Posted by: Jerry Garrett | November 20, 2016

Richard Petty: “No Way To Compare What I’ve Done”

screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-10-50-53-am

Rookie Richard Petty at the 1959 Daytona 500 (DIS archives)

HOMESTEAD, Florida

Richard Petty, NASCAR’s first seven-time national champion, says there is “no way to compare what I’ve done.”

The late Dale Earnhardt Sr. also won seven national titles, before his untimely death in 2001. And modern-era driver Jimmie Johnson aspired to win his seventh title here, in the 2016 season finale.

Petty, now 79, retired in 1992 after a distinguished 200-victory career that began in 1958. His time in NASCAR straddled the sport’s formative early years and what is considered the modern era that began in 1972.

When Petty won his first title, in 1964, NASCAR was a much different sport. A season included many dozens of races and few drivers had the major sponsors and/or direct manufacturer support needed to campaign the whole circuit; in fact, some races conflicted with others. Petty managed to get to 61 races that year; he won nine of them.

In 1967, when Petty won a whopping 27 races – a mark that will no doubt stand forever – in “just” 48 starts, he scored his second title. His championship margin over his closest rival was a ludicrous 6,028 points (out of 42,472 earned). He won a third title in 1971, taking checkered flags 21 times out of 47 starts.

How great was Petty’s dominance during these years? Oldtimers told me a story of Petty once coming back from being seven laps down, to win a race at Nashville. There were many other such examples.

In 1971, with the advent of Winston cigarette sponsorship, NASCAR decided to winnow down its Grand National series (as it was known 1950-1970), to about 30 of its premier races (the number Winston was willing to support with advertising and promotional materials). To qualify for the “Winston Cup” chase, drivers had to commit to running every race. That effectively eliminated the challenge of many of Petty’s toughest competitors, such as David Pearson, the 1966, 1968 and 1969 champion, and brothers Bobby and Davey Allison, because they ran only partial schedules back then.

Petty also won the new-format championship in 1972, 1974 and 1975.

The fields were much different then. At one Darlington race during this period, I remember only two or three cars completing the distance; the fifth place finisher was something like 25 laps down!

Petty would only win one more championship, in 1979, and he did that after having to switch from Chrysler products, which he had driven his nearly whole career, to an Oldsmobile (because debt-ridden Chrysler couldn’t produce a competitive car for him).

Petty might have won more than seven titles, if he had not been caught up in some of the political dramas around Chrysler’s participation in the sport. He missed the entire 1966 season because of a Chrysler boycott of the series after NASCAR banned the mighty Mopar Hemi engine.

Earnhardt’s dominance during the 1980s and 1990s coincided with an increase in the number of competitive teams in the sport. He won one title with as few as four victories during the 29-race campaign (and as many as 11 one year). But Nascar’s glory years, from a competitive standpoint, were just starting to peak when Earnhardt was killed at the 2001 Daytona 500.

That was the year Johnson’s career in NASCAR’s premier series kicked off. And he raced in bulging 42-45 car fields in which most everyone was capable of going the distance. Photo finishes became more common – almost an every-race experience. Consistency was the most important component to championship contention; Matt Kenseth won the 2003 title, despite winning only one race.

Johnson’s 10 victories in 2007, in the midst of an unprecedented run of five consecutive titles stands out as the most in nearly two decades.

So, Petty’s point is well taken. You can’t compare what he accomplished with the records of Earnhardt or Johnson.

Petty’s dominance through much of the 1960s and 1970s was incomparable; but much of it stands out as something akin to the Harlem Globetrotters playing the New Jersey Generals.

Jerry Garrett

November 20, 2016

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | November 20, 2016

Audi Motorsport: Nobody Thought It Would End Like This

fullsizeoutput_19b

Winning Le Mans a final time, 2014 (Jerry Garrett Photos)

An era ended today for Audi Motorsport.

The company is pulling out of world sports car scene after 17 glory-filled seasons – a run of success that was without precedent.

For the record, Audi won its final event – actually a 1-2 finish for its top Le Mans Prototype teams – at the 6 Hours of Bahrain endurance race Sunday.

“Since 1999, the LMP race cars with the four rings have won 107 of 187 races in America, Europe, Asia, and Australia,” the company said in a valedictory press release. “In the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) since 2012, Audi has stood for bests as well. On 16 occasions, the brand’s sports cars were on pole position, winning 17 of 41 races. 23 fastest race laps complete this tally. No other manufacturer has been more successful in even just one of these categories. In addition, Audi clinched two drivers’ and two manufacturers’ world championship titles.”

At the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, where Audi achieved its most stunning, and likely enduring, successes, the German manufacturer won 13 times in 17 tries.

fullsizeoutput_155c

There is no official “cause of death” for the program; but it can be fairly said it was done in by at least three factors: 1. Audi lost an internal struggle with Porsche at Volkswagen Group, over who would represent the group in sports car racing. 2. Audi had probably proven all it could in the sport, and really had nowhere to go upwards, except perhaps Formula One. 3. But any such ambitions were snuffed out by an emissions cheating scandal that has gripped VW and Audi, in particular.

And as VW and Audi cut costs to cover fines, buy back millions of illegally polluting vehicles, and fire tens of thousands of employees, the Audi Motorsport budget of more than $250 million annually stood out as an inappropriate excess. (VW’s current chief executive Matthias Müller came from Porsche, and views Porsche’s equally lavish motorsports expenditures with considerably more tolerance.)

It must be noted that Audi’s sports car racing development programs became centered on diesel power. And with the discovery of emissions cheating devices on its diesel vehicles, VW decided to drop diesel, and change course toward an electric car future.

Accordingly, Audi is being thrown a bone by being given permission to shift its racing efforts to the nascent Formula E electric car racing series. That will allow Audi to keep busy its hundreds of racing program employees – many of whom were signed to guaranteed long-term contracts a couple of years ago (contracts as long as ten years, in some cases). Audi also, not long before the diesel cheating scandal broke, had opened an opulent new racing team headquarters in Neuberg, Germany in September 2014.

“Now, we’re going to look ahead,” said Wolfgang Ullrich, the godfather of Audi Motorsport, “giving our all in our new projects, just like we’ve come to be known.”

But even the ever-optimistic Ullrich knows this is the end of an era: “What happened in the WEC,” he sighed, “will not repeat itself.”

Jerry Garrett

November 19, 2016

 

 

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | October 14, 2016

Where THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN Was Filmed And Where It Wasn’t

screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-5-38-54-pm

Rachel (Emily Blunt) negotiates a creepy tunnel

Where was 2016’s “The Girl On The Train” filmed?

First of all, it wasn’t filmed in the London suburbs, where the book was set. The best-selling The Girl On The Train book’s author, Paula Hawkins, created fictional towns like “Witney” based on her on own personal commute from Putney (just south of the Thames River) to Earl’s Court (on London’s west side). It’s a distance of about three miles.

Although that real-world commute was on London’s “Underground”, that section was actually an above-ground portion. And that was key to the voyeuristic lead character Rachel (Emily Blunt) being able to check out what’s going on in houses along the route, and imagine fantasy lives for the people she sees.

In the movie, the producers decided to switch the action to New York. And, as a result, the filming was done on a stretch of the MetroNorth rail line, which runs along the Hudson River about 20-25 miles north from Manhattan.

mnrmap

Follow the green line north

Trainspotters can recognize exterior settings in Hastings-On-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Ardsley-On-Hudson and Irvington. Those are four stations along the MetroNorth route, spread out over a section that is also about three miles long. The two key homes shown, however, are on Macy Avenue in White Plains. (White Plains is not on the MetroNorth line, but a few miles east of it on another train route.)

Interiors were mostly shot on sets in Yonkers, where editing was also done.

The creepy tunnel where key scenes are set? That’s the Station Road tunnel in Irvington. A reservoir outside that town was also the site of another disturbing scene.

screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-5-49-15-pm

Ardsley-On-Hudson, Irvington (iohut.com)

The pretty train station is in Ardsley-on-Hudson, but the filmmakers dolled it up with an ornate portico. The station used to have a portico – although one not so nice – but a dump truck had knocked it down in 2010. The one the filmmakers created was deemed so lovely by the local citizens, they voted to keep it after the filming was done.

Why the change of venue, for a story so closely linked to a daily commute into London? It seems the filmmakers liked the contrast of fictional lives of decadence in the real-life, peaceful-looking commuter neighborhoods of the Hudson River Valley.

Was that reason enough to relocate the story? Is the plot portable? Movie-goers will need to decide that for themselves.

Jerry Garrett

October 9, 2016

 

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | October 13, 2016

2016: Diesel’s Very, Very Bad Year

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-11-45-47-am

Why Paris hates diesels

PARIS

Woes for diesels continue, as I have been chronicling in reports from this year’s Paris Motor Show, where electric cars stole the spotlight.

Today, more bad news for the troubled diesel powerplant: Market share for diesel-engine cars sold in Western Europe is likely to dip below 50 percent for the first time in many years.

In September, the share of diesel-powered cars sold in Western Europe dropped to 47.9 percent of the market, its lowest level in years, according to research from auto analyst LMC Automotive. As recently as November 2012, diesel held a market share of over 57 percent. (Percentage-wise, that’s a drop of about 16 percent.)

The steady decline, which sharply accelerated in August, leads to a projection of diesel sales for the 2016 calendar year below 50 percent of the market. “The first time for many years that diesel share will account for less than one half of all car sales in the region,” LMC concluded.

The market for diesel, the analyst reported, is eroding from the bottom up. Since 2011, the small car “A” and “B” segments combined have lost one-third of its diesel-powered sales. Mid-size sales are also declining, although not at as great a rate, LMC said, although large car and SUV sales are holding somewhat steady.

Another analyst Bertel Schmitt said the overall trend is worrisome: “The diesel take rate is down hard in core EU markets Benelux, Spain, Germany.” Increases were noted only in Denmark and Italy, albeit only slight ones.

Let’s recap briefly: Why is diesel falling out of favor?

– Diesel engine emissions are inherently dirtier than gasoline engine emissions. Diesel fuel leaves a sooty residue after it is burned. Also smells bad. Big “ick” factor.

