The Top Five

 After weeks of deliberation, I have finally narrowed down the list of Cars I Must Own. Five different cars, from a group of over 50 candidates. The winners are...

  Microcar : Ford Festiva - Mazda mechanicals, built by Kia, and sold by Ford, the Festiva is one of the few microcars available here in the U.S. While the Chevrolet Sprint Turbo and Subaru Justy are worthwhile options, there's just something about the Festiva that strikes a chord with me. The Mini Cooper is another alternative, but there's no way I'll be ble to afford one anytime soon. If cost was no object, the Honda Beat would win this category, but alas, I haven't won the lottery yet.

  Hatchback : Pontiac LeMans - Enginerred by Opel, built by Daewoo, and sold by Pontiac, the LeMans is my choice for hatchback to have. There's a ton of choices, with the likes of the VW GTI, Dodge Colt, Toyota Corolla FX-16, Honda Civic, and Daihatsu Charade, this is my nod to the European manufacturers. I'd love to take one of these and put Opel Kadett body pieces on it. The styling is funky, and it will take some work to get one where I would want it, but the LeMans is surely a car you don't see every day.

  Sporty Coupe : Isuzu Impulse - Turbocharged, all-wheel-drive, with suspension designed by Lotus, how can you not like this car. Thee's a soft spot in my heart for Isuzu, and while the Diamond Star trio adn Celica All-Trac are attractive alternatives, the Impulse wins hands down. I lusted after this car when it was new, and that fire still burns in my heart. I gotta have one!

  GT Car : Mitsubishi Starion - This was probably the hardest choice. The superb Nissan 300ZX came a close second, and of course there's Toyota's fabulous Supra, but the Starion is the most unique of the choices. While it doesn't come with a six-cylinder engine, the styling puts Ford's New Edge to shame. The Chrysler Conquest is the same car, but if I have the option, it will be a Starion.

  True Sports Car : Toyota MR2 - This was a foregone conclusion from the start. While the Miata is convertible, and a blast to drive, the MR2 is the car I want more than any other. Mid-engine design, nimble and quick, a true driver's car in every aspect. She's out there, somewhere, just waiting for the right time to present herself to me.

 What about the three cars I own right now? The Probe is a birthday gift for my Nephew Dorian on his sixteenth birthday. There's a lot of work to do to her, but I think 15 years should be enough time to get her ready. The Corolla and the Escort will be daily drivers, cars I won't be afraid to put miles on and haul groceries in.

 Most people that make a list like this usually list cars like Ferrarris and Porsches. While they're the paragons of automotive performance, and eventually I could own one, why bother. The enjoyment of driving is not determined by how expensive the vehicle is, how fast it gets to 60 mph, or how high the skidpad number is. It's a union between a man and his machine, and's that something that can be achieved with any car.

Link Of The Day

 Yes, there are actually performance parts for the Ford Festiva. Check out Festiva Motorsport.

Link Of The Day

 Remember the Chevy Chevette? It was also sold as an Opel, Vauxhall, Holden, and Isuzu. Get more info at GM's T-Car.

More Minis

 I like small cars. Geo Metro's, Ford Festiva's, Subaru Justy's, there's just something about a minimalist auto. Although they need better engines, something with a little more oomph, upgrade their suspensions and wheels and you have your own little pocket rocket. Speed is a relative thing, and taking a Festiva around a corne at the limits of the tire's grip is just pure entertainment. You don't need the most powerful car out there to have some fun, and less is more when it comes to handling.

 That's probably the reason I like the Mini so much. It has a good engine, great handling, and from all accounts a blast to drive. It's been very popular, and hopefully indicates a trend in the American market towards more fun cars. I've had enough of SUV's, but I don't hate 'em cause they get poor mileage. they're just too big, get in the way, and handle like a beached whale.

 There is another small car out there that I wish was available here in the U.S. It's the Ford Ka.

 Of course, to be a success, it would need to be marketed like the Mini, meaning dealers would have to treat perspective owners differently than their regular buyers. If the whole experience isn't fun, and they don't realize the customer is there to buy a small car because they want one, not because it's all they can afford, it just won't happen, and I seriously doubt most Ford dealers are capable of making that happen. It's nice to dream though.

Driving From The Desk

 Who says you're tied to your desk at work. Mine has it's own instrument cluster now!

More Truth In Advertising

 If you're going to offer something crappy on eBay, it's good to have a sense of humor.


Caveat Emptor

 Sadly, it seems, it will always be buyer beware in the automotive repair world. Yesterday I tool the Corolla to see what was needed to get the exhaust repaired. She needs a new downpipe and muffler, nothing special, and something that shouldn't be too expensive.

 The tech didn't speak much english, but he showed what needed to be replaced. He tried to get the boss to take a look at what needed to be replaced, but he ignored him as he checked to see if he had some parts in stock. I found out s0on just what he was looking for. He went into his office and typed up my work order. The grand total was $626.02!

 This was, of course, because he thought I was stupid enough to take him at his word. You see, I didn't have a catalytic converter, and that was a required part. That was the part he was checking for, since it is the most expensive piece of the exhaust system. Instead of just a down pipe and muffler, I was supposed to believe I needed everything from the downpipe back replaced.

 Thinking about it now, exhaust systems are probably the perfect way to test the integrity of whomever you are contemplating servicing your vehicle. Get yourself a screwdriver and flashlight. If something's rusted through, it needs to be replaced. If it looks suspect, tap it with the screw driver. If you create a hole, that needs replaced too. Then go see your mechanic and see what he thinks needs fixing. You might be suprised.

Karma's A Bitch

 Last year my best friend Bobby was purchasing a 1987 BMW 3-series coupe in excellent condition. The lady that was selling it lives in the same apartment complex, and wanted $700.00, and in two weeks Bobby would have had the money. She agreed to let Bobby buy the car, and went ahead and let him drive it while he came up with the dough. That lasted a week.

 In that week Bobby fully deytailed that BMW, and replaced the power window switches that had gone bad. The car looked brand new. Bobby had poured his heart and soul into that beemer, and it showed, which turned out to be a bad thing. The owner noticed how much better the car looked, and decided to sell it to someone else. She came over and took the keys, and sold it the next day. Bobby was crushed. We're not sure how much she got for it, but it was enough for her to buy a later model 3-series for $3,000.

 Skip ahead to now, and she's got a for sale sign up in her BMW, $3,200 firm. The reason it's for sale is that there's a problem with the engine, and no one's been able to correct it. So, now she wants more than she paid for a car that has a known problem that will prpbably cost a bundle to get fixed. We've let the people in the apartments around us know there's a problem with that beemer, and just how much she originally paid for it. As a public service, mind you.

Luck O' The Irish

 Tuesday I went to secure a duplicate title for my Kawasaki Zephyr. After eleven years the original title had gone missing, hence the replacement. Normally you go in, they take your Drivers License and VIN, and five dollars and five seconds later you have a crisp new title. Problem was I hadn't registered the bike since '96, when she stopped running. Apparently they had just received instructions that titles not in the computer would have to be retrieved by another department, and then mailed out, a process taking two weeks. She looked at my license and asked if I had come all the way from Columbia (45 minutes south of Nashville).

 I hadn't, but since the address on license hasn't been updated with my new one, I said I had. She got on the phone to her supervisor, talked for a minute, ended the conversation with "So you never told me about the new memo until I'm done with this title.", and told me she would be right back. After all these years, being friendly to the people at the DMV had finally paid off! The DMV was doing a favor for me.

 She came back in about ten minutes with a photocopy of my registration form from '94, when I first registered the bike in Tennessee, a big grin on her face. She pointed to the signature at the bottom. Eight years ago she worked at another office, and was the one who processed my title transfer from Ohio!

 When I moved here, I had just made the final payment on my bike loan, so my new Tennessee title was the first one that had me as the owner and not Phoenix National Bank. It's fitting that she was there when the bike truly becam mine, and now that I was selling the bike, she was there at the end.

Corolla Report

 My new Corolla is, by no means, perfect. It needs exhaust work, something I knew beforehand, but there's a few details the previous owner left out. The car has been repainted, and while decent, it's not great. Apparently instead of sanding down the old paint, it was just painted over. There is no radio, like the eBay ad said, but it didn't mention that they had to break the plastic bezel around the radio. The cupholder, cigarette lighter and ashtray, and storage bin have all been removed, and while I have the parts, the bezel itself will have to be replaced. "It has a crack in the dash" somehow equates to four cracks in the dash, so I'll be investing in a dash cover soon.

 That's all the bad stuff, but I think her good points outweigh the bad points. She's a Toyota, for one, so dependability shouldn't be aproblem. She drives nice, handles well, and looks good doing it. With a little time, effort, and money, she should be just about perfect!

Now What?

 Now that I own a Toyota Corolla, am I required to start calling it an AE92? How about Trueno, or Levin. Gosh, I don't want people to think I'm not cool, I better start using the Japanese terminology!

 Nah, I think I'll call it just what it is, a Toyota Corolla SR5.

Truth In Advertising

Link Of The Day

 Acura came onto the U.S. car scene in 1986, warming the hearts of enthusiasts everywhere with the wonderous Civic-based Integra. Celebrate the first generation of Integras at First Integration.

The Calling

 She sits silently, waiting. The wind gently caresses her body, but it carries with it a chill. Change is coming, whispers the breeze, and so she prepares. Without a sound she reaches out, feeling for the one who will be next. She knows not his name, nor even what he looks like, but relentlessly she searches. She will find him.

 He feels the call, first as a tingle, a tickle in the ribs. The feeling is subtle, barely noticeable over everyday emotions, yet unmistakable. He's felt it before, but until recently was not able to recognize what it truly was. The pieces came together like some mystical jigsaw puzzle, and he could feel her looking for him. She was calling, and he had to answer.

 Carefully she guided him, revealing the path bit by bit. The process was deliberate, seemingly at a snail's pace, yet inexorable. It took seven days before he saw her, an ensemble of ones and zeroes, a digital representation of her physical form. Seven more days would pass before he was confident she was the one, her voice becoming more distinct with each passing day.

  Fifteen years she had waited, watched, wondered where her path would lead. Now she knew. And she smiled.

 For the last two weeks I have know that a car was coming my way, and tonight it happened. A 1989 Toyota Corolla SR5, and she's mine. Sleek, sexy, a vision in black. I can't wait to pick her up!

Link Of The Day

 Known more for their beautiful sedans, Audi also imported a coupe, the car that started the Quattro legend.
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