Autowise There's wise. Then there's Autowise. Mon, 09 May 2022 15:54:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Autowise 32 32 Race Fans Work at the Track, But Never See a Race in Person Mon, 09 May 2022 15:53:54 +0000 Race Fans Work at the Track, But Never See a Race in Person Read More »

Imagine coming out west from Ohio for three NASCAR races each year but never getting to see a race, despite being at the tracks on race weekends. That is exactly what happens when Ken and Pam Lemmon make their annual west coast NASCAR track trek.

It all started after Ken retired as a transit manager from Akron, Ohio. He and his wife Pam did some traveling in retirement and two years later in 2008 while en route home from Florida they made a stop at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The racing fans had asked about the “yellow shirt” part-time track employees that helped out at the races and they were quickly recruited to sign up as workers.

Ken and Pam Lemmons Rcaing Couple
Ken and Pam Lemmons

Indy 500 Track Work

Initially, they were thinking about helping with the NASCAR race later in the year but were hired on the spot to help with the Indy 500 race. It helped that the track was able to provide space near the track for the Lemmon’s fifth-wheel trailer since they live 300 miles away from the “Brickyard.” Over 300,000 people attend the races during the Indy 500, so part-time help is essential at the track.

Over time Ken was given more responsibilities and currently is the Garage and Pit Coordinator. His wife Pam also works part-time at the track. They have made several friendships at Indy and have some favorite drivers including Helio Castroneves and Bobby Unser.

Racing Couple Gain More Track Assignments

Pam Lemmons
Pam Lemmons behind the wheel of an Indy promotional Corvette.

Later Ken’s work earned some recognition and he was asked to help out, first at Chicagoland Speedway and then at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. That was followed by an offer to assist at Phoenix Raceway and then Fontana, California Auto Club Raceway. It helps that these three tracks all form a three-week swing of NASCAR races in the spring.

Ken figures that they put 6,000 miles on their car following those three races. These days they stay at short-term rental housing near the tracks. They are paid a small wage for their efforts at each track.

But hard work earns recognition and the Lemons were then asked to help out at the Las Vegas track each November when the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) holds their fall meet. Then they migrate back for the last race of the year for NASCAR, the Championship Four, in Phoenix, AZ.

Phoenix Raceway

Worker at NASCAR track
Ken Lemmon mans the Media Center door throughout the race weekend.

When the Lemons came out to the Phoenix Raceway they donned the red vests that employees use at that track. They first worked the trams that helped transport visitors from the parking lots to the track. They had so much fun on the tram with the riders that customers would specifically wait for “their” tram to ride.

When the trams were discontinued, Ken was assigned the entrance to the infield Media Center, and Pam works inside at the auditorium/driver’s meeting room. It is their job to make sure only credentialed people gain access to these areas and handle any last-minute requests or concerns that pop up. As such, their responsibilities prevent them from actually seeing the races. They might hear the engines roar or catch a glimpse on the television, but they do not see the events live and in person.

Ken noted that during the race week at Indy, he typically is at the track by 5 AM and works until generally 7 PM or later depending on when the races are over.

Race Tracks Rely on Part-Time Employees

Three workers at Phoenix Raceway
Matt Humphrey with Pam and Ken Lemmons.

Since most tracks only hold a few races each year, they have to rely on consistent part-time employees to fill a multitude of positions.  Matt Humphrey, head of  Track Communications for four NASCAR tracks, including Phoenix Raceway, said  “the institutional knowledge and dedication the Lemmons possess make my job so much easier in the media center. They know our media. They know our facilities. And most importantly, they care. Their professionalism and excellence shine through in their service, and we can’t do what we do without the commitment and dedication of many others like them who join our ranks during our race weekends.”

Track Experiences for the Racing Couple

Indy Trophy
Indy 500 Trophy

The Lemmons love the friendships they have made over the years. The Lemmons were always fans of the local races in Ohio and after retirement, they started enjoying the NASCAR races in person before working at the tracks. Ken stated that he enjoys offering customer service and helping people. “If people leave with a positive experience, good for us.”

Working at tracks for both NASCAR and NHRA events, the Lemmons noted that the fans are not really any different. “They are all looking to have a good time and are friendly folks.” Despite sometimes having to stop people from entering restricted areas, neither can recall any serious disruptions or commotions at the tracks.

It seems weird to have fans travel across the country to various tracks and never get to see the race. But the Lemmons are not complaining, nor are the track managers who benefit from these part-time employees. They get to be an essential part of the racing community and develop lasting friendships and memories.

2023 Kia Soul Gets Facelift, Drops Turbo and Rugged X-Line Trims Wed, 04 May 2022 16:08:56 +0000 2023 Kia Soul Gets Facelift, Drops Turbo and Rugged X-Line Trims Read More »

The 2023 Kia Soul is getting a refresh that gives it new headlights and taillights. Kia is boosting features, making some previously optional safety kit standard. It is also bundling some desirable safety features into a package offered on the lowest trim to make them more accessible. Lastly, Kia is simplifying the Soul line, dropping the rugged X-Line trim and the 1.6L turbo-four.

