Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dodge Caravan

I've been seeing quite a few new Dodge Caravans. It's true that the Caravan is not exactly an enthusiasts car, but it is definitely a major player in the automotive landscape with huge sales across North America. It's one of the few Chrysler products available in Europe as well.

The model has just gone through a redesign, it's first one since 1995. The 1995-2007 Caravan was not a stunning design, but it was pleasant looking and seemed to get the job done. 13 years is a long time for a product cycle, but I stand behind a manufacturer who believes in a model and tweaks it over the years.

The new model seems to have been designed to remind people of Chrysler's successful line of Ram trucks. I don't love the design as I find it looks a but fat in the rear end. It weighs over 4300 lbs. Ouch. I think that Chrysler went the wrong way. Frankly I don't see why they made it bigger. It's simply huge.

Chrysler seems to be going in the opposite direction of progress: bigger heavier body, bigger engine. They'll probably sell a bunch of them, but if they do, it shows that people will buy anything that's big, shiny and new.

I am more impressed these days with cars featuring ingenious packaging, like the Kia Rondo or Honda Fit. This is more in the spirit of the first generation of the Dodge Caravan: making a lot of space with not a lot of car.

My father had a 1985 Dodge Caravan. It was spacious and pleasant to ride in. The overall length of the car was roughly the same as our Dodge Aries. The 4-cylinder may not have been sufficient for the needs of many owners, but I think that the first generation was much more ingenious than the present iteration. So much for progress.

Monday, November 26, 2007

ITB 1988-1991 Civic DX

I just found out that the SCCA has transferred the 1988-1991 Civic DX to Improved Touring B. It was previously in ITA, the same class as the 1989-91 Civic Si, CRX Si and Integra RS. In 2001 when I bought my first Civic, a 1988 DX, I hoped the SCCA would one day do this. When I bought another 1988 DX in 2006, I actually wrote the SCCA requesting the change.

My late and lamented 1988 Civic street car:


I have been dreaming of building an ITC 1988-1991 Civic for a while, but the logistics always seemed tough, since that model was not available in Canada. This is not the case with the DX... there are tons of them. This makes me think that my next project should be an ITB class 88-91 Civic DX.

Here is an example of a budget project:

Stage 1: Track ready street car
buy Civic DX - 1200$
change bushings - 500$
buy used Koni shocks and H&R springs - 500$
pads-discs - 150$

Stage 2: ITB legal, but slow
weight reduction: 0$
roll cage: 1500$
used seat: 200$
belts: 200$
kill switch, etc.

Stage 3: ITB, closer to mid pack
Si final drive: 200$
generic header: 120$
race exhaust: 200$
Ground Control coilovers: 400$

I can't stop thinking about a project like this! Damn the SCCA for making my dream of a 100 hp enduro-friendly Civic race car more realistic!

I think if my short/medium term plans were to stay in Canada, I would probably sell my SiR and buy a tow vehicle, trailer, and start this build.

The worst part of a plan like this is that it starts with a 1200$ car... so easy... must resist...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mazda still not sold...

The person who called me about the 323 came to see it yesterday. He was turned off by the damaged driver door which allows water to enter the car. I sort of get that... maybe I should fix it before selling the car.

What's funny is that he actually asked why I bought the car in the first place. The short answer would have been "I'm a cheap-ass". I told him that I simply did not want to have to make any car payments... ever. I also told him that the 323 was a great car for me as it was spacious, economical, reliable and pleasant to drive. Why sell it then? Because the Civic rocks. It will not be as economical as the 323, but the performance is so much better. This is really the car Honda should have made: a 140 hp 1.8 liter Civic 3-door. It is as pleasant to drive as the 323, but with so much more available torque and much higher handling limits.

I really have to fight the urge to modify it, because that's really money out the window and it would increase the chance of the car getting stolen. The only thing I might be interested in is finding all the parts needed to install cruise control on the car.

News item: the track at St-Eustache was sold to a business man involved in motorsports named Alan Labrosse. I don't know how this will affect activities, but I'm glad it's a car guy who bought the place.

Despite the winter weather, there are still some nice cars out there:
Bentley Continental GT
Bentley Continental convertible
new BMW M6, looking predatory in black

Friday, November 23, 2007


New cars are fat and heavy. I mean really heavy. When I see a neat, "small" car, I usually get pretty enthused. But today's small sporty cars are real porkers when it comes to weight. Look at the Mazdaspeed 3, for example. It would seem like the kind of car that I might like. It's Mazda's smallest car (for Canada, at least) and offers a really nice turbo engine. How much does it weigh? 3153 pounds. Holy crap. To put this in perspective, a 1990 Miata weighed 2116 pounds. My 1988 Honda Civic weighed 2138 pounds in street trim, with a roll cage.
The 88 Civic at racing school
A new Golf GTi weighs 3162 pounds. A new Mini Cooper S weighs 2668 pounds. A Civic Si weighs 2877 pounds. The Lotus Elise is quite light at 1976 pounds, but when it came out it only weighed 1665 pounds. This shows that even Lotus cars are getting fatter.

I understand that people want more features and safety equipment, but this is still a sad phenomenon. The more weight you add, the more power you have to add to gain performance. It's a vicious circle.

I wish car makers could build a really simple car with about 100 hp that weighed in under 1500 pounds. Imagine how economical such a car could be. I don't think it's unrealistic... there have been cars much lighter than that. Here are a couple of examples:

The Lotus 11 was a sports racer from the 1950's. It weighed 838 pounds.

I love this drawing
The Light Car Company Rocket weighed only 828 pounds. We're talking about a car from the 1990's here! It had a 1.0 liter engine, but still did 0-60 in 4 seconds.

Light Car Company Rocket
When you read about historic racing, you will see that there used to be classes for cars under 1.0 liter. I think it would be really interesting if manufacturers brought back these 1.0 liter and 1.5 liter sports cars. The technology is there, and the fuel economy would be phenomenal. If I had the funds to start my own car company, this is what I'd be working on...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Project cars...

... why can't I get enough of them? I was reading about a project race car on posted about his Improved Touring Civic project and I was jealous.
This is ridiculous, because I already have a race car and I have my own Civic project in the works, although a) my project is for a street car and b) I can't make my Civic too nice-looking, as it will get stolen in my neighbourhood. Sigh.

It's crazy that I'm more jealous of guys with 1500$ Civics than guys with new Porsche's, but that's the way it goes... you feel what you feel.

Speaking of my own Civic project, it took me quite a while to figure out how to change the stupid rear wiper blade. When I looked at the blade I could not for the life of me figure out how to remove it from the arm. Well, it turns out that there is noway to remove the blade! You have to simply change the wiper insert, a thin strip of rubber, which costs 6$ at the dealer. Now I know.

As far as the 323 is concerned, I've still only got one call. Maybe my advertised price is a bit high at 1400$, but the car is super reliable, quite clean and needs nothing. We'll see.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Winter is really here now.

This morning, I woke up to see that most everything was covered in a thin layer of snow. I'm glad I got to drive the Civic a bit in dry conditions. I can confirm that the Civic is extremely pleasant to drive. It has all the good qualities of Civics, as well as something many Civics lacked: torque.

I reluctantly put the Mazda up for sale yesterday. I already got a call from someone who just lost his own 323 in an accident and we talked for a while. I hope he buys it, since I would like the person who ends up with the car to be a 323 enthusiast.

Alex and I joined my friend Will and his wife Marie-Helene for a shopping trip to the USA this past weekend. We drove there in his mid 90's Grand Cherokee. I have never driven any vehicle with a more vague feel in the steering. It's almost scary. What's also scary is the sheer number of SUV's in the US... it was not easy to spot our car in the various parking lots, as it was often hidden by much larger SUV's, like Ford Excursions or GMC Suburbans.

I have a new theory on why American cars are not stylish or efficient in their use of fuel and space: Americans don't demand this in their cars. They are content to buy large vehicles with no style fitted with 200 hp 4.5 liter engines, as long as the monthly payment is low. It's sad.

Cool cars spotted:
Porsche 996 turbo
Pontiac GTO
Toyota Supra turbo
Audi S5

Thursday, November 15, 2007


I finally picked up the blue Civic from Pat's last night. What a relief. The radio is too loose and bouncing around, but other than that, everything is fixed, even stuff I didn't ask him to fix, like some of the lines of the rear defrost, or the cigarette lighter, which now works. I didn't actually drive it much, and I was mostly fiddling with the radio while driving. Tonight I'll go for a longer drive, after I find a way to wedge the radio into its slot.

I guess it's time to finally sell the 323... I've been putting it off, but there's really no point in having two daily drivers in my neighbourhood.

Cool cars spotted in the last couple of days:
Aston Martin DB7
Porsche 997 turbo, looking mean in black
Aston Martin DB9... wow, what a beautiful car

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My old agendas 1986-

I used to draw a lot in my notebooks and agendas in school. Fortunately, I kept a large number of my agendas. I have most of them from 1987 to 1999. There are a bunch of photos and drawings of cars. Here are some highlights:

Very little car content, drawing of a flaming fast Porsche 959.

