American Car Culture: Up Close and Personal

Auto Repair pictureStunning new exhibit showcases the candid and personal work of photographer Justine Kurland.

For over three years, photographer Justine Kurland and her son Casper traveled the country documenting the daily happenings and culture of cars, mechanics and auto repair shops, as well as the open roads that guided their journey.

In a recent article on Slate.com, Kurland’s story and some of the unique photographs documenting it are displayed as part of her new exhibition series Sincere Auto Care, which is also showing at the Mitchell-Innes & Nash gallery in New York City.

Engine repair

For car guys, automotive enthusiasts and DIY’ers of all stripes, check out the candid shots that help to sum up the personal and soulful connections that Americans have with their cars.

Read the full story about Sincere Auto Care at Slate.com.

Auto shop

All photo credits: Justine Kurland, courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, NY.

Top Projects To Do While Your Car’s In Winter Storage

Car GarageWhen it’s time to put my pride and joy into winter storage, I can’t help but feel a little pang. You know how it goes — you spend all winter waiting to drive the thing, and then it’s winter again before you know it. But I realized long ago that winter car storage doesn’t have to mean total separation. The car’s right outside in the garage, you know; it’s not like you’ve sent it off to Siberia. In fact, winter’s a great time to catch up on all the little projects you haven’t found the time for yet. Here are a few of my favorites.

1. Paintless Dent Removal

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t do this one myself. I’m not exactly an artistic guy, let’s put it that way. But these paintless dent removal guys really are artists, and they don’t close up shop just because there’s snow on the ground. Since your car’s sitting around all day anyway, why not do an inventory of all the dings and dents on the door and body panels, then have your local dent specialist come by and pop them out? I don’t know about you, but I hate when I bring my car out of storage and notice a nasty little door ding while I’m washing it. If you take action now, a few hundred bucks at the most will buy you peace of mind come spring.

2. Full Hand Wash and Polish

This is definitely a DIY, and for me it’s an annual tradition. When it’s time to store the car, first I hose it down in the driveway to get the surface stuff off, and then I roll up my sleeves and get down to business. All you need is a jug of Turtle Wax Car Wash solution, a nice big sponge and a lot of elbow grease. You’ll want to go over every inch of the sheet metal with that sponge. Try to make it cleaner than it was on the first day of spring. Then wipe all the moisture off with a non-scratching water blade to avert streaks and water spots. For the grand finale, get a hold of an orbital polisher and some high-quality Meguiar’s polish. A whole winter is a long time for a car to sit still; it’s only proper to put it to bed with that like-new shine. Quick tip: Consider a one-step sealant to help prevent rust.

3. Clean and Deodorize Interior

There are countless approaches to cleaning your car’s interior, but when it’s time for winter storage, I focus on two aspects: upholstery and odors. For upholstery, I’ve got leather seats, so I start with Lexol leather cleaning spray, let it dry for an hour, and then finish with plenty of conditioner. If you do that every year, your leather should be good till kingdom come. As for odors, look, even if you’re as careful as I am about keeping food out of the car, things just start smelling musty over time. You can get in front of this problem by treating your interior with Eagle One E1 odor eliminator. I don’t understand how it works — they say the stuff actually changes the chemistry of odor molecules — but it keeps my car smelling fresh all winter long, and that’s all you need to know. Quick tip: Place a few dryer sheets in the cabin, and under the hood. This helps prevent mice from making their way into your car or engine bay and building nests over the winter.

4. Check your cooling system

Check your vehicle’s antifreeze to make sure it protects against even the coldest evenings. To help with this, pick up an antifreeze tester to ensure that your car’s cooling system does not freeze solid.  A cheap antifreeze tester may be the key to a smooth ride next spring. Mine was a lifesaver last year.

5. Fix What Needs Fixing (and maybe some other stuff, too)      

Last but definitely not least, winter is the perfect time to bust out your tool kit and get your hands dirty. Hey, it’s not like you’re going to be busy driving the car, right? Think about all the time you’re saving by not getting behind the wheel — and devote a few of those hours here and there to DIY projects of your choosing.

