Be charitable and loving when winter comes howling in.
Middlesbrough Man Chris Rea is a brilliant exponent of the slide guitar ~ athough I like him best because he likes great cars, including the iconic 7.
Please listen responsibly.
don’t drive a 7 in winter
unless you’re very brave
American men look at pick up trucks the same sad way they look at a cute woman’s butt.
I like classic American cars.
Vintage iron speaks to me.
a pick up truck says it all about the American male
There is scarcely anything that will drag you down like debt.
Basically there are two ways we can have more cash to spend on the things we really like, want, and desire ~ one is to go out and get more money, earn it, marry it, inherit it, steal it….
The other way to have more cash to spend on the things we really like is to spend less on ‘essentials’ ~ the things we have to buy to survive.
For if we remember our Dickens and what Mr. Micawber said in David Copperfield, happiness lies in spending less than we earn, and unhappiness lies in spending more than we actually have.
There are some tried and tested ways to spend less on the boring essentials. In my quest for minimalistic living, I have personal, (sometimes very bitter), experience of all of these following ideas:
- Live in a smaller place. Smaller homes cost less to buy, attract lower property taxes, and use less utilities; water, gas, electricity.
- If you can, switch your utilities provider to a better and cheaper company. All utilities companies are money-grabbing vultures, but try to choose the best of a bad lot.
- Drive a smaller car. Smaller cars are less expensive to buy and insure, and in general use much less gas than a bigger car with more weight and a bigger engine. If you buy a classic smaller car, as opposed to the latest model, then you won’t even suffer from depreciation.
- Switch your car insurance to a better and cheaper company.
- Learn some DIY skills. You don’t have to use expensive and useless contractors, car mechanics, cleaners, or gardeners. It’s cheaper and better if you do as much as you can for yourself.
- Cut out impulse purchases. On impulse, too many of us buy too much stuff that we don’t actually need, want, or really like. All that stuff clutters up our home and convinces us that we need to move to a bigger place.
- Don’t marry a sexy trophy wife, (or toy boy), who will also want you to move into a bigger place. A trophy wife, (or toy boy), will end up costing you most of your treasure, and you’ll end up with a broken heart.
- Don’t try to buy love. It doesn’t work, it will cost you a fortune, and you’ll end up with a broken heart.
- Control your addictions….. booze, drugs, gambling, pornography, casual sex, smoking….. All of these will all cost you just about everything you have, including your self-respect.
- Resist the urge to have the latest and most expensive technologies. You don’t need a huge TV, costly cable, the newest computer, the best tablet, the most expensive iPhone with the most expensive contract.
- Buy whole foods rather than processed, heavily packaged, and generally bad for you costly crap.
- Buy generic brands. Trust me, I’ve been into factories where the expensive labels and generic brands are actually made on the same production line with exactly the same content. Only the packaging is different.
- If you can, then buy in bulk.
- Stop going out to lunch at work, instead take a packed lunch. Those people you go to lunch with are probably boring and certainly aren’t your real friends anyway. And, if you’re an average guy the women you take to lunch are never going to have sex with you, so you’re wasting your time and money.
- Don’t join a gym. Most of the people who have gym membership never go there. For great exercise take a long walk in the sunshine instead.
- Visit thrift stores, and if you find clothes you like, then save money and buy ‘pre-loved’ stuff.
- Don’t give to a big charity. (Have you any idea how much the bosses of the big charities pay themselves? The average pay across the top 100 charities is more than £250,000 a year, plus huge bonuses.)
- Don’t spend all your time drinking in pubs and bars ~ the booze is expensive there, and nobody in your favourite pub is your real friend anyway.
And finally, don’t spend on borrowed money, especially credit cards which all charge usury rates of interest. Credit cards are NOT money. Really, really, really NEVER use a payday lender, which all charge eye-watering criminal rates of interest.
You can probably think of some other money-saving tips of your own. For a month try making a note of what you actually spend your hard-earned on ~ I guarantee that you will be surprised and shocked. Learn what you actually spend your money on, and then you can start to control your finances.
Some say that money can’t buy happiness. And that a fool and his money are soon parted. All I know is that having money makes misery more bearable.
you can take the idea of living in a tiny home to the extreme…..
The car you drive says a lot about you.
I like cars, but then I like all things engineering and mechanical, up to and including the RMS Queen Mary.
California seems to have a Love / Hate relationship with the internal combustion engine, but there are some great cars out there.
A cool guy should drive a cool car, (if you have to ask; ‘which is a cool car?’ then you aren’t a particularly cool guy). Any cool woman can drive any car she likes and it will always be very cool.
I think Marmaduke likes a Bentley
Really successful engineering is all about understanding how something will break or fail.
For some strange reason I am blessed with the ability to fix almost anything, install almost anything, make almost anything, and build almost anything.
I built myself a Caterham / Lotus 7 sports-racing car, which I then drove all over Europe on long road trips. The trip I enjoyed most in this little car was driving down the entire Loire Valley in France. (Or maybe it was the Stelvio Pass.)
Minor pieces of carpentry are child’s play for me ~ which is why I could rip out the old kitchen in my garret and replace it with something that I liked and suited my needs.
(With help from my friend Marmaduke of course.)
I’ve also erected log cabins and built vacation homes from plywood. (This is a stock picture, not one of mine)
Sometimes, half way through a project, I’ve wondered why I started, and if the thing would ever be finished. The picture above shows this kind of ‘why am I doing this’ project. Although, this wreck of an Austin-Healey Sprite turned into a really beautiful little car, finished in British Racing Green as a frog-eye. (the almost completed little car, I like that I did the white stripes)
For my next project I’m thinking about finding an old school bus, rebuilding it as an RV, (Recreational Vehicle), and then spending an entire year in the thing, touring as much of the USA as I can, on the longest road trip ever.
Something you need, if you want to tackle advanced DIY projects, is a really, really comprehensive tool kit. And, take my advice, always buy the very best tools you can afford. (You may need a hard hat.)
This post is sponsored by: http://www.amazon.com/shops/salinevalleyenterprises
some power tools are a must have
click on the power tools picture
Sports Car, Cool Car, Girl’s Car.
At a time when mainstream British car manufacturers thought it impossible to go on making small convertible sports cars, Mazda from Japan came up with the M-X5. The little Mazda carried the torch first lit by classic English sports cars like the Austin-Healey Sprite, MGB, Triumph Spitfire ~ and in particular the brilliant Lotus Elan. The original Mazda M-X5 could almost have been copied from the Elan, what with its 1.6 litre twin-cam engine, pop-up headlights, and clever longitudinal truss, (Power Plant Frame), that mimics the Elan’s backbone chassis.
The MX-5 wasn’t designed in Japan either ~ it was planned in California by a team led by Englishman Bob Hall. An Englishman in California is just about the perfect combination when it comes to cars. Of course what the Mazda team didn’t copy from Colin Chapman’s Lotus was fragility, unreliability, and extreme lightness.
First launched at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show, the M-X5 was and is a fairly small front-engine, rear-wheel-drive roadster, with a twin-cam engine of between 1.6 and 2.0 litres. There’s a five-speed gearbox in the middle, double wishbone independent suspension at both ends, and disk brakes, (ventilated at the front). The original model weighed in at almost exactly ton, (which is a portly 600 pounds more than the diminutive Lotus). It even looked like a Lotus Elan ~ which was no bad thing.
As well as the looks and layout, what the original design team got right was balance. The unladen M-X5 has an ideal 50/50 weight distribution, which means that the handling ~ the feel of the car when you drive it ~ is just about perfect. This makes the little Mazda a ‘nice’ and ‘fun’ car to own and drive.
The M-X5 is by no means a fast car. The 1989 original came with just about the same power as a Lotus Elan, but it weighed a third more, so it was a tad sluggish. The traffic-light sprint 0-60 mph time was over 8 seconds and it would run out of steam at about 115 mph. But do you know what? With the top down, on country roads, with the brilliant handling and roadholding the design naturally produces, the original M-X5 was more than fast enough.
Among older English car enthusiasts the word to describe the way an M-X5 drives is ‘chuckable’. (It reacts easily, safely, and can be forced into doing things it really shouldn’t ~ it probably won’t kill you.)
