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From Chevy’s ‘Heartbeat of America’ to a Mercedes that monitors your heart’s beat

From Chevy’s ‘Heartbeat of America’ to a Mercedes that monitors your heart’s beat

A commentary comprising a collection of news and notes

Editor’s note: From time to time, we all need to tidy up our garages. In my case, it’s also time to share some news and notes that have accumulated in my inbox:

Some of you likely have daily drivers that remind you via a dashboard message that you’ve been driving for a couple of hours straight and it might be time to stop for a coffee break. But are you ready for the next step?

Remember when Chevrolet advertised its vehicles to be the “Heartbeat of America”? Well, Mercedes-Benz and Garmin have announced the availability of the “vivoactive 3 wearable,” a “smartwatch with an integral health feature that transmits data about the driver, including heart rate, to the vehicle. The vehicle can respond with changes in music, ambient lighting, temperature and massage functions as part of its “energizing” program.

The program algorithms take into account stress levels and even sleep quality (provided, presumably, that you wear the watch while you sleep) and fitness levels (again, provided you wear the watch while you work out).

The vivoactive 3 is available in two colors, includes the three-pointed star on its face, and offers 24 language settings, from German and English to Japanese and Chinese. The system is available in the latest generations of the Mercedes CLA and GLE models.

Full-page VW advertisement

VW’s ‘Beautiful’ full-page advertisement

One of my pet peeves is that the American auto manufacturers pay precious little attention to their heritage, especially when you compare them to their European and Asian counterparts. 

Consider, for example, Volkswagen and VW of America, which recently have noted the conversion of vintage Beetles to electric power, the use of 1990 VW Cabriolet in the revival of auto shop classes, participated in the retro-design Blue Ribbon Sports van, and celebrated the woman designer responsible for putting plaid (and the golf-ball shifter knob) into the original Golf GTI.

In late September, VWoA placed a truly “Beautiful” full-age and retro-styled advertisement in the Washington Post simply to draw attention to the 1966 VW microbus displayed by the Historic Vehicle Association as part of its Cars at the Capital exhibit on the National Mall.

Here’s the text from the advertisement:

“This 1966 VW Bus did as it was designed. It carried a lot: hundreds of people who were touched by the efforts of Esau and Janie B. Jenkins of Johns Island, South Carolina. Successful business owners in the African American community, the Jenkins’ launched a credit union and voter registration drives, as well as advocated for a high school and a health care cooperative. As their efforts increased, they used this beautiful bus as a way to trek across the Southeast, sowing the seeds of empowerment and driving something bigger than themselves. Volkswagen of America is proud to have partnered with the Historic Vehicle Association and B.R. Howard & Associates in its preservation in order to ensure the Jenkins’ story can continue to inspire.”

Beautiful, indeed.

Old racers raise money with track day for charity

Vintage cars and veteran drivers offer rides for charity | Hope for Tomorrow photo

It was called the “Greatest Track Day on Earth.” The plan was to gather together some historic racing cars and legendary racing drivers and to offer rides at the Goodwood Motor Racing Circuit to raise money for the Halow Project, a charity that supports young people age 16-and-older who have learning disabilities.

The cars ranged from a 1903 Mercedes 60 HP and 1907 Itala to a 1961 Ferrari 250 SWB Competizione and a 1968 Ford GT40 and the drivers included Derek Bell and Damon Hill.

Rides sold out and raised £125,000 (nearly $160,000) for the charity.

Zoning board denies Auburn Auction Park variance

Earlier this month, we reported that a wholesale truck and car auction company had offered to purchase the Auburn Auction Park, site of major collector car sales for 30 years. 

Fort Wayne Auto Truck Auction’s plan was to relocate its weekly semi truck and trailer auctions from its landlocked facility some 25 miles south of Auburn to the auction park location with its 150 acres of room, and with the assurance that RM Auctions could continue to use the park for its spring and Labor Day collector car sales.

The company also said it would hire 50 full-time employees and 150 people to part-time positions. All that was needed was approval from the Auburn Board of Zoning Appeals allowing weekly rather than semi-annual auctions at the site.

The board met twice, and finally denied the needed zoning change by a 3-1 vote. 

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette newspaper reported residents living near the park, which is south of Auburn, adjacent to an interstate highway and in a rural rather than urban setting, expressed concern to the board about increased traffic and potential runoff from any spilled oil or fuel.

What can you get for $670,000?

Race track in Nebraska sold at online auction | Proxibid/REX Auction Services photo

If you have $670,000 to spend, there are a number of amazing collector cars available for purchase, at auctions or privately or even through this website. Or, for that money, you could have purchased an entire race track.

Proxibid and RES Auction Services report the sale this past week of Motorsports Park Hastings, a 2.14-mile SCCA-certified road course in Hastings, Nebraska, for $670,000. 

California loud mouths get 30 days to shush

We also reported recently on legislation in California that would allow vehicles with aftermarket exhaust equipment deemed too loud to get 30-day repair notices rather than be ticketed and face an immediate fine of nearly $200.

Since that report, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed the bill into law, drawing praise from the Specialty Equipment Market Association and its 1,700 California-based automotive aftermarket product-producing companies that led the fight against earlier legislation that triggered the immediate-fine penalty.

Luigi Colani | Colani.org photo

The loss of a larger-than-life legend

I remember the day Luigi Colani brought his larger-the-life persona to visit AutoWeek magazine’s editorial staff and to talk about vehicle design. His visit to our office coincided with an exhibit of his work at the Detroit Institute of Art, where a couple of his big, semi-style trucks were parked on the street in front of the museum.

Colani, who died in September at the age of 91, did car design for Alfa Romeo, Volkswagen, BMW and other European brands in the 1950s, and then did furniture and all sort of products, including appliances, cameras, even grand pianos.

He was a flamboyant and fascinating character who disdained the cookie-cutter styling so common on the road even then, and whose vehicles seemed inspired by animals, especially insects.

Colin Waldock (standing) fits new tires on vintage cars | Falken photo

Falken fitments for British classics

The Biggleswade MOT Centre is a tire and exhaust-system dealership in Bedfordshire, England. Recently, reports manager Colin Waldock, an increasing number of its customers have inquired about tires for their classic rather than their new vehicles, saying they have been unable to find the right size and profile.

“Several of our regular customers run both modern cars for work and classic cars for pleasure, so we’re always happy to phone around our wholesale suppliers to try to find the right tire to meet their requirements,” Waldock is quoted in a Falken Tire news release. 

“In the past we’ve even sourced quality-branded 70 series tires from Europe as an alternative to the high prices being asked by some suppliers of traditional classic-branded tires here in the UK,” Waldock said.

“While classic cars, vans and estate cars might not rack-up high annual mileages, recent concern over tire safety has put the spotlight on the possible dangers of aging tires,” adds Falken, which notes that it still produces a selection of tire sizes, profiles, tread patterns and load ratings for classic vehicles.

Adds Waldock: “Many of our customers have been pleasantly surprised to discover that we can supply a complete set of good quality Falkens for a price that isn’t that much more than that being asked for a single classic-branded tire elsewhere.”

He said Falken’s 145X10 80-Series radial has especially popular with owners of classic Minis.

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