Queen City Cars & Coffee is back! The past two years hosting this show have been absolute blast, and I’m stoked to be putting it on again this year. Last year, over 90 cars attended, about 30 more than the first year. For QC3 (just made that name up right now and I dig it) the goal is set at 125 cars. Let’s rally together and make it happen! Invite your friends, invite their friends, invite people that aren’t your friends, invite your grandma, your neighbor, the guy who cleans your septic tank, it doesn’t matter. Just invite them. I genuinely think we have the chance to create something epic and put the Manchester car scene on the map. This year’s show is on Saturday, September 13 from 8am to 12pm at the Arms Parking Lot in Manchester, NH. Be sure to follow @_DoranD_ and @TopDeadCenter on Twitter for updates. I’m beyond fired up for this, and I can’t wait to see everyone there!
The Audi R8 first appeared on the scene back in 2007 and promptly blew everyone’s collective mind. Audi is known for fast cars, but the R8 was their first foray into the savagely competitive supercar market, and its sublime chassis, all-wheel drive grip, sonorous 4.2-liter V8 engine, and striking looks made it an instant classic. To quench the demand for an R8 with even more power, Audi gifted the R8 with a Lamborghini-sourced 5.2-liter V10 to create the stunning R8 V10.
I have nothing but enormously fond memories of the Audi R8 V10. Last summer, I was fortunate/blessed/insanely lucky to spend an entire week with one on an epic road trip from Massachusetts to Tennessee on the Yuppie Rally. (You can check out the chronicles from that ridiculous adventure here.) My dreams are still haunted by the gritty, ripping baritone exhaust note, holding white knuckled onto the steering wheel as I’m hurled towards the 8200 rpm redline. Take that experience, add a fistful more horsepower and a generous helping of carbon fiber and track readiness, and you have the car pictured above – the R8 V10 GT.
Only 333 of these cars were ever produced, and a mere 95 of them made their way to the States. That makes this Teutonic titan rarer than a Ferrari Enzo, at least ten times more scarce than a Lamborghini Murcielago, and nearly as uncommon as the Bugatti Veyron. Its 560 horsepower mid-mounted V10 propels the R8 GT to 60 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds and keeps churning until 199 mph. The normal R8 V10 is by no means a slouch, but the GT brings things to entirely new heights. Along with the bump in power, the GT also benefits from a hefty weight savings and enhanced aerodynamics in the form of winglets on the front bumper and a carbon fiber rear wing. But enough of that: want to hear how it sounds? Thought so.
This particular car was scooped in Manchester, NH. I must find this car. You’ll be the first to know when I do.
If you’ve spent any time around me at all for the past few months, you’ve heard me talk (with great vigor) about the Yuppie Rally. Put together by the great team over at Yuppie Racing, the 2012 Yuppie Rally ran from the Aston Martin of New England dealership in Waltham, Massachusetts, down to The Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee, up to Atlantic City and back, all the while raising money to support Guardian Angel Motorsports and the Franciscan Hospital for Children in Brighton, MA. Be sure to check out Yuppie Racing’s website HERE, and the TDC Facebook page for more photos and video from the Rally.
Day 1 – So It Begins: Sometimes in life you’re presented with moments and opportunities that cause you to stop abruptly, take a wide-eyed look around, and say to yourself, “How the heck did I end up here?” I had one of those moments earlier this month as I slid into the passenger seat of a new cherry red Audi R8 V10, getting ready to embark on the five day, 2500 mile Yuppie Rally. As I closed the bank vault-like door and listened to the R8’s Lamborghini-derived V10 engine snarled to life, I still couldn’t figure out what divine intervention landed me here. Those thoughts, along with the rest of my brain, were reduced to the consistency of scrambled eggs as I experienced the full fury of the R8 for the first time. It was going to be a good week.
I met Pete Ladas and Chris Benvie, the masterminds behind Yuppie Racing, through Steve Oldford and Guardian Angel Motorsports. After several months of figuring out sponsorship parameters, what I could bring to the table, and finalizing the details, I found myself the recipient of a seat on the Yuppie Rally with only food and gas bills ahead of me. For what felt like years I had imagined being on the Rally and carving up smooth Southern roads behind the wheel of some exotic machine, partying in Atlantic City, and spending a week with card carrying gearheads. Scott Marberblatt, the owner of the R8, was gracious enough to offer me his passenger seat and for that I am eternally grateful. A huge shout out to the Team O’Neil Rally School for donating a multi-day Rally School to the Rally—they were primary reason I was able to attend this year! Be sure to visit their website HERE, and read the ‘Chasing Racing Dreams’ feature I previously wrote on the school HERE.
