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

Monday, June 2, 2014

Dumping the Jalopy

Here's the thing,

Getting rid of a car is never an easy proposition. Whether you are giving it away, selling it or donating it. You have to plan for people coming and test driving it, hoping they don't notice that the muffler is half rusted out and hanging on by a thread. Or, like in my case, have a tow truck come and get it because you are donating it, and then break your phone so they can't reach you. Just hope they come when you aren't home. Any way you go about it, it's stressful and a bit depressing because you are doing away with your car. First and foremost, because it is your car, and nobody really, deep down, wants to get rid of their car. Yeah, they may get rid of it to make space, or they can’t afford it, or it breaks down so often it’s like having a car payment, but you still really don’t want to.

So I had this car, an 1986 Honda Accord LX-i, and man did I pick the more troublesome of the bunch when it came to the 3rd generation Accords. This is the only picture of my Honda I have not on a tow truck, I didn't take many pictures of it.

The best way to tell all about it, I suppose, would simply be from the start. Back in late September of 2013 the car I was driving (a 1989 Toyota Corolla GT-S, not a bad car by any means by the way, but it’s still no AE86), belonged to my roommate, and he had to sell it to get back home. He sold it without letting me know ahead of time, so I was scrambling to get a new one. I searched on craigslist for anything under 1,000 bucks, and it’s true by the way, if it costs 1,000 dollars or less, you cannot afford it. Anywho, I find this Honda Accord. And my first car was a Honda, so I figured, “What the hell, even if I have to fix stuff up, it will be cheap.” I knew I would have to do some work, but also knew parts were dirt cheap, which was the driving force behind allowing myself to purchase the vehicle.

I contact the guy about checking out the car, and I ride out to take a look at it. As expected, it looks like an 800 dollar car. I do a quick look over, there is rust around the vehicle as expected, but the engine bay looks cleanish for a 200,000+ mile car. Save for one tear per seat on the seams, and a messed up shifting boot, the interior was next to perfect (save for some stains, but those are easily fixed with elbow grease.)

I didn't get an inspection done or do a real thorough look through to be honest, however, I did at least take it for a test drive. It leaned a little and I heard the control arms making their trademark kill me now noises, but the engine and transmission were solid. So, I decide to purchase it. The guy wanted 950 and I gave him 950, but he gave me back 100 dollars. That should have been been a nuclear alarm, if someone gives money back to you when you are buying a car it's because they feel guilty that you are buying a piece of shit. The reason he said he was selling it was because he wanted a car to work on, but like so many people before him he was in over his head with it, thus he sold it to me.

I got it home and I noticed that the breaks were a little weak and it leaned to the left on the drive home, so I looked as to why. Three of the tires were 165's, and one of them was a 185 winter tire with the tread readily separating. I couldn't help but think 'wow this guy is is a dumbass'. I was planning for new tires anyways, and it's a good thing I planned for a harsh winter and got good winter tires all around, because this last winter was absolutely brutal. Definitely glad I drove that car through it and not my Porsche.

That, however, was only the beginning of my issues when it came to this car. Because I am used to things breaking and needing work, but what went down on this car, was more on the rarer side of things that go wrong. All of it, as it soon became apparent, was because this car wasn't maintained properly for at least a good 20,000 miles or more.

This is the fuel filler neck for the Honda. I was sitting in my living room, and decided on a whim to go look at my newly acquired vehicle before I wen to register and title it. The first thing I looked at was the gas filler area, and boy was I surprised. The thing had completely rusted out, and I wouldn't have been able to put gas in it. So, before I even really got to drive the car I already had to make a repair. Luckily the filler neck only ran 60 bucks, and to put it on was 200. I brought it down, got that and tires put on, and new brakes. I talked to one of the mechanics, and he said to put it on he had to drop the gas tank. Thank God for set factory maintenance times, or it would have been a whole lot more than 200 dollars.

Things were relatively care free until I got an oil change. The day after I got it, the temperature sensor went out, I found out by it overheating like a beast. So, thank God for being a part of USAA, free tows! I got it towed back to the shop that did the oil change where they did a block test. It was good, but they couldn't figure out what was wrong, so I had to bring it to a Honda dealership. A few hours later it turns out it was the temperature sensor, I gave the go ahead to fix it since it had to be done. After all, I needed my car. Necessity is an evil that costs more money then need be, because the part cost 60 bucks, on Rock Auto it costs about 7. Needless to say, however, I got it fixed, and everything was grand.

Up until 2 days before I go to take leave, that is. I heard a weird sound during turning, and a mile down the road I take a right turn and my left CV axle snaps in half. Talk about some breaking news. About a month later I hear the same sound and I need to replace the other CV axle, it wasn't as bad though. A hundred bucks each side for a whole new axle, and 100 each side to put it in. Like I said, this car was very poorly maintained. And speaking of maintenance, let me tell you. In order to put in the number 4 cylinder spark plug without putting it in at an angle, you had to disconnect a power steering hose, it was one of the hardened ones that wouldn’t budge. So you're left with 2 choices: either you add on several hours of work, plus refilling and bleeding a power steering system, or risk creating a misfire in cylinder 4. This car was nothing but compromises.