Kia’s third-generation Soul was launched in 2019, updating the boxy model – a large hatch or a small crossover depending on your viewpoint. It arrived that year with two engines, a manual transmission, and the promise of an EV model to come.

Kia Cuts Powertrain Choices

2023 Kia Soul

In 2022, the stick shift disappeared. And the delayed EV was canceled. For 2023, the 201-horsepower 1.6L turbo-four gas engine is being dropped.

The remaining engine will be a 147-horse 2.0L four-cylinder that produces 132 pounds-feet of torque. It will be front-wheel drive and will have a CVT Kia calls “Intelligent Variable Automatic.” 2023 EPA numbers weren’t released, but with the small exterior changes, it’s safe to expect the same 28 mpg city, 33 highway as 2022.

The top-tier Turbo trim disappears with the engine it’s named for. X-Line, a trim level that added black cladding to the arches and sills – an attempt to make the Soul a bit more rugged – is also gone.

So what’s new? Kia calls the 10.25-inch touchscreen with navigation “a welcome addition” to the car. But it has us a touch confused, as it looks just like last year’s 10.25-inch screen with nav. It’s on all but LX models, with the base trim getting an 8.0-inch screen. All of them have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

New Look, Bright New Paint

2023 Kia Soul

The front fascia is also all-new. The 2023 Kia Soul gets a more expressive lower grille featuring some bright new accents that vaguely mirror Kia’s latest Tiger Nose face. New LED headlights are offered, with the daytime running light signature, turn signals, and fog light designs also all-new. There are small changes to the rear fascia and new lights back there.

Keeping the Soul funky, Kia is adding new two-tone paint shades including white with a black roof and the Surf Blue of the photos with a black roof.

More Standard Driver Assistance

2023 Kia Soul

The list of standard driver assistance features now includes Forward Collision-Avoidance with pedestrian detection, Lane Keeping Assist + Lane Following Assist, and Lane Departure Warning. The soul will have a high-beam assist as well as a rear occupant alert that uses door logic (instead of ultrasonic sensors).

Included with a new LX Technology Package (and standard on all trims above) are two other key driver assists. Blind Spot Collision Avoidance and Rear Cross Collision Avoidance.

The 2023 Kia Soul will be offered in LX, S, EX, GT-Line, and GT-Line Tech trims. GT-Line Tech includes comfort goodies like a Harman/Kardon audio system and multi-color LED speaker lights that pulse to your music. This feature is also offered on Seltos and livens up the cabin at night.

GT-Line Tech New Top Trim

Heated front seats are also reserved for the top trim, with power adjustment for the driver. As is forward collision avoidance with junction turning capability. That feature can help you avoid a collision if you’re turning left in front of oncoming traffic. Highway Drive Assist, which combines adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist to help make long drives easier, is also part of the package. That adaptive cruise system is navigation-based, so it can slow for bends and intersections.

The Soul might not be Kia’s most talked about model, but the automaker points out sales were up five percent last year to top 75,000 units. While pricing for 2023 hasn’t been released yet, expect it to remain competitive and keep the Soul moving.

Watch Every Generation of Porsche 911 Turbo Drag Raced at Once Tue, 03 May 2022 22:34:01 +0000 Watch Every Generation of Porsche 911 Turbo Drag Raced at Once Read More »

How much has the performance of the Porsche 911 Turbo changed over the years? There’s no better way to illustrate it than this: A head-to-head drag race with seven different 911 Turbo models lined up on a runway and ready to go.

We can all read a spec sheet and see how much more horsepower a newer car makes. That doesn’t help you know what it’s like in the real world. Drivability, gearing, tires, and a dozen other factors all come into play.

Turbo Generations Explained

Since Porsche and Porsche’s fans use chassis codes to separate the different generations of cars instead of using model years like you might be used to, here’s a summary. A bit of a primer to get you ready for the big matchup.

930 is the chassis code for the first-generation of Porsche 911 Turbo. Launched in 1975, it came with a 3.0L flat-six engine and a great big turbocharger that made 260 hp. Way back then, it came with a four-speed manual. The particular car raced here is a 1988 model (the second-last year), meaning that it had the larger 3.3L, 300 hp engine and a Tea Tray spoiler instead of the whale tail of the iconic original.

Beside it is a 964 Turbo. This is a 1993 car with 320 hp from a 3.3L flat-six engine. The model ran from 1989-to 1994.

A couple of years later, a 1995 993-generation Porsche 911 Turbo car with 3.6L and 408 hp. The generation ran from 1994-to 1998.

The host of the video is in a 996-generation (1998-2004) Turbo S. That car, the first generation of water-cooled Porsche 911s makes 450 hp from its 3.6L flat-6 engine.

Now we’re well into the 2000s, and the red car shown is a 2010-build 997-generation (the one from 2004-2011) Turbo S. 530 hp are on tap this time from a 3.8L flat-six.

Besides that, a 991-generation (2011-2018) 2016 Turbo S with 560 hp, and then, finally, the current-generation 992 Porsche 911 Turbo S. This last one has 650 hp from a 3.7L flat-six and represents the current pinnacle of 911 turbo-dom.

Is Newer Always Better? Or Faster?