The little Mazda is also a great car for a long road trip. It’s a nice place to sit for hours, rides fairly comfortably and quietly, there’s decent luggage space, it’s economical, and the top comes down. What’s not to like?
If you are mechanically minded with some practical skills, you could buy yourself an early M-X5 for a couple of thousand pounds / dollars. The thing is simple enough to allow a complete rebuild, in the same way that one could rebuild an MGB. But why would you bother? The Mazda M-X5 is a classic design, but it isn’t actually rare, (unless it’s a really early car in light blue mica or British Racing Green), and a newer car needing much less work is within the spending reach of just about everyone.
A new M-X5 will set you back around £20,000, (or $30,000), depending on the exact specification. For that you will get a very capable, very over-engineered, and very over-styled car that is so attractively modern-metrosexual it should only be bought by make-up artists, hairdressers, or real estate agents.
At the upper end of the scale a new M-X5, the fastback with a retractable steel roof will cost you about £28,000, (you can get one of these for $35,000 in California). That would also give you a 160 bhp two-litre engine and six-speed gearbox, all in an overstyled package that weighs in at 2,470 pounds ~ no thanks.
The new M-X5 is so far away from its Lotus Elan spiritual inspiration that it’s not even in the same millennium. I would not waste my money on a new M-X5. If I was really in the market for one of these little Japanese / English / Californian sports cars I would look for an early example, pop-up headlights and everything. In comparison to rebuilding a rotted MGB, working on a Mazda would be child’s play. The three critical areas for structural soundness are the Power Plant Frame and the front and rear subframes, and all three can be replaced.
Some cars are obvious Guy, some Girl, and a few go both ways. Why is the Mazda a Girl’s Car? If you have to ask then you’re either a girl, or a metrosexual male who doesn’t know one end of a torque-wrench from the other. You wouldn’t expect to spoil your manicure if you owned a new Mazda M-X5.
Would I buy one? Yes, so long as it does look like a Lotus Elan.
Jaguar or Bus?
Valentine’s lovemaking in my sports car
Sweetheart, that was not ever going to be us
I’d never take our first conversation quite so far
but, I’d rather make love in a Jaguar than on a bus.
words and pictures by jack collier
Reliabilty is Not One of its Good Qualities
At its launch in 1970 the Triumph Stag was a big sports car aimed at the luxury end of the market. At a stretch it could accommodate 4 smallish adults in considerable comfort, but realistically it’s more of a 2+2. Sharing the pretty Giovanni Michelotti styling of rest of Triumph’s range at the time, the Stag was unusual for a sports car in that it had an integral roll-0ver bar joined to the windscreen frame by a T-bar. This was to meet Californian regulations, but it also gave the monocoque bodyshell considerable extra stiffness.
The Stag was supposed to compete with the Mercedes-Benz sports-touring range, but that was always a very forlorn hope. Back then a Mercedes-Benz built by proper German engineers didn’t break down so often.
Powered by a new Triumph 3 litre overhead cam (OHC) V8 giving an alleged 145 bhp and 170 foot pounds of torque, driving the rear wheels through a Borg-Warner three speed automatic transmission, the good looking Stag should have been a great car. In fact it was a disaster, and only 25,939 were ever built with just 2,871 going to the United States. One look at an engine dwarfed by the engine bay, and the tiny Stromberg carburettors tells you most of what you need to know.
There were some obvious issues. Although the basic Stag weighed in at just a ton and a quarter, (2,800 lbs), by the time you added a couple of adults and their luggage it was underpowered and sluggish for a sports car. The benchmark 0 to 60 mph time was a pedestrian 9.5 seconds and the top speed about 120 mph. The three speed auto transmission did not help at all. The brakes were a mixture of discs at the front with rear drums, and if you took a Stag over the Alpine passes you’d cook the brakes on the way down. Remember with that auto-box there is no engine braking, so you’re riding the brake pedal all the way. Suspension is by very conventional MacPherson struts at the front with semi-trailing arms at the rear, and it’s pretty good for a sports-touring car, which is what the Stag really is. I’ve never heard of any problems with the power-assisted rack and pinion steering.
