For newer vehicles, particularly German makes, manufacturers are increasingly ditching the transmission dipstick in favor of electronic oil level monitoring. Others may employ a fluid level plug hole on the bottom of the pan.
2013 Ford Fusion transmission oil leveling plug hole. (Courtesy Ford Motor Co.)
In other cases, such as the 2009 Suzuki Equator, the transmission oil dipstick exists but it’s not easy to find! First, it is not a traditional dipstick, sticking out where you can see it. It is a plug with a mounting bolt — you’d never know it is there. Often the owner’s manual will show the location of the dipstick, if one exists.
Today’s vehicles have longer maintenance intervals, and the emphasis is on keeping the system sealed to avoid the damage that debris, the wrong oil, and even air and moisture can wreak. In exchange, with electronic oil level monitoring, issues may arise when varnishing reduces the effectiveness of an in-sump sensor, for example.
1. Use the correct fluid – Non-recommended fluids can cause erratic shifts, slippage, abnormal wear, and eventual failure, due to fluid breakdown and sludge formation.
2. Cleanliness – Wipe the dipstick cap and fill tube clean before checking fluid level. Dirt, grease, and other foreign material on the cap and tube could fall into the tube, if not removed beforehand. Use a clean funnel when adding fluid.
3. Incorrect fluid level – A low fluid level allows the pump to take in air along with the fluid. Air in the fluid will cause fluid pressures to be low and develop slower than normal. If the transmission is overfilled, the gears churn the fluid into foam. This aerates the fluid and causes the same conditions occurring with a low level. In either case, air bubbles cause fluid overheating, oxidation, and varnish buildup which interferes with valve and clutch operation. Foaming also causes fluid expansion which can result in fluid overflow from the transmission vent or fill tube. Fluid overflow can easily be mistaken for a leak if inspection is not careful. (via Chrysler)
4. Transmission fluid additives, treatments or cleaning agents – may affect transmission operation and can result in damage to internal transmission components.
5. When to check – Your transmission is not designed to consume fluid. However, check the fluid level if the transmission is not working properly, (eg, if the transmission slips or shifts slowly) or if you notice some sign of fluid leakage.
Originally the Hollywood sign said “Hollywoodland.” The last four letters were removed in 1949, during refurbishment.
Trapped in a moment of time, such as we are, it would appear that everything around us is as it has always been. The Hollywood Sign, for example, is a seemingly timeless icon that stands for not only a city but a whole industry known worldwide. Those nine 50-foot-tall letters have been perched on Mount Lee above Tinseltown since 1923, but as enduring as they appear, they have changed drastically over the years. Originally, they said “Hollywoodland” because it was used as a real estate advertisement. The letters were covered in 4,000 lightbulbs. The H was completely destroyed by Albert Kothe, who ran into it with his car while drunk (ironically, he was the sign’s caretaker). Most of the sign fell to pieces in the 1970s and was completely replaced in 1978. The letters of the new version, though they sit on the foundations of the original, are only 45 feet tall and made of metal, not wood.
See, many changes can take place over the course of nearly 100 years while the original concept still remains. Given enough time, this is true for car logos as well. The Peugeot lion, Porsche’s stallion, Alfa Romeo’s snake, the BMW propeller, the shields of Buick, and the rings of Audi, to name a few, have all seen alterations, either from changes in the company, changes in the design, or changes in how society perceives the company.
Here are a few examples:
The current tri-shields of Buick is a relatively recent incarnation of the company’s logo. Started in 1899 by David Buick and named Buick Auto-Vim and Power Company, Buick is currently the oldest active American car maker. David Buick, at first, wasn’t interested in making cars at all, instead, he wanted to build ship engines. In 1903, Buick incorporated his company, and his chief engineer Walter Marr began building cars. Buick himself quickly ran the company into the ground as was forced out by his partner William Durant in 1906. Buick died penniless in 1929.
Early Buick logos were just a variations of the word “Buick” set in a cursive script. In the 1930s a researcher in GM’s styling department, Ralph Pew, discovered a Scottish crest for the Buik family and decided it should be used as a grille decoration. In the 1940s, the shield gained a series of flourishes, and in 1959, it was divided into three shields, each representing the three models Buick offered at the time: LeSabre, Invicta, and Electra. In 1975, the logo became a hawk named Happy, which lasted
too long well into 1990 when the tri-shield emblem returned.
