The Ford Mustang turns 50!

Ford MustangWe wanted to tip our hats to the Ford Motor Company and its fleet-wheeled filly, the Ford Mustang.

It was 50 years ago this week that the iconic muscle car made it’s debut, turning legions of casual drivers into diehards.

Over the years, the Mustang has changed–for better and for worse–but has remained a beloved staple in automotive form and function, and a symbol of Americana.

Wired Magazine states:

Fifty years ago today, Ford unveiled the Mustang. It was a sleek and sporty car, named for a fighter plane and slightly European in flavor. Company brass hoped it might be something of a hit and expected to sell 100,000 of them in the first year.

They sold 22,000 on the first day.

Those are excellent stats, even by today’s standards.

Here’s more on the history of the Ford Mustang, courtesy of Wired:

Work on the Mustang began in 1960, when Ford’s marketing Mad Man Lee Iacocca realized the company needed to attract young buyers. He wanted something new, something unique, something to tap into the era’s sense of national optimism. Most importantly, he wanted “something that would be sporty but not a sports car,” said Bob Casey, an automotive historian and former curator of the The Henry Ford Museum.

 

You can read more from this informative piece at Wired Magazine.

And, check out our own resident Gearhead’s comprehensive blog on the 2014 Mustang GT.

Kudos to Ford on the 50th Anniversary of the Ford Mustang!

 

Writing off your car for business use

1040_tax_formWith tax time upon us, we thought we’d try to spread some positive news, especially as it relates to your car.

If you use your car for business, did you know you can write some of its costs off?

According to Tax Topic 510 – Business Use of Car on IRS.gov:

If you use your car in your job or business and you use it only for that purpose, you may deduct its entire cost of operation.

That’s a pretty good deal in our book. But we aware, if you use your car for personal use, you can only deduct the operation costs (gas, maintenance, etc.) for the portion dedicated to actual business use. Sorry, taking the kids to soccer games doesn’t count and neither does competing on the drag strip – unless of course, you own the team!

On another note, if you find yourself in the enviable position of getting a tax refund this year, you can maximize it by taking advantage of the great deals at Advance Auto Parts–to get all those projects done in 2014.

Cheers!

 

The Scion Rock Fest Returns for Sixth Annual Festival

Scion Rock FestScion Audio Visual’s annual hard rock/metal festival, Scion Rock Fest, returns to Pomona, California on May 17, 2014 with an all-star line-up of hard rock and metal heroes.

In keeping with its rich tradition of cutting-edge car designs, Scion has curated a killer lineup of bands and artists for this one-of-a-kind music festival.

 

Headlining this year’s Scion Rock Fest, are heavy faves Machine Head and High On Fire. Other prominent artists appearing on the sixth installment of Scion Rock Fest are Red Fang, King Buzzo, Hot Lunch, Pins of Light and Windhand.

Since the 2009 debut of Scion Rock Fest, the annual outing has featured Mastodon, Down, Neurosis, Baroness, Morbid Angel and the Melvins. A rotating location has found the Fest in  Atlanta, Columbus, Tampa, Memphis as well as the 2011 event, which was also in Pomona. To RSVP, visit Scion Rock Fest.

Scion Rock Fest is one of the many music and cultural events curated by Scion Audio Visual, the entertainment division founded by Scion in 2003.

About Scion Audio Visual:

Scion Audio Visual (AV for short) is a creative enterprise of Scion devoted to the discovery, nurture, funding and distribution of compelling music and arts programming. Scion AV has created and championed projects for over 100 underground musical artists, supported tours and special events, created film documentaries, curated art installations, and produced a collection of ‘zines.

About Scion:

Scion, from Toyota Motor Sales was developed with a new generation of youthful buyers in mind. Scion’s mission is to provide distinctive products, the opportunity to personalize, and an innovative, consumer-driven process at the retail level. For more information, visit Scion.com.

 

5 Automotive Oddballs

Future classics or manufacturing mishaps? You be the judge!

There have been several cars released in recent memory that many have looked at and thought … why?

They in this case could refer to either the manufacturer (for making such a thing) or the owner (for willingly forking over the cash to buy such a thing).

Oddballs of the automotive world often end up unloved and offered for sale cheap on used car lots and automotive forums. Their current owners sing their praises using descriptors such as “unique” and “rare” but to most prospective buyers they are “strange” and “quirky.”

Here are 5 “unique” examples of “quirky” autos that could turn out to be future classic cars.

