Originally intended to document my experience of DeLorean ownership, focus is often radical and strange, boring and obtuse.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Celeb-Meeting Tool, the DeLorean

Even with the sun's radioactive UV rays destroying our skin, no one can resist smiling around a DeLorean.

Other than stalking, owning a DeLorean is the easiest, most cost-effective way of meeting celebrities. Of course, there's the DCS shows each year usually attended by James Tolkan (link), Claudia Wells (link), and Jeff Weissman (link) of Back to the Future fame.

And then there's something else. Something a little more intimate. A small local group of DeLorean owners, one of whom is Pat Mastroianni.

Some of you non Canadians might be saying "Pat who?" while others may be yelling his name aloud in surprise, astonishment and glee: "Joey?!"

While attending our Tech Day I had the pleasure of meeting Pat Mastroianni, aka Joey Jeremiah of Degrassi Jr. High fame. Known for wearing a cool hat and being, well, cool, what what else could one expect than to find him wearing a cool DMC hat, driving an ultimately cool stainless steel DeLorean?

Yep. Mr. Mastroianni owns a DeLorean. (Black interior, grooved, no gas flap)

Somehow, I managed to pull into the parking lot and slip my rumbling DeLorean right in beside Pat's. Suz was the first to notice him exclaiming, "I think he's famous! When you introduce yourself, see if his name is Pat. If it is, he's from Degrassi!"

And that's pretty much exactly how it went down. For the next few hours, we all partook of the garage's most excellent free hoist, helping each other do a little maintenance. Even Pat himself got his hands dirty, literally. (Which wasn't really a big deal, because along with the hoist, we were allowed to use the sink.)

Transcripts of our conversation - $3.00Outside, Pat admired my car. Specifically, the glossy paint job on the rear fascia. After 25-ish years of mechanics bent over the engine, his paint was worn & peeling. Somehow, having a celebrity compliment anything of yours makes that item a little more appealing. I wish I could've told him it was a local Toronto shop that painted the fascia. But the British Columbian shop that did the A-1 job is a little far.

While repairs went on around us, Pat helped me locate a bad relay bypass in my electrical panel. We both have the original 30-year old relays and decided they need to be updated before they fail.

It didn't take much for Pat to persuade President Ken to help him install a sweetass strut tower brace in his DeLorean. It was difficult for Pat to contain his excitement. The install took less time than a stalker scaling a fence and dashing all the way to the back door.

During Tech Day, he was just one of the guys, which is probably how he likes it. Eager to drive home and see how the car handled with the new strut tower bar, Pat left a little early. Was it just like Gran Turismo? I'll have to ask him at the next meet.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

ODOC Tech Day 2009

Yes, the DeLorean can fly. It just need a little help.

Like a Star-Trek deprived teenaged nerd whose model cement had run out mid-Countach, I lamented the perfectly running DeLoreans that surrounded me as I stumbled into the parking lot, my rumbling exhaust causing commotion.

ODOC's "tech day" 2009 had arrived and ten DeLorean DMC-12's, including yours truly, showed up for the Oakville event. Sydney Automotive had graciously donated the use of their hoist for the day. As long as you had the time and the parts, anything went.

President Ken greeted me immediately. Although we'd spoken via email a number of times, it was the first time we'd met face to face. I instantly felt welcome among the eclectic group of DeLorean enthusiasts whose ages ranged from about 20 to 80 and whose tattoos ranged from about zero to 80.

.With the formalities out of the way, Ken got to work examining everyone's fuel/air ratio with his dwell meter. Based on how badly my DeLorean was running, it was a safe bet my ratio was more messed up than Amy Winehouse. But we were all in for a surprise, as Ken declared mine to be "the only one with proper readings."

Suz and I wandered around meeting the other owners while repairs went on both in the parking lot, and on the hoist. On the agenda were coolant bottle replacements, oil changes, angle drive replacements, ball joint inspection and angle drive lubrication. But one crucial inspection was desired by all - the achilles heel of the DeLorean, the trailing arm bolt.

Up on the hoist I eliminated a ticking timebomb, almost literally. The angle drive is the cable system that controls the speedometer. Once it starts ticking, it is about to snap. I lubricated the cable with silicone lube and bought myself some extra time... Just enough to save some school children trapped in bus. Or something.

Before my car came off the hoist, the group gathered 'round to have a look at the dreaded trailing arm bolt.

Two bolts (one left, one right) are quite literally the only things holding the rear suspension onto the car. Unfortunately, the wrong grade of steel was used, and over time, the bolts bend, distort and eventually snap. The result is devastating and causes uncontrollable weeping. Click here to see the results of the bolt failure!

