AutoMatters+: Motor Press Guild’s Droptops & Dirt + “San Andreas”


Droptops & Dirt

The hills around the Calamigos Ranch buildings’ compound in Malibu offer a variety of challenging, steep, and rock-strewn trails surrounded by trees and thick underbrush. The two-lane highways surrounding the ranch have numerous tight curves and significant elevation changes. Together they provide, in one day, a great and convenient opportunity to test-drive an unlikely combination of off-road vehicles and convertibles.

Droptops & Dirt is an annual event, organized by the Motor Press Guild and supported by auto manufacturers and other companies.

Andrew Comrie-Picard is a successful professional rally driver, Baja 1000 racer, Pikes Peak record holder, Formula Drift driver, and now expedition driver. He also does stunts for television commercials and film, explaining that “basically if you see cars do something awesome, I or somebody of about 20 people in L.A. is probably driving it.” B.F. Goodrich brought him to Calamigos Ranch, where he gave us a ride in a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon JK — a four-door, long-wheelbase version — on 35-inch B.F. Goodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires.

He proceeded to take us for a ride on a steep, slippery, and very challenging off-road course through the trees. It was so steep and slippery that when he stopped to show us how the BFG tires safely deflect over sharp rocks, I needed his help just to walk down and away from the Jeep to take a few photos.

He told us, “Three things when you’re looking at an all-terrain tire for a truck are traction, tread wear, and toughness. Traction because you want to be able to go over features, you want it to work great in the dry, in the mud, in the sand, in whatever you have to get through with an all-terrain tire; and also on the road on tarmac, and also in snow. Amazingly, with compounding now this is a tire — the BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 — that will work equally well in the snow as it does in the dry in the desert, in the Baja 1000.

“For toughness, you need something that won’t have flat tires, so you need a very strong sidewall. Eighty percent of tire failures are in the sidewall, and 64 percent are in the first three inches of the sidewall, so you need a tire that’s beefed-up in that edge and is able to not only have great traction all the time, but is able to deflect rocks and not have a problem with sharp rocks, like we have right in front of us here.

“And then treadwear — you want something that lasts for a long time, so this tire amazingly wears twice as long on gravel as its predecessor, and much better than the competitive set. We’re going up this in two-wheel-drive right now, which is pretty amazing — and longer-wearing on the tarmac too — because as a racer you can’t afford to change tires all the time, it slows you down. As a truck owner or a fleet owner, you don’t want to lose money by having to change tires all the time. So traction, treadwear, and toughness.”

For grins I also drove a Polaris 4-wheeled ATV off-road. These are great utility vehicles, fun and easy to drive, and can be optioned up almost any way that you desire. Engine braking took me down even the steepest of hills.

Switching to the convertibles, I drove a Mustang GT V8, a Corvette, and an F-Type Jaguar V8 S. The Mustang is a blast to drive. Its manual transmission is easy to shift, and the new, all-independent suspension really works well. I also like the deep, throaty exhaust note and that I can select a high seating position.

The Corvette is truly America’s affordable supercar. It does everything very well. It can be docile around town and yet it is ready to race.

The Jaguar was notable to me for its loud, crackling exhaust note — especially through a tunnel. For its MSRP of $92,000, you will also get exclusivity and breathtaking acceleration.

“San Andreas”

“San Andreas” is a worthy successor to the classic 1974 disaster blockbuster titled “Earthquake.” It has all the necessary ingredients, and they are perfectly done: story, acting, and incredible “How on earth did they do that?” special video effects in 3-D. I left the theater exhausted, uneasy in the knowledge that in Southern California, we are 100 years overdue for “The Big One.” Oh, boy.

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Copyright © 2015 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters+ #387