Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lime Rock Show Day Pics

Great day at the Lime Rock show. So, what we have from top to bottom:
A Lola T-70
A 1923 Amilcar. Check out that rear seat suspended out over the back in the boattail.
1949 Tatra. Porsche-like with its rear engine. A V8 though. Very stylish.
1967 911S. Daily driver, found in NYC in a garage. Rough but runs every day.
Rad 1972 Monaco vintage decal on a 1968 911 Targa. I want one of these stickers.
Boxsters all lined up.
1973 Turbo RSR Prototype. 1 of 1.
Two 1951 Porsche 356A. Both gorgeous. The dark blue one prepped for track work.

Keep it Steady

One of the great things about Lime Rock is just driving the roads to get to the track. So I could not do that in a run of the mill Focus or Dodge Caliber rental. I needed something a bit special. And something that could haul my photography gear. And the people at Hertz obliged with an FX35. Never driven one of these before but it hussles along quite well on the country back roads. It feels smaller than it is. And with the windows down you get a great rumbly exhaust sounds. It is no replacement for my Porsches on these roads, but it is making the commute from B&B to the track better. I just have to keep it steady after watching racing all day and not speed.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Boxsters and its Inspiration in Action

I am at the Rolex Vintage Fall Festival this weekend. And on my first day I grabbed a few shots of the Boxsters in the PCA car corral after watching the 550A in action on the track. Although separated by 50 years, the similarity in shape is undeniable.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

$30k Collection The Attention Getters

Maybe you wear a monocle. Or perhaps two brightly colored but mismatched socks. Your drink of choice probably requires no less than 7 spirits to create. And you always, always, ask for a special request when ordering food at a restaurant. Even it it's Pancake house. That is because you are a person who likes to get noticed. Attract a bit of attention. You would no sooner buy a Camry or Taurus or even Porsche than buy a house in a subdivision with covenants that restrict paint color to shades of tan. And lo and behold the auto manufacturers know that people like you exist, hell the entire aftermarket industry seems tailored made to people who attract attention, so they created some products that stand out like a Dandelion on the first fairway at Augusta. And, here they are...

1996 Aprilia Moto 6.5. Lots of time to import one but only about $5k total. Even with the sucky dollar. What you get is a piece of Philipe Starck designed motoring uniqueness. While everyone else is making do with a Juicy Salif as their only bit of Starck designed paraphernalia you can actually ride your Starck. Which sounds odd but fulfilling. And to attract more attention you would need to peddle down the street on a six foot unicycle. And no unicycle I know of has a stout 45HP single with lots of low down torque. A super narrow profile for zipping thru urban traffic. Lightweight so you can teach your lady friend the joys of riding. And finally, that touch of creamsicle orange that puts a smile on your face every time to you look at. But do refrain from licking.

1992 Subaru SVX. Kick out $5k for one that runs well. A Guigiaro designed Subaru? Yes. Really. Yes. Lets start with the glass. A titanium dioxide coating on the windshield as nice but messed with radar detectors. Maybe the first Subie that needed a detector too with a 154MPH top speed from a 3.3L Boxer making 230HP. And the side windows. Sure they might only attract attention at the toll booth, but boy will those dirty-fingered money changers of the highways talk about you. The one reason this car is still cheap is that it was only available with an automatic transmission. With a 5-speed it would have chopped second off the 0-60 and been in proper sports car territory around 6.5 seconds. And with only about 25,000 of them in the US, you won't see yourself coming and going and I know how you hate that.

1991 DMC-12 Delorean. This will take your remaining $20k and get you a decent driver. Gullwing doors. Really I don't need to say more but I will. Guigiaro designed this car as well. Chap was on a rather fussy kick. Must have just bought the VHS of 2001 Space Odessy and watched it too many times. But then again, you love how Giorgetto gets you noticed. Work on your witty comebacks to disarm all those Back to the Future haters and you will enjoy your time. Most people hope for 15 minutes of fame. With a Delorean, you can turn your 15 minute commute into a daily dose of lustful eyeballs.  

Monday, August 25, 2008

Boxster Design Edition 2 - The Miami Edition?

Oh dear God!. I really like the Boxster. A lot. I like the Boxster S more. I dislike this Design debacle as much as I like dragging a pumice stone across my nether regions.

Watch the weblink here to a whole webisode. The shots of Santorini and windmills are pure German 80's advertising. As are the seagull sound effects and trance music. And the 80's is what makes this car reek. The white wheels. And I've seen tigers with less stripes. The interior is just as Don Johnson fresh with a white center console. Egad. The profits at Porsche have made them looney. 

