Sunday, October 31, 2010

Texas flag and Chile flag

Watching the World Series and confused by the flag on the Ranger uniform?



BMW Unscripted series: Sabine Schmitz video

This is a pretty cool series.  It started with this old timer.  Next up, the Queen of the Ring.

Via Stipistop.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Peugeot Jack-O- Lantern

Australian croc versus Pontiac G8

Borrollola, Northern Territory croc / Pontiac G8:
Weight: 1,855 kg / 1,790 kg
Length: 6.325 m / 4.981 m

From Bolly Blog.

1990 Los Angeles Auto Show pictures

Being from Southern California, I made annual pilgrimages to the LA Auto Show as a kid.  A Vector fan recently asked for a picture I took of the American supercar.  While searching for it, I found these four photos from my 1990 trip.

1. Mitsubishi 3000GT.  Funny story behind this.  My friend in high school was caught pilfering at a local supermarket.  Though he didn't get in trouble with the law, he got in a lot of trouble with his strict parents.  About a week after the mini-heist, his dad made him watch a video called "Temptation".  He thought it was a Vatican-sanctioned instructional video on the deadly sin of misdemeanor theft.  Well, it was actually a cheesy promo video for the 3000GT.

2. Mercedes 500SL.  With a shelf life of 17 years (1972-1989), I thought the R107 SL was going to be THE Mercedes convertible forever.  When the R129 came out, I was dumbfounded.  It was so... modern.  When I first read about it, the coolest feature was the roll bar that sprung up in the event of a roll over.

3. Bentley Turbo R.  I really do not remember digging Bentleys when I was a kid, and I certainly don't remember taking this picture.  But today, if I could have any Bentley, it would be this red Turbo R.  Maybe it dug its way into my subconscious.

4. Vector.  If there was any wedge shaped car that boys in the 1980s coveted more than the Countach, it was this Vector.

Halloween, yes. Cayman S, no.

Rain was expected this morning so I canceled my meeting with the Cayman S.  (Well, the forecasters were wrong.)

So instead, I'll be working on my Halloween project...

Happy Halloween:

Friday, October 29, 2010

2010 Zambia Elephant Charge pictures

A friend stationed in Zambia sent these pictures.  The Elephant Charge is an annual off-road event benefitting conservation causes.  Cars and motorbikes race to various points.  It's all about problem solving and navigation skills.  The rules are here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Windows Phone ad car

Guys, what's the make and model of the car at 0:50?

Update: It's a Skoda 125.

Presidents in limousines

I just voted by mail.  To celebrate democracy, here is a look at modern U.S. presidents in the back seats of their limousines.

Nixon serenity

"Nice guy" Ford

Defeated Carter

Genial Reagan

Confident Bush

Fun-loving Clinton

Casual Bush

Cozy Obama

Nestor Kirchner dies, Argentine stocks take off

Yesterday, while waiting with his wife, current Argentine president Cristina Fernandez, at home for the census worker to count them, former Argentine president (and possibly the next Argentine president) Nestor Kirchner died of a heart attack.

Though Kirchner was definitely not "pro-business", he stabilized his country's economy and helped bring it back from the brink of total implosion.  And what was the stock market's reaction upon hearing of his passing yesterday?  Immediate 7 to 16% gains.  How about a day of mourning first before dancing on top of his grave, ches?

P.S. According to my Rides of Heads of State series, Kirchner was the only head of state to ride in an Audi A6.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Interview with Eugenie Thomas, owner of earliest example U.S.-spec Porsche Cayman

As a part of Porsche Cars North America's 60th anniversary celebration, it searched high and low for the earliest examples of each U.S.-spec model.  As I was perusing the list of "winners", I noticed the Cayman was based in the Bay Area.  The 2006 arctic silver Cayman S belongs to Eugenie Thomas.  I tracked her down and asked her some questions that I had.  Eugenie was kind, energetic, and helpful.

Just a quick note before the interview: The pictures of the Cayman are stock photos from Porsche.  This weekend, weather permitting, I will meet up with Eugenie and take some pictures of her Cayman S.

