Why Supercars Aren’t Cheap to Maintain

Supercars are constantly redefining how crazy cars can be.  Think about the 1990s.  The McLaren F1 was the fastest car in the world until the Bugatti Veyron.  The Lamborghini Diablo wasn’t nearly as fast, but it was just as raw and pure of a driver’s car.  However, the car that one can argue defined the 1990s supercar wars was the Ferrari Testarossa.  It wasn’t the fastest, the most terrifying, or most exhilarating.  What it did do, however, was pave the way for supercars as we know them now.  Yes, that means being completely unaffordable to the general population and outrageous repair costs.

This blog post is by no means meant to make supercars from the 1990s and first decade of the 2000s seem like horrible messes of cars that are best left to be stared at in museums.  Drive these cars.  It’s what they’re meant for.  Grab they keys and floor it if you get the chance.  Just remember to set aside a LOT of money to repair them.  Oh, and find a really good mechanic.  Just because they say that they service European cars does NOT mean that they will service your Lamborghini Diablo.  They will, but they will likely do it badly and cause further damage to something that is expensive.  Ask them if they service your supercar.  They can usually point you to somebody who will if they can’t.

Many jobs require special tools for that car and that car only.  Your Craftsman toolset will do irreversible damage to your car.   Doing a simple task such as changing the oil, which might take an afternoon in your mom’s Toyota Camry, can turn into a five-day knuckle-bashing fest on a McLaren F1.  Let’s not even start on the Ferrari Enzo.

Yes, that’s a stock McLaren F1 engine bay!  The gold throughout the engine bay is actual gold leaf.  The exhaust is titanium, and no, the blue connectors are not for nitrous.  They are for fuel delivery.  That engine bay looks like a lot of fun to access!  No wonder it takes five days to change the oil…

McLaren estimates annual repair costs to be about $30,000, which doesn’t seem too bad until you find out that an oil change is $8,000.  You can even ship your F1 to McLaren’s factory in Woking, UK for repairs, where McLaren employs two full-time F1 technicians for F1 repairs alone!  That’s what Ralph Lauren does for his THREE F1’s.  Yeah, that blazer you bought is going to good use.  McLaren suggests replacing the tires in pairs ($3,000 per tire!).  McLaren scrubs in every set sold, for free.  That means that they custom-make the tires for free!  Service can take up to 6 weeks – not including transit to the UK.  It’s ten days door-to-door by air, seven weeks by boat.  The bright side?  The car is appreciating so quickly that repair costs will never catch up to their now-astronomical price.  Chumps.

This is the floor of the customer service department of McLaren’s Woking factory.  It might not be so bad to come here after all…

That being said, the McLaren F1 is one of the most amazing cars to ever come out of a factory.  It was the fastest car in the world for almost 20 years, and the driving experience is supposedly second to none.  It’s also going up in price really quickly.  Get one now if you want.  Yeah, your kids only need a semester at Stanford anyways!

This is a Ferrari Enzo engine bay.  Not exactly pretty, but it gets the job done!  I’m a fan of the massive intake manifold and massive shocks.  Those two gold things are fuel pumps.  That should give you a good idea on the fuel economy on this thing!

When you buy an Enzo, you’d better have every single piece of paper detailing EVERYTHING that was done to it!  If you don’t, be sure to spend far more than the service cost off of the asking price!  When something goes wrong, it goes from a relatively inexpensive fix to a SNAFU in seconds.

Oil or shop fluids will irreversibly damage at least one $6,000 carbon-ceramic brake rotor, so a set of factory covers protects them during service.  I’m not joking!

Each authorized dealer must buy a $10,000 special tool kit and this scissor lift to work on an Enzo.  The massive V12 takes 12 quarts of oil.  That’s a lot.  Most cars take around 7.

Oh, and a word for the wise – warm up the Enzo’s big V12 with the $60,000 carbon fiber engine lid open, and the carbon fiber intake body will expand enough that the lid won’t close until the engine cools off.

This is a Porsche Carrera GT engine bay.  This car has long been the source of heated controversy, which only heated up after the tragic deaths of Paul Walker and Roger Rodas almost a year ago (they died on November 30.  I will do a one-year memorium post on that day).

Like every other Porsche, the Carrera GT gets an oil change every 15,000 miles.  No, it’s not based off of a semi truck engine, but good guess!  The entire car was a shelved endurance racing project from the 1990s, so it was built to be reliable.

