7:30 PM EST - I have personally be waiting for this day for about two years. I have spent the last few Septembers (and Octobers, and the other ten months) expecting it to happen soon. Somehow.
It is now happening. Today. In about an hour and a half.
The unknowns? Lots of fun there. The shape is still to be revealed, of course, although the renderings are starting to coalesce into an understanding in the collective consciousness. Details about the powerplant have been kept secret - forced induction? size? It'll undoubtedly be a product of Mazda's Skyactiv approach, which means many good things by itself. Other details - weight is a big important question mark - will likewise be revealed.
I'm just glad it's here. Finally.
8:20 - No need for the history lesson here; this is one of the best-known products in the industry. Maybe it's better to remember why this is so important.
The Miata isn't just a fun little car; for a lot of us, it's the one living embodiment of certain ideals that were otherwise lost thirty to forty years ago. It is small; it is simple; it does not traffic in fads or gimmicks. It favors balance and responsiveness over raw numbers, an enlightened innate purity over attempts to mitigate liabilities with complexity and flash.
It's a belief. And that fact that it exists in reality is a bit of a miracle.
8:30 - Broadcast is starting. Feed is unstable, although you'd probably need half the servers in California to cover the likely audience. Gawd, Mazda, what's up with the music?
I am going to be very annoyed if this derpy synth-pop is all that happens for the next half-hour.
7:37 - Okay, that's better. Every Gen Xer in the audience is now having a very appropriate Nineties moment.
A few personal notes: I've driven a Miata once, the first NB that I saw on a dealer lot back in 1998. Miatas aren't great dealer-test-drive cars - they're not immediately visceral, certainly not when buzzing around Ypsilanti. You need time to understand them, preferably time on a twisty road. One - from any generation - would be ideal for my situation right now, with its everyday mix of two-lanes and tight city streets and a bit of Interstate.
Personal favorite? Very hard to say. I love the essential simplicity of the original cars, though I'd skip the first year to completely avoid the (rare) crankshaft issues. The glass rear window and exposed headlights on the NB are big pluses to me. The post-facelift NC Touring/Grand Touring may just be the most elegant and refined and lovely of them all.
Forced to pick one (and yeah, like that's such a violation of my human rights)...'99 or '00 NB with whatever package gets me the Nardi steering wheel - leather package, right? Probably would look into a Racing Beat Stage One suspension, would distantly contemplate a new set of camshafts and high-compression pistons and a lightened flywheel. But most likely as-is; wouldn't want to disrupt the balance that much.
9:00 - Showtime, or thereabouts. Only 21,000 people watching?
9:01 - Here we go. Tribute to the ancestors; how pleasantly Japanese.
9:02 - Good evening. (Addendum later on: Derek Jenkins, head of design)
9:04 - He didn't say Miata. He said MX-5. Hmm.
9:05 -I hate the overuse of "icon." This is close to not being an overuse.
9:06 - Hmm. Totally modern and new? Tensions builds.
9:08 - Oh, damn. That last in-house rendering was DEAD on.
Please not the black wheels on all of them
9:10 - It's a baby F-Type.
Still has the fabric top.
9:12 - Wait, more music? No, I want details. Hold on.
THE CAR. THE CAR. NOT THE BAND.
Sigh. And I like Duran Duran - but really?
9:15 - Y'know, one of my minor gripes about the Corvette intro was that they just had the one guitarist looking kinda lonely onstage. I would have preferred a good band. But not stomping all over the actual unveiling like this.
9:20 - While we're waiting for the oldies revue to run its course, here's the first official pictures of the car:
9:27 - My YouTube feed has gone to hell. Ugh.
9:30 - No, it's just stopped.
I went to the livefeed for one of the two or three most important car introductions of the year and a Duran Duran concert happened
9:32 - What happened?
I went to the livefeed for one of the two or three most important car introductions of the year and it was a PR fiasco.
9:34 - I get the sneaky feeling that that's it. We're back to the derpy music from the beginning
Cripes. Okay, what do we know? Low hoodline, black accents...balance of traditional and modern....
Right. Okay, another released Mazda press shot that maybe gives us some real information:
Video feed has a "stay with us to see more!" message. Sigh.
Interior is cool (Photoshop brightening via the other Patrick at Jalopnik):
9:51 - Oh, hi again. Program Manager Yamamoto speaks.
9:54 - Oh, hi again. Dean Case and HEY! BOB HALL! COOL!
9:55 - Oh, come on. We do not need the history lesson.
