Archive for the ‘garage’ Category

Top Gear coming to BBCA

August 14th, 2007 No comments

There are occasions when the stars align beautifully, and August 20th will be yet another example. Make certain your DVR’s have enough space, as Jeremy Clarkson, the incomparably english James May, and Richard Hammond will be viewable on american cable TV. No more hunting for BitTorrents (unless you want the full 1080p version) – the absolutely brilliant Top Gear will be a regular on BBC America. The shows irreverence knows no bounds, and even if you don’t care at all for cars, this is perhaps the funniest UK TV since Monty Python.

Full schedule here.

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Duncan Hamilton wins the 1953 Le Mans, while completely drunk

July 15th, 2007 No comments

Most definitely, the best motor racing story ever told. A Brit, Duncan Hamilton, raced a 1953 Jaguar XK120C while being (in the perfect words of Top Gear presenter James May) “hog wimperingly bladdered.” During the race the car was filled with fuel, and Hamilton was filled with Brandy. Absolutely brilliant.

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The price of petrol

July 13th, 2007 5 comments


A camera phone image from a Mobil station after filling up my Saab yesterday. $65 to fill up a Saab. I don’t feel too terribly bad though, since we drive so infrequently that a tank of fuel in this car will last 2-3 months. I talked to a woman across the pump from me who was filling up a full size Lexus LX470 suv – she drives 60 miles a day, and pays $120 every 3-4 days to fill up. Ouch! Imagine a large suv in the UK, where fuel is around $8 a gallon.

It might be time for one of these.

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F1 says goodbye to the land of the left turn

July 12th, 2007 No comments

F1 leaves Indy – so the US is now without an F1 event. Maybe that’s a good thing though – I’d like to see a Monaco-esque road course set up here in Chicago. Imagine F1 cars screaming down Upper Wacker in one direction, then back down lower Wacker Dr. going back the other way. Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Ave. would make pretty cool straights, and it would give Mayor Daley a really good excuse to fix the really big potholes and expansion joints that my MINI doesn’t like very much.

A cab, driven very quickly by a middle eastern gentleman in a turban, would of course be the pace car.

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Zero Emissions Vehicle

May 19th, 2007 No comments


I’ve been a car enthusiast for as long as I can remember, but lately my enthusiasm for the automobile has been waning quite a bit. Fuel at over $4 a gallon combined with sitting in city traffic doesn’t make driving quite as much fun anymore. Sure, the MINI with the top down on an open road or track is quite cool, but moments like that don’t happen all that often in the city.

I’ve been biking myself and the girls around Chicago quite a bit lately in the bike trailer, and they love it. Chicago has quite a few bike lanes which make getting around pretty easy. Chicago is also pretty flat, which makes pulling a bike trailer around with two kids much more conducive. The trailer/stroller is a Chariot Cougar 2, which has an independent adjustable suspension so the girls don’t get thrown about if we happen to hit a pothole.

Premium fuel here in the city is over $4 a gallon, so I’ve saved quite a bit of cash by biking about. I don’t think I’ve driven in nearly two weeks, as we either take the bike trailer, walk, or take the El. Thursday the girls and I rode to the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is about a 15 minute ride. I can lock the bike when I get there, and in about a half a minute the trailer converts back to a stroller. The bike is much quicker than driving, as I regularly fly by all the gridlocked cars burning fuel just sitting there. This rig is much greener than a prius, much cheaper to buy and run, and is much more fun to operate as well. Acceleration is on par with an economy hybrid (at least up to 15mph or so), and there aren’t any nasty batteries to replace and dispose of when they wear out. Co2 is a non-issue, and overall emissions are extremely low as the only output is methane – the level of course depending on how much mexican I had before the ride. Downtown and the loop is a little over 10 minutes away on the bike, the Zoo, lakeshore or Wrigley is about 15.

My mom and dad used to ride me around Chicago in a seat on the back of a Schwinn Suburban, and I remember how cool it felt to ride to the zoo or down the lakeshore bike trail on the back of the seat – so perhaps that’s why this form of transport seems completely normal to me.

A few more pics of the rig –



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ipod in a MINI update

May 14th, 2007 No comments

An update to an earlier entry about mating an ipod with a MINI. I didn’t like the look of the wires coming from the dock connector, so I used a short section of graphite cable jacket I had around from an earlier speaker cable project, and heat shrinked the end with a heat gun. The cable disappears into the dash, making a little cleaner install. Pics in the following links.



