Cleveland vs. Detroit: a race to Motor City

1899_Winton

Photo credit: Crawford Auto Aviation Collection at the Western Reserve Historical Society.

Today, the winner is clear: Henry Ford in Detroit, Michigan. But, in the early days of automobile manufacturing, the answer wasn’t so obvious – and, in fact, Alexander Winton and Cleveland, Ohio as the Motor City had the early edge.

A step back in time

In March 1897, Scottish immigrant Alexander Winton incorporated Winton Motor Car Company in Cleveland. In May 1897, Winton’s vehicle surged to new heights as it traveled 33.64 miles per hour around a Cleveland horse track. Even after this dazzling demonstration of power, though, people still doubted the durability of the automobile and Winton needed to find a way to convince them.

Reliability Run #1

A showman at heart, Winton decided to tackle a significant challenge to draw attention to his vehicle. On July 28, 1897, Winton and an employee left Cleveland for New York City, traveling 700 miles to prove the reliability of his vehicle. He arrived safely on August 7, after 78 hours and 43 hours of driving time. He didn’t get as much attention as he’d wanted, which was disappointing, but he stayed focused and created four more custom-built motor cars.

On March 24, 1898, he sold one of his vehicles – which might not sound like a big deal, except it was the first “American-made standard-model gasoline automobile” ever sold. He sold it to Robert Allison of Port Carbon, Pennsylvania for the astonishing sum of $1,000 (nearly $28,000 today) after Allison saw a Winton ad in Scientific American. That year, more than 100 Wintons were sold, making his company the largest manufacturer of gas-powered automobiles in the nation.

Reliability Run #2

On May 22, 1899, Winton began a five-day trip to New York, this time with a journalist who’d worked for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland before fighting in the Spanish American War, a man named Charles Shanks. A newspaper article predicted that “the automobile will doubtless become the most convenient mode of transport during the 20th century. The Plain Dealer is endeavoring to demonstrate the entire feasibility of this mode of locomotion.”

This trip generated the publicity Winton craved and boosted sales, with Winton selling 21 more vehicles during the rest of 1899. As for Shanks, he coined the term “automobile” on this journey, which is his lasting legacy.

Photo credit: Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum.

Photo credit: Crawford Auto Aviation Collection at the Western Reserve Historical Society.

Re-enactment: the 1997 Winton Centennial

In retrospect, it’s hard to imagine what a big adventure these Cleveland-to-New-York trips really were. But, to get somewhat of a sense, Advance Auto Parts talked to journalist Chris Jensen who, in 1997, participated in a re-enactment of the trip. At the time, Chris wrote for the Plain Dealer, the newspaper that sponsored the second reliability run in 1899. He recorded his 1997 adventures in that newspaper as he traveled to New York in an 1899 Winton.

Only three known 1899 Wintons exist today and Chris rode in one now belonging to the Frederick C. Crawford Auto Aviation Collection at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland. The trip was reported in a series of articles in the Plain Dealer. He was the passenger in a vehicle driven by Charles “Charlie” F. Wake, one of Winton’s great-grandsons.

In the re-enactment, 13 other Wintons traveled alongside Chris’s vehicle, the newest being the 1922 model. “This showed how quickly automobiles evolved,” he says, “from the little putt-putt that we were in to Wintons that looked like real cars.”

The wheelbase of the 1899 Winton was only 69 inches, with an overall length of 104 inches. “That makes a Toyota Tercel,” Chris pointed out in an article, “with a 94-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 162 inches seem like a stretch limo.”

The vehicle boasted 8 horsepower and had a one-cylinder, 117-cubic-inch engine that was “banging away and it sounds like the world’s loudest smoker’s cough.”

During the trip, Chris and Charlie were perched up high on the tiny two-seater, on a tufted bench-like seat. Because the top of the vehicle didn’t offer any real protection, the men didn’t use it. “So, there was nothing between me and anything else, including the road,” Chris recalls. “When it rained, I got really, really wet.”