Q. How did Porsche find your Cayman for the contest?
A few Porsche friends passed the Porsche request to me.  I also passed it on to many, many other Porsche owners.  The criteria was the last three numbers of the VIN (in order of completion).  Mine was 182, which means 181 were built before mine, but not located as a legal Cayman.
Q. What Porsches have you owned?  
356 (which was sold to purchase a Victorian in Alameda). 
914, which I shared with my (ex) husband.  I showed and autocrossed that car. 
912, which turned into the "bumble bee" and was raced and autocrossed and had nearly 300,000 miles on it when sold.  It was a gift for my birthday, but I was too pregnant to drive it!  Had to wait and agonizing! It ended up with a 911 engine and was an amazingly fun car. 
A second 912 which immediately had a 911 engine installed.  Promptly blew up the engine on the freeway in the dark, and alone.  Bigger 911 engine installed.  Autocrossed intensely.  Hoping to sell it very soon.  All four of my children have driven both 912s at drivers schools and just around town.  Ditto with the Best One: the Cayman S.
Q. What do you like about the Cayman?

I absolutely LOVE everything about this car. It is freaking fast! Comfortable.  All the bells and whistles.  Two trunks!  Practically drives itself.  I'm still getting used to the weight in the middle, instead of the rear, which I had perfected!  Next month I will have owned her for one year and still don't know a lot of the details. I bought two car seats for the nanny kids and grandkids.  One from Porsche and one from Recaro. Expensive, but both fit like gloves. Sitting in the front has been an adventure for the kids, since their usual view is the back of a front seat. The car feels like 65 at 95 mph. When you ride in it, or drive it (ed.:!!!), you will see what is to love. I feel like a princess while driving her.  I love the looks from people.  I just LOVE my car!
Q. People often think of Caymans as Boxsters with hardtops.  On the other hand, I've also heard that Porsche had to dial back the Cayman's capabilities so that it did not directly compete against the 911.  How do you respond?
If people think the Cayman is a Boxster with a hardtop, they need to drive both and see.  They are not the same car at all.  The Cayman is much faster and seems more luxurious to me.  I have heard the 911 story also.  Plenty of Caymans beat the 911s.  Of course it's all in the driver.
Q. Tell us about your week with the 959.  How did you get the opportunity?  What was it like on the Silverstone circuit ?  What was it like driving on the streets?

I had been collecting 959 "anythings".  There was an ad in Panorama (Porsche Club of America's monthly magazine) from a man in England, that not only had stuff for me to purchase, but also owned the real thing.  At the time they were not allowed in the U.S., except to show.  We corresponded for months and I finally went to England to drive the car for a week. 
Silverstone was an amazing experience. I lost control on the first turn and laughed the whole way (my instructor was very understanding!).  On the streets, on the wrong side, was a huge challenge.  The power was more than I was used to, so it took awhile. The old country roads were really fun. 
Interesting note at Silverstone: At the driver's meeting, I was leaning up against the wall next to another driver (I thought). We were chatting between the lectures and when finished, introduced myself, as did he: Derek Bell!  I about fainted!
Q. What is your favorite Porsche model?  Why?  What is your least favorite Porsche model?  Why?
I still have deep feelings for the 959, which used to be THE car in my eyes.  However, the Cayman has replaced that.  I so, so love my new-to-me car! 
The 914 is the least fave, just because it is so hard to drive. I’ve driven many of them and never came away saying "that was easy!" NOT.  I don't particularly like the 928 and 944s, just because they feel so big and have limited visibility.
Q. What do you think of non-traditional Porsches like the Cayenne and the Panamera?  
The Panamera is a fantastic car.  I've driven one, and was extremely impressed.  It fits the request perfectly for some, although I don't see many families in them.  Probably the high price tag.  The Cayenne is also amazing.  I've driven many and find them to perform like a 911, except higher and bigger.  I took turns fast, and it responded like a 911, not an SUV.  I really want one! Both are great examples of Porsche machines.
Q. What is the Porsche Club of America (PCA)?  What does it do?  What is your involvement/role in it?
PCA is the Porsche Club of America.  There are clubs everywhere.  There is a saying: "Porsche, it's not just the car, it's the people" and it is very true.  Most clubs in the Bay Area seem to have their own specialties.  The Diablo Region serves all of the East Bay and we do a lot of social events and tours.  Golden Gate Region in the San Francisco area does a lot of racing.  All clubs promote the love of Porsches and the people are helpful everywhere on any questions.  The enthusiasm is contagious.  I have been involved with the Porsche Club since 1993. That year I won my first Enthusiast award. I have held every position on the board, except treasurer. I am currently the Autocross chairperson for Diablo.
Q. Why do you love Porsches?
WHY???  Oh my gosh why do you love anything?  Turns me on.  Excites me.  Makes me feel very, very good!

