Sunday, October 27, 2019

Cary's Corvette Continuity Challenge

I’m putting a challenge out to everyone in Corvette-Land!

I assert that my good friend and neighbor, Bill Hatch, holds the record for the longest continuous ownership of a single Corvette.

Bill purchased his new 1957 Corvette in July of 1957 and he still owns the car!  So he has owned the car for 62 years, plus.

The Challenge:  If anyone can identify someone who is a longer continuous owner of a specific Corvette, let’s hear it!  If Bill doesn’t hold the record, then we need to celebrate whoever does!

I have written about Bill in this blog as well as a story that appeared in The National Corvette Museum's "America's Sports Car".  Here are a few of my previous blog posts about Bill:

Bill's car is no trailer queen -- he DRIVES it!  His favorite place to drive was to the beach for playing volleyball with his buddies.  Here is a shot of me and Bill at Moonlight Beach in San Diego!

Once we had a 50th Birthday Party, not for Bill, but for the car!

OK, Corvette (and other) friends -- spread the word.  Let's find out who is the person who has owned a Corvette longer than anyone else?

You can email me at:

Monday, October 21, 2019

Monthly Burger Run #7

Warm temperatures and clear skies in mid-October greeted the seventh edition of our Monthly Burger Run today.

There were some great highlights today.

First was the reappearance of Bill Connelly's 1957 Corvette sporting an new GM Crate Engine -- the Ram Jet 350 Fuelie!!  Bill has owned the car for about 10 years and every time I see it something new and better has been done to it.  Bill's mechanic was able to install the engine perfectly giving Bill the classic look of first-generation Corvette but the reliability and (awesome) power of a 350+ HP engine with modern fuel-injection.  Every detail was perfect -- the engine mounting, the A/C adapter, flawless plumbing, and clean electrical work.  I've installed one of these engines in a C-1 and I can tell you first-hand that it isn't a simple job, and that Bill's installation is 1st rate!

Mike and Barbara Reeves brought their super-charged 2007 Ford Mustang GT 500.  Mike is the original owner and the car is both a beautiful example of the re-introduction of the Mustang super-car, but also shows the pride of being owned and DRIVEN regularly (like all of Mike's cars). 

We welcomed two newcomers today -- Gary Pandolfi (owner of a 1966 Mustang, but he was unable to bring it this time), and Ty Brown, who brought his 1981 Corvette.  Ty is the second owner, and he has cared for this completely original beauty since 2004.  It sports the 350 cu in engine with a three-speed automatic and four-barrel carburetor.

John Elder brought his beautiful 1961 Corvette -- looking good, John!

The modern era Corvettes included Jeff Smith's 2002 Coupe, our 50th Anniversary (2003) Corvette, and the 2018 Z06.

Our traditional group shot includes (left to right): John Elder, Mike and Barbara Reeves, Bill Connelly, Gary Pandolfi, Jan Paul, Ty Brown, Russ Stroika, Nan and Jeff Smith.

Thanks,everyone.  I hope to see everyone in the November at the Vettes for Veterans Car Show at the Shops at Carlsbad!

Flying the ICON A5

Regular readers of this BLOG will remember that in August I attended the "Quail" event in Monterey:

Although I saw dozens of $1+ million cars, the vehicle that got most of my interest was the ICON A5 amphibious aircraft.

As I was walking the grounds of the Quail, I rounded a corner, that there it was!

In recent years I've had the chance to explore "Light Sport" aircraft, and to fly a few of them.  The ICON always held an interest for me because if its "pusher" configuration (reminiscent of my Varieze), composite construction, and ability to operate from land or sea.

I had seen the ICON on the Internet, but this was the first time I had seen it in person.  Oh gosh, it was so cool!  Their website generates interest in the many capabilities of the aircraft; click the link below for a fascinating demonstration of this amazing airplane:

Noah Collins greeted me at The Quail and pointed out the highlights of the ICON A5.  Everything about it was cool.  We talked about its similarities to the Varieze, making me want to go for a ride.  When I asked if there were any models based in San Diego, Noah told me that I could see one at the Montgomery Airport.

As soon as I returned from Monterey I began exploring a demonstration flight with Noah.  Noah was graciously accommodating.  It was my luck that we coordinated a day that offered clear skies and calm winds.  Nan drove me in the Z06 to the airport where we rendezvoused with Noah.  I was completely confident in flying with Noah in a new airplane -- he is a graduate of the US Naval Academy and was a Naval Aviator for more than 9 years.  Noah has "the right stuff"!

After pre-flighting the plane, Noah let me fly left seat with him in the right. The controls were the reverse of the Varieze -- stick in the left hand and throttle in the right.  But everything else was modern and easy to master.  The Rotax 912 engine smoothly spun the three-blade propeller, and the cabin was quiet with the engine mounted behind the high-wing.  Ground maneuvers were also the same as the Varieze with differential braking to control the castering nose wheel.

The tour Noah laid out for me included a takeoff to the west, a turn to the south at the coastline, flying under the departing airliners at Lindbergh Field, around the Point Loma Lighthouse then into San Diego Bay for a water landing.   