– “Clean diesel”claims made by automakers for their latest generation of diesel engines are proving to be wildly exaggerated, if not totally false. Volkswagen had to admit its diesels, for instance, were made “clean” only by cheating on emissions tests. “Clean diesel” is about as clean as “clean coal”.

– Dirty air is becoming a plague in Europe, especially in the big cities, like Paris. The CO2 emissions from diesel engines are considered a leading cause of air pollution. Paris has banned diesels registered prior to 1997, as the first step toward all diesels being banned in the city in the next few years. Other big cities are considering following Paris.

– A potential diesel ban, of course, is a big turn-off for anyone considering buying one.

– Pain coming at the pump? Diesel fuel is cheaper in Europe, thanks to subsidies governments have given – in the now discredited belief that diesel’s better fuel economy was an acceptable trade-off for dirtier emissions. Expect those subsidies to be discontinued.

– Diesel engines are usually costly options that add to the sticker price.

Okay, reviewing here: Diesels cost more, cheap diesel fuel is likely going away, diesels are blamed for air pollution, and diesel cars may face bans in the near future – which would crush resale values.

So, if there’s a real possibility you might not be able to sell your used diesel, why would you want to buy one?

(If you still aren’t clear about the answer, read this story again from the top!)

Jerry Garrett

October 13, 2016

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | October 9, 2016

Where Was THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN Filmed?

screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-5-38-54-pm

Rachel (Emily Blunt) negotiates a creepy tunnel

Where was 2016’s “The Girl On The Train” filmed?

First of all, it wasn’t filmed in the London suburbs, where the book was set. The best-selling The Girl On The Train book’s author, Paula Hawkins, created fictional towns like “Witney” based on her on own personal commute from Putney (just south of the Thames River) to Earl’s Court (on London’s west side). It’s a distance of about three miles.

Although that real-world commute was on London’s “Underground”, that section was actually an above-ground portion. And that was key to the voyeuristic lead character Rachel (Emily Blunt) being able to check out what’s going on in houses along the route, and imagine fantasy lives for the people she sees.

In the movie, the producers decided to switch the action to New York. And, as a result, the filming was done on a stretch of the MetroNorth rail line, which runs along the Hudson River about 20-25 miles north from Manhattan.

mnrmap

Follow the green line north

Trainspotters can recognize exterior settings in Hastings-On-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Ardsley-On-Hudson and Irvington. Those are four stations along the MetroNorth route, spread out over a section that is also about three miles long. The two key homes shown, however, are on Macy Avenue in White Plains. (White Plains is not on the MetroNorth line, but a few miles east of it on another train route.)

Interiors were mostly shot on sets in Yonkers, where editing was also done.

The creepy tunnel where key scenes are set? That’s the Station Road tunnel in Irvington. A reservoir outside that town was also the site of another disturbing scene.

screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-5-49-15-pm

Ardsley-On-Hudson, Irvington (iohut.com)

The pretty train station is in Ardsley-on-Hudson, but the filmmakers dolled it up with an ornate portico. The station used to have a portico – although one not so nice – but a dump truck had knocked it down in 2010. The one the filmmakers created was deemed so lovely by the local citizens, they voted to keep it after the filming was done.

Why the change of venue, for a story so closely linked to a daily commute into London? It seems the filmmakers liked the contrast of fictional lives of decadence in the real-life, peaceful-looking commuter neighborhoods of the Hudson River Valley.

Was that reason enough to relocate the story? Is the plot portable? Movie-goers will need to decide that for themselves.

Jerry Garrett

October 9, 2016

 

 

dsc00974

What is under the QX Concept’s hood? (Jerry Garrett Photos)

PARIS

While a new generation of electric cars, some fancy design concepts and shapely new models (cars, not booth babes) captured the spotlight at the 2016 Paris Motor Show, the technological star of the show was to be found at the Infiniti stand.

It was not the muscular-looking QX Sport Inspiration concept on display, but the production version of that vehicle coming in 2018 is likely to be first one to carry that technology. And it’s not the gleaming 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that is on the stand, next to the QX – although you’re getting warmer.

It is the technology that is inside that engine, which Infiniti calls the VC-Turbo. The VC part of its nomenclature refers to Variable Compression – and this is a technology that could revolutionize the auto industry, and make existing types of gasoline-powered engines obsolete.

img_1096

2.0-liter VC-Turbo

Without getting too “Inside Baseball” on you here, all internal combustion engines have a fixed compression ratio – a value that represents the ratio of the volume of a cylinder’s combustion chamber from its largest capacity to its smallest capacity.

The most common ratios are in the range of 8:1 to 14:1, although they might go as low as 6:1 or up to 17:1 for Formula 1 cars. Generally speaking the higher the compression ratio, the faster the car it is in; lower skews toward more economical operation.

Heretofore, engine designers have had to choose what kind of performance they wanted from an engine. Then, a design was created around that ratio.

“Every production engine ever built,” Infiniti says, has been stuck with a fixed compression ratio. You pick one compression ratio and stick with it.

That’s why some cars are race cars, and others are grocery-getters.

Until now.

In the VC-Turbo technology, the engine is designed with articulating, multi-link moving parts to facilitate operation at different – variable – compression ratios, depending on throttle demand. In the instance of the Infiniti engine this is a range of 8:1 to 14:1 (and every ratio in between). So this gives the engine management system a choice of the optimal range of operation at all times.

