Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Obama Limo That Got Stuck In Dublin Was Not "The Beast"

The Presidential limousine that got stuck while attempting to depart the US Embassy in Dublin, Ireland over the weekend was not the "The Beast" as has been widely reported but rather an older variation of the monstrous limo, similar to that used by George W. Bush. The limo being referred to in news reports over the last day as "The Beast" is actually a backup limo used to transport staff and often used as a decoy. While it is not unheard of for Obama to make use of these earlier limos on various State visits or while visiting far-flung cities around the US, it has also been reported by the Secret Service detail on duty that day that the President and First Lady were riding in another vehicle and used a different exit for their departure. The First Couple were on their way to a waiting helicopter to transport them to The President's ancestral home in County Offaly, Ireland.

Compare the images below and see if you can spot the differences between the Bush-era limo and the current Presidential transport, "The Beast". In person an easy giveaway is the sheer size of the Chevrolet Heavy-duty Truck-based limo, but styling cues such as the windshield surround, headlights, more angular fender flares, and a more simplified grille help differentiate "The Beast" from the other vehicles. On a side note, it is said that multiples of the current limousine were produced by GM so that the President will always have access to one or more at any given moment. The exact number of these highly customized cars, nor their price tag, has been publicly revealed.

The Bush-era limo high-centered at the US embassy in Dublin.

"The Beast" during Obama's inaugural parade.


Friday, May 20, 2011

The Story of How Thomas Edison Derailed America and The Auto Industry

While we here in America exude God-like reverence for Thomas Edison, bestowing upon him fortune and fame during his lifetime, and infamy after his passing, the greatest inventor of the era was a lesser known man, one who's inventions would have likely propelled us well into a Buck Rogers-style future by the 1930's.  Croatians know the real story well, being the country of his birth, and he is accorded well deserved superstar status in his homeland and they know how he pioneered every invention from the short wave radio, to radio controlled ships and torpedoes, vertical take off and landing (VTOL) aircraft to so-called "death rays" for the military, to wireless electricity, but for the greed of the US Government at the time, and the power companies even greater thirst for cash, were the eventual undoing of this greatest of all minds, and even more shockingly, the future of the planet as we know it.

Nicola Tesla invented the device known commonly today as the Tesla Coil, once a promising and enigmatic device that would have provided wireless electrical power to everything from homes to automobiles to personal electronic devices.  While Edison was working hard on ways to propel the magical little electrons that we know as electricity through copper wires, Tesla had greater ideas.  His device would sit atop a high point, often a hill or tower, within each city or neighborhood and would radiate this power to receivers within electronic devices, thus making the need for cumbersome and costly wires an unnecessary one.  Think of the possibilities if Tesla's technology, which he is said to have successfully demonstrated one summer evening in 1931, if it had become the mainstream.  On that day, Tesla installed a small box that received this transient energy and used it to power a contemporary Pierce-Arrow at speeds "up to 90mph" and for as long as a week without the need for refueling of any type.  Not only would this have been a revolution in automobile history, allowing for faster, lighter, cleaner vehicles unencumbered by the traditional technology of the time, which has remained virtually unchanged for over 100-years, but also for the home.

Residences would have been fitted with individual "converter boxes" of the same sort that would draw all the home's energy needs, and miniaturized versions would also allow these devices to operate in a totally wireless manner within the home.  Imagine what life today would be like if we had done away with the need for electrical wires back in the 1930's.  The countrysides would be more pristine without massive rows of high-voltage steel towers and cables stretching in all directions, TV's, lamps, refrigerators, and for that matter anything that has a wire today, would be fundamentally different.  We would have had wireless telephones that would be portable perhaps 50-years earlier.  The implications truly are endless.

So why did this technology never take off?  I'd suggest you watch a film that touches on the rivalry between Edison and Tesla, called The Prestige and quite capably directed by Christopher Nolan (who also helmed Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and Inception) but the short version is essentially that Edison was in the pocket of the US Government and the power companies would have no way to meter and thus charge for the power output by Tesla's systems.  Edison sent goons to destroy Tesla's labs and discredit him, and some suggest he even helped to overturn patents that had been granted to Tesla earlier in an effort to ruin him financially, thus depriving us all of these incredible technologies.  As has happened time and time again, greed undid what should have been the greatest period of invention and advancement in human history.  Even today, we still plug in out toasters, try to manage myriad cables hidden behind big screen TV's and under computer desks.  It is appropriate that the new leader in electric vehicle technology is named "Tesla" and the clever roadsters and upcoming sedans promise to begin delivering on the promises made to us so many decades ago of a future that we not only want, but well and truly deserve.

Multiple exposure photograph of Tesla in his laboratory.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Audi A7 Rendered In Paper

This video shows a 2012 Audi A7 created only using paper printouts of the various elements and folding them in an origami-like fashion.  While it may not be the most durable Audi ever made, it has a multitude of "Crumple Zones" and in the event of an accident the replacement cost would probably be somewhere in the neighborhood of $8 in materials.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Little Old, A Little New, If You Had the Choice Which Would Suit You?

The classic Mercedes-Benz 190SL is one of the rare cars I lust after but have never driven.  While most people are preoccupied with the 190's big sisters, the 300SL Gullwing and Roadster, it is this smaller, lighter and more modest roadster that lights my pants on fire.  In this official video from Mercedes we get to compare a sprightly 1961 190SL with the brand new SLK350 at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance and the similarities are evident, if not altogether surprising, given the penchant Mercedes has shown for alluding to earlier models in the design of recent releases.

Making this video all the more special is that the beautiful white over red 190SL is a fresh restoration completed by the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center.

