With the recent introduction of the sixth generation of Chevy’s famous muscle car, there has been a great deal of renewed interest in Camaros, a performance favorite for nearly 50 years. The car has a long, rich history filled with fascinating details.
From a last-minute name change the year it was introduced to the exciting changes in the recently introduced 2016 model, the Camaro has a rich, wild history.
Let’s take a look.
First, How Is the 2016 Version Better?
While your initial impression of the 2016 model may be indifferent from that of the outgoing model, your opinion is bound to change once you’ve entered the driver’s seat.
- New and lighter chassis – The 2016 Camaro rides on the same platform that is used in the Cadillac ATS sedan and coupe. Using more aluminum components, the designers have trimmed about 200 lbs. compared to the last incarnation.
- Easier to park (at least in theory) – The body is 2 inches shorter than before. The wheelbase also shrinks by about 2 inches.
- Deep, deep seat gauges – Front and center for the driver, and a must-have in a classic muscle car. Plus, you’ll find a larger infotainment screen.
- More gears – An 8-speed Hydra-Matic replaces the 6-speed automatic across the Camaro range, shortening 0-60 mph times, and contributing to improved fuel economy.
- Amazing light show – If you like, choose the optional Interior Spectrum Lighting that allows you to choose from 24 colors of accent lighting on the dash, door panels, and foot-wells. There is also a mode that cycles through all the colors.
- Turbo power – For the first time, there is a turbocharged Camaro. The entry-level model is motivated by a turbocharged 4-cylinder, which delivers 275-horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque from 3,500-4,000 rpm. This generation also represents the most powerful Camaro SS of all time, with a 455-horsepower 6.2-liter V-8, coupled to an 8-speed automatic or 6-speed manual.
If It Had Been Called “The Panther,” Would It Still Be a Favorite?
Originally the automotive press was full of stories about the new Chevrolet Panther. In fact, the Camaro was the Panther right up until the car’s debut. Chevrolet even had the molds made for the emblems.
GM (and the press) had called the new model a variety of names, including Nova, Panther, Chaparral, and Wildcat. It is also rumored that Chevy considered using the letters “GM” in the name, and came up with G-Mini, which evolved into GeMini, and finally Gemini. As the story goes, they killed that name because they didn’t want the letters “GM” to be used, in case the car was a flop.
When all was said and done, over 2,000 names were considered while the car was in development.
Chevy reps defined the name as “a small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs” since, of course, it was introduced to counter the success of Ford’s Mustang.
Many sources suggested the name comes from a French word meaning “friend.” Ford representatives found an alternate meaning in an old Spanish dictionary: “a small, shrimp-like creature,” and another journalist dug up a translation that meant “loose bowels.”
The Camaro’s questionable naming history was all but forgotten upon its impressive introduction on September 21, 1966. That introduction included a 30-minute movie detailing its development, a complete cutaway car replica, a women’s clothing line called the Camaro Collection, and even a Camaro road race game.
Camaro “Outpaced” Nearly All the Rest
Even though the Camaro came two-and-a-half years after the Mustang, it has a healthy lead in the Indianapolis 500. The Camaro has been the official pace car at Indy six times, versus just three for the Mustang. Only the Corvette (with twelve) has paced more 500’s than the Camaro.
Limited to Just 100…the Neiman Marcus Edition Camaro
Sold during the 2010 holiday season, the Neiman Marcus version of the Camaro convertible came with an exclusive tri-coat deep Bordeaux exterior paint with ghosted stripes. The exclusive automobile came loaded with all the performance, smart technology, and luxury you would expect, including:
- 6.2-liter V8 engine 426-horsepower six-speed manual or 400-horsepower six-speed automatic transmission
- 21-inch five-spoke wheels with brilliant red detailing
- Bordeaux-hued convertible top
- Silver painted windshield surround
- Amber leather-appointed interior with brilliant red accents on the center console, steering wheel, and shift knob
- Acoustics premium eight-speaker, 245-watt sound system
It sold for $75,000 and the 100 units were gone in less than three minutes.
The Camaro as Hero Starring in the Transformers Movies
A yellow version of the American muscle car, redesigned around the release of the first Transformers movie, plays the hero Bumblebee, first depicted as a 1977 Camaro and later as a fifth-generation model. Further cementing the Camaro’s place as a pop culture icon, Chevy gave director Michael Bay a new version of the fifth-gen Camaro to show off in each of the three movie sequels.
Bay has long directed the automaker’s commercials and Super Bowl spots.
After the 2007 film went on to earn nearly $710 million worldwide, GM saw interest in the Camaro skyrocket, including a 10% gain in sales for yellow Camaros. Yellow typically accounted for less than 5% of any model’s sales, prior to that first movie.
It Takes 18 Hours to Assemble a Camaro in the Plant
Or at least that’s how long it took to assemble fifth-generation Camaros in the Oshawa Assembly Plant in Ontario, Canada. The last one came off the line on November 20, 2015. When the assembly line was ramped up, it was common to see a new Camaro roll off at a pace of one per minute.
Some assembly details:
- 734 robots handled the nearly 5,000 spot welds needed to create the body shell for each Coupe.
- The outer body side panel was transformed through strikes by four die sets, with the initial forming press generating nearly 1,400 tons of force, and creating seven body sides per minute.
