Keeping Tempo

 The Tempo may no longer belong to me, but she's still a part of my life. She belongs to my best friend Wildvines. I never named her, but with Bobby at the helm one has been chosen. Baby 'tang (Mustang). If you squint while looking at her, it's possible to imagine that you're seeing a Mustang, and Bobby certainly drives her like she is one.

 I'm a decent driver, but I'm not comfortable pushing a vehicle to their limits. Wildvines lives at the limits. Baby tang's speedo only goes up to 85 MPH, so most of the time we're not certain of our rate of progress. If ever there was proof that the driver makes more of a difference than the car, this would be it. Mustangs, Corvettes, V6 Cougars, and even a Porsche have underestimated Bobby, to their chagrin. From a standing start it's no contest, Baby 'tang doesn't have the horses to stay ahead, but on the interstate it's another story.

 Speed is important, of course, but if you're not looking ahead and predicting the flow of traffic you will become ensnared behind the slower vehicles. Fortunately for Wildvines, most people lack this ability, and are perplexed when an innocous looking Tempo is able to get by them. As long as there's traffic, Wildvines will have the upper hand 90% of the time.

 Don't mess with the Baby 'tang.

Two's Company, Four's A Crowd

 Look underneath the Ride logo up there, at the list fo cars I've owned (OK, and one truck). There's one thing in common amongst them. Can you guess what it is? Time's up!

 Each one only had two doors. There's not a 4-door sedan among the lot, and it's a concious decision. Practicality is not one of the traits I look for in a vehicle, in fact it's at the bottom of the list of "must-have" features. Yes, four doors do make it easier to haul your friends around, but besides that I see no practical reason for them. My Probe, Storm, and Supra are or were all hatchbacks, and I can carry a lot more in them than most sedans.

 Passengers are something I try to stay away from. I don't own people movers, I own machines of passion. Objects that connect to my soul in ways many people cannot fathom. To me, my cars are extensions of my physical being, tools that allow me to explore the spiritual side of life. To call them simply cars is to demean myself, an act of misunderstanding what they represent.

 I've probably lost many people by this point, but the few who've kept up know exactly what I mean. Life is meant to be lived, and that includes commute time.

Oh Please

 Coming down the interstate this morning I saw a Ford Focus in my rearview mirror catching up to me. As he was passing, I was admiring the car. Slightly beefier tire and wheel combo, slightly lowered suspension, sharp paint job, all low-key performance mods that were serious, not just for show. I was impressed, someone who was more concerned with actual performance instead of just style. Until I saw the rear of the vehicle. There where a ZX3 emblem should have been was a GT-R emblem from the Nissan Skyline.

 I almost tried to pull the driver over so I could save him from the darkside, but my exit came up, and it was too late.

Who Could Ask For Anything More

 HondaKid was a little rough on Toyota in one of his recent posts, and I feel it necessary to respond. Toyota is, has been, and will be my car of choice, so I'm a little prejudiced, but they do make some damn fine vehicles.

 I used to own a '95 Tacoma, 2WD, and she was as truck as you could get. Once you get away from civilization here in Tennessee you find the red-roads, byways carved into the earth by bulldozers, exposing the red clay to act as a road surface. Every time it rains the ruts get wider and deeper, and nearly everyone who lives in those parts owns a truck. You have to, a regular car's suspension can't handle it. You see plenty of the Big Three's models out there, this being the south an all, but the next most common trucks are Toyota. Many a Sunday were spent on these roads, Snarl (my Tacoma's name ) and I finding the most desolate trails to explore, and never once did she let me down. I can't speak for the 4WD models, but if the 2WD ones are anything to gauge by, they're awesome trucks. There is nothing wimpy about the Tacoma.

 The demise of the MR2 was truly a sad occasion for enthusiats, but unfortunately inevitable. As the Corolla moved upsacle, so too did the MR2, being based on many of the same mechanicals. There's just not enough of a market for a baby Ferrari, even if the price could have been significantly lowered. The market determines what can and cannot be built, and the MR2's time has come and gone. The MR-S is a fine vehicle, for what it is, and Toyota should be lauded for producing it. Not many manufacturers have the balls to produce anything mid-engined, and making it convertible only makes that task more difficult. Mourn for the MR2, or better yet seek out one and drive it, but do not berate the MR-S as a poor replacement. That's not what it is.

 Now we get to the main problem with Toyota today, and it's one they share with every other automobile manufacturer in the world. Cars continue to move upscale, gaining luxury in classes that used to be spartan, and drastic increases in price. Thirty and forty-somethings can afford the price of a new car, and that's the way the market has shifted. Everyone has trouble marketing new cars to 20-somethings, but I don't believe the problem is what you hear in the news. It's simple really, it's all about the cost. Once you get past the $10,000-$12,000 range, you have passed the 20-somethings by. Someone starting out in their carer or in college just does not have the cash-flow for a loan much larger than that, and 72 month loans won't fix it. A new car is simply out of reach.

