Archive for the 'cars' Category



Volvo, somewhere in Williamsburg between Berry and Wythe.

Lisa and I spent a good chunk of the weekend furniture shopping, and spring cleaning. On Saturday, we ventured deep into Connecticut to go to an estate sale, in pursuit of what turned out to be an American-made Danish “style” dining set, which was just too big and ugly to buy. From there, we drove over to Beacon, NY, which has a couple of nice stores with mid-century furniture, (Anna found some amazing stuff there). We had some coffee (photo below the fold), but left empty-handed.

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Saab Troubles Continue

What can I say? Last month, I had to get a new short block put into my 9-3, which is basically most of the engine. $6200 worth of parts and labor, gleefully covered under my extended warranty.

But, this Tuesday, I decided to venture out of the office for lunch, (this is suburbia, impossible to get anywhere by foot)… and on the way back, my car just quit on me in the middle of an on-ramp. So, there I am, blocking traffic, waving cars along, and attempting to push the car out of the way, simultaneously steering the wheel.

I hate cars.

saabThe dealer had to replace something called a “direct ignition cassette module”, also covered under the warranty. But, I also had to buy a new battery, because the stupid tow truck left the keys in the ignition and killed it. I still can’t quite figure out if the battery is related to the other replaced part, but I guess I should once again be thankful that the car is “certified”.

It seems that I’m not the only Saab owner with this problem.

Saabs Don’t Age Well

One of the smartest things I’ve ever done, was to pay a little extra for Certified Pre-Owned status on my used 9-3, which more or less just extends the warranty. For an extra $1500 or so, I’ve received more than double that amount in parts and labor over the past 2 years.

So, on thursday, I dropped the 9-3 off in Framingham so they could replace the Water Pump, which was going bad. Look at the piece of crap they gave me as a loaner:

chevy aveo

Later that afternoon, I received a call from the service department, saying that I also had a blown head gasket… great. That’s not good. So, they keep it overnight, and I don’t hear anything all day friday… so, I call them up, and they ask to keep it until monday, because they hadn’t finished up the job. All the while, I’m riding around in a tin-can american car, with no power-windows, no Fast-Lane, and it’s bright-cherry-fucking-red.

So, today (monday), I call them up, and they tell me that they can’t get good oil pressure. WTF? And they want to replace the engine’s short block… which is a huge job. I can’t figure out what the hell happened, but I’m getting to the point where I can’t wait until the day when I don’t have to rely on a car every day of my life.

Mr. Yovanoff sold his 9-3 on eBay this week… but, he now gets to walk to work.

Another Quality Afternoon at Saab City

I spent the morning and a good part of the afternoon today sitting in the dealership, watching the snow come down in buckets, waiting for my car to get it’s new wheels. 2 new rims, and 4 new tires…

But watching all of this snow got me daydreaming about nicer weather, and all that it entails… grilling, scooting, the beach. And, as long as we’re daydreaming, how about this $40,000 convertible?

Saab 9-2X

Saab 9-2xThe 9-3 is again in the shop, (needed a new thermostat), but this time my loaner story is a bit more interesting that the Kia Rio of last week. You see, I was given a 2004 9-2X loaner – albeit, the base model. What’s funny, however, is that I came away from the experience feeling once again that Saab is harming its brand. Why you ask?

First, this is not a Saab. I don’t care if it has a 9-3 front-end, and griffin logo slapped on the wheel… the overall character of the car screams Japanese. Based on the Subaru WRX, Saab supposedly added a few stylistic and performance “enhancements”.

I should note that it handles well, (AWD is standard), and was fun to hit the MassPike exit ramps at a high velocity. But, as an automatic, and lacking Turbo, (which Saab invented), I felt like I should have a couple of kiddos in the back seat.

The interior was surprisingly sparse – the displays were old-fashioned gray LCD, and the radio knobs was pretty low-end. In short, is lacks the Saab experience. When I first test-drove my 9-3, I felt as if I was in an airplane cockpit, with its short windshield, ignition between the seats, (rather than on the steering column), and the way the controls lit up. By comparison, the 9-2X feels very much like all the other cars you’ve ridden in.

Overall, it is a fine car – though I’m not sure why one wouldn’t just go buy the Subaru version. GM, (Saab’s parent company), is probably trying to attract a lower-priced market segment – 20-somethings who are attracted to the Saab brand, but who aren’t looking to spend $30k.

It was a risky gamble, toying with the unique character of Saab… that said, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 9-2X on the road, though there are a glut of old 900s and 9-3s parked in my neighborhood.

Saab City

I dropped my 2000 9-3 off at the Framingham Saab today for its 30,000 mile major service, and was promised a “loaner” car. Great!, I thought… what a perfect opportunity to check out the new 2005 model, or maybe the new 9-2X, which is basically a fancied up Subaru? Right?

Wrong. I was handed the keys to a Purple Kia by an Enterprise Rep — automatic transmission, no CD player… (I wouldn’t have chosen this car, were I actually paying to rent it)

Swedish car owners are a specialty niche group, (and a very loyal one), much like Apple computer users. When someone buys a Saab, they are buying into a brand that is distinct from other car manufacturers, (and they pay a premium for that right).

When you step into a Saab or Volvo dealership, the first thing you notice is the modern, Scandinavian-style design. The woods are maple, the glass is curved, and the chairs look like they would cost $5000 at DWR.

So, if Brand is so important to Saab and its customers, why would they have such crappy loaners? I can’t imagine taking my Powerbook in for service, and being handed an eMachines pc for temporary use…

Another side note: this dealer sends me junk mail offers twice a month, asking if I’d like to upgrade to a later model. WTF?