- The Oshawa paint shop was capable of delivering 150 painted vehicles per hour.
- The Camaro engine was produced at a different plant, then shipped approximately two hours to the assembly line.
- That last car off the line marked the end of an era of Canadian production that stretched back to 1992. Prior to that, Camaros were built in California, Ohio, and several foreign plants.
- The 2016 models will be built in the Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant in Michigan.
Shop Advance Auto Parts for all the auto parts you need: top quality, trusted brands, every time.
There are many of us out there who dig old muscle cars and enjoy wrenching, but who don’t necessarily want to be “hood up” every other weekend tending to their ride’s sometimes fickle ways. Guys or gals who’d rather be burning rubber than burning daylight. One of our writers, JDP, fondly recalls his ’69 Chevelle SS396, stating it was the only car he’s ever driven that he was a little afraid off, so brutal was its acceleration, rightfully accompanied by the heavy metal chorus of its exhaust bellowing through headers and a pair of Cherry Bomb glasspacks.
But being able to enjoy the thrill of that built-up monster was not without its price, and we’re not just talking about the 8-10 mpg appetite. Fitted with a dual point distributor and a Holley 750 Double Pumper carb, his SS wasn’t exactly easy to keep in a perfect state of tune. If JDP still owned it today, he says a few modern updates would have probably been done to it by now. The trio of suggestions we present here would be nothing that would affect your muscle car’s loveable character mind you, just things that would improve its reliability, overall performance and safety.
All Fired Up
Plenty of shade tree mechanics who’ve grown tired of fiddling with ignition points have made the switch to an electronic ignition. With their “plug and play” convenience, an electronic ignition means one less thing to worry about, and deal with come tune-up time. A perfectly timed, hot spark delivered to your beast’s cylinders efficiently takes the worry out of one aspect of the holy trinity of internal combustion requirements (the other two being air and fuel).
Top choices for making this upgrade include systems by Mallory (who recently merged with MSD) and Pertronix. Indeed, the latter company offers a system that fits within the distributor, thus preserving the original appearance of the engine compartment.
Bye Bye Four Barrel
Whether it’s a scorching summer day or a crisp fall morning, and whether you’re driving along the coast or up high in the mountains, there’s no denying that fuel injection has the advantage over a carburetor in terms of delivering a precisely metered air/fuel mixture regardless of changing driving conditions.
We actually covered this very topic not long ago in our Carburetors versus Fuel Injection article. As we stated there, these “self-tuning” systems offered by Edelbrock, FAST, Holley and MSD will have your ride always operating at peak efficiency without you needing to deal with re-jetting and making other adjustments you’d face with a carb. And no worries about having that classic engine compartment ruined with something that looks like a Flux Capacitor, as some of these systems mimic the iconic look of a big four-barrel carb.
Stop it, will ya?
Crazy as it sounds, some of the most potent muscle cars made came standard with drum brakes all around, with front discs being optional rather than standard on certain models. It’s pretty much common knowledge that discs do a much better job of swiftly hauling a car down from speed than the old drums. That’s why a brake swap — be it just from front drums to factory-spec discs or a considerably more powerful setup sporting massive discs and calipers all around — serves as a very worthwhile performance and safety upgrade.
For your next automotive project, head to Advance Auto Parts for all the auto parts, tools and accessories you’ll need for the job!
We explore the rich history and impact of this magical elixir.
It’s a beautiful spring day and so you decide to drive to a car show and take pictures of the new vehicles on display. You carefully fold up your map of the area and put it into your glove box. You make sure that you have extra rolls of 35mm film, you do some quick maintenance on your car and you plan to return home in time to get your film to the drug store that develops your photos…
Quick question: did this scenario take place in 2015? Why or why not?
The answer to part one is: highly unlikely. This paragraph is chock full of products and scanrios that, if not obsolete, are definitely headed that way – which makes the story of Sea Foam all the more amazing.
“This product was invented in the 1930s,” says Sea Foam’s marketing director, Brian Miller, “and trademarked in 1942. Sea Foam was invented in a time when engines were much less sophisticated than they are today, with fuel that was quite different from today’s options. And yet, the same Sea Foam that improved the quality of fuel then still works every bit as well today.”
Glimpse back into the 1930s
Fred Fandrei enjoyed fishing, but he frequently experienced problems with his outboard motor. He diagnosed it as gummy varnish created by the gas and oil needed to power his engine and the “thought of spending more time fishing than working on the motor prompted Fred, who was a District Manager for the Sinclair Refining Company at that time and had a good knowledge of fuel, to invent a product that would stop the gas/oil mixture from becoming stale.”
Fred stored his product in beer bottles and quart jars and sold it to other fishermen. When one of them asked him for some of his “Sea Foam” stuff, Fred liked the name and began using it for his concoction. He advertised in Field and Stream and Outdoor Life for a while but the market demand soon started shifting from marine to automotive.
To give you a sense of the latest and greatest innovations in the car world during that era: they included low-pressure balloon tires, replacing those hard tires of the past, and windshield wipers, along with synchromesh transmissions for smoother shifting, automatic chokes, built-in trunks, hydraulic brakes and gear shifts on steering columns. Most cars now boasted both radios and heaters, and still featured foot boards and sunshades on the car’s windscreens. Radiator grilles tilted back slightly and were often made of flashy-looking chrome – and Henry Ford invented the one-piece V-8 engine for the common man. Here’s more about the cars of 1930s – and now we’ll move onto discussing what has made Sea Foam so effective for more than seventy years.