Turn-of-the-century car manufacturers were an incestuous lot. All related, their careers ebbed and flowed from one company to another. When we hear of Henry Ford, we can only think of the Model T and today’s best-selling trucks. However, by 1902, Ford had two companies in his wake and was on to his third. The first, the Detroit Automobile Company, went bankrupt in only two years, and he left his second venture, Henry Ford Company, after just a single year. The investors in Ford’s second company attempted to liquidate the assets, but an engineer named Henry M. Leland convinced them to keep the company solvent. They named the continued venture Cadillac in 1902 after Antoine Laumet de la Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, the founder of Detroit in 1701. Cadillac Automobile Company used the regal appearing de la Mothe coat of arms as its logo.
Interestingly, Laumet was never part of the de la Mothe family and he cobbled together this coat of arms from several different ones. He left France under dubious circumstances and arrived in the New World with a whole new identity around 1694.
The first logo for Cadillac was trademarked in 1906 and consisted of de la Mothe’s crown which represented the ancient Counts of France, the six merlettes (some say ducks) that stood for the Holy Trinity, and some color elements of the shield. For the next 90 years, the elements of the logo remained relatively unchanged, just presented in a variety of ways.
The current logo is a streamlined and watered-down version of the original. The crown, its points and the ducks—ahem, merlettes—are gone. Left is a colorful pallette of boxes in a shield reminiscent of the Autobots from the Transformers.
In the 1920s, there was a cork shortage in Japan because of World War I, so Toyo Cork Kogyo Co. started to process a cork substitute from the bark of the Abemaki tree. Since Japan would soon be able to get real cork, the company fell on hard times and needed to be rescued from bankruptcy. In 1927, Jujiro Matsuda joined the company and persuaded diversification, branching out into the tool making industry as well as producing three-wheeled trucks. During World War II, the company produced war material. The name Mazda was adopted after World War II and applied to every car the company ever made, but the company’s name had been Toyo Kogyo until 1984 when it formally switched to Mazda, a name that either came from Jujiro Matsuda himself or was a reference to Ahura Mazda, an Asian god of wisdom.
Early logos were just the Mazda name in a simple script. In 1936, the logo changed to the triple-M, which harkened to Hiroshima city’s emblem (Mazda’s hometown), the Ms standing for Mazda Motor Manufacturing. A major change occurred in 1991 when it introduced the diamond inside an oval, representing wings, the sun and circle of light. The folks at Renault complained that it too closely resembled its own logo, so Mazda altered if somewhat the following year. Five years later, Rei Yoshimara completely re-stylized the logo to its current incarnation. Dubbed the “owl” logo, the M was designed to look like outstretched wings. Many see a tulip instead.
Prancing animals are a common theme among automakers, especially horses, considering early automobiles were marketed to replace the horse. There is no more famous prancing animal than the rearing stallion of Ferrari.
The Cavallino Rampante, the prancing horse’s official name, was the symbol of Count Francesco Baracca, a wealthy pilot who became a household name during World War I. After 34 successful engagements during the war, Baracca and his Spad VII was shot down on June 19, 1918. On the sides of every plane he flew during the war was painted a large prancing horse that he felt provided him good luck.
Enzo Ferrari formed Scuderia Ferrari, which means Ferrari stable, in 1929 in Modena, Italy. He initially prepared Alfa Romeo racing cars for various amateur drivers. When Alfa Romeo discontinued its racing team, Ferrari took over. However, in 1938, Alfa Romeo brought its racing team in-house again and hired Ferrari as the manager. Scuderia Ferrari was in hiatus.
The first Ferrari-badged car was the 1947 125S and was only made because Ferrari wanted to fund his racing efforts. That logo was the black prancing stallion over a field of yellow. Enzo Ferrari explains its introduction in his own words:
“The horse was painted on the fuselage of the fighter plane of Francesco Baracca — a heroic airman of the first World War. In ’23, I met Count Enrico Baracca, the hero’s father, and then his mother, Countess Paulina, who said to me one day, ‘Ferrari, put my son’s prancing horse on your cars. It will bring you good luck.’ The horse was, and still is, black, and I added the canary yellow background which is the colour of Modena.”
The yellow background represents Modena, Enzo Ferrari’s birthplace and the colors of the Italian flag span the top of early renditions. Coincidentally, the very same horse is used on the Ducati motorcycles. Ducati engineer Fabio Taglioni’s father was one of Count Baracca’s fellow airmen in the 91st Air Squad during World War I.
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Most of us have experienced driving in cold weather and our share of breakdowns. Usually a breakdown is due to the neglect of our vehicle; I’m just as guilty as the next guy. We’re busy people! Things we neglect that can cause us to have problems, especially in the winter months:
Here are 6 simple things we can do to help save us from a winter breakdown:
1. Load test the battery. Check and clean the battery connections.
2. Check the condition, strength, and level of the antifreeze. Replace if needed.
3. Check the engine oil condition and level. Replace the engine oil and filter if needed.
4. Refill the window washer bottle and check the spray operation.
5. Inspect and replace the wiper blades as needed.
Refer to Chilton’s online repair manuals to help keep your vehicle in top shape. Check out ChiltonDIY for repair procedures, maintenance intervals, wiring diagrams, technical service bulletins, Recalls, and more.
