Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Nissan Altima V8 Supercar Revealed....

Now in living color.  This won't be the final livery.  There will be four factory backed V8 Nissan Altimas running in the Australian V8 Supercar series and at least one of them will carry Kelly Racing's Jack Daniels scheme.  The others are not known at the moment.  Still, the red and black version seen here is pretty darn sharp.

The article notes that the V8 used will be the VK56DE which powers the Patrol overseas, but what it doesn't say is that it also powers the Nissan Titan and Infiniti GX56 here in the States.  Reduced in size to 5 liters from its normal 5.6 but still pumping out more than 600 HP it should be a force to be dealt with in 2013.

Nissan V8 Supercar Altima, live and in the flesh...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Forza Horizon Gets Rally Expansion...

I don't play it but everyone else seems to rave about it so its with pleasure that I read that Forza Horizon will be getting a Rally Expansion pack.  Available on 12/18 it can be downloaded for the Xbox 360 for $20 and will be dubbed, well, Forza Horizon Rally.

Supposedly the Rally expansion will have "“an outstanding off-road racing experience with deeper ruts, higher jumps, and new surface types to explore” along with rally-tuned cars and co-driver calls."  I can't find any listing of what cars will be included or more specifics about the expansion pack...but any rally is good rally!

Forza Horizon Rally expansion...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Nissan Altima V8 Supercar Revealed...sortof...

Kelly Racing down in Australia is beginning to reveal their new Nissan Altima V8 Supercar for the 2013 season.  An early look at the livery and body of the vehicle can be seen in the artist interpretation here.

Additionally, Kelly Racing and Nissan have released this video showing a bit of the build of the fiberglass body, cage, engine and more.  From the look of their shop this is a truly worldclass operation on par with a NASCAR or Indycar program.  Certainly not a grassroots effort of any kind.

The VERY cool thing about this effort?  If you wish, you can go and see these V8 (VK56 powered) Altimas race here in the US in 2013 as the Australian Supercars series will be coming to the Austin, TX, Circuit of the Americas for one of their races next year (in addition to F1, MotoGP and other worldclass, non-NASCAR events).  Can't wait!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

TV Worth Watching...

Its rare when I find a TV show that I find worth watching these days.  It has to be something both entertaining as well as mentally stimulating.  The Men Who Built America on the History Channel meets both those criteria.

Focused on the industrial titans of the late 19th and early 20th century the series intersperses historical fact and recreation with commentary from modern business icons (Jack Welch, Alan Greenspan, Carly Fiorina, Mark Cuban, etc.).  Covering Vanderbilt, Carnegie, JP Morgan, Ford, Rockefeller and others the shows act as a great primer on the industrial foundation that resulted in the most powerful country on earth in so many ways.  Context in the series is given by varied historians and though details of some items are left out but you could certainly do worse than to gain a basic understanding of what makes America great than by watching this series.

And then ask yourself, could such great men succeed in today's America?  Jobs, Gates, Bezos, Musk and others would say yes.  To ensure that this continues we must create an environment where such aspirations and efforts are rewarded.

The Men Who Built America...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Nissan Juke Lightweight Pulley...

Always looking for ways to improve performance in my own and my own favorite Nissan vehicles I came across this item from 2J Racing.  A lightweight pulley for your Juke.  At a very low price and sound technical reasoning behind its performance improvement (vs. those swirly wind intake modifications) this could be a very solid improvement.  As it is also not an "underdrive" pulley and is merely lightened, it won't have any effect on the vehicle accessories.

Given that the company also makes a pulley for the 2.5L Frontier of mine I'll likely be looking to pick one up myself.  The claimed 5hp improvement would be a 3% performance for my truck.  Not bad at all for the price.

Juke lightweight pulley...

Will Pulsar SSS Spawn Hot Hatch Sentra Here?

Perhaps a Spec-V hatch?  It's possible.  The Sentra is going to be produced here in the US (as well as next door in Mexico) beginning in the immediate future.  One of the initial hurdles to this possibility is the production of Nissan's MR16DDT engine (the same 188 hp engine found in the Juke and boosted to some 300 hp in the DeltaWing racer) which I do not believe is produced in North America.

Regardless, the Pulsar has now been reintroduced to Australia, just ahead of the Sydney Auto Show and the Pulsar/Sylphy/Sentra will come in two versions there--a sedan and a hatchback with the hatchback getting the SSS version.  Unfortunately the SSS will come only with a CVT transmission (again similar to the Juke).

It would be a shame if the US market was deprived of what could be a great little competitor to the Mazda hatchbacks as well as the Ford, VW, Hyundai and other sporty small cars.