Drawings of "tuned" versions of the two cars my parents owned at the time: a 1987 Dodge Aries and a 1985 Dodge Caravan.
Various drawings of BMW's and Jaguars.
Various drawings of Triumph TR6's, the first car I ever wanted to own.
Drawing of a Ford GT40
Computer drawing of a Jaguar D-Type (I used to like to draw cars in the Paint program)

1990-1991 (the year I got my driver's license)
Computer drawing of 959, Testarossa and Ur-Quattro
Photo of a Silk Cut Jaguar XJR9
Photos of Ford RS200

List of "Cars I've driven in chronological order"
Colt 200 (my friend Jean-Walter's mom's car, which he let me drive)
Mercury Topaz (Jean-Walter's dad's car, which he let me drive)
Hyundai Excel (driver's ed car)
Dodge Aries (Mom's car)
Honda Civic
Toyota Tercel
Saab 99
Honda Civic
Isuzu Impulse
Dodge Caravan AWD
Dodge Caravan (Dad's car)
BMW 325iC (Dad's car)

Drawings of Audi Quattro's, Mercedes 190E 2.3 16,
Photos of rally cars and Audi 90 Quattro IMSA GTO car

Photos of Audi's, Caterham's, Lancia's and Maserati's
Drawings of "future Maserati's" and Maserati Shamal

List of "Rare or significant cars on which I must get my hands"
Lamborghini Silhouette
Lamborghini Miura SV
Maserati Bora
Audi S1
Porsche 959
Dodge Viper
Audi S2
Jaguar XKSS
Ferrari 288 GTO
Koenig C62
Porsche 911 Turbo S
Lancia Stratos
Nissan Skyline GTR
Ford RS200
Lotus Europa Special
Porsche 917
Ferrari Testarossa Spyder
Lamborghini LM002
Ford GT40
Zender Vision 1

Photos of race cars by Lancia, Porsche, Audi
Photos of Pike's Peak Audi, Ferrari 348 Challenge, Jaguar XJ220,
High quality drawings of Audi S4

List of Vince's Top 5
Audi Ur-Quattro
Ferrari 288 GTO
Lamborghini Miura
Jaguar D-Type
Lancia Stratos

Rounding out the top 10
Koenig C62
Maserati Ghibli
E30 M3
Ford RS200
Lotus Esprit Turbo

Photos of Audi Quattro's, Lamborghini's, Maserati's, BMW race cars, including the awesome 635 CSI BMW Teile car.

Drawing of the 8 group B cars
Audi Sport Quattro
Lancia Delta S4
MG Metro 6R4
Citroen BX4TC
Ford RS200
Peugeot 205 T16
Ferrari 288 GTO
Porsche 959

List of top 5 engines:
Delta S4 super-turbo-charged
Maserati twin turbo 2.0 liter
Bugatti Quad turbo 3.5 liter 12
BMW Maclaren power plant
Ferrari twin-turbo V8 (F40)

List of best 4-cylinder engines:
Ford RS200
Lancia Delta S4
Porsche 944 turbo
Lotus Esprit 300

Top 6 new cars
Bugatti EB110S
Ferrari 355
Audi S2
Maserati Barchetta
Lamborghini Diablo
Ford Escort RS Cosworth

Top 5 budget sports cars
first gen RX7
Rabbit GTi
Toyota MR2 mk.1
Merku XR4Ti
Audi 4000 Quattro
(I went to test drive all of these at some point)

Top 5 4-doors
Audi S6
Lancia Delta Integrale
Mercedes 190 E Evolution
Lister Jaguar Sovereign

Top 5 FWD
Lotus Elan
Saab SPG
Ford Taurus SHO
Alfa 164 S
VW Corrado G60

wow... this is taking long to type!
To be continued...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Wish list

When you get together with other car guys, one subject that is likely to come up is your car wish list. Of course, there are many versions of the game: no limit budget, maximum 5 cars is a fun one, 50 000$ limit is another, 5 cars, only new cars allowed, etc. All versions are fun to play.

