Some people have pets, some people have cars
I've been impressed and disgusted, though I suppose not really surprised (hmm...or does "impressed" imply that I am surprised?) at the inconsideration of some of my fellow humans in the wake of this recent snow storm. For instance:
This morning a suede-and-fur wearing businesswoman thought that the best way to dig her car out was to swipe the plowed snow back into the street. This, even though in many cases it was a longer throw for her to move the snow back into the street than to put it in a pile on the sidewalk-side of her car, which would have had the further advantage of ensuring that the snow wouldn't be plowed back against whatever car took her space--and then dug out again, etc. Sure enough, once she got herself out, apparently a plow came through and moved all the snow back against a car. So, instead of a usable space being cleared and left for someone else (who knows?--perhaps even the person who cleared it in the first place), someone has to move that same snow again.
So, to you, brown-suede power-trollop with a dark blue BMW 528i, I say: "You're why the rest of us dislike BMW drivers. And yes, I have pictures."
More after the jump:
Happiness is parking your winter car in front of your summer car, thus protecting (at least the front of) your summer car from the dreaded Soccer Moms.
I don't believe anyone should hold a cell phone while driving. But that goes double for you, Granny.
Tim has already heard me expound on this, but:
Do they drive VW microbuses because they're hippies, or are they hippies because they drive microbuses?
Woman: Nice car. Maybe I can get a ride sometime...?
Man [brightly]: You bet. Oh. Wait. Did you mean in the car?
Do they drive like assholes because they're driving BMWs, or are they driving BMWs because they drive like assholes?
Only 19.6 mpg on this last tank.
[It's Fugazi Month at rotorglow.com/blog. For the month of July, for no particular reason other than I've been listening to them a lot, each post's title will be a Fugazi lyric. I'll try to make it vaguely topical.]
I spent the whole day with Veloce today. That meant giving up the James Dean double feature at the Brattle, on account of me not setting my alarm properly. (See, I set it, but I didn't actually turn it on. Seems that's an important step.) I washed, clay-bar-ed, and waxed every inch of the little vixen, which means that I touched every square inch of it 3 (!) times. Well, except the roof, which only got washed and wiped down with 303 "Space Age Protectant." (Like Armor-All, but better.)
So, for the moment, it gleams like the Hope Diamond. It's as smooth a Baby's Butt. It's as Cute As A Button.
But the whole experience got me thinking, and not for the first time, about how I treat cars, and how everone else treats 'em. A few years ago, someone I was close to asked me what it would take for me to put (for instance) a coffee cup on the (hard) roof of my (=our) car. Instantaneously, I responded, "A 90% chance of a planet-killing asteroid within 36 hours." Her response? I think she rolled her eyes first, and only then chuckled at my creativity (=glibness).
And last weekend, Cynthpop and I went to the beach, and she finally got some insight into just what a lunatic I am about cars and car care. (I should say she knows all about convertibles, though.) So I thought I'd write down some of the more outlandish customs I've developed over the years, and the rationale behind them.
And yes, I know it's kind of a sickness.
After the jump:
Believe it or not the fact that it's making more than 2x the power of Veloce is actually secondary to how boss the hardtop looks.
For the time being, anyway.....
More brilliance from Mr. Jalopy. He weaves the New Yorker, history of technology, great pix and an innate sense of what it means to be a "car person" into a wonderful description of why hot rods, going fast (or just "going"), dusty old parts and squinty old guys behind the counter add up to (and in fact give value to) "enjoying the ride."
And it's really true: we saw not one, but two Lamborghini Gallardos stopped at a light. It felt kind of surreal. And it was really amazing to hear them revving up off in the distance a few minutes later as I walked home. Even more surreal.
Self-serve pump #2 at a Sunoco station in a medium-sized city outside of a slightly larger city. Day.
[Mr. White is refueling a red car. Mr. Pink approaches slowly. He places his hands on the rear fender of of Mr. White's car, opposite from where Mr. White is holding the pump nozzle in his car's fuel filler.]
Mr. Pink: I...
Mr. White: Please don't touch.
[Mr. Pink glances up at Mr. White, and moves closer, around the back of the car, still touching it.]
Mr. White: Please! Don't touch.
Mr. Pink: Uh?
Mr. White [annoyed]: Don't. Touch.