Porsche tells us they are limited to 500 editions. I think they will be lucky to sell that many at full price. 

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Horsepower Ranch

My friend recently bought a piece of property down in Larkspur, CO that has great views(and where he can keep his like 8 Muscle cars). Thought I would share some snaps of the sunset drive back home.

Friday, August 22, 2008

$30k Collection The Chapman. Colin Chapman.

Colin Chapman. The engineer/constructor who gave the world such gems as, "Simplify and add lightness." "Any car that holds together for an entire race is too heavy." And one all his pilots must have appreciated, "You won't catch me racing a car that I built." Colin is a man who also put out some dubious products and some gems that could fill out your $30K collection quite nicely. This is one of those collections that will have your neighbors wondering how you could pull off such a distinguished collection. It will also improve your mechanical skills as much or more than a course at APEX technical school. But like the latter, after a year or two of ownership you to will have a toolbox full of your own tools.

I have a couple of notes on Lotus cars. Elans are nice but the unlabeled switch gear on the dash are comical. The Esprit was a pure design. Than it got all eighties out with the James Bond effect. My favorite celluloid jaunt of the Esprit is in Basic Instinct. It didn't(and doesn't) get hotter than two chicks who kiss each other and drive matching black and white Esprits. Finally, the least honest of all Lotus is the Elan convertibles of the early '90s. They are front wheel drive. Colin Chapman would not have liked torque steer. And neither do I. On to the carriage house...

1987 Isuzu Impulse Turbo. $4,000 and lots of time hunting will get you the one you want. Very few made. Wait you say. Is this a Lotus or an Isuzu. It is an Isuzu that handles like a lotus. It even has a badge that shows it has "handling by lotus". And it did, it out handled my beloved Porsche 944 and outran the NA version as icing on that ass-kicking cake. Not a bad looking car either, very small and sporty. A four-wheeled highway gnat. Just try to swat it out of the way. 140-160HP thru a 5-speed box and an LSD. Nice package. This was a tuner car before there were tuner cars. The biggest downside is the costco cheap interior and stupid self retracting seat belts.

1974-82 Lotus Eclat. OK. A lotus powered Lotus for a trim $7,000. Stay away from the many junk Eclats you see at the $4k range. Hold out for one of the best. They made enough of them. Or more remarkably, sold enough of them because it was more expensive than an XKE when it was introduced. But a sweet type 907 or 912 engine gave a true 160HP. Built on the backbone chassis it is a true exotic in looks and performance. I like the looks, many don't. Don't fear the body roll. Embrace it like a fat woman embraces a box of chocolates. With a smile and a steady hand.

Series I Esprit. Your remaining $19,000 thank you. Let's start with the Wolfrace alloy wheels. Move your eyes over the gleaming, fractured paintwork. Take in the lack of fussy spoilers and vents. Notice it barely comes up to your waist if you are anything but Lilliputian in stature. Get a hint of the original plaid interior seats that look very much like something from Pierre Paulin's atelier. This car literally had automotive reporters rushing the stage like tight-sweatered Beatles fans at its debut. And whenever I wear a tight sweater and see a SI Esprit I rush to as well. The handling is the wiki of Lotus handling. The small wheels transmit the bumps in the pavement with the dexterity and expertise of Helen Keller working some brail. And that twist off fuel filler in the buttress is that one bit of jewelry on an otherwise naked, angular highlands beauty.

Eclat Picture Wikimedia. Isuzu pic

Monday, August 18, 2008

$30k Collection The Mr T-Top

'Take off the top' replaces 'put the top down' as the call to arms to let the wind flow thru your lady's locks and the sun to beat down on your bald spot. The T-Top which today has acquired a rather declasse reputation was in fact designed by the guy who designed some of the most beautiful American cars, Cords. So, take that T-Top mockers. Think of it as an early Cezanne or late Kubrick film. Sure, a master worked on it, but it wasn't their best.

Rattly. Leaky. Drafty. Ugly. All reasons thrown out as calls to avoid a car that sports a top that looks like the back of weightlifters tank-top. A reason to buy one is not, as the original designers thought, safety. A thong's worth of metal is not going to keep you safe in a roll over. No way. No how. About the only reason I think to buy a car with a T-Top is to be able to use the windscreen and back portion as a point to leap into your car with the doors shut. Or, if you are a confident chap, use the T-Tops as a means to show the world your complete 80's style. 

Bonus points to bronzed glass versions.

