Posts By: Jack Baruth

By on September 13, 2016


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.

(Read More…)

By on September 9, 2016


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.

(Read More…)

By on September 2, 2016


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.

(Read More…)

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.

(Read More…)

By on August 26, 2016

Welcome to the $82,470 “small” BMW. I suppose it’s not that outrageous; correct the $34,810 MSRP of the original 1988 M3 to modern Bernankified pesos, and it’s just over seventy grand for a car that had less than half the power of this 2016 M3 Competition/Executive Package and absolutely none of the luxury accoutrements. But […]

By on August 25, 2016


“Should I start racing with NASA, or should I build a car for SCCA?” That used to be the most common question that I heard from would-be novice racers. Nowadays, though, those two sanctioning bodies aren’t even in the picture. Today’s novice racer is looking at LeMons, Chump, WRL, and my personal favorite, American Endurance Racing. It’s easy to understand why. If you start racing with the SCCA or NASA, you’ll either need to be capable of doing everything yourself soup-to-nuts, or you’ll need a crew, whether volunteer or paid.

With the new endurance-racing series, you get five other dudes together (or, in the case of my AER team, four other dudes and one chick) and — PRESTO! — you’ve got a team, a crew, and a way to split the expenses six ways instead of, uh, one way. I know a fair number of people who have left NASA or SCCA to focus exclusively on street-tire enduros, but I’m not ready to follow them just yet. I like sprint races. I like being solely responsible for my success (or failure) on the track. I hate not being able to split the costs but I also like the fact that cars last a lot longer when you run them two hours a weekend instead of twenty.

This weekend, NASA is holding a race at Mid-Ohio. Danger Girl will be there driving her Fiesta in HPDE since her race car is still being prepped in Memphis. I’ll be there as well, to help her out a bit, say hi to people, and serve as random crew for people who need a hand. But I won’t be racing, because I’ve been banned. And, I have to say, it was my fault.

(Read More…)

By on August 23, 2016

MegaSquirt EFI

We were standing trackside and talking about the new Acura NSX. My brother had just driven it to the overall win at the first-ever SCCA Targa event. It would have been nice if the NSX he’d been driving had also been a Targa; I believe they were called the NSX-T back in the day. No such luck. The new NSX does not (yet) come in Targa form. What can you do. We all have to face our own share of disappointment. Each worm to his taste, as the proverb says — some worms prefer to eat nettles.

My brother was off somewhere doing something so I was talking to a couple of occasional TTAC readers. They admitted that they skip my stuff and focus on the good solid tangible sales data from Tim Cain. I did not love them for this. But I discussed the NSX with them nonetheless, and at one point somebody said something along the lines of, “It’s a great car, but how are you going to fix something that complicated 20 years from now, without factory or dealer support?” And that was the sentence that triggered my Matrix moment, a mind spinning down a rabbit hole into a deja-vu past.

(Read More…)

By on August 19, 2016

Monterey Historics, Image: Tim Hill via Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Don’t look now, but it’s starting. The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, often called the “Monterey Historics” by those in the know and simply “Monterey” by people who maintain a sort of willful, deliberate ignorance of anything else happening at Laguna Seca for the rest of the year, will be casting its usual ghoulish pall over the world of automotive enthusiasm this weekend.

Founded by Steve Earle (the non-famous Steve Earle, mind you, not the fellow who once said that thing about Townes and Dylan) four decades ago, the event was quasi-hijacked away from its founder a few years back and now exists primarily as a way for rich guys to show off their cars and for mass-market manufacturers like Cadillac to spend money blathering about their heritage to a bunch of people who hold them in utter and complete contempt. (Read More…)

By on August 17, 2016

I’ve long since given up on the idea that it’s possible to have a truly unbiased review of an automobile — or anything else, for that matter. Nevertheless, we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. In the service of that, I’m going to say up front that I completely despise […]

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