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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 | Leave a Reply |

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.

Michelin Pilot Super Sport: Track Review

Posted in Featured, General, muscle cars, Mustang, Other, Tires by MrAngry | September 22nd, 2013 | 1 Response |

IMAG1150

So last week I had mentioned that I was heading down to Laguna Seca with my 2013 Ford Mustang GT. Aside from being a factory track pack car, the only upgrades are stainless steel brake lines, upgraded pads and some high temp fluid, otherwise, that’s it. When it came to tires (and as mentioned in my previous post) I ditched the worn out Pirelli P Zero’s and mounted a shiny new set of Michelin Pilot Super Sports. The goal was to baseline the car in stock form for a year and then incrementally upgrade it based on my findings.

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eBay Deal of the Week: 1990 Molser Consulier Targa

Posted in Best of, Domestic Rides, eBay Motors, General, Other, Promoted, Rides by MrAngry | July 1st, 2013 | 2 Responses |

1990MolserConsulierTarga_1

Spyker, Koenigsegg, Bugatti, Pagani and Mosler. Boutique car companies who have made names for themselves selling rare icons of automotive performance to the public. Today these companies are fairly well known, but in the beginning they were little more than brief mentions in the automotive rags of the day. Mosler is one such company, and this 1990 Molser Consulier Targa that currently resides on eBay is one of the cars that helped put them on the map. Oddly enough, when you read the spec sheet on the Consulier Targa, performance is the last thing that comes to mind. For instance, the engine was a 2.2-liter Turbo II Chrysler engine. It was the same one that powered K-cars, Minivans, and the Dodge Daytona’s of the day. Power was estimated at around 200 hp, with a 0-60 time of 5 seconds. The big news however was that Consulier was offering $25,000 to any regular production car who could beat their cars around a race track.

The one you see here has just 11,288 miles on the clock, has never been titled, and is one of 100 units built from 1985-1993. That means this is one very rare car. Click through to check out more pics and a video, or click on the link below to go directly to the ad.

Source: eBayMotors.com

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2013 VW Beetle Convertible With Sound & Nav: RideLust Review

Posted in Car Reviews, European Review, Featured, RideLust Review, Volkswagen by Kurt Ernst | March 25th, 2013 | 1 Response |

2013 VW Beetle Convertible

Thumbs Up: Better than the last Beetle Convertible in every way

Thumbs Down: Cloth seats not available, not much rear passenger room

Buy This Car If: You were there in the 1970s and long for your first Beetle convertible

It’s probably safe to say that few cars ever sold in North America achieved quite as large a cult following as the original Volkswagen Beetle. Countless numbers of us learned to drive behind the wheel of a Volkswagen Beetle, and those of us in snow-belt states soon learned the advantage of skinny tires and a rear-mounted engine in winter. We also learned about things like snap oversteer on black ice, ejecting windshield wiper blades and a heating system that varied between “primitive” and “nonexistent.” Read More…

2014 Mazda6 i Grand Touring: RideLust Review

Posted in Car Reviews, Featured, Import Review, Mazda, RideLust Review by Kurt Ernst | March 18th, 2013 | 3 Responses |

2014 Mazda6 i

Thumbs Up: Perhaps the best-looking midsize sedan, premium feel

Thumbs Down: Could use more power, transmission not particularly sporty

Buy This Car If: You’re shopping for a midsize sedan with good looks and an upscale feel

While this may not come as a surprise to many readers, Mazda doesn’t sell nearly as many Mazda6 sedans as Honda sells Accords or Toyota sells Camrys. That’s not to say the previous Mazda6 was a bad car, but it was easily lost in the crowd, especially when competitors spend serious money on television and print advertising. Read More…

2013 Honda Accord Sport: RideLust Review

Posted in Car Reviews, Featured, Honda, Import Review, RideLust Review by Kurt Ernst | March 11th, 2013 | 1 Response |

2013 Honda Accord Sport

Thumbs Up: Reasonable power and ride quality

Thumbs Down: Sport in name only with CVT

Buy This Car If: You want Honda reliability in a relatively entertaining midsize sedan

When Honda redesigned the Accord for the 2013 model year, it also made a serious attempt to broaden the product line and appeal to an even wider array of customers. One such model is the new-for-2013 Accord Sport, which lies one step up from the bottom of the range and is meant to appeal to younger buyers looking for some entertainment value with their family sedan. Read More…

2013 Mazda 3 i Grand Touring Sedan: RideLust Review

Posted in Car Reviews, Featured, Import Review, Mazda, RideLust Review by Kurt Ernst | March 4th, 2013 | Leave a Reply |

2013 Mazda3 i Grand Touring

Thumbs Up: Impressive handling and fuel economy; good content for the money

Thumbs Down: Dated exterior design

Buy This Car If: You want a commuter car that delivers both features and frugality

Just a few short years ago , a car that served up features like a blind spot detection system, adaptive headlights, Bluetooth audio streaming, navigation, keyless entry with push-button start, rain-sensing wipers and a Bose Centerpoint surround-sound audio system would have fallen into the luxury car realm, priced far out of reach of the average consumer. Read More…

2013 Kia Optima SX Limited: RideLust Review

Posted in Car Reviews, Featured, Import Review, Kia, RideLust Review by Kurt Ernst | February 25th, 2013 | Leave a Reply |

2013 Kia Optima SXL

Thumbs Up: Looks good, best-equipped Kia we’ve ever driven

Thumbs Down: More chrome does not equal more luxury

Buy This Car If: You’re a Kia loyalist who’s looking for entry-level luxury

Not too many years ago, Korean automotive brands were shopped almost exclusively by those who couldn’t afford a Japanese alternative. Then Hyundai and Kia borrowed a page from the Japanese automaker playbook; once they’d drawn in the initial batch of customers with low prices, the Korean brands began to step up quality. Read More…

2013 Honda Accord Coupe EX-L V6: RideLust Review

Posted in Car Reviews, Featured, Honda, Import Review, RideLust Review by Kurt Ernst | February 18th, 2013 | Leave a Reply |

2013 Honda Accord Coupe EX-L

Thumbs Up: Usable back seat, Acura quality with a Honda price tag

Thumbs Down: Stops just short of being a driver’s car

Buy This Car If: You need sedan-like room but prefer a coupe body style

Honda has completely revamped its Accord lineup for 2013, and an all-new Accord Coupe is among the models. While that may have been met with some indifference in the past, the 2013 Honda Accord Coupe is a surprisingly capable car that looks great both inside and out. In fact, the only thing we can’t figure out about the new Accord Coupe, especially in higher-trim versions, is why it’s sporting a Honda badge and not an Acura logo. Read More…

2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club: RideLust Review

Posted in Car Reviews, Featured, Import Review, Mazda, Promoted, RideLust Review by Kurt Ernst | February 11th, 2013 | 2 Responses |

2013 Maxda MX-5 Miata Club

Thumbs Up: Still delivers razor-sharp handling and superb value

Thumbs Down: Long overdue for replacement

Buy This Car If: You prefer your affordable fun in topless form

Mazda’s MX-5 Miata, in its current form, dates back to the 2006 model year. That’s when the second generation of the world’s favorite sports car gave way to the current generation, dubbed “NC” in Miata-speak. Seven years is a long time to sell any model without significant changes, but the Mazda MX-5 Miata has one primary advantage: it’s outlived all of its competition. Read More…