From timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.
For this installment, we explore the amazing and iconic Chevy Corvette.
Fast, sporty, classic – even iconic. Not many cars can successfully make these claims, and still be within the reach of an average-sized American checkbook. The Chevy Corvette can, though – and, over the past 60-plus years, the sexy ‘vette has allowed many of us to grab our piece of the American dream though adrenaline-fueled car ownership.
As CNN writes, “Even for folks who don’t care about cars, the Corvette matters. It’s historic . . . The sleek silhouette has transformed into a pop culture icon across TV, films and advertising.” And, don’t forget Prince and his 1999 hit, “Little Red Corvette.”
Here’s the irony: no other car boasts the long-term continuous production as the Corvette. And yet, this classic car wasn’t intended for mass production at all.
In the 1950s, General Motors was the largest corporation in the world, twice as big as the second biggest – Standard Oil of New Jersey – manufacturing more than half of the cars driven in the entire US of A. None of the GM vehicles, though (Buicks, Cadillacs, Chevrolets, GMCs, Oldsmobiles or Pontiacs), were sports cars.
In the fall of 1951, GM’s chief designer, Harley J. Earl, began to brainstorm about an open sports car that would sell for the same price as a typical sedan, which was $2,000. He passed on this dream-car-on-a-budget idea to Robert F. McLean, who caused the notion to become a reality, using standard Chevy parts off the shelf.
According to Edmunds.com, “The chassis and suspension were for all intents and purposes the 1952 Chevy sedan’s, with the drivetrain and passenger compartment shoved rearward to achieve a 53/47 front-to-rear weight distribution over its 102-inch wheelbase. The engine was essentially the same dumpy inline-6 that powered all Chevys but with a higher compression ratio, triple Carter side-draft carbs and a more aggressive cam that hauled its output up to 150 horsepower. Fearful that no Chevy manual three-speed transmission could handle such extreme power (there were no four-speeds in GM’s inventory), a two-speed Powerglide automatic was bolted behind the hoary six.”
GM planned to showcase this vehicle at the Motorama exhibit of the 1953 New York Auto Show but didn’t intend for it to go into production. Then, GM’s chief engineer Ed Cole saw the sweet vehicle and recognized its huge potential – and production preparation began so quickly that it started before the New York show even began. Once the car was displayed to the public, show attendees also loved the car. Six months later, on June 30, 1953, the Corvette rolled down the assembly line in Flint, Michigan.
Urban legend says that Henry Ford offered his cars in any color, just as long as it was black. Well, if you’d wanted to buy one of the 300 Corvettes produced in 1953, you’d have had only one color choice: a white exterior with a red interior.
Production continued to rise to meet the demand. During the 1960s, production increased to about 27,000 cars per year, with multiple engine choices, including performance options.
By the time the C5s rolled out (1997-2004), the ‘vette was racing at Le Mans and the American Le Mans Series. In these vehicles, the “transmission was relocated to the rear of the car to form an integrated, rear-mounted transaxle assembly, connected to the all-new LS1engine via a torque tube — an engine/transmission arrangement enabling a 50-50 (percentage, front-rear) weight distribution for improved handling. The LS1 engine initially produced 345 hp (257 kW), subsequently increased in 2001 to 350 hp (261 kW). The 4L60-E automatic transmission carried over from previous models, but the manual was replaced by a Borg-Warner T-56 6-speed capable of a 175 mph (282 km/h) top speed.”
ZR1 Corvettes of the 21st century can surpass 200 mph, with prices tags of $100,000-plus. And, if you pony up for a 2015 model, these vehicles include an HD video camera (720p resolution) behind the rearview mirror and an SD memory card in the glove box. The original intent: for racers to record laps. This device also records speed data, plus G-force, braking and stability-system data – along with a “secret valet-recording mode.” If you use valet parking, this is one way to make sure that drivers treat your ‘vette with tender loving care.
Heartbreak at the National Corvette Museum
Unfortunately, the Corvette was in the news recently, not for its stealthy look, but rather for a catastrophe that badly damaged some of the finest specimens.
On March 11, 2014 at 5:44 a.m., the National Corvette Museum got a call from their security company, stating that motion detectors had gone off while no one was in the museum. Nobody could have anticipated what they’d see, which was a 40-foot-across and 60-foot-deep sinkhole, large enough to swallow up eight Corvettes worth an estimated $1 million.
These vehicles included two on loan from General Motors (first two bullet points) and six owned by the museum. Damage-wise, they have been placed into one of three categories: least damaged, significantly damaged or worst damaged:
- 1993 ZR-1 Spyder:
- fewer than 12 ever built
- worst damaged
- 2009 ZR1 “Blue Devil”:
- least damaged
- 1962 Black Corvette:
- least damaged
- 1984 PPG Pace Car:
- one-of-a-kind car for Indy Car World Series
- significantly damaged
- 1992 White 1 Millionth Corvette:
- millionth to come off the assembly line
- significantly damaged
- 1993 Ruby Red 40th Anniversary Corvette:
- significantly damaged
- 2001 Mallett Hammer Z06 Corvette:
- worst damaged
- 2009 White 1.5 Millionth Corvette:
- 1.5 millionth to come off assembly line
- significantly damaged
The rescue operation took exactly eight weeks, with two of the cars difficult to find in the rubble. To quote CNN, “One priceless car was crushed. Another, mashed; a third, pancaked. Now, Vette City faces a sinkhole summer.”
Here is footage of the devastation from a University of Western Kentucky’s Engineering Department’s drone helicopter.
Since the time of the collapse, increasing numbers of people are visiting the museum, with March 2014 attendance figures spiking by 56% and donations of more than $75,000 given. Attendance has continued to rise since the collapse, reaching 66% with revenue up 71% overall.
