Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The True Magic of Stradivarius Violins

A Stradivarius is a violin or other string instrument, such as a viola or cello, produced during the late 17th and early 18th centuries by members of the Italian Stradivari family. They are widely regarded to be the best-sounding string instruments in the world. In this article, we will not only explain why this violin is so special, we will demonstrate and even test you! Scroll to the bottom to see if you can pick a Stradavarius violin from others!
The master luthier, Antonio Stradivari, was born in Cremona, Italy in 1644. Historians estimate that he produced some 1,116 instruments during his long lifetime (he lived until he was 93 years old). Some 960 of his creations were violins. In the present day, about half of the instruments he created survive, with some 450-510 of these being violins.
So how much are they worth, and why? 
An original Stradivari string instrument, with particular reference to violins, can fetch hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars at auction, and this is because of the pervasive belief that they are the finest instruments of their kind ever created.
Many cite the beautiful sound and the construction of a Stradivarius violin as the two key factors that make it worth paying millions of dollars to acquire, however many scientific experiments comparing a Stradivarius violin to its contemporaries in both period and quality of construction have not found any noteworthy difference in sound quality.
If that's the case, then why do people pay tens of millions for them? 
Many of the world’s greatest violinists, such as Joshua Bell (pictured), swear by their Stradivarius violins - perhaps quite understandably considering the millions of dollars they spent acquiring one or more of the instruments.
Back in 2003, scientists at Columbia University in the USA cited a higher-than-usual wood density with superior acoustical qualities for the distinctive sound produced by Stradivarius instruments. This increase in wood density was due to reduced solar activity in the 17th Century, which has not been repeated in the time since. Trees that are less exposed to sunlight grow at a slower rate than those that get plenty, thus their density is higher.
The best-sounding Stradivarius violins of all are said to be the ones that have been set up properly, with modifications or additions such as the thickening of the wooden plate, the movement of the sound post and bass bar.
Listen to Anne Akiko Myers play the ex-Napoleon Stradivarius:
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But what makes a Stradivarius violin stand out over others?
The shape of the instrument is said to make a big difference to how it sounds. The many varying Stradivarius shapes are reflective of the master luthier’s pursuit of perfection. Stradivari was constantly trying to produce better and better wares, and took the feedback he was given from musicians who played his violins very seriously.
Above all else, experts agree that the key differentiating factor that Stradivarius violins have over others is their sheer clarity of tone. However, they add that every single instrument produced by Stradivari has a very strong personality of its own, therefore even the best violinist has to take the character of the instrument into account to reap the rewards it can offer.
So which one is the one to have?
The most expensive Stradivarius violin sold to date is the Lady Blunt (pictured above). It fetched $15.9 million at auction back in 2011. It was created during Stradivari’s so-called “Golden” period – between 1700 and the early 1720s – when the master is widely believed to have been producing his very best work. It is one of the two best-preserved Stradivarius violins in the entire world.
Can you pick a Stradivarius violin from its sound alone? Find out with this next video: 

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

20 Classic Cars You Probably Don’t Know (But Should)

1966 Oldsmobile Toronado
1966 Oldsmobile Toronado

The 1966 Toronado was the first American-build front-wheel-drive car in three decades and there was nothing else like it when it was introduced in 1965.

Dubbed as a ‘personal luxury car’ it featured a sleek profile and an extremely masculine styling that perfectly complemented its 425-cubic-inch V8 engine that generated 385 hp and propelled the 4,000-lb beast to a top speed of 120 mph.

The 7.0-liter V8 was mated to GM’s new Turbo-Hydramatic three-speed automatic that sent power from the engine to the front differential. Half shafts then directed the power to the front wheels.
In this four-wheel-drive form, the transmission was called the TH425 which featured a torque converter connected to the planetary gearset by a chain-drive system called the Hy-Vo.

The first generation Toronado lasted from 1996 to 1970. Olds used the Toronado name for 26 years, spanning four generations. Annual updates gave each model year a unique look, particularly up front. Interior styling also changed to give drivers something new to sit behind.

The 1966 model featured a pointed grille and a long nose. The headlights were of the popup variety and the front fenders stretched past the grille. These gave the car a sleek and a one-of-a-kind look.

1969 Dodge Coronet Super Bee 426 Hemi

1969 Dodge Coronet Super Bee 426 Hemi

The Super Bee name has been associated with the Dodge Charger, but the original Super Bee was later used on the Coronet, which was based on the Plymouth Road Runner. The car was produced from 1968 to 1970.

