Monday, February 24, 2014

Nissan GT-R and Audi R8 Hillclimb Crash

This video is from Knysna Hill Climb in South Africa.  You can see what I assume to be the couple cars ahead of the silver GT-R are also GT-Rs so they have what appears to be a great field of streetcars for this hillclimb.  Reports show that they get about 9000 spectators for the event and are looking at about 10-12K spectators in 2014.  The event is surrounded by classic car shows and other events supported by the town and local community.

It was sponsored by Renault from '09 to '12 and when Renault pulled its sponsorship in '13 the event was cancelled.  With the addition of Jaguar as a title sponsor for '14 the event will return this May.  I'm assuming this video is from the '11 edition of the race since '13 was cancelled and '14 hasn't happened yet and with the second video ascribed to 2011 showing a wrecked silver GT-R in addition to the crash of an Audi R8.  It does appear to be a very short hill climb however given that the winning times in '12 (top seven spots all held by GT-Rs) were in the 40+ second range.  You can see a couple photos of the course at below.

You can see more info on the event here:

Those Crazy People in Dubai!!

Whether its gold plated Ferraris or Bugatti police cars, you can never put anything past those with near infinite wealth....

So you end up with what you have here...A nice Nissan Armada driving around a major city in Dubai...not so unusual you say...until you check out his cargo which happens to be rubbing its gums up against the rear window...Yup...that's a full grown lion...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Book Review: Kitchen Confidential

I first came to know Anthony Bourdain via TV, not via his books or his cooking and was drawn in by his straightforward manner and absolutely brutal honesty (whether right or wrong) about everything he encounters.  Perhaps some of it is for show at this point, I don't know, but his writing seems to predate his fame and thus I'm tempted to believe more than less of it.

Personally I don't care a ton about his opinions on food, I don't know a demi-glace from a duck confit and foie-gras and escargo sound downright nasty to me, regardless of how I'm told it tastes.  That said, I'm more interested in his travels and social experiences with others.  He has a way of describing his interactions that is brash and bracing.

He covers his rich boy upbringing, his time spent in Provincetown, MA as a cook there, and his time bouncing around various NYC establishments.  Bourdain doesn't discard his own shortcomings covering his drinking, drug use, womanizing, and overall loutish behavior.

Because he is honest with his readers about his own behavior, you believe him when he details the reasons behind the success or failure of a restaurant or an assessment of what makes a good chef or crew member.  It is here, with his assessment of himself and others that the true value of the book is found.  Bourdain might be an unrepentant smoker, drinker and former coke/heroin addict and current pot enthusiast...but he does have a code, valuing truth, honesty and simplicity--you could do worse.

I wouldn't choose to live my life like he has his, and I won't every be a "foodie" but I respect the vigor and courage with which Bourdain has lived his life while valuing his opinion on life, food, travel and politics simply because you know its going to be pure and unfiltered, which can be a rare thing.

The book is likely of much more value to those who know the chefs and cuisines Bourdain references but even to the lay reader there are laughs, fun and insights to be had and you can't ask for too much than that--a perfect work to accompany one on a trip, at the beach or any other time you want some quick, not completely mindless entertainment.

Film Review: The Maltese Falcon

This is the third Humphrey Bogart film I've watched over the last year, following Casablanca and Treasure of the Sierra Madre.  I've enjoyed all and while Falcon was a solidly entertaining film, it doesn't carry near the weight of the other two.

Its your standard private detective caper with a number of twists and turns as Bogart's Sam Spade is crossed and double crossed in his search for the jewel encrusted statue.  And, yup, there's a woman (women actually) involved in Spade's ongoing troubles and some themes that seem a tad bit ahead of their time--Spade's philandering with the wife of his partner, an antagonists apparent homosexuality, etc....But none of it is as "heavy" as the issues presented in the two aforementioned films.

