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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Lexus Goes to a Dark Place with Special Edition LX


Lexus Goes to a Dark Place with Special Edition LX


PLANO, Texas (October 31, 2018) – The LX is more than just a luxury SUV. It’s an inspiration for those who desire a higher-level driving experience. Already equipped for the road with high quality materials and exhilarating performance, this luxury SUV takes all the worry out of decision-making.    
 
In November, Lexus will introduce the next exclusive designed model in the Inspiration Series. The LX features a stealth Black Onyx exterior that rides high on 21-inch black alloy wheels and center caps. This new beauty also leads with a black front grille and dark chrome surround.
 
The LX is also enhanced with black trim for the headlamps, foglights and windows along with smoked headlamp lenses.  The rear of this flagship SUV continues the black theme with black chrome accents for the taillamps, license plate and back door.
 
An exclusive Moonlight White Semi-Aniline Leather Trim with a black headliner complement the black exterior. To help complete the thoughtfully crafted luxury SUV, the carpet, cargo mats and key gloves all provide unique finish to the interior.


 
All LX Inspiration Series come with heated and ventilated front and second-row outboard seats. The Climate Concierge feature automatically monitors the temperature of the four separate climate zones and adjusts not only the fans, but also the temperature of the seats and steering wheel. In addition, the “LX” projector door lamps round out this Luxury package.
 
Every LX Inspiration Series also includes the following features: Rear Seat Entertainment System, 19-speaker, 450-watt Mark Levinson®1 Reference Surround Sound audio system and Color Head-Up Display (HUD).
In addition, a Cool box, wireless charger and heated wood & leather-trimmed steering wheel complete the package.
 
Available just in time for the winter holidays, only 500 luxury owners will be able to drive the exclusive LX Inspiration Series home. It will go on sale with a starting Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $100,420.
 
Like all LX 570s, the LX Inspiration Series is powered by a 5.7-liter V8 engine with 383 horsepower and 403 lb.-ft. of torque available at 3,600 rpm. Equipped with an 8-speed automatic transmission, the LX is capable of towing up to 7,000-lbs.
 


Adapts to Any Terrain
The LX’s sturdy body-on-frame structure is combined with a multi-terrain system to enhance the driver’s control over challenging, varied landscapes. The system adapts to five different types of terrain — Rock, Rock and Dirt, Mogul, Loose Rock and Mud and Sand.
 
Low-range gearing provides slow-speed crawling capability for handling steep off-road hills and uneven terrain.  Driver’s also get additional support from the LX’s innovative Crawl Control system that is fortified with Turn Assist, Hill-Start Assist Control and Variable Gear Ratio Steering.



Total Visibility
Drivers are armed with the standard Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA). To help keep the driver’s eyes on the road, the LX puts more information directly in line of sight with a Color Head-Up Display (HUD) on the windshield. This system shows the vehicle speed, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control information icons and Intuitive Park Assist.
 
Peace of Mind
The LX Inspiration gets the standard Lexus Safety System+ that includes Pre-Collision System (PCS) with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert (LDA), Intelligent High-Beam headlamps and All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.
  
Staying Connected
A 12.3-inch navigation display with Remote Touch Interface (RTI) heads a list of multimedia and connectivity features that keep the LX on the cutting edge of user tech. The multimedia display screen can be split into three sections to show different functions, such as navigation, audio and climate control information.
 
“It’s always our goal to exceed our guests’ expectations,” said David Christ, group vice president and general manager, Lexus division. “We expect the LX Inspiration Series to continue that tradition with its customized features.  We look forward to this new addition to the lineup and are excited for our guests to Experience Amazing.”  
 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Dear Hugh Hefner, I’m Sorry I Snuck Into Your House



Dear Hugh Hefner, I’m Sorry I Snuck Into Your House
by Marrs

It was the spring of 2002 and I was entertaining visitors from Canada who were guests in my home in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles. While coming back from a late lunch, our mutual attention was grabbed by a new Bentley Arnage outfitted with “Gumball 3000” decals and emblazoned with sponsors, followed closely by a likewise-liveried Ferrari, then another exotic and another followed until this less-than-subtle convoy passed by completely. My guests had no idea what was going on as I whipped my supercharged Mercedes W202 around right there in the middle of Hollywood Blvd., and gave chase. We didn't travel far, stopping at a hotel near the Hollywood & Highland shopping mall at that same storied intersection. We parked and approached a large group of douchily-dressed Eurotrash and new-monied young Americans, who began surrounding a table helmed by a serious-looking woman with a clipboard. Clipboards are never good people. 

One of my friends snagged a pamphlet from the table and we soon realized we were at the very last stop of that year’s Gumball 3000 cross-country rally, this one from NYC to LA, and here we observed preparations for the teams to receive their invites to the closing event to be held at the Playboy Mansion. The pamphlet turned out to be the official route book, issued to every team, and each contained a page for every stop along the way where the route book would receive an official stamp indicating the successful completion of that stage. Without ALL of these stamps, there was no entry to the party.


