Tag Archives: Cadillac

Queen City Cars & Coffee III

Queen City Cars & Coffee is back! The past two years hosting this show have been absolute blast, and I’m stoked to be putting it on again this year. Last year, over 90 cars attended, about 30 more than the first year. For QC3 (just made that name up right now and I dig it) the goal is set at 125 cars. Let’s rally together and make it happen! Invite your friends, invite their friends, invite people that aren’t your friends, invite your grandma, your neighbor, the guy who cleans your septic tank, it doesn’t matter. Just invite them. I genuinely think we have the chance to create something epic and put the Manchester car scene on the map. This year’s show is on Saturday, September 13 from 8am to 12pm at the Arms Parking Lot in Manchester, NH. Be sure to follow @_DoranD_ and @TopDeadCenter on Twitter for updates. I’m beyond fired up for this, and I can’t wait to see everyone there!

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Co-Driver: Track Day Lemonade

Welcome to the brand new Top Dead Center series, Co-Driver. Here, fellow gear heads have an outlet for their automotive passions, whether it’s a exciting story to tell, photos to share, or the retelling of an epic adventure. Co-Driver’s inaugural entry comes from Shawn Pierce, a talented writer and photographer and friend of TDC, who had the chance to shoot a mint track-ready BMW e36 M3 and tell its owner’s unique story. Be sure to check out the Shawn Pierce Photography Facebook page for more of Shawn’s work.

You know the old saying: When life hands you lemons, make lemonade? Well, when life totals your Cadillac, what would be the equivalent of making lemonade? For BMWCCA driving instructor, Laura Fallis, it is made entirely of Bavarian lemons, clad in triple black, and wears an M badge.

Fallis_M3_03 small TDC

On a slick, rain dampened highway in 2006, Laura was involved in an accident that sent her Cadillac ETC off to the scrap yard. While trying to avoid an oncoming car that had veered unexpectedly into her lane, she hit the brakes, swerved off the road, and wound up against a guardrail. “I hit the guardrail hard. I watched the on-coming traffic as the car was launched off its wheels,” recalled Laura. “Only one wheel rode the bottom side of the guardrail, the rest of the car was airborne. I remember the car jolting and I thought it was going to roll. As the car landed sideways in the fast lane, I’m looking at on-coming traffic again and I’m thinking: please stop.” Thankfully they did and Laura Fallis_M3_08 small TDCwalked away from the accident with just bumps, bruises, and minor whiplash. The Cadillac, however, was a wreck and Laura was left with the task of finding a new daily driver.

It was just prior to all this that the track bug had bitten Laura hard. She completed the performance driving course at Skip Barber Racing School at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut, and after that she was off to the races… literally. “I always wanted to race and I found myself with the opportunity to do so,” Laura explained.

A while later, Laura found a 1997 BMW e36 M3 that would eventually fulfill both her daily driver needs and track day desires. “I happened to drive by this BMW with a for sale sign on it,” said Laura. “For some reason it captured my eye, so I turned around, never suspecting this might be the one. But it was love at first sight. I took it for a test drive and the next thing I know, I have the title in hand and I’m off to get plates to pick her up.”

Fallis_M3_25 smallLaura quickly set about making her new M3 track worthy by asking one of the Northeast’s premier BMW tuners, Turner Motorsports (TMS), to work their magic. Kevin Holmes of TMS gave the car a thorough inspection. He found that overall the car was in good shape (it had been in a minor collision at some point but repairing it was simple), and he set to work on the upgrades to make the M3 the track rat Laura wanted. The car had already been equipped with an AFE cold air intake system, so Laura decided to focus on the suspension. She installed H&R sport springs and a Bilstein sport shock and strut set. She upgraded the front and rear sway bars and added reinforcements all around. They also added a BMW shark injector engine software upgrade which provides an increase in horsepower and torque, quickens throttle response, increases the rev-limits, and removes the top speed limiter. All things you want when pushing the limits on a race track.

After purchasing the M3 she became a member of the BMW Car Club of America (BMWCCA) and began attending numerous track day events with the club. Eventually, her driving prowess got her noticed and she was asked to be an instructor for the club. “I think they felt it an asset I am female,” said Laura. “I could make students comfortable and also give them that sense of instruction that none of the other instructors could.”

Laura has owned her M3 since 2006 and has driven it nearly every single day since. It now has more than 169,000 miles on the odometer, Fallis_M3_11 small TDC109,000 of which Laura put on herself. Over the years she has made upgrades to nearly every major system in the car including further upgrades to the suspension, a new cooling system, a Borla cat back exhaust, and an upgraded transmission with a short shifter out of a BMW Z3. She estimates three to five percent of those miles were put on during track days.

When asked about her unique vanity plate (VIXEN) Laura said, “A number of years ago at a track event there were a number ice racers there. There were a couple of vehicles that had Santa’s reindeer’s names on their plates. I thought… too cool! What better plate for a chick’s M3?”

Maybe LMNADE?

Fallis_M3_17 small TDC

 

– Many thanks and much respect to Shawn Pierce for his time and effort in creating this piece.

Wide eyed in The Big Apple: A car show rookie’s ‘Top 5’ from the New York International Auto Show

Over the past few years, I have made the journey to bustling downtown Manhattan and the Jacob Javits Center a number of times for the New York International Auto Show. If you have never been, I highly recommend going, even if you aren’t a car carrying gearhead. Several stories tall, multiple blocks long, and many thousands of square feet, seeing the Javits Center is reason enough to go. I had always gone to simply ogle expensive machinery, but this most recent trip was my first time there for “work” and the media days that precede the show.

