Car Wars Internet Newsletter
Vol. 12, No. 1
July 12, 2009


Not Dead Yet

Hello, autoduelists. I have been in the background, reading discussion forums and occasionally posting on the Steve Jackson Games Car Wars Message Board. As usual, my schedule working as a laboratory rodent has been catastrophic to this newsletter and my Web site. This issue has a lot of links to compensate for the long time between issues. I am not going to promise but I am going to attempt to complete a large Web site update in August.

Mad Max Returns

A once-in-a-lifetime Mad Max fan gathering will take place this November in California. Check out the details in the Mad Max section below.

Death Track: Resurrection Released

The sequel to the 1989 classic Deathtrack has been released for Windows platforms. Originally the U.S. was only going to have a downloadable version. I was able to purchase a boxed set over the Internet. I have only played the game a few times but it appears the developers successfully combined the feel of the original Deathtrack with current graphics technology.

2009 WADA Car Wars League Update

If you are still interested in this year's WADA Car Wars League, send me event results for this year and I will update the current standings in August.

Dragonflight 2009

I am planning to be present at the Dragonflight 2009 gaming convention this August in Bellevue, WA. I will probably be running Formula De, Descent and Space Hulk. I may also run a session of Car Wars.

Dragonflight Gaming Convention

Until the next issue, one I hope to publish in August, Drive Offensively.


1d4chan - Car Wars

Badwolf66's Web Site - Car Wars

BoardGameGeek - Car Wars - Amateur Night in the Napalm Arena Blog: Car Battling Games Database and News

Car Wars Online MMORPG Petition

Austin Chronicle: Cinematic Gaming with Warren Spector

Facebook - Car Wars: A Steve Jackson Game

Facebook - Car Wars

Facebook - Steve Jackson Games Fans - Car Wars Compendium Errata

Denis Loubet's Resume

Retro Reviews - Car Wars Adventure Gamebook #1: Battle Road Road/Austin/battleroad000.html

RPG Sheets > Official Character Sheets > Car Wars

Science Fiction Museum - Car Wars - Car Wars

SpoCon 2009 - Car Wars

Wasted Warriors: The Road Warriors Blog

Wikipedia - Car Wars (TI-99/4A computer game)


2085: Warlords of the Wasteland

Aberrant Games - Warlands

Aberrant Games Store - Warlands Black Box Sold Out

Aberrant Official Forums: Warlands

Blerpaland - FUDGE: Route 666

BoardGameGeek - KRASH

BoardGameGeek - Rush N' Crush

BoardGameGeek - The Really Nasty Motor Racing Game

BoardGameGeek - ThunderRoad

Crazy NeomaD's KRASH Forum

Dice Realm Online RPG Group

e23: Paper Miniatures - Post-Apocalyptic Set

Free Wargames Rules

Frothers Unite! U.K. - Miniatures Links

FUDGE Guide Archive - Mutant Bikers of the Atomic Wastelands

Invisible City Productions - Yield!

Horror Ecliptic - Links

KRASH Expansion Rules by Robert Porschke

Montreal Boardgames Meetup Group - Doom_Buggies

Old Glory Miniatures - Road Kill

Paper Dragon's Cyberpunk Links


Road Warriors: Post Apocalypse Gang Add-on for No Limits (Adobe Acrobat, 270 KB)' - Death Derby: The Demolition Card Game

Stan Johansen Miniatures - Road Warriors Forums - Opponents Wanted

Wargames Unlimited - No Limits

Wargames Unlimited Forums - No Limits

Uncle Bear Downloads - Toybox Wars

White Line Nightmare: Post-Apocalyptic Campaign for Savage Worlds

Wikipedia - BattleCars

Wikipedia - Dark Future

Wikipedia - ThunderRoad (board game)

Yahoo! Groups - Formula Waaagh


Armchair Arcade: An Interview with Chuck "Chuckles" Bueche

Atari Gaming Headquarters - Game Reviews - Fatal Run for Atari 7800

Auto Assault The Collectible Card Game

Big Download - Interview: SkyFallen talks about Death Track: Resurrection

BoardGameGeek - Auto Assault The Collectible Card Game

CNET Australia - Downloads > Windows > Games > Driving Games > Car Combat Games > Autofrag: Sumo,239030384,10388729s,00.htm

Cars With Guns - Speed Rumbler (1986)

Death Race Mobile Game

Death Track: Resurrection

DIPRIP - Half-Life 2 Conversion - Automatic Weapons Software

Gamesover - Walkthroughs - Death Rally FAQ

GameSpot - Death Track: Resurrection for PC

Free Online Games - Sports Games - Diesel and Death

Interstate Outlaws

Joystiq - Pontiac ad is glorious homage to Spy Hunter - Car Racing Games

Moby Games - Review of the game Deathtrack,16

Positech Games - Kombat Kars > Shurkin Designs > Autoduel - Apple IIe T-Shirt

Softpedia - Fast Lane Carnage

Wikipedia - Death Rally

Wikipedia - MegaRace

Wikipedia - RoadWar 2000

Wikipedia - Spy Hunter

World of Interstate '76

More Juicy Details about PlayStation3 Live Service

By vonguard
March 8, 2007

SOE LogoLast August, Sony Online Entertainment made a quiet purchase that didn’t get a lot of press. And that quiet little purchase has become the underpinning of Sony’s online strategy for its PlayStation3.

In August 2006, Sony snatched up Worlds Apart, a Denver-based company best known for making online trading card games, like Star Chamber. Sony’s decision to jump into the online trading card game market marked a drastic shift for its plans. Prior to August, Sony’s online arm had focused entirely on 3D MMO’s, most of them featuring goblins and swords.

With the Worlds Apart acquisition, the company moved into a realm that has, historically, been far less profitable, and far more niche. But previous attempts at launching online trading card games have never included a gaming console. Thanks to Sony’s newly announced online plans for the PS3, it looks like Worlds Apart will be a major factor in the console’s initial push into virtual transactions. Surely, Sony sees dollar signs on all of those $3 booster packs of digital cards.

A source familiar with the company’s (SOE) plans cleared up the mystery for us. Rather than build new IP or adapt existing card games to the digital world, SOE’s plan is to mash as many different properties as possible into the trading card game format. This will be particularly apparent as the company’s PS3 Home service launches this fall. What sort of IP would that be, you ask?

Well, our source dropped a couple of names and titles on us: Stargate, Pirates, and Star Trek. The catch here is that real-world tie-ins will be the order of the day for all of these games. Players will likely be able to swap in-game cards for real-world cards, and vice versa. Wizards of the Coast has been doing this for years with the Internet version of the collectible card game that started it all, Magic: The Gathering Online, and it’s not surprising that Sony would ape the practice.

Elsewhere at SOE, the company is currently in negotiations with Steve Jackson Games to produce a Car Wars-based MMO. You may remember Jackson as the creator of table-top games like Illuminati, Munchkin, and the failed online game Ultracorps. It will be a while before the details of that negotiation will come to light, but Car Wars may not be the only game to come out of a successful barganing session: Jackson has long sought to bring Ultracorps back to life since it’s expunging from Microsoft’s MSN network in the late 90’s. In fact, Jackson told this reporter, last year, that he was at GDC 2006 specifically to find a new publisher for the game.

SOE isn’t giving up on PC MMO’s, however. Perpetual Entertainment’s Gods and Heroes should be available later season, but it already appears that the title is on its way to the dust bin. This standard Everquest-style MMO has taken too long to ship and has been a money pit for its publisher. Perpetual is also developing the Star Trek MMO. Some MMO insiders have wondered if Gods and Heroes is getting the short stick, as it was the first game built on Perpetual’s MMO engine. At this point, all signs seem to indicate that Gods and Heroes is the test run for the technology that will run Star Trek Online.

Since the Game Developers Conference is going on this week, phone calls to SOE in an attempt to confirm our source’s information were not answered. As everyone who’s anyone at SOE is in San Francisco this week, we’ll be hitting them up for confirmation as the day goes on. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: Friday, 3-9-2007

We’ve spoken to Steve Jackson about the property negotiations, and he declined to confirm that SOE was the company currently in negotiations for the rights to Car Wars. “One company has been saying for six months, ‘we want to talk, we’re just distracted right now.’” However, Jackson did comment that SOE certainly seemed a bit distracted, lately. At the moment, his life is taken up by the “Munchkin” brand of card games, he added.


