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MrsDuck and I spent a romantic Sunday afternoon with about 110,000 others in a hot, sweaty, big place with hundreds of cars.

I knew it was going to be crowded at the Detroit Auto Show as the electronic signs on all the freeways broadcast the message: COBO ROOF FULL - PARK AT JOE LOUIS! In other words, the parking at Cobo Hall had already filled up (it was 1PM), so they were directing everyone to park at Joe Louis Arena (Trivia: This is where the album KISS: Alive! was recorded back in the '70's.) and most of JLA had filled up by the time we got there. We parked at a parking lot for the maintenance crews...still got charged $10 to park.

We tromped over to Cobo via one of the metal "Habitrails" (long metal tubes) from JLA over to Cobo and it retained cold better than a Thermos bottle! After tripping over about six derelicts and drunks, we made it into Cobo. $12 a head but the ticket line only lasted about 5 minutes.

I had been to the Detroit Auto Show in years past, but the last time I went was before they remodeled and doubled the floor space...now everyone is saying it's still too small!

Anyway, MrsDuck and I made our way into the big hall. Now before we got there, MrsDuck finally mentioned what was on her mind and why she really wanted to go to the auto show: When the Saturn goes off lease in May and goes away, she wants another car. She doesn't want to drive the Aztek 120 miles a day and she doesn't believe the Blazer I bought from her sister is going to stay together for very long. ("Whaddya mean, it's a piece of s***? Oh sure, it's got a hundred thousand miles on it, but we can make it last a few more years, we got the alternator and the A/C replaced didn't we???") Well, she's fully well knows that keeping a used car forever is less than buying a new one, but she doesn't want the inconvenience of having to fix something every other month, unfortunately as we have been doing with the Blazer.

Okay, MamaDuck wants a new car. Ain't nobody happy if MamaDuck ain't happy. She wants something that will get over 30MPG and that will fit in the third bay of our garage. (Don't ask. The 3-car garage we have has all kinds of lawn equipment in one bay, the Aztek is in #2, and the Saturn is in #3 and it's REALLY tight!) We finally agree on one other major thing: It's gotta fit ME in the driver's seat with the Ducklings sitting in the back seat comfortably. This is because our working lives could change again, we could move to another state again, and I might be the one with a 120-mile commute a year from now AND still have daycare/school transport duties.

So, we look for (1) a car for MrsDuck for commuting in the near future (next few months), such that I can fit with the Ducklings in back and (2) a future "tot yacht" for when the Aztek explodes a few years from now (or when MrsDuck nags me to replace it).

We squeeze through the Honda display. We check out the CRV and Element. We test these for "tot yacht" use with me in the front seat and MrsDuck sitting behind me (Duckling1 is growing up very fast). The Element is neat, especially with the rubber floor. But the area behind the seat is smaller than the CRV and the CRV gets better mileage. She then takes a quick look at an Insight and wants to hop in right away. "Ummm...dear? That don't have a back seat. That don't even have four-doors!" Well, she thought it was neat. I did tell her that there's a Civic Hybrid and that Honda announced they'll have an Accord hybrid soon. She nods her head, we move on.

We struggle past the Mercedes display, until we get to a Smart car, one of those cute, little, "sold in Europe only" two-door mini cars. MrsDuck said she drove one on one of her trips to Europe. How was it? Fun, but scary, she said. We squeezed past Audi, BMW, around Maybach, past Nissan, and over to VW. But I wanted to stop at Maybach just to look. "What's a 'Maybach'?" MrsD asks. "About $360,000." She immediately heads the other way.

We get into the VW area and she says "I'd do a diesel car, that would be okay." They just happen to have a couple NewBeetles, a Jetta TDI wagon and a Passat TDI sedan. We hop in the Jetta, there's no room in the backseat whatsoever. We hop over to the Passat and everything fits. So MrsDuck starts hopping in the driver's seat, checks out all the controls, gets out, sticks her head under the hood, runs around, checks out the trunk. I think she likes this one.

Just as soon as I believe she's convinced enough to drive to our nearby VW dealership tomorrow to order a TDI Passat wagon, right next door to VW was Toyota and the Prius. We hop in. We fit just fine. She notices the display stand with the specs: 60 MPG Highway! Again, she's all over this car like a moth on a Klieg light. She interrogates the Toyota "spokesperson" (some young yutz with a blue Toyota shirt and a mile-wide grin) for 15 minutes. She gets a good education on the Prius fast. She wants one. Can we go home now?

