Real Automotive Heroes: 3-Pedal Minivan Edition

Dodge Caravan Turbo Manual Transmission

Every once in a great while you come across a true luminary in the world of automotive enthusiast-dom.  The individual that inspires excitement in us less-committed gearheads and scorn from his or her significant other; automotive hero to some, cautionary tale to others.

It takes a certain caliber of automotive hero to produce the work seen above.  A rather pristine example of a 25 year-old Dodge Caravan is enough to capture your initial interest, but it’s the “NO PRNDL” adorning the license plate – perhaps the most profound letters to grace a van since “free candy” – that truly grabs your attention.

A quick check of the cabin reveals your wildest hopes / worst nightmare – the driver of this Caravan has successfully warded off middle age malaise with the judicious application of three pedals and a proper row-your-own ‘box.  You, manual minivan driver, are a real automotive hero.

Big Sur and a BMW M3

Green BMW E36 M3 in Big Sur PCH CA-1

California State Route 1 — alternatively the Coast Highway, Cabrillo Highway, Pacific Coast Highway, or the PCH — is perhaps one of the ultimate drives in the US.  That is if you’re not stuck behind 10 cars trailing a diesel soot-spewing 1970s Winnebago with about even odds of summiting the next small rise.

Photo details: A then new-to-me BMW E36 M3 in Big Sur back in 2007 during a road trip from SF to LA.  Shot on a crappy point-and-shoot hence the low resolution.  Edited via Photoshop to remove any indication of the vacation traffic that frequently snarls what is an otherwise amazing driving route.  You can click on the photo for the full resolution version.

Street Parked: Lloyd Alexander outside Munich

Blue Lloyd Alexander

On the subject of Lloyd automobiles, the book of Wikipedia states that there is “little prestige to be gained by driving a Lloyd,” and “he who is not afraid of death, drives a Lloyd.”  In other words, this car is only 50% Dodge Viper.

In fact, the Lloyd Alexander really is a story of half measures.  Nearly all Lloyds possessed only two cylinders — most employing two strokes, rather than the now common four.  A rear bench seat was available (as an option), and early models boasted a body fashioned out of wood and fabric.  By the time the steel-bodied Alexander rolled off the production line in 1957 Lloyd had almost doubled engine output to a staggering 19 horsepower, which could propel this little guy to nearly 100 km/h, assuming the driver possessed both the fortitude and a strong tailwind.

As you can see in the photograph above, this Alexander is securely attached to a trailer, which is likely the safest way to travel by Lloyd, and probably the fastest too.

Street Parked: Bentley S2 Saloon in Paris

Black Bentley S2 Saloon Street Parked in Paris

I learned two important things today.  First of all, Photoshop’s Oil Paint filter is a great way to salvage crappy pixelated cell phone photos.  Second, even as a car enthusiast I can barely tell Rolls Royces and Bentleys apart (more on that in a future post).

The former is important because according to my wife I am an awful photographer (she’s likely right).  This is probably because I take the same approach to photographing people as I do to shooting cars.  Namely, stand in the middle of the street, get as close to the ground as possible (slightly below street level ideally), and then throw every possible filter at the resulting image until it looks halfway decent.  While this generally works for cars, most of my human portraits end up looking like some unintentional, cheap (and not at all artistic) imitation of an Andy Warhol pop art portrait.

The latter is important because I’m sure that whomever owns said Bentley is acutely aware of the difference between his Bentley and the equally unreliable Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II.  This is likely not limited to the fact that Bentley chose the more pedestrian “2” in their model designation, while I can’t help but identify the equivalent Rolls Royce as Silver Cloud, the Second.  Fortunately (unfortunately?), my depleted bank account does not discriminate.

To be honest, I have no problem having fun at the expense of owners of early ’60s British saloons as 1) they don’t use the internet, and 2) if they did they would not have made it past my inability to correctly differentiate between whoever/whomever in the first sentence of the last paragraph.  Crisis averted.

Can You Autocross a Jeep Grand Cherokee? (Video)

Silver WK Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8 Autocross

Yes… yes you can.  We actually decided to answer this question this past fall after a season of autocross totally lacking in high center-of-gravity, two-wheeled drama.

I invited a friend along to the final points event of the Chicago-area BMWCCA autocross season. The organizers resisted but we were eventually able to successfully register a WK (3rd gen) Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8 citing its lower ride height and performance upgrades.  The club initially required an instructor ride-along given lingering concerns about stability but eventually relented and pretty soon everyone was looking to grab an available seat.

My friend and his Jeep actually did pretty well, placing mid-pack in the non-BMW class with much more nimble entrants ranging from Honda Civics to Porsche GT3s.  Most importantly, he kept the shiny side up.

Photo credit: Schettel, Windy City BMW

Street Parked: Aston Martin DB6 in Paris

Aston Martin DB6 in ParisApparently it’s quite common to find this Aston Martin DB6 street parked around Paris.  I spotted it just off the Champs Élysées in the posh 8th arrondissement just a short walk from AM’s Paris dealership.  Would you take this over a modern Vantage?  Tough call…


Street Parked: Willys Jeep in Joshua Tree

Willys Jeep in Joshua Tree

Took a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park a few winters ago and came across this pristine Willys Jeep at the abandoned Desert Queen Ranch.  Should you decide to venture up to the ranch to check out this specimen I am almost certain it will still be there…

More pictures follow: Continue reading