The “clay bar” is a tool among an automobile-detailer’s paraphernalia generally reserved for those with an “above average” commitment to their vehicle’s presentation.
I hadn’t even heard of one until I Googled “removal of paint overspray from auto parts”.
Short story long- I purchased my Acura with a badly pockmarked front bumper, purely a result of having traveled over 150,000 high-speed miles, and an auto dealer with which I have a good personal relationship offered to respray it in factory silver for the price of “on the house”.
When I got the car back there was minor overspray on the engine bay’s soundproofing trim and, most tragically, on my beautiful HID headlamps.
But due to my friend having done several hundred dollars worth of work gratis, I really wasn’t in a position to complain about his execution.
At any rate, the issue had pestered me for months until I finally got around to rectifying it this evening. According to various forums a clay bar was an excellent tool for the job removing overspray from car parts, including headlights. And conveniently they were available at a standard AutoZone-type basic car parts place. I say “basic” because if you’re like me and you almost exclusively involve yourself with old, foreign, and generally obscure vehicles , you don’t get much satisfaction when you “Get In The ‘Zone” as their marketing would have you believe.
But I digress.
Tonight I got the clay bar, read the instructions, and executed as described. Headlights only, since I had other tasks occupying my time for the evening and wasn’t yet convinced a bar of clay was going to have a satisfactory effect in removing pneumatically sprayed paint.
But how wrong I was to have doubted the power of the clay bar.
The bar, resembling a slightly flaccid cake of body soap, managed to almost completely remove the overspray as well as hundreds of miles of road grime. As a bonus, the application process was simple;
“Spray the liquid ‘Quik Detailer’ onto surface desired to be cleaned. Knead clay bar into a disc and rub on lubricated surface. Re-knead as needed when it gets all nasty. Wipe clean with microfiber towel.”
I purchased a kit from Meguiar’s described as simply “Smooth Surface Clay Kit” on the box. All required pieces were included, along with “’60% MORE CLAY!” as proudly declared in gleaming letters on the box. 60% more than what, I couldn’t tell you… you could tell the marketing message was geared toward the limp bizkit, Mountain Dew side of your brain. Oh yes, don’t try and deny you’ve got one of those.
Regardless of what street cred the box may or may not have had, I performed the afore mentioned actions and was extremely pleased with the result.
See below for “clayed” and “nonclayed” photos of the starboard and port side headlights, respectively.
I think the difference is astonishing. The “cloudiness” look that had vexed me is all but eliminated. But I’d be curious to hear what other OCD detailers and also those with a less “discerning” eye see when they compare these two photos.
I’m going to leave one done and the other undone so I can see if the difference is more, less, or as dramatic in the daylight.
The northeastern USA officially had it’s first “favorable weather weekend” seven days ago, and summer vehicles wasted no time in making themselves known.
I spotted this tidy E30 on Franklin Avenue with some of my favorite modifications; french-style amber high beams and a blacked-out grille. I even like the color. Wheels are off an E46; much cleaner than many aftermarket options in my opinion.
Just down the street was this R/60… from the rounded edges and small fuel tank I’d estimate it’s an older one (1960′s). I’d liken my relationship with these bikes to that of Wayne Campbell and a ’64 Fender Stratocaster in classic white with triple single coil pickups and a whammy bar.
They’re so well executed and universally respected, it’s hard to go wrong with a classic Bimmer.
Along the lines of classic, I was keen to investigate these cafe’ed bikes as well. Not BMWs, but chopped to the minimalist “cafe racer” style that seems to be experiencing a resurgence. I’ll take these over a post-2000 sportbike any day, “there’s no school like old school”.
My father’s been taunting me with that adage all weekend as his ’81 commuter snapped to life days ago after winter’s hibernation. My airhead is still languishing on in the back corner of his garage until I can get back out to revive it.
Ah, another day soaking up the oppressive ambiance of a used car liquidation facility.
The edifice that is the Massachusetts Correctional Institution for female offenders looms behind an ominous blockade of barbed wire and steel.
Crammed in the middle is this week’s batch of offerings at ADESA Boston‘s weekly used car auction. This looks like a crop from General Motors just coming off-lease.
On Friday, like every Friday, these gates will open for Boston-area auto dealers to pick over cars and play the time-honored game of “Saints and Scumbags” as they navigate the tumultuous social waters of used car negotiations.
When a big brand drops a particularly outlandish offering on the public, we’re always treated to a bombastic release in the blogosphere.
Mercedes-Benz, however, has taken presentation-drama to a whole new level with the psych-up video they’be just dropped, featuring the new G63 AMG 6X6, which I actually caught on the YouTube channel of Russian car site “AutoReview.ru“.
No, “6×6″ doesn’t refer to the size of the ute-style cargo bed. Though that feature alone would have been enough to render this one of the coolest things to ever leave Mr. Källenius‘s island of Misfit Mercs.
It has tons of power, tons of weight (Four. Four tons.) and five locking differentials. That’s like… way more than the usual (one or two).
If you really want to know how pathetic it makes your 4Runner look, the MSN Auto story is actually quite informative.
If you just want to see this monster guzzle fuel like Early Times whiskey and make a proper ruckus in Sheikh Mohammed’s backyard, you need only scroll down and click play:
My favorite scenes were 1:14, 2:16, and 3:12. But you’re probably going to want to bookmark it right now. In that folder you keep hidden from your wife.
Can’t get enough?
Here’s a quick clip of the military version traversing Australia with some more familiar four-wheeled friends.
Short of a business offer from a Nigerian prince, what’s the best thing you can find on the internet? Obviously, pictures of cars you don’t recognize! With that in mind, let me indulge your desire for distraction with this photo I found-
Taken in Monaco about two years ago, it reveals a lineup of true exotics parked in a storage garage… let’s allow our imaginations to fill in the location as next to a racetrack or airport.
The two on viewer’s left caught my eye first. The orange one’s a bit Spyker-ish, but the grey… decidedly unknown. Searching placed the grey sports car on the far left as a Benarrow PB5.
What’s your guess… Italian? British? Korean?
Of course not. That chunky, swooping musculature and Castle-based marquee could only come from a designhaüs in Deutschland.
In fact, the car built off an Audi A5. You like it better already, don’t you?
