Archives for October 2012

Cars I Dream of Owning – Jaguar XJR

There are some cars that have occupied my thoughts for many years. Some are obvious (Ferrari anything, Porsche 911 GT3 etc), and some not quite so much. This one is probably in the second category given I’ve never actually owned any sort of large car before (current M3 is probably the biggest I’ve had). But, there was something about this supercharged V8 that was light enough to still handle that got my imagination. And being an ex-pat, it’s almost compulsory for me to dream wistfully of the good old jags from my youth, obviously encased in British Racing Green and driven by either Morse or Arthur DailyThe other draw to this car is it’s probably the last true old school looking Jag. Now they’ve gone all futuristic on us (and not complaining – glad they finally got the balls to make some big changes, and having been treated to one of the Jag driving events they all drive well), there’s isn’t much chance of something looking quite so stately and classically understated again. Rumor has it the build quality on the later versions was pretty impressive as well, although it’s a Jag and I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, so I find that hard to comprehend. Maybe one day I’ll treat myself to a little car russian roulette for a summer, and see if I can pick one up on the cheap for a couple of months of driving pleasure. Stay tuned.

The New Corvette Engine

The week before SEMA (this week) is normally the week I jump on a plane down to Vegas, drive an hour out of town to Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch, and spend two days scaring the living crap out of myself driving Corvettes in their Level 3 Driving School. I highly recommend it if you ever get the chance.

However, this year, for a variety of reasons (you know, time, money, impending time off to head across the pond for a few weeks) I won’t be there. So, I have to make do with reading about Corvettes, and luckily enough there’s a new one about to appear, so little snippets of data are appearing on a fairly regular basis.

Todays (via AutoBlog) is about the new engine – a 450 bhp smallblock V8 (someone needs to explain to me how you call a 6.2 litre engine “small” one day – when I was a kid, we’d fit all 6 family members into a Ford Fiesta with a super powerful 1.1 liter engine). Performance isn’t quite up there with the current Z06 model but it’s pretty close, and looks like a significant improvement over the current base model.

Cars I Grew Up Driving

This post from the crew at PistonHeads got me reminiscing about the cars I learned to drive in.

Photo by Paul Brown

I was lucky enough to have two cars that have stood up to the years, the Triumph Dolomite (I’ll save for another post) and the one above, the Rover SD1. We didn’t have the V8 (or even Vitesse) version unfortunately, but for a 17 year old, the 2.6 litre six was more than enough power to go through the rear wheels.

I must have put about 90% of my disposable income (i.e. all income at that age) in petrol/gas in that thing, often taking impromptu trips up to Scotland for the evening via various country lanes. And I know I probably took a few liberties with the fuel level in justifying when and how much it needed filling up before I gave it back to it’s rightful owner.

Of course, it wasn’t perfect – over time it gradually got less and less reliable, until it was pretty difficult to drive safely. It couldn’t hold a tickover, so any time you had to press the clutch in and brake for example, the engine would die. Given you were coming to a stop at this stage, not that big a deal, apart from the fact that the engine dying also meant the servo for the brakes and power steering would disappear on you. And it twitched to the left if you dropped the clutch at the lights. Oh, and for some reason I seem to remember it went through more than it’s fair share of accelerator cables…

But, despite all that (and maybe because I wasn’t on the hook to have to pay for all the repairs) I loved it. Still think, even 25 years after I drove one, it looks the business, and keep in mind I think the first version of this thing came out in 1977 (or was it ’81). And through a little pulling and pushing, and your Dad being a willing party in the drivers seat, we found out it had more capacity than you’d ever need – enough to fit 9 sweaty 16 year old skater dudes in (front/back/trunk/boot/anywhere there was space) for a quick trip down to the skatepark. Those were the days…..

Forza Horizon

You know you’re living in the right part of the world when your favorite car racing game franchise (Forza, if you didn’t realize from the headline) uses your state for it’s first off-track excursion. So, welcome to Colorado, the land of sunshine and mountains, and lots of fast cars.

I’m hoping they retain all the stuff that is so good about the racing versions – life like feel of the cars, fantastic graphics and lots of super fast and smooth action. And can’t wait to get exploring some of the mountain roads I haven’t tried in real life yet – better get my order in for the Christmas list I suppose.

Track Time in Pueblo with the local BMW Club

I’m lucky enough to have joined the local BMW club here in Denver a few years ago. One of the best things has been the track days – they offer a full day of classroom and track time to get everyone from beginners up to more seasoned drivers around the track that little bit safer and quicker. I’ve attended most of the other local car club driving days (Porsche being the major one I haven’t done yet), and have to say the BMW one is head and shoulders above the others.

Of course, I got totally addicted to this immediately, and proceeded to do very school they had for the next few years (they normally do 3 or 4 days per year). A couple of years ago, I was asked if I’d like to be an instructor – despite the feeling I wasn’t really experienced enough to be qualified, I said yes. The Instructor Training School (ITS) was probably one of the more stressful (but fun) things I’ve done in a while, but I passed, and now have the pleasure of helping others get faster in the same way I was helped. Which brings me to the weekend of September 22nd. Pueblo Motorsports Park, home of my first ever venture on a race track in a car, was the destination for the Fall Driving School. Pueblo had fallen out of favor in the past few years with the newly developed High Plains Raceway taking a lot of drivers attention – however, a brand new surface had brought the track back up to spec, and gave everyone a fresh challenge without eating a set of tires every day (which is what the old surface seemed to do). I had a great couple of students who kept me safe and entertained, and hopefully they realized how much they had improved over the course of the day. The next two are planned for Spring 2013 back out at HPR, so if you’re in Colorado (or somewhere else close) and fancy trying out your car on the track (it doesn’t have to be a BMW – we have lots of different makes out there) check out the site and get ready to sign up next year. As an aside, the fastest I went around the track that weekend wasn’t at my own hands (no surprise there). I had the pleasure of being a passenger in the Lotus Exige pictured above and driven by one of my friends and fellow instructors, Ross. Apart from being super lightweight (although with me in there, it’s obviously weighed down a little), it was also sporting a set of slicks for the weekend, meaning the g’s we were pulling through the corners were pretty impressive. It was a lot of fun.