A Perfect Fit

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It was a long time in coming.  Possibly it should have happened sooner, but at that moment everything was in sync so I went for it.  The tan color went with everything, the brim was crisp, the size was right.  A perfect fit. I turned to my wife to show off the quintessential British driving hat.

“Is that to go with the Miata you bright home” She asked in reply.

I stopped dead in shock.  “You remember the Miata?”

“I remember everything about it.”  She answered.  “It was white, with a black interior and top.  It had a manual transmission and pop-up headlights.”

I couldn’t believe that she remembered that car so well. It was over eighteen years ago and I had the car for a total of twenty-five minutes.  Five of those were spent in the driveway.

“I remember the look of fear when you saw me behind the wheel.” I chuckled at the memory.

“It fit you too well.  A perfect fit.”

This wasn’t the only time a sporty, little, two seat, siren sang out.  Years later, two co-workers rushed to me, rapidly talking about some sports car.

“You gotta see it, Gene!  It’s so you!” They cried with such enthusiasm, they were almost shouting.

“Ok! Ok! I’ll check it out.”  I said, curious as to what was causing such a commotion.

When I reached my destination, an Austin “bug-eye” Sprite greeted me in all its crimson splendor.

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Another time, a friend, Jason, told me about two cars some guy had for sale.  One was a late 60’s Camaro while the other was, “Some British car”.

“You should buy it.” Jason said to me.  “He’s only asking $2,500 and it fits you.”

I didn’t have the funds for a second car and the insurance that goes with it, but I figured I’d check it out.  The “British Car” turned out to be a restored MGB decked out in Cobra Blue with white racing stripes.

MG MGB MkIII

I would be lying if I said I was never tempted.  Who wouldn’t want the romance of a private dance with one of these cars as your partner?  Their power isn’t high, so you can flirt at speed without being (too) illegal.  Their skinny tires and manual transmissions bring an intimacy that most have forgotten.  A decreasing radius curve up ahead? Heel, toe shift.  Heel, toe, shift.  Car and driver together in sounds and motion.  Untied in an intimate road dance.

A car like that would be fun, but I’d miss out on so many other moments that I’ve had with my trucks.

Such as all the animals I’ve brought to the wildlife rescue, or the camping I have done.  Fountains, flower beds, and furniture would not have found their way if not for the trucks I’ve owned.  I would’ve never made it to work during the Tropical Storms and aftermaths of Hurricanes without the clearance a pickup provides. Twenty three hours on the road would not have been as comfortable in either a Miata or MG as they were in the Silverado.  Thirty bags of mulch won’t fit into their trunks as they do in the bed of a Ranger.

Sports cars offer the love of machine and person; pickup trucks offer the ability to share the love with fried and family.

For me, that’s a perfect fit.

Turning the Flywheel of inspiration and hope.

If there’s one thing a writer or blogger will talk about is the persistent problem of writers block.  It can come numerous sources.  Boredom, stress, family, work, obligations, distractions; the list is endless.

But there is a book that puts all these problems to shame.

Flywheel:  Memories of the open road.

It’s a collection of an automotive monthly magazine put into book form but it is unlike any automotive magazine you’ve ever heard of.  This magazine was created by and for Allied prisoners of war during World War Two.

Soldiers imprisoned in Stalag IVB formed a small “car club” called The Muhlberg Motor Club (MMC).  A membership of six soon grew to over 200 with most never even owning a car.  (Most learned to drive while in the military.)

Not only did they have the challenge of creating stories to write about, but they had to work hard just to get ink and paper!  To create colored ink, they stole quinine tablets from the infirmary.  The glue binding the pages together was created from their daily millet soup.

Under the stress of imprisonment, these soldiers  created storylines, thought of new technologies, wrote and illustrated not only the vehicles of the times but of what the future would bring as featured in a report of an auto show.

Flywheel:  Memories of the open road shows that inspiration and creativity can happen in even the worst conditions imagined.

Thoughts of: Faded passion

My latest issue of Four Wheeler came in the mail two days ago. (Not the issue pictured) I was genuinely excited to see it.  It sits next to my computer as I type this with over 95% of it unread.

There’s just nothing in it that interests me.  There should be.  In fact, I should’ve devoured this magazine the moment I got it because the main subject and supporting subjects are for full size trucks.

As an owner of a Chevy Silverado Z-71, I should be all over it.  But there it sits as I eye it with dispassion.

Dispassion is the defining point.  For roughly the last 6 or more issues, I have had less and less passion for this magazine.

That wasn’t always the case.

