Seven Days: Vermont Car Blog

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October 08, 2008

Around the ’Benz

Last weekend, my wife Christine and I headed south from Burlington on Route 116 on a combination foliage tour — the trees started showing peak color around Starksboro — and an extended test drive of a Mercedes C 300 Luxury Sedan, courtesy of The Automaster in Shelburne, Vermont. Over the course of the day we would traverse the Green Mountains twice, visit three ski areas, cross four covered bridges and travel more than 150 miles. A picturesque Vermont road trip if ever there was one.

The Mercedes C-Class line presents the most accessible models of this carmaker’s offerings. The C 300 Luxury model I was driving has a 3.0-liter V6 with seven-speed automatic transmission and 4MATIC 4WD system. It puts out 228 hp with a 0-60 mph time of 7.1 seconds. The starting price of $35,400 is reasonable given the advanced German engineering of the engine and drive train, and the high level of comfort and design of the interior.

It was a chilly morning, and the coziness of the eight-way-power, heated seats was almost as good as an onboard masseuse. Seriously.

The controls, which put everything within easy reach, have a feel reminiscent of a high-end audio system. Speaking of audio, the eight-speaker sound system achieved a nice sense of balance. I felt evenly surrounded by clear, quality sound, something I always look for but rarely find in a car.

For those who prefer a more performance-oriented vehicle, the C 300 Sport model is available with six-speed manual transmission, lowered sport suspension and a handsome, aggressively designed grill. From there you can step up to the C 350 Sport, which has a 3.5-liter V6 that adds 40 hp and shaves one second off the 0-60 mph time. Want the ultimate in performance? The C 63 AMG has a 6.3-liter, 32-valve V8 that produces 451 hp and a blistering 4.3-second 0-60 mph time! This bad boy is a street-legal version of the C-Class AMG that has won more races in Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) racing history than any other car.

A mile and a half past the intersection of Route 17, we took a left and headed towards Lincoln. The first geographic highlight of our trip was the beautiful falls in the New Haven River, just off the right side of Lincoln Road.

The Mercedes C-Class engines all employ variable intake and exhaust valve timing. What does that mean? Valves in an engine allow a fuel-air mixture to enter and exit the cylinder. In old-school engines the valves allowed in a fixed amount of fuel and air regardless of conditions. With variable timing, intake and exhaust are adjusted and optimized, allowing the car to get significantly better gas mileage and provide power, or torque, over a greater range of engine speeds. This increased performance was evident, whether I was scaling Lincoln Gap or pretending I-89 was the autobahn.

We had lunch at Sugarbush’s Timbers Restaurant in the new Lincoln Peak Village. As we ate, young daredevils zipped by the windows on an 800-foot zip line. The food was good and the leaf-peepers were plentiful. Every trip should include some exploring, and so from there we headed out Moretown Mountain Road toward Northfield. This turned out to be a nice choice, with far fewer photographers jockeying for that perfect foliage shot.

From there it was north on Route 12 and then west on I-89 to Waterbury. On the Interstate, as Christine gazed out the window at the trees, I pressed the pedal and accelerated to a speed that significantly exceeded what would normally worry her. But the ride was so smooth and quiet, she never even noticed — I totally got away with it! Other cars ticked by in succession until we exited and headed north into the eye of the leaf-peeper’s perfect storm: Ben & Jerry’s, Cold Hollow Cider Mill and Stowe. Needless to say, our momentum was significantly diminished.

Once out of Stowe, we headed up over Smugglers’ Notch on Route108. This is where I first played around with the Touch Shift manual shift mode. Tap the gearshift left or right and it engages, giving you greater control over shifting. Though it didn’t give me quite the feedback of a manual transmission, it was fun and more responsive, and allowed me to further test the performance of the car on the winding road ahead.

The car performed very well for us in all conditions. It’s what you would expect from a Mercedes, but with the redesigned C-Class, I think the automaker has achieved a combination of style and ride that will intrigue a lot of people. After 50 miles in many vehicles, I’m ready to get out and walk. I emerged from the Mercedes feeling good and ready for an evening of fun in Burlington.

September 21, 2008

British Invasion in Stowe Vermont

Bc_shed After checking out the hot rods and muscle cars at the NSRA Eastern Nationals Christine and I headed over the mountain to the British Invasion in Stowe. We took a short cut out Pleasant Valley Rd. in Underhill and then up and over Smugglers Notch which was a really nice drive, especially on so beautiful a day. Next was a stop at The Shed Restaurant and Brewery in Stowe for a nice lunch and a little Shed Mountain Ale. Finally we arrived at the show just in time to see the category winners being paraded through the grounds. There were some beautiful Jaguars, MGs, Triumphs and Austin Healeys among other British sports and luxury cars on display. Enjoy the pics!

September 20, 2008

Hot Rods and Muscle Cars at the Fairgrounds

Up until two years ago your vintage car or truck needed to have been made before 1944 to be shown at the NSRA Eastern Nationals. It was essentially limited to what are called hot rods. Now they let in any car or truck more than about 30 years old. This is great because many people (me included) love the muscle cars of the sixties and seventies. It's a no-brainer.

Check out my pics below.
If you missed it catch my Q&A with Hot Rodder Jan Hemsted.
In my next post I'll be showing pics from the British Invasion, a show in Stowe featuring collectible British sports cars and other vehicles.

September 17, 2008

Free Wheelin' Q&A: Hot-Rodders Jan and Linda Hemsted

Author's note: This is the first Q&A in my new series Free Wheelin'. I'll be interviewing a wide variety of people whose lives intersect with our car culture, whether it's due to their job or their passion. Why am I writing about cars? Find out on the "Who's this Bob guy?" page. You can also find Free Wheelin' on page 31B of this week's Seven Days newspaper.

Bob Kilpatrick: How long have you been interested in Street Rods?

Jan Hemsted: Ever since I was a kid back in South Dakota. 12 Years old I used to watch ‘em. All the juvenile delinquents had ‘em then. So I always wanted one. They had Hot Rods, I thought they were just the coolest car around.

JH: They used to cruise 8th street all weekend long. 8th street was like Shelburne road. They’d just come and go all night long and at the end of 8th street they had a Mcdonalds so they’d all wind up there sooner or later. I was too young to be cruising with them. They didn’t want a kid hanging around.

BK: What kind of cars, were they similar to what you’ve got here?

JH: Yep there were a lot of ’32 Fords, roadsters, a lot of T-Buckets if I remember right back then. Some ’40 Fords, of course this is back in the early sixties. They weren’t to the level of technology we have today. They were pretty rough, but they were cool.

I’d always wanted one since I was a kid. Of course I got married and I had kids and that pretty much took all my money. This one came available at a fairly reasonable price. Went home one night and asked the wife if we had enough grocery money for a couple of weeks. She asked me why and I said I want to buy a car. 250 bucks. She said we can probably get by so I bought this and they dropped it off and she looked at it and she said “You bought that?” Because it didn’t have any fenders at all, it was just basically the body and no engine, no glass in it, I mean it was just, phhht.

BK: But you had a vision.

Continue reading "Free Wheelin' Q&A: Hot-Rodders Jan and Linda Hemsted" »

August 25, 2008

Goss Dodge Mopar Muscle Car Event

Christine and I checked out the Goss Dodge Mopar Muscle Car event this past Saturday August 23rd in South Burlington, VT. They had about 15 classic cars and a bunch of the newly built Challengers and Chargers that merge a retro look with modern engineering. I was especially interested in the Challenger which is new for 2008. It's not an inexpensive car starting at $40,095, but one that has been appreciated by the industry for its performance. It's a damn nice car. I want one.

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