Sadly, Paul Walker is gone, and much too soon. We salute the man for his contributions in bringing car culture to the masses via his Fast and Furious films, as well as the generosity displayed through his charitable efforts.
True to form, Walker was helping others right up until the end, attending a “Charity Toy Drive & Automotive Social Gathering” to benefit survivors of the recent typhoon in the Philippines on the afternoon of his death, according to CNN.
Walker wasn’t just a fan of hot cars on screen–where he was usually seen driving an import such as a Mitsubishi Evo, Nissan Skyline GT-R or Toyota Supra–but loved cars off screen as well, competing in the Redline Time Attack racing series. At this point in his life, he was in the middle of filming the seventh Fast and Furious installment, and presumably doing what he loved to do best.
Paul Walker’s family has asked that he be remembered best with donations to the charity he founded and loved – Reach Out Worldwide. Universal Pictures has also announced that a portion of the proceeds from the home video release of Fast and Furious 6 will go to Walker’s charity.
Photo courtesy of FOX.
There’s something extra-special about this time of year…the frosty weather, the sumptuous food, the gifts, parties and special visits with family and friends.
But for car enthusiasts, it’s all about the LA Auto Show and its bounty of drool-inducing new rides.
The 2013 LA Auto Show went out with a turbo-charged roar this past weekend. Here you’ll find a few hot items that literally gave us goosebumps. (Double click pictures for larger views.)
Cadillac CTS-V wagon on its farewell tour. 6.2-liter supercharged V8, 556 horsepower. We’ll miss you, old fella.
Mercedes-Benz AMG Vision Gran Turismo Concept. Not coming soon to a dealer near you, but it’s easily the most exciting design we’ve seen from Mercedes in years.
The 2015 Jaguar F-Type R coupe rocks a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 that cranks out 550 horsepower, but forget about that–just look at the body on this thing!
This is the Youabian Puma. Designed by an Angeleno named Dr. K. Youabian and built right here in LA, the Puma is a four-seat convertible with 44-inch tires, a power hardtop and a 505-horsepower V8 from the Corvette Z06. It’s also 20 feet long, and apparently you can drive it on the street. Check out Puma Automobiles for more.
Meet the Galpin Ford GTR1, another new face at the 2013 LA Auto Show. Based on the short-lived Ford GT supercar, the GTR1′s got a twin-turbo 5.4-liter V8 (the regular GT was supercharged) with–not a typo–1024 horsepower. That’s good for 0-100 mph in 6.8 seconds and a theoretical top speed of 225 mph. The transmission is a dual-clutch automated manual. The price? If you have to ask…
Bugatti Veyron sighting! Someone commuted here in that. You never know what you’re going to find in the LA Auto Show parking lot! (Notice how it’s not even parked correctly in the spot!)
Well, that’s it for this year—we look forward to a 2014 full of hot new cars to get excited about. And, while your salivating over this latest clutch of concepts and new releases, always ensure that your current ride is up to snuff. Advance Auto Parts can help, with great deals on parts, tools, accessories and more. Buy online, pick up in store.
Looking to read the life story of your tires? Well, to a degree, you can. Each car tire reveals its uses and specs through a code that consists of numbers and letters, a code that is usually found in the tire sidewall. But, because the code is constantly changing to provide more information, it may look like a hodgepodge that’s as clear as an obscure foreign language.
Fortunately, with a little help, anyone can understand what’s written on their tires. And, once you do, it can make all the difference in what you purchase and how you use the tires.
To start, the majority of tires are given a measurement from the ISO metric sizing system.
Discover what an ISO metric tire marking can tell you:
Starting with the ISO code, you will often find a letter(s) on the tire that tells you if the tires are intended for a:
- P: standard passenger car
- LT: a light truck
- ST: special trailer
If you see the letter “T,” it stands for “temporary” and is often written on spare tires and other emergency tire types.
You will also sometimes see a 3-digit number, which provides the tire’s nominal section width. This is usually measured and marked in millimeters, from the widest point of both outer edges.
The aspect ratio is also listed on the tire’s sidewall, and this is usually a two- or three-digit number that is written as a percentage. If this is not listed on your tire, then your tire’s aspect ratio is the standard 82%, which means that the sidewall height is 82% of its width. Any other measurement will be marked.
