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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Why Cars?

It is clear that when someone decides to dedicate an entire blog to one topic, that specific subject is of special importance to them. As such, some may wonder why I chose cars to be the subject of this page and the posts within it. In a broader sense, many wonder why it is I have such a love, truly a love, for cars. Simply a mode of transportation for many, a utilitarian item, almost an appliance, it may be a strange concept to exhibit such a passion for an inanimate object. In this specific case, I beg to differ, as I find the automobile to be a very unique item as far as the relationship we may form with it. Beyond the sheer beauty of some models and designs, cars are one of the single greatest forms of self expression that we may own. Cars also create visceral sensations, and enable a human being to experience movement and speed at the limits of what can be achieved on ground. Cars have personalities, and quirks, and each brand a differing ideology to align with. I do love cars, and there are plenty of reasons why.

A car says more about its owner than any other individual item they own. Whether we like it or not, what we drive sends a message, a loud one, for others to pick up on either actively or subconsciously. If you think about it, in most cases, a car is the most expensive possession someone owns outside of their home, and it goes with you wherever you travel. You may have a beautiful home, but unless you invite people over, they'll never see it. That leaves whatever you drove into town as the next most significant representation of what is important to you, as far as what you're seen with. Cars are big machines, sometimes loud, with lights and motors and moving bits; they attract attention. Now this is not to say that the importance I'm placing on what a car says about the owner is related to the cost. Of course, big money cars represent status, but that's less the point here than the nuance of what everyone chose, down to that $1000 beater. Pull up in a minivan, and the assumption is you have a larger family and need to transport them around; your children are your priority at this stage in life. Bought a new Subaru? Probably somewhat outdoorsy or sporty, like safety in all weather, maybe just have a fear of driving in the snow. Toyota Camry? You're the responsible thinker, you want reliability at all costs, you want a car that always gets you there that doesn't require much maintenance and hold value well. We all chose what we drive for specific reasons, and there's a fun in being able to state what those reasons are, in choosing what we want to represent.  Am I the serious businessman in my black sedan, or the fast-and-loose thrill seeker in the yellow sports car? Cars allow us to make these statements in a very public way. Just try pulling up somewhere in a lime green Porsche and tell me that crowd that gathered isn't trying to figure you out. You can't say the same about a watch, a pair of shoes, or new patio furniture. Every time I choose a car, I put thought into what it says about me, and enjoy doing so. Who do you want to be? You get to choose what that curb-side first impression is. When you drive away from that curb, you get the greater element of what a car offers you.

Cars, for me, above all the design and the image, are about the drive. It may seem obvious, that is in fact what they're for, but I'm talking about 'The Drive' as in the experience of really testing a car's capabilities along with your own. I, for example, love the rubber band pull of torque, that shove of acceleration you get from a big block V8 for example. Cornering is another fun element when you start to get into some of the nimbler performance cars, or start to upgrade handling components yourself. If you're a skilled driver, and in tune with your car, you can literally feel the road, you can sense the cars limits with exacting precision. Learn a car well enough and you'll know exactly how much more throttle you can give it through a bend before those tires let go, or just how late you can brake without winding up in a tree. Cars, in essence, are your own personal roller coaster, your road going fighter jet, your real life, multi-sensory video game. Few things beat the thrill of a passionate drive, with the vibrations, and rushing air, roaring motor, working hands and feet, even flexing your core to wrangle the car while your eyes pick lines through turns and scan for hazards. This is an experience you own, can share or enjoy yourself, at almost any time with the turn of a key and enough gas. What other device that one owns can deliver this kind of feedback? Not to mention, this can all be enjoyed while actually getting somewhere. It's your space, and mode of expression, providing you with endless entertainment and joy while delivering you to a destination. What's not to love? Well, there's plenty about car ownership that can be challenging, but that's the third element that makes cars such a unique thing.

