The Art of Aging without Grace

October 15, 2014 at 10:51 pm

Ask anyone familiar with BMWs and they will tell you the E36 was the bottom of the barrel amongst recent product lines. Cost-cutting everywhere, l0w-grade materials throughout, and enough rattles to make you think they hid a den of snakes in the door panels. Still, the chassis was well vetted, offering a fairly sublime driving experience particularly in M3-guise.

I still don’t care.

Up until about six months ago, I loved the M3. It was fun to drive, cheap to own, and looked great from every angle. It still does the last thing, but as my E30 has gotten pretty close to daily-driver reliable, I’ve felt let down by the M. Why is the E30 quieter? Why does the valvetrain have less clatter? Why do the materials feel richer, more substantial? Is it all mental? Or does the ancient E30 have an edge quality-wise over the newer M3?

I think the answer, like many, lies somewhere in between. And full disclosure, I love the E30 so much that I’m sure my judgement has been swayed as the car has improved with ample maintenance dollars thrown at it. But it doesn’t dispel the notion that the M3 feels older with each passing season, whereas the 325is feels better and tighter as one more final tweak is made or another maintenance item is taken off the list.

Many will tell you the E30 has some special ingredients dialed in, cultivating memories of BMWs past. A little bit of 2002, some E21 – and viola, you have the perfect driver’s car. Is it my imagination? No, but the M3 does feel like it is aging rapidly. And given a sudden uptick in mechanic visits, the proof is in the invoices. Perhaps I need to accelerate my plans for a used Tacoma and a second E30.

Sucking up Cobwebs, Donning Jetpacks

October 13, 2014 at 10:32 pm

For anyone still reading this site, it’s clear we have abandoned you. And by we, I mean me, because the site’s co-creator made a serious go at keeping content fresh while I left to write for a blog that paid out meager revenues. Hey, some dollars is better than no dollars.


That is, until it hits you that you’re being paid peanuts and for the little you’re paid, you should at least have the freedom to speak your mind and call a spade a spade. And if you don’t, you should be glad they cut you loose so they can keep chasing champagne wishes and caviar dreams while paying themselves the princely sum of $5 an hour.

In the words of a woman-turned-internet-meme-sensation, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Time to dust off the cobwebs. A lot has happened in Jeff’s world of cars. The E30 is ever-closer to completion; the M3 is essentially serving as a light-duty pick-up truck while still getting hammered in daily commuting; and I am itching for a third vehicle. Why? Because the E30 is almost done, broseph. When one door closes, another bottomless pit of needless spending opens.

If I leave you with anything – beyond the promise of more frequent postings – it’s that I need an Alpine White 325IX sedan in my life. If you see one, shout it out loud. I’ll buy it quick.

And if you don’t have one of those, a Subaru XT6 with a stick would also suffice. Find me both and Bob’s your uncle.

The best thing about this blog? I can preach about whatever I want with no money to show for it. Hence, jetpacks (you know, the whole limitless thing. I realize jetpacks are expensive). Sometimes, less is indeed more.

Lying Pig Farmers

February 2, 2014 at 12:52 pm
The main reason why I've had it with Subaru

The main reason why I’ve had it with Subaru

You’ve probably read about my battles with the Fuji Pig, otherwise known as my 2008 Subaru Legacy GT. A big factor in the hate department of my love/hate relationship with the car has been dealing with Planet Subaru, the dealership I trusted to maintain my car while it was under factory warranty. I’m aware that dealership service costs more, but the ridiculous, over the top pricing and customer service aspect is what has upset me the most.

A lube, oil, filter and tire rotation should not cost over 100 dollars. I should be able to wait for the car without having to book the car a month in advance. If have to drop the car off, I expect at least some sort of courtesy shuttle service. I understand that loaner vehicles can’t be given out to everyone, but at least give me a ride to work and back so I don’t have inconvenience everyone I deal with for the day and especially since I’m paying an arm and a leg for basic service.

I dread phone calls from Planet, especially from the service advisor I’ve titled the angel of death. She has this monotone voice and she’s always calling me about some gloom and doom. Normally her gloom and doom is on the untruthful side of things. Back in October I was in for an oil change, I got a call saying my axle boots we’re  leaking and my front axles need a complete overhaul. I did what someone should do when facing a major repair out of the blue like that and took it to a trusted independent mechanic. They took one look at my front axle’s and said, “No, they just need to be lubed up”.

The second lying phone call from the angel of death occurred a few weeks ago, when there was a leak in my fuel lines and was told because it was a safety issue I had to have all the fuel lines replaced because they only came in kit form. While this service was being done I got a phone call saying my brakes had under 2mm of pad left and they should replaced. I told them to hold off on it. I went to my trusted mechanic for an oil change and asked them to look at the pads. I told them Subaru said I had under 2mm left. An hour later I got a call “Hey Jonathan, you have at least 4mm of pad left, you have a few more oil changes before they need to be changed”.

I understand a dealership service department trying to sell work but lying about the replacement of axle boots or wear on brake pads is embarrassing. It’s a real lack of business ethics. Another reason why it’s time to purchase my next vehicle, I will not be stopping at Planet Subaru.

The issue that has been driving me bonkers has been the mysterious CEL light that comes on during cold weather. During cold weather months, not too long after getting in the car and going a bit, when I get to the first stop light, the car acts as if it’s going to stall. The car hiccups but doesn’t stall. Then after a minute or two after driving the CEL light comes on. I’ve had this happen well over ten times. I bring it to the dealership everytime and they can’t find the problem. They clear the code and send me on my way. I let the car run until the blue light comes off so the car is warmed up enough, I’m not jumping in the car in 20 degree weather and going like hell right away.

If I have another major issue come up soon, I’m going to strongly consider getting rid of it, I’m already developing a new car shortlist.




A Sons of Taki 2013 Year in Review

December 28, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Our first year was a fun and interesting one at Sons of Taki. On behalf of Jeff and Matt, thanks for reading, making comments and telling us we’re not complete idiots for doing this. 2014 is shaping up to be  an exciting one as well. We just won’t hype it up like Lotus and then fail to deliver the goods.

In the meantime, here’s some Sons of Taki Moments from 2013.

We Launch A Website

I remember siting with Jeff and Matt on a snowy winter late January Sunday at the Starbucks in Braintree brainstorming ideas for what would become Sons of Taki. We talked about what we wanted to be, what we wanted the site to look like and most importantly what did we want to call it. I forget how it came about but we pulled up the video of Taki Inoue getting hit by the medical car which got us rolling on the ground. From there it was easy coming up with the name. Then the night after the Daytona 500 we put our money where are mouth was and bought the domain.

The Sound of Metal In a Wood Chipper

Back in March while driving to Rhode Island to have dinner with Jeff, the CEL light came on in the Leggy. I didn’t think much of it as the car was prone to random misfires and light ups. As I was getting past the point of no return (where I was closer to Jeff’s house than my house) the car started making stranger noises, a crackle here and there. I made it to Jeff’s, had dinner with him and white knuckled it back the hour drive to my house with the car sounding worse and worse. I was dreading motor issues.

The next day Matt and I were off to world of wheels in Boston, Matt was going to meet me at our local repair shop so I could drop the Leggy off and then go with Matt. As you know by the now, the Leggy didn’t make it and got a ride from AAA.

One month later and finally being lucky that Subaru decided to be nice I had a new shortblock in the Leggy.

Alpine White BMW’s

Jeff’s obsession with Alpine White BMW’s reached a new level when he got rid of his pristine E46 ZHP and bought a 95 E36 M3 (Alpine White of course). A man who lives in a city in the Northeast must not be right trying to keep two white BMW’s semi clean and not dinged.

The Deal of Century

Everyone has a great buying a car story and dealing with salespeople who are close to Genghis Khan on the people you wouldn’t trust category. SOT took it to a whole new level when Matt bought a new GMC Terrain and the sales person was…Matt’s father. The memorable moment of these negotiation was when Matt’s father (FYI, Matt and I are brothers so he’s my dad as well) was caught in between being a father and being a salesperson when trying to answer Matt’s question of how much money should he put down as a down payment.

The Baltimore Grand Prix Trip

When Jeff decided to take the plunge and get married, he asked me to be his best man, which in turn means a motoring related bachelor party. The whole story can’t be told on this site but in short we got to see the best wreck at an ALMS race in a long time, had to send a search party out for someone at one point and things occurred that racing legends such as Innes Ireland and Gerry Marshall would be proud of.

We’re Surrounded By Rednecks

Sportscar racing wasn’t the only racing we took in live during 2013. Matt (being a trooper and coming off of a 24 hour shift at work )and I attended the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The race was dominated by Matt Kenseth but what really stood out was the kid in front of us who decided to go full redneck and rock a mullet wig, daisy dukes and a plaid shirt to his waist.

Where the hell are they?

You know who your friends are when you go on a wild goose chase with them to find an automotive graveyard; end up wandering around a quarry in the Catskills for an entire afternoon and both of you come back alive and are still friends (I think). The chase doesn’t stop there as you search for answers, find people, get lied to and then get the real deal.

