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Kia: 20 Years After

Kia the power to surprise logo

Probably the most truthful automotive slogan I’ve read.

Like Mitsubishi’s 30th Anniversary and Scion’s 10th Anniversary, I was caught off-guard by Kia turning 20 in the American market, hadn’t it been for a news snippet on the local classifieds. Truth be told, I wasn’t paying much attention. Kias weren’t my thing. But seeing how much the brand has grown in a slightly shorter period of time than its sister Hyundai, I believe it deserves merit to travel back in time to see where it all began, even if it’s just for the kitschy-ness of it all. So set the VCR to record the series finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation as well as the first episodes of Gargoyles, ReBoot and Street Sharks, to name a few; tie up those rollerblades or Air Jordan IX’s, put some fresh batteries on your Gameboy (don’t forget the Donkey Kong cartridge!) and Walkman (with Corona’s Rhythm of the Night), bring a pair of fresh underwear in your JanSport backpack, get the tickets for Forrest Gump, pay your respects to the late Ayrton Senna, forget about the canceled World Series and please keep your opinion on the OJ Simpson murder case to yourself,  because we’re going back… to 1994.

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Carspotters' Challenge #77--Niagara Falls Airport Drag Strip

Our photo for this week comes from the Niagara Airport Drag Strip (later known as just the "Niagara Drag Strip") in Niagara Falls, NY, adjacent to the Niagara Falls International Airport. The dragstrip was just north of the airport perimiter fence. According to the "Sunday Niagara" website run by Dean Johnson, whose father owned the strip, it operated from 1961 to 1974, and was the site of the 1967 NASCAR Nationals.  You read that correctly--NASCAR--yep, that NASCAR--once was involved in drag racing, sanctioning a competition series from 1965 to 1967.

"Sundaaaaaaayyyyyyyy!!"This photo of the strip's parking lot, which occupied the space between the dragstrip itself and the airport, looks to be from the early days, to judge by what's sitting in the lot and on the tarmac by the Air Reserve Station.

According to the Google satellite photo, the property is now farmland, but the paved dragstrip is still in place.

See anything you like?

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

(Photo obtained from the SDC Forum, to which it was contributed by member "JRoberts.")

The 2012 Nashville British Car Club Show

Call this a hat trick if you will. The 2010 and 2011 Nashville British Car Club Shows have been featured here at Car Lust, so now we complete the trilogy with the October 13, 2012 presentation, which included the Sunbeam Alpine Invasion.

The weather for each of these three shows was simply superb... dry October days with temperatures in the low 80s. Quite the contrast from the damp country that built these magnificent automotive specimens, which may explain why many of them are here in the first place.

2010 and 2011 brought a multitude of Triumphs, MGs, Jaguars, and the like. They were lined in rows that seemed almost endless. And there were a number of those roadsters at the 2012 show, but this year seemed to be devoted to the rarest of the species. And that's what we'll concentrate on here... so let's start with the really rare:

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Notes From The 2012 Cleveland Auto Show

March 3, 2012I made my annual pilgrimage to the Cleveland Auto Show on March 3 this year. Here's some of what I saw.

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Modern vehicles are increasingly sophisticated, with digital engine and suspension controls and ever more complex mechanical systems. This has given us a world where the humblest entry-level Hyundai hatchback boasts a level of efficiency, reliability, and safety that was once unimaginable in even the "The Brannon Special"most prestigious high-dollar luxury battleship. This is, of course, a good thing--but as we've sometimes lamented here at Car Lust, all of this sophistication also means that there's not as much of a place for the do-it-yourself mechanic as there once was.

The same is true of motorsports. These days, racing is something it usually takes serious dollars to get into. NASCAR "stock car" racing, once the home of self-taught "good ol' boys" who race-prepared Hudson flathead straight sixes by the seat of their pants in corner garages, no longer has much (if anything) to do with "stock" cars--that is, cars you can actually buy at your local dealer and drive on the street. Today's NASCARs are purpose-built racing vehicles costing millions to design and build. Indy cars, F1, endurance racing--these are even less accessable to the non-professional. There's little room these days for the hot rod assembled from junkyard components, the dirt track racer built in someone's garage--hell, even Soap Box Derby cars have been commodified and standardized and come in easy-to-assemble kit form!

Gittreville Grand Prix 2011So what's left for the backyard automaker? Is there still such a thing as entry-level motorsports for people who design and build their own iron and don't have a degree in mechanical engineering or corporate sponsors writing checks for them? Is there a class of competition cars that can be built by motivated amateur craftsmen of average skill using ordinary materials, hand tools, and kitchen utensils found in the typical American home?

I'm happy to say that there is still such a thing, if you know where to look for it. One example is the sport of cyclekart racing.