On April 26, CNN published an in-depth article on the progress of the rescue and restoration efforts, including thoughts on the main challenges:
- Should the cars be restored?
- If yes, to what degree?
- If yes, who does the restoring?
- What should the museum do about the giant sinkhole?
As far as the car restoration goes, there were probably as many opinions as there were people giving them. General Motor’s Tom Peters (director of exterior design for performance cars) shares this point of view: “Respect the vehicles. They have ‘souls.’ They have ‘character’ and ‘being.’ Replacing too many key original parts might result in ‘re-creations’ rather than restorations.”
In the meanwhile, the damaged cars are on display. As far as the hole, the museum considered keeping part or all of it intact, and transform it into an historic display of its own.
In fact, board members were leaning that way as recently as late June. But, on August 30, 2014, they voted to fill in the hole because of the high costs of safety features needed to maintain the hole, which would have required 35-foot-tall retaining walls plus beams. Humidity-control devices would also be needed, skyrocketing the repair costs to an unattainable $1 million.
So, the hole will be filled in with rock. Workers will then drill into the rock to add steel casings and then cover all with concrete. Repairs will begin in November (so visit sooner if you want to see the sinkhole!) and will last approximately six months. The museum will be open during the construction period. If you visit, be sure to also schedule a tour of the Corvette manufacturing plant. And, if you can’t visit, then take advantage of the museum’s multiple live webcams.
Share your experiences
Despite the changing design trends, economic downturns and fantastic disasters, the Corvette thrives, more than sixty years after its invention.
Tell us your stories and experiences with the Corvette, in the comments below. And, feel free to check out our prior review of the 2015 Chevy Corvette Z06.
Editor’s note: If you’re a proud owner of one of the 1.4 million of these attention-grabbing monsters of acceleration, know that Advance Auto Parts has you covered.
I want to start this column by thinking critically about the concept of a “family car.” Cars like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry are traditionally considered to be family cars — yet the Environmental Protection Agency classifies them as large cars. And if you’ve driven them, you know the EPA’s not kidding. These sedans are big, no two ways about it.
So here’s my question:
Does a car have to be large in order to be suitable for family use?
Certainly, sedans like the Accord and Camry offer distinct advantages relative to cheaper, smaller alternatives like the Civic and Corolla. But what if there were a car that combined the refinement and versatility of a large car with the manageable dimensions of a small one? I drove the 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI recently, and as both a mom and a car enthusiast, I think it just might offer the best of both worlds. Let’s take a closer look at what makes this VW tick.
1. Deceptively Spacious Cabin
Most folks dismiss the Golf as just another small car, and let me tell you, they don’t know what they’re missing. The way I judge a car is by how well it can accommodate six-footers front and rear, because Lord knows my kids will hit six feet any day now — and the Golf can swallow four of ‘em for hours at a time. Rear legroom and headroom is superb; I bet Golf owners hardly ever find themselves wishing for more. Yet this VW is compact enough to squeeze into any urban parking spot, unlike the mainstream “family car” behemoths that are a chore to maneuver through tight spaces.
And don’t forget about the handy hatchback body style. The Golf can swallow 22.8 cubic feet of cargo behind its rear seats, which is about seven cubes more than the typical family sedan. Plus, you can fold the Golf’s rear seatbacks to open up more than 50 cubic feet of space, a figure that no family sedan can touch.
2. Awesome Powertrain
Whenever you see “TDI” on a Golf, it means there’s a turbodiesel engine under the hood, and that’s a very good thing. The latest generation of VW’s turbodiesel 2.0-liter four is rated at just 150 horsepower, but the figure you want to focus on is the 236 pound-feet of torque. All that torque is available at low rpm, so the Golf TDI launches effortlessly from stoplights and always has some extra punch in reserve. Of course, diesels are known for their fuel economy, and the 2015 VW Golf TDI doesn’t disappoint, returning up to 45 mpg — way more than the most efficient family sedan.
3. Premium Character
Here’s the other thing that prevents more Americans from buying small cars. There’s a perception out there that small equals cheap, and it drives a lot of folks to buy bigger cars than they really need. If that mindset sounds familiar, trust me, go drive a Golf and see what you think. I’m pretty sure you’ll be astonished by how nice everything is in this car, from the materials on the dashboard to the precise, expertly damped knobs and levers — not to mention the crisp, well-lit gauges and displays. The Golf presents as a more expensive car, and that’s a rare thing these days. Whereas most family cars feel built to a price, the Golf feels like the engineers had the leeway to get everything just right. It’s like having a little luxury car at no extra cost.
The Best Family Car Around $25,000?
I think the 2015 VW Golf TDI is a strong contender for this prize, all things considered, and I’m a mom — so I should know. But am I wrong? Have you experienced the new Golf TDI for yourself? Tell me what you think in the comments.
Editor’s note: Whether you’ve got a minivan, a muscle car or even a motorcycle, count on Advance Auto Parts to keep you running right all year long. Get back to work fast—buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.
To paraphrase comedian Rodney Dangerfield, it’s tough being a hub assembly or wheel bearing. While their more famous cousins – the brakes, the batteries, the struts and shocks . . . okay, we’ll stop name dropping because you know who we mean – get lots of fuss and attention, the non-glamorous bearings work hard, day after day, repeating the same dreary job over and over again.
But when those drudgery cousins finally get worn out, you’ll probably know it. They’ll most likely squeak, they’ll grind, they’ll growl, they’ll whine and moan. Besides that, they may not hang on tightly to your tires any more, perhaps even letting go completely and/or causing a loss of steering control – and that goes beyond annoyance and becomes a significant safety issue.
