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6
Jul

Switching Gears

Imagine this… you are in Lamborghini’s new supercar, the Aventador.  You bury your right foot carpet deep, your head slams into an embroidered bull as a 12 cylinder bomb erupts just inches behind you. The scenery starts to blur… 110… 120… 130… tap.  Wait.  Tap?  Shouldn’t a story this rich in sensory overload tick all of the boxes?  Wouldn’t the “snick” of a perfectly weighted gear lever complete the poetry that is piloting a supercar?  Yes, the Aventador is likely the finest car ever built in Sant’Agata.  It also marks the end of an era, as it is the first car Lamborghini has ever sold without the option of a proper manual gearbox.  Sadly, the latest fighting bull joins Ferrari, Porsche and McLaren in removing a level of driver involvement from their top billed performance offerings.

For those of us who do not live our lives a quarter mile at a time, the experience of driving is valued above and beyond the tenths of a second so important in professional motorsport.  Sure, Cliff’s Notes are faster and more effective than reading a 1,000 page novel – but so much is lost in brevity.  Just as character development, suspense & nuance factor into the enjoyment of a good book, similar elements can be enjoyed in the art of driving a vehicle the old-fashioned way.  I know the arguments… that my way of thinking would have kept the choke around, that evolution has rendered the extra movement useless.  Robots will defeat humans when it comes to mechanical tasks, and they will do so joylessly. Fact is, if the next generation of DCT, SMG & DSG boxes can swap cogs in negative time – I will despise them that much more.  Because with the loss of time and feeling, we lose much more.  Among the thing I love about a good drive is that all of my senses are engaged.  Removing such an integral part of the interaction is to disregard how much closer it brings us to the mechanical occasion of operating a special vehicle.

There is an art form to driving a proper 3-pedal manual gearbox.  Watch Walter Rohrl or Lamborghini’s former test driver Valentino Balboni drive, and you will see motoring as art… deliberate inputs that cannot be replicated by tapping a paddle lightly with your index finger.  When it comes to building the supercars of tomorrow, perhaps it is the vacant seat left by Mr. Balboni (a man who’s tribute car is only offered with 3 pedals) that speaks loudest.

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3
Jul

Stars & Stripes

Happy Birthday America!  I choose to pay homage to this great nation by rattling off my favorite vehicles ever to be produced in the US of A.  The list is in no particular order, and goes eleven deep, because that is how many selections it took me to get to a Camaro.

11.  1969 Chevy Camaro – Raw, beautiful, iconic and it only gets better with age.

10.  Saleen S7 – A true American exotic, world beater, and testament to one mans vision.  Beautiful in any color… and they tried them all!

9.  Corvette C6 Z06 – Yes, even more than the mighty ZR-1, the rawness of the naturally aspirated LS7 motor pulls at my heart strings.  Sounds great, goes like stink and costs as it should.

8.  1995 Mustang Cobra R – Sold only to SCCA members, 250 of these cowl hooded, 5.8 liter V8 track-day hero’s were sold in appliance white with horrific beige cloth interiors stolen from the rental car fleet 6 cylinder version.  Love it.

7.  1996 Dodge Viper GTS – All Vipers should be blue with white stripes.  Like apple pie & baseball… on wheels.

6.  GMC Typhoon – No need for a tow hitch, the only thing this SUV hauls is ass.

5.  1967 Mustang GT500 – Of all the fast Mustangs, this will always be “the one”.

4.  2011 Mustang GT500 – Who’s the BOSS, not the one with the 5 liter, at least not this year!  Big power with a hint of blower whine… tasty.

3.  Shelby 427 Cobra – I wouldn’t even need to drive it; polishing it with a diaper and listening to the rumble of its lumpy cam would be enough for me.

2.  Ford GT40 – The original was worth remaking for a reason.  Always shocking how small this 39 inch supercar is, like a Lotus Exige strapped to a rocket ship.

1.  Ford GT – Though this list is not in order, the GT still had to be #1, as it is the best supercar America will ever build.  I’ll have mine in Tungsten, with no stripes.  Please.

