The Dream Garage Game

I’m at 35,000 feet, no new podcasts, the wifi isn’t working, and I’ve already read the airline magazine. It’s time to go back to an old friend to keep me occupied, the “Dream Garage Game.”

The Dream Garage Game is something most auto enthusiasts have played by themselves, with friends at work, over drinks at a bar, or just about anywhere. Its beauty is that you can play by yourself, or with friends and the fun doesn’t diminish one bit. There’s also no “right” answer so you can have an infinite number of variations based on timing, mood, and imagination.

Most variants start with something like, “you have $100,000 to build a three-car collection?” The dollar amount and number of cars included in the game vary to a high degree and provide most of the challenge. Anyone can come up with a list of dream cars when given “money is no object” criteria. It’s far more fun to create constraints that force me to make difficult choices to get the most for my imaginary money.

Origins

While I played variations of this game as a child, my affinity didn’t truly blossom until I was training for my first half-marathon. It was during those grueling training miles in the Texas summer sun where I needed my mind to focus on pleasant things and not my burning lungs, weary legs and the sweat stinging my eyes. As I “ran” down the long roads into nowhere surrounding my neighborhood, I conjured up scenarios where I had the money to modify my car (scratch lottery wins, medium size jackpots, DB Cooper’s suitcases). I created parts lists in my mind so detailed that I was figuring out dyno numbers for each stage of modification, and the locations I would purchase parts from, or what shop would do the work.

But the list of things I would do to my car was exhausted quickly as my training progressed. I had to move on to bigger and more detailed mind dreams to keep myself running. That’s when I really started the “challenge,” what would I buy if I had $100,000 and room for only three cars. At first blush, this sounds easy, but if you’re really into cars, it can become very difficult, fast. Then, of course, there are the caveats; can I keep my current vehicle as one of the three, and if so, does its value count against the $100K? etc.

The parameters are up to you or your friend’s imagination and how cruel you want to be. For most people, $100K is an obscene sum of money, but in the car world, it doesn’t take much to blow past that figure. Hell, a base 911 starts just a smidge under that right now, add two or three options, and you’ve blown the whole budget on a single car (despite it being a fantastic choice).

The joy for me is trying to fit all my passions into the equation. To find something that will be fun for every situation. For me, that means a relatively luxurious daily driver (and maybe one that could tow one of the other cars to a track), and two fun sports cars. What cars I choose changes almost every time I play the game. Here’s an example.

Game On

Lately, I’m swimming in the deep end of the pool of Porsche, so I would gravitate to a 2008-2010 Cayenne S for the daily, and a 911 of 80’s G Body or 997 variant, which leaves me about $25K of theoretical money for the third car. While I love small, nimble cars, I also like brute force and power. So in this current garage scenario, I have to find a way to add a Corvette. For $25K, there is only one answer for me, a C5 Z06. I’ve owned this car before, and it’s one of the few past cars I wish I never had to get rid of. If I had a bit more cash, I would absolutely go for the C6 version, but you can get an astounding C5 Z06 for $25K all day long.

The problem with the above solution is that it is a bit limited, and I’ve owned two of the three cars in the past. Which means it’s time for some caveats; no cars I’ve already owned, including different trim levels of the same vehicle. Ouch, I just ruled out any Corvette or Cayenne; so its time to re-examine my picks. I need a daily driver that’s fun, sporty, and a lovely place to be. Let’s forget about having to tow a car to the track, so SUVs don’t have to be considered, we’re going for sedans or wagons. If I leave the 911 in the garage, which I am, that means I have about $50-55K to get two vehicles; what to do? The BMW M3 is a paragon of automotive obsession that I have never had the pleasure of owning, maybe this round of the game is an excellent time to get one. I can split the remaining budget many ways, spend most of it on the M3 and then just leave enough left for a Miata? Nope, can’t do that, I’ve already owned a Miata.