Porsche 911 Turbo Generations

If you want more about each one, you’ll have to watch. The spec of each car, including which gearbox each one has fitted, is gone over in-depth. Plus, why some of the earlier cars aren’t Turbo S models like the later versions.

Before the race, we get to hear each one rev separately. It’s a great way to hear how much the 911 Turbo audio signature has changed.

But you’re here for the race. It goes as you’d expect, with the newer and more powerful (and all-wheel drive) cars leaving the rest far behind. There are some surprises, though, especially right off of the line.

There might be some missed shifts and other miscues. At least one perk of a more modern car becomes painfully apparent, with one driver experiencing some more severe issues.

It’s impressive to see how much difference there is between the oldest and newer cars. Even more surprising is just how close the more modern cars are.

Rolling Starts Plus Stopping Short

Porsche 911 Turbo Generations

Next up, some rolling-start races at different speeds. Taking the AWD advantage out of the equation but showcasing how much lag older turbocharged cars had and the importance of more gears in the box.

Last? A braking test. Each car had to stop from 100 miles per hour to see which could come to a halt in the least amount of space. Do larger brakes and stickier tires make up for the much heavier weight of modern Porsche cars? We can’t spoil the whole thing for you, can we?

10 Best Automotive Gifts for Mom in 2022 [Buying Guide] Tue, 03 May 2022 09:12:36 +0000 10 Best Automotive Gifts for Mom in 2022 [Buying Guide] Read More »

If you’re looking to get your mom a present for her car this holiday season, check out these great automotive gifts for Mom. They might just make her ride just a bit nicer, more convenient, or even faster. Hey, she raised you right, so make sure to treat her right!

The Best Automotive Gifts for Mom

When the holidays come around, don’t get caught scrambling for that perfect gift for your mom. Instead, do your shopping early and get her one of the best automotive gifts to mom. Our list has a little something for every mom out there — whether your mom is an automotive enthusiast or simply uses her car to get from point A to point B. Regardless of if you’re looking for a big dollar or great value gift, we’ve got you covered. Which one of these great car gifts for mom will make her day?

Hot Wheels Coming to the Big Screen With New Live-Action Movie Wed, 27 Apr 2022 16:05:00 +0000 Hot Wheels Coming to the Big Screen With New Live-Action Movie Read More »

Hollywood is making a Hot Wheels movie. Yes, everyone’s favorite die-cast toy cars will play in a live-action motion picture. With Mattel’s blessing, Warner Bros. Pictures and J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot will produce the film.

Robbie Brenner, Executive Producer, Mattel Films:

“As the global leader in car culture, Hot Wheels has been igniting the challenger spirit in auto enthusiasts for generations. Fans of all ages are now in for the ride of their lives with the incredible talent of J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot joining us alongside Warner Bros. Pictures to transform Hot Wheels’ legendary IP into a thrilling story for the big screen.”

It’s not the first time that the best-selling cars in the world have made the leap from the living room floor to the screen. A single-season animated TV series ran in 1969. Multiple animated films and shows feature the cars, aimed mainly at kids via Saturday morning cartoons and streaming service movies.

Longtime TV and Movie Writer Attached

The announcement was short on details about plans for the movie, but IMDb has writer Paul Attanasio attached as screenwriter. His other works include 2002’s The Sum of All Fears and 1994’s Quiz Show. He has also worked extensively on multiple TV series. One of those series was Homicide: Life on the Streets, so could we be looking at gritty Hot Wheels? Probably not.

Bad Robot film chief Hannah Minghella:

“Before Hot Wheels became the global household name it is today, it was the dream of Elliot Handler, who was inventing and building toy cars at home in his Southern California garage. It’s that imagination, passion, and risk-taking spirit that we want to capture in this film.”

We’re big fans of the Hot Wheels expansion into Forza Horizon 3. It brought the signature orange and blue tracks, jumps, loops, and car launchers (plus some extra cool cars) to Xbox systems in 2017. The driving left us craving more, but we’re not quite sure how it will make the transition to a feature film.

Bad Robot has also produced the Cloverfield films, the Star Trek franchise since 2016, and the latest Mission Impossible movies. While none of the company’s previous titles are toy adaptations, the production company has shown it can churn out a good action film.

Massive Run of Mattel Toy Movies Coming

Whatever the result, it has to be better than the Need for Speed game adaptation from 2014, starring Aaron Paul. It has to be, right? As long as there are cool cars doing fun stunts, we’ll probably be sitting there happily with our popcorn.

Get ready for a load of other classic toy franchises turned into movies. Mattel and Warner are also working on Barbie, expected out soon, with Masters of the Universe, American Girl, Polly Pocket, and, wait, seriously? Uno, Magic 8 Ball, and View Master.

2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance: More Than Just One Trick Wed, 27 Apr 2022 12:14:13 +0000 2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance: More Than Just One Trick Read More »

The 2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance is Lexus‘s V8 answer to the void left by the IS F no longer being in production.