Finally, there will sometimes be a letter on the tire that tells you what the fabric of the tire is constructed of:
- B is for bias belt, which is great for a rough ride.
- D is for diagonal.
- R is for radial. Radial is one of the most prolific tire materials on the market.
- If there is no letter marking, then you likely have a cross ply tire.
The load index is a tire marking that denotes how much a tire can carry. For example:
- A code of 60 means a tire can carry up to 550 pounds.
- The highest code is 125, which can carry approximately 3,600 pounds per tire.
Finally, once you know the load index number of your tire, you can begin to pay attention to its speed rating. This tells you how fast you can go based upon your specified load index. So:
- Code A1 means that you can go 3 mph at the specified load index.
- This goes up to code Y, which allows you to travel up to 186 mph.
These are the basics of how to read tire markings. They are important to know when you’re shopping for replacement tires or just need to be educated on what your car can do.
Editor’s note: Shop Advance Auto Parts for a wide variety of tire gauges, tire repair tools, accessories and more. Buy online, pick up in store.
Graphic courtesy of Consumer Reports.
Cheers to you and yours.
Editor • DIY’er
Graphic courtesy of Boston Magazine.
When you need auto repair advice, you may have been told to consult with someone with ASE certification–and that’s a great suggestion. Here, you’ll find more information about what ASE certifications really mean for you.
ASE is an abbreviation for the independent non-profit agency National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. The agency focuses on improving the level of vehicle repair and service quality by testing and certifying professionals.
Each ASE test focuses on practical skills; about 1/3 of test takers do not pass on the first round, which is a testament to the depth of the tests. Once an automotive professional does pass a test (there are 40 tests available, grouped by specialties) and shows proof of two years of relevant work experience, then he/she can be certified. Tests must be retaken every five years to maintain certification.
Those who receive certification can wear and display the blue-and-white ASE logo. This demonstrates their knowledge of and commitment to the auto repair industry.
Advance Auto Parts Team Members: ASE Certifications
Let’s face it. Vehicle systems are becoming increasingly more advanced and auto technology is constantly changing and improving. When you stop by an auto parts store, it may not be immediately obvious which parts and tools you need to get the job done right. When you need guidance, you’ll want to ask someone knowledgeable in the latest car technology news.
Most Advance Auto Parts stores have ASE Certified Team Members ready to help you choose the best parts for your project and to talk you through the repair process. Find the Advance Auto Parts store closest to you.
Editor’s note: Be sure to also check out the many videos and articles available on our site to help you prepare for the repair you’re about to take on.
In honor of Go for a Ride Day, held annually on November 22, Advance Auto Parts presents “Braking for Fish.” To preserve our sanity and good health, we researched this story while it was still warm outside.
“For some reason,” Herb de la Porte from Elyria, Ohio wrote in a July 2013 YouTube description, “not too many folks ventured out on [Grand] Lake St. Marys Saturday.” If you click on this 16-second video link, you’ll quickly see why. “Needless to say,” the description continues, “the roof was up and so were the windows. We still got soaked and the bilge pumps worked pretty hard.”
This video was shot from inside of Herb’s 1962 Amphicar 770, an amphibious vehicle built in Berlin, Germany. The Amphicar Corporation was originally funded by the German government and had ties with other German car manufacturers such as Borgward, Mercedes and BMW. The initial plan was to create 20,000 cars annually and targeted the North American market. The model number of “770” indicates that the vehicle can move 7 miles per hour in water and 70 miles per hour on land.
Herb bought his used Amphicar five years ago, with a price “in the mid-20s,” and he takes it out about half a dozen times a year, driving it for a couple of days each time; he then needs to remove the wheels and clean the brakes.
Nuts and bolts
The Amphicar 770 is a compact convertible with the following:
- 43 horsepower
- 4 cylinder engine in the rear; 1.2 liter Triumph Herald motor
- Custom 4-speed Hermes transmission, with the transmission driving the rear wheels through its one-of-a-kind land/water gearbox
- Braking and suspension systems that were sourced from Mercedes
- A Porsche transaxle
- 12-volt Lucas battery
- The highest rear fins of any car, about an inch higher than a 1959 Cadillac
- Steel body; the steel is thicker than on a typical car, with continuous welds
- Rubber strips in the doors that seal them as tightly as refrigerator doors
- Front wheels that serve as rudders/steer in the water
- Marine lights
- Bilge pumps
- A second gear that controls the two 12-inch propellers, both forward and back
To drive an Amphicar 770, an owner must get two licenses: one for land and the other for water.