After a while, it just started to really beat down on me. I was constantly having to repair this car, and it was to the point that I had a car payment, because every month I had to get something fixed. Near the time I got rid of it, I had to figure out something, because April was when I needed a new safety inspection, and I was still fighting with the Honda Dealership to fix my seat belts. Both of them blew. And my whole front suspension, exhaust, and EGR valve needed replacing in order to pass safety, the EGR because it tripped a check engine light. Let me break it down:

October: Tires/Brakes/Fuel filler neck/Temp sensor
November: Upper rear control arms
December: Left CV Axle
January: Right CV Axle
February: Heater hose busted, needed to replace that along with radiator flush
March: Bought a new seatbelt to replace busted one, didn’t fit
April: Finally got seatbelts fixed by dealership under lifetime warranty, got rid of car.

Every month the amount of money I had to pay in order to keep this car going was at least 200 bucks, and that is ridiculous considering that right now I pay less than 300 a month for a brand new 2014 Fiesta ST. But I suppose that is the folly of us car guys, no matter how worthless the car is, we always want to keep it running and keep driving it. Because hell, that is just who we are. We love cars, we love to keep them going, and we hate admitting defeat. I loved that little car because it reminded me of my first car, and it was just this little daily driver that I got attached to because I spent 3 hours a day in it. But then I remember other things, like before the heater hose broke it constantly overheated because the hose got plugged up. No way I could be in stop and go traffic. Or it could be the fact that I always had to make sure that I was ready for it to break down.

In the end, I couldn't rely on the car, and that is a serious problem, when your daily driver isn't reliable. And it’s a serious problem when every time it goes in for a repair you are spending 1/4th of it’s original purchase price, especially when it’s a dime a dozen Honda. I love my cars like I would a dog that I love coming home to. I try my best to take care of it, keep it going, keep it happy, but in the end, sometimes when they get too sick, or try to kill you too many times, you’ve got to put them down. It hurts, but it just makes sense. I spent a few months making this car an economically unsound decision, and it was just time to let it go. I donated it to the Purple Heart Foundation, so hopefully it goes to someone who spends a few bucks and fixes it up the way it should be fixed, and keeps it going.

Here's me talking to the tow truck driver, and my daughter playing in the grass. Notice that missing quarter glass!I replaced the car with my new daily driver, my Fiesta, and I’ll tell that story another time. People talk a lot about taking chances, especially with cars. 'Hey, buy this one, fix it up, it’ll be great!' Or, 'fix this one up just a little, and you’ll have a great reliable DD'! But no one ever talks about when you need to get rid of these cars, everyone just sort of says, “I got rid of it.” And that is that, sort of an unspoken agreement that you never talk about getting rid of a car, that it’s just gone. And I can understand that, mainly because to a lot of us, selling a car, especially an older one that needs work, is seen as giving up, or quitting on it. No one wants to admit that a car was too much for them, but it happens. In my case, I just couldn't justify spending money on keeping it running anymore, and my love affair with Honda’s has waned considerably, so, it’s been passed along to whoever else receives it.
With that said, always remember that even when you finish a journey with one car, there is always a new adventure starting up with another…

And that, that is one thing about getting rid of your old busted car.
-Jeremy

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Caffeine and Gasoline

Here’s the thing about caffeine:


Thanks to dictionary.com we know that one of the definitions of Ritual is “observance of set forms in public worship.” As car guys, we do this almost every weekend. I am talking about the ritual of combining caffeine and gasoline; I am talking about…Cars and Coffee.


 


When I was young, Saturday mornings were filled with cartoons, sports, and of course shows about cars. Numerous times, these shows would travel across the country and even around the world to different Cars and Coffee events.  Some of these events are even so large that they have become internationally famous, and a must stop is you are a car guy. I’m talking about places like cars and coffee Irvine, where normal car guys like us and rub elbows with celebrities such as Jay Leno and Tim Allen. But the great thing is that this is not just limited to long running events.







This past March, the long running Amelia Island concourse held it first cars and coffee. This allowed just normal run of the mill cars guys the opportunity to show off their pride and joys on the same plots of grass that would host some of the rarest and most expensive cars less than 24 hours later. And it let you rub elbows with some great people. People like Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann and Barry Meguiar.


I guess what I’m trying to say here in my rambling is that no matter how the auto industry changes through the years; and no matter how expensive a cup of Joe costs at that place with the green sign; no matter how many weird looks we get or the snarky comments made; we will always love to just stand in a parking lot and talk about what makes us smile. And we will stand there in the summer heat with an iced coffee of the cool fall weather up north with a hot chocolate.


And that the thing about cars. And coffee.

- Devlin

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Into the Fire...

Here's the thing,

I'm a salesman who is also an automotive enthusiast. So enthusiastic, in fact, that I've recently decided to leave my cushy inside sales position for the wild world of car sales. It's a move that, I admit, makes me look a bit crazy. However, it's the right one for me for a couple reasons.


First off, I'm in sales already. I have been for the past year or so. As anyone can tell you, it's a messy business, doesn't matter what you're selling. For me, for the sake of professionalism, let's just say I sell "insurance". So why not use the opportunity to combine my passion of cars with my ongoing career field? I make sales, I work the prices, sometimes I even hold onto pricing that I could pass onto the customer. I don't always feel good about it, but it's part of the job. In retail, businesses do the same thing. People just get upset when salespeople do it because you can't get to the checkout in PetSmart and haggle over the price of cat cans.

