The Truth About Cars » Tales of Vehicular Mayhem The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:25:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Tales of Vehicular Mayhem Tales of Vehicular Mayhem – the B.A.B.E. Rally Part 4 Sat, 07 Dec 2013 21:08:10 +0000 BABE Rally 027

This is the final installment of Mental’s adventures in the BABE Rally in 2011. By now their van has been traded for beer. They are looking for a ride to New Orleans and still have to find a way home.

Just outside of Talladega Alabama, the wheels I borrowed from my shop mate have become props for the evening parking lot games. My wife and I manage to secure rides, but in separate cars. That’s probably safer for me anyhow.

She will ride with “The Scots.” They are exactly what you think; two Scottish friends and a sister that have spent their last two vacations coming to America just for this event.

I hitch with “The Ginger Kids.” They are also exactly what you think, a young, fair-skinned, scarlet-headed trio. The BABE rally prior, the driver’s car had broken down in front of the house of a young girl. The ensuring conversation resulted in a yearlong romance and this year she accompanied him and his friend for the rally. You can’t make this stuff up.

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Both crews were blissfully uncompetitive, quite hung-over and elected to drive straight through to the Big Easy along the freeway. But it’s still a blast. My wife is entertained by stories from the land of the north in Sean Connery accents.

Food fight on I-20 at 70? Don’t mind if I do. Two hours into this leg and I almost glad the van died.  Texting my wife, she is having a blast as well. Both teams came on this event to have fun.

40 miles west of Birmingham a Jaguar XK rolls on our bumper, cuts off the Gingers as well as Team Jemken in their truck (Do not Google that term at work, or mention it to teenagers). We see his NY plates as the tool speeds away. Damm Yankees.

20 miles across the Mississippi border, we see 2 K9 State Police Tahoes on the side of the road. They have pulled over the XK, the trunk is up and several boxes are on the ground beside the car. The driver is handcuffed and sitting in the grass

Karmic justice!

We get to the hotel, check in, clean up and head downstairs for the awards banquet. Winners are crowned and beer is consumed. We get an honorable mention as the first team in the history of the event not to start, not to finish and the only team that ever our vehicle for beer.

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After the awards, we hit The Quarter. The Scotts don kilts. We run across various competitors; share drinks and stories. I do a horrible job of riding a mechanical bull. I make the big Scott do it as well. There are too many vodka slushies, beer and a trip to Scores. A wedding procession marches down Bourbon Street through horse poop, the wife gets it on video.Crappy

The next day my wife arranged the purchase the Luftwaffe Mercury Capri, aka The Crappy. The owner Jim, has bought a Canadian spec Jetta with AC for much nicer drive back to New Jersey. The borrowed tires are strapped to the rear deck; we hit the Café Dumonde and point the Capri home for what should be an easy drive.

Two exhausting days later, the Crappy limped into my driveway in Edmond Oklahoma, but that is another story…

If this kind of adventure holds interest for you, head over to Asphault Adventures on Facebook , round up some buddies or a very patient spouse with a similar decision making disorder and start car shopping. Even through the BABE Rally has left our shores, it’s spiritual successor, the Saints to Sinners run from St Louis to Las Vegas is coming in the summer of 2014.

In the meantime. Thanks for reading. Here’s wishing you all a safe and happy holiday season. 

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Thanksgiving Tales of Vehicular Mayhem – the B.A.B.E. Rally Part 3 Sun, 01 Dec 2013 16:03:38 +0000 Seems like an odd place to bed down for the night.

Seems like an odd place to bed down for the night.

This is part 3 of a 4-part misadventure Mental embarked on in a $400 minivan sans AC. After being awake for 41 hours the Lumina MPV had let them down and was being attended to by a team of misguided and certainly intoxicated mechanics…

As promised, the van was running the next AM, but still required some new parts.  The nearest parts store a few minutes down the road, next to the aforementioned Alabama Museum. Dekalb Auto Parts, it is a true independent family owned auto parts store. Sticking out of the side of the building is the back half of a Datsun station wagon. They were well stocked, knowledgeable and found the parade of festive colored crapcans rather interesting. If you are ever in Ft Payne Alabama, give them your business.

