Road Scholars / 2015 PORSCHE MACAN TURBO

by Administrator 18. October 2014 07:57

Sports car or Hot Wheels dream Toy? This brutal looking Leatherman tool defines a new category of its own.

Text and Photography by David Colman

How do you define sports car?  If your description includes "low slung two seat  conveyance," you're hopelessly out of touch with the times. Porsche has just redefined the concept of sports car to include elevated ride height and seating for five. They call their new segment buster the Macan. In Turbo trim, this stubby and potent compact SUV will run the wheels off any "sports car" you care to choose -- including such stalwarts from Porsche as the Cayman and 911. The Macan Turbo, thanks to 400hp and 406 pound-feet of torque, will cover the 0-60MPH run in 4.4 seconds and top out at 164mph. Is that sporty enough for you? 

Macan shares some similarities with VW family tree relative, Audi's Q5. But unlike Porsche's full size SUV Cayenne, which is closely related to VW's Touareg, the Macan neither resembles nor performs like the Q5.  In fact, the Macan Turbo occupies an SUV niche of its own, capable of providing top echelon sports car performance on paved roads or Baja busting transit over special outback stages. The trick to unleashing Macan's double edged potential lies in checking the right boxes when you configure your order. You will want to specify the following essential options:  Sport Chrono Package ($1,290), Air Suspension including Porsche Active Suspension Management ($1,385), and 21" 911 Turbo Design Wheels ($3,300). Our test Macan (Base price: $72,300), finished in Agate Grey Metallic ($690), also included a scrumptious Natural Leather Interior in Espresso, Brushed Aluminum door, dash and shifter trim (NC), and a sensational Burmester High-End Surround Sound music system ($4,290). 

The Sport Chrono option, signified by the presence of a stop watch mounted atop the dash, works in consort with the standard PDK 7-speed double clutch automatic gearbox to unleash brutal standing start acceleration with launch control. Chrono equipped Macans run to 60mph from a dead stop 2 tenths of a second quicker than non-Chrono Macans. Chrono also enhances your driving menu with selections ranging from "Comfort," to "Sport" and "Sport+." Comfort is freeway plush, Sport tightens up responsiveness of steering and shocks considerably, while Sport+ nails the platform to the road with vise-like precision. The air suspension option provides four ride height settings (Normal, Low, Loading and Off-Road), choices unavailable on Macans with standard steel suspension. The Low setting drops your Macan 15mm below the ride height of a standard suspension Macan.  When that reduced ride height is coupled to the adhesive Michelin Latitude Sport 3 tires (265/40R21 front, 295/35R21 rear) that shoe the 21 inch 911 Turbo alloys, the Macan Turbo transforms itself into a potent canyon carver that will stick with any model Porsche "sports car." As an added incentive, the dazzling 21s make the Turbo look just like a Hot Wheels dream toy.

Yet inside this potent bomb, all is serene and elegant. The Espresso leather, immaculately stitched and complemented by understated brushed aluminum trim, imparts an elegance level befitting a $90,000 vehicle. The Burmester system will rip your ear drums to shreds or murmur sweet nothings with the twist of a dial. The steering wheel in the Macan, the first to be borrowed from the design used in Porsche's million dollar 918, features knurled thumb knobs to control stereo volume (left thumb), or access informative diagnostics (right thumb). Porsche's excellent 18-way adjustable Sport Seat, a carryover from the Boxster, Cayman and 911, is standard issue on the Macan Turbo. It is impossible to fault for comfort or adjustability, with three memory positions available for each front seat occupant. The Macan's ample window height insures excellent side vision.  Rear seat passengers will enjoy the exaggerated greenhouse effect, though they are not given ventilation outlets of their own to control. With rear seats erect, you are left with a useful flat trunk space of 17.7 cubic feet, which expands to 53 cubic feet when you drop the 60/40 split rear seats flat. Don't forget that lowering the air suspension to the "Load" setting will facilitate any Sherpa detail you might have in mind for your Macan. You'll be hard pressed to find that kind of luxuriant and accessible storage in any other sports car.

When we first read Porsche's brochure claim that the new Macan is "The first true sports car among compact SUVs," we were highly dubious about the merit of this accolade. After spending a fairly euphoric week behind the Macan's 918-style wheel, we would have to agree with the conclusion that this brutal looking Leatherman tool defines a new category of its own. Porsche has devised a 4-door 5 seat sports car that may look like an SUV but drives like something else entirely.


