SoWo 2015: German cars and Southern hospitality

SOWO1If you’re a fan of cars and see something cool, you’ll want to have it, whether it’s a monster engine or a cutting-edge body design. And, if you’re an enthusiast, there is no cure. This is a permanent condition.

Here are examples. If Europeans have a 500 horsepower hatchback, well, we want it in the United States. Meanwhile, the US has 800-horsepower V8s and so the Europeans want these rocket ships. Then, American enthusiasts want German-made accessories – and the beat goes on, the wheel keeps spinning – and the best part is that this craze for the coolest will never end. That’s what keeps the car world’s heart beating and technology advancing.SOWO 3 photo

German experience without the passport

A trip to Germany could cost you in the thousands – even tens of thousands – but we’ve found a better way: Southern Worthersee. SoWo is a true destination show that helps European car lovers in America get together for the German experience, perhaps even including a bit of schnitzel.

SOWO 9 photoThis weekend is all about Bugs, Things, and Golf(s), but most German makes are welcomed in town, just not in the show field. That area is reserved exclusively for Volkswagen group cars like Audi, VW and Porsche, for the brand purists in all of us.

Mountain river tubing and epic scenic drives – and of course, German cars and Southern hospitality – combined to bring more than 20,000 people to the hills of Helen, Georgia for SoWo 9 on May 16th and 17th. The streets of this small town were packed end to end with vendors from homegrown designer brands to globally famous tuning brands. VW joined the fun with their motorsports toys from the stable, giving fans had a rare up-close and personal look.SOWO 12 photo

For even more SoWo, here is our coverage of SoWo 2013.

Future of SoWo

Southern Worthersee is widely considered one of the best VW shows in existence today. You may hear that some rowdy show goers and enthusiastic locals, plus a few too many tire peels, may have put this show’s bright future in jeopardy. We will stay tuned in hopes that it ultimately continues in some form, as it’s truly a rare opportunity in life to share your classic European car in the Americas.

More photos from SOWO 2015:

SOWO 14 photoSOWO 15 photoSOWO 17 pictureSOWO 22 photoSOWO 13 photoSOWO 23 photoSOWO 6SOWO 5 photo

Crucial Cars: Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

2014 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR Touring photo

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

In this installment, Street Talk pays tribute to a street-racing icon in the twilight of its career: the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.

As recently as seven years ago, it was unthinkable that the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution could be on its last legs. Fully redesigned for 2008, the Evo built on its legendary rally-car heritage with even more turbocharged power and its most sophisticated all-wheel-drive system yet. Dubbed “Evo X,” it graced the cover of seemingly every magazine in the industry, promising near-supercar performance for the price of an entry-level BMW 3 Series.

But then the Great Recession arrived, severely depressing demand for thirsty thrill-machines. In point of fact, Mitsubishi didn’t even build any Evos for 2009.

And when the economy eventually rebounded, the Evo X just couldn’t get back on its feet.

2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution  photo

2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

So here we are in 2015, preparing to bid sayonara to one of Japan’s true performance juggernauts. Let’s give the Evo a curtain call by remembering what made it great.

Invincible AWD Handling

The rally-derived Evo has always utilized a fancy AWD system to optimize handling, but in the United States, we didn’t get the full treatment until the Evo X arrived. The big news was the debut of Active Yaw Control (AYC), an electronically controlled feature that automatically transfers torque to the wheels that have the most traction. It was a revelation on the road, eliminating understeer in tight corners and making the Evo feel like it was quite literally on rails. Not many cars in the world could keep up, regardless of price.

Of course, some Americans were a bit miffed that they had to wait so long for an unadulterated Evo to arrive. In Japan, AYC had been offered since the mid-’90s, going back to the Evo IV, but Mitsubishi didn’t sell the car stateside till the Evo VIII turned up in 2003 — and neither that car nor its successor, the Evo IX, had AYC. Still, one spirited drive was typically all it took to heal those wounds. The Evo X stands as one of the best-handling cars ever created, and we can only hope that there’s a reborn Evo XI somewhere in Mitsu’s future.

