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A Garage Visit with the “Northern Utah Mustang Owners Association”

By Mike Mastracco

Like father—like son—like daughter… Heidi has a full background of automotive knowledge and work experience that includes working for two professional race car teams before coming to work for Johnny Johnson, her father. Together, the first car they restored was her 1966 Mustang GT 350H, yes, a real Hertz Mustang.

It was the first week of October 2023 and I was approaching my second full weekend in Salt Lake City, Utah.  I was thinking there might be a car related activity such as a Cars ‘n Coffee, or maybe a car show somewhere around the area.

Being out west for close to two weeks I brought my laptop along to keep up with my normal computer activities.  It was Thursday evening when I started to look for car clubs in the area, more specifically Mustang, Vintage or European.  I came across the “Northern Utah Mustang Owners Association.”  I clicked on their website to cruise around a bit.  First thing I clicked was the “Photo Gallery” as I’m thinking to look at some of the members’ cars.  Low and behold I needed a user ID and password to go any further.  Next, I saw an events tab and clicked on that with much better results.  This brought me to the month of October webpage and two events this upcoming Saturday, I hit the jackpot.  The first event listed was a “Fall Garage Tour” between the hours of 8:00-5:00.  The second event was a car show north of Salt Lake City.  I figured I couldn’t do both so I clicked on the “Garage Tour” tab and amazingly the starting point was in Draper, Utah which is less than 15 minutes away from my son’s house where I was staying.  Well, that means my Saturday plans just got semi-finalized.  I say semi-finalized as I was not sure if an out of state “stranger” driving a Jeep that shows up out of nowhere would be allowed to partake in a club event such as this.

Once arriving at the starting point of the trip, a Sinclair Gas Station, I saw two late model Mustangs in the parking lot.  I found a spot to park not far from these two early comers.  I walked over to one of the drivers as he was getting out of his car, introduced myself and we chatted a bit.  As a few more cars were driving in I was introduced to the event coordinator and then to the President of the club.  I mentioned my home area, upstate New York, and my involvement in hobby cars and such.  They all welcomed me to join them on this trip today and introduced me to a few other members.  Quite a friendly bunch they were.

The event coordinator gathered everyone together for a short meeting.  He introduced a couple of new members to the club, and then introduced me, from upstate New York and a lady who just moved here from Alabama.  A total of 31 cars started from this Sinclair fuel station and all were given a short set of directions before take-off.

Mustangs from the first generation all the way up to the latest generations participated in this event.  Here are a few of the participating:

Cars:  1965 coupe, 1965 convertible, 1967 GT350, 1969 Boss, 1971 convertible, 1972 coupe, 1972 Mach 1, several Fox bodies including two Saleen’s, many GT’s, a few other Mach 1’s, along with six or eight Shelby’s of the newer vintage, 2019 Bullitt with a good share of other convertibles of all vintages.  One late model Thunderbird and a late model Camaro snuck in for good measure.

There were two garage stops planned for the day’s adventure.  We left as a group promptly at 9:15, and headed into the majestic mountains of Utah.  The drive was through the Traverse Mountain range, down into the Alpine Mountain area then the Highland Mountain area of Utah which made me wish I had one of my cars to enjoy the curves, hills and speeds a little more. 

First Stop of the Day
Our first stop was to the Dennis Squire collection, a little over a very brisk 30-minute drive up into the hills of Utah.  Once a parking place was secured, I walked up to his garage which was just the starting point of what was inside.  In front of his garage was parked a late model Saleen Mustang, a newer Shelby convertible, a Shelby pick-up truck, and a late model Mustang Cobra all lined up which sparked an interest in everyone to see the rest of his collection.  First and foremost, as I walked in, I saw a gorgeous red 1969 Mach I, and a very striking dark blue 1966 Mustang Fastback.

Further in was sitting a beautiful 1962 Fairlane with a 221 ci. V8 which is an identical auto that his father owned as Dennis was growing up.  Dennis found this car, had it restored in memory of his father, now it looks new as he remembers the car many years ago.  A 1970’s High-Boy 4WD Ford pick-up all original, a Factory 5 Cobra and a Harley Davidson motorcycle for pleasure were also there.  Included in this mix of Fords was a 1968 Camaro with the following back story.

Dennis and his wife were out one day, when his wife pointed to a Camaro and asked Dennis “what kind of car is that?” and then said “I kind of like that.”  He started searching for a Camaro that met his requirements and a Camaro his wife would like to drive.  Once finished, he surprised his wife with this Camaro, she looked at it and mentioned “it’s OK, I didn’t really want one.”  Dennis just decided to keep it.  Dennis also offered stories on each one of his vehicles.  Coffee and donuts were offered to all, a great stop with a great host.