For instance, I know a lot of folks who put off replacing their spark plugs because the car’s running fine, but why wait for it to start getting rough? Get yourself one of these handy magnetic swivel sockets, if you don’t have one already, and give your engine a new spark for the spring. For those of you who have room to get a floor jack under there and raise your car up, there’s a bunch of sensible preventive maintenance you can do while you’re on your back, including fuel-filter replacement and retorquing all your suspension bolts to factory spec with a quality torque wrench.

A couple other projects worth considering are upholstery repair and chrome upkeep. For the upholstery repair, you’re gonna have to be handier with a sewing machine than I am, but it’s not a terribly difficult job if you’ve got the time. Plan on spending a few days, though, if you have to remove the seat covers for re-stitching — and plan on rejuvenating the foam underneath, too, because if you’ve got rips, you’ve also got cushion compression from years of butts.

As for chrome upkeep, whether you’re talking about wheels, bumpers and tailpipes or headers and such under the hood, you’re gonna want a bottle of Mothers California Gold. Go after any tarnished surfaces with that stuff first. If they don’t get shiny enough for you, I would consider calling in a professional, but you can also get a DIY chrome kit and try to do the job yourself. Be careful, though, because the process involves an acid bath and some pretty freaky chemicals. It’s one you can definitely brag about to the boys if you pull it off.

At the end of the day, you know better than anyone what kind of mechanical TLC your car could use this winter, and now’s the time to do those nagging repairs you’ve been putting off. My suggestion? Make a list of priorities, and check ‘em off one by one until it’s driving season again. Your future self will thank you next year when the car’s performing better than ever. Quick tip: Don’t get stressed out. With the proper prep, you’ll be surpised at how much you can get done before the cold sets in.

Spring’s Around the Corner!

Don’t let the chilly season get you down, my friends. Pass the time with some targeted DIY projects, and before you know it, it’ll be time to hit the road again. Any suggestions for some good projects this winter, by the way? Let us know in the comments.

The End of the Honda VTEC Era

2001 red Honda PreludeI gotta admit, I’m biased when it comes to DOHC VTEC Hondas, because I’ve owned two of the best. I got my first taste with a 1995 Acura Integra GS-R, and I still can’t get the sound of that little 1.8-liter motor with the 8,100-rpm redline out of my head. Then I moved on to the “luxury coupe,” a 2001 Honda Prelude, which redlined at a comparatively meek 7,400 rpm but had other stuff going for it that the Integra lacked. These were great, great cars — stylish, fun and relentlessly reliable.

And we’ll never see the likes of them again, because Honda has turned its back on that whole scene. The Prelude was quietly put out to pasture in 2001, having become too refined and expensive for its own good. The Integra kept kicking for a while as the Acura RSX (it was still called “Integra” in other markets), but 2006 marked the end of the line. For a few more years, the Honda Civic Si carried the torch with its sweet 2.0-liter motor, a high-revving marvel that reminded me very much of the Integra GS-R’s 1.8. But these days the Civic Si uses a warmed-over Accord engine. FAIL.

The Honda VTEC era is gone, and it’s not coming back.

But we can still remember the good times, right?

Ride along with me as I reflect on what made my DOHC VTEC cars so special.

1994 Acura Integra GS-R

1994 Acura Integra GS-RFirst of all, as soon as the second-generation GS-R came out in ’94, I remember lusting after those shiny five-spoke wheels. Man, Honda knew how to do alloy wheels back in the day, didn’t they? Admittedly, the rest of the car’s looking a bit dated. It’s got that bubbly 1990s look going on from some angles. But I actually dig the four round headlights, even though a lot of owners swapped them out for the JDM lenses. And from the back, the GS-R still looks pretty purposeful with its standard spoiler and wide taillights.

Inside, my GS-R had flawless leather buckets, but let’s face it: this car wasn’t about creature comforts. The road noise at speed was literally deafening, at least temporarily — I’d be a little hard of hearing when I got out after a long trip. As for the ride quality, a friend of mine once called it “skateboard-like.” Really, the best thing about the interior was the hatchback trunk; you could fold those rear seatbacks down and fit your whole life in there if you had to.

