Archive for Driver’s Seat

Needs an eye-bleach dispenser

Nissan, perhaps due to rubbing up against corporate cousin Renault for all these years, always seems to have a weird mix of genuinely handsome and downright fugly vehicles. I drive a 14-year-old Infiniti sedan which I think is at least acceptable-looking (apart from a really dumb aftermarket spoiler), especially considering the atrocities that have been vended in this size class in recent years in the name of fuel economy/aerodynamics/designer perversity. On the other side of the divide is the Juke utelet, of which Car and Driver said: “There are no logical reasons for it to look the way it does, so clearly drawn without conventional aesthetic considerations in mind.” And they liked it.

The revised Infiniti QX80, née QX56, née Nissan Patrol, may get similarly blistered in the press. At TTAC, Cameron Miquelon made no particular observation about its appearance, other than to note that the hood was “massive.” However, Michael Zak at Autoblog brought out the pejoratives:

[I]t’s hard to call this SUV anything but ugly. It’s bulbous and almost brutish, which aren’t generally words you want to have to use when talking about any kind of luxury vehicle.

Or even Lincolns.

On the basis that you should be able to make this fine judgment call on your own, here’s the new QX80, as seen at the New York auto show:

2015 Infiniti QX80

No amount of ethanol could persuade me that this thing is desirable. (Your mileage, of course, may vary.) Then again, the driver only has to look at the inside of it, except when refueling — which, given the size of this thing, he’ll be doing rather frequently.

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Had I a clue

I mentioned yesterday that the dealership had lent me a G37 for the duration while my own ride awaits a new and sorta-pricey part ($200+, plus God knows what to install); inasmuch as I have no idea of the duration of “the duration,” I figured that it would be at least two days and therefore I ought to spring for a couple of gallons of gas. Shortly after figuring this, I stumbled upon the Question of the Day: “On which side is the fuel filler?”

Conventional wisdom says that you follow the little arrow inside the gauge. I looked at it, and it looked like the one in my car: pointing to the right. Except that the filler on my car is on the left. Being distrustful of Nissan fuel gauges anyway, I decided I’d wait for the next G37 to come along and take notes. As it happens, the little C-store/Shell station around the corner from me had a G37 at the pump, and it was filling from the right side, so I manuevered into the nearest appropriate position and felt around for the remote fuel-door release on the underside of the driver’s side armrest.

I found nothing there.

Okay, fine, said I, and walked around to the other side of the car, where the glovebox is, with the express intent of consulting the manual.

Which wasn’t there.

My second Mazda had the release on the floor by the seat controls. Not there, either. After about seven minutes of looking just as stupid as possible, I noticed an asymmetry to the door opening. I pushed the side nearest the narrower edge, and yes! There’s the cap. And a tether to keep it from migrating, and a rack to keep it in rather than letting it dangle by the tether.

The clerk, when I presented her a ten-spot, was most amused. I was perhaps a tad less so when I discovered that the difference between regular and premium, recently jacked up to 32 cents at most Shells I see and 46 cents at one I’d passed earlier, was 60 cents. So “a couple of gallons” says it straight: ten bucks bought me just under two and a third gallons at $4.299. I hope they’re grateful at the dealership.

Addendum: The part will apparently arrive today.

Further addendum: Make that a part. Someone at Nissan Double Secret HQ dropped the ball.

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Out there in the audio radiance

KCSC, the classical-music station at the University of Central Oklahoma, changed its call letters to KUCO a couple of weeks ago; I’m frankly surprised they’d stuck with the old calls for so long, inasmuch as the school hasn’t actually been Central State College since the early 1970s. However, the RDS display still reads “KCSC@UCO.”