Mine were in perfect condition and required no attention. It looked as though it was updated with this kit. But another DeLorean was not so lucky. The severely bent bolts changed the mood in the garage. "Don't hit any potholes" was heard more than once. Indeed, a cautious drive home was recommended.

But when you're driving a car that sits 4 inches lower than a Corvette and just out of view of anyone in anything bigger than a Ford Escort, being cautious on the highway is always prudent.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

2010 Insight In Canada

2010 Insight in Canada: Insight 2 - The SequelAfter a 4-year hiatus, Honda has revived the famous Insight hybrid, the first hybrid ever available in North America. Although the car "officially" goes on sale April 22, Earth Day, our local dealership already has two, and Americans are already avoiding gas stations in theirs.

When in production, the 1st generation Insight was the most fuel-efficient, least polluting, and most radical car available. Rated at 86 mpg highway, it utterly destroyed Toyota's Prius in terms of mileage.

However, just like the resurrected pets in Stephen King's Pet Semetery, the reincarnated Insight is not the same; Yes, it's a little more evil.

The newly revived Zombie Insight is no longer a sporty 2-seater with limited luggage space. It no longer gets 86 miles per gallon, and it no longer employs a thrifty 1.0 litre, 3 cylinder engine.

The 2nd generation Insight, or I2, is now a 5 door hatch configuration, with a 4-cylinder engine. It will comfortably seat four. Or five if some of the back-seat zombies remove their rotting limbs.

Instead of the sweet combination of aluminum, plastic and ultra-light magnesium of our 2006 Insight, the 2nd generation Insight is constructed of good old fashioned zombie-proof steel, and plastic, which adds up to 2723 lbs, a hefty 900 lbs. over the 1st gen's anorexic 1850 lbs.

What everyone is looking forward to is the 2nd gen Insight's mileage. The 123 hp 4 cyl. achieves 61 mpg highway. A far cry from the 1st gen Insight's 86 mpg, but one must consider all the extra room available for groceries, luggage, and decomposing bodies.

An interior fit for an environmentalist. Kinda.Inside, the uphostery is quite nice. Nothing too flashy or impressive, but nice none-the-less. To save money, and make the 2010 Insight absolutely the least expensive hybrid on the market, the engineers walked over to the Civic assembly line and swiped piles of their steering wheels. In fact it was virtually identical to the wheel in the CSX we "tested" in Ottawa.

The gauges were quite handsome, and placed directly in front of the driver, as opposed to the goofy centre-setup in the Prius. But, along the same lines as the Prius, Honda has created a spiffy graphic display featuring leaves sprouting out of a plant, along with an ECON button. The more miserly you drive, the more leaves you get. Neat-o!

Gauges help indicate how fast you are burning up liquid dinosaurs.I got a bit of sneak-peek at the Insight, as my sis works at the Honda dealership. Unfortunately, no matter how hard she begged, the only response to our inquiries about test drives was, "we'd be breaking the law." I suspect that it's because the 2010 Insight isn't scheduled to go on sale for another 6 days.

However, it was still exciting to watch the hair impaired employees prepare these 2nd gen Insights for the official unveiling. Shipping stickers and a protective polymer painted onto the hood & roof were being removed in the service bay while I had free reign of the interior.

In order to keep costs low Honda used a smaller electric motor and smaller battery pack. The resulting mileage suffers compared to Toyota's Prius. However, with an estimated price of $23,000 for the base model, you'll be saving $5,000 over a Prius And many people will find that a big bonus.

This CVT Insight was rated at 5.0L per 100km city and 4.6L per 100km highway. The numbers may not be up to snuff for 1st gen Insight owners (3.3L Hwy & 3.9L city), but the payoff is the practical back seat and extra space the 2nd gen Insight offers. With these attributes, Honda is hoping to sell a little more than the 344 1st generation Insights Canadians bought the first time around. That's right. 344 total in Canada, over 6 years of production.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

It's CSI, But For Real

Forensic Identification taking place right behind my house.

Tonight, straight out of a Hollywood thriller, my street was crawling with police cruisers, SIU Forensic Identification vans, TV crews, and sombre-looking well-dressed men in suits.

The setting sun cast an eerie light on the mystery house, revealing huge blue tarpulins pulled over it. The group of men stared at me as I snapped my photos. For the first time, I felt a little awkward taking pictures.

I could only speculate as to what happened on this quiet street, only a few houses down from my friend Rachel, her parents, and her two sweet puppies that scour the fence separating her yard from ours.

For the time being, rumor on the street is that it was a suicide. However, for the time being, I'm not buying it.

This is NOT a CSI episode.Why? The news van for one. Suicides are not generally covered by the media, unless there are unusual circumstances. Secondly, the blue tarp covering most of the roof was just like a German movie with no subtitles; It just didn't make sense.

