Category Archives: Cars

Ford Tough

Driving RedRock to work this week, I see this vehicle at a red light proudly wearing a Ford Tough sticker…

But wait a minute…  What is wrong here?  This is not a Ford Tough SUV!!  This is a Honda Pilot.  😯

I get a kick out of the different stickers people plaster on their cars…

  • Stick families (gotta include the dogs/cats)…
  • Holy rollers…
  • “My kid did this or the other special crap”…
  • Political affiliation – these are even more entertaining when comparing candidates vs car/SUV/truck…
  • Hardware (as in guns)…
  • In memory of…

And then, one of my favorites:  the ones that make no sense at all.  As in today’s featured picture making a Honda Pilot “Ford Tough”.  Wonder how the boys in Dearborn feel about that?

As we say here in the South, “Bless his heart”.  But it’s all good, after all he is a Clemson Dad.  😉

Question of Motor Oil Qualities

I decided to change oil on bowtie6 and headed to AutoZone with three jugs of used oil and responsibly disposed of the old stuff in their recycling tank.  Since they let me do this, I try to keep business with them so I picked up an Ecotec compatible K&N oil filter and a 5 quart jug of Mobil1 5w-30 oil.

The fellow behind the counter scanned the goods and said the bill was almost $50.  This didn’t make sense because the posted price for the oil was $29.  He said that is the price with a Mobil1 oil filter; otherwise the price of the oil is $38.  This is a scam because the Mobil1 filters are slightly double what the K&N filters go for.  So at the end, the price is almost the same.

I told him I would pass on the oil; instead I just bought the K&N filter.  This is when I asked him why the price discrepancy because I can buy the same jug of Mobil1 oil from Wal-Mart for $23.

His reply was very interesting…

Before he started answering my question, he informed me he was a previous manager at a Pep Boys and had also been in charge of an automotive department at a Wal-Mart before working at AutoZone.  And, he gave me the “look”, as if to say what he was about to say was the inside dope on matters.  Then, he proceeded to tell me that Exxon-Mobil makes two different qualities of oil.  AutoZone gets the premium batches while Wal-Mart gets the scraps.  Thus the difference in price between the two.

According to this fellow, the AutoZone Mobil1 oil gets certified as premium oil.  He then informed me that the Mobil1 oil sold at Wal-Mart is of a lesser quality.  In his words: “the Mobil1 sold at Wal-Mart is the bottom of the mixing vats and the size of the molecules is not up to par with the batches they sell at AutoZone”.

Hmmmm…  Again, I did some Google searches on this subject and indeed it is a matter of debate.  All I have to say is that given the law-suit friendly climate prevalent in our nation today, why would a huge company like Exxon-Mobil expose themselves to loss by making two qualities of oil branded under the same name?

Yet more food for thought:  what about the Mobil1 sold at Costco?  They don’t sell the jugs, instead they carry the six-packs.  Yet the price is comparable to the Wal-Mart price.  Reckon this has to do with volume of good sold and not necessarily quality?

What are your thoughts on this?

Like my Dad used to say, “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one”.  😉

Until next time…

2017 Chevrolet Equinox

Taken at the dealer’s parking lot after a test drive

Well here it is:  my wife’s new 2017 Chevrolet Equinox.  In the last post, I wrote about the extensive hail damage on our Chevy HHR and how the insurance company totaled it out.  We went shopping and after many queries on Google, found exactly what we wanted.

We found a small town dealership that treated us very friendly and we got a great deal.  Thank you Clinkscales Chevrolet and Teresa and Edwin for a great experience!  Much appreciated.

Our 2017 Chevrolet Equinox is a LT model, with a number of amenities that were just not offered in the HHR.  Power comes from a direct injected Ecotec 2.4l engine.  It is powerful enough and provides nice fuel economy.  The interior is nicely appointed with comfortable power assisted cloth seats, tinted windows, power lift gate, etc.  The color is “Velvet Blue” and has a certain purple tint to it under certain light.  Finally, the ride is much improved over the HHR.  The HHR had a nose-heavy feel to it; the Equinox is more balanced.  It is much more quiet too!

So far I’m very pleased.  Looking forward to a road trip for a more detailed review…  Stay tuned!

Hailstorm Aftermath


Last week, parts of the Upstate of South Carolina experienced a very severe storm with golf ball sized hail.  No, this is not an April Fool’s day story; on the contrary.  Because of the weather event, my wife’s 2008 Chevrolet Heritage High Roof (HHR) endured a great deal of hail damage, resulting in it being totaled.

Both of us had become attached to the utilitarian HHR not for its luxurious appointments but because it was a very versatile little vehicle.  I hauled lumber in it several times, took several long trips in it, and our two Corgis fit very comfortably with the back seat folded down.  The HHR got decent mileage and overall was very economical.  Perhaps the only shortcoming on the HHR is that it is nose heavy and thus the front suspension components take a lot of wear.  On the other hand, this HHR shares the same 2.4L Ecotec with bowtie6.

The storm hit late in the afternoon, around the time to leave from work.  Fortunately I was working late that night, and a good friend of mine called and warned me about the bad weather.  Since I didn’t want to have RedRock damaged, I took refuge in the underground parking lot at a mall across the street from my office.  Suffice to say, I was not the only one!

