The Winter Beater

Thanks winter

Thanks winter

I am gearhead, like a lot of you reading this. I’ve lived in the mid-west all of my life (except for a short stint in Europe during college).

Being a gearhead is tough in this part of the country. One of the great things about being a gearhead (probably the best I’d argue) is actually getting to drive your pride and joy (or multiple prides and joys). By my estimations, that’s possible between the months of May and September giving a total of 5 month of “good” driving weather (and occasionally a few more, but really only 5 even remotely guaranteed.

Monte with chrome lug nuts, center caps and white wall wash.

Monte with chrome lug nuts, center caps and white wall wash. Not a winter beater.

This long winter is burdensome for many reasons.

  1. It’s cold.
  2. The roads aren’t very great to drive on.
  3. Your car will rust away in about 5 years.

There are a lot of people, probably a majority, that only have one car (GASP!)

This necessitates it being a daily driver making it by default a winter beater. This is fine for those who see cars as disposable tools, like a razor, or Harbor Freight wrenches, and plan to get a new one every 3-5 years.

But for us gearheads, it’s a bit different. Likely you like you car in it’s non-rusty state. You probably also plan to keep you car a lot longer than the average person. Likely until you die or at least can’t drive it anymore. My motto “Never sell any vehicles.”

Since you’ve likely spent all your money on your car (or cars) what will you drive when winter comes around what will you drive? Hopefully you’ve planned ahead and bought a beater. What does a winter beater do?

It allows you to get where you need to go while protecting your nice car from the salt and snow.

Good winter beaters are cheap and reliable, because who wants to work on stuff in the middle of winter? No one. Luckily vehicles these days are pretty dang reliable. Any FWD car built in the last 10 years should be relatively maintenance free, and most should be pretty cheap to buy. They are almost all ugly also, so you don’t have to feel bad driving one in winter. A better option, in my opinion, is a 4×4 truck.

My personal choice for a winter beater is a 2001 Silverado 1500 4×4. I bought it with 165k miles, basically brand new for those engines! I’ve put 15k miles on it in the last 2 years. Mostly in the winter. A benefit of having a 4×4 truck for a beater is that it basically transforms into a rocket ship when snow falls. Everyone else is trying to gain some traction, and you are in 4wd taking off. Of course, you need to take into account increased stopping distances as a result of snow also, but it’s nice to not get stuck every time you stop your vehicle at a stop sign.

Other great things about having a truck outside of winter.

  1. It can double as a great parts hauler. How awful is hauling parts in the trunk of your nice car, or any car for that matter?
  2. You can tow a trailer with it.
  3. You can tow your friend’s junk truck home when it dies. (See picture)
  4. You can haul your dirt bike with it.
Good use #1 for the winter beater in the off season!

Good use #1 for the winter beater in the off season!

Good use #2 for winter beater. Pull buddies dead winter beater home. See Brorango in the rear view mirror.

Good use #2 for winter beater. Pull buddies dead winter beater home. See Brorango in the rear view mirror.

Another option is to borrow a winter beater from a relative. I did this through college with varying results. One winter I hit a deer with the beater. Grandpa wasn’t impressed. But this allows you to continue to spend all your money on your nice car and still not have it rust away in the winter.

Deer Killer. Winter Beater. Throw away car.

Deer Killer. Winter Beater. Throw away car.

Here are a few picts of my friend trying to stop the current rust on his new winter beater, and maybe make sure it lasts through a few more winters. It’s definitely not pretty, but at least he’s giving ‘er the old college try.


Prepping "new" winter beater

Prepping “new” winter beater

Then non-prescribed way to fix rust. But it does stop it from rusting more. Which is what a winter beater is all about. Just keep it going!

Then non-prescribed way to fix rust. But it does stop it from rusting more. Which is what a winter beater is all about. Just keep it going!

What is your winter beater? Or are you lucky enough to live in a part of the country where things like this are not necessary? Can I come live with you?

And if you are stuck inside for the winter maybe you want to watch some of these movies to get your gearhead fix in the coming months.

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First Time Seeing A New Car Model In The Wild


That magical moment you see a new car model driving in the world for the first time.

The Sighting!

The process of a new car being released in an interesting one. There is first the concept car, usually shown years ahead of time. Is it an accurate representation of the new car? Maybe? Maybe it’s just market hype. Often the cooler aspects of the concept car are removed to make the car more cost effective. For this article I will be focusing on the 2015 Mustang since from what I understand you could begin taking orders September 9th 2014. How did we come to this car? First there was the concept, the Evos, released around 2011 (3 years before production). While it wasn’t directly a mustang those who were thinking ahead and looking deeper could see the gears turning in the minds of the designers at Ford.

