The Surfer’s Dream (Truck)

I have a cousin. Well, I have a few, but I’m only going to talk about this one specific cousin. Why? Because he’s a rad surfer who needed a new ride, he takes gnarly photos, and is just one rad dude. Oh, and he’s my cousin. Bruh, enough with the surfer speak.

A while ago, my cousin Colin sent me an email asking if I could help him through the process of finding the perfect truck for him. After talking to him and figuring out his needs, I suggested that he look into either a Dodge Ram 2500 with the Cummins turbodiesel I6 engine, or a Toyota Tacoma. He decided that the Toyota Tacoma was the best choice for him. The Ram is a perfectly good truck, but it was just far too big and heavy-duty for what he needed.

About a month later, he contacted me saying he had found the perfect truck. It really was the perfect truck. It looked like it had just rolled off the dealership floor. Sure, it had some scratches and dings in the bedliner, but at least the previous owner used it like a truck. Who cares if there are some digs and scratches in the bed?

The engine runs like a top, it has plenty of power, and the whole truck overall feels brand-new. Everything works perfectly for him, and it will only be an amazing truck for him to use as an off-road expedition vehicle, as well as a great truck for him to use for his photography needs. Oh, and it will be big enough for home improvement projects and all of his surfboards. You can’t beat that.

The Toyota Tacoma is a wonderful platform for just about any off-road platform. Why? It’s rock-solid, has a lot of power that can be easily accessed by just about any driver. Think of it as a pickup truck version of the Jeep Wrangler. You can slap big tires on it and hit the trails. That’s literally all you need to do. The bed is big enough to hold vast amounts of cargo, and is big enough for the owner to sleep in it. It’s also compact enough to drive it around in a big city, which is exactly what the previous owner did with it.

It's a nice truck, isn't it?
It’s a nice truck, isn’t it? I’m actually not sure what’s better: the truck, or the picture itself! I wasn’t lying when I said he’s a good photographer…
While the extended cab might not be the best for hauling people around, it gets the job done, and the truck looks nice.
While the extended cab might not be the best for hauling people around, it gets the job done, and the truck looks nice. After all, isn’t a truck supposed to get the job done?

Here’s the specs on a 2006 Toyota Tacoma 4×4.

The 4.0-liter V6 is powerful. It makes 236 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. That’s more than enough to move a 3,500-ish pound truck. My cousin’s truck has the optional five-speed automatic (a six-speed manual came standard). While it would be fun to drive a Tacoma with a stick shift, it most certainly wouldn’t in Los Angeles. Believe me, I drove stick for a summer there. It wasn’t fun, nor was it pretty.

Back to his truck! The interior isn’t as nice as something in, say, a Buick, but it’s a truck. It’s not meant to be nice. It’s a truck. It’s meant to get dirty, so why be nice? Many modern trucks have nicer interiors than my dad’s Buick Enclave! The ride is comfortable. It feels like a car, albeit a bit stiff on choppy roads. But, that’s to be expected with any truck. It’s hard to get a smooth ride when there’s no load in the bed. It’s not to say that it’s impossible, it’s just prohibitively expensive for an automaker to do it for hundreds of thousands of trucks. That being said, the ride is amazing for a truck. Most of the time, you won’t even notice that there’s a bed behind you. Backing up, there’s visibility for miles. The hood is short, and you have what might be one of the most commanding views of the road. Who doesn’t want to feel like the Supreme Ruler of the Road?

It has high mileage on it, at 153,000, but these trucks last well over 400,000 miles, so it’s broken in! According to the previous owner, most of those miles were on the highway. Considering the pristine shape the truck is in, I believe it.

Overall, he has a smoking hot truck! Would I recommend a Tacoma to a prospective truck buyer? Of course I would. It behaves like a truck in all the ways that you want it to, yet is docile and easy to drive for any kind of driving you might do. The Tacoma is a great truck for somebody who wants a daily driver that they can use for some light towing/hauling or home improvement projects over the weekend. The Tacoma gets about 20 mpg combined, and can get up to 25 mpg on the highway. Why? Because the engine is powerful enough that the truck doesn’t have to work hard to get around. 20 mpg is pretty good for a truck, let alone one that’s nine years old.

I had mentioned that he takes gnarly photos. Check out his Instagram account at https://www.instagram.com/blackurchin/

He’s got a website he’s almost done setting up right now (blackurchin.co), but he has another website with a lot of absolutely breathtaking photos. https://colinericphoto.smugmug.com/

If you were wondering if that little bit about his photos is sponsored by him, it’s not. He has no idea that I’m telling the whole wide world about how good of a photographer he is. I just want to get the word out about one of the most rad photographers out there. Oh, and I’ve heaped enough praises about the Tacoma for one day. Well, maybe I haven’t, but I’ll cater to your good side.

If I’ve helped you find a car, and would like me to feature it, I’d love to! I’m always here to help people find cars. I love doing all the research, helping find the right car, and then watching the lucky buyer come out of the dealership or from where they met the seller with a big goofy grin on their face. I get a big goofy grin as well.

A Cool Classic

A while ago, my dad introduced me to one of his business partners who just happened to happen to own a 1960 Jaguar MK9.  Hmm…Maybe I just needed to see it…Well, I’m happy to report to you that it is, without doubt, one of the most breathtaking cars that I have ever laid my eyes on.  Not only does the beautifully patina’d maroon and good paint look absolutely stunning.  Oh, and if stunning looks and a spotless beige leather interior complete with Grey Poupon jars (you never know who might need them!) aren’t enough, this car used be Ike Turner’s car.  So, this car isn’t just ANOTHER Jaguar MK9…

The story behind the owner of the car is an interesting one in itself.  My dad’s business partner, Michael Page, used to be the bassist for Iggy and the Stooges, which was a band that opened for the Rolling Stones.  Mike also played for Chuck Berry and other bands in the 1970’s.  Mike now runs a small studio down in Southern California.  When I asked Mike if he still played musical instruments, his reply was, “Naw, I’m content to listen to it now.”

The story behind how the car ended up being in Michael’s hands is an interesting story itself.  During Ike and Tina Turner’s long divorce, Ike parked the Jag on blocks in a back lot of Paramount Pictures for somewhere around 17 years.  One day when Mike was walking in the back lot, he saw the Jag, was absolutely smitten, and made an offer on the spot.  It was accepted.  He then proceeded to, as he put it, “I stood on my head for about an hour with the guy from Paramount just trying to figure out what kind of engine was in it.  Eventually, I saw a label that said ‘Chevrolet 350 C.I. V8.'”  That means that the engine is a Chevrolet 350 cubic-inch small-block V8.  The Chevy 350 V8 is a popular choice for engine swaps in Jaguars.  It requires very little work to install, it has decent power stock (a LOT when it’s tuned), and it’s an extremely reliable engine.  That can’t be said about any Jaguar engine.  Just ask my uncle or grandmother.  As a whole, a 1960 Jaguar is a pretty sturdy car.  It’s made all out of steel (the only aluminum is inside), it’s got glass that could probably stop a bullet, and the tire treads wouldn’t look out of place on something destined to go off-road.

After Mike had owned the car for a couple of months, he decided to take it out for a spin on the freeway.  When he got up to 55 mph, the engine was screaming at something close to 5,000 RPM, and he was playing tag with a bunch of tractor-trailers and grandparents.  Not exactly my (or his) definition of fun.  He got off of the freeway and went to the local transmission shop and had them install an overdrive.  Now, the RPM’s are cut down to 2,500 RPM (most modern cars turn 1,800-2,000 RPM’s on the highway), and he can go up to 70 mph without worrying about killing the engine.  The overdrive, Chevy small-block V8 and Turbo 350 transmission are the only parts that didn’t come with the car.  That is, other than the tires!

Speaking of tires, the tires are modern Coker radial tires with big, tall whitewalls on them.  If whitewalls are put on the right car, they can turn a show-stopper into a car that will literally make people’s heads turn right off their neck!  That’s what my dad’s business partner did with this Jaguar.  The whitewalls make this classic Jaguar look better than it did when it rolled off of the Jaguar assembly line in Coventry, England, in 1960.  Not many cars can pull that off.  Plus, the engine, transmission, and overdrive give a car that wasn’t really driveable before the engine/transmission swap driveability.

In terms of driveability, Mike says that it drives like a wallowy, new car.  It’s got suspension technology from 1960, so it’s not the best choice to throw around a road course.  With the stock engine and transmission sans overdrive unit, the Jaguar MK9 isn’t easy to drive unless you toodle around town.  The stock engine was designed for people to take a slow, scenic drive of the British countryside, not for freeway cruising.  Bring a car like that to America where there are vast expanses of freeways, and you’re essentially got a death wish.  Mike essentially said the same.  The stock three-speed manual has a stiff clutch, according to Mike, and three short speeds aren’t going to do you any favors when you’re cruising.  The Turbo 350 transmission greatly improves the driveability factor.  The Jag doesn’t have power steering, but it tips the scales at about 3,400 pounds, so you’re really not having to put THAT much effort into turning it.  It does, however, have power brakes, so that does make it easier to stop it, even though there was no such thing as ABS back then.  With the Chevy engine and transmission, plus the overdrive unit, Mike could easily drive across the state of California if he so wished.

