Tag Archives: corvette

Cars in the Wild

FullSizeRender (1)Even over my cell phone’s weak, tinny speakers, the Corvette’s supercharged V8 sounds all lumpy and cammed and gorgeous. “Dad, you HAVE to listen to this.” He huddles over the phone along with my cousin Jared as I hit ‘Play’. In the video, the striking blue ‘Vette idles with a heavy snarl, then exhales under revs with a tearing, ripping bellow and slows idles back down into a meaty whubwhubwhubwhub. “Oh man. That car sounds like it’s about 200 feet deep,” he says through a grin.

FullSizeRenderThe standard Corvette needs no introduction, but I think this model does. Pictured here is the seventh-generation (C7) Stingray Z06, the first ‘Vette to wear the ‘Stingray’ badge since the third-generation car in 1976, and the most powerful car General Motors has ever produced. Reserved especially for Corvettes, the Z06 moniker derives from a long lineage of hot Corvettes dating back to the mid-1960’s, and denotes the cream of Chevy’s performance know-how. When a one of these cars rolls by with that badge, it means something special. This particular Z06 is adorned with the (confusingly named) Z07 package, and makes a crazy 650 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque from its 6.2-liter supercharged V8 engine. Give it the beans, and the Z06 rips from zero to 60 mph in three seconds dead, and abuses the quarter-mile run in just over 11 seconds. I don’t care what definition you use, this is a really, really fast car. If you opt to spec your car out in Z07 trim, things get even more wild – it transforms into a fully operational battle station, complete with carbon-ceramic brakes, carbon fiber body panels and aero kit, super sticky tires, and a revised suspension setup.

In FullSizeRender (3)the flesh, the Z06 is so aggressively styled it’s actually a little intimidating – give it a sideways glance and it’s easy to imagine the ‘Vette whipping out a switchblade and wanting to start some trouble. It’s all wide hips, big wheels, scoops, cuts, and wings. There is no confusing this car with a wannabe track toy. Every opening on the Z06 is functional – the carbon-fiber slats on the hood suck heat away from the engine, the front splitter pushes the nose of the car into the pavement, while the vertical wing out back keeps the rear tires planted at speed, and the various other holes and protrusions funnel cool air to where it’s needed most.

With the Z06, Chevy took the already capable Corvette platform and slathered on every go-fast bin in the warehouse to create not just a fast Corvette, but a world-class supercar that can hang with (or embarrass) the best cars in the world. The Z06 looks the business, has the performance to back it up, and arrives with zero pretensions of dominance, because dominance is already understood. Poseurs will inevitably buy this car, as they do with any car of this magnitude, but the essence of the Z06 is pure: it’s a supercar that demands skill and respect to extract it’s true performance. It also represents the rare but wonderful occurrence where a global behemoth like GM shows what it is capable of by setting the bureaucracy aside, buckling up, and putting the pedal to the freaking metal.

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Cars in the Wild

It’s fascinating how automobiles can embody human emotions and ideas. For example, if you wanted to define “finesse” in the automotive realm, cars like the Lotus Elise or Mazda Miata would fit the bill perfectly. Both are lightweight, nimble, and give a sense of connection and fluidity like few others can. When describing the essence of those cars, Lotus founder Colin Chapman’s famous philosophy, “Simplify, then add lightness” couldn’t ring more true. The car featured in this edition of Cars in the Wild, the Dodge Viper R/T 10, is exactly none of those things.

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If the Elise is a scapel, the Viper is a rusty sledgehammer; if the Miata is a happy Terrier who’s eager to frolic and play, the Viper is an irritated pit viper who’s thinking about making a lunge at your face. The early Dodge Vipers contributed greatly to the stereotype that America’s supercars are really only good for going in straight line. Refined? An exquisite handler? A predictable gentleman’s racer? These things the Viper is not. But, IMG_2202what it may lack in traditional measurements of performance, it more than makes up for in character and excitement. I mean, just look at it – that hood! Those steamroller tires! The center exit exhaust! You get the impression that Dodge just kind of slid some money across the table to a group of wild eyed engineers and said, “Well, it needs to say Dodge on the car somewhere, and having it actually work would be great, but other than that, have fun.”