The name “Super Bee” was derived from the “B” Body designation pertinent to the mid-sized cars of Chrysler, including the Charger and the Road Runner. The design of the original Super Bee was inspired by the 1968 Coronet convertible, while the car’s cabin was crafted by the Alexander Brothers.

Although the Super Bee and the Road Runner are similar in terms of looks, the former was slightly heavier  and rode on a 117-inch wheelbase compared to the latter’s 116-inch wheelbase. Aside from trivial external variations like bigger rear wheel openings, fancier grilles, bumblebee tailstripe, and taillight ornamentation, the Super Bee also made use of diecast chrome-plated “Bee” medallions.

The 1968 model was only available as a two-door coupe with two engine choices, the base 335 horsepower 383 Magnum, and the 426 Hemi that blasted out 425 hp. A hardtop version joined the coupe in 1969 and an optional twin-scooped air induction hood became available. This option was called the “Ramcharger”and was the counterpart to the Road Runner’s “Coyote Duster” air induction hood.

A “six-pack” version of Dodge’s 440 cubic-inch engine was added mid-year. These special order 1969 1/2 Super Bees were referred to as A12 M-code cars. The A12 package equipped the cars with a Dana 60 axle, a ‘lift off’ flat black scooped hood, heavy duty automatic or a four-speed gearbox.

Other features of the A12 package included heavy duty internal engine components, 11-inch drum brakes, and black steel rims wrapped in high performance G-70 15″ tires. The 1969 model year included the base 383 Magnum, the 440 Six Pack, and the 426 Hemi.

1971 Stutz Blackhawk
1971 Stutz Blackhawk

1971 was the first production year and generation of the Blackhawk, an American luxury car manufactured through 1987. These hand-crafted cars were marketed as pure luxury with an initial price tag of $22,500. Each of these classic cars took approximately 1,500 hours to build.

The Blackhawk was powered by Pontiac’s 7.5-liter V8 mated to a General Motors TH400 three-speed automatic. With the engine tuned to generate 425 hp and 420 ft·lb of torque, the 5000 lb Blackhawk can accelerate from standstill to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds with a top speed of 130 mph.

Aside from the name, the car bears no other other resemblance to the original Blackhawk. The Stutz Motor Company was given a new lease on life in 1968 by James O’Donnell, a banker from New York.
He collaborated with retired Chrysler designer Virgil Exner who penned the new Blackhawk. Exner’s style included a a massive grille, freestanding headlights, and a spare tire that protruded through the trunk lid. Ghia prototyped the new Blackhawk in Italy to the tune of $300,000.

The Blackhawk made its debut in early 1970 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. All early models were coupes, but rare sedans were built later. The convertible versions were known as Bearcat and D’Italia. Stutz Blackhawks were the preferred rides among elite entertainers of the day.

By 1976 Stutz had sold a total of 205 Blackhawks and six units were hand-built every month in Italy and then shipped to the United States. By 1980, 350 Blackhawks had been sold and when production ceased in 1987, approximately 500 to 600 of these classic cars had been produced.

1958 Buick Century Caballero Station Wagon
1958 Buick Caballero Station Wagon

The Caballero is one of the automotive world’s rarest and most expensive wagon ever produced. It was only manufactured from 1957 to 1958 and was called a ‘pillar-less’ hardtop. Buick positioned it near the upper end of the market.

Under the hood was the company’s new ‘Nailhead’ V8 that cranked out 300 hp on the Century models, and 325 hp with the optional ‘tri-power’ carburetion. The engine is mated to a Dynaflow automatic gearbox with a new Variable Pitch feature. These classic cars were quick and endowed with an extensive list of equipment and luxury amenities.

With a design inspired by the Centurion’s 1956 ‘dream car’, Buick released an all-new line of automobiles for 1957. The cars were easily distinguished with their elegant interpretation of Buick’s conventional ‘Sweep Spear’ side trim, dipper rear beltline, and full wheel openings.

Vertical grille bars, ‘Venti-Port’ trims on the front fenders, and vertical rear taillights were all in keeping with the latest Buick design trends at the time. The wagon has a curb weight of 2120 kg, but it has decent acceleration and fuel economy rating.

It can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 9.9 seconds and blitzes the quarter mile in 17.4 seconds. Theoretical top speed has been pegged at 116 mph.

1969 Marcos 3.0 GT
1969 Marcos 3.0 GT

New at the 1968 London Show was the more potent Marcos 3-liter. Equipped with the double-carb Ford Essex V6 and transmission from the Ford Zodiac, production kicked off in January 1969.

