Vaughn Gittin Jr. Tells You Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Vaughn Gittin Jr.

Vaughn Gittin Jr: Formula Drift driver, 2010 Formula Drift Champion, and creator of Mustang RTR. Also, as he describes himself, a "professional fun-haver." For Hoonigan's recent "A Brew With" episode, Vaughn stopped by to drink a few and share some details about his life.

You may know his Mustang RTR brand as one of the partners that helped create Ken Block and Hoonigan's Gymkhana 7 star car, the Hoonicorn, and the Hoonicorn V2 that was recently seen in Climbkhana, filmed at Pikes Peak.

Hoonigan gets into the important stuff—the driving questions—right off the bat. Gittin Jr. says he was just four years old when he got his hands on a Go Kart, and by the age of 10 he was messing around with some old cars in the junkyard his father owned. According to Vaughn, his first car was a 1964 Oldsmobile Cutlass, but not just any Cutlass: his car had hydraulics and a crazy mural on the trunk depicting the Capitol building in flames. That car caught fire at one point in its life, forcing Vaughn and some buddies to, as he said, "pee the fire out."

Vaughn also delves into how he got into drifting. He says his earliest drift-related memories are from karting: he would gun the Go Kart in an industrial park and just rip the brake. From there he moved up to Club Loose, a series of drift events in the New Jersey area. He also talks about some notable figures who inspired him, such as motocross legend Ricky Carmichael and motocross racer-turned-rallycross driver Travis Pastrana.

He answers a few more questions about his best tandem drifts, his best moments—the 2010 Formula Drift Championship—as well as some more out-there questions. His answer for dream car? A Lamborghini Countach. Gittin Jr. did have the chance to drive his that poster car, but he says it was a major let-down, and it drove like a shopping cart. But of course he still wants one.

As for the most important quetstion—what's next?—Gittin Jr. says he just wants to continue being a professional fun-haver.

Check out the video below to get more of the details.

The VW Jetta Smyth Ute Can Take a Hit

By far the most common question I've been asked about my VW Jetta Smyth Ute kit is how strong the final product is after cutting away a quarter of the car. The answer is that it feels to me at least as strong as the original car, if not stronger. However, my butt is not a particularly objective or reliable tool for measuring structural rigidity.

Chris Kingston was an early adopter and builder of the Smyth Performance Ute kit. His 2001 model has numerous customizations beyond the original kit and has won many awards. Unfortunately, earlier this week his beautiful creation was rear-ended at about 35 miles per hour, throwing the Ute forward to smash into the car in front of him.

Kingston wasn't seriously hurt in the crash. The front of the car seems to have fared even worse than the back, despite the extensive modifications to the rear half. The stock crumple zones seem to have done their job up front, and the back, while damaged, didn't seem to bend much at all aside from the tailgate.

The relative lack of rear-end damage is even more amazing when you consider that the roll pan, which sits underneath the tailgate, is nearly undamaged. The impact hit above the roll pan, bypassing the factory steel bumper hidden behind it. Aside from the tailgate, which is an off-the-shelf part for a Ford Ranger step-side, Smyth's components took the brunt of the rear impact. All of the engineering that went into spreading impact loads throughout the remaining structure of the original car seems to have worked as designed.

Kingston's Ute before the crash.

Like The Six Million Dollar Man, Kingston can rebuild it—he has the technology.

"All I can say at this point is there may be a change in the front end and the taillights due to a few other builders have copied what I'm doing," Kingston told The Drive. "I have to replace all the front sheet metal and rebuild the tail lights anyways. So maybe it's time for a change. I want to make it a little more unique and less duplicated. More like it was when I first built it."

We look forward to seeing what he comes up with for Das Ute Mk. II.

