Well, TTAC, the day has come: I’ve written a book. Not a real book, mind you, but rather an electronic one, which means it may, at any moment, run out of batteries.
My book is called Plays With Cars, which mimics the title of my website, and also my life purpose. It’s available right now on Kindle and Nook, and soon to come for Kobo. If you don’t have a Kindle or Nook, don’t worry: you can still view it using your PC, or your Mac computer, or through the free Kindle app for smartphones and iPads. In other words: you have no excuse for not buying it.
To further prove that, I’ve set the price at $2.99. This is a very small amount of money for which you can purchase basically nothing except this book, or maybe a plastic toy from the grocery store. And I promise this is more entertaining.
Plays With Cars contains many fun car-related stories, including:
- Driving a Lotus Elise without air conditioning across the country in the middle of July
- Visiting the Tail of the Dragon and evading the police using a pontoon boat
- Taking my Lotus to an autocross event, and regretting it
- Bringing my E63 AMG wagon on a mountain run with a Carrera GT
- Buying a Cadillac from someone who was hours away from being deported
- Buying a used Toyota Land Cruiser with 237,000 miles from a public auto auction
- Attempting, unsuccessfully, to sell a Toyota Prius on Craigslist
It also includes reviews of various cars I’ve owned, from a Porsche 911 Turbo to a 2012 Jetta and a first-generation Toyota Prius.
If that doesn’t sell you on it (c’mon folks – a Jetta review!), I’m going to be posting selections once a week for the next few weeks to entice you further. Today’s is from chapter 20, entitled “The Wagon and the Dragstrip” – a story about taking my E63 AMG wagon to a dragstrip in rural North Georgia. Enjoy!
We drove to the dragstrip on a Friday night. In Denver, amateur drag racing was done on Wednesdays, presumably so participants could spend Fridays pursuing some form of entertainment that wouldn’t leave them partially deaf. But in Commerce, we were the entertainment. This was illustrated by the large crowd, which consisted of beer-drinking locals gathered to watch other beer-drinking locals pilot their daily drivers down the strip. Tonight, they would get an extra treat: a Mercedes station wagon driven by three cityfolk who coulda bawt a dually instead.
We arrived around 7 p.m. and paid our $20 entry fee. Before we could race, we had to submit to a tech inspection, which was performed by a local mechanic in NHRA overalls. The inspection consisted of the mechanic a) opening the E63’s hood, and b) remarking on the size of its plastic engine over. He also searched for the battery, but was unable to find it. As a result, he judged the car to be mechanically sound.
We pulled up to the staging area and discovered the interesting assortment of vehicles owned by our fellow drag racers. Some highlights:
1. At least half of the cars in attendance were modified Mustangs and Camaros. The most popular modification, in case you’re wondering, involved junkyard body panel swaps. Oddly, most of these cars had valid license plates, proving that “street legal” means something a little different in North Georgia.
2. There was an SRT-4 that was approximately as loud as a space shuttle launch. This is a mandatory component of dragstrip amateur nights. In fact, the NHRA could shut you down if there isn’t a loud SRT-4 in the vicinity, unless you can prove your venue contains at least one dubiously modified Eagle Talon.
3. Around 20 percent of the entrants were driving pickup trucks, including a few huge diesels with actual smoke stacks. They made so much smoke it looked like someone put wheels on Depression-era Cleveland.
4. The highlight was a Nissan Titan that looked stock except for tiny rear tires that may have come from one of those electric shopping carts they give the elderly at grocery stores.
We piled into the wagon with me behind the wheel for the first run. In the other lane was a red Mustang with a gray front fender. I stopped. The Mustang stopped. I waited for the light, energized by the fact that I would soon be driving a Mercedes station wagon on the same dragstrip where Top Fuel dragsters compete to see who can make it furthest without blowing up.
And then, after a few seconds … GREEN! We were off, way ahead of the Mustang, so far ahead that his next dragstrip conversation may be about where to find Calvin peeing on the Mercedes logo.
It must’ve been a sight to see, but were too consumed with laughter to notice. Here we were, moving quickly down a dragstrip in a three-row station wagon that was savagely beating a modified Mustang. We were also quite comfortable, what with the ventilated seats.
We ended the run several yards ahead of the Mustang. I pulled off the track and drove to the time booth to pick up our time slip. It was there we were informed in no uncertain terms that we had committed about eleven sins of drag racing.
One was too many people in the car. It turns out a car as fast as the E63 couldn’t run with passengers. That was a downer, as I had planned to sit in back and wave to drag-tuned Camaros from the rear-facing third row.
We also committed a helmet violation. It turns out that 13.999 seconds or below requires a helmet. Apparently, an accident without one meant instant death, while a driver who wrecks at 14 or above will walk away with only cuts and scrapes on his soft, helmetless head. This was undoubtedly was established after years of scientific testing from the drag racing people.
So I donned a helmet for the next run and ditched Andrew and Sam. Once again, I arrived at the line, hit the brake and gas, and released the brake when the light turned green. After an initial struggle with traction, the E63 launched with all its might. My time slip said 13.6, now delivered with a warning against spinning my tires at the starting line. Tough crowd.
When I returned to the prep area, Andrew and Sam told me about the announcer. In Denver, the dragstrip was quiet, since no one in their right mind would want to spend an evening doing a play-by-play for an amateur drag racing event. But since this was the happenin’ place to be on a Friday night in rural Georgia, the Atlanta Dragway employed an excitable commentator with a southern accent that rivaled Matthew McConaughey’s in A Time to Kill. Apparently, he had some choice commentary about the wagon that included lines like “mom’s home” and “look at them roof rails!”
To shut him up, I decided we had to run a “twelve,” which is what racers call a quarter-mile time in the twelve-second range. If you “run twelves,” you’re anywhere from 12.00 seconds to 12.99 seconds. Dragstrip precision is shocking.
But it wouldn’t be easy.
@DougDeMuro is the author of humor books Plays With Cars and From My Perspective, and the operator of PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.