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2014 Nismo Fiesta event [Gallery]

2014.04.27 - Nismo Fiesta eventThe 2014 Nismo Fiesta event started with am owner’s caravan drive from Nissan’s North American HQ in Franklin, TN to the site of the car show in San Marcos, TX. The event included two days of back roads drives, an autocross, dyno, track event at Harris Hill Raceway, and wrapped up with a full day car show. We attended the car show and have our gallery of 124 images below.

Nissan brought several cars to the show, including a new Nismo GT-R, a Nismo Z, and a New York City Taxi. These were driven down to the show in the caravan.

We’ve been to several Nissan shows sponsored by this group over the years and they have always been organized very well. And kudos to Nissan as well for the support provided… and we hope to be a part of a future event at their HQ.

New: Pinterest board! Full gallery of images below:

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Cutaway Miata NC reveals all the details

img_1213With a new Miata (finally) on the way for 2015, it’s time to go back to 2005 when Mazda revealed the 3rd-generation Miata to members of the press. We were there, and thrilled to find a cutaway Miata, with all the details large and small opened for our eyes.

Several cutaway cars, chassis, and engines were available for photography.

Take special note of all the weight-savings measures designed  into this car. Mazda went to extraordinary lengths to keep the weight down, while increasing strength and keeping costs in line.  This is known by Mazda as a “gram strategy”, where each piece is weighed down to the gram, and every gram has to be justified. This is even more amazing when you consider that the MX-5 doesn’t share chassis parts with any other product.

Enjoy our gallery of over 50 cutaway images – the most unique on the web.

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Cars and Coffee Austin hosts Wheeler Dealer Mike Brewer [Gallery]

thumb_IMG_1487 In a special edition of the monthly Cars and Coffee event today in Austin, TX. This was the second special edition of Cars and Coffee Austin this year, the first being the Esotico Italiano car show featuring Valentino Balboni.

Mike Brewer of The Discovery Channel show Wheeler Dealer was the special guest. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate, and between the rain and a wind chill of well under 50 degrees, Mike probably thought he was home in Britain.

Nonetheless, he graciously talked to attendees and owners and showed us the “special relationship” car enthusiasts have around the world.

Discovery was filming material for a future show, so unlike the regular monthly Cars and Coffee show, the displays today were intended to be limited to muscle cars of the 60s and 70s.

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Esotico Italiano car show with Valentino Balboni [Gallery]

At an Italian car show today in Austin TX, besides a great collection of Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and other Italian classics, we were pleasantly surprised to find Valentino Balboni.

If you don’t know who he is, you haven’t been doing your reading for the past 40 years. Valentino spent 40 years with Lamborghini, rising from an apprentice to a position as chief test driver and ambassador for the company. He only left due to Italian Government regulations forced him into an unwanted retirement.

The picture shows him graciously signing cars at the show today.

He was a really nice guy, great to talk to, and so very much a tremendous part of the history of Lamborghini.

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Austin Cars and Coffee Feb. 2014: Tesla Model S dyno

2014.02.09 austin cars and coffee tesla model s dynoWith a record 750 cars showing at the February 2014 Cars and Coffee monthly event in Austin Texas, there were all sort of unusual cars to get up close to. Including classic, exotic, European, Japanese, off-road, military, race cars, tuner cars, drift cars, stretch limos, and the usual assortment of the usual muscle cars.

But perhaps the most unusual car here, a Tesla Model S, is one of the most interesting because it is so different from the rest. We had an extended test drive last year and it was the most unusual car we drove in 2013… and yet it was as easy or easier to drive than a conventional car. And surprisingly fun with its enormous – and instant – torque. If this is the future, it’s terrific. And a large and very active Tesla owners association in Austin proves it.

An attempt was made today to dyno one particular Model S – an attempt that failed.

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Jay Leno visits the Nissan design studio for a 1st look at the next Z

Jay Leno recently visited the Nissan design studio in Japan, where he met with Chief Creative Officer Shiro Nakamura and found designers hard at work styling the next Z. The Z is clearly in the design phase where hundreds of drawings will be made and final styling elements will be selected. That probably puts the timeframe of the debut out 2-3 years… depending on which platform will be used. If it will again be shared with the upcoming Q50, then sooner. Otherwise later.