But, there was an upside. “Because we were going at a low speed,” Chris shares with Advance Auto parts, “at 15 to 20 miles per hour, I got to look closely at what was around me instead of zooming past. I got a new appreciation for the hills and how long it took to go both up and down.”

“Going downhill,” he adds, “was pretty interesting because there were basically no brakes. People have asked me, ‘If you were only going 15 miles per hour, what could go wrong?’ and the reality is that, with no real brakes and no seat belts, there is a lot that could go wrong. Picture yourself flying through the air at 15 to 20 miles per hour and crashing into a telephone pole.”

Fortunately, no such accidents happened during the re-enactment. “But,” Chris points out, “we traveled on good roads. Try to imagine people traveling along in mud and rocks and facing other challenges. Plus, the maps weren’t great and it wasn’t always clear, in the 1890s, where you were going. And, if they broke down, who was there to help with repairs?”

Any time the vehicle needed re-started, it needed cranked. “It took a fair amount of effort,” Chris says. “And, as you were driving, you needed to keep pouring oil into it, to keep the car moving along. The oil would drop out onto the ground as you went.” Where the oil was supposed to go: into three troughs that had tubes designed to drip the oil into the transmission, the engine and the differential. The steering happened via a tiller attached to the front wheels, a somewhat scary set-up. As for turning signals, brake lights and headlights, they didn’t exist.

Putting all into perspective

In spite of all of the modern devices that either didn’t yet exist or were sub-standard in the century vehicles from the 1890s and early 20th century, the Winton was the premiere choice of its day, the most powerful, the most technically advanced. Alexander Winton was king of the mountain, with Henry Ford someone whom Winton declined to hire in 1899 when given the chance.

In 1901, when several members of the wealthy Vanderbilt family chose to buy automobiles, they selected Winton vehicles. Winton, flush with his success, built a factory on the west side of Cleveland, at a time when most people building automobiles did so in their personal barns or garages.

Winton began competing in races, with his vehicles usually winning. In 1903, when Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson made the first-ever cross-country drive, he did so in a Winton. When Alice Ramsey became the first woman to drive cross country, she also chose a Winton.

A change is in the air

Although Wintons received praise, one early customer reportedly wasn’t impressed. When James Ward Packard complained about his new vehicle, Winton allegedly challenged him to do better, the result ultimately becoming the Packard automobile company.

Then there was the race of October 10, 1901.

Winton entered this race as the man to beat – with the automobile to beat. It’s unlikely that he worried too much about one of his competitors: Henry Ford. For the most part, Ford was known as the man who’d founded the floundering Detroit Automobile Company on August 5, 1899 – a company that failed on November 20, 1901 after building just 12 vehicles.

However, Winton’s automobile experienced mechanical difficulties at the 8-mile mark of this 10-mile race and Ford passed him up to win. After Ford’s win, people began ponying up for his next venture, the Henry Ford Company (founded on November 3, 1901, apparently in anticipation of the Detroit Automobile Company closing).

The next year, Winton was determined to beat Ford in a race. After all, the 1902 Winton Bullet reached speeds of 70 miles per hour, the unofficial land record. And, yet, Ford’s driver Barney Oldfield won the race – while Ford suffered another loss with the collapse of the Henry Ford Company on August 22, 1902. With funds in part raised from Oldfield’s win, Ford decided to finance a third automobile company: the Ford Motor Company.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - 1968: shows Henry Ford (1863-1947)Henry Ford surges ahead

Although Winton continued to build vehicles until 1924, his business slowly declined while Ford revolutionized manufacturing:

  • In 1908, Ford came out with the affordable “Model T” or “Tin Lizzy” that made automobile buying possible for the middle class
  • In the fall of 1913, Ford began operation of the world’s first moving assembly line for automobiles
  • On January 5, 1914, Ford began paying his workers $5 per day, more than double the previous rate – and more than double what any other automobile company was paying. Job seekers flocked to become part of Ford Motor Company.

