Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Spyker B6 Venator Spyder Concept

All images courtesy of Spyker
In case you haven't heard, Dutch automaker is back from the dead after trying to resurrect poor Saab (which is also back,interestingly enough). With some new Chinese backers the automaker is back to making some of the rarest and most unique cars in the industry. And it recently showed off the B6 Venator Spyder Concept, the drop top version of its earlier concept car.

The concept is supposedly essentially the production form of the car. Normally automakers tone down the crazy aspects of concept vehicles when they turn into production models, but Spyker is far from normal. I expect what we are looking at will be pretty much what you can purchase.

Another piece of good news: you might not have to drain your rainy day trust fund to afford the car. It will be a "downmarket" vehicle and so will likely only cost what you would pay for an AMG or two (approximately).

But look what you get for the price! Spyker has engraved its name and motto not only on the wheels, but the edges of the tailpipes. You don't find that kind of attention to detail in many cars these days. Oh, and in case you were wondering what "nulla tenaci invia est via" means, it is Latin and says "For the tenacious, no road is impassable." It's a fitting logo for an automaker that just doesn't give up.

The Venator also comes with green glowing gauges that look so very much like the instruments in old airplanes. The large switches and metal center stack are also a tribute to past airships.

My favorite detail is the quilted leather. It's a feature you can find on mass production vehicles like Infinitis, but Spyker did one better and wrapped the headrest fairings with quilted leather! It's touches like these that make Spyker a breath of fresh air in a field crowded with spontaneously combusting prancing ponies and Teutonic sledgehammers.

I'm a fan of funky design. This car looks almost steampunk and I hope it sees production.

What do you think of the Spyker B6 Venator Spyder?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bad Things Happen When Non-Car People Write About Cars Without Researching

Volvo Coupe Concept
I just barely ran across this article on the Motley Fool website that talks about three car brands that might not be around by the year 2020. I always click on these sorts of articles because I find them interesting -- I'm a car nerd! I started  to read through the article and it quickly became apparent the guy who wrote it knows nothing, absolutely NOTHING about the automotive industry. I doubt he looked up a damn thing before he started tapping away on his computer to spew out his ill-conceived notions.

Volvo Coupe Concept
So which car companies did he pick? First up was Volvo, because it's a popular one for ignorant morons to pick on. Disclaimer: I have owned two Volvos. I have mixed feelings on the cars, to be honest, but that's another story for another time. So why did this guy pick Volvo for an untimely death? I would bet it has something in part to do with the death of Saab, because they're both Swedish and quirky so of course Volvo is also on its way out, right? Wrong! A few years ago Volvo was bought by Chinese automotive giant Geely, meaning Volvo is flush with cash. The Swedish automaker just finished showing off its concept Coupe that turned a lot of heads worldwide. The new generation of the XC90 comes out next year, which will be the first production vehicle to use the same design language. But yeah, they're on death's doorstep. The only thing the guy could cite was that Volvo has not seen a recent uptick in sales like most automakers. The company is going through a transformation at the moment, so before declaring it dead let Volvo show us what it can do.

Next up is Suzuki. Why is Suzuki almost dead? Oh, because it is pulling out of America, and as we all know some Americans think the world ends at California and New York! This guy's a moron, did no research about Suzuki's sales in Asia, Australia or anywhere else in the world. If he had, he would have not been so fast to declare Suzuki a goner.
Jaguar X-C17 Concept

This third choice really tickles me because it most definitely exposes the guy's ignorance. Of course Jaguar is about to be put down! Why? I don't know, the guy doesn't like them? He doesn't know anyone who owns one or wants one? Since Jaguar and Land Rover were bought by an investment group, both automakers have been doing markedly better. The design and construction quality of their vehicles have improved by leaps and bounds. And now Jaguar is on the cusp of a new vehicle blitz, possibly as much as tripling the number of vehicles it offers. It just showed off a concept SUV and is about to pounce into 3 Series territory with a new compact sedan that looks likely to make waves in the industry. But yeah, guy who needed to make an editorial deadline and so did NO research, Jaguar is as dead as a door nail, because obviously its not innovating in any way.

Maybe I should contact the Motley Fool and ask if it needs a writer who knows something about the automotive industry? Judging from the comments at the end of the article, this guy pissed off quite a few people. I'm not mad at him but instead am just snickering at how lazy of a job he performed.
Jaguar C-X17 Concept

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Porsche 918 Spyder Sets a Nurburgring Track Record!

Photograph courtesy of Porsche

The Nurburgring in Germany is a notorious racetrack. It is a place many automakers go to test their vehicles since the track will push a car to its limits, exposing performance weaknesses. It is also a track where a vehicle that turns out a good lap time automatically garners some huge bragging rights.

The latest car to score big on the 'Ring is the new Porsche 918 Spyder. The hybrid supercar set a record with a lightning fast lap of just six minutes and fifty-seven seconds. That is a new record for any street-legal vehicle, beating out times logged by some pretty impressive cars. Anyone who doubted how much of a performance machine the 918 Spyder is should be a believer by now. Porsche definitely did not build another Prius!

Check out the on-board video of the record-setting lap:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Why Are Manuals Dying? Is it Because of Software Difficulties?

I ran across this interesting article on Jalopnik, which starts off trying to make the case that manual transmissions are dying because they do not behave well with software used in cars' various systems. Read the article by clicking here if you want to see all the nitty gritty details.

Basically what it came down to was a reader who worked for an OEM said that the real problem is that it's too expensive to produce software that works well with both manual and automatic transmissions if very few buyers opt for the manual transmission. In other words, its about the price of investment versus the derived benefit from that investment. Automakers aren't running charities (actually they all run charities, but that's another discussion for another day). They are in the market to make money, so they produce what they believe will be profitable.

The sad truth is manual transmissions are not dying outside of the United States. If you go car shopping in Europe you will find that many models can still be had with a manual transmission. Americans like a computer to do the shifting for them, despite issues like gear-seeking and a general lack of control. Sadly, I have to admit that right now I do not own a car with a manual transmission and have not for a while. Do I like that? No! If I had the extra cash right now I would buy something with a manual transmission just so I can feel the exhilaration of letting the RPMs climb before throwing the car in the next gear or of dumping it into a lower gear and feeling the car rocket forward.

And that's exactly what we as driving enthusiast Americans (if you are American, like me) need to do. We need to get out there and buy models with manual transmissions! If nobody buys them they will go away. You can get them on a number of vehicles still, so go find a vehicle that works for you and have at it. Now for me to figure out how to afford a new BRZ with a manual transmission so I can support the effort...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Toyota Finally Shows Signs of Life, Yet Haters Gonna Hate

Images courtesy of  Toyota
In the past I have argued that Toyota has killed off its soul as an automaker because it stopped producing exciting models like the Supra, MR2 and Celica and instead has been pumping out quite a few uninspiring vehicles in bland colors. This is why I was shocked when Toyota revealed it was co-developing the Scion FR-S (or Toyota GT) with Subaru. The Lexus LFA was another surprising move by a company known for its body rolls and numb steering.

