Most Recent Idiot Decision

Back on June 30, 2001—the evening I purchased the ‘99 Acura—one of the first things I noticed immediately before pulling out of the Carmax dealership was that it didn’t have wheel locks. Four days later—while I was parked at a church parking lot in Arlington—some hoodlums stole the wheels off my then-new ride.

The wheels were stolen because they didn’t have wheel locks, and I knew it.

One week ago (Aug. 28, 2006), I finally took ownership of the now-new ‘05 Acura, and spent the majority of the day at the bank, with the seller, and at the DMV finishing up all the bullshit involved with getting a new ride. Two days later—the morning of Thursday, August 31, 2006—it got towed.

It got towed because I’d parked it in front of my townhouse without a valid parking decal… and I knew it.

Fuck, I’m a tool.

Clarification: The original Acura was parked in a church parking lot from approximately 10pm to 2am on July 3rd (and the morning of July 4th). No religious services were happening during that time, unless you consider seeing a show and drinking beers a religious service… which I certainly do.

parking.jpg

The Carquest Ends: An Improbable Sequel


This past Friday, I put down a deposit a new (to me) car. After all is said and done—after a couple of weeks involving loan payoffs, loan approvals, title transfers, trips to the DMV, etc.—I will be stylin’ and profilin’ in my new sled.


The “improbable” part of this story is borne from a series of unexpected events. I’d put off buying a new car until after our wedding, which was 3 months ago. Since then, with all the crazy bullshit that’s happening with the house (completely new roof and gutters plus a shitload of internal fixes due to water damage), the thought of replacing the ‘99 Blackura had fallen between and under the cushions of life’s stained and smelly sofa. Wow, that was a stretch.


A few days ago, Bike Crash Homey from work forwarded an email from a friend of hers. He was selling two cars, one of which sounded pretty goddamned sweet to me. She arranged to have lunch with the seller last Friday, and I test drove the car while they were out noshing. After a brief discussion with Erin, I wrote the man a check for the deposit.


The “sequel” part of this story comes from the fact that it’s another black Acura; it’s another Blackura. Here’s an unintended photo showing the new in front of the old:


acura_2.jpg


And, here’s the dirt: 2005 Acura TL, 3.2L V6 with 270hp and 238ft-lbs. torque. Six-speed manual trans, black on tan leather with the nav system. Tons of safety shit, sports package incl. larger Brembo brakes, stiffer suspension, and too many geek-style gadgets to mention [Edmunds]. The best part: it only has about 4,400 miles on it. All of this cheaper than any of the cars I was considering buying back in March, except for the Civic.


Needless to say, I’m quite excited about getting my hands and feet on this son-of-a-bitch.


More shots: exterior·exterior·exterior·exterior/interior·interior·exterior

Another Round of HEMI-ng & Hawing

It’s the time of year when I ask you for your input about cars… again. But first, some rationale.

Over a year ago I wrote:

The Blackura has started to hurt… Should I cut my losses and ditch it?

All of the maladies of the ol’ Blackura listed in that post still exist except for the wheel bearing (which hasn’t gone out again since it got fixed… yet) and the transmission rebuild that set me back about 3 large last May.

Today, it’s in the shop again with yet another (different) problem relating to the brakes. I’ve had to fill the reservior with brake fluid twice over the last couple of weeks, so there’s definitely a leak somewhere in the system, but I haven’t seen any fluid on the ground to provide an approximate location. That’s the best possible scenario: a cracked line or hose or something like that which isn’t too expensive to replace. It could, however, turn out to be another fucking nightmare.

So, again—and at Erin’s behest, believe it or not—I’m thinking of replacing that beloved old sumbitch.

I will preempt my brother’s inevitable beatdown by conveying the following (actual) conversation between my betrothed & me.

