Save the Manuals

We like a big sedan with a column shifter automatic as much as the next guy, but come on.  Sticks uber alles, Amirite?  Paddles and dual clutches in your fancy sports car is as close to an AOD Thunderbird as it is to an F1 car, isn’t it?  Is it just a matter of time before the DSG/PDK alphabet soup becomes the modern C6/THM 400/Torqueflite?  Enough chicken little. After the jump, an infographic and a link to a breakdown of the trend… Continue reading “Save the Manuals”

I Wouldn’t Understand

It’s a Jeep thing.  You wouldn’t understand.

And I guess I should, but I just don’t.  I joined the cult of Jeep in 2002.  I bought a “pre-lifted” ’02 Jeep Liberty.  Jeep quickly realized that all that extra clearance and height made them more tippy, so they
cut the springs in half made a mid year adjustment to reduce the ride height. The extra height I had (vs. the ex’s 2wd 2003 Liberty) was key.  Hers was a grocery getter; I had dreams of something beyond crawling down dirt roads, afraid of a scratch.  Something closer to a Jeep Wrangler. Something like this:

Jeep Liberty Coke Ovens run
 3 foot tall speed bump on the way to Coke Ovens

At the time, I only had three choices: Liberty, Grand Cherokee and the Wrangler.

Only the last two had any off-road credibility; the Liberty was a joke to Jeep purists. They missed the solid axle simplicity and capability of the Cherokee. I spent $5 grand trying to come close to one of the hallowed true Jeeps. Great fun, except for doing it to my daily driver. Minimize risks, avoid scratches and dents – anathema, heresy to a real Jeeper

Jeep Liberty Box Canyon run
Another speed bump. this time in Box Canyon

 Fast forward to 2014. there are now 5 models of “Jeep” (6 if you count Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited separately).  Two, Compass and Patriot are the mutated survivors of the wretched Dodge Caliber experiment.  That is their base – the successor to the Neon in all its “trail rated” FWD glory.  The Grand Cherokee has been tweaked again for 2014.  It had off-road credibility a few generations ago.  Now it’s about as serious as a Range Rover.  Yes, it will go off pavement, like driving onto the polo fields.  Yes it will handle some high clearance forest roads.  But that’s it, unless you ditch the fancy pants and throw four figures of suspension mods, tires, and armor on it.

The new kid on the block is the “Cherokee.”  WTH, Jeep?  This is not the small light high clearance solid axle Cherokee you killed to give us Liberty.  This is an Alfa (i.e., FIAT) sedan-based “soft-roader.”  It’s no more a “Jeep” than the Patriot/Compass devil spawn.  The only trail you’ll see one on is the tracks in the snow of the mall parking lot in winter.

I’m sure they’re all quite capable in their suburban niches.  The one true Jeep, all that is left of 70+ years of history is the Wrangler.  Butt ugly, with a few nods to modernity like coil springs and air bags, but otherwise basically crude, unapologetically purpose-built.

Manufacturer Plate?  Long Wheelbase?  Black wheels?  Windowless roof?
the Scrambler pickup variant that never happened

This is the standard-bearer. This is what a Jeep is. Not a grocery getter by design. Not a fashion statement that won’t go sideways in a storm.  Brutally capable. I don’t know what the others are. Those are not Jeeps. This is a Jeep.  Kinda like this:

Civic Pride

Honda Civic wagon

1972 HONDA Z600

The Honda Civic turned 40 this year. AYFKM? 40?  Porsche 911, Ford Mustang (Ed.: close enough – we’ll connect it in a minute) and/or Lamborghini minus 10? This is amazing for one model.

Entire car companies/makes have come and gone (Saturn, Geo, Merkur, DeLorean, Vector (Ed.: close enough – we’ll connect it in a minute)) while the Honda Civic keeps plugging away.  It’s both a testament to longevity, a cultural touchstone of the times in which it was designed and a tribute to the pathogenic resistance model of car manufacturing.  The thing won’t die, regardless of what Honda does to it.  At various times Honda ignored, starved, mutilated it. Almost as often, Honda acted like it really loved the car and wanted it to be the best small car out there.  It is almost like the Star Trek movies:  every other one sucks, but the franchise refuses to die (see Vector), no matter how bad the off years.
Here is the breakdown:

honda civic cvcc
The original Civic
  • First generation (1973–1979) – This is the successor to the 600 pictured at the top.  I was such a fan.  Having discovered cars the way teen boys do, but having lived through the 1973 oil embargo and the followup gas shortages of ’78, I was torn.  Puberty demanded that I lust after anything with a wide track and a crazy rear spoiler the Porsche 930 Turbo with its sub 5 second 0-60 and homicidal handling quirks, but my inner hippie leaned towards the 54/41 mpg EPA ratings of the CVCC Civic.  Win.
Honda Civic
Second generation
  • Second generation (1980–1983) – Yes, the ’80 Civic was Motor Trend’s Import Car of the Year.  Yes, it could beat a 1980 Mustang “Cobra”  (Ed.: we said we’d connect it) with an impotent 255 cid V8  0-60. Otherwise, meh.  A crazy new design it was not.  Just a soulless evolution of the previous theme, much like the Datsun 210 of the same era.
Honda Civic wagon
Third generation spaceship
  • Third generation (1984–1987) – back to a box office win. This was the LSD spaceship Civic. It was so wacky I remember where I was the first time I saw one. Mom had the wagon version, which was cranked to 11 on the wackiness scale.
  • Fourth generation (1988–1991) – Once again, a cheesy ripoff. Rough edges smoothed, but still, another Rocky II/Austin Powers Spy Who Shagged Me rehash.
  • Fifth generation (1992–1995), Sixth generation (1996–2000), Seventh generation (2001–2005). These can all die. The theme was new, but it was cribbed from Toyota Corolla and Nissan Sentra: “Generic, inoffensive Japanese sedan.” VTEC was cool, but the Civic stopped trying to be small and light. Sort of like America.
  • Eighth generation (2006–2011). Whoah. Honda stylists discovered medical marijuana (the the PTSD and guilt from making versions 5-7). It lacks the batshit craziness and sea change of the ’84, but just look at this dash. Not concentric speedometer and tach-crazy like the first Prelude, but still conjuring the Civic as spaceship vibe that made their best efforts so memorable. Win(-ish).

  • Ninth generation (2011– )  OK, here we go again.  Honda has a standout car, so what does it do?  Rehash.  Tweak.  Sand the edges.

If Honda wants to play with the big boys, it needs to push the envelope. Stop trying to be like the others.  Be the outlier.  Be 1984 Civic.  Be 2013 Fusion, following a great car with an even better car that doesn’t get lost parked next to its predecessor.  Do that, and maybe I will tell mom to leave Camry and buy another one.

when I think about you, I touch my…

sheepskin seat covers?  Wait, what?
We know that leather seats are just the coolest things ever.  Case in point:

Continental seats
QED

Leather is soft. Leather is supple. Leather fuses to your skin when you get into a car whose interior has been superheated to 200 degrees because you couldn’t find covered parking in Phoenix in July.  That’s why god invented sheepskin seat covers.  No more melting into the seat!  When October rolls around and summer finally gives up the ghost, take them off, and enjoy the leather. (Ask Lurlene exactly how that is accomplished.)

But wait, there’s still more:

Bubba: Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it.

Anyway, like I was sayin’, there’s Sheepskin Floor Mats, Sheepskin seat inserts, Sheepskin seat belt covers, Sheepskin steering wheel covers, sheepskin wash mitts…

Whatever you want out of a sheepskin (that’s not named Fourex) the folks at Comfy American Sheepskin have it.

And now a word…

Our friends at Think Tank Photo have just announced that they are launching one of their popular Test Drive programs.  This one is for their revolutionary Sling-O-Matic sling bags.

With Think Tank Photo’s Sling-O-Matic line-up of bags you have the photo industry’s first sling bag that can be easily switched back and forth to either shoulder. The Sling-O-Matic’s adjustable, fully padded shoulder strap “automatically” slides along a set of rails to change which shoulder the bag can be worn on.

You can try a Sling-O-Matic for free for 30 days!  If you don’t want to keep it, ship it back to Think Tank, no problem.  If it meets your needs, on the 30th day your credit card will be charged.  (Offer limited to U.S. addresses.)  Check out the product video

This innovation is the solution to the problem inherent with sling bags: they are designed to be to worn over one shoulder only. With one smooth motion, the Sling-O-Matic can be quickly switched to the opposite shoulder without losing the characteristics that have made sling bags popular among photographers.

The Sling-O-Matic series offers three unique bags to choose from, depending on the photo gear you carry. The Sling-O-Matic 10 can carry a standard size DSLR and three to four lenses, including a 70-200 f2.8. The Sling-O-Matic 20 andSling-O-Matic 30 can each carry a standard size DSLR and four to six lenses, including a 70-200 f2.8. The Sling-O-Matic 30 also features a separate laptop compartment for carrying a 15.4″ laptop

Key Features:

  • Industry’s first sling bag that can be easily switched back and forth to either shoulder.
  • Each bag fits a DSLR with up to a 70-200 f2.8 lens with lens hood in position.
  • All bags are flexible to fit pro size DSLRs with a lens attached.
  • Discreetly stylized to avoid obviously appearing like a camera bag.
  • Long side pocket for carrying a tripod, large water bottle, or other accessories.
  • Large handles on three sides.
  • Wide zippered pockets on front, back, and side.
  • Business card pocket for identification.
  • Removable/adjustable straps and waist belt for additional stability.
  • Small storage pocket for storing removable straps.
  • Fully padded compartments for protection.
  • Seam-sealed rain cover included.