This should tell you that Gwendolyn had a spa day today — the dreaded MIL, attention to which has never, ever cost me less than $600 — and that they turned me loose in a ’13 G37, a competent handler with a fairly dumb seven-speed automatic and, yes, an RDS display. And I had plenty of time to enjoy the radio, since traffic on the Lake Hefner Parkway was moving at around 15-20 mph. Southbound. This, of course, is impossible, since the Hef’s main purpose in life is to provide an alternative to the Broadway Distention, three miles east, which funnels people out of downtown and into Edmond at that time of day; hardly anyone ever goes south on the Hef during the evening rush.

Near Britton Road — I’d come on at 122nd — I saw the issue. A flat slab of yellow plastic, maybe the size of the similarly colored rack where my dishes dry by evaporation, had been dropped on the line between the center and right lanes. Every swinging Ricardito for two miles had slowed down to get a good look at it. This, I decided, was the first really good argument for self-driving cars, which can’t engage in rubbernecking unless it’s part of their program. (What’s the over/under on them programming them to do exactly that?)

Spa day continues until Nissan can find an EGR valve.

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Have you promoted a Ford lately?

Received from one of Ford’s social-media mavens:

We think 50 years of service warrants 50,000 best wishes, don’t you?

For half a century, Mustang has gifted drivers with a gracious mix of style, power and performance.

Now, as we greet the all-new 2015 Mustang, it’s time to say thanks.

Join us in celebrating this milestone by giving Mustang the biggest virtual party in history. That’s right — we’re aiming to crush the Guinness World Record for Most eCard Signatures by April 16.

In other news, there’s a Guinness World Record for Most eCard Signatures.

Still, half a century is several lifetimes for lesser vehicles, so:

Wish Mustang the best:

http://action.ford.com/mustang50signthecard

Yeah, I did. It’s a pony car, after all. I think I had #29,846. Besides, it enabled me to empty out the inbox without pressing the dreaded Delete key.

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See my wheels

Bark owns a Screaming Yellow Zonker Boss 302 Mustang — he describes it, more calmly, as “School Bus Yellow” — and he cares what you think about it:

“Who would buy a car based on what other people think?” is a refrain that is repeated again and again and again. Is it wise to buy a car based solely on the opinion of others, to opt for a model other than the one that you would personally prefer due to what amounts to grown-up peer pressure? Of course not. To do that would be to deny one’s own self worth.

But to pretend that we just don’t care? Come on. Be real. To act like we don’t care what the world thinks of our car is equivalent to walking out the door every day without making an attempt to match our shoes and our belts. Sure, kids and people who have no ambition do it, but grown-ups don’t. The vast majority of people in the business world dress in a way that signifies their position in life. I choose to wear Hart Schaffner Marx suits and sportscoats and Allen Edmonds shoes almost exclusively in the workplace. Why? Because it shows people around me that I am a (moderately) successful man with a sense of style. Why would I risk that professional image by walking out to the parking lot and getting into a 1996 Camry?

I’m not sure this works in reverse, though: I see plenty of Junior Samples lookalikes in Escalades.

For myself, I don’t think I really did give that much of a damn, until I paid however many extra bucks for a premium-brand badge — and then all of a sudden I had to determine if I was living up to the standard being set by my car. Truth be told, I found that wearying, especially for a guy who wears pocket Ts and khakis to work. Moreover, I’m not sure anyone cares all that much; I don’t have much of a reputation to uphold, and I presume no one has any serious expectations of me at this point. I don’t, however, feel compelled to bark at Bark: he’s made his calculations, and he’s acting in accordance with them, which, outside of politics anyway, is a laudable approach. Besides, it’s his dream car, and you don’t scream on someone’s dream car, especially if he knows how to drive it.

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An inline something-or-other

Toyota is showing off a couple of new engines, designed to be downright miserly with precious fuelstuffs. Here’s some of the release:

One of the engines is a 1.3-liter gasoline engine in which Toyota is employing the Atkinson cycle — normally used in dedicated hybrid engines. Use of the Atkinson cycle provides an increased expansion ratio and reduces waste heat through a high compression ratio (13.5), resulting in superior thermal efficiency. Toyota aims to further improve the fuel efficiency of the engine by utilizing other innovations including an intake port with a new shape that generates a strong tumble flow (whereby the air-fuel mixture flows in a vertical swirl) inside the cylinder, and a cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system paired with Variable Valve Timing-intelligent Electric (VVT-iE) technology to improve combustion and reduce loss.

