This past Sunday I attended the most unusual and by far the most successful one day automotive event in the South. Import Alliance at the Georgia World Congress Center parking garage in down town Atlanta. The seven floor parking structures opened its doors at 8 am Sunday April 17th mothers day, ' to what begins as a trickle of car enthusiasts, and by 9 am is a torrent. By 11:30 am almost all 5,000 spaces in the parking tower were filled. By 12 noon a full cruise was in motion with cars constantly rotating through the structure. In the picture you see the lower, main entrance. The upper entrance was also feeding cars in. The management opened the outside lots and eventually those got filled too, another 2 to 3 thousand cars. This is the third time that import Alliance comes to Atlanta, and this was by far the largest event of its kind.
Who is Import Alliance? They are a group of very smart men. They used to sell parts at car shows and a few years ago sales dropped off and going to car shows was no longer paying. So they decided to promote an event themselves and as they say the rest is history. The interesting thing is that they do not advertise in conventional ways, no ads, no flyers, and no calendar postings. See the video. Their original web site was out of date last year, so how do they get the word out? Electronic bulletin boards...er what? Bulletin discussion boards! I became aware of "the boards" almost two years ago when I was trying to find out how the "Tuners" were communicating among themselves. I am not writing an article about communications here but I have delved into this above ground underground. It is fluid, sites come and go and it works. So basically when they have a time and place where they will be holding an Event, they post it on the Boards. From there it gets passed on, time and time again and soon thousands of people know. Except on the outside, the "main stream" that has no idea what is happening. So it goes, where in a major Metropolitan city like Atlanta this huge event happens and no one outside of the loop, TV stations, local news papers and radio shows have the slightest clue that one of the areas biggest automotive events is happening right in front of them.
Driving the Chevy Volt Through The Streets Of Atlanta. Story by Miguel Caparros GM File photo
We have been hearing about it; saw one on Hwy 400 a month ago, sat in one at the Atlanta International Auto Show. Today I got to drive one. Walking around it out in the open air the car looks much better than in the photos or in the lights of the auto show. The Chrystal Red Metallic paint looks real good, and those of you that know me and paint jobs can attest that I am brutal in my quality inspection. This car's fit and finish were way above from what I have come to expect from the General. The color also made the car look bigger than it really is. With a wheelbase just short of 106 inches it is not a large car but the forward cabin placement makes the best use of the space. At 6' and 225 lbs I am a heavy weight in the ring and most of my height is in my torso, yet I had no issues fitting in the drivers' seat and then in the back seat with the front seat adjusted for me. The all digital instruments and touch screen controls may seem a little daunting at first, get used to it, this is from now on the normal. The quality of the interior two tone leather like seats and the brushed aluminum look is very tasteful and right in line with what you would expect in a car optioned to $40,000. The MSRP for the base car price is $32,700.Chevy Volt Brochure here.
To start, put your foot on the brake and push the blue start button and you hear......nothing. The only indication you are ready to go is that the instrument panel is lit up. Pull the center console mounted shift lever towards you and you are ready to go silently down the road. In city driving is where this car can save you a fortune in fuel as it operates in full electric mode unless the battery voltage drops to low. When that happens, the performance management computer seamlessly kicks in to move you like a conventional gas powered car and charges the batteries. It's the electric motor that really supplies the performance of this car and it does accelerate well.
Driving the car in electric mode is eerily quiet; all that quiet dictated that Chevrolet Noise and Vibration Engineers had to pay close scrutiny all the things that can rattle and vibrate as there is no noise to mask and confuse the ears. I am happy to say the Volt NVH group did a great job, I have always preferred the ride motions of a firm suspension as long as it does not loosen my fillings or rattles things in the interior. Once again I was very surprised how tight this car felt driving around the streets near Piedmont Park. Like most major older cities, the streets are less that billiard table smooth, and there is lots of torn up spots where there is construction going on. The Volt's suspension handled every thing perfectly and maintained perfect comfort inside.
