Artist Bruce Gray creates magic out of used vehicle parts

“I consider myself to be a visual scientist, relentlessly exploring as many forms of artistic expression as I can. Sculpture is not my career, it’s my life. I am obsessed with creating as many new sculptures as possible.”

So says Bruce Gray, renowned Los Angeles sculptor who uses discarded pieces of metal as the building blocks of his art. One of his most famous sculptures is Motorcycle 1 made out of recycled train and motorcycle parts.

Photo credit: Bruce Gray.

Photo credit: Bruce Gray.

This sculpture stands 55” tall, is 94” long and 33” wide, which is slightly larger than a genuine ride-able motorcycle. It weighs somewhere between 700 and 800 pounds. Parts, all of which were “found,” include:

  • “2 very heavy massive railroad equipment gears for wheels”
  • “train coupling link for the seat”
  • “giant train springs for shocks”
  • “BMW R75/5 motorcycle engine and tailpipes”

He’d like to create similar motorcycle sculptures, but “there is always the matter of getting enough free time. When creating art from found objects, there is a big time investment, plus a sculpture of this size takes up lots of storage space.” One of Bruce’s dreams is to also create a ride-able version of this piece of art.

This sculpture appeared on Discovery Channel’s Monster House and was featured in Angeleno magazine, Art Business News magazine, The Fabricator magazine and on the back cover of the Chic Eco directory.

In fact, if we were to list all of the movies, television programs, music videos and commercials that feature Bruce’s work, we’d literally need to add nearly 1,000 words of text to this blog post (Yes. We checked.). And, that doesn’t count the numerous articles written about him in magazines and newspapers, or the large numbers of museums and prestigious art shows that spotlight his talent–or the well-known people who commission him to create art for their homes and offices.

Here is just a taste:

  • Movies:
    • Starship Troopers
    • Rush Hour
    • Gone in 60 Seconds
  • Commercials:
    • Chevrolet
    • General Motors
    • Mercedes Benz
  • Music videos:
    • Madonna
    • Dr. Dre
    • Wu Tang Clan
  • Television shows:
    • Seinfeld
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation
    • How I Met Your Mother

“I’ve also been asked to play a part in about a dozen or so reality shows,” he adds. “One of the most recent involves a bar with motorcycles that is still in the early stages of production and may not have even been presented to a network yet.” Here are more of his accomplishments.

The story behind the story

Born in 1956 in Orange, New Jersey, Bruce and his family moved to Belgium for a few years, starting when he was in first grade. They lived in an old hotel with six floors, a bomb shelter and a wine cellar. “We lived in the hotel by ourselves,” he recalls, “and it was a great place to play hide and seek.”

There is only so much hide and seek that a young boy can play, though, so he also kept himself busy creating stuff from Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, Legos and the like. He took apart radios to see how they worked and so forth. He also got to see the Atomium building in Brussels, a structure created out of stainless steel spheres that, when connected together, represent a cell of an iron crystal cell magnified 165 billion times. Bruce says that this building influenced him later as an artist.

“I sketched a lot in school, too,” he says. “I doodled since people often didn’t speak English and I didn’t know what anyone was saying.”

After the stay in Belgium, Bruce and his family returned to New Jersey, although he seldom saw his father, an international banker from Scotland who spent most of his time in Europe. “I might not see him,” Bruce says, “for a period of ten years.” Shortly before Bruce entered high school, his family moved to Massachusetts.

After high school ended (Bridgewater Raynham Regional High School, class of 1975), he joined the Coast Guard for four years. He then applied to the University of Massachusetts–but his art portfolio didn’t meet the minimum requirements. In fact, the only “art portfolio” that he had consisted of pieces of art that he’d put together that day in 30 minutes . . . meaning 30 minutes, total.

“I’d never done anything in the arts,” Bruce explains, “except for shop class. I was fairly good in that class, making an electric guitar from scratch without instruction. But, that was all I’d done. So, when I think back at how bad the portfolio I’d submitted to the university was, it’s amusing.”

The university recommended that he take art courses for a year and then reapply. Shortly afterwards, though, he received a notice saying that he should meet with the dean of the design department to discuss admission possibilities. Bruce’s raw talent impressed the dean enough that he was permitted to start his education under probation. To stay in the school, he needed to maintain a B average. “I’d already been in the military, though,” Bruce says, “and I was used to hard work and long hours. So, if a teacher said that he needed two examples of a certain piece of art within a week, I’d have three ready by the next morning–which really annoyed my classmates.”

Bruce attended the university from 1979 to 1983, earning a BFA in design. He then worked in Boston as a photographer and graphic designer. Although he found logo design satisfying, he longed for something more.

Pivotal event

In 1989, his mother died unexpectedly and suddenly of a brain aneurysm. “After that happened–literally, right after–I decided to quit what I was doing and get on with life. I realized that nobody gets to make the call about how long you stay on Earth so I decided to do what I really wanted to do.”

What exactly that was, he didn’t yet know. As a kid, he’d thought about becoming a marine biologist. “Or,” he says, “maybe a spy like James Bond–or maybe I’d work for Mad magazine.” Unclear about what precisely awaited him in life after his mother’s death, he drove to North Carolina and windsurfed for a week to clear his mind. He then drove to Mexico City and remained there until he got himself back on track.

What he ultimately decided: to move to California to create three dimensional, permanent pieces of art out of wood and metal. He quickly realized that he didn’t want to conceptualize a piece of art and then have someone else weld it together, so he bought a cheap piece of welding equipment and taught himself how to use it, which allowed him to take complete control of his own art. “I no longer have any artistic limitations,” he explains on his web page. “I have let my imagination take over.”

