Friday, August 30, 2013


Peter Egan says farewell to Side Glances (but he's not going anywhere)

It's Friday the 30th. I thought Friday the 13th was supposed to be the bad one. Apparently I was wrong, as today Road & Track announced that Peter Egan was stepping away from Side Glances, the monthly column he has written for... well, forever.

It was just two months ago I wrote this prophetic paragraph, in a blog post about how I turned from a Hot Rod kid to a Road & Track adult:

I doubt I've missed more than a handful of Road & Track issues over the years, mostly when the Army sent me to places with only vague mail delivery. I still read every issueand will until Peter Egan retires. Best automobile writer working today.

What happened? Did I tempt the automotive gods once too often? Is this somehow my fault?

Yes, it's autographed... What's your point?

Peter Egan began writing Side Glances in 1983 and his life and mine have been curiously intertwined ever since. At times our core automotive directions coincided in an almost bizarre fashion. Just after I bought my Mustang GT in 1988, he bought a 5.0 LX. A few years later as I bought a Miata, Peter bought a Miata. And then around 2001, as I returned to Porsche ownership... yup, you guessed it, Peter bought a Boxster S.

I relate this not to imply any cosmic oneness of souls (I voted for Reagan for goodness' sake), but to put into perspective how Peter Egan's observations and musing so directly affected me. It felt at times as if he was writing just for me. A column he wrote in the early '90s about maps, "Charts," spoke to me in ways that only a kid who spent hours pouring over the pages of an atlas and then later found himself on the East German border with a British Army of the Rhine 1:100,000 map tucked in the .50 caliber machine gun mount of his M1 tank could understand.

But I suppose all good things must come to an end. And though Peter will continue to contribute to Road & Track and Cycle magazines, I will truly miss that moment 12 times a year when I eagerly opened a familiar magazine to see what my friend was thinking about this month.

You can read his final Side Glances column here. You should do this now.

Post script:

Peter's column titled, "The Right Tool for the Job" is another classic. Here is an excerpt.

Hammer: Originally employed as a weapon of war, the hammer nowadays is used as a kind of divining rod to locate expensive car parts not far from the object we are trying to hit.

Mechanic's Knife: Used to open and slice through the contents of cardboard cartons delivered to your front door; works particularly well on boxes containing convertible tops or tonneau covers.

Electric Hand Drill: Normally used for spinning steel Pop rivets in their holes until you die of old age, but it also works great for drilling rollbar mounting holes in the floor of a sports car just above the brake line that goes to the rear axle.

Hacksaw: One of a family of cutting tools built on the Ouija board principle. It transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredictable motion, and the more you attempt to influence its course, the more dismal your future becomes. 

Vise-Grips: Used to round off bolt heads. If nothing else is available, they can also be used to transfer intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Zen and the Art of Car Washing

I am not a great iPhone photographer...
August has been a blur. Between work and life I have barely been home. I've had little time for fun, much less carsor car blogs. The fleet is dirty and neglected. This afternoon I finally had a chance to get the red car out for some much needed scrubbing.

As I went through my car wash routine it occurred to me that I have a car wash routine. It's not rocket science: I start with a good rinse, use decent soap, wash from top to bottom, and have a different sponge/mitt for the lower panels. A thorough rinsing, a little water blading for the flat surfaces, the small leaf blower to get water from the nooks and crannies, and then a good soft toweling and I'm done. A routine.

Friends have been influential in the routine's evolution. From my army buddy Eddie I got the two different sponge strategy. From Jerry I got the leaf blower (my neighbors love that part - cements their opinion of my insanity). Tom at EP recently convinced me of the importance of good soap. In my case these days it is P21S. I tend to stick to Griots' products, along with a few other solutions that seem to work well (If you don't use Griot's Speed Shine there is no hope for you). I moved pass the mass-market/parts store crap years ago, but I'm not willing to spend big money in search of that perfect shine.

Embarrassingly I am not a big waxer. Sure, I do a thorough clay bar and decent paste wax every few months. But that's it. Not even the red car has seen a proper buffer in years. Actually, buffers kinda scare me.

Some of my car friends are far more fanatical. I've watched them disassemble Corvette dashboards in search of dust, wash their Porsches in the garage to avoid drought restrictions, and commit various other acts of car care obsession. Their cars do usually look better than mine.

I find that there is something about handwashing a car that appeals to some primal need. I enjoy it, even in the wonderful humidity of a Southern evening. Like just now. I think my blood pressure actually went down as I used polishing compound to get a slight abrasion off a bumper. Or maybe it was the beera car washing staple that I do not skimp on.

What are your car washing tricks or obsessions? What beer goes well with a clay bar?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Cars for Kids

There is a strange point in the life of an auto enthusiast when practicality and safety suddenly overrule power and design... When you have to find cars for your kids. And there has been a sea change in this field of endeavor with Gens X and Y. They don't care nearly as much about cars as I did when their age, and when they do their values seem sadly twisted. I shudder to hear a 17 year old who cares more about the environment than about looking cool or going fast. Kids today!

