It’s AMVIV time again! Passing out cards! PHOTO CONTEST!

I found a batch of cards left over from MTTS 2006 and passing them out at AMVIV (thanks Califzeph!) That’s MINI Takes The States and A Mini Vacation In Vegas for those in the know. The front side has my email, Skype ID, this website, and pics of 2 cars:

2003 MINI Cooper S ‘Mindi’ Indiblue/White — This car will NOT be at AMVIV but will be motoring around the San Francisco Bay Area.

1964 Austin Mini (upgraded to Cooper spec.) ‘BamBam’ (formerly known as Guinness) Black/White owned by Rob Cerno. This car is probably zooming around AMVIV somewhere.

If you see either car, take photos with our without yourself and the car, and email it to me to the address on the card, I will be holding a random drawing and giving away prizes for fabulous Mini/MINI giveaways to all who email me photo!

Get creative and there are no restrictions of course don’t hurt yourself or the car in the process!

Categories for best and worst photo will be awarded as follows:

Silly picture

Racing picture

Sexy picture

Celebrity look-a-like (Elvis?)

Rude/angry picture (get some punks together and show us your warrior faces)

Use of Lighting (lasers, flashlights, glow-sticks, or just the warm sun..)

So get to it!

Links from the back of the card direct you to Northern California MINI / Mini clubs.

Enjoy and please visit these clubs’ booth at AMVIV to sign up and get info on their events. I don’t think MOASF has a booth this year, but NorCal MINIs and REME (booth #2 next to SinCity MINIs) generally do.

more on my smart fortwo passion

Someone on Motortopia asked me some questions about the smart fortwo, well dang I thought I could really write something up on this, because it’s similar to the questions I was asking myself..

Though this reply is a bit long, I tend to like elaborating on all this, so hope you don’t mind reading! πŸ™‚

On to the smart.. Some good questions. I have more experience with the whole octane issue in my last 2 modern cars, a Volvo XC70 and MINI Cooper S, so this is my reference on the MPG vs. fuel octane issue..

Since the new (higher compression) engine was designed for it, 91 octane is the preferred stuff. You can probably get away with using 89 (or alternate 89, 91) and the car’s ECU will compensate for this to some degree, but really, the lower octane gas ignites too early (right, pings) which means your mileage and engine performance will suffer, if not damage the engine over time. Thus, the same is probably true for the smart car. It’s so new that I haven’t put lower octane gas in it, so can’t really speak to that. On the other side (using higher octane than 91) you could mix it up with race gas or add octane booster, but it probably wouldn’t take advantage of it, and again since the catalytic converter and exhaust wasn’t built for it, may lead to oxygen issues later. That’s your basic engineering argument. What will we do if Ethanol takes off and we’re forced to use 85? I guess we’ll be buying a lot more additives to compensate.. not to mention drinking a lot less beer (since hops and barley crops are already suffering with all the Ethanol junk going on, but that’s another story).

Related to this is the transmission — I’ve read elsewhere that the engine was made by Mitsubishi, it’s a 3-cylinder 71HP 1.0L engine. I have driven a stick about the last 5 years so going to an automatic clutch takes some getting used to. You can let it shift by itself like any auto tranny car, or use the paddle shifters, or the +/- on the stick to shift. Oh I am off on a tangent, again! sorry bout that πŸ˜‰

Mileage seems to be in the 40’s. Everyone else I talk to says they get 40-50 mpg, and the Euro import smarts (grey market, maybe?) will get either the same or better depending on what model and options are on it.

If you’re not used to getting good gas mileage it’s a bit weird, because you may think there’s something wrong with the car, actually, so you drive up to the gas station to refill just to make sure your gauges are working (and they are) it’s at the same time really satisfying and really dumb putting 2 gallons in, shrug, and drive off..

For me, as a media person, journalist, whatever, I get the opportunity to drive lots of cars and I’ve done numerous test drives with the smart. I have yet to pickup my own car and bring it home. There are more hills I need to conquer, that’s long passes up and down Highway One near where I live, and taking in some serious twisties, which I think it will do well, but will have to report on that later.

