Ramblings for July 3, 2000

July 3, 2000

Grands Prix pass the century mark

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Recently, the racing fraternity celebrated the hundredth anniversary of the race that led to the creation of the Grand Prix series. The race — a 351-mile jaunt from Paris to Lyon, held on June 14, 1900 — was considered by many to be the first true international auto race. Drivers from Belgium, France, Germany, and the U.S. competed for a cup offered by New York publisher Gordon Bennett. Alexander G. Winton in his Winton automobile, with the aid of an unidentified assistant, was one of the two American entrants. The grueling trip through the French countryside saw only two of eight cars finish; it was won by Fernand Charron in a French Panhard, which maintained an average speed of 38.6 miles per hour.

The heat is on — inside your car

The start of summer is an ideal time to have your car checked over for imminent problems and long-term health. Be especially sure to check fluids, hoses and belts, but also, don’t neglect the interior protection. Vehicle damage caused by sun exposure is progressive and the effect on resale value can be as much as $1000 to $2000 when a vehicle has interior sun and heat damage.

Recent research has demonstrated that on a 95-degree day, air trapped inside a vehicle can reach a scorching 145 degrees Fahrenheit, and the dashboard can heat up to 181 F. Some friends of mine recently took their cassette collection on a weekend trip and while in a museum, found that early unseasonable temperatures and sunlight turned their tunes to trash.

The most dramatic heating takes place in the first 15 to 20 minutes the car is left in the sun. Using a sunshade to cover the windshield (and maybe the rear window as well) can prevent that 50-degree warm-up. Surprisingly, most sunshade users only install them if they will be away from their car for more than 30 minutes. Another key benefit of a sunshade is that it blocks 99 percent of UV rays – the primary source of fading, cracking and other interior damage.

And remember, the season is rife with reports of children, pets and even adults being overcome with heat and dehydration in stationary cars, even those with the windows open. Don’t let it happen to you.

Energy of all kinds

I feel that as time goes on, a greater variety of power sources for automobiles will be explored, especially as people take advantage of the localized supplies and mobility needs. I am always impressed with the heavily integrated use of natural gas vehicles in the Vancouver, B.C., area, and shake my head at the burned off gas venting that I still see along the Gulf Coast.

I predict that in most of our lifetimes we will see a more mixed population of internal-combustion engines, turbines, combustion/electric hybrids, diesels, fuel cells and pure electrics as part of our personal, public and commercial transportation and mobility fleet. There may even be applications for steam and other external combustion power systems, technologies that have fallen out of fashion. And this power will be derived from every possible source of liquid and gaseous energy, and even some solid fuels.

Ford is the most active and varied in their offerings, but most auto companies offer alternative fuel or power vehicles of some sort. In some areas we may even see limited solar and geothermal power, probably producing electricity for special schemes. Don't be surprised to see energy suppliers breaking up and re-merging much the same as phone and computer companies have recently.


Bob welcomes comments or questions at bstorck@sprynet.com.

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