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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.


How to Fix Sportscar Racing

March 13, 2013 at 1:15 pm


Photo By J. Grabowski - From 2011 Baltimore GP

I love Sportscar racing because it blends teamwork, technology, all out speed and tactics. I’ve been hooked recently on watching many old World Sportscar Racing and Le Mans year end review films on the great site www.motorsportworld.tv

While it remains a love of mine, I’ve grown disheartened with big time Sportscar racing over the past few years. The combination of small car counts (and therefore lack of competition), no worldwide rules standard and what has become the annual Volkswagen parade in France each June has made me think of how Sportscar racing can get back to the glory days of the 70’s and 80’s

1. Four Classes: IMSA had it right when they had two prototype classes (GTP and Lights) and two Gran Touring classes (GTO and GTU). Have prototype classes be divided by dimensions, engine size and car weight, allow things such as hybrid technology in the “GTP” class but not in the “Lights” class. In the Gran Touring classes have it set up similar with more supercar like racers race in a GTO class and smaller lighter, less powered cars in a “GTU” class.

2. Give Privateers a chance: Porsche had it right in the 80’s: have a factory team but sell cars to privateers who can be competitive and beat the factory on occasion. Porsche understood that a Porsche winning (factory or not) makes the breed better, improves development (by having more cars out there) and helps the cash flow with people buying cars and spares. Also, don’t forget the win Ads, the average Joe is impressed when a make sweeps the top five, factory team or not. Make it mandatory that any factory racing program must sell cars to privateers and sell them cars that are the least the previous year’s spec. Enforce a ceiling on the amount that a manufacturer can charge for a car and spares and create a rule where for every two cars entered by a factory program there must be a car entered by a privateer.

3. Rules: Create a global rules package so domestic series can operate and those cars running in domestic series can enter the world championship event in their home country. In watching old end of the year WSC films one of the more interesting things was when the championship went to Japan and the race featured an influx of those teams and manufacturers running in the domestic championship.

4. Open Engine Formula: What killed big time sportscar racing was there was clear divide between the haves and have nots in the early 90’s when the WSC went to the then Formula 1 3.5 engine formula (Which was Bernie’s way of getting the manufacturers in WSC to go to F1…gee look you already have an engine that fits our rules). One of great concepts of John Bishop when he created the GTP rules was to base the engine equivalency formula off of a Chevy 350 that anyone could buy and go racing with. Base the top class engine formula off of the Judd engine (or whatever the basic customer engine is) that anyone with enough cash can buy. Allow for different types of cylinder configurations and turbos if desired.

5. Cost: At the end of the day it all comes down to cost, keeps the finances in check. Cap budgets in all areas except for driver salaries. By keeping costs down the potential is there to have a grid full of professional teams all with a chance to be very competitive.


Copart Dreamin’

March 12, 2013 at 11:37 pm

OK. Bad news. The cheaper-than-an-Escort W8 is long gone, replaced by trusty Land Rover Disoveries and Audi TTs. But have no fear – Copart is here.

Copart is the Easter basket of bad ideas. It has a dedicated section just for cast-off projects, cars that were under a tarp in your neighbor’s carport yesterday. Heck, Hurricane Sandy’s victims are a common sight at Copart auctions, so if you’re in the market for a Chevelle littered with salt-cakes, give the Long Island district a call.

But enough chatter. On to Deal of the Day, v 2.OH NO.

A 1980 Saab Turbo. From Arizona, land of prison camps, undocumented citizens and rot-free Swedish goodness. This particular Copart special has a minty interior and the requisite aero bits, like a rear spoiler and those tasty pizza-slicer wheels. Good Lord, I love the 80s. It’s even baby blue!

Salvage title, but who cares. These cars are hard to come by and offer a perfect excuse to invest in rear window louvers and a set of obnoxious Bosch fog lamps. Need I say more?


I just can’t W8

March 12, 2013 at 6:07 pm

So, as this blog grows, we’re going to try and sneak in updates whenever we can. In a test of the emergency project car broadcast system, we have breaking news.


An auction company in New Hampshire is seeking a measly $4,500 for a Passat W8. Who among you has the stones to roll the dice on an eight-cylinder project car that makes jumping rope blindfolded while holding a burlap sack up around your waist look like elementary school gymnastics?

I’ll bet you don’t. I’ll throw the link up later for colorful and passive-aggressive commentary.

Sons of Taki Fantasy Garage: Jonathan’s $150K challenge

March 12, 2013 at 1:46 am

The first Sons of Taki fantasy garage challenge is fairly easy; three cars and $15oK in the bank. I was given the assignment to find an everyday vehicle, a weekend house/mountain bike hauler and a classic. For me it comes down fun, fast and purposeful.

The Everyday Car – 2013 Cadilac CTS-V Wagon. 

Cost – $ 67,155

I picked the CTS-V Wagon because it fits my profession. I’m the Executive Director of a Community Access center. I need a car where I can load in a lot of camera equipment and get to shoots in rapid fashion but also go to meet with business partners, government officials and potential donors while looking as professional as can be. The CTS-V gives me what I need for my job: room, speed and class

The Weekend Hauler – 2013 Ford Raptor SVT

Cost – $50,885

While I’m a GM guy a heart, the Raptor fits my weekend needs of hauling around power tools, lawn furniture and muddy mountain bikes.  The HP allows for quick trips to Lowes and the ability to sneak that quick Sunday morning ride in.


The Classic – 1969 Camaro RS

Cost – $29,900

Credit: Hemmings Motor News

Credit: Hemmings Motor News

I’m redeeming myself with the Camaro. I love the first generation F-Bodies and this RS in Hugger Orange does it for me.  The perfect summertime cruiser for me with the hideaway headlights for cruise nights.  This car can be found on the Hemmings Motor News website: http://www.hemmings.com/classifieds/dealer/chevrolet/camaro/1484209.html


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