However, the HHR did not fare as well.  At the time of the storm, the HHR was in the parking lot at my wife’s workplace.  She took the picture shown here from the side door of her office.  It is a very helpless feeling when hail of this size falls knowing all too well the amount of damage being done.

The next day, my wife called our insurance carrier.  The rep was very nice and said they had received many calls reporting this sort of damage.  During that call, the rep gave my wife an appointment to have the HHR inspected.

As we talked about this with my wife later that night, I did a few Google searches trying to figure out the current value of our 2008 Chevy HHR.  It was then when I realized the HHR might be totaled.  Like I mentioned above, our HHR was not a luxury cruiser, however mechanically it was in perfect shape with something like 83,000 miles on the odometer.

After a lengthy 40 minute inspection, the adjuster gave us the bad news:  it would take almost $5,000 to repair the hail dings.  He said this is a very time-consuming process and the amount of time to repair damage was too large.  For example, the hood took several direct hits…

And these are only the larger ones.  There were multiple smaller dings that did not show up very well in these pictures.  What about the roof?  Well, these pictures show what happened there…

The insurance company gave us two settlement options:

  1. Accept the lesser amount of money, keep the car and have it repaired.  The problem with this option was the title would be re-issued as “salvage” and the HHR would need a road-worthiness inspection.
  2. Accept a larger amount of money and have it towed away.

The first offer didn’t thrill me.  That road-worthiness inspection has “hassle” written all over it and the salvage title means resale value would be non-existent.  So, we accepted the second offer which incidentally was very fair.  We had entertained the idea of trading the HHR and we were semi-looking but not very serious as of yet.  I suppose this means we will be getting a new car sooner than later (stay tuned, I’ll have an update on our next car!).

Sadly though, the rollback truck showed up yesterday and took the HHR away…

So long, HHR!

Jim’s Garage Rock Crawler

LS3 powered Rock Crawler

This past Thursday, I went to lunch with my friend Jeff to a local deli and on the way out, saw this Jim’s Garage rock crawler in the parking lot.  This is not something you see every day, so inquisitive minds wanted to “know”.  We walked over and found two gents discussing how they were going to unload the rock crawler and move it from one trailer to another.

After a few questions, we were able to ascertain the builder of the rock crawler was from somewhere in North Carolina while the owner of the vehicle was from somewhere in Alabama; I suppose they picked Greenville SC as a place to meet.  I asked if it would be alright for me to take a few pictures of the rig and they were kind enough to agree, so I started clicking away…

Not your typical Jeep!

This is not exactly my cup of tea, but I appreciate serious craftsmanship when I see it.  This rock crawler is something else!  The builder said he put the entire frame together himself.  The center console and dash is all aluminum and I asked him if he had also worked on that.  He said that came from another fellow that made it special.  This is what the dash looks like:

Check out the “hold on for dear life” t-bar

The rock crawler was pretty much complete, however it was not wired up nor painted.  The engine was not running as it had yet to be wired, plumbed, etc.  As you can tell, there is no instrumentation either.  I asked a few more questions about the powertrain.  This is where it got really interesting.  Lurking under all the sheet-metal and that awesome tube frame is a very low mileage LS3 from a C5 Camaro.  I asked about the throttle and the owner said is is a “fly by wire” unit.  I did notice none of the pedals were installed, however the owner said he had the correct electronic throttle pedal for it.  Wiring came from MAST and that included the ECU too.  The owner said the entire kit came tuned to match the hot cam in the engine.

Somewhere in there is an LS3

The rear suspension and axle are something else in order to stand up to abuse and the power of the LS3.  Unfortunately, I don’t have more info about all the components.  The two gents were really busy and I did not want to push my luck asking more than I should.  Here is that awesome rear axle and suspension.

Seriously beefed up axle

Somebody really did their homework on this machine.  The suspension is over the top, but anything else would be “uncivilized”.  As you look at each picture individually, notice the builder cut no corners:  the welds are impeccable and notice the generous use of grade-8 hardware.  Those end links are amazing.  Nothing is left to chance here – a truly purpose built machine.

The fuel cell sits behind the seats and the floor above the rear axle is a very nicely made piece of cut sheet steel.  Very nice work indeed, with the builder’s name part of the pattern.  Matter of fact, I had no clue who the builder was until I went through the pictures and saw this detail!

Builder’s name… Spot on!

In closing, the owner told us he plans to take the entire rock crawler completely apart and ship the frame off to have it powder coated.  Then, the body panels will be wrapped in vinyl and then the fun part starts.  Assembling, wiring and getting this thing ready for prime-time will be one hell of fun job!

I can only imagine the large sum of resources invested in this rock crawler.  Having built and worked on many cars myself, I know this kind of stuff takes commitment and deep pockets.  However, when this thing fires up in anger and starts attacking off-road venues, man!  What an awesome ride that will be!

And finally, right before I left I told the owner his rock crawler reminded me of a similar vehicle used in the film The Man From U.N.C.L.E..  He told me he had never seen the picture but he was going to try to check it out.

Well, interesting thing YouTube.  Here is that final chase scene from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. – make sure you watch the part where the off-road vehicle skims the surface of the water (starts at around 2:35)…  Wonder if the Jim’s Garage rock crawler could do this?  Hehehe…  :mrgreen: