Category Archives: Fun Stuff

Here contributing editor Paul Daniel blogs about just anything that’s on his mind about cars or maybe something else. Fun Stuff.

Why I despise EV’s but am big on electric propulsion

Born into a car family

I don’t have blood, pretty sure I have motor oil in my veins. It started before I was even born. My mom’s dad sold Pontiacs and Hudsons while my other grandpa was a Chevy guy. My dad worked for AMC/Chrysler for 27 years and I’ve been told that I was conceived in the back of a Nash. I love everything about cars, from how they are designed, manufactured, marketed and tested. I especially love high performance cars and have driven, the new Corvette, Dodge Challenger Hellcat, Ram TRX, along with several Jaguars. It’s the sound, I love the sound, and the power when I step on the gas. I love the way they handle and have driven several of them at Road America.

Me all smiles after experiencing the Ram TRX

EV’s to me are a waste of time.

I will admit that most of them can out accelerate even the biggest and baddest V8 but outside of that see no upside. Ok tree huggers, jump in telling me how they save the planet with their zero o2 tailpipe emissions but you are forgetting one huge item, actually several. First, all the current EV’s are manufactured the same way ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles are. In a factory that uses tons of electricity to make the steel and or aluminum uses in the body, frame, and other areas, the plastic found in the interior, and carpeting. How about that glass. Forged in the same factory that supplies manufacturers of ICE vehicles. And let’s not forget about the batteries. Their carbon footprint for manufacturing is even larger and where do they go when they wear out?

Mustang Mach-E we reviewed earlier this year. Nice car but not a Mustang

Related Video: Come along with Mark as he reviews the Mustang Mach-E

So much for the manufacturing. Now let’s talk about tax revenue. With the exception of Teslas, owners receive a tax credit. Less revenue to run this country which almost always seems to be running out of money. Now since EV’s don’t fill up with gas, there’s lost tax revenue there that goes to many things like road construction and repairs. Boom, gone!

Now let’s talk about charging. It’s gotten a lot better. The longest range EV according to the EPA is the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus that will got you 263 miles before needing a charge. But here comes the downside and deal breaker for me. It requires 8.5 hours to get a full charge and that’s assuming you can plug into 220V. Sure, the standard argument is that you can do that overnight but what if you need to travel a longer distance? I hate waiting.

Tesla Model 3, Photo: Tesla

Let’s talk about them spontaneously bursting into flames. Have you read about the Chevy Bolt? Here’s a new term for you, thermal runaway. This happens when the battery overheats, over-pressurizes and boom! (I’ll talk about my experiences in a bit).This happened so much that GM was forced to recall all of them. Do EV’s catch fire more than ICE cars? There is no reliable data. What is a fact though is that because of all that energy in the battery they generate more heat and take longer to put out.

Remains of a Chevy Bolt. Photo: Electrek.com

My blogging partner, Mark, reminds me that EV’s are coming. More like the flavor of the month. With virtually no infrastructure for charging, they are decades from any mainstream acceptance. Here’s an example. Kwik Trip is a large midwestern gas station/convenience store operator and I go there a lot.

EV plug at Kwik Trip in Wisconsin

I found this example recently. Their charging station with the same 120 v plug you’d find in and outside plug at your home. Think of the charge time on that bad boy. Even with tax credits according to Pew Research about 231,000 all-electric vehicles were sold in 2020, down 3.2% from 2018. In each of the past three years, EV’s accounted for about 2% of the U.S. new-car market which is tiny. It would most likely be even smaller if it were not for government tax credits as incentives, some as high as $7,500.

I’m fine with hybrids and had a chance to drive two very different ones recently at the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) event at Road America.

First, there was the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe which I had a chance to take off road. The first thing I noticed, especially after just driving the Wrangler 392 with its rumble, was how quite it was. And it was never lacking for power when I needed it to climb a hill or get through some mud. FYI, it is the number one selling hybrid. What does that say for saving the planet and having a whole lot of fun doing it?

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe doing what it does best, get dirty.