At this point I am getting important information only from around the edges and whatever gets sent from people who are there.
10:02 - At this point word from a well-placed source says that important tech details will be forthcoming later - much later. Ugh.
10:05 - At this point if you want information go check Twitter. The live feed is turning into a bad joke. I'm done.
That was not well-produced.
10:10 - Thanks to Mazda's really odd idea of a product intro, we are left hanging in a lot of ways for now. Wish list: Basic powertrain specs and dimensions, pricing info, pictures of it wearing black paint with non-black wheels. Release date. OH CHRIST DEREK IS TALKING AGAIN.
10:12 - Yeah, really want to see it in black to match the windscreen frame and mirrors.
10:14 - All of the designspeak is not doing anything to change my impression that this is a smaller mass-market F-Type. Wonder what Ian Callum is thinking right now.
10:19 - That is sort of a big bulgy rear, at least from the livefeed's perspective. Ferrari California a subconscious influence?
10:20 - Chris Paukert from Autoblog has a shot with it wearing the 17" wheels. Nice.
Okay, livefeed is officially over.
I am really disappointed that we don't have more real information. I'm really wondering what the folks who put this together were thinking.
That said, I think the car itself is, safely, a good move. It looks interesting, if a bit derivative. It keeps all the important ideas intact (we think).
Now we just have to wait again.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
|Original photo which included that white space: Bonhams|
I've paid attention to a few of these cycles, all of which were reflections of certain market conditions that grew into speculative rushes and eventually collapsed as such things are wont to do. This time, though I'm really wondering what is going on. This is way too big and has gone on too long and makes increasingly little sense. Emerging market players? Tax dodges? Has market inertia just become a perpetual motion machine?
I think one fundamental market condition underpins a lot of the general runup lately: there is (technical term here) fuck-all else that makes a lot of sense in the current investment sphere right now, especially if your idea of "makes sense" is "consistent 10+% annual returns." But really, unless you're in it for the long haul with green energy or biotech or something else on the relative margins, the opportunity to play pump-and-dump games is slim pickings right now. Indices may be posting record highs, but it's a broad situation; there's no hot sector right now. (Bo-ring.)
So we go to collectibles, especially ones as approachable and media-friendly and well-documented (sort of, occasionally subject to inaccuracy and outright fraud) as cars. And who can argue with the appeal? Sure, if you've got the funds, go right ahead and pick up a Gullwing or Carrera RS or something else that looks pretty and costs something respectable. Have some fun, impress your friends with arcane facts. Next year it'll be up God knows how much.
|$4.2 million worth of alloy-bodied 300SL. Photo: Gooding & Company|
And with that we're off, and the greedy go after what most collectors would consider the bottom-feeders of the classic marques and crank up the hype. We don't need to discuss what's happened to the market values of E30 M3s and 901-chassis 911s. Anything with a Ferrari badge is again being grabbed like a free margarita. If it can be tangentially linked to something great, it becomes great by association and is therefore so much more valuable.
And what happens after all the investment-grade-by-association games get played? Two things: First, everyone becomes an expert and automotive "investment" advice starts to get batted around in certain circles like fantasy sports hunches. Second, everyone goes scurrying into the shady corners to find potential gems - or at least chunks of glass that can be polished up and offered to the market in some form, hopefully before the whole sector craters.
We are now very deeply situated in that last part. Everyone is offering next-big-thing advice, and everyone is casting about for something that just might catch fire in the market. It's now gotten to the point where quasi-respectable sources are putting a "buy" rating on such moaning dogs as the Jaguar XJ-S (among other debatable cases, here) and the Chrysler/Maserati TC (Hemmings this month, God help their credibility).
Joe Kennedy knew that it was time to run from the stock market in 1929 when he was getting investment tips from his shoe-shine boy. If an amateur blogger can be considered to be at about that same position on the food chain in an era when it is somehow cool to wear sneakers with a suit, then I suppose it's my turn, no?
So, without further ado, I present the SoM MarketMotion℠ Hot List. Standard classic-car investment rules: car should be over about twenty years old, it should have some sort of important associations or history or ability to somehow further abuse the word 'iconic,' and be completely and oh-so-unfairly overlooked (so far) by well-informed collectors (read: speculators). Make notes, check that savings account balance, get in now before the rest of the market gets a clue.
Alfa Romeo 75/Milano
1987-1995 BMW 7-Series (E32)
|Photo: Wiki...wait, are you even reading this?|
|Call your Mom. Buy some flowers for your girlfriend.|
Remember, the market is moving faster than a comp Daytona these days. Don't let the opportunity to be part of this fantastic investment opportunity pass you by.
