Friday, 30 September 2016

Moving Day

It was time to get the Chrysler LeBaron out of storage. In case you don't know, or can't remember (it's been a few months now), here is the original telling of events surrounding my acquirement of my first convertible

After working a long night shift, coupled with trying to sleep through the light of day and the sounds of activity that comes with an early morning in a large, urban center, we were off to rescue the car from "out of sight, out of mind."

I can't remember exactly how long it has been since my son and I (or just me for that matter) stopped by to start the car, in an attempt to keep the battery from going dead from not being used. However, I was rewarded with just that, turned the key to hear a "bzzzzzz, click, click, click." Not fully dead, but enough to not do much of anything else. So, out came the booster cables and while the charging was taking place, it was time to put air into the rear, passenger tire that has gone flat too.

With the car running under it's own power and the tire much rounder from when we first arrived, it was time to tape up the temporary operation permits and drive the car home. I have to agree with my son from the first video, I do love the smell of the interior of the car. This scent can also be found in a clean and well maintained GM product from the mid-90's to the early 2000's. It the combination of materials and circumstances, slowly aged to what I find to be a pleasant scent.

One issue that I was aware of when I first bought the car and has resurfaced again, the smoking problem. Now, it seems to have gotten somewhat worse from sitting for so long. I was first noticed after it was brought over to our old place and sat for a few days. Start it up and after a minute or two, the exhaust goes from barely seen to bit of a whitish grey release.

I stuck my nose into this cloud, smelled a bit like oil, but not the usual burnt scent. I had another car with a similar issue a few years back now, a 1997 Lincoln Town Car and I was told the valve guides were well worn in that engine. Could be the same thing here, since the mileage is roughly the same.

After a few minutes of idling and taking more of a charge, the exhaust cleared up and the hood was closed.

The drive to the other side of the lake and to the new place was uneventful. The smoking tailpipe came back, but only for a few seconds after accelerating away from red lights that turned green. I found myself missing the ride characteristics of these older cars.

Unlike today's vehicles, with sharp, tight suspension, the LeBaron feels a little more....leisurely. The tires and struts just absorb the bumps in the road, living up to the reputation of a "sofa on wheels." Even this feeling is lost in our 2004 Ford Freestar minivan.

The brakes felt better than the first time I drove it, none of the squeaking was heard, nor any fade from the peddle. However, it was a much hotter day out back then and today had a noticable chill in the air. Steering also felt pretty good, except for the stickiness-of-mysterious-origin-and-composition on the wheel. I am guessing it is the byproduct of many years of unclean hands taking the main, circular control.

There were a few other things I noticed, but I think I will discuss those another time. I was just glad the LeBaron is now a lot closer to home....wait, it's right out front my window!

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Rolling works of art, with a touch of Yee Haw!

Looking back, I think one of the biggest draw features for the defunct Need for Speed World was the level of customization that players could do to and with their cars. From mild to wild, I saw a lot of unique and sometimes interesting designs. The results were the product of hours, even days of effort and attention to details. I even tried my hand at it a few times.

Through my copy of Need for Speed World Offline, I have attempted to recreate the few cars I visually experimented with. Take this Mada RX-7 for example....

Now, I am not going to make any outlandish claims to be any kind of an artist, the sample you see here is a recreation of a " hard could this be" moment. Although an exact match to when Need for Speed World was still an up and running, online game, but close enough to satisfy my memory of what I had.

With recently acquiring the Xbox One with the full version of Forza Motorsport 6, I noticed more customization features than what PC version of Apex had to offer. One car both games share is the Mazda RX-7. Although they are slightly different models, both share the same racing spirit. Once again, I had a moment and created this....

Perhaps, I should accept I have....artistic limitations?

However, I stumbled across a few folks that have time to spend, a steady hand and most importantly, an eye for detail....

