If it\’s got an engine. . .

Dorri probably likes it

Archive for November, 2004

1983 vs. 1983

Posted by ifitsgotanengine on November 17, 2004

And the winner is . . .

Of the considerable number of cars I’ve owned over the past 17 years, only two have been from model year 1983. My 1983 Mercury Capri GS (my first car) and my 1983 BMW 533i (my current car).

This got me thinking about the similarities and differences between these two vehicles.

They both have 6 cylinder engines up front driving the rear wheels. That’s about it for similarities.

The differences are many, as these are two cars intended for different audiences. I will focus only on the engines for now.

Executive Car Service provides corporate New York car service and luxury JFK International airport transportation throughout the New York Metropolitan area.

The Capri’s engine is a V6 displacing 3.8 liters while the BMW’s is an inline 6 displacing only 3.2 liters. The BMW makes better use of its displacement however, making 181 horsepower to the Capri’s 112. The Capri’s V6 had no rev limiter, but you wouldn’t voluntarily rev it past 5000 RPM anyway. It sounded like it was coming apart and didn’t make any useful power when revved that high. The BMW has a rev limiter at ~6500 RPM which I test almost daily.

Why the wildly different character for two 6 cylinder engines manufactured the same year?

One clue can be found by pricing rebuilt engines for each: for the Capri: $1484. For the BMW: $3895.


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Unintended Acceleration

Posted by ifitsgotanengine on November 12, 2004

Several years back, the Audi 5000 was accused of randomly surging forward at full throttle, even though the brakes were pressed. An episode of CBS’s 60 Minutes in which an Audi 5000 had been rigged to jump forward with nobody inside probably didn’t help matters.
Audi was eventually absolved of any wrongdoings, however. They managed to prove that the brakes (all of which functioned properly after the unintended accelerations) were strong enough to hold the car against full throttle. That is, if the brakes were depressed with the car in gear and then the gas floored, the car would not move. This does not surprise me.
But that’s not how it happened in the accidents. First the car lunged forward, then the brakes were pressed.
In almost all modern automobiles, the power brake booster gets its assist from engine vacuum. At full throttle, there is no vacuum. There is a reserve in the booster itself, usually enough to operate the brakes two or three times. After that, they become much more difficult to operate.
Imagine if you will. . .
You are an elderly lady. You get into your car and put it into drive. the car leaps forward, even though you haven’t pressed the gas. You stab the brakes. The nose of the car dives down. You let off the brakes. The car lunges forward again. You press the brakes again. Nothing happens. . .
Having said that, I still don’t think the Audis were at fault.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Beta testing

Posted by ifitsgotanengine on November 10, 2004

A lot is made of beta versions of software. These are pre-release versions which are made available to a small audience for the sole purpose of discovering any flaws or usability issues prior to a full-blown public release. I think this practice should spread outside the realm of computers, into the design and testing of other objects.

My coffeemaker, for example.

The on/off rocker switch on my coffeemaker is so stiff to operate that even if the water reservoir is full, I must use my free hand to hold the coffeemaker down to keep it from sliding away as I try to turn it on.

All it would have taken to catch this is one person to actually make coffee with it prior to okaying it for production. A lighter operating switch would probably be cheaper, to boot.

There’s a great website for this kind of useability issues: www.thisisbroken.com. I first ran across this website in Popular Science magazine. Every month they feature one submission from the site.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

$2005 Challenge

Posted by ifitsgotanengine on November 8, 2004

Ever since I first heard of the Grassroots Motorsports $1999 challenge back in – you guessed it – 1999, I have been just itching to compete.

The concept behind the event is simple: Just purchase and prepare a car to compete in an autocross, a drag race, and a concours-type car show judging. All within a budget of (next year) $2005.00. This leads to some pretty creative engineering.

My entry for the $2005 event is a 1983 BMW 533i that I purchased for $400.00. I have since put another $250 or so into it by purchasing new rear shocks (ebay), brake pads (also ebay) and used Hoosier racing tires (GRM message board). My goal is not to win. Not even to place in the top 10.

My goal is to be able to drive the car home after the competition is over.

Wish me luck.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Restoration or Restification

Posted by ifitsgotanengine on November 8, 2004

Charging headfirst into a heated debate . . .

When maintaining a classic auto, there comes a time when one is faced with the choice between replacing a component with the standard factory replacement or using an “improved” version of the same. For most people, the choice comes down to price, or more specifically value: which alternative will give me the most miles for my money?

There are those who will argue (vehemently) that you should always use factory replacement parts on a classic car; anything else degrades the value of the car and is an insult to all who view it. The very thought of replacing the worn out Muncie M-20 “rock-crusher” 4 speed manual transmission on their Chevelle with a Borg-Warner T-56 6 speed out of a wrecked Camaro makes these people livid. How dare we question the decisions made by the engineers at GM?
I am promoting a different slant on this debate. First of all, if you own the automobile, do whatever you want. It’s your car, period. Having said that, I personally do factor the decisions of the original engineers into my automotive modifications. For instance; I believe that if the engineers who designed my 1979 Trans Am had had access to a programmable closed-loop fuel injection system for the same price as the Rochester Quadrajet carburetor, they would have used it in a heartbeat.
Just some fuel for the fire.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

It’s the little things

Posted by ifitsgotanengine on November 4, 2004

My two biggest pet peeves with automotive design are seatbelts that are difficult to buckle and turn signal switches that don’t have an increase in resistance prior to fully engaging.