Right now the Sentra is to be seen here in the US in a sedan version with no Spec-V available at the current time.  Importing a few of the Australian dubbed Pulsar SSS hatch would come with the currency translation issues that vehicles from Japan currently come with so.  Here's hoping it comes here in one way shape or form.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Nissan DeltaWing Finishes at Petit LeMans...

After what looked like sure disaster earlier in the week when the DeltaWing had an unfortunate run in with a Porsche during practice, an overnight rebuild, a solid qualifying performance and a fantastic overall finish for the Nissan team put smiles on everyone's faces.

Powered by the 1.6L engine that motivates the Nissan Juke, the radically designed DeltaWing was designated an experimental entrant for the Petit LeMans and took is approximately 1,500 pound vehicle to a 5th place finish.  Given that regardless of its qualifying effort the experimental status relegated the vehicle to the back of the field at the start where it began passing vehicles right away.

Using a minimum of tires and fuel and only two drivers the DeltaWing finished all 1000 miles of the event and ran as high as 3rd in the event.  Given its success and backers including Mr. Panoz himself (founder of Petit LeMans and the ALMS series) I wouldn't be that shocked to see more than one DeltaWing racing in the ALMS series in 2013.

DeltaWing News...

Film Review: The Night of the Hunter

As I've stated before, I often feel like I'm running out of current films that are worth watching and so I've begun going back and watching older films that have a pedigree of one sort or another.

My father had mentioned The Night of the Hunter in passing and I'd seen it appear on various "best" lists as well as heard how influential it had been.

With Robert Mitchum and Shelley Winters it had the acting chops to be a great film but would the rest of it hold up?

It certainly did.  Based upon true events (a serial killer in West Virginia) it was not until after the film did I find out that it took place near my wife's place of birth in Parkersburg, West Virginia. The 1955 film feels a bit older due to its black and white photography as well as its portrayal of 1930's, depression era West Virginia.

Mitchum is brilliant as Harry Powell the con-man reverend/serial killer who has issues with women of all kinds but particularly those who happen to be young and attractive.  The words "love" and "hate" are tattooed on Powell's fingers and represent the dichotomy of Powell's persona--kind man of god one minute and killer the next.

At only an hour and a half in length, the film moves along rapidly, sometimes jarringly as it cuts from one scene to the next but mixes interwoven storylines with skill and contains numerous moments that demand rewatching.  The film's critiques are wide and biting when dealing with religion, small town hypocrisy, and the male role in society amongst others.

Though more or less ignored in its day, The Night of the Hunter has grown in reputation and influence as time has gone on and deservedly so.  Its creation of a slick, creepy killer is one whose influence carries on some 50 years after its debut.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

That's One Less Mi-17...

Well, that certainly went poorly for the Syrian Air Force such as it is.

Slowing the video you can see the extremely long tail boom that is indicative of the Mi-17 used by the Syrians.  Traditionally a transport helicopter some countries have turned it into a gunship of one kind or another.  In production since the 70's in Russian factor its not modern or advanced but it is likely cheap and a great addition to any would be, third world, dictator's arsenal.

According to various sources, Syria has, er....had...some 90-100 of these in both transport and gunship versions.  Can't tell which version this is but given it was hanging around a contested area it would logically be a gunship version.  Then you look at the height at which it was hit and it appears the rebels have more than just small arms fire on their side.  Smoking on its way down it appears to have sustained substantial damage but its the catastrophic explosion that is the showstopper.  There is literally nothing left afterwards and little debris comes raining down.

I'd look at common, portable, surface to air missiles fielded by Turkey and Qatar (the two major backers currently of the Syrian opposition) if I wanted to know what it was that brought this hulk down.  Congrats to the hunters.

10/18/12--Edit to add: Oh, hey looky...a front page story from the WSJ today on how Syrian rebels are getting shoulder fired surface to air missles from Turkey amongst others....ahead of the curve...ahead of the curve....

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

First Nissan Juke-R Delivered to Customer #1

Perhaps unsurprisingly both customer #1 and #2 hail from the oil rich Middle East where interest in this conglomeration of supercar and urban CUV was the highest upon the introduction of the radical concept a year ago.

For some $500,000 an individual will get the drivetrain of a GT-R with over 500 hp, AWD and all the other benefits of the top of the line Nissan sportscar.  All this is shoved into a little CUV and allows the Juke-R to spring to 60 mph in about 3.5 seconds.

