Monday, January 26, 2009

2009 North American International Auto Show Coverage

Just got back from spending a few hours at the North American International Auto Show. First off, let me say that today was the lightest crowds I've ever experienced, even for a weekday. That for me, is a good thing, yet for the show and the city, a bad thing. It was nice to actually have room to walk around, take pictures, and enjoy the show bumping into some stranger every step of the way.

First impression: It's obvious that this is a transitional year. Auto makers are scrambling to get new hybrid/electric technology to market. Most every large automaker had some sort of electric vehicle on display this year. Surprisingly, I found quite a few of them very interesting. The American companies seem to realize that people want good looking cars with cutting edge designs. There were many exceptional "green" cars at this year's show in which even the hotrodder in me would be willing to slide behind the wheel of.

After looking at all the cars for several hours, my heart is still set upon one true love....the new Camaro SS. I actually got to slide into the seat and feel what it's like for the first time, and me likey!!! I also sat in the Challenger, and had spent much time behind the wheel of the current Mustang while conducting dyno tests at my last job. To me, the Camaro is far and above it's competition. I even like the interior better than the $104,000 Corvette ZR1 that I sat in. The Camaro interior just seems...I don't know, next generation?

I got down on the floor to inpect the underside, as I had a burning question on my mind "Did this new Camaro finally have a TRUE dual exhaust?" To my surprise, yes it does! Gone is the annoying passenger side hump in the floor pan and intermediate pipe feeding a muffler that splits into what leads most to think is dual exhaust. Not that the LT1 and LS1 F-Body didn't have a good sounding exhaust, but the Mustang just aways sounded better....even to this Chevy boy. Now, onto the cars!

First off, I'm gonna start with the three pony cars, the Camaro, Mustang, and Challenger. I believe this is the first show in which all three production versions have been on display.

The bad boy of the bunch, the Chevy Camaro SS.

The "Black" Camaro. The V6 is no slouch, with 304 hp, it's only about a dozen horses shy of Ford's V8 powered Mustang GT.

The Challenger is a sweet ride, but to somebody who's owned the original, the 1970, it just looks overweight to me. All aspects of the body look like they've put on that freshman 15.

Dig the scoop! Hope that's available on production cars.

The newly designed 2010 Mustang GT500.

While I thought the current Mustang captured the heritage of the car, it was based more on the early 64-67 Mustangs. I always thought those years lacked the muscularity a muscle car needs. In 69-70, that was addressed, with more buldging fenders/quarters to go with a more aggressive front and rear. The 2010 Mustang's rear is probably the greatest improvement. Though subtle, it was just enough to add some toughness to the package.

The King of the Hill that's been beating up on Italy's finest! 638 hp and handling to match, this baby has been setting a new standard for performance.

Puts "window shopping" into a new perspective.

Here he comes, here comes Speed Ra-cer.

The Revenge...essentially a kit car, though a very good looking one at that! Powered by a Corvette Z06 engine putting out 505 hp, the car was getting a lot of attention.

Pontiac Solstice Coupe....sorta strange looking, not sure whether I like it or not. doing to the Beemers what the ZR1 is doing to the exotics. May have something to do with the Corvette engine that resides between the fenders.

Proof that when done right, low rider trucks are still cool. Digging the Challenger hood and air bag suspension.

Factory offroader, the Ford SVT Raptor, pretty sweet.

The new Ford Taurus, a car Ford is hoping has the same impact it did back in 1986.

The Chevy Cruze, another vehicle GM is rushing to get out in hopes of righting their ship.

Chryslers electric concept, the 200V I think. Good looking styling, likely showing the future face of Chrysler.

The Chevy Volt, perhaps GM's wildcard that will keep them alive.

The "Cadillac" of electric cars. Utilizing Chevy Volt technology, if sales of the Volt are strong, expect this car to come to market in the next few years.

The new Cadillac SRX, a great improvement over the current model.

The Lincoln "C" I believe. Kinda looked like somebody tried to flatten a mini...yet very cool/futuristic just the same.

Chrysler's electric sports car, built with the aid of Lotus I believe.
Fisker Karma, perhaps the most elegant looking electic at the show. electic sports car.

