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When a man loves a woman…

September 8, 2013 at 4:59 pm

… he asks for her hand in marriage and hopefully she says yes.

When she says yes, that man asks another man to be his best man

That best man then plans a bachelor party.

If the two men involved are Sons of Taki, the bachelor party is automotive related.

Enjoy some photos from Sons of Taki’s trip to the Baltimore Grand Prix for Jeff’s Bachelor Party

2013 Baltimore Grand Prix

What I’ve Been Up to Lately

August 25, 2013 at 11:53 pm

…clearly not posting, for sure.

Sorry to say, but life does occasionally get in the way. But I’m happy to report that in the time since I’ve last updated you, life has been pretty OK with the E36 M3.

What I enjoy most about this car is how it reflects the basic enhancements needed to make the E30 more modern without abandoning the simplicity that made the elder statesman so great. The E36 carries on the tradition of simple bolts and screws, halogen headlamps and bulbs,  manageable wheel and tire sizes, and so on.

Not to mention, prices for parts are fairly cheap – and in abundant supply. I’ve been amazed over the last few weeks seeing how inexpensive parts can be for the E36, now that it is at the absolute pit of its depreciation curve. $20 for a brake light switch, $190 for an OEM clutch kit, $50 for a replacement 17″ alloy wheel – the list goes on. People don’t love these cars at the moment and it shows, making it all the easier for me to fix the few ills it has and preserve it for the long haul.

That’s not to say the cream of the crop don’t command big money – upwards of $25K for low-mileage examples. But even for those investment grade automobiles, the simplicity of its operations remains the same and the cost of parts stays low. Although I am aware my clutch needs replacing and the driveshaft is starting to bind up, I’m undeterred by making those investments, given how low the projected cost of ownership looks to be.

The bottom line is this: in the weeks since I’ve last written, I’ve only grown fonder of the car. But the wife recently picked up a new Mazda CX-5, and that’s compelling for all sorts of new reasons – especially for the introduction to the new Mazda 6 I had while waiting at the dealer. Until next time, where I discuss the first Japanese vehicle in a while to give me pause.

Is This Thing On?

August 16, 2013 at 2:42 pm


For almost twenty years, Speedvision/SpeedChannel/Speed was the channel that gearheads turned to get their automotive and motorcyle fix. To many of us, Speed was where we tuned in to see great programming and racing. The original Speedvision to me was brilliant as it offered documentary style programming along with racing coverage that didn’t force us to stay up to watch ESPN at 3 AM. In a way, it was if Roger Wheeler found this hidden gem niche of people and brought it to the forefront without it losing it’s coolness.

However, just like most underground cool things, the general public takes gets a hold of it, consumes it and it becomes uncool. The general public in this case being Fox which began throwing the niche racing series to the side and making Nascar the focal point. Great programs like Legends of Motorsport and Victory by Design were replaced by rubbish like Unique Whips and R U Faster than a Redneck. Despite the increase in crap programming, we thankfully still had Wind Tunnel with the great Dave Despain. With Speed becoming Fox Sports 1, we’ll no longer be able to turn on the channel Sunday nights for nine months of the year and watching the self described “Old TV Windbag” and his wide variety of guest.

Despite the downgrade in content since Fox took over, one of the gems of Speed was their website. An informative collection of new stories, opinion pieces in features. No where else could you get icons such as Robin Miller and Dennis Noyes sharing their passion. Speed was a key factor in the development of Marshal Pruitt and the man who would be next dean of Sportscar journalism, John Dagys.

Where will we go to get our fix. Luckily we live in an era where there are more channels than ever and if we can’t get it on our TV’s we can watch it online; but instead of having one hub we are now spread out between Fox Sports, ESPN, Velocity, BeIn Sports, etc.

Will there be another Speed? I’m sure someone has enough cash to make it happen, but most importantly do they understand there is more to racing than Nascar and viewers want programs of substance and not style.

The new “2” in Multi 12

July 26, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Daniel Ricciardo

With Mark Webber leaving the F1 paddock and joining Porsche’s return to top level sportscar racing; the question remains who will join Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull for 2014? The shortlist points to three men: Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean Eric Vergne with Ricciardo appearing to be the front runner for the seat.

After the Multi 21 incident and with Webber’s announcement to join Porsche, many had Kimi as the frontrunner for the 2014 seat. He’s a free agent after ’13, has had Red Bull sponsorship during his Rallying sabbatical. In addition to the Red Bull connection, he is one of the most talented driver’s in the paddock and seems the most likely to not give “a hoot” about who his teammate is.

The negatives are the first being it’s Kimi Raikkonen. As we’ve seen, Kimi is either on or off, if the car is on, Kimi can win. If the car is off, Kimi will float the bottom half of the points table, unlike Alonso who has the ability to be championship contender in a horrible car. Kimi will also want to cash in; is Red Bull willing to deliver the Brinks truck to Kimi? It’s been stated that Kimi is on a bonus heavy contract at Lotus. Could Red Bull handle having “two bulls in one field”? How would their poster child Vettel react to a driver who could possibly be his equal more than Webber and who wouldn’t be phased by the Vettel/Marko machine in a bit. Also, how would the PR machine of Red Bull and Kimi work together?

If we were ranking the three drivers from most likely to least likely Jean Eric Vergne is the least likely of the three to be in the Red Bull in 2014. While Vergne has done a workman like job for Toro Rosso, he hasn’t had spectacular performances bar the Canadian GP. In all likelihood, I expect Vergne to be back at Toro Rosso at 2014, loaned to another team or be Red Bull’s full time Test Driver.

