I Bought A Prius (8 months ago)

I find it curious the different reactions I get while driving a “cool” car vs. driving a Prius. Am I not the same person regardless of what I’m driving? – Axel Hoogland

One thing that has bothered me about sports cars is that for most of it’s life you are unable to use the performance of your vehicle. It is not accomplishing the task it was created for. – Axel Hoogland

Most times when I tell someone I have bought a Prius it is met with a disgusted sound and some complaining about how stupid a Prius is. That is understandable as at one time I probably would have done the same thing. Because of that I feel obligated to finally go through what drove me to this decision.

Those of you who know me probably know me as a guy who likes fast and cool cars. That was the persona I embraced and curated from a young age. I enjoyed many hours reading Hot Rod, Car Craft, Popular Hot Rodding, Truckin’ and many other car modification magazines. In college I worked on the FSAE race car. Since I graduated college I bought both a 2008 GSXR 600, a 1981 Honda CM400C, a 2007 Mustang GT/CS and have continued to maintain my 1987 Monte Carlo SS.

So how, with that background, did I come to purchase a Prius?

I read some books which started me on a path to think about what is really important to both the world in general and myself in particular. I began to ask myself probing questions to try to understand the real nature of things. I started to appreciate efficiency more.

Here are a few of those books.
Deep Economy – Bill McKibben
Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth – Buckminster Fuller
Financial Happine$$ – Finley

Blogs – Mr. Money Mustache
Top 10 Cars for Smart People
Curing your Clown-Like Car Habit
What Does Your Work Truck Say About You?

What is the purpose of a daily driver? To get you from point A to point B as efficiently as possible (at least that’s my purpose for it now). You will see that many race car drivers drive rather boring vehicles (of course many also have many fast cars). The reason many  race car drivers drive rather boring vehicles is because they recognize they can’t reach anywhere near the limits of the performance of the vehicle on the street. When your race car is purpose built to go fast, would you enjoy a vehicle that is compromised for street driving? Looking at it objectively, the Prius does exactly what a vehicle is intended to do. I am working on getting over seeing vehicles as some symbol of status. The facts are, a fancy vehicle is just a way of showing off how much you can afford (or borrow). If we want people to know we make a lot of money or have a lot wouldn’t it be easier to just walk around with our net worth statement floating above our heads (perhaps our salary also). That’d sure be a lot more efficient than burning an extra $1,000 a year driving a vehicle that is doing it’s job (transporting you efficiently) inefficiently. For more on that you can listen to my YouTube videos about saving for retirement (freedom), posts about it,  or about one of my New Year’s Resolutions to have $100,000 in my retirement by the end of the year (on track with the good returns the market has had in the last month).

I’ve had my 1987 Monte Carlo SS, which is admittedly not the pinnacle of performance vehicles, since I was 15 years old. I was always thinking about upgrading it to go faster. Why, because that’s what I was influenced to think was good by people around me as well as magazines (Hot Rod, Car Craft). Once I had the funds to make it an option to spend thousands of dollars to make it a lot faster I did a little more thinking about the time and money that it’d cost to upgrade the Monte and I figured it was cheaper and more efficient to buy a newer sports car if my goal was to go fast. This lead to the purchase of a 02007 Mustang GT. It was a faster vehicle, and due to 20 years of technology it also got better gas mileage up to 25 mpg’s, going 55mph. I realized that although it was faster, I couldn’t really utilize that extra performance most of the time. Now I was continually thinking about buying an even faster vehicle or modifying the Mustang. What stopped me was the realization that the money I would invest would really only lead to reduced general performance, mileage, while not really gaining me any actual useful performance. Perhaps a few seconds faster in an autocross that I participate in once a year or a second faster drag racing, also 1x a year. So my car would basically be good at nothing. It’d get a bit worse mileage and go a tiny bit faster, which I’d never get to utilize.

So to the Prius. The beauty of the Prius is it accomplishes its task with highest efficiency. It’s goal is to move people efficiently (less gas) and it accomplishes that in spades! I have driven it through an Iowa winter and over 10,000 miles.

