Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rod Millen at Goodwood


What would you say to an F1 driver? (Mercedes)

My friend is working on getting us access to the garages in the days before the F1 race in Texas this November. I give him a 50-50 chance of success. I'm excited to see (and hear) the machinery up close. But what am I going to say if I meet a driver? More importantly, would I even be able to pick Max Chilton or Giedo van der Garde out of a line-up?

Let's start with Mercedes, an easy one.

To Nico Rosberg: Dude, you're my favorite driver on the grid! Congrats on Monaco!

To Lewis Hamilton: It's great to see you thriving at Mercedes!

What would you say to them?

Smart kid identifies car makes

Via Flavio Gomes.

Hunger and poverty in rural America

This is a travesty.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

North Korean military parade to mark 60th anniversary of armistice

1. As much as we love to hate North Korea, they really have the best military parades.
2. Cool Gelandewagen.

4. You have to check out this AP photographer's Instagram page.
5. Margaret Cho as Kim Jong-Il:

Riding the rail like a hobo

I finally finished Paul Theroux's Last Train to Zona Verde last night. The famed travel writer, who is in his 70s now, travels through South Africa, Namibia, briefly into Botswana, and finally Angola, by land. You get the sense that he is very tired and that this is not only the final African journey of his life, but his last great journey anywhere. Overall, it's a downbeat tale. The biggest downer was the grinding poverty in Angola, despite it generating a billion dollars in oil revenue every five days.

Now, I have started Rolling Nowhere, by Ted Conover. He is one of my favorites and this was his first book. Conover preceded Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me, 30 Days) and pioneered the non-fiction genre of living the subject matter. Conover traveled with illegals and crossed into the U.S. in Coyotes and became a prison guard at Sing Sing for a year in Newjack.

In Rolling Nowhere (1984), Conover hopped on trains all over the West in order to write about the American Hobo.

Pope Francis dons an Indian headdress

I'm not a huge fan of organized religion, but this is a cool pope.

Make and model?

Spotted at the Hungaroring today. Some kind of Skoda?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

My recent eBay searches

I'm sure yours is just as pathetic/awesome.

I need help.

A tale of Ferrari ownership

Yesterday, Hooniverse had a piece on driving the Ferrari 550. Dropgate, a commenter, had this to share about his 550:

Dropgate: Bought one in May of this year, a Rosso Corsa (red) '98. It broke down and cost me $5000 THE VERY FIRST DAY. 

Still totally worth it.

Me: Jesus. What broke down?

Dropgate: I spent 2 months negotiating with the owner, getting the car inspected, smogged, etc. On May 3rd I finally flew to LA to pick up my new toy and drive it back to Sacramento. The first 50 miles were uneventful, though I was mired in Friday afternoon LA gridlock. Just as traffic freed up and I started up the Grapevine, I noticed a loss of power. Then shortly thereafter I got a dreaded Check Engine light. Then came the "Slow Down" warning message (in Ferrari-speak this means you're overheating the catalytic converters). 

I should have stopped immediately, but I carried on for about 10 miles, babying it. When I finally decided to throw in the towel (and had found a safe spot to stop) the damage was done. I had blown a hole in the right side catalytic converter 50 miles into a 400-mile trip. 

The root cause turned out to be a cracked pressure hose on the right side fuel pump, which starved the entire right bank of cylinders. The misfiring overheated and killed the cat. The tow home was $1500 (AAA covered the first 200, the last 150 came in at $10/mile). Once home, I found a great mechanic who took mercy on me and located and installed a used catalytic converter and fixed the fuel system ($3700). They key was the used cat - even though it cost $2300 (!!) a new one from Ferrari is...wait for it...$11,000. And since it's illegal for a junkyard to sell a used cat in California, the fact that this mechanic was able to pull it off was a miracle. 

So that's my $5200 story. Things have gone much better since then and the car is a joy to drive. But I got a baptism by fire into Ferrari ownership. It's almost as if the car was trying to see if I was "worthy" of owning it. :)

Me: Bravo....

Dropgate: I also neglected to mention that 1 block into the first drive, I went to adjust the rearview and it fell off in my hand, taking a hunk of the windshield with it. Not kidding. That whole day was a comedy of errors.

