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Brandon Seiler's Blog on Cars

Archive for January 2010

Beater Diaries: Rachael’s 1991 Chevrolet Beretta


Not everyone has the means or even the desire to buy a “nice” car. The Beater diaries are a salute to those who undercut mainstream automotive society with every turn of their balding tires. We begin today with Rachael, a salty vixen and close personal friend of mine. 

Name: Rachael
Car: 1991 Chevrolet Beretta 
*R=Rachael, B=Brandon

The interview: 

B: You like to wear black. Your car is not black. What’s the deal with that?

R. It was kind of a purchase out of convenience. I bought it from my stepbrother’s grandmother.

B. How much did you pay for it?

R. A grand. 

B. Nice. Would you say this car compliments you?

R. No not really. 

B. Hence the matter of convenience?

R. Yeah, it gets me where I need to go. 

B. Speaking of which, if you could run down one celebrity in your car, who would it be and why? 

R. I think I would run down the entire cast of the Jersey Shore. Have you seen that show? It’s ridiculous.

B. Do you think you could run them all down in one pass?

R. I don’t know, it would depend on how I lined them up. I might go for the domino effect, then there would be a big pile of Guido.

B. Do you consider your car a beater?

R. Yeah, ya know, sort of. I mean it runs well, but yeah, it’s pretty s****y. Like.. Ya know. 

B. Yeah. Well, what do you think qualifies it as being a… piece of s***?

R. I…. don’t suggest other people riding in it. Pretty much if we have friends coming with us or whatever I’m like ‘we should take somebody else’s car.’ 

B. What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in your car? 

R. Mmmm I don’t know about that… I pretty much do the same thing all the time, I’m pretty sure you know what that is. 

B. We can just leave it at that. 

R. Yeah. 

B. In comparison to your car, would you say my 1991 Dodge Dynasty turns you on?

R. Yeah dude, you have a sexy car. 

B. Thank you. What would you say is the finest thing about my Dynasty?

R. I like the seats. It’s comfy. 

B. I get that a lot actually. Let’s do some word associations: 1991 Dodge Dynasty. 

R. Pimp. 


The test drive:

(The following audio was recording via my handheld audio device whilst driving the Beretta around a lower middle class neighborhood at dusk)

B: Okay so first thing I notice is the muffler’s not working.. very well. I’m driving mostly with my fingertips because the steering wheel is sticky. It smells heavily of mold. The inside of my nose is really prickly and feeling odd. It’s hard to breath. Umm… I feel gross.. and, I’m turning around in a dead end. I’m thinking that I probably look like I’m trying to.. (45 second pause in vocal commentary while a Chrysler 400C with big rims boxes me in then slowly backs into a driveway, allowing me to exit). 

B. Is this thing still working? Okay, so it’s surprisingly zippy. Getting back on the main strip now. Words to describe this car would be moldy. I’m really starting to feel like I want to smoke some crack. 

After the test drive my mouth carried the taste of mold for close to half an hour. Still, overall I’d say the only immediate work Rachael’s Beretta needs is a thorough interior cleaning and some new weather stripping. With only 97,000 miles on the odometer it would be well worth the TLC. 

*The Beretta in the picture is not Rachael’s. I forgot my camera. This wont happen again on the next entry, although the owners may still prefer to remain anonymous for reasons unrelated to the nature of their vehicles.  

Conan O’Brien uses Bugatti Veyron mouse to gall NBC

Conan O’Brien is not happy with NBC. Just seven months after the red haired entertainer made what was arguably the move of his career to replace Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show,” word came that Leno would be returning to his old gig after “The Leno Show” flopped in an earlier 10 p.m. time slot. In turn, O’Brien got the boot and appears to be looking for a major network to air his show for the first time since 1993, when “Late Night” premiered. 

Fast forward to Thursday’s “Tonight Show”: 

Conan: “It’s looking like this could be our last week. The good news is that until NBC yanks us off the air, we can pretty much do whatever we want, AND, this is the best part, they have to pay for it.”