The other vehicle was the Karma GS-6, a masterpiece of design. This car oozes cool both inside and out. The interior looks like it was designed for the 25th century. So futuristic looking but with a price tag of just over 100 grand, not for everybody.

Karma GS-6 looking like it would do well on the four-mile track.

Electric propulsion works well on a smaller scale

Here’s where I’m big on battery powered propulsion. One of my time, and money sucking hobbies, is radio controlled airplanes. This is the segment that has experienced a huge jump in technology the last couple of years. My first electric plane I was small Piper Cub, or something that resembled one, with a two-foot wingspan. It carried 6 nickel cadmium batteries slightly smaller than AAA’s. The battery took about an hour to charge and the plane flew for maybe five minutes. Charging the battery was sketchy at best. If you looked at them the wrong way, they would burn up. Sound familiar? The plane barely had enough power to get out of its own way.

Several of my LiPo batteries

Flash forward to today. Now we fly with Liquid Polimer batteries (LiPo’s) which hold tons more energy. I just sold my last gas-powered airplane and with the exception of my turbine jet am now an all-electric fleet. This wasn’t something that I had decided to do on a whim. It took a while so that I could have several planes utilizing similar batteries based on their size. While there are still electric planes that will have very short flight times, mine can fly on an average of five to eight minutes. That might sound like a short time but it’s maybe slightly shorter than gas powered planes. Care must be taken with the batteries just like the ones that go in the car because they can catch fire and have been known to burn up a car or entire garage.

EDF from my A-10.

Some of my planes are actually jets with electric ducted fans powering them. Sort of like a little turbine except with an electric motor. It takes 30 minutes to an hour to charge the batteries on one of the several chargers I have. All of the flying fields have power for me to charge the batteries. One even uses solar cells that charge storage batteries. Unlike the EV auto industry there are no tax breaks for guys like us for doing this. It is driven by demand only and doing really well. Each time I show up at the field I see new electric planes.

While converting planes from fuel to electric is popular I want to share an example of one of my planes that I built designed specifically for electric power. The Avro Vulcan was a cold-war era four-engine jet bomber the English flew. It was designed to defend England from a Russian nuclear attack. Go check out this video and turn up the volume to hear what’s called the Vulcan Howl. The Jet was so far ahead of its time.

Avro Vulcan in flight

My radio control model is a large one, 80 inch wingspan, the fuselage is 74 inches long and it weighs just 14 pounds. It’s powered by four electric ducted fans and requires four Li-Po batteries. Efficiency in the build was critical here and with a combination of balsa, ply, carbon fiber and foam it has a 14-1 thrust ratio.

A friend of mine an I both built Vulcan’s a few years ago and they are a blast to fly. We have had both of them up at the same time as you can see in this video.

My RC Avro Vulcan on display at EAA’s AirVenture

Will commercial aviation go all-electric? Not in mine or your lifetime. Right now they are just getting into that but on a very small scale. Commuter aircraft are a possiblity but that represents about 2% of all commercial flights.

And finally my point

A good friend of mine, Mike Dorna, who works at Briggs & Stratton here in Milwaukee forwarded and great article on this hole electric bruh ha ha. Mike’s dad was one of the engineers who developed an EV hybrid for the company while they were still just dreams. Jay Leno did a segment on it.

Briggs and Stratton Hybrid designed and built in Milwaukee. YouTube screen grab.

In the article by Tony Adams, who launched Engine + Powertrain Technology International brings up valid points that are often ignored by the media. He points out that gigafactories are being built but the eco-ramification of building them is being ignored. The exhaustion of cobalt and other rare earth materials with questionable supply chains are being overlooked. Then there’s the eco credentials of the batteries themselves is being disregarded and so are the weight and generally negative dynamic effects of heavily over-burdened cars.

Rather than trying to create a totally new system that will expend gobs of energy, how about alternative fuels like maybe hydrogen? It’s free and the most abundant chemical in the universe and we don’t even have to drill for it! Talk about zero emmissions, this is it and cars can be developed to run on it. Gas stations can dispense it just like they do gasoline now and it’s a much better alternative than electric.