 Used car lots are the domain of the 20-somethings, and there's not a new car in the world that can compete price-and-features wise with what you can buy secondhand. It's tough being young, grabbing a copy of Car and Driver, and realizing that there's not a car in there you can buy. Unless you have rich or gullible parents, that new-car smell will not grace your driveway for at least a decade. It seems like forever, especially when you consider that's almost have of a young person's lifetime. The solution for the manufacturers is simple, but implimentation is nearly impossible.

 Just come out with a new car that costs $10,000, looks like it's more expensive, and has the standard features of, say, a Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic. Anyone know how to do this?

Is That You Hyundai?

 There must be something in the water at Hyundai HQ, just look at the cars they're producing and you can see a major miracle in the works. The company that flooded the American market with the cheap (and cheaply built) Excel is now making some very attractive vehicles. They've learned how to compete in the marketplace better than anyone thought, and are truly turning into a force to be reckoned with.

 The Sonata has gone from a wannabe Camry/Accord into an impressive midsize sedan that stands on it's own merits. There's still a ways to go before it can match the big players toe-to-toe, but it's getting awfully close. Honda, Nissan, and Toyota have to be feeling the heat, never mind what the domestic Big Three are feeling.

 My father had an early 90's Sonata, and it was decent but uninspired. The styling and performance have matured, and it's difficult to think the old and new versions come from the same company. Finally, the Japanese get some real competition, and consumers will be the ultimate winners in this battle. The midsize segment consists of each manufacturer's best seller, the car that truly is the physical representation of that company. There's been a renaissance at Hyundai Motors.

 Instead of a little cute-ute as thir first foray into the SUV market, Hyundai shows off it's marketing savvy by producing the Santa Fe. Along the lines of the Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota 4Runner in dimensions, it's a serious choice in this segment. I'm not a big SUV fan, but the Santa Fe's styling is some of the best in the land. The only SUV that I think surpasses it would be the new Nissan Murano.

 Six-Cylinder engine. 6-Speed manual transmission. The Tiburon firmly nails the sporty coupe target with a winner. The redesigned style is a little lacking, less avant-garde than the original, but the mechanicals are what really matter here. This is another segment where Hyndai really shines, even though it's not a huge market. It is important for image, though, and bravo to Hyundai to have the balls to put out an enthusiat's car.

 For proof that Hyundai wants to be a world-class auto manufacturer, look no further than the XG350. Hyundai's going after the jugular with this one, and I wouldn't be suprised to see a luxury division emerge if this car is successful. From the Excel to the XG is a huge leap, but Hyundai has pulled it off.

 Competition is such a good thing when it comes to cars. Now if only Kia would get serious.

Pain And Suffering

 Some time yesterday someone hit mt Probe. It's not anything major, it's on the fender that already has a dent, but it's annoying that they didn't do the right thing and at least try to contact me. All they had to do was leave a note. F'ing bastard.

Are You In, Or Out?

 An interesting article about the new Mini. In the end, I think she still doesn't get what the Mini is really about, just like all the people who bought the Miata when it first came out. It's all about the ride, baby!

It Goes Both Ways

 You've seen them on the road before, senior citizens driving down the road with their turn-signal permanently on. My buddy and I were behind one yesterday, and almost witnessed an accident. A man on a Kawasaki Ninja was going to turn left onto the road we were on, saw the car in front of us with the turm-signal going, and decided it was OK to proceed with his turn. Unfortunately the senior citizen was not turning, and I thought for sure they were going to collide.

 Speed is blamed for many accidents, but this time speed prevented one. The rider gouged on the throttle and avoided the accident. Who was at fault in this almost accident? It would depend on who you asked. The driver was not aware his turn-signal was on, so to him the rider was definitely at fault. You know those crazy bikers on their murdercycles! Someone ought to outlaw 'em!

 The rider was probably pissed because the driver was not paying attention. Even if he could not hear his signal going off, surely he could see the blinking light on his instrument cluster. Those damn seniors don't need to be on the road! Someone ought to outlaw them!

 If you ask me, both were at fault. The driver, of course, should have realized his skills were diminishing and compensated for it. If you find that you kleave you signal going, a good driver would develop the habit of looking at his instruments to make sure the signal shut off. No one is a perfect driver, and everyone, including me, can benefit from honest evaluations of their driving skills.

 If you spend any time on a motorcycle, you should realize that you are nearly invisible to motorists. Many drivers never see the bike they hit until it's too late, and a good rider does what he can to compensate for this. It takes constant vigilance, and second guessing what actions the drivers around you are going to take. Will that guy pull out in front of me? Assume he will and plan for it. Check the lane beside you to make sure it's clear, release the throttle to slow y9ou down somewhat, and evaluate the shoulder as a last ditch alternative. Sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but being prepared makes all the difference.

 Of course, brake lights on the front of vehicles would help too. Anyone else think this is a good idea?


Life has changed, and so has the blog. I've reworked the design, and because Blog is a pain to use on different computers, I've gone back to, ugh, Blogger. More to come.
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