Automotive Adventure – Why now is a great time to be a car guy…. err, Automotive Gentleman

In one of our podcasts (back when we all lived close enough we still did podcasts) it was pointed out that I have a mild affliction for cars.  I’m not sure where the mania stems from, but I’ve always thought it was fun and see no reason to change.  I have owned my fair share of automobiles and have driven just about everyone’s car that I know.  There is just something about them, the speed the power, the profound engineering that goes into making great big heavy things fast – and they are faster now than ever before.

Case in point – I grew up with pictures of the Lamborghini Countach on my wall – the LP500s and 500QV to be precise.  It was my dream car, nothing embodied speed, power and pure sex appeal to me more than that car.  I remember it being the primary reason I loved to watch Cannonball Run 1&2 over and over.  Didn’t hurt it was pretty girls driving it in the movies either.  But that car, that was pure speed, had a huge V12 engine and a body that was shaped like a knife.  It put out 420 horsepower, weighed 3,280 pounds, went from 0 – 60 in 4.9 seconds and had a starting price of almost $100,000 in 1985 – that is more than $205,000 in today’s dollars (says my friend, the internet).

Fast forward to today and you can get a 2013 Mustang GT that has 420HP, weighs 3,622 pounds, does 0 to 60 in 4.3 seconds and cost right about $30,000 base.  What a difference 27 years makes.  It astounds me that for that price, I can get a Ford that is by all accounts a heavy car and out run my Super Car Hero of my youth.  Hell, if you really wanted to count your pennies, you could spring for the 2013 Mustang GT500 which has 650 horsepower and can go over 200MPH (something my Lamborghini never accomplished).

I admit, I had a political worry when there was an administration that was pushing the green initiative hard and putting stricter standards on the car manufacturers.  But, for every Prius I see, I also see the new age of speed and muscle and it feeds my soul.  The automotive landscape has become more extreme and that is not a bad thing.  On one end you have the hyper frugal and on the other you have the hyper powerful and an ever growing mix of vehicles in the middle sweet spot.  That is a wonderful thing, when you can have a hybrid driver getting his +40 MPG at 65MPH sharing the road with 200MPH muscle cars getting their 12-14MPG (highway of course).

As a self-proclaimed car nut, am pleased at what I see out there – I just wish I had more time and money to sample all this automotive excitement.  In the end, it doesn’t matter what you choose to drive, as long as there are the choices for us all – only two rules: 1) if you have the option, drive stick and 2) please observe left lane courtesy, it is the gentlemanly thing to do.

If life is about moving to the next adventure – why not move there really fast?  I personally like moving with a big thundering engine under the hood, but that’s just me.  As they say, it’s not the destination, it’s the journey – and there is plenty out there to make the journey its own adventure – Drive On I say.

And in case you were wondering, given the choice, I would still take the Lamborghini – if I didn’t, my ten year old self would come kick my ass.

Science Playing Catch Up With 1901 Technology

See that look in his eyes? That's the look of a man with a Death RayI came across this article from CNN the other day, about a company called WiTricity, derived from an M.I.T. research group. They are experimenting with the wireless transfer of electricity. Being the League’s Archivist, I was immediately reminded of one of my very favorite, (not so) mad scientists, Nikola Tesla, and his similar experiments back in 1901.

 

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Steam-Powered Speed Record!

Fred Marriott and the Stanley Steamer
Fred Marriott and the Stanley Steamer.  Yes, the Stanley Steamer.

After five score and three years of holding the land speed record for a steam-powered vehicle, the dusty crown of the honorable Fred Marriott has been handed over to Charles Burnett III, whose vehicle tore across the California desert at 139 miles per hour. Burnett and his team spent a full decade working on “the fastest kettle in the world,” a project that was essentially designed to provide Burnett with the most awesome 30 seconds of his life.

In an interview with the BBC, Burnett described the car as “very stable.” Immediately following that claim – and without any sense of irony – he explained that the car was “fading back and forth probably two to three feet in either direction” while he was going over 150 miles and hour (the speed record is an average over a mile, the car actually goes faster than 139). Charles Burnett III, I bow to your adventuring might. Swaying back and forth two to three feet at 150 miles an hour would leave me with very, very wet pants – not to say that I wouldn’t give it a shot. According to Burnett, “the key there is not to try and drive the car, but let the car do what it wants, because once you start trying to control the car, you put yourself in danger of overcontrolling it and throwing it sideways.” I think I’m going to start applying that rule to every aspect of my life.
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Amazing Contraptions: The “Davy Crockett”

I profiled this amazing little piece of Cold War history recently, as those who have already listened to our Guns & Ammo meeting know, but I wanted to go ahead and put up some pics of it as well. After the jump is the full text of that profile as well as some additional pictures of this bad idea just waiting to happen.

It also occurred to us after the podcast that this portable nuke launcher (which was quite capable of killing its own operators) was named after Davy Crockett. A man who died in a hopeless last stand at the Alamo… Whether this name was intended to draw parallels between that moment and the use of this weapon is unknown, but frightening nonetheless.

 

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