It’s Time for a Volkswagen BRZ

June 26, 2013 at 8:02 am

For the past few weeks, I cannot keep my mind off of oddball Volkswagens, especially those with a track record for being as reliable as often as a Kardashian is mistaken for an intelligent person. I’m talking about Vanagons, Sciroccos, and anything that came from the factory with a VR6. In particular, I have dedicated my search to a clean B3 Passat – yes, the one that looks like its perpetually frightened, thanks to its wide-eyed face and ticking timebomb of a motor.

While it’s not G60 levels of self-implosion, the first-generation of any motor is usually somewhat of a moving testbed, a prototype that you get the privilege of paying full price for without the pleasure of destroying when its mule-ish reliability wears thin. The factory gets to experience that joy, while you just find a way to live with it. However, it seems like the B3 is dying like it lived – quickly, and forgotten behind a mechanic’s service bay.


The reason I love this early Passat so much is because it was the most modern answer Volkswagen was willing to give to the windswept movement that has made most new cars look like a snow drift with headlamps. Instead, they took essentially the same rectangle-with-a-glass-bunker design language that defined every one of their cars and smoothed out the still-square headlights while rounding the very edges of the fenders. It was as if you could imagine ol’ Wolfgang screaming bloody murder that the suits wanted shapes that didn’t resemble a refrigerator and, after months of indifference, this is what he came up with. A gigantic brick of a middle finger to management, with a howling VR6 in the nose. God love ol’ Wolfgang.

My underlying affinity for cars like this is because they are no longer made, especially by the Germans. Congress began discussions recently that cars in the future will feature some sort of wi-fi labyrinth that will determine if a driver is using their phone when moving. Certainly we can all agree that distracted driving is a problem, but instead of improving drivers so they don’t kill themselves or each other behind the wheel, we once again further neuter the car from any sense of engagement because, well – most Americans have no interest in actually improving their response times or making the car the central focus of driving. From a styling standpoint, these amorphous blobs we now call “new cars” (I’m looking at you, Hyundai Elantra) are so lacking in design character that they’ve become both anonymous and identical to every other car on the road – all in the name of small improvements in fuel efficiency. I drive a boxy ’95 M3 that still gets 22 m.p.g. on the highway, a scant 6-8 miles difference (estimate) from today’s compacts. Big loss in the name of incremental efficiency gains.

I have to give the Japanese credit: they had the stones to see the BRZ asd FRS through to production, and they’ve been praised handsomely for it. It’s time for ze Germans – and who better than Volkswagen – to sell a stripped-down, rear or all-wheel drive platform with a nose-heavy VR6 and boxy styling. Otherwise, I’m going to keep looking for a Passat (like this one!), or a Vanagon, or Scirocco…or maybe a Quantum with Syncro….


An End of an Era: My Xterra

June 25, 2013 at 5:21 am

Picture 10823This post was inevitable, but extremely delayed due to my busy schedule and me applying to grad school.  May  29th, 2013 began like every other day off: catching up on sleep, followed up with a lunchtime Panera Bread run.  My 2000 Nissan Xterra, with around 155,000 miles was performing quite well for age.  However, as I turned the corner onto the main road, something went terribly wrong; I couldn’t accelerate to more than 20mph, while my tachometer hovered around 1000RPMs.  I knew that something was wrong, and had a gut feeling that this would not be an easy or inexpensive fix.  After letting the engine cool down for a bit, I was able to get it started and make it to my mechanic’s shop.  After running the codes, turns out I needed a new CAM sensor, along with a Knock Sensor.  This was going to cost me more than I hoped it would, which caused me to make one of my most recent, toughest, decisions: should I keep throwing money into the Xterra, or go with something new.  Well, obviously, I decided to trade the Xterra in for  a 2013 GMC Terrain.  This was an excellent upgrade, but I will always miss my Xterra.  Now, I can’t ram into massive snow banks while driving to work, or cruising through lake-sized puddles without any care.

Picture 043IMG_0119

So, this post is dedicated to my 2000 solar yellow, Nissan Xterra, complete with a Whelen strobe kit, police scanner, and rear tail light guards.  Thank you for getting me to high school during my senior year, battling some of the worst traffic on the SouthEast Expressway.  Thank you for getting me to work in the worst weather conditions.  When the governor told people during a blizzard to stay off the road, and if they were caught, they’d be arrested, I had to drive 20 miles in the height of the blizzard for the EMS job, since I’m essential personnel.  My Xterra got me there safely and kicked ass in the 2 feet of snow on the unplowed roads.  Finally, thanks Xterra for 8 solid years of getting me all over the place safely without any major problems.  (Well, except for the time I lost my ABS in the middle of Roxbury).  I’ll definitely miss my Xterra, but I’m looking forward to what my GMC Terrain has in store for me.  Check back later on for my review of the Terrain thus far!

