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Autamobile News & Reviews

Thursday December 8, 2016
THE 42-YEAR-OLD MISSED THE FINAL 18 RACES OF THE 2016 SEASON
By Matt Weaver - Autoweek
Merry Christmas Earnhardt Nation.

Following a test session on Wednesday at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been medically cleared to return to active competition after making a full recovery from a concussion sustained over the summer.

His first race back in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet will be the season-opening Daytona 500 on February 26.

Earnhardt was cleared by Dr. Micky Collins, medical director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program in Pittsburgh, alongside Charlotte neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty. The latter attended the Darlington test alongside NASCAR’s reigning most popular driver.

Earnhardt completed 185 laps during a nearly five-hour session at the South Carolina superspeedway under the guidance of crew chief Greg Ives. The test was also observed by NASCAR officials who needed a doctor’s approval before allowing the driver to return to the track.

"I feel great, and I’m excited to officially be back," Earnhardt said in a news release. "I expected things to go really well yesterday, and that’s exactly what happened. Actually getting in a race car was an important final step, and it gives me a ton of confidence going into 2017. Thanks to the staff at Darlington for hosting our team and to NASCAR for giving us the opportunity to put a car on the track.

"I’ll do more testing in January to help knock the rust off. When it’s time to go to Daytona, I’ll be ready."

Earnhardt missed over half the season and hadn’t turned a lap in a race car since the July 9 race at Kentucky Speedway. He had been involved in several crashes during the summer and had battled nausea and headaches.

Upon seeking treatment for the ailments, he was diagnosed with a concussion.

Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and journeyman youngster Alex Bowman shared the No. 88 for the remainder of the season. Bowman will drive the entry in exhibition Clash at Daytona on February 18.

Team owner Rick Hendrick said he’s proud of his friend for what he’s accomplished over the past six months.

"Dale deserves so much credit," Hendrick said. "I’m proud of him for listening to his body and standing up to take responsibility for his health. He’s worked extremely hard and set a terrific example for others. It’s great news as we go into the off-season, and we can’t wait to see him back on the racetrack at Daytona."

Earnhardt will also marry his longtime girlfriend, Amy Reimann, on New Years Eve.

read more at autoweek.com

THIS 1968 CHEVROLET CAMARO SS 396 WILL ATTRACT ATTENTION
The 1967-1969 Camaros were built in either the Norwood, Ohio or Van Nuys, California. The styling of the 1968 Camaro was very similar to the 1967 design. With the introduction of Astro Ventilation, a fresh-air-inlet system, the side vent windows were deleted. Side marker lights were added on the front and rear fenders as per government regulations. It also had a more pointed front grille and divided rear taillights. There were three main option packages: RS - an appearance package that included hidden headlights, revised taillights with back-up lights under the rear bumper, RS badging, and exterior bright trim, and SS - the performance package consisted of a 350 or 396 cu in V8 engine and chassis upgrades for better handling and to deal with the additional power.

The main styling feature of the big block SS models was the chrome hood inserts that imitated velocity stacks. This provided the Camaro with one of the most unique performance hoods of the muscle cars. In addition there were special striping, SS badging and the Z/28 performance package. Camaros had ten different engines available in ’68 with several transmission options including the four-speed manual, Two-Speed "Powerglide" Automatic Transmission and the larger Turbo 400 Three-Speed Automatic was an option on SS396 cars.

In 1968 Chevrolet advertising was trying to convince buyers as to how close the Camaro was to the iconic Corvette with pictures of the two cars. As well, headlines like “Tough act to follow. Encore.” and “You wouldn’t expect anything to match Corvette’s sports car ride and handling. But when you drive ‘The Hugger…will you be surprised!”

This car is a great survivor with original paint, original interior and original matching number engine. This true SS396 is complete with the bulletproof General Motors of Canada documentation. A factory Grotto Blue SS Camaro with the correct SS white nose stripe and the optional original Deluxe blue interior in outstanding condition. Engine is the original numbers matching 396/325 backed by the TH400 3-Speed automatic transmission and positraction rear axle. Other documented options are buckets seats and console with the console gauge package, factory tic-toc-tach, power steering, power brakes, AM radio and auxiliary lighting group. Finishing off the outside appearance are driver and passenger door mirrors, front and rear bumper guards and redline tires mounted on the body color steel wheels with the small chrome dog dish hubcaps.