It is sort of the best of all worlds, in terms of engine performance – power when you need it, and economy when you don’t.

This explanation is a huge over-simplification on my part, because it is all really complicated, in engineering terms. Over 300 key patents, and even more lesser ones, have granted over the two decades that it took to develop this engine; final performance and durability testing were carried out in cooperation with the Renault and Red Bull Infiniti F1 teams.

Chief engineer Shinichi Kiga wasn’t even quite sure how to define it when I asked him whether the VC Turbo is an engine, or a technology.

“Both,” he said, after some thought. “Some of both. It is the technology inside this engine.”

The technology is scalable, he added, so it could be built inside other engine architectures. The engine on display here is an inline four-cylinder design, but it could easily be expanded to an inline-six, or eight, or even larger. But then it might get to be an unwieldy size. “Probably not 16,” he added, smiling, thinking of what kind of power an engine like that could generate.

Besides the range of performance, the VC-Turbo technology fits in a smaller engine footprint – much smaller than, say, Infiniti’s venerable 3.5-liter V6, which is about as powerful. Because it is smaller, it also saves weight: The 2.0 turbo here is 25 kilos, or 55 pounds, lighter than the V6.

That’s a ton, in terms of automotive component weight – and those are the types of gains in weight-savings and efficiencies engineers dream of. Many gains are measured in mere ounces.

“The result is an engine that combines the power of a high-performance 2.0-liter turbo
gasoline engine with the torque and efficiency of an advanced diesel powertrain without the equivalent emissions – offering a compelling alternative to similarly powered four-cylinder diesel engine,” according to Infiniti press materials. “The VC-Turbo engine will be comparable to certain six-cylinder gasoline powertrains for performance, while significantly outperforming them in efficiency.”

The little 2.0-liter turbo here produces 268 horsepower and 288 foot-pounds of torque, Mr. Kiga said. That’s power comparable to a V6, but it is “27 percent more efficient” in terms of fuel economy and operation, Mr. Kiga said.

So this is a very big deal. Imagine a gas engine with diesel fuel economy. In this instance, that’s like a 40 m.p.g. gas engine jumping up to a 62 m.p.g. capability.

I once asked Bob Lutz, former co-chairman of General Motors, why GM seemed slow to ditch old fashioned gasoline engine technology, in favor of exciting new ideas like electric motors and battery power. For one, there is a huge “installed base” of gas-engine cars; “tens of millions of them” and they aren’t going to give way to EVs or fuel cell cars overnight, he pointed out, so change will be incremental at best.

“And I’ve seen what is in the development pipeline – way down the road, five, ten, 15 years from now – in gasoline engine technology,” Mr. Lutz said. “And I believe the old internal combustion engine still has a few tricks up its sleeve. Some big improvements – big leaps forward – in efficiency could be ahead. I see a lot of potential – a lot of life left in the old gas burners.”

It would appear variable compression ratio engine technology could be one of those tricks.

Jerry Garrett

October 5, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | October 3, 2016

#DearVin From A Once Young, Now Old, Fan

vinscullydoggettpstcd

Vin Scully and his old partner Jerry Doggett

LOS ANGELES

When I was 10, I used to sit alone in a car, in a dark, strange parking lot, listening to Vin Scully.

It was my grandfather’s car, and he was a supermarket executive, who used to have to go to meetings that ran past dinnertime. But he was a fan of the Dodgers, who moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles when I was 10, and when they came west, he loved to go their games. My grandfather used to tell me that if I would wait for him in the car, while he went to his meeting, when he came out, he would take me to the rest of the Dodger game.

We were in Glendale, a few miles away from Dodger Stadium, and we could often get there by the seventh inning. That was enough for both of us. Sometimes we could even get in for free! (He always knew the value of a dollar; he grew up in a family with no car, just a mule.)

There in his car, alone, I would listen to Vin, and his sidekick Jerry Doggett, and their friendly, warm voices would help me not be afraid in the dark.

For the record, I thought Jerry was a good guy, and very underrated. When he was gone, I don’t think Vin wanted to broadcast with anyone else.

When my grandfather would come out, I would update him on where we were in the game. I learned to keep a scorebook (“If you’re keeping score at home,” Vin would say, “that’s a 5-4-3 double play…” or whatever). And regardless of the score, we’d be off for Dodger Stadium. (My dad didn’t give a rip about baseball, or the Dodgers.)

Once, when my grandfather’s meeting ran late, the radio ran the big Buick’s battery dead. My transister radio saved the day, but we had to get AAA to come give us a jump. And, miracle of miracles, when the car fired up, the game was still on! It went into extra innings, so we off to the stadium.

My grandfather would like how Scully would set up these scenarios, innings before they would happen, that if this one guy would get a hit, then that would mean such-and-such guy, hitting .325, would get another turn at bat in the ninth inning, etc. Almost clairvoyantly (is that a word?), those scenarios would often play out, to my grandfather’s endless delight.

Once, when the Dodgers were still playing at the LA Coliseum, when we were sitting behind the net in left field, my uncle caught a home run ball. My uncle died last year; I think he was buried with that ball.

