My, err, my daughter’s Pinewood Derby racer is done!

Kamil Kaluski February 26, 2018 All Things Hoon

Some time ago I asked you hoons about Pinewood Derby race cars. I was deprived as a child, so I never got to do anything like that. I read all your comments and googled most of the internet extensively. Some advice was good, some was great, and some just totally wrong. Serves me right for asking.

The outcome of all this research, drawings, designs, cutting, painting, attaching, polishing, weighting is pictured above. We had three designs: a limo, a pickup truck, and a Porsche 911. We nixed the limo right away. I wanted to do the pickup because I made it aerodynamic and I could have easily placed all kind of weight in the bed, over the rear wheels. But no, my daughter wanted fancy not redneck, so it was the Porsche 911.

Several issues came up right away. First, the guy at the hardware store who was doing the cutting for all of the Girl Scout team (I don’t have a decent saw), could only do straight cuts. Crap, that means no iconic headlights and no iconic whale tail. I quickly decided that we should go with a slant-nose and typical non-spoiler rear. In order to cut down on weight and reduce the center of gravity, we decided on a cabriolet model.

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The Grand Tour makes you wanna do outdoorsy stuff!

Kamil Kaluski February 23, 2018 TV Shows

I get several dozen press release emails per day. Most bloggers/bloogers/writers get a lot more, I just don’t subscribe to them. I glance at them and delete 90% of them. I respond to some, usually asking for more information, only to never get a response. And then there are a few that surprise me, such as this one:

Hi Kamil,

Has a show or movie ever energized you to seek adventure beyond the screen? The Grand Tour, a Prime Original that follows three intrepid former car journalists on their high speed escapades around the world, has attracted fans ready to hit the road for their own adrenaline fueled adventures. Amazon uncovered a few fun facts about Prime members who have streamed The Grand Tour, and we’re spreading the word on where to get inspiration for your next trip to the great outdoors. These trends were obtained by comparing the purchase behavior of a sample of 100K Grand Tour viewers on Amazon to that of 100K Non-Grand Tour viewers.

Amazon learned Grand Tour viewers are more likely to seek extreme outdoor hobbies and live in areas known for adventure in the great outdoors than those Prime members who haven’t streamed the show yet. In 2017, Grand Tour viewers spent 24% more in Amazon’s Sports & Outdoor store than an average non-Grand Tour viewer. And these Grand Tour viewers are not just novices of the outdoors; they purchased more brands for top outdoor athletes and serious outdoor enthusiasts including GoPro, Black Diamond, Osprey, Patagonia and Thule than did non-Grand Tour viewers. The largest percentage differences in spend on outdoor equipment between Grand Tour viewers and non-Grand Tour viewers were on cycling gear (53%), rock climbing gear (45%) and skiing and snowboarding gear (44%).

It is no surprise Grand Tour viewers in the US are living in places that are known as gateways to adventure. Washington – home of Mt. Rainier, Olympic National Park and neighbor to the Pacific Ocean, and Colorado – land of the Rocky Mountains and Mesa Verde National Park, had the highest number of Grand Tour season two viewers per capita in the US. These states have an abundance of activities for those seeking an outdoor and adventurous lifestyle.

Grand Tour viewers are more likely to drive cars that are compact and adventure-ready and steer clear of the family cars. When purchasing automobile parts in Amazon’s Automotive store, customers can add information about their current car to the Amazon Garage for shopping parts and accessories designed specifically for that vehicle. The Subaru Impreza was the top car model that was more likely to be added to a Grand Tour viewer’s garage than a Non-Grand Tour viewer’s in 2017.

If you have been looking for motivation to dust off your bike, climb a new route, wax your skis or take the family camping, check out The Grand Tour for some adventure inspiration and see you in the great outdoors!


So, first off, Amazon, like the NSA and Facebook, watch your online adventures very carefully. Don’t bother with the tin hat, if you’re that paranoid then just remove the internet from your life. 

Second of all, look at all you outdoorsy Colorado Subaru-driving types! Those of you that have been to Colorado know that basically everyone drives a Subaru or a Toyota body-on-frame vehicle of some kind. I’m assuming that Amazon does not really know the difference between Impreza and WRX, but that’s fine. Light-up, stream your show, and drive your Impreza, Impretza as Clarkson calls it, and do something EXTREME!!!

Personally, my inspiration from the show has always been to drive some kind of a super luxury coupe from a fancy hotel in Paris to the Amalfi Coast while listing to Margret Thatcher speeches. 

