You know I heard a funny story the other day...

Amusing tales I have heard over the years floating around... always good for a chuckle.

The Caravan rental...

This is an absolutely 100% true unmodified racing story that really honestly truly happened to me. Really. Honest.

It's Wednesday morning and I'm driving my 5 Korean visitors from Grand Rapids to Flint in my rented Dodge Caravan.

We're on a lonely stretch of I-96 near Ionia. I had just pushed in the cigarette lighter when I spot two cars growing quickly in the rear-view mirror. I'm already doing 70 so I know they're really moving. One of the cars is blue with a pair of white stripes running across it lengthwise, the other is a sleek yellow design. They grow closer and I realize I've got a Viper GTS-R (the bigger brake calipers gave that away) and a Callaway Corvette (recognized Bob Callaway driving it) speeding up towards me. As they approach  I see Bob Lutz in the Viper wearing a mischievous grin slightly ahead of Callaway (with a trickle of sweat on his brow). The Callaway drops behind the Viper to pass me on the left. 

Against my better judgement, I decide to join in. My hands start trembling and my heart starts pounding in my ears. I push the Caravan's accelerator about 3/4 to the floor. The engine roars to life and the Caravan lurches forward, spinning the front tires and fighting for traction. I nimbly control the surge of torque steer as the Caravan passes the 100mph mark. I look over towards Callaway who appears to be releasing a string of obscenities, but I  can't hear him over the roar of my engine. The Corvette and I are neck-and-neck. I mash the accelerator the rest of the way to the floor. Slowly the Caravan pulls away from the Corvette. I glance at the speedometer. 150... 160... Still, I'm not gaining on Lutz. 

By now the Koreans have woken up. I give them the 'Terminator' look and utter "GET OUT". They quickly pop open the two sliding doors and throw themselves from the van. With the reduced weight I quickly draw away from the 'Vette. Now I've got Mr. Lutz in my sights. The tires, only speed rated to 110, shred into oblivion. Chunks of ceramic are puked out of the exhaust as the cat disintegrates. The wipers let loose and fly out of sight. I estimate my speed at 180 mph. The bolts on the roof rack let go and it flies off, smashing into the Corvette behind me, improving my chances of beating it.  Finally the cigarette lighter pops free. Steering the car with my knee, I pull out a Marlboro and light it. In my momentary lapse of concentration I sideswipe a Lincoln Towncar, which disintegrates.

The minivan clicks past 190 mph, and I'm on Bob's tail like white on rice. The Caravan's hood ornament tears loose and embeds itself in the windshield. I decide enough is enough. Fumbling for a radio station that isn't playing Alanis Morisette, I downshift the automatic into second. Engine RPM jumps to 16,000 (est.). The minivan creeps alongside the Viper. I look over at Bob, who is talking to someone on his car phone. He looks over and gives me a wink. With a flick of the wrist he hits his nitrous switch. The Viper lurches forward, the rear tires spinning. I curse to myself as the Viper  begins to pull away. Then it hits me: The rear window vents on the Minivan are still open! I quickly hit the switches to close them. As the drag coefficient of the Caravan improves, the Dodge family truckster pulls back up towards the Viper. I know I've got him. It's only a matter of time.

It is at this point that my aluminum wheels begin to wear into nothingness. With victory in my grasp, the minivan begins losing speed. I give Bob a final salute as he pulls away in triumph.

I dropped the minivan off at Avis this morning: 
"Any problems with the vehicle, Mr. Ramcke?" 
"No, none." 
"Did you purchase fuel?" 
"Sure did!" 
"Thank you! Come again!"

So, in conclusion, racing a Callaway and a GTS-R in a rented minivan is alot like working in a fish market, except you don't have to clean and gut fish all day.

Carsten Ramcke
Ann Arbor, MI
1985 GLH Turbo (Rust Never Sleeps)


Racing fools....

