Posts By: Jack Baruth

By on September 29, 2016

Matt's "Black Betty" RX-7

Not every hero gets a statue, and not every brilliant accomplishment gets a plaque. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, and many a spectacular occurrence is forgotten the moment after it happens.

This is the story of a sheetmetal worker who built a car to nearly unimaginable standards of precision and perfection … then decided to walk away from it for reasons that only he can understand.

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By on September 27, 2016

viffer

The forecast, to misquote Robert Cray, called for rain — but I saddled up the Anniversary VFR anyway. There’s no lane-splitting in Ohio, but there are still real and tangible benefits to riding a motorcycle on my daily commute to work. The first is time. I save between 10 and 20 round-trip minutes every day that I leave the Accord in the driveway. I can make better pace on the road, particularly downtown. The second benefit is financial: it’s $50 a year to park the bike but it’s between $9 and $18 a day to park a car. The last, and most important, is hassle. It’s an easy three minute walk from my bike to my office. From the nearest available parking garage? Ten minutes if I’m lucky, 20 if that garage is full, plus 10 flights of stairs each way on two legs that ache and crack in any weather below tropical.

Put all of that together, and it’s no wonder that I won’t drive unless there’s heavy standing water or ice on the roads. But I won’t lie; I’d ride even if it cost more. I feel less like a replaceable cog in a massive and directionless corporate cluster-bang when I’m on two wheels. And that’s why I was in a good mood when I heard the BLEAT! of the horn next to me.

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By on September 23, 2016

honda1

Hey! Did you know that I, your favorite writer on this or any other forum, with the possible exception of Penthouse Forum, am the proud owner of a Honda Accord EX-L V6 manual transmission coupe? Maybe you didn’t know! But now you know! So in the future there will be no excuse for you not knowing, with the exception of “utter apathy,” which would be a legitimate excuse, should you need one.

Let me give you the name of somebody who didn’t need to be reminded about my Accord ownership; my local Honda dealer. Not the guys who walljobbed me, but the good dealer. The one that actually puts new oil in the car when you pay for an oil change. I like this dealer. Were I to purchase another Honda, I would purchase it from them. Perhaps they know this, because they’ve just sent me an email with a GRRRREAT DEAL! on a new 2017 Accord Coupe. $16,000 and change — and this ain’t just any old Accord coupe, it’s an EX-L V6 manual, just like my current car.

There’s just one little catch.
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By on September 20, 2016

cloth

I should have known better than to get excited. My old friend Brian Makse posted a photo of a four-cylinder 718 Cayman S with what appeared to be a partial cloth seat. This is not something that TTAC readers will know about your humble author, but cloth interiors in Porsches are my thing, man. Long before Singer was charging $400,000 to put plaid door cards in an old 964, I had “cloth interior” on my list of things to find in my next Porsche. It’s a tough ask for any car from Weissach after 1982 or thereabouts, and in fact, of the three 9-somethings I’ve owned, only my 944 had anything besides leather on the seating surfaces.

So you can imagine my excitement when I saw cloth in (what should be) the entry-level Porsche. I was so worked up that I stopped doing what I was doing, which was building a Watkins Glen Grey Grand Sport with Hyper Green stripes online, and promptly pulled up the Porsche website to build a cloth Cayman of my very own. I kind of thought it would be a no-cost option to have a fabric seat, but I secretly hoped it was one of those options where you actually get some money back, like a sunroof delete.

You all know how naive this was on my part, right?

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By on September 16, 2016

ranger

Ask any car salesman: lying to the customer is a fine art. And when it came to the practice of that art, Bob was Picasso, he was Michelangelo, he was Jeff Koons, all wrapped up in a single grandfatherly persona. There was none better. He could scale heights of deception hitherto unknown at our dignified little Ford dealership. And it was through his efforts that we came, for the first time in perhaps decades, to the attention of the Ohio Attorney General.

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By on September 13, 2016

IMG_4444

He was delivered to me in a sealed plastic box, a wrinkled three-pound homunculus too exhausted and sick to make a single sound. Handle him with these gloves, they said. Don’t breathe on him. Eventually you can take him out of the box, out of the post-natal ICU, out of the hospital. But not soon. Everything was up for grabs. He’d arrived dangerously early. Thirty-eight states in this union would have permitted me to break his neck the moment I saw him; at just under twenty-four weeks of age, his life was legally forfeit. He wasn’t my son, wasn’t a child, wasn’t a person. He was tissue. He was a choice.

His mother and I made the choice to give him a fighting chance. The rest was up to him.

