Friday, December 16, 2005

Amen to that Pierre! While my ride was not nearly as hellacious as Pierre's last Friday, it did take me close to two hours to commute home on a ride that never takes more than 25 minutes. As I sat steaming in traffic in Belmont, I finally decided to take the chance that my 9-5 could get through the 8 inches of slush and snow that were all over the roads up Belmont Hill. I really had no right getting up that hill, but to my utter amazement the snow tires and the Saab technology not only got me up and over the Hill, but that Ford Expedition in front of me was getting in my way! Truly amazing. I had Route 2 all to myself since everyone else was stuck on Route 60.
GET SNOW TIRES! They get you through the snow, save your expensive wheels and rims from potholes and winter crud (and give you a few extra years on your 3-season tires since the miles won't pile up as fast), and heck we even install them free during Novembers for you!
And yes, we live in New England. It snows. Embrace it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Mostly I Love Winter, Except for....
Unlike a lot of New Englanders, I love winter. Really love it. OK, I hate the short days....but otherwise I love the cold, and it can never snow too much. As it was when I was a kid, I'm even disappointed when I see a snow storm coming to an end. I don't understand others around here who whine about winter.... "It's too cold!"...... "I hate snow!" SHUT UP AND MOVE.
In the past two weeks, we have had a bit of snow. Now I'll get into what irks me this time of year. First, on the eve of the first snowfall, we are inundated by people who want their snow tires installed. Not being magicians, we can't accommodate everyone all at once. What is the matter with these people? When November was finished on their calendars, did they think they were going to flip the page and find July? So they wait, have an epiphany watching the Weather Channel, and are outraged when we won't drop everything to get their bloody snow tires done right away. BASTA! Here's a hint to those I have described above: if you make it to Thanksgiving with no snow, consider yourself lucky and pick up the phone the next day and make an appointment to get your snow tires installed.
Next irksome thing about winter? People driving their cars around with bald summer tires. First, if these happen to be Saabs we have to endure inane complaints about how their cars stink in the snow, how their warning lights are all on, blah blah blah. These same people are outraged that they should deign use snow tires. Next time, they say, they'll buy an AWD this or that....And when they do, if they drive around with bald tires, perhaps they'll realize that no matter what technology you have, you can't undo physics. Slippery roads are slippery roads. Put slippery tires on slippery roads....I don't care if you have 20 wheel drive, you still can't steer or stop so going is not of much use.
The drivers, in Saabs or otherwise, who drive on baloney skin tires in winter should be drawn and quartered, or at least spanked, for endangering the rest of us and causing catastrophic chaos on the roads. During the December 9 storm, I left as I am scheduled to at 2pm in the hopes of arriving in Ipswich by 4:30 to start my teaching. As I proceeded in white out conditions at a slow pace, I heard the traffic reports. My normal route, Route 1, was impassable--meaning that some blokes with baloney skin tires were stuck part way up the hill. I took the Mass Pike to the Ted Williams Tunnel and planned a route taking me via Route 1A and 107, and then making my way to Route 1 at Walnut Street in Saugus. Great plan! I proceeded fine, albeit slowly, until I arrived at the end of the tunnel at Logan. The traffic stopped. And there I sat. And sat. And sat. At long last traffic started to move, and we never knew why. My guess? The ramp from the tunnel to 1A has an incline--mix that with fierce snow and baloney skin tires, and we all end up sitting. I was in the mouth of the tunnel for an hour and a half, and proceeded slowly thereafter. Later in my journey, as I descended Walnut Street to 1, I learned the true evil of baloney skin shod cars. A car attempting to ascend the hill was stuck, spinning its bald tires in futility. Not only did the traffic behind that car back up out of sight, but this froze the movement on the exit ramps from Route 1 in both directions. So one idiot, who probably complains that she hates winter and that her car is no good in the snow, ties up a significant roadway, plus another roadway in both directions. See? You just need one dolt at each interchange, and the entire vehicular world comes to an amazing halt.

