Thursday, January 07, 2010

SJ Auto Show - weaksauce!

It's been a while, but I haven't had much to post about what with building a car and all...

Managed to get a few hours away from the shop today and decided to go check out the auto show at the San Jose Convention Center. Billing itself as the "Silicon Valley International Auto Show" gave me high hopes, which was quickly dashed when I entered the building.

Coming out of the garage you had your usual automotive paraphernalia peddling midway. Except this one was only a half dozen booths long. There were some "race cars" from Sears Point and SCCA, and a FSAE car from San Jose State. All were disappointing and even a race car (and fabrication) fan like me just walked past them. When I figured out the main entrance was actually the other way, I was more annoyed than excited about walking back past the racers. I've seen better cars at the parking lot of SEMA, or any HPDE in Northern California.

Went up the stairs and was greeted by the "baller" cars. Lambo, Ferrari and Bentleys a plenty. This wasn't an official manufacturer showcase, just a local dealer peddling their wares. Appropriately staffed by a hot young blonde and roped off so none of the San Jose-types could touch (the cars, not the blonde). I liked the Bentley GT Supersports because of the color (like the wife's G35) and black rims. The F40 was nice to see in person, but the F-Scud Spider was the hotness.

Inside it was pretty weak overall with Hyundai surprising me with the biggest and best staffed booth. The BMW sales guy was kinda slimy putting down the Acura ZDX across the way, as if the X6 was the original and a beauty queen or something. The 5 Series GT was nice inside, but way too weird looking to be seen in. The M5 was kinda 'meh' and the best Bimmer was (sadly) a 128i (they didn't even bring the 135i) with some nice wheels. The Mini half of the booth was easily passed up because they're a dime a dozen around this area.

I tried all the modern day muscle cars and I've gotta say, the Mustang does it for me. Nicest interior of the bunch. Good lines without being too retro and looking like it weighs 5000lbs. I think the Dodge might actually weigh that much. And it's mid-90's interior straight off a 300C/Magnum/Charger was rather uninspiring. The Camaro interior on the other hand looks like it's trying to hard and fails.

The most comfy car was actually a Mazda Miata. What does that say about me? The Lincoln MKS is a tarted up Taurus and feels more cramped. The Taurus itself was a nice surprise, might make a good vehicle for Mom & Dad. The trunk was HUGE!

It was kinda funny how each booth represented their brand, whether it was intended or not. See my Picasa Album and comments.


Monday, March 16, 2009

This makes me... not as Angry as I thought.

I think I'm getting old.  My Xbox360 decided to die today and I was just bummed that we couldn't watch Wall-E!  My poor baby would have to wait to get his movie fix.

I tried to submit an order repair online since talking to a CSR is very low on my list of favorite things to do.  Of course you have to have a stupid MSFT Live account.  Which I did.  But I don't use Hotmail (cause it sucks) so they kill my Live acct after 3 months (or whatever).  So I signed up again.  And they ask you to make a new gamertag.  Uh, I already have one!  And I ain't changing it.  So I give in and call the dman 800 number.

The call wasn't bad, besides a bit of deciphering required, it actually went rather smoothly.  I was worried they would ask for a dated receipt to verify my 360 was still under warranty (it is) but they didn't.  I do have to use my own box, but that's no big deal.  I actually got the shipping label right away, though the guy said it wouldn't be ready for a few hours.

It's going out tomorrow and the timer starts.  How long will it be before I get my (or a refurb?) 360 back?

Thank goodness the PS3 works fine (when ever I do use it).

-Less Angry VG

Thursday, January 15, 2009

GT-R Spotting and S-Mode

So I'm driving home on the 101 and spot this sinister looking car two lanes over.  I caught a glimpse of the taillights and I knew right away.  It was the new R35 GT-R!  I had not seen one in the flesh before and what a treat!  The car was in the lighter of the two shades of gray.  I actually picked that color for my own GT-R (in Gran Turismo 5P!) and it looked really nice at dusk.  The lines of the car are amazing and are much nicer in person than in pictures or even videos.  

The driver switched over a lane (further away) and took off.  He was headed down 85 south and just like that my GT-R experience was over.  Definitely on my "dream garage" list.

The VW is holding up well and drives good enough "for a family car."  Just barely over 5000 miles in under 4 months and I just discovered my new favorite feature.  S-mode on the Tiptronic.  Yeah, I see you rolling your eyes.  A "real" car guy would have bought a manual.  Sure, but this was the family car and my wife has to be able to drive it.  Plus we bought it at year end and there were only 5 Passat Wagons left in California!  