Maximum power is 140 bhp and aside from the badging, the car is easily recognized by the huge central hood bulge that was needed to clear the massive engine.

The 3-liter came with a 4-speed manual with a Laycock-de-Normanville Overdrive for the third and fourth gears. A twin-carbureted 3-liter Volvo B30 straight-six was offered in December 1969. Two years later, 11 or 12 cars were powered by the 150 bhp Triumph 2.5-liter straight-six.

These engines were called the Marcos 2.5-liter. Since the hood was a close fit over the bigger engines, a corresponding variation in the hood design was needed with regard to the modifications intended to clear engine air intakes.

All inline-sixes required an angular bulge right of center on the hood in order to clear the carburetors. Later in 1969, V6 cars, like their four-cylinder counterparts, were given a new steel chassis. The original monocoque chassis was made of high-grade plywood. Either 100 or 119 of these wood-chassied six-cylinder cars were produced.

The Ford V6 variant accelerated to over 120 mph, but the Volvo-engined model wasn’t far behind it. With sales in the United States going strong, production of the Marcos 3.0 was up to three per week so the automaker had to invest in a larger facility in 1969.

Cars for the North American market were powered by Volvo’s inline-six cylinder, 3 liter engines bolted to Borg-Warner Type 35 automatic transmissions. They have a higher ride height and no headlight covers – all of these were made to attain US road certification.

1969 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II
1969 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II

The Spoiler II was a special edition model built to satisfy the burgeoning performance car market of the 1960s. It was was specifically designed and developed to meet NASCAR’s certification requirement and go toe-to-toe against Ford’s Torino Talladega.

The car was based on the Mercury Cyclone “Sportsroof” two-door hardtop and it was only sold to the public because homologation rules required at least 500 cars (the minimum back in 1969) be produced and offered for sale to the public. All production models were built during the first few weeks of 1969.

The design featured a flush-mounted grille and a stretched, tapered nose. The car also had re-rolled rocker panels so it could be lowered without violating the ride-height requirements of NASCAR. Two trim packages were offered: the Cale Yarborough Specials in Candy Apple Red over Wimbledon White, and the Dan Gurney Special in Presidential Blue and Wimbledon White.

The exact number of Cyclone Spoiler IIs that were produced is unknown, but it is believed to be somewhere between 300 and 500. These classic cars were powered by the 351 cubic-inch Windsor engine rated at 290 horsepower. Also produced was a standard-nosed model called Cyclone Spoiler, which was available with the same trim packages.

A sleeker front end was added to make the Spoiler II more aerodynamic at high speeds. Regular production Cyclones had an insert grille and headlights, but the Spoiler II had the nose replaced because it fared poorly in wind tunnel tests.

In a secret design move, the car’s rocker panels were reshaped and rolled so Mercury teams can run their racing cars approximately an inch closer to the ground while remaining within NASCAR regulations. This also significantly improved the car’s top speed by lowering its center of gravity and reducing wind resistance.

1965 Rambler Marlin
1965 Rambler Marlin

American Motors advertised the Marlin as the latest addition to its self-designed “Sensible Spectaculars” model range. Based on the 1964 Rambler Tarpon, the Marlin was officially introduced to the public on February 10, 1965 and released to dealer showrooms on March 19.

New car introductions back in the 1960s were a big deal and were frequently accompanied by extensive publicity and special invitations. As such, the Marlin was advertised in 2,400 newspapers on its debut and the news releases of American Motors positioned it as intended for buyers who want a sporty fastback that was also comfortable and roomy.

The Marlin was American Motors’ first model after the muscle car launches of the ’60s and the car was meant to outflank rivals as a vehicle they didn’t offer – a strategy now known as “niche marketing”. It was also one of the first American classic cars with front disc brakes as standard.
The Marlin followed the trademark design cues of the Plymouth Barracuda, Mustang 2+2, Ford Galaxie “Sports Roof”, and the 1965 fastback models from GM, including the Chevy Impala “Sport Coupe” models.

Standard equipment included deluxe exterior trim, front and rear center armrests when bucket seats were chosen, individual reclining front seats, and interiors from American Motors’ two-door Ambassador model, including the instrument panel and the dashboard.

1977 Lancia Scorpion
1977 Lancia Scorpion

The Lancia Scorpion is actually an imitation. In Europe it was known as the Beta Montecarlo and had 120 hp, but due to regulations when it came to the U.S., the car’s output dropped to a measly 81 hp. At the time Chevrolet already had the Monte Carlo name in the bag, so it went with Scorpion.

Spider versions of the Montecarlo sported a unique roll-back targa style convertible top that was manually operated. Based on the Abarth 030 prototype, the Montecarlo was known as the X1/8 while in development. It was aimed to be a Fiat-badged sibling to the Fiat X1/9. It had the same mid-engined setup, with a bigger engine and more spacious interior.

The car was handed over to Lancia and was built by Pininfarina in Turin, Italy. Production ran from 1975 to 1979 for the first series (S1). The second series (S2) was launched in 1980 but production ceased the following year.

The American market Lancia Scorpion differed from the Monte Carlo in several ways. It was powered by a smaller engine (1756 cc) because the 1995 cc motor in the Monte Carlo failed to comply with U.S. emissions standards. Due to the decrease in engine size and the installation of smog equipment, the Scorpion’s power output was significantly reduced.

The Scorpion featured semi pop-up headlights and the 1976 cars had solid rear buttresses. All Scorpions had the convertible top, and unlike the Monte Carlo, it only saw one production run. A total of 1,801 of these classic cars were built in 1976.

1965 Plymouth Belvedere II
1965 Plymouth Belvedere II

In 1965, Plymouth decided to make the Fury a full-size car again, so the Belvedere became the marque’s intermediate size offering, though it saw little updates and most dimensions remained the same. The Plymouth Fury was simply enlarged to restore a full-sized range which Plymouth had been lacking.

The Belvedere line was categorized into the Belvedere I, Belvedere II and the potent Satellite subseries. The latter was only offered as a convertible or as a hardtop coupe. These classic cars were powered by the 4.47-liter “LA block” V8 as the standard engine. Additional V8s were also offered including the 318, 361, 383, and the 426-S Wedge Head.

The Belvedere I was available as a station wagon or a 2- and 4-door sedan. The Belvedere II added a convertible and a nine-passenger station wagon.The Satellite convertible was the lineup’s most exclusive bodystyle, with production numbers reaching 1,860 units.

The sales figure was almost matched by the Belvedere II convertible, which saw 1,921 units built for 1965. The most sought after were the four-door sedans, with 35,968 and 41,445 units built for the Belvedere I and Belvedere II, respectively.

For 1965, the Belvedere name was dropped as a level of trim designation. It was used instead on intermediate size cars. Aside from the additional bodystyles, the differences between the Belvedere I and Belvedere II were extra accessories.

The Belvedere I had a heater, defroster, seat belts in the front, and blackwall tires. The Belvedere II came will all the standard equipment on the Belvedere I, plus special trim and upholstery, carpeting, foam cushions, and back-up lights.

1959 DeSoto Firedome
1959 DeSoto Firedome

Everyone knows the sleek and stylish Cadillac Eldorados from the 1950s. The DeSoto Firedome was an equally good-looking car which was often overlooked at the time. Owned by Chrysler, DeSoto manufactured the Firedome from 1952 to 1959.

Under the bonnet of the 1959 DeSoto Firedome was an overhead valve 383 cubic inch V-8 that produced 305 horsepower and 410 lb-ft. of torque. DeSoto offered four bodystyles including a convertible coupe, a two-door Sportsman, a four-door sedan and Sportsman.

Only 299 units of the convertible coupe were sold in 1959, making it the rarest in the Firedome range. The most coveted was the four-door sedan, of which 9,171 examples were produced. A three-speed manual transmission was standard with an automatic offered for an additional cost. Swivel front seats and silver color sweeps were also optional.

Standard list of amenities included all the equipment found in the Firesweep, plus variable speed windshield wipers, back-up lights, wheel covers, rear foam cushions, and carpets in the front and rear. Midway through the production year, the automaker added a padded dash, plaid upholstery, and custom steering wheel.

With an estimated curb weight of 1820 kg, the Firedome was pretty fast, accelerating from zero to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds and topping out 119 miles per hour. Average fuel consumption was rated at 14 miles per gallon.

1962 Studebaker Avanti
1962 Studebaker Avanti

The Avanti is a luxury coupe produced by the Studebaker Corporation from June 1962 to December 1963. The automaker advertised the Avanti as America’s only four passenger high-performance car. It was also described as one of the most important milestones of the postwar auto industry.

The Avanti smashed 29 records at the Bonneville Salt Flats. The first private owner was Rodger Ward who received the car after winning the 1962 Indianapolis 500. The Avanti was officially introduced to the public in April 1962, simultaneously at the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting and at the New York International Automobile Show.

