Electric Cars and Me – Part 1

TL;DR I do not like Electric Cars. Cool. Because this post was originally quite long, and after some editing and slicing and dicing, it’s been trimmed of excess fat quite excessively.

Here’s where I want to start. Electric Cars are not ostentatious. Here I’ve provided you with a dictionary definition of what I mean:

Ostentatious, adjective:

1) intended to attract notice

2) characterized by or given to pretentious or

 conspicuous show in an attempt to impress others

Stellar. Now, I personally, I define ostenatiousness(it’s not a word unless you’re me – deal with it) by the sound. Herein lies the key issues. Electric cars are silent. Sure, you can throw some speakers on them and make them seem more exciting than they really are, but by definition electric motors are silent and hence electric cars are silent.

Some may call Silence a good thing. I do not. I like attracting attention. No matter how pretty an electric car is – if it’s bright orange and has twenty-four inch wheels – if I’m not looking out the window while eating dinner and it drives by, I’m not going to notice it. Plain and simple. Replace that blasted electric piece of worthless garbage though with a bright orange Lamborghini that is shooting fire out it’s exhaust pipe (and for once, not because it’s on fire, but because it’s burning gasoline in it’s engine like it’s supposed to), then you can bet I’ll turn my head right around and try to catch a glimpse of the beast.

Here’s an analogy that I sort of like. My friend Rob (who hopefully someday will join the ranks of writers here at PRNDLoser) and I came up with it the other day.

Imagine you’re out to dinner with a lovely woman(or man, if you prefer). They’re great. They’re attractive. They’re wearing a great outfit. Hell. They’re the single most physically attractive specimen of the human race that you have ever seen. There’s just one issue. They’re mute. They can’t talk(just roll with some ‘magical realism’ of mine here, please). No matter how much you want them to be able to, they’ll never look at you with their great set of eyes and say something like “Lets go steal some street signs, tear up the town and wreck havoc”. They don’t ooze danger or excitement because, well, they simply can’t be exciting. They can’t even say “Lets get out of here. Your place or mine?”. They Can’t. Talk. At. All.

I think that the Internal Combustion Engine is that equally attractive person who will ask for the bill when the two of you have better things to do. It will be your partner in crime. The two of you will get thrown in jail for causing a public disturbance(like squealing tires or doing endless burnouts) – and I think that is a good thing.

If you’re lucky though, you might get to meet the attractive mute’s parents though. I’m sure they’re lovely people.


59 Horsepower of German Perfection – The (brief) Volkswagen Polo Review

PoloYou may recall that the last time someone handed me the keys to a rental car, I found myself with a 2011 Kia Optima. And I quite liked it.

This time though, I wasn’t just going to California, I was going to Germany. Germany. The land of no speed limits (which is entirely a story for another post). Alas though, after landing in Munich, I wanted in a 3 person line for about 20 minutes (I was told I should be prepared to wait). After some snafus, I had the keys to a 2011 Volkswagen Polo. The next twenty minutes were spent trying to find the stupid thing in the parking garage.

There was concern in the back of my mind that it would be an automatic. After all, I was from America. Thankfully though, it had a proper gearbox. That’s about all it had. They don’t do entry-level cars in America quite like they do entry level cars in other places. I wouldn’t be too surprised someday to be on a trip to Eastern Europe and getting asked if I would like all four tires that came with the car, or if 3 tires was sufficient. Anyway, here’s what my

Polo had:

  • Four snow tires
  • Four doors
  • Five gears
  • A very small fuel tank
  • A steering wheel
  • A radio

What it did not have:

  • More than four cylinders
  • More than 60 horsepower
  • Cruise Control
  • Any notion of comfort whatsoever

First though, I want to address the fuel economy. We drove it a lot. And while some of it was on unrestricted roads, most was on (unfortunately) restricted Autobahn. This meant that we were usually only doing 100kph. We got about 16 litres per 100 kilometres. This came out to be about 37 mpg. That was awful.