The greatest enjoyment I had here was in watching Peter Lorre portray Joel Cairo who has been tasked with getting the Falcon back from either Spade or the female lead of Mary Astor as Brigid O'Shaughnessy.  Lorre is brilliant here and I found myself wishing for his character to receive more screentime.  Unfortunately it is O'Shaughnessy and her "relationship" with Spade that receives the attention instead.

It is here that the film pivots and fails.  By the end of the film when Spade reveals his belief that it is in fact O'Shaughnessy who has killed his partner and proceeds to turn her over to the police the audience is SUPPOSED to care, it is SUPPOSED to feel the same way about their forced separation and Spade's decision as we do about Rick and Ilsa in Casablanca.  The story tries to hit us over the head with the fact that these two are "in love" but we've received none of the benefit of history or context for these characters to exist within as we do in Casablanca.  Instead we are supposed to believe that they have somehow fallen in love at first sight--despite the fact that O'Shaugnessy has been lying and trying to manipulate Spade from the word go.  Not believable.  Not one bit.

So while John Huston's film is good and entertaining...and likely a classic due to its cast and direction (Huston does use the camera with great effect with low, Orson Wells-like camera angles and use of shadows) but it comes off feeling more summer blockbuster than a heavyweight of filmmaking.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Print Your Own Carbon Fiber Racing Parts And More...

Look for this company to be gobbled up by one of the big 3D printing companies (fingers crossed for Stratasys as I'm a stockholder!) in the near future.  While the other 3D printers have to date been primarily been working with Nylon and ABS of various consistencies MARKFORG3D has finagled a way to do 3D printing with carbon fiber and other high strength materials.

As you can see in the video you can now print your own mountain bike forks, spoilers for your Subaru, and, using their Kevlar option, your own bullet proof vest.  So the 3D printing world has now come a bit full circle...the big story about half way through '13 was that Defense Distributed had produced a working design for using a 3D printer to produce your own "printable" gun (never mind that anyone has had the capability to make a simple zip-guns out of home material for ages) and now the big story "should" be that you can now print yourself your own bodyarmor.  Though I doubt you'll here much about this as its not as sexy a story.

Regardless, its something that shows the rapid advances in capabilities and material use that the 3D printing industry is going through right now.  Whoa unto those who are not aware of or taking advantage of this transformative technology--every aftermarket shop should have one of these in their "wish list"...

MARKFORG3D website...

Monday, February 17, 2014

Nissans at the Baja Russia Northern Forest Rally...

So now we're into the '14 racing season proper...stage rallies, Baja events, rally-raids, etc.

This past weekend was one of the more unique events on the annual schedule.  The Baja Russia Northern Forest Rally has been going on for a number of years and is part of the FIA's calendar of cross-country raids and Baja rallies.  Held in the typically deep snow of NorthWestern Russia, nearly on the border of Finland--closer to Helsinki than to Moscow, it runs a tight course through icy forest trails.

The best finish for a Nissan this weekend was the eighth place finish (of 41) of Dmitriy Ievlev and the PEC team Nissan Navara T1.1

Four Nissans entered the event and three finished in the aforementioned 8th, 12th and 24th positions.  Of note here is that this event drew some efforts from fairly far away including Reinaldo Varela of Brazil with an Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux, Yazeed Al Rajhi who traded in his Robby Gordon Hummer for the weekend for another Overdrive Hilux and a couple of Italian teams.  In terms of vehicles there were a few oddities like FJ Cruisers, a Jeep Cherokee, a Ford Raptor and a Dakar spec Mini.

So we have a Dakar spec Mini as well as Toyotas and a BMW all out getting some early mileage in on the vehicles and their drivers...

Eddie Vedder Helps Bruce Springsteen Cover "Highway to Hell"...

This at a concert of Bruce's in Australia this past weekend...also of note is Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave) on guitar.  Good to see Ed Ved keeping up his interest in all sorts of other artists...really, does anyone bounce around more or seem more respected in various rock genres at this point than Eddie?  He's like the Neil Young of this generation...Vedder also helped Springsteen with Bruce's own "Darkness on the Edge of Town" (which followed "Highway to Hell" and can be seen in the second of the videos below).  Eddie's voice is a nice compliment to Bruce's and both have a raspy nature to them that fits straightforward rock and roll quite well.  To see these two artists SMILING and enjoying each others company is great as well...

