Sharing Our Thanks

Thanksgiving Cornucopia 2014

All of us in the Advance family are thankful for our families, employees and friends in the community.

We extend our warm greetings to you and yours for a happy and bountiful Thanksgiving, 2014 – may your tables be full and your car projects fruitful.

Top 3 Favorites from the 2014 LA Auto Show

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

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

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

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.

Detroit Lions to give away Custom Team-Themed Ford Mustang

Detroit Lions Mustang

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.”

Read the full story and enter the contest at the Detroit Lions website.

Car Museums Aren’t What They Used to Be

Volo Museum 1

An overview of the incredible Volo Auto Museum showroom.

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.

Hollywood Collection

Police vehicle, Barricade, from Transformers movie.

Police vehicle, Barricade, from Transformers movie.

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.

Bizarre Cars

Volo Museum 3

When this baby hits 88 . . . Back to the Future DeLorean

“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.

Military Vehicles

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.

Vintage Cars

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?

Volo Museum 4

Elvis tribute car and James Dean tribute car.

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.”

What’s next?

General Lee vehicle from Dukes of Hazzard, season 1

General Lee vehicle from Dukes of Hazzard, season 1

Editor’s note: Check out our behind-the-scenes look at the Lane Motor Museum, where unique cars from A to Z are displayed.

 


Crucial Cars: Scion tC

Scion tC carFrom timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.

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.

Scion tC coupe

 

TRD Accessories

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.

Aftermarket Add-Ons

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. 

Celebrate America Recycles Day — November 15, 2014

Are you doing your part to reduce waste? We salute America Recycles Day!

As part of the Keep America Beautiful program, America Recycles Day is a nationally recognized day dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the US. Every year on or around November 15, America Recycles Day event organizers like you can serve to educate neighbors, friends and colleagues through events nationwide.

One way to help the environment as you tackle those car maintenance projects is to recycle your used batteries and motor oil. Advance is here to help. Just visit your nearby Advance Auto Parts store for more details.*

 

Recycling Flyer

*Free services available on most automotive vehicles, most locations, unless prohibited by law.  Services may not be available at all stores due to select local community ordinances. Contact your local Advance Auto Parts store for complete details.

Exclusive 2014 SEMA Show Highlights

The 2014 SEMA Show was a big success…and Advance was there! See what our Street Talker has to say about the happenings.

It’s Friday at the 2014 SEMA Show, and that can only mean one thing: if we want more custom-built automotive craziness, we’ll have to wait till next year. Yes, SEMA 2014 (Nov. 4-7) has officially reached an end, and we were there for every bit of it, roaming the floors of the Las Vegas Convention Center and doing endless double-takes at all of the fine modified metal on display.

We’d spend thousands of words telling you about every single car at the show, but something tells us you don’t have that kind of time. Here’s the next best thing, then — a list of our top three favorite cars from SEMA 2014. This is Street Talk, of course, so they’re gonna have a stance, and their engines are gonna make a whole lot of power. That still doesn’t narrow it down very much—which, by the way, is what makes SEMA so amazing—but here are the three rides that we just can’t get out of our heads.

BMW M4 Vorsteiner GTRS4Vorsteiner GTRS4

What happens when you take a BMW M4 and slap the sickest widebody kit on it that you can imagine? That’s what Southern California tuning outfit Vorsteiner set out to discover, and the result is the Vorsteiner GTRS4, which caused one of the biggest stirs this year. The front fenders are four inches wider than stock, and the rears gain a ridiculous seven inches. Those bulbous rear haunches actually remind us a bit of a widebody Porsche 911. The GTRS4 rides on 20-inch wheels that wear 345-width tires in back (almost as wide as a Dodge Viper), and its height-adjustable suspension aims to improve the M4’s somewhat brittle ride without sacrificing any of BMW’s stock adaptive suspension features. Under the hood, the 425-horsepower M4 arguably didn’t need any improvement whatsoever, but Vorsteiner cranked the volume to 550 hp just for good measure.

Galpin Auto Sports Ford MustangGalpin Auto Sports Ford Mustang

There’s an argument to be made that the 707-hp 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat has stolen a bit of the all-new 2015 Ford Mustang’s thunder. After all, the Mustang currently tops out at “only” 435 hp with the GT’s 5.0-liter V8. But Ford’s biggest dealership — Van Nuys, CA-based Galpin — has an Auto Sports tuner division of some repute, and their team whipped a black 2015 Mustang GT into a 725-hp monster for SEMA duty. The power comes courtesy of a Whipple supercharger, and the Galpin crew also threw in a window in the hood so you can admire it, along with gold wheels and gold interior trim. The best part is, Galpin Auto Sports has a history of offering such modifications to customers, and it looks like this package will be available in the near future.