Small Car, Big Engine: This Geo Tracker Is Powered by a Twin-Turbo Chevy V-8

Geo was a short-lived, forgettable budget sub-brand of Chevrolet that existed from the late 1980s to the late 1990s. One of the brand’s most popular vehicles was the Suzuki Sidekick-based Tracker. You could say the Tracker was ahead of its time, now that subcompact SUVs are exploding in popularity. However, the Geo Tracker was no mushy soft-roader. The first-generation model was a surprisingly capable off-roader when equipped with four-wheel drive, but the 80-horsepower 1.6-liter inline-four under the hood was a bit gutless.

Vinnie Barbone’s 1995 Geo Tracker called “Project Samsquanch” (Trailer Park Boys reference) is another story. The Suzuki G engine has been swapped out with a Chevy 454 ci V-8 from Blue Print Engines, which has a forged crankshaft and forged pistons.

The crate engine normally makes 563 horsepower and 545 ft-lbs of torque, but Barbone decided that still wasn’t quite enough for his Tracker. Modifications to the 454 include a Holley EFI system and two BorgWarner 6676 turbochargers making 10 psi of boost. It adds up to 900 horsepower at the wheels.

Other mechanical mods to help this diminutive Geo handle 900 horsepower include a Rossler two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission turning a Ford nine-inch rear end. The front suspension is Chris Alston Chassisworks Mustang II suspension and the rear is a four-link setup from a Fox Body Mustang.

Exterior mods include a hood delete, fatter tires, exhaust cut-out of the front fenders, and a parachute on the back. The approximate total weight of this Tracker is just 2,800 lbs, giving it an insane power-to-weight ratio.

It’s great to see a car that was never meant to be saved from the junkyard living a new life.

This Nissan Juke Has Seats That Tell You if You’re Dehydrated Based on Your Sweat

You know how gross it is to sweat in the seat of your car? Nissan wants to make it even grosser by making your seats and steering wheel change colors based on your sweat. With the new technology, your car could tell you whether or not you’re dehydrated, so you can drink more water and continue driving fully alert.

Design researcher Paulien Routs has solved this problem, which you probably didn’t know you had, by creating the Nissan Juke SOAK in collaboration with Droog Design.

SOAK is an acronym for “sweat sensitive textile coating.” It’s the sweat-sensitive material that informs you of your hydration levels by changing colors. You can get SOAK as a spray-on compound to use on your clothes, particularly workout gear, to let you know if you need to be drinking more water.

How is this useful in cars? Nissan claims that dehydrated driving has such a big effect on reaction time and overall alertness that it can be as bad as driving over the legal blood-alcohol limit of 0.08 percent. This is based on a 2015 study conducted by Loughborough University, in London, funded by the European Hydration Institute. If your car prompts you to drink more water while driving, it makes you a safer, better driver. In theory.

This is kind of cool, but also kind of weird. We’d be surprised if this tech ever made it to a production model considering most people probably don’t want their interior to change colors, or for their seats to know their sweat composition.

Here’s Nismo racing driver Lucas Ordonez demonstrating the Nissan Juke SOAK after a workout.

This Mysterious ‘Ghost’ Jaguar E-Type Is Headed to Auction

One of the most mysterious Jaguar E-Types ever built is headed for the auction block through H&H Classics according to Classic Cars Journal. This is the infamous “Ghost”, a 1970 Jaguar E-Type 2+2 coupe and the first left-hand drive Series III E-Type ever built. That distinction alone would make it quite valuable, but there’s much more to this car’s story.

This E-Type (technically an XKE, since it was made for the U.S. market) was built specifically for the family of Graham W. Whitehead, the president of Jaguar Cars North America at the time. Instead of the 5.3-liter Jaguar V-12 engine that was standard in the Series III E-Type, this is one of the few built with a DOHC 4.2-liter XK inline-six from the previous generation. It's apparently the only 2+2 variant with this engine, making it truly one-of-a-kind.

