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Millbrook GM European Proving Grounds

European Proving Grounds Millbrook is a 700 acre facility about 40 miles north of London with test tracks and testing facilities for aerospace, military, vehicle production, driver training (Aston Martin), and real-time online vehicle tracking. Here is link to the Millbrook website. Construction began in 1968 for a smaller version …

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2009 Tokyo Motor Show

October 22, 2009 Auto Manufacturer No Comments

2009 Tokyo Motor Show

Shown to the left is a press release photograph for the new Prius Plug-In Hybrid courtesy of Toyota on display at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show.

Currently press days for the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show are underway. Doors open to the public on Saturday October 24 through November 4 and there is a great deal of initial press excitement about electric and hybrid vehicles.

Toyota Prius Plug In Hybrid Concept at the Tokyo Motor Show -- meida photo compliments of Toyota

Toyota Prius Plug In Hybrid Concept at the Tokyo Motor Show -- press photo compliments of Toyota

Announcements indicate that a number of the cars will be brought to the North American International Auto ShowJanuary 11-24, 2010 at Cobo Hall in Detroit.

The Tokyo Show is full of action and you will definitely see a lot of the cars on your TV Automotive shows in the upcoming months. Some of this may even make the nightly news, but this type of important journalism seems restricted to a few minutes on the 11 PM news as a filler or maybe a special on the Speed Channel. Anyway, this year’s Tokyo Show is very significant. There are new technologyies and cars incorporating these on display for the first time.

Attendance at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show

Also, it is important to recognize that this years show in Tokyo is almost entirely Japanese. Sales into Japan is restricted significantly so European, Korean, and North American manufacturers have opted to pretty much stay at home this year.

Fuel Prices Going Up

October 22, 2009 Automotive Topics No Comments

Fuel Prices Are Moving Up and Fuel Economy Is Moving Up

The fact that gas prices are going up is probably something that you have been noticing lately.  Certainly the current price of gas is under $3.00 per gallon.  This is certainly a lot a lot better than $4 per gallon last year.

Auto Implications

Car and truck purchase decisions are made on the basis of many factors and fuel price is one of them.  If you need a pickup truck or SUV then that is what you need.  If you need a simple car to get around with then lots of miles per gallon, and the associated lower total operational expense, is precisely what you are looking to achieve.

Vehicle Purchases

Car and truck sales have, at least in the years leading up to $4 per gallon gas, represented about a 50-50 share of sales between them.  When gas prices peaked truck and SUV sales dropped and car sales increased.  When gas prices dropped then truck and SUV sales went back up.  This information was on the nightly news and in the newspapers as everyone speculated on how high can fuel prices go.

Fuel Prices Collapse

Fuel prices did start going down, and down and down.  It was an absolute relief not to have to pay so much at the pump.  It was possible to look at the gallons and say “a few months ago I would have paid twice as much.”

Fuel Prices Rise

Fuel prices are going up.  Fuel prices are steadily going up and that has major significance for everyone.  This time increased fuel prices are likely to stay high because the general economic conditions around the world are on the mend so more money will be available to go to the oil producers.

Economic Vehicle Purchase Assessment

VW Jetta DieselIncreased mileage trucks & SUV’s, high mileage cars, hybrid cars-trucks-SUV’s, and electric cars are coming in a big way.  Yes hybrid vehiclesare here right now.  However, the real bulk of these new powertrain vehicles have not hit you dealership yet.

Diesel Power

VW, BMW, and Mercedes have diesel cars that are selling briskly.  It is interesting to note that at the EPA Fuel Mileage site that for the 2010 Jetta TDI the car’s test results are 30 city, 41 highway and 34 combined.  However, in the MPG Estimates from Drivers Like You report 47 MPG.

It is clear that we will all be watching fuel economy numbers very closely when it comes time to get a replacement car or truck.

Smokey Joe’s at the Munich Airport

October 20, 2009 Everything Else No Comments

Smokey Joe’s Restaurant

Munich Airport (Medium)Last year I had the opportunity to be walking in the pavilion between the Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 at the Munich Airport and immediately on seeing Smokey Joe’s Restaurant it was clear that something eye catching was there.

The initial appearance will definitely and absolutely catch your attention.  Add a Pratt and Whitney radial aircraft engine and some wings to an Airstream trailer and you have got a creation that will definitely catch your attention.

According to the Munich Airport WebsiteSmokey Joe’s:

Affectionately known as the coffee plane, Smokey Joe’s serves up the ever-popular curry sausage with its own specially blended sauces from classical or medium to smokin’ hot.

How neat is this place? 

Smokey Joe'sSmokey Joe's Right SideAnyone reading this article will absolutely enjoy the opportunity to check out the craftsmanship and step up to the window to place your order for something good to snack on!  Outside tables in the pavilion permit you to enjoy your order and take a close look at the creation.

