Furious Memories

March 22, 2013 at 12:50 am

I saw the first of what will surely be several previews for the upcoming Fast and the Furious movie, number six or seven in the popular franchise. It immediately conjured up memories of the very first film, which came out around my junior or senior year of high school. Although somewhat laughingstock today with its stereotypical bad boys and street racers who make up for their lack of intelligence and driving ability with loud cars and louder body graphics (tattoos on both the car and the driver for the uninformed), the original film left a lasting impression on me.

As a student split between accelerated and standard classes, I oftentimes walked the line between the kids going to Harvard and the ones who barely cared enough to graduate. It’s an expansive gulf between the two, and one I was able to bridge by way of my interest in modifying a third-generation Jetta. With this car, I gained some sort of quasi-acceptance from a crowd that I held about as much in common as an inmate does with a librarian. They were the ones who owned the Hondas with motor swaps, the Mustang 5.0’s with deleted catalytic converters, or even an old land barge like a Q45 that looked – and sounded – the business with tinted windows and a system. They were the ones whose fathers owned collision repair shops and had more interest in hitting the marijuana pipe than the books.


So, where did that leave me? With a Jetta that slowly transformed with the right modifications, and had just enough kit on it to at least earn a subtle nod and permission to park in the back of the lot with the other tricked-out rides. To this day, it’s an accomplishment that I hold as high as anything else memorable I did in high school.

What I remember most about opening night for Fast and the Furious was how overwhelmingly united I felt with every other guy who loved his car more than life itself. Who wanted it to be fast enough to race stoplight to stoplight but also knew the paint had to be perfect for catching eyes when idling in the school parking lot. The first movie to define a generation of car enthusiasts wasn’t memorable for its poor story lines, horrible casting and God-awful CGI; no, it was, for better or worse, the American Graffiti for Generation Y, and the only franchise to bring to life a new story every other year featuring cars representing a wider and more varied audience of enthusiasts.

While I will never tell my offspring that Vin Diesel was an actor of any merit, I will relay to them how that night in the theater, surrounded by friends of all backgrounds and the evening of cruising that followed, was one of the fondest memories of my youth. And I hope  that some day, there is still a director out there who realizes how much it means to be young and to love cars.

The Butterfly Throttle Collector

March 20, 2013 at 7:22 pm


“And the small fame that you acquired. Has brought you into cult status but me you’re still a collector” – The Butterfly Collector by The Jam

What exactly defines a cult classic or cult status with a car? We all can throw out the names of several vehicles when asked the question but there isn’t a true definition of the phrase.

To me a cult classic at it’s basic is a unique car that has a religious following for one reason or another and can be  purchased (new or used) by a reasonable amount of members of the cult. Ferrari’s, Zonda’s are not cult classics; 1st generation VW GTI’s, E30’s and WRX’s are cult vehicles. These cars aren’t the fastest, the best handling or the magazine darlings but they earn their places because they offer something unique and special to the common man who is an auto enthusiast.

Part of the definition for me requires the car in question to be something not mainstream beloved and possibly be ultimate spec of the car anyone would buy. Look at cars such as Civic Si’s, the original SHO’s, 850R’s and Galant VR4’s. Their base models were everywhere and blindly bought by the masses with the purpose of just getting from point a to point b.

I look at my current car as being/with the potential to be a cult classic: the 4th Generation Legacy GT (The wagon has already achieved that status). The 4th generation Leggy GT offered an alternative to those wanting to be a bit different than everyone else who had a WRX or STI. The 4th generation allowed the driver to get the benefits of  it’s younger, wilder looking brother but without cops, thieves and the insurance companies breathing down our necks.Subaru has lost of the plot with the 5th generation Legacy making it a bloated four wheel drive Camry alternative. The new car may have more power and options but it lacks the soul of the previous generation.

Soul, that’s it, cult cars must be cars that most can afford but have soul.

Attracted to All-Trac

March 20, 2013 at 12:02 am

So, my daily finds for project cars have little rhyme or reason to them; really, it’s about what I find within a few minutes of searching that strikes me as the perfect project at that moment in time. Today we have Japan’s answer to Subarus with a snail; none other, of course, than the Toyota Celica All-Trac Turbo.

