Auto Events: Bixby Knolls Dragster Expo & Car Show

Ryan ZumMallen on

The beauty of local auto shows is that a good one can give you a glimpse into the history and the psyche of the community; it can take the things that make that city different from any other and display them in automotive form.

That’s exactly what fans saw this weekend at the 7th annual Bixby Knolls Dragster Expo & Car Show in Long Beach, CA.

More than 200 cars and a dozen retired dragsters shut down the busy Atlantic Avenue corridor to celebrate the legacy of the Lions Dragstrip and the hot rod culture that largely originated here decades ago. more

Chevrolet Celebrates Special Relationship With NASA Astronauts

Jeff Prescott on

Ever since Chevrolet Corvette owner Alan Shepard became the first American to travel into outer space and was seen driving his American classic, there has been a clear connection between astronauts and Vettes. Soon after his history-making flight, he was presented a new white 1962 Corvette. Today, approximately 30 of America’s surviving astronauts are expected to gather at Cocoa Beach, Fla., to participate in a parade commemorating the 50th anniversary of Shepard’s historic sub-orbital flight. Fittingly, they will be driven in Corvettes representing all six design generations built since the famed sports car’s 1953 debut.

The connection between NASA and Chevrolet was cemented by race-car driver and dealer Jim Rathmann who operated a dealership near the Florida Space Center. Sensing that most of the spacemen were at heart Corvette types, Rathmann negotiated a special lease arrangement with Chevrolet to put them into the sports cars. more

Collector Car App Puts Pricing, Shopping In Your Smartphone

Jeff Prescott on

In the endless stream of smartphone apps, few stand out as download worthy, and this new Classic Car Guide from Chubb Group of Insurance Companies is just such an app for car enthusiasts. The free app is powered by Keith Martin's Sports Car Market's database of more than 100,000 auction entries, and it provides up-to-date sales information for domestic and foreign collectible cars. It is a powerful tool for auction watchers, and great fun for those who prefer to window shop from a distance.

For those looking to buy or sell, the transaction data can be searched by vehicle identification number (VIN), make, model and year to help determine a fair current market price and to obtain insurance quotes. Users can search for collector vehicles currently listed for sale on Craigslist and eBay.

An to pass time when the Barrett-Jackson and Mecum car auctions aren’t on television, photos of collector vehicles and 20 years' worth of reference articles from Sports Car Market are also available through the application. more

2012 Jeep Wrangler Gets Trail-Blazing, Suburbia-Ready Pentastar V-6

Jeff Prescott on

Jeep is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, commemorating the introduction of the original Willys MA and MB “light reconnaissance vehicle” vehicle that proved to be an essential machine in World War II. Without the rapid, massive production of this affordable, versatile trucklet, American troops could not have been deployed as effectively throughout the war theaters. Nor would such a love for off-roading have been fostered. While the current 2011 Jeep line-up is available with special 70th anniversary packages, it is next-year’s Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited that will be most worth celebrating.

The original military target for what become known as the “Jeep” was: more

Video: 2011 Super Bowl XLV Ad – Mercedes-Benz Commemorates 125 Years
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Mercedes-Benz will celebrate its 125th anniversary with a 60-second Super Bowl commercial showcasing many milestone models. It is a great “Where Karl?” game for car enthusiasts, trying to identify some of the classic cars. Two notable ones to look for are the upcoming C-Class Coupe and SLS roadster, shown above alongside the revitalized CLS and next-generation SLK.

P. Diddy is the token star, with an unnecessary appearance that will elicit no sympathy. Janis Joplin provides the soundtrack, naturally, asking “Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz.”

Enjoy the extended version of the ad in the video below.

100th Anniversary Celebration: Chevrolet Camaro Convertible To Pace Indianapolis 500
Jeff Prescott on

Reviving the classic looking of the 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Indy pace car, a 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible will pace the next Indianapolis 500, thereby celebrating the 100th anniversary of both Chevrolet and the Indianapolis 500.  This marks the 22nd time that a Chevrolet has paced this legendary race.

Chevrolet will build 50 Festival Committee cars, with the first being sold for charity at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction.

