Archive for March, 2008

Japan Is the Cheap Germany

Posted in Auto Articles with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2008 by consortiumoffools

Of course I’m talking about cars, not the people. The Japanese have one method of creating cars: copy America and Germany, yet not carbon copy, more like cheaply and poorly copy. We’re speaking in terms of styling only, because Japanese cars really are the most reliable cars on the road. Toyotas and Hondas will last forever. But their drivers have to live with plastic mediocrity. Ok, ok, so that’s a little harsh. I guess I just have a few vehicles in mind when I libel the Japanese car manufacturers.

For instance, every large Lexus is a knock-off of a BMW. A poor knock off. They have more cheap plastic and they don’t drive nearly as well as their Bavarian counterparts. The 2008 Lexus LS 460 is a duplicate of the 2006 BMW 750iL. They look the same, weigh the same, and are the same length. The BMW came out 2 years before the Lexus and has more refined features. To unlock the 750 you need only touch the handle. As long as the key is in your pocket the door will unlock. The Lexus mimics this ability. The key can still be in your pocket (ugly square thing) but you have to press a cheap little black rubber button on the car door handle to unlock it. The little button screams low quality, especially in the face of the touch sensitive handle BMW offers. Plus the interiors of BMW’s have always been better. They are ergonomic and intuitive.

BMW Lexus side view

BMW Lexus Steering Wheels

Another example I have is not any one car versus any other car, but rather a comparison of manufacturers. Infinity versus Audi. Not only is Infinity just a slightly upgraded Nissan, it produces cars that don’t really get my blood pumping. Now don’t get me wrong, the G35, which is the US version of the Skyline, is fast and fun, but in no way compares to the Audi S4, much less the RS4. Audi builds wagons that inspire, while Infinity can barely design lines that hold my attention. When I drive an Infinity I can’t tell any difference between the Nissan it’s based on. Same handling, same lame seats, and same uninspired design. When I hop into an Audi I feel like I’m in something ten times better than Audi’s parent company’s cars, Volkswagen. More power, nicer features, and much more attractive. The Audi A4 wagon has an electronically controlled air-ride suspension that, when hung up on a large rock, can lift the vehicle up 6 inches. Even if you don’t ever off-road your Audi, that’s a cool feature. Try changing ride height in a G37.

Audi Infinity

All I’m saying is that Germany is making the better high-end cars right now. They’re faster, and in my opinion, look much better. But this could all change overnight. In the early 1900’s Chevrolet introduced the idea of releasing a new model year car every year and they’ve all been doing it ever since. Each company rolls out about five new cars a year― there’s bound to be some better luxury Japanese cars in the future.

Lazarus Has Finally Fallen

Posted in Auto Articles on March 17, 2008 by consortiumoffools
Lazarus Plate

So for those of you who are familiar with the Bible, Lazarus was a blind man whom Jesus helped. First he gave him back the sense of sight, then when Lazarus died, Jesus reincarnated him. Lucky guy, this Lazarus. I’m not religious or anything, in fact, quite the opposite, but I have always liked the name Lazarus. I first thought it was cool when I went on the set of a made-for-TV mini series called The Lazarus Man. It was about some bad ass cowboy who couldn’t be killed. My dad gave me a tacky teal jacket that had the show’s logo on the back. I wore it until it could be worn no more.

So fast forward to junior year high school. I really wanted a car, a new car. I had heard of this car coming out in Europe in 1999 called the Ford Focus. It looked stellar, nothing like Ford had ever made before. So I coaxed my parents into buying it for me. I told them it got great gas mileage and that it was much safer than the airbagless 1987 Cop Edition Crown Victoria I was careening around in at the time. After owning the Focus for a few months and driving it around like the teenage jackass that I was, I decided it needed a name. It needed a name that people could read when they saw me speed by them at the governed 108 miles per hour. So I dubbed the sport compact Lazarus, because I felt invincible in the car. How juvenile.

