Blog

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

I got declined for the Apple Card!?

I obviously don’t need yet another credit card. I happily bank with Chase - except for their savings products which pay absolutely peanuts in interest rate, and currently have their line of credit cards with excellent rewards. I mean, 5% back on Amazon with the Amazon Prime Card! How on earth is Chase making money from me - someone who always pay the full amount on time - on that particular card is beyond me.

But I am a huge fanboy of Apple products, (typing this on my brand new 15-inch Macbook Pro, and getting distracted in the process by twitter on the iPhone X next to it) so when Apple announced a credit card product of their very own - replete with the usual Apple design flare - I was completely onboard. In a landscape full of metal-backed cards, Apple went and produced the Apple Card out of titanium, which sounds awesome. Of course, the entire thing is colored in white.

As far as perks and rewards go, the Apple Card is wholly inadequate. Zero sign-up bonus to speak of, and you only get the industry-typical 3% back when you shop with Apple. Using the actual physical card only nets 1% cash back, which is very pedestrian.

A credit card made out of titanium, though!

So like a good Apple shill, I applied for the Apple Card as soon as the sign-up was available to the general public (I was not amongst the lucky few to get an early invite). To my utter surprise: I got declined! I guess even a near 800 credit score means nothing these days. To Apple’s - and Goldman Sach’s - credit, they do send you an email explaining the rejection, and for me it was because my debt to income ratio was too high(?)

At first I thought this can’t be possible: the only solid chunk of debt I have is the car note on the GT3, and that only amounts to around $750 a month; I comfortably make more than that. Then I realized it was because the loan for the GT3 is uncollateralized; Goldman is treating it as simply a huge lump of debt, something of an albatross that needs to be paid off as soon as possible. Obviously, in reality that’s not structurally true at all.

This probably means it’s not only the Apple Card: I likely won’t be able to apply for any other credit card until the GT3 is entirely paid off. Which is just as well, because like I said, I don’t need any more credit cards.

Highway rest stops in the U.S. are solidly disappointing compared to those in Asia. Where’s the restaurants? Where’s the amenities?

The early morning drives

Living in a dense city full of cars and traffic, it’s mighty difficult to find space to truly stretch the legs of my beloved sports car. Even the mountain roads gets congested on the weekends; due to hikers, revelers of nature, and people trying to get to the Pacific Ocean. It only takes one not so cooperative driver refusing to pull over for your obviously faster car to ruin what is suppose to be a joyful drive (there always is one). Of course, I can be a dick about it and pass them crossing the double yellow line, but I’m the type to follow rules of the road absolutely, and also I don’t want to reinforce the stereotype of the asshole (junior) supercar owner.

A good strategy to avoid the crowd and traffic is to get up super early and drive the same mountain roads whilst everyone else is still soundly asleep. It’s an especially serene time as well, perfect opportunity for a bit of meditation and reflecting. Driving on city streets and highways with nary another car on the road, backdropped with the subtle haze of glow from the approaching sun dancing with the darkness of the receding night, is something immensely therapeutic. I’d get up before dawn, so that by the time I’m finished with a few hours of driving, I’m greeted with the day’s sunrise (weather permitting, naturally; can’t be sure with San Francisco’s notorious fog).

Well, at least that was what I did with my previous cars. Due to unique circumstances with the 911 GT3, its let’s call it permanent location is not inside the house (we don’t have a garage, sadly). Rather, the GT3 is parked some distance away at a different location, necessitating a 20 minute drive to access. Therefore, to perform an early morning blast on the mountains, I have to add at least 20 minutes on top of the already ungodly hour I’d need to wake up. In my twenties perhaps this would be doable (as if I could afford a Porsche in my twenties), but nowadays with me paying close attention to the quality of sleep, it’s not an enticing proposition.

Just one of the many idiosyncratic realities of owning an expensive car in a crowded urban city.

Grimy nights.

I met the first owner of my GT3!

A bit of a surprise treat this past weekend: I met the very first owner of my 911 GT3.  

It was a surprise because the chance meeting was completely unsolicited, and the car meet I attended on Saturday wasn’t even a Porsche-specific event. While cars costing into the six-figures aren’t exactly common, a plain GT3 is not in the realm of limited-edition Ferraris, where a car’s provenance is immensely important and therefore previous owners are well documented. Porsches produces thousands of 911s each year, so I held zero expectations of being able to meet the first owner of my particular GT3.

It’s a small world indeed.

I knew something was strange when I saw a dude taking a keen look at my GT3 when there was more interesting metal parked in the same lot (a GT3 of the RS variety, for instance). After ascertaining that it was me who owns the car, the guy followed up with a few questions pertaining to the GT3’s origins, and it matched up with what he had speculated: this was the very car he used to own. He had bought it from a Colorado dealership back in April of 2015, and after 8,000 or so miles the GT3 was then sold to a local dealership, putting that money towards a McLaren 570S

There’s a second owner of my GT3 sandwiched between me and the guy I met on Saturday, and after this serendipity I have some hopes of meeting that person as well. It turns out the Porsche enthusiast community in Northern California is rather small.

