Wednesday, September 3, 2014

We've Moved!

Here's the thing -

So HTT is proud to announce that we have a new site. It's been up and running for about a month and a half now, and things are getting really good.

This will most likely be the last post at this URL, but this is in no way goodbye. To get all of the ireverant content you're used to from myself, Jeremy, Devlin, and all the others then check out the new site:

Heresthethingauto.com

So come check us out on the new site, we look forward to talking shop with you there!

And that, that's the thing.

-Shawn

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The so called "Dream car" - by Jeremy Hampson

Here’s the thing,
Let’s talk about what is in the mind of every single person reading this, every single enthusiast, every single person that never even thought about picking up a wrench, the ever elusive dream car. Why should we talk about this? Because, when you really think about a dream car, what it is, what it means, what it represents, it deserves more thought and discussion then simply, “my dream car is a 308 Ferrari!” or something to that tune.

Slowly getting older, not growing up mind you, I’ve noticed that my tastes in cars has changed. Not for the better, or for the worse, it has just simply, changed. Now of course having a young daughter and a wife does change your priorities, but my tastes in vehicles always remains the same. Or so I thought. Stay with me here.
When I was growing up, my dad bought me a 1989 Honda Civic DX, a nice little 3 door hatchback. It looked something like this but with a nice fade to the red.



It had power nothing in it, yet was a joy to drive in. Before I got my car, what I wanted was either a lifted truck of some sort, like an older Tacoma, or like what my friend had at the time, an 1988 Chevy Camaro with the 5.0L V8 in it. It was fast, mean, and quite an enjoying experience to drive. But I got my car, with it’s little 1.5L inline 4, didn’t have quite the punch. However, after a while I didn’t mind, I began to like the little thing more and more. This is where I got my first lesson in power to weight. As in, even though it’s not as powerful, it’s also lighter then a third generation Camaro, it won’t beat it in a drag race, but it won’t feel as slow in the Civic as opposed to another car the same size/weight as the Camaro, but with just not as much power. This was my thinking at the time anyways, it’s not like I was doing freaking physics calculations in my head or anything.


 (Pictured, freaking physics)

So, even though I had this car, I still wanted my “dream car”, which was something along the lines of a Tacoma that I could build up, I wanted something that I would show off my personality, which, in high school was that of an overly aggressive asshole. And I tried multiple times to get a truck, it never worked out, because I slowly realized that, at the time, my dream car wasn’t some stupid truck that I kind of wanted, it was the very car I was driving. The car did what I wanted it to do, it represented my personality, it was fun, I enjoyed it, and most importantly, it was a car that I could handle, because so often, you’ll get way ahead of yourself, jump into a car you don’t properly understand, and something bad happens.

And then I went and picked up my 300, my wife picked it out because it was going to be her car after I got a car for myself. Even just a few years ago when I bought it, I still wanted a truck or a certain type of suv. After I drove the 300 for a while, keeping In mind it was my first RWD sedan, I started liking it more. And also realized that if I don't have a reason for owning a specialized type of vehicle like a truck there is no point to owning one. My commute usually averages a good 30 miles one way. Yeah I could have had a truck but a buddy of mine made the same commute and had a Ram 1500, he filled up twice a week, that's painful.
So when I bought my 944, I thought,  you know I finally accomplished one of my car dreams, get a RWD sports car that I can wrench on. Well that was before I realized if you own a 944 you really own two cars, the 944 and the car you drive daily while you work on the 944.

So, the search began, in the meantime I drove my roommates 89 corolla GT-S, it was a decent car. The gearbox had that very satisfying 'click' every time you put it into gear. So when I found a car I immediately jumped on it, it was my 86 Honda Accord LX-i. For a while I just used it as as car I drove, and then I realized that I really liked the car, it was was a fun ride, had a decent amount of horsepower, and didn't quit on me until the parts literally broke in half.



However the car had over 200,000 miles on it and it wasn't maintained nor did it have it’s 200,000 mile interval servicing, it was having so much repairs that it was like having a car payment. Again, the search began. I didn't really know what I was looking for, my wife and I would have liked a new car, but we wanted to pay off the 300 first. So I decided I was going to try and get a car off craigslist for 5,000 or less, a decent starting position for an early 2000's that runs well.