They simply take energy and turn it into rotational movement – the difference is that in a normal electric car, this energy only comes from an on-board battery that needs to be charged up, while in a hydrogen car it comes from an on-board generator that uses hydrogen. A hydrogen car can be taken from empty to full in a few minutes at a fuel pump, like a petrol or diesel car – so in this way they’re better than electric cars, and it’s convenient.

Photo: Porsche

Porsche is testing a synthetic eFuel made out of CO2 and hydrogen and are produced using renewable energy. This creates a liquid that an engine will burn the same as if it was gasoline made from crude oil, but in theory, an eFuel can be produced in a climate-neutral manner. They expect to have its first small test batch, 34,340 gallons ready by 2022.

Ok, I’m done now. Watch carefully how the EV game is played out in Europe. The UK has set 2040 for a date where they are going to ban the sale of ICE cars. Good luck with that. Please somebody make sanity take over. This is nuts!

Die-cast: GP Replicas Ferrari 312 B3

Lauda’s 1974 F1 car a spectacular 1:43 model …

Ferrari’s Formula 1 cars of the 1960s and 1970s were beautiful and less complex looking than today’s multi-winged wonders that seem to have stretched to limousine proportions.

Niki Lauda’s sassy Ferrari 312 B3 of 1974 is a standout example of this with a simple solid nose wing and another on the tail. The fact both were chromed to go with the blazing red bodywork made them all the more attractive and exciting.

I landed a GP Replicas 1:43 scale version and was pleasantly surprised at the detail for basically $70. Also, this was the best packed die-cast car I’ve ever received with a multi-layer box within a box. See the photos below!

The History

Lauda, the three-time World Champ from Austria, needs no introduction. He was an F1 master that took Ferrari to new heights in the 1970s, was almost killed in a 1976 crash, and continued on for years after his miraculous recovery. Winning an F1 title with Ferrari (his second) and later for McLaren.

Sharp case and label on the black base here.

But in 1974 he and Clay Regazzoni, a talented Swiss driver, scored three wins with the B3 version of the stout 312 racer, Lauda winning twice. In fact, the duo set fastest qualifying laps in 10 of the F1 races that season, outpacing their Lotus and McLaren counterparts. Ultimately Lauda finished fourth in the standings and Regazzoni second due to more consistent finishes and fewer DNFs.

Yet the B3-74 and its 490-horsepower flat 12-cylinder engine were not as dependable as Ferrari had hoped, allowing Ferrari to finish only second in the F1 constructors championship. So the B3 was reworked as Ferrari mastered the aerodynamics of the time and morphed into the stellar 312T that won the F1 title with Lauda at the wheel in 1975. The 312T debuted in the third race that season.

The Model

               I like everything about this model starting with that stout packaging to ensure it arrives in one piece, a real plus as sometimes wings, wheels or windscreens are knocked loose in transit.

               The B3’s body shape and Ferrari Red paint job are stellar. Its wings are well-shaped and the chrome finish is fine as are all the decals/logos, mainly Goodyear and Agip at the time as cars weren’t rolling billboards just yet.

Check out the yellow air ducts for the front brakes!

               Front and rear suspensions look realistic and there are yellow brake air ducts in front of the front axles, a particularly nice touch. Goodyear slicks are well labeled and the racing wheels are matte gold.

               Beyond the suspension detail is the snazzy looking engine bay with battery, low tailpipes and again brake air ducts in the exposed engine area beyond the car’s body. The Ferrari’s white wing strut looks substantial too and there’s a rear red light embedded in that, used during rainy races and on warmup laps to alert drivers of the car ahead. There’s even some wiring on the engine, pretty rare in this scale.

               Cool too are the silver screens over the rear radiator ducts, the tall air intake behind the cockpit and a delicate windscreen that blends smoothly into the cockpit’s sides. Niki Lauda’s name is in white script below the cockpit, which is black and includes a steering wheel and realistic looking blue shoulder and lap belts.

               For the record, the numbers are black on white rounded-corner squares and of course the No. 12 that Lauda carried.

               The car rests in a nice acrylic case that features a black base with a nameplate featuring the car’s make and Lauda’s name. This is a limited edition, just 500 being made.      