A Road with Many Turns – Why there are no Americans in F1 Part III

June 12, 2013 at 11:40 am


Part II left off in 1995 when Elton Julian’s possible ride at Larrousse vanished due to financial reasons. 1995 can be seen as the turning point in the CART/F1 war with the emergence of the Indy Racing League (which could be another multi part post in itself). The emergence of the IRL divided open wheel racing in America which destroyed the power CART had as it no longer had the Indy 500 and allowed Nascar to develop into the 800 pound gorilla it became. The fall of CART and the rise of Nascar caused a change in direction in the development of young racers in America. Young drivers who wanted to be rich, famous and race in the biggest series only thought of Nascar as sponsors and manufacturers began throwing money at the series.

By the end of 90’s, CART was still offered great racing, but was no longer a threat to F1. It was now seen as a second rate series where there were some talented American’s racing against foreign drivers who were either “rejected” from F1 or waiting for an F1 seat to open up.

One of the criticisms of F1 during this time period was that in order for F1 to be a true World Championship, it needed to have a race in America. Many of sponsors and manufacturers in F1 viewed America as one of if not their biggest market. In 2000, F1 returned to America in 2000 with the USGP at Indy. Yes, the famed brickyard built a road course inside the oval. Perhaps it was Bernie Ecclestone’s way of saying thank you to Indianapolis Motor Speedway boss and IRL creator Tony George for starting the IRL and destroying CART.

The first USGP was a major success with and estimated crowd of 225,000 which is estimated to be the largest attendance for a Grand Prix in the modern era. The races after however were less attended and featured controversies such as the 2002 Ferrari “Dead Heat” and the 2005 race where all the Michelin teams withdrew after the formation lap leaving only six Bridgestone shod cars left to run the race. The 2007 race was the last USGP held at IMS due to dwindling attendance, the high sanction fees of having a Grand Prix and lack of a title sponsor

In 1997, Red Bull entered the US market. Red Bull was already know to fans european racing as it sponsored teams and drivers in a wide variety of series including F1. Trying to link their passion for racing with their new market of America; in 2002 Red Bull teamed up retired CART star and former F1 driver Danny Sullivan to create the Red Bull Driver Search. The program’s goal was to create an American F1 Champion, by taking young American talent and develop them in the open wheel racing ladder with Red Bull backing.

One of the first driver’s chosen was young karter with the perfect name for a racing driver: Scott Speed. Speed was a young karting star from California who had shown promise by winning the Formula Russell Championship in 2001. In addition to living up to his name, Speed was young, good looking, personable and very much an individual; the type of driver Red Bull could easily market.

Speed’s first year under Red Bull’s wing was a disaster. Speed was running in British F3 championship when he began suffering from Ulcerative Colitis and had to return to the US to take care of his condition. 2004 was a better year for Speed as he won Formula Renault 2000 Eurocup and the German Formula Renault championship in Red Bull colors. For 2005, Speed was promoted to GP2 and finished 3rd in the Championship. In addition to his Gp2 duties, Speed also acted as the Red Bull F1 team’s test driver at Canadian and US GP’s.

By 2005 it looked as if the US would finally have an American in F1 with Speed having success in the European Formula ladder, something an American hadn’t done in many years. Speed with combination of talent, Red Bull backing and the need for F1 to make ground in the US had a solid chance at being in F1.

Speed was not the only young talent Red Bull had under their wings. By 2005, it seemed as if 90% the young promising driver’s on earth were involved in the Red Bull Junior Program. In 2005, Red Bull bought the struggling Minardi F1 team and re named it Toro Rosso. Toro Rosso acted as junior team to Red Bull’s main F1 squad. A place where there young talent could develop in F1 without being on the main squad.

For 2006, Speed was a Toro Rosso driver, a team part owned by Red Bull and run by Franz Tost and Gerhard Berger. Speed and Toro Rosso struggled with reliability and crashes, usually finishing in the bottom half of the table. As the season went on it became clearer that he was favorite son of the Red Bull duo of owner Dietrich Mateschitz and racing guru Dr. Helmut Marko and not team principles Tost and Berger.