A side effect of the increased mileage is saving you money and depending on what you are transferring from, a significant amount! You can see that if you drive a Prius (45mpg) instead of a truck (20mpg), even at $2.00 gas is a could be a savings of over $1000 a year (if you drive 20,000 miles a year).  This is in addition to having lower insurance since it’s a cheaper vehicle.

prius mileage

One of the main questions I get is “What about the battery?” It is a fair question. People are generally afraid of things they don’t understand. Being as huge batteries is still (sort of) new technology (we’ve had Prius’ for 18 years now, people still haven’t had a ton of exposure to them. The short story I can tell them is, look on the internet for the history people have had with the Prius and other hybrids. If there were massive problems, people wouldn’t keep buying the car for over 18 years. A battery replacement is about as common as an engine replacement and costs about the same, probably a bit less. A battery sure has less moving parts than an engine or transmission!
From having the opportunity to drive various “cool” vehicles (1987 Monte Carlo SS, 2008 GSXR 600, 1981 Honda Bobber, 1957 Chevy (dad’s) and various “average” vehicles, minivans, 2001 Silverado, 2007 Prius, Ford Focus, I have had the opportunity to see people’s reactions to various different vehicles. It is always cool to drive a neat car and have people interested in it. I can’t tell you how many people asked about or commented on the 1957 Chevy when I drove it for a week. It was a lot. I also get rather regular comments on the 1987 Monte Carlo SS. I find it funny that driving the Prius family and friends go out of their way to make negative comments about it. Am I not the same person driving the Prius as I was driving the “cool” car? Maybe I’m not, but I like the new me. It’s just an improved version of the old me. I can continue to drive the “cool” vehicles occasionally while driving the Prius most of the time for its efficiency.

What is a Kit Car?

Kit Cars – What are they?
Think of a Lego set, but for a car!
Why kit cars?
They are a car focused on performance or style. Imagine a Ferrari or Shelby Cobra for the price of a new Ford Focus!

Lets put it together!

I’ve written a few articles about buying cheaper used supercars or

newer muscle cars and I’ve told you about a few different styles of cars such as  street rods and muscle cars. But buying a car assembled by a major manufacture isn’t the only way to get a car. If you are the handy type or just want to break the mold, you can build a car yourself! Of course, building a car by yourself, from nothing is a pretty difficult task, and that’s not what I’m proposing, although that has been done also! Check it out here. If you’re not as hard-core as Ken, but still want something different you are in luck! You can build a kit car!

So what is a kit car? A kit car is a car that you purchase in pieces and assemble yourself, it’s basically like a Lego set, or buying a table from IKEA. Why would anyone want to do this you might ask? Well there are a few reasons.

1. You can get a kit car that looks and performs like a much more expensive car than it is.
2. You can build a car that never existed.
3. You can build a car that did exist but is way too rare to buy an original. (Think Shelby Cobra).

Why would a company want to design a kit car instead of a production car? There are a few reasons for that also!

1. It is (much much) cheaper for a company to design and sell a kit can than it is for Ford, or other major manufacturers. Often kit cars source a reliable engine from the major manufacturers. The body and suspension are the major contributions by the designers.

2. This is because a kit car doesn’t have to pass all the safety standards a new car does. They also aren’t held to the same standards for NVH and other considerations. That being said, that doesn’t mean that they are (all) unsafe, or harsh. Many companies put a lot of work into the kits to make them great cars.

Let’s look at the different types of kit cars available.

The first are replicas of current or older cars that you can build yourself. One example of this is the Factory Five Roadster . It is basically a recreation of a Shelby Cobra from the 1960’s. Why not just buy an original Cobra you ask?


Check Hemmings Motor news http://www.hemmings.com/ . An original Shelby Cobra is rare, and therefore expensive (think $100k+) where as a Factory Five Roadster can be assembled for $30k if you do it the right way. You also have the benefit of putting a variety of engines and upgrades suspension, electronics and just about everything else that has progressed in the automotive world in the last 50 years.