Undoubtedly, the transcontinental record posted last year will not stand for long, as there are probably teams of people right now plotting their strategy to traverse the country in less time. They will certainly achieve this with new routes, higher speeds, and/or better luck. Throughout the history of transcontinental travel, the limitations on closing the time gap was technology and the infrastructure: Wagons, trains, motorcycles, and cars traveled across everything from the barren wastelands of the Southwest to pristine asphalt freshly laid west.
The very nature of the automobile and railroad industry may change the environment of future attempts, as technology and the imagination of engineers and scientists endeavor to create safe, faster, and better travel. Autonomous vehicles, magnetic levitating (Maglev) bullet trains, and commercial airplanes complete with auto pilot, are the future. Imagine riding in a car that is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input; what’s more, imagine being surrounded by like vehicles. Perhaps the highways of the near future will be dominated by such cars and trucks that can run at high speeds for long durations in close formations, hampered neither by traffic, speed laws, or fuel constraints.
For example, the 2016 Mercedes S-Class has options for autonomous steering, lane maintaining functions, acceleration/braking, parking, accident avoidance, and driver fatigue detection, in both city traffic and highway speeds of up to 124 mph. With adaptive cruise control (monitors distances to adjacent vehicles in the same lane, adjusting the speed with the flow of traffic) it has the earmarks of a completely autonomous vehicle.
Not to be outdone by Mercedes, Audi and BMW have done extensive research on self-driving cars, but nothing like what Google has been working on. Sebastian Thrun is head of Google’s Self-Driving Car project at Google X (its experimental branch). Working on legislation passed in four states and Washington D.C. to allow driverless cars, Thrun’s team, along with Toyota, modified a Prius with driverless technology. In May 2012, it was the first such car to obtain a license for an autonomous car.
By 2020, Google plans to offer its version of a driverless car (it has no pedals nor a steering wheel) to the public. As of September 2015, Google’s fleet of experimental prototypes have traveled nearly 1.3 million miles of public roads (with only 14 minor traffic accidents).
Highways of the Future
Imagine a highway not dotted with road signs or streetlights, but brightly lit and well annotated. The lines on the road itself glows, and the road signs appear on a monitor inside the cabin of your car (or not at all; the car’s computer knows where it is and where it is going so you don’t have to). Sounds a little far fetched, but right now there are about three miles of Highway N329 outside of Amsterdam that use glowing green paint to mark the lanes. Developed by Daan Roosegaarde, the paint glows indefinitely, and he has big ideas to make it able to change colors depending on road conditions.
In Sandpoint, Idaho, Solar Roadways, owned by Scott and Julie Brusaw, has developed interconnected road panels to form a “smart” highway. Harnessing the power everywhere there are roads, can power lights, signs, and even electric cars using the roads themselves. In addition to the potential to power nearby homes, businesses, and electric vehicles, the panels also have heating elements for convenient snow and ice removal, as well as LEDs that can make road signage.
Take the Train
For years, countries like Japan and England/France have utilized high-speed rail in their countries. Japan’s Shinkansen line is the world’s busiest high-speed line, carrying nearly 151 million passengers a year between Tokyo and Osaka, while China’s high-speed system ferries over 370 million annually. Though they travel at approximately 150mph, this is by conventional railway trains (steel rails and a wheeled trains), but the future is Maglev train systems that travel on superconducting magnets that not only drive the train forward at incredible speeds but keep it planted on the tracks. In 2009, the Maglev Technological Practicality Evaluation Committee under the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism deemed the SCMaglev system ready for commercial operation. In 2003, the Maglev train with three passenger cars (unoccupied) set the land speed record for railed vehicles at 361.0 mph. Completed systems will be online by 2027 in Japan, and at that rate, one could travel from New York to Los Angeles in 6.7 hours.
Beyond the Wheel
With cars communicating with each other along the highways, dangers ahead can be shared among the cars on the road. The speeds can increase, the distance between cars can decrease, and accidents can become nearly a thing of the past. As many automakers have shown, a computer is much quicker than any human in detecting a situation, deciding on what course of action to take, and taking that action. A deer crossing the road can be detected by a computer in pitch black darkness hundreds of feet away and a solution formatted long before the deer knows there’s a car approaching.