In case you have never seen this car before, it's the General Lee, a customized 1969 Dodge Charger from the long running television show (and tv movies, big screen feature, merchandise galore, etc) Dukes of Hazzard. When I was a whole lot younger, I watched this orange car have adventures and pull stunts that dreams were made of. Definitely one of those cars that I and no doubt, thousands of other youths and adults, wanted in real life. I will just settle for a digital version.

Like many others in Need for Speed World, I tried my hand at creating a version of the General Lee too, but the creative time consumption kept me from playing the game, which is what I wanted to do more of. This example, created by Camaro68396, is one of the better ones I have found, as close as one could get within the limitations of the game. It's too bad that World didn't have a sharing function like Forza does.

Of all the shared models within Forza Motorsport 6, I picked Warduke's. A lot of time and care went into getting this to look just like the very first General Lee seen onscreen, since latter versions lost the crossed flags behind the rear window. A little fact that real, die hard fans would know.

However, it's one of those crossed flags, including on the roof, that have caused some controversy in recent times. The tragic shooting of nine parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June, 2015 reignited the public debate over the interpretation surrounding the historic and modern symbolism of the Confederate flag. 

The fallout that followed included this flag officially removed from State Houses, local and State government offices and license plates, just to name a few. Major retailers have pulled consumer goods with the flag from the shelves and vowed not to sell them again. However, it was Warner Brothers, who owns the rights to the Dukes of Hazzard itself, stated that General Lee merchandise will not not carry the Confederate motif on the roof on future produced miniature replicas.

I am not going to enter this debate and take either side. I will just hold on to the memories of my youth and experience the adventures of tomorrow, with a certain orange and decaled car, that could do the impossible.

Monday, 26 September 2016

A console Christmas in September?

Up until this year, my virtual driving on a console consisted of playing Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec and 4 on an old PlayStation 2. Although there were a few other games, those were the two that got the most amount of time out of me.

Now, not to say I am an old and cheap gaming dinosaur that's behind the times, we did get a Nintendo Wii U for my son two Christmas' ago. One of the titles that was purchased for it was Need for Speed Most Wanted. I did play it, but after having finished the PC version some time before, the console port just didn't bring anything new to the experience, other than the sporadic, split-screen multiplayer games with family and friends.

With spending less and less time on the PlayStation, it started to gather a lot of dust. Time to let it go. We boxed it and the accumulated library of out-of-date games up and donated it to a local charity store. The Wii U is still new enough to get played, but mostly for non-driving games.

My wife, bless her heart, was thinking about getting the family a new gaming console, with more choices for a future expanded library than what the Wii U has to offer. My son has been wanting an Xbox for some time now and with the release of the One, it has grown almost to a fever pitch. The plan was for it to be a Christmas gift that would sit in our bedroom closet until then. She consulted with me which bundled version to purchase, pretty easy guess what my answer was....

However, we have discovered recently that home delivery for online purchases have been more miss than a hit with broken boxes and damaged items. My wife, out of fears that this latest acquisition might have suffered a similar fate and opening it during the Holiday Season might bring about difficulties for an exchange or refund, asked if we should do it a little earlier than planned. I feigned a reluctant yes.

Now, after having just finished the single player portion of Forza 6 Apex on PC, I wanted to experience more of what the game had to offer, including the multiplayer aspect. Apex is very limited when it came to what I was looking for, but still provided many hours of fun, skill testing events and living a few virtual dreams. I knew opening that box would fulfill those wants, needs and desires.

The Xbox One version is the full game, with more tracks, cars and events then what Apex has to offer. Coupled with a much better version of GameDVR and a system that can handle it....well, here is my first run, starting all over from scratch again.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Time to change a bit of the scenery

When I first started this blog, I whipped up the above picture to be a quick indicator of the very theme of my original writings. Although this started off as a gaming blog with a major focus on virtual motorsports, things have slowly evolved.

As more of my real life motoring and other automotive related experiences have migrated to here, I took a look at the original header and thought it was time for a change. I think this new image is more suited to the ongoing theme of future projects. I will still post about my virtual racing adventures, but more reality based events will be part of this....autolution.

Way back when....1982 Toyota Supra

Many years ago, I made an attempt to document purchasing, owning and repairing a couple of cars. I even created a Cardomain account to showcase my attempts

After all this time, I have decided to revisit those articles and try a "director's cut", cleaning up some of the word choices, grammar, then reformat and present them here. Here is the first try....

The story...... late April, 2008 and I had convinced my wife that we should take a trip to Edmonton, Alberta, in an attempt to locate a new car for me. However, it wasn't going to be just any car, but one of those that I couldn't find up in Northern British Columbia. One of my teenage dream cars. I had already spent a few days searching online and making a short list of contacts to make, should we actually go there.. Much to my surprise, she humored me and off we went. Shortly after we arrived and settled into our hotel room, I made the first call and we were off to look at a 1981 280ZX. Sadly, it had a major front strut problem, and some serious rust-in-the-floor issues. Strike one. Then, I called about a 1985 Nissan 300ZX, but the guy never answered the phone, or returned my messages (guess he didn't want to really sell the car). Strike two.

I found another mid-80's 300ZX for sale and had high hopes. This owner answered my call and a meeting was arranged. At first sight, I noticed the body was a little rough, with moderate rust on the rear wheel wells, and the gold, metallic paint was not holding much of a shine anymore. Still, I thought it had promise. Then, the seller tried to start it. For 7 seconds, it ran not bad, then died. The seller tried to start it again, and (I swear), the motor tried to start in reverse (not the gear, but the fan was going the wrong way). I thanked the seller for their time, and left defeated. Strike three.

I was still hoping to find a cheap car that would fit my criteria and would be drive home capable. From out of the blue, I remembered a local salvage-yard on the west-side of Edmonton named Pick-n-Pull and knew they sold cars and trucks of varying degrees of condition. We got there and I paid my dollar admission and proceeded through the doors. Barely through the second set of doors and I spotted it, dusty, but for sale. The price tag in the windshield was $1099.00.

After a brief, but through walk around the car, I asked for the keys and tried to start it up. Nothing. I turned the key again and pumped the gas. The engine started, but it barely stayed running, even with the gas pedal to the floor. This didn't look too good at all and my first thoughts that just more than a tune up was going to be required. Feeling defeated, I gave back the keys and just left, not even to bother to look at any other offerings on the lot. The next day, I decided to leave Edmonton, and go home empty handed.

On the way out of town, we stopped by Pick-n-Pull one last time. I had fully expected the Supra to be gone, but no. It was still sitting there, like it was waiting for me. I could tell over the last 24 hours that a lot people had sat behind the wheel and tried to start her up and meeting with the same level of success that I did. I ask for and got the keys one more time. I sat behind the wheel and with a much clearer head, I took a hard long look at the instrument cluster. I turned the key one click and watched the gas gauge move very slowly.

Once I saw the result of that, my mind came to the conclusion that it wasn't a lack of spark, it was a lack of fuel. Years of who-knows-what from the bottom of the gas tank could be the very cause of the car not wanting to even idle properly. I ask the staff if they had any gas. Much to my surprise, they did which they did, stored in a shed in Jerry Cans. I poured enough in to move the gas gauge slightly and tried to start it one last time. Vroom. It was rough, but running much better than just the day before. Excited, I closed the sale, topped off the tank at a service station and drove home.

Now at the time, this was a 26 year old car with multiple owners and accumulating over 249,000 kms. Despite that and not getting any kind of a mechanical inspection done, or even bothering to check any of the fluids under the hood, I just jumped in and drove over 600 km. Now, that is some maiden voyage. And you know what?  Nothing happened, I made it home safe and sound! The only issue I encountered was the pop up lights didn't work anymore from the switch, so when it got dark, I had to raise them manually by turning a knob that was under the hood .