Hub assemblies and wheel bearings
Located between the brake drums/discs and the drive axle, the hub assembly is mounted to the holding bracket of the chassis on the axle side. On the drum/disc side, the wheel is connected to the hub assembly via bolts. The wheel bearing itself is inside the hub unit.
These low-maintenance parts must take on the load of your vehicle, whether it’s in motion or standing still. Their importance rises even more when you’re driving over potholes and other rough patches – and, even though they are low maintenance, they certainly aren’t no maintenance.
Your goal is to minimize the amount of friction generated by the wheel bearing. This can be accomplished by the use of quality grease specifically intended for high temperatures. Be careful not to overdo how much grease you apply, though, as this can result in overheating because of friction that can’t appropriately be dissipated. With repeated overheating incidents, car parts damage can occur.
And, even though proper application of grease will help these parts last longer, they will eventually need replaced. Typically, you should check and maintain your wheel bearings every 25,000 to 30,000 miles. An average sealed wheel bearing lasts 85,000 to 100,000 miles although some can last as long as 150,000 miles.
Hear that noise?
Diagnosing car troubles by sound alone is an inexact science, but you should not ignore new or unusual car noises. According to an often-quoted study from Braxton Research, 51% of wheel bearing problems are found because of noise (24% are found during a brake job and 19% during an alignment).
Having said that, although noises from bad hub assemblies and/or wheel bearings come from the area of your wheels, not all strange sounds from the area of your wheels is assembly- or bearing-related. They could indicate a problem with your brakes or CV joints. And if the noise comes and goes with the application of your brakes, the problem is more likely brake-related.
Still, be sure to check your hub assembly and wheel bearings if you hear:
- Chirping, squealing or grinding sounds with different intensities at different speeds; these noises may get louder or softer upon turning
- Humming that exists when you drive and increases when you start to turn your steering wheel
If you ever sense a vibration from your wheels or your wheels “wobble,” be sure to check your hub assembly and wheel bearings.
Wheel speed sensor
Vehicles with antilock brakes may have a sensor built into the hub assembly. The sensor ring may move about as it rotates if there is a worn wheel bearing, which may trigger the appearance of an ABS warning light. Use a scanning tool that accesses your ABS to diagnose.
Meanwhile internal corrosion within the wheel assembly can send up a false alarm of worn parts. If your vehicle has a removable sensor, then simply remove and clean it and then add a zinc corrosion inhibitor to the hub before replacing. If the sensor is not removable, then the entire hub assembly will need replaced.
Jack up the car into the air and spin the wheel by hand. Can you feel any roughness or excessive drag? If so, you may have a bad wheel bearing. Check your car manual to see the maximum amount of movement that can be considered acceptable.
If you’re unsure whether or not there is too much movement, it’s better to be safe than sorry. You should replace your hub assembly and wheel bearings. Even if only one side is bad, it makes sense to replace them in pairs. The “good” side is likely to cause problems in a relatively short time.
Also, after driving the car, you can check the temperature of the hub assembly. Typically, a hub assembly that is worn out will be hotter than the other hub assemblies on the vehicle. This is due to excessive drag produced by the worn out bearings.
If you surf around auto forums on the net, you’ll find conversations about whether or not bad hub assemblies and/or wheel bearings can have a negative effect on gas mileage. As on many car-related topics, there isn’t clear consensus, with some commenters noticing an improvement after hub assembly/wheel bearing repair.
Beware of cheap bearings constructed of low quality steel with poor heat-treating. These tend to fail prematurely, which only signals another repair job in the future when, in most instances, these parts need replaced only once at most during typical car ownership.
Cheaper hub assemblies might include bearings that are smaller than OEM, which is another factor that could lead to early part failure. Still other cheaper parts contain double ball bearings rather than one stronger bearing. If possible, avoid these choices.
Note that manufacturers recommend a torque wrench rather than an impact wrench when installing. That’s because an impact wrench can damage axle nut threads and CV joints. Plus, the impact wrench can prevent proper torqueing of nuts and bolts.
Bonus tips: don’t be penny smart and pound foolish. Replace axle nuts rather than attempting to reuse them, and invest in quality seal drivers to ensure a quality seal and therefore protect new wheel bearings.
Always consult your owner’s manual first. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure warranties are not voided.
From timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.
For this first installment, Rural Tales hitches a ride with the workhorse of the ages: The Ford F-150.
37 years as the top-selling truck.
A major redesign for 2015 that has tongues wagging.
Why do so many truck buyers have a love affair with Ford’s F-150 and Ford trucks in general? Perhaps because like most F-150 drivers, these trucks just work. And that’s not to say that other trucks don’t, because I’m certainly not trying to start a war of words among my fellow truck drivers and loyal Ram, Silverado and Tundra enthusiasts.
The Ford F-150 is the workhorse of choice for countless professionals and weekend warriors alike who need dependable towing and hauling power for a reason. Consider the 2000 F-150 as an example. It’s 5.4-liter V-8, 16-valve, fuel-injected engine delivers 205 horsepower at 4,950 RPM and 255 foot pounds of torque at 3,700 RPM, for a maximum towing capacity of 7,500 pounds – more than enough to get most jobs done. Couple that power with its hefty size – a 3,923-pound curb weight and a 5,600-pound gross weight and a nearly 120-inch wheelbase – and you have a towing and hauling machine that can stand up to tough conditions and looks good doing it. Those good looks are courtesy of periodic F-150 body redesigns that refresh its image without losing the iconic body style that makes it instantly recognizable.