A few years back when it came time to expand the Moore motoring fleet to account for teen drivers I found myself in a strange positionbuying cars I did not necessarily want, and was not going to drive much. My first choice (or should I say our first choice, as my wife had an important say in all these decisions) was a Mazda Protege. That was tough as we traded in our beloved Miata M-Edition to buy the Protege. For the first, and perhaps only time in my life, I did not have a performance car of any type (that didn't last long and was actually how I got back into Porscheanother story sometime).

The Protege was a very good car. It had the classic three box shape of a BMW 2002 and the 1.8 liter engine from the Miata. As it was for our daughter I went with automatic transmission. And there was my big mistake, making assumptions

Anna Lea was different than most of her peers. Not only did she want her license the day she was eligible, soon afterward she announced that she wanted to learn to drive a stick shift. Hallelujah! There was an enthusiast in the family!

Of course we already had the Mazda. So we waited a year or two. But just as Anna was about to head off to college she somehow conned me into trading in the Mazda on a Jetta GLS with the 1.8 turbo, sport suspension, and a five speed manual. She named the car JJ and the rest was history (I'm not sure I have actually ever said no to her, come to think of it).

JJ the Jetta
Brother Rob also got his license and his grandparents kindly gave him their 2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT. It seemed like a nice car, at first. But eventually the Cruiser showed its dark side, going through ball joints, tires, wheels, and other parts with a reckless abandon. While it served Rob fairly well and really never left him stranded, it was a poorly designed and badly built car.

A Chrysler manufactured in Mexico. Say no more.

This last week, with only 72,000 on the odometer, the Cruiser was done. Facing thousands of dollars in computer and suspension repairs it was dumped at Carmax in the middle of a horrible rain storm. The appraisers missed a lot, dodging the deluge, and offered us far more than hoped. I think they were sort of surprised we took the offer, and then they were startled to see the car up close in the delivery lane. I suspect some other poor customer got low-balled later that evening to make up the difference.

And so I was off on the inexpensive, used car hunt. At first I looked at a 2006 Saab 9-5, then a 2004 BMW 2004. If it had been for me I think either would have worked. But it wasn't for me, and that shopping is actually harder. An inexpensive Camry was also considered, but it had too many miles.

After much thought - and discussion with Rob about his priorities - today we helped him purchase a 2008 Honda Fit Sport. I already like the little thing... Even with only 109 horsepower and automatic transmission. The 1.5 liter VTEC spins willingly and the paddle shifters (!) help keep the engine in the torque band. The cargo area is cavernous, with origami rear seats that fold into the floor. Rob liked that it gets 35 mpgand has an easily accessible AUX jack.

I guess he sort of cares about cars after all, his parameters are just different than mine.

What cars have you bought for your childrenand have you managed to raise car enthusiasts?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

#5 - 1988 Ford Mustang GT, Part 1

Old car enthusiast rule: After you wreck a fast car, always buy a faster car...

Following the untimely demise of the Volkswagen GTI in the spring of 1987, I set out to find a replacement that would be effective on the autobahn but that I could also take back to the U.S. in 18 months. I needed to buy a new or used American spec car. My 1977 Porsche 911 was German specand honestly it was not that reliable a car anyhow. Luckily there were some good options available.

By the mid 1980's Ford and GM had reignited the muscle car wars with new models of the Mustang, Camaro, and Firebird. Freed from the emissions-choking malaise of the late carburetor era, fuel injection and early engine management computers made the small block V8 relevant again. With top speeds of 140+ these cars represented a relatively inexpensive way to join the big BMW and Mercedes speed trains flying down the German highway network.

For some reason I have always been more of a Ford guy than a GM guy. Comparing the Mustang GT and Camaro IROC-Z, the Ford looked to be the better, and more modern choice. It was also a bit smaller: important on narrow European city streets. My mind made up, I bought a train ticket... Huh?

Service members stationed overseas who want to buy a new American car are at the whim of the Army/Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES). The nearest AAFES Ford concession was in Fulda, hundreds of miles to the south. I headed down on a Saturday and ordered a 1988 Mustang GT in dark gray with gray cloth. Leather was only available in the convertible. The car came standard with a 5.0 High Output V8 rated at 225 horsepower; and of course I chose the five speed manual transmission. I then waited patiently for my dream car to arrive. I waited, and waited, and waited. Months flew off the calendar, just like in old movies.
I ordered the exact color combination as in the brochure.
By late September I was impatient. The guy who sold me the car had no answers. Remember, this was 1987: no internet, no email, no nothing. Your choices were phone, if you had a number; or mail, if you had an address.
Finally somehow I tracked down the phone number of the Ford dealer in New Jersey responsible to get cars headed to Europe through customs at the Port of Newark. They didn't know anything. I begged the guy to go and look for my Mustang. When I called back 15 minutes later (the middle of the night in Germany) he had found the car
in the back of the lot covered in dust. A paperwork error. He promised to get it rushed out the next day.

Zweihundert funf und zwanzig Pferdestärke
A mere month later my new car arrived at the Port of Bremerhaven, Germany. I got the call late on a Friday afternoon. A friend set a speed record in his Peugot 205 GTI getting me to German customs so I could have the Mustang before the weekend.

Later than night I wrecked it.

Read the rest of the story.