I’d just like to add that the second season of The Grand Tour was so much better than first. That Audi versus Lancia segment was some of Clarkson’s best work to day. Good job, Amazon! 

Review: 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk – The Best Hellcat?

Great news! Sports cars are not dead! You can enjoy them on a summer day or a drive down a twisty mountain road. They make great rewarding track cars, too. And you will certainly look cool driving around town in your mid-engine machine.

But if you’re looking for fast, like real-deal street fast, the answer comes from an unlikely place – Jeep!

Yup, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. For those not paying attention, the Trackhawk is a Grand Cherokee based on the SRT model but with the 707-horsepower engine from the Challenger/Charger Hellcat twins under its hood. And, unlike on those twins, that engine sends all that power to all four wheels.

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Temporary Solution to Buggy UConnect Update

Kamil Kaluski February 13, 2018 Featured, Jeep Reviews

Yesterday, the walking obscure car encyclopedia of man, Jason Torchinsky at Jalopnik, reported about an over-the-air update to FCA’s UConnect system. The update went out on Friday, right before all the FCA software engineers packed-up and left the office for the weekend. Unfortunately the forced update introduced an amazingly annoying bug into many of the newer vehicles – the whole UConnect infotainment system would reboot approximately every minute. 

This is a big issue because the UConnect system is more than just a radio. The touchscreen controls audio sources, phone and other Bluetooth connections, climate system, navigation, and even heated seats. Most importantly, the backup camera image is displayed on that screen. When the system is in the process of being rebooted none of that works. Once it’s finally up and running, everything can be accessed but for less than a minute, until the vicious reboot cycle starts up again. 

I currently happen to be reviewing Jeep’s amazing 707-horsepower Grand Cherokee Trackhawk which received this update. Like on so many other vehicles, this Jeep has the rebooting problem. Let me tell ya, it is extremely annoying, even on this ridiculously powerful and fun-to-drive vehicle. The system gets stuck while changing Sirius radio stations. Using Apple CarPlay is pretty much impossible. USB ports lose power, and obviously connection, when the system is rebooting. The biggest problem I have noticed is backing up, as the camera simply does not display during the reversing process. We all have come rely on these as the rear visibility in many new cars isn’t great, so this is a safety issue. 

But there is a solution…

UPDATE: FCA pushed a new update. The system no longer reboots itself but the SiriusXM Travel Link no longer works, upsetting the three people who actually used it. 

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Top Gear season 25 premieres on March 3rd

Kamil Kaluski February 8, 2018 Top Gear

After some teasing (one, two), BBC America finally announced the date for the premiere of Top Gear season 25. Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris, Rory Reid, and The Stig will come at you on Saturday, March 3 at 10:30pm EST, on BBC America. But it gets better, the following day, Sunday March 4, Top Gear will air its second episode in its regular weekly time slot, Sundays at 8:00pm. 

Because teasing is what they do, another quick video previewing the upcoming season was shown. I personally liked last season quite a lot, so I have high expectations for this. 

Quick Spin: 2018 Dodge Challenger GT All-Wheel Drive

Last year, when the all-wheel-drive Dodge Challenger was first launched, the good folks at FCA invited me to snow-covered race track to hoon that thing. And the damn thing proved to be shockingly good in snow, even with stock all-season tires on. It went, it stopped, and it turned while wagging its huge butt around course.

But outside of the track, there was no snow that day. It was January’s warm spell that lasted exactly for the week that Dodge was showing its first AWD pony car to the press. And, to be honest, I am always a bit skeptical about how a vehicle I have never driven before behaves on a track that was purposely set up for me to drive on. I’ve seen cute ‘utes do the three-wheel motion on big dirt mound only to be sliding all over the place in a trace of snow.

But now, I year later, I get to drive this big all-wheel-drive boat on a snowy day…

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Ford teases the new Ranger Raptor

Kamil Kaluski February 7, 2018 The News!

The Ford Ranger was just recently introduced at the Detroit auto show, but Ford is already, and rightfully, teasing us with a Raptor version. And I mean teasing us, because right away they say that this 2-liter diesel-powered Raptor isn’t for the North American market. Whut!?

Put your torches and pitch forks down for a second. Ford showed the Ranger to the rest of the world before showing us to its home market, first. And that strategy makes sense because why introduce a product in its biggest market first, right?