The relationship is quite apparent in side profile shots of the car; the Audi silhouette is closely retained. A few moments of research report it shoves over 500 horsepower through a manual transmission to an AWD drivetrain. You can see it in action in their cheesy promo video here:
The orange vehicle to the Benarrow’s left is another German called the Melkus RS2000GT. Apparently powered by a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine that produces 300 horsepower (awesome) its counterpart the “GTS” gains an extra 50 from the same displacement. Hopefully someone remembered to lower the cylinder compression ratio on that thing before jacking the boost pressure up a few PSI.
Sadly, it seems the Melkus has only been caught on camera in shotty cellphone snaps. Here are some clips anyway:
The rest of the cars may look pretty familiar (Cayenne, Maybach, SLR, 911) however the photographer reports each car is modified so extensively, the respective tuners saw fit to rename the vehicles themselves.
I love when little shops get brave enough to invest the time and money to bring their own creation to the streets. It’s probably not a great return on investment (if one exists at all) but you’ve got to admire the execution of dreams.
The Cayenne was done by Merdad Design, the Maybach by Xenatec (is that a penis pill company?), and the two sports cars on the far viewer’s right are Gemballa products. Gemballa is an impressive institution- not only are they one of the few tuners to have a legitimate website, but they also the audacity to rename a 911 the “Avalanche GTR 800 EVO-R“. Sorry guys, but Ferdinand Porsche would be fucking furious.
Still, a pretty cool collection of machines we will likely never see in the wild.
Note; it has been reported that Xenatec is now out of business. Probably because they thought this was a good idea.
Few adore their means of conveyance the way I do.
Most people don’t lovingly detail their car’s interior every week, powerwash road salt off their undercarriage all winter, or require maintenance only be completed by themselves or overpriced brand-specific specialists.
That’s because while I treat my cars, trucks, and motorcycles like pets, others chose to treat them like appliances. Even a step further; appliances they hate.
I offer an anonymous “local mom” as an example… and I bet yours is pretty similar; She fastidiously maintains her wardrobe, expresses substantial annoyance when people track mud into her house, and is generally proactive at maintaining her belongings.
But with her car, it’s a completely different story. This mum allows the carpet and surfaces to become absolutely filthy. Shrugs off minor exterior damage. And definitely has no idea what a ”service interval” is.
She glares at her gauges with contempt when they display a warning as simple as “service required” or “low tire pressure”.
Or my personal favorite; “that weird green light in the shape of a skateboard on a train track” -which is an actual quote from someone describing the “Cruise Control” light of a late 90′s Land Rover. To be fair, that light is pretty unintuitive to someone who’s never been on a highway in the UK.
And I don’t mean to be sexist by calling out a mom here, because plenty of dads and dudes are guilty of this as well.
But I digress…
My point being I never understood why perfectly intelligent people treated their cars, often one of the biggest financial commitments in their life, like disposable toys.
That is, until I had to borrow somebody’s 2008 Toyota Camry LE.
How’d I end up in what sounds like a very mild-mannered motorcar you might ask?
It’s pretty standard, really; I crashed my beloved UA6 into my house the other week (don’t worry about it) so I had to leave it somewhere for a minor respray. While getting routine service at Acura of Boston, I asked for a damage appraisal- they wanted $1,000 to set my car back to beautiful.
After I finished crying, I grabbed another two cups of free waiting-room coffee and hauled ass to one of the local car dealers I have a professional relationship with.
He “knew a guy”, obviously, and said I could borrow something out of his inventory while my car was being “meticulously” resprayed by “qualified professionals” behind a tarp in some Metro North back yard. I was a little wary of those quotation marks… but when I was told the price would be “on the house” I threw caution to the wind and figured it couldn’t possibly come back looking worse.
When the time came to grab a loaner, my eyes gravitated toward a 2004 Escalade- in gleaming white with a chrome nosejob and 22′s. Would you be surprised to learn it had found its way onto that lot after being repossessed for the second time?
I wasn’t too keen to imagine the fuel bill on that monster… but I did rather like the idea of throwing a J. Crew sweater over my shoulders and driving it to see my lady in Brooklyn where I could finally realize my #HipsterDreams and be the most ironic person on her block.
But when my associate returned from his office, he had the key to his “regular loaner”; the 08 Camry I described above.
Well, I didn’t really describe it. That’s because there’s not much to describe… exactly why I didn’t like it, and why I now completely understand the general apathy toward autos of the non-car-enthusiast public.
Some people just haven’t driven proper cars!
Cars need personality. Feeling. Characteristics that make you love and hate them. The Camry had none of these.
From the outside, fine, it’s a forgettable design but it’s tidy enough. Inside, it’s beige and baby blue.
Beige. And baby blue. Two colors scientifically proven to make you feel like
a real winner you’re trapped in a dentist office waiting room.
The seats didn’t do much to improve my general outlook on life either. The squishy unpatterned-cloth reminded me of the couch my buddy Jeff used to have in his basement. That analogy applies to both the styling and ability to absorb a human at an alarming rate.
Unlike said couch, at least the Camry didn’t reek of mold and grease from from pizza and bicycles. Ah, childhood.
To the Camry’s further credit, it also started in a timely manner, even propelled itself forward with the transmission in “D” and throttle pedal applied. But driving the car… no, that didn’t even happen. ”Moving” the car would be a more accurate description of the vehicle’s road manners.
Commanding the Camry was like curling. Not pumping iron, I mean that Canadian olympic game everyone loves to love.
You rapidly jiggle your arms and hope you’re able to direct the vehicle where you want it to go. The car then responds with alacrity of an octogenarian and the nimbleness of an ice floe.
Edmunds.com called it “pleasant to drive“. No way. It’s a chore.
If this was the only experience I had ever had with cars, I wouldn’t like them at all. I’d get grumpy and not understand why they demanded more money from me every three-to-five thousand miles. I definitely wouldn’t be writing this blog.
Maybe I’d be traveling the world in search of the coolest laundromats to wash my black t-shirts in.
Is this an editorialized review? Yah. If you can call it a review, call it a review of an experience rather than an automobile. If you want to compare this car’s fuel consumption/safety rating against the others in it’s class go elsewhere. If you’re ready to take the plunge and join the ranks of the road rovers and petrosexuals, get behind the wheel of something else.
Something with character. With personality. What the French call a certain… I don’t know what.
