The “While I’m in There” Phenomenon

People have the tendency to criticize us auto enthusiasts for the way that we spend our time and money.  And I don’t think this is something that is limited just to auto enthusiasts, as I’m sure many other hobbyists get the same sort of grief.  I mean, “Honey, did we really need to turn another bedroom into a scale model of the Union Pacific Railroad?”  I think not.

We spend a lot of time and money on our hobby, there’s no way around it.  And while we all seem to understand that this happens, there’s a weird disconnect when we mentally price out the cost of building and maintaining our projects.  In my instance, the best example of this was a ‘90 Volkswagen Jetta that I owned for the early part of my 20s.  It was originally something that I purchased as a “winter beater” when I was in college, which ended up becoming a bit of a side project.  I bought this car for $300, and until the day I sold it, I told people it was a $300 car.  Except when it came time to sell, and I did out the math on all of the parts alone, discovering I was about $8,000 into this “$300 car.”  Tons of us out there are guilty of the same thing, yet sometimes how we get from the $300 car to the $8,000 car is a bit hazy, so let me explain the leading cause of this.

I like to call it the “While I’m in There” Phenomenon.

Let me Bob Ross a picture for you:  Your car is in need of a clutch.  But we’re car enthusiasts, so the car doesn’t really need a clutch, you just want a light-weight flywheel and a clutch that bites a bit harder, so we go with “it needs a clutch.”  Okay fine, $1,000 on a good clutch kit with a nice lightweight flywheel and some hardware.  But you know, it really is a pain to yank just the transmission, so why don’t we just pull the whole engine and trans instead of doing the job on our back?  Now the engine is out and the gears in our head start turning.  Next thing you know, we have a nice set of equal-length headers on the way (no this isn’t a Subaru, don’t worry,) and maybe a few gaskets too.  How about a chassis-mounted shifter?  This would be a great time to do that as well.  And all of a sudden, your “it needs a clutch” turned into “it needs everything,” when at the end of the day, it really didn’t need anything at all.

We fall victim to this phenomenon constantly, and it often shows its face as a much simpler version of the scenario depicted above.  A brake job is a prime example of the “while I’m in there.”  Pads and rotors can quickly turn into pads, rotors, braided hoses, wheel bearings, extended lugs, etc., and that’s assuming that we don’t venture down the path of a brake upgrade.  Our brains are like encyclopedias of components, cultivated through years of Internet browsing.  So when we’re going to be accessing a certain section of the vehicle, or a particular system within, our mental encyclopedia turns to that page and begins thinking of all the things we should service or could upgrade while we’re in there.  This creates a subconscious list of maintenance components (gaskets, seals, hardware, etc.) and upgrades (the sky’s the limit, really).  We manage to find a very interesting way of rationalizing this to ourselves, and often to our human counterparts, like an addict would.

So what exactly do we do about this?  Nothing.  It’s part of what keeps this hobby fun, and our significant others hot and bothered.  But if you want to at least try and budget appropriately, beware that the $100 brake job is never going to be $100.  And as long as you dive into your project knowing that, you’ll be alright.

Juicebox – Unboxed

Imagine being 17 years old again, with no responsibilities other than hanging with your friends in the garage, playing boy-racer in your first car, and spending the little money you have on “upgrades”.  This is basically what Juicebox Unboxed is, except these are adults.  And behind the scene, they probably have responsibilities.

The entire Unboxed series, which is currently at episode #36, is the story through which Neil, the focus of the channel, picks up an AE86 Tueno, literally rotting away in a field.  Unboxed follows his journey of restoration.  They visit some interesting characters while trying to source parts, they light each other on fire at least 5 times per episode, and partake in general shop mayhem, often involving skateboards or drones, and usually more fire.

Fabrication and Fire

All joking aside, there’s some really quality work that takes place on this channel.  From full panel replacement, to custom part fabrication, engine re-builds, etc.  All while taking time to hack together some temporary repair on one of their haphazard daily drivers.  But then subsequently light that on fire as well.

These guys have figured it out.  They’re grown men, doing everything that we tried to do as kids, except they have the resources we never did.  Their shop resembles an aircraft hangar, their tools and skillsets are seemingly endless between the members of the group, and they have the funds to make it all come together. 

This may not contain Grand Tour quality cinematography, but by god is it fun.

Check their channel, Juiceboxforyou on YouTube:

Toyota has Just Permanently Screwed all Nostalgic Auto Enthusiasts, and Here’s Why..