I know, I know – a Japanese car? A dreaded appliance??! But really, I don’t consider this what one might label today’s bread-and-butter people haulers that have about as much character as a cup of Earl Grey tea paired with a piece of rye bread and lukewarm butter. Or something. So please, leave your Avalon references at home – this car comes from an era when the tiny country that is today known for global dominance of all things green and economical actually gave a damn about performance.


There’s a lot I love about this Craigslist listing for what appears to be an ’86-’87 Celica All-Trac Turbo. The seller says don’t bother asking what’s wrong with it, because there’s nothing to tell! A few bumps to the bumpers and nothing a bit of spit and polish can’t fix. JUST DON’T BOTHER HIM WITH YOUR SILLY QUESTIONS ABOUT MECHANICAL INTEGRITY. Harumph.

The seller might consider trades. In fact, he even lives in a town from Connecticut that is famous for accepting swaps (at least according to his information under ‘Location’). And don’t worry – although this is described as a project car, it can be daily driven with ease! Don’t ask its current owner if there’s anything stopping you from driving it anywhere, ’cause there ain’t. So quit the interrogation – can’t you see men are working here, trying to buy his All-Trac?


I don’t mean to chastise the guy, but since when does 1980s + turbocharged + all wheel drive + manual transmission + pop-up headlights + an actual professional rally driver who drove a near-identical car on the world’s greatest stages (in other words, hoon impressions likely) = Camry reliability? I think not. But I still want it.

Hell, according to Mr. All-Trac, all I need to worry about is a cracked mirror.

Fuel for your thoughts

March 18, 2013 at 9:58 pm

Originally I was planning on talking about what occurred between Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano this weekend at the Sprint Cup race at Bristol and their lame twitter war. I was going to write a post explaining how lame it is for these guys to basically give each other the modern day glove slap with no real venom and substance. When thinking about it, I realized my post would come off sounding like the transcript of a Ward Burton interview while on a Red Bull binge, so I saved it for later this week.

Instead I decided to post some of my favorite bench racing “what if” questions.

– What if Senna isn’t killed at Imola, how do the next few seasons shape up? Does Schumacher go to Ferrari in 1996? It was always believed that Senna would drive for Ferrari at some point.

-What if Henri Toivonen isn’t killed at the 1986 Tour de Course? Does he go on to be one of the all time greats? A multi time World Championship or the pre-McRae McRae? Does Group B continue and what happens to the proposed Group S?

-What if Al Holbert isn’t killed? Does his proposed open top Porsche GTP car get built and do Nissan and Toyota enjoy their dominance? Do we see the 959 in the US as a legal production car? How does the Porsche Indy Car program turn out?

-What if Tim Richmond doesn’t die of AIDS? How many championships does he win? Does he become Nascar’s first real mainstream star?

-What if Dale Earnhardt isn’t killed at the 2001 Daytona 500? How many more years does he continue to race? Does the “3” remain in Cup today? Does Dale Jr. ever leave DEI and would he be a champion by now?

– What if Indy Car owners didn’t stop caring about the talent in Sprint Cars? Would Jeff Gordon be a multi time Indy 500 champion? Would Nascar be as big as it is if the 24 was still racing open wheel cars?

-Speaking of Open Wheel cars, what if greedy owners and Tony George didn’t destroy what was the best racing series in the world in the 1990’s? Would CART be bigger than Nascar?

Scuffed door cards, pitted windshield, dim lighting

March 17, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Some days, I wonder why I do it.

After doing a fair amount of driving in my E46 this weekend, and taking the E30 out for its first spin in weeks, I had to ask myself – what’s the point of driving an older car? Why I stare through a pock-marked windshield with 85,000 miles on it (because it’s the OEM BMW glass); why I slow down to 5 m.p.h. over potholes (I need to replace the shocks); why I drive with the foglights on at all time (due to the factory bi-xenons losing their intensity over time); and so forth.