Another that is one of my favorites is a Chevrolet Cheetah kit car. What is a Chevrolet Cheetah you ask? It was a car made to beat the Shelby Cobra in it’s day. Unfortunately tragedy befell the company and only 19 (or so) were ever made. The good news is you can buy the beautiful Cheetah as a kit and put it together yourself!

Lamborghini’s and Ferrari’s are other vehicles that are popular in this type of “build cheaper than you can buy” category.


The second type of kit car is a car that never was made. Factory Five has one of these available also. Is called the Factory Five GTM supercar. It’s a “generic” supercar being that it is low, wide and good looking. That being said, it is also a lot more ‘’cost effective” than a Ferrari or Lambo, and if you were to damage it, you know you could always rebuild it!  Here are 2 other supercar kits. The Superlite (at beginning of article) is the first, and here’s a quote from their site

“Q. How easy is it to build, really? –
A. The Superlite SLC was designed to be built in your garage, using basic hand tools.  You don’t need to do any welding, or machining, or have fancy tools.”
Sounds pretty great to me!

And here’s another supercar/racecar kit, the Ultima GTR, made in England.

And here’s a final one, the K1 Attack, made in the Czech Republic.
There is also a third type of kit car. It’s not a complete kit like the cars talked about before, but it’s a massive redesign of an existing car but also bought in kit form. Pontiac Fieros are popular cars for this as they were rear engine like many supercars. Often they get made into Lamborghini’s.

There is also this car, build from a 1990’s Ford Thunderbird.

So as you can see the kit car industry is far reaching, covering many different styles of cars. They are actually relatively affordable, if you are in the market for a performance car. There are often different levels of each kit available. Often you can buy just a body and source all the other parts yourself, such as the brakes, seats, wheels and tires. There are also kit cars that the factories will in fact build for you! There are even some that will let you help them build your car!

Here is a site with a very long list of kit car manufacturers if you are looking for something different. There is a car for everyone!

As always, please share this article and Like us on Facebook

So has this gotten your creative juices flowing? Are you rip roaring ready to get down in the garage and build your own car? Or would you rather buy a production car? Have you ever seen a kit car on the street or at a car show?

13. What is drag racing?

What is drag racing and a little on how to attend your first drag race.

Awesome Barracuda pulling a wheelie at the drag strip.

Awesome Barracuda pulling a wheelie at the drag strip.

Perhaps you’ve wondered why I use the term “quartermile” for my short synopsis at the beginning of my posts (above).
This term comes from drag racing, which is probably the quickest form of vehicular competition, hence why I use it for my short intros.
Drag racing is the original “go fast” sport.
The first drag race took place in 1900 between a Mercedes and a horse. The horse won.
Skip to the end for tips for your first track day if you don’t want to read everything, but I’d read it if I were you!
If your car is faster than 11.5 seconds in the quartermile
1. You probably shouldn’t start racing with that car!
2. You will need a roll cage (and a SNELL approved) race helmet or you will get kicked out…
Generally at slower speeds you don’t need a helmet up to a certain speed, that varies by track. It has to be SNELL approved also, ask ahead of race day.

The Flying Mile

2 Funny cars drag racing. Funny cars are purpose built drag cars that go very fast.

2 Funny cars drag racing.
Funny cars are purpose built drag cars that go very fast.

If you are reading this you are probably a car person and you probably enjoy driving your car fast. Unfortunately, Uncle Sam frowns on you going much about 70 in most of the country and often over 55 mph is a no-no. Luckily there is an option for you Speedy Gonzalez. Drag Racing!

Speedy Gonzales

Speedy Gonzales

There is so much to say about drag racing so I’ll just start. Drag racing is a race between 2 vehicles (usually). It measures how quickly each vehicle can cover a set distance (usually a quarter of a mile (1320 feet). You have probably been exposed to drag racing from the Fast and Furious movies, or just about any other car tv movie or show when people ask “What will she do?” She being the car. It’s sort of like the bench press of the automotive world. It’s a great number to impress people, but using a few simple tricks you can make a car a lot faster for the quartermile but that will make it less potent in other forms of racing. Drag slicks and skinnies aren’t really the best for autocross or other racing that doesn’t involve going straight! That being said, I like drag racing for this sole reason, it’s the easiest performance benchmark to replicate. You can pay $40 (or $70 or more) to go to a local drag strip, race your car a few times and you know how quick it is. Then you can compare it to friends. This is much harder in autocross unless you are at the same track, and often those tracks get changed each week also. Same for times around a larger set race track. So, drag racing it is.

woman prepping her husbands drag car. Does she have a granddaughter?

woman prepping her husbands drag car. Does she have a granddaughter?

