PTG E36 - In Depth With A PTG Technician

I posted this video a few months ago, and for the first time in the history of the internet, I received a truly productive YouTube comment:

Steve did email me, and ended up answering a whole bunch of questions which I have posted below with some images I took shortly before my even shorter ride:

From Steve:

I will do my best to answer your questions, it has been a long time since the PTG/BMW program. BMW is a great company, the people and the products they produce are some of the best in the world. I cant say enough good things about them, as they were a big part of all the success during our racing program. The people at BMW North America worked so close, and well with us, and gave us the best cars we could have asked for to make the deal so successful.

First off, the car that you got a ride in was the first car built in-house at team PTG. The first cars out of the shop came in as BMW AG Motorsport cars, I cant remember if they were ex-Group A or Group N cars, that we updated and made to fit IMSA rules for GT. So the car you rode in is the car that was the First Union / Valvoline car built at PTG, and won the Daytona 24 hour, as well as the 12 Hours of Sebring, known as the PTG Lightweight.

The team worked very hard to build this car, this whole program relied on what a great team we had, not many people truly understand how much goes on behind the scenes when it come to racing, and having the right bunch of guys, who have the talent, and skills, who can work together well to get the job done, is so important to the team doing well.

-When were you with PTG?

I started at team PTG in 1996, just after the BMW deal was struck. I was there ‘till 2006, just to the end of the BMW program. So with that said, I worked on every BMW built by PTG during that time, including all the customer cars we built, and built engines for etc. I also worked on most of the cars in the BMW vintage program, as we did a lot with those cars, restorations, shows, and vintage racing.

-What were your main roles with the team?

When I started at Team PTG, I worked in the chassis shop as a car tech, I had always had a race car of my own, so I fit in well. I always did my own engines, so when I had the chance, I moved to the engine shop as a engine builder, and worked my way up to dyno-operator, doing engine management.

-Where did you learn your skills?

I started out in street car shops, built and worked on my own car, street and race, learned a lot that way, but when I had the chance to go to Team PTG with BMW, I new I would only learn more, and that I did. It was a great experience, and some of the best times in my life. The people I met, the places I got to go, the things I learned will always be with me. I do miss it, and hope all my former team-mates and drivers are doing well these days.

-Why was the E36 your favorite?

The E36 is my favorite I would say because it was the first car I worked on, as well as the first to win with. It is just a great car, the perfect size and power, combined with great style.

-What was your favorite story/experience with PTG?

As far as my favorite story, well, there are a lot of them, I can take days telling stories from that time, and some I can’t tell also! One of the best was after we had won the Daytona 24 and Sebring 12, IMSA made a rule change to state that the BMW E36 3.2 had to carry more weight for the rest of the season, which in fact did slow us down. So team owner Tom got the team together, talked with BMW, and we decided to build a 3 liter engine for the lightweight car for Watkins Glen. Well, we set the pole, and after qualifying at tech, the officials checked the car and said it was too light, and were going to take the pole away, then we showed them the rule was written to apply to the 3.2 liter engine and that the car had a 3.0 liter, therefor was legal.

-Did you ever get to drive any of the cars?

I did get to drive most of the team cars as well as most of the vintage cars, we had a team day at the end of every season, had the sponsors, and people from BMW come to Summit Point, and everyone got rides in the race cars, as well as a chance to drive some of them. It was always a lot of fun, the drivers would be there to take people for rides all day.

-What do you drive personally?

I drive an E36 myself today, it is a Motorsport car, but is all stock, and is my driver, I still love that car.

-What was your first car and what happened to it?

My first car was a 1971 AMC Hornet, SC360 car witch I still have. I also have a 1968 AMX drag car , I have been messing with AMC cars for a long time.

-Who’s your favorite race car driver?

Well that’s a tough one, I would say it is a tie between Bill Auberlen, and Boris Said. I don’t want to take anything away from any other drivers we had, and there were a lot of great talent that drove the cars, But Bill and Boris were always there and were very good friends as well. I spent a lot of time with both, both at the track, as well as outside of racing. We were blessed with great driving talent during the entire program at PTG.

-What’s your favorite track?

Lime Rock Hands down. It was the home track for BMW NA, in a great part of the world, lots of history, and we had great success there.

Thanks Steve!

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There Is A Sunroof Fairy In Brooklyn

Do you own a Fiat 500 Abarth? Did you park it in Brooklyn before it began to rain today? You silly loon, you left your sunroof open. But fear naught!

Friend of Aaron Brown and Instagram user Mathias Rios spotted this hot hatch gathering raindrops via an open sunroof panel plate thing. He then went above and far beyond the expectations of the typical NYC pedestrian by placing almost certainly clean slices of cardboard upon the little farty Italian, so as to protect it from the cold harsh rain. Well done, sir.

JetBlue Mint Class Does It Better

I’ve been flying with JetBlue for a long time, watching as they morphed from a no-frills airline with the best in-seat entertainment, to hawking check-bag fees, extra leg room, and now their very own first class.

This is not a bad thing. In fact, it was somewhat inevitable. As many airlines have consolidated their fleets and cut costs across the board, JetBlue has remained relatively static. Until Mint class debuted in early 2014, the best (non-alcoholic) upgrade you could buy on a JetBlue flight was “Extra Legroom”. This also allowed you to board before everyone else, so you would be comfortably seated as all the non “Extra Legroom” passengers trudged past glaring at you, wishing they had your seat. This remains with Mint class, but then again maybe it’s some kind of marketing ploy to inspire folks to buy a Mint seat by forcing them to walk by as they board.

(full disclosure: I wanted to review Mint Class and write up my experience, so I emailed JetBlue. They said yes and flew me from JFK to LAX)

The Mint Experience

The Mint cabin layout has two styles of seats; “doubles” with two seats next to each other and “suites” with one seat alone. The suite has a bit more cubicle built up around it along with a little sliding door which leaves you in semi-privacy from the rest of the cabin. Though the small little sliding door did have an air of “cattle farm” to it, I felt like quite a stately cattle indeed. Comfortably situated in my suite, I watched as the two Mint flight attendants went row by row (all five rows, yes, two flight attendants for five rows) and explaining how the seat works as well as summarizing the menu for the flight before asking if the passenger would like to the signature cocktail, the “Mint” with, or without Vodka. With, please.

