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Brandon Seiler's Blog on Cars

Archive for August 2010

Death by Twitter, fire by leaf blower


The last tweet of celebrity plastic surgeon Dr. Frank Ryan allegedly came moments before he drove his Jeep off a cliff and died. Ironically, the tweet regarded his dog, Jill, who was in the vehicle at the time of the accident and the sole survivor of the wreck. The tweet: 

“Border collie jill surveying the view from atop the sand dune”

Blake’s ex-girlfriend, Charmaine Blake summed up the events that led to the tragedy:

“He lived up in Malibu on a tiny street and he was texting while driving and he accidentally went over the cliff.” dug deeper for details and found that, “The dog, whose name is Jill — Blake's middle name — was in the car at the time of the crash and survived injuries to the head, eye and paw.

The California Highway Patrol confirms Ryan was texting before the crash, but investigators have not officially determined the cause of the accident.

‘It is one of the elements that we are investigating,’ CHP Officer Steven Reid says.” (1)

Full Story: 


In related news, Canadian figure skating champion Kurt Browning wasn’t texting when he burned down his Toronto mansion, he was attempting to dry the seats of his Porsche convertible with a leaf blower. From Jalopnik:

“Video shot by neighbors shows flames shooting from the garage of Browning's home. Despite the arrival of 10 fire trucks, the blaze quickly broke through the roof of the house.

Investigators say they believe “the homeowner” may have been attempting to dry off the seats of his unspecified Porsche convertible after a rainy night using an unattended leaf blower. Browning reportedly tried to put the fire out with an extinguisher when he discovered it, but was too late to keep it from spreading.

The skater was home with one of his two children and a painter when the fire started; no one was injured.” 

Later that day, Browning tweeted, presumably not from his Porsche:

“It’s a day like today you find out who your friends are. Thanks all. KB.” 

Full story: (2)

MOPAR thunders at SEMA with return of 392 Hemi & more (VIDEO)

Dodge and MOPAR are returning to SEMA this year with a handful of new concepts that should have enthusiasts running for their gas cards. In particular, the 2011 Dodge Charger SRT8 will drop its 425hp 6.1 Liter engine from the 2010 model year to revive the epic 392 (5.4L) Hemi, now rated at 470hp and 470lbft of torque, making it the most powerful Hemi ever put into a production car. 

“We actual traded just a little peak horsepower for a whole lot of bottom end torque,” said Ralph Gilles, President & CEO Dodge Car Brand and Senior Vice President of Product Design, “This engine will be legendary in the way it performs on the street.” (1) 

Also on display will be the Redline Dodge Charger; another glimpse at what 2011 has in store for Chrysler.

“This is the first real view of the 2011 Charger to the public,” Gilles said, “I let my guys rip on it, our team at MOPAR and my designers that actually designed the base car went in and said, ‘what would you do left to your own devices with this car?’.. I think it will start this conversation about what Charger could be to the enthusiast.” (1)

Next Up: Let’s not forget the Dodge Durango, in this case, what Gilles calls the ultimate version of it dubbed the Citadel Black & Tan.

“Again, we also see the Durango as a canvas to enthusiasts and people that really like SUV’s,” Gilles said, “We think we have the best SUV we’ve ever done.” (1) 

The Black and Tan rolls on deep-dish 22inch rims, chrome body accents, a retooled suspension, and of course, a special black and tan interior for which the edition is named. 

Lastly, and perhaps most surprising, Chrysler will be using the SEMA stage for the world premiere of a… Fiat? Yes, the Fiat 500GT to be exact. 

“We took a Fiat 500,” said Jeff Galle, Chrysler Group LLC Designer, “We flared it, we’re gonna put 18inch wheels on it, it’s gonna sit down on the ground… The Fiat 500 is going to be a great platform to build from, it’s light weight, its small, perfect for a tight road course.” (1) 

Visually, the 500GT at SEMA will sport a liquid gray paint scheme and graphics scheme to increase the car’s sinister appeal. 

To end with a punch, MOPAR will have their 2011 drag package V10 Challenger on display, pegged as the “First and only V-10 drag car on the planet.” (1)

For video of all the vehicles mentioned here, watch “SEMA 2010: Upcoming Mopar Unveils” in New Videos. 



Beating the Anti-Cruising Ordinance on Alki Beach (2)

Nowadays, if a guy wants to cruise Alki beach without keeping a watchful eye out for sexy beach cops, he rents a Surrey pedal car and sticks to the designated bike lane that runs parallel to Alki Avenue Southwest. A “single”, or gentleman’s Surrey rents for $20 an hour, but the experience is priceless. 

For starters, the little pedal car technically seats two, with a steering wheel on the left and a charming bell hung from the canvas roof to warn slower moving pedestrians, bicyclists, joggers and all forms of self-propelled human traffic along the strip that an intrepid young man will soon be passing on the left. 

Ding! Ding! 


It’s a sunny weekday around 3:00pm in the afternoon. At the rental hut, a local teenage stoner takes my driver’s license for collateral and has me sign a waiver. He’s the first to eyeball me in a bemused fashion as he realizes a significant other isn’t about to emerge from a porta-potty and jump into my passenger seat for a romantic cruise. 

This pleases me, as does the ad on the back of my Surrey that reads, “Follow me to *****’s Pizza!” 

Pedaling casually down the strip, it quickly becomes apparent there are definite rules of the boardwalk road, both enforced and broken by stereotypical usuals: 

1. Old man on Rollerblades traveling at a high rate of speed. He’s spent way too much time rocketing down the boardwalk and his skin is tanned to the color/texture of a baseball glove. As the new old-school boss of the cruising scene on Alki, he demands respect from his polar opposite:

2. Touristy parents in a two-person Surrey, trailing their unruly herd of adolescent children who are weaving in and out of traffic on three-wheeled pedal cars. The kids' hellion-mobiles are dubbed “Choppers”, modeled after a standard Big Wheel, but with rubber tires and chopper-inspired extended handlebars. 

I’m hanging back behind the parents in my solo Surrey to avoid running over one of their children when the old man attempts to whip past the whole mess on his blades. Of course, the children weave out of their lane at just the right time and send him careening off into the rough grass, like a leathery gazelle startled by a drunken member of the Hell's Angels. 


I pedal harder to keep up with the show. 

Of course, the old man is outraged by the aggressive faux pas and glides gracefully back to the parents to inform them there’s not enough room on the boardwalk for their children to be stupid. 

Yelling ensues, unsettling and volatile as road rage anywhere else. With several dirty shouts over his shoulder, the old man powers back up to speed, disappears into the horizon and is instantly replaced by a derivative of his character. 

Another old man, on an upright three-wheeled bicycle equipped with a basket on the back axel speeds up from behind our convoy. He pedals in frightening explosive bursts to pass on the left, dips back into the right line, waits for an opening in traffic and repeats, as is the etiquette. 

The pack of defiant children is lead by one older boy who’s hell-bent on antagonizing everyone around him. When the old man attempts to pass the gang of Choppers on the left, the boy’s random swerving derails the tricycle from the pavement to the rough grass, jarring an explosion of personal items from the basket. 

The boy’s parents yell at him half-heartedly from their Surrey. He retorts that they aren’t his parents. The adults don’t argue this point. 


I decide to pass the accident waiting to happen on the left, as is the etiquette. My Surrey wasn’t built for speed, I break a sweat pedaling madly with my bell shaking like Michael J. Fox is holding it. 


World’s worst kid disappears behind my blind spot. I check over my shoulder and merge back into the right lane. 

“Follow me to *****’s Pizza?” the boy yells, “I’m gonna follow this guy! He’s got pizza!”

I pull a U-turn and head back to the rental station. 

Despite the anti-cruising ordinance, there’s still plenty of good non-vehicular cruising to be had on Alki Avenue Southwest. It’s a good time, so long as a guy does it right. 