My 40 mile ride took me 5 hours (less the 30 minute break I took). I missed out on my students that day. Why? Baloney skins....

Friday, December 02, 2005

Saab Scores Big with Active Head Restraints

Saab has a great reputation for safety, but it often gets overlooked due to the fact that Volvo has quite masterfully positioned themselves as the 'owner' of the safety message. But if you know and understand Saabs, you feel quite comfortable as you experience New England roads and New England drivers.

So it was great to see the news that Saab scored top marks in a test of car seats by Thatcham, a research group of British Insurers. In the tests, Thatcham measured car seats and looked at the position of the head restraints compared to the head of the dummy; in a dynamic test the seat with the dummy was mounted on a sled, which was accelerated in 0.1 seconds to 10 mph to study the effects of a rear-end collision.

Seats with the Saab Active Head Restraints (SAHR) fared better than all others in the tests. Statistics of the insurance claims show that there were 42% fewer complaints of whiplash after collisions with the Saab 9-3 with SAHR, compared to its predecessor without this system.

The survey also showed that only 16% of the cars scored "good" and 36% scored "poor" when it comes to head and neck restraints and protection.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Swedish Car Day
This year's sixth running of Swedish Car Day was a smashing success. Coming on the heels of ten straight days of heavy rain, we actually had some blue sky and reasonable temperatures. Unfortunately, the windspeed about matched the temperature, and having any event in heavy wind is not ideal. I did point out to the fellow from the Larz Anderson Auto Museum that the registration tent was not really needed, given that the rains had stopped. But he was hell-bent on us having a tent. And a grand tent it was--heavy gauge steel tubular frame, and about 10' x 20'. About 30 minutes before the event started, a huge gust lifted that tent (with a dozen of us working under it!) straight up, and then sent it hurtling into a parked truck, which inflicted a huge dent on its roof and shattered a side window. No one was hurt. The truck belonged to the museum. Whew!
While not the best attended SCD, it was one of the best. Every year I have gone to Saab looking for them to contribute display cars. Some years they sent a car or two from their training center in Connecticut, and usually we had to provide the transportation for those cars. Some might remember the "push-me-pull-you" 900, two 900 front halves spliced together, or the Skip Barber 1980's race car. But they never sent the really cool stuff, because it was holed up in Georgia, and we had to be embarrassed every year by Volvo North America, for they would bring grand collections of antique Volvo's to display. This year, the tables turned.
At the Saab Owners Convention, I lobbied every Saab Cars employee I knew, and some I didn't, to press the case for having Saab's collection sent to SCD for the first time. Chip Wilkerson from Saab was designated by his comrades as my point man. When I returned from the convention I started sending him information and pictures and pleaded for help. One week before the event I still had no confirmation that anything was coming. Finally, the Wednesday before I was given an assurance that "some cars" from the collection would make it to Brookline on Sunday. On Saturday morning, I got a message that a tractor trailer of cars had left Michigan (the Saab collection is now a part of the GM Heritage Collection--which is a very good thing). One trailer fits about 5 cars, so I was really happy.
When I arrived at the museum at dawn on Sunday morning, I was shocked and thrilled to see not one but TWO trailers being off loaded. The collection was amazing: 5 two-stroke cars including the ultra-rare Sonett 1 (one of six built, one of five remaining), two Talladega speed/distance record cars, an original 900 Convertible, a Pike's Peak racer and Monte Carlo racer that Erik Carlsson raced to victory at the RAC rally in Britain. The GM Heritage team has restored these vehicles beautifully, and has done ultra due diligence in learning about the cars. They run them, pamper them, and love to show them off. Our good fortune was to have former Saab technical guru John Moss (a perennial participant at SCD) who intimately knows every car in the collection give a walking tour and technical description of each car. What a delight that was.
Otherwise it was a grand time with old friends and new acquaintances. There seemed to be an extra air of excitement this year, and I got a rousing ovation when I suggested a competitive rally next year between Volvo and Saab owners. Have to start dreaming up that one soon!