• RAREST OF THE RARE: ‘57 CORVETTE SUPER SPORT!

    One of the rarest factory-built Corvettes ever built can be seen for the first time in 60 years at the Amelia Island Concours next month.

    The ‘57 Corvette Super Sport prototype originally built for GM’s famous Motorama shows of the 1950s will, after six decades hidden from view, break cover in a special exhibit at the 22nd annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance on March 12, 2017. After its auto show duties, it was sold to Ralph Poole of Albuquerque, NM. The current owner, John Baldwin purchased the car in 1996.

    “We’ve been working on the SS for the last few weeks and have it running nicely for the first time since the 1950s,” said owner John Baldwin.

    Actually a 1956 model, the Corvette was customized by the Chevrolet studio at GM Design and “updated” with a one-off 1957 Vin # tag. It was used to showcase the first fuel-injected Corvette engine, which debuted in 1957 models. This special Corvette debuted at the January 1957 New York Waldorf Astoria Auto Show (there was no Motorama show in 1957) and the Chicago Auto Show, but has not been seen by the public for the past 60 years. Power for this unique prototype comes from a fuel-injected 283/283 small-block mated to a close ratio three-speed transmission.

    “This unique Corvette is practically unknown,” said Bill Warner, founder and Chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. “It was the cover car for the June, 1957 issue of Speed Age magazine and then it disappeared. It’s been hidden for its entire life. For it to be at Amelia is the sort of thing we dream of.”

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  • ’17 CAMARO ZL1: CLOCKS 202.3 MPH!

    Fastest Camaro ever makes one pass at 202.3 mph and backs it up at 193.3 mph on Germany’s Papenburg proving ground. Average top speed: 198 mph.

    Chevrolet tested the ZL1 with 10-speed automatic transmission on the high-speed oval at Germany’s Automotive Testing Papenburg GmBH proving ground. Compensating for wind speed, the top speed is the average achieved from running the ZL1 in both directions on the 7.6-mile loop – 202.3 mph in one direction and 193.3 mph in the other direction!

    Testing was conducted on the ZL1’s production Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 3 tires with pressure set at 44 psi, the recommended setting for extended high-speed driving. The car’s only deviations from stock were mandatory safety and data logging equipment.

    Papenburg’s high-speed oval features 2.5-mile straights and 1.3-mile turns with 49.7-degree banking on the top lane. The steep banking allowed Chevrolet test drivers to run the ZL1 flat out around the track without lifting off the throttle in the turns.

    “The ZL1 was developed with high-speed performance in mind, incorporating a balanced aerodynamic package that reduces lift without significantly affecting drag,” said Al Oppenheiser, Camaro chief engineer. “After testing the car in standard settings, which produced the 198-mph average, we set the front and rear camber adjustments to 0 degrees and the tire pressures to the maximum allowable sidewall pressure, the ZL1 averaged over 200 mph.”

    Special aero features include a stanchion rear spoiler that offers an advantageous lift/drag ratio compared to a blade-style rear spoiler, and a patent-pending auxiliary transmission oil cooler cover that reduces front-end lift with no drag penalty. The front-to-rear aero balance was also fine-tuned for high-speed stability.

    Additional performance capabilities of the ZL1 Camaro tested with the available 10-speed automatic transmission include:
    0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds
    Quarter-mile in 11.4 seconds at 127 mph
    1.02g max cornering
    60-0 mph braking in 107 feet

    The 650-horsepower, supercharged LT4 engine powering the ZL1 is mated to a standard six-speed manual transmission with Active Rev Match or an available, all-new 10-speed automatic transmission. Additional features include:
    Magnetic Ride Control
    Electronic limited-slip differential (coupe only)
    20-inch forged aluminum wheels
    Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 3 summer-only tires measuring 285/30ZR20 in front and 305/30ZR20 in the rear
    Brembo brakes with six-piston Monobloc front calipers and two-piece rotors

    The ‘17 Camaro ZL1 starts at $63,435 for a coupe with the manual transmission (price includes $995 destination and $1,300 gas guzzler tax) and $65,830 for a coupe with the 10-speed automatic (price includes $995 destination and $2,100 gas guzzler tax).

    “This test caps an impressive list of performance stats for the Camaro ZL1, which was designed to excel at everything. It’s the most capable – and fastest – Camaro ever,” said Al Oppenheiser.