When recalling his earlier days as an artist, Bruce says that he’d sell five pieces of art one day–and then he would hear nothing from prospective buyers for so long that he’d start calling his own number just to see if it worked. He recalls one day where he literally had nothing to eat–that is, until he remembered that he’d bought a jar of peanut butter in case calamity struck during Y2K (when the year 2000 was ushered in). Checking out the jar, he saw that it was three years past its expiration date–and then he ate the peanut butter.

More of Bruce Gray’s art

I create sculptures and functional art in welded steel, stainless steel, brass, copper, and aluminum. The works vary considerably and include swirl grinded bare metal intersecting geometric shapes sculptures, rusty found object assemblages, colorfully painted wall sculptures, mobiles, suspended magnetic sculptures, and powder coated bright colored sculptural tables and chairs. My work is usually fun, colorful, visually stimulating, and often conveys my sense of humor. My found object works may be people, animals, insects, or dinosaurs, and are stylized, simplified, and given their own unique personalities.”

Committed to protecting the environment, he is pleased that, overall, he puts less into dumpsters than he takes out. He also is amused that he can take something destined for the landfill and refashion it to hang on a “rich guy’s wall.”

Bruce has created fully functional chair sculptures from motorcycle parts, such as this EZ Rider Chair (30” x 65” x 24”).

Photo credit: Bruce Gray.

Photo credit: Bruce Gray.

Bruce is also well known for his rolling ball sculptures, where a steel ball starts at the top of the sculpture and, through gravity alone, travels a path to the ground. In Cheborgie #1 (79” x 33” x 27”), the steel ball “follows a rollercoaster track, does jumps, goes down stairs, through chimes, past a spinner and through a tube.”

Photo credit: Bruce Gray.

Photo credit: Bruce Gray.

(You have to wonder how much the Atomium building in Belgium influenced his fascination with this type of sculpture!)

He is also well known for his high heel sculptures, such as “High Heel Shoe #4.” These sculptures have appeared in multiple magazines and on television and this particular one is 39” x 27” x 16”, crafted out of steel and coated with ten layers of high quality automotive enamels.

Photo credit: Bruce Gray.

Photo credit: Bruce Gray.

Bruce shares the challenges of the artist’s life. “Most of us artists,” he says, “work alone every day. It can get tedious. It can drive you crazy, to the point where you absolutely have to get out of the house.” Here’s another challenge. “Most artists I know tend to be introverted to the point that it hurts their career. You need to promote your work one way or the other: hiring a PR person, getting an agent or being self-motivated enough to get attention for your work. Fortunately, I’d spent a lot of time in marketing because of my advertising background, so I know a bit about promotion. I don’t mind the work–and doing it myself is budget friendly.”

Another challenge faced by Bruce is that he is dyslexic, but he actually sees that as a blessing. “I grew up with dyslexia,” he shares, “but I was never diagnosed as a kid. It wasn’t until ten years ago that I was watching a show about dyslexia on the Discovery Channel and I thought, ‘Wait a minute. This is ridiculous. I have ALL of these symptoms.’”

He therefore did some research and found out that many household names, including some people considered geniuses, have been dyslexic. “It gives you a different way of thinking. You don’t piece together tiny parts of a problem. Instead, you see the big picture–and that sounds just like me. I rarely draw any piece of art out in advance. I just start making something. That’s how I work–and, in fact, how I prefer to work.”

In April of this year, Bruce had a surprise visit from the chancellor of the University of Massachusetts, where he’d earned his BFA. “He talked to me about commissioning a big sculpture for the school and about my flying back to give lectures. I’ve come a long way.”

When asked what the younger Bruce would have thought about today, he admits that he’d “be surprised at how hard the work is, and how much time I spend working,” adding that he’d like the following to be his legacy: “I would like to leave behind a great body of art, lots of really great friends, and also be known for my environmental work.”

Editor’s note: Automotive maintenance can be an art unto itself. Shop Advance Auto Parts for the best deals and selection to get the job done. Buy online, pick up in-store—in 30 minutes.

ATV motocross is alive and well: the 2014 Mountain Dew National Series

quad jump

We recap the latest season.

The 2014 Mountain Dew ATV Motocross National Championship season has recently hit its thrilling conclusion. The exciting season could be easily summed up by some sage words from reporter Rodney Tomblin: “there’s something a little different in the air this season. Confidence, hope or just plain crazy; I am not sure what it is but it seems very positive.”

The reporter had also predicted some surprises for the season, saying, “Don’t be surprised by the sleepers, late bloomers and those that just feel that switch click and rise to the next level before our very eyes.”

2014 Season Highlights

Two words: Chad Wienen. Wienen just completed a Winning ATVMX Season with his seventh victory at Loretta Lynn’s Finale on August 9, 2014. Congrats Chad!

Check out a few hot shots from the 2014 season:

“Winning in the brutal world of ATV racing requires more than just talent. It takes power, and a lot of it.” So says DirtWheelsMag.com, as it shares the comeback story of Wienen, who suffered from a broken back in a horrific crash in 2011, and who had to deal with being dropped from a major ATV racing team. Read the 2013 article, which says that “Chad Wienen’s 2012 racing season was made up of 50 percent confidence, 50 percent guts and 50 percent pay back.”

John Natalie            

“We’ve found a bit of speed over the winter, and I think we’re going to be a real contender for the championship this year.” That’s a direct quote from John Natalie in his March 2014 interview with ATVRiders.com. This article points out that, despite being one of the oldest racers in the Mountain Dew series, Natalie remains one of the top names in the competition. Natalie has ridden consistently and well in the  the 2014 Mountain Dew series, finishing second in the first two events.

Joel Hetrick

“I think I’m gonna come out and really push for a podium finish.” ATVRiders.com also interviewed one of the youngest competitors in this series: Joel Hetrick. Having finished fourth in the first event, Hetrick made it to the podium at the second, finishing third behind Wienen and Natalie.