Production cars today are capable of sub-200 mph speeds; now imagine those speeds with the confidence of a well-engineered road and a computer at the helm, the time it would take to travel from New York to Los Angeles would be just over 12 hours.
The Transcontinental Record?
It is hard to say what the future holds, but one thing is clear: As long as there is a record on the books, someone, somewhere will try to break it. After all, when the first person set foot on this continent, negotiating a path to the other side was made impossible only by his or her own limitations.
The quickest way from the East to the West Coast was via Clipper ship around The Horn, taking about 150 days. By land, that time was nearly six months. Today, it is five hours by plane and, now, only 28 hours by car.
What will the record be in another 10 years? Twenty? And will it have been made by a human driving a car or a car driving the human? If it is the latter, will it still be a record?
Whether it’s coast to coast or just around town, count on Chilton for vital data to keep your vehicle in top shape. Access your ChiltonDIY subscription for service and repair information, troubleshooting, and full-text technical service bulletins (TSBs) and Recalls.
By Jim Marotta
At 100 horsepower per liter, GM’s newer turbocharged 1.4L has the power of a larger engine but retains the efficiency of a small-displacement four-cylinder in most driving conditions. Courtesy GM
A naturally aspirated automobile engine uses the downward stroke of a piston to create an area of low pressure in order to draw air into the cylinder through the intake valves. Because the pressure in the atmosphere is no more than 14.7 psi, there is a limit to the amount of airflow entering the combustion chamber.
A turbocharged engine uses a radial fan pump driven by the engine’s exhaust that consists of a turbine and a compressor on a shared shaft. The turbine converts exhaust gases exiting the engine into rotational force, which is used to drive a compressor which draws in ambient air and pumps it at high pressure into the intake manifold to improve the engine’s volumetric efficiency. This results in a greater mass of air entering the cylinders on each intake stroke.
There are four main components to a turbocharger: the housing, the impeller/turbine wheels, the center hub and the bypass.
The size and shape of the housings fitted around the impeller and turbine affect performance, response, and efficiency. Courtesy Borg-Warner
The size and shape of the housings fitted around the impeller and turbine dictate the performance characteristics of the overall turbocharger. This allows the designer of the engine system to tailor the compromises between performance, response, and efficiency to application or preference.
The impeller and turbine wheel sizes also dictate the amount of air or exhaust that can be flowed through the system. Generally, the larger the turbine and compressor wheels, the larger the flow capacity. The shape, curvature and number of blades on the wheels allow infinite variability in design to tailor a turbocharger to a given engine.
Water-cooled bearings, such as the one shown, allow engine coolant to keep the lubricating oil cooler, avoiding possible oil coking from the extreme heat found in the turbine. Courtesy Borg-Warner
The center hub connects the compressor impeller and turbine and uses a bearing lubricated by a constant supply of pressurized engine oil. While the engine oil cools some systems, the preferred method is to use engine coolant to keep the lubricating oil cooler, avoiding possible oil coking from the extreme heat found in the turbine.
Turbos use a bypass or wastegate to prevent over-pressurizing the system. At a specific boost pressure, a bypass feeds part of the exhaust gas flow around the turbine. The wastegate which opens or closes the bypass is usually operated by a spring-loaded diaphragm in response to the boost pressure.
There are several tips to maintaining and servicing turbochargers:
|A muscle car enthusiast and drag racer, Jim Marotta is a freelance automotive writer with more than 20 years experience in the automotive industry.|
Draining and refilling the coolant is one of the easier maintenance tasks you can do on most vehicles. In addition to saving money, doing your own maintenance is a way to monitor the health of your vehicle.
Coolant loses effectiveness over time, so it’s important to periodically drain and refill the cooling system. In addition, as coolant becomes dirty, and rust and particles can eventually degrade cooling system components, such as the engine and water pump.
If you drain the system and then pour coolant in, there is still air trapped within the hoses and components that hold coolant. That air must be removed. You’ll need to bleed out the air and then top off the coolant to the proper level.
Some car manufacturer refill procedures use a special tool that automatically fills the cooling system and bleeds any excess air. In most cases, if you don’t have the special tool, you can still fill the cooling system and bleed it manually. In rare cases, vehicles need to be serviced with specialized cooling system equipment, due to the complexity of the cooling system. Air will become trapped in the cooling system, and cause the engine to overheat! Check the service information before you attempt the procedure.
Do not work on the coolant system when the system is hot and under pressure: Coolant can cause serious burns. Do not remove the radiator cap, cylinder block drain plugs, or loosen the radiator draincock, when the engine is hot.
