Thursday, June 30, 2011

If there's a sign to the gates of hell, it looks like this.

[caption id="attachment_400" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="The typical inbound GWB wait on a Thursday"][/caption]

Summer is finally here. Schools out, people are on vacations, which means less traffic, right? The mornings are a breeze, but afternoons, especially Thursdays have been terrible, as more and more people seem to be driving to their three day weekends. I anticipate tonight and tomorrow afternoon are also going to be a nightmare, full of travelers for July 4th.

Good thing I took 9/46 to the lower level.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Car stuff I can't live without - Part 1

I guess since I am doing this whole blog thing, I have to schill some products every once in a while, right? I'll start today with Rain-X.

There some things I can't live without.  One of those things is Rain-X. The principle of its functionality is what makes it so great - The faster you go, the better it works.

It's a simple design. You apply a silicone barrier to your windshield and it beads away water when it's raining. But besides making it so much easier to see in the rain, it also makes bugs come off easier, as well as ice and snow. I also buy the huge  orange jug 0' Rain-X for wiper fluid that is good for -25 degrees. I guess sometimes I think I still live in Utica and need a -25 degree wiper fluid, but that's rarely the case anymore. You rarely get hit with a lake effect storm on the Northern State.

The downside? for some reason, your windows are more likely to fog up while using it. But this is a minor inconvenience given its benefits.  Also, don't use it on your rear windows or mirrors, because not enough wind hits this to be effective.

Try it, you wont be disappointed.

Up next in this series - PIAA's.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fun fact about EZ Pass

Heres something I have found out in my daily commute: You know those gates that go up and down in EZ Pass toll lanes on the bridges and tunnels? You can hit the booth at a maximum of 19 MPH when its fully lowered and escape without damage..

Monday, June 13, 2011

Zen for the gearhead

You know those moments in your life when you just find your Zen? I remember one of mine.

It was about eight years ago, and I was trackside in the early hours of the morning at Laguna Seca in Monterey, CA. I was working on a press junket at the time with the American LeMans series and was out shooting with some hospitality team Audi / Champion racing. I was alone, walking to check out a photo hole, when the engines started and started ripping through the track. It was the Audi R8, the Viper, and of course that yellow C6 Corvette with an unmistakable growl. I don’t know what it was about that morning, but I’ll always remember the time I had that section of the track all to myself, and to have the stillness of misty October morning shattered by screaming cylinders.

That’s why Jalopnik made my day today by posting the following link of the race at night, and just the sounds. It’s truly music to my ears. If you have ever enjoyed an ALMS race, this is for you.

This weekend was the annual 24 hours of LeMans and Audicame out on top again, despite a scary crash near the beginning of the race, which fortunately McNish walked away from.


Friday, June 10, 2011

The death of Panther from the people that use it

I’m a talker, or so I have been told. Maybe it’s my up-stater-ness, but like engaging people in conversation, and this holds true when I’m stuck in a car for someone for about an hour. Because of my job, I often find myself utilizing car service when driving or public transportation is not practical. Last week, I took a late night ride home from Manhattan with a Pakistani driver who had a lot of opinions and shared some knowledge with me.

Some guys just know more about the roads than us commuters can ever imagine. Among airline pilots and cops, my favorite people to talk to our livery drivers. Unlike NY cabbies, these guys have to have a good grasp on English, and an extensive knowledge of the tri-state area, not just the five boroughs. So of course, we had a great long conversation on the death of the Crown Vic/ Town car / Panther platform which is on top of the minds of many.

This is a very interesting topic which has some very passionate to fleet drivers and managers, yet we know nothing in the mainstream, and it affects us all. Here’s the scoop: after this year, Ford will discontinue the Panther platform, which is responsible for the Crown Victoria (cops cars, taxi cabs), the Lincoln Town Car (livery and fleet drivers, gypsy cabs) and the Grand Marquis (old people, already dead with Mercury).  Perhaps it is time to embrace a platform with better fuel efficiency and modern features. So let’s explore these groups, and how they are affected:

Cabs and Livery: For the cabs, this means a replacement in the next few years, which the city has decided to go with a Nissan minivan that’s drawing a lot of criticism, but hey, fuel efficiency. Other cities like Las Vegas are trying out the Ford Transit connect, which lost the NYC war due to fuel efficiency.  The livery folks are on their own; they tried the Camry hybrid, but found it to falter mainly on comfort and space. I was told you can only fit 2 large suitcases, whereas the venerable Town Car can fit 4-5 bags, and still have room left for a dead prostitute. It looks like the best runner up right now will be the Lincoln MKZ and MKX, basically a Ford Taurus and a Ford Explorer. Some of the guys drive hybrids, especially for the large Escalades and Tahoes, but with $5 fuel in our near future, efficiency becomes even more important, and we will be seeing less of this platform, especially as car companies are adopting a driver-owned fleet.

No one feels the hurt from the death of Panther worse than cops who are losing their trusted Crown Vic Interceptor package for whatever the local community decides what’s next.

So why not the Ford Taurus interceptor Ford showed as the replacement? Simple answer is that it’s FWD. I talked to a couple of cops, and they hate the lack of control and torque FWD cars offer. While an AWD option is available, its doubtful many departments ill pony up the extra cash, and the hit to fuel efficiency makes it less attractive.  They cited the failure of the Impala as an intercept vehicle. I think this is a bad move on Fords part, as a good chunk of their community fleet sales are going to go to the Dodge Charger Pursuit package that’s already the scourge of NYC roadways. Another factor is intimidation. The Charger has it, but I think the Taurus pictured here will give the Charger a run for its money.

from auotblog

Old people: Don’t worry, Buick is coming back with a vengeance, no one is going to notice the Grand Marquis.

So why would Ford kill off such a successful platform with such a long history? While I am sure that they have their reasons, the common word on the street seems to be the influx of third party parts. See, the manufacturer makes a boatload on parts for cars. Rotors, radiators, drive belts, all of these wear out due to wear and tear, and are incremental revenue to Ford.  Now, there are so many third party companies undercutting the OEM parts, that the only way to get this revenue back is to completely overhaul the platform. If this is done, its going to be years before third party vendors can re-tool CNC machinery to reverse engineer OEM-like parts. Do I know this for a fact? No not at all. This could be totally way off, but this seems to be what the common thought is.