With the blue tarp pulled over the roof, I could only think of a few possibilities. The first, was that there had been some sort of explosion inside which had severely damaged the roof, and would allow elements such as rain to enter and upset the "scene".

The second was that something fell, perhaps from an aircraft, through the roof, and killed people inside. Either way, the Special Investigation Unit's Forensic Identification vans proved death was all around.

The unfortunate news, however, is that this was not a movie set.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter, Mother Earth

Dastardly gremlins can sneak into any house easily. Block all outlets with 'Gremlin-B-Gone'TM insulator plates.

To everyone who celebrates it, Happy Easter. To those who don't, eat it.

One of the recommendations made in our ecoENERGY home energy audit was to increase the air tightness of our house by 23% to achieve an air change rate of 9.5 at a pressure of 50 Pa. If I succeed, power beyond my wildest dreams will be mine, as well as $300 from the government.

I started this process a while back but never got around to finishing. Partially because I'm lazy, and partially because I'm a man. Okay, so those kinda mean the same thing. Anyway, I popped off the remainder of the dining room trim and caulked the giant gap behind it.

Our auditor, a jolly chap who drove a Z28, also mentioned fitting insulation gaskets behind our outlet plates. They were cheap (about $4 for 10), so I decided all the exterior wall outlets would benefit from them. Anything helps, and I'm hoping to pass the next evaluation well enough to receive my government grants in full.

After a chocolatey Sunday brunch consisting of delicious, nutritious eggs (of the Cadbury variety), Suz and myself (full of vitamins and Tramacet) headed a few streets to the left to wander the conservation trails.

This fat dog didn't have a chance. Good thing his owners feed him. Maybe a little to much.It has been years since I've walked a trail. But the weather was nice, and I was really wanting to go. With the sun blasting, we made our way down the trail to the mucky mess of leaves and logs at the bottom.

Flowers were poking through the mud everywhere and squirrels, full of nuts and lust, chased each other along barren branches.

Back at the top of the trail, a chubby dog ran in front of us. We didn't know why at first. But then Suz saw the deer. Three of them at first, then a fourth. As the dog edged closer, the deer turned and high-tailed it back into the ravine.

It was a very good weekend full of chocolate, energy savings and mother nature.

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Signature: A Stand-Up Company

Signature refunded us when they learned of our misfortunes.

These days good customer service is what sets companies apart. After all, the quality of just about everything is nearly identical because let's face it, it's all made in China. So personal experience with a company is what makes the difference.

When it comes to companies that deal almost exclusively with "service", good customer service is what keeps them in business. And Signature Vacations is absolutely one of those companies.

After we were scammed in Mexico by moustachioed persons impersonating Signature Vacations representatives, Suz wrote a letter expressing our discontent and suggesting very strongly that Signature should have warned us.

It's only fair that the tour company should have announced to their passengers that tour representatives were not allowed in the airport. Consider that anywhere else in the world, travellers expect to meet their tour reps inside the airport.

Suz's letter explained in great detail the devious plot by the scoundrels, and how they were able to walk away with eighty-nine of our hard-earned U.S. style dollars. After some investigating and confirming, a Signature Vacations rep wrote back the following message:

----- Original Message -----
From: (content deleted)
To: martini@awesomeguy.ca
Sent: Saturday, March 14, 2009 1:21 PM
Subject: Gettin' hosed

Dear Mrs. Martini,

(content deleted)

The content should be treated as confidential and the recipient may not disclose this message or any attachment to anyone else without authorization.

It is true. I do not have permission to share the email with anyone. I do however, have every right to give everyone "the gist" of it.

Signature was "pleased" that we "took the time" to contact them regarding the ongoing scam. It seems as though they had been dealing with this for quite some time. They informed us of two very excellent things.

First, they would be processing a refund for us in the form of a cheque. And true to their word, a cheque arrived shortly afterwards for the full amount we were scammed out of, in U.S. dollars. A few key areas have been altered by yours truly so that the evil Adrian Torres, Scoundrel Extraordinaire, can't forge it.

Second, they said they had contacted Skyservice and told their pilots and crew to make an announcement on all subsequent flights to Mexico informing passengers that their tour reps are outside the airport.

This was vital for the protection of all tourists and was more important to us than the money. Again, they were true to their word. A co-worker who returned from a Skyservice vacation to Mexico not one week ago confirmed that the announcement was made on her flight.

Two Martini-thumbs up for Signature Vacations and for Skyservice. With a reaction like this, in an economy like this, they really deserve more than I can offer for taking action to protect their customers.

Update: Signature Vacations filed for bankruptcy. It's a shame good guys finish last.

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