Pretty neat, if it works, and I tend not to bet against Toyota. The other engine is even smaller:

[A] 1.0-liter engine jointly developed with Daihatsu Motor Co., Ltd. has achieved maximum thermal efficiency of 37 percent due to a similar tumble flow-generating intake port, a cooled EGR system, and a high compression ratio. Combination with the idling-stop function and various other fuel consumption reduction technologies allows vehicles to achieve a maximum fuel efficiency improvement of approximately 30 percent over current vehicles.

The 1.3, they say, will reach 38 percent. Most of us out here in the old Teeming Milieu are getting 20 percent, maybe.

Still, there’s one thing I want to know that Toyota for some reason didn’t put in their press release: How many cylinders? Eventually, Cameron Miquelon at TTAC ferreted out the numbers: the bigger engine has four cylinders, the smaller one three. Not entirely unpredictable, perhaps, but you’d think Toyota would be telling us this up front.

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Meanwhile in Corvetteland

UAW Local 2164, which represents workers at GM’s Bowling Green Assembly facility, home of the Chevrolet Corvette, has voted nearly unanimously to authorize a strike:

93 percent of the workers who submitted ballots voted in favor of authorizing a strike. Still, the decision needs to be booted up to the regional and then national levels before any action can actually be taken. Eldon Renaud, the president of Local 2164, seems to think that the strike authorization will serve as a sort of saber rattling, getting the “immediate attention” of the facilities management.

“We’re like everybody else, we’re strike-shy,” Renauld told the media, according to the Associated Press. “Nobody wants to have a strike. Who really benefits by it?”

The union’s complaints:

Renaud said issues involved were safety and quality control.

He said there have been several “near misses” that could have resulted in serious injuries for assembly line workers at the Bowling Green plant. The union also worries that the elimination of quality control positions will affect the integrity of the plant’s quality procedures, he said.

Presumably the “near misses” do not include the sudden appearance of a sinkhole in the plant in mid-February, from which the last car was retrieved this week.

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Arachnid pinion (again)

You may remember this from three years ago:

A couple years’ worth of Mazda6 production — about 65,000 cars in all, four-cylinder models only — will be recalled because of, um, spiders.

The 6 has since been completely redesigned, but eight-legged critters still like the old one:

Another recall has been issued for 42,000 more of the models built between 2010 and 2012 and equipped with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine.

According to the automaker, there have been nine confirmed sightings of spiders in vent lines since the original recall. It seems that covers were applied at the factory to keep the arachnids from entering, but it hasn’t quite exterminated the problem.

This time, they plan to reflash the car’s computer, to change the purge timing in the charcoal canister that collects fuel vapors.

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Lies per hour

I am becoming persuaded that Barack Obama, once he leaves office in 2017, should head up a car company, just so he can get a good look at the godawful malfeasance of his erstwhile acolytes:

The battery-powered Tesla Model S is one of the world’s fastest and quietest luxury cars, but you might not know the latter if you watched the 60 Minutes interview with Tesla founder Elon Musk that first aired on Sunday.

Now CBS says it regrets the “error” that led to that impression.

Error, schmerror. This was either a deliberate hit or the most blatant act of stupidity in auto coverage since — well, since 60 Minutes decided to take out Audi. Get a whiff of this:

Following an introductory segment by Scott Pelley, whose wife owns a Model S, there is a series of shots provided by Tesla of a Model S driving down a road accompanied by the out-of-sync sounds of an internal combustion engine and the shifting of a transmission.

The Model S has neither of these things.