The suite had tons of space, like more than some NYC apartments I’ve seen. Below the large screen there’s a little tunnel to put your feet in, I’m 6’2 and I couldn’t reach the end of it with my tippy toes when in the normal upright position. There was also a big counter kind of table thing between me and the window. It was vast. I imagine I could rebuild an alternator or carburetor with this kind of space, if I knew how to do that.

With three full outlets and three USB charging ports for my seat alone; I didn’t bring enough gadgets. I should have brought more gadgets, then I could have charged them all. There was even the cutest little mesh pocket to put your phone in while charging it.

I was told to choose at least three things from the fancy sounding menu, as they were small plates. From places like Saxon + Parole, Mah-De-Zahr, andBlue Marble Ice Cream, I had to at least try everything. Having dined on all manner of in-flight food over the years from Air India (do not recommend) to Emirates (highly recommend) I can safely say this is some of the best I’ve had at cruising altitude. The pork terrine was especially delectable, and the scallops made me want a lot more scallops.

Having properly gorged myself on lots of rich and delicious bites and dranka few of the signature cocktails, I was ready to test the sleep-a-bility of my cozy nook. I looked around and said to myself: Engage bed mode. Massage is go.

I also made some sounds sort of like an air lock door hissing and thunking into place, to myself, as the seat became more flat and slid my legs further into what I dubbed “The Blue Tunnel of Vast But Not Infinite Leg Room”. Included with the seat was a heavy-ish comforter and a really soft pillow. I fell asleep almost immediately. I woke up as we began our initial descent into LAX, feeling notably rested. The water bottle in my seat was especially appreciated at this moment.

Each Mint passenger is awarded a Birch Box with a bunch of moisturizing and good-smelling things to make sure their Mint passengers smell much better than regular passengers when they disembark. Makes sense. Also a brownie and a cookie, for good measure.

Overall the Mint experience was a very good one. To put it into perspective, a regular seat costs about $190 on JetBlue for the same flight, a seat in Mint class can be had for as little as $599, whereas the closest competition you’ll get on Delta or American Airlines will cost at least $1300. This is a very good deal. What began as a JFK to LAX-only service has already expanded to SFO, with promises of Mint planes landing in more cities on either coast throughout 2014.


Keep up with JBH on twitter/instagram

Mutts Cutts Does NYC

If you grew up in 90s like I did, you probably spent your allowance on some exceedingly uncomfortable plastic inflatable furniture, wasted countless minutes AIM chatting with SmarterChild, and rocked out to Weezer’s Blue Albumlike I did. You probably also saw Dumb and Dumber. A few times.

All of the above are reasons why I was extremely stoked to hear that the Mutts Cuts van was coming to NYC. Not only would I be able to pet the furry van in all its glory, but I would also be able to live out my childhood fantasies of pissing in a bottle and giving it to a cop. OK, that last bit didn’t happen, though I did pet that van intensively, as if it were my own. Behind the ears and everything.

When you hear a vehicle like this is coming to NYC, the obvious first-stop on the docket is NYC’s motoring mecca, Classic Car Club Manhattan. Walking into CCC I was greeted to quite a sight, in all its shag cloth glory, there it was. The song Mr. Boombastic bumped through my head as I walked ‘round and ‘round this dog styled effigy. True to form the van was all ready to groom some furry friends, with enough dog food on board to keep a whole kennel at bay. But cleaning dogs wasn’t on the agenda.

After shooting this angle and that angle and exhausting our short supply of dog-van jokes, we hit the road. Driving a Ferrari or McLaren in NYC will get you some glances from pedestrians and cab drivers, maybe an un approving nod here or there, but NYC tends to be pretty jaded when it comes to high end cars on the streets. The Mutts Cutts van evoked some of the most emotional responses from on-lookers I’ve ever seen. Seeing a person’s face go from shock, to recognition, to reminiscence, to pure adoration was sublime.

We contacted Production Designer Aaron Osborne for more details on the van and how it came to be:

What was the original platform for the van?

The body is a ‘84 Ford Econoline van.

How long did it take to create?

When all is said and done about a month.

Did you make more than one?

Well it is suddenly showing up in Canada, Ireland, and the remote islands in Fiji!!! So while there can only be one Mutt Cutts there might be a few out there, and yes we were involved in most!

Have you made any other notable film cars?

On “that’s my boy” with Adam Sandler, I recreated Vanilla Ice’s Mustang from “Ice Ice Baby” as well as: Fraida Felcher’s (Kathleen Turner) van also in “Dumb and Dumber To”…

Really since I started designing movies with “Don’t Be a Menace in South Central While Drinking Your Juice in The Hood” where I found myself outfitting Janet Jackson’s postal van with large scale soviet missiles and putting daytona rims on wheel chairs, I find every show provides amazing car challenges, BUT none more iconic than the Mutts Cutts van.

But for the Mutt’s Cutts van..

I went to Cyril O’neill at Ghostlight Industries, they have made a ton of amazing cars. His shop was amazing and they provided great knowledge and support.

What was the toughest part of this build?

Finding the proper shag carpeting and getting that mutt to not overheat.

What was your favorite part of of this build?

As the production designer of the movie my favorite part was finding the original van and using it in the film, as you can see by the poster that baby rides again! No one knew where it was, it was like a detective job finding that thing….. And when we did….. It was like a giant chia pet with moss and mold growing on it for twenty years.

Dumb & Dumber To hits theaters everywhere Friday November 14th.

Mutt’s Cutts is back on the West Coast, but if you’re lucky you just might spot it cruising around Westwood, CA ahead of the premier. Also check out their Dumblr page.

Special thanks to Derek Millner (video editing) and Michael Roselli (camera) for making this collaborative effort happen.

Be sure to follow @CCCmanhattan on Twitter/Instagram

Keep up with JBH on twitter/instagram @JBH1126

Decaying Jaguar E-Type Has Seen Better Days

After a weekend away I returned to NYC on a Sunday evening. Inevitably all the primo spots were taken, so I was forced to venture into the depths of the multi-level garage. As I idled along, eyes trained for any open spot, my brain registered what I’d just passed and I immediately forgot all about parking.