Again, off the hapless travelers beset on that days adventures. Again, we were late to depart. It began with scenic tour through Desoto State Park and quickly became another roadside repair.

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But it wasn’t us! Ha!

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The Saab released its fuel tank after a jarring pothole, because both rusted retaining bands finally snapped. What could have been an epic disaster along the freeway was a minor annoyance at 20 MPH. Between the three vehicles, we reconstructed both bands with ratchet straps layered on both sides with a liberal and well applied volume of duck tape.

Repaired and underway, we arrived in Cedar Bluff Alabama and discovered the Lighthouse Motel and Restaurant on the shore of Lake Weiss. For lunch I had the best fried chicken outside of my mama’s kitchen. It was amazing and our early arrival on a weekday gave us the whole place to ourselves.

The joy of these events is some may choose to partake in the drive; others just proceed from hotel to hotel, recovering from the previous night’s events and preparing for the coming evening. While various levels of competitiveness manifests itself among others. This day was a photo hunt; navigators were given snippets of pictures and needed to match the section with the whole picture of an actual roadside shot along the route.

As Ms. Mental and I accomplished this task along with our team, the van displayed new issue. White smoke began to emit from the pipe, in small amounts at first and then in “Spy Hunter” volumes by the time we rejoined the freeway.

20 miles from our hotel, the Lumina MPV died again. I kicked it into neutral and somehow managed to coast into a parking lot just off I-20 in Anniston. A few phones calls dispatched other participants to the Shoney’s parking lot, including Eric the mad genius.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The small collection of oddly decorated cars attracted the attention of two locals. The participants happily relayed the story of the rally, what we are doing and the fact that this van is dead. They immediately inquire as to the fate of the MPV. When I mentioned it is junkyard bound they ask what I want for it.

“A six pack of beer.” I reply.

That was the last straw. My wife elbowed me sharply in the ribs. As the fiscally responsible one, she has grown tired of useless automotive expenditures. After suffering across 6 states without AC, sitting on the side of the road and being sleep deprived, she will not allow me to toss more money down the drain. My laissez-faire attitude has to stop and now it’s time for business.

“A case of beer” she corrects.

They quickly return with 24 Dos XXs and we hand them a signed title.

Click here to view the embedded video.

At the hotel, the beer is consumed by the revelers in the parking lot as we shamelessly search for a ride to New Orleans. We have no idea how we will get back to Oklahoma either.  We adopt a Scarlett O Hara attitude and take a long pull from the Dos XXs; “We’ll think about that tomorrow.”

BABE Rally 012

After all, tomorrow is another day…

Don’t worry. They get to New Orleans…

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Thanksgiving Tales of Vehicular Mayhem – the B.A.B.E. Rally Part 2 Thu, 28 Nov 2013 17:01:12 +0000 Just to keep the door's operational status updated.

Just to keep the door’s operational status updated.

Welcome to part II of Mental’s BABE Rally misadventures. Read on about his tempting of fate, the security of his marriage and his own personal safety by dragging his wife across the US in a $400 minivan without AC. Spoiler alert, his wife didn’t kill him but he did have to sleep on the couch for a while. When we last left our intrepid traveler, he was in a hotel parking lot at 7 AM on his way to the “Tail of the Dragon.”

It’s 7 AM, we have had a shower and I have downed my 5th styrofoam cup of coffee. Our Luminia MPV is covered in sidewalk chalk and rally stickers. As we made ready for departure, the Miata needed some attention, so we were already late.

Departures had started at 7. We got under way around 9 and within 10 minutes we were off paved roads climbing Appalachian peaks.  The very tired MPV rattled and creaked alarmingly, but made the crossing.

