Car Porn: Jay Leno’s 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado

Car Porn: Jay Leno's 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado

Time to unbuckle, ease the seat back, and get intimate with this week’s installment of Car Porn—nothing but the sexiest shots of the hottest cars on the internet. Go ahead and stare at Jay Leno’s 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado. You know you want to.

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What Car Would You Buy with $10,000?

What Car Would You Buy with $10,000?

Every day, the hard-working schlubs at The Drive make terrible decisions about what to wear, where to eat, the merits of the Fast & Fatuous franchise and how to style our hair. But we generally make the right choices about cars. And we’re about to come into some money—$10,000, in fact—which we’re going to use it to purchase a car. So what kind of car should it be? A spec Miata? A shop truck? 25 busted-up Subaru 2.5 RS’s?

I asked the staff which one they’d go for right now. The only rule is vehicle cost: all in, under ten grand. Also, I had to disqualify a couple of people: Lawrence Ulrich insisted on selecting only Porsches that cost more than $10,000, and Mike Spinelli’s imagination has been sapped by the recent purchase of his new and expensive Jaguar XJR100. The rest of us were mostly able to play by the rules.

Josh Condon, Deputy Editor
1990 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce

The Drive

Ever talked to someone who used to own an Alfa Romeo about the experience? Be it an older woman, a younger guy, or anyone in between, the resulting dissertation is remarkably similar: a halting, contemplative monologue, hands grasping and fluttering in the attempt to form thoughts that can’t be put into words, eyes shining with a fierceness that suggests both a profound love and tremendous pain, like an infantryman who met his soulmate in the middle of the firebombing of Dresden.

This, I’ve been told, is essentially what it’s like to own an old Alfa.

Perhaps it’s because I just got back from Italy, or maybe it’s because I’m wearing a turtleneck under a blazer at the moment, but I think ten thousand bucks is the floor at which you owe it to yourself to chase a bit of indulgence and whimsy—and what can be more indulgent than an old, unreliable, remarkably impractical Italian roadster? I’ve talked to some alfisti who think that car enthusiasts are split into two categories: Alfa owners, and everyone else. The truly hardcore suggest one can’t actually call oneself an enthusiast until one has owned an old Alfa—something about the matchless, almost spiritual driving experience, and some other stuff about shared pain and developing empathy.

I’ve never experienced that, at least not in car form. Seems about time. And I’ve already got the turtleneck.
Price: $9,995

Sean Evans, Entertainment Editor
1978 Pontiac Trans Am

The Drive

We should get a late 70s Pontiac Trans Am for under $4,000, then spend the remaining $6,000 trying to get the horsepower and torque up as much as possible. We can beg, borrow and steal parts to get a modern LS engine in there, give it an over-bore, perhaps pester Whipple into giving us a deal on a supercharger kit and get that under a shaker. Leave any patina alone, and we won’t worry about any exterior patches or fixes, provided there aren’t massive holes in the body. The goal here is a power train that is powerful enough to run against one of the new 840-hp Trans Ams from Trans Am Depot. At the end of our build, we run our restomod against their creation in a drag race.
Price: $3,150

Will Sabel Courtney, Senior Editor
1960 Dodge Power Wagon 

The Drive

Pick up a battered, beaten-up 1960s/1970s-era Dodge pickup truck for as cheap as possible. I’ve included links to a couple down at the bottom of this post. We’re talking $4,000 or less here.

We then hit up FCA to see if they’ll donate a crate Hemi and one of the recently-announced Hemi Swap kits to our cause: building the baddest Mopar pickup rusto-mod we can possibly devise.

No work should be done on the exterior, except where we have to for safety reasons. Leave the rust pockets and the holes alone. Instead, we spend our limited remaining money installing the new engine and upgrading whatever needed to improve the mechanicals. We stretch every penny, we call in favors, we trade coverage for parts…and we document it every step of the way, on video, social media, and on the site. 

My first choice is this 1960 Dodge Wagon Wagon, and my second choice is this one.
Price: $4,000, more or less

Aaron Brown, Staff Writer
Nissan 240SX Hatchback

The Drive

If there is one form of car racing that actually forces drivers to use all of their car control abilities, it’s rally. And not only does it require racers to actually think and often, react without thinking while on a hot stage, rally cars are often pushed harder than any other form of race car.

Jumps, slides, pulling out of deep, rocky, mud ruts—that stuff isn’t easy on a car, or on the team who has to actually work to keep that machine running.

And then there’s the community.

There are only so many competitive grassroots racing opportunities here in America. Sure, Spec Miata is fun and competition is fierce over there, but it doesn’t bring people together like rally.

You don’t really get driveway-founded teams traveling hundreds—sometimes thousands—of miles to go compete in some random wooded area in the middle of nowhere with any other form of grassroots racing. And that’s what makes rallying special.

Now, choosing a car to turn into a rally car is not all that easy. One could go the beaten path and choose a Subaru for their all-wheel-drive legacy and proven off-road capabilities, but that’s boring. A slightly more exciting idea would be to choose something a little bit less capable. So, how about a Nissan 240SX hatchback?

