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Hooniverse goes to… the Ford ST Octane Academy

Being a recent Ford Focus ST owner, one of the perks of purchasing specialty vehicles is subsequent driving schools to showcase the capabilities of the performance of such vehicles. For Ford owners, this means a trek to Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah, which is the home to the Ford Racing School.

Be it the Mustang Boss 302 or the SVT Raptor, Ford has utilized the top-level facility at Miller Motorsports Park as its home for performance driving. Having some previous track experience, I was probably “over excited” to see the capabilities of my ST product as I’ve only had a few canyon runs out of my car. 

Needless to say I was very impressed with the Focus ST and Fiesta ST with its on track performance, rewarding driving dynamics, and ability to get 100% comfortable with the limits quickly. Also, I felt safe while doing so. Now it’s time to dive into the school though, and see just how much more I can get out of the car…

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Salvaging a weekend, Part 2: A plucky little swap meet

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Yesterday, I went to great lengths to justify a mud-caked trip to the local self-service junkyard last weekend. I followed that up the next day with a visit to the Chicagoland MG Club’s annual All British Swap Meet and Auto Jumble. I’d never been to any swap meet—let alone one for Anglophile gearheads—but I went with the expectation of finding piles of nearly indistinguishable British Leyland car parts accompanied by a healthy dose of self-deprecating humour from what I assumed would be mostly aging men with excellent, non-ironic mustaches. I was largely right, but I found some surprises along the way. 

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Salvaging a weekend, Part 1: Mired in the junkyard

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I climbed out of the car in the local self-service junkyard’s pothole-scarred parking lot. I had gone on the pretense of looking for simple part for my sister-in-law’s car, which should cost me about $10 instead of the $300 the original equipment manufacturer wanted for same, but I figured I’d do some exploring if time permitted. Inside, I signed the liability wavier, the counter attendant took a cursory glance in my bag, and I opened the door to the salvage yard.

The reviews I’d read told me to expect an abundance of mud in the yard even when it hadn’t rained in a several days, but nothing prepared me for the reality of such a scene. The massive forklifts perpetually circled the boneyard, scavengers picking out The Crusher’s next victim and churning the freshly thawed mud into a paste. Ankle-deep. 

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Ranking the Border Crossings Along the Pan-American Highway

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Background: Since 2007, I have been taking bus trips along the Pan-American Highway. I have done 12,000 miles of it so far, which is approximately 88% of the road that stretches from the Arctic Ocean to the tip of South America. I have two segments left. This summer, I will travel by van along the Dalton Highway from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Next year, I will finish with a bus trip from Lima, Peru, through Ecuador, to the frontier town of Turbo, Colombia (along the edge of the Darien Gap).

While I prepare for my Alaska trip, I thought I would share with you my experiences at the border crossings. Oftentimes, the border crossing is the most exciting, and dangerous, part of the journey. It certainly gives you insight about each country’s culture, governance, and character. 

I will rank the border crossings I used, from least to most “challenging”.

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The Ford Galaxie I wanted vs. the Galaxy we got.

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One of my favourite topics to belly-ache about is how unremittingly grey the motoring scene was in Britain for most during the ’60s. You might catch the occasional flash of Rosso Ferrari or Racing Green E-Type every now and again, but the majority of road traffic was of the everyday, everyman variety. 60′s Britain could only dream of long, powerful cars on wide open roads, roof down, heading for the sunset.

Of course, it was inevitable that Ford’s celestially named car for Europe (Orion notwithstanding) would be not only spelled differently, but would satisfy only fantasies that involved practicality, a high driving position and re-configurable seating. The Galaxy we ended up with in ’95 was a box on wheels. The one you got in the ’60s wasn’t. Let’s, then, take a look at the far sexier ’63 Galaxie, an example of which I recently admired at one of our few non wash-out car shows.

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A ’52 Cadillac and Car Show Contemplation.

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Above is a Cadillac. A spectacularly nice one at that. It’s a 1952 62 Series Golden Anniversary Special, but I only know that because the owner had also displayed a very detailed typed account of what I was looking at in one of the windows. Recognition of vintage Cadillacs isn’t a strong suit of mine, as much as I admire them.

And admire it I most certainly did, from the mirror-polished paintwork that looked deep enough to voyage through in a submarine, to the mercurial chrome which seemed far too artful to be applied to a mere automobile. A heap of the utmost magnificence. But as I stood in its immediate field of influence, hoping to somehow contract some of the coolness that it exuded, it got me thinking about the whole ethos of displaying cars at shows. Pride, obviously, is a huge part of it. But what else?

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Missing The Bus: Bedford Style From The Past

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The Hooniverse is a broad church, we know that. Whatever your vehicular poison, you can be sure that, one day, it will be represented here somehow or other. Of course, the particular mechanical steed we all relate to on a daily basis tends to be The Car, and that makes up the majority of Hooniversal throughput. And we also know what everybody likes a good Truck every now and again, I know I do.

And now, to add further variety, here’s a 1940′s Bedford as seen at a local car show in uncharacteristically non-monsoon conditions.

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A Celebration of Three-Wheeled Craziness.

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Eccentricity is one of the most valuable commodities when it comes to having a project vehicle. It helps if you’re the imaginative sort, too, and of course resolve, staying power and a thick skin are certainly advantageous, too.

I’ll wager that the creator of this fabulously minimalist device, seen during one of the sunnier of my local car shows possessed a fair degree of each of the above characteristics.

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V.I.S.I.T: Random intersting cars of Palm Beach

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The island town of Palm Beach, Florida, is one of wealthy northeasterners’ favorite place to have a house (or a family compound) which provides an escape from the winter months, or to simply retire. The town has beautiful beaches, quaint streets, and is filled with palm trees. Those pretty main streets are full of high-end stores and financial institutions that most of us would have no reason to go into.

Despite its small ten square mile size, cars are the primary mean of getting around. Wealthy being wealthy, everyone seems to have the newest one of something; Rolls Royces, Ferraris, Bentleys, Maseratis, Porsches are ad nauseam. There was also a surprisingly high ratio of new Jaguars and Japanese luxury brands with respect to European brands, which once dominated this demographic.

All of that is great n’ all, but most of us here do not really care that much for those cars. The great news is that among all of that are surprising automotive treasures. I captured some of during my morning runs around the island or while driving. It is really just a small sample of what’s hiding there.

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V.I.S.I.T: ’89 Chevy Camaro RS

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Colchester is the oldest recorded town in Britain. Roman remains spring up from the earth whenever you rub the sole of your shoe against the ground; Sestertii are more numerous than pound coins and the Toga is still de rigeur in the more avant garde nightspots. Actually, that’s nonsense.

‘Twas a dull, grey Sunday, but it was brightened up somewhat through my sighting of this; another refugee from a forgotten era.

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