Derek E. Moore, the curator of transportation history at the Western Reserve Historical Society, points out that “Cleveland companies continued to manufacture higher quality automobiles, but they were higher priced and, so, a limited market. Therefore, fewer people bought from Cleveland than Detroit.”

As a point of comparison, in 1924:

  • 2 million Fords were manufactured, with prices ranging from $295 ($4,041 in today’s dollars) to $685 ($9,384 in today’s dollars)
  • Winton’s least expensive model cost $2,295 (comparable to $31,438); this is the last year of Winton’s automobile production and we know that, in 1922, he made only 690 vehicles

Interestingly enough, Derek says that Ford built his first assembly plant for the Model T, outside of Detroit, in Cleveland where the Cleveland Institute of Art is currently housed. “Ford would ship components to Cleveland, knowing that it was easier and cheaper to ship parts than fully built automobiles, and then the vehicles could be sold in the Cleveland area.”

You already know the rest of the story. Although Cleveland continued to play a significant role in automobile manufacturing and assembly, the title of Motor City ultimately went to Detroit, with its king named Henry Ford.

Happy 4th from Advance!

Photo by Requel Legaspino.

Photo by Requel Legaspino.

We wish you and yours a safe and happy Fourth of July holiday.

(And, a long weekend chock full of blazing DIY-projects!)

—The Advance Team

Diagnostic Tips When Air Conditioning Isn’t Working

Cool inviting blue waterWhen summertime hits, repairs to your car’s A/C system get moved up the to-do list – fast. Here are some tips to guide you through the diagnostic process, along with information about when to replace the A/C compressor or recharge the A/C system.

Not sure why your air conditioning isn’t working? Try this test first to see if the clutch is engaging the A/C compressor:

• Turn on your A/C and fans to the max setting.
• Is the clutch engaging?

If not, use a voltmeter to see if the compressor is receiving voltage.

• If there is voltage, the clutch may be bad. Replacement of the clutch and/or compressor may be necessary.
• If there is no voltage, there may not be sufficient refrigerant in the system to engage the low pressure cut off switch that cycles the compressor.

If it seems likely that there isn’t enough refrigerant in the system, the typical culprit is a leak. Next steps include:

• Use a manifold gauge to check the high and low side pressures in the system.

Are they set within the recommended ranges provided in your owner’s/repair manual?

• Check the following for a tight and secure fit:

o   Front seal of compressor

o   All system fittings

o   Hose manifolds on compressor

o   All system hose crimps

o   Schrader valves

o   O-rings found on compressor pressure switches

• Use a UV A/C leak detector kit to find leaks, including in the condenser and evaporator.

Man looking at a smoking engine in his carImportant note

If you need to replace your A/C compressor, you will also need to replace your:

• Accumulator and/or dryer
• Expansion device

You will also want to conduct a full flush of the system for optimal performance. Some vehicles also require a replacement of the condenser to eliminate all debris from the A/C system.

Car air conditioning recharging

The EPA provides detailed information about the process and regulations. You can read them in full or use the summary we’ve provided below.

When recharging, there are two main options:

1)   Top off with refrigerant

2)   Empty/evacuate the system and recharge/refill the system

Although each can be effective, they are both temporary fixes if any A/C leaks still exist. And, if you have an older vehicle, what’s leaking is CFC-12 (Freon), an expensive refrigerant that is no longer manufactured in the United States because of concerns about the ozone layer. The cost of replacing CFC-12 will make it more economical, in most cases, to fix any leaks first.

