All Cars Look the Same

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Lately, consumers might have noticed that all cars, more specifically the ever increasingly popular SUV’s and CUV’s, all look the same. The graphic above is a wonderful illustration of that point. There are two reasons why this trend is beginning to take place.

First, manufacturers have invested incredible amounts of money on studies and research to figure out what consumers find aesthetically appealing. Automotive companies send representatives to design conferences to learn currently and what will be fashionable and trendy. Things like colors, fabrics, shapes, designs, and even smells and sounds, are all worked on years before they start to trend. What we see on the road today is a product of 3-5 years worth of research, data, and design foresight.

Due to that research investment, they know what consumers will buy. As with any business, manufacturers have to make things consumers want in order to continue to operate and make a profit. Consumers speak with their money and it is very clear, they want SUV’s and CUV’s regardless of how similar they all look.

Second, the strict fuel economy standards and safety standards, really begin to dictate how a vehicle will look. In order to achieve these benchmarks, designs to reduce drag coefficients are a leading supplemental way to meet the fuel economy standards. Angles, edgy creases, and deep concentration on airflow management all result in better fuel economy, but also begin to produce the same results in designs. The best example of this is airplanes. To an untrained eye, there are very few differences in airplane design.

Whether or not one thinks that manufacturers are just simply creating similar looking products to force consumers to accept what is being built and that they are limited by the designs in the choices of products available, that is an acknowledged hypothesis. However, many jobs and lively hoods, possibly even your own, hinge on the sales of vehicles, so it is hard for a company to take a risk on different designs. Consumers would need to reward risk with dollars and that is a challenging task to accomplish.

Give it time and new trends will start to emerge. Remember, what we see now was foresighted to trend a few years prior. Designs will change and uniqueness will find it’s way back into the automotive industry.

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Weighing In

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After watching the Netflix documentary Formula 1 Drive To Survive, I became a casual fan of Esteban Ocon. Wanting to learn more about him, I did some Googling and found out that he isn’t in a car for the 2019 season, and that he is apparently going to “transform” himself to try to get a ride for next year. This had me perplexed, so I kept digging.

The reported issue is that Esteban needs to work on his physical attributes, specifically his weight, in order to better his chances of achieving a full-time driver position. According to the 2019 Formula 1 rules package, the car with the driver must weigh in at 740kg, or roughly 1,631 pounds. Then, separately, the car must weigh in at 660kg  (1,455 lbs) allowing a driver to weigh anywhere up to 80kg (176 lbs). Any less than 80kg and the teams can put in ballast weight to bring the car to full combined mass.
*Moving forward height and weight will be in inches and pounds.

Esteban is the tallest driver in Formula 1 at 6’1″ and weighs in at 145 lbs. According to BMI charts, that is underweight. While it is safe to consider Formula 1 drivers to be some of the most physically fit athletes in the world, defining personal physical health and safety has to be left respectively up to the individual. The fact that Esteban might have to cut more weight (he has already done so before the 2017 season) in order to compete against the other drivers, might be a hard thing for fans to watch.

I can relate to Esteban. I am 6’4″ and currently 233 lbs. Three years ago, I weighed in at 180 lbs, and personally, felt I was at a physical peak. Yet, many people thought I looked too thin and not healthy. Surprisingly, for my height and weight at the time, I was smack in the middle of a healthy zone according to BMI charts. Now, at 233 lbs, my BMI is considered overweight and my body reminds me often that physical tasks are not as easy as they once were. Yet, people tell me I look healthy and I don’t look overweight.

Everyone is different and physical fitness is something that only each individual person can determine, but the scientific generalities are a good start though to get everyone in sync with how to determine and define physical fitness. I support BMI charts and eating healthy and exercising. Hopefully, those general tools can be interpreted and understood better by all, in order to understand each person’s best physical fitness.

 

 

What to do about NASCAR

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NASCAR is a subject that could fill endless blog posts. As a long time invested fan, I, just like all other fans, have opinions on what to do about NASCAR. The 2019 season has been a roller coaster according to some fans, but I do not think that. I have enjoyed the start of the 2019 season. To me, I appreciate and respect the sport enough to cherish that it is still happening. I’d rather have some NASCAR than no NASCAR. With that said, below are some things in no particular order that I think would bring more life to the sport.

