Saturday, July 18, 2015

Dropping Soon - Bad Mommy Wagon Stage II

Last weekend my friend Travis photographed the Bad Mommy Wagon at a secret location here in San Diego. He's a fantastic, pro-level photographer and really killed these shots despite the less-than-ideal midday sun.

Here's the car as-is now riding on stock Outback suspension.

And here's a quick Photoshop. A bit lower than I have in mind, but damn close. It looks absolutely amazing and has lit a fire under my ass--all these suspension parts gathering dust in my office are finally going on next week. Too excited.

The specs: Tein Comfort Sport coilovers, Legacy GT rear upper/lower control arms, control arm mounts, sway bar mounts and bumpstops. The LGT components help correct both camber and otherwise limited suspension travel issues when lowering an Outback.

The goal: better-than-OEM ride comfort, massively reduced roll, sharper turn-in, more neutral handling balance, altogether more tied-down rear end.

Simultaneously, the car will also be receiving an STI catless up-pipe and Maddad "Shorty" divorced down-pipe. Combined with an ECU reflash from my Cobb Accessport I'll be running what's somewhat loosely defined as "Stage 2"--good in this case for about 370 HP/380 lb. ft. at the crankshaft. Later, a rolling road dyno or "pro-tune" has the potential to further increase these numbers.

Bone stock with 250 HP, this is a 5 second to 60 MPH car. Current Stage 1 (Accessport tune only) feels noticeably quicker. Stage 2 is going to be nutty, especially once I get these electric exhaust cut-outs installed...

Stay tuned.

Monday, July 6, 2015

2008 BMW M5 Owner Interview: Matt's Brown Sedan

Matt's a new friend of mine I recently met through some mutual buddies at Cars & Coffee, Carlsbad. We're the same age, both proud big city Midwestern transplants and both love very fast, stealthy sedans like his awesome E60 M5.

I try not to overuse that word, awesome. It's totally fitting in this context however, and for exactly the same reasons I'd suspected since the model's release some ten years ago--chief among them its epic (again, a perfectly cromulent word) F1-inspired V10. I'm a sucker for high-revving, high specific output multicylinder engines, and the concept of such a classically exotic unit in a practical four door shell has always captured my imagination; first in print, and now in visceral reality.

I'd always dreamed of driving one, and the first time I met Matt he demanded I do so in his, refusing to take no for an answer. He also insisted I drive it in full, 507 HP M-mode with the fastest shifts engaged and with active stability control set to its loosest thresholds. A few times he even berated me as a "fucking pansy" for not giving it enough chancla, and before I knew it we were very illegally redlining in (redacted) gear.

It's truly an incredible experience, and even with my limited exposure, it's clear that the car rewards with deeper, previously unknown levels of ability and character with each drive. In other words, it's a slow burner and not the type of machine with which you'd bore quickly. Good thing, as Matt has no plans to sell his.

Recently, he graciously agreed to sit down and answer a few questions about the car and his ownership experience thus far. Thanks again, man.

ANF: You have an interesting history with cars, for example the time you spent driving an R32 Skyline GT-R while stationed in Japan. Tell us about some of the other cool machines you've owned over the years.  

Matt: Aside from the GT-R, which I only briefly drove since I was always gone, I've owned a 1997 Honda Integra Type-R in Championship White (purchased for $4,500 from the Electrical Officer on my ship) and a 2013 BMW 328i Sport that I bought as I was getting out of the Navy.

ANF: There's a good selection of fast, relatively affordable secondhand German super sedans on the market, why an E60 M5 over an E63 or Audi S6?

Matt: I've driven both E63 and E55 AMG's and though I really liked the way they sounded, ultimately they felt sterile in feel and character. I haven't driven an Audi S6, but have always loved the RS4 of any generation. I guess the M5 has always been in the back of my head as a car I would want if I ever got into the position to afford the overall cost. I'm still not quite there yet, but I have the M5, so hopefully things go according to plan!

ANF: Your M5 packs some very exotic technology and engineering into a relatively sedate looking package. Even though you did your research and sought out well-documented, cared-for cars, was it at all intimidating to take the plunge on a used example given the (albeit minimized) potential for outrageously expensive component failures?

Matt: I think with any super sedan there is going to be certain risks involved with owning them. I just made sure to do my homework and read through for things to look for. This car is forcing me to be more careful and more anal retentive with the scheduling of maintenance.

ANF: How was the honeymoon period? Was it more like Christmas morning every day or nervously getting to know each other?

Matt: Nerve-racking at first due to the clutch going out, but once that was resolved (Cal from Legacy Cars paid for the parts without hesitation!) it has been a steady learning phase on how to shift smoothly, getting used to the "wave" shifting characteristics and understanding the right time to push the car and when to tread lightly.

ANF: I've owned a few quick cars, but regardless of how many times they're modded for added power or better handling I quickly become jaded with the driving experience and begin to itch for more performance. That said, none of them ever approached the same league as your M5, but I'm still curious if you've ever felt similarly about it. Does it ever get old?

