Truck Racing

From the UK Desk

Truck racing began in Atlanta in 1979. Unfortunately, the speed of the trucks are limited at 160 mph and no truck can weigh greater than 5500 Kg. Before the race the trucks need to be rolled into position. It tries to be a non-contact sport but the odd crash is not uncommon.

The first truck race was on dirt and the truck was not adapted. This has now changed; in the UK there is a special division – Division 1 – where all the trucks, including the braking and suspension, have been especially adapted.

In 1982 a top speed of 132 mph was at the Texas World Speedway. After 1986 the tag axle was removed, getting rid of 2000 pounds. The Bandit Big Rig Series began in 2017. It included the Hickory Motor Prize. Points were awarded in the qualifying rounds and included heat races, shootout races, challenge races and ultimately the final.

The FIA European Truck Racing Championship or ETRC includes events which have been running for thirty years. The championship, which attracts families, according to their website, usually has around 400,000 spectators or so.

The trucks are not supposed to emit black smoke and this will get them banned from the event if it happens twice in a row. The two categories are Chrome and Titan, the Chrome division plays for the Goodyear Cup. There are drivers and team categories too.

Each Competition takes place over two days. A day generally includes half an hour of practise followed by qualifying events and finally the championship race. The winner is the one allocated the most points.

Baja Trucks

A different type of truck racing involves trophy trucks or Baja trucks/trick trucks. Instead of the usual circuits this is off-road racing using high powered engines. The trucks are considered street legal but have been especially designed. There are minimal rules for each truck’s production.

When it began the trucks varied in design so drastically that no truck was the same. Over time a group of engineering firms got involved. The downside of this was that the trucks began to lose their individuality.

It’s weird but for a long period the trucks were two-wheel drive, but they now incorporate an all-wheel drive feature. Ford and Chevrolet engines are commonly most used. An air restrictor is required if the truck uses a turbo engine.

In order to maneuver against the terrain of the desert the minimum weight has to be 1,600 Kg. The gearboxes used have a choice of either being three speed or six speed.

Pickup Racing

Pickup truck racing has modified trucks which are more drivable in racing terms than most trucks but still aren’t as aerodynamic as the usual racing cars.

The NASCAR Truck Series began in 1995 and the electrical equipment and aerodynamics involved have evolved over time.

Whatever type of truck racing you decide to attend you are guaranteed a special event, which despite the size of the vehicle, still has some of the best racing drivers out there. 

Vertical Climbing Vehicles

Can you get a car to climb a vertical face, well yes! It’s not easy, especially when you’re dealing with crumbling textures and falling rock. You’re not exactly going against physics but you’re going damned close.

Speed alone won’t get you up a vertical surface. It is important that the surface you’re climbing is completely dry. You also need to give your vehicle a thorough inspection prior to attempting the climb. There are significant pressures placed on a vehicle when it attempts to make such a climb. Additionally, you want to be sure that everything in and on the vehicle is secured, the vehicle may be able to maintain a tenuous grasp when going vertical, but the stuff in your cup holder probably won’t.

Speed isn’t the answer to the problem of a vertical climb, it’s power. Welcome to the world of rock crawler buggies where tires need to be especially low and the center of gravity for the bodywork must be low as well. The engine cannot be close to the tires so typically it requires an electronic drive.

The tires must have a strong grip in them but there’s difficulty here too. Under normal circumstances, gravity is pushing down on the car and the tires – we’re moving into aerodynamics again here by the way – but now we can’t use gravity. So how does the vehicle get grip?

The solution is a paddled tire using the vertical force itself to grip it to the wall. With the center of gravity at the front of the vehicle and also as near to the cliff as possible it ensures the car is kept as stable as possible. Were this not the case the car would flip back and fall off the cliff. The best length of car, when you calculate it, is about 11.5ft (3.5m).

Another variable is weight. The engines need to be kept as light as possible. This goes against conventional thinking associated with off-roaders. One might think of a vehicle like an SUV or Land Rover, but these are no good for scaling heights.

A climber needs to be able to reach 60mph in 1.5 seconds and can only weigh up to about 575lbs (260Kg).