A normal person reading this may think it ridiculous that there’s people like me who gets excited about meeting the previous owners of our cars; I get it, but a 911 GT3 is not an ordinary car. It was quite informative and special to chat with the first owner on why he configured the car as he did: picking Sapphire Blue Metallic to stand out in a sea of white and silver colored 911s, and forgoing the option for lightweight buckets because it would’ve delayed delivery for six months (one sympathizes). Super geeky details made interesting because the ordering process for a GT3 - or any 911 for that matter - is intricate and specialized. As the third owner, I never got to experience that process, so it was fun to hear the original owner tell his story.

I received some constructive information, too: the GT3 upon delivery was flat-bedded to a shop for paint protection film, so the paint underneath ought to be absolutely pristine. After the film application, the entire car – including the wheels – received ceramic coating; great news for me because I can stop waxing the car during my wash routine. Lastly, the first owner confirmed he took the car to the track regularly, which doesn’t bother me at all because first that’s what the GT3 is developed for, and secondly these cars are paradoxically more prone to break when it doesn’t get driven hard.

911 GT3s are driver’s car in the truest sense, and I’m glad my car have received the proper amounts of exercise since it’s left Zuffenhausen. Meeting the original owner and learning about his chapter with car gave me more confidence and admiration for my GT3, and I’m grateful for this happy coincidence.

The green lizard was a popular attraction.

718 Cayman GT4: atmospheric 4.0-litre!

Photo credit: Porsche

It would appear that natural-aspiration is not quite dead just yet.

Porsche a few days ago announced a new generation of the Cayman GT4 and Boxster Spyder, the top, most sporting models of their respective range. The biggest revelation from the news is the return of the atmospheric motor to the 718 chassis. Not only that, it’s also a return of the flat-six engine to the Cayman/Boxster twin, with this generation of cars having switched entirely to the much-maligned turbocharged flat-four.

Too bad it’ll cost you six figures to get back the good stuff.

Nevertheless, in this day and age of turbocharged this and electrified that, any new sports car that’s still got an atmospheric beating heart is worth celebrating. The day may arrive when the Porsche GT product line will only feature turbocharged engines and or hybrid drivetrain, but for the time being the unencumbered sounds of natural-aspiration remains ever so sweet. Porsche flat-sixes that revs to the sky is precisely why I bought a 911 GT3.  

A not insignificant amount of enthusiasts was hoping Porsche would simply transplant the 4.0-litre unit serving duty in the GT3 and GT3RS into the new GT4 and Spyder, though it was always a bit of a fool’s wish. It’s difficult to see how Porsche could’ve done it without hugely inflating the already hefty purchase price, and more importantly, not encroach on the GT3’s performance capabilities. It seems the Cayman will forever be neutered in service of the 911 big brother.

Indeed, this new 4.0-litre flat-six engine is not of the vaunted 4.0-liter badged 911s of prior: it’s a heavily reworked motor based on the turbocharged 3.0-litre currently serving duty in the 911. The enlarged engine, sans turbochargers, makes 420 horsepower and will spin to an 8,000 rpm redline; all very exciting stats in a vacuum, but compared to the supremely characterful, motorsport-derived 4.0-litre in the 911 GT3, an engine that goes to 9,000rpm, it’s honestly a bit pedestrian.

Relativity is a funny thing.

So I’m sure there’s some disappointment going around, though we should really detach and look at the overall picture: the atmospheric flat-six is back in the 718 chassis – arguably the purest sports car platform Porsche produces. Yes, it’s a great shame one must spend top money to avoid the charmless turbo four; though for a company that will charge you hundreds just to get the seatbelts in a different color, it’s fairly on brand, isn’t it?

An even more delicious prospect: placing this new 4.0-litre engine of the GT4 in a variant of the 992, perhaps a 911 T. That would give me something to ponder about in relation to my GT3…

Michelin Cup 2 tires are phenomenal

The San Francisco Bay Area is experiencing a heatwave, one of the few each year that balances out all of the parties we’ve been having in enjoying our typical mid 50’s weather, no matter the season. This particular heatwave is quite severe, though: not since Labor Day of two years prior - where temperatures in the city reached beyond 100 - has it been this bad. 94 degrees for three days straight really puts a strain on the nerves.

Especially when buildings in San Francisco aren’t equipped with air-conditioning.

Indeed, every time one of these hot weather patterns rolls around, I always declare that this will be the year I finally buy a portable air-con unit for my room, but it still hasn’t happened yet. Admittedly the not insignificant financial outlay for a machine only to be used a few days out the year is not so easily palatable. Add to the fact that usually by the time I’m ready to click buy, normal cool weather have returned, inducing me to procrastinate.

Let’s see if this year will be different, and I may have a secret weapon. Lately I’ve been super diligent on ensuring I get the appropriate quality of sleep, and a huge factor towards that is room temperature. Apparently, humans are evolved to get better sleep when the weather is cool (I certainly do during the winter months), so needless to say the last few days of this heat have not been conducive to me falling into slumber quickly; not when the bedroom is hovering in the 80s at midnight.