It now seems that Toyota is not finished with its attempts to produce more exciting vehicles, even if it continues to produce massive amounts of Camrys for people who do not want to feel like they are driving when they are driving. And of course there are quite a few irrational haters out there who will continue to hate Toyota even as the automaker starts to break away from the thing these people supposedly hate it for.

One huge surprise was the recent reveal of the Toyota Hybrid-R, a high-powered and more aggressive-looking Yaris that is outfitted with a hybrid powertrain. I saw quite a few people gagging that Toyota used a Yaris for a performance concept as they complained that the Yaris is gutless or "too small." The gutless argument is irrelevant considering the car's powertrain has been swapped out. As for the "too small" argument, I'm sure plenty of these people would not have any qualms about getting behind the wheel of an MR2, Pontiac Fiero or something like that, which was a completely tiny car.

There were even some who still accused Toyota of being "boring" because their performance car was a hybrid and, as all of us who did not even get our GED know, hybrids are automatically slow, boring cars that are driven by "tree huggers" who care about not breathing in a bunch of carcinogens. These people irrationally fight against progress in the automotive industry and likely were on the forefront of letting everyone know why electronic fuel injection was ruining cars back in the day.

So what's to hate about the Toyota Hybrid-R Concept? It's styling is a little wild, but it's a concept vehicle. I'm not a huge fan of the look of the Yaris, but the big gaping air intake in the front fascia, larger wheels and side skirts actually make it look better. But the real exciting thing is Toyota has produced a hybrid vehicle that could spank the hell out of most pure gasoline-powered vehicles. The Hybrid-R's powertrain pumps out an impressive 414 horsepower. The car is outfitted with a motor that will send power to the rear wheels as needed so slippage does not occur during hard cornering maneuvers.

I would think people would welcome a Toyota hybrid that can whip around a track, instead of yet another version of the Prius. Maybe some people are, but there are plenty of whiny little fanboy racers who are taking to social media to roast Toyota when the company finally is showing some signs of life once again. Because haters are gonna hate irrationally no matter what.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Smart Shows off the Fourjoy Concept

Photography courtesy of Daimler.
In today's automotive industry automakers simply cannot stand still. This is true even if an automaker is owned by a humongous company like Daimler, which is why it is concerning Smart seems to have stalled out. Sure, the company has released all kinds of weird takes on the quirky (and herky jerky) Fortwo, including a version with wings that look straight out of Mario Kart. And while the Fortwo makes for an incredibly easy car to park, Smart needs to start expanding its product lineup.

With a new generation of the Fortwo on the horizon (which is being co-developed with French automaker Renault) Smart recently showed off a new concept vehicle at the Frankfurt auto show. The concept vehicle is called the Fourjoy because it is for four occupants and supposedly will be a joy to drive (the jury's still out on that one). As you can see from the pictures, the vehicle looks quite futuristic, like it was designed for the next Tron movie or maybe yet another futuristic movie with Tom Cruise playing futuristic, black gloves-wearing
tough short action hero. In all seriousness, though, this is pretty normal for concept cars.

Getting back on the subject of the Fourjoy, Smart is playing the details on its new generation of vehicles close to its chest. The Fourjoy does offer some clues about what the rumored four-door Smart car will look like. Smart has revealed that it will keep the rear engine layout and that the platform will be shared with the Renault Twingo. The Fourjoy comes with the drivetrain from the current Fortwo Electric Drive. It is missing a roof, doors and rear window, but speculation is that by slapping those parts on the car we have a good look at the future
four-door Smart.

And of course what is a concept car without some crazy features? The Fourjoy comes with two electric skateboards (because pushing is just too much exercise) and helmets that strap into a compartment in the rear. The car also comes with an HD camera that allows you to share those joyous driving moments with friends on social media, which is a feature you should expect to see not only in future Smart vehicles but from other automakers as well.

Would you consider driving a Smart Fourjoy? What do you think of the funky, futuristic interior? Would you be interested in a future Smart with removable doors so you can be like Wrangler owners? Leave a comment below.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Is the C7 Chevy Corvette Stingray Really a 911 Killer

I recently read a brief, rather uninformative article on CNN about how the Stingray Corvette is finally a Porsche 911 "killer." The author of the article did not really explain how that was, so I was left wondering how the Stingray accomplishes such a task.

I grew up idolizing both the Corvette and 911. As I grew older I realized they are different beasts. The Corvette is like a sledge hammer, brutally powerful but lacking the incredible finesse of the 911. The Corvette relies on a big V8 engine in front while the 911 has a relatively small straight six in the rear. Despite what the public at large thinks, the 911 is not the best handling car on the road. To an extent handling is a preference, but even the most rabid 911 fans have to admit the car is the undisputed king of oversteer. That can be a fun thing, but it also makes the 911 a tough beast to wrangle on a track, unless you have a model with all-wheel-drive.

The  911 also comes in many formats. The new 991 architecture, which boasts many improvements over the impressive 997, is also rolling out. So far only the race-hardened GT3 version of the 991 has been unleashed on the world, but it has picked up tremendous praise (despite its lack of a manual transmission). For the Stingray to hang with the 991, it will have to be as good as some are saying. I haven't had the chance to drive one yet, so for me the jury's still out.

One thing that annoys me about the claim that the Stingray "kills" the 911 is that there is no mention of what version of the 911 it does that to. I can only assume people are referring to the 997, since the GT3 is simply in another class of vehicle. But to just say the one car "kills" the other is quite oversimplified. There are many performance aspects to a car, and no car is perfect in every sense, yet none of these aspects are cited as  reasons the Stingray is superior. Usually professional car reviews are more meticulous.

Here's my opinion: GM loves to make wild, blanket claims. How many times have I heard that some new GM model will turn the company around? Far too many. Wasn't that what Saturn was supposed to be about? Add to that the list of brands the company has killed due to gross incompetence, or in Saab's case pure sabotage, and I have become pretty cynical about GM's wild claims to out-engineer companies that have long track records for superb engineering.

So forgive me if I don't join in the ranks of American automotive writers who are eager to declare the quintessential American sports car beats the legend from Germany. Besides, the thing nobody is mentioning is how the Stingray stacks up against Nissan's Godzilla, or have we all forgotten about that incredible car?

Monday, August 5, 2013

The New Acura NSX Sings a Sweet Melody

Have you seen the pictures for the new Acura NSX? It's a great-looking car, but now I have heard the engine sing and I am completely in love. Seriously, in the video below the engine in the NSX comes to life and genuinely sounds like a snarling tiger. Then the car does a hot lap around a track and the engine sings a melody that few others can rival (like Ferrari and the Audi R8).

But don't just take my word for it, watch the video for yourself and fall in love with the upcoming supercar:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Breaking News: Detroit files for bankruptcy protection.