Just after five pm, all 18 cars rolled out of Aston Martin with our first destination being a hotel right outside Philadelphia, PA. The two hours before we departed were spent mingling, swapping stories about previous rallies, and getting the pre-rally briefing from Chris and Pete on the days that lay ahead. To the untrained eye, a Rally may appear to simply be an excuse for people to get together and drive like lunatics. Watching videos on YouTube of the infamous Gumball or Bullrun rallies can create a skewed perception of what an event like this is. To some degree, yes, it is about having a blast on the road with your buddies, but it’s also about raising money for a great cause and being a brand ambassador for what the Yuppie Rally is all about. And having epic adventures.
The trip from Mass to our hotel in Philly was relatively uneventful (if you can call an exotic car rally uneventful) and we somehow managed to squeak across the George Washington Bridge outside New York City with essentially no traffic. We arrived at the first hotel around 10pm. My original plan was to put a post up on TDC each day of the Rally, but as soon as I caught sight of the hotel bed’s deep pillows and crisp sheets, I knew that idea was a goner. Day 1 Highlight: Hitting the first of many tunnels we would see in the R8 (Did I mention it had a Tubi aftermarket exhaust? It sounded like… God). A car like the R8 turns average driving experiences into sheer bliss.
Day 2 – Perceptions Redefined: Day two dawned bright and gorgeous. Walking around back of the hotel and seeing all our cars lined up in private parking spots, gently sprinkled with morning mist, was an excellent way to start the day. So was seeing the looks of disbelief on all the faces of the hotel staff. (Sidenote: two of my favorite parts about hotels are 1.) Not having to clean anything, and 2.) Free continental breakfast. Pretty sure endless free breakfast is actually heaven).
We headed out of the hotel and pointed our caravan south towards Virginia, the location of our next checkpoint. After several exciting hours, we pulled into a rest area for the requisite stretch/bathroom break/gas fill up. As we got ready to hit the road again, Scott asked me if I wanted to drive and handed me the keys. I’m pretty sure that had I looked up, I would have seen a soft celestial light caressing my brow.
Climbing into the driver’s seat of the R8 for the first time was strangely serene—I had expected to feel overwhelming excitement, verging on delirium, at the prospect of driving the car, but that wasn’t what I felt at all. Pulling the door closed with a satisfying thunk, sliding the key into the ignition and starting the breathlessly rampant V10 behind me simply felt natural, correct. Instead of a blinding excitement, I felt a sense of calm definiteness that this was where I needed to be.
When people ask me what driving the R8 was like I tell them this—it’s exactly as good as you think it is. Comfortable, spacious, and a bit like driving a 520 horsepower slab of granite. Regardless of the speed you’re traveling at, the R8 tracks exactly where you point it and is easy enough to drive at speed as your mom’s Corolla. Fortunately, Scott ordered his car with the gated manual transmission which only added to the drama and excitement of the experience. Direct, communicative steering, confidence inspiring brakes, and enough power to whip your head back and exploit positively any gap in traffic with ease. The Tubi exhaust elevated the R8’s soundtrack from Heavenly Exhaust Note to Shattering Sonic Eargasm. And just below the surface of the R8’s crisp Germanic perfection, is a frantic sense of barely contained rage. The car felt gritty and raw, and it wasn’t hard to imagine the joy you would receive from caning it around a track. Check out this video I recorded from the R8 while we stormed through a tunnel on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge HERE. Bottom line: I love this car.
Several hours later we made it to Virginia, one of my favorite places in the world. Beautiful farmlands, incredible weather, rich history, “southern” enough to be interesting, and “northern” enough to not make one start whistling the theme from “Deliverance”. We cruised through lush rolling hills, past dozens of Civil War monuments, surrounded by the sweet late spring air on our way to Blenheim Vineyards, a gorgeous vineyard owned by THE Dave Mathews. As it turned out, the roads around Blenheim were absolutely incredible and we, ahem, enjoyed them to the fullest. We arrived at Blenheim and were treated to a wine tasting and a short tour of the winery. Afterwards, we were anxious to get back on the road and onto the night’s hotel located in Knoxville, TN, so we jumped back in and headed out. Day 2 Highlight: Driving the R8. Duh.
Day 3 – Dragon Slayer: For me, one of the best parts of the Rally was seeing the looks on people’s faces when our entire convoy would roll through their neighborhood—a hilarious concoction of disbelief, followed by awe, topped off with either confusion or uncontrollable excitement, generally depending on the person’s age. It was also hugely entertaining to talk to the people who approached us whenever we stopped. Walking down to hotel parking garage on Wednesday morning, we met the manager who secured all the private parking spaces we were occupying. This normally reserved older woman babbled excitedly about how much she loved Chris’s Shelby GT500, the fun we must all be having and how great it was we were raising money for charity. I thought she was going to keel over when all the cars started up and revved their engines. As we rolled out of the garage into the morning sun, we were all thinking about only one thing: The Tail of the Dragon.