Well, gee, I wanna look at all the other cars, even the concepts and the sporty things that we'll never afford in our lifetime, besides we had only been in the auto show for 30 minutes! I wanna get my $24 worth of show viewing....

We hop into a Scion Xb. We're comfortable. IT'S A BOX!

We walk past Hummer, which we were surprised to see that it's about the most POPULAR display, not because of any flashy concept cars (or models), but mostly that everyone wants to sit in a Hummer H1 and play soldier for some reason. I mean, we only had to wait for about 2 or 3 people in front of us to get into a Prius, the line was about 10 deep to get into the Hummer H1 and about 15 to get into the H2!

Another slow point in the show was trying to walk past the Rolls Royce display, as again, everyone wants to see a car they'll never own ever in their lifetime up close.

We get closer to the "American" brand displays, and because of "good ol' Detroit loyalty", that's actually where more people are hanging around, they all want to look at cars that they can hope to afford. We hop in and out of more cars, but we make note of the Chevy Malibu Maxx. It's a five-door wagon/hatchback, the rear-seat is adjustable and slides back and there's a DVD player available for the kids to watch. I hop in and MrsDuck is greatly impressed by being able to easily sit in the back seat.

The areas between the GM and Ford displays are even more crowded (again, people are checking out cars that they're REALLY going to buy), but things are REALLY crowded around the Ford GT40 and the 2005 Mustang. This was highly inconvenient as I wanted to get a close look at the Ford Five Hundred (Taurus replacement) and the Freestyle (crossover vehicle on a stretched Five Hundred platform). The Freestyle looks like a good tot-yacht and doesn't look too much like a minivan.

We meander over to Jeep, not so much that there were any Jeep products I wanted to look at (no back seat room in a Liberty), but they had this cool waterfall display, computer-controlled, it make pictures with the falling water, spelled out "Jeep" with falling water, and several other cool visual effects. Took me 20 minutes to pry MrsDuck away.

We get to the Dodge display, I want to check out a Magnum (the 5-door "sport wagon"). MrsDuck is impressed with the rear-hatch, station-wagon like design. I'm checking out the front-seat room and the HEMI under the hood. Gets 17 MPG city, 25 highway. I can live with that. And it's a HEMI. They had three on display, two of them wire fire-truck red. And they got HEMI's! We moved on. Did I mention these cars had HEMI's?

Over at Chrysler, one of the last cars we hopped into was a Pacifica. Very room, very comfortable. But I tell MrsDuck the only way we'd get one of these is if it was used. Sticker was well over $30K.

And we left.

What? You and MrsDuck went to an auto-show and didn't look at the COOL STUFF? What about the concepts? What about the sporty, "God-I-am-never-going-to-afford-this" cars? What about the display platform models wearing very tight, slinkly outfits that accent their hoo-hahs?

Okay, I WAS able to see other stuff. I got close looks of:

Honda's pickup truck concept,
Ford Bronco concept (built off the South-America-only EcoSport vehicle),
GM's Kappa platform display with the Chevy Nomad, Saturn Curve, Pontiac Solstice, and a Vauxhall car,
The Ford F250 Harley Davidson truck,
and quite a few other things (especially the models with great hoo-hahs!).

There was a lower-level as well, but we were tired as it was, swimming through that sea of humanity.

Oh well, after roasting in Cobo, we wandered back over to where we parked in the cold, and headed back home.

Well, I'm going to be hearing an earful over the next few months, "Have we ordered a Prius yet?". But at least I had some fun today. Mmmmmm....hoo-hahs.


Duck!
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Duck,

Sounds like a lot of fun...

A few comments:

(1) Get in line on the Prius -- only 16,000 people are ahead of you...including my wife and me. :^) We ordered a Salsa Red with pretty much everything other than the DVD navigation system...

(2) The Prius gets 51 mpg highway...60 mpg is in the city.

(3) The Prius pretty much never gets that milage -- more like the high 40s for most stuff. The method the EPA uses to determine milage is highly flawed. Almost every car gets below the rated level, but the hybrids really suffer. They *can* get the stated milage, but most people do not drive them well enough to get that milage. Toyota wanted to put different (a bit lower) milage values in the literature, but the EPA forces them to go with the 60/51.

