New Digs

I have recently purchased a 2014 Subaru BRZ. Some of you may be surprised by this, especially given that I didn’t exactly review the BRZ favorably when I drove one last year. Well, dear readers, I have (obviously) changed my tune, and I can explain why.

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I didn’t understand the BRZ the first time I drove it. I had never really driven a small sports coupe; the hottest car I had ever driven had been my own Mazdaspeed3 (which is not a coupe), or possibly my dad’s 2004 Corvette (which is not small). And the BRZ basically just put me in mind of a shrunken, less practical version of the Mazdaspeed3. It was very Japanese inside: lots of exciting orange LEDs, lots of shiny plastic trim to break and squeak and rattle as the miles rack up. The story seemed a bit too familiar for my taste; so, I was put off.

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But time marched on, and I test-drove more cars. Months later, I drove the FR-S, and by the time I drove that car, the Toybaru twins had begun to worm themselves into my heart. The sound of the engine, the way the car looked, and even the interior–it had all grown on me. So I convinced myself that the FR-S was just somehow better than its Subaru counterpart, which I had remembered being so skeptical about.

But all the pieces really fell into place after I drove a 2007 Porsche Cayman S this spring. As I hustled that car over the broken pavement of downtown Denver, and subsequently onto the interstate at Warp Factor 7, it hit me: the Cayman is the best car I’ve ever driven, in so many dimensions, and the BRZ is trying really hard to be a Cayman. That happy little horizontally-opposed mill, that center-mounted tach, the nice steering wheel, and all the all the crazy lightness and stiffness and chassis balance–it all adds up to a pretty decent Cayman impersonation.

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And the BRZ isn’t quite the Porsche that it dreams it is. But it’s maybe 70% as good as a Cayman, and being 7/10ths of a perfect car is still damn good. And you can feel that it tries to live up to its German benchmark. That’s what gets me, every time I drive it: it’s endearing the way it wants to be a great driver’s car. It wants you to egg it on. It’s almost like a dog that really wants you to throw a tennis ball for it. I can just hear it every time that little boxer-four clatters up the RPM range: “Come on! Come on! Throw the ball! I’m a Japanese Porsche! I am! I am!”

And it…isn’t. But it’s a hell of a car anyway. And I love how hard it strives to be great. So, as long as the head gaskets aren’t destined for multiple failures, I think this is going to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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The Jaguar F-Type Coupe.

First things first: I’m back baby! I lament not writing, but it’s been a fruitful semester for me in many ways, and I’m happy to be here now and even happier looking at my schedule knowing that I will be able to contribute more to this place (though Ozo Coffee getting better WiFi would also be a great help, alas).

Onto the single most pressing thing since the beginning of time. This:

F-Type R

The Jaguar F-Type Coupe. This post had many titles: The Best Thing since Sliced Bread. The Bees Knees. The Next Love of My Life. My Future Illegal Organ Sale. Discounted Kidney!!!!. But it has none of those things because this machine needs no introduction.

Those that have spoken with me recently know that I am madly in love with the F-Type Coupe, but let me explain to the lovely readers here: the day this car goes on sale with a manual transmission, I will be camping out in front of the local Jaguar dealer to place an order the second they open. Simply put, I think that the Jaguar F-Type coupe is the most beautiful car ever made. I believe it surpasses the Aston Martin DBS, the 288 GTO, the Alfa Romero 8C and the Toyota 2000GT. 

Because it just is. Every other car in this class right now focuses on Nurburgring and 0-60 times. Their marketing is so embedded in my head. The GT-R is sub-three seconds. The 911 Turbo S comes with features that the German words are four pages long. The Corvette has a seven speed gearbox and is available with fancy features so it can compete with the M3. The M3 has a TURBO and on and on and on. When you turn on the television and watch a Cadillac or BMW advertisement, they show off all of the fancy features of the car. How quick the shift times are. How good the brakes are. How many seat-massaging functions it comes with. The F-Type comes with none of those. There are no lap times. There are no 0-60 times. It doesn’t need them.