So after moving to Albuquerque to attend UNM, I kept the car and the plate. I fielded questions about why I had picked that name and got sour looks from atheists and Christians alike. Then in June of 2007, the plate went missing. Disappeared from the back of the car. I reported it to the Albuquerque police, then spent a few hours dealing with getting a new one at the DMV. I paid for a new plate, then had to send away to Santa Fe for a new vanity plate. Set me back about $30. Sweet, plate’s back, nothing to worry about.

Now fast forward to last Friday. I was speeding (I really need to stop doing that) and got pulled over by a female UNM police officer. After sitting there for a few minutes I heard more sirens. Two other cop cars pull up behind her cruiser. They jump out and reach for their guns. “A little excessive, do these guys think this chick cop can’t handle me?” She came back to my window, “My computer says this car is stolen.” “What the fuck?” I thought as the men approached my car, hands on holstered guns. “Well, my plate got stolen last year,” I told the chick cop. Everything eventually got straightened out because she looked it up and saw that it was just the plate that was stolen. One of the male officers told me to go see APD and get the stolen tags code removed from my record. So after signing my name saying I’d show up in metro court, I took off to an APD sub-station. The APD officers told me they would have taken me out of the car at gun-point because catching thieves is how “cops get their jollies.” They also told me that I’m not actually supposed to have the vanity plate saying Lazarus. Because it was stolen, there were now two of the same license plates out in the world. Someone else could theoretically pop my plate on their car and commit a crime and I would be to blame. So now I had to return back to my favorite place in the world, the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division. I spent a few hours there before I finally got to talk to a manager. He said he would have to confirm with the Santa Fe office that they issued me another Lazarus plate. So until he figures out the MVD’s ass from the MVD’s head, I have to roll around with a temp tag as if I just bought the car. After 5 hours, 2 police departments, and the MVD’s bureaucratic bullshit, all I have to show for the day is a temp plate and a court date.

So this marks the end of the saga. Lazarus is finally dead. I have had to resurrect him via the MVD a couple of times, but now it is time to just let him die.

Adjust or Bust: Is Camber the Answer?

Posted in Auto Articles with tags , , , , on March 5, 2008 by consortiumoffools

So the SCCA season is back. I attended the first event in my war torn Focus. I placed 4th in my class, so now it’s back to work. I’ve made all the nessecary excuses (The other guys have more horsepower, more parts on their cars, their bald tires make them go faster, etc) and now I just need to focus on the real roots of the problem. 1st major problem- I’m not as good at racing as they are. I really don’t want to address that problem because it stifles my ego, plus I can’t get more seat time if there are no races. So the second problem- my car is slow. But that is an intrinsic problem of the Ford Focus and throwing even more money at the car for a few horsepower is not the route I’m gonna go. So the last issue that I’ve decided is the root of my woes is the alignment. I have every part I could get my hands on to run a racing suspension- lowered stiffer springs, stronger shorter shocks, front and rear anti-roll bars and poli bushings all around. I even have front and rear camber adjustment equipment. All this and I’m running stock camber numbers! What the hell man? Performance parts without the performance, time to put an end to all that…

But before that, maybe I should explain what the hell I’m talking about. Camber? Huh? Camber is one of the changeable suspension specifications on every car. Camber is the amount of tilt a wheel has in perpendicular relation to the ground. As you’re facing the car, if the top of the wheels tilt toward each other, there is negative camber. If the top of the wheels point out and away from each other, there is positive camber. Camber is important to keep at manufacturer’s specifications for vehicles intended for daily driving. If the camber on a car is where it’s supposed to be, tires will wear evenly. In racing, tire wear comes second to lap times.

I’ve kept my camber at a stock setting because I was worried about prematurely wearing out my tires on the streets. But now, fuck it. The tires on the rear are the ones that came with the car (in 2001) and are as hard as rocks and the fronts are some worthless cheap Kumhos. So if I destroy those I won’t be heartbroken. Plus, it’s all about the handling. This weekend is open shop day, so I’ll do the alignment myself and it’ll be free. Can’t beat that!

Auto-X Focus