Awesome Acceleration

A remarkable fact about the Evo is that it has been extremely fast forever, dating back to the Evo I’s debut in 1992. That car carried a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that pumped out nearly 250 horsepower, and by the time the Evo III came out in 1995, the turbo-4 was up to 270 horsepower, which is roughly where it’s been ever since.

Technically, the Evo X’s 2.0-liter turbo-4 is from a new aluminum-block engine family, supplanting its iron-block predecessors. It’s also rated at a slightly higher 291 hp. But in terms of real-world acceleration, an Evo is an Evo, regardless of vintage. Plus, the older iron-block design is more receptive to major modifications. The one thing the Evo X really has going for it in the powertrain department is its available dual-clutch automated manual transmission, which rips off ultra-quick shifts that no stick-shift driver can match.

4-Door Practicality

The Evo’s full name is “Lancer Evolution,” underscoring its sensible origins as a compact Lancer sedan. Indeed, this sports-car-shaming dynamo is nearly as practical as a Corolla in daily driving, from its reasonably roomy backseat to its serviceable trunk. Sure, you could get a Nissan GT-R for three times the price, but it’s a glorified two-seater that feels bulkier besides. Naturally, the Evo’s impeccable handling comes at a cost in the ride-quality department, but we’ve never heard enthusiastic owners complain.

Have You Driven an Evo?

If you haven’t, go try one at your Mitsubishi dealer before it’s too late. This is a bucket-list kind of car. And if you have, what were your impressions? Give us some highlights in the comments.

Editor’s note: Whether you drive a foreign or domestic vehicle, count on Advance Auto Parts to keep your projects on track. Buy online, pick up in-store.

469,000 Chevy Malibus recalled for seat belt issues

2012 Chevy Malibu picture

Photo credit: General Motors

According to the Detroit News, General Motors is recalling approximately 469,000 of its Chevy Malibus, model years 2011-12, due to seat belt issues.

The article states:

The flexible steel cable that connects the safety belt to the vehicle can fatigue and separate over time. Dealers will replace the outboard lap mounting bracket to relocate the tensioner slightly rearward. Dealers will inspect the cable and, if necessary, replace the lap pretensioner.

Further, according to the story, “GM knows of 36 claims, no crashes or fatalities and one minor injury reportedly related to the condition — when a taxi driver bumped his head.”

Read the full article to learn more about the General Motors recall of the Chevy Malibu.

Grateful Dead of motorsports: lawn mower racing

Lawn Mowing Race1 photo

Imagine this help wanted ad: Do you enjoy motorsports (wishing they weren’t so dang expensive!) and love to tinker? Do you get into competition – and yet are the kind of person who will readily reach out a hand to help? Do you appreciate green grass, apple pie and spending time with friends and family? And, oh yes, do you have a good sense of humor and enjoy having fun? If so, we need YOU to race a lawn mower.

We at Advance Auto Parts have been hearing more and more about the grassroots sport of lawn mower racing across the country and we know that many of our readers love to DIY. So we talked to a couple of lawn mower racing diehards and are bringing you the results of our conversations.

Modifying a lawn mower into a racing machine

According to Bruce Kaufman (AKA Mr. Mow-It-All), the president of the U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association (USLMRA), 90% of racing lawn mowers are crafted in someone’s garage, with that “someone” typically having “mechanical ingenuity.”

If you’re interested in giving this a try and want to race in a USLMRA event, Bruce shares that you’ll find a circus atmosphere with a unique and special subculture focused on camaraderie – thus, the connection with the Grateful Dead.

In preparation, you simply start with a self-propelled rotary or reel-style riding lawn mower that was designed and sold commercially, specifically to mow lawns. However you modify the mower, it must remain suitable for lawn mowing, outside of the exceptions listed in the association’s handbook. Having said that, one requirement for race entry is that cutting blades are completely removed from the mower.

