The Nissan GTR is a bit of an enigma. It’s one of the rare few that satisfies more than one personality traits. It’s nearly untouchable at the Ring, only beat by the million dollar Porsche 918 when counting series production vehicles.
This article was originally published in December 2013. We are republishing it as the 2016-2017 program has now been scheduled. It has been updated with a new element/exercise so if you’ve taken part before you may want to give it a try again to freshen up your skills. Here are the updated links for this year’s program:
This weekend, the Southern Alberta Solosport Club (SASC) held their first Winter Driving Training of the year and we were invited to check it out. While winter driving training is not mandatory for one to receive their driver’s license in Canada, it really ought to be. The skills that are taught at the event through various exercises are critical for safe winter driving and even the most experienced drivers come away learning something new.
Have you ever been caught on slick roads where no matter how far you crank your steering wheel your car just wants to continue going straight? What should you do if you lose control of your vehicle? If it looks like you cannot stop in time before running into someone, what should you do? These questions and many more will be answered as you go through each of these scenarios.
Politics and sound reasoning has time and again over history proven itself to be quite the oxymoron when used in the same sentence. No more so than now with Trump being elected in as the next US President. However, this story isn’t about Trump, rather, it is a retrospect on politics and its downstream impacts on society which brings us to the Chicken tax.
Fifty-three years ago, with political tensions rising at the height of the Cold War, United States imposed a 25 per cent tariff on imported brandy, dextrin, potato starch and small pickups in retaliation to tariffs on imported American chicken imposed by countries like France and Germany. Well, the Cold War is over, and 53 years after the tariff was imposed brandy, dextrin and potato starch no longer have a 25% tariff. However, light trucks did not didn’t get off easy. The tariff remains in place today to protect U.S. domestic automakers from foreign competition.
There aren’t too many vehicles that have as long standing lineage as Volkswagen’s Golf which is now in it’s 7th generation. But ever since the introduction of the first generation, the Golf has been establishing its place in automotive history. Introduced to the world as a modern economical front wheel drive car, the Golf was created to be an everyday commuter providing ample space in a small package. At a time when emission regulations were becoming more stringent and performance automobiles were not the hot topic, a group skunkworks team was formed at Volkswagen who put in design, engineering and marketing time after-hours to create truly the first hot hatch in automotive history. Branded as the Golf GTI, the car was never thought to be a success story, but customer response proved otherwise.
The GTI first took to the public eye at the 1975 Frankfurt Motor Show. Keeping the recipe simple, the engineers at Volkswagen raided the parts bin and gave the light weight commuter Golf a sport tuned suspension and a bump in the horsepower department. Fitted up front in the mk1 GTI was a 1588cc four-cylinder engine with a ground breaking K-Jetronic mechanical fuel injection system which made 110hp. By today’s standards that is not a lot of power. However, big power was never in the design plans for the GTI. It was about creating a well rounded package resulting from the sum of its parts. The mk1 GTI, to this day, is still a highly sought after car because it defined simplicity in engineering. The car is forgiving on the road for a daily driver, but had just enough performance to make it one hell of a weekend canyon carver.
Jaguar, a British multinational car company based out of Whitley, Coventry, England, is most commonly associated with luxurious and sophisticated automobiles. The company also has a long standing lineage in motorsports stemming back to the 40’s when it was building some of the finest and fastest production vehicles in the world. Without a doubt, some of the classic moments of motorsport success for the company would have to be their dominant performance at Le Mans 24 Hours in the 1950’s. Beginning with the C-Type which claimed victories in 1951 and 1953, then succeeded by the D-Type winning in 1955, 1956 and 1957 which later led to the development of the XKSS.
The aforementioned Jaguar XKSS was commissioned as a road-going version of the Jaguar D-Type racing car. At the end of 1956, Jaguar took a brief hiyatus from motorsport. They were left with a number of completed and partially completed D-Types which had no purpose at the time. That is until Jaguar decided to convert the D-Type remains into road going versions for an American market which was eating up anything foreign and high performance at the time. Minimal changes were made to make the D-Type road legal, but it is worth our effort to spend a little bit of time to relive the master piece which was the D-Type.
Another year has come and gone for automotive industries largest show SEMA. Year after year, SEMA has become the cornerstone of all things representing the automotive industry showcasing new products from every corner of the market. The expectations are high, and vendors who put themselves in the public eye at SEMA are always putting their best foot forward. But have you ever wondered how it all started?
SEMA, like any organization, has a beginning story. Originally called Speed Equipment Manufacturing Association when they started in 1963, the organization comes from humble beginnings during the muscle car days. Originating out of a need to fill a gap in industry trade regulations, SEMA was the born from the Revell Model company and headed by its first president Ed the “camfather” Iskenderian. Other original members came from the same fuel filled genetics and came by way of names like Roy Richter, Willie Garner, Bob Hedman, Robert E. Wyman, John Bartlett, Phil Weiand, Jr., Al Segal, Dean Moon, and Vic Edelbrock, Jr. Each pioneers in their respective areas and each having made their own mark in automotive history. Not long after its beginnings, the organization changed its name to Specialty Equipment Market Association officially in 1970.