The car was developed under the supervision of Studebaker president Sherwood Egbert. The design theme of the Avanti was the product of sketches Egbert drew casually on a jet-plane flight, 37 days after he became president of the company in February 1961.

Formal design was made by Raymond Loewy’s team of Bob Andrews, Tom Kellogg, and John Ebstein. The Avanti featured a fiberglass body mounted on the modified convertible chassis of the Studebaker Lark Daytona. The car was powered by a modified 289 Hawk engine.

The complex body shape of the Avanti would have been difficult and expensive to build in steel, so Studebaker decided to mold the exterior panels in fiberglass. The work was outsourced to Molded Fiberglass Body in Ashtabula, Ohio. It was the same firm that manufactured the fiberglass panels for the Chevy Corvette in 1953.

1967 DeTomaso Mangusta
1967 DeTomaso Mangusta (Ghia)

The Mangusta is a sports car manufactured and marketed by Italian automaker De Tomaso from 1967 to 1971. The word “mangusta” is Italian for mongoose, an animal known for its ability to kill cobras.
Rumor has it that the car was so named because De Tomaso was engaged in talks with Carroll Shelby about replacing the Shelby Cobra with a racing car to be produced in Italy.

However, no agreements were signed because Shelby became busy with the Ford GT40 racing program. Nonetheless. Argentine-born Alejandro de Tomaso and Carroll Shelby were buddies and business is business, so it was also speculated that the first batch of engines for the Mangusta may have been provided by Shelby.

A total of 401 Mangustas were produced, about 150 of the European model and the rest were the North American version. The first cars were said to have a more potent Ford HiPo 289 cu-in. engine, while the later cars were all powered by Ford 302 engines.

For the European version, the Mangusta was originally equipped with a mid-mounted Ford 289 V8 engine rated at 306 hp. In the North American market, the Mangusta was available with a 221 hp Ford 302 V8, driving through a five-speed ZF transaxle.

Giorgetto Giugiaro was responsible for the design of the car, which is easily distinguished by its gull-wing doors over the engine and luggage compartment. The Mangusta’s independent suspension, all round disc brakes, rack and pinion steering, were ahead of other automakers of the time.

1956 Buick Centurion
1956 Buick Centurion

The Buick Centurion Concept was another GM/Buick car with fighter jet aesthetics. It was introduced to the public at the 1956 Motorama Show. The body had been crafted from fiberglass, while the cabin drew inspiration from the cockpit of an airplane.

The Centurion’s full glass bubble roof was a daring and dynamic design move. The aerodynamic features start up front and graciously flowed through the rest of the car. The two-tone paint job was highlighted by the red interior and white-wall tires.

Power was supplied by a 325 horsepower V8 engine concealed under the long hood which sloped toward the grille. The headlights were were part of the body shell and mounted far behind the bumper. Inside, the passengers receive fresh air through twin air scoops located near the sides.

The rear of the Centurion was just as revolutionary, with its ‘wing-type’ fenders that later appeared on the 1959 Buick and Chevy models. There was also a TV camera in the rear that reported traffic updates to the driver through a TV screen mounted on the dashboard.

The cabin was trimmed in brushed bright metal and red leather. The front seats automatically slide back when a passenger opens the door, offering added space for easy entry and exit.

1964 Sunbeam Tiger
1964 Sunbeam Tiger

The Sunbeam Tiger is a high-performance variant of the British Rootes Group’s Sunbeam Alpine roadster, which had four cylinders compared to the Tiger’s eight. The car was designed in part by legendary American race car driver Carroll Shelby and it was produced from 1964 to 1967.

Shelby had conducted a similar V-8 conversion on the AC Cobra, and at that time he was hoping to be offered the contract to build the Tiger at his factory in the United States. However, Rootes decided to contract the production work to Jensen Motors Ltd at West Bromwich in England, and pay Carroll Shelby a royalty for every car built.

The Tiger was developed with the objective of competing against the Jaguar E-Type, so that tells you a lot right there. Two versions of the Tiger were produced: the Mark I (1964 to 67) which was powered by a 4.3-liter Ford V8; and the the Mark II which came equipped with the bigger Ford 4.7-liter engine.
Two prototypes and highly modified versions of the Mark I were entered into the 1964 24 Hours of Le Mans, but neither managed to complete the race. The Tiger also competed in European rallies with some success, and for two years it was the AHRA’s record holder over a quarter-mile drag strip.

Production ceased in 1967 shortly after the Rootes Group was acquired by Chrysler, which didn’t have an engine that could replace the Ford V8. Thanks to the ease and affordability of modifying the Tiger, a few examples have survived in standard form.