I borrowed my wife's Geo Metro last night. One liter of raw power, 3 cylinders of asphalt-tearing terror on thirteen-inch rims. It's stock, alright, nothing done to it, but it pushes the barely 2000 pounds of Metro around with AUTHORITY. I'm always catching mopeds and 18-wheelers by surprise...I was headed back from Baskin Robbins with my manly triple-latte cappuccino blast ("No Cinnamon, ma'am, I take it BLACK"), when I stopped at a streetlight. As the Metro throbbed its throaty idle around me, I sipped my bold beverage and wiped the white froth my stiff upper lip. I was minding my own business, but then I heard a rev from the next lane. I turned, made eye contact, then let my eyes trace over the competition.

Ford Festiva -- a late model, could be trouble. Low profile tires, curb feelers, and schoolbus-yellow paint. Yep, a hot rod, for sure. The howl of his motor snapped my reverie, and I looked back into the driver's eyes, nodded, then blipped my own throttle. As I tugged on my driving gloves and slipped on my sunglasses (gotta look cool to be fast, and I am *damn* cool, hence...), the night was split with the sound of seven screaming cylinders...Then the light turned... I almost had him out of the hole, my three pounding cylinders thrusting me at least a millimeter back into my seat, as smoke pouring from my front right tire... my unlimited slip differential was letting me down! I saw in the corner of my eyes, a yellow snout gaining, and I heard the roar of  his four cylinders. He slung by me, right front wheel juddering against the pavement, and he flashed me a smile as his .7 extra liters of motor stretched its legs. I kept my foot gamely in it, though, waiting for the CHECK ENGINE light to blink on in the one-gauge (no tachometer here!) instrument panel. I saw a glimpse of chrome under his bumper, and knew the ugly truth...He was running a custom exhaust --probably a 2-into-1 dual exhaust... maybe even cutouts! Damn his hot-rod soul! The old lady passing us on the crosswalk cast a dirty look in our boy-racer direction...Yet still I persisted, with my three pumping pistons singing a heady high-pitched song, wound fully out. Though only a few handfuls of seconds had passed, we were nearing the crosswalk at the other side of the intersection, and I heard the note of his engine change as he made his shift to second, and I saw his grin in his rearview mirror fade as he missed the shift! I rocketed by, shifting, and nursed the clutch gently in to keep from bogging, keeping my motor spinning hot and pulling me ahead, now trailing a cloud of stinking clutch smoke. Not ready to give up so easily, he left his foot in it, revving, and I heard one wheel *almost* chirp as he finally found second and dropped the clutch. We careened over the crosswalk, now going at least 15 miles per hour. A bicyclist passed us, but intent on the race as we were, neither of us batted an eye. He pulled slowly abreast of me, and neck and neck, we made the shift to third, the scream of motors deafening all pedestrians within a five foot circle. He nosed ahead as we passed 30 miles an hour, then eased in front of me, taunting, as we shifted into fourth. I was staring up the dual 6" chrome tips of his exhaust, snarling, my cappuccino forgotten, as he lifted a little to take the next corner. I saw my opportunity, and counting on the innate agility of  my trusty steed, I pulled wide into the number two lane and kept my foot buried in carpet. Slowly, I inched around him, feeling my Metro roll slowly to the left as I came abreast in the midst of this gradual sweeping turn. I felt the Geo ease onto its suspension stops, and felt the right rear wheel slowly leave the ground - no matter, though, because my drive wheels, up front, were pulling me through the corner, and around the Festiva ...The Ford driver beat his wheel in rage as my wife's car eased past him on the outside, my P165/54R13's screaming in protest, as we raced to the next light. We coasted down, neck-and neck, to the red light. I tightened my driving gloves, ready for another round, when this WIMP in the next car meekly flipped his turn signal and made a right. Chevy(Suzuki) superiority reigns!!!I drove off sipping my masculine drink, awash in my sheer virility, looking for other unwitting targets.... Perhaps a Yugo, or maybe even a Volkswagon Van!