If you are going to be travelling through the Munich airport then definitely take advantage of the opportunity to stop at Smokey’ Joe’s.

SuperBird Pace Car

October 18, 2009 Automotive Topics No Comments

SuperBird Convertible Paces The Race

SuperBird Pace CarThis SuperBird Convertible served as pace car at a recent SCCA event held at the Miami Homestead Speedway.

SuperBird Convertible

There never was an OE convertible SuperBird.  Research indicates that there are at least a dozen now.  This particular car was built from a Satellite convertible.

Resto-Mod Cars

Resto-Mod Muscle Cars are the rage today, as was clearly evident in the October 2009 Barrett-Jackson Auction from Las Vegas.  These high performance collectibles are highly desirable because original vehicles can be priced “off the scale” or original cars can be very difficult to drive and maintain.

SuperBird On Pit RowResto-Mod Muscle Cars are updated versions of originals that can be fitted with Original Equipment (OE) or fully modernized technology including anti-lock brakes, better seats and seat belts.  These modern parts can make the car much more enjoyable and safer to drive than if the car were fully built with all OE components.

Reproduction Cars

Reproduction cars are available in many different configurations.  It is possible to have a brand new old car.  Carroll Shelby through his Shelby Automobiles Company has, from time to time, come up with some old chassis and ends up delivering a new automobile with a new vehicle identification number.  The Shelby saga and legend has been the source of many books.  From a resto-mod and reproduction standpoint, Shelby products can definitely qualify.

Superbird Convertible

440 CIDIt has been a while since I have gotten the story about this unique SuperBird.  If memory is correct there were a lot of original Superbird parts and a fairly good convertible body.  Everything was combined and then painted with Plum Crazy purple.

Unique Front and Rear

Uniqueness associated with the front and rear of the SuperBird are documented and they are unique.  This wing car has a number of adjustment points in addition to the special support members to carry wing forces into the vehicle frame. 

Front and rear modifications are a great deal more than simple  bolt on parts.

OE Remembrance

Original 1970 Superbirds and 1969 Dodge Charger Daytonas were a tough sell back then.  These cars were unique and after the high performance cars of the 60’s there was simply a lot of big engine high performance iron.  I remember the first Superbird I saw on the dealer’s lot.  This car was very visible and going back and forth to college I would pass the car.  I am absolutely certain that the dealer had to substantially discount this car to sell it.

ZL-1 Camaro

From 1968 to 1971 I worked during time off from college at Rosenthal Chevrolet in Arlington, VA.  In 1969 Chevrolet produced 69 ZL-1’s.  Rosenthal had two of them.  One sold and one was parted out.  The parted out car had the all-aluminum 427 engine and special automatic transmission removed and the powertrain was replaced with something less exotic.  These unique cars will be the focus of a future article in the Automotive Tribune. 

However, the point is, that we simply did not know how fantastic these ultra high performance cars were to become going forward. 

SuperBird Convertible

This unique car was built by Jay Vitagliano.  It features a 440 CID feeding power to a torqeflight transmission.  The car is very drivable and is a total attention getter at parades, automobile events, and just going down the highway.

Every Superbird Gets Attention

SuperBirds always get attention.  They are a remarkable piece of history.  This unique SuperBird convertible is history.

Automotive Tribune would like to thank Jay Vitagliano for sharing these photos and information about his SuperBird Convertible.

Ford Recall Cruise Control

Ford Recalls 4.5 Million Cars & Trucks

It’s back in the news again.  This is a serious problem and it is a problem that needs to be corrected once and for all.  From the position of a forensic vehicle expert, that has been involved with product defects for decades, this is not a new problem.

There will always be problems.  Design and product engineering try and make the car and components as reliable as possible.  Unfortunately, some problems seem almost impossible to get rid of.

Problems get into a system, initially, in the form of a design defect.  Design defects mean that each and every car built,with that technology,is flawed.  From a forensic point of view, it is much easier to prove a manufacturing defect which only affects one vehicle.

This recall extends by an additional 4.5 million vehicles Ford’s efforts to eliminate a fire hazard in a faulty cruise-control deactivation switch made by Texas Instruments.  With Tuesday’s decision 16 million Ford cars and trucks have now been recalled since 1999 due to the switch according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  A very thorough example of an investigation report can be found here.

Design Defect Discussion

It is interesting to analyze the historical evolution of automobile parts.  When you analyze a vehicle component failure there is lots of history to review.  This history can be extremely complex but the story and evolution of the part will eventually unfold.

Seat Failure Analysis

One example is a car seat failure.  In a rear end impact the driver’s seat collapsed, the driver slid backwards underneath the seatbelt and their neck was broken when they impacted the rear seat in a horizontal manner.  It was possible to do a great deal of collision analysis and calculate impact speeds, and forces applicable to the failure and injury sustained.

