We don’t do that much in this space with current-day NASCAR, mainly because other outlets exist that focus on it specifically. But there’s no way we were passing this up. In the week that NASCAR and Formula 1 constitute two of Memorial Day weekend’s three great motorsports happenings, the upstart NASCAR team Trackhouse Racing, announced a new plan called PROJECT91 to attract drivers from other motorsport disciplines to today’s stock cars, and named its first driver last week, as well. The first PROJECT91 driver will be 2007 F1 world champion Kimi Raikkonen, who will drive a third Trackhouse entry in his NASCAR Cup series debut at the August 21st stop on the road course at Watkins Glen.
Trackhouse Racing is a subsidiary of Trackhouse Entertainment Group, owned by former IMSA and NASCAR driver Justin Marks and Grammy-winning rapper Pitbull. It came to NASCAR by buying the former stock car assets of Chip Ganassi Racing, and fields full-time rides for Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez. The team is on a roll, with Chastain notching multiple Cup wins this year. PROJECT91 closely follows the announcement by Hendrick Motorsports that it will field a Cup-spec Chevrolet Camaro as a special entry at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2023. With its fully independent suspension, rack-and-pinion power steering, sequential gearbox and ultra-low-profile wheel and tire combination, the Next Gen car now raced in NASCAR Cup more closely parallels current global racing technology than anything NASCAR’s run in the past. None of these internationalist developments since its adoption are coincidental, and that’s a good thing in our book.
There used to be a time when the only person who walked into a bank looking for a fill-up was John Dillinger, or someone like him. There’s nothing nefarious, to be clear, about this new arrangement we’re discussing here. Bank of America – full disclosure, we’re customers – has entered into an intriguing partnership with Electrify America, which we told you last week is aligning with Lexus to provide quick-recharge capability for its vehicles at Lexus dealerships. It’s got nothing to do with selling cars, but Electrify America has already begun work on doubling the number of fast-charging stations outside Bank of America financial centers by the end of 2023.
At the beginning of this year, Electrify America had installed 172 EV chargers like the one you see above outside 46 different Bank of America locations. That total is now expected to reach more than 350 chargers at more than 90 financial centers by the end of 2023. Bank of America plans to increase the number of charging stations in states where they already exist, including Florida, while adding new locations across an expanded area that will include Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, North Carolina, New York, Oklahoma and Texas. In addition, the bank recently announced plans to finance a fleet of EVs for the Wayne Health Mobile Unit in Detroit.
Aside from having timeless looks – it didn’t become a hot rod icon for nothing – the 1932 Ford was guaranteed a ticket to immortality because it also introduced Ford’s valve-in-block V-8, the fabled flathead and the first truly successful mass-market engine of its kind, to a beleaguered motoring public at the Depression’s lowest depths. So the fact that it became a landmark car is almost something of an accident. The production car, and the countless hot rods it inspired, are being recognized on the 1932 Ford’s 90th birthday, which is being celebrated next month in a very big way at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.
“Ford Fever: The Deuce Turns 90” is the theme of a special celebration, with some genuine luminaries as special guests, that the Petersen has set for June 11th. The exhibition will include a brace of highly memorable 1932 Fords, including the one seen above, the Doane Spencer roadster, arguably the most influential and aesthetically flawless Deuce hot rods in history. Some other legendary Deuces in the house will be the Bob McGee and Ray Brown roadsters, both pioneering hot rods in their own right. Attending worthies at the Deuce gala are set to include Henry Ford III and the recipient of the Petersen’s Hot Rod Award, ZZ Top frontman and rodding elite Billy Gibbons, who is promising a 45-minute presentation as he wails on one of the custom guitars that form the other part of his lore.
It’s a pity that so many people don’t know about it, but the endless, flat stretches of the American prairie that comprise the state of Nebraska are home to two excellent museums of relevance to us, located within reasonable driving distance of each other via Interstate 80. They’re teaming up to present a unique show of high-performance automotive exhibits and the nation’s flying arsenal against totalitarianism, all in one place, and fittingly taking place over Father’s Day weekend, June 18th and 19th. The location is the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum, located in a gleaming glass-front edifice about halfway between Lincoln and Omaha off I-80, where America’s decades of nuclear deterrence are recognized.
The show’s co-organizer is the Museum of American Speed, established by the late Bill “Speedy” Smith at the business he founded in Lincoln, Speedway Motors, a major retailer of both hardcore racing and hot rod components. Literally anything could show up at the SAC museum, given the fact that the Smith collection numbers more than 600 historic racing engines, about 150 vintage race cars, and countless speed components, some of them one-of-one creations. We guarantee Dad will like this event, and if you happen to miss it, both the participating museums are must visits for anybody motoring across the Cornhusker State.
Unless you’ve been seriously occupied otherwise, you likely already know that RM Sotheby’s, the auction house with offices in Blenheim, Ontario, has shattered, forcibly dissected and otherwise blown to smithereens the existing world record for a historic automobile sold at auction. The winning bid for one of the two 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut coupes ever produced came to all of 135 million euros, which translates to about $142 million in U.S. currency, obliterating the previous record of $70 million spent at Bonhams in Monterey for a 1963 Ferrari GTO, one of the 35 purebred racing coupes ever built.
What’s even more amazing is that the out-of-sight winning bid – allegedly placed anonymously by phone – paid for a car clearly built for racing but which never actually turned a competitive lap. The Uhlenhaut coupe is a closed version of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR sports racer, itself based on the W196 Formula 1 monoposto. A brace of works 300 SLRs came to Le Mans in 1955, intending to dominate the race, only one of them was involved in the worst loss of life in motorsport history when it caromed into the packed crowd and disintegrated. Mercedes-Benz pulled out of the race a few hours later, ending its factory participation in motorsport for decades. The coupe was under development already to run in the next Carrera Panamericana down the spine of Mexico, which also never happened because the organizers bailed out after the Le Mans catastrophe. Here’s some perspective: Florida is dotted with brokers who specialize in selling executive aircraft. You could buy your very own personal fleets of bizjets for what this car cost. The remaining coupe will stay in the Mercedes-Benz archival collection. If you missed the sale, and want to learn more about this stunning car and the man who created it, Dalton Watson Fine Books offers a comprehensive biography of Rudolf Uhlenhaut, the brilliant Daimler-Benz engineer and designer.
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.