The automotive industry is absolutely packed full of myths, misconceptions, and sometimes even lies. While some are in the realm of marketing, and some are in the realm of maintenance, all bug the absolute crap out of me. I could rant for hours on this stuff, so I decided to curtail my rage to just one segment of the industry for this article, and tackle three myths within the wide category of brakes.
OK… *Takes deep breath*. Let’s get into this.
Marketing Gripes – What Does “Better” Mean?
Brakes are one of those weird areas where “better” might not be “better” for you. More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean an improvement, and buying brake pads above what you need could make your life miserable, or even be dangerous in extreme cases. Unfortunately, marketing around the brakes industry doesn’t really reflect this fact, and the layman could be forgiven for wanting to spend a little extra to get a better brake pad that might be safer, last longer, or create less dust…, just to end up with the exact opposite of what he wanted, and be charged a premium in the process.
So let’s brake down (pun intended) what you actually need, and when not to overpay:
If the marketing copy is to be believed, the more you pay, the better the brake pad is. Well that’s the problem. Better for what? For who? Let’s say you just picked up a new Mustang GT. This is your daily and weekend fun car to take to the canyons every once in a while, and maybe the occasional track day or autocross. You’re going to want some good pads that can handle high heat without fading out to nothing, right? Nice! A set of $250 racing pads would do great on the track!
But what about the other 98% of the time you’re driving your car? Well that’s where we get into my issue here. A high performance track pad is going to be great at what it does, but as a side effect of that, they are often loud, create a lot of dust, have poor bite when cold, and tend to wear rotors more quickly. As a daily driver, those sound more like headaches than advantages to me. Of course if you stick with stock or OEM equivalent pads, then you’ll have the opposite problem of them fading quickly and glazing when you actually put some real heat into them. That’s where a good balance needs to be struck. Something like the EBC Greens or Yellows ride this line well.
“Better” isn’t necessarily always “better.”
Drilled VS Slotted VS Plain and Boring
Drilled and slotted rotors look awesome. They just do. They look like the Jason Statham of brake rotors, for serious drivers who want to do serious things with their cars. The difference is J. Stathe doesn’t crack under pressure, but drilled rotors do. Want an easy way to prove they’re more for looks than actual performance? Google around and look at any real race car’s brakes. IMSA, Nascar, F1, WRC, you name it. You’ll see slotted rotors sometimes (especially in rally), but never drilled in anything that is competing at a high level.
So why do these serious performance cars like the GT350R, or even Porsches, have drilled rotors? The simple answer is that they’re strong enough that they won’t be a big problem for most drivers on the street, but if you really push them to their limits, they will crack long before straight rotors will. If they are pushed hard, but not to the extreme, you get some pretty interesting wear patterns as well (more on that below).
So where did drilled rotors come from then?
They actually were borne of serious racing, funnily enough. Back in the age of asbestos brake pads (ignorance isn’t always bliss), there was an issue of outgassing with the pads under high heat. Basically the bonding agents in the pad would evaporate and create a thin layer of gas that prevented good contact between the pad and the rotor. The rather rudimentary solution at the time was to just drill a bunch of holes in those suckers and go racing — and that worked pretty well for the time.
The issue is that these days, we no longer use asbestos in our brake pads (no, not even Raybestos pads, despite the name), and with how far material science has advanced in this industry, outgassing is no longer the issue it once was.
“OK,” you’re saying to me, righteously indignant, “but everyone knows they cool better than straight rotors! That’s why manufacturers still make them!”
Yes, drilled rotors tend to run a little cooler than straight faced rotors, but there are two caveats to that:
“OK,” you’re saying to me now, still righteous, but a little less indignant, “what about slotted rotors, huh, smart guy?”
Like I mentioned, slotted rotors are in fact found quite often in motorsports, even among serious race teams. There are a few reasons for that, namely the ability to provide runout for water, dust, and other debris (hence their popularity in rally). On top of this, they provide a way to wipe the pad’s surface to help with things like glazing, and to maintain a properly bedded pad and rotor. This is in addition to more structural rigidity maintained in the rotor (though they will still crack before straight rotors).