Top-off versus evacuation and recharge

A top-off is cheaper, faster and simpler. However, any impurities in the refrigerant remain unless you choose the recharge process, which involves:

  • Removing any remaining refrigerant
  • Purifying the refrigerant using recycling equipment, recharging it into the vehicle and then topping if off, as necessary

Plus, the recharging allows you to be more precise. When topping off refrigerant, you can determine the optimal amount (say, 2.2 pounds) by looking in your owner’s manual. However, there is no precise way to know how much refrigerant is currently in a vehicle, making topping off an estimate at best. If the A/C system is accidentally overcharged, newer cars usually have a feature that causes the system to shut down in hot weather. With a recharge, you can be precise.

toolsTo find a leak

If only a small amount of refrigerant appears to be left, you will need to add up to a few ounces. If the refrigerant has less pressure than 50 pounds per square inch, the EPA says more refrigerant is needed.  (Note that at least 1 to 1.5 pounds of refrigerant is needed to test cooling capabilities.) The EPA recommends the use of an electronic leak detector that is Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) J1627 certified.

It is possible to have pinpoint-sized leaks that are very difficult to find, even with the best equipment. These tiny leaks cause slow leakage but the A/C system may seem to lose its cooling capabilities virtually all at once. If so, it’s likely that your vehicle has a system that shuts off once refrigerant drops below a certain level.

The EPA does not require that refrigerant be removed and cleaned before car air conditioning recharging takes place. To get more information, call 800-296-1996. The EPA also does not require that leak repairs be done before refrigerant is added, although states and/or localities can require this.

State-level agencies

Here are listings of state-level environmental agencies in alphabetical order. You can search the appropriate agency to find information for your state and/or contact them to ask them a specific question.

Another useful tool is the Gateway to State Resource Locators, where you can narrow your questions down by broad type and then enter your zip code and further filter down the type of information you need.

Streamlined option

If you decide to just add refrigerant, A/C Pro is a solution to consider. With this product, you simply locate the low-pressure connection point and use the A/C Pro gauge to measure the system’s pressure. If low, you can refill by pulling the trigger on the product’s nozzle and monitor pressure via their pressure gauge device, making sure that you don’t overfill. Convenient features include the reusable trigger and the extra-long (24-inch) hose. The product also contains a sealant that helps stop leaks on hoses, gaskets and o-rings.

Editor’s note: Visit Advance Auto Parts for a wide selection of A/C parts and more. Get back to the garage fast—buy online, pick up in-store in just 30 minutes!

Spotlight – The Exotic Car Show 2014

We recount one of the year’s most colorful car shows.

For three days each April, the picturesque town of Celebration, Florida (a master-planned community developed by Disney in 1994) is taken over by melodious exhaust notes produced by some of the finest and most expensive exotic cars sold today.

Photo credit: Taylor Shenuski

Photo credit: Taylor Shenuski.

This exotic car show begins with two track days at Daytona International Speedway, where owners can drive their exotic cars around the 31 degree banks of the world famous Tri-Oval. Several race-prepped cars were on display at the show, which was a treat to see, and hear.

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.

Celebration resident Allen Wong brought his amazing Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 out for the day, which is always a treat for locals and visitors alike.

Photo credit: Taylor Shenuski.

Photo credit: Taylor Shenuski.

Allen’s wasn’t the only 0-60-in-less-than-3-seconds Aventador in attendance. We counted three total with one of the two Verde Fannus/Ithaca (Lamborghini’s way of saying green) Aventadors spitting flames and splitting eardrums down Celebration’s otherwise quiet Front St.

Photo credit: Taylor Shenuski.

Photo credit: Taylor Shenuski.

Movie cars and more

One of the ways that Celebration Exotic Car Festival sets itself apart from similar exotic car shows is via the inclusion of rare and one-of-a-kind movie cars.

Participants this year included the Lamborghini Countach from The Cannonball Run, the Lamborghini Diablo from Dumb and Dumber (both Lambos are owned by event organizer Jeff Ippoliti), a Back to the Future DeLorean and, new this year, a shredder drone from the Battleship.

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.

Members of the Rebel Alliance were also in attendance, presumably reviewing plans for Project: Orange Harvest, the code name for the Star Wars-themed land coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

As you can see, they didn’t show up empty handed. Luke’s Landspeeder easily qualifies as exotic!

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.

Making a difference with Make-a-Wish

The Celebration Exotic Car show is organized by brothers Jeff and Jim Ippoliti and is run by volunteers with 100% of net proceeds benefiting children’s charities.