I yanked the handbrake and went to investigate. It appears to be a Series III E-Type, as commenter McMike so kindly pointed out: 

“It’s a Series 3 2+2 (they didn’t make the fixed head coupe (FHC) past 1971). 5th in the pecking order of E-Type models (only followed by the S2 FHC, and the S1 2+2 and the S2 2+2.
They lost the covers in 1967 with the Series 1.5, and gained the larger marker lights, larger mouth, and wrap around rear bumper in 1969 with the S2. All these “safer” traits (as well as a few other details*) carried on until the end of the S3.
*four exhaust outlets, fender flares, LWB only, grill inside radiator opening, non-wood steering wheel, larger bumpers, different rear end sheet metal, 5.3 V12 engine (which happened to make no more power than the original 3.8 six that debuted in 1961)”

The chowder-y beige paint covered in decades of dust, and a bit of rust too, but I bet it looked amazing when new.

It had some dents and dings all around, but overall the body looked to be in pretty good shape. As I worked my way around this neglected British coupe, I found an inspection sticker from 1981 on the windshield. Holy heck this Jag has been sitting for over thirty years.

Now for the really weird part. The rear wheels appear to be shod in some sort of knobby tractor-style tires. Looking closer, you’ll notice the pronounced rust on the rear of the wheel well. My best guess is that in 1981 these were the best snow-tires money could buy. But…was someone actually driving this thing in the snow?!

If so I salute thee; having driven CCC’s previous E-Type on many nice sunny days, I can safely say any E-Type would be a massive handful in the snow. I’m imaging the owner as some sort of Burt Reynolds/David Hasselhoff epic human combination…it’s all making sense now.

There’s a certain fascination that overcomes me when I happen upon an obviously abandoned vehicle tucked away in a garage, just like the S-Class I spotted earlier this year. And unfortunately, without access to a DMV database there’s little possibility of finding out more information. What would cause someone to leave behind such an iconic and beautiful coupe?

Then the thought-train shifts. Why wouldn’t the garage have it removed after 30 years? Didn’t I read somewhere that garages often auction cars like these off for what amounts to chump change? HM! So many questions, and again, so few answers.

Keep up with JBH on Twitter/Instagram @JBH1126

How To Turn Your Mom’s BMW Into The Most Expensive GoPro Remote Ever

I use my GoPro a lot, most of the time suction cup’d on the outside of a car at some precarious angle. Before the GoPro app and remote, we had a lot of GoPro face, but now there is GoPro BMW as well!

I’m hoping a future firmware upgrade will allow older iDrive systems such as the one in this video to view-find as well, but it’s still pretty cool to be able to control most aspects of the GoPro through the iDrive. When paired with a new M3 or M4 the view-finding and playback features appear to be swimmingly functional, as well.

Keep up with JBH on Twitter/Instagram @JBH1126

That Time My Dad And I Drove From NJ To CA And Back

Summer 2002 was a special time. I was 13 years old, Nelly’s “Hot In Here” was the #1 song on the radio, and my dad and I were going to drive across the US in our ‘94 Volvo 850 wagon. And back.

My father, being a freelance writer, and a big part of why you read so many of my words here, kept a journal and mileage log throughout the trip. Since he’s a better story teller than I; below you’ll find excerpts from his fantastic website of what he dubbed “The Big Summer Trip 2002”.

Across America And Back

In late 2001, 13-year-old Jonny said, “Hey, Dad, let’s drive across the country this summer. Wouldn’t that be cool?”

“Yeah, it’d be cool,” Tim said, thinking that would be the end of the discussion. But it wasn’t. Jonny kept coming back to it. They could spend the whole summer together. They could visit people. They could see the sights across America. Maybe they could write a book…

Pretty soon Tim was thinking, “Why not?” After all, he’s one of the few guys — working for himself, by himself — who actually can take off a whole summer. And besides, it was his teenaged son’s idea. That was what was really cool.

So now it’s a plan. Tim and Jonny have spent much of the winter and spring plotting, refining the route, warning friends and relatives and near-strangers that they’ll be dropping in looking for food and shelter (and maybe laundry once in a while). They’ve been working on their lists of what they’ll need and where they’ll go and what they’ll do when they get there. Many cities — and people they wanted to visit — have been scratched because of time constraints. But it’s still an ambitious undertaking: eight-plus weeks, and 8,000-plus miles.

Friday, June 28

We rolled out of Ridgewood, NJ at 8:28 a.m., and Jonny gave me a high five. My wife Nancy and Ben Wisch, Cameron’s dad, (Jonny’s friend Cameron is traveling with us through Peoria; the first 11 days) were there to send us off amid hugs and handshakes, but we knew it was a true moment in family history when Jonny’s sister Lizzie got out of bed to say goodbye.

We stopped several times, and took a wander off Interstate 80 into Amish country. We had lunch in a tiny place called Rebersburg, Pa., in the combnation hardware store-grocery-deli-bait shop where the woman behind the counter made us sandwiches and let us eat them outside at the curb.

Odometer: 447 miles today.

The Wholesale Fireworks warehouse left the boys literally trembling. We loaded up the car to the point that it is now a rolling arsenal. If Volvo had equipped its vehicles like this in World War II, we’d all be speaking Swedish now.

Sunday, June 30

We spent much of Sunday evening in Chicago traffic, but after being revived by the Mars Cheese Castle (ham & cheese, brat, hot dog), we surprised long-time friends Nancy and David by arriving at their place in Milwaukee just as they were returning from a weekend with the kids at their lake house.

They decided to let us stay the night, so we did. Nancy and I sat up on the front porch for a while, sans cigars, after David, a known co-conspirator in Cuban trade who is ordinarily eager to help destroy evidence by burning it up, apparently fell asleep putting Morgan and Evan to bed. Such is the exhausting life of a lakemeister. Cameron and Jonny sacked out in the basement in front of a big TV, begging to be allowed to sleep in at least a little. No 9:30 departures tomorrow, I promised.

Odometer: 502 miles today, 3-day total 1,137 miles.

Wednesday, July 3

Heading south out of Madison, we stopped at a place outside Beloit, Wis., that promised “Cheese — Fireworks — Gifts” and somehow came away with more explosives. The lady at the counter talked me into the $40 special Shogun package, then had me show her my New Jersey driver’s license and fill out the various forms. “Sign here,” she said. “This says you know the laws of your state and will abide by them.” Then she laughed real loud. Jonny climbed into the backseat with Cameron, and for the next half hour they counted the fireworks — 418 rockets and other aerials, so far, not counting the smoke bombs, firecrackers, pinwheels, sparklers, cherry bombs and other groundworks — and talked about fuses linking them up for multiple launches.

We detoured a few miles to have lunch at Top Dogs, a roadside stand inPaw Paw, Ill., pop. 850. We had shakes, a cheeseburger, a hot dog and a chili dog. Nothing tasted anything like the stuff you get from McDonalds, Wendys or Burger King. Over lunch we debated possible nicknames for the Paw Paw High School sports teams. Feel free to send us a guess, or post it on the comments section. We stopped at a filling station and asked somebody on the way out of town, and we’ll reveal it here in the journal in a few days.

We got into Peoria on the afternoon of July 3, ending the first part of the trip — five days, five one-night stops. We’re here for five days, then Jonny and I head west again. Cameron goes home, and we’ll miss him.

Odometer: 215 miles today; 5-day total 1,459 miles.

This is the view from the porch where Larry and Bernie F. watch the Mississippi, and life, roll by in a very relaxed fashion. The island is Sneaker Island, so named after a fisherman a few years back found a sneaker there — with a foot in it. It was all that was ever found of a woman who had jumped off a bridge in Dubuque.

Monday, July 8

Sadly, we put Cameron and Nancy, who had come out to Peoria for the long weekend, on a bus to Chicago to catch a plane home to New Jersey. Gladly, Jonny and I got back into our familiar positions — “Back in the saddle,” he said, riding shotgun again — and pointed the Volvo west. We crossed the Mississippi at Rock Island, and just outsideDavenport, Iowa, we saw an F1 indoor racekart track. An hour later, we got back in the car and it seemed like we were going incredibly slowly.

We meandered up the Iowa Great River Road, checked out Sabula, the only island “city” in Iowa, and landed for the night in Bellevue, Iowa, at the very relaxed riverside chalet where Larry and Bernie F have retired. Larry said he had a Rotary meeting, and asked me to be the guest speaker. Why not. I talked about beer, and then we went and had a couple. And then we went onto his porch, had a couple more, smoked a couple of Cubans, and watched the Mississippi roll by under the moonlight. Back in the saddle indeed.

Odometer: 185 miles today; 1,863 miles for the trip

Friday, July 12

Custer, NE has one of the best running/biking paths in the world running parallel to the main drag, and I took advantage of it early in the morning for about five miles, when the temperature was 70 and the relative humidity 30. What a way to start the day. We scored some model cement for Jonny to use on the model planes he is acquiring and building along the way. Heading south on back roads, I took a break to eat some nuts in the passenger seat while Jonny drove through and around Manville, Wyoming, a couple of miles in all. As we were passing a huge and beautiful lake formed by the dam near Glendo, Wyoming, we saw a sign for a state park and pulled in for a swim at a long sandy beach where people drove right up to the water, backed in to unload their JetSkis and motorboats, and then parked their SUVs right there. One SUV got stuck in water up to the doors, but another pulled it out. We had a pit stop in Chugwater, Wyoming, but Jonny didn’t want a T-shirt. We left Ridgewood two weeks ago today.

Odometer: 402 miles today; 3,379 for the trip.

Thursday, July 18

After a morning run along an I-80 service road with vultures swirling overhead, we spent much of the day on two-lane roads; on one desolate stretch, we didn’t see another car in our lane for 44 miles. We stopped lots, including at a rock/fossil shop and the original J.C. Penney store in Kemmerer, Wyoming, the Fossil Butte National Monument off Highway 30, the Oregon-California Trail National Visitors Center in Montpelier, Idaho, the man-made geyser in Soda Springs, Idaho, and the hot baths and diving towers (Jonny went off the lowest tower, 16 feet, several times) in Lava Hot Springs before ending up for the night with Bob and Penny Pink in Pocatello. They are scientists and she is owner/brewer of Portneuf beer, so we had lots to talk about.

Odometer: 273 miles today; 4,133 for the trip.

Sunday, July 21

Yesterday was a long day, 499 miles across Nevada, from Jackpot toWells, through Battle Mountain, stopping for a dip at yet another out-of-the-way swimmin’ hole, this one at Rye Patch Reservoir, refueling the car and the boy in Fernley, then a swing around the northern end of Lake Tahoe, stopping for a great hike above 8,000 feet with spectacular views of the lake far below, and ending up in a cheap motel literally on an I-80 exit ramp in Reno. We should have found a room earlier…

Today, Sunday, we drove into and out of South Lake Tahoe on scenic Highway 50, with a stop for a rocky climb partway up Mount Ralston. We were happy to be inSacramento with Tony and Marybeth (Kerrigan) Bizjak and their lively kids, playing in their pool, eating their food, drinking their beer and wine, and especially listening to their stories — always the best part of every visit.

Odometer: 670 for two days; 5,100 for the trip.

Friday, July 26

From Salinas, we wound our way down California Highway 1, one of the few long two-lane routes in America that seems to keep getting better. We cruised in and out of quainter-than-heck Carmel, and stopped maybe a dozen times in 50 miles to take photos or just gaze at the spectacular views — probably the most dramatic meeting of land and sea (land and see) in America — before we got to San Simeon and the Hearst Castle, where we spent the afternoon. Hearst kept his mistress there for many years, but disapproved when unmarried guests had liaisons.

He also was afraid people would think poorly of him for having so many European statues of nudes on the grounds, so the Marx brothers tricked him by running around in the middle of the night putting clothes on all the statues. We had dinner at the famously over-the-top Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, thanks to a recommendation from Aunt Chloe. And we spent the night in a motel outside Los Alamos. Nothing glowed in the dark, especially us.

Odometer: 244 miles today; 5,647 for the trip.

