Sunday, January 27, 2008

Got a long way to go and a short time to get there.

You can't go wrong when you mix a Trans-Am, a semi truck, and a Basset Hound. Toss in Jerry Reed and it's instant cinematic history. (We all know Burt Reynolds and Sally Field were really just fillers.)

We decided to take our new car on a weekend trip out to the Manitou Lodge on the Olympic Peninsula. It's a nice little secluded spot about 4 hours drive from here. I was looking at it as sort of a test drive of our new car. We were bringing both of the dogs (so we'd see how much space they really had), the road there is mostly 2-lane blacktop (so we'd find out if the Nitro had the power to pass), and it was in the mountains (so we'd see if it could handle the sloppy stuff).

I'm sure my wife thought of it as some sort of weekend getaway or romantic trip or some other foolishness.

Here's what we found out:
1. It gets better mileage than expected. We averaged 21.4 mpg on the trip. That's higher than the 15/20 rating the EPA gives the 2008 model.
2. It's not a smooth ride but it's acceptable on a long trip.
3. The 4WD system is screwy. It doesn't engage automatically. You have to manually shift from "2WD" to "4WD Lock" with a switch on the dash. In 4WD the transfer case is locked so it shouldn't be used on dry pavement. In the muck it's pretty sure-footed.
4. Satellite radio is cool (you're never out of range) but the reception stinks (even trees will block the signal).
5. The dogs have plenty of space in the back to lay down. But Peanut prefers to sit up and look around. Spike prefers to snore.
6. It needs mud-flaps. It kicks up a huge amount of spray and muck and a lot of it ends up on the rear window. The cars behind us probably hate it. ... But it's hard to be sure since I can't see them.
7. It has plenty of passing power. Just ask the Washington State Patrol.

We both want to change a few things about the Nitro. She wants new door handles and she thinks it needs some running boards (it's a bit tall for her to get in and out of). Of course we'll need the mud-flaps. And, since we're already shopping, we might as well get some spiffy valve caps, a nice new grille, and of course some bling.

Monday, January 21, 2008

I Need More Money (and Less Brains)

The Barrett-Jackson classic car auction finished yesterday. I didn't watch as much of it as I would have liked, and I haven't heard of any industry-altering sales this year. But I did find a few lots that looked interesting on their website.

I used to like the Barrett-Jackson auction for the exotics. The Ferraris, the Duesenbergs, the Tuckers. You know, the cars you never saw out in "the real world." Lately they've been focusing on classic American muscle cars. (I have nothing against that. As an American I like to celebrate my heritage by driving by myself in a 6-passenger, 6500lb car at 80 mph, getting 4mpg, while eating a Big Mac from a non-bio-degradable Styrofoam container.) But it seems like the big money excitement cars are very rare versions of somewhat common cars.

Maybe I haven't seen a 1970 Chevelle LS-6. But does it look different than the Chevelle on blocks in my neighbors yard? Probably not. But when is the last time you saw anything like a Mercedes 540K? Or a Duesenberg? Or even a Ferrari Dino?

I still have to work for a living. For me Barrett-Jackson is a car show not an auction. I want to see unicorns, not buy horses.

1974 Triumph TR-6. Sold for $14,500. Mallard Green with 42000 original miles. It looks really nice in the pictures but, as my wife likes to point out I'm a little anal about these things. So there are a few things that look out of place to me. I'm no expert (and if you are an expert please correct me) but here's my list:
1. Tires. On a car being sold as an original they should be Redlines.
2. Exhaust. Looks like a Monza.
3. Badging. What is that in front of the British-Leyland badge on the left front fender?
4. Bumpers. There are black rubber bumper riders in the back but not in the front. I've never seen that before.
5. Under the hood. What's with the red hoses? What's the box on the drivers side inner fender behind the brake reservoir?

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

1966 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk III. $105,000!

1967 Cobra 427. Okay, this looks like about 1000 cars you've already seen. Hell, there's a Superformance dealer down the street with 40 in his lot that you couldn't tell from an original at a stop light. (And it's one of the American Muscle cars I was whining about 4 paragraphs ago. Cobras are given a pass.) It's a 427 side-oiler? 11,000 original miles? If I had the resources I'd have gone toe-to-toe with Ron Pratte for this one.