1. Tighten the radiator draincock.
2. Tighten the cylinder block drain plug(s).
3. Fill the cooling system with the manufacturer-specified antifreeze. You can find the correct specification in your Chilton DIY subscription or in your owner’s manual. Because specifications change occasionally, such as with new technology, it’s a good idea to check the technical service bulletins in your ChiltonDIY subscription too.
4. Fill the radiator to the top and install the radiator cap. Add sufficient coolant to the overflow tank to raise the level to the FULL mark. Check your Chilton DIY specifications or the owner’s manual for the coolant amount including the overflow tank.
Fill the radiator to the top and install the radiator cap. 2010 Chevrolet HHR shown. Image: General Motors.
5. Run the engine with both the radiator cap and reservoir/overflow tank cap in place. Turn on the heat with the blower on high. When the engine reaches normal operating temperature, shut the engine off and allow it to cool.
6. Top off the coolant level to the reserve/overflow tank as necessary to bring it to the FULL mark. Only add coolant when the engine is cold. The coolant level in a warm engine will be higher due to thermal expansion – that is, hot coolant expands and so the coolant level will appear to be higher.
7. Repeat the procedure and recheck the cooling system level.
Fuel: your automobile runs on it, obviously, but it’s not the only thing that gets into your car. Contaminants, dirt, and the odd thing make their way into your fuel, which goes all throughout the car.
If there’s no fuel getting to your engine, the vehicle won’t go. So how do you prevent this problem? Read on.
The fuel filter will collect all manner of contaminants. Remember how you get your gas from the gas station? Well that gas is also stored in giant tanks underground. These tanks corrode and get dirty‚ just like your gas tank can. Dirt, rust, and other contaminants go from the gas station;s tank to your vehicle’s, and it’s the fuel filter’s job to prevent that stuff from reaching your fuel injection system and engine.
You can tell that you may need a new fuel filter by looking for a few basic signs. When you hit the gas, your vehicle does one of the following:
When your fuel filter gets clogged, not enough gas gets to your engine, which causes a loss of power, or could even result in a vehicle stall.
In addition, your vehicle may be underperforming because the fuel filter is getting dirty or clogged without showing obvious signs of distress. For older vehicles, manufacturers may recommend changing your fuel filter every 12,000 miles, but that number may varies widely. Depending on your environment and driving habits, you may have to change your filter sooner than the recommended interval. Some are designed for extended service and there is no maintenance interval for fuel filter replacement. Check your Chilton subscription for maintenance intervals as well as tests, troubleshooting, diagnostics, and technical service bulletins.
You can also remove your fuel filter to see how it looks. You’ll need a few tools like wrenches, sockets, screwdrivers, and pliers‚ although, again, your specific needs will vary based on your vehicle. Fuel filters are attached to the fuel line in various ways. Check your Chilton subscription for instructions for your vehicle.
Filters are fairly inexpensive, starting at around $15, and some cost much more than that. Consult your owner’s manual for information about the specific fuel filter you need.
When you remove the fuel filter, you’ll see what sort of fuel spills out. Gasoline should be relatively clear, with a bluish hue. If the fuel in the filter is brown or more opaque, that’s a sure sign you should change it.
If you’re handy, changing your fuel filter is an easy, inexpensive project to do at home. It usually requires few tools and only a little time. Consult your Chilton subscription for the fuel filter maintenance interval and fuel filter replacement procedure.
Years ago, vehicles were equipped with carburetors and required a longer cranking time to start. In many instances this longer cranking time would reveal a weak battery. You could actually hear the cranking power reduced especially in cold weather. When fuel-injected engines became the norm this was not as evident due to the fact that the vehicle starts up quicker.
A sudden change in temperature usually takes a weak battery out. That’s why the day before your vehicle may have started fine, with no warning of a problem. Then an extreme change in the weather (hot or cold) causes the weak battery to die, seemingly without a warning.
Why do batteries fail?
It’s unusual for a battery to malfunction because of a defect, driving habits are the usual cause. Using a lot of vehicle accessories and driving short distances prevents the battery from fully charging. Extended idling with heavy accessory use or driving a short distance only once a week can also reduce battery performance.
When the battery does not have have an opportunity to charge fully, acid stratification occurs. The electrolyte (battery acid) in a stratified battery concentrates on the bottom. It is similar to the way sugar granules collect on the bottom of a cup of coffee before it is stirred. Batteries tend to stratify if kept at low charge (below 80%) and don’t get the opportunity to receive a full charge. For example, short distance driving while running windshield wipers and electric heaters contributes to acid stratification. Acid stratification reduces the overall performance and life of the battery.