This particular car is a second generation model, produced between 1996 and 2002. Under that endless hood lies a colossal 8.0-liter V10, which can trace its roots back to the first-generation Viper’s Lamborghini-designed engine. Despite its monstrous size, the engine actually only develops 415 horsepower. Still, these second-gen Vipers were a marked improvement in every way over the original car. It’s faster and lighter, and while it looks similar, there were enough changes to warrant calling it a new generation model. The Viper mauls its way to 60 mph in about four seconds (which is properly quick, even by today’s standards), and runs onto a 185 mph top speed. And, while crisp handling dynamics are not this car’s forte, cornering and performance limits are high enough to make it worthy of the supercar mantle.

IMG_2201As the Viper has evolved, not only has it finally become more refined, but the performance threshold has continued to climb. Much of this is due to the car’s success in a variety of racing series. The current-generation Viper comes packing an even larger engine (8.4-liters!) and makes 640 horsepower and 600 lb-ft of torque. With the help of carbon fiber and aluminum, it is lighter and sharper than any versions before it, and with dollops of leather and plenty of Fiat money, it’s now more comfortable and upscale than any other Viper as well. While time and development have improved it’s maturity, it’s core DNA still reflects the original car’s recipe of intensity and brute force over delicacy and finesse.

There is no shortage of supercars that are superior to the Viper – some accelerate faster, others are better on a racetrack or have a more prestigious pedigree – with nearly all costing many times more. But, few can pull off the level of panache and intensity of this legendary all-American bruiser. The Dodge Viper, like the Chevrolet Corvette, brings a unique brand of performance to the table at a price that people other than oil tycoons and Crown Princes can afford. Flaws and all, the world would be a far duller place without the Viper, and that’s why we love it. *cue billowing American flags and fireworks*

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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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.

Photo Extravaganza: Cars & Copters 2012

The boys and girls over at Yuppie Racing definitely know how to put on a car show. The first time I heard the name of the show I said what everyone else says when hearing it for the first time. “Cars and copters? Like, helicopters?” Yeeup. A car show, with helicopters. In the immortal words of the Sauce Boss, Harley Morenstein from EpicMealTime. “Take something next level, and inject it with smart ideas. That’s how you do [Yuppie Racing], player.” Or something like that.

There are a lot of great car shows out there, but none quite like this. Over 1,000 cars turned out for Cars & Copters, now in its fourth year. Everything from exotics to muscle cars to savagely tuned Subarus, Mitsubishis and Nissans turned showed up this past Sunday at the Plymouth Municipal Airport in Plymouth, Mass. This is quickly turning into the premiere car show in New England, and for good reason. Cars & Copters isn’t just about cars and having a good time – money raised from the event was donated to the Jimmy Fund, so keep an eye on the Cars & Copters Facebook event page to find out exactly how much was raised. If this year’s event was anything to go by, the 2013 Cars & Copters show will likely blow your mind. Check out the slideshow of photos below, and get yourself to next year’s show!

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Cars in the Wild

In my feeble brain, the general rule of thumb has always been that the more expensive and powerful a car is, the more I want it. Doesn’t matter if it’s new age or old school, if it makes a ton of power, looks the business, and causes my wallet to wilt in fear, that’s the car I have to own. Take Ferraris for example. Sure, you can tune your GT-R or Audi or Evo to make more power than, say, the Ferrari 458 – there will always be people with a faster car than you, no matter what you drive – but there is something about that emblem, that power, that noise, and that name that makes me want to mash the loud pedal to the floor and ride its sonic waves all the way to Valhalla. Its a strange thing then, that there is a small, inexpensive, and comparatively slow car being featured on this edition of Cars in the Wild. Welcome, everyone, to the car that defies my own status quo – the Subaru BRZ.

Here’s the deal – The BRZ makes 200 horsepower, does the 0-60 mph shuffle in a shade over six seconds, and costs around $26,000. Those figures don’t exactly make me tingly all over, if I’m honest. So if that’s the case, why is this car being featured in the most honorable segment of the most prestigious automotive website in all the land? Because the BRZ does something many high-end sports cars and the great majority of inexpensive cars don’t – it drives. The BRZ was never meant to compete with Chevrolet Corvettes or BMW M3s or Porsche 911s. The premise on which it was built is the same as the one that underpins the legendary Mazda MX-5 (Miata) and the nimble offerings from Lotus – low weight, sublime handling, and the tactile driving experience over bloated belt lines and prodigious horsepower.