More specifically, that answer comes to the 2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance via a 5.0-liter V8 engine. It has been around for a while but got some new enhancements to now kick out 472 hp and 395 lb.-ft. of torque. While we’ll get right back to the V8 again in the love/hate list below, we also found a number of other features we loved, and a few we hated, about Lexus’s latest performance sedan. Here’s what we found:

LOVE: NA V-8 Under the Hood

2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance v8

The IS 500 F Sport Performance comes packed with that IS F hand-me-down 5.0-liter V8. All other competitors have gone the way of turbochargers and ditching cylinders while Lexus has opted to give the people what they want –a V8. Not just a V8, but one that breathes air naturally —no turbos or superchargers.

LOVE: Auditory Bliss

2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance back

Being one of the very few V8-powered Lexus vehicles that isn’t an SUV the engineers made sure the IS 500 sings all the right notes out the quad tailpipes when the skinny pedal is used judiciously. Sure, the Lexus LFA is definitely the best-sounding Lexus of all time, but the IS 500 F Sport Performance is definitely in the top 5 most angry-sounding in the brand’s history —dare I say Top 3?

LOVE: Quality Interior

2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance interior

Telling you that the interior of the 2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance is a shining feature probably deserves a “Duh,” but it is a feature we love nonetheless. Front and center it features the digital LFA-inspired 8-inch gauge cluster which has been around for a while, but it is unique and welcome every time we see it. It features F Sport heated/ventilated seats, an F Sport branded steering wheel, a Mark Levinson 17 speaker audio system, and a 10.3-inch infotainment screen with all the Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa integration you’ll ever need.

LOVE: Drive Modes That You Can Actually See & Feel

2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance drive modes

It is 2022. Every brand has vehicles that have some button or dial that allows you to switch between a normal mode, an eco mode, and maybe if you are lucky a sport mode. The problem with most is, press the button/toggle the dial —and what happened? Nothing? Not with the 2022 IS 500 F Sport Performance.

The vehicle features Eco, Normal, Custom, Sport S, and Sport S+ modes. For most of the drive modes, it is as their name suggests. Eco for a more fuel-efficient drive, normal is the most balanced day to day mode, custom allows you to switch up the features to your liking, but Sport S unlocks the full performance potential of the transmission and engine while Sport S+ also brings in the steering performance and stability of the vehicle alongside the transmission and engine.

Beyond the feeling of the IS 500 F Sport Performance, every drive mode changes the digital gauge cluster a bit from the subtle Eco/Normal modes to the full crisp colorful Sport S or Sport S+ modes.

LOVE: Planted Comfortable Ride

2022 IS 500 F Sport Performance front

The 2022 IS 500 F Sport Performance is quite a hefty vehicle coming in a smidge under 4,000 lbs (3979). That weight in the right places combined with the Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) provides a surprisingly comfortable ride for when cruising the town or putting the power down.

Remember, ticking that drive model dial into Sport S+ will further tighten up that ride in the performance department.

HATE: Fuel Economy

2022 IS 500 F Sport Performance fuel economy

We really love that V8 under the hood, but we cannot help but tell you about how thirsty it is. The 2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance achieves an EPA estimate of 17 city/25 highway for a combined 20 miles per gallon. With a heavy right foot, we of course saw lower than that in real-world testing. That V8 sounds nice but those sweet sweet sounds come at a price at the pump.

HATE: The Dreaded Lexus Touchpad

2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance touchpad

We aren’t sure we know anyone who has spoken positively about the touchpad in Lexus vehicles, yet here it still is. Luckily, the 10.3-inch infotainment display is a touch screen that will give you the ability to never use the pad in the IS 500.

HATE: It’s Not an IS F

2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance side

If you cannot tell we really like the 2022 IS 500 F Sport Performance, but if we had to sacrifice it to the car gods for a IS F —we would. Driving the vehicle you can tell it is just pulling at your IS F heartstrings. This thing is probably 80% of what a 2022 IS F could be, we just want the other 20%.

2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance: Mostly About the V8, But So Much More

The 2022 IS 500 F Sport Performance is obviously on everyone’s radar due to its large naturally aspirated V8 engine under the hood. It is definitely what pulls you in to give the vehicle a worthy once over, but there is much more to this performance machine once that NA V8 exhaust note tickles your eardrums.

Go check out one of these impressive sports sedans for yourself. You can find your local Lexus dealer and virtually build out your own 2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance at

Chevrolet Corvette EV Confirmed, Electrified Model Coming Next Year Mon, 25 Apr 2022 16:37:20 +0000 Chevrolet Corvette EV Confirmed, Electrified Model Coming Next Year Read More »

It’s official: A Chevrolet Corvette EV is coming. Even better, an electrified Corvette is coming as soon as next year. GM President Mark Reuss made the announcement this morning in a post on LinkedIn. He included a clip that shows an all-wheel-drive system on Corvette for the first time.

“Some time ago, we moved the Corvette team into the EV space in Warren, Michigan, and when we revealed the new mid-engine Corvette, I said there would be ‘more to come,'” Reuss said before answering “the question I’ve been asked countless times.”

EV Soon, Electrified Sooner

Yes, there will be a Chevrolet Corvette EV coming, but when? Reuss said that it would arrive in the future, not estimating the timeline. The announcement confirms rumors that have been swirling for years. Even President Joe Biden mentioned the vehicle in a campaign spot, making us wonder what he knew and what we didn’t.

