Friday, May 25, 2012


I reported on Alex Zanardi and his comeback back when he was injured; now, I'm just going to quote this story out today about his journey to the 2012 Paralympics. He was and continues to be The Man.

By Michel RosePADUA, Italy, May 25 (Reuters) - "The car broke into two pieces, one bit of me stayed with the car and the other bit, which was my legs, went 'arrivederci' in the other direction. And that's how I won the tickets to London 2012," says Alessandro Zanardi with a wry laugh.
Nobody gets to the Olympic or Paralympic Games without huge determination, but the 45-year-old Italian's obstinate refusal to give up is jaw dropping.
Zanardi has gone from Formula One driver to Paralympics hopeful in a life scarred by tragedy from the death of his young sister to a horrific race car accident which severed his legs.
Nothing has quelled his desire to compete and now he is heading to London as a member of the Italian handcycling team.
Zanardi was leading a Champ Car (CART) race at Germany's Lausitz track in 2001 when he lost control of his red Reynard-Honda in the final laps and Canadian driver Alex Tagliani ran into him at more than 350 kph (220 mph).
It was four days after the Sept. 11 attacks in New York, and organisers had wondered whether to cancel the race in honour of the victims.
"We decided to run, that it was the best way to react to what had happened, to move on, to prove that humankind is stronger than that and has this great ability to overcome difficulties," Zanardi remembers in an interview with Reuters.
After organisers decided to strip the cars of their sponsors logos and display U.S. flags instead, rain storms threatened to stop the event.
"A lot of things were really strange, didn't seem to be normal," says Zanardi, a two times CART (now IndyCar) champion.
But as the sky "magically" cleared just hours before the start, Zanardi took his place for the event that would change his life in the most horrific way.
After a good start, Zanardi left his competitors trailing. He took a final pit-stop, which went smoothly, seemingly guaranteeing him a place on the podium.
"But as I rejoined the circuit, something happened. I lost control of the car, going back into the acceleration lane, and ended up standing still in the middle of the racing lane. The first car went by and was able to avoid me," he added.
"The second didn't."
Medics were there within seconds of the crash, but Zanardi had lost almost three quarters of his blood by the time a helicopter took him to a hospital in Berlin, some 140 km (90 miles north).
"My heart stopped seven times, I was given the last rites by a priest. If you had to find a word, the closest thing would be 'miracle,'" he said.
"But I don't think it was a miracle. It was a great gift that I was given by these amazing men who saved my life."
If his survival was a miracle, Zanardi was particularly unlucky in the way the crash happened.
"It was a coincidence, but he hit me with one of the strongest and sharpest parts of the racing car, the nose, into probably the most vulnerable part of (my) car, which is right behind the front wheel.
"So basically, he just punched a hole in my car and broke it in two pieces."
After the accident, Zanardi undertook an ambitious rehabilitation programme with two prosthetic limbs he helped design.
"I always loved to work myself on the machines I was driving. Sometimes the mechanics would let me do a little bit, sometimes they wouldn't, because they wouldn't trust me," he laughs.
"But that attitude helped me a lot with the rehabilitation. When I came out of the Berlin hospital, I could not wait to understand how a pair of prosthetic legs would work and how I could adapt them to my own needs," he said.
When his own young son begged to go swimming, Zanardi designed legs suitable for the pool, covering them with a special open-cell sponge used inside racing car fuel tanks.
"The innocence of a kid who doesn't understand that his dad ... feels embarrassed to go to the swimming pool in a wheelchair.
"So, I wanted to protect myself from feeling embarrassed but I also wanted to make my son happy," Zanardi said, adding that his design has now been used for other disabled patients.
Winning widespread praise for his recovery, he returned to racing only a year and a half after the crash. In 2003, he went back to Lausitz to drive the course he had nearly died trying to complete in 2001.
He continued in the World Touring Car championships until 2009, by which time he had taken up handcycling.
Last year, at his fourth attempt, he won the New York City handcycle marathon.
Zanardi recalls how before the crash he and some friends watched "Born on the Fourth of July", in which a character played by Tom Cruise returns from Vietnam paralysed from the chest down.
"Finding myself in this situation, what would I do?" Zanardi said he asked himself at the time.
"And the answer was 'I would kill myself immediately'. But when I woke up after eight days, that was definitely the last reaction that went through my mind."
As Italians suffer a deep economic crisis which has provoked a surge in suicides among businessmen, his story in London this year could help lift the spirits of a nation.
"If somebody, in the difficult circumstances our country is facing right now, finds a little inspiration in me, I'm not only pleased, but touched," he said.
"I guess what you can see in what happened to me, is that really, you can find good things in every day of your life... every day can be a new opportunity to add something to your life," Zanardi said.
"The fact that I've been able to qualify and to represent my nation in the next Olympic Games, it's something that I will forever tell my friends and my grandchildren, if I will be lucky enough to have some, one day. Having them sitting on what is left of my legs, I will say 'You know, Grandad went to London and did this and that'."