Subaru XT (1985 – 1991)

subaru-xt6

At its time of release in 1985, the wedge-shaped Subaru XT was the most aerodynamic production car available for sale in the United States. With flat door handles, an air suspension that lowered at speed and a single windshield wiper that tucked beneath the hood when not in use, the XT made slicing through the air its top priority.

The combination of a 2 door coupe body style, available four wheel drive and a boxer-style turbocharged engine made it even more unusual, as this configuration was extremely uncommon in any car not hailing from Stuttgart or Modena. It wasn’t until a few years later that Japanese competitors caught up with Subaru when the Toyota Celica All-Trac Turbo and Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX made similar four wheel drive / turbo configurations available to U.S. buyers.

Volkswagen EOS (2006 – Present)

volkswagen-eos

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.

As Volkswagen’s first production non-Golf 2 door coupe since the already classic Corrado, the EOS had very big shoes to fill.

Like the outgoing Cabrio, the EOS is considered both outside and inside the United States to be a hairdresser’s car, but the addition of the 2.0L turbocharged engine and dual-clutch DSG transmission (both borrowed from hot hatch sibling GTI) make the EOS a fun car to drive quickly. The turbo power combined with a “unique” power-retracting 5 piece glass top convertible roof has put smiles on the faces on more than a few skeptical drivers and unsuspecting passengers.

 

 

BMW M Coupe (1998 – 2002)

bmw-m-coupe

The M division is well known throughout the enthusiast world as being the in-house tuning arm of Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW). As such, its existence is dependent upon buyers’ continued willingness to shell out a premium for faster, lower and wider vehicles.

Occasionally, the M division diverts its attention away from performance and towards styling. The M Coupe’s shooting brake design takes cues from classic British and Italian cars, which sounds like a good thing. But in reality, this car has adopted the nickname clown shoe due to its resemblance of, well, a clown’s shoe.

Aside from the love-it-or-hate-it styling (which actually resulted from the engineering team’s attempt to make the car handle better) the BMW M Coupe is a competent sports car with massive rear tires and howling engine that draws crowds at local meets all over the world.

 

Merkur XR4Ti (1985-1989)

merkur-xr4ti

The XR4Ti was assembled by hand in Germany and sold domestically by Ford dealerships who agreed to operate a Merkur franchise. Essentially a reworked European Ford Sierra XR4i, the XR4Ti received a Brazilian built 2.3L four cylinder turbocharged engine instead of the V6 found in the XR4i. U.S. safety laws accounted for several slight visual differences, including the distinctive bi-plane spoiler, which was unique to the U.S. market.

The XR4Ti was both expensive (about $40k in today’s money) and quick, but failed to sell in significant numbers. Last year, Top Gear referred to a group of cars that included the XR4Ti as misunderestimated. We couldn’t agree more.

 

Shelby GLHS (1986-1987)

shelby_glhs

Ok, so you’ll probably be able to find an EOS without much trouble. An M Coupe or XR4Ti will take some doing, but far from impossible. Most XTs, though, have long since succumbed to rust. That brings us to the above–a Shelby GLHS. We doubt if you’ll ever find (much less ever see) one. Only 500 were ever made.

Fun was at the heart of this car. Based on the Dodge Omni GLH (GLH standing for Goes Like Hell) it’s easy to see why the Shelby GLHS (standing for Goes Like Hell S’more) made our list. Like the XR4Ti, even its name is “quirky.”

The GLHS was powered by a 2.2L turbocharged engine, which produced 175HP. This was a big number in those days, especially for a hatchback. By comparison, the turbocharged boxer in the XT managed only 112HP.

The Shelby tuned motor was enough to propel the car to 60mph in 6.5 seconds, which is roughly the equivalent of a modern day non-DSG Volkswagen GTI. For owners that wanted even more power, MOPAR offered a Performance Stage II computer upgrade that pushed engine output to 205HP. The Super 60 Kit was good for 300HP.

Editor’s note: What are some of your ideas for future classic cars? What used car lot rescues are parked in your driveway? Please share in the comments below.