This fully documented west coast SS396 was delivered new to the “Dueck on Broadway” dealership in Vancouver, B.C. This western car has been extremely well cared for and maintained and evident by its outstanding original condition.

Over the past several years, “Hagerty’s Cars That Matter” has observed unrestored cars sell for prices that would have astonished in the recent past. Preservation Classes are being added to concours nationwide to showcase well preserved and mostly unrestored, un-refinished, and unaltered cars. The old car hobby is headed in the direction of the fine art, decorative arts, and antique furniture markets, where a premium is placed on originality.

Sensational Survivor, this original paint ’68 Camaro SS Coupe will attract attention wherever it is driven and the 396 has the power to add a bit of excitement along the way.

Offered for sale for $48,500 USD by Legendary Motorcars. Call 905-875-4700 or click on the link below.

read more here

500TH LAFERRARI COUPE AUCTIONED TO BENEFIT ITALY EARTHQUAKE RELIEF
By Jay Ramey - Autoweek
The final Ferrari LaFerrari coupe ever built just brought a record price for the model, attracting a $7 million bid. The cause for such a steep price is a good one all proceeds from the auction will go to earthquake relief for Italy.

The center of the country was hit by a series of major earthquakes in August and late October, with the final quake on Oct. 30 being the strongest to hit Italy in over three decades.

The auction was conducted by RM Sotheby and the Italian National American Foundation’s Earthquake Relief Fund, and all funds will go toward relief and reconstruction efforts.

The very last of the LaFerrari coupes is actually the 500th production example made, not counting development cars the original production run that ended in 2015 created 499 examples. Ferrari built this one for its own museum collection with a one-of-a-kind livery and interior created as a tribute to the country, along with a special plaque for the interior to commemorate the car. This particular LaFerrari features a white "dream line" on the hood in addition to a small Italian tricolor on the rear window and hood.

read more at autoweek.com

CLARKSON, HAMMOND AND MAY ARGUE ABOUT GRAND TOURING AND BLOW UP A HOUSE
By Wesley Wren - Autoweek
After stumbling in the desert in the previous episode, “The Grand Tour” returns to England and shifts its focus back to cars. Episode three, titled “Opera, Arts and Donuts,” shows the hosts going on an actual grand tour, which, as they explain, was a trip taken by the English upper class to bring culture into their lives. Of course, the hosts decide to take their tour in some serious cars: a Rolls-Royce Dawn, an Aston Martin DB11 and a Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat.

The success of this episode is more a result of the hosts not trying to be something they aren’t. Instead of making fun of each other’s inability to fight off terrorists, they gently rib each other’s choices of cars - mostly they mock Hammond for picking the brutish Dodge Challenger Hellcat instead of a more refined grand tourer. Mocking aside, the crew does a great job at letting viewers learn about the cars - namely how thirsty Hellcats can be in the wild (Hammond averaged 6.6 mpg at one point in the show).

Most of the show is spent analyzing and playing with the cars at hand, with time made for the “conversation street” segment, the previously-agreed-upon destruction of Jeremy Clarkson’s house and the running gag of killing celebrities (this episode claims Simon Pegg). Essentially, the show follows the format of the first episode but is probably the most enjoyable one yet.

Why? Well, this episode shows the hosts getting familiar with their new format. Instead of a plethora of throwaway jokes, Clarkson, Hammond and May smoothly riff off of each other. There is some toilet humor, but even that doesn’t seem forced.

While this episode was a vast improvement over the previous one, there were still some flat spots - namely, the confusion of "Carmen" as some car-centric opera and the Challenger Hellcat’s “Dixieland” horn. Hammond also spends most of the episode chewing through the Hellcat’s tires doing donuts. The dull moments are thankfully few and far between instead, the show is filled with future classic moments like Clarkson's septic-tank-based autonomous car.

With three episodes in the can, we’re starting to get a grip on what this show wants to be. Many considered this to be the second coming of the completely unrelated BBC show “Top Gear,” but that isn't exactly the case. Instead, it looks like the former BBC hosts are working their way through creating something new.

read more at autoweek.com

THE 42-YEAR-OLD HAS CAPTURED THE AWARD EVERY SEASON SINCE 2003
By Matt Weaver - Autoweek
To the surprise of virtually no one, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was voted the most popular driver in NASCAR for a 14th consecutive season.

