Tag Archive for 'cars'



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.

Con­tinue read­ing ‘Volvo’

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

cars.com 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.