Photo Credit: Metropolis Mag
Photo Credit: Metropolis Mag

As I wandered around the show on the first day, waiting for my good friend Daniel Chin to arrive, I might as well have been wearing a sign that said, “Hello! My name is nOOb.” Case in point—most of the manufacturers had coffee, snacks, and water at their booths. As I slowly shuffled past, body racked with cravings for caffeine, my only thought was, “Can I actually have some? Is it ok to take?” Opting to not cause a scene and generally chickening out, I didn’t take any. Later, Danny assured me that it was okay to take as much as I wanted. So I did.

Once I figured things out, I had an absolute blast at the show. I met terrific people, connected with old friends, and came away with a greater understanding about how  major auto shows work and what they mean to the industry. Car wise, NYIAS didn’t disappoint. There were a number of exciting global reveals, plenty of exotic machinery to drool over, and enough free food and drink to keep me satiated, if only momentarily. Now, without any further ado, here are my top five most significant cars from the show. Enjoy!

1.) 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

Photo Credit: Danny Chin
Photo Credit: Daniel Chin

As Danny and I took our seats for the Chevrolet press conference, a Chevy employee walked around handing out small black rubber boxes. I looked up at her quizzically. Seeing my confusion, she handed me one and said, “Earplugs.” Oh, silly me, of course we need earplugs for a press conference, that just makes sense. A minute later and it all became clear—the intro videos, sound effects, and music were absolutely deafening. Despite that, what happened next was rather special.

The utter saturation of the internet with automotive rumors, spy photos, and speculation, makes it nigh on impossible for manufacturer’s to keep anything a secret. Generally, the media has a solid idea of what each manufacturer will be revealing before the auto show even begins. All the other cars Chevy revealed during their press conference—the new SS, the 2014 Camaro, and the C7 Corvette convertible—were known beforehand. What we didn’t expect was to see the rebirth of one of the most famous nameplates in Chevrolet’s history: the Z/28.

Here to give you a bit of backstory behind the famous moniker is Stephen Rust, a life-long car enthusiast and former Chrysler Competitive Intelligence Specialist.

“Even a vision-impaired genealogist could easily track the lineage of the 2014 Z/28 back to the original 1967edition. Chevrolet produced the first-gen Z/28 in order to homologate the car so it could compete in SCCA’s Trans Am competition, easily one of the most competitive racing series in the world at that time. The stock 1967 Z/28… came with a 302 cubic-inch mill that was (under) rated at 290 horsepower. That engine, along with the standard Corvette-derived LT-1 engine, were said to be some of the closest to pure racing engines that Chevrolet had ever released to the public. Though I still feel that the Jeep Cherokee is/was the most significant vehicle of the show, it was the debut of the new Z/28 that moved me the most.”

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Photo Credit: TrackHQ

All the exterior modifications on the Z/28 are functional and very badass. It comes with a honkin’ front splitter, a rear diffuser out back, lightweight wheels, carbon ceramic brakes, and sticky tires to name a few. And please, Chevy, whatever you do, offer this car with the glorious pearlescent matte white paint that the show car was adorned in.

Under the hood, the Z/28 is equipped with a naturally aspirated 7.0-liter V-8 engine that produces 500 horsepower and 470 pound feet of torque. The car also weighs some 300 pounds less than the beastly supercharged Camaro ZL1, the same car the Z/28 will replace as king of the Camaro heap. Befitting the Z/28’s track-focused nature, Chevrolet deleted the car’s sound deadening, made air conditioning an optional extra, took out the carpeting in the trunk, and deleted six of the standard Camaro’s seven speakers. They kept one speaker so occupants could hear the seatbelt chime. Awesome.

2.) Subaru WRX Concept

WRX concept
Photo Credit: Daniel Chin

Of all the cars show at NYIAS, this is the one I was most excited about. Turbochargers and Subarus are about as famous as hotdogs and ketchup. When I heard the rumors that Subaru would be unveiling a concept of what is arguably the company’s most famous vehicle, I found myself dreaming of forced induction and tube shaped processed meat products.

When the fog machines stopped and the strobe lights from the introduction ceremony dimmed, it was clear Subaru had taken an entirely new tact when it came to styling. Gone were the droopy, awkward features of the current WRX and STi, and in their place were sharp, muscular lines and flares and scoops in all the right places. I especially loved the green accents around the tailpipes. Again, cue Stephen Rust:

Photo Credit: Automobile
Photo Credit: Automobile

“Judging by crowd reaction in New York, I suspect that the design study that Subaru displayed will carry over fairly closely to production. Subaru has a styling and performance hit on its hands if the production car closely follows the concept that was shown; a more-than-worthy successor to the current gen car.”

In talking with some of the Subaru brass, I learned that the next WRX wasn’t years away from production, but it was only a matter of months before we would learn more about the final product. They remained mum on details like the interior (we couldn’t see inside), performance (it will likely be fantastic), and horsepower (rumor has it that the production car will make between 275 and 300 horsepower), but we do know that some kind of turbocharged powerplant will find its way under the hood. Long live tradition.