Wonders of Sea Foam
All carbon-based fuels and engine oils leave behind petroleum-based residue. Over time, these naturally build up and eventually prevent lifters and rings from working as they should, and this residue also affects injectors, pistons and intake valves. For optimum engine performance, car owners need to periodically do a clean-up job – and Brian explains how Sea Foam accomplishes this task using a petroleum-blended product.
Now, this can seem counter-intuitive. Why on earth would you use petroleum to clean up the residue from petroleum?
Brian offers a clear and concise explanation. “If you’ve ever gotten oil-based paint on your hands,” he says, “you know that using water to clean yourself up only makes matters worse. Instead, you use something oil based to remove the paint. The same is true when you want to clean your engine. The petroleum solvency cleans your fuel system and removes gummy substances that hinder performance – and is harmless to your engine.” As the company website describes the process, “Sea Foam helps slowly and safely re-liquefy this varnish so contaminants and deposits can be safely cleaned out of the systems as the engine is operated.”
Other additives on the market are either detergent based or use a combination of detergent and petroleum, Brian says, although he is quick to add that he has respect for competing additive brands. “We don’t tear them down to make ourselves look good,” he says. “Instead, we talk about how quickly and consistently Sea Foam solves problems.”
Sea Foam can also help, according to the company website, with lack of lubrication and with absorption of moisture from the atmosphere and condensation. And, here’s an overall message about the product from the company: “Sea Foam can be used by professionals and do-it-yourselfers alike to help safely eliminate many contamination and lubrication related performance problems and help prolong the life of an engine. A clean, dry and well lubricated engine will run smoother and more efficiently.”
What people say about Sea Foam
Marketing directors usually share a remarkable story or two about someone who has had incredible success in using their product. Brian, though, was an exception to the rule, providing no stories of nuclear-level success. He instead emphasizes how quickly and consistently the product has worked for a wide range of challenges over several decades – and how the product continues to do that, even as engines and fuels evolve and become more sophisticated.
“Stories from satisfied customers are so common,” Brian says, “that no one story stands out. Whether someone needs to deal with engine hesitation, poor idling or rough performance – and whether that person wants better performance out of a pickup truck, a sports car, or even a chain saw, their problems are quickly resolved.”
If he were to wear a Sea Foam t-shirt into a grocery store, he says, people would walk up to him to share their stories. “It’s fun to meet people who are excited about their experiences,” he adds, “and as long as we use carbon-based fuels, there will be degradation of that fuel, and we’ll still be relevant. We’ll still be around to help.”
Editor’s note: Advance Auto Parts carries the Sea Foam products your car needs.
Surviving the Rolex 24 at Daytona
Enjoying a race on any normal day is an easy task. Scorching heat, pouring rain or similar environmental inconveniences won’t prevent you from enjoying the race. After all, you want to be there. When it’s over in a few hours, you’ll just head home or head out for a bite to eat while traffic dies down. But what happens when the race is more than just a few hours? How about considerably more … such as 24 hours.
Endurance races like the Rolex 24 at Daytona are notorious for being unpredictable. That’s part of their mystique and part of how they’ve earned their place at the top of motorsports totem pole.
Today we’re sharing our top tips for making the most of Rolex, which this year (2016) runs Jan 30 – 31. Common sense helps, except this race is anything but common.
Ponchos. Bring them.
Rain seems to be an every-other-year occurrence, perfectly timed to catch everyone off-guard. Nothing says, “Let’s do this!” like starting off the race drenched to the core. You have 24 hours of racing ahead, and in the lottery that is Florida weather patterns, the potential for wet weather mishaps is real.
Water. Drink it.
While you are busy keeping dry, remember to hydrate. Start well before you get to the track. A $6 concession stand water isn’t fun for anyone, but neither is passing out. There’s a theme here – water can both make and break your Rolex 24 experience, so be prepared.
Sharpies. Leave your mark.
You could use Sharpies for autographs, if you are into that sort of thing. But at Daytona, Sharpies serve another purpose. Use your Sharpie to sign the track, not a hero card. About two hours before the race, find out when and where you need to be to get out for the fan grid walk. See the cars up close, meet the drivers, get some pictures and then go see those high bankings for yourself. And don’t forget to sign the start/finish line.
An old-school battery-powered radio.
Two creature comforts are scarce when you are trackside in Daytona – power and cellular signal. More than 50,000 people will show up to this race, which can overwhelm nearby cell towers. This can make communicating with friends difficult and accessing the IMSA live stream nearly impossible.
However, there is still an old-school AM station you can use to get a more complete picture of the race. If you are parking in the infield (a very popular and highly sought after ticket) just be careful not to drain your car’s battery. Getting roadside service inside the track from an external source can leave you waiting for hours.
Sunscreen. And a good hat.
Lots of people forget that just because it’s nice outside doesn’t mean that the sun can’t get you. A solid sunburn from Saturday makes Sunday morning miserable.
