Following the format laid out by my esteemed colleague a brief introduction appears to be in order. My name is Chad, I am a Virgo (if you believe in such nonsense), I like long drives on the beach and I believe the Toyota Prius is the embodiment of pure automotive evil. I have been published once before (http://www.examiner.com/article/corvette-gs-the-american-sports-car), worked for Honda as a Salesman and I’ve been an amateur mechanic for the past 12 years. I love auto racing in almost all forms. I get my passion for cars from my father, who at one point in his life owned a ’65 Mustang, and a ’59 Corvette. My automotive preferences tend to go towards the performance side of things. While I appreciate a good interior and style is important, the be all end all for me is how a car performs. Fuel economy is not a big deal to me, mostly because cars that focus on being as efficient as possible usually end up boring and uninteresting.
My car history consists of 2 Ford Focus’s and a Lexus IS300. Doesn’t sound too exciting but judging the cars based on their name doesn’t quite tell the whole story. My first car was a Silver 2001 Ford Focus.
Not going to blow you away stylistically compared to the cars of today, but back in 2000 this was a fairly radical design. Hatchbacks weren’t as popular as small coupes or even small sedans. Ford really reintroduced the whole idea of a hatchback to the USA. If you look today, every small car, with one or two exceptions, has a hatch variant.
While it didn’t have much in the way of creature comforts, it had the one feature I valued more than any other… A manual transmission. If one wants to consider them self a true car person, then they, at some point in their life, need to have a manual car. This was the car I really learned how to drive a manual on. While it was utterly nerve wracking, it was well worth it and every car I have owned since has been a manual.
As I’ve mentioned, it didn’t have much in the way of luxuries or power (140 hp). I have fond memories of my first Focus. This was my ticket to freedom. No more asking Dad to borrow his car or even worse Mom’s minivan. I remember being able to fill up the gas tank for under $15. Not the small mortgage payment it is these days. There were the road trips to visit friends at college. For all the joy it brought me, it by no means lead an easy life. Quite the opposite. In a little over a year: it was rear ended by a close friend on our way to Sr. Prom, I learned that it is indeed possible to pull a Tommy Boy and fold your drivers door back on itself (an unfortunate incident involving distracted driving and a pole for a basketball net), a toothless-hillbilly-vandal decided to throw a rock through its rear windshield as it was broken into and robbed by a homeless Hopatcong man, and it met its untimely end as a result of a deer. While I avoided the deer I did not miss the subsequent guard rail and embankment.
Car number 2 was also a Focus. This time in a darkish red. Though I specifically requested dark blue or black, I had to “settle” on red mostly because I demanded a manual and would not budge on that requirement. Because the dealership took its sweet time finding one, I ended up getting a fully loaded Focus. No more drum breaks in the rear. It had power mirrors and windows, premium sound, bigger wheels, and a sun roof! All for the same price as my original, barren Focus.
So there I was, in college with a much nicer car than I was expecting. You would imagine that would be that. WRONG! This was the time in my life when I got into custom car parts and tuning. The focus was already a fun car. It handled better than anything else in its class and, to my mind, would be awesome if it had more power. Most everything can be improved with more power, by the way. The best part of this wasn’t even the end result. It was the work along the way. Almost everything, with the exception of the headers and the ECU tune, I did in my garage. We installed a full intake system, 75 mm throttle body, headers high flow cat, and full 2.5 inch exhaust. Full ECU tune and high performance clutch and flywheel rounded out the modifications. To a lot of you, this might seem like a total waste of time and money. Perhaps in a small way it was. But what we gained out of it was so much more. It taught me how to work on cars. Through the process I got to work with friends and my dad who shared my enthusiasm. In the end, that’s what was great about it. I had more planed for it, but before I got around to it, a promotion and more income came along and I decided I needed to treat myself with a new car.
I purchased my 2002 Lexus IS300 for 3 reasons. 1, the 2JZ straight 6 engine. No its not because they go all ga ga for it in the original Fast and Furious movie. Rather because it was a strong engine capable of mega horsepower. There were plenty of parts available because it was the same, non-turboed version of the engine in the legendary Toyota Supra. 2, it was a car I wanted in high school. Looked great, was luxurious, and was rear wheel drive (RWD). What wasn’t to like? 3, it was fun. While the clutch feel was a tad on the vague side it still was one of the best handling sports sedans of its day. As I mentioned before it was RWD. And for reasons too complicated and boring to explain here today, RWD is the best drive train of them all.
This was a more grown up car than my boy-racer focus. I take nothing away from the focus, but it cant really compare to a Lexus. Leather, suede, power everything, GPS, and a great stereo. This was more than I could have asked for at 24 years old.
Naturally the first thing to do was refine my drifting skills. Ok, that’s a lie, although whenever I can I will kick the back end out for a little fun. After owning the car for a few months, 2 things became abundantly clear. I needed more power (Duh) and the car was too quiet, too refined. So some minor mods later (intake exhaust small ECU tweak) and she became what she is today. While I had other things planed for it, my cash flow had other ideas. All and all, it’s a great car. Aside from a few electrical gremlins, it has been everything I expected and more. Fun, comfortable and luxurious. It really has spoiled me for my future car purchases.
That’s pretty much it so far. In the coming months you can expect various different car reviews. I will also try and bring you motorsports news, and thoughts. I welcome comments and suggestions If you have any questions or ideas for the future feel free to let your voice be heard.
Love it or Hate it I want to hear it!