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Spotted: Oddities on the road and a fun Lotus modification

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, find him on Twitter @cheneydrive (#spotted), or join him on Facebook (no login required). All photos by Peter Cheney unless otherwise noted.

Trouble Ahead

Here’s another weird ride my wife and I spotted on I-75 during one of our trips to Georgia. At first, we thought it was another garbage bag and duct tape automotive repair job (if you follow Spotted, you know there’s no shortage of those.) Then we noticed that the car was limousine-length, and fairly reputable looking (aside from the flapping roof.) We decided to pull up for a closer inspection.

A Flapping Mystery Craft

As we pulled alongside, we realized that this was a custom-made limo of some kind, with a grafted-on folding roof that covered the aft section. Now we were really curious, and decided to make a further inspection.

Beware the Second Shooter on the Grassy Knoll

After pulling up along the passenger side of the flapping mystery car, we noticed that there was a handrail on the roof. This was a Pope-mobile, or something like it, with a flip-back roof that allows a dignitary to stand in the rear and pass before the admiring crowds. By the looks of things, the roof was designed for the aerodynamic load of a parade route, not a high-speed run on I-75.

All is Revealed

A Google search yielded the identity of the flapping limo. As seen in the above Youtube video, it appears to be a Cadillac Fleetwood Phaeton Parade car. The one in the video features champagne buckets, under-seat air conditioning and flag mounts. The convertible top came from a Ford Mustang. I doubt that the warranty covers wig and toupee loss at highway speeds.

Things are Different in Japan

You don’t see a Mitsubishi Delica Star Wagon very often. (I spotted this one in downtown Toronto, just off Bathurst St.) The Delica was built in Japan, and exported to several foreign markets, including the U.S. The name, which was a contraction of “Delivery Car,” was later changed to Space Gear. Check out those entrance steps and the “Crystal Lite” sunroof. The weird wheel spacing is apparently due to a Japanese tax regulation that’s based on the distance between the front and rear wheels (aka wheelbase).

High Speed Smart

They take Smart Cars seriously in Europe. I spotted this one out on the autobahn, cruising at over 160 km/h. The fat tires and yellow brake calipers suggest that it’s a Brabus-modified version. (I don’t think Brabus would approve of the sunflower decal, but to each his own.)

Spoiler Alert

There are a handful of cars that would derive performance and aesthetic benefits from an oversized biplane tail spoiler. This Honda Accord I saw in Toronto is not one of them.

The Accessory Aisle Special

If a few graphics are good, more must be better, right? I spotted this rolling art board near my house in Toronto.

The Built-In Curb Feeler

A low nose makes for good high-speed aerodynamics, but parking does require extra care. I spotted this newly-scuffed Nissan at a mall.

The Art of Parking

You can paint all the lines you want. But they’re only a suggestion.

A Little Project

I’ve got the front end of my new car taken apart for some modifications. Here it is on the hoist at Gentry Lane (the Toronto Lotus dealership.)

The Duct

Here’s the focus of my project. I ordered my new car with ducted front fenders from the Lotus racing catalogue. They look cool, and will carry heat away from the brakes. But the tires will throw rocks and dirt through the ducts, so I’m designing protective screens. This is a shot of the fender vent as it comes from the factory.

Making a Shape

The duct curves in multiple directions, so making a screen to fit in the opening isn’t easy. I’m going to create a mold, then lay up composite pieces that will conform to the shape of the duct. The composite pieces will be milled out to act as frames for the metal screens that will let air pass through.

Finished Product

The duct panels on this Ferrari illustrate what I’m aiming for. These ones are actually solid, so air doesn’t pass through. Mine will have screens, or a pattern of holes.

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