As with most thoroughbred cars, the best advice in the world is to buy the newest and best one you can afford, so I’m going with a budget of $35-40K to find an M3. That sum of money leaves me in the E46 era from 2000-2006, or the early years of the follow-on E90/92 generation from 2007-2013. The E46 is a car that is well known for its problem areas if not properly maintained, and at this point it’s age will mean that most models I find will need something, if not a whole lot of things. The follow-on generation is newer, bigger, and has one of the best V8s that didn’t originate in Detroit, but it is also not without its problems. At this price, a low mile garage queen is not in the imaginary budget.

Photo Courtesy of Carmax

The good news is I have a solution for this game, an E90/92 (sedan/coupe) from Carmax, with their outstanding warranty. I always peruse the Carmax site (among others) for cars I like. Not that I am in the market, but just to know how the market looks. I know I can always find an M3 for around $30-35K, leaving me $5K for Carmax’s fantastic warranty, which should be plenty. Many people will scoff at buying an extended or after-market warranty for a car, it is not always the correct decision. But for this particular car, I will happily spend that money, knowing that it will likely pay for itself if I own the car for 3 or more years.

For the Win

Now that I have the 911 and an M3, it’s time to round out my theoretical enthusiast garage. With $15K left, and no Miatas allowed, you may think I’ve boxed myself into a corner, but you’d be wrong. I have the lux daily driver, back-road, track day and autocross covered with the Germans, now it’s time for something a little different. Time for me to find the auto journalist special, a Ford Fiesta ST. For $15K, there are many, many options to choose from for this enthusiastic hot hatch. It’s an Econ-box to most, but those “in the know” understand that this little 5-door with 197 HP and a manual transmission is an absolute blast to drive. There’s a reason professional auto journalists who routinely drive the newest supercar offerings like Matt Farah, Jonny Lieberman, and others have chosen to buy them as their daily cars.

The Fiesta ST fits into that fun category of “slow car fast” in that you can drive it flat out in many situations and not be concerned with being arrested. Try to wring out a Corvette or 911 to redline in the first three gears, and you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of the law, less so in the Fiesta. The FiST (as it is known to its fanbase) is certainly not luxurious, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s small, practical and wildly entertaining, and for $15K, I’d be happy to have one parked next to an M3 and a 911.

Photo Courtesy of Carmax

This is just one example of how the game can be played, there are many, many more. Hopefully, my take on this has entertained you and maybe even spurred some ideas for your own version. Just remember, the most important rule is that you make the rules. Enjoy!

Is Rivian “The One?”

I first heard of Rivian when I saw their pickup (R1T) and SUV (R1S) at the 2018 LA Auto Show. The stat sheet left me impressed, but skeptical. Electric vehicle companies are known to make pretty outlandish claims (I’m looking at you, Faraday and Lucid). am wary of a mid-size pickup claiming a 400-mile range, zero to 60 in three seconds, and a towing capacity of 11,000 pounds.  

However, as I walk around the R1T and R1S, I am struck by one thing, how “normal” they look. Yes, the headlights are a little wonky, but overall it looked like, wait for it, a truck! It looks good; it’s not a computer model designed egg with zero aesthetic appeal. Both the truck and SUV have handsome design and the right proportions for a market that loves trucks and SUVs.

That’s an EV?

The Rivian R1T

As I stood there admiring the truck, I thought Rivian could finally make electric vehicles mainstream in the US. Tesla has done a fantastic job making EVs that work in real life, and look “relatively” good. I find the Model S attractive, but the Model 3 and X are just plain ugly. Tesla also knocked some sense into the major manufacturers, spurring them to create their own EVs. Mass-market EVs in showrooms around the country is progress that will benefit consumers everywhere. The problem for Tesla is the American car buyer is less interested in sedans by the day. The upcoming Model Y will crash the insanely popular CUV market. But, even CUVs can’t overcome America’s truck obsession.

Gamechanger

I realized if Rivian actually produces the truck on display, it would be a watershed moment for EVs. Americans love trucks, and this truck looks the part. It has an impressive estimated range and some amazing cargo capability due to the skateboard platform.

The R1T “frunk” – photo by Rivian

Any Porsche Boxster or Cayman owner knows the benefit of having a front trunk (frunk) and a trunk. The R1T claims one of the first frunks in truck history. The space is extremely capable as demonstrated by the multiple bags and a cooler displayed at the auto show. It also possesses a pass-through storage compartment behind the rear seats, a feature that is impossible in a traditional truck. This compartment is fantastic for golfers, campers, or anyone looking for more safe and secure storage. Due to the lack of a conventional engine and drivetrain, a whole new era of storage has opened up, literally.

The ingenious pass-through storage compartment of the RT1

An “O” Success

Rivian seemed to come out of nowhere at the LA Auto Show, but it has been around for ten years. Rivian chose to locate its headquarters in Livonia, MI (in close proximity to Detriot and the US auto industry). They acquired a functioning manufacturing plant in Normal, Illinois where the vehicles will be built. They also have offices in Irvine, CA, San Jose, CA, and the United Kingdom. The company is on the right path to be more than a “start-up.” However, they aren’t a producer of road going automobiles yet. After the LA Auto Show, Rivian was on everyone’s mind, to include other major manufacturers. It appears Ford is the first to formalize a partnership. Hopefully, this means we see the R1T and R1S on the road by the end of 2020 as planned.

Rivian announced a new strategic partnership with the Ford Motor Company last week. Ford agreed to an equity investment of 500 million and will be a minority partner with Rivian. The company previously received a 700 million dollar investment from Amazon.

Ford plans to use the Rivian flexible skateboard design to create a new electric vehicle. Rivian gains an infusion of cash, and access to Ford’s experience and expertise in the market. When companies create strategic partnerships, you have to wonder who is getting the better end of the deal. In this case, it will probably be Ford, but I hope it is Rivian.

It’s encouraging to see Rivian capitalize on the progress of Tesla. Their approach seems to be methodical and they have built a foundation that should support them well in the future. The R1T is priced at the high-end of the range, but Americans have proven they will pay for a good truck.

Bring on the C8

Lead photo by GM

The Hype

The hype over a mid-engine Corvette has been building for decades. With the official debut announced, it is reaching a fever pitch. Chevrolet didn’t have a choice regarding this dramatic move with the Corvette. Anyone who’s driven a C7 hard, specifically the Z06 or ZR-1, knows the current configuration has essentially peaked.

There is only so much you can do with a front engine, rear drive configuration. There’s a reason race cars and supercars from Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, and Porsche have used a mid-engine configuration for years. The mid-engine layout provides a more stable platform with optimum weight distribution and superb handling characteristics.

As someone who has loved Corvettes since childhood, I am a bit conflicted with the change, but I understand. The move to mid-engine is necessary to keep Corvette in the rarified air it has inhabited since 2002.

The Legacy

You’ve been able to buy a Corvette that can hang with, or beat the top performance cars from any brand since the 405HP edition of the Z06 debuted, typically at half the price.

The detractors will be quick to deride the interior, and rightfully so. The C5 and, to a lesser extent, C6 generation have plastic interiors that lack soft touch points or refined materials. The seats in each generation are also woefully unfit for hard core driving or track days. The C7 has done much to remedy this, but the competition has also improved. That leaves the C7 still feeling a generation behind its competitors.  

My old Grand Sport on the track at MSR Cresson in Texas

The Future

The power plant of the C8 has yet to be revealed, but let’s assume it will not be a pushrod V-8. That engine configuration has powered every Corvette for six generations. To make the power needed to be a legit contender in the supercar world today, the C8 needs to have an over-head cam configuration, and probably turbo charging.

The engine change may be more of a blow to Corvette faithful than the engine location, but again, I understand. I’ve enjoyed the Corvettes I’ve owned, and there will always be a welcome spot in my garage for one. I will continue to root for the Corvette regardless of engine type or location. It has represented the best of American performance for over 65 years. The Corvette always punches above its weight class and delivers, and I hope it always will.

How to say goodbye to your free time

If you’re a car enthusiast with a modicum of free time on your hands, I bet you have engaged in the wonderful flight of fantasy that is the on-line car configurator. Any manufacturer worth their salt has a method for you, the buyer/dreamer, to build your own dream car. Some are relatively basic (Ford and Chevy) and offer a few option packages to complete the best vehicle. Others help you eliminate hours from your day with menu upon menu of choices and options. All make for a fun diversion from your normal workaday schedule. Even if you don’t have the money to execute your plan.