If you’re into cars or motorcycles, you’re bound to hear about the infamous Tail of the Dragon sooner or later. If you haven’t, allow me to be the first to welcome you to Higher Knowledge. The Dragon is a slithering ribbon of tarmac that boasts 318 curves in 11 miles—technically called US Route 129—that crosses the Tennessee/North Carolina border on the southern edge of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The drive to the Dragon is pretty tame and unassuming, but the excitement in our group was absolutely palpable as we closed in on what’s generally regarded as the best driving road in the country. It was mid-morning when we arrived at the start of the Dragon on the Tennessee side and we pulled over for a quick photo shoot against the backdrop of beautiful Chilhowee Lake.
From the Tennessee side, the Dragon begins as flowing and graceful as it follow Chilhowee Lake and weaves around the bottoms of thickly wooded hills. When the road departs from the lake and deep banks of trees fill the edges of the windshield, the Dragon surges uphill and begins its savagely winding path. There was an ear-to-ear grin permanently plastered on my face as Scott and I enjoyed what was very likely the best road either of us had been on. (Accelerate, hard on the brakes, navigate the hairpin, feel the banking of the turn push you down into the seat, back on the power, hard on the brakes, around the next hairpin, on the power again). Sitting in the passenger seat of the R8, it felt like I should be wearing a helmet and reading course notes to Travis Pastrana.
The main thing that struck me about the Dragon is that nothing can really prepare you for how technical it is. Pull up videos on YouTube or listen to someone try and explain how the off camber banked corners come at you mile after mile, and you’ll still have your mind blown the first time you drive it. You just can’t believe how severe the turns are and how demanding it is to drive it quickly. In the words of the eternal Jeremy Clarkson, “You need to be awake to drive this fast!” It was undoubtedly one of the best driving experiences I’ve ever had.
The day we were there, several car clubs and hordes of motorcycles were running on the Dragon. The Dragon is perhaps more a motorcycling mecca than anything else. It’s ideally suited for hard riding on a motorcycle, though having so many bikes on the road makes driving with caution and awareness even more important. If you’re going to make the pilgrimage to the Dragon, read up on it as much as possible first and treat it with the respect it deserves.
After we had our faces melted off on the Dragon, we headed to the Cherohola Skyway, another incredible piece of mountain road and the sister road to the Dragon. A driving mecca in-and-of itself, the Skyway’s sweeping turns and scenic vistas were the perfect way to wrap up what had been an incredible day. Our convoy lined up and headed Northeast towards the night’s hotel in Johnson City, TN. Day 3 Highlight: Taming the Dragon and running the gorgeous Cherohola Skyway.
Day 4 – Disturbing The Peace: A convoy of 18 exotic sports cars charging through sleepy rural Appalachian towns gives new meaning to the phrase disturbing the peace. It’s likely that not one of the people we passed on our way out of Johnson City or the other tiny towns we drove through had ever seen anything quite like it. I have a snapshot memory of a young boy standing on a dilapidated porch holding a dirty comforter (why?), eyes wide and mouth open as we passed by. Probably what I would look like if I was 10 and saw us, though hopefully minus the comforter. We left that part of the South seeing things quite unlike we’d seen before as well. Example—in the outskirts of some small town near Johnson City, we passed a low concrete block building that featured French maid outfits and fishnet stockings in their front window under a sign that read “The Fuzzy Hole stripclub”. While Drake and Lil’ Wayne have indeed given us the moto (YOLO!), that’s one experience I’m totally okay with never having.
Our journey was not without peril, however. Both Porsche 911 Turbos on the trip had their share of mechanical troubles—the “Team Bath Salts” Porsche driven by Sam Laurie and Alex Jarvie experienced major steering pump issues and had to be driven to a shop for repairs, and Fedele Cacia and his wife Ivana in the yellow Porsche had such severe transmission problems, the car ended up on a U-Haul trailer for the final leg of the trip. Considering we drove a combined 45,000 miles over the course of six days, it’s amazing there wasn’t more mechanical fallout. Both Porsche’s ended far behind the rest of the group and made it to the hotel well after the rest of us had dug into our delicious buffet dinner.
Back at the hotel, we tuned our navigation systems for Atlantic City, NJ and headed out. I jumped back into the R8 with Scott for the run to Atlantic City (did I mention how much I love this car?) Our first checkpoint was a restaurant just over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Virginia. If you’ve never been across this bridge, find some excuse to get down there and drive it because it is awesome. Seemingly endless stretches of bridge spear through unbroken miles of shimmering water. The bridge is interrupted by tunnels that dive beneath the Bay, while off in the distance, aircraft carriers and warships dock at a nearby naval base. The restaurant we stopped at was right on the beach and we ate and chilled under a perfect late spring day and watched the waves roll in.