While the vendors try their best to take plastic, there’s nothing like going without lunch because no one can get cell service on their wireless card readers. We’ve also seen a few well-placed dollars buy VIP seats on top of enterprising fans’ Winnebagos.
Family and friends.
Bring your friends, family and kids. It’s time to make some memories. 24 hours of racing is best enjoyed with entertaining people by your side. No one believes you when there’s no backup for a crazy race story, so you better have someone along to corroborate those tales. Keep in mind that race cars are LOUD so ear protection for the family is a good idea as well.
Maximize your smiles per hour at this year’s Rolex 24 by getting out there and exploring. We gave you our tips for getting ready, but it’s up to you to explore the new views Daytona built this year. Don’t dwell on the loss of the Party Porch, take the chance to get up high in the stands and find a new view for you.
Look for our reporting from this year’s event, and check out our coverage of last year’s Rolex 24.
Editor’s note: Whether you drive a race car or only dream about it, visit Advance Auto Parts for the best in savings and selection for your ride.
From timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.
For this installment, Gearhead’s Garage puts the spotlight on Dodge’s long-time rival to the Camaro and Mustang, the Challenger
Although Plymouth had slapped a huge fastback rear window onto its pedestrian Valiant and called it a Barracuda back in ’64, Ford is credited with starting the sporty four-passenger coupe/convertible segment a few weeks later with its much more unique Mustang, hence the “pony car” nickname for this then-new segment.
By 1970, the pony car segment was in full force. The Chevy Camaro and Pontiac Firebird came onto the scene for 1967, as did a redesigned Barracuda that broke away from its humble Valiant roots. AMC debuted its Javelin for 1968. And then Dodge finally joined the party for 1970 with its Challenger.
With its bigger size compared to its rivals (it was about four inches longer and five inches wider than a Mustang), the Challenger, available in coupe and convertible body styles, was a boulevard bruiser. Curiously, its redesigned-for-’70 Barracuda platform mate was about five inches shorter in length, making it more of a true pony car in terms of size. Still, there was no denying the appeal of the Challenger no matter how you wanted to classify it.
Mild to Wild
As with its competitors, the Dodge Challenger could be equipped with anything from a lackluster six cylinder engine to any of a number of pavement rippling V8s. Trim levels included the base Challenger, luxury-themed Challenger SE, high-performance R/T and road race track-focused T/A.
Engine choices ran the spectrum from a 225-cubic-inch slant six with just 145-horsepower and on through 318-, 340-, 383-, 426- and 440-cubic-inch V8s. Of them all, the most highly respected were the high-winding 340 4-barrel and “Six-Pack” (three two-barrel carbs), stout 440 4-barrel and Six-Pack and brutal 426 Hemi, (which boasted two four-barrel carbs). Their seriously underrated outputs stood at 275 hp, 290 hp, 375 hp, 390 hp and 425 hp, respectively.
Performance figures of the day had the Challenger T/A (which came with the 340 Six-Pack) sprinting to 60 mph in around 7.0 seconds and running the quarter mile in around 15.0, with the 440 Six Pack about a second quicker in each contest. A Hemi Challenger was king of the strip with the 0-to-60 dash done in about 5.8 seconds and the quarter mile done in the high 13s.
The following year, 1971, saw the T/A version and its 340 Six-Pack engine dropped from the lineup, but the 440 Six-Pack and the 426 Hemi were still available. This would be the last year for those big brutes. A split grille insert and separated rear taillights (versus the single unbroken strip of ’70) marked the minor styling update for that year’s Challenger.
As most muscle cars fans know, 1972 signaled the downfall of this performance era, and the Challenger was a victim as well. In addition to the convertible body style going away, so too did the big engine options, leaving just the slant six, 318 V8 and 340 V8. Furthermore, a drop in compression ratios as well as a change from SAE Gross to Net (engine running a full exhaust and accessories) ratings dropped output numbers.
Trim levels were also reduced that year to just two: the base Challenger and the sportier Rallye. As such, the hot ticket for ’72 was a Challenger Rallye with the 340 V8 and a four-speed stick. The 0-to-60 and quarter mile times for that version were still respectable at around 7.5- and 15.5-seconds, respectively. Styling changes included a much larger grille that continued below the bumper and a change to four semi-rectangular taillights.
For 1973 and 1974 (which would be this generation’s last year) the Challenger continued pretty much unchanged with the exception of a 360 cubic-inch V8 replacing the 340 for 1974 and the car receiving larger bumper guards to meet federal standards.
In Name Only
For 1978, the Challenger returned. No, actually just the name returned as that classic moniker was affixed to a Dodge-badged version of a Mitsubishi built sport coupe powered by – perish the thought — a four cylinder engine. Actually, one could choose between a 2.0-liter, 77 hp mill or a 2.6-liter 105 hp four banger. Electronic features and a plush velour interior highlighted this rival to the Toyota Celica and Datsun (Nissan) 200SX. For 1980, the big four became the standard engine while 1981 brought a more upright roofline. 1983 was the last year for this misnamed but pleasant enough small sport coupe.