Looking over all the drawings and video below, and knowing how the process works, we note that the basic proportions are all nearly identical – so it’s clear that the chassis underneath and the resulting hard points have in general been determined. And it’s clear that a return to the proportions and styling cues of the original 240Z is the plan!

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Falling Down: SHO engine swap into Geo Metro

When your usefulness to society has ended… when you’ve lost everything in life but your soul, this is the fate which befalls you. You find yourself transplanted into a lowly Geo Metro, a rolling hell, the next worse thing on the planet to a Citroen 2CV.

Mind you, this is not a proper swap, such as the SHO engine swap into the Korean-made Ford Fiesta known as the “SHOgun”. No, this is a hack job, built solely to trash in the silly and unprofessional race series known as the LeMons (a bastardized redneck rip-off of the most famous race in the world). A short but violent life in the twilight, a rolling zombie, you bleed your guts out, and you end up in the trash heap you wished you’d gone to with your original body.

Meet the Geo Metro with SHO engine swap. Consider this: would the SCCA ever sanction such a hackjob? Of course not:

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The Truth about Mustangs (and M3s), as we’ve experienced it.

autobahner m3Yesterday we instructed at the Circuit of the Americas. A group from Mexico had rented COTA for a day and it was our job to teach them the track as well as to certify some of them as instructors for their own events back home. All 40 students had some degree of experience, ranging from several HPDE-type events up a couple of professional race drivers. The entire group was terrific, and we were very impressed that the members respected the track but also consistently drove aggressively and safely right from the start. And without a single incident on the wide-open track and with times laps and passing anywhere. You couldn’t ask for a better group of students, and the organizer, Edge Addicts, did their usual highly professional and very thorough job.

The picture shows one of our students with his E92 V-8 M3 (tan shirt). He also brought a twin-turbo V-8 M5 that he shared with his son (not in this picture).

Our work with the two of them in the M3 brings to mind a comparison to our own 2013 Boss 302 Mustang – a car that was designed by Ford to compete with the M3 on the track. We compared the speeds of each at the same points on COTA: the M3 was just a little slower. On any given track it may be faster or slower depending on the track… but overall the M3 is superior to the Boss 302 because it’s far more polished. For example, it isn’t on the ragged edge of running too hot despite a 100 degree day and a track that requires aggressive driving. There’s never an issue, as there always is with this and all of our previous Mustangs.

The biggest advantage of the M3 is its suspension design. It’s so superior to the Mustang that this is the car you’d want to drive on the track. It’s very stable, the IRS is actively working for you and with you. The experienced driver can use the characteristics of an IRS to help rotate the car through the turns. Here’s the Car and Driver introductory road test for your reference, and a second test from 2012.


By contrast, the Mustang’s suspension always works against you in the turns: it inherently tries to shift its massive unsprung weight in the wrong direction in the turns, only tentatively held in check by a single brace. Shifting to the right, to the left, and up. It’s asymmetric in design and especially in response. The old-fashioned “solid axle” architecture is cheap, crude, and severely outdated. It feels like you are dragging a great weight behind the car, and it hips, skips, and jumps on rough pavement and in turns.


The net result is an all-too-typical Ford: a great motor and a poor suspension. We’ve been there so many times over the years.

In between sessions on the track, we were visualizing the differences and replaying our laps in the M3 versus laps in our own Mustang. And, yes, we’ve driven many examples of M3s of all generations on several tracks.

To be fair, the E92 M3 is not perfect: the brakes (astoundingly, single piston calipers) are inadequate and the engine – while highly tuned – has little torque and miserable gas mileage. But then there is the 7 speed double-clutch transmission – it’s awesome (even though in North America we get watered down tuning of it) although it took a couple of years of continuous development to get it right (and the aftermarket can update the transmission tuning to Euro specs). The 2015 next-generation M3 & M4 fixes all of these issues, while raising the price even higher compared to the Mustang.

