Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Reason 1,749 Why Hill Climbs Are Dangerous...

Because there are no guardrails and flying of the side of a mountain at any speed is a bad, bad, bad idea...

This was taken this past weekend at Pikes Peak and shows Bobby Regester and his Pontiac Sunfire apparently losing its rear end grip and going ass over tea kettle down the side of the mountain.  He survived.

Nissan Leaf Wins its Class at Pikes Peak!

OK, so the Leaf was the only vehicle in its very specific class--that of "Production Electric" vehicle.

Still, it shows that Nissan is at the forefront of pushing its electrics to their limits.  Any Volts here?  Nope.  Any Tesla's?  Nope...

The only other electric was a one off custom vehicle that is not "production" oriented and will never see the street.

The Nissan Leaf, piloted by Chad Hord, who usually races a Nissan Titan short course off-road truck in the TORC series, raced up the Pikes Peak road in a time of 14.33.429 which is an average of 52.2 mph.  Not bad for a car with a speed limiter of 90 mph.  In fact, this time was good enough to beat out seven internal combustion auto entries, 28 internal combustion motorcycle entries and 23 other combined auto/moto entries who DNF'd.

Between this event and the NISMO Leaf RC that is making the rounds at races like LeMans and elsewhere, its clear that Nissan does not intend for electric cars to be shut out of motorsports.

Nissan Leaf Wins Class at Pikes Peak

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Halfway Home Driveway Shots...

No these aren't the best shots but its the best my phone could do...

I'm currently at my in-laws house in Western Mass after having spent some 8 hours driving up and back to Burlington, VT to pick project Retro-Runner back up.

Final stats on the front?  16.5 inches of clean, no bumpsteer travel.  To be honest with a bit more work (relocating a part of the break system) the travel could go well beyond and into the 18+ range.  Given the rear only has about 14 inches of travel, it just doesn't make sense to go farther.

Things discovered both today and in recent days with this project?

The BTF Long Travel kit is really well put together.  It was assembled with hardly any problems other than a last minute discovery that the brake calipers were positioned just a tiny bit (1/16 of an inch or less) too close to the brake rotors as they just barely touch.  A slight widening of the caliper locating holes and the wheels turn smoothly and cleanly--albeit with a bit of a metal on metal squeek.  If the squeek is not gone by the time I get home a quick bit of dremel work will take care of the last 1000s of an inch that is still coming in contact with the rotor.

Other items of note?  Ruff Stuff Specialties is a great outfit to deal with as we had to source a couple of left hand thread, 7/8 inch rod ends at the last minute and they got them too us overnight with no issues and then when I called back after finding that we had forgotten to order a pair of jam nuts along with the rod ends, Dan at Ruff Stuff had a pair sent out to me for free, overnight, again.  Truly great service.

Then we have the powdercoating.  Soooo worth it.  I had been tempted to leave the front suspension parts as bare metal or spraying them myself.  For only about $225 I got them all nicely powdercoated which will cut down on maintenance and protect my investment.

Lastly?  Well, I learned a ton during this process, not the least of which was how correct I was in my original projections as far as the time and money it would take to get to this point.  Once the project got SERIOUSLY underway late last fall--when Retro-Runner went in for the beginning of its cage build but after the install and painting of its fiberglass--my original thought was that everything would take twice as long and cost twice as much as I would forecast.

Time wise, it consistently took about 50%  longer than anyone who was doing any work would state at the beginning of a portion of the work.  None of this was really their fault.  Really.  It is simply that in a project of this complexity that you are ALWAYS going to come across issues that have never been thought of ahead of time--say Nissan changing its thread size on its tie rod ends in the middle of a production cycle, or bodymounts being EXACTLY in the same spot as the down bar of the cage should be passing through to reach the frame.

Cost wise it isn't the major items that inflate the overall cost--both sections of the cage (engine cage, cab cage) and the long travel suspension kit all came in nearly exactly as proposed.  What causes all the extra money to be spent is, well, the extras.  New rod ends, new calipers, new rotors, powdercoating, new wheels, HANS, harnesses, work on the dash, brake lines, intercom, and on and on and on...The cost of just the pure cage(s) was spot on what I was expecting...the ancillary items were way more than I had thought of coming into the project.

I'll be working on the truck quite a bit more in the coming weeks to prepare it for its first event and will also be getting some glamour shots of the truck done as well as part of marketing it to others.  Thanks for tagging along so far...this is just the beginning.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Project Retro Runner--Done!

At least in its current form that is...

