Grilles And Tailgates For The Legally Blind

By | February 13, 2015


The 2015 Detroit Auto Show was full of exciting, groundbreaking, and generally epic new rides.  For truck lovers, 2015 was an especially good year.  The next generation Toyota Tacoma, the 2017 Ford Raptor, and the entry of a new diesel by way of the Nissan Titan XD.  Ram brought a new trim level to the 1500 with the Ram Rebel, because they didn’t have enough oddball trim options in the 1970′s.  I’ve always liked Dodge trucks, I’ve had several, but I think there were more trim options of the Dodge D and W series trucks than there were episodes of The Brady Bunch.  Warlocks, Little Red Express’s, Top Hand’s, and my personal favorite, the Power Wagon.  The list goes on and on.


The 2017 Ford Raptor and the Ram Rebel really caught my attention.  Not because they are anything extra special but because you’d have to be legally blind to miss them.  I’m still stewing over how this happened but both the Ram Rebel and Ford Raptor have massive letters on their tailgates and grilles.  Perhaps it’s one design team playing the other.  I can just see the Ford guys laughing over their morning coffee.  “Let’s slap ridicoulously large letters on the tailgate of our latest concept and see who copies us!”  The Ram on the Rebel’s front grille is acceptable but the Ford’s letters are almost as big as the headlights themselves.  You certainly won’t question what cleans your clock when you j-walk in front of next gen Raptor.


Jeremy Clarkson has made a living out of making fun of automobiles, especially American ones.  They hate our cheesy pin stripes and over the top styling.  This new crop of trucks take the cake.  You could be legally blind and still read the text on the back of these two trucks from a mile away.  The worst part is, the trend is already making its way to the tip trim levels of the Ram.  That Laramie’s will be plastered with the giant Ram text while the grilles will receive gaping nostrils, creating what looks like an X.  Maybe Ram will be the official vehicle of  “X-Men, Day’s of trim gone bad”.


Whoever came up with these fabulous trim additions will likely go down in history with the greats who designed the likes of the AMC Gremlin, Lincoln Blackwood, and Chevy SSR.  I think I might start my own business and specialize in shaving emblems.  The market is looking good.

Driven: 2015 Ford Mustang GT

By | February 10, 2015

2015 Ford Mustang GTAbout 25 years ago I had my first Mustang experience.  I was somewhere around 2 or 3 years old and my aunt had a light blue 1966 Mustang.  Somewhere I have a picture of me sitting in the driver’s seat playing while my father and grandfather fiddled under the hood.  Sadly I was too young to remember the experience and only vaguely remember the car.  About five years later I remember being piled in the family car and seeing some peculiar tail lights on the car in front of us.  I like them a lot and upon asking what kind of car it was I learned that it was a then new or almost new fox body GT with what are now some of the least favored tail lights in the Mustang community- “cheese graters” as they call them.  It was those cheese grater lights that ignited a love of the Mustang.  Fast forward to today and that love is still as strong as ever and when an opportunity to drive the new 2015 Mustang GT Performance Pack presented itself, I was all over it.

A little more than a year ago the 2015 Mustang was unveiled to the world.  Like so many others, I was a little uncertain about the styling department.  A “Fusion Coupe” many have said.  It wasn’t until I spotted one in person that I was truly sold on how good this car looks, especially with how chiseled those new tail lights are.  Since then I have been left waiting to drive one.

I finally got the chance recently and, overall, I’m impressed.  The 435 hp 5.0L V8 felt strong and made plenty of power, that’s 200 hp more than the famous five-oh of 25 years ago and more than double the power made by the original 302 from 1968!  Even with the added 200 lbs of weight over the 2014 (3813 lbs), thanks largely to the all new independent rear suspension, the car feels plenty quick in a straight line.  Quicker than I was expecting.  It manages 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds.  The reworked clutch takes some getting used to.  There was very little feel but operated smoothly.  The six speed manual is smooth and perhaps a bit too light.  A quick shift kit would do it wonders.  The shifts themselves are very smooth.  Even on hard shifts the new pony car doesn’t buck or lurch about.  AJ Wilcox drove an automatic version just days before and he said the automatic is great for an automatic.  The six speed flappy paddle job is quick to react to every pull of the paddle but also said that he would much rather a manual.

