Posts by Bryan

Rigmarole: Unicorns of Nürburgring

The Numbers

Lets face it: performance metrics make the headlines.

How awesome could a car be if we don’t have proof of its awesomeness? It’s one of the key drivers of automotive passion, the fact that your favorite car can do something else slightly better than someone else’s.

So, Car A is one-tenth faster 0-60 MPH than Car B. In reality, this could equate to less than a half car-length between two competing vehicles duking it out—hardly a measurable difference until you speak with the guy that drove the car that won. Yeah, we’re guilty of it, especially when it comes to “magazine racing” where we pull up editorial test statistics and root our arguments in these sometimes hardly repeatable data points. 

Car & Driver, one of my personal favorite editorials at least has a sanctioned and well-documented test procedure that they subject every automobile to. Motor Trend, and plenty of others have their own versions as well. This is probably one of the most scientific ways that performance metrics can be extrapolated, yet here we are in an age where manufacturers have turned to lap time posts for bragging rights.

What a tough time to be a car fanatic.

The Problem

Alas, we reach the pivotal issue of the problem this creates:

No matter how awesome these vehicles truly are, we have a duty to uphold their creators to the auspices of truth and honesty. It is up to us to make sure that the performance quotes are real and independently verified, as we would never be satisfied with a refrigerator that barely kept the food cold. So, here I am, basking in the everlasting knowledge of the internet, when I stumble upon another breaking news headline divulging that a Honda Civic broke the front-wheel-drive lap record at the Nürburgring with a claimed time of 7:43.8.

I mean, color me impressed that this abysmally-styled, wrong-wheel-drive, teenager wet dream powerhouse proved to be well-adept at tackling the most grueling track on Earth, but I can’t help to call BS on the claim when I think in scales of advertising ethics. The lap time was apparently achieved using a “pre-production model” Honda apparently said “was technically representative of production specification.”

What?

The story sounds kind of familiar. You remember the crazy Lamborghini Huracan Performante fiasco, right?  In early March, they posted up a similarly wild claim that they took a heavily reworked Huracan, added some trick active aero bits, and demolished the “production car” lap record at the ‘Ring. Skeptics quickly pounced on the jumpy video footage and some of the oddities in the displayed speedometer over the breadth of the course, however Lamborghini finally posted “data” to “support” their claim (as if that would make it all go away).

Again, we wound up right where we are with the Civic Type-R, staring into the abyss in awe at a production vehicle that isn’t technically a production vehicle, blasting through records that were in serious race car territory just one decade ago. Once we get past the piles of fanboys and endless pictures of the fabled machine leaning heavily on its haunches whilst draped in camo, we start to uncover little tidbits that dial up the suspicion.

Wait, what was that? It had “semi-slick,” but still “street legal Trofeo R tires? Oh, the radio was missing, as well as the back seat? It was a “pre-production” model, “close to factory spec,” you say?

Well, here’s the thing, dammit. We’re tired of these loopholes! How can a manufacturer claim times that were set by non-production spec vehicles, frequently with tires, brake compounds, suspension setups, and engine tunes that are not at all indicative of a real showroom floor version of the same car? Even though Lamborghini eventually plopped down a pool of raw data to support their claim, we can still do a huge favor by not giving a damn because who else was there to verify it?

Though it bids huge amounts of confidence that the lap was legitimate (it most likely was), it still bears that question of whether or not this was truly the car in the production form that you and I would see upon purchase. Even Christian von Koenigsegg called BS on this, especially pointing out the oddities in video regarding tires that had a grip threshold rivaling the g-limiter on a F-16 Fighting Falcon. When news breaks that Pirelli pretty much made a custom tire for that specific car on that specific track, one has to doubt the legitimacy of this entire charade.

So, the tire is available to the public, but was that tire spec used during the lap? No one but a few engineers and technicians at Lamborghini knows this, and that is the point in this situation. Nissan did this with their 2015 GT-R NISMO with “track options,” or whatever they called it, and back with the original in 2008 that sent Porsche fuming.

The Solution

I’m one for a Car & Driver method, where we have a sanctioned set of test procedures that are enforced, verified, and checked upon every vehicle testing regiment. Calculations could be easily derived to ween out the differences between various environmental factors, probably by taking a baseline (or “control”) vehicle, the same driver, specifications, and running said vehicle through the same racing line through days with widely varying weather conditions. It sounds difficult, and would likely prove to be, but we already have autonomous race vehicles that can reduce the chances of human error.

Take a special robot car with an array of sensors and task it with setting the baseline for us measly humans.

Next, we have a sanctioning committee of some sort enforce these rules by checking every vehicle for compliance, even to the point where members of the committee visit a participating manufacturer’s production facility and randomly select a production-spec car from the line for testing. This would go a long way towards ensuring that no gimmickry has taken place, especially when the routine compliance checks are gone through.

The final task is having a team of drivers (potentially not as necessary as the prior rules) run every car through the testing regiment at least three times, only after each car has been verified to its original recommended factory specifications. The key here is to ensure that this reduces the aforementioned “unicorn lap time” syndrome that we’re experiencing, thereby forcing and holding manufactures to being representatives of honest data.

Jim Glickenhaus wants something like this, and so does Mr. Koenigsegg. I know I don’t have a single quality to measure up to those guys, but damn, they have a good point. Lets hit this problem with a little science, shall we?

Project Ruby: Update 2

Abstract:

Cars are dirty machines.

The car, in my opinion, is one of humanity’s most brilliant inventions, but alas, they come with headaches. Like all of our machines, cars break down. They cost us money, which naturally points us toward the direction of which company makes the cars requiring the least amount of work, but that doesn’t always pan out. People with more exotic tastes buy extraordinarily unreliable cars like used Range Rovers or old Volkswagen/Audis. Every time I see this, I shed a tear for their wallet as well as their soul, but for the rest of the buying public, we tend to stick to cars with established pedigrees.

Think about your mother’s Honda Odyssey, or your dad’s Toyota Camry. Every once in a while, you’ll see a Nissan Sentra—you know, the boring and lifeless appliance cars.

They run like a well-maintained box fan from Sears, or a freshly unraveled Hoover vacuum cleaner primed to rid the carpet of lint and pet dander. For as much as we ask of our automobiles on a day to day basis (roughly 29.2 miles daily, or 10,658 miles yearly per the AAA), it would make perfect sense to just mosey along and provide them with merely the “recommended maintenance” that every manufacturer clearly spells out. Simple and easy, though the concept becomes warped in the illogical minds of enthusiasts.

We’re weird with this. We buy more “interesting” cars that aren’t as notorious for long-term reliability, but on top of that, we tend to take a perfectly good car and make it more unreliable by installing parts that it wasn’t designed for.

I’ll call this the “Money Pit Cycle,” which typically follows a 4-stage process:

[1] Enthusiast has a car, usually one with a higher price and substantially reduced practically versus the average car—mostly because said enthusiast won’t settle for “average”.

[2] Enthusiast loves the car for perhaps a few weeks, then the excitement wanes. Slowly, the enthusiast starts to find imperfections and a total lack of personal identification with said car. It becomes “boring” and average. Suddenly, the 420hp V8 isn’t powerful enough. The clutch sticks to the floor and shifting is labored. The enthusiast is triggered by these revelations.

It’s the end of the world, and potentially the end of the love affair, but alas, there is hope.

[3] Enthusiast does research to tackle a list of improvement goals for the car. Eventually, this list grows to consume thousands of dollars. The plan is to take apart a perfectly good automobile no logical reason. Together, the enthusiast teams up with friends and they tackle hours worth of arduous labor replacing parts that otherwise functioned exactly as intended but not as well as they could have.

[4] Enthusiast is initially satisfied by the results, but soon starts to realize that more parts are necessary to achieve the desired goal. The new long tube headers have a nasty exhaust leak at the mounting flanges. The Centerforce Dual Friction clutch hates traffic and has the modulation range of a paperclip. The car runs stronger, but not quite as strong as hoped.

The cycle restarts. . .

The Impractical Choice:

In the driveway awaits this 2013 Ford Mustang GT.

