Archive for the PAPA Category

Quick Visit: 2019 Ferrari Club of America (FCA) Meet in Scottsdale, Arizona

Posted in Arizona, Car Show, NSX, PAPA on November 7, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (NSX):  116,205

You want to know how high-class the Ferrari Club of America is?  They have jewelry for sale at their meets.  I kid you not!  I showed up on Wednesday evening to the Scottsdale Doubletree hotel, home base for this year’s massive 300-car club gathering, and took a stroll through the reception hall.  The whole place felt like it was on another level: wine bar, hors d’oeuvres (I always love spelling that), and yes – the finest of necklaces & rings for your perusal.

I was tempted to take the NSX to the meet-up, but I didn’t.  This was a party for the Italians only.  Peter Volny, fellow Phoenix Automotive Press Association member, was one of the key leaders orchestrating this stampede of sportscars.  His team developed a comprehensive website outlining the day-to-day details, which consisted of all the customary ingredients for a quality meeting of ‘car people’:  Plenty of food, driving opportunities, a show (‘concours’ is the proper term in this caliber of club), and performance driving opportunities at the track.  For the track portion, the Ferrari club went to Apex Motor Club which you’ll remember from a recent blog post.

I took a stroll around the property including the “Ferrari Parking Only” section toward the rear.  The cars ranged in age, configuration, and color in a wide variety.  I’m certain many of them held a market value at or beyond the price of my home.  Several of them were covered up – presumably to keep them from being slobbered on by people like me.  Perhaps my favorite feature of any car there was the “BUELER” plate on this ride.  You’ll recall that the famous movie car from the classic 1986 film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” was a 1961 Ferrari 250GT California.

I liked this one particularly, and not necessarily because of its color or condition, but because it had bugs on the front end.  I get the feeling a lot of attendees – especially those from more than a couple hundred miles away – had their vehicles transported to the event in bubble-wrapped, fully-enclosed, climate-controlled shipping containers.  This owner put his Ferrari to use as it was meant to be.

This morning, I visited the Scottsdale Sports Complex where the concours was being held.  Judges wore matching yellow shirts and readily identifiable badges on their lanyards.  It was clear they took their jobs very seriously.  Notice they even opened up the gas door here for closer inspection.  Funny enough, we do that during the judging portion at Legend meets, but usually only when a tie-breaker is needed between two exceptionally clean cars.

This year’s FCA meet is reportedly the second-largest in the club’s history:  It’s surpassed in size only by the 2015 event which was held in conjunction with Monterey Car Week.  I am sure I’ll be seeing a few more ‘raris than usual on my day-to-day travels through the end of the event this coming Sunday morning.  Maybe I’ll even sneak my way into the lineup with my Japanese imposter.

The Doubletree is swarmed in high class cars

No shortage of color out here

I think this might have been my favorite shade

So 1980s I love it.

I drove a car similar to these owned by my friend Greg recently.

And the obligatory NSX picture for this post.  Notice, I found a convertible Crown Victoria at the gas station.

‘Legends of Speed’ Phoenix Art Museum Exhibit & ‘Hard Parking’ Podcast Feature

Posted in Legend, PAPA on November 4, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  572,202

There’s a new exhibit in town at the Phoenix Art Museum.  It’s called Legends of Speed.  Sounds right up my alley, right?  And in coincidental timing, I hosted a meeting of Legends at my house this weekend, too.  They aren’t very speedy.  We’re lucky they’re even still on the road at this age.

A friend was in town from Alberta with a drone that’s worth more than most of my cars.  He put it to use on Sunday flying high above Uptown Phoenix to capture a few photographs of my property.  I’ve become accustomed to the fact that neighbors get to see this kind of spectacle on a regular basis.

In attendance at the meet-up was a trio of rare Cayman White Pearl 1995 LS coupes owned by Branson, Travis, and John.  CWP was a one-year-only color for the last model year of the Legend.  The car pictured in the middle received an engine transplant within the last couple of weeks and is on its road to restoration.  Isn’t it hard to believe that a 1995 model is now 25 years old?

Opened 60 years ago, the Phoenix Art Museum welcomes about 350,000 guests annually.  The new ‘Legends’ exhibit marks only the second time that a major exhibit in the Museum has focused on automotive art.  The first was “Curves of Steel” in 2007.  From now through mid-March 2020, attendees can visit Legends of Speed in the Steele Gallery at the facility on Central Avenue & McDowell Road in central Phoenix.  The exhibit is comprised of over 20 significant and historic racecars.  Each one was carefully curated for a specific reason and is shown with supporting informational placards.