AJ also brings up a great point about the drive.  The Mustang is soft.  Sure it handles great (pulling 0.96g in the skidpad) but it feels too refined.  Too soft.  Even the available Performance Package with its upgraded suspension, 3.73 final drive ratio, and massive Brembo brakes suffers from this.   The GT soaks up the bumps on a rough backroad so well that the only way you know you are driving a Mustang is the running horse on the steering wheel.  Because of this fact I have no doubt that you could comfortably drive across the country in the GT and still have enough power and cornering ability to want to take the scenic route.  The steering felt nicely weighted and even communicative for a Mustang, something it has taken Ford years to get right.  The early Mustangs from the 60s had extremely vague steering feel, especially if they had power steering.  I should know being the owner of a 67 Coupe.  The new steering offers great confidence out on the road and enables the driver to feel more comfortable entering corners at ridiculous speeds.

The interior is one of, if not the best, interior the Mustang has ever seen.  With it’s aircraft inspired switch gear and gauges, the Mustang looks futuristic yet retro at the same time.  The dash pad for example matches the lines of the original Mustangs of the 60s while things like the starter button and touch screen monitor help keep the car feeling up to date with the latest in tech.  My wife did, however, gripe about the layout of the buttons and switches since some of the controls were a little hard to find.  If you order one of these, please do yourself a favor and check the “Recaro Seats” box.  The $1500 option is money well spent in our book.  They hold your butt snug in all the right places and they look good too.

The only other gripe we had with the car is Ford’s apparent liberal use of sound deadening.  The car is quiet inside!  Even with the stereo and air off you barely get a sense that there is a V8 under the hood.  Outside the car is a completely different story.  Rev that sweet 5.0 to its 6500 rpm redline and your ears will be treated to a glorious sound of music.  These stock pipes are actually louder than any previous stock GT in recent memory.  But then again, who keeps stock pipes on a Mustang?

As I give the new pony a run through the gears one last time I can’t help but think of how much I want one.  How much I need one!  Despite its flaws we have to give big praises to Ford for giving America such a great car.  This pony car has become a grand tourer.  Quick and fun when you want it to be but perfectly capable of keeping you comfortable during long trips.  Besides, if you want the true sports version, wait for the GT350.  This car will keep a smile on your face no matter the driving situation.  Its a Mustang for crying out loud!  Most of us will be stuck watching those tail lights pull farther and farther ahead but if your kids are anything like me growing up, those tail lights will spark a life-long affair.

Photo: The Author

Racing Blip: 2015 Rolex 24 at Daytona

By | January 24, 2015

No. 60 MSR P2 at Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona

Do you hear that? Off in the distance? WAAY off in the distance*? That’s the roar of the race engines firing up for the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona!

It’s that time of year! Endurance sportscar racing season is upon us! If my math is correct, this is the 53rd running of this iconic race. This is also the start of the 2nd season of TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

Qualifying happened back on Thursday, and it was great to see these cars on track again!

A few standout moments from qualifying :

The Prototype category seems more competitive this season..less then ONE second separates the pole sitter from the 7th place car! Last season, P2 cars seemed to struggle to the upgraded DP cars. Michael Shank Racing took the pole, but in an P2 car – last season, they were running a Daytona Prototype. So, it’s nice to see a P2 car on top.

GTLM class came out in a strong showing – as usual. This writer will miss the thunderous engines of the two Dodge / SRT Vipers in this class. But, I did enjoy seeing the return of one of the factory backed Aston Martin Vantage V8s! Sadly, it’s rumored that the Aston will only be this race and Sebring. Corvette Racing took pole, piloted by Oliver Gavin, probably his first pole in over a year. Rounding out the rest of the top 3 was the #51 Ferrari and #98 Aston Martin. To give you some idea on just how competitive this class is.. 1.27 secs separates the whole 10 car field.

So how to you go about watching Porsches, Ferraris, BMWs, Audis, Aston Martins, and Vipers battle it out? Not to mention Ford EcoBoost, Chevy, Mazda, BMW, Honda, and Judd powered prototypes all pushing the limits for 24 hours at one of the iconic tracks of North America?