MadMaxModels - RoadBlasters - Interstate '76 Picard Piranha

MOCpages - Infamous Movie Vehicles

MOCpages - Video Game Vehicles

MOCpages - Death Race Demon

MOCpages - Frankenstein: Death Race 2000

MOCpages - Carmageddon Style

MOCpages - Eagle 3

MOCpages - Deathrace 2000

Paper Worlds Gallery - Models and Miniatures in Paper (MMiP) - MMiP #34 - Post Apocalypse or Modern Horror

Post-Apocalypse Armed and Armored Winnebago Paper Figure (Adobe Acrobat, 387 KB) - Car Wars Miniatures Gallery

Wikipedia - Micro Machines

WEB WATCH - BLOG POSTS - Lee Bentley's Blog - Game remakes I'd like to see

6mm-Minis - Car Wars Correspondence: Part 1

anyway - Pencil and Paper Vector Car Race Game

Autoblog - Don't try this at home: SUV with remote-operated shotguns

Ballarat Urban Gamers Guild - Car Wars game report - Car Wars 2001 - Auto Assault, Roadwar 2000 and AutoDuel - Two Men Enter, One Man Leaves: The Ten Most Gruesome Scifi Death Sports

Dodgeblogium - Remember Car Wars?

Drake's Flames - Old Game Review: Car Wars > Car Wars

Felix's Gaming Pages - Archive for Car Wars Category

Medea's Memoirs - Amy's Driveway Rage

Musings of the Chatty DM - Gaming at the Speed of Nostalgia - post-apocalyptic articles  - Car Wars the Way It Was Meant To Be Played - Five Scifi Miniatures Games That Are Maximally Cool - The Meanest Car Wins, In Post-WWIII Wasteland - Two Men Enter, One Man Leaves: The Ten Most Gruesome Scifi Death Sports

OgreCave - Audio Report - BattleLore! Top Fives! Thunder Road!

Ole Bald Angus the Monk - Car Wars

Joe Reifer - Digital Night Photography Article Collection - Knight Rider 2010: Moonrise Over Pearsonville

Keys to the Game - Rites of Passage, Lefts of Passage

Little Lead Heroes - Warlands

Little Lead Heroes - Unboxing Warlands

Marcvs The Bard's Tales - A New Car Wars Campaign: Rules and Historical Background

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum - Before We Had Television Part Two

Rodney Orpheus Blog - Death Rally: A Tournament/Campaign Setting for Car Wars

Random Musings - Car Wars . . . on TV?

Ronn's Big Pile of Stuff - ThunderRoad from Milton Bradley

Carl Schelin - An Old Friend - GeekDad - 80’s Throwback: Choose Your Own Adventure Turns 30!

(x, why?) Christopher J. Burke's Blog - Drive Offensively!


Aberrant Official Forums > Warlands Forums > Warlands - General Discussion > Death Race

The Acaeum Forum Index > Collecting General - Non TSR > Car Wars type games

Battlegrounds Games > User Feedback > Submit Feedback > Any Car Wars fans here?

Circvs Maximvs > Gaming  > The Hypogeum > Dealing with the resident Car Wars champ Forums > Artwork > Studies and Works in Progress > WIP Copperhead: A Car Wars Poster

Denver RPG Meetup Group Forum - Car Wars!

Dundjinni Mapping Software > Forums > Objects and Textures (Modern/Sci-Fi) > A Few Modern Cars

EN World D&D / RPG News > General RPG Forums > General RPG Rules Discussion > mad-max/carwars/AUTODUEL type d20 game

Gamers with Jobs > Forums > Games and Platforms > Anyone miss Car Wars?

Gamers with Jobs > Forums > Games and Platforms > Bring back vehicular combat! > Bits & Bytes > General Gaming > Anyone still play the paper/pencil RPGs?

HERO Games Discussion Boards > Genres  > Other Genres > Death Race

HERO Games Discussion Boards > HERO Games  > HERO System Discussion > Who would play this? "Car Hero"

Indiegamer Developer Discussion Boards > Indie Game Development  > Game Design > How would YOU make Car Wars into a video game?

MacRumors Forums > Mac Community  > Community Discussion > I want to mount a machine gun on my car

The Miniatures Page > Can folks recommend any Car Wars-esque miniature Web sites?

The Miniatures Page > Car Wars anyone?

The Miniatures Page > Cars for playing Death Race?

The Miniatures Page > "OK, watched Death Race . . . want Car Combat options?"

The Miniatures Page > Cruising the Old 66: Warlands Soundtrack Update #3

The Miniatures Page > Figures for CarWars type gaming

NeoGAF > Discussions  > Gaming Discussion > just saw death race. Why no next gen AUTODUEL by LB and chuckles?

The Older Gamers Public Forums  > Strategy, RPG and Other Games > Calling all old Car Wars fans Calling all old Car Wars fans

Quarter to Three Forums > Sony Online to Make Car Wars MMO?

Reaper Message Board > General Discussion > General Sci-Fi > Post-Apoc Auto-Dueling

Role Players Direct Forums > Game Discussions > Car Wars!

RPGnet Forums: Other Gaming  > Other Games Open > [Car Wars] HELP!

RPGnet Forums > Other Gaming  > Other Games Open > [Car Wars] How would you revised the timeline?

RPGnet Forums > Other Gaming > Other Games Open > Car Wars-Hot Wheels-Stripping/Painting

RPGnet Forums > RPGnet Roleplaying  > Tabletop Roleplaying Open > Road Rebels (re:Worst Game Ever)

theRPGSite > Game Discussion  > Design, Development, and Gameplay > Speed Racer rpg

Shrapnel Games .com.unity Forums > Blog > A New Car Wars From SJG? Forums > Man I wish they would remake Autoduel, the CG of Car Wars!

A Well Regulated Militia > Militia Operations and Training > Survival & Preparedness > EMP proof vehicle;f=27;t=000146;p=0

Wyrd Miniatures > Discussions and Interests > News and Reviews > Aberrant Games - Warlands on Preorder

WargamerAU Forums > Wargaming Down Under > Additional Games & Literature > RPGs > Anyone ever play "Car Wars" ?

Windsor Gaming Resource > Gaming Forums > Board, Card and Tabletop Gaming Discussion > A new Car Wars? With Dinky Cars?

Wizards of the Coast Community > General Gaming > General Gaming HQ > General Gaming Discussion > I miss Car Wars


CarWars Extreme Motorsports

Discovery Channel - Weaponizers

The three-episode series premiered Monday, May 11, at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The two Weaponizer teams turned ordinary vehicles into devastating fighting machines, then competed against each other in explosive battles.

Lyrics Domain > AC/DC - Rocker Lyrics
Editor's Note: The rantings of The Night Rider in the movie "Mad Max" referenced AC/DC's "Rocker."

MegaForce - Deeds Not Words

Star Car Central - Tango & Cash

Wikipedia - Knight Rider 2010

Internet Movie Database - Trivia for Megaforce (1982)

* Actually filmed in Southern Nevada using M48A5 tanks of 1/221 Armor Battalion of the Nevada National Guard.

* Producers approached military officials for cooperation in the design of the vehicles used in the battle scenes; the officials refused. When the film was released, those same officials were so impressed with the vehicles, they asked the producers for the plans. The producers cooperated.

* The "missiles" were actually model rockets manufactured by a company in Raytown, Missouri. The filmmakers were so impressed with their accuracy over distance that they restaged some of the battle scenes to take advantage of this.

Photo Gallery: 20 All-Time Coolest Heroes in Pop Culture,,20268279,00.html?xid=partner-CNNHome-20+coolest+heroes+in+pop+culture

Along with their villainous counterparts, the good guys are the undisputed kings and queens of our favorite entertainments. Today, we rank the best of the good; come back Monday for the elite of evil

Entertainment Weekly and
Posted March 27, 2009


WHY HIM: In a postapocalyptic world where everyone is in a death struggle for fuel (hmm, sound familiar?), you need a badass who cracks heads . . . you know, for good.
BEST ACCESSORY: A souped-up muscle car.
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: Poor fuel efficiency.
COPYCAT DESCENDANTS: Kevin Costner in Waterworld, Kevin Costner in The Postman.

Top 10 movie car chase scenes
March 27, 2009

Story Highlights
* In most car-chase movies, the real star is the car, author says
* The chase in "The French Connection" features a 1971 Pontiac LeMans
* More than 300 stunt drivers were employed for the 1998 "Ronin" film
* "Bullitt" is perennially voted one of the best car movies of all time

7. "Mad Max II: The Road Warrior" (1981)

You'd be hard pressed to name any of Mel Gibson's cobbled-together vehicles in his 1981 sequel to "Mad Max" -- which may boast the highest number of chopped and recharged V8s outside of Havana, Cuba -- but that doesn't stop "The Road Warrior" being considered a car-chase classic and one of the best action movies out there.

Motley collections of cut-throat bandits, nomads and braggarts populate Australia's barren, dystopian landscape and blow-up any number of heavy machines, including police cars, motorbikes and a big-rig fuel tanker.

It's all in their quest for that all-important and -- in a post-apocalyptic world -- rare substance: fuel.

The explosive 20-minute chase scene to end the movie still exhilarates nearly 30 years after the movie's release. And don't we all want an engine intake like Max's infamous "blower?"

 2. "Ronin" (1998)

Although it will never be regarded as Robert de Niro's best dramatic performance, 1998's "Ronin" doesn't land on our list for its dialogue. In unbelievable realism, viewers are treated to chase scenes with sport sedans such as a BMW M5, Peugeot 406 and, perhaps most famously, an Audi S8.