How to protect the battery
Check your battery every two years and keep the connections clean. Also clean the area around the battery hold down. Usually if a battery is super corroded the terminals leads are no longer airtight. If you clean your battery terminals and cables and the corrosion returns, replace the battery. If your battery is four years old and corroded, replace the battery.
Batteries can cause all kinds of crazy problems; the vehicle’s electrical system has to be 100%. I have seen people replace parts on vehicles when the only thing wrong was a weak battery.
Just recently I checked a friend’s car and found a dead battery. I explained the battery read 12.5v but would not start the vehicle. He came back and told us the battery was okay. I asked the gentleman if he load tested it. He had not, but when he did he came back with a new battery.
Batteries can be difficult to diagnose, if your battery is more than three years old, my suggestion is to replace it. If you are seeing excessive corrosion and have had problems don’t fool around with an old battery. Have it checked out.
Typical automotive batteries are made of five basic components:
Throughout the history of American transportation, cross-country migration had been based on three things, imperialism — to conquer new lands and expand the country’s boundaries; on necessity — to farm land and achieve prosperity; and on recreation and education — to see the sights and explore new vistas. Late in the 20th century, a new aspect of cross-country travel emerged: racing, not just getting there, but going faster and getting there quicker.
The Cannonball Run
Known officially as the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, the unofficial race was run five times in the 1970s and was the subject of several movies in the following decade. Car and Driver editor Steve Smith and magazine writer and racer Brock Yates devised the event as a celebration of Erwin George “Cannon Ball’ Baker’s previous record setting trips, as well as a protest against the National Maximum Speed Law being enacted in 1974 (which Yates and Smith argued was slower than the average speed of Baker’s 1933 New York City to Los Angeles trek). Yates and Smith were also inspired by various “road movies” of the late 1960s and early 1970s, specifically Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop and Richard C. Sarafian’s Vanishing Point (both released in 1971).
Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash vehicle: a 1971 Dodge Custom Sportsman, called “Moon Trash II”
The object of the race was simple: Leave the Red Ball Garage in New York City and be the first person to reach the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach in the shortest time possible. There were no other rules.
The first race began on May 3, 1971, using a 1971 Dodge Custom Sportsman van called the “Moon Trash II.” The race was run four more times over the next few years. In the 1975 running, Jack May and Rick Cline drove a Ferrari Dino in a record time of 35 hours and 53 minutes, averaging 83 mph. The second race was won by American racing legend Dan Gurney (winner of the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans) in a Ferrari Daytona. Dan later remarked, tongue in cheek: “At no time did we exceed 175 mph.”
After five runs, the official record for the Cannonball was 32 hours and 51 minutes (about 87 mph), set in the final run by Dave Heinz and Dave Yarborough in a Jaguar XJS in April 1979. Over 250 racers participated in the Cannonball Run races in anything from a Travco Motorhome (44:42) and a Honda 600 (DNF) to a Ferrari 308 (35:58) and a Mercedes Benz 450 SEL (32:59).
The race entered mainstream consciousness after a series of movies depicting the Cannonball Run debuted, all featuring illegal coast-to-coast races. Cannonball was directed by Paul Bartel and released in 1976, the same year as Charles Bail’s Gumball Rally, a more accurate depiction of the event. In 1981, Burt Reynolds joined an all-star cast in the movie Cannonball Run, based on the exploits of the original race. Cannonball Run was followed up in 1984 with a less-than-successful sequel. Both movies were written by Yates and directed by fellow car enthusiast and career stuntman Hal Needham. The movie uses the actual ambulance they both drove in the 1979 Cannonball Run (complete with a “doctor”). Speed Zone, considered the final installment of the Cannonball Run series of movies was released in 1989, and has a completely different cast (with the sole exception of Jamie Farr).
After Car and Driver succumbed to the risks of sponsoring an illegal event, the editors chose to abandon any further attempts and started a successor race, the “Tire Rack One Lap of America.” Instead of a coast-to-coast straight shot, racers must compete various time trials on public roads and/or racetracks around the country. Started in 1984, the length of a typical race can be up to 10,000 miles. The 2015 event features 7 days of competition over 3245 miles and begins in South Bend, Indiana on Saturday, May 2nd.
With the Cannonball Run as its inspiration, one of its former racers, Rick Doherty, organized the U.S. Express with similar aims. The only difference is that the U.S. Express terminated at the beach in Santa Monica, making it slightly longer than the Cannonball Run. The results of the 1983 race broke the previous record, clocking in 32 hours, 7 minutes by David Diem and Doug Turner at the wheel of a Mazda RX-7.
