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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The beginning of our friendship

Looking back, I don’t think I was ever cut out to be a mechanical engineer at all. The relationship between Chin and I in the very beginning was essentially me struggling in all the technical classes and him, along with other friends we made in the M.E. major, trying to help me get by.

In the end, I had to drop out from RIT but I am still so very grateful of my friends who didn’t have to help me, but simply wanted to. Thank you!

This post reveals a bit more of our background and the kind of kids we were and still are. The following sketches were made by our circle of friends when we sat at the back of class lectures, too fed up to care any longer about what the professor had to say.

I know I know, the proportions are off, the wheels are too big, the vanishing point is twisted, blah blah blah! In the end,
I’m sure many of our readers have also made attempts on sketching dream cars of their own. More often than not, it has made us frustrated that it looks not even close to what we had in our mind.

Still though, I look back at these sketches and I smile.


Monday, March 22, 2010

What's large, boxy, and guzzles fuel besides a Hummer?

The answer is: my Jeep Wrangler Unlimited rental "car".

So, here's the back story of this whole situation. While driving along in the right lane in Rochester, a woman in an old Ford Taurus decided she wanted to switch lanes without looking. In doing so, she hits my beloved MS3 in the driver side fender. It's not a huge amount of damage but fixing this whole situation has become a giant pain.

The MS3 went into the body shop today and should be there for the next three. The only vehicle left to rent from them was this Jeep. Now, I respect what Jeep stands for - a hardcore, off-road capable machine. What I don't understand is why it's offered as a rental car. With that being said, here's some initial impressions of my first drive with it.

Who designed this interior layout?!?! The window switches aren't on the door like most cars. They're not even on the center console like some European marques. They're on the center stacked squished between the radio and climate control. I'll elaborate more on the layout after i take some pictures.

On the road, this Wrangler feels big. I don't just mean this because it's bigger than my MS3. My first car was a Mercury Sable. The Jeep is about 7 inches longer than my MS3 but a whopping 16 inches shorter than the Sable. It just feels big and ponderous on the road. This could be attributed to the ground clearance that is nearly double that of the Mazda at 8.7" (compared to 4.6") or the extra 1000lbs over the Mazda. Surely, the land yacht Sable was heavier. Nope, it is still 800 lbs under the Jeep.

How about in the engine compartment? I was hoping that something this aerodynamically challenged would have a big, stonking, American motor in it. Once again, it was a let down. At every stop light, I would be left for dead by everything from family sedans to that elderly woman on the bicycle. The 3.8 Liter V6 puts out 202 horsepower and 237 lb-ft of torque. That doesn't sound terrible until the aforementioned heft of a 4180 lb curb weight is considered. Surely, this small(ish) motor helps with fuel economy. Wrong again! It's a paltry 16mpg combined.

Hopefully some unforeseen circumstance will change my mind about this vehicle. Maybe torrential downpour will hit the northeast and cover the roads in knee deep mud. Then I can throw the Wrangler into 4wd and save that elderly woman on the bicycle. Just sayin...

Pictures and updates to follow shortly.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Enjoying the warm weather!

I'm done with midterms! Sunny 73 degrees! Wow, it's as if I've forgotten what 73 degrees feels like.

Though this would be the first weekend I'll get to enjoy the warm weather, the race season has already begun without me last week.

Bahrain kicked off a season that looks to be more dramatic than the season before (for all the good reasons). A significant rule change in F1 dictates that teams are no longer permitted to refuel after the start of the race. In the past, both teams and F1 fans could have calculated pit times to predict where each team will eventually finish. However, Last week displayed blazing pit stop times of less than 4 seconds on average for the replacement of tires only and losing only 2 positions in the process. To that end, where the driver will join and reform from exiting the pits is no longer significant.

Other than the redesigned rule for this season, we now see that there are four teams vying for the championship-- Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren, Mercedes Benz. Let's hope tight racing continues for the rest of the season.

The other racing series I'm excited about is ALMS this weekend at 12 hours of Sebring. The last few years have displayed some outrageous racing in the closing laps, most notably with the GT class Porsche Flying Lizard Team. Will they win again?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Affordable Supercar Series (ASS)

In today's installment of ASS, we'll look at a car that truly redefined what a supercar should be. It changed how supercars were built, could be driven daily, and was developed by one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time. Readers, I present to you the Acura NSX.

Let's get the numbers out of the way. The NSX was released in 1990 with a 3.0 liter V6 that produced 270 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque. This engine was then replaced in 1997 with a 3.2 liter V6. Performance figures were upped to 290 horsepower and 224 lb-ft. Depending on the source, the NSX could do a zero to sixty sprint in the low to mid 5 second range. On the skidpad the NSX held on for .95g. These were all phenomenal numbers for the early 90s.

