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Posts from the ‘Op-Ed’ Category

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.

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

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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17
May

“Corvette Guy”

There are certain undeniable truths in life.  For me, one of them is clear – I am not a “Corvette guy”.  Oh, how I’ve tried.  On paper, this is the best performance car reasonable money can buy.  And yet, with all of the good stacked solidly against me, the small pile of bad outweighs it all.  The emotional connection so important in choosing a car is immediately dashed the second I think about owning a Corvette.  Funny, as there may not be a car infused with more passion from the factory.  Corvettes are constructed in the heart of the USA by a group of people proud to be building them. Talk to any Corvette owner, and they will wax poetic about how Corvettes are an obsession, a lifestyle in the tradition of Harley Davidson and … errr… Apple?  So why will I never own one?

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15
May

Quality in quantity

Twenty-eight.  That is a lot of anything… think about it.  Twenty-eight bottles of beer on the wall takes quite a bit of singing; and twenty-eight Golden Retrievers could make for a lot of sh… shedding.  As an unapologetic Porsche owner & enthusiast, it is tough to admit that twenty-eight variations of the current generation 911 might be too much of a good thing.

The proliferation of the Porsche line-up has made for an order guide nearing the thickness of a Cheesecake Factory menu.  For example, you would think a snow belt buyer would be hard pressed to find a year-round sports car… well look no further than your local Porsche dealership, as there are currently 12 all-wheel drive 911 variants.  For the track minded consumer, it is hard to top the 997.2 generation GT3 & GT3RS.  With gobs of power, options for center lock wheels and carbon ceramic brakes – these are impressive tools by anyone’s definition.  However, Porsche recently announced that they will offer 600 GT3 RS models featuring a 500hp 4.0 liter motor, this after releasing a ballistic 620hp lightened GT2 RS (yes, a rear wheel drive 911 packing more power than the Carrera GT!).  By the time I am finished writing, there may be an 80 calorie Carrera Lite for sale? Read more »

13
May

The demise of the Japanese enthusiast car

What do the S2000 and the Dodo Bird have in common?  Neither had any torque.  Jokes aside, high revving NA motors have been a defining trait of so many fantastic Japanese sports cars.  From bi-polar cam profiles in the famous VTEC, to boosted 4 pots – enthusiasts have been gifted some of the lightest, best handling, most ballistic & affordable products aimed at the enthusiast market from the far East.  And yet, the past decade has seen Japanese OEM’s walking, no running away from us and turning their focus exclusively to people movers. Read more »