(4) Having spent much of the last 2 months in Europe, I see plenty of the "Smart" cars. They are hillarious...more like a roller skate with a tiny engine. My wife came over for a week and she loved it...she would never consider getting one, but she had to take a picture of one to show people.

(5) "Son, can you say Hemi?"

(6) If hybrids are the thing your wife is all over right now, Toyota is putting out a Highlander hybrid later this year. The Prius has plenty of room IMO -- the backseat is bigger than the Camry -- but if you are going to be getting into the soccer-dad type situation soon, I could see wanting something even bigger. I have no idea what the Highlander hybrid will cost, but it will have a more powerful engine than the current Highlander and get over 30 mpg according to Toyota.

Keep us informed on the car buying. At this point, I would try and hold out until the Accord and Highlander hit the market so you can compare, but you might have to break down. One thing to know...ordering a Prius does not really committ you to the car. I have not paid any deposit, and if I were to say no when it comes in (since they cannot guarantee your exact order), they'll just sell it to someone else without charging me a penny.

ACME
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I pointed out to MrsDuck, too, about the Highlander, and for that matter, that several vehicles are coming out as hybrids. I'd also maybe go for the Ford Escape hybrid ahead of the Toyota, mostly because of price (or that is, which one I think will have a better price).

The next few years should be fun.


Duck
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Given toyota's generally better reputation for reliability, greater experience with hybrids, and the escape's below-average reputation for reliability, aren't you at least somewhat concerned about the combinatin of ford vehicle+relatively trouble prone ford+hybrid? that seems to me quite a combination for time in the shop. i like toyota a lot, but even so i still question the premium paid for them on some models. on a hybrid though i wouldnt hesitate to pay a considerable premium for their experience building them.

just my humble .02.
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(5) "Son, can you say Hemi?"

********************

OK so what is the deal with "hemi" engines? Is this secret code for "real fast and cool"? I'm unlikely to buy anything as gas guzzling as a car/truck with one of these engines, but I am curious.

BTW, when I say the commercial I was waiting for the kid to say something like "bankrupt" or "college fund".
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OK so what is the deal with "hemi" engines?

Too young to remember the Barracuda ?

rad
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Too young to remember the Barracuda ?

******************

What the hell is that?
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http://www.ausbcomp.com/jed/64cuda.htm

My mother's was black with a red interior - it was her postkids car and purchased right when they came out.

rad
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aren't you at least somewhat concerned about the combinatin of ford vehicle+relatively trouble prone ford+hybrid?

Call it being idealistic. Just hoping that the Big 2.5 get their act together and make hybrids more mainstream and quickly. Bob Lutz, of GM, suggests that Toyota is going about it all wrong. They'd get more bang for the buck if they took the hybrid and put it in the cars/trucks that need the most improvement in fuel economy first, like SUV's and trucks, not little cars. GM is probably going to have hybrids in their pickups and SUV's first. As for Ford, they've announced the hybrid Escape longer than Toyota has been about their Highander. Does that mean that Ford's is better? No, I just hope everybody makes the switch to hybrids and improved technologies soon. This is a significant change in automobile technology and I personally think I can afford to help be a "guinea pig" for car companies to learn how to make a good hybrid.

I also have masochistic tendencies, but hey....


Duck
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hemi refers to the design of the cylinder head. chrysler developed the "hemi" engine in the late 50s and set multiple speed records with it and was very successful racing both at the dragstrop and nascar. i believe the engine was actually banned by nascar in the early 70s because it was too fast. i do not know how the new "hemi" engine compares to the old one.
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OK so what is the deal with "hemi" engines? Is this secret code for "real fast and cool"?

As Dean said, the original Hemi were Chrysler engines with "hemispherical combustion chambers", or that is, the area above the piston was in the shape of a hemisphere or dome. Not that it made it go faster, but Chrysler put all there beans into making the hemi design a high-performance engine.


Duck
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OK so what is the deal with "hemi" engines?

http://auto.howstuffworks.com/hemi.htm is a good intro. http://www.thehemi.com/heads.php shows the old Mopar hemi combustion chamber shape and compares it to period Chevy and Ford heads. Hemispherical combustion chambers had been used in radial aircraft engines for decades before Chrysler designed an automotive engine that used them.

