Tesla owners on hunger strike, old-school Hemi drag racers return to Indy, legit Pagani kit for your sim

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Flickr | Pål-Kristian Hamre

Tesla owners protest quality issues with hunger strike

Intake: A group of Tesla owners in Norway have become so frustrated with the firm’s quality control and customer service that they have gone on hunger strike. Among their list of complaints are paint quality and rust, heat pump failures, stuck door handles, and insufficient battery life. The group’s website says that owners are also disappointed with Tesla’s customer service, saying that they spend too long on hold with help lines and don’t receive promised call backs. Seemingly at the end of their tethers, the owners have now taken drastic action in a bid to attract the attention of Elon Musk himself.

Exhaust: Tesla build quality issues are well-documented but we’ve never heard of owners going to such extreme lengths to try to get them resolved. (Then again, Norway has an … unusual story of EV adoption.) Hopefully this is just a dramatic publicity exercise and Norway’s Tesla drivers won’t put themselves in any danger. We also hope Musk is listening and deals with these issues, which are certainly not unique to Norway. —Nik Berg

Would you take Tom Cruise’s 300Z back to the track?

1984 nissan 300zx bring a trailer tom cruise
Bring a Trailer

Intake: When actors Tom Cruise and Paul Newman co-starred in the 1986 film The Color of Money, few knew their friendship would turn Cruise into a race car driver, which was Newman’s favorite hobby. Cruise competed on Newman’s Nissan team in 1987, racing in the Showroom Stock class of the Sports Car Club of America. The car Cruise drove for the season is for sale on Bring a Trailer, and it’s generating quite a bit of interest in the comments section, but not so much early in the bidding process, but that should change as the auction draws to a close on Monday. The car itself has a amateur-racing pedigree, as a member of the very successful Newman-Sharp racing team, Newman being P.L., which is how he signed in, and Sharp being Bob Sharp, father of well-known racer Scott Sharp, who also drove for the team that year. The car is a 1984 Nissan 300Z Turbo, modified — rather lightly — for the race track. It sat in a junkyard for years before being rescued by the owner, who performed a mild restoration and repainted the body in Bob Sharp’s trademark red, white and blue, in Planters Peanuts livery. The car seems more like a road driver, complete with New Hampshire T-CRUZ plates and Road King Grenadier street tires, but it could be turned back into a vintage racer with fairly minimal work. Given how hot vintage racing and Tom Cruise are right now, that could be the next stop for the car, and where we’d like to see it end up. One caveat: Cruise crashed a lot, so there’s no way to tell how much this car was patched up during its tour of duty.

Exhaust: While the car is a race car, there’s always the chance some Cruise fanboy or fangirl just wants to drive around in a Planters Peanuts Nissan with Tom Cruise’s name over the doors. So what’s it worth? Greg Ingold, of the Hagerty valuation crew, suggests that the top value, sans Cruise on the door, is about $38,000. With Cruise, I’m wild-guessing $60,000, unless some Cruise fanpeople get in a bidding war, and then it could tickle six figures. —Steven Cole Smith

NHRA welcomes back Hemi Challenge for 21st straight year

Intake: Drag racing’s most prolific drag racers takes center stage this weekend at Indianapolis Raceway Park, in the 68th annual Dodge Power Brokers U.S. Nationals. The “Big Go” will feature the NHRA’s top stars and fastest cars nitro-blasting down the 1000-foot strip. Joining the national group, the Dodge Hemi Challenge promises to deliver on the nostalgia, welcoming a roster of 1968 Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda “package cars” that dominated NHRA Super Stock back in the day. The vintage Hemi-powered coupes will race side-by-side as they compete for a $15,000 purse and, of course, shiny hardware. More than 20 entrants are expected to race in what will be the 21st edition of the Challenge—which is the longest running specialty race in NHRA history.

Exhaust: Renowned drag racer and mechanic Paul Rossi will serve as the event’s grand marshal. “I completely understand the appeal of the Dodge HEMI Challenge,” says Rossi. “There’s nostalgia there and fans like to see them going fast. It’s just fantastic to have a category that calls these classic muscle cars back out of the garage.” Hear, hear. Especially for a meet like Indy’s “Big Go,” which harkens back to the sport’s salad days, it’s important for the NHRA to showcase the cars that propelled this series out of Southern California and onto the national stage. And the Hemi Challenge cars put on one heck of a show, too. If you’re looking for something to do this Labor Day weekend, I suggest sampling the U.S. Nationals. From modern nitro machines to these old school Hemi haulers, drag racing’s biggest event has something for every fan. — Cameron Neveu

Rare, stunning Isotta Franchini was built for 1928’s chauffeured class

Intake: Jay Leno has an appreciation for rare and unusual cars, so it’s no wonder that he has a great relationship with the Nethercutt Museum in Sylmar, California. On this week’s episode of Jay Leno’s Garage, Jay drives a stunning 1928 Isotta Fraschini Landaulet Type 8A, which Jay says was “the height of elegance in 1928.” Powered by a 135-hp, 449.7-cubic-inch inline eight-cylinder engine and decked out with every bell and whistle imaginable, the car sold for $12,000 new—about $208K today—when you could buy a new Ford Model T for $240. Among the car’s most notable features is a bell/light communication system so the wealthy passenger could give the chauffeur instructions without having to speak. Directions include left, right, quick, slow, stop, turn around, and go home. Although Jay says the luxury automobile drives “trucky,” Cameron Richards, vice president of the Nethercutt Collection, says it didn’t matter to the people who bought these cars because they never had to drive themselves anyway. And, although Isotta Fraschini built the car for the American market, the Italian automaker kept the steering wheel on the right-hand side so the chauffeur could more easily exit the vehicle and open the door for his passengers.

Exhaust: Although this episode of Jay Leno’s Garage spotlighted a particular automobile, Jay spent a lot of time praising the man responsible for saving it. The late J.B. Nethercutt, who Jay says was a “visionary,” amassed a collection that is not only prestigious but also features some of the rarest and most unusual cars ever built. “If you really like seeing unusual cars—cars you’ve never heard of, cars you’ve never seen—they’ve got ’em at the Nethercutt.” If you find yourself in the Los Angeles area, it’s definitely worth seeing. (Just don’t visit from September 6 through October 12, when the museum will be closed for renovations.) —Jeff Peek

Pedal a Pagani for $2000

Asetek SimSports Pagani pedals
Asetek SimSports

Intake: Top-flight racing sim manufacturer Asetek SimSports has partnered with Pagani to bring the most stylish and high-performing pedals to your racing rig. Modeled on the pedal box of the Huarya R, the controllers are said to accurately mimic the feel of the Italian hypercar. “Both objects reflect the same philosophy,” says Horacio Pagani. “The Asetek pedal board is a component built with the same criteria of the pedal board of the Huarya R.” Only 30 real-world drivers will place their feet on the pedals of a Huarya R, but thanks to Asetek, a few thousand more serious sim racers will get a similar experience, as long as they’re willing to pay $1999 for the privilege.

Exhaust: More and more car makers are realizing there’s money to be made in the world of virtual racing. (These 7 OEMs have even fielded factory-backed teams in online competition.) Aston Martin developed its own racing rig with Darren Turner, and Prodrive has just put its artsy Ian Callum–designed simulator into production. With Pagani joining the action, surely Ferrari and Lamborghini must follow. —NB

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