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ipod in a MINI

May 1st, 2007 4 comments


I’ve got a 20g gen 4 ipod, and I have a MINI, so this past Saturday I set out to engineer a solution to the problem of integrating the two. I installed a hidden ipod controller in the Volvo a little over a year ago which operates the ipod via the steering wheel controls through the cd changer input, but it only operates 5 playlists. You can go through the five playlists, and access the tracks only in sequential order. On a trip to STL last weekend I quickly went through all 5 playlists, and if I wanted to hear a song again I had to hit the next or previous track button as many as 99 times depending on how many songs were on the playlist.

I didn’t want a similar system in the MINI – I wanted full (and cheap, since the ipod controllers are all around $150) ipod control that could be operated without taking a hand off the steering wheel. My plan was to somehow mount a Pro Clips ipod cradle to the back of the tachometer – that way the entire ipod can be directly controlled with a finger without having to take a hand off the wheel, and the display is very safely readable while driving as it’s in the line of sight. I got a SIK dock cable/charger/line out, so the ipod’s output is the much better sounding line level out of the dock as opposed to the distorted headphone output. I had to take the MINI head unit out (which only took about 4 minutes) to install a factory aux line input to the radio. Having the ipod as part of the interior seems to fit the MINI as well.

I looked online for an ipod mount that would attach to the back of the tachometer in a MINI, and there is actually a company that makes pretty much what I put in – except it’s $70, just for the mount. It’s made by Craven Speed, and it’s a universal ipod cradle (which usually means it universally won’t work) as opposed to the Pro Clips mounts which are ipod model specific. My solution was to get the Pro Clips 4th gen 20g ipod specific padded mount for $25 (they have cradles for every type of ipod), then I spent another $1 at the home depot for a 5” genuine Stanley steel trim plate. I painted the trim plate in a grey anthracite to match the interior. I then mounted one end of the trim plate to the right side screw on the back of the tach, then mounted the Pro Clips mount to the other side of the plate. The holes that were pre-drilled in the plate worked out perfectly for distance and mounting height – I even put a few neoprene washers between the plate and the tach for scratch/shock resistance, and it all works out very nicely. The ipod charges when the car is on as well. It all went in Saturday evening, and took about an hour and a half, including the painting of the steel trim plate. The entire system goes up and down with the tilt wheel feature, so perfect line of sight to the ipod is available to all drivers, big or small.

The only problem is that my 20g ipod now has over 19g on it, so I now have to start managing content a bit. It’s my own fault though, as I’ve got quite a bit of stuff at 320kbps, and more than a few things in the apple lossless format, which sound extremely good – but the apl lossless files take up quite a bit of space.

Having the ipod so accessible is both good and bad – I made the dire mistake of explaining to the girls that this type of installation allows all of the ipod’s content to be accessed, so yesterday we were listening to “Dress Up in You” by Belle and Sebastian (Ellesse calls it the trumpet song) about 6 times in a row. A few hipsters at a bus stop in Wicker Park liked the B&S quite a bit as well. It also makes me look rather like an apple fanboi, which would ordinarily be a really bad label if I wasn’t, well, uh…..kinda one of them.

This would work in just about any car, as long as the radio has a line/aux input/fm modulator/tape adapter (Pro Clips sells vehicle specific mounting kits too, if you don’t want to use a piece of steel from the Home Depot), and you don’t mind looking like a fanboi.

A few more pics are here:



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Shell V Power spot

March 26th, 2007 No comments

A brilliant spot from Shell, for their V Power fuels – featuring a very nice rolling bit of Ferrari’s F1 history. Be sure to turn up the sound. Shell apparently spent $3.9 million producing the advert, and had to completely shut down a few sections of several very large cities to film the spot. 

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30” wheels

March 12th, 2007 2 comments

The logical evolution of our national wheel fetish. And he’s from Florida.

Imagine this vehicle in any sort of evasive maneuver. Even at 10 mph, it would likely roll. I say it’s a rather intelligent use of $30k. $30,500 including the car. He could have at least used a Cadillac.

Imagine this scenario – you’re sitting around on a nice sunny day thinking of ways to spend $30k. You look online for a nice ‘03 BMW M3, or perhaps a late model Porsche Boxter S. Or a brand new MINI Cooper S, laden with almost every optional extra. Or perhaps after some rather overtly cerebral deliberation and soul searching, you come to the distinct realization that you’re really not much of an enthusiast and endavor to spend $20k on a new Accord, which would get you safely and reliably from A to B for perhaps 10 years or so – and pocket or invest the remaining $10k.

Then you reach the conclusion that all of these prior musings are completely without merit and you arrive at the most logical choice, which is to spend the $30k making your ‘85 caprice completely and utterly un-driveable.

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