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“After Hours” on the Art of Ford Racing Engines


By: Gary S. Vasilash 24. March 2014

For the past several weeks, this space on Monday morning has had a recap of the most-recent “Autoline After Hours” and a button you can push for your viewing pleasure.

For those of you who don’t want to wait, there is another option to waiting until Monday.

If you go to the homepage (we know that some of you go straight to this page, which we certainly appreciate, but there is other stuff, too, so you might kick around a bit) you’ll see that there is the ability to see the most-recent “Autoline After Hours” whenever you’d like. Ain’t technology grand?

Jim Clark Jim Clark at the 1965 Indianapolis 500 powered by Ford in a Lotus

Anyway, so what about last Thursday’s show? A few of the things that were discussed is the 2015 Chrysler 200, Chrysler’s credible competitor in the exceedingly important midsize space (and on this Thursday, there will be a 200 in the studio, brought there by Ralph Gilles, who runs SRT as well as Chrysler Group Design); Jeff Boyer, GM’s new vice president of global vehicle safety (should GM have named a 40-year insider to the post or gone outside?), VW’s new diesel and why it could help power the brand in the U.S. market, and more.

In addition to which, Mose Nowland, a man with more than half-a-century’s experience building race engines for Ford, a man who was told how to run bolts on an engine by Colin Chapman, who got moonshine from Junior Johnson, who worked with both Dan Gurney and Jim Clark, and who probably has forgotten more about engine performance than any 30 people you know know, is the guest. Not only is he questioned by John McElroy and me, but also by Jim McCraw, another man who knows a massive amount about automobiles and racing, given his background which includes stints at publications including Motor Trend and Hot Rod, as well as doing PR for Ford Motorsports (McCraw and Nowland know plenty of people from the ‘50s and ‘60s in racing.)

And you can see it all here:

 


Ferrari Goes to a New Level (Hint: Not a high one)


By: Gary S. Vasilash 21. March 2014

This is the Ferrari LaFerrari:

LaFerrari 

Striking. Stylish. Sensual. Technical. And really expensive.

There were 499 LaFerraris produced. All of them were sold. The MSRP (though one wonders whether that acronym isn’t a bit too common for the car): $1.4-million.

Clearly, there is something that is something special about the Maranello-based company’s cars, something that people even with deep, deep pockets aspire to. It isn’t in the least bit common. Some of the cars may have shapes and forms that are baroquely exotic, but it isn’t silly. It is a serious execution of some of the world’s best automotive design and engineering.

So of course, what the brand needs to attach itself to is an amusement park.

Ferrari Land

Ferrari Land. A 75,000-square meter area within the PortAventura resort and theme park that’s outside of Barcelona will be dedicated to Ferrari. Presumably, in addition to the color red and the signage with the Prancing Horse, the fact that there is what is claimed to be the fastest “vertical accelerator” in Europe (a.k.a., roller coaster) is what would make someone associate the locale with the sports car specialist.

They are also building a Ferrari-themed hotel at the park. One of its attractions will be a driving simulator.

Yes, the European auto market had a bad year in 2013, and Fiat, the owner of Ferrari, presumably is looking for some additional Euros.

But while some people have criticized some other luxury brands for going down-market with entry-products, theme parks tend to take this to a whole other level, a lower level.

Incidentally: this isn’t the first Ferrari theme park. There is the Ferrari World Park at Abu Dhabi, too.

 


Honda Marysville: 10 Million Cars & Counting*


By: Gary S. Vasilash 20. March 2014

Back in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, some people thought that if Japanese-based automobile companies were to produce their vehicles in the U.S--vehicles that were becoming increasingly popular among consumers, particularly because those cars tended to be more fuel-efficient than those from the then-Big Three—then the Japanese companies would not be as successful in the market as they were becoming.

But a funny thing happened.

On November 1, 1982, the Honda of America Manufacturing plant in Marysville, Ohio, had job one. That was the first car factory opened in the U.S. by a Japan-based company.

2014 Honda Accord HybridThis is not the 10-millionth Accord, but the first Accord Hybrid, produced at Marysville.  Note that even the high-tech models are being produced in the U.S.

