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The New Ford Broncos: An Off-Road Icon Returns.

When Ford unveiled the new Bronco, years after its original discontinuation, the social media response was immense. Its angular, aggressive styling stood out among the sea of practical SUVs that had long abandoned off-road performance. Indeed, the Bronco seemed to be gunning for the off-road king itself, the Jeep. The classic Bronco was a predecessor to the modern SUV, with a truck frame, high ground clearance, four-wheel drive, and a removable hardtop roof section that included both the rear window and the side windows behind the driver door. It also was a competitor to the Jeep. What many people do not realize is just how extensive a history that Bronco has. It is a history that Ford drew heavily upon for the creation of the new Bronco. After being out of production for years, in July 2020, the new 2021 Ford Bronco was revealed to the public in three different versions, the more traditional two and four-door versions based heavily on the original, with flared fenders, removable doors, and roof and the more modern-SUV Sport model. With those, the Bronco manages to cover multiple market segments. Within those versions, there is plenty of variety as well.

The Original Broncos.

Many people might not realize that the Bronco is almost as old as the Ford Mustang, debuting just two years later, in 1966, and having an uninterrupted production run until 1996. It also pre-dated the 4×4 craze of the 1970s by several years and the SUV craze by several decades. It also comes with a strong off-road racing heritage; there was even a famous race-track version, in legendary race car driver Parnelli Jones’ Big Oly Bronco, with its distinctive sprint car style wing on the roof. It even had a movie cameo, appearing as one of the cars stolen in the original 1974 version of Gone in 60 Seconds. As a testament to the Broncos performance heritage, it even won the Baja 1000 in 1969. When the SUV came of age in the 1980s and 1990s, the Bronco saw increased competition, many of which were more refined and offered more everyday practicality, some of which had four doors. The SUV saw its main role go from off-road performance to comfortable family-hauler. The Bronco got in on the act, with an optional Eddie Bauer package, providing pinstripes and a custom interior. By the mid-90s the SUV had been standardized with four doors, and plenty of competitors had joined the market, cars like the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Ford Explorer, which were far more practical for a family. When the last Bronco rolled off the line in 1996, the market had changed drastically.

The 2021 Bronco

The base model two-door Bronco starts at just under $30,000 and goes up from there. There are several different trim levels, offering things like luxury and performance. In this day and age of standardized cars with ever-increasing luxury, Ford has dared to make an enthusiast SUV, one that targets the hardcore off-roading crowd, complete with a rugged body-on-frame design. A body-on-frame is a bit of a standout nowadays when so many SUVs have abandoned their pickup truck origins and have gone with unibody construction. The 2021 Bronco merges traditional features like an optional manual transmission and a solid rear axle with cutting-edge features like driving modes for specific off-road conditions and exclusive low-speed cruise control for trails. There is even an option that provides marine-quality seats and drain plugs to help make the interior water-resistant. While many Broncos will undoubtedly become modified not long after they are bought, options like 35-inch tires make that less necessary. Like the classic Bronco, there is a removable hardtop and doors, and for a modern twist, there is a digital infotainment center in the center console and a digital screen at the center of the gauge cluster. Power is provided by either an EcoBoost four-cylinder or EcoBoost V6 motor. The V6 is expected to have 310 horsepower and an impressive 400 pounds of torque. There is an optional mode for fans of rock crawling where a single pedal controls gas and braking.

The 2021 Bronco Sport

Providing a more contemporary SUV experience is the Bronco Sport, with its fixed top, seating for five, and more reserved styling. It has a lower price too, starting at just over $25,000. Keeping with its more contemporary design, it has lower ground clearance than the Bronco models, although it still features many off-road based features, such as standard 4×4 and optional tow-hooks. It has some impressive stats as well, with 23.6 inches of water fording ability despite a lower ride than the Bronco. It is powered by either a 1.5 or 2.0 liter four-cylinder EcoBoost.