However, I enjoy "reasonable" dreaming more than "lottery win" type dreaming.The list I propose today is the following one: a realistic list of cars that one could reasonably afford at one point. Here is my list:

1- 2nd gen Miata: I like these cars more and more, gotta have a roadster

2- Saab 9-3 5-door: I still like Saab's and their terrible resale value makes them affordable

3- Jaguar XJ sedan: proper Jaguar sedans are lovely, but probably not reliable enough for every day. I like the idea of a sort of car for special occasions

4- Chevy Astro: tow + camping vehicle. I've always liked these vans, I think they just look right. Also, they can tow 5000 pounds

5- Honda race car: something like my present car, around 200 hp and reasonably light weight

6- Smaller Honda race car: something like a 70 hp ITC-class Civic std, that can be used on track when the other race car is unavailable, as well as for enduros.

I think that this list can be put together for under 60 000$, or the price of a new luxury car. Imagine having all these cars... It would be a dream come true. Of course, the space to keep 6 cars would be extremely expensive! Still, it's fun to dream.

What happened to going to check out the M3 with Rob? Choke. He saw reason and decided to hold on to his 325 a while longer, as he's looking to buy a house.

I thought I would pick up the blue Civic today, but Pat said that the antenna cable needed replacing and he said there is a weird short that prevents the turn signals from working properly. Looks like the car will be with him for another few days. I stuck my residential parking sticker on the Civic, and it's often hard to park the 323 without it (which gets on Alex's nerves, since I promised her the move to the Civic would be seamless for her... oops!).

I went running tonight and broke my record again, despite the sub-zero weather: 46:34 for 10 km. I did 5 more pages of master's paper, so I'm now at 30 pages. Feels good!

Cool cars spotted:C6 Corvette Z06
Aston Martin DB7
late 70's Chevy Van camper in mint condition

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Ok, now it feels like winter. It was 0 degrees pretty much all day. It's the first day I had to wear a tuque on my walk to work. There are still some sports cars out there... I saw a Z06 last night.

I visited my Civic at Pat's yesterday... I look forward to taking possession, hopefully this weekend. I gave him the MP3 player to install, I hope he pulls it off.

I was chatting online with my buddy Rob and, as usual, he started sending me ads for used BMW's and race cars. When he sent me an ad for an E46 race car at 33 000$, I suggested he just trade in his 325 for an M3 and just enjoy that car, using it on the street and at the occasional track day. I told him if he really needed to race, he could borrow my car. The M3 is an extremely competent track car, even in stock form. I bet it's equally pleasant to drive on the street. We're supposed to go check one out tonight, if Rob doesn't choke!

My Master's paper is due on December 20th. I really attacked it today and I'm at 25 pages out of 50. I hope to add another 5 pages tomorrow. My new philosophy for this paper is to attack it (after procrastinating all summer). ATTAAAAACK!

Cool cars spotted:
Touareg V10 TDI
Jeep SRT8
C5 Z06

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


The weather man predicted wet snow tonight. We'll see. I've noticed this year that people are driving their exotic and sports cars until late in the season. In fact, I saw a Porsche 997 Turbo, a Ferrari F430 and a BMW Z4 M Coupe today. Good for them! People pay enough for these cars, it's nice to see them getting some use.

Grassroots Motorsports, the best magazine for North American auto enthusiasts in my opinion, has an article about a Saab 99 they bought to make into a vintage rally car. I'm jealous! I wish I had enough time, money and space to have several low-buck project cars. As it stands, I can't even finish the one project I've got going... the blue Civic.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Drive in the countryside

Alex and I went for a lovely drive in the countryside today. We drove the 194 km "Circuit du Paysan" in the southern Montérégie area, between Montreal and the U.S. border. The roads were pretty straight, but the scenery was beautiful. I love driving in the country so much, even in a car with 82 hp.

I brought Pat a starter (20$, found on the internet) to install in the Civic and tomorrow I'll bring him the new brakes. The car is taking a while to finish, but I want it to be in top shape so that I don't have to worry about Alex when she drives it. Also, I have to be ready in case I have to go through with the Transport Canada inspection (see previous posts).

Pat let me try his flat red Civic with the SOHC vtec motor and it moves pretty fast. The interior is stripped out and I figure it must weigh about 200 lbs less than my Civic. Pat showed me a stock exhaust system he had lying around (one like mine) and I realize that the exhaust might be restricting some of the power from the B18. Something to look into...

Carl told me someone stole the air filter off the race Civic while it was parked outside at Trac. Thieves are lame.

I finished reading Ben Lovejoy's trip reports on his excellent web site. It's sad to come to the end of these reports, as they provided a nice distraction when I had a free moment to surf the net.

Cool cars spotted:
Audi S8 V10
Lotus Esprit S4