Awful why though? Because the car also had no power. I got it up to 170kph. It took quite a lot of time. That’s only a smidge over 100 miles per hour. The car could not go up hills.

With that said though, it was pretty fun to flick around town. I can’t recommend it for ever touching any sort of freeway though. As far as a city car it’s great. But really, in Europe with exceptional public transport, do you really need a city car anyway? (having not lived in Europe, I’m not sure)

I think you get the feeling on this car. One other thing though, like my Kia, the seats were awful. In fact worse maybe. Try driving 100kph for a few hours in the drivers seat and yet again I wanted to cut off my own bottom. Maybe it’s a rental car thing.

My Horrifically Appropriate Personification, The Engine.

As much as I eat, sleep, and breath what I call The Philosophy of Fine Motoring, I’m not the biggest fan, from a journalistic point of view, to have nothing but philosophy posts and whatnot.

But I promise a humble review of my even-more humble 59 horse power slice of German Perfection, also known as the Volkswagon Polo that Dollar Rent-A-Car  happily equipped me on my far-too-brief to Munich.


This post though, is not about that slice of German Perfection. Rather, I’m progressing through my BEAMS project. The engine is now so free from the subframe that it’s on an engine stand. Regretfully the engine stand is from Harbor Freight. Hopefully I don’t wind up eating my words later. Alas. With it up on the stand, me and my friend Rob started talking about the engine itself. He noticed quite a few parallels between it and myself.

  • We’re both quite rare (yes, I’m very biased here). the BEAMS was only available in Japan. Hopefully I haven’t been cloned.
  • Parts are nearly impossible to find. Similarly, try to find things for me. Lunch, apartments, cups of coffee? I’m incredibly picky. Except when it comes to waffles. Me and the engine differ extremely in this manner. (As far as I know, the BEAMS eats gasoline, not waffles).
  • We’re weird as fuck. And I don’t mean that as a good thing. The BEAMS being only available in one country, meant it wasn’t the best engineered thing in the world. I admit, that’s not entirely true. It puts out 100hp per litre. But it also retains every subtle feature from the 3S-GTE engine. The places where additional oil lines are are simply welded shut. Me? I wake up at 4 in the morning. And I run this damn blog.

Nonetheless, as cliche as it is (and it’s insanely cliche), I have to wonder if like everything else, you ultimately wind up with something that’s really as close to being “you” as is possible. Despite whether one of you is made out of amino acids and chemicals and some part of the periodic table or whether you’re made of red paint, aluminium and run on dead, ground up, gourmet dinosaur juice.

Hello (again), world

This is PRNDLoser, version 2.0 (I think).  Maybe it’s technically version 1.2.  I guess that depends on your perspective.

I thought I’d write a little about why I’m here–maybe speculate about why Matt has so graciously asked me to write here with him.

Matt and I agree about cars in a lot of important ways.  We think they should be more exciting to use than blenders.  And more challenging to use than blenders.  And better-looking than blenders.  You know what?  Just keep cars as different from blenders as possible.

We also agree that a manual transmission is an excellent thing.  I don’t share Matt’s full-throated support of a stick in every case, though–I really believe that there are a lot of applications where an automatic is the correct transmission.  There are many types of cars (and trucks) where the driver has a lot to worry about besides shifting, and a lot of these can be really enjoyable, and really well-suited to their respective purposes.  Luxury cars need automatics.  Family cars, too, are better for the tractability of an automatic.   They’re also great in vehicles which are meant for serious hauling: utility vehicles, (arguably) pickup trucks, and the like.  So I think having a (P-R-N-D-L) transmission doesn’t necessarily make someone a (P-R-N-D-Loser).