The Future

Being out of production for years means that the Bronco lags behind the Jeep in aftermarket support. However, at launch, the Bronco has hundreds of factory-approved aftermarket parts. Something vital to the off-road crowd who is always demanding that extra edge on the trail. It will not be hard to get a Bronco just the way you want it, given the many versions available. It will be interesting to see if consumers, especially off-road enthusiasts, chose the (somewhat) newcomer Bronco when it debuts in 2021, over the tried and true Jeep and the reinvented Land Rover Defender. The Bronco Sport is launching late in 2020. The Bronco manages to be a fresh face with new ideas and a tried and true nameplate familiar to automotive enthusiasts for decades. What do you think of the new Broncos? Let me know in the comments!

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Museum

It is hard to understate the impact the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and its signature race: The Indianapolis 500, has had on Indiana. It has ingrained itself into Indiana culture as no other event has. For over 100 years, it has held a wide range of events, from hot air balloon races to the iconic Indianapolis […]

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cars museum travel

The Early Ford V-8 Foundation Museum

One of Auburn, Indiana’s great car museums is the Early Ford V-8 Foundation Museum. This museum was my third and final car museum stop of the day, having already been to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum and the National Automotive and Truck Museum back in town. It is dedicated to Ford Flathead V-8s and the vehicles that were powered by them. It is incredibly well set up; its displays are far beyond what is often seen at a typical car museum. Being a car museum in Auburn, Indiana means there is stiff competition, however, The Early Ford V-8 Foundation Museum holds its own. Early Ford V-8 Foundation Museum is located just outside of Auburn, on the other side of the expressway that hosts the Auburn Fall Classic Collector Car Auction. Part of the building itself is made to look like a set of gears and is a replica of the “Ford Rotunda” used at the 1933 Worlds’ Fair. The Ford Rotunda was a gear-shaped building that held the Ford exhibit at the World’s Fair. On the inside of it, there stood a giant globe showcasing Ford factories and resources around the world. It is not far from RM Auctions, which hosts the famous collector car auction in Auburn.

    The Cars

The beginning of the Museum features some of the many cars powered by the flathead V-8 through the years. They even have a cutaway engine on display. Although it is a slight deviation from the V-8, there is also an impressive Lincoln V-12 on display. What surprised me about the Flathead Ford V-8s was just how long they were made. I had always associated them with the 1930s, but they were used in Fords in the U.S. from 1932 until 1953. For perspective, that is the year the Chevy Corvette debuted, and just two years out from the Ford Thunderbird. Although well before the Flathead V-8, there is even a 1904 Ford Model B there. One of the most elegant cars on display is undoubtedly the burgundy V-12-powered 1937 Lincoln Zephyr coupe.

The 1936 Ford Dealership.

A large section of the Museum is dedicated to a replica of a 1936 Ford dealership, complete with every model of car (and pickup) that Ford offered in 1936. A fact that shocked me was that in 1936 the only engine available in Fords was the Flathead V-8. It speaks to how well it was designed, providing both performance and economy, with fuel economy being critical to potential buyers as the depression dragged on. There is even a stainless steel 1936 Ford there. It was the result of a collaboration between Ford and Allegheny Steel. The car was one of several stainless steel concept Fords made over the years. There is a striking contrast between the classic 30s body style and the shine of stainless steel. Unlike the famous stainless steel sports car the DeLorean, the body of the Ford has a chrome-like shine to it. For one year of cars there is a lot of variety, such as the woodie station wagon and the delivery van. To top it all off, there is a period-correct cash register.

The Speed Shop

On the other side of the building is The Speed Shop. It includes a replica of a vintage Indy Car complete with a seat for a riding mechanic (once required for the Indianapolis 500), a hot rod, an early stock car, and some other unique vehicles. There is even a Turbine-powered Ford tractor. There is a large selection of period-correct aftermarket parts for Flatheads and high-performance Flatheads on display. Since so many Flathead V-8s were made, it naturally found its way into hot rods and race cars, which meant there was a strong demand for performance parts.