The ultimate goal of drag racing is getting the car to cover the distance in the shortest time possible, because faster is better right? Drag racing sure sounds easy you are thinking right? Well yes and no. In principle yes, but have you tried accelerating fast and in control? In all likelihood, no, you haven’t, and definitely not with 300 or more horsepower. Everyone wants to do burnouts in their high horse power car, which look cool, but that is actually the opposite of what you want to do when drag racing. Burning out = no traction. Which means not moving forward which means you lose the race. Now you’re a loser. Bummer.

At the end of a drag race you will get a time slip which will show you the time it took you to cover 60 feet, 330 feet, ⅛ mile, and a quartermile. It will also tell you your MPH at the ⅛ and quartermile points on the track which is important. I will help you decipher all these numbers to help you go quicker below.

But first! How does a drag race start? A smoking hot girl throws a hankie in the air right? Not so fast Dom (inic Toretto, Fast and Furious reference for you uninitiated).20140426_151648
Before you start the drag race you have to do a few things. First, you should usually do a burnout. This will clean the debris off your tires. It will also make them warm and sticky. This will help you accelerate and not spin your tires off the line. Then drag race starts with the “Christmas tree”. It’s a set of 7 lights. The top 2 tell you when you are at the starting line (when you are staged).
Detail of Christmas Tree Lights
The top one will blink when you break a laser beam, and you will roll an inch or 2 forward and the second one will light up (from your tire breaking another beam). You are now ready to race! Once the other driver has also staged the 3 yellow lights (below the staging lights), will blink off in .5 second intervals (for normal racing, all at once for professionals). Then the green light will light up and you should start going now! Actually in all likelihood you or your car will not be as fast to react as you think, therefore the slower your car the sooner you should start engaging the clutch/removing your foot from the brake, and pushing the gas. If you leave from the line before the green light goes you will “break out” which means you have lost the race before you started, because you started too early. Not a big deal on your first day. On the other hand, the tree also measures your “reaction time” how close your car left the starting line in relation to the green light. Depending on what type of racing you are doing you might have to pay attention to this number. If you are just doing it to see what your car can do, that is fine, but if you are actually racing, the reaction time gets factored into your overall time. If you and the other car run the same time but his reaction time is .000 (perfect) and yours is .500 seconds you lose, even though your cars were equal. You can actually lose if you have a faster car even! If you run 14.00 with a .5 reaction time, and the other guy runs a 14.1 with a .000 R.T. you still lose.

Now that you know about starting, lets break down my time slip below and try to understand what all the numbers mean starting with the 60’ time which is one of the most important numbers in drag racing. This tells you how good your car is sticking to the ground and how much traction you are getting. If your 60’ time is high that means you are spinning your tires, which means you are going slow. See my time slip below.

1998 Super Taco vs 2007 Musatng

1998 Super Taco vs 2007 Musatng

This is my 2007 Mustang GT vs a 1998 Toyota Tacoma pickup (not a performance vehicle in most peoples mind!) Our Mph was the same at the end of the track (100Mph) but his 60’ times are better and his over all time is lower by .821 seconds! That’s huge in drag racing. Why is he faster? He sticks to the track and uses his power while I was taking off, spinning tires, sometimes getting “wheel hop” etc. Who wants to take their mustang to the track and get smoked by a Toyota Taco? No one! How do we fix this? It (should be) easy. Basically you want to take off slowly enough, roll on the throttle to prevent wheel spin. You can also let air out of your tires to get better traction. Finally if you can, install drag slicks on your car. There are tons of other, more involved suspension mods you can do if you get fast enough, but that’s not the aim of this article.