ENGINE: 3.6 liter V6 Twin Turbo

HORSEPOWER: 400hp @ 6,000rpm

TORQUE: 406 lb.-ft. @ 1,350-4,000rpm



HYPES: Breakthrough SUV/Sports Car

GRIPES: Needs Passenger Controlled Rear Seat Ventilation

STAR RATING:  10 Stars Out Of 10   


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Shelby’s Menagerie Runs Wild at Road America

by Administrator 26. August 2014 08:52

SVRA/SAAC Synergy Proves Irresistible

By BS Levy

 Prospects for a fine SVRA Spring Vintage Invitational weekend looked iffy heading up to Road America under leaden skies and a bone-chilling rain early Thursday morning. But it cleared a bit over those last, familiar 30 miles of Wisconsin farmland north of Milwaukee, bringing a hint of optimism in spite of November-ish temperatures and a wind straight out of the arctic. But all that was forgotten as you passed into the circuits south paddock in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and found it filled with more Shelby American race cars and street prowlers than you have ever seen in one place. Seems the Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC) had folded their annual convention/car show/track event into the SVRA’s May 15-18 weekend, and it proved an excellent fit for all concerned. After all, Road America is the archetypal “big car” track, what with long, uphill straightaways that make even the biggest-inch V8s work up a sweat. The sound alone is worth the price of admission—the rumble, burble and bellow we remember from ze olt dayz).

No question every American enthusiast harbors a deep admiration and even deeper respect for the raw, raucous, sometimes unrefined but undeniably effective Shelby Cobras and GT350s that pawed and pounded their way into motorsport history during the ’60s. They left their mark in the record books like the business end of a 20-lb. sledgehammer, and it was a genuine thrill to see so many of them in attendance, with so many of those being used the way Ol’ Shel and his minions intended: thundering, sliding, hard on the gas, often-as-not sideways and tearing up tires, transmission gears and brake pads—not to mention the opposition. It all came to a straight-out-of-Hollywood climax in the Group 6 “ground pounder” feature on Sunday morning, where the always hard-charging Curt Vogt of Cobra Automotive took his Boss 302 Mustang to the top step of the podium following race-long, green-to-checker battle with Jim Bradley’s glistening black Camaro running right in his wheel tracks. It was a heck of a show and, with apologies to all the Bowtie and Mopar fans, no other Detroit V8 ever sounded as hard, lean, mean, crisp and menacing as the hot-rodded Ford small blocks that took it to Chevy’s and Ferrari’s best back when Shelby’s skunkworks was in its heyday.

Speaking of Group 6, we should also mention ace Porsche wheelman/prep maestro Frank Beck and his frankly amazing, 2.5-liter Porsche 914/6, which completed the podium ahead of a bunch of far more powerful cars on what is generally considered a right-foot racetrack. The guy can drive! Builds an awfully decent car, too. And Andre Ahrle, who showed up for his first-ever crack at Road America with his thundering big-block Cobra (a clone of “Ollie”—the winning-est 427 Cobra ever—which he also owns) but then suffered through a gauntlet run of problems and setbacks. First the diff broke. Then it was hell’s own job cobbling together the necessary parts and machine work to fix it. So he started at the back in Saturday’s G6 race and worked his way steadily forward until … until he was rather rudely punted off by a Corvette he was pretty much already past. The Cobra wound up with several unsightly dings and a deranged rear suspension, and Andre thought he was finished for the second time in two days.

But enter Superformance dealer and GT40/Cobra maven Dennis Olthoff of Olthoff Racing who welded up and straightened the offending control arm and got everything properly back together in time for Sunday’s race. Ahrle once again worked his way through the pack and got as high as 3rd overall, but then something else in his ad-hoc rear end cried “enuf” and he was out of it. “Expensive weekend,” he mused.

We should also mention that although most of the weekend’s racing was clean, correct and sportsmanlike (well done, all) the few ill-advised and/or bone-headed moves were dealt with swiftly, accurately and appropriately by the SVRA staff. Also well done.

Worth 1000 words dept.: A Group 8 Z-car suffered a cataclysmic engine failure just past the start/finish line towards the end of its race—real drag strip highlight-reel stuff—which precipitated an extended delay to pick up the bits and fragments and lay down about 500 pounds of Oil-Dri. Road America’s safety crews are arguably the best in the business, and they got the cleanup done in record time. But what followed was kind of eerie. The Group 9 “wings-’n-slicks” formula cars were next up and, what with the remaining residue plus the aero effect of the wings and ground-effects tunnels, the green flag produced a Hollywood-special-effects “sandstorm on Mars” panorama with cars howling out of a billowing, reddish-brown dust cloud with mini-tornado contrails spiraling off their wingtips.

