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Posted on November 7, 2014 Comments (0)

F1

COTA track diagram

If ever there was an argument for road courses over street sources, the US grand Prix at COTA (Circuit of the Americas) made it. Here, in a race where the finishes of the first two cars was pretty much determined in qualifying, an entertaining race took place largely due to the race track on which it was held. The two Mercedes are not identical in set up and Hamilton made the right setting decisions and Rosberg did not. Bravo Hamilton. Behind the two of them, some fantastic scraps took place, the likes of which we haven’t seen in many moons. Ricciardo cleverly drove the fifth best car to third place and the Williams cars both finished ahead of the top Ferraris of Alonso in 6th and Raikkonen in 13th.

Lewis Hamilton COTA Voctor

But it was the track that was the star. It is the most interesting F1 track on the circuit and we predict, where Spa has held that unofficial title for decades, given not too much more time, COTA will be just as highly regarded. Why? Well, for one thing it is wide enough to encourage three abreast driving and for the same reason makes blocking difficult. The straights are long enough to allow trimming and tuning for high speeds and that hurts grip in the twisty bits. And, most important, it rewards aggressive driving and good set-up decisions. Strictly from a spectator’s viewpoint, this may have been the best race of the year. Bravo COTA!

Lewis Parc Ferme COTA

Noteworthy

Sergio Perez Force India

“The Force India driver (Sergio Perez) was involved in a collision on Lap 2 at the Circuit of the Americas that forced him and Adrian Sutil into retirement.” He ruined both their days and was penalized by the stewards. In questioning immediately after the incident, Sutil, was asked if he was going to go over to the Force India pit and confront Perez. No, he said that he expected Sergio to come to him. With an apology? He was asked. Well, at least an explanation, he said. (Read NASCAR below for comparison.)

Adrian Sutil COTA

Caterham and Marussia, who both missed the race, were hardly missed on TV because they are so uncompetitive that they are rarely seen on TV anyway unless someone who is really racing is passing them. Proving F1 doesn’t need a full grid to be entertaining, it needs competitive cars.

Ferrari Factory

Fiat announced that they will sell Ferrari. From an F1 viewpoint, an independent Ferrari company can only afford to compete in F1 if they are winning. The Manufacturers Championship purse is huge. The winners share can finance the F1 racing program with some left over. A future independent Ferrari could not afford to race in F1 if they finish fourth, as they will this year. And some argue, with reason, that F1 without Ferrari has a huge problem.

NASCAR: Another Battle in Texas

Ferrari Factory

Hollywood has set an absurdly high standard for how fist-fighting should look! The staged fistfights in early cowboy movies were humorous by today’s standards. Good guys and villains absorbed haymakers that should have disfigured them for life, yet never lost their hats. Let alone a tooth. Current movie fights are more graphic but equally unreal. In the real life NASCAR fight we featured last week, tough looking Cale Yarborough actually hit Allison with his helmet, not his fists. It’s not up to Hollywood standards but it is far smarter. Head bones are thicker than hand bones.

Jeff Gordon

Sunday’s brawl after the Texas 500 race involved gentleman Jeff Gordon, annoying but talented Brad Keselowski and the proud inheritor of Dale Sr’s less admirable traits, Kevin Harvick. Gordon knows better and Harvick hit Keselowski in the back. But again, lots of hugging but no real punches thrown. And the film shows that Gordon had every right to be disappointed but no more than that. He gave Keselowski an opening and the kid took it. For his troubles, Keselowski got his face scuffed a little but he probably won thousands of fans that Gordon and Harvick lost. Next week’s second to last race in Phoenix will determine which four drivers will be eligible to win the Championship in the final race at Homestead. This is turning out to be a lot of fun.

Kevin Harvock


 Michael Furman image is a 1938 Horch 853A from his book Automotive Jewelry, Volume One

Our Michael Furman image this week is a 1938 Horch 853A from his book Automotive Jewelry, Volume One.


Artist Chris Osborne painting of the driving legend John Fitch and his Fitch Phoenix.