And this just in. I’ve heard from a large retailer that the Ferrari models from GP Replicas were not licensed properly with Ferrari for the U.S. market and that is costing some retailers money for having sold them. So, it appears these may appear mostly on the overseas digital market sites. Too bad, as this is one of the finest 1:43 scale F1 cars I’ve seen.

My advice, stick with Spark and Ixo brands for good quality 1:43 scale racing models. Or Replicarz is strong on vintage Indycars and Greenlight for current year Indycars.

Blue belts are the highlight of the cockpit.

Vital Stats: 1974 Ferrari 312 B3-74 (Niki Lauda)

Maker: GP Replicas
Scale: 1/43
Stock No.: GP-43-01A
MSRP: $70-110 (various websites)

Check out the boxes the car is packed in for protection. Pretty impressive!

The Piper CUB of EAA’s Automotive Fleet

By Paul Daniel

If you’ve ever attended EAA’s AirVenture, your eyes probably spent more time on things in the air than on the ground. Well, you’ve missed the event’s unsung hero, the vehicle that gets the safety crews and staff all over the grounds, their staff of VWs. Here’s the story of the Piper Cub of their fleet.

A golf cart that thinks its a 747

Me in the cockpit of a Grumman Goose just before a flight

In all the years I have been going to AirVenture in Oshkosh, WI, I have seen all kinds of planes and all kinds of vehicles. There was this boatmobile a couple of years ago. All kinds of fun stuff which is what makes this event so great. Well how about the guy in this video who mated parts of a Boeing-747 to two golf carts? Don’t believe me? Check out the video. This year’s AirVenture began on Monday and runs through August 1st. Will I see you up here?

Savage Racing

Running the Milwaukee Mile with the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience

The guttural roar of a stock car engine and the resulting vibration transmitted through the seat of my racing jumpsuit as I approach Turn 1 at the Milwaukee Mile nearly makes me feel as if I’ll pass out.

I feel woozy in a way I’m unfamiliar with. It’s not fear, it’s not noxious fumes. I don’t feel sick, it’s just the rumble that shakes my innards and maybe my brain stem a little that gets my attention. A person needs to pay attention. Some don’t and they tag the wall. One did at my stock car class mid-May.

This is the Rusty Wallace (yes, that Rusty Wallace) Racing Experience (RWRE). It’s a traveling circus of stock and exotic car classes and experiences for would-be racers, but mostly it’s for those of us who have missed our calling, those who WISH we’d have tried our hand at racing super-modifieds, stock cars or even Indy Cars.

The RWRE travels to 80 race tracks across the U.S. and Canada each year, visiting Milwaukee’s famous one-mile oval at State Fair Park twice a year, in May and September. It’s here just one day each time. Pray for no rain.

I drove 12 laps (well 15 really, but more on that later) after my dear family decided it was time for the old guy to bury the pedal on a race track, not the highway, and in a real stock car, not the family Subaru. It was sort of a belated 65th birthday gift after that marker was Covidified a year ago April.

The day was a blast, but not without its challenges.

Pensive racer Savage before slipping behind the wheel.

I was in the 10 a.m. grouping, which meant a 9:30 arrival to sign away my life and those of my loved ones who came to watch. My 12-year-old grandson was hoping I’d crash because that would be “cool.” It wouldn’t!

Participants who arrive a few minutes early get to watch as pro drivers take paying customers on ride-alongs. That allows you to get used to the bark of the two No. 18 M&M paint scheme stockers blasting around the Mile in the good hands of experienced racers. They look, and sound, fast.

Then it’s into the media center for about 45 minutes of class time explaining the intricacies of driving a 1-mile flat oval. It’s trickier than, say, Daytona where the huge banking in the turns makes driving those turns easier in some ways, but not all.

The key here is timing.

Turns at the 118-year-old Milwaukee Mile are flat and treacherous. Keep the inside wheels on the darker pavement!

Accelerate hard down the straights, then let off the throttle just before the sharp barely-banked turns. (The Mile started as a dirt track, being paved in 1954.) The RWRE folks painted big orange rectangles on the track to let drivers know the optimum spot to get off the gas. Thanks!

Then brake hard when entering the turn, slowly letting off the pressure. That sets the car, moving the weight to the front tires so it steers easily through the turn. A bigger (greater inflation) right rear tire also assures the stock car always wants to turn left, even on the straightaways. Let off the brake when nearing the turn’s apex, then get back, gingerly and smoothly, on the throttle. The car will naturally push up toward the outer wall when exiting the turns. Orange and green stripes have been painted at intervals in the turns and on the straights to give you a precise idea of where you should be.

See Mark’s in-car video: Mark drives a stock car at the Milwaukee Mile

At the Milwaukee Mile, the nation’s oldest continuously operating race track (sorry Indy!), right side tires should be on the lighter, older asphalt track in the turns, and the left side tires on the darker apron down low.

Our instructor made sure we knew that, and that when the spotter on the 1-way radio said Lift and Left, we stayed to the left as let off the throttle, another racer was about to pass. Safety first! Don’t worry, the other drivers were gonna get those same instructions once I caught up to them. I got to pass four cars (never more than 6 on the track at once), two in turns. That’s pressure!

Much of the class involved going over the safety issues, such as how to quickly unhook the HANS device that keeps your head and neck safe (pull two release cords attached to the helmet’s sides), how to flip the latch on your tight five-point safety harness, and how to unhook the window’s safety net. Those are the three essential steps to a safe car exit, should, uh, a problem arise.

Oh, and the instructor passed around a steering wheel so we could get the feel of pulling on the center ring at its base to slide it on and off the steering column. You can’t get in or out of the car with the steering wheel attached. It’s that tight of a squeeze!

A few more tips and questions from the 20 or so other would-be drivers and it’s time to suit up. I chose a black jumpsuit, one because it came in short so I’d fit and didn’t have to wad up the legs, and two, the black is much sexier than the red suits. Those look like you’re on the safety crew … not that there’s anything wrong with that!

Next I grab a sanitized helmet (they ran large), and a balaclava to keep my hair out of my face (not really necessary). Then it’s out to the track to stand in line. This is a good time for pictures with the family as they stand with you in the pits (behind a short wall) until it’s your turn to drive.

“Trophy wife” hugs this racer before he risks his life. Yes, the insurance is paid up! Meanwhile the pit crew stands at the ready, anticipating track action.

Then you wait. The Rusty Wallace school here had five or six Nationwide and Cup series cars for drivers, plus the two for its pros to provide high-speed rides. All was well and but my mind starting playing the game of figuring out which car I’d get. I was hoping for the yellow and black Matt Kenseth style No. 17 DeWalt car, he being our home state hero.

It takes at least 10 (often more) minutes to load a driver aboard a racecar, take pictures, strap in, put on the helmet and ear pieces that let a spotter up in the scoring tower talk to you, and then get the HANS device hooked up properly. It takes a little less time when getting out, depending on how big a rush the conditions dictate.

So you wait and watch as this is repeated and you inch ever closer to the front of the line. Some folks trundle by at what appears to be city street speeds. Others hustle up to racier speeds quickly. You can tell visually, but also much by the sound of the racers as they rocket toward Turn 1. Some backfire at lower speeds.

There was one Oops moment this day, but fortunately it wasn’t My moment.

On my Saturday, the day turned from gorgeous warm spring morning to ugly black skies with a strong wind and sliding temperatures. When I was sixth in line to go racing, it started to sprinkle. Figures!

For safety, the racing was yellow flagged, then stopped.

We waited, tried to stay warm and watched the skies that alternated between sunny and demonic black. The track was directly on the edge of a line of storms moving through. Our phones predicted 100% chance of rain, but we caught a break and after 45 minutes were back to the track. But skies were still threatening.

The group ahead of me started slipping into their cars. Second driver out and the yellow light blinks on. The walkie-talkies crackled with the news. He’d hit the wall exiting Turn 2 on his first lap. Wow!

A closer look at the Oops moment experienced by one racer. Advice? Buy the crash insurance!

We waited some more. The skies darkened further.