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It’s about as practical on a day to day basis as using a spoon to slice a wedding cake, but it’s quite a bit faster now. Yes, as you can see here, my adorable baby girl strapped into a Graco carseat (with the base too!) will actually fit, and you can still fit an adult in the passenger seat up front.

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On occasion, the Coyote can muster out 23mpg, but you can’t go over 80mph and expect that. Meanwhile, it unfortunately exceeded 50,000 miles on the odometer. I did buy it to drive it, I suppose.

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As detailed in the Project Ruby: Update 1 article, the fiasco that encompassed the two months of ownership was merely the start of what is working out to be a lovely journey. So far, I’ve set a few personal milestones with this thing. I described my quest for a 12 second quarter mile pass in detail in the Update 1, but the high temperatures and the finicky clutch seriously ailed my mid-summer attempts at glory.

It wasn’t until September 30th that the car finally broke the 13 second barrier with a best of 12.876@110.85mph. Looking at the data, it was about a stout as your typical stock 2011+ 5.0 Mustang. It was good, but not good enough. Triggered, I entered Stage 1 of the Money Pit Cycle.

The Absence of Logic:

I ordered the following parts:

[1] Centerforce Dual Friction clutch, which was equipped with counterweights to ensure that the car would actually shift at high RPM (thanks, Ford).

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[2] Barton Racing shifter bracket, which was designed to essentially get rid of the junk remote-mount shift setup (thanks, Ford) and turn it into a “top loader” like it should’ve been from jump street.

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[3] BBK x-pipe, so I could connect the BBK long tube headers to the stock exhaust.

The installation? Well, it was a royal pain in the ass. Luckily for me, I had a team of friends and fellow enthusiasts to help.

Meet Sam, an extremely knowledgeable, honest, and straightforward guy. He loves cars, specifically Fords, and he was apparently born with a gene that turned him into a car addict like the rest of us. Working on cars is literally his job, though this experience usually makes even the most daunting tasks a cake walk. Yeah, he’s that dude that can swap an engine in the time it takes for you to cut the grass.

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On October 9th,  Sam and his neighbor, Rocky, invited me over to use their facilities. It included an electric lift, which turned out to be a vital part of the major surgery considering that we’d have to take half of the damn car apart.

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Once again, my Ford Mustang found itself suspended on an automobile lift. (Hutch is pictured here, too).

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In short, these parts didn’t exactly go on in an easy fashion. The clutch installation required the removal of the driveshaft, shift linkage, and the entire transmission. The Barton Racing shifter bracket was installed on the reassembly journey. The headers, bless our souls, were the worst part of the entire endeavor. Due to the space constraints under the car and under the hood, we were forced to remove the steering shaft, both engine mounts, and of course the old headers, all of which took about three hours to do (not including stops to McDonalds).

Oh, and we forgot the tools at the Ford Dealership where Sam works, so instead of calling off the surgery, another buddy, Hutch (in the foreground), brought a set of basic tools from the trunk of his car. Derek (in the background munching on Taco Hell), has direct experience in the nightmare that is installing anything worthwhile on a Coyote, as he has a 2012 Mustang GT 5.0 that has run a best of 10.878@127mph. Together, this team of three formed quite the comedic overlay.

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We joked with each other, cursed at each other, and bullshat through scrapped knuckles, bruised knees, stuck bolts, and nonsensical designs. Sometimes, no matter how immature it is to an observer, this behavior is necessary to stay the course.

Near the end, we reached a moment of desperation. We had forgotten to install the top two bell housing bolts, and in a notion of defeat, we surmised that it would require unbolting pretty much everything in order to tip the engine back and free up the room—that is, unless we found someone with a wrist small enough to fit.

I consider this to be my niche, and I stepped up and did what any desperate enthusiast would do:

Yes, I climbed atop the engine and hand-threaded the bolts, torquing them down with a wrench all the while hoping that making love to the engine would somehow smooth over the awkwardness.

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In all, it wasn’t until about 8pm when we first fired the car up—only to discover a huge manifold flange exhaust leak—that the inevitable curse of modification is unavoidable.

We tried fixing it with mixed results. Both headers have a plaguing leak to this very day, though that didn’t seem to affect the car’s performance at first. I drove car all week to break in the clutch and drag raced the following Saturday to quell my anxiety for results.

I was disappointed, seeing that the car could do no better than a “measly” 12.7@113.8mph. It was an improvement, but not exactly what I expected.

I made excuses and loathed in self-pity for two weeks before I eventually sucked it up and decided to get rid of the ECU’s unknown and poorly performing tune. I reached into my wallet, grabbed $550 and contacted Lund Racing for their newest nGauge tuner and datalogger.

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Before today, I had been a staunch critic of mail order tunes, but the paranoia faded when I hook up the device to the OBDII port, flashed the tune, verified that it wasn’t going to destroy the car (via datalogging), and drove it.

Except that it didn’t feel any faster. Shit.

I returned to loathing in self-pity, at least until I blew the doors off of a 2010 Camaro SS on the way to work. Maybe I was wrong, and I would prove just that when I rolled up to the staging line at Edgewater Raceway on November 12th. Honestly, I didn’t expect the car to hook up with a damn in the 58 degree weather, but I hoped to see a trap speed higher than 115mph.

The first pass was a bit of a botched launch, but I still broke my personal record:

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Yes, that’s a solid 12.646 at nearly 116mph. I was overjoyed, and as I bathed in excitement and relief, I decided to take the car up for another pass to prove repeatability.

That time, it launched like it was strapped to a catapult, breaking through a 1.878 60 foot time (yes, on the 235 width Sumitomo all season tires at 35psi) to run a 12.260@116.5mph.

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Victory. Absolute victory.

Not only did the car perform this admirably with no extra preparation (I have a rule of running my cars exactly as they are setup for daily driving), no weight reduction, and no special fuel, but it did so in such a fashion that clearly put the Mustang in a new league of automobile.

I read a recent article of Car and Driver, and discovered that my car, a lowly Ford Mustang GT, is apparently just as fast as a brand new 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport. Yes, I no longer have to fear a factory trim Corvette. My car was now just as fast, if not faster, than the AMG Mercedes-Benz models that I used to fantisize about in high school during the early to mid 2000s.

Let that sink in.

The stars aligned and I got the last bit of fair weather just before the racing season buttoned up to a close. The headers still leak, and the car is even more brashly unrefined than it was to begin with, but hell, at least we had some fun together this year. Now with the freezing temperatures settling in and snow around the corner, I’ll put Ruby back into the garage where she belongs and trickle back into Stage 1 of the Money Pit Cycle again.

Even now, I find myself searching for ways to make it even better, but this time I’ll focus on suspension and brakes.

After all, taking off perfectly good parts and replacing them is one of the most absurdly agonizing/gratifying things to do.

–Bryan

Life Hits: Where Have I Been?

Well, if you’re a regular viewer, we’d like to apologize.

It’s been a while since you’ve heard anything from us, but we’re ready again. A lot has happened since our last post on 8/3/16, where I delved into what I hoped to be Infiniti’s return to gloriousness. I have to say, the passion for automobiles is still there, but again. . . life has its challenges.

For me, it was yet another HUGE transition. Let me break this down for you:

 

The New Job (8/15/16)

 

It started with a job offer, one that paid me nearly $15,000/year more than my last job doing pretty much the exact same thing (Mechanical Engineering in Automotive Manufacturing). Sure, the new place was roughly an hour away from my house, but the money and opportunity alone made the the commute worthwhile on paper. I gave my previous employer three weeks worth of notice out of respect for the people I worked with, but the terribly odd part about that was the moment I submitted my resignation letter, I got a hard lesson of how cut throat the business world is.

They counter offered me $9,500 more than what I was already making, which was unusual considering that they could’ve paid me this salary to begin with and I likely would’ve never left, but I suppose that divine intervention had a different outlook. I was given one weekend to “think it over,” during which I proved through various hypothetical situations that the new job offer was still better. My old job was a dead end. The lower management was locked in, and though most of them were not qualified for their positions, it was clear that there wouldn’t be any room to move up within the next two decades. There were “engineers” with no engineering knowledge, education, or basic engineering skills. There were people in charge on the production floor that walked in the door as bottom scale operators just months prior. The Japanese upper management was hell bent on expansion with little to no increase in salary, and speaking of salary, the entire pay scale ladder was screwed up. There were people on the production floor that had been with the company less time, with far less responsibility, no higher education, and obviously lower capabilities making either an equivalent or superior salary.