Out of the three, Daniel Ricciardo appears to be the most likely to be at Red Bull for 2014. Ricciardo has been fairly impressive for Toro Rosso with an uptick in his performance since the announcement of Webber’s departure. Ricciardo has been impressive in testing with Red Bull with even his teammate Vergne saying that Ricciardo deserves the seat at Red Bull.

What helps Ricciardo’s case besides his performance has been it appears that Red Bull has an interest in Austrailia. Red Bull sponsors a V8 Supercar series, has sponsored former Moto GP champ Casey Stoner and currently has an Aussie in Mark Webber in the team. Replace an Aussie with an Aussie? Ricciardo would also help Red Bull’s driver program. It hasn’t been since Vettel that Red Bull has fully produced a young developed driver with all other young drivers being cast off after a year or two at Toro Rosso. Also, unlike Raikkonen, Ricciardo would not cost an arm and a leg.

So, my money is on Ricciardo to be the new “2” in Multi 12. However, as a long run prediction, isn’t whoever gets the driver is just keeping the seat warm until Antonio Felix de Costa?

CrapWagon of the Day: Bumpers!

July 23, 2013 at 6:49 am


Now, our latest CrapWagon is not in horrible shape.  For the most part, the body of the pickup was fair.  But what really caught my attention was the personalized chrome “bling” bumper!  It appears that either the bumper was broken, or the owner wanted to jazz it up a bit by adding some chrome.  However, he or she did it the wrong way.  It’s difficult to see, but the owner actually used silver duct/HVAC tape!  This awful, but quick fix, makes this pickup our latest CrapWagon!

SeBESTien – The World’s Greatest

July 8, 2013 at 9:08 pm

The best in the world?

Sebastien Loeb is the best driver in the world today, there I said it. There is no one driving a car in the world today (and yes I’m including Lewis, Fernando and that other Sebastian) that has the overall ability to do what the man from Alsace can; to be so successful in various disciplines in a wide range of cars.

Look at the facts, Loeb holds all the important records in world rallying (championships, wins, points and podium finishes). I know critics will say maybe the competition in world rallying was somewhat weak during the Loeb era but he was so dominant that in 2006 Loeb missed rounds due to a mountain biking accident and he still on won the title on his dominance when he was on the road.

In addition to rallying, Loeb has finished second at LeMans, has tested F3000 and Formula 1 cars (almost competing for the Toro Rosso team), has won X-Games rallycross, and  has been victorious in sportscar racing. In 2014, Loeb will be leading Citroen’s attack on the World Touring Car Championship.

Recently, Loeb took part in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, Loeb didn’t just win, he dominated; breaking the course record by a minute and a half and 49 seconds faster than his closest competitor.

Loeb, didn’t retire from rallying because of a lack of form, old age or a Citroen pull out; it was due to accomplishing all that could be accomplished. Loeb has been making cameo appearances in the WRC this year and out of his three starts his results have been two wins and a second.

So what makes this tick and allows him to be able to to be successful in multiple disciplines? First start by looking at his background. Growing up Loeb was a gymnast at a high level finishing fifth in the French championship. After his gymnastics career, Loeb trained as an electrical engineer in his late teens and early twenties. Both disciplines require focus, large amounts of concentration and the ability to adapt. The gymnast must be skilled in various things such as the floor exercise, the parallel bars and rings. The electrician works with live wires and various codes knowing a false move could injure himself and others.

When Loeb appeared on the world stage he was viewed as a tarmac specialist, someone who could challenge for wins on sealed surfaces but an also ran on rallies that were featured on gravel and snow. Loeb developed into in all rounder, he was dominate on tarmac but won rallies such as Cyprus and Australia and became the first non scandinavian driver to win Rally Sweden.

Is there anyone out there as talented as Loeb? Sure there are others who are/would be faster in a Sportscar or an Open Wheel race car, but is there anyone out there could be as competitive as Loeb has been jumping from discipline to discipline? Loeb is a throw back to an earlier day when the racing world consisted of men like Elford, Gurney, Jones, and Hill. Perhaps it’s because of contract restrictive specialist era we live in, we truly don’t appreciate Loeb’s talent.

A Road with Many Turns – Why There Are No Americans in F1 Part IV

June 30, 2013 at 11:51 am

The Last Chance?


Meet Alexander Rossi, a twenty-one year old from California who serves as the reserve driver for the Caterham F1 team. In addition to his reserve duties, Rossi drives for the Caterham team in GP2 and participated in the 24 hours of LeMans this past year.

If you look at the ladder Rossi has taken to get to his current position, it’s been straightforward and unlike his American predecessors in F1. Rossi starred in Skip Barber and Formula BMW but instead climbing the IndyCar ladder, Rossi jumped across the pond to Europe and has competed in series such as GP3, Formula Renault 3.5 and the previously mentioned GP2 series. Rossi isn’t a Red Bull protege like Scott Speed (and what seems like 90% of the young drivers in the world). His place in F1 has been achieved on merit. Rossi has proven his talent in the European training grounds so perhaps teams have viewed him as less of a risk than taking an American who has competed in only American series.

The path Rossi has taken is perhaps the path any American who really has a desire to get to F1 must take; jumping across the pond and taking on the world and competing in the traditional training grounds to get to F1. With Rossi being associated with one of the backmarker teams in F1, the chance of him getting a race seat sooner rather than later (especially with rumors flying that current Caterham driver Guido Van der Garde is on the hot seat). What Rossi must do if given the opportunity is perform better than the car is capable of and use it to get a seat with a better team and help destroy the stereotypes about American’s in F1.

No pressure Alex.

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!

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.

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