Everything is a trade-off, however. The (relatively minor) disadvantages of slotted rotors is that they tend to wear out pads more quickly, and in a daily driver, they can result in some noise when coming to a stop in a quiet car. Depending on the slotting pattern, this can be sort of a growling sound, or with some, under really hard braking, a quick thumping not unlike ABS lockup.
“So then why do all of these brands put drilled rotors on their performance cars rather than plain or slotted rotors?”
Because they look cool (marketing), and because most drivers generally won’t find the limits of those fancy looking drilled rotors — even in their 500+ horsepower speed machines. Doesn’t that just kind of make you sad to know? I wish more people would use the performance they pay so much for.
My last myth comes in two forms:
“What the hell, my new brakes are squeaking! They must be defective,”
“I just replaced my brakes a few months ago and they’re already warped? They must be defective!”
As long as you bought your pads from a reputable brand, I can almost guarantee they are not defective or warped. What we have here (for both situations) is that your pads probably weren’t bedded in properly, and a few other factors.
What does it mean to bed-in your brakes?
I’m sure most of you are familiar with this process, but if not: when you buy a set of brake pads, especially higher performance pads, they will come with instructions on or in the box on their specific bed-in procedures. This is a process to “mate” your pads to your rotors with gradually increased heat cycles to create a thin, even film of brake pad material on the surface of your rotor. Let’s get into some detail here:
The brakes on your car work by way of two forms of friction – abrasive and adherent:
Abrasive friction: As the pads are pressed against the spinning rotors, the crystalline structure of the pad and even the cast iron of the disc break down, transferring kinetic energy into heat, slowing you down.
Adherent friction: The material of the pad breaks apart and reforms, bonding to the surface of the rotor. This process saps energy away from the turning of the disc, spending it to create that bond, as well as create heat. This is the method of friction that is used to bed your pads to the rotor.
All modern brake pads use both types of friction, just to varying degrees depending on the application. Semi-metallic pads work through primarily abrasive friction, and therefore are tougher on rotors and create more dust in a trade-off that results in the ability to operate effectively at temperatures. Organic and ceramic pads primarily use aderhent friction, the trade-off being that they’re easier on rotors, have better cold performance, and are quieter at the cost of high temperature performance.
Now that we have this established, how does this pertain to the brake judder you’re feeling in your brakes?
Well if your rotors have not been bedded in properly, or they were overworked and lost that bedding, then you can have uneven pad deposits on the surface of the rotor. At first, this just means uneven drip across the surface, causing the pads to grip, then slip, then grip, then slip, etc, and that’s the judder you’re feeling as you brake. At the extremes, if this is not corrected, this can result in uneven rotor wear, and a “warped” rotor. I use quotes there, as the term is a bit of a misnomer, though that is a topic for another time (I covered it here years ago).
What about new brakes squealing?
The confusion here comes from the fact that most brake pads come with a metal tab that will rub against the surface of your rotor to indicate that your brake pads have worn down to a certain point (as I’m sure you’re familiar with). So now when most people hear their brakes squeal, they think that they already need to be replaced, but that is often not the case.
What’s happening here is that the conditions are just right for your rotors to vibrate as they pass through the clamping pads, not unlike how a bow being dragged across the strings of a violin work — the main difference is a violin is a lovely sounding instrument, and a squealing brake rotor tends to roar in the key of “ouch.” Not pleasant.
Proper bedding of your rotors can go a long way in reducing this effect, but there are a few other factors that can contribute here. For instance, a layer of rust on your hubs when you install your brake rotors can let them sit against the hubs slightly unevenly, or with some wiggle room, allowing them to vibrate as they turn. Another reason could be your brake pads shifting and allowing play in the contact between the rotor and caliper, allowing the vibration. This can be solved using brake pad shims or some of that brake pad lube they always try to sell you at your local auto parts store.
Pro tip: A little bit of anti-seize works great, and is cheaper than that stuff they’re trying to get you to buy (assuming you don’t already have some on hand).
Article courtesy of Street Muscle Magazine, written by Garrett Davis.
Laws are becoming more stringent for internal combustion engines. Whether they concern a car’s emissions, fuel consumption, or fire safety, the day of the internal combustion engine is coming to a close. What, though, does that mean for the world’s classic cars? What does that mean for the enthusiast hobby? Does the advent of electricity mean we have to take up--shudder—knitting? According to Electric GT, no.