200 horsepower may not seem like much (and it isn’t), but when it’s responsible for motivating a relatively svelte 2600 pounds and the whole package has a balanced and progressive chassis, you’re left with a controllable and enjoyable driving experience that focuses on mastering the craft of driving. The BRZ was born from a most unlikely corporate marriage between Subaru and Toyota which actually resulted in the creation of two sister cars to the BRZ – the Scion FR-S and the Toyota GT-86. Here in the US, we only receive the Scion and Subaru versions, while the Toyota badged model is relegated to the European market. The Subaru-sourced 2.0-liter four-cylinder boxer engine sits deep in the BRZ, giving it a terrifically low center of gravity. The fastidious attention paid to balance, weight, and handling by the car’s engineers makes the BRZ a unique and compelling rival to cars like the the Nissan 370Z, Ford Mustang, and the V-6 Chevrolet Camaro. Need proof? Check out this fantastic comparison from Drive on the BRZ and the Mustang HERE.

When perusing the interwebs in search of car reviews and videos (which happens probably more than it should), I naturally default to Googling stuff like “Lamborghini” or “drag racing” or “epic burnouts”. It’s a rare day that I take the time to read or watch something about a car that costs less than several houses and makes fewer than a whole kingdom’s worth of horse-power. That changed, however, with the BRZ. I appreciate it in a different way than I appreciate cars like the Ferrari 458 – it’s a compelling, exciting and inexpensive sports car born out of an inspiration rather than from a marketing team or a budget committee. Thank you, Subaru/Toyota/Scion for making this car. I. Must. Own. It.

Cars in the Wild

When the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 first hit the world stage back in 2007, it had about the same affect as when Nissan unleashed its new GTR—people looked at each other in stunned disbelief and said, “It can do what? And it costs how much?” The Zr1, like the GTR,  serves up a heaping platter of world crushing power and performance for substantially less coin than its European rivals. And, unlike more cultured and refined cars like the Ferrari 458 or Porsche GT2, the ZR1 serves up its power in typical American fashion—it takes that heaping platter, smashes it in your face, then punches you square in the gut. The ZR1 is raw, barely refined, and elects to dispense its heavy ordnance with reckless abandon rather than calculated precision. Need proof? See HERE, HERE, and HERE. And dear, sweet Lord, the sound it makes! Listen to THIS!

Sorry for the crappy photo - yet another reason to upgrade to the iPhone.

The ZR1 develops 638 horsepower from its supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine, making it the most powerful engine General Motors has ever produced. And unlike so many powerful American cars before it, the ZR1 can actually handle. Like, go around both left and right hand corners. It handles so well in fact that it currently holds the ninth fastest time at the famous Nurburgring circuit in Germany with a blistering lap time of 7 minutes and 19.63 seconds. Only dedicated track cars or soul-shatteringly expensive exotics like the Gumpert Apollo have set faster times than Chevrolet’s American bruiser.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em! http://pictures.topspeed.com/IMG/crop/201006/2011-chevrolet-corvette-z-5_1600x0w.jpg

One of the best parts about the ZR1 is that while it is an all-around better car than any of the Corvettes before it, it’s still sensationally vulgar. From the steamroller sized rear tires, to its massively flared wheel arches, to the clear plastic cutout in the hood that allows you to see the supercharger, from every angle the ZR1 looks like a steroid-popping gym meathead with a torn muscle shirt, practically begging you to watch as it flexes its rippling biceps.

And that’s all the more reason to love this car. It’s bombastic style along with its shattering performance, “reasonable” pricetag (just north of $110,000), and dynamic revolution of the American musclecar make it one of the most desirable cars on the road today, and will forever have a reserved spot in the TDC Dream Garage. America, f**k yeah!

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.