(Reporting by Michel Rose; editing by Barry Moody) ((

Friday, May 18, 2012

Complete Guide: 2013 Camaro

Chevrolet Camaro

New for 2013:


  •   (GAP) Imperial Blue Metallic exterior color
  •   (H45) 45th Anniversary Package (including [GAR] Carbon Flash Metallic exterior color)
  •   (RQH) 18" painted aluminum wheels
  •   (R3Z) 20" painted aluminum wheels
  •   (R40) 20" polished aluminum wheels
  •   (DRG) Auto-dimming inside rearview mirror with rear camera display
  •   (SRJ) Convenience and Connectivity Package (content now standard on 1LT and 1SS models)

New Features

  •   New ZL1 Convertible model (1EY67)
  •   (GXH) Blue Ray Metallic exterior color
  •   (BRH) Mojave leather interior
  •   (UFU) Color Touch radio with 7" diagonal color touch-screen display (Standard on all LT, SS and ZL1 models) plus (UP9) Chevrolet MyLink, with Bluetooth streaming audio for music and select phones; Hands-Free smartphone integration
  •   (UHQ) Adds Navigation to radio (Available on all LT, SS and ZL1 models)
  •   (DBX) Auto-dimming inside rearview mirror, frameless
  •   (USR) USB port and (KTB) PDIM now standard on 1LT and 1SS models
  •   (B34) Floor mats now standard on LS models
  •   (N34) Leather-wrapped steering wheel and (VY7) leather-wrapped shift knob now standard on 1LT models
  •   (MX0) Automatic transmission on 1LT and 1SS models now includes (BTV) remote vehicle starter system
  •   Windshield wiper stalk changes: replace symbols with words "off", "int", "lo" and "hi"
  •   (SGE) 18" painted aluminum wheels
  •   (R42) 20" painted aluminum wheels
  •   (RUY) 20" polished aluminum wheels
  •   (1LE) SS Performance Package (1SS and 2SS Coupe model only requires manual transmission) includes (RSK) 20" Black-painted wheels, (RKC) 20" tires, (GW1) 3.91 axle ratio, (FE6) Performance Ride and Handling suspension, and Black hood wrap
  •   (NPP) Dual mode exhaust available on SS models equipped with the (LS3) 6.2L V8 engine
  •   (NV9) Electric power steering standard on all SS models
  •   Hill Start Assist on all manual transmissions (no button)


  •   All manual transmission shift knobs will have new design (like 2012 model year ZL1)
  •   Frameless inside rearview mirrors on all models
  •   (SRU) Rear Vision Package no longer includes (DRG) auto-dimming inside rearview mirror with rear camera display; display is now in radio

2013 Chevrolet Camaro

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Complete Guide: 2013 Cadillac XTS

I know, I didn't do my annual World's First Look at the 2012 GM models last year. So sue me. But 2013? Yeah, I'm all over that. Here's a biggie, maybe the make or break model for Cadillac, the XTS.