The place was a shit show.

It was time to move on, and they rushed the ordeal. One week into my final three, I came to work on a Friday morning and was promptly notified that it was my last day. I drove my Mustang home and vented my anger silently, taking in the nice summer weather and sulking in sadness as I rubbed my wife’s pregnant belly. Our daughter was due to be induced in just weeks. My wife was on strict bedrest, and I was now without a job—at least until I called my job recruiter and explained the situation to her. By the end of the evening, she had my new job ready to start the following Wednesday.

The hour drive was rough, and in the Mustang averaging a measly 22.5MPG, the 112 mile daily round trip consumed 1/3 of the 16 gallon gas tank. I needed a daily driver, and though I wanted to wait, I took yet another risk and bought one of the best cheap cars that I could think of:

A 2003 Toyota Corolla LE.

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As much as this car represents the antithesis of what I normally believe a car should be, I grew to love it instantly because of what it offers: the ability to simply hop into the car and drive peacefully to your destination. I’ll write more about it in a Driver Mod section later, but I’ll tell you that the gas mileage and operating costs are substantially lower on a daily commute.

Kudos to gas mileage—even though the Service Engine Soon light illuminated days after purchase for a stupid evap control fault and has been on ever since. It’s also a swell family road trip car. Oh, and it’s much easier to buy a daily driver when you finally earn a reasonable salary. Thanks, new job.

Ryan’s A Father! (8/29/16)

Though I’m sure Ryan will have much more detail to add, I will never forget being at work the morning he informed me that his wife had gone into labor. A few hours later, he sent me a photo of their little boy, Isaac. Everyone’s life had changed from that point, and all for the better.

 

I’m A Father! (8/31/16)

This was the greatest day of my life. We woke up early and drove to the hospital, knowing that Ashley would be induced within the next few hours. We thought it would be a quick ordeal, but it wasn’t. Nearly twelve hours later, our daughter, Lila Faith Williams, was born at 6:36PM. My vision was blurry for the first five minutes of her life because I was crying so hard. She was tiny, but strong, willful, direct, and exactly as I had imagined.

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The very first night in the hospital, she kept us awake until 4AM because she wouldn’t stop crying. Parenting 101 began on 8/31/16 at 6:36:01PM, the very first second that she was in our hands. I had never taken a class on fatherhood, and my exposure to babies up until that point had been extremely limited, but hell, we figured it out together.

My friend and fellow Machscriber, Ryan, has largely done the same with his wife and son.

 

The Adjustment Period (9/1/16 to Present)

 

I soon realized that it cost $2,200 to change jobs in the USA when you have a small family. That, ladies and gentlemen, was the cost of COBRA health coverage after I discovered that the HR department of my previous job tried to charge me twice for health insurance. Ashley developed a uterus infection just days after we took Lila home, which required an ambulance ride back to the hospital where she was admitted for another two days. She is clearly the strongest person that I have ever seen. It was rough, but we made it.

The new job has its pros and cons, but it’s a better place than the old one. My biggest concern is that the hours aren’t necessarily steady, and dealing with the constant frustration of bureaucracies has been a major stressor. It pays the bills, I suppose.

Oh, and I finally ran a 12-second quarter mile, all before teaming up with some fellow enthusiasts to install a slew of modifications to the Mustang the following week. Going to the track to see and feel the difference is what drives me to continue on with this.

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I see people everyday on YouTube, Facebook, and other media sources working towards and working in their lifelong dreams. Chris Harris, my hero, has the world’s greatest job. There is a dude in SoCal named Spencer that has literally achieved everything that I’ve ever wanted to do with automobiles. He makes a load of money marketing, selling, a photographing automobiles of exotic origin.

This is why Machscribe is here. I hastily put it together in 2014 because I dreamed of making a reality out of my passion with cars, gadgetry, fiction, and news. My friend, Ryan, has similar ambitions, but we’ve long ago realized that it’s much harder than it looks.

One day, we’ll have podcasts, we’ll have live coverage of automotive events, shows, and news. We’ll test new and old automobiles objectively and evaluate them to the best of our abilities, connect with our fans, viewers, and readers, listen and grow with the guidance of their feedback, and push forward from there.

Sorry that we can be a bit spastic at times, but hey, when life hits, you have to regroup and hit it back.

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–Bryan

Rigmarole Week 31: Infiniti Aloof?

Background:

 

The Japanese car giants’ expansion into the luxury market was an episodic tale.

As enthusiasts, we all know the basic strategy–the recognition of American desires for luxury marques (as most US buyers won’t pay premium prices without premium names) and the desire to fill that market’s demand. It was a hallmark moment for the auto industry as well as nearly being the final nail in the coffin for what was considered to be the OGs of the luxury marque game (Cadillac, Lincoln, Mercedes, BMW, etc.). In the 1980s, the American auto industry was in shambles after nearly two decades of producing bloated, underpowered, and poorly-designed cars. The days of the roaring 50s and 60s were replaced by the 70s and 80s, a time rightfully coined as the “Malaise Era” that I’ll just relegate to what I call the Dark Ages.

Wallowing in the comforts of complacency, the American Big Three practically handed the platter to their competitors, where Honda stepped into the arena with Acura, Toyota with Lexus, and Nissan with their Infiniti brand.

The Acura Legend won its share of awards and praise in the late 1980s, as did the Lexus LS400, but my personal favorite was the 1990 Infiniti Q45:

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(Courtesy of Motor Authority)

Unlike the rather mundanely-styled competition, the Infiniti stepped into the arena with a sense of unconventionality. Uniqueness, when used properly, is something that stands out to a critic like me. I liked the aerodynamic look and the weirdness of the grille-less front fascia, but perhaps the public didn’t. The lack of advertising and feature commonality with its luxury peers was cited by many to be the reasons for its paltry sales, but others (like myself) agree that this car was the start of a revolution.

It was a festoon of Nissan’s most advanced technology of the time: a DOHC 32V 4.5 liter V8, an electronically controlled 4-speed automatic, a VLSD (viscous limited slip differential), FAS (full active suspension), and a four wheel steering system called HICAS. The car’s performance was admirable, but the public has never been known to flock to the best.

Sadly, the legend of the Q45 and the Infiniti brand nearly ended here. It was sold alongside an admittedly terrible 2-door GT coupe called an M30, which did little to help matters of money making when combined with their parent company’s financial issues. Seeing the humiliating loss against both Acura and Lexus’ more traditional sedans, Infiniti watered down the awesomeness of Q45 and turned it into an unattractive Japanese Lincoln Town Car:

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(Courtesy of IIHS)

Awful. They even reduced the engine displacement to 4.1 liters (I mean, who the hell reduces performance in a successive model?!), and largely watered down the performance that made the 1st generation model so amazing.

Despite the introduction of other models like the G20 (sort of awesome), the J30 (not awesome), the QX4 (not awesome), and the I30 (not awesome), Infiniti was forced to learn the lesson of puddling lackluster automobiles to consumers.

Rise to Power:

Nissan introduced itself to Carlos Ghosn and hired him as the new CEO. Under the “Nissan Revival Plan,” the guy came sat at his desk and started cleaning house. He cut out the muda (unnecessary models in the lineup) and pushed forward by emphasizing the creation of standout, well-built, and high-performing vehicles. This, ladies and gentlemen, marked the beginning of the Nissan and Infiniti of legend.

A bold and wonderful all-new Infiniti Q45 bowed in 2002, once again threatening to upstage the luxury car order. On top of this, we witnessed the birth of the new G35 sedan and coupe, which provided our first glimpse at a legitimate competitor to the archetype BMW lineup of the day.

The G:

Infiniti G35 Sport Coupe 2004

(Courtesy of Infiniti)

Isn’t it beautiful?