This one is particularly important in racing history.  It’s a 1968 Ford GT40 that won the 24 Hours of Lemans race two times – in 1968 and again in 1969.  It made 331 laps averaging 115 miles per hour.  Makes me dizzy just thinking about it.

Another of the cars was a 1911 Franklin that was driven in the Cactus Derby – an off-road race from Los Angeles to Phoenix from many years before an interstate freeway linked the two cities.  I can’t imagine making that then-542-mile route in a primitive car like that on entirely dirt pathways.  It took driver Ralph Hamlin about 16 hours to do it.

It was also special for me to see this green 1929 Bugatti Type 35.  It was driven by Hellé Nice, the first Woman’s Grand Prix winner.  In 2016, I had the opportunity to interview Miranda Seymour who wrote a book called The Bugatti Queen all about Nice.  Note that the stick shift for that car is located outside the passenger compartment, and right next to the brake lever.  Be careful which one you grab.

One of my fellow journalists at the press preview asked the question, “What’s the collective value of all the cars on display here?”  Without skipping a beat, our guide grinned and said, “We don’t place a value on art.”  Check out the intro page to the exhibit which includes a short video and check out the cars if you’re in the area over the next few months.  Adult admission is $23.  Below are a few more photos of my Legendary meet up and this legendary exhibit.

If you have time, check out this hour+ long podcast that I was featured on recently with my friend Jhae who hosts “Hard Parking,” featured on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

Link here

And finally, I realized that today is the 8-year anniversary of the day I rolled 500,000 miles at a red-carpet party in Torrance, California.  So it took me 8 years to drive 72,000 miles, which means the car gets driven exactly 9,000 miles per year – about 1/5th what it used to drive when it was my sole/daily driver.  Throwback vid:

Test Drive Friday: 2019 Southwest Lifestyle Media Drive – Chandler, Arizona

Posted in PAPA, Vehicle Reviews on October 25, 2019 by tysonhugie

This past Friday was sweet.  And not just because of the sugar cookies.

One of the best benefits of being affiliated with a local automotive media community is the chance to get behind the wheel of new vehicles each year to see how & where the industry is evolving.  You may recall my prior involvement with a program called the Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year (ALV) starting in 2012.  ALV eventually evolved into a broader scope – focusing not only on certain types of vehicles but rather exposing journalists to a little bit of everything.  It was phased out after 2017.

The Southwest Lifestyle Media Drive was then launched in 2018 to better align the Phoenix area press event with the key stakeholders, the vehicles in consideration, and the brilliant landscape that many of us call home.  And instead of being a formal road test or evaluation event, it’s a no-strings-attached opportunity to put vehicles through their paces without worrying about needing to tally up scores in a mountain of paperwork after the fact.  I like the evolution that this event has taken.

The host venue for this year’s activity was the Crowne Plaza San Marcos in Chandler, Arizona.  It’s a historic and hospitable place to begin with, but it also at a crossroads of some great driving opportunities in both urban and freeway settings.  Event Director Becky Antioco stated that there were 13 vehicles available to experience, and over the course of the day I was able to experience several.

The standout vehicle for me – and I never thought I’d say this – was a 2020 Toyota Camry with special “TRD” (Toyota Racing Development) add-ons.  A Camry with sporting aspirations?  Unheard of.  But all it takes is one look at the aero treatment, the custom interior, and the stunning color to know that this Camry is a little something special.  I ran it through the gears (8-speed automatic, of course) in a spirited launch up the Loop 202 onramp and enjoyed the 301-horsepower V6’s exhaust note.

The surprise came when I pulled up the monroney spec sheet and realized it’s priced at $32,920.  That’s some serious sticker shock in a positive way instead of a negative way.

One of the media drive’s main sponsors this year was Nissan.  A product representative gave us a walk-around of the Versa “SV” – an impressively equipped sedan for its $14k-21k price point.  Back in the day, the big competition was in the number of cup holders a vehicle had.  Today, it’s all about the tech, and the Versa has 3 USB ports.  It also has fancy things like “rear door alert,” to audibly notify the driver a reminder that they’ve put something in the back seat if the doors are opened in a certain sequence before starting a drive.  Innovation at work!

Another vehicle that stood out to me was the latest Ram.  The tailgate opens via the conventional method, but has also has a trick up its sleeve:  You can open it down the middle like a set of barn doors, too.  Think of the versatility here – especially if (as in our test truck) your pickup has a tonneau cover securing valuables being hauled in the bed.  I like it.