Josh Upperman

“With his smooth riding style and ability to get of the gate quickly, you can usually count on Josh Upperman to be out front in any given race.” That’s what ATVRiders.com has to say about Upperman. Upperman scored a third place finish in the first event, struggling a bit with a seventh place finish in the second.

Atv Racer 3

Background of the ATV Motocross National Championships

This series began in 1985 and race officials report that rider entries and fan attendance are still climbing. National events are held at top racetracks across the country, with professional licensed drivers competing during the same weekend that amateur racers compete. Overall, national events will include anywhere from 500 to 800 racers from states around the country, as well as from Canada – and sometimes including racers from Europe, Australia or South America.

Stay tuned for more ATV motocross in 2015!

Editor’s note: Advance Auto Parts carries the best in ATV batteries and accessories to make summer maintenance quick and painless. Buy online, pick up in-store, in 30 minutes.

Braking Fundamentals: Brake Pads, Rotors and Fluid

Car brakesWe cover the basics and explore the science behind brake parts and related accessories.

 

With so many options to choose from, how do you know which brake rotors, pads and/or fluid is best for your vehicle? Step one is to look for guidance in your vehicle’s owner’s manual – and then find more details here.

Function of brake pads

When you push on your car brakes, calipers clamp the brake pads onto the rotors to reduce speed and then stop the vehicle. To do their job effectively, the pads must be able to absorb enough energy and heat. When there is too much wear and or heat, brake pad efficiency is reduced – and so is your stopping power.

Brake pad choices include:

  • Ceramic, composed of ceramic materials; sometimes copper fibers
  • Semi metallic, composed of steel wool and fibers; sometimes brass or copper
  • Organic, composed of glass, rubber and resins

AdvanceAutoParts_Brake_Pads_072114 Function of brake rotors 

Your brake pads clamp down on the rotors (also called brake discs). The lug nuts hold both the rotors and wheel to the wheel hub. When pressure is applied to the brake rotors, it prevents the wheel from spinning – which means that your brake rotors are as important as the pads when it comes to safety.

You’ll need to make several decisions to choose the best rotors for your vehicle, including:

  • Which material is best
  • If you want drilled or slotted rotors
  • If vented or non-vented rotors are better
  • Whether you need a cryogenic treatment for your rotors or not

Most rotors are made from cast iron – more specifically, gray iron – because it disperses heat well, which is important to avoid overheating and brake fade. Meanwhile, racing and other high performance vehicles often use reinforced carbon rotors, similar to those used in airplanes. Carbon rotors need to reach a high temperature before becoming effective so are not good choices for the average car. Other high performance vehicles use ceramic rotors, an innovation first used in British railroad cars. Ceramic rotors are lighter in weight and are stable at high speeds and all temperatures. They are, however, more expensive.

Here is more info: AdvanceAutoParts_Brake_Rotors_Image_072114 Cryogenic treatment

Over time, rotors warp because of heat and usage. If you adjust the warpage through truing, this solves the problem – unless the rotors are too thin, or heat up and warp again. So, your options are to:

  • Replace the rotors whenever needed
  • Replace the rotors and then have them cryogenically treated

When cryogenically treated, rotors dissipate heat much more effectively and maintain their optimal (non-warped) shape for a longer period of time. This means that they need replaced much less often.

Beware of brake fade

Brake fade (the reduction in stopping power after repeated or sustained usage) occurs most often when you’re carrying a heavy load in your vehicle, traveling down a long steep hill or driving at higher speeds. Brake fade can happen in any vehicle that uses a friction braking system because of a build-up of heat, although drum brakes are more at risk since disc brakes can vent heat away more easily. Brake fade can take place in vehicles with braking systems in overall good condition, although regular maintenance can help to prevent this from happening to you. To avoid bad repercussions from brake fade:

1)   When replacing your brakes, choose the highest quality that you can afford.

2)   Watch for “green fade,” which happens when the resin applied to brakes by manufacturers begins to evaporate. This can create a period of time (say, the first 100 miles of usage) when you should be extra vigilant about effective braking.

3)   When braking, tap your brakes instead of continually applying pressure.

4)   Shift into a lower gear when driving downhill, rather than riding your brakes. Shifting to a lower gear tells the engine to maintain a safe speed.

5)   Don’t try to go 70-0. Brake gradually over longer distances.

6)   If you’ve gone through a period of heavy brake use, keep a longer distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you, just in case.

7)   Check your brake fluid regularly and change at least annually.

Choosing the best brake fluid

In the United States, there are four designations of brake fluid that meet the minimum Department of Transportation standards: DOT 3, DOT 4, DOT 5 and DOT 5.1. Each contains a mixture of chemicals with specified dry and wet boiling points. When your brake fluid has just been replaced (with a full bleed), this is called the “dry” boiling point temperature. As water finds its way into the system, the “wet” boiling temperature is the benchmark you should use. Here are more details about brake fluid options, but be sure to purchase one that meets the minimum recommended by your vehicle manufacturer.*

 Editor’s note: Trust Advance Auto Parts for the best selection and values in brakes. Buy online, pick up in-store, in 30 minutes. 

*Note: Silicone Brake Fluid is not compatible with Anti-Lock braking systems, and should be used only if recommended by the manufacturer. Always consult your owner’s manual first. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure warranties are not voided.

Checking in with Lowered Lifestyle – 2 years later

Photo by: Alex White

Photo by: Alex White

If the growth of LoweredLifestyle.com is any indicator of the growth of the lowered car / stance scene, then lowering cars for looks and performance is a trend that’s here to stay.

