SEMA Show 2018, part 2: Racecars & VWs

In this second post, I wanted to show some of the other cars that caught my eye at the show. They included a K20A2 Honda-swapped 964, Movie Bullitt Mustang, Toyota LMP1, and some pretty cool VWs. Below are a few of my favorites.  I especially liked the Type 2 bus pickup with the Subi swap. The Toyota LMP1 was sort of sad. It was off in a far corner and it was just there to shill for a rear view camera.


SEMA Show 2018, Part 1: The Builds

It’s been a week since the SEMA Show 2018. Here are some of my favorite builds from the show. For me the interesting trend over the past few years has been the shift to the extremes. My primary focus in the automotive aftermarket is on performance parts, specifically, they type of parts the average Joe can use to improve the performance and handling of European cars. Each year, as a percentage of the overall market, this niche has continued to shrink.

SEMA always had roots in hot-rodding and drag racing, and that hasn’t really changed, but there’s been a huge shift to trucks and off-roading. The hot rod builds become more and more extreme and the trucks just get bigger and more outrageous. I get that the hot rod builds are a way to demonstrate skills and craftsmanship. But the truck market is just crazy at the moment. Maybe that’s just a reaction to the self-driving car transportation appliance.

Anyway, that’s not the focus of this post.  This post is to share the amazing builds on display, especially the actual-size HotWheels.  Here are some of my favorites in no particular order.

BMW Sets World Record for 8 Hour Drifting

BMW recently reclaimed the Guinness World Record for the longest drift, drifting 232.5 miles over 8 hours in the new BMW M5.

I was recently attending a seminar at BMW NA HQ and they have the vehicles on display in the lobby.

I found a few of the details interesting.  At about 1:50 in into the video, you’ll see the two cars come together.  Even though they were traveling at about the same velocity and just a few inches apart, it still made a decent dent.

I also appreciated the four cup holder on the passenger seat, which makes sense if you’re going to be in the car for 8 hours, you want to stay hydrated. But it makes you wonder if the driver Johan Schwartz also had the stadium pal. I also like the way the pump controls were integrated into the center console.

The driver called for refueling using the bluetooth connection to his phone.  He had to reestablish the pairing of his phone and the car a few times over the 8 hour period.  If you’ve ever used the BMW iDrive controller, you know that in itself deserves a Guinness record. (I can’t get that to work while I’m in my driveway, let alone mid-drift.)

The fuel line and return pass through the side rear window into the fuel cell in the trunk. As stated in the video, their biggest concern was fire so there was a fire suppression system in the trunk and special vents were added so the trunk would vent to the outside.

Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona

It has been a little over a month since this year’s Rolex 24 hour race at Daytona. Rather than recap the racing action, I thought I’d reflect on the event. It was my first time at a 24 hour race and my first time at the Daytona International Speedway. Neither was what I expected.

The speedway is both larger and smaller than you expect.  Imagine a super-sized baseball stadium, with all of the modern amenities you’ve come to expect over the last 20 years. Cut that stadium in the middle of center field and unwind it so it’s just one long straight, and bend it slightly around the start-finish line.  I guess you would describe it as a flat C or “(“. Add seating for 100,000+ people, but only fill it with 5,000. Take another 40-50,000 people and scatter them throughout the infield. That’s the Rolex 24 crowd.

You can move freely from Grandstands to Infield, but allow 20-30 minutes for the trip as you have to exit the Grandstands and take a trolly (or walk) through the tunnel to get there. Consider driving and parking in your favorite care corral (BMW, Porsche, or Corvette) or signing up for a luxury package from Audi to enhance your experience.  Grassroots Motorsports offers some excellent packages (we had the Stadium Ticket Package), and their Sunday morning breakfast may be the best bargain going.

The hardest thing is figuring out where you want to be.  From high in the Grandstands you can see the entire track above turn 1. With an optional garage pass you can walk among the cars and mechanics in the garages. Your best close up views are in the infield (turns 3, 4, 5). RVs and campfires fill the infield.  Most of the car clubs have tents with refreshments in the infield that provide a respite from the weather.  You can’t really escape the noise, but you don’t want to either.

You do want to think about your strategy for the 24 hour period. The race starts in the afternoon and runs about 4 hours before it starts to get dark. The transition into sunset provides some of the best action. We stayed into the early evening and then came back early morning. We were staying over an hour away from the track and would stay closer next time.  This year was interesting for the lack of extended caution periods or weather delays, but because IMSA got the balance of performance wrong, also didn’t have very exciting racing. It did set a record for most laps and longest distance run.

It is interesting to note that the previous track record from 1970 of 724 laps (2,758 miles) on the old road course (without the bus-stop) by a Porsche 917 in the top class was beaten by the Ford GTs in the GTLM class (2,787 miles). The 6th place Porsche RSRs,  missed that record by only 3 miles. This is truly the golden age of sports car racing.

(See this link on Flickr for my photo gallery.)

MINI Electric Concept Car at LA Auto Show

I recently spent some time contemplating the Electric MINI concept car at the LA auto show. In many ways it was very old-school: The future was supposed to look different than it’s turned out.  This reminds me of those concepts from the 60’s where you didn’t really believe that’s what the future would hold, but you understood some of the styling cues and how current models might evolve. There are a couple of interesting nuggets to behold.

Starting at the rear, you’ll notice a variation of the Union Jack tail lights seen on the JCW GP concept car, but done in white. But more importantly, there’s the new MINI logo in the center.  Continuing the trend of recent models, it’s still huge, and now more unappealing.  MINI quietly rolled out this logo over the past year, first on the website and now actually going on cars.  This version is done in relief, but the actual production logo is “a visual expression known as ‘flat design'”. (You can read more about it here).

I think it’s another sign that MINI design is lost in the wilderness. Let’s review the recipe for a MINI: 1. Take an engine and put a box around it as tightly as possible. 2. Take seating for 4 adults and put a box around it as tightly as possible. 3. Take two pieces of luggage (the other two adults are SOL) and put a box around it.  4. Connect the three boxes in the right order and put a body around it. 5. Put a wheel in each corner. Motoring on with the tour now…

The sculpting of the rear is interesting.  Your eye always looks for the exhaust outlet so if the lower trim were flat it wouldn’t look right.  It’s hard to tell if they intend the wing to function as a diffuser or not.  If there isn’t much more of an upper spoiler or wing than what’s seen here, it would be hard to get a diffuser to work anyway given the turbulence with such a small roof spoiler.

The side splitters could be interesting if they feed an air duct to the rear brake calipers.  Not clear if that’s the intent here.  If the duct does not feed anywhere, it would just create an air bubble ahead of the turbulence of the rear wheel.  It might help reduce some of the drag, but if it doesn’t draw air through the wheel, it would actually reduce cooling to the rear brakes as well as catch debris.

The first thing I noticed from this angle was the sculpting of the fenders.  Reminds me of Subarus from the last decade — not a fan.  The headlight design over powers the rest of the design.

The front splitter reminds me of Toyota concept cars of recent years as well. The angle is too steep to be effective as a splitter so it just creates drag.  The opening at the end is too far off center to be effective at channeling air to the brakes so perhaps they’re to be fed from the center.  The headlight design works a little better from this angle, but the inner sculpting is too wide.  It reminds me of a Pac-Man face-off.

So what did I like about the car? That paint is gorgeous. It would be impossible to keep clean and not show fingerprints, but it looks great. I like that it’s a small car and not a Countryman or Clubman. Maybe the future for a small MINI will be reborn as electric.