I've been puttering around in "D" and was fine with the tepid acceleration and slow kick-down of the automatic transmission.  It's just a family car right?  I just let the idiots pass me while I turtle along at 65mph.  Today I took 280 home.  Any Bay Area native will tell you, the average speed on 280 is about 75mph... in the slow lane!  I had accidentally put the Tiptronic in "S" (for Sport) mode a few times before.  Once I chirped the tires for a solid 2 seconds coming out of the driveway.  This time I purposely put it in "S" and boy was it fun!  The trans holds revs around 3k rpm (vs. 2k in "D") and the turbo really comes to life.  Torque is more than adequate (but I still want more!) and she'll go to redline before shifting up.  Going up the hills of 92 wasn't a wheeze-fest like before.  I was behind a couple of cars on the ramp to 280 and decided to go to the outside lane and get around.  I got around the Cam-cord or whatever and saw a little Mini Cooper.  The dual pipes in the middle told me it was the "S" version and I thought, oh well, I'll just slot in behind him on the merge.  But he didn't accelerate through the corner.

Bad Mini Driver! (pun not intended)

I hit the gas and pulled side by side with the MCS.  The stock Michelins held the line surprisingly well, so I kept on the throttle.  I pulled about three car lengths ahead in the curve and settled down.  Wow.  This car really drives!

280 is the perfect road for the Passat.  Higher speed, gentle curves and nice elevation changes.  It was like driving in Germany, and that's why this german wagon was clearly in its element.

Now about that APR chip...


Thursday, January 08, 2009

I want an Exige.

I admit it.  I'm guilty of window shopping on the List that is Craig's for my next "new" car.  No matter that we already have two very nice cars and I have a toy/beater/track/weekend car that I can waste time and money on.  I still want another car.  I think I'll always want "another car" no matter what's in the garage.  That's the curse of being a car guy.

And I used to say I want an Elise.  But now I'm going to edit myself.  I want an EXIGE.

Why?  And what's that you ask? Here's a snippet of convo with my brother:

spinergynb: what is the diff btw Elise and Exige?
PelicanRacing: hardtop!
PelicanRacing: (sorta)
PelicanRacing: rear clam is different
PelicanRacing: supposed to be like Boxster vs. Cayman
spinergynb: doesn't the orig have a removable lid?
PelicanRacing: yeah
PelicanRacing: they all do
PelicanRacing: but the Exige lid has a scoop!
spinergynb: the main diff btw the two, to me, are the lights..
PelicanRacing: it's a sick looking car
PelicanRacing: lights are better on Exige
spinergynb: aggro vs. fun
PelicanRacing: no scallops in rear
PelicanRacing: mesh vs strakes or whatever
PelicanRacing: it's definitely a mean looking car

To borrow a phrase, it's an Elise turned up to 11.  If you're gonna get a totally impractical car like a Lotus, might as well go for the most impractical car you can.  I mean an M3's nice, but driving it to work is similar to driving a 325i. I guess that's appealing to some folks, but I don't want to spend $70k for a tarted up 3 series (probably the most common car in the Bay Area).

I just read a really well written review of the Exige S 240 on Jalopnik. It sums up the thought process behind why anyone would want to own this car.

And I hope I never grow up!


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Rides - past, present and future.

Considering how much I like cars and bikes and karts and racing and going fast in general, it's surprising that I haven't done a post like this one before.  It's simply an automotive history of sorts - a list of cars I've owned, and cars I would like to own one day.  We did a similar exercise before about the "dream garage" or whatever you'd like to call it.  This is a bit different because it lists cars you've actually owned, which I think says a lot about a person.  Not that I would have this list in my signature line on a car forum, because that is LAME!

We'll start with the senior year ride.  And since I grew up in NYC, I'm talking about college, not high school!

1) 1990 (?) Civic Wagon.  I didn't actually own this car, but I claim ownership since I was the one who sent it to its demise.  Originally owned by my brother-in-law, who sold it to my brother, who let me drive it to/from school.  I moved out of college in this car, and got into the first accident on Broadway.  Second accident was in Chicago, which sent Grandma to the hospital (God bless her, she was a strong woman) and cut our cross-country trip short.  Don't know how we limped back home to NYC, but we did.  Then I think the car was junked.  I think this is how the wagon obsession started.

2) 1991 (?) Infiniti G20 sedan.  I can't believe I forgot the model year!  I know it was an early model since the 1993.5 got the high-port (or is it low port?) version of the venerable SR20DE engine.  I also know it was a '91 or '92 since I had the dreaded 5th gear pop-out!  I remember getting a heavy-ass package from UPS with my new transmission in it.  It came from a G20t model, so it had the factory LSD, though I don't think I put it to good use because I was just a punk ass kid street racing bum at the time.  I also remember my Greddy exhaust which I thought sounded great.  I think this car is still sitting around the parent's farm somewhere.

3) 2000 MR2 Spyder.  Moved to Cali so I had to get a convertible.  It was the peak of the dot-com boom and we all thought we were living the good life.  Well, I did for a few months before my company closed and I was making car payments with unemployment checks.  Great car though, glad I was able to keep it for so long.  I didn't put the top down as much as I should have.  This car got my started with real driving, i.e. autocrossing, twisty road rallies and open track days!  I sold it to a nice woman at Stanford medical school, and I still look around for another one considering how cheap they are.