Tuesday, July 30

Nancy and the kids went with Susan to Balboa Park in San Diego, and I went to the beach in Coronado for a swim and a read. We cleverly timed our departure to hit rush hour in several California cities, and we didn’t exactly avoid the heat of the desert (up to 109 degrees, even after the sun went down), but we still made it to Las Vegas in good time. We tried to get rooms at several older casino resorts (Imperial Palace, Riviera, Tropicana, etc.) but they were all full. Las Vegas is jammed with people. Partly because of the economy, partly because of security fears, this is the year of the road trip in America, and it looks like all roads lead to Las Vegas. We finally ended up at the Stardust, too tired to do much of anything.

Odometer: 347 miles today; 6,430 for the trip.

Saturday, August 3

This was a little different day than the one we had planned. The original idea was to drive 161 miles from Brian Head to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, check into the Grand Canyon Lodge, and meet Nancy’s brother Pete, his wife Kim and their two boys after they drove up from Phoenix and set up camp. The plan was to have dinner and tell stories around the campfire. Pete had even bought me some Fat Tire beer to lubricate the storytelling.

But Pete and Kim and the boys had an accident on the way up on Friday afternoon. They were OK except for bumps and bruises, but their camper trailer was totaled and their SUV was not driveable. They were stranded in a motel in Kanab, Utah, and needed to rent a vehicle to get back to Phoenix. So instead of going straight to the Grand Canyon, we stopped in Kanab, Utah (it was on the way). We left our kids at the motel with Kim and their kids, and Nancy and I took Pete to pick up a rental car.

Without going into a lot of detail about imperfect and incomplete information from insurers and car rental agencies, we ended up driving back and forth across southern Utah, 80 miles west from Kanab through Mt. Zion National Park and its majestic canyons, to St. George, where it turned out that there were no rental cars at any agency. So we turned around and drove 160 miles east back through Kanab to Page, Arizona, where Pete finally scored a small SUV — apparently the only vehicle of any kind for rent anywhere in southern Utah that he could return in Phoenix. One of the interesting footnotes of the trips back and forth between Arizona and Utah looking for rental cars was that the normally taciturn Pete, apparently feeling the need to entertain us in compensation for chauffeuring him around, tried to make the time pass more quickly by telling us stories, anecdotes, facts, factoids, and what may even have been a joke or two. And his patter worked; it did make the time go more quickly and pleasantly.

Anyway, we finally made it to the Grand Canyon Lodge, both families. We doubled up in the rooms we had rented, had a nice dinner, sat out on the terrace overlooking the canyon, watching the distant lightning and the shooting stars, and had a great evening.

Odometer: 478 miles today; 7,330 miles for the trip.

Wednesday, August 7

We zoomed across the rest of New Mexico into Texas and the Central Time zone for the first time in weeks. Crossing the Panhandle overland (off the Interstate), we asked Nancy’s sister Amy where we should eat. “Any place that looks like a hole in the wall should be good,” she advised. We stopped in tiny Hedley, Texas, at the Hedley Cafe, which qualified on both counts. (BLT, grilled cheese, two chicken-fried steak sandwiches, and iced tea served in glasses it took two hands to pick up). We got to Amy’s place in Wichita Falls in time to drink beer under the mulberry tree in her front yard with her friends Janelle and John, who had some interesting stories to tell, some of them possibly true.

We left Amy’s kids home get the dinner Amy made for us on the table (barbecued beef and Texas caviar — excellent), and went just down the road to Sheppard AFB with Sgt. Amy — former, actually, now that she’s retired and has become a civilian instructor doing pretty much the same job, training USAF mechanics to keep fighter planes in the air. You could see the change in Amy from the time she put her beer down in the front yard to when she swaggered into the F-16 hangar, shoulders swinging as if she were still wearing her uniform and stripes instead of pedal pushers and a summer blouse. The younger instructors, many of whom she trained years before, snapped to when they saw her, and you could see the deference, the respect, and maybe a little fear in their eyes. Amy showed us around the base, and she and Jonny and Lizzie climbed and clambered about a variety of multimillion-dollar weapons of destruction — a C-131, an F-16, an A-10, among others. We will all feel safer when we go to bed tonight.

Odometer: 397 miles today; 8,624 miles for the trip

Saturday, August 10

Passing through the lobby of our Memphis hotel early this morning, I saw a young guy sitting in the lobby, looking apprehensive. He had a couple of big bags, including one with “Pirates” on the side. It wasn’t til a few minutes later, while jogging along the banks of the Mississippi, that I thought about it and decided he was probably a member of the Nashville Sounds, Pittsburgh’s Class AAA affiliate. The team was staying in our hotel after a late doubleheader against the Memphis Redbirds; the best reason one of the players would be sitting in the lobby at that hour would be that he was being sent to another team in the Pirates organization. Maybe he was being called up to the majors. We have initiated lots of conversations with lots of strangers during this trip, and I should have talked to this guy to get his story. After my run, I looked for him in the lobby, but he was gone. And we didn’t see any other Sounds players or coaches before we checked out. Nuts.

Meanwhile, Elvis has left the trip, and we have left Memphis. After pausing outside Bucksnort, Tennessee, to switch drivers and let Lizzie rack up 60 miles and nearly and hour of heavy 70mph driving on Interstate 40, we sailed into Nashville with just enough time to have lunch at the Pancake Pantry, a longtime institution and a mecca for road foodies. We had cornbread pancakes, peach pancakes, sweet potato pancakes and a BLT. Then, sadly, Jonny and I put Nancy and Lizzie on a plane for home. They weren’t with us long enough. But it took about 3.5 miles for Jonny and men to fall back into our established patterns of the road trip.

In short order we got the Volvo’s oil changed for the third time on the trip, toured the Hermitage and the Andrew Jackson museum, and put a lot of miles behind us. We were just starting to look for a place to stay when we drove past a dragster raceway. We took the next exit, forCrossville, Tennessee, and drove in the general direction of the dragway across country roads til we found it. We joined an extraordinary array of juiced-up cars, ranging from flame-belching rail dragsters with parachutes to family station wagons. (No, I wasn’t tempted.