While breaking, this story really comes as now surprise to me that the City of Detroit has filed for chapter 9 bankruptcy protection.

In a surprise move today, the city's state appointed emergency manager, Kevyn Orr asked for permission to put the city under Chapter 9 protection this afternoon in court. Currently, Detroit is $18.5 billion dollars in dept. Currently, the Governor of Michigan has to sign off on the bankruptcy since it is the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Details are still forthcoming so we will be posting updates as we find them.

Source: Detroit News.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Freeway Merging: the Fine Art Utah Drivers Don't Understand

I've lived in the beautiful state of Utah for the better part of the past thirteen years, but I don't think of myself as a Utahan. I grew up in New Mexico and I think I will always identify as being from the Land of Enchantment. That being said, there are some truly wonderful things about Utah, including the Moab Jeep Safari, some killer pastrami burgers and more outdoor activities than you could possibly want to do.

Not to be negative, but there are some drawbacks to living in Utah just like there are drawbacks to living anywhere else. One of the first crazy negative things I noticed when I first moved Utah way back in 2000 was that it seems that people here don't know how to drive on the freeways. There's some bad driving on surface streets here, but where Utah drivers become especially bad is when everyone starts travelling at faster speeds, which is just so very comforting.

Never before I moved to Utah had I seen a person cut across five lanes of traffic in less than a hundred feet just to exit the freeway. Were they high? Did they fall asleep? Do they not realize they could have killed someone? Why not just get off at the next exit, enter the freeway going the other way and backtrack to the needed exit? These were all thoughts that went through my head. I still am amazed whenever I see the carpool lane last minute freeway exit.

And then there are the people who think that the left lane is the slow lane. This activity seems to become more common the further from downtown Salt Lake City you get, with Utah and Davis Counties both being maddening to drive through.

But what I'm focusing on today is perhaps the most frustrating thing about Utah drivers and freeways: Utahans cannot merge! I know, I know, you're all saying "well nobody where I drive can merge." If you live in Southern California, Boston, New York City, Phoenix or pretty much anywhere in the United States, you haven't seen bad freeway merging. Come drive in Utah, especially during rush hour, and try getting on the freeway with a big group of cars. I dare you.

Way back when I lived in New Mexico and went through drivers ed I learned that freeway on-ramps existed for one thing only: to allow drivers enough time and distance to get their vehicles up to freeway speeds. This elementary point is where Utah drivers fail. Somehow they didn't get the memo that driving 35 mph on the ramp and then trying to merge in with traffic going 65 mph plus just doesn't turn out well. The end result is the  on-ramps stack up with slow traffic, drivers in the right lanes have to swerve all over to avoid the cars going ridiculously slow, and all of the traffic on the freeway slows. Occasionally the inability to merge on the freeway even leads to a crash.

Then you have the flip side of the equation, the fact that people don't drive in the appropriate lanes on the freeway. Like I said before, plenty of drivers go slow in the left lane, instead of in the lanes to the right. There are areas of the country where that activity will get you run off the road, and for good reason. Not only that, but I learned in drivers ed that if you can, you should get out of the rightmost lane when cars are entering the freeway, allowing them to enter without problems. These courtesies are rarely displayed on the roads here.

I strongly suspect that much of this activity that leads to Utahans merging like a pack of constipated tortoises comes from everyone's looking out only for themselves. The funny thing is that by acting that way, these people make it so everyone has to wait longer to get where they are going, including them.  

How's the freeway merging where you live?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Brush With a Horrible Driver

Integras are fun little cars, but they unfortunately seem to attract bad drivers

Just yesterday I was driving somewhere with my wife and kids, unfortunately at rush hour, when I came upon a horrible driver. By horrible I mean much worse than your average bad driver, which unfortunately seem to come out of the woodwork here come rush hour. I generally try to avoid driving around at that time, but there was nothing I could do to avoid it yesterday.

At first I noticed this second generation Acura Integra driving a few hundred feet behind us, and the car drifted almost into the solid median before the driver jerked it to the right. Then the car sped up and was on our rear like white on rice. I was going about the speed limit, had a barren lane next to me, but this lovely driver decided that was a good time to drive with her front bumper within two feet of my rear bumper.

As if that wasn't enough, I then noticed the lady was driving without any hands on the steering wheel! She was putting her hair back in a ponytail, looking in the mirror and basically doing anything but driving. Finally, as we approached another intersection the driver apparently decided she had enough of tailgating me and so she swerved into the right lane. I said to my wife "that lady is going to hit someone" and then I turned into the leftmost of the double left hand turn bays at the light.

In a flash, the lady in the Integra came sailing into both mine and the other turn bay, fortunately more in the other turn bay, and hit another car. I will credit it to playing video games, but I saw the whole thing in slow-motion and was able to jerk our car to the left to avoid being struck by the Integra.

The other car that was struck had a young couple and a baby in the backseat. Fortunately nobody was hurt, but I suspect their aging Accord was totaled out just because of its low value. I've unfortunately been in that exact same situation and so felt incredibly sorry for the people. We supplied our information to the couple and were able to confirm to the police officer over the phone that the Integra driver was completely at fault.

It's a good thing we volunteered as witnesses, since for reasons I don't understand, the police officer was going to cite the young couple for the accident. So if you witness a car accident and know who is at fault, please supply your information as a witness so justice can be served. The driver of the Integra apparently "forgot" her driver's license and proof of insurance, which did not surprise me considering how she was driving. Hopefully another irresponsible driver was taught a lesson or potentially taken off the roads before she seriously injures or even kills someone.

Drive careful, everyone!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Some Car Buying Tips

Car shopping would be funner if I were buying one of these.

I absolutely hate car shopping. Most people are surprised to find this out since they just assume my automotive infatuation makes car shopping a joyful experience. When I clarify why I hate car shopping everyone just nods and smiles to themselves, because they know what I'm talking about.

I hate car shopping not for the test drives, the kicking of tires, etc. What I hate is the money end of it. While there are a few dealerships out there that are pretty honest and straightforward with customers, there are unfortunately enough shysters out there that the car buying experience can be pretty miserable. It makes buying a car a completely stressful experience, where one wrong move can cost you thousands of dollars without giving you anything extra in return.

After many vehicle purchases and many painful hours spent in car dealerships, I am passing my knowledge of car shopping on to you all. This is by no means the end-all list of car shopping tips, but rather some useful items that can help save you some grief. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any tips of your own or want to share your car shopping horror stories.

Now, for the tips:

Know what you want before you get there. If you walk into a dealership or peruse the lot and you haven't done some research, you need to make a solemn promise to yourself that you are not going to sign any papers or talk anything about finance that day. Test drive some vehicles if you aren't sure what you will like, but don't mix that visit with your visit to actually purchase a vehicle. Do thorough homework at home on the Internet about the vehicles you are considering to help you narrow down what you want. When you go to a dealership to buy a vehicle, you need to know exactly what make and model you want, plus all of the options you would like. NEVER ask a car salesman, no matter how honest he seems, what kind of car you should get or to help you choose between two different cars you are considering.

Set a time limit and  stick to it. Car dealers often like to make you wait for hours on end. It's a device they use to wear you down so you don't put up as much of a fight over all the extra crap they will throw on your sales contract. If you are being made to wait around too much, leave. Seriously just get up and walk out. You might even want to tell them you only have so long. But don't let them hurry you up into a deal right then, because that's when you can agree to things you should not. Instead, tell them to write up the sales contract and give you a call when it's ready. Then you can go back at your convenience and review the contract. This puts you in the position of control.

Leave if you are getting jerked around. I've done this a few times with dealerships that try to play games or go back on their word about something. If you haven't signed the purchase agreement you can leave at any time and they are powerless to stop you. If a salesman starts chasing you, then is an opportune time to give them your final demands as you continue walking to your car. In the event they offer to "fix" the deal for you, let them know there is a time limit to make it happen or you will leave again. Sometimes the dealership will let you leave but then later in the day or even a few days later you will receive a call from the sales manager. Again, this is your moment to negotiate for what you want, so go for it.

Always cite a reason for a lower price. If you feel that a price offer on a car isn't fair, you need to have done your homework to know exactly why. Is there a competing dealership offering a better price on the same car? Is it a used car with high miles or damage on it? If you can cite a reason for a low ball offer on a car, the dealership employees will know you are educated enough to know the true value of the vehicle and they will often cave in to your request.

Never concentrate just on monthly payments! Too many car shoppers look exclusively at the monthly payments for the vehicle they are interested in. BIG MISTAKE! Negotiate the car's total purchase price before you ever talk about monthly payments. Dealers will often get you to concentrate on the monthly amount as they jack the total purchase price up. There are plenty of ways to shrink a car's monthly payments, like extending the life of the loan a year. Keep your eye on the prize and get the total purchase price hammered out first, then check that price when you sit down to sign the sales contract.

Shop around before you buy. Once you hammer out a purchase agreement with a dealer, stop right there and tell them you need to sleep on it. NEVER purchase the car right then. Most contracts are good for a few days, so use that time to shop the competition. Tell them what kind of a deal you are getting at the competing dealership and ask if they can beat it. If they can produce a more competitive deal (again, without making you wait forever) then go with the best option.

Use the Internet to shop. Some dealerships will actually offer better prices through increased incentives for buyers who shop online. Not only that, but talking to the sales staff online helps decrease the pressure you would normally feel sitting in the showroom. You can even slow the sales process down to several weeks, giving you time to mine all kinds of information about dealer incentives and buyer reward programs from the sales staff.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Evolution of Fast and Furious

The new Fast and Furious movie is coming out on May 24th, and so in the spirit of the movie I wanted to talk about the evolution of franchise.

When the first movie came out I was in college and was swamped with homework, trying to balance a social life, etc. I knew vaguely of the movie but that was about it. It wasn't until the movie came out on DVD that I saw it and was intrigued by its portrayal (however unrealistic) of the tuner world. I had experience modifying cars and was adding onto my car at the time, so that made the movie that much more interesting to me. Of course the cars in the movie looked pretty ridiculous, but that was a thing among some tuners at the time (kind of like with donks now). Some of those zany looks were a way to ruffle people's feathers and for the tuners to thumb their nose at them. And of course the scene where the Supra "smokes" the Ferrari further infuriated many automotive purists that solemnly and foolishly believed a Ferrari would win any race by virtue of the prancing pony slapped on it.

That first movie inspired many, many poser racer bois to start slapping huge aluminum wings and coffee can exhausts onto the economy car that used to be mommy's. In a lot of ways it cheapened the tuning scene. This cheapening, I feel, became even worse with the completely cartoonish and disappointing second movie, 2 Fast 2 Furious, which I unfortunately saw on opening night (complete with a Supra car show in the parking lot). Anyone who had a modified car that was not a Corvette or better came under quite a bit of fire from all over the place. We were the cause of idiots who raced on busy city streets, we were the source of the stolen car parts market (never mind that the market existed before the movies), cops tailgated you on the road for no reason and so forth.

Then my project car was totaled out by some complete idiot driver, plus I was married and had a kid. So I stopped really playing with cars out of necessity. The third Fast and Furious movie came out, Tokyo Drift, and I didn't see that one until it came out on DVD. Honestly it was an improvement on the horrible second movie, but like the two previous movies it still leaned heavily toward tuner cars or "ricers" as some people are fond of calling them. The series introduced the world to the drifting movement, which then inspired all kinds of idiot kids trying to drift on roads or in busy public parking lots which of course often ended badly (just like in the movie).

It wasn't until the fourth movie that the franchise took an interesting turn. Sure there were some tuner cars in it, but instead of just one or two American muscle cars there were several. Why nobody tapped into the muscle car scene before baffles me. The new movie brought a different dimension to the series, and it was a huge success. The fifth movie built on that momentum, plus introduced some exotic vehicles (like the Koenigsegg CC) to make even more people feel included.

So the series has evolved quite a bit. The one major scene or segment I feel hasn't been truly represented is the European tuning market, specifically the Germans. It looks like the cars in the sixth movie will include some British speed demons, but why aren't there GTIs, a C63 AMG, M6 or even an S60R? There have been a few Euro vehicles in the series, but most of them have fared pathetically, like Jesse's Jetta in the first movie.

Maybe there will be a seventh movie (I think they're going to keep making them until Vin Diesel is behind the wheel of a Little Rascal). And maybe in the seventh movie we will finally see a bunch of German muscle cars. That would be fun. The evolution of the series has kept it going, because if in the fourth movie there were just a bunch of newer tuner cars with a rainbow of paint jobs I think that would have been the death of it all. So if anyone involved in the production of the Fast and Furious movies reads this, you should go for some German flavoring in the next movie; plenty of us would pay to see that.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Automotive Market Needs a Convertible Minivan!

Chop that top!

 A good friend of mine contacted me today to gripe about how there are no convertible minivans on the market. With the weather warming up, us minivan drivers get to watch with envy as the good people of the world cruise by in their convertible Mustangs, 911s and Sebrings (okay, I'm not really jealous of that last one). If I want the wind to whip through my hair (or what is left of it) I have to roll down my window, which is just plain rough. I want to put the top down on my luxury cruiser minivan and roll hard on the way to dance lessons.

Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

Apparently my friend wasn't aware of the fact that Nissan produces a convertible version of the Murano, called the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. The great thing about the CrossCabriolet is its huge trunk, even with the top folded down. Not only that, but it has a folding hardtop and all-wheel-drive meaning it can be driven year-round for mad shopping trips. The bad news is the Murano CrossCabriolet has the highest percentage female ownership out of any newer vehicle in the United States, according to a source I cannot recall now (bad writer!). I guess that's only bad if you are a guy, like me.