3.) 2014 Cadillac CTS

Photo Credit: Danny Chin
Photo Credit: Daniel Chin

The CTS is a big deal for Cadillac. When it was launched back in 2002, it marked the beginning of Cadillac’s now familiar “art & science” design theme, and heralded a major perception shift within the company that resulted in the General Motors rescuing the Cadillac brand from the pit of woeful mediocrity that it had steeped in for so long.

When I first saw the new CTS, sitting all pretty on its rotating pedestal, I actually mistook it for the Cadillac’s smaller sedan, the ATS. That upright grille, those headlights that arch up onto the front fenders, the character line that runs from the front wheels to the taillights are all deeply reminiscent of the ATS’s softer styling language. And I have to admit, I’m a little unsure of the end result. While the ATS is certainly an attractive car, I feel the CTS draws one-too-many visual cues from its baby brother.

Marc Urbano is a renowned automotive photographer who currently shoots for Road & Track magazine. I first met Marc when I was an intern at R&T during the summer of 2006, and was psyched to run into him at the show. Certainly a man with a better eye for car styling than mine, Marc was gracious enough to share some of his thoughts on the new CTS’s looks.

“The ATS is a handsome car so the CTS is pulling from a solid design already. The current CTS is nicely designed car already and this evolution continues in that trend.  I love the updated front end styling…. the lower nose of the CTS as opposed to the ATS really makes the car look more muscular.  All the lines flow nicely into the front end and the headlight treatment is clean and unique, not following Audi’s design nor adding LEDs just to have them. You can really visually tell that the car has gained length and wheelbase as compared to the current car. The rear end treatment is also clean… but the rear wheel arches seem less pronounced than the current CTS. It makes for a less dramatic and muscular rear profile. While I’m a big fan of the current CTS’s styling, it was time for a design refresh. I think Cadillac stuck to BMW’s design philosophy that it has with the 3-Series—evolutionary changes. Why drastically change a good thing?”

Photo Credit: Cadillac
Photo Credit: Cadillac

Regardless of how it looks, it is exciting to see Cadillac seriously bringing the heat to the established players in this market segment. It was fully Cadillac’s intent with the 2014 CTS to bring it closer to the stalwart sport sedans from Germany, the BMW 5-Series and the Mercedes-Benz E Class. To bring it more in line with the competition, the CTS gets two inches added to its wheelbase and another five inches added to its overall length. In base-model form, the CTS also weighs an impressive 200 pounds lighter than a BMW 528i.

Customers will have the choice of three engine options, at least until the fire breathing CTS-V hits (no definitely word yet on when that will be). The base engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 272 horsepower. Next in line is a naturally aspirated 3.6 V-6 engine that makes 321 horsepower. But honestly, you can forget all that. What you really want is the new Vsport performance package. Tick the ‘Vsport’ option box, and you get Brembo brakes, a limited slip differential, a heavy duty cooling package designed for track use, aggressive tires, and a absolute beast of an engine—a twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V-6 that makes 420 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque. Mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission, the Vsport should rip to 60 miles per hour in about 4.6 seconds. There is nothing a healthy dose of  prodigious horsepower can’t fix.

4.) 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG

Photo Credit: Mercedes-Benz
Photo Credit: Mercedes-Benz

I was at the gym the other day and NBC aired a segment that perfectly described the new CLA. The program was all about how luxury brands like Mercedes-Benz and BMW are reaching further and further downmarket by creating cars that are substantially less expensive than what the brands normally produce. And as someone who doesn’t have 100k in their car budget (yet), the idea of a fast, four door, all-wheel drive German sedan that costs under $50,000 makes me tingly all over. The base CLA starts at under $30,000, and the CLA  45 AMG begins at $47,450; puny numbers when compared with the rest of the Three Pointed Star’s range.

Photo Credit: Mercedes-Benz
Photo Credit: Mercedes-Benz

To create the CLA 45 AMG, MB hands a standard CLA sedan over to the wizards at their AMG tuning division. They start by shoving a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder under the hood—an engine MB claims is the most powerful series-production four-cylinder engine in the world. This diminutive powerplant cranks out an outrageous 360 horsepower 332 pound feet of torque, enough to propel the car to 60 miles per hour in 4.6 seconds. Normally, the crown jewel of any AMG model is the volcanically powerful V-8 engine shoehorned into the engine bay, but not with the CLA.

To make things even more interesting, the CLA 45 also comes with MB’s 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. It also receives the full compliment of AMG upgrades including more aggressive suspension, model specific wheels, carbon fiber exterior, and interior enhancements. Visually, the CLA 45 AMG is a knockout. I’m a big fan of the twin sweeping lines on the doors, the incuts underneath the taillights, and the deep, aggressive air intakes up front. On the inside, it is all luscious dark leather, brushed aluminum, and carbon fiber. The only questionable element was the fixed screen above the air vents. Why no retract, MB? While MBs have never really been my idea of a dream car, I think I could make room for the CLA 45 AMG.

5.) 2014 LandRoverRange Rover Sport

Range Rover sport
Photo Credit: Daniel Chin

I had reservations about including the Range Rover Sport in this article for two reasons. First, the new Jeep Cherokee made a compelling argument for being on this list as it, like the Camaro Z/28, revives a storied nameplate from the annals of history. And secondly, for all intents and purposes, this appears to be just another Range Rover. I decided to include it because Land Rover is currently in the midst of a total brand refresh and I think this new Range Rover Sport is a guaranteed blockbuster.

The Land Rover press conference was all loud music, flashing lights, and Daniel Craig cameos (he was there the night before at the invite-only reveal). Being a rookie, I got to the press conference late and had to stand at the back of the throng of journos who surrounded the Land Rover booth. I had to make do with hoisting my camera up in the air and shooting blindly. The pictures were, predictably, crap. But because car journalists have car ADD, they lose interest in a vehicle rather quickly and you can go take pictures unmolested. Lesson learned.

Photo Credit: Land Rover
Photo Credit: Land Rover

The Range Rover Sport is known for its on- and off-road prowess, incredible luxury, and utter disregard for cost. It is also an absolute pig when it comes to weight and fuel economy. Part of the shift happening at Land Rover is a move towards greater fuel economy and lighter weight vehicles. For the 2014 Sport, Land Rover managed to shed some 800 pounds over the previous model, thanks in large part to a new aluminum structure. The benefits of the diet will surely be seen in fuel mileage (the company hasn’t released those figures yet) and a significant bump in performance. Speaking of performance, opt for the supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 engine, and 60 miles per hour will be crushed in under five seconds.

Like all Land Rovers, when the pavement ends, the Sport should be just as capable as it is dominating the glittering boulevard. It comes with a host of off-road equipment like locking differentials, Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 system, and a ridiculous wading depth of 33.5 inches. For reference, that’s nearly the average height of a four-year old child.

Visually, the new Range Rover Sport benefits from the same styling elements that we first saw on the Evoque and are currently in use on the recently refreshed Range Rover. In person, the Sport looks terrific—more lithe and compact than the full fat Range Rover, but it still carries that undeniably imposing  presence that made the first gen car such a hit. And who can’t love those LED headlights? I’d say it is worthy member of this list.

– Many thanks and much respect to Danny Chin for being my tour guide, Stephen Rust for his time and energy for this interview, and to Danny Choy, Diego Rosenberg, Johnathan Li, Marc Urbano, and Chris Cantle for putting up with me being a complete nOOb.

What Inspires You?

Good writing can come from anywhere – a particularly articulate essay for school, a legendary novel, a satisfyingly succinct news article, or a exceptionally poetic piece of poetry. As a writer and an avid reader, I can appreciate and enjoy all of these instances of excellent writing. However, there is one area of writing that for me simply overshadows all the rest – automotive journalism. I literally can only think of about three other things I love more than finding a piece of auto writing that simply explodes off the page like a piston detonating in a cylinder. You know you’ve found it when the chills down your spine, the description of the engine note actually reverberates in your ears, and your palms sweat as the author describes the car’s incredible turn of speed. Oh yes, how I love it.

For this TDC entry, I wanted to put forth these five pieces of what I consider to be truly exceptional examples of what I’m on about. Each author makes a compelling case for why cars are not simply modes of transportation, but a reason for life. Read them, digest and absorb their beautiful prose and flowing language, and then let me know what you think about them and which one is your favorite. Without any further ado, I present these exquisite articles for your consumption. Enjoy!

Autoblog.com – First Drive: 2011 Audi R8 V10 Spyder

http://www.Autoblog.com

Written by Autoblog’s Jonathon Ramsey way back in August 2010, this piece caught my heart because of it’s glorious detail and the way it manages to be an exciting review of what is without doubt one of Audi’s finest automobiles ever, and at the same time an insightful look into the way the car changes fundamental elements of driving. Need an example? Check it. “The Audi R8 has made canyon running so easy, and the Audi R8 V10 Spyder has made it look and feel so good, that it’s pornographically indecent.” Stop reading this, and go read that.

Jalopnik.com – Bentley Mulsanne: First Drive

http://www.Jalopnik.com

There are a lot of automotive websites out there, but there are none that can touch Jalopnik on its unique brand of humor, crudeness, or hilarious insights. Case in point, this piece by Sam Smith from July 2010 on one of my favorite cars of all time, the Bentley Mulsanne. The thing I particularly love about this piece is that because the Mulsanne is so expensive and so over the top, it’s easy to exploit that insanity into a brilliantly entertaining review, and Smith absolutely nails it. “The glovebox hinges are heavy chrome bastards you could hang a lifeboat from. Every control has weight, every switch or instrument is heavily damped, and the door handles contain more mass than the entire door in the average Honda. A Mercedes-Benz does not feel like this. Neither does a Bentley Continental. Even most Rolls-Royces fall a bit short.

Jalopnik.com – Cadillac CTS-V Coupe: Eating Your Way To A Burnout

http://www.Jalopnik.com

Sam Smith from Jalopnik was on a roll back in July 2010. Both this post and the Bentley Mulsanne first drive are straight epic. I primarily love this piece for two reasons: 1.) The Cadillac CTS-V is one of the best cars on the road today, period. 2.) In classic Jalopnik fashion, Smith reviews the car but does it while on a wacky adventure and draws the reader into his hilarious affair with Caddy’s outrageous supercharged coupe. “A brief word about the CTS-V coupe’s supercharged, 556-hp, 551-lb-ft, 6.2-liter V-8: It is the kind of unholy device you do not screw with. It leaps toward the rev limiter with such fury that, were you the type of person to have a pile of donuts in your lap while driving, most of those donuts would end up on your shirt. It is quiet; from the cabin, all you hear is a subdued growl and no supercharger whine whatsoever. Then the earth opens up, swallows you, and spits you back out. When you wake up, you are on the other side of the planet.” That’s what I’m talking about.