Over the last decade (or longer), Toyota has been teasing us with pictures of a potential new Supra.  The Supra badge alone has become one of the most recognizable in all of the Japanese market, something I’m sure Toyota is well aware of.

Back in the 90’s, they did it right.  A monumental engine with improved weight and handling over its predecessor and unmistakable design elements for the era.  In years following, the aftermarket world would solidify the Supra’s place in automotive history, by exploring the almost never-ending limits of the 2JZ engine.  Its popularity in the F&F series only further established its long-term relevance, and its resale prices began to show this.

Toyota had built a kickass car, and were very fortunate to receive a huge amount of brand-recognition long after the death of the MK4 chassis.  They had an opportunity to take this popularity and run with it.  And there’s really only a few criteria that the world clearly presented to them as non-negotiables if the car was ever to return:

  • Sporty, modern aesthetics capable of standing out in some way
  • A capable, turbo inline six cylinder engine
  • Manual transmission option

That’s literally it. 

Here’s what actually happened:  Toyota rebadged a BMW Z4.  But even worse than that, they made it look like a GT86.  And the problems here are so deep it’s almost unfathomable.  The car is equipped with a BMW turbo-six, a company whose reputation has been substantially tainted by their abomination of a turbo-six, starting with the N54 in 2006.  Toyota also did away with most of the unique design elements present in the last 12 years of Supra prototypes, creating a confused combination of their entry-level sports car and the BMW roadster.  And through all of these takes and no gives, Toyota decided to make this car only available with an automatic transmission. 

Oh, it also starts at $51,000.  Let’s not forget that.

Now the real problem here is that a big derpy ocean-barge of a company like Toyota is incapable of understanding why they won’t sell nearly as many as anticipated.  They’ll scold all of their marketing and research teams for wasting the company’s money, because clearly, there’s no demand for a Toyota Supra, failing to realize that they had blown off both of their feet with a 12-gauge the second the information hit the automotive community.

And like the Japanese auto-makers do, they’ll all follow suit.  And when the community begs for a rebirth of an old iconic namesake again, they’ll reference “that time Toyota tried to do it and none of you bought it,” dooming us, seemingly forever.  We’re fucked.  And Toyota did it to us.

Can a Turo Porsche Convince Me That The 911 Hype is Justified?

There are many things that seem to be the general consensus of the auto community; things that are mutually agreed upon.  But there’s always exceptions to these common opinions.  In this particular case, I’m that guy who dislikes 911s.

*Gasp* “How is it possible to dislike a 911?!” you’re probably asking.  Well, allow me to do you an educate: they’re ugly, the drivetrain is wrong, they sound like garbage, they’re selling for 15 times what they’re worth, and they haven’t been updated since WWII.  And to me, it’s really that simple.

I’ve received an increasing amount of grief over the last few years regarding my opinion on the 911, as the resale market is proving its current [see: temporary] relevance to enthusiasts and collectors.  I decided to take this opportunity to rent one from Turo and try it out for myself.  Of course, I was heavily biased right off the bat, but if it’s to be as good as everyone says, then it should have no problem changing my mind in quick fashion.  Spoiler Alert: it really didn’t.

The particular car I rented was a 2006 Carrera 4S.  The reason I rented this particular example was simple: it was the only 911 available within a 100 mile radius at the very start of our New England winter.  This model was a three-tone silver paint, gray vinyl wrap, and black duct tape, with the gray and black covering up the heavily chipped and damaged parts of the car.  It had 130,000 hard miles, and felt as if it was last maintained on the day the first owner took delivery in 2006.  Oh, and it was also an automatic.  Not a PDK transmission, but a real torque-converted automatic.  So needless to stay, I was doomed from the get-go.  But Turo hooked this up at no charge (I’ll explain another day), so it was hard to complain too much.

My initial thoughts upon picking up the vehicle was how wide and large it appeared, which was then immediately accompanied with the realization of how shockingly cramped the interior is.  I have no idea how Porsche managed to turn such a large exterior footprint into 1 cubic foot of usable interior space.  The car sounded like a constant exhaust leak at idle, though I’ve come to realize that all Porsches do, not just the air-cooled cars.  The gray interior was absolutely atrocious, and the touch points were garbage.  Every interior component that wasn’t wrapped in leather, was finished in this horrible rubberized coating, which is probably all too familiar to anyone who owns a Volkswagen product from the last 20 years.  All of said coating was literally coming off on my hands through this entire project, really emphasizing the prestigious charisma of the 911 namesake. 