Advance Auto Parts first met up with Matt Phillips to talk about the stance scene two years ago. Since then, the Lowered Lifestyle Facebook page has grown in popularity to 100k+ likes with 10k+ people engaging with the page every week.

We reached out to Matt again for an update on the lowered car scene, the outstanding growth of his site and what he sees as the next big trend in lowered cars.

“We owe it all to our fans who’ve embraced the scene and made it what it is today,” says Matt. “There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not super impressed with the creativity of people out there. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, someone comes along and raises the bar.”

Photo by: Kendra Aceto

Photo by: Kendra Aceto

“Two years ago we were seeing a lot of perfect offsets and stretched tires. Most of what people were doing was fitting wider wheels to stock-bodied cars. Now we’re seeing motorsport-inspired over-fender kits from companies like Liberty Walk and Rocket Bunny.”

One of the most popular methods of lowering a car involves replacing the stock suspension with adjustable coilovers. However, a lowered car on coils can sometimes be a burden for daily drivers.

Photo by:  Colton Mantolino

Photo by: Colton Mantolino

“Air suspension has come a long way,” says Matt. “Three years ago when I installed air on the Volvo, the system was basically set up for a compromise between ride and handling. The new Air Lift system we just installed on our GTI provides the best of both worlds. It’s competent performance suspension that doesn’t sacrifice ride quality.”

Air suspension allows owners to “air out,” which drops the vehicle to near ground level when parked. “The result is perfect fitment every time with instantaneous adjustability.”

photo by: Mike Raffia

photo by: Mike Raffia

When asked about the future of Lowered Lifestyle and the scene in general, Matt says this.

“It’s an exciting time, for sure. There are options for enthusiasts of virtually any make or model and at virtually any budget level. Great builds aren’t just for those with deep pockets.”

Any parting thoughts, Matt?

“Live low.”

Thanks Matt!

Editor’s note: If your car is lowered and you love it (or not) let us know in the comments below.  And while you’re at it, hit up Advance Auto Parts for the best selection in parts and accessories.

 

Make Your FR-S or BRZ As Fast As It Should Be

Scion FR-s

Scion FR-S

If you’re like me, you probably went crazy a few years ago when you heard the Toyota 86 was about to drop. Known as the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ in the States, the hachi-roku (that’s “8-6″ in Japanese, kids) promised a return to the good old days when you could get a cool rear-drive sport coupe for a reasonable price. Of course, hachiroku itself is a reference to the iconic RWD Corolla coupes from the ’80s. With bloodlines like these, Toyota and Subaru couldn’t miss.

But they did. Hard. Because the modern-day hachiroku just doesn’t have enough muscle. The 2.0-liter boxer four under the hood is rated at 200 horsepower (I’ve seen 165 hp at the wheels) and a measly 151 lb-ft of torque. It makes some sporty noises when you wind it out, but there’s no force behind it. The FR-S and BRZ are not fast cars — and the target demographic loves fast cars.

So what’s a power-hungry FR-S or BRZ owner to do? Slap a turbo on it, brah! Here are two great kits that’ll turn your 86 into a monster right quick.

Turbocharging the Scion FR-S or Subaru BRZ

Subaru BRZ

Subaru BRZ

If you’re one of those peeps who want mega aftermarket power, a turbo kit is obviously the way to go. The peak output you get with some of these kits is just explosive. Of course, you’re gonna use more oil, and in general you should be even more vigilant than usual about maintenance with a modified car. But a lot of folks have been running turbo setups on 86s for thousands of miles with no issues. It’s a robust foundation for your build. As a point of entry, check these two kits out.

FA20Club Stage 1 ($3,499) 

FA20Club is one of the big names you see on the hachiroku boards, and for good reason: they pack a lot of value into their kits. This one here is their entry-level setup, which they say is “capable of up to 280whp without fuel mods.” That’s a cool 115-hp gain over stock power at the wheels, and if you think about the power-to-weight ratio that gives you, we’re talking Porsche Cayman territory. Not bad for a few grand.

Dynosty Turbo Build ($17,914) 

Ready to roll up your sleeves? Let’s get serious and quintuple the price of the FA20Club kit with this well-regarded Dynosty setup. If you’re up for it, an easy 400+ whp can be yours, and that puts your hachiroku in rarefied territory indeed. See, these cars in stock form weigh in at about 2,800 pounds, maybe a little less. Now consider the new C7 Corvette, making 460 hp for 3,300 pounds. If you do the math, the 86 actually has a better power-to-weight ratio than the Vette. Maybe spending $45 grand or so on a Japanese sport coupe isn’t so silly after all.

Let’s Hit The Street

Are you sold on turbocharging as the answer? Anyone want to speak up for superchargers? Let me know in the comments you guys.

Editor’s note: Count on Advance Auto Parts for a wide selection of performance parts and accessories. Get back to the garage fast—buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

Loading Your ATV for Transport — a Cautionary Tale

Quad ATVMy brother-in-law almost killed himself a short while back. How he escaped serious injury I don’t know, but he’s lucky he did. He’s a big-time turkey hunter and was getting his gear ready in preparation for being in the woods before dawn the next morning, for the first day of spring gobbler season. His final task was loading his ATV (you might call it a quad) into the bed of his pickup.

As he drove up the two short loading ramps he had made, his son called out to him. Thinking that the ATV ramps weren’t aligned or something was wrong, he hit the brakes, and then the throttle and the ATV flipped over backwards on him and they both landed on the ground. Luckily he was okay. He said it happened so fast, he still isn’t exactly sure what he did…and he still seems to be seeing stars.

I see lots of people around here hauling lawn tractors and ATVs in their pickup beds, particularly during deer and turkey seasons. I’ve even hauled my own a time or two, but am fortunate to have a trailer that’s low to the ground – and a set of loading ramps.