All 50 examples will be based on the 400-horsepower SS convertible with the 2SS package, featuring Brembo four-piston brake calipers, Performance Launch Control, 20-inch polished wheels, performance tires, heads-up instrument display, and the auxiliary gauge package.

The cars will be distinguished for the race and automotive history by a Summit White exterior accented with orange stripes and door graphics. The interior is trimmed in orange leather, including front seat headrests embossed with the Indy 500 logo, along with white door panels and instrument panel trim. The instrument panel trim features extensions of the orange exterior stripes. more

WD-40/SEMA Cares Mustang GT Tuner Heads to SEMA Then Barrett-Jackson for Children’s Charities Auction
Debbie Murphy on

The WD-40/SEMA Cares Mustang is headed to the prestigious Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Show and Auction in mid-January by way of its Las Vegas debut at the SEMA Show, along with select West Coast auto events. The proceeds from the Auction will benefit children’s charities.

This is the second year of the SEMA charity arm and WD-40 partnership. Last year, the show debut was a 2010 Chevy Camaro SS/RS.

The Mustang GT, equipped with a 5-liter V-8, will be transformed into a 600-horsepower screamer featuring a body package from Street Scene Equipment, custom interior by Katzkin Leather, and entertainment system. Topping it off is a WD-40’s signature blue and yellow color scheme. If you can’t make the auction or it’s not within your budget, you can drive a Virtual WD-40/SEMA Cares Mustang on the online racing game and social network, Nitto 1320 Legends. more

Minicars, Microcars: Quirky Cars from the Past Draw Avid Fans
James M. Flammang on

Automakers enthusiastically proclaim how different their latest models are from the competition. Details certainly differ, and some really are distinctive. Still, telling one car apart from another isn't so easy anymore.

Despite their claims of uniqueness, all too often the end result is more similar to others in its class than distinct from them. It was not always thus.

Back in the late 1950s and '60s, into the 1970s, a flurry of truly distinctive vehicles reached American shores. Most were economy-oriented, but even the most ordinary examples typically had something special about them. Others ranged from unique to odd to bizarre—each one a car with character. more

Petersen Automotive Museum: Swap Meet @ The Pete
Debbie Murphy on

Looking for the mother of all swap meets? Petersen Automotive Museum is having a Swap Meet and Car Corral Dec. 4, 2010. Now, that’s our idea of a car-guy gathering, as it includes some other cool stuff too. The event will be held on the upper floors of the Museum’s parking structure and include a mix of items from the Museum, a car sale corral and vendor area for auto or motorcycle items.             

Buyers get in free. Better still, admission to the Museum itself is half off—just $5. You can use the excuse that you’re looking for a great Christmas gift for an enthusiast and hunt down that elusive part for your own project at the same time. The Swap Meet and Car Corral runs from 8 am to 2 pm. December 4, 2010. Mark your calendars.

Sellers can make some money on leftover parts and memorabilia and get their garages emptied out for that new project—all in one fell swoop. Vendor booths range from $20 to $30 with some covered spaces available for an additional $10. The car sale corral spaces for a car or truck go for $30, $20 for a motorcycle. Because of space availability, only auto and motorcycle related items are allowed. Vendors will also get free admission to the Museum for the day of the sale, plus complimentary parking.            

If you haven’t marked your calendar yet, there's more.      

Griot’s Garage, the official car care product provider for the Museum, will hold detailing demonstrations throughout the day—teaching techniques so your collector car can have the same glow as Museum pieces. Detailing pros from Griot’s will be available to answer your car care questions.            

You can even make it a family day. Come for the Swap meet and send the kids to the 5th Annual CARnival Family Fun Day, from 11 am to 3 pm. for unique arts and crafts projects. Participation in the Fun Day is free with admission and all kids are free Dec. 4.            

The Museum is located at 6060 Wilshire Blvd. (at Fairfax) in Los Angeles. For more information, call 323-930-CARS or check out the website           more

Renowned Musclecar Collector Car Auction
Deborah Neal on

RM Auctions, the world’s largest collector car auction house, and Jim Wangers, Pontiac’s renowned ad and marketing man fondly named “Godfather of the GTO,” are teaming up this Saturday, June 19, 2010 in San Diego, CA for a one-of-a-kind sale of some of the most well known and coveted musclecars ever built.