The Experience

Although The Early Ford V-8 Foundation Museum is one of several car museums in Auburn, Indiana. It takes its narrow focus and does it incredibly well, from showroom stock on one end to heavy-specialized race cars on the other end. It does not take long to get through, but it is easy to be drawn in, especially at The Speed Shop. It leaves you with an appreciation for the longevity of and how widespread the Flathead V-8 was, from passenger cars to race cars. It is a name synonymous with V-8s, well before the 426 Hemi or the 350 Chevy Small-block. The Flathead V-8 no doubt influenced engines and helped shape the American car culture for years to come. You can check out their website at fordv8foundation.org. You can check out my blogs about two other great car museums here: Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum and the National Automotive and Truck Museum. Have you been to the Museum, or know a car museum or event I should go to next? Let me know in the comments!

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Happy (Belated) Birthday to Car Customizing Icon Gene Winfield!

The Strip Star, created by Gene Winfield. Picture by Larry Stevens.

Earlier this month, on June 16th, legendary custom car builder and hot rodder Gene Winfield turned 93. He has shown no sign of slowing down. His custom cars have appeared in countless movies and TV shows. The TV shows have ranged from the original Star Trek to the classic Batman TV series. He has designed vehicles for several sci-fi movies, which means he has not only helped shape the look of the custom car scene but also the look of science fiction. Also, he worked on the hood scopes for the prototype of the 1969 Pontiac Trans Am. His custom cars range from traditional hot rods to radical, futuristic creations. It is no wonder he has been asked to create so many vehicles for sci-fi films. He even designed the Galileo shuttle used in Star Trek. He has been featured at car shows all over the world, often chopping tops with his crew.

A custom 1935 Ford Truck made by Gene. Picture by Sicnag. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

He also holds multi-day car metalworking classes. My father had the chance to attend one, and he got a lot out of it. After decades of experience, Gene has a lot of knowledge. He even created a painting technique known as the “Winfield Fade.” This is where colors gradually transition, as opposed to a sudden change, and is showcased on many of his custom cars. With his seemly boundless energy, Gene continues to be a significant force in the custom car world. You can check out his website at www.winfieldscustomshop.com.

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The Pontiac Pegasus: The Time Pontiac put a Ferrari V-12 in a Firebird.

In 1970 Pontiac created one of their most unusual concept cars of all time. A Ferrari V-12 powered Pontiac Firebird. It seemed to blur the line between a passion project and a concept car. However, under closer observation, the practical nature of it is revealed. GM was no stranger to usual concept cars; the name Firebird itself comes from a series of turbine-powered concept cars from the ’50s. But why would Pontiac, a company famous for its performance cars and engines, put a Ferrari V-12 in one of their cars? At 4.4 liters, the V-12 was much smaller than the average performance V-8 to come from GM. The amount of passion that went into the car was obvious. There was not only a custom Pegasus logo on the grill but a Porsche-esque coat of arms on the hood. An original design. The name Pegasus is derived from combing the Firebird (a mythical creature in its own right) and that of a horse. The Ferrari logo depicts what is known as “the Prancing Pony.” The result is the legendary mythical winged horse, the Pegasus.
The Pontiac Pegasus at the 2019 Trans Am Nationals.
This year I had the chance to see the Pontiac Pegasus in person; it was part of a group of show cars brought to the Trans Am Nationals in Fairborn, Ohio. It was in excellent condition. I even got to hear it run as it was moved for the night. Oddly enough, it gave off a low rumble that would not be out of place coming from a small block Chevy. It was great to get up close and see it with the hood opened and closed.
The Ferrari V-12. It is paired with a 5-speed Ferrari transmission.
By 1970 the second generation of Pontiac’s pony car, the Firebird, was released. It was lower and sleeker than its predecessor. The muscle car performance wars of the ’60s were winding down, curtailed by environmental legislation. A headline on an issue of Hot Rod magazine read: 71’ Cars, Will they Perform? Pony cars were still going strong. The popular road racing series, and Trans Am namesake the SCCA Trans-Am series was going strong, showcasing the handling of the pony cars. The Pegasus was a perfect showcase of that handling, with a lighter V-12 then the normal V-8 that came with the Trans Ams and Formulas.
The Pontiac Pegasus’ interior. Note the Ferrari gauges.