I like the halo marques like Porsche, Mercedes, and Ferrari, because they offer the most room to roam. BMW’s choices are equally numerous, but the current lineup doesn’t interest me. They still have fantastic vehicles, but none that really fit my current proclivities. However, I do give BMW a lot of credit for their new Individual Configurator. It allows the user to try many, many different colors out on certain models in the lineup.

Here are links to my favorites, I hope you weren’t planning on being productive today.

Porsche

Mercedes Benz

Ferrari

McLaren Automotive

Cue the talk of Porsche’s Demise

Lead photo by Porsche

Porsche unveiled a new model last week that was no surprise to anyone who follows the marque, the Cayenne Coupe. Their entry into the SUV Coupe market with the BMW X6, Mercedes-Benz GLC, and Audi Q8 has been expected. Spy photos of the vehicle have been circulating the internet for months.

You can debate the “need” for a vehicle like this all day. BMW has success with the X6, and the other German luxury manufacturers have taken notice. Continuing to lose sales to BMW is not an option.

Photograph by Porsche

My preference for Porsche aside, I think the Porsche entry is the best looking of the SUV coupes. As for performance, I’m sure the Cayenne Coupe will be a marvel to drive and stun people with its capability. But I think the Cayenne Coupe will be best at generating a new round of complaints that Porsche has lost its way.

The Heresy

Porsche has a special place in the hearts of many driving enthusiasts. Which brings a certain level of irrational emotion for what they do. When the 911 debuted, die-hard 356 enthusiasts bemoaned the new model as not being “true to Porsche.” You can’t talk about the claims of impending doom for Porsche without recounting the “blasphemous” move from air-cooled to, gasp, water-cooled engines. There are still many (misguided) enthusiasts who feel Porsche hasn’t made a “real” 911 since 1998. The end of the brand was clearly at hand.

Porsche then turned its back on the brand’s history by building the original Cayenne, a Porsche SUV! The “purists” spit with disgust. The Cayenne became the best selling Porsche model in the lineup until the Macan was introduced. It is widely credited with saving the company and therefore the 911. The Cayenne did exactly what Porsche wanted, it sold like hot cakes and brought new customers to the brand (me being one of them). Because of this success, they are churning out fever-dream sports cars for the street and remain at the top of the sports car racing world.

The Results

Whether you like the Cayenne Coupe or bemoan the fact that Porsche makes it is largely irrelevant. The fact is people will buy it, and Porsche will continue to make its volume-manufacturer leading profit margin per vehicle. Every enthusiast should applaud Porsche’s approach. Their profitability allows them to build and sell perennial automotive all-stars like the Cayman and Boxster lineup. And don’t forget the 20 plus variants of the 911 including the glorious 9000 RPM screaming GT3. The money also enables Porsche to develop this electric wonder they call the Taycon. “Heresy” again, but it will probably sell so well people will wonder why they bother to make anything else.

Porsche is dead, long live Porsche!

Cadillac CT5 Tease

Cadillac teased pictures of their new CT5 sedan which will replace the CTS in the lineup (a new smaller version is supposed to replace the current ATS in the future). The car will be unveiled at the New York Auto Show in April.

From what I see in these pictures, I have hope for the car and the brand. Modern-day GM has always had excellent drivetrain and chassis tuning (Corvette, Camaro, the ATS and CTS), it’s been some of the other areas where they have fallen short to competitors, especially Cadillac vs. “the Germans.”

As a former owner of an ATS coupe with a six-speed manual and the 2.0L turbo 4 cylinder, I can attest to the performance being on par or exceeding comparable BMW 3 Series I’ve driven. But the interior and the maddening CUE system definitely let the car down. This press release only hints at what the interior will bring, but so far it is very promising. I see actual buttons and no piano black surfaces! That alone represents a huge victory over the terrible trend of automakers using haptic feedback surfaces to replace physical switches. Nothing like contributing to distracted driving when I have to look away from the road to adjust the volume or change the temperature.

