Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Random Shots: Ninnnjaaaaaa

Finally took the time to sit in front of my throwing stars with a can of brasso, a cleaning cloth, some wax and lots of elbow grease. Eagle-eyed readers would spot the new watermark on the image above. Yes, i have my own URL! Yay! Pls. save the addy, Garage36.com

Monday, June 27, 2011

German Nostalgic Car!

Something i've been thinking of doing for a while ever since i saw a "Japan Nostalgic Car" sticker. So, inspired by JNC, i went to create my own "German Nostalgic Car" label design. See if you can figure out the icons inside. What do you think?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Meeting up with the friendly "laupokchia" group

Definition of the word "lau pok" according to TalkingCock.com:
Adjective to describe something as crappy or lousy...

i think not... Each and everyone of the cars that dropped by this afternoon for a R&R meet are definitely not crappy or lousy, but i guess it's just fun to call our cars "laupok" since they are from a different generation. A fantastic bunch of people with some really nice cars. Took some snapshops and here they are:
I took the chance to get some closer shots of the Mean Green Celica

Mean Green had friends today

Sweet FC

Even the FC had a friend...

...in the form of this tasty drop-top

A lone NA

Little mini

And the poor Carina that's headed to the scrapyard in a couple of months time, due to our Country's lousy and horribly expensive policy on keeping old cars.

E36 Jalop' reporting for duty

Friday, June 24, 2011

X-scaping The City - Part 2: Driving the X3 xDrive35i

First impressions as it comes, is probably one of the aspects of your life where you pay quite a bit of attention to, when it comes to meeting new people, nailing a job interview or making a sales pitch. Imagine that, in just the first few minutes of meeting someone new, we would have already forged in our minds, either a positive or a negative reaction towards them. Such is the way we are wired.

Studies show that initial encounters are emotionally concentrated events which can overwhelm us. We walk away from such experiences with a first impression that is like a Polaroid picture, a head-to-toe image that develops instantly and never entirely fades.

How this happens is our brains create a composite of all the signals given off by new experiences, voices, appearances, postures and even handshakes, all form up into either a positive or a negative impression. Over time, of course, this impression could change, but if you are just meeting someone for a couple of minutes, that impression could last for quite a while. To make a good impression, you need to be particular over a number of things, you need to dress well and look presentable, you need to be clear when you communicate, you need to be a good listener, and you need to pay attention to your host or new friend. It seems like a lot of work, but get it right the first time and it'll all be worth it. A positive impression can lead to doors being opened for you, a negative one will lead you to the door.

All this leads up to the general impression (hehe), of cars being sold locally. If we, as everchanging human beings have it hard making a good first impression, imagine how hard those test cars have it. For most buyers, the longest time they'd have to spend with a brand new car is sitting in the car, inside the showroom floor. Would you like a test-drive sir? Here's a tried and tested route with no bearing on your daily routine. So for new car buyers, to truly gauge a car, it can be tough. A positive first impression counts. It counts for a lot.

My first car was an SUV, it was a big lumbering chunk of metal, with a ladder chassis, green paint and an extra gearknob behind the normal gearknob. Flop it around and it engages full time 4WD, flop it back again, it locks the differentials and puts the gears into an “off road ratio” setting. It all sounds very macho and off-roady, but on the blacktop, it rolled like a lorry, had tyres that almost slid the car off Benjamin Sheares Bridge and it broke down so many times, i had the tow truck driver on speed dial. I didn't like it very much. From that day on, i've never really liked SUVs, i never really got the point of them, i've always thought Station Wagons were just as good or even better in real life situations. As you can see, my very first SUV left a pretty bad mark on me till this day.

Which brings me to the new BMW X3 xDrive35i. On paper, it all looks pretty tempting, a twin scroll turbo-ed 3 litre straight 6. One of the best engines out there now, pulling out 300 horses when on song and for the main event, at just over tickover it punches out 400Nm's of torque. It sounds very sporty, it sounds really good, but it also is an SUV (or SAV as BMW likes to call it). Oh dear.

The previous X3 had a somewhat difficult beginning, it was loathed by reviewers, looked a bit strange on the front end and it somehow felt like it was trying hard to be an X5 but not quite there yet. So for this new one, BMW had a bit of work to do.