 

Cars of the future: personalized ambulances

Approximately ninety-six years ago, on January 5, 1918, Scientific American made the following prediction about future car technology:

The car of the future won’t leave anything to be done by man power. In two or three years foot brakes will be things of the past except on cheap cars. Why should a man exert muscle to stop a car any more than to start it? What’s that great brute of an engine idling under the hood for? Now, jump three jumps more. If the engine starts and lights and pumps and stops itself, why shouldn’t it steer the car? Revolutionary? Nonsense!…The car of the future will have no such thing as a “driver’s seat.” All the seats in the car save the rear one will be moveable. Driving will be done from a small control board, which can be held in the lap. It will be connected to the mechanism by a flexible electric cable. A small finger lever, not a wheel, will guide the car.

Although the writer of this piece was a bit overenthusiastic about the timetable, he was not far off in his predictions about future car technology. But, here’s one feature that even he didn’t imagine: your car helping you to manage your health.

Why do I need that?

It may seem as though only older people worry about their health–or need to. But, year after year, health-related New Year’s resolutions top the list. You can look at virtually any article listing popular resolutions and find ones that read like this:

  • Lose weight
  • East a healthier diet
  • Get fit
  • Quit smoking
  • Drink less

What’s the common denominator in each of these? An underlying concern about health! Now that we’ve settled that matter . . . let’s move on to news about cars and health.

Technology available today

If you’re willing to pay $95,000 for a Mercedes-Benz, your car’s computer can note–via changes in your body and driving–if you’re getting tired. If that happens, a “big red coffee cup” appears on the dashboard; you’ll hear a chime and you’ll be asked to pull over to get some coffee to fight your drowsiness.

 

Cars Health MonitoringSome cars can act like personalized ambulances, monitoring changes in your body … but should they?

Nissan has the technology to stop you from driving if you’ve had too much alcohol to drink and technology already exists to take the driver’s temperature. But this is, as you’ve probably already guessed, just the tip of the iceberg.

Ford S-Max Concept Car and More

Cars and health are in the news right now largely because of the announcement of the S-Max, a concept car that can monitor the driver’s heart rate through an electrocardiogram (ECG) and detect unusual rates or acute problems. If a heart attack is being detected, the car can contact medical help and put into place safety systems to help prevent an accident. The S-Max can also monitor blood sugar (glucose), helpful for people with diabetes. There are approximately 26 million people with diabetes in the United States alone, of all ages, so this is a potential benefit for a significant segment of the population.

In 2012, David Melcher, a Ford research engineer, discussed how people can manage their allergies and chronic medical conditions through features in their car.

Other car manufacturers, according to TechRadar, are planning medical additions to their cars’ features. Examples include:

  • Pulse monitoring via the steering wheel
  • The car notifying the driver’s family if his/her vital signs look shaky
  • The car automatically driving you to a doctor or hospital, if necessary

So, what do you think? Sound good?

Not so fast

There are some down sides to this added technology, including the additional cost. Plus, what happens if there is a false alarm? If so, a non-drinker could miss an important meeting because of an incorrect breathalyzer reading, while a family may get a scary call about a loved one’s health for no good reason.

Then there is what Cheryl Dancey Balough and Richard C. Balough call “cyberterrorism on wheels.” Cheryl is the communications co-director of the American Bar Association’s Cyberspace Law Committee and adjunct professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law. Richard is the co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Mobile Commerce of the Cyberspace Law Committee–and both are founding members of Balough Law Offices, LLC. In short, these two are experts.

In November 2013, they published an article on the American Bar Association site titled, “Cyberterrorism on Wheels: Are Today’s Cars Vulnerable to Attack?” in which they succinctly sum up the problem at hand.

Modern cars, they point out, are controlled by “complex computer systems that include millions of lines of code connected by internal networks. Cars have become computers on wheels . . . Cars have dozens of electronic control units (ECUs) embedded in the body, doors, dash, roof, trunk, seats, wheels, navigation equipment, and entertainment centers. Common wired networks interconnect these ECUs, which also can connect to the Internet.” And, the reality is that any computer can be hacked.

Richard and Cheryl share more useful information, as summed up below:

If that isn’t scary enough, entertainment systems, hands-free cellphones and satellite radio also provide entry points for malware. So can tire pressure monitoring systems and those such as OnStar that provide instant access to emergency services.

 

PrintCars Health MalwareWhat if malware entered your car’s computer?

To add to the picture, in 2014, General Motors will offer wireless services in their vehicles for phone and laptop use. And, as Cheryl and Richard point out, all of a car’s ECUs are connected so, once malware finds its way into one entry point, it can flow throughout the vehicle. As self-driving features  and vehicle-to-vehicle communication (which allows vehicles to share information about location, speed, direction of travel and more with one another) become more common, the opportunities for hacking will become even more frequent.

