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My Midlife Crisis, or Adventures in Audi Maintenance

Posted in Beater Cars, Car Buying, European, European Review by Dustin Driver | January 15th, 2015 | 1 Response |

a4-desert

Sure, it’s not really that bad as midlife crises go. I mean, yes, when I hit midlife I did switch jobs three times and got divorced, but that’s more the result of a constant and chronic whole-life crisis, not one of the midlife variety. No, my midlife crisis was automotive. My vehicular partners have all been Japanese and reliable and, literally, colorless (silver, beige, white, black, gray). I had owned my 2003 Mazda Protégé 5 for 10 long years. It was a fun, zippy, practical, economical car that could really do anything. But at 37 something snapped and I decided I needed more elegance, more power, more refinement. Enter the A4.

About a year ago I became obsessed with Audis. Their clean, understated Bauhaus lines, their elegant interiors, their smooth power delivery, their formidable Quattro drivetrains. But I was afraid. Terrified of famously and disastrously complicated German engineering, of bank-breaking repairs and the inevitable ulcer they would induce. You see, I lacked the one prerequisite for blissful Audi ownership: Mountains of cash. A new Audi, blessed with a bumper-to-bumper warranty, was beyond my grasp (see job changes and divorce). If I got an Audi, it’d be old and I’d be on my own. I’d be playing a very dangerous game.

Still, I couldn’t stop scouring Craigslist for a deal. One day I found a local mechanic/Audi/VW dealership selling a minor unicorn (at least in my remote part of the world): A 2002 A4 Quattro with a 3.0 V6 and a six-speed manual. In shining Garnet Red with soothing taupe interior. A Teutonic masterpiece, an Autobahn bomber with dual climate zones and sport suspension. Mileage: 120,000. New clutch, timing belts, accessory belts, and tires. It simultaneously aroused me and set off blinding warning lights and deafening klaxons in the fight-or-flight center of my brain.

It was mid December and icy on the test drive. The 3.0 V6 hummed to life with German precision, all 30 valves working flawlessly to deliver a remarkably flat power band from idle to its 6,500 RPM redline. The gearshift was heavy and mechanical. The steering light, yet precise. One stab of the throttle and an easily controlled four-wheel drift across the icy Central Oregon roads and I was sold. The price was fair, a near even trade for the Mazda. Major work had been done. What could possibly go wrong? I drop-kicked caution into a canyon and took up the Challenge of the Four Rings—without an extended warranty or a live-in certified Audi mechanic.

Thus began my masterclass in Audi A4 maintenance and restoration.

a4

I’d love to say that the past year of geriatric Audi ownership has been trouble free, a delightful autumn drive through a wooded Bavarian valley. It has certainly been reminiscent of a Bavarian valley, just one under constant artillery bombardment by German forces, a smoking mire of charred trees and blood. Well, okay, it hasn’t been that bad. But it has been an enlightening and sometimes painful journey deep into the convoluted minds of German engineers.

Almost immediately the PCV valve went out, causing an erratic idle. My mechanic replaced it free of charge. Then both horns went out. An easy fix with a pair of aftermarket replacements. Then I noticed, to my dismay, that the foremost engine mount (snub mount) was completely missing—its rubber long since crumbled to dust. The other two engine mounts were also badly cracked and bleeding hydraulic fluid. Not to be dismayed, I recruited the help of a fellow wrench monkey and the two of us painstakingly replaced all three with upgraded aftermarket jobs from 034 Motorsports. Then it started mysteriously reeking of gasoline, but only when the tank was full. I sniffed around for the culprit, but could find no obvious leak. I shamefully admitted defeat and drove to my mechanic, who attributed the leak to a cracked rubber seal on top of the gas tank. Luckily it was an easy fix, but an expensive part.

Then there was an unfortunate off-road incident involving the oil cooler and a large rock that taught me a lot about the limitations imposed by ride height, or lack thereof. I don’t want to get into details, but that led to an almost total DIY overhaul of the cooling system, including a new radiator and coolant overflow tank. Oh, and two window regulators went out. Which I replaced. Twice. Long story.

But here’s the thing: I love the car. Maybe even more now than if it had been showroom perfect. Because I know it. I’ve scrabbled around under its grimy undercarriage more times than I can count, loosened and tightened countless fasteners, bathed and swallowed its lifeblood of coolant and oil, inadvertently bled into those same fluid system. I even learned a few words of German. This old, rickety A4 has, in Top Gear speak, become my mate. We are connected by a shared experience, by hours of companionship. It’s also something that I’m quite proud of. In this throw-away consumerist culture, fixing and restoring something old gives me a tremendous sense of satisfaction. I get to take things apart, admire (or scoff at) the engineering genius that went into them, then put them all back together again. Successfully. The process itself is meditative, temporarily occupying a raucous mind. It requires strategic planning, concentration, finesse, and contorted body poses that would tax the most experienced Yogi.

And I suppose in some ways that’s why I bought the A4. I knew, deep down, that it would need restoration and attention. It was something I could pour my energy into and get direct results. Replace engine mounts, get better throttle response. Fix radiator, stop leak. Polish paint, shiny. The A4 is therapy. It’s a soul-soother, a means of fighting off the sense of futility and worthlessness that comes with middle age. And it certainly costs as much as a good therapist.

I was going to compose a list of repair/restoration costs for the A4, but I quickly realized that such a list would unravel my psyche, plunge me into a fog of regret and self loathing. Instead, I’ll end on a positive note. The A4 has been a great car. It starts every time. It’s smooth and fast and shiny and capable. It’s packed with thoughtful features and it’s well designed. I think I’ll hold on to it. For a little while, at least.