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By on September 9, 2016

20160905_124117

Sometimes when you hear hoofbeats it really is zebras.

I was in Bowling Green earlier this week, visiting the NCM Motorsports Park and watching Danger Girl grind through a five-day SCCA license school. On the second day of this odyssey, I saw a final-form Saab 9-5 parked up front, all slab-sided purity and mascara-black facial menace. There’s something profoundly depressing for me about those cars; whenever I see them I think of the narrator of Susan Minot’s “Lust” who, in a moment of shellshocked profundity, says, “I could have loved that one.” (Read More…)

By on September 7, 2016

challenger hellcat (zombieite/Flickr)

I’ve been doing this racetrack thing for sixteen years now, and I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Mustangs on fire off the shoulder of Shenandoah. I watched Xenons glitter in the dark near the Thunderhill gate. All these moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

As you might imagine, I’ve been exposed to pretty much every sort of idiocy that is possible on four wheels, and pretty much every sort of idiot who can squeeze or fold himself behind the wheel of an automobile. When I started my trackday career, under the tutelage of a private instructor who kept me on a very short leash and deliberately prevented me from indulging in the typical foibles of the novice driver, I was extraordinary contemptuous of the mishaps and mistakes I saw happening all around me. As the years have passed, I’d like to think that I’ve become a bit more accepting of my fellow track rats.

This past weekend, however, I believe that I observed the ne plus ultra of on-track stupidity. After a decade and a half, I’ve finally seen the worst, most dangerous, and most idiotic driver out there. There can be only one, you know, and this guy is the Conor MacLeod of open-lappin’ jamokes. If I saw this dude pushing a shopping cart towards me in the Kroger, I’d drop my Ketel One and run for the nearest exit. I think he should be nuked from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure. But since I’ve renounced the use of violence in my personal life, let’s focus instead on what we can learn from him.

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By on September 2, 2016

twofiddy

I’ve long since learned not to give advice about car purchases to individuals who are not already rabid car enthusiasts. It wasn’t a lesson that arrived immediately, or without difficulty, but it’s one that I have finally and regretfully internalized. My brother Bark has not yet learned this lesson, so feel free to continue sending him Ask Bark submissions, but my days as a would-be car-shopping guru are over.

Yet there are times that I cannot dodge a particular request, whether for reasons of politeness, expediency, or my own self-interest. When those times arise, I usually recommend a Toyota, unless the questioner has stated that she absolutely does not want a Toyota, in which case I will recommend a Honda. If a Honda is not acceptable, I explain that anything else amounts to a roll of the dice and as long as we’re rollin’ the dice we might as well get a Viper ACR and screech our barbaric yawp down the back straight of Virginia International Raceway the way Harambe would have wanted us to had he not been assassinated by the Illuminati.

So when a co-worker at one of my contracts asked me about her next new car, I quickly evaluated her demographics (50-ish, upper-middle class), current vehicle (previous-gen Sonata) and desires (“As much luxury as I can get”) before responding, however reluctantly, with an endorsement of the Lexus ES. This, of course, led to an examination of the pricing and equipment for the Lexus ES. Despite numerous conversations on the subject, I cannot decide if the front-wheel-drive luxo-Toyota represents a blatant cash grab or singular value for money. There’s only one way to decide issues like these, but since Tina Turner let Thunderdome burn to the ground we’ll have to settle for deciding based on the considered input of the Best & Brightest.

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By on August 30, 2016

Spinning Miata, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

I didn’t race this past weekend at Mid-Ohio, but it was still useful to me for a couple of reasons.

The first one was that I got to have an argument with the nice but very naive fellow who banned me from competing in the event. That was primarily amusing because his wife kept sticking her face in front of his and screaming at me. And this dude was totally cool with that. Preferred it, I think.

Intellectually, I realize that in $THE_CURRENT_YEAR there are a lot of full-grown “men,” probably raised in a fatherless environment, who need women to defend them from super-mean, scary old cripples like me. But it still makes me feel like Tommy Lee Jones in that movie where that one guy with the great hair kills people with a pneumatic cattle gun. I’m already irrelevant. Already a relic. The national conversation has moved on. It’s okay. I will adapt. In the future, if you have a problem with me, take it up with Danger Girl. She’s much younger and stronger than I am.

The other useful part of the NASA race was that I happened to be holding a camera when a young Miata driver looped his car. I caught the whole thing. Click the jump and I’ll show you how he spun — and how you can avoid a spin like this, both on the street and on the track.

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