You can have my cupholder when you pry it out of my…

Someone on NAM today posted that MINIs have crappy cupholders because they’re built to drive on the Autobahn, where rational drivers would never even consider eating/drinking while driving.

Another person posted that “real” driving enthusiasts would NEVER EVEN CONSIDER eating or drinking in their car and – I’m so impressed – THEY never have and never will.

I drive on the autobahn precisely – zero.

And when I’m driving “enthusiastically” I absolutely use both hands.

But when I’m forced by the US speed nannies to drive 70ish on a road that in Europe would have no speed limit, I think that – and 30 years of driving experience – leaves me enough margin of error to sip my Triple Venti Sugar Free Mocha Breve’ occasionally – or even eat a breakfast burrito.

I have two MiniFini cupholders and love’m.

They actually get more use HAULING gigantic iced tea cups from my drive-thru du jour back to my office when I typically eat at my desk…

But frequent multi-hundred-mile business drives, two jobs, and a family sometimes force me to find ways to use my time most efficiently. And – gasp – I’ve found that I can drive and eat at the same time… hasn’t caused an accident in 30 years…

Oh yeah – having an AUTOMAGIC TRANSMISSION helps too.

M7 Under Strut System (USS)

Installed my M7 Under Strut System tonight in my garage on jack stands. About an hour start to finish.

This thing truly is incredible. I have a stock S sport suspension – no other suspension mods. I took the car out to my closest nasty off camber rough pavement S curve. And it was like I was ON RAILS compared to before. Now I really understand what the whole “go kart” handling thing is all about – I was blown away. You can feel the suspension doing what it’s supposed to, instead of fighting off the gyrations of the chassis. The car stays flatter through the curves, rotates around the turn much better, and doesn’t “skitter” across the rough pavement – like a different (and MUCH BETTER) car. I’m blown away.

I was highly skeptical. How can 10 lbs of aluminum make the kind of difference everyone has described (even if it does cost $350)???

Well, I’m here to tell you, IT DOES. WOW.

There is a comprehensive thread on this on NAM.

Looks like this (except mine is black anodized) – the three silver pieces you see in the photo – each is heavy duty machined aluminum. Uses some massive SS bolts.

M7 USS

“What about ground clearance?” you might ask, if you’ve had too much bier and strudel.
The rear two pieces don’t seem to be any lower than the side skirts – if they are, it’s a tiny bit. Possibly these might drag, but probably better that than what would have drug otherwise…

The front brace is interesting. Depends on what clearance ends up being critical. The “angle iron” looking stock piece under the engine sticks down significantly more than the USS – so if we’re talking “possum clearance” – the USS doesn’t reduce this at all – there’s still a lower stock piece that will clip the possum.

The rear section of the front brace DOES get about 1/2″ lower than the jack blocks just behind the front wheels. So I think it’s conceivable that a really nasty speed bump (not a “hump”) MIGHT scrape this… and if you’re into jumping curbs in your MINI, you will most definitely scrape this unless you go fast enough to catch air…

Griot’s Oil Extractor

So today I did the second “unnecessary” oil change on Blimey – I changed oil and filter at about 1500 miles the “old fashioned” way – and refilled with Mobil One. Now I’m at about 6000 and once again feel compelled to break with the fluid waste saving, service included money saving service interval recommended by BMW… So I have 5 quarts of my newly-found German Castrol and a filter at the ready. And the engine is still warm – but not hot – from an earlier drive. I checked the oil level with the dipstick first – full.

I also have my shiny new Christmas gift – the Griot’s Oil Extractor. I’ve read generally good reviews of this thing – and thought it might be the ticket for neat, easy “in between” oil changes. It comes with the pump extractor and three pieces of semi-rigid tubing – a “main” section that plugs into the extractor, and two interchangeable sections of different diameters for inserting into the dipstick tube. For the MINI, I determined that I needed to use the smaller of the two. So thread it down the dipstick tube. It meets the same resistance that the stock dipstick does on the way down (which is a topic of concern for me…) but with some gentle twisting and tapping it passes that point and goes on in. Takes a little more careful twisting, etc. until it seems to reach the bottom – won’t go any further. I pull it back out to check, and it DOES have oil for a good distance up the bottom of the tube. Cool. I put it back in and hook it up to the “main” tube of the extractor. I give it ten easy pumps and the oil starts flowing. It’s steady, but not fast – I’d estimate it’s pulling out about a quart every minute or two… the unit has rings around it that I later determine are at about 1qt increments – so you can see how much you’re getting.