A tow truck brought his car back. Ouch! Then an emergency vehicle returned the driver to the pits, none the worse for wear physically. Mentally, well? Crashing is the ultimate embarrassment. Folks applauded lightly as he got out and walked through the crowd. I’m not sure if it was because he could walk, or they were just being kind.

Finally, it was nearly my turn. An older gentleman got to go before me because he was tall and fit the next available car. Who knew there were tall and short cars?

Ready to climb aboard, and doesn’t it look like I belong here?

Then the Blue 2, as the pit boss called it, pulled in. This thundering blue and black Dodge Charger in Rusty Wallace livery, complete with his No. 2 all over it, was to be my beast.

Feet first into the window and onto the seat. Sit on the door frame for a couple pictures. This feels natural, like I should have been doing it for years. Slither inside the 500-horsepower racer and strap into my helmet, loosely. The steering wheel is still on the roof as a RWRE worker cinches up my belts and makes sure the HANS is attached. Then he hands me the wheel and I slip it in place. Turn it a couple times to make sure it’s latched. I needn’t have worried, the spotter will ask me to do that again just before heading on to the track.

Fasten that helmet and get the ear phones in there so I can hear the spotter.

Next my crew member hooks up the window net as I fiddle to slide the ear pieces under my helmet so I can hear the spotter. Now I tighten the helmet and flip the Ignition and Start buttons up, giving it a little gas. The Charger’s engine fires. It’s go time.

Well, almost!

Waiting, and waiting, in the pits. Ready to roll!

Now the pit boss, a Hoosier like me, runs through some final instructions to make sure my radio works, the wheel is attached and I understand Lift and Left. A lot of thumbs up here. OK, I pull up behind the car in line before me as it sits in pit lane. Let the clutch out, but keep those revs up. I don’t want to be the driver that kills his engine in the pits.

I sit anxiously behind the earlier driver for a minute or more. He finally pulls into the merge lane that brings a racer out of the pits onto the back straightaway. Then I wait in radio silence. Where’s the spotter? When do I go? Is my radio working? That huge black cloud is moving over Turn 1 now. Is it gonna rain again? Not now, please!

The cockpit is pretty sparse. HANS device laying on the dash now, but will go behind the head and neck soon. Minimal gauges and a bare steering column awaits a wheel.

After a two-minute wait I hear, “You’re good to go.” Finally!

Slip the stocker into first, then quickly to second to get it rolling and assure I won’t stall in front of the crowd, well, mainly the family. It’s easy into third gear and finally fourth as I pull into the racing line on the back straight. I’m done shifting for now, and there are only four gears anyway.

Take it easy the first lap. Feel the car. It’s heavy. Tap the accelerator on the straight, never a turn. Someone had already learned that lesson today. There’s plenty of giddyup. Then let off into the turn and feel the brakes. They are pretty grabby and squeal at low speeds. I’m probably going 40 mph, a low speed.

Out on the front straight for the first time and I can see the grandstands, the pits, the people in the pits. This is the last time I’ll pay any attention to all that until I pull into the pit lane.

I look like I’m nailing the throttle on this lap!

Lap 2 I accelerate a little harder out of the second turn and then hear Lift and Left. The pro driver rockets by on the outside. Next lap I pick up the pace a little more. Maybe I’m going 60 now. There’s no speedometer in the car, just a tachometer and I’m not really watching it. I’m keeping my eyes on the track. The instructor told us to look where we want to go, never at the wall or you’ll hit it. She told us of a shy driver doing about 30 mph that tapped the wall after being told the session was over because he looked at the wall. Really?

Several laps in now and starting to get the feel, but a yellow light. Shoot, is it raining on the track? I have no moisture on my windshield. Hmm, no rain, no cars stalled. Three laps later it’s green and I’m back in the groove. I pass a car in Turn 3 with the spotter assuring me, “You’re much faster, just go around.” Of course the outside lane in a turn is much closer to the cement wall. I know what it can do to a car. I’ve seen that already today and even though I took out the crash insurance ($75), I don’t want to shell out the $1,000 deductible.

Pass complete, I race down the front straight. A few laps later I catch another car going into Turn 1. Again the spotter advises the high line. I get by as I exit onto the back straight. Still feeling a little iffy in that high groove, but now I’m a racer, I’m passing folks, possibly the older gentleman (he was 80), but still!

Eventually it’s time to pit and let someone else fulfill a dream!

A few more laps and I’m holding the throttle down all the way to the cutoff point, doing heavier braking and feeling that my timing is at least acceptable now. I pass another car as I come out of Turn 4 on the main straight. Did “everybody” see that? What a move!

Just a couple more laps and I was feeling like the revs, the sounds, the roar and the shudder of the steel on jig-built chassis stock car was about to make me pass out. Darn it, this was my chance to shine, but the final lap I took it a little easier, just one last full throttle shot down the back straight before entering the pits.

Easy, really, except that while I was hitting maybe 100 on the straights and averaging about 70 mph on the track, the pros do it much quicker. RWRE doesn’t provide times, but my pit crew said I got better as I went and did 52 second laps, about 70 mph. The lap record is 185 mph or 20 seconds, but that was in an open-wheel Indycar back in 1998. I don’t see how.

Not a bad run for a semi-old-timer with a heavy right foot.

As I climbed from the car, first the window net down, then the wheel off, then release the HANS device, then the belts, then take that now hot helmet off my head. Pull my feet up into the seat and push myself out the window. Ah, fresh air, and a wave to my “fans” before reuniting with the family and taking my place on the victory podium. No autographs please!

That yellow? My brother-in-law and favorite pro photographer had snuck down to the first turn to get some photos of me lapping at speed. The RWRE folks didn’t care for that, so asked him to move and threw the yellow until he was back in the pits.

Everyone’s a winner at the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience!

Hey, but that got me a few extra laps on a track that I’ve known about since I was a kid, worshiping the likes of Tony Bettenhausen, A.J. Foyt, Roger Ward, Jim Clark, Bobby Unser, and my hero Jim Hurtubise. Herk was seriously burned here in a 1964 Turn 4 accident, but came back to race for years after that. That’s what heroes do.

Dreams do come true and Rusty Wallace, the 1989 NASCAR Champion, knows how to make that happen. It’s an experience I’ll cherish until I can’t crawl into or out of a race car anymore. But I’ve seen that it can still be done, even when that racer is 80!

Photos: Patrick McSweeney

Two car guys reunite after 36 years.

And we didn’t even know each other were car guys then

Author (left), Darrel (right) on set doing a special on the Milwaukee Brewers just before the ’82 World Series where they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals. It was a fun season!

It’s funny how life sometimes comes full circle and you are reunited with a coworker after a very long time and you find out something you didn’t know about him when you both worked together. That happened to me recently when I was reunited with Darrel Burnett. He was the Sports

Me and Darrel now. Slightly less hair and a few more pounds:)

Director at WLUK-TV in Green Bay, WI and I was his backup doing weekend sports and reporting during the week. From about 1981 to 1985, we rocked the Green Bay market until new owners came in and both of us ended up leaving.

RELATED: Hear the story about Bart Starr’s MVP Corvette.

Darrel drove this yellow 1978 Porsche 924 while I arrived in a 1979 AMC Spirit and later upgraded to this Spirit AMX with a 304 V8.

Fast forward 36 years

I retired a couple of years ago and started this car blog with buddy Mark Savage. Darrel found me on Facebook and I discover he is running The Automobile Gallery in Green Bay. So of course I had to go up there and catch up with Darrel along with checking out a place I call car heaven. As it turns out we are both huge petrol heads and The Automobile Gallery has some pretty cool cars as Darrel told me during this interview.

This hot wheels car is da bomb!

It was 1996 when we built the house we’re in now and had one big decision. Go to New Orleans to watch the Packers beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl or use that money to put in a Jacuzzi®. Well since going to the game would have been cool, it would only have been cool for a while, the Jacuzzi® would be with us for years.

I love taking what I call a “swirly”. Don’t read anything special into that word, it’s just warm water, jets, and something to make my skin feel silky smooth. It really relaxes me. Recently, I found a way to combine water jets and cars. For my birthday, my wife and daughter gave me a couple of Hot Wheels™ Da Bomb Bath Fizzers.

