Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dude, Your Car Sounds So Fast

Just think about when today’s kids become woodworkers….things are going to be a lot different. I say this based upon their choice in automobiles.

To give a foundation for the validity of my statements, let me give you my resume.

I am a car guy. I didn’t see it coming. I was a cyclist, and cars were just the things that could potentially kill you out on the narrow country roads of Indiana. However, when I turned 16, I decided I needed a car. I just wanted a car…any car would have done. So I took all of my money from my paper route, and my parents helped me out by giving me some additional funds, and we went out looking for cars.

I remember we were down in Acton (southeast of Indianapolis) when we looked over and saw a car for sale. It was hard to miss it. It was orange. Those hood scoops were factory original…not some stupid aftermarket crap. The center caps on the Ralley II wheels indicated the car was part of PMD (the Pontiac Motor Division of GM). However, PMD was not the important 3 letter acronym associated with this car. I would say the more important letters were GTO. It had rusty quarter panels, perfect white vinyl interior, and everything was original…including the lady who sold it to us. She had bought it brand new from Tom Wood Pontiac back in 1972. She wanted $1000, and we got it for $900 cash. It was the fall of 1986, and I still didn’t know what I had. I just knew I had a car.

Then, I drove myself to school the next day and something happened…I pulled into my parking spot when a bunch of guys I didn’t know were suddenly surrounding my car and asking me questions about my “Goat.” GOAT?!?!?!? Wow, these guys aren’t dumb…they’re just dyslexic. Well, somehow thanks to an orange Pontiac GTO my life as a Gearhead was jumpstarted.

A couple of years later, in college, I fell hard for convertibles, and I kept myself going knowing that my Rose-Hulman degree would land me an engineering job and enough salary to get a new convertible. During rainy college nights, when I would be fixing Thumper (my 1981 VW Rabbit) on the side of I-70, I vowed that I would get a new car (a convertible) the moment I graduated.

By the way, going from the GTO to Thumper was quite a change. Thumper only had compression in 3 of its 4 cylinders, so even though I thought I was Ayrton Senna when I would shift the four speed manual transmission, the car sure didn’t perform like his F1 car. Thumper didn’t perform or sound like my GTO. However, the GTO only got 8 miles to the gallon. (Honest to God…it got 8 mpg). Thumper was far more economical for a college student even with the cheap fuel we had in the early 1990s. Still, I always loved the sound of the V8.

Today, Gail and I have four cars, and we cover a wide spectrum. We have a 4 cylinder Jeep Wrangler with a full roll cage, Skid Plates galore, a Warn Winch, and ARB Air Lockers with 4.56 gears. (Our rock crawling history was done with Low Gearing…not high HP.) Gail has a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited with a V8. We have the amazingly economical 2006 VW Jetta TDi (Diesel), and we have a Mercedes SLK with AMG Sport Package. So we have a 4 cylinder, a 6 cylinder, an 8 cylinder, and a diesel. We fix EVERYTHING ourselves, and we keep our cars forever. (I am a true Gearhead...)

When we got the Mercedes, Gail said I had to get rid of the convertible I got 5 days after I graduated from Rose-Hulman, so I gave it to my mother. (I am a very good son).

I love my Mercedes. I love the fact that it is soooooooooo smooth. It idles like a finely engineered automobile, but when you plant the right foot hard, it opens up an adrenaline flood of tsunami proportion. If I am getting on it, the traction control kicks in on the 2-3 shift. Do you know what it takes to break loose those huge back tires while letting out the clutch on the shift into third gear?

However, when the SLK is cruising along, the guy driving next to it has no idea what that silver beauty can do. He probably thinks, “Wow that car is beautiful.” And when it is suddenly gone he thinks, “WOW!!!! That beautiful car is FAST!!!!!!!”

By comparison, this week while driving home from work, my Diesel Jetta was passed by a Husqvarna chain saw. It wasn’t really a chain saw; it was actually a WeedWhacker. You’ve seen them. Little cars driven by 18 year old guys with some kind of coffee can sticking out from under the rear bumper that makes the car sound like something you’d use to clean up a fence line. So the Weed Whacker passes me, and at the next stop light it couldn’t accelerate as fast as my Diesel Jetta that only has about 98 hp. And I, as a Mechanical Engineer and a Gearhead, just couldn’t figure it out. What is the appeal in that sound? Why would a kid want fancy wheels and a coffee can that makes WeedWhacker noises when there are so many other options?

I think I want to do an intervention. I want to work with the local schools and get all of the kids together at the racetrack when they turn 15 and go through a little Scared Straight program.

We’ll start with a Shelby Cobra. I’ll make sure the side pipes are nice and loud, and we’ll just take each kid for a couple of hot laps and let them see what real hp and real exhaust rumble is all about.

Then, I can pack 4 kids into an AMG Mercedes Sedan (let’s go with an S65). And we’ll start by just sitting there letting them play with the interior toys and feel the leather seats and just generally get the feel of what you get with a $200,000 Mercedes. Then, I’ll turn to look at the collection of 15 year old kids, and say, “Let’s see what this 4 door Family Truckster car can do.” (I won’t necessarily tell them that this particular 4 door has a bi-turbo V12 that pumps out over 600 street legal and factory warrantied horsepower.) It just looks like a beautiful 4 door Mercedes that blows away just about anything on the road without having to make any funky WeedWhacker noises.

This is my true calling. I need to work with America’s youth to let them know that WeedWhacker Mufflers are just wrong. You only have three choices:
  1. Leave your Mom’s Buick sounding just like it did the day she bought it.
  2. Get yourself an American V8 and bolt on some headers and a free flowing exhaust package and bask in the Symphony of the Right Foot Stomp
  3. Pay way too much money to get a race car that is hidden underneath the skin of a 4 door German luxury car, and go out looking for Corvettes and Mustangs to mess with.

If I don’t do this, then we are going to lose this generation to the mistaken belief that the WeedWhacker sound is not only acceptable, but that it actually symbolizes performance.

Think of what that attitude will do to the future of woodworking. My nephews will end up saying things like, “My uncle Jeff thinks that 5 hp Unisaw is tough, but give me a 7 ½” Skil saw with an exhaust rattler any day.” “Uncle Jeff thinks his 18 inch Bandsaw is cool, but I would much rather just use this jig saw with the optional motor Rattler.” These little punks won’t even have the decency to build upon the foundation of a Festool Plunge saw. They’ll be buying saws from Harbor Freight and bolting on aftermarket equipment to accentuate the screaming of the cheap Chinese bearings. And in their mind, they’ll be cool.


Casey Gooding said...

Honestly, I've never understood those crazy mufflers either. I mean, why would you pay extra $$$ to buy something that does the opposite of what it's supposed to do ON PURPOSE???

I have a business proposition. You stupid punks (oh, I mean upstanding teenage citizens) pay me half what that aftermarket crap costs and I'll put a shotgun shell in your muffler. Same results, half the price, and I get to shoot your car.

Anonymous said...

When you get those 15 year old teens together don't forget your nephew Jacob, He just turned 15. And he will need instruction on picking a car worth having. I couldn't bear it if he got a car with a coffee can. gls

Ethan said...

Which is worse? The muffler or the fin?

Seriously, does your Hyundai Accent REALLY need help keeping its rear end on the pavement?

My favorite so far was the Kia in front of me at the ATM a few months ago who had his fin on backwards... and it was so heavy (the car was so cheap?) it dented in the trunk lid.