It’s real-wheel-drive, which means it will be slightly more of a handful on dirt, but isn’t that the fun of it all? Plus, the rally nerds over at Broken Motorsports have some experience running 240SXs in rally events and would likely be more than happy to help show us around.

So let’s build (or buy) a rally car. It doesn’t have to be perfect—by the time one of us were to get it halfway down a stage, it sure as hell won’t be. But it’ll be loud, quick, almost constantly sideways, and hopefully jumpable. Doesn’t all that sound incredible?

Sure as hell does to me.
Price: $1,750

Mike Guy, Editor
1970 Datsun 510

The Drive

Fine. the Datsun 510 racer is not a practical car. It’s a little racer with really no discernable use beyond a handful of regional races in region many hundreds of miles from where I live in New York City. My wife would veto the purchase, and my two children would probably be killed if I let them near it. However, I stand by this fantasy: I love the Datsun 510, and I love road-racing cars (slowly, that is), and this would just about fit on the terrace outside my apartment. Built by Datsun in 1970, rebuild by the estimable Datsun Dynamics in 1986, this 510 isn’t just a flared, glassed looker: Under the hood is Nissan’s 1.6L L16B engine, with a 32/36 Weber, headers, and 4-speed manual—naturally.
Price: $8,000

Chris Cantle, West Coast Editor
Class 11 Baja Beetle

 

The Drive

It’s true, I’ve got a predilection for motorcycles. And aircraft. And jet skis, offroaders, and race cars. Nor am I immune to the appeal of a good road car. And in Los Angeles, 10k buys a hell of a lot of road car. Because it’s dry as a bone here old cars—even project cars—are a great investment.

But my pick of the bunch isn’t a clapped out Porsche, or even a lust-worthy classic muscle car, even though both can be had here under our $10,000 cap. Unfortunately my decision-making skills are soaked in high-test gas. What I really want is a Class 11 Baja Beetle. A nice one. All ready to race, class legal and shod with four reasonably serviceable BFG’s. An investment that’ll pay big dividends, it isn’t. But there’s nothing that’ll pay off in fun like my very own Baja racer.

Price: $13,000 [ED. NOTE: This violates the rules of the story, however, Cantle insists, “Whatever, you know it’ll sell for $10k.”]

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New Brakes For a Vintage Porsche 912E

New Brakes For a Vintage Porsche 912EThe Drive

Last time I spent time with the 912E, I was trying to figure out getting a fix on the braking system. The car had been sitting for quite a while before I’d purchased it, and the previous owner said that when he’d driven it two years prior the brakes had been less than acceptable. Time didn’t help them any, and I figured, at the very least, bleeding the system and filling with new fluid wouldn’t hurt. It helped, but not nearly enough. Further investigation unearthed sticky caliper pistons, corroded brake pad hardware pieces, rear caliper bleeders that had been rounded off by an overzealous mechanic, and pads that were beyond their serviceable life. They needed help to be their best, so I went in up to my elbows and made some corrections over a long weekend, getting some much needed winding down garage therapy in this most hectic of seasons. 

The Drive

The first thing that needed to be done was to measure the car’s front calipers to determine which pads needed to be purchased. All 912Es use the same rear caliper, but the fronts can be different, depending upon what front uprights were on hand at the factory that day. The primary way to tell which caliper you have is to measure the spacing between the two caliper bolts, generally easier if you remove the caliper from the car. If the caliper mount spacing is 3" from the middle of one mount hole to the other, then your car is fitted with what Porsche and ATE call “M” calipers. If that spacing is slightly wider at 3.5" from center to center, as my car is, then you’ve got what are called “A” calipers. The A caliper is a common cast iron unit from ATE that shares a pad dimension with the alloy “S” caliper, and was used on Ferrari 308s, a number of Porsches, and several German sedans. Now that we know what pads to order, it’s time to get started. For street driving, I like to buy Hawk’s “HPS” series of brake pad, and luckily they had this compound available for both front and rear fitment. It’s a decent street pad as it is more aggressive than your average metallic, but doesn’t squeal or dust nearly as badly as many more hard core track pads. 

The Drive

The rear pads needed to be changed badly. They’re cracked and glazed and low on material. The other pad in my hand here is the new Hawk. Being that this pad dimension was used for decades, Hawk has chosen to add a brake pad wear sensor divot to the pad in order for it to fit several applications without need for more tooling. The pad doesn’t exactly match the original because of this, but it does fit perfectly, and it does work.  

The front pads were much the same, but not quite as bad as the rears. Since I’m changing compounds on the rear, it’s always a good idea to match the front as well, so the old pads will be filed away for just-in-case use (more likely because I’m a low-level hoarder). 

The Drive

At this point, I chose to remove all four calipers from the car to get good access to the pistons. The entire system needed to be bled anyway, as the last time we did the job it didn’t get all of the old fluid out. The pistons were a little stuck in their bores, but some work with a caliper spreader and a little perseverance got them retracted and cleared of old fluid (admittedly some of it ended up all over me). The rear calipers are a bit of a pain to get off as the lower mounting bolt is obscured and can only be turned about one-sixteenth of a turn at a time. The fronts practically jumped off the car in comparison. With the calipers freed up and back on the car, the new pads fitted into the slot like a glove. I took the time to clean up all of the brake pad pins and springs for each caliper with a wire brush and put a bit of anti-seize on each piece hoping to keep them nice.