Our treat was scheduled for around noon, where our path would take us to the famed “Tail of the Dragon.” After lunch at the Deal’s Gap Pub and Grill, as well a photo shoot in front of the Tree of Shame, we started out to conquer Hwy 91. My wife was less than excited, but I was as wound-up as a 5 year old watching The Power Rangers.

As luck would have it, when pulling out of the parking lot, I managed to get behind the only vehicle that would be slower, a Mercedes 2 liter diesel. Seriously? What are the odds a 150,000 mile minivan would be the one held up? My wife wisely suggested we simply pull off and put some distance between us. Good plan! She’s a smart woman, well aside from marrying me.

The drive was spirited, but by no means sporty. Then, on our descent, disaster struck! The struggling 3800 simply quit. I immediately shifted to neutral and attempted to restart. No joy. The whole drive right up to failure can be watched here (be warned, its almost 20 minutes and I sound like a jerk when I talk to her. Fear not, she doesn’t put up with that kind of behavior normally);

Click here to view the embedded video.

Ultimately we deadsticked the van to the bottom of the hill, where the rest of our team was waiting, and there the first instance of the crapcan fraternity took hold. With the hood up and the team working to diagnose the issue, no less than eight other BABE cars stopped and provided assistance.


It's a crapcan party!

It’s a crapcan party!

One brilliantly constructed Dodge minivan equipped with a keg and a tap outside the vehicle (not violating open-containers laws that way) provided refreshments to the non-drivers. Another volunteer ferried my wife with a list to locate the nearest auto parts store, over an hour away.

 BABE ralley 2011 047

Lawn chairs came out and even Killboy came to photograph the party waiting at the bottom of the dragon. My wife was in awe that folks we had never met were voluntarily knee deep in the engine bay to help.

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Several hours later, the MPV was actually running, but not very well. We set off in what was Tweeted as “the most pathetic convoy ever” and headed to our next destination in Ft Payne Alabama, home of the Alabama Museum. Not the state mind you, the band.

Our Lumina was defiant. The dash lights began flashing in a random pattern. The rpms slowly bled off and within another hour, we were dead again by side of I-59, and still in Georgia. The sad convoy continued on once they were assured that AAA was en route. We were towed to the hotel on a flatbed. Having now been awake for just over 40 hours, we took turn making delirious small talk with the tow truck driver and cat napping for the remaining 115 miles.

An entire parking lot had been reserved on the back side of the hotel, wisely away from the rooms. Our arrival and diagnosis are captured between 10: 20 and 11:50, again at 15:18; and 16:15 to 18:20 in a three part documentary from a film student, you can watch here;

Click here to view the embedded video.

I have been accused of the occasional embellishment in my stories, but I do not exaggerate what happened between the exchanges in the video. Professional mad scientist Eric (in the glasses), Marlboro hanging from his lip, listened to my recounting of the breakdown, walked to the van, reached into the engine bay and pulled out a handful of stray wires.

“Try it.” He mumbled through his cigarette. It started. It didn’t run well, but it did run

“I’ll have it fixed tomorrow. You look like shit, get some sleep” Harsh words from a guy several beers and a head gasket change into the evening.

In addition to our wounded minivan, the Two Horsemen of the Carpocalypse’s 1973 Plymouth Valiant  blew a head gasket. The gasket change was wonderfully time lapse filmed;

Click here to view the embedded video.

Thank God Mental’s wife is Catholic or she’d have left him. She was half asleep when he relayed the van actually ran again. The next morning she asked if she dreamed the conversation. She was probably more upset, because they had to keep going. The rest of the day she constantly quoting Forrest Gump saying “Al – La-BAMA!” Clearly the heat was getting to her …

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Thanksgiving Tales of Vehicular Mayhem – the B.A.B.E. Rally Part 1 Wed, 27 Nov 2013 15:35:04 +0000 BABE ralley 2011 031

This is the first of a 4 part series about Mental tempting both fate and the security of his marriage by driving across hallway across the US, down through the south and (not quite) back to Oklahoma in a $400 Chevy Lumina minivan. Spoiler alert: his wife didn’t kill him but he did have to sleep on the couch for a while…

Jay Lamm, Chief Perpetrator of the 24 Hours of LeMons wrote that “racing isn’t just for rich idiots, it’s for all idiots.” Chumpcar has a similar philosophy. That covers racing, but what about tours de elegance?  There is an abundance of marque specific or classic car tours available across the US for more well-to-do enthusiasts; they offer a great deal of fraternal experiences, scenic views and luxury accommodations. Unfortunately, the fees start in the used Corolla range and can exceed the price of a new Chevy Cruz.

To paraphrase Mr. Lamm, what about the rest of us idiots?  Up until 2012, there was the option of the BABE Rally.

Calm down, while attractive and interesting ladies were present, the actual name was derived from its starting point in New York and destination in New Orleans. The Big Apple to the Big Easy – get it?

It was the only US event from the same outfit that puts on “Banger Rallies” across Europe.  Like Chumpcar, Lemons and similar events, the vehicles were restricted to a purchase price of $500.

Ever undertaken a road trip in a questionable vehicle?  You already know that step one is bring tools. In 2011, that’s exactly what I did. I expected to enjoy myself and despite my limited participation had a great time. But what was surprising was that my wife had fun as well.

It all started when I was out of the country (again). Looking for a chance to reconnect with my bride, I decided against Cancun and somehow managed to talk her in buying a $500 car, driving from Oklahoma to New York, on to New Orleans over 5 days and then back to OK. God bless good women with bad taste in men, our Skype conversations centered around Craigslist browsing and deciding on style. I wanted a big American boat; she was concerned with fuel consumption.

Lumina 2

We ended up with an absolutely awful Chevy Lumina MPV. For the tidy sum of $400, we got the infamous 3800 V-6, dust buster styling and 5 individually removable seats. What we didn’t get was A/C. This mattered, it was July. But my gracious wife still agreed. The van was purchased 4 days before the start and sat on bald, dry-rotting rubber. I was unable and unwilling to replace them; so I borrowed a set of wheels from a shop mate and bolted them on. For my “thing de résistance,” I covered it by hand roller in chalkboard paint. Not original, but certainly fun.

A scheduling snafu prevented us from meeting the start in New York; in fact we were unable to depart Oklahoma until Tuesday afternoon. We drove straight through the night. My unimaginably patient spouse drove, all the while muttering to herself as I watched Archer episodes on my netbook.

We met up with the group at 6 AM Wednesday morning, at their hotel in the hills of North Carolina. The teams were just rising from the beer fueled mayhem of the previous night; including our friends; the Three Pedal Mafia. Their fleet consisted of a desert-camo’d Miata sans top, a high mile Saab 9000 painted as a Swedish flag and a Luftwaffe themed Mercury Capri Roadster.

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While the missus and I borrowed showers to get cleaned up, the entirety of the participants set about our poor Lumina with a vengeance. When we emerged, our steed was now fully decorated with sidewalk chalk. Our plan had worked.

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A few cups of coffee, a bowl of continental breakfast cereal and a CB Radio install later; we were ready to begin the rally proper. The fact we hadn’t slept since the previous morning didn’t even enter into our thought process.

What could possibly go wrong?

Its summer in North Carolina, Mental has no AC and the intrepid group is headed for the “Tail of the Dragon” in a minivan! Catch the second installment to see if they survive! (OK, he wrote this, so of course he survived), but it ended up being a very, very long day…

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Tales of Vehicular Mayhem – The Land Cruiser Tue, 26 Nov 2013 06:06:03 +0000 Ah. Muffy's perfect SUV

Ah. Muffy’s perfect SUV

Toyota is one of the largest manufacturers of cars in the world. It’s not a surprise, especially if you have travelled out of the US. They are everywhere. I have only owned three Toyotas; a coma-inducing silver Camry DX, and two MKII Supras.