By 2040 (just 26 years from now!), estimates suggest that 75% of cars will be self-driving. So, with that in mind, is it any surprise that your car can–and perhaps will someday–be hacked? To add to the problem, it’s estimated that the average auto maker is approximately 20 years behind software companies in fighting off cyber-attacks.

Mind your own business

What about privacy issues? The Wall Street Journal takes on the issue of privacy concerns with biometric cars–meaning cars that take in data (your heart rate, your breathing rate, and the sweatiness of your palms, for example) via sensors; these cars then respond in certain ways to certain data to help prevent accidents.

Joe Smith, a senior editor at the Wall Street Journal, acknowledges that people will want to be able to control the monitoring. He expects that manufacturers will honor that, building biometric cars that come complete with opt-in technologies; this should allow people to decide whether they want to be monitored and where the info does or doesn’t go. Joe notes that Ford says they won’t store any info without consent.

Brian Reimer, an MIT researcher, chimes in, sharing how people today need to juggle increasing amounts of information and make increasing amounts of strategic decisions just to drive–and so the biometric car would add automated features to help the driver when he or she needs the assistance. Brian does not foresee significant privacy issues with biometric driving, comparing monitored driving with online shopping with credit cards. The convenience, he points out, can override the risk.

Brainstorming with Attorney Richard Balough

Will your privacy really be well protected, though? Will the promises being made today–as people are being persuaded to accept the technology–really be kept when drivers become more blasé about increasing encroachments upon privacy?

Richard talked to Advance Auto Parts about the possibilities. “A car,” Richard says to set the context, “is nothing more than a giant computer on wheels. Therefore, any time that monitoring occurs with a car, so can hacking.” So, it would seem that any bulletproof promises of privacy should be looked upon with a jaded eye.

Features on a car that monitor health have, Richard continues, “good sounding purposes” so the main question to ask yourself is “What am I giving up in exchange?” He equates this tradeoff to using one of those plastic cards at grocery stores that, once scanned by the cashier, give you a few cents more off of certain items. “In exchange, they know exactly what I’m buying and how often I’m buying it,” Richard says. “So in effect, I’ve sold them that information very cheaply–for maybe $2 a week.”

He also warns about how much companies can learn about a person with seemingly small bits of data. To that end, he refers to when Target got so good at predictive behavior through the data they collected from shoppers that they could predict when some were in the early stages of pregnancy. Once these women were identified, Target would send those shoppers mailers with relevant coupons. About a year after this program started, a man angrily entered a Target near Minneapolis, wanting to know why the store would send his daughter, still in high school, coupons for baby clothes and cribs.

The store manager was apologetic but, a few days later, the man told the manager that he’d talked to his daughter and she was, indeed, pregnant. To prevent a similar scenario from happening again, Target now mixes maternity-type ads in with ads for unrelated products, such as lawn care products, and sends those mailers to women believed to be pregnant.

Back to brainstorming: clearly, data is already easily and painlessly collected from people in everyday situations. So, we started to speculate about what a store could, theoretically speaking, do with the information they have about a particular person. “Could they sell it to my health insurance provider?” Richard wonders. “What if it shows that I buy two cases of beer every single week–and yet, on my health insurance application, I say that I never drink alcohol?”

Here’s another way that health insurance companies might gather information about you, in a way related to the main topic of this post. Let’s say that your health insurance company will offer you a discount if you agree to health monitoring in your car (which is similar, really, to getting a discount for a good driving record, which is monitored, albeit in a different way). You want the discount, so you go along with the plan, whether willingly or reluctantly.

“The car is gathering and offloading data,” Richard says. “Let’s say that this process is compromised through hacking.  Is your health insurer in violation of HIPAA (which gives people certain rights to privacy as to their health conditions) because of the breach? And, what about the car manufacturers? If they create health monitoring systems that are breached, are they in violation of HIPAA?”

Or, let’s say that your car needs fixed and so the repair personnel hook up your car to a port. Will they have access to your health information? Are you okay with that? Does it seem reasonable that at least some of those workers might share what they learned?

Here’s another thought. Let’s say that you have a car accident and it appears to be the other driver’s fault. After all, he had the stop sign at the intersection and you did not. But then the police access your health data that was collected and stored by your car, and they notice that your sugar was pretty low (maybe you shouldn’t have been driving in the first place?) or that you didn’t seem to brake very quickly (maybe you could have prevented the accident?). Or breathalyzer technology shows that, even though your car started today, many times in the past it didn’t because of your alcohol consumption (maybe you’re pretty hung over right now). How will any of those facts change who gets cited?

