectively in love with the pick-up truck.
It’s almost strange that in the five years I have been reviewing cars for The Garage, this is only the second pick up truck I have ever had. The trunk in question is the all-new 2014 Chevy Silverado. The competition is cut-throat for full-size trucks, and with its F-150, Ford has owned the sales crown for years, with Chevy’s Silverado coming in at second place. The highlights for the new Silverado are a lighter curb weight, new base V-6 engine, and an improved interior. The aesthetics of the Silverado definitely look up to date, but this is first and foremost a vehicle designed with utility in mind.
Few who were around to experience the Player’s GM Challenge will argue that there has never been a more exciting racing series in North America. The cars were stout, fast and came out of a showroom. The drivers were talented, fast and tenacious. The fans were drunk and rabid.
As the series took place from the late Eighties to early Nineties, before the age of digital cameras, there is a sad lack of media material available from the series. Hopefully, more fans will start scanning their old photos soon.
Through a friend on Facebook, I just came across this fantastic (for the era) in car video from a race at Shannonville in the rain. The driver is not identified. Do you know who is driving this machine?
Update: Canadian racing legend and top competitor in the series, Ron Fellows, has weighed in on the video. Ron believes that this is one of the Motomaster cars, which he drove himself at Shannonville in 1987. That was a dry race, so Fellows thinks this is David Empringham in the ’88 race.
Our buddy Russ Bond from Painkillerz was intending to drive the 2015 Chevy Corvette today. Mother Nature had other ideas.
A number of years ago, I remember reading a Q & A with then Sgt. Cam Woolley, when someone asked when it was ok to pass on a rural road. The not so obvious answer was that on a single yellow line, one can pass provided it is safe to do so. Then there were the obvious dotted line discussions and the fact that you may never, ever pass on a double yellow line. Common sense that one.
When that double yellow is on a twisty canyon road, it shouldn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that you should stay in your own lane, even if there is a local turtle ahead of you. Last weekend in California, a current generation Chevy Camaro driver felt that the law and common sense didn’t apply to him. #becausecamara ya know.
Reddit user humanwire was out for a drive and had a couple of cameras on board.
Went out this Saturday to hit up my favorite canyon road with some friends, but it ended up being closed once we got there. Hesitantly, we decided to give a Malibu canyon road (Decker Canyon, aka Route 23) a try on the way back, so the whole day wasn’t a complete waste.
I was quickly reminded why I don’t like driving on Malibu canyon roads, and why I head out much further away from Los Angeles for some frisky driving.
A group of three cars came barreling up behind us; a black Comaro, a red Mazdaspeed 3, and a black M3, unable to wait a second for a turnout.
Completely ruined the fun mood of the trip, and my friends and I turned around almost immediately so we wouldn’t be associated with that group. Wouldn’t want a CHP call to go out including us with that group.
Too many dickhead drivers. Too much traffic. Too many police patrols. Less than stellar roads (not all of them).
Pony car boy gets fed up with idling along behind a slowpoke in a Ford Explorer, and decides to pull out and pass, on a blind corner. He actually clips a Volvo that was headed in the opposite direction. Things could have very easily been a deadly incident, so everyone involved were very lucky.
Here’s to hoping that the local police get hold of this and track the moron down.