Here are other requirements:

  • Non-stock mowers must be equipped with an automatic throttle closing device.
  • All mowers must be equipped with an engine safety cut-off switch.
  • Mower brakes must be in good condition, operating on at least 2 wheels.
  • Fuel must be pump gas. The only additive allowed is STA-BIL Fuel Stabilizer.

Each mower is inspected prior to racing and can be re-inspected at any time. Safety first!

The USLMRA website provides plenty of tips, including this formula:

Small front pulley + large rear pulley = slow!
Large front pulley + small rear pulley = fast!

A tethered kill switch will shut down the engine if you get bucked off, and it needs securely attached to the driver and the mower. The blade deck should remain in place, solidly bolted to hold your weight without swaying. You can install a hand or foot throttle, and most racers replace the front axle with a stronger one. Review the tech section of the site plus the rulebook thoroughly if you decide to give this a go!

Bruce says that there are 11 racing classes and, although none of them permit blades, the resulting racing machines range from “mild to wild.” Typically, modifications are made to carburetors and engines, plus to the chassis. Good brakes are crucial, Bruce says, as is reliable steering. That’s because, as horsepower is added, it also needs controlled on this racing machine that has no suspension. Bruce then mysteriously adds that there are “secret speed tricks that inspectors will never know . . .” Hmmm.

Built for speed

If you’ve never attended a lawn mower race, you might scoff at what you imagine they’d consider “speed.” If so, then you might be shocked to know that even ESPN reported when lawn mowing star Bobby Cleveland broke the speed record by going more than 96 miles per hour! That’s right. Bobby reached an astonishing speed of 96.529 mph on September 25, 2010, beating out the previous record of Don Wales of Britain (who had broken Cleveland’s previous record of 80.792 mph with a speed of 87.833 mph!) and bringing the speed record back to the good ol’ U.S. of A.

Not surprisingly, then, Bobby is a proud member of the USLMRA National Lawn Mower Racing Hall of Fame, founded for “Turf Titans who have turned a weekend chore into a competitive sport.” He has clinched more than 75 first place victories and nine STA-BIL Series National Championships. He built the world’s first “Monster Mower” and also holds the world record for monster mower jumping. He has “always loved to ride motorcycles, race lawn mowers, build hot rods and tinker in the garage. His passion for motors and what makes them work runs as deep as his appetite for Southern BBQ, sweet tea and being on the road.”

Broad appeal of the sport

Although it’s the champions who make the headlines, Bruce says that the sport appeals to a wide swath of people, youngsters as well as grandpas, and every age demographic in between. He says that it’s common to see relatives participate in racing together, adding that the “family that mows together, grows together.” Because this activity is more affordable than the typical motorsport, that makes it even more family friendly. More specifically, costs of participating typically run in the $100s to the $1,000s, according to Bruce, not the tens of thousands.

Racers must belong to the USLMRA as well as to a sanctioned affiliated club. Racers can be as young as eight, although all under the age of 18 need parental permission. “Participants run the gamut of socioeconomic classes and geographical boundaries,” Bruce says, with Aaron Crowl (president of the American Racing Mower Association) adding that he and his family have raced against “people getting started in life to people who have retired after a long and successful career, from people who perform manual labor to business executives, doctors and people with Ph.Ds., and from teachers to school principals.” (When Aaron refers to his family, he means his wife and their twin daughters.)

Both Bruce and Aaron compare the racing environment to that of a family reunion complete with camping, camaraderie and food (and, as Aaron points out, “sometimes a weird but lovable person who reminds you of your Uncle Al”). Both men point out that this atmosphere can exist because no one races for a purse, merely for fun, a trophy and some bragging rights. Rivals may challenge you to the nth degree – and yet, when your engine falters, they’ll give you a wrench, a spare part, or even an entire engine.