Meanwhile, I break loose the filter and leave it attached to drain back into the engine. After a minute or two I remove the filter completely, discard the old element, clean out the housing, insert the new element and re-attach the filter assembly and torque to 23 lb-ft.
By now I’m up to about 4 quarts and it starts gurgling a little. I maneuver the tube in and out a bit (like searching for that last bit of Slurpy in the bottom of the cup), but can’t get any deeper. Eventually it’s just sucking air and the unit continues to suck until the vacuum is depleted. So I replace the dipstick and add 4 quarts of German Castrol. Then check with the dipstick. Full. Hmmm…

The extractor has a pour spout, so I pour the old oil back into the quart containers. Probably just a smidgen more than 4 quarts. So this thing left about a pint of oil in the pan. Not the end of the world – especially since the necessity of this change is questionable anyway – and since at 10,500 I’ll have a full drain done. But I wish it had pulled out at least 4.5 quarts of oil…

The upside – this thing is EASY and NEAT. No ramps, jacks, skidplate removal, power steering fan duct removal, dealing with oil plugs, sloshing oil out of the drain pan, etc. I’m curious if I would have gotten more oil with the car on a bit of an incline one way or the other… next time I’ll try that and see if it makes any difference… but I think the tube just isn’t making it to the lowest part of the pan. Maybe because of where the dipstick tube enters the pan? Just speculating…

So I remain a believer in periodic full plug-pulling drains of the oil pan to get any nasties that may be hiding down there. But for “in-between” changes at home, this thing is pretty nice. I’ll use it again.

Ode to the Valentine 1

I’ve had my Valentine 1 radar detector for about a month and a half and have driven a couple thousand miles (most highway) with it. I’m LOVING it. It’s definitely an information overload appliance – if you don’t like analyzing raw data and drawing your own conclusions, this might not be the unit for you. But if you want the detector that the guys who get paid to drive fast on the highway use, this is it…

If you’re not familiar with Valentine, here’s the short version: Mike Valentine invented the Escort radar detector and worked for many years at Cincinnati Microwave. He left CM and sold his stock for many millions of dollars. He then patented two features that, at the time, were not in radar detectors: directional indicators and digital bogey counter. Then he started a company to build the best detector on the market more or less as a “retirement hobby”… which he’s been doing for about 10 years. The physical appearance of all his detectors hasn’t changed much since he started. But he constantly upgrades the electronics and firmware, and offers an upgrade path for every unit ever sold.

The only kind of test that makes sense between different brands is sensitivity and anti-falsing and how pretty the lights and sounds are. Sometimes the V1 wins these tests, and sometimes other detectors win. But in any test of what really matters – situational awareness – there is only one patented unit that delivers. V1.

Most modern detectors advertise “front and rear protection” – what they really do is use a single detection device and channel signals into it from both the front and rear of the detector. The V1 actually uses 2 separate radar detectors and 2 separate laser detectors built into one box. This allows the computer inside to understand where the signals are coming from – front, rear or both – and light up directional arrows to pass this intelligence along to the driver. The unit also tracks EACH SIGNAL it is receiving at one time, and tells you via a digital readout how many “bogeys” it is tracking at any moment, as well as the location of all of them and the one it believes to be the greatest threat. These patented features make using a V1 quite different than any other detector – it has a learning curve to get the most out of it…

The key thing is knowing where the bogey is in relation to your direction of travel. Imagine being a fighter pilot and the computer says a bogey has radar lock on you and you ask where and the computer says “I dunno – it’s around here somewhere…” That wouldn’t be good. Likewise, it’s quite useful to know where a potential police radar source is coming from…

With most dectectors, if you get a signal and then it goes away, what just happened? Was it a side transient from a door opener off the exit? Was it a weak police radar passing you on the other side of the interstate? Was it instant on somewhere behind you? Or was it instant on ahead – which is the REAL threat…

A lot of people without V1’s say “doesn’t matter – when I get an alarm I slow down just in case”. But in my experience, when the alarm ends, you tend to speed back up. And that’s what that instant on trap is counting on. The additional situational awareness the V1 provides lets you know when it’s best to slow down and stay slow for a few minutes, and when it’s best to SPEED UP. It’s a different animal.

BTW – you’re playing a different game when you install jammers, etc. I’m just talking about standalone radar protection.

Some people claim that the V1 has too many “false positives”…

I’m not sure what a false positive is…

Radar detector detects radar = positive.

Radar detector ignores radar = false negative.