1969 Saab Sonnett II
1966 Saab Sonnett II

In the early 1960's, Walter Kern, an engineer at MIT, and Björn Karlström, an aircraft and automotive illustrator, independently proposed a two-seat roadster with Saab parts and a two-stroke engine known as the “Shrike”. Two prototypes were built: the Saab Catherina by Sixten Sason and the Saab MFI13 by Malmö Flygindustri.

After some changes, the MFI13 was put into a limited production run in 1966 as the Sonnett II. A total of 28 units were made at the Aktiebolaget Svenska Järnvägsverkstäderna in Arlöv. All were were left hand drive and equipped with 841 cc three-cylinder two-stroke engines.

Another 230 units were produced in 1967, but as the 2-stroke engine became uncompetitive in the American market, the Ford Taunus V4 was used instead and the model was renamed the Sonnett V4.
Aside from the engine, the Sonnett II and Sonnett V4 share multiple components. Roughly 50 percent of the Sonnett II production survived and had been preserved or maintained by collectors, museums, and race enthusiasts.

The fiberglass body of the Sonnett II was bolted to a box-type chassis and a roll-bar was added to support the hard top. The front hood section moved forward to provide easy access to the engine, gearbox, and front suspension.

When powered by a three-cylinder, two-stroke engine rated at 60 hp, the Sonnett II accelerated from zero to 62 mph in 12.5 seconds, with a top speed of 93 mph. The Sonnett II successfully competed in Sports Car Club of America races against other European roadsters like the Triumph Spitfire and the Austin-Healey Sprite.

1958 Firebird III
1958 GM Firebird III

General Motors built the Firebird III in 1958 and introduced it to the public the following year at Motorama. It was the most influential of the Motorama Firebirds and the only member of the Firebird trio to have a direct impact on the design of GM production vehicles.

It is a lavish concept with a titanium skin and seven short wings and tail fins that went through rigorous wind tunnel testing. It is a two-seater driven by a 225 horsepower Whirlfire GT-305 gas turbine engine. A two-cylinder 10 horsepower gasoline engine powered all the accessories.

The exterior styling features a double-bubble canopy and some technical headway to make it more practical, like air conditioning, cruise control, and anti-lock brakes. The car also featured “Space-Age” innovations like special air drag brakes similar to those found on an aircraft.

The brakes emerge from flat panels in the bodywork to slow down the car from high speeds. Other amenities include an “ultra-sonic” key that opened the doors, and an automated guidance system to help prevent accidents. Steering was controlled through a joystick located between the two seats. This gave the Firebird III a more futuristic feel and mimicked the experience of flying an airplane.

The Firebird III broke several styling rules of legendary GM designer Harley Earl, and this was one of the reasons the car became such an integral design. There were no parallel lines and the car came with very little chrome.

1955 Cadillac LaSalle Roadster II
1955 Cadillac LaSalle Roadster II

The LaSalle Roadster II is a concept car developed by General Motors. During the mid ’50s, some GM executives decided to revive the LaSalle nameplate which was a sister brand to Cadillac. GM design chief Harley Earl was delighted with the idea and instructed his crew at the Art & Colour Section to come up with two different concepts.

One was a small roadster that was introduced alongside a six-passenger sports coupe. Both vehicles were named LaSalle II to signify the reemergence of the brand. Buck Rogers handled the styling of the new LaSalles and he used some bold design cues, together with some features from LaSalle’s production cars.

The concept was officially unveiled at the 1955 GM Motorama. Some of the car’s peculiar traits included a vertical slatted grille, side exhaust, open rear wheels, and floating Dagmar bumperettes. None of these features were worthy of production, but they helped in distinguishing the LaSalle from the car it borrowed a lot from – the Corvette.

GM engineers devised a unibody construction that depended on strength provided by the side sills of the chassis. These helped in containing the exhaust which likely easily overheated the cabin, particularly in the coupe. Sadly, GM installed fake V6 engines with a concept valve train which included dual overhead camshafts.

1955 Chevrolet Biscayne XP-37
1955 Chevrolet Biscayne XP-37

The Biscayne XP-37 was a showcase car for the new 4.3-liter V-8 Chevy engine, which would later play into Corvairs, Corvettes, Eldorados and Rivieras. General Motors touted this 4-door, 4-passenger, pillar-less hardtop as ‘an exploration in elegance.’

Featured in the 1955 Motorama, the car wowed the press and the automotive world in general with its futuristic styling cues. The front end certainly drew the most attention. Whether it looks like Hannibal Lecter’s mask or Bane’s mask, it’s a face that commands a second look.