Now driving it was interesting.  I’ve always been told that a 911 won’t let you forget that the motor is hanging off the rear bumper, and that’s a very true statement.  The driving-feel of this car is unlike anything I’ve been in before, though often a bit more unnatural than exciting.  Taking the car to 6,000+ rpm informed me that the engine is actually capable of being audibly pleasing, albeit stinking like burning oil immediately upon returning to idle.

The handling of the car was interesting, though I can’t really fault Porsche here, since this was a shitty all-wheel-drive model that someone voluntarily exchanged US currency for.  Given that I don’t have any two-wheel-drive Porsche experience to compare it to, the car did feel a bit heavy in the driveline, and did have a tendency to push a bit when you exited a corner hard, which was to be expected.  That being said, it responded beautifully to aggressive steering input, and the engine made enough power to blast between corners as fast as I was comfortable going on cold New England pavement.  The brakes were great, however I think any non-auto enthusiast would struggle with the pedal feel being as stiff as it was.

The (unintentional) focal point of this whole experience, though, was the transmission.  This car was equipped with a 5 speed automatic transmission.  My only other Porsche experience in my life was in a PDK-equipped car, which set the bar way too high.  For anyone who doesn’t know, the PDK is a dual-clutch transmission, exclusive to Porsche.  The acronym stands for Porsche Doppelkupplung, which sounds more like a weird sex act you’d find on urban dictionary, than a state-of-the-art transmission.  The PDK was introduced in the 911 for the 2009 model year, which meant every 997 listed as an auto leading up to 2009, was equipped with a torque-converted 5 speed tiptronic automatic.  This transmission is atrocious.  There really is no other way to put it.  When the car was cold, the transmission wouldn’t leave third gear.  As if trying to convince you to keep the engine at the rev-limiter to warm it up quicker, or something.  When the car was warm, the transmission would wander, aimlessly dropping gears on the highway under light-throttle conditions.  It truly was a basket case.  Really, the only way to remedy this was to use the tiptronic mode, which posed its own issues.  The 997 has these tiptronic buttons on both sides of the steering wheel, which you can rock upwards to upshift, and downwards to down shift.  Except their response was laughable, and didn’t do anything to remedy the driving experience, except convincing the trans not to downshift into third at 80mph on the highway.

Overall, it was hard for me to really develop an opinion on the whole experience.  The car was not the ideal example to try and like.  It was wrong-wheel-drive, it had the worst transmission ever put in a road-going vehicle since the birth of the automobile, it was the wrong color, with the wrong interior, and it was a heavily-used example of all the above.  I believe a little bit of 911 did show through, and that glimmer of excitement still interests me.  Now it’s time to find myself a proper example to do this whole process over again.

Cars and Cameras

My most recent kick has been this YouTube channel called Cars and Cameras.  I’m pretty sure I stumbled upon this when I fell asleep with YouTube playing, and woke up an hour later down a rouge rabbit hole.

Like many of you, my automotive roots come from a childhood of power sports: go karts in particular.  I was fascinated by the idea of a 4-wheeled vehicle made for a small human and the intentions of off-road adventure.  My early childhood years of go kart shenanigans led to later childhood years of modifying go karts, which paved the path for my (toxic) automotive hobby in adulthood.

The basic premise of this YouTube channel doesn’t actually have anything to do with Cars or Cameras, it seems like.  Instead, this channel focuses around John and Isaac, and their adventures building go karts and minibikes to levels that 14 year old versions of ourselves would never have been able to imagine.  The one that really got me was the 900cc Ducati shifter cart build, appropriately named “Ducarti,” which is exactly as outrageous as it sounds.  They do a lot of informative comparison videos, with their backyard loop as the testing ground.  These guys use some quick tricks and quality parts, courtesy of a channel-sponsor, mixed with a little bit of backyard ingenuity, to show you all the things you wish you were able to pull off as a kid.

Will I ever buy a go kart or minibike as an adult?  It’s unlikely, until I inevitably push that onto children someday.  But you can bet your ass I’m subscribed to watching this channel of two grown men doing what I wish I had done!

The People you Encounter on Craigslist

You’ve never really experienced the true diversity of our species until you’ve attempted to sell a <$10,000 car on Craigslist.

For those unfamiliar with the process, here’s how it all happens for a car enthusiast who isn’t a millionaire:

You have too many vehicles, most of which are in a varying state of disrepair.  You want to free up funds for something else that caught your eye which you totally don’t need, while telling your wife that the money is for a much needed home repair.  You haphazardly slap together the easiest thing to sell, take a few sub-par pictures, and toss that bitch up on Craigslist.  Before you know it, the emails start rolling in from seemingly sleep-deprived internet zombies, of all different breeds.

