Thursday, January 31, 2013

Fuel Cell Technology Advances Even Further!

The 2012 Honda FCX. Image Courtesy of Honda.

Anyone who has enough common sense can see that running cars on fossil fuels is a practice that needs to be phased out. The big debate that's raging in the automotive industry right now is what's the best way to wean us off our use of fossil fuels. There are people who tout biodiesel as a great alternative, mostly because the tech is pretty well-developed and could be implemented quickly. A growing faction of the auto industry is putting their weight behind electric cars, especially with the recent success of the Tesla Model S.

For years and years many of the largest automakers in the world have been trying to crack what they consider the holy grail in alternative fuels: hydrogen fuel cells. These automakers feel that fuel cell technology is the future. Fuel cell cars drive more like internal combustion models. Gas stations can be outfitted to deliver hydrogen (this one is debatable, say many electric car proponents). The best part of hydrogen fuel cells is tailpipe emissions are only a small amount of water.

There have been big problems with developing the technology. Fuel cell vehicles have been pretty slow (although Honda's FCX was the first to solve that problem). Many have wondered how the hydrogen will be stored and transported.

Mercedes has recently tackled one of the big problems: size. Hydrogen fuel cells, like lithium ion batteries, take up quite a bit of space. Quite a while ago GM was playing around with fuel cell "skateboards" where the cells were built into the car's chassis, making it thick and heavy. Mercedes has developed a fuel cell engine that is the same size as an internal combustion engine, meaning fuel cell vehicles don't have to contain a huge array along the entire chassis. Just this week Mercedes announced it is teaming up with Nissan-Renault and Ford to mass produce fuel cell vehicles and begin pushing for most hydrogen fueling infrastructure.

The new and more compact Mercedes fuel cell engine. Image courtesy of Daimler.
What does this mean for the future of the automobile? Only time will tell for sure, but a development like this could put fuel cell vehicles in the hands of millions of drivers across the globe, significantly dropping the demand for oil. I'm sure this isn't the last of this story, so look for more developments in the future. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Entertaining Video of the Day: Guy in a Honda Has a Cargasm Over Three C7 Corvettes

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. Photo courtesy General Motors.

The new C7 Corvette is picking up quite a bit of interest, both inside and outside the automotive world. Anyone who knows the difference between a wrench and their stick shift can tell a new generation of Corvette is a big deal.

And the C7 is a big deal, with numerous improvements over the C6. Of course, most people don't worry too much about what's under the skin of the new 'Vette, getting all hot and bothered over those new chiseled looks.

I'll be honest, the first time I see a C7 on the road I will be giving it a long hard look. The guy in the video below, who is riding in a late 90s Honda (either a Civic or Accord) doesn't just stare at three C7s on the road, but he makes the female driving the car stalk them as he has a cargasmic episode in the passenger seat. The best part of the video, by far, is the cheesy heavy metal music playing as a soundtrack (with lyrics about jumping on a tiger and whatnot). As the guy approaches the Corvettes once they're parked you can tell he's wobbly-legged and tongue-tied. Honestly, it's worth three minutes of your time.

Enjoy the video here:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Denim, Denim, and a C7 Corvette Test Drive

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. Photo courtesy General Motors.

Some guys get all the breaks. When it comes to the automotive world, that guy often seems to be Jay Leno -- yes, the comedian. There's a good reason why he gets so many perks in the automotive world. Have you see the guy's garage? He has one of the most amazing car collections in the world and a huge following of gearheads and even casual car appreciators. Every car company with a marketing team that has any sense knows this, so they grab any chance they can get to put Mr. Leno behind the wheel of one of their hot new cars.

GM isn't spending money on frivolous things like Super Bowl commercials. Instead, the automotive giant let Jay Leno be the first person who isn't a GM employee drive the new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. I'll be honest, I'm still not sold on many of the design elements of the new 'Vette, but watching a denim-on-denim Jay Leno drive it makes me more excited to get behind the wheel of one. Watch the video below, then wipe the slobber off your keyboard and/or screen.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

51st annual Pittsburgh World of Wheels

It's that time of year again kiddies. The start of the car show season in Pittsburgh. The 51st annual Pittsburgh World of Wheels begins this Friday, January 25th. We'll be covering the event in detail in case you can't make it. This year, hot rod legend Gene Winfield will be on hand performing a chop on a one lucky person's car.