Thanks to the SW Lifestyle planning team and to all the manufacturers who put the event together!

Modified Minivan Manufacturing: Vantage Mobility International (VMI) Factory Tour

Posted in PAPA on September 23, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  566,562

Do you have a friend or family member who uses a wheelchair?  Having been a part of the broader automotive community for over 20 years and in the Phoenix region specifically for over 10, I was surprised to learn recently that one local Arizona company is an industry leader in mobility for folks with disabilities.  It’s a place called Vantage Mobility International (VMI).

Ever since the original Chrysler minivan debuted in 1987 – and even a bit prior – the founders of VMI have tasked themselves with customizing vehicles to make them wheelchair friendly.  The WAV, or Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle, industry has since become a large and important part of the automotive world that I hadn’t ever really thought about until I visiting VMI.  It’s estimated that there are around 30,000 new WAVs sold across the nation each year, from a variety of manufacturers.

Organization leaders and public relations representatives from VMI took me and a handful of other members of the Phoenix Automotive Press Association (PAPA) on a guided tour of the facility in Phoenix.  Our guide through the manufacturing & assembly line areas was named Brian, and he introduced us to the step-by-step process by which a new minivan – straight from Toyota, Chrysler, or Honda, usually – goes through a complete transformation.

Safety first!  Fluorescent vests & goggles – check.

What starts as a cookie-cutter family hauler gets stripped down to basically just a shell.  The floor is lowered 10″ or more via installation of a new frame.  Precision welds are made where the doors are extended, the ramp is installed, and the engine is dropped so that the vehicle’s center of gravity and sense of balance still remains largely the same.  It takes about 2.5 days from start to finish for the conversion to take place and there are about 200 colleagues making it all happen.

Because of the vast number of unique needs that WAV customers have, the vehicles themselves are also heavily customizable.  Some vans even have the ability to “kneel,” like city buses, to lower the angle of the ramp and make for easier ride-up.  There are features available like an integrated remote for quick stow / deploy conversion functionality, power sliding doors, flexible seating configurations, and rust-mitigation coatings on all steel components.  A van that’s intended to be driven by a caregiver, for example, will need to be set up differently than one that will be operated by someone who is in a wheelchair.

One of the great things about VMI’s customization work is that any factory warranties on the vehicles from the manufacturer still apply.  VMI has such a great relationship with the automakers, in fact, that its engineers are invited to take part in the design discussions when new models are undergoing development.  VMI’s Phoenix facility distributes its vans to dealerships only, but its Atlanta operation sells converted vans directly to end users.

The leadership & executive teams at VMI are all mostly new to the organization – within about the last 3 years – and they are all passionate about what they do.  There is a huge opportunity and a need to enable the great numbers of people around the country who have mobility challenges.  The more the VMI team can do to make readily-available solutions for those needs, the happier they’ll be.  I greatly appreciated the chance to have a look around the facility!

ILX 7-Year Anniversary: PAPA Visit to Apex Motor Club – Maricopa, Arizona

Posted in Arizona, Milestones, PAPA, Racing on June 16, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  215,000

About 45 minutes from my house is an automotive playground called Apex Motor Club.  Designed with the idea of becoming the “premier motorsports club of the southwest,” Apex was co-founded by entrepreneur and automotive enthusiast Matt Williams.  Matt graciously invited a handful of members of the Phoenix Automotive Press Association (PAPA) to attend a media program on Wednesday morning, June 12, designed to give journalists a glimpse of exactly what the facility currently offers – and will offer in the future.

The heart of Apex is its 2.2-mile track, part of “phase 1” of three phases of expansion that the facility will undergo in the coming years.  The track itself offers something for pretty much any skill level.  I experienced it from a beginner’s perspective in a series of parade laps that got my blood pumping.  If a “parade lap” can do that, imagine what kind of full-on competitive racing could do.  Matt and his team welcomed us with an introduction to the history and the infrastructure.  Apex is located in Maricopa, Arizona, a small community on the outskirts of the greater Phoenix area.

Today, the amenities are relatively scarce aside from a shade pavilion and some portable toilets.  But there are plans in the works to build a clubhouse, restaurant/bar, pro shop, and private garages on the property.  Considering the entire project just broke ground less than a year ago, there has already been some impressive momentum.  Over 100 memberships have already been sold.