History of amphibious vehicles
The advent of World War II provided the impetus for “making cars that can swim,” according to Popular Mechanics. Here are two examples:
- VW Schwimmwagen: this vehicle was crafted by the inventor of the VW Beetle, Ferdinand Porsche, for the German army. He’d made a larger version in 1941 and then scaled the vehicle down to create the VW Schwimmwagen. The vehicle was powered, according to the magazine, “by a 1.2-liter air-cooled flat four, which also drove a single propeller.” Front wheels served as rudders in water and, on land, the propeller swung up and disengaged from the engine.
- U.S. Army DUKW: Built by GM and nicknamed “Duck,” the United States military created this vehicle in 1942 to carry 5,000 pounds or 25 soldiers, with the ability to go 50 mph on land and 5 in water. George Patton used 1,000 of these vehicles when he landed in Sicily; 2,000 were used in the D-Day landing in France in 1944.
Then, Amphicars were manufactured in Germany from 1961-1967, the only mass produced non-military amphibious vehicle to date; somewhere between 3,700 to 4,500 of these beauties were built (estimates vary by source), with the great majority of them sent to North America (between 3,000-3,700 vehicles). The company invested $5 million in creating these watertight vehicles; the cost to purchase one was $2,900, at a time when a new Corvette cost just $3,400.
By 1968, new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations made the manufacturing of an Amphicar too expensive, so the company stopped producing them. With today’s regulatory environment, it’s hard to imagine another mass produced amphibious car entering the market (but, never say never?).
It is believed that approximately 500 of the Amphicar 770 are still operational; 7 have been identified in the United Kingdom and 80 throughout the rest of Europe, so most are likely to still be in North America.
As a lighter note (we think!), rumor has it that U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson used to enjoy scaring visitors by driving his Amphicar into a lake while pretending that his brakes had given out.
We need to go for a ride!
By now, some of us at Advance Auto Parts were curious enough about amphibious vehicles to ask for a ride in Herb’s Amphicar–and he graciously agreed, warning us that the vehicle “rides like a boat on land and like a car in the water.”
Meeting him at the Black River Wharf in the Cleveland area (Lorain, Ohio), we were amazed by the number of people who pulled out their cameras to take a picture as the vehicle made its way to the Black River, which is a tributary of Lake Erie. At the river’s edge, we were greeted by Rudy, the guard dog/adorable basset hound who lives in the bait shop–plus Gus, the friendly neighborhood goose. We were told that Rudy and Gus always get along–that is, until Gus steals some dog food, and then the fur and feathers fly.
After being welcomed by people and creatures alike, Herb drove the Amphicar down a ramp and into the river. Although we got splashed when the vehicle initially hit the water, we otherwise stayed dry, thanks to better weather than when Herb visited Grand Lake St. Marys. All in all, the time in the water felt like an amusement park water ride, bumpy but not scary.
Don’t try this at home
When asked about his craziest Amphicar ride to date, Herb immediately knew which story to share. It started out as a relaxing water ride with his wife, Sheila. But. When Herb decided to head up to land via a sand bar, Sheila had this to say: “Herb, this sounds like a really bad idea.”
“No it isn’t, dear,” Herb responded. “You just need to trust me.”
The conversation continued along in that vein, with Sheila worried and Herb certain that they’d be just fine–until, that is, they got stuck. “Easy fix,” Herb reassured Sheila as he put the car in reverse, intending to get back into the water. But, he forgot to put his propellers in reverse and all he really got was even more stuck. The next time he tried to move the vehicle, the shaft got entangled in the sand and the propeller fell off. So, he got was stuck even further, half in the water and half in the mucky, yucky sand. Soon, they began to sink, until water nearly reached the vehicle’s windows.
