It’s Teen Driver Safety Week. Here’s Our Advice

“Don’t be a friggin’ jackass,” among other timeless chestnuts.

Sean McFarland

This article was originally posted on The Drive, a Time Inc. publication.


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With the kickoff of National Teen Driver Safety Week on Oct. 18, automotive manufacturers are calling on grizzled vets of the road to educate the newest, and arguably most vulnerable, people behind the wheel.

Michelin’s #SharingSafety campaign is crowdsourcing the best advice that drivers have ever received since earning their licenses. Amid a cornucopia of stats, Michelin reminds drivers that the top killer of teens in the U.S. is road accidents—a statistic that stubbornly holds on despite increased safety of most vehicles.

The Michelin campaign put us in a reflective mood. What’s the best driving advice we’ve ever received? There are the obvious lessons: Drive defensively; avoid a truck’s blind spot; and friends don’t let friends drive boring cars. But other lessons might resonate more with headstrong teenagers.

For example, my father approached driver education differently: “Just don’t be a friggin’ jackass.” Not the most illustrative advice. I asked what he meant.

“You never want to be the subject of someone’s ‘you’ll-never-guess-what-I-saw’ story,” he responded. To 16-year-old me, this made much sense.

Other pointers he offered were just addendums to that golden rule: When you spin, both feet in; keep your phone in the glovebox; never eat a McRib in a moving vehicle.

Some argue that formal driver education still doesn’t prepare teens for the scenarios that they’ll face on the open road. Hell, the state of Rhode Island doesn’t always even require proof of parallel-parking ability on its license test (a gift that this resident was particularly thankful for).

Until more structure is added, #SharingSafety seems like a good supplement.

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Fast & Furious, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down

An automotive affair gets complicated.

Sean McFarland

This article was originally posted on The Drive, a Time Inc. publication.


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The relationship between car fans and the Fast & Furious franchise is odd. Very odd. The promises forged in a modded Toyota Supra’s tire smoke have turned acrid, and the flame of our 14-year fling has begun to flicker. But if a Facebook post by actor/producer Vin Diesel is anything to go by, we’ve barely entered the franchise’s twilight.

Diesel posted recently that an additional trilogy would end the film series. Could we renew our vows? We’re not feeling very giving at the moment.

Our love started simple enough in 2001, with a soundtrack populated by the likes of Limp Bizkit and Ja Rule. A bottle-blond Paul Walker trotted into Vin Diesel’s grocery store and sat in the adjacent diner. A young Jordana Brewster looked up before asking, “Tuna on white, no crust?” The repartee that followed represented the coy flirting stage that would lead audiences into a deeper love affair containing various criminal investigations, contrived romances and explosions. Lots of explosions.

Gaggles of car obsessives gathered in theaters to watch their street-racer fantasies play out on the big screen. But as more Fast & Furious films were produced, the relationship began to turn. The order of events changed. Characters passed away and returned from the dead. Our relationship was growing complicated. We thought it was over, owing in no small part to the seventh installment’s tagline: “One last ride.” Paul Walker passed away tragically in 2013—halfway through the filming of Furious 7—and a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Walker’s daughter on Sept. 29 has turned attention to the franchise that its producers would probably like to deflect.

Since James Wan backed out after directing Furious 7, the series is left without a director, despite a reported April 2017 release date.

We groan as an audience with the announcement of three more movies. “Why does our partner keep doing this to us? They swore they would change!” It’s like Universal keeps manipulating this relationship. They know we’ll always come running back to see them, hoping to recapture the glimmer of our torrid romance in the early 2000s.

And they’re right. We will.

So what if the announcement cements the Fast & Furious franchise as the dad joke of car cinema? Who cares if the series is hell-bent on surpassing the sevenPolice Academy movies? That must be how these relationships mature. At a certain point, we must trade in our hot pants for sweatpants. It’s complex. It’s a roller coaster. It’s emotionally draining and expensive.

How expensive? More than you can afford, pal.

