Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Cars That My Brother Sends Me #1

My brother Troy has "eclectic" taste in vintage cars. He finds the rare, the cool, the one-of-a-kind, and usually cheap (with exceptions) and then sends me the "For Sale" ads. So here's a batch, and I'll post more groups of them as he sends them to me...

1978 Dodge W150 "True Spirit" truck...$5000

1977 Pontiac Grand Am...$2000

1936 Dodge Truck...$575

(From Ty) 1972 Dodge Charger ...$2600

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Could Paul Walker of Fast And Furious Fame Have Survived The Fatal Porsche Carrera GT Crash?

On Saturday afternoon, the news reports began to trickle in. Paul Walker, the 40-year-old star of "The Fast And The Furious"movie franchise, had died in a horrific car accident.

 The accounts so far have pinned down these details; Paul was the passenger in Roger Rodas's Porsche Carrera GT, a mind-blowingly powerful car capable of 0-to-60-mph in less than four seconds, with an approximate horsepower of 612bhp and a 205-mph top speed.

 This is not a toy.

Jeremy Clarkson, of Top Gear UK test-drove one, and remarked that it was like driving on a knife edge; exhilarating, but scary. 


 (click on the link above for the Top Gear feature)

Also (again according to early reports), the police found rubber-tread marks on the nearby pavement, as if someone was doing figure-eights and "donuts". Obviously, these can't be tied conclusively to the accident, but circumstantially, it seems that the duo, with Roger, a former race-car driver and business partner of Paul's at the wheel, may have been speeding before they made their way back to a special event. According to eyewitnesses and unofficial police reports; 


"In fact the impact from the crash was so fierce that debris from the Porsche destroyed parts of a landscape garden and shattered windows of buildings hundreds of feet away. A property manager for a complex located more than 100ft from the scene told radaronline.com that the crash hit the building where he works. 'Debris flew down the hill into our parking lot,' said Melvin Termain. 'A tree got broken, it messed up a little of the landscaping.'Debris flew up and hit the window in the furthest unit'.  "


  Sheriff's detective Jeff Maag told People magazine the driver "was doing well over 45 [mph] – [it's] fair to say at least twice that."


 The gathering they were returning to was sponsored by the Roger Rodas and Paul Walker "Reach Out Worldwide" charity, to raise money for the Typhoon victims in the Philippines.

There were early reports that indicate the Porsche was racing.  That doesn't appear to be the case. Parking lot CCTV footage shows an obstructed view of the crash of the unaccompanied Porsche , and what appears to be a dark souped-up race import (Honda?) appearing quickly on the scene. But there doesn't appear to be another vehicle in close proximity to the Porsche when it hits the pole and tree.

Here's a Google street view of the road. You can see that it's very tempting stretch to put the petal down.

Here's an aerial view.

Other cars arrive quickly to the scene, but in vain.

There is also other footage of the crash filmed by a couple who worked in the business park, who thought they were filming an action movie. This does give credence to the theory that there was some noticeable tire squealing happening, as it would be odd to make the assumption that there was an action movie happening if a car was simply driving around the area, unless they start filming at the sound of the crash itself, which may very well have been the case.

 From the crash scene, it appears that the car spun out of control, hitting both a tree and a light pole, nearly severing in half before coming to rest and bursting into flames. The explosion was apparently so loud that several friends of the two heard the accident 1/2 mile away and raced to the scene, and with handheld fire extinguishers tried to put out the fire. The inferno was too intense, and they were unable to reach Paul, who was described as unconscious and buckled in his seat. When the police and firefighters arrived, the car was fully-consumed in flames, and the friends of the trapped men had to be forcibly restrained from endangering themselves as they attempted time and again to reach Paul, who was the only one of the pair visible inside.

The bodies were badly burnt, and the coroner withheld formal identification until dental records were received.

According to the released coroner's report, Los Angeles County Coroner's Assistant Chief Ed Winter said the men died "within seconds" of the crash. More details will be available when the final autopsy is released, Winter said.

Collision-caused fire deaths are not common in the US, but on average, someone is killed in a car-collision fire approximately every two days (according to the National Fire Protection Association, 2007).




So back to the original question: Could Paul Walker have survived this crash?


The Porsche Carrera GT is a top-shelf sports car. The body is mainly composed of carbon fiber, which is stronger than steel, and much lighter. The safety features are top-notch, utilizing the Porsche Side Impact Protection System (POSIP)

As described by the company itself:

"POSIP, fitted as standard, consists of side impact protection beams in the doors and two side airbags on each side: an integral thorax airbag is located in each seat side bolster and an upwards-inflating head airbag incorporated within each door. Additional safety features include the headrests which form an integral part of each seat, an energy-absorbing steering column, three-point seat belts with pretensioners and force limiters and energy-elements in the dashboard."
These are the latest 2014 safety features, the crashed car was a 2005 which had dual front airbags and front side airbag. The other airbags mentioned above were for later models.