Second Stop of the Day
Our next stop was about 20 minutes away to Johnny Johnson’s fine collection of vehicles.  This collection was like walking into a full-fledged working mechanics museum.  After parking my Jeep on the street with other sharp-eyed visitors, we walked down this wide driveway with a great backdrop view of the mountains behind the garage.

As I approached his garage, I saw a Lamborghini with both gull wing doors opened.  I was then intrigued to what I might find inside the rest of his garage.  To everyone’s surprise this garage housed so many vehicles along with a large display of collectibles.  Everywhere I looked I saw automotive related memorabilia,  metal signs, neon signs, banners, license plates, new and vintage tools and  items hanging from the ceiling.  Every wall was jam packed with merchandise, even the floor was meticulously laid out with automotive related merchandise.

I noticed a small tool box and work area with pink wrapped tools, workshop cans that were wrapped in pink as well.  Soon after that I noticed a very large double decker pink tool box with a young lady in front chatting with visitors.  As I was meandering my way around the abundance of items to look at, I approached this young lady named Heidi who was standing near “her” tool box.  Heidi has a full background of automotive knowledge and work that includes working for two professional race car teams before coming to work at Johnny Johnson.

I asked Heidi what she drives, she pointed me to a 1966 Mustang GT 350H, yes, a real Hertz Mustang.  She mentioned to me all the cars in this collection are real cars that are restored to their original condition, no replicas, and very few modifications, with the exception of the street rods.  I asked Heidi where Johnny Johnson was as I would like to introduce myself and thank him for this visit.  She pointed to one of the cars and said my father is over there with the blue Ford hat!  Her Mustang GT 350H was the first car that Heidi and her father Johnny Johnson restored together.

Inside there is so much to talk about it is uncanny.  Cars, trucks, Elvis sitting on a stool with guitar in hand behind a full drum set, dozens of signs decorate the walls, a large plush leather Mustang chair, models of all years of Fords and so much more.  An early 1965 Mustang convertible built in May 1964, with a 260 V8, 1968 California Special, 1969 Shelby GT350, and other Mustangs from 1966 to 1969 not mentioned above.  When talking with Johnny Johnson, I asked him if he had a favorite among all his vehicles, he replied the 1947 red Ford pick-up up on the lift as this was the first vehicle he and his father restored.  Like father, like son, like daughter.  I then asked about his every day driver, he replied, a red 2022 Shelby.

Outside there was an identical Milner car from the movie American Graffiti, next to that was an original VW Bug that appeared in one of the Herbie the Love Bug movies that had signatures on the glovebox of four of the main actors in the movie.

A 1970 Mustang convertible with a 351-power plant, a very sharp looking 1963 Galaxy 500 XL convertible with a 390 V8, a 1940 Merc with an original flat head V8, a 1934 suicide door Ford Flathead V8, a vintage military Jeep, along with a few Peanut’s characters and a small putting green that Snoopy is looking over.  I must mention the two vintage stand up style gas pumps and hoses with working gauges & lights, another fuel pump that is a lever handle pump style, a metal display unit with glass bottles with long necks to fill your vintage vehicle up at the station and a vintage air pump as well.  We were offered a variety of Ford and Mustang cookies to enjoy along with several drink options.

Final Thought
Oh, what a great adventure in the mountains of Utah, the drive, the two outstanding car collection visits along with the company of the “Northern Utah Mustang Owners Association.”  I most definitely hit the Mustang – Ford jackpot today!

0 – 60mph in 1.99 secs!! –  2022 Tesla Model S Plaid

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0 – 60mph in 1.99 secs!! – 2022 Tesla Model S Plaid

Words & photos by Bob Sblendorio

When owner Dave Griffin demonstrated the acceleration of his 1,020 hp 2022 Tesla Model S Plaid he first pre-set my wife and I with the following instructions: “Hold on tight, put your head firmly against the headrest.  Are you ready? …here we go.”   And go we did!  The acceleration is so intense, it’s actually jolting!  The acceleration is so fast, it actually seems instant and you’re going 60+ mph, with a force that slams your body into the seat.  It’s completely different from what most of us have traditionally experienced of being gradually pressured into the seat as you accelerate.  Dave demonstrated several times, and with each came a warning it was coming—boy it was fun.  Frankly, it’s hard to reconcile the fact that this is a four-door sedan with seating for five that’s capable of that level of performance.

The published specs from the Tesla website are daunting, like the 0-60 mph in 1.99 seconds (with rollout subtracted), a 9.23 sec. quarter-mile time with a speed of 155 mph and a top-speed of—200 mph!  For a street-legal sedan?

The tri-motor arrangement generates 1,020 hp, with 1,050 lb-ft of torque.   When trying to put that torque spec into some kind of context, I checked a Ford Super Duty F250, with the biggest diesel engine available, and it too generates 1,050 lb-ft of torque.  That’s a sedan with the same torque spec as the powerful F250 Super Duty.  Impressive!  And just how efficient does it slip through the air?  It’s billed as “the lowest on the planet” at a mere 0.208 drag coefficient (Cd).  Again, for reference, a C7 Corvette has a drag coefficient of 0.29, which is 39% higher than the Tesla.

Autopilot (AP)
It was a surreal experience to ride along a country road, while the driver, Dave, is barely touching the wheel (yoke), accelerator or brake pedals.  Tesla’s Autopilot system works so well it does all the steering, accelerating and braking, including stopping for traffic lights.  As we approached a red traffic light the car stopped as expected.  Planning to make a left turn, the directional was blinking and we waited for the oncoming cars to pass, afterwhich the car automatically started turning left once all was clear…all happening with no operator intervention.  Generally, it seemed that the greatest challenge while driving in autopilot is to trust the system and trying not to out-think it; just let the system function as designed, but also being at-the-ready to intervene if needed.

On one occasion, while in autopilot, there was an abrupt alarm sound, with the screen flashing red in an attention getting way.  “What’s that?”  I asked.  Dave explained while he was talking to me (passenger seat) a moment prior, the mirror facing camera detected his head turned instead of forward facing, which is a “no-no” and sounded a warning.  The machine knows best…I guess.

The Autopilot feature was initially rolled-out in 2014 with non-stop enhancements ever since.  Dave explained that even though other companies also have supervised-autonomous driving, Tesla’s version is one of the most advanced.  And as far as highway driving, it’s pretty much “flawless” at this point, in terms of lane changing, braking, exiting ramps, etc.  The system operates with inputs from eight cameras.  The sonar sensors are used for in-close detection, like the proximity of curbs and objects.  For supervised-autonomous driving though, it’s the inputs to the camera system, with the computer interpreting all the data that controls the system, making everything work.  The system is so advanced that it mimics the human brain, in terms of pattern matching recognition, using what computer scientists refer to as a ‘deep neural network’…and at this point it seems that it may be at the precipice of exceeding “us” to some degree…  It’s actually becoming a little eerie—the concept of machine technology starting to exceed the human brain’s ability at processing.  Where is this going?

Dave continued and explained how Tesla can scan the entire fleet of cars (or a segment) for data-gathering for recognition purposes.  As an example, if the imagery of a deer running across a road is needed for programming purposes, the fleet can be scanned to acquire data of all car encounters involving a deer crossing a road.  Then that data is used to enhance the computer algorithms for recognition of a similar situation.  It was starting to feel like the imagery of the cameras, coupled with machine technology of Autopilot might be even better than the abilities of even the most careful drivers out there.

One other example of just how advanced the system operates has to do with safety.  While in Autopilot, if the system detects a lack of driver inputs, like occasionally touching the wheel, it will eventually conclude that the operator may have fallen asleep.  At that point the Autopilot system will automatically, and slowly, pull the car over to the side of the road, activate the flashers, mute any music that may be playing and sound an audible warning.  When the driver wakes up and begins to proceed, it’s time for the “Tesla penalty”—which is not being able to engage the system for the rest of the trip.

In summary, the Autopilot system is very complex, with many other features as well.  The above examples are intended to provide a sense of just how far the technology has advanced and where it may be going.  As new features are developed they are transferred via over-the-air software updates, making them available instantly.

Battery
The Tesla battery pack continues to change and improve.  It’s still a lithium-ion battery pack, but the number of cells and configuration is constantly evolving, as is the battery chemistry.  For the Plaid, there are 7,920 cylindrical cells installed into five modules.  The battery packs are equipped with cooling and heating systems that improve efficiency and longevity.  That’s why even for multiple hard accelerations, the car exhibits very little performance degradation.  The cooling system is adequately designed to keep the battery from heating up, even under those kinds of conditions.

Model S Plaid battery platform, showing the placement of the tri-motors. Image from the Tesla website.

As with previous generations, the most efficient use of the battery is to charge to 80% on longer trips.  That seems to be the sweet spot in terms of minimizing charging time versus maximizing range.  The latest Tesla 250kW V3 Supercharger stations reduce the charging time down to only about 20 minutes for most sessions, according to Dave.  At home, nightly charging time is typically in the 1-2 hour range using a standard 240 volt outlet or the Tesla Wall Connector, keeping in mind that, with nearly 400 miles of range and an average daily drive distance of 40 miles, you’re using and recharging only 10% of your total charge capacity on a daily basis.