Despite my lack of ownership, I have spent a sizeable portion of my career abusing Toyotas. Maybe it is latent Nissan loyalty surfacing as abuse, Dad was a Datsun salesman before I was born and continued in one form or another until I graduated from High School. To Toyota’s credit, they have taken it all without complaint.

A notable case was an innocent preppy green and gold Land Cruiser. An aircraft electrical malfunction resulted in an unscheduled stop in Boise Idaho and gave us a week to kill. A ladies NCAA tourney had snatched up all the econoboxes, so the unsuspecting agency offered up the keys to a new 2003 Toyota Land Cruiser. I grabbed them, signed the contract and was out of there faster than a Taylor Swift romance.

Opposite the runway of Boise Airport is McGowan Field, a multi-branch National Guard Center. Just across the road from McGowan Field, was a tank driving course.


My crew mate Randy and I established a goal of coating the roof of the Landcruiser with mud. While that seems simple, the rooster tails required for this take a lot of effort to generate, and it has to be done sideways. Luckily it had recently rained and the black soil responded well to throttle.

For the next hour the Landcruiser tolerated powerslides, Rockfords, doughnuts and even a little air time. We only got stuck once…ok, three times but managed to free the barge with minimum fuss. Inside, my partner in crime and I laughed manically in complete luxury. The heated leather seats were wide and comfortable, but offered no lateral support. The stereo was excellent, and it was eerily quiet, save for our cackling. After a time, our sides hurt from laughing and the course offered no further challenges. We opened the windows and sat on the door sills to see if we met our goal. The roof was covered, mission accomplished.

We plodded the now soil-colored SUV from the proving grounds and onto West McGowen Rd. As we proceeded back to the base entrance, two Chevy Luminas in USAF Security Forces livery emerged from the base, lights flashing and in a hurry. They passed us, nosedived and executed a “you are soooo busted” 180 in unison. We pulled over.

As the Technical Sergeant approached, I could actually hear his Lieutenant screaming over the radio on his belt. It seemed the “El Tee” wanted us to be locked in a room, so he could throw away the room. The Tech Sergeant was much more accommodating and clearly impressed with the level of filth we had caked onto the mall-rated SUV.

“Where were you coming from sir?” As if he didn’t know, he had been dispatched because of us.

I pointed to the field.

“You can’t drive there, that’s government property. That’s trespassing.” I mentioned there were no signs, warnings or fences of any nature to indicate such restrictions, and that I was in fact, a government employee.

“Why were you out there doing that?” He inquired.

“It’s a rental.” I replied. He smiled.

That answer with a genuine lack of attitude seemed to satisfy him. Over the radio he assured his LT that we had been dealt with in a most stern manner. The paperwork reflected that he had, but it was an administrative slap on the wrist. He also pointed to a ridgeline in the distance and said if I really wanted to go off-roading, that’s where the real trails were. As he handed me the ticket, he was grinning. He added a “Now drive carefully sir.”

The owner of that car wash should have put his child through a semester of DeVry with the quarters I spent cleaning the Land Cruiser. Save for the windows that required some additional attention (we had put them down while covered in grime), it was all done via hose to avoid scratching the finish with the brush. It took twice as long take it off as it had to put it there, but the SUV was returned in pristine condition.

Which is better than the Chrysler Intrepid in Atlanta a few years later…but that is another story.

W. Christian Mental Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. That Philosophy degree of his landed him on the infamous AWACS, the Frisbee of freedom. As a result he has driven a lot of  rented cars, if you bought this one, rest assured the abuse was nothing beyond the mechanical limits of the vehicle.

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Tales of Vehicular Mayhem – The Ninja Sun, 24 Nov 2013 14:00:56 +0000 lifted from and their 250 Ninja picture forum

lifted from and their 250 Ninja picture thread

The old saying goes; to be older and wiser, you must first be young and stupid. This is the story of my life. I’m older, but still waiting to be wiser.

