Just for Fun #79


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Dealing with an emergency vehicle

So, who is in charge when you are on a driving exam? Even though the person grading you on your exam is giving instructions and even though they hold your fate in their hands, you are ultimately responsible for the vehicle because you are the driver.

Actually, the law always takes precedent over the exam proctor during a driving test. They won’t tell you things like, “the speed on this road is 45MPH.” However, the most stressful thing that can happen during a driving test is when an emergency vehicle enters your route. Sometimes an exam proctor will give you instructions in recognition of the extraordinary circumstances but many times they simply wait to see how you react to it.

One of the challenges is that many drivers on the road don’t know what to do when an emergency vehicle comes on the scene. Other vehicles on the road may not behave exactly as you think they should.

So, when you see an emergency vehicle what do you do?

Well, its simple really; pull over. If you don’t pull over and it was safe to do so you will fail your driving test. A police car on the scene can site you for failing to yield but they generally don’t have time.

If you are stuck somewhere where it’s impossible to pull over, you may have to pull over as far as possible for the emergency vehicle to get through. You should also beware that another emergency vehicle isn’t following it (it may not be the same type by the way, for instance if you have an ambulance you may get a police car following on behind).

Remember though it is always advisable only to stop if the situation isn’t hazardous; do not put yourself in danger.

The Toughest Thing About Emergency Vehicles!

Because the sirens are generally on it should give you plenty of time to respond, though you might have initial confusion on where the emergency vehicle is coming from. As with all times on a driving test it is essential not to panic. If you aren’t on a driving test and you were listening to music turn it off until the emergency vehicle has passed.

It is always a good idea to stay especially alert in a situation such as this.

Although you might be tempted to follow an emergency vehicle through traffic, especially if its an ambulance carrying a loved one, do NOT do this. You should be more than 500 feet away from the emergency vehicle at all times.

When you overtake an Emergency Vehicle.

When you see an emergency vehicle at the side of the road you should reduce your speed slightly and change lanes if it is safe enough to do so. If you can’t change lanes you should proceed with caution.

Emergency Vehicles from Different Directions

How exactly you deal with an emergency vehicle depends on where they approach from. If they approach from behind (that is, if you see one in your rear view mirrors) you must attempt to pull over, staying as close to the curb as you can.

If they are approaching from the front you must still stop and pull over. This is in case the drivers in the opposite lane cannot pull over fully.

The difficulty with emergency vehicles may reveal itself at intersections. Ideally, no part of your car should be impeding the emergency vehicle’s progress.

This specific law is known as the “Move Over” law, but it also known as the “Steer Clear” law in Pennsylvania. There may be a specific speed limit for cars that cannot get out of the way of an emergency vehicle, for instance in Texas it is 20 mph below the advertised speed limit.

According to information released by Taylor & Francis Online more firefighters die in traffic accidents than the fire itself, though it does refer to these vehicles being a hazard to other road users. It’s difficult to think of a solution to this problem as a fire engine must get to the incident as quickly as possible.

The Great Racing Car Teams

Farrari Racing

Top racing teams include McLaren, Williams, Ferrari and Red Bull. The reasons these teams stay on or near the top year after year is because they recruit the best race car drivers and support the best engines.

As with anything else, money can buy success, but only to a limited degree. Ferrari seems to be one of the highest funded – a cool 300 million according to a recent New York Times article.

Financial crises are not good for any business, but the successful race teams become smaller and more streamlined.

Qualities of a good Driver:

Sometimes it is about luck, finding the right drivers for instance. It’s a high-pressure job and in order to race effectively, drivers must stay in shape — it’s not only steering a car. The most easily overlooked aspect of racing is the teamwork. Drivers must be able to communicate constantly with their team, via radio, and work to make good decisions as a team.

Let’s look over the different teams:

Mercedes racing began in 1954. Along with Auto-Union cars they acquired the name of Silver Arrows. This is because German cars tended to race in silver, though they did have white cars too such as the Blintez Benz. Even now many German cars are referred to as being colored “Silver Arrow Gray”.

Red Bull Racing

The team currently uses AMG-Petronas cars which are silver with a green – or possibly turquoise- trim. In 2020 Merc introduced black livery in support of Black Lives Support.

Ferrari’s racing team is Scuderia Ferrari known also as the Prancing Horse. Confusingly though other teams can still use Ferrari engines and it makes sense for them to do so as they are one of the most efficient, both on the racetrack and off. Strange it may seem, although the team was created by Enzo Ferrari they originally used Alfa Romeo engines instead of Ferrari ones. Although it seems a long time ago it wasn’t until 1947 that they used Ferrari engines. This was due to Alfa Romeo’s teething troubles at the period.