The takeoff was smooth with rotation coming at about 60 MPH.  The front landing gear retracts quickly and the warning light is intuitive and easy to see.  The controls were light and effortless as I climbed out toward the coastline, getting a feel for the plane.  The full canopy made it easy to look for and identify traffic.  Noah handled the communications while guiding me through heading and altitude changes.  

We got a clearance to fly under the Lindbergh departing aircraft and cruised down the San Diego coast between 500 and 1,000 feet.  

The instrumentation on the ICON is different than the traditional "six round gauges" of older aircraft, but I was able to adjust to the layout quickly and was surprised at how much I liked the change.  The moving map was great -- how I wish I had one of them back in my Varieze days.

Soon we had navigated our way down to the San Diego Bay, a place we have visited with our neighbors, Carl and Jean, in their boat.  Noah coached me on setting up for a water landing, clearing the area, and heading into the wind.  We promised each other that we would guarantee that the landing gear was *NOT* down (as in a normal landing) -- one of the very few things you can do to screw up a water landing!  Noah made the first landing.  What a thrill!  as soon as the plane slowed in the Bay, Noah popped the canopy as the two of us just marveled at the fun and utility of the ICON.

Here is my video of us floating with the canopy open!

Noah let me take off and do a "splash and go" and then we returned to Montgomery field.

How would I describe the ICON aircraft and the flying experience?  Looks that can compare with the coolest sports cars. A flying platform that is intuitive and should be a very easy transition for pilots of any level of expertise. Even without landing on the water, it is fun to fly, and the water capability is just over-the-top.  I loved the experience so much that I've been telling all my pilot (and non-pilot) friends all about it.

Thanks, Noah, for one of the best days ever!

And I have learned that Jay Leno heard about my flight, which inspired him to take a flight too (which you can see on "Jay's Garage")!

If anyone wants to talk with Noah about the ICON A5, just let me know and I'll introduce you!

Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering

Thanks to the generosity of a dear friend, and the kindness of John Watts and Robyn Johnson at Acura, I had the privilege of attending the 2019 Quail Motorsports Gathering in Monterey, California in August.

I've had the privilege to attend so many signature car events over the years with great colleagues at classic locations.  The "Quail", however, was one-of-a-kind -- a car show for the "One Percent" (that is, the 1% wealthiest individuals).  It was just one event in a week-long celebration of the finest automobiles, their collectors, and the vendors and people who love them, known as "Monterey Car week". What I didn't know then, but have now learned, is that the Quail is also the signature event for announcing the release of new cars or models.

The adventure began on a Thursday evening.  I flew from San Diego to San Jose and was picked up by my friend, Bill, in his Acura NSX super-car. 

I love the color of Bill's car and it is so comfortable and hi-tech! We drove the NSX out past Salinas, through the coastal agricultural beauty of Northern California, then over the coastal mountains into Monterey.

Our first stop was to attend a grand opening of the Monterey Motorsports Park -- deluxe condos for your car collection. Bill was invited to park his car out front with a few other super-cars -- a Ferrari and a Lamborghini Aventadore. 

We were greeted by the organizers and treated to fine hors d'oeuvres, sparkling wine, and yummy deserts.  The gathering was populated by beautiful people, fashionably dressed in designer clothes, sharing their affection for the finest in automobiles.  Some people were owners while others were sales prospects.

 The garages, er. . . . sorry, condos, are amazing.  There are about 100 units of varying dimensions to accommodate any size collection.  The buildings are tall with big roll-up doors, brightly lit, and well-equipped. 

Each one comes with a built-in mezzanine that you can customize to your taste -- we saw that people had used the elevated space for kitchens, dining areas, collectible display areas, pool tables, virtually anything you would want in your man/woman cave. 

At a cost of about $350,000 per unit (on average) the whole complex exuded wealth and status.

Our next stop was to drive to the private Carmel Valley Ranch Golf Club for an Acura reception. The Acura event included more great food and beverages, designer fashions, and, this time, live entertainment.  On display was the Acura Type S Concept car -- it was a brilliant blue, sleek, and reminiscent of the Tesla Model S, but "tighter" in size and shape.  I liked it!

Having had our fill of two cocktail parties, it was time to drive the NSX back to San Jose for a good night's sleep and to prepare for the coming day at the "Quail".

Friday morning we made the return trip to Monterey.  This time Bill was able to demonstrate the performance of the NSX as we navigated the Laurales Grade that connects Highway 68 with Carmel Valley.  If you haven't driven this road you need to experience it (Nan got to drive it a few weeks later in the 2003 Corvette on our way to visit a winery in Monterey). Even though we got an early start, the roads leading into Monterey from Salinas were jammed with car enthusiasts that morning.

As we arrived at our designated parking lot the first thing we saw was a "LaFerrari".  Not just any old ordinary Ferrari, the "LaFerrari", the last Ferrari model with a mid-engine 12-cylinder power plant while also being the first mild hybrid Ferrari.  Its combined output is 950 horsepower. They only made 499 units, each costing a minimum of $1 million. Due to my recent fetish for yellow cars, I found this one to be especially nice!

I think I could get accustomed to driving this car, even thought it isn't a Corvette.