Nice fakery, CBS. Not quite up to the level of what you did to Audi, though:

Ed Bradley’s 17 minute “investigative report” aired on November 23, 1986. Between interviews of the teary-eyed “victims” (drivers) of unintended acceleration swearing their feet were on the brake pedal, CBS showed a clip of a driverless Audi lurching forward on its own.

Viewers didn’t get to see the canister of compressed air on the passenger-side floor with a hose running to a hole drilled in the transmission. An “expert” had rigged the Rube Goldberg device to shift the big Audi into drive and, like any automatic-equipped car, move forward (unless the brakes are depressed).

Edward R. Murrow is doing about 1800 rpm, even as we speak.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Six times around the world

Gwendolyn, my (mostly) trusty Japanese traveling companion, rolled over the 150,000-mile mark yesterday in the 1500 block of the Northwest Distressway (this would be approximately in front of the Courtyard by Marriott). And she’s in pretty good shape, though there’s a gasoline-vapor issue that needs attention — changing out the gas cap was insufficient remedy — and the tinworm is overly attracted to her flanks.

Of course, this car was already six years old when I bought it, so not all those miles are attributable to me. Still, 150k is more than I’ve ever seen on an odometer. (I’ve had three other cars go past 100k, and one of them almost made it to 200k, but there were only five digits in those days.)

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Pedals to be pushed

You soon could be driving a bit faster on Idaho roads:

Governor Otter signed a bill that lawmakers passed to increase the legal speed limit on highways and interstates.

However, the Idaho Transportation Department did not back the bill.

“There isn’t really direction on where we want to go on this as far as the Transportation Department. This wasn’t a bill that was driven by ITD, this is something that came from the legislatures to push this forward and change the speed limits,” said Nathan Jerke, ITD.

Thanks for nothing, Jerke. Otter will hear of this.

Similar ructions are being heard in Wyoming:

Lawmakers passed the 80 mph law during the budget session that ended earlier this month. Even though legislators have left the Capitol, debate over the bill continues. The discussion centers around safety and has caused many to question what the future will look like on Wyoming’s main thoroughfares. Will there be more accidents? Will the de facto speed limit become 85 mph?

Wyoming Department of Transportation officials are starting work on those answers by conducting speed studies on stretches of interstates 25 and 80 before the law takes effect July 1.

The occasional speed demon aside, people generally won’t exceed their comfort zone except in unusual circumstances. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I get antsy above 85 (formerly 90) or so. And the last time I had a tolerably long drive on a reasonably fast road — Kansas Turnpike south of Emporia, posted 75 — I kept things down around 80 or so, which is about as fast as one dares go without drawing the attention of John Law, and probably faster than one should go with questionable wheel bearings. (These have since been replaced.)

I’ve driven on 80-mph roads in Texas; seldom did I see anyone blasting past me at my sedate 82.

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The usual two chances

Which, you’ll remember, are “slim” and “none”:

Yahoo! Answers screenshot: I want Ferrari and beautiful girl. What to do?

It’s a safe bet he can’t afford the maintenance — and the car is even worse.

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This thing blows

A trial attorney in Texas gets an ignition interlock installed in her car as a test, and guess what? It works pretty much as advertised. I can’t persuade the video to embed here, so you get to watch it there.

Disclosures: Jamie Balagia, whose law offices produced this experiment, is a first cousin to me; he is a candidate for Attorney General of Texas, running as a Libertarian. (LP Texas convention is in April; Mr Balagia has one opponent.) The incumbent AG, Greg Abbott, a Republican, is vacating the position to run for Governor.

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Ghostmobiles

It is incumbent upon me as an automotive enthusiast to complain bitterly about the advance of self-driving cars, which will supposedly drain all the life out of what used to be fun before traffic became obnoxious and pavement maintenance became theoretical.

Yet there are some potential advantages to the existence of such vehicles:

As the notion evolves, I think that robocars would actually change the dynamics of car ownership. Most specifically, a lot of people wouldn’t need to own one. Instead it would be Zipcar writ large, except that instead of having to find an available car, the car you need will be able to drive to your curb.