The body lines are timeless, the 3.5 liter VQ35DE was endowed with 280hp (in 6MT form), the steering tuned to be stiff and filled to the brim with feedback, the VLSD primed for cornering exits, and the Brembo brakes bolted on to provide an aid to a machine clearly designed to drive. Whether equipped in the more luxuriously-tuned base models, or the desirable “S” configurations, this vehicle represented the birth of what made the Infiniti brand a true force in the American luxury car market.

Sales grew exponentially. More excellent and crowd-awing models joined the lineup as well.

The FX:

Excellent powertrains, promising dynamics, and polarizing styling. The car pictured below is nearly 12 years old, yet it looks as if it could be released as a 2017 model without ail.

Courtesy of RoadFly

(Courtesy of RoadFly)

The M:

(Courtesy of lookatthecar.com)

(Courtesy of lookatthecar.com)

I chose to skip the initial Nissan Cedric-based model for a good reason. It kind of sucked, but the successor didn’t. It capitalized on the award-winning G35’s traits.

The QX:

(Courtesy of wikipedia)

(Courtesy of wikipedia)

Okay, this was kind of a body-kitted Nissan Armada with better leather seats and woodgrain, but it was a solid land yacht.

Stagnation:

Unfortunately, the happy ending story ground to a halt. After admiring and idolizing its wonderful automobiles for the better part of a decade, I was forced to watch the plug be pulled and the lifeline of the entire division drained by the root of all evil: stagnation.

For some reason, the fire beneath the boiling pot of majestic wizardry fizzled out. We’ve all seen the signs, the lack of new models, the refusal to invest in market expansion, the loss of brand identity, and Mr. De Nysschen bringing in his bullshit naming strategy (destroying 2.5 decades of public model recognition) are a few key identifiers.

Yes, I know that their US sales have somehow increased to nearly 134,000 (near the peak of 136,401 during the legacy years in 2006) under the wing of the JX (oops, I meant QX60), the QX56 (oops, I meant QX80), the FX (dammit, that’s the QX70), and the Q50 (it used to be the G37), but lets ponder this.

Infiniti used to be the “Japanese BMW” of the marketplace. I owned a 2008 G35S and it was quite frankly one of the most well-rounded vehicles that I have ever owned. To hear that the company has lost its way (much like Nissan has) from what defined its position in the marketplace to begin with is terribly sad. These cars used to be among the cutting edge of the Japanese luxury makers, and perhaps my bias shows cleanly here, but I’m not sorry if I don’t think that some gimmicky and largely useless Direct Adaptive Steering system helps things. Clouding the M37 and 56 (oops, I meant Q70L, or whatever) full of electronic nannies and diluting the dynamic prowess and relative simplicity that made its immediate predecessor so great was a mistake.

The failure to make any legitimate ultimate performance division out of the failed IPL (Infiniti Performance League?), which dawned its first trial by bolting fart cannons and a body kit on an otherwise stock G37S didn’t help either.

The biggest question of the matter is simple:

What the hell are they thinking?

Furthering:

I know that I’m no automotive executive, but I don’t understand why things like this are allowed to happen. If I was running the show and I read the reviews of our automobiles, I’d be worried about the possibility of a sinking ship. I’d fear that losing the core of what made my company great would render us obsolete and forgotten. I would read the history books about the American Big Three and learn a little.

The new alliance with Mercedes-Benz is a weird, but interesting ploy with an unknown future. Though the new QX30 looks quite alluring as well as its interior, I’ll hold my breath to see how well the Mercedes-Benz hardware and Infiniti image truly interact. I understand that using a proven chassis (the one that underpins the CLA and GLA) was a relatively cheap and effective way to burst into a rapidly budding marketplace, but couldn’t they have done this with Nissan’s own engines? I mean, come on, the stuff that Nissan produced in the 1980s and 90s were absolutely amazing testaments to their engineering prowess. Admitting that they can’t jazz up a nice version of the D-platform (Altima, Maxima, Murano) and enlarge a more refined version of the MRxxDDT turbo four cylinder is rather shocking. Oh, and call up Aisin and ditch the damn Xtronic CVT from the Infiniti lineup. It belongs in Nissan Muranos and Mallfinders (oops, I mean Pathfinders), not luxury performance vehicles. I’d imagine that a version of this hypothetical QX30 could be fitted with a badass HICAS system and some fancy ATTESA-ETS all-wheel-drive, but what do I know?

I don’t know the full extent of the Infiniti pocketbook.

I don’t know why they have left the FX, or QX70 to ride in the same configuration since 2009.

I don’t know why the M, or Q70L, has largely faced the same fate as the QX70.

What about the EX, oops, QX50, or whatever the hell they’re calling it now? Same story. Stagnation.

They are all beautiful, and I hope that seeing the new reveal of the Q60 coupe and its Q50 brother with one of the first seriously badass mainstream Nissan engines in years (the VR30DDTT) shows signs of hope that my beloved Infiniti will soon return. I won’t even get into the annoying fact that the Q50 3.0T Red Sport 400 no longer has an optional limited slip differential despite having 400hp.

I just want one. For the first time since 2009, I finally feel like there might be some of the legendary Infiniti life left somewhere in there.

(Courtesy of CNET)

(Courtesy of CNET)

See that? It says “V6 TWIN TURBO” on the damn cover.

(Courtesy of Autoguide)

(Courtesy of Autoguide)

The same thing it said on the engine placards of legends.

(Courtesy of ZCarBlog)

(Courtesy of ZCarBlog)

 

 

Don’t give, up Infinti.

Don’t let the legend die.

 

–Bryan

Listen Up: Festival Music Mix 2016

This is pretty simple, as I’ve always been an enormous fan of good EDM music.

Do yourself a favor and listen to this mix. If it doesn’t put you in a good mood, you might be a zombie.

Pure excellence brought to you by Asa & Tong Apollo.

 

The Rigmarole Week 29: Dodge Viper

Unfortunately, for every automotive enthusiast, there comes a point where we must dedicate a moment of silence to a fallen icon.

Observe the beauty:

1989 Dodge Viper RT/10 Concept

1989 Dodge Viper RT/10 Concept

Nearing the middle of the Automotive Golden Era, ladies and gentlemen, we have to sadly say goodbye to our beloved Dodge (or SRT, or whatever) Viper. Most industry sources say that the current model can’t be modified to incorporate the SRS side curtain airbags that will soon be mandatory, though I have other ideas as to why the project wasn’t financially feasible for the troubled FCA.

Copyright FCA.

Copyright FCA.

To most, it was the poster car of their childhood. I personally had a large poster of the original RT/10 hanging on my wall from the age of six, mostly, because it was the embodiment of every child’s dream car. It was endowed with a monstrous V-10, far larger than any other engine of its time at 8.0 liters of displacement, plus, it looked like something Batman would drive if ordered in jet black. Frequently, I found myself daydreaming about piloting one of them as if I knew the first thing about what was required to drive a car–let alone this car.

dodgevipergts-l-e1d6b79e3a5ea220

Little did I know how much of a ravaging beast it was. Refinement was something entirely alien to this car, but it had never claimed to be any type of softie. It ignored safety, and dawned no airbags. Its frame was mostly tubular (no crumple zones), the engine weighed over 700 pounds, and there was no such thing as ABS. Honestly, the only reason that it had seat belts was due to a federal mandate. Everything else was scrapped.

Bob Lutz definitely had a founding hand in this legendary project.

C’mon, it was so guttural that the first “mass produced” version didn’t have windows. This, my friends, is what we refer to as the best of kind of car, the purist’s car. Its the car that is figuratively nothing more than a steering wheel, four tires, and (in this case) the biggest engine that fits. It is the kind that communicates every vibration, ripple, and road imperfection to your entire body. The thickly bolstered, but thinly padded seats are the kind that make the slipped disks in your back swell and food in your stomach grow bubbly. These are the cars we hang on the wall as children. They’re our saviors, our heroes, the automobiles that are here to stand against society’s crusade for blandness.

Think Lotus Elise.

Think Opel Speedster.

Think Alfa Romeo 4C (one of the greatest cars extant).

Think Ferrari F40 (the greatest car ever made).

Think Dodge Viper.

But, if anything, what these cars share in symbolic dissidence, they also share with growing troubles. Their time in the marketplace is often short and wrought with troublesome sales. Though they may touch our souls and our bridled interests, they suffer from their most prominent achilles heels:

[1] Low production volume.

