I love cars...

I Love cars. Really. I don't know why, but I always have. Little slotcars, RC cars, whatever.

At one point, I even had a racecar and a pro racing license. I've let the license lapse and the racecar was sold, but I still have the passion. Somehow I've ended up as the butt of my own car jokes. I drive a Volvo S40. Ick. It was my wife's car before we were married, and I drive it now due to some manipulations I don't even understand... Let's see, I sold the Audi S4 to buy her a Honda Pilot... Gah!

Just to give you some idea about where I come from... I started out driving at ahem, 15 in my dad's 1969 convertible bug. That was a fun car, but it had lived many years on the east coast - in New York and Michigan no less, so it had seen wayyyyyy too much salt and abuse. The ratio of rust to steel was going the wrong way fast. I painted it, put on a new top and drove the heck out of the car. Absolutely a great car for kids - no power whatsoever, gets you from point a to point b (for me that was to the beach, and to class after a surf session :). Next up, I got a newer (older) car - a 1963 bug... GREAT car - 1300cc's 6 volt circuits. I worked the hell out of that car - changed to a 12 volt alternator, new shocks, performance tires, all kinds of new meters (gotta see what the dang thing is doing, right?) That was a fun car.

Then we get to one of my few experiences with american cars - a mercury capri. Gah. That car was just not fun. A little more power, but a stick shift with the throw of a truck. A high propensity to stall when you hit the gas. Loads of fun. No power. Hatchback. Wallowed in curves. I hated that car.

Then we moved on to the Lancia Beta Coupe. Yeah baby! That was one sweet machine. Electrical was a total nightmare, but Italians do know how to make sweet rides. Front wheel drive, leather seats, performance car. That was my first year in college. Loved that car (and hated it - it was forever breaking down). Crashed the dang thing when a local in a stationwagon turned right in front of me. I saw the motor chug out it's last breath on the pavement about 6 feet from the car. I learned a little about the benefits of a safe design, and damaged my knee forever at the same time.

Then came the venerable Honda Accord hatchback. Not a lot to it, but it ran well, was miserly on gas, and I could strap surf racks on it. Drove that for the rest of college. My first experience with a honda and it was very dependable. Very little tweaking - just performance tires and a great stereo...

My first real "I have a real job now" purchase was of a VW Jetta. Great car, I did very little to it - just gas, oil, etc. More service than the honda ever had, but the feel of a german car is special. Not quite the same as an italian car, but taught and crisp.

After the Jetta, which I drove for several years, I bought my first real performance car - a 1974 Porsche 911 Targa. Wow, that's a whole lot of car. Quick, twitchy, and hella expensive to maintain. I lived near work so it wasn't a big deal, but dang. I blew out the exhaust one day when I was "driving quickly" through the hills of Portola Valley. Patched it and kept driving it until I moved to San Francisco (2 years). Never did anything very interesting from a performance perspective, just tweaked what I could that wasn't too expensive (which on a porsche is \*nothing\*). Hot tires, great stereo, and the car was jammin'.

Next came the Nissan 240SX hatchback. I drove the heck out of that car. Changed wheels and tires, sway bars, springs, exhaust, intake, tweaked the water coolant temperature sensor, performance catalytic converter, slotted disks, performance (race) brake pads, you name it. I was well on the way to turning it into a race car when I just up and bought a real race 240SX - same car, built & run by some pro racers in SoCal. Kept the street car, Of course, I had already put in the rollcage and race harness...

So now I had the 240SX street car, the 240SX race car (on a trailer in the driveway) and I decided I needed more. So I bought a Porsche Boxster - one of the first off the line. Waited 18 months for the dang thing. Great car, fun to drive, tight right to the limit. By this time I'm racing and had my pro license, so I actually know what the limit is... Unfortunately the Boxster is so tight to the limit that when it lets go, you are in for a ride... I spun the car 3 times. Finally sold it. A sad day, that's for sure. Again, stunningly high maintenance, but I guess if you buy a Porsche you're supposed to expect it to be in the shop every other month.

And after selling the Porsche, I sold the street 240sx. A sad day. I spent many hours working on that car. I think I get more out of working on the cars then racing them. Nah.

So I had to have a street car, so I bought a 2000 Audi S4. That's a biturbo 240hp all wheel drive 4 door sedan. Hauled serious butt... I really liked the car. Never did anything to it as it was too expensive to modify. I drove that for quite a while. Really fast, kicked butt on some otherwise fast cars at Sears Point/Infineon raceway (in the rain). Having a corvette driver BEG me not to lap him twice in a session had to be one of the funniest experiences I've had racing... Only problem with the car was the maintenance. It made the Porsche look like a cake walk. Pretty much EVERY month something went wrong. That's ok if there was a dealer near me, but there isn't. I got to the point where I'd just wait until several things were broken before taking the car in for service.

And to get back to the beginning, I realized I left out the several trucks I had (ok, I had the ex-wife drive 'em 'cause I wanted the sports cars...) I had several Nissan Pathfinders - reliable dependable vehicles, an old BMW 530i, a Saab turbo - GAH, and a GM Yukon Denali.

After getting divorced and remarried, I had 2 kids. 2 kids changes your life with cars - no more small backseats. You need space. Not just for them, but for all the junk (crap) you have to bring everywhere with you. So I traded in the Audi for a Honda Pilot. LOTS of room. Gas and oil pretty much are all the service needed, and we're good. Except that I don't get to drive the Honda. I get my wife's freaking VOLVO s40. Oh gee. That's fun (not). At least it's a turbo, but the dang thing wallows like a boat in corners and squeals like a stuck pig if you go more than 20 around a corner. Gah. Every once in a while I beg my friends to let me drive a real car - and occasionally Joanne will let me drive her Ferrari (old school 308 GTS - you know, the one Magnum PI drove? Yeah, that's right!)

This wouldn't be so bad, but I learned how to drive in LA - where your car is who you are

Comments:

Course I grew up in CT, we drove mini vans there...

Posted by Niju on March 02, 2005 at 09:13 AM PST #

I remember many a ride with you in your 240SX Will - it was a good car. I also remember your wait for the Boxter and the couple of rides I had in that (I still think my Mitsu Eclipse Spider was as good round the twisties ;)) Given that you liked the S4, it sounds like you would enjoy the new Audi RS4

Posted by Trevor Watson on March 02, 2005 at 05:16 PM PST #

A volvo isn't too bad. I have vowed never to drive a minivan. Ever. Was the audi a gas pig? The car I have now is the first all wheel drive car I've owned and I think there is a hole in the gas tank.

Posted by de-two-che on March 03, 2005 at 02:23 AM PST #

Yeah, the AWD cars just naturally suck up waaaaay more gas. My audi was worse by far than my honda pilot.

Posted by Will on March 03, 2005 at 06:43 AM PST #

Ack. Kids. I traded my euro-spec white pimped out VDP Jag for an Expedition when I became "Dad". Two years later, and I am driving a Sebring Convertible with a Grand Voyager mini-van for the wife. At least I still have my 1975 Bricklin SV1 gullwing sitting under a cover in the driveway. :) Unfortunately it \*just\* sits until I get a free weekend to re-plumb the nonexistent brakes.

bill.

Posted by Bill Walker on May 11, 2005 at 02:48 PM PDT #

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I run the engineering group responsible for Sun.com and the high volume websites at Sun.

Will Snow
Sr. Engineering Director

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