An oil change is $3,000 because:

  1. A set of four ramps ($1,100) is required to get the car over the hoist arms on the lift.  Yes, it’s that low.
  2. The rear-heavy car has to be attached to the lift so it doesn’t tip or fall off of the lift.  A $550 set of 3/4 inch aluminum plates bolt onto the car for that purpose.  Most owners leave them installed.
  3. Two engine-oil filters – one replaceable and one reusable screen.  Strip the drain plug in the aluminum cover, and you’re down $6,800.

Replacing the ceramic clutch is $25,000, including labor.  By comparison, a $30,000 full brake job is a steal by comparison.  You can see how these mechanics live well.  When the Carrera GT was new, dealers had to buy a special $10,000 table and $8,000 jig to hold the car’s engine during service.

Overall, maintaining a supercar isn’t easy or cheap.  Should you buy one of these cars, make sure that there is a piece of paper detailing everything done to the car.  You’ll thank me later.

The Best Holiday Gifts for the Car Enthusiast!

The holidays are rapidly approaching.  We’ve all got at least one car enthusiast in the family.  Here’s what to get them (or you!).

Calendars

Hemmings Motor News has always had a great selection of calendars.  There’s pretty much a calendar for every car lover here.  You can’t go wrong.  http://www.hemmings.com/store/calendars

Calendars are helpful in many more ways than sitting up on the wall.  Write down schedules, birthdays, etc. on the best calendars for car lovers.

Books

This is going to be a really good, long list that I really want.  Maybe I’ll see some around the holidays…(I know, more of my shameless begging)

  • Miller’s Time: A Lifetime at Speed
    • Don Miller went from street racing to being the guy who stood next to Roger Penske for over 30 years.  He’s set records at the Bonneville Salt Flats, been in Victory Lane at Indy multiple times, built cars from nothing more than a pile of steel tubing and a welding machine, and taken a kid from ramshackle dirt tracks to a Winston Cup title.  If you’re ready for racing honesty and humor, GET this book!  You can get it for about $30 on Amazon, and you might be lucky enough to get a signed copy!
  • Getting Started in the Collector-Car Hobby
    • This book from the fabulous Hemmings Motor News staff details many important aspects of the collector-car hobby for a newbie.  It’s only $6.95, and that family member or friend will be thanking you when they get that cool old car!
  • Ayrton Senna – McLaren
    • I’ve heard great things about this book.  It details the racing life of a legend through the people who knew him best – his teammates, mechanics, engineers, and management staff for his McLaren team.  His dream was to help underprivileged children in his home country of Brazil.  The Ayrton Senna Foundation, established shortly after his tragic death in 1994, has helped over two million kids in Brazil.  This book has been written with the full support of his family, something rare in the racing world.  A portion of the money used to buy this book will go to the foundation to help more children.  You can find a new one on Amazon for about $40, and you’ll help Brazilian children, and enjoy a good book.
  • MotorBinder
    • This book offers an astonishingly cool peek into the golden age of motorsport – when amazing ingenuity, drivers with no fear, and no such things as crowd control existed in race cars.  It’s a beautiful anthology of pictures, mostly taken at California tracks, but also at Nassau and Indy, as well as other famous race tracks.  It focuses on the action and personalities of such legends as Sir Phil Hill, Carroll Shelby, Roger Penske, Sir Stirling Moss, and Bruce McLaren, among others.  Many of the pictures have never been seen before, many of which were taken by the San Francisco Chronicle motorsports editor, Gordon Martin.  It’s $69 on Amazon, and truly amazing.

Of course, there are far more books than these, but these are the ones that I would recommend in a heartbeat.

Clothing

OK, talk about a HUGE list!  Everybody always wants cool clothing.  I’m going to try to keep this list sane, but I make NO promises!