It is not very often when three letters can carry with it such a long standing legacy of motorsport greatness. Those same three letters embody the ethos of a company’s relentless vision to defy technology at the time and push beyond it’s boundaries. When the letters GTR is said, it immediately conjures up mental images of four round tail lights speeding into the distance. Nissan’s Skyline GTR is one of the automotive industry’s greats to come out of Japan from a time when Italians and Germans dominated the racing field and to this day not only rivals the best of the best in the industry, but is the bar which others compare against.
Most who know the GTR know it as the Skyline. Nissan acquired the company Prince who manufactured the Skyline back in the 60’s. Since then, Nissan created a high performance version of their standard vehicle and badged it with GTR and history began to write itself. The Skyline GTRs were built between 1969 and 1974 but took a hiatus until the late 80’s and production of GTRs started up again from 1989 to 2002. Although what we know today simply as the Nissan GTR is still manufactured to date, the Skyline name has since been dropped post 2002. Although the name no longer lives, the underlying DNA of the Skyline undoubtedly lives on.
When it comes to digging deep and pulling yourself up, no name personifies and embodies this belief more than Alex Zanardi. Born Alessandro Zanardi, the Italian is a professional race car driver and paracyclist. For those of you who don’t know Zanardi’s story, it likely strange to read that he is a paracyclist, and also a professional race car driver. One must be asking themselves how that can be possible. Well, the story of Alex Zanardi is no ordinary story.
Zanardi began racing karts at age 13. He built his kart from the wheels of a dustbin and pipes from his father’s work. In 1988, he joined the Italian Formula 3 series, with a fifth place as his highest finish. In 1989, Zanardi took two pole positions and three podiums despite his team’s switching to unleaded fuel, which reduced his car’s engine power. In 1991, he moved up to the Formula 3000 series with the Il Barone Rampante team, themselves newcomers to the series. He won his F3000 debut race, scoring two more wins that season and finishing second in the championship.
The basis of Lotus was founded on the simple philosophy of its originator Colin Chapman, “Simplify, then add lightness”, he said. This was the founding philosophy of the company and to this day that formula lives on in one of the company’s most iconic vehicles, the Lotus 7. Although that model name has not survived time, and hasn’t even survived ownership from the same automaker, the car itself lives on under the Caterham name.
Looking at the history of creations at Lotus, you can see that their designs uses the least number of parts in its products, but relies on the highest levels of engineering to retain the parts function while yielding the least amount of weight and maximizing durability. This translates into a vehicle that doesn’t rely on sheer horse power for speed. Rather, the formula results in a vehicle that is nimble and all around fast no matter where it is on the track.
Ford…Chevy….Dodge…these three companies have been at it head to head since the beginning trying to out do one another by producing cars that are better, faster, and stronger than the other. These companies are fueled off of that competition to try and design and put out the best American sports car. Whether it be the Mustang, the Camaro, or the Charger, the pursuit for performance has never stopped. Take the Mustang. Ford is now currently on their sixth generation which has spanned development from 1964 to current day. Each generation uses the best technology available at the time and tries to develop a vehicle that pushes past the standard boundary. Throughout the generations, aftermarket tuning shops have taken the automaker’s mass produced vehicles, and put their own touch to squeeze out even more performance.
Jump forward to 1991 and the name John Hennessey comes to mind. Hennessey Performance Engineering (HPE) and their team of gear heads took the automakers competition against each other out of the equation and united all three of them by designing performance packages that can be added on to the stock vehicles to make them go faster. Based out of Texas, HPE designs and manufactures go fast parts out of their 36,000 square foot workshop and showroom facility. Today, consumer brand loyalty still exists. Ford buyers stick with their Mustangs and Dodge buyers stick with their Chargers. But both customer bases have a common ground of wanting high power modifications and spending wads of money at Hennessey to get there.
A very exposed large SUV from Volkswagen has been spotted testing out in China. The North American market hasn’t seen or heard much about the large three rowed SUV since the concept vehicle debuted at the Detroit Auto Show back in 2013. With the SUV market being so dominant in North America, it is still a wonder if the large SUV will make it onto North American soil.
Curiously, the vehicle is first spotted in China before the US given the great demand of these types of vehicles here. Currently the car spotted in China is called the Teramont, but it will likely get rebadged if it hits North American soil. Not shockingly, the production car looks a lot like the CrossBlue concept. True to current VW standards, the front headlights get the full LED package and the angular design element continues to the rear. The Teramont really looks like a jacked up version of the current generation Passat that’s available in the European market.
Here’s to hoping that we get another SUV in the Volkswagen lineup because as it stands it’s a little thin.