Inventing Errands in order to Drive

Do you ever invent errands just so you have an excuse to drive? Perhaps you still have half a gallon milk left in the fridge or you may have a whole gallon, but something tells you that you may need one more. Honestly, you never know when you may need to make a large cake or two for company even though you only ever really make a cake for your mother’s birthday.  Actually, you may just want an excuse to grab your set of keys and blitz around town! Despite cake’s delicious qualities, something about your car is even more tantalizing. I suspect many of us car enthusiasts do this more often than we would admit to our friends and families. It is okay! You aren’t alone.

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And even if we do invent errands in order to quench our thirst for our cars, don’t we take the curvy, scenic, or less-traveled route to the shops? Of course! Who doesn’t? And don’t we always hope for little to no traffic on these long routes in order to unleash the car’s potential on the twisty or scenic sections of road? Absolutely. And it’s not like your mother needs her cake this afternoon on her actual birthday. If you simply explain the need to drive your car, surely she will understand. After all, she is your mother.

Drive Spiritedly.

 

– JRB, Editor

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Spot Light Car Show: The T37 Tempest

Over the weekend, The Spirited Drive team attended its first car show in an official blogging capacity. As we made our way around chatting with the owners, we were intrigued and moved by some of the stories about the cars. It was then we had the idea to create a spotlight article on the vehicles that had special stories that moved us. So expect to see one or two spotlight articles for each car show we visit.

This spotlight features a 1970 Pontiac T37 Tempest, owned by Louie and Kathy Henson. The vehicle (seen below) is featured in a color called Palisade Green and still has the original 350 cu. in. engine, putting out 325hp. This vehicle, as was told to us by Kathy, was developed by Pontiac in the late 1960’s as an alternative to the Pontiac GTO. It could be ordered with many of the same options as the GTO, but the insurance was significantly less.

This vehicle is not only special because of its rarity; it also holds great sentimental value for the owners.  Only 1,419 T37s were produced in 1970. On a more personal note, this is the same year and model that Kathy drove when the couple was married. I’m sure having this vehicle brings back many memories for both of them. In the glove box were papers documenting the car’s journey from the plant to its first owner were found. This always makes a car special as it gives a greater feeling of connectedness to the previous owners and really tells the story of that individual car, not just the model.

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It is a truly beautiful thing to see car owners with so much pride for what they’re driving. Kathy and Louie were incredible to talk to, and from the first minute of conversation we couldn’t help but be drawn into their story. Their story proves that every vehicle, ordinary or exotic, has a special place is someone’s history.

Written by:

D. Fowler, Production Editor

J. Hamlin, Production Editor

J. Potts, Automotive Contributor

Edited by JRB, Editor-in-Chief

AMG and M-Power – The German Switch

BMW’s M-Power and Mercedes-Benz’s AMG; these two iconic arms of German automobiles make me think and believe in German engineering.  That sentiment goes for a lot of folks, as German cars are renowned for their… well German-ess.  Rivalries in the world usually make for great stories:  Beowulf and Grendel, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost… the list can go on.  All great rivals, and all great stories.  The same can be said for AMG and M-Power.  Their rivalry has been one of the hottest topics in motoring whether it is or has been focused in DTM Racing, car reviews, or friendly debates between two motorheads.

When I hear the phrase M-Power, my mind immediately thinks of the E30 M3 from back in the day.  With its smooth shifts, seamless power delivery, and ability to dance on the road like water, it is no wonder the M badge’d 3 Series BMW is the icon of the M-Power vehicles.  It was nimble enough to be used as a scalpel for a track, yet as comfortable as a leather recliner.  AMG, on the other hand, reminds me instantly of half-eaten back tires and exhaust notes that resemble of what would probably be dinosaurs fighting with grenades.  The noise is glorious; a definite roar.  When I see an AMG badge, I know that the car has plenty of power; power to the Nth degree.  But what about recently?  Are these landmark divisions of these German giants perpetuating their glory by improving upon their past formulas for success?