Aside from our entire convoy uncorking their respective throttles in the tunnels and reveling in the full glory of performance exhaust notes in an enclosed space, it was a long and relatively boring drive from Virginia to Atlantic City. At least we had the anticipation of partying it up on the Jersey Shore like Snooki to console the boredom. Arriving at the hotel, however, threw those plans for a bit of a loop. We were supposed to get to the hotel and park our cars right in the valet lot, simple and easy. However, a misunderstanding somewhere in hotel management resulted in all the cars being stuck out front of the hotel for hours and several of the guys having to stay with them until the problem was solved. Not a great way to kick off the final night of the Rally, but the suitably epic amount of mayhem that took place that evening was enough to make up for it. Day 5 Highlight: Pinning the throttle in the R8… under water.
Day 6 – Homeward Bound: Part of me was sad to see the last day of the Rally. The previous five days had convinced me that I could very likely drive the Audi R8 everyday for the rest of time. The other part of me, however, was definitely looking forward to getting back home. For the final leg of the trip, I jumped in “Team Re-Pete’s” Audi S4 with Pete Ladas and Pete Gochis (yes, two Pete’s in the same car). Several of the guys had already headed out so the remaining cars made for the highway together and headed north. At a fuel stop somewhere (forgive me for not remembering where we were, all the fuel stops started to blend together), we spotted a wildly modified Suzuki GSX-R 1000 with potentially the longest swingarm in history and an enormous bottle of nitrous strapped to the back. The owner, who had to be more no more than 23, said even without the nitrous he could lift the front wheel of the bike off the ground, and that he hadn’t fully used the nitrous because he was afraid to. Good times.
We landed at the Blue Colony Diner in Newtown, CT for one final load of carbs, salt and sugar (thank you french fries, fried chicken and milkshakes) before we split up and headed our separate ways. One by one, the cars peeled off and headed for home, but not before throwing a final fist pump out the window, or making promises to connect up again for the next Yuppie Racing event. The Petes and I pulled into Aston Martin of New England tired, but excited to be so close to home. While I was happy to be back and sincerely looking forward to not driving and/or moving for as long as possible, even now it’s still hard to forget the unearthly howl of the Audi R8, the chilling supercharger whine from the Lotus Exige, and remembering that the only thing I needed to do each day was love every moment of driving. I can’t wait for my next rally.
Many thanks and much respect to all the guys on this year’s Yuppie Rally. Special thanks to Chris Benvie and Pete Ladas from Yuppie Racing, Matt Nolan and Steve Oldford at Aston Martin of New England, the Team O’Neil Rally School for their incredibly generous donation, and to Scott Marberblatt for letting me drive his spectacular car.
Contrary to popular belief, forward progress isn’t achieved in one quantum leap; success isn’t born overnight. Our society is obsessed with the idea that some people simply get lucky, that successful people were at the right place at the right time and that circumstances swept them up and away to success. But, in reality, that’s not how it works.
Author and Success magazine editor Darren Hardy’s book The Compound Effect talks about how small positive actions compounded over time lead to massive results. “It’s the principle of reaping huge rewards from a series of small, smart choices. Success is earned in the moment to moment decisions that in themselves make no visible difference whatsoever, but the accumulated compounding effect is profound.” Success isn’t like flipping on a light switch, it’s built over time on the backs of these small, smart choices.
Massachusetts-based aftermarket tuning shop Kaizen Tuning believes so much in this idea that it’s at the core of who they are—’kaizen’ is actually Japanese for ‘improvement’ and represents and entire philosophy based around continually improving processes and the ongoing refinement of a business’s functions.
Kaizen Tuning was started two-and-a-half years ago by owner Scott McIver whose has a background in manufacturing, with the ideal of creating a shop that could fill a sorely neglected market in New England: high end aftermarket tuning. “New England is worthy of the investment of a high end shop, and we are looking to fill that,” said McIver. Kaizen can do everything from oil changes to dyno testing, full engine builds to getting your race car prepped for the track. Kaizen’s partnerships with other performance companies allows it to provide a wide range of tuning services and performance parts to meet any enthusiast’s go-fast goals.
What McIver set out to create is probably best summarized by this description on the company’s website: “Kaizen Tuning was born out of the need for a true enthusiast destination shop in the Northeast… After seeing first hand the mistreatment of many of our own cars… Kaizen Tuning was formed to offer a different voice. Operated and owned by car fanatics, Kaizen Tuning offers customer service for an enthusiast, by enthusiasts… Kaizen Tuning was started so that we could bring improvement not only to the performance of our customer’s vehicles, but to the customer experience in the Northeast.”
