Tuesday, February 8, 2011 05:31
“It’s a sign,” old folks used to say when something they witnessed seemed to predict the future. “It’s a sign” that electric cars are on their way to being fully embraced when all-electric cars start showing up at the dragstrip. Those who hot-rod electric cars are what marketing folks call “early adopters” and average people call “nuts,” “super nerds,” or “whackos.” Versions of those names where applied to people who stuffed V8s into Model T chassis back in the 1940s. (Somehow, those who put V8s into 3 Series BMWs or overly shortened the suspension springs of Hondas earned the more respectable-sounding moniker of “tuner.”)
Someone who would build a street-legal electric drag racer capable of running a quarter mile in 10.3 seconds at just over 120 mph is far more of an early adopter (and a car guy) than the Ed Begley Jr. types who acquire, but don’t often drive, a Prius, Leaf or Volt.
John Wayland has converted a 1972 Datsun 1200 Coupe into what he calls the “world’s quickest street-legal car.” (Wayland calls himself “Plasma Boy.” Ladies, that’s a pretty good indication he’s single.)
A video of Plasma Boy’s racing exploits shows him racing—and beating—Corvettes and BMWs among others. One of Wayland’s advantages is that, like every electric car, his makes maximum torque at zero rpm. Combined with the made-for-drag-racing tires, that means the White Zombie launches like a real drag racer every time. It helps that his opponents in the video have the reaction times and shifting skills of cannabis-browsing koalas. (Since the video, a switch to lighter and more potent lithium-ion batteries has allowed Wayland’s car to run much faster.) More...
Friday, January 28, 2011 05:22
The tenth and perhaps the final History Channel Top Gear episode aired last week. I was expecting the grand finale—something that would leave viewers begging for more. Instead, they aired a rehash of the previous nine shows. The closest thing to a memorable moment was when blind driver Brian Fisher’s dog Nash “irrigated” the set.
For some reason, the producers chose the copy cat approach from start to finish. The contests had an American twist, but nothing that made me sit up straight and lean toward the screen. The “fire breathing” scene was funny, but again it was vaguely reminiscent of a BBC episode where Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May got snockered at a British campsite. More...
Wednesday, January 26, 2011 05:22
If you’re not exactly sure of your sister’s husband’s name, but can remember precisely how to drive corners on racetracks that no longer exist, you might be a real car guy (and a racer). (Steven, I’m only kidding.)
I recently discovered a youtube video featuring in-car footage from Continental Divide Raceway, which used to be south of Castle Rock, Colorado. About 20 years ago it was bulldozed for to make room for McMansions. A good feeling for Turn One shows up at about 2:40 and 4:50 in the video.
CDR was almost Road America West, except with spectacular views of the Rockies. Its road course featured a half-mile-plus straightaway that was also used as a drag strip. And for a short moment, it jumped up on a half-mile oval. At 2.8 miles with numerous elevations changes, it was a challenge to memorize all the turns. But Turn One I’ll never forget.
Turn One was almost completely blind: It was like stepping off a cliff and praying that God hadn’t moved that hidden ledge six feet below the canyon rim. My Alfa Romeo Spider was running somewhere near its top speed as it approached the corner. The Turn was taken with my right foot flat to the floor—if I did it right. More...
Friday, December 17, 2010 04:51
The engine in a typical Top Fueler displaces 500 cubic inches and produces about 7,500 horsepower. Of that 7,500 horsepower, it takes about 900 just to turn the supercharger. A ready-to-race Top Fuel engine costs about $60,000 and is often rebuilt between rounds. A Top Fuel team can tear down and rebuild an engine in about 30 minutes, including draining and refilling it with almost 30 quarts of 70-weight oil mixed with a special thickener. This is done after every run.
A Top Fueler leaves the starting line so quickly that the driver is subjected to 5g, about the same as an astronaut experiences during lift-off of the Space Shuttle. At the end of the run, when the parachutes open, the deceleration reaches a peak force of 8g.
A Top Fueler accelerates from 0-100 mph in less than a second. By about two-thirds of the way down the track, a good-running Top Fueler is already going 280 mph. And yet during an entire quarter-mile run, the engine’s crankshaft turns fewer than 600 times.
The huge rear tires usually last no more than six runs, or about two miles. The rear wing over the rear tires generates up to 8,000 pounds of downforce to keep the slicks glued to the track. A properly set up car will leave the starting line with its front wheels in the air for the first 200 yards of the run to maximize rearward weight transfer and traction. More...
Tuesday, November 9, 2010 03:54
Speaking of rolling over into the abyss, plus demolishing and flying things. You see these things … they roll in from the web like tumbleweed on a dry breeze. Lots of it is crap, with strange people behaving oddly, often for the sake of the world bearing witness to why people think they’re strange in the first place. Some of it ain’t crap, though, like this radical—there aren’t too many words that work better—wreck for Pro 5.0 racer Dennis Bailey.
You could use the near ubiquitous YouTube to dig this up, or go through Stang TV and support a non world-dominating organization. Search Dennis Bailey + rollover + drag and you’ll probably be able to dig this up through a search engine, too. (Sorry, they wouldn't let us embed the vid here.)
Trapping with sub-five second times in the quarter-mile, the Pro 5.0 class is about as fast as you can go in a Mustang—in any stock-wheel-based dragster, really. That made it even harder on Mr. Bailey, who waited until the top of the run (at well over 200 mph), to tell his wheelie bars to fold up. At least that’s what it looked like—the YouTube isn’t the best quality.
As with lots of the best wreck action (as good as something this atrocious can be), many things happen in a very short amount of time. We see Dennis Bailey’s SN-95-bodied pre-stage, bring up the turbo against the trans-brake, stage, leave (rather nicely, I might add), and only at the top of the run (it’s the car in the far lane, in case you didn’t notice) do things go bad—quickly.
At the far end of the track, the front end lifts a little, then a little more, at which point the bars probably give up the ghost and things get bad. The car lifts up and over the K-rail, and proceeds to roll for at least ten more seconds. This is serious yard-sale wreckage, folks, so dig it while you can and it’s not you. This wreck got so much mileage we heard about it on a gearhead radio show in San Diego called Hank Watson’s Garage Hour. The good stuff gets mileage.