On another subject: let’s say that a car automatically slows down because the driver appears sleepy or otherwise not in prime condition. What if that slowing down happens on a busy highway and that causes an accident? Who is liable?

Making your decision

No one has all of the answers right now, of course, and it’s likely that this debate will continue in the upcoming years. But, the bottom line is this: if you have the option of participating in health monitoring while you drive and you feel it might benefit you, think about these questions, offered up by Richard Balough, before making your decision:

  • What information is being gathered?
  • How is it stored?
  • How is it encrypted–if it even is?
  • Who has access to that data?
  • Will I know who reviews it and when?
  • What happens when there is a breach?
  • Will I be made aware of that?
  • Who is liable for that breach?
  • If I had already agreed to be monitoring, did I in effect sign a waiver?
  • Would that relieve the car manufacturer of any liability?
  • Or would the court system decide that a typical driver wouldn’t have enough information to legally relieve manufacturers of liability?

“There is always a trade off,” Richard says. “You can get good services and/or perhaps save money if you agree to health monitoring, but in exchange you might be giving up more of your privacy.”

Ah. The head spins.

Editor’s note: What do you think? We really need to you to weigh in on this controversial issue!

 

Original illustrations by John Sisler.

Unlock Your Engine’s Hidden Horsepower

Hot Wheels CarI’m sure you can all relate. You buy this performance car and do your custom bits, but there’s still something missing. In my case, it all came down to actual performance when I punched the gas. For a while, it just frustrated me until I decided to look further…what I found was that I was only using a portion of my engine’s power!

If you’ve been frustrated knowing that your engine has unused power and did something to unlock that power, this is the place to share your success and tips with your fellow tuners, and make yourself look like a genius while you’re at it.

Many vehicle manufacturers are ultra conservative when it comes to programming engine control units (ECU), also known as the control module or the engine control computer at the factory. They’re not going to program the control module so that the vehicle runs at its maximum power capabilities, in part because they’re concerned with things like the vehicle warranty, emissions, and fuel economy. Their conservative settings, however, leave you with a vehicle that isn’t producing as much power as it could. How frustrating is that? The solution? Well, there are quite a few.

A lot of you are probably thinking, “ECU chip tuner” or “reflash” right about now. That seems to be the common wisdom when it comes to increasing horsepower by modifying the control module. For the uninitiated, an ECU basically controls how the engine goes about its business of producing and delivering power, including air/fuel ratio, ignition timing, idle speed, valve timing, and RPMs.

Back in the day, if you wanted to do some car tuning and change the ECU’s parameters, you had to actually change computer chips, physically swapping them out with newer chips that had software featuring the performance parameters you wanted. Today, one can install new software that changes the ECU’s operating parameters simply by plugging into the OBDII port. Boom. A few keystrokes later and you just raised the rev limit, governed top speed, and tuned the air-to-fuel ratio.

What about switching out the engine control computer entirely with a new one instead of just reprogramming it? Is  a new control module an option?

A couple people, including Ethan Campbell, a Roanoke, Virginia-based tuner toying with a ‘96 Miata, have mentioned the MegaSquirt PNP ECU (MSPNP2) as one possibility for completely replacing the stock engine control computer. Campbell’s winter project is taking an engine with a VVT head from a ’99 Miata and installing it into his ’96 and adding a MegaSquirt ECU. MegaSquirt describes the product as taking “over the functions the stock ECU provides – fuel control, ignition control, and various other outputs – and lets you adjust these yourself by connecting a laptop to the MSPNP2.”

Another car-tuning option to increase engine performance is Accesstuner from Cobb. The manufacturer describes the software as allowing “the user to get into the heart of the OEM ECU and create custom calibrations for vehicles equipped with virtually any performance modification. The end result is a tune that is custom tailored to the vehicle’s unique modifications, producing maximum power gains while maintaining the drive-ability and sophistication inherent in the OEM ECU.” Anyone tried it?

What about turbocharging as the car-tuning option? I know that turbocharging a non-turbo car is a viable option for increasing horsepower, but it’s also one that’s accompanied by a whole host of other considerations, including boost level, compression ratios and avoiding knock, that have to be planned for to avoid engine damage when turbocharging.