Like last year, it’s a bit convoluted. Improved, but still a bit convoluted.

I’d recommend heading over to IMSA’s website and

And to help keep track of the action, here’s the ever handy spotter’s guide!

[photo | IMSA]

* Our stats indicate that some of you live near Daytona, so, it’s not _that_ way off ;)

2015 Detroit Auto Show

By | January 22, 2015

2015 North American International Auto ShowThe 2015 North American International Auto Show, AKA the Detroit Auto Show, shows us that Detroit is alive and well.  There were several new cars unveiled at this year’s show in what is probably one of the biggest shows Detroit has had in recent years.  There were so many big announcements made at this year’s show that we had a hard time narrowing down which ones to include in our recap.  We have narrowed it down to ten vehicles that made the biggest headlines.  As usual we will start with the less interesting but more realistic cars that will mean more to the masses and we’ll finish with the heavy hitters of the show. 2016 Chevrolet VoltThe Chevy Volt is entering it’s 5th year of production and with that is in need of a refresh.  The new look 2016 Volt takes styling cues from the current Impala and looks better than before.  With the new look comes an updated drivetrain which sees bigger yet lighter batteries which helps the car drop 100lbs and gain a few miles of range in return with a new range of 50 miles on a single charge.  When paired with the range extending internal combustion engine it will do 400 miles before needing to fill the tank and charge the batteries, in other words, as far as a normal car.  Expect it to go on sale in the fall of 2015. Chevy Bolt EV ConceptAlong with the Volt Chevy also unveiled the new Bolt EV Concept.  The Bolt EV is an all-electric car that has a bright future.  Chevy is claiming a 200 mile range on a charge and pricing that should appease the masses stating it will cost around $30,000.  That price point will be key depending on what Tesla does with their upcoming Model 3 that is said to be around $35k and offer 300+ mile range.  One thing is for sure, if the Model 3 looks as good as the Model S then the Bolt will probably go away quietly with its ugly looks, which Chevy says was all function over form.  The Bolt should be a good competitor to the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3.  There is no word on production dates. 2016 Lexus GS-FThe Japanese-American luxury manufacturer that is Lexus brought out a new sports sedan to compete with the like of ze Germans with the new GS-F.  Packing a 467hp 5.0L V8 will make life difficult if Lexus is pursuing the M5 and E63 which both have well over 500hp but the Lexus weighs 350 and 400 lbs lighter than the two which should help real them back in.  As our own AJ Wilcox pointed out, the Lexus headlamp designs of late are quite a thing to behold.  The jury is still out on that grille. Tesla Model S P85DAlthough this was unveiled a while back, the Tesla Model S P85D makes its auto show debut in Detroit.  It may not look any different than before but it’s what is underneath that beautiful skin we are interested in.  The P85D makes use of a second electric motor up front making it AWD and boosting it to 691 hp!  That bump will likely see a dip in range but 0-60 times drop from 3.9 sec to 3.2 sec.  There are already videos on the web of it beating a Ferrari 575M Maranello and even the new Challenger Hellcat in a straight line, mind you the 575M is ten years old and the Hellcat driver had no clue what he was doing.  The race against the Hellcat showed the P85D running the 1/4 mi in 11.6 seconds, a new production EV record, only .5 sec slower than the mighty McLaren F1. 2016 Cadillac CTS-VSo you like the C7 Corvette Z06 but want a back seat?  Cadillac has the car for you!  Meet the new CTS-V which utilizes the 640 hp 6.2L supercharged V8 from the Z06.  Other upgrades to the CTS is the aggressive body work, massive tires, and a retuned suspension.  The chassis is said to be 25% more rigid as well.  The Performance Data Recorder as seen in the Corvette is also present so that you can record video and parameters of your lap times, your canyon road runs, or to catch the joy riding valet or mechanic.  