Talented artist Chris Osborne sent us this image of a recently completed painting of the driving legend John Fitch and his Fitch Phoenix. I think you will agree that Chris has captured the essence of both.


The next chapter of Marshall Buck’s story about building a model of a Ferrari 250 SWB is now available.

In My Word:Tread Lightly, Denise McCluggage suggested that readers may want to join her on a Tin Cup Trek. Several of you have mentioned an interest to me. If you keep in touch with Denise, we will keep everyone updated on progress.

This weekend the F1 circus goes to Brazil and, as mentioned, NASCAR is at Phoenix. Please share us with your friends and have a great weekend!

Peter Bourassa


Models, Chapter 2: Just Another Mystery

Posted on November 5, 2014 Comments (0)

By Marshall Buck

I’m sure that if I ever had to plan out all the steps from start to finish, or even attempt to do so, I would be as solidly frozen in my tracks as “Ötzi the Iceman”. So, I compartmentalize all the steps, focusing on one at a time, and create many sub steps as I go along, starting with the main big basics, which everything else must fit to and work with. Each model build is unique and has numerous differing requirements. In this instance I started with (1) the body, (2) chassis, (3) interior, (4) main area of the engine bay, and (5) trunk. However, mixed in with those majors are many little bits; very many little parts affect the fit of the big ones, and the big ones affect the little ones… It’s just one vicious circle, and sometimes enough to drive me to watch reruns of American Chopper to see what size hammer they’ll use to fit everything with—I always feel better after watching how they attempt to finesse their builds.

With any scale model that is extensively detailed, and then has opening panels too, you have to walk a very fine line between exacting detail, scale accuracy, and actual functionality and strength of the model. This is especially critical with regard to wall thickness of panels, all major attachment points, and any working features. I have nightmares about making hinges so true to the real ones that they disintegrate after their first use by the customer. Therefore, I make mine to look the part, but build them to last for at least a week after the check clears.

Once the chassis was made and fitted to the body and various attachment points made, and the main interior tub was made… more headaches began. Cue the theme music from JAWS. Yes, just when I thought it was safe… That’s when, once again (you’d think I would have learned already), trying to make dimensionally and visually accurate parts collided with tolerances of thickness, strength, and how the damn thing was going to fit and stay together. Problems easily solved; I took a lesson from the boys at American Chopper and just used a bigger hammer to make it all fit… well… not really, but some ‘adjustments’ were required. The result is it all looks correct, and great if I do say so myself.

With a model like this 250 SWB, which has to be so accurate, I have to continuously make countless detail decisions and factor in what will eventually be seen or buried once it is all complete. I don’t like to cut corners, but I also don’t like to waste time with something that will just not be seen or appreciated. A perfect example of that is the radiator. The top portion will be very visible, but sides front and back will not—so I went to town on what will be seen and appreciated, which now brings me back to why the hell did I go so far with making the chassis? Just another mystery of life.

Having progressed with many parts and additional body work such as cutting and fitting opening panels, adding of lips/channels along the inside edges of the engine bay and trunk openings, framework added to lids of engine and trunk… It was time to make all the hinges. I thought the doors and hood would be the most difficult—that however was not the case, they went well, and the trunk hinges which I thought would be easy were anything but. I still get the shakes when I think about it for too long. Multiple hinges and attachment points were made and thrown out over the course of a few days until I finally gave in to making appropriate scale placement adjustments. JAWS music is on a continuous loop in my workshop.

Next time… Chrome plating, detail parts, wheels & tires, and JAWS part twelve!

Model: Ferrari 250 SWB – Chapter 2

All open, and some of the files used for fine tuning to finish shaping of all openings.

Model: Ferrari 250 SWB – Chapter 2

The beginning of fabricating lips/channels inside trunk edges.

Model: Ferrari 250 SWB – Chapter 2

The beginning of making the sculpted raised side vent openings. Draw on body, trace over, transfer tracing to material for vent, cut rough shape, sculpt-form-shape with files and sand papers, test fit, add raised layer, sculpt & sand more, test fit again, spray primer, fix any imperfections, send out with body to painter. This is done for each of the four vents.

