Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Jaguar Alive Driving Experience

About one month ago I received an invitation in the mail from Jaguar inviting me to their Jaguar Alive Driving Experience at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA. I signed up for a Saturday afternoon time and drove out. There was a large temporary facility constructed in one of the parking lots of the stadium. Inside were jaguar vehicles on display as well as complimentary beverages and appetizers. After a short marketing presentation we were off on our road drive in a 2013 XF 3.0. A brief couple of mile trip on the road allowed me to get a feel of the comfort the car provided driver and passengers. We returned to the stadium where three temporary tracks had been layed out for driving demonstration. On the first course I drove a 2013 XJ-R awd. This course had sand and mud put down to demonstrate the traction control, stability control and awd systems. The second course was a traditional autocross course. I drove a XF-R on this course. The 510hp supercharged V-8 was very impressive, as were the huge brakes. Both features helped make this big 4 door sedan feel and handle like a smaller car. Three laps around this course was a lot of fun and made me appreciate the power and handling the XJ-R has. The third and final course was a straight line acceleration run. I would guess it was about 900-1000 feet long. For this run Jaguar was providing their top gun, the XK-R S. A 550hp supercharged V-8. 0-60 times are advertised at 4.2 seconds. There is no doubt the car is capable of doing this. On my run I made 78mph before applying the huge brakes. The brakes made more than 1G of stopping power when bringing the car down from 78mph to about 10mph. Overall it was a fun day enjoying the best Jaguar cars has to offer. I hope I get invited back some day.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I need 4 tires.

My '05 Evolution is due for a new set of tires. Currently I have Falken Azenis RT-615s on the car. They have worn down to the point they won't pass inspection. One of the tires has a plug in it and they have gone out of balance. So, it is time to shop. Right now I have a new set of OEM Yokahama Advan A046 tires on the OEM Enkei wheels on the car. I have a set of  OEM BBS MR wheels that I am shopping for tires for. The Falkens served me well for about 10,000 miles. They worked good for daily summer driving as well as autocross. Advantage is not having to change wheels or tires for an autocross day. The three tires I am considering are Falken RT-615K, Kumho Ecsta XS, and Hankook RS3. Reading some tire tests in Grassroots Motorsports magazine and some conversations with my brother have me leaning towards the Hankooks. I'll will have a decision and an update in about one month time.

Photo of The Week #27

My 8 year old son took this picture at a car show. It is a Studebaker pickup truck.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Road Trip to Maine

Took a trip with the family to Maine this weekend. A couple of the driving highlights were VT route 9 from Bennington to Brattleboro. Always a nice drive over the White Mountains. On the Bennington side is the Hemmings Motor News gas station and small museum. Halfway brings you to the ski town of Wilmington. Then you reach the end in Brattleboro. The other cool drive is US route 1 in Maine. Loaded with old fashioned tourist traps and some glimpses of inland harbors and tidal marshes. made a stop at Moody's diner in Waldaboro, ME. It gives a you peak at what vacationing was like in the 50's.
This neat Russian motorcycle was parked in front of Moody's

Photo of the Week #26

Owl's Head Transportation Museum

I had a chance this past Sunday to check out the Owl's Head Transportation Museum in Owl's Head, Maine. I have been here before almost 20 years ago or more. I wanted to stop over and see it again. This is a very nice museum with lots of nice automobiles, motorcycles and planes to see. They had a feature exhibit on MG autos. They have a great display of WWI and WWII vintage planes that you just can't anywhere. They have many shows at the museum throughout the year. At many of these shows you can see the vintage planes flying. If you are on vacation in Maine I recommend you check this place out.

Also further north on the Maine coast is the Seal Cove Auto Museum. I didn't have the opportunity to visit it during this trip but hope to in the future.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Get to Know 2012 Subaru WRX STi

Recently I had the chance to drive a 2012 Subaru WRX STi for a weekend. The best part was being able to drive it through the Adirondack mountains. What a get place to be able to enjoy a car like this.
I will start off be saying this is probably the best performance car available right now for the price. It easily outperforms anything priced below it and many cars that are two or three times the cost. This particular STi cost about $34,500. This would be considered a "base" model if there is one. No sunroof, navigation, or any other options.
The drive was great the car rides well and is comfortable on a highway but also handles great on the winding back roads. Great feedback from the wheel and lots of grip. The car I was driving had the original tires replaced with all season tires with a 540 tread wear rating. This changed the composure of the car some but not enough to take away and enjoyment of the drive at all.
The 2.5L turbo flat 4 had lots of power. It is rated at 300hp from Subaru. The motor has very good torque for a 4 cylinder and a smoother longer power curve than most turbo cars I have driven. They have done a good job managing turbo lag. In comparison my '05 Evolution has a narrow power curve and lots of turbo lag. This made the Sti easier to drive in start and stop traffic as well. highway driving.
Inside the Sti The seats are covered in alcantara with good support for handing the turns. The gauges are laid out well. and easy to read. I will say the climate control on this car could be the best I have ever used. It is simple! Three large knobs that are easy to grip and turn. I still don't think think the front and rear climate control buttons on out Honda Pilot are connected to the same car. Some luxury cars should look at this layout and take note. I do not want to have to scroll through a touch screen to change the fan speed.
Overall the Subaru WRX STi is a great car for serious performance driving as well as commute to work. The performance per dollar just can't be beat.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Photo of the week #24

Sitting on the side of the road. No engine or transmission.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Great Car TV

I recently entered the modern electronics era. A few months ago I bought a flat screen TV. Then the other day I went down to Timewarner cable to get the HD cable box to go with the new fangled TV. I stumbled upon the Velocity channel and started watching their channel lineup. This could be the best auto enthusiast channel I have seen since the old TNN (The Nashville Network)back in the 1980's. Lots of great cars shows to see. In perticular I have been watching "Chasing Classic Cars". It is great inside look at buying and selling high end collectible automobiles. But just tons of info on the great classics. If you get this channel check it out.

Monday, May 21, 2012

2012 Saratoga Auto Museum Spring Invitational

My family and I drove up to Saratoga this Sunday for the Museum's Spring Invitational. The weather was nice if not a little hot. There were L\lots of great cars to see. The feature this year was Cadillac.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Search for a family GT

As readers can tell by the posts on this blog one of my favorite weekend activities is to go for a drive with my family of five. The three vehicles we have available for this activity are those listed in the information column to the right. However none of these cars are just right for the job. The Pilot has lots of room for the whole family plus whatever stuff we decide to bring along. It is also very comfortable to ride in. The drawback for me is the handling. It is heavy, and you can feel the weight when accelerating, braking and in turns. The PT Cruiser is also quite spacious, although not nearly as big as the Pilot. All three kids fit in the backseat, with decent foot room for the middle passenger. It is much lighter and more nimble than the Pilot yet cornering is not its' strong point. I will say the PT is a decent car on the highway. Could use more power and slightly better handling. The Evolution is my vehicle of choice for road trips. This cannot be said for the rest of the family. The front Recaro seats have little padding and no adjustments. They get uncomfortable in about 30 minutes of riding. Due to the great handling characteristics the car rides very rough. Every bump in the road is felt by everybody in the car. The backseat has seat belts for three, but the middle passenger has little room in the seat or the foot area. This car does all the driving parts great acceleration, handling, and braking are all off the top of any chart. I am always for looking for a great road trip car that the driver and passengers can all enjoy. My requirements are better than average driving characteristics (acceleration, braking, handling), comfortable ride and plenty of room and seating for all passengers. The area where most cars fall off the list are in the back seat space. It is hard to find a sporty car or suv that has adequate space for the middle passenger in the back seat. The seat is usually very narrow and the foot area has a large drive shaft hump and the front center console extends back very far into the rear seat area. Some vehicles that I have looked at that have this back seat issue are the Porsche Cayenne and BMW 3 series. I would be open at any suggestions of cars or suv's that might be the perfect back road cruiser for a family of five.

Photo of the Week #21

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spring Drive

Got a chance to go for a drive with the family today. Checked out some back roads in West Glenville, NY. Weather was sunny and warm. Found some nice roads and a few cool views also.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Current Top 10 Explanation #1

About a year ago I did a post called My Current Top 10. Just a list of the top 10 cars I most want to own, in no particular order. I will start at the top of the list and explain why I want each car. First car on the list was the Porsche 911 (997). This version of the 911 was produced from 2005-2011. It is the second generation of the water cooled 911's. Porsche fixed many of the issues the first generation water cooled 996 cars. I have always admired the 911 since I started following the Flying Lizard Porsche team in the American LeMans racing series. I had a chance to drive a 2005 base model 911 about two years ago with my son on father's day. We test drove a silver car with the 6 speed transmission. Going into the drive I assumed the car was going to be nice, I mean it is a Porsche it should be nice right? I didn't think it was going to be amazing! It was nearly perfect. Almost flat cornering. The power band on the 345hp flat six was smooth from idle right to red line. The power wasn't mind blowing or anything just smooth and strong. Everything felt so refined and smooth. It was one of those cars you think you are driving about 30mph and a glance at the speedometer will red 70 or 80mph. The biggest difference between a Porsche 911 and your car is when you get back into your car. My Mitsubishi feels like a soup can on wheels compared to the Porsche. My top choice would be an "S" model with 40 more horsepower and bigger brakes than the base 911. Maybe someday. The 997 generation is now out of production and they can be found as certified used cars from Porsche for $45,000-65,000. Still a lot of money for most people but I feel worth every penny.