I must have run through a hundred listings for cars that I replied to. One had a good seller, and that's the number one thing I look for. So I started talking to him, the car? A 2001 Volvo S80 T6. Had the color I wanted, had a turbo. Just one problem, the 99 to 2004 Volvo S80's, among others had a fatal flaw. The transmissions were GM sourced transmissions, and failed very early, but this guy had a rebuilt transmission put in. He had it done by his mechanic who used to be a Volvo tech, but not in a Volvo dealership shop. Anyone who's owned a Volvo you need their computers to program stuff from the tip tronic to the window buttons.

So I go check it out, turns out had a massive problem with the transmission, it would get stuck in gears and not shift right, I was going 5 mph through an intersection.  Next!

Over the next few months nothing really came about, until one morning I decided to look on carmax but with a caveat, for no reason at all I put the price range up to 23,000 dollars. And within a few pages I found a vehicle that I now own, my 2014 Ford Fiesta ST. The strange thing with it is, as soon as I saw it online, I immediately called and made an appointment for later that day to go check it out and ended up buying it - I knew the second I saw it that I was going to be buying it.

That is just the thing, when you find a car you know you like, or love, it can come in all forms, it can be love at first sight, or it can creep up on you. You know you love your car, when you are about to get in and look at the seats and say, “I love this car, I can’t wait to sit in it.” And then say it again as you’re getting out of it. There is no problem with lusting after that one car that seems so far away, but never forget there is a perfectly good car out there right now for you, just waiting to be driven. I don’t like the phrase “Dream car”, because just in those words it insinuates that this car only exists in your head. So get your head out of the clouds, and under that hood, because especially with today’s cars, there are so many to choose from, that finding that perfect one to fit you perfectly is even easier, and that in essence is really a dream car, one that seems built for you.

And that, that’s the thing about having your head in the clouds

- Jeremey

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Pipes Are Alive With the Sound of Combustion

 Here’s the thing about Italian Symphonies -

The best part about being a car guy is how these machines stimulate the senses, and the discussions and arguments that come with it while watching endless hours of videos on YouTube.

I have addressed the visual stimulation before with the psychology of color, but this past weekend while in between heats at an Auto-x event my friend and I discussed what the best sound in the automotive world is currently.

Obviously everyone has their own opinions, I myself change mine from time to time.  At certain times the pure explosive sound of ‘MERICA’ that come from a Mustang or Shelby Cobra is glorious, especially approaching this yearly celebration that is July 4th.  But recently I have heard a few things that give classic American muscle a serious run for its money. One is a classic unaltered Italian scream while the other is an Italian scream you only get after a few Americans think their Ferrari needs some help breathing.

(NOTE: It is purely coincidence that my friend and I feel the two best sounding cars currently are Ferraris.)
My idea of what is a nearly perfect sound currently comes from the 1964 Ferrari 250 GTO driven by the great American driver Phil Hill. This 3.0 liter V12 is just the epitome of #becauseracecar:


My friend on the other hand, who agrees the 250 GTO is amazing, is more of a fan of something more boosted in nature.  Currently he believes the best sound to be had is the 1994 Twin Turbo Ferrari 348 Challenge that was recently featured by The Smoking Tire:


A small displacement V12 or a slightly larger V8 with some added witchcraft? That’s the tough question.

Personally I will always love a V12 but it is very hard to disagree with a 9,000 RPM Bi-Turbo V8. Very hard indeed.

- Devlin

Friday, June 13, 2014

Blue Devils and Green Jaaaaags

Here’s the thing about Colors:

This post is my first attempt to dive into a subject that is not 100% automotive related, but certainly has a larger foot hold in the industry. I am talking about the psychology of colors in marketing and advertising.  Throughout my marketing classes during college we learned about how color affects people’s perceptions of a marketable item.  We even learned how in certain cultures or countries, marketers and advertisers shy away from various colors because of an association with a political party or other group.