Kia K900Kia K900 High Performance

This creation, on the other hand, will likely never be available for purchase, but it’s a tantalizing glimpse of what the luxurious K900 could be. Thanks to novel rear-mounted Garrett twin turbochargers that are visible through a viewport in the trunk, the High Performance K900 maintains the regular car’s 5.0-liter V8 configuration under the hood, but the turbos turn up the wick from 420 hp to an astonishing 650 hp. To tighten up the K900’s languid suspension, Kia paired Eibach lowering springs with 21-inch wheels, giving the car a pretty mean stance in the process. Ksport brakes with 15-inch rotors and eight-piston calipers top off this tasty package. Now, if only Kia would offer a high-performance K900 from the factory; then we’d be getting somewhere.Kia K900 interior

What caught your eye?

You read all the SEMA news this week, right? What are your Top 3 cars from the 2014 SEMA Show? Let us know in the comments.

 

Editor’s note: Whether you attended SEMA, or are just living vicariously through our blog post, Advance Auto Parts has the parts to keep your fantasy ride running right all year round.

James Hetfield’s Black Pearl to appear at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show

James Hetfield Black PearlMetallica front-man’s prized possession to turn heads at the LA Auto Show later this month.

The award-winning Black Pearl is coming to the Los Angeles Auto Show this November. Built from the ground up and designed by Metallica’s James Hetfield and world renowned custom car builder Rick Dore, the Black Pearl has been turning heads at shows all around the United States for the past year, and is coming home to California to appear at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show November 18th through 30th.

“It is a real honor to have the Black Pearl included in this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show,” enthuses Dore in anticipation of the show. “The Black Pearl is one of those things that – we initially had been taking other vehicles and cutting and pasting, making you own prototype in a way,” explains Hetfield. “This one we actually started from scratch. We started with a ’48 Jag and basically tried to work it, work it down to frame and build it up from scratch from a drawing. It took it to a whole new level of car building: from a drawing.” Metallica James Hetfield

With its fastback roof and sleek lines, the Black Pearl was inspired by some of the early concept cars of the 1930’s, while the chassis is based off of a 1948 Jaguar. The body was completely hand built and shaped by Marcel and Luc De Lay under the direction of Rick Dore, who’s Rick Dore Kustoms built the rest of the project before the lustrous black finish was applied by Daryl Hollenbeck. In the past year the ‘Pearl has made award winning appearances at The Grand National Roadster Show, winning the 2014 Al Slonaker, Blackie Gejelan and George Barris Kustom awards and The Goodguys, winning Mother’s Custom of the Year and Best In Show, and was shown at The Quail and A Motor Sports Gathering, amongst others. 

The Los Angeles Auto Show is open to the public November 21st through November 30th. For admission info and tickets, visit www.laautoshow.com.

Baby, it’s cold outside! Pros and cons about heated seats for cars

Car seatsWhen cars were first invented, rides in them could be downright chilly, especially during winter months. After all, these early-model vehicles were open bodied, so wind could whip around drivers and passengers alike as rain, snow and/or sleet fell freely upon their heads. Glass windshields started to appear around 1907, breaking some of the wind, and motorists bundled up and put gas lamps in their cars to create some radiated heat. But, still! It was cold.

At the 13th National Automobile Show in New York, a mass production car debuted that was fully enclosed: the Hudson “Twenty,” which was produced in Detroit, starting on July 3, 1909. Because this car was a warmer ride, 4,000 vehicles sold that year – this in spite of the cost of nearly $1,000 (about $26,000 in today’s dollars; remember that car financing wasn’t typically available to buyers). In 1910, Hudson built nearly 6,500 of these cars to continue to meet demand and, by 1925, Hudson was the third largest US car manufacturer behind Ford and Chevrolet.

Although an enclosed car was warmer than an open-bodied one, traveling was still a cold proposition in the winter. Enterprising people tried to recycle exhaust fumes into their vehicles to benefit from small amounts of interior heat. This doesn’t sound like a particularly safe idea, though, and it couldn’t have smelled great, either. In 1929, a hot air heater was available in the Ford Model A. It took a while to fire up and it provided inconsistent engine-generated heat, but it had to be safer than inhaling exhaust fumes. In 1933, Ford installed the first in-dash heating unit: gas powered.