Sinai primer

This piece explains the special history and geopolitics of the peninsula between Egypt, Gaza, and Israel. If you have followed the recent turmoil in Egypt, you'll no doubt have noted that whereas the violence in the rest of Egypt has taken place at demonstrations, the violence in the Sinai have been perpetrated by shadowy figures against cops and soldiers.

Friday, July 26, 2013

San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the most dangerous city on earth (that's not in a war zone)

There is plenty of blame to go around for the extreme violence, and the gang members themselves are by far the biggest culprits. But a significant portion of the blame also rests on America. Our repeated interventions to prop up right wing regimes ruined the country, forcing many to flee. The refugees set up lives in Los Angeles and many of their children became violent gang members, who were taught on the streets and in the California prison system. Now that the gang members are deported back to Honduras (many do not even speak Spanish), they continue leading a life of crime, as they are financially supported by money from the drug trade (which is fueled by our insatiable appetite).

This video is incredible. The fear is omnipresent. And the power that the gangs have, even in prison, is unbelievable.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Bentley Turbo R

Less than two weeks before our wedding, my fiance delegated me with the task of getting a car for our big day. I searched high and low for a limousine service that had a Bentley Turbo R. Alas, I failed.

Shipping 28,000 military vehicles out of Afghanistan

The amount of money spent is just incredible, appalling even.

A tenth of all Marshall Islanders live in a small Arkansas town

A gift from Nixon to Brezhnev

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Carspotting: Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster

This red number passed me on the freeway today. It is both flashy and understated. The only badging: "SLS" and "AMG" on the trunk lid and "6.3" on the front fenders. This car has a 1984 Los Angeles Olympics license plate that reads "X POLO".

Earth from Saturn

Australia is Florida

From the Shaking My Head Sydney Morning Herald.

A man was pulled over in Adelaide. He:

  • didn't have registration,
  • didn't have insurance,
  • drove dangerously,
  • drove with two blown tires,
  • just fled a hit-and-run crash,
  • was high on meth and pot, and
  • drove without a steering wheel.

Hat tip to Ozmac.

Monday, July 22, 2013

My first press trip...

...will be to San Diego for a detailed look at the 2014 Toyota Corolla. I look forward to seeing how car manufacturers present new cars to auto scribes, researching the competition, learning how to properly review cars, and meeting car industry types.

My last serious look at a Corolla was in 2004. My girlfriend (now my wife) just had her Volvo 960 creamed on Highway 101 by a punk in an old Buick. We went shopping for a new car. We test drove the Corolla and the Civic. Although the Corolla had more features and was priced basically the same as the Civic, she preferred the ergonomics and driving dynamics of the simpler Honda. The rest is history, and we still own it.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

German African-North Sea land swap-- Caprivi Strip

I am learning more than I ever imagined about Namibia in Paul Theroux's book The Last Train to Zona Verde. I'll be the first to admit that my knowledge of Sub-Saharan African geography is atrocious. With a blank map, I can identify ten countries, tops.

Well, look at this map of Namibia (a former German, and then South African, colony). Notice that strip on the northeastern corner? That is the Caprivi Strip. How did that come about?

Well, the Germans wanted access from Namibia to its eastern African possessions (Burundi, Rwanda, and mainland Tanzania). You see, the strip gave it access to the Zambizi River. (However, it wasn't until after the acquisition of the Caprivi Strip that Germany learned that that section of the river was unnavigable.)

How did Germany gain the strip? A land swap with Great Britain. In the 1890 Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty, Britain gave Germany: the Caprivi Strip, Heligoland (an island off the coast of Denmark), and a promise not to assert power in the coastal region near Dar es Salaam. Germany in turn gave Britain: a sultanate on the Kenyan coast so that Britain could finish its railway to Lake Victoria and a promise not to assert power over Zanzibar. The two colonial powers also agreed upon boundaries in West Africa.

Map and more info about the Caprivi Strip here.

Carspotting: Ford Fairmont Futura

The ad below is hilariously dramatic.

According to Wikipedia, this was Ford's compact offering, bookended by the Maverick and the Tempo. And notice the "unusual two-piece vinyl roof." Exotic.

