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Monday, March 27, 2017

Whazzit? Aluminum Abomination Edition



Whazzit? Aluminum Abomination Edition
by Marrs

In the late 1950's the Olin Aluminum Corporation was seeking relevant new ways to advertise the strength and other advantageous qualities of aluminum in American industry. One rather exciting, if not forgotten, example was the 1959 Scimitar model lineup of three cars penned by noted industrial designer Brooks Stevens that made heavy use of the alloy in the vehicle's bumpers, wheels covers, trim, interior accessories and bodywork quarter panels.



In theory, the design was intended to add corrosion-resistant aluminum to the places where car bodies tend to rust from salty winter slush. On all three cars, everything silver is anodized aluminum while everything painted black is pressed steel.



A coupe, sedan, and station wagon of similar design were all built on 1959 Chrysler Newport chassis' and displayed, first at the Geneva Motor Show in 1959, and again at the International Automobile Show in New York before traveling to other cities including Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, and many others throughout the next three years.



The coupe featured a novel automatic retracting hardtop that disappeared behind a large trunk panel in the tradition of the Ford Skyliner.



The sedan featured removable roof panels that, likewise, created a feeling of open-air luxury similar to a traditional landau let format, according to Stevens in his own words during an interview granted to Special Interest Auto Magazine in 1992, "that one had a retractable front roof over the chauffeur's compartment that slid into the rear roof. Then the deck opened and swallowed the entire combination of roofs into the trunk." The wagon variant featured a sliding rear roof panel akin to those fitted to the Studebaker Wagonaire of the era, also designed by Stevens.  



The oddball design was never adopted by any manufacturer for production, nor were they intended to be, serving purely as a "vehicle" to promote aluminum in manufacturing. Stevens re-purchased the coupe/convertible from a dealer 10-years later and owned it up until his death in 1992, and it is believed this car, as well as the sedan, are held in the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, CA. The wagon is still on display at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, NV.













































































































































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Monday, March 20, 2017

Mystery Files: The Case of the Speed Champ’s Missing Head



Mystery Files: The Case of the Speed Champ’s Missing Head
by Marrs

“Full nose up… Pitching a bit down here… coming through our own wash… and we're tramping like mad… I can't see much and the water's very bad indeed… I’m galloping over the top… I can't see anything… I've got the bows out… I'm going…”


 

These were the last words transmitted over the radio by world speed record holder Donald Campbell, just moments before his untimely, and tragically violent, death 50-years ago in a specially built speedboat named “Bluebird K7.” If the surname “Campbell” sounds familiar to you as it pertains to motorsport, that’s very likely because Donald’s father, Sir Malcolm Campbell, is regarded as one of the innovators of speed record attempts, himself holding the title for multiple early and famous runs in the original Bluebird series of similarly-liveried vehicles.

On the early morning of January 4th, 1967, Campbell was suited up in his familiar blue coveralls, ready to complete his latest water speed record attempt at a 5-1/2 mile long lake in Cumbria, England, named Coniston Water. This would not be the first time either Campbell, father or son, had made use of the long and still waters Coniston offered. Both had made multiple runs over many previous years setting records and testing vehicles on the predictably mirror-like surface.



At 8:45am Campbell started up the powerful Bristol Orpheus jet engine, one repurposed from a Folland Gnat fighter aircraft, that produced an astounding 4,500 lb/ft of thrust. He completed his first run with no problems, apparently having resolved issues with the fuel pump on previous attempts. He achieved 285 mph by the time he reached the first marker buoy, and then leaving the measured kilometer 7-1/2 seconds later at a speed in excess of 310 mph, reaching an average top speed of 297.6 mph. Normally, Campbell would then throttle down and turn around, drifting slowly or even refueling while waiting for the lake’s surface to calm once again before starting off on a return run, but for some reason, this time, he simply spun K7 about and smashed the throttle after only a few moments pause. Witnesses described the scene as one of sheer power, with camera crews were set up along the route to record the day’s events for posterity, unaware that that they were but seconds away from capturing one of motorsports greatest tragedies.