Bleeding time meant calling my wife out to pump pedals for a bit. Starting with the rear right corner, as it is the farthest one from the master cylinder, then working my way around the car (rear left, front right, front left), it was pretty easy. New bleed valves on the rear made it much easier to bleed this time, as my wrench could actually gain purchase on the sucker. Fresh fluid made the pedal a bit nicer with slightly less travel than before, and it is now certainly a lot more solid feeling. Pop the wheels back on, dump it to the ground, and go for a test drive. The initial impression is that the car is now in desperate need of tires. The car stops quicker than it had before, but it’s still an old car with tiny brakes, so it’s not going to set the world on fire. With the calipers freed up, at least it now stops in a straight line with reliable results. It’s easy to overwhelm the tires and lock them up, however, so a more aggressive set of performance oriented tires are inbound, we’ll talk about that next time.

The brakes were needed, for sure. In early February, we’re taking the car on a road trip down to Paso Robles, California, so it needs to be in tip-top form. Tires for sure, maybe some more fine-tuning with the audio system, and come to think of it the starter is sounding a bit tired these days. Old car ownership is a joy.  

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Why I Sold My Chevy Corvette

Why I Sold My Chevy Corvette

“You said you’d never sell it.”
“But you said you’d keep it forever”
“I saw that video, the one where you got the new wheels. You said you’d have to be living in a cardboard box before you sold your Corvette.”

What you see here is the internet’s reaction (or at least a few of my Instagram followers’ reactions) to a short videos clip I posted in which I have, after 19 years and 25 days, sold my 1998 Corvette, the car I said I would never sell. It’s a funny thing about the internet: your audience is also your fact checker, and the people who are the most into what you do are the same people who will race each other to be the first to call you out when you do something counter to what you’ve said you’d do in the past. But I’m no politician, which means I’m allowed to change my position on cars over time, especially if the circumstances surrounding the debate change too.

When the C5 Corvette dropped in 1997, the atmosphere surrounding it was, of course, very similar to what we saw again with the C7 in 2014. “No Excuses” was thrown around a lot. “World Beating,” was printed in every magazine. After twelve years of the ancient C4 body style, the world had moved on, and the arrival of the C5 seemed perfectly timed to take a big ol’ American dump right on the hood of the E36 M3, which cost nearly $10,000 more than a C5, and the Japanese super sports cars like the Supra, NSX, 300ZX, and 3000GT, all of which had suffered from sticker creep.

The Drive

The C5 was light out the door, with a curb weight just under 3,200 lbs. It was spacious, as Corvettes had always been designed for American drivers, and it had a trunk big enough to handle double the amount of golf bags as it could carry passengers. It was a clean-sheet design that I literally had not seen from a Corvette in my lifetime. It looked sleek, it looked modern. The analog gauges were handsome, and the curves were sweeping and muscular.

Most important, however, was the 345-horsepower, 5.7L V8 engine—the mighty LS1. The LS1, as we know now, is the foundation on one of the greatest engine ranges produced in the history of the automobile. LS engines powered everything from sports cars like the Corvette, GTO, and Camaro, to trucks like the Silverado, Sierra, and Escalade, and luxury cars like the Cadillac CTS-V. As a racing engine, the LS has proven durable and powerful, while boasting a compact, lightweight architecture—meaning that an LS is almost always is the answer when going for an engine swap.

And though its odd-firing order makes a trademark sound today, back in 1998 the LS1 engine had a guttural, yet exotic tone to it, especially when fitted with its refined factory exhaust system. LS engines are old hat these days, 20 years after debuting with the C5, but to go back to that dealership, Kerbeck Corvette in Paramus, New Jersey, it sounded, looked, and felt new and advanced.

I bought my car on my eighteenth birthday, less than 12 hours after gaining access to my Bar Mitzvah savings account. Chevrolet didn’t offer many options on the Corvette at first—mainly you chose between Manual and Automatic, manual or multi-contour power Sport Seats, painted or glass targa roof, and the optional six-disc trunk-mounted CD changer. I bought the car right off the showroom floor, because at eighteen years old, I thought that’s how life worked: Torch Red, Sport Seats, Manual, Painted Roof, Single-Disc BOSE CD Player. $42,000. Cash.

Not getting the CD changer would come to bite me a in the ass later, since you can turn the CD changer input into a functional iPhone connection for about 5 bucks, whereas with the single CD, you can’t do shit. For nineteen years I listened to the same collection of 50-or-so CD’s, never moving past high school behind the wheel of that car. I never changed the radio because I never wanted to pull out the console—like Ikea furniture, I thought, a GM interior will only piece together correctly once. I would later learn that I was wrong—it didn’t even go together right the first time.

But tight panel gaps and a solid door thunk cost a lot more money than horsepower does, and I can fit more fingers between the door and dashboard of my perfect C5’s interior than I could fit inside my first girlfriend. The 993-era 911 feels like it’s milled from solid steel; the Corvette feels like it’s made of Capsela blocks. That’s why the best 911 is always an old 911, and the best Corvette is always the newest one you can afford. 

The Drive

The first seven years of my C5’s life were somewhat charmed. It was never a first car; never a daily driver. It stayed behind in my parents’ garage when I went off to college and remained there while I lived, and worked, in Manhattan. It stayed stock, down to the ugly, blocky stock wheels and garbage first-generation Goodyear runflat tires, and served weekend cruiser duty, with a monthly detail and an annual service, regardless of how few miles it had traveled – generally about a thousand a year. Truth be told, I was a huge pussy as a young driver, and always babied my cars much more than the car ever required. Nevertheless, the Corvette proved to be a comfortable, reasonably practical, very fast and reliable companion for many memorable northeastern road trips, a Pocono track day or two, and the occasional trip to Englishtown for some bracket drag racing. I mastered the art of heel/toe driving in it after watching Senna’s NSX video and learning what real footwork was.

Sometime in 2006, the C5 got old. It was still minty fresh, with maybe 15,000 miles on it, but after one summer of (relatively) heavy road tripping, and a year of working at Gotham Dream Cars driving brand new exotics including the (then) new C6 Z06, my Corvette felt slow, soft, and out of touch with what I needed to be impressed with a car. Many alcohol-infused debates later, and I decided to modify the car, rather than sell it and get something else. And it worked like a charm! I did the whole thing at once – some intake, headwork, bolt-on parts and a full header-back exhaust with a tune punched up the power and the soundtrack to right around 400 at the rear wheels. I did the Pfadt Coilover Suspension with the big swaybars and the 4-point roll bar. Sparco Seats, harnesses, and a new steering wheel went in; I hated the stock units by then, and a Hurst shifter for tighter throws. And then a new set of custom-made wheels on Goodyear Eagle F1 Assymetric tires which did look cool, but didn’t end so well later.

The modifications worked, and my eight-year old C5 felt new again. The newfound power and stance, the new snugness of the Sparco seats, the improved ride quality, handling; the flatter cornering. And the sound of that LS engine uncorked from the long-tube headers back – I once appeared at a car show where there was an “exhaust-off” and from 10 feet back, someone with a decibel meter measured 132 dB at the Vette’s 6500 RPM redline. It was still an older car, but it was my first foray into the world of properly tuned sports cars, which sat on a different level, mentally, from the modified late-model Mustangs we’d had as kids.  The Corvette got fun again, I started putting miles on it more regularly, and it moved with me to California in June of 2009. In the first ten years, I’d had only two mechanical issues in 20,000 miles, both of which I could say were my own fault.

I once disconnected the exhaust entirely, after the header. This was before I modified it at all, and my friend Larry and I were going to Wildwood for Muscle Car Weekend. I drove the car with fully open headers for about three weeks, thinking it sounded cool. In hindsight, I must have looked like a fucking moron. Today’s me would definitely be making fun of a kid driving a new-looking Corvette with stock wheels and open headers. The heat from the exhaust dumping right next to the transmission melted a couple of sensors, and required some replacement. After that, I put the exhaust back on and came to my senses. 

The Drive

Then, there was the always-prevalent dead-battery issue. You see, the C5 needs to be driven every few days, or it needs to be on a tender; especially the early cars. These cars had a lot of “passive” tech like primitive keyless-entry systems, which would parasitically drain the battery over a period of days, especially if you kept the car keys within range of the car’s sensors; like on a hook inside the garage door. The car would always sense the key, and therefore always be “awake,” and lunch the battery. But before I got a tender, I installed a quick-disconnect switch and would shut off the battery when I wasn’t using the car. That drove the electrical system completely batshit, and created all kinds of electrical issues with the gauges and on-board computer. Eventually I figured out what a battery tender was, and removed the cutoff switch entirely. I never had an electrical problem or dead battery again.

I’d have thought California would be the kind of place the Corvette would shine – driving with the targa roof removed (it conveniently stores in the trunk) was a favorite pastime of mine, and California sunshine could have made that a regular occurrence. And while California’s canyon roads are indeed perfect for letting the C5’s engine sing its operatic song, it was never as practical, or as comfortable as I wanted it to be.

I had a cute little beach cottage, perfect in nearly every way, with a dutch door and a hot tub in the back. Everything about it said “this is California living.” Especially the driveway, which was the typical So Cal no-drainage system driveway; angles that would impress MC Escher led to a garage door eight feet below the road surface. I literally had to build ramps out of plywood every time I wanted to get the car out of the garage. It was so low that hearing the plastic front air dam scrape became a musical accompaniment to any drive.

To get around the issue of having to move heavy wood boards in and out with a bad back, a friend of mine allowed me to use his warehouse for free, a level of enabling the likes of which, I’ll probably never see again. The Corvette went to live over there, officially turning me into “offsite storage” guy.  The C5 became a point-A to point-A car; and in its defense, it was a good one. Until I got Michelin Pilot Super Sport Tires, and the wheels started cracking, sidelining the C5 for over a year while I played two thousand dollars worth of UPS volleyball with a manufacturer in New York; every bit of it, in hindsight, wasted. Eventually I smartened up and had HRE make me a set of their FlowForm wheels, which were light and strong, and solved that issue. In the meantime, I used that free space efficiently; amassing a collection far outside what should be expected from someone at my income level. I owned seven cars in early 2016, five of them stored beautifully, in a place for which I did not have to pay. I made a video with the Corvette, showing off my new wheels and taking a blast through the canyons, in which I declared that I would never sell the car. But it’s easy to say some shit like that when you’re in fantasy car storage land. It can sit there and go on its twice-annual road trip somewhere nice, and it doesn’t really matter that, fundamentally, it’s a sub-$20,000, used Corvette. When storage is free, (or you’re rich as fuck like Jay Leno), sentimentality is a more-than-appropriate reason to declare you’ll never sell something.

But back in March, my enabling friend sold his building, scattering my cars about Los Angeles like an elephant farting on a dandelion. Without storage, sentimentality is a tough pill to swallow when you’re doing math and writing checks. The kind folks at the (newly renovated!) Petersen Automotive Museum allowed me to store the Corvette and Delorean for a few months in their “vault” underneath the parking garage; BBI took my Mustang, but only because it was broken. I sold my Skyline, then my Delorean, and still felt like I had cars all over the place.

LA, as I’ve said over and over, is a shit city in which to keep cars in all different places. My next goal, career-wise, is to solve that issue for not only myself, but other people like me, but that’s taking a long fucking time; way longer than I ever thought possible.

The Drive

A cool, fun, fast car can become a headache alarmingly fast, especially when something like my Fox Body Mustang comes along; the sum total of the car I wanted when I was a kid (theoretically) doing the thing I like to do now, not to mention the fine buffet of cars in the press fleet rotation.

The Corvette is the car I actually did have as a kid, not the car I always wanted but never had. Ironic, of course, since anyone with half a brain would tell you that a 1998 Corvette is certainly a better performance platform than a 1988 Mustang, but once a car isn’t the newest, fastest thing anymore, its relative performance takes a proper back seat to the driving experience and the emotional connection to the machine, something I feel stronger today towards my Mustang than I do towards the Corvette; reliability be damned. Factor in the job of driving the newest, fastest things every single week, and in the last few months, I’ve found myself at a crossroads – do a build on the Corvette to make it more interesting again? Or sell the car and move on?

I learned a lesson very young that I take with me to this day, and it even appears in my columns here at The Drive—you can always make a car go faster, but you can’t fundamentally change what it is. And although the idea of an 800-HP standing mile monster, or a project drift car, or a full-on track build does sound appealing, and like a waste of money in line with my previous decisions, fundamentally, I think I need more from a car today than a C5 Corvette can offer – like build quality, bank-vault solidity, and precision. And so when I got a fair offer on it from someone who sees it as something new and exciting; something she can take to the track, I accepted the offer, and sold the car. And yesterday, I watched as it drove away, through a New Mexico snowstorm, on its way to track days at Mid Ohio and the pages of Road & Track.

It never left me stranded; it never broke down; in 32,000 miles and nearly two decades, it never suffered a single mechanical failure of any kind. There are certain parts, especially for 97’s and 98’s, which are extraordinarily priced – in some cases cost prohibitive to fix at all. (Tire pressure sensors, for instance, are $400 per corner. For a ’99, they’re $25). And in twenty years, it retained nearly half its value at resale, despite being at “minimum cool” in the collector car cycle right about now. I’ve kept it, and I’ve loved it, but for the last year, driving it feels like more of a duty, more like work than the escape it should be.

And rather than sadness, I feel relief. I had a long time with that car, and we had lots of adventures together. We saw some great roads, had some great laughs, and it even got me laid exactly one time, by a girl who, despite the embossed CORVETTE logo on the airbag in front of her face, said, “I can’t believe I’m out with someone who drives a Ferrari.”

And within 24 hours of the Corvette’s departure from my garage and my life, its valued parking space is replaced by something even redder – my wonderful girlfriend Hanna’s Volvo V60 making itself comfortable in the garage as she is now a resident of what is now our home together. The timing may be coincidental, but the occasion marks the end of my youth; I’m sure of it. My young adulthood can be encircled by the ownership of one Torch Red Corvette. What car will define adult Matt in the future? Only time will tell, but first, we’re gonna need a bigger warehouse.

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New Brakes For An Vintage Porsche 912E

New Brakes For An Vintage Porsche 912EThe Drive

Last time I spent time with the 912E, I was trying to figure out getting a fix on the braking system. The car had been sitting for quite a while before I’d purchased it, and the previous owner said that when he’d driven it two years prior the brakes had been less than acceptable. Time didn’t help them any, and I figured, at the very least, bleeding the system and filling with new fluid wouldn’t hurt. It helped, but not nearly enough. Further investigation unearthed sticky caliper pistons, corroded brake pad hardware pieces, rear caliper bleeders that had been rounded off by an overzealous mechanic, and pads that were beyond their serviceable life. They needed help to be their best, so I went in up to my elbows and made some corrections over a long weekend, getting some much needed winding down garage therapy in this most hectic of seasons. 

The Drive

The first thing that needed to be done was to measure the car’s front calipers to determine which pads needed to be purchased. All 912Es use the same rear caliper, but the fronts can be different, depending upon what front uprights were on hand at the factory that day. The primary way to tell which caliper you have is to measure the spacing between the two caliper bolts, generally easier if you remove the caliper from the car. If the caliper mount spacing is 3" from the middle of one mount hole to the other, then your car is fitted with what Porsche and ATE call “M” calipers. If that spacing is slightly wider at 3.5" from center to center, as my car is, then you’ve got what are called “A” calipers. The A caliper is a common cast iron unit from ATE that shares a pad dimension with the alloy “S” caliper, and was used on Ferrari 308s, a number of Porsches, and several German sedans. Now that we know what pads to order, it’s time to get started. For street driving, I like to buy Hawk’s “HPS” series of brake pad, and luckily they had this compound available for both front and rear fitment. It’s a decent street pad as it is more aggressive than your average metallic, but doesn’t squeal or dust nearly as badly as many more hard core track pads. 

The Drive

The rear pads needed to be changed badly. They’re cracked and glazed and low on material. The other pad in my hand here is the new Hawk. Being that this pad dimension was used for decades, Hawk has chosen to add a brake pad wear sensor divot to the pad in order for it to fit several applications without need for more tooling. The pad doesn’t exactly match the original because of this, but it does fit perfectly, and it does work.  

The front pads were much the same, but not quite as bad as the rears. Since I’m changing compounds on the rear, it’s always a good idea to match the front as well, so the old pads will be filed away for just-in-case use (more likely because I’m a low-level hoarder). 

The Drive

At this point, I chose to remove all four calipers from the car to get good access to the pistons. The entire system needed to be bled anyway, as the last time we did the job it didn’t get all of the old fluid out. The pistons were a little stuck in their bores, but some work with a caliper spreader and a little perseverance got them retracted and cleared of old fluid (admittedly some of it ended up all over me). The rear calipers are a bit of a pain to get off as the lower mounting bolt is obscured and can only be turned about one-sixteenth of a turn at a time. The fronts practically jumped off the car in comparison. With the calipers freed up and back on the car, the new pads fitted into the slot like a glove. I took the time to clean up all of the brake pad pins and springs for each caliper with a wire brush and put a bit of anti-seize on each piece hoping to keep them nice.

Bleeding time meant calling my wife out to pump pedals for a bit. Starting with the rear right corner, as it is the farthest one from the master cylinder, then working my way around the car (rear left, front right, front left), it was pretty easy. New bleed valves on the rear made it much easier to bleed this time, as my wrench could actually gain purchase on the sucker. Fresh fluid made the pedal a bit nicer with slightly less travel than before, and it is now certainly a lot more solid feeling. Pop the wheels back on, dump it to the ground, and go for a test drive. The initial impression is that the car is now in desperate need of tires. The car stops quicker than it had before, but it’s still an old car with tiny brakes, so it’s not going to set the world on fire. With the calipers freed up, at least it now stops in a straight line with reliable results. It’s easy to overwhelm the tires and lock them up, however, so a more aggressive set of performance oriented tires are inbound, we’ll talk about that next time.

The brakes were needed, for sure. In early February, we’re taking the car on a road trip down to Paso Robles, California, so it needs to be in tip-top form. Tires for sure, maybe some more fine-tuning with the audio system, and come to think of it the starter is sounding a bit tired these days. Old car ownership is a joy.  

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Car Porn: Jay Leno’s 1955 Buick Roadmaster

Car Porn: Jay Leno's 1955 Buick Roadmaster

Time to unbuckle, ease the seat back, and get intimate with this week’s installment of Car Porn—nothing but the sexiest shots of the hottest cars on the internet. Go ahead and stare at Jay Leno’s 1955 Buick Roadmaster. You know you want to.

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Firing up the Legendary Greenwood Corvette

Greenwood Corvette

Even by modern metrics, the Greenwood Corvettes would raise eyebrows. Equipped with 750-horsepower aluminum block ZL1 racing engines and draped in garish patriotic liveries, the Greenwood cars—in fact, this very Greenwood car—hit 215 mph on the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans. Impressive today; in 1971, it was outright obscene.

That’s how John Greenwood did things. The image I have in my head of the man, no doubt from a musty old book about the golden age of American sports car racing, has him in a driving suit, prescription aviators, and a big, bushy mustache. That’s how he looked when he started a war.

Greenwood had big backing in 1972. B. F. Goodrich had a race-worthy radial they wanted to bring to the market, and they chose Greenwood and his C3 to get the word out. With a couple SCCA championships already in the bag thanks to his Corvettes, it was a great fit. Not to be outdone, Goodyear was throwing their sponsor dollars and finest rubber at an IMSA Corvette team as well. Greenwood, a patriotic northerner, slathered his cars in an outlandish American flag. The Goodyear car, run by a team from Florida, went with a Dixie theme. It was on.

The Drive

Starting up the Greenwood ‘Vette in a showroom is an instant reminder why the cars were, and are, such fan favorites. In a room full of classics and exotics, just starting that TRACO racing engine makes everything else take cover in the background.

Greenwood built a few of these extraordinary machines. Originally meant to be a show car, this perfectly restored specimen was the only one to be purchased from the factory as an L88. That pedigree alone would push it well into six figures. With a run at Le Mans under its belt? You’re looking at a healthy seven. Your ears alone can tell you if it’s worth it.

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With Used Cars, You Get What You Pay For

Used Cars

The active mind of Prius Man—my small-vegetable-plot-upstate-owning, Brooklyn-dwelling, Prius-driving friend—is again churning through ideas. He wants to know if yet another hipster fad will benefit him financially (or, perhaps, spiritually). He’s considering buying a diesel pickup truck and running it on fryer grease – y’know, BIOdiesel, maaan. There are myriad problems that can be encountered if you want to go in this direction, not least of which is converting the grease into usable oil (not impossible, but a lot of work).

But Prius Man’s primary challenge is his budget. Buying a used car is such a tricky thing, but these days, having at least $3,000 (depending upon the vehicle you want) at your disposal goes a long way toward limiting tribulation and disappointment further (sometimes not all that much further) down the line. Prius Man had sent me a number of Craigslist ads from Upstate New York depicting rusty, decrepit trucks that looked sure to end up breaking in two at some point, potentially breaking his heart and/or wallet in the process. Not one of them was listed for more than $1,800.

So I explained to Prius Man one of the cardinal rules of used car shopping: Pay more now, or pay a lot more later. Diesel pickups, with their robust powertrains, are sought-after workhorses even decades after their new-car smell has worn off. The asking price for a 20-year-old example of one can be staggering. In other words, unless you know someone who likes you enough to practically give one away (or you buy one from someone who “doesn’t know what they have”), you’re probably not getting one for $1,800 unless there’s a good reason for it. Or, really, a bad reason for it. Like rusted brake lines or a fuel tank that looks like Swiss cheese or a moldy animatronic Chucky Cheese rotting in the bed under a pile of green and black aluminum scraps.

The message here is very simple. Every used car has a market value. Good used cars that sell for less than their market value usually get snapped up very quickly, and for good reason. Most sellers, though, will try to get as much as the market will bear when they put a vehicle up for sale. That means that if you see a rusty old hulk “for sale, cheap,” there’s a catch. Usually, the catch is that it’s a pile of crap.

To illustrate what I mean about pay now or pay more later, I’ll draw from my extensive list of bonehead purchases. Some years ago, I was on the hunt for an early Toyota 4Runner—one of the ones with a removable fiberglass top. Naturally, I didn’t have much money at my disposal, so when I found one for sale at a price significantly lower than all the others on the market, I jumped at the seller’s bait.


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The seller, a man with a gold tooth who said he worked in one of Virginia’s fine correctional institutions, assured me that the vehicle was in tip-top shape. It had been painted (which was perfectly clear, as the normally black top was body colored), the original wheels had been swapped out for chrome ones and a rather flamboyant body-colored visor had been added above the windshield. I wasn’t a huge fan of the aesthetic, but how could I resist such a deal?!

I drove the truck home, then, after changing the oil, took it on a surf trip up the Jersey Shore. Imagine my surprise when I had to fill up the fuel tank after only 220 miles of driving. After crunching the numbers to figure out fuel economy, I found out that I was only getting 13 mpg—not at all normal consumption for a 4-cylinder engine. Then the engine began stalling out. Then it wouldn’t start. Yep, something was wrong.

As it turned out, there was a cylinder head gasket leak that was draining coolant into number four cylinder (the back one). Someone—probably the nice, gold-toothed gentleman who’d sold me the truck—had installed a smaller-than-normal spark plug into that cylinder to relieve the pressure caused by the non-compressible water in the cylinder. It had worked well enough for the truck to run smoothly for a while, but then, as the leak had progressed, the jerry-rigged repair wasn’t enough vent the fluid entering the cylinder.

The result was a cracked cylinder head (luckily, none of the internal engine parts had been damaged), along with an $800 repair bill from the machine shop, a lot of work to replace the head gasket and a generally unfavorable view of prison guards.

All that’s a really lengthy way of explaining the skeletons that can be hiding in the closet of a “good deal.” Unless it’s free—and even then—any vehicle should be checked out more thoroughly than I checked that 4Runner before plunking down a couple thousand dollars that was, at the time, a lot of money for my $8 an hour-making ass to pay. (The reason I mention free vehicles is because those can incur unanticipated costs, too, if they’re in poor condition.)

I have a few more stories like that up my sleeve, and if pressed, will tell them. Suffice to say, it took me a while of “learning the hard way” to actually learn anything.

So I’ll tell you what I told Prius Man: save up a little extra cash – at least three times as much in his case – and buy something you won’t regret later. Take your time, get the vehicle checked out by a mechanic if you aren’t one yourself. And for god’s sake, if your gut tells you that there’s something, anything, that ain’t right—either about the vehicle or in the seller’s demeanor—walk away. There are other fish in the sea, so to speak.

You’ll thank yourself later.

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Aston Martin to Build 25 Vintage DB4 GT Continuation Cars

Aston Martin to Build 25 Vintage DB4 GT Continuation Cars

The Aston Martin DB4 GT is making a return in the form of a new, limited-run continuation model. And no, you can’t afford it.

The British automaker will be bringing 25 new DB4 GTs to life, Aston Martin announced in a press release last Friday. All of the cars will be for track use only and will be built to the 1959 lightweight spec at the Aston Martin Works facility in Newport Pagnell​, just over an hour north of London. Production there ended there in 2007 with the outgoing Vanquish S, but the line will return to life to build this new(ish) car.

The new cars will have a 3.7-liter straight-six cylinder engine that puts out 340 horsepower, and will be connected to a four-speed manual transmission and a limited-slip differential—just as it did when the car was originally designed.

“The DB4 G.T. stands proud as one of the most coveted [Aston Martin sports cars] of all,” said Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer. “It’s a mark of Aston Martin’s breadth of abilities that in the same year we launched the DB11—our most advanced ‘DB’ production car ever—we can also embark on an adventure such as the DB4 G.T. Continuation.”

The 25 DB4 GTs will be integrated into a two-year race track driving program arranged by Aston Martin Works. Owners will be given the opportunity to drive their cars at various race tracks—Aston Martin noted the Yas Marina Circuit as being one of them—in an arrive-and-drive setup with experienced driving instructors on hand.

Seventy-five DB4 GTs were originally built between 1959 and 1963, but only eight were constructed to lightweight specification. Aston Martin believes that those cars are now valued at more than £3 million (around $3.8 million). As proper continuation models, the new cars will continue on with where the last cars left off, at chassis 0202R.

Aston Martin joins the likes of Jaguar and AC Cars in the list of British automakers who have recently reincarnated some of their most well-loved vintage cars, with the former resurrecting the XKSS and the latter bringing the Cobra back to life. 

Though it’s unclear from the press release, it sounds like Aston Martin won’t be letting buyers of the new DB4 GTs actually drive their cars on the road. If that’s the case, well, that kind of sucks. Though pricing wasn’t announced, we’d guess that these cars will cost a hell of a lot of money—and for whatever that number will be, we’d want the freedom to drive these cars wherever we want. 

But hey, we’re not rich. For all we know, maybe the thick-walleted folk who will be buying these won’t give a damn where they get to drive it, so long as they do. 

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This Aston Martin V8 Vantage Is An Undercover Hero

This Aston Martin V8 Vantage Is An Undercover Hero

The Eighties brought dark days for Aston Martin. After enduring a tumultuous ownership change the decade prior, the company’s finances were in shambles, and product development lagged as a result. Things hit an all-time in 1982, when Aston sold just 30 vehicles. One of the few bright spots was the “X-Pack” V8 Vantage.

The Drive

Produced from 1986 and 1989, these special-option models came equipped with a so-called 580X powerplant. Using the base Vantage 5.3 liter alloy engine architecture, the package added a high-compression Cosworth piston set, larger intake manifold, and 4×2 Weber carburetor setup. Also redesigned cylinder heads, with hotter intake valves and camshafts, cribbed from the abandoned Group C Nimrod Le Mans racecar. Serious kit, and it paid off. Final output, a stout 437 bhp, bested the Ferrari 288 GTO; the 0-60 mph time, 5.2 seconds, was just one tenth off a contemporary Lamborghini Countach 5000QV. The X-Pack V8 Vantage might not have been an outright world-beater, but it was exclusive, and kept the company relevant during a heady supercar arms race.

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Aston Martin only built 121 examples. The car you see here is the reason those 121 existed.

Finished in Kensington Silver over blue leather, this V8 Vantage Coupe was built to standard spec with an automatic transmission, then shipped to a dealer in Stratton, England, in 1985. But, after conceiving of the X-Pack, Aston Martin Works asked for the car back. It became the engineering team’s own mule, given a special DP (“Development Project”) chassis number and converted to X-Pack trim. As a Works prototype, the V8 Vantage also got unique suspension, plus updated 16-inch wheels, for evaluation.

The Drive

It gets better. Aston Martin sold this undercover hero car to one John Elliott, its first private owner, in December of 1988. He then promptly returned it to the Works department and had a five-speed ZF manual gearbox retrofitted. Because Mr. Elliott, too, is a hero.

The Drive

Now, the car is for sale through J.D. Classics in Essex. It’s downright gorgeous, and comes with all the paperwork and documentation you’d expect, plus factory goodies, like an original tool kit and Tanner Krolle luggage set. Price is decidedly in “if you have to ask…” territory. But, for a certain kind of Aston aficionado, the first-ever X-Pack Vantage V8—with three pedals, as the Good Lord intended—also falls under “must-have” jurisdiction. Check out the full listing, complete with a high-resolution photo set from Tim Scott of Fluid Images, at J.D. Classic’s website here.

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