Penny Racer.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

2009 North American International Auto Show

January 17th-25th, the Detroit North American International Auto Show opens to the public. This year will be a transitional year. Where as in years passed, glamour and glitz were the name of the game, this year will be more about business and displaying the product. While there were several hybrid vehicles these last few years, this year will truly be a break through year, with much more focus on these types of vehicles. This year, hybrids will be in the spotlight, as opposed to simply an alternative option among the displays.

Over the last few years, my focus has been on the few remaining muscle cars Detroit has to offer, and other cars where the styling catches my interest. I did cover some of the bybrids last year, as well as a few imports here and there. Expect the focus to be on what the Big 3 has to offer to continue to be my main focus, as this is Motor City Muscle, not Motor City International Auto Show Muscle. As for those upset over the auto makers that pulled out, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Rolls Royce, Land Rover, Ferrari, and Porsche, how many attendees really buy their vehicles in this region any way? I'm looking forward to seeing what the new Camaro, Mustang, and Challenger have to offer in Detroit's second coming of the pony car battle.

North American International Auto Show

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Pontiac kills El Camino

It's hard to say how well this car would have been received, or more importantly, how well it would have sold. I personally liked the idea, as gas prices will surely be back on the rise before long, and there are those who still like the convenience of a truck. This car would have filled small niche market of those looking for a car with truck capabilities. Yet at the same time, it's not a Pontiac, it's a Chevy El Camino, GMC Sprint, or GMC Caballero. Marketing as a Pontiac was a poor move on GM's part. I would like to see the car resurrected and imported to the U.S., but in today's volatile auto industry, this will be one of those car that likely never makes it to the scene.

Pontiac kills the G8 ST sport truck for 2009

Jamie LaReau
Automotive News
January 6, 2009 - 1:41 pm ET
UPDATED: 1/6/09 2:39 p.m. EST

DETROIT -- General Motors told dealers today it has decided to cancel a G8 sport truck that was scheduled to debut this fall.

The reason, in part, is GM's "continuing vehicle review" to make the company viable, said Pontiac spokesman Jim Hopson. That includes turning Pontiac into a "niche brand" according to a plan GM presented to Congress late last year.

"With Pontiac being more focused on sporty, fun-to-drive cars, we took a long look at the ST and it didn't fit with what our future vision of Pontiac would be," Hopson said. "At that point, we decided to not proceed with this vehicle."

Pontiac launched the G8 sedan in March 2008. The vehicle is built off the rear-wheel-drive Zeta platform at GM's Australian unit, Holden.

When GM unveiled the G8 ST last spring at the New York auto show, no one at the company foresaw the national economic meltdown.

"The way the business is today, we want the dealers to focus on the great products we do have: the G6 sedan and the Vibe," Russ Clark, executive director of product marketing for Pontiac, Buick and GMC, said Monday during an interview with Automotive News.

"We want everyone focused on the volume products and the long-term viability of the company. We and the dealers only have so many resources to promote our products."

GM considers the G8 ST to be a low-volume niche product, and Clark said there are no plans to build it for another GM brand.

"What we want to do with Pontiac is what we did with Buick," Clark said. Buick went from having seven nameplates in 2005 to three now.

"We'll be bringing the entries down in Pontiac," Clark said. "It's six right now. It'll be less than six but more than one, so what it'll be ultimately? We're working on that now."

Detroit Street Racing

An article from the Detroit Free Press:

Detroiter makes documentary on street racing

Paul Humphries Sr. wants Detroit's street racers off public roads.

Humphries, 46, also known as "The Chevy Doctor," competed for money and pink slips on the service drives of the Motor City from the late 1970s through the mid-'80s before quitting.

Now, the father of four sons and a daughter is hoping to convince the city's street racers to take their cars to places like Milan Dragway to get their kicks.

Humphries, a refrigeration operator and mechanic at Detroit Receiving Hospital, has funded his own film, "Motor City Street Racers" in an effort to educate the younger generation about the dangers to themselves and others of street racing, where speeds can reach 130-140 m.p.h.

