Why Now? An Introduction

The Beginnings

Kids obsess over things. My obsession was my small die-cast cars. Matchbox, Hot Wheels, and Majorette littered every available floor surface of my parent’s home growing up. I would spend hours creating parking lots where hundreds of cars would drive into their parking spot between the couch and the wall unit.

As I got older, my interests transformed into driving go-karts, watching motorsports on TV, and playing the latest racing video games (cue a plug for that section on this site). Demolition derbies, weekend getaways to Mosport and long road trips were the highlights of my year.

The Fateful Moment It All Changed

But it was the grade 11 Introduction to Consumer Studies business class where things escalated exponentially. We had some sort of assignment to do about consumerism that HAD to involve a magazine. I headed out to our local Shopper’s Drug Mart and perused the selves. That’s where I saw it. A shiny new 1996 Car and Driver Buyer’s Guide. Hell, this magazine had the word Buyer right in it! It’s perfect.

As mentioned, I always had an interest in cars, but up until now I hadn’t officially earned the endearing term car guy from my friends. A term hard earned by talking at nausea about Camaro’s with Corvette engines, twin-turbo Nissan Z-cars and how the Viper sucked (I had some sort of unhealthy hate for the first-generation Viper. I couldn’t explain it then, I can’t explain it now, but I’ve since seen the errors in my ways).

I took the copy of C&D home and started hacking it up so I could glue the pretty car pictures onto my assignment. See, in the mid-90’s we didn’t have these fancy-pants computers and the internet consisted of Library BBS chat rooms. We had to create a physical, real-life presentation, locked soundly between the metal grip of a three-ring binder.

After some hack and slash, I decided a little research was needed to complete my homework. I was getting a solid A in the course and I wasn’t about to slip up now (spoiler – I won the award for the highest mark in the course that year, narrowly beating out one of my best friends. He knows who he is…first place loser).

A few pages into reading these brief blurbs and specifications, two things happened. One – I was hooked on horsepower, 0-60, skidpad ratings and top speed. Two – my new dream in life was to one day write for this *checks cover* Car and Driver magazine (a dream I came closer to achieving then I ever thought humanly possible).

From here, it was game over for me. My life now revolved around cars and it would never stop. I subscribed to car magazines for decades and still have that original C&D Buyer’s guide. My summer job at the age of 19 was a dealership lot jockey. Every single form of employment I’ve had since that day is within the automotive industry.

But I Also Like to Write

Besides my unhealthy obsession towards automobiles, I developed this weird need for creative writing in my teenage years. Ask any of my high school English teachers, or even my mom, and I am the last person anyone ever expected to become anything close to resembling a writer. Yet, there I was, at lunch time, in-between classes, even during class, scribbling away at these multi-page cartoon comic strips about the fictional adventures of my friends. I enjoyed them so much (probably more so than my friends I kept gifting them to), I kept it up even after I left home for university. I would snail mail these large envelopes stuffed with pages of comics to my friend who would then force them on pass them along to my other friends back home. He ended up keeping every single one of these pieces of gold, and about a decade later, returned them to me.

After working various jobs throughout my 20s, I lucked into an automotive writing role and began a whirlwind adventure becoming a full-time writer. I won’t bore you, dear reader, with the details, but I got to drive some of the world’s greatest cars at fantastic locales and had plenty of great adventures along the way. Some of these exploits will find their way onto these pages in the future.

So back to the original question, why this blog now? Well, I was fortunate enough to land a fantastic job years ago that presented exciting new challenges, and most importantly, provided more stability for my young family. But with any addiction, I’ve never been able to kick the itch to write.

So here I am, starting a blog no one outside of immediate family will read (Hi Mom) as I expel random thoughts into the void.  I hope some will enjoy it as much as I will writing it.

Winged Car Wednesday – Koenigsegg Agera One:1

When a car weighs less than 3,000 lbs, but has over 1,300 hp, a massive wing is needed to help keep the rear-end planted; especially when surpassing speeds of 275 mph.

And that is exactly what the ridiculous Koenigsegg Agera One:1 has – a giant rear wing. A nicely sculpted, very functional piece of engineering, it generates a balance between downforce and drag that helped the Agera set plenty of supercar acceleration/de-acceleration records.

The One:1 truly was a supercar among supercars.

Find of the Day – 1988 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport Manual

I consider myself well versed in obscure ’80s and ’90s American cars, but here is one I did now know existed – a manual transmission 1988 Chevrolet Celebrity. Yes, you read that correct.