But wait, there’s more. After the Whitehead family put about 10,000 miles on this car, it was sold to another owner who put about 17,000 miles on it before his death. After that, it sat for five years before being restored by James Johnston in 1980. This Jag’s last American owner was a man named Godfrey Miller.

After his ownership of the car, however, this Jag became a ghost somewhere in the mid-'80s. It disappeared; nobody knew what happened to it. Recently, it’s been discovered that it had been owned by British music producer and Jaguar collector Pete Waterman. You may have never heard of Pete Waterman, but he’s the most successful producer/songwriter in British music history with 500 million record sales to his name.

Nicknamed the “Ghost” for its strange history, one-off configuration, and presumably its white paint job, this is surely one of the most valuable E-Types in the world. There’s no reserve on the auction and we have no idea how much it will sell for. Any predictions?

Honda Bringing a Self-Balancing Electric Motorcycle to Tokyo Motor Show

You might remember the self-balancing motorcycle Honda brought to CES earlier this year, but Big Red is apparently taking that idea to the next level. According to, the powersports giant has taken that same technology and applied it to a new all-electric concept.

The original self-balancing Honda was called the Riding Assist; this new electric concept is the Riding Assist-e. Both concepts share a frame with the NC700 middleweight production bike. In the Honda Riding Assist-e, an electric motor is mounted under the seat with a drive shaft housed inside the swingarm sending power to the rear wheel. The charging port is under the seat on the left side of the bike and there’s a rear-facing radiator mounted behind the electric motor.

The self-balancing technology was actually developed by Honda’s robotics division, not Honda Motorcycles. The bike can keep itself balanced at a stop or at low speeds without using gyroscopes. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to fall on a Honda Riding Assist, but it means it can keep itself upright at a stop light without requiring you to put your feet down on the road.

That’s about all we know so far about the Honda Riding Assist-e. For more details like range, power, and real-life availability, we’ll have to wait until the Tokyo Motor Show begins on October 25. Production is far from confirmed, but the fact that it’s based on a real motorcycle and looks somewhat production-ready are good signs.

This Honda Civic Wants to Be Earth’s Greatest Front-Wheel-Drive Time Attack Car

Modified Honda Civics are a dime a dozen on the world's roads and racetracks, but some owners take things further than others. Thursday, YouTube channel HillClimb Monsters uploaded a video of an EG (fifth-generation) Honda Civic hatchback, christened "Beastie," that has been upgraded close to the point of being unrecognizable as a Honda, with aspirations of time attack in the car's future. It was built by the owner of LoveFab, an Acura NSX performance specialist shop, which has also dabbled in entering the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Though their 2013 entry ended in a fiery crash, they returned in 2017, having built the Enviate Hypercar, which finished second in the Unlimited class.

With a competitive finish at the world's most extreme hill climb under their belt, we have no reason to doubt that this shop is capable of making one hell of a time attack car, and the parts going into the build suggest that they're as serious about this car as they were about the Enviate.

We reached out to LoveFab regarding their intentions for the car, and Cody Loveland, for whom the shop is named, responded with a plethora of information.

The car's heart is a 3.2 liter J32A2 V-6 from an early 2000s-era Acura that it bursts out of a hole cut in the Civic's cut hood, a la Aliens. It was swapped in and turbocharged back in 2013, padding its power output from 260 horses from the factory to 377 wheel horsepower on 9 psi of boost and pump gas. With a simple build, Loveland says it is capable of making over 600 horsepower, and over 1000 with a more extensive build and a stronger transmission.

Beastie runs on 335 tires on all four corners, some of which are leftover from the Enviate program, and the wheels are from an NSX entered in Pikes Peak by the team in 2012, which placed second in Unlimited with Cody at the helm.

Speaking of aero, here's where things get crazy. To match the car's outrageous 67/33 weight distribution, a full underbody and a 2,500-mm front wing are planned to keep those front wheels stuck to the road at any speed, and a mockup of the front wing has already been completed.