(Disclaimer: All opinions, news, analysis, prices or other information contained on this website are provided as general market commentary and does not constitute investment advice, nor a solicitation or recommendation for you to buy or sell, as if you haven't figured that out already. Past results are not indicative of future returns. Your mileage may vary. Take any of this seriously and try to call me on it and any institution with the balls to call itself a court will laugh you into exile. Donations willingly accepted. You have something hanging out of your nose.)
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
|All renderings: Nissan USA|
I suppose I can grouse about the options available; Nissan's entire lineup is biased heavily towards "competent mainstream" right now and is more than a bit short on inspiration. That said, sometimes the sum is greater than the parts.
The first "#mashup" release was a blend of Maxima and GT-R, which ends up looking a bit bulky but not without some meaningful appeal:
|All renderings: Nissan USA|
The second release - part 370Z, part Sentra - is...oh, dear God.
Curious thoughts: is this some kind of product-planning experiment? An unusual consumer clinic? Just a silly Facebook game? I'm inclined to not take this too seriously, unfortunately, but at the same time that Z/Sentra (Zen-tra?) is the sort of thing you can't help but want on sight.
Yes, performance cars with extra seats have rarely hit that best-of-both-worlds ideal and instead have usually been a kind of automotive black sheep: not hardcore enough but not accommodating enough, either. At best you get the better ponycars or the GT-R; at worst, pretentiously-equipped two-door sedans with miserable ride characteristics.
But I never want the manufacturers to give up on the idea. Especially if it looks this promising.
Monday, July 21, 2014
|Photo by the author.|
It's nice so far, if slightly slow and maybe not as culturally vibrant as I had hoped. The Commons is a construction zone. We've had lots of rain. I'm still recovering from the extraordinary stress of my first year of teaching (read: regular afternoon naps). Plus there's the usual sense of dislocation and need to set up some sense of security and comfort that comes with a new move, especially with moving in together for really the first time, especially given that neither of us are anything like 24-hour party people. But it's going mostly well. Lots of hiking, lots of walking around town, just getting a feel for this often deeply beautiful area.
I do miss some things about New York City. However, I have yet to miss the MTA. We have the Passat, which does its runabout duties with dignity and aplomb if slightly high fuel consumption. (Hills.) Wonderful One bought a bicycle, an inexpensive Raleigh which is perfect for the laid-back pace here. (Managing the 21 speeds and lack of coaster brake - she hasn't really been on a bike since a childhood on some simple Soviet-era creation - has required some practice.) I'll need something else soon as well. (Hills again. Just try getting a singlespeed up State Street.)
As far as the local vehicle scene goes, it basically fits your stereotypes of a typical Northeastern college town and then some: lots of Volvos, lots of Subarus, lots of hybrids, a spread of everything else. Not many sports cars, which is probably a reflection of both the harsh reality of winter here and some vestiges of an old Yankee modest-pragmatist mindset that still seems to exist locally. Despite having two of the most expensive colleges in America on its hills, this is in most ways a typical upstate New York town, maybe with a bit more hippie color.
It's also where I came into this world not quite forty-one years ago, which gives being here a certain charm for me.
But yeah, car culture is not a visible part of life here. Maybe a hobby thing tucked in a garage here and there, but rarely on display - something interesting or charmingly eccentric every two or three days, but this is neither a classic car mecca nor home to the kind of high rollers that ruled much of Manhattan. It's not that kind of place. Which is kind of a shame, because the roads are simply wonderful: classic two-lanes strewn through the hills like an unraveling dream. Even in the Passat they are an ongoing joy.
Watkins Glen is about twenty miles west of here. The SCCA regionals were run there the weekend after we arrived (really awful timing on my part), NASCAR weekend coming up, the vintage celebration is around Labor Day.
Have to see how the job situation works out as I pore over classifieds and assess the parking situation. Still hoping for something better suited for those back roads soon.
More to follow now that I have time for this all again, thankfully.
Other recent notes:
Sure, I go racing and I have an existential crisis. Raphael, Bard of Baja Bugs, goes racing and he wins in his class. Life just ain't fair, man. (Dude: High-five.)
See also Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg and Mercedes in general. Lewis has always been a bit of a drama queen, but really, how does Nico make it look so easy? Although having the season's crushingly dominant car definitely helps.