In the 1980’s the Celebrity Eurosport could be had with a five speed manual transmission hooked up to the 2.8-liter V6 engine. This isn’t exactly a set-up that would light the world on fire, or even all that unique in the GM world, but I can’t imagine many Celebrity’s rolled off the assembly line configured this way.

Depeche Mode’s Love for ’50s Automobiles

Weird car twitter is an interesting place. It is a bunch of women and men spending their days fawning over 30–40-year-old cars. The more obscure the car, the better; a virtual love-in for vehicles from their youth.

But weird car love did not start with twitter; it has always existed. There was this band you may have heard of, Depeche Mode, that has a fascination with cars from their childhood. At least it appears that way as no fewer than five of their hit music videos from 1987 through 1997 featured cars from the late ‘50s. Sometimes the cars were even stars of the videos.

So, were Depeche Mode automotive aficionados? Or is this all a coincidence?

(1987) Never Let Me Down Again – 1957 BMW Isetta

Featured prominently in the band’s 1987 video, the Isetta is just cruising around countryside.

(1987) Behind the Wheel – 1957 BMW Isetta, 1950s Ferguson TE20, Piaggio Vespa

The diminutive BMW returns for this 1987 video, but has gone full Isetta and broken down. Luckily, a Ferguson TE20 is nearby to tow it away and the video’s lead is able to hitch a ride on a Vespa.

(1990) Policy of Truth – 1958 Ford Fairlane

It takes about a minute and a half before the Fairlane makes an appearance, and it does not last long, but there are multiple shots of it inside and out.

(1990) World in My Eyes – 1956 Nash Metropolitan, 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

Neither car is included in the video for long, both make brief cameos towards the start of the video.

(1997) It’s No Good – 1960 Studebaker Lark, Checker Taxicab

Ok, the Lark is a 1960 model here, but that is splitting hairs. The Checker is also a much later version of the venerable taxicab, but to the casual viewer, a 1950s Checker looks just like a 1970s Checker, so I’ll give it a pass.

Graded – Ford Thunderbirds

Welcome to Graded. Here we discuss legendary marques, models, or trim packages and affix a letter grade to a selection of vehicles falling under that topic. The grades mean nothing and are completely arbitrary. I fully encourage you to tell me what I got wrong and how you would grade them instead. Have some fun with it.

The Thunderbird may be the second most recognizable model name in Ford’s history; after the iconic Mustang of course. Over the span of 50 years, eleven generations of Thunderbirds came and went: some legendary, others completely forgettable.

Below we have taken a sampling from each generation of Thunderbird and graded them based purely on our own thoughts and feelings. How did we do? Do we love the Super Coupe too much? Let us know!

1957 Ford Thunderbird

Autolobotomy Grade: A+

Many consider the first-generation Thunderbird as the icon for the nameplate and it is hard to argue that point. Each year of the first-generation car is slightly different and picking a favourite is a matter of personal preference. For me it has to the 1957 model that could come with a supercharged V8 making 340 hp.

1960 Ford Thunderbird

AutoLobotomy Grade: B+

The second-generation Thunderbird differed greatly from the original car as it was much larger and could now included a rear seat. Like the first-generation car, the 2nd gen car differed slightly each year. I’m personally a fan of the 1960 model with the triple taillight on each side of the rear the car.

1962 Ford Thunderbird Sports Roadster

AutoLobotomy Grade: A-

The third-generation Thunderbird continued the tradition of lasting for three model years. It furthered the themes of the 2nd gen car as a large personal luxury coupe and convertible, with even more premium content added. For the 1962 model year Ford introduced the Sports Roadster which fitted a fiberglass tonneau cover over the rear seats, turning the giant convertible in a pseudo roadster.

1966 Ford Thunderbird

AutoLobotomy Grade: A

The fourth-generation Thunderbird is one of the most recognizable cars in the model’s history thanks to its many appearances in television and film. Being the mid-‘60s, the Thunderbird couldn’t escape the muscle car madness that was gripping North America and included an optional 428 cubic inch V8 for 1966.  

1968 Ford Thunderbird

AutoLobotomy Grade: B+

The fifth-generation took the Thunderbird in a new direction, focusing much more on luxury rather than performance. Big brawny V8 engines could be had, but this was not a muscle car. The styling was a love it or hate it affair for most. But even if it is not your cup of tea, it was unique.  

1974 Ford Thunderbird

AutoLobotomy Grade: B-

By its sixth-generation, the Thunderbird had become a 5,000 pound behemoth of a car. To match its immense size and portly weight, a monstrous 460 cubic inch V8 was available in 1974. I do like the styling of this car, but it was missing that special element of previous models.