For now, the CTS-V will only be available in sedan form and is yet another performance car to ditch a row your own gears transmission. Alfa Romeo 4C SpiderI don’t know how the Italians do it but they always seem to find a way to make their cars look better.  That is exactly what happens to the Alfa Romeo 4C when it loses its roof.  Everything else about the car remains the same as the Coupe version right down to the performance numbers.  What was a Lotus Elise again? 2016 Acura NSXAfter a long wait the new Acura NSX is finally showing off its production car skin and my was it worth the wait!  The new NSX is arguably the best looking car to come from the show and actually didn’t get as much attention as you might think.  Largely because it was overshadowed by the Ford display.  There are still very little details on the NSX only that it will have a twin turbo V6 making over 550 hp, a 9 spd dual clutch tranny, and will cost around $150k and even those figures are rumors.  Even with how little we know about the NSX we still are left salivating and wanting to know more.  We expect big things Acura, big things. 2017 Ford F150 RaptorFord dominated Detroit with not one but three major unveilings.  All of which wore the same “liquid blue” paint which is simply stunning and unfortunately a show car color only.  The first of the three cars shown is not a car at all but is in fact a redesign of what can only be described as the most badass truck in America, the Raptor.  The new Raptor comes with a much angrier face but will sadly lose the mean exhaust note.  The reason?  This Raptor will use a 3.5L Ecoboost V6.  No power figures have been announced but expect over 400 hp.  The new aluminum body helps put the Raptor on a massive diet and it looses 500 lbs over the current Raptor.  Combine that weight loss, the smaller engine, and the all-new 10 spd automatic (yes, that’s 10 forward gears) and you should see a drastic increase in mpg figures.  The suspension has also been redesigned and uses larger Fox Racing Shocks and gets more travel. 2016 Shelby GT350RSomeone at Ford has had enough with Chevy and the Camaro taking all the top honors from critics everywhere including becoming Motor Trend’s Best Driver’s Car for 2014 and decided to something about it.  The new Shelby Mustang GT350R should be just what Ford needs to close the gap, if not surpass the Camaro.  Chevy can no longer claim the widest front tires on a production car, they now have to share that with the GT350R.  Ford not only saw the tires and carbon brakes but raised the stakes with carbon fiber wheels!  The wheels alone are 13lbs lighter each and the R as a whole is 130 lbs lighter than the GT350 which is made possible by removing everything that isn’t necessary, the AC, rear seat, stereo, backup camera, and trunk carpet.  Think of the GT350R as a Mustang in GT3 RS form.  Other differences from the “standard” GT350 is the bodywork, all of which is functional and carbon fiber.  Performance figures with the GT350 are still unknown and so it is with the R version.  All we know is 500+ hp with the 5.2L flat plane crank V8.  Even if there is no bump in power over the GT350 it should still be faster at the track.  The best part?  It sounds amazing! Ford GT Concept The biggest surprise of this year’s show was also perhaps the best kept secret, the Ford GT.  There were whispers of a GT replacement coming but nobody knew for sure.  Not even a prototype test mule had been spotted.  Then Ford drives the car on the stage.  From the front it is true to the original GT40 and the car was built to meet homologation rules for Le Mans but that is where the similarities stop.  The GT brought a lot of controversy to the show as well because of the drivetrain, a 3.5L Ecoboost TT V6 pumping out over 600 hp and a 7 spd dual clutch transmission.  What?  No V8?  Ford couldn’t put a V8 in the car with what they have planned.  The 3.5 Ecoboost is already race proven anyway as Ford has been campaigning it in their Daytona Prototype chassis in Tudor the last two years and have had their successes.  The only other details we know is it will feature aluminum and lots of carbon fiber. At the end of the show we saw a lot of cool vehicles shine in the spotlight and Detroit showed us that it is far from dead, well, Ford is anyway. Photos: Autoblog