[A light bulb appears above Mr. Pink's head. He acts surprised, but removes his hands from the car.]
Mr. Pink: Ah! I have been touching MILLIONS of cars. [He waves his hand subcontinentally.]
Mr. White: I have no doubt.
Mr. Pink [motioning toward inspection sticker on windshield. The sticker expires in October.]: I can give you a new sticker.
[Mr. White stifles a snort.]
Mr. White: No thanks.
[Exit Mr. Pink]
[Mr. White finishes refueling.]
[Exit Mr. White]
I'm off to Phila for the weekend tomorrow. Since the weather's going to be good, I decided I'd drive instead of fly. I imagine my dad and I will take part in the quintessential suburban father/son bonding activity: car detailing, maybe a little test driving.
Mostly, though, I'm looking forward to nobody being able to hear any music during the trip but me.
When (and just before) I was born, my parents and I lived in Rochester, NY. After we moved to MN and then PA, some friends of my parents from wayback still lived there, and taught at UR. Since my grandparents lived in Geneva, NY, we'd go back and visit them whenever we were in the area. They had a pair of Ford Capris from the early 70s, which were the immediate ancestor of my father's Capri II. Originally, the Capri was kind of a European take on the Mustang; smallish, sporty, vaguely exotic. I don't think the Obrechts' cars were what got that particular fascination revved up; I rather think it was seeing the revamped model on a trip through Europe to or from India in 74 or 75.
Ok. Fast-forward 25 years.
A few years ago, my uncle was cleaning out his fridge in NYC, and he found a Ziploc bag of both exposed and unexposed film from the ages. Now, every photographer in my family has one of these bags, pushed way back on the bottom or 2nd-from-bottom shelf of the fridge, near the baking soda, pickles and skunked Heineken. Film ages and degrade over time, and refrigeration slows that process down. So we keep partially-shot rolls in the fridge till we can use the unexposed frames. Or keep the one or two odball rolls of special film like HIE, Kodachrome 25 or tungsten-balanced Ektachrome that you can't use for birthday parties or anything other than perfect/special conditions. But, you know, they cost money, so you hate to throw them out, even though they're a decade or more (and counting) out of date.
So, my uncle's cleaning out his fridge one day, and comes across The Film Bag. He opens it up, and there's an unidentified roll of exposed 120 in there. So he takes it to a lab to have it processed, and damned if it isn't a roll of film that (he deduces) was shot by little Christopher in 1976 (or MAYBE 1977, though I doubt it), from waist high (on him, which at the time was, like, knee-high on a grownup person) of his parents' friends fleet of early 1970s Ford Capris. The camera had a waist-level viewfinder, and you can tell I was short at the time because all of the shots of the backs of the cars are looking UP at the underside of the bumper.
That explains the curious composition. I don't really know what to say about the blurriness.
I've been off all week. Which means time for blogging...
I've been waiting for Peter Egan's latest great column to show up on Road and Track's website. And finally it has. Nice summary, as if any were needed, of what's wrong with American drivers.
Plus he uses "truculent" in a sentence.
I'm often asked, "Your car is always so clean. How do you do it?" The question baffles me, and usually leads to a dialogue, in the tradition of Plato.
Me: Clean? It's not clean. Have you seen it latetly?
Them: Well, there's no snow on it. Do you park in a garage?
Me: Oh. Snow. That's different. I just brush it off.
Them [confused]: ...Brush?
Me: Yeah. Get this: They have these things called snow brushes that help get the snow off the car. It's amazing. You can get all the snow off the windows so you can see where you're going. And at some point, it ocurred to me that I could brush the snow off all the lights, so other people could see me...like, my brakelights and stuff, y'know? And at night? When it's dark? The headlights work way better if there isn't any snow covering them.
Them: Wow. Still sounds like a lot of work.
Me: Nah. Couple minutes, tops. Let the car warm up while you're doing it.
Them: Tell me more about the headlights. What are those for?
Hang UP. The FUCKING. PHONE!
Especially when you're sliding sideways through the snow. (Though who knows? Maybe you could have avoided the slide in the first place if you'd been using both hands.)
This morning on my way to work, I saw, in order, these three notable things:
An Audi S4 with a smashed-and (presumably)-grabbed passenger window, around the corner from my apartment (and half a block away from where I park). I thought about taking a picture, but it seemed disrespectful, since the owner clearly didn't know about it yet. So that wasn't cool.