And finally, before you inundate me with comments for not mentioning it, there’s the ever-popular option of adding a Nitrous Oxide System (NOS) – a topic I’ll explore more in depth in an upcoming post.

If you’ve modified your engine control computer or have what you think is the perfect solution for unlocking horsepower, let us know how you did it, and what you did it to.

Editor’s note: Harness your hidden horsepower at Advance Auto Parts. Buy online, pick up in store.

Graphic courtesy of Toycarcollector.com.

 

 

Three Apps to Stop Distracted Driving in Your Family

Cel phone appHey DIY’ers, after some much needed r-n-r for the holidays, I’m back in the driver’s seat, with a slew of DIY ideas for you and yours. For this first installment of 2014 (still can’t believe it!), I wanted to focus on something we can all relate to: keeping our families safe on the road.

As a proud mom and avid safety obsessive, I know that smartphones and cars can be a scary combination. When the teen driver or drivers in your household are old enough to get behind the wheel, they’re not going to put down their phones without a fight–and the temptation to text, surf and so forth while driving is almost impossible to resist.

So here’s one of the most important DIYs I’ll ever recommend: check out the following three mobile apps that aim to minimize distracted driving, and pick one as your first line of defense. Teen drivers might tell you you’re paranoid, but you know as well as I do: anything that discourages distracted driving is in everyone’s best interest.

DriveSafe.ly

DriveSafe.ly is so family-oriented that there’s even a “Family Pack” subscription option for up to four family members. The cost is $34.95 annually (or $9.99 per month), or you can get a single-user subscription for $13.95 annually ($3.99/mo.). So what does it do? Claiming to be “the #1 mobile app for texting while driving,” DriveSafe.ly reads up to 500 words per message in a digitized voice (male or female) and sends your spoken response as a reply, so you never have to take your eyes off the road. There’s also support for native Spanish speakers as well as the default English setup. If you want to keep costs out entirely, there’s a free version that reads up to 25 words in a female voice only–and can’t send replies.

FYI: I was unable to download the iPhone version, and the website talks mostly about the BlackBerry and Android platforms. Let me know if you can figure this out!

TextLimit

The thing about DriveSafe.ly is that you’ll never know whether your kid is actually using it. For parents who want a little more peace of mind, TextLimit is the best option I found. Here’s how it works: when you enroll your child’s iPhone, Android or BlackBerry phone (for $24.99 per year; Windows Phone coming soon), you choose a maximum GPS-measured speed at which the phone will be fully functional. Above that speed, you can disable as many apps as you want, including all text/email functionality. Furthermore, you can make your own phone exempt so that you’ll always be able to get through in an emergency. Also available is a “maximum top speed” function that sends an automatic email or text to you, the parent, if that top speed — 70 mph, say — is exceeded.

DriveScribe

If you prefer positive reinforcement, DriveScribe might be just the ticket. I love the concept: rather than prevent kids from using their phones at all, give them pats on the back for choosing to be responsible drivers. DriveScribe awards points for braking gradually, stopping fully at stop signs, and obeying the speed limit, keeping a lifetime driver-behavior log all the while. If you elect to sponsor your child with a paid plan (the app is free by default), the rewards get real: we’re talking gift cards and discounts at Amazon, Sports Authority and other popular retailers. That’s the kind of stuff that my kids want. The only downside is that DriveScribe doesn’t prevent texting like TextLimit–but with any luck, your kid will be too busy driving prudently to pick up that phone.

What Works in Your Family?

Tell us what steps you’ve taken to curb distracted driving in your family, whether it’s a mobile app or something else. The more we talk about this important issue, the better off we’ll be.

 Editor’s note: Ordering from Advance Auto Parts is an easy, seamless process–from a smartphone, tablet and otherwise. (Just don’t do it while you’re driving, please!) Buy online, pick up in store.

Learn more about prepping your teen driver with this article from DriverSide.

Graphic courtesy of Vintage Mobile Phones.

Where the cars are: Advance visits the Mecum automotive auction in Kissimmee

Some of our readers may be familiar with Dana Mecum’s spectacular car auctions held around the United States and broadcast live on television.

For those watching at home, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of possibilities causing many to wonder what if I was there? What would I bid on?

You mean I can own a low mileage C5 Corvette convertible for less than the cost of a used Honda Accord?

Advance Auto Parts decided to visit the Mecum automotive auction in Kissimmee with bidding card in hand to not only find an automotive bargain, but also to stand next to an automotive legend.

