Friday, May 11, 2012

WEEKLY QUESTION: Smugness not included

Severe body roll and three-wheeling may contribute to bladder pressure. (The Rusty Hub photo)
Last week, The Rusty Hub asked how your teammates would react if you peed in the seat during a long stint. The results were close, but 31 percent of our readers resolved that a little urine can't stop a race team; their instinctual resourcefulness means that they'd just throw the next driver in and maybe drill some drain holes as a courtesy to minimize sloshing.

Coming in second were the polar opposite: 27 percent said they'd be repulsed and their churning stomachs may have led to an unfortunate reversal of fortune. Hopefully, these voters would not compound the situation by vomiting in the cockpit, as well. When the poll was originally posted, The Rusty Hub editorial board predicted that the majority of our readers would respond in anger, but this finished a close third instead with 22 percent of the votes. This is important to know in case you actually find yourself in this situation; having read this, you'll now know you have 4:1 odds of a serious thrashing when you get out of the car.

Down the list a bit, 9 percent of voters would consider the situation a small victory, as they're used to their fail-piles breaking a wheel stud or puking out the engine's necessary bits long before any driver is actually able to get comfortable in the seat, let alone able to attend to bodily functions. Finally, imitation and indifference each got 5 percent of the vote; apparently some drivers already either pee in the car freely or would pee off the proverbial bridge if everyone else was doing it.


We'll give a moment to let last week's question evaporate...

Now that we've cleared that up, it's time to wonder about an eventuality: It's inevitable that someone will bring an early hybrid chassis to a crapcan race before too long. The first hybrids entered the market almost 15 years ago in the United States and are now approaching crapcan prices, especially when parts of the drivetrain have checked out. Let's take a look at those first-generation hybrids before we ask this week's question.

Toyota Prius (1997 to 2003): This is the car most people associate with smug pop-environmentalists. My wife enjoys telling the story of a daily commute in which an irate Prius driver yelled at her for ruining the earth because, at the time, she drove a Pontiac Grand Prix. Anyway, the first Prius was based on the Yaris/Echo platform and features the same 1.5L displacement engine--albeit a different, 58-horsepower version--as well as a 40-horsepower electric motor. Curb weight sits at a hefty 2,765 pounds (compared with the Echo's 2,055), but the coefficient of drag is a smooth 0.29. Stripping out the interior will save a few pounds, as will removing the batteries if you opt for an engine swap.

Honda Insight (1999 to 2006): Honda's entry into the hybrid world was not nearly as popular as the Prius and few would believe you if you said Honda built them through the middle of the last decade. The smugness is probably less apparent from these owners, who are more than likely hypermilers and therefore crazy in a different way. Unlike the current Insight--which is almost identical to the current Prius--the first-generation car was only a two-seater. It also came standard with a 5-speed manual transmission (but had an optional CVT) and weighed in at less than a ton. Power came from a 67-horsepower, three-cylinder engine and a 13-horsie electric motor. The Insight's sexy side skirts help the car's coefficient of drag reach a very slippery 0.25.

So those are your steeds. Knowing that part of the crapcan-worthy price of these cars will likely be that a crucial drivetrain element is broken, The Rusty Hub wants to know the following:

What drivetrain would you put in a first-generation hybrid crapcan?

Look to the top of the right-hand column for the choices. If the answer you have in mind isn't on the list, check the "Other" button and tell us in this post's comments about the engine you want instead that runs on unicorn tears and Loch Ness Monster DNA.

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