“So for the rest of the week, we’re going to introduce new comedy bits that aren’t so much funny as they are crazy expensive. So, with that in mind say hello to our new Tonight Show character, the Bugatti Veyron mouse.”

(Camera pans to reveal a Bugatti Veyron in the studio, dressed as a mouse. In the background the Rolling Stones’ 'Satisfaction' plays) 

Conan: “There it is ladies and gentleman, the most expensie car in the world dressed up like a mouse. And as you can hear the mouse’s theme song is the original master recording of the Rolling Stones classic, ‘Satisfaction.’ Now let me ask you a question: ‘Is this appropriate music for a car that looks like a mouse?' No. ‘Does it add anything at all to this comedy bit?’ No it doesn’t. ‘Is it crazy expensive to play on the air, not to mention the rights to re-air this clip on the Internet?’ Hell yes.”

“That’s right ladies and gentleman, total price tag for this comedy bit: $1.5 million. Sorry NBC.”

(Crowd cheers, show cuts to commercial) (1)

Jalopnik later reported that on and Hulu, the Bugatti Veyron bit was removed from the “Full Episode” of the show online. (2)

Could the edit job have anything to do with the Internet royalties O’Brien mentioned? 


It should be noted that NBC did manage to pay O’Brien $45 million to make way for Leno’s unexpected return. O’Brien will keep more than $33 million, NBC said. The remaining money will be given to his staff of 200 in severance pay. From MSN:

“In the end, Conan was appreciative of the steps NBC made to take care of his staff and crew and decided to supplement the severance they were getting out of his own pocket,” his manager, Gavin Polone, told TheWrap. “Now he just wants to get back on the air as quickly as possible.”(3)

Watch the full video of the Bugatti bit in New Videos or at Source 1 below. For the full story (as published by MSN) see Source 3. 



El Camino reborn? Are they cereal this time?

News has it there’s a chance, once again, that the legendary El Camino name could soon be resurrected. Mark Reuss, General Motors’ new president of GM North America, said recently that the Holden Ute VE might still be retooled and sold in the U.S. as an El Camino. 

The exciting news comes after GM cancelled plans to sell the Ute as a Pontiac G8 Sport truck in January, 2009. From 

“U.S.-specific development work, including engineering side airbags to meet federal safety standards, was carried out but the project was cancelled before a single ST made it into showrooms.” (1)

“Reuss said that, if anything, bringing a VE Ute and sedan to the U.S. was more compelling than it was the first time around given the cars now run upgraded V-6 engines, as well as a V-8.”

“We didn’t have direct injection in these cars when we’re looking at this the first time,” he said.

“You have to look at this strategically and say, VE has got to be able to stand on its own on the world stage and I think now it is getting to be able to do that, from a fuel economy (perspective) and you will see mass come out of the car,” he said. (1)

With the auto industry being as it is, whether or not GM will actually drop the funds to redesign the Ute VE and import it to the states from their Australasia subsidiary remains to be seen. 

“It is too early to say what is definitely going to happen,” said GM Holden president, Alan Batey, “All I can say is that there is absolutely ongoing discussion as you heard from Mark. He sees possibilities, we have to wrestle those down in the next few months, find out what we can do and when we can do it and come out appropriately with the right product plan.” (1) 

For the full story, visit (source 1). 

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Commuter Cars Tango: All-electric madness from Spokane

Most practical daily drivers don’t generate over 1,000 ft-lbs of torque or 805hp. Spokane, WA-based Commuter Cars is helping to change that with the Tango, an all-electric car slightly wider than a motorcycle that can turn a corner on par with a Porsche 911. From Jalopnik: 

“It's a pretty terrifying mix. We drove the thing in the basement of Cobo Hall and it's noteworthy that we didn't kill ourselves. The Tango is so fast you'll find yourself unable to turn the wheel fast enough to steer through a corner, even though the tires will handle the speed and you can't tell if the brakes will save your ass from leaving a very narrow dent in front of the Mercedes Benz S400 in front of you.” (1)

Yes, the Tango can rocket to 60mph in 4 seconds and run the 1/4 mile in 12 seconds at over 120mph. Top speed is said to be 135mph but Jalopnik reports that the gearing can be tweaked to allow speeds of 200mph. 