Next we will compare the times of 2 cars that I raced separately and copy pasted their times together for a comparison of what the sticking to the track will do for you.

Super Taco vs. Some burnout

Super Taco vs. Some burnout


Burnout vs. Super taco

Burnout vs. Super taco

You will notice on the right is our friend the fast Taco vs some burnout car that I didn’t bother to document. You see again the Taco had the faster overall quartermile time 13.567 seconds vs. 13.757 for the burnout. But wait! The taco has a slower MPH at both the 1/8th and quarter miles. How is that? If you look at the 60’ times you will see. The Burnout had a time of 2.174 seconds vs. the Speed Taco at 1.892 seconds. This is showing that the Taco was accelerating very good and converting all his power into forward momentum vs the Burnout was spinning tires or had a bad start. So that brings us to the MPH. How was Burnout going faster at the end and still lost? The Burnout definitely had a bad start, spinning tires etc, which put it way behind. You see at the 330’ marker the Speed Taco had a lead of .337 seconds. This was cut down to .19 seconds at the end of the race. Therefor the Burnout had more horsepower and was accelerating faster once it finally got hooked up (probably 2nd or 3rd gear) whereas the Taco was always hooked but not quite as much power. So while power is good being able to transfer that power to the ground is also extremely important for your times and your ego! Don’t get smoked in your new bazillion HP car by some guy who knows how to race! Do burnouts, don’t be a burnout!

1998 Speed Taco 13.5 seconds in the quarter mile. Super Taco!

1998 Speed Taco 13.5 seconds in the quarter mile. Super Taco!

A few quick tips for your first track day.
1. You will need to go through tech inspection before they will let you drag race. Make sure all loose stuff is out of your car! Maps, shoes, kleenex, empty pop cans, etc. You don’t want that stuff flying around your car when you take off.
2. They will check some simple things like if your battery is tied down. Make sure it’s secured by something, at least the stock battery tie down!
3. Start accelerating when the 3rd yellow light is on. If you wait til it’s green you are already behind.
4. Do a burnout, if you have an AWD car this probably doesn’t apply.

burnout before drag racing to clean tires, get them hot, and help you stick to the track

burnout before drag racing to clean tires, get them hot, and help you stick to the track

5. Take off slowly. Don’t try to launch your car at 5000 rpm the first time. Ease onto the throttle, see how your car sticks. If you stick good, then try a little more gas next time.
6. If you do eventually start spinning on take off let some air out of your tires. Maybe to about 10 PSI. This completely depends on what type of tire you have, how far from home you are, etc. Don’t let all the air out of your tires and then be mad at me when you can’t get home! But even down to 15 psi you can drive a little bit safely. Air your tires up again ASAP!
7. Talk with other racers! They will give you tons of help. They are generally a super helpful bunch, but maybe don’t ask the guy with a top fuel dragster to help you drive your stock 2000 Honda Civic… He’s probably pretty busy and has a lot of money tied up in his car and he’s probably pretty serious. Maybe ask the guy who’s just a few seconds faster.
8. If you want to start modding your car once you have the technique down, but don’t have any money, removing weight also makes your car faster. Remove the spare tire, passenger seat, rear seat (those are the 3 easiest things to remove. A general rule of thumb is every 100 lbs removed from your car = .1 second faster in the quartermile. Don’t forget you need to reinstall these things sometime…
9. Have FUN!

Now that you know all about drag racing how do you start? It’s pretty simple to drag race. You can literally drag race any vehicle. I’ve seen Dodge Caravans, pickup trucks, Buick Century’s as well as the normal car’s you’d expect like muscle cars, import tuners and purpose built drag cars. A normal one day of drag racing test and tune will cost you between $25 and $75 dollars to run as many runs as you can get in, base on how many people are there. So get to the track! What are you waiting for?!?!?!?

Per usual please share this if you enjoyed it! Like “My Wheel Life” on Facebook, etc.

Here’s a great (non-traditional) drag race staged by Motortrend magazine between a ton of cars!
Motortrend Greatest Drag race 2. This is my favorite of the 3 “worlds greatest drag race” videos.