Just for Fun

Fun stuff that we do just because we can!

Kia Seltos ad

Do you watch the NFL for the games or the commercials? Every year, companies spend millions and millions of dollars on advertising during the season, culminating with the Big Game. It’s easily $5M+ just to place the ad, not to mention the cost to create it, the agency fees, and so on. But considering that about 100 million people watch the game that determines the championship, even a fraction of that viewership will bring the numbers the manufacturers want in terms of exposure.

Our favorite commercials are about vehicles, of course. Remember the one about

Let’s start with that GMC Hummer and the one… the only… LeBron James.

Next, the Kia commercial for the new Seltos AWD SUV is hauntingly touching, and Kia is putting their money where their mouth is with a new campaign to help the homeless.  In this ad, rookie running back Josh Jacobs returns to the streets of his hometown (Tulsa, Oklahoma) to offer his younger self words of inspiration. Josh’s journey took him from homeless youth to first-round draft pick. Kia is donating $1,000 a yard in the Big Game, and proceeds will benefit Covenant House, StandUp for Kids, and Positive Tomorrows.

“Groundhog Day” is one of my favorite movies ever. Personally, I love the part in which he orders a huge breakfast with tons of pancakes and eats it all because it won’t matter… the next day he’ll start over. If you have not seen the movie yet, what are you waiting for? GO! Go now. Jeep nailed it with this spoof with the Gladiator and Punxsutawney Phil (who predicted an early spring today, btw).

We got to see this one at the Genesis GV80 SUV launch last week in Miami, and hope it’s the boost Genesis needs to give the brand the recognition it deserves. This handsome three-row SUV is gorgeous.

We had the opportunity to test the 2020 Hyundai Sonata with “Smaht Pahk” in Arizona in December, and it’s really cool. In this commercial, Chris Evans, John Krasinski, Rachel Dratch, and David “Big Papi” Ortiz drive the point home with a cheeky and clever skit about this feature. It’s impressive, and in cities where they actually say “Wicked smaht”, quite practical.

At the Fully Charged Live USA event in Austin this weekend, we drove the new Audi e-Tron at the Circuit of the Americas, and we can attest to the effortless ride of this EV. The navigation is unique and the audio is a kicking B&O system. The EV enthusiast crowd is all over this message, and it’s contagious.

The other cool car we got to see at Fully Charged Live USA was the Porsche Taycan, so this fun commercial with a twist will have you smiling and wishing for a chance to drive it. And 616 hp (750 with Overpower)! This extended cut is even better than the one you saw during the game.

Lastly, while this isn’t a car commercial, it includes James Bond and Aston Martin. You can’t get much better than that.

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Emme Hall and navigator Rebecca Donaghe won the 2019 Rebelle Rally in, get this, a Rolls-Royce. This epic adventure was years in the making, and in this interview, Kristin talks with one of Drive Mode Show’s heroes, Emme, about the experience and how the Rebelle Rally changes lives.

Shown in this video are: Emme’s writeup on taking the Cullinan into the dirt –…

A snapshot of a writeup on the Rebelle Rally’s founder, Emily Miller –…

Video footage from the Rebelle Rally YouTube channel –…

A snapshot of the winners with their trophies –…

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In this video, Aaron and his Mini Me crew take the doors and roof off of a 2020 Jeep Gladiator. One of the things most appealing about a Jeep is the ability to drop non-essential items like doors, roof, and windscreen, for maximum fun. Actual time for the teardown was under 25 minutes, with several minutes spend looking for a dropped bolt.

Hint: don’t entrust an 8 year old with “holding fasteners” and filming (via GoPro) simultaneously.

Find out why the Gladiator was one of our Ultimate Family Vehicles pics here:…

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Since the beginning of the automotive industry, largely credited to Karl Benz and his 1885 Patent Motorcar, things have progressed quickly. From early horseless carriages accompanied by piano and violin backdrops to modern computers on wheels heralded by electric guitars, the automotive industry has advanced considerably. Along the way, though, some very innovative changes came that would alter the course of cars and trucks forever. These changes, both large and small, have aided drive quality, safety, and efficiency in ways no other thing before them had.

