Friday, September 26, 2008

Corvette Museum Honors Military Veterans

The National Corvette Museum hosts the first “Vets ‘n Vettes” event to recognize the American men and women, many of who are Corvette owners, who serve in uniform. The event is schedule for November 7-8, 2008, as part of the museum’s Military Appreciation Month and Veterans Day.

The event is open to everybody, whether you own a Corvette or wish you did, or if you just want to participate in the two day festivities and tour the museum and Corvette Assembly Plant, in Bowling Green, Kentucky, including the annual Veterans Day parade on Saturday. There's also the opportunity to take a great drive -- a scenic road tour -- to Ft. Knox to tour the Patton Museum of Armor.

The Corvette Museum features more than 70 rare and classic 'Vettes plus concept models that never made it into production, plus the one-millionth Corvette produced. A current exhibit is called Three -- it features one Corvette of each model year ending in the number "3" - 1953, 1963, 1973, 1983, 1993, 2003 -- including the 1983 Corvette pictured here.

By the way -- the National Corvette Museum is not a General Motors museum. This is a member-driven, non-profit foundation dedicated to "continuing the mission of education, preservation and celebration of the Corvette’s past, present and future heritage" The mission statement does not use the words 'iconic American sports car'. It should, because it is.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Chrysler Goes Electric and It's a Gem

Clean and green gets a new meaning with this great drive from Chrysler, through its GEM division.

GEM electric carts are popular transportation on golf courses and sprawling resorts where guests and their luggage need to be shuttled to far-flung villas, and for shuttling employees and supplies on college and corporate campuses. In the the famous Alpine village of Zermatt, Switzerland, where vehicles are not permitted, call a taxi and what you get is an electric cart.

But those don't look like the new Peapod design -- shown here -- that will be produced starting in 2009. GEM is headquartered in Fargo, N.D. It was founded ten years ago.

This is a pure electric vehicle -- just plug it, charge it up, and go. No gas, no emissions, no fuss.

Designs like this used to be called NEV -- for Neighborhood Electric Vehicle, and the neighborhoods included planned communities like retirement communities where people drive them to visit neighbors and get to the supermarket. But Chrysler is re-designing the NEV tag, too. The new name is 'GreenEcoMobility' - how clever for Chrysler to use the GEM acronym for the new generation of an existing concept -- the electric golf cart.

Yes, it is sleek and streamlined. Reminds you of the Smart fortwo, doesn't it. Maybe the success of that energy efficient little gem -- marketed by a division of Chrysler's former corporate mate, Daimler-Benz -- inspired and encouraged the 'divorced' Chrysler.

And just as Smart fortwo is now available in a four-passenger version, there are plans for larger Peapod models as GEM expands its 'no-gas, no-emissions' clean vehicle lineup. Regular GEMs are available in two-, four- and six-passenger models, as well as a utility vehicle. They have a top speed of 25 miler per hour and a range of 30 miles per charge -- more than enough to get you to and from the supermarket and the commuter rail station, although they are not street-legal everywhere because of their limited speed. Stay off the Interstate! And they can be recharged overnight in any standard 110-volt outlet.

Unlike ordinary golf carts, the new GEM Peapod has a trend-setting center console that will offer iPod integration and hands-free iPhone use.

GEM vehicles have been driven a combined 200 million miles and prevented more than 150 tons of pollutants from reaching the air, while saving 10 million gallons of gasoline.

Sweet Peapod!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Seatbelt Use Reaches Record Level

More Americans are buckling up than ever before. That's good news! It means our great drives are also safe drives.

According to the U. S. Department of Transportation, 83 percent of vehicle occupants are using seatbelts during daylight hours, slightly more than last year. Simply, the seconds it takes to buckle up can mean the difference between life and death.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that some 270 lives are saved for every one percent increase in belt use.

The 83% seatbelt usage is an average. According to the report, 84% of passenger car occupants are buckling up, and even more people - 86 percent, are buckling up in vans and SUVs. The lowest seatbelt use is in pickup trucks, where occupants buckled up 74 percent of the time. So, come on you truck drivers and passengers -- get with the program. You won't be any less macho if you buckle up, but you will travel a whole lot smarter.

DOT also broke down the seatbelt numbers by geography. The highest use was reported in the West (93 percent), and the lowest in the Midwest and Northeast (79 percent). The South was in between at 81 percent.

A growing number of states now have what's called 'primary' seat belt laws. That means you can be stopped and cited for not buckling up. In states with 'secondary' seat belt laws, you have to be stopped for something else, and the law enforcement officer can add in the seat belt violation. So, it's not surprising that in 'primary' states, seat belt use is around 13% higher than in 'secondary' states -- 88 percent vs. 75 percent).

The report also notes that belt use on expressways is now at an estimated 90 percent while belt use on lower-speed “surface” streets remains at 80 percent. Also makes sense -- we travel faster on highways. Okay, maybe not in rush hour, on the I-405 in Los Angeles, or on New York City's Long Island Expressway, which locals call 'the world's longest parking lot'.

Remember, these figures are for daylight use. I wonder why NHTSA doesn't collect information on night-time use of seatbelts. And I also wonder how different that would be.

If the numbers here aren't enough, you can see the full report on the NHTSA website.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ford Ka Stars in Latest James Bond Movie

007 is more famous for driving -- and wrecking -- luxury cars like the Aston-Martin than he is for squeezing his hunky frame into a sub-compact. We'll have to wait for the latest James Bond adventure epic, "Quantum of Solace" to see his relationship with the tiny Ford Ka, a model popular in Europe and Latin America, but not sold in the United States.

Ford's cheeky little Ka makes its screen debut alongside the film's beautiful but feisty leading lady, Olga Kurylenko, who plays Camille, a woman with her own personal mission and who quickly becomes an unlikely ally for Bond.

The movie star Ka is unique with metallic gold paint and an exclusive exterior graphics and interior trim combination. Ford of Europe's Chief Operating Officer, Stephen Odell describes it as the "perfect match for the character of Camille - adventurous, individual and thoroughly modern." A proper gentleman, he does not describe any of Camille's features as sub-compact.

This is not the first Ford to star in a James Bond movie. The Ford Mondeo appeared in the 2006 blockbuster, 'Casino Royale', which introduced blue-eyed Daniel Craig as the latest in a long line of actors portraying Mr. Stirred-Not-Shaken.

'Quantum of Solace' opens in the UK and France on October 31st, then elsewhere November 7th.