Archive for December, 2010

How you’re impacting your community

December 20, 2010 4 comments

Fair warning to prepare yourselves: This is going to be a long post about something I feel passionately about.

I use the word community pretty often in some of my less focused posts and I feel like some people don’t really understand the concept. I’m not aiming this specifically at the readers of this site, but really just taking a shot at the greater group of people who are into the car modification world. You affect your community in almost everything you publicly do. This could be anything from sharing thoughts to a friend, to posting a response on your favorite car forum, all the way down to writing a crappy automotive blog. *cough* *cough*

(Self deprecating humor? Check)

Because of this awesome power you wield without knowing it, you might not realize when you’re accidentally destroying someones hopes, dreams, or even just off-the-wall ideas. Why is this important? Mainly because hopes, dreams, and off-the-wall ideas are how this industry survives and how we all enjoy our hobby. When people want something, companies step in to fill the need. (Thanks Capitalism!) The problem is, when you squash someone’s dreams of…buying a body kit for their car, let’s say…you’ve stopped that person from positively reinforcing the company that built the body kit. When they don’t get positive reinforcement (i.e. sales) they get no money or incentive to try to create something new and innovative. What they’ll do is figure out what everyone is buying, even if it’s old or derivative, and keep making that until everyone gets bored and moves on. Hooray! Nothing happened! We’re still at square one!

(The Square One mall in Saugus, MA. Nothing to do with cars, I’m just homesick)

The internet has been the biggest benefit and the biggest hindrance to the car modification world. It hinders and limits us because of the incestuous idea sharing, clique mentality, and the inherent anonymity of internet forums and bulletin boards. While it has connected our community/communities, it has also let people accidentally (or intentionally) step on the afore-mentioned hopes, dreams, and off-the-wall ideas. On the internet people have a wonderful shield of anonymity to hide behind and when doing so they feel safe being aggressive or rude to their peers. There’s no real ramification that can be felt so really there’s no harm…right? Just because you can’t see the damage you’ve done and there is no punishment for what you’ve done means it didn’t matter…right?

(I’m not hurting anyone, I’m just pulling a lever that drops things. Levers don’t hurt people)

When you shut someone down on an idea you’ve squashed potential growth both of that idea and any future ideas that would’ve spawned off the original. With that in mind why on Earth would someone try to shut down an idea? Here’s why: Growth might not be something that is widely approved of and there have been plenty of huge leaps forward that people originally hated and fought, but ended up being awesome or further leading to something even more awesome. Want an example? Lets talk about fiberglass. When it first came out circa 1950’s and was first being used in automobiles (I believe it was the Corvettes that first used it extensively) it was so strange and new that people couldn’t look past its strangeness to see that it was a million mile leap forward.

(1953 Corvette. Fiberglass body makes for some serious sex appeal)

Do you know what would’ve happened today if someone had squashed the use of fiberglass in automotive applications? No carbon fiber. Yup, sorry to drop that nightmare on you all, but carbon fiber is a direct descendant of fiberglass and without FG, there’d be no CF.  Sure carbon fiber would exist still and it’d be used in other fields, but the fact that fiberglass was given a chance to exist and allowed to show how effective it could be lead directly to the extensive adoption of carbon fiber car parts.

(Carbon fiber makes everything better. Even plug panels)

Now am I saying that encouraging someone to buy a body kit is the equivalent to the scientific leap forward that fiber reinforced materials were? Of course not, and stop asking such smart ass questions. What I’m trying to say here is that you need to be aware that your opinions and feedback are changing our community and not always for the better. I’m not telling you to change how you think or what you like/dislike. I’m just asking that you understand how your actions have reactions and that hitting “reply” on a message board can damage our community.

– Steve wants a pair of carbon fiber underpants

Categories: Cars, Steve

The bug

December 13, 2010 4 comments

People always talk about “the car bug” or “the bug bit me” or “stop punching me in the larynx, I’m a nun!” and so I felt it necessary to let you all know that “the bug” has re-bitten me. Yes, as you all well know, I’ve been bitten a few times by the urge to upgrade my car and to work out all the little details until everything is exactly how I want it. If you’ve paid any attention to the site semi-recently though, you’ll have noticed that I was somehow cured of the bug bites and was in a bit of a lull. I don’t know what the hell changed, but I think I was bitten again.

(nom nom nom nom)

Seriously though, I’ve spent the past three hours skimming parts websites and looking up track time for the coming year. I’ve set aside some money and am now planning on setting aside more because I cannot help quell the urge to push myself and my car even further.

(Different kind of pushing…although I was doing this to my car when I had to bump start it)

What’s on the menu? Safety gear, drivetrain upgrades, and maybe even a little more power gear. Let’s talk safety fist: I’m looking into a head and neck restraining (HNR) system and am weighing the pros and cons of going with a HANS brand or the newer challenger the Neck DefNder. Both are great options and both make sure your noggin stays close to its normal operating range, it’s just a matter of preference and features really. I’m also going to be upgrading my racing helmet which is currently just my SHOEI motorcycle helmet pulling double duty. As there’s no way to get the HNR mounting pegs onto a motorcycle helmet, and moto helmets aren’t designed for in-car use, I’ll likely be upgrading to an SFI approved helmet sometime soon as well.

(DefNder. The e gave its life to make the N so large)

Drivetrain upgrades you ask? Limited slip differential, I reply. While I’ve got the drivetrain out, it’d make a lot of sense to get a lighter flywheel and a clutch that can handle more power than the OEM unit that I’m currently punishing. While I’d feel fine doing the clutch and flywheel install, I’ll likely take the whole pile of parts to a transmission shop as differentials are tricky little buggers and I’m not interested in destroying a brand new LSD just because I wanted to save a few bucks. Considering it’ll all be apart anyway for the clutch/flywheel install, the whole thing shouldn’t cost too much to be done at a shop…I hope.