The Real Challenger Returns
More than three decades after the original Challenger left the factory, its true successor returned. Specifically, 2008 saw the return of the Dodge Challenger, complete with a tribute to the 1970’s styling as well as a rip-roaring V8 engine. Though it may look very similar to a ’70-’74 Challenger, the new-age one is considerably larger. At around 4,150 pounds it tips the scales about 500 pounds heavier, and both wheelbase and overall length are around six inches greater. The positives are that the new Challenger has a lot more safety and luxury features, as well as considerably greater rear seat passenger room.
Indeed, only the ultra-high-performance “SRT8” version was available for 2008, complete with a 425-horsepower, 6.1-liter Hemi V8 engine matched to a five-speed automatic. Performance was stunning, as the Challenger SRT8 could leap to 60 in just 5.1 seconds and dismiss the quarter mile in 13.2 seconds, handily beating the legendary 426 Hemi Challenger of 1970. And unlike the old car, this one boasted fairly athletic handling around corners and could stop from 60 mph in just 115 feet.
The following year, a six-speed manual became available for the SRT8 and a base, V6-powered SE debuted, along with the return of the R/T, this time as a mid-level performance version packing a 5.7-liter, 370 hp Hemi V8.
For 2011, a new V6 engine sporting 305 hp debuted, meaning no apologies need be made for driving a “base” Challenger. Also, the SRT8 became the SRT8 392, the numbers signifying in cubic inches a larger V8 with 470 eager horses that can catapult this beast to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds. Upgrades in suspension, steering and brakes across the lineup make this a very good year to consider if you’re in the market for a Challenger.
Apart from minor equipment shuffling and some new trim levels, the Challenger continued through 2014 mostly unchanged. But 2015 brought some really big news. New styling paid tribute to, what else, the 1971 Challenger with its split grille (on all but the Hellcat version) and separated taillights. A new interior was a leap forward in terms of style and materials quality, while an eight-speed automatic joins the six-speed manual for transmission choices.
And now, forget 500, or even 600 horsepower. With the 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat, an incredible 707 horsepower could be had under the scooped hood of a Challenger. Performance of this road burner was simply mind bending, with the dash to 60 mph a traction-dictated 4.1 second effort (with drag radials a 3-second time would likely be cake) and the quarter mile unreeled in just 11.9 seconds, making this one of the quickest street legal cars ever offered for sale to the general public.
Join the Club
If you’re a Challenger owner or even just an enthusiast, there are a few web sites you can check out for specs, classifieds and car show information. There are the Challenger Club of America, Dodge Challenger Forumz, and West Coast Challengers, to name a few.
Wheels: Bigger isn’t Always Better
by Street Talk
Seems that “Bigger is better” has become something of an American mantra. We’ve got Big Macs, big sunglasses, big houses, big trucks. And in the automotive modification world, big wheels. The latter have grown from simply big to downright cartoonish in some cases, giving some rides the look of rolling caricatures.
On the other hand, there are big wheels that do more than add automotive eye candy. With improved performance as the goal, these wheels, when shod with high-performance tires, are essentially the athletic shoes of the automotive aftermarket.
Yet despite how cool bigger than stock wheels may look, depending on where your priorities lie, they may not be the best choice for your car.
Bigger For More Bling
The first custom wheels to start the big wheel movement were “Dubs”, which is urban slang for the number 20. Measuring 20 inches in diameter, these large wheels were favored among pro athletes, rappers and other celebrity types who wanted their rides to draw even more attention. Some even had separate center pieces that would spin freely, further upping the “look at me” factor when the car stopped and the wheels seemingly kept spinning.
Originally seen fitted to big luxury cars, such as Cadillacs, S-Class Benzes, 6- and 7 Series BMWs and various Bentleys, Dubs soon appeared on exotic sports cars too. Eventually, as the wheel choices expanded and got more affordable, non-wealthy folks got into the act, putting them onto more mainstream cars and trucks, such as Chevy Camaros, Olds Cutlasses, Chevy Caprices, Chevy Tahoes, Ford Expeditions and Ford Crown Victorias. The car makers themselves started offering big wheel options as well.
More recent years have seen these styling statement wheels grow much larger, with 24-inch and even larger aftermarket hoops being squeezed into fenders originally designed for 15-, 16-, or 17-inch factory wheels. Although they’re larger than 20s, these wheels are still called Dubs by most people. Indeed, a magazine dubbed “Dub” sprang up back in 2000 to celebrate the big wheel culture. And it’s still going strong today, some 16 years later.
Typically chromed and sporting fancy designs, Dubs were (and are) typically much heavier than the original wheels which came on a given car. That’s not a good thing as it negatively affects the car’s overall performance and ride characteristics. Due to their greater mass, they take more power to overcome what’s called rotational inertia. In other words, because they’re heavier, it takes more power to get them rolling. Conversely, once they’re up to speed, it takes longer to slow them down. So both acceleration and braking are affected.
Similarly, their heavier weight makes them slower to react to quick up-and-down motions of the suspension. Factor in the super low profile tires they’re wearing, whose minuscule, stiff sidewalls offer virtually no impact absorption, and you’re left with a notably harsher ride than what the car originally provided.
Bigger Wheels for Performance Enhancement
On the other end of the big wheel spectrum are the performance wheels that are typically available in “Plus-1, Plus-2, Plus-3” etcetera fitments, which indicate how much larger (in inches) than the stock wheel they are. These larger wheels are constructed of ultra-lightweight materials such as exotic alloys or even carbon fiber, so they actually end up weighing less than the smaller, factory-issued wheels.