Plaintiff attorney Request For Production to the OEM resulted in boxes of documents provided under Protective Order.  Research showed evolution of the seat design going back over 20 years.

In this accident the seat failed below its failure strength.  According to FMVSS the seat has to withstand a force of 20 times the weight of the seat back.  There is no thing about driver or passenger in the equation.  If the seat back weighs 10 pounds then the seat back has to withstand 200 pounds of deflective force.  This is all clearly spelled out in the Standard.

In the subject seat, I had the seat mechanism X Ray photographed so that I knew exactly what the failure was before going forward with the plaintiff attorney.

Defects can be deadly.  If you have concerns go to the NHTSA site and spend some time.  It can be very educational.  The TREAD Acthas put heavy penalties on manufacturers that knowingly permit tgheir products to fail. 

There is lots of legal rhetoric in the area of design defect, manufacturing defect, accident, injury, causation, maintenance, and negligence.  Determination of a proximate cause can be very difficult, especially if the part burns up and is consumed in the fire.

2011 Caprice Police Car

October 5, 2009 Cars & Road Tests No Comments

 

Full Front PPVCaprice Police Patrol Vehicle – PPV

The Automotive Tribune was able to access the Official GM Press Release dealing with the New Chevrolet PPV or Police Patrol Vehicle. 

We have also been able to provide for you the Official GM Press Release Photographs. 

Back Seat PPVOur research into this vehicle reveals that the platform is used by police departments around the world so bringing this vehicle to North American police departments is certainly logical. 

It will be interesting to see how police departments take to the new car. 

Trunk PPVAlso, now that the G8 will soldier on in police trim, does that also mean that a civilian version will become available?  That question will remain unanswered at this time.

____________________________________________________________

OFFICIAL GM PRESS RELEASE

____________________________________________________________

 

FOR RELEASE: 2009-10-05

Be On The Lookout: All-New Chevy Caprice Police Car Reports For Duty In 2011

 

DENVER – An all-new Chevrolet Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle (PPV) will join the ranks of law enforcement departments across North America in 2011. It’s a modern, full-size, rear-drive sedan that will offer both V-8 and V-6 engines, as well as a host of specialized equipment and features.

Chevrolet made the announcement at the annual International Association of Chiefs of Police convention, in Denver, Colorado. The Caprice PPV will be available for ordering next year and will hit the streets in early 2011.

“The new Chevrolet Caprice police car is the right tool at the right time for law enforcement,” said Jim Campbell, general manager for GM Fleet and Commercial Operations. “We asked for a lot of feedback from our police customers, which helped us develop a vehicle that is superior to the Crown Victoria in key areas.”

Vice President, Global Chevrolet Brand Brent Dewar added, “Along with Impala and Tahoe, the Caprice PPV gives agencies a greater range of choices for police and special service vehicles that are all available from Chevrolet.”

Unlike other police cars on the market, the Caprice PPV is not based on existing “civilian” passenger-car model sold in North America. It has been developed in key areas specifically for police duty, containing modern equipment and features:

  • Powerful 6.0L V-8 with fuel-saving Active Fuel Management technology and E85 capability delivers expected best-in-class 0-60 acceleration (sub six seconds) and top speed; a V-6 engine will also be offered, beginning in the 2012 model year
  • Optional front-seat-only side curtain air bags allows a full-width rear-seat barrier for greater officer safety
  • Two trunk-mounted batteries, with one of them dedicated to powering various police equipment
  • Designed for five-passenger seating, meaning the upper-center section of the dashboard can be used for equipment mounting without the concern of air bag deployment interference
  • Compatibility with in-dash touch-screen computer technology
  • Special front seats designed for the long-term comfort of officers whose car is their effective office, including space that accommodates the bulk of a typical equipment belt

The front seats are sculpted to “pocket” the equipment belt, which greatly increases the comfort for a great range of police officer sizes. The foam density of the seatback and cushion insert surfaces are designed to conform to the shape of an equipment belt’s various items, too, allowing the officer’s back to rest properly on the seatback surface.

“The Chevrolet Caprice PPV’s seats represent a revolution in comfort and utility for officers who spend long hours in their car,” said Bob Demick, lead seat design manager. “The shape also enhances entry and egress, making it easier for officers to exit the vehicle quickly. The seatback bolsters, for example, have been purposefully contoured to help pocket the equipment on the belt, which includes the gun, Taser and handcuffs, which rest comfortably in the sculpted lower bolsters. That also increases the longevity of the trim cover surface.”

Along with comfort, the materials used in the seats were also carefully selected. High-wear materials were chosen to stand up to long hours of everyday use, while breathability, long-term durability and ease of cleaning were also important criteria.

Engineers worked on several iterations of the seat, testing a couple of versions in the field to get real-world feedback from police officers, who used prototype seats in their cruisers for a month. Their input helped determine the final design.

Class-leading space

The Caprice PPV is based on GM’s global rear-drive family of vehicles that also underpins the Chevy Camaro. It uses the longest wheelbase of the architecture – 118.5 inches (3,010 mm) – along with a four-wheel independent suspension that delivers responsive high-performance driving characteristics that are crucial in some police scenarios.

Caprice PPV’s long wheelbase also contributes to exceptional spaciousness. Compared to the primary competition, its advantages include:

  • A larger interior volume – 112 cubic feet / 3,172 liters – than the Ford Crown Victoria, including nearly 4 inches (101 mm) more rear legroom
  • The barrier between the front seat and rear seat is positioned farther rearward, allowing for full front-seat travel and greater recline for officer comfort
  • At 18 cubic feet (535 liters) free space (beyond battery located in trunk), the Caprice’s trunk volume is large enough to accommodate a full-size spare tire under a flat load surface in the trunk storage area.

The Caprice’s 6.0-liter V-8 is rated at an estimated 355 horsepower (265 kW) with an estimated 384 lb-ft of torque. It is backed by a six-speed automatic transmission that is performance-calibrated for police duty. Additional, police car-specific powertrain and vehicle system features include:

  • High-output alternator
  • Engine oil, transmission and power steering coolers
  • Standard 18-inch steel wheels with bolt-on center caps
  • Large, four-wheel disc brakes with heavy-duty brake pads
  • Heavy-duty suspension components
  • Police-calibrated stability control system
  • Driver information center in the instrument cluster with selectable speed tracking feature.

A host of complementary features are also offered, including special equipment packages such as spotlights; lockouts for the power windows and locks; and an “undercover” street-appearance package (9C3).

To enable more room for interior equipment, the standard radio can be relocated to the trunk, allowing for an in-dash, touch-screen computer to be used.

Caprice on patrol: A brief history

Chevrolet’s history with law enforcement is almost as old as the brand itself. Police departments have used Chevy sedans as police cars for decades, ordering them with basic equipment and powerful V-8 engines – including some special engines that weren’t available in regular-production models, such as the 1959 Biscayne that was offered with up to 315 horsepower.

The full-size Chevrolets joined the force in 1976. All Caprice police cars – including the new, 2011 model – have carried the 9C1 order code. Here’s a quick look back at Chevys on patrol:

1959 – Chevy Biscayne police model capable of 135 mph with specially tuned, police-only version of the 348-cubic-inch V-8 engine

1965 – The new “big-block” 396 engine is offered in Biscayne and Bel Air police cars, making them among the most powerful on patrol; a 427 V-8 was added in 1966

1976 – The 9C1 order code is given for the first time to a full-size Chevy police car package. It carries the Impala name.

1977 – The full-size Chevy is downsized. The 9C1 police package is retained, as is the Impala name.

1986 – The Caprice name replaces Impala, as the car is updated for the mid- and late-1980s – including the option of a powerful, 5.7-liter small-block V-8.

1991 – A new-generation Caprice is launched, with the 9C1 police car still on the beat.

1994 –The 260-horsepower (194 Nm) LT1 V-8 engine is offered in the Caprice 9C1, making it one of the fastest full-size police cars ever offered.

1996 – Caprice police car production ends, as GM’s full-size, body-on-frame car architecture is discontinued.

2011 – The Caprice PPV returns to active duty.

About Chevrolet and General Motors:
Chevrolet is one of America ‘s best-known and best-selling automotive brands, and one of the fastest growing brands in the world. With fuel solutions that go from “gas-friendly to gas-free,” Chevy has nine models that get 30 miles per gallon or more on the highway, and offers three hybrid models. More than 2.5 million Chevrolets that run on E85 biofuel have been sold. Chevy delivers expressive design, spirited performance and provides the best value in every segment in which it competes. More information on Chevrolet can be found at www.chevrolet.com. For more information on the Volt, visit http://media.gm.com/volt/.

General Motors Company, one of the world’s largest automakers, traces its roots back to 1908. With its global headquarters in Detroit, GM employs 219,000 people in every major region of the world and does business in some 140 countries. GM and its strategic partners produce cars and trucks in 34 countries, and sell and service these vehicles through the following brands: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, GM Daewoo, Holden, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling. GM’s largest national market is the United States, followed by China, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Canada, Russia and Germany. GM’s OnStar subsidiary is the industry leader in vehicle safety, security and information services. General Motors Company acquired operations from General Motors Corporation on July 10, 2009, and references to prior periods in this and other press materials refer to operations of the old General Motors Corporation. More information on the new General Motors Company can be found at www.gm.com.

 

# # #

GM strives to ensure that all of the information contained in a press release is accurate at the time it is issued. However, changes in materials, equipment and specifications, prices, availability, etc do occur over time. For the most up-to-date information on currently available models, please visit GM.com/shop.

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