The E30 – where do I start? A driver’s side window that only works when the door is open, coolant that seems to never stop leaking, A/C that long since left this world – the list goes on. It’s the project car, so there’s some slack to be cut. But one cannot spend too many hours at the wheel before you start wondering just how much abuse your teeth can take from the rock-hard firmness of the suspension.

But all it takes is looking at the E46 head-on. Seeing those fenders bump out from the horizon of the hood, or its reflection in a truck tailgate with the center-pod daytime running lights and fog lamps illuminated. Or just being able to hear the sound an inline six makes when its cold. It leaves me numb to things like Hondas and factory-fresh (or factory-muted) Mercedes-Benzes.

The more I think about it, the more I realize what a blessing it is to own a car with quirks, or what some would call “issues.” It teaches you that not everything – or everyone – is perfect. And although both cars require professional attention on a near-monthly basis, I am far more satisfied with my ongoing project-status transport than anything that can sit near-silent and never have a need for tinkering or improvement. Let’s face it, we find people more interesting when there is discourse in a discussion or a tweak or two needed to get them to a better place – like an injury that stems from overusing a muscle in a race. The same can be said of cars (just replace discourse with swearing).

So, get used to the kick panels with years of shoe marks and the suspension bushings losing a never-ending battle with winter’s weary roads. There’s nothing out there that interests me more than a good project.

Who to Support

March 17, 2013 at 1:12 am
Leave him alone, he knows what he's doing

Leave him alone, he knows what he’s doing

With the start of the 2013 Formula 1 season, a question has come to mind that I haven’t put as much thought into as I should have over the previous seasons: Who am I rooting for? Ever since the likes of Prost, Hakkinen and Montoya left the F1 paddock I haven’t had a driver I really root for. There are drivers I like more than others but I decided now was the time to figure who I would really start rooting for.

I first though about Jensen Button; as time has gone on my thoughts on Button have changed. A first I viewed him as too much talent too soon and he wasted it at BAR only to be saved by Ross Brawn. When he jumped to Mclaren I expected him to get swallowed up in what was Lewis Hamilton’s team. I was dead wrong as it was Jensen who developed into the poor man’s Alan Prost and it was Lewis who took the money and ran to Mercedes.

I grew up a huge Prost fan and Jensen on his day is the modern day Prost; driving the perfectly calculated race with minimal wear to the car or tires. Those days however don’t occur enough for me to really root for Jensen, as there are times he’s completely lost out there in a top-flight car (see the second half of the Brawn year and points of his Mclaren career).

My next thought was Jensen’s former teammate Lewis Hamilton. Make no mistake, Lewis is possibly the most naturally gifted driver in F1 right now however I’ve never really warmed up to Lewis as a person. To me he gives off the vibe of being entitled; here is a driver that was taken under the wing of Mclaren at a young age and given the best equipment at whatever level of racing he was at. Whenever things went wrong at Mclaren it was never Lewis doing some soul searching but instead blaming others. Perhaps this shows with Jensen entering what was Lewis’ team at Mclaren and now Jensen remains while Lewis took the money and moved over to Mercedes.

Speaking of money, I feel Lewis is set to become the next David Beckham (he shares the same XIX Entertainment management as Becks) in that it’s all about building the brand “Lewis” and making as much money as possible. Here are two athletes first known for their success in their sport but are later known for being a brand.

So what about the man Lewis considers his main rival: Fernando Alonso. If Lewis is the most naturally gifted driver in F1, Fernando is the most complete driver in the paddock. A man who never puts a wheel wrong and can take a sub par car and make it a winner. It’s a bit shocking to realize that his last world championship occurred in 2006.

Despite his talent, controversy tends to follow Fernando where he goes especially during his Mclaren year and the Renault crashgate scandal; the former being the biggest turnoff in thoughts of supporting Alonso, however the talent is to be respected.

This takes me to the three-time world champion Sebastian Vettel. I find Vettel to be a bit like another multi-time German world champion, one Michael Schumacher. Like Schumy during the Ferrari years, he’s a great (but maybe not the most complete driver in the field) in what is the superior car in the field. I’m not knocking Vettel as he was identified as future star long before he joined the F1 paddock. He also shares with Schumy that smiling face with a demon inside that says: “I’m going to have the best of everything and I don’t care about  my teammate” feeling. Perhaps it’s what makes the greats.