Peace be with James Garner, who went from a role in a flawed but still thrilling Hollywood epic to being a serious and involved gearhead and race-team leader in the twilight of the gentlemen-racer era. By all reports he lived well. We should all be so fortunate and civilized.
Thursday, July 10, 2014
|Lou with his future F1 star. Photo: Claudia Guerra|
Note: Lou was originally going to add a comment to the original telling of our mutual tale of woe and frustrating handling detailing his perspective, but it grew until it deserved to be its own thing. As I'm settling into a new existence - details to follow - here's the take from the more competent side of the whole operation.
I've been a fan of all sorts of since I was quite young, probably not even in my teens. Being that I was born a poor boy from Brooklyn, the odds of actually doing it were slim to none. As I got older, the opportunity to drive go-karts for fun presented itself when a friend of mine from work told me that his boss owned a go kart track in Long Island and that he did an arrive and drive rental sort of thing. We had raced electric indoor go karts a couple of times before that. It was an invitation I could not refuse. Before then my racing experience had been limited to 30 or so laps in an Spec Racer Ford as part of a travelling racing type school - that and the at Action Park way back when.
The day we went to the track, there was some sort of event and they would only be able to let us on track for a few quick sessions in between heats and only in the concession karts. (Just how "concession" these karts were I would be made aware of later). I remember driving pretty much all day without much issue, being fairly competent and getting the measure of my friend who was a fan like me. Anyway, it was a blast and right before I left a gentleman came up to our group and asked if we might be interested in endurance .
Fast forward 15 years.....
I had been wanting to do an endurance event for so long after that day but, of course life got in the way. Well, life and laziness. My friend moved away and had kids and I didn't know of anyone else that might be interested. Until I got to know Patrick..
I seater and a half day driving school in -V at Monticello the year before so I figured I couldn't be that rusty. Mistake number one. my buddy in January and asked if he would be interested and thankfully he said yes. I was looking forward to the race but I really wasn't doing anything to prepare myself for the experience. I did a few laps in a single
I went on a diet two weeks before the race. I figured the lighter I was the better. I haven't been able to work out since before my son was born so dieting was really the only way I could get down to a reasonable weight. I had gotten heaver and needed motivation. I figured the race would do the trick. This would turn out to be mistake number two.
Doing what research I could, I find a GoPro video that someone from Classic Car Club had posted to YouTube from the previous year's race. I watched it and the course layout seems pretty straight forward. Pretty easy actually. Believe it or not, this would be mistake number three. More on that in a bit.
, race day is here and I'm ready to go, I lost around what I wanted to weight wise and I was pumped. I dust off my gear, load up the family into the truck and meet Patrick at the track.
Since the pit strategy was completely left up to us and there would be no refueling I figured I would let Patrick go first in practice since he has less experience than I had, then I would take over and qualify. I thought if my times were slower than his we could switch back out. I planned to take the race start.
They give us the pit stop procedure and we do a track walk which I listened to our advise intently. Right as he's done, he mentions that it's possible to take the entire track flat out...Mistake number three.
Practice is about to start, we agree on a pit sign and an acknowledge sign from whomever is driving. Patrick sets off and I patiently wait my turn. Since I wasn't driving, I watch but I don't really see what's happening on track. I could see that Patrick was having trouble in one of the corners but I don't really know what's going on at this point. I've completely lost track of time. Next thing I know, Patrick is in and it's time for me to get in....
First impression, holy cow this little thing is a rocket! It's seriously like a tiny muscle car. The little karts I had driven previously were nothing like this. I warm up a bit on the first out lap, second lap I'm pushing hard. Too hard as it would turn out. I try to take turn one flat out. Heavy hander at the bottom. there too. Three is a left hander that could be flat but my line was all screwed up because of the I was fighting in the corner before. Flatfooted all the way around to the last corner before the front straight. Track is so bumpy that my left foot is actually coming off the brake when hitting on particular nasty bump. This happens to me pretty much every lap till race's end. That last corner I can take flat no problem. By the third or fourth lap, my arms are starting to tire out and I'm sucking wind big time. This is no good, I've only been out a few laps. The last corner in particular seems to be a neck stretcher. I manage to set a decent time but I'm seriously winded. Seems that going on a diet that tends to make you physically weaker right before a race, is a very bad idea., the hell? Well that was unexpected. Maybe the tires are a bit cold. I take it easy through turn two, the mini corkscrew which leads to a tight little right
I was so worn out from that I can't take the race start. I tell Patrick he's starting the race.