Still, sounds pretty good, right? Unfortunately, the problem isn't necessarily in the surface of impact, but rather the deceleration of the body in G-force. When the body in motion comes to a rapid stop from high speeds the force is tremendous. They estimate that Princess Diana suffered head G-force of over a 100, and her torso of 70g's in her fatal accident, tearing the main artery in her heart. The amount of force that Paul and Roger was subjected to is still conjecture, but it could have easily been enough to render them unconscious.
Here's a chart giving examples of G-force at rising speeds...

Which begs the question of whether they could have even been saved.

If they were to be rescued, it would have had to have been attempted very quickly. The advantage of carbon fiber is that it is strong and light, a very tough shell to crack. But, the trade-off in this instance is profound. CF in cars normally uses a bonding resin, and this resin in combination with the carbon fiber can be deadly. It burns at a high temperature, and would have created a heat barrier impossible to broach without fire suits, and prevented anyone getting close to the car. It is interesting to note that Porsche recalled it's $100,000 911 series last year due to faulty fuel lines that could possibly cause fires, but there's no evidence to suggest mechanical failure here. It seems here that outside of determined mechanical failure, that it was simple hubris, perhaps over-confidence in the veteran's race car driver skills at high-speed, that led to "pilot error" and cost the life of a man made famous starring in movies about speeding cars doing dangerous stunts.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Win A Date With "Miss Hurst", Linda Vaughn ! (1967)

In 1967, Pontiac was staring down the four-barrel of the highly-anticipated Camaro, and needed something to draw eyeballs back to their sporty (but six-months behind schedule) Firebird line.
Enter "Miss Hurst".
Linda Vaughn was a curvaceous, vivacious blonde who was the billed as a secondary attraction (but honestly, sometimes she was the main attraction) at circuit races in the late 1960's and early 70's. She was the sexy symbol in the flesh for the Hurst Shifter line, and she always had an easy time drawing men's focus to her products. She congratulated racers in the Winners Circle, and did it in skimpy gold lamé outfits (sewn by her mother).

 How could this car company use this perennial track favorite to get back a little of the spotlight?
 The promotion thought up by Pontiac's Jim Wangers was perfect; it was open to active serviceman only, and not only included a date with the blonde bombshell, but a trip out of the jungles of Vietnam and a ride in the pace car at the Daytona 500. 

The response was a deluge of clipped ads and an avalanche of mail from military bases around the world.
Due to the morality issues of setting up a single serviceman, deprived of female companionship for months, with the bountiful Miss Vaughn, a "conveniently" married man was declared the lucky winner. ADJ3 Leonard Hobbs and his wife partook in the weekend festivities together along with Linda, and it remained a chaste affair with the oft-chased Miss Vaughn.
Still, it kept the hopes and spirits high of a lot of army grunts, dreaming in their cots in that far-off country, of a possible rendezvous with  the "siren of stock cars".
The lovely Linda finally dashed the hopes of the men in uniform when she married racer Bill Tidwell in 1972, but she continued to promote Hurst and others with her incredible charm (and other assets) well into the 1980's.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Ultimate In 1950's Vintage Hot Rod Accessories

If you were putting together a race car in the 1950's, some of these adaptations would be considered mandatory, and others just cool. We'll let you decide which is which...


The "bow-tie" steering wheel, perfect for that rail dragster, especially when your projected turning radius is six-inches.

The track-nose grille, a staple of the 1951 Dick Flint Ford roadster and others.

If you ever desired access to "Jet Power", it was right at your toes with this aluminum gas pedal...


How about a Stewart Warner 8k tachometer? Marings and Co. advertised these in the early Hot Rod magazines.
Chromed BLC type headlights, for show AND go on the street and strip.

The Majestic Allard K2

Here's a couple of shots from Motor Trend Magazine, June, 1950 of the best of the beasts, the late-1940's Allard.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Miller Special Man: Jimmy Murphy Was One Tough Sonovabitch

By all accounts, Jimmy Murphy was the kind of guy you wanted to smash in the face on the race track, but buy him a beer afterwards. A helluva competitor, and a heckuva nice guy. He was also one of the evolutionary links between the eras of spectacle events and the dawning of the Golden Age of motor racing. 

His is the story of racing itself...

