Detroit Lions?

December 31, 2013 at 4:00 pm
How did two of these end up in GM's collection?

How did two of these end up in GM’s collection?

I was doing some web surfing on Christmas afternoon: sitting on my parents couch, one eye on an NBA game and smelling the ham in the oven when I came across an old news item. Remember when GM did some cleaning and sent some of the cars from their Heritage Center Collection to the Barrett Jackson Auction in 2009? I was looking over the list of cars and two items stuck out. Two Grey 1985 Peugeot 205 Turbos. Why would GM have two Group B Supercars in their collection? I know manufacturers buy each others cars to get an up close and personal view of what everyone else is doing but it’s strange to own two cars that were of very limited production and not for sale in the US at the time. Was GM thinking of making a Group B Opel to fight the 205 and others on the WRC stage?

Looking at this closer, one of the cars is listed as “Active”. During the second half of the 1980’s GM was heavily involved in developing “active suspension”. GM had a fleet of Corvettes developing and testing the system in hopes that it would debut on the 1990 ZR1. The system (which was also being developed by then GM owned Lotus) was used in the Corvette GTP cars being raced on the IMSA circut. Perhaps these cars were used as mules to develop active suspension for the Corvette and at the end of their time ended up in the GM collection.

Doing some research on these cars I stumbled across the website . One of the post on the site was about the Peugeot 206 that Sebastien Loeb used to dominate Pikes Peak in the Summer of 2013. One comment under the post came from a man identified as “Patrick Peal” who commented:

“Having worked on a heavily-modified Peugeot 205T16 as a development hack for an Active Suspension project at Lotus back in the last millennium, I’m delighted to see Peugeot taking on Pike’s Peak with this feast of technology. Awesome!”

A quick search of Mr.Peel  online found that he worked for Lotus as a development engineer in consultancy work and later became engineering sales and head of Communications. So I sent an email to Mr. Peel and here’s what he had to say.

“Thank you for your email, which brought back a lot of very happy memories. So much so that last night I dreamt I was sitting in the driver’s seat of a full works T16 trying to work out how to start it! (Clearly it wasn’t one of the two cars we had at Lotus…)

This was indeed all to do with the engineering relationship between GM and Lotus. The Active Suspension development originally conceived for the F1 team in 81/82 became a major technical offering for Lotus Engineering which ultimately grew into a suite of active systems for vehicle dynamics control.

But back to your question – yes, in 84 or so we secured a massive contract from GM to develop active systems which would be showcased in the Corvette Indy showcar ( )

By this time we’d already built several cars with active suspension for GM – the first contract was for a couple of sedans as R&D cars, and we also did a truck as a show car. We’d also worked with Volvo and had sold an idea for creating active rear steer to them which worked incredibly well (it was at least +- 5 degrees of steer and may have been +-15 degrees – I can’t remember. But it was more than enough to control the steer response not just trim it.).

So we had already gone beyond just active suspension.

The concept we were working towards for the Indy was ‘active everything’ – suspension, rear steer, front/rear torque distribution and front steer – and lots of performance. So we needed some new tech and some mule vehicles to try it out on. 

We knew we needed some cars that would have lots of performance, four wheel drive and ideally quite easy to modify. We did look at building something from scratch but not for this project – so we looked at the then current crop of Gp B rally cars and analysed all the cars around at the time. The Metro 6R4 was a possible as was the Ford RS200 but we eventually bought the last two 205 T16’s from Peugeot Sport (Andre de Cortanze was my contact).

Of course when they were delivered to Lotus they were brand new so we had to run them in as road cars…that was a hoot! I took one from my home to Brighton for the weekend to visit some friends…I discovered pretty early on that if I gave it full throttle for an instant and then backed off I could get a huge flame out of the exhaust. Made for a good effect in the high street at night…

We also decided that the 240bhp of the ‘standard’ car wasn’t enough, bearing in mind the power drains from the hydraulic systems and the added weight, so we bought the Club upgrade which gave us 300bhp.

I could go on (and on) but here are some highlights I can remember:

We modified the four-wheel drive with a second differential driven by a hydraulic motor (check out a Tamiya model tank drive system to see what I mean – that’s what we did!) so that we could control exactly the speed of the front axle compared to the speed of the rear axle and therefore control slip.

To do so, we had to compare wheel speed and true vehicle speed (longitudinally and laterally) which was a challenge – we ended up using two Leitz Correvit optical speed sensors mounted behind the passenger seat. They were a bit like two massive telephoto lenses and were a pig to install, calibrate and keep working. We had to calibrate the lateral speed sensor using a belt sander as a ‘road surface’ whose belt speed we could measure.

