Monday, June 12, 2017

Next Time Helio

The Indy 500 is one of the most recognized races and sporting events in the world. To be a four time winner of the race puts you in one of the most exclusive clubs in the world- there's only three members: A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears. Helio Castroneves has an open invitation to join with his three wins.

Helio is one of my favorite drivers. He's earned that spot for me as he has such a positive attitude and he's so down to earth.

That impression is confirmed by additional observations when interacting with other fans. I've captured a few shots of him at the 2016 and 2017 Indycar race at St. Petersburg Florida shown below exhibiting his captivating smile along with the ability to have fun. ( See candid picture of him spoofing the team mechanics at the 2016 race in St. Pete.)  Lastly, I'll finish this post with a story about a conversation I had with him at the autograph session in St. Petersburg back in March that adds to my appreciation for this truly humble driver.

                                              Can He Make Four Indy 500 Wins?

This guy has an ability to keep cool under pressure, even when things don't result in a win.  He always comes away with a good outlook on life.  Take this year's Indy 500 for example. He's won this three times.  Only three people on the planet have won it four times. He's trying to join the Four Timers club and he ends up second. Most people would lose it, have a break down or be really really upset. Helio's response "I did everything I could, trust me. Unfortunately second place is the best for us today."   Wow- he kept it together in the face of disappointment.    At age 42, Helio is in great shape and the experts say he's not too old to win again. ( Al Unser Sr. won in 1987 when he was 47)
I hope he does.  He's a class act!

So here's my little story.  I got in the long line for driver autographs at the 2017 St. Pete Indycar race and had a bunch of 8x10 pictures from the year before of various drivers but I didn't have one of Helio.  What can I have him autograph, other than the standard photo card everybody gets?  I happened to be wearing a hat that says 'Shift Happens' with a four speed gearshift pattern showing on the front. That's what I'll have him sign. So I get up to his spot under the tent and we exchange the usual quick hello and I hand him my hat.  He stops, looks at it and breaks out laughing. Then he pulls out his cell phone and says 'I have to take a picture of this and send it to Will Power'  ( Will Power had crashed in practice the day before and had his car in for repair)   He proceeds to take the picture, signs the hat and hands it back and says thank you 'that's cool'.    NO  I say THAT was cool what just happened!   It shows how down to earth he is and how he likes to have fun.

So here's a few photos of the guy that almost made it four wins at Indy:

                                              A couple of shots of Helio in action

Signing My Hat

Talking To Reporters
Just Having Fun

And My Autographed Hat

Hope You Enjoyed The Story About Helio

See You in Two Weeks At Watkins Glen For The 6 Hour IMSA Race
Paul Ziegler/ Editor and Publisher

Friday, June 9, 2017

Think Muscle Cars Were Fast?

Late 1960's to early 1970's, the golden years for hot American cars.  I grew up with them.  My first new car was in June 1968 when I was still 17.  A green 1968 Plymouth Road Runner with red line Goodyear tires.  This was a bad ass machine by any measure.  A 383 cubic inch V8 with a four speed Hurst shifter on the floor and a mean dual exhaust rumble at idle that became a loud bark when you floored it!

Here's a picture of something close to what my Plymouth Road Runner looked like. It is the exact same green color, but this is the GTX version of that Plymouth only this one had a 440 cubic inch engine.

I thought I died and went to heaven when dad said OK to me putting every penny I had down (about $500.00)  with him being my bank for the balance of the $2,800. purchase.  I was sure I died and went to heaven when I first had a chance to drive this beast with the tires smoking and that engine barking.  It was fast!   But how fast?

Now, as then one of the primary performance measures is a car's quarter mile time. Well, lets take a look at a number of the hottest muscle cars from that era.

Fast Cars of the Past:

Car Model             Horsepower       Standing start 1/4 Mile Time         Speed      

Plymouth GTX        375 HP                       14.96 Seconds                   96.98 MPH
Pontiac GTO            360   "                        15.13      "                          99.49     "
Chevy SS 396           375   "                        15.28      "                         92.00     "
Dodge R/T                375   "                        15.33       "                        92.68     "
Olds   442                 360    "                        15.48      "                         91.37     "
Ford GTA                 335    "                        15.94      "                         91.46     "
Buick GS                  340    "                         15.58      "                        90.36     "

(Source - Motor Trend Road Test Issue June 1967)

Admittedly, these cars were much heavier than the average sporty sedan of today and horsepower figures back then were not as reliable as we would like for a comparison test, but overall this is as close as we will get when comparing these to cars of today.  Also note the observed miles per gallon average for all the above as a group- 11.3 miles per gallon.  