Now i've sampled a couple of the X-cars from BMW before, the X6 and the X5, so i do know that BMW can build some pretty formidable SAVs. I liked the X5, less so the X6. Even though the X6 drives like the clappers, and slingshots you through corners, i've always felt it abit of a handful in this space constraint country of ours, the X5 being slightly smaller, had better all round visibility, could fit more people and could carry dogs in the back. Perfect.

How does the new X3 fare? Well, for starters, it looks alot better. That fussy front end has been replaced with much bigger and broader set of kidneys. The sides have swoopy lines cutting into the bodywork tapering towards the back. The car sits almost angled to the front, even the window baseline sits leaning forwards. Imagine yourself lifting and hunching your sholders forward, something like that.

The new X3 is an all round bigger car then before, half an inch taller, over 3 inches longer, an extra inch wider and a little more ground clearance. Doesn't sound like much, but the overall effect is of a much more muscular vehicle. It's not that big a car though, moving through traffic, that commanding ride and seat height allows you to putter into little gaps where the X3's bigger brothers would have only got a wheel in. When traffic slows down and stops eventually, so does the X3's engine. With the first local introduction of BMW's Start-Stop function, the X3 cuts off the engine when the car is stopped and restarts it when you take your foot off the brake, all in the name of saving fuel and improving efficiency. It takes a while to get used to but isn't as intrusive as it might sound.

At this point now i should be going on about how i feel about the car, but to be honest, i couldn't put my finger on it. Yes there is that point and squirt engine, yes there are 3 modes to the suspension varying how stiff you want your ride to be and how fast you like your gearchanges, and yes it should all be pretty good. But i haven't really bonded with it yet, maybe that old ghost of my first SUV is still lingering inside me. It's good, but maybe just not to my taste. Yet...

With over 1000 kilometers of road to transverse ahead of me. There is no better way to do a road test, highways and by-ways combined, i expected the X3 to be a good car for the long journey, what i got instead, was an exceptional car.

We've gone through the appearances, so now we are after some substance, and substance doesn't come any better then that turbo-ed straight 6, first seen in the 335, there-after on almost every other BMW in the range. It is a gem of an engine, so flexible and versatile, oodles of torque when moving off it jackrabbits every other car at the stoplights. On the highway, the X3 pulls to unmentionable speeds with such uncanny ease you really do have to pay attention if you value your license. Right next to her bigger brothers, the X5 and X6, the little X3 with less weight to pull around easily takes the lead whenever the road clears up and goes through long sweepers without their inherent mass. All this in the default comfort setting too. I did try out the other, more “sporty” setups, but to be honest, there really is no need to. It does everything so well in “comfort” mode that you don't really need the suspension to be any stiffer, even the gearchanges, when you get used to the throttle modulation, doesn't really need a change of mapping. Maybe unless you are on a track, but otherwise, leave it in comfort and just enjoy the ride.

Off the highways, the X3 pounds the uneven pavement and pitted roads into submission. The X3 laughs at all road imperfections and only on the worst road conditions do you really feel anything. (Unless you are in “Sport” mode, where yes, you can feel little pebbles on the road.) Sitting inside, the X3 gives a commanding view of the road ahead and it is quite a nice place to be when stuck in traffic. Generous lashings of leather, lots of buttons to fiddle with, and a pretty good sound system.

With over 600 kilometers each way, as i approached the finishing leg of my return, i realised that the cars we get attached to, are probably the cars we share the most time with, the cars we share the most experiences in. As over time, you get to discover that little bit more about a car, almost like getting to know someone better over the course of time. And as my short, long drive drew to a close, i've grown really fond of the X3. The ghost of my first SUV? I left it at the door over 600 kilometers away.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Random Shots: Files O'receipts

Finished my 3rd file of receipts for the E36, moving onto a 4th. While the E34 gets started on a brand new folder.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Clarkson on drifting / wangan

Never watched this before.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

X-scaping The City - Part 1: Pangkor Laut, Malaysia

What an adrenaline fueled weekend it has been, with full-on smokey sideways action over at Formula Drift, the Canadian GP and of course, the legendary 24hrs or LeMans over in France. With non-stop racing action happening back to back, i instead, chose to go on a different route, heading up north into Malaysia with almost 600km's of road awaiting in front of me, on a warm and rather early Friday morning. Destination, Pangkor Laut, with Performance Motors as we “Escape The City”.An event where BMW owners take a different approach to holidaying, taking their cars up for extended driving and bonding sessions.

My car for the trip? The new X3 with a stomping turbocharged 3litre in-line 6.

