Our Mechanic Next door delves into the origins and meaning of motor oil viscosity grades.
“220. 221. Whatever it takes.”
That infamous line of reasoning worked for Jack Butler (Michael Keaton) in the 1983 hit movie Mr. Mom, so it should work for you, too, when it comes to selecting the right motor oil grade, right? Simply pick a number? Wrong! Just like with electricity, when it comes to car oil, numbers matter – especially if you want to protect your engine.
Oil “weights” or grades – such as 10W-30 – are actually a numerical coding system developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) to grade oils based on their viscosity. Viscosity is the state of being viscous, which according to Merriam-Webster, describes “a liquid being thick or sticky, not flowing easily.”
Viscosity is measured by the how long it takes a specific amount of oil to flow through a specific-sized opening at a specific temperature. The longer the oil takes to flow through, the higher the viscosity. The tool used to conduct that test – if you really want to impress others with your motor oil and physics knowledge – is a viscometer.
Think of pouring pancake syrup from the bottle – at warmer temperatures, the syrup pours fast and easy, while at colder temperatures, it’s thicker and more difficult to get flowing. The same can be said for oil.
The particular challenge with motor oil, however, is that automotive engines need engine oil to be both thin and free flowing when temperatures are freezing and the engine is cold, but thick when it’s hot out and the engine has reached operating temperature. That’s where multi-weight or multi-grade oils enter the picture and why they were created.
SAE’s J300 standard, first published in 1911 and revised numerous times since, classifies oil into 11 viscosity grades – 0W, 5W, 10W, 15W, 20W, 25W, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 – with the “W” signifying “winter,” not weight. Oils first received this “W” designation from SAE in the 1950s. The lower the number preceding the W, the lower the temperature for which the oil is rated. Those winter numbers were modified further after a rash of catastrophic engine failures in the early 1980s. Unusually cold weather in the U.S. and Europe caused oil to gel. When this occurred, the engine would still start, but it couldn’t pull the gelled oil out of the oil pan, resulting in the failures. As a result, SAE added a low-temperature test to measure pumping viscosity as well, and indicated this oil with the W specification.
Back to the idea of multi-weight oils. A popular oil, such as 10W-30, actually performs like two oils in one when it comes to engine lubrication. At colder temperatures it is and delivers a 10W-grade oil performance, while at higher temperatures it is and performs like a 30-grade oil – according to SAE’s standards and tests – providing engine protection at both ends of the temperature spectrum, which is important since engines have to operate in a range of temperatures. Think of it this way – that SAE 30 oil you might use in your riding mower has the same viscosity as the 10W-30 oil in your vehicle, but only at 210°, the maximum temperature that SAE requires. The difference arises at colder temperatures where the SAE 30 oil can’t perform, necessitating some enhancements that make it a multi-grade oil. At those lower temperatures, that’s where the 10W oil and its characteristics come into play.
Oil’s desired performance characteristics at varied temperatures, as specified by SAE, are achieved through the addition of Viscosity improvers (VI) or modifiers that increase the oil’s viscosity as temperatures rise. The result is oil that performs and provides engine lubrication no matter what the temperature.
The good news for drivers is that they don’t need to be an engineer or chemist to know which car oil to use, and they don’t have to change their oil grade whenever the temperature changes. Simply follow the motor oil grade recommended by the vehicle manufacturer for optimal engine protection in all types of weather.
It’s important to note that SAE also has a coding system for gear oil, such that used in a manual transmission, and that it’s different than the ratings for engine oil. So if there’s a bottle of 85W-140 oil sitting on the barn or garage shelf gathering dust, don’t put it in your engine.
And finally, when choosing an oil, look for one with the American Petroleum Institute “donut” seal on the bottle. It indicates that the oil meets API performance standards.
Editor’s note: Visit Advance Auto Parts for great deals on Oil Change Specials and more. Buy online, pick up in-store, in 30 minutes.
If you know me, you know I love Mustangs. Probably more than any other car on the road. And if you know Mustangs, you know that the original muscle car just turned 50. Like a lot of Mustang fans, I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic about that. Today’s Mustang is fantastic, of course, but I can remember so many outstanding Mustangs that came before it. To fully appreciate what the modern Mustang has become, you’ve got to look at the entire body of work.
That’s why I was so excited to come across Mustang: The First 50 Years, a new documentary that’s sold as a two-DVD set. With a running time of two hours and 30 minutes, Mustang really gets into the details of each of the first five Mustang generations, unearthing a bunch of interesting facts in the process. Did you know, for example, that the Mustang was going to be called “Cougar” until right before it began production? At the last minute, the marketing folks decided that a wild horse was a better fit than a killer cat, so they shelved “Cougar” until it reappeared on Mercury’s version of the first-gen Mustang. The documentary is full of neat little anecdotes like that, and even old Mustang guys like me will end up learning a thing or two.
I’ll tell you another thing the film got me thinking about: my favorite Mustangs ever. There’s a number of interviews with both enthusiasts and Ford insiders, and the question “What’s your favorite Mustang?” is a frequent one. The 1965 Shelby GT350 is a popular answer, and I get that — it’s fast, rare and beautiful — but these days I find myself gravitating toward a couple of the later first-gen models. The 1971 Mach 1 has aggressive, over-the-top styling that I love, and you could get it with the 429-cubic-inch Cobra Jet V8, so that’s one of ‘em. The other is the 1969-’70 Boss 429, which has basically the same 7.0-liter V8 and fastback styling that’s right up there with the best you’ll ever see. If I had my druthers (in other words, if I had just a few more coins in my piggy bank), both of those would be in my garage. The film takes you through every meaningful Mustang for the past six decades, including some great vintage driving footage, so you’ll have ample opportunity to reflect on your top picks.
I should shut up now and let you go enjoy the show, but before I sign off, I want to share one more thing that I really enjoyed. At the end of the second DVD, you’re gonna want to keep watching through the credits, because what’s waiting on the other side is a treasure trove of old Mustang television commercials. It’s really fascinating to see how car ads have evolved over time. I’m guessing a long take of the new 2015 Mustang driving on sand dunes alongside a prancing white stallion wouldn’t really resonate with current shoppers, but it made sense to the Ford team in the ’80s, and that’s just one highlight among many. You really get a sense of how significant it is for one car to be successful for 50 years and counting. Mustang: The First 50 Years made me feel especially proud to be a Mustang fan, and I bet it’ll do the same for you.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve seen the film. I’d love to get a conversation going about some of the history behind this classic car.
I got two grown kids of my own, and thankfully they’re out of the house. (You can’t count on that these days.) Now that we’re empty-nesters, I can drive whatever I want, and believe me, I do. But back when the kids were around, I had to make some compromises. Being a car guy through and through, it wasn’t the easiest adjustment to make.
I made it, though, and today I want to tell you that story. In a nutshell, what I realized was that you can make family vehicles fun if you try — and you don’t have to get rid of your pride and joy in the garage, either. Here are my tips for keeping that racing edge, even with the young ‘uns around.
- Choose Your Family Car Wisely
When it’s time to get a bigger car for family duty, the first thing you gotta do is make sure it’s fun to drive. Trust me, if you end up with some cheesy crossover SUV that hates fun, you’re gonna be mad at the world every time you start it up. So shop around, do your due diligence, and get a family rig that puts a smile on your face. If I were buying right now, my first choice would be the Dodge Durango R/T with its big 5.7-liter V8 and engaging rear-wheel-drive handling. You could go smaller with a Mazda CX-5 or Ford Escape crossovers, both of which have a real sporty feel, or you could even go bigger with the Mazda CX-9. But skip the boring stuff, okay? And for godsakes, don’t get a minivan.
Advance Auto Parts has a whole bunch of accessories for any kind of ride, and that includes family-mobiles. Let me give you a few examples of how you can spice things up. A great place to start is the exhaust — throw a MagnaFlow performance muffler on there and check out the sweet rumble you get when you put your foot down. Any car guy will tell you that a K&N performance air filter gives you a little shot in the arm as far as both horsepower and fuel economy are concerned. Tell you what, just check out AAP’s whole collection of performance parts and see what fits your budget. Remember, the way the car comes from the dealership is just the beginning; you can customize it any way you please and maximize the fun factor, even with family-oriented rides.
- Don’t Sell Your Sports Car
Here’s my last bit of advice: if you’ve got an automotive baby in the garage, don’t sell it unless you absolutely need the cash. Because here’s the thing — if your kids grow up around a great sports car or muscle car, that’s how they’re gonna follow in your footsteps and be car enthusiasts themselves. Take your kids out for rides, and show ‘em how to install that air filter or exhaust. As a parent, you get to shape your kids’ interests from the earliest days, and if you ask me, that’s right when they should start spending some quality time with you in the garage.
Have you gone down this road as a car enthusiast and a parent? Are you about to start? Tell me some other ways that you think parents can keep their racing edge.
Editor’s note: Dad, if you’ve still got racing in your blood, hit up Advance Auto Parts for great deals on racing accessories and more. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.
For this installment, our Mechanic Next Door explores one of the most stylish trucks on the block, the Chevy Silverado
Pickup trucks aren’t just for work anymore, and haven’t been for some time. That’s not to say they’re no longer being used for work – because they’re just as popular on the jobsite as ever. In modern pickups, however, drivers can be just as comfortable and stylish rolling up to valet parking wearing a black tie as they can pulling in to the jobsite in a hard hat, safety vest and steel toes.
This delicate balance of work and play, of style versus function, convenience or necessity is clearly evident in one of America’s best-selling trucks – the Chevy Silverado 1500.
First introduced in 1998 for the ’99 model year, the Chevy Silverado was a follow up to Chevy trucks’ successful C/K pickup line and built on GM’s long success with pickup trucks – dating back to its first model in 1930. 1998 wasn’t the Silverado name’s debut, however, as it had made an appearance previously. Chevy used Silverado as a trim line name for both its Suburban and C/K pickup truck models from ’75 through ’99.
The Silverado is now enjoying its third generation, and still building and improving on the success of generations one and two, which ran from 1999 – 2006 and 2007 – 2013, respectively. The 2015 model is hauling some exciting new additions, without losing many of the features responsible for Silverado’s nearly universal appeal.
Bragging rights are always a good place to begin, and the “firsts” or “mosts” that Chevy lays claim to with the new 2015 Silverado include:
• the most fuel-efficient gas V8 pickup truck ever (with the 5.3-liter engine)
• the most powerful engine available in a half-ton pickup
• the first truck to include 4G LTE WiFi connectivity
Because it’s a truck, size matters, and Chevy’s able to make its “most powerful engine” claim thanks to the 6.2-liter V-8 option churning out 420 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. of torque for a towing capacity of 12,000 pounds. Yeah, that’s six tons. If that’s too beefy for some drivers’ tastes, other available options include a 5.3-liter V-8 producing 355 HP and 383 lb.-ft. of torque or the base engine – a 4.3 liter V-6 with 285 HP and 305 lb.-ft. torque. Paired with these powerplants is a six-speed automatic transmission.
The mid-range 5.3-liter version is the engine that enables Chevy to make the “most fuel-efficient V-8” claim, delivering 16 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.
A big change that catches Chevy Silverado up with its competitors is the addition of the High Country trim line, which is now the top level available on the Silverado and places it in a similar class with other truck manufacturers’ trim lines, including F150’s King Ranch, Ram’s Laramie and GMC Sierra’s Denali (which as most truck aficionados know is a twin to Silverado, at least mechanically.)
Pickups, whether they’re four-wheel drive or not, are getting taller, in part due to increased wheel sizes (which, by the way, are available in 17’s, 18’s and 20’s on the new Silverado). Drivers, however, aren’t experiencing a corresponding increase in body height, which makes Chevy’s addition of its CornerStep rear bumper a big convenience factor whether trying to grab something out of the bed or simply fasten a tonneau. And an available spray-in bedliner eliminates the need to secure this work in the aftermarket, protects the bed, and reduces the annoyance factor that comes with things sliding and banging around back there.
Up front, there are three available cab configurations – a regular two-door cab, a double cab featuring four forward-opening doors, and a crew cab. The double cab is available only with the standard six-and-a-half-foot bed (which still makes for a nearly 20-foot long vehicle) while the crew cabs come with either the standard or short (5.8 ft.) box and the regular cab is available with either a long bed at eight feet or the standard box.
In the safety department, Silverado is the first pickup to receive the 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score for Safety – the highest ranking – since NHTSA changed the program requirements in 2011. Helping deliver on that safety promise is a rear-vision camera, forward collision avoidance system, lane departure warning, six airbags, daytime running lights, ABS, and a “safety alert driver’s seat” that vibrates when an alert is generated by Silverado’s crash-avoidance systems.
All of this power, convenience, safety and style come with a price, however, and that price doesn’t look too painful when one considers that Chevy’s MSRP is $26,105 for a base model. Add on some “must-haves” however – including four-wheel drive and that High Country trim package – and tire kickers find themselves staring down a price of more than $54,000 the way that reviewers from Car and Driver did.
Because it’s been around for so long and there are still so many on the road, Silverado parts for repairs are readily available. At the same time, there are almost as many accessories for customizing a Silverado as there are color and option choices available on new ones.
And as a final thought, who can forget the song that has become synonymous with the Silverado, and all Chevy Trucks for that matter? Yes, Bob Seger’s “Like a Rock,” used in Chevy commercials for more than a decade – and guaranteed to be in your head for the rest of the day. You’re welcome.
Editor’s note: Visit Advance Auto Parts for the best in parts, accessories and more. Buy online, pick up in store—in 30 minutes.
I like football – and several other sports – as much as the next fan. And I consider myself a loyal fan, maintaining allegiances even during an off year – although the New York Giants are certainly testing that commitment this season. All of us regular fans, however, pale in comparison to the “super fans.” You know the ones – dyeing their hair in team colors or going shirtless at the stadium in sub-freezing temperatures to proudly display a torso adorned with their favorite player’s number or those colors.
Then there are the fans who clearly take it to another level, beyond even the super fans, by driving vehicles that proclaim for all the world to see their allegiance to a particular player or team. And we’re not just talking about bumper stickers, window decals, bobbleheads on the dash, or custom license plates to let you know who they’re pulling for. Any fan can do that. We’re referring to those fanatical few who invest considerable time and money in customizing their vehicles, turning them into rolling curiosities that are guaranteed to be a hit on Sunday afternoons at the stadium parking lot tailgate, and perhaps a bit of a puzzlement on the roads the other six days of the week. Check out some of these pictures we found for proof.
Yes, these driving fans are the ones with whom we should really be impressed. Why? Because they wear their team support proudly for all the world to see, during championship seasons and “rebuilding” years, through team and player scandals and controversies, and even when traveling through unfriendly territories where a rivalry with and hatred of their beloved tribe may run deep. Their sports-themed cars, trucks, buses and even motorcycles are a magnet for support – or ridicule – and they don’t care, because they love their team.
The vehicle styles, much like their fan owners, run the gamut from kitschy to classy. On one end of the scale are those vehicles – usually older – that look as though they were put together by several friends with a 12-pack in a buddy’s garage on a Sunday afternoon during their team’s bye week. Usually it’s an old pickup truck, sedan, or bus, and there’s bound to be a football helmet or possibly mascot securely fastened to the roof or hood, a paint scheme produced with numerous cans of spray paint in team colors, and undoubtedly team logos plastered all over the place. Classy? Who cares? It’s all about having some fun and helping the team win on game day.
Then there are those vehicles that are at the opposite end of the spectrum. Sporting custom paint jobs and professional graphics, these newer vehicles could just as easily be driven by a committed fan as they could the team owner. A lot of time, planning, and dollars are poured into these sports-themed cars and trucks, so let’s hope it’s a winning season and that everyone who has to ride in these vehicles continues rooting for the same team.
In addition to being very committed to their team and secure in their choice, fans driving these sports-themed vehicle also have to be polite and respectful drivers. Certainly they don’t want to sully their team’s or fellow fans’ reputations with discourteous driving displays, and besides – everyone sees them driving around town and knows who they are. There’s no going incognito when you’re behind the wheel of a pickup sporting a Packer green and gold paint job with a helmet in the center of the roof.
Not everyone can be or wants to be a super fan. For the rest of us, we can still display our allegiance in more subtle ways, whether in the garage or on the road , maybe with a themed license plate frame or even team-branded steering wheel cover. You can show your team colors, without being afraid to drive your vehicle to an away game, or embarrassing your children.
Check out these videos we stumbled upon for more super-fandom:
Here’s to the super fans and the vehicles they drive, and to your favorite team winning.
Editor’s note: When you need to show more team spirit, Advance Auto Parts has the accessories you need. Buy online, pick up in store—in 30 minutes.
What do you get when you combine the hottest new cars on the planet with a city that’s defined by the automobile?