GM will base the new Chevrolet Corvette EV on the Ultium platform. Ultium encompasses electric drive motors, power electronics, batteries, and even the vehicle platform.

Does it mean that the Corvette EV will have the same platform as the Hummer EV? No, but it does give us a look at what kind of battery power and motive power we can expect. After all, the Hummer EV offers more than 1,000 hp.

Video Teases AWD Electrified Vette

With the announcement, Reuss posted a short video teaser.

The clip features a camouflaged C8 Corvette body, fitted with the power we’ve never seen in a Corvette before.

Our first hint is the electric yellow brake calipers. That color has been associated with electric power for a few years now, with Porsche being one of the first to use it to signify electrification.

The second hint is the spinning front wheels. Yes, the Chevrolet Corvette is sending power to the front wheels for the first time. Since Reuss said there would be an electrified Corvette as soon as next year, it’s safe to say this one is it.

The current-generation Corvette, known as C8, is the first of the line to feature an engine mounted behind the driver. This frees up the space needed for an electric motor up front.

AWD is easy to achieve with an electric motor driving the front wheels, like the Ferrari SF90 Stradale. No driveshaft running front to rear is needed, no particular transmission is required, and electric motors are easier to package.

The AWD system would also allow for torque vectoring. A system where power is shifted from one wheel to another in a way that uses power to enhance agility and cornering experience.

The Detroit Bureau cites GM company insiders suggesting the Chevrolet Corvette EV will target a two-second 0-60 miles per hour time, another benefit of driving all four tires.

Analyzing the Electrified Corvette Clip

How do we know this isn’t the fully electric Corvette? We’re making some guesses here. But they’re based on Chevrolet’s choice to overlay the video with the sound of a V8. If the car you were showing didn’t get gas power, you wouldn’t do that.

It also still has tailpipes coming out of the rear bumper. We think we can see condensation and exhaust mixed in with that snow spray rooster coming off of the back of the Corvette.

On CNBC’s SquawkBox, Reuss talked about how quickly Chevrolet was working on bringing these EVs to market. “Very fast,” he said, talking about the timing and not the E-Vette’s acceleration. Reuss compared it to the Lyriq EV, which Cadillac pulled forward nine months from the original schedule to get to market more quickly.

Gas Corvette Isn’t Dead Yet

2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (photo/Chevrolet)

There is good news for those who prefer their Corvettes to burn fuel and not transfer electrons. Reuss said that production of the Z06 model with its flat-plane crankshaft has started. He also noted that more gas-powered variants would be coming, though he didn’t go into detail.

All this is to say that we expect to see a hybrid AWD Corvette in 2024 and a full battery-electric Corvette to follow not too far behind. What we don’t know is if the hybrid will be a plug-in hybrid or not.

Other Ultium News

GM had some other Ultium news to go along with the announcement. The Ultium Platform will have a new patented heat pump and energy recovery system. The system will capture and store waste heat from the batteries and electric motors.

It can even capture humidity from inside and outside the car. It will then turn that power into cabin heat, warming it more quickly in winter while using less battery electricity. General Motors claims up to 10 percent more range from the new system.

Lamborghini Huracan Charges Through 20k Sales, Is Top-Selling Lambo Ever Mon, 25 Apr 2022 13:23:22 +0000 Lamborghini Huracan Charges Through 20k Sales, Is Top-Selling Lambo Ever Read More »

If you had told us eight years ago that 20,000 copies of the Lamborghini Huracan were going to be built, we’d have called you crazy. Lamborghini, after all, was a company that less than 20 years ago couldn’t sell 300 cars in a year. But here we are, and here is Huracan 20k, an STO in grey that’s bound for Monaco.

The Lamborghini Huracan replaced the Gallardo in 2014. Gallardo was the second Lambo designed under Audi ownership. It is where the raging bull really hit its stride in becoming more than just a brand you saw on posters but not on the road.

Lamborghini learned from Gallardo. It’s how they’ve managed to keep a car that is incredibly fashion-forward selling hot nearly 10 years later.

So Many Special Editions. Still So Special?

Lamborghini Huracan 20,000

The secret? Special editions. So many special editions, along with unprecedented levels of customization options.

How many? Twelve versions, though we’ll only cover the big ones. Starting with the original LP 610-4 Lamborghini Huracan coupe. The debut car (sharing some bits with Audi’s R8) made 610-horsepower from its 5.2L V10 and could hit 60 miles per hour in three and a half seconds.

The second was a convertible, and you’ll notice that theme coming back. If there’s a special coupe, there is probably a special convertible wearing a Spyder badge.

Rear Wheel Drive and Convertibles Play a Big Part

Lamborghini Huracan 20,000

Lamborghini’s next Huracan dropped all-wheel drive and 30 horses. The LP 580-2 sent all of its power to the rear in the name of driver engagement. That’s code for big, smoky drifts. It arrived in 2015 (the Spyder a year later), and had a special edition of its own called Avio.

There was also one built just for Pope Francis in 2017. We can’t confirm that he was spotted doing donuts around Rome, but the car was auctioned for charity soon after the gifting. Models for the Policia, airport follow cars, country-specific paint jobs, and loads of other ultra-niche cars came and went along the way.

