Monday, August 26, 2013

MTV's VMA's versus Porsches

So I am sitting here feeling very old. You see I am watching the MTV Video Music Awards (VMA) with my family. It is bad enough that I called Drake – Blake, and I could not remember Joseph Gordon Levitt’s name to save my life. Man it is getting harder and harder to remember this stuff. OK, I got Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Macklamore + Ryan Lewis, JT and a few more, so maybe I have just a tiny sliver of the pop culture mojo going here. But really, when did Hanna Montana grow up and go all nasty on us? The new Miley Cyrus, it looks like she is trying way too hard. And the Teddy Bear thing was just wrong. Seemed to give the venerable Teddy a bad rap. And just what the heck it twerping? Oh, it twerking…my bad, my wife had to correct me. And Taylor Swift? She has no recent celebrity breakups to write about…so I guess that means no new hit songs. Maybe she can just rush up on stage and b-slap Kayne West during his performance. Wow, that would get some tweets or tweeters or whatever the heck it is called stirred up.

I gotta tell you though, I am very happy that I have had my dose of pop culture. I think I am OK for at least another year. That way when I am at a party (with non-gear heads, because you know what we talk about at parties), and One Direction comes up, I can hold my own. They are Brits right? Or when someone mentions twerking, I will not make the mistake of thinking they said twerping. Nothing shows ones age faster than miss identifying current pop culture phenomena. Although I think that twerking is really just Dirty Dancing for the new millennia. Man you will get called out very quickly and labeled as an old dude and not too hip. That’s just wrong…#OMG #LOL.

So what does this have to do with Porsches? Absolutely nothing, but it has me thinking about the growing old part. I am just wondering where the next generation of Porschephiles are going to come from. It seems that the world is slowly but surely starting to turn to hybrids, diesels and electrics and with the exception of Grand Theft Auto 5, our kids seem to be more interested in cell phones and social media then cool cars. I cannot tell you how many times I have asked my boys if they want to turn wrenches on our fleet of cars. But I usually get a roll of the eyes and the look that says that getting fingernails dirty is not their cup of tea or flavor of Red Bull or whatever they are drinking these days.

So I end up doing the wrench turning on my own. But the way I figure it, as cars get more computerized there will less wrench turning anyway. It is just a module here or a module there. Plug and play. Me? I like getting under a hood and trying to figure stuff out, even if usually get it wrong a time or two. My boys love cars, just not the working on them part. So I wonder who those enthusiasts will be. Will that passion extend past this generation and keep fueling the dreams of kids? Will that Lamborghini Sesto Elemento or Ferrari LaFerrari get posted on a wall, or a home screen or at least maybe a tweet or two? It’s hard to say.

When I look at the landscape of magazines and websites and TV shows they certainly know who their target marketing is, they know who buys their waxes, polishes and classic car insurance policies. And yes, they tend to attract an older crowd, meaning folks my age. And as evidenced by the recent VMA’s, we are not getting any younger. I just hope that our kids pick up our passion and keep the love of all things automotive going. I sure hope my boys do and maybe someday, if I am really lucky and blessed, I will get to spoil my grandkids and get them started down the path to being the next generation of gearheads. That is if electric, hybrid and steam powered cars don’t take over.

We just need to figure out how to make sure that the next generation loves Porsches the same way we do. At this rate, there will be a bunch of older Porsches and nobody to drive them. Hmmm, maybe if I live long enough there will be a glut of old Porsches on the market at rock bottom prices. Good old supply and demand. Yeah! You old guys keep buying them and young car guys like me will be waiting in the wings…

And on that exhaust note, see you all next time.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Top Ten lists, a behind the scenes look

No doubt you are wondering how I do it. How can I possibly come up with these amazing Top Ten lists? Well, there is a lot of heavy lifting going on here! I usually break out in sweat, have to take multiple breaks (usually accompanied by the consumption of a beer...or two) and generally agonize over these lists for hours. Or for a solid 15-20 minutes. Ahh, the lengths I will go to so that I can thoroughly entertain you my dear reader. So now that I have totally built this up WAY out of proportion to the results your are no doubt expecting, there may still be  the very remote, half chance that you are still wondering how I do it...or not. Fear not, the waiting is over! Now for your reading pleasure I give you an exclusive behind the scenes look at how these lists come to see the light of day (even though I usually write them in the dark of night).

Fact is there is a lot of pressure coming up with original content for the blog on a regular basis. I have only so many car stories so it helps to stretch things out a bit. So I have come to occasionally utilize  (that is when the urge hits me), to stoop to that old stand by - The Top Ten list. Hey its worked for David Letterman for decades now. Geez I hope I have that kind of staying power, but come to think of it, he makes a lot more than I do and he has a team of expert comedy writers to think that stuff up.