Though there was a pregnant woman driving an old Buick sedan at speeds up to 62 mph for the quarter mile, compared with up to 165 mph for some of the dragsters.) We spent a couple of hours with our fingers in our ears (veteran fans brought their own earplugs) and breathing a mix of gasoline fumes, nitrogen-fuel exhaust and the black smoke from squealing tires laying rubber. The announcer kept saying, “Ain’t that a purty car?” Afterward, it took me an hour to regain my hearing and recover my normal heart rate. Jonny, the gearhead, loved it so much and was so grateful to me that when we finally found a motel he got out his clarinet and practiced with only a few complaints.

Odometer: 357 miles today; 9,539 for the trip.

Thursday, August 15

We turned north with a vengeance for the first time on the entire trip, rounding into the home stretch. Up into Virginia, we stopped at Fort Eustis, and checked out the new living history museum at Endview Plantation near Newport News. Even with another stop inWilliamsburg for go-karting, we somehow got to Falls Church an hour or so before Cheryl Arvidson, my first and still best boss ever, got home from work, so we went bowling. (Regular bowling, that is; the duckpin alley wasn’t open yet.) We had a much-needed relaxing evening with Cheryl and her cats — relaxing for us, anyway, if not the cats.

Odometer: 311 miles today; 10,653 for the trip.

Saturday, August 17

Heading north on two-lane roads, we went through Aberdeen, Maryland, and found the Ripken Museum. The staff was hanging out in front — nobody had a key — so I went down the block and got a haircut. The barber bragged about how he used to cut Cal Jr.’s hair when he was in middle school, and cut Cal Sr.’s hair up until he died. Some of the hair he cut from Cal. Sr.’s head was used on the life-sized wax figure of Cal Sr. in the museum.

He even stopped in the middle of the haircut — this with a room full of guys waiting, none of whom seemed to mind — to dig out some old Ripken family photos for me to examine. After my haircut, Jonny and I went back to the museum, and the staff was still waiting for someone to bring them a key. We suggested they try the barber shop and then pushed off. We’ll have to save waxy Cal Sr.’s shorn locks for next time.

We made our way slowly through the Pine Barrens onto Long Beach Island, and met Nancy and Lizzie and Aunt Judy at the house we have rented for the week inBarnegat Light. We swam, walked on the beach, drank champagne and had not one but three bithday pies for me.Odometer: 148 miles today; 10,906 for the trip.

Saturday, August 24

It’s over. We did it. We made the drive up the Garden State Parkway from Long Beach Island – it was the first time in two months that we’d left a town in the morning without consulting at least one map – under dreary, drizzly skies. Odd: after 58 days on the road, this was the first dull, cloudy day. (Coming out of Des Moines we had spectacular early-morning thunderstorms, but then the day turned beautiful. We couldn’t think of another overcast or rainy day for the whole trip.)We talked about the trip most of the way back to Ridgewood. We turned in the driveway at 1:53 p.m., and shook hands and then hugged before we got out of the car. We owe a huge thanks to all of the people who hosted us along the way, and to those of you who emailed us, called us, and posted notes under the Your Comments section here. (It’s not too late to post a comment, by the way. Feel free.) We also owe a huge debt to Nancy and Lizzie for making it possible for us to take the trip in the first place. Nancy sent a man and a boy out onto the road, and I brought her back…two boys.Finally, I have to thank Jonny for coming up with the idea for the trip, for prodding me to commit to it, and mostly for being such a great traveling partner.

Odometer: 120 miles today; 11,070 miles, final total for the trip

It was a really incredible trip, that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to do a similar trip with a son of my own.

Happy Father’s day everyone, go hang out with your dad.

Keep up with Tim Harper on Twitter @HarperTim


To The Pilot Doing Aerobatics Over My House: Bring Me With You

On weekends when I’m not racing karts or flying drones or generally messing about with cars, I like to sit next to a lake and read a book. It’s one of the few things I like to do that doesn’t involve some sort of motor vehicle, until now. A few weekends ago my ears perked up and my eyes lifted from the book spurred by the increasing and decreasing drone of a small plane loop-d-looping, and barrel rolling RIGHT OVER THE LAKE!

I watched with wonder as the pilot cut the motor and dove, climbing again using only momentum, and then stalling off to the left before re-starting the motor and looping around again. Immediately the gears are turning;where did he take off from? I wonder if he gives rides…

I grabbed my camera and long lens and did my best to capture a sequence of tricks, it kept doing the same sequence every few minutes so I can only imagine the pilot is practicing for some sort of competition. Eventually I dozed off to the rhythmic buzz of the plane; when I woke up it was gone,not at all an unwelcome intrusion into my sacred book reading time.

Keep up with JBH on TwitterInstagram, and Youtube

Farewell CCC, Hello KBS+ (Thank You Everyone)

A whirlwind of happenings over the last month or so has landed me in quite an interesting position. As many of you know, I love BMWs. I’ve aspired to work for BMW since before I even had a driver’s license. I’ve said jokingly in the past that the only way I’d ever leave CCC is to go work for BMW. Well…it’s happening.

I was approached a few weeks ago by the ad agency KBS+, which handles all marketing and social media for BMW USA. We talked, we had meetings, they offered me a job, and I couldn’t turn it down. I’m taking a new position in the creative department at KBS+ as of June 2nd. My title will be “BMW Content Editor”. This is awesome.

I am beyond excited.

I am also very grateful. The reality is that I couldn’t have gotten here without YOU. You read my rants, you “liked” my photos, you “favorited” my videos, and you shared my posts. You also told me how much I suck sometimes, which is totally fair. I need to be checked from time to time (don’t we all).

I can’t help but think to myself, “Man, all these years of screwing around on the Internet are finally paying off…” It’s taken a lot of work and many long days and nights, but my passion has become my profession. Between CCC and Jalopnik I’ve been able to reach hundreds of thousands of people over the last three years, catalyzing and moderating meaningful discussions. I’ve done it because I love cars and car people; the ability to share my experiences so widely is a real blessing. When I was still a braces-faced teen I had an insatiable hunger for car content on early YouTube, and that spurred me to start making my own videos with a jerry-rigged window mount and my crappy miniDV camcorder on my mom’s BMW. That’s a long way from the equipment and resources available now, and what will be available in my new gig.