Huracan Performante With More Power

Lamborghini Huracan 20,000

With 640-horsepower, the Lamborghini Huracan Performante arrived in 2016. Active aero and more power from the V10 meant a quicker car and a Nurburgring record.

A facelift model showed up in 2019, called the Huracan Evo. Some new bodywork was fitted with the 640 hp engine. Then the company added rear-wheel steering, torque vectoring, and better body control computers. It got a 610 hp rear-drive variant in 2020.

Car 20k Arrives

Car 20,000 is a Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo Omologata, or STO. It’s a roadgoing copy of the Huracan Super Trofeo and GT3 cars that compete in legendary races like the 24 Hous of Daytona.

Still 640 hp, STO means rear-drive, 60 miles per hour in 3.0 seconds, and more grip and less extra than any other Huracan.

What’s next? The Huracan isn’t being put out to stud just yet. Instead, there’s another special edition on the way.

Technica and Expected Final Edition

Lamborghini Huracan 20,000

It’s called the Lamborghini Huracan Tecnica. Positioned between Evo and STO, this $250,000 rolling sculpture is a bit of a greatest hits album.

A smaller wing than STO, it’s still plenty flashy. It has the STO’s 640 hp engine, drives the rear wheels, and has more downforce and less drag than the standard Evo. While Lambo expects the STO to be a track day special, Tecnica is meant for fast road work. So it has creature comforts like adaptive dampers.

There is one final version of the Huracan expected before the model is replaced. The rumors for that one are some of the strangest we’ve heard since Lamborghini first announced an SUV. A lifted model with underbody protection, following in the Safari style growing in popularity with Porsche 911 enthusiasts.

We can only imagine what that one might be like. Until we see it, raise a glass of prosecco to the highest-selling Lamborghini ever. At least until the Urus SUV hits 20k, which will probably happen next month despite it launching five years later.

An American Aftermarket Success Story: Thermal Research & Development Wed, 20 Apr 2022 12:59:07 +0000 An American Aftermarket Success Story: Thermal Research & Development Read More »

The 1980s were grim for American automakers. Over-complacent, inefficient domestic manufacturers, already hammered by oil crises in 1973 and ’79, were also losing market share to more affordable and fuel-efficient import vehicles, mostly from Japan. 

Yet the very conditions that contributed to this so-called “Malaise Era” of U.S. automaking simultaneously presented opportunities to domestic manufacturers of aftermarket parts. A whole new market was emerging consisting of drivers who wanted to boost the performance and appearance of their new import rides which, while affordable and gas-thrifty, were often underpowered and unsexy.

A case in point is California’s flourishing Thermal Research & Development, which began as a humble muffler shop in 1983. Today, Thermal R&D is among the most respected and advanced exhaust manufacturers in the U.S., employing thirty people at a 25,000-square-foot facility in Lancaster, California that produces 700-1,000 largely handmade performance systems weekly.

Thermal R and DThermal R&D Beginnings

“It was a combination of being in the right place at the right time and having the skill set and the tooling to recognize what was coming and take advantage of it,” said Chuck Asher, founder of Thermal R&D. 

What Asher saw coming was a desire among many owners to squeeze better performance, and just more all-around panache, from small but potentially sporty Japanese cars. He’d begun working at his brother’s muffler shop right out of high school, and within 18 months opened his own, California Muffler, in Canoga Park, California.

“In the mid-’80s, when the sport compact market started to come on board with a lot of the Japanese Acura, Honda, Toyota products I had quite a few customers who were in that field that wanted that type of work done,” Asher recalled.

Southern California boasts hot rod and drag racing subcultures stretching back to the 1950s. Modifying the Japanese imports that began pouring into the region in the late 1970s – Honda Civics and Preludes; Toyota Celicas, Corollas, and Supras; Datsun 510s; Mazda RX-2s and 3s etc. – was a natural evolution.

Initiated by young Asian-American enthusiasts in the city of Gardena, less than an hour from Asher’s original shop, soon a whole scene centered upon modding compact Japanese compact cars spread across the state and then nationwide. Alongside aftermarket paint schemes and engine carburation, modified exhaust systems were central to this vibrant new subculture.

Asher found himself increasingly working on performance upgrades rather than general service jobs and sensed that demand for the former was starting to outpace supply. In response, he shifted to actually manufacturing exhaust systems for “import tuner” customers. Once he began selling these nationally, he dropped the California Muffler name and Thermal Research & Development was born.

Thermal R and DAggressive Performance

What initially put Thermal on the map was their extremely aggressive performance exhausts. Asher and his growing staff continually pushed the envelope of volume that they could get through a system.

“Thermal was really the world’s first company to come out with a 3-inch exhaust system for turbocharged four cylinders, at a time when vehicles were not made for anything of that size,” he explained. “We were even mocked by a lot of people in the market, and now pretty much everybody has pushed in that direction.”

Today, Thermal R&D specializes in complete, bolt-on “catback” exhaust systems, which connect to the back of a car’s factory catalytic converter, as well as making related components such as tips and mufflers. Ninety percent of their products are handmade, in-house, with only sub-products such as rubber hangers and gaskets jobbed out.

