Tag Archives: Road Trip

Mazda M-X5

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.

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jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net.

Scenes on Sunday ~ Sunset

the eventide sun sinks silver

in salmon and soft fuchsia skies

by sleepy peaceful crepuscular lights

casting blue and gold shades in the west

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P1030445pictures by jack collier

and the girl riding shotgun

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

relationship assumptions haiku

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the road is long

walk with me, or not

it’s hard with one

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P1010419jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

Scenes on Sunday ~ Mt. San Jacinto

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway & Mt. San Jacinto

just a time being you and me

cool at the top of the mountain

that’s where we both want to be

long way to the top of the mountain

at the top the air is crystal clear to see

a far piece from the top of the mountain

the majestic view of land and town still free

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better if a cool guy isn’t afraid of heights

words and pictures by jack collier and the girl riding shotgun

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

transatlantic romance

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long distance love affair

wondering if she does care

some may even say it isn’t fair

and feelings are too hard to bear

she’s just some chick way over there

all I know is my heart’s going nowhere

a new day has come, and life is in the air

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P1030943words and pictures by jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk

Scenes on Sunday #25

California Road Trip.

Echo Beach, Route 66, Hotel California

Gorillaz, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band

California Girls, Breakfast in America

California Rain, California King Bed

Dog Breath, Champagne, Back to California

I’m Going Home, Get Back, Grateful Dead

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P1020195pictures by the girl riding shotgun

jack collier doing the driving

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

Scenes on Sunday # 24

Sad Marmaduke.

There once was a cute teddy bear

so soft, and fluffy, and brown

now he’s pining for his paramour

and the world is getting him down

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P1030783no teddy bears were hurt during the making of this blog

words and pictures by jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

Triumph Stag

Reliabilty is Not One of its Good Qualities

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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.

stag-06Powered 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.

stelvio-pass-in-italyThere 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.)

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t-barthese opinions are  mine and mine alone

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

Scenes on Sunday # 21

I like the desert.  I also like Palm Springs, mountains, and cable cars ~ although this one near Palm Springs is called an Aerial Tramway.  If you want to look like a manly man don’t be scared of cable cars.

All these shots were taken with a LUMIX Panasonic DMC-X53 pocket camera, which is far better to cart up a mountain that my old 35mm SLR with all its attendant lenses.  My days of carrying around a heavy SLR are done and gone.

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 Camperpictures by jack collier

and the girl riding shotgun

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

 

Ford Edsel

No woman is going to want to admit that she’s had casual sex in an Edsel.  The Ford Edsel is not a cool car, it’s not even so ugly-pretty that it’s cool.  The Edsel is just one of the worst cars ever made.

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So what makes an Edsel such a terrible car?  Start with how it looks, and it looks as though it was designed by a committee of the most boring preppy men Ford could come up with after searching through the worst colleges in America.  I mean, who would design a grille that looks like a surprised toilet seat?

dscf0015For a brand-new design the Edsel was about as innovative as a horse and cart.  It was big and heavy ~ over 18 feet long and weighing in at two tons.  It had a newly designed ohv V8 Ford MEL engine, (Mercury, Edsel, Lincoln), which was big at 410 cu in, (6.7 litres), powerful with 345 bhp and 475 ft lbs of torque, and very heavy. The Edsel had a slush-pump auto-box, and Hotchkiss live axle rear suspension that dated back to the 1930s.  It also had some weird features, such as push-button gear selectors on the steering wheel.

And then the Edsel had the second worst marketing and sales campaign in the history of road transport, only eclipsed by that even bigger disaster, the Sinclair C5.  From a teaser campaign that heralded the Edsel as the car for the future, to setting up a separate Edsel division within the Ford Motor Company and a separate dealership network, everything about the Edsel’s sales and marketing is a textbook example of how not to sell anything.  Small wonder this dog of a car sold only 110,847 heavily discounted units ~ peanuts by Ford standards.

The Edsel was also relatively expensive, costing about the same as a Mercury, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick and Dodge, which were much better products, with much better and more well-known names and images.

Because the Edsel was built on the same production line as standard Fords, the assemblers had to interrupt their routines when an Edsel came along, and many workers just didn’t bother to put the right parts in the right places.  Therefore the Edsel was very badly built and suffered from consequent reliability problems.  Issues ranged from a leaking trunk, (boot), in wet weather, to bad welding, and catastrophically dangerous power steering failures.

edselAllegedly, the Edsel drives like a canal barge.  That huge V8 delivers pedestrian performance with a top speed just short of 120 mph, a 0-60 time of about 11 seconds, and terrible fuel consumption figures.  The suspension is nothing to write home about, and so pressing-on is supposed to be accompanied by a lot of tyre squeal, initial understeer and then mad oversteer.  Have I ever driven an Edsel?  You have got to be joking.

Luckily there are only about 6,000 examples of this terrible car still in existence.  There has to be more than that, everywhere I go on my various road trips I seem to come across an Edsel, or maybe they’re just so bad that they’re memorable.  You can expect to pay about $10,000 for an immaculate example, if you were ever insane enough to want an Edsel.

Don’t buy an Edsel.  They are not cool, an Edsel won’t make a satisfying hobby, they will make a terrible investment, and no cool girl will ever want to have sex with you in that car.

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p1040642jackcollier7@talktalk.net

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