21
Jun

Speed

Caveat:  I do not know the details of Ryan Dunn’s crash, nor do I wish to speculate or place judgment on the events surrounding his death.  I only seek to comment on the question regarding our ability to own high-speed vehicles for public road usage.  I sincerely wish Ryan Dunn’s family, friends and fans my condolences and mourn the loss of a fellow enthusiast.

Following the tragic coverage of Ryan Dunn’s fatal crash, I tuned into TMZ Live (daily at 1:30pm PST @ TMZ.com) and listened as the merits of high-speed capable consumer vehicles were discussed.  Given the nature of the incident, an excellent question was posed; “why are cars sold for public use that can go 190 mph”?  Aside from my own bias, I had a difficult time coming up with an immediate response.

Sure, there are technological answers… gearing, international use and the like – but in the end, these aren’t the best arguments in pleading our case as automotive enthusiasts.  No, I think it’s better to focus on the responsibility of the end user, and to urge drivers (of all cars) to exercise judgment when taking the wheel.  Cars, much like cigarettes, alcohol and firearms are sold to a public with the right to operate them at their discretion.  Sure, there will always be those who misuse each, but for those of us who are passionate about enthusiast automobiles, we have an added responsibility to keep our hobby safe.

All too often, auto buyers shop with their wallets, not their skill level.  With 6,000 lb SUV’s and 200+ mph sports cars on the market, this is a potentially dangerous proposition.  Driving a fast car does not mean driving a car fast.  The throttle pedal has modulation for a reason.  As firearm owners take their guns to the range, we have countless tracks on which to exercise our right foot in a controlled environment.  I hope that this tragic incident may at least serve as a (horrible) reminder to slow down on public roads.  Rest in peace Ryan

15
Jun

Amplified

I have a dark secret.  Long before I was a law abiding, tax paying citizen, I was one of those punk kids with a trunk full of speakers.  It’s true.  It was the mid 90’s, I had a green Chevy Blazer packed with subwoofers, and I could rattle my schools chalk from the parking lot.  Lame, right?  Wrong!  I was awesome.

I remember cruising the local hangout spots, and driving all around the New York Tri-State area to enter sound-off competitions… and yes, I even enjoyed it.  To this day, I blame my hearing on these years, and rightfully so.  When I wasn’t cruising in “Thumper”, I was a wallflower at my local shop trying to learn more.  Making a medium story short, I moved on – into the world of high performance.  Of course, my beloved sound systems had to go, making way for… nothing.  You see, excessive audio and performance are at odds.  Speakers, dynamat and wiring add weight… and bulk is the enemy when you are trying to defy physics.

Though my taste in cars did a 180, my musical taste never changed.  I am still almost exclusively stuck with rock of the 90’s, however, these days I can hear something other than the bass line. Aside from how fantastic the Burmester system is in the new Panamera, I have little knowledge of any happenings in the world of car audio – I haven’t thought about it in roughly 16 years.  I just don’t have reason to care anymore.  That was, until I heard about Doug Bernards.

It was iPad 2 release day, and Doug’s shop, SoundMan Car Audio, was about to steal the show.  Their Piddy Pad Deuce install into the dash of an F-150 (yes, you read that right) was not only innovative (and insane), but OEM perfect in execution.  The game had been moved on, my interest was renewed and I had to learn more.  Turns out, there was a lot to help me.  The Soundman team is featured in a web-released reality show appropriately titled “Amplified”.  Unlike so many network broadcasts, “Amplified” is centered around actual reality (go figure), and is incredibly entertaining. The SoundMan team; Doug, Allyn, Spoon, and company are endlessly amusing, and have created a 30 minute escape from your day that is equal parts Jackass, OC Chopper, & instructional video.  It just works… tens of thousands of Amplified fans can’t be wrong.

So, with my love for the art, and interest in all things Doug – I asked the man himself the following burning questions…

Q:  With factory systems better than ever (and integration into the cars being such a challenge), what is the future of car audio?

