Monday, May 14, 2012

California Congressional Candidate Brooks on Cars

Mr. Brooks is running for congress here in San Diego's 51st district.  He kindly took some time from his busy schedule to chat with me about cars.

ANF:  So I understand you're a bit of an enthusiast yourself - It certainly takes enthusiasm and commitment to daily drive a 1941 Ford!  Could you please tell us a little about your Businessman's Coupe?

JB:  I've always had a fascination with old classic cars.  Their design, lines, how they were built, how simple they are to work on, etc.  When I worked in Montana on the National Bison Range and Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge, a few of the old guys would let me help out on servicing the old trucks we had in the fleet and I just carried that knowledge in to working on my own vehicles.

Mr. Brooks with his 1941 Ford and new CODA Electric

JB:  I used to work as a Special Agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and one day back in 1998 while looking through the paper for leads on smugglers I came across the '41 Ford in the classified ads.  A guy in Alpine (NE San Diego, CA)  was selling the car so I decided to go have a look.  He had converted it into a street rod, doing most of the work himself.  The body was straight and he had replaced the original flat head with a Ford 351 c.i. Windsor.  I didn't own a car at the time, just a motorcycle, so I was in need of a weekend ride.  Working for the government, I was supplied with a work vehicle and didn't need my own car during the week.  Anyway, I decided to buy it and convert it back as much as I could to look and feel original.  I've replaced the interior, painted it and did a frame off restoration.  It still has the Windsor in it, but the look and feel is 1941.

ANF:  What is it about cars that you enjoy?

JB:  For me, driving a car is very relaxing, especially on long trips.  I tend to do my best thinking when I am on the road, behind the wheel.

ANF:  You recently bought a
CODA Electric, can you tell us a little about what influenced your purchase?

JB:  I've always been interested in alternative modes of transportation. I remember hearing about a guy who created an engine in the '70's that ran on water - how cool would that be!  So I've always been on the lookout for an alternative to gas powered vehicles.  I even thought about converting my '41 into an electric car, but it's very heavy and thus not really suited to it.  After seeing the movie "Who Killed the Electric Car?" I was pretty sure I would not be buying a car made buy the big car companies, so I started searching the net for an alternative.  I looked hard at the Aptera, which was to be built right here in San Diego.  Unfortunately they couldn't get it together.  I looked at cars overseas, but the wait time for delivery was years away.  Later I heard about CODA and gave them a good look.  I really want to support small businesses break into the market, so I decided to place an order with them.

ANF:  What are your initial impressions of the car? 

JB:  Driving electric is interesting.  It's a bit of an adjustment on how I actually drive, but barring the normal bugs that come with purchasing first generation, I think the car is holding up rather well.

ANF:  You mentioned the Aptera.  I thought that was a really interesting and unique concept and was sad to see them fail to bring the car to market.  Did you have a chance to see or drive a pre-production model?  If so what were your impressions? 

JB:  Yeah, I actually liked the Aptera design and wished they had made it.  I never got to drive one but saw a model when they were over at Balboa park one year.  That was a cool lookin' car.

ANF:  What are your thoughts on the short-term viability of battery-powered electrics as a replacement for conventional internal combustion-powered cars? 

JB:  I think that the limited-range electric cars will catch on (like CAR2GO) as people begin to realize how few miles they drive in a given day. Once more of these 100-to-150 mile range cars get produced and tested, I think we will see technology improve to the point where 250-plus mile range electrics will be common.  Also, I believe that as a society, we really need to move away from gasoline-powered cars as our primary mode of transportation.  Natural gas-powered cars would be a better option in the short-term to meet our long-range transportation needs - I saw it work rather well in New Zealand back in the '90s.

ANF:  Are you concerned with current batteries' finite serviceable life or the ecological hazards associated with their manufacturing? 

JB:  No, not if we plan smart.  For instance, I would advocate having all electric cars, once the technology improves, be created with swap-able battery technology in mind.  Battery bays would replace gas stations and depleted batteries which could no longer hold a charge could be recycled properly.

ANF:  In order to make electric cars 100% zero-emissions alternatives, we first need to reduce our country's dependence on coal-fueled electricity generation - what are your thoughts on this subject? 

JB:  There are so many other safe ways to power the daily needs of this country, and I believe it is incumbent upon us to start looking to the future for meeting our energy needs.  Coal-based fuels are a bad deal all the way round, but greed is keeping us from doing the right thing today.  The long-term benefits from moving away from oil and coal far outweigh the short-term loss of "cheap" fuel sources.

ANF:  How do you feel about hydrogen fuel cell-powered electrics like Honda's Clarity?

JB:  I have mixed feelings on fuel cell cars.  I see them as a good short-term solution to reduce emissions, but we will still be beholden to large energy companies to source hydrogen.  Your cost to fill up the tank is about the same as with gasoline and I don't see it encouraging us to look elsewhere.  I think a compressed air vehicle would be a better way to go.  I believe there are a few companies in France working on air power.

ANF:  Recently there has been attempted legislation in California that would restrict if not eliminate the use of older, pre-smog control automobiles.  This obviously has enthusiasts very concerned.  Consensus among us is that the preservation of these machines as pieces of our cultural and industrial heritage is important, and that the relatively small number of such cars and their typically limited use represent a proverbial drop in the emissions ocean.  What would you do to protect our hobby? 

JB:  I look at my car as being recycled.  And in recycling, I have made it a bit more environmentally friendly.  Those of us who drive hobby cars are not causing the majority of the problem.  Why should we be required to destroy history and spend more money on dying technology?  We need to phase out the production of hydrocarbon-producing cars - that will result in a real difference in the quality of our environment.  Our old cars will fade with time.

Many thanks to John Brooks!

Photos credited to San Diego Union Tribune

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