[2] Low profitability due to low production volume.

[3] High cost due to low profitability and low production volume.

[4] Low practicality due to vehicle design, resulting in niche market viability only, which is both a good and bad thing simultaneously.

Here, we are left with some of the ways that our soon departed Dodge Viper could’ve been saved from oblivion early on. I’m aware that many of you won’t agree with some of these strategies, but that is why you are free to comment and debate. These are short and sweet, so let’s hit the main points.

How the hell could our lord, the Dodge Viper, have been saved?

[1 & 4] Fixing the low production volume and solving the niche market conundrum.

This was undoubtedly the Viper’s most compelling problem.

According to sources at theviperstore.com, there was a total of roughly 31,850 Vipers made since the initial 1992 model. That first model, mind you, consisted of a production run totaling less than 300 cars. The only model year in the first generation that exceeded the 3,000 mark was 1994. The second generation never saw a yearly total over 2,000, where its final tally of 10,422 cars seemed woeful in comparison to its rivals. The third and fourth generations fared even worse (8,190 and 2,427 respectively).

Though many of you would argue that the low production volume was one of the many things that made the Viper special (I can’t refute that), anyone with a business-oriented mindset could also argue that this was the nail in the coffin. Automobiles consume large swaths of money and manpower to develop as well to produce, and if a vehicle isn’t sold in large enough numbers, the bottom line (profit) largely suffers.

The purists will cringe at this, but maybe a better business model could’ve helped?

Imagine, if you will, a Dodge viper that shed its V10 and instead cruised up the road with a modified Magnum V-8 instead. Imagine a Viper with an automatic transmission, ABS, some sound deadening material, and traditional-exit exhaust. Yes, the fanboys would cry at the lost of their supercar-slaying demigod, but could Dodge have sold more this way?

Hypothetical Trims (relative price quotient):

Base ($$) = V8 powered, optional automatic.

  • Generations 1 & 1.5 (1992-2002) could’ve used a modified 5.9 Magnum with perhaps a Corvette-equaling 330-345hp (if that was even possible) and the junk 4-speed auto of the time as an option. At some point, they could’ve used their connections with Diamler to perhaps upgrade that junk transmission to one of the 5G-TRONIC units from the early AMGs.
  • Generation 2 & 2.5 (2003-2010) could’ve used the venerable 5.7 Hemi V8 and the same 5G-TRONIC. Throwing in the 6.1 Hemi for the 2.5 update seems plausible too.

Premium ($$ to $$$) = V8 power, optional automatic with more comfort features.

  • [[Here’s where the purists will definitely scream blasphemy!]]
  • Adding comfort features to the raging beast like, well, sound deadening, softer dampers and springs, along with power windows and locks would’ve been awesome. Later generations could’ve used nifty things like fancier sound systems, upgraded leather trim, etc.

RT-10 ($$$ to $$$$)= V10 power, perhaps no optional automatic, but the comfort features of the V8 Premium stick along.

  • The description is self explanatory. Here is where we start pleasing the purists again!

SRT-10 ($$$$) = V10 power, and all of the crude stuff that made the purist Viper legendary.

ACR ($$$$) = V10 power, basically the big kahuna it is in real life. Let this car and its SRT-10 lesser brother kick the asses of everyone and everything in their paths.

[2 & 3] Fixing the profitability issues.

Sure, the latter generations of the car improved heavily on the spartan first-generation model, but there was still a lot left on the table. Most of the routine safety features found in other automobiles were only added to the Viper by force through federal mandates. Airbags were eventually added in along the way, but standard ABS was absent until 2001. This addition, however, wasn’t due to a federal mandate, but likely in response to a slew of sports car comparison tests lost on account of its relatively punitive braking capabilities. Stability control nannies weren’t put into place until the last generation, where the inclusion of Electronic Stability Control (which relies on a native ABS system) was mandatory after September 1, 2011.

Until 2008, the car largely spent its life getting its ass kicked by the Corvette, which in most upper level trims could deliver 85-90% of the Viper’s performance while retaining its legendary everyday usability. This, in my opinion, is the only way that the Corvette has survived and will continue to survive. General Motors was smart in this regard, letting the lower models pay the bills due to their larger market potential, and then saving the dough for the GS, Z06, and ZR1 halo models. Unfortunately, it would require possibly millions of dollars to retool the factory for the higher production demand, but the ROI on something like that could pay off if the sales numbers increased. Hitting a total production target somewhere near that of the Corvette would be the goal.

While this would obviously have negative effects on the exclusivity of the Dodge Viper, placing a clear emphasis on differentiating trim levels could help to partially alleviate this. After all, isn’t a partially diluted Viper better than no Viper at all?

Conclusion.

Of course, I’m just a normal guy like you, doing his best to rationalize or accept the inevitable. Though I’m merely keyboard-yapping my way through a somewhat preposterous idea, I can’t help but to think that some kind of production and design strategy similar to what I’ve discussed would’ve helped the legend stay with us.

In the automotive world, there are always rumors about hypothetical continuations, resurrections, and unveilings of legendary automobiles. Though I’ve seen a few articles here and there that discuss the potential of a 4th generation Viper sometime in the future, seeing the current state of FCA’s business (hello, SEC investigation) and Sergio’s outright idiotic ramblings and decisions (how does this guy still have a job), the pessimist inside my head won’t count on it. If it did come back, seeing the steepening fines and regulations for CAFE might regulate a new Viper into having some kind of weird turbo four-cylinder hybrid system or something worse.

Until then, we’ll cherish the memories of trying to maintain control of these cars on a digital racetrack in Gran Turismo, reading about them in Motor Trend and Car & Driver, watching videos of heinously fast twin-turbocharged renditions on YouTube, all the while wishing so deeply in our souls that we could actually afford to own one.

If you’re one of the lucky few that can, please do us all a favor, go scoop one of these beasts up before they’re gone.

Rest in peace, our beloved Dodge Viper. Even though we will miss you, you will never be forgotten.

–Bryan

 

 

 

 

New Column: The Rigmarole

We’re all industry aficionados.

We all pay attention to what is happening in our cockamamie world bustling with technology and innovation, where these grand machines and devices that the majority of the population see as mere appliances somehow mean the world to us. They alone are the products of thousands of brilliant minds, engineers, artists, accountants, and executives.

It takes years to design and build a product from scratch.  Sometimes it requires budgets in the billions (or trillions) of dollars, and thousands of man hours–yet somehow, we still encounter countless stories of  companies run astray and ideas that are run into oblivion.

There is nothing worse than greatness gone wasted, where the talents of thoughtful souls find themselves run amok. Surely, anyone can criticize and down talk the work of another person, but can we provide reasonable and viable feedback to better the given situation? Can we be the outside voices here to help our industries and innovative cultures find their way once again?

That is the goal of this new Machscribe column.

Here, in the Rigmarole, we will open up a canvas of discussion where all of our readers can research with us, analyze with us, yearn with us, and together vent our frustrations. We may be mere plebeians, but after all, aren’t we the ones with the buying power?

We the people, let’s set them straight!

–devteam

Project Ruby: Update 1

imagejpe1

(Image courtesy of Razete Photography)

 

Abstract:

February 3rd, 2016 was a bad day.

Sadly, the love affair between Ruby and I was extremely short lived.

Nine days elapsed from the time of purchase to the time that I found myself stranded on the side of a public highway, tears in my eyes and regret bubbling within my bowels.

Why the hell did I buy this stupid thing when I already had what was arguably the perfect car? In all of the time that I had spent nearly perfecting a system of yearly tradeoffs, I had defied a plan that I had stuck with for years when I sold my GTO. Oh, no, my lord, what have I done? How did I give up a nearly paid off and wonderful V8 grand touring car as well as a relatively inexpensive daily driver, all for the promise of having something new?

The downward spiral of my car fetish began on January 24, 2015.

I picked up a Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-spec, and began to want more. When it got hit on Interstate 75, the panic ensued. The years of carrying thousands of dollars of positive equity in my automobiles was destroyed, all because I let my emotions control my automobile purchasing decisions. The accident wiped out nearly six grand worth of equity, proving to make selling what was already a niche-market car even more difficult just to break even. In a rush to purchase its follow-up vehicle, I sold the car under a clause of -$400.

