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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
What am I supposed to do with all these pedals?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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.
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!
Dale Earnhardt’s win in Pocono last week marked his second win this season, it also marks the first time in ten years that Dale Jr. has had more than one win in a season.
With about ten-ta-go!, Dale Jr. laid the hammer down and passed Brad Keselowski who was having and issue with a piece of debris on the front of his car at the time. The 88 took full advantage of the situation, got to the front and was able to pedal the throttle once the nose of his Chevy has some clean air to to breath.
Restarts were downright crazy, as we saw the pack go 4 and 5 wide in an attempt to gain track position. It seemed as though if you could get your car out front, it was hard for the cars that were behind you in the dirty air to gain ground and pass.
The boys will be in Michigan this weekend which also happens to be a track that Dale Jr. runs very well at. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the 88 get a back-to-back win this weekend.
Photo Source: Hendrick Motorsports
Americans have always been fascinated with souping-up and hot rodding cars. To honor this tradition, the U.S. Postal Service has decided to release a limited-edition Hot Rods Forever Stamp.
The stamps were unveiled on Friday June 6th at the National Street Rod Association (NSRA) Nationals East plus Conference in York, PA. Each of the stamps feature a 32 Ford “Deuce” roadster.
Barry Meguiar, a lifelong hot rod enthusiast and owner of “Meguiar’s Car Wax”, helped to unveil the new stamps that can now be purchased through the U.S. Post Office.
We were invited to do an interview with Barry of Friday, where he told us a little bit about these new stamps and also took a few questions from blog hosts Tony and Jeremy.