This is where I tie this all back into the automotive business: Auto shows and Press cars. Years ago I was at the Philadelphia Auto show and saw the ZR1 Corvette for the first time. It was of course the Blue Devil. And ever since that day, if I ever have the chance to buy a ZR1, it will be blue.  The same goes for a Z06 thanks to the Corvette racing teams I will always remember Z06’s being a bright Yellow that is unmistakable as a Corvette.


This same psychological effect isn’t just limited to specific models or manufacturers though. Last night I was watching Top Gear on Netflix and it was the episode where Hammond talks about racing colors and how each country has always seemed to have their own and he’s right. If I ever see a Jag D-Type that isn’t green it just feels wrong, if I ever see a Bugatti or Renault Alpine that isn’t bright blue I think WTF. And if I ever see a Ferrari that isn’t red I always wonder why, even though at this point there are so many red Ferraris that I don’t think I could ever buy on in that color. 

So I wonder am I the only one who is affected by this? Or am I crazy and should I go find a yellow D-Type, or a green Corvette?

You guys tell me.

-Devlin

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Restrictions of the Factory

So here’s the thing,

Something I have noticed with my car, and it goes for a LOT of other cars as well, is that some cars don’t come out of the factory as good as they could be. Like this:


Take a good hard look at that. That is when I put in my K&N filter in my Fiesta. To the right is the gargantuan stock air filter, and to the left, the less restrictive K&N filter. Sometimes it just boggles my mind as to why they do this. I know in some cases, especially with cars like my Fiesta, which is a performance version of a economy car, they have to meet a certain price point. However, here is the thing with that as well: I have lights in my freaking cup holders. Yup, lights in the cup holders! Yes, it is pretty awesome because I can use my peripheral vision to put a cup down in it rather than taking my eyes off of the road. But I would much rather not have those lights in there, and instead have something like a less restrictive filter in my car, or a better rear engine mount that helps cut down wheel hop and vibration. The biggest thing that boggles my mind, is there is no belly pan, or skid plate if you will, underneath my engine! A belly pan is on the low end of 100 bucks, yet they didn’t put one on it, so I’m forced to go out and get an aftermarket one. Either way, it presents a unique opportunity, an opportunity to help support third party vendors, doing what they do best. That is to make our cars better, and to have a legitimate excuse to wrench on your vehicle. With everything in the auto industry changing, and things seeming to become more restrictive in regards to wrenching on your own vehicle, you always have to remember that you just shouldn’t settle for what is there. For every factory restriction put on something, there is a vendor out there who knows a way around it. Just putting in that air filter made the take off much cleaner, and it’s just an air filter. We shouldn't be content in just leaving vehicles how someone else thought we would like them. We should make them how we want them to be. Unfortunately a lot of times people that want to do this are left out in the cold because of the very high cost of workshop maintenance books, a lack of a Haynes manual, what have you. I mean the workshop manual for my car costs over 1,000 dollars, and there is no Haynes manual planned for it. When it comes to a situation like that, all you have is your experience, and vendor support. But all it comes down to is taking a chance and trying to change something up, and knowing what you are working with. Companies like Ford make cars like the ST lineup specifically for people that like to go to the track, like to modify their car, like to just change up the status-quo. Not all cars are like that, most are not, but all cars can be changed to suit what you need, or want. When it comes to doing things like modifying cars, and having cars that are easy to modify out of the factory, it is quite a case of use it or lose it. If manufacturers lose those niche market for cars built for car people, then they aren’t going to be making cars for car people anymore, and they will focus more on those beige mobiles. Just because it looks like a complicated design doesn’t really mean it is. In that way it's hard to learn but easy to do. Don’t let some factory restrictions on this or that hold you back. There is always a way to get past it, and make it better. Besides, you’ve got bigger things to worry about, like what happens after you pop off that plastic engine cover...


And that, well that’s the thing about dealing with restrictions -Jeremy

Monday, June 9, 2014

Sporting Intentions

Here's the thing,

Honda released the current Accord nearly two years ago now, and to great fanfare. Their party piece for this new model was the Sport trim. With the combination of the new Earth Dreams 2.4, a classic bolt-action Honda 6-speed, and a slightly sportier suspension setup, it was just enough to satiate aging Honda fans, while not alienating casual buyers. That last point is due to the fact that it is also available with Honda's new CVT setup.