A:  The future of car audio is “High End”. installing cheap systems in older cars will get less common as time goes on because even old cars will have navs / premium sound standard in 10 years time. I predict that a lot of the old school shops will be whittled away. The shops that stay around will be the ones who innovate and develop fabrication skills.

Q.  SEMA seems to show the same builds year after year… how can the car audio community move the game forward?

A.  SEMA showcases similar builds every year because they have the same people doing the cars. An extreme stereo system lacks the WOW factor it once had. It is now common place for a show car to have a nicely installed stereo system. It’s going to take more creativity to grab peoples attention in this day and age. thats why ipad integrations are getting so much attention. It’s the first “new” thing to happen to custom car audio in decades.

Q.  You killed it with your in-dash iPad solution… what’s next?

A.  I have a lot of crazy ideas floating around in my head. some of them will never get done, but some will. I have been contemplating flush mounting a 27” iMac into my dash  🙂

Q.  Tell me about Amplified… why do you do it?  Why does it work?

A.  Amplified is very personal to me. I make it because i love what i do and i want to show my work to the world. I’ve always had a love for making videos. as a kid i would spend hours making my own animations. I think Amplified works because its real, and its funny. The SoundMan team is like a family. I think our family dynamic does well on the show. Car Audio is a culture, and i think our shows bring the people together.

Q.  With more than 1.3 million hits on your iPad install… have you had a moment of public recognition?

A.  I’ve gotten a good amount of public recognition with my iPad installs. I was interviewed by CNN and KTLA5, My first iPad install was featured in iCreate magazine and Mac life magazine, as well as many popular web sites like Engadget, Gizmodo, 9to5 Mac and countless others.

Q.  What have you not accomplished that you hope to?

A.  What i’m really hoping to accomplish is to get our shows into the main stream and monetize them. I think our shows will educate people about the intricacies of what we do as well as entertain them. Generating a new source of income will really help me to improve the production quality of the shows, and enable me to tell my story better.

Q.  What is the elusive build?  

A.  I’ve always wanted to get my hands on a Maybach. This car has pretty much every luxury you can think of, but i would love to convert the car into the ultimate spy vehicle complete with a full arsenal of weaponry.

Q.  Favorite car of the moment?  Of all time?

A.  My favorite car of the moment is the BMW M3. the car is a beast. i’m glad to see BMW maintain their place as the ultimate driving machine. My favorite car of all time has to be the Mclaren F1. Sitting in the center of that vehicle mashing down the freeway has to be one of the best feelings in the world.

Q.  What car needs to go away and never come back?

A.  The car i dislike working on most is the early 90’s Corvette. I know a lot of people love the car, and it’s one we do plenty of. We know the car inside and out, but…. there’s just no room behind the dash and the panels just fall apart as you remove them. And the speaker placement is the worst.

Q.  What is the most innovative product on the market right now?  What can we look forward to in years to come?

A.  The most innovative product thus far would be the pioneer App radio. it allows you to use you smart phone apps from the stereo’s UI. It obvious to me that we will see much more innovation in the “Smart stereo” area of car audio. Which i think is going to take many years before we get anything cooler than an iPad in the dash.

and perhaps most importantly…

Q.  How do you make the perfect whip (confused?  Watch “Amplified” and all will become clear)

A.  hahaha. well first you must thoroughly wet the rag and ring it out. Then you have too give it a few practice whips the get the tip of the rag nice and loose. when you whip it you’re going to want to let the rag out slow and snap it back quick.. it’s all in the wrist.