The highlight of my trip was when journalists were invites to experience the track firsthand.  I was sandwiched between a Corvette and a Porsche, and we followed a Camaro pilot car.  My little ILX felt understandably a little out of place.  But for each of the 5 successive laps, I got a little more confident in not only the layout of the track but in how to best control my vehicle.  For a “parade” lap it was a pretty spirited experience, and I can confidently say I left plenty of tire tread – and probably a good deal of my brake rotor lifespan – out on the track.  I definitely had a grin on my face when it was all said and done.

In a fitting conclusion to the trip, my 2013 ILX rolled 215,000 miles on the way back to Phoenix – perfect timing since that day was the 7-year anniversary of the day I first took ownership in 2012.

Entry to Apex in Maricopa

Some of the Apex-branded vehicles on-site

Staging area for vehicles

Getting our introduction to the lay of the land

Brittany from Apex, and Matt Ferguson from Barrett-Jackson

Some of the Apex team including co-founder Matt Williams (second from left)

Track tour in a Ford Raptor pickup

Entry to the 2.2-mile course in the ILX

This wasn’t my ILX’s first time on a track.  In 2012 I drove it on the high speed oval at Nissan’s proving ground.

Phoenix Automotive Press Association Event: Gladiators & RAMs

Posted in PAPA, Vehicle Reviews on May 19, 2019 by tysonhugie

It’s always a special treat when I get an invitation to road test the latest in automotive offerings because I spend such a good chunk of time driving vehicles that are “old school.”  Whether we want to accept it or not, the year 2020 is just around the corner and even though the year “sounds” so far in the future, it’s nearly upon us.

Technology has come a long way:  The electronic capabilities of a vehicle have gone far beyond the AM/FM cassette tape decks of yesteryear and evolved into navigation systems, self-driving aids, driver assistance / safety features, and much more.  Gadgets and gizmos are everywhere to be found, and some are easy to figure out while others require a bit more of a learning curve.  The owner’s manual of one of the RAM pickups that I drove on Thursday was 700 pages long.

Fiat-Chrysler representative Scott Brown and a few others from his team hosted some members of the Phoenix Automotive Press Association (PAPA) for a ride-and-drive event in Paradise Valley, Arizona to showcase some of the latest from the brand.  One featured vehicle was a new-for-2020 Jeep Gladiator pickup truck, answering the question “Why can’t I have a Jeep and a truck at the same time?”  I guess we can call it a Juck, or a Treep.  Either way, I loved it.

The Gladiator that I drove was powered by a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine coupled with a 6-speed manual transmission.  You read me right, a real honest-to-goodness shifter and a clutch pedal – and that was my favorite thing about it.  The ability to be in complete control of the vehicle gave me a great deal of confidence when cruising around the drive loops in Paradise Valley, even if not being able to adequately experience any of its go-anywhere / off-road capabilities.  As the only open-air truck on the market, Gladiator puts its occupants out in nature where many of them want to be.  The windshield even folds flat just like the traditional Wrangler.

Also available for demo were a handful of pickup trucks, all the way up to a RAM 3500 Laramie Longhorn which offers luxury car amenities on a vehicle that boasts enough power to pull a house off its foundation and drag it around the block.  It’s no mystery that RAM’s formula is getting something “right” – in 2018, the company sold over 600,000 trucks and RAM is #1 in the heavy duty segment with 40% of overall market share.  Here again we see RAM leading the pack in tech:  auto-tailgates, trailer towing packages, auxiliary cameras, and even power convex mirrors are among some of the features that can be equipped on these trucks.

When Motor Trend named RAM 1500 the truck of the year for 2019, the voting was unanimous.  Scott pointed out that it was the first time the answer has been so cut & dry.  After sampling some of RAM’s offerings, I can definitely see the allure.

Thanks to Scott and the rest of the FCA team for the hospitality!

Our host venue

Gladiator interior

This Gladiator was headed to the “Overland Expo” in Flagstaff, equipped with all sorts of custom features

Sticker on on the ‘Overland’ Gladiator concept

Detail on stitching on one oft he RAM pickup door panels

Power Wagon, and it does have plenty of power.  Some of these trucks have torque figures of 1,000 lb-ft.

The underside of the center console has a mathematics reference grid, including the Pythagorean Theorem.  Gotta love all the “Easter Eggs” that manufacturers sometimes hide for us to find!

Thanks Scott!