I watch the start and try to figure out what I'm doing wrong and maybe share the info with Patrick. We also devise another pit signal. Driver raises his hand when he's coming in the next lap. These things are taking a lot out of me. More than I ever experienced before.
A couple of things are bugging me:
The guy on the track walk said it's possible to take the whole track flat out, why the hell can't I seem to?? Anytime I try the kart doesn't hold it's line and wants to on corner exit.
I realize the track video I saw was filmed with a camera that was doing a remarkable job of flattening everything out. Corners didn't seem as tight as they actually are and the corkscrew's elevation change didn't seem to exist. Watching the video messed me up because it made me think I knew what I had to do to go fast instead of building speed on my own. Basically, I punched myself out. I pushed too hard and ended up fighting the kart instead of conserving energy.Anyway no matter, I'll do better next stint. One of the staff asks me what it's like out there. I said I can't get my body to do what my brain is telling it to or something to that effect.
I start talking to one of the other drivers. I tell him I'm having a bit of trouble at the corkscrew. He tells me people do that corner all sorts of ways. What works for him is to lift and coast down then brake hard and pitch the kart into the corner at the bottom. Gotta try that.
Wait, did we just get the meatball flag? I go over with my helmet on just in case but my teammate heads back out and stays out for a while while I regain my composure.
I signal for Patrick to come in. It's my turn again. I'm tired but still enthusiastic. Driver change complete and I take off. I promptly lose control of the kart at pit exit which leads to the corkscrew. It was a slide that I half caught. Embarrassing but , I'm pointed straight. I'm still trying stubbornly to take turn one flat out. There is simply no way. I give up and stomp on the brakes hard before turning in. That did the trick, gotta try to tell Patrick when we switch out again.
I'm getting a bit more comfortable, let's try something out at the corkscrew. If coasting down, braking at the bottom and pitching into the corner is working maybe I can stay flat at the start of the downhill corner, get to about halfway down the corkscrew then brake less hard and apex early into the corner at the bottom. So I try it the next lap.
I get to my braking point stomped the brakes and !!!! It was like hitting the banana peel in Mario Kart. I honestly don't know how many times I spun but it was at least a 360. I'm pointed the right way more or less so I keep going. Probably didn't even lose much time, it all happened so fast. Won't be trying that shit again. As I circulate my body and my mind have totally disconnected and not in a good way. I'm getting so weary that I'm not able to think straight. I'm grunting going into corners and my hands are very sore to the point that I'm letting go of the wheel when I can. Time to come back in and hand over to Patrick.
I get out and try to tell Patrick about braking into one. He doesn't hear me and I give up on trying to exchange information. A third driver might not have been a bad idea. Also, I blew the pit in stopping point. Heat of battle, I suppose. Truth is, I just plain forgot. Brain and body aren't on speaking terms right now. I check the times and walk over to our chair.
I try to rest up for the next stint. I had already given up on racing anyone. It was simply survival. In the words of Senna "Once you are in it, you're in it". Well we were knee deep in it. I'm watching Patrick circulate and at some point I can see him slowing down. " Driving tired" I called it. Crap he's coming back in!
I get my helmet on as quick as I take over the kart. There's not much time left so I figure we'll stop as many times as we have to. I head out and stay out of as best as I can. I'm my rush to get my helmet on, I didn't get it down low enough on my head so my view isn't ideal. Awesome.
The stint was uneventful actually but at time time it felt like I was playing in the Superbowl as the ball I was getting so beat up. I request a stop and come back in and switch after a handful of laps. Jeez I've had it. My fitness level is between a joke and just plain sad. Less than half an hour to go. I know I can't leave him in that long. I gather as much strength as I can muster. I need to get back into the gym badly. That and give up cigarettes completely.
Last pit stop, I call my buddy in and take over for the last 10 minutes or so. At this point, I just relax, don't push as hard and try to drive on autopilot. I turn our fastest race lap in the process. Son of a ....
Race is over. Cool down lap, high fives to the corner workers. I'm sure they enjoyed the entertainment our shenanigans provided them. We stay to collect our medal for third in class and take our well deserved, good natured ridicule. Glad I'm out of the kart and not dead. I now completely understand this picture...
|Not us, thankfully, even though it felt like that. (Nigel Mansell on a rough day in Dallas in 1984.)|
It takes me a few days but I'm finally able to decipher was i was doing wrong and what areas I need to improve. I'm not even all that concerned with winning. I just want to improve. Truth be told, I'm pissed. I knew what to do but I didn't execute. I want another shot at it. Till next year...