The route up to Pangkor would take us up and over Kuala Lumpur towards Lumut with various rest stops scheduled in between and with over 50 cars signed up, it was going to be one interesting sight. With all the X-series (and one 5-GT) being grouped together, you sort of got the feeling that blitzing the highways wasn't part of the agenda.

With safety and getting there in one piece being top priority, those lead-footed males in our group were probably not too pleased when we were the last to set off. Usually i am quite skeptical of these “driving” holidays, I've always thought there were made up of people who were not too comfortable with the idea of venturing up into a foreign land and were all too light-footed for my taste. I was quickly (pun-intended) proven wrong though. The drivers in my team, we made pretty good time and the X-cars ate up whatever asphalt thrown at them, smooth paved highways, broken, pitted, and pot-holed B-roads and the occasional gravel path, with some cheeky overtaking along the way.

When all other cars were slowing down for the uneven surfaces, the X-cars pounded the bumps into submission and rode on unruffled. When the roads opened up, our bigger engines sucked in more air and pumped out more power. When we needed to overtake, a commanding view of the road ahead gave us an unfair advantage over normal cars, and when the tight B-road corners came, a blockade of slow-moving traffic in front held us up. Pretty much making no difference to be in a sports sedan. Such is the reality of driving in real-life. One point I'd like to note is how well the drive leaders and sweepers kept everyone together and keeping the convoy tight. I've driven in numerous convoys and this is by far, the most synchronized of all. No doubt about it. No one was lost, no one was left behind, and gaps were few and far in-between. We all switched over to the left to give way and we were treated in kind by the locals when we were hauling up the highway.

With rest stops and meals scheduled into our drives, we were all very much well fed. Yong Peng gave us fish-balls and Kuala Selangor provided us seafood. The SUV contingent soon set-off again towards the Ferry Terminal at Lumut, passing some lovely roads we would probably never venture into if not for this trip.

A cliched phrase to use now would be “Getting there is only half the fun”, but to be honest, when i got there, (after a slow ferry ride over), i think the resort impressed me quite a bit more then our drive up. It is just lovely. Really really lovely. Privately-owned island lovely. (Unless your idea of the perfect holiday is a shopping trip in HongKong).

With emerald seas surrounding the beach, hornbills and peacocks greeting you when you wake up, it's just pristine. I can go on and on raving about how beautiful the resort is but you'll just have to experience it for yourself.

The sun was shining and we were all blessed with great weather throughout our stay. If there is one complaint, i have, it would probably be the length of the stay, how i wish we could have lingered on just another day. The beaches were lovely and the water was warm, what's there not to like? It was on the second night over dinner where you actually discover just how well friendships can form over long drives together. Swapping driving stories over food and or just some jolly good banter.

I would not have experienced this camaraderie myself had i not joined in the fun. There is just such a sense of kinship and togetherness amongst the participants and organizers, it can almost put a tear into your eye. As the night came to a close, some of us stayed on partying into the night, whilst others retreated into the comfort of our beautiful villas.

The last day would bring us up towards Ipoh for lunch before a long drive back to Singapore. Some made the decision to drive straight back, missing out on some really awesome Ipoh Hor-Fun. That stuff is simply delish. We also found our way to the famous "Tau Fu Fah" stall and packed away our desserts, well worth the queue. Stomachs and cars tanked up soon after, everyone back home.

Given another chance, would i do it again in the future? I will seriously consider it, if you are thinking of going for their future event, do give it a go. Slots get taken fast. My initial thoughts of the drive being a clinical and laid-back journey was proven wrong and the event itself wasn't as fuddy duddy as I'd thought, in fact, quite the opposite. It was a truly memorable experience. I made new friends, had a great (rather rapid) drive, ate alot of delicious food and stayed in one of the most beautiful resorts I have ever been to.

I can't think of a better way to spend a weekend, even with all the Fast & Furious races happening around the World. In MY world, there really is nothing better then lying down on a hammock by the beach or getting a relaxing massage next to the sea, just not having to think or worry about anything. With everything else sorted out by the wonderful people from Performance Motors and Wheels for Fun, i really didn't need to. In short, i had a great time.

Big thanks to everyone at Performance Motors, Wheels For Fun, all the convoy leaders/sweepers, the death-defying photographer (in the death-defyingly driven 650i), our 3 BMW Motorrad chaperones and everyone involved.