I have to admit, that sounds awfully appealing in its own way. And it may portend a move to smaller vehicles:

As it stands, we tend to drive cars with excess capacity for those rare times when we need said capacity. All of my cars have had room for four or five even though the vast majority of the time it’s only had one or two people in it. Almost always one until we had the baby. But it sucks to need space and not have it, so you get the larger model.

Gwendolyn has space for five, and seat belts for same; in the eight years she’s been here, I think she’s carried five people exactly once. Most of the time, it’s just me; one weekend a year, generally, it’s just me and Trini.

But this is the suggestion that I find most entertaining:

[I]t would actually capture not only the psychological benefits of public transportation, but also many of the environmental benefits. With cars being on call, we could greatly reduce the amount of parking space required.

You and I likely know several people whose main objection to riding the bus is that it involves, well, riding the bus, with its allegedly high population of creeps and weirdos.

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Evenly odd

In Oklahoma City, the number on your house determines the days you can water your lawn: there are more odd days than even days in a year, but so far, nobody has mounted a serious fairness challenge to the ordinance.

Meanwhile in France, something similar was envisioned for the streets of Paris:

Government officials in Paris announced over the weekend that a new plan would go into effect early Monday morning: only about half of the city’s cars would be allowed to drive on any given day. The reason, as you can probably guess, was to reduce the amount of smog in the air.

The plan, however, didn’t make it to Tuesday:

French officials say the rule banning roughly half of Paris’ car traffic from the city’s streets will not be in effect Tuesday.

Minister of Ecology Philippe Martin says 90 percent of Parisian drivers followed the rules [Monday], according to Le Monde. He said new data shows a “clear tendency toward improvement,” citing changes in weather patterns that have contributed to the city’s smog.

This is how the French differ from us: when they backpedal on something, par Dieu, they do it completely.

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Lubed out of existence

The Instant Man pointed to this preposterous bit of Wired nonsense:

The ability to repair a car via software is especially important when the vehicle itself consists of so much new technology that traditional mechanics don’t know how to fix. The flip side is that without an internal combustion engine, there’s not as much to fix. I’ve written before that a Tesla without its outer shell looks like a cell phone on wheels. It’s basically just a big battery. That means no spark plugs, no air filters, no fuel pumps, no timing belts. In short, Teslas don’t have any of the parts that force you to take your car in for “regularly scheduled maintenance” — services that can cost dearly at the dealer. But it’s hard to charge for an oil change when there’s no oil to be changed.

I’ve seen a few Teslas in the wild, and they all had tires. Also suspension parts, which can and do wear out.

More to the point, dealers have lost a ton of oil-change business over the years to the neighborhood Spee-D-Loob, mostly because SDL’s business model — throw in the oil change as a loss leader, then scare the customer into several other services — is very attractive to people who were told by their sister’s brother-in-law’s cousin that you never go to the dealership because they’ll charge you out the wazoo, which, based on my regular inspections of the Yahoo! Answers Cars & Transportation section, is roughly two-thirds of the human race. (I expect, any day now, that someone at the blinker-fluid level of automotive competence will be asking what the fair price is for a wazoo charge.)

Perhaps even more to the point, Motor Trend has a Tesla Model S on long-term test, and this was in their April update:

A few days later I got another email: “We replaced a slightly out of spec right steering knuckle and the drivetrain.” Replaced the drivetrain! “There was nothing wrong with the power unit,” they noted, “but we heard a clicking in the transmission. The power unit isn’t serviceable in the shop so we decided to be proactive.”

The Tesla Service Center no doubt didn’t enjoy eating the cost of that drivetrain, but they knew Elon Musk had their back. And if the transmission goes out in your [some other make and model], your dealership will swap it out for a previously rebuilt unit, because nobody on staff knows how to rebuild a transmission anymore. Not so different, really.

