Rental Car Rodeo: Mich-again

Last weekend I was back home in Traverse City visiting family. To save money, I usually fly into and out of Grand Rapids and rent a car for the drive. The drive may add time but the money saved from avoiding one of most expensive airports in the country helps ease the sting. The upside is that weekend rentals are cheap, so instead of the compact I usually rent, I sprung for an upgrade and got me a mid-sized! Yeah, I’m living the dream, folks.


Photo Maxima-ized to include the greenery

Fearful that I would be spending 3 days with a dreadful Chrysler 200, I was sorta relieved when the rental agent handed me the keys for a Maxima. The current Maxima is one of those cars I’m vaguely aware of, but haven’t ever really given much thought to. Its sorta like Belgium, you know it exists, but it isn’t really top of mind. Now, I do recall liking the mid-90s cars, mostly because Nissan had interesting ads (ok, that’s not a read one) and put an emphasis on making the car fun. The fun factor extended to Nissan’s practice of subtitling the car the 4DSC (Four Door Sports Cars) with a punchy V6 and sports-tuned suspensions. Since the 5th generation car, I’ve hardly given the Maxima a second thought.

So its got "styling" but not style so much.

So its got “styling” but not style

So what’s been going on with the Maxima since it last darkened the door of my conscious mind? Well, it’s packed on the pounds, but its also been guzzling its muscle milk because it’s 3.5 litre V6 makes an absurd 290 horses. Let that sink in for a second, a midsize family sedan makes 290 brake horsepower – 290! So its big and it’s stupidly powerful. Does that make it any fun to drive? Eh, kinda. The power delivery is intense, but it’s routed through a very non-sporting like CVT transmission. The result is a car that hauls ass, but lets down when it comes to driving involvement.

The Interior is, well it’s black. It’s got some soft touch, and not so soft touch plastics here and there. A big center stack dominates the interior and the whole things is awash in cheap looking orange lighting. BMW pulled off the orange hues in the 90s, but today it just looks like a latter-day Pontiac interior. In fact, in thinking about this car since last week, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that the current Maxima is the spirit of W-body Pontiacs reborn – it’s got big, powerful motor, “exciting” styling, and dubious interior appointments. In a straight line it’ll pull like a freight train, but as soon as things get a little curvy, the whole car gets bendy and loses its composure. So 4DSC no more it seems.


Cheap and cheerful vs. big and bloated. 

I still can’t get over the amount of power the Maxima makes. On one of my drives, I came across probably the most unusual car I’ve ever seen in Northern Michigan, a Citroen 2CV Charleston. The 2CV represents motoring in its absolute simplest form – its lightweight, makes just 2 horsepower and is cheap. Essentially, its everything the Maxima is not. Yet, it served to put a rural post-war France back to work and puttered along in production until 1990. While I’m not advocating that we all live simply and drive 2CVs it does highlight how far we’ve come as a civilization and underscores that we’re never happy with just enough. I’m sure in 5 years the average family sedan will pack upwards of 350 horsepower and will weigh as much as the HMS Dreadnaught. But hey, that’s progress, right?


Saab Stories: Victory is mine!

Q: How do you double the value of your Saab? 

A: Fill up the tank




Well, at long last victory is mine! Ok, its more like the victory, and 340 of my hard earned dollars belong to me mechanic, but you get the picture. After four good tries, the Saab finally went under the knife of the local professionals and is now quite roadworthy. They removed the bolt and replaced all four v-belts, so in the end the money was well worth it.

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Saab Stories: Saab: 4, Me: 0

Q: Why do they put sidewalks beside most streets and highways?

A: So Saab owners have a safe place to walk home. 

It’s been a little while since I’ve updated about the Saab. Ok, it’s been a really long while since I updated about the Saab. A long winter and cold wet spring have not provided as many opportunities to wrench as I’d hoped for. Sadly the old tank has spent much of the last few months quietly parked on my street, awaiting better weather and some love from me. Admittedly, it’s been hard to feel free to enjoy the car because of some very basic maintenance items have thwarted my best efforts. You see, as the score currently stands, the Saab: 4, me: 0; but once again, I’m getting ahead of myself.


This kids, is what we call a 15 foot car. From 15 feet it looks pretty good, get in closer and you’ll begin to see the damage 21 New England winters has wrought .

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Parked: Cars of Turkey!

It wouldn’t be a trip abroad if I wasn’t Instgramming up a storm, would it? Herein lies a collection of various and sundry interesting cars found where European ends and Asis begins. The in-depth travelogue is forthcoming.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the most common cars I encountered in Turkey were of the Italian and French variety. Both Fiat and Renault both have factories in Turkey and produce TDM (Turkish Domestic Market, yeah I think I made that up) models.


From my anecdotal observation, some of the most aggressive drivers i encountered in Turkey were driving Fiat Doblos.

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Island Cars: An update on Ruby!

Old Volvos really do go to islands to live out their senior years. #volvo860

The update: the old girl lives. She’s bit dirtier than normal, but after a long hard Maine winter left outside. I charged up her battery, pumped up her tires and she came right back to life. She’s a tough old brute. Also, because why not, here are some recent photos from a trip to the island.