So in honor of clickbait top ten lists everywhere, here’s our 10 picks for innovations that changed automotive forever.

Electric Start (1896, 1903, 1911)

Early vehicles were started using a variety of methods, most of which were unreliable, dangerous, or painstaking. Often all of those things. Imagine if we still started cars with gunpowder cylinders or by cranking a big handle that could kick back and break a thumb or wrist.

Thanks to an 1896 invention by engineer H.J. Dowsing and its perfection by inventor Clyde J. Coleman in 1903, the electric starter took over for the other less reliable methods of starting an automobile’s engine. Further perfected by Charles F. Kettering in 1911, the electric starter as we know it became the standard in automotive shortly afterwards.

Safety Glass (1919)

Safety glass was invented long before cars were, but they didn’t make their way into automotive until after cars were already becoming common. Although the Tucker Car Company played with the idea of safety glass as an option, the idea didn’t really catch on until Henry Ford mandated safety glass-based windshields, constructed very much like what’s used today, in all his products, starting in 1919.

The mandate came after a failed lawsuit against Ford claimed the serious injuries in an accident were the fault of the shattered windscreen on the Model T involved. Ford took the question of safety seriously and quickly figured out how to incorporate a relatively new French invention that would laminate sheets of glass together to make them fracture instead of shatter.

Unibody Construction (1922)

Also called “monocoque” construction, unibody framing would eventually dramatically change automotive design. Conventional vehicles used a body-on-frame design with a ladder-style frame. As the name implies, the body of the vehicle sat atop the frame, creating two separate structures for the car. Today’s pickup trucks and many truck-based SUVs still use this design. Most vehicles today, however, are unibody instead.

Citroen Traction Avant unibody drawing.

Unibody construction, introduced in 1922 with the Lancia Lambda in Europe, and popularized by Citroen as the unitized body frame for the Traction Avant and other cars, took a while to catch on. Although unibody designs had clear safety and weight savings, they were relatively complex and expensive compared to the body-on-frame convention.  Modern unibody design is based on designs introduced by Joseph Ledwinka and the Budd Company. As Budd continued to develop the design ideal, it began to catch on and by the 1970s, most vehicles smaller than pickup trucks were using unibody understructure.

Car Radio (1924)

Near and dear to us here at Drive Mode is the car radio. Until the advent of mobile radio, adding a radio receiver into a vehicle was not realistic. Plus, prior to the mid-1930s, most vehicles used a 6-volt electrical system, which was too under powered for the vacuum tubes of the period. In 1924, however, an Australian firm (Kelly’s Motors) figured it out and got one into a car. Six years later, an American company marketed a Motorola radio receiver for mobile use. The next year, Plymouth advertised a Philco Tansistone radio as standard equipment in its cars. By the end of the 1930s, AM radio was a standard feature in most automobiles.

In the 1950s, adding FM radio became an option, but it wasn’t a standard feature until late that decade and became the standard when cassette tapes and 8-tracks were introduced in the mid-1960s. When compact cassettes could compete with 8-tracks in quality and length, they supplanted them only to be supplanted by compact discs a couple of decades later.

Now we’re seeing the CD replaced by streaming audio and satellite radio. Welcome to the Jungle!

The Automatic Transmission (1939)

The idea of an automatic transmission is very old. Ancient designs from the Greeks and Chinese had automated gearing, of sorts, used for all kinds of things. Usually made of wood. With the advent of the automobile, though, automatic transmissions for more modern engines took a while to become reality.

An early method was introduced in 1904 by the Sturtevant brothers in Massachusetts, made for horseless carriages as a ratio changer to shift between two gears as the vehicle gained speed. The abrupt changes and the weak iron-heavy metals used, however, made the transmission unreliable and clunky and it wasn’t used much. The first automatic transmission used in a production vehicle didn’t come until 1939 with Oldmobile’s Hydra-Matic system. A similar idea was in development at Chrysler at the time, called the Fluid Drive. They key innovation was in the fluid-driven coupling. Today, most automatic transmissions utilize a torque converter for that coupling. Though the geared automatic transmission is now seeing itself being replaced by the continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Power Steering (1951)

The idea of power-assist to the steering wheel has been around since automotive began. Back in the 1870s, it was tried briefly, but it didn’t catch on. In 1903, an electric-assist motor was added to the steering of a Columbia 5-ton truck. Several patents for power steering or power-assist steering were filed throughout the early 1900s as well. Although the idea was most persistent in heavy machinery and trucks, it wasn’t until 1951, after the war effort had pushed power steering systems along for military machines, that power steering became a viable option for passenger cars. Chrysler put one in the Imperial in that year and the rest is history.