Seeing a need to revise his plan, Herb got out of the car and intended to call for help, until his wife realized that their cell phone was gone, probably lost in the lake. “By this time,” Herb says, “it was dark and desolate, and we were dripping wet. So we started walking, looking for a place where people might let us use their phone. Along the way, my wife kept repeating her original objections to my idea about driving up the sand bar, but in words that I won’t use right now.”
When the couple finally reached a well-lit building, it wasn’t the type of establishment to visit with a lady, but it had a phone, so they went inside. And, the first call Herb made from the bar’s phone was for coworkers to come get his wife. After that, he and a friend returned to the beach and tried to dig his car out of the sludge, but they failed.
Giving up for the night, Herb returned the next morning with a group of volunteers, and one of them noticed a backhoe being used to redo a nearby lawn. Renting the backhoe from the homeowners, they dug a path from the lake’s edge to the nearest road and the people living in the area helped Herb to get his car to dry land, using four wheelers as needed. “After that,” Herb says with a sigh, “my wife has been more pensive and less trusting of me whenever we get in the Amphicar. Go figure.”
On the other side of the pond
The love of amphibious vehicles is felt and shown in many places around the globe. In fact, Englishman Doug Hilton has created a website, Land, Air and Sea, to showcase his proposed museum that will be specifically dedicated to dual-purpose vehicles, including but not limited to the Amphicar.
He describes the vision of his future museum as follows: “This is a collection of mechanical ambition, enthusiasm and aspiration and about the importance of having a go, not just about preserving history. We aim to show that individuals can dare to follow their dreams, to be different, to reach out and create things and then to pass on the torch of inspiration to others. If things do not perform as well in the end as one hoped, then have another go or use the knowledge gained elsewhere. As Taylor, the inventor of the Aerocar of the 1950s is reported to have said, ‘if it weren’t for us nuts, you’d still be reading by candlelight and wearing button shoes.’”
Just a few of the items collected by Doug for eventual exhibition include a fold away float plane, amphibious bicycles, “one of the amazing Rokon go anywhere off road motorcycles from the US” and a swamp crawler. The latter was created when an agricultural machine dealer put together the following pieces and parts, among others:
- Old Land Rover wheels mounted on steel rods
- Tracks from an old excavator
- Sprocket drives to add to the end of the excavator
- Hydraulic parts from an old air compressor
- 60 year old Morris Minor car engine
This vehicle worked well, both on land and in swamps, but then sat in a barn for 10 years before Doug rescued it for his museum.
When asked how his plan for a museum is progressing, the good news is that he has “one of everything I need now for the museum that can be reasonably stored in shipping containers and barns around the country, and many more items that people want to loan if we need them.” What’s still missing, then? “Premises, time and cash are the only missing ingredients,” Doug says. “Still bags of enthusiasm, though, and lots of exciting projects and interesting people always buzzing around.”
He notes that many of his exhibits have come from the United States, rather than from his country of England or elsewhere in Europe. Why? He believes it’s because the US allows “backyard mechanics” to have the “mental freedom of improvisation and creation.”
Doug enjoys writing about what he discovers, particularly looking for stories about “the human endeavor in the making of a machine, because this puts creative invention across to people as a living story . . . and most of these simple, crazy and fun looking machines cover some very complicated technical, mechanical, lifestyle and endeavor issues.”
Another example of “don’t try this at home”
On November 6, 2006, Doug and Adam Solomon climbed into an amphibious car built in the United Kingdom, the Dutton. Next to them, Tim Dutton, creator of the Dutton, climbed into another of his amphibious cars. Their goal was to cross the English Channel in these vehicles, starting in England and ending up in France. This had never been accomplished in civilian amphibious vehicles and the purpose of the crossing was to draw attention to a wildlife cause (involving geese) that is close to Doug’s heart. He therefore had Percy, a plastic goose, attached to his vehicle so Percy could “fly” alongside him on his adventure.
To call this an ambitious undertaking is an understatement. The narrowest portion of the English Channel is approximately 20 miles wide; this area is known as the Strait of Dover in England and as the Pas de Calais in France. The depth of this waterway ranges from 120 to 180 feet, with strong winds a constant possibility.
To avoid the worst of the weather-related challenges, the men chose a calm time in August to attempt the crossing. As luck would have it, though, “last minute intermittent electrical problems” took place–and then the weather turned bad, causing a lengthy delay. Waves were choppy and the wind was going against tide, a combination that contributes to making the English Channel one of the most unpredictable sea places on the planet.
For three long months, the men “sat glued to the daily forecasts” until, finally, a 24-hour “weather eye appeared.” It was now wintry, with fewer hours of daylight to assist in this endeavor. And, just when Doug, Adam and Tim thought all was a go, the men struggled with getting appropriate permissions; for liability reasons, they ultimately needed to sign a £5 million GBP indemnity and listen to a health and safety presentation before launching.
Finally at 10 a.m. on November 6, the quest was on! “Both cars,” wrote Doug, “slid gracefully into the water from the narrow slipway and the raucous clatter of the engine rose.” Once they began to travel, though, they quickly discovered why officials had been so dubious about their plan. The men found themselves surrounded by turbulent waves, “with the cars rearing, rolling and pitching, regularly disappearing from each other’s view.” A new wave hit them every few seconds and all they could do was hang on, especially since their water-soaked CB radio had already hissed and died, and their glasses were horribly smeared by salt water.
These conditions lasted for the first two miles of their journey before the weather somewhat calmed down. Here is more detail: “wave chop had finally reduced to about 60cm [2 feet], with regular swells of twice this but it felt like a cruise compared to what had gone before.” Another crisis occurred when the emergency tow rope in Tim’s car was torn loose by the waves and had wrapped itself around his front wheel. They needed to prevent the rope from going through the propeller, so they stopped and spent 15 chilly, nerve-wracking minutes on this repair.
When the men finally reached Calais in France, it was pitch dark–and seven long hours and nine long minutes after they’d left England’s dry shore. Two loyal friends were waiting on the shore to cheer them on as the men climbed up on land; soon afterwards, a small crowd of people came by to see what the heck was going on–which was the first successful crossing of the English Channel by amphibious vehicles.
Whenever someone asks Doug if he intends to repeat this experience, he says that, “Once was enough.” He says that plenty of people have offered to pay him money to take them across the English Channel in an amphibious vehicle, “but, to me, there is no point. I already did it.”
Now that he can look at his trip in hindsight, he tells Advance Auto Parts the following: “Like so many things, it was a challenge at the time. But, when these types of things are done, it feels almost as if it was someone else that did it, and only memories and photos remain.”
He admits that numerous people tried to talk him out of this trip, including his wife, “who really thought all was lost, but I didn’t see it that way, then or now.”
The appeal of the amphibious
Clearly, the pull of the amphibious is strong for people like Herb and Doug. Wanting to know why, we asked the question; and we found out that driving or riding in an amphibious vehicle is, according to Doug, “a really weird experience, and the transition between water and road–and road and water–never fails to bring a smile onto my face even when the sky is grey.” After you ride in one, he shares, “you are left with a nagging feeling that something highly unusual happened . . . it can make you an addict as you come back, time and time again, to try to capture exactly what that mystical thing is.”
“That’s the mystery of all multi-role machines,” he muses. “They are built by people who haven’t learned yet that it’s impossible to build what they are intending to do–and, as a result, they have just gone ahead and done it.”
“I can only akin it to something like a sense and feeling of freedom, empowerment, joy and excitement in a blow being struck for mankind against the impossible when they see that someone has dared to be different and has pulled it off.”
Editor’s note: What’s the most unusual way you’ve ever gone for a ride? Let us know in the comments below!
Before missing that important meeting, being late to pick the kids up from school or enduring first date embarrassment when you need to call to ask to be picked up, take the time to learn the basics of how to jump start a car battery yourself.
Many people are surprised at how easy it is to learn how to get car batteries running again, and quickly become confident in what to do if a battery gives out at a bad time.
Jump start with the following steps:
1) First, park a working vehicle next to your car. It’s best to line them up side by side or hood to hood, but be sure they don’t touch. Then, turn off your car’s ignition and also turn off any accessories in your car such as a CD player, phone charger, dome light and so forth. Check to make sure your external lights are off, too, which can drain car batteries further.
2) Then, with your jumper cables, connect the red positive clamp to your dead battery’s positive post. This is clearly marked by a plus sign on your car’s battery. Then, connect the other red clamp to the positive post on the good battery in the other vehicle.
3) Next, make sure the cables are out of the car’s hood components and not tangled in any way. They should run along the ground and not rest on the battery itself, the engine or any other internal component of either vehicle.
4) Take the black clamp and connect it to the good battery’s negative post. Then, connect the other black clamp (also known as the negative clamp) to any metal surface onto the inside of the dead car. Carefully check the cables entirely to be sure they are not lying against or tangled up with any moving parts of either vehicle.
5) Start up the engine of the working car and let it idle for a few minutes. Then, start your dead car and wait a few more minutes for it to receive a bit more power from the good battery. If it is still unable to start up, give the battery a few more minutes to revive.
6) When the car is started, undo the BLACK NEGATIVE clamps first. This should be the reverse order of how you placed them on the car and it’s essential you remove the negative ones first to avoid injury or damage. Continue to be careful to keep dangling cables out of the car’s internal parts.
7) Drive your revived car around for a bit to make sure the battery is working properly. Do this in a parking lot or another area where you are safe if your car battery dies again.
8) Do not turn off your vehicle until it’s had adequate time to run and recharge a bit on its own.
It’s really that simple to revive your car battery, and almost anyone can learn how to do it.
Also watch a video on how to jump start a car battery, created by automotive experts at Advance Auto Parts.
Editor’s note: Visit Advance Auto Parts for more info on the quality car battery options available.
Even those with lots of experience in car repairs can be fooled by the meaning of engine sounds. To make matters more confusing, sometimes minor or innocent-sounding sounds may signal a severe problem–while a loud, menacing thud might be fixed with a $20 part.
But, here’s something that’s for certain: you shouldn’t ignore car engine noise. Doing so could lead to a catastrophic situation where your engine needs to be replaced. Plus, disregarding engine sounds could threaten your safety–and result in a breakdown at the worst possible moment.
While you always have the option of taking your vehicle to a mechanic for a diagnostics test, you can often get a good idea of what’s troubling your engine by listening to it.
Some general guidelines about engine noise:
See if the car engine noise you’re hearing matches any of the following sounds. Then look at some common reasons for that sound, and begin your investigation.
Whirring: Could mean a bad water pump, power steering pump or alternator, or low power steering fluid level.
Knocking: Could be an issue with the distributor cap, timing chain or spark plugs.
Pinging: Could indicate a problem with the crankshaft, timing gears or transmission mount.
Hissing: Could mean a problem with the cooling system, exhaust, catalytic converter or vacuum line.
Popping: Could be an issue with the ignition wires, air filter, distributor cap, ignition module or engine compression.
Grinding/screeching: Hearing these engine sounds when you turn the ignition could mean a starter issue. But, if these sounds occur when you apply the brakes, it likely indicates worn brake pads or rotors.
Here’s another way how to diagnose engine noise.
Check out DriverSide for some keen insights and helpful information. It’s a useful tool for both novice and veteran do-it-yourselfers. You can try to diagnose your vehicle’s problem by noise, smell, feel or look.
Again, don’t turn your back on car engine noise, and hope that it’ll just go away on its own. Chances are it won’t–and you’ll wind up with an even bigger problem.
Editor’s note: Don’t let car engine noise fall on deaf ears. Advance Auto Parts carries a wide variety of quality auto parts to help keep your ride running right.
Meet the Lord of the Dust–in fact the Da Vinci of Dust, the Michelangelo of Mud, the . . . well, meet the Dirty Car Artist.
Scott Wade has traveled to numerous places around the globe, from Istanbul to London, from Mexico to Toronto and more, and has been featured in or on multiple television shows, magazines and websites from around the world, including the History Channel’s program, Modern Marvels. Plus, people from other parts of the planet are thrilled to travel where he is “painting” to get an interview, as this outtake of a German television show demonstrates.
Although we’ll be happy to give more details later on, here is where the rubber meets the road. Scott is renowned for taking the ugly dust that layers itself on top of car windows in certain climates and conditions and turning this crud into remarkable pieces of art.
“It can take up to two weeks,” he says, “for enough dust to collect to create a good canvas, and then I get to transform something that’s usually perceived as ugly – a dirty car–into a thing of beauty.”
“People’s response to my art is almost universally positive,” Scott says, “partly because it is so unexpected. Most peoples’ reaction to dirt is to wash it off, to get everything clean, and I do something quite different. As time passed, Scott began diversifying, which includes painting storefront windows. Pretty amazing stuff, isn’t it? Although Scott’s art can be found online fairly easily, the information about him as an artist is limited. So, we decided to find out more…
Birth of an artist
When Scott was young–young enough that he can’t pinpoint an exact age–he remembers using his finger to draw pictures on a dirty car window, something that plenty of other youngsters have done. “When I was a child,” Scott says, “we lived in Colorado, so I had more opportunities to doodle on frosty windows than in dust, but I did both.”
And, even though Scott didn’t consciously begin enjoying artwork until the third grade, he was always surrounded by joyful art. His father was a talented amateur cartoonist in the “Dick Tracy style.” And, every Christmas, Scott says, “my father would draw holiday images like Santa Claus, a wreath with candles, Rudolph and so forth. He’d copy his drawings at work and then make coloring books for all of the neighborhood kids.”
Then, third grade hit. “Mom bought me a book about Frosty the Snowman,” he explains. “I really liked the way the trees looked, so I got some paper and a pencil, and then I started to draw. I got a lot of encouragement from my mother and friends, while my father helped me with shading and perspective.”
As a young adult, Scott pursued a degree in art from Texas State University. After graduation (in 1982), he began playing music for a living, drumming in a wide variety of genres: country western, rock and roll, reggae, the blues – wherever he was needed. He also took on temporary jobs and illustrated menus, signs, album covers, posters and flyers on a freelance basis.
“But,” he says, “I resisted having a computer for a long time. I knew that, if I got one, it would take over everything. Then, one day, Mom showed up at my house with my sister’s old Mac. My wife then got Photoshop 3 on 8 floppy disks, and that was that.”
He then began transitioning into more traditional graphic designer jobs. Currently, he is the senior GUI designer for AirStrip Technologies in San Antonio, Texas.
Whoa, back up . . .
What about the dirty car art? How does that fit in?
Well, by that point in his life, Scott lived by a long dirt road in Texas, where the limestone and clay in the dust clung to car windows, making the glass nearly opaque. “Cars were always dirty,” he says. “Washing them was futile, as they’d be dirty again the next day. And, thanks to the influence of my father, I would draw funny faces in the dirt with my finger. I’d try to shade parts of the drawings with the pads of my fingers and use my nails to create finer lines.”
Then, about 10 years ago, Scott was gnawing on a Popsicle stick and, when he removed it from his mouth, he looked at the feathery texture and wondered what would happen if he brushed the chewed-up end of the stick against a dirty car window. What he saw intrigued him, and so he headed inside to get his brushes–and that changed his life dramatically. This was, in fact, step one of his becoming the Dirty Car Artist.
Although, at first glance, what Scott does seems like a quirky form of art, he says it isn’t, not really. “This medium is almost like any other,” he explains. “The shadow inside the car is dark, while the limestone and clay mixture is light. So, there is natural contrast between light and dark and I work off of that contrast.”
Scott began attracting attention from other drivers as he drove in a vehicle featuring his art, causing his curiosity about dirty car art to grow. As a consequence, he began experimenting to see how far he could push this medium.
Scott would photograph the windshield art that he’d created and then email those photos to friends, who would sometimes pass them onto other people. Through this form of communication, he attracted the attention of Austin American-Statesman writer John Kelso, who’d gotten a forwarded message from someone on Scott’s email list. Kelso, a longstanding humorist for the publication, wanted to profile Scott and his art in one of his columns. “My mom lives in Austin,” Scott tells Advance Auto Parts, “so I figured, great! Mom will like to read the article.”
In conjunction with the publication of the article, several photos of Scott’s art appeared on the Austin American-Statesman website. The next morning, he received a call from the publication’s photo editor who told him that his photos were “going viral.” Now, this was several years ago, remember. “I didn’t even know what ‘going viral’ meant,” Scott admits, with a laugh. “It ends up that 200,000 bloggers had linked to my photos in just one hour!”
Shortly after that, the National Enquirer contacted Scott and included a full-page spread of his art in their tabloid; Ripley’s Believe it or Not topped that media attention with a two-page spread and the momentum just kept building.