But back to the convertible minivans. You know, as I've said over and over I never thought I would own a minivan. But they are incredibly practical vehicles when you have kids, with a low step-in height, large door openings and huge cargo capacities. Do you have any idea how many strollers I can fit in the back of mine at once? It's crazy. Still, I would like a little bit of impractical fun, and a convertible van would provide a smidgen of that impractical fun.

But the technical side of me knows a convertible minivan would present some serious mechanical issues. First off, such a large folding roof would use a pretty complicated folding mechanism, which would take some fancy engineering. Not only that, but where would the top go once it's folded? There isn't exactly a trunk in a minivan. And then there are those pesky, practical sliding doors that would look pretty weird without a roof on the van.

Of course Germans are good at tackling such engineering issues. Volkswagen has their badge-engineered Routan that is a Chrysler abomination. This problem could present the perfect excuse for Volkswagen to reinvent the minivan in a format that would allow for a Cabriolet version. They could even offer a TDI version of the van using the same engine as the Touareg.

One huge advantage of a cabriolet minivan: when it gets crazy as it often does in minivans, mom or dad only need to fold down the top and hit the freeway. The whistling wind would quiet everyone down and force junior to hold on tight to his Avengers hat. I think that feature alone could help Volkswagen or whatever automaker brave enough to make a convertible minivan sell at least 200,000 models in the first year of production. Automakers lately are carving out all kinds of interesting niches in the marketplace, but this one so far has been untouched.

Now I'm off to catch a plane to Wolfsburg so I can sell the VW board on my excellent idea.

Legendary hot rodder, Dean Jeffries, dead at 80.

Perhaps best known for much of his work that was claimed by George Barris, Dean Jeffries was one of the most legendary men in automotive culture. He was the complete package. He was a metal worker, a painter, a designer, a car builder, stuntman. He did it all. I mean, where do you begin?

Jeffries was born in Lynwood, California in February 1933. He had dreamed of attending the Art Center in Pasadena, but instead of doing well in school he gravitated toward cars like most teens do, learning from his  father who was a mechanic. While stationed in Germany during his stint in the Army, he learned the art of pinstriping from a furniture and piano striper, and upon returning home to California, he continued to learn from Kenneth “Von Dutch” Howard. This landed him a  job as the in-house pinstriper for George Barris. Along the way, he learned how to shape metal, as well, and began to take the customization of his clients’ cars further; during that time, he not only striped James Dean’s infamous Porsche 550 Spyder with the nickname “Li’l Bastard,” but also built Chili Catallo’s 1932 Ford three-window coupe, the one that the Beach Boys used on the cover of their Little Deuce Coupe album.

Jeffries also did work for Caroll Shelby. He painted the first Cobra as a favor to Shelby. He sympathized with Shelby’s effort to get the car done on a budget. “The body was a disaster, all heliarced and torched up. I had only three days from start to finish. I asked Shelby what color he wanted, and he said, ‘Any color you want.’ So, not knowing if it was right or wrong, I painted it pearl yellow because I had heard on TV that yellow stood out the best.” Shelby would later provide Jeffries with a Weber-topped Ford V-8 and four-speed transmission for Jeffries’s Mantaray, an asymmetrical single-seater based on a 1939 Maserati 8CTF Grand Prix chassis.

After leaving Barris' shop. Jeffries set up shop in Hollywood. This attracted plenty of celebrity clientele and made way for jobs creating and customizing cars for the movies and for the stars, including the Monkeemobile, the Chrysler Imperial based Black Beauty from The Green Hornet television series, and the Landmaster from Damnation Alley. He didn’t restrict himself to Hollywood cars, however: He also designed and manufactured the Kyote Volkswagen based dune buggies and built a number of custom and concept cars for Ford Motor Company, including a gullwing-door show car called the Cougar, the Falcon Python show car, and the Ford GT40. He also did some construction and painting for several Indy Car teams. 

Jeffries also worked for a while as a stuntman. During the production of Honky Tonk Freeway in 1980, Jeffries performed a jump stunt with a truck in which he broke his back. He also performed stunts in The Blues Brothers and Fletch. What he will mostly rememberh him for if not through his cars then through his feud with George Barris, brought on by Barris’s habit of taking credit for Jeffries’s work throughout the years. “He couldn’t put a dent into something, never mind taking one out, but he’s a hell of a promoter, believe me,” Jeffries said. Barris retorted that he couldn’t “control what magazines write and who they list as the designer and builder.”

Jeffries remained very active in the industry until about five years ago and still maintained a shop in Hollywood. 

Source & Photos: Hemmings Motor News & The Jalopy Journal

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Tesla Model S. The best car. EVER

In some news out of left field. The folks from Consumer Reports have come out an announced that the Tesla Model S is bar none, the BEST car they have ever tested. Interesting because of the fact that it is a full electric car. But that's also one of the biggest reasons why CR says it's the best. Styling is uniquely Tesla, and looks like nothing else on the road. Inside, a 17 inch touch screen panel controls just about everything in the car. Now how it is better than say a VW Jetta TDI?

Well, I'm not sure other than you can take the Jetta on long road trips. The Model S can handle say Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Longer trips are possible thanks to a network of supercharged charging stations that can charge the battery from empty to half full in about a half hour. However, expect a full charge to take 12 hours using normal 240 volt home electric. That can be cut down with an optional charger from Tesla that takes about 5 hours to recharge.

Sticker price for the Model S comes in at a hefty $90,000 give or take a couple hundred bucks. And lets face it. Frankly, it's not a Prius, and that's why we like it. Even though we still prefer our cars to suck gas, not electricity.

So, while it may not fit the need for everyone, it's pretty darn close for some. Unfortunately, for those of us here in Pittsburgh, and the rest of Pennsylvania for that matter. There are no Tesla dealers. There is a service center in Philadelphia, but the closest dealer is in Tysons Corner, Virginia which is just outside of Washington D.C. That is partially due to Tesla's troubles with their store style of dealer system that has the national and state dealer associations up in arms. And that's not to mention the other financial troubles that have hounded Tesla.

Here's hoping that Tesla sticks around for a while. 

Source: Consumer Reports, Tesla Motors.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Creative Car Badging

I always wince when automakers engage in badge engineering, when a car is given new badges and maybe a few exterior pieces to make a different "model." As much as I would like to say that only automakers engage in badge engineering, unfortunately some car owners do the same thing.

Why do people put some wishful badges on their car? You know, like the Honda Civic owners in the United States who slap a "Type-R" badge on the trunk lid. Is it that these people think the badge will add horsepower or trick everyone into thinking their car is something it's not?

The other day I ran across one of the most creative badging jobs I've seen on a car in a while. It was on an old Dodge SRT-4, a car that posts some respectable output figures but in stock form is lacking in handling characteristics. Apparently the owner of this SRT-4 felt inclined to slap a Viper badge on this car's nose. Was it a joke? It made me laugh, but sadly I doubt it. Does the guy think the average person would think his car was a Viper? Most people know that a Viper looks like but sadly probably wouldn't recognize its badge. Or maybe the guy tries to claim he crammed a Viper's engine under the hood.

Whatever the reason, like I said it made me laugh, and hopefully it makes you laugh as well.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Electric Cars Are Dropping Like Flies!

Is it just me or does the Coda Sedan look a little too much like an old Civic?

There are many critics of electric cars, especially people who work in the petroleum industry (that's slightly a joke, but only slightly). People cite the limited range of electric cars as a concern as well as battery problems, battery replacement costs, extra strains put on maxed-out electricity delivery systems, etc.

Well, these critics of electric vehicles should be having a party right now because it seems that electric car makers are dropping like flies. In case you missed the huge news from last week, Fisker Automotive is quickly moving toward bankruptcy. It seems that the company continued to tax money from the US government even though it knew that it was losing a massive amount of money with each Karma sold (insert joke about bad Karma here). Now Justin Bieber is going to have to find some new car he can have wrapped in chrome so the paparazzi has an extra easy time of tracking him wherever he goes.

To add to that bad news for EVs, now Coda Automotive has declared bankruptcy. Of course the question that everyone asked was who would be stupid enough to pay $40,000 for a Chinese electric car with no reputation to uphold, but that's beside the point. There are plenty of people who are declaring the death of the electric car at this very moment.

Of course there is still the Nissan Leaf, which was not selling very well until recently. And then there is the Tesla Model S, you know that piece of "vaporware" that the critics said would never come to pass. The Model S has racked up some serious awards and I've personally seen several on the roads here and have to say they look as good in person as in the marketing collateral. But apparently the electric car is dead.

Sure, Toyota backed out of a deal last year with Tesla to start making all-electric powertrains Some other automakers have also backed off of their EV projects. And some really big players like Daimler and Nissan/Renault have declared they are moving forward with hydrogen vehicles.Does this mean the electric car is dead?

If anything the electric car is showing more life than ever. These deaths are a necessary movement in the marketplace, the casualties of faulty planning rather than a faulty plan for powering vehicles. Evidence abounds at this, including the recent surge in Leaf sales as well as big automakers planning on releasing EVs in the near future. The Fiat 500E is coming soon, promising another inexpensive electric car as well as the Smart Fortwo Electric, to name just two. And Detroit Electric is back, although it remains to be seen just how well the automaker survives the next few years. 

As for those who fear that all these electric cars are going to overload the power grid, I have one thing to say: buy a solar array and take yourself off the grid. Problem solved.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Dreaded Exhaust Back Pressure

I remember the first time I saw a tuner's huge tailpipe. I'm pretty sure it was on a Civic and was at least large enough to fit a small cantaloupe inside of it. It was intriguing and almost laughable at the same time. I quickly learned from someone that the idea behind having a huge exhaust system on a car is to allow for the freer flow of the exhaust gases from the engine block with the aim of increasing power output. 

Anyone who has ever been to a racetrack knows that race cars have extremely loud exhausts. Why? They lack any restrictions in them. Your street legal exhaust system comes with sound dampeners as well as a catalytic converter to help reduce emissions and in turn air pollution. If you take all of that away, you remove the things that are slowing down the flow of gases.

Since you cannot legally remove your catalytic converter, and in most areas it is illegal to remove all of the sound dampening devices from your car's exhaust if you drive on the road at all, some car tuners have tried to work around this by slapping on dramatically larger exhaust systems. A fair amount of large pickup trucks do the same thing. 

Anything that restricts the flow of exhausts from the engine to the muffler tip is called back pressure. Back pressure can be caused by a number of obstructions, including a clog in the catalytic converter or a collapsed section of a car's double walled exhaust pipe. Too much back pressure kills power output, fuel mileage and can even cause a car's engine to overheat. In cases of extremely high back pressure, a car's engine might stall out.

But there is such a thing as going too large, despite what some tuners think. Exhaust back pressure is a double-edged sword. Too much and it can rob performance, but too little and it can rob performance. Your exhaust system works with suction to remove the exhaust gases from the engine and move them out through the tailpipe. If you relieve all of the back pressure the exhaust gases could be sucked back into the cylinders through the exhaust valves. So outfitting a car with a 1.6-liter four cylinder engine with an exhaust the size of a semi truck's is probably a bad idea.

Measuring your exhaust's pressure is the only way to accurately determine back pressure. The easiest way to do this is with a low pressure gauge. You have to tap into the exhaust system to measure back pressure, which is best done by disconnecting the air pump check valve. For the best accuracy, the check valve needs to connect to the exhaust system before the catalytic converter.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Trying something new

Now know you love cars, and everything associated with them. Did you know that you can buy almost anything from Amazon? Sure you did. Well, of course there's costs associated with maintaining the blog and as a way to help keep the lights on, we've partnered with Amazon. So if you're looking to buy anything on Amazon, come here to Autobahn Automotive News first and click through on any of the Amazon banners on the main page. Then, whatever you buy on Amazon, we'll get a tiny percentage of whatever you spend. It's a win win. And you can get anything you want on Amazon with (to take one from Larry Miller), an actual Amazon.

Happy Birtday Mustang! And a special milestone.

April 17th, 1964. That was the day that the automotive world was turned on it's ear. It was on this day that Ford Motor Company unveiled the all new 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang. Launched at the New York Worlds Fair, the Mustang quickly rose to be Ford's best selling car since the Model A. It also launched the pony car craze that led to the muscle car. Ford sold over 400,000 Mustangs in 1964. 100,000 of which were sold in the first 3 months of production.

That leads us to today's milestone. 49 years to the day of the introduction of the Mustang, Ford's Flat Rock, Michigan plant produced it's 1 millionth Mustang. Production of the Mustang was moved to Flat Rock from the famous Rouge factory in 2004 for the launch of the redesigned 2005 Mustang. Since 1964, over 8.5 million Mustangs have been tearing up American roads.

The car, a ruby red 2014 convertible was driven off the line by Raj Nair, Ford's Vice President for global product development. The production of the 1 millionth Flat Rock Mustang also helps to launch the 50th anniversary year of the Mustang. 

Source: Ford Motor Co.

