Blog

Short blog posts, journal entries, and random thoughts. Topics include a mix of personal and the world at large. 

July 4th and cars

Happy 4th!

America is indeed the greatest country on the planet, despite its warts - perceived or otherwise. No matter if you agree with the sitting President or not, the United States remains a beacon of freedom and a land of opportunity. It’s the reason my family emigrated here way back in 1996, when I was only eight years old. Growing up in what was a foreign country wasn’t without its challenges, but overall it’s been a huge net positive. It’s hard to imagine what my life would be like now had we stayed in China.

One big thing I wouldn’t have had in China, a thing that America does so well to foster and encourage, is vehicle ownership, and car enthusiasm. In the home of open roads, endless interstates, cheap gasoline, and (relatively) low vehicle cost, I was able to grow into a love of cars, and as an adult, lucky to have the means to fully explore and immerse into the Californian car culture. I dare say no other country offers such easy access to a variety of cars and the immense road networks to enjoy them on.

Contrast that to China, where human density tops the charts, and car ownership is severely limited (and you thought your American city has terrible parking). Speed cameras are absolutely everywhere, so you can’t have any fun, period (authoritarian single-party government, remember). More crucially, the typical wage in relation to how much cars cost in China, made even worse punitive tariffs, means there would be no possible way I’d be able to own a Porsche 911 GT3 as I do here in the States. The only cars I’d be capable to buy (if allowed to, anyways) are the Chinese brands, which I have to say are quite cheap, costing around $6,000 equivalent.

So on this particular July 4th, I’m extremely grateful to live in a country where I can truly cultivate my passion for automobiles. There’s really no better place that this.

Views from the central valley.

It's my birthday

You know, once you’ve crossed the line pass 30 years of age, it’s not so bad. All the anxiety and dread that came before that, however artificially drummed up they may be, simply goes away.

At least it did for me.

I am turning 31 today, and honestly I nearly forgotten about it if not for kind relatives wishing me a good one on the messaging apps. I’ve been so focused on my learning and tasks that it was too easy to forget about milestones like this, especially when its significance is far from that of the 30th birthday.

Today is just another day, really.

Indeed I am supremely grateful for yet another year on this earth, and I think this coming one will be the best yet, mostly because the fourth Avengers movie will be released. Isn’t that the whole point: to improve and get better year by year? For sure there are downs to go with the ups but as long as it’s a net positive at the end, then it’s a good year.

It’s about the long game, and the powers of compounding.

I can say I’m truly at a good place right now, though I did spend a large portion of 30 trying to find the right groove to fit into. I wouldn’t categorize it as anything tumultuous; I merely wanted to find something to latch onto in the coming few years. Steady as I was in my studies and work (and immensely gratefully so), I needed some sort of grand project to put my time and creativity into (not to mention, money).

And I found it in one of my very first loves: cars. Earlier this year I sold my Miata and went car-less, and somewhat paradoxically it rekindled my interesting in the automobile. Something about taking things for granted and having it stripped from you to realize it. These days I really miss having a car to mess around with, to go places and indulge in my other hobby of photography.

So I spent the latter half of 30 implementing severe austerity in order to save money for an 911, and I’m oh so very close to pulling the trigger. The calendar will have to turn over to 2019 before that happens, though.

In the meantime it’s simply day by day. It’s great to be alive, and I’m thankfully to have done it for 31 years. Cheers to many more to come.

People watching is one of my favorite sports.

People watching is one of my favorite sports.

460 horsepower for $35K is insane

Is anybody else alarmed by this? For about the average transaction price of a new car, a person can buy a Ford Mustang with 460 horsepower. God bless America and all but that much power in a rear-wheel drive platform, in the hands of America's desperately under-trained drivers, doesn't sound like a solid recipe to me. I guess it explains the Mustang's not so sterling reputation at your local Cars and Coffee event.

Dangers of oversteer and colliding with humans aside, it's a wonderful time to be alive for car enthusiasts if all you want is pure horsepower, and kudos to the American brands for taking the flag. For mid 30 to low 40 thousand dollars, one can buy a Chevy Camaro, Ford Mustang, or Dodge Challenger with horsepower in the 400s. Pony up to the 60 thousands and a Corvette Stingray with nearly 500 horsepower or a Challenger Hellcat with over 700 becomes available

A decade ago those levels of thrust cost well into the six figures. 

Japan sadly have not kept pace in the performance-per-dollar arms race (a Nissan GTR is much too expensive). The Subaru WRX STI have had the same 300 or so horsepower engine for over a decade. while the Nissan Z have languished for nearly as long a period. Toyota abstinently refuses to give its 86 coupe more power; it'll be embarrassing indeed if the forthcoming return of the Supra doesn't have at least 400 horsepower in the car. 

So why don't I simply buy an American sports car? Well, because I care about more than just horsepower (it's really nice, don't get me wrong). The trio of sports coupes from the United States are each critically flawed: the 'Alpha' chassis underpinning the Camaro is universally acclaimed but outward visibility from the cabin remains atrocious; the Challenger shares a platform with old European Mercedes Benz taxis so it's not a proper sports car; and the Mustang GT's MT-82 manual gearbox is an Achilles' heel. 

The only way I'd own one of those cars is if I win one from those car sweepstakes they have at the mall.

A Corvette or a Shelby GT350 is a different story; these two cars tick every box on my list of wants: high-revving naturally-aspirated motor, manual gearbox (proper Tremec units), a track-ready real-wheel drive chassis, and a limited-slip differential. For around 60 grand it's a heck of a bargain, but there's one glaring flaw with both cars:

It's not a 911. 

"Summer" in San Francisco is as advertised. 

"Summer" in San Francisco is as advertised.