The car most closely associated with Kaizen Tuning is the sensational Nissan GT-R—a car with staggering levels of performance at a price that undercuts nearly every performance car on the market. And the GT-R represents more than just a platform for Kaizen to work on—McIver actually drew inspiration for starting Kaizen after seeing the incredible level of service that Japanese GT-R customers would receive when he visited Japan. And, after seeing how desperately that level of customer service was lacking back home, McIver set out to create a tuning shop that provided levels of customer service not seen anywhere else.
After Kaizen established a market tuning the GT-R—check out one of Kaizen’s finest GT-Rs HERE—McIver turned his attention to tuning the Mitsubishi Evolution—a formidable all-wheel-drive turbocharged sedan that was born on the dusty, sinewy roads of the world’s rally stages. To see just what Kaizen is capable of, be sure to check out the race-prepped Evo nicknamed ‘Mothra’ that Kaizen runs in the Real Timeattack series HERE. Over the last six months or so, McIver has been expanding Kaizen’s reach into the Subaru market which, like the market for Mitsubishi, has a distinctly dedicated following and is flush with enthusiasts looking to wring more performance from their car. Even more recently, Kaizen has begun tuning European cars, specifically VW, Audi, and Porsche.
Because of its fastidious adherence to the idea of continuous improvement and its core values, Kaizen Tuning has established itself as something of a destination shop for some of the best technicians in the area. Learning the backgrounds of the guys in the shop reveals the truth behind the Kaizen’s mission—each member of the Kaizen staff is an enthusiast to the core and brings a wealth of experience and specialized knowledge to the table.
As Kaizen Tuning has continued to grow and expand, the need for a new shop arose. McIver spent over a year looking for the correct location, and he found what he was looking for with a site not far from Kaizen’s current location in Acton. When it is completed in early August this year, the new shop will feature eight lifts, a showroom, on site manufacturing facilities, full tuning and dyno facilities, and the ability to store plenty of inventory on site.
At the heart of it all, Kaizen Tuning is about providing enthusiasts with top quality customized tuning and helping fulfill their performance goals, whatever those may be. From the Kaizen website: “Wheels and body kits fade into obscurity one year to the next, but speed never goes out of style. Talk to us today about how we can move you forward.”
Welcome, Kaizen Tuning, to The Torque Tube.
Many thanks and much respect to Scott McIver for his time, and to everyone at Kaizen Tuning for letting me poke around the shop. Be sure to to check out Kaizen Tuning’s website at www.KaizenTuning.com, as well as their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/kaizen.tuning.
One of my all time favorite automotive quotes comes from freelance auto journo Andrew Frankel (@Andrew_Frankel). His experience driving the almighty Bugatti Veyron for the first time is still the best I’ve ever read: “When I finally stopped accelerating I had to slow down and do it all over again, just to make sure I hadn’t been dreaming. Whatever your definition of fast, be it defined by Porsche 911, Ferrari F430 or Mercedes SLR McLaren, the Veyron will take it and, in one instant, burn it before your eyes. Time and distance fuse into one unintelligible fog in your head. In the public road environment, there has never been anything like this.”
I would be so bold as to take that one step further and rewrite it for this week’s Car in the Wild, the Nissan R35 GT-R. “… Whatever your definition of fast, be it defined by a Porsche 911 Turbo/GT2/GT3, Ferrari 430/458/FF, or pretty much anything else you can think of, the GT-R will take it and, in one instant, burn it before your eyes… In the public road environment, nothing can touch the GT-R’s shattering performance for such a bargain-basement price. Supercars costing three times more than the GT-R are robbed blind.”
Like the Veyron, there are few superlatives left to describe the GT-R; they’ve all be consumed ad naseum by anyone who has ever driven one. Its world crushing performance continues to baffle even the most seasoned automotive journalists years after its launch. One of the most interesting things about the GT-R is when you look at it on paper, it doesn’t seem like it would eat some of the best cars on the planet for lunch. A twin-turbo 3.8-liter V-6 under the hood produces “only” 480 horsepower and is responsible for hauling around a rather portly 3,800 pounds. The end result, however, is quite frankly a little ridiculous — this $85,000-ish car sprints to 60 miles per hour in the mid 3-second range, and continues running onto a top speed of 193 miles per hour. Those figures embarrass some of the finest thoroughbreds from anywhere in the world. Subsequent updates to the GT-R increased horsepower to 540, and dropped the 0-60 mph time to a stunning 2.9 seconds. There are only a handful of cars you can buy that are capable of cracking the 3-second barrier, and this incredible performance comes from the same company that produces the Leaf electric car and the Titan pickup truck.