There will also be a display of Batmobiles, the Munster Koach along with Butch Patrick, The ZZ Top Eliminator, Herbie the Love Bug, and much more. There is a special BeetleMania display with some of the finest Volkswagens in the city on display. The annual 1961 Extreme display of traditional hot rods, customs, rat rod and more. Drag City USA featuring nostalgia race cars. And two popular events, the Builder of the Year (Chuck Lombardo and California Street Rods) and the charity pinstripe auction benefiting the Autism Society.

So come on down to the David L Lawrence Convention Center this weekend. You won't regret it.

The Fiat 500 Is Like a Go-Kart!

2012 Fiat 500 Abarth. Photo credit Chrysler Group International LLC.

My first taste for car racing came to me the first time I climbed behind the wheel of a go-kart at the ripe old age of ten. I still enjoy kart racing, partly because the simplicity of the machine provides you feeling extremely connected with the track.

For anyone who has driven a Fiat 500 knows it is about as close as you can get to a street-legal kart. The car is small, handles tight and provides some punchy acceleration. The higher-performance Abarth gives a driver even more thrills and chills.

Someone decided to test just how much of a go-kart a Fiat 500 Abarth really is by racing it on a Detroit-area kart track. While the driver's skills are mediocre at best,you can clearly see from the video below that the little Italian car fits on the track quite well.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Car Saftey Technology

Mercedes-Benz wrong-way alert technology

To me, car safety technology is one of the most important features I look at when vehicle shopping.

Since my wife and baby were in a car accident several years ago, where the other driver shot out into traffic without looking both right and left, I've become a huge safety advocate. The car they were driving was totaled when the other car t-boned it, setting off the front airbags (it was a while ago, so no side curtain or side seat airbags). The car was not equipped with a sensor in the front passenger seat, so the airbag on that side deployed. Stupidly, the airbag was positioned so it smashed into the windshield, sending the glass spraying throughout the cabin of the car.

For those of you who don't know, in most collisions where a windshield breaks, the safety film on the glass actually holds all of the shards of glass in place. After that car accident, my wife found shards of glass sitting on our baby's neck. They both were fortunate enough to not be seriously injured in the accident, one that could easily have been much worse.

Back when Volvo first developed the seat belt, the Swedish automaker decided to broadcast the results of crash tests using a dummy strapped in with a seat belt and one that did not have one. The results, of course, were sobering. Volvo went one step further and broadcast the video on national television in the United States, causing an uproar among car owners. Back then, the Big Three tried to accuse Volvo of causing unnecessary panic in the public, among other things. Fortunately, most automakers today have started to realize the value of safety technology, to one extent or another.

Mercedes-Benz is one of the leaders in safety tech (Volvo is still one, along with BMW, the VW group and others). Safety technology often is introduced near the top of the car food chain on models like the Mercedes S-Class or the BMW 7 Series, like the infrared and night vision technologies available on those cars Mercedes has announced the new S-Class and E-Class will both be outfitted with a system that will issue audible and visual warnings to drivers if they are traveling the wrong way on a road or freeway entrance. Sometimes people get turned around, especially in confusing downtown areas, and they don't see the "Wrong Way" signs. The car is outfitted with cameras that recognize such signs, literally reading them.

Self-driving cars are becoming more of a reality, which I view as just another piece of safety technology. Many of these cars will likely just enhance a driver's performance, stepping in when a driver doesn't react to an obstacle in time. There are quite a few cars on the market today that detect an impending collision and move the brake pads so they are almost touching the rotors, give the driver an audible and visual warning about the impending impact or even stop the car for the driver. Self-driving cars and other safety technology also means elderly drivers and those with medical conditions that impair their senses can still get around, but without putting everyone on the roads (and unfortunately sidewalks) at risk. I only see good in this technology.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

How much for that Batmobile?

If you've ever wanted to be Bruce Wayne and play Batman, the first thing you need aside from a cape and mask is a Batmobile. But Batmobiles just don't grow on trees. And the real deal very rarely shows up for sale in your local auto trader. But last night that all changed. For the last few weeks it's been reported all over the net that George Barris was going to bring Batmobile #1. The original car built for the Batman TV series to the Barrett Jackson Scottsdale auction. And he sure didn't fail to bring the circus with him.

