Auto almanac

Drawing Board

2015 BMW i8: Arriving next spring is this 2+2 gull-winged-door coupe that will be BMW’s first plug-in hybrid. It combines a 231-horsepower 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine driving the rear wheels with a 131-horsepower electric motor that directs its 184 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. The latter gives the i8 up to 22 miles of gasoline-free propulsion. Expect a price of around $140,000.

Auto Trivia

■ The world’s smallest production car was the Peel P50, made on the Isle of Man near the British coast. The one-door, three-wheeled, single-passenger vehicle shown here weighed 130 pounds and used a 4.2-horsepower gas engine that was connected to a three-speed manual transmission.

■ Until 1973, whale oil was used in some car transmissions.

Who am I?

To guess his secret identity,

read the following clues!

1) In 1972, this budding entertainer followed his career to California.

2) He arrived with $400 in his pocket and promptly bought a 1955 Buick.

3) Fame and the resulting finances meant he could drive just about whatever he wanted.

4) His collection of more than 100 vehicles and motorcycles is one of the most diverse in the world.

5) When he is not on TV, he is usually living breathing and driving automobiles.

Still stumped?

Jay Leno drove that ’55 Buick to his first “Tonight Show” appearance in 1977. Now he is the host.

“I like cars and I like to think I’m just doing what any car guy would do if he had some money,” Leno says.

What’s up, auto doc?

About 85 years ago, John Sipes cut small grooves across the tread of a tire to provide more gripping edges and thus more traction.

Today, “siping” can be done to new and used tires by many tire dealers.

By providing hundreds more gripping edges in the tread, traction can be substantially increased, even on ice. The process involves mounting the tire to a machine that rotates it while at the same time slicing in the grooves.

Normally, cutting up the tread into smaller blocks would make it mushy and less responsive to your inputs (turning, acceleration, braking, etc.) but a circular cutter — sort of like a small version of a pizza cutter — is used to create grooves with varying depth to help maintain the tread strength while still adding the gripping edges. To get a better idea of how it works and the benefits, the Auto Doc has posted an infographic online (shown below in miniature form) at your tips with the Auto Doc at using the contact form.

eBay watch

1962 Oldsmobile Dynamic Eighty-Eight sedan, sold, $6,000: For anyone starting out in the collector-car hobby, a nondescript sedan in decent shape is an inexpensive option. This four-door Olds isn’t a high-demand car yet will still draw a crowd at any show-and-shine event. It might even net you a few dollars when the time comes for something more exotic. Visit

Top Gear

VLR multisurface cleaner; about $10; Mothers; The idea of Mothers VLR (Vinyl, Leather and Rubber) is to quickly take care of the three types of surfaces with one product. The formula contains something called neatsoil (which comes from cows) for conditioning/softening/preserving, and lanolin (which comes from sheep) for water protection. Mothers claims VLR will safely remove tough stains and ground-in dirt while conditioning against drying, fading and cracking.

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