Dodge Cummins in Libya With A Bed Mounted Grad Missile Launcher

Nothing to see here...move along....move along....

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

2016 Toyota Tundra Getting Same Cummins Diesel as Nissan Titan...

So now it appears EVERYONE is jumping on the diesel bandwagon...

Toyota is now known to be adding a diesel option to its 2016 Tundra using the same 5.0L Cummins engine as the Nissan Titan will use.  This is a great move for Cummins as they are likely hedging their bets against the Titan being a low volume vehicle and generating additional business for their factory.  When you go from producing engines for Dodge or other high volume sellers, putting all your eggs in an unproven basket like the Titan is not wise.

Couple items here as it impacts Nissan.  1) it means that if Nissan wants to appear as a market leader and not a market follower it will need to get the diesel Titan to market BEFORE the Tundra, likely pushing Nissan even harder to get it wrapped up. 2) the Tundra is no slouch of a truck in terms of quality and so the Titan better be damn good or else why not just move over to the Tundra and get the same engine but better overall quality. 3) the Toyota diesel is reportedly more of a "test" for the Tundra to see if its a viable product before Toyota goes off on its own and produces its own diesel.  Nissan then has an opportunity to truly get in bed and market around the Cummins brand vs. Toyota who is likely not to push the Cummins brand very hard if it intends to go its own way in the near future.

Regardless, it will continue to push the domestics on trucks harder than they ever have been before and more competition is always a good thing....

Tundra and Titan to share Cummins diesel...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Most Miles Ever On A Nissan Titan??

This might not be a winner...but I bet its a contender...

Was cruising around looking at trucks and came across this beauty...A 2006 with 402,000 miles on it!  That is a LOT of miles on the truck though it looks like it is in decent condition.  Also looks like the driver did a lot of entry/exit from the vehicle given the wear on the driver's seat.  Anyone have evidence of one with more miles?  Oh, and if you want it, this one is for sale with a listed price of $5,900.

Nissan Titan with 402,000 miles...

Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner Formally Introduced...

 So this is the reveal at the Chicago Auto Show.  The Nissan Diesel Runner powered by a Cummins diesel.

A 2.8L four cylinder engine that is producing about 200 hp and 350 ft. lb. of torque.  Fuel economy is estimated to be 35% better than the current V6 Frontier putting it at about 30 mpg.  The vehicle this engine has been dropped into is your standard 2014 Nissan Frontier Desert Runner.  This will not be the case in the future.  If the 35% gain in mpg is what they are getting with the current version of the Frontier then I would imagine with lighter weight material and a new design the future Frontier should improve upon this figure.

The next generation Frontier will also need to see improvements in its frame and structure to handle the towing capacity the new engine will allow.  So while this stands as a nice proof of concept and a way to gauge interest in a small(ish) Nissan diesel pickup, it should in no way be thought of as a representation of the next Frontier which is still a ways a way.  The primary goal here I would think would be to continue to associate the Nissan name with Cummins and get the public thinking about Nissan as THE diesel truck company for small and mid/full size light duty trucks.  Oh, and that carbon-fiber hood with the acrylic see-through hood is awesome!

Nissan Frontier Cummins Diesel Coming Soon!

 The Chicago Auto Show is usually the sleepy step-sister to the Detroit, New York and LA autoshows but perhaps that's not the case this year.  Certainly it doesn't seem to be that way for Nissan.

Revealed this morning--or rather, discovered this morning, is the fact that Nissan is revealing a Nissan Frontier powered by a Cummins diesel!  Still under a tarp some eagle eyed attendees have spotted the Cummins badge under the Frontier's tarp as well as a horde of Cummins execs strolling about the Nissan display.  Now the vehicle under the tarp looks to be your standard 2014 Nissan Frontier so this is likely not a production model of the next generation Frontier but instead a way of showing the auto world that they are developing the next gen Fronty with a diesel engine--though you never know...Nissan does sell an oil burner version of the Frontier in international markets so could they be shoe-horning a Cummins diesel into the 2015 version of the Fronty?  Might they be just rebadging the international diesel with the Cummins logo and selling it here to pair up with the true Cummins powered Titan coming in a year from now?  We'll find out soon enough!

Oh, and here are some more Nissan Titan spy shots from about a week or two ago up in Wisconsin doing some cold weather testing.  Closer and closer I can feel the excitement building!

Nissan Pulsar NX From US Sent to China...

A lonely old Nissan Pulsar NX sitting in the dusty streets of Beijing.  According to the author of the article it appears to be a US (or North American of some kind) produced vehicle due to the size of the license plate mounting hardware.  Additionally the author also dates the Chinese license plate to the early 80s so he believes the car may have been brought over to China some 30 years ago at this point.  Good to see it still running...but why would a Chinese citizen import such a vehicle from the States?? 

Still...its a cool looking little car with an understated spoiler and pop up headlights.  Wish I had one here!

Nissan Pulsar spotted in China...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Film Review: Captain Phillips

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Captain Phillips director Paul Greengrass.  While I loved his United 93 I found the Bourne series of films he helmed to be overly edited, rushed, loud and obnoxious.

Captain Phillips was far more in the United 93 mold than the Bourne films.  Tom Hanks is his usual solid self pulling off a New England accent with aplomb and portraying the real world Captain Phillips as a more nuanced character than we came to know through the news.  We do see that he may not have been the best loved boss, we do see his choice of taking a course directly through the pirate infested waters...He is not painted with a wholly positive brush...he's shown realistically which lends heft to the film as a whole.

Greengrass steps away from his rapid fire edits and constantly shifting camera angles and allows the story to unfold without such a heavy hand and it works.  You never feel like you are watching a documentary but you do come to trust the director to tell the story accurately and without embellishment.

The pirates themselves are rightly shown as khat addled, squabbling, dim witted lowlifes.  No, there is no attempt to show a "rounded" perspective of the Somali pirates so don't look for this film to show up on you local 9/11 truther's best of 2013 film list.  About as "rounded" a look you get at them here is that they are pushed to do what they do by more powerful warlords who demand that they go to sea and hijack ships for money--which they, themselves, will never see.

There is little violence here other than the very end of the film and most of the action takes place inside the characters heads and hearts leaving the viewer to observe much of the tension between the characters.  If Greengrass could stick with films like this rather than action-thrillers like Bourne I think he would be well off.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

IDx Model and Die Cast Toy Car Available...

As my infatuation with the Nissan IDx grows, so does my interest in all things surrounding the concept and its coming production model.

So like any fanboy I desire one of my own as soon as possible--even if its just a toy version.  It appears as if I'm not the only one however.

In my interwebs search for various IDx items I came across a photo of a scaled version if the IDx NISMO at a NISMO display in Japan.  This got me thinking about diecast or other model versions of the IDx and if someone had already made one.  Sure enough, those plucky Japanese are already getting the tool and die and plastic molding set up to produce models of this concept car.  Early indications by the websites offering these "toys" are that they are sold out and there is a waiting list for the product.  I'm not even sure that I can get these items shipped over here but god knows I'm going to try.  The couple I have seen are in 1/42 and 1/64 scales and one of the articles mentions a 1/10 scale radio control model from ABC Hobbies...

Ebbro model...
TommyTec model...

Monday, February 3, 2014

Red Bull Frozen Rush Ratings...

Given a pretty sweet TV spot in the middle of the Sunday afternoon just before the Super Bowl the short course truck based Red Bull Frozen Rush event  looked to capture some idle eyes and bring viewers into the offroad fold.  With most short course TV broadcasts in recent periods grabbing a 0.4 to a 0.5 rating on CBS or relegated to smaller networks like CBS Sports or NBC Sports channel this presented a solid opportunity to show that the niche sport could generate some interest.