Autoblog.com – Review: Lamborghini Murcielago LP640

http://www.Autoblog.com

This Autoblog review, written by Jonathon Ramsey, was a primary catalyst for me wanting to write about cars. No joke, every time I read this piece, it still makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck and tears to well up in my eyes. That may sound strange, but follow the link and read it for yourself and I challenge you to not feel the same way. It’s something about the way Ramsey builds such gorgeous analogies and puts the reader right in the driver’s seat that so startlingly takes your breath away. “As long as you’re not on some spit of asphalt custom made for a Lotus Elise, the LP640 is limited only by your knowledge of the road and your knowledge of how to drive it. The car isn’t glued to the road — it is the road, a single amplitude of tarmac flowing between the shoulders. Go with it, and you will go far, my son…

Car and Driver – Road Test: 2012 Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4

http://www.CarandDriver.com

I’ve read a lot of car reviews in my time, but NEVER have I read anything like this. Long time C&D editor Aaron Robinson writes one of the most captivating road test pieces I have ever come across. Robinson demonstrates with every line what the difference is between people who write for low-budget car blogs (ahem), and the people who pen lines for one of the best magazines in the biz. Not only is the Aventador the stuff of dreams, but Robinson’s descriptions of Lambo’s finest offering make me want to be a better man. “If  you have the Aventador’s stability control set to “corsa” (or, indeed, turned off) and are an Apache with the throttle, it’ll reward with a sturdy push from the back to rotate you toward the path of righteousness. It can thus achieve truly terrifying speeds without feeling stressed . . . and truly terrifying noises. The 8500-rpm redline and furious spin-up of torque, especially from 5000 on when the ears flatten against the deep percussive energy emanating from the back, remind you of why the major Italian boutiques eschew turbos.”

The Torque Tube: Bruce and Linda Ledoux, and Guardian Angel Motorsports

This edition of ‘The Torque Tube’ features Bruce Ledoux and his wife Linda from Guardian Angel Motorsports (GAM), a team of racing drivers who are racing for a higher purpose besides podium finishes and racing fuel. Moved by personal experience and inspiration, Bruce and Linda are using GAM to improve the lives of children with disabilities and illnesses by donating money to charities and causes that support them. Be sure to visit the Guardian Angel Motorsports website HERE.

It’s mid-November 2011, and I’m still slightly starstruck as I walk through the paddock at the wildly exclusive Monticello Motor Club (MMC) in Monticello, New York, wondering what supreme stroke of luck landed me at this incredible place. Parked in one of MMC’s garages is an immaculate Ford GT, and lining the pit wall are veritable acres of Cadillac CTS-Vs in coupe, sedan and wagon form, a pair of stunning Ferrari 458s, a Corvette ZR1, and more Porsche Caymans and Lotuses than an average person will see in a lifetime. As I pinch myself I realize two things: 1.) It’s going to be a ridiculous day, and 2.) I didn’t think it was possible to love cars as much as I do right now.

What got me here was more than luck. I’m spending the day at MMC on an invitation from Bruce and Linda Ledoux, the founders of Guardian Angel Motorsports. They brought their race-prepped Lotus Exige Cup to the track to race in the final member race day of the season and were kind enough to invite me along. As you can well imagine I jumped, nay, lept, at the chance. As I wander through pit lane ogling the machinery, I think about the significance of what Bruce and Linda are doing with GAM, and what an incredible impact it can have.

As the latter part of the name implies, Guardian Angel Motorsports is a team of racing drivers that compete in a range of different races, classes, and events throughout the country. As for the first part of the name, Bruce and Linda were inspired by their son Colin, who was born with a chromosome defect that causes global learning delays amongst other challenges, to create a charitable organization that brings awareness and assistance to kids like Colin; to be a child’s “guardian angel.” Since its inception in 2009, GAM has donated over $160,000 to nine different charities, all the while competing in major races like the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Bruce was gracious enough to spend some time talking with me about how GAM started, what it means to him, and what his vision for the future is for this organization.

What is the inspiration behind Guardian Angel Motorsports? How did it start?

“It came around because of the experience that Colin has brought to Linda and I… Professional racing is a passionate undertaking of mine, but I struggle with the time investment and the dollars required when I have a child that is affected the way that Colin is. What I was looking to do was also payback the system or ‘pay it forward’ if you will because we got so many great things from the social services that we consumed as we have been progressing with Colin. It occurred to me that if Colin didn’t have the advocate that Linda represents for him, he would be a complete victim of the system.

One of things we learned in the process is that you can see an injustice or a problem in the system and you can point it out and talk to people about it, but nobody really wants to change it or fix it or do anything about it… Implementing that change is incredibly powerful. So, you show up with a checkbook. Then you can make change, significant change, as quickly as it takes you to write out a check. So… If you want to get something done, you need to do your thing and get it done.”