As for what Beastie is built to do, LoveFab already has some short term and stretch goals in mind. National time attack events are the target, with the World Time Attack Challenge and a Pikes Peak appearance of interest to the team. A shakedown with the car's new aero package will occur on track at this year's final Gridlife event at Gingerman Raceway in Michigan.

If everything goes well, LoveFab may shoot for a serious title with their little Civic: the fastest FWD time attack car on the planet. "Given our experience with high horsepower, high aero vehicles," said Loveland to The Drive, "I think we have a shot at building a contender for the fastest front-wheel-drive time attack vehicle."

And you know what? We don't doubt them at all. We expect them to have the opportunity to prove that theory some day at WTAC. Godspeed, gentlemen.

Malaysia Qualifying: Vettel’s Engine Quits, Hamilton On Pole

Sepang, Saturday. After struggling in day the first two practice sessions, Lewis Hamilton recovers form in qualifying for this year's Malaysian Grand Prix, taking pole position. He shares the front row with Kimi Räikkönen, and is tailed by the two Red Bulls, who lock out the second row and relegate Valtteri Bottas to P5. Both Force India and McLaren drivers will start in the top ten, as well as Renault's Nico Hülkenberg. Absent from the top ten is Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, as his engine breathed its last during the morning's FP3 session, further crippling his championship hopes on the coattails of his disastrous Singapore Grand Prix.

Vettel's engine failure in Malaysia mirrors that of Hamilton's at the same weekend in 2016, when Hamilton suffered a rare Mercedes breakdown in the lead of the race, marring his championship aspirations, and arguably being all that Nico Rosberg needed to take his one and only world championship.

Typically, not setting a time during qualifying would bar a driver from starting a race, but the FIA has granted Vettel an exception, due to his times set in practice. This still leaves Vettel with a significant problem: he needs a fresh engine installed overnight before tomorrow's race, and that his final engine of the year needs to now last an extra race.

Despite desperate efforts by the Ferrari pit crew to get the replacement engine installed and ready before qualifying began, time simply wasn't on their side, and Vettel missed qualifying. It is not known at present if he will start from the back of the grid, or be forced to start from the pit lane.

A Ferrari fan present at the race reports that Vettel's new engine installation has been completed,

and despite his work for the day having long been done, Vettel's still hanging around with his pit crew, hours after the backup engine successfully fired up. Whether or not you were cheering for Vettel, that's nothing short of a class act from a man who needs his beauty sleep for the race Sunday.

Can a Cruiser Go Electric? Tacita Thinks So

When most people think of cruisers, they think of motorcycles that are long, low, and loud—most likely a Harley-Davidson with its distinctive V-twin rumble. But at the American International Motorcycle Expo this year, Italian manufacturer Tacita revealed the T-Cruise, an unusual take on the American cruiser powered not by gasoline, but electricity.

Some say loud pipes save lives, but there are no pipes at all on the T-Cruise. The frame is long, and though it doesn't have the seemingly required V-twin engine, the covers for the electric motor vaguely evoke a V-shape. The actual motor generates 30 kilowatts (40 horsepower) at 8,000 rpm and 70 Newton-meters (52 pound-feet) of torque.

That may not seem like much power, but a five-speed transmission should help the T-Cruise make the best use of it. A gearshift is unusual for an electric motorcycle. The Energica Ego your writer once rode has no clutch or gearshift at all—just one continuous gear that covered all speeds remarkably well, much as in most electric cars. But the Ego also makes 136 horsepower, nearly 100 more than the T-Cruise.

The motorcycles are also designed for very different purposes: The Ego is made to go fast, while the T-Cruise is made to glide along comfortably. Like the Ego, the T-Cruise features multiple power modes favoring economy or performance, plus a reverse gear that most gasoline-powered motorcycles don't have.