Ford’s continuing success with its F-150 can be traced, in part, to its experience designing and building trucks that drivers want. The F-150 wasn’t Ford’s first pickup. That honor falls to Ford’s 1925 Model T and the more than 33,000 Model T “runabouts” it built with a pickup truck body and sold for $281.The F-150 name didn’t arrive on the scene until 1975, following the F-100’s introduction in 1953 and the F-series creation in 1948 with the F-1 half-ton pickup. Those early F-series pickups were available with just two engine options – a 95-horsepower, 226 cubic-inch, inline six or a 100 horsepower, 239 V-8.
Changes in options through the years helped keep Ford’s F-series fresh, with perhaps one of the biggest changes occurring in 1959 with the availability of four-wheel drive. That’s such an important feature because for many early pickup-truck drivers, they drove a truck for one reason – they had to. Whether they made their livelihood in farming, construction, or some other industry that required hauling or towing, those early trucks were, undoubtedly, work trucks.
Contrast that with today’s pickup owners. While many still choose the F-150 for work, countless others drive it because of the convenience and flexibility it offers – a car-like ride and interior with heated seats, 360-degree cameras, power moon roofs and LED lighting that can still haul and tow when needed, and do it in style. Yet another reason many drivers choose the F-150 and tend to hang onto them is that they’re easy to work on, particularly with a little guidance from the pros when you need it, and the continuing availability of parts and accessories for it.
What has people talking about the latest F-150, however, is Ford’s introduction of an all-aluminum cab, front-end, bed and tailgate. This aluminum body, still resting on plenty of high-strength steel in the frame and underbody, helps the F-150 shed 700 lbs. and increase its fuel efficiency. Anticipating truck drivers’ and F-150 lovers’ wariness about aluminum’s perceived strength in a truck that’s supposed to be Ford-tough, Ford’s been positioning the 2015 as being built with “military-grade aluminum alloy and high-strength steel,” and having undergone more than 10 million miles of brutal testing in real-world conditions before the first truck rolled off the assembly line.
The 2015 F-150’s new, 8-inch “productivity screen,” which provides a steady stream of data about the truck’s performance and driving conditions, is a far cry from early truck drivers’ understanding of productivity , but then again, they were more accustomed to throwing wood in their truck bed, instead of polishing it inside an air-conditioned cab.
Rest assured, Ford’s got it right with their new F-150. After all, they have the pickup truck experience as well as the incentive and pressure not to disappoint millions of die-hard Ford fans. No one at Ford really wants to be “that guy” responsible for breaking a 37-year tradition as the top-selling truck, even though there are probably an equal number of loyal Chevy and Dodge fans just waiting for that to happen.
Which truck do you use?
Are you an F-150 fan? Or, do you drive a Ram, Silverado or Tundra? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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“I consider myself to be a visual scientist, relentlessly exploring as many forms of artistic expression as I can. Sculpture is not my career, it’s my life. I am obsessed with creating as many new sculptures as possible.”
So says Bruce Gray, renowned Los Angeles sculptor who uses discarded pieces of metal as the building blocks of his art. One of his most famous sculptures is Motorcycle 1 made out of recycled train and motorcycle parts.
This sculpture stands 55” tall, is 94” long and 33” wide, which is slightly larger than a genuine ride-able motorcycle. It weighs somewhere between 700 and 800 pounds. Parts, all of which were “found,” include:
- “2 very heavy massive railroad equipment gears for wheels”
- “train coupling link for the seat”
- “giant train springs for shocks”
- “BMW R75/5 motorcycle engine and tailpipes”
He’d like to create similar motorcycle sculptures, but “there is always the matter of getting enough free time. When creating art from found objects, there is a big time investment, plus a sculpture of this size takes up lots of storage space.” One of Bruce’s dreams is to also create a ride-able version of this piece of art.
This sculpture appeared on Discovery Channel’s Monster House and was featured in Angeleno magazine, Art Business News magazine, The Fabricator magazine and on the back cover of the Chic Eco directory.
In fact, if we were to list all of the movies, television programs, music videos and commercials that feature Bruce’s work, we’d literally need to add nearly 1,000 words of text to this blog post (Yes. We checked.). And, that doesn’t count the numerous articles written about him in magazines and newspapers, or the large numbers of museums and prestigious art shows that spotlight his talent–or the well-known people who commission him to create art for their homes and offices.
Here is just a taste:
- Starship Troopers
- Rush Hour
- Gone in 60 Seconds
- General Motors
- Mercedes Benz
- Music videos:
- Dr. Dre
- Wu Tang Clan
- Television shows:
- Star Trek: The Next Generation
- How I Met Your Mother
“I’ve also been asked to play a part in about a dozen or so reality shows,” he adds. “One of the most recent involves a bar with motorcycles that is still in the early stages of production and may not have even been presented to a network yet.” Here are more of his accomplishments.
The story behind the story
Born in 1956 in Orange, New Jersey, Bruce and his family moved to Belgium for a few years, starting when he was in first grade. They lived in an old hotel with six floors, a bomb shelter and a wine cellar. “We lived in the hotel by ourselves,” he recalls, “and it was a great place to play hide and seek.”
There is only so much hide and seek that a young boy can play, though, so he also kept himself busy creating stuff from Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, Legos and the like. He took apart radios to see how they worked and so forth. He also got to see the Atomium building in Brussels, a structure created out of stainless steel spheres that, when connected together, represent a cell of an iron crystal cell magnified 165 billion times. Bruce says that this building influenced him later as an artist.
“I sketched a lot in school, too,” he says. “I doodled since people often didn’t speak English and I didn’t know what anyone was saying.”
After the stay in Belgium, Bruce and his family returned to New Jersey, although he seldom saw his father, an international banker from Scotland who spent most of his time in Europe. “I might not see him,” Bruce says, “for a period of ten years.” Shortly before Bruce entered high school, his family moved to Massachusetts.