Since 2004, the Celebration Exotic Car Festival has donated over $1,000,000 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Special Olympics, Champions for Children, Give Kids the World, Forty Carrots Family Center and the Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital.

The festival also contributes to Parkinson’s research via contributions made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

What are your favorite exotic or movie cars? Let us know in the comments below.

Editor’s note: Even if your ride is not as pretty as some of the exotic beauties here, you’ll still find all the best in parts, tools and accessories at Advance Auto Parts. Buy online, pick up in-store, in 30 minutes.

Does Dad like cars? Don’t let him miss this road trip!

Ford Model TGrab Dad and head out to Motor Muster this weekend for Father’s Day!

With winter in the rearview, it’s time to get behind the wheel and just drive! So, put June 14-15 on your calendar and “Dearborn, Michigan” in your GPS, and head for the Motor Muster event at Greenfield Village:

“Gearheads, diehard car lovers, auto geeks—this is your weekend at Greenfield Village.

Make your way to a vintage auto enthusiast’s dream destination: From glamorous classics of the 1930s to brawny muscle cars of the 1970s, Greenfield Village hosts more than 500 gleaming examples.

Motor Muster celebrates one of the grandest and most innovative eras of American automotive history—1933-1976. For the entire weekend, the streets and lawns of Greenfield Village will be filled with hundreds of classic cars, vintage trucks, motorcycles, military vehicles, bicycles—even a fire engine or two. They’ll all be here, from brawny muscle cars to the straight-out-of-the-showroom cars you and your parents grew up with. Stroll the grounds and meet the owners who lavish attention on these wonders of rolling history. There’s the Saturday night cruise, too, and a live early 1960s dance show with dancing in the streets ’til 9pm. A one-of-a-kind event for cars and the people who love them.”

Don’t leave Greenfield Village without visiting Thomas Edison’s laboratory or the bicycle shop where the Wright Brothers invented the airplane. Both of these buildings were taken apart and brought to Greenfield Village where they were reconstructed.

While you’re there

Adjacent to Greenfield Village is the Henry Ford Museum, which is the home of Driving America: the World’s Premier Automotive Exhibition. Historic vehicles in this exhibition range from Henry Ford’s first vehicle (the 1896 Quadricycle) to the limousine that President John F. Kennedy rode when he was assassinated. The museum contains touchscreens throughout so you can discover more about the vehicles, a smart card so you can “compile and transfer your own digital collection for online viewing later” and a test that determines the best car for your personality.The Henry Ford

From May 17-August 17, you can see a special exhibit on loan from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, titled “Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power.” The Henry Ford Museum is also planning a $15 million exhibit, called Racing in America, and you can discover more about this grassroots effort. The museum is also the departure point for the Ford Rouge Factory tour, a 1917 factory that at one time employed 100,000 workers.

Located next door to the Henry Ford Museum is the Automotive Hall of Fame, where people who have contributed to the industry are honored. You’ll also see a 65-long mural of historic auto-related people and moments, a full-sized replica of the first gasoline-powered car and more.

Drive a dozen more miles

And you’ll find yourself in Detroit, at the original Ford assembly plant, now known as the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant National Historic Landmark. You can tour this 1904 factory where Henry Ford designed the Model T and built the first 12,000 of the Tin Lizzies before the advent of Ford’s moving assembly line. You can see early Ford vehicles, as well.

Greenfield VillageWhen this plant first opened, it took workers 12 hours to build one car, which sold for $850. By the time this plant closed (replaced by the much larger and more well-known Highland Park Model T plant, where 12 million Tin Lizzies were built), assembly time plunged to 12 minutes and, the cost, to $260. Work days dropped at Ford from ten hours to eight hours and wages skyrocketed from 30 cents an hour to $5 a day.