In 2007 was beginning of the end, Speed was confirmed as a Toro Rosso driver late in the pre-season and was tipped by many to be on the hot seat. Speed suffered with poor reliability and crashes. Speed’s time as an F1 driver would end with European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring.

Tension were high in the Toro Rosso camp between the drivers (Speed and Tonio Liuzzi) and Team Principles Tost and Berger. Speed went public with the tension telling the media that weekend that the team was trying to get rid of him and Liuzzi. The principles blamed the drivers for team underperforming while the driver’s blamed the car and poor management.

As for the race, Speed started 18th on the grid. One highlight of Speed and the Toro Rosso was that they worked well in the wet. Earlier in the season, Speed had been the fastest in a wet session at the Monaco GP. The European GP became a rain soaked race, Speed worked his way up from is lowly starting position a up to 6th when everything began to unravel.

The Toro Rosso pit crew expected Liuzzi to come in first and fumbled Speed’s pit stop, over a minute was lost during Speed’s pit stop. During this long stop, the rain became worse. After his pit stop, racing into turn one. Speed followed five other cars into the gravel trap. After this, the race was red flagged and Speed was forced to retire.

When returning to his garage, an upset Speed was met by a just as upset Tost. Tost yelled at Speed for crashing and Speed in return yelled at Tost for the botched  pit stop. When Speed turned away, he was then punched in the back by Tost, Speed walked away and was then grabbed by Tost and shoved against a garage wall. Speed moved into the center of the garage and in front of the whole team told Tost that if he wanted to punch him to do it in front of the whole team. Tost declined, Speed then told Berger that if Tost ever touched him again he would knock him out.

On July 31st, Speed was released from his Toro Rosso contract and replaced by Sebastian Vettel (what ever happened to him). It would be the last time that an American would be part of the driver line up (not counting 3rd and test driver’s) for an F1 team.

So why did something that seemed so promising go so wrong? First, the shotgun marriage of the team and drivers was a failure with Tost and Berger being “forced” to take young Red Bull drivers. In association with that there were differences in why the team was not performing up to expectations. Team management blamed the drivers while driver’s said the car was not able to do what was expected.

Second, one of the criticisms of Speed in the wake of the everything that had gone wrong was his demeanor. Speed’s confident attitude was received by some as cock and arrogant. Acclaimed F1 Pundit Peter Windsor blamed Red Bull driver coaching and development in part for Speed’s failure in that Speed wasn’t self critical enough. Windsor noted that Red Bull driver’s have not been taught self assessment and blame others for the lack of result.

While Speed may have burnt the Red Bull F1 bridge, they were not ready to let go of their investment. After F1, Speed with Red Bull backing started a Nascar career. The Red Bull/Speed Nascar partnership was unsuccessful and Speed was released by the Red Bull team at the end of 2009. Speed currently drives for a backmarker team in the Sprint Cup series.

The F1 circus would return to US in 2012 with the Austin Grand Prix with no American F1 drivers on the grid which takes us to Part IV. Is there anyone on the horizon and what will it take to get an American into F1.

Summer Crusin’ in Vegas

May 25, 2013 at 12:14 am

I live in a town that’s know as a beach community. During the summer months it’s estimated that the population in my town increases by 15,000 people. That means more vehicles at the beach, at restaurants and other places in town that I frequent. So here’s five vehicles I expect to see a lot more this summer in Marshfield.

1. Jeep Wrangler


The white suburban beach vehicle. YJ’s are driven the by the diehards or the long time beach bums. They’ve been roughed up over years by carrying board and other materials to the beach. The drivers are usually well tanned from years hanging on the beach. The TJ’s are the younger crowd, the high school kids or the middle aged folk who have them as summer vehicles as they go through their mid life crises and try to recapture their youthful summer memories. JK’s are for the yuppies or Massholes with cash or the trust fund kids

2. Jeep Grand Cherokee

jeep gcwj

WJ’s are a frequent site at the town beach, Haddad’s or Blanchard’s Liquors. The Grand Cherokee is the one tick more reasonable or richer sibling of the Wrangler. Most these SUV’s can be found in their Laredo version.

3. Toyota Camry


Face it, they’re everywhere. A large amount of them can be found in any place and being in a town whose population increases by 15,000 for a few months each means there’s going to be more of them. The Camry is the car for people who are soulless. All they care about is getting to their destination and making sure there is enough room in the car to take everything they need.