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Don’t forget seat warmers

What was the defining factor in this winter’s auto market? New models? Deep discounts? How about frigid temperatures?

The harsh winter, during which many areas of the United States saw temperatures dip well below zero degrees, changed car shopping preferences, according to a new study from Swapalease.com, with utility vehicles replacing certain other car segments as a popular choice in several locations.

“While it makes sense to see the winter elements encourage a shift to larger utility-type vehicles, the most recent winters did not have this effect on shopping patterns,” said Scot Hall, Executive Vice President of Swapalease.com. “However, a consistent wave of arctic-type conditions may have contributed to this winter’s shift in shopping preferences in many parts of the country.”

Midsize sedans remained the most popular segment for consumers, but utility vehicles saw big spikes in interest over the course of this frosty winter. About fourteen percent of car shoppers preferred midsize crossovers (up from 9.2 percent last winter), 13.2 percent preferred full-size crossovers (up from 7.5 percent) and 11.8 percent preferred midsize SUVs (up from 6.9%).

Now that the roads are (mostly) clear, let’s get out there and burn some hydrocarbons!

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Babe magnets, how do they work?

I really hate to dash anyone’s hopes — no, really, I do — but I don’t think this will end well:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: I am a 27 year old black male and drive a 2007 glacier pearl white nissan murano sl. am I going to get ladies?

It’s not entirely stock, either:

It has tints and a mesh grille and a black hood deflector instead

James, my man, I hate to break it to you, but the woman who falls for you because of your wheels won’t last beyond a couple of oil changes. Sorry.

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Let’s talk about a Rocket

No, not a Houston Rocket. Think Lansing, Michigan, home of Oldsmobile since Ransom E. Olds himself starting building cars in 1897.

Nineteen fifty-eight had not been a good year for General Motors: it was a down year for Detroit generally, and one brand — Packard — actually perished. (Nash and Hudson had expired after the 1957 model year; Ford had yet to learn the fate of its shiny new Edsel.) The General’s own ’58 models were mocked for their bloat and for their ridiculously overchromed flanks; the ’58 Olds perhaps got it the worst, with stylist Alex Tremulis, then best known for his work for Preston Tucker, satirizing it by drawing musical notes in that rear-panel staff. Worse yet, the daily driver of a Ford designer in the early 60s was a ’58 Olds with its nameplate letters shuffled: the Ford man tossed an I and rendered the name as “SLOBMODEL.”

By then, of course, Oldsmobile had moved on. At the time, the division’s big dealer promotion each year consisted of a small-scale Broadway-style musical, often based upon a large-scale Broadway musical. For 1959, Good News about Olds debuted with a catchy little number that demonstrates that Bill Hayes and Florence Henderson definitely knew the territory. Turned into a TV commercial, it looked like this (after the jump):

Read the rest of this entry »

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Ed. in excelsis

Ed., as he (I suspect it’s a he, but there’s no evidence one way or another at the moment) has always styled himself, delivers the occasionally laughing, occasionally lacerating responses to reader letters in Car and Driver. (I owe my present-day subscription, which began in 1978, to Ed.’s tenderizing ministrations.)

In the April issue, a reader complained about a comparison:

[Y]ou lost me when you stated that Maserati wishes it had a sedan as beautiful in its stable. Mazda’s sedans don’t hold a candle to either the Quattroporte or the new Ghibli. Look, the 6 is an attractive car, but you’ve done what my ex-wife does all the time — exaggerate to make a point. Never a good tactic when you really want to make a point that someone will actually believe instead of causing a massive eyeroll.

Said Ed.:

I can’t imagine why you’re not still married.

Incidentally, I will apparently get a chance to evaluate this comparison for myself: Bob Moore, who owns the Mazda dealership in town — and from whom I bought my current Infiniti — is getting a Maserati store.

