BACK SEAT DRIVING—It’s a Baja Buggy with a lightweight aluminum alloy chassis, powered by a 6.2 liter LS3 Chevrolet V8 tuned to 500 horsepower, and driving the rear wheels. It’s got California written all over it. Except it’s not California. It’s a river bond near Shanghai, in the People’s Republic of China. And it’s not Stillen, Penske or AEM behind this open frame tuner. The builder is Yu Guangyi, and he cranks out about five cars a year from his Eastern hot rod shop. The subject vehicle was designed for the Taklimakan Rally—one of Asia’s biggest rally events.
BACK SEAT DRIVING— California has a history of setting trends. Hot rods, Kustom cars, import tuners, Cars & Coffee, clean air regulations, skateboarding, gourmet food trucks, palimony. Get ready for another one: Dusty cars as a badge of honor. Who would have thought dust would share space as a status symbol alongside diamonds? Leave it to Californians to make that happen.
BACK SEAT DRIVING— Can it really be four decades ago that this water-pumped newbie was first rolled off the Wolfsburg production line in 1974? Initially, it was quite a struggle for the numerous contracted designers to break free of the iconic curved and rounded Beetle form. Ultimately, Giorgetto Giugiaro managed it. A cool, boxy, geometrical hatchback emerged, with a front-wheel drive and a transversely mounted water-cooled engine tucked tidily under the bonnet. After 40 years, the car remains as energetic and youthful as ever.
BACK SEAT DRIVING— Danica Patrick’s Cup career now stretches past 50 races with one top ten to show for itself. Sam Hornish, by contrast, has competed in 99 Nationwide races with 53 top tens, 28 top fives, and two wins. He has nine top-ten Cup finishes, three top fives, and no wins in 131 races. So you tell me whose numbers look better. That’s why it’s tantalizing to compare them when they turn up in the same race, especially when they get there through such different paths—both the success (Hornish) versus little success, and the preparation and resources (Patrick) versus last-minute deal routes.