In Photos: 2015 WinterX – January – Round 2

By | January 20, 2015

2015 WinterX - January

2015 WinterX – January

How can I get some needed seat time during the winter months in Utah? I’m tired of sitting indoors playing Gran Turismo, Forza, or iRacing, what can I do? How can I continue to test and tune my car during the winter months so I’m ready for the upcoming racing season? Honey, what should we do this weekend?

Any of these questions sound familiar? We have one possible answer for you – Miller Motorsports Park’s WinterX series. Wait, what is WinterX?? You can can find out more about WinterX over on MMP’s website.

And “yes”, for those wondering, MMP does run the event in snow, slush, dirt, etc. You can see pictures of previous sessions here for proof!


[photos | Scott Pettett | Jason Porter | Neil Eschenfelder | Mike Gillilan]

Utah International Auto Expo 2015

By | January 17, 2015

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Utah Interntional Auto Expo is one of the best shows that you can attend. Here’s why:


That’s right. If you attend many shows, roped off cars and “Do Not Touch!” signs are all part of the ambiance. Not so with the international Auto Expo circuit – the entire purpose of this show is to actually interact with the cars.

The show is set up in sections by make, where the local dealership provides the fleet. Walk up to the Ford or Volkswagen section, and you’ll find all the doors unlocked, and no sneering looks if you decide to jump in the cockpit and feel the clutch response (don’t judge me).

The luxury brands are different. Many of the them brought a slew of models, but the doors are locked on them. Except Lexus! I was told by the Lexus representative, “They’re all open. Feel free to open them up and check them out.” Nice job, Lexus!


Now to the highlights:

BMW i8 UtahWe were surprised to see the BMW i8, and must say it’s looking much more roadworthy than it did in Mission Impossible 4. Much of the time with concepts, very little of the innovative design makes it to the production car. The i8 actually preserved a lot of what made it beautiful to start with.

Ferrari F12 Berlinetta UtahEver seen a Ferrari F12 Berlinetta? It’s been out for a year, but they’re very rare to see on the streets of SLC. No fear, because one was featured in the duPont Registry Live section.


Jaguar F-Type Utah

Jaguar wowed us last year by bringing the brand new F-Type, but this year we got both the convertible and hardtop versions. Both gorgeous.



Dodge Challenger Hellcat UT

If you have been living under a rock for the last several months, you may not know that the highest trim level of the Dodge Challenger, called the Hellcat, is hella powerful. 707 HP at a bargain price of $60k. They’re also hella rare, which is why it makes the highlights.

Lexus awesome headlights

If you haven’t seen the new Lexus line, it’s STUNNING. Your brain can hardly process all the angles, and they’re mind-blowing to look at. Behold, an entire highlight built around a single design element. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, LED headlamp accents! This accent appears to be present on most of the lineup, including the IS, NX, and RC, although not included is the R8, despite it having pioneered LED headlamp accents.

Corvette Stingray Utah

Attendees last year were stunned to see the new Corvette Stingray so early after production. This year we were treated to 2 examples of the coupe, one with the roof on, and the other with the targa off. Unfortunately, neither in the the Z06 trim.


Camaro Z/28 Utah

Chevy brought both the ZL1 and the Z/28 variants of the Camaro. We posted a picture of the Z/06 variant because a Camaro with 505HP and a starting MSRP of $72k, we don’t expect to see many on the roads.

Test Drives

One of the highlights of the Utah Int’l Auto Expo is the test drives! Register at a booth, and you get free reign to drive a slew of models on about a 7-minute test drive around the convention center.

Present this year were Honda, Chevrolet, Ford, and Dodge.

We got to drive the:

  • 485HP Challenger Scat Pack – So much power to the rear wheels that every corner is exciting.
  • Fiat 500 Abarth – the peppy, Italian who is underpowered and massively expensive, but we can’t help but appreciate
  • Honda Civic Si – Props to Honda for bringing a real manual to a public car show. There’s a reason the Civic Si is still a favorite.
  • Ford Mustang GT 5.0 – We can see what the fuss is all about.
  • Ford F150 King Ranch – I’m not a truck person, but talk about features and gadgets! 360 degree cameras around a massive (Ecoboosted V6) truck means that despite its size, it’s still navigable.

Honorable Mentions

No car show would be complete without the eye candy you expect to be present.

Audi R8 Utah


Audi R8 V10 FSi Droptop, pioneer of sexy eyeliner.





Subaru BRZ Upgraded Spoiler


The coolest stock spoiler to ever lie across a rear deck – thanks Subaru BRZ!




Nissan GTR Utah International Auto Expo


Nissan GTR – No frills, just thrills




Quirky BMW i3


The quirky BMW i3





Ferrari California No Gills


The new Ferrari has ditched its cheap-looking gills in favor of an actual intake. Along with the striking pentastar wheels, and we feel like it’s growing up to be a bit less of a chick car.