His Jaguar doesn’t have thousands of man-hours put into restoring it to #1+ condition.  It doesn’t have ABS, cruise control, or satellite radio like most modern cars.  It’s a survivor car.  Trust me, the Jag is perfectly fine that way.  It’s got absolutely gorgeous looks before the paint, which accentuates the car’s looks even more.  It has beautiful walnut wood varnished to an almost matte look.  It doesn’t need to have hundreds of thousands of dollars to get best-of-show at every car show.  These old Jaguars have a certain charm to them that very few other cars, classic or modern, can duplicate.  They’re not absolutely cute like a Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite nor do they look like they were hewn from a block of stone like a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro.  They have an understated elegance to them, plus that cute British charm.  With the right paint colors on them, like gold and maroon, they can be quite a looker.

If you have a self-esteem issue, buy a Jaguar MK9 NOW!  Nobody really lusts after them, so they cost far less than a 1960 MK2, which is also a good car for those with self-esteem issues.  People will want to take pictures of themselves standing in or next to the car (#selfie), and Mike says that whenever he goes out, he literally has to either leave an hour just to talk to people, or park the car and run.  I’d leave an hour.  Running’s not my thing…

I’ve attached some photos of the Jag for you to literally drool over.  As I’ve previously said, it’s one of the most beautiful cars that I’ve ever seen.  It really looks stunning, especially with some light, but not too much.  I’ve never seen it at sunrise or sunset, but I can only imagine how beautiful it is at those times.

 

Badges are awesome - just ask this car!
Badges are awesome – just ask this car!

 

Grey Poupon is a requirement for British cars, I guess...
Grey Poupon is a requirement for British cars, I guess…

 

Sorry about the view - it was the best that I could get!
Sorry about the view – it was the best that I could get!

Editor’s note:  Mike actually played with Chubby Checker, NOT Chuck Berry!  My apologies!

An Amazing Car!

Just the other evening, I was driving home, and my 2003 Chrysler Town & Country LXi’s odometer rolled over for the second time.  For those of you who don’t know what that means, it means that the car hit 200,000 miles.  100,000 miles is a milestone for any car, but 200,000 is impressive.  I think that it’s a good time to reflect on some nice memories that the old minivan has provided me.

I’ll never forget the day we bought it in 2003.  Most people have some sort of memory about buying a new car.  I was a little tyke back then, and it had been raining that morning while the negotiations for the car were going on.  When they handed us the keys and the minivan was ours, there were three rainbows!  That’s a good sign.  I remember that it was simply beautiful driving it home.

Another amazing memory really isn’t just one memory.  Rather, it’s a series of memories from the summer of 2007, when I traveled the country with my mom and sister (my dad joined us for the return trip).  It was a lot of fun, and something that I would gladly repeat any time.  Just throw me the keys…

Yet another memory was when I had first received my learners permit from the DMV, and my mom took me to a large parking lot and let me drive around.  It was just the beginning of my (hopefully) long driving career.  I didn’t really know how to do stuff like park, but what better way to learn than do it in your own car?

Now that I have my driver’s license, an amazing old minivan filled with even more amazing memories, what could go wrong?  I’ve loved every moment I’ve been in this old minivan, and I hope to enjoy many more.

20140505_195535

 

20140505_195537

A (Hopefully) Victorious Return to Le Mans!

After almost 16 of being noticeably absent from the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, Porsche is developing a prototype.  The last Porsche-backed effort at Le Mans was in 1998, when a Porsche 911 GT1 won 1st place overall.

A few days ago, Porsche teased some pictures and a video of the LMP1 prototype running laps around the Nurburgring.  The car will be entered in the World Endurance Championship 2014 Season, as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The 2014 Porsche LMP1 was developed in-house by Porsche Motorsports.  Factory driver Timo Berhnard was involved with the development of the car from Day 1.  He recently took the car out for initial testing at Porsche’s massive R&D center in Germany.  Berhnard said of the car, “I’m very proud that I was the one to take our baby through its first paces today. Already now the car feels great. I look forward to testing the vehicle in the coming weeks and months with my friend and colleague Romain Dumas.” Both Bernhard and Dumas will conduct testing for the final development of the LMP1 car at various international tracks between now and the start of the 2014 race season.

While the LMP1 may still be clad in camouflage, one can see that the car will be very distinctive.  It has eight bug-eyed headlamps, a gigantic front spoiler, and a surprisingly small rear wing for a car that will be going down the back straights of many tracks in speeds exceeding 200 mph.  Be prepared.