You get the 2014 LA Auto Show, of course. And I was lucky enough to score an invite to this year’s Press Days, so I got to wander through the LA Convention Center, rub elbows with all the industry folks and check out the latest rides firsthand.
With over 30 world debuts this year, the show was as action-packed as ever. But if you know me, you know I’m not afraid to play favorites. Check out my three favorite cars from the 2014 LA Auto Show.
1. Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang
I’m a diehard Mustang guy, in case you haven’t heard, so I’m always fired up when there’s a new Mustang in town. But here’s the thing — you don’t have to be a Mustang fan to appreciate the 2016 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang. You just have to appreciate high-revving naturally aspirated engines and manual transmissions, because both come standard on the GT350. In fact, you can’t even get an automatic if you want one. That’s how serious this machine is.
I love the Shelby because it fixes everything I don’t like about the regular Mustang GT. The standard exhaust system is far too restrictive, muffling the GT’s 5.0-liter V8 almost beyond recognition, but the GT350 gets a free-flowing setup that sounds fantastic. I should mention that the Shelby’s 500-plus-horsepower engine is more than just a massaged version of the GT’s V8; it’s a unique design that displaces 5.2 liters and employs a flat-plane crankshaft, just like a Ferrari V8, which is why it revs to 8,200 rpm and sounds so pure. The handling’s tighter, the brakes are bigger…you name it, the Shelby does it better. This is the ultimate Mustang, no doubt about it. If I were going to buy a new Mustang, I’d definitely make it a Shelby GT350.
2. Jaguar F-Type
The F-Type coupe/roadster is Jaguar’s Porsche 911 fighter, and the 2016 model inches closer to 911 territory. For one thing, you can get a manual transmission now, although only with the supercharged V6 engine — the supercharged V8 remains automatic-only. For another, the V8 convertible is now rated at 550 horsepower, just like the V8 coupe, erasing the drop-top’s previous 55-hp deficit. And get this, every V8 model will come standard with all-wheel drive going forward, so if you want a rear-drive F-Type V8, you’ll be looking at a 2015 model or earlier.
I’m a little bummed about that, because the rear-drive V8 was born to drift and do big smoky burnouts. It was an enthusiast’s dream; the AWD system won’t let you have quite as much fun. But it’s safer, no doubt, for inexperienced drivers who might accidentally unleash more of those 550 horses in a corner than they’re ready for. And remember, the Porsche 911 Turbo employs all-wheel drive, too. All in all, the 2016 F-Type is a step forward for Jaguar’s most capable sports car. Maybe next year they’ll unveil the model I’ve been waiting for — an F-Type V8 with rear-wheel drive and the manual shifter.
3. BMW X5 M
I’ve made it clear in my columns that I’m not a big fan of the modern turbo craze, but I make an exception for heavy SUVs, because they really benefit from a turbocharged engine’s massive low-end torque. That torque is the stuff that launches you quickly off the line, and the all-new BMW X5 M’s 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 has got an astounding 553 lb-ft of it. Do you remember the turbodiesel Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI? I’ll never forget the dump-truck torque it delivered, and guess what — it had 553 lb-ft, too. So the gasoline-powered X5 M matches the Touareg V10 diesel in the stump-pulling department, and oh yeah, it’s got 567 horsepower as well, not to mention a new eight-speed automatic (replacing the old six-speed) with a launch-control mode.
Zero to 60, if you’re wondering, takes 4 seconds flat, putting the porky X5 M in a virtual dead heat with the abovementioned Jaguar F-Type V8.
I’ll tell you another thing I like about the X5 M: it finally makes the new X5’s body look right with its standard staggered-width 21-inch wheels. To my eye, the lesser X5 models’ wheels look too small; they’re dwarfed by all that metal above. But the 21s are proportional. They’re what this truck needs to look its best.
I’ve never really had a thing for superfast SUVs, but I’m not gonna lie, I dig the idea of having one of these babies in my driveway.
Are you going?
If so, tell me about your top picks in the comments.
Editor’s note: Whatever you drive, keep it running right and looking good with Advance Auto Parts. But online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.
The Detroit Lions have released a brand new Detroit Lions-inspired Ford Mustang with Honolulu blue rims, a silver body with a stripe down the middle and the Lions logos on the car. Valued at over $37,000, the car is a fan’s deam machine.
Jeff Webster with the Lions said that somebody will have the chance to win one of the cars.
“We’re giving this bad boy away to one of our fans at our Fan Appreciation game here at Ford Field on December 14,” Webster said. “The contest is open until November 30.”
The car even has Calvin Johnson’s signature on the dashboard.
“There’s some custom parts that were put in — the exhaust, some of the custom parts in the engine,” Webster said. “It also has custom blue rims. There’s nothing else like it.”
Here at Advance HQ, we get so caught up in debating the latest developments in car culture and DIY that we often find ourselves in need of a serious time out. While those tend to be seldom, we still relish the idea of just being able to talk casually about cars without deadlines to make or milestones to hit.
One way to pass some free time and get your fill of cars, is to hit up a car museum. To that end, we recently explored the legendary Volo Museum – don’t let the word “museum” lead you to believe that all you’ll see is musty, dusty, crumbling history. There’s absolutely none of that here.
Volo Auto Museum Exhibits
Located in Illinois, the Volo Auto Museum specializes in many different types of car collections including:
- Hollywood cars
- Bizarre cars
- Military vehicles
- Cars of the stars
- Vintage cars
- Cars of wonderland
The Grams family purchased the property where the car museum now stands in 1960. The building had a dirt floor and contained old junk cars, including decrepit Ford Model As. “My dad and brother,” Brian Grams tells Advance Auto Parts, “would tinker with those cars at night as a side hobby. As they fixed them up, people wanted to buy them, so they sold a couple. With that money, they bought nicer cars and repeated the cycle, until they got involved with collector cars, both buying and selling.”
By the late 1990s, a large part of the property had evolved into a car museum. Annually, Volo gets about 300,000 visitors, but most arrive in the summer, making wintertime an even better opportunity for a laid-back visit.
Here are more specifics about the exhibits.
The Hollywood collection started with the George Barris Batmobile from the 1966 television series starring Adam West and Burt Ward (Thwap! Pow! Bam!). From that point, the Batman collection – and the entire Hollywood collection – continued to grow. Other Batman-related items now at Volo include the 1966 Batcycle; the Batmobile from the 1989 movie, Batman; the 18-wheeler used by the Joker in Dark Knight; and Dark Knight movie props. You can even watch “Evolution of the Batmobile” in Volo’s theater.
Not a fan of Batman? Then you’ll just need to content yourself with others of the more than 80 vehicles from television and film; exhibits change frequently, so more than one visit could be on the docket. Other cars include:
- Season 1 General Lee from Dukes of Hazzard
- DeLorean from Back to the Future
- One of the Ghostbusters’ Ectomobiles
- Beverly Hillbillies’ truck
- Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hearse in Terminator 3
- and much, much more
Not all cars arrive in pristine condition. The Greased Lightning car, used in the 1978 film Grease, is a perfect example. In the movie, John Travolta and his friends restore this vehicle in an attempt to attract females. While that worked fairly well, at least for Travolta, the condition of the car deteriorated during the post-movie years. Then, a collector bought it and hired someone to begin the restoration process. That owner died, though, mid-restoration, and the car was put outside where its condition continued to deteriorate. So, the Volo Auto Museum stepped in. They bought the car, finished its restoration, and added it to its displays.
You may also remember the Ferrari Daytona used in the television program, Miami Vice. It had been left to the mercies of the rain and sun until the leather interior looked like a “shrunken head.” Enter the restoration genius of those at Volo and this car is also now on display.
With the reputation that Volo now has, they often get asked if they’d like the opportunity to buy a Hollywood car. For example, after Fast and Furious 4 was filmed, the Grams were asked if they wanted to buy every car used in the movie. They made the decision to do so; sold off some; restored others; and have a great addition to their museum: the black Dodge Charger driven by both Van Diesel and Paul Walker in the film.
“The most popular bizarre cars,” Brian says, “are the Roller Skate car and the Piano car.” While enjoying those vehicles, you can also take a close look at an Elvis tribute car and spot some of the 40+ elements in the car’s design that honor the King. Or, perhaps a PG-13 rated Marilyn Monroe tribute car, shown in more than 30 countries, is more to your taste.
Elton John? Michael Jackson and Soul Train? Charlie Chaplin? James Dean? Check out these bizarre cars.