Other highlight-reel stuff:

Had to love the way the weather turned (plenty of sun and warmth for Saturday and Sunday) and we enjoyed some excellent racing even though a few groups were seriously under-subscribed. The horsepower-vs-handling contests between the ex-Gentilozzi Trans-Am Jaguar of Paul Fix and the nimble Swift/Mazda of Jacek Mucha were highly entertaining, as was the extended scrap between the chuffing old solid-axle Corvettes of Heartland, WI, teammates Todd Stuckart and Tom Frankowski at the front of the combined Groups 1,3 and 4 races all weekend. Good stuff, particularly if you like Chevy V8s that sound the way they used to sound and plenty of opposite lock! Behind them, old octogenarian George Balbach brought his familiar Porsche 356 home 1st in class and 3rd overall on Sunday following a race-long chase after Richard Fisher’s right-hand-drive Datsun Bluebird (essentially a Japanese-edition 510) and intense pressure from his son—a.k.a: “George Light”—directly behind in another Ecurie Engineering-prepared 356. “The old man’s not dead yet,” George Sr. quipped before wandering off for a well-deserved nap.

Speaking of Porsche drivers (on a Shelby weekend, no less) should also mention Group 8 Porsche 911 hotshoe Lisa Hansen: a quiet and unassuming young lady who originally got involved because her father raced and has developed into one hell of a fine racer. She’s very fast, inch-perfect on her lines, fair and clean with other drivers and sportsmanlike to a fault. You can about set your stopwatch by her lap times instead of the other way ’round, and it’s really gratifying when you observe people like Lisa doing our sport the way it ought to be done.

We saw a lot of exactly that at Road America.


Pick of the Liter: Shelbylicious!


 The Shelby Club borrowed worthwhile features from both the VSCDA’s excellent fall race and the iconic Hawk extravaganza at Road America in July, and duly offered up a rumbling, snorting, police-escorted parade/tour around the old open-road circuit followed by a car show up-and-down Lake Street in Elkhart Thursday evening. A warming orange-red ball of sun hung low in the sky and glistened off the mostly blue-and-white paintwork of the myriad Shelbys and freaky-fast Fords in attendance (including a very accurate continuation clone of the famous red MkIV prototype that Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt used to steamroller the opposition at Le Mans in 1967). Very cool!

Meanwhile, in the Siebkens dining room just a few steps away, renowned automotive stylist/aerodynamicist/seminal Shelby employee/championship-winning Datsun race-team owner and current author/photographer Pete Brock was addressing a packed-house gathering of Elkhart Lake’s Historic Race Circuits group (basically a bunch of well-connected enthusiasts—many with local ties—who grew up with the street races and the later ones at Road America and want to remember, preserve and reminisce about that history). They get together at Siebkens a few times a year to listen to interesting speakers, eat great food, have a glass or two and enjoy each others’ company. Good group and they did great non-profit work keeping Wisconsin’s Highway Department from “improving” (i.e.: ruining) the old road circuit. Kudos!

The ironic part was that Brock was on hand to talk about (and to hawk his excellent new book about) his experiences as a 19-year-old, wet-behind-the-ears stylist at GM when the watershed 1963 Corvette Sting Ray was being developed. Great stories, but barely mentioned was how he went on to become one of Shelby’s earliest employees or how he designed the wind-cheating Cobra Daytona coupe that ultimately won Shelby his long-sought World Championship over Ferrari in 1965. That tale would surely have been of interest to all the Shelby types milling around outside….


Paul Fix, Jaguar XKR, a car you don't see often at the vintage races.


  97 Jordan F1, with driver James French shooting through the oil-dry.

 Lisa Hansen gets her Porsche 911 up on three wheels under hard cornering.



  Don Herman's Datsun 2000 roadster sounded and looked good.

   Rick Mooney's thundering ’68 Corvette brought Chevy fans to the fences.
SAAC members were out in force racing their Shelby GT350s.
 Jerry Streckert lets it all hang out in his ’65 Cobra.


 Robert Boller's Chevron B25 gets the big rubber down at Road America.

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A Look Back at Events Leading up to the 2014 Indy "500"

by Administrator 30. June 2014 09:11

A Look Back at Selected Events Leading to the 98th Indianapolis 500

Rare Kurtis Roadster Midget Draws Fans

            It wasn’t hard to spot Fred Johns’ “Kodak yellow” 1958 Kurtis-Kraft Offy midget roadster among a vintage gathering of mostly midgets and sprint cars the day before the “500.”

            Johns, “an old midget driver back in the ‘50s,” bought the unrestored car about 10 years ago because “I just happened to like the looks of it.”