The GT-R certainly isn’t the prettiest car on the road, but it definitely does pack a deadly punch. Since it’s introduction in 2007, the GT-R has been a champion both on and off the track winning multiple racing titles as well as the 2009 International Car of the Year award, and Car of the Year awards from magazines like Top Gear, Motor Trend, and Evo. Admittedly, a lot of Top Gear videos get posted on TDC, but it’s usually for a good reason. Following that tradition, here is yet another hilarious Jeremy Clarkson segment, this time reviewing the GT-R. Enjoy.
In the TDC Dream Garage, there will be a plethora of precious machinery from all over the world — gleaming red Ferraris, bombastic yellow Lamborghinis and naked carbon fiber Paganis from Italy, decadent Bentleys and Rolls-Royces from England, and savagely purposeful BMWs and Porsches from Germany. Amongst them will be an alpine white Nissan GT-R from Japan, bristling with technology and an insatiable Napoleon complex, always looking to land a knockout punch on cars far above its pay grade.
I was originally going to wait until Thursday to put this post up, but I’m so fired up about these photos I didn’t feel like waiting any longer. These were taken while I was down at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, Mass for YuppieRacing’s first Cars & Coffee event of the season on April 7th. Over 300 cars ended up turning out on a gorgeous but chilly morning, and spectators were treated to several spectacular automotive rarities – half-a-dozen Nissan GT-Rs, a shatteringly yellow Ferrari 430 Scuderia, a pack of Audi RS4s, and a RAUH-Welt Begriff 930 Wide Body Porsche, which was hands down the coolest car there. If you’re not familiar with RWB, visit their website HERE. While you’re at it, visit YuppieRacing’s website HERE and their Facebook page HERE, too. Enjoy the photos, and I’ll see you at the next YR Cars & Coffee on May 12th!
Good writing can come from anywhere – a particularly articulate essay for school, a legendary novel, a satisfyingly succinct news article, or a exceptionally poetic piece of poetry. As a writer and an avid reader, I can appreciate and enjoy all of these instances of excellent writing. However, there is one area of writing that for me simply overshadows all the rest – automotive journalism. I literally can only think of about three other things I love more than finding a piece of auto writing that simply explodes off the page like a piston detonating in a cylinder. You know you’ve found it when the chills down your spine, the description of the engine note actually reverberates in your ears, and your palms sweat as the author describes the car’s incredible turn of speed. Oh yes, how I love it.
For this TDC entry, I wanted to put forth these five pieces of what I consider to be truly exceptional examples of what I’m on about. Each author makes a compelling case for why cars are not simply modes of transportation, but a reason for life. Read them, digest and absorb their beautiful prose and flowing language, and then let me know what you think about them and which one is your favorite. Without any further ado, I present these exquisite articles for your consumption. Enjoy!
Written by Autoblog’s Jonathon Ramsey way back in August 2010, this piece caught my heart because of it’s glorious detail and the way it manages to be an exciting review of what is without doubt one of Audi’s finest automobiles ever, and at the same time an insightful look into the way the car changes fundamental elements of driving. Need an example? Check it. “The Audi R8 has made canyon running so easy, and the Audi R8 V10 Spyder has made it look and feel so good, that it’s pornographically indecent.” Stop reading this, and go read that.
There are a lot of automotive websites out there, but there are none that can touch Jalopnik on its unique brand of humor, crudeness, or hilarious insights. Case in point, this piece by Sam Smith from July 2010 on one of my favorite cars of all time, the Bentley Mulsanne. The thing I particularly love about this piece is that because the Mulsanne is so expensive and so over the top, it’s easy to exploit that insanity into a brilliantly entertaining review, and Smith absolutely nails it. “The glovebox hinges are heavy chrome bastards you could hang a lifeboat from. Every control has weight, every switch or instrument is heavily damped, and the door handles contain more mass than the entire door in the average Honda. A Mercedes-Benz does not feel like this. Neither does a Bentley Continental. Even most Rolls-Royces fall a bit short.”
Sam Smith from Jalopnik was on a roll back in July 2010. Both this post and the Bentley Mulsanne first drive are straight epic. I primarily love this piece for two reasons: 1.) The Cadillac CTS-V is one of the best cars on the road today, period. 2.) In classic Jalopnik fashion, Smith reviews the car but does it while on a wacky adventure and draws the reader into his hilarious affair with Caddy’s outrageous supercharged coupe. “A brief word about the CTS-V coupe’s supercharged, 556-hp, 551-lb-ft, 6.2-liter V-8: It is the kind of unholy device you do not screw with. It leaps toward the rev limiter with such fury that, were you the type of person to have a pile of donuts in your lap while driving, most of those donuts would end up on your shirt. It is quiet; from the cabin, all you hear is a subdued growl and no supercharger whine whatsoever. Then the earth opens up, swallows you, and spits you back out. When you wake up, you are on the other side of the planet.” That’s what I’m talking about.
