Friday, November 22, 2013


Found photos from this very-DIY photo shoot that never got posted. Worth a share, I think. My old E34 and my dad's E60.


It's been some time since I sold the motorbike and I have the itch for another toy. I never used the bike how I intended. This was due to several things. First, I always rode alone. I never was able to work out group rides which would have undoubtedly been more fun. It wasn't ideal for carrying a passenger. It has no luggage and hard bag options were NLA from Kawasaki. I've been looking at sporty-touring bike but nothing seems to be just right. I think it's something else, though. Motorcycles just don't push all the right buttons for me.

It would seem to be a great option: cheaper to run, has the open-air feeling and handling like a bicycle (which I love), and are quantifiably much, much faster. In truth, motorcycles are something entirely different. It's certainly nothing like driving a car, even a race car. It's nothing like a bicycle, either. While a bicycle tends to create the sense of freedom, blending (for better or worse) the abilities of a vehicle and a pedestrian, a motorbike does not. There is also the sense of danger. Lectures from every single acquaintance aside, there is a sense of danger every time you ride the motorbike. You literally put on armor before you ride, ready to do battle with physics. Part of the fun is the thrill, the knowledge of what could go wrong.

I think I've just been a car guy for too long: my whole life. There are things about a car that I just love. Little idiosyncratic things that have been ingrained in me. A lot of the aesthetics and technology just doesn't transfer over to motorbikes. I love rally cars (especially group B) but motocross and adventure riding aren't the same. Slip angles are fun and they just aren't in the cards for two-wheeled vehicles.

At the same time, I've become a huge fan of the financial freedom that car-lite life has offered. When you're not paying for two cars and the associated costs, you can make some pretty stellar bicycles appear every few months. Silly, excessive, and unsustainable I know, but it's what happened. I really enjoyed it. All of my friends ride bikes so all my spare time it spent riding with friends. My whole social life revolves around bicycles and I love it.

At the same time, there was a hole. I missed cars. I am very lucky to not have to commute and have no wish to return to that. I am lucky to be able to enjoy a car only when I want to, and not mandatory everyday traffic-time. So I came to start searching for the right car. Moving from Wisconsin to North Carolina, many of my criteria changed. All-wheel-drive isn't a must, and may be a detriment in this snow-free climate. Convertibles are now a legitimate option. There were many cars I dismissed in Wisconsin for these reasons. I talked to friends about their opinions, and even got to drive some of their cars. That's where I had my first revelation.

A friend need to borrow our Jetta wagon with the tandem carrier to transport a cargo bike. In exchange, he left a 1997 Miata M-edition for me to use. I had only ever driven a Miata once before, and I remember it being tiny and terrible. This was different. Maybe I was more tolerant. The car was so much fun. Yes, my line of sight at 6'5" is right in line with the top-most, non-transparent bit of the windshield, but I did fit. The gearshift is one of the best I've tried, the clutch and steering are crisp without being obtrusive, and the motor (with a cat-back) made a pretty good sound. I never liked the convertible aesthetic but I had to admit it was fun in the summer and let your hear more of the engine and exhaust noise.

As fun as that was, and as compelling as the sub-$5000 market price is, I didn't really fit in a Miata. I also was struggling against my love for weird, flawed cars. Which lead me to drive an S2000. The S2000 is a seriously special car. The cockpit is two tight tunnels with just enough space to not feel oppressive. That digital dash is awesome, and is that sculpted wheel. The transmission is even better than the Miata, probably what people who shoot guns describe as "rifle bolt" action. The driving experience didn't quite match the cockpit, at least not at sane speeds. The motor is peppy but doesn't come alive unless really worked. At that point, it's straight-up blitzkrieg. The sound isn't fantastic but there's no denying it's fast. The handling is very sharp, with lots of grip but not a lot of feedback. It seemed like a lot of money for something that won't be that much more fun than a Miata 90% of the time.

So I then (after saying I didn't want to live in the shadow of M96 engine failure again) stumbled upon a clean 2.5L Boxster. What caught my eye was one photo on the autotrader ad: an owner's manual full of dealer service stamps. I went to see the car and it was as-described. Clean, but not perfect. I drove it and it was fantastic. It really did feel like a baby 911. There was a lot of flat-six noise, firm brakes, and that communicative steering. I ran some numbers, talked the dealer down to about $2k less that blue book, and bought it. I would have preferred an 'S' car, and the 3-spoke steering wheel, and the tan interior, but it was the right car at the right time. I love it.