With a panoramic windshield, a series of vertical grille bars, thin mustache bumpers, long fairings for the headlights, side coves that wrapped around the rear, swiveling front seats, suicide rear doors, and a brilliant Atlantic Green paint job, the Biscayne implied some future Corvette design nuances.

The Biscayne’s wraparound windshield curled into the roofline, which in turn drifted rearward into the triangular-shaped C-pillars. The essence of the Corvair is also apparent, especially in rear views of this concept.

There were no side windows, and the switches for the power windows were dummies as were the instruments. As a matter of fact, aside from some motors and servos that opened the doors on the show floor, there were really no electrical systems. The Biscayne didn’t even have a fuel tank or a conventional car battery.

1974 AMC Javelin AMX
1974 AMC Javelin AMX

The Javelin was introduced for the 1968 model year, but it was only in 1971 that American Motors Corporation launched a marketing campaign, advertising the car as “the closest thing you can buy to a Trans-Am champion.”

By mid 1974, Chrysler had left the pony car market, while Ford decided to replace its original Mustang with a 4-cylinder version. Other pony car manufacturers followed suit and downsized their engines. The big engine option of the Javelin soldiered on until production of the model came to an end in October/November 1974.
The 1974 AMX didn’t fare well when compared to the new Camaro, the downsized Mustang II and the Firebird – all of which saw increased sales. Meanwhile, Javelin production hit a second-generation high of 27,696 units, of which 4,980 Javelin-AMX models were built for the final model year.

The cowl-induction fiberglass hood was no longer offered for 1974, and the power output of the 6.6-liter V8 engine dropped by 20 ponies. A new feature was the seatbelt interlock system which prevented the car from starting if the driver and a front passenger were unbuckled.

A number of factors contributed to the demise of the Javelin, primarily the economic situation at the time. Unlike the Camaro and the Firebird, 1974 Javelin models were not exempt from the new front and rear bumper standards.

According to AMC’s estimate, about $12 million would be spent in design and engineering work to revise the bumpers so they would comply with the new standards for 1975. American Motors also launched the new 1974 Matador coupe that competed with the Javelin for “boss” muscle car styling”.

1956 Pontiac Club de Mer

1956 Pontiac Club de Mer

The Club de Mer was an experimental, purpose-built car that was developed by Pontiac for the GM Motorama in 1956 to celebrate the company’s commitment to futuristic design.

The ‘de Mer’ was a two-door sport roadster that integrated innovative styling such as the sleek, low-profile body housing a massive engine, a design trend that was widely used in LSR trials at Bonneville Salt Flats during the 1950's.

A ‘de Mer’ prototype was built and introduced, along with a ¼-scale model, in Miami. As per General Motors’ kill order, it was scrapped in 1958. Only the model owned by Joseph Bortz of Illinois exists today. The model was sold by Bortz for $75,000 to renowned car collector Ron Pratt in 2007 at the Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction.

The design of the “de Mer” drew inspiration from contemporary aircraft construction of its time. It featured a stainless steel monocoque, individual windscreens, concealed headlights, a single rear-deck dorsal fin, and an aerodynamic fascia that drifted down from the hood to cover most of the grille.

Also used were two “silver-streaks” that cascaded into low-profile hood scoops. The overall design of the body was a smooth profile, similar to a supersonic jet fighter, with nearly no protrusions or recesses save for the fin and the out-vents on the leading edge of both doors.


The largest underground lake in the US is in Craighead Caverns in Tennessee

It seems that simple child’s play discovered the vast caverns of Tennessee. Ben Sands, a 13-year-old boy that was playing in the cave in 1905, stumbled upon an opening and crawled through. What he discovered was a room that was so large, he was unable to see how far it stretched, so he threw mudballs to determine the size of the area.

What he discovered was a room that was so large, he was unable to see how far it stretched, so he threw mudballs to determine the size of the area.

The people back home didn’t believe his “childish story,” so he convinced his father to explore the cave together, but the water had risen, rendering the opening impassable.
Entrance to Craighead "Lost Sea" Caverns
Entrance to Craighead “Lost Sea” Caverns. 
Located between Sweetwater and Madisonville, Tennessee, the Craighead Caverns are famous for The Lost Sea.

The cave is adorned with a waterfall and anthodites (crystal clusters that are known as “cave flowers”) and various stalactites and stalagmites. The caverns were named after a Cherokee Native American chief. Located in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, they were used as a place of gathering by the Cherokee, since many Native American artifacts, jewelry, pottery, and weapons were found.