During my MR2 ownership I went through a bit of a Nissan fanboy phase.  Kids were just starting this "drifting" thing and 240sx's weren't completely ridiculously overpriced just yet.  I may have helped contribute to their price inflation...

4) Smashatch - that's the name for the first 240sx I bought.  A tree had fallen on the hatch and it was completely fubar'ed.  Of course, I thought I could just take a Sawzall to it and make myself an El Camino.  I was wrong.  Living in an apartment with no parking didn't help.  I sold it for 3x the price.

5) Creamy - yellow and grey two-tone coupe.  I thought it was hot shit, but it probably was just shit to everyone else on the road.  It had a working HUD which was nuts for 1991 in-car technology.  Cleaned it up a bit, removed some tacky vinyl and drove it around for a bit.  Replaced 3 of 4 fuel injectors so there wouldn't be gas spurting all over the hot engine. Sold it for more than twice what I paid.  

6) OneLiner - black 240sx coupe with R32 Skyline taillights and the almighty SR20DET!  The name is a play on the Japanese name for the 240sx hatchback (180sx) and the Coupe body with GT-R lights.  Most people would call it a OneVia (for Silvia), but I had to be different.  This car was awesome!  Super light chassis, craptastic tires and stout power from an otherwise stock SR.  Probably only 200hp, but it felt like a lot more.  I even went to the track once, and despite the plastic-fantastic big-wheel like traction afforded by $100 tires (meaning $100 for ALL FOUR), I had lots of fun.  My buddy called it the "Beater Battle" since he brought out his 'other MR2' to have some fun.  I sold this one for a tidy profit as well.  I would still get another one.

7) 2004 WRX wagon - this was the "family car" to replace the Spyder.  It was still a compact sports car, but with rear seats that could (barely) fit a baby seat.  Had the works done to it, but unfortunately I never got to track the beast.  Went to a Subie rally once, but everyone was just sitting around.  I took her up Mt. Hamilton myself and boy was that fun!  Brembos were amazing, Stage 4 upgrades on the EJ20 was ridiculous.  It still oversteered a bit, but you could just manhandle the car and it would do no wrong.  Didn't help me improve as a driver, but it was an awesome car.  Sold it to a good friend of mine at work, so I know she's in good hands.

8) 2008 VW Passat wagon - yup, another wagon.  This was the first German car and we got it at a very good price.  I wanted an STI wagon, but it wasn't any bigger than my WRX.  The new A4 Avant is nice too, but about $10k too much.  And it felt slower than the Passat, which has the same motor, but doesn't carry the weight penalty of AWD.  It's a family wagon, FWD is fine.  I'm actually surprised by how much I like this car.  I don't think I would ever "love" it, but it's a dman fine vehicle.  The small details in design and functionality really make you appreciate good engineering.  I expect to drive this one for a long while, at least until the kids are out of school (elementary, not high).

That's the list!  I'm actually disappointed that it's only 8 and not 10.  I could count the G35, but I always think of it as the wife's car.  If it were mine I would have modified something (anything!) a long time ago.


Monday, November 10, 2008

What is that? A VW Passa?

As is customary of al(most)l my cars, I had to take the little chrome letters off the rear of the PeeDub (Passat Wagon).  The emblems were actually quite small and rather tastefully done, but we've got a tradition to uphold!  

Can you believe people actually post on car forums asking how it's done?  I mean, seriously!  If you need to ask, maybe it's too hard for you...  I started with the T and was surprised to find I could just pry it off with my fingernail, right in the cold cold garage.  Usually people will suggest some assortment of heat, fishing line, floss, chemicals, knives, spatulas, crowbars...

I should post some pictures, but the FF is now a "        ". It was a PASSA, a PASS, an ASS and an SS at one point or another. Wendy actually thought "ASS" was funny and said I should leave it like that for awhile. I love that girl!

I did hit it with a little adhesive cleaner, but overall it was quick and painless.  A really easy "mod" that changes the look of the car for the better.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Proud to be an... Columbian?

No, not Colombian.  Though they do make fine coffee, and uh, *other* exports.  I got an e-mail from the President today.  No, not *that* President.

President Bollinger from Columbia University.  I don't mention it much in day to day life, because out here on the West Coast, people haven't even heard of Columbia!  How crazy is that?  Shouldn't everyone know the 8 Ivy League schools off the top of their head?  (Yes.  And Brown is the one you're forgetting...)  Well, good 'ole Lee (that's what we call him) sent out the expected note that one of our OWN (no, I'm not Black) was elected to the highest office in the land (world?).  President Elect Barack Obama is a Columbia College grad just like me.  

Well, he transfered in, but that's still pretty hard to do right?

Yesterday was a historic day in American History.  Now let's see what we can do with all this change...