My grandfather died in 1995, and I moved away from L.A. and had no way to hear Dodger games anymore. (Doggett, the unsung sidekick for 32 years, died in 1997.)

IMG_1211.jpg

Vin Scully’s final broadcast, October 2, 2016

I moved back to L.A. a few years ago, and I was amazed to find Vin still broadcasting games, albeit alone now.

“I used to listen to the Dodger games,” I told my wife, “with my grandfather…”

Just then, Vin launched into a story about some player at bat: “He used to watch the games with his grandfather…”

I swear this is true.

Jerry Garrett

October 2, 2016

 

 

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | October 2, 2016

The Problem With The Old Car In MIDNIGHT IN PARIS

img_1168

The car in the movie “Midnight In Paris” (Jerry Garrett Photos)

PARIS

There is a problem with the old car that is the literal plot vehicle in the movie, “Midnight In Paris“.

Anybody know what it is?

The old car, I mean. Not the problem.

It is not, as the movie makers and even the vehicle’s manufacturer insist, a 1920 Peugeot.

It is, in fact, a 1928 Peugeot, Type 184 Landaulet. Some also designate it as a 22 CV.

According to Woody Allen‘s production notes, the car “met the production’s requirement for a car boasting ‘a driver’s compartment with convertible roof and a covered passenger compartment’.” It was loaned to the production company, which filmed in Paris, from Peugeot’s museum collection, along with a slew of other Peugeot models from mish-mash of model years.

I only know all this because the actual movie car showed up at the 2016 Paris Motor Show, in a display of famous movie cars (i.e., the Bullitt Mustang, the Gen’l Lee, and the self-driving half of the Renault 11 in the James Bond movie, “A View To A Kill”*.)

IMG_1169.jpg

Description of the car on display in Paris. Pardon my French.

The second problem? The car was too new for the movie, as well as too old for its time.

Confused? I explain:

The fictional movie depicts a real time in Paris, in the early 1920s, if not 1920 itself, when the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Luis Bunuel, F. Scott Fitzgerald and others were all in residence and all hung out together (look up “The Lost Generation“).

It was a heady time. But it was well past its peak when Peugeot came out in 1928 with its new models.

In fact, Hemingway had decamped for Key West by early 1928. And even if this was about the year 1920, Hemingway was mostly in Chicago that year.

So, whatever. The movie is a fantasy. And none of this happened, anyway, except in the dreams of Gil (Owen Wilson), the main character.

IMG_1167.jpg

Peugeot’s Last Great Whale

But the 1928 Peugeot Type 184 Landaulet was a dream of a car – albeit a flop in real life. The six-cylinder Type 184 was essentially obsolete the day it debuted – the last really big limousine type car Peugeot produced. It was in, and out, of production in less than two years. Only 31 Type 184s were made.

But it was, for the Midnight In Paris movie, an apropos if slightly incongruous relic of a bygone era.

[Editor’s Note: How weird is it that I am in Paris, as a writer for the International New York Times (nee Herald Tribune), writing about former Herald Tribune correspondent Ernest Hemingway, the Lost Generation and F. Scott Fitzgerald, with whom I share a birthday? Now that’s a fantasy.]

Jerry Garrett

October 2, 2016

* The Renault 11 sold at auction in 2015 for an astonishing 4,200 British pounds. For more on this car, you can read my blog post, The Worst Car James Bond Ever Drove.

 

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | September 26, 2016

Where Was 2016’s THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN Filmed?

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-1-49-47-pm

Look familiar? “The Magnificent Seven” filmed here? (free4kwallpapers.com)

Where was the 2016 remake of the classic 1960* movie, “The Magnificent Seven“, filmed?

The answer is not that simple. In fact, the exact answer is surprisingly hard to come by.

Would you believe Louisiana?

No way, you say? Well, the Louisiana Film Commission is thanked in the credits. Wikipedia says it was filmed north of Baton Rouge, in the St. Francisville and Zachary areas. And indeed sets were built, casting calls were held and a significant amount filming (see photo below) was done in those areas.

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-2-16-18-pm

The Battle of Baton Rouge? (The Advocate)

How about Arizona?

The movie website, International Movie Database (IMDB), adds the San Francisco Peaks and Cononino National Forest in northern Arizona. Those areas are north of Flagstaff, just south of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Despite some scenic similarities, I’m not so sure about that.

In the credits, the New Mexico Film Office is prominently mentioned. And the producers did take advantage of New Mexico’s generous production tax credits for movie filming in the state. Some mention is made of filming north of Sante Fe.

But that’s still not exactly the answer, is it? (Come on, you know it isn’t.)

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-2-10-23-pm

Filming at the “State of Enchantment” golden hour

The film gives a big, fat hint: Rose Creek.

That’s not a real place, but it hints at the Santa Rosa de Lima ghost town, near Abiquiu.

Ever hear of Abiquiu?

It’s known for its matchless brilliant blue skies and breathtaking mountains, canyons and rivers. It was where Georgia O’Keeffe lived and created her works of art. The Ghost Ranch is also in that area. Also, the Rio Chama runs through it. (That’s where the photo at the top of the article was taken.) Other signature Abiquiu locations include Vista de Pedernal, Copper Canyon and Abiquiu Lake.