A quick look at the packaging and you might think that they are just regular bath fizzers with the Hot Wheels™ logo slapped on them. I plopped it onto the warm water and as it dissolved it revealed what else but a car. It’s made out of plastic and is about an inch long. It has a spring motor in it so if you hold it down and reverse it, the car will move forward on its own. Hot Wheels™ finds yet another way to reach new audiences and I love it.

The fizzers come in three colors, yellow, red, and blue and you should not have to pay more than seven or eight bucks for them. There are some places that are charging more. Go figure, price gouging on kids’ stuff. I thought that only happened when hot new cars come out.

Back to a time when American motors built cars worldwide

The Concord with a side of rice and beans

 

France, Germany, Iran, New Zealand, South Africa, and England all at one time manufactured Jeeps, Javelins, Americans, Hornets and more through partnerships put together by AMC’s E-VP, International Operations Roy D. Chapin Jr. One of those unique partnerships was set up about 2,000 south of the company’s major assembly operation, Kenosha, WI, in Mexico with Vehiculos Automotores Mexicanos, S.A.

For 40 years, this government-controlled company imported and produced automobiles and light trucks under license from Willys, AMC, Eagle, Jeep, Chrysler, Renault and designed their own vehicles based on AMC platforms.

One of the more interesting cars they designed and produced was the VAM Lerma, a cross between the Concord and Spirit. It was available as a three-door or a five-door hatchback, something not available on AMC cars built in Kenosha. It was named after Lerma, a city in Mexico where VAM produced engines. This wasn’t just a warmed-over Concord, it featured a different interior and the only element carried over from AMC was the instrument panel. It was focused on the top-end market in Mexico and never exported. While I couldn’t find sales numbers specific to the Lerma, it was a top 10 seller and at one time held a 9% market share.  But when Renault bought into AMC in the mid-eighties they had no interest in building AMC cars in Mexico and the partnership ended.

The Lerma lives on

It’s a 1/43 diecast model of the Lerma manufactured by IXO Models in Hong Kong. Besides this, they make all kinds of hard-to-find cars, motorcycles, and trucks based mostly on non-u.s models.

This one has a ton of miles on it. While it was manufactured in Hong Kong, I bought it off eBay and it came from Spain. That’s a lot more miles than you would see on the real deal. While I knew about VAM because of my dad working at AMC, I had never seen a model until I was poking around on Facebook and found a group of VAM enthusiasts.

The detail on this one that I acquired has amazing details. While the doors, hood, and hatch don’t open, there is a full interior. Exterior details include a hood ornament, simulated glass headlights, windshield wipers, side view mirrors, even the scripted name of the car on the back. I don’t normally collect cars this small because they lack the details of their larger counterparts but would consider any of their cars.

History: Kissel Motor Car Company

Kissel’s Gold Bug speedster stirred celebrity sales …

Forgive yourself if you’ve never heard of the Kissel Motor Car Company, originally known as KisselKar, with the curious moto of “Every Inch a Car.”

Sorry for the hand reflection, it was a SUNNY day. Or is that the ghost of Louis Kissel?

Founded by Louis Kissel and his sons back in 1906 when cars were still a new-fangled means of conveyance, Kissel cars lasted until 1930 when the Depression sunk it in a sea of red ink. The firm made more than 27,000 vehicles in its 25-year run.

While its factory in Hartford, Wis., about 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee, was out in the sticks, its cars were known to the elites of society from coast to coast. Most notable was the Gold Bug, a speedster with good power and a spiffy Chrome Yellow paint job that became its iconic color calling card. Continue reading History: Kissel Motor Car Company

A priceless Corvair

More valuable to this family than any other car

63 corvair, 1963 chevy corvair, corvair, corvair monza, corvair convertibleBy Paul Daniel

I love going car spotting but sometimes the cars come to me like this 1963 Corvair. One of the fun things I do during the summer is work at Ironwood Golf Course, about five minutes from my house. One day I show up to work at a really big golf outing and what’s parked right out front? This 1962 Corvair Monza Continue reading A priceless Corvair