While we’ve seen our fair share of electric swaps using Tesla, Nissan, and Chevrolet electric motors, aftermarket California outfit Electric GT has something we’ve yet to encounter. Constructed in the company’s Chatsworth headquarters, Electric GT created a drop-in electric motor that resembles the gas-guzzling V-8s enthusiasts will likely have to remove from their car’s engine bay soon.
Speaking to Green Car Reports, Electric GT says that the modular Electric Crate Motor is currently being developed for larger production. To achieve that goal, the proposed electric crate motor is in development and resides in the company’s 1970 Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser, which Electric GT is using as a test-bed. Depending on setup, the crate motor is capable of developing between 140 to 240 horsepower and between 240 and 340 pound-feet of torque.
The end goal, however, is for Electric GT to streamline the process and design of the modular electric motor so that customers can just call the company up, order the right accessory package, and drop the motor directly into whatever project car they like in far less time than a traditional gasoline-powered V-8 swap takes. This idea also informed the design of the motor and why it’s taken the shape it has.
Given the popularity of General Motors’ LS V-8 swap, and the vast array of aftermarket swap kits, Electric GT sees a modular electric crate motor sculpted to resemble those V-8s as a way to encourage enthusiasts to go electric. One potential issue that Green Car Reports brings up is the crate motor’s sizing. The LS V-8 measures 28.75-inches long and 24.75-inches wide. Electric GT’s crate motor measures 34-inches long, while width hasn’t been released. However, given the length, enthusiasts will likely have a slightly more difficult time squeezing the electric motor between the bulkhead and front cross-member. Electric GT says in the future, the company hopes to have a more turn-key setup.
Like other crate motors, each of Electric GT’s motors will also include the electronics needed to control the modular motors, a motor manual, and tech support from the company. Customers will also have the option to select A/C compressors, heaters, among other accessory options. Those who order the crate motor will have to source their own battery packs, though.
What’s far more interesting is Electric GT’s electric crate motor’s capability of accepting a manual transmission. According to Electric GT, “The Electric Crate Motor can be adapted to a wide range of Manual Transmissions. We design in-house adapter plates for most popular Manual Transmissions and accept custom designs. Electric motors deliver toque instantly to the gears which is much harder on gearboxes than regular internal combustion engines. Due to increased power and torque, we recommend the use of driveline components rated for appropriate specified eMotor output.”
That said, normal automatic transmissions are a no-no, “due do their need for an extra hydraulic pump and the inefficiency of torque converters.”
Electric GT has been around for a number of years, first debuting the company’s all-electric 1978 Ferrari 308 “GTE,” which used a 46kWh lithium-ion battery. Performance for the 308 GTE was pegged at 330 horsepower, 350 pound-feet of torque, 0-60 mph in 5 seconds, top speed of 180+ mph, and a range of 130 miles per charge. It also had a Porsche-sourced G50-manual transmission. It wasn’t your average swap to say the least. Electric GT has also built an electric Mustang, Beetle, Microbus, 911, 912, and BMW 2002.
Given Electric GT’s modular electric crate motor is still in the development phase, the company isn’t willing to speculate on costs. What we know is that it’s going to get harder and harder for enthusiasts to drive their vintage automobiles going forward. Safety, emissions, and fuel regulations are going to stifle the once burgeoning industry. However, what makes us excited is that company’s like Electric GT exist. Company’s that aim to preserve the hobby for future generations. We’re eager to see what Electric GT pushes to market in the near future.
Article courtesy of The Drive, written by Jonathon Klein
1987 Buick GNX prototype. Photos by Daniel Strohl.
In the early 1980s, Buick faced an image problem. Long seen as a brand for grandparents more concerned with a cushy ride than with performance or handling, Buick’s demographic was aging, and new buyers simply weren’t visiting Buick showrooms. The answer was to borrow a page from the brand’s storied past, when Gran Sport models were used to attract a younger, performance- and image-conscious buyer into Buick dealerships.
When the first Buick Grand National appeared as a 1982-only model, it was little more than an appearance package, but in 1984 a far more sinister Grand National hit the streets, bedecked in black over black and infused with turbocharged V-6 power. Of all the turbocharged Grand National models built from 1984-1987, the ultimate expression of performance came in the form of the car’s swan song, the limited-production, 1987-only Buick GNX.
From 1984-‘86, Buick produced 9,614 Grand Nationals, and by 1987–the final year of production–demand was so high that Buick built 20,194 examples to satisfy its customers. To give the Grand National a fitting farewell, Dave Sharpe, Buick’s chief engineer, petitioned senior management to allow the creation of a “super Grand National,” and thus the GNX was born.
From the beginning, it was to be a low-volume car, produced for Buick by ASC/McLaren at a “suggested retail price” of $29,290, at a time when a well-equipped Grand National carried a sticker price of $18,295. Initial plans called for production of just 200 GNX models, but to meet escalating demand that quantity ultimately increased to 547 units.
The design goal for GM’s Advanced Concepts Group (which would ultimately set the specifications for the car) was both simple and ambitious: Build the quickest GM production four-seater, ever. Doing so would require extensive modifications to the engine, transmission and even suspension, but the team appointed to develop the car proved to be up to the challenge.
Under the hood, the GNX started with the same 231-cubic-inch V-6 as other Grand National models, but received a special Garrett T-3 turbocharger equipped with a ceramic impeller; an intercooler with the same dimensions as the stock one but more cooling fins per row; a ceramic-coated turbo shield and inlet pipe; a larger diameter dual exhaust; and a recalibrated engine control unit that permitted 15 PSI of boost. The net result was an output of 276 horsepower and 360 pound-feet of torque, a gain of 31 horsepower and five pound-feet of torque over standard Grand National models.
Even the GNX’s transmission received tuning, allowing it to produce crisper shifts to maximize acceleration, and the net result was a car that could sprint from 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds and run through the quarter-mile in 13.4 seconds at 100 MPH. By comparison, Road & Track reported that a 1987 Corvette with the four-speed manual ran from 0-60 in 5.9 seconds, getting through the quarter-mile in 14.5 seconds at 97 mph.
Underneath, the GNX received a unique rear suspension that used a Panhard bar/ladder bar setup on the car’s Positraction-equipped live rear axle to maximize grip and minimize wheel hop under hard acceleration. Wheels were similar in appearance to those used on the Pontiac Trans Am, but with a different offset and GNX center caps. Measuring eight inches across in front and rear, the 16-inch wheels were shod with Goodyear Eagle Gatorback VR50 tires, 255/50R16 out back (the same size as the Corvette) and 245/50R16 up front.
Like the Gran Sports of the 1960s, the GNX was designed to be fast in a straight line, conceding road course lap records to more agile cars. Brakes consisted of discs up front (with 10.5-inch rotors) and 9.5-inch drums in the rear, the same sizes used on other Grand National models. Even the beefed-up suspension couldn’t mask the Buick’s 3,545-pound curb weight, leaving it with a lateral acceleration of .80 g.
To cover the meaty Goodyear Gatorback radials, the GNX wore bold fender flares in front and rear, and front fenders also received functional venting. In the cabin, however, the differences between Grand National and GNX models were far more subtle, limited to GNX badging above the glove compartment and a full set of analog Stewart-Warner gauges (including a boost gauge, helpful for dragstrip launches) to keep close tabs on the underhood happenings.
As Martyn Schorr explains in his book, Buick GNX (included, along with a GNX jacket, as a gift to original buyers), ASC had the difficult task of giving the GNX a “High-Intensity” appearance that needed to be both similar to, and distinctive from, the Buick Grand National on which the car was based. All references to the Buick Regal or the Grand National were removed from the GNX’s exterior, which then received just two forged aluminum GNX badges, one on the grille and a second on the trunk lid. The front fender vents, vaguely reminiscent of Buick’s classic “porthole” vents, were deliberately painted in low-gloss to provide contrast to the gleaming black paint. Even the unique instrumentation was chosen to convey a message of high performance, ensuring that the driver knew this was no ordinary Grand National even before the engine was fired up.