And  we end with what just might be a frightening and TRUE story... from the SDML

I didn't see the original post on this, so pardon the untimeliness of the post, but I wanted to share just a little insight about the FFV Spirit previously mentioned by...sorry, I don't recall who posted it, David pointed it out to me. The original post said something about seeing an auctioned car drive by with FFV stickers on the fenders, and the poster wondered what it was. Well, I own one, and I'd love to tell you all about it. First of all, this car is a rocketship. It flat-out out-accellerates *ANY* production car on this or any planet. It out-corners a Porsche, out-runs Lamborghinis, makes your GLHS's look like book ends and, generally speaking, is the single most underappreciated automobile the world has ever known... ...this, if you use the "everything I say taken to its absolute opposite" scale. This means: This car is a bomb, and a dud at that. There isn't a car in the world that would lose a race to it, even if you were to transport them to the moon, where gravity might be in the Spirit's favor. It couldn't out-corner a Volkswagon, couldn't catch up to an Alfa Romeo, proves that the GLHS wrote the book on performance 4-doors and, quite specifically, is about as valuable as a bucket full of elbows that you're paid ten dollars to carry fifty feet. My car is a '94. I understand they're still making SOME FFV Chryslers, specifically minivans. I have no idea why. The concept behind the FFV is simple: use cleaner fuel, save the environment, yahda yahda yahda, blah blah blah. Well, let's discuss this fuel. You have your choice of standard unleaded gasoline (the decomposed brains of dinosaurs, deep-fried into their own brand of molasses and squeezed until the plasma drips an awful amber color into your gas tank), or M85 Methanol (Clearasil zit cream). Sound yummy? Check this: M85 is readily available in Southern California. In fact, the closest gas station to my house has it. How convenient. In fact, M85 is a whopping $0.92 a gallon, last I checked, versus $1.17 for Dinobrain brand car food. The problem is, it takes TWICE AS MUCH to go as far as the Jurassic Mazola. Nice. Oh, but it doesn't stop there. See, Methanol will wash your motor oil right off your cylinder walls, so you can't use any old oil. Kick Dino out of there, and switch up to...betcha thought I was gonna say synthetic, dincha? *NOT!* Chrysler specifically wants exactly specifically one type of oil, and you can fetch this travesty of automotive glucose from your Chrysler over $6 a quart!!! Oh, and did I mention the FILTER IS DIFFERENT?!?!? OK, so I had enough of this straight away. I figured, I'm just not going to run M85. That way, I can use the regular oil, regular filter, etc etc. *WRONG!* The clearances are such that if you use regular oil, you will go through, oh, I figured out it's about 1 quart every 250 miles. You'll get sick of that little oil can light coming on real quick, and considering you don't see any smoke, it's more than frustrating to try and diagnose where the "leak" is coming from. OK, I needed to find an alternate to the dealer's oil. Check the bottle, get the SAE rating, call every single oil company's consumer line, and NONE of them can help me. So, I start hitting parts stores, checking all the major brands I've used in the past (key point). I look at all the synths, I check every bottle. In the end, I finally found an oil with the SG rating that was on my dealer's bottle: PLAIN OLD PENZOIL WITH Z7 POLYCRAYON ADDITIVE which, in case you're shopping, works out the front door of Schlep Boys at $0.98 a quart. Jeez. OK, so you think that's the worst of it, huh? Not on your life, bubba. I bought the car for $1800 (hundred) with 56K (note two digits) on the clock. It had been MILDLY wrecked in the front, just enough to crease the hood, fender, and ruin the grille, lights, radiator and condensor. OK, no prob. I go to the yard, score a radiator out of a '92 Spirit 2.5 with air. workie. Not even close. Doggonnit, hafta wait for a '94. I waited for almost a year, got a radiator from a '94 2.5 with air, and while it was different from the first radiator, it STILL wasn't right. Go to the parts desk