Then, I saw a Bentley Continental Flying Spur, down by Memorial Drive. Dude had the window open; listening to all 12 cylinders, I guess.
Finally, there were a lot of emergency vehicles (ambulances, state troopers) along Fresh Pond Parkway where a small Toyota had apparently missed the part where the road bends to the right, and kept going straight, diagonally through the intersection, across the sidewalk and up into the 12-foot high wooden wall (and adjoining shrubbery) in front of a robber-baron's manse. Waiting at the light, I saw a leather backback plopped awkwardly in the middle of the sidewalk. I sure hope its owner is ok.
Oh, and the driver too.
I got my hardtop painted this week, and picked it up from the shop today. Weirdly, today was bright, sunny and warm (in the 50s), and was perfect for dropping the top. Ah well.
But a couple days with the hardtop off made me realize how much better the car feels with it on. The ride is much better, and it's a lot quieter--not just because there's less wind noise, but also because there's no canvas and vinyl slapping against the roof frame.
Plus, it looks boss. Even with the winter wheels, it makes me forget my pants are still tightly zipped.
I can't tell you how much fun I'm having with Coupe-Brougham.
The hardtop came off on Saturday, 4/29/2006. And life is good.
Despite the 30% (minimum) chance of rain in each of the next five days.
I fucking love this car.
It was a beautiful weekend (for a change) in E. MA, and on Saturday I headed over to Miata Day at the Museum of Transportation. A bunch of nice cars, of course, but I wasn't feeling photographically inspired.
I'm sure things would have been different on Sunday. It was Italian Car Day, and fellow Coupe-Brougham teammate David made an expedition and took some amazing pix. I'm simply agog, and next year, I'm going. That's all there is to it.
It was a pretty good weekend. The big thing was Zoom-Zoom Live, the Mazda dog-and-pony show that succeeds Rev It Up as the "drive our cars as fast as you can" promotional event. Daniel and I had gone to Rev It Up a couple of years ago and had a pretty good time so we headed down to the Weymouth Naval Air Station for the latest installment.
Things were set up a little differently this time. To begin with, there was preferred parking for Mazda owners, which was kind of a nice touch. (Yes, I'm a sucker.) So I was able to park close to the entrance and within sight of a couple of the courses. More significantly, the event was free (though at $40, the old Rev It Up events were a bargain); and even more importantly than that, you could do as many laps as your patience for standing in line would allow. But hour-long waits (for the good stuff) meant we didn't do as many runs as they'd have let us. The other big thing was that you were allowed to take passengers, so Dan and had shotgun for each other's runs.
So what about the runs, you ask?
Well, the good ones involved driving as fast as you could. First, we each did a fun (meaning untimed) run in the sublime RX-8. The gearbox! The sound! The 9000 RPM redline! It all makes up for the the torqueless difficulty of driving around town. Not an easy car to launch from a stoplight, but once it's going, you can just let it rev, and fling it into turns. Later, we also did runs in one of the new Miatas, which, I think, we both found pretty impressive. Of all the cars I drove, I liked how it felt the best--not surprising since it's the most similar to my car--but still, I was surprised at how quick it felt compared to mine
[AVI | You Tube] and Dan seemed impressed at how it handled. (High praise from someone who flogs a 350Z, and has had some actual training in the art of high-performance driving.)
There was also the Mazdaspeed Challenge, involving the Mazdaspeed6 and a clock. The time to beat was 42. 5 seconds. Dan went first, and reeled off a 44-something (complaining at one point about how he wasn't doing well). The hour-long wait in line (when I studied the ttrack diagram) and the preview of the course during Dan's lap should have helped me when I took over.
Instead, I was a little surprised by the hairpin in the middle of the course, thinking there was one more set of esses I could dance through. I came in way too hot, the front end washed out (stupid understeer), and I slid to the outside, slaughtering a handful of helpless, yet obviously foolhardy orange cones. So I futzed around looking for reverse (up and left on the MS6 and MS3, instead of down and right), then decided just to pull forward and finish the run, cleanly if not all-out.
Fifty-five seconds and change. Nasty. AND I had the corner of my badge clipped as a warning; if they have to clip it a 2nd time, you're done driving. Ah well.
We also did the questionably-intriguing "matched time gymkhana," which is like the other courses, except you tried to come as close as you could to a specific time. Which meant not driving as fast as you could, but rather taking a wild guess about how fast you should be going; trying to drive fast seemd to get you across the line a good 10 seconds early. Being geeks, we used a stopwatch. I came in 2 seconds over, Dan 2 under.
We also did some hot laps in the slot cars, which was probably the first time I'd done that since I was 13 or 14. And after all that, I had Dan drive Veloce back, which he did with typical aplomb, at a very high rate of speed.
Again with that training thing. Next year, no shit....I'm doin' it.
This is the fuckin' life.
I'm sitting in a chaise lounge, in a backyard, with a laptop and a beer and a dog and a view of my car. The weather is perfect, and the rapacious mosquitos of Wakefield, MA, famed in legend and song, have yet to swarm. There's a soft breeze, the smell of grass, and only the occasional waft of emissions-uncontrolled motorcycle exhaust from the (unmuffled) hogs and rice rockets heading to the Honey Dew
biker bar donut shop. Simone is on the Cape and asked if I could come out to her place to spend some time with Rocky during the day. So here I am, after a day of Veloce projects, kicking back as if this were my natural habitat.
I've come up with about a dozen more things I want to tweak and add to my car, but today I finally got around to doing one of the the most significant fixes. I finally installed the little circuit board I bought last winter that provides an auxilliary line-in jack to the stereo, so that I can plug my iPod directly into the system. No more FM modulator nonsense. The difference is like night and day. And it only took me 9 months to get around to doing it.
While I was in there, I disconnected the silly interlock between the front defroster and the AC switch. See, on most (all?) new cars, when you turn the vent control to defrost, the air conditioning automatically comes on. I know why they do this; because most people don't understand how to keep windows from fogging up; and one of the best ways is to turn on the AC. So these days it happens automatically. Blow dried air on the windshield and it won't fog up.
But that irks me, because sometimes a little warm (rather than "conditioned") air is all that's required. So I wanted to be able to choose weather to turn on the AC at the same time or not. Fortunately (and perhaps surprisingly), someone else agreed, and discovered how to do it.
[As an aside, it is not true, as the above link claims, that you have to remove the center console as well as the radio to get at the connector. You really only need to remove the radio.]
I also did some whimsical stuff. I polished up the turn signal stalks, getting rid of the weird not-quite-black paint on them, and making them look a little sharper. And I went after the aluminum plate in front of the radiator, making it gleam.
I guess I don't know which is the icing, and which is the cake: dirtying and bloodying my hands with some automotive tinkering, followed by the sounds of maximum rock and roll, or kicking back with a cold one and the sound of nothing but the chirping locusts and jingling tags.
Ten years ago (!!) when I moved to Boston from North Carolina, I had to sell one of my cars. For a couple of reasons, I sold the sporty hatchback, instead of the sporty sedan.
Happily, I found a great buyer for it, my grandfather--confirmed auto addict, open road speed freak and Honda enthusiast. I flew down to Chapel Hill and drove the Integra up to my parents' house in Philadelphia, where he picked it up a couple of weeks later. It thus became another member of a distinguished motoring tradition, that has included Morgans, MGs, Studebakers, Dodges, Chevys, Opels, and since 1989, only Hondas (in order: 89 Civic DX, 89 CRX Si, 93 Del Sol Si, 95 Integra LS, 00 Insight, 01 Civic Hybrid, 04 Accord Hybrid).
Here he is after washing the Integra, and just before heading back west on one of his 4-day banzai runs back home to Phoenix.
In celebration of our inalienable rights as Amurricans to covet and ridicule automobiles, Tim, Kat, Miles, David (who blogs most excellently at The Right Pedal), Michelle and I went to the New England International Auto Show last night. It was good fun. Lots of bright and shiny hardware.
This is the Mazdaspeed3, on which I'm kind of crushing out at the moment. It's the current best-bang for your performance-buck. You can't get more speed for the money. It's the smart, seductive yet very approachable girl who keeps laughing at your jokes and touching your arm.
"So, what are you doing later?" she eventually asks, twirling a lock of hair around her finger.
"Oh....um, well, I'm....look," you stammer. "If things were different, I'd...um...but, see, I've been with Veloce for a couple years, and....Actually, you probably know her..... the hot rear-wheel-drive converitble over there? You're distant cousins, and all."
