All posts by Larry Edsall

A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the Web and becoming the author of more than 15 books. In addition to being Editorial Director at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times, writes a weekly automotive feature for The Detroit News and is an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State Univeristy.

Christmas present from the Petersen: The vault is open for tours

The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles has a Christmas present for car guys and gals: Starting December 15, the museum opened its vault, the underground section of its parking structure where it stores vehicles that are not on display in the exhibitions inside the museum proper.

There are dozens of vehicles in those exhibitions, but that still leaves two or three hundred hidden away — until now.

“It’s a part of the museum that has become almost legend,” said Chris Brown, the museum’s information and marketing manager. “If you’re an enthusiast, you’ve heard about the vault of great cars at the Petersen. We get more and more people who keep asking, ‘hey, how do I get down in the vault? ”

Cruisin' with LarryYou now can do that by signing up for a guided tour. Each tour is limited to 10 people, runs for 90 minutes and costs $25, plus the regular museum admission.

At the moment, those tours are offered only on weekends. But, Brown promised, “if it proves to be as popular as we hope it is, we’ll extend it throughout the week.”

Brown and the museum’s new director, Terry Karges, recently offered me a pre-tour sneak peek of the vault and it was amazing to see what’s there, including several cars formerly owned by Steve McQueen, a couple of concept cars, the bulletproof limo the White House ordered the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the specially built Ferrari used in the TV show Magnum P.I., specially built so actor Tom Selleck could fit inside the cars tight cockpit.

Take the bus… to Blytheville, Arkansas

A national exhibition of antique buses and coaches converted into motor homes will be held April 4-6, 2013, at the historic Greyhound bus terminal in Blytheville, Arkansas. The event is called “Ghosts of Highway 61, Dixie Tour 2013.”

Among the coaches scheduled to participate is the recently restored 1949 Flxible DuMont Television “Telecruiser” that is believed to have been used as a mobile unit for ABC-affiliate KBTV Channel 8 of Dallas coverage of the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963.

For more information, see www.ghostsofhtehighway.com, from which we borrow the photo of the ’49 Flxible DuMont unit.

Auction helps save military museum and creates room for more displays

Dean Kruse may have stumbled in the late stages of his career as a classic car auctioneer, but his dream of a museum preserving American military machinery not only will live on but will be able to expand in scope in the aftermath of an auction at what is now known as the National Military History Center in Auburn, Indiana.

Kruse searched throughout Europe to find tanks, trucks, rocket launchers and other military equipment used in World War II but discarded after the war. He bought nearly 200 vehicles and was ready to ship them to the museum he was building in northeastern Indiana when 911 occurred.

In the aftermath, instead of merely shipping his purchases, Kruse needed an act of Congress to allow the import of his used military equipment. But the bill passed and Kruse’s purchases arrived and his museum opened.

However, along with the rest of his holdings, the museum suffered financial setbacks and faced a mortgage of some $2.9 million. To pay that mortgage, keep the museum operating and to make room for military equipment not only from WWII but from other wars, including the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the museum staged an auction, selling some 80 vehicles — nearly half of Kruse’s collection — as well as WWII uniforms and other military gear from that era.

The auction, managed by Auctions America by RM, generated hammer sales of more than $2.97 million.

The top sales included $200,000 for a Daimler-Benz DB10 half-track troop carrier, $160,000 for a Haromag armored 3/4 track, $150 for a Horch 4×4 cross-country personnel car, and $145 for a Borgward half-track.

Several of the pieces were bought for display at a museum in Europe. Several bidders said they participate in WWII battle reenactments that are becoming popular in the United States. (One man said his son and daughter-in-law are re-enactors — medic and nurse — and that he wants to participate as well, but not as an infantryman and that people who bring veteran vehicles to such events automatically earn higher rank.)

Others bidders said they planned to drive their purchases in parades and to display them at shows and other events. Still others said they simply wanted the 4×4 capabilities of the retired military equipment to enjoy on land they owned.

Vehicle Profile: Shelby GT500: Mustang at Full Gallop

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The Shelby GT500 more than lives up to its name.

Let’s start with its first name: Shelby. As in Carroll Shelby. As in bib overall-wearing, chili-cooking, Le Mans race-winning, Ford GT40 team-managing, Shelby Cobra-creating, Corvette-beating, Ferrari-beating, Viper-inspiring, Ford GT- godfathering, heart transplant-receiving, Barrett-Jackson auction feeding frenzy-causing Carroll Shelby himself.