So what about all those other claims that I previously made? The NSX was the first production car to be made with an all aluminum chassis. This was done when Ferrari was still producing its 348 with a pressed steel chassis.

As if challenging Ferrari weren't enough, the car was wrung out by one of the premier F1 pilots of the time. Ayrton Senna helped develop the car by running laps on the famed Nurburgring. Senna won three championships in four years. Can't argue with those credentials.

Speaking of F1, the mighty McLaren F1 is heavily influenced by the NSX. Gordon Murray was a huge believer in making a car light to enhance all aspects of performance. "The NSX's ride quality and handling would become our new design target" for the McLaren F1.

In addition to all these giant killing aspects, it was a pussy cat on the street. It could be driven everyday. It isn't uncommon to see these cars with over 100K miles on the clock. With that kind of mileage, a NSX can be had for under twenty grand. Give me a lower mileage car with the fixed headlights and I'd drive it forever. It is a Honda, after all.

Picture courtesy of

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

2010 F1 season

Originally, this post was going to be about the upcoming F1 season and how amazing the field is. There is just so much talent this year. Two champions driving for Mclaren. Alonso and Massa in the Ferrari pit boxes. Vettel is hungry for the championship after such an amazing performance last year. And if that wasn't enough, the legendary Michael Schumacher is back and wants another trophy for his mantle.

Any of these could be a story in itself but the story of USF1 has me pretty fired up.

This year is going to be a return to the golden years it seemed. In addition to all the drivers fighting for wins with the new scoring system, historic names like Lotus and Cosworth are back on the grid. Cosworth has returned as an engine supplier and Lotus is one of four new teams. The other three are Virgin, Campos, and USF1.

USF1 seemed to be the guiding light for Formula 1 to finally make some headway into the American market. They had originally said they would field American drivers and groom up and coming young drivers. Instead, they have ended up with a driver that is bringing a reported $8million of sponsorship money with him and is an Argentine.

Mind you, I'm all for diversity. F1 is an international sport and that's one of the main reasons I love it. However, the US is lacking in this amazing sport and I can't stand NASCAR. The hopes of American F1 fans rested with USF1. Choosing a foreign driver isn't the worst thing. The team is still based in Charlotte after all. The knockout blow has just come recently. Original reports suggested that USF1 was having some sponsorship issues and would like to skip the first four races of the 2010 season. Now, they're trying to opt out of the whole season.

This failure is much more evident when three other teams have cars testing right beside the established teams. It's a crushing blow and seems to be showing the world that America can only do open wheel racing on its own terms (and not very well considering IRL/Champ history). Hopefully, they can come out with guns blazing next season.

Until then, seeing British racing green and yellow lined up will give me goosebumps.

Update (3/2/10): It has been reported that USF1 has shut down operations completely. We'll keep you posted.

Update (3/3/10): Reports are still sketchy but here's what we know:
  • Developmental work on the USF1 car has been incredibly slow.
  • Peter Windsor and Chad Hurley (Co-Founder of Youtube) have both walked way from the team.
  • Talks regarding a merger with Campos or Stefan have failed.
  • USF1 employees have been told they are taking a two week break but most likely will not be returning.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A thank you to the visitors!

Lately, I've been trying various things to increase visitors that would frequent our site. After a little more than a week on Twitter, we've gained a humble number of followers and we thank you all for your support and we promise to write more relevant and engaging material.

Upon creating Flappy Paddle Heads, Danny Chin and I were aware of Autoblog, Jalopnik, Inside Line, Autoweek, and numerous other online sources. We understood visitors that would frequent our site are no doubt regulars at those sites as well. To differentiate us from them, it would be meaningless for us to provide the most up to date in news. We don't have the resources to do so and the other sites I just named will be sure to deliver that to you anyway.

Instead, we decided that our site is one that offers readers "perspective." We offer the Flappy Head personal touch. The challenge in all of this is that while other sites can fill the daily quota of articles with facts and figures, we need to figure out a subject that we actually feel strongly about. After all, we know that car guys are an opinionated bunch. Memorable cars are always a love it/hate it affair. How would you continue to talk about a car if you begin the conversation with, "meh... well, I don't really care... it's alright I guess..."

And with that, I'd like to ask for a favor. Get over the decencies and let us have it! We would love to hear from you all and have you all let us know what you think or what you would like us to talk about! A bit of friction can start a fire, isn't that what they say? ;)