So what about me? Where to I turn? Well since you ask, I bring in an expert team to assist me. They have massive street cred, being brainwashed as car guys since early toddlerhood. They are my two boys (now young men) Nick and Dylan. They have been my go to guys for a long time. Nick always pushes me to include the Nissan GTR on any top ten list (except for lists of cars that suck, although I have been tempted to add it a few times) and Dylan vacillates between the Gumpert Apollo (I cannot even come close to fathom why), the Ford GT, the Hennessey Venom GT and most recently the McLaren MP4-12C. I can understand the McLaren, its one of my favs too. Even with a stretch I can see the Hennessey being included in some of the lists, except for the fact that they have sold like five of them (including one to Steven Tyler of Aerosmith). But the Gumpert? Its hideous! OK, maybe fast too, but still...its hideous. And I must admit my two boys have called me a Porsche fan boy on more than one occasion. Hey, that's the name of the blog for crying out loud. But I have been known to push the GT3 and GT2 pretty much every chance I get (which by the way is all the time).

So the first thing we do is pick a subject. Top Ten Ugly Cars of All Time, Top Ten Exotics, Top Ten Cars with Bad Names (hmmm, may have to do that one...) Anyway, we carefully formulate the Top Ten list to reflect some type of important pecking order in the automotive landscape. Then we get online so that each of us can present our picks. We usually have seven to ten cars that each of us wants to push, and then the battle begins. We banter back and forth, a few insults and barbs are traded. Nick will push his GTR agenda and Dylan will push his car of the day agenda. OK, I must admit, my agenda is pretty much the same and it revolves around the cars from Stuttgart.

Then in a flurry of activity, out come the magazines. Our weapons are Top Gear, Evo and Excellence (so I can at least try to maintain my Porsche-ness). We dig up specs and stats, we see what Clarkson, Meaden, Vivian and Metcalf say and if they agree with us, we excitedly point that out. If they don't we declare that they must be idiots. Point is we do at least try to find that cold hard stats that back up our picks.

When we finally have twenty or so picks, we start to slice and dice. It pays to have the cut and paste feature handy as the list goes through several iterations with an ebb and flow as cars are proposed, weighted, dissected, leaving their good and bad points exposed for all to see. Cars can start off low or high and based on their merits, or sometimes just pure luck they may move up or down (or even disappear entirely) before the final order starts to take shape.

Slowly the list takes on a life of its own, but is not yet complete, not yet perfect. At this point we usually have to take a break from the activity, we are simply beat. The boys head off to movies, video games, snacks...something to get away from me and my lists for a bit, while I inspect my beer selection to see what matches up to the task at hand. It could be a Left Hand Brewery Milk Stout, Newcastle Brown Ale, or most often some goodness from Samuel Smith. Notice I did not say Samuel Adams, no I am talking about the brewery in Tascaster UK. Hmmm, could it be another list is taking shape? Must admit, the top 10 British ales will require another set of experts to help me weigh in on my list. In this case, the experts being older than twenty-one and liking exotics beers. I have a couple of people in mind to help...

Anyway I usually have to bribe my experts to come back downstairs and resume our deliberations. At this point, they are raiding the pantry or wondering when we will eat dinner and after seeing my final tally, usually give me a thumb up (at least I think it was their thumb)... Good news though, another list is complete and you, my dear reader can enjoy the fruits of our toils.

You know what they say, somebody has to do the hard work. It may as well be us.

And on that exhaust note, see you all next time.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


During warm weather months (above freezing anyway), it is track season in North Texas. With six road courses within a six hour drive, we have a lot to choose from. So during most of the track season (which stretches from late February to early November) I spend time getting my track car ready for each event. But not this year. I sold my 2006 Porsche Cayman S and bought a 1986 Porsche 944 Turbo. But a very highly track modified 944 Turbo. Problem it - IT IS A 1986 944 TURBO, meaning it needs a lot of stuff. So I did that stuff – belts, rollers, water pump, replace rod bearing, put in oil baffle and other stuff that the car needs. But, I usually have to do stuff twice as it seems I always mess it up the first time. Yeah pretty much… I ended up putting several (well three out of four) rod bearing caps in backwards (who knew?) and I locked up the motor. Pretty good as it turns out, it would not turn over at all. I ended up needed professional help. Ended up costing a lot. How much? Ask my wife. She is upset with me for some reason I cannot fathom. Something to do with our summer vacation or something like that.

Anyway I digress. So what have I been doing with my time? Since I am not getting my car ready for track events? Well I have been playing a game to replace that feeling of being on the track. No not Gran Turismo, I don’t own a Play Station. No, it is something much more simple or far more sinister, depends on your prospective. It lives on my iPad and for some strange reason, it sucks up A LOT of my free time, especially late into the night.

I love it and I hate it. All at the same time. Before my rant starts, maybe just a little bit of a back story. Not sure how many of you played Real Racing 2 (RR2). But I must admit that I loved it. I went way deep, unlocking the secret race car, the McLaren F1. Starting dead last it was fun to lead races by the second corner (or if you were not on your game, by the third). I drained many a battery charge on my phone playing RR2. But Real Racing 3 (RR3)? Sometimes I would like to throttle the developers. Hmmm, maybe more often than not.

So the pluses? The choice of cars is excellent, the tracks are great (except for maybe Brands Hatch) and the physics are fantastic. The cars seems to handle really like they are meant to. There seem to be major differences in how you approach the same corner with the different cars. It makes you work to get the most out of each car. So the game play gets a thumbs up.

But it pretty much stops there. So the RR3 developers out there…I hope a couple of you come across this blog…cause here it goes! Wait! Time out, better put in this caveat – I know that Electronics Arts (EA) is in the business to make money. But in the iPhone / iPad / Android universe, the cost of game is low to zero. $1.99 for a game? That seems about right. So if a game is $5.00 or more, I expect a lot. Fact is I probably overspent on this game. I think it was $5.99, now it’s free. My bad. So as a paying customer, I expected more, a lot more.

1.       The constant servicing of the cars. Run one to two races, you have to put the car in for service. This can take as long as several hours to complete. This means that you can race for a grand total of 15 minutes before you have to hit the service button. Boy these guys really know how to build extended game play into RR3. In real life you would not put your race car into a service cycle after 5-6 laps, but RR3 does. This is a game for crying out loud, gamers expect to be able to play and play and play.

2.       The cost of upgrades? $118,000 for brake pads for a Pagani Zonda F? I can build a car that is faster than the Zonda for $118,000. Brake pads….yeah. Made of what, unobtanium? And the time for the upgrades to be installed, it can something take like five to six hours! Why? The developers and EA want you to spend your money to unlock the service or upgrades so you can get them sooner. Ahhh, instant gratification, but with a price.

3.       Staying with a car for a race series only to have it run out on you. Yes, you spend your hard earned race winning on a car and you upgrade and upgrade and upgrade and…well you get the point. Then you run deep into the series you are racing in only to find out that your baby, the car you spent untold amounts of R$ (what they call money) cannot complete the series. RR3 uses a rating called PR (Performance Rating) and when deep into a particular series the developers put PR requirements on a particular race. Imagine you have raced hard, spent your R$ and expect to continue racing, but you cannot. They put an artificial PR rating to make your car ineligible. Let me give you a perfect example – Racing a McLaren MP4-12C a series called Vanguard Challenge, the MP4 has a max PR rating of 59.3. But midway through the series, the challenges start at a PR rating of 60. Yeah it sucks, .7 PR points separates me from continuing on to the next race. Why? It will no doubt come as a complete shock, but the developers what you to buy another car to replace your lowly piece of junk (I mean McLaren MP4-12C). And guess what, you have to upgrade your new bad boy too if you want to continue. What a racket!

4.       Payout, or rather lack thereof. Now when you are racing a R$1.2M car you expect decent payouts. After all you spent a lot of time accumulating the funds to pay for this bad boy. So you can imagine my surprise when I win a race and win R$3200. That barely pays for service. Yeah the developers what you to spend your real US$ (or whatever your local currency is) to buy stuff like upgrades or new cars. But this is iPhone, iPad, Android land and we do not spend extra $$$ on games. At least I don’t.

5.       Buying extra R$? How about US$99.00 for R$1M!?!? Really? I wonder how many takers they have had at those prices. I bet they would have more takers at $9.99. I suspect EA told the developers they had to have a certain ROI to get the blessing from corporate. Point is…wait for it…this is a mobile game! Not a console or PC game and as such you would expect that it would be a little less costly to play.

OK, I have ranted enough. What I really need to do is get my track car fixed and get back out on the track. And I will, just as soon as I can find a nice drivers side front fender that does not cost an arm and leg. I would rather spend my real $$$ on real car parts. Not excessive R$ for fake car parts. So to the developers of RR3, get with the program and make the racing more realistic for iPhone, iPad and Android users. Real racers get the point of having to pay big bucks to keep on the track. But in the mobile world? Get real!!!

And on that exhaust note, see you all next time.