Tag Archives: cars

60 Years Of Corvette

On June 30, 2013, the Chevrolet Corvette celebrated its 60th anniversary. America’s famous sports car refused retirement and issued a renewed version.

2014 corvette stingray

Corvette is the world’s longest-running, continuously produced passenger car nameplate. The longest-running vehicle of any type is also a Chevrolet, the Suburban.

The Corvette debuted as a concept vehicle at the General Motors Autorama show in New York City on January 17, 1953, and the public’s excited reaction instigated GM to build a limited run of 300 production Corvettes on June 30 of that year.

Initially, the Corvette was produced exclusively as a convertible for its first 10 years of existence. Only the second-generation Corvette brought a coupe, the fixed-roof 1963 “split-window” Corvette Sting Ray. It proved to be an inspired decision, as sales doubled and it became a year-round car for drivers in colder climates.

In 60 years of continuous production, Chevrolet has made about 1.56 million Corvettes. The 500,000th Corvette was built in 1977, the 1 millionth car came in 1992, while the 1.5 millionth model rolled off the assembly line in 2009.

Today’s Corvette drivers can’t imagine life without V8 power, but in the early days, the Corvette was exclusively available with an inline six-cylinder engine until 1955. That year marked the introduction of the optional V8 engine, which subsequently was ordered by 90 percent of buyers — no wonder then that the six-cylinder unit was dropped in 1956, with the Corvette only being available with V8 power since.

The Corvette Lineage:

1953 Chevrolet-Corvette-60-Years

1957 Chevrolet-Corvette-60-Years

1960 Chevrolet-Corvette-60-Years

1963 Chevrolet-Corvette-60-Years

1965 Chevrolet-Corvette-60-Years

1968 Chevrolet-Corvette-60-Years

1977 Chevrolet-Corvette-60-Years

1979 Chevrolet-Corvette-60-Years

1984 Chevrolet-Corvette-60-Years

1990 Chevrolet-Corvette-60-Years

1997 Chevrolet-Corvette-60-Years

2005 Chevrolet-Corvette-60-Years

2011 Chevrolet-Corvette-60-Years

2014-Chevrolet-Corvette Stingray

2014-Chevrolet-Corvette

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Lamborghini Aventador Roadster — Performance Art On Wheels

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LaFerrari Overcomes Odd Name Through Sheer Beauty & Blistering Speed

LaFerrari, the gorgeous Ferrari Enzo successor, just made its debut at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show — Ferrari calling the machine the “maximum expression” of what defines the automaker. The odd moniker, LaFerrari, means “THE Ferrari,” to appropriately set expectations.

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The car sports a high-revving V12 engine mated with a much-anticipated electric motor to provide extra horsepower and prove Ferrari a part of the new industrial-environmental movement – a hybrid, vehicle featuring a HY-KERS system (Kinetic Energy Recovery System), charging the batteries through regenerative braking as well as the main engine.

That main V12 engine displaces 6.3-liters, has a peak power output of 789hp while the electric motor adds an extra 160HP, pushing the car’s total power to 950HP and peak torque over 664 lb-ft with both powerplants working in tandem.

LaFerrari can sprint from 0-62 mph in under three seconds, 0-124 in seven seconds, and 0-186 mph in 15 seconds, before topping out at 217 mph. The LaFerrari is unlike anything previously seen from the company. The automaker says its creation is the fastest in its long history.

Design-wise, LaFerrari is a well-proportioned and handsome machine. Clearly the automaker was heavily influence by young auto-design student Samir Sadikhov who in mid-2011 placed second in the Ferrari World Design Contest with his “Xezri” concept — see previous Faustian urGe article.

Samir Sadikhov’s Xezri Supercar Concept For Ferrari World Design Contest

Samir Sadikhov’s Xezri Supercar Concept For Ferrari World Design Contest

Sadly, as with the Enzo, these LaFerrari cars will only be made in the hundreds (499 in this case), so chances are most people will never see one on the street. And, telling of the new inequality worldwide, even at $1.69 million per copy (base price…surely some will want some customization), the LaFerrari has twice as many orders as it will fulfill — sold out twice over at its introduction.

Ferrari-LaFerrari 2

 

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One Commentator:

“That is why Ferrari is the icon of the automotive world. To own and drive the Ferrari is the pinnacle of a man’s dream to caress visual beauty. The sound of a Ferrari excites to the very core of testosterone driven urges and stands you on your toes, reaching for more. The only thing missing? The Autobahn.”

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LaFerrari – official launch video


Cadillac ELR — Another Shot From The New General’s U.S. Arsenal

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Cadillac steps up its game yet one more time with yet one more totally new model in the lineup: ELR. This time the U.S.’ top tier car manufacturer brings its dynamic design language to the Volt technology package.