Up Close & Personal at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix

Despite living in Oakland for four years, I had never attended the PVGP. I had been told that droves of the car-obsessed flocked annually to the greens of the Schenley Park Golf Course to view some of the most legendary automobiles. For whatever reason, I always thought the event would be another overhyped, American-only car show with middle aged men stuffed into canvas lawn chairs beside their pride and joy (insert generic muscle cars here).

But no. Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix isn’t a weekly doo-wop nostalgia trip in a Sam’s Club parking lot. It isn’t even close to that.

When I entered the grounds in my humble Volkswagen, I immediately realized how foolish I was to pre-judge this show. My jaw hit the ground so hard, I thought Bill Peduto would call to remind me that fracking is illegal within city limits. The visual juxtaposition of million-dollar classics and common people-movers was staggering. Look away at the wrong time and you might miss some of the finest sculpted metal in automotive history. Wow.

With many an egg on my face, I’ll step aside and let my imagery show you what I’m on about.

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The culture that bred a Hellcat

Sean McFarland

This article was originally posted on BBC Autos.



Raw, powerful and even a bit vulgar, the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is anything but a vapid flexing of Chrysler muscle.

Derived from a cult of speed, the 707-horsepower hellion is a proper homage to one of the most peculiar eras of US car culture.

In the late 1960s and early ’70s, drag racing was front and centre, and names like Mustang, Camaro and Charger created a motoring nomenclature all their own. The Dodge Challenger began to exhibit typical drag-racing attributes not long after its introduction: high-horsepower engines, staggered-width tires and a lust for the quarter mile. As boutique manufacturers began to spring up to supplement the carmakers’ go-fast efforts, the culture boomed.

Matthew Macomber’s video, filmed in New England in 2010, is a slowed-down homage to life at the drag strip, an existence measured in fewer than 11 ticks of a stopwatch. Muscle cars and dragsters convene at the start. The flick of a green light whips the machines into a froth of noise and fire. Some launch cleanly while others lunge forward in dazzling wheel-stands, their tires alight.

Muscle-car culture was sharpened at the drag strip, but born at stoplights. Once bit by the drag-racing bug, owners of street cars could fall hostage to their machines, obsessing over the minutiae that would make their cars a little bit faster. Cornering? A foreign concept. Macomber’s video is a close study of the only thing that mattered: straight-line speed.

The lineage to the 2015 Hellcat is clear. With a supercharged 707hp V8 engine, dubious handling and a profligate appetite for tires and petrol, the Hellcat is a fascinating piece of hardware. The culture that birthed this modern muscle car seems well served.

Infographic: The true price of Dodge’s SRT Hellcat

Sean McFarland

This article was originally posted on BBC Autos.

With its supercharged 707-horsepower V8 engine, tire-smoking torque and retrofuturist styling, the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is an unambiguous, unabashed throwback. But it distinguishes itself from its nostalgia-tinged peers – saying nothing of high-horsepower European sports cars – on its value case.

Granted, consumers do not cross-shop bawdy Detroit muscle against bespoke European land-missiles, yet  some true-to-life comparisons underline just how stellar a value Chrysler’s fire-breathing feline is –  and the financial chasms that must be bridged to otherwise touch its tremendous output.

Five ways to bring summer on the road

Sean McFarland

This article was originally published on BBC Autos.



 

Winter has retreated from the northern hemisphere and warmth reigns supreme, setting many readers to dream of escapes. Not just any escapes, but the kind of adventures where the vehicle is as much a protagonist as the destination. Few things are better than a car filled with friends en route to a beach or campsite, and the fun factor only grows when a car can adjust for prolonged absences. These are some of our favourite ways to stay away a little bit longer this summer. (Photo: AT Overland Equipment; Cover photo: Kylie McLaughlin/Lonely Planet Images/Getty)