Photo of The Week #20

Covered bridge in Woodstock, VT.

Photo of The Week #19

Team O'Neil rally driving school.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Photo of the week #18

Toyota truck frames rust. These are from 2000-05 Tacomas. Replacements are behind them.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Automobile fun for $20?

About a year ago when I started this blog I did a post called "Automobile fun for $1". That post was about collecting Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars. Today I am going to talk about the next step beyond that which is plastic model car kits. When I was young these kits cost anywhere from $10-$20 depending on the store and manufacturer. Today I think they sell in the $20-$30 range from what I have seen in hobby stores.
Plastic model kits have been around since the 1950's and are still made today. This lets a child or adult get a little more hands on than the Hot Wheels cars. You can really see the differences in car styles and cars when you assemble them yourself.
A standard model kit would come with all the parts to build the car. The body and frame would be molded in plastic. and the small components came on plastic "trees". Generally all parts are molded in one color, which would be the same as the color of the body of the car. There was also a tree of chrome parts and one clear for windows and lights. Glue and paint were sold separately. There were also directions and a usually a sheet of water decals to detail the body of the car after construction. The example I have of the 1966 Chevy Nova the body has been spray painted in primer and some of the suspension and engine parts have been painted on the trees. You can see in the photos the trees of parts and directions that came with the kit.
One nice part of model car building that is fun is each car can be painted or modified to the builders preference. Some kits would come with customizing parts to hot rod the car. This gave the builder the ability to personalize the model.
The most common companies building kits when I was young were Monogram, AMT and MPC. There are many other companies to choose from and just about any car ever made has had a model kit produced.
I used to get most of my kits from a place called Duane's Toyland in Niskayuna, NY. Which is long gone now. They had a huge selection of cars and trucks. Today they can be found at hobby stores like Hobbytown USA, Michaels, and there are still some great mom and pop hobby shops also. In my area Mohawk Valley Railroad Co. has a great selection of model cars kits as well as airplanes and boats.
Some things you will need that are not included are a hobby knife, Plastic model glue, fine grit sand paper, tweezers, toothpicks, some small assorted model paints, spray paint for the body and frame, and your imagination.
The winter is the best time of year for model building since you may be stuck in the house anyway. When I was young I built nearly 100 model kits and had fun with each one.
Some of the kits in the photos are ones that I have made when I was younger. The Richard Petty Plymouth Superbird kit was made in the early 1970's by Jo-Han. The Chevrolet Corvair kit was produced in the 1960's. All the other kits show are from the 1980's.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Affordable fun 2012

There are some really cool affordable performance cars due out this year. Hyundai continues to add to its' performance lineup. The Genesis coupe I wrote about a few months ago gets a facelift and more power. Both the turbo 4 and V6 get direct injection and about 30 more hp. The Genesis also receives a new more aggressive look. Also from Hyundai is a turbo version of the new Veloster. The Veloster is already the coolest looking car under $20,000. Now it will get the power to match the unique styling. The price for the turbo will probably exceed $20,000, but still a good deal. Comes in a special matte gray finish
Ford is offering a performance version of the Focus badged the ST. It will feature a 2.0L EcoBoost turbo 4 cylinder. Actual horsepower number yet to be released. I would expect 180-220. They are also selling a factory built race car version called the Focus ST-R. It will be a turn key race car built by Ford for the Grand Am Continental Tire ST class.
Fiat will also be introducing a hotter version of the 500 called the Abarth. It will also be featuring a turbo 1.4L 4 cylinder. This model has been sold in Europe for the last few years.
Also new this year is the new New VW Beetle Turbo. Slightly more aggressive styling than the previous version. Almost looks like a retro version of the Porsche 356. It comes with a 2.0L turbo 4 cylinder. This is essentially the same turbo 4 available in the VW GTI, Audi A3, A4, A6 and TT.
So if anybody out there is looking for a fun car on a budget there are many options out there these days to choose from. Check out these new models and have fun. I hope to take some of these new models for a test drive this coming spring and summer.
These are only the newest models out. There are still the tried and true favorites that have been around a while like the Mini Cooper, Cooper S, VW GTI, and Honda Civic Si
Photos are courtesy of Hyundai, Ford and Fiat websites