Full weekend ratings are below and though Red Bull Frozen Rush didn't exactly match the ratings of say, the Super Bowl which had over 110 million viewers, it didn't disappoint either.

Red Bull Frozen Rush grabbed a 0.7 rating, solidly above the aforementioned recent ratings of LOORRS on CBS.  The 0.7 rating translates into 0.7% of the roughly 115.8 million TV households in America (a new updated figure of TV households as of this report) being tuned into the broadcast.  This now means that the Frozen Rush event saw some 811,000 households tuned into the show.  In comparison the NHL broadcast that preceded Frozen Rush grabbed just a 0.8 rating (and NBC has to PAY the NHL big bucks for those rights whereas I would imagine Red Bull actually pays NBC to show their events--so a big win for NBC to continue broadcasting these shows) and Frozen Rush handily outdrew the English Premier League soccer match NBC broadcast.

If we use my typical 1.1 viewer per "household" of the event, the 811,000 households translates into 900,000 actual individuals watching the Red Bull Frozen Rush broadcast...That's about one of the highest totals I can think of for an offroad event and portends well for the just announced today, Mint 400 broadcast later this year--also part of the Red Bull series and again on NBC.

"X Games Aspen Rewind"
"ESPN Sports Saturday"
College Basketball: Kentucky-Missouri
PGA Tour: Waste Management Phoenix Open: Third Round
"NFL Honors"
"EPL Match of the Day"
Figure Skating: Tribute to American Legends of the Ice
Four Continents Figure Skating Championships
College Basketball: Michigan-Indiana
PGA Tour: Waste Management Phoenix Open: Final Round
"Road to the Super Bowl"
"Football America: Our Stories"
"Super Bowl Sunday Pregame Show"
"Super Bowl XLVIII Kickoff Show"
Super Bowl XLVIII: Seahawks-Broncos
"Super Bowl XLVIII Postgame Show"
NHL: Red Wings-Capitals
Red Bull Signature Series: Frozen Rush
Purina Incredible Dog Challenge

Aussies At the Parker 425

A number of Aussies came over for Best in the Desert's Parker 425 this past weekend.  What makes Parker and the Aussies so interesting for me?  Well, its the inclusion of a number of Nissan powered buggies.  In Australia, due to rules allowing for turbo motors, Nissan motivated vehicles are a dime a dozen.

In the states however where turbos have been excluded from most desert racing classes the humble VW engine has been standard for smaller buggies and carbureted Chevy and Ford engines have been dominant for years.  In this year's Parker 425 however, BITD has loosened their rules a tad and are now beginning to allow turbos (and multiple turbos) in their top level classes.  One such class is the Unlimited buggy class, called "Class 1" or "1500 class" vehicles in BITD.

So there were three Aussie class 1500 buggies and actually one Aussie Trick Truck as well.  All three buggies were Nissan powered by a VQ35 engine.

The #1528 of Matt Hanson was a twin turbo Jimco that had been shipped over from Australia.

The #1507 Alumicraft of Garry Simpson had originally had a Honda powerplant but was swapped for the Nissan once it reached Australian stores.  Its VQ35 is naturally aspirated and is mated to a six speed Fortin sequential transmission.

The #1573 is  a brand new Raceco that Matthew Martin took delivery of just a few days before Parker and is also naturally aspirated.

The #47 Jimco trick truck was also just completed and delivered to its Aussie customer Steve Sanderson and is motivated by a Kroyer racing engines Chevrolet.

