I spotted this truck recently while tooling around rural Michigan. $1,000 actually doesn't seem like a terrible deal, except for the blown engine part...



Not much of a bed... then again, that isn't the point of this truck!

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I took a road trip recently, and spotted this Amphicar on one of our fine Michigan beaches. Shortly after I snapped the first two photos, the owner hopped in with some guests, fired it up, and drove it down the boat ramp.



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I spotted this blue Chevy Equinox on the road recently, and I happened to have a camera with me.


GM can not afford to let these out of the plant, assuming it wasn't damaged later. Even a slight mis-alignment of door trim really ruins the perceived quality of a vehicle.

And how could she even stand to drive the car like that? I would feel nauseous.
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In a blog post about the Progressive Automotive X-Prize, here, the sad tale of the coast-down testing at Chrysler's Chelsea Proving Grounds is told.  The Chrysler test drivers who were to run the coast-down tests accidentally over-revved both of the Edison2 cars, which use sequential manual transmissions, and blew up the engines.

Also on the morning of Day 3, Edison2, TW4XP, and X-Tracer hit the proving grounds for their turn through Coast Down. On the straight-away of the test track, Edison2's Mainstream Class entries, vehicle numbers 97 and 98, were fielded. In both cases, as third party test drivers accelerated the vehicles to speed, a mechanical over-rev condition resulted in engine failures and the tests had to be aborted.

The fact that the Edison2 vehicles employ sequential transmissions may have contributed to the unintended downshift and subsequent mechanical over-rev condition that damaged the engines. In a typical racing configuration, the driver pulls rearword on the shift lever to shift up through the gears. This is opposite the convention used by many US automakers in their semi-automatic transmissions (like Chrysler's AutoStick), where manual upshifting is executed by pushing forward, away from the driver. Further, given that this is a competition vehicle, the automated software that would normally override an unintended downshift at speed or at high RPM is not yet perfected.

All was not lost however.  Since the point of coast-down testing is to coast the vehicle to measure its decelerating forces, an engine isn't needed except to get up to speed.  Chrysler was able to save the day for Edison2 by pushing their cars up to speed with another vehicle.
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A distrubing compilation of wrecks from Russian traffic camera footage. Many of these look like they are serious injury or fatal accidents.

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In Europe, GM is going to offer a "lifetime" warranty on its Opel and Vauxhall brands.  Except that lifetime is limited to 100,000 miles (160,000km).

Which begs the question, are EU GM cars only designed for a 100,000mi service life?

If I was GM, I'd stay away from marketing hyperbole.  Either make it unlimited miles, or don't call it lifetime  
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Over at AutoBlog Green, Sam Abuelsamid* delves into the Volt's powertrain architecture, and why GM may have chosen not to have a mechanical path from the gasoline engine to the drive wheels.  It's worth a read.

Another reason that a gasoline-electric-battery-motor-road path makes sense is that it is easy in the future to replace the gasoline engine with some other sort of power source, without having to do as much re-engineering of the electric powertrain side of things.  For example, if GM wanted to package a diesel range extender for Europe, or drop the range extender completely, it would not be a radical re-engineering job.  Perhaps in the future, the gasoline I4 will be replaced with a hydrogen fuel cell stack, or a flux capacitor.  

Having no mechanical connection also allows for some packaging flexibility.  Though GM decided to package the 1.4L I4 in the traditional underhood location, in another application it might make sense to package the motor in the rear of the vehicle--Voltec Fiero, anyone?

*Props to Sam, who is an actual engineer, not just a news writer, he tends to understand his topics.
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I have a 5 year old Frigidaire clothes drier.  It started making terrible squealing noises recently, and since I don't run piglets in my dryer, I suspected something was wearing out.  After some internet research, I learned it may be the rear main bearing, which is difficult to replace yourself.  

We called an appliance repairman, and sure enough, $140 later, we had a new main bearing and a quiet dryer.  So, if you have a squeaky Frigidaire dryer, it may be the rear main bearing.   It will cost about $150 to fix.  


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The WSJ had an in depth review of the new Chevrolet Cruze, and to sum it up in one word, it basically said "meh".  The new Cruze is quiet, and has a nice interior, but a bland exterior and bland handling.