After high school ended (Bridgewater Raynham Regional High School, class of 1975), he joined the Coast Guard for four years. He then applied to the University of Massachusetts–but his art portfolio didn’t meet the minimum requirements. In fact, the only “art portfolio” that he had consisted of pieces of art that he’d put together that day in 30 minutes . . . meaning 30 minutes, total.
“I’d never done anything in the arts,” Bruce explains, “except for shop class. I was fairly good in that class, making an electric guitar from scratch without instruction. But, that was all I’d done. So, when I think back at how bad the portfolio I’d submitted to the university was, it’s amusing.”
The university recommended that he take art courses for a year and then reapply. Shortly afterwards, though, he received a notice saying that he should meet with the dean of the design department to discuss admission possibilities. Bruce’s raw talent impressed the dean enough that he was permitted to start his education under probation. To stay in the school, he needed to maintain a B average. “I’d already been in the military, though,” Bruce says, “and I was used to hard work and long hours. So, if a teacher said that he needed two examples of a certain piece of art within a week, I’d have three ready by the next morning–which really annoyed my classmates.”
Bruce attended the university from 1979 to 1983, earning a BFA in design. He then worked in Boston as a photographer and graphic designer. Although he found logo design satisfying, he longed for something more.
In 1989, his mother died unexpectedly and suddenly of a brain aneurysm. “After that happened–literally, right after–I decided to quit what I was doing and get on with life. I realized that nobody gets to make the call about how long you stay on Earth so I decided to do what I really wanted to do.”
What exactly that was, he didn’t yet know. As a kid, he’d thought about becoming a marine biologist. “Or,” he says, “maybe a spy like James Bond–or maybe I’d work for Mad magazine.” Unclear about what precisely awaited him in life after his mother’s death, he drove to North Carolina and windsurfed for a week to clear his mind. He then drove to Mexico City and remained there until he got himself back on track.
What he ultimately decided: to move to California to create three dimensional, permanent pieces of art out of wood and metal. He quickly realized that he didn’t want to conceptualize a piece of art and then have someone else weld it together, so he bought a cheap piece of welding equipment and taught himself how to use it, which allowed him to take complete control of his own art. “I no longer have any artistic limitations,” he explains on his web page. “I have let my imagination take over.”
When recalling his earlier days as an artist, Bruce says that he’d sell five pieces of art one day–and then he would hear nothing from prospective buyers for so long that he’d start calling his own number just to see if it worked. He recalls one day where he literally had nothing to eat–that is, until he remembered that he’d bought a jar of peanut butter in case calamity struck during Y2K (when the year 2000 was ushered in). Checking out the jar, he saw that it was three years past its expiration date–and then he ate the peanut butter.
More of Bruce Gray’s art
“I create sculptures and functional art in welded steel, stainless steel, brass, copper, and aluminum. The works vary considerably and include swirl grinded bare metal intersecting geometric shapes sculptures, rusty found object assemblages, colorfully painted wall sculptures, mobiles, suspended magnetic sculptures, and powder coated bright colored sculptural tables and chairs. My work is usually fun, colorful, visually stimulating, and often conveys my sense of humor. My found object works may be people, animals, insects, or dinosaurs, and are stylized, simplified, and given their own unique personalities.”
Committed to protecting the environment, he is pleased that, overall, he puts less into dumpsters than he takes out. He also is amused that he can take something destined for the landfill and refashion it to hang on a “rich guy’s wall.”
Bruce has created fully functional chair sculptures from motorcycle parts, such as this EZ Rider Chair (30” x 65” x 24”).
Bruce is also well known for his rolling ball sculptures, where a steel ball starts at the top of the sculpture and, through gravity alone, travels a path to the ground. In Cheborgie #1 (79” x 33” x 27”), the steel ball “follows a rollercoaster track, does jumps, goes down stairs, through chimes, past a spinner and through a tube.”
(You have to wonder how much the Atomium building in Belgium influenced his fascination with this type of sculpture!)
He is also well known for his high heel sculptures, such as “High Heel Shoe #4.” These sculptures have appeared in multiple magazines and on television and this particular one is 39” x 27” x 16”, crafted out of steel and coated with ten layers of high quality automotive enamels.
Bruce shares the challenges of the artist’s life. “Most of us artists,” he says, “work alone every day. It can get tedious. It can drive you crazy, to the point where you absolutely have to get out of the house.” Here’s another challenge. “Most artists I know tend to be introverted to the point that it hurts their career. You need to promote your work one way or the other: hiring a PR person, getting an agent or being self-motivated enough to get attention for your work. Fortunately, I’d spent a lot of time in marketing because of my advertising background, so I know a bit about promotion. I don’t mind the work–and doing it myself is budget friendly.”
Another challenge faced by Bruce is that he is dyslexic, but he actually sees that as a blessing. “I grew up with dyslexia,” he shares, “but I was never diagnosed as a kid. It wasn’t until ten years ago that I was watching a show about dyslexia on the Discovery Channel and I thought, ‘Wait a minute. This is ridiculous. I have ALL of these symptoms.’”
He therefore did some research and found out that many household names, including some people considered geniuses, have been dyslexic. “It gives you a different way of thinking. You don’t piece together tiny parts of a problem. Instead, you see the big picture–and that sounds just like me. I rarely draw any piece of art out in advance. I just start making something. That’s how I work–and, in fact, how I prefer to work.”
In April of this year, Bruce had a surprise visit from the chancellor of the University of Massachusetts, where he’d earned his BFA. “He talked to me about commissioning a big sculpture for the school and about my flying back to give lectures. I’ve come a long way.”