10 Reasons Why Classic Cars are the Best Collectible Investment

Posted in Best of, Collector Cars, Featured, Ferrari, General by Gerri | January 9th, 2015 | Leave a Reply |

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Maybe having the classic car of your dreams is enough, whether it’s a good investment or not. You’ve always wanted a 1969 Mustang, Dodge Charger, or 1957 Mercedes 300SL (Gullwing). And if you have the cash to spare, you should have one. But it turns out there’s another more tangible reason to buy a classic car, they’re rapidly appreciating. According to a report by Douglas Ellison and Knight Frank, while traditional collectible investments like watches, art, and coins have appreciated some, (with appreciations of 3%, 5% and 10% in the last 12 months, respectively), collectible cars are stealing the show. Collectible cars have appreciated by 25% in the last 12 months, 111% in the last 5 years, and 469% since 2004. Here are the top ten reasons why classic cars are the best collectible investments.

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10 Things You Could Make Out of A Car On A Desert Island

Posted in Cool Stuff, Featured, Pop Culture by Gerri | December 3rd, 2014 | Leave a Reply |

(Or wherever else you might be stranded)

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Let’s suspend our disbelief for a bit about how exactly you end up on a desert island with a car. This is more an exercise in appreciating the mechanical intricacies of our rides. And if you could fashion these things out of your car on a desert island, you could definitely build the following things using your car in other (less isolated) settings. Let’s check out 10 things you can build with your car on a desert island.

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10 Far-Out ’50s Concept Cars that Look Like They’re Ready for Take-Off

Posted in General, Pop Culture by Gerri | November 29th, 2014 | Leave a Reply |

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Inspired by the space race and radical rocket designs of the time, 1950s automakers dreamt up a series of boundary-pushing “cars of the future.” Today, these prototypes often look amusingly retro-futuristic, like something out of classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon The Jetsons or original ’60s sci-fi hit Star Trek. At the time, though, they were sleek, cutting-edge and ultra-modern.

These concept cars were sometimes presented as atomic energy-powered, engineless prototypes for, despite the now-obvious dangers, this was how designers envisaged the future of motoring. In some cases their creations featured designs and technologies subsequently taken for granted – mostly, though, these fascinating prototypes represent a mid-20th century, sci-fi-inspired view of a future that never materialized.

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10 Awesomely Futuristic Trucks that Look like Real-Life Transformers

Posted in Cool Stuff, General, Lists, Pop Culture by Gerri | November 25th, 2014 | Leave a Reply |

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Traditionally, you might be forgiven for picturing semi-trailer trucks as square-shaped, fuel-guzzling road hogs with Godzilla-sized carbon footprints – expressing little or no regard for the environment. However, thanks to some truly outside-the-box thinking, the following incredible prototypes debunk that stereotype, switching outdated automotive designs for aerodynamic tractors, cutting-edge technological innovations and eco-friendly hybrid advances. Read on for ten real-life futuristic trucks that look like Transformers.
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Ten Vehicles We’ve Been Waiting a Century For

Posted in Cool Stuff, Pictures, Travel by Gerri | October 1st, 2014 | Leave a Reply |

Here’s a gem we should have never forgotten. In the year 1900, Jean-Marc Côté and a collection of other French artists created a series of postcards for the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris. The subject of the postcards: France in the year 2000. The idea caught on and Russian and German prints were released in the years that followed. The result, a number of incredibly awesome new modes of transportation. The world would be so much cooler if this is how we got around.

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Volkswagen Baja Bugs!

Posted in General, Off-Roading, Videos, Volkswagen by MrAngry | December 30th, 2013 | Leave a Reply |

Baja Bugs

Out here in California we have all manner of off-road buggies and trucks. From modified Ford Raptors to full-on rock climbers, this state truly has it all. One of the more common vehicles we run across are Baja Bugs. These are modified VW Beetles that have the ability to go just about anywhere. They’re light, fun and a piece of cake to work on. The guys from Motor Trends “Dirt Every Day” recently grabbed two of these little buggers and decided to have a little fun.

Source: MotorTrend.com

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Best Of /DRIVE: 2013 – AFTER/DRIVE

Posted in Best of, DRIVE, General, Videos by MrAngry | December 27th, 2013 | Leave a Reply |

Chris Harris

2013 is now just days away from going buh-bye and honestly, good riddance. The guys over at /DRIVE on Youtube feel the same way. However before it disappears entirely, Chris Harris and Mike Spinelli have seen fit to sit in studio and comment up on their favorite episodes from all your favorite shows. So now grab a beer, sit back and enjoy over 40-mins of /DRIVE after the jump.

Source: Youtube.com/DRIVE

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RoboCop is Here – Drive Sober Video

Posted in General, Movies by MrAngry | December 26th, 2013 | Leave a Reply |

Robo Cop

Is using RoboCop to frighten mature drivers really the best way that the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can think of to educate people this holiday season?

Source: USDOTNHTSA

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The way Christmas should sound!

Posted in Ford, General, muscle cars, Music, Mustang, Videos by MrAngry | December 25th, 2013 | 2 Responses |

Christmas Stang

There are a few of us out there who think that Santa’s sleigh should be powered by a blown nitro-burning big-block, and that Rudolph’s nose should be replaced with a pair of angel-eyes from a BMW. Not only do I understand this mentality, but I totally agree with it. You see for us car guys Christmas is not so much a time of giving gifts, as it is a time too build, modify and create. Hot rods, imports and euro-sleds from around the world are enclosed in their garages for the winter just waiting for their owners to lay their hands upon them and upgrade, upgrade, upgrade. Some of us live in the land of snow and ice, which mean that our winters are long and harsh. Those in the sunshine belt however are blessed, as they truly can enjoy this holiday season. For those of us who are part of the chosen-frozen, I would like to present you with this Mustang fastback, as nothing says Merry Christmas like a well tuned V8.

Source: Youtube.com

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