Boats and Saabs, does it get any better?


Twin Cat diesels. TWIN CAT DIESELS!


Got Married on Saturday, Road Tripping in Turkey Tomorrow

Yep, its time for another TPW Adventure! On Saturday I finally made an honest woman out of Elle and this evening we’re off to Turkey for what promises to be one hell of an adventure! We’ve got a couple of days in Istanbul then we’re off to Izmir for the start of a road trip along the Lycian Way, with stops in Kusadasi, Ephesus, Fethiye, Cirali and ending in Antalya. We’re renting a TPW favorite too – a Ford Fiesta hatch! Updates to come…


The internet is a glorious thing

So here I am, late some Thursday night, when I really should be in bed. And what am I doing? Scouring SearchTempest for every Peugeots for sale in these United States. I blame Motoring Con Brio for my current spate of automotive induced insomnia. All it took was this profile of some dude out in California and his well-loved ’83 Peugeot 505 STI to get the wheels turning and the internet a-searching. Thankfully, the Northeast didn’t turn up any viable options, but somewhere around page 4 of the search results I happened upon two interesting ads from, not unsurprisingly, the Big Easy.

Pug 405

Vote Judge Doug Hammel, and buy this car!

Sacrebleu! A Peugeot 405 MI16! And it looks pretty minty, too! Before beating a retreat from the American market, this was the last new Peugeot sold in the land of the free. At its launch, it was praised for its agility, handling and grunty 16 valve four cylinder motor. See there was a time when four holers with not 8, but 16, valves were considered exotic! Which reminds me of another front-hooker with a 16 valve four cylinder…

Pug 405 interior

Leather as red and racy as any French hen house, and the dash doesn’t suffer any cracks either!

The MI16 was of course a tarted up version of the more ho-hum 405, and as such is the more collectible and sought after car. I’m sure the number of road worthy specimens still in existence on these shores numbers in the low hundreds. Were I man of resources (and equally poor judgment), I would have a hard time saying no to this one, which is priced at $4500. 

Wait, are those retractable sun shades in the back? Awesome!

Wait, are those retractable sun shades in the back? Awesome!

OK, hold on to your hat. Things are about to get really, really weird, like giant Grace Jones’ animatronic-head-in-the-desert-eating-French-cars weird. Yeah, you’d better watch this to see what I mean.

Told ya. You see, the same bloke slinging that sweet 405 MI16 also has some Schedule 1 weirdness to sell you. Only with an asking price of $8500, the first taste ain’t even close to free! Let’s see what we’ve got.

VW fanbois be all like "moar low," CX owners be like whateves...

VW fanbois be all like “moar low,” CX owners be like whateves…

Yes friends, this car is a very rare (here at least) a 1986 Citroën CX. This car is fantastical. There’s really no other way to describe it. Whereas the DS was the goddess who delivered de Gaulle’s from death by angsty coffee-house types; and the SM was a glorious but ill-fated example of cross border Italiano-Franco cooperation; the CX was just bizarre — a completely fantastical experiment in French futurism. It’s like something out of a Moebius Mètal Hurlant comic from the 80s.

cx interior

Single spoke steering wheel! Its like a spaceship in here!

cx rear

A spacious spaceship that is, look at all that legroom!

The otherworldly nature of the CX extended beyond and below sheetmetal, too! Typical of Citroën of the day, the CX’s motive power was as unconventional as its looks. Power came via twin mounted J35-XSI Inertia Damping Generators which were in turn coupled to four phased-array emitters. This highly efficient, if volitate arrangement meant the CX was capable of stationary velocities in excess of .08 past light speed. In fact, in the late 80s René Arnoux made the Kessel Run in a factory prepped CX in under 8 parsecs! A feat that hasn’t been bested since.

Rise my servant, I command thee!

Rise my servant, I command thee!

Wow, what a car! The internet is a glorious thing.

Parked: Old Car Spotting in JP

Work meetings had me out in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood in Boston a few weeks ago. The combination of a nice day, new phone (Samsung GS5!), and some serendipitous parking, made for some good car spotting.

80s car goodness! #bmw #e30 #Porsche #Mercedes #w123 #944

Found these German siblings parked in some unmarked repair shop lot. Would happily have any of the three in my drive.


Not just Ze Germans, here, no the Swedes are most welcome too!


I spy, I spy, to peepin’ Germans.


This MG’s patina borders on neglect. Hope this one car gets the love and attention it deserves.

Parked: Truck Yeah!

Oooh, you stop!

It’s not just old Saabs that seem to be following me, it also seems the General’s trucks keep popping in to remind me they still exist and to say hello. The red Silverado above was spotted in San Francisco and the C10 below was found down on the airbase in Alameda.


A study in beautiful decay.

Then, while in Hartford taking care of some wedding related errands, I came across this minty fresh C10 parked in the Nordstrom’s parking deck. Needless to say it was quite conspicuous amongst the fleet of luxe SUV, junior exe sedans and other adornments of our aspiration lifestyle.