When asked what the younger Bruce would have thought about today, he admits that he’d “be surprised at how hard the work is, and how much time I spend working,” adding that he’d like the following to be his legacy: “I would like to leave behind a great body of art, lots of really great friends, and also be known for my environmental work.”
Editor’s note: Automotive maintenance can be an art unto itself. Shop Advance Auto Parts for the best deals and selection to get the job done. Buy online, pick up in-store—in 30 minutes.
If you think maintaining your car is time-consuming, let me tell you, it’s nothing compared to keeping your house in order. Between my car, my house and my kids, I’ve got three full-time jobs, and none of them pays a dime! But what if you could use some of your car products to maintain your home, too? There are a lot of dual-use car products out there, and I want to introduce you to a few of them today.
1. Brake Cleaner Brake cleaner has always been an indispensable piece of the home mechanic’s arsenal, allowing you to prolong the life of your brake components by keeping oil, dirt and other contaminants at bay. But did you know that it can also remove tough grease and oil stains from your driveway or garage floor? Think about it: if it’s strong enough to get in there and clean your brakes, a little grease is child’s play. So next time you’ve got an industrial-grade spill to clean up, save yourself the trip to the hardware store and just pull out your brake cleaner instead.
2. Automotive Upholstery Cleaner Have you ever heard of a specific product for cleaning your couch? They’re out there, of course, but chances are you don’t already have a bottle in your cabinet. What you do have, though, if you’re into DIY car maintenance, is automotive upholstery cleaner. And if you think about it, the only difference between cloth automotive upholstery and the stuff on your couch is where it’s located. Here’s another fun trick, by the way, and I speak from experience: automotive upholstery cleaner also works great for carpet stains. Give it a shot before you spend a bundle on renting a carpet cleaner or having a professional stop by.
3. Car Wax I know what you’re thinking: “What could I possibly use car wax for in my house?” This one’s definitely not obvious, but when you think about it, it’ll make a lot of sense. What I want you to do is try applying some car wax to your kitchen and bathroom counters. Why? Because food’s less likely to stick to a waxed surface, for one thing, and also, if you spill anything, the liquid will bead up for easy cleaning. Moreover, with that layer of wax in between your counters and whatever’s on them, the likelihood of staining is greatly reduced.
4. Automotive Glass Cleaner Next time you’re about to buy some Windex or a comparable cleaning product, pause for a moment and ask yourself if you’ve already got some automotive glass cleaner in your garage. If so, guess what — it’s basically Windex for your car. So why not bring it inside and use it on your mirrors, windows and other indoor glass surfaces? In some cases, the automotive formula might even work better, because it’s specially formulated to cut through dried bug residue and all the other nastiness that ends up coating windshields over time.
5. Metal Polish Metal polish is a must-have for car collectors, and even if you just like to keep your car spic and span, it’s a good product to have around. But your car isn’t the only thing in your life that needs its metal polished. Think about all the metal in your house, whether it’s stainless steel surfaces, metal door knobs or handles, door hinges, cabinet knobs, even sink and shower faucets. You can use that automotive metal polish on all of the above, and just like the glass cleaner, it might even do a better job than an actual household product, since cars really need high-strength formulas to deal with all the grit and grime.
It’s time to get busy!
You all know I’m big into DIY, so I would love to hear your ideas. What are some dual-use car/house products that I didn’t mention? Let’s get creative and help each other get the most out of our car products. Happy cleaning!
We recap the latest season.
The 2014 Mountain Dew ATV Motocross National Championship season has recently hit its thrilling conclusion. The exciting season could be easily summed up by some sage words from reporter Rodney Tomblin: “there’s something a little different in the air this season. Confidence, hope or just plain crazy; I am not sure what it is but it seems very positive.”
The reporter had also predicted some surprises for the season, saying, “Don’t be surprised by the sleepers, late bloomers and those that just feel that switch click and rise to the next level before our very eyes.”
2014 Season Highlights
Two words: Chad Wienen. Wienen just completed a Winning ATVMX Season with his seventh victory at Loretta Lynn’s Finale on August 9, 2014. Congrats Chad!
Check out a few hot shots from the 2014 season:
“Winning in the brutal world of ATV racing requires more than just talent. It takes power, and a lot of it.” So says DirtWheelsMag.com, as it shares the comeback story of Wienen, who suffered from a broken back in a horrific crash in 2011, and who had to deal with being dropped from a major ATV racing team. Read the 2013 article, which says that “Chad Wienen’s 2012 racing season was made up of 50 percent confidence, 50 percent guts and 50 percent pay back.”
“We’ve found a bit of speed over the winter, and I think we’re going to be a real contender for the championship this year.” That’s a direct quote from John Natalie in his March 2014 interview with ATVRiders.com. This article points out that, despite being one of the oldest racers in the Mountain Dew series, Natalie remains one of the top names in the competition. Natalie has ridden consistently and well in the the 2014 Mountain Dew series, finishing second in the first two events.
“I think I’m gonna come out and really push for a podium finish.” ATVRiders.com also interviewed one of the youngest competitors in this series: Joel Hetrick. Having finished fourth in the first event, Hetrick made it to the podium at the second, finishing third behind Wienen and Natalie.
“With his smooth riding style and ability to get of the gate quickly, you can usually count on Josh Upperman to be out front in any given race.” That’s what ATVRiders.com has to say about Upperman. Upperman scored a third place finish in the first event, struggling a bit with a seventh place finish in the second.
Background of the ATV Motocross National Championships
This series began in 1985 and race officials report that rider entries and fan attendance are still climbing. National events are held at top racetracks across the country, with professional licensed drivers competing during the same weekend that amateur racers compete. Overall, national events will include anywhere from 500 to 800 racers from states around the country, as well as from Canada – and sometimes including racers from Europe, Australia or South America.
Stay tuned for more ATV motocross in 2015!
With so many options to choose from, how do you know which brake rotors, pads and/or fluid is best for your vehicle? Step one is to look for guidance in your vehicle’s owner’s manual – and then find more details here.
Function of brake pads
When you push on your car brakes, calipers clamp the brake pads onto the rotors to reduce speed and then stop the vehicle. To do their job effectively, the pads must be able to absorb enough energy and heat. When there is too much wear and or heat, brake pad efficiency is reduced – and so is your stopping power.
Brake pad choices include:
- Ceramic, composed of ceramic materials; sometimes copper fibers
- Semi metallic, composed of steel wool and fibers; sometimes brass or copper
- Organic, composed of glass, rubber and resins
Your brake pads clamp down on the rotors (also called brake discs). The lug nuts hold both the rotors and wheel to the wheel hub. When pressure is applied to the brake rotors, it prevents the wheel from spinning – which means that your brake rotors are as important as the pads when it comes to safety.
You’ll need to make several decisions to choose the best rotors for your vehicle, including:
- Which material is best
- If you want drilled or slotted rotors
- If vented or non-vented rotors are better
- Whether you need a cryogenic treatment for your rotors or not
Most rotors are made from cast iron – more specifically, gray iron – because it disperses heat well, which is important to avoid overheating and brake fade. Meanwhile, racing and other high performance vehicles often use reinforced carbon rotors, similar to those used in airplanes. Carbon rotors need to reach a high temperature before becoming effective so are not good choices for the average car. Other high performance vehicles use ceramic rotors, an innovation first used in British railroad cars. Ceramic rotors are lighter in weight and are stable at high speeds and all temperatures. They are, however, more expensive.
Over time, rotors warp because of heat and usage. If you adjust the warpage through truing, this solves the problem – unless the rotors are too thin, or heat up and warp again. So, your options are to:
- Replace the rotors whenever needed
- Replace the rotors and then have them cryogenically treated
When cryogenically treated, rotors dissipate heat much more effectively and maintain their optimal (non-warped) shape for a longer period of time. This means that they need replaced much less often.
Beware of brake fade
Brake fade (the reduction in stopping power after repeated or sustained usage) occurs most often when you’re carrying a heavy load in your vehicle, traveling down a long steep hill or driving at higher speeds. Brake fade can happen in any vehicle that uses a friction braking system because of a build-up of heat, although drum brakes are more at risk since disc brakes can vent heat away more easily. Brake fade can take place in vehicles with braking systems in overall good condition, although regular maintenance can help to prevent this from happening to you. To avoid bad repercussions from brake fade:
1) When replacing your brakes, choose the highest quality that you can afford.
2) Watch for “green fade,” which happens when the resin applied to brakes by manufacturers begins to evaporate. This can create a period of time (say, the first 100 miles of usage) when you should be extra vigilant about effective braking.
3) When braking, tap your brakes instead of continually applying pressure.
4) Shift into a lower gear when driving downhill, rather than riding your brakes. Shifting to a lower gear tells the engine to maintain a safe speed.
5) Don’t try to go 70-0. Brake gradually over longer distances.
6) If you’ve gone through a period of heavy brake use, keep a longer distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you, just in case.
7) Check your brake fluid regularly and change at least annually.
Choosing the best brake fluid
In the United States, there are four designations of brake fluid that meet the minimum Department of Transportation standards: DOT 3, DOT 4, DOT 5 and DOT 5.1. Each contains a mixture of chemicals with specified dry and wet boiling points. When your brake fluid has just been replaced (with a full bleed), this is called the “dry” boiling point temperature. As water finds its way into the system, the “wet” boiling temperature is the benchmark you should use. Here are more details about brake fluid options, but be sure to purchase one that meets the minimum recommended by your vehicle manufacturer.*
Editor’s note: Trust Advance Auto Parts for the best selection and values in brakes. Buy online, pick up in-store, in 30 minutes.
*Note: Silicone Brake Fluid is not compatible with Anti-Lock braking systems, and should be used only if recommended by the manufacturer. Always consult your owner’s manual first. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure warranties are not voided.
Our resident Gearhead tinkers with the highly anticipated new design of the Ford classic.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, is talking about the new 2015 Ford Mustang. On the one hand, I’m kind of wondering what the fuss is all about. You can still get the sweet 5.0-liter V8 with a manual transmission and more than 420 horsepower, so the apocalypse is definitely not upon us. And although the styling’s longer and leaner, with shades of Aston Martin from the rear three-quarter view, there’s still no doubt about what’s filling your rearview mirror when a 2015 Mustang comes up fast.
But on the other hand, enough has changed about the 2015 Mustang to get a lot of longtime fans worried, and understandably so. Folks are concerned that the soul of the car won’t be the same anymore, having run the twin gauntlets of technological progress and emissions regulations. They want to know that the essential stuff has been preserved. In short, they want the beloved Mustang to ride again, with the same untamed spirit as before.
So I thought to myself, why not do a 2015 Mustang Preview piece? After all, I’m the guy who couldn’t stop talking about how amazing the outgoing Mustang was; I even did a special retrospective piece on the 2014 Mustang GT, concluding that it “might just be considered the best Mustang ever when all’s said and done.” If anyone’s gonna look at the new sixth-generation Mustang with a critical eye, it’s crotchety old me. So let’s do it. Let’s go through a few 2015 Mustang headlines and talk about whether the new ‘Stang has got what it takes to make the faithful proud.
Three Letters: IRS
They stand for “Independent Rear Suspension,” and the 2015 Mustang’s got one for the first time in Mustang history. Yeah, I know, the SVT Cobra had one from 1999-2004, but you know what I mean. This is a big deal. For the first time, every Mustang will have a four-wheel independent suspension. If you don’t like it, hey guy, you’re just gonna have to deal.