VTEC Acura IntegraBottom line, the Integra GS-R was all about what was under the hood. The dual-overhead cam (“DOHC”) 1.8-liter inline-4 was rated at 170 horsepower, falling just short of the magical 100 hp/L threshold. Torque was a paltry 127 pound-feet, and that was always the knock against the DOHC VTEC motors, but let me tell you, it didn’t matter in this car. The power ramped up steadily all the way to 8,100 rpm, with the VTEC crossover at 4,400 rpm producing a growl that gave way to a motorcycle-like scream toward to the end. Known to fans by the internal code “B18C1,” the GS-R’s engine was only offered with an incredibly precise five-speed manual transmission, and they were a perfect pairing — the short gears helped keep the revs high, and the pedals were ideally placed for heel-toe downshifts.

Nowadays, turbocharged fours are all the rage because of their supposed fuel-economy benefits, but did I mention that I got 37 mpg on the highway in my GS-R?

Throw in legendary reliability and low maintenance costs, and you’ve got an all-time great. There’ll never be another car like it.

2001 Honda Prelude

2001 Honda PreludeThe angular, understated Prelude was a different beast — a gentleman’s  sport compact. With its long nose and short deck, the 2001 ‘Lude could almost pass for rear-wheel-drive, its extended front overhang being the only real giveaway. It was a classy car, especially with the beautiful alloy wheels shown here. With the Integra, you expected a kid to be driving it, and it was normal to see an enormous spoiler tacked on the back. But the ‘Lude appealed to everyone. I’ve seen a handful of white-haired old guys driving bone-stock models, and that doesn’t surprise me one bit.

Inside, the fifth-gen Prelude served up an inviting mix of quality materials and subtle, ergonomic design. You had all the controls you needed, and no more. People used to say Honda was the Japanese BMW (hard to believe today, right?), and this dashboard is a case in point. Everything was right where it needed to be, and the simple layout aged really well — I never felt like I was driving an old car, even when it was an old car.

VTEC Honda PreludeOn the road, the Prelude was significantly quieter than the GS-R, though I wouldn’t exactly call it quiet per se. The general comfort level was a lot higher. Really good stereo, too — so much better than the Integra’s clock-radio-quality sound. But it still handled great, albeit with slightly slower reflexes. I wish I’d been able to find a suitable Type SH with its torque-transfer system, because my base car understeered a lot if I entered a corner too hot. But I always had a blast on twisty roads nonetheless.

The fifth-gen Prelude’s engine was a torque monster by DOHC VTEC standards, cranking out 156 lb-ft along with a healthy 200 hp. To be honest, I liked the GS-R’s engine better. The ‘Lude’s 2.2-liter four-cylinder, a.k.a. “H22A4,” had a Jekyll and Hyde character, coming on real strong all of a sudden at 5,200 rpm. I preferred the way the GS-R’s motor smoothed the VTEC transition out. But the H22 made a great snarl, and the five-speed shifter was lighter than the GS-R’s, gliding friction-free from gate to gate.

If you wanted genuine Honda performance without the boy-racer looks, the fifth-gen Prelude was the ultimate solution.

Epilogue

Honda VTECs used to rule the street, and for good reason. It’s sad to me that those days are never coming back. Did you ever have a DOHC VTEC car? I know we’d all love to hear your story in the comments.

Editor’s note: If you’ve got a street import in your driveway, hit up Advance Auto Parts for the best values and selection. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

Don’t get no respect: wheel hub assemblies & wheel bearings

wheel-bearingTo paraphrase comedian Rodney Dangerfield, it’s tough being a hub assembly or wheel bearing. While their more famous cousins – the brakes, the batteries, the struts and shocks . . . okay, we’ll stop name dropping because you know who we mean – get lots of fuss and attention, the non-glamorous bearings work hard, day after day, repeating the same dreary job over and over again.

But when those drudgery cousins finally get worn out, you’ll probably know it. They’ll most likely squeak, they’ll grind, they’ll growl, they’ll whine and moan. Besides that, they may not hang on tightly to your tires any more, perhaps even letting go completely and/or causing a loss of steering control – and that goes beyond annoyance and becomes a significant safety issue.

Hub assemblies and wheel bearings

Located between the brake drums/discs and the drive axle, the hub assembly is mounted to the holding bracket of the chassis on the axle side. On the drum/disc side, the wheel is connected to the hub assembly via bolts. The wheel bearing itself is inside the hub unit.

These low-maintenance parts must take on the load of your vehicle, whether it’s in motion or standing still. Their importance rises even more when you’re driving over potholes and other rough patches – and, even though they are low maintenance, they certainly aren’t no maintenance.

Your goal is to minimize the amount of friction generated by the wheel bearing. This can be accomplished by the use of quality grease specifically intended for high temperatures. Be careful not to overdo how much grease you apply, though, as this can result in overheating because of friction that can’t appropriately be dissipated. With repeated overheating incidents, car parts damage can occur.

And, even though proper application of grease will help these parts last longer, they will eventually need replaced. Typically, you should check and maintain your wheel bearings every 25,000 to 30,000 miles. An average sealed wheel bearing lasts 85,000 to 100,000 miles although some can last as long as 150,000 miles.

Hear that noise?

Diagnosing car troubles by sound alone is an inexact science, but you should not ignore new or unusual car noises. According to an often-quoted study from Braxton Research, 51% of wheel bearing problems are found because of noise (24% are found during a brake job and 19% during an alignment).

Having said that, although noises from bad hub assemblies and/or wheel bearings come from the area of your wheels, not all strange sounds from the area of your wheels is assembly- or bearing-related. They could indicate a problem with your brakes or CV joints. And if the noise comes and goes with the application of your brakes, the problem is more likely brake-related.

Still, be sure to check your hub assembly and wheel bearings if you hear:

  • Chirping, squealing or grinding sounds with different intensities at different speeds; these noises may get louder or softer upon turning
  • Humming that exists when you drive and increases when you start to turn your steering wheel

 If you ever sense a vibration from your wheels or your wheels “wobble,” be sure to check your hub assembly and wheel bearings.

Hub assembly

Wheel speed sensor

Vehicles with antilock brakes may have a sensor built into the hub assembly. The sensor ring may move about as it rotates if there is a worn wheel bearing, which may trigger the appearance of an ABS warning light. Use a scanning tool that accesses your ABS to diagnose.

Meanwhile internal corrosion within the wheel assembly can send up a false alarm of worn parts. If your vehicle has a removable sensor, then simply remove and clean it and then add a zinc corrosion inhibitor to the hub before replacing. If the sensor is not removable, then the entire hub assembly will need replaced.

Check up

Jack up the car into the air and spin the wheel by hand. Can you feel any roughness or excessive drag? If so, you may have a bad wheel bearing. Check your car manual to see the maximum amount of movement that can be considered acceptable.

If you’re unsure whether or not there is too much movement, it’s better to be safe than sorry. You should replace your hub assembly and wheel bearings. Even if only one side is bad, it makes sense to replace them in pairs. The “good” side is likely to cause problems in a relatively short time.

Also, after driving the car, you can check the temperature of the hub assembly. Typically, a hub assembly that is worn out will be hotter than the other hub assemblies on the vehicle. This is due to excessive drag produced by the worn out bearings.

Gas mileage

If you surf around auto forums on the net, you’ll find conversations about whether or not bad hub assemblies and/or wheel bearings can have a negative effect on gas mileage. As on many car-related topics, there isn’t clear consensus, with some commenters noticing an improvement after hub assembly/wheel bearing repair.

Caution!

Hub and bearing assemblyBeware of cheap bearings constructed of low quality steel with poor heat-treating. These tend to fail prematurely, which only signals another repair job in the future when, in most instances, these parts need replaced only once at most during typical car ownership.

Cheaper hub assemblies might include bearings that are smaller than OEM, which is another factor that could lead to early part failure. Still other cheaper parts contain double ball bearings rather than one stronger bearing. If possible, avoid these choices.

Note that manufacturers recommend a torque wrench rather than an impact wrench when installing. That’s because an impact wrench can damage axle nut threads and CV joints. Plus, the impact wrench can prevent proper torqueing of nuts and bolts.

Bonus tips: don’t be penny smart and pound foolish. Replace axle nuts rather than attempting to reuse them, and invest in quality seal drivers to ensure a quality seal and therefore protect new wheel bearings.

Editor’s note: Advance Auto Parts carries the quality hub assemblies and wheel bearings that you need to ensure your ride control is in check.

 

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

 

Crucial Cars: The Ford F-150

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

For this first installment, Rural Tales hitches a ride with the workhorse of the ages: The Ford F-150.

 

Ford F-150 232 consecutive years as the best-selling vehicle in the U.S.