It mattered little that he missed the second half of 2016 due to a concussion as the 42-year-old took home the fan-driven award during the NASCAR championship banquet ceremony in Las Vegas. Only one other driver, Bill Elliott, has won the award more often. Elliott captured the National Motorsports Press Association provided honor 16 times from 1984 to 2002.

A $10,000 donation to the charity of his choice will be made on behalf of the NMPA.

"The Most Popular Driver Award is always very humbling to receive, even more so this year with my injury and time out of the car," Earnhardt Jr. said. "The fans continue to amaze me with their loyalty and the support they've shown throughout my career no matter the circumstance.

"I try not to think about winning or losing the Most Popular Driver award it's a bit of a gift, you know. Whether we win the award or not, we get a lot of great support from our fans all season long. I certainly got some extra support this year through the injury and all that stuff it's unfortunate to be in that position but the fans were great. That was an incredible motivator for me during my recovery to get healthy. Not a lot of people that go through those types of support groups, but the fans really made a world of difference.

Forty drivers received one or more votes from fans during the 12-week voting period. Aside from Earnhardt Jr., others finishing in the top 10 in vote totals were (in alphabetical order): Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Danica Patrick, Tony Stewart and Martin Truex Jr. Elliott Sadler and Tyler Reddick won the award in the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series respectively.

In related news, Earnhardt also announced his wedding date. He and fiancée Amy Reimann will tie the knot on New Years' Eve.

read more at autoweek.com

THE MELTING POINT OF ALUMINUM IS 1,221 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT...
By Anthony Alaniz - Autoweek
A forest fire that raged around Gatlinburg, Tenn. has created an apocalyptic scene of destruction likely totaling in the billons. Resorts, homes and cars were left destroyed in the fire’s wake.

Scott Frederick, an employee at Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa, captured stunning images of the fire’s destruction on a few cars left behind when the resort was evacuated.

The liquid aluminum snaking away from the burned-out cars was once the cars’ wheels. The images are fascinating considering aluminum liquefies at 1,221 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Imagine the sheer amount of heat required to liquefy aluminum rims, or a block,” Frederick told WATE 6. “I can only imagine the inferno that was here when I took these pics.”

An estimated 700 homes and business have been damaged or destroyed by the fires, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. Some 14,000 people were evacuated from Gatlinburg. Seven people have died from the fires.

Despite the sheer amount of destruction that has occurred in the area, and even to the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa, rebuilding efforts are already underway. Frederick said parts of the restort were spared from the fire and they plan to be back in operation before Christmas while beginning to rebuild what was destroyed.

read more at autoweek.com

SYSTEM WILL ALLOW HANDS-OFF OPERATION BUT HAS INTERESTING SAFETY NETS
By Wesley Wren - Autoweek
It looks like GM’s suite of semi-autonomous technologies - Super Cruise - is getting close to a rollout. Originally slated for release with this year’s Cadillac CT6, Super Cruise was delayed until 2017. For those unfamiliar with what Super Cruise is, it’s a self-driving system similar to Tesla’s Autopilot that takes over the car’s controls and guides the car around traffic-riddled roadways. Unlike Autopilot, Super Cruise will include a facial recognition system to see if you’re asleep, watching cat videos on YouTube or actually paying attention, instead of simply relying on the easily defeated hand sensors on the steering wheel.

If the system thinks you're not paying attention, it will issue a series of warnings. If the warnings go unanswered, the system will activate the car’s hazard lights and begin to automatically slow the car. While there might be questions about how safe automatically engaging the hazards might be, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did approve the feature.

The delay might have been spurred by this year’s fatal accident involving a man at the wheel of a Tesla Model S being navigated by Autopilot, or waiting for NHTSA to approve the automatic engagement of flashing hazards and automatic braking systems when a driver isn't paying attention. Regardless, it looks like the system will start appearing in Cadillacs sometime next year.

With Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Tesla already equipped with similar systems, it’s going to be interesting to see how the long-awaited Super Cruise system stacks up against the competition.

read more at autoweek.com

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