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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Electric Boogaloo

In 1899, an electric car held the top speed record for an automobile. It clocked out at 65.79 mph. Fast forward 110 years and electric cars can easily double that pace but can't dream about matching the performance of cars powered by internal combustion engines. Some say that the automobile is about to come full circle - that we'll all be driving electrics soon enough. To this, I say, "Clown Shoes!"

La Jamais: 1899 Top Speed Record Holder

Yes, electric cars have their place in this world. Dare I say that we need them? That's right! Electric cars are a necessity in political terms. Ever since the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations were enacted in 1975, car companies must be able to meet specific fuel efficiency numbers set by the government which are getting more strict over time. Each manufacturer receives a different number depending on the types of vehicles in its entire fleet. For us, as enthusiasts, to be able to buy high horsepower, fire-breathing rocket small displacement high-revving sports cars, there has to be a high volume seller for the parent company that can cover a ludicrous amount of miles with a thimble of fuel, whether it be gas or otherwise.

With all that being said, today is a zenith for the car buying public. Some argue that it doesn't make sense that the Honda Civic is getting about the same gas mileage as it did 30 years ago. These same people also fail to realize that they'd walk away from a crash today as opposed to getting impaled by the steering column 30 years ago. This is to say that cars are much safer -heavier too. Add to this, the emissions are much cleaner; interiors are more comfortable; engineering is more reliable. Oh yeah! There's one more thing. The motors are a lot more powerful. The new Mustang is a prime example of this.

2011 Mustang GT: 5.0L V8 412hp 17/25mpg

The following graph shows the relationship between horsepower and fuel mileage over time. Simplified, it demonstrates that engine design has favored horsepower over fuel efficiency which has stagnated. However, that extra horsepower is a necessity due to the extra weight needed for safety systems. You can't put a statistic on being able to make it home to your loved ones safely.

Photos courtesy of Wiki and
Graph courtesy of

Monday, June 21, 2010

Rolling wheels, hills, and tides

Upon graduation, the misses and I decided to take a road trip to Vermont. We'd previously spent a vacation in The Green Mountain State a couple years back in search of some serenity away from the hustle and bustle of Boston. During that first trip I found peace in the fast flowing turns on the mountain roads. My girlfriend discovered calmness in the lush rolling hills. It was time to find that relaxed pace again.

The drive is a pretty straightforward affair. From Boston, it's an hour on I-93 followed by about 2-2 1/2 hours on I-89 to Burlington, VT. These are the kinds of drives with which I have a love/hate relationship. In a hurry, the lack of having to remember a huge number of exits makes the miles fly by. On the other hand, it can become long and tedious simply because the interstate is so monotonous. Luckily, I-89 is much different than the straight ahead nature of I-93. It sweeps through the hills and mountains and is a very fun interstate. The picture above was actually taken at a rest stop on I-89.

Arriving in Burlington is, literally, a breath of fresh air for two city kids. There is just so much of a culture revolving around the outdoors. Anybody can find an activity that's right for them whether it be cycling, hiking, boating, gardening or just laying out by the lake. To us, the city felt more like a big town built into the landscape which makes for some great driving. There is a huge amount of coastline for scenic drives as well as those previously mentioned mountain roads for the more demanding driver.

Lake Champlain

That great landscape also contributes to Burlington's vibrant food culture. There are very few chain restaurants here. The city and its surrounding areas are filled with farms, vineyards, small "mom and pop" stores, and amazing locally owned restaurants. I highly recommend trying a few of these restaurants with the "Vermont Fresh Network" sticker on the door. The Vermont Fresh Network is a partnership between local restaurants and farms to bring the freshest ingredients to the customer and it helps local businesses thrive.

If all of my ramblings can't convince you that Vermont has something for everyone, just sit back and enjoy the view.

Lone Sailor Navy Memorial

Monday, June 14, 2010

All Your Base Are(n't) Belong to Us

I get a lot of questions about cars from a lot of different people. Honestly, it's hard to answer a lot of these questions without knowing what the other person knows about cars. This is especially true when it comes to car buying advice. However, there is one piece of advice that I can give to all of our readers.

Never buy base!

Allow me to share my reasoning for this. You will not be happy with a base model car. Period.

A high end example of this would be a Porsche 911. Now, you say,"but, Danny, the 911 is such a fine automobile that it would be an honor and a privilege to own such an extraordinary example of ass ended engineering" and proceed to buy one anyways.

For the first couple weeks, things are all rainbows and unicorns with your new Porsche 911. Upon one of these glorious days, a fellow Porsche owner pulls up alongside at a stop light, doesn't acknowledge your friendly wave, and leaves you for dead with his turbos spooling and all wheel drive clawing at the tarmac.

Well, of course he blew your doors off. His 911 turbo costs about $50,000 more than your car. Surely, anything in the same price bracket will be a more even match for your 345 horsepower flat-six motor. That's what you keep telling yourself until a GTR and Corvette Z06 do the same as the 911 Turbo.

What's all this mean? Unless you are buying the Halo car from a company, do not buy the base model just to get the badge on the hood. You will always be wanting something more whether it be luxury or performance. It's a smarter move to buy something in a different category and start checking off those option boxes or buy a slightly used version of that unobtanium that you lust after.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The World's Oldest Race-- Isle of Man TT

An island in the UK, the Isle of Man held its first TT in 1904 and was initially an automobile time trial event.

Now, FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme) annually holds the Isle of Man TT as the most prestigious motorcycle race in the world. This year's Superbike TT is being held this very weekend but leave it to SpeedTV channel to rather show NASCAR practice than something this majestic. But fear not because this is why we're here! Flappy Paddle Heads takes care of its visitors.

Motorcycle Pr0n! (for best results, watch in 480p)

"... Starting at the town of Douglas on the south-east coast, the course takes a wide sweep to the west and north to enter the town of Ramsey on the north-east coast and thence return to the starting point, each lap measuring 37 3/4 miles (60.7 km) and taking in over 200 bends while climbing from sea level to an altitude of over 1,300 ft (396 m). This circuit is the epitome of the natural road course, all the roads used being ordinary public highways closed for the racing and practice sessions." - Oxford Companion to World Sports and Games

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

It's about where you're going and how you get there.

Folks, it's a road trip post!

Completing my last final exam at around 11pm last Wednesday night, I receive a call from mom with exciting news that we would be going on a trip to Cape Cod the morning after. Road trips with mama dukes always meant that you'll have to mentally come to terms with her role as the back seat driver for the coming four hour drive. But hey, I was desperate and I really needed this.

I'd like to use this opportunity to just say how important family really is and that I'm really glad we did it. In the end, this turned out to be one of the most pleasant trips of recent memory. My parents are no longer young and they're only going to get older. Another family trip is another memory that we'd be able to share together. When my folks get to an age where they've become too old to travel, I hope not to have any regrets on not spending time with them when I had the chance.

Road trips also remind us what owning a car is really about. Fundamentally, it is mobility. When an owner buys a Ferrari only to leave it in a climate controlled garage, I can only believe that what the owner must feel is a sense of regret and remorse that grows exponentially for every back road that he prevents his Ferrari from stretching its legs on.

Anyway, without further ado, please enjoy the pictures!

Day 1, Cape Cod:
::click on photo to enlarge::
The Lexus GS300 AWD, Joe's Lobster Mart near the Boardwalk, and I.

Considerations were made on whether or not to make this post a review on the Lexus (this is supposed to be a car blog after all) but I was afraid that it'd make readers fall asleep.

Let's get this over with. The Lexus GS 300 awd. Design wise, it's one slippery and handsome bar of soap, or as Lexus likes to call their design direction, "L-finesse". It seats four comfortably, though headroom is a bit lacking and I would have much preferred to leave my hat on while sitting inside.

Performance is good. With all passengers and luggage in the car, the engine was not out of breath when it was asked to accelerate to merging speeds. I'd describe the delivery as similar to that initial feeling you get when an elevator starts to move from underneath you. Boring, pretty much.

The chassis is rigid, the suspension is firm, the dampers are forgiving. The cabin is extremely quiet, the air conditioner blew cold, the leathers are soft, the ergonomics are sensible, the Mark Levinson stereo system was most welcomed. My mom and dad were especially happy with it whenever Lady Gaga's Telephone came on. Really, they're more hip than you think!

In conclusion, the Lexus is a good long distance tourer, but we'd prefer something with a bit more passion (a quid in the Italian swear jar) or a bit more Maserati Quattroporte.

Day 2, Provincetown and Gray GablesToken "editor in front of test car" picture.Paying Uncle Bob a visit!Day 3, BostonTop of the Prudential with Danny ChinCoordinating get up was unintentional. Probably caught a bit of attention though.Danny Chin and I sitting around talking about cars as usual. Note how my left arm is flat against the armrest and my fingers are curving upwards. I'm convinced that this picture was taken when I was in the middle of describing this white Aston Martin V8 Vantage I saw earlier that day and what my arm was actually doing is imitating the Aston's duck tail spoiler. Yes.

All in all, I had a great time and it was great to visit Boston again. Special thanks to Sandra and Uncle Bob, a thank you to my parents for becoming less dorky, and special special thanks to Danny Chin and his family for the hospitality. It was wonderful to see you all again!

I'm sure there will be more road trip posts in the future. It is arguably the most rewarding thing to be able to do as a driver. This sort of combination of spontaneity and freedom is rare and I don't think it's even something I see many major publications write about in detail.

I hope you enjoyed this post, let us know of your memorable road trips or one that you've always wanted to do!