Meanwhile, General Motors created a heater that used redirected engine coolant, debuting the first modern heater core in 1930. Although improvements are continually being made in the auto world, including with heaters, this 1930 model is still the basis of what’s being used today.

Heated seats

Although car heaters made driving far more comfortable, a heated seat would provide targeted heat to one particular body part – and that was an appealing idea to many. It’s reported in many places online that General Motors (GM) tested car seat heaters in 1939 on select models, but no additional details or sources seem to be available. But, GM clearly was a pioneer in the heated seat effort, with Robert Ballard of GM credited with the first patent. He applied for his patent in 1951 and was issued #2,698,893 in 1955. See pictures and detailed text of his patent here.

In 1966, the Cadillac Deville came with the option of heated seats, along with two other luxury innovations: headrests and an AM/FM stereo radio. This option more closely resembled heating pads for the seats, rather than today’s more sophisticated options, but at least they were warm. Here’s a photo of the temperature controls.

Who gets credit for the first “real” heated seats? Saab, although the initial goal was to minimize backaches, which would lead to more pleasurable traveling – which would make for safer driving, according to Saab. The original press release reassured car owners that the heating system was not affected by dampness or water, causing Jalopnik to have this bit of fun: I like the “not affected by dampness” part in there, because that’s automaker code for “Go ahead and wet your pants! You won’t die! Enjoy!”

Let’s talk about safety

In a 2011 article in The Legal Examiner, it was stated that approximately 30% of cars on the road today come with heated seats. Edmunds.com states it in a different way: that nearly 300 models of cars come with seat warmers today.

There is no doubt that they provide comfort in the cold months. However, although manufacturers typically list that these heaters max out between 86 and 113 degrees Fahrenheit, temps can sometimes reach 150 degrees. Third degree burns can develop in about ten minutes when temperatures reach 120 degrees, and people with diabetes, neuropathy and/or other paralysis issues may not have the ability to sense danger in time to shut off the heater.

Toasted skin syndrome is an actual condition that, according to the Chicago Tribune in 2013 “results when the backs of your legs, thighs and buttocks become darkened and discolored after too much time snuggled into a heated seat. Yes, your Fanny Fryer accessory package literally could tan your hide.”

The article goes on to say that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Society of Automotive Engineers alike have formed “what can only be called crack teams to get to the bottom of it all and forge safety standards.”

It’s easy – all too easy – to joke about seat warmer challenges but results can be quite serious. The integrity of the burned skin, The Legal Examiner article states, could be compromised permanently – and this is not a theoretical issue, with numerous people already receiving significant burns from car seat heaters.

Heated seat repairs

If you decide that the benefit of more targeted heat is worth potential risks, and your heated seats aren’t functioning properly, then here is a checklist to guide you through troubleshooting, repairs and replacement.*

Question: who wants to tear apart their car seats to diagnose a heated seat problem?

Answer: nobody.

Fortunately, there are plenty of potential problems and fixes to try first, including:

  • Check for and fix blown fuses. Does that solve the problem?
  • Make sure that the plug connecting the seat to the wiring is free from corrosion or dirt. Using a voltmeter, make sure that at least 12 volts exist on each side of the switch.

Still having a problem? Pull out your car manual to see where the thermistor is located. Has it shifted? If so, then that shift probably burned out the heating wire. Burn spots in the car’s fabric indicate the likelihood of this issue. If that’s the case, you’ll need to replace or solder bad wire.

Let’s say that none of this helps. You then should use an ohmmeter to see which section of the heating element is causing a problem (knowing that the answer might be “all”). If you decide to replace the unit:

  • Detach any wires from the seat.
  • Remove the seat from the car.
  • Disassemble the seat, separating the back and base, and removing the cushion and leather from the base.
  • Replace all heated seats parts, including the heating element and the wiring.
  • Put the seat together again.
  • Reconnect the wiring.

Editor’s note: What are your thoughts about and experiences with heated car seats? What questions do you have? Please leave your comments below. And, check out Advance Auto Parts for the best in savings and selection.

 

*Always consult your owner’s manual first. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure warranties are not voided.

Crucial Cars: Toyota Tundra

Toyota TndraFrom timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.

For this installment, our favorite neighborhood mechanic talks through Toyota’s colossal contribution to the full-size truck market.

