Big things are happening at Volkswagen, led by a headlong dive into the market for electric vehicles, especially in the European Union. To enable that, the German giant’s assortment of models is undergoing a profound revision. Part of that process involves axing at least one of Volkswagen’s recent signature models, the second-generation New Beetle. Basically, anyone who was smitten by the retro specialty subcompact has already gone out and acquired one, so it’s going away. At the just-concluded inaugural Chattanooga MotorCar Festival in Tennessee, a 2019 Beetle Convertible Final Edition SEL was raffled off to attendees to serve a singularly noble cause.
Chattanooga is a growing city in the mountain South, and coincidentally happens to be the site of Volkswagen’s new U.S. assembly plant. The convertible was offered as a fundraiser to benefit the Erlanger Neuroscience Institute, the region’s only medical center dedicated to treating disorders of the central nervous system, including among pediatric patients. Volkswagen was also the major sponsor of the Chattanooga festival, and used the occasion to roll out its new Atlas Cross Sport SUV, which is assembled at the Tennessee factory.
It’s not a crossover, all-activity vehicle, SUV, pickup or anything else other than a station wagon. And it’s got great, legitimate capabilities under all kinds of road and weather conditions. The Audi A6 allroad – yes, the model name is all lowercase, just like “quattro” – is a well-proven, if somewhat obscure, go-anywhere wagon for families with lots of stuff to tote around. And after a hiatus, it’s making a return to Audi’s U.S. model lineup for 2020.
Ready for just about anything, the A6 allroad makes its return outfitted with adaptive air suspension that offers no less than a half-dozen driving modes, including two for off-roading, which take advantage of the wagon’s standard 7.3-inch ground clearance. Also in the handling department, the A6 allroad will offer standard all-wheel steering, hill descent control and tilt-angle assist, the latter of which will transmit an audible warning to the driver if he or she attempts a grade so steep that the car is in jeopardy of tipping over. Standard power comes from a turbocharged 3.0-liter TFSI V-6 with Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle technology, which is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Factory-rated output is 335hp and 369-lbs.ft. of torque. In honor of the A6 allroad’s 20th anniversary of existence, Audi has revived the Gavial Green color choice in which the car was originally finished. Find out more at the Audi USA web address.
Ayrton Senna. Dale Earnhardt. Manfred Winkelhock. Scott Brayton. Adam Petty. Kenny Irwin Jr. All of these racing drivers, and several others, had their lives snuffed out by basilar skull fractures, the result of a vicious whiplash-like impact that accompanied a crash, severing the spinal cord at the base of the skull. For a long time, nobody knew quite what to do about it. Then, road racer Jim Downing and his brother-in-law, Dr. Robert Hubbard, brainstormed a relatively simple combination of carbon fiber and high-tensile fabrics that would immobilize a driver’s neck and skull in a high-g accidents. The HANS device, standing for Head and Neck System, was the restrain system they created, and today is standard driver protection in virtually every form of professional-level motorsports. Along with the SAFER impact-absorbing wall system, it’s the greatest advance in personal driver safety since the invention of the flame-resistant coverall driver’s suit. This is the amazing story of how it came to be.
Auto racing is very big business today, but old traditions, including the one that drivers sometimes die, can be hard to retire. The award-winning motorsports journalist Jonathan Ingram here tells how Downing and Hubbard not only had to invent the HANS, but convince skeptical sanctioning bodies and many drivers (most notably Tony Stewart) of its lifesaving value. In 182 hardcover pages, Ingram traces the commonality of driver deaths that led Downing and Hubbard to their mission, describes the outcome of their investigation, and recounts the development of the HANS, including biomechanical data of the forces acting on drivers in a crash. Beyond any dispute, the creators’ work has saved lives, and won them recognition for engineering advance from Formula 1, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and SAE International, among others. This vital new book retails for $34.95 and can be purchased from Coastal 181 of Newburyport, Massachusetts, which has all kinds of unique titles aimed at racing enthusiasts in their stocklist.
It’s not just about deactivated cylinders, hybrids and plug-in electrics. Vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells are becoming realistic options for environmentally conscious drivers now, too. Hyundai already sells one, the NEXO, though currently only in California. One 2019 NEXO was just put to the barrier test, and was awarded with a Top Safety Pick classification from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.
A more-or-less midsize SUV, the NEXO is the first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle the IIHS has ever evaluated. The testing period was limited to vehicles produced after June 2019. To be classified as a Top Safety Pick, a vehicle must score a “good” rating in the driver-side small overlap front, passenger-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. The vehicle must also achieve a good headlamp rating, and an advanced or superior rating for frontal crash prevention. The NEXO received good ratings in all six crashworthiness tests that the IIHS administered, and successfully avoided impacts at 12 and 25 MPH on the institute’s test track. There’s no word yet on when the NEXO might go on sale in the other 49 states, but stay tuned.
SEMA – it stands for Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association – is the Oscars of the automotive world. From its founding as a display of speed parts in the late 1940s, SEMA has ballooned to become the world’s largest trade show of any kind. The automotive aftermarket uses it as the venue for unveiling tons – literally – of performance and dress-up parts every year, and the automakers enthusiastically follow suit, presenting design studies or actual new models that can serve as blank canvasses for the proper positioning of all those new goodies. This year, Chevrolet will roll out its 2021 Colorado midsize pickup in a series of events next month that will climax with the SEMA show in Las Vegas.
Like some other vehicles in its category, the Colorado is presenting more in-your-face visuals to do battle in the middle-sized pickup wars against the likes of the revived Ford Ranger and Jeep Gladiator. All versions of the truck will get revised center grille bars and bowtie emblem, while the tailgates will have “CHEVROLET” stamped into the outer sheetmetal rather than the previous bowties. The WT, LT and Z71 Colorado trucks will make their first appearance as this is published, at the Method Racing Wheels Laughlin Desert Classic off-road race. The performance off-road ZR2 variant, which makes its official debut at SEMA, will have a distinctive “Chevrolet” front fascia, plus position-sensitive shock absorbers, front and rear locking differentials, a two-inch suspension lift, a 3.5-inch wider track, and new this year, tow hooks. All Colorado models are assembled at General Motors’ plant in Wentzville, Missouri.
There was an old story about a U.S. Supreme Court justice – it may have been the late Hugo Black – who once said that when he picked up a newspaper, he went to the sports pages first. The old jurist preferred to start his day reading about the accomplishments of humanity, not its myriad failings. In that spirit, we happily present the story of Professor Taehyun Shim and the innovation he developed that’s now in volume production at the Ford Motor Company for its line of pickups.
Before we discuss what Dr. Shim did, let’s talk about the guy on the left in this photo. He’s Ed Krause, Ford’s manager for external alliance, whose job description basically involves finding scientists and other brainy types out in the wider world whose knowledge and practices can benefit Ford in its product development. That usually involves direct collaboration with universities, and Krause estimates that he’s oversee about 1,900 collaborative projects in his 19 years on the job. A professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, Dr. Shim had worked on a number of Ford projects with Krause before doing the research that made Ford’s Pro Trailer Backup Assist possible. His application-driven research at Ford’s behest led to his creating the original control algorithms that allowed the company’s trailer-backing driver assist to exist and function. As built by Ford, the system allows a driver to enter the dimensions of his trailer once, engage Reverse, push a button on the dash, gently modulate the accelerator and point the vehicle with a knob, while the software directs the backing for you. Krause and Dr. Shim are examining one of the system’s control modules in the photo. I’ve always been fond of saying that cars are nothing but metal, glass and rubber. It takes people to create them and make them go. Here’s a great example of what I mean by that.
Ever since Parnelli Jones and Jim Hurtubise first towed east from California with their Corvette-powered Sprint cars in the early 1960s, this stirring, elemental genre of motorsports has been the nearly exclusive province of the small-block Chevrolet V-8, which pushed the eternal Offenhauser racing engine into obsolescence. Under the Ford Motorsports banner, Dearborn took a crack at offering a 410-cu.in. engine assembly back in the 1990s, but it failed to make a major dent in the market. That’s due to change. Ford has announced a partnership with Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing, known colloquially as Tony Stewart Racing, and Durham Racing Engines of High Point, North Carolina, to build and sell new 410 engines for competition with the World of Outlaws and other Sprint series.
Stewart has returned to his roots as an open-cockpit stud since retiring from his driving career in NASCAR. This Jason Brown image shows Stewart standing on the loud pedal in his Ford-powered TSR Sprint car. The engine, known as the FPS (for Ford Performance Stewart) 410, made its debut in mid-August at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Michigan, and it scored its first win two weeks later at the Plymouth, Wisconsin, Dirt Track with Stewart in the hot seat. Stewart-Haas Racing switched from Chevrolet to Ford in NASCAR, plus Stewart not only owns the historic Eldora Speedway in Ohio, but also took over the All-Star Circuit of Champions series for Sprint cars. That makes him a fully fitting partner for Ford Performance in the engine project. He runs so many Sprint races now that Ford engineers were able to use his input at the track in evaluating the engine design. Like all 410 engines, the FPS 410 is fed by mechanical fuel injection, utilizes dry-sump lubrication and produce around 900hp. Andy Durham comes to the program having built engines for Roush-Yates, plus winning power in both the World of Outlaws and Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model series.