Hulk Smash!

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I’ve ranted in the past about being rope-a-dope’d into a state of exhausted fury by annoying automotive technology. Well, I’ve got fodder for a fresh rant. This past week, I had a new BMW X to test drive (you can read the review here). Overall, not a bad car. But there are some things about it that would have me breaking out the ball peen hammer. To wit:hulk smash1

* Buckle-up  . . . your groceries

So I went shopping at the local boutique food place – which has an excellent deli – and bought myself a sub to go, along with a few bags of take-home food. Climb in the car, place groceries and sub on the empty passenger seat. Some people text and drive – I like to eat and drive. So, I like to have my food accessible. But BMW – and not just BMW – doesn’t want me to  put bags of groceries (or even a deli sub) on the passenger seat. Not unless they’re buckled-up for safety, that is. Fail to do that and the ultra-annoying (because it’s relentless, loud and can’t be ignored) buzzer and light show commences. The only solution is to buckle-up the groceries (or the sandwich). Reach over, grab the bastard belt and insert the male end of the clip into the female receptacle. This will at last shut the damn light and sound show down. But now you have to fumble through/over/around the stupid belt to get at your stuff. hulk last

Maybe you think groceries should be stowed in the cargo area. Not that it’s any of your business where in my car I put my stuff – but, ok. It’s still not enough to avoid a sudden startling by the buzzer/light. The sensors in the seat are so sensitive that even a sub sandwich will trigger the show. Even resting your hand there can do it.  This is not just an X3 – or BMW – thing. It is an all new cars thing.  And they wonder why half the country is on either anti-depressants – or high blood pressure meds.seatblet end run

Luckily, there is an end-run. A modern-day take on the ‘ol catalytic converter “test pipe.” Lookee here.

Yeah (cue John Lovitz) … that’s the ticket!

* Nanny transmission –

Not to be mean to BMW… but this same X3 did something I didn’t think possible – and which left my stuttering with fury. I am also a guy – a Gen X guy – who does not like back-up cameras. They are two dimensional and have a limited field of view. I prefer to use my eyes. Sometimes, when backing up a car at my place (aka Redneck Graceland) I like to open the driver’s side door and look out behind as I back-up. Well, I did this in the X3 – and the car’s computer jumped in and put the transmission in neutral – while squawking at me like Myrna Goodwin, Fifth Grade Substitute Teacher, to close the doorSaaaaaaaaaaaaafety! The transmission – electronically controlled, ‘natch –  would not accept any commands until the door  was no longer “ajar.”

I was really hoping to get in maybe 50 years or so of the adult experience – you know, being able to decide things for myself – before being ushered into my second childhood at around 75. Instead, the car companies have become our parents – a preview of what is to come when we enter the Old Folk’s Home. It’s time for your pills, Mr. Peters. Time to go to bed, Mr. Peters. Oh no, Mr. Peters, you can’t eat that. You know that it’s bad for your cholesterol… .

There’s no way to defeat this deal, either. It’s not like the “safety” buzzer – which you can find and smash (or just unplug). This bug is deeply embedded in the all-controlling computer that runs the car. There’s no escape. Sit down, stop fidgeting. Eyes ahead. Now open to chapter three and read along with me, children … .shift toggle

* Dieseling gas engines –

One of the reasons people tended to shun diesel-powered cars was the noise made by a diesel engine. The click-click-click-click-click-click dieseling sound they made. It was not – is not – a particularly pleasant sound. But it’s one of those things you put up with because in return, you got all the advantages of having a diesel engine, such as superior fuel efficiency, excellent low-end torque and (as a rule) double or even triple the service life of a gas-burning engine. But what about a gas-burning engine that diesels? Welcome to the world of gas direct injection – DI, in the parlance of automotive journalism. Instead of injecting the fuel mist just before it enters the combustion chamber, DI sprays it directly into the combustion chamber – at extremely high pressure. This helps the engine to be slightly more fuel efficient – a motivator for engine designers in a world of ever-upticking fuel-economy fatwas coming from DC. To reach the 35.5 MPG average laid down for model year 2016, DI has become a de facto standard in all new cars. Those that don’t have DI engines yet soon will.

And all of them diesel. DI pic

To get a sense of how loud it is, check out this video (and audio) I took of the X3 BMW. It’s not overwhelming. But it’s not mellifluous, either. And I for one want mellifluous  . . . expect it  . . . no, demand it – when I am laying down $40k for a vehicle. And the X I tested stickered out closer to $54k.

But here’s the real kick in the balls: These DI cars are not even particularly fuel-efficient. We are talking high-20s on the highway for something like the X3 – maybe 35 or 40 for the very best current-year small cars. This is not quite as good as the best (most frugal) economy cars of the Reagan era managed.

Without DI – and gas engines that dieseled.

Throw it in the Woods?


  1. You know Eric, this criticism (in general) doesn’t just apply to cars. I know it’s way off your beat but cell phones have gotten pretty obnoxious over the past few years too. I recently gave up an iPhone4 and returned to my older phone because I couldn’t deal with the licensing agreements and the software that, if enabled, listened to everything I said near it, then consulted an artificial intelligence before trying to ‘help’ me with whatever I needed help with.

    Honestly it’s a very cool idea as long as you have ultimate trust in the AI that’s assisting you. I have some difficulty with that.