There was only one thing that I did not like and it would not be something most people would notice unless they sit in the drivers' seat as far back as I do. As a racer of all kinds of vehicle I rely, and I am very aware of what is going on in my peripheral vision. Due to my seating position and the very thick B pillar, that is also a key to achieving side crash protection and roll over integrity, when I would scan my eyes to see what is over my left shoulder all I would see is the pillar. Please understand that I am part of a very small minority of people that this would affect, I just have to rely more on the mirror and lean forward to see around the pillar.
Hopefully in the near future we can bring you a long term Video test and answer questions on long distance driving, overnight charging and then perform instrumented fuel consumption and performance test. I want to thank General Motors Southeast Region for making this car available.
This Year Traffic Deaths Are The Lowest Since 1950. Story and Photos By Miguel Caparros
That headline really says something, who was spared was it worth the fight? I do not remember that we ever had a car with out seat belts. My father was a gentleman racer, and as early as I can remember in the 50's, every car we had, magically appeared with seat belts. As time went on a few had crude roll bars and by the 60's, a 4 point roll cage and shoulder harnesses had crept in to the equation. We were fortunate we never had an accident to test out all of the state of the art safety equipment.
Can you imagine the year that the headlines read, No One Died In Traffic Accidents This Past Year. That will never happen, for various reasons. I have always been pro safety. I guess it was in my DNA or my father knew when his son would get his license he would have dreams of driving like Fangio or Jim Clark, except on the streets. He did everything possible to train me to avoid putting myself in situations where I could not recover from a mistake, and if the worst happened, to be able to increase the odds of surviving.
So why did so many fight the idea of building safety into the cars? The Air Force knew from its testing how important it is to restrain the body so as to cut down on the possibility of hitting a fixed object in the cockpit. The enlighten racers of the late 40's and 50's all used surplus aircraft seat and shoulder harnesses to keep from being spit out of the car. I will not get into the politics of the approval this is not the place for it.
A month ago as I was helping my best friend, who took a day off from his job to get the trailer packed to go the next day to a car show. Rick drives for Fed Ex, a professional big rig driver with over 2 million miles without an accident. There is a curve right behind Rick's barn, it is the middle of a two lane 'S' turn. He took the Ford F350 diesel to fuel it up. I was at the top of the driveway when I heard some one locking up their brakes as they went into the the first part of the 'S'. The Ford Ranger was carrying to much speed and it went into a slide.
For a moment he went out of my sight behind the barn. I could still hear the skid when he came back into sight. He fought it with the steering and the car went into an opposite slide. I saw coming out of the trees from the opposite direction something big and white, with the front wheels locked, up as the driver must have seen the out of control Ford Ranger truck. For a moment it looked like the Ranger was going to do some damage to the the saplings on the side of the road. At the last moment the Ranger driver yanked on the wheel to the right and headed head on into the now stopped F350. I was already running down the hill to the accident that was going to happen. A couple of golfers that were teeing off but 50 feet from the impact got there first. My friend Rick was still behind the wheel of his truck and had his eyes open. The driver of the Ranger somehow hopped out and was running around like a chicken with no head. His passenger was no quite so lucky as the front of the Ranger did not survive the impact too well. The grill of the Ranger was now almost to its firewall. The truck had bounced back from the impact some 25 feet.
The passenger we just found out this week is still hospitalized, she received two broken legs, two dislocated hips, concussion, whiplash and various other bruises. Rick was rattled and bruised his head hit the roof by the sun visor the seat belt did not lock up and his chest hit the steering wheel, he also had whiplash. His truck is a 97 before airbags. He was lucky his injuries were very minor and he was released from the hospital a few hours later. He was spared by physics and the right of weight. I estimated the impact speed at about 45mph another 5 miles per hour and their would have been fatalities in the Ranger.
So why did I go through all this? Basically to remind everyone that the drop in the fatality rate has been legislated through the passage of laws that have made all vehicles safer. We now have cars that have 7 or 8 airbags, seat belts that automatically pull you into the safety of the seat many of the new cars can even call for help and provide your location, saving precious live saving minutes for the first responders. Some day we may even take the most dangerous thing to the safety of others out of the driving loop, us.