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The misadventures of a pint sized man.

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Archive for the ‘Auto’ Category

Oh, To Hear those Wheels Spinning.

Posted by Bill Prosperi on September 23, 2011

As a parent, it is hard not to want to do things with your kids that they enjoy.  When Little Man informed me that he wanted to go see real race cars, who was I to argue.  Last year, I took both kids to Mid Ohio for the Emco Gears Classic, a Grand AM Rolex series race where multiple classes compete against each other.  As with any race weekend, there are multiple support races to go along with the main event. Last year, we only got to see one of those support series, the Continental Tire Challenge.  It was the middle of June and it was hot.  While Little Man was in his glory, Kid Kid was not so excited to be there.  She really wanted to go but as the day went on and the sun got hotter, her enthusiasm left the building.  As any good parent would do, I brought them home and called it a day, but not before Little Man made me promise to take him back next year to stay for the entire day and see both series that make up the day.  Lucky for me, this race is held less than an hour from my house.

The year had come and gone and it was time for the race weekend to kick off again.  This year was a little more exciting for me than last since Mazda was planning to draw in as many owners as possible for the Owners Corral.  As a proud and vocal owner, who was I to argue.   This particular race weekend is a steal if you have young kids.  For $30, I was able to get a weekend, all access pass with infield parking and get Little Man in for free. We also took my Father-in-Law with us for his birthday. A great guy and an avid race fan who has been coming to Mid Ohio since he was a small boy.  Mid Ohio is a wonderful track where the entire midfield is open to the spectators to walk around and watch the action from just about anywhere on the track.  We would spend most of our time in the aptly named Thunder Valley. Unlike last year, this event kicked off earlier in the day so we needed to get out of the house bright and early if we wanted to do the pit walk and meet the drivers.  There was no need to drag Little Man out of bed on this day, he was up and ready to go.  After a quick breakfast, I got the car loaded, we were ready and Little Man could not get in the car fast enough.

After what seemed like a thousand ‘Are we there yet’ like questions, we finally made it to the track.  Morning practice was going on and Little Man was straining to see the cars in action as we made our way to the Mazda Owners Corral.  After parking, we headed up the hospitality tent to get him a shirt and some goodies.  The night before he wanted to set out his clothes so he could get dressed quicker in the morning.  Last fall, I went to New York for work and got him an M&M t-shirt with several stock cars on it with various M&M characters. He was all set to wear that for the day until he got the ‘cool’ shirt that everyone else was wearing. He got to be like everyone else in the corral and was quite excited by it.  The shirt was just simply green, short sleeve, and had Freedom Autosport across the front. They were a sponsor of the Corral and fielded two cars in the Continental Tire Challenge.  After he let me take a few pictures of the cars and talk to a few owners, we were ready to get to Pit Lane and walk around the cars.  Little Man was the proverbial ‘kid in a candy store’.  So was my Father-in-law once he found out there were several Mini Coopers in the field.  As we made our way though, we would walk by and wave to Boris Said, and stop to look at just about every car on the grid.  We would even stop by the Riley Racing entry and talk to the Riley brothers, AJ and Jameson, for a few before we were ushered out of the pits, so the race could get going.  Little Man knew exactly where he wanted to go, an area know as Madness, turn 8.

Once settled in, the action on the track began.  This may be one of the few times in his short life, the Little Man was speechless. Well, at least for a brief time he was.  Eventually the questions would start to flow and I would have to constantly remind him that Daddy could hear him when the cars were going full speed and his head was point in the opposite direction.   I was not ready to argue with a five year old enthralled with the action on the track.  We hung around Madness for the first few laps, then wandered up to turn 1 and the pit lane exit.  Eventually we made it over to Thunder Valley where his eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. This particular area is down in a small valley like area and allows spectators to get real close to the action.  One has no idea how loud a group of Rolex series RX8s can be until you stand a few feet from them as they fly by on track.  At one point he would take his ear muffs off to see what the cars really sounded like and was in awe at how loud they were.  That lasted just a few seconds. During the Continental Race, we got to see a Civic Si get spun right in front of us.  Debris would go flying but don’t worry, there are several safety barriers and fences there to protect those not on the track.