  • Reduce the cost of the sport
    • Millions of dollars are spent by the teams to get their car to victory lane. Yet, the cars are not much faster than they were over two decades ago. While safety should always be invested in, a racecar that does not exceed any milestone that a previous one could (in many cases NASCAR is making the cars less powerful than older cars) that it seems silly to be spending more on them.
    • Sponsorship is getting harder to come by because it doesn’t always give a return on investment. If the cost is reduced, it opens up the possibility for both large and small sponsors to take a chance at advertising more.
  • Add charters and allow any manufacturer
    • Allowing more manufacturers to get into the sport would provide some healthy competition.
  • Shorten the schedule and add new tracks
    • Diehard fans don’t just happen, they have to be made. Go to new places to get new fans.
  • Try to get away from cable deals
    • This one hits close to me. Growing up my family did not have cable. We were able to watch races using the antenna. As a young adult who is budget conscious, I still do not have cable and still watch the races using an antenna. I think that more people would watch NASCAR if it were more available to them on non-cable channels and that with a shorter season, it would be more appealing to newer audiences.
  • If you don’t qualify, you start from pit road
    • It should be if you don’t qualify you go home, but this is the next best thing.
  • Make the cars resemble more closely consumer roadworthy cars
    • Viewers, especially new ones, might be more inclined to want to “buy on Monday” if the cars resembled more what they could actually purchase.
    • I think NASCAR should mandate that in order to compete with a particular model of a car, manufacturers would have to produce at least 20 street legal versions of the car. This would mimic the rules the FIA implemented in the late 90’s for their GT cars. If Toyota wanted to race the Camry, there would have to be 20 V8, rear wheel drive, roll cage equipped, no back seats, street legal Camry’s on the road. This will start to help put the “Stock” back in the acronym. It would also start to produce a bunch of highly sought after collector vehicles which spurs interest in both racing and in the general consumer market
  • Create an easy to explain point system
    • It is getting easier, but if I can’t explain it to my wife in less than a minute, then it is still too hard. Racing should be very simple, you cross the line first you win. If points are needed then it should be simple to explain and calculate by an average, casual viewer/fan.
  • Have a digital connection element
    • In today’s digital age, younger potential fans are looking at screens. In order to engage them, some sort of digital element should be implemented. Whether that is some sort of driver digital ranking gets an extra point at the end of the race, or gets an extra lap back, something that fans can be on their phones and directly affect some sort of aspect about the race. (Think about those power boosters on arcade games. Drivers get a “boost of speed” from the viewers.)

I could go on and on about NASCAR and I might have more in-depth blogs later about the specific subjects highlighted in this post. If you want to hear more NASCAR talk, listen to Undisputed, hosted by myself and my friend Clay. It is a weekly show that recaps the latest race, comments on any of the latest news, and making picks for driver positions in the upcoming race. If you love NASCAR as much as we do, you will enjoy the show.

Jimmie Johnson’s Freaky Fast Forthcoming

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NASCAR has been a sore subject for many people in the last few years. While I have not been thrilled at every moment, I have not been disappointed. My approach and interest in the sport is far deeper and greater than the product produced on Sundays. For instance, the case of Jimmie Johnson.

Jimmie is a 7-time NASCAR champion that has won in many of the variables of point systems in the sport. His primary sponsorship for the last 18 years, his entire NASCAR career, has been Lowe’s. He has been with Hendrick Motorsports and has driven a Chevrolet his entire career. He has had a steadfast and loyal career for both he and all parties surrounding him.

However, earlier this year, news leaked that shocked the sport. Lowe’s would be ending their sponsorship of the number 48 car driven by Johnson. As if that has not been difficult enough to dwell on, Jimmie has not won a race yet this season and is currently 12th in points. This year has also shown the potential strain of having two rookie team mates to teach as well. His third team mate is only in his second year. There is not much experience to go by and all three might rely heavily on Jimmie’s experience, leaving no one for Jimmie to sharpen against. Lastly, for the 2018 season, Chevrolet introduced the Camaro body to replace the SS body. It is an amazing looking vehicle, but any new body style means new aerodynamics and handling. Jimmie and his crew chief, Chad Knaus, have been re-writing the notebook this year in almost every way, instead of referring to the notebook.

I will admit, I have not always been a fan of Jimmie. I used to think all he did was win and I used to prefer the rival sponsor Home Depot to his sponsor Lowe’s. For me, shopping weighs heavily on “which NASCAR team am I sponsoring when I buy here?” However, time has changed my view. I have grown to respect and appreciate Jimmie. He is a true champion. He is humble and calm and has not let success go to his head. He has statistics that rival or better drivers such as Richard Petty or Dale Earnhardt. Only this year have I really understood just how much Jimmie has done. I have incredible respect for him. He might not have the public’s or the fans’ true favor as the hall of fame company he has hard fought and rightfully gained status with. That to me is quite baffling.