Plenty of police cars, trucks and motorcycles meet their end and more than 300 stunt drivers were employed to give the real-time chases scene an air of metal-crunching realism amid a character-driven plot that involves CIA operatives, mercenaries and multiple double-crosses surrounding a mysteriously valuable briefcase.

There are few actors that can capture the mixture of terror and exhilaration involved in a car chase quite like De Niro, while Jean Reno is the only actor who could make driving a Peugeot an exercise in steely manhood.

Director John Frankenheimer pretty nearly perfected the art of filming gritty car chase sequences in 1966's "Grand Prix."

The 10 best car-chase scenes on film,,456803,00.html

By Gary Susman
Entertainment Weekly
June 5, 2003

3 of 10: Death Race 2000
(1975) This Rollerball-like satire is really just one long chase involving customized funny cars. The racers -- led by the disfigured Frankenstein (David Carradine) and the thuggish Machine Gun Joe (a pre-Rocky Sylvester Stallone) -- compete in a Road Runner-worthy transcontinental race in which extra points are awarded for mowing down pedestrians. (On ''Euthanasia Day,'' for example, elderly hospital patients are placed as targets on the road.) Bonus points for knowing that this is the film that inspired the Carmageddon videogame.

7 of 10: The Road Warrior
(1981) In a post-apocalyptic future where gasoline is scarce, director George Miller sure uses a lot of it in this extended chase sequence that fills the last quarter of the film. A band of punk-biker pirates pursues a tribal convoy, led by Mel Gibson's Mad Max, that's escorting a precious fuel tanker to safety. Fighters clad in studded leather spar atop moving cars, motorcycles, and trucks, picking each other off with shotguns and crossbows. The second of the three Mad Max movies, Road Warrior is also the most memorable, thanks to its relentless drive.

8 of 10: Ronin
(1998) Racecar driver-turned-director John Frankenheimer adapted the car-mounted camera techniques he used in his film Grand Prix for the white-knuckle chase sequences of this Robert De Niro spy thriller. A multiple-car chase through the narrow, steep streets of Nice is one-upped only by the sheer lunacy of an against-the-traffic pursuit through tunnels under the Seine in Paris (much like the one where Princess Diana died). ''There was no acting required on my part, believe me . . . '' says actor and terrified passenger Jonathan Pryce.

Film composer Maurice Jarre dies

BBC News
March 29, 2009

French composer Maurice Jarre, best known for his music for Hollywood films, has died in Los Angeles at 84, after suffering from cancer.

Jarre, father of the composer Jean-Michel Jarre, rose to prominence relatively late in life.

His breakthrough came in 1962 when he wrote the score for Lawrence of Arabia, for which he was awarded an Oscar.

He won two further Oscars for Doctor Zhivago and A Passage to India, and composed music for more than 150 films.

His scores enhanced the work of some of the film industry's greatest directors - among others David Lean, Alfred Hitchcock, John Huston and Luchino Visconti.

He also wrote symphonic music for theatre, ballet and television, including the 1970s mini-series Jesus of Nazarath.

Jarre, who moved to the US in the 1960s, was married four times and is the father of Jean-Michel Jarre, a pioneer of electronic music.

One of his final public appearances was at the Berlin International Film Festival in February, where he received a lifetime achievement award.

At the time, festival director Dieter Kosslick paid tribute to Jarre saying: "Film composers often are in the shadows of great directors and acting stars.

"It's different with Maurice Jarre - the music of Doctor Zhivago, like much of his work, is world-famous and remains unforgettable in cinema history."

Jarre made one of his final public appearances in February.

Wikipedia: Maurice Jarre

Movie scores composed include 1982's Firefox and 1985's Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

WEB WATCH - FICTION - Auto Assault - Twisted Metal

Fictionwise eBooks - Along the Scenic Route by Harlan Ellison

Fighting Fantasy Reviews Archive - Fighting Fantasy 13: Freeway Fighter

Funtopia - Book Review - Car Warriors 2: Back From Hell


Road Warrior Weekend Event 2009
Friday, November 20th until Sunday, November 22nd
Stoddard Valley, CA, USA

Scarlett Harlott is organizing a 3-day weekend / camping event in Stoddard Valley (the dry lake bed in "Gyrocopter Cove" at El Mirage), California including cars, costumes, film screenings and more. See the information page at MySpace for further details, or join in the discussion on the Mad Max Movies discussion forum.

Actor Vernon G. Wells ("Wez" from "Mad Max 2"), actress Virginia Hey ("Warrior Woman" from "Mad Max 2") and Kim Noyce, a former Australian stuntman and Vernon Wells's stunt double will be attending the event.

MySpace - Road Warrior Weekend Event 2009 Blogs - Road Warrior Event 2009

Mad Max Movies Discussion Forum - Road Warrior Weekend 2009

Mad Max Cars

Mad Max Costumes

Mad Max Online

Roadwar USA

Roadwar USA - Road Warrior Weekend Event 2009

Vernon G. Wells Official Web Site

Facebook - Vernon George Wells

MySpace - The Feral Kid (Former Australian Actor Emil Minty)

Virginia Hey Official Web Site

Mad Max Returns, But Not As You'd Expect Blog
March 7, 2009

The Cory Barlog Interview, Part I
Level Up Newsweek Blog
March 11, 2008

The Cory Barlog Interview, Part II
Level Up Newsweek Blog
March 11, 2008

The George Miller Interview, Part I
Level Up Newsweek Blog
March 12, 2008

The George Miller Interview, Part II
Level Up Newsweek Blog
March 12, 2008

Will Segments Of George Miller's Mad Max 4 Be Live Action? Blog
May 18, 2009


Aftermath RPG

Art of Wargames - Maysha Car Wars Campaign

Bump N Run Auto Racing Board Game

Crawley Area Roleplaying Society (CARPS) Forum > Formula De as Car Wars

CARPS - Resource and Downloads Page autodueling

Drunk Dwarves: Axle Tribes

Flirtin' With Disaster - Post-Apocalyptic Roleplaying Using Dark Champions

The Fudge Guide > Crunchy Vehicles

The Holy Order of Vehicular Safety

InkPot Productions - Car Wars

Intelligent Gamer: Content / Tabletop Gaming Reviews / Thunder Road

James's Fudge Page - Full Throttle - Fast Lane Carnage

OmegaCrest Computer Products - ARENA

Original Hero System Characters - Post-Apocalyptic Combat Car

Retro Remakes Forum - Autoduel [Archive]

ROADBLASTERS - The Power that Rules the Road and Flash Force 2000

Saddlesoft's Car Wars Page

Steve Jackson Games - Car Wars - Adobe Acrobat Files

TutorGig Encyclopedia - Car Wars


The World's Toughest Bus

By Greg Bjerg
March 11, 2006

If you're traveling one of the toughest bus routes on Earth you might want to be in a vehicle tough enough to take everything thrown at it. That bus is called a Rhino Runner and it's a cross between a local metro bus and a tank.

One route the Rhino Runner runs is what’s called “Route Irish,” the local name for the highly dangerous road between the secure Green Zone in Baghdad and the Baghdad Airport. There were so many ambushes, Improvised Explosive Devices, and insurgent attacks on this route that only helicopters were used for some time and State Department personnel were forbidden to travel the highway.

That's where the Rhino Runner comes in. The Runner is the toughest bus on the planet and it only takes passengers to where no unprotected vehicle could possibly go. And its had more than a few opponents take shots at it.

In November 2004, a convoy of three Rhino Runners was on Route Irish when a suicide bomber drove an explosive-laden BMW between the first and second vehicles. At a distance of two meters from the second Rhino Runner the terrorist detonated more than 250 pounds of explosives creating a crater 6 feet wide and 2 feet deep. There was a dust cloud over 1,000 feet long.

There were seventeen passengers and a driver on the second Rhino at the time of the explosion. There were no injuries at all in what the Army called a “massive explosion.”

Here is an account of an Army Captain who was in the second Rhino Runner:

"While traveling to the airport in one of your Runner buses, a civilian vehicle suddenly veered close to my bus, which was very unusual, then cut closely in front of us. Before anyone could react, the driver detonated a huge bomb, and we were engulfed in a large sea of orange flames, and the bus severely rocked."

"I quickly checked the other passengers for injuries, and found them all to be OK, with the exception of some sore ear drums. Area soldiers quickly escorted us from the Runner, and as I left the bus, I saw a large crater, but absolutely no sign of the suicide vehicle - it had been completely obliterated. Soldiers later found the nearly 400 pound engine 100 yards from the explosion site.”

Several weeks later another two buses were attacked in Baghdad by a BMW sedan loaded with an estimated 1,000 pounds of explosives. Once again, the bomb was detonated between the two Runners causing a huge explosion. None of the forty passengers on either of the buses were injured.