I don’t like things that try too hard. The GT-R has something to prove — that it out-911-Turbo’s the 911 Turbo. The Americans compete against the Germans. Ferrari has such a long waiting list that it doesn’t matter. But The Jag. I postulate that you won’t care about the lap times that the F-Type will do. (I don’t). You won’t care about 0-60, or any of that other garbage. It’s so drop-dead gorgeous I can almost actually look past it’s 8-speed automatic gearbox. The F-Type doesn’t try to impress me. I feel like it knows what it is and what it isn’t. It’s not a track monster and it’s not a reliable Japanese Econobox. I’ll cut to it:

This car makes me feel special just by looking at it. That’s what everything in life is supposed to do. Going out to dinner with the love of your life is supposed to make you feel special. Having friends over in your nice well-appointed house is supposed to make you feel special. Reading a good book is supposed to make you feel special. Yet, driving a GT-R would make me want to put a bag over my head, I’d feel like I was trying too hard to be a “boy racer” or something. The Jag though really just is. If it makes me feel special just by looking at it (I have goosebumps from writing this post), then while I can’t imagine what it feels like to drive, I don’t care — just look at it; God it’s Beautiful.

Love Life: Find Your Joy

Last week I had been piecing together a blog post about how I initially became interested in the world of cars. More specifically the introduction of the DSM into my life, and how that brought about a fascination with tweaking motors. But with all the craziness that has transpired over the last week I didn’t seem right.

For those of you who have been living under a rock my home state of Colorado experienced massive floods. My town of Boulder getting a large brunt of it. This freak event has left many without homes for the foreseeable future, as well as many without in a temporary state such as myself. My basement flooded with 2-3ft of raw sewage during the second night of the mighty storm.

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As the basement (where a roommate and myself live) filled up with our and our neighbors excrement we loaded up the cars with overnight bags and drove off to find dry shelter for the night. Now I had been working on a few cars during the week preceding the floods, my own 96 Eclipse GSX included. My purple beast was up on all four corners on stands as I painted the wheels and was overhauling the brake system. That meant Thursday night all I had to drive was a borrowed WRX. Now this particular WRX has an aftermarket intake that sits at the lowest point of the engine bay for the coldest air intake. Practically this means it is as high as the middle of the 16” alloy rims. Literally a giant vacuum at the front of the car.

I drove myself and a roommate who has no family in the state around the town looking for roads out. But most were blocked off by anywhere from 1-3ft of rushing flood water. Not ideal for a moving, low riding vacuum. We eventually found our way to safety for the night after over an hour of terrified driving (what should have been a 10 minute commute). I was clutching the wheel, leaning forward in my seat just waiting to hear the sound of water combusting in the engine.

The next day (Friday) we all reconvened at our sewage filled home to gather more expensive belongings, not knowing how long we would be displaced. I found a small window in between the rain falls to complete the fastest brake job I’ve ever done on any car. Tossed on my freshly painted wheels, loaded up the GSX and escaped the town again for more shelter.

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Now in the midst of the chaos one finds themselves in a fight or flight pure survival mode. I was in flight mode. My home, my business and my life seemed to have been up-heaved. Friends scattered at different houses unreachable due to the storm. Unsure about future living. Where was the peace? Where was the joy?

I found it in two places. The next day after (Saturday) I found myself back in Boulder to assist a friend with car troubles on his Toyota Pickup. But that drive into town. There just aren’t words. For the 20 minute trek I found escape for once from the tumult of the storm. Poised in my leather seat, three toes at my feet and a 5-speed shift knob at my right hand it all came back why I love cars so much. 220hp roaring through all four tires, with 14lbs of boost spooling up and down through the combustion process. There was my joy. There was my grounding.

I found myself going in and out of town many more times for flood assistance of others and the GSX was perfect. The intake well hidden and free from water. Fresh Continental DWS’s on the 16” rims gripped to the road. It was my joy that took me to the ones I loved, and the ones who loved me. Friends offered shelter, food, and company to combat the depression and anxiety the weather blew in.