So, that is what I bought. I have wanted one of these cars for years (this, or a Datsun 280ZX, or 300ZX). A 6 cylinder, rear wheel drive, Japanese sports car with a manual transmission. You just can't beat them. Tough, reliable, sharp looking, and these days, they are getting harder to find in half decent shape. Now, before I continue on about the car itself, just one question, why? Well, simply put (not too sound like an ad campaign), it just feels right. Ever get that feeling, like you are the king of the world when you get into your car? You drive with pride. Unbelievable zen-like happiness? The list goes on. That is the way I felt about the Supra, from the moment I saw it, kinda like a first date, but without the awkward moments.

Sitting behind the wheel, pressing the gas, shifting her gears, oh man...... felt like I won a real prize. Now, I have owned a Mustangs, a Camaro, a Firebird, etc, over the years and I just got bored with them after awhile. Everybody seems to have had them, at one point or another. Does this make them less of a car? No, just not my kind of car, at this point in time. They don't give me that I-just-won-the-lottery feeling. For the right people, they are the right car. The other reason for the Supra, I have always hated passing myself in traffic. Ever drive down the road, and you see in the other lane, the same car, year, make, model, color, and even condition as the car you are driving? I seriously doubt I will have that problem with this car.

Ah yes, the interior. Not sure which custom steering wheel this is, but it turns and the horn buttons work. Not seats are not too bad in the comfort department either. The baby mirror on the dash went sooner afterwards, the silicone holding it down gave up the fight a little too easily. The head unit was an old Pyramid CDR-45DX CD Player. Sadly, it skipped on just about every harsh bump and tuned in radio stations with a slight hiss through the speakers. Not my first choice. The only interesting feature to it, to tunes by .1 on FM bands. Let me explain. A normal radio, on FM, you can get 97.7, 97.9, 98.1, and so on. I can get 97.7, 97.8, 97.9, 98.0, 98.1, and so on. All of the interior lights worked, but the paint on the two buttons on the center console, had worn off. After a little playing around, I discovered one was for the fog lamps and the other controls the power door locks. 

On the drive back from Edmonton, I had the radio on, but the speakers didn't overly impress me. I discovered on the passenger side, just below the glove box, there were two switches, with a red light in the middle. Curious, I flicked them and much to my surprise, a hidden sub in the hatch boomed to life and my trip home became much more enjoyable.

In British Columbia, if you bring in a vehicle from out of province or another country all together, you have to get an inspection before registering and insuring said vehicle. On the first attempt, the Supra failed. I wasn't too surprised with the result, more so with the three things held it back. 1, a battery tie down (didn't have one, but got one from a Toyota dealer for around $30, who still can get some parts for these cars). 2, the hazard flasher works, when IT wants to (it shorts every once in a while). 3, a small exhaust leak (a hole in the pipe, just before the muffler). So, after spending around $100, the car went back a week later and passed.

Ah yes, the old 5M-GE. This 12 valve, double overhead cam 6 cylinder engine could put out anywhere from 145 to 175 horsepower, back when the car was new. The motor was all stock (also a liter low on oil, which was blacker than the midnight sky). A tune up, new plugs and an engine shampoo were in the future plans. I was surprised to find everything under the hood in an almost unmolested state, although the battery cable ends had seen better days (it appeared nobody ever used the proper tools to switch out the batteries through the car's life). I was somewhat proactive going down to Edmonton, taking along a bottle of fuel injection cleaner. I do believe it helped on the drive home.

The air conditioning didn't work and probably hadn't in years (I considered a complete retrofit as another future item to look into). A little silver decal in the timing cover claimed the timing belts were replaced around the 188k mark, so I am curious just how much life they have left.