As such, these high-performance wheels don’t saddle your ride with any of the ill effects that heavier wheels impart on a car’s dynamics. Instead, this type of a big wheel upgrade provides notably crisper handling and sharper steering response. Less mass also helps improve acceleration and braking qualities.
Yes, going with these larger yet lighter wheels still means that, even without suspension mods, the ride is going to be somewhat stiffer than stock due to those shorter, stiffer tire sidewalls. So those who are happy with their car’s factory-issued handling and ride balance may want to reconsider this type of upsizing upgrade, while those enthusiasts looking for sharper, more “connected-to-the-road” handling will likely feel it’s a more than fair trade-off.
No one EVER has trouble figuring out what to get me for Christmas. That’s because one of my favorite places to spend time is in the garage, and like most car guys and gals who consider themselves heavy or light DIYers, or somewhere in between, there’s always a new garage tool or gadget on my wish list.
This holiday season, my tool wants aren’t items I must have to finish any one project, rather they are garage tools that would make my life easier and my work more enjoyable. Those qualities are, after all, hallmarks of a great tool and gift idea, right?
A magnetic tray. If Ralphie had one of these in A Christmas Story, he never would have watched in horror as the lug nuts went flying through the air and into the snow, forever lost. I have a similar problem misplacing small metal parts while I’m working on something in the garage, house or yard. A magnetic tray is a tool I can keep close by while working and makes it easy to contain and keep track of any small parts that are involved with the project.
Truck box light. My 2004 F150 has a hard tonneau cover over the bed. It’s awesome at keeping everything dry and secure, but it has one downside. When it’s dark out and the cover is raised, it blocks any light from the cab-mounted cargo light, leaving me to fumble around in the dark for a flashlight or my iPhone flashlight app. I tried sticking some battery powered lights to the cover’s underside, but they were designed to be used under kitchen cabinets and the adhesive couldn’t hold up to road vibration or to the cover being closed repeatedly. A truck box light that attaches via a magnet to the bed would be a lot easier and remain in place.
Three-drawer portable tool box. All my tools – and there are a lot – have their place in the well-organized garage pegboard, workbench drawers or large rolling toolbox. When I need just a handful of tools to work on something outside the garage or to help a friend, I can usually fit them in a medium-size canvas tool bag. On larger projects that require more tool power, or for projects that I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to need, I’d like to have something that’s sized between the bag and the large rolling tool cart, but is still portable so I can take it with me. I think a three-drawer portable tool chest is the answer. On a related note, Advance has some tool sets on sale right now!
Three-foot fan. During the summer, my garage gets hot, and sometimes smells from exhaust fumes, pepperoni and onion pizza, and the occasional small engine fire. A traditional box or oscillating fan doesn’t move enough air to keep me cool or to eradicate unpleasant olfactory sensations. That’s why I want the big blades and cubic-feet-of-air-moving-capacity that comes with a three-foot garage fan. And, when I’m not working in the garage, who’s to say it can’t pull double duty and keep me cool while I’m slaving over a hot grill on the back deck?
Editor’s note: Whether you’re buying tools for yourself or for a family member or friend this holiday season, Advance Auto Parts has the tools, parts and vehicle-related gifts to help you finish the job. Buy online, pick up in store, and get back to the garage.
“Car history is world history and the world is a strange place full of weird people.”
We recently read Jalopnik’s Book of Car Facts and History Even Gearheads Don’t Know, and wanted to know more about the story behind the story – about this book in particular and Jalopnik, in general. Fortunately, Jalopnik’s executive director, Matt Hardigree, was gracious enough to answer our questions shortly before the site’s 11th anniversary.
First, some context about the book’s title. “At Jalopnik,” Matt says, “we take a wide view of the definition of the term ‘gearhead,’ using it to mean anyone who likes cars because they’re interested in the history, what a car does, how it works. You can define it narrowly, of course, to make yourself feel good. We could say, ‘If you haven’t swapped an engine in every single kind of car, then you’re not part of our club.’ But we want to be inclusive, not inaccessible.” Even on the Jalopnik team, he says, people range from those who do full engine swaps to those who only do a bit of car maintenance.
In general, Matt isn’t a fan of car lingo. “Lingo keeps people away, shuts them out,” he says, “and only serves to make the person using the lingo feel smarter, cooler, and in the know.”
He does note that enthusiasts seldom refer to a car with its real name, instead giving it an affectionate nickname. “Each person might use shorthand that only he or she understands, and that can cause communication problems.”
The bottom line: a gearhead knows another gearhead when he or she realizes, “Hey! You have the same weird and wonderful problem that I do!”
Premise of the book
“People,” Matt says, “are more interesting than machines. In reality, machines are interesting BECAUSE of the people who invented them and the stories are crazy BECAUSE of people’s inventiveness.”
It was challenging to narrow down the topics to fit into this book, he admits, but they ultimately chose topics that gearheads should know about, but usually don’t, picking posts from six or seven years ago so they weren’t fresh in people’s minds. “Everyone knows the history of Mercedes Benz,” he says, “but who knows about the first amphicar? About an amphibious car that, when it was wrecked on the street, the owner charged a fee for people to view the wreckage? Now, that’s American ingenuity, and we want to educate people enough so that they could do bar chats on the topics.”
