Friday, July 24, 2009

The Trailer [Obsessions]

Growing up, my parents had a trailer. It was a rusty flat bed model that came with an old snowmobile by father bought on an impulse one weekend at a garage sale. We used it to haul all sorts of ungainly stuff (even the occasional sled, an old Bombadier).

Once, my old man hauled all of our family's possessions when we moved to a new house. That trailer was awesome, and we got far more value from it than the snowmobile.

Ever since , I've wanted a trailer. Preferably one that can haul a car. Alas, the SWMBO says that we can't park one on the street outside our house. The perils of city living. :-(

But I can LOOK, right?

Besides, this is what can happen when you don't use a trailer.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

WHY Do You Want a Hybrid?

To be GREEN and save money, right? WRONG.

Earlier this week, Jalopnik reported that Honda was rushing a mid-model refresh of the 2010 Insight to make it more competitive with the Toyota Prius. So I took some time to dig a little deeper.

Turns out that you'd be FAR better off buying a USED Civic than either a NEW Prius or Insight. If you're a typical driver slogging out 15,000 miles a year, you can save more than $5,500 by buying a Civic. Despite promises of efficiency, it will end up costing you nearly 40% MORE to own a nifty hybrid.

Take a look at the spreadsheet below where I've laid out the essential specs:

Here's more food for thought.

The used Civic in the example above is more fun to drive than either Hybrid. For one thing, you can find it in a manual transmission. It's also lighter AND more powerful than the hybrid wonder duo.

Not only is it more FUN and will cost you LESS, you'll also be utilizing something that has already been produced. The dirty, inconvenient truth is that manufacturing a typical new vehicle takes enormous amounts of energy and natural resources. Production of the batteries and other components of hybrid drive systems add even more. A used vehicle has already been produced. Buying a used car means one less new car on the roads.

What about reliability and maintenance costs?

Are you serious? Honda Civics are so reliable that some enthusiasts actually avoid them. They're boring because they hardly ever break down. Even so, in the spreadsheet above, I added in a huge amount for potential maintenance on the Civic. I also used the Blue Book price, and if you can't find a price below blue book, you're not even trying.

If you want to be GREEN, skip the hybrid and buy a used car. Want to see how much GREEN you'd save? Download the spreadsheet and try your own scenario.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Alfa Shopping

Now that we know Alfa's coming back, maybe it's time to snag a classic.

Let's visit the usual dope pushers: CRAIGSLIST and EBAY

Here's a 1984 Spider. Low miles, will need some TLC, but only $5500 asking. (click if link broken)

How about a 1983 Spider? Even lower miles and possibly better condition, $6500 asking. Not sure about the snow tires though. (click if link broken).

So you don't want a Spider... How about a rare 1985 GTV? Clearly owned by an enthusiast with several performance mods. $6900. (click if link broken).

Not rare enough for you? Try this slightly used 2008 8C Competizione. Only 500 built worldwide, you buy it now price for $279,460. (click if link broken)

p.s. ... nobody tell my wife I'm looking at these.

image: orsorama

Alfa Romeo Strikes Back

I still remember the first Alfa Romeo I ever saw. For a teenage boy, that slinky Spider was sex on wheels. That evening, I recall thumbing through Road and Track's annual buyers guide for the specs.

The best part? Unlike the other Italians, this one was reasonably affordable. It retailed for $13,000. But then Alfa pulled out of the US market in 1995, crushing my hopes and dreams.

Well after nearly 15 years, Alfa is finally returning to the United States. According to the Times, the MiTo and 500 will be the first models to arrive.

Who can we thank? The (mis) management of Chrysler, of course, and the oh-so smart private equity team at Cerberus. Because of its financial troubles, Fiat (the parent of Alfa Romeo) acquired a large stake in distressed Chrysler. Voila! a dealer network. The missing ingredient.

Of course, there is no guarantee that the Spider will come back (but it should!). And don't expect to buy parts for your Milano at your local Chrylser dealer anytime soon.

image: Dave 7

Thursday, July 9, 2009