Driving in the US

Ah, America.  I love America, they do so many things so very well.  Nothing exists across the pond without it being fettled and honed until it can’t really get any better. Take the English-style pub.  They could copy the idea wholesale and nobody would complain – but no, they make it better.  So we get real ales and we get fish and chips and dry roasted peanuts.  But we also get room to move, we get food that’s reliably and consistently excellent, and we get the piece de resistance – a waitress who not only brings you all your drinks, but actually keeps an eye on your fluid levels and comes and asks you if you want another one as you’re getting to the bottom of the glass!  And you don’t have to pay until you leave!  It makes me want to cry with happiness, it really does.  And I don’t begrudge having to tip everybody when the service is like that.


But there’s one thing Americans can’t do.  You know what it is, it’s what we always bang on about hear at Team Moo-Moo.  Cars.  I know, Americans will largely disagree with this, but la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you, American cars are rubbish, so there.  They’re too big, they’re too thirsty, they’re not quick enough, but most importantly, the suspension is made of flubber.  Corner at anything approaching cheerfulness and you feel your insides slop around like a walrus on a waltzer.  Even European cars behave like that over there, because they destroy the suspension settings for the local market.  You see, it won’t sell if it handles well.  You need your 72oz slurpy to be able to sit in the mug-holder without dribbling over your shotgun in the footwell.  Bleurgh.


So I generally don’t drive much Stateside.  I’ve done it, I’ve sampled a variety of roadgoing yank-yachts, I’ve written my name in a car park with a Chevy Corsica, but I’ve yet to find a septic tank that offered any kind of fun whatsoever.  I drove a Viper once.  Oh my god, what a laughably atrocious tractor-fart that was!  My enduring memory of that drive was turning into a tight left at a ridiculously slow speed and having enough time as it understeered like a pilchard to gape open-mouthed at the chap showing me the ropes and have him apologetically shrug in a way that could only mean, “yeah, I know, it does that.  Sorry.”


So I don’t have any driving stories to relate about my recent trip west.  So here are some photos of the various calamities that tickled my interest while I was there.


Typically ludicrously shiny “mini-van” in Ohio (God only knows what a full sized van looks like)


Transport from the Vegas airport, which bizarrely works out cheaper than a cab if you have a reasonably large group.

Limo dash … that lever thingy is your gear selector.  No idea why they do that.


“The Strip” with lots of little air-conditioned land-boats.


Typical trucks parked in regular-sized parking spaces in Ohio.  That’s one thing that’s great about US driving (outside cities anyway) – the car parks are enormous and never fill up, no matter how many cruise liners are parked in them.


Phil’s Jetta that did most of my ferrying around.  Phil is rare amongst Americans in that he drives a manual (a.k.a. “stick shift”).  Most of our transatlantic cousins don’t know how to do that.  Seriously.


I had the car for a day.  It felt like being a learner again.  Everything was on the wrong side and the traffic laws are different, and I didn’t know where I was going, so I had to concentrate on every last detail.  Just as well there aren’t any bends or I’d’ve been doomed.


Comically big truck parked with no sense of irony in the middle of Columbus.


I must stop taking photos of big trucks.  They’re everywhere, I’ll run the camera’s battery down.  This one’s in Westerville, by the Amish shop (!)


Beer truck!  Well, a Miller truck.  But they still call it a beer truck.


Fire truck!  I’d never considered before why we call them fire “engines”.  Doesn’t make sense.  We’re not talking about the engine.  Fire truck is better.


Friendly fire-fighter showing me around.  Americans are so chummy, I love it  :)



This triggered a pang of nostalgia for all those Dukes of Hazzard type programmes where everyone was always dashing to the County Line so the rozzers couldn’t nail them.  Ah, simpler times.


You don’t need a front registration number (“license plate”) but we had one.  Inside the car.