37 years as the top-selling truck.

A major redesign for 2015 that has tongues wagging.

Why do so many truck buyers have a love affair with Ford’s F-150 and Ford trucks in general? Perhaps because like most F-150 drivers, these trucks just work. And that’s not to say that other trucks don’t, because I’m certainly not trying to start a war of words among my fellow truck drivers and loyal Ram, Silverado and Tundra enthusiasts.

The Ford F-150 is the workhorse of choice for countless professionals and weekend warriors alike who need dependable towing and hauling power for a reason. Consider the 2000 F-150 as an example. It’s 5.4-liter V-8, 16-valve, fuel-injected engine delivers 205 horsepower at 4,950 RPM and 255 foot pounds of torque at 3,700 RPM, for a maximum towing capacity of 7,500 pounds – more than enough to get most jobs done. Couple that power with its hefty size – a 3,923-pound curb weight and a 5,600-pound gross weight and a nearly 120-inch wheelbase – and you have a towing and hauling machine that can stand up to tough conditions and looks good doing it. Those good looks are courtesy of periodic F-150 body redesigns that refresh its image without losing the iconic body style that makes it instantly recognizable.

Ford’s continuing success with its F-150 can be traced, in part, to its experience designing and building trucks that drivers want. The F-150 wasn’t Ford’s first pickup. That honor falls to Ford’s 1925 Model T and the more than 33,000 Model T “runabouts” it built with a pickup truck body and sold for $281.The F-150 name didn’t arrive on the scene until 1975, following the F-100’s introduction in 1953 and the F-series creation in 1948 with the F-1 half-ton pickup. Those early F-series pickups were available with just two engine options – a 95-horsepower, 226 cubic-inch, inline six or a 100 horsepower, 239 V-8.

Changes in options through the years helped keep Ford’s  F-series fresh, with perhaps one of the biggest changes occurring in 1959 with the availability of four-wheel drive. That’s such an important feature because for many early pickup-truck drivers, they drove a truck for one reason – they had to. Whether they made their livelihood in farming, construction, or some other industry that required hauling or towing, those early trucks were, undoubtedly, work trucks.Ford F-150 1

Contrast that with today’s pickup owners. While many still choose the F-150 for work, countless others drive it because of the convenience and flexibility it offers – a car-like ride and interior with heated seats, 360-degree cameras, power moon roofs and LED lighting that can still haul and tow when needed, and do it in style. Yet another reason many drivers choose the F-150 and tend to hang onto them is that they’re easy to work on, particularly with a little guidance from the pros when you need it, and the continuing availability of parts and accessories for it.

What has people talking about the latest F-150, however, is Ford’s introduction of an all-aluminum cab, front-end, bed and tailgate. This aluminum body, still resting on plenty of high-strength steel in the frame and underbody, helps the F-150 shed 700 lbs. and increase its fuel efficiency. Anticipating truck drivers’ and F-150 lovers’ wariness about aluminum’s perceived strength in a truck that’s supposed to be Ford-tough, Ford’s been positioning the 2015 as being built with “military-grade aluminum alloy and high-strength steel,” and having undergone more than 10 million miles of brutal testing in real-world conditions before the first truck rolled off the assembly line.

The 2015 F-150’s new, 8-inch “productivity screen,” which provides a steady stream of data about the truck’s performance and driving conditions, is a far cry from early truck drivers’ understanding of productivity , but then again, they were more accustomed to throwing wood in their truck bed, instead of polishing it inside an air-conditioned cab.

2015 Ford F-150

2015 Ford F-150

Rest assured, Ford’s got it right with their new F-150. After all, they have the pickup truck experience as well as the incentive and pressure not to disappoint millions of die-hard Ford fans. No one at Ford really wants to be “that guy” responsible for breaking a 37-year tradition as the top-selling truck, even though there are probably an equal number of loyal Chevy and Dodge fans just waiting for that to happen.

Which truck do you use?

Are you an F-150 fan? Or, do you drive a Ram, Silverado or Tundra? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Editor’s note: You can lighten your load by shopping Advance Auto Parts for your Ford F-150 needs.  Choose parts, accessories and more—all at a superior value. Get your order fast—buy online, pick up in-store, in 30 minutes.

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.