and hear, "That's not a flex-fuel, is it?" <slapforeheadnoise> OK, fine, I'll just have to WIRE TIE MICKEY MOUSE the thing in there and use the upper radiator hose from a DAKOTA TRUCK with a foot chopped off, so the thing sorta wraps around Kentucky before making a graceful sweep near the air conditioning condensor on its way to the left front of the car before coming back to the inlet. Lower hose? Don't get me started. '85 Daytona, chopped in the middle with a piece of my kid's swing set leg spliced in the middle with two gigundo hose clamps holding the thing together like some kind of bad dream starring Elizabeth Taylor and that horsehead from The Godfather. Oh, did I mention it leaks? Calm, Carl, find your happy place. You can improve your cooling capability by actually installing an OVERFLOW TANK instead of that 3-liter bottle of Shasta Mountain Cherry Berry Extravaganza-slash-Jell-o Base flavored rudimentary substitute nutrition example of the beginnings of a root canal, which, by the way, is ALSO wire tied in. OK, this time I'm going to the dealer. While I'm there, I'm getting a speed sensor and a fuel filter to finish the "routine" maintenance and take care of a little problem with the car refusing to go faster than 65 (oh, did I forget to mention that? CLOCKWORK, it is. The car WOULD NOT go faster than 65, even downhill!!). OK, look at PAIS. Yep, one coolant bottle for the AA body in '94, no chance to screw that up. Yep, only one speed sensor too, and only one fuel filter. HEY, I shoulda come here first! AAAAUUUUGGGGHHH!!!!! *WRONG!* The coolant tank is different! Why the @#$%^&*! would the coolant tank have to be different?! It's different from the 2 examples I got from the junkyards, it's different from the fractured remains of the original bottle. Why is it different?!?! Well, at least I can get the other things done. AAAAUUUUGGGGHHH!!!!! The fuel filter is different!!! GAWD, it's got some kind of gnarly built-in stainless steel braided lines growing out of it...with QUICK CONNECTORS on it. NOW what am I going to do? Well, at least I can try out the speed sensor... AAAAUUUUGGGGHHH!!!!! The speed sensor is different too?!?!!? AAAAUUUUGGGGHHH!!!!! Look at me: I'm Charlie Freakin' Brown, and that concubinous bint Lucy has just yanked the football right out from under my mechanical sensibilities!!! AAAAUUUUGGGGHHH!!!!! Calm...breathe...calm... We had to go to Utah. Don't ask, we just did. Doing a whopping 65MPH, we drove 715 miles to a place where cold is defined by how long it takes to bite through a Chicklet while God is trying to invent the reverse-microwave all over your face, ears and neck. We stayed overnight... ...and the car refused to start. Dempsey helps me tow the pig to his work, where some of the craftiest techs I've ever paid have discovered something. Seems the FFV sensor is bad. Seems it's on Super-Secret-Double-Intergalactic-Backorder. I later deduce the thing must have liquid inside, either mercury or maybe a little Clearasil itself, I dunno. What I DO know is that once that sensor warms up, the car will start. What the techs do is trick the car's computer by splicing in a 9v battery, force-feeding the computer 1.5v, equating roughly 9% Methanol content. For the first time in months, we go faster than 65... ...*IF** I can remember to put the faceplate on my radio before starting the car. You see...well, don't see, because *I* don't see how what order the starting of the car and replacement of the radio faceplate has on anything, but it does! And, if I put the faceplate on first, the car now goes faster than 65. If I forget, the check engine light stays on, and exactly precisely at 65, the car starts bucking back and forth like I'm the unlucky kid at the birthday party who got that ONE go-kart that's the slowest of the field, and all the 5th-graders are slamming into my butt, chugga chugga chugga... OK, after a ton of false starts and 3 extra days in Donny and Marie Land (home of the Denny's but not quite a Dennys because you have to ASK for coffee and associated cups, because there's no such thing as a Postum cup or they'd leave one, upside down at every place setting, just like they do coffee cups at every other freakin' Denny's