Secondly, I just love cars. I've never, in the whole year that I've worked my current job, gotten fired up about the product I'm selling. It's probably because it's one of those things that could be considered a necessary evil. People hate talking about it. Even my prospects, who have the opportunity to make or save money with what I offer aren't excited to talk about it. Instead, cars make people happy. Even the people who see a car as simply a tool or means of transportation, even those people enjoy buying cars. Anyone who says they don't is a liar. I get it, everyone hate's spending money. But when you first open the door, smell that new car smell, and turn the key for the first time after signing the paperwork, it's an experience. To me, it's always felt like sliding into a bath that is just the right temperature. It's the home you never knew you missed.

I want to be a part of that for people.

So that brings us to the obvious. The hours can suck, and sometimes you have to make deals you're not comfortable with. Of course, that doesn't even begin to touch the 100's of different types of difficult buyers that are out there. But to me, that doesn't matter. I grew up in a car-loving family. I can't wait for the first time I get to sell someone a Christmas present for their daughter with the big red bow, or a graduation gift for themselves and put on the Alma-Matter tag bracket around the plates. To me, that's what it's all about. And I'll take that over a headset and a salary any day.

And that, that's the thing.

- Shawn

Monday, May 26, 2014

Vehicles We Often Overlook - Memorial Day Special

Editors Note - Happy Memorial Day to all of our veterans, active duty soldiers, and families of both. One of our writers, Jeremy, is currently in the Army, and wanted to do a military vehicle themed piece. Here it is, and thank you for your service Jeremy.

It’s Memorial day. And seeing as how I am in the military, I wanted to write something specific for the military, and the branch I serve in, the Army. Specifically, that thing is our wartime vehicles that help keep us soldiers alive. There are a lot of vehicles we have used, but there are 3 that have been used very consistently since their inception and the start of the war. Those vehicles are the MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle), the Stryker, and the Armored Security Vehicle. The last one, the ASV, is unique in the regards that only Military Police soldiers use it.

The MRAP family of vehicles came about because too many people were getting killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we didn't have a general purpose vehicle for everyone. ASV’s were for the MP’s, and Strykers belonged to the Stryker Brigades. Not every unit had Bradley’s. The local insurgencies realized they couldn’t really go toe to toe with a large, well equipped, and organized army, so they decided to resort to some hardcore guerilla tactics. There of course were other vehicles that we used, I mean we had the M1 Abrams tanks, and the Bradley Assault vehicle. But we had to take them out of Iraq because it caused too much collateral damage. So after the heavy armor left, we rolled with the MRAP, the Stryker, and the ASV.

I have the most experience with MRAPs. I rode in them a bunch of times, and there are a bunch of different designs for the MRAP and the Stryker’s. The most common I saw and rode in were the Maxxpro’s and MRAP Cougars. Let me tell you, these things are pretty nice rides. Of course they weigh in at around 14 tons, but the vast majority of that is from the armor it has on it. It also has a nice design on the bottom. It’s curved like the top of a roof so if something blows up undearneath it, it rolls the explosion off to the sides, instead of directly underneath it and destroying everything inside. They do their job and they do it well. According to Wikipedia, no service members died in 2004 in any of these. Even with more then 300 IED explosions. The insurgencies realized this though, so they got crafty and came up with something called an Explosively Formed Penetrator. It’s as nasty as it sounds and then some.


So, after they did this, we came up with the Duke System. The Duke System was pretty much a radio jamming system. It would jam every cell phone single and all of that, and it would also have something on the front of the truck that had wheels that would activate a pressure plate as well, looked something like this.

Shown at Right: An MRAP Cougar after getting hit by an IED, everyone on board lived

Even if they get hit, these things are designed for maximum survivability. Trust me, they work. I rarely hear about people getting hit in their trucks and dying, usually the one that gets killed is the turret gunner.

I know there is probably some stuff I missed or glossed over, I just wanted to remind everyone on this day that, you should observe everyone that has fallen, and be thankful for them. And also be thankful that we’ve got people who spend an absolute ton of money for our guys, to give them some of the best tech to make sure they survive. ~ Jeremy

Friday, May 23, 2014

Forbidden Fruit

 Here’s the thing about forbidden fruit:

There is always at least one; one car, one truck one bike that we can’t have. It doesn’t matter if it is a financial issue or a government issue.

As you may have seen from my introduction a few days ago, I am a very large fan of BMW and their silky smooth straight six motors.  In my relatively short driving career I have had the pleasure of owning and wrenching on both the M52 2.8l motor as well the M54 3.0l lump.  Both are amazing in their own right, and it’s great to see the advancements in technology from one generation to the next. My favorite is the advancement from single Vanos (BMW’s fancy variable timing system) on the M52 to the double Vanos on the newer M54.



But the one iteration which has eluded me thus far is the grandest of them all the 3.2l 333hp S54 in the E46 M3.  This smooth six makes over 100hp/liter without the help of any forced induction or witchcraft, just six individual throttle bodies and a screaming 8,000rpm redline.

Now some of you may say, “But Devlin, those are plentiful in the U.S. of A”, but in fact they are less rare than the 3 series I drive now. However, what we never got here was the final version, the mighty M3 CSL.
The CSL has the same 3.2l motor but modified to pump out out 360hp. And this newfound power is used to propel a car which is a few hundred pounds lighter than the standard M3, all thanks to a carbon fiber roof, and other weight saving items. These included thinner walled exhaust just to give you an idea of the engineering dedication that went into this car. And still no forced induction! Now that’s witchcraft.


So what is it about these cars that make them so desirable?  Is it simply the fact that we can’t have them, or is there more than that? Everyone has some sort of forbidden fruit, everyone from Bill Gates with his Porsche 959 to the numerous people who have already crossed into Canada to buy a 25 year old Nissan GT-R. So I ask you readers, what’s your forbidden fruit and why?

~ Devlin

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Fanboyism-Ism

Here’s the thing,

I’ve been thinking about something off and on for about a year now, ever since I went out and bought my Porsche 944. And that is the state of being a fanboy of certain cars, certain manufacturers, what have you. Growing up, I wasn’t much of a fanboy. I of course defended the car I owned at the time because, well, it was my car. I didn’t want people talking crap about what I drove. However, everything changed once I decided to buy my 2007 Chrysler 300 Touring. It had a 3.5L V6, was RWD as well as big and roomy. What else could you want (besides more power of course, I still kick myself for not getting the HEMI)?

Once I started really driving it, getting used to it, cleaning it, and just in general getting close to my car, I noticed that I started developing a love for Mopar vehicles. I wouldn’t give any other kinds of cars the light of day, whether it be European or anything JDM. I wasn’t having it. I specifically remember telling my wife that I would never, ever, own another Asian car again. And I hadn’t even considered any European cars at all.


And then, of course everything change. It was not by my choice however. My wife had to go to school for two months, and I had to take my kid to daycare. So naturally, once my wife came back, my kid still wanted to go to daycare. And seeing as how I have to be up at the ass crack of dawn to go run and do pushups and stupid stuff like that, we needed a second car so my wife could drop her off.

I had a roommate at the time, a fellow car guy, and he had told me how he was looking at a Porsche 944. I just wanted to check it out, because I had my heart set on a (again, Mopar colored glasses) Dodge Stratus R/T. I saw the 944, absolutely loved the shape, and I immediately started seeing anything from the 80’s with rose colored glasses because of my first car. So, I decided while looking for a Stratus, to look at 944’s as well. I looked at 928’s, and 924’s, but I loved the 944. Eventually I found one I was happy with. Really, what caught my attention was the guy had bought a cup holder that would fit in the car and I saw it in the pictures. So I figured this guy had probably drove it a bit and showed it some love. And he did. He had replaced a laundry list of parts, but only drove it 200 miles in the past year. So I went to test drive it, and immediately fell in love. So I bought it, and paid 2900 all in twenties for the thing (good thing he worked at a bank).

I named her Rosie.

But at the same time it felt… strange. The 944 was the first car I had ever purchased solely with my money, solely for myself. Everything just clicked, everything felt right. Everything from how I sat in it, to how they designed the center console perfectly to have your arm rest on it when you weren’t shifting so that your hand didn’t rest on the shifter. My wife loved to remind me all the time how I used to say, “Mopar or no car huh?”, and I always felt like a dumbass. Because in all honesty, being a fanboy to a degree of shunning all other vehicles is kind of like being a bigot towards cars just because they aren’t a Chrysler, Ford, or Honda. All cars have something to offer, you just have to be willing to really look.


For example, let’s take a look at my 1986 Porsche 944. It was my first RWD car with a 5 speed attached to it, so I learned the amazing feeling of being able really control my car. It was really just meant as a car for me to drive, but I bought it before I really understood it. I didn’t know it had a transaxle, I didn’t know that transaxle was in the back, hell at the time I didn’t even know what a transaxle was. I had to look it up. I was still sort of in the mindset of “It’s not a Mopar, so it’s just some car I’ll drive.” It was just some car I drove, until I started driving it more, and more. Within a month it had over 1000 miles on it, I just loved driving the damn thing. Now, to get to my point, the clutch started screwing up. Eventually I found out the transmission was perfectly fine, great even. The clutch grabbed fine, granted it slipped a little at maximum torque, but the culprit was the pilot bearing. What I didn’t know, and what the previous owner didn’t know, was that the clutch in it was a good 20 years old. And whoever did the last job, only replaced the disc and pressure plate. Everything else was old and chewed up, and the flywheel had never been resurfaced. So my point here is even though I just bought it to be just another car, I ended up seeing it more for what it was. I saw it as a sports car, an amazingly balanced RWD car, and more importantly, a German car. When I was looking for a clutch kit, I realized that I wasn’t just messing with another car, I was messing with a Porsche. That’s because the clutch kit ran me 800 dollars. Ouch.

It wasn’t until after I dropped the transmission, the torque tube, struggled getting the bell housing off, and I bought the clutch kit that I realized: I cannot just jump into a car and hope for the best. I can’t just shrug off not knowing about a car before I buy it. And in order to really learn about a car, you can’t just write it off and not be interested in learning what makes it move. Honestly before I started working on my car, I didn’t know truly how a clutch truly operated. Now I do, along with knowing how it works with the rest of the car. I know exactly how the transmission works, including the gearbox, and how everything moves together. I didn’t know what an interference engine was, and honestly if I had when I was looking at a car to buy, I wouldn’t have bought my Porsche. Timing belt change every 30,000 miles? Come on, that is just sadistic.

Along with me trying to figure out exactly how everything worked, because there was a lot of mystery to the car, I ended up getting a few vehicle reports. Through these reports I had found out my car was originally built in West Germany (just think about it, my car was built in Germany during the cold war, that’s just crazy cool. Even with all that stuff going on they still managed to build amazing cars). It was also sold in California, had a ton of miles put on it quick, then sold at auction in Arizona. And then through the years it eventually made its way to me, in Virginia.