  • Base model and 3 Collections: Luxury, Premium and Platinum
  • (LFX) 3.6L V6 engine in either FWD or AWD configurations
  • All-wheel drive available on Luxury, Premium and Platinum Collections
  • 8 exterior color choices:(GAN) Radiant Silver Metallic; (GBA) Black Raven; (GBE) Crystal Red Tintcoat, available at extra charge; (GBN) White Diamond Tricoat, available at extra charge; (GLJ) Graphite Metallic; (GLK) Black Diamond Tricoat, available at extra charge, not available at start of production; (GWT) Silver Coast Metalllic, not available at start of production and (GXH) Sapphire Blue Metallic, not available at start of production
  • 6 interior color choices: Base-Jet Black and Shale/Cocoa. Luxury & Premium Collections-Jet Black, Shale/Cocoa, Medium Titanium with Jet Black and Caramel with Jet Black. Platinum Collection-Jet Black with Light Wheat and Very Light Platinum with Dark Urban/Cocoa
  • Available free-flow options: (ZCD) Compact spare (available on base model and all Collections); (C3U) UltraView sunroof (available on Luxury Collection); (1O6) CUE Infotainment System with Navigation (available on Luxury Collection); (PCW) Driver Awareness Package (available on Luxury Collection ); (RQA/RQ9) 20" Wheels (available on Premium Collection. Not available at start of production); (PCX) Driver Assist Package (available on Premium Collection. Not available at start of production); (DB3/DE8) Rear window sunshades (available on Premium Collection)
  •  Notable standard features: Magnetic Ride Control; Automatic level control, rear air springs; Brembo brakes; 19" wheels; Adaptive Remote Start; 10 air bags; Bose audio with CD player; CUE; Dual USB ports, SD card slot and auxiliary jack; HD radio; Power door locks; Electric glove box release; Keyless Access with push-button start; Power rake and telescoping steering wheel; 10-way power driver and front passenger seats with 4-way power lumbar; Cut and sew interior; Leather seating surfaces; Real wood trim; Capless fueling; HID headlamps; Ultrasonic Rear Park Assist
  •  Luxury Collection-Adds the following to base model: (NR7) Heated steering wheel; (A45) Memory Package; (KA1/KU1/KU3) Heated/ventilated driver and front passenger seats; (KA6) Heated rear seats; (TSP) Interior ambient lighting; (AP9) Convenience net; (UD5) Ultrasonic Front Park Assist; (UVC) Rearview backup camera; (PMA/PMB) Front seat thigh adjust; (MWN) Dual through fascia exhaust; (CE1) Rainsense wipers and Uplevel wood trim
  •  Premium Collection-Includes all content in Luxury Collection, plus: (UDD) 12" color reconfigurable cluster; (UV6) Head-Up Display; (T95) Adaptive forward lighting; (UQS) Bose Studio Surround Sound system; (CJ4) Tri-zone climate control; (UFL) Driver Awareness Package; (K16) 110-volt power outlet
  •  Platinum Collection-Includes all content in Premium Collection, plus: Leather-wrapped interior components; Opus full leather seats; Microfiber sueded headliner; (B58) Premium floor mats; Unique grille; Unique 20" wheels; (DB3/DE8) Rear window sunshades; (C3U) UltraView sunroof; (UFL) Driver Awareness Package; (PCX) Driver Assist Package (not available at start of production)
  •  (PCW) Driver Awareness Package includes ((UFL) Lane Departure Warning; (UFT) Side Blind Zone Alert; (UFG) Rear Cross-Traffic Alert; (UEU) forward Collision Alert; Safety Alert Seat and reflective LED display

2013 Cadillac XTS

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Chrysler’s Fifties Hits and Misses