The Rhino Runner, manufactured by Labock Technologies of Florida, is a hand-made bus built from the chassis up. Everything is custom made and Rhino Runners are built to withstand every caliber of bullet, including armour-piercing rounds. The composite armour is so light it floats on water, and a special one-way bulletproof glass prevents bullets from coming in but you can shoot out through the glass just fine. The bus comes in seating configurations of 17, 24 and 36 and has run-flat tires when you don’t want to go out and change one. It weighs 13 tons, has 12 gun ports and costs about $275,000.

The buses are not just used by the US military but also by: The United Nations, The Vatican, Lloyd’s of London and the Department of Justice for the nation of Columbia. It is also the vehicle that takes Saddam Hussein and other V.I.P. prisoners between their confinements and the Iraqi Tribunal.

The vehicle's interior is quite spartan and comes in any color you want . . . as long as it's a muted gray. But despite the drab colors and hard seats, the Rhino Runner continues to be the ride of choice on the most dangerous roads in the world.

Further Reading:

Labock Company Web Site

Electric Mini: 0-60 in 4 Seconds: It Has Motors In Its Wheels

By Justin Thomas
August 30, 2006

A British engineering firm has put together a high-performance hybrid version of BMW's Mini Cooper. The PML Mini QED has a top speed of 150 mph, a 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds. The car uses a small gasoline engine with four 160 horsepower electric motors — one on each wheel. The car has been designed to run for four hours of combined urban/extra urban driving, powered only by a battery and bank of ultra capacitors. The QED supports an all-electric range of 200-250 miles and has a total range of about 932 miles (1,500 km). For longer journeys at higher speeds, a small conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) is used to re-charge the battery. In this hybrid mode, fuel economies of up to 80mpg can be achieved.

Explains Martin Boughtwood, PML’s MD: “Until now, most electric vehicles have been little more than souped-up milk floats, limited by range and speed, with compromised performance. For those with a green conscience who also value an enhanced motoring experience, there is still something missing.

“Working in partnership with our customer, Synergy Innovations, we set out to demonstrate what our electric wheel technology is capable of. We simply took a standard BMW Mini One, discarded the engine, the disc brakes, the wheels, and the gearbox. These components were replaced by four of our electric wheels, a lithium polymer battery, a large ultra capacitor, a very small ICE with generator (so small it almost fits alongside the spare wheel), an energy management system and a sexy in-car display module.”

The benefits of PML in-wheel drive technology are;

* It is adaptable to other vehicle chassis
* It eliminates the need for gearing and mechanical drive train
* It allows more space inside the car

The vehicle has three driver-selectable modes of operation:

* Eco mode for town/city frequent start-stop driving;
* Normal mode for daily commuting and ICE- equivalent operation, and
* Sport mode for super car performance.

Other notable features include:

* No (mechanical) brakes means returned energy!

All braking is performed by the wheel motors acting as very efficient electrical generators which return almost all of the energy back to the battery system. The beauty of this dual-circuit, ultra safe system is that your green conscience can be quite content even when accelerating hard, since you are assured of collecting most of the expended energy when it is time to slow down rapidly.
ABS as standard – even when accelerating

Because the wheels are high performance motors, ABS comes as a standard function built into each wheel’s software. Now anti-skid can also be applied to acceleration since the motor can smoothly control torque delivery to/from the road in both cases. Flooring the brake or accelerator hard merely results in controlled maximum torque, giving the shortest possible stopping or acceleration time.

Clever wheels

The technology eliminates the need for crude differential gears to share power between left and right sides. The wheels are in constant communication with each other deciding 1000 times each second how much torque share is optimum for the current driving conditions. Should one wheel detect a slippery surface and take appropriate anti-skid actions, the other wheels are aware of this instantly and adopt an appropriate compensating strategy to keep the vehicle as stable as possible.

640 brake horsepower – for life!

Each wheel develops 160bhp - 640bhp in total. The original Mini One develops less than 100bhp with an engine that weighs nearly double the weight of the four electric wheels! Apart from wheel bearings there are no wearing parts in the electric wheels; this means the horsepower stays for the life of the vehicle - and beyond.

As the battery level reduces, the rear mounted ICE/generator starts to automatically top up the battery. So when you arrive at your destination you can simply park the vehicle knowing that when you return the battery will be replenished. Alternatively you can take advantage of lower cost mains electricity and plug in to recharge. So you never need to worry about battery capacity or how to recharge. During operation, as the battery level falls the generator cuts in, enabling an average speed of 60 – 70mph to be sustained with no further battery depletion.

See more information at World Car Fans

Update: BMW to Make Electric Mini. Only in California. Only 500 of them.

Home page for the car: PML Mini QED

Raygun Tech: Boeing's Truck-Mounted Laser Beams to Blast Enemy Fire

By AddyDugdale
July 23, 2007

Boeing, purveyor of exceedingly large airplanes and defense systems, has won a $7 million contract to develop a truck-mounted laser beam that destroys rockets, artillery shells and mortar rounds. The aim is to build a preliminary design of a rugged beam control system on a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck. I've suddenly got an image of Megatron riding Optimus Prime like Seabiscuit, and it's not going away.

Known as the High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator (HEL TD) Phase I contract, the aim is to prove that a mobile, solid-state laser weapon system can vaporize incoming enemy fire. And, I hope, do a discreet bit of depilation on any soldiers who dare to be too hairy.

The aeronautics company is already at the vanguard of using laser technology for warfare, thanks to systems such as its Airborne Laser, Advanced Tactical Laser and the Tactical Relay Mirror System. But the VP and general manager of Boeing's Missile Defense Systems thinks that HEL TD could be the future of fighting. "We believe this is the next step for developing a weapon system that can change the face of the battlefield," he claims.

[Boeing Press Release via The Register]

Boeing Press Release

The Register

Boeing trumpets 'relevant battlefield laser' raygun

Copes easily with aggressive sitting ducks, barrels of fish

By Lewis Page
The Register
October 18, 2007

Monster US arms'n'aerospace outfit Boeing is pleased as punch this week to announce that it has "successfully demonstrated" its new Humvee-mounted raygun, the Laser Avenger - intended to prove "that directed energy weapons are relevant to today's battlefield, and ready to be fielded".

Holy crap, one might think. Energy weapons, relevant to today's battlefield, ready to go?

That's got to be something pretty exciting - maybe a handheld blaster rifle, better in some ways than an AK47. Or, more prosaically but very usefully, a lightning-fast beam which could zap salvos of Katyusha rockets or mortar bombs out of the air - very welcome in the constantly-harassed fortified bases of Iraq or Afghanistan.

Well, no, actually. What we've got here is a gyrostabilised automatic turret from Boeing's existing Avenger air-defence system. Avenger normally packs Stinger missiles and/or a .50-cal heavy machine gun, but this year Boeing has fitted it out with a 1 kilowatt solid state laser.

Just what use this might be isn't immediately clear, though Boeing reckons Laser Avenger would be a great way of clearing unexploded ordnance (UXO) or perhaps terrorist/insurgent bombs (Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs) out of the way. It seems you can shine the raygun at such things, and after a while they explode.

Boeing said: "During laser firings [last month] the Laser Avenger engaged and destroyed five targets representing IED and UXO threats... at ranges that allowed the system to be operated at safe distances from the target."

Well, that is impressive. Although you can do the same job - probably quicker - with a suitable rifle, actually: probably with less chance of detonating the explosives. And you don't need a whole Hummer-load of gear in that scenario.

So what else can Laser Avenger do? Apart from maybe light a cigar?

Ahem. "During the test, the system also took a step toward demonstrating a counter-unmanned aerial vehicle capability by destroying two small unmanned aerial vehicles that were stationary on the ground."

Hmm. One can typically destroy a small unmanned aerial vehicle, if stationary on the ground, with nothing more technically sophisticated than a length of pipe. This isn't exactly amazing stuff.

But Boeing reckons Laser Avenger "could be upgraded... to destroy other kinds of targets, including low-flying unmanned aerial vehicles."

Which would be dandy if anyone on "today's battlefield" - apart from the USA and its friends - was using flying robots. Some people are puzzled by this lack of interest by the Taliban, Iraqi insurgents and such in small drone aircraft, and expect them to get in on the game soon. There are certain applications they might find useful; for instance, small cheap GPS-guided jobs could act as mini cruise missiles against US and allied bases.

But this sort of thing could be dealt with in easier ways than laser-cannon defences. Even the most basic aerobot relies on the electromagnetic spectrum in some way, if only to receive GPS transmissions. A little bit of localised jamming or spoofing of the civil GPS signal (nothing so heavy-handed as fooling with the satellites would be required) and the jihadi flying-bomb guys will be out of luck. Such measures are widely believed to be available already, in fact.

Any more sophisticated unmanned aircraft would need an actual communications link of some sort, and that kind of thing makes Western electronic-warfare guys very happy indeed. A system of that nature would most probably be a death warrant for its operator, in addition to having almost zero chance of successfully achieving anything.