How does it reach the required angle? Before the car can travel up a 90-degree surface it must first climb a 70-degree surface, an impossible angle for most cars. For this reason, you need a strong stunt driver as it’s quite a scary angle and may involve some sliding backwards before reaching the cliff itself.

This is unfortunately just speculation as no car has yet been able to scale up a 90-degree cliff, even though a Jeep was reported climbing up the Sand Hollow State cliff in Utah. It doesn’t seem to hold that much water though. For one thing, a Jeep is too heavy a vehicle to confidently climb a vertical cliff. Secondly, the Jeep seems to be at a jaunty angle as if it’s not exactly climbing. Thirdly, the car is shown at the top of a cliff (perhaps winched down from the horizontal surface?) not halfway down where the aerodynamics could be seen at the fullest effect. Don’t believe all you read on social media!

Getting Children Interested In Cars

There are hundreds of ways of getting children interested in cars. As may be understood if you regularly follow us, it leads to hundreds of careers and side projects – go karting or visiting a racetrack for instance. But it ultimately comes down to the child themselves.

We just wanted to point to some, in case you have some time off this Christmas and want to do something fun with your kids.

Lo Tech

There are many different craft videos out there, telling you how to make a car out of popsicle sticks or even matchboxes (the business Matchbox was named after the practice of homemade cars). For the more technically minded there are videos on making battery-powered toy cars and propeller cars. There are videos about general propulsion and how exactly they move designed for young minds.

Or you could choose one of the many balloon cars designs, whether out of cardboard or out of Lego. It teaches children about propulsion, as the balloon deflates the car goes faster. Or you use a zip line or rocket to propel it. Again, videos to make these items are available online with simple research.

Robot Cars:

There are several online challenges out there for those who wish to design their own. Robot cars can be customized into different designs and by following online guides, step by step instructions are needed to bring about positive results. An Arduino car for instance works through a USB and microcontroller. It creates its own path through obstacles.

An Elegoo robot car (as well as various robot tanks) can be programmed online via code. It could take some time to become an expert.

Remote Control Cars:

Remote control cars may be thought by some as yesterday’s toys by some but options include:

  • Those which can be controlled via Wifi
  • Those with a HD camera
  • Those which may be driven in all terrains

There’s even one made for the Nintendo Switch that works with VR (Virtual Reality) to impose a virtual racetrack onto your floor. You can drive the remote-control car around the virtual track and compete with virtual opponents.

There’s a range of colors too, including camouflage green and metallic blue.

Other ways to Play, er we mean Experiment…for education…

Even with regular toy cars your child can make ramps out of cardboard, wood or plastic. Sticking a block in the way in a car could teach about what forces cause a car to stop for instance. They can also alter the height and length of a ramp to see how fast a car goes when launched by gravity.

Another thing to look at is the size and weight of a car. Why do small cars start quicker but larger cars in the end go faster? They can also experiment on which surface works for the toy car.

There’s also the possibility of marking out a racetrack on the floor with colored masking tape. It comes down to how much mess you want your child to make!

Depending on the age of your child and the amount you’re able to be involved with the project the “shed projects” that involve building the car or obstacles before using them seem to fascinate more than the items you may find in the stores. However, both are useful if you want to teach about science and technology, or pass on your passion for cars to your own kids.

If your child doesn’t enjoy getting their hands dirty, there’s still encouraging your child to draw various types of cars and trucks, just whatever piques their interest. Car design is a great career and who knows where the next car startup will come from. If you get them to keep it up, you may have a genius on your hands. They’ll be working for Elon Musk – or one of his competitors – in no time. Maybe they’ll be the next Elon Musk?

Foreign Pickup Trucks – Successes and Fails

Mercedes X-Class

What makes an ideal pickup truck to buy and what makes a truck that no one will buy?

Kei Truck

To look at the Kei Truck first; it is called a mini-truck, a very small, but practical, pickup truck. It is built very small and is classified as an ATV in some states. Subaru, Honda, and Suzuki, among others, manufacture the Kei Truck. It was developed from a three wheeled truck which could be seen in Japan even before WWII. It weighs less than a metric ton – about 1,500lbs (700Kg) and has a maximum speed of 75 mph. They are produced outside the US and are used in the fishing and construction industries. Unless you’re in one of a handful of states where they’re classified as an ATV, only Kei Trucks older than 25 years may be imported into the US.

The Isuzu V-Cross PCP is designed for both off-roading and traveling on country roads. There are several features you don’t immediately associate with a pickup such as leather seats, a gun-metal exterior, and heated front seats – just the thing for journeying through the colder states. There’s also a touchscreen and a back-up camera to aid your parking.

Unfortunately, a number of pickups didn’t succeed, like the Mercedes X-Class. This was only used between 2018 and 2020. Although Mercedes tends to make waves all over the car market this was a new area for them.  The engine had two different levels of power and had a design based on the Nissan Frontier. Ultimately it had some problems – it was tricky to turn, requiring an excess of 42 feet (13 meters) and was thought too expensive for most customers, not even reaching 17 thousand sales.

Did you know that a Toyota Hilux features in Back To The Future? If so, you are not alone. This bulky pickup has been available since 1968. It has “sports bars” at the front and a strong towing capacity at the back with the additional robust frame and why not take advantage of the cruise control and a collision prevention control. The music tech is also worth mentioning, the Smartphone integration. There are also test drive available from the website. 

The story of the Mahindra is a whole different affair. Its lack of fuel efficiency held it up during production, although it duped hundreds of US audio dealers into investment. The parent company, Global, was selling utility vehicles in 2004. It managed to obtain 350 potential buyers around this period. Unfortunately, it never got to launch.  Despite being planned for a number of years, the fuel emission certificate was only signed in 2011. Dealers paid to get the franchise but it all came to naught.  Several millions were syphoned into branding the product and even creating showrooms. The company later admitted the pressure was too great.

There are so many brilliant pickups out there it would be surprising if some different fall by the wayside. The working nature of the vehicle is important but so is comfortability and style.

Off-roading – Dealing with Emergencies

What happens when off-roaders get into difficulty? There are various problems that could occur.

Before you start off:

It is vital to tell someone where you are going and also when you believe you are returning, just for safety’s sake.

To reduce the damage of any off-roading exercise it is best practice to lower the tire pressure before you begin off-roading and get ready with the spare tire or the repair kit if something bad happens.

It’s a good idea to find an official off-road driving course, or “space” to practice.

There are other changes that will improve your vehicle such as changing your front fender and back fender to stronger examples. One thing you may not expect to need is a winch, but this is vital if you get stuck. It’s important that you get a new enough winch that it won’t rust up otherwise it’s no use to you.

Crossing Water

Rivers can prove tricky – is the bottom solid enough or is it a mixture of shallow and deep water? If it’s the latter, then it’s best not to cross.

Beware of traversing water that has strong currents, because even 4x4s aren’t cut out for them. Always move slowly through any water. When you leave the river check that the brakes haven’t been damaged. Most people don’t know that if you traverse through cold water you will need to change the oil.

If you plan to go into deep water, you will need to protect the car’s radiator somehow. This is one of many reasons why it’s dangerous for a novice to do so.

Hi / Low Gearing

The 4×4 HD High gives a day-to-day speed as well as splendid torque or traction. The 4×4 HD Low as you’d expect is low end power but is better if you are traveling long distances.

It is hard to understand what locking differential is – it’s to do with moving the right and left wheels at the same time. A differential allows your wheels to turn at a different rate which makes cornering a lot smoother when your tires are gripping asphalt. By locking the differential in a 4×4 you force the tires to turn at the same speed which can increase traction since a tire will continue to spin even when it’s broken lose from gripping the ground beneath it.

Some incidents with the transmission perhaps through wear and tear may occur, causing you to hear noises when you try to shift gears.

Undercarriage and Tires

People forget that the undercarriage, the area under the car, could get damaged. Bits are liable to leak, and parts could fall off. You may also be faced with a strange rattle that you need to investigate.