I have never felt closer to the people who really matter to me than in this time of extreme trouble. Phone calls, texts, emails and Facebook messages flying to make sure everyone was taken care of and safe. If there is one thing I love on this Earth more than cars, it’s the people that my cars bring me to.

Many are still apart from their loved ones, displaced from the normal life. While the rest of the town slowly picks up the pieces. Businesses are opening again, the University is buzzing about. But I challenge you to bring love this week. If only this week. Show some compassion in line at the grocery store. While on the bus. Hell, even walking down the street. Be joyous that you’re alive, and there is a community around you whether you like it or not. Find the nearest person to you and just hug them. SHOW them love.

On a final note (yes I know this is long) bring extra love to our men (and women) in blue. Many police officers, firefighters, and general first responders left vacations, their own flooding homes and even their families for days to make sure that you and I would be safe in a town torn apart. Give them a break, they’re people as well. And they need the same love that the rest of us do.

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A brief introduction.

Recently I was invited to be an author here, so I figured I would give a brief, to-the-point introduction of myself.  My name is Eric, and, like the others writing here, cars are my thing.  Currently I drive a 1989 BMW 325is with an extremely loud exhaust.  I am hoping to bring a new viewpoint to the reviews on this blog, and that is the viewpoint from the race track.  I am well versed in high-performance driving, and am an instructor for the BMW Car Club of America.  I am also an avid autocrosser, I used to do quite a bit of drag racing, and am getting my wheel-to-wheel racing license this October.  I’m hoping that I can bring an analysis less of practicality and real-life uses, and more of how they perform on the edge.  I will, however, still be dabbling in a few normal reviews as well.  At this point I am also building a Lotus 7 kit car from scratch, and will be posting that as well.  Good reading!

A Daring Proposal – “Traction Control: On”

Firstly, I want to briefly apologize for the lack of posts. Maybe you care, maybe you don’t – but I’ve been in the midst of summer classes, car work, and moving. I’ll let you decide the greater from the lesser.

Nonetheless, I want to share a brief revelation I had the other day. My family had Chinese for a takeout dinner the other night, from a place a few miles west of my parents house. I elected not to drive the Celica there. Instead, I took my Mom’s Acura TSX.

The TSX is not really an ordinary TSX. It’s the Sport Edition. It has a Six-Speed gearbox (yes, manual), three pedals, and sway bars larger than the sun(I’m not kidding, those suckers are like 40mm in diameter). Dare I say, it’s actually fun to drive. Except for the Traction Control. Now, I hate traction control. I feel as though it’s an example of the Nanny State trying to tell me what I can and can’t do. Anyone who tells me what to do pisses me off and makes it so I forego sleeping that night and instead plotting revenge.

I do not like Traction Control. I don’t own a car with it. I don’t really plan on owning a car with it. Sure, it’s a safe thing, but Driver Education I feel always wins. There’s more here though. More aside from that (stupid and overrated) safety aspect. Based on a strategic sample of cars equipped with Traction Control (2 coupled with the quite-excellent simulator that is Forza), I can’t stand it. Not because it keeps me in a straight line, but because it interferes. Even in the TSX I can feel when the tires are about to lose grip, and I have already compensated for that. In Forza, I can’t drive with the “Traction Control” on because I correct because it does. So then it kicks in and puts me in a bush. Sure, it tries to help. But it fails miserably and pisses me off. Not to sound full of myself, but I’m better than it. I know what my car is going to do before the traction control kicks in because I’m the one telling it what on earth I want it to do. I don’t think Traction Control can do that.

So I want to propose leaving Traction Control turned off by default. What about those people who don’t know how to drive? Well, newer cars are already set up with such a predictable understeering suspension that I think the only hazard is someone learning how their car responds to being driven.

Anyway, more to come. Just my 2 cents.

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.

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.

Scott

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.

Matt.