Friday, February 24, 2017

Penske brings back ‘Blue Hilton’

Team Penske sold the Blue Hilton in 1983 to George Boyd of
Urbana, Ill., who used it for years to haul his own racecars
before he retired the vehicle to a spot in his yard
It’s hard to believe there was ever a day when having a purpose-built truck haul a racecar from track to track wasn’t standard operating procedure. But back in the early 1970s, the concept was pioneered by Penske Racing. Now one of the pioneering transport vehicles is getting its moment in Victory Lane.

Team Penske is one of the most decorated racing teams in the world, with its cars and drivers having captured more than 440 wins in stock car, open wheel, and sports car racing competitions. The original “Blue Hilton,” a customized 1972 International Fleetstar, was thought to be lost to history’s scrapyard. Turns out, it was just in retirement in a yard in Urbana, Ill.

The transporter helped change the landscape of auto racing, serving as a precursor to today’s impressive closed transporters that carry cars, parts and equipment to race tracks all over the globe, according to a news release from Team Penske. Designed by champion racecar driver Mark Donohue, the payload area of the truck was based on efficiency and functionality. The “Blue Hilton” nickname came from its royal blue exterior and the sleeper area above the cab, now a standard feature in today’s transporters.
The fully restored Blue Hilton is on display at the Team Penske
headquarters in Mooresville, N.C.

The folks at Team Penske spent over 8,000 man-hours restoring it to mint condition, just in time for team owner Roger Penske’s 80th birthday on Feb. 20. The restoration is “complete down to the smallest detail, including authentic PPG paint and hand lettering,” according to a news release from Team Penske.

In its heyday, the Blue Hilton served the race team from 1972 to 1983, and transported the No. 66 McLaren that Donohue drove to victory in the 1972 Indianapolis 500 – the first of the Penske team’s record 16 wins in auto racing’s premier event. In conjunction with its sister transporter, “The White Hilton,” it was also used to transport the championship-winning Porsche 917s that dominated the landscape of the Can-Am Series in the early 1970s with Donohue and George Follmer.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

We’re gonna need a lot of bubble wrap

Amazon wants to deliver by parachute. Yup. That’s what they've proposed in a patent application with a little sketch that shows the path of a parachute gently lowering a package to the ground from a drone.

The description says the parachute, which includes a little fan, can be guided from the drone to avoid stuff like trees and wires. It will be so accurate it can steer the parachute to an apartment building terrace.

You can't do that with a Peterbilt 389 and a 53-foot Great Dane – at least not yet – but don't worry. You won't be in competition with Amazon's parachute division. Their drones can only handle 5-pound packages – at least right now.

Yeah, I’m hedging. I laughed at the drone idea when it first leaked in 2013. Now these guys are starting to scare me.

Amazon has been building massive distribution centers and hiring van drivers for local deliveries. No worries there. But a couple of years ago, Amazon began buying its own dry van trailers. Then they leased 40 big jet liners, and reports say they'll be going into the logistics business. If that happens, and it probably will, we'll soon be doing business with Amazon brokerage. Maybe that should make us feel good, but for some reason that doesn’t work for me.