Car ownership is a relationship. I mean this in the most literal sense, and it lends to what becomes the 'personality' of the car you own. You carefully select your car, you put time into learning about it before you commit, and it's a big commitment. You receive joy and benefit from the partnership, maintain it as expected, though trouble can arise, and unexpected costs, and some frustrations. You are willing to fix these problems, out of love, and in the hopes that you can spend more time together, though sometimes when the problems are too severe and too frequent you have to walk away. Cars have quirks, some specific to particular brands, like the Crayola crayon smell of earlier Mercedes leather. It becomes easier to see how your car takes on a greater significance, comes to life in a way, when compared to other possessions. We spend a significant amount of time in our cars, and when we take them places we associate those memories with them; we drove up that mountain in the old Dodge, or remember when the new puppy got carsick in your Mustang? Cars, in this way, are a friend or a part of the family; they are significant.

Plenty can be said about the aesthetic elements of cars, with some of the worlds best designers and engineers crafting stunning figures in metal and carbon fiber. I can go on about materials used, or the features they packed into an interior, or performance and handling. These things, though, are not what makes a car truly special to write about, they are not what allows me to say I love cars. Cars are an extension of you, your personality, maybe even a hidden side you have. Cars take you places, and give you superhuman capabilities, turning the world into a sprawling racetrack. Cars are friends and family members, there with you when you need them, and with needs of their own. Cars matter to me, they are and always will be a passion of mine. While I know this passion isn't universal, I believe if you consider some of my points you may realize just how significant your car is to you too. Who knows, you may realize you're more of a car nut yourself than you originally though. If you are, and I hope you all are, there's whole community waiting for you, here and all over the world. All you need to do is drive over.

See you on the road,


Monday, August 1, 2016

Those Magnificent Michelins

I will admit freely that for a long time, when it came to tires, I was quite the hater. I didn't understand why people would spend big money on absolute top tier rubber, when I found the various more reasonably priced offerings perfectly acceptable. I could understand for track use, but as far as a daily driver, why soar well past $1,000 a tire swap? I recently took the plunge, and was honestly very surprised.

Eddy, who was interviewed in a previous post, always buys Michelins. Specifically, the Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, lauded by endless reviewers and forum junkies, and with a price to match. Now as far as tires go, these are up there cost-wise, not the most expensive on the market, but well above your average tire. For example, these tires are often compared against the Hankook Ventus V12, which many say performs almost as well, if not equally as well, though run around $400 less a set for my car. I always jabbed at Eddy for this, partly because I just didn't get it, and partly because I couldn't imagine spending what he did on those damn Michelins.

I've driven on Continentals, Goodyears, Nittos and BFGoodrich tires, and found pros ans cons to each, though enjoyed them overall. My favorite well-priced all-season touring tire to this day is still the Continental ExtremeContact DWS; I recommend these for the anyone looking. Now this last tire decision came about for two reasons. One reason was the tires that came on this set of wheels I purchased, the other was my new suspension. To start with the latter, I had just purchased and installed a coil-over suspension in my car, which vastly improved the handling capabilities of my BMW; something I hoped to maximize given the investment. As far as the former, the wheels I bought for this car came with a set of the absolute worst tires I have ever owned. Brand name Accelera, model Phi, these no-name hoops of hockey puck plastic run under $100 each and make a great pick for a big-wheel trike or little red wagon. With all the handling bits now in my car these tires were the limiting factor. It was now or never, and I bit the bait.

Flush with a little tax return money, I decided it was time to see what all the hype was about. Roughly $1200 later, these stupid tires were on their way to my installer. Let me restate, that is the most money I have ever spent on any set of tires, and I wasn't particularly thrilled about it. About a week later, the tires went on, and  rolled out to the highway for the first time. Let me remind the readers that my car has all wheel drive, and by this time sat low on coils. This combination, now with these tires, felt unstoppable.

That car, that day, could not be un-stuck and the tires hadn't even worn in yet. I ahve since tossed that car into corners and twists and off camber-banks as hard as I can and they return almost boring predictability in never losing their bite or feel. These tires are absolutely amazing! You get a combination of incredible road-feel while still experiencing overall smoothness, insane grip, good wear, low noise, and and a very stiff square sidewall. Best of all though may be their performance in the rain. Wet traction with these tires is almost scary. I say scary because you feel barely any difference between dry and soaked roads they grip so well, and that can get you into trouble.

In either condition, I have never felt more confidence in a tire and will absolutely purchase these for any high performance vehicle I own. I may have shrugged off the tire fans in the past, but now I will gladly join them, waving a big flag with "Michelin" printed across it. Do yourself a favor, if you can, and if you have a car that can take advantage of them, get a set of Pilot Super Sports.

See you on the road,


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

On the Horizon: Potential Next Car Picks

As my friends will tell you, I don't hold on to cars for long. I love too many different models to keep from constantly trading and buying and selling, and so my average length of ownership is about a year. It's a miracle the BMW has lasted as long as it has, and I've had cars as for as short as five months. With that said, I'm feeling the itch again, and this time I'm going big.

Literally! I'm dying to drive one of the few car styles I have yet to own; a big muscle sedan. Four doors, a big V8, preferably even a manual, decent handling, these cars are just giant gloved fists ramming their way through traffic. I love it, the sheer grandeur of the concept, and I need to have one. Which one is the question, and I've narrowed it down to a few options:

Number 3: The 2011 Mercedes Benz E63 AMG

Featuring a 6.2L V8, this was the last year the E63 retained the naturally aspirated motor before switching to the biturbo 5.5L. I personally love that 6.2, and it proves to be much lower maintenance than the twin turbo motors. Additionally, this particular year has incurred some amazing depreciation, meaning you can buy the once low six figure car for about the same price as a new Accord. What do you get for that price aside from the incredible 500+hp output and snarling exhaust note? You get the highest representation of the options offered in an E-Class that year, top notch seats, excellent handling, and phenomenally muscular exterior styling. In my opinion this is the year to get. The downside will be the maintenance cost, as a used AMG is no Honda, and you have to expect even routine items will pummel your wallet. An easy example is the front brakes, utilizing two-piece rotors that will run you a cool $2000 a pair. Difficult to find a well maintained and documented example, this car is on my list but only if I find the right one.

Number 2: 2015 Dodge Charger Scat Pak

A sleeper in the Dodge lineup, this four door muscle yacht hides a very serious powerplant under its unassuming hood. Otherwise fairly similar to a standard R/T, this trim gets big Brembo brakes, Bilstein shocks, and of course the monster 6.4L Hemi rated at 485hp. A seriously big car, it can haul a car full of friends with their luggage in the trunk and still have room for snacks. Not that anyone will be eating snacks in my damn car. These things can hustle too, propelling their mammoth heft to 60MPH in the low 4-second range, seriously quick. Not to mention how great they sound, and the surprisingly nice interior and tech offered. A real steal as far as price for performance, also registering with insurance companies for less than the badged SRT models despite the same motor. Advantages here are also CPO coverage given the year, and how little the car will have been driven. That said, it's going to be hard to find one used so soon, and they don't come in manual.

Number 1: 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Sedan

In my opinion, this car is king. Most importantly, you can get the crazy sedans with a manual transmission, which essentially has me sold on the spot. Oh, and the fact that manual is mated to a 556hp supercharged 6.2L V8, one of those LS motors I'm always raving about. That motor also happens to be insanely moddable, with numbers like 700hp and 800hp in reach if you're crazy enough. By the way, I'm crazy enough. Best part is, they're still a Cadillac, and despite some unreal track capability thanks to world class chassis engineering, they have the interior luxury to match the marque. Tough to find an unmolested copy, and with the manual, but this one is the top of my list.

I've driven many things, but most of these things have had only two doors. I'm ready for my first big sedan, but it better have the power to match, and for me that means a V8. I look forward to lighting a cigar in my new boulevard bully, and the thing better be all black.

See you on the road,


Sunday, July 24, 2016

High School Dream: The Story of My SVT Cobra

It was Junior year of high school, and I had already decided cars would be an active obsession of mine for a life. Having already leased my first vehicle by then, a new Dodge Dakota, black, with the 4.7L V8, I found when it came to cars passion trumped logic. You see, this was a lease vehicle, as in not mine to own, and yet I had equipped it with different wheels and tires, a body lift, intake, milled throttle body, tubular headers, cat back, tune and tonneau cover. I didn't seem to mind much that this was money down the drain, this was my baby, my first "car," something special to me. I have to admit, the truck was pretty quick and cool and sounded great after all that work. Was it wise? Probably not, but undoubtedly fun to experience that transformation and know it was my own creation. Sure, the truck worked for the weather and winters here in New York, and came in handy for my other hobbies like mountain biking, but I caught another bug about a year into ownership. What bit me was speed, I wanted to go fast, I wanted to feel the pull of torque and the scream of horsepower.

Don't get me wrong, the truck had some balls, but it was in no way sporty. I needed something different, something credible with a pedigree of performance. I began to research my options, Corvettes out of reach, Camaros not my style, German imports too high maintenance, and sport Japanese models lacking the clenched fist power I craved. Finally I stumbled upon my answer, not by specs alone, not with visual appearance, but with a sound. You see, I always liked Mustangs, as many young men do, but there was something too common about them. That's when I heard a Mustang that sounded unlike any of the others I was used to. That's when I heard the 32V variant of the modular 4.6L V8 that they only drop in a very special Mustang variant. That model was the SVT Cobra of 2001, and wound up being the car I was determined to buy. Everything in that car was just a bit sweeter than your average Mustang, from the suede-laden interior, to premium sound system, to beautiful hand-built motor, and stout 5-speed manual transmission. Only issue was, I didn't know how to drive that manual transmission.

Undeterred by this small fact, I finally found the car I wanted in Long Island; a stock, silver on black, one owner car with low miles. Still unable to drive manual, I had to bring the mechanic, and now friend that worked on my truck to test-drive the car for me. I played the whole thing off like "I know how they drive" and I just wanted my mechanic to drive it to diagnose any issues. Car checked out, loan came through, and my father was kind enough to drive it home for me as I still couldn't drive what was now my car. First stop? Parking lot. Time to learn how to row gears. This should be the point that you start to get an idea of how my car habit resides in my heart and not my head. I had, here in the story, spent a little over $4000 to terminate the lease for the truck I spent even more modifying, to turn around and buy a sports car I couldn't drive with the intent to learn in said sports car. Back to the parking lot, I took the wheel and worked through a few hours, and a decent amount of clutch, learning how to operate a manual transmission. Luckily, I was a bit of a natural, and was moving through 1st, 2nd and 3rd with a modicum of ease by the time we left. I thought this to be the moment I would switch back with my father to have him drive home, but he had other plans. Gesturing toward the exit, he made it clear that my second lesson was a full blown road test. During that trip I learned two things, one being how quickly I can start the car again after stalling at an intersection. Two was just how fast my new toy was.

Turning onto the Saw Mill Parkway during a large break in traffic, I looked at my dad and half shrugged, the universal sign for "should I?" My father responded with a quick thumbs up, which is the last thing I remember before burying the pedal in first gear. Tires squealed as the car rocketed forward at what felt then like supersonic speeds. In my euphoric mix of delight and terror I forgot all of my lessons and within a couple of seconds the car was bouncing off the rev limiter with my dad pointing at the stick shouting "shift!" I couldn't help it, the car just got there faster than I ever anticipated.

Faster, a word that would define my automotive pursuits from that point on. I built that car out over time with a list of modifications that could take pages to write, and still stands as the car I did the most work to of any I have ever owned. I knew then that this was going to be an interest that would define me from then on, determined to drive or own as many cars as I could. I simply wanted to, and still want to experience every kind I can. I'm on my way, 10 cars later, and have no intention of stopping. There's just far too many amazing vehicles to try, and life, like that first gear in the Cobra, is simply too short.

See you on the road,


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Interview With a Gearhead: Eddy Villalobos

While out in the community I run across car people of all sorts. From people who take their trucks off-road, to classic collectors, to the shade-tree mechanics. Rarely do I meet people that not only love their car, but all cars in general as much as I do, and who take the extra step to actually test what they own on the track. One such person, who I have become good friends with, is SCCA Advanced Class racer and car enthusiast Eddy Villalobos. Eddy has driven a variety of high performance cars, modified almost every single one, a few to the limits of what can be done to them, and spent plenty of time destroying perfectly good tires on various racetracks. Here's what he has to say:

Alex: Alright Eddy, why don't you start by telling me what made you first fall in love with cars?
Eddy: My dad putting me on his lap and letting  me steer the Lincoln when I was around 5 or 6. instantly I knew I loved driving and wanted to do it all the time.

Alex: So when you got older, what would you say was the first "driver's" car you purchased?
Eddy: *Laughing* My first car... Mazda Miata. Didn't get to my third payment before totaling it!

Alex: How'd you do that?
Eddy: Better to explain another time...

Alex: Fair enough, and understood. So you went from totaling Miatas to tearing up race tracks. What do you think best helped advance your skills as a driver?
Eddy: Skip Barber Racing school and multiple accidents on the street experimenting.

Alex: Favorite moment of Skip Barber?
Eddy: Passing 8 drivers on the last day, making fast laps with minimal mistakes. Perfect laps are a feeling like no other.

Alex: That's excellent! So with all this track experience, what do you drive on the street nowadays and what made you choose it?
Eddy: A Mercedes Benz C63 AMG. One test drive is all it took.

Alex: That sure is some car... stock?
Eddy: It has an ECU performance tune, higher flow air filters, better wheels and tires...

Alex: So not something people want to run into on the road.
Eddy: Some cars these days can absolutely hang with it, but with 500-plus horsepower it's up in the top 90th percentile of fast sedans.

Alex: What's one current car you're excited to see on the market, and why?
Eddy: I'm very excited about the Porsche GT4. It's a purist car through and through. Can be driven daily without issue and romped on the track and make quick work of laps.

Alex: That's one hell of a car too, absolutely agreed. On the pricier side for sure, though. What car would you recommend to someone looking to get started on the track? Their first race car?
Eddy: I say go with what you have. Learn how to drive. Driver mod is the most important mod of all. Spend money for the track time, instructors, and school if you can.

Alex: Great, now we'll all have 18 year olds bombing around Lime Rock with mom's Honda Odyssey and an instructor.
Eddy: That 18 year old will be the safest guy on the road though *laughing*. Better to bomb around on the track than on public roads.

Alex: Ha, fair point! Any last words of wisdom for the readers?
Eddy: Save the manuals.
Alex: Well said, friend, well said, and see you on the road.

So with that, Eddy went tearing off in a cloud of tire smoke to go blow the doors off some unsuspecting Mustang with the C63. If you're ever up at Yorktown Cars and Coffee on Sundays and see a gleaming white C63 AMG on dark graphite wheels, that's Eddy. He'll probably be smoking a cigar nearby, so feel free to pick his brain if you spot him. He'll also likely be wearing a t-shirt or hoodie with the "MN" logo for Momentum Nutrition, his fitness supplement company. Really excellent products, I recommend you check them out at Momentum Nutrition and be sure to follow them on Instagram at @officialmomentumnutrition.

See you on the road,


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Discussion About Speed Limits

Alright folks, this one is personal. I have court tonight for my first ever speeding ticket, and it has me in the mood to rant. Let me start by giving you the story.

Cruising down the Taconic on Memorial Day Weekend I kept pace with traffic, which was moving swiftly, as I headed home from a drag race in West Lebanon. Nothing seemed alarming about my speed, I rarely had to pass anyone, and there was adequate space on all sides of my vehicle to perform any braking or evasive maneuvers I may have needed to. About 45min into my trip, I was driving in the left lane when I noticed a Ford Fusion coming up rapidly, finally arriving about 2' from my rear bumper where he stayed. The right lane was too crowded to change lanes, but I noticed an opening a couple of cars ahead, so I accelerated to reach it. As luck would have it, upon doing so, I notice the unmistakable sight of a red and white light bar in my rear view mirror. I did what we all do... drive as calmly as possible until that light bar finally erupts into a nightclub worthy display... along with my temper. Mind you, I have no tickets on my license, none, totally clear. I thought I would get some slack here, but that wasn't the case. In fact, I got a speech about Memorial Day Weekend statistics and accidents and a full lecture on driving, in addition to a hilariously oxymoronic quip that I have a "nice clean driving record and should try to keep it that way..." while being handed my ticket. What was the speed you ask?

78 MPH on the Taconic, which has a 55MPH speed limit.

Sounds like a lot on it's face, that's 23MPH over, which is a hefty fine and a full 6 points on your license. Here's my issue though... try to drive 55MPH on the Taconic during a busy time and tell me it's safe, or even safer than keeping pace with traffic. Traffic is never moving at the speed limit, as far as I've experienced. Try to slow to even 60MPH and you're dodging cars ripping up behind you or driving for an hour one brake check away from a new trunklid. Same goes for many major conduits of travel here in NY, be it 287, the Saw Mill or Bronx River Parkways, etc. Go to pass someone in traffic already moving at 70MPH and wham, you're doing that 78 MPH I got stopped at.

I feel that these speed limits should be updated to reflect current traffic patterns, and the technology of modern cars today. That, or penalties should more accurately reflect more realistic driving situations. Perhaps fines based on relative speed, such as your speed in relation to the next fastest vehicle around you, or traffic conditions. In fact, speed limits haven't been adjusted since the early 90s, and only two areas in the country have speed limits over 75MPH despite limitless roads in several other countries, or "Advisory Speeds" around 80MPH.

Sure, I may be biased at the moment, but I still think it's worth a look. What do you think? Comment below.

See you on the road,


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

SeaFoam Spray: How To De-Gunk Almost Any Motor

There exists, in your local auto parts store, a plan white can containing a surprisingly fun, one step solution to cleaning an old motor. I'm not talking about scrubbing the externals, I mean scrubbing the carbon and gunk from the internals; primarily the combustion chambers. That can contains SeaFoam Spray. Not only do I swear old cars run smoother after this process, I think it's worth the show alone... more on that later.

1. First thing you'll need to do is of course buy a can of Seafoam Spray. What does this can look like?
Plain! You probably walked right by it.

Not fancy, but trust me there is magic in that bottle. Cheap magic too, as you should only expect to pay about $10 for the bottle. All you'll need is that can, a friend and a screwdriver. Don't have friends? You have bigger issues than a dirty motor to attend to.

2. Warm up your motor. Shouldn't be an issue, as you just drove to the store to buy a bottle of your sweet new motor-restoring friend SeaFoam Spray! If you bought the spray and failed to read on at the time, now's when you go back and let your car run until it reaches full operating temps.

3. Shut your car back off!

4. Open your hood, and take a look at that motor. I hope it's something worth staring at, though if it needs a cleaning that may not be the case. Either way, knock it off and locate your intake assembly. Trace this hose back to your throttle body and you'll find a band clamp of some sort, with a flat or Philips head fastener. Loosen this band and pull the hose away from the throttle body.

An example of how this fitting will look,
the square metallic component is the throttle body, black hose is the intake assembly.

5. Here's about the trickiest part. You now want to attach the supplied plastic hose to the nozzle of the SeaFoam Spray can. Take this hose and fit it within the opening you created with the tip facing toward the throttle body. Ensure this placement does not interfere with any moving parts, such as the throttle plate itself. SeaFoam has provided a handy diagram to illustrate this placement:

6. Replace the intake hose. Ensure the hose fits snugly over the plastic tube and throttle body, in its original location, though no need to tighten the band again at this time.

7. Have your friend start your car, and manipulate the throttle to hold engine speed at about 1000RPM. While the motor is running at this speed, depress the nozzle and spray a continuous mist of SeaFoam until the can is empty. Your finger might get sore, hand may cramp up, stop whining about it and keep that nozzle depressed.

8. Once can is empty, shut your car back off. Now you need to let the car sit, I recommend 15 minutes. Use this time to remove the plastic tube and reinstall your intake assembly, now tightening the band clamp.

9. Has it been 15 minutes? No? Go make some coffee and wait the full 15.

10. All set, 15 minutes later, the fun part. Start your car up and go for a drive. This isn't just any drive, you want to really floor the car when you can; I mean run it hard. The idea here is to now burn off all the buildup the spray just loosened up. Oh, and be warned, this burn off does make smoke... a lot of smoke.

How much smoke?

Your neighbors will love you!
11. Drive for about 10 minutes, by which point the smoke will have stopped. Voila! That's the whole process, and you've now blasted whatever manner of black crud has built up in that motor right out your tail pipe. I recommend performing an oil change at this time as well if at all necessary, as a fully clean motor simply runs smoother.

Enjoy what should now be a cleaner, better idling, and possibly faster car thanks to one can and a few easy steps. I have found this process to be safe on just about any type of traditional gasoline powered motor, but be sure to do a little research for your specific application to be on the safe side. Oh, and try to get video of the smoke show, it's always a lot of fun.

See you on the road,


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Nissan's GT-R Ruined the Art of Driving

Here's one that a lot of people aren't going to like. I do mean a lot of people, because these stupid cars have such a ridiculously loyal fanbase you can so much as sneeze in the direction of a GT-R without getting Nurburgring lap times shoved in your face.

"Help! I'm drowning! You with the car, help me!"

"This car? 7:08.69 Pal!"

We know! We all know the GT-R puts up stupendous lap times, breaks track records, annihilates competitors at the local drag strip and so on. We also all know these cars have no soul. Instead of a soul, it has what Nissan calls VDC-R, or Vehicle Dynamics Control. This system is the brains behind this beast that, in conjunction with a very advanced all wheel drive setup, essentially ensures you can't do anything but make this car go fast. You simply can't make mistakes, you don't need to know how to do much more than press a pedal and turn a wheel and you're faster than everyone out there. Sounds great, right? Wrong! It's awful, and purists are rightfully perturbed about it. This car is essentially a video game, it's all computers and no skill, no feel, no nuance; point and go. This means your local over privileged 18 year old can drive one faster than the 45 year old with 15 years of track experience and the Mustang he built along the way. I don't like it, and you shouldn't either; it's simply not the way things are supposed to be!

Yeah, even he is faster than you in that thing
Well, apparently someone decided to make even more upgrades to this stupid car for 2017, and the good folks over at AutoBlog have written a review:

Read Full 017 GT-R Review Here

Right off the bat you see what I mean when they write:
"Haters bemoan the GT-R's clinical and uninvolving quality, but their high-minded critiques should be taken with a grain of salt. Nissan's flagship sports car has been both heavy-fisted and enthralling, with an appetite for asphalt only matched by its unrepentantly harsh ride and acoustics."
Oh, I'm a hater alright, and let me translate that passage for you. "Clinical and unloving quality" can read "robot like predictability because there are 100 electronic nannies to keep you from having to actually drive the damn thing." As far as "unrepentantly harsh ride and acoustics" we can just refer back to the fact the GT-R, up until this point, had an interior made primarily of recycled Legos with enough creaks, pops, road noise and rattles to make one wonder why they paid six figures for it. Oh right, Nurburgring lap times. Good time to mention that track is in Germany... Are you all taking your GT-Rs to Germany?

But just how easy is it to make this car go fast? Surely these expert drivers took this car through its paces. Well read a little lower and you hit this gem:
"First off, launch control is easy to engage (switch traction and gearbox to R, press both pedals, and release the brake), and my hard launches proved repeatable and addictive — I counted six before the open road beckoned."
That's what I thought! This is why people buy the car, to activate launch control and go "Wheeeeeeee!" a few times and impress friends. No more clutch drop and throttle modulation, careful rolling burnouts or traction control, just press both pedals, release one.

Okay, but maybe it's not all bad, they improved a few things, got rid of that shabby interior, tweaked some tech, why not get one and just enjoy those launches like a personal rollercoaster.
"The zero to 60 mph sprint remains unchanged at 2.7 seconds, but commensurate with the tech improvements is a price hike, from $103,365 to $109,990."
Yes, this ride costs $110,000 now. It's a video game that costs as much as a small condo, and requires no skill to drive. I'll pass... figuratively of course, those damn cars are too quick.

See you on the road,


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

These Supercar Owners are Pretty Okay

As you may recall, I think most people that own supercars are jerks. It's not that I think they're jerks for owning those rolling works of art, just that the poor cars draw a type that I generally try to avoid.
If you didn't read that article, shame on you, though you can be forgiven by clicking the link below and reading it now:

You really should have this article bookmarked

Now that we're past that, I want to highlight one of the exceptions I mentioned. I stumbled upon this group, and thought it was worth sharing with all of you. What they're doing is great, and while I participate in more pedestrian charity rallies, this one is really special. Called the FOG Rally, this is a Ferrari Owners Group spinoff, Ferrari Owners Charitable Foundation (FOCF) hosted rally based out of Silicon Valley. Each year, in recent years, this rally has raised nearly one million dollars for charities like Make-A-Wish. With all sorts of high-profile sponsors and vendors, and tons of media involvement, these guys have enough clout to really draw support from the uber-rich in the surrounding areas, and that makes them, in my book, a pretty great group with a great cause. Best of all, they feature some truly incredible and rare cars, all ripping down a carefully selected course from Silicon Valley to Lake Tahoe; this run is definitely on my bucket list.

These supercar owners are definitely okay in my book, they count as cool people. I think an essential part of enjoying whatever privileges you have achieved in life is being able to use them to help others. What better way to give back a bit of the privilege of owning a Ferrari than using it to participate in charity rallies such as this one?

For more information: FOG Rally

See you on the road,


What's Wrong on Wikipedia: Part Two

As you recall, I found some inaccuracies in the Wikipedia article related to one of my favorite motors, the BMW N55, and altered them for a previous post.

If you missed it, you can find that post here:

What's Wrong on Wikipedia: Part One

Now, we can take a quick look to see how those changes have done since we left them to fend for themselves. There are, of course, legions of corporate saps pouring over the internet making sure the propaganda stays consistent.

Drum roll please...

If you'd like to check for yourself

Lo and behold! My changes stuck! This either means that the PR team at BMW has fallen asleep at their keyboards, or I am truly the most knowledgeable car fan on the internet. Those are the only two options, please do not suggest any others in the comments below; ego can be a fragile thing. Regardless, I for one feel happier that the world has been made a better place with the inclusion of more accurate information in that Wikipedia article. Stay tuned, I'll be hunting for more and posting them as I find them.

See you on the road,