The results for the Aussies were excellent.  Two of the three buggies finished the race as well as the Trick Truck.  The only DNF was not caused by a mechanical failure or driver error but was due to a ruptured fuel cell from an impact by one Mr. BJ Baldwin and his Trick Truck.  Results were as follows:

#1528--finished 23rd overall and 5th in class out of 95 official finishers and 24 finishers in class
#1507--finished 21st overall and 3rd in class
#47--finished 27th overall and 17th in class

The drivers of these vehicles were blown away by the roughness of the course calling their premier event--the Finke Desert Race in Australia--a highway compared to the terrain in Arizona they encountered.  The most impressive finish of these drivers was the #1507 of Garry Simpson who was running his little 3.5L NA V6 engine against the 7 Liter V8s of the rest of the Class 1500 field.  Overall the Aussies showed that even in limited seat time on unseen terrain behind unproven vehicles, they can compete at the pointy end of North American desert racing.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Pioneer SP-BS22-LR vs. Polk Audio RTi6 Bookshelf Speakers

I am in the process of downsizing my audio equipment...I had parted with a large Klipsch subwoofer a few years ago and now have moved away from a complex surround sound system to merely a soundbar for TV/video viewing and a pair of bookshelf speakers for my music listening.  Nearing 40 I figure my living room should look a bit less like that of a college dorm.

So gone also now are the large Klipsch floorstanding speakers, replaced by the aforementioned bookshelfs.  None of this is to say I wanted my music to sound like crap.  On the contrary as I have ordered an Orbit turntable, if anything I want my music to sound at least as good as it has to date...just with a less imposing equipment and expense presence.

So it was that I was coming across the recent reviews for Pioneer's Sp-BS22-LR speakers.  They have gotten amazing reviews from numerous sources over the past year.  At a piddling $129 they were deemed to be some of the best speakers under $500 and were a huge bargain.  Designed by one Andrew Jones who I guess is a sort of wunderkind of speaker design I figured I'd give them a shot as I had intended to replace the floorstanding Klipsch speakers with my Polk Audio RTi6s that I had been using as rear surround speakers in my audio system.  If the cheap Pioneers were better sounding than my five year old Polks then I'd merely Craigslist the Polks and enjoy my find and audio improvement.

Setting them up side by side the Pioneers are slightly smaller and are certainly better looking--their curved housing is eyecatching and they fit on bookshelves much better than the Polks.  When it came to sound, again, put side by side, the Pioneers more than held their own.  The high end and textures of sound coming from the Pioneers was excellent.  Hearing the minute instrumental changes in Miles Davis's playing on Kind of Blue was could make out the minute warblings in each note--something perhaps not a distinct in the Polks.

Unfortunately the Pioneers have a fatal flaw that resulted in me returning them and using my aged Polks.  They just can't handle high volume and base levels.  I hadn't turned them up very loud (at least not in my mind) nor was I playing anything very bass heavy when the Pioneer (I had one of each speaker hooked up at the same time) began failing...the dreadded "waffling" where the main driver cannot produce the low end at the volume it is being asked for and just begins producing a pathetic crackling sound, pathetically trying to a cubic of air at a speed it can't handle.  I've always imagined it as the cone reacting in a sort of uneven wave-like manner vs. a uniform in and out "punch" when this happens.  I suppose I'll have to look it up.

Regardless, this inability to produce proper sound at a high volume level was a killer in my mind.  My Polks kept up with what I wanted without hesitation and went far beyond the Pioneers exhibiting no "waffling".  So while I can recommend the Pioneers to someone looking to use them as computer speakers or for a kids room or maybe a bedroom where volumes are not going to be very high, I cannot recommend them for anyone's main listening system...not at any price.

Tesla Model S Completes Coast to Coast Winter Trip...

Calling it a "rally" is a bit much but this two car team did just complete a crosscountry trip in a pair of Model S Teslas using only the Tesla Supercharger network for power/recharging.  No ancient decayed dinosaurs were used to fuel this process (well...not directly anyway!!)

They set at least one "record" in the process including " fastest trip across the US in an electric vehicle".  The vehicles reported no mechanical or electrical issues and drove through the snow, sleet and ice without a hiccup...

The final checkin for the team was in NYC and included a photo op with Mr. Elon Musk.

Tesla S team completes cross-country trip in winter...