Audi A4 Rally ad

Wow, I just saw this on TV.

Shipping laptops from China to Europe via rail

This is a story worth reading. In addition to the neat infographics, it talks about how even though it is more expensive to ship by rail from China to Europe, it is faster. Ships have had to cut speed in order to save on expensive fuel. Looking at the infographics, it seems the rail trip would be cheaper (and there would be less freight damage) if China and Kazakhstan shared the same rail gauge. (Apparently, Belarus and Poland also do not share a common gauge.)

Another interesting observation is the growth of industrial output in China's inland cities. This will surely help with overpopulation along the coasts. A number of other issues are discussed: minerals in Afghanistan; a customs pact between Kazakhstan, Russia, and Belarus; H.P. helping Chinese customs officials with shipping logistics; creative methods of curtailing theft along the route; etc.

Last year, just 2,500 containers traveled by rail from China to Western Europe. By 2020, it will be 7.5 million. But even at 7.5 million containers, that is still just a tenth of what ships carry.

San Jose VTA light rail Bollywood ad

People often do not realize that in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Jose is the biggest city by population. It also has a large Indian population, many working as engineers in Silicon Valley. This is an ad that's playing on local TV stations.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Tatra trucks!!!

When I build my own army after the apocalypse, I'm signing a contract with Tatra.

Toyota Mega Cruiser interior

Sanchez: Can you buy LHD Mega Cruisers in Kazakhstan and Russia? I thought they were only available in Japan.

Boat people and Australia

First of all, people in PNG eat a lot of betelnuts.

Second, to Ozmac, John, and Lukas, is this a particularly divisive and publicized issue over there? Also, at what point do they get on boats? Indonesia? Vietnam?

I found some stats on current detainees here. They are from:

  • Iran (2,401 people)
  • Sri Landa (1,368)
  • Afghanistan (1,117)
  • Pakistan (477)
  • Iraq (420)
  • Vietnam (568)
  • Indonesia (279)
  • Bangladesh (170)
  • China (107)
  • Myanmar (15)
  • Other (1,599)

Nile River dispute

And for the record, the nine countries mentioned are:

  • Burundi
  • DR Congo
  • Egypt
  • Kenya
  • Rwanda
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda

Exile Destinations, Part 9

81. Israel-- 0
82. Italy-- Tunisia
83. Jamaica-- 0
84. Japan-- 0
85. Jordan-- 0
86. Kazakhstan-- 0
87. Kenya-- 0
88. Kiribati-- 0
89. Kyrgyzstan-- Belarus, Russia
90. Laos-- 0

Tally thus far:
3x = France, Panama, U.S., U.S.S.R./Russia

2x = Brazil, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Portugal, U.K., Venezuela

1x = Australia, Austria, Belarus, Costa Rica, Egypt, Italy, Libya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Uruguay, unknown, unknown, unknown

Jean Reno Doraemon Toyota collection

Check out the Mega Cruiser in the background!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Aston Martin Lagonda CRT dash key

I finally figured out how to use my flatbed scanner! I can finally share some of the crazy stuff in my car books.

First up, the CRT dash from the Lagonda. R&D on just this dash nearly bankrupted Aston Martin. Click on the image to enlarge.

F1 steering wheel evolution


Thursday, July 18, 2013

World's biggest ship

Porsche 959 owner's manual

Complete manual here.

Carspotting: Buick Riviera

Well, after midelectric crushed my Buick Reatta dreams, I thought of this Riviera.

These two GM pearls belong to my neighbor. The Riviera in the foreground is a 1996 model with a supercharged 3.8 liter V6. When new, it was good for 240 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque.

He also owns the 1997 Cadillac STS in the background. The Northstar V8 was rated at 295 horsepower.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Basters of Namibia

I am reading Paul Theroux's bus journey through southwestern Africa (The Last Train to Zona Verde). As always, it's a great read. He mentions the Baster people of Namibia, who are a distinct ethnic group. Their ancestors were Dutch South Africans who moved up to Namibia and mixed with the local Nama people. This video is obviously not in English, but it's still fascinating to see their dress and culture. Baster, by the way, is derived from the Dutch word for "bastard".

Cuban MiG-21s to North Korea intercepted in Panama

Is that Snoopy or the Red Baron?