As K7 initiated it's return run, the familiar “comet tail” of water spray, forced up by the powerful jet engine, made for the clearest marker of Campbell’s progress as he reached a speed of 328 mph. Observers in a course boat at one end noticed the front of K7 begin to lift, revealing more and more air space between the hull and the water, and as the nose bounced and bobbed. The longest bounce saw a rapid deceleration from 328 mph to 296 mph while out of the water, pulling almost negative 2g’s in the process. The engine flamed out, with the resulting loss of thrust lifting the nose upwards, disturbing the flow of water around the sponsons and hull, and allowing for the boat to aerodynamically lift from the lake and begin to cartwheel through the air. The first full rotation ended with the K7 landing hard on her port sponson, ripping the boat in two as it continued flipping end-over-end across the water, destroying itself in the process. Campbell’s helmet, along with several larger, more buoyant, pieces of the K7 Bluebird, as well as Campbell’s good luck charm, a plush teddy bear named Mr. Whoppit, were all that could be recovered from the water that day. Nether the bulk of the hull, nor, more importantly, the remains of Donald Campbell himself, would be recovered for another 3-1/2 decades.



In 2001 a recovery effort was made to locate and raise the K7, with the hope of also finding Campbell’s remains, tho this was considered unlikely at the time, and in fact, even tho the majority of K7 would be identified and raised on this expedition, his body would not be found until the following year. Campbell’s own sister, Jean Wales, was said to be opposed to recovering his body as it is claimed he said to her, “skipper and boat stay together” should anything unfortunate ever happen to him. The K7 itself was donated by the Campbell family to the Ruskin Museum in Coniston in December 2006, where it is presently undergoing a full restoration back to running order for short jaunts of up to 65-mph or so for exhibitions. Just recently, in November 2016, it's engine was fired up again for the first time since the recovery that saw it's engine being fired up for the first time since it’s recovery from the dark lake bed.



Campbell’s remains were interred in Coniston Cemetery on September 12, 2001, but the event was overshadowed in the press by the terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon the day prior. An inquest into Campbell’s death came about in 2002, for the stated purpose “to determine the identity of the deceased, where and when he died, and the cause of death.” As the answers to most of these questions were already known, it was really just a matter of “how” Campbell died.

One witness, Mr. Bill Smith, who acted as a dive team leader during the recovery process, narrated a video tape at the inquest showing several items strewn across the muddy lake bed. Among them were loose change, a St. Christopher’s pendant (ironically, these are worn to ward off dangers while traveling), a cigarette lighter inscribed with an image of the Bluebird, and a key fob, all grouped together. Nearby they found what was left of Campbell’s body, and after spending three and a half decades underwater, it was described as “skeletal.” The remains were still draped in pieces of blue cloth from his coveralls with the elastic waistband and belt buckle still intact. It was noted that, oddly, his skull was not found among the remains. Smith explained that these remains were respectfully placed inside a container and brought to the surface.

Dr. Wendy Blundell, the pathologist responsible for examining Campbell's remains, described the trauma of the event in harrowing detail. Multiple bones were broken by the ferocity of the boat’s high-speed impact with the water’s surface, but even those that appeared intact were found to be fractured internally upon being examined under an X-ray. The intact left femur gave evidence that the right side of his body took the brunt of the impact, where the shattered bones bore witness to the massive forces at work during the crash. Perhaps most shocking was the revelation that Campbell was fully decapitated by the jagged edges of the broken Perspex (ie: plexiglass) windscreen as his body was propelled forward into the bulkhead by the crushing force of the blow. His empty helmet was recovered the day of the crash but his skull has never been found, and is presumed to still lay at the bottom of the lake. Considering that not all the various smaller bits of K7 were, nor are they likely to ever be, recovered, it is fitting perhaps that some part of Donald Campbell also remain at the bottom of Water Coniston, “skipper and boat stay together” after all.

*******

Visit the official restoration blog for K7 to stay up to date on the latest developments concerning the boat's restoration. www.bluebirdproject.com

Images via Wikimedia creative commons license, courtesy "Sheppane" except memorial stone image by "Thruxton."




























































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Saturday, March 11, 2017

12th Annual Portland International Raceway Swap Meet, April 6-8, 2017

(Photos: OregonLive)

12th annual Portland International Raceway Auto Swap Meet
returns for three days of wheeling and dealing
PORTLAND, Ore. – March 8, 2017 – The Portland International Raceway (PIR) Auto Swap Meet will return to the racetrack at 1940 North Victory Blvd. for its 12th annual event from Thursday, April 6 to Saturday, April 8; hours are 7am to 5pm daily.
The event, which runs in conjunction with the annual Portland Swap Meet at the Expo Center, is one of the racetrack’s most successful events, drawing nearly 2,000 vendors that set up on every available space of the five-mile road course. This year’s event sold out to vendors in record time.
For three days, PIR hosts more than 15,000 visitors looking for automotive treasures. From memorabilia to mini bikes, gas pumps to garage flooring, and tools to transmissions, the swap meet is a gearhead’s dream. Buyers and spectators will find thousands of unique, original stock, antique, vintage and custom vehicles and parts both on display and for sale. There’s also an abundance of Americana, including antique toys, bicycles, vintage signs, neons, mannequins, Coca Cola coolers, decked out golf carts, and plenty of paraphernalia for the man cave.