There you have it.  To learn more about Soundman & keep tabs on the gang, check out the gallery below and make sure to watch Season 1 of “Amplified”

13
Jun

Tres Generaciones – Blue Label

The MKVI Golf R meets its older (VR6 equipped) cousins here on American soil.  Until I am able to take the wheel of VW’s hottest hatch, let’s all live vicariously through eurotuner (online content coming soon, including on-track footage at eurotuner.com)

While on the subject of Volkswagen R cars, now is as good a time as any to revisit my review of the MKV R32

5
Jun

Combustion Junction

Earth, I love this place… I plan on sticking around.  Yes, I understand that my automotive enthusiast ways are slowly destroying our home rock.  I am more than willing to do my part to save the planet; I cut up my six-pack holders to protect the dolphins, own a Brita filter, give dirty looks to H2 owners and I am a Sarah McLaughlin song away from giving my life savings to homeless dogs.  What I will not do, not under any circumstances, is give up my love of driving.  I don’t care if Toyota introduces a 500 mpg Prius tomorrow, if it’s not fun to drive – I will not own one.

CLICK PAST THE BREAK FOR MORE…

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30
May

White Knuckle Ride

List great things that came from the 1970’s.  Really, give it a go.  Stumped, right?  It’s even harder when you restrict your list to the automotive realm.  Ahh, the years that gifted us with polyester, disco and the Mustang II.  It wasn’t all bad though… case in point – oh to be alive in the wondrous year 1973.  George Steinbrenner bought my beloved Yankees, Dark Side of the Moon hit record stores (for the younger folks, there were these places… oh never mind) and Porsche released perhaps the most iconic version of their iconic 911.

Being negative four years old at the time, I must admit that I don’t have much recollection of ’73, but as a Porschephile and life long Yankee fan – I give thanks for this year which would re-shape my two most beloved dynasties.  Flash-forward to Memorial Day weekend 2011… while taking a leisurely drive up the PCH, something caught my eye.  Something white, something Porsche shaped… something… ah yes, something special indeed.  A new European classics dealer had parked what must be a 73’ RS clone in their front window – they thought that might drive some traffic their way, and they were right.  I have always wanted one, and in I went to kick tires and tell them their price was a bit high.  I parked my modern 911, strolled in casually, and upon first sight, my jaw hit  black Converse.  Every detail was correct, there was patina around the mirrors…  IT. WAS. REAL.

 I walked around the RS a few times, absorbing in the details, restraining myself from taking the driver seat and making motor noises.  I have been car obsessed for decades, and have never wanted to drive anything more.  In my head, I was in Monaco, wait no… the Stelvio pass – yes, and it was a perfect day.  Blue skies overhead, just enough of a breeze to justify a leather jacket – I am Steve McQueen!  The RS oozes cool.  Park this relic next to its modern day counterpart, say a 4.0 GT3 RS, and the lineage is obvious.  However, whereas the 4.0 screams “HEY, OVER HERE! LOOK AT ME!”, the 2.7 gives e a steely gaze, and whispers something effortlessly cool.

The 2.7 and 4.0 are different cars for different times.  While I can’t admit to having driven either (sigh), I can say that while my own modern 911 crushes the ’84 Targa I learned to drive on in every measureable category – there is something to be said for the nostalgia any classic Porsche.  The weight of the controls, the whooshing of an air-cooled motor, and perhaps oddly; my favorite feature of classic Porsches – the “click” of those perfectly crafted doors.  On paper, the new car certainly asserts its dominance:

CATEGORY

1973 2.7 RS

2011 4.0 GT3 RS

HP

210 @ 6,300

500 @ 8,250

Torque

202 @ 5,100

339 @ 5,750

Weight

2,414 lbs

2,998 lbs

Length

161.5 inches

175.6 inches

Width

65 inches

72.9 inches

Height

52 inches

50.4 inches

Wheelbase

89.4 inches

92.7 inches

0-60

5.5 seconds

3.8 seconds

Top Speed

150 mph

193 mph

What cannot be extracted from numbers is the feel and experience of driving these cars.  While I  hope for a world in which both can    be parked next to my (also imaginary) Carrera GT, I would struggle to pick one.  This is a major  statement for me, someone who as  a  general rule isn’t into older cars.  As a performance enthusiast, give me the newer, hotter, more  reliable machine any day of the  week.  Of course, there are exceptions – and for me, the soul, passion and pedigree of the 2.7 RS is  too much to resist.   Why?  Two  words from the RS’ creation story.  Race homologated.  Like a few of my other all time favorites  (E30 M3, Ferrari 288 GTO,  Porsche 959), the 2.7 RS was built and sold so that it would be eligible for entry in the European GT Championship.  Rule changes in 1972 left the (amazing) 917 ineligible for further competition.  Porsche then took their production 911S, and readied it for racing with additions of a larger 2,687cc 2.7 liter motor, stiffened suspension, larger brakes, wheels and rear fenders, lighter body panels and glass… and last but not least – that beautiful duck tail spoiler.  All in all, 9 pre-production prototypes were built in 1972, and 1,580 examples were sold to the public between 1973 & 1974.

 I fear that the $270,000 2.7 RS will not sell quickly, and that my daily drive past its glass enclosed home will render my days  useless, as I sit and daydream about ripping up canyon roads in my perfect retro-racer.  A wise man once said, you can live in your  car, but you can’t drive your house.  I wonder how my wife would feel about… oh, never mind.

For now, I leave you with a man living such a dream – check out one of my automotive hero’s, Jay Kay of Jamiroquai, as he tears it up in his gorgeous RS  

28
May

Cars & Coffee – 5.28.11

Irvine, CA
Perhaps I am spoiled by the consistent amazingness of Cars & Coffee… nothing blew me away this morning.  Of course, the usual suspects were in attendance; a handful of Italian exotica, all of Germany’s fastest cars as well as some modified JDM & USDM powerhouses.  Worth noting, an insane HKS GTR (that followed me to the show, closing a large gap on the freeway rather quickly), a 1967 SAAB Sonett II still under the care of it’s original owners son & a wild Perana Zagato Milano.  A what now?  Perana, a South African automaker, teamed with famed coachbuilder Zagato for what looks to be a TVR / Corvette mash-up.  You be the judge.
Of course, no day would be complete without some window shopping – check out the immaculate Tesla showroom, featuring a car I will never understand, the Roadster Sport (more on my lack of love for non-combustion motors another time).
25
May

Getting There

I was on the road this week, which means two things:

  1. A short and fairly off-topic post inspired by my travels
  2. We will be back to our regularly scheduled car content on Monday!  See you then…

I hate to fly!  The thought of being 30,000 feet in the air going 700 mph has always been terrifying to me – I am a frequent business traveler, and hate the experience more each time!  Thank goodness I am an auto enthusiast, and a tremendous fan of the great American road trip.  I have driven clear across the country three times (in three years) and yearn to do it again… and again.

On Monday morning I woke up, packed the 911, and headed to Las Vegas for a long night of food, drinks, entertaining & financial loss.   I woke up hours later for meetings, and sprinted back to my car, excited for round two of my (tease of a) road trip.  The opportunity to spend a few hours alone in my car is a therapeutic release & mental cleansing – a time to bond with my machine, and experience all of its capabilities on the open road.  With a garment bag laid out on the rear shelf, and overnight bag on the rear seat – the car was transformed into trekking mode (In a 997 Carrera, I recommend engaging sport mode for easier long-term throttle modulation, going wing-up for better cooling, and latte holders open and filled at all times).  There is something about a road trip… you wake up each day ready for an adventure, and there is usually ample opportunity to find one!  In these times of technological overload, it is one of the few escapes our connected society allows for.  My Blackberry was switched to silent, iPhone to vibrate and stashed in a bag, iPad deuce and laptop out of reach in the back – ahhh…  time to put the hammer down and un-think.

CLICK PAST THE BREAK TO READ MORE & SEE IMAGES

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21
May

Cars & Coffee – 5.21.11

Up bright and early this morning for America’s best weekly car show.  At first glance, nothing truly stood out – that of course until I realized a legit 289 Cobra, Ferrari 275 GTS Roadster (1 of 200 built) and beautiful SAAB Quantum III (never “truly” produced) were in attendance!  On my way home, I stopped by my local Ferrari store to check out a fantastic silver Enzo.

 CLICK HERE or below for the gallery, and enjoy the show!

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