1978 Ford Thunderbird Diamond Jubilee Edition

AutoLobotomy Grade: C

If excess were a car, this is it. The Diamond Jubilee Edition crammed every available option into the Thunderbird and then some. It skyrocketed the price of the car into the stratosphere. But regular sixth-generation Thunderbirds were well received and sold like hot-cakes. The car is just underwhelming to me.

1980 Ford Thunderbird

AutoLobotomy Grade: D

This was the low water mark for the Thunderbird franchise. Significantly smaller than the previous model, the eight-generation Thunderbird did not catch on with consumers, and for good reason. It was mediocre in every way.

1987 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe

AutoLobotomy Grade: B+

With the ninth generation Thunderbird, things began to turn around; especially with the Turbo Coupe. Powered by the 2.3-liter turbocharged engine found in the Mustang SVO, power was up to 190 hp in 1987 for the big two-door Thunderbird. Styling for this car was well received and sales were significantly up over the previous generation.

1994 Ford Thunderbird Super Coupe

AutoLobotomy Grade: A-

I may be biased as this was the Thunderbird I remember most from my impressionable teenage years. But the Super Coupe is thee modern Thunderbird; the epitome of the franchise in recent times. By 1994 the car pumped out 230 hp and a massive 330 lb-ft, paired to a five-speed manual transmission. Also, that sleek styling has aged well.

2002 Ford Thunderbird

AutoLobotomy Grade: B-

The eleventh-generation Thunderbird attempted to cash in on America’s obsession with retro-designed cars during the early 2000s. For the most part, Ford succeed with the Thunderbird featuring many visual cues of the early models and sales were strong for the first year of production. But a high price tag and ho-hum performance kept buyers away over the next few years before the car was axed.

Find of the Day – 1992 Lincoln Town Car

Go live your best retro car service life with this absolutely mint condition 1992 Lincoln Town Car Executive. Well, it might be a 1993 if you go by the description instead of the title. Either way, this is one shiny example – especially for a car with almost 200,000 km on the odometer. And look ad the plush blue and wood interior!

What better way to drive complete strangers to the airport, banquet halls, and restaurants while playing the best from Technotronic and Right Said Fred?

Friday Fun – Your Worst Daily Driver

For Friday Fun this week, we ask a simple question: What is the Worst Daily Driver you ever owned? Not necessarily the worst car you owned or a ‘weekend toy’ that would have made a terrible commuter.

No, what we want to know is what ill-suited car did you drive day-in and day-out? A vehicle that had to get you work each day as your livelihood depended on it, but you weren’t always sure you would make it?

Was it a hand-me down beater? A temperamental classic that required overseas parts from Japan to keep running? A monstrosity that returned single digit mpg?

Inquiring minds need to know!

Lotus II: RECS – Choose Your Own Adventure

From 1990 through 1992, Gremlin Graphics released a trio of racing games featuring the Lotus brand. On the surface, the games could be viewed as rehashes of the popular Outrun series, featuring Lotus instead of Ferrari. Although graphics and game style were similar to Outrun, there was much more depth to this game series, especially the final installment.

That final game was called Lotus III: The Ultimate Challenge if bought for use with an Amiga system, since it was the third installment of the series. But, if purchased for the Sega Genesis, it was titled Lotus II: RECS, or simply Lotus II depending on which country the game was marketed. This was due to the first game of the series never being available for the Genesis console, thus making the third game actually the second game. Muddying things further, when the third game was eventually ported over to MS-DOS later, it was once again renamed as Lotus: The Ultimate Challenge.

A Bit Familiar

With so three games churned out in such a short period of time, it should come as no surprise that Lotus II: RECS did not differ greatly from the original Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge. It continued to featured a stationary car with scrolling scenery. Players could choose to play against computer opponents in championship mode, do time trial challenges, or play against fellow humans with two-player split screen.

The game included a banging intro song and overall decent soundtrack. Songs could even be selected from a virtual Lotus in-car stereo before each race (another ode to Outrun). Less impressive, the game play sound effects were terrible, even for early-1990s standards. It’s hard to even describe what the supposed engine noise resembled.

The game allowed for manual or automatic transmissions and a variety of difficulty levels. Vehicle handling was decent for an arcade racer as the vehicles responded to player’s inputs accurately and negotiating tighter corners had to be planned, including using the brakes (a rarity for racers of the day).   

Choice of Lotus, Lotus or Lotus

Lotus II: RECS featured a choice of three vehicles, naturally all Lotus’. Included since the series’ initial release was an Esprit, specifically the Turbo SE for this game. It included a typo on the horsepower and torque, with both numbers listed about 100 too high. This was correct for the PC DOS version (Lotus: The Ultimate Challenge) when the car was rebranded as the Esprit S4.