Given his accident, and how many other similar accidents happen – many of which have “bad idea” written all over them – I got to thinking about the safest way to load an ATV or tractor into a pickup bed, and learned a few things in the process. Here’s my unofficial list of how to “do it right” and avoid potential death, injury, property damage, or humiliation. If you have some tips or pointers, I’d love to hear those too.

1. Get ATV ramps – they are designed specifically for this purpose, unlike the scraps of lumber and cinderblocks lying around your garage. They make these aluminum ramps for a reason – safety. They’ll also make your loading and unloading a lot easier and less scary.

2. Make sure the loading ramps are securely fastened to the loading platform. Many of the accidents I’ve seen occur as the ATV nears the top of the ramps. The torque from the rear drive tire grabs the unsecured ramp and kicks it out, leaving only three wheels on the surface. You know what happens next.

3. Get aluminum ramps or a ramp kit with ramps using dimensional lumber that are long enough to reduce the angle of ascent or descent. ATV ramps that are too short, coupled with today’s truck beds that are higher off the ground, are a recipe for disaster because the incline you’re driving up or down is too steep, increasing the likelihood of a flip over. Consider ramp extensions instead. Also look for a spot from which to load that naturally reduces the angle because of the terrain – i.e. parking the truck in a dip and using the adjacent sloping terrain on which to place the ramps

4. Avoid sudden starts or stops, particularly midway through the loading or unloading process. The sudden weight transfer can cause the ATV to flip over.

5. Wear your helmet.

6. Know the weight of what you’re loading. This is important because wood or aluminum ramps are designed to safely hold only a certain amount of weight. Same goes for your truck’s tailgate.

Once your ATV or tractor is safely tucked in the truck bed, secure it well, to avoid watching it bounce away down the road in your rearview mirror. And, make sure it’s not pressing against the truck cab’s back window in case you stop short.

Finally, if you’re serious about hauling your ATV – and boat – and still having room left in the bed to store your gear, then check this loading system out. I didn’t even know it existed but think it’s a great idea.

Editor’s note: From ATV loading ramps to parts that keep your quad running right, Advance Auto Parts has what your ATV needs. Buy online, pick up in store.

 

 

 

 

Cleveland vs. Detroit: a race to Motor City

1899_Winton

Photo credit: Crawford Auto Aviation Collection at the Western Reserve Historical Society.

Today, the winner is clear: Henry Ford in Detroit, Michigan. But, in the early days of automobile manufacturing, the answer wasn’t so obvious – and, in fact, Alexander Winton and Cleveland, Ohio as the Motor City had the early edge.

A step back in time

In March 1897, Scottish immigrant Alexander Winton incorporated Winton Motor Car Company in Cleveland. In May 1897, Winton’s vehicle surged to new heights as it traveled 33.64 miles per hour around a Cleveland horse track. Even after this dazzling demonstration of power, though, people still doubted the durability of the automobile and Winton needed to find a way to convince them.

Reliability Run #1

A showman at heart, Winton decided to tackle a significant challenge to draw attention to his vehicle. On July 28, 1897, Winton and an employee left Cleveland for New York City, traveling 700 miles to prove the reliability of his vehicle. He arrived safely on August 7, after 78 hours and 43 hours of driving time. He didn’t get as much attention as he’d wanted, which was disappointing, but he stayed focused and created four more custom-built motor cars.

On March 24, 1898, he sold one of his vehicles – which might not sound like a big deal, except it was the first “American-made standard-model gasoline automobile” ever sold. He sold it to Robert Allison of Port Carbon, Pennsylvania for the astonishing sum of $1,000 (nearly $28,000 today) after Allison saw a Winton ad in Scientific American. That year, more than 100 Wintons were sold, making his company the largest manufacturer of gas-powered automobiles in the nation.

Reliability Run #2

On May 22, 1899, Winton began a five-day trip to New York, this time with a journalist who’d worked for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland before fighting in the Spanish American War, a man named Charles Shanks. A newspaper article predicted that “the automobile will doubtless become the most convenient mode of transport during the 20th century. The Plain Dealer is endeavoring to demonstrate the entire feasibility of this mode of locomotion.”

This trip generated the publicity Winton craved and boosted sales, with Winton selling 21 more vehicles during the rest of 1899. As for Shanks, he coined the term “automobile” on this journey, which is his lasting legacy.

Photo credit: Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum.

Photo credit: Crawford Auto Aviation Collection at the Western Reserve Historical Society.

Re-enactment: the 1997 Winton Centennial

In retrospect, it’s hard to imagine what a big adventure these Cleveland-to-New-York trips really were. But, to get somewhat of a sense, Advance Auto Parts talked to journalist Chris Jensen who, in 1997, participated in a re-enactment of the trip. At the time, Chris wrote for the Plain Dealer, the newspaper that sponsored the second reliability run in 1899. He recorded his 1997 adventures in that newspaper as he traveled to New York in an 1899 Winton.

Only three known 1899 Wintons exist today and Chris rode in one now belonging to the Frederick C. Crawford Auto Aviation Collection at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland. The trip was reported in a series of articles in the Plain Dealer. He was the passenger in a vehicle driven by Charles “Charlie” F. Wake, one of Winton’s great-grandsons.

In the re-enactment, 13 other Wintons traveled alongside Chris’s vehicle, the newest being the 1922 model. “This showed how quickly automobiles evolved,” he says, “from the little putt-putt that we were in to Wintons that looked like real cars.”

The wheelbase of the 1899 Winton was only 69 inches, with an overall length of 104 inches. “That makes a Toyota Tercel,” Chris pointed out in an article, “with a 94-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 162 inches seem like a stretch limo.”