Today, March 20. 2014, the 10-millionth car—an Accord—rolled off the line in Marysville.

Manufacturing in the U.S., as well as in other countries around the world, isn’t a burden for companies like Honda. It has become a strategy of building where you sell. This works to the advantage of both the company as well as to the consumer.

Now Honda has four assembly plants in the U.S. In addition to Marysville, they are in East Liberty, Ohio; Lincoln, Alabama; and Greensburg, Indiana. The plants produce 11 different models, including four car models and seven light trucks.

NSX Concept The Acura NSX Concept: The real thing goes in production in Ohio next year.

Next year, there will be a fifth U.S. plant, the Performance Manufacturing Center. It is being built in Marysville. It will become the home of the next-generation Acura NSX.

The NSX will be exclusively built in Marysville. For the world. (How does this align with “build where you sell”? Part of the equation is based on volumes. When you are selling cars at a rate like the Accord and the Civic—366,678 Accords and 336,180 Civics in 2013—compared to what the rate is likely to be for the NSX, which will be a slight percentage of either of those numbers, then a single plant makes sense. But it is interesting—and important—to note where that plant is being located, as the sales will undoubtedly occur around the world.)

Congratulations to all of the people who back in 1982 and to those of today who have and are contributing to the advancement of manufacturing technology (to say nothing of engineering and design, as Honda has that in the U.S., too) here in America.

*Taking into account all four plants, the company has produced 20 million vehicles in the U.S.

 


Nokian: They Know Snow


By: Gary S. Vasilash 19. March 2014

Although we’re hoping that the MegaWinter of 2013-14 is behind us now (we’ve thought this before, and were smacked back into reality with 0-degree temps and a half-a-foot of snow), it has come to our attention that Nokian Tyres, a tire manufacturer that hails from Finland, so the designers and engineers there undoubtedly know a little more than most about snow and ice, have launched a new tire for SUVs, the WR G3 SUV, which is designed with. . . “Snow Claws.”

The Snow Claws are highlighted in green in this picture:

Nokian snow claws

According to Nokian, these shapes on the longitudinal and diagonal grooves of the tread blocks provide additional grip.

Other features of the tire that’s specifically designed for high-performance SUVs include a longitudinal center rib to stabilize the tire on all surfaces; “Groove Lifts” on the tread blocks adjacent to the center rib for improved handling on dry roads; and 3D Lock Sipes that run from shoulder to shoulder to improve handling and to help contribute to the durability and wear resistance of the tire.

But given the MegaWinter, it is that Snow Claw feature that seems to be most intriguing. Nokian Tyres tested them on snow and ice at its Ivalo Testing Center White Hell in Lapland.

We can only guess that the conditions there are somewhat more intense than in Plymouth. White Hell?

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The Future of Steering (Wheels)


By: Gary S. Vasilash 18. March 2014

Will self-driving, or autonomous, vehicles mark the end of steering wheels?

Not if TRW has anything to say about it.

It developed a concept steering wheel for the Rinspeed XchangeE concept autonomous vehicle.

Rinspeed

While the vehicle can operate in a self-driving mode, there are still plenty of situations when a human is in the loop, thus the need for a steering wheel. But one of the aspects of the TRW steering wheel system is that it isn’t necessarily the driver who will have command of the wheel, as it can be indexed over to be in front of the front passenger. It can also be centrally docked when the vehicle is driving itself.

TRW 1

Noted Guido Hirzmann, TRW group leader, new technology, Mechatronic, “With the increasing number of electronically controlled functions in the vehicle, certain controls can be eliminated or packaged into the steering wheel, offering more space and flexibility for the car interior. For example, with the XchangE vehicle, we have been able to remove the center console and integrate the gear shift into the steering wheel.”

TRW 2

The steering wheel also provides a “Drive Mode Manager” display. It’s located at the top of the steering wheel. When the car is in self-driving mode, an “A” is illuminated. When the driver takes the wheel, an “M” illuminates, indicating “manual” mode.

And autonomous or not, what would a car in a city be without a horn? In this case, the horn is activated by touching a conductive area on the steering wheel airbag cover.




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