Q. Why do you love cars?

When I was 12, the guys in my neighborhood all had souped up ‘56, ‘57 Chevys that they worked on all the time and raced at the drag strip. They let me hang around all the time and then one of them got a ‘63 Corvette and I was hooked. When I was 15, I got to drive all those cars!  A great four years of fun car immersion did it!

Nolan Ryan-Robin Ventura fight

Nolan Ryan is my favorite baseball player of all time.  Here is the old man defending himself.  What a tough SOB.

Daimler-Benz test track bus


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Engine block coffee table complete!

I picked up the glass I had specially cut today.  I ended up propping the glass by chopping up a wooden dowel, wrapping the bottom of the pieces with electrical tape so they fit snugly into the spark plug holes, and spray painting the pieces with metallic paint.  Everything is very stable.

Here is the metamorphosis:
2. You, the visitors to this blog, voted for the red valve covers.
3. Lenny tirelessly cleaned the engine.
4. The engine arrived.
5. I spent a fruitless weekend trying to find a cheap glass top.
6. I'm done.  (See above.)

BMW E30 M3 v. Lancia Delta Integrale

I'll just leave this here.  Stay tuned for a story about a special Cayman S and a 959 at Silverstone.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Interview with Phil Lacefield, Jr. (ThatSaabGuy), Jalopnik's Next Top (3rd) Blogger

If you've been reading Jalopnik recently, you know that Gawker has been trying to find a replacement for Murilee Martin, who was its weekend editor.  A contest ensued and we the readers were flooded by a glut of sub-par writing.  Out of that goopy, grimy mess was a shining stand-out.  Contestant Phil Lacefield, Jr., a.k.a. ThatSaabGuy, wrote a couple of succinct pieces about one of the quirkiest makes out there-- Saab.

My favorite was the piece about the Saab Friction Tester.  It was wacky and chock full of useless trivia (I know that's redundant).  It captured the spirit of Jalopnik perfectly.  I wanted Phil to win.  I rooted for him.  I campaigned for him.  He didn't win.  Last week, two finalists were chosen.  Phil came in third.

I'm sure all of you noticed Phil's talent and his passion for Saabs.  He was kind enough to sit down and pound away on the keyboard and answer my questions.

Q. What is up with your Saab obsession?  What about Saabs attracts you to them?

I first encountered Saabs when I lived in the far north of Norway for a couple of years, back in the late ‘80’s. They are weird and quirky – like me – and when I came back to Ohio they were rare and expensive to maintain – like me. A perfect fit!  Since then I’ve owned countless dozens, as old as a ’64 and as new as a ’96.

Q. What is your favorite Saab of all time?

Definitely the 1996 Monte Carlo 850. And yes, I own one. 3 cylinder, 2-stroke, 55hp and nothing but balls-out screaming smoking fun.

Q. Do you own any Saabs?  What are they?  Any stories behind them? 

Currently my wife (also a Saab junkie) and I own five: our daily-driver ’96 9000 Aero (known as the UberAero, 401hp at the wheels); a 1990 C900 SPG (her car); the aforementioned ’66 MC850; a ’69 95 (the wagon version of the venerable 96, also her car); and a shell of a ’72 Sonett III in the back yard awaiting rebuilding this winter.

All these cars have amazing stories. The UberAero was purchased in 2006 with 82k on the ticker and an absolute creampuff in every way. I proceeded to install a 3” thick all-aluminum intercooler out of an NPR/Isuzu cab-over city truck, a custom-welded equal-length header to allow the A/C to remain, 35lb green injectors, a TD04HL-19T turbo (about 40% larger than stock), 4” intake and 3” exhaust…now it puts out 401 horsies at the wheels and hits 27.5lb (ed.: !!!) of boost. 

The SPG was found on a nasty used car lot in Middletown, Ohio, and nursed back to life, and has been a faithful steed ever since (complete with a gigantic 20-sided dice drilled out and used as the shift knob). 

The MC850 is my pride and joy, and spent 15 years in an airplane hangar about 200 yards from where I grew up, all that time just waiting for me to come rescue it. Now it gets driven regularly in vintage hillclimbs and rallys, and is my inseparable friend for life. 

The 95 I bought in a package deal from an old Norwegian farmer in Poulsbo, WA, and finally became roadworthy just this past summer after a long slumber in the driveway. 

The SIII was another driveway rescue (I do that a lot with old Saabs), and is a rust-free chassis awaiting many bits and a lot of time to make it whole again.

Q. I feel like the first generation 9-3 (1998-2002) was the last great Saab and it’s been downhill ever since for the brand.  Do you agree?  Why or why not?