I peed into a plastic cup this morning for the first time since my job application to Wilson Farms convenience store, when I was sixteen years-old.

Why, you ask?

Well, some friends and I are going to spend the weekend driving a SmartCar around Boston, dressed in Target logos from head-to-toe. We’re supposed to make ourselves seen to all of the returning college kids, reminding them that there is a cheap place to dress up that gray-brick dorm room. I’m 26 years-old, so this is a bit embarassing.

But, It’s only 2 days, I’ll be a couple hundred dollars richer, and I get to tear around town in a car that is roughly 1/6 the size of your average SUV. Should be safe…

Last year, they gave my friends Target Vespas—but, there was an accident or two… apparently it’s safer to shill on 4-wheels.

Car Swap

I can’t even believe that I drove into Saab City today in my beaten and bruised ’93 Subaru, and drove out with a near-mint 2000 Saab 9-3… It should be a crime. Go see Krissy if you need a car — she is the Internet Sales person.

That was the sweetest 10-minute drive of my life. 70 degrees outside, sunroof open, and my first CD was… Blur‘s Leisure.

Saab Story 2000 Saab 9-3I started out looking for a used Golf, but I’ve realized they are really crappy cars– especially if you’re not buying a new one.

After test driving a honda, and deciding I wasn’t ready to give up all fun in my life, I drove a used Saab 9-3. Wow.

This is your basic entry-level Saab — but with leather seats, sunroof, and a 180hp turbo engine to all but ensure that I won’t become an ardent environmentalist — although it is a 4-cylinder.

My only problem is that I’m worried that I’m going to look like a toolbox in this thing. I mean, can you legally listen to punk rock in a Saab? Is it considered “gauche” to eat Wendy’s and belong to the Democratic party, as a Saab owner? Am I crazy?


VW GolfI bought my current car, a green ’93 Subaru Impreza wagon, in the winter of 1998, after I received an inheritance from my grandfather. Since then, I’ve grown attached to it, not least because of my grandfather, but also because it was my first manual transmission, and it was my first foreign car.

I hate cars — I hate what they’ve done to our cities and our country in the past 60 years… but, they are sometimes a necessary evil. Presley and I have hauled our lives from Buffalo to Boston, Boston to Cambridge, and back again over the years, and it’s always been good to us. Our most impressive haul, in my memory, was a 7-foot tall wardrobe from IKEA in Ontario, to Cambridge. Not only did it fit, but there was room for Presley, a kitten, and a huge oriental rug.

Still, it’s a ten year-old car, and its starting to get expensive to repair. And I’ve got an oil leak up the wahoo.

So, it’s time to suck it up, and buy another car. My friends have offered their advice. Albany Dan said do not buy a Volkswagen, under any circumstances. Something about bad reliability… My boss’s boss suggested a pickup truck. Other friends suggested boring old Toyotas and Hondas.

I think I’m going to go with my gut, and look for a used VW Golf. Besides being small and cool (good for city driving), it’s safe, relatively inexpensive, and fuel efficient.

Though I won’t be able to haul another 7′ wardrobe, I’m sure the hatchback will come in handy.

And, the best little secret of all, is that AAA offers low-interest car loans — I was approved for 4.19% for 60 months… Now, time to go shopping!

Car Repair

I got the tail gate fixed on the Subaru today by Mike, so I thought I’d give him a shout out.

Trains are better than Cars

Central Station, Buffalo, NY, circa 1930.

Presley’s sister Kelly was in town this past weekend, and she left yesterday on the Amtrak train from Back Bay Station, which got me thinking about train stations and trains in general. Everyone in these New Urbanist books that I read can’t fathom how America ended up wedded to the automobile, while the Europeans remain contented with trains.

I think it’s a simple answer: after the war, we just could. It was the thing to do, and we had the resources. But, isn’t there something wonderful about trains? And more importantly, big city train stations? Grand Central in Manhattan is gorgeous. Moderinists moan on about how style should be down-played because it is the taste of economic elites, but I don’t care if putting a building like that up was a capitalist show of wealth and power—it had beauty, craftmanship and it was a place where people of all races and incomes passed through. They destroyed Penn Station in the sixties to put up Madison Square Garden. big whoop. If anything, MSG is more capitalist-minded than the building it replaced.

So, it brings me around to Buffalo and Kelly’s departure… Earlier in this century, Buffalo actually was in the top 5 for most railroad track—Buffalo had industry, and it was located on the important route between new york and chicago. The city built some beautiful train stations (subsequently demolished), who’s architecture seems wonderfully as grand as Grand Central itself. The last remaining station, Central Terminal, still stands on the East Side, though it’s falling apart. I wish to God the city could find some new use for the facility—problem is, it is located in the most economically depressed area of the city.

whoa. My Car Needs this.

whoa. My car needs this.


I spend uncounted amounts of my time, mostly when I’m walking or driving around town, looking at and thinking about car designs… admittedly, when I’m not behind my computer, you’ve got to look for other things to obsess about– that’s the problem with being a designer.

Slate has an interesting article about the state of car design (I might say, it’s quite cynical).

get yer red hot volvosI’ve always liked Volkswagen styling, for its simplicity and ‘sporty-ness’. I don’t like the new Passat though (2001). I think they’re trying to look more like the new Volvos… which attempt, (at least the big ones), something like an Oldsmobile for old people with taste. The huge fins in the back– what’s with that? Looks like there should be rockets coming out the back.