the world over, not like you'd WANT a hot beverage when your car is broken down and you have to walk 3 miles for breakfast and the weather is somewhere between the temperature of a wicca mammary and that ideallic-but-ever-mocked impossible climate- control setting of the fifth level of hell, but it would be nice to have that OPTION), we finally get to leave. Now, one thing I learned while I was waiting for my car is that there is a part number for a fuel filter with stainless quick-connect lines...but it's not for flex fuel. That's different still. How'd you like to pay $54 for a fuel filter? And, that speed sensor is the right one, you just have to wire in the retrofit pigtail they give you so you can use the same one every other car uses. The air filter? Dunno. The coolant tank? Dunno. What I *DO* know is that I have absolutely no interest in tracking down all the right parts for this car--I've spent too much on the wrong ones already!! Anyway, we did 24MPG on the way up to Utah at 65MPH, but we did 17MPG on the way back at 80MPH. Notice anything wrong with these numbers? Yeah. Let's do a test by unfaceplateizing the car between fillups. 24@ 65, 17@ 80. Nice. So, here's the short version of the FFV story, in case you made it this far: *ALL* of the parts, including the air in the tires, near as I can tell, is unique to the FFV. Any Led Zeppelin heard through the speakers will sound blatantly distorted so as to reveal Paul Schaeffer singing "Sweet Home Alabama" in the shower, because the nature of FFV vehicles is such that you simply cannot assign practical physics values to any of its componentry. Light bends around the car, making it invisible to parts books and all Dodge technicians who have not spent at least eighteen hours rebuilding the transmission of a New Holland tractor in eight inches of snow, and the computer was built by Steve Wozniak as a means to get back at Steve Jobs, but it ended up in this pig by accident and refuses to start unless the weather is somewhere between 62.3 and 62.5 degrees exactly, and the winds are out of the southwest between 8.3 and 8.4 MPH, and Venus is in retrograde and Plutarch is read by exactly 31 people at the same time, all pausing on the word "substantial," in existential contemplation... ...THEN it runs like a normal car. *ALL* of the consumables, especially the methanol-like-gasoline-flavored- substitute-but-not-the-way-we-think-of-saccharin-substitute fuel, require a HazMat rating of 5 or greater and gloves thicker than a tunafish sandwich to handle. While Penzoil isn't quite this nasty compared to a styrofoam cup of gasoline and Tide detergent, it is the single worst motor oil in human existence--case in point: the enormous clearances in the FFV engine magically filled up when using the stuff. I'm fairly sure Chrysler intended them to be a disposable car. I'm serious! There wasn't even a provision for a spare tire apart from the well in the trunk, which magically smelled like New Car Fume', and was filled with 34 2-liter containers of Mr. Pibb and a 3-ring binder outlining the safety procedures surrounding the apparently rare and unforseen circumstance that you might actually have to put FUEL in your GAS TANK, and, this being an FFV, you might want to try M85 Methanol, but be careful because looking at the shadow of the vapor escaping into the wind will cause your mirrors to turn to stone, your eyes turn into marbles, your wife turn into Rodney Dangerfield, and your hands turn into golf clubs. I'm guessing one of the pages in that binder has instructions on laying out stones in the middle of the desert that spell "SEND A GRAND CHEROKEE--I'VE GOTTEN A FLAT TIRE!!" so that if you actually do bust rubber, you at least will make it home before the NBA strike is settled. Don't worry, I hear they've released some more California Condors into the wild. Your FFV will magically disappear, courtesy of the Fowl Feeder Vehicle program spawned in Ann Arbor over a drunken tale of how the AMC Marlin came to be. At least, that's my perspective. I hate the damn thing, and I couldn't un-reccommend a vehicle more than ANYTHING with FFV in the name...anywhere. At least the stereo is nice.


Thanks for visiting Donovan's Dodge Garage