Me? Believe it or not, I love it. I always believed that SVT Cobra foreshadowed an IRS across the line for the next generation, and in fact, Ford originally intended just that for the 2005-’14 Mustang. Cost concerns crept in, so they kicked the can down the road. But look, the writing’s been on the wall for a couple decades now. A solid rear axle’s great for the holeshot on a drag strip, but it’s a liability everywhere else — and if you don’t think Ford’s gonna have the 2015 Mustang ready to launch like a champ at the strip, you’re crazy. Otherwise, Mustang people like us will chew up the new ‘Stang and spit it out, and Ford knows it. So we’ll have our holeshots, you can bank on it, and we’ll also have the potential for world-class cornering, even when the pavement’s uneven. That’s what you call progress. I say bring it on.
Two Words: Mustang Turbo
There’ll be plenty of armchair heroes who bag on the new Mustang for offering a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine (with around 310 horsepower, by the way, if the rumors are to be believed). Here’s how you deal with this species: ask them for their thoughts on the Mustang SVO. The SVO, see, was offered from 1984-’86 with, you guessed it, a 2.3-liter four-cylinder turbo engine. Actually, the 2.3 turbo appeared a few years earlier, but you’ll want to focus on the SVO, because it was legit, with up to 205 horsepower and a zero-to-60-mph sprint of 6.8 seconds that was awesome for the day. Point being, there’s a strong precedent for turbocharged four-cylinder Mustang performance; it’s not like Ford’s jumping the shark here. The engine of choice is obviously still the 5.0-liter V8, but don’t dismiss the turbo four — it’ll put down some solid times, in addition to getting the high EPA fuel economy ratings that Ford needs.
One Ford: A Mustang for the Modern World
The “One Ford” mission is to serve all major global markets with the same great products, and the 2015 Mustang is very much on board. For the first time, the Mustang was designed with European and other international customers in mind. That means the interior’s considerably more refined, with improved materials quality and more sports-car intimacy in the cockpit. It means the exterior’s got those Aston Martin affinities I mentioned earlier, though without sacrificing that essential Mustang character.
To me, this is the best of both worlds. The ‘Stang’s still got attitude, so we Americans should be happy. But now it’s got class, too, which makes it an intriguing option for folks who might otherwise get something like a BMW 3 Series. Detractors will complain that the previous Mustang was more “real” somehow, but I’m going to call them out right now. The truth is, the 2015 Mustang is every bit as real as before; it’s just got a few more manners now, and that’s only going to help Ford’s cause in the global marketplace.
Friends, I can’t think of a car this year that’s going to generate more conversation than the 2015 Mustang. What do y’all think about Ford’s new direction here? For or against?
Editor’s note: Got Mustang projects? Advance Auto Parts can help. We’ll get you back to the garage fast—buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.
I love my wife. I love my kids. But I really love working in my garage. It’s the one place in my house that’s truly mine. Some people go to the office on a Saturday morning for peace and quiet. Some go to nature. I go to my garage.
In the movie Old School, Will Ferrell jokes about having a “big” weekend planned – accompanying his new bride to Home Depot and Bed, Bath and Beyond. In another scene, he’s under the hood of “The Red Dragon” – a 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am — removing the restrictor plate, getting his hands dirty, and beaming with pride when his wife remarks how loud it sounds.
Like Mr. Ferrell, given the choice, that’s where I’d rather be — in the driveway or in the garage, under the hood, doing some car maintenance.
Working in my garage is bigger than just me being a home mechanic, fixing something or improving it, even though that’s all it may look like to the casual observer. It’s the sense of satisfaction and well-being I derive through that work, in that place – my garage.
It’s knowing that I helped my neighbor replace the universal joint on his 15-year-old F150 when he got laid off and couldn’t afford to have the work done anywhere else. It’s knowing that my wife’s Town & Country minivan is going to start — even on the coldest mornings — when she turns the key at the crack of dawn and heads off to work. And it’s knowing that this home mechanic can walk into his garage, blindfolded or in the dark, and still put his hands on the tool he needs because everything has a place and is exactly where it should be.
That’s what my garage means to me. That’s why it’s my sanctuary — my very own man cave. I don’t get to spend nearly as much time as I’d like to there, making those few weekend hours I am there doing car maintenance that much more meaningful and important to my mental health.
I don’t spend a lot of time hanging out at my local parts counter. Sure, they’re nice enough and I like to hear about what my fellow home mechanics are working on and trade advice, but instead of sitting on a stool waiting for parts to be delivered or located, I’d rather be back in my garage, getting it done, and feeling good about doing it myself.
That’s one reason I jumped on the online parts ordering bandwagon early on. Ordering online and picking up in-store, or receiving them at my home liberates me from wondering and hoping the parts I want will be in stock and available when I need them. I don’t want to spend what little free time I have on a weekend searching for parts – that’s one aspect of being a home mechanic and tireless DIYer that I don’t like.
That’s also why my garage is well organized. I don’t want to waste time searching for tools when that time could be better spent actually using those tools. The key, I think, is to have a spot for everything, and to label it so you can put it back. Look into wall cabinets, rolling tool cabinets, or tool chests and decide what’s going to work best for you. In addition to being functional, my idea of the ideal garage is also one that looks good. I covered my entire garage floor with these interlocking tiles. Now it’s easier on my feet and knees, looks better, and stays cleaner.
As they say, time flies when you’re having fun. That’s why I’m headed back to the garage, that is, as soon as we get back from Bed, Bath and Beyond. It’s all about balance.
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