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.

Ford Just Debuted the 2020 GT500 with a 7-Speed DCT, and the Crayon-Eaters have been Triggered

To say that a company makes a bad car because it’s unreliable, it’s styled by Helen Keller, or it’s a BMW is one thing. However, to completely disregard a car because it doesn’t have a 3rd pedal is kind of comical. Listen, it is the year of our lord 2019. Recreational marijuana is slowly becoming legal across the country, the iPhone XR was a huge letdown, and we have a president that uses McDonalds to cater an event at the White House. These are very accepting times so the fact that Fords biggest and baddest Mustang ever only comes in the 2-pedal variation is not a reason to cry.

All business up front.

“…system that can bang gears faster than you’d last inside Amber Heard with her super slutty red hair from Aquaman.”

The rift in the community is not indifferent to the 2016 Presidential election. The fanatical side, we’ll call them the Futurists, they embrace positive change. These are the kinds of people you see driving 911’s, 11-14 Mustang GT’s with square tire setup’s and a watt’s link, or other highly capable daily-drivable vehicles. The Futurists understand that in order to continue evolving and advancing, we need to push the boundaries. Sometimes this means getting rid of outdated technology like 6 on the floor in favor of a system that can bang gears faster than you’d last inside Amber Heard with her super slutty red hair from Aquaman.

Although it was technically Volkswagen who introduced the world to the concept of a very fast automatic with the DSG in the 2003 MK4 R32 in Germany only, it doesn’t really count because it’s not a true dual clutch. And MK4’s are toilets. It was to everyone’s surprise however that in 2007 Nissan introduced us to the beginning of the end with the R35 GT-R. People. Lost. Their. Minds. Everyone pretty much shut their mouth about it being automatic after it laid down some, for the time, mind shattering 0-60 and Nürburgring lap times. That was the first mass produced vehicle which really put the first, and I’d argue only nail in the coffin of the DIY cog transmission. In the following years manufacturers would slowly follow suit. Porsche showed up the following year with the Doppelkupplun…the PDK. Then it was Ferrari’s turn, then Audi with the S-Tronic and so on and so forth. Fast forward to 2019 and we have dual clutch transmissions in the most ridiculous things. The Porsche Macan for starters has a PDK as standard. Why? They even made a John Deere tractor with a dual clutch transmission. With how good some conventional automatics have gotten (the world renowned ZF 8-speed comes to mind) it’s kind of silly what they’ve actually started to put them into.

But I digress, futurists began to accept that the manual transmission was going to be added to the endangered species list.

The source of many bleeding hearts, and soft hands the morning of January 14, 2019.

On the other side we have the Haters. These are the people who have $96 in their USAA checking account, took out a 72-month loan @ 8.94% APR on their 2013 Coyote Mustang, and think ghost cam tunes are cool. The same dudes who buy the starter pack on a 12-month payment plan through Affirm. It consists of:

  • A BAMA Tune
  • AmericanMuscle replica RTR wheels
  • Red caliper covers
  • Electrical tape for the LOL-RUN tail light mod
  • The cheapest long tube header, and x-pipe combination available so their car rasps and drones worse than a clapped out Honda Civic with a fart can from True Life: I’m a Street Racer.

They will then taunt you for buying a 2018 GT manifold for $315 because you should have spent $1300 on a GT350 setup to make an additional 3/10ths of a horsepower at 7,485rpm. They cannot conceive the notion of a world without a manual transmission, regardless of the fact that they can’t get close to touching the 10 speed automatics in the 2018 Mustang GT’s. We’ll call these guys the Cucks.

You see the biggest reason the Cucks are upset is because much like the rest of us they want to see innovation, increased power, and more badass designs on their favorite Pony car. Don’t get me wrong, myself and the rest of the futurists do as well, however there is an important thing we need to realize. While every guy wants to think he can shift like Ryan Woon, the reality is they can’t. The Mustangs shitty stock shifter design does not allow that, and even if you drop $500 on the magnificent MGW Race-Spec shifter you still have the human limitation factor. You simply will not be able to change gears as fast as electronics can send a signal to an actuator. You are more likely to tongue punch Selena Gomez’s fartbox than knock out a gear change in under 0.100 seconds.

Thus, by saying the new GT500 is a piece of shit, people should be fired, and it should of came with a manual clearly shows that you no longer understand the times we live in, and the purpose these cars have. Ford does not invest millions upon millions of dollars in a product solely to win the approval of the try-hard who can’t afford the car BEFORE the $20,000 dealer markup this car is absolutely going to see. They do it because they want to fight to be the toughest kid on the block. Make no mistake, this car is going to kick the Camaro ZL1 1LE in the taint and steal its Nikes. We don’t even need to see the lap times to point and laugh at the Hellcat. Hell, based on what Ford’s told us about it I’m confident even saying this thing might actually give the Corvette Z06 a run for its money, and that’s a really big deal. We are living in a time where lap time competition sells cars more than ¼ mile times do. Funny enough, manual transmissions have the handicap in both equations, so I don’t really understand the massive amounts of hate on a company who made their decisions based on the needs to further promote and grow the brand.

No more party in the back for this hillbilly!

I get that you might not be happy with the direction they want to take the GT500 in, but that is not a reason to say people are wrong and they won’t sell any. Ford will laugh at you like Nelson from the Simpsons while its dump trucks of cash head to the bank from how well this will sell, and even more if it can hang with the Germans too. Like I said, you can’t even afford the car anyway. If you are that obsessed with wanting a high horsepower car then call Lebanon Ford. I’m sure they will finance you one of their $40,000 800hp cars for 9.99% APR and you can line up with a 2020 GT500 and get gapped because you won’t hook.

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.

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?