A car auction in Kissimmee? What’s Kissimmee?

If you’ve never loaded the family truckster and headed south to see Mickey, Donald and Goofy, you probably don’t know where Kissimmee, Florida is.

Kissimmee is the town closest to Walt Disney World. It’s also the home of the Silver Spurs Rodeo, a Kissimmee tradition since 1944.

The Silver Spurs Rodeo is held each year at the Osceola Heritage Park, a 120-acre entertainment complex, which includes the 10,500-seat Silver Spurs Arena and 60,000-square foot exhibition building.

120 acres for an automotive auction? That seems like overkill. But, not for a Mecum auction.

The Mecum auction in Kissimmee is one of the largest collector car auctions in the world. This year, more than 3,000 vehicles will be auctioned off to the highest bidder over the course of 10 days.

Each day has a tent (or group of tents, depending on the day) where both registered and non-registered bidders can closely examine nearly everything offered during the 10-day auction.

Even supercars?

Yep, even supercars are available for view and, in some cases, the owners allow any tire kicker who comes along to start the vehicle, pop the hood and check for leaks.

You said supercars. Now you’ve got my attention.

Supercar might be an understatement. How about automotive legend.

Our readers will remember our post covering The Lingenfelter Collection, which contained excerpts from our interview with collection owner, Ken Lingenfelter.

In that post, we said:

One car in particular that has his eye, at the time of writing this post, is the 1988 Callaway Sledgehammer Corvette that his cousin John drove to set a world record in speed for a street driven, street legal car: 254.76 miles per hour. “John put his life on the line to set that record,” Ken says, “so I’d really like it. But it may go for more at auction than I’m willing to pay. We’ll see.”

mecum-sledgehammer

It was a privilege to see this car in person. Especially considering that the next owner could potentially hide it away in his garage for a decade or more.

Something for everyone

If one-off, record-setting, blazingly-fast cars aren’t your thing, the Mecum auction has much more to offer.

In addition to collector cars, thousands of pieces of road art are also up for sale. Everything from classic license plates (from just about every state and from every year) to neon clocks are available to the highest bidder.

mecum-road-art

What if 80s mid-engine domestic 2-doors with Ferrari-esque body kits and John Deere tractors are your thing? Go to the Mecum car auction in Kissimmee.

mecum-tractor-fiero

What if supercharged rat rods are your thing?  This low-slung beast has a custom air ride suspension setup with the air tank mounted between the seats.

mecum-rat-rod

What if ’84 Nissan Datsuns are your thing? This survivor has 42,000 original miles and looks showroom fresh.

mecum-datsun

Still haven’t found what you are looking for? Here are a few more to choose from:

Hurry! There’s still time.

The 2014 Mecum car auction in Kissimmee concludes January 26. Can’t make it down to sunny Florida? Go to www.mecum.com and click the watch online link or tune in to Esquire and NBC’s television coverage (check local listings for time and channel).

Editor’s note: What’s your favorite item up for auction in Kissimmee? Let us know in the comments below.

 

A behind-the-scenes look at windshield wipers

Windshield wipers When it starts to rain, you automatically turn on your wipers, without giving it a second thought. The earliest drivers, though, couldn’t do that, because wipers didn’t yet exist. It wasn’t until November 10, 1903 that a woman from Birmingham, Alabama named Mary Anderson received a patent for a “window cleaning device for electric cars and other vehicles to remove snow, ice or sleet from the windows.”

In other words, windshield wipers.

Windshield wiper history

History Channel provides more of the back story of this amazing invention.  Anderson was riding a street car in New York City, but the driver couldn’t see through his windshield. The windshield was split so that the driver could open it and manually clean off rain, sleet or snow, but passengers shivered and/or got wet in the process.

Anderson knew there had to be a better way and so she devised a set of wooden and rubber wipers operated by a lever located by the steering wheel. This activated a spring loaded arm that cleared off the windshield. These wipers could be removed and used only when necessary.

People laughed at the notion, figuring that these wipers would distract drivers and cause accidents. Anderson tried selling her creation to a manufacturing company who refused, seeing no practical value in a device that cleaned car windows. By 1913, these wipers were found on most cars, but the inventor didn’t profit.

More windshield wiper history: in 1917, Charlotte Bridgewood invented another version of wipers, but she didn’t make any money from her invention, either.