I firmly believe that there are 5 types of people you will encounter from a seller’s standpoint.

  1. The internet low-baller/barterer with astonishing grammar skills.
  2. The 15 year old who’s pretending he isn’t 15.
  3. The million-question guy.
  4. The zero-question guy.
  5. The Prince of Siberia who wants to send you 650% of your asking price.

The internet low-baller/barterer will arrive like clockwork, usually very shortly after an ad is posted.  You’ll be asked if you’re looking to trade for a “mint” 1996 Blazer with no floor.  Negating the fact that your vehicle has a book value 6 times that of said Blazer, even if it was actually “mint.”  Sometimes they’ll start the communication with a cash offer sight unseen, often for fraction of your asking price.  Their poorly-written messages usually require everything short of Google Translate to try and comprehend.  I wouldn’t even bother responding to these people, because they aren’t here to negotiate.  Their total budget for a new vehicle is exactly one Chevy Blazer, not a lug nut more.

The 15 year old is usually pretty easy to pick out.  Certain ads attract them more so than others.  They tend to be on the prowl for cheap, trendy cars.  Miatas, for example, will bring them in droves.  They are usually way too excited, and often can blend with a version of the “million-question” guy, creating an annoying hybrid.  The extreme enthusiasm usually blows their cover pretty early in the conversation.  99% of the time, they even don’t have ¼ of the asking price, and their mom will tell them it doesn’t have enough airbags.  You aren’t going to make a sale here.  Move along.

The true million-question guy poses a more complex scenario.  This person is genuinely interested, however full of way too many questions.  He’s going to drive you absolutely insane.  You’ll put up with his first set of questions, only to have them start flying again mere hours later.  A sale can actually be made to this type of person, but expect the transaction process to be equally as annoying, and post-sale communications will likely follow.  This should be treated as a last-resort sale.  Like when its November here in New England, and your Harley is still for sale.  That’s when you should entertain million-question guy.

The zero-question guy is often the overlooked buyer.  The zero-question guy knows what he’s looking for and knows what it is that you have.  He doesn’t ask questions because he knows the answers already.  These people are often ignored, however they are your most valuable potential buyer.  75% of the time you make a sale on Craigslist, it will be to the zero-question guy.  Transactions are easy, they usually negotiate the least, and they’ll be in and out the fastest.

The Serbian prince is probably my favorite.  These are the scammers.  They spend their entire lives scouring the internet hoping to find an unsuspecting elderly woman who would be so kind as to deposit a $90,000 check and then return $85,000 to the prince.  This is probably the most common type of scam, but there are some more elaborate ones I’m seeing pop up lately.  The majority of the world can spot them pretty easily.  You obviously won’t be making a sale, but it can really be great fun to bait these people to waste as much of their time as possible.  I’d elaborate more on my methods, but I try and keep my writing workplace-friendly.

The motto here: the guy with the least questions usually buys the car.  And he’ll give you pretty close to asking price too.  Everyone else is just going to waste your time.  Time to get that old hunk of shit sold, so you can buy a new… kitchen table?

What the hell am I doing?

As a long-time auto enthusiast, who enjoys taking frequent breaks from my day job to scroll through auto blogs, listen to podcasts, and dabble in some YouTube channels, I find myself frustrated with what’s available for the actual enthusiast.  The vast majority of quality auto media is focused around the average Joe who can’t wait to read through the next pamphlet at the BMW dealership, wistfully signing away 96 months’ worth of (indispensable) income for a base 320i, later to panic at the site of a washer fluid low indicator on the gauge cluster.  And I get it.  Because it makes sense.  The largest pool of “auto enthusiasts” that scroll through these forms of media are very similar to Joe.  I’d even venture to say this makes up over 80% of the viewership.  But what about the other 20% of us who actually like things other than pamphlets?  The 20% who own tools?  The people who make car purchases based on how hard it’s going to be to pull that motor out if need-be?

I want Garage Hangs to be for the 20%.

The goal here is to bring you things that won’t have you screaming at your screen, because some chucklehead can’t figure out why WD40 isn’t working as a penetrating lubricant.  I want you to enjoy what you see, because it’s written, filmed, and edited by someone who also works on things, and enjoys the mechanical side of our hobby.

I appreciate great build threads, an effectively arranged garage, and occasionally a well-sorted car.

Welcome to Garage Hangs.