    For more information about the latest high-performance Camaros, please visit http://www.chevrolet.com/camaro-zl1.html

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  • What Protects You While You’re Driving?

    Whether you’re working on it, walking on it or driving on it, staying safe on the road is essential. But what are the driving devices and roadway essentials which help to keep everyone safe on UK roads?

    In the Vehicle

    Automobile safety is an integral part of modern car design and a real focus for manufacturers. New innovations and improved systems continue to be developed in line with technological advances, with many safety devices now being incorporated as standard into cars:

    • Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) – this system prevents the wheels from locking during heavy braking, to help drivers to maintain control of vehicle. This helps ensure more effective stopping within average stopping distances and particularly upon skid-likely surfaces, such as wet roads or in icy conditions.
    • Electronic stability control – this system is the next up generation from ABS and includes a system of traction control. This corrects driver error by stablising the vehicle and reducing the risk of the driver losing control of the vehicle, for example in a skid. This system varies between vehicle manufacturers and may also be known as vehicle stability control.
    • Brake assist – this system ensures that maximum pressure is exerted when brakes are applied in an emergency. As manual emergency braking sometimes fails because drivers may depress the brake pedal insufficiently, so the brakes fail to engage on the wheels, brake assist technology assesses how quickly the brake has been applied and identifies if it’s likely to be an emergency. If it judges so, then brakes are fully applied via the hydraulic pressure system.
    • Lane keeping and adaptive steering – this system is a branch of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) which provides benefits such as cruise control. However, lane keeping and adaptive steering systems put greater emphasis on safety rather than comfort, specifically through aiming to maintain a vehicle’s correct position on the road by utilising lane markings at the side of the car. Any deviation from the correct position and the system alerts the driver so that correction can be made manually. Future development of this system proposes that it will work similarly to brake assist, with the system making the correction automatically.

    Many versions of these technologies are already fitted to modern vehicles and continue to be developed as part of a deal to provide better protection for road users, including pedestrians.

    On the road

    Roadways and surfaces themselves also incorporate safety devices for speed control, accident prevention and risk management:

    • Road humps – also known as sleeping policemen to reflecting their more manual speed-prevention origins, road humps aim to deter speeding by preventing vehicles from speeding up along flat roads. Road humps are commonly found in residential areas, but not main bus routes as the hump height causes passenger discomfort. The humps need to be spaced fairly close together to be effective and must be accompanied by relevant signage at each end of the hump run.
    • Rumble strips – this is the name given to a variegated road surface which is generally applied as a layer to the roadway. When reaching this stretch of the road, the driver is immediately alerted to the need to adhere to speed limits, through the in-car feedback from the suspension and driving wheel, which will sound and feel different, specifically with a low rumble. With their specific aim to alert drivers to reduce their speeds, rumble strips can often be found at the edges of vulnerable roadsides, on the approach to junctions and where faster sections of A roads enter residential areas. Rumble strips tend to be used in outlying areas of towns and villages as they literally sound as they are named and the rumble of a steady stream of traffic can cause a noise-nuisance to residents.  This road safety device is also deployed as transverse rumble strips, which run across the whole carriageway rather than just alongside it, whilst an additional version, known as Dragon’s Teeth, is applied along with a visible narrowing of the road, to also support accident prevention.
    • Speed cushions – as an alternative to road humps, speed cushions are a speed control method developed to cause standard vehicles to slow down, but allow emergency vehicle and public transport drivers through safely at normal speeds. Speed cushions offer an optimum size and placement so that smaller vehicles have to slow down to drive over the cushions, but buses and emergency vehicles are able to straddle the cushions and proceed normally. Cushions are generally installed at regular intervals along the roadway where speed reduction is required, such as in the neighbourhood of schools or pedestrian areas.
    • Pedestrian safety – pedestrians are encouraged to cross roads safely using designated zones such as crossings and traffic island refuges, which are highly visible to traffic.

    Roadside safety

    Roadside safety is additionally important as it needs to respond to the needs of road workers, as well as the public and road users. The mainstay of roadside safety is crash barriers, which tend to be deployed with safety and risk reduction, rather than speed reduction in mind.