Evos – Autoviva – Flickr

Ford Evos concept Photo - Autoviva - Flickr

Ford Evos concept
Photo – Autoviva – Flickr

Next came the spy photos. For the 2015 mustang these were around June 2013, so a year before production at the factory. These often tell you less than the concept since it’s a car but completely covered with leather and canvas to hide the true shape of the vehicle.

photos – Karen Roe Flicker 

New Mustang spy photos?  Flickr - Karen Roe

New Mustang spy photos?
Flickr – Karen Roe

After that came the first release to magazines. This is our first view of a new vehicle and we can begin to get a feel what it’s like, but we’re still not really sure. Pictures often can make a vehicle look better or worse, depending on the angles. For the Mustang this official unveiling was around January 2014 (9 months before production).

Shortly after that the Mustang was debuted at motor shows around the world. This allows people to look at and touch the car for the first time. It’s a magical time. You can determine if you were right or wrong about the looks of the new car.

Then it’s months of magazine comparisons and hype.

Depending on how much you pay attention to a new vehicle, you’ll know the exact day it was made available to the public to buy, or not.
But one day you will be sitting in traffic and that car you’ve been hearing about for so long will go driving by unassumingly. You might even miss it!
You’ll question, was that a new X.

Photo provided Kyle Harris - Flickr

Photo provided Kyle Harris – Flickr

photos – Kyle Harris -Flicker 

It then becomes a game (at least for me) of if and when I can spot a new model.

The most recent time this happened for me was the new Corvette. A co-worker bought one, but was pretty low key about it. So I kept my ears and eyes open. Eventually I bumped into him outside of work and got a peek at his beautiful new car! What a treat!

Since that time I’ve seen a few more new Corvettes around town. They are all exciting, especially keeping a mental tally of each new one by color. There’s now a red one, white one, blue one etc.

So the next new car I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for is a new Mustang, which I should be seeing in the next month or so.

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What is the next new car you’re looking forward to seeing?
What was the most exciting new car you saw for the first time in the wild?

Respect For Racers


I have participated in a few types of motorsports in my life, Dirtbike Hare Scrambles, Dirt track circle track car racing, autocross, drag racing.
It is easy to watch and criticize the racers thinking “I could do better.”
This is especially true when someone is spinning out, causing wrecks etc.
Racing has been a humbling experience for me.
It’s easy sitting in the stands critiquing someone, it’s a lot tougher stepping up to the line.
Have you taken the challenge? Have you done any racing?

The Scramble!

hare scramble Sept. 15 2013 new hartford

hare scramble Sept. 15 2013 New Hartford (this was last year’s hare scramble)

I participated in my 2nd Hare Scramble on 9-7-2014 in New Hartford, IA. For those of you who don’t know, a Hare Scramble is a dirtbike race that goes through woods, over beaches, over obstacles etc. It is a 2 hour long race, for the class I ran. They are a ton of fun. Unfortunately I jumped in way over my head! There are multiple classes for Hare Scrambles, AA (really really really fast), A (really really fast), B (still pretty fast), C (novice), the main classes are for riders 30 and under. There are also all the same classes with vet and Sr. on the end of the name, these are for older riders. I have a good number of friends who ride and we all rode this same race last year (it’s 10 miles from our city.) We all rode C class which is a 1.5 hr race. I finished about middle of the pack and was pretty satisfied with that. It was my first race on a dirtbike ever. The C class also rides by itself so you aren’t getting passed by faster riders to often. The AA, A, A Vet, A Sr, B, B Vet, B Sr all ride the race together. They start in that order with 1 minute between each class start, to space the groups out some.

This year only one friend rode and he said we should ride B class. Thoughts were

  1. Our friends were riding B class. (I’m not sure how they are doing, never watched).
  2. We’d get more riding time 2 hrs vs. 1.5 in C (for the same entry cost).
  3. We’d get the chance to ride with faster guys and learn from them.

So we started the race. I was immediately behind due to a bad kick start. (You still kick start your bike when the horn goes off, which is cool, vintage LeMans style).

Eventually I was passed by a some of the B Sr. riders and a while later some AA and A riders started to lap me. By the last lap I was wishing the race to be over. I finished 17 of 19 overall, and one of the guys behind me was a friend who had buried his bike in a mud hole so he was laps behind.Here are the results for the Hare Scramble I was in this year.

My brother's race car, before I smashed it....

My brother’s race car, before I smashed it….

Another type of racing I’ve participated in was dirt track car racing. Here is the unfortunate proof of that endeavor. My brother who races pure stock circle track let me race his car one time. I made it through the heat race, in last place, without spinning out, but rather slowly. The next race, the feature, I spun out 2x, while in the back of the pack, and the second time a fellow competitor crashed into me, basically wrecking the car. I’m definitely not upset (although my brother might be) with the other driver. While he could have avoided me, I also could have not been spun out in the track….