“If someone came to a race who was TOO competitive,” Bruce muses, “I’d probably say, ‘Dude, you need to do something else.’ Motivation to win is good but, if you’re too serious about winning, you’d tend not to fit in.” To honor people who perform selfless acts in helping others, the racing organization gives out the Spirit and Spark Award.

Another requirement for participation, although an unofficial one, seems to be a love of bad puns. When you attend, you’ll meet people and vehicles with nicknames like Geronimow, Sodzilla and Prograsstinator, with the president of USMLRA being affectionately known as the grasshole.

Despite the sense of silliness that graces the sport, races are nevertheless judged fairly and professionally, with a computer-based scoring system that monitors race times to 1/1,000 of a second, with results posted quickly online, along with season-to-date rankings.

Past to present – to predictions

When asked about the evolution of the sport, Bruce gives a shout-out to STA-BIL Fuel Stabilizer, which he says has nurtured this sport along from its inception (okay, so he actually said they’ve “watered the grass of this sport from the start”). He also shares how he’s seen the technology of racing lawn mowers evolve thanks to the creativity of participants and how the potential of speed has increased with the technological improvements.

Meanwhile, Aaron notes how, early on, racers needed to be especially creative because nobody was making parts specifically for racing mowers. As the sport has grown, though, niche high performance parts have become available, opening the sport to people who couldn’t effectively adapt parts intended for another purpose for their racing machine.Lawn Mowing Race 2 photo

As for the future, Aaron sees super modified mowers becoming increasingly common, those that are lower and wider than previous models, but still recognizable as mowers. “I have mixed emotions about that change, actually,” he admits, “being old school. But you have to be realistic about the future.”

Bruce doesn’t see mowers becoming much faster, believing that current models are at the peak of what can safely be allowed – and both men envision and hope for further expansion of local clubs and community events centering on the quirky yet exciting motorsport of lawn mower racing.

Even if you don’t plan to race, you’ll probably still mow this spring and summer. Find the lawn and garden parts you need online at Advance Auto Parts.

Ultimate Beach Bum Vehicles

VW T2 Van picture

With Memorial Day on the horizon and summer soon to follow, our resident Gearhead dishes on his favorite beach bum rides. 

When I start talking about cars, it usually isn’t long before I’m quoting zero-to-60 times, horsepower numbers and all that stuff. I’m just an old speed freak, you know? It’s in my blood. Can’t help myself.

But today I want to talk about a type of car that’s all the way on the other end of the spectrum.

It doesn’t even have an official name, so let’s just call it the Beach Bum Mobile.

I know that sounds vague, but you know one when you see one. First and foremost, it’s got to have room for a mattress in back, if not a full-on bed. Rear windows are optional, though a nice round porthole job with a curtain is a classy choice. You can live out of a Beach Bum Mobile if you need to, but you can also just keep it in the driveway for the occasional trip through the countryside, stopping where you please.

Got the picture? Like I said, we all know one when we see one. Now let’s look at a few of the ultimate Beach Bum Mobiles, from my childhood in the ’50s and ’60s to the present.

VW T2 van photoVolkswagen Bus

This is arguably where it all started. Technically known as the Volkswagen Type 2 (it was VW’s second car, after the Beetle), the “Bus” goes all the way back to the ’50s. Soon after showing up in the U.S., it became a fixture on the beaches of both coasts, showing a particular affinity for the laid-back Southern California lifestyle. You could get it as a passenger van or a panel van — the pickup version is a separate story — and folks quickly got creative, coming up with all sorts of camper-type variants. The rear-mounted, air-cooled boxer four-cylinder barely made enough power to get the Bus up a hill, but it was also incredibly easy to wrench on. This van is a legend; if you ask me, it’s still the best Beach Bum Mobile of all time.

Toyota Previa photo

Photo credit: Mr. Choppers

Modern Minivans

They may not have the character of a VW Bus, but modern minivans are perfect for Beach Bum duty. You can usually fold the rear seats down or remove them entirely, and there’s plenty of room in there for an air mattress. Plus, minivans get better fuel economy than those full-size vans with their thirsty V8 engines.