I also like the overall style and lines of the exterior, it is less angular and represents a nice evolution of the design style Cadillac has developed since the early 2000’s. I look forward to seeing the full reveal in a few weeks, this could be very promising for the American car market.

Check out the full release from Cadillac here.

Fun Rennsport Reunion Article

My current job allows me to have fun and indulge my driving passion in many ways. One such way is the ability to work at some pretty amazing events like the LA Auto Show, any number of Porsche Club of America Club Races, and last fall, a little event called Rennsport Reunion VI.

Another great perk is that I sometimes get to write about or take photos at these events for the Club Racing News magazine, online at pca.org, and the monthly magazine for all PCA members, Porsche Panorama.

Here’s a link to the last piece I wrote about a very visible PCA connection that happened at Rennsport Reunion VI, courtesy of pca.org; USAF Thunderbirds at Rennsport Reunion

 

 

Irrational and Awesome

What is it that draws people to a car? While some people devote themselves to one particular marque, others (like me) have deep desires to own, drive and tinker with cars from any number of manufacturers. Sure I have my favorites, anyone who knows me knows my fondness for all things Porsche and for Corvettes, but there are so many cars I would love to have in my life.

There’s not an obvious rhyme or reason for what I like either. Yes most of them are sports cars and better at going around corners than down a drag strip, but not all of them. There are beautiful sedans, convertibles, and even a few, gasp, SUVs which I would be thrilled to own and drive. I have some familiarity with most of these cars, whether it be friends who’ve owned them, times I’ve ridden in them, or just seeing them again and again at cars and coffees or discussed in any of the numerous car magazines I read.

But there is one car that is a splinter in my brain I cannot seem to free, although I admit to not trying very hard to do so. It’s a car that can be a sweet little cruiser, or a snorting little beast depending on what the owner has seen fit to do with it (I’ll take the beast please). I have never owned one, I do not know anyone with one, I have never ridden in one, or even seen very many at events, but it has fully captured my imagination anyway. For me, the influence is quite irrational, and maybe that’s one of the draws of the car. There are certainly loyal fans of the marque out there, they even have a name, AlfistiYes, I have a 100% irrational and really untraceable love and obsession with the Alfa Romeo GTV, both the 1750 and 2000 from the late sixties and early seventies.

photos courtesy of Petrolicious.com

Unlike my love for Corvettes and Porsche, I cannot trace a moment in my childhood where I saw an Alfa GTV and thought, I must have one. In fact, I only really became aware of them in my mid-thirties. Sure I knew about the Spider and its iconic role in The Graduate, and the polarizing 8C Competizione supercar of the late-aughts. But the GTV has somehow completely captured my imagination. I appreciate other Alfas for their presence and beauty, but I probably wouldn’t be considered a true Alfisti because I really only long for a GTV. Perhaps that will change when I get one. Maybe I will develop a love for the rest of the brand, after all, I would take a Giulia Quadrifoglio over an M3 (assuming it was under warranty of course).

Also unlike Corvette and Porsche, my knowledge for Alfa and the GTV specifically is not that strong. I couldn’t have long discussions about one-year-only options, or engine codes and changes with anyone about the Alfa, but can happily ramble on for quite some time about both if the subject is a Corvette, 911, Cayman or Boxster of almost any era. I really know very little about the car, except that I love it and I want one; and that is enough.

For me, there is an inherent coolness about the car, its shape, the style and layout of the interior, and let’s talk about the sound. I love the roar of a great V-8 LS engine and the wail of a flat six from Stuttgart. But the crazy cacophony from a GTV’s little inline four is just intoxicating, assuming it’s been properly tuned of course, like this one courtesy of Petrolicious.com.

Just like the other cars I love, I do not care one bit for originality. I care about performance, reliability, and feel above all else. I will tinker and mod the car to my liking using the “greatest-hits” from other people’s cars to create one that makes me smile and laugh every time I fire it up or rip off a glorious heel-toe downshift.

