Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pittsburgh's Most Valuable Bloger

We have made it through the nomination period and have now moved on to the voting stage. The contest picks blogs from six categories ranging from Dining/Entertainment, Sports, Lifestyle, Local Affairs, Health/Fitness & Everything Else. We are competing in the Everything Else category and are the only automotive oriented blog eligible for voting. So here's a run down of what Autobahn Automotive News is all about and why I would like your votes (you can vote once per day).

Autobahn Automotive News is based in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. I have been a life long car nut having a great passion for both cars and the auto industry as a whole. I have worked in the auto industry for 15 years holding a variety of positions at several well known dealerships in the Pittsburgh area. During the auto industry downturn, I became a freelance auto industry analyst and have continued to aid local dealers in regards to trends in the industry, marketing solutions and Internet marketing efforts. Autobahn Automotive News was born from some of these efforts and wanting to share some of my stories about cars, auto industry news, photos, event coverage, road tests and anything else I really fell like writing about that's related to cars.  Along with working in the auto industry, my passion goes deeper to the cars themselves. I have been privileged to drive some of the finest cars in the world. From Yugos to Aston Martins. I get excited looking at radiator mascots on pre war cars to the latest in designs from manufacturers all over the world, and everything in between.

While I have a great passion for everything automotive, my affinity is towards Volkswagen cars and their subsequent brands of Audi and Porsche. However, I also share a fondness for Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors and what made them the giants of the industry. I also have the honor of serving as a member of the car show committee for the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix association and as having held several positions on the board of the Three Rivers Volkswagen Club. So with Autobahn Automotive News, we don't really follow any rhyme or reason as to what we post about, but one thing's for sure. It will be automotive related in some form or another. Having contacts within just about every auto manufacturer, along with media access grants me access to industry news before many hear about. So look for exciting new posts to come!

Voting for the CBS Pittsburgh's Most Valuable Blogger contest runs through September 9th, 2011. You are allowed to vote once per day so please vote for this site as many times as you can. There is a badge to the left that will take you to the voting page. Thank you for your continued patronage.

A tale of two Chryslers

I am called to a shop this day for a problem with a 1997 Chrysler Sebring with a 2.5 liter V-6 motor. The shop owner explains to me that this vehicle has been all over the place. Lots of replacement parts. It runs real poor. So poor that the catalytic converter glows red after only a few moments of operation. The shop owner has had enough of this car. He has spent a considerable amount of time and resources on it. The vehicle sets Cam/Crank error codes as well. It has had multiple crank sensors. After listening to the shop owner and hearing the vehicle run. I am pretty sure we have some cam and crank relationship issue. I have been down the road with these vehicles before. There are many things that can go wrong from improper timing belt replacement, broken camshaft dowel pins, worn crankshaft gears, wrong or damaged flywheels, wrong year PCM with wrong flywheel with wrong camshaft sprocket, etc. The first thing I do is scope camshaft sensor and crankshaft sensor to look at the signals and more importantly the relationship between the two.
There she is. The crankshaft sensor reads off the flywheel and the camshaft sensor is inside the distributor which is driven off the end of the camshaft. The relationship between the two looks great. Amplitude of signals and ground point are also excellent. However, I am seeing a very weird crankshaft sensor pattern.
I changed the timebase so we can see more detail. Here the crankshaft sensor signal (arrows) is not what it is supposed to be. There should be four equal pulses reflecting the slots in the flywheel. If you look at the pattern sometimes we have this more often we have this freaky pattern. Hmmm. Do we have a damaged flywheel? This car has been around the block. Who knows how many times the transmission or engine has been out of this. Remember, this car has had multiple new crankshaft sensors. Something tells me that the problem still is with the crankshaft sensor itself rather than the flywheel. I recommend to the shop owner to get an OE crankshaft sensor and to make sure it has the felt spacer on the end of it. This felt spacer is the air gap adjustment between the sensor and flywheel. When installed it will bottom out. The first start takes the felt spacer off and sets the air gap. Subsequent crankshaft sensor removals and replacements require this felt spacer to be reinstalled before sending the sensor back home. I have seen plenty of aftermarket crankshaft sensors that do not posess this spacer. Installing the sensor without the spacer will cause certain sensor damage. I inform the shop owner of my hunch. But, warn him that he may be taking this transmission out. I reason with him that I would rather gamble with the sensor than a transmission removal. He agrees.
A couple of days later he calls me. He goes on to tell me that the vehicles crankshaft sensor he removed had obvious contact damage. The new OE sensor fixed the car and the car runs well. I was happy for him.

The next Chrysler is a 1995 Chrysler Cirrus with a 2.5 liter V-6 motor. It is a crank no start. Also, the shop owner says it has no scantool communication. I crank the car over. It has a nice even cranking sound. I hook up my scantool and I indeed have communication. This is one of those vehicles that have the familiar OBD2 data link connector but are really not true blue OBD2. We used to call these cars OBD one and a half on the techline. I check certain key parameters on the scanner such as map voltage, vehicle theft status, and cranking inj pulse. All look good. I check spark quality and scope ASD (Automatic Shutdown) relay voltage and injector pulse right at an injector. I have great spark, good ASD voltage cranking, and proper injector pattern. What gives? I spritz a little carb spray into the throttle body and car cranks starts and stalls. I break out the propane and can run the car. Ok, I know I have no fuel. Hooking a fuel pressure gauge up on this vehicle is a pain in the a$#. So, I use ATM (Actuator Test Mode) to actuate the fuel pump relay. I hear the relay click but no fuel pump operation. I remove the relay to jump out and look at the pattern with my low amp probe.
I removed the relay next to it for comparison. Do you see what is missing?

The terminal that is the output of the relay out to the fuel pump is not there. It has sunk down below where the relay blade terminals will make contact. I am able to use a long duckbill terminal to make contact with it to get this fuel pump to run. I hear the fuel pump turn on. I try to start and we still have a no start. Huh? The fuel pump is wailing away. Ok, lets get the low amp probe on there.
So we have a nice pattern. But very low amperage. I typically see 4-5 amps on these vehicles. Even a cheap pump will give me 3 or so. This is very low at barely 2 amps. Ok, we have a good pattern but low amperage. What would cause that? I think we are out of gas. A quick rap on the tank confirms this. I advise the shop owner to remove the underhood fusebox and repair the terminal. Oh yeah, put some gas in it as well. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What's in a name? Ex Steve McQueen Porsche 911 sells for $1.25 Million.

There's hardly a person out there who doesn't know who Steve McQueen is. It is also no secret that he had a great passion for anything powered by gasoline. He owned and raced numerous cars and motorcycles, and even on occasion few a few airplanes before his untimely death in 1980. In recent years, there has been a resurgence in anything and everything Steve McQueen. However, on the rare occasion, you can find something that he actually owned. Take the case of this Slate Grey 1970 Porsche 911 S. This car was purchased new from Porsche by McQueen for use while filming his movie LeMans. Not only was it owned by McQueen, but it also appeared in the opening sequence of LeMans as Michael Delaney's personal car. After filming wrapped, the Porsche was sent back to Porsche for some upgrades (the car was already heavily optioned including a leather interior and A/C) before being shipped to LA. In late 1971 McQueen put the Porsche for sale, the theory is due to his also owning a 1969 911 S that was nearly identical, but having an upgraded stereo installed (that car is still in the McQueen family today).

Since that time, the 1970 has passed through several collectors hands, all knowing the cars unique place in history. It also remains largely original, having only received a fresh coat of paint and a new interior along with the usual maintenance items. Also surprising is that the car has covered well over 100,000 miles. So it's been driven, just the way Steve would have had it. The current owner elected to offer the car for sale and commissioned the car to RM Auction's Monterey sale (fitting) and with an opening bid of $200,000, the Porsche quickly rose to $1 million dollars and ending just short of the high auction estimate of $1.35 million.

This is another car, that I personally would love to have in my collection, even if it didn't have the Steve McQueen pedigree. There is something about the early 911s that just look so right, even today. And when topped with the subdued slate grey paint color, it makes for one classy ride. Congratulations to the new owner, and hopefully the 911 will be see out on the road and at car events rather than locked away in a garage.

Photos: RM Auctions.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Thinking of Monterey

Well, it's Monterey Week. considered by many as the pinnacle of the collector car hobby. Events like the Quail, Concourso Italiano, Pebble Beach Councours d'Elegance and the Rolex Historics to name a few. Cars that are restored to better than new condition that rarely make it out of the garage, gather to strut their stuff for the world to see. Every year I am treated to parts of what I would call my PowerBall wish list if I were to ever hit the lottery and strike it rich. Many folks would lavish them self with new cars, where as I would build a nice new garage and fill it to the brim with automotive history. One such vehicle is the Ferrari 265 GT/B Daytona and the Shelby 289 Cobra. These classics are some of the most beautiful cars to ever be designed and this year in Monterey, RM Auctions has examples of each that I would love to call my own.

1971 Ferrari 365 Daytona coupe

1964 Shelby 289 Cobra

Picture source: RM Auctions

Thursday, August 18, 2011

July 2011 Meeting Notes

Wednesday 27 July 2011  notes:
Kathy Garbe, Esquire Motors
Becky Vierck, Reborn Automotive
June Boone, Photographer and retiree
 Margo, Chucks Volks Werks
Carra Molgard, LKQ

Started the night with talks about the raffle and how it is progressing. June suggested that we make the Tool box mobile and bring it to the race track as needed to get more exposure.
Becky and Margo volunteered to transport and sit at a booth to sell tickets. All agreed that might boost sales. June is collaborating with the Beaches Cruise-in and PIR folks. Straps and blankets will be provided to limit damage to item.