Jimmy Murphy, at the peak of his powers, and soon to be dead. This was taken the year before he died in his Miller Special.
     It is said that some men are destined for greatness in their field; Jimmy was the embodiment of that. A natural talent behind the wheel, he began full-time racing in 1919; in 1920 he finished 4th in the Indianapolis 500.
   The Duesenberg Brothers had been early advocates of Jimmy's. After a matter of months, he had been paid to be team-driver, and then promoted to number one when Duesenberg decided to take on the great Europeans. They entered three cars in the French Grand Prix, and Jimmy was to be the point man.

Then disaster struck. 
As Murphy was running a practice lap with Louis Inghibert, he crashed the car, flipping end over end into a ditch. He was confined to a hospital bed with internal injuries until two-hours before race-time. But that was just a minor obstacle. After being helped into the cockpit, the Thundering Irishman smashed the speed record, and won the race, finishing with a flat tire and a destroyed radiator.

Great ad from 1923 featuring Jimmy Murphy.

In 1922, Murphy bucked the Dusenbergs, and ran a Miller engine in his Indianapolis 500 car. Calling it the "Murphy Special", he dominated in winning the event. He was the National Racing Champion for the year, and finished second in 1923 despite missing several European races. 

    1924 was supposed to be his year. His racing points were piling up, and he was on his way to another crown when, with 12 miles left in the AAA Championship 150 mile race in New York, he was attempting to pass competitor Phil Shafer. 

  Jimmy Murphy had raced on the wooden board circuit for years, without serious injury, and the Syracuse dirt-track was considered one of the safest. This time, however, the Irish hero went into a skid at tremendous speed, the brakes locked, and he crashed through a wooden fence lining the track. He was killed instantly, a chunk of timber tearing through his chest. He was 30.

   Because he had accumulated so many race points up to that point, his total was enough for him to be awarded the annual Champion Driver title posthumously.

In five years, he had accumulated 18 major victories (a pace hard to imagine now), and absolutely cemented his status as one of the greatest, if not the greatest driver of all time.

Jimmy Murphy's grave in Calvary Cemetary, East Los Angeles.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dissect A Dash #5: The Ross Jackson 1932 Ford 3-window Coupe

In this edition of Dissect A Dash, we take a look at
 the Ross Jackson 1932 Ford 3-window coupe,
circa 1959.

This was a special build overall. It steered away from the belly-button Deuce look, and carved out a real unique profile that you don't see often even today.

When was the last time you saw a full-fendered, three-window coupe, with whitewalls, stretched hood and with that silhouette?

And that one-off attitude extended to the cockpit as well. Let's take a gander...

First off, dig that full-chrome job! The dashboard and rail went in for the polished appeal, and even in black and white you can tell this had to be a show-stopper at the cruises.
Of course, you should know by now what the centerpiece is; a Stewart Warner set. And what's interesting is that Ross mounted this Hollywood panel upside down, and it works visually because the angles splay up and open, as if he had just taken the lid off a silver box. It leads the eye to the surrounding chrome, and the other measured details.

Notice the Hollywood Panel on the left, right-side up!

 They are all SW gauges, of course, and what looks like two pull-switches, likely lights and wipers, and a warning light (or possibly a start-button) in between. 
To the drivers right, there is a radio. Below the panel is what appears to be a vacuum gauge combo and a series of toggle switches underneath (for either a nitrous or supercharger set-up?). To the left of the panel is a series of Cole Hersee flush-mount warning lights and indicators. Probably blinkers, and maybe an oil or engine-on light. You don't see as many of these Cole Hersee lights on the old rods; they really work in a smooth chromed panel however, as they have their own polished bezel that make the colored lights look like jewels in a calm river of silver.

All in all, Ross acquitted himself here quite well. Although it's a home-job, it's carefully considered and rendered with real thought and care. 
A true classic, and well-worthy of a Dash Dissection!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Tether Race Car Dashes From 1940 to 1955

Tether car racing has a rich and interesting history, which we'll delve into.  For now, I'm going to post one aspect that I find fascinating; the tether car dashes. 
I'll expand on these over the next couple of days, but for now, here's a few to whet your appetite...

A great match for the sprint car above would have been the Maring custom set made by Stewart Warner in the 1940's. They were a speedo-tach combo, and they were the over-sized gauges, possibly the inspiration for such a detailed racer!

Both of the above are a dead-ringer for the dash below them of a real live, 1947 -era sprint car special, right down to the engine-turned dash panel and black-face Stewart Warner gauges. All three look full-scale, only the bottom one actually is.

This one up above is my favorite, because I'm such a Mopar fan. The detail is astounding when you consider that their model is based off of a half-year transition dash set, the 1933 Plymouth PC.
You rarely see this cluster, and to see it reconstituted on a toy is astounding and wonderful. 
Top notch!

Yes, these are just scale versions of SW gauges. Tremendous!