So, given the opportunity, which would you want to wake up and find in your driveway?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

SLS Roadster Preview; Look Ma, No Gullwings!

The 2012 SLS Roadster from Mercedes-Benz subsidiary AMG may have lost the distinguishing "gullwing" doors of it's sister car, but it gained a three layer softtop that retracts in an industry-beating 11-seconds and at speeds up to 31-mph.  Developed directly along side the SLS hardtop in order to share development costs and objectives, the vehicles were first created as a digital prototype at the Mercedes Technology Center in Sindelfingen, Germany.  These highly advanced and proprietary digital prototypes are far more than the typical computer models of other manufacturers and are, ostensibly, complete, virtual automobiles that take into account everything from finalized body design, weight distribution, center of gravity, and engine position among countless other technical bits.

The Roadster premieres at the Frankfurt International Auto Show in September of this year and it's street debut is to follow shortly thereafter, but still promised before the end of 2011.  The world will see one of the most "street ready" cars ever produced considering it has already been evaluated and tested on every continent on Earth with convertible tops tested upwards of 20,000 up/down cycles. 

It is claimed that the rigidity is comparable to the Gullwing version simply because the idea of a Roadster was considered from the early stages of SLS development.  This allowed time for thorough strengthening of the chassis and the door sills, much like the original Gullwing of the 1950's had a larger reinforced lower sill which necessitated the use of the innovative doors in the first place.  Additional strengthening struts reside in the dash area extending to the windshield frame from the central tunnel, and another set at the rear between the soft top and the fuel tank.  Eliminating wind noise, too, was a priority and the Roadster has an innovative new flush-fitted glass rear window and acrylic draft stops similar to those in the upcoming SLK.

The Roadster is expected to reach an electronically limited top speed of 197 mph and pump out 536 hp.

What it may lack in the ability to inspire "ooohs and ahhhhs" without fanciful doors, the real point of the Roadster seems to be a focus on what happens inside the cabin, specifically the area where your hands and feet touch the car (ie: the steering wheel and the pedals).  This car was meant for the open road, and lots of it, especially if you live in Southern California or some equally as sun-blessed environ where you can truly drop the top and party like it's the eve of the Zombie Apocalypse.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Do You Like Your Sporting Events Racially Charged and Polarising? Then Welcome to This Year's Indy 500

Some of you may say, "Wait, isn't it NACAR's job to be racially charged and polarising?"  Traditionally, sure, but this year the kind folks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are taking the reins by appointing Donald "Show Me The Birth Certificate" Trump as the official pace car driver for this year's Indianapolis 500.  Mind you, this is also the 100th Anniversary of the infamous Brickyard event which casts the Memorial Day weekend race in an even bigger spotlight than usual, which is still pretty f*cking big considering that 250,000 attendees watch the race from the grandstands with a further 7-million viewers estimated to watch it on television around the globe on a normal year.

Who stands to lose in this proposition?  Let's see, there's the owners of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, IZOD race series promoters, Chevrolet who is supplying the Camaro convertible Trump will be driving, and of course any Hoosier (a citizen of the State of Indiana, a group known to be wildly prideful and enthusiastic about the Indy 500).

One group has popped up on Facebook named "We Don't Want Donald Trump To Drive the Indy 500 Pace Car" and at the time of this writing, already has 5,300 members.  Newspapers, television stations and the viral nature of the web has already generated a fair amount of publicity for the cause, but it seems the numbers of supporters for the campaign are growing exponentially every day.

Should Donald Trump drive the Pace Car for the 100th Anniversary of the most famous racing event in the history of the world?  Of course not, he's a bigger dick than Moby the whale, and in a time when Americans should be celebrating the end of 10-years of fear at the hands of Osama bin Laden, the rebuilding of the WTC site at Ground Zero, and the successes of our troops abroad, there is simply no room for racially-motivated, divisive fame/hate-mongers who only wish to line their own pockets and boost ratings at the finest motorsport event on the planet.  We say let Donald Trump drive the Chevy, but only if it's off the deep end of a pier or better yet, through the streets of South Chicago or Harlem where he might find an audience that isn't as favorable to his rants as the "yes men" he surrounds himself with.

UPDATE: You're Fired!  As of Thursday May 5th, the Facebook campaign had just under 18,000 members and achieved their goal of "Dumping Trump" when the foolish little man stated earlier in the day that he would not step down of his own will, but after it became evident that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials were going to do the dirty work for him, he changed his tune and announced a scheduling conflict will prevent him from taking part.  That scheduling conflict is apparently his aspirations to the highest office as he ramps up his Presidential bid for 2012.  If he didn't get the hint that he wasn't wanted at the Indy 500 by most American's who voiced their opinion on the matter, then wait until he sees his poll numbers.  A foolish man and his money are soon parted, but his hair may never be.

Check out the Facebook cause here:  We Don't Want Donald Trump To Drive the Indy 500 Pace Car

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Last 100 Hours of Ayrton Senna's Life

If you are, like me, interested in seeing the new documentary about the life and death of one of Formula One's premiere drivers, Ayrton Senna, then you might be interested to read this intimate look at his final four days of life.  It's a long read but very worthwhile because we are given access to his most private final moments and we learn that he had an overwhelming premonition that something horrible was about to happen, yet somehow seemed to resign himself to that fate as if it was inescapable.  He entered the cockpit, 17-years ago on this day at Imola, with at least some belief that he might not get out again alive.  Without further adieu we present a touching and intimate telling of a story that gives us an insiders look into the life and death of a motorsports legend.

Last Days of Ayrton Senna
(Note: It's a blog post on an F1 forum, and encompasses the entire first page.)

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