One car was built with active suspension and the four wheel drive so we could sort that out while the second ended up with the steer systems as well, so it was the full mule for the Corvette Indy. 

Front steer was weird – basically the steering wheel could be mechanically disconnected from the steering rack (with an emergency reconnecting clutch if things went wrong…) and then it was just used as an input to the computer. You could have opposite-sense steer – turn the wheel to the right and the car would go left – or even load-steer when the wheel wouldn’t move but applying load one way or the other generated a steer response.

And of course rear steer could play whatever static tricks we could dream up as well. Same-sense or opposite-sense giving crabbing motion or a very rapid rate of rotation with a small turning circle. In fact one of the silly party tricks was to apply full lock and full throttle and get massive burnouts in a ridiculously small circle – two very black very small concentric circles on the test track, not much bigger than the wheelbase of the car…oh and a dizzy driver!

So once we’d sorted out all the systems, the main project was to build the Corvette Indy. I didn’t get involved with that one but I seem to remember there were some problems which made it difficult to run. Shame cos the systems were awesome.

We were all very sad to say goodbye to the two Pugs when they were shipped to GM at the end of the project”.

So mystery solved. The Peugeot 205’s in the GM collection were from the time when Lotus was testing active suspension for projects such as the Corvette Indy. Thank you Mr Peal for your response and solving an interesting mystery.

Any other automotive mysteries out there, send them to Sons of Taki.

A Sons of Taki 2013 Year in Review

December 28, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Our first year was a fun and interesting one at Sons of Taki. On behalf of Jeff and Matt, thanks for reading, making comments and telling us we’re not complete idiots for doing this. 2014 is shaping up to be  an exciting one as well. We just won’t hype it up like Lotus and then fail to deliver the goods.

In the meantime, here’s some Sons of Taki Moments from 2013.

We Launch A Website

I remember siting with Jeff and Matt on a snowy winter late January Sunday at the Starbucks in Braintree brainstorming ideas for what would become Sons of Taki. We talked about what we wanted to be, what we wanted the site to look like and most importantly what did we want to call it. I forget how it came about but we pulled up the video of Taki Inoue getting hit by the medical car which got us rolling on the ground. From there it was easy coming up with the name. Then the night after the Daytona 500 we put our money where are mouth was and bought the domain.

The Sound of Metal In a Wood Chipper

Back in March while driving to Rhode Island to have dinner with Jeff, the CEL light came on in the Leggy. I didn’t think much of it as the car was prone to random misfires and light ups. As I was getting past the point of no return (where I was closer to Jeff’s house than my house) the car started making stranger noises, a crackle here and there. I made it to Jeff’s, had dinner with him and white knuckled it back the hour drive to my house with the car sounding worse and worse. I was dreading motor issues.

The next day Matt and I were off to world of wheels in Boston, Matt was going to meet me at our local repair shop so I could drop the Leggy off and then go with Matt. As you know by the now, the Leggy didn’t make it and got a ride from AAA.

One month later and finally being lucky that Subaru decided to be nice I had a new shortblock in the Leggy.

Alpine White BMW’s

Jeff’s obsession with Alpine White BMW’s reached a new level when he got rid of his pristine E46 ZHP and bought a 95 E36 M3 (Alpine White of course). A man who lives in a city in the Northeast must not be right trying to keep two white BMW’s semi clean and not dinged.

The Deal of Century

Everyone has a great buying a car story and dealing with salespeople who are close to Genghis Khan on the people you wouldn’t trust category. SOT took it to a whole new level when Matt bought a new GMC Terrain and the sales person was…Matt’s father. The memorable moment of these negotiation was when Matt’s father (FYI, Matt and I are brothers so he’s my dad as well) was caught in between being a father and being a salesperson when trying to answer Matt’s question of how much money should he put down as a down payment.

The Baltimore Grand Prix Trip

When Jeff decided to take the plunge and get married, he asked me to be his best man, which in turn means a motoring related bachelor party. The whole story can’t be told on this site but in short we got to see the best wreck at an ALMS race in a long time, had to send a search party out for someone at one point and things occurred that racing legends such as Innes Ireland and Gerry Marshall would be proud of.

We’re Surrounded By Rednecks

Sportscar racing wasn’t the only racing we took in live during 2013. Matt (being a trooper and coming off of a 24 hour shift at work )and I attended the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The race was dominated by Matt Kenseth but what really stood out was the kid in front of us who decided to go full redneck and rock a mullet wig, daisy dukes and a plaid shirt to his waist.