While I could write for hours about the action on track, I was more engulfed by my son’s desire to be there.  He was very excited to learn that he would be able to see both races, the Continental and the Rolex.  One of the hardest task in the life of a parent is to get a kid his age to sit still for more than five minutes.  He sat still for large chunks of time and just watched.  Sometimes he sat next to me, other times he would go off just a little bit but still in sight.  Watching your children fall in love with things that you love is something special.    I tried to figure out what was going through his mind during the race.  I would ask but he left me with few clues.  I could only try to watch the pretend I was five and go from there. I can only hope that this will remain an annual event for us. Maybe even have Kid Kid come back with us, but I have my doubts.

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Posted in Auto, Mis-Adventures of Little Man & Kid Kid | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

My Evolution into Me (with regards to things with wheels)

Posted by Bill Prosperi on July 21, 2011

Everyday I watch Little Man become more of a gearhead and it makes me ponder myself as a kid. I had many Hot Wheels, Matchbox cars, and many cheap knock offs. While Little Man plays with them as they should be with his garage and track sets, I was not so kind. I was more interested in seeing what happened when a cinder block fell on them from several feet high. Then there was the off chance that we got our hands on some fire crackers. That never ended well for the car.  Then there is Little Man who was in tears cause he was not allowed to go out in the pouring rain to get one he left out in yard the night before.  There is a point to this rambling and we will get to that. Growing up, I was never all that interested in cars, unlike Little Man is now.  I would watch NASCAR to see the wrecks, Little Man watches road racing and can rattle off manufacturers, drivers and tracks.  I could not tell you what Hot Wheels I had as a kid, but could probably tell you how they met their fate. My son, at five, can rattle off what he has in his collection and even knows when he sees the actual car when we are out.

My father tried like hell to turn me into a car guy when I was young. I tried to play along for a few years but would rather have my head in some science fiction book, playing Dungeons and Dragons, or studying dinosaurs. Yes I just outed myself as a nerd, but just like the Nerd movies, I ended up with a hot girl, so na na boo boo! Growing up on a small farm, we always did our own car maintenance, so we had our own small private junk yard. My dad always tried to have me involved so when I grew up (he is still waiting), I would be able to do things myself. I remember standing there and handing him tools but my mind was off slaying a level 20 troll. Though, I did have the obligatory Lamborghini Countach poster, my collect of identifiable Hot Wheels was far fewer than my dinosaur collection. I give him full credit for planting the seeds that eventually sprouted me into the half wit car person I am now. I think he is a little proud now when we visit and the conversation turns to four wheels, especially from the Sixties. I always played along as a kid because I knew that this was time with my dad. Time he did not always get as a kid and I knew I should be enjoying this moment no matter how little fun I was having. I still have vivid memories using cinder blocks as jack stands when we rotated tires. Cinder blocks were much like duct tape growing up, it’s something I have no answers for.

Cars and the auto industry really did not become part of my life until my early to mid twenties.  I think it was the realization that I would eventually have to purchase my own car someday instead of family hand-me downs.  From there, I would find myself thinking a lot more about cars beyond the sheet metal that made them up.  Simple things like horsepower and mpg started to make sense.  Now look at me, I am a mostly unknown Formula 1 writer and semi-known Mazda enthusiast who may or may not be influential to the brand.  Heck, I even engage in some not so semi-formal conversations about cars on the Twitter now and then. Even run a Tumblr site dedicated to a previously mentioned brand that I may or may not influence.   Even published some blogs post on a few obscure websites some might have heard of.  All this from a level 32 Elf.

Now here I am with a son and task at hand. Luckily my task is nowhere near as tricky as that of my poor father. I did learn a few things and do a bit of my own maintenance. Little Man is usually right there, for as long as his five year old attention span will allow, asking all types of questions. Questions I am sure I should have been asking as a kid. Questions I wish I would have asked but am sure my father answers without issue when I talk to him now. Life has a funny way of doing that, I guess. Here is to hoping that I can take the baton my father had a hard time handing to hand me as a kid and hand it of to my son. Especially since he has a knack for pulling things apart in order to put them back together. If only he didn’t break them beyond repair in the dismantling process. Thankfully, we do not have any cinder blocks laying around.

Posted in Auto, The Other Side of Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Kid Kid and the Goat

Posted by Bill Prosperi on April 11, 2011

I have two wonderful children. Little Man who is just over five and is about as boy as they come. Then there is Kid Kid who is seven going on seventeen and is half tom boy and half ‘we do not know yet’ and this installment involves her. When she was younger, she would cuddle up with me and watch races, oogle over cars in the parking lot, and other such things.  She once saw a ’64 Mustang and told me how she wanted one when old enough to drive. When I had my truck, she would beg me to get on the gas in order to hear the engine roar.  The mazdaspeed6, that was ‘Daddy’s Race car.  Now that her ‘girly’ side is starting to emerge, the desire to go to car shows with the old man is all but gone. I am trying to cope. Then this weekend happened.

On the way to our first soccer game of the season, a car caught my eye, and not just any car. This one was a thing of beauty at its simplest, a shiny red’67  GTO. Kid Kid knew something was up when I cut her off mid-ramble with a long ‘wooowwww’.   She quickly replied with ‘what?’ and all I could do is point. Her next few words made my heart skip a beat. Kid Kid sat up in her seat and said, ‘that’s a beautiful car!’. Yes, yes it is kid. We then proceeded to have a conversation on classic muscle cars and why I love them. She may not know it, but she made her dad’s day with that one. Plus she played pretty darn well at her soccer game too.

I can trace my love of muscle cars to my father and the stories of the white GTO he bought straight out of high school. He loved that car but would have it sold out from under him when he won the wrong lottery back in the late 60’s. I think that may be why the car holds a special place in my heart.  I hope it stays in Kid Kid’s as well.  If anything, it shows that some of the old Kid Kid from a few years back is still there.  If she decides that stuff like this is just boring old ‘Daddy talk’, I’ll still love her anyway.  She may not get the coolest car when she is old enough to drive, but only time will tell.

Posted in Auto, Mis-Adventures of Little Man & Kid Kid | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

The Story of my First..

Posted by Bill Prosperi on March 11, 2011

It was a warm sunny summer day. We pulled into the field next to my parents’ house. There was a row of barns to shield us. I leaned in and mentioned how this was not my first time but was still nervous. I had attempted this once before in van on a back country road. It was tricky and I eventually got the hang of it but as always, things like this can come to a quick end. We started off slowly as I got familiar with our actions, slowly picking up the pace as we moved along. Soon things started moving quickly, maybe a little too fast. My dad showed up to tell me this was not the Indy 500 and I was driving in circles in the middle of a field. Buzz kill.

This was the first time I got to drive my first car, my 1981 blue Chevette. I was rolling in a ‘Vette, envy me. Please. Someone? Anyone? Ok, I thought I was pretty damn cool. We had some fun times together. It was rough for me having a summer birthday and being the youngest of my friends. All my friends had their license and access to a car. Then there was me, living out in the middle is nowhere. I always felt bad asking for a ride since I was 30 minutes away from everyone. This was my chance to finally fit in and get away.  The day we first met is still burned into my memory. It was the summer of 1993 and I was coming home from somewhere and there sat this strange car in the driveway. My parents tried to play it of the best way possible but I was able to put two and two together. This car was mine all mine.

As with any car given to a teen just learning the ropes, it was lacking in a few areas. The stereo would not bounce a dead bug of the speakers, the passenger seat belt did not work, and the fuel tank had a hole in it. As long as I owned it, there was never a full tank, always three quarters. There were a few other things but nothing major.  It was the perfect daily driver for a kid with no money.  This was back in the day where gas was always under a dollar.  When needed, a fill up would run around five bucks and go on to last around two weeks.  The seat belt? Not an issue.  The car had belts for up to five, which several times was a few short as I found that up to nine high school kids could fit in this little coupe.  Clown car? Maybe?

The many memories that were built around my first car. Most of them would have ensured that I never drove under my parents insurance unless it was a medical emergency.  It was senior year in high school, what was one to expect?  There was the time though, that the windows were fogged up one morning and we kinda skidded against a electric pole, running a long scratch down the driver side.  Dad was pissed and I would be grounded for the next two weeks. Grounded? I was a senior in high school and it really was not my fault.  Dad caught his own hell for that one. Thanks Mom. I did take good care of my ‘vette though.  The car was washed regularly but rarely waxed.  I was convinced by my father to just put a little oil in the water every now and then when I washed it.   I think this was he way of saying: ‘Don’t use my Mother’s Gold on your car, ever’.  Shhhh, I may have done that a time or two when he was at work.