If you find yourself on I-94 while in Detroit, near the Metro Airport, you’ll probably notice the Uniroyal Giant Tire that was originally created as a Ferris wheel attraction for the World Fair, held in New York in 1964 and 1965. Ninety-six people could fit into the wheel at the fair and it needed a 100-horsepower motor to operate. Altogether, more than one million people rode in this tire before it became a stationary landmark. In 1994, neon lighting was added to the tire, along with a new hubcap. In 2003, Uniroyal invested an incredible $1 million to renovate its well-known landmark.

What would you recommend for a Dearborn/Detroit road trip? Leave your recommendations in the comments below.

Editor’s note: Dad, if you’re reading this, it’s time to drop some serious hints! Advance Auto Parts can help with great deals on premium parts, tools, accessories and more. Buy online, pick up in store–in 30 minutes!

People and Their Cars video

Car videoHere at the DIY Garage, we revel in finding and sharing cool car content. Check out this informative video that showcases some telling stats on America’s enduring love for its automobiles.

 

Check it out:

 

According to CJ Pony Parts, who created the video:

The average American driver spends 600 hours per year behind the wheel. That’s a significant chunk of our lives – in total, we’ll spend 5 years driving in our lifetimes – and it has caused many of us to grow emotionally attached to these vehicles. Cars do more than just get us from point A to point B; they get us there safely, sometimes in style, and we get to know all of their little quirks and features.

Because of this, a quarter of us name our cars, and even if we don’t actually attach a name to the vehicle we drive, 40% of us attach a personality to it. We even assign our cars a gender – 32% of the cars on the road are “female,” while 16% are “male.”

Maybe this affection towards the vehicles we drive explains why we spend so much money on them. We spend, on average, 14.5% of our income on car parts and service, and that doesn’t include the $1560 we spend per year on fuel. Still, for a means of transportation that will take us 798,000 miles over the course of a lifetime.

DVD review: car racing documentary Weekend of a Champion

Car FilmThe lost Roman Polanski classic finds a whole new audience.

It’s tempting to give Roman Polanski all the credit for the utterly engrossing release of Weekend of a Champion, a new re-cut version of his 1972 film chronicling Formula One legend Jackie Stewart’s victory at the 1971 Monaco Grand Prix. But there’s more at work here than just a great director’s hand.

The dark, grainy picture quality — par for the course at the time — imbues every scene with the gravity of nostalgia, even when Stewart is simply explaining the art of high-speed cornering over breakfast in his hotel room, clad only in a pair of briefs. That’s an advantage Polanski’s film didn’t have when it debuted at the 1972 Berlin Film Festival. Incidentally, it’s also why we are all kicking ourselves for not having thought of Instagram.

Still, there are undoubtedly strokes of artistic genius in this Weekend of a Champion, out this week on DVD with its touching new epilogue in which the now-seventysomething director and subject, friends for most of their lives, offer their reflections.

One is the way in which Polanski, a motorsports enthusiast who lacks expert knowledge, inserts himself into the narrative. As Stewart talks about car control while clad only in his underwear, it’s Polanski himself who’s across the breakfast table, standing in for the audience as a sponge for Stewart’s vast insight. Earlier, the two men park themselves at a curbside location on the iconic Monaco circuit, watching other racers take practice laps while Stewart informs a rapt Polanski what they should be doing, and where they’re coming up short.

Polanski is the perfect foil for his chatty and endearingly at-ease friend, at once naive about the finer points of racing and immensely wise about what it takes to tell a good story. Had he shot the film as a traditional documentary, remaining behind the camera at all times, it would have been a considerably less engaging affair.