And that is a strength of the Mustang: cost effectiveness. It has some of the needed performance elements even if they aren’t very well polished (or last very long). With the Mustang you get what you pay for, and when any one cheap element inevitably lets you down then the entire car fails. For example, while the brakes are better than in the M3, they are still too small and could be much better for a braking-intensive track such as COTA. At the end of the back straight, at 140 MPH, it takes 100% of the brakes to slow sufficiently to make the left-hand – and very tight – turn (and this with race pads and very large brake cooling ducts). The car has another 5 MPH in it (and another 5 if only the transmission would shift into 5th without binding), but not with these brakes. And even then, the Mustang brakes heavily nose-down with its tail up in the air. Another fail.

It’s great to see that the next generation Mustang addresses so many of these areas, with an entirely new suspension front and rear, and improved brakes. But the bar has already been raised in the market (and will be raised again by the upcoming 2016 Camaro), and our past experience with Mustangs suggests that this new generation will probably fall short after about a year of celebration in the “popular” press. We’d like to see that popular press take of their marketing hats and live with all three of these cars at speed over a COTA weekend.

So that’s the Truth about Mustangs (and M3s), as we’ve experienced it.


Ford releases official power figures for 2015 Mustang

435 HP in the improved Coyote V-8. 310 HP in the EcoBoost 2.3. We’ve been waiting the entire year for Ford to finally release HP specs for the new Mustang, and today that finally happened.

We’re not surprised by the incremental gain in the Coyote… we’d bet the CO2 emissions improved there as well – especially since it’s got to pass tough European standards. The 2.3 EcoBoost is a pleasant surprise – we remember our early 4.6 liter SVT Cobras that made less power and had a far less usable torque curve. We’d be willing to bet that the 2.3 EcoBoost Mustang will become known int he autocross circuit (as was the Mustang SVO – both back in the day and for many many years thereafter).

With today’s final power and weight specs released by Ford, all that’s left now are the first real road tests of production cars. And those are in the works.

Ford Press Release follows.

Horsepower Unleashed – Motivating the All-New Ford Mustang with Improved Power-to-Weight Ratios

  • 5.0-liter V8 headlines all-new Ford Mustang lineup with 435 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque and improved power-to-weight ratio
  • New 2.3-liter EcoBoost® brings turbocharging and direct injection to Mustang with 310 horsepower and 320 lb.-ft. of torque – best-ever power density from a Ford engine
  • Manual transmission provides smoother shifting than previous Mustangs; automatic transmission features steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and downshift rev-matching

The all-new 2015 Ford Mustang offers three great engines including a standard 300-horsepower V6, a brand-new 310-horsepower EcoBoost® or an upgraded 435-horsepower V8. Each powerplant is available with either a manual or automatic transmission that makes the pony car a great all-around performer – no matter how the equipment is mixed and matched to suit any individual driving style.

The fewer the pounds a car carries for every unit of horsepower generated by the engine, the quicker and nimbler it feels, making power-to-weight ratio a key measure of performance. A recent study by Autoblog of cars currently available in the U.S. market puts Mustang at the top of the charts in power-to-weight ratio for all three price categories a customer can specify.

Mustang extends its lead further for 2015 with the EcoBoost-powered fastback now carrying fewer than 11.4 pounds per horsepower; Mustang GT has as few as 8.52 pounds per horsepower.

Less is more, EcoBoost comes to Mustang
The addition of a new 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine brings turbocharging to the Mustang powertrain lineup. This engine was designed specifically for Mustang, to meet the needs of drivers looking for outstanding performance and fuel efficiency.

The geometry of the EcoBoost intake manifold and turbocharger housing has been optimized to provide better breathing and higher output in Mustang. Producing 310 horsepower and 320 lb.-ft. of torque, the 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine fits the bill for a true Mustang powerplant – with the highest power density yet from a Ford engine.

“This EcoBoost engine delivers the healthy output Mustang drivers expect, regardless of the car’s speed,” said Scott Makowski, EcoBoost powertrain engineering manager. “It delivers where a Mustang driver expects it to – with a broad, flat torque curve and great driveability under any conditions.”

The newest member of Ford’s global EcoBoost engine family, the 2.3-liter continues to take advantage of state-of-the-art technologies including direct fuel injection, twin independent variable camshaft timing and turbocharging to produce big-engine power and torque with improved fuel efficiency.

The 2.3-liter EcoBoost is the first Ford engine to use a low-inertia twin-scroll turbocharger that provides quicker boost response while enabling lower emissions and improved efficiency. The cylinder head features an integrated exhaust manifold that separates the inner and outer pairs of cylinders into each of the two inlet passages to the turbo.

Keeping the exhaust pulses separated from the next cylinder in the firing order virtually eliminates mixing losses and maximizes the pulse energy to the turbine wheel. The result is similar performance to a more complex twin-turbocharger configuration, meaning quicker turbine spin-up and torque delivery when the driver needs it for passing maneuvers.

The separated exhaust ports also enable the exhaust valves to stay open longer for reduced pumping losses that improve specific fuel consumption compared to a single-scroll turbocharger configuration.

With a compact mill generating nearly 135 horsepower per liter and more than 139 lb.-ft. of torque per liter – powering a performance car whose drivers are more inclined to use it – ensuring engine durability was critical. Enhancements to the Mustang EcoBoost engine to withstand the added stresses include:

  • Forged-steel crankshaft
  • Piston-cooling jets
  • Steel piston ring carriers
  • Premium bearing materials
  • Upgraded valve seat materials
  • Forged-steel connecting rods
  • High-pressure die-cast aluminum cylinder block with ladder-frame bearing caps
  • Deep-sump, die-cast aluminum oil pan

The beating heart of a pony
No Ford Mustang engine lineup would be complete without a great V8 engine at its core. The 5.0-liter V8 powers into a new generation with a host of upgrades that help it breathe better, especially at higher engine speeds. Many of these changes are derived from lessons learned in developing the special-edition 2012 Mustang Boss 302.

Getting air into the cylinders and exhaust out is key to generating more power and torque from any engine. That has been the focus in the development of this V8, which features:

  • Larger intake valves
  • Larger exhaust valves
  • Revised intake camshafts
  • Revised exhaust camshafts
  • Stiffer valve springs ensure valves close completely at high rpm
  • New cylinder head casting – revised ports provide straighter path to the valves for less restrictive intake and exhaust flow; combustion chamber modifications accommodate larger valves
  • Sinter forged connecting rods are lighter and more durable for high-rpm operation
  • Redesigned piston tops – deeper cutouts clear the new larger valves
  • Rebalanced forged crankshaft to support higher-rpm operation

These upgrades have boosted output of the V8 to 435 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque.

A new intake manifold includes charge motion control valves to partially close off port flow at lower engine speeds. This increases the air charge tumble and swirl for improved air-fuel mixing, resulting in better fuel economy, improved idle stability and lower emissions.

The variable camshaft timing on the intake side now has a greater range of adjustment available thanks to mid-lock phasers. This enables better optimized control of the valve timing over a broader range of engine speeds and loads for improved fuel economy and emissions.

Shifting gears
More than most drivers, Mustang owners like to take control and shift for themselves. Whether they select a fully manual gearbox or the updated automatic transmission, the experience will be better than in any previous pony.

The manual has a new shift linkage design for easier engagement and improved precision. The shift lever is now positioned closer to the driver and away from the cupholders, creating a clear path for shifting.

Mustang blends outstanding all-around performance and everyday usability. Drivers who prefer to let the car handle the shifting during their daily work run, but who still want to take control when the roads get twisty, will appreciate the new steering wheel-mounted shift paddles with rev-matching downshifts – now standard with the SelectShift® six-speed automatic transmission.

The automatic also features a redesigned case with cast-in ribs that help make it stiffer and reduce weight. Internally, clutches are optimized and operating temperature increased to reduce friction. The output shaft is now supported by a ball bearing that enables a top speed of 155 mph for Mustang GT.

With a choice of powertrains to suit driving preferences and lifestyles, the new Mustang has cutting-edge technology under the hood to match its modern design. Yet regardless of engine choice, the car remains quintessentially Mustang.


Ford releases official weight figures for 2015 Mustang

… along with a comparison against the 2014 Mustang. For the sake of reference, the official curb weight of a 2013 Boss 302 is 3632 pounds.

2014-2015 mustang weight

And for the even more important numbers, this also from Ford today:

“Mustang EcoBoost fastback has best-ever weight distribution for a Mustang, with 52 percent of its weight over the front axle and 48 percent to the rear, while Mustang GT has 53 percent of its mass on the front wheels.”


Cars and Coffee, Austin – July 2014 [Gallery]

logo - Cars and Coffee AustinIt’s been a cold winter and a wet spring here in Central Texas this year… several shows had to be cancelled and some were held in the rain. But today, with a high of 97 degrees and a clear blue “Texas” sky, all such memories are gone. Cars and Coffee Austine had one of it’s largest attendances, and the show (and accompanying dyno) were on full blast.

What was our favorite car there? This time we’ll break with convention, and choose this Rolls that came here today right off the lot. Check out that door panel!

Here’s our full gallery of 121 images, covering just some of the cars there.


NISSAN CONCEPT 2020 Vision Gran Turismo hints at future GT-R

NISSAN CONCEPT 2020 Vision Gran Turismo (1) It’s strange, it’s bizarre, and it’s impractical. We love it. Nissan’s latest concept, the “NISSAN CONCEPT 2020 Vision Gran Turismo”, shows us one potential direction of Nissan styling studios for a future GT-R.

This is Nissan’s answer to the Toyota FT-1 Concept, a slightly more practical concept that also would need major revisions before it could be built. But both concepts point to certain styling features which would survive into production. In the case of the Nissan, it’s the narrow headlamps, the shape of the greenhouse (same as the current GT-R, and the slap-sided front and rear fenders (again, similar to the current GT-R). And this isn’t a rolling concept, much less a prototype – it was designed in virtual space as a game piece for the PlayStation.

Nissan Press Release follows:

June 16, 2014

Nissan and PlayStation reveal future vision

Virtual supercar created to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the legendary Gran Turismo® driving franchise
  • NISSAN CONCEPT 2020 Vision Gran Turismo hints at the future
  • 2+2 virtual supercar with advanced aerodynamic body

NASHVILLE. Tenn. – Nissan today lifts the virtual covers off the NISSAN CONCEPT 2020 Vision Gran Turismo, a vision of what a high performance Nissan could look like in the future. It was created through close collaboration with the creators of Gran Turismo®, Polyphony Digital Inc., the legendary PlayStation® driving franchise.

NISSAN CONCEPT 2020 Vision Gran Turismo began life as dream project for Nissan designers who were given free rein to create their dream supercar for their own Gran Turismo fantasy garage.

Created by a team of young designers at Nissan Design Europe, in London, England, the model was considered to have so much potential that it has benefited from input from an advanced engineering team based at Nissan Technical Centre in Atsugi, Japan.

As a result, NISSAN CONCEPT 2020 Vision Gran Turismo gives hints as to how a supercar of the future might look.

In July, automotive enthusiasts will be able to discover that performance first-hand when it becomes available to download in Gran Turismo®6, just as they did with the NISSAN GT-R and Skylines from earlier episodes of the historic franchise. That performance heritage and commitment to delivering excitement for enthusiasts is why there are Nissan vehicles in the franchise.

But as a specialist in automotive design in three-dimensions, Nissan believes that the real-world is ready for the NISSAN CONCEPT 2020 Vision Gran Turismo. Watch this space…

“PlayStation” and “Gran Turismo” are registered trademarks of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.

About Nissan North America
In North America, Nissan’s operations include automotive styling, engineering, consumer and corporate financing, sales and marketing, distribution and manufacturing. Nissan is dedicated to improving the environment under the Nissan Green Program and has been recognized as an ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency. More information on Nissan in North America and the complete line of Nissan and Infiniti vehicles can be found online at and, or visit the Americas media sites and

About Nissan
Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., Japan’s second-largest automotive company, is headquartered in Yokohama, Japan, and is part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance. Operating with more than 236,000 employees globally, Nissan sold more than 4.9 million vehicles and generated revenue of 9.6 trillion yen (USD 116.16 billion) in fiscal 2012. Nissan delivers a comprehensive range of over 60 models under the Nissan and Infiniti brands. In 2010, Nissan introduced the Nissan LEAF, and continues to lead in zero-emission mobility. The LEAF, the first mass-market, pure-electric vehicle launched globally, is now the best-selling EV in history.

NISSAN CONCEPT 2020 Vision Gran Turismo (1)
NISSAN CONCEPT 2020 Vision Gran Turismo (2)
NISSAN CONCEPT 2020 Vision Gran Turismo (3)


June 2014 Leander TX car show [Gallery]

logo - leander car showAfter being cancelled several times this year due to rain (very unusual here in Central Texas due to the drought conditions we have suffered over the past few years), the Leander show has been on a roll with a great show last month and now another show this month without interruption.

But in our opinion it was only a fair show: the weather was dull and humid, the show was dominated by too many Dodges right in the middle, and many of the most exotic cars we used to see here, especially French cars, didn’t show. We need a greater variety of cars here, not just endless lookalike Dodge muscle cars, but a wide variety of cars. We’d like to see a great emphasis on balance: more French cars, early Model Ts, more military vehicles, more cars with swaps (only 1 was present today). Variety is the spice of life, and when any one brand or type dominates, it’s not representative of our great hobby and fewer attendees find their interest.

For the star of the show, we’re going to pick this Datsun 1600 Roadster (Fairlady in Japan). It was clean, highly desirable, and unmodified (except for a set of 300ZX rims). Full pictures of this are in the gallery.

Gallery follows:


Spotted on the Road: The Modern Soccer Mom Family

Times are changing… and we have to accept all sorts of families these days, including Zombies. They are people too, or at least they were.

modern soccer mom

:-) spotted at a Starbucks in Central Texas.


All in the Family: NSX-Powered S2000 Swap

A controversy rages about swapping engines into an S2000. This isn’t a Miata that desperately needs a real engine… this is an S2000 and it  not only has a real engine, but a true sportscar engine with well-integrated state-of-the-art Formula1-borrowing technology. Owners, ourselves included, are more than happy with the factory engine. And the S2000 still easily beats the competition: the latest Miata (poor handling in stock form and a dated Ford Focus engine) and FR-S/BRZ (numb and under-powered engine).

So if you have to swap… there are V-6, I-6 and V-8 choices (and even a V-10!) to consider. And consider this: keeping it all in the family. Big-brother NSX has its own unique DOHC V-6 engine – and it’s not the wimpy 3-valve SOHC engine used in pedestrian Honda and Acura products (once swapped by Honda itself in its own project car) but uses honest-to-goodness double overhead cams. Free breathing technology that still hasn’t come to the rest of the Honda or Acura lineup.

nsx powered s2000 - 1

An easy fit, and retaining a low hoodline.

nsx powered s2000 - 2

Here it is, in all it’s beauty. Except please get that lowly VW-sourced reservoir out of there!

nsx powered s2000 - 3

Preparing to race at the Nurburgring.

Our take: this is an interesting swap, although NSX engines are hardly freely available nor inexpensive. And they don’t have a good reputation for keeping the engine lubricated in stock form on racetracks. But it shows that it can be done, and it will certainly retain the excellent S2000 attributes of balance and rev-happiness. But what we’d really like to see on an S2000 are the full set of NSX brakes: vented all around, and aluminum calipers. This is the weak spot in the S2000, especially in the rear, and we suspect that there is a way this could be done.


Spotted on the Road: Dirty 911

Spotted in Austin Texas: somebody has a sense of humor – telling this 911 owner in German to “wash me please”.

The problem is that Central Texas has been in a severe drought for several years. And in response, the City of Austin has had to implement Stage 2 water restrictions. This means that washing cars at your own home is prohibited. Only commercial car washes can still operate. Fines start at $75 for the first offense.

The main source of water for the Austin area is Lake Travis, which at this writing is down 56 feet from full. Unless the weather radically changes over the next few months, some small towns will run out of water entirely. And of the lake drops another roughly 25% in capacity, then Stage 3 regulations kick in. Those will be published if needed, but commercial car washes will then likely be unable to continue (some are already drilling their own wells, which would allow them to continue).

Conservation efforts are important, and thanks to informed residents these are making a difference. But we’re still at the mercy of the lake, with no relief in sight.

dirty 911- wash me


2015 Dodge Challenger SRT 6.2 Hellcat prototype – start and rev

Here’s the prototype 2015 Challenger Hellcat starting and revving up for fans at a recent showing by Dodge. “Great” is not a strong enough word. But we have to wonder how this can be legal… we’ll reserve final judgement until we see the production vehicle in a few months.