Supposedly the Juke-R also comes with a FIA compliant roll cage though I don't think I see one in the video below.  Regardless, as a very low production vehicle and about as "custom" as you are going to get from a major auto manufacturer the Juke-R will stand alone in the world of sporty SUV/CUVs.  A Porsche Cayenne Turbo ain't got nothing on this.

First Juke-R delivered...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Great Day For Red Bull!

Red Bull was dominating the sports world on two sides of the globe yesterday, both in the air and on the ground.

Over in Korea it was Sebastian Vettel and the Red Bull Infiniti F1 team taking the win and the second spot on the podium at the Grand Prix of Korea.  This win puts Vettel back in the 2012 championship lead, 6 points ahead of this weekend's third place finisher Fernando Alonso with four races remaining (India, Abu Dhabi, Austin, TX and Brazil).  If he were to win the championship it would be Vettel and Red Bull/Infiniti's third world title in a row.  Second place went to Mark Webber and his Red Bull/Infiniti machine solidfying his fifth place in the standings only one point behind Lewis Hamilton.

Vettel now also takes the lead on the number of race wins this season with four.  One more than his chief rival Alonso.  F1 returns in two weeks in India.

On this side of the planet, and more importantly in the grand scheme of things, Felix Baumgartner successfully completed the Red Bull Stratos mission.

Felix lept from the Red Bull Stratos balloon at a height of more than 128,000 feet reaching a speed of 833.9 mph, 1.24 times the speed of sound before landing in the New Mexico scrubland with a touchdown.

I watched this event on the Discovery channel in HD more intently than I have nearly any TV program in a long, long time (perhaps since "Shock and Awe" about a decade ago?).  Some will criticize it as only a TV stunt a la an Evil Knievel jump or the like but in fact it truly had some deep science and experimental impact.  From materials and space suit design to high altitude escape procedures.  You can bet a lot of people at the military around the world were watching this.  Seals and other special forces do HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) training and insertions on a regular basis but this may open up a new world for them--literally and it also allows designers more options for the escape of manned spacecraft at higher altitudes than ever before.  As stated here before, the critical, boundary pushing research and experimentation in the Space industry is no longer taking place at the governmental level....its now in the hand of private entities.

Just a reminder that this blog brought up this story as well as that of the former recordholder Joe Kittinger (who will still hold the record for longest freefall as Felix pulled his chute earlier than expected due to a fogging/icing helmet) and his amazing history (test pilot, fighter pilot, POW, engineer, etc.) as retold in his autobiography "Come Up and Get Me", months ago.  Just one example of how I generally like to think that we are a tad bit ahead of the curve here.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Perfect Tow, Chase, Crew, Camping Vehicle...

This could very well be my dream vehicle for transporting my race truck and attending racing events.

The N6-Active by Roadtrek is based upon Nissan's NV2500 HD with its fullsize truck, Titan, underpinnings which allow towing of nearly 8000 lbs. and comfortably housing a good portion of a race team in comfort.

Fully outfitted with a bed, a shower, table, shelving, fridge, microwave, sink, etc. (but no bathroom) makes weekend trips to the track or offroad race of any kind a more enjoyable and less expensive experience since you are taking your hotel room with you! 

Not only that but the mileage of this vehicle isn't half bad either--the tester's got some 16+ mpg during its 500 miles on board.  With a 28 gallon tank it gives the vehicle a roughly 450 mile range.  Not too shabby.

Coming in at near $70,000 with the 4WD option on the vehicle its not cheap but for what it gives you it seems like a really good deal and one I will be dreaming about for some time.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

I rarely get the time to play video games anymore.  What with kids, the house, the race truck, work, etc., my life is pretty full as it is.  Finding time to mindlessly pour my efforts into a bunch of pixels on a TV screen is not usually anywhere near the top of my list of things to do.  Add to the fact that console video games tend to shy away from strategy, military or simulations my interest has waned greatly in recent years.

That may change today with the release of XCOM: Enemy Unknown for the Xbox 360.  I was a huge fan of the original game back in the very early 90's when I played it on a 486/66 PC.  Those of you who remember such DOS computers will likely know of the original game as well.  It was an excellent turn based shooter where you would manage small teams of your UFO Defense team on missions to take out invading aliens.  In between missions you had to manage your resources to reverse engineer captured alien technology and defend the planet.  I never got to the end of the game but it somehow managed to build feelings of care and nurturing for your little team and palpable fear about what may be hiding in the dark, unexplored, unseen areas of the battlefield.  The original XCOM was one of the most addictive and enthralling games I've ever played.
Some 20 years later Firaxis games, the same company that handles all the Sid Meier games (Civilization, etc., also some of my favorites) has gone ahead and re-booted the original. Early reviews have been excellent and state that it stays true to its roots and has not gone "arcade" and remains a turn based strategy game at its core--an anachronism these days to be sure.  I'll be buying it today and trying it out tonight to be sure.  I won't have as much time to play it as I used to but I'll give it my best.  Can't wait!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Film Review: All the President's Men

Seemingly on a Dustin Hoffman kick of late (having watched Marathon Man and Papillion recently), All the President's Men comes in as the least entertaining.