Their supporters are known as the tifosi (please note they do support other Italian cars though!) who famously cheer when the cars go past them. Italians are one of the biggest fan groups of motor racing. As with the domestic cars Ferrari race cars have a strong red hue.

The Williams team was formed in 1977 in the Spanish Grand Prix. Although it used Ford, Honda and Renault engines it also used the lesser-known Judd and Cosworth engines. Judd and Cosworth don’t make ordinary cars, just the racing engines.

Red Bull has also used Cosworth engines as well as Ferrari and Renault engines. In 2019 they changed to Honda. In order to support future drivers, they also have a Red Bull junior team.

Whether it comes down to getting the lucky breaks, or being able to finance a team well, these great teams have and will continue to field some of the most winning drivers on the circuit.

Rare Pickups on The Market

GMC Crewcab

Although pickups seem designed to carry a load, only 15% of them are designed for work. One reason is that they were built as a passenger vehicle only with a little more cargo capacity. Regardless of the original design intent, many car makers have tried their hand at making a pickup and many pickups are quite collectable.

Collectable Trucks

The Lincoln Blackwood doesn’t look like a regular pickup, it barely has enough room for a load. Nor does it have a 4×4. A crossover in all but style, you may say.

The Sierra California Sundancer has such a huge cab and the sunroof is another unusual addition. It was only sold for one year in the state of California in 1987. They appear rather cumbersome and either didn’t catch on or they were just too expensive to make.

VW

VW Rabbit

The VW Rabbit doesn’t have the iconic VW look but it was a breakaway design created in the 1970s to satisfy those who wanted a pickup with qualities similar to the Datsun Truck and Ford Courier.

Created in a plant in Pennsylvania with a choice of 1.6L diesel and 1.7L it was strange that the VW Rabbit didn’t do better. A notable feature was that the normal gear was marked “E” for economy – a low gear is best for the bank balance – instead of “D” for drive.

Chevy

Chevy Cameo

It’s weird to turn the design of Chevrolet into a pickup but the Cameo attempts this. Again, it had limited manufacture, in this case in the 1950s. Still, it remains a stylish pickup.

Other Chevy pickups include the Chevrolet Colorado has an extended cab size and a payload of 1,575 pounds (the payload is the amount that can be carried); also it can tow 7,000 pounds. The most successful Chevrolet pickup model has been the Silverado which has both basic and luxury models. In 2020 a Silverado HD model came out.

Dodge

A strong red model with a huge hood is the Ram Heavy Duty. It has 1000 pounds weight of torque. The torque is the power it needs to work through gear changes; because a pickup truck carries or tows more weight than a sports car it needs to have more power, especially when driven at low speeds.

Cadillac

How can you improve an ancient pickup? Take the 1949 Cadillac Diamond T201, it’s wise to repaint the black fenders and handlamps and re-upholster the leather interior. Unfortunately, as it’s a traditional pickup it only has a cab so no room for backseat passengers. You still have the 6-cylinder engine and 4 speed transmission to their credit.

With less than 10,000 models around this is an ideal pickup to rejuvenate, especially given the walking cane gear stick – it just oozes class in a way unusual in a pickup, but that’s what you would expect from Cadillac.

In conclusion

Ultimately these types of vehicle require strong suspension to allow them to carry heavy loads, an SUV provides a smoother ride for you. The pickup is there if you want the option to move heavy loads too. You have balance out the need for smoothness or the need for storage space.

What is a Performance Car?

Porsche Cayman

A high performing car is obviously about speed, but also it needs to be able to use that speed safely. This kind of vehicle gives more power and acceleration (the 0-60 rate) than its weight would suggest. To be considered a performance car a vehicle needs to be above average in such variables as acceleration, reaching a top speed, braking and cornering.

Deep Dive on Cornering

Cayman who runs Porsche has explained the process of cornering as merely changing directions at speed – in other words having strong and quick reacting controls (which includes but it is not limited to steering) so you can change your mind in an emergency.

An essential part of performance cars is the power-to-size ratio. The performance car tends to have sporty, bigger engines. This trend can be traced back to Carrol Shelby who designed both Corvettes and Mustangs during his career.