While largely unsung, power steering has probably done more to save lives on the road than any other single technology save the seat belt. It goes basically unnoticed in most automobiles today and has been ubiquitous since the 1970s. So this unsung hero deserves some respect.

Cruise Control (1958)

Known by various names in various locales since its inception, cruise control is what helps make the tedium of long highway driving a little less onerous. Several vehicles offered simple cruise control systems in the early days of automotive, but those were mostly engine governors used to force the engine to stay at a given spin rate. Which would thus “force” a given speed in an auto. During World War II, when gasoline rationing was the norm, an engineer named Ralph Teetor came up with a way to allow drivers to pick a given speed and hold the vehicle (more or less) there. This tech improved during the war and shortly afterwards was introduced as the Speedostat in the 1958 Chrysler Imperial. Teetor licensed the setup to General Motors as well, who coined the name Cruise Control for it in the Cadillacs of the time.

At the same time, another engineer, Master Sergeant Frank J. Riley, filed a patent for a Constant Speed Regulator in 1955. Another inventor named Harold Exline also had a similar idea as a vacuum-powered unit. Soon Cadillac’s Cruise Control marketing took over and all similar ideas from varied manufacturers, including American Motors and Ford, began to be called “cruise control” in the public vernacular. The idea didn’t catch on in Europe for some time, a product of the differences in average drive lengths and speeds between the U.S. and the Eurosphere.

3-Point Seat Belt (1959)

Nils Bolin demonstrates his invention.

Seat belts have been around for a long time. Mostly in aircraft and fast vehicles. By the 1950s, lap belts were a common accessory in most vehicles globally, especially the United States. Yet they were rarely used. Lap belts were made standard by European automaker Saab in 1958, but the following year, Swedish automaker Volvo introduced what is now the standard in seat belts as the Nils Bohlin design. It appeared in all Volvo cars that year.

Of all of the automotive inventions of the past century and a half, none have had more safety implications for passengers and drivers than have seat belts. No single item can claim the sheer millions of lives saved as can the simple 3-point belt. (If you’re not getting the hint, it’s buckle up.)

Anti-Lock Braking System (1971, 1978)

The idea of ABS first appeared in rail and then aircraft as an anti-skid device. On trains, the idea was to improve downhill braking and reduce skid on the tracks while allowing brakes to keep cooler doing so. In aircraft, the goal was to improve slowing on the runway after landing and reduce skids and aircraft wobble while on the ground. By today’s standards, these pre-1950 attempts were crude, but somewhat effective for the large vehicles they were designed for.

Today’s anti-lock braking systems use computer control and regulation to improve traction control while also improving braking and safety. The first system similar to what we have today appeared on the 1971 Chrysler Imperial and worked in a way similar to what was used by the Concord aircraft. That same year, Ford made its own Sure-track ABS standard equipment on its Lincoln Continental cars and General Motors introduced Trackmaster rear-wheel anti-lock braking on its Cadillac and Oldsmobile models. Nissan also offered an ABS that year, using a system from Denso.

It wasn’t until 1978 (hence the second date) that Mercedes-Benz offered an ABS from Bosch on all four wheels of its W116 model.

The Airbag (1973)

Another aircraft-inspired technology, airbags were originally designed for a variety of purposes. The first automotive airbag patent was given in 1953 to John W. Hetrick alongside a simultaneous patent given to a German engineer named Walter Linderer. Neither worked well and neither was adopted by an automotive company for anything more than testing.

Today’s airbag systems are evolutions of a design from a Japanese engineer named Yasuzaburou Kobori, who patented an explosive airbag in 1964. When combined with the crash sensors invented by another inventor, Allen K. Reed, in 1967–after both systems had greatly evolved–they were eventually used by General Motors in early airbags sold in fleet models of the 1973 Impala. This became an option in other vehicles and, after lapsing due to lack of public interest, revived in the 1980s to finally became mandated in the 1990s.