(expensive, complex, and just about the best pound for pound upgrade you can make)

Lastly there are power parts. Now I’ll be completely honest with you here; I rarely even use my high boost setting as the low boost setting is more than enough to get me into some serious trouble. The tuning bug has taken hold of my senses and made me want to push beyond the current limits though so I’m looking into a new intake manifold, larger injectors, a return fuel setup, and a full 3 inch exhaust.

(Shiny and bigger means I want it)

I don’t know what causes the mod bug to bite, and I usually have no warning before it strikes, but goddamn this bug is worse than poison ivy. It hits, spreads, and itches until you buy parts to soothe the burn. The car gods send their plague upon you and it is up to your wallet and emotional fortitude as to whether or not you can endure their torture. I can’t. Clicking “buy” right now…

-Steve prefers to nibble, not bite

Categories: Cars, Steve

Guest Editor Jeff: Winter wheels and tires

December 6, 2010 4 comments

La Nina winter is settling in on the PNW, and I find myself asked “What makes a good winter tire”? If you live in a place that has more than on season, chances are you would benefit from having a dedicated set of tires for your warm season and a different set for your cold season. In some climates that may mean studded snow tires in winter and all-seasons the rest of the year, or maybe ultra-high-performance (UHP) summer tires for some months. It’s a sad reality that a single tire won’t be the best at every type of driving condition. Those tires that are great in the summer, due to chemistry, size, tread pattern, aspect ratio, etc., won’t be as effective in rain, snow, or icy conditions.

Tires that purport to made for “all-seasons” are really just compromises, a classic jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none situation. UHPAS (ultra-high-performance all-season) tires are a little cul-de-sac of tire engineering, but they still can’t provide the summer driving of a true Extreme Summer tires plus the winter performance of a dedicated snow tire. Plus, you basically get what you pay for, so if you want a great all-around tire to replace having to buy a summer set and a separate winter set, expect to play double what a comparable summer or winter tire would cost, since this special tire is essentially two-in-one (today is hyphen-day, if you hadn’t noticed).

Continental ContiExtremeContact D(ry)W(et)S(now) tires. Non-hyphenated.

So let me offer you this advice. If you’re going to pay for two sets of tires (and you are, whether you physically buy two sets or just pay double for one all-around fail set), don’t spend more than about $100 per tire. That price point is just about at the inflection point of the value-price derivative. Weird sizing notwithstanding, you can get a good name-brand tire that’s good in summer (for your summer wheels) and one that’s good in winter (for your winter wheels). What’s that? You don’t have dedicated rims for your summers vs. your winters? Okay, let’s look at that.

If you live in a place that is disproportionally “wintery”, then what I’m about to say may not apply to you. If you live in a normal place, chances are you show off your car in good warm, dry weather in the summertime. It would then make sense that you would dress-up your car with some aftermarket rims for summertime driving, and those rims will need tires, so this is a great time to pick up some Extreme Summer tires to go with them.

Scion tC video game picture nonsense

Problem half-solved! Now you have summer rims and summer tires. What about winter driving though? Would you buy winter tires to put on your nice new BBS rims? Here are some reasons not to:
1. Those rims are probably bigger than stock size, meaning the tires have a smaller side-wall than stock size. This provides less protection to the rim from road impacts (pot holes, etc.) and firmer ride.
2. Those rims were expensive. You’ll want to take care of them. Washing your car in winter weather may not be an option.
3. If you had winter tires in the same size as the summers, it would cost you about $25 per wheel every time you wanted to switch back and forth. That’s $200 per calendar year (summers on in spring, off in fall).
4. You have the stock rims sitting in your garage.

You could sell your stock rims and recover some of your funds, but chances are they wouldn’t bring in enough scratch to cover another set of BBS rims for winter, plus a second set of nice rims for winter doesn’t compute with issues 1) and 2) above. If you’re into charity however, you could give them to your less-fortunate friend.

The Prius owner got tC rims and a white chick. Not sure what the Scion could have gotten in return.

Instead of all that (and by now this should make sense), buy winter tires for your stock rims and keep your summers on your nice aftermarket wheels. If you hate your stock wheels (i.e., they are steel and have a horrible two-piece plastic hubcap), get some in-the-family wheels from a nicer trim line, nicer vehicle, or whatever. Got a Jetta? Get GLI wheels (or TT wheels). Got a 325? Get M3 wheels. Got a Prius? I’m so sorry.

So when the weather’s good, throw your summers on. When it’s bad, throw the winters on. It’ll save you money in the long run and provide superior driving over a single “all-season” tire.

This time-lapse photograph, read left to right, shows the transition from stock to OZ to BBS.

-Outro-Jeff has his winters on stock rims. Yes, they’re contiextremecontact.

Categories: Cars, Jeff

Posts incoming – Technical difficulties

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Normally there’d be a fully written out post here on Monday morning and if all things worked as planned, there would be. Right now we’ve got two posts that are currently stuck in the queue waiting to be published, and I’m currently wrestling with the wordpress functionality to let me post them without mucking up the formatting.

Fear not! This week and next week are going to have properly sized posts replete with full pictures and intelligently placed snark (and perhaps a boob or two…no promises).

(Two boobies…but probably not the kind you were hoping for)

Stay tuned, I’ll have at least one of the posts pushed out hopefully by today or tomorrow.

– Steve is working his technical wizardy…searching for “boobie birds” on Bing

Categories: Random, Steve