Audi Q3 Camping Tent

The Q3 stuffs Audi’s core tenets of sport and luxury into an appealing soft-roader package. But for weekenders who’d rather not be fodder for mosquitos, Audi has devised a solution. The Q3 camping tent can withstand winds of up to 43mph, making it a formidable shelter in an impromptu storm. Audi estimates that the inflatable fortress and attached exoskeleton will be ready for occupants in just seven minutes. Don’t want to get wet walking from the car to the tent? Fear not, for Ingolstadt’s engineers have thought of it all: the tent attaches seamlessly to the Q3’s open rear hatch, enabling crawl-throughs. How very civilised. (Photo: Audi of America)

Volkswagen California

Grandchild of the recently deceased Kombi, the California is Volkswagen’s response to adventurers seeking a self-contained holiday. The California comes standard with an accordion-like expandable roof, cooking facilities, a sink and a refrigerator. Add the optional camping pack, and a retractable awning turns this Swiss Army van from an overnight shelter to a second home on wheels. At the end of a long summer day, there’s a double bed for a restful night’s sleep. This latest pop-top VW truly has everything you’d need on a camping holiday, save for a fire pit for roasting weenies and preparing late-night s’mores. (We assume Volkswagen will issue a recall to mend this minor design flaw.) (Photo: Volkswagen Group)

Airstream Autobahn

Fancy having your business associates over for a meeting before a daytrip to the countryside? The Airstream Autobahn is the summer solution for the terrestrial jet set. Airstream takes a standard Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van and adds all the humble road-trip necessities: leather-lined captain’s chairs, power window shades, a beverage cooler and, of course, a flat-screen LCD television. Though a journey in the Autobahn would never be construed as “rouging it”, this modified cargo-mover is a choice shelter for those with high-tag adventuring in mind – a tag starting at $133,000 in the US, to be exact. (Photo: Airstream)

Nissan Titan Bed Tent

Notwithstanding nomadic tribes of surfers and snowboarders, most owners of pickup trucks overlook their vehicles’ ability to double as makeshift campgrounds. This bed tent for Nissan’s full-size Titan comes directly from the Japanese brand, and is ideal for providing a dry night’s sleep. But while the shelter part of the camping equation is covered, it’s still in adventurers’ best interest to throw in a mattress. The steel bed of a full-size truck may be a bit on the firm side. (Photo: Nissan North America)

AT Overland JK Habitat

This solution is built for the daytrips that turn into weekend-long trailblazing expeditions. Jeep Wrangler owners end up in the darnedest situations as it is. They might park for the evening in fender-deep mud, simply because they could. For just such occasions, the JK Habitat lofts its residents above the vehicle. This origami nest bolts directly to the body of a Wrangler Unlimited (the Jeep’s four-door configuration) and unfolds to reveal a 15ft-long canvas penthouse. Setup takes just 60 seconds, according to the manufacturer, and the unit can sleep four comfortably. An opening at the rear of the cabin makes a clever entry point, allowing occupants to move upstairs without exiting the vehicle – a smart idea considering the tricky footing in typical Wrangler habitat. (Photo: AT Overland Equipment)

AEV Jeeps make Icelandic landfall

Sean McFarland

This article was originally published on BBC Autos.



Who said fun had to be good and clean? Sometimes the best adventures are those that leave calloused hands and scuffed boots.

Ever since BBC Autos’ recent muddy mingle with Land Rover in Kentucky, a palpable craving for off-road adventure has coursed through our ranks. Vicarious thrills have had to do, but as this video from American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) demonstrates, the thrills can still be quite visceral.

This production comes from Iceland, a place that is – as we’ve learned – tailor-made for off-tarmac adventuring. With a population of less than 300,000 and a bounty of craggy landscapes and slippery surfaces, Iceland is prime country for an off-road tuning company like AEV. The Michigan-based modifiers of all things Jeep Wrangler took a pair of their JK350 Wranglers on the expedition through Iceland’s deep ravines, vast rivers and gritty sands.

This isn’t your average slushy drive to the grocery. AEV’s purpose-built rigs have lifted suspensions and knobby off-road tires designed specifically to handle this type of pockmarked landscape without hesitation.

Slipping and sliding in the colder months is a skill worth acquiring, even outside the confines of a nearly indestructible 4×4. Meantime, spend some good, clean fun inside AEV’s cinematic road trip.