So on the whole I’ve decided I like being driven around America more than I like driving it.  Maybe I’ll change my mind when I see the Pacific Coast Highway … until I remember it’s a 45 limit covered in rotund, gun-toting, power-crazed Napoleons who’ll put you in jail if you fart too loud.  And for god’s sake don’t let on if you’re not religious.  They’re a bit backward about that kind of thing.


I love it  :)

Alex Zanardi

Sport is silly. It makes no sense at all to dedicate your entire life to being faster, or stronger, or better with a bat than everybody else. It makes even less sense to idolise these people for their selfishness. Pick your average fireman off the street and he’s a thousand times more worthy of your respect than somebody who cripples their own life and the lives of those close to them with their pointless dedication, purely to be a bit better at a game somebody invented 200 years ago for a bit of a laugh.

But occasionally someone comes along who transcends sport. Despite his frivolous endeavours he stands head and shoulders above his fellow man as a shining example of what humankind could be if we weren’t all bitching with each other and writing pointless blogs.

That man is Alex Zanardi.

He’s the guy who used to drive in F1 (not particularly successfully) and then lost both his legs in a hideous Champ Car accident. And then went on to win races in World Touring Cars. With no legs.

Well he’s just won a Paralympic Gold Medal. In hand-cycling, a sport he hadn’t even tried ten years ago. Against a field of chaps half his age. The man’s a legend.

Finally there’s a sportsman we can justifiably admire. Stand up Alex Zanardi.

Well no, don’t stand up. But you know what I mean.

The Original Pig in a Poke

Well, Mikey and I are drifting this coming Saturday and no doubt Mike will be updating his blog on the cheap MX5 (sister car to my green one) that he wasn’t going to spend money on……. Ahem!!!!!
Having seen it on the ramp at QR Sport, it is now sitting nicely with proper suspension and a fabulous set of wheels and tyres!
The idea when I bought the green MX5 was to use it as a drifting hack and a general car to drive without spending money on it.
I too have fallen by the wayside…. not quite to the level that Mike has, but nonetheless I have been spending some money and a lot of time cleaning and polishing.
With Mum’s black Auto now back on the road it’s time to lavish a bit more time and effort on the original Pig In a Poke in the forthcoming weeks.

When Jimbo drove the green MX5 up from Southampton on the Pageant of Power weekend in June, the green MX5 looked faded and unloved. It was at that point I should have done the cambelt and the brakes and kept her as a ‘ratty’ hack…. but NO! I can’t be doing that. I will drive anything around… but it must be clean and tidy, and if it can shine I like it to!

Out with the autoglym / glyptone / G3 / Wurth glass cleaner, etc etc.

With other projects (PIAP 3) and my silver trackday car taking up most of my time, the green MX5 has slowly developed from it’s original state, to the lovely shiny green machine that took my wife down to the Goodwood revival and back last weekend in relative comfort, and achieving 36mpg!

Here are a few pics to show how she’s come on.

(Bilstein suspension is ready to be fitted so that she will be about 2 inches lower in the next blog.)

Original Pics when Jimbo collected her…



A bit of elbow grease, new brakes, wheels and tyres and hey presto!




Coming on nicely!



Pig In a Poke 3. The reveal!

Well, after several hours putting the engine back together, the little black MX5 automatic lives again!
Not wanting to delay the reveal any longer, I finally gave my Mum the car 10 days ago and she burst into tears!

Now Mum has her own MX5 she thinks she’s the bees knees, as do her friends. She spent the next day phoning them all, and most of them have asked for a ride out in it with the roof down!

A little bit of further work was required a couple of days later, and once a sensor and thermostat were replaced along with a new radiator, she now (fingers crossed and touching wood) seems to run like, well a Mazda MX5!

Keep everything crossed for her, because she deserves some good luck and enjoyment.

Here are a few photo’s of the car, a very broken thermostat, and her face when I carried out the reveal!





All that work was worth the look on her face, and the smile that immediately followed.