The other two choices included the Elan (M100) SE and the Lotus M200 concept car. For those unfamiliar with the latter, it was a speedster concept car based on the Elan M100, highlighted by the removal of the windscreen and installation of two individual pods created for driver and passenger.

RECS to the RESCue

This game could have easily been a forgettable, has-been racer if it were not for one feature: RECS. An acronym for Racing Environment Construction Set, this feature allowed players develop their own custom tracks for either single player or split screen action. Unlike the detailed course creator featured in Stunts, RECS involved a variety of sliders that players set to then auto-generate tracks based on their preferences. A similar system was used in Gran Turismo 5.

Players selected whether they wanted a checkpoint race or a lapped course. They could set the number of hills and steepness, the number of curves and sharpness, as well as the overall length and difficulty of the track. Other customizable functions included the scenario for the track (my favourite was Saturn) as well as the number of obstacles and scatter one could crash into during the race.

It was a simplistic track creator, but for a console, it was unique and addicting. I do not remember playing much of the regular game but do distinctly recall playing the RECS mode for hours with friends, trying to create the most ridiculous tracks possible. It was the saving grace for an otherwise generic arcade racing game.

Winged Car Wednesday – Ferrari F50

The F50 was the pinnacle of Ferrari’s technology in 1995. It took everything the brand had learned over decades of racing and applied it to a road car. That included the 512 hp 4.7L V12 engine, which was really an IMSA racing unit, itself an enlarged derivative of the Ferrari Formula 1 V12.  

The car’s body was sculpted for maximum downforce, including a giant rear wing that helped keep the rear planted. Although this car seemed over the top at the time, there is a nice, simple, clean look to it. It is indicative of the era that modern hypercars, with their dozens of wings and creases, lack.

Find of the Day – 1979 Avanti II Electric Car Conversion

Is it an Avanti II? Or is it a Nissan Leaf? The answer is yes. What we have here is a 1979 Avanti II that has been converted to a full electric vehicle thanks to a Nissan Leaf donor car. Honestly, it is more of a Nissan Leaf wearing an Avanti II body, but that’s not what’s important.

What is important is that the classic lines of the 1979 Avanti II shown here now houses the most modern of powerplants – an all-electric motor. Power is sent through the front-wheels; a departure from Avanti’s rear-wheel drive roots. Pricing for the car is a bit steep, but it’s about as unique as motorized transportation gets.

What is the Greatest Porsche Prototype Racer?

Few automotive manufacturers in the world have the motorsports resume of Porsche. Regardless of discipline, P cars are always competitive, if not dominant. Arguably, the brand’s greatest success has come in prototype racing – most notably at the 24 hours of Le Mans.

Nineteen times Porsche has claimed the overall victory; the most of any single brand in history. It’s an impressive feat considering the 24 hours of Le Mans has been around since 1923 and Porsche didn’t achieve the company’s first overall victory until 1970.

Success has come in many forms for the brand, from full out factory creations to collaborations with other partners. But what is the greatest Le Mans Porsche prototype of all time? What is the racecar that sits on the highest pedestal, epitomizing the brand’s dominance at La Sarthe?

I have gathered six vehicles for your consideration. Which one do you think is the best of all time? Or maybe you prefer a less memorable victor not included below. Either way, let me know.

Porsche 917

Quick Facts: Powered by a flat-12 engine. Won Le Mans in 1970 and 1971. Still technically holds the lap record around La Sarthe (although the layout has significantly changed)

Porsche 936

Quick Facts: Powered by a small 2.14-litre flat-six engine. Won Le Mans in 1976, 1977 and 1981. The car was a mix of 917 and 935 technology.

Porsche 956 C (Hans-Joachim Stuck)

Porsche 956

Quick Facts: Built to Group C specifications. Powered by a 2.65-liter flat-six engine. Won Le Mans four consecutive years – 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1985.

Porsche 962

Quick Facts: An evolution of the 956 but built to GTP specifications. The 962 was safer and more adaptable to various racing formats. Power came from a 3.0-liter flat-six. Won Le Mans in 1986 and 1987. A modified ‘road’ version also won in 1994.

Porsche 911 GT1-98

Quick Facts: Powered by a 3.2-liter flat-six. Homologation road cars were created to qualify for competition, but neither the road car nor the race car had much in common with the 911. Was closer in relation to the 962. Won Le Mans in 1998.

Porsche 919 Hybrid

Quick Facts: Powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine hybrid. Won Le Mans in 2015, 2016 and 2017.