This Autoblog review, written by Jonathon Ramsey, was a primary catalyst for me wanting to write about cars. No joke, every time I read this piece, it still makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck and tears to well up in my eyes. That may sound strange, but follow the link and read it for yourself and I challenge you to not feel the same way. It’s something about the way Ramsey builds such gorgeous analogies and puts the reader right in the driver’s seat that so startlingly takes your breath away. “As long as you’re not on some spit of asphalt custom made for a Lotus Elise, the LP640 is limited only by your knowledge of the road and your knowledge of how to drive it. The car isn’t glued to the road — it is the road, a single amplitude of tarmac flowing between the shoulders. Go with it, and you will go far, my son…”
I’ve read a lot of car reviews in my time, but NEVER have I read anything like this. Long time C&D editor Aaron Robinson writes one of the most captivating road test pieces I have ever come across. Robinson demonstrates with every line what the difference is between people who write for low-budget car blogs (ahem), and the people who pen lines for one of the best magazines in the biz. Not only is the Aventador the stuff of dreams, but Robinson’s descriptions of Lambo’s finest offering make me want to be a better man. “If you have the Aventador’s stability control set to “corsa” (or, indeed, turned off) and are an Apache with the throttle, it’ll reward with a sturdy push from the back to rotate you toward the path of righteousness. It can thus achieve truly terrifying speeds without feeling stressed . . . and truly terrifying noises. The 8500-rpm redline and furious spin-up of torque, especially from 5000 on when the ears flatten against the deep percussive energy emanating from the back, remind you of why the major Italian boutiques eschew turbos.”
‘Tis the season for hot Audis, apparently. This Lamborghini-powered Audi S6 which sports the colossal V10 that is found in the previous generation Lamborghini Gallardo, was spotted in front of the Palace Theatre on Hanover Street in Manchester. Couple this with the TWO Audi R8 V10 Spiders that have been sighted at the Stratham and Nashua Audi dealerships, and TDC has spotted close to half a million dollars worth of Ingolstadt road-rockets in the past two weeks.
Read an article on this car, the fabulous Audi RS4, when it first came out. I don’t remember what magazine it came from or who wrote it, but one piece of the article has stuck in my brain. The author was talking about what a glorious noise the engine made and he likened it to “an angry, drunken bear being shot out of a cannon.” If that’s not the most descriptive and fantastic way to describe an engine, I don’t know what is. The owner of this RS4 was gracious enough to chat for a few moments about the car and said it was a 2007 with only 20K on the clock, and it’s in beautiful shape. Let’s get angry, drunk, and shoot ourselves out of the nearest cannon to celebrate.
Another anonymous post from a loyal TDC reader. This piece is fan-flippin-tastic.
So, I got to thinking the other day on my commute to work, as is the place where I do most of my pondering; if money were no object, what would I be driving right now? It’s sunny and warm with a light breeze and The Police rocking out on the radio. If money were no object I wouldn’t have to be limited to driving just one car, I could have a different car every day of the week! Seeing as how I am never going to have that kind of money, I’m going to sit here and post my thoughts online. Feel free to post a comment or two if you agree or disagree with my choices.
Monday. Does anyone actually even know that Sunday is the first day of the week anymore? Either way, Monday is pretty much the crappiest day of the week. It is the day you spill hot coffee on your lap at the first stop light on your commute, it’s the day when the meetings happen, and the day lasts longer than you want because of the extra e-mails that built up over the weekend, and you still have to pick up groceries on the way home. Friday was a great finish to last week but any good boss will tell you how to improve come Monday morning. “Hey, thanks for the appreciation and boost in office morale, prick.”
So what do you drive on Mondays? This would be the daily driver, the to-and-from work car. You want to have reasonably good gas mileage but when money is no object, you can’t be a Prius driver. You can just go and buy your carbon credits. My choice would be the Audi RS4 Avant.
Mileage is decent providing you stay out of the throttle, there is room for the wife and 2.5 kids with space in the trunk for groceries, all-wheel drive for the occasional snow squall or heavy downpour, and last but not least a straight up fire breathing, Bumble Bee Camaro killing, kraut eating German monster under the hood. Enough said. When you want to pass the jerk in the left lane that is doing the speed limit, pop that DSG level down one, mash the pedal and smoke him.
Tuesday. Although somewhat of a follow up to Monday’s blues, Tuesday is a new day. It’s the day where you and the guys have a man-night. A few brews at your local gastro-pub and rousing discussions of work, women, sports and, of course, who has the nicer car. Keep in mind that you’re filthy so all your friends are loaded too. You may have money, but you’re not one of those rich guys who buys a car because of its social status. You have seven cars of purpose and you drive each one for a reason. Testosterone Tuesday means muscle car: the 1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt.