Admission is $7 per day, and free for children under the age of 12. Parking is $10 per day, or hop on the MAX Yellow Line, which stops just outside PIR’s main gate. One of the recommended ways to visit the booths is by non-motorized bicycles, which are allowed on the track; and attendees will want to tow a trailer/wagon behind that bike for proper parts transport.
There’s also a complimentary parts pick-up area that stores purchased items for the day; or the "haul and go” delivery system that transports purchases directly to buyer’s vehicles in the PIR parking lot. Over the history of the event, this donation-based service has raised nearly $100,000 for the Community Transitional School, a local organization that provides educational services to area homeless children.
One of the most fun parts of the PIR Swap Meet is the people watching; many attendees are walking sandwich boards advertising the part the owner is seeking. As with any swap meet, prices are often flexible and trades encouraged, but it’s still wise to bring plenty of cash to avoid losing out on that perfect item. Learn more at PortlandRaceway.com and follow the event on social media @PortlandRaceway.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Mercedes-AMG GT Concept Revealed at Geneva Motor Show


by Marrs




– Geneva, Switzerland

As part of its 50th anniversary, Mercedes-AMG is celebrating a successful past while also continuing to look forward. With the Mercedes-AMG GT Concept show car, the sports car and performance brand is giving an indication of the alternative drive configurations AMG is designing. This four-door coupe heralds a further extension of the AMG GT family, following the legacy of the SLS AMG and AMG GT, which were completely developed at AMG’s headquarters in Affalterbach. The designation and fundamental design elements on the front and rear end denote the family affiliation to the AMG GT. The "EQ Power+" badging on the mirror camera indicates the increased performance that can be expected from hybridization at AMG.


"With the Mercedes-AMG GT Concept, we are giving a preview of our third completely independently developed sports car and are extending the attractive AMG GT family to include a four-door variant,” said Tobias Moers, Chairman of the Board of Management of Mercedes-AMG GmbH. “The AMG GT Concept, like the AMG Hypercar, which we are presenting at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt, illustrates how we are defining performance of the future at AMG. Impressive driving dynamics coupled with high efficiency, resulting from an innovative drive system tailored specifically to the vehicle segment – that is ‘Future Performance’ made by AMG. With our AMG GT Concept, that means a combination of an ultra-modern V8 gasoline engine and a high-performance electric motor, both intelligently networked with an extremely powerful yet lightweight battery concept. This performance hybrid powertrain offers an impressive electric range and the opportunity to generate a system output of up to 805 horsepower in its last level of development, and covers the sprint from 0-60 mph in less than three seconds – which corresponds to the performance of a super sports car."



The four-door sports car from Affalterbach will seamlessly continue the success story of the AMG GT. The dynamic fastback will be highly suitable for everyday use thanks to a large tailgate, luggage compartment and comfortable interior. The AMG GT Concept blends the high functionality of performance cars with the sportiness of AMG GT sports cars, and gives a sneak preview of the exterior design coming to the series production model.



Muscular proportions and clear surface design
With the aid of an unmistakable design idiom featuring a deeply drawn hood and powerfully raked windscreen, the AMG GT Concept is recognizable at first glance as a genuine AMG GT. The exterior design stands out with extremely muscular proportions and sensuous surface styling. The concept car represents the design philosophy of “Sensual Purity” with the added performance characteristics of AMG.



"The AMG GT Concept embodies the most extreme expression of our design idiom and underlines the autonomous profile of AMG as a performance brand," said Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer, Daimler AG. "Through ideal proportions it creates a pure design with emphasis on its surfaces, featuring sensuous shapes, and is hot and cool at the same time."



Advanced AMG GT characteristics
The Panamericana grille—with vertical ribs painted red on the sides—newly configured and extremely slim headlamps and side air gills with a dominant design in the front bumper are hallmark AMG GT design characteristics which have been advanced to a new level in order to express pure power. The hood, reaching right to the wheel arches, underscores the AMG GT Concept’s sports car genes. This is also expressed by the eye-catching “Hot Red” paintwork featuring a finish that shimmers in the light like liquid metal thanks to a special formulation.

The Mercedes-AMG principle that fascination is always linked with function also applies to the AMG GT Concept. Proof of this includes moving radiator shutters in the center and side air intakes which improves both aerodynamic and thermal efficiency, and are inspired by the AIRPANEL active air control system found in the AMG GT R.