Linda Ledoux. Photo Credit: Guardian Angel Motorsports

It was from that desire to enact significant change that GAM was born. Through their organization, Bruce and Linda have married their passion for racing and donating resources to challenged kids, and the opportunity for impact on children’s lives with GAM is enormous. Another fundamental inspiration for GAM were “pledge-per-mile” or “pledge-per-lap” events like the Pan-Mass Challenge. The Challenge, a bicycling event founded by Billy Starr, brings in over 4,500 participates and donates tens of millions of dollars to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Bruce Ledoux at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Photo Credit: Guardian Angel Motorsports

“I thought, ‘Why can’t we do a pledge-per-lap race?’… There are 76 million NASCAR and motorsports fans, if I could get half to give a dollar every year, now we have something. We have something with some major range to it.” After learning about the Pan-Mass Challenge, Bruce decided to apply that kind of fundraising concept to GAM. “And I thought, ‘Well, if [Starr] can do this on a bike ride and we use all the TV and media and high profile things that come with [racing], we ought to be able to do that.'”

Where did the name Guardian Angel Motorsports come from?

“The name came about because of frustration we felt when we brought Colin to preschool.” Bruce and Linda experienced significant shortcomings in the school’s ability to cope and adapt to Colin’s needs. “I said to Linda, ‘Damn, you know Colin needs a guardian angel just to go to lunch.’ Then about two days later I was staring at the ceiling and it hit me. It all kinda came together and I was like, ‘Wait a minute, why don’t we do a pledge-per-lap thing and why don’t we call our team Guardian Angel Motorsports?’ We’ll build in it a way that can be franchised much like breast cancer walk is. We’re going to create the package and the formula and then we’re going to franchise that out across as many motorsports participants as are willing to take it.”

Photo Credit: Guardian Angel Motorsports

Do you and Linda have separate roles in running in GAM?

“We definitely have distinct roles. She has some great strengths in terms of organization and planning and details, I guess I’m more the ‘deal’ guy. I have more relationships and seem to have an intrinsic skill to connect dots. So we try to divide and conquer that way so that one plus one is more than two.”

Are there particular charities that GAM tends to support or do you support any charity?

Photo Credit: Guardian Angel Motorsports

“I want to immediately relieve some of the pressures [that kids like Colin] are feeling and give them a chance.” Bruce and Linda’s focus with GAM is to create immediate impact and immediate change. This approach leads them to support groups like the Starlight Foundation, the Massachusetts Downs Syndrome Congress, and Friends of Bella, all organizations focused on improving the lifestyles of children in need.

“It’s not important that [Colin] wins, it’s important that he has the same opportunity that you and I have… If we could use people’s passionate interest and the huge public awareness that motorsports represents… then I think we left our own dent in the universe.”

How many drivers are racing with GAM?

“We have TransAm entry, a Rolex entry, two Continental Challenge entries, we have a World Challenge entry, I’m trying to cut deals right now for an ALMS entry, and I have three people that have stepped forward… [to compete in] SCCA, and the Playboy Cup.”

With the franchising model in mind, Bruce and Linda are out to create a vehicle that will allow people to pursue their passion and contribute to charity at the same time. From the GAM website: “Fast lap times feel good. Racing for a little boy or girl that needs your help—feels incredible. Join the GAM driver team and spread your wings for children’s charities. It doesn’t matter what car you drive, or what league you’re in. All are welcome. If you have a children’s charity that you’d like to raise money and awareness for, bring your charity with you. We’ll give you real estate on our site, we’ll help you advertise, do PR releases, get the word out with social media—we’ll support you with our fundraising engine.”

What’s in store for 2012?

Photo Credit: Guardian Angel Motorsports

“Our big fundraising campaign for 2012 is that we’re going to race 3,000 laps. So what we’re trying to drive awareness to and drive fundraising around is pledge-per-lap. We would like to get 30,000 people to pledge $.10 per lap, that would give us $9,000,000. Our big hurdle is awareness, keeping people engaged and excited about it… We need to get out and have people hear about us and understand what’s going on and start to follow the story and see the impact of our efforts for individuals.”

What is the most significant and impacting thing you’ve personally experienced through GAM?

In 2009, GAM was at a race in Florida where they ended up qualifying dead last. A reporter from a local newspaper pulled into the pits and told Bruce he was going to do a story on the car most likely to finish last and he wanted to write it about them. Clearly, not an exciting prospect for Bruce who had just finished driving the car, nor an intelligent thing for the reporter to say. Instead, Bruce told him about GAM.

“We talk for ten minutes and he clicks a picture and disappears. The next day, I’m in the meal tent and everyone’s coming over and whacking me on the back saying ‘nice job’ and I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’ They said, ‘You got the cover of the sports section for the local news.'”

A couple of hours later, Bruce is down in the garage for the meet-and-greet, an opportunity for fans to meet the drivers and get autographs. “So… this guy comes over to me with his baby who had some sort of genetic issue… and the 18 month old hands a check to me and it was a $10 donation for our effort. And I was like, ‘Oh man, we’re getting somewhere with this, we’re connecting with people.’ I have a picture of me accepting the check from the little guy… So, it was a little thing, but it hit me between the eyes that we’re up to something that has greater meaning and value.”

Welcome, Bruce and Linda, to The Torque Tube.

Photo Credit: Guardian Angel Motorsports

Many thanks to Bruce for his time for this interview, and thanks to both Linda and Bruce for inviting me out to MMC to hang out for the day. Interested in supporting Guardian Angel Motorsports? Be sure to check out the website HERE. For supporters and donors, there are opportunities to attend one of GAM’s races and even help the fueling crew down in the pits, man safety equipment, work with the crew chief, or a number of other fantastic opportunities.