Modern day windshield wipers

It’s hard to imagine not having wipers on your car, and today’s drivers realize that they help to prevent accidents rather than causing them. When old wipers leave behind streaks or otherwise don’t clear off a windshield, they know it’s time to replace them.

Editor’s note: Purchase your windshield wipers from Advance Auto Parts and our Team Members will install them free (most vehicles, most locations). Find the store closest to you

Gaining traction for winter

Car headlights in snowy nightI got cocky. That’s often how trouble starts, and this particular Saturday night was no exception.

The first winter I lived in the Ohio country, my dairy farmer neighbor told me that a truck without four-wheel drive was about as useful as a chocolate teapot. I soon learned why, the hard way, and quickly said hello to winter travel with a four-wheel-drive F150 and the whole new world it opened. With the bed filled with firewood for extra weight, I drove everywhere in the snow – unplowed roads, through the field, backwards up the ramp to the bank barn. Compared to driving the old rear-wheel drive truck, I felt unstoppable and invincible in all my winter travel thanks to four-wheel drive, and of course, a car emergency kit with food and other supplies in case I did get stuck. A man has to eat!

Then that Saturday night rolled around. My wife mentioned previously that the truck was spinning out from a stop and didn’t seem to have traction in bad weather. Like a good husband, I wasn’t listening. We went to a friend’s house for dinner that evening and when it came time to leave, found that the County snowplow and some fierce winds whipping across open fields had drifted the driveway shut.

“No problem,” I exclaimed. “We have four-wheel drive!” Except we didn’t, as I found out much to my embarrassment after my third attempt at trying to back through the drifted driveway failed and I had to go back in and ask my friend to help shovel us out. It seems the four-wheel drive was broken, compounded by the fact that we had marginal tread depth on the tires, and they weren’t even snow tires. Not a good winter-travel combination. But, to my credit, we did have a car emergency kit.

Whether you’re driving a car, SUV, or pickup with or without all-wheel or four-wheel drive this winter, you can learn from my mistakes. If you live in the country, doing everything you can to prevent yourself from being stranded in the snow is particularly important because another vehicle might not pass by for hours, and there are plenty of spots without cell phone reception. So, here’s what you should do to prevent yourself from being stranded and increase your comfort level if it happens.

  1. Listen to your significant other.
  2. Test your four-wheel drive periodically (preferably before it snows).
  3. Don’t be cocky.
  4. Pay attention to tread depth and replace your tires as needed. This handy tool makes it easy.
  5. Consider tire chains. Sized to fit your vehicle’s tires, they are installed without raising the vehicle or even moving it, making them an excellent resource to keep in the vehicle and install when bad weather strikes.
  6. Keep a car emergency kit in your vehicle that includes, among other supplies, food, water, a blanket, and a compact snow shovel (it helps when digging yourself out of a friend’s driveway on a Friday night).
  7. And finally, consider switching your all-season  tires, which is what most drives have today, to true winter tires – what many people call snow tires. Tire makers optimize their tire and tread compounds based on what type of tire they’re building. With snow tires, the tire’s rubber and chemical compounds are designed for maximum performance in freezing temperatures and on ice and snow. Outfitting vehicles with winter tires is routine in Europe, particularly on high-performance vehicles .

In addition to rubber compounds that are designed for winter performance, these winter or snow tires also feature tread designs that maximize stopping and steering ability on snow, slush and ice. Just about every major tire manufacturer offers a winter tire, a selection of which can be seen at Firestone, Goodyear, Michelin, and others.

For example, Goodyear’s Ultra Grip 8 Performance Winter Tire features a tread design with multiple biting edges that enhance traction on slippery surfaces, a directional tread pattern that channels water away from the tread surface on slushy roads, and a saw-shaped center area that helps push snow aside during braking.

For areas where ice-covered roads or packed-snow conditions dominate the winter travel season, drivers might want to consider using snow tires with studs. The studs are metal pins that protrude from the surface of the snow tires and “bite” into ice and packed snow. Studs are noisy on dry roads, however, and performance and handling can suffer too.

Remember that winter tires shouldn’t just be fitted to the vehicle’s drive wheels, but rather all wheel positions in order to maintain control.

Most importantly, slow down during hazardous winter travel and leave extra space between yourself and the vehicle in front of you. And don’t get cocky when it comes to your driving prowess or four-wheel drive’s performance. We know now where that can lead.

Editor’s note: Stay safe on the road by ensuring your tires are in top shape. Advance Auto Parts can help, with a wide selection of tire accessories. Buy online, pick up in store.