Ideally, the combustion process would burn all of the fuel-air mixture instantaneously throughout the combustion volume so as to minimize combustion pressure loss due to heat transfer into the cylinder head, piston, and cylinder. This is never achieved in practice, so some efficiency is lost. Combustion pressure is what pushes the piston down in the cylinder to generate power, so minimizing pressure loss is important to improve efficiency. Various features are designed into all engines to get as close as practical to the optimum combustion event.

The theory behind the hemi head design is that the head and valves are shaped approximately like half a sphere (hemi-spherical) because a sphere has the largest possible ratio of volume to surface area. A beneficial side effect is that the valves can be very large, which is why all top fuel drag racing engines are based on the old Mopar. There are two major flaws with the theory, though. First, in order to produce an acceptable compression ratio, the piston shape has to fill most of the volume, so the surface area of the piston is much greater than it would otherwise be. The thermal efficiency gained in the head is lost in the piston. Second, it is difficult to design an effective turbulence-inducing squish region in a hemi head, so the combustion efficiency improvement available from squish is hard to get in a hemi engine.

Neil
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Uh, OK. As someone who drives an econobox with an 86-HP 4 banger, I wish you all the enjoyment in the world with your gas-guzzling toys, so long as you don't hit me.
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Bob Lutz, of GM, suggests that Toyota is going about it all wrong. They'd get more bang for the buck if they took the hybrid and put it in the cars/trucks that need the most improvement in fuel economy first, like SUV's and trucks, not little cars.

Maybe he meant to say that about Honda...because they are only doing it with the smaller cars. But Toyota has one car (2 generations) and they are coming out with 2 SUVs this year that will have hybrid engines -- the Lexus RX330 (which will be the first hybrid SUV released to the market...before GM's or Ford's) and the Toyota Highlander.

Toyota has long seen the need for hybrids on that end of the market...but they wanted to test things out for a bit on the end of the market most likely to buy a hybrid vehicle -- those that are strong believers in buying fuel efficiency ahead of some other desires.

The funny thing is...when the Ford Escape hybrid comes out, it is going to have an engine based on the Toyota *first generation* hybrid technology. Toyota sold this technology to Ford and some others once they had completed the second generation technology. I don't think Ford has done too much to update this since they bought it, so they are at least 3 years behind Toyota...and they are not likely to ever catch up.

ACME
(whose father-in-law is friends with all the really bigwigs at Toyota)
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(1) Get in line on the Prius -- only 16,000 people are ahead of you...including my wife and me. :^) We ordered a Salsa Red with pretty much everything other than the DVD navigation system...


I have a Lexus RX300 with navigation, and it's amazing. Not only does it tell you where you are, but you can have it show you all the gas stations, hotels, parks, shopping centers and points of interest in the area where you are driving. If you select the hotel icon on the map, it shows which hotel it is and provides the phone number.
To find an address, you enter the destination address before you leave and the navigation system directs you on the way there. A voice tells you when to turn, and will even let you know what lane to be in if you have to make an immediate second turn. If you go a different way, the navigation system will redirect you from your new location. It splits the screen for an up-coming turn so you can glance down and see what street and exit number you need to turn on and how close you are to it (it gives verbal directions so you don't have to look at the screen).
It can be programmed to avoid toll roads and ferries if you have those in your area.
How often have you driven to a neighborhood where the houses are all similar and driven around a while looking for a specific street, forgetting exactly where it is? It has happened to me, but you can zoom out the map and it will show you all the streets in the area where you are at.
Another cool feature is a message center which when selected will tell you what song and artist is playing on the radio station you are listening to. This doesn't work while the vehicle is in motion to prevent people from playing with it while driving.
Even though I have lived in my area all my life, I find it very handy and see it easily will become something you hate to be without. I look forward to traveling outside my state with it.
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Uh, OK. As someone who drives an econobox with an 86-HP 4 banger, I wish you all the enjoyment in the world with your gas-guzzling toys, so long as you don't hit me.