Cars in the Wild

In the great pantheon of super-saloons, there is one car that is responsible for giving rise to the entire segment. Ze Germans without a doubt make some of the world’s finest super-saloons, luxurious four door sedans that carry a velvet wrapped ballistic missile under the hood, topped with a dollop of technological whipped cream. Bahn-burners like the Audi RS6, Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, and Porsche Panamera Turbo all come to the fight with their own blend of power, luxury and special-ness, but they don’t carry the same heritage or brutality of this particular car. The rest of the world tries to compete as well: the Italians have the Maserati Quattroporte, the English have the Aston Martin Rapide, and the ‘Mericans have the Cadillac CTS-V. They are all excellent cars in their own right, but this car continues to stand above the rest. What is it? The BMW M5.

This particular iteration, the E60, is legendary in it’s own right, even if it was a flawed machine. It’s 5-liter V10 developed over 500 horsepower in “M” mode, would rev to a stratospheric 8,250 rpms, and had an exhaust howl that would send chills down your spine. Big vented brakes fill the 10-spoke wheels, and quad exhaust tips protrude from what is, quite frankly, a rather bulbous and unsightly rear end. Spotted at the Gold’s Gym in Manchester, this car’s owner plans on driving it through the winter (after fitting it with snow tires), which should make for an entertaining few months. Imagine sitting at a stoplight on an empty snow covered road, 500 horsepower at your disposal, and pinning it when the light turns green. Rooster tails, screaming engine, and zero forward progress would abound.

While Top Gear’s car reviews tend to be deeply biased an heavily opinionated, they do make for damn entertaining television, and every once in a while they seem to be spot on with a car’s character. Such is the case with Jeremy Clarkson’s review of the M5 from a few years back. Check out the two part video below on the E60, and enjoy Jezza at his finest.

So yes, while the gearbox is clunky, the sat nav woman is annoying, and it looks like it hit every branch of the ol’ ugly tree on the way down, it is an epic car with an epic, wailing, sonorous engine. To see what the next generation car will look like, grab a copy of the most recent Car & Driver magazine and check out the 2013 M5 that will be hitting our shores in the next year or so. In the meantime, be sure to look for this silver M5 whipping about on snowy Manchester roads this season, and wish you were behind the wheel.

Musings of a Car Guy: So Many Keys, So Little Time

Another anonymous post from a loyal TDC reader. This piece is fan-flippin-tastic.

So, I got to thinking the other day on my commute to work, as is the place where I do most of my pondering; if money were no object, what would I be driving right now? It’s sunny and warm with a light breeze and The Police rocking out on the radio. If money were no object I wouldn’t have to be limited to driving just one car, I could have a different car every day of the week! Seeing as how I am never going to have that kind of money, I’m going to sit here and post my thoughts online. Feel free to post a comment or two if you agree or disagree with my choices.

Monday. Does anyone actually even know that Sunday is the first day of the week anymore? Either way, Monday is pretty much the crappiest day of the week. It is the day you spill hot coffee on your lap at the first stop light on your commute, it’s the day when the meetings happen, and the day lasts longer than you want because of the extra e-mails that built up over the weekend, and you still have to pick up groceries on the way home. Friday was a great finish to last week but any good boss will tell you how to improve come Monday morning. “Hey, thanks for the appreciation and boost in office morale, prick.”

So what do you drive on Mondays? This would be the daily driver, the to-and-from work car. You want to have reasonably good gas mileage but when money is no object, you can’t be a Prius driver. You can just go and buy your carbon credits. My choice would be the Audi RS4 Avant.

Audi RS4 Avant

Mileage is decent providing you stay out of the throttle, there is room for the wife and 2.5 kids with space in the trunk for groceries, all-wheel drive for the occasional snow squall or heavy downpour, and last but not least a straight up fire breathing, Bumble Bee Camaro killing, kraut eating German monster under the hood. Enough said. When you want to pass the jerk in the left lane that is doing the speed limit, pop that DSG level down one, mash the pedal and smoke him.

Tuesday. Although somewhat of a follow up to Monday’s blues, Tuesday is a new day. It’s the day where you and the guys have a man-night. A few brews at your local gastro-pub and rousing discussions of work, women, sports and, of course, who has the nicer car. Keep in mind that you’re filthy so all your friends are loaded too. You may have money, but you’re not one of those rich guys who buys a car because of its social status. You have seven cars of purpose and you drive each one for a reason. Testosterone Tuesday means muscle car: the 1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt.

Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt

The end of the night rolls around and you bring the boys out back to the private parking spot in the parking garage to show them your Tuesday ride. The car that only has about a hundred sisters (111-127 cars produced, sources disagree), came stock from the factory running an 11.6 second ¼ mile trapping at 124 mph, 3,203 lbs with full fluids, 427 cubic inches (7.0 liters for you young guys), four barrel carbs, and a high rise manifold that cranked out 657 horsepower at 7,000 rpms. Your buddies were wondering why when you arrived you were shaking. It’s because you just drove an American Drag-Strip Demon and it took everything to keep it on the road without you melting the tires at every stop light. It is speculated that the Thunderbolt was the fastest production drag car ever produced.

