The Magic Button

I remember when I was packed up and driving down to North Carolina with my two best friends as we ventured off to college together.  We all played soccer, so we were going down for pre-season.  I will tell you that in this part of my life I had no inclination about how cars worked.  My best friend was even worse.  No one and I mean no one should have ever listed to our advice about cars. matter of fact, if your car broke down and we came by to help, you likely would have asked us to move along.

Well on our way, I was driving my 1974 Vega.  It was a less than stellar car to own.  It being my first car that I bought for $800 made it a blessing.  That was the prototype AB car.  It got me from A to B. It was a 4 cylinder piece of pure sloth power.

On this trip we got pretty close to Richmond, where we hit a rest stop.  When I got back in the car to start it, it would not turn over.  I started to panic.  my Dad was not going to drive down 3 hours to help me.  My dad loved me, but three hours was something he would not even think about doing.

Then my friend who knows less about cars than I do got under the hood poking around.  This scared me like crazy.  It was like have someone with seizure performing brain surgery.  So as I am on a pay phone trying to see if he can assist me over the phone I see my friend still poking around my engine.  I ask my dad to hang on for a moment and I yell to my friend to leave the car alone.  I do not want to make it worse.  I still had hopes that my dad could walk me through a solution.  Well my dad and I were not communicating well and I started to feel a  sense of panic.  i did not have emergency money.  my dad certainly did not have time or money to help us.  I was starting to dread what our options actually were.

Then I see my friend get behind the driver’s wheel of my car.  My frustration with my friend started to peak as I saw our options dwindling fast.  MY friend then starts the car and throws me a thumbs up sign.  I was thinking, “you have got to be crazy”.  How in the world did you fix the car.

His response was that he was looking for a button to push.  I guess like some form of a reset button.  He hit the only button that could be found under the hood and it actually worked.  The car was a gem and got us to the college and was reliable transportation for my time there.

Here was what made me mad.  I realized that I was the dumbest person on the planet as it related to cars.  I took some pride for a couple years that I may be bad but I am not as bad as my friend. What this showed was that indeed I was not as talented as my friend who thought to push a magic button so that the car would work.  It actually happened.

On a side note.  This is my same friend that at a pool party did a trick with bee that amazed everyone.  While we were at the pool, a bumble started to dive bomb us.  My friend put out his finger like he was expecting a bird to perch on it. Within ten seconds the Bumble Bee landed on his finger and after about 30 seconds it flew away. That day I knew he had mystical powers.  Who can speak to Bees and Vegas with such ease.  that is my friend who can do that.  How I covet his talents.

Hyundai in The Potomac River

I remember when I was maybe 19 years old.  I was attending a community college and still staying home with my parents.  I remember my Dad asking me if I wanted to fish on the Potomac River.  I said, Absolutely.  The idea was to take Cars to a pick up point down river and then take other cars with the Canoes up river to start a downstream fishing excursion.  Most of the folks had battery operated motors for trolling.  The part of the Potomac River was not too far outside of Washington DC.  I shared a Canoe with my Dad and we left my Hundai down stream.  It would be the car we put the canoe on at the end of the trip and drive back to get the cars used for our drop off.

The great challenge is that anchoring was tough with the strength of the current. So we would float an inevitably get stuck on Rocks.  The River was between four and six foot deep.  The Canoe we were in felt like we were going to tip over at any moment so I was on edge the entire time.  I think we may have caught seven to eight small mouth bass a piece.  The interesting thing about the Small mouth bass in that part of the river is how much fight they would give you.  The small mouth were no more than 12 or 13 inches, but the fought and broke water to add to the overall excitement.  Using four or six pound test mad it that much more exhilarating.  Eventually nightfall was upon us and we were making it down to where we had parked the cars. By the time we pulled the Canoes on shore it was pitch black.

 

Their were no lights, no streetlights, just dark and just river.  I remember back my car down the steep ramp towards the dark and erie river without being able to see a thing.  I had no idea how close to the water i actually was.  This was a fun time being out like one of the guys with my Dad’s work buddies.  I had  a stick shift that I was okay on, but not on steep inclines.  As I put the car into first I was actually trying to move further away from the river that I assumed was really close.  What happened is that I gave gas, but not enough cluth and I just started flying bling backwards to the river. Once I realized what was happening, I threw on the brakes and put the car in park and with beat red cheeks I asked my dad to drive my car up the ramp so that I did not lose it in the potomac river that day.  My dad kindly grabbed the keys, drove it up the ramp no problem and emergency averted. thanks Dad.  This story is just a back story for my when I sunk the canoe in the Lake.  It was adult swim.  More to come on that story.

Diesel Hybrids?

With some fanatical followers of VW’s diesel engines with gas mileage around 50 miles per Gallon, the question is frequently asked, why not a hybrid and get 100 miles per gallon?

There are a couple of drawbacks that keep this from being a no-brainer.  The first drawback is price.  The cost to manufacturer a diesel engine is about 15% higher than a standard gas engine with similar output specs.  The other problem in the American market is that gas is just too cheap.  The economics makes sense more so in Europe when the gas price was flirting with $10 per gallon.  The gas in the United States is hovering t $2 per gallon.