A lot of the older ones only get driven a quarter mile, or so, on weekends, usually on the other side of a fence and use nitromethane (CH3NO2) rather than gasoline (C8H18) - a little like gasoline that has been pre-mixed with nitrous oxide - It comes with its own oxygen atoms to help it burn.

;-)


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My mother's was black with a red interior - it was her postkids car and purchased right when they came out.

I'm sorry, but that would have to be one of the ugliest cars I have ever seen. :-)

Primm
*hoping it goes better than it looks*
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I have a Lexus RX300 with navigation, and it's amazing. Not only does it tell you where you are, but you can have it show you all the gas stations, hotels, parks, shopping centers and points of interest in the area where you are driving. If you select the hotel icon on the map, it shows which hotel it is and provides the phone number.


Ahh, but it is $2000 for the nav system for the Lexus. I just got myself a Garmin iQue 3600 with the auto adapter for $500 (plus $65 for a 256MB SD card) and it does all of that, plus is a Palm OS PDA, and can come with me when I travel and have to rent a car in a strange city...
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My mother's was black with a red interior - it was her postkids car and purchased right when they came out.

I'm sorry, but that would have to be one of the ugliest cars I have ever seen. :-)

Primm
*hoping it goes better than it looks*


Well... Some (black and red) Plymouth Barracudas probably look and run somewhat better that a slant 6 hatchback - depending on your taste.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=2453942602&category=6409#ebayphotohosting

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Well... Some (black and red) Plymouth Barracudas probably look and run somewhat better that a slant 6 hatchback - depending on your taste.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=2453942602&category=6409#ebayphotohosting


Now that's more like it!!

Damn, but they're expensive though!

Primm
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Now that's more like it!!

Damn, but they're expensive though!


Well, yeah.. IF it's any consolation, he prolly stuck far more into it - and he seems honest (see the last of the ad):


It has a fine sounding, smooth revving, well balanced 1968 440 that has no problems turning the 33x21.5 M/T tires.
New holley electric fuel pump.
New gas regulator.
New Taylor wires with hold downs.
3500 stahl converter
New Mopar Performance headers.
New Lokar kickdown cable I haven't installed yet.
It has a drip of oil in the rearend. Thats because I didn't put sealant the last time I dropped the third-member.
New Flowmasters w/turndowns before the rearend.
Drivetrain
Weld wheels all around.
Rear tires are M/T 33x21.5 Sportsmans.
Moser Engineering axles with large studs in rear.
Art Morrison ladder bars w/crossover bar
Narrowed 8 3/4" rear w.4.88's, posi.
Coil over shocks.
Less than 100 miles on recently rebuilt transmission.
Transmission oil cooler
Interior
Racing buckets with nice covers.
Racing seat belts (5pt harness on driver's side and 3 pt harness on passenger's side).
Padded 6-pt. roll bar
Sheetmetal with carpet where the rear seat used to be.
B&M shifter.
Older carpet, not worn but has shifted some.
Tachometer with shift light.
Oil pressure gauge.
Water temperature gauge.
Factory gauges all in place.
Door panels have a speaker holes.
It does have an old style moon roof and a padded dash, so I do not know what condition the dash pad is in.

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Besides: Reason to list car is that I found my dream hemi motor about 2 miles from my house to go with my Hemi Challenger ~ ~

It looks like there's some rust on the back panel underneath the back window, and some other things that he mentions - might can talk him down some on the price - doubt he would take much less than $10,000 for it though.
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Ahh, but it is $2000 for the nav system for the Lexus.


Ahh, but I bought my Lexus used and got a very good price for it - have seen others without navigation, with more miles for the same price. You just have to shop around!
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I'll put in a vote to recommend the Prius. If my company wasn't sending me abroad for a year we'd already have one. Get the NAV system, the voice commands make it pretty cool. You can take them for a test drive at most dealerships. Availability is pretty low though. There's a lot of people with pre-orders waiting to be filled, but there's still some sitting on dealer lots through Toyota's poor distribution system. Oh well.

My fiancee put together a nice summary page if you're interested.
http://markcov.homelinux.com/~joannag/prius.html
(link good through end of Feb, or when we go abroad)
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Nice example of wedded bliss.....