Do you want to own an exceptional piece of history? more

Porsche Celebrates 60th Anniversary Of Selling Cars In U.S.
Jeff Prescott on

2011 Porsche Boxster SpyderThe storied German automaker Porsche has reached another milestone, with 2010 marking the 60th year of selling cars in the United States. It began with the joint effort and vision of Ferry Porsche, Max Hoffman, and Johnny von Neumann who saw opportunity in America, an affluent nation largely untouched by the ravages of war.

In commemoration of its U.S. anniversary, Porsche has provided this entertaining history:

In the fall of 1950, Hoffman took delivery of two 1.1-liter coupes and put them on display at his 430 Park Avenue showroom in New York City. While the 356 had only 44 horsepower and cost as much as a Cadillac convertible, he thought this little Porsche deserved a chance.

His faith in Porsche was justified. He imported 32 cars in 1951, and by 1954 he was marketing 11 Porsches a week, or 30 percent of Porsche's production. At its peak, the United States would absorb up to 70 percent of Porsche's yearly production.

Hoffman was also an astute marketer. In 1952 while dining in a New York restaurant, Max told Dr. Ferry Porsche all cars of some standing in the world have a crest. "Why not Porsche, too?" he asked. "If all you need is a badge, we can give you one, too!"

Ferry then grabbed a napkin and began to draw the crest for the state of Baden-Wurtenberg with its curved stag horns. He added a black prancing horse from Stuttgart's coat of arms and the word PORSCHE across the top and handed it back to Max asking, "How about something like that?" With a bit of refinement and color, the famed Porsche Crest was born and today remains true to Ferry's original sketch more than half a century ago.

Porsche 550 in NYPorsche and the Hollywood connection
While New York would prove to be central to Porsche's U.S. success, California, even in the early 1950s, was considered the 'Car Mecca of the New World.' The Porsche foothold on the West Coast was established by another Austrian expat named Johnny von Neumann. Von Neumann was the scion of a well-known Viennese doctor and had emigrated to the United States in 1947 and had begun selling cars in the Los Angeles area.

In 1948, he opened up his own shop, Competition Motors in North Hollywood. The name was reflective of von Neumann's primary interest, racing.  While most of his business was focused on the repair and maintenance of sports cars, he eventually sold cars, as well.

On a 1951 vacation to New York, von Neumann decided to see his fellow Viennese Hoffman, whom he knew from before the war. "I stopped to say hello and being a 'salesman's salesman,' he asked me to take the car for a ride," von Neumann recalled to a journalist. "I thought the car was way ahead of its time, so I bought one and drove it back to California."  It was the first Porsche ever West of the Mississippi.

After selling that first Porsche, von Neumann bought several more, firmly established Porsche's West Coast beachhead, and continued to cater to the famous, the rich and the infamous. It was from von Neumann's Competition Motors shop that James Dean purchased his first Porsche, a 356 Speedster with which he won his first serious amateur race. He then traded that Speedster for the Porsche 550 Spyder in which he famously lost his life while en-route to his first race in the car in Salinas, Calif.

California would become Porsche's single largest market and, if broken out separately from all other U.S. sales territories, would rank as one of the largest markets for Porsche worldwide.

Porsche of America Corp. is born
By 1956, it became increasingly evident Max Hoffman's focus on Porsche had shifted. In addition to Porsche, Hoffman was now importing a sizable portfolio of brands under the Hoffman Motor Cars umbrella. Because of this diversification, it was difficult for Porsche to maintain the support and distribution standards Porsche felt were critical for the growth of the Porsche brand in the United States. This was to be a recurring concern during the history of Porsche in America.

In response to this need, Porsche of America Corporation (PoAC) was established. With headquarters in Teaneck, N.J., PoAC took over and improved and expanded Porsche's distribution network.

The Volkswagen years
For many years Dr. Ferry Porsche felt the only way to sustain the company in the long run and for it to remain an independent entity was for Porsche to develop a lower cost, higher volume model. While Porsche toyed with the idea of a less expensive 911 -- the 912 was one such short-lived attempt -- Dr. Ferry Porsche saw this could diminish the stature of the flagship 911.

In partnership with Volkswagen AG, Porsche developed the 914, a mid-engined,  two-seat Targa-type sports car available in two configurations -- the Porsche powered six-cylinder 914/6 and the less expensive and higher volume VW powered  914/4.

But the increased volume these two new cars were intended to generate could not be handled through the existing PoAC channel. And, as the volume 914/4 was to be powered by the flat four from the Volkswagen 411 and utilized many shared components, it made perfect sense to team up with Volkswagen of America (VoA). In addition, the Porsche family had long and close ties with Volkswagen, and in fact had used VoA's distribution chain elsewhere for many years.

During the partnership, VoA and Porsche sold more than 250,000 Porsches in the United States.

The birth of PCNA
In January 1984, the 323 U.S. Porsche-Audi dealers were notified after August 31 they would no longer be receiving Porsche cars, parts or support from Volkswagen of America, but from a new entity, Porsche Cars North America (PCNA).

With the establishment of its plant in New Stanton, Pa., Porsche felt VoA, as a U.S. auto manufacturer, would be more focused on increasing volume of the VW model line-up. The new Porsche sales chief, M. J. Nedelcu stated, "the quality of the marketing organization could no longer develop in sufficient measure to suit our exclusive automobiles."

With the termination of the distribution agreement, PCNA set up its operation in Reno, Nev. in September of 1984 to oversee all of the importation and distribution tasks formerly handled by Volkswagen of America. PCNA remained in Reno until March 10, 1998 when it relocated to its current home in Atlanta.

Today, PCNA is the exclusive importer of Porsche vehicles for the United States.

Given its New York origins, it is fitting that Porsche will introduce several models next week at the New York auto show, including the redesigned Cayenne SUV and Boxster speedster. (See our 2011 Porsche Boxster review.)

Read our past Porsche reviews:

2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder
2010 Porsche Panamera 
2008 Porsche Cayenne 
2007 Porsche Cayman 
2004 Porsche Cayenne 
2004 Porsche Boxster S 
2004 Porsche Carrera GT 
2003 Porsche Boxster S
2002 Porsche 911 Carrera
2001 Porsche 911 Turbo  

Check out our Porsche Research Center, with quick access to pricing, photos, reviews, and more.

And also read:
The History of the Porsche 911
Porsche Celebrates 60 Years of Sports Cars
autoMedia CARnival 01-20-10: This week in Auto Blogs
Brandy Schaffels on

carnival logoJanuary is quickly slipping by and rain has finally arrived on the West Coast. We've browsed our favorite automotive blogs all week long to gather the highlights from each.

flamesThe 2010 Detroit auto show is now open to the public, bringing its new headline events. Like a fire caused by an electric issue above the Audi stage that quickly ignited the roof above Audi and spread flames and black smoke around the hall. Jalopnik's got the insider scoop on the fire here.

NAIAS Flash MobOther, more entertaining, news from the Detroit Auto Show focuses on a flash mob  that broke out at the NAIAS Black Tie Charity Preview. Personally, I'm a fan of these goofy spontaneous dance outbreaks, and am considering learning the steps to Thriller,  just in case I ever get the chance to participate in one.

greenlings logoOne of the best parts of auto show season are the fabulous concept cars put on display by manufacturers. While most of these vehicles never see the light of day again after show season ends, according AutoBlogGreen column they do have real value, as a means to allow designers to explore ideas, technologies, and styles that either aren't technically feasible for the marketplace yet or are a little too out there to be widely accepted. Find out more in this edition of Greenlings.