1978 Camaro. This is T-Top execution at its best. Figure $15,000 for a decent Z28. Some would say that the Corvette, the first production car to use T-Tops, is the right ride for these removable panels. I disagree. The Camaro which got the option of T-Tops in 1978 brought the removable roof to the masses. In 78, granted it was and is cool. Just look how much fun those people in the above ad are having. It is impossible to have that much fun in a car with a full complement of sheet metal. Best to save for a manual transmission Z car as the base 305 and straight 6 are dogs. And damn the originality, just make sure the seals in the Top have been renewed.

1984 Monte Carlo SS. Set aside $10k and you will get a top of the line Monte Carlo SS. And I really do think all original versions will creep up in value. Especially the black versions with blacked out T-Tops. They still look tough. Unfortunately, the L69 HO 305 is not that tough. What with its tire chirping 180HP and 225ft/lbs of torque. The T-Tops did add a bit of the boulevardier to the car but when you were 26 and just got back from a trip to Sandals and were going to be promoted to shift supervisor this car was it. But as a car with genuine a NASCAR link and a bad boy image, the Monte SS is a car with presence. A hard think to find at this price point.

1986 Nissan 300ZX. Use your remaining $5k and try to figure out why people love these things so much. The 240Z and 280Z are pretty cars. As a rule though, Japanese performance cars from the '80s are hideous. What Porsche got so right with the 944, the Japanese go so wrong with the Z. At least with turbo power it could get out of its own way thanks to 205HP. But if tuning is your game, the Z is the car to get as the power that is possible on this platform is amazing. Think 400HP and more. But for $5k go for a drive at night, pop out the Tops. Set the shocks to firm and sing your favorite Eddie Murphy hit. Mine is Party all the Time. Party all the Time. Party all the Time...


Minty. Nutty.

I love pesto. And come the end of summer I make a bunch with the basil we grow before it freezes. And in turn, we freeze it in ice cube size bits and it lasts all winter. A super quick way to make a weeknight pasta a bit brighter. 

But, with an annual gift to my wife from one of her clients of several pounds of macadamia nuts(these people have a grove in Hawaii, must be nice) and a mint bush that thrives like bears in a garbage dump I have made a very nice version of pesto.

To make:
Smash in a pestle a half cup of macadamia nuts.
Julienne 1-cup loosely packed mint leaves and mash in pestle with nuts.
Grate in some hard italian cheese(maybe a quarter cup, more as melty binder in this case than a key flavor component as in traditional pesto)
Drizzle with as much olive oil as you like(the nuts have a lot of oil, so maybe 2 tablespoons) and coarse salt. Stir.

Over anything that swims.
Also makes a nice side to a cheese plate. Especially a brie.
Or, top a salty ham sandwich with it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Boxster and SC Comparing Backsides

I hadn't taken a picture of my two cars together for sometime. In fact I didn't have one of the Boxster and SC together like I did of my 951(sold) and SC(sold only if I am in dire straits). Now when I look at the two back to back I would say that the Boxster really exudes that special Porscheness. It seems to be a member of the family for sure. The 951 next to the SC looked like some sort of Asian import. Don't get me wrong, I liked it. But the 951 was not very Porschey. The Boxster design though is. At least the first generation Boxster. The 987 I fear has a few too many vents and sharp lines for my taste, a bit Lotus like. Lots of people say the 986, first gen Boxster, was a feminine design. But just look at the SC next to it. It has the same purity and soft flowing curves and no one ever called the SC a feminine design. Porsches for courses I guess. But I am really liking the Boxster as a daily driver. And I admit, I do feel guilty as I type this during a torrential, yet rare, Denver rain storm. The SC is all snug in the garage. The Boxster, it makes do on the drive.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Automotive Hair Nets

Time for a bit of a let-out-my-true-feelings rant. And the the target of my venom is, are, automotive bras. The ugly bits of leather, vinyl or not-quite-clear spray plastic that supposedly protects the beauty of your car. And this is the confusing bit, if you are so concerned with the beauty of your car how can you go and drape or permanently apply something so ugly? It would be like having a wife with gorgeous legs but asking her to only wear pants so as not to "get a scratch or bug bite". You are doing the exact opposite of what you are meaning to do.

Bras are troubling on exotic cars. Downright idiotic on mass-produced vehicles. And beyond the pale on a track vehicle. Nothing says nouveau riche more than a panicky attitude that goods always have to look as good as new. 

FACT - Any bra, clear or otherwise, is uglier than any amount of stone chipping.

It's true. And a bra will in time do damage of its own by trapping moisture underneath it. Wearing off a clearcoat. Or, in the case of clear-bras' yellowing along the edge. Everyone who eats with utensils knows that people who protect their furniture with plastic are most likely denizens of a park that holds mobile residences. The same should be true of car bras. And mirror bras? To go back to the female comparison, " I have lovely nails that I've spent some money getting done, so that is why I wear gloves all the time. To protect them."