From the drives I have done so far, though, the car goes well on the open road, it’s nimble, it’s fairly quiet, the gear ratio seems well set for street and freeway driving.

I usually cruise around 70mph on Bay Area freeways. It has plenty of get up and go to pass someone, though it’s no muscle car in that department, off the line it’s a bit slow.. but then, it’s not made for spanking Corvettes on the straightaway either.. well, not without serious mods πŸ˜‰ As with any new car, it takes a bit to find the car’s shifting “sweet spots”, but once you do, it’s fairly predictable and you can get faster shifting out of it.

I’ve driven all 3 models, but decided on a Passion. I like the idea of the polycarbonate roof (right, it is a roof, not a moon roof or sun roof.. strange concept, but I never opened the roof on my last 2 cars that had them anyway). When you’re on a nice drive you can slide back the cover thing and look up out the roof. When you want to block the sun, you close it. Works for me πŸ™‚

The “Pure” truly exemplifies the word ‘base model’ and I can see rental car places snapping these up in bulk so that people can abuse them (er, rent them..) I know it’s essentially the same car, but it’s like every other car maker does with a decent run car, you can get the ‘economy’ bottom of the line base model, or you can get the ‘luxury’ model.

Sure the Pulse/Pure starts at $11,500 but by the time you add all the options, you’re better of getting the Passion anyway. Unless you REALLY want that sheet metal roof..

As far as horsepower, I think all the US models have the same engine spec, so there’s no performance advantage out of the factory, though the Passion and Passion Cabrio seem to handle better (it’s probably that the electronics and suspension is a bit tighter, which I prefer, though, you also feel bumps more of course..) That’s the differences between the models that I see. I bet you could remap the ECU to get more umph out of it. I planned to swap out the exhaust and intake, though the final US models sound beefier than the test ones we drive last year.

On the hills, the car has the same hill start assist that other Mercedes-Benz do. It has adequate climbing ability, torque is better than you would expect for that little engine.

That’s about it for my thoughts on the car. My delivery date approaches, so waiting.. waiting.. for that call to finalize the sale and pick up my smart.
Then the REAL test driving begins!

–Christopher ‘StarLord’

smartUSA dealership spotted

Motoring is more than being a brand enthusiast, it’s about the drive to MOTOR and have an unquenchable fascination for things that move, whether they be petrol, electric, hybrid, steam, human, wind, solar, or other powered (no I didn’t just say human wind powered!)

On that note, I often find myself more than just a Mini/MINI enthusiast, but, a ‘motoring enthusiast’ — ok, primarily these are small two-seater cars, mostly classic british or other Euro marques — but yes I get excited about other innovations coming to market in 2, 3, 4, or more wheeled transit, and I think I share this with other Miniologists, whether they be Mini owners, MINI owners, Miata, Vespa, Porsche, VW, Lotus, Alfa, AM, AMG, etc…!

I love my Mini (original model) and MINI (new model), but also as some of you know I am very excited about the smart ForTwo coming to America. The San Francisco Mercedes-Benz dealership, on 8th between Brannon and Bryant, just added a shiny new smart sign on the side of the building, a subtle confirmation that this will be a hotspot for smartUSA next month when the new car arrives on our shores.

I wonder how the Mini community will react? The Mini is known for its massive level of customization options and tweakability, spawned of course by 40 years of legendary Mini history, and now more recently with the new MINI aftermarket and performance parts options.

The smart brand also enjoys a has a loyal following of motorists who love to customize their cars, and go on runs just as any good auto enthusiasts do.

While they have club mash-ups with Scooters and Harleys, Minis and Vespas, MINIs and Miatas, etc., I wonder how well the two groups will find like-minded motoring fun, cross-pollination, etc…

San Francisco Mods n Rockers Ride – Sat 12th

My co-worker told me about this. It’s this Saturday, May 12. Surely if you area MOD or a ROCKER you better get your butt down there, this is going to be a hoot!

What you do is meet up in the Embarcadero (San Francisco)

Mods aggregate @ Pier 40. Vespas, Ben Sherman wear, mod punk music, etc.