Toyota LogoToyota has been denying cases of Sudden Unintended Acceleration for months now, blaming such incidences on "Floor mat Incursion." Recently, however, Safety Research reported on one New Jersey driver who actually brought his over-accelerating vehicle to the dealership with smoking brakes and an engine at full throttle - and no floormat -- providing the manufacturer with real proof that it DOES happen. Now, LeftLaneNews reports Toyota has launched a separate recall for 2.3 million vehicles concerning gas pedals that can malfunction and stick - without a floor mat in the vehicle. Vehicles affected by this recall include: 2009-10 Toyota Rav4, Corolla, Matrix, 2005-2010 Avalon, 2010 Highlander, 2007-2010 Tundra, 2008-2010 Sequoia and 2008-10 Camry - not including the Camry Hybrid. Want to find out more? Then check out this very informative Toyota Recall Video created by Checkered Flag Toyota.  Need to know what to do if your car experiences sudden unintended acceleration? Then check out this video with runaway car tips from Consumer Reports. Read our full report "Toyota Recalls 2.3 Million Vehicles For Sticking Accelerator."

Barrett Jackson auctionAutoblog has gone to Scottsdale for the upcoming Barrett-Jackson and RM auctions:  Where else can you find such a giant selection of fine classic cars in one city? We wish them all luck, however, as those Los Angeles storms have traveled to Arizona, bringing with them flooding, 50-mph wind gusts, and tornadoes. Two auction tents have collapsed causing cosmetic damage to most of the 600 vehicles on display, and temporarily closing the 101 Loop near Scottsdale Road.

rain drivingWest Coast drivers are feeling the pain as a week's worth of rain ruins their commute. While many of you might laugh at their misfortune because you've been living with seasonal rain and snow for a few months already, this is actually a monumental week for So-Cal drivers. Feeling a little road rage because you're stuck in inclement weather? Consider this rain meditation from AskPatty  to help you relax while stuck in the wet.

Conan Bugatti VeyronToday is Conan O'Brien's last night hosting The Tonight Show, and while that doesn't relate directly to the automotive industry, the funny guy has spent the last week or so finding ways to wreak havoc at NBC before they send him packing. As part of his vengeance, Conan created a "Ridiculously Expensive" joke skit, featuring new characters that may not be very comical, but cost the network millions.  We especially like this expensive bit featuring a custom Bugatti Veyron dressed up like a mouse. You won't find this clip on Hulu, but you can find it here at automopedia.

And with that million-dollar clip to help you remember Conan until his non-compete clause expires in the Fall, we thank you for joining us for this week's CARnival! Have you got something of interest you want us to include in a future carnival? Then fill out our online form  so we can be notified of your interesting entry to our weekly blog CAR-nival. Check back next week for another installment!

Brandy Schaffels, contributing editor


SEMA: Lingenfelter Trans Am Concept
Jeff Prescott on

SEMA Lingenfelter Trans AmRespected tuning house Lingenfelter Performance Engineering (LPE) unveiled a back-to-the-future muscle car with its T/A concept at the 2009 SEMA show. Certain to turn heads, the reborn Trans Am applies classic Pontiac cues to a 2010 Camaro, then cranks up the volume with abundant performance upgrades. The result is a clear example of what could have been, where it not for the auto industry crisis.

Inspired by the 1969 original, the exterior makeover features a new front fascia with custom headlamps, grille, and turn signals. The car's fender has a functional side extractor scoop and the rear quarter has a leading edge wheel flair. The rear corners of the car have been extended nearly four inches and are finished with a wrapped down stand-up spoiler. Custom-created taillight housings complete the body work. The rolling stock is custom 20-inch honeycomb wheels wrapping in 275/40ZR20 front and 315/35ZR20 rear Nitto tires.

Inside, the cockpit is dressed with bright blue woven vinyl seat inserts and metal turned instrument panel accents. SEMA Lingenfelter Trans Am rear

As with any LPE project, there is serious underhood alchemy with the T/A concept. The engine is built around a custom Racing Head Service (RHS) aluminum block with an impressive, and Poncho perfect, 455 cubic-inch displacement. It features 4.155" bore Diamond 11.5:1 compression ratio pistons and a 4.200" stroke Lunati forged crankshaft. LPE-brand CNC ported-and-polished LS7 heads and an LSX FAST 102 intake finish off the engine. The result is a potent, SEMA-worthy 655 horsepower and 610 ft.-lbs. of torque.