4. Kia Optima


In the past year I’ve started to see these everywhere, it’s as if all of a sudden out nowhere a quarter of the world’s population bought Kia Optimas. What is it? Is it the commercials? bang for the buck? Could someone please tell me why? It really racks my brain.

5. Small Four Door Sedans


Take your pick from Nissan Sentra’s, Toyota Corolla’s, previous generation VW Jetta’s etc. It’s the car of women aged between 16-22 who are spending their summer going to and from the beach. These cars always carry four females (driver and three passengers), all wearing aviator sunglasses and blasting some various form of top 40 music or whatever college kids are listening to these days. All these cars feature a lay hanging from the rearview mirror.

Feel Special for $800

May 16, 2013 at 11:46 pm

It’s not often you see a Saab Special Performance Group (SPG) 900 in the wild, let alone one that’s sitting idle waiting for the next sadistic fool to take his chances on this Swedish chariot. But points must be given to the current owner of this broken banger for having the foresight to store it indoors for at least part of its hibernation.

I don’t know much about Unity, New Hampshire but I’m assuming its namesake doesn’t apply to the status of this car’s most important bits. They’ve been scattered a bit like ashes, with the body kit removed, a dead fuel pump and a blown turbo. Perhaps it’s unified in its project car status, or maybe united in its goal to bankrupt subsequent owners.


Whatever premonition the car’s location supports, there’s no denying its significance as a crowning achievement in the Saab lineup. The 160 bhp 16-valve motor made for spirited performance, but this one’s faulty components – primarily responsible for fuel delivery and delivering the turbocharged-rush Saabs are famous far – let down what is otherwise a truly special car.

It baffles me sometimes how cars can be torn down in what seems like a valiant attempt to bring it back from the dead. Unfortunately, whether life gets in the way, bills pile up or the spouse gets cranky, many cars lie dormant, victim of their owner’s ambitions. With only 7,000 SPGs imported into North America, its rarity is well documented – but will this one get out of a shed in remote New Hampshire town to return to the ranks of its limited production brethren?

Hopefully, time moves a little slower in Unity.

Let Me See You Stripped Down to the Bone

April 27, 2013 at 1:34 pm

So after reading Jeff’s post about a tape deck and his E30, I decided to offer some music selections to listen to for when he doesn’t want to hear the sound of his M20B25 I-6. I picked six albums that someone would have been listening to when his E30 was new. Why six albums you ask? To match the number of cylinders in his E30.

As a side note: Jeff, maybe you’ll find a wedding song in one of these albums

Cylinder no. 1 – Depeche Mode – Black Celebration

black cel

This album is very car fitting in its song titles: “Stripped”, “Breathing in Fumes”, “Fly On the Windscreen”, “But Not Tonight”. All things Jeff will be saying if he’s driving the E30 on a night when he really can’t afford to have an issue with the car.

Cylinder no. 2 – Van Halen – 5150


Why can’t this be love? As we all know Jeff loves his E30, he posts about his E30 so much that the site should be called Son of Claus Luthe (The man who designed the E30). The fact he used the E30 of getting his missus out so he could propose to her is another reason for his album’s inclusion. The missus in this case being a wonderful lady, not a car or a part.

Cylinder no. 3 – Crowded House – Crowded House


“Something so Strong”, the love Jeff has for his E30, it’s his pride and joy, his labor of love. When fears rise about the E30 being on it’s way out of the door, my recommendation to Jeff is “Don’t Dream It’s Over”.

Cylinder no. 4 – Cure – Disintegration

cure disint

I love the Cure, I think they write brilliantly beautiful and at the same time gloomy music. Robert Smith wrote “Lullaby” as wedding present to his wife, Jeff in this case will sing it to the E30 when he drops in a significant part in the E30 and I don’t think I need to make a comment on “Pictures of You”

Cylinder no. 5 – Echo and The Bunnymen – Ocean Rain


“The Killing Moon” was in an Audi commercial, “Seven Seas” might be a better song and we’ll use that when Jeff does a video on one of his BMW’s

Cylinder no. 6 – The Style Council – Our Favorite Shop

style our fav

There isn’t really a car reference in the album. I love “Down in the Seine” (especially the version Weller has done in his solo career). I can also picture Jeff bopping around to “Shout to the Top” while driving the E30.