While Tesla has always designed and manufactured its own battery packs, they have recently begun manufacturing their own battery cells as well, and at this point is leading the EV industry with the most advanced battery, meaning the highest energy density currently available.  More specifically, “core efficiency” is a measure based on the battery kWh, vehicle range and weight.  Considering all the EVs on the market, Tesla is approximately 24% more efficient than the nearest competitor in terms of core efficiency, which makes it one of the most-efficient battery packs out there.  It may never exceed the energy density of fossil fuels, but it’s getting better all the time.

Interior
The first two features that immediately grab your attention upon entering are the steering wheel, referred to as the “yoke”, and the giant 17” touchscreen.  According to Dave the yoke does take a little getting used to, but once your muscle memory is re-trained, it becomes second nature.  It’s standard on all new Model S, so if you really want a Plaid, it’s something you’ll have to get used to.  The big advantage is the unobstructed view of the dashboard, which is beneficial when using the autopilot system, as the dash is packed with information; such as imagery of all the objects ahead, on each side, and the lane simulations, etc.  And as far as for driving on windy roads, on the highway or on a track situation the yoke is advantageous.  At slower speeds with a lot of steering invloved, like a parking lot, it’ll definitely take some getting used to.

Since Tesla prides itself on a minimalist interior design, nearly everything is controlled or operated from the touchscreen, meaning there are almost no traditional knobs or switches anywhere with just a few exceptions The yoke has some of the traditional controls like directional buttons, volume, voice commands, horn, and a couple others.  But certainly the overall design is clean and futuristic.  Even the cabin vents are completely hidden.

Imagine that your Tesla is parked outside your garage and you want to go for a ride.  As you walk up, with the fob (or just your smartphone) in your pocket, the car automatically unlocks when you get close, the door handle pops out and you open the door to get in.  After buckling up, you put your foot on the brake pedal and the car intuitively knows you want to go in reverse (there’s no gear shifter), so you’re ready to back up.  That’s it.  If instead you want to go forward a couple of feet, that can be changed by swiping up on the touchscreen instead.  Those are just a few samples of the many unbelievable features that Dave talked about. 

Final thought
A few years back a friend made the following comment:  “The technological advances in the next 5-years will likely exceed all the advancements of the past 50-years in the automotive industry.”  At the time it seemed like a far-fetched concept…but I stand corrected.  After hanging-out with Dave, an electrical engineer by trade and an expert all-things-Tesla, my friend was bang-on in his prediction.  A luxurious self-driving four door sedan with 1,020 hp, capable of 0-60 mph in less than two seconds and a top-speed of 200 mph…is impressive by every measure!

Dave’s 2022 Tesla Model S Plaid

Car body

Liftback Sedan

Range

348 miles (396 miles w/smaller 19” wheels)

Horsepower

1,020 hp

Torque

1,050 lb-ft

0-60 mph

1.99 sec with rollout subtracted

2.1 sec with no rollout

¼ Mile

9.23 @ 155 mph

Top speed

200 mph (with paid upgrades)

Powertrain

Tri-motor, awd (2-rear, 1-front)

Battery, 100 kWh

7,920 lithium-ion cells, Nominal voltage 400 v

Max Supercharging

250 kW

Charge time, Supercharging Station

187 miles of range in 15 minutes, or 30 minutes for 80% charge

Charge time, at home, 240-volt

Approximately 11 hours for a full charge, though typical nightly charge time is 1-2 hrs in most cases

Drag coefficient

0.208 (one of lowest for a production car)

Braking

Friction and regenerative

Weight

4,766 lbs

Warranty, basic

4-yrs or 50,000 miles

Warranty, battery & drive

8-yrs or 150,000 miles

Delivery for Dave

December 31, 2021

Cost for Dave

$133,690 (there have been several price increases since)

Motorcycle Cannonball…

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Motorcycle Cannonball…

“It was an ass-kicker,” is probably an understatement. How about riding for eight hours on a cantankerous 11-hp, rigid frame 1915 Harley-Davidson with no windshield, laboring up the “Going-to-the-Sun” road in Glacier National Park, battling constant headwinds, ascending 7,000 feet in elevation, crossing the Continental Divide, through fog, which turned to mist, then rain, then wet snow and snow at the top? Along the way, making any and all repairs by yourself? After surviving that day’s ride, then having to work on the bike until midnight or 1:00 am, and  finally going to sleep…up at 6:00 am to do it all again? That’s a typical day—of the sixteen grueling days—participating in the Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run. When 69 year-old Steve DeCosa referred to the event as an “ass-kicker”—it’s definitely (not probably) an understatement.