Find it and trust me- you’ll never go back to driving that rolling dentist’s office.
I could hardly contain my elation upon seeing this parked just a hundred meters down the street from me on my way to work on this particularly frigid morning. That goofy trademark “polo stripe” down the hull indicates this is an older 90″, possibly even pre 1990. ”Tdi” badging and minisnorkel on the bonnet denote a diesel.
Australian auto-armorer TJM supplied the front bumper, and that “chequerplate” style armor trim is decidedly Euro-style. (American offroaders tend to favor “diamond-plate” for this application). The wheels are NATO issue with dedicated off-road tires, a lift has clearly been fitted as well. The whole package makes for a very rare beast indeed, at least here in America.
I raised an eyebrow in suspicion as I scrolled through the rental car options for a Gulf Coast SCUBA expedition I was planning for Christmas 2012.
You had to be 30 to qualify for the 911 and the Mustang Convertible could only be had in a V6, so I was left with no logical option but to go most-cost-effective.
There, on the bottom of the list (who can resist looking at cars by “Most Expensive” first?) was the heading “ECONOMY”
“Nissan Versa or similar.”
I ran through alternatives in my head. There had to be something cooler I could drive for the week.
Could we get on with a scooter? One of those two-person bicycles I’ve seen in P-Town? Perhaps even some alternative means of conveyance?
But none of those ideas landed with Sydney, my dive buddy, so a supermini from Alamo Rent-A-Car it was.
Carrying on with the theme of “cheapest-possible-transport” we touched down in Tampa, FL at something like two in the morning.
While my sidekick sought our luggage, I was charged with getting us mobilized. Alamo’s desk was closed and I was greeted with this sign:
Seems logical enough I guess… though it didn’t at the time, I’ll confess to at least one “bonus lap” around the garage looking for the location this sign was describing.
Finally reaching the desk I was met with the exact scenario I had been bracing myself for- a line, complete with disgruntled employee, disgruntled customer ahead of me, and flat-out furious five-month-old screaming at the top of his/her (its?) lungs.
The decision on which human to engage was easy enough. I nodded at the baby and offered what comfort I could;
“I hear ya, bro. Florida airport at 2am? Fahgetaboutit.”
I figured I could get away with a Seinfeld-era New Yorkism in Tampa… they couldn’t possibly have advanced past 1998 yet, right? At any rate the child’s mother was not amused. I pretended to ignore her by trying to think of some witty Facebook Check-In to peck into my phone.
What felt like ninety minutes later the one person in line ahead of me was allowed to leave the glass prison we were occupying and I was meant to approach the bench.
The first stage of negotiation began almost immediately; ”You need to have a return flight to rent through this policy” grumbled the car tender.
“Right, I’ve got one. Here” I replied, producing a document with both directions of flights, booking numbers and confirmation numbers like it was Dr. Who’s psychic paper.
Of course, the desired effect was not reached. She didn’t believe me until I read the ticket to her out loud… perhaps she couldn’t read, but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she just forgot her glasses that night.
She then had somebody fetch the car, which was not a Nissan Versa at all.
To my pleasant surprise, the vehicle I’d be entrusted with by the Alamo rental company was a 2013 Ford Focus SE hatchback. Fresh Continental tires on aluminum rims and just shy of three thousand miles on the clock.
“Would you like insurance to cover any damage you may inflict upon the vehicle during your rental?”
I looked back to size up the Focus once again. Not an ST (performance variant) model, not a proper three-pedal, but I liked the look right away and reckoned we could have some fun together.
“Insurance? Ho yah.”
Paperwork signed; I was finally free to retrieve my special lady and the luggage she had presumably recovered.
As I buckled in I prepared myself to adhere to the standard rental car credo; WWJD.
What Would Jason Statham Do?
Everyone knows being behind the wheel of a vehicle not owned by you or anyone you’ve ever met is free license to behave like an absolute imbecile on the road with complete disregard for the safety of yourself and others.
Without so much as a glance in the rearview mirrors I mashed the accelerator into the carpet and felt the front wheels tug and chirp as I began barreling toward a concrete wall. A ninety degree left turn was negotiated easily by dropping the wheel and snapping the handbrake with a quick countersteer. Unable to find the headlamp switch with everything ablur, I plunged through the Tampa Airport terminal parking lot at full noise in total darkness. Using my bat-like sonar sense I measured my distance from the walls by the volume of the echoing tire wails, pinning the tachometer to the rev limiter as the car corkscrewed down the garage-exit ramp. With the terminal in sight, I charged ahead before getting back on the handbrake. The car squealed to a halt through a 450O spin, pointing the tailgate, which began opening as the car came to rest, toward Sydney who was waiting on the curb.
And I’m pretty sure if any of that had actually happened she would have torn her clothes off right there and jumped in my lap. At least, that’s how it seems to work out for the other guy.
Since Sydney and I had travelled to Florida specifically for the purpose of SCUBA diving, the bulk of our time there had been allocated to that activity. When wind proved too severe for our boats to disembark (both days!) we were left with more time to experience the pleasures of Gulf Coast Florida; grain-alcohol daiquiris, line dancing, and in our case the 2013 Focus SE.
Let me disclose that I haven’t spent much of my automotive career as a fan of domestic vehicles. First building cars in earnest around 2004, the American cars my friends and I could afford (things from the 80′s and 90′s) just felt so much “cheaper” than their European or even Japanese counterparts.
And, yes, a certain California couple may have had more influence then I’d like to admit on my penchant for Hondas and Mazdas as I entered the world of tuning.
But since then, things have changed. Starting with the 2006 renaissance of the Mustang, Ford in particular has been on the up-and-up for the last few years in terms of style, performance, and overall value.
When the first Fusion came out, both my father and I had an opportunity to drive a few variants and were pleasantly surprised with every aspect of the car. Now, the thing looks as lovely as an Aston Martin for christsake.
The Focus, while not quite as striking in appearance, is very tidy for a supermini. And more significantly, leagues ahead of what domestic cars in this size and price point were ten years ago.
The car we had, wearing white paint befitting of its Floridian backdrop, featured a nice balance of chiseled lines and swoops. It’s not at all ostentatious, but really looks like it was designed with care. The back compliments the front, the sides tie the tip and tail together, and the whole car just looks correct.