I have also drag raced, which seems easy when you look at it, go straight, mash the gas. Not easy once you try to get traction, shifting, etc all right. Check my write up about drag racing for more on that. And the last type of racing I was part of was autocross, again, harder than it looks.

drag racing 2013

drag racing 2013

Now that I’ve put all my embarrassing show of racing on display for the world what is my point in all of this? Like I mentioned at the start, racing is harder than it looks! Every time I race anything I become humbled. I remember that the race is not really against the other competitors but against myself (at least that’s what slow people say). You also usually can gain a lot of camaraderie with fellow riders drivers, at least at the smaller events like I’ve participated in.. Fellow drivers or riders are willing to give you pointers to make you faster and safer.

Overall, it has been great every time I have raced. I have learned a lot and met a lot of great people.
Hopefully you remember how hard racing is next time you are watching it and start to want to criticize the drivers.
Of course when you get to professional drivers, there is a higher expectation, but the difficulty it takes to drive those cars is incredible. Just try driving a slow car or bike and you’ll learn.

The point of this is not to dissuade anyone from participating in racing. Of note is that I’m obviously not an expert. Part of some of my poor finishes have to do with lack of experience. The general thought is that 10,000 hours makes you an expert, if that’s really accurate or not there’s no argument that more time practicing any skill makes you better. And even for dirt bike riding, which I’ve been doing for years, I have done very little riding this year (10 hours about) and very little racing, 2 total, so I am currently considering if putting more time to getting better at hare scrambles is something I want to do or not, I only have 5 years until I’m considered a senior. In the end, you have to do something for your love of it, not for the glory.

You should participate in anything you think you can for the experience. Just make sure you have some idea of what you are getting into. It’s always best to talk to a friend who does it, but if you can’t or don’t know anyone, you can still go. Participate!

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What racing or competition have you taken part in?
Did you do good? Bad?
What are you doing next?

Motorhead Movies

This is a list and short review of some movies I think gearheads would like but they are not big budget movies so you might not have heard of them (except one). Let’s be honest, we’re not all always motivated to go to the garage, but watching some of these movies should spark your motivation. Check the links in the titles to watch the trailers on Youtube.

Yank Tanks – This is a documentary about cars in Cuba. In 1962 a United States embargo against Cuba was introduced, effectively cutting trade between the two countries. Approximately 60,000 American cars from the 1950’s and early 60’s are still being regularly used there.The guys who maintain these cars are mechanical geniuses! Building their own windshields. Rebuilding chrome, just generally keeping the cars running with nothing but what they can make with their own hands. The passion they have for their rides might make some of you think you’re not quite the gearhead you should be.

yank tanks


yank tank car

Boys of Bonneville – Is this the original Batmobile? I don’t think so, but it’s still incredible! This is a story of Ab Jenkin’s. A Mormon man obsessed with speed in the 1930’s. The car was powered by a V12 Duesenberg engine originally and later a Curtiss Conqueror V12 airplane engine making 750 HP. Ab went faster in the 1930’s than most of us have gone yet today (150+). What drives a man to that obsession? Find out by watching Boys of Bonneville.

Batman Forever Batmobile

Batman Forever Batmobile

Mormom Meteor

Mormom Meteor

American Graffiti – A car movie made in 1973 featuring Han Solo? Not quite but Harrison Ford is in the movie, pre Star Wars, and George Lucas, of Star Wars fame, did direct the movie. That enough should be reason to watch this classic cult car movie. Unfortunately I think a lot of current generation car enthusiasts have not been exposed to this gem of a movie! It’s a great story of teenagers spending their last night before heading off to college. There are also a lot of great cars that can only be described as Iconic. Check it out for the street racing scenes and the historical perspective of the Hot Rod culture.




harrison ford american graffiti

Born 2 Race (Born to Race) – Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, sorry I mean Born 2 Race, is one of those rare low budget movies that, while it has a plot somewhat reminiscent of a major movie (teenage boy gets in trouble street racing and is sent to live with his dad and falls in love with the local “bad dude’s GF” (Tokyo Drift anyone?),(and it has a confusing title using the 2, it’s the first and only in it’s series) is still a good movie in it’s own right. The fact that the “bad guy” is another kid from across town makes the movie a bit more believable than a high schooler taking on a Yakuza. Also the technical jargon parts of the movie are basically accurate, which is always a plus for a movie. The cars the actors drive are also not over the top something you’ve likely never seen on the street, they are pretty believable street cars, but they are modified in a real and relatable way, something you’d build in your garage. Watch this movie.

born 2 race

Subaru WRX STI

Rush – This is a huge box office movie compared to the rest on the list, with a budget of $26 million, and even though it’s made $90 million, I still think it’s probably under appreciated. It’s the story of Nikki Lauda and James Hunt and their battle for the 1976 F1 racing championship. It’s a great movie even if you don’t love racing.

Let me know if you enjoyed these movies. Have you watched any other small time car movies lately that you enjoyed? Don’t forget to visit us on Facebook