The website posts the following caution in the military-vehicle section: Warning Combat Zone: Action-Packed Battle Scenes and Heart-Pounding Sound Effects May Not Be Suitable for Wimps
“This is a very interactive area,” Brian says, “with an atmosphere of a live battlefield.”
Displays range from a 1967 Bell Helicopter #355, shot down by hostile fire in Vietnam to an M114 armored personnel carrier built by Cadillac and powered by a Chevy V-8 motor. The latter item has been completely restored; is fully functional; and one of only 12 legally registered in the United States. The museum also features a 1939 jet engine that was still considered an experimental item. After World War II, though, it became clear that jet engines were the way of the future.
Cars of the Stars
If you were Oprah Winfey and had just turned 46, how would you treat yourself and how much would you spend? The answer is a luxury convertible now housed at Volo, with a spend of $365,000. That car, Brian says, is one of the most popular car of a star housed in their museum. “The other is definitely the Britney Spears car,” he says, “the black Mercedes convertible that TMZ called the most dangerous car in the streets of L.A. They said this because of the various things that happened while Britney was driving the vehicle.”
You can also see the Rolls Royce that transported England’s Princess Diana during her last trip to the United States; the Rolls Royce convertible that Zsa Zsa Gabor was driving before the infamous cop-slapping incident; and much more.
From 50s cars to older antiques, and from Corvettes to muscle cars and pony cars, Volo has a wide selection of vintage cars. “The baby boomer crowd often likes the Duisenberg collection,” Brian says, “while the younger crowd often gravitates towards the main showroom with Camaros, Mustangs and 57 Chevys.”
Cars of Wonderland
Volo Auto Museum is a good choice when you are traveling with your children, grandchildren, nieces and/nephews, as there is an entire section dedicated to children – and even the adults love many of the displays. In fact, Brian Grams calls the Cat in the Hat Super Luxurious Omnidirectional Whatchamajigger one of his favorite museum vehicles, calling it an “absolute work of art”; there is also the Flintmobile, a vehicle that you can climb in to have your picture taken; Bugs Bunny’s Karrot Car; a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vehicle; and much more.
“The kids,” Brian says, “really like Lightning McQueen and the Mater.” Not sure what the Mater is? The site helpfully shares that “It’s like Tuh-Mater but without the Tuh”!
There are also coin-operated kiddie rides, Disney display props from the 101 Dalmatians, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Beauty and the Beast and more, plus Warner Brothers’ studio display props. “Kids and adults alike stop by the Looney Tunes display,” Brian says “because we all remember the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote.”
If you need to rest your feet for a while, you can stop by Pete’s Garage, which is a small theater where relevant 15-minute short films are shown. The museum also often hosts “out of the box events, quirky ones.” Coming up next is a contest in conjunction with the upcoming Transformers movie. The winner gets to enjoy the movie at a drive-in in one of the two Transformers cars available at the museum.
But, before you go, there is something we, uh, need to tell you. The place is haunted.
Gulp . . . Haunted?
The original structure on the Volo property was built in 1848 as a farmhouse – only four years after the county’s first permanent settler (Captain Daniel Wright) arrived. By 1850, several townships clustered together in this area, with Forksville (the original name of Volo) forming at the crossroads of Chicago Road, McHenry Road and Little Fort Road.
Just 13 short years later, the first shots of the Civil War were fired upon Fort Sumter and, on April 15, 1861, hundreds of patriotic men in Lake County (where Forksville was located) gathered at the courthouse of Waukegan to fight for the Union.
Over the next four years, nearly 2,000 men from this county signed up to fight, including H. Wallace Gale. Wallace was the son of Gardner (who built the now-Volo farmhouse) and Louisa Gale, and was born in 1842. He grew up on the farm where Volo now exists and he died in combat at Fort Donnellson on February 13, 1863 at the heartbreakingly young age of 20. His body was sent back home and he was buried beneath a white monument in a nearby cemetery, “about 50 feet from our property line,” clarifies Brian.
Brian grew up in the original farmhouse located on the Volo property, just like Wallace did. But, by the time that Brian lived there, it already had a solid reputation for being haunted. “Weird things did happen,” Brian shares, “such as the television turning on by itself. So, I thought it was perfectly normal that my house was haunted. If someone seemed shocked, I’d think – what? Isn’t YOUR house haunted???”
Those odd events made it difficult for Brian to convince friends to spend the night at the farmhouse. In fact, he couldn’t. “They’d make it to midnight,” he said, “and then call their parents and say, ‘Come pick me up!’”
Ghostly happenings extended far beyond just televisions turning on, though. “Museum visitors sometimes describe seeing a figure wearing a uniform, or a trench coat or some other type of long jacket or coat,” Brian says. “Other people say that, in the barn [which is now an antique mall], they get a strong whiff of cigar smoke for no apparent reason – and then it suddenly vanishes.
Someone – no one in the Grams family – decided to write to the Discovery Channel about these supernatural events, and the company filmed a Ghost Lab episode there in 2009. After that episode aired, even more stories about otherworldly events on the Volo property poured in.
“The best thing that happened, though,” Brian says, with a laugh, “was when a vehicle transporter wanted to park his rig in our parking lot overnight. We say ‘sure.’ Now, this guy is from Texas. He doesn’t know us or anything about our property. In the evening, he sees someone walking around the parking lot and so he hollers a greeting. The figure keeps walking, then starts running – and then completely disappears through a wall in the barn.”
So, what did the Texan do? “He started his semi up with a roar,” Brian says, “and then he was quickly long gone.”
Editor’s note: Check out our behind-the-scenes look at the Lane Motor Museum, where unique cars from A to Z are displayed.
For this installment, Street Talk goes in-depth on an unsung hero of the affordable tuner scene: the Scion tC.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d think the tC was the prudish one in Scion’s sport-coupe family. That’s because the other Scion coupe is the flashy FR-S, a rear-wheel-drive, purpose-built performance car that gets all the press.
But tuners have been flipping the script on these two ever since the FR-S came out a few years back. Sure, the tC is front-wheel-drive, but so are all those legendary Hondas from the ’80s and ’90s that made the tuner scene what it is today. And yes, the tC is derived from the overseas Toyota Avensis sedan, whereas the FR-S is its own thing — but the tC is also about $5,500 cheaper brand-new if you compare base prices, with used tCs available at steep discounts. That leaves a lot of room for cool mods.
Then there’s the matter of what’s under the hood. The current tC’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine makes 179 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque, leaving it just 21 horses shy of the FR-S’s 2.0-liter four — and 21 torques ahead of the more expensive motor. The first-generation tC was no slouch, either, cranking out 161 hp and 162 lb-ft in stock form. There’s no doubt that when it comes to everyday drivability, the tC wins.
So, now you know why the tC has stayed relevant to tuners in the FR-S era. If you’re wondering about specifics, here are some examples of the tC-tuning possibilities.
TRD stands for “Toyota Racing Development,” which basically means we’re talking about serious hardware. Unfortunately, the TRD supercharger offered for the first-generation tC is no longer available, chiefly because of reliability concerns and questionable bang for the buck (for a few grand of your hard-earned dinero, you only got an extra 40 horsepower at the crank). But there are plenty of other enticing upgrades sold directly through Scion dealers, including 19-inch wheels, a high-performance brake kit, lowering springs, beefed-up front and rear sway bars, a performance exhaust and a short shifter. The best part is, it’s all covered by warranty, and your factory warranty won’t be affected in the least. You even get a loaner car while the Scion technicians are throwing on the new parts.
To take the tC to the next level, you’re gonna need the aftermarket, and rest assured, there’s plenty of support. We see a lot of modded tCs on the street with all sorts of carbon-fiber body panels and interior trim inlays — if you go on eBay, it looks like you can cover the entire car with CF trim. If you really want to slam your tC for that lowrider look, a variety of third-party suppliers offer lowering springs that are more aggressive than the TRDs. Does the tC’s standard herd of horses strike you as a bit tame? Turbo kits are available for the current-generation tC, and there are many more options (both turbochargers and superchargers) for the original tC. Furthermore, you can rely on Advance Auto Parts for upgrades like ceramic brake pads and free-breathing air filters, or even a MagnaFlow exhaust that’s more cost-effective than the TRD system.
Tell Us Your tC Story
As time goes on, the tC looks more and more like one of the best values for tuners on a budget. What are some of your favorite tC mods that crank up the cool factor without breaking the bank? Let’s hash it out in the comments.
Editor’s note: Keeping your ride running right is easy at Advance Auto Parts. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.