Wait. No, it doesn’t make sense. What makes sense is the marketing. They will tease us with it for a bit, create some hype, and then unveil it at some auto show in all its glory.

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If luxury and performance brands made vans…

Kamil Kaluski February 5, 2018 All Things Hoon

There used to be a time when luxury vehicles were pretty much nothing but large sedans or equally large coupes. Those days are over. Today even Bentley and Lamborghini have SUVs and Rolls-Royce will have one soon. Mercedes-Benz has two SUVs that cost over $100,000 and go beyond $200,000. If your budget is slightly lower, say between $70,000 and $90,000 there are more SUVs available than I can name here.

But it gets crazier! The new luxury vehicle trend is… pickup trucks. A loaded Ford F150 has massaging ventilated seats, a panoramic sunroof, and an engine from the Ford GT (close enough). The huge F-450 with all the bells and whistles stickers around $100,000 and has more room than some Maybach driven by a Wall Street wanker. The world has gone nuts. 

But there is one area of the market that’s hasn’t been explored – luxury cargo vans! And my luxury, I mean branded by luxury brands such as Lexus, Audi, Porsche, or Alfa Romeo, parent companies of which already offer basic vans. 

Aksyonov Nikita, a Russian graphic artist from Saint Petersburg, sees that market heading in that direction. And let’s be honest, vans are more functional and more comfortable than SUVs or pickup. He is a step ahead of OEM designers with a few amazing van concepts. Let’s take a look…

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Encyclopedia Hoonatica: Bigger Numbers are Smaller Cars

In the days of alphanumeric vehicle names, automakers typically setup their model lineup so that the bigger number represents the bigger, better, pricier car. There hasn’t been a better example of that than the BMW lineup of the 1990s. The 3-series was a small sedan for yuppies. The 5-series was the bigger sedan designed with mid-career manager in mind. And finally there was the 7-series, a proper luxury sedan reserved for directors.

Even their subsequent numbering placed the models in specific hierarchy that reflected their price and power. The 318i got all the jeers for its tepid acceleration whereas the 325i was the proper small sport sedan. But a 525i was just driven by someone who wanted a bigger vehicle than the 3-series. Serious drivers stepped up to the 540i and its V8. Likewise, the 750i with the V12 separated the successful entrepreneur from the corporate ladder climber in the 740i.

But not all companies, or brands, follow this logic. Take Hummer for instance. H1 was the original uncompromised military based beast purchased by the nouveau riche. GM then figured out that there many people who would love a Hummer but can’t afford the H1 it or find uncomfortable. So the GMT-800-based H2 was born. The followed that up with an even smaller H3 which was based on the GMT-355 compact pickup platform.

Your Hoonatian topic for today is makes, brands, or models with numerical names where the smaller number represents a bigger, more powerful, or more expensive model.

The Caveats (there are always caveats):

  • Specific higher performance versions of pedestrian cars don’t count, such as the BMW M2 being pricier and more powerful than the 530i.
  • One-off models don’t count as well, such as the M1 being superior to the M3. I think BMW regrets calling it the M1, anyway. 
  • The model distinction has to be clear, for example: A loaded 340i will cost more than a base 520i, but that doesn’t meet the requirement.
  • Models of the same brand that are vastly different from one another such as the Mazda MX-5 being pricier than the Mazda6. Apples-to-apples, sedans-to-sedans, coupes-to-coupes, please.
  • Open to all vehicles, even planes, bicycles, or horse carriages. 

Difficulty: 2 out of 8, the bigger the effort, the smaller the prize.

How This Works: Read the comments first and don’t post duplicates! Bonus points for adding photos.

Image Sources: My twitter feed, by my pal Joey. 

Top Gear Teases a Great Season

Kamil Kaluski January 31, 2018 Top Gear

Earlier we have seen a quick preview of the upcoming season 25 of Top Gear. You know Top Gear, the original motoring show from the UK, now hosted by two Brits and an American – Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris, and Rory Reid. Well, BBC America, where the show will air this spring, is giving us another, longer, tease of the upcoming six-episode season. But they still have not mentioned when it will premier – perhaps they will let us know when they show us the next teaser. 

Based on the preview and our memories of season 24, this relatively short season promises to be good. The crew is set to build the world’s fastest tractor, surely Joey Tribbiani’s idea. They will also attempt to land a NASA research plane in a muscle car, for some reason, among other high speed high-jinx. The season was filmed in Japan, United States, Italy and the UK. There will celebrity guests, typical studio chit-chat, and The Stig!