Wednesday. Some may call it “Hump Day.” What part of the population actually humps on hump day? My guess is less than 30%. Monday and Tuesday have sucked at work. Your boss is friendly but an underhanded dick, your “administrative assistant” called out sick because her daughter has a runny nose, and your wife is off getting a treatment at the day spa. Sounds like you’re taking a day off too! What would a self respecting class, gentleman like yourself do on your day off?

Get out of town? Check. Quench your thirst for speed on the water? Check.

Sitting on the beach is for guys that are either whipped into doing so by their wives, obsessed with getting tan and being “Snooked out,”or you have a stomach that crests so much when lying down you can’t see the ocean. You are none of those men. You are handsome, you have chiseled abs, wear white polos with the collar in the correct “un-popped” position, sport Ray-Bans, and create some of that aura and mystery for the unfortunate women that can’t have you. You my friend have a boat. Not just one, many. Sunday cruising on Golden Pond is done on your one-of-a-kind 1938 Chris Craft 29’ twin engine Sportsman.

ChrisCraft Sportsman

Weekend sailing trips are enjoyed on the Hinckley SW70, and your day out by yourself or with the guys is done on the Statement Marine 42 foot v-hull powered by twin Mercury Racing 1075SCi engines (look it up.) Straight nasty and classy. The 2011 model has not been released yet but it is poised to be the Bugatti Veyron of off shore power boats.

But we digress; we’re here to talk cars. What do you drive down to the yacht club? Today it’s the 2009 Mercedes Benz G55 G V12 S Bi-Turbo by BRABUS. This German colossus is propelled by a twin turbo V12 that crushes the 0-60 mph run in a scant 4.3 seconds. It’s not meant for top speed but if you needed to go 150 mph, you can. Need to move the boats? Again, no problem. That connecting rod shredding, tire smoking, war machine of an engine produces 700 hp at 5,100 rpms and 973 lb-ft of torque at 2,100 rpms. For the Love of God and All Living Things that are Good, you could tow your vacation house around with that kind of power. If the infamous Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDi can tow a Boeing 747 (seriously, check it out on Youtube) with only 553 lb-ft of torque, can you imagine what you could move with this thing? Not to mention it hasn’t really changed shape in thirty years. The G is stately and refined, low key enough to show up to a wedding and bad ass enough to pull a Jumbo jet around on your private air strip.

Brabus Bi-Turbo

Thursday. Back to work. Ever stare at the dainty girl walking by and you don’t quite know why she’s so beautiful? There isn’t one thing that sticks out, she’s just subtlety perfect. When you get her home, however, she breaks out the whips and chains and makes you cry like a little boy. The Cadillac CTS-V is a little like that. Dainty and cosseting when you need it to be, then dangerous and a little freaky when let loose.

The V is subtly different than the regular CTS sedan: A little bit lower, a stonkin’ chrome grill, a hidden pair of brake discs the size of formal dinner ware, and a little “V” badge on the boot. I can hear you all screaming, “But, what about the Porsche Panamera Turbo S or the Mercedes E63 AMG?!?” Let’s just go ahead and eliminate the Porsche right now. It currently holds the new record at the Nurburgring in Germanywith a 7:56minute lap time, beating out the Caddy by 3.32 seconds, but I’d rather make out with a walrus and shag a manatee than own the Panamera. It’s so ugly it’s not even funny. Really, it’s not funny, so stop laughing. I’ll give up those three seconds on the track and take the CTS-V, the second fastest four-door family sedan on the planet. Not to mention, the CTS-V is bringing the swagger and the old school class back to the Cadillac brand.

Cadillac CTS-V

If you tried to take Grammy for a ride and make her get in the back of a Panamera, she’d hit you with her cane and walk to wherever you were going. “What about the E-Class?” you may ask. Well, that’s a toss up. Edmunds gives the Caddy the advantage, Road & Track gives the Benz the #1, and Motortrend has the CTS-V losing to the RS4. Seeing as how you already own the RS4 and the ridiculously awesome G Wagon, you diversify and choose the nostalgic Caddy with the volcano under the hood.

Coming next week, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Can you even stand to know what you’re going to be driving on Friday?!

Cars in the wild!

The logo that's making a comeback. If they make more cars like the CTS-V, Cadillac will do just fine.
Welcome to the new photo series on Top Dead Center, Cars in the Wild! Seeing awesome cars at an Auto Show is one thing, or seeing them on a racetrack is certainly another, but seeing an unexpected gem cruising down a back road or sitting in a showroom or pulling into a parking lot is what makes life worth living. That was the drive behind the Cars in the Wild series; we’ll be posting pics of the rare, exotic, amazing as we see them just chillin’ in real life. The inaugural entry is the Cadillac CTS-V, seen at the MacMulkin Chevrolet/Cadillac dealership in Nashua. Stickered at a cool $71,000, the CTS-V is like the fire breathing Satan child of the run-of-the-mill CTS sedan. Caddy stuffed their 6.2 liter supercharged V8 engine into the engine bay, upgraded pretty much every part on the car, and plunked it into the showroom. The CTS-V sedan and coupe make 556 hp and over 550 lb-ft of torque, and it is confirmed to be the fastest four door sedan in the world around the famed Nurburgring racetrack in Germany. If Caddy keeps making cars like this, they will have no problem correcting and sprucing up their image. We can think of no better way to do that than creating a tire-shredding, chromed out, supremely badass luxury car. Bring it on.
The Supremely badass CTS-V Coupe.