Seatbelts: One of the items that I use every time I drive my (or any other) car. A properly designed seatbelt should be able to be fastened in the dark with one hand the first time you’ve ever been in the car. Very rarely is this the case. When I was in High School I had a friend with a 1988 Chevy S10. This truck had the easiest to operate seatbelts of any I’ve found to date. The belt had rollers at the top and the bottom and the latch stood up several inches above the seat instead of being buried in the seat cushions.

Perhaps the automakers know that I will use the seatbelt no matter how difficult it is to operate.

Executive Car Service provides corporate New York car service and luxury JFK International airport transportation throughout the New York Metropolitan area.

Turn signal switches: The only thing that bothers me more than difficult to operate seatbelts is poorly designed switchgear. After all, I only use the seatbelts once per drive. Sometimes I wonder if the design engineers ever drive the cars they design. How else could they fail to notice how annoying it is to be forced to manually cancel your blinker after changing lanes? My 1993 Oldsmobile Achieva (hereafter referred to as the UnderAcheiva) had no redeeming qualities except a blinker switch with a distinct breakpoint prior to full engagement.

Maybe I notice this because I actually use my turn signals to signal lane changes (gasp!).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Maintenance or Engineering Design?

Posted by ifitsgotanengine on November 3, 2004

Why do some cars just last longer?

I used to think it was 95% due to maintenance practices and 5% due to design. For example, the cars that tend to last longest (think Mercedes and BMW) are also typically more expensive.

Wait a minute! Doesn’t that mean that more money was spent engineering a more durable engine?

Not necessesarily.

Consider if you will: Those cars which cost more also command higher monthly payments. People who can afford higher payments typically make more money. People who make more money typically can (and do) afford to take their car to the dealer for routine maintenance.

The logical conclusion of this argument is that the $50K Mercedes gets more frequent oil changes than the $10K Hyundai, therefore lasting longer.

But what about the $10K Honda that outlasts both?

Executive Car Service provides corporate Baltimore sedan service and luxury BWI International airport transportation throughout the Baltimore Metropolitan area.

While I still think that maintenance has a definate effect on vehicle longevity, I am certain that the vehicle design is the leading factor. I have recently purchased a 1983 BMW 533i. An expensive car when new, but I paid $400 for this less than shining example. My wife thinks I did not get my money’s worth. The fact that this car has not received any maintenance in an extremely long time is readily apparant. However, this car – which had 245,206 miles when the odometer broke – runs perfectly. I have since spoken with other BMW owners and the general consensus is that 300-400 thousand miles is the norm before these cars need any engine work.

I cannot believe that this is due to maintenance practices alone.

Please don’t take this to mean that you should stop changing your oil. On any particular car proper maintenance wil extend the useful operating life.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Future Classics

Posted by ifitsgotanengine on November 3, 2004

Quick! Name one car made 50 years ago that is considered a classic today.

Not too difficult is it? Much more challenging would be to come up with a 1954 model car which, when driving down today’s roads, does not make heads turn. There may be some, but none that I can think of off the top of my head.

Now, name one car made 20 years ago that is considered a classic today.

Considered by whom? That’s an excellent question. I’m going to apply the same criterion as above. A car made in 1984 which turns heads when driving down today’s roads.

This is a much more difficult challenge. It seems that 1984 was not a good year for the automobile. Not even a Corvette from that era warrants a second glance. Moving down to the more plebian Camaro and Mustang is even less inspiring.

There are some cars that rise to the occasion. I’m going to skip over the exotics, listing only cars that can be easily purchased today for $10,000 or less in good condition. This is considerably less than half of the average price paid for new cars today.

Porsche 928

Jaguar XJS

Alfa Romeo Spider

Mercedes Benz SL

They are out there, but they are harder to find. I’m sure that I have left many candidates off of this list. If I missed your favorite, drop me a line.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Soul Searching

Posted by ifitsgotanengine on November 3, 2004

What is it about some cars that stirs the soul? It’s not simply a performance issue.

My 1998 Audi A4 with its 1.8 liter turbocharged 4 cylinder engine driving all four wheels will drive circles around my 1983 BMW 533i with its 3.2 liter inline six cylinder driving the rear wheels. Everything about the Audi is light and easy. The shifter moves nicely from one gear to the next, the steering wheel places the car exactly where I want it in my lane. The clutch is no chore at all to operate.

However, even when driving at 10/10ths my pulse never races.

Almost everything about the BMW seems crude in comparison to the Audi. The shifter is balky, resisting downshifts. The clutch is a bear to hold disengaged for more than a few moments. The steering, even though power assisted, requires more than twice the effort to hold the car on course through a curve.

Executive Car Service provides corporate Baltimore sedan service and luxury BWI International airport transportation throughout the Baltimore Metropolitan area.

But all it takes to give me goosebumps is one run through the gears. Just the sweet sound of the BMW’s six racing toward redline is enough to send shivers down my spine.

I’m certainly not trying to imply that the source of a car’s holding power over me is simply the sound of the exhaust note. That’s just one factor. The others are more difficult to put into words.

I’d certainly like to hear any thoughts on the matter. Either post a comment here or email me at dorri732 at gmail dot com.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Some cars on my wish list

Posted by ifitsgotanengine on November 3, 2004

These are some of the cars I’d like to one day own. Price IS a factor, but these are in no particular order.

1. 1992-1997 BMW 850: These are gorgeous cars and fast to boot.

2. 1979-198? Porsche 928: Think Risky Business.

3. 1979 Pontiac Trans Am: I just can’t get enough.

4. 197? Fiat X1/9: The first time I saw one of these, I couldn’t find the engine.

5. 19?? Volkswagen Beetle: The old one, of course. It would end up pretty highly modified.

6. 1978-1982 Corvette: Quite possible my favorite looking car ever.

There are lots more. One day . . .

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »