Spotted is Globe Drive writer Peter Cheney's weekly feature that takes you behind the scenes of his life as a vehicle and engineering journalist. In coming weeks, we'll also highlight the best of your original photos and short video clips (10 seconds or less), which you should send with a short explanation. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on Twitter @cheneydrive (#spotted), or join him on Facebook (no login required). All photos by Peter Cheney unless otherwise noted.
Here’s another weird ride my wife and I spotted on I-75 during one of our trips to Georgia. At first, we thought it was another garbage bag and duct tape automotive repair job (if you follow Spotted, you know there’s no shortage of those.) Then we noticed that the car was limousine-length, and fairly reputable looking (aside from the flapping roof.) We decided to pull up for a closer inspection.
A Flapping Mystery Craft
As we pulled alongside, we realized that this was a custom-made limo of some kind, with a grafted-on folding roof that covered the aft section. Now we were really curious, and decided to make a further inspection.
Beware the Second Shooter on the Grassy Knoll
After pulling up along the passenger side of the flapping mystery car, we noticed that there was a handrail on the roof. This was a Pope-mobile, or something like it, with a flip-back roof that allows a dignitary to stand in the rear and pass before the admiring crowds. By the looks of things, the roof was designed for the aerodynamic load of a parade route, not a high-speed run on I-75.
All is Revealed
Things are Different in Japan
You don’t see a Mitsubishi Star Wagon very often. (I spotted this one in downtown Toronto, just off St.) The was built in Japan, and exported to several foreign markets, including the U.S. The name, which was a contraction of “Delivery Car,” was later changed to Space Gear. Check out those entrance steps and the “Crystal Lite” sunroof. The weird wheel spacing is apparently due to a Japanese tax regulation that’s based on the distance between the front and rear wheels (aka wheelbase).
High Speed Smart
They take Smart Cars seriously in Europe. I spotted this one out on the autobahn, cruising at over 160 km/h. The fat tires and yellow brake calipers suggest that it’s a
There are a handful of cars that would derive performance and aesthetic benefits from an oversized biplane tail spoiler. This Honda Accord I saw in Toronto is not one of them.
The Accessory Aisle Special
If a few graphics are good, more must be better, right? I spotted this rolling art board near my house in Toronto.
The Built-In Curb Feeler
A low nose makes for good high-speed aerodynamics, but parking does require extra care. I spotted this newly-scuffed Nissan at a mall.
The Art of Parking
You can paint all the lines you want. But they’re only a suggestion.
A Little Project
I’ve got the front end of my new car taken apart for some modifications. Here it is on the hoist at Gentry Lane (the Toronto Lotus dealership.)
Here’s the focus of my project. I ordered my new car with ducted front fenders from the Lotus racing catalogue. They look cool, and will carry heat away from the brakes. But the tires will throw rocks and dirt through the ducts, so I’m designing protective screens. This is a shot of the fender vent as it comes from the factory.
Making a Shape
The duct curves in multiple directions, so making a screen to fit in the opening isn’t easy. I’m going to create a
The duct panels on this Ferrari illustrate what I’m aiming for. These ones are actually solid, so air doesn’t pass through. Mine will have screens, or a pattern of holes.
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