The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

9 November 2006

Governors recalled

Evidently I repeat myself on a cycle. From this week in 2004:

American drivers of a certain age will remember the Joan Claybrook Memorial Speedometer, inflicted on motor vehicles sold in the States around 1980: not only did it top out at a mundane 85 mph, but automakers were required to give special prominence to the national 55-mph speed limit. This was every bit as stupid as you think it was, and was eventually abandoned, as was the double-nickel itself. The thinking, and I use the term loosely, was that if the speedo only reads 85, everyone will assume that this is the maximum speed of the car and no one will drive faster than that. The far more common response, of course, was "Hmmm. Wonder what happens if I peg this baby?" The Law of Unintended Consequences at its finest.

Having hit 84 briefly during this morning's commute, I am still not impressed by 85 mph, but I have a certain respect for 130: everything I've read says that the 2000 Infiniti I30's top speed is limited to 130 mph, and Gwendolyn is whipping around town on H-rated tires, which are good to, yes, 130 mph, and it's never occurred to me to see what happens at 131.

Which means that I'll likely never catch up to Automobile's Jean Jennings, who, in the December 2006 issue, notes that according to Mazda, the pocket-rocket Mazdaspeed 3 runs into an electronic dead end at 155 mph. The following hilarity subsequently ensued on the A95 on the way to Munich:

I have to say that, in between watching the road ahead for errant Trabants and occasionally glancing at the speedo for the magic 250 kph (155 mph), I don't notice what I'm passing or what's moving out of my way, but I do notice that the Audi [A8] that was clamped on my ass has receded in the rearview mirror. Just as I spy the 120 circled in red on the sign ahead, I hit the 250 mark and then poke the brakes a good one, bringing us down to the speed limit. Yes! 155 mph.

I had two more good 250-kph runs before it occurred to me that I'd never felt a limiter. Well, I did what you would have done. I got back on it until I ran out of peripheral vision, I ran out of margin for error, and I hit 260 kph — 162 mph. No speed limiter. Those liars.

Hmmm. Maybe it's time I got some serious lead back into my foot.

Posted at 6:40 PM to Driver's Seat


If you really want to try the 130 mph on real roads instead of track conditions, might I suggest State 3 between May and Hardesty up in the Panhandle. This 70-odd mile stretch of pavement has maybe 6 curves in it, and all eastern 10 miles. Back in the late 1980s when Dwight Yoakam sang of the "Nowhere Road", this is it: straighter than a preacher (excluding Ted Haggard) and longer than a memory.

Of course, you should have a radar-detector onboard and should try it between the 3rd and the 13th, when local OHP aren't yet concerned with making quota.

Alternatively, US 64 between Buffalo and Beaver also provides a relatively-straight stretch of road with fewer OHP, but you do have to slow down in Gate in case the dog runs out into the highway.

Posted by: Dan B at 10:32 PM on 9 November 2006

I'll need rather a lot of straightaway. Those last few mph will be difficult to achieve, given Gwendolyn's gearing — we'd be bumping the redline in the 120s in third, and fourth is a way-tall 0.70 overdrive. (Routine freeway stuff comes out at 71 mph at 2500 rpm.)

I've done some fairly spirited driving in the Panhandle, but not that fast.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:37 AM on 10 November 2006