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Actually, this is a car that could sell on design alone — its green bonafides make ELR compelling. The fantastic electric Tesla Model S presents a great image great, too, but it looks like several other cars in general, whereas the ELR design is truly unique and distinctive—it stands out everywhere. The two-door CTS is a really good design direction… but this ELR is even better. Many green-minded Europeans will find this to be the first Cadillac they would ever be happy to own and drive everyday. We Americans should step up, as well. Our home team has done well.

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While the ELR does indeed utilize both the FWD platform (I’d prefer rear or all-track) and the Extended Range Electric Vehicle (EREV) hybrid powertrain that were introduced in the Volt, those elements have been tuned to suit the coupe’s premium character. And, speaking of premium character… yes, that’s actual stitched leather and Alcantara covering the dash, doors, and full length center console, as well as the seats. The wood grain? Yes, real wood. Premium? Seems so.

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“The ELR is an unprecedented combination of luxury, advanced engineering and progressive design in a coupe that is both sporty and environmentally friendly”, said Cadillac global vice president Bon Ferguson. “This is a pivotal moment in Cadillac’s history.”

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Measuring 4,724 mm (186.0 in) in length, 1,847 mm (72.7 in) in width and 1,420 mm (55.9 in) in height, the ELR is longer, wider and shorter than the Volt and, at 2,965 mm (106.1 in), it has a slightly longer wheelbase.

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Its hybrid powertrain comprises of a 16.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, a naturally-aspirated 84HP 1.4-liter gasoline engine that functions as a generator and two electric motors with a combined output of 181HP — creating instantly available torque that is 12 percent greater than the 3.6-liter V6 in the SRX crossover.

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ELR has an all-electric, zero-emissions range of 35 miles (56 km) plus, when the gasoline generator  kicks in, the range is extended to 300 miles (480 km), so there are no concerns about finding a charging station.

Although the suspension layout is, by necessity, the same as the Volt’s, the much wider front and rear tracks, the use of aluminum in the HiPer strut front suspension with hydraulic ride bushings, the CDC electronically controlled dampers, and the 20-inch alloy wheels promise a more sporting drive.

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The Cadillac ELR will enter production in late 2013 and go on sale in the beginning of 2014. The company hasn’t announced official pricing yet, but estimates bring it close to US$60,000 after state and federal tax credits.

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Gas Prices: It’s Obama’s Fault!…Or, Is It? — Part 2: Refining Bottleneck

As a follow up to my October 11th post outlining the factors “not Obama” that are increasing gasoline prices, I was challenged by the same anti-Obama businessman I mentioned to explain this “supposed” refining capacity bottleneck.

Ok… here ’tis:

Here’s the bottleneck in a graph. No matter how much crude oil is brought out of the ground or imported, the bottleneck is that US refining capacity has not increased in over a decade (actually you’ll see later, it’s about two decades). That folks is what’s called a “bottleneck.” Very simple. The gap between demand and what we have the capacity to refine is imported at substantially higher costs.

“Yeah, well, you know dude, the free market will fix that!”

Really? ‘Cause here’s the federal EIA outlook up until 2030. Um…barely any capacity improvement. And the gap between demand and what the US can refine: goes from a shortfall of a little more than 3 million barrels of oil per day to a gap of almost 8 million barrels of oil per day. The gap is made up by importing expensive refined product from abroad.

Ooops! Looks like a lack of energy industry progress.

Now, let’s look at what the energy industry and the feds have to say about our refining capacity and the coming urgent problems:

From U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), “Refining: Petroleum & Other Liquids”

U.S. refining capacity, as measured by daily processing capacity of crude oil distillation units alone, has appeared relatively stable in recent decades, at about 16 million barrels per day of operable capacity—the level is a reduction from the capacity of twenty years ago. …the first refineries were shut down as demand fell in the early 1980’s. …additional refineries were shut down in the late 1980’s and during the 1990’s, always, of course, those at the least profitable end of a company’s asset portfolio.”

The report notes a mediating factor: “At the same time, refiners improved the efficiency of the crude oil distillation units that remained in service by “debottlenecking” [internally] to improve the flow and to match capacity among different units and by turning more and more to computer control of the processing.”

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Nonetheless two contravening facts deny the relief of improved capacity utilization efficiencies so that refineries continue to function as “the bottleneck:” 1) Continued shut down of refinery facilities reducing total potential capacity levels and 2) A turn to exporting American refined oil products to industrializing, higher profit margin international markets.