McLaren

Performance Cars vs Supercars

The most well-known performance cars today are Porsche, McLaren and Ferrari, known as supercars, but Dodge is definitely an up and coming alternative. The Dodge Challenger and the Dodge Charger are two cars which can reach 200 mph and are more economical than the Ferraris of the world. So, a supercar is a performance car but a performance car is not automatically a supercar. The difference isn’t just price but things like custom made performance features in the case of a supercar vs factory made performance cars that are a little more practical in fuel economy and street legality.

Comfort and Amenities

A surprising thing about performance cars is lack of comfort. They tend to be much more about power and grip. The vehicle needs to be aerodynamically sound, so as to get rid of any bit of friction. They are known to for their strong suspension and the traction force on the tires. So in layman’s terms they will always look cool but seldom have a smooth ride or comfy seats.

Notable Performance Cars

Looking at the Dodge Charger you will see a sports sedan which makes it not as popular as its coupe rivals or the Ferrari types referred to, but it does have eight cylinders. Most coupes (two door vehicles) have a more classical look but if you require something more modern the Charger could be suitable for you.

The Toyota Supra has a six-liter engine which reaches 0-60 in 40 seconds. The Brembo brakes are one of the top selling points, they are one of the leading manufacturers of high performing brakes.

For those looking at a front wheel drive vehicle there is always the Honda Civic (R type) though it also has 4×4 controls. Is it the type of car associated with boy racers? Not necessarily, it has some space for the driver and passengers and a feeling of luxury. It’s just this one may not be a family car.

Giulia Quadrifoglio

Giulia Quadrifoglio has similar elements, a twin turbo and a rear wheel drive. The idea was to develop a new performance car for Alpha Romeo based on the Ferrari 458 Speciale platform. It has a host of extras from the Ferrari including carbon fibre on the hood. Not surprising since they borrowed a lot of Ferraris design team to create it.

In conclusion

What is considered high performance is constantly changing. Should you wish to improve the handling, braking or acceleration you can obtain performance parts. It is important that the part you purchase is correct for your make of car – you may know these extras as “aftermarket car parts,” it’s a phrase mentioned earlier in these articles. If you’ve had the car a few years it’s more likely to need these replacement parts.

Essentially a performance car is a sporty car which is designed to maximize your enjoyment; some could be described as “a car and a half” but all are about obtaining pleasure behind the wheel.

Unrealistic Cars in the Movies

We should never forget that cars in the movies are just the director’s props and can work however the actors (or stuntmen) want.

While we shouldn’t confuse what we see on screen with the way that specific vehicles acts in real life, it’s fascinating to see how, in the name of excitement, what we see is so much different from real life.

Stunt #1

While most car stunts involve a car in motion, we’ll start with an exception. We kind of think that cars are made to last, but what about cars which purposely fall apart?

In Buster Keaton’s Three Ages the car suddenly falls apart, almost as if it was on order. Except it’s the film business so it was certainly on order. Could it be a button that the driver presses? It’s not a crash, the parts seem to move around slowly to a chaotic shape, and a wheel rolls slowly away. Although the car is a heap the driver manages to walk away, without his dignity but he walks away.

Inaccurate Sounds

In films you may notice that some cars don’t sound right. Take Wheelman for example. The BMW doesn’t sound like a BMW. Despite it being a similar engine many “petrol heads” are able to tell the difference. Foley experts grab an engine sound that seems to match impression they want the car to have, which may have nothing to do with what that car actually sounds like.

Hotwiring

Something which is always done wrong in films is hotwiring – jump starting an engine by joining two wires together and riding off with it. This is no longer possible and wasn’t since the 1990s. Even when many car makers left the ignition wires accessible under the dash, it wasn’t a quick business as shown on screen, and even then, a would-be joy rider would find many cars impossible to hotwire.

Extreme Drama

One of the things that drive some car experts crazy is when a tire blows out a car traveling more than 10 miles an hour, it would inevitably flip into the air and land on it’s top. In real life a car is too heavy for that to happen.

Movie and TV Cars also explode way too quickly, especially if they go off the edge of a cliff. It wasn’t too uncommon in the 1980’s for a car to explode while falling for no apparent reason other than the audiences collective desire to see a flaming ball of fire tumble to the bottom of the canyon.

Fortunately, real life cars aren’t as flammable as that. What is true, is that they burn quickly. They are loaded with accelerants which means if a flame is produced the fire spreads quickly to consume every part of the car. What’s typically missing from a car wreck is a flame source. Most cars that catch on fire in real life are victims of a mechanical failure in the engine which spreads, even while the car is rolling.