Beating the Anti-Cruising Ordinance on Alki Beach (1)


On Wednesday, June 5, 1988, it became illegal to drive in the same direction more than one time over a four-hour period on Alki Avenue Southwest in Seattle, Washington, the Emerald City’s premier beachfront road. By no coincidence, it was the beginning of summer. From an article published on that fateful day in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

“As the sun slid behind the Olympic Peninsula last night, all was quiet on the Alki waterfront.

Gone was the rumble of muscle cars, the cacophony of automobile stereos.

And it only took several minutes to drive the beach-front strip on Seattle's hottest day of the year - not the 45 minutes to two hours it used to take when the road was clogged with cruising drivers.” (1)

About the same time, the Seattle Police Department released “The Alki Cruiser’s Guide” which stated the ordinance also prohibited amplified music, loitering, cutting through business parking lots and alcohol. 

The idea was to kill the summertime beach fare generally inspired by cruising Alki, which often did include loud music, underage drinking, fights, loss of business from merchants who claimed their customers were unable to reach them during profitable summer months, and the sweet smell of exhaust from a sea of idling cars. 

Years later, similar bans on cruising throughout the region have effectively broken the spirits of many law abiding citizens who would have liked to enjoy the simple pleasures of driving down a happening stretch of road on a sunny day without fear of being fined up to $250 if they have to turn around more than once to find a parking space. From an article published in late May of 2000 in the Seattle Weekly: 

“A decade of law enforcement seems to have throttled the local cruising menace. People actually drive to restaurants on Alki Beach; traffic flows freely on Lake Washington Boulevard in Kirkland. In Edmonds, the city combined reconfigured parking with enhanced enforcement and chased the cruisers off Sunset Avenue. ‘We'll get a few calls here as soon as the weather gets nice from people on Sunset,’ says Edmonds Police Chief Robin Hickok, ‘but it's nothing compared to what it was 10 or 15 years ago.’” (2) 

Another decade has passed since that last article was written. Several months ago I moved to West Seattle, just up the street from the strip on Alki beach where the anti-cruising ordinance purportedly reigns supreme. 

As summer crept in, I took the free Water Taxi down to the beach on the first hot day of the season with a picnic basket and a beach towel, to see for myself just what was left, if anything of the cruising scene. What I found was a telltale sign of the times: 

On any given sunny day along Alki Avenue Southwest, there are still plenty of custom, vintage, collector cars and motorcycles of every variety driving down the road. And back. Once. And then they’re gone. 

I witnessed the most disheartening display of this terrible new ritual on my stroll back up to the Water Taxi after consuming the contents of my picnic basket. 

With traffic moving at a crawl along the strip, a group of young urban socialites cranked their music to a reasonable level and emptied out of three pimped-out SUV’s to “Ghost” their respective “Whips” down the street. 

Their dance moves were cordial. The entire procession barely lasted 30 yards before they piled back into the vehicles and split off the strip up California Avenue and out of sight. 

That’s what cruising Alki has been reduced to; a measured level of obedient fun under the sharp supervision of the ever encroaching omnipresence of “The Man.” 

It’s sad, sickening even, but I’ve found a glaring loophole of irony in the plot to eradicate cruising entirely from Aki beach:

At multiple businesses along Alki Avenue Southwest, it’s still perfectly legal to rent a long board, bicycle, rollerblades, pretty much anything that rolls, and legally cruise the pedestrian boardwalk running parallel to the strip as long as your wallet will last you. 

“But Brandon, this is a CAR blog,” you say. 

And you’re right. That’s why I’m going to rent a Surrey (pedal buggy) and cause my own scene.

Stay tuned. 



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About this blog

Brandon Seiler is a bonafide car guy, member of the Northwest Auto Press Association and proud Washingtonian. He covers the latest auto news, technology, and pretty much anything having to do with car culture. You don't have to like cars to read his blogs, you just have to be able to read.

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