The 63-minute documentary, which cost Humphries countless hours to shoot and edit and about $11,000 of his cash, was shot entirely in the Detroit area and traces the story of street racing here in the '70s and '80s and compares the sport to street racing today. Humphries will screen the film Friday at Artist Village Detroit and has invited members of the Detroit City Council to attend.

"We need to get the kids off the street," said Humphries, who was introduced to street racing as a 10-year-old who would sneak out of his house to check out cars at the legendary White Castle street racing hangout on the corner of Livernois and Warren on Detroit's west side. "We need to convince them how dangerous it has become today and see if we can't encourage the city to build a drag strip in the Detroit area where drivers can race safely."

Humphries started street racing a '67 Chevy along the service drive to I-75.

"We tried to make it as safe as possible," said Humphries. "We blocked off the streets, we had a set of rules and kept spectators under control. Around 1985, things got out of hand -- crowds were getting in the way, speeds were getting faster and street racing seemed to become less organized. It was time to back off. I wasn't willing to lose my car, my life or someone else's."

Humphries estimates that on any single weekend in Detroit, weather permitting, street racing may be conducted at up to 10 locations around the city.

The activity is illegal in Michigan, as it is across the country, and those caught racing face getting ticketed, losing their licenses, having their cars impounded and possible jail time. Spectators at races also can be ticketed, said Humphries.

In November, 55-year-old Detroit Public Schools education technician Delthea Bryson was involved in an accident along Dequindre Road in Detroit when the car in which she was traveling was struck by a 2005 Mustang GT, which police believe was street racing. Bryson was taken to Detroit Receiving Hospital, where she died less than an hour later.

"We got to get people off the streets. I got off," said Humphries, who is a regular competitor these days at Milan.

Melvin Coney, 50, of Romulus, now runs at Milan, too. A friend of Humphries, Coney was a regular street racer in and around Detroit into the '90s. He stopped participating after being nabbed by the police racing in Hamtramck.

"The cops caught us, and I went to jail for 4-5 days," Coney said. "Today's street racers are going way too fast. I used to have 10 races a night in the '70s along the service drive on I-75, from 7 Mile to the Boulevard. Now I do my racing at Milan, and I don't have to worry about the police."

Coney called Bryson's death a "fatal mistake."

"It was very tragic," he said.

Humphries hopes streets racers will emerge from their underground world and compete instead at sanctioned drag strips.

"We want to get kids under our wing," Humphries said. "We want to see them come out to Milan and have fun with their cars at the track. Street racers are welcome to come see the film."

Contact MIKE BRUDENELL at 313-222-2115 or

Rods on the way!

Each year, for the past 3 years or so, I try to make at least one significant purchase towards getting my 69 Camaro back on the road. A few years ago it was a custom ground Comp Cams solid roller cam with a nearly insane for the street 677/687 lift. Last year, I picked up the solid roller lifters, also by Comp. This year, I ordered up the connecting rods.

After some research, I settled on a set by Scat. These babies in standard form are good for 800+ hp. At the advise of my friend Wes, I went with the rod bolt upgrade, which makes these H-beam rods good for 1,400+ hp! These rods are not only more than sufficient for this build, but if I were ever to go above and beyond this 900-1,000 hp planned engine, new rods won't be on the upgrade list.

2009 is going to be a busy year. I'm firmly planted in my new career in law enforcement, my fiancee will finish her masters in education and likely start her new career in the fall. Last but certainly not least, we will be getting married this fall. In the midst of all that, I'm hoping to find a means to be able to pick up a set of pistons and get my engine to a machine shop, likely Tico Performance over near Brooklyn, MI. If I can get the short block tightened up by year end, seeing the road in 2010 becomes a very likely possibility.

It's been a long time, way too long. I used to read features in magazines about 10 year works in progress and scratch my head. Yet here I am, house, fiancee, dogs, a cat, and a reality check has me understanding why these builds take as long as they do. It's not like the days of living at home with a disposable income any longer. Looking ahead, hopefully I can stretch my 89 Formula out for 1 more winter, then get a worthy replacement in 2010, hopefully a 2010 Camaro SS if life works out for the best. Then, my Formula will be my next project in the works, undergoing a complete ground up restoration, hopefully one that isn't parked for the next 10 years awaiting completion!