“At Jalopnik,” he adds, “we don’t necessarily choose stories because they would appeal to car enthusiasts. More accurately, we choose stories that will help TURN people into car enthusiasts.”
Here are snippets from stories on the brink between “genius and insanity” – targeted towards anyone who “cherishes the weird dark alleys of automobile history”:
- Who is Ferdinand Verbiest and why did his name appear in the first chapter of Jalopnik’s book?
- Flemish Jesuit missionary living in China who built the first self-propelled vehicle in 1672, a toy for the emperor. Unfortunately, he died after falling off of a horse.
- Who was the first automaker to offer a television in a car – in what year at what cost?
- Ford Motor Company: $169.95 in 1965; the television set hung from brackets off the front seats and could be powered by plugging it into the cigarette lighter or into a portable battery pack.
- What does the 1963 Corvette have in common with a headless shark?
- Design teams were brainstorming Corvette concept cars to follow up on the Stingray right when GM’s VP of Design Bill Mitchell came home from vacation. He’d supposedly caught a shark while traveling and brought home the head – and he wanted the car paint to duplicate the natural colors of the shark.
Jalopnik’s book is full of countless other stories like these. So, if you haven’t read it yet, we wholeheartedly recommend that you do.
Behind the scenes at Jalopnik
“Jason is a ridiculous genius,” Matt says, “and can find the greatest moments in automotive history. When he decided to find the first drawing or cartoon of a car, as just one example, he worked on that project for months. Maybe for years. Once he’d find a cartoon that was the oldest he’d seen to date, he’d then start to try to find an older one. He wanted to discover what the oldest cartoons tell us about the people of that era.”
We also chatted about Doug DeMuro – and when he got stopped not once, but twice, in one single evening driving his 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R (find Advance Auto Parts coverage on that here). “Doug is hilarious,” Matt says. “Here, he is – this average nice guy wearing cargo shorts, getting hassled. The way he interfaces with the outside world resonates with audiences and, when he writes for Jalopnik, traffic goes up.”
The reality is, Matt admits, there is enough material to write 1,000 stories every single day about cars: about crashes, about who is buying, who is selling, who is designing a new model. To make it into Jalopnik, though, it “needs to make us laugh, be a story that clearly targets us. Now that we’re big, we need to be thoughtful and not make jokes at someone else’s expense who never intended to become a public figure, which eliminates some of what we would have published in earlier days. In other words, we were willing to punch our way up, but we won’t punch down.”
Here are two examples of his thought processes about what makes a great story. “If you write about automated cars in a way that makes them seem as exciting as a toaster, that doesn’t work. But if you can write about them as Knight Rider coming to life, you’re writing about a car owner’s partner, his pal, rather than what’s comparable to a refrigerator on wheels.”
Here’s a second example. “When writing about the history of the Mustang, you’d include the story of the horse logo. You’d share how the last battle that used horses was in Hungary, tanks versus horses. The guy who ultimately designed the Mustang logo with a horse survived that battle and designed the logo as a tribute to everyone who fought. So, modern warfare brought about the end of horse participation, yet the animal ends up on a car. Those are the details that make you care.”
For many car guys and gals, modifying their ride’s style to make it their own is one of the most exciting and satisfying aspects of being an enthusiast. Maybe the stock wheels look rather plain and/or lost in the big wheel wells, so installing an aftermarket quartet can go a long way towards jazzing up the car’s looks and stance. Maybe you’d like to liven up its face too by accenting the headlights with some electronic eyeliner. And then there are the sporty spoilers, which range from mild to wild.
Note that in keeping with the affordable and “bolt-on” installation nature of this article, we didn’t include pricier and much more involved mods such as lower body kits and boxed wheel flares.
It’s hard to top a new set of wheels for making an easy, yet impactful visual statement. With so many different styles available, ranging from a subtle upgrade over stock fitment to what can only be described as over the top bling (remember “spinners”? Ugh.), aftermarket wheels are understandably one of the most popular upgrades.
In addition to the visual pizzazz they provide, new wheels can also improve your car’s handling. Going with a larger diameter wheel means going with a lower profile sidewall for the tire. That translates into sharper handling as there will be less sidewall flex when you’re pushing your car on a curvy section of blacktop. Keep in mind that a stiffer ride is part of the deal, as those shorter sidewalls won’t help absorb the smaller bumps as much as the original, larger and more flexible sidewalls did.
Despite the temptation to “go big or go home” — for example bolting on a set of 20s when 15- or 16-inch wheels were original fitment — we advise keeping it to a “plus two” (two-inch larger diameter over stock) maximum. The reasoning behind our thinking is that, unless you’re going with very expensive, ultra lightweight wheels, those larger wheels are also going to be substantially heavier, which negatively affects a car’s acceleration, braking, and ride characteristics.
One of our favorite sites for wheels is tirerack.com. In addition to the great selection they offer, their site allows you to see what different sets of wheels will look like on your car (provided your make and model is in their extensive data base).