Matt: Frankly speaking, no! I now understand the excitement behind owning an M car. I'm sure that the rest of the lineup is special in their own way as well, but I wanted to own this model with the understanding that a car this ridiculous would never come off of the assembly line again.

ANF: I'll admit, the first time I drove your car I found the SMG transmission to be a poor compromise between traditional manual and automatic transmissions.

On further acquaintance I've realized that comparing it to more conventional gearboxes unfairly colored my expectations, and that instead judging it as its own entity allowed its unique qualities to really shine through. For one, the way it combines ultra-quick gearchanges with a more satisfyingly mechanical feel than a dual clutch box is pretty special.

However, it does feel a bit clunky at times, but from what I've read there's a learning curve which once mastered allows for much smoother, easier operation.

Is this true? Have you mastered its quirks? What were your initial impressions?

Matt: My initial impressions were, "this thing needs a fucking clutch!” After that was settled, I found it annoying and difficult to anticipate my changes when trying to get off the line. After four months of ownership, I can honestly say I love the SMG. It fits with the characteristics of the car. The mechanical feel in each shift, the heavy clunk when changing at full throttle and the exhaust note that follows each gear is intoxicating.

ANF: Because it's a brown sedan, does it blend into the background or do you find that even most non-car people pick up on the fact that it's something special?

Matt: Most people don't know what they are seeing. Randomly, drivers will pull up next to me and ask what it is or tell me that they love the M5, usually adding that they were not aware it came in "brooowwwn!” Ha ha ha! I can see the aversion to brown, but Sepang Bronze Metallic has an extra bit of special to it. It is easily the rarest color for the E60 generation of M5 and it really comes to life in the sun. I'm smitten, but have to admit that it is not a color that I would choose sight unseen.

ANF: Does it ever take drivers of less subtle performance cars by surprise?

Matt: Yes. The mystique of the V10 hiding beneath the hood is what causes most sports car drivers to see how their engine matches up.

I won't say that the E60 M5 is the king of the hill because there are far more capable super saloons out there currently, but the V10 is still somewhat of a measuring stick for other performance cars. It's something that lures other drivers into a small 60-100 MPH run just to see how it will turn out. For the most part, I enjoy that aspect of ownership.

ANF: When taking it easy, it's a very comfortable, easy to drive car. Aside from fuel economy and servicing costs, are there any additional, hidden compromises or disadvantages to using it as a daily driver?

Matt: The main hindrance is the five minute engine warm up followed by a two-to-three mile differential warm up period. The car is definitely not a morning "person". Otherwise, I love driving it every day.

ANF: To my ears, it sounds just as exotic as any Italian supercar. The engine has a very tonal quality that only the most expensive and complex engines seem to make.

More than just a multi-layered noise of reciprocating internals and expanding gasses, it has an almost tuned, musical quality to its sound akin to that of an organ pipe--especially with the new custom exhaust system. It's easily my favorite of the car's many exceptional qualities. 

Was it a big attraction for you as well? What's your favorite of the car's features or personality traits?

Matt: Before fitting a custom exhaust recently (see video) I never understood the hype, but yes, now that it exhales more freely the sound is definitely a huge turn-on for me. The downshifts are incredibly evil and full throttle upshifts are exhilarating.

My favorite trait so far has to be the seats' active side bolsters. I love the extra bit of madness BMW added with this feature. I read about it before owning the car, but experiencing the squeezing and side support in turns is outrageous.

ANF: What are your future plans for the car?

Matt: On the calendar next is front brake replacement. I already have the rotors and am buying Hawk Ceramic pads front and rear for when Randy (another friend, check out his E28 M5 interview here) and I do the replacement. I'm excited for that. Afterward, H&R springs, K&N intake, and RPI air scoops will round out the list of performance mods.

ANF: What would you like to try next?

Matt: I'd like to have a clean E36 convertible for a daily driver and then focus on being debt free so that I'll finally be able to purchase a new M car. I have my sights set on the M2, but by that time there'll be plenty of CPO M4's on the market, so I'm not sure. Plus, the new Alfa Romeo Giulia is looking like an absolute work of art, so that is definitely in the running as well.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Back to the Future Pantera

I love everything about this. Killer rendering. A++ would post again.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Like This, Please

I love a good blue interior. If this is a flip-light NSX I'm done.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Pre-GM Saab 900 Production Footage - Dirty Socialists

I've been seriously considering a Saab as my next old car. Cheap, weird and fun, they tick all the right boxes and might provide a nice change from all the Japanese stuff I've owned over the years.

This 1980's video of 900 production at Malmo shows a surprisingly relaxed, hand intensive build process, with more than a touch of Northern European style progressive politics mixed in. I'm sure that once GM entered the scene it quickly became all robots and tiered administration, but it's nice to see how truly unique Saab was in the good old independent days, including the rotating, unisex, self-supervising floor worker management system.

Per Eklund's Smashed Saab