Press release:

FLAT ROCK, Mich., April 17, 2013 – Happy Birthday Mustang! Forty-nine years to the day after its 1964 debut in New York, the iconic sports car celebrates another milestone: One million Mustangs have rolled off the line at Ford’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant since production moved there in 2004. Ford is celebrating this milestone as year 50 of continuous Mustang production gets under way at Flat Rock Assembly.
Raj Nair, group vice president for global product development, today rode off the line at Flat Rock Assembly Plant in a Ruby Red 2014 Mustang convertible. Nair was riding shotgun with Ed Salna, material planning and logistics manager at the plant. Salna is a 27-year veteran of Flat Rock Assembly, starting work there more than a year before the plant produced its first car.
“Mustang is one of the most beloved nameplates in the industry, with fans around the world and throughout Ford Motor Company,” said Nair. “The team here at Flat Rock Assembly has built an outstanding reputation for quality while producing one million Mustangs over the last nine years, and we expect that to continue for many years to come.”
Ford has built Mustangs near its home base in Dearborn, Mich. for 49 years. The car was built at Ford’s famous Rouge factory, just a few minutes from company headquarters, for four decades before moving a few miles south to Flat Rock in 2004.
Introduced in April 1964, Mustang proved to be far more popular than anyone expected, prompting Ford to add production capacity outside Michigan. By early 1965 plants in Metuchen, N.J. and San Jose, Calif. were also building Mustang. Less than two years later, on Wednesday, March 2, 1966, the one-millionth Mustang rolled off the line in Dearborn. To date, Ford has produced and sold more than 8.5 million Mustangs.
The launch of Mustang production at Flat Rock coincided with introduction of the then all-new fifth-generation model – first in the series to get a dedicated platform. In addition to the standard V6 and the V8-powered GT model, Mustangs coming out of Flat Rock Assembly Plant have included several special editions and race cars:
  • In 2006 Flat Rock built a limited run of black and gold Shelby GT-H coupes for Hertz rental fleets to commemorate the 1966 Shelby GT350H rental car
  • 2007 brought the debut of the Shelby GT500 Mustang developed by SVT with a supercharged 5.4-liter V8 producing 500 horsepower, the most ever for a Mustang then
  • For the 2008 and 2009 model years, the Mustang lineup included the Bullitt, inspired by the car driven by the title character in the 1968 film of the same name
  • For the 2012 and 2013 model years, Flat Rock built the track-optimized Boss 302
  • The Flat Rock line has produced numerous competition versions of Mustang including the FR500, Boss 302R and the extremely successful Cobra Jet drag racer
The Flat Rock factory has been producing vehicles since 1987, when it opened as Mazda Motor Manufacturing USA and built the Mazda MX-6. In 1992 Ford purchased a 50 percent share in the plant and it was renamed AutoAlliance International. Over the years Flat Rock Assembly has produced the Mazda 626, Mazda6, Mercury Cougar and Ford Probe. In addition to Mustang, Flat Rock will add production of the Fusion sedan later this year.
“Flat Rock has gone through an amazing transformation over the past year,” said Tim Young, plant manager, Flat Rock Assembly Plant. “We’ve invested $555 million including a state-of-the-art, fully flexible body shop and an upgraded paint shop to make sure we’re continuing to build the best of the best for the next one million Mustangs.”
“The one-millionth Mustang is a true testament to the hard work and dedication of the Flat Rock Local 3000 membership,” said Tony Bondy, UAW Local 3000 chairman. “It’s been great building an iconic American car since 2004, and with the introduction of Fusion along with our new plant upgrades, we will keep building world-class quality in Flat Rock for years to come.”
Ford is adding 1,400 jobs and a second shift at Flat Rock Assembly Plant to support new Fusion production as part of its plan to add 12,000 hourly jobs in the United States through 2015.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

I Drive a Minivan and I Can Parallel Park

2013 Toyota Sienna. Photo courtesy Toyota

Yes, I drive a minivan. No, I never thought I would. Trust me, when I was younger I hated pretty much every minivan on the road. They would swerve suddenly, cut me off, not pay attention to the road, etc. I pretty much thought minivan drivers were horrible. Oh, and the guys driving minivans always wanted to race, which I found incredibly hilarious.

Now I find myself driving a minivan. I'll be honest, it's not a blast to drive. Instead, I have it to be practical, plain and simple. I don't swerve all over the road, but I still see plenty of minivan drivers who do. I also live in a more urban area and so maybe I'm not your typical minivan driver.

Several days ago I was reading somewhere (I don't remember where now) some other automotive writer going off about suburban minivan drivers who seemed lost in downtown areas and struggled to parallel park. I thought it was interesting and it didn't hurt me because I already know I'm not your typical minivan driver. I can actually parallel park my vehicle, without parking sensors or a backup camera. When I first bought my minivan it took me a little time to get used to the vehicle's dimensions and blind spots, but I've driven much larger vehicles in the past.

So after I read this piece about minivan drivers not being able to parallel park, I was sitting outside of a row of shops in the downtown area here. I was parallel parked and was waiting for my wife. I started to notice compact car after compact car trying to parallel park nearby. Almost every single one tried to pull into empty parking spots nose first! One woman put her PT Cruiser up on the sidewalk trying to straighten herself out after pulling into a parallel parking spot nose first.

So I guess stereotyping people by the type of vehicle they drive doesn't always work, but I still give other minivans plenty of space for their erratic driving.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Twenty Annoying Driving Habits Everyone Should Stop

Some drivers need robots to drive them around
I have to admit there are a lot of things about the way people drive (or don't drive) that get under my skin. Maybe it's that I'm just more aware of cars and how people interact with them, or maybe other people just keep their pet peeves to themselves. Regardless, I'm going to vent here and list off twenty annoying driving habits that should be abolished starting now:

20. Hanging cigarettes out of the window. I'll admit I will never understand why people smoke. Smoking smells awful, it's horrible for your health in more ways than most people even realize and it costs a lot of money. I really don't care if other people are smoking, but I HATE it when other drivers hang their cigarette out of their barely cracked window. Get an ashtray and keep your stink in your vehicle! If you don't wan to smell it, do you really think the rest of us do?

19. Tailgating. I've mentioned this one before, but until people stop doing it I'm not going to stop mentioning it. I'm the guy where if someone tailgates me I will slow down to under the speed limit just out of principle and out of fear that if I have to suddenly hit my brakes I don't want to get whiplash. Tailgating other people is the equivalent to pushing in line. Grow up and move beyond grade school, people.

18. Turning the steering wheel by gripping it with your thumb facing toward you and your fingers facing the instrument cluster. I first noticed this before I started driving. My sisters would turn this way all the time, and guess what? They would also regularly lose control after exiting a turn's apex! I've noticed this habit is prominent among women, but it's a dangerous way to grip the steering wheel since you can easily lose your grip. Which leads me to seventeen...

17. Gripping the top or bottom of the steering wheel. I notice women are more likely to grip the top of a steering wheel with white-knuckled fear, although I've seen some men do the same thing. Men are much more likely to lazily grip the bottom of the steering wheel with one hand while the other is hanging out the window. Both can result in the vehicle spinning out of control or flipping. At least use ten and two, or better yet nine and three.

16. Weaving through traffic. Driving a "shaggin' wagon" I have dumbasses in their low-powered econo boxes cut in front of me all the time like we're in an F1 race and nobody told me. These people then proceed to do the same thing to other cars that could easily crush theirs. And guess what? They usually end up stuck at the same red lights as me.

15. Pulling up window-to-window with other cars. I purposely don't pull up window-to-window after I've had about a half a dozen cops tell me how dangerous it can be. I really hate it when other people try to do that to me, and it's even more annoying when I scoot up a few inches and they scoot up too while gawking into my car with a big, dumb grin on their face.