If you’re strapped for cash, as beach bums tend to be, you can set your sights on aging workhorses like the Nissan Quest from the ’90s, or even an original Dodge Caravan from the ’80s. My personal favorite is the Toyota Previa, which rocked out in the ’90s with its supercharged engine and available all-wheel drive. If you’ve got a little more scratch, early versions of the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna make for great pre-owned options.

2014 Mercedes-Benz Freightliner Sprinter Van photoMercedes-Benz Sprinter

Let’s say you’re a beach bum in spirit, but your bank account says otherwise. Cost no object, there’s one current Beach Bum Mobile on the market that would earn my vote, and it’s a stoic German van called the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. To me, this is today’s equivalent of the VW Bus, albeit with a starting price in the $40,000 range. Powered by a torque-rich turbodiesel V6 that’s reportedly capable of 30 mpg on the highway, it’s offered in passenger and cargo versions, and the aftermarket is full of awesome conversion options, from pop-top camper roofs to full off-road kits with massive tires. The styling is so anonymous that it’ll never be an icon like the Bus, but it certainly has everything the well-heeled beach bum could ask for.

What’s Your Beach Bum Story?

Have you spent any time in a Beach Bum Mobile? Tell us all about it in the comments.

Editor’s note: Beach bum or garage guru, Advance Auto Parts is here to help with a wide selection of auto parts and tools for most all projects. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

Minor body damage: eyesore or easy fix?

 

minor car body damage photoIt’s not a question of if it’s going to happen, but rather when. In a parking lot. In the driveway. On the road. Even from within the safe confines of your garage. Your vehicle is going to get scratched or dented, and in all likelihood more than just once over the course of its lifetime. And because the damage is minor, it’s probably not worth filing a claim with your insurance company considering you’ll have to pay the deductible first and possibly be penalized later with higher rates.

You can lessen the sting that comes from inflicting or discovering the damage with the knowledge and confidence that minor body damage can often be fixed by drivers with no previous body repair experience, saving time, money and the inconvenience of being without a car while repairs are made.

Body shop professionals are skilled craftsmen and true artists when it comes to repairing collision damage or restoring a classic vehicle. But if the damage is minor or superficial, most body shops are so busy they probably won’t be heartbroken if you try repairing the damage on your own, saving them for the complex jobs.

Metal hoods, doors, roofs, fenders, and plastic bumpers are all going to dent when impacted with enough force, with shopping carts, hail, another vehicle’s door, and even kids playing baseball often to blame. But these tools could help lessen the damage to both your vehicle and wallet.

Look no further than your bathroom for the first dent removal tool to try – a common household toilet plunger. Wet the plunger’s end, stick it on dent, and gently pull to see if the dent will pop out.

If the plunger doesn’t work, upgrade to a tool that works using the same principle but is designed specifically for the task – a suction cup-type dent puller. Available wherever auto parts are sold, this tool can feature just one suction cup or have several on multiple heads for extra pulling power. There are also several kits available that use the similar pulling-force theory to repair minor dents, but instead of relying on a suction cup they employ an adhesive to attach the tool to the vehicle body.

One homegrown dent-removal procedure popular online involves a hair dryer and can of compressed air. Heat the dent for several minutes using a hair dryer on the hottest setting. Don’t use a heat gun as this could damage the paint. Then take a can of compressed air commonly used to clean off computer keyboards, hold it upside down and spray the area just heated. The science behind this experiment is that the sudden change in temperature extremes causes the metal to expand and contract, popping the dent out and returning the metal to its undamaged state. It seems to work better at removing dents from a large expanse of flat metal, such as a hood, trunk or fender.

Equally frustrating is damage to your vehicle’s paint, whether it’s from a scratch, ding, or something deposited on the paint. In both cases, there are several repair options.

First, try a scratch-repair product. Most vehicles on the road today come from the factory with several layers of paint topped by a clear coat for added protection. If the scratch isn’t so deep that it penetrates down to bare metal, you might be able to repair it with a scratch-repair product that hides and blends the scratch with the surrounding surface while improving the finish’s appearance.

Chipped paint from a stone or other mishap needs to be fixed before the exposed metal reacts with the environment and rust forms. Fortunately, touch-up paint can easily hide small blemishes in the finish. The paint is available as an exact match for many vehicle paint schemes and finishes. Depending on the size of the repair, it’s applied as an aerosol spray or brushed on using a small applicator.

A vehicle’s finish can also be damaged by substances inadvertently added to it. Tree sap and the yellow and white paint used to line roads are two common culprits. If you accidently drive through wet road line paint, follow these steps to remove it before it dries and damages the finish.

First, drive to a car wash and use the pressure wash wand wherever the paint has accumulated. Unless it’s been on there for more than a day, most of the paint should come off. If the paint has already dried or if any remains after the washing, spray WD-40 on the paint and leave it there for a couple hours. The WD-40 will soften the paint, making it easier to remove. For really heavy paint accumulations or paint that’s dried for several days, coat the paint with petroleum jelly, leave it on for eight to 12 hours, and then pressure wash, repeating as needed until all the road paint is gone.

Tree sap, bird droppings, berries, tape residue and old bumper stickers can also damage a vehicle’s finish if they’re not removed promptly. To prevent further damage from aggressive removal procedures, use a cleaner designed specifically for vehicles. They soften and break down the substance, making it easier to remove without damaging the vehicle’s finish.

Body damage also occurs frequently to vehicle lights, exterior mirrors, door handles and other plastic components. Oftentimes the easiest and most economical method for repairing this damage, particularly in the case of light assemblies, is simply to replace the damaged part with a new or salvaged one from an auto parts store or other supplier. For example, the hole in the Subaru tail light assembly pictured here could eventually lead to more serious damage for the vehicle’s electrical system because of water exposure. The broken tail light can be replaced with one costing less than $100 following an easy procedure that takes less than 15 minutes.broken tail light picture

Since the vehicle’s body has already been damaged, drivers don’t have much to lose when it comes to trying to repair minor damage themselves, and the rewards of a better-looking vehicle and money saved make the effort worthwhile.

Editor’s note: If your vehicle’s body or finish has suffered a minor mishap, shop Advance Auto Parts for the parts and tools you need to do do the body repairs. Buy online, pick up in store, in 30 minutes.

Note: Always consult your owner’s manual before performing repairs. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure warranties are not voided.

Pro Am Kart Race Benefits Children

Pro Am kart race  photoPatrick Long’s Pro Am Kart Race to Benefit All Children’s Hospital. It’s a long name, for sure, but the cause is simple: to generate donations and support for All Children’s Hospital John Hopkins Medicine while creating fantastic memories for everyone involved. This hospital is a “leading center for pediatric treatment, education, and research . . . specializes in providing care for newborns through teen(s) and is the only specialty licensed children’s hospital on Florida’s west coast.”

Pro Am kart race 3 photoBecause this benefit is a Pro-Am race, racing junkies go head-to-head with their motorsports heroes who, less than 24 hours earlier, competed in the 12 Hours of Sebring. For many novice racers in 2015, the entry fee was worth its weight in gold to share a track and make friends with drivers that most fans only meet on television.

Celebrity drivers

The race was held on March 22nd. Well known participants include Porsche factory driver, ALMS champion and Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans winner, Patrick Long; NASCAR Truck Rookie of the Year, ALMS & Grand-Am driver, and Daytona speed record holder, Colin Braun; Champ car, ALMS, and Grand-Am driver, Jan Heylen; and Delta wing driver, Katherine Legge, among other professional drivers.