So, spend money to assist with something we do for a third of our lives; makes getting an air-con unit reasonable and justifiable, doesn’t it? I might get a chiliPad too while I am at it.

This first heatwave of the year did allow me to take the GT3 out this past weekend, the first chance to assess just what the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires can do when it’s within its optimal operating temperature. The verdict? So. Much. Grip. Astonishingly so. Only now did I realize that driving the Porsche around in San Francisco’s typical middling weather gives almost no information on the Cup 2’s true capabilities.

Is it possible to fall in love with a set of tires?

With the Michelins properly lit up, the GT3’s front-end is simply mighty. The communicative beauty of the 911’s steering shines in letting the driver know via the hands the grip level of the front tires, and in this maiden outing in hot weather, I’ve never felt more confidence-inspiring sensations through the GT3’s rim. I can truly trust the front-end: the tires dig and bite into the tarmac, no matter the amount of steering lock is inputed. The 911’s inherent understeer is still present, but it’s easily correctable when the tires are willing to do the work.

Obviously, the enormous 12-inch wide rear tires welcome the hot weather in equal measure to the fronts. Thanks to the engine being situated behind the rear-axle as is its signature, the 911 offers traction I dare say no other rear-wheel drive car can match. The Cup 2s with proper heat sticks to the ground immensely, but reassuringly so, allowing super fun mid-corner adjustability. Throttle-steer to tuck in the nose a bit or kick the rear-end out for some brief slip-angles: it’s all possible in the GT3, and easily accessible.

The 911 chassis reveals itself splendidly when the tires are on, and I’m ironically eager for more hot weather so I can sample the Cup 2s further it its absolute element. It’s so much fun.

Maybe I will get that air-con unit after all.

From my friend who’s traveling in Europe.

From my friend who’s traveling in Europe.

Depreciation really hurts

I’ll be the first to say that car enthusiasts shouldn’t give a single care about depreciation, and that we should simply drive and enjoy our cars. This is especially so after the car is already bought. Obviously, before signing on the dotted line you should take depreciation into consideration, so if a particular car is hellish on retaining value, you’d want to buy that car used.

However, buying sports cars with abnormal depreciation curves – like my GT3 – used, can be tricky. Special trim 911s are known to keep value superbly well, but one can never be sure if some future events or variables will dramatically affect the price. On the whims of market forces, a 911 GT car – or any high dollar sports car, really -  can easily fluctuate downwards in value in mere months.

I know this, because I’ve seen it with my GT3. Between January and now, the value of my car have dropped nearly $15,000, which is absolutely eye-watering, even if it’s an abstract, hypothetical number since I don’t plan to sell the Porsche ever. Sadly, my human mind doesn’t work like that, and often times I’ve been agonizing at the lost opportunity to save a significant chunk of money, if only I could have waited a few months to buy.

Yes, we shouldn’t care about depreciation, but it seems that’s easily declared than done.

Of course, I would say the joy of owning the GT3 for three months far outweighs any potential financial savings from delaying the purchase. I wouldn’t trade the more than 3,000 miles I’ve put on the car since January for having more money in my savings account. Honestly, I wouldn’t have bought the 911 if making sound monetary decisions were a top factor.

The GT3 is an emotional purchase, predicated on a life-long love of cars, and the mentality that if there’s something I want to do and I have the capability to do it, I should execute as quickly as possible; because tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Deprecation hurts, but I don’t think it’s nearly as much as regret.

Sunny afternoons on campus. Or what passes for sunny in San Francisco anyways.

BMW M cars will have adjustable brakes?

During my daily perusing of automotive news today (not during work, obviously), I ran into this article from Jalopnik, stating the upcoming BMW M8 and M8 Competition will feature adjustable braking. By toggling a setting within the infotainment screen, the driver is able to select the amount of braking effort required between two settings: Comfort and Sport.

I cannot believe this is now a thing, and this isn’t even the good sort of adjustable braking: brake bias. All the system in the BMW does is vary how hard you need to stomp on the pedal to achieve the same level of braking pressure. This is in addition to the already myriad of adjustments available for things like steering, transmission, suspension, and throttle, offering an absolutely dizzying array of possible combinations.

I do miss the days of sports cars coming out of the factory with one setting only for everything. Parameters were set by the engineers, who would formulate a singularly best dynamic configuration to extract the maximum out of a car. Automotive engineers are highly paid and highly skilled; I want them to decide and set the optimal mode, rather than letting me figure out which permutation of modes feel most definitive to my grubby fingers and my uncalibrated rear-end.

M cars of old like the E46 BMW M3 offers zero adjustments, and it was and still is a brilliant car.

I’m glad my 911 GT3 offers “only” two adjustments: sport modes for the PDK transmission and the suspension. Both are practically useless on public roads – sport suspension is way too stiff, and PDK Sport is far too aggressive, so the car is de facto setup as is from Zuffenhausen as intended by Porsche engineers. The steering has one ratio with no adjustments to effort, the sharp throttle response cannot be changed, and sure as hell the brakes has but one setting: immense.

Keep it simple, sports car manufacturers.

Have a seat.