So here we go with some of the sporty sedans on the market today. When looking at the numbers, the good old days were not as good when it came to fast cars.  You will be surprised to learn that what we have available today in the category of fast is really fast when looking back at these ' Muscle' cars!  Next, let's take a look at a new generation of fast sedan sized cars.

I thought I died and went to heaven when I test drove an Alfa Romeo Giulia- and now I own one:

The New Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti  with Sport Package

Fast Cars of Today:  (Note- all are 2.0 liter inline 4 cylinder models)

Car Model   (2017)                 Horsepower        Standing Start 1/4 Mile            Speed

Alfa Romeo Giulia              280 HP                  13.6 Seconds                          103.7 MPH
Audi A4 2.0T                      252 HP                  13.7      "                                 100.4   "
Cadillac ATS 2.0T              272 HP                  14.2      "                                   98.3   "
Jaguar XE 25t                     240 HP                  15.0      "                                    94.0   "
Lexis 200t F Sport              241 HP                   15.4      "                                   89.9   "
Mercedes-Benz C300         241 HP                   14.5      "                                   96.1   "

(Source Motor Trend  2017)

So based on the above, we are seeing a new golden age of performance vehicles! For the majority of us who operate in the $50,000. and under market, these are the new Muscle Cars! In addition the observed miles per gallon for this group is 23/32/26.  Taking the city driving average for a fair comparison since these were speed runs the new breed bettered the old by 10 miles per gallon which is astounding considering they are faster.

It is on to Watkins Glen for the IMSA 6 Hours at the Glen June 30- July 2.  Can't wait to get some great pictures for all of you!     Paul Ziegler, Editor/ Publisher

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Lady With Her Lincoln

Before I relay my encounter with the Lady with the Lincoln:

To all readers, I'm back but only for two days after traveling on Norwegian Cruise lines to St. Thomas, Tortola and Nassau. The ride aboard the 'Escape' was enjoyable but I'm not used to moving at 22 nautical miles per hour.   For A Week!

All I know is the 6 pounds I gained will be worked off soon as my wife (and me) have serious home chores to do with two properties. The one in Florida is manageable but our New York home is almost 2 acres and it is vegetable planting time and lawn mowing time so good-by extra pounds.

  I head out for NY at 4:00AM. This trip will be done about 80 MPH up RT 95 with my Chevy Impala, leaving my lovely Giulia home.

I will fly back at 500 MPH via Southwest, so each form of transportation is progressively faster.  Giulia, until I get back, take care of the place and there's no form of transportation that beats you for the overall experience!

                                                Will Miss You Giulia-  Will Be Back Soon

Lincoln Lady-

I stopped for gas last night at my usual place- the Rally Mart to get my  93 octane Shell gas. ( I swear by it for all my cars)   As I'm filling up, an older model Lincoln pulls in behind me and a lady gets out; nothing unusual.  After less than a minute, the lady walks over and says, 'What kind of car is that?'   I told her an Alfa Romeo Giulia and she replies- Oh that's the car my husband and I see on the evening news commercials.   It's really beautiful.   Ma'am I think it is too- I'm enjoying it.      Then she adds, we just ordered a new Lincoln but this car is something else.  Can I see the interior?  So I show her the Rosso leather interior and  she said, my that is gorgeous. It looks sporty.   Glad you like it Ma'am.  Back she went to finish fueling the Lincoln.  I said enjoy your new car when it arrives.

I'm sensing she wished she ordered a new Giulia!   I'm glad she got to see an Alfa Romeo.

In all the years I drove a Porsche Boxster and a Cayman, I never had an experience close to that- admirers yes but this lady was taken in by the Giulia.    Alfa Romeo, I believe you have the beginnings of a movement with this car.  

Alfa, all you need is to get the folks to drive one and they will want to buy one.

I'm happy to share my experience with you all. 