Yes, I paid $400 to sell my damn Hyundai Genesis.

Then, I picked up a 2008 Infiniti G35S. It was literally the perfect car: a wonderful blend of luxury, admirable poise and balance, dashing looks, and surprising speed. Plus, the damn thing only cost $16,000 coupled with the fact that it had a mere 55,000 original miles. Yeah, it was heavenly, but this one day, I got the idea in my head that I needed another race car.

Ruby, my 2013 Ford Mustang GT 5.0, will forever be the best car that I never should’ve bought.

Those were the thoughts that tumbled through my head as I limped the car to my apartment and immediately phoned my boss—who was the only person available to give me a ride back to work. Somehow, during my hooliganism that included a joyful 75% throttle run up Bypass 4, I pushed the clutch pedal, and shifted into 3rd gear, or so I thought. When I released the clutch pedal, the car bucked violently and revved back to 6,000rpm. I freaked, pushed the clutch pedal to the floor, and attempted to abort the run by putting the shifter in neutral gate to regain my composure—only the shifter seemed jammed.

Weird.

I pulled over into the emergency lane. Nothing I tried was able to free the shifter, necessitating a slow drive home in second gear. To my chagrin, I was now faced with a car that had a broken transmission and a questionable warranty. Awesome.

 

20160203_143754

 

I’ll save my dealings with the dealership that I purchased the car from, the International Auto Outlet, for a later post. For now, I’ll just summarize by noting that my very expensive, low mileage, bright red 2013 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 was gone for two months. . .

Had it not been for my repeated intervention, it would likely still be sitting in a garage with the transmission still in pieces.

20160219_190220

 

Design:

It’s such a good-looking car. I mean, c’mon, you can’t deny it.

imagejpe_0

(Image courtesy of Razete Photography)

They say that a truly good car is one that you can’t walk from without looking back, and this (like most of my other cars) hits the spot dead center. Versus the archrival Camaro, I have always claimed that this generation Mustang is victorious in the execution of every stylistic detail abound on its body. Regarding the 2013 refresh, I’ll have to say that the taillights are my favorite part.

imagejpe_2

(Courtesy of Razete Photography)

imagejpeg

(Courtesy of Razete Photography)

My only wish it that I had the GT Premium, if only because the package comes with the better looking 19 inch wheels that fill the wheel wells more aggressively than the base 18s. Oh, and please don’t mind my shoddy plastidip job. I plan on correcting it as soon as possible.

Shortly after I got Ruby back from its long stay at the clusterf*ck of dealership doom, someone parked next to me at work wasn’t paying attention and swung their front bumper across mine. I wasn’t there to catch the act in progress, and the security cameras were too grainy to pinpoint key details about the culprit like license plate numbers.

All I know is that the car was some heap of shit Dodge Stratus Coupe that was driven by someone that is no longer employed at my facility. Bummer, but at least it didn’t actually damage the fender. Luckily, the majority of the scuffs came out with some Meguiar’s rubbing compound.

20160422_155725-1

 

Driving Notes:

Enough with my sob story of automotive anguish.

You want to hear about the elephant in the room, well, the bright red blocky looking elephant.

In short, it’s been a trying experience, but again, what good is a racecar if it doesn’t test your patience and your boundaries? Didn’t I want a car with more emotion and “soul” versus the largely soulless Hyundai Genesis? I sometimes complain about how it is essentially a base model with zero sound deadening, a cheaply strewn dashboard, and hard plastics galore but—its still a glorious automobile.

So, perhaps I’ve finally found my match made in heaven.

I get in by swinging open a door that weighs every bit of 300 pounds. Parking on a hill worries me because I fear that the hinges might snap at any moment, but closer inspection proves that the steel gage is nearly six to seven millimeters thick, even on the folds. These hinges are truly mighty, but once you realize that shutting the door is equivalent to 10 reps on an exercise machine, it becomes imperative to make sure that all extremities are inside. Yes, I shut the door on my leg once. Yes, I cried.

Then, I fire up the engine. There are no fancy buttons, key fobs, or retina scans here. Ruby, by the blessings of the automotive gods, is endowed with what we old-timers call a key.

Oh, and mine is kind of broken (the lock button doesn’t work, and the unlock counterpart barely works).

Insert the key and crank it. The Coyote V8 is eagerly spun to life with a starter that apparently has the enthusiasm to turn over an aircraft carrier’s steam turbine. Every time it engages, I smile, knowing that there is just something different about this machine. The V8 gurgles and churns more so than my old LS1. The pulses of its firing order shower the thinly insulated cabin with vibrations that make me cringe as it settles down from the cold idle. I watch the tachometer sift below 2500rpm as the dashboard and the entire center console come alive with resonance.

For a moment, I wonder if the car will explode, but alas, it doesn’t.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is how a car is supposed to start.

It isn’t one of those cars that you turn on and forget that you’ve left the engine running. It’ll never try to coddle you and hide its purpose. Plainly put, this is a muscle car, and there is never a waking moment where you catch it lying. The car for the most part is juvenile and rough, and despite a major rebuild, the transmission still sounds as if it’s filled with gravel if lugged at low RPM. The stock shifter is, well, awful, but I was warned. Some genius in Ford’s engineering management was given the task of reducing driveline NVH, so he endowed a poor sap with the task of designing a remote mount shifter, likely with a budget of $75. The result is what is connected to the MT-82—itself known to be troublesome—resembling what is best described as a gear selection rod attached to piano cables. When it is moved, I only feel a vague resemblance of mechanical feedback, and that sensation only grows worse the more aggressively I drive the car.

The problem could be fixed with a $475 MGW shifter, but that leads to another issue.

Well, I tend to find myself entirely unable to drive a car for any period of time without messing with it. No matter what it is, or who makes it, each automobile has its own quirks and weaknesses. As a self-declared enthusiast, my predilection to modify whatever I’m driving eats away at my soul little by little until it caves. I have a lot on my plate right now, so I’m inclined to say no to modifications due to their obvious monetary burden, but I’m sure I’ll find a way to work something in the plans.

Add it to my wishlist:

MGW pic

 

Performance Numbers:

20160603_181723

So, I’ll start this by admitting my partial defeat. See, Mustangs are usually very happy being piloted in straight lines and Ruby is no different. Unfortunately for both of us, the clutch hydraulic system seemed to disagree.

Since my last semester of college chewed up every chilly Friday night of this year’s racing season, I was finally able to worm my way to the drag strip on June 3rd, where I was pleasantly greeted with balmy humidity and 94 degree track temperatures. Noting that I had been having issues with the Mustang’s clutch at high rpm, I had made a few notes on how to contend with these issues while still managing to achieve my goal of a high 12-second 1/4 mile time. According to many sources, this should’ve been perfectly doable with the mostly stock setup.

Oh yeah, getting the transmission repaired under warranty required hard negotiations with International Auto Outlet to remove the majority of performance-enhancing parts like the BBK long tube headers, BBK catless x-pipe, tune, etc. The car is now considerably slower than it was when I bought it, but this is all speaking in relative terms. In short, the engine is still an absolute charm.

However, it enjoys to rev, and because of its relatively low displacement, it needs to rev in order to make its power. With the redline set firmly at 7,000rpm, it is notable of this engine to produce the bulk of its peak power figures in the upper reaches of the rev band. It sounds absolutely glorious up this high, but there’s this one nagging problem where the clutch pedal decides to go on strike, thus setting me up for a chapter of public Mustang embarrassment.

No, I didn’t swerve violently and wreck into a crowd or another automobile, but I did in fact manage to miss shifts in 3 out of the 5 runs that I performed that night. To make matters worse, it seemed at is if every joule of heat that the pressure plate absorbed worsened its ability to even function in a basic sense. I quickly learned that launch rpm was limited to 1,500, or basically what you use for a typical stop light cruise. After bogging the engine, I was forced to wait for it to rev to 6,200rpm (800 short of the redline) before slowly and very carefully selecting the next gear. Considering that the Coyote doesn’t make peak power until 6,500rpm, quite a bit of power was left on the table through each consecutive shift.