Another Polanski signature is his artist’s eye for detail. For instance, as Stewart sits in his car in pit lane, preparing to go out for a practice lap, the camera lingers on the driver’s feet while he works the three pedals like a surgeon with his tools — clutch in, clutch out, now right toe on the brake, heel on the gas, left foot clutching simultaneously. This is a technique known as “heel-and-toe downshifting,” and it’s a lost art today now that automatic transmissions rule the Formula One roost. But in the moment, Polanski knew enough to know that this little dress-rehearsal highlighted a crucial element of championship racing. Without it, one loses precious time in each corner; it was one of many highly refined skills that a racecar driver in 1971 had to master in order to stand a chance.Car Film 2

Most filmmakers would have focused on Stewart himself, or perhaps his pit crew as they prepared the car, but Polanski knew there was more taking place in front of him that mattered. And he found it. Beyond its instant credibility as the work of a legendary director, Weekend of a Champion makes for surprisingly modern entertainment. With its hand-held camerawork and ad hoc exchanges, the film comes across as a precursor of sorts to reality TV. But unlike that fundamentally contrived medium, Champion provides a fascinating window into a long-lost era of relative authenticity, one in which world-class athletes weren’t yet separated from us by layers of management and years of coddling.

Jackie Stewart was doubtless a global superstar, but in Polanski’s portrayal, at least, he is also eminently likeable and down-to-earth, a humble Scottish chap with the wry perspective of someone who knows how blessed he is to be here. We, too, are blessed for being exposed to this work more than 40 years after the fact.

The early ’70s may have been “very trendy,” as the two men agree in the epilogue, but here they also serve as an interesting counterpoint to the cynicism that dominates our age. There’s something to be said for approaching the world with a sense of wonderment and possibility; with Polanski and Stewart as messengers, one can’t help but watch and listen closely.

Weekend of a Champion is available on DVD and Blu-ray courtesy of MPI Media.

Check out a clip:

It’s coming…Google’s driverless car

Google driverless car

Photo credit: John Green

If you’re a Sci-fi fan, the concept of the driverless car is nothing new. But, seeing it actually happen in real-time is a completely different thing.

It turns out that Google’s driverless vehicles have now logged close to 700,000 miles in autonomous driving. That’s nothing to sneeze at, and has probably saved the company at least a few thousand dollars in coffee and caffeine pills alone. But there are many other potential benefits to be had.

Mercury News reporter Gary Richards had this to say about his recent test drive:

“Google’s grand experiment picked me up at home in West San Jose and ferried me to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. Later other cars took me and numerous other media types on a 25-minute tour of city streets.

There were two Google workers along for each trip, but for the most part, there were no hands on the steering wheel.

Got that? No hands. The car made a few abrupt moves into left-turn lanes. And once it shuddered at another turn when a nearby bus seemed to confuse the onboard computers.”

Safety is a primary concern and selling point of the vehicles. “We actually haven’t had any at-fault accidents while the car is in self-driving mode,” said Google spokeswoman Katelin Jabbari. “The only at-fault accident was caused while a driver was in control.”

To tackle that, Google has packed these vehicles with $150K in specialized equipment, which includes a radar system with a price tag of $70K alone. All these gadgets enable the car to generate a 3-D map of its surroundings and can detect other vehicles, pedestrians and other things that lay in its path.

Per that, we still don’t know how much these cars are going to cost, but one can imagine. Stay tuned for more on that aspect.

For now, check out Gary Richards’ full review.

 

 

The Cost of Car Ownership Declines, says AAA

Car ownershipIt’s music to our ears over here at Advance HQ.

But is it true that owning and operating your car has gotten cheaper? So says a new AAA study.

 AAA released the results of its annual Your Driving Costs study today, revealing a 2.7 percent decrease in the cost to own and operate a sedan in the U.S. The average cost fell 1.64 cents to 59.2 cents per mile, or $8,876 per year, based upon 15,000 miles of annual driving.

“Despite increases in maintenance and registration fees, American motorists are experiencing an overall decrease in the cost to own and operate a vehicle,” said John Nielsen, AAA Managing Director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “A large decrease in fuel costs, [plus] lower tire, insurance and depreciation expenses are saving owners more than one and a half cents on every mile they drive.”

Here at AAP HQ, we wondered about the fuel costs part of it…do they really seem lower? It turns out that while gas prices haven’t actually tanked, overall they are less than they were in last year’s study, says AAA. Per that, we’ll take what we can get.