And , as I finish packing, I'll leave you with a nice photo I took at 5:00Am last Saturday as we pulled into the port of Miami.   My name for this picture is 'Moon Over Miami'.    I'm sure that city will see a lot of Alfa's roaming the streets very soon.  

         Will be back soon-  camera is with me hunting for some great car photos to bring you!

Paul Ziegler, Publisher/ Photographer

Monday, May 1, 2017

What Is An Alfa Romeo?

For many of you those are the first words you say when I mention I bought an Alfa Romeo. So in  the interest of a quick education on the subject I put together this post for you.  To those in the know, you can enjoy the pictures I've attached that I took at Watkins Glen in September 2016 during the vintage races. And I think all will like the video presentation by Alfa Romeo CEO, Reid Bigland.

Here's a nice overview on the company and its racing heritage so one can develop an appreciation for this exciting brand. It is very good news to the ears of  Alfa lovers having them back in the US as the article below points out.  Be sure to play the video embedded in the article as well:

Please click here:
Getting To Know Alfa Romeo

 Here's a picture of a 2017 Giulia Ti with the sport package- my newest addition to the garage. See the previous post for a full driving impression report.

                                                             Italian Style Can't Be Beat

       The next section is a selection of Alfa Romeo race cars from the past and the story behind
       the cloverleaf design on their race cars:

       Where the cloverleaf came from:

The story behind the cloverleaf.

You will not want to miss this Video!
Alfa Romeo History Lesson By Reid Bigland, CEO

So now you have a little background - here's a sample of some of their race cars.  Beauty and grace in motion!  Enjoy the gallery of photos.

And here's a street version spotted at Festivals of speed in St. Petersburg

I wish I had more to show you - these are beautiful cars!  More to come in future posts as my camera finds them.

Paul Ziegler,


Monday, April 24, 2017

Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti First Impressions

I'll try to summarize my first impressions of driving the new Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti in this post.  I'm using the word 'try' because it isn't easy to convey in words how this car feels. Like the feeling you get with your favorite sneakers, you know you want to put them on because you hardly know they are on. In other words this car feels right; powerful yet comfortable.

 I bought this white jewel of a Giulia on April 12th and I've logged about 400 miles so far.  I'll give you my thoughts from a visual viewpoint as well.

For the visual; the car is gorgeous in my opinion and several folks I've met agree. I took the Giulia Ti to DuPont Registry Cars and Coffee a few days after signing the 'adoption' papers for her and there were many thumbs up on her looks from young stud teenagers to old retired guys. I had a constant stream of admirers at the show telling me they also loved how the car looks.  So before going any further- here's a shot I took in one of the parks near my home in Seminole, FL.   The white exterior over red interior is bold but tasteful and is highlighted by black leather trim with red stitching. Several people at the show thought it was a knock out interior.

Staying on the appearance summary-  here's what I call the 'Curves of Giulia' in picture form. To demonstrate a few see below.  Every line on the car swoops and curves in all the right proportions and places to make it a rolling piece of art. Even the Alfa emblem's green serpent curves in a coil position. And those wheels- they are a treasure for car lovers.

One of the more unique logos in the industry.

The car looks great but how does it drive?

I am happy to report it drives as good as it looks. I traded my 2014 Porsche Cayman for this  beauty and it is everything I could want in a performance car/ sports car. I call it my 4 door sports car.

      Am I crazy or is it worth trading a Porsche Cayman 981, with a PDK and a screaming 2.7 liter  6 cylinder boxer engine for a 4 door sports sedan with a 2.0 liter turbo four and an 8 speed automatic?

YES- Worth It

The Cayman was so good in many respects and it couldn't be beat for outright handling, but what won me over was the Alfa does everything the Cayman did and more.  This Giulia's comfortable, quiet ride combines with a perfectly matched transmission to use all the power band. The Porsche had tall gearing requiring one to drive in sport mode or downshift a gear or two to stay in the power band even around town but the Alfa seems to know how to keep you there effortlessly.  The reason is the Alfa's superior torque, a turbocharger, and better gear matching through an 8 speed ZF derived transmission. Taking a look at the torque figures, the Alfa's 306 lb-ft vs the Cayman's 213 lb-ft it shows there's no contest.  This is a big part of the Alfa's 'fun to drive' factor compared to the Cayman's driving experience. 