This is the extent of the rust on the driver's side, the passenger side was much better. I wasn't too overly surprised to find small rust holes in the floor (actually, in the spare tire wheel well, behind the rear seat in the hatch area, which might have explained the slight and occasional exhaust smell on the way home). Both sides are missing the little panel that runs under the doors, between the front and rear fender flares. The car was wearing Predator GTS 215/60R14 and mounted on all four of the factory aluminum rims, complete with original center caps!

The after market cell antenna in the middle of the hatch wing, was a nice touch. One part I planned to look into was a new hatch sticker. If you look closely at the picture, I have a Toyota Celica SUP! I found the newer Toyota emblem above the hatch keyhole and the reflective "Keep Distance" decal definitely complete the custom look.

That was as far as the original article went, I seemed to have stopped documenting things for some, long forgotten reason. So, what happened after all of that? Well, a major problem surfaced, after many months of trouble free driving.

It was a cool, frosty day in late October and I started the Supra up to go to work. A thin film of ice had formed on the windshield overnight and with the heater just starting to defrost the glass, I turned on the wipers. Snap! The driver's side wiper arm just removed itself from the car. I turned the wipers off and inspected what just happened. I couldn't see anything wrong, so I pulled on the tab on the wiper arm base and put it back on it's nub.

Again, I turned the wipers on, only to have the passenger side doing it's job, the driver's side just sat there, motionless, on the glass. I didn't have the time to deal with the issue at the time, so I drove to work and would have a look at it afterwards. Returning home, I proceeded to open the hood and take both wiper arms off. Next, I removed the plastic panel that hide the inner workings of the entire mechanism. I soon discovered the problem.

The metal arm that connected the driver and passenger side wiper nubs had broken, almost cleanly. The added bonus was the fact it appeared to be made of aluminum, so a quick weld to put it back together was out of the question. A visit to the local Toyota dealer turned up more bad news, after a search in their computers, they discovered they didn't carry that part anymore. Even the local auto-wreckers couldn't help me.

I spent weeks searching through eBay and other online sources for the parts and came up empty. Although I had my choice of driving another vehicle at the time, I really wanted the car fixed so I could enjoy it while I still had favorable weather. Winter set in and the Supra slept under a blanket of snow, occasionally brushed off to start it up to keep the battery from going dead.

Over the course of that Winter, I continued my attempt to find the wiper parts so I could have the car repaired for Spring driving. I asked around to my friends and the very small Toyota community for help. I know they wanted to, they just couldn't. Finally, when the weather warmed and the snow melted, I was so disappointed that a simple part, that probably didn't cost a whole lot, was preventing me from driving my car. My frustration over the situation took hold and I put a "For Sale" sign on the car and parked it closer to the curb.

Less than a day later, a younger man than me and his friend knocked on the door of my house and asked about the Supra. I was honest and told him everything, what worked and what didn't. I started it and let him get a feel for it. I noticed a slight twinkle in his eyes and he explained his plans, should the deal go through. We agreed on the price of $800 and took two weeks to collect it in full.

I never saw him or the car again.

Every once in a rare while, I see a same era of Supra driving around in traffic or on the highway. On those very lucky moments, I come across one that was the same color as the one I once owned. I sigh and my heart sinks slightly.

Sometimes, it's hard to get over a love that is lost.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

A new Forza for PC?

So, no sooner do I kinda wrap things up with Forza 6 Apex, a new demo for the full game of Forza 3 Horizons is just about to come out for us poor PC gamers. Check it out here

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Some dreams will remain beyond my grasp; Audi R8

It is a rare and lucky moment when I can have a real life encounter with an automotive fantasy.

Many, many years ago now, my first experience with an Audi R8 was in the defunct game caleed Need for Speed World. The version at the time, 4.2 FSI Quattro had developed (and, rightly earned) a reputation for being a very slow to accurate and terrible driving car. I found this out first hand through using the Frequency Edition, available at and for limited times through the use of a redeemable code.

Despite all of the negative characteristics, I purchased with ingame currency, the soon-to-vanish Royal Purple Edition of the Audi and proceeded to make it my own, off and on for the next four years.

I proudly wore this as my signature, showing the forum community I was going to make this car work for me.

Throughout the game's life-cycle, there would be other variants of the 4.2 FSI, ranging from a Shift Edition (homage to the Need for Speed title of the same name), a Darius Edition (from the Carbon title) and a Seacrest County special (from Most Wanted). Nothing spectacular or any real improvement over the ingame model, just reselling the same car with a new livery package.

About a year after I started playing, the 5.2 FSI Quattro was introduced. I read and heard that it was a vast improvement over the Royal Purple model I was using, but it cost real world dollars (4600 Speedboost was around $10.00 to 20.00 USD, I think. I really can't remember and finding how much it was exactly is rather difficult these days). I just continued to make do with my "free" version.

Then, Electronic Arts brought in the ultimate Audi R8, the LMS Ultra.

In the real world, this race modified version would place first, second and fifth at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring in 2012.

In Need for Speed World, this car would be a further improvement of the 5.2 FSI model already ingame. Coming in at 6800 SpeedBoost (talikng about $50.00 to $60.00 real world dollars here), I never parked one in my garage.

Not that long ago now, they pulled the plug on Need for Speed World and I would have to go elsewhere to feed my R8 appetite. 

I would acquire R8's in the portable Real Racing 3...., I would park a few in Forza 6 Apex....

....and become the second car I owned when I received a copy of GRID Autosport.

In the real world, whenever I was presented with the opportunity to snap a picture of one, I would, like a tourist in some strange land. 

However, thanks in part to my slowly improving video editing skills, I was able to put together a project I have been wanting to do for some time, racing on Circuit de Spa Francorchamps (by far, my favorite track in a proper racing game) across three titles in an R8....

Finally, curiosity got the better of me, after all these years and I decided to have a look at just how much owning this dream would cost in the real world.... would seem that this dream will remain as it is, a dream.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Grinding my teeth on GRiD

Finding a few moments to play online, I connected up with my friend Scotty for some racing action on GRID Autosport. Little did I know that he was in the mood for a high end, endurance shootout.

Having just recently finished up the singleplayer portion of Forza 6 Apex, where the driving and physics mechanics are very similar, I was feeling pretty confident about how I could potentially perform in this match up.

It would seem, despite the good feeling I had at the time, my friend and the game had other plans for me....

Friday, 9 September 2016

The final run on Forza 6

Well, here it is, the final race on Forza 6. The actual singleplayer portion of the game was titled Tour of Motorsport and it has been a long road to get to this point. Between working a lot more in the real world and not able to spare the time to play, I could have gotten past this point long ago.

Nevertheless, the final race unlocks a car I just recently heard was being brought back. Drawing inspiration from the Ford GT40's from the Le Mans racing days of the 1960's, a new, semi-retro version was produced for the 2005 and 2006 model years. After 4038 vehicles were made, the production line stopped.

Now, for the 2017 model year, the Ford GT is scheduled to return, after an 11 year absence and some re-freshening. All of these new cars will be built by Multimatic, based out of Markham, Ontario.

Being the nostalgic type, I picked a livery that came close to the Gulf racing team's GT40's from those glorious days of old.

Once again, I put myself behind the wheel and ran the race, however, I missed out on performing a major operation before getting under way, turning of Windows GameBar. Check out the video of the first two laps of the race, but take a good look at the 1:20 minute mark....

For how bad the game was glitching, I am amazed I was able to park the car so gently! It was right there I Alt-Tab the game, shut it down and tried to salvage the situation for a win.

My moment had come, I completed the race on the first try, coming in first....

....and collecting the symbolic trophy for finishing the singleplayer portion of this experience.

Then, the game throws me a curve ball, introducing me to this Spotlight Series! Perhaps, I will check that out, at my leisure.