CarsDiva’s Blog

An Auto Industry Insider’s View…From A Woman’s Perspective

Archive for May, 2008

Memorial Day 2008: “A Virgin Experience”

Posted by carsdiva on May 28, 2008

I bet you’re wondering what this one’s about, right? Well, it’s probably not what you think, but quite exciting nonetheless…

My day began at 7am as I ventured to the Autobahn Country Club, in Joliet, IL, founded by “car guy” Mark Basso, and home of the 2nd largest racing venue in the United States (hence no golf carts present.) I was invited to test my skills on the race track by my dear friend, Freda Mooncotch, Founder of Alphawomen.com. A track enthusiast herself, she joined the Laps, Inc. organization, which was created by and for track aficionados and enthusiasts, for those who need to satisfy their “need for speed,” as well as for those individuals interested in improving their skills behind the wheel. Shawn Young, Founder of Laps, Inc, gave me the inside scoop on the organization, and introduced me to many of the other members and instructors, who were passionate about the track and enthusiastic to help out the newcomers like me.

I was lucky enough to be partnered with Jeff Henderson, professional race car driver, and Chief Instructor of NASA (National Auto Sport Association) in the Midwest region, as my personal instructor for the day. One of the first things that Jeff told me was that racing is the “best thing you can do with your clothes on,” and, as a former virgin to the track, I can attest to that!

Jeff Henderson & Demetra Markopoulos

On the track… WOW what a thrill!

I now have a whole new appreciation of racing- or I should say “being on the track” to be politically correct. It’s much more challenging than I expected, and such a great time. I think the best part of being on the track was the adrenaline rush as my speed was climbing, taking the curves at just the right angle to stay on the track and yet not lose momentum as I came out and reaccelerated, all the while knowing that at such a high speed I could slip and easily end up off the track. (And for those of you that need to relieve some stress, here’s a great place to do it). Woo-Hoo! Each time I hit the track I found myself wanting to go faster and push harder, as the anticipation and thrill of finding out just what my car could do overwhelmed me.

As to my expectations for the day, well I thought I’d have a good time as this was a whole new experience for me, but ultimately the experience exceeded even my best expectations- I had a blast! Being on the track behind the wheel of my Mazda RX-8 gave me a greater understanding of the power and capacity of the car, as well as a surge of confidence and empowerment.

A Leap of Faith

I also had the opportunity to ride as a passenger, taking a leap of faith with my instructor, professional racer, Jeff Henderson, as we hit the track in his Mustang and then in a Corvette Z06. I learned a lot from watching him drive, and really got to experience what it was like to push a car to its limits! (As a novice I wasn’t quite ready to do that myself.) However, there’s something ridiculously exciting about being behind the wheel that I find difficult to fully explain, but I can tell you that I can’t wait to do again… and next time push myself and my car to the next level. And yes, I plan to “reignite” that feeling very very soon!

In addition to driving techniques, I also learned some interesting things throughout the day. Did you know that your car insurance lowers if you take an HPDE (High Performance Drivers Education) class?! Sounds counterintuitive, no? Well it’s true because by learning the techniques involved with racing, you really learn how to better control your vehicle, thus making you a “smart” driver.

Porsches on the Autobahn track

And in Conclusion…

It’s all fun and games, even after someone “hits the wall” with a hot red Corvette, garnering about $15k in damage (and no it wasn’t me.) However, after Jeff and I exhausted his Mustang, we moved on to a Corvette and we did spin off the track once… (I told you I had a blast!)

Thankfully I left with my Mazda RX-8 in one piece…and in the same condition I arrived. (Well, other than the empty gas tank, no oil, and a load of dirt on the once sparkling rims- proof I was there …) Nevertheless, I have to admit…being on the track is like a drug, and I’m addicted!

Move over Danica, the CarsDiva is ready to roll! 

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What were they thinking???

Posted by carsdiva on May 6, 2008

Everyone remembers cars like the Ford Thunderbird, Pontiac TransAm, and Cadillac Eldorado. However the auto industry’s also had their share of flops through the times.  These are the vehicles that you look back at, raise your eyebrow, and wonder, what in the heck were they thinking? ….or perhaps just laugh…

Some of these of vehicles include:

  1. The Dodge La Femme
  2. The Edsel
  3. The Subaru BRAT
  4. The Suzuki X-90 

Edsel

The Edsel division of Ford was introduced as an experimental project, in order to compete with superior number of dealerships of General Motors and Chrysler. Produced in the ‘50’s and known as one of the most spectacular failures in auto history, Ford lost $350 million on this venture.

The Edsel

Subaru BRAT

The Subaru BRAT (Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter), introduced in the 1970’s, was best-known for its welded-in, jump seats in the cargo bed.  And these were for what??? Well during this period of time, a 25% import tariff was charged to trucks imported to the U.S., while passenger cars were only taxed 2.5%.  The seats were meant to designate the vehicle as a passenger car and avoid the higher tariff.

Subaru BRAT

Suzuki X-90

Initially a concept car that was well-received by the public, the actual production Suzuki-X-90 was a total flop, selling very poorly.  Produced in the ‘90’s, this vehicle was meant to be a small SUV, however it had only 2 seats and a removable roof, and was not equipped with off-road capability, nor a smooth “on-road“ ride.

 

Dodge La Femme

Dodge La FemmeAlright ladies, as the CarsDiva, my “favorite“ of these automotive blunders is the ultimate girly car. The Dodge La Femme, which was launched in the ‘50’s was one of Chrysler Corporation’s first attempts to create a car just for you.   Al Haas, the “On the Road“ columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, referred to it as a “Royal Lancer on estrogen.“  La Femme InteriorThe exterior was sapphire white and heather rose, with gold scripted “La Femme“ on the fenders, and the interior featured pink rosebud tapestry fabric.  To add to this ridiculous concoction, the purchase of the vehicle included the matching accoutrements…. rosebud raincoats, rain bonnets, umbrellas and purses.  La Femme Accessories(Can’t you just see yourself skipping down the street with your “rosebud“ ensemble?)

In any case, a total of 2,500 Dodge La Femmes were sold in the two years that the vehicle was offered. So what do you think ladies?  Would you buy this car (or a modern replica) if it was back on the market?  (There’s actually a website for ’55 &’56 La Femme enthusiasts or those searching to find one to buy.)

Let me know what you think…

What were they thinking?

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