Yes, I still have to paint the bare metal cage parts you see here and yes, later on in the year it will receive bump stops and straps to assist with situations where there limits of the truck's travel will be met or exceeded.

But for now, she is done and ready to rock and New England Hill Climb events and SCCA RallyCross events.

Even the bare metal upper and lower arms and uprights have actually already been powdercoated and returned--just no pics of that yet.

Project Retro-Runner will be picked up this Saturday and returned to my home this Sunday.  Some testing to occur in the next few weeks and then on to its first official event in its current state at the Okemo Mountain Hill Climb.  Can't wait!  Now I just have to find a co-driver who won't fall asleep at the slow speeds I will be driving!

The work here is wonderful and I can't thank Mr. Cyrus House enough for taking on this project on short notice and doing such a bang up job.  I am forever in your debt Cyrus.

Pikes Peak Practice...

Practice for this weekend's Pikes Peak International Hill Climb race began yesterday.

In total there are four Nissan (or Nissan related) vehicles that I can identify and two were captured on film yesterday.

The Nissan Leaf of Chad Hord and the Nissan Frontier of Brad Lovell were not seen in this series of pictures but should show up soon.

Here you have the #3 Dacia Duster powered by an twin turbo engine plucked from a Nissan GT-R and the 1995 Nissan 240SX driven by one Ken Stouffer who has been here a number of times before in this car.  Full race is this weekend.  Enjoy.



Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Review: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Yes, the book, not the film or films.

Just used the film poster here as its about as iconic an image as can be come up with for the novel.

Jules Verne's mid/late 1800 novel is often described as one of the early and seminal examples of science fiction.

My goodness, is science fiction really this bad?

Admittedly there is a lot herein to be admired--Captain Nemo's characterization, forecasting the rise of submarines, the growing environmental impact of humanity, etc.

Unfortunately (and I'll blame this on Verne's Francophone roots) the book, outside of a few initial and final chapters the book is an immense and overly long, bore.  Descriptions of Atlantis, underwater volcanoes, trips under the polar ice cap, the slaughtering of whales (somehow ignored by those taking an environmental viewpoint of this novel), etc. are all buried under an unceasing laundry lists of Latin names of sea life and the insufferable character that is Professor Pierre Aronnax.  By the end of the novel I just wanted Capt. Nemo to just be done with it and dispatch Aronnax, his pseudo-homosexual assist Conseil and the dolt that is the Canadian whaler, Ned Land and feed their bodies to the sea.

Verne evidently tries to portray Nemo as a dark avenging angel of which we are to be horrified given his slaughter of other sailors and their vessels.  Just the opposite.  Verne's most successful description of the entire book is saved for the final pages in which we see Nemo break down in front of a portrait of his family after having sent a ship full of men to the bottom.  It is Nemo in who I am invested in and care about, not the weak kneed protagonist.  Nemo is a man of character, resolve, courage and thought.  Verne's heroes are dumb (Ned Land), pathetic (Conseil) or just disinterested observers (Aronnax).

As I ripped through page after page of this novel I wished that Verne's editor had taken a chainsaw to the narrative and told him no one gives a damn about the Latin term for an orange bottom dwelling tropical sponge, but instead let him list said sponge, in Latin, and all its even remotely related spongey cousins ad infinitum.  Robert Lewis Stevenson quipped that Verne knew nothing of human nature and I don't think Stevenson was far off.  Verne's protagonists are weak, pseudo-intellectual, cardboard cutouts and yet he thinks we are to admire them.  I'll blame it on him being French...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Film Review: Taxi Driver

OK, its an interesting character study of societal outcast and his ongoing mental breakdown, but the film seems highly over-rated due to the director's name and the associated cast.

The Bernard Herrmann score was my favorite part of the film followed closely by the film's imagery--from the cabs coming through the steam and smoke of NYC to the seediness of old school Times Square the film feels as if its placed in a near post-apocalyptic future.

Combine the ever present filth of Scorsese's NYC (decidedly NOT the NYC of Woody Allen's films of the same period) with the slow build of Travis Bickle's derangement and you've got an iconic piece of cinema worth viewing numerous times and dissecting a number of ways.

I however came away focused on the areas I felt the film either lacked or went in a strange direction on.

First is its blatant racism.  Whether reflecting the mores of the time or not, Taxi Driver comes off as a decidedly aged film in terms of how it treats African Americans.  Filmed as drug users, prostitutes, pimps (Sport--Harvey Keitel's character was also supposed to be a black pimp but later changed, not that it took away anything from the character's "blackness" by having a white man play the character) or other degenerates and called "niggers" "spooks" and a host of other racist terms.  The camera and action portrays blacks as the lowest of the low and when Travis talks of a coming rain in which he hopes all the filth will be washed away it's clear that this filth includes blacks.

Now, I'm not saying that Scorsese is racist, or that the story promotes racism--only that the films POV--Travis's is a racist one and that all of NYC and its characters are viewed herein, through that prism.  This film would NEVER see the light of day in its original form, today.  It would be considered far too controversial as critics and producers would remove the film's racist viewpoint entirely.

In terms of what it lacked?  In my opinion, Travis lacked a real motive for his attempted assassination of Senator Palantine.  Was he angry at Betsy for rejecting his awkward and inept advances?  Certainly.  But to take out this frustration on Palantine just didn't make sense to me.  First off, Bickle's in cab conversation with Palantine went well from Bickle's perspective and Palantine actually gave an ear to his complaints--something virtually no one else in the city would have bothered spending the time to do.  Additionally, killing Palantine does not serve any of Bickle's misguided aims.  The elimination of Palantine does not "clean" the city as the killing of Sport, Jodi Foster's John or the Hotel Manager does.  Bickle's rage is directed towards Betsy--not towards those surrounding her.  If Bickle had attempted or completed the killing of Betsy, it would have been in like with his thinking and rage.  A misguided political assassination in order to indirectly get back at Betsy just doesn't fit.

So a deep and key film of the 20th century this certainly is.  It just does contain some "blemishes" that others may not remark upon in their heaping praise upon one of the modern masters.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Vancouver Rioters...Kissing??

In all of the stupidity and silliness surrounding the riots after the game seven win by the Boston Bruins over the Vancouver Canucks last night this may be the photo that takes the cake.

First off, this is a confirmed, real, un-Photoshop'd photo taken by a Getty Images photographer who had been covering game seven and then went and covered the riots.  He didn't even know he had the shot until his editors let him know after going over his nightly take.

Drunk?  High?  In love?  Lust?  All of the above?  I'm not sure but the juxtaposition of a young couple kissing in the middle of a debris strewn street with riot police all around makes for an incredible photo.

Engine Cage Nearly Complete With Shock Mounts Coming Today...

Now updating the engine cage which you can really see coming into shape here.

The ABS is being pulled and will not be reinstalled and the upper shock mounts are about to go into place.

The engine cage is nicely tied into the frame and the main cage itself as the engine cage goes through the firewall and connects to the main cage within the cab of the truck.

There will also be a removable crossmember going over the engine to tie each side together.  The truck drove like it was on rails before the creation of the engine cage and tieing the front suspension together so I am psyched to see an even further improvement in its handling after these additions.

I also want to thank Cyrus for taping off the fenders on the truck while he does his work as it shows the care and consideration he has for other peoples vehicles while working on them.  Very nice touch.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

New Five Inch Body Lift for Titan and Frontier...

Another lift kit is now on the market for owners of the 2nd Generation Nissan Frontier and Nissan Titan.

From Performance Accessories comes a five inch lift kit complete with liners for both models.

I'm not a big fan of body lifts unless you are using them in conjunction with a suspension lift as all they do is lift the truck higher and allow for bigger wheels/tires.  But hey, if you're into making your truck look like a monster truck on a budget, there are worse ways to go...

5 Inch Body Lifts for Titans and Frontiers...

Red Bull Racing's Headquarters...

When you spend $300 million a year to field a racing effort, one would expect your headquarters to be well apportioned.

And at Red Bull headquarters in England, it appears no expense has been spared.

Motor Trend got a brief and highly controlled tour of the Red Bull Racing facility recently.  Sounds more like a trip to the NSA's headquarters given all the restraints...but still...it makes for a good story and pictures...

Motor Trend Visits Red Bull Racing's Headquarters...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Engine Cage, Front Suspension and Rear Wheels/Spacers...

So after coming down numerous "home stretches" (roll cage home stretch, fiberglass home stretch, paint home stretch, interior home stretch, vinyl home stretch, etc.) it appears as if the NISMO Stuff "Retro-Runner" is coming down its final 2011 home stretch.  After this it will be ready to run (pretty much) in whatever events I can manage during the remainder of the year.

The full on desert setup will wait for the winter of '11-'12 and will include the fuel cell, race radio, locker for the rearend, etc.

With the completion of the wheels, tires, spacers and long travel front suspension and engine cage, she should be ready for any hill climb, rally cross and maybe even a stage rally event in the remaining six months of '11.