At this point 548 tickets have been distributed and no accurate count for sold tickets available at the time of meeting.

It was agreed at the meeting (of 5 people) that there will be an August meeting. As there has not been much planning in the way of the Oktoberfest. Generally August is an off month. It was discussed that the group still needs to coordinate for Food, Band, Beer, Tickets, Utensils, raffle prizes and many other logistics behind the scenes.
The event, at least, has a locked in location...Sherwood Auto.

This one is coming up faster and there is still much to do.
That will also be the event where the tool box is presented to one lucky winner!!!!

And lastly...the scholarship was brought up, by Carra. She was at a Ford Club meeting a week ago and met the Assets Facilitator for Mt Hood CC, Jerry Lyons. He is involved with a Cruse-in 13 August in Gresham, OR. She discussed with him her involvement in AWA and said we have discussed in meetings expanding our scholarship funds to other schools. Right now we gift to PCC. She was always under the impression that the money was gifted to a FEMALE student. To promote more women in the auto tech industry. This
 provoked questions of eligibility and merit. There will be presumably be some guidelines drawn up for future scholarships.

Next meeting will be last Wednesday in August, The 31st? we should send out calendar reminders to all group members.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ken Block's Gymkhana Four!

Ken Block's Gymkhana videos are hugely popular. They show precision driving at its best. Ken Block has produced 4 of these videos showing his driving skills, and the latest release shows Ken taking on the world of Hollywood with his new Ford Fiesta rally car. Watch and enjoy! But remember always drive responsibly.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

2007 Dodge Caliber

Yup, there she is. Straight from the body shop almost complete. It has an airbag lamp on and the body shop wanted to rectify this before putting the rest of the nose together. Smart move just in case there is a sensor or wiring that needs to be accessed. Let's pull some codes.
Ok, so we have some OCM (Occupant Classification Module) codes. Drivers seat track position sensor issue. Late model vehicles with "smart" airbags have information overload when it comes to keeping the occupants safe. So, where do I start? I know already. I look under the drivers seat and....
What do we have here? Yup, the sensor connector is swinging in the breeze. This day is going to be easy. I reconnect the connector. The CPA (Connector Position Assurance) lock tab was a little screwey. It needed to be gently "massaged" back into place. I moved the seat forward and back to make sure we don't have any issues with the sensor itself.
Here, is a shot of it from the backseat area connected. I cleared the codes and went on my way. This day is going to be easy. That was the mentality until I had to reindex a cam sensor on a 4.0 liter Ford Explorer and burned a half dollar sized portion of my forearm. The lesson here is KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). Go after the obvious first. I just wish I followed my own advice all the time.

Ottotest Update

Well, I have now had the Ottotest for close to 6 months now. It has disappointed me more times than not. It is billed as an OE level tool. It does not even come close. The latest disappointment was a 1999 Hyundai Tiberon. The Ottotest didn't even have a menu for this car either using the vehicle or the VIN number. The tablet battery life is extremely short and it seems to struggle with the Nissan/Infiniti platform. There have been numerous updates. These updates typically are for 2010 model year coverage. I feel the tool and it's owners would be better served if they would concentrate on increasing the capabilities of the scanner on 2000-2008 model year vehicles. Case in point would be Ford automated evaporative test. Something, the Ford IDS scantool does that the Ottotest does not. I feel the tool is improving but it is at a snails pace. The typical updates always lists "client requested enhancements". Well tell me in detail what the enhancement is! I do use it more and more. I was recently checking an Infiniti I-30 for a shop and was showing him the graphing capabilities the Ottotest provides. The shop owner definitely liked what he was seeing. The Ottotest does do an excellent job of graphing. The speed of the tool needs to be increased tremendously. In the real world speed of a scanner from boot up to diagnosing is paramount. We technicians are not a patient group. I will keep you posted.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mini of Gotham City comes to Pittsburgh

Everyone in Pittsburgh is having fun with the fact that the city is now Gotham City, home of Batman. Mini of Pittsburgh, the city's ONLY Mini dealer is showing off their new showroom as Mini of Gotham City. This is the kind of spirited fun that not many car dealers take the time to have any more.