    • Safety barriers – permanent motorway and roadside barriers aim to minimise risk through containment: keeping an errant vehicle on its own side of the carriageway. This method does include the risk of impact and crash injuries to the driver, but with the effect of preventing the vehicle from advancing to the other side of the barrier where there may be a greater hazard. As such, permanent safety barriers are installed only when it presents less risk for an errant vehicle to strike the barrier than to continue onwards at speed.  Permanent barriers of flexible steel construction have frequently been used to facilitate containment, but many have proven vulnerable over time. As such, there is a current move by the Highways Agency to replace many steel barriers with concrete barriers to increase containment, particularly where installed as a central reservation barrier.
    •  Temporary barriers – one example of a temporary barrier solution is the MASS (Multi-Use Safety System) barrier. MASS barriers are designed to actively absorb the impact of a vehicle and use this to stabilise the barrier, both reducing the vehicle’s speed and deflecting the vehicle along the barrier line. Because MASS barriers offer a stable but non-permanent fixing, they are quick and easy to install and reposition at short notice to keep users on all sides of the barrier safe.

    Finally, as these innovations continue to develop and change, one of the simplest road safety devices which is essential is road safety awareness: being aware of the roadway environment, conditions, restrictions and changes is a key way to make best use of all road safety devices and to help keep all road users safe.

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  • PLYMOUTH SUPERBIRD: THE RICHARD PETTY CONNECTION!

    Our man on the track, Stephen Cox, talks with Richard Petty about his connection to the winged Superbird.

    It has been claimed that Plymouth’s legendary winged ‘70 Superbird was the brainchild of NASCAR champion Richard Petty. The rumor has been around for decades but I’ve never found anyone with first-hand knowledge who could absolutely confirm or deny that the car’s origins truly began with The King of Stock Car Racing.

    But opportunity knocked a couple of weeks ago when Petty was in attendance at the Mecum auction in Kissimmee, FL, which I co-host for NBCSN. I found him relaxing backstage late in the show and hollered, “Hey, King!” Although I don’t know him well, he looked up with his trademark smile and immediately held out his hand.

    I asked him point blank whether he was responsible for the development of the Plymouth Superbird. Petty paused and laid the back of his hand across his brow. “Well, let me get the dates right.”

    “We knew in 1968 that Dodge was building a wing car. So I went to Plymouth and asked if they were gonna build one and they said, ‘No.’ I told them that I’d like them to work on one and they said, ‘No, you’re winning all the races anyway.’”

    True, Petty had been dominant, winning 27 of 49 Grand National races en route to the championship in 1968. Rather than cough up the additional funds to stay current in NASCAR’s burgeoning aero wars, Plymouth was content to let Petty struggle against increasing odds.

    Undeterred, Petty tried another angle. He asked if he could stay within the Chrysler family and simply move over to Dodge and drive the new Charger Daytona winged car for the 1969 season. Plymouth flatly refused.

    “So I said, ‘Either build me a wing car or I’m walking across the street,’” Petty continued. “They said, ‘Sure, go ahead.’ So I did.”

    That same afternoon Richard Petty personally walked into Ford Motor Company’s front office. Ford executives took no risks, signing Petty to a one-year contract on the spot. Petty finished second in the points chase while winning ten races for Ford in 1969. It was enough. He didn’t have to return to Detroit to beg Plymouth for a winged car. This time, they came to him.

    “The head man from Plymouth came walking into my shop,” Petty continued. “He said, ‘What do we need to do to get you back? I said, ‘Give me what I’ve been asking for.’”

    Plymouth pledged to have a new winged car completed for Petty in time for the 1970 NASCAR season. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, they chose to use a modified version of the wildly successful Dodge Charger Daytona platform. Under NASCAR’s homologation rules, a limited number of Superbird street cars were built and sold through Plymouth’s dealership network.

    Behind the wheel of the car built specifically for him, Richard Petty and his Plymouth Superbird won 18 of the 40 races in which they competed in 1970, led nearly half of all laps and won nine pole positions. Despite being produced for only one model year, the road-going version of the Superbird became a legend in the annals of musclecar history.

    Today, a concours-ready Plymouth Superbird will routinely draw bids from $100,000 to $300,000 at auction. They remain among the most collectible musclecars ever built.

    “So there you go,” Petty told me with a smile. “That’s how it happened.”

     

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