 If you had told a pickup truck driver in the mid 1970s or ‘80s that Toyota would one day introduce a full-size pickup in the U.S. that would compete with the “traditional” full-size pickup brands—Ford, Chevy, Dodge, and GMC—they probably would have laughed you out of the room. And if you’d also told them that just such a truck would be produced in Texas—where bigger is always better, particularly when it comes to pickups, and hats—they would have known you were crazy for sure. Toyota, after all, was better known then for its gas-sipping, compact cars, as well as its compact Tacoma and mid-size T100 pickups.

Fast forward to 2013 when the full-size Toyota Tundra was the sixth best-selling pickup in America. My how times, attitudes, and even Toyota trucks, have changed.

First introduced in the U.S. in 1999 as a 2000 model year to replace the T100, Toyota’s Tundra was named Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year in both 2000 and 2008. The first-generation Tundras spanned from 1999 to 2006, and with the availability of a 4.7-liter V-8 producing 245 horsepower, were viewed by the industry as the first real foreign threat to the domestic full-size pickup truck market. Tundra’s image among hardcore pickup enthusiasts, however, was still that of a smaller, slightly car-like pickup that wasn’t really up to competing with full-size American pickups just yet, particularly in the area of towing capacity.

That all changed with the second generation, a slightly larger Tundra introduced in 2006 with an available 5.7-liter V-8 engine, towing capacity of 10,000-plus pounds and payload capacity of more than a ton. To illustrate the 2015 Tundra’s towing capacity, since that is such an important consideration for pickup owners, Toyota highlights the 2015 Tundra’s powerful stats in reviewing its latest model online.

“381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque, a 6-speed automatic transmission, plus a standard Tow Package with added engine and transmission oil coolers equal heavy-duty towing capability. Add Double Overhead Cams (DOHC), a 32-valve head design and Dual Independent Variable Valve Timing, and you get a drivetrain that can tow a space shuttle.”

And yeah, it really did tow a space shuttle.

With an MSRP starting at $29,020, the 2015 Tundra backs up its powerful persona with design features that make it a truck suitable for work, play and family. Tundra’s high-tech and driver friendly. Consider the Limited Premium Package with an illuminated entry system and front and rear sonar that help drivers park. Also available on the 2015 model year is a dizzying array of available interior packages and custom features, such as the Entune™ Multimedia Bundle, consisting of an AM/FM/CD player with MP3 capability, 6.1-inch touch-screen display, auxiliary jack, USB 2.0 port, iPod connectivity, control, and hands-free phone capability.

First Generation Toyota Tundra

First Generation Toyota Tundra

The Tundra is particularly well-known and lauded for its passenger-friendly cab. A recent review by Edmunds described the Tundra CrewMax’s interior as “enormous, featuring excellent legroom and a rear seat that not only slides but reclines as well.”

When you can move and recline a rear truck seat – that’s a lot of room.

Cab configurations for the newest Tundra include a regular cab, Double Cab with four, forward-hinged doors, and the previously mentioned CrewMax with even more room and four doors. Either a six-and-a-half-foot bed or an eight-foot bed are available with the regular and Double Cab models, while the only bed option available with the CrewMax model is a five-and-a-half-foot bed.

One potential downside with the Tundra is its lower fuel economy, which is EPA estimated at 15 and 19 MPG for 2015. But, with the recent trend in lower gas prices, that fuel economy might not be as big a concern as it once was for many drivers.

And while we’re talking numbers, consider this not-so-well-known fact—Tundra wasn’t always named Tundra. When it was first introduced, the Tundra’s “concept” or “show” truck models were named the Toyota T150. Sound like another pickup truck you might be familiar with? Yeah, Ford thought so too, and threatened to sue Toyota unless the name was changed.

Given Toyota trucks’ enduring popularity in the U.S. – first with the T100 and Tacoma, along with the Tundra’s more recent introduction – parts for the Tundra, or any Toyota truck for that matter, are widely available and offer endless options for just about anything you want to do to your Toyota truck, whether new or old-school.

My favorite part about the 2015 Tundra, however, just might be Toyota’s creativity in naming several available colors, including “blue ribbon metallic,” “sunset bronze mica,” or my favorite—”attitude black metallic.” I wonder how that’s different from just plain old black, which is also an available color, minus the “plain old” descriptors of course.

Editor’s note: Whether you’re customizing or cleaning your Tundra, Advance Auto Parts has a top selection of parts and supplies. Buy online, pick up in store—in 30 minutes.