Built from the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car, which Barris purchased for $1 from Ford Motor Co. , was transformed in a matter of weeks to the cost of $15,000 to play the part in the upcoming Batman TV series in 1966. As Barris put it, the car would go POW! with rocket launchers, BAM! with a chain slicer, ZAP! with an oil slick. All gadgets that would make even James Bond envious. The car eventually led to a handful of fiberglass back up cars being built as the Futura based car had a habit of breaking down on the set. After the show, Barris retained ownership of the car. But enough about that.

The folks at Barrett Jackson said this was a deal three years in the making. And they didn't fail to hype up the car once it was consigned. The Batmobile was definitely the star of the show. There were crowd surrounding the car while it was on display and flock of groupies followed the car and King George as it made its way to the auction block. The crowd on the block was just as impressive at over 20 deep. Craig Jackson and Steve Davis actually had to cut Barris off or he would have talked about the Batmobile for hours. When the bidding started it quickly rose to $1 million, then $2 million before stalling at $2.6 million. The reserve was lifted and bidding again took off. $3 million, $4 million. Two bidders, sitting one in front of the other still were going at it, when they decided to flip a coin for who would win. The winner, Rick Champagne was the winning bidder at $4.2 million dollars. Speed's cameras captured the whole soap opera, and quickly interviewed Champagne who told viewers he's been a buyer at Barrett Jackson for 15 years and he came with all intentions of buying the Batmobile for his collection. He joked that he plans to tear down a wall and park it in his living room.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Porsche 917/20 "Pink Pig"

I'm a huge Porsche fan for many reasons. Anyone who knows about Porsche's very accomplished racing program's history will at least recognize the 917/20, a race car that is lovingly referred to as  the "Pink Pig." The car won the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race in 1970.

Not many cars can pull off pink very well, but the 917/20 wears its race livery with pride. That might be in part because the Porsche 917/20 was like the Superman of endurance race cars for its time. Part of the secret of the Pink Pig was that it incorporated a longer tail to help it travel at high speeds around the track, but it also incorporated the handling characteristics of short tail cars so it was able to stick the corners of the race track better than the competition. Anyone who's raced on a track before knows that if your car doesn't corner very well, you can lose many precious seconds in just one lap, which can result in a loss if the race is tight.

If you want to see the 917/20 Pink Pig in person, book your flight to Germany. The only one made now resides in the Porsche Museum, a place I could likely spend days touring. For now you're just going to have to enjoy this YouTube video that gives plenty of closeups of the car:

Monday, January 14, 2013

New Year, New Look

Since it's 2013 and since AAN started in 2007,  the overall look of the site hasn't changed too much. We kind of liked the carbon fiber look with the black and gray fonts. But since it's a new year, I decided it was time for a change. Give us some feedback on what you think of the new site.

2014 Corvette Stingray specs

Here's the preliminary specs on the new C7 Corvette. 

Source: General Motors

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Preliminary Specifications

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Body styles / driveline:
2-door hatchback coupe with removable roof panel; rear-wheel drive
composite and carbon-fiber body panels, hydroformed aluminum frame with aluminum and magnesium structural and chassis components
Manufacturing location:
Bowling Green, Ky.


LT1 6.2L V-8
Displacement (cu in / cc):
376 / 6162
Bore & stroke (in / mm):
4.06 x 3.62 / 103.25 x 92
Block material:
cast aluminum
Cylinder head material:
cast aluminum
overhead valve, two valves per cylinder
Fuel delivery:
direct injection
Compression ratio:
Horsepower / kW:
450 / 335 (est.)
Torque (lb-ft / Nm):
450 / 610 (est.)

seven-speed manual with Active Rev Match
six-speed paddle-shift automatic

Chassis / Suspension
short/long arm (SLA) double wishbone, cast aluminum upper and lower control arms, transverse-mounted composite spring, monotube shock absorber
short/long arm (SLA) double wishbone, cast aluminum upper and lower control arms, transverse-mounted composite spring, monotube shock absorber
Active handling:
Magnetic Selective Ride Control (avail. with Z51)
Traction control:
StabiliTrak, electronic stability control

front and rear power-assisted discs with four-piston fixed front and rear calipers (slotted rotors with Z51)
Rotor diameter (in / mm):
front: 12.6 / 320 (13.6 / 345 with Z51)
rear: 13.3 / 338