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Or you could just call 1-800-DOUCHE

Or whatever the prefix is in Britain:

A supercar fanatic fed up with missing out on offers of dates from women who spotted him diriving his Ferrari F430 has launched an app that he hopes will be the key to revving up Britain’s sex lives.

Marc Ackerley found himself swamped with date requests from attractive women who caught sight of him behind the wheel of his £170,000 Ferrari.

Fuelled by this new-found female attention and his worry that he was missing out on offers from women who had admired him (and his car) from afar but wouldn’t think of contacting a car dealership, the businessman set up Platewave.

The app which allows admirers to contact any car owner in the country. All you do is sign up to the website or app and send a message or a ‘wave’ to any registration plate.

The recipient can only see it if they sign up to the app themselves and when they do, their messages will be waiting for them.

If something like this were ever to catch on in the States, I predict roughly half the messages will be variations on “So you think you can go 15 under in the left lane, do you?”

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I feel bad for you, son

Well, we’re having sales problems, really under the gun,
We’ve sold 99 Cadillacs, the product’s done.

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You put the cam on the coconut

From the Advice Wanted files:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: What is a good car to buy if I'm going to race?  I'm looking for a good car I can built and race. Don't say a Nilsson civic cuz I hate those.

“Nilsson civic”?

“Everybody’s gawking at me
Can’t hear a word they’re saying
Over my fart-can exhaust.”

(With apologies to Fred Neil.)

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Parked outside the yurt

The descendants of the Mongol hordes, they do love their hybrids:

As we drove closer and closer to Ulaanbaatar, a totally new element came to light: the unbelievable frequency of the first two generations Toyota Prius as used right-hand drive Japanese imports. This is even more blatant in the capital, and I saw more first generation Prius in the first 20 minutes I spent in Ulaanbaatar than I did in my entire life before that! Sitting at a busy intersection for no more than 8 minutes, I counted 69 first generation Prius and 75 second generations, making Mongolia the country in the world with the highest penetration of Toyota Prius in its car landscape!

This is not, he hastens to add, because Genghis Khan believed in saving fuel or anything like that:

There’s a simple explanation to this madness: there is no import tax on used hybrid vehicles in Mongolia, and it’s forbidden to import a vehicle aged over 9 years. The equation is simple: the cheapest car to import into Mongolia today is a 2004, 2nd generation Toyota Prius which will see its share of the Mongolian car landscape increase further over the next few years to the detriment of the 1997-2003 first generation which is technically impossible to import anymore.

Ulaanbataar (we learned it back in the Jurassic period as “Ulan Bator”) has just under half of Mongolia’s population of 2.9 million, about as many people as Kansas but somehow squeezed into a space twice the size of Texas.

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Mid-year crisis

The dreaded Malfunction Indicator Light emerged from its deserved darkness a couple weeks ago. After a few seconds short of one week, it vanished, only to reappear a few minutes after the biweekly dose of Shell V-Power.

Yep, I said. Gotta be the gas cap. (Well, it doesn’t gotta be, but the diagnosis fits the behavior.) Before driving all the way up the Broadway Distention to the dealership, though, I had the presence of mind to call the parts guy first.

He wanted the VIN.

Turns out that Nissan made a running change during that model year, and there were two different gas caps. (This wasn’t the only thing they changed, either. The early dash had two dimmer switches, one for use when the lights are off; I don’t have that, but I do have side air bags, a late addition to the equipment list.) The one I take, of course, is (1) the more expensive one (2) that has to be trucked in from Nashville.

If nothing else, this explains why AlldataDIY, normally thorough in its coverage, has nothing for this gas cap other than a diagram and a test routine.

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Permanent adolescence

There is just so much wrong with this scenario:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: If I made 80K a year lived at home with my parents, had zero bills could I afford a used Lamborghini Gallardo?

That first $25,000 engine rebuild ought to discourage him, but it won’t.