We paused by a causeway in Sarasota for a quick photo shoot, give yourself a virtual walkabout;
Being a rental car, our Focus was equipped with minimal frills and options. But the Ford factory infotainment setup; a Microsoft-based system called “SYNC”, had an aesthetically pleasing layout and was easy enough to operate. You get two little screens; one featuring driver/vehicle focused information that’s logically located between the clocks, and another keystoning the center console for audio, ect. I didn’t bother trying to pair my phone to test the Bluetooth functionality, but the option was there as was an auxiliary audio input. Come to think of it, I didn’t test that either. What the hell was I doing all week?
Well, I did get to road test the vehicle a fair amount due to the fact that our scheduled engagements were cancelled for the week. The first thing I had to conquer was my discomfort with an automatic transmission. Having never owned an ATX, it always takes me a few miles to re-acquaint with a two pedal layout. The Focus made this pretty easy though; the car’s automatic shifted smoothly and didn’t feel awkwardly “between gears” at any speed, unlike some auto’s I’ve piloted recently.
Acceleration to highway speeds was more than adequate if not exactly up to Statham-Standard, and the car an cruise comfortably with Florida’s fast ‘n furious freeway traffic.
That is actually not a joke- I was amazed at the pace I was being overtaken at by petrol pickups with local license plates. Floridians got places to go.
Sydney was a fan as well, and gave me a chance to clamber about the cabin while she took the helm. The rear seat is comfortable for 6′ adults, and since the cargo bay easily swallowed our gear I’d say this vehicle would be able to accomodate twice and many people and travel-paraphernalia as we taxed it with.
With about 600 miles of driving, a lot of that in urban traffic, we averaged just under 32 MPG. At least according to the car’s computer. We only refueled once- right before returning the vehicle to avoid the surcharge. It was then that I discovered the funky “capless” fuel filler. Idiot proof, I love it!
So, what more is there to say about this reasonable little compact car I lived with for a week? It’s competent, cute, not too expensive, and seems like it’ll hold together well enough. Not a riveting driving experience, not an asphalt-eater or a rock-crushing off-roader. But as an urban runabout, its intended disposition, it’s most agreeable indeed.
It’s a lot more pleasant, in my opinion, than comparable Toyotas and Nissans. Though I think I’m a little too much of a Honda fanboy to completely sell this against a Civic. But if you passed up the latter in favor of a Focus at a great price, I wouldn’t hold it against you.
Looks like a Focus comparably-equipped to the one we had cashes out at about nineteen grand. Check out Ford’s site yourself for a more complete spec-list, and of course an always-fun “Build Your Own” app.
As Nemo raged last night, so too did many residents of Metro West at the Brighton Beer Garden, Joey’s, and whatever that Irish place is called in between them. Apparently a few Allston bars were open as well.
Nothing like the refreshing watery fizz of Bud Light or weak of prospect of hooking up with a stranger to bring Bostonians together through these difficult times.
Despite a minimal interest in such things myself, I reckoned a trek through the blizzard would be a riot and a great excuse to don some of my old expedition gear in earnest.
With a few sweaters, L.L. Bean hoodie, my faithful keffiyeh, and the same Carhartt jacket I used in the Swedish Arctic, and plunged into what would probably be the only exciting walk to Brighton Center all year. Besides that time I got to pet that German Shepherd puppy.
I provisioned with a sleeping bag and small flask, the latter to maintain motivation en route and the former in the outside chance I’d have to sleep on some strange couch should I be unable to continue.
I didn’t expect to see anybody out there besides Mr. Tumnus, but I was impressed by the impetuousness of the dozen or so Brightonites I encountered carrying snowboards and bottles of Captain Morgan.
As I write this morning, the snow dumps on. A diesel DRW Ford has been running up and down my street in what seems like an exercise in redundancy.
Perhaps I’ll offer to refill his Dunkin’ Donuts mug with a french-pressed delicacy in hopes I might entice him to free my Acura…
Which is looks like it’s going to stay well put for the foreseeable future.
Here inside RoadRoving HQ, we’re hunkered down with coffee, computers, and some back-issues of Rovers Magazine.
MA Governor Deval Patrick (D) has just issued an executive order banning cars, trucks, motorcycles, and presumably every other road-registered form of conveyance from Massachusetts’ roads starting at 4pm today (February 8, 2013).
State officials say; “The travel ban applies statewide and bans all motor vehicle traffic starting at four, [and lasting] until the ban is lifted.”
Hm. All motor vehicles, eh? I’m putting the word out: Any pedi-cabbie who’s man enough to take advantage of this situation, bring a bottle of The Macallan to the RoadRoving Metro West headquarters and I’ll tip at least 30%.
Just kidding, we keep enough reserve here to survive inundation (or house arrest?) until Summer 2015.
Public safety workers and public works vehicles “critical to government functions” are exempt of course.
For you hoons who reckon this is a perfect time to practice drifts, donuts, and other vehicular nonsensery without the inconvenience of passive motorists… you’re right of course… but you risk a penalty for up to one-year in prison and a fine (amount undisclosed) for the privilege.
“There will be great temptation to play in the snow [following the storm] and so forth, and I totally understand, but please, please exercise caution and use common sense,” said Governor Patrick. You know he can’t wait to build an epic sidewalk snowtunnel in front of the State House tomorrow.
…that I could never think of one to adequately surmise my reaction to this hunting-camo’ed Jeep Grand Cherokee.
I spotted this monstah at an auto auction over the Summer and completely forgot to share it with the world. Thank god I came across the photos while deleting the “old junk” out of my phone’s camera roll, this treasure might have remained hidden from you forever!
Here in Metro Boston we see a few “TERRORIST HUNTER” permits on the backs of F-150′s, “Ducks Unlimited” stickers on lifted Sierras, even the occasional pair of prosthetic testicles hanging from trailer hitches.
But I frankly, I thought I’d have to travel well into the depths of northern New Hampshire to find something like this. Or, at least to some of the wackier full-sized dioramas they put in the L.L. Bean Outlet Store.
I’ve got to give this guy credit- that paint job is extremely well done. And the “faux-rock” bumper panels? I mean, this car has cooler landscaping than some minigolf courses. Though he made a surprising choice for a vehicle that was obviously built for dedicated off-roading. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a ZJ (first-gen Grand Cherokee) on a trail. Ever.