Me: Oooh, I could totally afford a 2005 Mustang GT Premium or Deluxe at Carmax.
Erin: Oooh, no. The new Mustangs are ugly.
(end scene)

There aren’t a lot of new cars that I’d buy and drive in my price range, up to $35-40k because I’d only have to finance about $25-30k which would put me between $550 to $650 per month (at a realistic 6% rate). Of course, I’d like to find something cheaper, but that’s what I have to work with.

I did check up on used cars available at the local and transfer-fee-free Carmax stores. I could get this BMW or that Audi or a different Benz. Shit, a couple of Jags and Porches showed up, too. But, of course, the best ones are years old & I don’t get to pick the options or colors or anything like that… so I’d be strapped to whatever spurious and/or retarded decisions the previous asshole made at the lot.

Plus, I don’t want to be “that guy” driving the cock-show status car; I’m a black t-shirt and jeans man. I know what I like, and I know what type of effort will get me what I like; I don’t need anything more than that to make me (or others) feel like I’m a successful, contributing member of society.

Disclaimer: I love the ‘06 Corvette Z06. If I could afford that bitch—trust—I’d already have a black one. That doesn’t automatically mean that I have a small dick or that I’m a 50+ balding retiree asshole looking for early-twenties pussy. The ‘06 Z06 is a fucking beast.

cars2006.jpgMoving on.

I’ve chosen some shade of gray for the new sled, since keeping my first true love (a wet, shiny, luscious black car) clean has proven to be a motherfucker… and I figure gray still looks badass but might hide some dirt. Working in order of the graphic to your right:

2006 Dodge Charger SRT8
6.1L HEMI V8 w/ 5-speed automatic trans
425 horsepower & 420 lb-ft torque
MSRP w/ options: $38,010 or ~$610/mo

Nothing on my list compares to this one as far as power, performance, the sheer intensity of balls-twitching it induces… and price. I backed out one of my previously-chosen options to get the MSRP below $40k, since upon hearing the monthly payment Erin said, “Wow. You can’t have one of those.” I know… but a man can dream.

2006 Mazda RX-8
1.3L two-rotor rotary w/ 6-speed auto
212 horsepower & 164 lb-ft
MSRP w/ options: $31,195 or ~$470/mo

Sure, low-ish torque number, but a flat torque curve means that power is available across a large range of revs, unlike every other car on this list. It’s one of C&D’s 10 Best, weighs less than your mom after the all-she-can-eat early-bird at Perkins, and would probably kick the shit out of every non-HEMI on my list, 0-60.

2006 Acura TSX
2.4L inline 4 w/ 5-speed auto
205 horsepower & 164 lb-ft
MSRP w/ options: $34,290 or ~$540/mo

I wish they offered a V6 for this model, but you have to pay out your ass for the TL ($40k+ w/ options) if you want those two extra cylinders and 53 additional horsepower, which makes the Charger look like a steal. Additionally, the TSX is a luxury car that looks pretty sharp, would offer a smoother ride and greater comfort… but would only offer the benefit of less-frequent maintenance schedule than the current Blackura. A C&D 10 Best, but I’m not sure it’s worth it.

2006 Honda Accord Coupe
3.0L VTEC V6 w/ 5-speed auto
244 horsepower & 211 lb-ft
MSRP w/ options: $32,840 or ~$500/mo

I hate the ass-end of the 4-door Accord sedan; it looks like shit (read: Nissan Altima/Maxima) compared to this coupe. In the ‘99-‘00 days, the V6 Accord and the Acura CL 3.0 were the exact same machines, with the exact same 200hp/195lb-ft VTEC engine, suspension and auto trans, but with different bodies. This equates (for the most part) to the ‘06 Accord being latest model of my current car. It’s another C&D 10 Best. Note: The rims in the photo are not the rims I’d select.

2006 Honda Civic Si
2.0L i-VTEC inline 4 w/ 6-speed manual
197 horsepower & 139 lb-ft
MSRP w/ options: $26,320 or ~$370/mo

This one’s new for 2006, and the whole Civic line won Motor Trend’s Car of the Year for ‘06 (read: not this particular model alone). It’s an afterthought as far as my new-car contenders. The monthly payment is the only car listed here that’s lower than the Blackura’s fee back before it got paid off (hardcore props to my sugarmomma Erin). It does look kinda’ badass, but I never fancied myself a riceboi. You’ll note the exclusion of the aforementioned Scion Tc and Acura RSX Type-S from my list of courters.

Looking back at my own shit… I’m thinking RX-8 or Accord coupe. What do you think?

Blackura Apocalypse

Part 5 in an Ongoing Series

Backstory:

I spoke with Randy over at the trans shop. The Blackura needs a full-up transmission rebuild. Second gear is completely shot, and he said part of the clutch drum is broken, which further damaged the springs and stuff inside. So, I’m looking at around US$2,200 to $2,600 for the rebuild, maybe more.

After asking about a new tranny, Randy said that a rebuild is always 30-50% cheaper than a new transmission, due to all the markup and cost amortization applied by all the intermediate vendors, warehouses and shippers. That makes sense… as does a higher profit margin for the trans shop, given the same time/amount of labor versus cheaper cost outlay for constituent parts.

And (as I’d previously known), the driver-side front wheel bearing does, in fact, need to be replaced. It wasn’t a bearing in the transmission, which Randy and his crew verified with a stethoscope. Add approximately $250.

Looks like I’ll be keeping that ol’ dog around for a while. Fucker’s going to be almost new by the time I get it back next week.

Blackura Downdate

… because “update” sounds a little too optimistic at this point.

I spoke w/ my main man, Alan, at the shop today. As you read his words, imagine a slow-talkin’ local boy who saw action back in ‘Nam.

Got the oil change done. There’s definitely something weird going on with your transmission or transmission control system… which is the happier and cheaper one to fix. As for the wheel bearing, we couldn’t get a fix left or right on that; but, there’s a bearing in the transmission that can make that noise. We poked around inside there, tried a couple of things, but didn’t wanna’ go too far. You can take it to Acura or you can go to a transmission shop, who’d have more information in their computer than I got in mine… there’s one about three hundred feet from here on Grove. Right now, I’m at $18.50 for the oil change, since I ain’t gonna’ charge you for not doin’ nothin’ on the transmission.

That’s why Alan and his shop get my business. They won’t do anything if it doesn’t need doing… and they don’t charge you for not fixing something. One time, I asked him why my tires weren’t rotated, as I’d requested. He said they didn’t need it yet, so they didn’t do it. “I ain’t gonna’ charge you for somethin’ that don’t need done.”

So, as it stands, the Blackura is at the trans shop down the street from Alan’s shop, and I’ll give them a buzz tomorrow to see what’s up. I’m a-feared.

Woes & Yearning

05cars.jpgThe Blackura has started to hurt.

The front, driver-side wheel bearing is going out again (undoubtedly due to the phenomenal tow job 3.5 years back), and the transmission needs some serious work. I’m talking lagging gear shifts up and down, critical moments requiring torque when it’s not even in gear or transitioning between two, and harsh, hard-thumping 2nd-to-3rd-and-back jerk action. All of which are more pronounced when driving on a cold engine/trans.

Then, there’s the missing Acura badge on the trunk (ghetto or white-trash, your call), the fucked-up rear bumper (thanks to some random asshole + the FedEx guy), bent-body damage from the wheels-stolen episode back in the day where the thiefs jacked it up improperly + the aforementioned towing massacre… and various, hideous door dings and what not.

I love the Blackura. I love it more than any other car I’ve ever owned or driven. The cost of the bearing and trans fixes, plus whatever bodywork and upgrades I choose to apply (outright payoff, new wheels, tires, etc.) will be far less than the cost of a new car.

But, that the left-front bearing has gone out twice since the towing nightmare and the passenger-side door hasn’t properly seated since… leads me to believe that its frame is damaged, however slightly. If true, that will only lead to putting more money into the Blackura in the future.

Should I cut my losses and ditch it?

As I’m wont to do about every three years, I’m thinking about buying a new (to me) car. I haven’t explored my “pre-owned” (used) car options yet, but have been seriously jonesing for a brand new rocket. Given that the Blackura (1999 Acura CL 3.0) is a 4-speed auto with peak 200hp and 195 pound-feet of torque, let’s see how the new-car contenders match up:
Continue reading “Woes & Yearning”

Car Review: 2004 Monte Carlo

Whenever I go out of town and rent a car, I do a review of it in my head. The last one I published was the 2004 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT.

There was that 2004 Chrysler Pacifica that Erin and I rented in Orlando this summer for Nick’s wedding reception, but that sled was basically a sweet-ass mini-van… and I’m not mentally prepared to write a glowing review of a goddamned grocery-getter/soccer-mom-taxi on my website.

This past weekend, Erin rented a car while we were in Columbus. At her asking, I urged we upgrade from the standard Chevy Impala crap they were going to give us. So… we found ourselves “upgrading” to the standard 2004 Chevy Monte Carlo crap, in a flattering *gag* champagne color.
Continue reading “Car Review: 2004 Monte Carlo”

Car Review: 2004 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT

I rented a car for the week while here in Tampa. On the website, I opted for whatever “convertible” model they were going to give me. Various people thought I was bound to get a Chrysler Sebring convertible, which you must admit, isn’t the most masculine model out there, especially if it’s turquoise. Even my girlfriend called me a “fag” at the thought of me driving around in one of those. But, much to my surprise, the rental company hooked me up with a new 2004 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT, not turquoise.

Granted, it’s only marginally less-effeminate than the Sebring, but being an ex-Eclipse owner, I was interested to put the new model through its paces.

A cursory glance at the specs sheet shows the 3.0L V-6 powerplant offers 210hp at 5750rpm with 205lb-ft at 3750rpm. And, behind the wheel, it’s not hard to feel the torque start to kick in around 3200rpm. It’s a little weak off the line, but it gets up to 5000rpm pretty damn quickly after shit starts moving. That brings us to the transmission.

The car I got has the 4-speed auto, with the “Sportronic” feature, which basically allows you to manually shift withouth using a clutch. This is nothing but a gimmick, in my opinion. You want to change gears at your own pace? Learn to use a clutch, damnit. Plus, it’s confusing for someone who knows how to drive a standard, because up-shifting is simply pushing the “shifter” up, and down-shifting… well, you get the idea. The ability to manually shift put me in a “standard” frame of mind, and I found myself trying to down-shift from fourth by pushing the “shifter” forward… which, in this paradigm, equates to my trying to get into fifth gear, which doesn’t exist. At least a couple of times, I found myself inadvertently down-shifting from third into second when I was actually trying to get to fourth. What a pain in the ass. One good thing about the “Crapmatic” mutant transmission, however, is that it’ll down-shift for you (a la any other automatic tranny) as your speed decreases in case you forget. Oh, boy, what fun.

Rounding out the other tangibles: The ride is much smoother than the previous-generation Eclipses (mine was a ’98), so you don’t feel every goddamned pebble on the road, but the suspension is tight, and there’s minimal body roll during cornering. I guess this is one concept they decided to keep from the older versions, which cornered as if on rails. Unfortunately, however, as a convertible, the body isn’t as tight as I would have hoped, and there’s way too much lateral “cowl shake”, even on roads that are only slightly bumpy. The “soupcan” muffler that comes standard on this car provides a pretty loud engine tone, but I’d prefer it was deeper and less “ricey”, if you get my meaning. The stereo is better than average, but the rear speakers are weak, and all of them distort at louder volumes. The interior looks and feels like it came out of any low-end hatchback with cheap plastic controls; nothing provides what I’d call acceptible tactile response.

All in all, not a bad car, but not a great car, and it definitely doesn’t provide the performance you would expect at the price. Starting at just over $27k, the 2004 Eclipse Spyder GT is not worth the cost. Even if I had the money to burn, I’d still stick with my ’99 Acura 3.0 CL.