I’m Jim Donnelly, and thanks for stopping by my new website, Jim Donnelly On Wheels. Some of you already know who I am. I was previously the senior editor of Hemmings Motor News in Bennington, Vermont, and before that, I held a bunch of positions at a daily newspaper in the Philadelphia area, including automotive and motorsport writer. I hold more than 50 journalism awards and have been in this life for more than 35 years. I’ve written books about my friend Don Miller, the former president of Penske Racing and a mega car guy; and one on the history of automotive advertising. What I hope to accomplish here is to share some of the stuff that I consider so worthy, inspiring and, really, life-changing. The automobile unhitched us all from the pieces of dirt we once called home. Going fast brought us thrills. Watching others compete in cars made us marvel at people with such limitless skills, determination and fortitude. Cars upended our whole existence totally and irreversibly, the same way that computers are doing today, so it’s entirely appropriate to marry the two of them here. What you’re going to find here is fresh info on what’s going on in the world of cars, what’s innovative, history that’s worth remembering, roads worth driving, races worth attending, books worth reading, cars worth buying, and maybe even some places to dine that are worth a stop when you’re out on the highways. No politics. I’ll leave that sordid topic to those who claim to know it. Let’s get rolling, because this is going to be a hell of a ride we’re going on together.
Genesis, the South Korean halo brand positioned aloft of both Hyundai and Kia, has released its first fully electric vehicle, the GV60, for sale to consumers. The first Genesis electric vehicle, the GV60 is laden – we chose that word deliberately – with driver-assist technologies. As an example, one of them is known as Face Connect, which allows drivers to lock and unlock the Genesis by use of facial-recognition technology. The base model is the GV60 Advanced AWD, with an MSRP of $59,890 and a suite of driver and passenger aids that would drop off the screen if we tried to list them all in this format.
There’s another tasty fillip here, however. Buy a GV60 – a performance AWD version with up to 483 horsepower is also offered – and Genesis will throw in a deal that allows three years’ worth of complimentary 30-minute recharging sessions courtesy of Electrify America, which is partnering with Genesis for EV refueling. You’ll be able to locate the nearest “pump” by using either the Genesis Connected Services or Electrify America smartphone apps.
Winter’s gone, summer’s looming, and that means that premium car events are about to start popping up all over the country. Not all of them exclusively involve cars. The Quail is better known for its adjunct automotive history invitational that helps to anchor Car Week in Monterey, California, every August, but the organizers view and present two-wheeled history with equivalent respect. Some 250 historic bikes and more than 3,200 attendees were on the grounds last week at Quail Lodge & Golf Club for The Quail Motorcycle Gathering, an event that we really think ought to be part of Car Week, jammed as it already is. Libations and foods from local purveyors were available in abundance.
Best of show at the 12th annual gathering went to the 1951 Vincent Rapide entered by California resident Max Hazan. Judging classes ran the gamut from historic British and Japanese bikes to extraordinary bicycles, and even included a category for minibikes. In that final class, a nostalgic joy for anyone who lived through the era, the minibike award was presented to the 1971 Montesa Cota 25 entered by David Bookout, who also hails from California.
We’re in 2022 now, which means that the events of the 1970s and 1980s qualify as history to be debated, dissected and viewed with delighted respect. This entry is about a book that marries the golden era of dirt racing in the Northeast with one of its biggest stars and one of the era’s most able chroniclers, who experienced the Modified world as both a journalist and race official. With a galaxy like that in alignment, you just know the end result is going to be good. The Last Cowboy is the story of Billy Pauch, a guy who valued driving race cars for big money more than sitting for interviews, and who was standing on 744 career feature wins when he stepped away from the seat for good a few weeks ago. That was when author Buffy Swanson was gathering her notes and photos on Pauch’s racing life, which got underway when his late father was still running homebuilt stock cars and dated to when Gerald Ford had just moved into the White House.
The NASCAR Hall of Famer Ray Evernham, who contributed the foreword to Pauch’s life story, once publicly described Billy the Kid of having all the same stuff, talent wise, that propelled Jeff Gordon to greatness. Pauch is a money racer who tended to stay close to home but still amassed wins in Sprint cars and pavement equipment, not just the upright dirt Modifieds. Growing up near the lazy Delaware River in Frenchtown, New Jersey, he holds more than 100 feature wins at three different tracks, two of them now gone. Pauch has won in blacktop Modifieds, holds two World of Outlaws feature triumphs and turned the fastest Sprint car lap in auto racing history. The production values of the 268-page softcover book are exceptional, and the research by Swanson, herself an honoree of the DIRT Motorsports Hall of Fame, is without peer. And it’s the closest thing to a history of the fabled Flemington Fair Speedway that yet exists. You can order this outstanding book by going here to the author’s website. The narrative, photo selection and design excellence make this vital work of history everything we’d hoped it would be.
Sometime within the last couple of months, the Formula 1 megastar Lewis Hamilton wondered aloud whether the Monaco Grand Prix, the world’s most historic pure street race, deserves to be on the modern F1 calendar. The debate is essentially about whether today’s cars are so wide and fast that it’s impossible to pass on Monte Carlo’s sinuous streets. That’s an issue for Liberty Media, which owns Formula 1, to debate. What’s arguably more significant is the grand sweep of international racing history that Monaco represents. Bugatti, which is now an Italian brand of gigabuck hypercars instead of a French one, owns a huge and very significant piece of Monaco history, including four wins in the Grand Prix era that preceded today’s Formula 1 until after World War II. For this weekend’s running of the 13th annual Grand Prix de Monaco Historique, for vintage race cars, Bugatti reflected on that august heritage, especially as it concerned one of its star drivers, who happened to be a Monaco native.
Known for their aesthetic flawlessness and jewel-like level of preparation, Bugatti cars built in Molsheim, part of the Alsace-Lorraine region of France, won the Monaco Grand Prix four times, beginning in 1929, when William Charles Frederick Grover-Williams, who raced under the pseudonym W. Williams, crossing the line first in the Grand Prix’s inaugural running. Bugatti would subsequently win Monaco four times: with René Dreyfus in 1930, Louis Chiron in 1931, and Achille Varzi in 1933. Chrion’s win stands out, however, as representing the only time that a native Monégasque won the race. A true continental gentleman with exquisite breeding, Chiron later suffered nearly crippling injuries and the loss of his beloved spouse in a skiing accident, but recovered mightily to resume his career, which included an attempt at the Indianapolis 500 and a point-scoring finish in his final Grand Prix, fittingly also at Monaco. That occurred in 1955, when Chiron was nearly 56. Chiron is still the oldest driver to ever start a Formula 1 race. In 2016, Bugatti honored his memory by naming one of its supercars in his honor, the Bugatti Chiron.
If you need some empirical evidence that petroleum-fueled vehicles aren’t ready for the ash heap of automotive history just yet, consider this: The Toyota Highlander has been a sales leader in the midsize SUV segment for six years now, mostly with hydrocarbon horsepower, even though hybrid variants of the Highlander are also offered with both two- and four-wheel drive. This is a big country and, like the metaphor of doing a U-turn in a washbasin with an aircraft carrier, gasoline-fueled vehicles are not going to simply disappear anytime soon. To that end, Toyota has amped the 2023 version of the Highlander with a new four-cylinder engine option that’s both highly efficient and highly turbocharged.
At its heart, the Highlander will now boast a 2.4-liter turbocharged engine that employs dual balance shafts for internal smoothness. It’s rated at 265 horsepower, plus an eye-opening 310-lbs.ft. of torque, a genuinely impressive measure of oomph from an engine of this size, normally aspirated or not. It represents a 17 percent improvement in output over the previous 3.5-liter V-6 that the turbo engine replaces in the Highlander. Despite that, combined fuel economy is EPA-certified at 24 MPG. Naturally, for those who prefer them, the hybrid Highlanders will continue.
What, you say you’d never own a minivan because they’re, well, just so useful? Listen, we still live in a world where families have kids, who have lots of friends, who haul a lot of stuff, and who all want to stop at Walmart to buy yet more stuff. Historically, drivers have sort of been left wanting in this whole equation. And now, lo, along comes Honda with the news that it’s unleashing a Sport version of its segment-strong Odyssey minivan, which serves the purpose, at bare minimum, of letting everyone know that the person behind the wheel cares about his or her wheel-gripping duties.
The 2023 Honda Odyssey Sport takes America’s top-selling minivan (since 2010!) and adds a sinister visual element to its presence. The blacked-out grille, headlamp surrounds and 19-inch wheels are augmented inside by black leather seating set off with red piping and matching red interior mood lighting. The Sport is slotted into the Odyssey lineup between the EX-L and Touring models, and shares the EX-L’s power moonroof and power-operated rear liftgate. Power comes from Honda’s 280 horsepower V-6, mated to a 10-speed automatic transaxle. Built on a dedicated line at Honda’s assembly plant in Lincoln, Alabama, the Odyssey is also the first Honda model offered with Honda Service Pass, which covers selected maintenance items for the first two years or 24,000 miles. The Sport’s MSRP begins at $42,210.