Model: Ferrari 250 SWB – Chapter 2

Finished primed vent edge openings, ready for final paint.

Model: Ferrari 250 SWB – Chapter 2

Trunk lid prop rod and support - 6 little parts.

Model: Ferrari 250 SWB – Chapter 2

The finished and installed prop rod. Yes, it pivots.

Model: Ferrari 250 SWB – Chapter 2

One of numerous fittings of interior in midst of fabrication.

Model: Ferrari 250 SWB – Chapter 2

Various major and other parts being made & fitted.

Model: Ferrari 250 SWB – Chapter 2

JAWS continues. Making the trunk hinges starts.

Model: Ferrari 250 SWB – Chapter 2

Some of the discarded trunk hinges.

Model: Ferrari 250 SWB – Chapter 2

Success, JAWS is dead. Final trunk hinges and attachment points determined.

Model: Ferrari 250 SWB – Chapter 2

Vent edge openings installed as well as inner portions with cutouts, each one specific to each of the four side vents. These were all painted separately. I attached each after body was painted & polished.

Model: Ferrari 250 SWB – Chapter 2

Roughed out radiator on mini mill. Measured markings drawn on top for indents to be milled.

Model: Ferrari 250 SWB – Chapter 2

Finished radiator ready to install, though cap still needs to be made, and hoses will of course be fitted.


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on October 31, 2014 Comments (0)

Actor David Niven’s excellent biography was entitled Bring on the Empty Horses. It was a quote from a European film director to the English speaking crew of a Western he was shooting. At this point in the season, I feel that is where we are in the remaining F1 races.

F1

Hamilton and Rossberg

The US GP is this weekend. It is hard to imagine that except for a handful of F1 drivers, most have no commitment to putting it all on the line for their team. Mercedes have won the championship but only the battle for the Drivers Championship is ongoing. Many have been critical of the “trick” double points final race in Abu Dhabi, but that is all that is keeping things interesting in the race for the Drivers Championship. Rosberg could finish second in the next two races and still win if Hamilton’s car failed in the final race. Stranger and far less pleasant things have happened in the final races for former Formula Drivers Championships.

On the Constructor Championship side Mercedes and Red bull are one-two and that will not change. The battle for third between Williams and Ferrari is still alive and with a little luck Williams could reap a massive payday.

Marussia Formula 1

Speaking of F1 and money, both Caterham and Marussia appear to be in financial difficulty and neither will make the grid for the US GP. Force India and Sauber appear to also have financial difficulties. Save Ferrari-Fiat, Mercedes, and Red Bull, who are not in it for the money, Williams are the inspiration of remaining small teams. They may actually do well financially this year. Keeping them all alive is Bernie Ecclestone’s job and credit where credit is due, he has been doing it for years.

NASCAR

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Racing at Martinsville’s half-mile oval for NASCAR’s Sprint Cars was once likened to flying fighter jets in a gymnasium and the track never fails to produce a rash of hard feelings. Finishing unscathed is a miracle and winning is pure luck. Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned his first Martinsville Clock, the winner’s prize. Unfortunately he is no longer in the “Chase” for series Championship. He finished just ahead of teammate Jeff Gordon, who is one of the “Final Eight” in the Chase and would have been guaranteed to advance to the “Final Four” with a win. Other than the driver of the car that survives to win, few ever leave Martinsville happy.


Michael Furman photograph of a 1914 American Model 642 rear wheel

Our Michael Furman image this week is from his recent book Bespoke. Editor Dom Miliano reviews the book Michael wrote with Randy Leffingwell entitled Porsche Unexpected.


Denise McCluggage joins us again this week with an entertaining tale about the remarkable BMW i8.

Denise McCluggage My Word, BMW i8


COTA is a great track for F1 so enjoy the weekend.

Don’t forget to share us with a friend and encourage them to subscribe to the MMR Community Newsletter on our website.