The caverns were named after a Cherokee Native American chief. Located in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, they were used as a place of gathering by the Cherokee, since many Native American artifacts, jewelry, pottery, and weapons were found.
The Smoky Mountains, viewed from atop Mount Le Conte.
The Smoky Mountains viewed from atop Mount Le Conte.
Later, it had been used as a Confederate mine for saltpeter, a resource necessary for making gunpowder. Sources report an intriguing story about a Union soldier who was assigned to sabotage the Confederate mining operation. He was caught and killed near the gum tree at the entrance of the cave.
Sources report an intriguing story about a Union soldier who was assigned to sabotage the Confederate mining operation. He was caught and killed near the gum tree at the entrance of the cave.
Crystal formation in the caverns. Photo Credit
Crystal formation in the caverns. 
During the 1800's, the cave was used for food storage as well, because of the convenient underground temperature of 14 degrees Celsius. Moonshiners also took advantage of the caverns for clandestine operations of making alcoholic beverages, and one of the large areas was even used for cockfights and as a dance hall in 1915.

Moonshiners also took advantage of the caverns for clandestine operations of making alcoholic beverages, and one of the large areas was even used for cockfights and as a dance hall in 1915.

The bony remains of a Pleistocene jaguar (a feline from a geological epoch which lasted from about 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago) were found in 1939, by a group of explorers named Jack Kyker and Clarence Hicks. Their find was reported to Dr. W. J. Cameron and W. E. Michael, the then current owners of the cave, and the discovery was quickly submitted to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Their find was reported to Dr. W. J. Cameron and W. E. Michael, the then current owners of the cave, and the discovery was quickly submitted to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

A famous paleontologist, G. G. Simpson, visited the Craighead Caverns in May 1940, and he recovered additional jaguar bones and made casts of several jaguar footprints on the mud floor of the cave. His excavation and findings are reported in American Museum Novitates and the report contains photographs of the bones and footprints.

His excavation and findings are reported in American Museum Novitates and the report contains photographs of the bones and footprints.
The American paleontologist G. G. Simpson. Photo Credit
The American paleontologist G. G. Simpson. 
The visible surface of the lake measures 800 feet (240 m) long and 220 feet (67 m) wide. It is 4.5 acres at normal “full” capacity, but not even modern technology is capable of precisely assessing the vast reaches of the lake. An exploration that was conducted in the 1970s where cave divers were assigned to explore many rooms that were filled with water, without reaching the end of the cave.
An exploration that was conducted in the 1970s where cave divers were assigned to explore many rooms that were filled with water, without reaching the end of the cave.

More than 13 acres of water have been mapped so far, but the lake’s size still hasn’t been determined. Beneath the calm waters of the four-and-a-half acre lake, divers have discovered an even larger series of rooms completely filled with water. More than 13 acres of water have been mapped so far and still no end to the lake has been found. One diver ventured into the rooms, equipped with a sonar device to measure out the area, but has only found more water.

More than 13 acres of water have been mapped so far and still no end to the lake has been found. One diver ventured into the rooms, equipped with a sonar device to measure out the area, but has only found more water.

Tours are available for this national landmark, as many eager tourists line up; they begin with a ¾ mile round-trip walk on a sloping path walk through the caverns.

The tour guides talk about the caves’ colorful history and geological formations. At the bottom of the cave, there are glass-bottomed boat rides where tourists explore the lake.

Daily tours last about an hour and fifteen minutes.
The visitor's centre - Craighead Caverns. Photo Credit
The visitor’s center – Craighead Caverns. Photo Credit
Craighead Caverns was added to the National Park Service list of National Natural Landmarks in 1974 and it is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as America’s largest underground lake. The wonder is still heavily visited today and the unexplored deeps remain a challenge for adventurers.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

8 Reasons Why 30’s Are Better Than 20’s

Life doesn't end when you're over your 20's! Ok, nobody makes that point, but if they did, you could easily tell them that 30's are even better! Need visual proof? We've got them.

Lifehack has come up with 8 scenarios where 30's beat 20's by a long shot. From figuring out your individual style to understanding what friendships and relationships are all about. Even if you're in this position right now and feel a bit lost, don't worry and don't push yourself too much, because there aren't many things that time couldn't fix.

Now get down there and vote for the ultimate truth of how 30's kicks 20's butt!

20s Vs 30s 

20s Vs 30s 

20s Vs 30s 

20s Vs 30s 

20s Vs 30s 

20s Vs 30s

20s Vs 30s 

20s Vs 30s