Shocking Electric Power

Tesla Model S

I have a bit of a nutty-crunchy hippie streak.  I’ve worn through a couple pairs of Birkenstocks in my lifetime, and I’m kind of into the whole eco-friendly thing.  You might think it’s weird, then, that I work for an auto parts company, but I understand that everyone’s got to get from point a to point b, and I know a well-maintained car is better for the environment than a broken one.

So, naturally, I’m pretty excited about new technological developments in engine efficiency, alternative fuels, hybrid and electric engines.  You may or may not think environmental issues are a big deal, but you might want to get excited about these technologies anyway.  Why?  Because of the performance benefits they offer.

Audi has won Le Mans the past three years with a hybrid engine.  F1 has gone hybrid.  Porsche, Ferrari, and McLaren have all released crazy, top of the line supercars with hybrid engines, in the form of the 918, LaFerrari and P1, respectively.  The 918, as an example,  can accelerate from 0-60 in less than three seconds, according to Car and Driver.  Lamborghini might be joining the fun soon with its Asterion hybrid (Asterion is the name of the mythical minotaur, a hybrid of bull and man.  Very clever, Lambo).  In a review of BMW’s new i8 hybrid sports car, Motor Trend suggested that BMWs “i” line is the new M, referring to the Bavarians’ famed M performance line.  Hybrids and electric cars have come a long way from the first Priuses (Prii?).

So what’s so special about electric motors?  Well, they just kind of spin.  They don’t have to convert linear motion into rotation the same way piston motors do.  That reduces a lot of the internal forces and lets them rev up very quickly and reach very high rpms. They also have a relatively flat torque curve, which means that as soon as you step on the gas (or the charge?  The juice?), you’re sending twist to the wheels.  All that adds up to very quick acceleration.  The supercars mentioned above use the electric motor for “torque fill,” to fill in the space as their big gas engines rev up.

The most impressive electric car I’ve seen though, doesn’t come from any of the big sports car brands.  It was built by two British brothers and has the body of a ‘60s VW Beetle.  It can reportedly do the quarter mile in less than ten seconds after hitting 60 in 1.6 seconds.  If you’ll pardon the pun, that’s shockingly quick.

Why Learning to Drive a Manual is a Lot like Playing Guitar

After nearly ten years of driving, I finally decided to learn how to drive a manual.  I’ll admit that seems odd.  Most people either dive right in, or just decide to live without stickshift driving in their repertoire of life skills.  I could have fallen into that latter category (I’m sure the serious gearheads out there will be glad to have won over another convert, and win me over you have).  Sure, I like to drive fast, I like to watch the occasional F1 race or rally stage on TV, I can change a spare tire, but I don’t exactly bleed motor oil like a lot of the folks at 1A Auto do.

In fact, my first and primary hobby is music.  I started playing guitar before I could get my learner’s permit.  Recently, though, I decided to plunge a little deeper into the automotive world.  I started looking to trade in my old car and found myself thinking I’d like to learn how to drive a standard.  Everyone in the office kept telling me how fun it is.  So, I decided to jump in literally with both feet.  The sink or swim method of learning how to drive manual has been interesting, and not without its mishaps, but in a lot of ways, it reminds me of learning a musical instrument.  You might find that a strange comparison, so let me go through some of the similarities:

  1.  You have to use your ears:  This one will probably seem obvious to any of you who have been driving manual for a while.  When you’re revving too high or too low, it’s time to shift.  When a note sounds too high or too low, it’s time to tune your instrument.
  2. You have to coordinate your whole body:  One of the hardest things when your first learning guitar is that you have to tell your left hand to do one thing, and your right to do another.  Then you might start bobbing your head or tapping your toe to keep beat.  A bassist friend of mine even pointed out to me once that, when we were playing, I was breathing once every measure.

Driving stick is a similarly integrated experience.  You might have to have both feet and both hands all doing something different, say if you’re downshifting into a hard corner.  All those different parts need to work together smoothly to produce the desired effect.

With that being said, the fact that you have to get your whole body involved is a big part of the fun of both driving stick and playing guitar.

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What am I supposed to do with all these pedals?

  1.  A good teacher notices the small things: When I first started playing guitar I thought I’d never get the hang of barre chords.  That’s where you lay one of your fingers across several strings (just like car people, musicians have their own technical jargon).  No matter what I tried, some of the strings would make a dead thunk noise.  My guitar teacher told me to hold my thumb a different way behind the neck.  That changed the way my other fingers were arched and quickly cleared things up (actually, it also took a lot of practice, but that’s the next bullet point).  It takes a good teacher to give you that one little adjustment that can make big changes.

Learning to launch my car was a similar story.  For a long time, it seemed like whether I got the car rolling or stalled out came down to random chance.  Finally, while I was practicing in the neighborhood, my uncle told me to hold the clutch at the bite point for a split second.  That was the one tip I needed to consistently get going.

  1.  Perfect practice makes perfect:  With a guitar, if you don’t stay focused on technique you can get sloppy.  I find that, at least at this early stage of learning, if I relax my focus too much I get some really stuttery, rough shifts.  As mentioned above, it’s the little bits of technique that make all the difference, which is why it pays to practice getting the little things right.
  2. You’re going to be really annoying in the beginning:  No one wants to hear you creak and squawk on the guitar and no one wants you to almost roll back into their bumper.  You can try all you want to seclude yourself –  practice guitar hidden away in your bedroom, or practice driving secluded backcountry roads –, but eventually you’re going to have some effect on the people around you, and probably not a 100% positive one.  You’re going to annoy people, and they’re going to tell you.  Ignore them.  Just keep practicing and it will all come together.

 

Someone Stole Part of my Car. Here’s What I Did About It.

Someone Stole Part of my Car.  Here’s What I Did About It.

I recently bought a rad 2006 Subaru WRX.   It’s got low mileage and it’s in great shape.  I was pretty proud of my purchase.  So, naturally I was pretty bummed out when, at the end of a work day, I found out the bumper had been popped out and piece was taken out of it.  It seems some punk kids (have I really gotten so old that I use the phrase punk kids, now?) saw a cool car and decided to ruin the owner’s day (they were successful).

So I was faced with the question of what I was going to do next.  File a police report?  The part frankly wasn’t worth enough to make that worth anyone’s time – which does raise the question why anyone would take it in the first place.  Seek vigilante justice?  As appealing as Charles Bronson made it look, I don’t think that’s my style.  In the end, I decided it would be best to just move on and get a replacement.  I checked to see if 1A carried the part, so I could get that sweet, sweet employee discount, but sadly we didn’t have it.  So now I had to find it on the open market.

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This is the part they took.

So first of all, I had to figure out what to even call that piece.  I started searching various phrases in eBay: bumper insert, bumper trim, bumper vent.  “Bumper vent” brought up a couple appealing results.  They seemed a bit pricey, though, for such a small piece.  Many eBay listings use manufacturer part numbers, so you can check your fit.  It’s also a convenient way to comparison shop.  You can search eBay, Google, and any other resources you want for that part number.  The listings I saw did not happen to have the part number, but luckily for me, the 1A purchasing team was able to turn up the part number.

I searched the part number in Google and found it on subarugenuineparts.com.  Even better, they had the part already painted to match.  The only problem was, I wasn’t sure what color my car is.  How am I supposed to tell the difference between Steel Gray Metallic and Crystal Grey Metallic by eye?  Sometimes that kind of info is found on a placard inside your door jamb.  Not on my car, though.

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Does this look more Crystal Gray or Steel Gray to you?

By sheer coincidence, I also had to replace a headlight bulb around the same time.  I noticed an info plaque under the hood, near the firewall.  On it, it said, “Color Code: 48W.”  Back to Google.  A search for “Subaru 48W” told me that my car is Crystal Gray Metallic.

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I ordered the part, it came quickly, and I was able to easily pop it into place by hand.  I can definitely tell that my brakes feel sooo much more vented with it.

10 More Days of Shocktober – Did You Get a Free Shock Yet?

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There are just 10 days left for massive Shocktober savings.  If you haven’t already taken advantage of it, now is the time.  If you buy 4 qualified Monroe shocks or struts, you get a rebate for one of them. That’s a free auto part folks! Does life get any better?  Now, you may be asking yourself:

How do I know if I need shocks/struts?  If your shocks/struts have over 50,000 miles on them – they are likely worn out. In that mileage, a shock/strut has cycled up and down 87.5 MILLION times.

Where is the rebate form? You can download it right here: Shocktober Rebate Form

Who can I call for help when I’m confused? You can call 1A Auto’s excellent customer service department at 888-844-3396 and/or you can also call Tenneco directly with questions at 888-357-6937

You can see more frequently asked questions here: Frequently Asked Questions

You find new shocks and struts for your vehicle here: 1A Auto Shocktober

Four Gears, Slicks Out Back, Hemi Out Front, 1966 Dodge Charger, ‘Merica.

1966 Hemi Charger_1 Oh no. This is definitely not the car on your childhood-bedroom wall poster. This is a lime green, slick-carrying, clutch-smashing, elephant-filled UNICORN,  covered from head to tail in grime, and it does. not. even. care! This car doesn’t have time for soapy water-spritzing because it’s too busy tearing through 4-GEARS and pulling the front wheels through the grocery store parking lot! If this Dodge were an animal, it would be a woolly mammoth with t-rex teeth, chainsaws for hands, and the fearlessness of a honey badger. If this Dodge were coffee and a pastry, IT WOULDN’T BE, because it doesn’t have time for lazy mornings! ‘Merica!

Okay, get serious for a moment please.  Let us assume that this delicious limey 1966 Dodge Charger is a matching number, Hemi, 4-speed car, and it is one of only about 250 ever built. Fancy math will tell you that the value of this vehicle is somewhere between a billion and a trillion dollars at a Barrett Jackson auction. That said, the monetary value of this car is of little importance in my eyes. That is not the reason that this car caught my attention and captured my imagination. All of the little imperfections, character, and wear are what make this car perfect. At 425 horsepower and 490 foot pounds of torque, this has essentially the most potent drivetrain ever installed into a production car, and it appears to be getting used like it was intended.  It isn’t sitting atop a turn table with mirrors underneath it and glimmering chrome brake rotors. Nope. It is carrying a pair of slicks in the trunk and rowing gears down back roads like it should be.  There is not any aspect of this car that I would change if it were mine. It could easily be left in a grocery story parking lot with little stress of paint chips and dents.  It could then be taken to the track to hand out smiles and crush dreams. I can’t say for sure that this car is an original survivor, but given the sum of its components, it is undoubtedly unlike the rest.

Monday Morning Interview With Ryan Blaney About His Week In Kentucky

We were able to sit down and chat with Ryan Blaney on Monday morning about his week in Kentucky.

Ryan challenged Kyle Busch for the lead during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, and brought home a top five finish in both the truck series and the Nationwide series.

 


AutoTrader.com Dukes of Hazzard Commercial

While getting my nightly fix of gear head TV, this AutoTrader.com Dukes of Hazzard commercial suddenly appeared before my eyes.

As a guy that grew up watching Bo and Luke Duke shoot a bow and arrow out of the window of an orange 69 Dodge Charger while out-running the law , it was great to see the old general at it again!

 

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