Archive for April, 2010

The Volkswagen Thing

April 28, 2010

If you were around during the early part of the 1970s, you invariably saw some sort of box-like, weird, jeep-looking sorta, well…thing start to turn up on the streets here and there. When you asked your buddy what the heck it was, you wound up in one of those Abbott and Costello “Who’s on first?” types or conversations.

You: “Hey, did you see that thing?”
Your Buddy: “Yeah, I like those Things.”
You: “What is it?”
Your Buddy: “The Thing.”
You: “Yeah, the thing, what is it?”
Your Buddy: “The Thing.”
You: “Yeah man, that thing, what was it?”

And so on…anyway, the car that we came to know as the Volkswagen Thing here in the United States was called the Type 181 Kurierwagen when it was originally produced in Germany in 1969. The car was essentially based on the German military vehicle called the Kübelwagen that was used during World War II. VW was first asked to produce such a vehicle for military purposes in the 1950s, but they begged off until the late 60s when they identified a demand for such a vehicle in the consumer marketplace, specifically in Mexico. The Mexican version of the car was called the Safari.

The Volkswagen Thing hit the American marketplace in 1973. It shared its chassis with the VW bus (pre ’68) and was powered by a 1600 cc 4-cylinder capable of an astounding (not) 46 horsepower. The Thing appealed to many younger people and outside-of-the-box types, and it was reasonably popular despite its rather hefty price tag. The 1973 VW Thing actually cost more than the Beetle, going for $3150.

This was the era when the consumer advocate Ralph Nader was making a name for himself putting the automotive industry under the microscope. He deemed the Thing unsafe and did all that he could to get it off the market, and he succeeded. The car remained in production through 1974, and after that it was no longer imported to America.

There were a total of about 25,000 VW Things imported to the U.S. in all, so they are rather rare as well as being a very unique oddity. These cars can be quite valuable, with low mileage, perfect specimens fetching upwards of $15,000. A fully restored Thing was purchased for $40,000 at a Barrett-Jackson auction. The Thing was certainly a fun car to drive, and it would be a very cool acquisition if you came across one today.

Contributed by Fossil Cars Staff Writer

SEMA Show

April 27, 2010

The Specialty Equipment Market Association holds an extremely influential event every year that showcases the new advancements, technologies, and features that will appear on tomorrow’s best automobiles. Although not open to the public, this show is available to view in pictures and videos online, and it is open to those who are certifiably affiliated with the automotive industry (for a fee, of course).

The show is hosted at the Las Vegas, Nevada Convention Center and is home to more than 100,000 industry leaders looking for the latest and greatest in automotive technology. These participants come from all over the world (more than 100 countries) to attend the event. The show hosts educational seminars, product demonstrations, and special events in 12 sections of the floor.

Featuring products to improve the performance of new and collector cars alike, this show has been wowing producers, consumers, and distributors with its innovative products annually since 1967. This year, the SEMA Show will be held from Tuesday, November 2nd, until Friday, November 5th. This show is certainly a “big deal” within the automotive industry, as it showcases innovations that car manufacturers include in their new lineups for the next year. These folks exhibit the product advances that we wind up seeing in new vehicles as well as the latest after-market supplies and products for collector cars.

Contributed by Fossil Cars Staff Writer

The Comet Rising in the 1960s

April 23, 2010

Although the car was produced by Mercury until 1977, the 1960s were the years that gave rise to the Comet. Originally planned to be a model of the Edsel, the Comet was to be one of the Ford Motor Company’s new projects for the 1960s and was labeled simply “Comet” until it received its Mercury badges in 1962. Although it was originally conceived as a new Edsel model, the Comet is in fact the twin sister to the Ford Falcon. The Comet shared many chassis, engine, interior, and body components with the Falcon, however it was bigger and more luxurious.

Sales were brisk for the Comet, reaching over 100,000 in its first year of production. Comets were available in different body styles: 2-door sedans, 4-door sedans, 2-door wagons, 4-door wagons, and 2-door convertibles (convertibles were not introduced until second-generation comets, in 1963). Until 1962, the higher end Comets were labeled as “Customs.”

In 1962 there was also an S-22 model introduced (available in all body styles) which offered more standard features than the base model Comet, and sported the S-22 badges, bucket seats, and different tail lights. The Comet came standard with a six-cylinder engine that gave the compact car plenty of kick without sacrificing gas mileage. The Comet became available with a V8 in 1963 when the engine compartment was designed for expansion. This car also came with 2 available transmissions: an over-the-wheel automatic transmission, or 3-speed manual (3 on a tree) transmission.

The third generation of Comet (after 1965) became a midsized car, evolving from its compact origins. The headlights were now over/under instead of side by side (the over/under headlights originally used in ’65), and the chassis was more relative to the Ford Fairlane model. Now standard was a 390 V8 engine. Standard was a 2-barrel carb, but optional was the more powerful 4-barrel. The Cyclone model offered automatic transmission standard. The Comet was continually evolving, and by 1966 the convertible model was honored as an Indianapolis 500 pace car. In the later 1960s, the Comet became the midline model, with the Montego and the Montego GX models rising above it, featuring more luxury characteristics as standard equipment. By the end of the 1960s the Comet had made its mark, and it remains an interesting collectible to this day.

Contributed by Fossil Cars Staff Writer

A Look at the V8 Engine

April 20, 2010

The V8 engine has become ubiquitous throughout the automotive industry over the last century, and its legacy began right after the turn of the 20th century in France. First patented in 1902 by Leon Levavasseur, it was being used successfully in early airplanes and speedboats by 1904. The first V8 engines were capable of 24 hp at 1400 rpm, but this output disappointed aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont. He ordered a heavier engine for his aircraft, allowing it to gain a more robust 50 horsepower.

This automotive V8 engine made its debut in 1905, when it immediately broke land speed records in France. Victor Hemery, a notable Grand Prix driver, got his Darracq, equipped with a 221 liter V8 up to an incredible 109.65 miles per hour, setting the land speed record at the time. Rolls Royce took notice, and they were the next automaker to use the V8 in 1905 and 1906.

In America, Cadillac was the first to use the V8 when they introduced the the L-Head V8 in 1914. In 1916, GM expanded the production of the V8 with the 244 ci Oldsmobile V8, and Chevrolet followed in 1918. As we can see all around us, the V8 has been an automotive staple ever since. The key selling point of the V8 is power and acceleration without excessive vibration, making for a smooth and comfortable ride.

One of the modifications and tweaks made to the V8 over time is the angle of the “V.” Traditionally, the angle is 90 degrees for optimal balance, but engines like the Yahama built V8s that power some Ford Taurus and Volvo models utilize a 60° “V” angle.

Virtually every automobile manufacturing company both foreign and domestic has utilized the V8, and the engine that started out powering French airplanes and speedboats in 1904 clearly remains relevant to this very day.

Contributed by Fossil Cars Staff Writer

2005 V6 Project Car From American Muscle

April 14, 2010

To start off the series, we meet Dave Kaeck from American Muscle, who announces that the project will involve a lime green 2005 Mustang Fastback V6. This car is set to receive some modifications to get it running to its full potential. The Mustang is taken to Swarr Auto where it will receive its new performance package, containing items found on AmericanMuscle.com.

As Kaeck explains, the new equipment to beef up the Mustang includes a dual exhaust conversion kit, a new CAI, and a tuner, and he also points out how the V-6 gets a bad rap. Installing these modifications is really not that difficult, and it can be done right out in your own garage with the right tools; however, for the dual exhaust conversion, access to multiple power tools is necessary. With a new set of tires and wheels, and a lowering spring set, the Mustang also gains a stylish swagger to match its improved performance.

The styling changes continue in this installment with smoked out headlights and taillights, tinting to the side marker lights, and the third brake light. Next it’s time for the hood scoop, mirror covers, a new grille, window louvers, a new fuel tank door, a short antenna, hood pin, blackout panel, and chin spoiler, finished off with a three bar pony emblem on the new grille.

To wrap everything up, Kaeck recaps the modifications made to the Mustang, and they run some final diagnostic tests: with these simple modifications, the car’s horsepower, torque, and overall performance and look improved significantly. After taking the car for a final spin, some nitrous oxide is added for an extra kick, and the V6 project is ready for the road!

Contributed by Fossil Cars Staff Writer