As with today’s person, cars have gotten larger, heavier, and more advanced.  Perhaps the reason why cars have gotten bigger is due to the fact that people have become larger… food for thought!  As interesting as that thought may be, I somehow tend to think that cars have become larger due to technological advances, specifically in the safety areas.  What does a larger and heavier car spell in terms of performance?  This is an issue that I think these performance divisions have to cope with a great deal today.  As the golden rule of performance and efficiency, automobiles need to be as light as possible to achieve the best performance.  Fat men do not win races on foot; likewise, fat cars do not win races on the track.  When you buy a M-Power or AMG vehicle, though they stem from sport-luxury brands, they are performance vehicles for the road.  They are to bridge the gap between track and road by providing levels of civility and comfort that you would find in a luxury car with the ferocity and performance of a car that is at home on the track.

The E30 M3, as great as it was, can give some credit to its light-weight for its performance figures.  Mix in BMW and M-Power’s excellent chassis development, sublime steering racks from heaven, and a fantastic engine, and we have ourselves a winner.  On the other hand, AMG had to deal with more weight as compared to the M-Power vehicles, and because of this, it is quite possible to assume that it is for this reason that they have such brutish engines.  Their weight may stem from such larger, robust engines.  But today, things have changed.  M cars are now becoming larger, fatter, and heavier, which equates to excellent chassis development and fantastic steering becoming a priority, but this weight makes this makes these attributes harder to maintain.  BMW and M-Power are not used to this weight, steering, and chassis problem, because historically, their cars have been somewhat on the slimmer side when compared to their rivals.  M cars typically always have been renowned for their handling, nimbleness, and agility; not to mention their driving feel.  With the upcoming M4, and the new F-Chassis, I fear that the newly added electronically assisted steering rack, which is somewhat in uncharted water for them, will slow down the growing glory for M-Power.  This new chassis also seems hefty and less compliant with things that we all associate M cars with, namely agility and performance.  Factor in smaller, turbo’d motors and it is possible that the new M4 may be more badge than heart.

AMG, however, seems to be improving still.  Yes, the cars are getting bigger here as well.  But, their steering is getting better.  They have a longer history with electronically assisted steering systems than BMW, so the chances of their steering being better than BMW and the upcoming M4 are high.  AMG has typically had the engine power of an active volcano, and this is a mainstay for AMG; their bread-and-butter.  They are continuing to improve their engines, their steering, and because of their long rivalry with BMW, they have and are improving their chassis and steering dynamics.  Unlike BMW’s M-Power, AMG is not changing their formula for success.  Instead, they are improving across the board, particularly in areas where they were the weakest (handling, chassis development, etc…)  Because M-Power seems to be changing their game plan, in areas which had been their greatest triumphs (handling and chassis works), for something that they are not used to as well as not good at, the two German performance arms seem to be switching places with AMG taking an edge over BMW in those departments.  AMG always had more powerful engines, but now they possibly have better driver feel via the steering and better chassis works than BMW’s M-Power cars.

Driver feel is something very important in a car of this type.  It usually stands as a usual gripe from an automotive journalist, but the fact remains that as drivers, we should need to feel more connected to the road.  This isn’t just for performance or pleasure reasons, but also safety.  I feel safer if I know exactly what my car is doing where it meets the road.  My seat and my steering wheel are what connect me the most with the car.  M-Power seems to be turning the tables on themselves.  AMG, with their herculean engines, are becoming more refined in those areas where they were once weak while retaining every bit, if not more, of the potency of their motors. Either way, the battle between BMW M-Power and Mercedes AMG will continue to roar as the new staple-cars come.

What are your thoughts?  We would like to know!  Please comment on this article, share it with your friends via Twitter or Facebook, and please subscribe to us by email.  You can follow us on Twitter @SpiritedDrive to get the latest updates from this blog.  Until next time!

 

– JRB, Editor-in-Chief of The Spirited Drive

Opinion – “What makes the best automobile for the summer?”

Here in the heartland of the South, as well as the rest of the northern hemisphere, the first day of summer was a few days ago. This has led to an interesting question: “If you could have any type of vehicle to drive until the first day of autumn, what would it be?” I know each reader will have his or her own idea of what this ideal vehicle would be, but I hope I can create a small list that we can all agree would make for fantastic summer vehicles. One assumption I must make is that all vehicles referenced are exactly as they were when they rolled off the assembly line.

Before I begin the details of this list, I would like to make a list of features I would or would not want on any vehicle in my list. The first item in the list of features is leather seats. Some may enjoy leather, but as someone who has had leather in the summer, I know how incredibly unpleasant it is to sit on when has been heated to 120ᐤF or above. For a summer only vehicle, I would choose cloth seats. The next item is air conditioning, for obvious reasons. I may want to enjoy summer, but sometimes I also just want to be cool. The final item is a sound system in good working order. When I drive, I need to listen to the radio. I prefer to have one that can be heard if I am driving with the windows down. Some may say most of the items in this list are standard features, but I include them because some of the vehicles I reference are not new, and may or may not have these features.

The first vehicle type I would like to mention is the Jeep Wrangler. I have considered this vehicle for two reasons. First of all, I categorize it  as a vehicle type because very few vehicles can be taken apart in the way a Wrangler can. With an older model Wrangler, the top, doors, and windshield can be taken down in about a half hour. Note I do not endorse driving without a windshield, but I included it because it is an option. Second of all, the Wrangler is the posterboy of the great outdoors. Jeep markets the Wrangler as a the great tamer of the wilderness, and the Wrangler has proven itself as a capable offroad vehicle. The Wrangler makes a great summer vehicle because a driver can easily remove the top. This allows the driver to be engulfed in the summer season. All Wranglers come with four seats, so there is ample room for friends. If you do not have an Unlimited, the cargo room can seem slightly cramped. Luckily the rear seats fold up for more space, but that presents a tradeoff between storage capacity and people capacity. The Wrangler’s offroad capabilities also allow you to navigate rough terrain to get to any certain point you wish, including a secluded beach or lake, for example.

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The next vehicle type is probably at the top of the list for most readers: the convertible sports car. Convertible sports cars come in two classes, full convertibles, and t-tops/targa tops. I personally favor t-tops, such as the Nissan 300zx had, but full convertibles, such as a Chevrolet Corvette, Mazda Miatta, or Porche 911, would also be fantastic. The convertible sports car allows one the experience the season, but differs from the Wrangler in that it also allows for ridiculous speeds and provides a symphony of noise from the exhaust. Convertible sports cars are best on twisting country roads at the height of summer. The speed provides an adrenaline boost, but is contradicted by the relaxing and scenic views of the countryside. One thing the sports car does not have is very large capacity for people or storage. They are typically two seaters, and most storage space is occupied with the vehicle top. This vehicle type is best for those with few friends, or a very special one.

The final vehicle type I would like to mention if the pseudo-SUV/hatchback.  This is a very large type of vehicle, so some examples I would like to give are the Honda Element and the Subaru Crosstrek. This type of vehicle has seating for 4+, and usually a good amount of storage. These vehicles also more often than not come with a sunroof, so the passengers are more insulated from the environment. This insulations can be a good thing, if driving in an area prone to frequent changes in the weather. This vehicle type is also usually pretty fun to drive. It may not be able to attain the speeds of the sports car, but it can still be driven aggressively, so as to get some of the adrenaline boost mentioned before. They are spunky, but without being the monsters that the sports cars are. This vehicle is best suited for long drives to camping grounds, concerts, etc. With these vehicles, drivers can bring friends on longer trips, thanks to the higher storage and people capacity.

These are three vehicle types I think are best for the summer months. They all provide the passengers with the ability to experience the summer in all its glory, though each has its strengths and weaknesses. I know everyone may not agree with this list, but I hope they can see how I came to the conclusions I did.

Please feel free to leave your own list in the comments.

– J. Potts, Autmotive Contributor

Edited by JRB, Editor-in-Chief

Don’t Forget!

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– JRB Editor, The Spirited Drive