The vehicle boasted 8 horsepower and had a one-cylinder, 117-cubic-inch engine that was “banging away and it sounds like the world’s loudest smoker’s cough.”

During the trip, Chris and Charlie were perched up high on the tiny two-seater, on a tufted bench-like seat. Because the top of the vehicle didn’t offer any real protection, the men didn’t use it. “So, there was nothing between me and anything else, including the road,” Chris recalls. “When it rained, I got really, really wet.”

But, there was an upside. “Because we were going at a low speed,” Chris shares with Advance Auto parts, “at 15 to 20 miles per hour, I got to look closely at what was around me instead of zooming past. I got a new appreciation for the hills and how long it took to go both up and down.”

“Going downhill,” he adds, “was pretty interesting because there were basically no brakes. People have asked me, ‘If you were only going 15 miles per hour, what could go wrong?’ and the reality is that, with no real brakes and no seat belts, there is a lot that could go wrong. Picture yourself flying through the air at 15 to 20 miles per hour and crashing into a telephone pole.”

Fortunately, no such accidents happened during the re-enactment. “But,” Chris points out, “we traveled on good roads. Try to imagine people traveling along in mud and rocks and facing other challenges. Plus, the maps weren’t great and it wasn’t always clear, in the 1890s, where you were going. And, if they broke down, who was there to help with repairs?”

Any time the vehicle needed re-started, it needed cranked. “It took a fair amount of effort,” Chris says. “And, as you were driving, you needed to keep pouring oil into it, to keep the car moving along. The oil would drop out onto the ground as you went.” Where the oil was supposed to go: into three troughs that had tubes designed to drip the oil into the transmission, the engine and the differential. The steering happened via a tiller attached to the front wheels, a somewhat scary set-up. As for turning signals, brake lights and headlights, they didn’t exist.

Putting all into perspective

In spite of all of the modern devices that either didn’t yet exist or were sub-standard in the century vehicles from the 1890s and early 20th century, the Winton was the premiere choice of its day, the most powerful, the most technically advanced. Alexander Winton was king of the mountain, with Henry Ford someone whom Winton declined to hire in 1899 when given the chance.

In 1901, when several members of the wealthy Vanderbilt family chose to buy automobiles, they selected Winton vehicles. Winton, flush with his success, built a factory on the west side of Cleveland, at a time when most people building automobiles did so in their personal barns or garages.

Winton began competing in races, with his vehicles usually winning. In 1903, when Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson made the first-ever cross-country drive, he did so in a Winton. When Alice Ramsey became the first woman to drive cross country, she also chose a Winton.

A change is in the air

Although Wintons received praise, one early customer reportedly wasn’t impressed. When James Ward Packard complained about his new vehicle, Winton allegedly challenged him to do better, the result ultimately becoming the Packard automobile company.

Then there was the race of October 10, 1901.

Winton entered this race as the man to beat – with the automobile to beat. It’s unlikely that he worried too much about one of his competitors: Henry Ford. For the most part, Ford was known as the man who’d founded the floundering Detroit Automobile Company on August 5, 1899 – a company that failed on November 20, 1901 after building just 12 vehicles.

However, Winton’s automobile experienced mechanical difficulties at the 8-mile mark of this 10-mile race and Ford passed him up to win. After Ford’s win, people began ponying up for his next venture, the Henry Ford Company (founded on November 3, 1901, apparently in anticipation of the Detroit Automobile Company closing).

The next year, Winton was determined to beat Ford in a race. After all, the 1902 Winton Bullet reached speeds of 70 miles per hour, the unofficial land record. And, yet, Ford’s driver Barney Oldfield won the race – while Ford suffered another loss with the collapse of the Henry Ford Company on August 22, 1902. With funds in part raised from Oldfield’s win, Ford decided to finance a third automobile company: the Ford Motor Company.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - 1968: shows Henry Ford (1863-1947)Henry Ford surges ahead

Although Winton continued to build vehicles until 1924, his business slowly declined while Ford revolutionized manufacturing:

  • In 1908, Ford came out with the affordable “Model T” or “Tin Lizzy” that made automobile buying possible for the middle class
  • In the fall of 1913, Ford began operation of the world’s first moving assembly line for automobiles
  • On January 5, 1914, Ford began paying his workers $5 per day, more than double the previous rate – and more than double what any other automobile company was paying. Job seekers flocked to become part of Ford Motor Company.

Derek E. Moore, the curator of transportation history at the Western Reserve Historical Society, points out that “Cleveland companies continued to manufacture higher quality automobiles, but they were higher priced and, so, a limited market. Therefore, fewer people bought from Cleveland than Detroit.”

As a point of comparison, in 1924:

  • 2 million Fords were manufactured, with prices ranging from $295 ($4,041 in today’s dollars) to $685 ($9,384 in today’s dollars)
  • Winton’s least expensive model cost $2,295 (comparable to $31,438); this is the last year of Winton’s automobile production and we know that, in 1922, he made only 690 vehicles

Interestingly enough, Derek says that Ford built his first assembly plant for the Model T, outside of Detroit, in Cleveland where the Cleveland Institute of Art is currently housed. “Ford would ship components to Cleveland, knowing that it was easier and cheaper to ship parts than fully built automobiles, and then the vehicles could be sold in the Cleveland area.”

You already know the rest of the story. Although Cleveland continued to play a significant role in automobile manufacturing and assembly, the title of Motor City ultimately went to Detroit, with its king named Henry Ford.

Car Parts, Boat Parts and ATVs – more in common than you realize

Boat engineIf I met him, I don’t think I’d like Murphy simply because I really dislike his law. Whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and more often than not on my day off when I have something planned that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.