Where the hell are they?

You know who your friends are when you go on a wild goose chase with them to find an automotive graveyard; end up wandering around a quarry in the Catskills for an entire afternoon and both of you come back alive and are still friends (I think). The chase doesn’t stop there as you search for answers, find people, get lied to and then get the real deal.

That’s as much as we can tell you for right now about the story. We’ll be rolling it out something during the first half of 2014.

Check back in 2014 as we’ll be posting more automotive ramblings, buying more Alpine White BMW’s, saving lives, and throwing more money at a Pig from Fuji. The first Sons of Taki Movie will be coming out and maybe a podcast or two. Make sure you follow us on Twitter and try to guess who is tweeting what.

Would I Buy Another? My Life with the Fuji Pig

December 24, 2013 at 3:24 pm

I just recently I received the title to my 2008 Subaru Legacy GT; it’s car I bought brand new on September 7, 2008 from Clay Subaru. It’s first car I bought brand new and I’m also proud to say I paid it off a few months early.

After five years of Leggy ownership I ask myself the question would I buy another? Leggy ownership has been an experience of highs and lows with the highs putting a big smile on my face and the lows putting me into tears. Let’s reflect on the good and bad so far.

The thing I love the most about the Leggy is that it’s the can do anything car, the three things that allow for this are size, power and all wheel drive. I can hoon it in all seasons, throw camera gear in it and take it to important meetings and it’s never out of place. It’s the WRX for those of us who have grown up, maybe settled down a little but still desire Subaru performance.

On the subject of performance, the Leggy offers perfect performance for the daily driver with 240 horsepower on tap with three levels of throttle response; sport being the happy medium of power and not hitting hyperdrive every time you step on the loud pedal. A solid performer stock, I’ve added a Cobb catback exhaust, Cobb sport springs and Ralitek front and rear sways. The Cobb catback offers a perfect level of sound and adds a few extra horses. The sport springs have diminished the hideous stock wheel gap and the sways have improved the understeery nature of the car.

Add this all up and it’s a car I always enjoy driving no matter the situation, sure there are cars more involving or analogue but for the me the Leggy GT checks all the buttons.

Now comes the bad, it was a thirty thousand dollar car new and that doesn’t include navigation and there’s no option of cloth seats. In addition, the car came with infamous Bridgestone RE92 tires, the tires referred many GT owners as “joykillers”. Due to the fact it has a turbo it’s pricer to service than a normal Subaru and if you get your service done at a dealership prepare to pay an arm for an oil change and rotation and throw in a leg or two when it’s time for a major service such as the 60K.

Reliability wise the car has been quirky, in the early days there was a water leak in the front passenger side, the radio had to be replaced and during cold weather months the car would almost stall out at stop lights and throw codes for misfires. The biggest disaster was in March of 2013 when the turbo decided to eat itself due to oil starvation; it sounded as if someone was putting metal into a wood chipper. Thankfully, due to a somewhat friendly relationship with the Service Manager of Planet Subaru and the fact that all of the car’s major services had been done there, Subaru of America decided to cover the cost of my just out of warranty car and replace the shortblock. The kindness of SOA saved me either ten thousand dollars or the cost of a new car. The Leggy spent a little over a month at Planet Subaru getting a new shortblock.

The turbo eating itself is something fairly common in the Subaru world with cause thought to be the Banjo bolt (a theory which the Planet Subaru Service Manager claims is “an urban legend”. Since I took return of the car in late April, things have been fine, however there will always be a fear in the back of my mind as what will be the next thing to go (The car has 93K miles) or when will the turbo lurch itself again? Recently the fuel lines had to be replaced to the cost of $1,200. Thanks Planet Subaru

Would I buy it again? I’m not sure, the pleasure of driving the car I’m not sure is above the stress and money I’ve dumped into it to keep it straight. Would I buy a new Legacy today? Not at all; many consider my 08 Legacy GT to be the end of an era in which the Legacy was a unique sport sedan and isn’t what it is today, an all wheel drive Toyota Camry. If I had to pull the trigger today my shortlist would include Cooper Clubman, GTI, and AWD Buick Turbos.


The Secret Life of the Velveteen Rabbit

December 18, 2013 at 11:37 pm

The holidays have become known for a few things, none of them good: excessive consumption of Chinese-manufactured technology goods; holidays sales that put low-wage employees in harms way and away from their families; and a society-wide binge on throwaway products endorsed by a rampant barrage of media buys that do nothing but make the have-nots feel worse while convincing them that the only way to salvation is to put themselves even further in debt so their children – like, 5 years old – can own a Macbook Air.

When I was 5, Hot Wheels and Darda filled my wish list. Granted, the quantity of these requests could fill a small orphanage, but still. It seems blessedly tame in comparison to what today’s offspring demand.

Other things the holidays are known for include big-ticket cinematic releases, which I’ve always been amused by. Yes, I am aware some people do not celebrate Christmas. But is that their automatic go-to? Let’s check out a movie? In this era of Redbox and Netflix, I’m somewhat surprised that hopping into the family truckster to take in a flick on a holiday is a go-to for some folks. I suppose if the drive-in theater is still fighting the good fight, an indoor (re: warm) cinema should have no problem filling seats.

One such film slated to open this month is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. From what I can discern, it’s about an individual dripping in anxiety about his self-worth based on accomplishments someone else told him he should have (I suspect there is a need for validation by a female involved as well, but if Kristen Wiig is your idea of a good time, have at it). So, despite knowing very little about this film, a juxtaposition unfolded in front of me today. This movie does capture the validity of the imagination, and the journeys that are feasible if only your mind is open to wandering and letting the empty spaces remain vacant for a roaming thought or two of, “Well, what if that was possible?”

There’s a thought I have – often when rambling, roaming, or otherwise exploring my vast subconscious – about energy. Ghost hunters will tell you spiritual activity is less about a moaning white sheet and more about the lasting impression of a particularly intense moment of energy, be it anger, happiness, jealousy or what have you. And often, physical environments are the recipient of these imprints, be it a grand staircase, a child’s room or a garage, filled with tool chests and grease, full of smells and stains of previous occupants.

By that logic, cars are a perfect conductor of this energy. They bear witness to fights, romance, frustrations. From bringing home a wife to bringing home a child to bringing home a termination letter, or traveling to a new job or cruising into retirement – vehicles are with us at those moments that typically define our adult lives. They are silent passersby who happen to be our first reprieve from whatever psychological high or low we are experiencing at that moment. This is why I know, without a doubt, some of my cars have spoken to me while others have had nothing to say, despite the trials I was enduring at that moment. This is not unlike people: some are caring, able to express concern in perfect silence, while others wouldn’t bother to hold you up as you struggled to stand.

My ’87 325is is a conductor of this electricity, this memory burn that cars can absorb. Like an older adult, the car has more years under its metal, giving it the benefit of time to become an accomplice to memories. But it doesn’t have to speak to me; it doesn’t have to provide that channel of energy, of memories that come alive every time fuel flows through its weathered lines. As the ghost hunter will tell us, however, when the energy is great enough – intense enough, either in good or evil – it becomes impossible to ignore. And you can stare into its headlight bowls much like grandpa’s ancient retinas, and know it is watching every moment, recording them either for your benefit or that of the next owner, convinced it will live forever to tell those stories. Of first loves, second chances, and of nothing at all. Of drives that go in circles, or plans that last as far as the next gas station.

So, where does the velveteen rabbit come in? Margery Williams said that things become real when they are loved for a very, very long time. I happen to know for a fact this E30 was cherished by its first owners, and despite the shambles it arrived in, loved enough by later stewards that it stayed on the road, despite accidents and deferred maintenance. It is a conveyance of memories; it has witnessed more in its life than I have despite my abilities of free will and intelligence. Think about that: this car is almost as old as me and has lived in more places. It sat on a ship and sailed the great oceanic divide, and took center stage at a major auto show. It’s likely faced more challenges, too, as my health has rarely been compromised and I’ve never been left to waste away. Its resiliency is undeniable.

And unlike the rampant consumerism this time of year, which relies on selling fake notions of wants and needs, things that are made by hand and forged in factories of men and sweat reveal to us daily that its original maker had no intention of it living an abbreviated existence. Whether “it” is an rambling old home, a pair of pliers or a set of stiff and woolly overalls, these things – and yes, they are things – can carry the energy I speak of. They were designed to be used, to do a job and to be a conveyance of achievement, whether a simple task or a lifetime milestone. And they bear the brunt of our existence, much like a family member, but doing so in complete silence and dutiful service.

So yes. This Christmas, go to the movies. Buy your flatscreens. But take a moment to stand in awe of that around you which has endured, be it a relationship with a spouse or your childhood home. Remember what it means to withstand the test of time, and realize the power contained when perseverance and emotion collide. Mercedes-Benz did a bang-up job capturing this in their fantastic ad, “Soul.” Enjoy – and merry Christmas.

Mercedes-Benz – “Soul”

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