I have seen no indication AT ALL of my V1 thinking there is radar where none exists… it absolutely tells me about every REAL radar source – which includes door openers, etc. I would MUCH rather know about EVERY real source of radar, than have the box more or less arbitrarily deciding what is and isn’t a threat. With most detectors, “city mode” means “ignore weak signals”. Which might include the instant on that zapped on for an instant a half mile ahead of you. “Hey, it’s not illuminating me, so it must be a “false” signal, I’ll just ignore it… “

It’s kinda funny sometimes reading that the V1 doesn’t have good enough X range, then reading that it falses too much… these are, for practical purposes, opposites. Lots of X band here in NC, too. Hell, they still use tin cans with string here.

I DO believe in the personal preference thing. To each his/her own. I’ve read posts by a very small number of folks who have tried V1’s and decided it wasn’t for them – which is cool. But I’ve read a lot more posts by folks who really don’t understand it because they haven’t used it, and they cite review x or y that do the classic range and “falsing” comparisons because that’s the only way you can compare a V1 with other units that can’t do what the V1 does. I’ve driven thousands of miles with “traditional” detectors, and with the V1. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, even without this experience. And I’m not trying to disparage anyone’s choice – if you have another unit that’s getting it done for you, that’s GREAT!

One factor that I do think matters a lot is WHERE you’re putting in the miles and using your detector. If 90% of your driving is in the city – or in populated areas with lots of door openers on every corner, and your driving habits in this setting lead you to feel you need your detector on all the time, then I can definitely see how the V1 could drive you batty.

But on the open interstate in rural areas where it’s very much a cat-and-mouse game between you and the Smokeys, the V1 is an awesome advantage…

Update 3/22/07:

I received my customized V1 remote display today – I had someone replace the red band indicator LEDs with green/yellow/red/blue ones (for X/K/Ka/Laser) – so it’s easy to tell what band it is  visually. This is the only thing I think is “lacking” in the stock V1. The remote display is velcro’d to the top of the steering column, between and in front of my tach and speedo. It’s connected with a black curly cord to the wiring tap under the dash. It’s REALLY quick and easy to grab it, yank if off and toss it into the parcel shelf for complete stealth. I also have the remote audio unit in front of my right knee in the parcel shelf, so I can control volume and power there. I TAPED OVER the face and bottom of my V1 with black tape (leaving the windows open) – so you don’t see indicators on the front, or knobs, or anything. And you don’t see any labels on the bottom. And I taped and zip tied up the power cord, so you don’t see that. It’s very stealthy now. If someone is looking for it, they’ll see it. But it does NOT draw attention to itself, and if you don’t know what you’re looking at, it doesn’t look like a radar detector. I’ll post good photos of it in stealth mode later…
V1 - Right side V1 - Left side V1 - Front

What have I done?

Geesh. I remember SO well telling my Motoring Advisor, “I’m just going to drive it stock for a while. Then I might do a few little things. But I’m really happy with it stock.”

What an idiot. I’m outta control.

Just ordered the M7 Under Strut System today because, well, like, it’s a MUST if you have the cabrio… I mean, I really need it to get the kind of stiffness and handling that I paid for…Oh yeah, and I also ordered an H-sport 19mm swaybar because, well, when I go to the Dragon I really need the car to “steer from the middle” whatever the hell that means. Gawd.

But the good news is that this will shorten my “must have” list to a pulley, one-ball mod, MTH tune and catch-can. All of which I plan to have before MOTD.

Until I think of something else I need.

Dumbass. Should have bought another Accord.

Mod list!

On the “About BlimeyCabrio” Page (link to the right) I’ve listed all my current and pending mods (other than the ones I’ve forgotten…)

I’ve also linked to more information on most of these mods – either where to buy them, or relevant threads or posts on NAM. Hope this helps someone researching similar stuff!

Blimey! My own blog???

I’ve become an absolutely hog wild freakin crazy MINIac.

There. I said it.

I just hit 5th gear on NAM with my 600th post since September. 90% of those posts are absolute crap. But there’s at least 10 or 12 of those 600 posts that actually contain some interesting, informative, insightful or inflammatory content worthy of archiving in one place. So Twister was kind enough to get me setup to blog it. And that, friends, is what I intend to do.

I hope that someone, other than myself, occasionally gets some value from this. If not, at least I’ll be able to look back here from time to time and see how clever I was on some particular day when the planets all aligned and a brief moment of lucidity flittered past. Those moments used to happen a lot in my youth. Now, alas, I have to celebrate each one. As Mick said, “What a drag it is getting old…”

Enjoy.