Peter Bourassa


My Word: BMW i8

Posted on October 30, 2014 Comments (1)

“This is the best car that has ever come to Walmart.”

BMW i8

Larry assured me the young Walmart employee was as sincere as brown shoes. And likely correct in his judgment. My press car for the week was a BMW i8. As advanced technologically as any BMW I could recall and as special to look upon as anything Bavarian not meant to be eaten.

BMW i8

Larry Bruch is my rent-a-nerd who keeps my computers functional and is also an assistant when it comes to assessing the cars I am sent to assess. He uses cars in a different way than I do and it's useful to me to hear about that difference.

This time, given the extreme zones which this BMW has claimed, I asked Larry to expose the i8 to unique situations and report on reactions he noticed. As well as giving me his personal take. “This car gets more attention from more different people than any car I have ever been in.” he said. And that’s from kids, adults, men, women—Demographics gone wild. “Young women taking pictures like never before from that group.”

BMW i8

Larry cajoled his rabbi into taking time for a short ride. That experience elicited from the cleric overt laughter, which was uncharacteristic for Larry’s rabbi, but not for passengers in general. “Everybody laughs.” Larry reported. It’s the quickness of the acceleration, the unique interior in which they are ensconced, the eager willingness of the car to move. Passengers all laughed with open glee. “This is one happy-making car” he said.

BMW i8

BMW i8 backseat

The Tuesday Car Table folks could easily be blasé about odd and awesome rolling stock. After all our lunch regulars have over time brought on any given Tuesday at noon some impressive vehicles of their own to The Santa Fe Bar and Grill (all visitors welcome). Assorted McLarens, hot-rodded Audi R8s, a Ferrari Enzo, Bentleys, a Porsche 918. But real car guys never get jaded. They want to see, touch, ask about. They were all over the i8. Even trying out the back seat.

So this plug-in hybrid from Bavaria’s motor works, made of carbon fibre with a 1.5 liter 3 cylinder engine and a couple of electric motors at the wheels. All work willingly and seamlessly and appropriately in concert or on private missions.

BMW i8 wall charger

Performance is never slighted in this car having those particular initials writ large upon it. But then it’s as green as a St. Pat’s Day parade as well. Its economy is astonishing.

But what really blew the minds of curious Car Table folk was their inability to open the hood. They called BMW and were told don't even try. “You could invalidate the warranty.”

What? Laughter here, too. Yep. Stay out. This isn’t a car, this is a personal mobility device with ways of doing things you don’t need to know about. 

BMW i8 grill

BMW—truth telling—is not my fave among Teutonic road goers. However I have been amused and impressed by the marque’s insistence on building the best of normally-aspirated engines rather than taking an easier route to power with turbos like everyone else did. Until. Whap. OK—turbos! 

And at that, such good ones. And then BMW’s diesel—wow . Fine, fine diesel.

BMW i8 interior

And now this clear move into of all things a delightful advanced path toward tomorrow with comforting news for car buffs. Thus: Socially responsible driving need not be dull. Save the planet and your zest for driving at the same time. This is a light-hearted, bright-minded way to approach the matter of four-wheeled transport in time of transition. Out of character for BMW? Well, no. A deft change of character perhaps. Read the many reviews on the web and enjoy deciding for yourself.

A negative matter here. Larry with the i8 was approached by a man not feeling kindly toward BMW dealers. “I went to buy one of those”, he said. “The dealer laughed at him. He was only getting two. So his wife was getting one of them and a friend the other. And his friend was paying him $30,000 more than sticker price.” Simple as that. The man told Larry: “It's unlikely many i8s will get to the general public. Dealers will see to that. And to their own pocket.”

Ah the motor trade. As the Brits call them. Greedy. Finagling. Too bad if the BMW dealers choose to play that way. It's unbecoming. But never mind. BMW, the magicians of Munich, have nonetheless made a point. We know how to change the scene and make the future look delightful. And everyone else seems a little off gait. 

Laughter.