It looks like GM has made a decision to produce a smaller version of the Malibu--a competitive, competent cruizer, but not a sexy vehicle.  In other words, a Korean-American Corolla (the Cruze was developed primarily by GM's Korean division, Daewoo).  This is a different strategy than much of the competition.  Ford, for example, is bringing European handling in the upcoming 2012 Focus, so there will be a definite focus on the fun-to-drive aspect.  Honda is due for a redesign of its Civic, which is a sharp handling car, though noisy.

I think WSJ is too hard on the Cruze's styling, I like it personally.  It is clean and athletic without being over-busy.  But the bland handling worries me.  Is this going to work for GM?  Will they beat Corolla at the no-drama small sedan game?  Or will they, like Cobalt before it, wind up selling a lot of rental cars?



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I went to visit the Maker Faire Detroit 2010, which was staged outside of the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI. The Henry Ford is a national treasure, BTW, and if you have never gone, you should definitely schedule a trip.

Maker Faire was a strange place, it reminded me of Burning Man (without drugs), or maybe a sci-fi convention (without Star Trek uniforms). The crowd was a mix of all kinds of people. I saw lots of punk rock and tattooed kids. I also saw religious Muslims and Jews, together in one space, in Dearborn. It was like, peace, love, and robots, man.

Here are a few things that I thought were neat.



Miniature V-4 engine, made by a guy from the Metro Detroit Metal Machining Club.



It runs!



Electric scooters by Current Motors. They claim a range of about 45 miles from a 4.6kWh battery pack, with a top speed of 55mph. Cost: $6500.


This cute hearse and "mad scientist" are promoting a product which is claimed to preserve jack-o-lanterns so they won't rot so quickly on your porch. I had no idea I needed such a product. Dr. Frybrain's Pumpkin Embalmer.



A really neat 4-rotor remote controlled helicopter (quadrocopter). It uses an on-board micro-controller (Arduino) to trim the motors to maintain attitude, using inputs from a 6-axis inertial sensor board.


Over at the TARDEC display, the Army shows off a concept for a light armored ground vehicle.

This Gladiator robotic vehicle was doing peace-time duty writing people's names on a dry erase board. In battle, it can be used to remotely manipulate road-side bombs and suspicious packages. They can also be mounted with weapons.


One of two Jackson Pollock tribute cars, by Matt Donohue.




This hilarious car, the "Sashimi Tabernacle Choir", is a 1984 Volvo 240 sedan which has been decorated by a bunch of those cheesy dancing lobsters and singing bass that you can order on late night TV infomercials. The effect is hypnotic--when the sound system plays, all of the lobsters and fish sing and dance in sync. If you go to the linked web site, you see that this was a huge engineering project--they actually wired each fish and lobster into a central relay system, and wrote software to control all the motion.


The centerpiece, the main attraction I would say, of Maker Faire Detroit was the Life Size Mousetrap installation. A strange, wacky, and slightly disturbing mix of childhood memories, tattooed punk rock burlesque girls, welded steel, clowns, and a very crushed Chevy Astro minivan. This thing travels around the country like a mini-circus, smashing things.

Esmerelda Strange, the one-woman punk/polka band who warmed up the crowd for the Life Size Mousetrap piece. She seemed bored with the whole thing. She sang in a monotone and had way too many tattoos.


The Life Size Mousetrap in action.


Rose "The Mouse", the ringleader's wife and head merchandiser.


Another highlight was Big Dog, a gigantic pedal powered quadracycle with propane flame belcher. I'm not sure why fire was involved, but the design and construction of this beast is amazing.





A Big Dog drive-by, slightly out of focus (sorry).






Two examples of Amick wind assisted electric vehicles, without their large vertical airfoils. The concept is to use energy from cross-wind to help propel the car, similar to how a sailboat can pull energy from the wind with its airfoil, the sail.


Yet another NEV (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle, limited to 25mph) offered by EcoV. This is a prototype vehicle, commercial production is supposed to start later this year.



Moving inside, near the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile I found a guy showing of amazing miniature mechanisms, including air-powered steam engine models. He had a hightly detailed, running miniature model of a steam-age machine shop, much like the full size one you can tour in Greenfield Village.
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