20160603_184535

In short, the best run was a 13.215@110.9mph.

For comparison sake, Machscribe, like most other automotive journalists, uses Density Altitude correction as a factor for acceleration times. Considering that every car cannot be tested in the same environment, this calculation is important for determining a baseline.

 

DA corrected 2

This leaves us with a relatively comfortable DA corrected time of:

12.855@113.428mph.

I can live with that, and I’m especially impressed considering the shifting handicap. Now, I have started my research into my line of modifications designed to solve the problem. I started with an American Muscle braided stainless steel clutch hydraulic line, and I will install it next weekend (hopefully) to see if it clears up some of the slop. Also, per the recommendation of my fellow enthusiasts, I will also drop some legitimate DOT4 fluid into the reservoir.

Efficiency:

20160425_155701

It seems like this warning light illuminates every three days.

Right now, I’m getting a consistent average of:

18.44 mpg

Like I said in the initial review, it isn’t a Prius, though my stance on the 16 gallon gas tank being too damn small still holds firmly.

 

Conclusion:

At times, I’m torn on what to think about this thing. I notice how impractical, loud, and raucous it is and I pause to reflect on its purpose. Honestly, this is the only way to rationalize what is widely known to be an irrational car.

A Ford Mustang GT 5.0 isn’t the car that makes sense to buy. As originally penned from A Faster Horse, I will definitely agree with the following statement:

You don’t make a rational decision to buy a Mustang, because it is not a rational car. It is, however, a car designed to pry at the heart, thus making the purchase of one based purely on human emotion.

 

I love it. Through its quirks, and its crudeness, beneath the bodacious curves lies a car that has a soul begging to be driven. I feel as if the car wants me to explore it, to heal it, and to enhance it. Considering that this is just the dawn of a burgeoning long term relationship, I think Ruby and I will have plenty of time to become more acquainted.

Until next time, she’ll sit quietly and soundly in her garage.

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–Bryan

The Eve of Completion

I know, I haven’t posted anything in months.

Yes, I’m still here.

Please, let me explain a little:

 

IMG 5

At the conclusion of this year’s first semester, I began by noting that “personal reflection, at the core, is one of the most important mental tools for professionals in any industry. It allows us to take a step back and observe our actions, our successes, and our failures—all in the grand effort for self-improvement.” Though this may seem rather cliché and perhaps rudimentary, completing our Miami University Senior Design project has reaffirmed that the basis of this statement holds true to the core.

IMG 4

Group work can be incredibly difficult at times, but its effectiveness can be tailored with proper scheduling and tasking. To me, this was one of the difficult aspects of the project, as we had juggle through our busy schedules (two of the group members work full-time, while we all attend school full-time) as well as find time to utilize the laboratories at Bilstein in order to design and manufacture our prototypes. Admittedly, this project would’ve worked much better if we didn’t have jobs outside of school, but I believe that this aspect of our group dynamic allowed us to walk away from the completed goal as stronger individuals and teammates.

IMG1

Educationally, as I covered in the first essay, I believe that the majority of our understanding of general engineering concepts has arisen directly from our studies. Though we all share similar stories of how we felt “drawn” to engineering as children, it is very obvious that none of this passion can be effectively used without the proper training and knowledge. This is where the engineering curriculum sheds its light on both our project, and our futures as engineers.

IMG2 R

Being able to work beside my teammates Roger Mills and Andrew Hackney, as well as the extremely helpful Bilstein engineers (Nick Holt, specifically) is what carried me through. Eventually, we all used our individual strengths to allow our talents to collectively conquer the goals, though the pains of procrastination and underestimation haunted us along the way. As discussed in the previously, the bulk of the project fell into five major zones of progress: Planning, Mapping, Constructing, Testing, Refining. Considering that each zone played a pivotal piece in the project’s transition into the next, I found it quite predictable that we would find ourselves stuck within the Constructing Zone longer than we thought.

IMG3

This is where a few of my own personal demons arose, where procrastination and simply underestimating the work required came into play. Though this affected all of us to an extent, I found myself rather relaxed coming out of Winter Break, only to find the stress piling on once we discovered that making these dampers and getting them to fit would be far more difficult than we originally forecast. The last four to five weeks of the project is when everything truly came together, where our already limited free time was used more productively and we entered each team meeting with clear goals and plans to reach them. Seeing my friend Andrew Hackney develop his own ride data testing device was quite amazing (instead of us paying $20,000 to get a Racelogic Vbox), as well as Roger’s management skills and overall knowledge of the processes required to get our dampers into reality.

IMG3 R

Without the help of these two, I believe that there is little chance that I could have successfully completed this project alone. My specialties in design and CAD also proved to be highly valuable, as the CAD and FEA models helped us design parts that we realized were critical in a short amount of time with low overhead. Having learned these programs throughout my career in both the job arena and academia, this project—and the haste it required—once again proved that these tools are more than relevant in the real world, especially when time is critical. The other personal faults that I have recognized myself (such as crumbling under stress, procrastination, etc.) owe their deeds to the core of what it is to be human.

More importantly, I find that accepting this aspect of humanness is what enables us to learn, grow, and push forward with our goals. With this said, I would once again like to shower my teammates with every accolade I can offer as well as an insurmountable token of respect. I know, without a doubt, that if I had to do this all over again, there are no two people that I would rather choose as partners.

In my first essay, I closed with the following statement:

“In all, I think we’ve come a long way since the very beginning of our journey in the Mechanical Engineering Technology program at Miami University. With the goals that we’ve set, and the performance that we have displayed thus far, I am very confident that we will be able to achieve our final goal in May.”

Now, standing here ready to complete my collegiate journey and begin a new phase of my life, I’m am nearly without words to explain how proud I am of myself, and everyone taking part in what used to seem like a never-ending struggle to reach the end of the tunnel.

After all that I’ve endured, I realize that I’ve grown so much.

Seeing my colleagues standing beside me with an identical realization suddenly makes the past six years of my life far more worth the scars.

I have but two more weeks to struggle through, and I promise that I’ll make it, but after that. I’m done.

May 14, 2016. 1:30PM.

 

–Bryan

The Driver Mod Review: 2013 Ford Mustang GT

Abstract:

Okay, I’ll admit it: I go through too many cars.

Though I’ll have to say that my infatuation with the automobile is long-lived and a permanent part of my psyche, I’d have to say that this recent purchase was a little impulsive. I have always had a “thing” for V8 muscle cars, likely due to their obvious endowments of power and glorious rumbling noises, but since the departure with my beloved GTO, my soul has longed for another.

The Genesis, despite its other niceties, simply didn’t measure up. Aside from its expensive looks, feel, and posture, it never stung will with my soul. Obviously, my best bet would’ve been keeping the GTO (which was nearly paid off by then) and driving my old Mazda on a daily basis. Instead, I wanted something new. I wanted something that I wouldn’t spend my money on. I tried to kick the habit, my habit of consistently wanting more from my automobiles than what they are capable of as factory vehicles.

Overview:

It didn’t last. Though the Genesis went through its trials and tribulations at the hands of an incompetent driver that rear ended it and another car, it served well enough. It was my “top of the world” car. The one that made me feel rich and successful, but then I determined that excess wasn’t needed for this. Touching base with my family and my life, I knew that appearances only went so far. I sold the car and picked up the Infiniti, and though this otherwise excellent automobile served extremely well during its brief stay, I once again dumped it for another affair.

This one, and we’ll call her “Ruby” for the sake of reference, is here to stay for a while. I have run out of “free passes” of equity and I wanted another race car so bad, that I saw one and bought it. This car represents the involuntary end of the struggle. Unless I want to make a bad financial decision, this car is it.

I mean, hot damn, I’ve always been a fan of these things. Back in 2013, I posted this on Facebook:

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No, I wasn’t lying. I have always loved these cars. Though I drool and fawn over high-priced exotics like any other schoolboy, the adult version of me has always sought out more attainable rides. Considering that we’re living in the golden age of the automobile, I figured the high-powered muscle cars of the early 2010s were a good choice once their prices dropped from the 30k range. They took everything my GTO represented and simply expanded upon it. So, for a while, my dream car was a 2013 Mustang GT 5.0 with the track pack.