We would go on to spend a good year and a half together.  The final days came when I moved to Columbus to go to college.  I arrived early to work with my uncle and get a little extra cash in my pocket.  While attempting to follow his directions to a job site, this was pre-GPS days, I drove through a red light and was hit in the driver side door.  Luckily this was low impact and everyone was just fine, except for the car.  The door was pretty caved in.  I would go on to inherit my late great grandfather’s Citation, which had very low miles considering the age.  The age would prove to be the downfall but that is a story for a later time.  Just put these two words to mind, float and carburetor.

The freedom that came with your first car is something that will always be there in the back of your mind.  The ability to go anywhere instead of having someone else take you is liberating.  Those were the days. We were young and not a care in the world.

(This was not exactly my car but similar.  I am not even sure if I have any pictures of my first car since there were no such thing as digital cameras back then.)

Posted in Auto, The Other Side of Life | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

How I Plan to Get to Soccer Practice..F1 Style

Posted by Bill Prosperi on March 2, 2011

It is Saturday morning.  I am the coach.  I need to be at the field…… NOW!  HA!! No worries, we just picked up this nice ’95 Renault Espace.  Its a little old but it will do the trick. Luckily I was smarter than the average bear this time around and packed everything last night.  It is an early game and all. Who schedules a game at noon on a Saturday? I just got to bed a few hours ago.  Oh well.  We throw the kids in their seats, strap them in, and off we go.   We (I) could have planned better and woke up on time but what fun would that be?  It would be very un-Prosperi like to be on time for something.  The Espace quickly breezes through traffic and around all the slow lumbering ‘SUVs’ the other soccer moms are driving.  We looked at the usual suspects for our new ride but I decided this was the one for us.  Its French! What could ever go wrong?

So what makes this minivan so special? It is packing a World Champion Williams engine. (MORE POWER!)  The same one used to power the Williams-Renault FW15-C to the Formula 1 title in 1993.  This beast might not be a 4×4 like all the other soccer moms but are they packing an 800hp (upgraded from its original rating of 700hp), 3.5-litre, 40-valve Renault RS5 V10 engine?  I think not!  And the Smiths thought they were the cool ones with their Equinox SS.

We had thought about going with this one but thought that it might be a little too ‘loud’.  Didn’t want to get the neighbors talking.

Guess who never misses a tee time?

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Stung by a Hornet

Posted by Bill Prosperi on February 25, 2011

Not sure what it is but there is just something about the early 1950’s Hudson Hornet (the first generation) that has me mesmerized. I can not put my finger on it but I would have one in a minute. Maybe it is the ‘Step Down’ design that was used, where the body and frame were merged into a single structure, allowing the floor pan to sit between the frame. This design aspect had passengers ‘step down’ into the cab, which to me would make it feel more like I was part of the car.  The long curvaceous flow of the body might do it as well or maybe the iconic front grill. All combined, a sinister look starts to appear.  Sleek and classy
This early Hornet is a well known favorite of collectors. Jay Leno has called it ‘one of the top ten of all time’, while Richard Langworth has called it ‘one of the industry’s all time great’.
Sadly, the merger with Nash-Kelvinator in 1954 to form what would be known as AMC, brought the demise of this classic. The Hudson nameplate would die off a few years later as Nash would re-badge them as AMC.

 


In its few short years of existence, the Hornet would leave its mark on motor sports history, specifically during the early years of NASCAR. In the infancy of the sport, specifically the early 50’s, with Hudson being the first manufacturer to compete in stock car events, the Hornet was the car to beat, winning race after race. One of the better know drivers, Marshall Teague, would create the well know ‘Fabulous Hudson Hornet’, a name known throughout many a racing circle.

 

 

 

Then of course, maybe it has something to do with Pixar and that grumpy old Doc Hudson. Pegging the late Paul Newman to voice this character could not have been played any better. It would come to serve as a lasting tribute to the great actor and well accomplished racer. The Cars film created a character that many kids today, as well as adults, will never forget. This alone should ensure that the beauty of the Hornet lives on for many a generation to come.