I would say that my refusal to really allow myself to be interested in cars, other than the ones I was all obsessed with, led me to arrogantly purchasing a car I knew nothing about. And I paid for it in more than one way. But, because of this car I learned how to do a clutch job, rebuild an entire brake system, take apart a fuel system, drop a transmission safely, and even drop a rear suspension. So even though I bought it for the wrong reasons, I’m keeping it for the right ones. I’m going to fix it up right, throw it around a track, and keep it in great fighting shape. If there is one thing buying the wrong car taught me, it’s to always keep an open mind, and allow yourself to like a car outside of your comfort zone. You might be surprised, and you might have quite a unique story to tell.

And, that’s the thing that’s been on my mind.

~ Jeremy

Monday, May 19, 2014

Tin Cans

Here's the thing -

Starting in the next model year, the Ford F-150 is going to be 700 lbs. lighter thanks to a liberal application of aluminum. It's a good thing in many regards. In fact, all facets of performance will be enhanced, braking, handling, and speed. And yet some people are concerned about the changes. It's mostly because that aluminum is still semi-costly and not perceived to be rugged enough for every day truck duty.


Ford doesn't feel as though it's a problem. In fact, they've been working for over a year to make sure that the support systems are in place to take care of any future F-150 customers are taken care of. However they could be doing more. What is that more, you ask? Well, it's a little thing called economy of scales. Right now, as the F-150 is waiting for launch, Ford is undoubtedly designing the next Focus, Fiesta, and Fusion. And if those designs do not incorporate the same troublesome material, then Ford is wasting their time and their dealers'.

It's called economy of scales, and it's a production trick as old as time. Basically it means the more you use a material, design, or process in the production of your product line, the cheaper it becomes. This is due to things like buying in bulk, process standardization, and the ability to use the same tools for multiple different jobs. There's no reason why the aluminum materials and production processes that have made such a big to-do out of the next F-150 shouldn't be applied to the whole line. Even if it's not as thorough of an inclusion as they have in the US's best selling vehicle, there's no reason why essential pieces such as the hood, roof, or trunks of these cars shouldn't be made from the stuff.

I know what you're saying though: "Shawn, that will cause the price of these cars to skyrocket!" But this is not true. That's where the economy of scales comes in. Case in point, the Fiesta currenly has 3 different engine choices here in the States. Instead of offering both the naturally aspirated 1.6, and the 1.0 turbo 3-cylinder, simply offer the smaller turbo engine. After all, it's not found in any other Ford product. This would greatly reduce the cost of the vehicle across the line, certainly enough to cover the cost of the upgraded body panels. It would also give the Fiesta class-leading braking, handling, and speed.

There's no reason that we, in today's modern society, should only concern ourselves with the advancement of engine technology. It's time for body and frame technology to take their next steps forward as well. If Ford is willing to stick its neck out and take a risk on more than just their best seller, there's bound to be a huge return, and at the same time a huge savings. Now that's a weighty proposition.

And that, that's the thing.

-Shawn

Friday, May 16, 2014

Introducing Guest Writer: Ray Mas

How is everyone this evening? My name is  Ray, and I'm addicted to Volkswagen and Audis. I live in Northern Virginia, and I'm in my early/mid 20's. Let's take a look at the cars, shall we?

 I've always loved cars, and it all started with one of these:


It was a 1997 Volkswagen Jetta GT (Not mine pictured). ​It was slow, unrefined and smelled like something had died inside of it. Growing up in rural Mississippi, I wasn't exactly the most popular guy for having the only German car in the school lot. If car hell was a thing, that car would have lived through it.

​After keeping the Jetta for much longer than I probably should have, My family and I moved to Northern Virginia. It was here that I accidentally murdered my Jetta, and was forced to drive a relatives automatic, light green Beetle. Wonderful.


After that ordeal, I impulsively made the decision to buy a used 2.0T A4. Not exactly my best decision ever. Quite a lot went wrong with it, some of which was under warranty. Some of which ended up out of my pockets. Everything involving oil went wrong. I carried around a cardboard box filled to the top with oil bottles in my trunk at all times.


​After whatever previously happened with my 2.0T A4, for some reason I decided to buy an even older one. It was a 12v, 2.8, 5 Speed manual,  with 150,000 on the clock. But it still has Quattro. It meant more money, and less stuff that I don't understand. This less to a noticeably larger motorcycle budget and deeper modification pockets. It's seemingly reliable from first impressions. It leaks a bit of oil, and has different sized mirrors on each side. Yes, the drivers side mirror is bigger than the other. The Germans say deal with it.

As you can probably see, I'm addicted. The third Volkswagen brand product draws the line, I'm at the point of no return, and so is my wallet. Which highly concerns me about my decision making process. Either way, I'll keep you guys posted.

~ Ray

Introducing Guest Writer: Devlin Munion

Here’s the thing,

I'm Devlin, and simply put, I love cars. I have loved cars for as long as I can remember. It started very early, and most of my childhood was spent playing with my dad’s old Matchbox cars. I can also remember playing in my grandfather’s back yard while he told me every type of plane that flew over just by the sound.


My true passion came out in high school when I purchased my first car, an E36. This is the car that started and ended it all.  I immediately fell in love with motorsports and and my love for cars only grew. This also led to the eventual purchase of an E46.

See I said it was all over. I’m addicted…

After graduating with a marketing degree I served a brief, yet eye opening stint as an Audi Brand Specialist… which is a fancy way of saying car salesman. I am now on to my next career, although my heart truly still lies with the automotive industry. In the future I hope to work in the industry again, but for now I would just love to share my enthusiasm with other enthusiasts.


I'm looking forward to sharing my stories,opinions, and passions with all of you.

-Devlin

Introducing Guest Writer: Greg Tully

Hi guys, Greg here. So I grew up with a dad who loved Ford. When I was born my dad had a 1989 Ford Mustang GT, despite his having two boys. He kept that Mustang until I was 3, and bought a brand new 1999 Ford F-250 Powerstroke, which we still own. When gas first became $4 a gallon, my dad bought a 2003 MINI Cooper S to go along with the truck.


My mom had a Pathfinder when I was born. She sold it, and bought a used 1998 Infiniti i30. Later, she sold that too and bought a brand new Honda Pilot so she could have seating for 8 people. Then my mom bought a 2009 Mazda 3 to save money on fuel, and eventually replaced that with a 2012 TDI.

My love of cars started when I was in elementary school, when I started collecting hot wheels. One of my best friends at the time loved hot wheels, and he taught me to love them too. In 2005 when my mom was looking for cars to replace her Infiniti, I helped her research. Even though I still wasn’t anywhere close to driving, I still loved looking up all the specs and reviews of all the cars that my mom was test driving. Ever since then, I have loved researching, reading about, and talking about all different kinds of cars.

When I turned 15, I got my permit. At the time my dad had his truck and his MINI, and my mom had her Honda and the Mazda. I learned how to drive stick in both the Mazda and MINI, at the same time. No easy feat, considering the clutches acted so differently. When I got my license, I inherited the Pilot from my brother, and drove that for 2 years until we sold it.

My current car is a 2007 Subaru Outback 2.5i. Don’t worry, it’s a stick shift. It isn’t anything like any of the other cars that I have driven, but it is also my favorite. That’s probably because it’s my first car that I got to pick out my self. I count it as my first car, even though the Pilot was technically my first. But if I had an unlimited budget, I would buy a Shelby Raptor and find some way to swap a manual transmission in it.

Blame my dad for that, he is the one who taught me to love ford trucks.

~ Greg

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Introducing: Jeremy Hampson

Here’s the thing –

 I like to think of myself as a car guy, up until something breaks on one of my cars. Then, there I am wondering why in the hell there is half a gallon of coolant on the ground. And then I finally figure it out, asking myself why I didn’t think of that, and commit it to memory so it doesn’t happen again. Then, some other new thing I’ve never seen happens. Such is the vicious cycle of trying to keep a 30 year old car running.


For those that didn’t read the title, my name is Jeremy, and how I became a gearhead is a little strange. Allow me to explain. So I grew up mainly with just my dad, and he was (yes, was, not so much anymore, more of an armchair gear head then a ratcheting one these days) a pretty huge gear head while I was growing up. He took me around sometimes in his ’57 Chevy Sedan Delivery. It had a 454 big block, was fully restored, and done up for one of the stories in the magazine he worked for, Super Chevy. I grew up just looking at that thing, and also being hauled around in his ’95 Chevy Silverado. A Silverado that he put on coil overs and threw a supercharger on, just for the giggles. I’m pretty sure it was around that time he had the truck that I developed an unhealthy affinity for speed.

Let’s fast forward to my first car. While he may have been a gear head, and I learned car spotting from him, he never even taught me how to change my oil. But he did buy me my first car, a 1989 Honda Civic DX. It was one of those 3 door hatch backs, with a 5-speed, and power nothing. At first I thought he was crazy, no power steering or anything like that. But then I came to realize that it ended up making me a more cognizant driver, seeing as how I have to turn the wheels and all that before I stop moving. It helped me pay attention more. Anywho. So I blew the clutch in that thing, and he had it replaced for me for my birthday. That is when I learned the glory of a 5 speed, that is, being able to spin the wheels while changing gears, it was glorious.


Then, I joined the Army. After I got to my duty station, first thing I did was talk to my dad about getting my car. He said that it needed more work then was worth, had been sitting for roughly a year, and apparently the entire brake system needing replacing. Oh well. For a while I drove my wife’s Cavalier, but the gear head in me came out when I picked up a 2007 Chrysler 300 Touring with 27,000 miles on the clock. What had happened was the dreaded pink thingy problem, and after researching I found that I wasn’t going to pay a dealership several hundred dollars just to put in a new shifting column. Not when it was just going to happen again. So I took matters into my own hands, borrowed a tool set from a friend, and ripped my center console apart. It was right then that I realized I had no idea what I was doing. I ended up driving it around for a few days by sticking my finger against the pink thingy and getting it into gear that way. I ended up getting the replacement part, and it even came with instructions.


So, I ended up putting the new part in and putting everything back together. Everything was fine, except for the fact that tiptronic didn’t work anymore. Luckily that stuff doesn’t matter much to me anyways. It was like a light switch flipped in my head. All of a sudden, I had successfully fixed something that would have normally cost me hundreds of dollars to get fixed. It was an amazing feeling, and I had to do it again. I started getting tools, and workshop manuals, looking for something to fix. But nothing really came up on the 300.


So, I did what any sane person would do, I went out and bought a 1986 Porsche 944. Something I knew needed a bit of work. It soon came up that it needed a new clutch, and I’m in the process of doing that now. But that is a story for a different time. Sometimes, you may not even know that you are a gear head until fate forces you to do something, and all of a sudden it’s like a whole new world has opened up to you. You don’t even really have to know anything, you just have to be willing to learn, and that is what I did. Now, I have screwed up plenty of fixes, botched repairs just because I forgot one simple thing, and narrowly avoided dismemberment. I really don’t care when it happens though, I just look at it as a learning experience. It’s just one that hurts the wallet really bad sometimes, so it pays to remember.


~ Jeremy

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Introducing: Garrett Davis

Motor Trend September 1999

My first real interest in cars began in 1999 when I was 10 years old and was told to pick out a magazine off the rack for a long road trip we were about to embark on. Motor Trend's 50th Anniversary issue caught my eye immediately with a bright red 911, a gorgeous Jag, and a black Lamborghini Diablo -- my favorite car of all time, in the most menacing color available. After that I was hooked on anything car related. I would memorize different models and brands and have my mom quiz me on every car we saw on the road. If there was a car out there, I had to know everything about it. The number one item on my Christmas list that year was a Motor Trend subscription, and I read every issue cover to cover multiple times, though none as many as that original 50th anniversary issue.


Pictured: 17 year old me with my truck after a thorough test of 4WD. I was hooked. Still wear that shirt too.

Fast forward to my 16th birthday and my mom is handing me the keys to a 1994 Ford Ranger. It was a 4.0L V6, 5-speed manual (skull shifter of course), and four wheel drive. I was in love. Not just with my lovely new-to-me truck, but with driving in general. I would always volunteer to drive places, or just to get out and hit some back roads for no other reason than to just enjoy the open road. After high school I was infected with the Jeep bug, leaving my best friend and I to dump every minimum wage dollar we earned into our not so shiny Jeeps. We became the only members of our Jeep club under 20 years old, and joined them for as many trails as we could. We swapped axles, did deep engine and suspension work, and any other repair we could reasonably scrape our knuckles on in our own Jeeps. I also helped my family swap engines and transmissions, and do some body work on stock cars. This is where I learned how to work on cars. 

 photo IMAG0149.jpg

But, after getting stuck, lost, and breaking down a few too many times, we finally decided that this was not a hobby college kids could reasonably afford, and hung up the towel. Since, I've had a few intermediate vehicles, ranging from Japanese trucks to German hatchbacks. I have finally settled into a 2014 Focus ST, and couldn't be happier. It's the first car I've ever bought new, and also the first car I've owned that was newer than the 1990's. Nearly 10 years of driving and I still can't help but take back roads home when ever possible, or volunteering to drive anywhere. I just seem to belong in the driver's seat. The 2,000+ miles and 60 hours of drive time that I've put into my car since buying it seems to confirm that. For reference that's barely even a month ago.

Today I work as an RF Test Engineer for a major tech corporation, and writing about the very cars I've lusted over for so many years is my new hobby. Let's hope this one sticks.

~ Garrett

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Corvettes, Integras, and Blazers. Oh My!

Here's the thing,

I was born in a small town into a GM family. Growing up, the first two cars I remember were my dad's Bonneville and my mom's two-door Blazer. The first memories I have of speed were of asking my dad to go faster down this hilly side road near the house because it "made my tummy feel funny". We had no idea then, but that experience was the clear sign of car junkie in the making.

Being raised in a GM family, my Holy grail growing up was the Corvette. My parents often joke that Corvette was my first word. And it's a love that has carried over into my adult life, so much so that I now sport a "Jake" tattoo on my left calf. For those of you that don't know, Jake is the Corvette Racing Team mascot. Yeah, it runs that deep for me.


However, my true car 'aha' moment didn't come until I was about 15 years old. My brother had gone away to college. And in an attempt to show my dad how independent he had become, he bought a 1989 Acura Integra RS for $700. My father, being the good American car buyer that he was, called it my brother's "700 dollar mistake". But I loved the thing. Even with more than 200,000 miles and a clutch that had seen much better days, I loved driving it even just up and down the driveway. And after watching my brother put it through constant trips up and down the highway to school, running a paper route every night, and just the all around abuse a car receives from a 21 year old owner, it earned my father's respect too. Needless to say, I ended up with a 1994 Integra GS-R of my own a few years later. I'm still addicted to 8000 rpm redlines.

The second big car move for me was taking a porter job at a local car lot at 21. It was the second job I ever had, but after throwing freight at a local pet store for 5 years, I was in heaven. For those that don't know, a porter's job is to drive cars. There's other stuff too, like cleaning them or assisting the sales team with presentation, but at the end of the day we drive cars. Thanks to my borderline OCD and constant need for organization, I was assigned lot organization duties. Most days were spent on the lot with a box of keys driving every car we had in stock from one spot to another. Like I said, heaven. My secondary responsibility was as a DX Driver, or doing dealer exchanges. It was through this function that I got a chance to drive my first real sports car, a 2013 Chevy Camaro ZL1. For those that don't know, that car is everything they say it is. It's brash, angry, raw, and most importantly, face-metlingly face. Why they let me drive it, I still to this day have no idea.


And that pretty much brings us to today. I'm no longer working at a car lot, though I wish I was, and I'm currently daily driving a 2008 Civic Si. For those of you that don't know, it's the grandson of that poor Integra I tortured through my first 3 driving years. The Civic has the same 8000 rpm redline and can-do attitude, albeit with a better working air conditioner. Most of you know my writing style by now, and you've seen some of my opinions on the different facets of the industry, but I hope this gives you a little bit better insight into your Editor-In-Chief. I'm excited for the things we have in store, and I can't wait to get the wheels turning the way I always knew HTTA could.