200mph, in a 39” wide vehicle. 

Although the Tango may sound like a deadly mixture of narrow stance and overwhelming power, the trick to its stability is under the floorboards, where 2,000lbs (mostly batteries) and additional ballast helped it score a NHTSA 5-star equivalent static rollover threshold rating. That boils down to 1.5g’s on the skid pad, or as Jalopnik described it: Scary. 

Perhaps sensing the fear, the Tango is equipped with a race car roll cage designed by Prodrive, which was submitted to FIA (Federation Internationale de L’Automobile) certification testing. It passed, meaning the Tango cage meets the requirements for racecars traveling upwards of 200mph. The body itself is made of 100% carbon fiber/epoxy panels weighing just 25lbs - the same stuff found on Formula One cars. 

But let’s talk range and charge time. The Tango packs enough juice to make it 40-200 miles on the freeway depending on the battery selection. For extended trips, a generator trailer running on any fuel can be towed behind, giving it the range of a gasoline car. To fully charge, the Lead-Acid pack takes approximately 2 hours. Charging to 80% from a 200amp station can take just 10 minutes (see for details). 

Celebrity owners of the Tango include one-man rat pack George Clooney. All purchasers of the car are insured with a 10-year, unlimited mileage warranty… In addition to the roll cage. 

*Add MotorSpaceNW on Facebook!


(3) Picture:

MotorSpaceNW guide to swindling test-drives

Listen… do you smell that? It’s opportunity. A shiny new year is upon us and our humble auto enthusiast site just topped one thousand members. We should all be proud. More importantly we should all be blogging. Anyone can write for MotorSpaceNW. It’s like a MySpace for cars, which means being talented is less important than being prolifically snarky. 

“But what’s in it for me?” you ask. Besides the warm glow of vanity, volunteering your writing for a credible auto publication comes with one major perk: Test-Driving new and gently pre-owned vehicles. I’ve done it and you can too, that is, if you’re willing to follow the necessary steps:

Establish credibility 

Unfortunately, car dealerships also ask themselves “What’s in it for me?” when a person claiming to be a blogger asks to test-drive one of their vehicles with no intention of buying it. The answer is publicity. MotorSpace reaches a large enough audience now to be taken seriously as a legitimate media outlet, a loudspeaker for the almighty word of mouth, so long as you actually blog for the site. 

Blog for the Site 

It’s critical you have a body of work to show a car salesman before ever attempting a test drive. Write numerous blogs on car-related topics beforehand, say eight or nine of them. If you’re strapped for time or really hung over, it’s still not okay to copy and paste from Wikipedia. Once in the showroom, have a salesman pull up the MotorSpaceNW page and take a look at the blogs you’ve composed on your personal profile. This solidifies your credibility…sometimes. 

Dress the Part

Don’t overdo it with driving gloves/goggles/scarves/leather hats/ cigars and the like. Also don’t repeatedly make casual reference to the thrift store typewriter in the backseat of your Dodge Diplomat during preliminary conversations with the sales staff. Jotting down notes on a simple notepad and taking pictures with a digital camera will suffice. If you do in fact drive a Dodge Diplomat, it’s best to park it out of view several blocks away, preferably in a Taco Bell parking lot where it will blend in like a chameleon and smell of sweet taco when you return. 

Step 3
Drive it like it isn’t yours. 

If any of you score a test drive in a fast car using the MotorSpace name and decide to gently cruise it around the block, I’m required by law to line you up next to your grandmother and stooge-slap the both of you. Push it to the limit, max it to the extreme and so on. 