Based on the true (well, mostly so) reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in the early '70's that brought down the Nixon presidency, its facts are so well known that any embellishment of the story was impossible.  Which is fine.  As a retelling of what Woodward and Bernstein went through to reveal the diverted campaign funds that were funneled to an outfit set up to undermine Nixon's political enemies through both legal and illegal means and within full knowledge of the White House itself, the film delivers.

What it doesn't deliver is any thrills or base entertainment.  If you want to see people intently flipping through a phone book, dialing a telephone or knocking on people's doors, then this is your movie.

I, for one, ask a bit more out of my entertainment than viewing the menial tasks of an officeworker--no matter how earthshattering that officeworker's end result may be.

Redfor and Hoffman are adequate here--but really there isn't a lot of ebb and flow to the emotion nor action to be dealt with.

Its a flat line of a film.  One that solidly records an extremely important portion of recent American history and the men who had the intelligence and bravery to bring the governments ugly inner workings to light.  Its just not great entertainment or likely to arouse intellectual curiosity.  Save this one for journalism 101 only.

GT-Rs with F-4 Phantom and Harrier....

These photos were taken over in England recently and contain the juxtaposition of two Nissan GT-Rs against both an F-4 Phantom and a Harrier.  The GT-R is much more angular and "modern" looking than either plane--as is fitting given the original design of the F-4 goes back to what??  The late 50's, early 60s?  And the Harrier design going back to the 70's.

Another funny aspect to the vehicles is that the GT-R likely house more computing power in its drivetrain than either plane does it its entire body.

Regardless, its still a series of cool photos putting what is the peak of automotive technology and performance today against the peak of airplane technology of a very recent period.

GT-R and Fighter Jet Photo Shoot...

Friday, October 5, 2012

Nissan Micra in WRC Wales Rally GB

Lewis Roper took his Nissan Mirca kit car for a spin at the recent WRC Wales Rally GB.  The cool thing about top flight rallies is that you can compete on the same roads and in the same event as the biggest stars in the world--just in a separate class.

While he suffered two early punctures and it put him out of reach of his class win, he soldiered on and provided this epic photo.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Dual 370Zs Enter ARC for 2013

As the Australian Rally Championship moves more towards 2WD vehicles, the series current leader in a Mitsu Evo is trading in his tri-diamond for a Nissan.  A 370Z in fact.

A two car effort headed by 2012 leader Nic Box will take on all comers in 2013.  The RWD 370Z is significantly heavier than what most of his competitors will be putting him at a disadvantage but he is hoping the additional horsepower will carry the day.

Two 370Z effort for 2013 in Australia Rally Championship

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

SpaceX Goods!

My favorite company now has some tshirts and other goods available for sale to show your support for their efforts.

Smartly timed to coincide with this weekend's launch of the first fully laden supply mission to the ISS by anyone other than a sovereign nation SpaceX has opened its "store" for individual to buy tshirts, hats, a model and baby clothing recognizing their accomplishments.  Personally I like the "Occupy Mars" tshirt as it stands in such stark contrast to the do nothing complainers who provide the base of the Occupy movement vs. the brilliant (and I don't use that word lightly) and hard working scientists, engineers and craftsman who work for SpaceX.

I'll be getting a couple of their shirts to wear with pride and be watching this Sunday for their launch which is scheduled for 8:34 Eastern from Cape Canaveral. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

2014 240Z Confirmed!!! (sort of)

This is about as close as you are going to get to a confirmation that Nissan is introducing a small, lightweight sportscar in 2013 in part as a celebration of the 80th anniversary of Nissan.  Nissan's lead designer Shiro Nakamura (who I have had the pleasure of meeting) states as much in this edition of Jay Leno's Garage where he spends some time in Japan driving the original 240Z and touring the Nissan design facility.

It sounds almost like the new 240Z may well be a replacement for the 370Z though that is kinda hard to believe given it was just introduced in the last year or so.  Regardless, the introduction of this new version of the 240Z should be introduced sometime in '13 to go on sale in '14 by the sounds of it.  Can't wait to see Nissan's competitor to Subaru's BRZ and the Toyota FT-86.