Unfortunately for me, prices of nicely done hot-rod GTVs are high and going higher. But with any luck, I’ll be able to find a solid car that’s maybe just a few tweaks here and there away from being the loud, feisty little Italian I want in my garage.

Now, can I allow myself to own one before I ever enjoy the magic of an air-cooled 911? That’s a truly difficult question as they both occupy significant portions of my imagination and lust. But since I have my glorious Cayman to give me a flat six fix on a daily basis, don’t be surprised if I am on the active end of a Bring a Trailer bidding session for a choice GTV.

Why Cars?

It would seem to some an odd passion in this day, to be so focused on something that society and technology seem to be racing to make obsolete. Maybe that focus is the very reason, but for me, it is deeper than that. I have always looked at cars, especially sports cars, as a form of escape and freedom. As a child of the ’80s, I couldn’t wait to watch the latest exploits of Knight Rider, or the Dukes of Hazzard because the cars were fantastic. They were worlds away from the pedestrian vehicles of my family, from a gold Ford Granada to an original Dodge Caravan, or something so stunning as a Geo Metro; my family wasn’t exactly focused on automobiles, but I was.

I knew where all the cool cars were parked in my friend’s neighborhoods, I still remember the day one of my friends told me his mom had a Corvette. Then I remember her giving me a ride in that 1978 Pace Car Corvette, and I knew I had to have one. Then there was a 944 Turbo, a Jaguar XJ, Toyota Supra, Pontiac Fiero GT, Camaro RS and Z28s, and a Dodge Stealth R/T; these were the cars that I could see and occasionally ride in, but they were always on the periphery of my world, something I knew I would one day change.

While Farrah Fawcett may have been the ubiquitous teenage boy poster of the 70s, the 80s were ruled by the Lamborghini Countach, Ferrari Testarossa, and the Porsche 930 Turbo and the 959, I had them all on my wall. Even though I knew I would never be able to afford one, these cars influenced me so much, the dream was there. I knew there were other cars out there I would eventually be able to own that could provide that same feeling as those halo cars, and those were my goals.

I took the plunge right after college graduation and spent as much as I could afford on a monthly payment on a high-mile Mitsubishi 300GT. It was the SL model and not the vaunted VR4, but considering I was replacing a 1988 Honda Accord with 210,000 miles on it, that SL was a spaceship in comparison. From there I went on to a slew of cars and motorcycles until I bought a pristine 2001 Corvette coupe, it was a rocket, for a little while. After about a year I replaced that car with a 2003 Corvette Z06, which was a game changer. The 405 horsepower Z06 was a purpose built track car that I proceeded to drive and modify for the next six years. I loved it and during that time I became entrenched in the car world, joining the local Corvette club, going on road trips, reading all the forums and magazines and just generally devouring automotive content.

More Corvettes and other daily driver cars would come and go, but while my tastes evolved, my general love of performance cars and driving only grew. Like many of you with the “disease,” the sickness really took hold after I did my first High-Performance Driving Education weekend. Now I really knew what my car could do on a track, what real speed felt like (without worrying about being arrested) and what it was like to hold 1G through a corner. My budget certainly did not support my habit enough for my taste, but I was able to get to the track just enough to know I had a lot to learn and this hobby would always have a place in my life as long as I had a say in it.

I have moved on from Corvettes (really only because of lack of storage space, I would still have one if I had room) and am now swimming in the deep end of the pool of Porsche. My 2014 Cayman S is my only car, it is my daily driver in all weather (I have winter tires mounted from November through March), my autocross cone killer, and my DE weekend speed machine. It is certainly down on power to my last Corvette, but it more than makes up for that in the interior, build-quality, and general handling prowess. The Cayman feels like it can shrug off anything on the track or off, I love it.

Hopefully, I’ve been able to provide a brief glimpse into what makes me a car guy (not to be confused with a “wrench” because once beyond the basics of fluids, brakes, and tires I am a useless mechanic). If you also share this “disease,” or if you are confused by why we obsess over cars and want to figure out more, I hope you find this site entertaining and follow along.

Cheers

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