Wheels / Tires
Wheel size:
front: 18-inch x 8.5-inch (Stingray)
front: 19-inch x 8.5-inch (with Z51)
rear: 19-inch x 10-inch (Stingray)
rear: 20-inch x 10-inch (with Z51)
Michelin Pilot Super Sport run-flat
front: P245/40R18 (Stingray)
front: P245/35R19(with Z51)
rear: P285/35R19 (Stingray)
rear: P285/30R20(with Z51)

Wheelbase (in / mm):
106.7 / 2710
Overall length (in / mm):
177 / 4495
Overall width (in / mm):
73.9 / 1877
Overall height (in / mm):
48.6 / 1235
Weight distribution (% front / rear):
50 / 50

2014 Corvette Stingray details

Here's all the details you wanted to know about the new 2014 Corvette Stingray. This will be the first of several posts we'll have dedicated to the C7. Right now, the base Stingray will have an estimated 450 horse power with 450 lb. ft of torque. No word yet on a new Z06 or ZR1. However, expect those numbers to be significantly higher.

Most impressive on the new C7 will be the extensive use of carbon fiber for body panels and interior pieces. Even more impressive is the use of magnesium for other pieces like the seat frames.  Rather than the conventional 6 speed we have seen in the Corvette for the last three generations. The C7 will come with an all new 7 speed manual. This new transmission is automatically controlled to match engine speeds and anticipates gear changes. This is supposed to make even a novice manual driver seem like a pro. An optional 6 speed automatic with paddle shifters will also be available.

Matted to this new transmission will be a 6.2 liter LT1 V8. Fuel mileage hasn't been released yet, but Chevrolet promises to exceed the 26 mpg the current C6 is rated at.

Source: GM

Press Release:

Return of the Stingray: The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette

DETROIT – Chevrolet is redefining modern performance with today’s debut of the all-new Corvette Stingray. And only a Corvette with the perfect balance of technology, design and performance can wear the iconic Stingray designation.

The 2014 Corvette Stingray is the most powerful standard model ever, with an estimated 450 horsepower (335 kW) and 450 lb.-ft. of torque (610 Nm). It is also the most capable standard model ever, able to accelerate from 0-60 in less than four seconds and achieve more than 1g in cornering grip. It is expected to be the most fuel-efficient Corvette, exceeding the EPA-estimated 26 mpg of the current model.

“Like the ’63 Sting Ray, the best Corvettes embodied performance leadership, delivering cutting-edge technologies, breathtaking design and awe-inspiring driving experiences,” said General Motors North America President Mark Reuss. “The all-new Corvette goes farther than ever, thanks to today’s advancements in design, technology and engineering.”

The all-new Corvette Stingray shares only two parts with the previous generation Corvette. It incorporates an all-new frame structure and chassis, a new powertrain and supporting technologies, as well as completely new exterior and interior designs. Highlights include:
·         An interior that includes real carbon fiber, aluminum and hand-wrapped leather materials, two new seat choices – each featuring a lightweight magnesium frame for exceptional support – and dual eight-inch configurable driver/infotainment screens
·         Advanced driver technologies, including a five-position Drive Mode Selector that tailors 12 vehicle attributes to the fit the driver’s environment and a new seven-speed manual transmission with Active Rev Matching that anticipates gear selections and matches engine speed for perfect shifts every time
·         An all-new 6.2L LT1 V-8 engine combines advanced technologies, including direct injection, Active Fuel Management, continuously variable valve timing and an advanced combustion system that delivers more power while using less fuel
·         Lightweight materials, including a carbon fiber hood and removable roof panel; composite fenders, doors and rear quarter panels; carbon-nano composite underbody panels and a new aluminum frame help shift weight rearward for an optimal 50/50 weight balance that supports a world-class power-to-weight ratio
·         A sculptured exterior features advanced high-intensity discharge and light-emitting diode lighting and racing-proven aerodynamics that balance low drag for efficiency and performance elements for improved stability and track capability
·         Track-capable Z51 Performance Package including: an electronic limited-slip differential, dry-sump oiling system, integral brake, differential and transmission cooling, as well as a unique aero package that further improves high-speed stability.

“Stingray is one of the hallowed names in automotive history,” said Ed Welburn, GM vice president of global design. “We knew we couldn’t use the Stingray name unless the new car truly lived up to the legacy. The result is a new Corvette Stingray that breaks from tradition, while remaining instantly recognizable as a Corvette the world over.”

The new Corvette Stingray will be built at GM’s Bowling Green, Ky., assembly plant, which underwent a $131-million upgrade, including approximately $52 million for a new body shop to manufacture the aluminum frame in-house for the first time.  

“We believe the Corvette represents the future of modern performance cars because it delivers more power, more driving excitement and better fuel efficiency,” said Tadge Juechter, Corvette chief engineer. “The result is better performance by every measure. The 2014 Corvette delivers the fastest acceleration, the most cornering grip, the most track capability, the best braking performance and what we expect to be the best fuel economy ever for a standard Corvette.”

The 2014 Corvette Stingray coupe goes on sale in the third quarter of 2013.

Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevroletis now one of the world's largest car brands, doing business in more than 140 countries and selling more than 4 million cars and trucks a year. Chevrolet provides customers with fuel-efficient vehicles that feature spirited performance, expressive design and high quality. More information on Chevrolet models can be found at

The C7 Corvette is Born!

The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

Unless you've been living in a cave, then you know that General Motors has been cooking up the new generation Corvette, which was revealed this past Sunday evening. It's easily one of the most anticipated model releases of the year, bringing quite a bit of pressure for the huge automaker that has been lambasted by media outlets and the public in general for its reliance on a government bailout (and not to mention a sleuth of sub-par vehicles such as the horribly regrettable Chevy Aveo).

GM drops the Corvette's iconic round tail lights!

GM is calling the new Corvette a Stingray. I'm a huge fan of the old Stingray Corvettes, but quite frankly I don't see any tie between the C7 and the Stingrays of old. Styling-wise, the C7 reminds me of an interesting twist between the current-gen Camaro, the Ferrari FF and the SRT Viper. I'm still trying to decide if this is a good thing (for the record, my wife likes the design). Admittedly, I think companies such as Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Porsche are kicking out some much cleaner and visually-appealing designs, but I digress.

I'm not seeing the Stingray resemblance, but maybe that's just me.

On the other hand, technologically speaking the 2014 Corvette sounds compelling. Corvettes have almost always put up some blistering numbers for a budget price (I'll try to forget about that brief time in the 80s when performance was more lukewarm). This new generation of Corvette gives the car a quantum leap into the bold new automotive future. GM engineered a new engine for the 'Vette, the LT1, which produces a walloping 450 horsepower and 450 pound-foot of torque, rocketing the car from 0 to 60 MPH in under four seconds! That's fast, folks! 

The new Stingray fender badge

In all honesty, the weak point of the Corvette--at least since the C4--has been the interior. 'Vette interiors feel cheap, like something you would expect more on the inside of the Malibu or some other lesser model. GM is claiming the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette will change that for good. The interior will feature real carbon fiber accents, a higher-grade leather and seats with a lightweight magnesium frame.

The new interior makes use of real carbon fiber

GM has helped the Corvette shed some of its curb weight, taking the car down to  pounds. This has been accomplished with the use of materials such as carbon fiber and magnesium throughout the car. The reduced weight translates into not only a faster vehicle, but also better fuel economy. Official fuel mileage figures for the 2014 Corvette are not available yet, but GM expects them to well exceed the 26 MPG highway rating for the C6.

I'm a leather snob, so I'll wait to see how nice these feel

Does this mean the Corvette will finally be able to corner with the best of them? Can it stick to the corners like a 911 Carrera 4 or M3? Personally I doubt it, but I'll reserve final judgment until I get behind the wheel of one (and I'll post a video of it, for sure). 

The question every auto enthusiast wants to know is what are the high performance versions of the new Stingray Corvette going to be like? The ZO6 and ZR1 offered considerably improved performance over the base C6, so what does GM have in store for the C7 Corvette? One's imagination could run wild, and for now that will have to do. Enjoy the pictures and let me know below what you think of the new Corvette.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Here it is! The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.

We'll post up all the glorious details in the morning. But for right now, here is the all new 7 generation Chevrolet Corvette!

Photo source: General Motors.