Novel Teaser

A mag I contribute to was excited enough about Hunt for 901 that they published an excerpt and are selling it as well. I was super excited as this targets the readers I want and is remarkable publicity. I mean it would have cost thousands to put a 4-page ad in this mag that is circulated around the globe. Thanks Phil! And for anyone who has yet to buy the book, you can read the prologue here. But for any more, you'll have to buy the book or at least the current issue of Total 911.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

$30k Collection The Car of the Year(s)

The Motor Trend Car of the Year. Some would say that it is one of the most prestigious awards an automotive manufacturer can win. At least it seems like that by the way manufacturers go on and on about it in their ads. So they idea that you could actually own 1 or 6 or 8 of them for $30k is pretty remarkable. That's because like Pet Rocks and Trans Fats a lot of these cars don't have much appeal after a first encounter. It really makes you question what these Motor Trend editors are basing their awards on. Or, it is a true reflection of the sad state of American Motoring Affairs for a huge part of the last century. The upside, though. Drop this line on someone who is asking you about your cars, "Oh, I have a focused collection of cars. I keep it to the winners of the Motor Trend car of the year. You see, I am easily satisfied by the best."

1993 Ford Probe GT. How can you only get 140HP from a 2.2L intercooled and turbocharged engine? Sure the Ford engineers eeked out 190ft. lbs of torque. Maybe that was the timidness of the Mazda end of the joint partnership that developed this lozenge of a car. The automatic adjusting suspension though was a bright spot. A computer actively checked the system and when speeds or load demanded the shocks could be changed to one of three positions of firmness. Quite a feat on a nonluxury car. Slide one into your garage for $1,500.

1990 Lincoln Town Car. The 302 Windsor engine soldiered on powering this car loved by the successful plumber. And taxi drivers. A new air-ride suspension made the floaty ride even floatier. You can pick up a decent one for about $2,000. 

1985 GTI. One of the few fun to drive cars that ever won this "award" sneaks in because it was built at the VW plant in Pennsylvania. But, I'll take it. 1985 saw the GTI get a bump up to 120HP. Wide wheels, for the time. And no power steering made it a pure drivers car. Blacked out trim was trendy than but still looks good now. The older I get the more I want one. And it will only take $3K for a good one.

1982 Renault Alliance. Renault and AMC managed to shift over 150,000 thousand of these things yet you can rarely spot one on the road. Longevity not being a strong suit of chassis. The engines were unstressed at under 100HP for most variations. Try to find a convertible for a modicum of style. A show winner is yours for $2,500.

Four cars in and you've only spent $9,000. Not counting the kitty litter you'll need to keep the oil off your garage floor. More to come shortly...

1977 Caprice. Boo yah Motor Trend. Chevy downsizes the car, gives it less power and you reward it with the Car of the Year award. Nice work. A V8 is now optional, not standard. But cut-off short wearing, Andy Gibb listening Americans ate it up to the tune of 500,000 units a year for a few years. Interesting note, you could get a diesel V8 for a few years. Now most often seen running dubs and heavy metal flake paint. A nice stock example owned by the proverbial "grandmother" should be had for $2,500.

1974 Mustang II. Good god. Lee Iacocca had a hit with the K car but these 'stangs are an embarrassment to the bred. Even the ads talk about a standard transmission as an economical option, not a performance one. The fact that Ghia was even remotely involved in this project is like finding out that Bergman was the behind the scenes director of Gidget goes to the Beach. But, if you always wanted a Mach I but didn't think you could afford one, you're wrong. Get a Mach I Mustang II with a V6, knock off 0-16 in 13 seconds all day long and be happy the horror only cost you about $3,500. 

Phew, you've dropped $15,000 on a six car collection. Now is the time to get one car that will make you smile everyday in this collection. One that will appreciate. One that won't cause convulsive laughter when you tell people it won an award.

1966 Oldsmobile Toronado. This is a car that deserved Car of the Year honors. And it is no surprise as the design was selected from a single auto painting by David North. You start pure and you end up pure. You start by committee and you end up with crap. And the list of firsts the Toronado brought out were significant. The TH400 transmission. The quadrajet carb. Front wheel drive, last seen in American on a Cord. A subframe design. Huge engines and a restraint of badging. It may have had 375HP under the hood but it didn't shout it. Too bad such innovative Detroit cars came out but once every fifty years. Grab one now for $15,000. It will be worth much more in the future.