This isn’t a recent phenomenon for me either. But the good news is that as my mechanical knowledge grew, I figured out quickly how to circumvent his law and salvage my day – most of the time – when it comes to the motorized vehicles causing me problems and standing in the way of my fun.

The solution I learned about when I was younger, albeit the hard way, is that some automotive parts can serve double duty as replacement parts for recreational vehicles. I say I learned it the hard way because it only came after several outings were ruined by an ATV that wouldn’t start because it needed a specialty part, my grandfather’s old Ford tractor that wouldn’t crank thanks to a temperamental starter, and a dirt bike that quit when the motorcycle battery failed.

I suspect a lot of people were like me when I was first getting my hands dirty taking things apart to figure out how they work, and needing more than a little help from dad putting them back together. I just didn’t realize that some parts were interchangeable. The thought never crossed my mind until one weekend when a bunch of my high school buddies and I were at my grandfather’s cabin for the weekend, fishing and riding four-wheelers and dirt bikes. I was about half a mile from the cabin when the dirt bike I was riding refused to restart thanks to a bad motorcycle battery. Knowing there weren’t any ATV or specialty power sports parts suppliers nearby, I figured my bike would have to be parked for the weekend. Only after I pushed it home on the gravel road that was, thankfully, mostly downhill, did my grandfather tell me that I could get the battery I needed at just about any place that sold auto parts.

The same goes for a lot of other power sports machines and their parts. Here are some of the more common parts and problems that might get in the way of your fun, and how to solve them.

1. Batteries – most auto parts stores carry a wide range of batteries that fit boats, ATVs, dirt bikes, jet skis, snowmobiles and even golf carts. Make sure you bring in the old marine battery or whatever type it is and get it tested first to confirm that’s the problem, to get the right replacement size, and to avoid the core charge.

2. Spark plugs and wires – this is another category that you don’t have to rely on a specialty parts supplier for. Even if you think that glow plugs for a Kubota B20 diesel tractor or plugs for a Yamaha Tt-R225 dirt bike are uncommon and only available through a dealer, think again and try your local auto parts supplier first.

3. Boats – similarities exist between inboard motors and some car engines. For example, the 4.3 liter GM V-6 that’s in your 2000 Glastron boat may be able to use some of the same 4.3 V6 GM motor parts that are available at an auto parts store.* Marine batteries can also often be obtained at an auto parts store, saving additional hassle when a marine parts specialty supplier isn’t nearby.

Of course, a little preventive maintenance before you hit the trail or water can help you avoid many of these problems in the first place. But if they do crop up, you now know that many of these parts are readily available somewhere other than just a specialty power sports provider.

Editor’s note: Advance Auto Parts carries the powersport batteries you need, including ones for motorcycles, boats, ATV’s, tractors, golf carts and snowmobiles.  Buy online, pick up in store.

 

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

 

 

Diagnostic Tips When Air Conditioning Isn’t Working

Cool inviting blue waterWhen summertime hits, repairs to your car’s A/C system get moved up the to-do list – fast. Here are some tips to guide you through the diagnostic process, along with information about when to replace the A/C compressor or recharge the A/C system.

Not sure why your air conditioning isn’t working? Try this test first to see if the clutch is engaging the A/C compressor:

• Turn on your A/C and fans to the max setting.
• Is the clutch engaging?

If not, use a voltmeter to see if the compressor is receiving voltage.

• If there is voltage, the clutch may be bad. Replacement of the clutch and/or compressor may be necessary.
• If there is no voltage, there may not be sufficient refrigerant in the system to engage the low pressure cut off switch that cycles the compressor.

If it seems likely that there isn’t enough refrigerant in the system, the typical culprit is a leak. Next steps include:

• Use a manifold gauge to check the high and low side pressures in the system.

Are they set within the recommended ranges provided in your owner’s/repair manual?

• Check the following for a tight and secure fit:

o   Front seal of compressor

o   All system fittings

o   Hose manifolds on compressor

o   All system hose crimps

o   Schrader valves

o   O-rings found on compressor pressure switches

• Use a UV A/C leak detector kit to find leaks, including in the condenser and evaporator.

Man looking at a smoking engine in his carImportant note

If you need to replace your A/C compressor, you will also need to replace your:

• Accumulator and/or dryer
• Expansion device

You will also want to conduct a full flush of the system for optimal performance. Some vehicles also require a replacement of the condenser to eliminate all debris from the A/C system.

Car air conditioning recharging

The EPA provides detailed information about the process and regulations. You can read them in full or use the summary we’ve provided below.

When recharging, there are two main options:

1)   Top off with refrigerant

2)   Empty/evacuate the system and recharge/refill the system

Although each can be effective, they are both temporary fixes if any A/C leaks still exist. And, if you have an older vehicle, what’s leaking is CFC-12 (Freon), an expensive refrigerant that is no longer manufactured in the United States because of concerns about the ozone layer. The cost of replacing CFC-12 will make it more economical, in most cases, to fix any leaks first.

Top-off versus evacuation and recharge

A top-off is cheaper, faster and simpler. However, any impurities in the refrigerant remain unless you choose the recharge process, which involves:

  • Removing any remaining refrigerant
  • Purifying the refrigerant using recycling equipment, recharging it into the vehicle and then topping if off, as necessary

Plus, the recharging allows you to be more precise. When topping off refrigerant, you can determine the optimal amount (say, 2.2 pounds) by looking in your owner’s manual. However, there is no precise way to know how much refrigerant is currently in a vehicle, making topping off an estimate at best. If the A/C system is accidentally overcharged, newer cars usually have a feature that causes the system to shut down in hot weather. With a recharge, you can be precise.

toolsTo find a leak

If only a small amount of refrigerant appears to be left, you will need to add up to a few ounces. If the refrigerant has less pressure than 50 pounds per square inch, the EPA says more refrigerant is needed.  (Note that at least 1 to 1.5 pounds of refrigerant is needed to test cooling capabilities.) The EPA recommends the use of an electronic leak detector that is Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) J1627 certified.