Event coverage

karting 6 pictureNow, don’t be fooled! While the mood was lighthearted and cheerful, competition was fierce. The classic Le Mans style start kicked off the festivities with a sense of spirited rivalry as, for more than 1.5 hours, teams rotated through their drivers and karts.Pro Am kart race 7 photo

This afternoon event raised a whopping $65,000 for All Children’s Hospital, through a combination of entry fees, buying laps back in an attempt to win, a silent auction, a regular auction – and generous donations.

Auction items included race suits and artwork, with one team going above and beyond, donating the trophy they’d won the day before at Sebring. The gentleman who made the highest bid graciously returned the trophy to the winning driver and team, wanting simply to show his appreciation for their selfless donation while also contributing to the cause.

Pro Am kart race 1 photoThat gesture will be hard to beat – and yet, the karting fans who participate in the All Children’s Hospital benefit race are just the ones to raise up the generosity ante in 2016. So, stay tuned!

 

 

 

Crucial Cars: Dodge Charger

Dodge Charger red picture

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

In this installment, our man Gearhead digs deep into one of the baddest muscle cars in the land: the mighty Dodge Charger.

Calling the Dodge Charger a Crucial Car is kind of like calling asphalt black.

It pretty much goes without saying.

You’d be hard-pressed to find another model through the years that’s been as meaningful to enthusiasts as the Charger. In the ’60s and early ’70s, it was a king-of-the-hill muscle car that young men (including yours truly) fantasized about owning. In the ’80s, it was reborn as a sporty front-wheel-drive hatchback. All the while, the Charger name stayed relevant for folks who loved to drive.

But as the politicians like to say, I’m here today to focus on the present. Since 2006, the Charger has gotten back to its muscle-car roots, with one exception: it’s got four doors instead of two. Let’s take a few minutes and appreciate what the modern Charger has accomplished.

Dodge Charger 2 photoHemi V8 Power

From the get-go, the four-door Charger has been available with a brawny 5.7-liter Hemi V8. Now, does it truly have a hemispherical combustion chamber like Chrysler’s so-called “Elephant Engine,” the monstrous 426 Hemi from the ’60s? Some say no, because the chamber’s too shallow. But when an engine hauls this much you-know-what, who cares? Initially rated at 340 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque, the 5.7-liter Hemi has seen various improvements since, with output now creeping toward 380 hp and 400 lb-ft. But the basic design remains remarkably true to the original Hemis from my childhood, and if you ask me, that’s pretty doggone cool.

Of course, the modern Charger offers other Hemis, too — and by “other,” I mean bigger and better. There’s the Charger Hellcat’s supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi, of course, which makes an insane 707 hp. But that’s not the one I want, believe it or not. I want the 6.4-liter Hemi, naturally aspirated, with 485 hp and 475 lb-ft. It sounds like NASCAR when you’re on the throttle, and if you get the Charger Scat Pack model, you can have all that motor for a shade over $40 grand.

Luxury-Car Credentials

Underneath, the current Charger dates back to the ill-fated Daimler-Chrysler merger, which is actually a very good thing for Dodge. Basically, Mercedes shared its midsize sedan platforms and suspension technology with Chrysler, and the Charger’s still using that Benz know-how on the road today. Listen, don’t knock it just because it’s not the latest and greatest; Mercedes has been building tank-like sedans for decades, and that’s exactly what the Charger feels like from behind the wheel. It’s large, it’s hunkered-down, and it’s unflappable at any speed. Bottom line, it’s a luxury car in disguise, and that even goes for the ambient noise at speed — it’s almost nonexistent.

Aftermarket Support From the FactoryDodge Charger 3 photo

One of the great things about Dodge performance cars is that they’re backed by a factory-certified speed shop. Mopar is the name, and personalizing your Charger is what they’re all about. I’m talking about big wheels, slammed suspensions, audio upgrades, you name it. They’ll even help you squeeze some more power out of that Hemi if you want, and they’ll certainly hook you up with an awesome exhaust system to make it sing. If you’re a Charger fan, the stock specification is just a starting point for your creativity, and Dodge knows it.

