Tag Archives: Automobile

A Ten Year Love Affair Ends

matchbox911Since the age of perhaps 7 or 8 I have been in love with the Porsche 911.  In 2004 I was fortunate enough to take delivery of one, starting a ten year love affair which finally ended yesterday.

But let’s start at the beginning.  As a little boy I remember playing with a model of a Porsche 911 in the bedroom I shared with my brother in South London.  To me this was a car for rich people and, being in a one parent family, and with my Mother working part time on the checkout of a local supermarket, I was sure that the model was the closest I would ever get to owning one.

Fast forward to an anniversary dinner in May 2004.  During dinner my wife handed me a card with the words “Let’s get that 911 you always wanted” nestled among the usual anniversary sentiments.

With 3 young children at home it took a moment or two for my brain to go from “Well…that’s not very practical” to “Where’s the nearest Porsche dealer?”  At the time I was driving an MR2 Spyder so, by comparison, the 911 was a family car!

Over the next month I drove the poor folks at Jack Daniel’s in Paramus crazy while I tried out various models of 911.   Each test drive would, at some point, end up on the driveway of my home where I would drag J. out from her wifely duties to admire the latest model.

123-2317_IMGOne day I turned up in a pre-owned 2003 C4S coupe six speed. When I returned home after the test drive, J. immediately said “That’s the car you’re going to get, isn’t it?”  Apparently the look on my face was all she needed to know that this was the car for me.  Ten years later, I know I made the right decision.

So, what’s it like to own a 911?

In one word…Awesome!

I’m a driver.  I like driving.  I drive in a ‘spirited’ fashion on the road and I have raced everything I can lay my hands on: cars, karts, motorcycles, quads, you name it.   The problem is that I quickly become bored.  I had never owned a car more than 2 years without saying “OK…what’s next?”  That all ended with the 911.

The 911 took everything I threw at it and came back for more.  Driving in the countryside, commuting, track days, Auto-cross, long highway drives and even (with the addition of snow tires) winter driving.  It took it all in it’s stride.

The car could be driven at speed, cornered hard, and yet still remained refined and poised enough to drive to a funeral without feeling conspicuous or out of place.

When driving it the car just a felt part of me.  The car could be placed with such inch perfect precision that driving other cars (even performance cars) somehow felt lacking.

Of course it wasn’t totally perfect.  The car was noisy, had a stiff ride, destroyed rear tires with surprising speed, and the rear seat was fine when my kids where small but, as my daughter frequently commented, not suitable once they had grown up a bit.  Oh, and the German’s might know how to build great cars but they are completely stumped by cup holders.

Of course all of those were problems for the passengers.  This is a driver’s car, pure and simple.

prama2006Over the next 10 years I added 110 thousand miles to the odometer, bringing it to a grand total of 125k.  Even after all those miles the car was in a great shape and, if you didn’t know the subtleties of the 911 range, you would be hard pressed to know which model year it was.

Mechanically the car was as reliable as a hammer.  Very few problems were encountered and the car never let me down.

Here I have to give a quick shout out to PowerTech in Rockaway, NJ.  These guys took care of my car from the day it was out of warranty until the day it was sold.  They gave great service at a more than fair price and, when it came time to sell, they took care of that for me also (see ad), obtaining a price sufficiently above what I could have managed on my own to more than cover their fee.  If you have a Porsche then you owe it to yourself to pay these guys a visit and see what keeps people coming back to them year after year.

In the end it wasn’t age, or boredom, or mechanical problems that pushed the car out, it was a teenage boy obtaining his driving permit. The addition of an older A8 for him meant that the 911 was rarely going to leave the garage because it was constantly blocked in.  If it were a classic model that would appreciate then I could have been OK with that but, sadly, that was not the case here.

A brief foray into selling the car through Auto Trader convinced me (after just one day) that I should hand this over to PowerTech to sell and, two weeks later, my baby was gone!  I never got to see her again after dropping her off, and it was a bit anti-climactic to part with her in such a manner after all those miles, but I know the next owner will be as thrilled with her as I was.  This also leaves me without a stick-shift car for the first time since I started driving.  Now that is weird!

With an 11 year old still in the house it will be a while before I can consider something like this again. I strongly suspect that by then cars will mostly be self-driving and the idea of a “drivers car” will be a thing of the past.  But if you are considering a 911 then don’t wait – do it now before it’s too late.  You won’t regret it.

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Filed under Automobiles and motorcycles, Life - or something like it

Impressed? I don’t think so.

Last weekend I had a very enjoyable date night ending with a late night trip to Starbucks for a post dinner cappuccino.

The car park near Starbucks is often frequented by a motley crew of giggling teenage girls attended by a group of lads trying impress with their machinery.  You know the sort of thing – hatchbacks with outrageously large end cans and Ford F-150 trucks sporting huge chrome pipes rising vertically from behind the cab.