14. Trying to race people who have their kids in the car. I don't care if the other driver is in a Porsche 911 Turbo, if you can see little kids in the backseat DO NOT ENCOURAGE THE OTHER DRIVER TO RACE! Street racing is a bad idea anyway, but don't put little kids at risk because of your stupidity!

13. Flipping out because someone else honks at you. Sometimes we zone out at red lights, sometimes we don't see another car on the road -- we're all human. Car horns are designed to get other drivers' attention, not for venting frustrations. So when someone honks at you, just acknowledge the other car and any mistake you have just made, swallow your pride and move on -- period.

12. Brake checking other drivers. Tailgating is annoying, but brake checking other drivers is perhaps even more dangerous. Not only could the other driver crash into you but you could trigger a big pileup and people could be seriously hurt or killed.

11. Not letting others merge. This one is bad here and in other parts of the country and world. Not letting traffic merge leads to aggressive driving maneuvers (i.e. cutting other cars off) that causes traffic to back up. If we all allow drivers to merge everything will flow smoother and we'll all get to where we're going sooner.

10. Carloads of overly flirty girls/guys. I was young once and I get that when you get a group of teenagers or early twenty-somethings together it can get kinda crazy. But trying to distract other drivers by acting all flirty is kind of annoying. Trust me, you don't want to be the victim of road rage because a spouse/passenger doesn't like your advances on her hubby.

9. Not signaling. This is kind of a chicken or the egg debate. People cut off anyone who signals/people don't signal for fear of getting cut off. Maybe if we all didn't drive like a bunch of overly-competitive jerkwads, use our signals and let people in "our" lane we could all just get to where we're headed? Apparently that thought process is too much for some people.

8. Blaring music. There comes a point when a car's music volume obviously is no longer for enjoyment but instead is meant to just annoy other drivers. If you want to be a douche be prepared for reciprocation from other douches on the road.

7. Speeding down a lane that's ending. This in effect says you are more important than all of the people who transitioned over well in advance, especially if you end up driving on the shoulder for a while.

6. Doing anything but driving. Talking on the phone, webbing, texting, applying makeup, shaving, plucking eyebrows, watching movies: why is it so many people who are driving cars do everything but drive?! Robot cars cannot come soon enough, I tell you...

5. Getting preachy with your bumper. This is not really a driving habit, but it's still annoying. I really don't care what your political social views are when I'm stuck behind you in traffic. Preachy bumper stickers just tell me you're self righteous and self important.

4. Speeding through neighborhoods. I live on what should be a quiet street, except for the steady stream of commuters who use it for their shortcut during morning and evening rush hour. The increased traffic is annoying, but when people turn my 25 mph street into a 40 + mph zone it's downright dangerous. And these shortcutters often blow through stop signs because they're going way too fast for little residential roads. Speeding through neighborhoods is extremely rude, no matter the reason.

3. Revving your engine over and over. As I sit here writing this one of my neighbors is doing just this. It's a regular habit of his since he has a big throaty V8 I would love to shove down his throat. And no, he's not working on his car. Apparently people want to throw or rod or they want to be noticed for being annoying.

2. Not waiting for pedestrians in a crosswalk. I have almost been hit by people who don't think they need to stop for a parent and kids crossing in a crosswalk. Let me tell you one dork in particular I just about went over and dented his fender because he kept inching forward toward my kids after barely stopping in time. Doing that doesn't make you tough, it makes you a dick.

1. Driving super slow. Unless someone is tailgating you (see number nineteen) it's annoying and dangerous to be driving well under the speed limit. I know some nervous drivers think driving way slow is how they stay safe, but it gums up traffic and can cause an accident. If you're that nervous about driving get a bus pass or call a taxi.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Beautiful 1970 Plymouth Cuda Convertible

It's Easter today and so this post will be short. But I wanted to share with you all this amazing video of a 1970 Plymouth Cuda Convertible I ran across.

Enjoy the holiday!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Keep Baby Car Carrier Handles Folded Down!

Photo copyright: Dmyto Samsonov, stock.xchng

I'm a parent and I vividly remember the time I brought my first child home from the hospital. I think I read through the installation manual for the car seat a few dozen times and checked that the base was cinched down as tight as possible. I was incredibly worried that something would happen to my baby, and my worry was completely justified.

When my first child was only a few months old she was involved in a car wreck. Some idiot who didn't look before turning left out of a business' parking lot T-boned our car while my wife was driving. Thankfully baby and mother were not hurt, partially because I had been so obsessive about getting that car seat in correctly.

There are several considerations when it comes to installing a car seat the right way. One big one when it comes to the baby carrier style seats is that you must fold down the seat's handle once you secure the seat in the base. I have noticed for the past several years that a shocking number of parents around here leave the handle up!

If you leave the baby carrier's handle folded upward, the seat can come loose from the base, causing your baby and the seat to potentially go flying out of the car during a violent car accident!

I have heard people say they keep the handle in the upright position because they attach toys to the handle so the baby has something to play with while riding in the car. You might as well be giving a toy full of rat poison for you child to be playing with, because it's about as dangerous.

Please, if you don't have a baby or are done having kids, spread the word around to people you do know that parents must fold these handles down. I hear of car accidents where baby carriers have gone flying out of windows and into traffic on a pretty frequent basis. It's such a simple thing and yet it can save lives.

Fold those handles down!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

I Think I'm in Love With the New Cadillac CTS

2014 Cadillac CTS. Photo courtesy General Motors

In case you have been locked in a closet or was lost in the woods for the past week, the New York Auto Show has been going on and quite a few great cars have been revealed. I have to say that I was totally shocked when I saw the 2014 Cadillac CTS Revealed.

Before I say anything else, in the interest of full disclosure I will admit I'm not a huge Cadillac fan. It's not that I think the company doesn't produce some nice cars but it's more about aesthetics and my philosophies on conspicuous consumption. The first time I saw an Escalade was in a college marketing course. I was complete repulsed by the pure bling of the thing.  When I saw one in person I quickly realized it was just a slightly modified Suburban, adding to my distaste for it.

I had heard that Cadillac was going in a new design direction that involved "cleaning up" the old design language. Cleaning up is putting it lightly. Cadillac dumped all the bling crap and the sharp corners galore found on the CTS and instead went for cleaner lines and a subdued grace that makes the car look higher class and more dangerous, yet it's still recognizable as a Cadillac.

And now I find myself in the strange situation where I am falling in love with a Cadillac sedan. Am I really that old or is Cadillac striking out in a brave new direction? Technically by some people's definition I could be classified as a member of Gen Y, so I think it's more of the latter. In my opinion Cadillac really is going to pose a threat to the big German three luxury automakers, which I say is a good thing mostly because BMW has gotten sloppy with its designs (other than the 6-Series, which I just love the look of). Maybe Cadillac will shake the Bavarian out of its deep design slumber, but then again if Cadillac keeps improving their cars in this direction I might not care.