I was first introduced to the Pegasus by the great book “The Fabulous Firebird.” It gave an excellent description of how the Pegasus came to be, but one part always made me curious. It was said that Enzo Ferrari himself donated the motor. This connection was odd to me, as there wasn’t much of a relationship between Mr. Ferrari and the American auto industry, especially after Ford’s attempted purchase of Ferrari. While at the 2019 Trans Am Nations I had a chance to speak with a former Pontiac engineer, it turns out, Bill Mitchell, at that time GM’s design vice president, and the man behind the project was a big car collector and someone who had a lot of connections within the industry. The motor was sent courtesy of a U.S. Ferrari dealership.

The car itself has many interesting design elements. Including a racing-inspired gas cap on the trunk area of the car. (this design was also included on the 1974 Pontiac concept car the Banshee.) There were also fog lights, which could be a nod to the car’s European influence. Despite the European influence, a uniquely American design touch is featured on the car. Much like the Firebird Formulas and the 1969 Trans Am, the Pegasus features an air cleaner inside the hood itself, taking advantage of the cold air available. In perhaps a nod to racing rules dating from before the car was made, there was a full-sized spare tire prominently displayed in the back of the car under the rear glass.
To the Author, the Pegasus is a passion project with real-world bearings, from a time when GM was the largest manufacturer on the planet, and the future of cars and how they would perform was in doubt. Today we find ourselves in a similar situation; it will be interesting to see how much the performance enthusiast is considered as vehicles continue to evolve.
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DeLorean: How One of the World’s Most Unique Sports Cars Created One of the World’s Most Unique Car Companies.

              The DeLorean car was the brainchild of former GM Executive John Z. DeLorean. He founded the DeLorean Motor Company or DMC to produce a truly unique sports car. Equipped with a mid-engine mounted Volvo V-6, an unpainted stainless steel body and gullwing doors, the two-seater DeLorean was one of a kind. The Volvo V-6 was an interesting choice given John DeLorean’s Detroit background. It shows the emphasis placed on handling by having a lighter weight engine. The design reflected the period it was created in, the late 70s, while still having a timeless element to it. Like many cars of the era, it had sharp angles and flat surfaces. Since the company only made one model, the DMC-12 in one color, the company name brings to mind an image of an exact model.

The DeLorean With Its Iconic Gullwing Doors Raised. Photograph by Kevin Abato

                                                             The Original Company
              The DeLorean went into production in 1981; however, by 1983 the company had gone out of business with slightly under 10,000 cars made. It was a difficult time for the auto industry, and the unique DeLorean didn’t take off. Cut to 1985; a science fiction-adventure-comedy called Back To The Future was released. The film series revolved around time travel. The DeLorean was a perfect fit for the 1985 time travel classic. In the film, a time machine is built out of the futuristic-looking DeLorean; although it is only used in a few key scenes, it made a lasting impression on filmgoers. The film was a hit and had two more sequels. The DeLorean had, just several years after going out of production cemented its reputation as one of movies most iconic film cars. Many fans have even built detailed replicas of the film car. Had the timing of the film and the company going out of business been different. The film’s popularity could have had a major impact on sales.

Picture by Sicnac.

                                                                 The Company Today.
              According to its website, the new DeLorean company is completely separate from the original. The U.S. based company sells, repairs, supplies parts, and accessories for DeLoreans. They created an electric DeLorean concept car. They even sell used DeLoreans. They have locations around the U.S. DeLorean and also sell high-performance kits. As per their website they had once sold newly assembled cars out of a combination of old and new parts. When Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky ended production, DeLorean had expressed interest in buying it, even going so far as to have concept art of what one might look like created. Recently DeLorean announced that they had planned to make new DeLoreans, with the only modification being modern engines. They even released a teaser trailer of sorts to promote it. It had a time-related theme, showing the impact that the Back To The Future trilogy had on the company. There are legal hurdles they must overcome, however. As a bona fide part of pop culture, the future looks bright for the sports car that defied convention.

DeLorean with red pain. Picture by Greg Gjerdingen