Show me the light
Swapping out headlights and taillights is another relatively simple and cost-effective way to personalize your car. First seen on German luxury cars, accent lighting around the headlights is now a very popular aftermarket accessory. If you’ve got round headlight elements, you can go with what BMW called “Corona rings” — circular lighting rings that surround the round lighting elements. And then there are what we call “LED eyeliner”, which was made popular by Audi and as our nickname implies uses LEDs to brightly accent the headlight clusters.
Custom taillights have been around much longer, and come in a wide array of styles. If a cool, subtle vibe is your thing, a lightly tinted set of taillights can work, especially if the stock ones feature multi-color elements. However, if you are looking for some flash, there are the clear lens units that have individual elements within accented with bright metal accents.
Although front and rear spoilers serve a purpose (they reduce aerodynamic lift at higher speeds, thus keeping the front and rear tires of the car more planted to the asphalt), let’s be honest, most folks dig them for the looks. Just as with the wheels and lighting options, spoilers come in a huge variety of styles.
We tend to prefer the more subtle ones — a discreet chin spoiler up front followed by a small, color-matched rear spoiler rising maybe an inch or so off the rear deck. But for those who like to turn the knob up to “11”, larger front air dams with gaping ducts (to ostensibly help cool the brakes) and large rear wings towering a few feet off the rear deck are available. Not necessarily our cup of 10W-40, but to each their own. It’s all about your own preferences and sense of style.
For plenty of affordable customization options, be sure to check out Advance Auto Parts.
Many DIYers relish the opportunity to work on their vehicle, whether it’s performing routine maintenance or installing the latest performance upgrade. Sometimes, however, what should be a relaxing and satisfying few hours spent under the hood on a weekend afternoon with the game on in the background turns instead into a knuckle-busting, tool-throwing lesson in DIY frustration.
We’ve all been there – victims of Murphy’s Law. Whatever can go wrong, will, and the chances of it happening rise in tandem with the degree to which you’re feeling rushed or under pressure to get the job done.
Here’s my Top Five List of DIY Annoyances. This isn’t an all-inclusive list, so let’s hear what your biggest frustrations are under the hood.
Plastic engine and under-car covers. Lift the hood or crawl underneath most modern vehicles and you’ll see plastic – a lot of it. Plastic shrouds cover the engine, the battery, and pretty much everything else you might have a need to access under the hood. It’s no better down on the ground with plastic blocking precisely the spot you need to place a wrench. Depending on whom you believe, all that plastic serves a purpose – according to vehicle manufacturers – or it’s been placed there to thwart DIYers. Regardless, its presence makes your job that much more difficult and time-consuming. And, more often than not, the plastic screws or clips holding the shrouds in place break when they’re removed. I prefer a plastic-cover free, roomy engine compartment, circa 1973, in which to perform my best work.
Lost – or as I tell my wife – “temporarily misplaced” tools. It’s a simple job – one that shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes and one for which you have all the necessary tools close at hand. Or so you think. The one tool that you must have for the job, and that you know you do have, isn’t where it should be. In fact, it isn’t anywhere. Did you loan it to someone? Leave it in the shed? Mistakenly throw it away? You now wind up spending more time searching for that tool than it would have taken you to complete the job. Put the tools away where they belong every time.
Fixing that which is not broken, or, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Sometimes you’re unsure exactly what the problem is so you start fixing things that you think may be the culprit, only to find out they’re not. On the other hand, you might be overconfident that you know exactly what the vehicle maintenance problem is so you fix it, and quickly learn it wasn’t the problem. Case in point – the Honda engine on my wood splitter suffered from an intermittent failure to start. I was sure it was the rust build up on the flywheel magnet. It wasn’t. Then it had to be the spark plug. Nope. Followed by the low-oil switch. Wrong again. Finally, I struck gold by cleaning some water and junk out of the carb bowl. Finding the right fix can be time-consuming, costly, and frustrating, but it’s important.
Doing more harm than good. When does a routine carb adjustment turn into a head removal? After you drop something down the intake. In the blink of an eye, what should have been an easy, inexpensive task just turned into an expensive vehicle maintenance nightmare because you deposited a screw, nut, washer or some loose change down there. Sure, you can tell yourself that it fell in the gravel driveway and that’s why you can’t find it. You’ll soon learn the truth when you start the engine. It’s happened to the best of us – good intentions of fixing one part are punished with the realization that you just broke something else, and it’s going to be a lot more difficult and time-consuming to repair.
Other people. Even if you’re living by yourself in a cabin in the woods you still have to deal with other people, and their mistakes, when it comes to servicing your vehicle. Don’t think so? Have you ever been under the hood of a vehicle someone owned before you and found yourself shaking your head in amazement, wondering how and why the previous owner made a repair the way they did? Ever pull up to a self-service car wash or air pump, deposit some coins and only then find out that someone before you broke the equipment? Ever get some bad advice from a well-meaning friend or brother-in-law who “had that exact same model and knows exactly what the problem is.” We’re all human and we all make mistakes. Be ready for it.
Working on vehicles can be a tricky business or hobby and one that’s full of surprises. Expect the annoyances, learn to roll with them, appreciate the time you get to spend under the hood, and share your pet peeves with us. You’ll feel better after you do.
Editor’s note: Whether it’s tools, parts, or knowledge, if you don’t have what you need under the hood, turn to Advance Auto Parts. Buy online, pick up in store, and get back to the garage.