  • Hemmings Motor News Polo Shirt
    • Polo shirts are nice.  They make you look classy, but casual.  Car enthusiasts love them.  Here’s one that will strike a conversation with any car lover.  http://www.hemmings.com/store/wearabledetail?category2=HBPOLO
  • Hemmings Muscle Machines Youth T-Shirt
    • Here’s one for the kiddos.  It’s the same as the Hemmings Muscle Machines T-Shirt for adults, just pint-sized.  It features brightly-colored cars from America’s fastest decade, and it’s sure to be a favorite among them.  I promise.  http://www.hemmings.com/store/wearabledetail?category2=MUSMY
  • Hemmings Work Shirt
    • You should NEVER work on your classic without a work shirt.  They are durable, easy to wash, and can be sharp enough to go out in public in.  Here’s one you’ll wear with pride.  http://www.hemmings.com/store/wearabledetail?category2=HWKST
  • Hemmings Motor News Hats
    • Hemmings Motor News has a nice selection of ball caps.  There’s one for everybody.  Here’s my personal favorite.  http://www.hemmings.com/store/wearabledetail?category2=blkh
  • Roadkill “Original Vintage Tee”
    • I have this t-shirt.  I love it.  I get a lot of thumbs ups from fellow car nuts.  And a lot of questions (i.e. Why would you wear a shirt that has the name of dead animals on the side of the road?).  Get it while supplies last.  http://www.musclecarmagswag.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=66&product_id=129
  • Roadkill Dickies Jacket.
    • Roadkill is sponsored by Dickies.  Freiburger is always wearing a Roadkill Dickies jacket.  You can join him and other Roadkill fans by buying this Roadkill Dickies Jacket.  It’s expensive, but it’s cool and I want one.  http://www.musclecarmagswag.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=66&product_id=113
  • Super Chevy Men’s Racing Shirt
    • Racing shirts are cool.  I should get some.  This is one I want.  Hint, hint.  http://www.musclecarmagswag.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=59&product_id=58
  • Mopar Muscle Garage T-Shirt
    • Show off your Mopar allegiance with this t-shirt.  I’m a fan of different cars, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Mopars.  This is a cool t-shirt styled like something from the 1970’s, but with a modern twist.  http://www.musclecarmagswag.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=60&product_id=89

OK, that’s it for clothing…you’ll find something for me in this list, right?

Diecasts

Diecasts are different than the cheapy DIY cars you can get at Michael’s.  Those things don’t fit together well and take forever to build.  Getting a diecast means that it’s made out of high-quality materials, and comes in a box ready and waiting for you.  How nice is that?

  • Hemmings 60th Anniversary Gas Pump Island
    • Limited to just 1250 units, this 1:12 scale model has six separate pieces that will make a great addition/start to a diecast collection.  It’s got a base/pump island, a tall Hemmings sign, two sandwich boards showing scaled-down versions of real Hemmings signs, two Gilbarco gas pumps with Hemmings 60th Anniversary logos, and a Hemmings oil can display.  This is cool, and what makes it even better is that the gas pumps are also coin banks!  The hose nozzle unlocks the coin door on the bottom.
  • Ford GT White 1/12 Diecast
    • The Ford GT was really the American supercar of the first decade of the 2000s.  Ford took the supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 from the F-150 SVT Lightning pickup, and tuned the engine up to 550 horsepower.  It’s really, really cool.  While prices of the real thing are going up and up, diecast prices aren’t!  http://www.ebay.com/itm/FORD-GT-WHITE-1-12-DIECAST-MODEL-CAR-BY-MOTORMAX-73001-/150302163215
  • Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren
    • This was Germany’s answer to the Ford GT, Ferrari Enzo, and Porsche Carrera.  It was diabolical.  It looks demonic in black, and you can own one…kind of!  http://www.ebay.com/itm/HUGE-MOTORMAX-1-12-MERCEDES-BENZ-SLR-MCLAREN-DIECAST-MODEL-CAR-BLACK-/351062371729

Miscellaneous Items

This is the random (but still cool) stuff.  It’s stuff life water bottles, shot glasses, tool kits, etc.

  • Hemmings 60th Anniversary Wall Clock
    • It’s pretty amazing that the “Bible of the Hobby” has been around for 60 years.  What better way to remember that by looking at a cool clock?  http://www.hemmings.com/store/detail?product_id=1883
  • Car Quiz for the Classic Car Aficionado
    • Think you and your family/friends know a thing or two about classic cars?  You’ll love this game!  Give everybody a run for their money!  http://www.hemmings.com/store/detail?product_id=1199
  • Hemmings Aluminum Water Bottle
    • Sometimes it’s nice to have the nice feel of aluminum in this world of crinkly plastic.  Get this solid Hemmings water bottle.  http://www.hemmings.com/store/detail?product_id=1679
  • Hemmings Fleece Blankets
    • Stadium blankets are useful for more than just going to the game.  They’re great for spontaneous picnics, and car shows.  These navy blue blankets have the Hemmings logo embroidered into them.  They roll up courtesy of nylon straps with handles for easy carrying.  http://www.hemmings.com/store/detail?product_id=1054
  • Hemmings Flashlight, Pen Set, and Tire Pressure Gauge
    • Keep this in your glovebox, and you’ll be prepared for map reading in the dark, jotting down important numbers, and checking tire pressures.  Plus, it comes in a nice case.  http://www.hemmings.com/store/detail?product_id=1391
  • Roadkill Shot Glass
    • This is a sharp-looking shot glass.  You can drink your favorite adult beverage from a shot glass with your favorite car show on it.

Of course, there’s plenty more in terms of miscellaneous car odds and ends.  Just go to a local car dealership and mosey around (do it when you take your car in for service).  See what you can find.  You’ll be surprised.  Ask the sales staff.  They’ll be happy to help!

Going to a car show is also a good place.  Bring cash and/or credit cards (sometimes they only take cash).  At big car shows, manufacturers will often have merchandise like a thermos, a bag, and random stuff like that.  Chat them up.  They’re often stressed, tired, and are happy to talk to you about anything related to that brand.  They really open up, and they are very knowledgeable about the technologies in the various cars on display.

The World’s Hardest Car Quiz!

No, I haven’t passed it yet.  I recommend taking it…over and over again.  My best score to date on this has been 60%.  And I thought I knew a lot about cars.  Go figure.  Try to take the quiz and pass – it’s harder than you’d think (even if you ARE a natural test-taker!).

http://www.carwow.co.uk/world-hardest-car-quiz

Tell us your score(s) – we won’t make fun of you for failing (I’ve done that a few times with this quiz)!

The whole point of this quiz is to have fun…so do that!

The Best All-Weather Cars for the Holiday Season Part 1

The holiday season is a time when many of us travel (sometimes by plane, sometimes by car – I highly recommend by car!) to see our families.  If you’re in the market for a new (or used) car to see your family in, here are my recommendations of 2014.  Some of these cars are new, and some of them are old.

  • 2014 Chevrolet Suburban:  Chevy’s biggest SUV offering has been redesigned for 2014.  It’s got handsome styling, more space, more efficient engines, and it’s just a very good choice if you need the space.  Just one engine/transmission choice is available – GM’s 5.3-liter EcoTec V-8 and the antiqued 6L80 six-speed automatic transmission.  The engine itself is a solid engine, but the transmission favors high gears for better fuel economy.  It’s got four (yes, four) USB ports up front alone, power-folding second AND third row seats, and enough legroom for tall people.  The Suburban can tow up to 8,500 pounds, which is probably more than most people will ever need.
  • 2014 Ford Expedition:  Ford’s gigantic competitor to the Chevy Tahoe, Suburban, and GMC Yukon/XL/Denali twins is a solid choice.  It’s got a torque-filled 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, lots of space for whatever you should find to throw into it, and good value.  However, nothing about it is cutting-edge.  The styling is essentially a warmed-over version of the ugly previous generation, and one can make a good point that it’s a styling regression.  The continuously variable dampers in the suspension likely gives amazing ride quality.  It can tow a lot – up to 9,000 pounds if properly equipped.  That should be enough to take the snowmobiles and off-road machines.
  • Tesla Model S P85D:  This is the real performance car for the family that you want to buy.  Forget the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG 4Matic.  The P85D’s benchmark was the McLaren F1.  Yes, the first supercar out of England that can still beat a Ferrari.  Twenty-two years ago, the McLaren F1’s 0-60 time of 3.2 seconds was out of this world.  Launching the F1 was an exercise in possible death.  The Model S is as well, but the only noise you’ll hear is your own screams.  While the P85D weighs a substantial 197 pounds more, it’s really not that burdened by the extra weight.  One could say that the P85D was the car that was a long time in the making.  The P85D gets to 60 in an astonishing 3.1 seconds.  The Model S will hold it’s ground through the 1/4 mile, where it’s lack of a second gear will show up.  Because of the extra motor in the front of the car, the Tesla Model S can now be AWD.  That’s a good thing for those of you in the snow belt.  You can laugh at your friends who have to keep their Hellcats inside all winter…and pick them up.

Why Driving a Surplus Military Truck May Not Be a Good Idea

While this happened a while ago, I’ve been having fun with lots of other posts.  Anyhow, here goes.

Huntington Beach, CA police had an eventful night on September 10.  Officers responded to a call of a suspicious military vehicle around 7:45 p.m.  They found an elderly man driving a surplus military transport truck through town.  Early on, officers heard several loud pops.  These turned out to be backfires.

This elderly man led police on a chase for a short distance, reaching speeds of up to 10 mph.  Yes, 10 mph!

When the man arrived at his business, the police arrested the man for failure to yield to an emergency vehicle.

The unnamed man was released later that evening.

Maybe driving something this large through town ISN’T such a good idea…