Thursday, December 30, 2004

Auto show finale at convention center

Only a few days remain before the conclusion of the “63rd Washington Auto Show,” which features more than 700 new vehicles from 37 manufacturers at the Convention Center through Sunday.

In addition to the flashy wheels, the show offers contests, giveaways, special guests and other attractions for families. One particularly popular feature, the “Hands On Contest,” gives participants a chance to drive home a new Toyota Sunday if they can hang on long enough.

For more information about show times and ticket prices, call 866/WASH-AUTO or 202/237-7200 or visit on the Internet.

Outfit your vehicle for winter safety

Drivers during winter, which officially began Dec. 21, should carry equipment that can assist them in an emergency.

Mark Cox, director of the Bridgestone Winter Driving School, recommends some items to keep in the trunk: a blanket, a candle and matches, jumper cables, a small shovel, a bag of salt or cat litter for traction, a windshield scraper, a flashlight and fresh batteries, plus drinking water and snacks.

Mr. Cox also points out that good tires are crucial.

“One of the most important factors in starting, steering or stopping on ice and snowy roads is your tires. It makes no difference if you have a front-wheel, four-wheel or rear-wheel drive, your vehicle will perform better in most winter-driving conditions if it is equipped with purpose-built snow tires,” he says.

For more information, visit The Bridgestone Winter Driving School is located in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

Rebates abounded during the year

Automakers will have spent a record $60 billion on rebates this year, according to a new study.

Paul Taylor, chief economist at the National Automobile Dealers Association in McLean, Va., says the steady rise in incentives reflects a surplus of new cars and trucks.

Automakers have the ability to produce far more vehicles than they can sell.

Consumer incentives are available on 90 percent of all vehicles, up from less than 10 percent a decade ago.

Stanley Steamer record challenged

LONDON (UPI) — British engineer Glynne Bowsher and his colleagues are taking aim at the speed record for steam power that’s been unbroken since 1906.

A test is planned next summer for Inspiration, the steam car they designed and may patent, the BBC reported. The test of the propane-steam-powered vehicle is aimed at breaking the 127.7 mph mark a Stanley Steamer set in 1906 in Florida.

There were many problems to overcome in creating Inspiration, Mr. Bowsher said, but the worst was generating enough steam in such a small space.

Inspiration is said to be able to travel up to 200 mph, the BBC reported.

Mr. Bowsher also developed the non-steam ThrustSSC, the first vehicle to break the sound barrier on land.

Highway road signs getting new look

A new look in road signs is coming to highways across the United States.

Pennsylvania State University researchers spent a decade designing the Clearview Typeface System, which will replace the Highway Gothic or Standard Highway Sign Lettering in use for the past 50 years.

The new typeface is 20 percent more legible, says Penn State civil engineer Martin Pietrucha, because it uses upper- and lower-case letters with capital letters at the beginning.

The typeface’s spacing is designed to take advantage of the way drivers perceive signs at different distances.

The typeface also helps solve the problem of overglow or haloing, Mr. Pietrucha says. Overglow occurs when headlights hit a road sign directly, turning the letters into blobs of light.

The Clearview letters, such as “b” and “o,” have larger spaces in the middle, so that light is less likely to obliterate the letter.

Toyota reduces toxic materials

Toyota Motor Corp. will offer a vehicle free of lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium in 2006 to help reduce the disposal of environmentally harmful waste, a Japanese economic daily has reported.

The new vehicle, probably a Lexus LS, will still contain lead-acid batteries.

It will be introduced initially in markets with stricter regulations such as Europe and Japan.

Toyota already has developed a mercury-free lamp and has stopped using lead in fuel tanks. Japan’s largest automaker has reduced its average use of lead in a new model to about a 10th of the 1996 level.

Friends of vets seek vehicles to sell

The Circle of Friends for American Veterans is looking for donations of 1994 or newer running vehicles, or classic ones that will help homeless veterans.

The organization offers free towing. Blue Book-value tax deductions are available through today.

As of tomorrow, donors will get credit for the amount the vehicle brings at sale.

For more information, call 703/237-8980.

Fax or mail items of interest to Bill O’Brien, Auto Notes, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002. Use fax 202/832-2167. The deadline is 5 p.m. on the Monday before publication on Friday.

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