The end of the night rolls around and you bring the boys out back to the private parking spot in the parking garage to show them your Tuesday ride. The car that only has about a hundred sisters (111-127 cars produced, sources disagree), came stock from the factory running an 11.6 second ¼ mile trapping at 124 mph, 3,203 lbs with full fluids, 427 cubic inches (7.0 liters for you young guys), four barrel carbs, and a high rise manifold that cranked out 657 horsepower at 7,000 rpms. Your buddies were wondering why when you arrived you were shaking. It’s because you just drove an American Drag-Strip Demon and it took everything to keep it on the road without you melting the tires at every stop light. It is speculated that the Thunderbolt was the fastest production drag car ever produced.
Wednesday. Some may call it “Hump Day.” What part of the population actually humps on hump day? My guess is less than 30%. Monday and Tuesday have sucked at work. Your boss is friendly but an underhanded dick, your “administrative assistant” called out sick because her daughter has a runny nose, and your wife is off getting a treatment at the day spa. Sounds like you’re taking a day off too! What would a self respecting class, gentleman like yourself do on your day off?
Get out of town? Check. Quench your thirst for speed on the water? Check.
Sitting on the beach is for guys that are either whipped into doing so by their wives, obsessed with getting tan and being “Snooked out,”or you have a stomach that crests so much when lying down you can’t see the ocean. You are none of those men. You are handsome, you have chiseled abs, wear white polos with the collar in the correct “un-popped” position, sport Ray-Bans, and create some of that aura and mystery for the unfortunate women that can’t have you. You my friend have a boat. Not just one, many. Sunday cruising on Golden Pond is done on your one-of-a-kind 1938 Chris Craft 29’ twin engine Sportsman.
Weekend sailing trips are enjoyed on the Hinckley SW70, and your day out by yourself or with the guys is done on the Statement Marine 42 foot v-hull powered by twin Mercury Racing 1075SCi engines (look it up.) Straight nasty and classy. The 2011 model has not been released yet but it is poised to be the Bugatti Veyron of off shore power boats.
But we digress; we’re here to talk cars. What do you drive down to the yacht club? Today it’s the 2009 Mercedes Benz G55 G V12 S Bi-Turbo by BRABUS. This German colossus is propelled by a twin turbo V12 that crushes the 0-60 mph run in a scant 4.3 seconds. It’s not meant for top speed but if you needed to go 150 mph, you can. Need to move the boats? Again, no problem. That connecting rod shredding, tire smoking, war machine of an engine produces 700 hp at 5,100 rpms and 973 lb-ft of torque at 2,100 rpms. For the Love of God and All Living Things that are Good, you could tow your vacation house around with that kind of power. If the infamous Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDi can tow a Boeing 747 (seriously, check it out on Youtube) with only 553 lb-ft of torque, can you imagine what you could move with this thing? Not to mention it hasn’t really changed shape in thirty years. The G is stately and refined, low key enough to show up to a wedding and bad ass enough to pull a Jumbo jet around on your private air strip.
Thursday. Back to work. Ever stare at the dainty girl walking by and you don’t quite know why she’s so beautiful? There isn’t one thing that sticks out, she’s just subtlety perfect. When you get her home, however, she breaks out the whips and chains and makes you cry like a little boy. The Cadillac CTS-V is a little like that. Dainty and cosseting when you need it to be, then dangerous and a little freaky when let loose.
The V is subtly different than the regular CTS sedan: A little bit lower, a stonkin’ chrome grill, a hidden pair of brake discs the size of formal dinner ware, and a little “V” badge on the boot. I can hear you all screaming, “But, what about the Porsche Panamera Turbo S or the Mercedes E63 AMG?!?” Let’s just go ahead and eliminate the Porsche right now. It currently holds the new record at the Nurburgring in Germanywith a 7:56minute lap time, beating out the Caddy by 3.32 seconds, but I’d rather make out with a walrus and shag a manatee than own the Panamera. It’s so ugly it’s not even funny. Really, it’s not funny, so stop laughing. I’ll give up those three seconds on the track and take the CTS-V, the second fastest four-door family sedan on the planet. Not to mention, the CTS-V is bringing the swagger and the old school class back to the Cadillac brand.
If you tried to take Grammy for a ride and make her get in the back of a Panamera, she’d hit you with her cane and walk to wherever you were going. “What about the E-Class?” you may ask. Well, that’s a toss up. Edmunds gives the Caddy the advantage, Road & Track gives the Benz the #1, and Motortrend has the CTS-V losing to the RS4. Seeing as how you already own the RS4 and the ridiculously awesome G Wagon, you diversify and choose the nostalgic Caddy with the volcano under the hood.
Coming next week, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Can you even stand to know what you’re going to be driving on Friday?!