The study covers aspects such as fuel, maintenance, tires, insurance and more. You can read more about the study and download the 2014 Your Driving Costs brochure, courtesy of AAA.

And, don’t miss out on great tips for saving gas that you can easily put in place before hitting the road this summer.

 

Car news from around the web: Quirky Futuristic Cars

Euronews offers up a video of some of the wildest car designs found at the Geneva Motor Show 2014:

In just 2:31, you’ll see:

  • Wazuma GT, a motorbike/car/Batmobile mixture with a “Jaguar 4.0 litre supercharged V8 engine [that] achieves 375 horsepower and 387 pound-feet of torque.”
  • Fleche Rouge (Red Arrow), a car designed like an airplane; “700 kilograms of this red racer runs on a 4 cylinder 1.6 litre engine,” the same as the Citroen DS3.
  • Toyota’s FV2, where drivers lean forward to move the vehicle forward, lean back to reverse and steer by moving the vehicle side by side. If car color matters to you, check out another unique feature.
  • Nissan’s Black Glider, inspired by the ZEOD RC Le Mans racer, gives out zero emissions from twin on-board motors.
  • Volkswagen’s XL1, the most fuel efficient car on the planet at 313 miles per gallon, produces only 24g/km of CO2 emissions, which Volkswagen touts as a new benchmark.
  • Mansory’s car modification that boasts 0-to-100 in 4.4 seconds.

How to flip cars real good

If you’re a fan of car chase movies, you’ll want to read Car and Driver’s The Inside Story of the Academy Award–Winning Car Inversion Device, Or: How to Flip Cars Real Good. The article shares how 11-time Oscar nominee and one-time winner John Frazier practices the “mad science of movie mayhem” in an area that’s “filled with pick-a-part junkyards, ticky-tack indoor swap meets, and manufacturing businesses better off being ignored by OSHA.”

Frazier pneumatically flips cars up to 20 feet in altitude with “as much acrobatic spectacle as possible without necessarily modifying the car.” He has about two dozen car flippers that he rents out for $200 a day (one week minimum), not counting the cost of union labor required to operate the devices.

Transformation of cool cars

If you’re a fan of any of these movies, shows or cars:

  • Back to the Future’s Delorean
  • ·       Ghostbuster’s Ecto-1
  • ·       Herbie
  • ·       Scooby Doo’s Mystery Machine
  • ·       The Partridge Family bus
  • ·       Ninja Mutant Turtle’s Party Wagon

then be sure to check out how Canadian illustrator Darren Rawlings turns these pop culture icons into Transformer Autobots in Mashable’s If Pop Culture’s Coolest Cars Were ‘Transformers.’

Good luck with THAT

No matter how many contests exist, there’s always room for another good one. Here, site visitors got to vote on the greatest road sign of all-time. The first place winner, one that shows a convoluted, virtually impossible-to-understand roadway graphic with the words “Good Luck” written below, received 30% of the votes (fourth photo if you scroll down).

The second place winner received almost 20% of the votes: Left Turn Under the Following 26 Conditions (tenth photo), and the third place winner, “No Outlet,” received 17% of the votes (first photo).

They’re all worth a look. Each winner received no prize “other than the obvious bragging rights associated with finding the most mind-boggling sign known to man … or at least out of the signs found this time around.”

Horseless e-Carriage coming to the Big Apple

For more than 100 years, couples visiting New York City have enjoyed romantic rides in a horse and carriage–but that may be coming to an end because of congestion issues and concerns about the horses. If so, the replacement may be an electric carriage with old-fashioned styling.

This vehicle seats eight and can reach 30 miles per hour, traveling about 100 miles before needing recharged.

What’s the quirkiest or weirdest car you’ve ever driven or seen? Let us know!

Editor’s note: Whether your ride’s from a salvage yard or a Sci-Fi flick, Advance Auto Parts has you covered, with a wide range of quality auto parts, tools and accessories. Buy online, pick up in store.