Speed's Top TenHelping kick off their 10th anniversary, the SPEED channel composed a list of the Top Ten U.S. Auto Stories from the past decade. When SPEED asked a group of automotive journalists and SPEED on-air automotive personalities about the Top Ten Stories, these were chosen as the most memorable consumer automotive stories of the last 10 years.
1. $3 a gallon for gasoline - As gas prices climbed steadily, more than doubling over the last 10 years from $1.27 a gallon in April 1996, consumers began the search for more fuel-efficient vehicles. Manufacturers introduced hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Prius, Honda Insight and Ford Escape, and have recently begun to scale back production of their gas-guzzling SUVs.
2. Fall of domestic dominance - In 1921, Ford Motor Company held an amazing 60 percent of the domestic car market. By '62, General Motors had eclipsed Blue Oval and held a still-dominating 51 percent U.S. market share. Ten years ago, GM held a 31 percent domestic market share for cars and trucks. Today, that number has fallen to 24 percent, with Japanese automakers Toyota and Honda the big winners, grabbing market share thanks to higher-mileage vehicles and a reputation for quality and value.
3. Dale Earnhardt crash at Daytona - In February 2001, the unthinkable happened. One of the world's greatest drivers and NASCAR's most popular icon was gone. On-track safety in every series from NASCAR to Formula 1 came under increased scrutiny, and the sanctioning bodies quickly moved to implement compulsory safety items like the HANS (Head and Neck Support) system for drivers, and the SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barrier, a soft wall designed to absorb kinetic energy in the event of a crash.
4. Retro-inspired cars - "Back to the Future" was the course automakers took in looking for something to pump up sales, as a cache of retro-inspired vehicles like the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chevy HHR, VW Beetle, Ford T-Bird, Dodge Charger and redesigned 2005 Ford Mustang reappeared in showrooms across America. Even racing icons like the famous Ford GT were recreated to satisfy consumers' insatiable quest for nostalgia.
5. eBay Motors - When online giant eBay launched its motoring site, car buying-and selling-changed forever. Now linking millions of potential purchasers, eBay Motors created a truly global marketplace for new and used vehicles, parts and services, helping fuel the growing collector and specialty car markets.
6. Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auctions - Each January, the collector car hobby descends on Scottsdale, Arizona, for what has evolved into a weeklong lifestyle event where celebrities, classic and exotic cars, and bidders willing to part with millions of dollars to obtain the car of their dreams share the spotlight. Now in its 36th year, the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction is the bellwether of the hobby, establishing trends, setting prices, and pushing collector car sales to a record $100 million during the nine-day event.
7. Ford vs. Firestone - In May 2000, the "blowout" became a nationwide "blowup" as Ford Motor Company and Firestone Tire Company pointed fingers at each other over the exceedingly high failure rates on Firestone tires fitted to Ford Explorers. Each company claimed the other was culpable for 250 deaths and 3,000 serious injuries across America, all involving tread separation and subsequent rollover accidents. Firestone, ultimately, recalled more than 10 million tires. Ford remodeled the Explorer a few years later.
8. Comeback of the Mini - Sir Alexander (Alec) Issigonis was an impish man with many engineering achievements, but he will be remembered primarily as the man who gave us the Mini, the tiny transport that revolutionized the motoring industry. Originally designed for the British Motor Corporation, this tiny cult car, highly successful on track, in rallies, and in hill climbs, was reinvented by BMW for a new generation hungry for the little powerhouse.
9. Boom of the Supercars - Exotic materials, exotic designs,cutting-edge technologies, and six-figure-plus price tags separate the supercars from the rest of the rides. In the last decade Aston Martin, Porsche, Ferrari, and Lamborghini have all launched their own supercars. The fastest of all, though, is the $1.2 million Bugatti Veyron, which has a 1,001hp engine and a top speed in excess of 250 mph. Be the first one on your block to own one!
10. "Trick," "Dub," "Pimp," and Whip" - In the last decade, an active youth movement has added these terms to the automotive lexicon to describe the wild, anything goes customization and tuning of every kind of vehicle imaginable-from pickups to pony cars, from street rods to SUVs. Enormous wheels, 8,000-watt audio systems, supercharged and nitrous-enhanced engines, spas and hot tubs-if you can imagine it, someone somewhere will make it an automotive reality.
'57 HeavenIf you talk to most people about their high school days, they'll say they were more than eager to move on and leave those teenage days behind-but media entrepreneur and classic car collector Glenn Patch, who graduated from high school in Picayune, Mississippi, in 1959, never outgrew his incredible love for all things '50s. No matter how successful he became in the worlds of publishing and real estate development, he always longed for the simple days when, as he says, "I loved everything, from the music to the cars and the diners."
Now, as one of the principal owners of Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater Complex in Branson, Missouri, he relishes the chance to relive those three cherished elements of '50s American culture on a daily basis. If he feels like hearing the old songs, he can check out the legendary artists performing regularly at the state of the art, 900-seat theater. These include the Comets, Gary Lewis & The Playboys, Bill Medley, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Fabian, Bobby Vee, Brian Hyland, Chris Montez, and The Chiffons.
Without a doubt, Patch's favorite part of the experience is taking a stroll down a beautiful and elaborate, 32,000-square-foot recreation of Main Street U.S.A. The magical lifestyle exhibit was created around '57 Heaven, the crown jewel of the Dick Clark American Bandstand Complex experience. This stunning labor of love collection, which features (what else?) 57 magnificently restored classic cars from '57, is owned by none other than Patch himself.
In the few weeks since the late April opening of the complex, thousands of patrons have experienced the sensation of walking the streets alongside these vintage autos, in essence time-traveling back to the late '50s. The exhibit, which includes a total of 35 prized convertibles, represents every major American-made manufacturer during that period-Buick, Chevrolet, Ford, Cadillac, DeSoto, Hudson, Nash, Studebaker and Packard.
There are some rare models, too, including an El Morocco and the Chrysler Dual Gia, and a handful of models that come with a fascinating history: a Ford owned by Fireball Roberts, the country's first NASCAR star; a Pontiac that once set the world's stock car race record at 141.2 mph; the only Corvette in the world to have won four national awards; and a Chevy Bel Air Convertible that ranked an amazing 990 out of 1000 points at a national show.
'57 Heaven is the first time Patch's automobiles can be viewed by the public. "Along with about 20 other cars from 1957, I had these stored in a nice display warehouse in Phoenix for years, where I'd show them from time to time to different friends and visitors. They were always in awe at their beauty, which was what inspired me to start collecting in the first place. But there's nothing like sharing them with the public and getting hundreds of reactions on a daily basis." To see more, check out www.dickclarksabbranson.com.
Learning Was Never So EasyBlending science with truck care has never been so easy. And now, truck enthusiasts can get the latest product news, plus up-to-the-minute tips and tutorials about truck care and performance additives, through the new www.dupontcarcare.com Web site from DuPont(tm) Car Care.
"DuPont Car Care products are unique in their formulas' formulation and results. We offer a high-performance product at a reasonable price; consumers can read important information explaining the uniqueness of our product line before making a product selection in the store. We want to illustrate that to our customers," said Beth Mooney, DuPont Car Care brand manager.
At the new DuPont Web site, which highlights both the appearance andperformance chemical lines, do-it-yourself detailers looking for the ultimate clean and shine can find everything they need, including valuable insight into achieving a show-room floor finish. The brand has launched a handy "Car Care Guide" that breaks down a professional detail into a simple, easy-to-follow process using DuPont(tm) Teflon(tm) Car Care products to achieve a stunning finish.
The site's "Car Care Science" page explains how DuPont's science-based formulas deliver a long-lasting, perfect finish. Visitors to the site will also find the latest TV commercial, product information, promotions and more. A "Where to Buy" locator allows visitors to quickly find the nearest retailer of products such as Teflon Car Wash, Teflon Liquid or Spray Wax, Teflon Ultra Premium Car Wax, Teflon Protectant, Teflon Wheel Cleaner, Teflon Tire Shine, Teflon Quick Care Detailer, Teflon Carpet/Upholstery Cleaner, and Teflon and Leather/Vinyl Treatment. To see what all the buzz is about, log onto www.carcare.dupont.com or call 866/CAR-4665
EventsSeptemberSeptember 22-24 - Indiana-POLIS, IN: Visit the 25th O'Reilly Auto Parts 4-Wheel & Off Road Jamboree Nationals presented by Toyo Tires at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, where you can see past Show-n-Shine grand champions and the Silver Anniversary Grand Champion. Check out Dodge monster truck racing at its finest, the Mickey Thompson Tires Tough Trucks Series finals, and the COMP Cams NMRO Championship Mud Drags presented by TCI Automotive. $65 registration fee. Contact www.familyevents.com for more info.
September 29-October 1 - Ft. Worth, Tx: Check out the 14th Lonestar Nationals at the Texas Motor Speedways presented by the Goodguys. The event will feature over 1,500 rods, customs, classics, musclecars and trucks through 1972, vendor and manufacturer exhibits, a Goodgals Gallery, a model car show, swap meet and car corral, hot rod seminars, kid's play area, special awards (2006 Truck of the Year-Early and Late finalist, 2006 Muscle Car of the Year finalist, Boyd Coddington's Pro Picks, Rod & Custom Top 10, Classic Trucks Top 10),and special parking aresas. Admission is the bargain-basement price of $15. Contact www.good-guys.com, (925) 838-9876. See you in Texas!
The Real Deal Or Just Corny?NEVC and NEVC members General Motors and the Ohio Corn Growers Association (OCGA) highlighted E85 and sponsored Night Under Fire at Norwalk Raceway Park in Norwalk, Ohio, July 1. The largest single-day drag race in the world featured Mark Thomas, five-time IHRA Alcohol Funny Car World Champion. OCGA coordinated the event to showcase Ohio's potential for E85. Haydocy Automotive of Columbus, Ohio, brought together local dealer representatives to show their support for E85 and Live Green, Go Yellow. General Motors displayed eight E85-wrapped vehicles for the over 40,000 attendees at the race.
Dwayne Siekman, Executive Director of OCGA, added, "Developing E85 infrastructure is important to the state of Ohio, and what better way to showcase the potential of this great fuel than to bring together two key players in the industry to the state. General Motors has played a major role in our efforts with in-state promotion with Mark Thomas as well as the national Live Green, Go Yellow campaign. Also, we would not have had the success with E85 infrastructure in Ohio without the assistance of the NEVC. Just recently, Ohio passed an E85 infrastructure program through the state legislature, which has really opened the doors for more E85 availability."
Along with Ohio Governor Taft signing the bill mentioned above, a major announcement is expected that will bring many E85 stations to the state in upcoming months. At this time, Ohio has eight E85 facilities open to the public and two privately accessed locations. For a complete listing of stations, go to www.E85Fuel.com.