So perhaps the non-appearance of improvised cruise missiles isn't so surprising. And perhaps Boeing's rather feeble, rather heavy raygun isn't, in fact, very relevant to today's battlefield after all. The old gag about lasers being "a solution in search of a problem" comes to mind here.

All of which might explain why the company had to pay for Laser Avenger's development themselves, rather than getting any Pentagon seed money.

Overloaded truck gets $17,000 ticket

The Associated Press and Northwest Cable News
February 14, 2008

Montesano, Washington State -- The Grays Harbor County sheriff has a new record for the largest vehicle citation ever issued - nearly $17,000.

Undersheriff Rick Scott says a deputy pulled over a large truck Wednesday transporting a massive piece of logging equipment in the Kalaloch area.

Scott says the equipment was not properly secured and the truck was overloaded by 66,600-pounds.

That resulted in a citation for $16,929.

Swiss create Bond-like underwater car

‘sQuba’ concept set to make a splash at Geneva Auto Show
The Associated Press and
February 15, 2008

Geneva, Switzerland -- OK, so the Swiss have invented a car that runs on land and underwater. But did they REALLY have to make it a convertible?

It’s called the “sQuba,” and conjures up memories of James Bond’s amphibious Lotus Esprit from “The Spy Who Loved Me.” That fictional vehicle traveled on land and, when chased by bad guys in a helicopter, plunged into the water and became an airtight submarine — complete with “torpedoes” and “depth charges.”

But “Q” isn’t responsible for this one.

The concept car — which unlike Bond’s is not armed — was developed by Swiss designer Rinspeed Inc. and is set to make a splash at the Geneva Auto Show next month.

Company CEO Frank Rinderknecht, a self-professed Bond fan, said he has been waiting 30 years to recreate the car he saw Roger Moore use to drive off of a dock.

The sQuba can plow through the water at a depth of 30 feet and has electrical motors to turn the underwater screw.

You’ll have to break out the wetsuit, however.

The car has an open top, meaning that the two passengers are exposed to the elements.

“For safety reasons, we have built the vehicle as an open car so that the occupants can get out quickly in an emergency,” said Rinderknecht, 52.

Passengers will be able to keep breathing underwater through an integrated tank of compressed air similar to what is used in scuba diving.

The sQuba’s top speed on land is about 77 mph, but it slows down to 3 mph on the surface of the water, and 1.8 mph underwater.

Working with engineering specialists, Rinspeed removed the combustion engine from a sports car and replaced it with several electrical motors. Three are located in the rear — er, aft — with one providing propulsion on land and the other two driving the screw for underwater driving.

“We always want to do cars that are outrageous, which nobody has done before. So we thought, ’Let’s make a car dive,”’ said Rinderknecht, whose innovative company has made transparent, flying and voice-activated cars in previous attention-grabbing displays at the Geneva Auto Show.

The company calls the sQuba the first real submersible car. Unlike military amphibious vehicles, which can only drive slowly on a lakebed, the sQuba travels like a submarine — either on the surface or submerged.

The interior is resistant to salt water, allowing the skipper to drive into a lake or the sea.

“Many concept cars introduce important new technology,” said John Cabaniss at the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers in Washington. “Anything to improve the efficiency of a vehicle, streamlining or reducing the weight of materials, while maintaining strength ... is put into concept cars first.”

Toy for rich people

Cabaniss said the lithium-ion batteries in Rinspeed’s car were “state-of-the-art” and added that the car industry in general would be looking for more ways to make things work electronically. But he was skeptical of the overriding idea.

“Other than some kind of a movie situation, for Bond-like stuff with lots of gimmicks, I can’t imagine it will have any practical value,” Cabaniss said. “Maybe people will need to go from land to water, and traverse a body of water, but underwater? Especially as it gets your suit wet.”

Rinderknecht said it cost more than $1.5 million to make the sole sQuba in existence, and that it was difficult to make a car watertight and pressure-resistant enough to be maneuverable underwater.

“The real challenge, however, was to create a submersible car that moves like a fish in water,” he added.

Rinspeed is in discussion with commercial manufacturers about making a limited number of the cars. The price? “It would be cheaper than a Rolls-Royce,” he said. A 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe has a sticker price of more than $400,000.

Rinderknecht said it was unlikely that people would soon spot the sQuba tolling down the highway or popping up in your nearby lake.

“They might sell as toys for rich people, perhaps,” he said. “I don’t see mass transportation switching to cars that dive.”

Senator proposes lower national speed limit

The Associated Press and Dallas Morning News
July 4, 2008

Washington, D.C. -- An influential Republican senator suggested Thursday that Congress might want to consider reimposing a national speed limit to save gasoline and possibly ease fuel prices.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., asked Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman to look into what speed limit would provide optimum gasoline efficiency given current technology. He said he wants to know if the administration might support efforts in Congress to require a lower speed limit.

Congress in 1974 set a national 55 mph speed limit because of energy shortages caused by the Arab oil embargo. The speed limit was repealed in 1995 when crude oil dipped to $17 a barrel and gasoline cost $1.10 a gallon.

As motorists headed on trips for this Fourth of July weekend, gasoline averaged $4.10 a gallon nationwide with oil hovering around $145 a barrel.

Warner cited studies that showed the 55 mph speed limit saved 167,000 barrels of oil a day, or 2 percent of the country's highway fuel consumption, while avoiding up to 4,000 traffic deaths a year.

"Given the significant increase in the number of vehicles on America's highway system from 1974 to 2008, one could assume that the amount of fuel that could be conserved today is far greater," Warner wrote Bodman.

Warner asked the department to determine at what speeds vehicles would be most fuel efficient, how much fuel savings would be achieved, and whether it would be reasonable to assume there would be a reduction in prices at the pump if the speed limit were lowered.

Energy Department spokeswoman Angela Hill said the department will review Warner's letter but added, "If Congress is serious about addressing gasoline prices, they must take action on expanding domestic oil and natural gas production."

The department's Web site says that fuel efficiency decreases rapidly when traveling faster than 60 mph. Every additional 5 mph over that threshold is estimated to cost motorists "essentially an additional 30 cents per gallon in fuel costs," Warner said in his letter, citing the DOE data.

Lightning GT EV sports car coming this month

By Jonathon Ramsey
July 9, 2008

This month will see the debut of the Lightning GT electric sports car at the British Motor Show on July 23. The nano-titanate battery pack will provide 740-HP and a 0-60 sprint in just four seconds. Those batteries have also been spaced around the car to give it a 48/52 weight balance, which could theoretically give it the kind of handling to match its looks.

The batteries power four permanent magnet brushless motors, one at each wheel, which negates the need for a gearbox, axles, and transmission -- or transmission troubles. Each wheel will also boast independent traction control and regenerative braking. Inside, the car gets all the mod-cons, including A/C, satnav, and leather.

The makers claim a 90-mile range on a ten-minute charge, and running costs will be at least five times less than a car that gets 50-mpg U.S. That is, of course, assuming the car actually makes it to market. If so, and it's priced somewhere close to the Tesla, it should do well.

Reply Posted 3:32PM (7/09/2008)

electric power at all four wheels, slap on some guns and we have CAR WARS (Steve Jackson Games reference)

Hanford cleanup includes grenades

Cleaning up the old pistol range at the Hanford nuclear reservation doesn't involve anything radioactive but carries its own special hazards — including unexploded 8-inch tear-gas grenades.

The Associated Press and The Seattle Times
October 13, 2008

Richland, Washington State -- Cleaning up the old pistol range at the Hanford nuclear reservation doesn't involve anything radioactive but carries its own special hazards — including unexploded 8-inch tear-gas grenades.

Starting in the mid-1940s, security personnel at Hanford practiced with pistols, rifles, machine guns and other small arms at firing ranges facing the north side of Gable Mountain at the center of the reservation where plutonium was made for hydrogen bombs.

Today the area "is somewhat different because there is not radiation or something near reactors," said Cameron Hardy, an Energy Department spokesman, "but in cleaning up the site we have to think of a whole host of things, like relics from the '40s."

So far, cleanup contractor Washington Closure Hanford has been assigned only to the 7-acre pistol range, which has not been used for decades.

Washington Closure started preparing for the cleanup two years ago with walks through the area, finding plenty of bullets, a few live rounds and two unexploded 8-inch grenades.

This spring, after the site was cleared of visible metal debris, including a third unexploded grenade, seven technicians marked off grids to be scanned with metal detectors and created a map dotted with X's to indicate metal that could be wire or grenades.

Then a crew started digging in each designated area and found another unexploded grenade in the bank of the hill and a fuse from a grenade.

Man Uses Blowtorch For Cobwebs, Starts Fire

No One Injured In Fire, Authorities Say

The Associated Press and KIRO TV 7 Seattle
November 7, 2008

Would-be cleaners take note: A blowtorch is not a good substitute for a broom.

Authorities said Galen Winchell, of Sargent, Ga., set fire to his home Wednesday as he cleaned cobwebs from exterior eaves with a blowtorch. Winchell noticed the blaze when he saw smoke pouring from the attic.

Georgia newspaper the Times-Herald reported that Winchell's 1,400-square-foot, single-story home started on fire shortly before 11 a.m. Coweta County Fire Investigator James Gantt said Winchell admitted to authorities that he was torching cobwebs when the fire started.

Gantt said the fire was contained to one part of the house, but the entire home had smoke and water damage.

No one was hurt. No phone number was listed for Winchell.

Man melting snow with blowtorch burns home
Blaze Causes $30,000 In Damage

The Associated Press and KIRO TV 7 Seattle
December 23, 2008

Fire officials in New Bedford, Mass., said a man using a blowtorch to melt ice on his back porch ended up setting his house on fire, causing up to $30,000 in damage.

Fire Capt. Scott Kruger told The Standard-Times of New Bedford that no on was injured during Monday's incident at the three-story home.

Kruger said the man was using a torch hooked up to a 20-pound propane cylinder. He got too close to the building's wood frame and ignited the vinyl siding. The fire quickly spread into the building's second- and third-floor apartments.

It took 25 firefighters to subdue the blaze that damaged bedrooms in the upstairs units, and caused damage to the structure and wiring.

The homeowner will not be charged.

N.Y. man to receive 'GETOSAMA' plates by Christmas

By Lloyd Pritchett
The Associated Press and KOMO TV 4 Seattle
December 24, 2008

Hauppauge, New York State -- A New York man is excited to receive his "GETOSAMA" license plates in time for Christmas.

Retired NYPD officer Arno Herwerth said Tuesday that he ordered the vanity plates in 2007 as a reminder that Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden remains at large.

The plates were delivered, but the state Department of Motor Vehicles quickly ordered them returned, saying the plates could be considered objectionable.

The Long Island resident filed a federal complaint, and the DMV relented in February.

Herwerth initially rejected the offer because the DMV wouldn't pay attorney's fees, but he eventually decided to settle the case.

He says the DMV is overnighting his registration so he can put the plates on for Christmas.

Flying car takes high road to Timbuktu

Story Highlights
* Flying car takes off from London to Timbuktu, Mali, in West Africa
* Skycar is road-legal all-terrain buggy with rear propeller and fabric wing
* Trip is through France, Spain and Morocco, then Western Sahara to Timbuktu

By Phil Black
January 14, 2009

London, England -- From the noisy and lovable Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to the time-traveling DeLorean in "Back to the Future," flying cars have been a fixture of movies and science fiction that never quite cut it in the real world -- until now.

The Skycar's fabric wing is folded and packed in the back of the car when driving on the road.

A flying car devised by a British inventor and a team of engineers took off from London on Wednesday on an epic journey to Timbuktu, Mali, in West Africa -- a trip they hope will prove the fantasy has become reality.

The "Skycar" is a road-legal all-terrain buggy with a huge rear propeller and a fabric wing, the result of 18 months of design and research.

"We started with a car rather than starting with an aircraft and made a car into an aircraft," said Skycar's creator, Giles Cardozo. "It's a really exciting piece of kit to drive but of course, it also flies."

The Skycar's 3,720-mile (6,000-kilometer) trip will take it through France, Spain and Morocco, then the Western Sahara, Mauritania and Mali to the famously isolated city of Timbuktu.

Its design gives it the performance of a motorbike while also allowing it to fly over impassable terrain and the sand seas of the Sahara, the designers said. They hope to fly over the Straits of Gibraltar.

In propeller mode, the engine makes a lot of noise. The two-person seat is a tight fit with room for a driver and a passenger who controls the car in flight.

Experienced adventurer Neil Laughton is the designated pilot of the craft on its epic journey.

"I'm a bit nervous, but that's what adventure and exploration's all about," Laughton told CNN.

Although some eccentric-looking flying cars have been attempted before, Cardozo and his team of engineers say advances in flexible wing technology have made their car more practical, with more precise handling and increased safety over traditional rigid wings.

The flexible wing is folded and packed in the back of the car when driving on the road and can deploy immediately when it is ready to fly.

The car, which runs on biofuel, has a takeoff speed of 73 km/h (45 mph) and requires a distance of less than 200 meters (220 yards), meaning it can take off on a beach or in a park.

He admits the Skycar has trouble in high wind or turbulence, but it has some safety measures.

"It will be easier and safer to fly than any other aircraft, as it has no pitch control and (is) therefore impossible to stall or dive," the inventors say. "Should the engine fail, the pilot would simply glide down into the nearest field or strip of sandy desert. In the event of catastrophic wing failure, car connection system failure or mid-air collision, an emergency ballistic reserve parachute can be deployed."

The expedition hopes to help out some charities along the way, and if it is successful the car's creators hope to market it commercially.

"If people see the fun in this and it catches on, I think it could be a great fun toy," Cardozo said. "It's not your everyday means of transport by any means, but it's a great, fun alternative way of getting around -- like a quad bike, like a Jet Ski, like anything like that."

Cardozo hopes his "toy" will arrive in Timbuktu by late February, proving that flying cars aren't just the stuff of movies or children's stories anymore.

Skycar Expedition 2009

Humvee with frikkin laser on it takes out killer robot

'When did we start beaming again? I nodded off'

By Lewis Page
The Register
January 27, 2009

Photo: The Avenger air-defence Hummer, with added raygun attachment. Don't come in sight of me, robot. Well, not for too long.

US aerospace leviathan Boeing was delighted yesterday to announce that its Humvee-mounted "Laser Avenger" deathray weapon had shot down a small drone aircraft.

According to Boeing:

Laser Avenger achieved its principal test objectives by using its advanced targeting system to acquire and track three small UAVs [Unmanned Air Vehicles] flying against a complex background of mountains and desert. The laser system also shot down one of the UAVs from an operationally relevant range. These tests mark the first time a combat vehicle has used a laser to shoot down a UAV.

The Laser Avenger, in which a laser weapon is added to Boeing's existing Avenger gun'n'missile anti-aircraft system, had previously suffered from a reputation for being a bit feeble. The best it had done to date was to cook off improvised bombs and unexploded shells lying stationary on the ground.

But Boeing say the Laser Avenger now kicks coherent-light arse.

"We doubled the laser power, added sophisticated acquisition, tracking and pointing capability, and simplified and ruggedized the design," says Lee Gutheinz, Boeing program director for rayguns.

"Boeing developed and integrated these upgrades in less than a year, underscoring our ability to rapidly respond to warfighters' needs."

As to just what need America's warfighters* have for a Humvee blaster-ray, Boeing veep Gary Fitzmire says they're absolutely crying out for one.

"Small UAVs armed with explosives or equipped with surveillance sensors are a growing threat on the battlefield," he insists. "Laser Avenger, unlike a conventional weapon, can fire its laser beam without creating missile exhaust or gun flashes that would reveal its position. As a result, Laser Avenger can neutralize these UAV threats while keeping our troops safe."

Hmm. Actually, Western troops in combat right now mainly get killed and injured by nice simple landmines and roadside bombs, or by scarcely more sophisticated rockets and mortars lobbed into their fortified base camps and outposts. They might indeed be pleased to have a laser which would shoot down Katyusha rockets in flight, for instance.

So we can take it that Laser Avenger can't do that, or Mr Fitzmire would have said so. It would be interesting to know just how long the Laser Avenger had to hold its beam on the UAV before it finally managed to bring the robo-drone down.

*We know, it's a nasty word. But it's the one everyone uses on the US deathtech beat. Bit less cumbersome than "America's fighting men and women", not as un-PC as "Our Boys".

Designer armour arrives in India

By Sanjoy Majumder
BBC News, Delhi, India
March 15, 2009

Photo: Miguel Caballero with his bespoke range of clothing. Mr Caballero says that his clothes offer protection and style combined

Photo: Congress party billboard. It is thought that politicians may need better protection ahead of elections

Photo: Mr. Caballero's range of clothes. The clothes are trendy and a trifle bulky.

India is about to get a glimpse of what some call the "Armani of armour".

A special range of light-weight bullet-proof clothing that can not only protect you from a would-be assassin but also make you look good.

It is the creation of Miguel Caballero, a Colombian designer, who first developed his bespoke range of clothing 16 years ago back home.

Not surprisingly, they were a big draw across Latin America among heads of state and businessmen facing the wrath of drug cartels.

'Being discreet'

"Some of our clients include President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Alvaro Uribe of Colombia and the Hollywood actor Steven Seagal," says Mr Caballero who is in Delhi to launch his collection here.

There are even reports suggesting that Barack Obama wore one of his specially designed suits at his inauguration, something that Mr Caballero is understandably tight-lipped about.

"It's all about being discreet," he says.

That's probably why the Indian range is marketed under the name, Discreet Inners.

His latest catalogue, on the other hand, could easily stand alongside leading international brands.

The glossy production showcases his Black Collection - leather jackets, slim-line Italian business suits and polo shirts.

But the Colombian couturier is presenting Indians with an entirely local look, special lightweight kurta-pyjamas - typical Indian cotton pants and tops worn by men and the high-collar Nehru jacket, favoured by politicians across the country.