Gaah, I wouldn’t call that car a “real” Saab if you put a gun to my head. The NG900 (for “next generation”) is an unmitigated piece of crap in every way. It was the first car designed and, more importantly, financed and budgeted by GM after their buyout. They are complete junk. The CS-bodied 9000 line is what I’d consider the last “true” Saab, as it was designed in conjunction with Lancia, Fiat and Alfa Romero and was (and still is!) a fantastic beast. 

The 9-3 (the follow-up to the NG900) wasn’t TOO bad, but by that point GM beancounters had taken over and it was nothing more than a glorified Opel. The original 9-5 is also not too bad, although the first few years of engines were of questionable quality and reliability.  

Q. Take off your hat as a Saab enthusiast for a moment.  What are the realistic chances of Saab surviving and thriving in the medium to long term future?

When word first came out that GM was looking to sell Saab, we all started to panic a bit. This was early in the financial meltdown, so no one was really sure who had the money and wherewithal to make the deal happen, and do it right. 

Koenigsegg stepped up early to buy the company, which at first glance was a good thing – sexy Norwegian supercar maker bringing Saab home to roost. But it quickly became clear that, as cool as Koenigsegg is, they just weren’t going to be able to do justice to Saab in the way that it needed to be done. Those guys have only built a handful of cars and have 50 employees and no big-company experience; taking over a massive production facility with thousands of workers and a huge parts supply chain was something they just weren’t equipped to do, so the deal fell apart.

Then along came Spyker, and Victor Mueller. Here’s a guy with massive piles of cash, a passion for making good cars, a love of Saab…oh, and decades of good business experience running large companies. That last bit was what had been missing from the Koenigsegg deal, and when Victor finally managed to pull off the purchase (despite the best efforts of Detroit idiots to kill the deal in process) there was much rejoicing in the Saab community worldwide. 

Mid-term, Victor and crew have the money, determination, experience and patience to get the NG9-5 and the 9-4X out the door and selling well; their real challenge is long-term, and whether they can manage to get a new 92/93/96 into production. The recent partnership with BMW (giving Saab access to engines, tech and – hopefully – the Mini platform) was a HUGE shot in the arm to that goal. If they can announce and release two or three really solid, lower-cost, enthusiast-attractive products in the next five years, I think they’ll do just fine.

Q. Tell us a little bit about competing in Jalopnik’s America’s Next Top Blogger contest.  What was the most difficult part of the writing process?  The most satisfying?  What did you think of your competitors?  Knowing what you know now, would you compete again?

I’ve written for numerous other publications through the years, so coming up with a couple of stories was really quite simple for me. Yes, I picked Saab as the subject of both stories, but only because the two subjects were so damn COOL. It was satisfying to see the positive feedback, and to know that readers enjoyed my work; what was much less satisfying was the ever-shifting rules, which seemed to me – and I could be totally wrong – to stack the deck well in favor of certain writers even before the final voting began. The entire process boiled down to how many people you could convince to click and vote, rather than any actual quality of writing; having a contest like this voted on by this method is akin to picking the president by an American Idol-style call-in vote over a two-hour period. It will be interesting to see the quality of work the two finalists produce. Nonetheless, I had fun, and would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Q. What is Cartophilia?

Ahh, one of my other geeky passions, maps! (Others include collecting board games and border/highpoint hunting…I’m such a nerd…) is a discussion of maps, map-decorated things, and anything in between; originally started by my buddy Jamie McQuinn, I’ve now become a contributing blogger and help share my passion for mappy goodness with the world at large.

Q. What country or region in the world are you most fascinated with from a geographical perspective?  Why?

Hmm, that’s a tough one. As they say on the Discovery Channel, the world is an awesome place! Geographically, I’d have to say Europe, where so many countries share so many borders, a place rich in enclaves, tripoints and all manner of crazy geography!

Q. What car websites do you regularly visit?  What geography/geopolitics site do you regularly visit?

Daily for me include Jalopnik,,, and occasionally Autoweek; Strange Maps (, The Basement Geographer (, Huffington Post,, Consumerist and Boing Boing are but a few of the sites I visit daily…

Q. Why do you love cars?

Cars are the ultimate expression of individuality and personal gratification. Consider: of the tens of thousands of cars made in the world over the past 100 years, you chose THIS particular make, model, year, color and trim package to drive. Then you chose to customize it to your liking, making your car the only one like it in the entire world.  I love basking in the pride and excitement I feel when I gather with other gearheads, knowing that I’m doing the exact same thing!