It is possible to have pinpoint-sized leaks that are very difficult to find, even with the best equipment. These tiny leaks cause slow leakage but the A/C system may seem to lose its cooling capabilities virtually all at once. If so, it’s likely that your vehicle has a system that shuts off once refrigerant drops below a certain level.

The EPA does not require that refrigerant be removed and cleaned before car air conditioning recharging takes place. To get more information, call 800-296-1996. The EPA also does not require that leak repairs be done before refrigerant is added, although states and/or localities can require this.

State-level agencies

Here are listings of state-level environmental agencies in alphabetical order. You can search the appropriate agency to find information for your state and/or contact them to ask them a specific question.

Another useful tool is the Gateway to State Resource Locators, where you can narrow your questions down by broad type and then enter your zip code and further filter down the type of information you need.

Streamlined option

If you decide to just add refrigerant, A/C Pro is a solution to consider. With this product, you simply locate the low-pressure connection point and use the A/C Pro gauge to measure the system’s pressure. If low, you can refill by pulling the trigger on the product’s nozzle and monitor pressure via their pressure gauge device, making sure that you don’t overfill. Convenient features include the reusable trigger and the extra-long (24-inch) hose. The product also contains a sealant that helps stop leaks on hoses, gaskets and o-rings.

Editor’s note: Visit Advance Auto Parts for a wide selection of A/C parts and more. Get back to the garage fast—buy online, pick up in-store in just 30 minutes!

Does Dad like cars? Don’t let him miss this road trip!

Ford Model TGrab Dad and head out to Motor Muster this weekend for Father’s Day!

With winter in the rearview, it’s time to get behind the wheel and just drive! So, put June 14-15 on your calendar and “Dearborn, Michigan” in your GPS, and head for the Motor Muster event at Greenfield Village:

“Gearheads, diehard car lovers, auto geeks—this is your weekend at Greenfield Village.

Make your way to a vintage auto enthusiast’s dream destination: From glamorous classics of the 1930s to brawny muscle cars of the 1970s, Greenfield Village hosts more than 500 gleaming examples.

Motor Muster celebrates one of the grandest and most innovative eras of American automotive history—1933-1976. For the entire weekend, the streets and lawns of Greenfield Village will be filled with hundreds of classic cars, vintage trucks, motorcycles, military vehicles, bicycles—even a fire engine or two. They’ll all be here, from brawny muscle cars to the straight-out-of-the-showroom cars you and your parents grew up with. Stroll the grounds and meet the owners who lavish attention on these wonders of rolling history. There’s the Saturday night cruise, too, and a live early 1960s dance show with dancing in the streets ’til 9pm. A one-of-a-kind event for cars and the people who love them.”

Don’t leave Greenfield Village without visiting Thomas Edison’s laboratory or the bicycle shop where the Wright Brothers invented the airplane. Both of these buildings were taken apart and brought to Greenfield Village where they were reconstructed.

While you’re there

Adjacent to Greenfield Village is the Henry Ford Museum, which is the home of Driving America: the World’s Premier Automotive Exhibition. Historic vehicles in this exhibition range from Henry Ford’s first vehicle (the 1896 Quadricycle) to the limousine that President John F. Kennedy rode when he was assassinated. The museum contains touchscreens throughout so you can discover more about the vehicles, a smart card so you can “compile and transfer your own digital collection for online viewing later” and a test that determines the best car for your personality.The Henry Ford

From May 17-August 17, you can see a special exhibit on loan from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, titled “Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power.” The Henry Ford Museum is also planning a $15 million exhibit, called Racing in America, and you can discover more about this grassroots effort. The museum is also the departure point for the Ford Rouge Factory tour, a 1917 factory that at one time employed 100,000 workers.

Located next door to the Henry Ford Museum is the Automotive Hall of Fame, where people who have contributed to the industry are honored. You’ll also see a 65-long mural of historic auto-related people and moments, a full-sized replica of the first gasoline-powered car and more.

Drive a dozen more miles

And you’ll find yourself in Detroit, at the original Ford assembly plant, now known as the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant National Historic Landmark. You can tour this 1904 factory where Henry Ford designed the Model T and built the first 12,000 of the Tin Lizzies before the advent of Ford’s moving assembly line. You can see early Ford vehicles, as well.

Greenfield VillageWhen this plant first opened, it took workers 12 hours to build one car, which sold for $850. By the time this plant closed (replaced by the much larger and more well-known Highland Park Model T plant, where 12 million Tin Lizzies were built), assembly time plunged to 12 minutes and, the cost, to $260. Work days dropped at Ford from ten hours to eight hours and wages skyrocketed from 30 cents an hour to $5 a day.

If you find yourself on I-94 while in Detroit, near the Metro Airport, you’ll probably notice the Uniroyal Giant Tire that was originally created as a Ferris wheel attraction for the World Fair, held in New York in 1964 and 1965. Ninety-six people could fit into the wheel at the fair and it needed a 100-horsepower motor to operate. Altogether, more than one million people rode in this tire before it became a stationary landmark. In 1994, neon lighting was added to the tire, along with a new hubcap. In 2003, Uniroyal invested an incredible $1 million to renovate its well-known landmark.

What would you recommend for a Dearborn/Detroit road trip? Leave your recommendations in the comments below.

Editor’s note: Dad, if you’re reading this, it’s time to drop some serious hints! Advance Auto Parts can help with great deals on premium parts, tools, accessories and more. Buy online, pick up in store–in 30 minutes!