There becomes a law of diminishing returns.  If the cost to manufacturer is significantly more and the price of gas is so cheap, what are the economics that make this a wise investment.  You can play on the culturally aware, eco-friendly card.  But like Solar Electricity has been, the benefit is not justified by the cost.

Another factor is determining whether the diesel and electric motors are on the same powertrain or separate powertrains.  Only Mercedes has a version on the same powertrain.  The Peugot and Citreon have separate powertrains.  this allows the electric to handle the load at lower speeds, while diesel takes over at the higher speed.  All of these cars are available in Europe, again because the price of gas is dramatically different then the price of gas in the United States.

The market will ultimately tell us whether diesel hybrids can be financially justified.  The markets will also be dictated by the cost of gas in any given country at any given time.  World events and a disruption in gas supply could change the calculus, but right now the investment does not seem to make sense for diesel hybrids to be sold in mass in the US.

Datsun 1979 280zx

The Datsun 280zx is my all-time favorite car.  I remember trying out for a under 16 soccer traveling team and the coach rolled up in t silver and blue two tone Datsun 280zx.  I had never seen a car just say “cool” like this one.  The sleek design and the power that the car had just screamed for me to own one.  Now I would inherit a Vega as my first car, so it only made me want a car of this caliber all the more.  The car just made me feel good to just be around it.  the only other interesting designs of the day from my perspective were the Camaro, Transam or the Corvette.  All had sleek lines, but this design was so unique to anything else out on the market.  I almost cried when I saw the 300zx looking like a Porsche instead of keeping the unique design that was absolutely amazing.  To this day I am looking for the opportunity to own one on my own terms.  My wife may not understand it, but it is just on the bucket list of things I need to own.  I would wager that everyone has that one car that they want above all others and left an imprint on you.  I remember weekend after weekend going on these soccer caravans to travel to soccer games or tournaments following that lead car. That sleek derby looking car that called to me.  I wish you all the one car that takes you back to a ,magical time in your youth.  Own not for how well it runs today, but rather for triggering that memory of how cool it was.

Back to the Future

Is time travel possible in a car given a Delorean can be rebuilt and we can find a flux capacitor or some other equally compelling technology? Every time you get close enough to those investigating alien visitation, then we are dealing with either developing technology to combat an alien threat or backward engineering captured technology.  if that premise has got you to stop reading, then anything is possible.  It only takes a little Google search to speak with people that have stated that they have participated in time travel.   One of the programs was labeled the Pegasus Project.  So the question is quite simple, which car would be best suited for time travel.  When I say time travel and I am talking more about portals of going from one location to the next instantly.  The question is not whether this exists or not, but rather would cool ride do we want to take on this trip.  If this is at all true, I want to go in a Suburban that would allow me to bring whatever cool things could be needed at the end destination as well as all of my friends. If I go to the California Coast, I will bring a surf board and scuba diving gear.  If I go to Alaska, then winter clothing and a big old gun.  If Florida, then just my childhood fantasies of going to Disney World.

Driverless Cars

Well ten years ago we attained driverless car capabilitiy as seen in the movies, specifically iRobot.  The technology works, and there are some glitches, but it seems to be more of a political discussion rather than a technology discussion.  The technology exists.  The technology exists with electric cars.  While this can seem super cool, some kinks still need to be worked out in both drawbacks in having an electric car and using the driverless technology.

If your closest service center or fueling location is a long distance away, then it can make a choice for electric seem like a pain more times than not.  If that is not an issue, than little things like the car’s technology can interpret commands from a Policeman directing traffic.  It cannot take inputs from a temporary street signal.  The car also cannot determine harmless debris in the road, causing the vehicle to swerve to avoid potentially harmless thinks in the rod.  New roads, the car will go excessively slow if it does not have all necessary data.

The question becomes whether this is a need or not.  I think with elderly folks or impaired drivers, this could provide an amazing benefit.  But if the idea is to catch a few winks while the software is driving the car, that not to smart.  If something goes awry, you want to be able to take over controls manually.

We are in a brave new world where change has come. Whether all change is good is yet to be seen.

2013 Audi A7

Audi A7

After being introduced to the buying public in 2012, the 2013 Audi A7 only boast modest changes. The A7 is a sedan with the look of a coupe.  The design has the roof tapered down to the tail of the car, which provides a fresh new look that many enthusiast love.  The car looks like a hatch-back with ample room for storage of luggage, groceries and what nots.  The sleek design of the roof actually diminishes the headroom in the back seat.  Not really design for adults in the back seat.  If you have short adult friends, then you are good to go transporting them all over town.  The A7 has performance written all over it.  If you like gizmos and gadgets, the Audi A7 will not disappoint.

In this same class, Mercedes, BMW and Porsche have strong alternatives.  The thing I like about the A7 is that it is exceptional in all aspects providing a great balanced score card.  If you are looking for a luxury car without any major trade-offs then the A7 is a great selection.  If you want a luxury car, but are looking for an economic version again the A7 is top of list.

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