Tell Us Your Charger Story

Have you owned or driven a modern Charger (2006 – present)? Leave your impressions of this four-door muscle car in the comments.

Editor’s note: Whether your drive a muscle car or a mini van, Advance Auto Parts has the parts and tools you need to keep it running right. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

Volvo’s Drive-E 4-Cylinder Engines to Get a Boost from Polestar Factory Tuning Kits

Volvo var picture

According to Car and Driver, when Volvo announced it was producing another run of its sporty S60 and V60 Polestar models to meet unexpected demand, it also mentioned that there were plans in the works to spread goodness from its racing partner Polestar to other models. Just a few months later, Volvo has confirmed exactly that: it will be rolling out a slew of tuning kits for models equipped with the automaker’s next-generation Drive-E turbocharged four-cylinder engines.

While Polestar currently offers a power kit for Volvo’s turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six—and modifies things slightly more for the full-blown S60 and V60 Polestar models—future Volvos will be powered exclusively by smaller engines. Specifically, they’ll be powered solely by Drive-E three- and four-cylinder engines, so getting a head start on juicing more power from them now makes perfect sense.

So far, Volvo has said only that the new “Polestar Performance Optimization” for the Drive-E engines will encompass the whole family, including the gasoline-fed T6 and T5 (both 2.0-liter turbo fours, only with different outputs), as well as the diesel D4 and D5 fours offered globally. (Confusingly, the old turbo inline-six is also referred to internally as “T6,” but as we said, its days are numbered.) Unlike today’s Polestar power kit, the Polestar Performance Optimization (PPO) not only adds power, but it also tweaks the transmission on automatic-transmission variants.

Final output figures and pricing is still to come; we’re also awaiting official confirmation that the Polestar kits will be offered stateside. We can’t imagine that the brand wouldn’t make the Polestar goodies available here, as it already sells the Polestar upgrade for the turbo six-cylinder on U.S.-spec cars.

Read the full story at Car and Driver.

Ford produces ultra-limited run of 2015 Shelby GT350 — 137 total!

2015 Shelby GT350 picture

Photo credit: Autoweek

 

According to the good folks at Autoweek:

It was reported last month that Ford was planning to limit production of the Shelby GT350 and GT350R in 2015 — a few thousand were rumored to be on the build schedule. Turns out this is going to be a far rarer machine, though: Just 100 examples of the GT350 will be built, 50 with the Technology Package and 50 with the Track Package. The 350R will be even more limited, with just 37 examples being produced.

Interestingly, the article points out how this ultra-limited production run ranks in terms of Shelby’s history: “Those production numbers would make the 2015 Shelby GT350 even more exclusive than the 1965 model, of which 562 units were built. The company is building the 37 Rs to pay homage to Shelby’s original run of competition versions of the car.”

The article also lays out some specs: “The 2015 Shelby GT350 debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show late last year with “more than 500 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque,” Ford says, from a 5.2-liter flat-plane-crank V8. We saw the racier GT350R a few months later when it premiered at the Detroit auto show next to the new Ford GT. The R is lighter, faster and stiffer all around.”

Pricing hasn’t been revealed, but Autoweek thinks that it will be: “somewhere near the Chevy Camaro Z/28’s starting price of $73,000 wouldn’t be out of the question … before your local dealer adds his 300 percent markup.”

The GT350 and GT350R go on sale this fall.

The article goes on to list these option pricing details, pulled from the Mustang 6g Forum:

2015 GT350 Option Pricing (MSRP):

Tech Package = $7,500

Track Package = $6,500

Navigation = $795

Painted Black Roof = $695

Triple Yellow = $495

Over the top stripes = $475

2015 GT350R Option Pricing (MSRP):

R Package (over base GT350) = $3,500

SVT Touring Package = $3,000

Navigation = $795

Read the full story at Autoweek.