Gas Guzzling Gone: Electrified Transportation Debut at “Nikola World” 2019

Posted in PAPA on April 18, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  565,345

On Wednesday morning, I took one of my 25-year-old Acuras to have its emissions checked, just like I had done 5 times prior – every couple of years since 2008 when I first bought it.  The numbers looked good, I paid $17 and received my certificate, and went on my way.

I’m now good to register for another 2 years in that car, now with over 160,000 miles on the odometer.  But after seeing a presentation earlier this week on alternative fuel – hydrogen / electric – vehicles, it made me start questioning the future of my my old gas-burners.

And what about my trusty Legend coupe with 565,000 miles on the odometer?  Even if it achieved the 26 mpg highway rating its entire life, it has burned 21,730 gallons of gas.  Chew on that for a minute!

We are living in an era when electrified transportation is catching on like wildfire.  There are electric cars that can outperform traditional supercars and muscle cars by quite a margin.  Advancements in battery life and corresponding range capability have opened the doors to many people who previously might not have ever considered shifting away from driving a vehicle with an internal combustion engine.

A company at the forefront of that shift in mindset is called Nikola Motors, and if you haven’t heard of it by now, you will soon.  Nikola has already taken deposits on $14 billion worth of semi trucks that are hydrogen & electric powered.  Clients like Anheuser-Busch, CAT, and Ryder have already pledged their intent to do business with Nikola, and the company is about to break ground on a new manufacturing facility here in Arizona that will employ 2,000 people and start cranking out trucks by 2021 or 2022.

Nikola’s product lineup, I learned, goes far beyond the big rigs.  A huge launch/media event at WestWorld in Scottsdale gave me, as well as about 70 other journalists and 2,000 other spectators, a first look at a few of the products that Nikola has been working on behind the scenes for the last few years, since the Salt Lake City-based startup began to pick up momentum.  Its CEO, Trevor Milton, took the stage and shared his passion for transportation innovation that has led him to this point.  “The world is ready,” he said.

I was seated in the 4th row back in the Media section soaking it all in.  Arizona governor Doug Ducey and other notable stakeholders in the initiative were present and expressed comments on why they support Nikola and its objectives.  Solar energy will power the manufacturing facility, and zero-emission transportation is just one of many things that people in Arizona and elsewhere will preserve the nature of our landscape for future generations.  I found it especially interesting to be introduced to some of the products we’ll see hit the streets and trails in the coming years.

The first was an all-terrain vehicle called the Reckless, which, unlike other side-by-side ATVs or UTVs in the powersports community, will be be fully electric — designed for use in military operations when stealthy movement is critical.  It can also be fully submerged, driven via remote control, and contains a landing pad for a drone at the tail end.  Another was the NZT, pictured above, which is a fully enclosed side-by-side for off-road use that provides full HVAC control as well as isolation from dusty trails.

Jordan Darling, VP of the Powersports arm of Nikola, discussed the merits of the company’s “Water Adventure Vehicle,” or WAV.  It looks like a traditional waverunner, but of course, it’s electric.  Imagine being able to access parts of our waterways and lakes that are currently forbidden to watercraft with internal combustion engines.  And did I mention it also has cruise control?  The design itself was inspired by super bikes.

And lastly, we got a look at two of the big rigs that Nikola has pioneered:  Its “Two” and “Tre.”  Both are said to outperform traditional diesel heavy haulers by a landslide (“2 to 3 times faster” we were told) and offer a suite of comfort and safety amenities that are industry firsts.  They are controlled from the driver’s seat via large flat screen panels on the interior, and due to having no engine nor transmission tunnel, offer expansive space within the cabin.  Anheuser-Busch has already puts its name down for 800 trucks.  Today, its current fleet travels over 350 million miles per year.

I’m anxious to see where this technology goes and to be honest, even though I’m a die hard for my old-school automotive technology, it’s fun to be living in an era where we have the capability to take our transportation to the next level.  I wonder how the staffers at the Arizona emissions check station would react if I showed up in an electric vehicle?  Sounds like a good opportunity for a hidden cam prank.

Thanks to the Nikola team for the invitation!  Here is a short video and a few photos below.

A gal on my shuttle bus to the venue clearly was a little behind the tech times, and I can’t help but say I was a little jealous.  Flip phones remind me of simpler times.

Refreshments being served prior to the product launch reveal program.

There were 45 countries represented at the event.  I was probably one of only a handful of people who only had to drive about 15 minutes to be there.

Nikola’s message about preservation and sustainability was well presented.

Nikola’s “Tre” will be a Europe-only truck.