But hey, maybe that’s because the camo’ paint job was so damn good!
Since this truck was at a dealer auction, it’s likely the bloke who built it traded it in to another dealer for a newer vehicle. Can you imagine the look on the salesman’s face when I saw (or didn’t see) this thing?
I hope whatever he bought next is just as committed to whatever his new hobby is. Former owner, if you read this, please email me pictures of your new project.
…and hundreds of ancillary questions popped into my head when I saw this 1985 Toyota Corolla, in what appears to be damn good condition, sitting on an auction lot with less than fifty thousand miles on the clock.
Yes, it started and ran just fine. Though the engine block was coated in a thick layer of oil, indicative of a blown head gasket (at least at one point).
Would you believe it sold for about $1,500? Hopefully to a museum owner. Otherwise somebody is going to quickly realize how annoying it is to have a car for which nobody can supply tires.
People in Boston love to complain about winter driving. In preparation of fording foul weather they buy 4WD and AWD cars in droves, touting their dependability when they have to brave school-canceling conditions to get to Blockbuster or the grocery store.
But let’s be real guys, were the streets of the greater Boston area ever so gnarly, for so long, that you could justify guzzling fuel all year with a center differential adding drag to your station wagon?
Alas, who am I kidding… the people I’m concerned with don’t know what a center differential is.
I’m not going to stand by this claim for those living north of the MA border, but for drivers keeping most of their motoring within 50 miles of downtown beantown- you’d get on just fine with RWD and a few hours reading on how to drive in the snow.
Now if you’re reading this and calling me an idiot, here’s your chance to laugh like Dr. Evil.
I keep sport tires on my Acura all year because 1- I think I’m man enough to master the snow without studs and 2- that’s what the car was wearing when I bought it and I’m too poor to afford a second set of wheels.
This year, the weekend after Christmas placed me in upstate New York with the easy task of driving twenty-something miles from my grandmother’s house to the farm on the other side of the Hudson where my special lady was staying. Under normal conditions, the trip would forty-something minutes and be quite scenic.
On this day, the skies decided to open up like a broken saltshaker and start dumping champagne powder about an hour before I powered up my engine.
By the time I reached the highway visibility was down to a hundred meters, the breakdown lanes were littered with the carnage of rear-endings and spinouts, and state police had cut the speed limit in half.
This of course was also the time I remembered I had meant to replace my windshield wipers the last twenty times I visited AutoZone. The pathetic ribbons of rubber, all that remained of the once-glorious Bosch range toppers the previous owner had splurged on, groaned in protest with each stretch across the glass as salt and slurry were smearing all over my field of vision.
Dear mum was blowing up my comm system from back at grandma’s, delighting in acting out a cliché of panic as usual.
But bless the great state of New York, as they had been quick enough in dispatching rescue vehicles and warning lights that I was able to draft amber strobe lights all the way across US-84 eastbound.
West of the Hudson, I was on my own.
Risked a concentration lapse for an illustrative photo; that’d be a “winding road” warning off to the right as seen through the poorly-cleaned windshield of my TL.
Veering off the highway I quite literally skidded under the shelter of a fuel station in hopes that I might kick some snow off my undercarriage and clear my windshield with my sleeve before braving the winding secondary roads that lead into my destination in the Catskills.
My tires were caked with crud, taking the form of Flintstone-style steamroller wheels. I pawed a few lumps of ice melting salt from the barrel between petrol bowsers and rubbed it all over each tire.
That’s correct. I knowingly, willingly, and even intentionally increased the exposure of my vehicle to the insatiable metal-eating appetite of road salt in the interest of traction.
I could only justify it by telling myself the car would stand a better chance against the slow torture of corrosion than the alternative- a virtually inevitable impact with an obstacle.
Climbing back into the cockpit I made ready for the remainder of the journey.
Ten miles of winding, slippery road wrought with danger and idiots in Outbacks lied between me and the welcoming arms of a gracious hostess.
I accepted the challenge and nosed out from under the awning. The car bucked and yawed in protest for almost the entirety of the trip, but a combination of light throttle pressure and traction control made the journey a successful one. Albeit ninety minutes longer than I had anticipated.
With the destination visible on my GPS screen, just when I thought I was in the clear, I came up on this:
The car stuttered in protest.
Could those planks of timber support the sedan I was piloting? Because that “bridge” looked like it was built out of tree bark by the animals that helped Cinderella get dressed.
I rang to confirm I was in the right place. Yes, my headlights were visible from the house window. And if my car had eyebrows, one would definitely have been visible as well- raised in disbelief.
Sure, I’d crossed sketchier bridges in heavier trucks. But those were Australian diesels- just as happy to splash in the river of which the bridge spanned as to stay dry on the road above.
And yet- that bridge marked the last barrier between myself and the company for which I had been pining all week. I crept over in safety and breathed a deep sigh of relief as my tires escaped unscathed by splinters. On the other side, trip proved well worth the trouble.
So, yes, there was this one time I wish I had sprung for snow tires.
Until the CTS Coupe arrived a few years ago, Cadillac products from the late 70′s to present day carried little to no cache with most auto enthusiasts.
You don’t see anybody modifying Cateras, and there’s nothing collectable about an Escalade.
And yet their angular early 00′s crossover known as the SRX has caught my fancy and I dare to say I like it.
My interest was piqued when I realized they could be had with a lovely panoramic sunroof that is almost completely retractable. With the glass in place, excellent interior lighting and ambiance is created. But best of all, the window is so massive that once the glass is retracted you’ve effectively got yourself a targa top.
As long as you could resist installing a ski rack, you’d have yourself a very pleasant summer driving experience in this car.
I’m even feeling the styling just a little. Angular, aggressive, albiet little… like a terrier with a mean streak.
I’m imagining one of these setup like an SRT Grand Cherokee; massive brakes and an even bigger engine roaring out of a center-exit exhaust. Some ostentatious interior-stitching and it could be great fun to mix it up with Range Rovers other luxury barges peacocking in the drop-off area at ski resorts and beaches alike.
The new bodystyle is even sexier, and I imagine a lot more polished inside.
Maybe I’ll go ahead and pitch this idea to Cadillac and see if I can get my hands on a press loaner…
At the end of last fall, I was lucky enough to get some seat time in one of those pokey little Toyotas everyone got so excited about when they arrived on the public stage twelve months ago.
Why didn’t I write it up then, like a real journalist? I think that question just answered itself.
At any rate being a real enthusiast at least, I was not short on excitement to have a go at the helm of an FR-S.
A Boston-based nightlife event operator named Ed had taken delivery of one of the few RWD Scions to be sold in New England, and was kind enough to show me around it one night outside his office.
I’m going to make the claim that this car looks much nicer in person than it does in photos. Long nose (relatively speaking), squat rear fenders, and a sly expression in the headlights makes for a pretty appealing appearance on your screen here. In reality, all those great features are there… and the whole package looks a lot less cartoon-like. In a sedate color like a dark silver or blue, I could imagine one of these sneaking through the city relatively undetected.
The rear quarters and taillight section (not pictured, obviously) remind me a bit of a new Z4 hardtop, while the long-nose (keep in mind, I say that “relatively” speaking) I’d like to think pays homage to the Toyota 2000GT.
On second thought, that comparison feels like a reach. What kind of family resemblance are you seeing here?
The inside of this car is tiny. After getting used to the stateroom spaciousness of my TL’s interior, climbing into a coupe of any kind can feel a bit claustrophobic. But wedging oneself behind the little wheel of an FR-S would make a Civic feel like a flagship.
That’s not a bad thing, it’s all part of the experience. Some people like little.
It’s hard to argue with the gauge setup. From a performance-standpoint, centermount tach is huge (literally). The focus on engine speed with the speedo tucked below like an afterthought lets you pretend you’re playing Gran Turismo as soon as you crank the ignition.
Or, as many of my internet-using automotive accomplices would eloquently put it:
The rest of the interior is typical Scion construction quality; you get what you pay for in this department.
And of course… The Drive
Now was the chance to figure out if all the drama insinuated by that full-moon tachometer was for real or if this was an xA in a Tiburon’s clothing.
Being on public roads, in somebody’s brand-new personal car, there was only so much “testing” I was able to accomplish. And I can’t contain the disappointment I experienced when I put my left foot down for a clutch, only to be met with a giant brake pedal.
Powering up and powering on the engine didn’t yield the kind of voracious roar I had been spoiled by spending a few summer days in a friend’s DB9, but it did remind me how fuel efficient this vehicle must be.
Nonetheless, I can report that the little machine can indeed go zero-to-the-speed-limit in fairly short order, and is delightfully willing to navigate between parking lot lampposts at significantly stronger clip than most cars over two meters in length.
Could this ATX four-banger catch my six-speed TL on an on-ramp merge? No. Could it beat me on a gymkhana course? Probably. Could it beat my full-size sedan in a race around the isles and obstacles of a Toys “R” Us store? For sure.
Then what’s the verdict on this little rascal? Clarkson loved it. The forum following is cult-like. I was almost able to get over my phobia of all-motors-modern enough to enjoy it. But like almost everything in the “affordable sport” market- I can’t really make the case for a new one of these over a well-used M3. And secondhand, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find one that hasn’t been thrashed.
But for the lucky few who are able to pick one up from a careful owner in the next couple years, this will be a reasonable motor. Perhaps even collectable, if anyone can keep theirs clean enough.
Aston Martin has revived what may be one of the coolest pieces of nomenclature to exist in the world of automobilia.
Yes, the Vanquish has returned to AM’s lineup.
“Vanquish” …a word at once elegant and aggressive. Exactly what Aston’s team was going for when they slapped the badge on this coupe; a vehicle they’re billing as a “Super Grand Tourer”.
Hey, Aston Martin marketing department, I’ll give you that one for free. Lend me a car already?
Well, they wouldn’t. But they did let me sit in one.
Alright, fine, not even.
A friend who owns a DB9 is at Aston Martin New England all the time for repairs (haha, sorry couldn’t resist), and as a result is on their mailing list. He forwarded me his invitation to see one fo the first new Vanquishes here in the US which was being touted around highline dealerships all over the region.
Yeah… scraping the credibility barrel here. But when it comes to Astons, an anglophile like myself has no shame.
I stole away to the Waltham, MA Aston/Lotus store around lunchtime to have a look. Nestled in the center of the showroom, completely devoid of fanfare, sat the 2013 Vanquish.
My first impression? Nothing short of what I expected: It is a tremendously exquisite machine to behold.
Even with the engine disengaged the car lept off the pavement (floor?) and into my face. Swooping lines of white, bristling with chunks of exposed carbon fiber, encasing a crisp quilt-stitched interior the exact same red as a cherry-dipped-kiddy cone at Dairy Queen. So perfect you’d think you were watching TV.
Moving into the cockpit the interior didn’t blow me away as much as the bodywork, but I was a huge fan of the wacky flat-tire shaped steering wheel. I’m pretty sure that’s illegal in this state, but surely the gentleman scholar who will buy this car won’t concern himself with such things as “passing inspection”.
The rear seat, which is actually an option, is reserved for Hobbits. Since the likelyhood of one of them finding their way into an Aston Martin is low, my money’s on the back seats never getting used ever.
The car is powered by a 6 liter high-compression V12 that burps out 565 horsepower and just shy of 460 lb/ft of torque. That, mated to a six-speed “touchtronic” automatic, lets the car leave a light to 62 MPH in 4.1 seconds and top out at just over 180 MPH. Fuel economy is surprisingly reasonable at 19.6 in combined driving.
It breaks my heart to report that while the engine did indeed look glorious with imposing symmetrical intake manifolds ever so slightly eclipsed by a beastly swaybar, I was not permitted to start it. So my review of the Vanquish has to end… here.
There were many other exciting distractions at the Aston store though, including a Rapide (that funky four-door) which I learned has a terribly uncomfortable back seat, and an exceptionally tidy V12 Vantage. Finished in a glossy interpretation of British Racing Green with just enough carbon trim, suede headliner and a proper three-pedal six speed, this would have been my dance partner of choice.
The service bay, which was visible through a large glass internal window behind the Vanquish, was quite literally a treasure trove of many cars I lust after on a daily basis.
A near-perfect widebody 911 eclipsed a Mercedes 300SL and deep in the garage I spotted a Lamborghini Miura; the only one I can ever remember seeing… ever.
