Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Notes in the margins

Photo: Croakx
A few random things on the mind, none of which really make for serious contemplation but still worth a few words as I sit here and deal with some kind of minor but persistent summertime illness (cough):
A subtle point about the GT-R: It's endlessly interesting to see how engineers deal with certain problems and pursue certain goals. In this case, the ability of the big, bulky GT-R to launch as hard as it does has a lot to do with gearing. First gear is super-short, something like 15:1 effective and good for all of 36 mph before redline. It's essentially a dedicated launch ratio - it exists to get the car out of the blocks and makes sure the motor doesn't go off-boost in the process. The launch control is programmed to do the first-second upshift automatically, which makes all kinds of sense given that you'll be at that shift point in well under two seconds from a full-throttle go.
Photo: Dougtone
Between interviews in various boroughs and a test-prep course I'm teaching towards the other side of Queens, I've been doing a good bit of commuter-pod-style driving these last few weeks. It's been interesting to consider just how minimalist a car could be and still function well in such usage, or how well something like a hardcore purist sports car would work in general intersection-and-freeway driving. (General conclusion: Just fine for me, at least, depending on spring stiffness and maybe clutch weight.) I know modern cars sell in large part on the sheer length of their standard equipment lists, but I still long for an enlightened simplicity somewhere. Would not be averse to trying a few good nav systems, though.

Speaking of simple, it's always a good feeling when you can fix a mechanical issue on the spot with a few tools and pure improvisation, like was necessary when the throttle linkage on Raphael's Baja Bug snapped while driving through Westchester on Sunday. A pair of pliers, a wire cut from the business side of the radio (which wasn't even plugged in correctly), a bit of twisting and looping and one square knot and we're on the road. Try doing that on a modern Jetta when your pedal position sensor gets grumpy.

The reason we were up in Westchester in the first was the fourth annual Domenico Spadaro Memorial Drive, a quasi-rally/charity event which attracted almost a hundred machines, most of them Italian, all of them glorious. I had no idea that so many Lancias existed in the greater New York era, although I assume Signor Spadaro had a lot to do with making their existence here viable. Advice: If you don't already, get out and go to things like this. Especially ones for older cars, where the participants are less about money and more about the camaraderie and good cheer.
Speaking of wire, the bicycle wheel is back in service and holding together well (so far, knock on wood, etc.). Will probably fiddle with retruing the spokes sometime soon, but am really happy with how it turned out. The secret to completing a project: After you've spent way too much time thinking things through and getting professional opinions and so on, sometimes if you just go for it things work really well and turn into something very satisfying.

Time to make more tea and find a good book and kick back in bed. At least the weather is blissful.

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