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-1-59-33-pm

Mining camp along Rio Chama, snapped by photog Geraint Smith

Dozens of movies have been shot in these areas – westerns, space odysseys, contemporary romances and comedies, etc. It’s a favorite of directors like Steven Spielberg (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), Lawrence Kasdan (Silverado and Wyatt Earp), and the Coen brothers (True Grit and No Country for Old Men).

This is also where “The Magnificent Seven” was filmed – at least those iconic exterior shots that show red rock mountains, sparkling lakes and rivers, and limitless vistas.

Now, that’s magnificent; but it ain’t Lou-zee-anna.

Jerry Garrett

September 26, 2016

* The  magnificent, incomparable 1960 movie was filmed in northern Mexico and near Tucson, Arizona.

 

 

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | September 24, 2016

The Star Of The 2016 Paris Motor Show?

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-2-37-35-pm

(GM.com)

PARIS

What will be the star of the 2016 Paris Motor Show*?

Hint: It will come with a cord.

“Opel Ampera-e will be the BEV star of the show, hands down,” predicted Pedro Lima, an electric vehicle expert whose website, PushEVs, extols the virtues of the electric car, and other new environmentally friendly transportation technologies.

Lima predicts the Ampera-e, the European equivalent of the new Chevrolet Bolt in America, will become the standard by which all BEVs (or battery electric vehicles in his dictionary) will become judged.

“Every new BEV will be compared to the Chevrolet Bolt EV and the Opel Ampera-e,” he said.

2016-chevrolet-bolt-electric-vehicle-charging-980x380-01

The Bolt (Chevrolet.com)

The Bolt, which goes on sale in late 2016 in America, is touted by General Motors as having a 238-mile range, in full electric operation. Its electric powerplant produces 204-horsepower, and will propel the vehicle to a top speed of 150 kilometers per hour (93 m.p.h.). It is also advertised as the first “affordable” long-range EV – which is a slap at EV pioneer Tesla, whose long-promised low price model is years late. Tesla currently specializes in luxury EVs with Bolt-like range, but six-figure prices. Chevrolet lists base pricing for the Bolt at $37,495, before deducting possible governmental tax breaks of $7,000 or more. (Though Ampera-e pricing has not been confirmed, the Bolt’s price would be equivalent to 33,400.)

The Ampera-e will make its debut in European dealerships a few months behind the Bolt, in 2017, the company says

(Don’t confuse the all-electric Ampera-e with the Ampera, a gas-electric hybrid which was introduced in 2011 and discontinued in 2014 due to slow sales.)

Lima thinks the Bolt/Ampera-e debut at this time is especially ironic, since EVs fans are celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the film, “Who Killed The Electric Car”. General Motors was fingered as the prime suspect, for those who may not remember.

It has also been six years since the EV market pioneer, the Nissan Leaf, made its debut. It blazed a trail for other all-electric vehicles to follow. But the Leaf’s original range of something less than 100 miles seems passe now.

2017-nissan-leaf-3

A Leaf with a face-lift? (Nissan)

However, a face-lifted version of the Leaf, with a more powerful battery pack – up to 45 kilowatt-hours – is being shown here, along with the similar Renault Zoe R400, from Nissan’s Alliance partner. Both of those vehicles could be expected to attempt to undercut the Ampera-e on price, if not range.

Nissan and Renault will also be showing electric vans, the Kangoo and the eNV200, in Paris. Lima is hoping to see an electrified version of the Nissan Micra minicar, which he says has the charisma the Leaf lacks. Renault also will be showing off the tiny Twingo ZE electric, while Smart offers the similar ForFour ED.

Mercedes-Benz is expected to unveil an electric sport utility vehicle here – the harbinger of four planned EVs likely to debut by 2020. BMW will showcase its latest i3 EV, along with a new electric scooter. Kia and Hyundai have their latest hybrids to unwrap, while Toyota previews Prius Prime models with extended electric range. Honda promises new electric and hybrid versions of its Clarity line, which previously only came in limited hydrogen fuel cell iterations.

prius-prime-exterior-3

Longer-range Prius Prime (Toyota)

Generally speaking, the Paris show will be a big one for electrically powered vehicles and hybrid gas-electric models, while diesel-powered cars – traditionally among the most popular models here – are likely to be pushed to the shadows. Diesel is a dirty word in Paris these days, as the local government moved to ban older diesel-powered cars in the city as of last July; a complete ban may come within a few years. Diesel’s inherently worse (much worse than gasoline engines) tailpipe emissions are blamed for Paris’ smoggy skies. And carmakers further sullied diesel’s name by taking advantage of Europe’s lax testing regimes, to pass off many new models that spew worse-than-allowed particulate pollution into the skies.

Vilified Volkswagen, which was caught with emissions-test cheating equipment on its so-called “clean” diesel-powered vehicles, promises to preview new electric vehicle technologies here. But Lima has nothing but disdain for VW’e efforts.

“Volkswagen will continue to show electric cars for a distant future, to undermine electric cars by stating that the technology isn’t ready yet,” he writes, “so the automaker can continue to sell polluting cars.”