The automotive press could not heap enough praise on the GNX, with Car and Driver calling it “an ax-wielding Barbarian laying waste to everything in its path,” while Cars Illustrated proclaimed it “The fastest showroom trim Musclecar ever.” Like the Buick GS models of old, the GNX also looked good going fast, and demand quickly outstripped supply, leading to dealer price gouging. Convinced that the GNX would be an appreciating classic, buyers eagerly paid whatever price necessary to park one in their garage.
Even ASC, the manufacturer of the Buick GNX, touted its investment value. Image courtesy The Old Car Manual Project.
That’s where the tale of the GNX über-Buick takes a sad turn. Many were purchased as investments, meaning that too few buyers got to appreciate the car as the ultimate expression of Buick performance in the 1980s. Today, low-mileage examples cross the auction block with some regularity, now commanding the kinds of prices that original owners hoped to realize thirty years ago.
In 2014, NADA published a value of $72,100 for a GNX in average condition, with a high range value of $103,500. Five years later, NADA puts the average value at $97,700, versus $136,100 for a high-range example. For an original owner, than might represent a reasonable return on investment (overlooking, perhaps, the cost of three-plus decades of care and feeding), but it pales in comparison to a comparable 32-year investment in Microsoft stock: $29,200 invested in 1987 would be worth about $9.5 million today.
The moral to the story? It’s best to buy cars – particularly new cars – for enjoyment behind the wheel, and not as additions to an investment portfolio.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Kurt Ernst.
As pointed out in this Vox video exploring what made Route 66 America’s favorite road, the highway has essentially been defunct for twice as long as it was an active part of American transportation routes. So why, then, do we keep featuring stories related to the Mother Road?
Is Dan planning a Route 66 trip of his own? Is he being paid off by the Route 66 lobby? Is it just because Route 66 stories play well to this audience? Well, no, no, and partly.
It does still capture the imaginations of plenty of people looking to discover “the real America” or the American dream, however one wants to define those. Photographers drive it scouting for subjects to shoot. Europeans and other international visitors explore it in search of an explanation for the country at the heart of so much geopolitics. Retirees and vacationers amble upon it hoping to revive their memories of an America gone by. And plenty of local tourism and economic development boards still see its potential to revive the slice of rural America through which it runs.
But if I can step in to answer the question that Vox’s Phil Edwards raises in his video, Route 66 is uniquely American, not just in the landscape or the chintzy baubles one picks up as souvenirs along the road, but also in the way it has become legend.
Every country, every culture, sees its history become mythologized in some way as its stories get told and retold. Route 66 has a certain set of facts that it seems everybody feels obligated to tell when reciting the Route 66 story: 1926, Cyrus Avery, dirt roads, the Green Book, the Okies and “The Grapes of Wrath,” the bypassing and the decommissioning, the ghost towns, Cadillac Ranch and the roadside attractions, the revitalization attempts.
But what makes the retelling uniquely American is the plurality of voices telling the story and the perspectives they bring to it. Shing Yin Khor saw in the legend the story of the immigrants who make up the fabric of the country and who now make the towns along Route 66 their home. Edward Keating saw, just past the theme-park aspects of the highway, a rural America in which “forgotten” people “settled wherever their bones and their broken cars dropped them” and dealt with the shattered promises of capitalism. Candacy Taylor saw how segregation made the American dream relevant to only some Americans. The lowriders of Albuquerque see an integral part of their culture. The people of Tulsa and other locations along the highway see a need to preserve the unique and vernacular structures that gave the road its hodgepodge mid-century aesthetic.
Perhaps none of them tell the story of Route 66 in its entirety. In their own personal legends of Route 66, they adopt, reinterpret, and recast the story in their own way. Even Edwards puts his own spin on it. And that’s great. We already have a textbook history with all the facts; what makes the story of Route 66 captivating and particular to American mythology – what separates it from the stories of the thousands of other ribbons of road in the country – are the many retellings of that story from diverse viewpoints and backgrounds overlaid on top of that textbook history.
Route 66 itself is just a strip of dirt, gravel, concrete, and asphalt, and the stories of these common materials don’t matter at all if we don’t take into account the stories of the people – of all the people – whose lives Route 66 has touched. So, in the end, we shouldn’t just tell the story of Route 66 once; we have to let everybody tell their own Route 66 stories.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Daniel Strohl.