Concord Kiwanis Car Show

This past Saturday marked the 26th annual Concord Kiwanis Car Show held on the campus of the New Hampshire Technical Institute. Over 200 classic cars and trucks turned out on a perfect late summer day for one of the best private car show’s TDC has attended. There were replica Ford GT40’s, 1930’s sedans, more muscle cars than you could flex a muscle at, trucks, show cars, rat rods, and a ton of other fantastic sheet metal in attendance. Check out the gallery below for a small taste of what the show was like. Be sure to get there for next year’s show!

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The Torque Tube: Shawn McCabe and his green American Iron

The 1998 Fairway Green Corvette owned by Shawn McCabe from Lowell, Mass sits on the deep green grass of the field right outside the Budweiser plant in Merrimack, NH, refracting and reflecting the sunlight into a million directions.

Behind it, sit dozens and dozens of other Corvettes, most of which are equally as radiant as McCabe’s. Split window Stingrays, several brand new Corvette ZR-1s, supercharged C5’s, and mint examples from every era of the Corvette legend. This is the Gate City Corvette Club’s Spring Fling Corvette show, and it was a Corvette enthusiast’s paradise. 

Born and raised in Lowell, McCabe joined the US Army Reserves in 2001 as a Military Policeman, and served out his contract of more than eight years in both Afghanistan and the United States. Now a dedicated family man, McCabe has owned this ‘Vette since 2005. “It’s what I call my post-deployment gift to myself. One of the best decisions I ever made. I love this car.” McCabe was chosen to be featured in The Torque Tube because of his dedication to his car. Stored lovingly in the garage as soon as the New England sky hints at snow or rain, washed and waxed on a regular basis, and cosseted with the finest chamois and cleaned with a fine toothed comb. It boasts a number of different modifications including an upgraded intake, wheels and tires, brakes, and a raft of custom painted parts that match Chevrolet’s stunning and super rare  Fairway Green paint (only 220 cars were painted in that color).

How did you end up buying this car?

“I was looking for something summer-ey, strictly a pleasure car. I was originally looking at a Jaguar XK8.” While on trip to check out the Jaguar, McCabe passed by his future Corvette at Clay Chevrolet in Norwood, Mass. “It was almost a love at first sight kind of thing.” McCabe purchased the car six years ago and has continued to improve it, modify it, drive it whenever possible, and clean and wax it until it hurts your eyes it’s so bright. “I guess it was an unrealized dream. I never really considered a car like this an option, it was always too far out there for me to own.”

What is one of the most memorable events you’ve had with your Corvette?

“One of the most memorable times would have to be my first trip a national Corvette show in Carlisle, Penn. It was my first  time going to a national event and was well worth the drive. There were hundreds of Corvettes of every possible year and  configuration you can think of. All the major vendors were there including the company who did custom work on my  interior components. When I went to their tent to tell them what a great a great job they had done and how much I enjoyed  their work, they actually remembered the order because it was not a normal color they were used to. They asked if I had  brought my car to the show and when I told them I did, they asked if I wanted to display it in their tent. It was great not only  because they had an opportunity to display their work, but I also got a prime piece of real estate to display my car at a  national show visited by thousands of people.”

What does the future hold for you in terms of the next dream car?

“I don’t see much in the way of future cars for two reasons. #1, I love the color of my car too much to get rid of it. If it was just black or red it would be a different story. #2, with a small child and all the expenses that go with him, I don’t see me having a surplus of cash for a while so I had better make this one last.”

But McCabe isn’t finished with the modifications to his ‘Vette; a pair of custom leather seats is firmly on the to-do list. He had previously considered doing major engine upgrades like adding a turbo, but, “ I couldn’t bring myself to pay $8,000 an a 12 year old car.” Even in naturally aspirated form, the car makes north of 400 bhp. And how long does McCabe plan on keeping the car? “Probably forever. Until the thing dies.”

How does being a new dad affect how you own and drive the car?

“I don’t get to drive it as much as I want. It’s hard, and illegal, to fit the car seat in there, so the key is to make time for the car.” Judging by McCabe’s passion and enthusiasm, we’re pretty sure making time to get behind the wheel of his Corvette won’t be a problem. Welcome, Shawn McCabe, to The Torque Tube.