And that, that's the thing.
- Shawn

Monday, May 12, 2014

New Model Year

Note from the editor:

Here’s the thing -

Hi guys! For those of you still coming around even though I haven’t been updating very much, thank you. For those of you who used to frequent the site, and tapered off as I did, thank you too. I have a surprise for all of you, however I’m about to ruin it.

I’m relaunching the blog.

We’re adding some new writers, and we’ll soon have a brand new look. I’ll of course be writing my usual Here’s The Thing pieces, but we’re adding some new flavor as well. The guys will be introduced in their own features this week, starting with mine tomorrow, and we’ll be getting the ball rolling from there.

We’ll also be having some guest writers to periodically drop an article here or there to break up the usual crew. If you’re interested in being one of those writers, let me know. Good ideas won’t be turned down (however, I might edit it a bit though).

I’m excited. It’s a new day at Here’s The Thing. I can’t wait to get ramped up and rolling the way I knew this thing always could.

And that, that’s the thing

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Genesis Revelation

Here's the thing -
Korea has become a respectable car maker.
10 years ago, if anyone had predicted that Kia and Hyundai would be the next automotive superpower, they'd been laughed out of the industry. Anyone saying that the Seoul duo would be the next Honda and Toyota would have been immediately escorted to the nearest mental health facility.
And yet here we are, 5 years into the Korean onslaught, and things are only getting better. Every generation and new model introduced has one-upped the last. What started with the mid-size category shattering Sonata grew into a full line of Sorentos, Velosters, a Civic replacing Forte, and a Jetta fighting Elantra, as well as many other viable competitors.
What was once a simple matter of affordable transportation has turned into a juggernaut of quality and value. And the flagship and face of the "New Korea" has been without a doubt the Hyundai Genesis. A model that is every bit the Korean alternative to the likes of the BMW 5 series and Lexus GS. There's only one problem... it's still a Hyundai.
I have no problem with this fact. I love rooting for the underdog. Hyundai taking a swing at the old guard? Bring it on! They even gave M and AMG a scare when they released their R-Spec with its meaty 5.0 Tau engine and slick sport-tuned suspension. And Hyundai did it all for half the price! However, everyone has said the same thing: it's still a Hyundai. And it gets worse.
Two years ago, Hyundai pulled an even higher card out of its sleeve when it introduced the Equus. This was a Korean car, a Hyundai, that was meant to take aim at cars like the Lexus LS and Audi A8. Once again: it's still a Hyundai. It comes with every qualification and every feature that the other models do, except for one. That is a fancy badge with brand cache to carry it to that desired status. It, however, is also half the price of its competitors. It is truly a car that represents value and substance over flash and recognition. It doesn't just stomp on the phrase "only a Hyundai", it obliterates it.
However, the market has been more than slow to respond. For reference, in its first full year on the market in the US, Lexus sold 42,806 LS400s. It was such a successful launch that 5 months after it hit the market, it had surpassed The Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7-Series for sales. Alternatively in 2011, its first full year in the US market, Hyundai found homes for 3,193 Equus’. That’s a number that all of its competitors managed to at least double, in most cases triple. The launch of the Equus can only be likened to one other automotive fumble, the Volkswagen Phaeton. The Phaeton was another great luxury car handicapped by its “everyman marquee” to only be able to move 1,433 units its first year in the States. It was pulled out of America after just 3 years of disappointing results.
So what is Hyundai to do? How do they keep their upmarket offerings from becoming the new Phaeton? They have built these phenomenal cars, and they will never get the respect and rack up the number they deserve as-is. In fact, there is only one thing to do. They must take one last page out of Toyota’s playbook before coming into their own full-fledged juggernaut-of-a company. They must pull a Lexus. As Toyota made its own special brand where it could place its luxury offerings to separate them from the plebeian Toyota name, Hyundai must do the same.
It is time for Hyundai to introduce the Genesis brand. They already have a solid start, with the Equus and Genesis Sedan and Coupe. Now, all they would need is to round out their offerings with an upscale SUV, maybe something like an upgraded Santa Fe, with luxury trappings and an exclusive engine choice, maybe the Tau, and an entry level 3-Series fighter. And I here that last one is already on the way.
But there is one more thing. The Genesis brand must be more than just a value proposition. The Equus and Genesis models carry the unfortunate burden of being “almost as good” for much less money. Lexus did not take their huge bite out of the market by making the LS400 almost as good as the contemporary 400SEL and the 730i. They started with building what was the most advanced luxury sedan ever seen in 1990, and still pricing it below the competition. With advanced comfort features which minimized intrusion of mechanical functions both inside and outside of the car, the car was far and beyond anything the other luxury brands were offering at the time. In fact, the LS was so good that it secured Lexus’ place in the market, even when it doesn’t always meet expectations. We’re looking at you, tarted up Camry. Sorry, ES350.
The Equus is “nearly as good” but until it’s better, it’s always going to be a $60k Hyundai, and an also-ran. Look how seriously engineered the Phaeton was. There were 10 secret parameters that had to be met in order to prove that it was ready to take on the S-Class. Even after meeting those, it still flopped in the US car market because it was “just a Volkswagen”. The Equus and Genesis need to exceed every expectation, but also develop their own identity.
Once Hyundai realized that you can't force the market to recognize your cars based on their price alone, and that rebranding is a legitimate exercise in expansion, they'll see much more return on the investment made in their upscale automobiles. And then, they'll finally be able to sell eye-to-eye with the German, Japanese, and American luxury divisions. After all a Genesis isn't "just a Hyundai".
And that, that's the thing.