Customers include everyone from the U.S. military and high-end boutique automakers to off-the-shelf systems for mainstream models by Ford, GM, Honda, Jeep and more.

Thermal R and D
Thermal R&D Charger SRT exhaust.

“Ford’s coming out with some nice enthusiast vehicles,” Asher explained. “So, for the Fiesta, the Focus, and the Explorer, we move a lot of product for that. And we’re getting ready to release Bronco, Ranger, and Maverick exhaust systems that we’re pretty excited about.”

Metal arrives at Thermal R&D in raw sheets, which teams of expert welders, polishers, and tube benders craft into its finished products. While some automation and CNC machining are employed to increase repeatability and reduce scrap, Asher said that “a lot of hard sweat and tears [and] old-school elbow grease” still goes into Thermal’s products, most of which come with a lifetime warranty. 

Thermal R and D
Thermal R&D Charger SRT exhaust.

On a completely stock motor, a Thermal R&D exhaust system will usually boost output by at least five horsepower and up to thirty-five, as well as substantially increasing torque in certain applications. “A lot of it depends on how under-exhausted the car is from the factory, as to how much you’re really going to pull out of a good-flowing exhaust system,” Asher said.

Exhaustive Tuning

Crucial to Thermal’s success has been its incredibly meticulous attention to sound control and creating the ultimate clean exhaust “note” from its products. This allows drivers to really hear what their engine is doing at any given moment. 

“When you start the car, you’ll have a good, aggressive sound, but not obnoxious,” Asher said. “The real goal in mind is performance – we’re trying to unleash the built-up horsepower in the motor and try to get it to flow better.”

Thermal R and D
Thermal R&D 2020 Honda Civic Type R exhaust.

By homing in on every part of the exhaust note – boosting desirable hertz levels and decreasing undesirable frequencies – through complex sound-canceling rather than by physical restriction, Asher has been able to increase the cubic feet-per-minute flow through a system without adding the weight of additional parts. This also keeps prices down and allows Thermal to retain American manufacturing, by not putting unnecessary, inefficient physical components on its exhaust systems.

“[Sound canceling] is a very technical way of developing the exhaust canisters to absorb those undesirable sounds; to reflect those sounds,” Asher continued.

This is where Thermal R&D really excels. For each new exhaust system they develop, an incredibly painstaking, hi-tech process of eliminating unwanted frequencies, mostly in the 100-180 hertz range, is involved. Having built a starter exhaust system with just minimal muffler and glass absorption, Asher and his team then mount this on a car loaded with multiple interior (and sometimes also exterior) microphones and computer mapping. Having mapped the exhaust notes/frequencies under all manner of driving behaviors, Thermal then uses both software and Asher’s four decades of trade knowledge to develop or modify devices on the system to maximize “good” sounds and minimize “bad” frequencies.

A new challenge in this regard is contemporary transmissions with as many as ten speeds, including three or four overdrives. Such gearboxes radically reduce RPM levels, resulting in the “intrusive” low-frequency drone sounds that Asher seeks to eliminate.

“That’s really not sounds that the motor’s producing as much as it is those that the sound waves going through the performance exhaust system are developing,” he added.

Banishing these frequencies leaves only crisp, clean acceleration sounds that allow a driver to stay truly responsive to their engine, especially during aggressive driving, and to avoid over-revving or lugging.

Thermal R and D
Thermal R&D 2019 Fiesta ST exhaust.

Thermal’s Future

While Thermal’s early customers were principally in the 16 to 28 age range, its increasingly refined exhaust systems have gradually expanded that demographic, which today includes drivers well into their sixties. Like many aftermarket businesses, Asher experienced a surge in demand even among casual car enthusiasts during the 2000s, propelled in part by automotive reality TV shows like Top Gear and Pimp My Ride, and the Fast & Furious movie franchise.

“Things were growing very strong, [but] still in the import market,” he remembered. “That went very strong ‘til about probably the end of the 2000s, mid-teens, and then the Americans really got on board with domestic manufacturing and now they’re back building some pretty nice product as well.”

Among “Hot Sellers” listed on Thermal’s website at the time of writing are a C7 Corvette Exhaust ($2,988), 2014-2019 Ford Fiesta ST Catback Exhaust ($1,119), 2017+ Honda Civic Type R Catback/Frontpipe Exhaust System ($1,228), and a 2012+ Jeep JK Y-Pipe ($275).

Asher continues to push Thermal’s eponymous research and development work, including reaching into new market segments, such as off-road, and unique “secondary” types of vehicles like the Polaris Slingshot three-wheeler (for which Thermal already offers exhaust systems, roof assemblies, and more).

“I believe that at Thermal we’re giving our end user a good product … that’ll last them generally longer than they’ll ever have the car,” he concluded. “The competition is always getting better; we always have to be better. That’s a driving force that keeps me thinking and keeps me sharp.”

Martin Auto Museum: Please Touch the Cars Mon, 18 Apr 2022 10:15:43 +0000 Martin Auto Museum: Please Touch the Cars Read More »

The Martin Auto Museum in Glendale, Arizona recently moved into a larger space, but still maintains its unique singular approach to visitors. The car museum encourages its visitors to touch the cars, sit in them, and even look under the hood. All of this is done with the intent of encouraging more of the general public to become involved in the classic car hobby.