Chase Scenes

In Gone In 60 Seconds we see cars whose suspensions are far too bouncy, moving with ease over cars, sofas, anything really. This is even hard to do in a film set, so CGI is employed.

There are other unrealistic chase scenes out there in the movie world. When cars go over a jump and appear to fly straight for a long distance. When you see stunt men and women in real life jump something, it’s usually a motorcycle because they weigh less per horsepower and the engine is in the middle of the vehicle. Jump a car off a ramp and you’ll find them very front heavy. They tend to dive hood first at the landing which brakes the frame. As a result, even if you could walk away from the landing you won’t be driving away as they portray in the movies.

When cars speed, they tend to crash more or less immediately. The chases are filmed at about 70 mph, because any faster and even stunt drivers would crash and other accidents would occur. Stunt drivers are able to drive faster than 70 of course, but when you’re paying a couple hundred people to film the scene and you wreck a car with every mistake, you want to limit the number of retakes.

Guns

Bringing in guns brings in more problems. It’s probably a boring thing to say, but in real life firing a gun and driving is the ultimate form of distracted driving. It’s not likely a driver would try to fire accurately from a vehicle.

It is likely that you would try to avoid getting shot while driving and that’s also going to be a distraction. Just sit in your car with the engine off and imagine someone is shooting at you. In the movies, drivers try to keep their heads down, but this would almost certainly cause a crash in real life. At least the driver aiming a gun at you would also crash; car driving and multitasking doesn’t mix.

Side Swiping

We often see people trying to force another car off the road by swerving into them. In real life this is very hard to do. It reduces the amount of attention you can give to what’s in front of you. Plus, physically getting jostled makes it hard to control your steering wheel. Police have what’s called a pit manoeuvre in real life, where they attempt to bump a car from the side, right at the front or back tire—causing it to spin out. Even with training police Pit Manoeuvres have caused about 30 deaths since 2018.

It’s probably best to leave the car chases and car stunts to people in the movies, they tend to know what they’re doing.

Winter Car Care

There are so many difficulties with the cold weather. Here are a few tips from your friends at The Kicker.

Dirt!

The salt on the road makes cars become dirty quicker. It is recommended that you constantly wipe your lights with a cloth – 40% of luminosity is lost on gritted roads, according to a road safety charity. It may also mean that your registration plate becomes obscured. So it is important to wipe it down before you leave your house.

Battery

Is your battery fairly new? Cold is hard on batteries and it’s also the worst time to get stranded in a car that won’t start. The battery should be changed every three years. If your car battery is beginning to age it means your car will take longer to start or not start at all.

New batteries can hold their temperature thanks to a substance called “liquid electrolyte solution.” A battery will only totally freeze when the temperature becomes really icy but the colder temperatures mean that transfer of power that occurs in a battery is slowed down and as a result you will have difficulty in starting up.

Also, because people tend to use their lights more at this time of year the battery is drained more; using the windshield wipers and the radio can also have an effect.

Signs of a Bad Battery:

There will be noticeable signs that you have a flat battery when you start the engine up such as not hearing anything when you place the key in the ignition or hearing a whining sound but no motor. Other signs may be that the ignition lights fail to work, or the central locking fails to unlock.

Your engine may be started by jump leads if there is no other way, but it should only be used if there is no other way. You might also carry a portable battery this time of year which allows you to jump you car or the car of a stranger in need.

Be prepared:

It may be life or death to ensure that the tires aren’t worn. If you drive on country roads more than average you may need some snow tires.

What’s important too is to have a survival kit in your car, such a blanket, hot thermos and so on in case you break down. You will need warm clothing for you and all the passengers in the car as well as a shovel and a torch.

Do you need to change the coolant? The coolant needs to be changed every 2-5 years, the exact time is dependent on the coolant used and the type of car.

Another vital part of winter car care is checking the car has been serviced recently. Although most cars need a service every twelve months all cars are different. It’s best to have your car serviced before the worst of winter occurs, if you can.

Wipers

Make sure your wipers work effectively – maybe wipe them with a clean cloth. But if the wipers seem to be stuck it is best to heat the car up. Applying water, which is too hot may crack your windows, so take care. It’s important by law to ensure the windshield washer is full of fluid.

If your car is cold all the time it means that your car will consume more fuel. The car should take 30 seconds to a minute to warm up. If your car takes longer to warm up it should possibly be kept in a garage.

Hopefully these tips can protect you from the worst of the wintry harm out there.