What’s Your Worst Driving Experience?

I know that I don’t have my learner’s permit yet, but our John Deere L110 tractor is a lot of fun to practice towing and mowing and driving with.  I’ve had a few, er, experiences that I hope other drivers (of cars and tractors) will take notice of:

One day, I was towing our trailer that we use for the tractor to haul firewood from our property to our house.  I didn’t realize that I’d need to cut a big hole in the fence to get through (oops!).  I decided to turn around.  I thought I’d make it (the tractor literally turns on a dime).  The trailer disagreed.  I was stuck against our gigantic rock pile and our fence.  I was jackknifed.  I got off the tractor and got my dad.  We ended up taking the tailgate off the trailer and literally picking it up and moving it!

Another time, I was mowing for our neighbors and they have a very large field in front of their house.  I didn’t see the ditch in between the driveway and the field.  I was going about six or seven miles an hour when I went down in the ditch and came flying out of it on one wheel (I thought that I was going to flip!).  I landed and almost fell off (I was sitting).  The tractor has a seat sensor that automatically turns off the engine if there is no pressure on the seat, or if there is too much pressure on the seat.  I came down onto the seat with so much force that the pin that disengages the drivetrain popped out.  The tractor stalled.  My butt hurt.  I then pushed the pin back in, restarted the tractor, and started mowing.  Ouch.  If you don’t believe me, ask the blown seat springs on the tractor…

Care to share your bad driving experience?  Don’t be shy, let it fly (almost literally!).

Life in the Pits (of a Racetrack)

Today we are lucky enough to have an interview with Mace Gjerman.  Mace worked on a pit crew, on and off, for years in the pits of many tracks across North America. A pit crew works on the sidelines of a racetrack maintaining and fixing the race cars.

I don’t want to keep you waiting any longer, so let’s get started!  And all the answers are Mace’s own words!

Mace, when did you start working in the Racing Industry?  I started in high-school, where I volunteered on club cars that my high-school raced.  

How exactly did you start working in the Racing Industry?  One day I rode my bike over to a local racer’s house, and said “do you need help racing?”  He said yes.  

What was your job?  I started waxing, nutting and bolting (nutting and bolting is where you check that every nut and bolt is tight).  A very basic job, but still a job.  Later on, I was in the Pits. 

What team(s) did you work for?  I started working for an ametuer SCCA racer in 1983.  At races, I would go over to the professional teams, and ask if they were willing to have another team member.  One team, Oftdaht Racing accepted and told me “come up to a race in Montreal in four weeks, and you’ll have a new job.”  I also worked for Huffaker Racing, another big company.  

Do you have any memorable experiences from your racing career?  Yeah,  Oftdaht Racing and Huffaker Racing both did the 24 Hours of Daytona, and the 12 Hours of Sebring.  Those were some very memorable experiences.  

What tracks did you race at?  Well, let me think…  Well, just about every track except Lime Rock.  He even raced at Infineon Raceway before it became Infineon.

How many people were on your team?  Both Oftdaht Racing and Huffaker Racing had eight people per team.  

What car did you team race?  Well, the first person I worked for in high-school had what I think was a ’73? Mustang Boss 351.  When I worked for Oftdaht Racing, Pontiac sponsored us with Trans Am’s.  With Huffaker Racing, they raced Pontiac Trans Am’s and Fiero’s.  They both were pretty fast cars.  

Who were your team sponsors’?   STP, AC Delto, and my current employer, Petersen Tractors (they sell CAT machinery).  Petersen was the main sponsor.  

Did your team ever get into an accident?  Uh, once in a while. More driver error than anything else.

How often did your team win a race?  Well, there was one year in Trans Am, when, out of fourteen races, our team (Oftdaht Racing) got seven podium finishes.  One of those podium finishes we came in first place.

What did your team compete in:  NASCAR, IndyCar, IMSA, SCCA, Formula One Rallies, IROC, IZOD, etc.?  My first employer was in the ametuer class of SCCA.  Oftdaht Racing was in Trans Am.  Huffaker Racing was into IMSA (endurance racing), and Trans Am.  

Where were your team(s) based out of?  Well, Oftdaht Racing was based out of Minneapolis.  Huffaker Racing was in Petaluma, CA until shortly after I left my racing career behind.  

How often did races happen?  They were pretty consistent.  In a racing season, races usually happened every two-three weeks.  Races were typically on weekends.  They would start Friday (but we’d usually get there Thursday, and leave on Monday, and end on Sunday.  

What time did you have to be at the track by?  Usually, I’d have to be at the track by 5 am.  

What were your hours?  Usually a fourteen hour shift.  I would be at the track seven days a week from 5 am to 7 pm.  A racing season typically lasts four months, so I’d be at the track seven days a week for fourteen hours, for four months.  And, I didn’t get a day of rest those four months.  

Did you like out job?  Heck, YEAH!  I loved it!  

Do you have any funny stories from your racing career?  Yeah.  I’ll share one of my personal favorites.   It wasn’t funny at the time, though.   So, one weekend, the Canadian Sports Car Club (CSCC)hosted an IMSA race.  To cross over into Canada, all the truck drivers must have a list of everything in their truck and trailer.  For us (Oftdaht Racing), that was almost one million dollars worth of equipment and cars.  Pretty big deal.  So, we get to one of the border crossings at about 3 am.  All the employees are sleeping, so we go and wake them up.  We give them our list.  They look over it, and said “you came to the wrong border crossing.  We’re going to have to detain you until 6 am.”  We told them “we have to be at the track by 6!”  They said “We can’t let you go until we call up the CSCC  and ask them if you are going to the race.  They open up at 4 am”  Our semi driver said “Forget it.  I’m going to the right border crossing.”  He backs out of the border crossing, does a U-Turn, and goes back on the borderline highway and goes through a little farm road.  Finally, the rest of us get through.  But, the semi driver never got his permit to be in Canada.  So, we’re at the track on Sunday.  The mountie’s are coming through, asking for the permits.  They come to us.  We’re working on the cars.  They ask us for the permits.   We show them everything except one permit.  We told them that they have to ask our semi driver.  They go up and ask him.  Of course, he doesn’t have that permit, because he entered illegally.  They tell us to lay down our tools and back away.  We do.  They start putting that “Caution.  Do Not Enter” yellow tape around our cars and tools.  Trust me, when the owner came over to look at the cars, he was in for a nasty surprise.  He almost killed that poor semi driver!  Now, I’m sure that he laughs about it!  It’s a pretty funny story.  

Why did you stop your Racing career?  Well, one reason was that the driver of the car that I was in charge of retired from racing, and offered me a job at Petersen Tractor Company.  I accepted.  I also had gotten married exactly 364 days before that job at Petersen Tractor Company was offered to me.   

When did you stop your Racing career?  You know, I never really stopped officially.  I started and stopped.  Today, I still own a Formula B Ford.  But, when I started that job at Petersen Tractor Company, it was in the early 1990’s.  

Thanks Mace for the interview.  It sounds like a high stress life with a lot of traveling and driving.  But it sure sounds fun.  I can understand why you miss it.  Perhaps you could help me ‘parent’ my baby or at least ‘supercharge’ her!

Grandma’s new Nissan Maxima

My Grandma just got a brand-new Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV with the Premium Package.  She drove it home just last Thursday from the dealer.  As soon as the door is opened, that lovely new car smell wafts out like flowers on a spring breeze.  Oh that fleeting new car smell…  I wish I could have an air freshener that smelled like that.  I’d put it above my bed!  It would alleviate all the teen smells my mom says come out of my room.    

Sporty and luxurious, the Maxima meets Japanese efficiency.  To the average person, the Maxima looks extremely sporty.  Get a little closer, and you can see the rear fenders bulge.  A bit odd, considering it is a front wheel drive car.  Still, I like the looks.

My grandma’s car is gray on black leather.  THe 290 hp engine is strong feeling/sounding, with dual exhaust pipes.  The CVT (continuesly variable transmission) has sporty paddle shifters and 6 ‘ratios’ programmed into it.  The front-wheel-drive system uses a special system, so that there is only torque steer at full throttle!  Cruising at 60 mph, the engine barely revs higher than 2200 rpm.  When my grandpa  passed a truck, the engine only reached 2450 rpm in 2nd “gear.” Cruising along, the cabin is quiet and road noise is diluted.

 

Way back in the 1980’s, when the Maxima came out; Nissan called the Maxima the “4DSC (4-door-sports-car)”  It really was a 4DSC!  It had a powerful V6 and a standard five-speed manual transmission.  That fame kind of went to Nissan’s head, and the Maxima started to get less sporty:  It lost it’s manual tranny, it’s sporting nature got more luxurious and relaxed.  Now, with the new Maxima, Nissan is starting to change that luxurious lump into a better car.  Sure, the Maxima ain’t no 4DSC like the Porsche Panamera; but it’s gettin’ there!  Keep up the hard work, Nissan, and you just might have a riot of a car to drive!  VROOOOM! 

http://www.nissanusa.com/maxima/?next=header.vlp.postcard.picture.thumbnail.

http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/oneyear/112_1005_2009_nissan_maxima_verdict/index.html