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From ”Rising Gasoline Prices 2012,” Congressional Research Service (R42382), March 1, 2012

Two large oil refiners in the Northeast, Sunoco and ConocoPhillips, have decided to close refining assets.  Sunoco announced the closure of its Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania refinery on December 1, 2011, followed by ConocoPhillip’s closure of its Trainer, Pennsylvania refinery later that month.  Sunoco also plans to close, its Philadelphia refinery. Together, these three refineries comprise over 50% of refining capacity in the Northeast.  Higher wholesale price margins would be required in the Northeast to draw supplies from other areas to make up for the loss in refining capacity.”

Separately, the Hovensa Refinery in the U.S. Virgin Islands is also closing. Most U.S. refined product imports from Europe and the Virgin Islands go the East Coast.”

Europe, a major source of U.S. gasoline imports, has also experienced a reduction in refining capacity recently. It has been reported that Petroplus, the largest European independent refiner, has begun shutting down three of its five refineries.  (As a result of these closures, Europe may also seek to draw greater supplies of diesel fuel from U.S. refineries.)”

From EIA February 2012 Executive Summary of Report. “Potential Impacts of Reductions in Refinery Activity on Northeast Petroleum Product Markets”

“…price impacts are highly uncertain. …in the short term, prices can spike. In the longer run, higher prices and possibly higher price volatility can result…loss of the Sunoco Philadelphia refinery presents a complex supply challenge, and no single solution has been identified by industry participants… The industry will have a financial incentive to serve all markets in the Northeast, and companies are currently investigating options. However, companies are not [soon] likely to make significant investments in new logistical arrangements…”

From The White House, March 11, 2012, “A Secure Energy Future: A Progress Report.”

The U.S. refiners export gasoline, and that shrinks national supply. Though placing a positive spin by extolling the virtues of a “world-class refining sector,” the report revealed a “refining sector that last year was a net exporter for the first time in sixty years.”

Report by Ron Scherer at the Christian Science Monitor, ““As Gas Prices Rise, Should US Oil Industry Stop Exporting?”

The oil industry maintains it must export to stabilize profits and avoid layoffs. Observers contend the new status of refiners as “net exporter[s] for the first time in sixty years” keeps domestic supply low and gas prices high.

“The oil industry maintains the exports are necessary because domestic demand is weak. The industry says if refiners could not send American-made gasoline to China, India, Europe, and South America, the refineries would have to close as several have already done on the East Coast. Yet, other energy observers say exporting gasoline at a time of rising prices is sort of like throwing flammable liquid on a fire.”

TADA! US Refining Bottleneck!

Not the fault of Obama… the fault of industry.


Gas @ $3.79! It’s All Obama’s Fault!…Or Is It?

Two weeks ago I had the unfortunate displeasure of suffering cocktails with a confused businessman. He owns and manages a firm that processes payroll for a large city school district, so one might reasonably assume a certain level of intelligence and sophisticated thinking. Well, I did. Puh! Should’ve thought otherwise.

About a half hour into what had been otherwise a congenial conversation, and from nowhere, this fella spits out, “So…Obama…A fucking Communist, right!” I think my response nearly set his hair on fire.

The next thing out of his mouth is this party-line diatribe folks are attempting to foist onto the public: “My God! Obama has caused gas to skyrocket! His policies have practically shut down oil production in the US!”

Hummm? Gee I thought it was because the oil industry has chosen, under the reign of free market ideology, not to expand or build additional refining and gasoline processing facilities? ‘Cause, when I look at the numbers…they show more oil wells and more gas wells and more of practically everything geared to get product out of the ground…but no industry effort to expand processing to useable fuels for your SUVs. Gees, do you think that bottlenecks things? Maybe.

And, do ya think that maybe an industrializing China and India have increased total demand? Maybe. And do ya think that given the tensions between us and Iran (and the constant party-line drumbeat to Bomb Baby Bomb!) and the threat to the Strait of Hormuz through which most of the oil passes… that maybe the oil speculators have speculated oil futures high? Maybe.

Gees…this stuff isn’t difficult…just doesn’t fit with a mindset that thwarts all reasonable efforts to develop alternative fuels, increase our auto efficiencies, and implement effective and efficient mass transit across the nation.

No, I’m afraid it is shortsighted policies from conservatives and threats to oil transport and the pressures of speculation within a free market and industry refusal to expand gasoline refining capacity and a newly resurgent American economy that are driving gas prices higher.

Where were gasoline prices before the markets and the Bush economy crashed? Oh, yeah, about where they are now (Sept ’08 just before the crash: $3.86… March ’12 as economy grows again: $3.79). Things that make you (thoughtful people) go hummm….