The Porsche has a higher top speed at 165 mph vs 149 mph, but how often are you using that? Unquestionably the Porsche has better cornering ability, but when you squeeze the trigger aka accelerator, the Alfa is gone before respected competitors get going including the base Cayman.

  My conclusion as to why I liked the car's overall driving pleasure is backed up by the latest Motor Trend comparison test (June 2017) with rivals like the Audi A4 2.0T, Cadillac ATS 2.0T, Mercedes C300, Jaguar XE 25t, and the Lexus200t F Sport. My version, the Giulia Ti beat all but the Audi  0-60 doing it in 5.1 seconds but more important, it beat ALL of them going from 0-80, which is 90% of where we drive.  In fact it crushed many of the rivals by over 2 full seconds on the 0-80 test!  That's what proper gearing and torque matching does. I know Porsche is entering a new chapter with its Boxster/ Cayman  718  using a new torquey turbo four cylinder and the reports are favorable but the Alfa Romeo was already there with its new aluminum 2.0 turbo last year. Torque trumps horsepower in everyday driving, or at least that's what I believe. But torque isn't the only story here.

There's more- throw in one of the best steering cars out there and you have what puts the icing on the cake for how the car 'feels'.  The Giulia offers wonderful feedback from the road with a lighter than expected turning effort set up with an incredibly quick steering ratio. Topping that off, you have a beautiful wheel that you are holding. With it's flat bottom, leather wrapping and On/Off mounted power button it is very Ferrari like. And the paddle shifters are nice large metal instruments fit for a surgeon straight from Ferrari's play book.  Last but not least is the suspension- a double wishbone affair up front with all the lessons Alfa has learned in years of racing bread into the rear.

  With this race inspired suspension the driving 'feel' is of a car much lighter, like it wants to dance. The seat of your pants experience in the twistees reminds me of my old BMW 2002,  with the added bonus of body hugging sport seats trimmed in red leather! So if you want a quiet and comfortable ride that handles curves with ease and goes like hell, the Giulia Ti will not let you down.  And if you need more speed you can step up to the V6 505 HP Quadrifoglio.  All around the Giulia Ti 280 HP is the total package for the price and I'd suggest a test drive to see!

Writer's Note- Read the June issue of Motor Trend- First time I've seen the base model of a new car (This Giulia Ti ) AND its top model (The Giulia Quadrifoglio) win in two different comparison tests!
Paul Ziegler, Editor/ Publisher

Here's a few more pictures of this beautiful masterpiece.

See you around, Giulia!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Festivals of Speed Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg

Here are some highlight photos from another magnificent show in St. Petersburg, Florida.  The main presenting sponsor was Bert Smith Euro Collection, and specifically Porsche.

You will see in these pictures some beautiful Porsches from street cars to race cars and several other exotic brand cars to add spice to the mix. Feast your eyes on this rolling artwork while enjoying some distinct American muscle from the past.  This collection only scratches the surface of what was there.

I have a special shout out to  Maserati- Alfa Romeo of St. Petersburg. Great to see you at the show and happy to see you are in the Tampa Bay market in our back yard!  I'm speaking as former president of the Pinellas Park- Gateway Chamber of Commerce.

If you have not attended a Festivals of Speed, I highly recommend it.  Special thanks to the Porsche Club of America members who brought your favorite cars to the show and those that joined in on the boulevard by the Vinoy for the Porsches on Parade Wash & Shine.

Here you go...   Also be sure to click on this link to see a video of  the Porsche 962 pictured in this post.       Miller Porsche 962 History

Perfect Backdrop For This Porsche

A Cool $2 Million Plus For This Bugatti

Not Tray Tables For Your Lunch!

PCA Members Porsches On Parade

Beautiful Curves Combine With Angular Lines

The All New Porsche Panamara

Alpha Romeo And Maserati

1972 Alpha Romeo  - A True Classic

Porsches By The Sea

A Rare Devin D - Small And Agile and A  Brutish  #67 Porsche 962
See Below For More About That  #67 Porsche

A Stunningly Fast Car

American Motors - Dick Charcalla's AMX

Fast Mopars- Sox and Martin Cars

Brute Force-  426 Hemi Power

The King, Richard Petty Cars

And The Grand Finale-  Here's A Ferrari  LaFerrari

Got $4 Million Plus?  One of Only 500

Plan on coming to Festivals of Speed Next Year!