He began appearing on television shows and participating in magazine and newspaper photo shoots, and they always wanted – naturally enough – to see him in action with a brush. Being a gracious guy, he always complied. When one particular television crew showed up, though, cameras in hand, it was raining.
A problem solver at heart, he quickly came up with Plan B. The system that he developed to solve this situation and other ones like it involves cleaning the dirt off of a piece of glass (ironic, isn’t it?) and then coating the glass with almond oil; safflower oil, peanut oil and the like just didn’t work as well as the almond. He then creates a canvas with a material used as dirt on television shows and in movies. To apply the material, he simply uses a blow dryer designed to dry hair, and then the dust-like particles stick to the oil.
How long does the dirt art last?
A piece of artwork created on a windshield only lasts until the vehicle is out in the rain. And, many times after Scott takes a photograph of a completed piece of art, he simply washes the decorated dust off, calling that one of his favorite parts of the process. Keep on reading to find out why.
In more than one of Scott’s interviews found online, he briefly mentions how the temporary nature of his art emphasizes the spiritual notion of enjoying today, as nothing lasts forever.
Wanting to know more, we asked Scott to elaborate on that idea. Did he hold that philosophy before he began his car art, or was it developed because of his car art? Scott pauses before responding with, “A little bit of both.”
He continues with, “I’ve always been interested in spirituality, in philosophy, in examining religions and belief systems. What I’ve done with dirty cars has given me a much better understanding of the nature of the world, and how things that arise out of form are only temporary. Even the world’s greatest monuments, as we speak, are crumbling and becoming dust again.”
This knowledge has affected Scott in multiple ways. “First,” he says, “I’m humbled. And, I don’t take my art quite so seriously.”
Other artists, he says, are puzzled by this attitude, wondering how he doesn’t identify with his art more significantly and how he can comfortably watch the rain wash his art away – or even hose it off the glass himself! “I understand that point of view,” Scott says, “and I can sympathize with it. But, there is so much more to be gained by simply allowing the art to be gone. Through my ephemeral art form, I have learned that very great lesson. I can now focus on opening my eyes to the beauty of the moment, allow that moment to pass – and then be completely open to the very next moment.”
Editor’s note: while we admire and appreciate Scott’s work, we also offer a wide selection of car cleaning products to help you keep your ride looking right. Buy online, pick up in store.
Synthetic types of motor oil were first available for cars in the early 1970s. AMSOIL was the first with a product, in 1972, with Mobil Oil Company following suit three years later. By the early 1990s, most major oil companies had synthetic options in their product lines and now it seems as though there are new brands every year.
As the name suggests, synthetic oil is a lubricant that is artificially made from chemicals, rather than directly from crude oil, although some synthetics start with crude oil as its base. There are also synthetic blends that contain conventional oil along with no more than 30% man-made fluids.
Advantages and disadvantages of synthetic oils
Synthetic oils were originally created for use in jet planes with high-temperature engines. So, not surprisingly, this man-made oil flows better than conventional oil in extreme heat. It also operates better in extremely cold temperatures. These oils:
- have lower rates of evaporation, which means that less oil is consumed
- have less sludge buildup
- can help with fuel economy
- cause less wear on the engine and therefore help with engine longevity
Overall, a synthetic choice holds up better over a longer period of time; this is why some manufacturers state that users can go longer between oil changes. As a caution, pollutants build up in the engine with conventional OR synthetic motor oil and so it’s important to follow recommendations given in your car manual.
Synthetic motor oils are more expensive, typically twice as much as conventional oil, because of the added cost of the refinement process. If you don’t drive your car hard and/or in extreme conditions, and if you don’t tow heavy loads or supercharge your engine, and if you change your oil promptly on schedule, the price increase to switch from conventional oil may not be worth it to you.
Early synthetic motor oil offerings were known to leak, especially when people switched back and forth between conventional and synthetic, but that is no longer a problem.
Before you decide whether you should switch to synthetic, check your owner’s manual to get your car maker’s recommendations. Switching to a type of oil that goes against recommendations could affect your warranty.
Still have questions about the right motor oil for your vehicle?
Ask a Team Member at any of our 4000 auto parts stores across the country.
Editor’s note: Advance Auto Parts offers great savings on motor oil, oil filters and more.