At the time, I was working with a Director friend on various types of documentaries, ranging from band expose´s to following around crime scene cleanup crews, so the concept of making our way past those infamous Playboy Mansion gates to record the debauchery within, even in a less-than-authorized manner, was an overwhelming urge. I called my Director buddy, (I’ll use initials only for the sake of their privacy) “V”, and another friend, “R”, who I knew as a McGuyver-like entity from my younger days who could sham, scam, or scheme his way into anywhere. While V worked to assemble the necessary camera and sound equipment, R arrived at the hotel and we begun to plot out entry into this party.

In short order, we had a plan. I walked up to the table lady and asked for my credentials, with R standing just behind her and peeking over her shoulder. As she searched the list for my name, he scanned the pages for a name he could make out and remember. After a few minutes she apologized but dismissed me as unwelcome without being on the sacred list. I sulked but walked away, knowing we already had a path forward. I reconvened with R on the sidelines and he gave me the name of some reporter he noticed on the “Press” list, which was perfect since we would be carrying around cameras and a boom mic. One major problem still stood in our way, we didn't have the stamps. R said, “I’ve got this” and disappeared for about an hour while I waited for V to arrive with our equipment.

Our Canadian guests were taken back to my place where they would be less bored, and more importantly, where they could act as our “get out of jail” card should things go totally sideways. Would the Hollywood police station even accept Monopoly money? 

By this time, shuttle buses were arriving to take guests the 20-minute drive to the far end of Beverly Hills where the Mansion sits, bordering Bel Air, and just as we began to wonder if this was going to even work at all, R showed up with a smile as big as the Hollywood Hills themselves. He proudly opened the route book to show that it was now completely stamped from beginning to end. I asked how the Hell did he manage this trick and he producer a large art eraser that he had meticulously carved into the shape of the official seal, broke open several various colored ink pens, and then used their contents to stamp each page with the correct color. Damn, was he ever the man for this job! 
This time V approached and used the booklet to obtain passes for us, acting as the camera and sound guys, and even managed to grab a coveted third invite for our “field producer.”


We boarded the shuttle van without incident, and thankfully the rally participants were already too far down the path of intoxication to note our presence, busy boasting, catcalling other attendees, and generally speaking far louder than they realized as rich, drunk assholes are wont to do. 

As we passed through the heavily secured gates of the Playboy Mansion the air of infamy set upon us as the main house came into view, elegantly lighted on a warm spring evening. We disembarked up front where a semi-circle of exotics bordered a massive fountain, and walked through a patio area towards the famous Grotto where the sound of music and cast of multi-colored lights lured us. On the way, Steve-O, still riding high at the time as a star of MTV’s Jackass show, saw our cameras and couldn’t resist talking to us. R, V, and I all looked at one-another and we powered up our equipment and started to film. “This is it, we’re doing this” I thought to myself. Steve-O was pretty trashed already and proceeded to explain to us that “the only thing better then being invited to the Playboy Mansion was getting kicked out of the Playboy Mansion.” I don’t know how all that worked out for him. 

We moved ahead, spotting big stars and unknowns alike who perfectly captured the popular cultural tone of the era (Matthew McConaughey, Rachael Hunter, Donna Karen who made the cross-continental trek in a specially prepped Checker Cab in full NYC livery), while large-tittied women bounced around as participating men covered their awkward boners. Clothing was piled up outside the hidden Grotto pool area, who’s main access door was now shut so that the den of decadence was only accessible by swimming under a concrete span. We opted against this for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was a fear of getting stranger’s semen in our equipment and faces. 
As V filmed and I ran sound, R wandered the property. We would bump into each other throughout the evening and R explained how he happened across the private zoo that Hef maintained and we wandered around as much as we could get away with, just making it into the house to ummm, look for the bathroom, before being politely ushered back out with a stern but helpful, “the party is this way sir.”


We ate some food, filmed some fools, and surprisingly started to become rather bored. The Playboy Mansion, from what we encountered, was much like Hugh Hefner himself; old, tired, outdated, with only just enough maintenance to keep it from ceasing to exist altogether. We were fairly unimpressed and decided we had the footage and experience we had hoped for and so grabbed the next shuttle ride back to the hotel.

The footage? Well we never really got enough to do anything with it, let alone the fact that we didn't have releases signed by the attendees, so it made it’s way to V’s Director’s Reel and that’s about it. The story has lived on however, famously so among my friends and acquaintances, and the one you’re reading now was inspired by one of those visiting Canadians at that time, who texted me the day after Hef died and said, “sorry about your good friend Mr. Hefner.” 

So, if you’re seeing this Hef, I am sorry for sneaking into your home, but I feel like you would have appreciated the effort it took to do so.


















All Photos: Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, October 4, 2018

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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