Rockers @ Pier 23 (leave SFMC @ 2p for Pier 23). Wear all your cool rocker gear. Who cares what the weather is like, you can handle it.
The ride leaves @ 3pm sharp for the Infamous Stockton tunnel smoke out, combined ride around the City, and Hollywood ending @ SFMC.

This ride is a blast (or borderline insanity, depending on your inclination).

Is it a Mini event? No, not officially. This is a ride of the 2 wheeled kind (hence, SFMC). Can you bring your Mini? Uh, I dunno, I guess so, I mean, if you are a mod or a rocker that’s a start. Definately not a sanctioned thing even though they have combined Mini and Mod runs in the UK all the time.

I would love to be there, I’d be a mod on my beemer (yeah, I do have a BMW motorcycle along with the BMW produced MINI Cooper S) — but I think I will be in Santa Cruz so, who knows.. maybe someone from Miniology or a contributing writer/photographer can help cover this wild one.

Drunk people shouldn’t drive

Neither should dumb people. Here’s an example.

Today I went (in my classic Mini) to go excercise my dog at a school yard near my house.

Along the way, this person in a black/dark grey SVT truck was tail-gating me most of the way there.

To add to the excitement, then a firetruck and ambulance are coming the opposite way down the street.

As I am pulling over to the side of the road like most normal smart people do, the firetruck makes a left hand turn about 500 feet in front of me, followed shortly by the ambulance driver, who I can see in their face a sign of relief that they will safely make the turn. He proceeds to cut in front to my right, entering Sheila (a steep hill not far from the park) Lane.

Meanwhile, the person in the SVT proceeds to catch up to me, apparently oblivious to the events unfolding at the intersection.

At the moment I am pulling back onto the roadway, they now decide they want to pass me on the left.. mind you this is a only a 2-lane road, traffic going in opposite directions. And so I politely honk “DANGER..” ok, they keep coming.. honk! honk! “HELLO.. CAR HERE YOU ARE ABOUT TO SMASH INTO?” honk honk honk honkkkkkkkkkk!

Still oblivious, they barely miss flattening me as I swerve to avoid the impact. They continue onward, no wave, no acknowlegement, mind you, both my windows were fully rolled down, open and in line with theirs, but did they say “oops!”, “sorry!”, “my bad”? no, nothing.

Funny, so you think they may be a jerk and flip me off or glare or something like that? No, in fact, absolutely nothing. No braking, honking, lights flashing, nothing.

So now, I think this person was definitely drunk or high on something.

They should not give trucks to stupid people, drunks, or people on drugs. Especially cheaply built plastic SVT trucks, and especially not in Pacifica.

I was so in shock from the near miss that I didn’t get their license plate, but I will definitely be keeping an eye out for them in the future, and giving them lots of extra space on the roadway.

My history with cars (work in progress..)

(insert funky 60’s/70’s movie score here)

It all started as a young lad. I saw The Italian Job, Gone in 60 seconds (yes the original one, how many times did I see that on the big screen?) Cannonball Run.. Steve McQueen, James Dean, all those car chase movies of the 70s.. must have had a dramatic effect on my budding little head πŸ™‚

My first car was a 1961 Mercury Comet (aka “the batmobile” since it had these wild fins in the back), police edition. It was red, because an old fire cheif had it several owners before me, open the hood and see that american muscle engine, not much else. Comfortable seating for 12. The trunk had enough room to hold 2 spare tires and still have plenty of room for a bicycle. It even had an AM radio. I drove that poor car like it was stolen, what a blast! Living on the coast, it eventually rusted away and I couldn’t get parts for it at the time, so off it went to the smasher. They started making aftermarket parts for it 2 months later — lesson learned is to hold on to your classic cars! And if you do sell them, make sure they are going to someone who is going to take care of it.

Next, I got into Motorcycles. Had a 1977 Yamaha RD400 (“the rat bike”) then a 1992 Suzuki GS500E (“Shiva/Shakti”). Along the way I picked up a 1993 Saturn SL2 sedan (“Nellie”, it was aqua blue, uh, and I am Scotish, and “Nessie” was already taken, so that’s all I will say..)