These pictures are take at Cyrus House's shop in South Burlington, VT and reflect the new wheels, tires, spacers for the rear, beginning of the engine cage and parts of the long travel front suspension.  The rate at which this is moving now, I hope to see it completed by the end of the week and begin testing immediately thereafter...

Dacia Duster with GT-R Engine Video...

The Dacia Duster that will be taking on Pikes Peak in short order now has a new video out.  Lots of tire smoke and lots of power in what is a REALLY small car.  Didn't realize just how small this car was until this video and could get its perspective in relation to the driver and other personnel.  Enjoy the madness...

Monday, June 13, 2011

And We're Back...

The LOORRS TV ratings continue to return to their historic norm.

Yesterday's 6/12 broadcast garnered a 0.4 rating, the same as those for the AMA Motocross program that followed it.

The 0.4 equates to 0.4% of the 115.9 million TV households in America that were watching the program.  This translates into roughly 464,000 TVs that were tuned in to the program and using my conservative estimate of 1.1 viewers per TV means roughly 510,000 people watched the LOORRS race yesterday.

As always, these are not numbers to be sneezed at but the trend line for the LOORRS programs is one of a downward trend since last November.  It would be nice to see an increase somewhere along the way that would indicate a growing audience but I don't think that's really in the cards for a program that is more about advertising for its sponsors--much like the motocross broadcasts--than it is about building a larger TV audience.

NHL Stanley Cup Final: Bruins-Canucks: Game Five 6/11 NBC 8:00-11:00pm 3.2

"ESPN Sports Saturday" 6/11 ABC 5:00-6:00pm 0.6

NCAA D-I Men's & Women's Outdoor Track & Field Championships 6/11 CBS 1:00-3:00pm 0.9

PGA Tour: FedEx St. Jude Classic: Third Round 6/11 CBS 3:00-6:00pm 1.2

MLB: (regional) 6/11 Fox 4:00-7:00pm 1.7

Track & Field: adidas Grand Prix 6/11 NBC 3:00-5:00pm 0.9

Belmont Stakes (pre-race) 6/11 NBC 5:00-6:15pm 2.6

Belmont Stakes (race segment) 6/11 NBC 6:15-7:00pm 4.8

"NBA Countdown" 6/12 ABC 7:30-8:00pm 3.8

NBA Finals: Mavericks-Heat: Game Six 6/12 ABC 8:00-11:00pm 15.0

NBA Finals trophy ceremony 6/12 ABC 10:45-11:15pm 14.3

Lucas Oil Off-Road Pro2 & Pro4 (taped) 6/12 CBS 2:00-3:00pm 0.4

PGA Tour: FedEx St. Jude Classic: Final Round 6/12 CBS 3:00-6:00pm 1.9

F1: Canadian Grand Prix 6/12 Fox 1:00-3:00pm 0.7

AMA Motocross (taped) 6/12 NBC 4:00-5:00pm 0.4

Ironman World Championships 70.3 (taped) 6/12 NBC 5:00-6:00pm 0.6

Nissan Takes Gold and Silver in LMP2 at LeMans!

Nissan had hoped to return to LeMans with a bang given its time away from the highest level of sportscar racing.

Boy did they deliver.

Nissan powered vehicles finished 1st and 2nd in the LMP2 class (open cockpit, less powerful than the top rung LMP1 class).

Greaves Motorsport and the #41 Zytek chassis took the win by a large margin over the second place Oreca chassis that was piloted by Playstation contest winner Lucas Ordonez who has gone from trying to get his MBA and playing racing videogames to a world class driver for a major international racing program in less than three years.

All four Nissan powered vehicles in the LMP2 class finished the race with no DNFs which is truly remarkable. 

For a complete recap go to the LeMans homepage: here

or the written recap of the Greaves win: here or here

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Another Use For the Nissan Xterra...


Yup, evidently some enterprising individuals out West have decided that parasailing on lakes, rivers and oceans is not enough.

The Xterra is a near perfect vehicle for this pursuit as its offroad capable for traversing long stretches of unpaved terrain at relatively high speeds and is also large enough to carry the bundles of parasails, harnesses and other equipment needed for this, uh, "sport".

Not sure if I'd be up for this--the fear of dropping out of the sky onto rock hard earth from several hundred feet worries me a bit.  I'd probly do it if there (I'm a sucker for peer pressure) but its not something I would seek out at this point!  Regardless, hats off to them for thinking outside the box and using a Nissan to do it.

Xterra Offroad Parasailing...