I started reading Four Wheeler when I was in seventh grade.  Back then I didn’t buy the magazine or subscribe.  My friend’s older brother had a subscription and I would just read his.  It was a great supplement to my auto enthusiast reading.

I read Car and Driver, Auto Week, Automobile, and Road and Track every day at school instead of eating lunch.  It was quieter and more nutritional.  With these magazines, I learned about 0 to 60 times, Lateral Gs, stopping distances, slalom times, and new mechanical technologies.  If you wanted to go fast on the track or on a deserted stretch of winding road, these were the rags to read.

Four Wheeler introduced me to the other side of the coin.  Technical four wheel driving.  Here you didn’t drive fast to reach the ragged edge, here you had to drive slow.  There were similarities to the driving styles.  In both racing and four wheeling there is a “line” you need to follow for maximum control, get loose and wrecking your vehicle is the least of your worries.  Control is everything.  Concentrate and observe.  Great lessons for any driver.

To be Honest, I might not have gotten hooked into the world of four wheeling if it hadn’t been for Car and Driver’s article about the Rubicon Run and the TV show, Simon and Simon.

But as exciting as it was to read about the racing or rock crawling, the stories that always got my attention were the adventures.  From driving out west in a modified Four Taurus station wagon (aka the Billy Wagon) to running the Al-Can Highway with a can of dog food for emergencies to traveling to Brazil in a pickup, the stories of high adventure showed me a world that I could dive deep into.  All it would take is a capable vehicle and money for gas.  My own personal USS Enterprise to explore strange and unknown places.  And that’s just Toledo.  Who knows what else it out there.

I wanted to see everything and I soon realized my options would be greater if I owned a truck.  A four wheel drive truck.

That’s what hooked me.

Four Wheeler did a lot to feed my addiction.  At the time Four Wheeler always had a story about exploration in another country, sometimes a second travel story as well.  All the technical mechanics stories were there to create a stronger vehicle for the adventure ahead.  The adventure was the main focus.  At least in my mind.

These last six issues have had little or no stories of exploration.  No high adventure to open the mind and get the imagination flowing.  No “What if?” or “I could be there!”  It’s all about the sport now.   Heavily modified, purpose built vehicles, designed and built for one objective.  They might as well be indy cars. I still enjoy the occasional race, but for the most part, I just don’t get into it anymore.  About the only motor sport I pay any attention to anymore is American LeMans series.  In these races you have three separate classes of cars on the same track at the same time running at different speeds.  At least there’s some realism there.  I can relate to that.  It’s like going down the freeway and trying to pass that Geo Metro that’s blocking the road.  These extreme four wheel drive rigs just don’t work for me.  I don’t care that you’ve got 42 inch tires and can fit over that boulder in the middle of the trail.  A regular person would just go around it or put dirt in front and behind it so as to get over the thing without damaging their ride.

I want to see the beautiful vistas and glorious natural skylines at the end of the two track, not another bunch of pictures of tube buggies hung up on rocks or rigs stuck in a pit of mud.  Get to the good stuff!

I guess I shouldn’t be too hard.  John Cappa is working hard to make Four Wheeler the best he knows how.  He came into the business through of road racing and challenges like Four Wheeler’s Top Truck Challenge.  It’s what he knows and is used to.  He also replaced an Editor in Chief who boasted of his liking to fire people and penchant for hiding out during big off-roading events that brought big names and products from manufacturers out to play.

That guy didn’t have the passion.  He liked writing and had a decent concept, but his heart wasn’t in it.

Cappa’s got his heart in it.  It’s just that his focus of passion is not what mine is.  So three months from now I will let my subscription end and end this era in my life.  From 1983 to 2012 I’ve read or owned Four Wheeler magazine.  For the most part, I’ve enjoyed it.  It was a fun ride.  It’s just not what I’m looking for anymore.

Good Luck to you guys.  I hope it works out.  Until then, I’ll be scouting around for another magazine to grab my attention and feed my passion.

More Thoughts of: Google’s Self Driving Car

 

Yesterday I talked a little about Google’s self-driving car and some of the ramifications it will have on our society, but I feel that I only touched the tip of the iceberg.

Just as a brief, Google’s self-driving car is exactly what it’s called.  A self-driving car.  Google has announced that it has absolutely no plans to build a car.  What Google wants to do is sell the software to various manufacturers so they can build the car.  This is a smart move because they open themselves up to multiple buyers from around the globe while not directly threatening any established motor company.

While the car has been making news everywhere, I honestly think that many don’t realize the ramifications of this technological breakthrough.  This will be looked back as a watershed moment.

Let’s look at the time when cars came on the market and the changes they brought.

  • Cars freed people from having to use high maintenance horses for travel and work.
  • Cars reduced the amount of horse detritus in the roads.
  • Cars allowed people to go from city to city easier than in a horse carriage.
  • Cars literally gave the frame work for pickups and larger trucks.
  • The trucks allowed for longer local travel of heavy goods, such as bricks and iron beams.
  • Cars and trucks put the traveling salesman out of business.
  • Cars reduced the need for ferries and horse veterinarians.
  • Cars created a need for paved roads and an interconnecting highway system.
  • Cars made it easier to move to a new city or state when job opportunities dropped where a person resided.
  • Trucks cut into the long haul market dominated by trains and killed the short track train market.

I could go on, but I think you get the point.  Cars changed the world in ways unthought-of when they first came out.

Google’s self-drive technology will do the same thing.

I already talked about how this technology will render speed traps obsolete. But let’s go further on this point.

Right now a couple is trying to sue a girl that texted her boyfriend while he was driving home.  The guy was either reading the text or texting back when he hit the couple as they rode their motorcycles.  Both riders lost a leg from the accident. They state that the girl knew that her boyfriend was driving and texted him anyway.  The couple argues that this makes her the distraction that caused the boyfriend to crash into them.  By having the car drive itself, you take away this danger.  It will also stop the hazards of drunk driving.  The downside is that it could also take away the responsibility of paying attention and being sober.

The self-driving car can help by letting kids visit their grandparents.  With the car holding the license, the kids just hop in and say, “Take me to grandmas.”  Off they go.  There is a big benefit for parents as well.  In theory they will never have to endure the long procession of the school pick-up line again. Just send the car to get the kids.  Of course you are going to have to do something so the kid realizes which car he or she is supposed to jump into.  I also see a lot of panicked parents when the car comes home empty because the kid went to his friend’s house instead.

The self-driving car will also act as an ambulance for that single person whatever their age that has to go to the hospital but doesn’t want or can’t afford the real thing.

On the other side, self-driving vehicles is that there will be a loss of transportation based jobs.

  • Taxis – no longer will you have a person drive you.  The car will do it.
  • Greyhound bus drivers will be replaced as well
  • Long haul trucks will also be self-driving and they won’t be limited on the hours they can travel.
  • Distribution to store trucks will also be driverless.
  • Body shops will be in less demand.

These are just the ideas that I can come up with now.  I’m sure you can come up with others.

The self-driving car will bring with it many good things as well as bad.  It is truly a game changer.  Welcome to the future.

Ramblings on: Dreaming Big.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunlight streaked off the flat panels of stainless steel.

“Is that what I think it is?”  The lady standing next to me asked in an awed whisper.

“Yes.” I answered, “It’s a Delorian.”

“I want it!”  She replied, excitedly.  “It matches my kitchen appliances.”

I laughed while imagining the car as some sort of artistic island in the middle of a kitchen.  Stainless steel appliances surrounding it the proper triangle position with concrete counter-tops and white, modernistic cabinets completing the look.  With stainless pulls, of course.

Then I thought again of the car.  Here was one man’s dream come to life.  How often can a person say that?   True, the finished product was not the car he had dreamed of when he started; but John Z. Delorian took that dream and chose to run with it.  Along the way, he ran into the unyielding crash wall of reality.  The engine that wasn’t his first choice.  The recreating of the chassis from the original.  The use of stainless steel for the body instead of the polymers that he wanted.  Through all that, he still made the car.  It was a triumph.

Too bad, John Z. focused more on his presence than the company.  As much as he spent on Delorian Motor Company, he spent just as high a percentage on his office and lifestyle.  He wanted to start big.  He wanted to compete against the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini both in cars and presence.  If he had just focused on the cars, he might have made it.  Instead of going head to head with Ferrari, he could’ve slotted his car between Ferrari and Corvette.  This would’ve given him the entrance he needed for success.

There is another car company out there that shows how an exotic dream can be made into reality and survive the harsh world of reality.  The company is called Morgan and it is every bit the exotic that Delorian wanted his cars to be.  The way they achieved this is in direct opposite of Delorian.  Instead of exotic polymers and unique metals, Morgan has a frame made of wood and is clad in regular steel.  Instead of high tuned suspensions, the Morgan has tried and true technology.  Instead of gull wing doors and computers, there are needle dials and pull tabs.  But most of all, where Delorian focused on his image to bring in more money, Morgan focused on their cars.  They slowly evolve while the people who build them by hand sweat the details.

True the Morgan will never out run a Ferrari or Lambo; but it is the physical embodiment of a dream.  That alone should inspire us to follow ours.

Thoughts on A Birthday.

There was a birthday in my family yesterday.  Well, more like an extended family member’s birthday.  My brother told me about it in an e-mail.  It was his car’s birthday.  His and his wife’s to be completely accurate.  One year ago they had walked into a dealership and drove off in their new Mini.

It’s a nice car.  It’s tastefully painted in a medium to dark blue with some nice rally stripes on the hood and the Union Jack on the mirrors for a touch of whimsy.  It’s a perfect match for them and their personalities.

But what really drew my attention was the attention BMW and Mini gave these two in recognition to buying this car.  I honestly can’t think of any other manufacturer out there that goes through this much effort to not only acknowledge a person or people who have bought a vehicle a year ago, but to keep up the excitement in owning the vehicle through its lifecycle.  This is brand marketing and owner loyalty at its best.  They hit all the hot buttons:

Nice photo of candles for the female market.  (Which makes 80% of the decision when buying a car.)

The announcement of the year gone by itself.

Suggestions to keep the excitement going via buying accessories or joining in the vehicle community.

Suggested activities to do with the car or to do in spirit of the car.  (Like watching, “The Italian Job.”)

And, again, to buy a gift for the owner and the car.

This is sheer brilliance!  Do you remember your fist car?  I sure do. There is an emotional connection that forms with the excitement and freedom that car brought to us.  As the years go on and different vehicles come and go, you lose a good part of that emotional spark.  Sometimes a dealership will work hard to create that excitement,  (The now defunct Saturn brand was good at that.) but ususally that will last for the first month or two.  By doing what BMW/Mini has done, not only do they instill appreciation and excitement for the brand, but they build owner loyalty to the company.  And that is the hardest thing to do in these modern times.

I sure hope that someone over at the big three in Detroit is paying attention because this is something they need to reconnect with.

Thank you BMW/Mini for thinking of the people who bought your cars and thank you, brother for forwarding the e-mail.

Ramblings of Adventure

I had an epiphany the other day, while at the book store.  Not an earthshaking face of god moment, but a good, solid, ‘open your eyes and see what’s in front of you” moment.

See, I wanted to find a magazine full of pictures and stories to get inspirations for this week’s series of blogs.  You know what I found?  No matter what the subject, every magazine had articles on adventure.

The articles weren’t from the travel magazines either. All the hobby magazines had some article about high adventure with-in their pages.

Cycle World, Café-Racer, Scootering, Roadrunner, Automobile, Car and Driver, Road and Track, and Four Wheel Drive and Sport Utility have your motoring adventures ready at the wheel.  No gas needed.

Prefer waves over wheels?  No problem.  Wooden Boat, Cruiser World, Passage maker, and Small Craft Advisory have your white-capped travels ready at the tiller.

Even something as exotic as cross country horse adventures can be read about in magazines like Trail Rider.

Every magazine out there had some story of adventure or how an item can aid in or become a part of an adventure in itself.  But what of outside the bookstore?

Want real wolrd globe trekking adventures?  You can’t do better than the blogs of “The Nomad Grad” and “Indulge – Travel, Adventure, & New Experiences”

You could read all these and travel the world from corner to corner without ever leaving your easy chair.

But you want to know the great truth of it all?  You can have the same great adventures just by stepping outside your front door!  That’s all it takes.  That and allowing yourself to be open to the scene around you.  The one thing we all do as people is filter what we allow to come to our attention.  When we’ve taken the beaten path over and over again, it’s easy to focus on where we are headed and not what’s along the way.  We screen out the weeds growing in the cracks of the sidewalk; The colors of the houses as the sunlight hits them at sunset; The chirping of the birds as they fly and roost in their nests.  All these become white noise after a while and we miss out on the subtleties that come with them:  The flower that blooms from the weed; The sharp contrast of light and shadow; The light peep that comes from the newborn birds.  Everything is out there waiting for us to take on our great adventure of life.

So do what I do.  Read the great blogs of “The Nomad Grad” and “Indulge”.  Grab your favorite magazine and devour it from cover to cover.  Let their ways inspire and then go out and have an adventure of your own.  It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.

 

Links to “The Nomad Grad” and “Indulge -Travel, Adventure & New Experiences” below.

http://nomadgrad.com/

http://lesleycarter.wordpress.com/