Category: Bark’s Bites

By on August 3, 2015

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This week’s “Ask Bark” comes from a reader who wants to know if he should prolong his Volkswagen-related madness or start new Volkswagen-related madness.

Bark,

I have read your articles. I like your style. I know about the fact people ask you for advice on what car to get and then completely ignore it. You’ve said you won’t respond to that question anymore. I’m about to ask the same question. (WHY GOD WHY??? — Bark) But I really do want your answer.

Fine … here we go.

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By on July 2, 2015

The year was 2008. I was working the course at the SCCA Toledo Pro Solo during the Ladies’ class runs. For those of you who don’t know what a Pro Solo is like, I’ll try to explain quickly. It’s a mirrored autocross course with two competitors, one on each side. Instead of being waved onto the course by a flagger, like in a regular autocross, there’s a drag tree that starts the drivers. It’s the closest thing to “racing” that you’ll find at an autocross.

As I watched one particular pairing of cars leave the line, I noticed that one of the cars, a Mini Cooper S, was getting up on two wheels in the first 3-cone slalom. As the car rocked back and forth from the left two wheels to the right and then back to the left, the front left wheel bent and caught the cement, tripping the car and causing it to flip forward. It bounced off of its roof, and ended up landing on its wheels, facing back toward the starting line.

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By on June 26, 2015

Obama+Announces+New+Automobile+Fuel+Efficiency+h36L8Fl4eLpx

Warning: What you are about to read is NOT REAL. It is the product of the warped mind of your friendly neighborhood editorialist, Bark M., who wonders: What if automakers had to “draft” new products, just like the NBA does? 

Talking Head #1: Greetings, and welcome to Detroit, the host city for the 2015 National Automakers Association Draft! Tonight, we’ll see the future of automakers unfold, as they get the chance to select a new model for their existing lineup.

Talking Head #2: That’s right, and the excitement has been building ever since the end of last model year. Some big questions will be answered this evening: What will Subaru do with their pick? Will Ford finally have a full-sized sedan worth talking about? And will FCA’s Sergio Marchionne finally find a trade partner for their spot in the draft?

TH1: Word has it that Sergio has been burning up the phone lines trying to find somebody to help him move out of the first round, but my sources say that he hasn’t had any takers so far. As you know, though, there’s invariably a surprise or two on NAA Draft Night!

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By on June 18, 2015

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About twenty years ago, I made a decision that had the potential to severely limit my earning potential, increased my chances of becoming an alcoholic, and statistically ensured that I would die much, much younger than most people.

That’s right, I decided to major in Jazz Saxophone Performance. Yes, you can do that. No, I wouldn’t recommend it. Luckily, a combination of factors led to my ceasing to pursue music as a career a long time ago, but not before I spent nearly four years working behind the counter of a musical instrument store in the Brass and Woodwind department as a part-time college job. We sold three levels of most instruments – Student, Intermediate, and Professional. Guess who we sold the most “Professional” instruments to? Professionals? Uh, no. A professional-level saxophone retails for more than $4,000 in most cases. For your average professional musician, that’s like, a year’s worth of ramen noodles and Crown Royal.

Nope, we sold them to the upper-middle class parents of high schoolers. They’d come in with their kids, who had been given a recommended name brand and model by their private lesson teacher, and I’d send the kids into a practice room with three or four different examples of professional-level instruments to try. They normally sounded equally horrible on all of them, but they always came out of the room proclaiming the clear superiority of the one that their teacher had recommended, or, lacking a recommendation, the one that had the coolest looking engraving or lacquer. They possessed neither the talent or the ear to discern any difference between the professional horns and the student one that they came in with. Buying a more expensive instrument was not going to make them one iota better as a musician.

But, considering that I stood to make about $200 in commission if they bought one of them, I congratulated them on an excellent choice, cheerfully swiped the parents’ credit card, and sent them all on their merry way. Hey, those pizzas I ordered to my dorm room weren’t gonna pay for themselves.

This is exactly what the modern day car review is like. Allow me to explain.

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By on June 11, 2015

Ford Fiesta ST Octane Academy Race Car

Many car manufacturers will sell you a hot hatch. Only Ford will teach you how to drive one after you’ve bought it.

Thanks in part to the success of their Boss Track Attack program (of which your author is a proud graduate), Ford made the decision to offer a one-day track experience to anybody smart enough to buy either a Focus or Fiesta ST.

Since I had such a great time at the Boss Track Attack two years ago, there was no way I was going to pass up this opportunity to head back to Miller Motorsports Park and burn the brakes out of wring out one of their STs at one of the finest motorsports facilities in the world, especially if the track is as doomed as some say it is.

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By on May 12, 2015

TRD Camry XSE Pace Car

Over its long and illustrious sales career, the Toyota Camry has been described in many ways by so-called automotive enthusiasts. Most of them, to be honest, haven’t been particularly flattering. Words like “appliance” tend to find themselves in close proximity to the Camry whenever it’s been discussed elsewhere.

But this is The Truth About Cars, dammit!, and we have never been ones to drink the proverbial Kool-Aid on any car. Our own Jack Baruth has proven time and time again that the Camry, particularly in SE trim, is a capable and dynamic car at the track. I have personally piloted a Camry SE around Nelson Ledges. While it wasn’t quite keeping the pace of my Boss 302, it was no slouch, either.

That’s all fine and good. But what about putting it in a real race, with a real professional driver? How would it do under those circumstances?

Well, the fine folks at Toyota Production Engineering got as close to that as they possibly could by running a four-cylinder Camry SE in the One Lap of America last week. That’s right. They really ran a bone-stock, off-the-lot Camry in a time trial. The story of how they got there is just as interesting as the decision to drive the Camry itself.

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By on May 4, 2015

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How many days until I get to race again?

I asked myself that question over and over again this winter. After my first experience running with the fledgling American Endurance Racing organization last fall, I spent many long, snowy winter weeks in Kentucky, counting the days until this season’s debut race at New Jersey Motorsports Park’s Lightning Raceway.

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By on April 2, 2015

camry xse

In today’s installment, we’ll examine the lineups of the big Japanese three: Nissan, Honda, and Toyota, as well as their luxury variants. I should have said this in the first installment, but never let it be said that I am above admitting mistakes, so let me say it now: I never had plans to comment on every single model from every single manufacturer—just the ones that stand out to me in some way, or ones that I have about which I might have a contrary opinion. If I don’t mention a model, it’s likely because I haven’t driven it, or I don’t have an opinion about it that is in any way meaningful or insightful.

Since we’ve already established the format in the first and second installments of this series, let’s just jump right into it, shall we?

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By on March 18, 2015

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Those of you who regularly read Bark’s Bites (Hi, Mom!) may remember my tale of acquiring a friend’s 1996 Subaru Legacy Wagon. I posted that article on August 29th, 2014.

On March 9th, 2015, the SuBaruth, as it came to be known, died.

Here is her story.

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By on March 10, 2015

vanity plate

“ICE KOLD”

One of the baddest men I ever knew, if not THE baddest, ran that license plate on an array of European luxury sleds in the early 2000s. He was a real-life manifestation of Marcellus Wallace, a larger-than-life being whose business was dependent upon the recovery of the same type of thugs he used to take off the streets of Cleveland as a less-than-squeaky-clean cop. His three-car garage was an ever-rotating gallery of high-powered rides that rarely exceeded the speed limit—because speeding wouldn’t have been ICE KOLD.  Better to be smooth and slow-moving but with an omnipresent, rumbling threat of power, much like the man who was behind the wheel.

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Recent Comments

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