For me, Vettel’s turnoff is Red Bull. As much as the team publically denies it, he is their number one driver and they will gladly screw Mark Webber for him (see Silverstone 2010).

That brings me to the man who offered the quote of the 2012 F1 season when he told his team to leave him alone as he knew what he was doing: Kimi Raikkonen, the driver I will be rooting for.

What I love about Kimi is that he’s human, he’s flawed. The great Nigel Roebuck one said that the Ferrari team felt they only got a handful of great drives out of Kimi when he was with them. He doesn’t have the desire to give his heart and soul 24/7/365 to F1 and would like to go out on the town and maybe wakeup once in a while with a hangover.

He’s a maverick who was born in wrong era, a man who should be been a contemporary of Hunt instead of running a tribute Hunt helmet. Kimi is not interested on stealing the show at the Autosport awards like Vettel or building the brand like Lewis. Kimi just wants to show up, drive the car, win the race and go home. For a man who has made a lot of money in racing, I don’t think Kimi is motivated by money alone, I do think he wants to be fairly compensated, have competitive equipment and left alone.

Lotus, is the ideal place for Kimi. He’s not under the thumb of Ron Dennis and required to be the perfect driver on and off the track like his Mclaren days nor does he have to be the driver that motivates the workforce and all of Italy like what is required of a Ferrari star driver. At Lotus, Kimi is left to being Kimi, driving the car and that is all.

I’ll be a realistic, I don’t expect Kimi to win every race, there will be weekends when he’s off but the weekends he’s on. I will cheer him on and enjoy the last human star in F1.


The Sun Sets on the Solar Yellow Xterra

March 15, 2013 at 3:25 pm

offroad166Similar to a British Racing Green Jaguar or a Red Chevrolet Corvette, the Solar Yellow Nissan Xterra is a unique color which distinguishes the Xterra from most SUVs.  However, after being to numerous automotive shows over the recent years, I have noticed that as of 2009, Nissan has decided to discontinue Solar Yellow as a color option for the Xterras.  As an owner of a 2000 Solar Yellow Nissan Xterra, I was quite disappointed to find out this decision.  At first, my thoughts were that Nissan chose not to display this color in brochures, as it isn’t the most popular color among the Grey, White, and Red Xterras.  However, after some observation and researching the Edmunds.com website, it appears that 2008 was the last year which Solar Yellow was an option.  Not only is this color unique to the vehicle, but the Xterra is one of the few vehicles that looks acceptable in yellow.  Also, rumor on Xterra forums is that Nissan is considering discontinuing the Xterra in red.  What do our readers think?  Was it a poor choice for Nissan to discontinue the Xterra in Solar Yellow, or was it one of their best decisions?

2013 F1 Predictions

March 15, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Alonso 2012


With the 2013 F1 season kicking off this weekend down under, it’s time to make some predictions.

– Either Sebastien Vettel or Fernando Alonso will win the world championship. If Ferrari can give Alonso a car 85% as good as the Red Bull, Alonso will the world champion. We saw how close Alonso was last year in a car many viewed as being fourth best on the grid. If the car isn’t there, expect Alonso to come close but not beat the combination of Vettel and Red Bull

– The surprise of the season will be Nico Hulkenberg in the Sauber. I think there’s a good chance we’ll Nico on the box this year in the Sauber which has shown to be competitive in the right occasion and we’ve all see what Nico can do in cars like the Williams and Force India especially in Brasil.

-Hulkenberg will then take his success to Ferrari in 2014.

-The disappointment of the season will be Mclaren. With Hamilton gone, Paddy Lowe out the door and Sergio Perez in the team I see them being maybe the 4th or 5th best team on the grid behind Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and maybe Lotus. As much as I like Jensen Button, there are Grand Prix weekends where is non existent and I feel the Perez signing was more to do with sponsorship money than talent (I would have like to have seen a DiResta or one of the Nico’s in the car).

-Mercedes will win the bipolar award in 2013. With so much talent between Niki Lauda, Ross Brawn and the rest of the technical staff, Mercedes,Nico Rosberg and now Lewis Hamilton it’s either going to be the next superteam or a grand disaster. I do predict they will win races but at the same time there will problems and between Niki and Lewis someone will say something that will kick off a media soap opera.

– The constructors championship will come down to Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa, Roman Grosjean and Mark Webber. Out of all of them, I will take Webber as he’s the most consistent, so for me Red Bull wins the constructors crown.


Have you been eBayed lately?

March 14, 2013 at 10:03 pm

So, around this time of year, the notices start coming out about autocross schedules. I, in turn, start daydreaming of how this is the year I’ll actually be competitive and rise to the top of my class standings, all while doing so in a relatively stock E30.

Yeah. Hasn’t happened yet. But that hasn’t stopped me from pre-shopping, much like a woman who chooses her furniture before she’s ever sat in it. eBay is my drug of choice, as it’s filled with new and used parts that are sure to make me look like a better driver. So, what’s on my list right now?


  1. Bigger rear sway bar: I tried going OEM with this the first time, snagging a 14.5 mm rear sway off of a 325ix for cheap. Didn’t do squat for rotation, so I’ve got my eye on a 19 mm UUC rear sway bar.
  2. Replacement Motometer odometer gears: OK, this has nothing to do with performance. But it would be nice to see how many miles I actually rack up commuting to the course in Ayer.
  3. Re-manufactured alternator: I’m 90% certain my 1987 325is still has its original alternator, or at least one that is going on ten years old. It certainly needs a fresh unit for some added juice.
  4. Performance chip: I’m a bit on the fence with this one, as my already fragile car does not need its fuel map and rev limiter messed with. But the E30’s M20 straight-six is sorely needing a few more horsies as it makes its way around Devens throttle-heavy sections, so it may be worth exploring.
  5. Used A/C compressor: Already scored this for the price of free, and it would make the drive to and from the course more bearable. That is, if it even works….

All of this takes money, which is sometimes allocated towards other expenses. Right now, I’d be happy to find out the compressor works and to add the beefy rear sway bar.

What to do next?

March 14, 2013 at 3:55 pm
In the summer of 2013, this car will be all mine

In the summer of 2013, this car will be all mine

Sometime this summer, my beloved Legacy GT will officially be mine; after almost five years of payments I will be the full owner of the car that’s taken me all over the Northeast, created millions of snow doughnuts and made me curse the electrical quirks of Subaru.

I’m going to pause for a moment and admit something some of you might find fairly lame. I’m 30 years old and the Leggy is only the second car I’ve owned. I bought my never forgotten Grand Prix GT in 2003 and kept it until the transmission decided to quit after many miles of fighting me with torque steer and replaced it with the car I have today. I plan on keeping with my M.O. in regards to anything in life with the Leggy; run it until it’s beyond economical repair or in the ground.

So with the lack of a car payment I will start to have a few hundred bucks or so sitting in my pocket every month. I could do the sensible thing and put it in savings or an IRA; which I probably will do with some of it. Keeping with sensibility, some will be allocated to house needs and the fund for a new Macbook Pro.

Then there is the car guy in me, wanting to put the funds toward a fun second car. The question: what to buy?

I’ve thought about this long and hard, I want something fun, cheap and not a total basket case.  I’ve always been a fan of Camaros. Except for the white trash/mullet stereotype, a 3rd or 4th generation Z28 would fit the idea of a second car that is fun, fast, and easy to acquire parts for. Then comes one of my other loves; Datsun  510’s. I’ve been trolling ebay for about two years now checking out stock 510’s and 510’s with various SR20 engine swaps and dreaming of painting one up in BRE colors and pretending I’m John Morton. The negatives of this being the car being a rust bucket after a year in New England weather or getting either a stock 510 in need of much love or a half completed project car.

What about the modern day classic icons such as e30’s and Miata’s? Those sound right except that they’ve already been done by fellow Son of Taki Jeff Lavery and I don’t want to be seen as a copycat.

That leaves me things such as 944’s, 300zx’s, Viggen’s, WRX’s and a whole boatload of other options.

If you have any suggestions you have a year or so to offer them.


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