This is too good to be true. Such a fun story. First, a short video:

What they've found so far in the ship: 240 metric tons of "obsolete defensive weapons", including two Volga(!) and Pechora anti-aircraft missile systems, nine missiles "in parts and spares", two MiG-21s and 15 engines for the MiGs.

This leads to the question, people still use MiG-21s? Apparently, a lot do. Current operators include:
  • Angola
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cuba
  • Egypt
  • Ethiopia
  • India
  • Libya
  • North Korea
  • Romania
  • Serbia
  • Uganda
  • Vietnam
  • Yemen
  • Zambia
And here are the current operators of the Chinese variant, the Chengdu J7:
  • Bangladesh
  • China
  • Ehypt
  • Iran
  • Myanmar
  • Namibia
  • Nigeria
  • North Korea
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • Tanzania
  • Zimbabwe

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Thunderbird Restaurant in Utah

A friend is in Utah on vacation and sent this.

A wedding in Lebanon

My step-nephew's Druze wedding, today, in the mountains of Lebanon.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Holden Jackaroo ad

Hat tip to Lukas.

Was there a Japanese manufacturer that Holden DIDN'T work with?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Zimmerman trial aftermath in Oakland

This police car was vandalized about seven hours after and five blocks away from Hanzel's Seconds Saturdays.

Girl Most Likely Porsche joke

Bastille Day ACMAT command car

With Hollande:

With Sarkozy:

With Chirac:

Nick Heidfeld curates the Festival of Speed

It's great to see Quick Nick working on interesting projects. To see the cars he talks about, click here.

And here is his record-breaking hill climb run.

My Saturday morning of cars

I saw a lot of cool cars yesterday. A lot. I dropped off the Honda at 7 a.m. to get it serviced. I then started walking the ten blocks to Hanzel's for this month's installment of Seconds Saturdays. When I was about halfway there, Peter was driving by in his Eurovan and offered me a ride.

When we got to Hanzel's, hardly anyone was there. With some time on our hands, he showed me his shop, which was nearby.

This was an unusual motorcycle, an MZ Skorpion from East Germany.

After the visit, we headed back to Hanzel's. This Citroen 3CV Prestige was very unusual. It was made in Argentina. It's called a 3CV because it had a larger engine than the French version. Among other differences, it is a true hatchback (the rear window is a part of the hatch that opens) and the rear windows open outward by an inch or so. The owner lives in San Francisco but was stuck out in the boonies. He called Henry Hanzel and asked if he worked on Citroens. Henry said yes, but a guy in Santa Cruz specializes in 2CVs. The owner said he'll have it towed to Henry's anyway because his AAA tow limit was 200 miles. Henry's was 180 miles away and Santa Cruz was beyond the limit.

This is Pete's (of ZomBee fame) Smart car. It has a few mods, including wider tires and transmission software. He claims it feels like a modern-day original Mini Cooper.

This gray market 1984 500SL was beautiful. Other than the seats, everything else looked great.

This Dodge Polara air pollution patrol car is not a joke! I had no idea.

The great thing is that regular people who have no idea about the car meet drive by or park like nothing is going on. Here is a Honda Insight belonging to a local resident. I also saw a D1 Audi A8 drive by the show.

Citroen Mehari.

Does anyone know if these Datsun sedans shared the same designer as Alfas? Or did the Japanese just copy the Italians?

On my walk back to pick up the Honda, I saw this little display at a body shop.

And I had to take a picture of this new snub nosed BMW parked next to a restaurant.

Finally, on the way home, I hit a traffic jam and this badge engineered Isuzu Trooper/Acura SLX was in front of me. Even the paint scheme belonged to Isuzu. Honda was really desperate for an SUV back in the day.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

My obsession today: 1988-91 Buick Reatta

I like the exterior. The front reminds me of a 1980s Mazda Cosmo and the rear a Maserati Mistral. The interior is sort of nice for a GM (okay, not really) and that touchscreen is out of this world (go to about the 5:30 mark of the bottom-most video).

What should I get? Join the conversation

While I upload pictures of cars I saw today, check out my latest Hooniverse post. My favorite candidate, a Buick Reatta.