(insert sound of vinyl record scratching here)

..ok, in the early days, Saturn was a new car company and everyone waved at each other or flashed their lights, it was a family thing. I don’t know what happened, I guess eventually GM swallowed the offshoot back up. People don’t wave like they used to. Maybe the new Saturn Sky owners do πŸ˜‰

(continue funky music..)

During the 90’s/00’s boom time, one of my coworkers showed me the (classic) Mini. We both wanted one. We heard that BMW had bought the rights from Rover and were planning on importing them back into the US, woo hoo! I couldn’t wait though, I wanted one like right now. At the time, MiniGuy Michael Lewis (in Ventura, California) was one of the leading importers of classic Mini, so I talked back and forth with him, and he did his best to talk me out of getting one while at the same time telling me how fun they were to drive..

The dotcom bubble burst, I again found myself doing IT work on the side, jumping from job to job, in the back of my mind still wanting a Mini. I was working for a video game company, and my boss drove a BRG sportpack look-a-like that I totally loved. My girlfriend said I should wait until the BMW ones come out, because they will be safer, modern cars. Airbags, A/C, radios, lush interiors, that sort of thing. So I waited.. and finally MINIs hit the USA with a fervor not seen since, oh probably 1959 when Mini first came out πŸ˜‰

I remember walking into the MINI dealership, looking at the massive hatchbacks, checking out the toggle switches and playing with the dual sun roof. I turned to the sales person and said, ‘wow, these new cars are pretty cool, but where are the Minis?’ “You’re sitting in one” she said. Guess they gained some weight coming to America! πŸ˜‰

Sure, the new car had some problems, as most new cars do.. (remember the Saturn? I thought to myself..) but my desire for all things MINI took ahold of me and by June 2003 I had ordered “Mindi”, a beautiful big custom-built Indi Blue Cooper S! She has the factory sport package, clear lenses, xenons w/washers, auto dim mirror, rain sensing wipers, multi-function steering wheel, cassette, ipod, lapis blue leather, anthracite dash, white bonnet stripes and a white roof. She was born early August in Oxford, England, then went on a 21-day party cruise across the pond. I took delivery of her in September from MINI of Mountain View. Life hasn’t been the same since! “Mindi” and I have been through some great roads together, and have met a lot of friends along the way. I belonged to MOMVM, MOASF, NorCal MINIs, REME, MM, and MCM (UK). I found myself still wanting a classic though..

When the opportunity arose, I purchased “Guinness”, a black 1964 Austin Mini, in 2005. While the new MINI is relatively stock, let’s just say the classic is heavily modified. Gone are the sliding windows, small tail lights and external hinges. It has a Mk3 shell with internal hinges, and roll-down windows. The bigger tail-lights with reverse have been added, along with side markers and a radio antenna. At one point we tried adding an internal bonnet release (that didn’t really fit or workout so good). If it ever had hydrolastic, it’s long gone now. She has dry suspension with Hi-Lo’s, Gaz shocks, sway bar, bump stomps, adjustable camber. The original 889 has been replaced with a 1275 A+ engine, ported head, SU carb, HF44, Oil catch can, titanium rocker bolts, stainless LCB head, DTM exhaust, and all sorts of other goodies under the hood. I added modern convienences like a 12v socket and 4 speaker stereo, with 6×9’s in the back. If you think the radio is loud, just wait until I start her up. Earplugs, anyone? All that power needs good brakes, so she has Cooper S discs in the front with EBC green stuff pads, still has drums in the back though. The simple metal wheels have been upgraded to anthracite 10×4.5″ minator wheels with Yokohama A008’s all around. Many of the cheaper pot-metal and plastic bits have been replaced by new stainless steel (still a work in progress..)