We walked about a half-mile to the Quail event.  The grounds of this private golf course were stunning making it hard for me to believe that they would permit cars to park on the manicured lawns -- but they did!  After getting past Security with our VIP passes, the first thing we saw was an immense line of classic cars celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Bentley Motorcars.

Bentleys are cool, but I wanted to see all the super-cars.  Here is the lineup as best I can remember it, in alphabetical order:

Acura NSX

I loved riding in Bill's NSX and was impressed with its performance, especially the off-the-line acceleration afforded by the combination of electric motors and gasoline engine.  But my favorite example was the "Indy Yellow" version that we saw at the Acura display.  Did you know I have a fondness for yellow sports cars?  The MSRP for an Acura NSX is about $157,500.

Aston Martin

Aston Martin brought their DBS Superleggera to Quail, their ultimate production sports car.  It comes with a 5.2 liter V-12 twin turbo engine putting out 715 HP. The price tag for the coupe is about $305,000.



The BMW folks displayed their i8 sports car, which has the amazing beauty of a true super-car. Unfortunately, it doesn't have the "guts" to keep up with the competition -- which, to me,  is sad. The MSRP is about $147,500 -- at the low end of the Quail scale.

Car and Driver says, "If you are lucky enough to see a BMW i8 rolling down the street, you'll immediately take notice. Unfortunately, the i8's plug-in-hybrid powertrain can't cash the checks written by its supercar design. With 369 horsepower and an estimated 18 miles of all-electric range, the i8 can't keep up with either the best sports cars or the best plug-in hybrids on the market. But for drivers who value curb appeal and exclusivity above all else, none of that may matter."


Million dollar cars are nothing new for Bugatti, and they keep outdoing themselves with more powerful and more expensive cars.  They chose the Quail event to unveil their latest super-car.  The Bugatti Centodieci will cost $9 million and only 10 cars will be made.  I decided that I didn't need to buy one because all 10 had already been sold and I probably couldn't get it in yellow!


I never heard of a Drako, maybe you haven't either, but that's probably because is is a startup company.

Like Bugatti, the Drako folks used the Quail event to unveil their striking new car. It is a limited production, electric, four-passenger, super-car with 1,200 horsepower and has a top speed of 206 MPH. The cost is estimated to be $1,250,000.


When you think of cars made in Sweden, if only Volvo and Saab cone to mind, the Koenigsegg Jesko will give you a new appreciation for Swedish engineering.  Like many of the other super-cars at this event, it simply looked wicked.  Similar to the SSC Tuatara (see below), it sports a twin-turbo 5 liter engine delivering 1,600 HP on E85 bio-fuel (1,280 HP on premium gasoline), a carbon fiber frame, a 9 speed transmission and active rear-wheel steering.


Bill and I got an up-close look at the Lexus LFA, the Lexus of super-cars.  Earlier I had been impressed with the LC 500.  The LFA was 10 years in the making and was limited to 500 units.  It is powered by a V-10 engine mated to an automated sequential gearbox.  Lexus claims that they have broken the lap record at Nürburgring for a production car on noncompetition tires.  Drivers could choose everything, from the leather stitching to the color of the brake calipers.  The base prices was $375,000 and it is rumored that seven cars are still in Lexus dealer inventories.


While I found the Pagani Huayra very interesting (especially its brilliant blue carbon fiber body), the website is useless (in my humble opinion).  So I've pasted below two links -- and you might find the Car and Driver review more enlightening than the flashy web artistry.  The Huayra roadster offers a 720 HP twin-turbo V8 (sourced from Mercedes) at prices starting about $2 million.


Bill and I were really impressed with the Rimac C_TWO, an all-electric super-car manufactured in Croatia (and when I visit Croatia in 2021 I'm going to try to visit the factory); the factory is just 200 KM from the birthplace of Nikola Tesla.  Unlike the other manufacturers, the Rimac representative, Sasha, let us sit in the car and play with all its gadgets.  Sasha answered all our questions about battery technology and their consulting business to other manufacturers and even gave Bill a Rimac baseball cap!

They claim a 0 - 60 MPH time of 1.85 seconds and a top speed of 258 MPH.  At 1,914 HP this was the most powerful super-car that we saw all day. The estimated price of the C_TWO is $ 2 million.


Last (alphabetically), but certainly not least, on the super-car list was the Tuatara.  Bill and I met one of the company's executives who was demonstrating not only a completed model (which was going to be delivered to the first owner at this event), but also a "cut-away" model showing its engine, frame, and components.  I was intrigued that the car is being manufactured in Eastern Washington and on our next trip to Walla-Walla I plan to get a factory tour!

Sporting 1,750 HP (on E85 bio-fuel, but "only" 1,350 HP on regular premium gasoline), the production run is targeted for only 100 units at a price of about $1,300,000.

There were too many super-cars for me to report on in a comprehensive way.  I have intentionally omitted Audi, Lamborghini, Maserati, McLaren, Porsche, Saleen, and others.

So you will ask, "Cary, what impressed you the most at The Quail?"

The answer isn't a car -- it's an airplane!  Watch for a future post on the ICON A5.