            He was fortunate that the car was in relatively good condition, although the engine had been blown and needed a major rebuild. He and others put the highly original car back into top condition.

            Kurtis roadster midgets are rare. Ten were originally planned but only six were completed, with Johns’ car being number five. These cars were patterned after the KK500G Indianapolis roadsters. They are about 30 pounds heavier than standard Kurtis midgets and handle poorly on dirt because of suspension-travel limitations. Johns says his is the only roadster currently in running condition.

            Johnny Rutherford is the car’s best-known former driver. Others were Jim Hurtubise, Bobby Grim, Shorty Templeman, and Gene Hartley, 1959 USAC national midget champion. Johns is married to Hartley’s widow, Carolyn.

            About that “Kodak yellow,” the car’s first owner had a camera shop. 


  Fred Johns enjoys showing his Kurtis midget roadster. Photo Fritz Frommeyer


Family Outing on the Brickyard

            There may have been a first in the 105-year history of IMS during the Hall of Fame Museum’s annual event for vintage race cars: a mother and daughter circling the track together in a race car. If not a “first,” it was a rare sight at the famed oval. And it was topped off by their husband and father being on the track at the same time in another family racer.

            Linda Mountanos was at the wheel of her 1935 Pirrung Special, formerly a two-man car, with 22-year-old daughter Mariah in the riding mechanic’s seat. Mark Mountanos drove his 1958 Epperly laydown roadster in which George Amick placed second at the Speedway. The Pirrung car, also a second-place finisher in its first year, was driven by Wilbur Shaw, who participated in its design and build.

            Linda and Mark, long-time vintage racers, sought a car they could enjoy together and “fell in love” with the Pirrung, which was found by restorer Phil Reilly. “After we bought it, Linda drove it and I lost the car…to her,” Mark said with a smile.

            “It’s a great car. It’s just fun to drive,” said Linda.

            Mariah pumped the fuel pressure, looked for other cars on the track, and “I brought my GoPro (camera), filming the whole thing.”

Linda and Mariah Mountanos after their run at the Speedway. Photo Fritz Frommeyer


Popular Race-Morning Vintage Run

            Amidst cheers from the stands, six vintage race cars – including the three Lotus 56 turbines that ran in 1968 – took a lap of honor just before the start of the “500.”

            Joining the turbines were the 1914-winning Delage of Rene Thomas driven by Al Unser, Jr.; Wilbur Shaw’s Maserati 8CTF that won in 1939 and 1940 driven by Johnny Rutherford; and the Watson in which A.J. Foyt was victorious in 1964. Kenny Brack, who won the “500” driving for Foyt in 1999, drove the roadster.

            The turbine cars were driven by Mario Andretti, Parnelli Jones, and Vince Granatelli, son of the late Andy Granatelli, who had envisioned turbine success at Indianapolis, only to be disappointed twice.

            Driving the Shaw Maserati was a special treat for Rutherford, who had sought to do it for some time. After his drive, he said with a grin, “I can see why Wilbur won two races in a row in this thing. It is so smooth and it’s an exceptionally good-handling race car. I’m sure he just picked his way around and, when it came time, he won it.”

            On this day, the Maserati became the third car, and first foreign vehicle, to be placed on the register of the Historic Vehicle Association

Johnny Rutherford’s smile was even bigger after driving the Maserati that twice won the “500.” Photo Fritz Frommeyer

Mario Honored on Legends Day

            Mario Andretti, celebrating the 45th anniversary of his 1969 Indianapolis victory, was honored by the Speedway on Legends Day, May 24. That feat stands with his winning everything from Pikes Peak and the Daytona 500 to short-track races and the Formula 1 world championship. Andretti raced in an era when versatility was valued.

            He won his “500” in a backup car after his cutting-edge Lotus was withdrawn for safety reasons. Was Andretti optimistic about his chances? “Especially the fact that I was in the front row, I thought I had a shot at it,” he responded. “As luck would have it, the car held. It finished, even though it was overheating badly.”

            IMS historian Donald Davidson commented that Andretti has “one of the most iconic names that there’s ever been. If not now, there were times I’d say Mario was the best-known racing driver in the world.”

            Of Andretti’s 29 “500s,” Davidson said “there’s so many races that he had in the bag and they got away,” singling out 1987 when he won the pole and led 170 of the 180 laps he completed. “He didn’t win, but he had the satisfaction that he was the class of the field.”

            The Associated Press named Andretti Driver of the Century in 2000.

Mario Andretti with his 1967 pole-winning car on Legends Day. Photo Fritz Frommeyer

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