Well, I enjoy talking about and driving both Minis so much that I thought I’d start a podcast (vodcast..) to share with others. You will see many of the REME regulars in these episodes, called ‘StarLord Mini Podcast’ — now, after 20 odd episodes, I created a new website and podcast (and vodcast..) with Rob ‘Califzeph’ (Alice ‘lwr’ tells the tale in another thread), Rich (owner of a 73 red Innocenti 1001, who currently resides in Washington DC area) , and a slew of other voluntary correspondent “Miniologists” πŸ˜‰ This is starting to turn into a shameless plug so I will stop there πŸ˜‰

Motor on!

StarLord Mini Podcast – Episode 16 – Sweet Sixteen (Miniology Intro)

This bit of eye-candy should hold you over till the next one comes out! πŸ˜‰

StarLord Mini Podcast morphs into Miniology. In this (actually, our 20th) vodcast, Rob (Califzeph) gives us slick music-video style views of the REME run to Point Arena.

Chris (StarLord) offers glimpses from the MacWorld expo 2007 (don’t blink!), then gets into San Francisco MINI’s purple Cooper cabrio.

More to come soon in the β€œMiniology” audio and video podcasts, at the new Miniology.com.

StarLord Mini Podcast – Episode 16 – Sweet Sixteen

Archived Feb 11 2007 – This bit of eye-candy should hold you over till the next one comes out! πŸ˜‰ StarLord Mini Podcast morphs into Miniology. In this (actually, our 20th) vodcast, Rob (Califzeph) gives us slick music-video style views of the REME run to Point Arena. Chris (StarLord) offers glimpses from the MacWorld expo (don’t blink!), then gets into San Francisco MINI’s purple Cooper cabrio. More to come soon in the “Miniology” audio and video podcasts, at the new Miniology.com

More than you wanted to know about Highway 1

At work, we were discussing how California Highway 1 is known up in Northern California as “Cabrillo Highway” while in Southern California it is known as “Pacific Coast Highway” — well, I thought it couldn’t be BOTH of them, but, it is.. that and more..

Care for a road trip?

Beginning in Leggett, California, some place in the middle of nowhere about 180 miles/3 hours North of San Francisco, CA-1 “Shoreline Highway” begins at the intersection of Redwood Highway (CA-101) and, well, CA-1.

It stays with this name until crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, where the name changes to “Cabrillo Highway/Coast Highway”.

This leg extends from the I-280/CA-1 interchange in Daly City, down to Half Moon Bay, just past the airport where it suddenly becomes “Cabrillo Highway North.”

Just past the CA-92 interchange, it becomes “Cabrillo Highway South”, until Stage Road (near LaHonda), where the name returns to “Cabrillo Highway.”

Continuing South to Oxnard, the name becomes “Pacific Coast Highway.” Other than a brief moment in Newport Beach, on either side of Dover Drive, where it changes to “West Coast Highway” / “East Coast Highway”, and Laguna Beach, who names it “North Coast Highway” / “South Coast Highway” on either side of Laguna Canyon Road, the name stays put, well, more or less.

Further down the road, in the city of Dana Point, CA-1 drifts into obscurity, one half dead-ending as it forks left along “Camino Las Rablas” crossing under San Diego Freeway I-5, the “Pacific Coast Highway” bit forks right, ending at Camino Capistrano and North El Camino Real in the city of Capistrano Beach. Well, in either case, we must be close to the end of our adventure, because in San Clemente, whatever was left of PCH doubles back on itself via Cristianitos Road.

We can follow Avenida Del Presidente back up the other side of I-5, reconnecting via South El Camino Real / North El Camino Real, where we find ourselves back on PCH..

Why on EARTH would someone blog that? Ah, I must be itching for a good run in the Mini. I missed out on some of the best roads last weekend. Check Miniology.com for the latest post of videos and pics by our West Coast correspondent, Califzeph (Rob Saunders).

One of my co-workers pointed out the wiki page for California State Route 1, which you can find here.

Perhaps worse than this bit of geekdom is that I took the time to use Google Maps to track the entire stretch of road, and posted the blog before ever seeing the wiki article. I’ll use this morning’s breakfast as a scapegoat. Leo over at Cafe’ Royale mixed up some Grenadine-Ginger drink, which probably did something maniacal to my brain today.. yeh.. that’s it.. that’s the ticket..