When Mel Martin established his Martin Auto Museum and Event Center in Arizona he bucked tradition. He doesn’t rope off the cars or have alarms sounding if you get too close. He encourages the guests to check out the cars. Want to sit behind the wheel for a picture? Sure go ahead. Take a look under the hood? Well sure, pop the hood open. This hands-on approach is a welcome change from other car museums.

Martin Auto Museum Auburn Replica
Auburn Speedtail Replica from the Martin Auto Museum.

Mel Martin’s Interest in Classic Cars

Mel Martin, now 91 years old started collecting cars at age 16 in Mayer, Arizona, about an hour north of Phoenix, Arizona. His uncle gave him a 1917 Douglas dump truck used in the nearby mines and he held onto it ever since. That solidified his fascination with cars in general and later restoring them.

Martin Auto Museum Dump Truck
This 1917 Douglas dump truck started Mel Martin’s auto collection.

At age 17, Martin started a service shop next to his father’s Richfield gas station in Mayer. Martin was a self-taught mechanic who could rely on some advice from his uncle if necessary. His shop thrived and later he added towing services to his company.

Change of Plans

In 1954 he moved to Phoenix and set up a repair shop in Phoenix. Unfortunately, he soon found out there were numerous repair shops that he would be competing against. One of his employees mentioned he could do bodywork and soon Martin shifted to an auto body shop.

Martin increased his empire by adding yet again towing to his business with M & M Towing, eventually adding sixteen trucks that were also used at auto auctions. He also ran a tire recapping business. He expanded into buying and selling commercial real estate and eventually constructed commercial buildings as well.

Martin Auto Museum Tow Truck
1928 Graham Tow Truck

Along the way, he collected cars and stored them at his business properties. At one property he owned, Martin stored 24 cars in a 5,000 square foot shop that housed five car lifts. This was the beginning of showing his collection, but he realized it was too small to allow for public access. When he had time he would work on restoring these classic cars.

In 1982 he sold his businesses to focus on his car collection and the commercial real estate business. He helped run an auto auction business as well through 1992. He originally was going to open a business focused on Mustangs and had collected 105 Mustangs at his 10 acre home site. But his wife wanted to move and a business partner grew disenchanted with the business, so Martin sold most of the cars.

Martin Museum Beginnings

While touring a building that was for sale in 2004, Martin commented that it would make a great site for a car museum and he bought it. It had 18,000 square feet of usable space to display his cars. He was able to squeeze 65 cars into the building, but admits that it was a tight fit. Originally his collection was only open by invitation, but in 2008 he opened it to the public. It helped that his business was along an interstate freeway.

Martin Auto Museum and Event Center

Earlier this year Martin moved operations to a new facility on nearly ten acres with 107,000 square feet of display space and over 700 parking spaces in Glendale, Arizona. He estimates that he has room for 160 cars. But that won’t stop Martin from buying additional cars for the museum. He already has eight in his shop being restored and figures he can just rotate the cars on display when he reaches the maximum capacity.Martin Auto Museum Corvettes

Touch the Cars

You’ll immediately notice after entering the museum that most are not roped off or behind stanchions. Martin encourages his guests to look at the cars up close, sit in them if they wish, and check out what is under the hood. Martin noted, “If they get scratched by golly we’ll fix them.” Only three cars, all aluminum-bodied cars with fragile body panels, are roped off.

Martin is a proud member of the National Association of Automobile Museums (NAAM) and says many other museum heads complain to him that his “hands-on approach” is wrong. Martin counters that notion saying “the younger generation needs to be involved” in these classic cars. He tells the other museums, “you do what you want and I will do what I want.”

Youth Involvement

To further his goal of getting youth involved in the hobby, The Martin Car Museum and Event Center has dedicated a repair shop area for high school youth to learn the craft. He is in negotiations with nearby high schools to establish these educational efforts. He also has a room devoted to auto-themed arcade games for entertainment.

Event Center

Martin wisely added in his building several dedicated event spaces for up to 450 people. This helps as a revenue stream and allows for a broader segment of the public to experience his collection. His museum is focused on expanding the classic car hobby to others.

Martin Auto Museum 1967 Corvette
This cutaway model of the 1967 Corvette is part of the Martin Auto Museum.

Martin’s Favorite Car

He has a simple strategy for adding to his collection. Martin says “if I like the car and it is the right price I buy it”. Martin has a wide variety of cars but admits to liking the Cadillacs.

Martin’s favorite car though is a red 1930 LaSalle. After having overdrive installed in it to make it more roadworthy, he piloted the car for two Great Races. He allows it to be used for weddings and parades and says; “it feels like home when I drive it.”

Martin Auto Museum 1914 Dodge
Mel Martin drove this 1914 Dodge in several of the Great Races.


Two of Martin’s relatives are directly working in the museum and he plans on supporting the museum with more cars and financial support. This should ensure the Martin Auto Museum carries on with its hands-on approach to appreciating vintage cars for generations to come.