Source: Facebook

Monday, August 8, 2011

Cadillac CTS-V Coupe wins big at Mid-Ohio

There's no denying the raw power of the Cadillac V series cars. So much so that Cadillac has been racing prepared CTS sedans for the last few years. With the launch of the CTS-V coupe, brought a perfect match for racing. Cadillac Racing's last victory came in 2007 and has since been plagued with issues that have kept them from reaching the podium. That changed last weekend when Johnny O'Connell brought the new CTS-V coupe in for the car's first victory at Mid-Ohio.

We had the opportunity to view this car up close at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix last month and were very impressed with the efforts Cadillac Racing has gone to, to prepare the CTS-V for SCCA World Challenge series racing. Congrats to Cadillac Racing!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A few more hot rods

From the Sacred Pistons Car Club show in June.

Driven: 2011 Audi A7

We're still processing through all of our notes from a long day of Audi driving, but look for reviews of the 2011 Audi A6, A7 and A8 in the next few days. What we can tell you is all three cars are incredible machines and will certainly further put Audi on the map.

Oh the things you'll see!

A special treat at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix this year, may just have been one of the cars that could probably have been confused as a replica. There is no denying that one of the coolest Porsches ever made was the 911 RSR IROC used in the 1974 season of the International Race of Champions. The 911 RSR was used for only the 1974 season before IROC switched to Chevrolet Camaros. Only 15 RSRs were built by Porsche and then prepared by IROC. The later was so that the cars would be prepared identical with the exception of color to keep an even playing field. The 1974 911 RSR above is owned by former racer and Porsche dealer Bob Nikel. He purchased the car shortly after the 1974 season ended and added it to his private collection of cars.

The car was originally born in Aubergine before being repainted in Peru Red. As impressive as the car is to look at, even more impressive is the list of drivers that drove this very car in 1974. Peter Revson finished 2nd to  Mark Donahue in this car. A.J. Foyt drove it Race 1 at Riverside and finished in 6th place. Richard Petty drove it Race 2 at Riverside, finishing 10th, and Emerson Fidapaldi dove it Race 3, finishing in 3rd place after starting 10th. What also makes the car unique, is that with the exception of the color change, the car is largely original. Only a few minor modifications have been made to the car since 1974. And even more astounding is that the car is driven regularly.

The 29th Annual Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix

Despite record heat in the upper 90 degree range most of the week. The 29th Annual Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix had another record year. This year, Porsche had the honor of Marque of the Year, and thanks to efforts from the Allegheny Region of the Porsche Club of America, had nearly 500 Porsches of all vintages come to Schenley Park. The ARPCA also celebrated a milestone in 2011. Celebrating 50 years as a club. Part of their efforts were having a Porsche from every year of their 50 years as a club from 1961, through to a new 2011 model. Also sharing honors this year were The Cars of Carol Shelby as Spotlight Feature. That display brought several unique vehicles including several genuine 289 and 427 Cobras, Vipers, Mustangs and even a GT40 continuation car built by Holman & Moody.

The racing action was awesome as usual. With 2011 being the first year of sanctioning by the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Association, several cars that would have otherwise been unable to compete under VSCCA guidelines were now allowed to race. The Schenley Park course is unique in all of it's 2.33 mile length as it is made up entirely of public roads that would otherwise be open to the public 360 days a year. The course features 22 turns and no less than 17 elevation changes and represents what racing used to be in the days before Road America and the air port tracks. This is how racing used to be. And unlike events like the Monterey Historics, it's on the street. Where else can you see vintage MGs, Porsches, Aston Martins, Datsuns, Minis, and more do battle like this?

Each year, the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix brings over 2000 cars of all vintages to the car show side which is held on the scenic Schenley Park Golf Course. Cars representing every corner of the globe and just about every make are on display. There are even a few new cars on display as many Pittsburgh area car dealer particpate as sponsors, including a few manufacturers such as Volkswagen, Audi, Suzuki, Mini and Ford. And what originally started as a two day event has grown in to a 10 day festival celebrating the automobile filled with two race weekends, a host of car shows, parades, parties, rallies, and track days. And what makes the event truly spectacular is that it is entirely run by volunteers, and ALL proceeds from the events, benefit charity. Since 1983, the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix has raised over $2.5 million dollars for the Allegheny Valley School and the Autism Society of Pittsbugh. The PVGP is a highly recommended event if you are in the Pittsburgh Area come mid July. The event can't be beat, and it's free to the public for spectators. And best of all, it supports a great cause.

Batmobile spotted in Pittsburgh!

That's right folks! Filming of The Dark Night Rises has begun in our native Pittsburgh, and that of course means that Bruce Wayne has brought with him the Batmobile, a.k.a. The Tumbler. And not only is the famous black Tumbler in town. Several desert camo versions have been spotted in a few areas around the city. We're working on getting to a couple of film locations to try and snap a couple more pics of the action. Here's a taste of what we've been able to find so far.