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Peter Cheney discovered places where they take their jerky seriously. Very seriously. (Peter Cheney/The Globe and Mail)

Peter Cheney discovered places where they take their jerky seriously. Very seriously.

(Peter Cheney/The Globe and Mail)

Spotted

Heading south down the I-75 Add to ...

Spotted is Globe Drive writer Peter Cheney’s weekly feature that takes you behind the scenes of his life as a vehicle and engineering journalist. In coming weeks, we’ll also highlight the best of your original photos and short video clips (10 seconds or less), which you should send with a short explanation. E-mail pcheney@globeandmail.com, find him on Twitter @cheneydrive (#spotted), or join him on Facebook (no login required). All photos by Peter Cheney unless otherwise noted.

Margo Hagar

Steven Tyler’s $1.1-million Speedster

Margo Hagar spotted this Hennessey Venom GT, which belongs to Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler, in Palm Desert, California. Thanks to her husband (Lotus owner and Globe and Mail reader Jeff Brown) for sending in to me. The Venom costs $1.1-million, and is one of the fastest-accelerating cars in the world (zero to 100 km/h in 2.2 seconds). Only 11 have been built. The Venom combines British and American engineering ingenuity: the front end is taken from a Lotus Exige, but Hennessy adds a new rear chassis, a racing transaxle and a twin-turbo Corvette motor that makes over 1,200 horsepower. Nice.

The Long Arm of Miley Cyrus

Southern car culture runs toward the pickup truck and NASCAR end of the scale, but I spotted this lowered Lexus in Kentucky last week. The oversized wheels, low-profile tires and deeply cambered suspension mark the driver as a member of the “stance” crowd, an enthusiast subset that focuses on shortened springs and speed-bump avoidance. I could see that this driver also spends plenty of time at the graphics shop.

King Kong Comes to Subway

I noticed this Ford F-250 in Kentucky. They love big trucks down there, but as you can see, this creates some problems. What do you do when your ride is bigger than most parking spots? Creativity is essential.

Aero Truck

I’ve noticed these flip-out tail panels on a few trucks lately. It looks like they’re designed to reduce drag by extending the trailer and tapering the airflow at the tail end. Without a fairing like this, the tail end of a truck is a giant, squared-off Kamm tail, with a massive, drag-inducing aerodynamic burble behind it. I’m interested in what kind of results this tail fairing yields.

Why You Should Carry a Fire Extinguisher

We saw this as we headed south on I-75. Not sure how long this fire had been going, but the truck was a write-off at this point. The flipped-up hood suggests that it probably started in the engine compartment.

A Tiny Mystery Mobile

This was sitting in the corner of the New Life body shop here in Toronto a few weeks ago. The owner wasn’t there, but it looks like one of those scooter-based European delivery trucks. If any of you know the manufacturer and model, send me a message or post a comment.

The Screaming Chicken Rides Again

Smokey and the Bandit came out in 1977, and for some, the dream lives on. I spotted this Pontiac Firebird Trans Am in Trenton, Georgia. This is a Generation 3 Firebird, produced from 1982 through 1992 onward (the car Burt Reynolds drove in the original movie was a Generation 1). Just like Burt’s, this Trenton car is black, with the infamous “screaming chicken” Firebird logo on the hood. The owner of this one added a baseball-cap-style windshield visor, which can’t do much for the aerodynamics.

Definitely a One-Off

Hang glider pilots tend to be a pretty inventive bunch. This custom El Camino was built by one of the pilots at Lookout Mountain (my favorite place to fly gliders). He created more storage space by grafting on a tapered tail section that turns the El Camino into a super-sized hatchback. The construction is all steel, which called for some welding and bodywork talent . The ladder on the roof is for supporting a hang glider.

