Archive for February, 2010

First, you have to sign this release …

When you think of all the cars have that have come and gone since the first three wheeled Benz (“snuck” out of the garage and driven by his wife and son) hit the road in 1885, it inevitably will bring to mind of building a list of the greatest, most valuable, most beautiful, etc. But the one car that’s on several of those lists, is the creation of Carroll Shelby, the Cobra. I won’t attempt to detail it’s storied history, that’s been “done” … rather this blog is more on the experience of owning one.

To begin with, it simply doesn’t drive like any other car … please don’t interpret this necessarily as a good thing. Cobra’s have a habit of confusing of the front of the car with the rear. Step on the gas at your own peril … be certain to have the car pointed in the general direction you want to go. Not that the car will actually go that way, but much like a ballerina or ice skater, it just gives you a point of reference when it starts to spin. It’s the only car I know of that is steered with the throttle and brakes … the steering wheel is actually used very little if you’re in a rush. This can be very disconcerting, when at 100mph, the wheels lose traction and start spinning furiously when the lash is applied.        Often, I get the question “how fast will it go?” Not having a death wish, I don’t really know. I’ve read the story of one particularly intrepid soul who was clocked in excess of 190mph on a public road in England … supposedly this item was debated in the House of Lords and resulted in speed limits on England’s then autobahn-like highways. Cobras certainly have the horsepower for over 200mph speeds, but the brick-like aerodynamics make this probably impossible without going airborne.

You can tell who are your true friends, when after confining them in the passenger’s seats with a five point racing harness so tight it restricts breathing, they still actually want to ride in the thing. Everyone always asks “why” when I hand them earplugs upon sitting down … those that decline, sincerely wish they hadn’t when I turn the key. When the oversized engine literally roars to life, it’s startling. OK, … slowly we pull out of the garage and head for the feeder road of the freeway as we’re going to need A LOT of space. Now, on the floor! With acceleration akin to jumping down an elevator shaft (you may actually get severe tunnel vision) attached to the worlds’ biggest paint shaker, and God-awful noise similar to having your head in a metal garbage can being struck with hammers during a category 5 hurricane, the Cobra devours road at such a ferocious pace that it simply can’t be understood, only experienced. I stopped consuming Corvettes at stop lights … with less horsepower and almost 1,500 pounds heavier than a Cobra, it’s pointless … all it does is waste expensive tires and inhale gas. And with a Cobra, that last item is always in short supply. At times, it dips below two miles per gallon … well, OK, most of the time. So all trips are taken with a mindful eye on where the gas stations are. When we get back, no one steps out over the scorchingly hot side exhausts, without being at least a little “shaken-up”, so to speak. They tell me that although it scared the absolute **** out of them, they knew they’d be “just fine” because I’d been driving it for so many years. That’s when I tell them about the old axiom about Cobras: “There are no drivers in Cobras, only passengers”. And about 50% of the time, I add how pleased I am that this time we wound up going the in correct direction too!

Carroll said that the name “Cobra” came to him in a dream … but, for the other racing car companies, it was more like the beginning of a nightmare. The racing success of Cobras amongst those “in the know” is formidable. In 1965, due to the extreme cantankerous nature of the Cobra at high speeds (over 150mph), Shelby decided to put on a roof. The result was the “Cobra Daytona Coupe”, the only American car to this very day, ever to win the FIA World’s Manufacturer’s Championship for GT cars, beating Europe’s best; Porsche, Ferrari, Jaguar, and Aston Martin.

So a ride in a Cobra, is seeing, hearing and feeling a World Champion … a pedigreed race car that just happens to be (barely) street legal. It’s also probably about the least street-friendly car in the country … no radio, A/C, windows, door handles, glove box, headrest, sound-deadening … no anything really … except a couple of seats, a huge engine and the biggest grin in town from whoever is lucky enough to sit in the driver’s seat. Cobra owners call it “Being bitten by the Snake”.


Awaking Epiphany

Epiphany … yes, that’s what is it was … an epiphany upon waking. I have to guess I’ve spent the last forty years as a certified geek … (and this is before the word “geek” was applied in the oddly admirable fashion that it is today) … and yet the thought that had never occurred to me before was: “how do you know if you are a geek”? Not a wannabe Best Buy shopper-style geek, … but a genuine, 190 proof, card-carrying, technoholic geek? I very reasonably concluded that everyone would like to claim to have a trace of geek in them; but “geekiness” can not be measured like an “old school” rotary volume knob, but more like binary code … either you are “1”, or you are not “0”. So there has to be a litmus test to wear the transistor-studded “Crown of Geek”. And as such, there must be a check list. Geekdom requires a “ten out of ten”.

#10) You run across a particularly interesting piece of technology, and your first thought is: Do I have the correct tools to take it apart?

#9) You find an interesting item that you have absolutely no use for, but buy it anyway to figure out a use for it.

#8) When you find out that your interesting item can’t be used effectively, you still won’t sell it or throw it out … especially after all the time you have invested in it.

#7) You finally realize that no computer monitor is big enough.

#6) You find that you save time and money by simply buying batteries by the case.

#5) You won’t share your favorite “underground” resource for cheap (and sometimes borderline illegal) techno items … like your 10th newest hand held laser almost powerful enough to bring down satellites.

#4) You worry your soldering iron doesn’t have the correct tips for your new project, … even if you don’t know what that new project is yet.

#3) You just don’t have time to read the instruction manuals.

#2) You actually know what a VOM is, and how to use it. And find it interesting!

#1) You wake up out of a sound sleep due to a nightmare of dropping your new iPhone and cracking the screen … then after awakening, suddenly realizing it has to be taken apart to be fixed, you feel better …