Great article but since I own a Jeep Liberty I must reply to the statement of"No rear seat room.". We cart me and my friends hockey
gear, His car seat mounted wild man all in complete comfort. Well except for the smell of hockey gear. Ugh! Its like road kill on steroids. How much room you need is totally subjective but I don't ride in the back and neither does my wife. If you are car pooling longer than an hour I could see the problem. Drive it first folks. Except for the terrible (to me)milage it has been an absolutely great car. I don't ever recommend any car to people because it is almost like a religion.
This one is differant. No 4 wheel drive. Get ABS. Thats all the extras you need. Sorry to carry on. My wife says she is sorry I carry on as well......
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Great article but since I own a Jeep Liberty I must reply to the statement of "No rear seat room.". ... How much room you need is totally subjective but I don't ride in the back and neither does my wife.

I'm 6'2", MrsDuck is 5'10". The problem is where either of my two kids have to sit behind me, which is all the time. Instead of having feet planted on the floor, they're about halfway up the seat and there has to be enough room between the front seatback and the front edge of the backseat bottom cushion. So by the time I adjust the front seat to where I fit and I'm comfortable, the front seatback may be too close to the rear seat, as it was in the Liberty.

There were MANY cars that looked like my situation would fit, but as soon as I moved the front seat back, two cars, the VW Jetta and the Ford Focus, were such that there was only two inches between the front seatback and the rear seat cushion. So I have to look and test a lot of cars.


Duck
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Good for you, checking out the auto show. I always enjoyed it when it came here - and it was nice to be able to see the new cars (and check out the headroom, and look for blind spots, and sit in the back seats of them) w/o dealing with a lot of driving around and a lot of sales pitches. Not to mention the dealers' reaction to the old beater I was driving at the time.

Maybe it's not such a bad thing having to wait for the Prius. In a year or two they may have worked the bugs out of it, and more people may be trained to repair & maintain them. Someone I know rented one for a trip out west & the darn thing kept not starting & generally acted up. It was a big hassle. (I generally like Toyotas, though.)

- karen
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Some info (I know some low level insiders)...

Toyota has several hybrid cars coming out. The Prius is out now, RX300 is out soon (maybe now), Highlander is coming soon, Camry will have hybrid option in about 2 years. Rumor is that most vehicles will be offered with hybrid, either as a fuel efficiency option or performance option. I expect hybrids to be the biggest mass market engine upgrade since fuel injection came mainstream (overhead cam was pretty good, too).

Thought I heard Honda's Insight would be discontinued, but Civic hybrid is available now, and Accord hybrid by the end of the year. Acura's supercar HSC has a hybrid drivetrain, too, I think.


KyBuckeye


P.S. How about the Jeep Rescue?
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chrysler developed the "hemi" engine in the late 50s
>>>>>>>

Cunningham raced at LeMans in 1954 with a stable of three cars. Two big iron hemi engines from the 300 series cars and the other with a 12 cylinder Ferrari engine. The F car broke one of the valve springs and they had a try at jinxing the thing so it ran on 11. That engine had what is called hairpin valve springs.

I know as I was there. Had a ticket for the pits. Not in them, but on top of them on a concrete cover. Wish I had kept the thing, but it got lost in the shuffle of school after returning to US etc.

24 hours is a long time to stay awake. Espresso to the rescue.

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Hemispherical combustion chambers had been used in radial aircraft engines for decades before Chrysler designed an automotive engine that used them.

Ideally, the combustion process would burn all of the fuel-air mixture instantaneously throughout the combustion volume so as to minimize combustion pressure loss due to heat transfer into the cylinder head, piston, and cylinder. This is never achieved in practice, so some efficiency is lost.

<<<<<<<<

first part is correct, with the additional comment that the aircraft system usually used four valves, and many had sodium filled exhaust valves. Almost all had inserts for valve seats.

If all the fuel burned as you say, the crown of the piston would last minutes. Detonation is killer in any engine. Like a small bomb going off. Octane is a measure how slowly the fuel burns to prevent this event.

In a diesel engine it is desired to have the fuel burn fast in the 1000 degree compressed air. Note that as the fuel is injected it lights off. As more fuel enters the pressure remains high, the piston moves increasing the volume. Pressure at mid stroke generates the maximum torque. Before the piston reaches this position all the fuel is in the cylinder. Except for tractor pulls and the like. Then the pump in oil much longer. That is why they belch black soot and flames. That is another game.
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