Off road vehicles and the sport of ‘off roading’ have a large and enthusiastic following across the country and, in fact, around the world. It’s a variation on the old ‘my car’s faster than yours!’ jibe, only in this case it’s ‘my car can go where your car can’t!’ Combine this competitiveness with the typical American love of the outdoors and our country’s astounding natural beauty and you have the sport – and accompanying lifestyle – of off-roading.
True off road vehicles are much more than mere SUVs. These beasts have to survive anything the wilderness can throw at them. Boulders, rivers, mud, sand or snow – a good off road vehicle will eat ’em all for breakfast and keep on rolling over hill and dale. When official competition between off road vehicles takes place, it’s usually either Rally Racing, Desert Racing or the relatively new sport of Rockcrawling. The latter is a sight to see, as spindly vehicles, with some slight resemblance to Jeeps, crawl over incredibly rough courses made up of huge boulders and wind-carved rock formations with the agility of overgrown spiders!
Now, your standard off-the-rack SUV or Hummer isn’t any slouch when it comes to mild off-roading, even though precious few sold in urban areas really get tossed about in conditions displayed in their television commercials. Off-roading is as much about image as it is about exploring the wild, less-travelled terrain where pavements are non-existent. When you’re an off-roader, it’s all good!
The AMC Javelin is classified as a “pony car” and is a rival to the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro, which were a similar make of car in that era. The American Motors Corporation built the AMC Javelin between 1968 and 1974.
AMC debuted the Javelin in 1968, a full production version of the AMX prototype that had being taken around the USA two years before it was released. This version of the car came with a variety of AMC engines starting with the economical 232 cubic inch straight-6 through to the V8s, which included the 343 cubic inch, V8 and many other features that went with the car.
The AMX 390 engine was offered as a Javelin option in 1969 and came with “Big Bad” paint and an interesting roof spoiler. AMC supported the Javelins and the AMX with an array of dealer installed performance accessories. The Road and Track described the Javelin favorably when it was first introduced in 1968. They felt that the smaller engine was an asset to the light vehicle and the interior styling was “pleasant” but not exciting and the non-power steering and disc/drum brakes were given poor marks.
In 1971 the Javelin was given a new look and incorporated many of the elements that had been wanted earlier on, so that they could race the car in the Trans-Am circuits. The roof spoiler became essential to the car; it was adapted to be able to accept wide racing tires and an array of engines and transmissions was offered. Unlike the Hornet, which was a study in symmetry the interior of the Javelin was non-symmetrical and every part of the car was unique to its position.
The Pierre Cardin interior was unusual and imaginative having a stripe pattern that ran from the seats up to the doors, then onto the roof and back down to the seats and a tough, but almost satin like material was used. The Javelin AMX went from a car that contained many racing modifications for the track to a street version, which AMC advertised as “The closest thing you can buy to a Trans-Am champion”. The Javelin AMX came with a fiberglass full width cowl induction hood, a racer type stainless steel mesh screen to cover the grill and front and rear spoilers that increased traction at high speeds.
The production of this car stopped in 1974 as interest in high performance cars died down and amidst the Arab oil embargo. Due to the lack of interest in collecting AMC products, the price of the Javelin is not as high as other muscle car and pony car models.
Sports cars inhabit that enticing and appealing area somewhere between standard daily driving workhorses and full-out racecars. As such, they sacrifice some practicality in favor of performance and excitement. Commonly, sports cars are two-seaters with two doors and are designed for decisive acceleration, high speed driving, tight and responsive handling, and of course gorgeous looks. The Chevrolet Corvette is a classic American sports car, equally at home on the racetrack or your driveway (if you’re so lucky!). Some sports cars, like the Shelby Cobra, trace their evolution from cars built for racing purposes, while others such as modern day Ferraris and Lamborghinis are used only as luxury cars.
Sports cars used in racing must be extremely maneuverable, have a low weight and center of gravity, excellent braking and of course, LOTS of horsepower. Luxury sports cars are still terrific performers, but also excel in the areas of comfort and noise reduction. In all types of sports cars, emphasis is placed on the handling of the vehicle so that drivers can maintain control in challenging conditions. BMW is renowned for the excellent handling designed into their cars, making even their larger sedans handle like true sports cars. If you’re thinking about buying a sports car, bear in mind that insurance on sports cars is generally higher due to the perception among insurers that sports cars will be driven in a, well, “sporty” manner. Look around for a sports car insurance company that has affordable rates.
If laying out cold hard cash for the sports car of your dreams doesn’t fit the budget right now, you can rent sports cars like the Audi TT Roadster, Porsche Boxster and more from sports car rental companies. Renting a sports car is a great way to experience these amazing vehicles.
Like the AMC Javelin, the Chevrolet Camaro is a popular “pony car” produced by the Chevrolet Motor Division of General Motors. It was introduced in the 1967 model year as competition for the Ford Mustang and was classified as an “intermediate touring car, a muscle car or a sports car”. The Chevrolet Camaro has many similar components to the Pontiac Firebird that was also introduced the same year.
Production of the Camaro stopped in 2002 but not before four distinctive generations of the car were completed. This is not the end of the Camaro as a new one will be set for production in 2009. The name of the Chevrolet was not given with any specific meaning but a GM researcher found the word in a French dictionary and is a slang term for “friend” or “companion”.
The debut Camaro came with over 80 factory and 40 dealer options, including three main packages. One of the packages was the Z/28 that came out for the 1967 model year. This option wasn’t found in any sales literature and was relatively unknown to buyers. It came with many extras that were designed specifically to allow the car to race in the Trans Am series. It was only the 602 Z/28 that was sold in 1967 and 1968, which did not come with a raised cowl induction hood like the 1969 Z/28s.
In 1969 the Camaro came out with a sportier look. The grill had been changed to a heavy “V” cant and had deeply inset headlights. The changes made to the car also gave it a more wider, lower and more aggressive look. That year other changes were also available to the Camaro to increase the competitiveness in the Trans Am racing series.
The second-generation Chevrolet Camaro was introduced in 1970 and stayed in production for 12 years with the final model produced in 1981. The styling of this generation of Camaro was inspired by Ferrari and due to its size was no longer given a convertible option. The third generation of this car was introduced in 1982, continuing to use the General Motors’ F-body platform. The forth generation Camaro was in production for ten years and from there General Motors has put a stop to the car but a fifth generation car is on the books.
The term “Touring cars” may seem odd to American ears, since it is a term used mainly in Europe describing race cars that use the body shells from production 4-door sedans. Just about everything else in, or on, the touring car is either heavily modified or is designed for high-speed road and circuit racing. Wings are often added to touring cars. As you can imagine, the resulting car looks strange – sort of a family sedan on steroids! Certain technologies have been banned to limit the costs to builders and keep racing closed. The concept goes down well with European race fans that drive their own family sedans to the track to watch their race-bred counterparts duel it out on the track. Touring car racing is especially popular in Britain, Scandinavia, Germany and Australia.
Touring cars are raced on road courses and street circuits. The types of races run by touring cars include sprints and endurance races that can be 3 to 24 hours in length. The British Touring Car Championship and the World Touring Car Championship are just two examples of touring car races. The British Touring Car Championship traces its origin to 1958, and a variety of cars from different categories race together. The World Touring Car Championship began in 1987 and follows FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) regulations. Perhaps the top European touring car series is the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft. In this series, high tech racing machines are clothed in workday sedan bodies, with some parts such as transmissions and brakes coming right out of the production car parts bin. In the interest of fairness and safety, engines are limited to 470 horsepower – tame perhaps for a race car but not too shabby for a “family sedan”!