With or without the Pontiac division, it is clear tuners could supply 21st-century Firebirds. The Trans Am Depot is looking to produce conversions inspired by the Bandit-era second-generation Firebirds. (See “Sneak Peek: 2010 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.”)  

For now, the LPE car is a concept, but as they say, with a strong enough market response, anything is possible. more

autoMedia CARnival 9-18-09: This week in the auto blogs
Brandy Schaffels on

Frankfurt Motor Show logoIt's the week ending September 18, and we've browsed our favorite automotive blogs all week long to gather a collection of what we feel is the highlight from each. The Frankfurt Motor Show was the main focus online this week, with exotic alternative fuel concept vehicles such as the the Audi e-tron,   Peugeot Globule shapeshifting electric car, Mercedes-Benz BlueZERO E-CELL PLUS, and the Volkswagen E-Up and L1 arnering a fair amount of attention. More traditional vehicles, such as the Ford C-Max compact crossover,
Lexus 600h, Mini Cooper Coupe Concept, next-gen Toyota LandCruiser, 2010 Aston Martin Rapide,
2010 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, and even an 800-hp Brabus E V12, also gathered headlines. Take your pick, the smorgasbord of vehicles at Frankfurt  truly offered something for every automotive taste.

Jalopnik Cars of WalmarWe can always count on Jalopnik for the most unusual tidbit each week. Yes, we can. So, how about a gallery demonstrating the types of the automobiles found parked at everyone's favorite world's largest retailer. No, these are not art cars: they are the cars of WalMart.

1959 Bel Air vs 2009 Chevy MalibuThe Insurance Institute for Highway Safety celebrated its 50th anniversary by crashing a modern Chevy Malibu into 1959 Bel Air. The intent of the crash was intended to demonstrate how the leaps and bounds taken in automotive design contribute to passenger safety. Autoblog has an interesting assessment of the video, and while it's sad to see the demise of a perfectly lovely classic car, it's even sadder to see what happened to its crash-test-dummy driver. And as usual, the readers' comments are quite interesting as well.

Holden Commodore Police Car at LeftLaneNewsThe Holden Commodore enjoyed a brief run as the Pontiac G8 in the United States, but that came to an end with the demise of Pontiac this summer. Although GM has denied plans to sell a rebadged Commodore as a Chevrolet to U.S. consumers, the automaker might have a new set of customers: American police departments. Apparently, according to LeftLaneNews, General Motors CEO Fritz Henderson recently confirmed in an Australian media interview, rumors saying a Commodore police cruiser could be destined for America.

Jay Leno Electric FocusJay Leno should be nicknamed "The Regurgitator," because you just can't keep that man down! After leaving "The Tonight Show," Leno has recently reappeared in a new primetime talkshow format, and with him he brings his interest in specialty automobiles. AutoBlogGreen has  info on Jay's Green Car Challenge, which puts celebrities behind the wheel of an electric Ford Focus competing for best possible lap times.

Barack Obama on carsPresident Obama made the headlines at Consumer Reports in a blog about his recent visit to a General Motors factory in Ohio. While there, the POTUS unveiled new regulations for fuel economy: By 2012 new cars and trucks must average 29.2 mpg, but those targets will increase to average 35.5 mpg by 2016. Apparently, according to research at CR, "more than 80 percent of Americans said fuel economy was the most important factor in choosing a new car."

truck antlers at askpattyHave you ever taken a good close look at the collection of automotive gadgets found in those onboard airline product catalogs? Just because most of us really CAN live without animated hitch critters doesn't mean we can't still secretly wish for them! AskPatty reviews the Delta Airlines "Skymiles" catalog, and discovers some practical devices meant to make life in and with your car more convenient.

Thanks for joining us for this week's CARnival! Have you got something of interest you want us to include in a future carnival? Then fill out our online form so we can be notified of your interesting entry to our weekly blog CAR-nival. Check back next week for another installment--until then, have a great weekend!

Brandy Schaffels, Contributing Editor