"Ahhhh, Veloce...." she sighs theatrically. "Sure, I've heard about her, but I've never met her." The MS3 pouts, then brightens: "I'd like to, though; I hear she's really nice and I think we'd all have fun together...." she coos, as she looks up through her bangs.
"Oh! [heh heh] Gosh, well maybe we could all go see a movie or something...."
" 'Or something....' Like 'zoom-zoom!'" she purrs in reply.
Then you faint.
Point is, IF I hadn't driven RWD for 2 years, and IF I didn't feel I needed a convertible, and IF I was in the market for a new car, I'd get an MS3 in a heartbeat (since I don't have $40K/$70K/$100K to spend on wish-list cars in those price ranges [335i, S6, RS4, S8, CLS63 AMG, in order]).
Apropos of nothing,
this is the only picture I can find (at the moment) of my dad's 1966 Charger. (Since I posted this pic, I've found some others.)
Is my uncle Peter posing with the car, or is the car posing with my uncle Peter?
On Friday, Scooter Girl and I saw Grindhouse, the splendidly cartoonish Rodriguez/Tarantino homage to B-movies of all kinds (zombie, s/exploitation, car-chase, etc.) It's a dense 3+ hour rollercoaster ride of absurdity: satirically bad dialogue and violence, but also strikingly fantastic ensemble acting (by the hottest of ass-kicking girls) and group dialogue (does anyone do that better than Tarantino?), some lump-in-the-throat viciousness and a truly eye-popping set of car chases to wrap it all up.
So....zombies, supervixens, and Mopars. Can't beat it.
Afterward, while the credits were rolling, I asked SG if she'd seen Duel, Steven Spielberg's first feature, involving Everyman (in the form of a character named David Mann, played by Dennis Weaver) in a Plymouth Valiant against a faceless, murderous evil in a dilapidated Peterbilt tanker truck.
She said she hadn't.
The next day, during a discussion about the cheesy glee of Grindhouse, SG's hairdresser said, "Have you seen Duel?"
Again, she said she hadn't.
But then, she found it on on-demand. And after she said she was watching it, I threw the work I was supposed to be doing overboard and watched it too. It's a pretty simple story, as an unassuming, gently-henpecked businessman is forced to run from a mystifying killer truck; man against man, man against machine, nature, evil....Will Everyman discover previously unknown strength and ingenuity?
Beyond these existential questions, the movie just rocks: Desert chases! A slant-six-powered Valiant (just like the slant-six Dart i learned to drive in)! (I'm struck by how completely opposite the terrain and atmosphere in the movie is to the torrential quasi-hurricane that's raging outside. Spring in New England.....)
And now I'm watching the Bahrain grand prix, instead of sleeping. Because my priorities are all out of whack.
Dust, gasoline, tire smoke, bare skin and diesel.
Makes Monday OK.
I just got back from a weekend in PA, and will be mumbling something about that before too long.
In the meantime, please enjoy these pix from the Greenwich Concours d'Elegance that David took over the weekend. Seems like it was an amazing show. My faves?
The Lincoln pictured above.
The Bugatti Veyron
These Aston Martins
And this Jaguar
Spectacular! All I've got is an Oldsmobile station wagon and a Dodge Aries.
Well, I went and registered for a class at Skip Barber. Sep 11-12. Can't wait.
As I mentioned the other day, I'm on a trip south to learn some car racing in Florida. After 4 days (including an off-day with my parents in PA), I've made it to near Daytona Beach, just as the NASCAR crazies arrive for this weekend's "great American Race," the Daytona 500 (and assorted other, inscrutable duels, shootouts, chases, and challenges). Here're a few stats and thoughts:
Total road miles from front door: 1292
Avg speed, including stops: 59 mph
Avg fuel "economy": 29 mpg
Last leg is tomorrow, an easy 200 mile run to Palm Beach (with a brief stop at the Kennedy Space Center, which I last visited when I was 8). Thursday is a day off by the pool.
Car lengths Jetta Man was behind me at start (Porter Square): 1
Blocks driven: 3
Lane changes by Jetta Man: 6
Lane changes by me: 0
Times Jetta Man used directional indicators: 0
Times I used directional indicators: NA
Car lengths Jetta Man was behind me at end (Linnaean Street): 1
Inches by which top of Jetta Man's head cleared steering wheel: 2