All of that has me concerned that Jimmie might end up the way Matt Kenseth found himself at the end of the 2017 season. Matt was left with no sponsor, no ride, and not retired. He was simply left, in essence, jobless. While one can speculate as to how and why that happened for Matt, doesn’t it seem at all possible to speculate the same could happen to a 7-time champion? No sponsor at the end of the season, no wins yet currently in the season, 18 years in the sport, the oldest of the team, no experience to draw from, and a newer car that needs time to be dialed in, could be the recipe for a champions swift end in the sport. I am really hoping that is not the case.

Side note. My wife always asks me “Why doesn’t Jimmie Johnson drive the Jimmy John’s car?” There might be hope yet.

 

Automotive Thoughts and Topics 2

In the diecast part of my automotive passion, I have a follow up on the black and gold series of Hot Heels I mentioned in my last vlog/blog. There have been two pictures of two cars that have been displayed and they are nothing like how I imagined them looking. The 67 Camaro I predicted was not one of the cars. While I still don’t know if it will be, based on the color schemes of the cars that debuted, I am leaning towards a no. See for yourself below.

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In the real automotive world, I took a trip  a few weekends to my wife’s parents home in Maryland. My wife was a bridesmaid and because she had to be with the wedding party all day before the wedding, I spent time with her family. Her dad took me to see a friend of his who has a 1963 Ford Galaxie. He told me the story of the Tasca Ford badge he had on the car. I was not familiar with Tasca before, but the story he told me about their tuning of Ford vehicles had me riveted. I looked then up further when I got home and I was fascinated at their legacy and story. If I had a Ford product, (someday I will get my wife her dream car, a red convertible Mustang) I would certainly consider having Tasca tune it. If you are not familiar with them you can check out Tasca here.

If you have not heard, there is a very big scandal being exposed in the steel industry. A Japanese steel manufacturer and supplier, Kobe Steel, has been discovered to have lied about its steels strength. This could have catastrophic effects on the safety of automobiles, planes, and other people moving things. What I find fascinating about the whole situation is that this is really as common now as it ever has been. In my time on this planet I have seen the Firestone tire scandal, the Takata air bag scandal, the VW diesel scandal, and a host of others that just are not at the top of my mind. All that to say, eventually, it will all be in the history books and show up on lists like this in another 10 years.

Lastly, and this topic is actually the one I am most opinionated about this week, is the sponsorship of the Number 24 car in NASCAR for the 2018 season with William Byron behind the wheel. That sponsor is Liberty University. I am excited for the rookie driver to take his skills to the Monster Energy series. I have nothing against William, Hendrick, or Chevrolet (how about those Camaro’s for 2018?). I actually don’t have anything against Liberty University either. It is a great school. My cousin graduated from there and I have known many people who have attended and graduated.

The truth is that I am a bit sore, maybe jealous, that they are sponsoring a NASCAR team. You see, I attended Regent University. It is known to those who are familiar with either of these universities, or the culture that surrounds them, that Regent and Liberty are rivals. In recent years, Liberty has been leaving Regent in the dust in just about every way from a collegiate standpoint. Beyond academia, their promoting power is extensive, and it became very real to me when they are going to be a full time sponsor for a NASCAR team in the highest series. I am not sure of the complete budget, but based on this article here, in 2013, a primary sponsorship could cost anywhere from $5 million to $35 million. An associate sponsorship is anywhere from $250,000 to $2 million. That was in 2013. That means, Liberty University is shelling out, at minimum of $250,000. To be honest, we all know that it is MUCH higher than that. Liberty is sponsoring one of the most iconic numbers with one of the most successful teams, with one of the brightest rookie drivers in the sport.

The fact that Liberty has that much money in their advertising budget, or any budget, is INCREDIBLE. They must be doing incredibly well. My alma mater can barely house their student population, they have no cafeteria, no gym for their newly formed soccer team to train in, or really any other facility to provide for all the things on campus students need. To build those, Regent has to have money. Regent can barely provide for the needs of students and here Liberty is able to sponsor a NASCAR team. Gosh…I wish I could say the college I went to sponsors a NASCAR team. I so wish I could. Oh well. I will be rooting for William in the number 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro. I will be rooting for him to win and to have as much success as he can. I want him to win because the whole story situation is just awesome.

It is like any other rivalry, where you have someone in your camp, that really isn’t for your side at all. It is comparable to living in either Ohio or Michigan and rooting for the opposite states college football team. I will gladly root for Regents rival in NASCAR, because I like NASCAR. But I will NEVER root for the team up north. Go Bucks!

Automotive Thoughts and Topics 1

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I would like to share a few quick thoughts about the real life automotive world and the die-cast world.

First up, they have more confirmed reports that the new C8 Corvette will be mid-engine. I am in full support of that. I wrote a blog about it back on March 10, 2010. I think they should have waited until now to bring back the Sting Ray name plate, though. They should do some sort of split rear window with a mid-engine car in tribute to the 1963 Corvette. However, I do think that giving it the “Zora” name is legacy appropriate and a fitting nameplate for the car.

Second, electric cars and trucks have been around for a long time. I have some doubts about the Tesla semi. Will it happen, yes. When, I don’t know. I would place a stronger chance on the news that Dyson, yes the vacuum maker, will at least have their concept electric car on the road before a Tesla semi hits the road. This should be a whole blog entirely.

In the die-cast world, Hot Wheels has their 50th anniversary in 2018. That is the golden anniversary. They are set to come out with a 50th anniversary black and gold theme set of cars. I think they teased one of the cars that will be in that set in their recent “The Drive” commercial. It is a gold 67 Camaro with black accents. I think that will be one of the cars, along with the Gas Monkey Corvette from last year. They will just spruce it up with black accents.

My dad found the whole set of Forza cars that were just released exclusively to Walmart. I really appreciate him finding and buying those for me. He was unable to find the chase car. I won’t be able to un-box those for you until I get them because he is a few states away and I am not sure when I will get them. However, I’ll be on the hunt for the chase car.

I found the last four cars of the Target exclusive Retro Style Series. My wife was able to find Turbine Time behind a Hot Wheels play set on the shelf. I am glad she looked! I was also able to find the last 3 remaining Red series Target cars as well. I am only missing the 55 Chevy Gasser from the first set released this year.

I am writing down some goals for All Out Octane for 2018 and I am excited to try to put them into a reality. I appreciate all your support. Thank you so much for your time and consideration as I share my hobby and passion for automobiles with you.

Hot Wheels Kmart Day

 

Last Saturday my wife and I went to a Hot Wheel Kmart collector day. While we are no strangers to these events, the location we went to was new for us. With fewer and fewer Kmarts in existence, these events are becoming rare.

A Hot Wheel collectors day consists of waking up early and heading to the store to get there when it opens. I am so thankful that my wife is such a a good sport and so supportive of my hobby. We got to the store at 8 and realized that the event started at 9. We talked to a few of the other regular attendees while we waited. We finally asked for names, contact info, and even figured out we go to the same church as one collector.

At 9 o’clock the Kmart employees came out with 3 boxes of cars. Each box contains 4 cases. That means there are 12 cases to go through. There were 15 people at the event. So, that means three people will not get a case to go through. Each Kmart does a different method of getting to go through the cases. This particular one, each attendee gets a ticket. When/if your ticket gets drawn, you go to a table to pick up the case they hand you. You then can go through it at your leasiure and choose as many cars as you want. I have been to other locations where when your ticket is called, you go up, pick a case, and have five minutes to pick out five cars while everyone else watches and waits. That to me always seemed a little strange, but in some regard, it makes your really think hard about what cars you are choosing.

The cars to choose are normally in this order; super treasure hunts (if your case is lucky enough to have one), regular treasure hunts, Kmart exclusive colors (a car in a color that can only be found and purchased at Kmart), and the first to market cars (these are cars that are supposed to be found at this event first, before hitting the pegs at all other stores). Sometimes the first to market cars happen to show up in other stores first and makes their allure less appealing. Then you pick out the latest and greatest to your desire. If people are friendly, which I have always been to an event where they are, everyone helps one another out to find cars that each one is looking for. Of course this is all in mutual respect and understanding of the hobby and of one another’s preference to keep a car or case. That is their decision and that is respected.

One of the last things to consider is how many cars to purchase. The reason for this factor is because these events debut a mail in offer car. That means if you purchase 20 cars, and mail in their packages, Hot Wheels will send you a special car. More often than not, you will not open a super treasure hunt to send away in the mail because it is worth more than just the initial $1 you paid for it because it is very rare. Other times, you might not want to open the exclusive color cars, or first to markets. However if you want the mail in, you have to find cars that you want to open. In years past, I have purchased well over 40 cars at these events. This event, I walked away with 23 cars. I did not find any treasure hunts or super treasure hunts. The guys at the old location we used to go to, they always told me my wife was lucky because the first event she ever went to, she found a super treasure hunt. She then found one at her second event. Unfortunately, at this event she did not even get a case. That was the first time she had never been called for a case. I guess she is a full blown veteran now, experiencing the highs and lows of Hot Wheel collecting.

I want to thank her for all her support and love. She took great pictures of me at the event. You can see them in the video posted above. I also want to thank my broth r for creating the music for the video. He is crazy musically inclined and I appreciate his help in creating royalty free, amazing music for me.