The temptation is to conclude that this guy believes with all his glands that he’s never going to get laid unless he has an exotic car. Of course, living in the parental units’ basement pretty much assures a state of perpetual virginity anyway, and besides he’s Canadian — says so elsewhere on the page — so I’m putting aside my speculation that he’s hard up for health insurance.

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Try it and see

Or if you’d rather not, well, the answer is No:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Can you drive without a fuel line?

In case you were wondering:

I don’t know much about cars. It is a 91 Honda Accord. The fuel line is bad. Can I drive the car without it or can I just drive with it until I can get a new one?

There’s always the chance that we’re being trolled, but this sounds too cosmically dumb.

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20R Us

Murilee Martin turns up a 1978 Toyota Celica GT in a Denver junkyard, which promptly called up memories of my ’75 GT, which I was still driving in the early ’90s.

It’s all about the engine:

The very sturdy 2.2-liter 20R engine made good torque, as befitted an engine well-suited for hauling Hilux-driving, Soviet-fighting mujahideen over mountain passes. You couldn’t spin the R much, as many LeMons racers have discovered, but it would outlast the rest of a Celica.

Indeed. The tinworm would burrow into this buggy at several points and would never, ever go away.

Still, the 20R was hard to kill, though it expected you to fiddle with the valve clearance every 60,000 miles. In return, it delivered 96 hp at 4800 rpm — redline was a lowish 5500 — and 120 lb-ft of torque at 2800, on the crummiest gas you could find on the wrong side of town. And one night when a throttle spring broke, I discovered that it would run for extended periods at 5200 rpm, though this far beyond the power peak it produced more noise than power. When I gave it up in 1995, it needed new rings, but was otherwise in pretty decent shape for 195,000 miles.

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There can be only one way

In retrospect, I suppose it was my fault for being on May Avenue on a Saturday in the first place, May Avenue being basically where strip malls go to die. (There’s exactly one stretch of May between 10th and 150th with no discernible commerce: east side between 43rd and 47th.)

6900 block of North MayThis strip mall at 6900 North May is largely indistinguishable from other strip malls: there are two entrances, one in front of the north building, the other in front of the south. (If you live in these parts, the north building is distinguished, if that’s the word, by the Honeybaked Ham Company; Ted’s Somewhat Mexican Restaurant Escondido Cafe is near the opposite corner.) I’m southbound on May at 4:00 or so when the lumbering SUV ahead of me pulls to a stop, just before the north entrance. There being no left-turn facilities between 69th and 65th, I figure someone a block or two ahead is making a left turn. The flow of northbound traffic ceased for a moment, and up ahead, barely, I could see someone indeed making a left turn.

We plow ahead, slowly, and then the SUV signals a left turn into the southern entrance. Now there was a window of about 30 seconds when the driver could have pulled into the northern entrance while that other character up the street was turning; but no, it’s got to be the southern entrance. This is the sign of a person who not only hasn’t developed Plan B, but who is several steps away from a workable Plan A.

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Cents and sensibility

More of the former than the latter in this case:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Can I pay my car payment in pennies?

Justification:

I recently purchased my first vehicle from a used car lot in LeFlore County Oklahoma. They promised me it would be a great truck for the price and will not fail me when driving to and from work. The 2nd day I had it the brakes went out, and one week after I drove it off the lot, it broke down for the first time. It has now broken down 4 times, and this last time the rear differential locked up on me ($500 for the part) I’ve owned the truck for 2 weeks now. I signed papers that said ‘As is’ and ‘No Warranty’ My first payment is coming up and is $250 and I wanted to pay in pennies. I put $2000 down. Do they have to accept my payment even if its in pennies? is there any way I can send it through the mail so I dont have to sit at the office while they count it all? These guys are real scumbags that cheat any ol person dumb enough to buy a used vehicle from them (me)

“Send it through the mail”? Twenty-five thousand pennies at 2.5 grams each = about 138 pounds. It’s going to take several trips to the Post Office. Good thing there’s a truck available.

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