Archive for February, 2011

Rhys “Mad Skills” Millen is back in another Hyundai, and this time it’s on his native territory: gravel and dirt. Millen is back to his rally roots in Hyundai’s new and chipper three door hatchback, and it’s quite the dinosaur of a car. It’s called the Veloster, as I’m sure many of you have already read. The similarity in name with the Jurassic lizard is no coincidence, if the video below is anything to go by. That hatch is lean, ferocious and ready to prey on slower victims.

The Velocirap…er… Veloster boasts AWD and 500HP, along with complete rally spec treatment from Rhys Millen Racing. He will be competing in the Summer X Games and the US Rallycross in the Veloster later this year. Ken Block, are you listening? Better sharpen your skills in that zebra-looking Ford because there’s going to be a dinosaur on your hide.

I for one have really enjoyed watching Rhys compete in Formula D for some time, and was excited when he debuted the Genesis Coupe drift car, but am looking forward even more to seeing him take the Veloster out on the dirt. The combination of AWD and 500HP in a hot hatch like the Veloster is inspiring, and even more so with Millen at the wheel. Best of luck to our favorite Kiwi from Hungry4Horsepower!

A small compilation of Rhys’ Hyundai videos thus far:

“What is your goal for the car?” I quipped to Michael House, owner of this 2000 model C5 Corvette.

“Fun,” He responded. “That’s all it is, fun.”

And he’s right on the spot if there’s a single word to describe this Vette. Perhaps “power” comes close. But regardless of the word chosen, there’s no doubt that this C5 was built right, and when a car is built right, fun is often a circumstantial result.

Being built right starts from the ground up, from the very spot where the car meets the road. In the case of the Vette, the car “meats” the road with beefy 275/35/18 Michelin Pilot Sports up front and 300/30/19 in the rear, wrapping a set of staggered chrome CCW 505A wheels. The CCWs are the only hint of shine on the car that isn’t black, and they set the Vette off nicely.

Behind the massive rollers are Z06 drilled rotors and calipers. From there upwards the car sits on top of a full Z06 suspension, complete with Bilstein shocks, Hotchkis sway bars, and polyurethane bushings drilled for grease fittings. That means there’s no joking about “straight line only” – this muscle pancake will rotate flat.

Michael explains to me that the Vette is the first “real car” that he and his brother have had, and that he loves the car. “I don’t know if there’s one thing I can say about it. The look and the sound… but at the same time I like the power. I love it. And the fact that it gets extremely good gas mileage – it’s like a whole package.”

That sound and power comes from the LS powerplant, as do most Corvettes. This particular 5.7L motor though is not your average LS1. It’s a Lingenfelter 350 short block with full internals in check, Grumm performance heads, a FAST intake, Dynomax headers, and a Textralia clutch that helps mate the 420 RWHP to the six speed gearbox. All that madness comes gurgling and spurting out the back of a GHL catback quad exhaust. And what an exhaust it is, it’s the type that bellows and reverberates through open space making the whereabouts of the car ambiguous due to the sound bouncing off of pretty much everywhere. Naturally, heads turn.

When he’s not listening to the LS1 as attentively, Michael has a Pioneer head unit coupled to Jensen components and a five channel amp with a JL sub. While being a nice sound setup, it cannot compare to the Detroit Symphonic Metal Orchestra under the hood. Even with the windows up, you can’t tell any difference in the sound, it is as though the engine bay were in the interior along with the driver, but I’m not complaining when it sounds as good as it does.

Michael feels that the general public these days are missing out of “the fun of a car” when economy and hybrid cars are all the rage. “I guess it depends, some people don’t care, but it does get 40mpg if you drive it right on the freeway. In sixth gear the revs just drop. Usually it’s in the 30s. With a muscle car though, it’s all about the fun.”

The F-word keeps popping up – the fun word, that is. As we head out to go for a spirited cruise, I can’t help but grin wildly the whole time, in full agreement with Michael’s words. The Vette leaps forward with murderous speed, and slows down equally well too. The massive tires and big brakes help vacuum back down what otherwise feels like a warehouse of torque. There isn’t a single part of the revband that cuts out in power. Under steering the nose merely pitches and the car follows. It makes a dramatic sound but never gets real fussy – it’s really a great car that is very streetable for having over 400 horses at the wheels. The only real fit it throws is in first gear at a dead stop, where the massive torque sends shudders up through the car. I suppose if you have one streetable problem that’s a pretty good problem to have.

After stopping over for some Jamba Juice and a chat (during which several people nearby came to ask about the car) it was time to head back. After arriving back at my RSX, the ride stuck with me. I smiled my whole way home as the 350 short block resonated through my head, and my heart beat with high horsepower adrenaline.

I suppose that it’s really true – it’s all about the fun.

In a recent edition of the Contra Costa Times I was chewing over an article by Gary Sowerby on his driving impressions of the Tesla Roadster. In his article, Sowerby wrote during a ride along with Tesla representative Hand Ulrud:

We cruise around town while Hans fields questions from fellow drivers at traffic lights and slack-jawed pedestrians on crosswalks.

“Yes it has a hand-built carbon fiber body, regenerative braking and they are for sale now. The future is here!”

There is no problem hearing the questions or answers because the topless Tesla is so quiet.

“Not sure if I like this silent ride though Hans,” I offer, recalling the terrific pitch of my Porsche’s tuned exhaust.

“You get used to it, Garry. Isn’t the sound of chirping birds, gentle breezes rustling fields of wildflowers or the crash of waves on a lonely roadside seascape better than the blat of fossil fuel emissions spewing out a set of quad tailpipes?” Hans has obviously been down this road of questioning before.

I stopped reading the paper at this point and looked up, puzzled. I’m sorry did I read that right? Or did Sowerby just hear that…wrong? Surely a cutting edge company such as Tesla has a better answer than this… or do they not? I have to say the latter is likely correct, because that excuse sound utterly terrible.

Would I rather hear hear birds and flowers and lawn gnomes gobbling lawn and the wings of a butterfly over the sound of triumph? No. Very much not so. If I set into a vehicle of sport, I want to hear growly, purring and snarling tuned creatures of crafted iron victoriously heralding their presence and invigorating you the driver to OPEN. IT. UP.

Such an answer as Ulrud gives might appeal to a commune of Berkeley hemp-worshipers who spend their time eating organic air while curled up in trees. However the biggest fault in his answer is that such a demographic wouldn’t buy a Tesla anyway because they would rather see cars rot into oblivion.

For a manufacturer of a single make marked “Roadster” Tesla must come up with a better answer than that. And no, the Sound Racer is not the answer either. Until next time, Hans, please see the video below.

For the final post from the Global Tuner Grand Prix I will leave you with a photoset of several Audi Quattros that are just mind boggling. Might I say, they’re absolutely Audi this world? I’ll let the pictures do the talking.