1956 DeSoto Fireflite Sportsman 

A few are famous, many are overlooked and most are affordable

Forward Look, Adventurer, Fire Sweep, Firepower, Golden Lion, Letter Car and Hemi: As I wrote those names, a series of images flashed past, each one a pure evocation of a moment in the Fifties. But even with these icons, not to mention NASCAR Grand National titles, world speed records and a Car of the Year award, Fifties Chryslers were at best a distant third place in sales. And how many 1957 Chevrolets do you see for each ’57 Windsor spotted? While Ford and Chevrolet could sell a quarter-million of not just one model, but a single bodystyle, Chrysler or Dodge divisions would have been thrilled with those numbers for the whole lineup, especially considering how many unsold cars they sometimes had at the end of the calendar year.
Aside from a few bright spots such as 1957, the Fifties were a decade of decline for Chrysler. They barely sold half the cars in 1959 that they did in 1950. The worst damage was, arguably, self-inflicted. If they were known for anything, it was as makers of dependable, reliable cars. But all those 1.35 million cars they built in 1957—for one year darn close to the Ford and Chevrolet totals—came back to bite them, because many of them weren’t very good. A combination of poor design and low quality materials had them rusting, vibrating and breaking at unacceptable levels. Hoping to hold onto sales from that year, Chrysler largely reused styling while working on fixing the cars, which made things worse—dealers were unhappy about not having new-looking models, especially when they had to sell, say, a Dodge Lancer against the Impala. Customers saw them and thought of the ‘57s. Sales dropped almost in half and continued to fall, with company finances going into the red for the next two years.
Chrysler started the decade at a disadvantage, with lightly restyled ‘49s for their 1950 lines. They were efficient, modern, dependable and sensible, and desperately unappealing to the style conscious buyers of the dawning decade. Still, those sold on their quality were enough that Chrysler was again looking at being the Number Two automaker, until a 100-day UAW strike cut the legs out from under the company. In some ways, it took close to 20 years for them to recover from that three-month interruption, which says less about how disruptive it was and more about their razor-thin margins. New styling in 1953 pulled them briefly out of a three-year decline in sales, but it didn’t last long and they were falling into a hole by ’54. Earlier, with the American public buying anything on wheels after the War, Chrysler had little incentive to innovate and had even gone to Number Two in sales. As soon as the fever began to wane, though, their weakness was revealed. Ford took over second place in 1952, and the whole economy got particularly cool. According to Allpar, WPC News once reported that in 1954, Chrysler sold new cars to used car lots just to keep the numbers up.
They were in trouble borrowed a quarter-billion dollars from Prudential, while essentially turning the fate of the entire company over to one man: stylist Virgil Exner. Exner wasn’t able to do much on the ‘54s, but his Chrysler and Imperial Forward Look/Million Dollar Look (Two Hundred Fifty Million Dollar Look doesn’t roll off the tongue) was universally acclaimed, and Chrysler’s 1955 sales weren’t topped again until 1964! Exner protégé Maury Baldwin took the 1956 Dodge and Plymouth lines further, although they couldn’t quite recapture the magic of the previous year.
With the phenomenal successes of the ‘55’s empowering his position, Exner went all out on the 1957 line-up. Advancing designs that were supposed to be in the pipeline for years later, he introduced the utterly distinctive quad-headlamp front end and tower-style tailfins and the company set an absolute record for single year sales. But as I mentioned, it was too much at once, and Chrysler product buyers were shocked by unfamiliar quality control problems. The facelifted ‘58s were better, but still not good enough, not when there was an Impala at the dealership across town. By 1959, after two years of Chrysler engineers working to address the failings if the ’57, the cars were right again, if still using the 1957 chassis.
Plenty of Chrysler Corp. models sold more than 100,000 copies in a year, primarily Plymouths, but it was a rare that a single body could reach that mark. Through the decades, fleet sales were a big part of the mix for Dodge and Plymouth, and like today, many departments turned their cars over every other year. Chrysler was generally ahead of the curve in developing police package models, so those can be very interesting, high-performance choices for collectors today. The other big piece of Chrysler production in the Fifties was wagons, as much as 25 percent in some years. They’re lot less than a quarter of the cars for sale today, well under one in 10, with Plymouths making the highest proportion, followed by Chrysler. You’ll find a few Dodge and almost no De Soto wagons for sale, but unless they’re woodies, they’re not likely to be overly expensive.
So Chrysler finished the Fifties with bad news, plus a tarnished reputation which would dog them for years. And it’s a funny thing about an episode such as that: long after it shouldn’t matter, people can still have a bad taste. Maybe the idea that Chryslers weren’t much good was baked in when you were growing up; or maybe it was your dad who had the bad experience, but notions like that can work their way into the national consciousness. For collectors who aren’t so prejudiced, though, that leaves the cars themselves with less love than they really deserve.
Chrysler often seemed to be building cars for the previous year, or maybe somewhere else, making them tall when Ford and Chevrolet went low and wide; or abandoning a long wheelbase while everyone else got a stretch. But the great thing about buying one now is that you don’t have to care if a ’53 Plymouth doesn’t look as cool as the ’53 Pontiac in your neighbor’s driveway. You can like it, or not, strictly on its own merits. You’re not also buying a blue blazer and white flannels—whether it’s in fashion no longer matters.
Nevertheless, some Fifties Chryslers are more fashionable than others and correspondingly expensive today. You know all about the Chrysler 300 series and DeSoto Adventurers; or if you need a refresher, browse through the archives of this magazine. If you own one, I salute you and your IRA on wheels. But looking through the dozens of Fifties Plymouths listed in Hemmings at press time, not one was over $100,000, and there were 48 under $50,000. The top of the Plymouth market is dominated by variations on the Fury theme.
 The Dodge scene was almost exactly the same, with a similar number of cars—just a few D500s over $50,000, but drivable Coronets for $7,000. As you move up the ladder, DeSotos, Chryslers and Imperials are more expensive, but never do you run out of affordable options. In fact, very good quality cars from all five lines are easy to find under $25,000, although I admit that the closest Imperial for sale that meets those criteria (a 1956 Imperial Southampton four-door hardtop) was about 1,500 miles from home. But that’s just an excuse to get familiar with a series of local Chrysler clubs.
You will also find your best deals in the 1950-’54 era. There were dozens of Mopars from those years in Hemmings, but only a few were over $20,000. Most of those were convertibles. The flip side is that those early Fifties Mopars are not often restored, so don’t expect the reproduction parts supply to be wonderful. Fortunately, if you’ve been intrigued, among those reasonably priced cars you can still turn up relatively unmolested, unrestored examples. If you’re looking for a distinctive, well-built and comfortable Fifties car, it almost doesn’t matter which Chrysler Corp. product you choose. Outside of WPC Club meets, the odds are slim there will be another at any show. You’ll have the satisfaction of having people walk past better-known and more expensive models to talk to you about your rare Mopar; the satisfaction of helping to keep a heritage that’s too-often overlooked alive; and the fun of driving these great cars that were such a big part of our landscape in the 1950s.