Tacita seems to have taken comfort quite seriously. The hand-stitched leather saddle looks quite cozy, and the footpegs can be placed in three different positions for the best rider fit. The suspension is fairly traditional, with hydraulic telescopic 41-millimeter front forks and twin rear shock absorbers with preload and 65 millimeters of travel. The brakes are from Brembo, linked front and rear, with regenerative braking available to help recharge the battery as you slow down.

Of course, as with any electric vehicle, the elephant in the room is the range. Three battery options are available, all with vastly different prices. The entry-level T-Cruise has a 7.5 kilowatt-hour battery good for 50 miles for $10,999. The 15 kilowatt-hour version, with a range of 93 miles, will sell for $14,999. The biggest battery option is 27.5 kilowatt-hours, providing a range of 168 miles, for a whopping $27,999.

But 168 miles is farther than some gas-powered cruisers, with tiny gas tanks to improve their looks, will get you. Charging options for all battery sizes support standard 110- and 220-volt outlets, as well as a proprietary fast charger.

Tacita also makes a few dual-sport models—but the reveal of the T-Cruise in America, with prices given in American dollars, leave no doubt about where they intend to sell these bikes. They certainly got the styling right, but will American riders accept a cruiser that whines instead of rumbles? The price of the large battery may also be higher than many can or want to afford, and the limited range of the more affordable models may keep their riders from attending the local charity rides. Only time will tell if an electric cruiser is an idea ahead of its time...or a technological dead end.

Roman Grosjean Hits Drain Cover in Formula One Practice at Malaysia Grand Prix

Haas Formula One driver Roman Grosjean had a bizarre incident during Free Practice Two for the Malaysia Grand Prix on Friday. While coming through turn 12, his right rear tire was ripped apart by a drain cover that had come loose. The impact happened while he was traveling at about 168 miles per hour.

The sudden loss of the rear tire sent his car sliding across the track, through the gravel trap, and into the tire barrier.

Grosjean was unhurt in the crash, but his car sustained heavy damage.

The practice session was instantly red-flagged while the situation was assessed. Due to the time it would take to repair the drain cover and inspect the rest of the track, the session was not resumed.

Drain covers coming up are usually more of an issue—though still a rare one—at street circuits where there are manhole covers and the like all over the place. In 2016, during practice for the Monaco Grand Prix, a drain cover came loose and struck the front of Jenson Button's McLaren. Much like that incident, the cover was first pulled up by the cars running in front of Grosjean.

In Monaco, in preparation for the race, the manhole and drain covers are welded into place to prevent this from happening. The drain covers along the side of purpose-built tracks are welded into place as well, and should not be able to be ripped up so easily.

While the covers in Monaco are large plates of metal like you would see on city streets around the world, the drain lid that came loose in Malaysia seemed to be a much thinner piece of metal. As a Mercedes and Ferrari ran over it before Grosjean, you could see the end peeling up like the lid of a tin of sardines, before it went flat again.

When Grosjean came through the corner, there was no visual indication of a problem on track ahead of him. Once he ran over the cover, it was pulled up and ripped right through the tire. The Haas car suffered major damage from the drain cover and impact with the tire wall.

The team has been given special dispensation to work past curfew to repair the car. Teams are permitted to break curfew two times per season. Due to the circumstances of the incident being completely beyond the control of the team, this instance would not count against their allocated curfew-breaks for the season.

Haas team principal Guenther Steiner was not at all happy with the drain cover coming loose.

"What happened to him should not happen," said Steiner in a press release from Haas. "Drain covers coming up at F1 circuits is just not acceptable in the year 2017. Let’s see what the authorities have to say to that and to explain that it doesn’t happen again."

The downforce levels produced by Formula One cars have been blamed for track damage this year. Maybe this was a case of welds that were previously strong enough but now not being able to withstand the new loads put on them by the 2017 cars. For whatever reason, the welds on this cover failed and the FIA was right in stopping the session to do repairs and a full track inspection. Hopefully, this is an isolated incident that won't be happening again as the race weekend goes on.