Rear assembly in hallmark AMG GT look
The wide rear assembly provides an unmistakable AMG GT look with extremely slim horizontal tail lamps and the shape of the tailgate. The taillamp also has new light technology, located beneath the three-dimensional lens of the rear lamps: a ribbed cooling module is integrated into the lens to guide waste heat away.

Further design elements at the rear end include a wide carbon-fiber diffuser curved downwards at the sides and a centrally arranged tailpipe reminiscent of the Mercedes-AMG GT R.

The crouched, dynamic greenhouse, with its steeply sloping roofline and slim layout of the frameless side windows, emphasizes the dynamic forwards thrust of the AMG GT Concept when seen from the side. The tapered side, broad rear shoulders and flared wheel arches reinforce the overall muscular expression. Exterior side mirrors on this concept are replaced with aerodynamically favorable miniature cameras, known as “mirror cams.” The roof, A-wing of the front spoilers, rear diffuser and side sill panels are finished in carbon fiber and make a distinct connection with motorsports.
Uniquely styled wheels allow for a good view of the AMG ceramic high-performance compound braking system. The brake calipers are painted in a bronze color and showcase "AMG Carbon Ceramic" lettering.





"Nano active fiber technology" for daytime running lamps and tail lamps
With "nano active fiber technology," Mercedes-AMG is presenting future-oriented daytime running lamps for the first time. This is produced by a special bright light system in a freely styled light cord. The three-dimensional illumination effect lends the AMG GT Concept an autonomous light signature, which is flanked by numerous further accents in the high-tech headlamp. Two tubular rod lights illuminate the road surface directly in front of the car and constitute the driving light together with a large LED main headlamp. A red AMG logo within the headlight denotes a special attention to detail. Overall, the front headlamp is a three-dimensional, multilayered, high-tech component which underscores the technical standards of the AMG GT Concept.



AMG Future Performance: forward-thinking hybrid drive system
The drive system of the AMG GT Concept represents a completely new development. In 2010, Mercedes-AMG proved that a super sports car with a battery/electric drive system can be realized with the SLS AMG Electric Drive. Additionally, Formula 1 driving dynamics and impressive efficiency are promised by the planned AMG Hypercar, which will give a sneak preview of the ultimate application of what is currently feasible with hybrid technology.

Following the AMG brand pledge "Driving Performance," Mercedes-AMG will develop segment-specific hybrids in the future that will boast impressive performance and maximum efficiency.



Innovative combination of combustion engine and electric motor
After the W08 EQ Power+ Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport Formula 1 car, the AMG GT Concept show car is the second AMG model to bear the new designation "EQ Power+," a designation which all performance hybrids from Mercedes-AMG will be given in the future.
The performance hybrid system combines a powerful Handcrafted AMG 4.0L V8 biturbo engine with an additional powerful electric motor, ensuring immediate response and offering extraordinarily high performance. A sprint from 0-60 mph takes the AMG GT Concept less than three seconds, demonstrating the performance of a super-sports car.

Maximum driving performance AMG’s primary focus on all projects and is why the AMG GT Concept has a balanced axle load distribution. The fully variable AMG performance 4MATIC+ all-wheel drive system is supported by an electric motor which drives the rear wheels directly and has the effect of an additional booster. Additionally, with torque vectoring, every wheel can be allocated torque individually resulting in a tangible increase in performance.



The electric drive unit
Three operating modes can be preselected via the electric drive unit: the AMG GT Concept can either drive purely electrically, purely with the combustion engine or with an optimal combination of both drive sources as a hybrid.

The exclusive AMG-developed hybrid components aim to facilitate a unique and dynamic “Driving Performance” experience.



Power from two drive systems: performance operating strategy from Formula 1
The operating strategy of the AMG GT Concept is derived from the hybrid powerpack of the MERCEDES PETRONAS AMG Formula 1 racing car and was developed through cooperation with the development engineers at Mercedes-AMG HPP (High Performance Production GmbH). As in Formula 1, the battery is charged while the vehicle is driven in order to have the maximum amount of electrical power available for use at all times.



Scalable performance battery
The energy storage unit in the AMG GT Concept is more powerful than conventional hybrid batteries, but at the same time is more compact and lighter – further proof of the systematic way in which the AMG Lightweight Performance Strategy is being implemented. Charging of the battery while driving can occur via brake recuperation or with the aid of the combustion engine if the battery charge has dropped beneath a certain charge threshold.

On a modular basis this system is scalable upwards — the performance and capacity of the battery can be adjusted to meet specific requirements of customers or markets, for instance.
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