Know how to drive a manual transmission 

This one bit me square in the ass when I was test-driving the 2010 Mustang and Challenger. Asking to drive a performance car on the condition that its equipped with an automatic transmission is a dead giveaway that you rolled out of bed with a half-baked plan to impersonate an auto journalist. Stalling the car during the test drive is even worse. If you do stall, try one of these maneuvers to divert the salesman’s attention from the mishap:

-Mash your finger on the navigation screen and ask questions about how it works; salesman love describing these things and will gladly ramble on about their features while you coyly set the emergency brake and restart the engine. 

-Fart. Blame it on the salesman, once again jumpstarting his talker. 

-Turn the radio up to earsplitting levels. This drowns out questions regarding your identity and will help mask the fart smell. 

-Flee the car 

-All of the above

Step 4
Write the blog.

Only the top ninety percentile of those reading this guide will successfully make it past the first step to the actual writing of the blog. Of the remaining ten percent, nearly half will be eaten alive in the piranha tank that is the Internet, which brings us to the next Sub-Step:

Write something original

Embellish, embellish, embellish. Nobody wants to read what countless other auto journalists at larger publications already had to say about the car you just drove. Narrative-style is the small-time blogger’s deadliest weapon against these shell-backed corporate juggernauts. 

Instead of writing, “The engine was peppy through third gear, but fell a bit flat up into fifth,” jazz it up a bit. Try something like, “It was midday. The sun’s high heat poured in through the windshield, blanketing my trousers with mad urgency, melting the gummy bears in my pocket to an orgy of nightmare creatures…” 

Sub-Step 2 
Don’t get sued (Seriously) 

Believe it or not, people will actually read your blogs, especially if you’re any good at it. Car dealerships will often times ask you to send them a link to your finished car review or visit MotorSpace periodically to keep an eye out for when it posts. If they like what you have to say, or at least feel like you gave the car a fair shake, they’ll be dramatically more inclined to let you drive other cars in the future. 

On the flipside, tear their car a new exhaust pipe and you’ll not be allowed anywhere near their dealership ever again. Worst-case scenarios can dip into libelous territory. So, be nice and weave any criticisms in with mentions of the car’s strong points. 

Step 4

Since you’ll probably never be paid living wages for blogging about cars, or paid at all, the whole business revolves around personal enjoyment and exaggerating your successes to strangers. Name-drop names of cars you’ve successfully test-driven. Do this in social situations without regard to the current topic of conversation, if you were part of the conversation, or if you actually test-drove the car in question. That just about covers it. 

Congratulations, you’re an auto blogger! Now get out there and make something of it! 

*Friend MotorSpaceNW on Facebook!

BMW M Power Meter App for iPhone

Car enthusiasts with iPhone’s should be happy to know BMW just released a free app that measures acceleration runs and g-forces on any car. Using integrated movement sensors, the App captures: 

-Speed (mph / km/h)
-Forward acceleration (Forward g)
-Lateral acceleration (Lateral g)
-Travel time for a specified distance (e.g. 1/16-, 1/8-, 1/4-, 1/2- and full-mile runs)
- Acceleration to a specific speed (e.g. 0-30, 0-50, 0-60 and 0-100 mph times)

Sounds pretty cool, but how and how well does the handy little download really work? From MotorTrend:

“The iPhone must be laid flat pointing in the direction of travel or sitting upright at 90-degrees in order to get a measurement, so you might need a passenger to hold it or a mount for it. Getting the app to take an accurate measurement was a bit tricky as the car must be at a complete stop when you start recording and it seems to take a second to begin measuring after you press start.” 

“…Does this mean the M Power Meter is inaccurate? Not at all, it just means we'll have to take it with us the next time we go to the track and make a couple of extra runs against the VBox to find out…” (1)

The M Power Meter App can be downloaded from the Apple App store and features three free design skins: “Sport”, “Lava” and “Midnight”. 

*Friend MotorSpaceNW on Facebook!


Picture: MotorTrend

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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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