If you opted to bypass the rubberband Rube Goldberg Device, the car became a bit of a grown-up's Si. However, the car left a lot of hardcore enthusiasts unimpressed. That's mostly because Honda didn't take the extra steps to differentiate it from the standard Accords that surround it in the lineup. The Sport's seats are LX seats with "sports cloth" and the slightly stiffer suspension comes standard on everything from the EX on up. For lack of a better description, it was the sportiest assembly of the parts in their bin. It seemed like a good enough plan, but today I drove something that I think could easily blow it out of the water.

It was the Passat Sport, and it was phenomenal. Starting its run this year, the Passat Sport represents the best version possible of the Passat SE. It has completely one-off wheels with tires usually saved for sportier models, and a carbon fiber lined interior. It also gets the seats from the much more expensive Volkswagen CC, with a possible two-tone scheme. And being powered by the new Turbocharged, Direct Injected 1.8, the car feels sprightly and moves down the road faster than its low 7s 0-60 suggests. The Passat (in all forms) already handles better than the current Accord as wll, so the base platform already bodes better for a Sport version.

And herein lies the quandry. Neither company will commit to making a dedicated sports model. Both have V6 versions, however those are cushy mid-market models with larger engines, or pseudo-luxury trims attempting to catch random cheapskates unwilling to spend actual luxury money. However, the Volkswagen wins due to the fact that the Passat is committed to the idea of giving the customer more, including features and items not available on normal models, as where the Accord feels like it was built by pulling out anything the customer wouldn't miss. In essence, it's built to a purpose, not to a price point.

The aftermarket already has tuning available for the Passat as well. For people like me that buy a car not only for what it is, but also what it can be, that can make all the difference in the world. It also shows how others feel about each of these offerings "Sport" credentials.

And that, that's the thing.

- Shawn

Friday, June 6, 2014

Car Control

Here's the thing,

So I've expressed before my compulsive need for manual cars. It would be very hard for me to own or drive an automatic transmission car every day. Worse yet, it seems these majestic creatures are starting to go the way of the dinosaur. Of course, every couple of years a manual-only car makes a splash, but then the maker folds to increased pressure and makes an automatic version. Think the Fiat 500 Abarth. And next up will be the Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost, I'm sure.


So what's the problem? Dual clutch flappy paddle boxes are faster, get the same or better gas mileage, and offer you the option of putting the car in Drive when not in the mood to change your own gears. Right? Well the argument that every enthusiast uses still stands: manuals offer a better connection with the car, and better control over the way it behaves. Will there ever be a way to change the set-up to better cater to the enthusiast crowd and bring over some of the three-pedal faithful?

I have one idea. Let's put the paddles in charge of everything. Many high-end models do this, but I've yet to see an affordable car where everything can be controlled by paddle. On many exotics that operate by flappy paddle, at any time the driver can pull both paddles to enter Neutral, and use them again to enter Reverse if so desired. In the affordable models today with paddle-shifted transmissions, they are simply extensions of the old Auto-Stick set up. Some companies call it Shifttronic, some call it Click-Shift, but basically all it does is let you think you have a bit more control than using the plus and minus clicks on the console shifter. A good bit of those will even upshift automatically once you get close to redline as well. Not much control over the car, huh?

So I propose this option. Start offering sportier models without a traditional P-R-N-D-S shifter. There should be buttons, and only 3 of them. P would park the car and engage the brakes. D would be for drive, and function much the same way as today's modern take would, also offering a. Then of course, offer an M button, for full manual control over the car. Offer the enthusiast a way to really take over and control the car the way we can with a traditional standard setup. As I said, offer these on the sportier models as not to confuse those that wouldn't be ready for this kind of change.

Without changing something, enthusiasts will be left out in the cold. Automatics will continue to grow, and we will be shoved towards the back of the class. If manufacturers are going to start taking away our ability to heel-toe and rev-match our own shifts, at least leave the pleasure of controlling the car's gears somehow in our hands. After all, it may even shift the minds of a few die-hards.

And that, that's the thing.
- Shawn