(*The Paris show, officially known as the Mondial de l’Automobile, runs October 1-16 at the Paris Expo.)

Jerry Garrett

September 23, 2016

 

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | September 21, 2016

The Incredible Shrinking Auto Show: 2016 Paris Mondial de l’Automobile

img_2901

Massive crowds at the 2012 Paris Motor Show (Jerry Garrett)

PARIS

The Paris Motor Show*, officially known as Mondial de l’Automobile, is shrinking.

Incredibly, it is shrinking – and has continued to do so the past decade – while attendance is growing.

This counter-intuitive disconnect is happening because an increasing number of automakers are skipping the 2016 show, for a variety of reasons; chief among them a widening belief among many that auto shows, per se, don’t deliver adequate bang for the corporate bucks. (Auto show displays can be expensive propositions; Audi reputedly spent over $11 million for one particularly over-the-top temporary construct a couple of years back.)

But try telling that to the general public, which continues to buy ever-pricier tickets for the show in eye-popping numbers.

This is not a new phenomenon: I opined about this subject the last time the show was held in 2014.

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-10-33-36-am

(Source: Mondial de l’Automobile)

Organizers of this year’s Paris show, open to the public October 1-16, tout it as the world’s best-attended show, with record attendance of more than 1.25 million in 2014. That was a fractional increase over 1.23 million two years earlier (the show is held every two years).

In 2014, among those automakers who had displays at the 2012 Paris show, McLaren, Chrysler, Chevrolet, Dodge, Exagon, Hemera, Tata, Saab/Spyker and Weismann did not return. Most of those, like Chrysler/Dodge, Tata and Chevrolet, were retreating from the European market. Others, like Saab and Weisman, went out of business. Exagon and Hemera seem to have vanished.

This year the missing include key players, like Ford. A mainstay at this show almost since its inception 118 years ago, Ford now thinks it can better reach prospective European buyers by hosting one-on-one clinics; indeed, Ford is conducting customer ride-and-drives across France even while the show is going on.

Volkswagen Group is trying to save some money by leaving two of its brands, Bentley and Lamborghini, at home. Group Night, VW’s lavish pre-show party, was also cancelled. Some belt-tightening was to be expected, however, after the financial catastrophe around its still-unfolding emissions-cheating scandal.

British carmakers had, until recent years, looked upon Paris as the next best show to display at, after the demise of its own British Motor Show a few years back. But Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin and McLaren join Bentley on the sidelines this year.

With its Chinese ownership, Volvo had been the closest thing to a representative of that country’s burgeoning auto industry at Paris. But Volvo is also among the missing this year.

Organizers are quick add that there will still be many hundreds of new cars on display; dozens of world premieres for new production cars, design concepts and prototypes are scheduled for the press preview September 29-30.

Although exact figures are hard to come by, the amount of square footage taken up by exhibit space for the show seems to have dropped from a high of 1.7 million to less than half of that this time. Exhibits will be limited to five of Paris Expo’s eight halls (one hall contains exhibits of famous movie cars this year).

Despite all this, organizers say pre-show ticket sales are again on a record pace. It would seem, then, even as journalists like me whine about how the show is shrinking faster than the Arctic ice cap, show-goers seem more than content to pay more for less.

Jerry Garrett

September 21, 2016

(*For another take on the 2016 Paris Motor Show, check out my New York Times preview.)

 

 

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | September 19, 2016

The Most Successful Race Car Of All Time? The Answer May Surprise You.

8ctf2

An inauspicious debut

The most successful race car in history? It came from a bankrupt Italian company. It had a broken engine. And its first race was almost its last.

In motorsports, drivers cheat death in every race, hoping to achieve immortality in a dangerous sport. With luck, a great driver can have a career lasting decades. The cars they race, meanwhile, are disposable. They have a shelf life that barely lasts a season. Advancements in technology can soon render them obsolete. They break. They crash. Their useful lives quickly end – on a scrap heap, in a collector’s garage, or in the best-case scenario, a museum.

But one race car stands out in the history of the sport, for the longest, most successful career anyone can recall: Its successes spanned parts of three decades! And it was a threat to win, just about every time it raced.

But started out as a flop.

bruder

Ettore, Bindo, Ernesto, Alfieri Maserati

For the 1938 Grand Prix season, German juggernauts Mercedes and Auto Union came out with new cars so powerful they crushed the competition.  In Italy, the cash-strapped Maserati brothers turned out the 8CTF, a straight-8 roadster they hoped could at least serve as a placeholder until they could answer the Germans with a much more powerful model for the 1939 season.

The 8CTF was promisingly quick, but at its debut in the 1938 Tripoli Grand Prix, it broke. The disappointed, nearly broke Maserati brothers saw no choice but to park it. The failure nearly bankrupted them. Again.

335eb0d4745817fe6eb758f2ed264898

Germans rule

The cash-strapped Maserati brothers had already sold the company to a local businessman, Adolfo Orsi; they stayed on as consultants.

The struggling company ultimately scraped plans for the 1939 model. (Compounding their bad luck, the 1940 8CL came out two weeks before Italy entered World War II; the dozen cars that were produced were hidden near Milan until after the war, when they re-appeared as “1946” models.)