Monday, August 11, 2008

24 Hours of LeMons

No picture necessary. My team has bailed and we cannot commit to the LeMons in Texas. I am so bummed. But when only 2 of 5 people have ponied up funds and committed time, it is no good. We are regrouping to attack in a timeline that suits people with kids and real jobs. I am going to cry now. 

Question, if a car races in the woods, if no one is there, does it make a sound?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

24 Hours of LeMons

Endurance racing. The truest test of man and machine. Hours spent on the test track, before hitting the race track. Making sure every single component is up to the stresses that high Gs and long hours and rough contact dish up. 

And the venues that host these riots of speed and sound and carnage. LeMans. Daytona. Sebring. Nurburgring. Significant tracks. With significant history. 

The 24 Hours of Lemons is endurance racing that takes the above and throws it out into the junkyard. And myself and a few mates are completely on a mission to get into it and have a blast. The goal is to buy and prepare a car for less than $500 (brakes and safety equipment have no limit)

There are two ways I think to compete in the 24 Hours of Lemons. One, get a goofy car, say a Gremlin and dress it up and have a blast. The other, try to find a car that could win. Say a mid-eighties Mustang or ex-police car. 

I believe we are somewhere in the middle. The Sweat Shop Boys, that is. We are looking for a fun to drive car first and foremost. Something with good gas mileage. Something that looks a bit racy. And we have narrowed our focus to the Porsche 924. Sure it has an Audi powerplant, but the suspension design is all Stuttgart. It shall look rather nice. If all goes well, the LeMons car will be a huge part of the site for the next months. If we don't get in? I still might buy a 924 to race around.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

$30K Collection The Old Money

Do you own a crumbling pile in the Moors or Maine? Does the phrase ‘the Hinkley’s rigging needs a polish’ have deep relevance for you? When you speak about trust, do you mean a financial holding? If so, congratulations. You are part of the Old Money. And as such, you need a collection of cars that befits your ennobled station. Old Money doesn’t scream, it whispers. Old Money does not rush; it ambles because everyone waits for the Old Money. And Old Money, never ever washed their cars. That is too flash and cad like. Leave that behavior to the modern pinstripe and braces set. You’ve got an 18th century oil painting auction to attend.

1989 Bentley Eight $12K
Many of these Bentleys have suffered like the one pictured above as taxis for self-important brides and grooms. A Bentley was never designed for such a purpose. Really, does Daniel Boulud go about making hamburgers? Oh, wait. He does. Never mind. The amazing bit is after near $90,000 of depreciation anyone can pick up one of these 5,100lbs sedans. Count on around 9MPH, from the Rolls Royce sourced V8. That is if your chauffeur can keep his foot out of it. The finest interiors around. Nicer than most homes, a remarkable place to spend some time gazing out the rear window at the countryside. Or downtown traffic.

1953 MG TD $15K
With a wood-framed steel body on a box section ladder frame the MG is simplicity itself. Being old money, you drove this car while at University. It’s top speed of around 80MPH feels much faster than that. With 26,000 TDs made in three years you can find a runner for your $15K. And to be old money you never put money into restoring the cosmetics, just in taking it to your trusty mechanic for a lube and welding when needed. Bonus points if you have a relative who was seriously hurt while driving the TD in a trial or hill climb event.

Rusty Pile $3K, probably got in trade for a gelding.
This is the most important car in your collection. As such, you keep it in a falling down woodshed that was constructed from timbers of an old shanty that once housed ‘the help’. Jaguars are prime candidates. Allards are great. Hispano Suiza. An Hispano Suiza with six wheels? Very nice. But the rarer, the better. Best yet is if it is a one off coach-built model no one has ever heard of. And it must have a story, “Mummy got pranged back in ‘49 I think when she ran out to pick up a breakfast set by that lovely girl Clarice Cliff. Hasn’t run since.” And leave the story at that. The most important thing with the rusty pile is to never, ever sell it. No matter if your fortunes decline to the point that you have to take up residence in it, to quote Chris Farley, “Down by the river.”

Friday, August 1, 2008

Wrecked 997 Turbo. Cup of Tea Makes it Better?

So, somewhere in the UK, this man with more car than skill wrecks into a bus carrying a bunch of tourists. Maybe it is only me but I think it is hilarious how the reporter notes how "12 of the walking wounded were taken to the Knoll House Hotel at Studland where they were checked over by paramedics and given cups of tea." Only in England. Tea makes it all better. Reminds me of the scene in European Vacation where Chevy Chase runs over the British Cyclist who gets up spraying blood and imploring that he is alright.