After going through various rocks and ditches your wheels may misalign. You should let go of your steering wheel and see if it pulls to one side. Driving over rocks may cause specific damages including scratches to the bodywork. It may be advisable to get stronger tires, it is best to talk to an expert.

In fact they make tires for rock climbing that are very different than tires for mudding. If you know you’ll be mainly doing one or another you should buy the best kind of tire for that use.

Off-Road Courtesy

It is always a good idea, if you see an off roader changing a tire, that you offer to help. Don’t worry, you won’t be running into other off roaders all that often. But it’s good karma all the same, and it’s an accepted courtesy among 4×4 enthusiasts.

Climbing Cars

Can a jeep climb vertically up a cliff, say a sheer surface? A video showed one climbing up a cliff in Utah, though there are some viewers who believed it to be fake.

To perform this trick, you need considerable stunt knowledge. As it was performed in rainy conditions, reportedly this makes the job harder. It needs to be a 4×4 in order to maintain the required grip.

It’s so much easier at a smaller scale, hence the number of remote-control toys performing this type of stunt. When you scale things up you increase the numbers, but the gravity part of the equation doesn’t change.

Aerodynamics

Mini Cooper

Intuition says that rugged looking vehicles are best for a cross country adventure but aerodynamics are still vital to whichever car you choose to negotiate a mountain road. Weight, size and power all play a part. When it comes to climbing mountains, a sedan is too close to the ground for rocky areas, despite their smallness. Ironically, a compact, like the Mini Cooper, is useful as it is the right size to handle country roads and also an extensive trunk space for any mountain gear. Maybe it’s not going to dig you out of quick sand, but for the average logging road it should perform well.

How about SUVs or crossovers? Yes, they can get you up there but as with any mountain traverse it helps if you have some experience. Remember that driving on rocks and fields is much harder than driving on a road. And many SUV’s are intended to look like a mountain vehicle but suited only for the city.

Here are further cars suitable for a mountain drive – Mahindra Scorpio and Vitara Brezza.

The Mahindra has a brilliant red shade and is built for negotiating the toughest of rocky roads in all but the worst weather.

Suzuki’s Vitara Brezza has a similar scarlet colour and has enough suspension to deal with the bumps in the road as you edge towards the mountain’s peak.

Uphill Racing

Just outside Nice is the beautiful town of La Turbie, site of the first uphill race in the world, also known as speed hill climbing. The sport fell slowly out of favor in France but eventually it was revived in the 1980s. There have also been races in Austria (Gaisberg) and the UK (Harewood) and various locations in the US. There have been races as far afield as Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.

Suzuki’s Vitara Brezza

Some races use racing cars while others use a kit car to race. There are smaller races out there which use everyday cars with some of them undergoing modification. The modification may be a roll cage or a rollover protection system which will protect the driver should the vehicle overturn. Sometimes cars are protected with the ability to prevent a rollover, such as anti-lock brakes and traction control, the kind of safety system you might need when negotiating a hill, but this goes against the spirit of hilltop driving.

The smaller races are in speed-trial format with competitors having two attempts to tackle the hill.

If you wish to explore the early days of hilltop driving, including pictures of the racers themselves you can do worse than browse specialist racing magazines like, Uphill Racers. Even the UK’s Stirling Moss, linked more to Formula One racing, has taken part in the hilltop driving culture. So, hilltop drivers are in good company.

What’s News: 2021 Bronco

Finally some news we can sink out teeth into! This week has been on fire in the car industry.

Now Ford unveils their 2021 Bronco. This is bigger news than a normal unveiling because the ever popular Bronco hasn’t been around since… 1997

Naturally their are a few hiccups along the way. It seems that a tire option available on your new Bronco is the Goodyear Wrangler. As Wrangler happens to also be the name of the Bronco’s competition, Jeep Wrangler, it’s not a great thing to have labeled on the side of your new Bronco.

This one falls short of a true controversy in our book though. There is an easy answer–turn the tires around? That honestly seems to be what they’re doing.

Here’s a few nice pictures and videos to amuse you.