Sons of Taki Fantasy Garage Godzilla Edition – Jonathan’s picks

April 25, 2013 at 7:10 pm

When Matt announced the Fantasy challenge Godzilla edition my first though was to find an R32 Skyline but that would either break the bank or I’d end up with something illegal. Instead I picked a solid threesome that would serve me well.

The Japanese Driver – 2004 Nissan Sentra SE-R V Spec (Price – $5,950)


The V Spec will chirp third as I haul away from what ever monster a Japanese film studio has created. I wanted to find a B13 SE-R but one was nowhere to be found. I prefer the B13 as it reminds of a 510 (sigh) and doesn’t have the fast and furious look this V Spec has. This however does have the 3.5 V6 and a nice NISMO exhaust system.


The Vehicle for Mowing Down Zombies – M548/M548A1 Tracked Cargo Carrier (Price – $30,000)


Military Camo? Check! Tracked? Check! Potential to mount a big honkin gun? Check! Ability to run over zombies? You betcha!

I was thinking of a loaded up truck /SUV or a retired military truck but when I saw this I said to myself this is it. This is the vehicle I want when the rapture arrives. I can throw a gun on it, run anything over and save some people at the same time


The Bike – 2010 MV Agusta F4 (Price – $10,00)


I have a thing for bikes, if I wasn’t such a car guy, I would definitely be a bike guy. I have a thing for dirt bikes or sportbikes. I love my supercross/motocross and World Superbikes, TT, and MotoGP. I think the MV is a work of art. When I wasn’t riding it, I would have it in the middle of my living room just so I could look at it when I’m at home. As for the sound, don’t get me started; if Ferrari made a bike, this is what it would sound like.


The Kindness of Strangers

April 22, 2013 at 10:58 pm

A few weeks ago, I embarked on a hunt to fill some holes in my E30’s history. As reported here, I addressed the most glaring void by connecting with its original owner who offered a glimpse into what my car was before its sojourn into used-up car ownership. Though there are more pages to write, acts of kindness from some folks along the way have given me new hope for mankind.

First up is a BMW CCA member from Texas who sent a package today that essentially made my week. After some quick web searching, I stumbled upon a member of who maintained a collection of 80s BMW goodness unique to the Texas area. Among the items he kept was an original John Roberts license plate frame, the dealer that sold the 325is to its first owner. The dealership has since been absorbed into a larger chain and no longer exists, so this was quite the score. Even better was the “surprise” he included in the package, which was an original dealer badge in the shape of the Lonestar State. To top it off, he didn’t want a dime for it. Great to connect with a fellow CCA’er in another state, and to give the E30 some added character to its posterior.

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As part of this quest for more information on my car’s first days, I’m in hot pursuit of photos of the 325is as it sat on the convention center floor at the Dallas Auto Show in 1987. Between posting on The Car Lounge and Reddit, I haven’t discovered any major leads. In reaching out the salesman that sold the car new, he had no recollection of the vehicle or the auto show. But I might have found a thread worth unraveling in the form of a communications manager for the Dallas Fort-Worth New Car Dealers Association, which is responsible for organizing shows in the downtown convention center. The woman could not have been nicer and seemed genuinely intrigued by my research project. She pledged to dive into the archives and see if any photos exist of the 1987 show and if my car is among those photographed.


All of this by merely sharing my story with perfect strangers to fill in the blanks about the early years of the life of a car, one in which they have no personal connection or stake. While I’m not sure if these individuals care more about my car or the journey I’m on, one thing is for sure: I couldn’t have even started this process without the help of some extremely generous and amazingly kind people.

Ain’t this hobby grand?

I’m not dead yet…

April 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm

It’s been a while since I posted on this beloved site. As you’re aware my beloved Legacy GT decided to eat itself which ended up with a long term vacation in a bay at Planet Subaru with a new shortblock, turbo and other parts ordered. The second reason for my lack of recent posting was a few weekends ago I was using a chainsaw to cut some fallen trees from this past winter when I had an accident and cut my left hand open. A trip to the hospital resulted in nine stitches between two cut open areas, so I was car-less and one handed for a while.

But as of today things are back to normal, the Leggy GT came back this morning with a brand new motor and my hand is healing well and I can actually type with it. It’s a busy work week for me but I plan putting some posts up soon.



A Slight Adjustment

April 16, 2013 at 1:06 am

I found this addition on one of the ambulances a few days ago.  I thought that it had a little more “kick” to it after they made a few slight adjustments. Figured we all could use one of these!



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