Though the Shelby GT500 is built in a Ford Motor Company assembly plant and is not tweaked in Shelby’s own shop, Shelby was involved in the vehicle’s design and development and this pony deserves the Shelby name that’s branded across its rear flanks. Even Ford engineers will tell you that the reason this pony puts its power to the pavement is because of Shelby’s personal involvement in the project. In fact, the only place on the car where it says “Ford” is on the faux 1960s-style gas cap mounted between the rear tail lamps.

Middle name: GT. As in Ford Mustang GT, which is the donor chassis for this car. Though like Shelby himself, this chassis has undergone a heart transplant, which in the case of the car meant inserting a supercharged 5.4-liter V8 engine where the normally aspirated 4.6-liter V8 would have gone.

And now for the 500. As in five hundred horsepower! That’s right. This Shelbyized and supercharged version of the Mustang GT pumps out 200 more horsepower than the standard breed of this pony car platform.

And that’s not all. The Shelby GT500 also is equipped with 14-inch Brembo brakes – basically the same setup as the 200-mph Ford GT supercar – as well as track-tuned suspension pieces, some altered steering gear, traction control, a special front fascia, larger radiator, intercooler, front “splitter” and larger rear wing, white Le Mans stripes, 18-inch wheels with asymmetric tires – the rears put more rubber on the road so those 500 horses can be used more effectively.

There are changes to the interior, too, most notably — at least for driving enthusiasts — the swap of the locations of the speedometer and tachometer, so you can hold the wheel with your left hand and shift with your right and still see the tach.

Audio enthusiasts also will be delighted because the car comes with a 500-watt “Shaker” system with six-CD player and MP3 jack.

Oh, yes, the Shelby GT500 also comes only with a six-speed manual transmission. If you can’t drive a stick, you can’t drive this car. And this definitely is a car that enthusiasts will want to drive.

Although I have to admit, just driving it around town and cruising down the highway, I wondered if the car really did have 500 horsepower to offer. Why, I averaged 17 miles per gallon overall and was getting 21 on the highway.

Trust me, this car really does make 500 horsepower, and you feel it when you downshift to pass, or when you come off the line like a lightning bolt.

Work on the Shelby GT500 was done by Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (many of the same people who had just finished crafting the Ford GT supercar), with Shelby participating in the design and engineering tweaks. Much of the on-track testing was done on the road course and drag strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where Shelby’s shops are located.

Shelby himself took part in regular test drives and debriefs.

Shelby, of course, was responsible for the famed GT350 and GT500 Mustangs of the 1960s. The Shelby GT500 celebrates the 40th anniversary of those cars and marks his reunion with Ford, a reunion that also results in the Shelby GT and Shelby GT-H and soon will result in the beginning of production of the Shelby GT500KR, the King of the Road version of the GT500.

The Shelby GT, GT-H and KR all are or will be modified within Shelby’s own facility, and all are or will be available in limited numbers. On the other hand, the Shelby GT500 is produced in the same factory that builds all new Mustangs, and thus some 10,000 copies are available for the 2007 model year, with around 9000 planned for 2008 and another 9000 for 2009.

The car can be as docile to drive as a base Mustang V6, or as delightful as you’d expect a 500-horsepower pony car to be.

One thing I really liked about the car was that on those occasions when you’re simply cruising around town, you never have to worry about the stupid first-to-fourth transmission lockout that comes with another manually shifted American icon, the Chevrolet Corvette.

Another thing about the car that I appreciated was its seats, nicely bolstered for ripping around an autocross course but also very comfortable for long periods of freeway driving.

The rear seatback is split so either side or both can be folded down to expand the cargo floor. But even with the seat in its upright and locked position, the trunk has plenty of room for a couple of suitcases. Sure, no adult is ever going to want to sit in that back seat, but it’s there if you have children, pets or simply need a place to put a briefcase or gym bag.

Base price on the Shelby GT500 is in the low $40,000-range. Even with the unconscionable markup dealers are getting, this 500-horsepower pony represents a real bargain compared to the more than $69K it takes to get a 505-hp Corvette Z06 or the more than 80 grand it costs for a 510-hp Dodge Viper.

And did I mention that it lives up to its first, middle and last names?