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.