Justin Hyde

  • December 18: The first land-speed record was set by an electric car on this date in 1898

    Justin Hyde at Motoramic 6 hrs ago

    The first vehicle to ever turn a wheel in France was powered by electricity and the mind of engineer Charles Jeantaud, who paired the then-new inventions of plate alkaline batteries and electric motors to build a series of electric cars. On this date in 1898, Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat took his Jeantaud at top speed over a one-kilometer strip during an exhibition arranged by a French magazine, hitting an average speed of 39 mph — the first land-speed record. The feat earned Chasseloup-Laubat the name "The Electric Count," along with a challenge from a Belgian competitor with which he would swap the land speed record several times over the following months. Here's what a current electric land-speed record holder looks and sounds like:

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  • Cuba's thaw with U.S. raises interest in classic-car cache

    Justin Hyde at Motoramic 22 hrs ago

    Wednesday's news of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba after 53 years of post-revolution standoff caught the attention of one group in particular: Classic-car buffs.

    Since the Castro-led government essentially banned vehicle imports from outside the Soviet bloc until 2013, and poverty gripped most of the island, many of the roughly 60,000 1950s-era vehicles in Cuba have been driven and kept in use ever since. With parts hard to come by, a burgeoning home-garage industry has bloomed, dedicated to fabricating parts and keeping ancient Plymouths, Chevys and Fords on the roads — becoming one of Cuba's most well-known tourist attractions.

    But before collectors start booking figuring out how to ship cars from Havana, they may want to take a pause. For starters, the U.S. economic embargo with Cuba can only be lifted by an act of Congress; the rule changes announced today by President Barack Obama fall far short of a full resumption of trade, and individuals who travel to Cuba under a limited set of circumstances may only bring back $400 in goods.

  • Acura NSX production model to debut next month in Detroit

    Justin Hyde at Motoramic 1 day ago

    Three years ago, Honda executives revealed a concept for a next generation of the fabled Acura NSX supercar, and vowed to return with a production model by 2015. Sure enough, the street-ready version of the new NSX will get its public unveiling in Detroit next month, and Acura has released a few teaser images that show some evolution in the NSX's design.

    Compared with the concept first revealed in 2012, the teaser shots reveal a few new details through their computer-controlled darkness. The grille has been revised away from the dental-guard look that Acuras sported three years ago; the hood now includes some complex ports, likely for cooling, and the headlamps feature six square individual LED units apiece, keeping with more current Acura models. The rear looks closer to what was previously shown, although the rear fenders seem to have a more pronounced arch. (It's a far more muscular appearance than the proto-NSX Robert Downey Jr. drove in "The Avengers.")

  • Burt Reynolds' Bandit 1977 Pontiac Trans Am sells for $480,000

    Justin Hyde at Motoramic 3 days ago

    Thirty-five years ago, no Hollywood star had the box-office power of Burt Reynolds — and there's still a little of that magic left, based on an auction of Reynolds' personal items this weekend that included a 1977 Pontiac Trans Am in "Smokey and the Bandit" style, which sold for a stunning $480,000.

    The Trans Am was one of several hundred items Reynolds sold through the Julien's Auction house at a sale in Las Vegas last weekend, from his awards and art collection to props from several of his movies. None drew quite the bidding that the Trans Am did — a car that was detailed as a promotional vehicle for the movie, then given to Reynolds after the movie wrapped. (It's a different Trans Am than the one up for sale by the Wellborn collection in Florida.)

    Julien's had expected the car to sell for $80,000.

  • Watch the feds crush a classic Mini for breaking the law

    Justin Hyde at Motoramic 6 days ago

    Twenty-five years. In classic car circles, it's the bright blue line between a vehicle that's old enough to be easily imported to the United States from another country, and one that can only come in if its shown to meet all modern U.S. safety standards — a bar so high that clearing it would typically require the car in question be crash-tested. That doesn't stop hundreds of people every year from trying to sneak high-dollar imports past customs, even though the law enforcement tools for spotting them have never been stronger.

    To emphasize their point, U.S. and British officials gathered on Thursday in a snowy junkyard in central New Jersey for the crushing of a classic Rover Mini that had been caught in a federal dragnet. It's not the first, and it won't be the last.

    While it carried a VIN plate from a car made in 1988 that would have been legal, none of its details checked out: that VIN matched a right-hand-drive vehicle, not a left-hand-driver, and flagged a different engine. Best they could tell, this Rover Mini was likely built around the year 2000.

  • December 12: GM kills Oldsmobile on this date in 2000

    Justin Hyde at Motoramic 6 days ago

    By the time General Motors announced Oldsmobile would be wound down on this date in 2000, the 103-year-old brand was little more than a letterhead. In its heyday, when GM sold half of all new vehicles Americans bought, Oldsmobile was one of its stars, known for middlebrow cars full of style and solid tech. The first true rock-'n-roll song paid homage to the Rocket 88; the Toronado made front-wheel-drive a popular feature, and even into the 1980s, Oldsmobiles remained among the best-selling cars in the country. Eventually, the flood of import brands and GM's inability to feed all its nameplates with competitive models led to Olds demise in 2004. At least we still have the commercials from 1948:

    Photo: eclipse_supremo via Flickr

  • December 11: John Wyer, the man who made Gulf a racing legend, was born on this date in 1909

    Justin Hyde at Motoramic 7 days ago

    They called him "Death Ray." That should tell you what kind of boss John Wyer was — but whatever his management style, the man with the slick hair parted with a bullet knew how to race. Wyer, born on this date in 1909, oversaw Aston Martin's only LeMans win in 1959 before joining Ford's first Le Mans efforts with the GT40s in 1963. Wyer's GT40 MK1s didn't win due to reliability problems, but Wyer kept tinkering even after Ford won Le Mans, then pulled out of racing.

  • December 10: Ford builds its 1 millionth Model T on this date in 1915

    Justin Hyde at Motoramic 8 days ago

    By 1915, Ford was building so many Model Ts that it didn't notice when the one millionth copy rolled from the assembly line sometime on this day that year. After seven years of production, Henry Ford was only just starting his fetish for productivity at the Highland Park plant, having shifted to painting all cars black in the name of speed and doubling many of his workers' wages a year earlier to tamp down turnover. Within another seven years, Ford would be turning out one million Model Ts in a single year. Compared to today's cars, the Model T was a pain to drive — as shown below — but it got the world behind the wheel:

    Photo: Ford Motor Co.