I guess it's good to have something to strive for.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Duc in a Track Suit

I spent a few nights this week redoing the paint on the fiberglass tail of the Ducati. I broke down and bought a cheap power sander to help strip off the old paint. It worked out pretty well but there was still a lot of hand work to do towards the end.

After finishing the tail I thought about stripping and repainting the nose again. But I've decided to put that off for another day because
a) I'm tired of paint fumes
2) My wife wants her parking space in the garage back
iii) I don't have any good paint left

So, for now, here's what a Duc in a track suit looks like:

I just put the clear coat on Friday night so I still haven't waxed or buffed it. But you can see that it's a much better looking piece than the nose.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Big Pimpin, Spendin Cheese

It happened just the way I thought it was going to (only 23 times faster).

Yep, that's right, I'm not above saying "I told you so".

We went for test drives today:

Dodge Nitro R/T
Toyota Highlander
Toyota RAV4 V6

The Highlander is huge. It's like driving a truck full of your grandmothers couch. It has 100hp more than the Subaru but with 1000 extra pounds to haul around it didn't feel very peppy. It drives a lot like the Camry it's based on, but just much much bigger.

Next up was the RAV4. They didn't have a new V6 AWD so we drove a used 07. (They're close enough to the same car for what I wanted to find out.) It's a nice car. I was alot more comfortable driving it from square 1. It has the same powertrain as the Highlander and is 500 lbs lighter. It was also a Sport model so it felt pretty quick.

So after 90 minutes we'd crossed off one from our list and confirmed another. Not bad in my book.

The Nitro feels very substantial. Big, tall, solid. It's the same weight and power as the Highlander but much more responsive. When you put your foot down it goes. And it makes some beautiful music in the process. The more my wife drove the Nitro the more she seemed to like it. (Secretly, she wants to be a truck driver. Or at least a road-bully.)

We expected the price would be about the same. The RAV4 is cheaper but demand is higher so dealers aren't cutting as much off MSRP. The RAV4 was a Sport model without many widgets, the Nitro was the R/T which gives it a lot of interior amenities.

So there it was: on one side the RAV4 with it's better mileage and greater reliability; on the other side the Nitro with it's additional options and in-your-face style. Substance vs style.

The RAV4 was the 'right' choice.

We bought the Nitro.

Now, move that sedan out of the way before I change lanes over you!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

What a Pain in My Tail Section

2008 is off to an inauspicious start.

The tail section for my Ducati arrive about 6 weeks ago. I haven't had much time to deal with it until last week. I decided I'd try to match the reds better this time around. (Every time I look at the mismatched color on the nose it bugs me a little more.) I found a website that would sell me aerosol spray cans of the right color. Not cheap but I figured it was worth a try so I ordered 2 cans of color and 1 can of clear coat. My order arrived Monday.

Even a lab rat learns from experience, right? I decided to spend more time prepping the piece in the hopes of getting a better result. I put about 4 hours into filling, and sanding, and priming, and sanding, and filling, and sanding, and priming. ... Mostly sanding. In the end it looked promising.

I wanted to mimic the OEM piece. I'd try to match the basic stripes but I wasn't going to worry about the lettering. It was going to be a simple but time consuming job:

1. Paint the whole piece white with the cheap paint I already had.
2. Mask off the stripes.
3. Paint the piece red with the expensive paint I just bought.
4. Clear coat everything.

The white went on pretty well.

The masking wasn't too hard although my tape doesn't do curves well and there are some subtle curves.

The red went on beautifully.

I pulled the masking off an hour later and I was pretty excited. The color was as close to the original as you could hope for. The time spent on the prep work had paid off. Things were going to be great.

Unfortunately there were two significant problems: there was a spot where the masking failed and there was some red over spray; and there was another spot where the masking tape pulled up some of the white paint revealing the grey primer. I figured it wouldn't be hard to re mask those spots and respray some white.

So I got some paper and went to town. I wanted to be sure none of the new white got into the red so I made sure to mask everything except the two problem areas. I sprayed the white and an hour later came back figuring I'd pull the masking and spray the clear and I'd be all set.

Unfortunately when I did the masking the red paint was dry but not dry enough. The paper stuck in the paint and ruined absolutely the whole thing. What was a good paint job with two significant flaws had become a piece of garbage. There's no way to salvage it, I'm going to have to remove all of the paint and start all over from primer.

Stupid new year.