Though the U.S. Express record was never official nor was it documented or confirmed, it was still regarded as the record. Alexander Roy is an American rally driver and winner of the very Cannonball-esque Gumball 3000 around-the-world rally from England. A not-too-serious event, Roy regularly attends the rally in various police livery (in 2003 he was dressed as a Canadian Mounted Police driving a 2000 BMW M5). Roy meticulously prepares for rallies with the goal of avoiding police stops by using maps, GPS navigation, and spreadsheets. During the 2004 rally, he impersonated a police officer complete with mounted lights that he used to perform traffic stops against his competitors during the rally.
After hearing about the U.S. Express record from 1983, Roy set out to break its record in 2006. A practice run in December 2005 yielded a finishing time of 34 hours and 46 minutes, and the addition of a spotter plane. The following April ended in a fuel pump failure. The successful run took place over Columbus Day weekend in 2006 with co-driver David Maher (another Gumball rally driver). He traveled 2,794 miles in 31 hours and four minutes with an average speed of 90.1 miles. From New York to Santa Monica, he only encountered four traffic lights and four toll booths.
A three-man team led by Ed Bolian claims to have driven the 2,813.7 mile route from the Red Ball Garage in New York to the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach on October 19-20, 2013, in 28 hours and 50 minutes, averaging 98 miles per hour, including the 15 minutes it took to get out of Manhattan. Driving a 2004 Mercedes-Benz CL55 AMG, and stopping only three times for fuel because the car was equipped with two specially installed 22-gallon auxiliary fuel tanks in addition to its standard 23-gallon tank, Bolian offered GPS logs as proof of his accomplishment (read more about it here: Doug DeMuro, “Meet The Guy Who Drove Across The U.S. In A Record 28 Hours 50 Minutes,” Jalopnik, 30 October 2013, Web.)
It is interesting to note that Brock Yates, the original founder of the Cannonball Run doesn’t acknowledge any further attempts, claiming, “Someone was going to get killed.”
Count on Chilton for vital service and repair information for your vehicle. Check out ChiltonDIY and ChiltonPRO to keep your vehicle in top shape for your next adventure, whether it’s coast to coast or just around town. A subscription will give you full access to technical service bulletins (TSBs) and Recalls, maintenance schedules, and service and repair information.
By Ryan Lee Price
Turn of the century cross-country travel by automobile meant traversing poor roads. The trip took weeks, inspiring the US Army to try a journey of its own.
Soon after the turn of the century, some automobile companies were using their products to help promote sales in the shipping industry. In 1908, Packard sent one of its trucks from New York to San Francisco with a three-ton load. The trip took 48 days and helped inspire the US government to try a journey of its own.
The Lincoln Highway
One answer to the need for better roads was a continuous highway from coast to coast. The Lincoln Highway was perhaps the first main road to connect the two coasts, stretching from New York to San Francisco, and its direct impact southwest United States was limited. Most travelers didn’t turn left. In many sections the route made use of old roads, including a 17th-century road in New Jersey laid out by Dutch colonists; the Chambersburg turnpike used by Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia to reach Gettysburg; portions of the Mormon Trail; routes used by the Pony Express; and the Donner Pass crossing of the Sierras.
The Lincoln Highway was the first transcontinental highway. It was named for the nation’s most honored president, Abraham Lincoln.
According to the 1919 edition of the Encyclopedia Americana, “The route is marked with a distinctive red, white and blue marker, bearing a blue ‘L’ on the central white field. For every mile of improvement secured on the Lincoln Highway, 10 miles have followed as a direct result upon other routes connecting important centers north and south with the main line. Along its entire length the highest type of highway construction is represented in this modern American Appian Way.”
In 1916, Woodrow Wilson announced as part of his election platform: “The happiness, comfort and prosperity of rural life, and the development of the city, are alike conserved by the construction of public highways.” He signed the Federal Aid Road Act, the first federal highway funding law, providing $75 million to build and improve roads.
The US Army Joins the Convoy
When moving people and materiel by railroad alone during World War I proved inadequate, the US Army experimented with truck convoys to supplement the railroad. The two-month ordeal of the US Army Transcontinental Motor Convoy in 1919 convinced the Army of the need for better roads.
Despite this “Appian Way,” the US Army was determined to discover the true conditions of roads to the Pacific and set out on July 7 from Washington DC with 81 vehicles and trailers, including: 34 heavy cargo trucks, 4 light delivery trucks, two mobile machine shops, one blacksmith shop, one wrecking truck, an artillery wheeled tractor that towed nine trucks at once and was equipped with a power winch. There were two spare parts stores, two water tanks, one gasoline tank, one searchlight with an electrical power plant truck, four kitchen trailers, eight touring cars, one reconnaissance car, two staff observation cars, five sidecar motorcycles, and four solo motorcycles. As well as five GMC ambulances with two ambulance trailers, a four-ton pontoon trailer (left in Omaha) and a Renault Whippet FT-17 tank lashed to a flatbed trailer. Dealers en route supplied gasoline and tires to the convoy and the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company provided two trucks that carried spare standard tires.
Most all of the 3,250 miles of roadways were unpaved and undeveloped, creating untold problems, both mechanical and logistical. Most of the men were not trained to use the equipment and literally only one man of the 24 officers (including a young Dwight D. Eisenhower), 15 staff members from the War Department and 258 enlisted men — Henry Ostermann — knew the way across what was then still a patchwork of roads that ranged from concrete to mud (he had driven across the country 19 times).
Passing through 350 towns and communities and being witnessed by nearly three million people, the convoy completed the trip in 63 days, arriving in Oakland, California on September 7, proving that the infrastructure of the country was woefully inadequate to transport much of anything, especially during a time of war.
In his novel Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck called Route 66, “The “Mother Road,” because it was used during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression in the 1930s by hundreds of thousands of people to flee great hardship.
Get Your Kicks on Route 66
Route 66 was a highway spawned by the demands of a rapidly changing America. Contrasted with the Lincoln, the Dixie, and other highways of its day, Route 66 did not follow the traditionally linear course as did the other highways. Its unusual diagonal course linked hundreds of rural communities in Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas to Chicago; thus enabling farmers to transport grain and produce for redistribution. The diagonal configuration of Route 66 was particularly significant to the trucking industry, which by 1930 had come to rival the railroad for preeminence in the American shipping industry. The “Mother Road,” christened so by John Steinbeck in his novel Grapes of Wrath, between Chicago and the Pacific Coast, traversed essentially flat prairie lands and enjoyed a more temperate climate than northern highways, which made it especially appealing to truckers.
From Chicago, Route 66 began as nothing more than a series of intertwining trails headed west, mostly a cobbling of farm-to-market roads, driveways, paths, old wagon trails, small rudely improved thoroughfares and downtown streets … as long as it pointed westward and got you out of town and toward the next, it was part of what would be called Route 66. More importantly, it ferried people to California, especially during the Great Depression when thousands of tenant farmers searched for a new life and better opportunities.
Until roughly 1926 (though official U.S. Route 66 signs didn’t appear until the following year), travelers would have to brave unmarked roads and meandering byways with trepidation that the next town would be just over the horizon. The road was rough and unforgiving, but the promise of California was a tempting motive, and as more cars became a prevalent part of American culture, more people took to the road.
Interstate Highway System
In an effort not only to connect the country’s population, but also to connect the country’s military installations and to ease the travel of the military, the Interstate Highway System was planned and implemented in earnest after the signing of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1921.
In 1922, the Bureau of Public Roads commissioned General John “Black Jack” Pershing to provide a proposal for a national highway system (based on importance in the event of war). His proposal, referred to as “The Pershing Map,” was 32-feet long and suggested the building of 78,000 miles of road, most of which were completed and formed a substantial portion of the Interstate Highway System.
Throughout the 1920s, road construction boomed with the increased enthusiasm behind traveling and visiting the nation’s newest National Parks. From a 1922 report for the Department of Interior from the National Parks Service, it is clear that the automobile had really mobilized a nation [punctuation is original]: “Undoubtedly the principal factor in the travel movement in this country to-day is the enlarged use of the automobile. It is true the automobile affords a wide freedom in movement of parties limited only by the capacity of the cars, and permits stops at or excursions from any points en route to a particular destination that appeal to the members of the party. It meets the opportunities for out-of-door recreation that we Americans as a sightseeing nation seem to crave, and has come to be considered by many to be the ideal means of vacation travel.”
Having spent two months with the 1919 Army Convoy and seeing the mobilization of Germany with the Reichsautobahn system during World War II, Dwight D. Eisenhower was a strong proponent of the highway system. In 1955 the General Location of National System of Interstate Highways mapped out what became the Interstate System, and Charles Erwin Wilson, who was head of General Motors when President Eisenhower selected him as Secretary of Defense in January 1953, planned out the implementation of the highway system. This was in the midst of the Cold War, and Eisenhower debated for the highways for the purpose of national defense. In the event of an invasion, the US Army would need good highways to be able to transport troops across the country efficiently.
The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 (known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956), authorized $25 billion dollars to be spent over 12 years of construction (with the states paying 10 percent of the cost through taxes on fuel, cars and tires). However, it ended up costing $114 billion and took 35 years. The last portion of the original plans — a section of the I-70 through Glenwood Canyon in Colorado — was completed on October 14, 1992.
The nation was connected.
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