QOTD: Doing Battle With the Elements?
No, we’re not talking about the long-gone Honda Element today, but perhaps one day we will. As bad as vehicle design was in the 2000s, the Element at least offered buyers a quirky choice in their family hauler.
Today we’re talking about that fun, exciting, aspirational ride you bought to cruise the warm, sun-baked streets of Anytown, North America back in late spring or early summer… and what happened come November.
Last night, after paying my respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I saw a man whose night wasn’t going as planned. He was behind the wheel of a black, current-generation 5.0-liter Mustang shod with what looked to be 19-inch rubber, wrapped around bitchin’ aftermarket black wheels.
If you’ve kept yourself abreast of the weather forecast, you can probably guess what climatic conditions were occuring at the time. It was frigid, and about two or three inches of snow had already fallen. This fella was attempting to make it up the mildest of inclines in the middle of a four-lane downtown road… and couldn’t. Traffic came to a halt as his rear end broke loose and stayed there, his enviable summertime machine rendered impotent by the weather that a Chevy Cruze with all-season rubber (I got caught off-guard by the unseasonal weather!) handled easily with a small measure of knowledge and skill.
Eventually, the Mustang driver gave up and changed course, finding that driving down the barely-a-hill was the easier path to take. It was probably an interesting ride home.
This incident calls to mind something no one wants to think about when they take ownership of a new sports car under clear, 80-degree skies. Winter. While tire manufacturers have a great selection on hand to allow owners of RWD machines to make use of their vehicle in those frosty months, not many take them up on the offer. Our own Tim Cain garaged his MX-5 Miata during its all-too-brief stay, but decided to make his follow-up Scion FR-S a snow machine. Seems like he had fun doing it.
We took note of Mazda Canada insinuating, via an ad, that its MX-5 was no good for winter, but the reality of North American lifestyles is that most people have a better-suited vehicle to tackle the tough stuff between fall and spring.
Have you ever bought what most would consider a sports car? What did you do when Mother Nature showed you her bad side? And, if you decided to persevere through the winter, was that a one-and-done/never again decision?
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- Empty deserted parking lot in winter is an excellent place for teens (or anyone) to learn about traction, loss of traction, recovery, braking, counter-steering, vehicle dynamics. - Suggested bucket list item: Borrow a tractor in winter. Unlink the left and right brake pedals. Road gear on a packed-snow road. Engage right brake, turn wheel to left; you can crab down the road all day. Engage left brake, turn wheel to right. Pick your crab angle. (It's not drifting, but give it a try.)
I don't have any personal experience driving a sporty car in terrible snow conditions, save the Focus ST that I had on Michelin X-Ices. That did its thing and was fine. However, a couple years ago I was behind a guy driving a Camaro after an ice storm that was made worse by additional falling snow that plows hadn't been able to deal. The temperatures were such that chemical treatments would have been ineffective. Anywho, Camaro guy (circa 2014 model) was trying to climb a freeway off ramp/entrance ramp right outside of the Maul of America. He'd build up a head of steam only to have the vehicle lose traction seconds later. Each time he would be able to get going I'd start tacking to make the best use of clear portions (in my Mazda6). No sooner would I get up enough steam that he'd lose it again. It was the most frustrating 30 minutes I've spent on that ramp.