In fact, I actually drove to Dayton with my wife to look at one exactly like the one pictured above, but the dealership was filled with assholes. I have great credit, and my income is definitely sufficient, but that appears to not be enough to deter nonsense. Doing the stealership double-talk isn’t productive, so I drove back to Cincinnati and bought a red one.

I stumbled upon this 2013 example via the internet. I talked to the dealership and negotiated a deal by the following afternoon. Yes, I traded in a car. Yes, I know that is frowned upon. Yes, it is the last time that I ever do that. I drove home in a red Mustang GT 5.0.

Well, a very red one.

Design:

But, oh my, isn’t she pretty?

 

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The haunches are pulled tightly into molded creases that exude power. Though the belt line is high, visibility doesn’t suffer nearly as much as its Camaro and Challenger rivals. Luckily, the gigantic A-pillar mirrors include Ford’s nifty blind spot mini-mirrors. If all else fails and the area ahead is clear, just drop to fourth gear and hammer the gas pedal. Within moments, the Mustang is front of anything that was beside it. The base wheels are a bit tiny, and these plastidipped examples will definitely receive a legitimate powdercoat of paint.

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To me, I prefer the exterior updates of the 2013 versus the prior version. Mostly, the front a rear views come to mind with the refresh, where standard HID headlamps were applied as well as LED running lamps. The taillights look amazing, and the 1-2-3 sequential turn signal thing is pretty cool, too.

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The interior belies nothing at all to write home about. My particular car is a base GT, with little more than basic equipment like cruise control, power windows and locks, as well as the Gen1 Ford SYNC system. The seats are cloth, but they are surprisingly comfortable. I wish I had taken more photos of it for the sake of this post, but I was too enraptured with the exterior.

Who cares about the interior, anyways? This is a racecar.

Dynamics:

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Yeah, the engine. That’s the primary focus in this section. Everything else kind of wraps around it.

Overall refinement is lacking.

The first thing that hit was me was how crude this car felt versus my previous two.

I hear all kinds of whines, bumps, shivers, and gears. It sounds like a proper basic trim racecar. The engine, a lusty and extremely powerful 5.0 liter 32 valve V8, seems to run with extremely deliberate cylinder pulses at idle and at low load. I mean, seriously, it seems like you can hear and feel the individual cylinders firing in their concert. The Getrag MT-82 is, well, more fitting for a delivery truck than it is in this car. I had gotten a few recommendations for the automatic version, but my compulsive car buying itch wouldn’t allow for any type of patience required to find one. The transmission is clunky and loud, but the gears seem well-matched to the engine’s powerband. Still, I wonder why Ford didn’t use the tried and true Tremec T56 or TR6060.

I’ll swap one in in the near future.

Anyway, this car, with a reasonable 41,000 miles on the odometer, runs like a rocket ship. Paying mind that the tires are the Pirelli PZero Nero A/S that originally came with the car 2 years ago when it was manufactured, I must say that it is extremely difficult to find sufficient traction on the cold and salted pavement. First and second gears are unusable above 50% throttle. Third spins for a few moments until the poor old tires finally get a bite. The clutch provides a leg workout each time it is disengaged, oh, and the pedal sticks to the floor at high RPM.

Dammit.

Still, aside from the traction issues, this car is clearly the fastest car that I’ve ever owned. Unlike my old LS1, the Coyote doesn’t necessarily overwhelm me with low end power due to the obvious displacement difference, but it more than makes up for this with the prominence of its top end. Though I had sworn to the LS series of GM single-cam small blocks, this Ford Coyote engine has made me as giddy as a joyful child with one kick of the tail end and one hearty shove in the back. Oh, and I’m aware that nearly every automotive journalist talks about how a car pulls, but any doubters should be signed up to witness this thing.

I knew the motors were strong, but not this strong. Also, with the plethora of aftermarket modifications, I know that the fun has only begun. Point blank, in terms of straight line performance, I’m sure that this car is more than capable of a quarter mile in the 12 second range. We’ll see when the track opens.

Curvy road evaluation suffered from the same issues that the Genesis did last year. The salted roads and cold pavement play hell on worn out tires, though I can say the body roll is kept surprisingly in check for such a crude brute of a car. The steering (at least after we fixed it at the Ford dealership) is also surprisingly and excellently weighted and communicative. I knew this was when Ford began expressing its ability to make its vehicles handle with poise, but experiencing such an adept control of body motion in a base trim GT was satisfying. Keep in mind that this was purely 6 to 7/10ths driving, mostly because Ruby grew frightening when I pushed her to 8/10ths. Suddenly, the car devolved into terminal and alarmingly severe understeer.

Once I had crossed the double yellow line, AdvanceTrac engaged and attempted to save the day. Honestly, I believe it was more of my driving skill that righted the vehicle course more than the computer, and speaking of the nanny, it’s largely absent. I know that the car encourages the art of hooliganism, but this stability control system is scarily lenient. The driver can practically spin the car 90 degrees before any intervention occurs, and because of this, I have refrained from being an idiot. Fortunately, this allows for rather aggressive driving with the system still on. Usually, I complain about the over-intrusiveness of such systems (like in the Genesis), but this time I’ll verge on saying the opposite.

Suspension wise, it rides like a truck, probably because the rear axle is very similar to one from a truck. Before you dismiss this as a ridiculous complaint, I’ll go ahead and say it:

This ain’t no damn Lexus.

Brake pedal feel and performance is quite well despite the absence of the Brembo package. Though I would’ve gladly taken one with the upgraded wheels and brakes, I’m definitely sure that this car will more than suffice.

Efficiency:

Yeah, it’s not a Prius either. Over the week that I’ve owned the car, I’ve driven it at least 1,100 miles while managing to average roughly 18.0 mpg. This isn’t anything spectacular, but hell, it’s a damn V8 muscle car. Considering the fact that I usually baby it and meander through the streets, I won’t complain too much.

If anything, I just hate that the damn gas tank is so small. 16 gallons is far short of what is needed for a decent cruising range. I filled the car up twice in 48 hours. Oh, and by Sunday night, I used another 1/4 tank.

Conclusion:

So far, this car is a hoot. I enjoy the attention it receives (well, not from the police), and the way that it makes me giggle with joy in second gear when it kicks sideways. I never thought of myself as a Mustang owner, but this generation was the one that finally did me in. Considering that this car will sticking around for a while, you’ll read more and more updates regarding my travels and events as time progresses.

All hail the racecar.

–Bryan

 

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Vehicle Details:

Categorization
Vehicle Class: Automobile
Style: 2-door coupe, grand touring
Manufacturer: Ford Motor Company
Designation: Mustang
Sub-designation: GT 5.0 Base
Specifications
Length: 188.5in
Width: 73.9in
Height: 55.8in
Wheelbase: 107.1in
Curb Weight: ~3,580lbs
Engine
Type: Continuously Reciprocating Internal Combustion
Layout: V8
Valvetrain: DOHC, Dual & Continuous Cam Phasing (TiVCT)
Displacement: (bore x stroke): 4,951 cc (302 cu in) (92.202 mm × 92.71 mm (3.63 in × 3.65 in))
Compression Ratio: 11.0:1
Fuel Delivery: Electronic Gasoline Port Injection
Horsepower: 420** hp @ 6,500rpm (313 kW)   **in stock trim
Torque: 390 ft·lbf @ 4,250rpm (528 N·m)    **in stock trim
Transmission
Type: Constant mesh, single-clutch
Control: Manual, human Control
Input: Single plate dry clutch
Gears: 6 forward, 1 reverse
Driven Wheels: Rear
Differential Type: Helical Limited Slip
Gear Ratio(s):
First Gear (:1) : 3.66
Second Gear (:1) : 2.43
Third Gear (:1) : 1.69
Fourth Gear (:1) : 1.32
Fifth Gear (:1) : 1.00
Sixth Gear (:1) : 0.65

Final Drive Axle (:1) : 3.31

Measured Performance:

Top Speed
145mph (speed governor)
Acceleration

Undetermined due to road conditions.