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on October 24, 2014 Comments (0)

It happens every year but it still feels funny. An October weekend with no F1 race, or a Tudor Sports Car race, or an IndyCar race. But wait, there is always NASCAR!

Racing

NASCAR drivers are competing to continue into their playoff season and stakes are high. My curiosity was peeked last week when mainstream media got excited over a murky video of a driver running/scuffling/whatever between NASCAR transports and the news that Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, and Denny Hamlin had exchanged paint with Penske driver Brad Keselowski on and off the track and Kenseth, in the video, was chasing him with a view to possibly harming him. As it happens he reportedly got him in a headlock. But the real news for fans was the fact that mild mannered Kenseth was involved at all. NASCAR must have felt the same way as they fined Keselowski $50K, Tony Stewart $25K, and Kenseth not a dime. In subsequent interviews with Kenseth and Hamlin, financial correctness prevailed. Each driver mentioned the name of his sponsors and their team and their car manufacturer and then described his part in the affair. All quite different.

Matt Kensenth with daughter

In a pre-“NASCAR American Family” era, before drivers stood on the grid with all their living relatives and we got to watch their wives agonize over whether husbands would win the Duck Commander 500, when drivers and pit crews fought, punches got thrown and people fell down, NASCAR projected a far different image. They appear to have forgotten the impact that the fight Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison had on ratings when they tangled on the cool down lap of the 1979 Daytona 500. . “An estimated 16 million people watched the race, a number that jumped to nearly 20 million over the closing laps. CBS won an Emmy for the broadcast, televised the Daytona 500 until 2000 and showed a fledgling cable network called ESPN the value of the racing business.”

A driver’s reputation counted for something then. Fast fists and a feisty disposition were prized driver attributes. Among many others in NASCAR’s history, a hot tempered AJ Foyt and humorless Parnelli Jones were not men to be trifled with on the track because eventually you would meet them in the pits. The aforementioned drivers were the American alpha males of their age and, not surprisingly, they never tangled. Veteran pit people also thought that Foyt was very wise. Parnelli and the angelic looking Mark Donahue, an equally fierce competitor, did their fighting on the track in Mustangs and Camaros. Jones introduced overt revenge wrecking to road racing. It shocked the sporty-car crowd establishment organizers but it thrilled the fans.

Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison fight

The difference in the times? Today, Tony Stewart is the only driver in the pits who still reacts in the old fashioned way. And his recent troubles in a modified race probably have an effect on that also. One week after the blow-up and fines, Keselowski won the Geico Talladega 500 with Kenseth pushing him across the line to finishing second. Despite Roger Penske’s endorsement of his actions, the fact remains that had this happened 40 years ago someone would have insured that he met the wall in Talladega early, unintentionally, of course.

Denise McCluggage

The Great Divide

Denise McCluggage joins us again this week and writes a follow-up to her recent Range Rover trek to her ancestral home of Tin Cup, Colorado. 

Denise is currently recovering nicely from surgery to replace a poorly performing hip. This is her second such restoration and we know you join us in wishing her a hearty “Hip! Hip! Hooray!” She is in good company as she is recovering in Albuquerque, tribal home of the Unsers and the Unser Racing Museum.

Concorso Images

Please visit our Photo Gallery for more images from The Santa Fe Concorso.

Feedback: Sochi Sucks!

Alonso, Russia GP

We were correct and so was Alonso. The Russian race was boring and it turns out there was a technical reason why. All the drivers were running out of their allotted fuel ration and dialed back the engine performance in order to finish. Brilliant! And boring.

Also on the Sochi post we suggested that perhaps Bob Varsha, Tommy Kendall, and Justin Bell would add a more American (We know Bell is British, but he is funnier than hell and we want him anyway) flavor to US F1 coverage. WHAT THINK YOU?


Michael Furman’s image is of an unrestored body badge on a T-57 Bugatti.

Michael Furman’s image this week is of an unrestored body badge on a T-57 Bugatti.


Have a great weekend and please don’t forget to share this newsletter with a friend.

Peter Bourassa