I made a note to come back the next time this dealership was on my way someplace. Maybe I’ll be able to sweet talk my way into a test drive after this favorable review.
A pleasant stroll through one of Billerica, MA’s junkyards yielded a spotting of this International Scout. From the face and tail I’d say somewhere in the early 60′s vintage, from the condition I’d say this poor thing will never see active duty again. We can only hope it’s legacy will live on as parts in other Scouts still registered and running.
The parking lot was hosting an old Citroën DS- I’m not familiar enough with those to guess the age, but that face is absolutely unmistakable.
Hopefully the fact that it’s being stored out here means one of the scrappers had the good sense to keep this car aside from the horde of Park Avenues and Monte Carlos quite literally piled like pancakes within the fence of the ‘yard itself.
What’s left of this car would make a great lawn ornament or interior sculpture for somebody with a big enough house. Any takers?
Merc’s internationally-prevalent off roader known as the G-Class, G-Wagen, or “Geländewagen” to traditionalists has carried pretty much the same look since it’s design was suggested to Mercedes by the Shah of Iran in 1979.
Oh yes, I had to cross-check that Wikipedia entry with the boys over at TopGear.com… but I have verified that is indeed the true origin of this riotously aggressive looking 4×4.
In most of the world, the G-Class can be found in several engine/wheelbase/appointment levels. If you don’t mind an older one with cloth seats and a smaller powerplant, a ‘wagen can be a legitimate option for those needing a dependable and capable 4×4.
Here in the US, Mercedes would have us believe that only the 500+ and AMG levels exist. Combine that with limited shipment counts and you’ll be able to work out why many of us seeking luxury off-roaders have to stick with Land Rovers, which are much cheaper and easier to find.
I’ve sat in brand-new G55′s at the Mercedes store before, but when I saw this 2002 model waiting in line to be auctioned off I saw a unique opportunity to explore a G-Class that had actually been lived in.
This blue breadbox had over a hundred k on the clock, gnarly-soggy carpeting in the cargo area, and a host of MILs on the dash, but the interior and exterior were in fairly good knick.
Sitting at the helm and pushing all the buttons, moving the truck around a bit in the lane, and catching myself in the mirror, I could definitely see myself importing an old diesel G-Wagen and outfitting it as my vehicle of choice for long range expeditions. For a diehard Land Rover fan that’s saying a lot, but this Benz ticked all the boxes.
It’s got an imposing exterior presence, excellent visibility from the cockpit, ample cargo room and a rough-n-tumble military surplus shape.
Plus the three-pointed-star in the grille says “Pardon me, peasant” almost as well as the raised-letter RANGE ROVER stamp on that vehicle’s bonnet. Main difference being… the Mercedes might actually, you know. Work.
Time to hit eBay…
After six months operating out of my dear friend’s porch, spending nearly half that time looking for a better sleeping/working space, I have finally begun organizing a new command center on the Metro West side of Boston.
Though it lacks a helipad and tank full of laser sharks, the angular brick building I’m now calling HQ does have sufficient sleeping space, ample office space, and a batcave-esque parking situation that requires tripping over laundry and discarded moving boxes to get between the house and a vehicle. Now that’s a high-performance security setup if I ever saw one.
At least my Acura gets to sleep soundly in the comfort of a stone cell… which I can’t wait to remove the trash from and fill with LED floodlights.
The garage is still full of dust and leaves, but at least it’s safe from falling branches and vandalistic youths. A high priority task this summer will be the polishing and decorating of the vehicle storage space. I’m thinking a high-res glamor photo of an M5 on the wall; something for the TL to aspire to.
The previous owner had his office where I’ve crammed my bed and presumably vice versa, however I think my configuration will yield significantly higher levels of productivity while maintaining adequate fidelity to the “modular minimalism” design style and general feng shui of the place.
Until I can settle on the architecture of my desk and workspace, I’ve commandeered the living room for writing/working/Xboxing. Since most of the house socializing takes place in the kitchen, the two gentlemen I’m sharing the house with don’t seem to mind my temporary overflow.
Up those stairs leads to the executive suite. The licence plates seemed like a low-impact early decoration in that I didn’t have to affix them in any way. I’m always in favor of minimizing damage to walls with screws and whathaveyou. KG’s jersey displayed prominently in the closet reminds me to act like an insane animal at the beginning of each day. I try to channel his relentless energy whenever possible and/or reasonable.
My old mattress had become impregnated with mold during the porch stay, so I dropped a new unit into this little slice of floor on the landing. (That area’s called a “landing” isn’t it?)
Nice lighting makes it easy to get up in the AM- greatly helpful as there’s no coffee maker in service yet in the kitchen.
The place is shaped like an uppercase “T”, so if the trunk is the bed/stairs area, the left wing is the office area and the right is designated for sink, shower, and toilet related activities.
The office is still an empty vessel, but I established a temporary valet out of cardboard moving boxes for the foot of the sleeping area. Not the level of elegance I’m looking for in the long term, but it’ll do until a few more paychecks clear and I can design a satisfactory piece here.
Eventually I’m hoping to incorporate a hamper with the valet; basically have dirty clothes be deposited into the bottom like a solar trash compactor. At present, another cardboard box is taking the role of dirty clothes management.
The future office will fit a giant “L”-desk easily, and perhaps even a couch of similar shaping.
For some reason the sink countertop is over a meter long, so I’ve decided to designate the open area to the right as a “clean room” surface. Perfect for detailing computers and other tools.
As far as decor, I don’t have any furniture but all of my domestic ancillaries (rubbish can, record case…) are repurposed military equipment.
The irony of a chest designed to contain deadly munitions being reduced to harboring poop paper was too pleasing to resist. And the surplus store had a 1970 US Army briefing entitled simply “Survival” which serves as a nice prop/reading supplement.
Next phase is to get a work surface installed and get this office operational, followed shortly by the elaboration of a few select wall hangings.
Seeing a pattern here?
If you put my sticker on your car, of course I’m going to give you a shout out!
Matt Weaver is flying the flag on Bootleg Racing’s MINI Cooper S, pictured here somewhere on the Kangamangus Highway. I like this decal placement, looks tidy and matches up with the center-exit exhaust nicely.
Mr. Weaver was styling pretty hard himself at this photoshoot…
This look has me thinking; Kenny Powers meets Austin Powers, with a touch of “early-90′s Jeremy Clarkson”
Undoubtedly innovative. Keep roving, my friend.
If anybody else wants a sticker for their ride, shoot me an email and maybe we’ll make some more!
That tired old Series II sitting in SoNH languishes on, “For Sale” sign still proudly (desperately?) on display in the windshield.
I made a side trip to visit it on an excursion to Portsmouth the other night. My TL glared at it with a raised eyebrow and perfectly-focused HIDs, no doubt wondering why the hell anybody would want such a primitive pile of parts.
And yet, looking at this rig makes me feel the way I imagine my sister feels when she sees helpless puppies at her animal shelter. For some reason exceeding economic logic, it deserves to be rescued.
If this rusty beast hasn’t returned to the Earth when the snow melts this spring, I reckon I’ll just have to bring it home and nurse it back to its former glory. By which I mean tack-weld the floors back in, dump Seafoam in the fuel tank and bribe the Arabian guy down the street to give it an inspection sticker.
Which reminds me, found this in an ’04 Discovery the other day…
Only Land Rover would be so pompous as to describe their service schedules “responsibilities”… as though owing one is like caring for a rare bird.
Which of course, it is. Why do we keep buying this ridiculous things?
When a buddy of mine directed me to the image forum 4Chan this morning to check out pictures of his girlfriend, I immediately re-prioritized when I realized they had heaps of threads with high-res images of way cooler stuff.
I was/am particularly enthralled with this M5 ripping donuts on what looks like a salt flat. Utah, perhaps? Aside from the thick layer of dust the car looks unbelievably clean, paradoxical as that may sound. The bumper isn’t even drilled for a front plate and just look at those headlights; perfect!
I love the way the light shines just enough on the starboard fender to confuse us as to the car’s color; Is it black or blue?
A little research revealed the photo as having been taken by LA photographer Nate Napierala… Nate, if you read this, perhaps I can convince you to shoot my next Land Rover out west.
Anyway, this image makes great computer wallpaper. Just sayin’.
It’s Christmas come early!
Online motorcycle toy store “LeatherUp.com” wants to let the world know about its house-brand line of helmets called “Xelement”, and has been kind enough to send us one of their ”2-IN-1″ Evolution models for evaluation.
And while it’s a bit cold here in Boston for an on-road test, it will be my pleasure to walk you through my initial impressions of the product as I open the box.
See below for the traditional box-opening video, where I record the revealing of the item fresh out of the shipping container so as to capture the most genuine first impression possible. If you’re in the market for a new road-riding dome piece, read on for a more complete review of the helmet.
The shape of the helmet is decidedly angular. The subtle peak at the top actually reminds me of the hood on my Acura, and the cascading ridges on the back of the helmet give some depth making it a bit more visually engaging than a standard “bowling ball” helmet.
But it doesn’t look (or feel) like it was designed in Minecraft. On the contrary the angles are rounded off, giving the design an “aggressive-but-subdued” kind of vibe. I find these smooth edges match the rubberized matte black spray-job nicely, though that may be my color bias coming out.
Fit & Finish
The rubberization you get with a matte finish really helps make any helmet feel solid, and that’s the case here too. The body itself feels well-reenforced and is plenty thick. The face shield is robust and its up/down operation feels great… once you figure out the locking mechanism.
The plastic toggle switches on the vents and retractable sun visor aren’t the sturdiest I’ve seen, but they’re perfectly acceptable. Frankly, I was pleasantly surprised with the overall build quality at this price point.
The helmet is well-sized; I demo’ed a Medium and it was consistent with my other Mediums from other brands. The head-entry hole at the bottom is a bit on the snug side, making it easier to don the thing with the visor up, but once it’s fitted this gives you a nice feeling of snug security.
The chin strap is a different design than I’ve seen in this application. Like a modern ski boot it’s a plastic locking-clip rather than a D-Ring, which I typically see on motorsport helmets.
The plastic here feels solid but I’ll be closely monitoring how well this mechanism survives in long-term testing. The design takes plenty of punishment in the ski boot application so I’m confident it should hold up just fine in the wind. In a crash, well, let’s hope I don’t have to report back on that one. As an added bonus it’s quite a bit easier to put on while wearing gloves. A huge plus if you like to ride in cooler temperatures!
The first thing you notice about this helmet is the giant visor. Fortunately, it doesn’t look goofy in real life like you might imagine but it will get noticed by other riders when the lower face-shield is in position. Of course, the benefits of a large visor are obvious- visibility through this thing is excellent! In fact, the best I’ve experienced on any full-faced helmet. And as I mentioned earlier the construction is solid. With the locking feature of the slide, you won’t have to worry about it flying up or down with the will of the wind.
That brings me to the second-most noteworthy feature- the removable face shield. This aspect is in fact what renders the helmet a “2-IN-1″… with it in place, you get the style of a full-face. Without it, the wind is yours for the swallowing.
It’s easy to connect-and-disconnect, which is great for accessibility. But as a result, I’m sure it won’t give quite the same level of chin and lower-face protection as a solid one-piece helmet. That said, it does feel strong enough to withstand a direct blow… I just don’t think the locking tabs are up to the task of keeping this little shield in place during a lateral impact.
The third and my favorite feature I want to share is the retractable sun visor. Tucked within the forehead area is a small dark-tinted shield that snaps down with the push of the top-mounted toggle switch.
The feature isn’t unique to this helmet or brand, but I love it nonetheless.
For some reason I can’t help but associate it with Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing helmet visor. Which of course, makes it super cool.
And it actually is rather useful. For all those times you forget/lose/break your sunglasses, the retractable shield will be there to keep me from getting blinded by the sun and the police strobes I invariably encounter when I ride. The only downside here is that it does’t cover your entire field of vision, so your eyes may have trouble keeping up if you look at your gauges a lot.
The Xelement Evolution 2-IN-1 is a stylish, versatile helmet with plenty of features and more than reasonable construction quality. A much better package than you’d expect for the price- you can’t go wrong with that!”
• On sale now for $89.95
• Sprayed in Flat Black, Gloss Black, White, Yellow, or Gun Metal
• Fitted at S through 2XL
• Available today at LeatherUp.com
Stay tuned for on-road testing in the spring!