Hit the Lights

As the immortal Metallica screamed to start off countless concerts: Hit the Lights! We’re done.

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Since the introduction of the LEGO® wheel in 1962, cars have played a central role in thousands of LEGO sets and in the hearts, minds and play of millions of children across the world. Today, the LEGO Group and Nissan have revealed a model that pays tribute to one of the most iconic Japanese supercars, the Nissan GT-R NISMO. This is the first-ever partnership between LEGO and a Japanese automaker.

The LEGO model was revealed by LEGO Group CEO Niels B. Christiansen and Asako Hoshino, executive vice president at Nissan, at the automaker’s global headquarters in Yokohama today.

Niels B. Christiansen said: “In addition to offering a wonderful and fun building and play experience, we hope the model will also inspire children to learn more about engineering and how to create things in real life. Just as engineers across decades have improved the design and performance of this car, children build, unbuild and rebuild during play – stimulating and developing crucial skills, such as creativity, resilience, problem-solving and critical thinking. Inspiring them to become the builders of tomorrow is our mission.”

Asako Hoshino said: “The Nissan GT-R and the LEGO brand are both renowned and loved by fans of all ages throughout the world, and we are honored to be the first-ever Japanese car manufacturer to partner with the LEGO Group. Many of our Nissan customers can trace their automotive passion back to when they built LEGO cars as children. With this partnership, everyone can be a `takumi’ – the specialized craftsmen that build the GT-R. And, it’s the GT-R’s 50th anniversary this year, so what better way to celebrate than to share the GT-R with Nissan and LEGO fans around the world!”

Nissan GT-R built in LEGO bricks

Iconic taillights recreated in bricks

The LEGO Speed Champions Nissan GT-R NISMO will be available globally in January 2020. It’s one of the first in the 2020 Speed Champions themed sets, which will be 25% bigger than in previous years. The GT-R NISMO model, made from 298 LEGO elements, captures the authentic and intricate details of the life-size race car in a relatively small LEGO model. This posed an interesting challenge for LEGO design lead Chris Stamp.

“In LEGO Speed Champions, we always aim to include new types of racing vehicles. And when we focused on drifting and racing, the record-breaking Nissan GT-R, and especially the new GT-R NISMO, was at the top of our wish list. Authenticity is always our main concern, and we spent a lot of time exploring different building techniques to correctly recreate the taillights, as they are one of the most recognizable details on the car. I am really happy with the end result!”

Hiroshi Tamura, Nissan’s chief product specialist for the GT-R – known informally as “Mr. GT-R” – gave the scaled-down LEGO version his stamp of approval: “The GT-R has been part of my life since I was 10 years old. Working with the LEGO Group was like awakening my inner 10-year-old self to rediscover what makes the GT-R so special to me. It’s amazing how much the LEGO Group’s attention to detail reminds me of our own craftsmen.”

Appearing alongside the LEGO Speed Champions Nissan GT-R NISMO at today’s event was the 2020 GT-R NISMO. Available now, the most extreme, most capable GT-R in history features carbon-fiber front and rear bumpers, roof, trunk and rear spoiler; carbon-fiber front fenders with special scalloped vents; new lightweight wheels and new tires; tuned suspension and transmission; Brembo carbon brakes; and new turbochargers.

The LEGO Speed Champions Nissan GT-R NISMO will be available globally in January 2020 as a part of the LEGO Speed Champions product lineup. New for 2020, LEGO Speed Champions replicas will be 25% bigger and more realistic than ever, allowing car fans to build mini versions of the world’s most famous cars and put themselves in the driver’s seat.

(Article originally appeared on the Nissan site)

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In this episode, Kristin and Aaron talk about their ideas for ultimate family vehicles. Looking beyond the boring and normal, there’s a lot out there for those who want something family-friendly, but ultimate. Plus there’s a point where even Kristin has to agree that Aaron hit the nail on the head when it comes to the perfect song for one of the ultimate family vehicle choices.

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