There are some gray areas around GTIs with dual-clutch flappy-paddles, and the death of the manual in thoroughbred sports cars (like Lamborghini and Ferrari), and we’re going to talk about that.  We’re going to talk about it earnestly, and we’re going to talk about it without sounding too pompous about the fact that we prefer three pedals.  We’ll get to that as this blog grows a little bit.  My point, for now, is that my perspective on the manual transmission is a little less die-hard than Matt’s, which I think is a good thing.  We can bring different perspectives to the table on that matter.

Oh, and Matt thinks that Porsche’s 7-speed manual is heresy, and to that I say, “Pish-posh, they’re Porsche.”  Porsche could make a car out of twigs and hammers, and I’d still drool over it.

I can’t vouch for Matt, but I like to think that we both believe that driving gives you a lot of control.  Feeling like you’re at the reins (if just barely) of hundreds of raucous, exploding horsepowers–that’s excitement.  That’s control.  That’s the sort of thing you can get addicted to in a hurry.  I think that sums up the message I want to convey to readers, new and old: this is a place for anyone who loves driving.

Matt and I have very different driving backgrounds.  I drive an ’11 Mazdaspeed3, which is mostly stock.  Matt is (as you can probably tell from his recent entries) the master of a Celica and an S2000.  Mine is a hatchback with an axe-murderer under the hood; his are a stellar GT and probably the best droptop driver’s car ever made (respectively).  It’s a decent contrast, that.

We don’t disagree on many key points, but we play different favorites–and I think that’s key.  Matt has a very strong relationship with Japanese manufacturers that I absolutely understand, but I think my next car is going to be German.  I’ve had my heart broken by Japanese makes one too many times.  I also have a fondness for the Corvette that borders on the obsessive, and I have an incredible yearning for classics–classic American cars, that is. I’m still hunting down my dream Chevy Corvair, a 1965 with a turbo and a 4-on-the-floor.

Mostly, I think I’m here because I love driving and I love writing.  I’m also going to merry old England next year for graduate school, so I will of course be reporting on whatever tasty EU-only cars that I can get my hands on.

For now, though, I think there’s only one thing to say:

It’s great to be back.


My Engine of Change


When the Camry Hybrid first came out, they made a commercial with gratuitous shots of nature and a Camry driving through beautiful scenery (presumably) saving the planet. I’m not insanely fond of Camrys(although I did learn to drive stick on one), but the ad asks “When does an engine become an Engine of Change?”. All of the dictionary definitions of ‘engine’ tell me that an engine is merely something either used for warfare, or a classic internal combustion engine. What I see as an engine though, in this context, is something that moves more spirit than self.

Toyota Ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIJn2gyUNCQ

Some people have different Engines of Change. I mean this to be something that changes someone. For some, that might be the Bible or another book on philosophy. Some might find that moving to Florida is the engine that gives them change, or getting the first job, or getting married. It’s the what gives the wake-up call and what perpetuates the waking up early.

Because I’m me though, my Engine of Change is an actual engine. A 1998 Japanese Domestic Market (Only) BEAMS 3S-GE Redtop. And I couldn’t be more excited.

It produces something in the neighborhood of 197 horsepower. And it’s going in my Celica. I’m sure that it will pave the way to me expanding my arsenal of Japanese expletives (of which, my arsenal is currently of size 0).

Two brief notes on “Why”:

  1. It seemed like the thing to do.
  2. “Chaos often breeds life when order breeds habit” – Henry Adams

Anyway. More to come.

Well, Hello.

After many false starts and burnt clutches, PRNDLoser is back yet again. With a vengeance this time.

A brief note about what this smattering of words is (expected to be) about:

  • The decline in some ways of the Manual Transmission.
  • Control.
  • Transcendentalism.
  • Beauty.
  • Fun.
  • Fine automobiles.
  • Do it yourself.
  • Driving on winding country roads.
  • Driving on winding country roads with the wind in your hair.
  • Passion.

I’ll be the primary editor for the time being, and intend to bring on a few other people that are interested in writing and that are qualified. Happy to be here.