They still drive huge trucks outfitted with pumps and ladders, but a large part of the work firefighters perform on a daily basis has nothing to do with putting out fires. Instead, most fire-rescue organizations in the United States can tell you that physical rescues and medical emergencies now account for the bulk of their calls, frequently involving motor vehicle accidents. Firefighters train constantly on learning the best ways to control fires at crash scenes, and on how to extricate the occupants. As the driving public swings en masse toward adopting electric vehicles, those practices are going to change. That’s where Volvo and the Boston Fire Department come in.
Already decked out with the BFD logo on its front doors, this Volvo XC40 Recharge was donated by Volvo Car USA for use in training on rescue techniques involving battery-equipped EVs like this one. Some of what Volvo does to protect firefighters at work is to enclose the Recharge’s battery pack in an impact-resistant safety cage, while independently sealing and cooling each battery module therein to prevent impact damage and leaks. The guy on the right accepting delivery of the XC40 is aptly named Boston Fire Commissioner Jack Dempsey. The BFD will use the Volvo SUV to develop new training and on-scene safety procedures for the department’s rescue personnel.
One of the nice things about retirement is the check marks of achievement it can add to the free time you’d never enjoyed previously. One of the guys in our world who’s one of the very best at maximizing that freedom is our longtime pal Tom Cotter, who, after running the PR department at Charlotte Motor Speedway and then establishing a communications firm that represented some of the best in America motorsport, has dedicated a lot of his existence to ferreting out old cars, in any condition, anywhere. Tom does this a lot and has hosted more than 100 YouTube episodes on his adventures, along with authoring several well-received books about the cars he’s located. His newest book distills the methodology and motivation behind his obsession to find vintage cars.
How you arrive at a wellspring of free time is up to you, but in 208 hardcover pages, Secrets of the Barn Find Hunter will lay out the techniques Tom’s applied, with great success, in digging these old crocks out of their musty, shadowed existence. The author recounts his own success stories, including his Cunningham C-3 coupe that’s in running condition, while introducing us to the techniques he uses to persuade total strangers to reveal their treasures. Hint: Personal presentation and persistence are very important qualities to possess. The good news here is that you can do this, too. It’s going to be a long time before every vacant structure in America can be checked for the presence of automotive archaeology. You’ll enjoy this breezy, forthright tale. It’s a Motorbooks title, priced at $30.00.
If you’re one of the growing number of American enthusiasts who covers performance rallying, especially as it exists on these shores, you know the exploits of the troupe at Vermont SportsCar, which prepares Subaru of America’s factory rally team from its do-anything fabrication facility not far from Lake Champlain in Milton, Vermont. VSC is the nation’s premier constructor of rally and rallycross competition machines, with multiple championships in its portfolio. VSC has just revealed it’s going to build a new type of car, all in house, for competition in a new variety of rallycrossing for electrified vehicles.
The two cars in the VSC photo are dubbed FC1-X, and will see combat in the Nitro RX rallycross circuit’s new Group E division for EVs. VSC’s facility in Milton can rival any NASCAR or IndyCar team’s headquarters in terms of clean-sheet fabricating and design capability, and will be building these rallycross cars from scratch to compete on the Group E circuit, which will include 10 events during its 2022-2023 season incorporating stops in England, Sweden, Finland, and Canada, plus several U.S. venues. The FC1-X is capable of some astounding numbers – 1,070 horsepower with all-wheel drive, 812-lbs.ft. of immediately available torque, and a 0-60 time estimated at 1.4 seconds. The driver lineup is longtime Subaru rally and x-sports star Travis Pastrana along with rising talent Conner Martel.
When it arrives later this summer, the 2023 Kia Soul – you’ve got to love the fact that it’s categorized by the builder as an “urban runabout” – boasts some visual boldness to mark the arrival of its newest, evolutionary edition. The looks aspect starts with integrated Daytime Running Lights upfront and a gently tweaked rear fascia. A palette of new high-impact colors ar e offered, including the two-tone combination you see here, which is Surf Blue with a contrasting black roof.
The Soul lineup array has been simplified, with 2023 models to be offered in LX, S, EX and GT-Line trim levels. The biggest technological advance to the Soul lineup is Forward Collision Avoidance Assist – Pedestrian, which makes use of an onboard camera. A more sophisticated system that also incorporates radar and around-the-corner capability will be standard on the GT-Line Soul. The standard 2.0-liter engine is rated at 147 horsepower.