That’s as much as we can tell you for right now about the story. We’ll be rolling it out something during the first half of 2014.

Check back in 2014 as we’ll be posting more automotive ramblings, buying more Alpine White BMW’s, saving lives, and throwing more money at a Pig from Fuji. The first Sons of Taki Movie will be coming out and maybe a podcast or two. Make sure you follow us on Twitter and try to guess who is tweeting what.

Would I Buy Another? My Life with the Fuji Pig

December 24, 2013 at 3:24 pm

I just recently I received the title to my 2008 Subaru Legacy GT; it’s car I bought brand new on September 7, 2008 from Clay Subaru. It’s first car I bought brand new and I’m also proud to say I paid it off a few months early.

After five years of Leggy ownership I ask myself the question would I buy another? Leggy ownership has been an experience of highs and lows with the highs putting a big smile on my face and the lows putting me into tears. Let’s reflect on the good and bad so far.

The thing I love the most about the Leggy is that it’s the can do anything car, the three things that allow for this are size, power and all wheel drive. I can hoon it in all seasons, throw camera gear in it and take it to important meetings and it’s never out of place. It’s the WRX for those of us who have grown up, maybe settled down a little but still desire Subaru performance.

On the subject of performance, the Leggy offers perfect performance for the daily driver with 240 horsepower on tap with three levels of throttle response; sport being the happy medium of power and not hitting hyperdrive every time you step on the loud pedal. A solid performer stock, I’ve added a Cobb catback exhaust, Cobb sport springs and Ralitek front and rear sways. The Cobb catback offers a perfect level of sound and adds a few extra horses. The sport springs have diminished the hideous stock wheel gap and the sways have improved the understeery nature of the car.

Add this all up and it’s a car I always enjoy driving no matter the situation, sure there are cars more involving or analogue but for the me the Leggy GT checks all the buttons.

Now comes the bad, it was a thirty thousand dollar car new and that doesn’t include navigation and there’s no option of cloth seats. In addition, the car came with infamous Bridgestone RE92 tires, the tires referred many GT owners as “joykillers”. Due to the fact it has a turbo it’s pricer to service than a normal Subaru and if you get your service done at a dealership prepare to pay an arm for an oil change and rotation and throw in a leg or two when it’s time for a major service such as the 60K.

Reliability wise the car has been quirky, in the early days there was a water leak in the front passenger side, the radio had to be replaced and during cold weather months the car would almost stall out at stop lights and throw codes for misfires. The biggest disaster was in March of 2013 when the turbo decided to eat itself due to oil starvation; it sounded as if someone was putting metal into a wood chipper. Thankfully, due to a somewhat friendly relationship with the Service Manager of Planet Subaru and the fact that all of the car’s major services had been done there, Subaru of America decided to cover the cost of my just out of warranty car and replace the shortblock. The kindness of SOA saved me either ten thousand dollars or the cost of a new car. The Leggy spent a little over a month at Planet Subaru getting a new shortblock.

The turbo eating itself is something fairly common in the Subaru world with cause thought to be the Banjo bolt (a theory which the Planet Subaru Service Manager claims is “an urban legend”. Since I took return of the car in late April, things have been fine, however there will always be a fear in the back of my mind as what will be the next thing to go (The car has 93K miles) or when will the turbo lurch itself again? Recently the fuel lines had to be replaced to the cost of $1,200. Thanks Planet Subaru

Would I buy it again? I’m not sure, the pleasure of driving the car I’m not sure is above the stress and money I’ve dumped into it to keep it straight. Would I buy a new Legacy today? Not at all; many consider my 08 Legacy GT to be the end of an era in which the Legacy was a unique sport sedan and isn’t what it is today, an all wheel drive Toyota Camry. If I had to pull the trigger today my shortlist would include Cooper Clubman, GTI, and AWD Buick Turbos.


The Secret Life of the Velveteen Rabbit

December 18, 2013 at 11:37 pm

The holidays have become known for a few things, none of them good: excessive consumption of Chinese-manufactured technology goods; holidays sales that put low-wage employees in harms way and away from their families; and a society-wide binge on throwaway products endorsed by a rampant barrage of media buys that do nothing but make the have-nots feel worse while convincing them that the only way to salvation is to put themselves even further in debt so their children – like, 5 years old – can own a Macbook Air.

When I was 5, Hot Wheels and Darda filled my wish list. Granted, the quantity of these requests could fill a small orphanage, but still. It seems blessedly tame in comparison to what today’s offspring demand.

Other things the holidays are known for include big-ticket cinematic releases, which I’ve always been amused by. Yes, I am aware some people do not celebrate Christmas. But is that their automatic go-to? Let’s check out a movie? In this era of Redbox and Netflix, I’m somewhat surprised that hopping into the family truckster to take in a flick on a holiday is a go-to for some folks. I suppose if the drive-in theater is still fighting the good fight, an indoor (re: warm) cinema should have no problem filling seats.

One such film slated to open this month is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. From what I can discern, it’s about an individual dripping in anxiety about his self-worth based on accomplishments someone else told him he should have (I suspect there is a need for validation by a female involved as well, but if Kristen Wiig is your idea of a good time, have at it). So, despite knowing very little about this film, a juxtaposition unfolded in front of me today. This movie does capture the validity of the imagination, and the journeys that are feasible if only your mind is open to wandering and letting the empty spaces remain vacant for a roaming thought or two of, “Well, what if that was possible?”

There’s a thought I have – often when rambling, roaming, or otherwise exploring my vast subconscious – about energy. Ghost hunters will tell you spiritual activity is less about a moaning white sheet and more about the lasting impression of a particularly intense moment of energy, be it anger, happiness, jealousy or what have you. And often, physical environments are the recipient of these imprints, be it a grand staircase, a child’s room or a garage, filled with tool chests and grease, full of smells and stains of previous occupants.

By that logic, cars are a perfect conductor of this energy. They bear witness to fights, romance, frustrations. From bringing home a wife to bringing home a child to bringing home a termination letter, or traveling to a new job or cruising into retirement – vehicles are with us at those moments that typically define our adult lives. They are silent passersby who happen to be our first reprieve from whatever psychological high or low we are experiencing at that moment. This is why I know, without a doubt, some of my cars have spoken to me while others have had nothing to say, despite the trials I was enduring at that moment. This is not unlike people: some are caring, able to express concern in perfect silence, while others wouldn’t bother to hold you up as you struggled to stand.

My ’87 325is is a conductor of this electricity, this memory burn that cars can absorb. Like an older adult, the car has more years under its metal, giving it the benefit of time to become an accomplice to memories. But it doesn’t have to speak to me; it doesn’t have to provide that channel of energy, of memories that come alive every time fuel flows through its weathered lines. As the ghost hunter will tell us, however, when the energy is great enough – intense enough, either in good or evil – it becomes impossible to ignore. And you can stare into its headlight bowls much like grandpa’s ancient retinas, and know it is watching every moment, recording them either for your benefit or that of the next owner, convinced it will live forever to tell those stories. Of first loves, second chances, and of nothing at all. Of drives that go in circles, or plans that last as far as the next gas station.

So, where does the velveteen rabbit come in? Margery Williams said that things become real when they are loved for a very, very long time. I happen to know for a fact this E30 was cherished by its first owners, and despite the shambles it arrived in, loved enough by later stewards that it stayed on the road, despite accidents and deferred maintenance. It is a conveyance of memories; it has witnessed more in its life than I have despite my abilities of free will and intelligence. Think about that: this car is almost as old as me and has lived in more places. It sat on a ship and sailed the great oceanic divide, and took center stage at a major auto show. It’s likely faced more challenges, too, as my health has rarely been compromised and I’ve never been left to waste away. Its resiliency is undeniable.

And unlike the rampant consumerism this time of year, which relies on selling fake notions of wants and needs, things that are made by hand and forged in factories of men and sweat reveal to us daily that its original maker had no intention of it living an abbreviated existence. Whether “it” is an rambling old home, a pair of pliers or a set of stiff and woolly overalls, these things – and yes, they are things – can carry the energy I speak of. They were designed to be used, to do a job and to be a conveyance of achievement, whether a simple task or a lifetime milestone. And they bear the brunt of our existence, much like a family member, but doing so in complete silence and dutiful service.

So yes. This Christmas, go to the movies. Buy your flatscreens. But take a moment to stand in awe of that around you which has endured, be it a relationship with a spouse or your childhood home. Remember what it means to withstand the test of time, and realize the power contained when perseverance and emotion collide. Mercedes-Benz did a bang-up job capturing this in their fantastic ad, “Soul.” Enjoy – and merry Christmas.

Mercedes-Benz – “Soul”

What We Are Thankful For

November 28, 2013 at 10:31 am

Happy Thanksgiving From Sons of Taki, here’s a few things we are thankful for:

– The fact we live in an age where cars are faster, handle better, safer and offer more features than ever before.

– That there are cars new and used that are rewarding to drive.

– Shipping companies that can get a 95 M3 across the country safely.

– All the great repair and bodyshops we use

– Understanding parents, friends, wives, etc who accept our love of cars

– Salespeople we can trust

– All the great magazines, books, tv shows, websites that are car related

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….


The Invisible Autocrosser

June 19, 2013 at 10:53 pm

For the past several weeks, I have joined millions of other Americans in being glued to the NBA playoffs and finals, as well as the race to the Stanley Cup in the NHL. Throughout all of this, I have been inundated with commercials showcasing athletes at their fiercest, pushing their bodies beyond the limits of endurance and replenishing valuable electrolytes with a plethora of Gatorade products.

I get it. They are the top of the physical specimen foodchain and deserve close-ups of battle scars and dripping sweat. But through all of this, I notice every commercial showcases most major sports leagues, even those that are months away from championship-caliber events. So here’s my question: where are the drivers?

E30 autocross

After autocrossing for the first time this season last weekend, I’m reminded how on even the most basic level, racing is exhausting. The level of concentration it demands. The way it forces you to improve every few minutes. The unpredictability of piloting a 3,000 lbs. hunk of steel as your primary means of improving your times. Memorizing a course after a brief walk-through. Analyzing what you did wrong in a five-minute break before you go back on the course and try to shave a tenth of a second off your last run. And so on.

Do I need to train for five hours a day, develop a ridiculous diet and hire a coach? No, but professional drivers do. And it’s about time they were represented in the media more widely than Ken Block and his various knock-offs. Hopefully, movies like Ron Howard’s forthcoming creation Drive will open some eyes to the grueling and competitive nature of major-league racing such as Formula 1. For now, I would like to see your average high-school soccer player settle into an ancient rear-wheel drive coupe and try not to sweat when navigating the Chicago Box.

The Forever Car

June 5, 2013 at 10:54 pm

Recently, my brother shared an article that discussed how a Porsche 911 was the author’s “Forever Car”  – a car that he would never sell unless it was physically impossible to retain it. As some of you may know, I recently acquired a 1995 E36 M3 coupe on a bit of a whim, and I can say this: it has the stuff forever cars are made of.


I don’t know what it is, but older vehicles for me capture a mixture of qualities that today’s new cars and trucks can’t re-create, features that appeal to the senses and slip further and further out of grasp with each platform change or model update. I suppose people from every era say the same thing about how generational shifts aren’t moving us forward, whether it’s the type of service you receive in a restaurant to the price of a good pair of shoes. As I grow older, I find myself somewhat ambivalent about most of the changes we’re experiencing.  I can appreciate a good mobile phone, and eating organics can only serve to improve my health. But throwing down $30 large for a soulless rolling technology convention just isn’t going to happen.

The M3 is full of instant sensory gratification, from the way it just makes noise – it sounds fast when you’re creeping out of a parking space. It is eerily silent when you’re sitting in traffic, save for a rich mixture giving it a pulse at idle. The exhaust is bassy, full of bumps and pops when coasting down a hill. The intake noises, from the whine in first gear to the air horn-like blat it gives at full throttle, is nothing any new car can offer without acoustical support from some electronically manufactured soundwave. Kids today think all car movies are filmed with CGI, thanks to Fast & The Furious. The M3 is Ronin compared to Tokyo Drift. 

It looks natural. It’s a normal 3-Series coupe, from the side skirts to the trunk lid, yet a set of chunky wheels and aero kit transform it, with the 235-series rubber poking out from the fender. It’s as if the designers knew all along the ordinary E36 would accommodate such enhancements, even when there were no plans to bring the M3 to the U.S. Today’s  performance variants need lowered suspensions, 19 inch wheels with tire monitors, LED lighting and 500-watt stereos to convey performance; the M3 accomplishes the same without a bumping system and Von Dutch pinstripes.

Most of all, it’s a giant middle finger to our throwaway society. It’s got 153,000 miles of memories, and is testament to a proactive maintenance schedule and passionate owners. Today’s gadget-hounds and window shoppers find contentment knowing they’ve purchased the latest and the greatest, and tremble with the realization that newer and better will be here in six months – or worse yet, next door. Good for them, I suppose. Hope that new infotainment system keeps them occupied – God forbid they actually find driving engaging enough.

And that might be the bottom line of all of this. If you enjoy driving, you find pleasure in the tactile sensations of older vehicles, from the smell of fuel wafting through weathered gaskets and the rough leather patches of a worn steering wheel with hand-stitched M colors. If you just want to ensure your ego can keep up with the Joneses, your driveway will become a revolving door. If you want a forever car, you buy an M3.

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