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Project Terrapin: a Design for a "Turtle Deck" Roadster

Lately, my design blood has been really bubbling. I guess I'm just anxious to forget playing on my computer and getting back to modeling and twisting a wrench. Here's my latest idea: a "Turtle Deck" roadster which emulates a little more antique version of the 1932 Studebaker two man Indianapolis racer my father once owned.

Exner Turtle-Deck Roadster

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"The Fast And The Furious" 1970 Dodge Charger

(Submitted by Car Lust reader and commenter Tigerstrypes)

  F&F Charger 1
It’s amazing how a car steals a scene, even among trendier “hero” cars. The Coke-bottle silhouette of the 2nd-gen Dodge Charger did it again (I don’t know about you but the Charger in ‘Bullitt’ stole my attention from the Mustang) with very little screen-time and no build montage. It sleeps, no, waits, for the moment to get out and beat, no, obliterate new blood (or is it motor oil?) off the streets.

I liked its story: Belonged to Dom's late father and it scared the crap out of Mr. Hi-Performance Imports here of just thinking of driving it (as it should, probably the most realistic thing going on in the movie).

And it’s all downhill from there.

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1989-1994 BNR-32 Nissan Skyline GT-R

Fujimi TOHGE-13 Nissan Skyline GT-R R32 Drift KingSubmitted by Tigerstrypes

Ladies and gentlemen, meet "Godzilla," as coined by the Australian motoring press (allegedly Wheels magazine). Overhyped?

• Nurburging record-shattering  performance (8'20" by Nissan; Best Motoring magazine managed was 8'22"38)

• Japan Touring Car Championship dominator from the get-go (29 wins out of 29 races!)

• 1991-’92 Bathurst 1000 winner (with a turbocharged 2.6 I-6 vs V8 equipped competition)

• First Japanese car to win Spa 24 hours in France in 1991.

• The Heat Treatments Drag R32 Skyline GT-R, driven by Reece McGregor of New Zealand, broke the world record for the fastest AWD over a 1/4 mile with a 7.57 at 305.96 km/h (190.11 mph) at the Willowbank Dragway in Australia in 2007.

Continue reading "1989-1994 BNR-32 Nissan Skyline GT-R" »


Many of you are familiar with--and some of you may even be active in--the sport of autocrossing. Here's a quick explanation for those who aren't.  Autocross (called "Solo" by the SCCA) is a form of motorsports which emphasizes handling and precision driving. The competition takes place on a parking lot or similar flat surface, on a temporary course defined with traffic cones. You can drive just about anything in an autocross competition: a Chevy Aveo straight off the showroom floor, a tricked-out Civic Si that's been swaybarred and coilovered to within an inch of its life, a '63 Dodge Dart, whatever. To keep things fair, the cars are assigned to various competition classes. Contestants go through the course one at a time, shortest time in each class wins.

In the Czech Republic, they have a thing called "rodeocross." It's exactly like autocross except that they run on a dirt track . . . wheel to wheel . . . in Trabants and other old Warsaw Pact penalty boxes. The end result is a crazy amalgamation of autocross, dirt track racing, Group B rallying, demolition derby, The Dukes of Hazzard, and Alarm für Cobra 11.

Looks like fun.

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

Fantastic Fords

Bring a Trailer has been on a tear of awesomeness lately, and I'd like to highlight two rare 1980s Fords that have caught my eye recently.

1986 Ford RS200 Evo
This RS200 is an under-the-radar supercar, with 0-60 times of 3.0 seconds and roughly 600 horsepower coursing through its futuristic-for-the-1980s rally AWD system. We've talked about the Group B rally championship before, and while the on-track competition was incredible, I almost prefer the fire-breathing street vehicles that resulted. The RS200 was at the absolute apex of that group--faster than the Audi Sport Quattro, the Porsche 959, and the Ferrari GTO, and rarer and more mechanically interesting than any of that group as well.

I want an RS200 so badly, and this example is so perfect, that I'm trying to figure out what assets I could sell to be able to afford it. With home values at a low, I don't think I can scrape enough together.

1986 Ford Mustang SVO
Considerably less exotic but still highly lustworthy is this basically brand new Ford Mustang SVO. Anthony Cagle recently wrote a great piece on the SVO that I recommend checking out, but essentially this was the Mustang Pony car turned into a European-style sports coupe. The key was suspension work and a the same turbo 4-cylinder that powered the Merkur XR4Ti.

This car has only 4,500 miles on it and is as close as you'll get to the experience of driving a brand new SVO. This would be a perfect addition to the 1980s sports coupe wing of the Chris Hafner Memorial Museum of Bad And/Or Underappreciated Cars.

--Chris H.

Pictured above: This is a forlorn Chevy Vega photographed by reader Gary Sinar. (Share yours)

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