But, the biggest problem with the Stag is right at its beating heart. The engine was utter crap. From day one Stags broke down, and went on breaking down, again and again. Usually, by the time it had done 25,000 miles the Stag’s V8 engine was a pile of junk, needing a total rebuild or only fit for the scrap yard. Problems started with cooling, and included issues with the oil system, ignition, carburettors, crankshaft, timing chain, galvanic corrosion… I don’t know how any company could get something so badly wrong. And yet, SAAB, a brilliant company in engineering terms, took the left half of that V8 engine, enlarged that half to two litres, and successfully used it to power their entire range of quirky cars.
Many Stags are now bastardised and powered by the Rover V8 engine, which gives brilliant power and reliability, but renders the resultant abberation almost worthless in terms of originality and desirability. I wouldn’t touch a hybrid Stag / Rover with your ten-foot pole, let alone mine.
You can buy a very decent Stag for £7,500 ~ or less if you’re willing to take on something that is much less than perfect. At the top of the market you could be looking at paying £15,000, which is stupid money for one of these scions of unreliability. If you are thinking of buying a Stag, join the owners’ club before you do anything else.
The burning question is, should I buy a Triumph Stag? Well yes, given a huge budget to spend with parts companies like Rimmer Bros. to completely rebuild the engine and drivetrain. The Stag is still a brilliant concept and would make a great sports-touring car for transcontinental road trips. Would I recommend the Triumph Stag to a friend? Not a chance. And to be honest, I think the much maligned Triumph TR7 is the better car, and that also uses the left half of the Triumph V8 engine. Either would be good for a long road trip, and as a full-time hobby getting it ready for a long road trip.
(The Avro Vulcan is to the B52 what a Lotus is to a Ford.)
these opinions are mine and mine alone
Caterham has launched a ‘new’ Seven, the ‘Sprint’ with retro ‘swinging sixties’ styling reminiscent of Colin Chapman’s original Lotus Seven, clamshell wings, steel wheels, chrome hubcaps and all.
The Caterham Seven Sprint is largely based on the entry level Caterham Seven 160, and uses the same little 660cc, 3 cylinder Suzuki engine, albeit with dohc, 4 vales per cylinder, and fitted with a turbocharger to give 80bhp and 79 foot pounds of torque. That’s a lot more power than the 39bhp of the very first Lotus Seven, but in today’s terms, it’s pretty puny. It isn’t a good looking engine bay.
The Seven Sprint is also fitted with a live axle, which is fine in its way, but there is such a thing as taking nostalgia too far. The last Caterham I owned used a very sophisticated de Dion rear end, and even that was very prone to power oversteer. Every live axle car I’ve ever driven has had ‘interesting’ roadholding and handling ~ I’ve no reason to suppose the new Caterham Seven is any different in that respect. Still, it all adds to the terrifying fun.
I have built, owned, and driven a Caterham Seven with clamshell wings, and they are a mixed blessing. On the upside they are so much better looking than cycle wings, on the downside clamshell wings have the aerodynamics of a box-kite. Given a couple of Sevens with otherwise identical specifications, a car with flared clamshell wings will have a lower top speed and much worse acceleration at higher speeds, than a Seven with close-fitting cycle wings.
However, there is no doubt that the new Seven Sprint is a pretty little car in those retro colours, flared wings, and with a brilliant red leather interior. As a driver’s car it will be utterly brilliant too ~ you haven’t driven a sports car until you’ve driven a Seven. But in comparison with other Lotus / Caterham Sevens available, it’s sort of the runt of the litter. Pretty but lacking in spirit.
There is one huge problem with the Caterham Seven Sprint ~ prices start at £27,995, which is a stupid amount of money to pay for this particular little car. Mind you, Caterham Cars aren’t the remotest interested in what I think of the Seven Sprint, the limited production run of 60 cars sold out in a week.
I have a sneaking suspicion that not many of the 60 people signed up to buy a Caterham Seven Sprint will be driving it much, if at all. It seems to me this is a Summer Sunday afternoon car to take for a short drive to the country / beach / pub. Or even worse, a lot of the buyers could be ‘collectors’ who will stick this Seven in their heated Motor House under a dust cover, and mostly leave it there.
Would I recommend a Caterham Seven 160 / Sprint to a friend? No.
the BRG and yellow car is my last Caterham Seven
these opinions are mine and mine alone