And they're a far cry from the traditional, bulky body armour favoured by police and military forces the world over, as well as politicians and journalists operating in dangerous areas.

Secret buyers

The traditional suits have Kevlar plates built-in which can weigh up to 7kg, so they are quite heavy and uncomfortable.

Not to mention completely unstylish.

Although Mr Caballero will not disclose what his body armour is made of, he says they have been tested against a range of ballistic weapons, from revolvers to Uzi submachine guns.

With just weeks to go for the Indian general election, he thinks he has timed his visit perfectly.

A number of Indian politicians have signed up, he tells me smiling, but of course he can't tell me who they are.

Of course.

It is all very discreet - so you cannot really order online or pick it off the rack from a high-street retail store. Potential buyers are contacted directly and their identity kept secret.

At prices ranging between $4,000 to $8,000, these clothes are not exactly cheap.

"But what is the cost of your life?" Mr Caballero asks throwing up his hands.


Knight Rider 2010's 15th Anniversary

By Garrett Godwin
March 24, 2009

When it debuted on NBC as a mid-season show in January 1994, Viper was dubbed as a "futuristic Knight Rider" for the 1990s -- centering a Viper sports car that turns into the silver Defender in a "lone fight for justice" in crime-ridden Metro City. Well, 1994 was also the year that Knight Rider went into the future once more and made another revival attempt with Knight Rider 2010.

The film was part of the weekend syndicated Universal Action Pack. Taking the concept of Mad Max, it takes place in the future centering on Jake McQueen, a young man who smuggles people for money, as he and his U.S Marshal brother (Michael Beach) go after the man responsible for their father's death. Jake's KITT is a Ford Mustang completely refurbished and customized -- built as a grunge-looking Ford Thunderbird framework, voiced by deceased girlfriend Hannah (Hudson Leick, Xena: Warrior Princess), and together they hit the road fighting for justice in a world without law and order -- a world without heroes. Like Viper's Joe Astor, Jake McQueen started out as a criminal at first, but chose in the end to be one of the good guys.

Like Knight Rider 2000, Knight Rider 2010 was supposed to be a backdoor pilot for a weekly series -- yet the film didn't connect with hardcore Knight Rider fans. Though it had the "young loner on a crusade" and the "one man can make a difference" concept, it had no connection with the original whatsoever. Still, clips of the film can be found online at YouTube.

Garrett Godwin writes for NewsBlaze from Michigan. Contact him by writing to NewsBlaze.

Tesla rolls out new sedan

Story Highlights
* Tesla says manufacturing plant will be in California; hundreds of jobs possible
* The all-electric Model-S sedan will go for a base price of about $57,400
* Tesla's challenge: Will consumers pay that much for a car in recessionary times?
* The company hopes to make 20,000 Model-S sedans a year
March 25, 2009

Tesla unveils its Model-S sedan, with a base price of $57,400. The manufacturing plant will be in California.

Los Angeles, California -- While automakers lay off staff and shut down plants in response to the economic downturn, one automaker announced Thursday that it will open a manufacturing plant in the United States, potentially creating hundreds of jobs in the area eventually chosen.

Tesla Motors, maker of a high-end electric sports car, says it will build an all-electric sedan in Southern California.

Thursday's announcement was made in Hawthorne, California, where Tesla unveiled the Model-S sedan at a base price of $57,400. That's about half the price of its first model, the Roadster.

Started in 2003 and bankrolled by PayPal millionaire Elon Musk, Tesla has attracted investments from the Silicon Valley elite, among them Google founder Larry Page.

It is widely believed that the Model-S sedan will be built near the Space Exploration Technologies Corporation facility in Hawthorne. That aerospace company, more commonly known as SpaceX, was founded by Musk in 2002.

SpaceX recently won a NASA contract to deliver cargo to the international space station when the space shuttle program is retired next year. That contract, worth $1.6 billion, was won over such industry mainstays as Boeing and Lockheed.

The promise of a high-performance, all-electric vehicle became a reality with the startup's first model, the Tesla Roadster, a car with the look, speed and price tag -- a steep $109,000 and up -- that rivals other high-end, high-performance vehicles.

Recently though, the economic downturn has forced Tesla to delay production of their would-be flagship Model S until 2011. They've also had to lay off more than 80 workers, which is about 25 percent of the company's staff.

Nonetheless, Tesla predicts it will manufacture 20,000 Model-S vehicles a year. That would make it more of a mass-market vehicle than the Roadster; only 1,200 of which are produced yearly.

The company faces many challenges, the foremost of which is convincing consumers to pay almost $60,000 for an all-electric sedan when they could pay around half that for another brand of upmarket sedan or a gas-electric hybrid.

James Bond museum opens its doors

A James Bond fan has opened a museum dedicated to the gadgets and cars made famous by the fictional secret agent.

BBC News
April 5, 2009

Photo: A Lotus Esprit featured in the Spy Who Loved Me is among the exhibits.

Peter Nelson, 48, from Cumbria, spent 20 years, travelled thousands of miles and spent hundreds of thousands of pounds to amass his collection.

And now he has put items including a Lotus car and the original golden gun on show at the Bond Museum in Keswick.

The attraction is opening on the 100th anniversary of Bond producer Albert Broccoli's birth date.

Mr Nelson, a retired dental surgeon, said his Bond museum would be the first of its kind in the world.

He said: "I've got the Octopus from Octopussy and the original golden gun from The Man From The Golden Gun.

"And I've got the Diamonds Are Forever Mustang and that's the actual stunt car that went on two wheels.

"I got a phone call from a policeman in New York and he said `I've got the car', and all the paperwork was there so I went to New York and bought that."

Glamour and humour

Among the other highlights are the Lotus Esprit Turbo from The Spy Who Love Me.

The museum also boasts a Russian T55 battle tank from GoldenEye.

Mr Nelson has been collecting 007 memorabilia through auctions and donations from Bond filmmakers EON, actors and crew from the movies.

He added: "When I was a boy I read the Ian Fleming books first of all, and they really captured my imagination," he said.

"James Bond had that sophistication and glamour and humour, all those things that as a young boy you wanted in your life."

Mr Nelson, who also runs a Cars of the Stars motor museum in Keswick, said he has spent "hundreds of thousands" of pounds on the collection.

Oops! Employee flips, damages borrowed Ferrari

The Associated Press, Contra Costa Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer
April 7, 2009

Boulder Creek, California -- The California Highway Patrol said a 23-year-old woman driving an expensive Ferrari owned by her boss flipped it after taking a curve too fast, causing an estimated $125,000 in damage. CHP Officer Elizabeth Addy said the woman escaped the crash Saturday without injury, but her boss was irate.

The unidentified woman apparently lost control after taking a curve at too high a speed, hit an embankment and flipped.

Addy said the woman was driving the car with the owner's consent.

The CHP said alcohol was not a factor.

Electric Car Makes Le Mans Racing Greener

By Tony Borroz
May 1, 2009

Le Mans–style endurance racing has caught green fever, with biodiesel racers already on the grid and algal fuel and a hybrid slated to join them. Now a Swiss outfit called Green GT has entered the fray with an electric racer it says will do 170 mph.

This isn’t some half-baked publicity stunt. The Green GT appears to have the specs to put down some serious times at the Circuit de la Sarthe. And it joins a budding green revolution in motorsports.

Audi has been stomping the competition at Le Mans with its diesel R10 and R15 racers, and it even brought some biodiesel along last year. Peugeot has been right behind the Germans with its own turbodiesels and plans to run a diesel hybrid at Le Mans in 2011. Here in the United States, the American Le Mans Series runs a whole slate of alt fuels and hands out awards to the most eco-friendly entry. And boutique automaker Panoz is working on an ALMS race car that burns algal fuel.

Green GT is doing them all one better with an electric racer.

It’s an impressive car on paper. The race-spec carbon-fiber chassis holds two liquid-cooled 100-kilowatt (about 148 horsepower) motors that the Swiss gearheads claim put 1,475 pound-feet of torque to the tarmac at up to 100 mph. That figure rolls off to 590 pound-feet beyond the century mark and stays there as the car approaches its claimed top speed of 170 mph. The juice comes from a pair of 30-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion polymer battery packs. All told, the car weighs 1,896 pounds.

If that’s still not green enough for you, the guys at Green GT have installed Flexcells solar panels on each sidepod for extra charging. The whole shebang is brought to a quick stop with Brembo brakes mounted within lightweight magnesium wheels.

The plan is to test the prototype through the summer and begin series production once they’ve sorted everything out. The goal is to build 20 to 25 cars and possibly launch a European race series for the car. Ultimately, the firm hopes to race against its fossil-fueled counterparts in the LMP2 class at Le Mans.

Le Mans Is The Lab Creating Greener Cars

By Tony Borroz
May 4, 2009

Epsilon Euskadi, a race car company based in the Basque region of Spain, is working with a bunch of masters students at Cranfield University in England to develop a kinetic energy recovery system for a Le Mans racer that could hit the grid next year.

OK, so yet another outfit is developing some green tech for the track. Interesting. But it’s also part of a broader trend that’s seen automakers and engineers bringing eco-friendlier auto tech - KERS, alternative fuels, hybrid drivetrains and even high-performance electric cars - to a specific arena:

Le Mans-style endurance racing.

You could argue Audi started it off when it rolled into Le Mans with the R10 diesel a few years back and, with Peugeot joining them a year later, crushed the competition. Peugeot also is working on a diesel hybrid racer we could see in 2011. Gumpert ran a hybrid at the 24 Hours of Nurburgring last year, and Swiss outfit Green GT is working on a 170-mph electric racer. Here in the U.S., the American Le Mans Series welcomes a wide variety of alt fuels, and boutique automaker Panoz - founder Don Panoz also founded the ALMS - is developing a race car that burns algal fuel. Corvette is leading the ALMS Green Challenge.

It makes sense. Racing has, since its inception more than a century ago, been in no small part about building better road cars. There’s some truth to the old adage “What wins on Sunday sells on Monday.” And there’s nothing quite like auto racing for testing and refining new technology. Racing may well be the best R&D facility in the world.

And there’s a simple reason automakers are doing their green R&D in Le Mans-style racers.


The simple fact of the matter is that there is a lot more room in a sports car than an open-wheeler like a Formula 1 or Indy Racing League car. F1 cars are the pinnacle of automotive engineering, and in fact the teams are experimenting with kinetic energy recovery systems this year, albeit with mixed results. (We should note, too, that IRL has been running ethanol for a couple of years.)

But open-wheelers have an Achilles heel - they're freakin’ tiny. If you've ever seen one, you know there's barely enough room for the driver, the engine and the suspension, let alone a lithium ion battery, electric motor and a few black boxes full of electronics. Hell - F1 teams are so fanatical about minimizing weight that a lot of drivers take off their wristwatches before climbing in.

A Le Mans-style car is different. For starters, they’re nominally a two-seater, so they’ve got a lot of room, relatively speaking. They’ve also got full bodywork, so the designers and engineers have more leeway in packaging components. If it can buy you fewer pit stops, so much the better.

Which gets us back to Epsilon Euskadi. Acccording to Race Car Engineering, the company will employ a flywheel based system to recover energy created during braking. They’ll looking at mounting the system behind a Judd V-10 engine and above the transmission. They considered a super capacitor and a lithium ion battery but rejected them because of packaging or performance reasons. The flywheel, according to Race Car Engineering, offered the best fuel savings.

Considering the team’s calculations showed the flywheel system will require six fewer fuel stops over the 24 hours of the race, well, you don’t have to be a grad student at Cranfield University to see the benefits.

Photo: Flickr / Dave Hamster

Scientists unveil chocolate-fueled race car

Makers how to plan ideas on how to build ecologically friendly vehicles
By Meera Selva
The Associated Press and
May 5, 2009

London, United Kingdom -- Scientists unveiled on Tuesday what they hope will be one of the world's fastest biofuel vehicles, powered by waste from chocolate factories and made partly from plant fibers.

Its makers hope the racer will go 145 mph and give manufacturers ideas about how to build more ecologically friendly vehicles.

The car runs on vegetable oils and chocolate waste that has been turned into biofuel. The steering wheel is made out of plant-based fibers derived from carrots and other root vegetables, and the seat is built of flax fibre and soybean oil foam. The body is also made of plant fibers.

Scientists at the University of Warwick say their car is the fastest to run on biofuels and also be made from biodegradable materials. It has been built to Formula 3 specifications about the car's size, weight, and performance.

Their claims cannot be independently verified.

They hope it can reach speeds of over 145 mph when it is tested on a racetrack in a few weeks time. They have driven it at around 60 mph and are now making final adjustments to the engine before driving it at top speed.

Warwick's project manager James Meredith said their model shows that it is possible to build a fast, efficient, environmentally friendly car.

The car, named the "WorldFirst Formula 3 racing car," will go on display at several races including the European Grand Prix and Britain's Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Image: Chocolate-fueled car. This Formula 3 racing car with its creators Dr. Kerry Kirwan (left), Dr. Steve Maggs (center) and Dr. James Meredith. University of Warwick / AP

Uncle Sam To Pond Scum: I Want You!

Algae-Based Biofuel Sought To Power Military

Mike Stark, Associated Press Writer
KIRO TV 7 Seattle
Posted July 3, 2009
Updated July 5, 2009

Logan , Utah -- Somewhere among the beakers and the bubbling green-tinged tanks in a Utah State University lab, Jeff Muhs is searching for champion pond scum for Uncle Sam.

If he and others like him around the country are successful, algae-based biofuel could one day power one of the world's biggest gas guzzlers: the U.S. military.

Heady stuff for a simple sun-sucking organism. But algae's ability to grow fast and churn out fatty oils makes it an alluring prospect for a military looking to lessen its dependence on foreign oil.

"It inherently makes sense to start there," said Muhs, who runs Utah State's energy lab.

Work at the lab is part of a Pentagon project aimed at fast-tracking research to eventually produce algae-based biofuel that costs less than $3 per gallon, can be produced at a rate of 50 million gallons per year and meets strict military standards.

"We believe it's possible. We wouldn't invest in it if we didn't," said Jan Walker, a spokeswoman for the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency, the Defense Department's main research arm.

In December, DARPA awarded a $20 million contract to General Atomics and a $15 million contract to Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), two San Diego-based research companies. The contracts ask the companies to find a biofuel surrogate for JP-8 -- the petroleum-based fuel for military jets, planes and other vehicles.

Lab tests and smaller-scale experiments over several decades have shown that algae oil can be turned into fuel. But the military, which spent more than $12 billion on fuel in 2007, wants something large-scale and cheap.

"We view that as the primary challenge of the job, to get it where it will serve as a source of affordable JP-8," said Bill Davison, vice president for the Advanced Process Systems division at General Atomics.

The workload is being spread among subcontractors from universities and private research firms across the country.

Part of the trick is finding the right algae for the job.

There are about 40,000 species to choose from. Many are efficient at converting nutrients and carbon dioxide into the organic matter that provides oils that can later be refined and used as a base for biofuels.

The problem is certain algae grow fast -- some can double their mass several times a day -- but produce little oil. Others produce gobs of oil but are slow growers.

"You have to find a happy medium," said Muhs, whose lab is examining about 300 kinds of algae.

His researchers are running experiments on the effects of temperature, sunlight and other factors on productivity. Some like freshwater, others thrive in salt water. Tweak their living conditions -- nutrients, carbon dioxide, flow of water -- and their ability to produce oil changes along with it.

"There's so many variables to look at," Muhs said. "You can begin to see why there's a need for research. It's a daunting task."

At Arizona State University, scientists are testing about 500 strains, searching for the most robust specimens in flasks and beakers that could make the transition to larger outdoor ponds and growing facilities.

"We call them the athletes. If they perform well in the lab they get to play on the big field outside," said Milton Sommerfeld, a professor and researcher at the university.

He was part of a federally funded project that started in the 1970s to look at the viability of algae-based fuel. It's still too early to say what kind of growing systems will work the best and exactly how laboratory successes will be scaled-up for commercial use, he said.

Intensified interest in recent years, he said, will move the process along more quickly.

"But it's going to require tens of millions of dollars," he said.

Part of what makes algae attractive is that it doesn't compete with food sources in the same way ethanol does and it has the potential to produce far more biofuel per acre than corn or soybeans.

There are still plenty of unknowns, including how much energy it will require to produce fuel from algae at a large scale and whether it's better to grow algae in pools or in enclosed tanks called photobioreactors.

Researchers are also trying to determine the most economical way to extract oils from the algae and put it through the refining process.

The rough cost estimates for producing algae fuel vary right now from $10 a gallon to $40, said Al Darzins, who manages the national bioenergy center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.

"Obviously, that's not cost effective," Darzins said. "So we have our work cut out for us."

NREL has ramped up its own research into algae-based biofuels a decade after a similar program was scrapped because the fuels were considered too expensive to compete with petroleum.

Today, he said, there are hundreds of companies studying algae fuels. A few high-profile tests -- including commercial jet flights using a blend of algae- and petroleum-based fuels -- are intriguing but nowhere close to showing that commercialized algae fuel could replace the 100 million gallons of petroleum diesel and jet fuel burned each year, he said.

But research from this Pentagon-funded project could help spur use of algae-based fuels in the commercial aviation market, according to Paul Bollinger, a vice president with SAIC.

"The military has the potential of serving as a market initiator and the airlines as a market maker," Bollinger said.

Back at the Utah State lab -- where algae are shaken, stirred and stressed in the name of science -- Muhs tempers his excitement over the potential of the green slime with a dose of reality. Algae fuels could be a transition-type fuel in the coming years but aren't the singular savior to weaning modern society from petroleum.

"It's not a silver bullet," he said.

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