While everyone has a story of the dumbest thing they have done, I have a book. Hopefully the point of this and other tales I share here, will not only be to entertain, but on a certain level, make you feel better about stupid things you have done.

This is a tale of 20 year-old W. Christian Ward stationed at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi two weeks after basic training. Behavior during technical training is slightly less regimented. Freedoms were granted in a phased system. Characteristically, I broke all of them. Travel was limited to a radius of 30 miles, so naturally the first weekend I was allowed off base, I went to Atlanta to get my 250 Ninja.

A challenge of my youth is a lack of foresight. I knew was it was spring, I was near a beach and I wanted my motorcycle. Saturday I hopped a plane, Sunday I packed some civilian clothes, strapped the bags to the bike and left early in the afternoon. I had afforded eight hours for the 400 mile ride over mostly interstate, curfew was 10 PM.

I should have checked the weather, especially springtime in the south.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Hide from the hurricane? Sure. Tornadoes..meh

10 miles outside of Atlanta, the rain started. I thought it would stop, but I had painted myself into a corner; a dark, stormy, tornado-spawning corner. I knew I was in real trouble when the semi-trucks started pulling over. I distinctly remember the sight of my front tire in 6 inches of water while I limped along in 1st gear. Within the hour I was soaked to my undies. On an overpass outside of Montgomery, a gust of wind moved my bike from the right lane to the left. Around 5:30, my water resistant Timex stopped working.

Side-bar, a 1989 Ninja 250R holds about 4.5 gallons and has a range of around 220 miles without 20 mph head wind. This trip should take at most, two gas stops. With that information, imagine being surrounded by the sound of pouring water, moisture all around you. Add a constant buzzing between your legs and being bumped on a tiny bike with overloaded suspension. Not enough yet? It was cold. Yeah, I made a lot of stops.

Around 7:30, it let up. I’m guessing about the time, my watch was still kaput. I leaned into the throttle to cover some distance. When I hit the outskirts of Mobile it finally stopped raining. West of the city, my watch recovered, it was 9:05. I had to be in Biloxi by 10:00 or my shenanigans would come to light, and my fledgling military career would be kneecapped before it started. It was just over 60 miles.

I-10 on the gulf  is characterized by tall bridges to accommodate shipping. The top expanses are metal one-inch squares of re-enforced jagged grate. They offer no traction and they were still wet. This would have been wonderful information to have before I passed that Greyhound bus close to the state line. Approaching the peak of the bridge, I was on the bike hard. The rear tire hit the grate under load and immediately stepped out. I over-corrected and entered a “tank slapper.”

I would love to tell you my skill, ability and cat-like reflexes saved me, but that would make me a liar.

No, I stared straight into the abyss and the Grim Reaper had pity; I was simply too stupid to perish right then.

I stopped at the Mississippi Welcome Center until the urge to vomit subsided.

The Ninja parked in front of my squadron at 10:05. I tried to get off the bike, but couldn’t walk. I had been shivering for hours and my legs had cramped on the tank. I hobbled across the courtyard to the Charge of Quarters, signed in and begged her not to report me. Perhaps it was my plea, my bloodshot eyes, or the puddle forming under me (after the bridge, probably mostly rainwater); but she permitted me to slip in unreported.

Those grates are now filled with asphalt, but I avoid them like the plague. I now dress properly for a ride, and have a gear fetish. Eventually I would learn to pad my travel times and check the weather. I am a dedicated rider and don’t mind getting wet, but my equipment is better.

I also know when to drive.

Oh yeah, I had a car, but chose my bike. I got the car later…but that is another story.

W. Christian Mental Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He is a graduate of Panoz Racing School, loves cartoons and once exceeded the speed of sound. Married to the most patient woman in the world; he has three dogs, five motorcycles and still rides every chance he gets.

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