Aeronautical Roof Rack Engineering

As I said, hang glider pilots are an inventive bunch. (We have to be, since no one makes a commercial rack designed to carry a flying machine on your roof.) Here’s one pilot’s solution – a cut-down sewer pipe with lightening holes and a custom-built aluminum strut to support the tail end. (The extra-wide crossbar on top of the vertical tail strut makes room for extra gliders.) I spotted this in the landing area at Lookout Mountain Flight Park.

What We Carry on Those Weird Roof Racks

Here’s what a modern hang glider looks like when it’s assembled. (My wife shot this while I was launching from the ramp at Lookout Mountain a while back.) Folded for transport, the glider becomes a four-meter-long tube that you can carry on top of a car. It needs to be supported along its length (hence all those crazy roof racks.)

A Jeep Where It's Meant to Be

When I’m down in Georgia, I always go off-roading with my friend Matt Taber. He has two Jeep Rubicons – the one in this picture is the short wheelbase, two-door version. It’s incredible where this thing will go, thanks to the Dana axles, locking differentials and super-low gearing.

Scoping the Trail

I shot this while scoping out a trail on top of Lookout Mountain. Matt’s up at the top in the Jeep, waiting for a report on what’s ahead – when you go off road, it’s easy to get yourself into a difficult situation, so it’s a good idea to reconnoiter the trail before you drive down it. (The Jeep made it.)

Further Metalworking Ingenuity

Matt made this nice front bumper for his Jeep by combining aftermarket parts with custom-made pieces from his own shop. The silver slot is for a winch line that you can use to haul yourself out if you get stuck, and the vertical tube is for a hang glider support strut that plugs in when you need it. Look closely and you’ll notice that the tube has an inner sleeve made from aircraft aluminum. Nice work.

The Aztek Lives (Unfortunately)

The Pontiac Aztek is one of the most unfortunate vehicle designs of all time. (When I made a list of the worst cars ever built, the Aztek was a shoe-in.) It was only produced for four years (from 2001 until 2005.) Its lack of popularity made for some serious discounts, both on dealer’s lots and the used market (a friend of mine bought a used one for less than $1000). I spotted this burgundy one at the gas station on top of Lookout Mountain.

Related: The 12 worst cars ever built

Misfortune Motors

I’ve always been fascinated with Dade Car County Car Sales, a rundown car lot in Trenton, Georgia. The place is like a time warp, partly because the cars never sell. (The owner is rarely on site, and there are only so many buyers who want a sun-bleached AMC Pacer.)

No Reasonable Offer Refused

More creampuff machines at Dade Car County Car Sales – where else can you find an AMC Pacer and Gremlin for sale at the same time? (Both of them made my worst cars of all time list.)

Rolling Wrecks

I drive Interstate 75 a lot, and am always amazed at the way the mix of cars changes as you travel between Michigan and Tennessee. I spotted this bashed-up Nissan as we passed through southern Ohio, a state that’s in the heart of the American rustbelt.

Rolling Wrecks Redux

Here’s another rolling wreck from the rust belt. We spotted this one as we headed north on I-75 near Cincinnati. I don’t think that damage is going to buff out.

The Carnivorous Truck Stop

They take their beef jerky seriously down south. This is one of the racks at a truck stop near London, Kentucky. (There was more than one beef-jerky rack, plus a chewing-tobacco display.)

The Return of I-75 Jesus

If you drive I-75 much, you probably saw the famous “Touchdown Jesus” statue outside the Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio. As you may know, Touchdown Jesus burnt to the ground when He was struck by lightning in 2010 (that’s what you get when you have a steel frame inside a fiberglass skin, and you’re the tallest object around). This is his replacement, an even taller statue that has become known as Hugging Jesus. This time, the church avoided the upraised arms that attracted lightning to the original, and installed a steel lightning rod in the Son of God’s head.

David Wilson

If You’re Going to Be a Parking Pig, Why Not Go Whole Hog?

Reader David Wilson spotted this in front of his Oakville health club. I love great bad-parking pictures, and this one is a home run: a giant pickup truck straddling two parking spots, both with handicapped signs.

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