I’m extremely appreciative of the opportunities I’ve been afforded, and I couldn’t have done it without all the people supporting and encouraging me. Most specifically my bosses at CCC (many of you know them fromAFTER/DRIVE) Zac & Mike, who over the last three years have given me a long leash in terms of filming and photographing the club cars that have been featured in so many of my posts.

So what does all of this mean? It means you won’t be seeing any more JBH reviews of Audi rental cars (duh) or behind-the-scenes shots from Italian supercar photoshoots. On the upside, it means my commute in Manhattan will be roughly 2 minutes shorter! Joking aside, I’m hoping to be able to bring some exclusive BMW content to oppo from time to time. But, obviously, being new to a new position in a new industry, it will take a bit of time for me to be integrated into the agency, and to figure out what I can post. 

Again, thanks to all my colleagues and friends, and to you, for all the support in recent years. This isn’t the end of the road for JBH; it’s just another interesting twist in the road.

Follow JBH on InstagramYoutube, & Twitter

A 1929 Hupmobile Is Driving Around Manhattan

This is probably the oldest car I’ve ever seen driven on the street. I pulled up to a shop on 11th avenue this morning to see this contraption double parked outside. So I did what any car-minded New Yorker would do, and double parked right behind it to have a look around.

It’s a beautiful thing, from a time when cars were actually put together by people, and there it was idling unattended on 11th avenue. A little bit of research revealed that the Hupp Motor Company was based in Detroit. They churned out various different Hupmobiles from 1909 to 1940. Interestingly, a 7-seater Hupmobile was used as the first “bus” for the company we now know as Greyhound Bus Lines. Plus, many Hupmobiles had wooden wheels!

As I’m slowly walking around the Hupmobile I was joined by some tourists, who seemed more interested in the fact that I was interested in the car, than the Hup itself. With my new tourist posse in tow, we walked around the car a few more times; after I stuck my head in the open drivers’ window, each of my new tourist-friends followed suit. A tech came bustling out of the shop with a dealer plate and hopped right in, so I immediately peppered him with questions.

I asked him what year it was, to which he said, “1930-something” (the internet tells me this is a 1929) so I asked him where he was going, “somewhere”. Cool. My tourist buddies looked like they had some questions too but couldn’t put anything into words before the tech rolled up the window and puttered off. We stood there for a minute or two watching the Hupmobile drive away, my new friends then turned to me with expectant faces as is to say, ”what next?”. So I high-fived each of them and headed back to CCC, alone.

Legend Of The Mid-Engined Aston Martin

Very rarely do I get into legit argument about cars with someone. I usually try to avoid arguments in general, especially when my conversation partner is SO sure. Like SO, SO, 100% SURE!! Which is why I was quick to revert into “agree-mode” when a truck driver told me he once hauled a mid-engined Aston Martin.

I was asked to drop off an E60 M5 in Jersey, the car was sold and just had to be delivered to the hauler truck. A task I’ve carried out many times, just gotta make sure the driver marks any dents and dings down, so I don’t get blamed. I was making small-talk with the driver as we both froze our asses off slow-walking around around the M5 looking for imperfections.

It was all fun and light, joking about fast cars and how they get rock chips more than slow cars, until he told me about the “mid-engined” Aston Martin. Then he told me about the “big blowers” bolted on the motor, behind the seats. At first I did what I always do when people are SO SUREI told him I’d just have to take his word for it. He didn’t buy it.

He encouraged me to use Google, look up the Vanquish, and then I’d see that the engine was behind the driver’s seat. I did use Google, which confirmed what I already knew; the Vanquish is technically a front-mid engined vehicle, meaning that the engine is positioned behind the front axle, but in front of the passenger compartment.

I conceded to the truck driver that while the motor is indeed technically “mid-engined”, it is most definitely in front the front of the car. He was insistent that the motor was behind the driver. I only bet money if I’m 99% sure I’m correct, so I told him lets put $10 on it. He backed way off, mumbled some stuff, and walked back to his truck.

As soon as I got back to CCC I did some furious Google searching, trying to find out if there’s any way this guy could be right. Turns out he could have been right if Aston Martin had actually built this ”DBC Concept” but they didn’t.

Later in the afternoon Zac told me that “my truck driver buddy” had called and instructed me to search for the Aston Martin AM310. My heart skipped a beat; did I miss something? I spent a whole ten minutes employing all of my super-secret internet search skills; there’s no way I missed something.Turns out the AM310 concept was actually the new Vanquish in disguise, and was most certainly front-engined.

I almost asked Zac for the trucker’s phone number so I could call him back, but instead I wrote this post. In the end was it worth the minutes (going on hours) I spent not just arguing with the trucker, but internet searching, and now writing this post? All to “prove” something to an old truck driver who still probably wouldn’t believe me? Probably not. But I still did it, so I guess the joke’s on me.

The McLaren P1 Is A Gorgeous Thing

Seeing the McLaren P1 for the first time is like seeing a naked breast for the first time. I really wanted to touch it, but knew I probably shouldn’t.

The good folks at Miller Motorcars opened their large glass doors to the public to show off the truly mind-boggling McLaren P1. Mind-boggling because it’s not just another high-horsepower, mid-engined vehicle. It’s a hybrid. And it does a thing called “torque fill”, which I love. In the words of Chris Harris, ”It’s a whole new thing”.

The white on black scheme coupled with acres of exposed carbon fiber made for a most striking color combination. Something about the light coloration brings out all of the “McLaren-Swoops” integrated within the bodywork. I showed my mother the photograph below, of the P1 rear end; she told me it was a nice abstract photograph.

I spent about 45 minutes just walking around and around this beautiful British thing. They had it on a rotating turntable when I arrived, but switched off the rotation shortly after laughing at my failed attempts to hop along with the movement, trying to snap photos.

Full gallery HERE

The Sorriest Mercedes S-Class You’ll Ever See

Let me set the scene; it’s 11pm and the Triple-C Racing boys had just arrived in Amsterdam, NY. After checking into a dumpy motel, we set off in search of a hoon-able empty lot. We were drawn, almost magnetically, towards a large multilevel parking garage.

It was totally empty, save for this decrepit S-Class. The car looked like someone just parked it and walked away. Or stole it, parked it, and walked away. So many questions; how long has it been there, who’s it registered to, and are they dead?

Sitting on the floor with a deflated air suspension, it looked like the car had a good bit of mold growing inside, but the tires still had air. There’s a certain beauty to decomposition, and this S-Class quite perfectly encapsulates that aesthetic.

An Automatic E30 Isn’t The Worst Thing Ever

If you own an automatic E30 BMW, this is probably not news for you, since you probably love your car very much. BUT! If you’ve never driven an automatic BMW, this may surprise you; it doesn’t suck! At all!

CCC member just picked one of the mintiest base E30s I’ve seen since, well, the early 90s. It’s got about 112k miles and might just be the best documented E30 ever in terms of service history. In the trunk is a box of books with meticulously organized receipts and records going back to 1990 when it was first sold, including the window sticker.

This little box of a BMW cost some $27,000 when new, which according to an inflation calculator, would be the equivalent of $46,700 in 2012. That’s a lot of money, although a 2012 BMW 335i coupe MSRP’d for $45,000. So what I’m saying is this E30 is more expensive than an E92 335i; none of this makes sense.

The real surprise is the automatic transmission. I walked into the garage and saw this E30 coupe and was immediately intrigued. I started checking it out, and was severely dismayed to see the automatic gear selector. The owner saw the distress on my face and insisted I take it for a spin, telling me how smooth and intuitive it is. A 24 year old 4-speed automatic? Smooth?! PSH!

I soon realized how wrong I was. The gearbox is indeed smooth like butter. It doesn’t clunk into gear on upshifts, or idle strangely fast. It kicks down, I daresay, more intuitively than a 2012 Mercedes S550 I drove a few weeks ago. And by more intuitively, I mean the E30 seemed to respond to my inputs in a sportier nature, which of course, is not what the S-Class is tuned for. Anyway, tangent aside, the gearbox was really surprisingly good.

The suspension felt tight with no creaks or loud thuds. The steering, while I wouldn’t call it tight, was precise and gave good feel to the truck sized steering wheel. The owner has possessed a great many cars in the past; everything from Mitsubishi Evo race cars to VW Beetles, but he swears this E30 is one of the best.

I’ll disagree until he takes off the ///M plate frame. Then it’ll be just about perfect. I also asked the owner much he wanted for it, he said his emotional attachment is worth far more than anyone would be willing to pay; but make an offer.

Cavallino Classic Concorso d’Eleganza 2014

When someone invites you to join them at one of the biggest and best attended Ferrari gatherings in the country, you don’t say no. So I packed a bag and headed to Palm Beach for the weekend.

Or maybe I was just looking for an excuse to get the hell out of NYC polar vortex 2.0. Either way; warm weather and Ferraris seemed like a better option than hibernating all weekend and living from one Seamless delivery to the next.

This year’s Concorso featured the gorgeous 275 GTB’s 50th anniversary. V12 up front, sexy sheetmetal wrapping, acres of pleated leather, and a big wooden steering wheel. Recent sales show that 275s go for 1 million on the low end and 27 million on the high. There was a plethora of them there.

Also F40. The 308 and 328s behind it may as well have been invisible. I waited almost 15 minutes for the crowd to clear for a split second in order to get the shot. And then I spent another 15 minutes just soaking up the raked intakes and sculpted wing. What an incredible piece of machinery.

The parking lot was almost as good as the Concorso, boasting a Pagani Huayra, Bugatti Veyron, as well as a 991 Turbo and GT3. Check out the huge full gallery HERE

Palm Springs Air Museum: Where Old Planes Go To Be Restored

I never pass up an opportunity to check out things that fly, er, used to fly. I nearly crashed the car when we drove past on the way to Joshua Tree a few days ago, almost certain I’d seen an amphibious prop plane. I was not disappointed.

At the back of the outdoor section of the museum was this ultra-cool Consolidated PBY Catalina. Not sure why, but I just love these things, and any flying machine that can land on water, for that matter. The ability to land on water opens up so many more landing options, it just seems logical in my mind. The Catalina could do both.

Huge photo album HERE

Drive Through Joshua Tree National Park In 7 Minutes

Yesterday I visited Joshua Tree National Park with my family. The scenery is incredible, and the rock formations towering. We stopped in a few different spots for a quick hike; an old-time cowboy galloping through would not have been out of place anywhere in the park, it’s got a real ‘frozen in time’ feel to it.

Here is 106 minutes of footage sped up 15x, shot on a GoPro from my Audi A4 rental from Silver Car.

This Is A Supercharged Porsche 911

The combination of the classic thrum of a 993 flat-six motor and manic supercharger whine is absolutely intoxicating. That, and the potential for this AWD Porsche to tackle any kind of weather is truly drool-worthy.

The new owner bought it in Florida and road-tripped back up to NYC, no problem. Started life as Carrera 4s then gained a TPC supercharger and Euroquipe intercooler were added as well as a dual mass flywheel, and rs clutch/mounts.

More videos to come once we get this crazy machine out on some twisties.

Watch Some Guy Take The Doors & Hood Off A Brand New Mercedes CLA

Looks a bit like a chop shop right? Good. Last week our garage at Classic Car Club Manhattan was transformed into a Hollywood movie set, which was supposed to look like a chop shop. I arrived in the morning to see the CLA and was pretty excited to have an opportunity to sit in the car and check it out a bit.

Just when I walk back out with my camera, all ready to record a little walk-around of the car, I see this guy tugging on some interior trim to get access to the bolts to remove the door. We talked for a few minutes about the set and the car, turns out he does this all the time, as well as prepping myriad other types of movie cars, not just CLA Benzes with 45 miles on the clock.

This particular movie features an old Mustang “hero car” which the guy told me has a huge motor and is truly show quality, and then there’s the stunt double for the “hero car” which looks very similar but is all outfitted with a hydraulic handbrake, roll cage, and all kinds of other stunt gadgets.

But what movie is it for? You’ll just have to wait and see! (I don’t actually even know)

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