But fate intervened. The Maserati brothers received an order from colorful Indy car team owner Mike Boyle for a new car. Gloom turned to joy when the Maserati brothers hatched a plan to sell him the 8CTF – essentially, emptying their trash can – and they were unspeakably happy when Boyle agreed to the staggering sum of $15,000 for the car. That was about three times the going rate for a top Indy car then.

maserati-8ctf-boyle-edition-engine_880x500

The 8CTF engine

They crated up their unloved 8CTF and shipped it off to America so quickly, then didn’t even drain its fluids.

This would prove to be a near-fatal error.

During the wintry voyage, the water in the radiator froze, and the straight-8’s cylinder walls split. That should have been the end of it. There was (then) no spare engine.

But Boyle’s clever chief mechanic, Cotton Henning, saved the day. He took the engine completely apart and figured out how to make a repair he hoped would hold.

tumblr_lunvs7leh21r1g51jo1_500

Umbrella Mike

Umbrella Mike, who earned his nickname as a Chicago labor boss who collected “tribute” cash in an umbrella, had bought the car for 1937 Indianapolis 500 winner Wilbur Shaw. He was taking Shaw up on his boast that he could win Indy again, if only someone would buy him a Maserati like the one he had raced in the 1937 Vanderbilt Cup. (He had passed 30 cars with it, to finish ninth.)

Though Boyle wildly overpaid for the 8CTF, shed no tears for him. The Maserati would earn back in prize money many, many times what he had paid for it. It became a cash register on wheels.

And the Maserati brothers would become forever proud – if not completely incredulous – when the 8CTF went on to rule Indianapolis. This misbegotten machine became, by far, the most storied Maserati ever.

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-1-58-20-pm

1939 Indy 500, Shaw at left

Though the car mechanically was poorly suited to the demands of on-off-the-throttle grand prix races on road courses, it was uniquely well designed for wide-open, full-throttle racing on big ovals.

The 8CTF’s 8-cylinder engine was actually two straight-4s bolted nose to tail, with separate superchargers for each. Reliability was such a concern for the 350-horsepower setup, the heads were cast right into the top of the block, eliminating the need for a head gasket – an area of feared weakness. Equipped with Roots-type blowers, which were effective at any speed, the 8CTF was also able to keep accelerating through corners – where other Indy racers were slowing down.

The Maserati also had big brakes, purpose-built for grand prix racing. Wilbur Shaw quickly learned how to use them to great advantage in traffic and cornering. Other Indy cars had passenger car brakes that were so bad, the racers could barely use them; they just slowed down dramatically for the corners.

road_to_100__1939_0_34188757_ver1-0_640_480

Shaw in Victory Lane, 1939

Shaw ran away with the 1939 Indianapolis 500. He came back in 1940, and won it again. It was unheard of that the same car could win twice!

The Maserati was on its way to winning its third consecutive Indy 500 in 1941 when Shaw crashed, while leading in the late going, under mysterious circumstances. The explanation, which some find dubious (to this day), was a failure of a defective wheel had been put on during what was to be Shaw’s last pit stop. The wheel supposedly had been found to be defective before the race; to keep it from being used, it was marked with chalk. But a fire on race morning had destroyed much of the speedway’s garage area; when the firemen were hosing the burning buildings, it was said the chalk mark on the wheel was washed off.

635938082720204806-500-1940-1

Shaw at center, Indy 1941

Shaw suffered a broken back in the crash, and that essentially ended his driving career. (He went on to become the track’s president.)

When World War II came around, racing at the speedway stopped until 1946; that year the Maserati was brought back out to race again, with Ted Horn, who finished third. Horn came in third with it again in 1947, and fourth in 1948. It broke again while leading in 1949, with Lee Wallard at the wheel. Bill Vukovich passed his rookie test with it in 1950. The car was still being raced competitively in 1953, when it was 15 years old.

Correct me if I’m wrong, dear readers, but apparently only three 8CTFs were built; oddly all three ended up in America. At least two still exist. Louie Unser won the Pikes Peak Hill Climb twice in one of them.

In its latter days, the Maserati had an Offenhauser installed, but its original engine (and a backup) was retained, and reinstalled in the car when it was placed into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway museum. (An “Indianapolis” engine on display at Maserati headquarters in Modena, Italy, is actually from an 8CL, I’m told.)

museum-combo_-skew_-1024x366

Original speedway museum; Maserati at right (IndyRacingMuseum.org)

The 8CTF was the crown jewel of the speedway’s collection of just six cars when it opened in 1956. (Wilbur Shaw, who was instrumental in acquiring the Maserati for the speedway’s collection of winning cars, had died in a 1954 plane crash).

The maroon Boyle Special roadster, emblazoned appropriately with the number “1”, still occupies a place of honor there, even though the speedway’s collection has grown to more than 400 vehicles.

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-12-51-04-pm“It was, without a doubt, the most successful race car in the history of the track, says Donald Davidson, the speedway’s historian.

Asked specifically if he could remember any car in racing history that had as long a career, or greater success, Davidson answered, “Nothing that I know of.”

Jerry Garrett

September 19, 2016

(For more on this amazing race car, check out my previous post.)

 

Older Posts »

Categories