Tonight was no exception and we had to navigate past this pool of hormones to make our way home.  Since I have pretty decent car I was treated to the assembled crowd shouting “BURN OUT!” at the top of their lungs and, since I was in a good mood and feeling mischievous, I thought “Ahh…Why not?”  I was, after all, renowned for my ability to rear wheel steer my car with ease at the many car control events I had attended. This was going to be a piece of cake…

Making a right turn onto the main exit road I gunned the engine handily and popped the clutch, fully expecting the familiar feeling of a rear end coming around under an impressive show of power that would  put these whipper snappers to shame.

Instead of the expected squeal and smoky burnout what actually happened was that the car grabbed maximum traction and, without any wheel-spin at all, shot forward like a scalded cat!  

Inside the car was no better as Joanne’s cappuccino gave a display to rival Old Faithful  as coffee shot out of the sippy-cup hole, impressively coating my crotch, seats, windscreen, wife and just about anything else within a 3 foot radius with its hot, sticky contents.

Of course I did what any red-blooded male would do in that situation – I kept going, looking straight ahead and trying to pretend that was what I wanted to happen all along.

Alas…I had forgotten the golden rule…if you are going to try a burn out remember to turn the traction control off first!

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Filed under Automobiles and motorcycles, Life - or something like it, The Human Condition

The Google Car – Five Steps to a Boring Life

Google announced recently that they have built several self-driving cars, and have been running them around California.  So far these vehicles have logged over 140,000 miles without a real hand on the wheel.

Self-driving cars are not a new idea.  But unlike earlier solutions, this current approach works with the existing infrastructure and therefore, actually has a good chance of succeeding.

Looking into my crystal ball, here is how I see things playing out in the future:

  1. Cars will start to take over pieces of the driving experience for safety reasons.  Actually, this isn’t much of a prediction as ABS, Traction Control, and Electronic Stability Control have done this for some time.
  2. Cars (like the Google car) will steadily improve, until the option to let the car drive without human intervention becomes reality.  At that point only the ‘purists’ will continue to drive themselves.
  3. The self-driving car will never speed, never explode with road rage, never drive drunk, never fall asleep at the wheel and will always merge politely, thus reducing accidents.  Insurance companies will then introduce substantially lower premiums in return for a promise that you will never touch the wheel.
  4. Statistical information will appear showing that only those cars being driven by humans crash.  At that point, the option for human hands on the wheel will be legally removed and we will all become permanent passengers.
  5. Any vehicle that cannot be automatically driven will no longer be allowed on the public roadways.  This will include most classic cars and ALL motorcycles.

I know many people, such as my wife, will cheer this future.  The ability to automate the 8 hour drive to Nana’s would be a major boon for her.  In fact, with no driver needed, the kids could be sent off on their own to visit Grandma. Of course, in that situation, the car would arrive OK, but the kids may have killed each other on the way.

And think about what a huge boon this will be for people who are blind, elderly or have other handicaps that make driving impossible.  Suddenly the world will be their oyster.

The roads will become predictable, safe and boring!

Anything that the systems can’t cope with will have to go and, since these systems will find it impossible to handle the complexities of balance and leaning, motorcycles will be first vehicles against the wall.

But what about that classic car you’ve been hankering for?  If you own a Model-T Ford or a Ferrari… Sorry, but they will have to stay home, relegated to being polished and admired.  I’m sure Ferrari will continue to make exclusive cars for a while, but since these cars are all about the driving experience who is going to bother ?  I can’t imagine a computer describing how a great car ‘feels’ to drive.

The green crowd is cheering this future because they believe it will increase car sharing and cut the miles ‘wasted’ on pleasure driving.  Personally I don’t see the connection between a self-driving car and people lining up to car-pool.  And the green folks seem to have completely missed the fact that, as soon as there is no need to pay a driver, the number of trucks on the road will skyrocket.

And as for ‘wasted‘ miles, I can see plenty of miles being covered picking up groceries and returning the book you borrowed from your friend, and all sans-driver.

Yes, the roads of the future will be safe and predictable, and another life experience will have been lost.  And somehow I just can’t shake the feeling that along with it we are losing a little piece of our humanity. Should we live life, or just exist?  Isn’t a little danger and excitement a necessary thing for a full life?

Perhaps we should all be like my Mother-in-law who, upon finding out Joanne was learning to ride a motorcycle, suggested “Why don’t you just stay home a read about it?”

But, as John Shedd once said “A ship in a harbor is safe — but that is not what ships were built for.”  I couldn’t have put it better myself.

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Filed under Automobiles and motorcycles, Technology, The Human Condition, Travel