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The Pony Wars of Gen Y

Posted by Bill Prosperi on February 17, 2011

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Detroit is in the midst of a revival.  The auto industry that some had left for dead, pulled a ‘Monty Python’ of sorts and proclaimed ‘I’m not dead yet’.  It seems they may have been right.  After quite a few years of some lack luster offerings, the Big Three are flexing their American Muscle that we all knew was still there. They just needed to go on a diet and shed some of that excess fat that was hiding that toned body.  While not quite chiseled at the moment, there is a glimmer of hope starting to shine through.

I have always been a fan of American Muscle.  There is just something to the battle of the Mustang vs the Camaro. Let us also not forget Dodge has rejoined the picture with the Challenger. Every year they trip over themselves trying to out do each other. But things now are different. These beasts not only compete for top horse power but also try to nudge the other in the now ever present battle for best in class mpg and tech amenities. I always thought the purpose of these machines was to get somewhere fast and as brutal as possible, regardless of what it took. I know, they still do that but the mpg argument and tech brings a chuckle to me. They still are machines of brute force.

Which brings me to my main thought, what will Gen Y have for this purpose when they become sad thirty somethings in need of a hobby? The industry now is all about how much tech can be crammed into a small shell that can get a million miles per gallon. Is that bad? No. I am a tech geek for all intensive purposes. With the route Gen Y is taking, could horsepower change to RAM? Will we see a battle not betwen engines or halo cars but what mobile operating system their PEV is running? Social media is now a top priority it seems. Many will chat via text, Twitter, or Facebook instead of going down the street to just chat on the front porch. All I had as a kid was a phone attached to a stretched out twenty foot cord. Al Gore had not yet blessed us with this internet fad thingy.

To meet regulations, many manufacturers are subplanting their lineups with various subcompacts, hybrids, and plug-in electrics. Couple that with the lack of desire in younger generations for things like a good halo car, what type of battles could we see on the streets in the future? Will the music of a well tuned engine be replaced with some futuristic spaceship sound on a PEV? How about Windows vs Android vs iOS instead of Ford vs Chevy vs Dodge? With the ever evolving role of technology and the push away from the internal combustion engine in our daily drives, these are valid arguments.
There hopefully will still be the pockets of enthusiasts who will find something and mod to within an inch of its life. Maybe the new war will be the subcompact battle between a Fiesta, Spark, and a rebadged 500. I am sure they can pack a massive hard drive to sync up to their pear pods. The kids still do that right?

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DEFINITION OF ACCELERATION

Posted by Bill Prosperi on February 16, 2011

Via an email I received this morning from the one and only Don Zielke.

(Source yet to be determined but will update once that is known)

DEFINITION OF ACCELERATION

One top fuel dragster 500 cubic inch Hemi engine makes more horsepower than the first 4 rows of stock cars at the Daytona 500.

It takes just 15/100ths of a second for all 6,000+ horsepower of an NHRA Top Fuel dragster engine to reach the rear wheels.

Under full throttle, a dragster engine consumes 1-1/2 gallons of nitro methane per second; a fully loaded 747 consumes jet fuel at the same rate with 25% less energy being produced.

A stock Dodge Hemi V8 engine cannot produce enough power to drive the dragster’s supercharger.

With 3,000 CFM of air being rammed in by the supercharger on overdrive, the fuel mixture is compressed into a near-solid form before ignition.

Cylinders run on the verge of hydraulic lock at full throttle.

At the stoichiometric (stoichiometry: methodology and technology by which quantities of reactants and products in chemical reactions are determined) 1.7:1 air/fuel mixture of nitro methane, the flame front temperature measures 7,050 deg F.

Nitro methane burns yellow… The spectacular white flame seen above the stacks at night is raw burning hydrogen, dissociated from atmospheric water vapor by the searing exhaust gases.

Dual magnetos supply 44 amps to each spark plug. This is the output of an arc welder in each cylinder.

Spark plug electrodes are totally consumed during a pass. After halfway, the engine is dieseling from compression, plus the glow of exhaust valves at 1,400 deg F. The engine can only be shut down by cutting the fuel flow.

If spark momentarily fails early in the run, unburned nitro builds up in the affected cylinders and then explodes with sufficient force to blow cylinder heads off the block in pieces or split the block in half.

In order to exceed 300 mph in 4. 5 seconds, dragsters must accelerate an average of over 4G’s. In order to reach 200 mph (well before half-track), the launch acceleration approaches 8G’s.

Dragsters reach over 300 miles per hour before you have completed reading this sentence.

Top fuel engines turn approximately 540 revolutions from light to light! Including the burnout, the engine must only survive 900 revolutions under load.

The redline is actually quite high at 9,500 rpm.

Assuming all the equipment is paid off, the crew worked for free, and for once NOTHING BLOWS UP, each run costs an estimate $1,000.00 per second.

The current top fuel dragster elapsed time record is 4.428 seconds for the quarter mile (11/12/06, Tony Schumacher, at  Pomona  ,  CA  ). The top speed record is 336.15 mph as measured over the last 66′ of the run (05/25/05 Tony Schumacher, at  Hebron  ,  OH  ).

Putting all of this into perspective:

You are driving the average $140,000 Lingenfelter ‘twin-turbo’ powered Corvette Z06. Over a mile up the road, a top fuel dragster is staged and ready to launch down a quarter mile strip as you pass. You have the advantage of a flying start. You run the ‘Vette hard up through the gears and blast across the starting line and pass the dragster at an honest 200 mph. The ‘tree’ goes green for both of you at that moment.

The dragster launches and starts after you. You keep your foot down hard, but you hear an incredibly brutal whine that sears your eardrums and within 3 seconds, the dragster catches and passes you. He beats you to the finish line, a quarter mile away from where you just passed him.

Think about it, from a standing start, the dragster had spotted you 200 mph and not only caught, but nearly blasted you off the road when he passed you within a mere 1,320 foot long race course.

…… and that my friend, is ACCELERATION!

Posted in Auto | 2 Comments »

Stupid Horsepower

Posted by Bill Prosperi on December 10, 2010

I saw a van last night (this was not it) that made me think of the days when I was involved in the flooring industry.  I met a lot of nice people and also a lot of really really dumb people.  One of the more annoying things to see was these particular citizens cry about how they did not have two pennies to rub together yet they had THE van.  No, they were not driving Honda Odysseys. (That is for us cool, kick ass parents.)

Everyone in this particular industry had some kind of work vehicle. Most of those were vans that had seen better days. Much better days. Most of the more intelligent (I use this loosely) contractors would use said van to haul their tools and other materials.  Others felt the need to get to the job site really really fast.  When you are carrying half a ton of tools and flooring materials, how fast does one truly need to go? Stopping might become an issue. Just maybe. None of them could give a straight answer as to why they needed a van that could kick serious ass in the quarter mile.  They would come in to the store that I worked at and brag about what was added here and there to boost performance.  ‘But will it ever see the strip?’ I would ask.  ‘It’s a work van, why would I do that!’ was always the answer.

While I enjoy lots of horsepower, does one truly need to go excessive for no reason.  Every time I read about the Bugatti Veyron, I think of these guys having something with enough power to rip the tail off a Diplodocus but never have a need for it. Just the ability to say they do.  Do not misjudge me. A super car with 1000 + hp that uses it correctly is a beautiful thing.  A van that is meant to haul 600 square foot of hardwood and the tools needed to install it, not so much.  It is still boggles my mind that they have no idea why they could not make a decent living while others managed to.

Oh, the van I saw. It was a GMC Safari that looked like it was hit by the van pictured above.  But it did have a sweet exhaust and lots of cool stickers.

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Italian Gathering 2010

Posted by Bill Prosperi on September 7, 2010

Italian Gathering 2010 Dublin, OH

The beauty that is Italy. The food can not be beat. The women, the most beautiful around. The cars, not so shabby once you get past the electronics.

While I do not claim to be a photographer by any stretch, here are a few shots I took with trusty Sony DSC. Little Man did have fun jumping in front of the camera as well as touching every car there. At one point he was hanging on the side view mirror of a Ferrari F-40.  He loved seeing all the cars and had fun trying to pronounce Maserati.  He stuck  with ‘mazda-raddi’.  Little dude is only four, so I let it slide.  It was also fun meeting up with local car guy and friend, Carl.

The main show was all Italian cars of several makes and models. In the parking lot off to the side was a small gathering of ‘others’.

Link to the event.

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