    • I was just watching a film tonite that was made in the 1990’s before cell phones. Something has been lost. I can’t put my finger on it, but it was something valuable.

      • Here’s a paranoid thought for the morning:

        Sailfawns (and “social media”) are part of a deliberate plan to fan the flames of most people’s innate narcissism – and exploit it. To create a society of self-absorbed gabblers and pretenders – all of them preoccupied with mindless “strutting” for the sake of one another and for their own vanity. It is a much improved form of fuuuuuuhhhhhhhhtttttttttballl worship – and ties in with it.

        Consider the way so many people gabble on dey sailfawns so belligerently… so publicly. Looks at me! I bees impo’tant! I have bidness to conduct!

        Consider how “social media” has promoted the most vulgar self-absorbed self-display – and faux friendships and “community” over real friendships and actual human interactions.

        I remember the world before sailfawns and “social media.” It worked just fine. Better than this world.

        I try to keep that world a alive as much as I can within the context of my own little world by refusing to ever possess a sailfawn or spend even 5 minutes of my time on “social media.”

        • Eric parodies: “Looks at me! I bees impo’tant! I have bidness to conduct!”

          I don’t want to pull a pidgin grammar lesson on you (bullshit, of course I do) but I think the correct transliteration is “I gots bidness to conduct!”

          Just a suggestion 🙂

    • My newest vehicle is a 2002 – and I expect it’s the newest vehicle I will ever own. As a guy who test drives brand-new cars, I get to experience “the latest thing” before most people. I do not like what is coming down the pike. What is already here. It’s intrusive, obnoxious, overwrought, infantilizing control-freakism … the things I cannot abide!

      • On my 2011 Chevy work truck, if you put the heater on the floor it defaults to outside air. When you restart it it defaults to outside air. If you turn the fan from off to on it defaults to outside air. If you squint at it it defaults to outside air. If anyone knows how to make it stop, please tell me!

        • My wife’s Cobalt SS is just as annoying as it does that exact same thing even though it doesn’t have climate control. I’m sure it’s one of those ‘Nanny knows best’ “features” built-in to the car’s programming.

          Come to think about it, I’d be interested in finding out what the rationale is for that particular function. Most of the cars I’ve owned in the past just had a lever that slides back and forth with a [CLUNK] to switch between recirculated and outside air. During certain times of year, it stayed set to recirc and by some miracle (apparently) I was able to survive long enough to live in the age where someone decided that particular setting should be automated.

          • Automatic climate control is one of those things that – as I see it – makes a simple thing complicated as well as more expensive without in any meaningful way improving on the basic idea.

            The system in my ’70s GM car is in no way inferior to – and arguably, superior to the auto climate control units of today. There is a manual slide lever (connected to cables) to modulate the temperature; it permits fine, precise adjustment. It is easier – and more intuitive – to move the lever left for cooler, right for warmer – than it is to tap an LCD screen repeatedly (often, after having had to “scroll” through a “menu” of options). Fan speed? Another simple, effective lever. Vent/outlet flow (i.e., defroster ducts, floor, main air ducts)? Another lever.

            The system not only works magnificently – it works without problems, literally almost forever. My car is nearly 40 years old. Yes, I’ve replaced the compressor, evaporator and condenser and lines. But the controls are factory original and have never been touched. How many touch-screen auto climate control head units will last even 20 years? Some are buggy in brand-new cars. And when – not if – they crap out, the cost to replace (not repair – replace) can be staggering. My father-in-law’s late ’90s Cadillac had auto climate control. It stopped working – and because of that, so did the AC. Nothing wrong with the mechanicals – but the electronics were dead. Cost to replace the automatic climate control controller? More than $2,000.

            I spent less than that back in the ’90s to replace with NOS GM parts every single mechanical component of my TA’s R-12 AC system.

          • Superior or inferior is a point of view. From the manufactures’ POV:

            1) cost. Once an electronic system is added the cost to make it do more is pretty small or zero. Circuits are pennies and can be re-used across multiple models while mechanical links usually have to be model specific.
            2) assembly cost. to put in cable linkages and so forth requires more assembly time and more skill than just plugging in an electronic brain box.
            3) marketing. It’s fancy. It gets attention. It can do stupid woo-ahh things like try to keep one side of the car at X degrees and the other at Y degrees.
            4) feel. the mechanical linkages had to be done correctly or they wouldn’t feel right. It’s much easier to control that with knobs and switches.
            5) warranty. with electronic components running usually at six sigma or better there will be less warranty and production issues.
            6) packaging. It’s easier for designers to put the controls where they want them to be when they are electronic.

            Now that’s the why and how fors.

            The rest is personal preference.

  2. Off Topic, but, are any of you aware of the family on the run in FL after the state took their children away for attending an “anti government” protest?

    Boaters aid search for missing Florida boys

    Florida authorities are asking recreational boaters to keep an eye out for a boat owned by Joshua Michael Hakken that could hold two kidnapped boys.

    The Hakkens lost custody of the children last year after Joshua Hakken was arrested on drug charges while attending an anti-government rally in Louisiana. The couples’ parental rights were terminated on Tuesday and the boys were turned over to Sharyn Hakken’s parents, according to the Tribune

    • “The Hakkens lost custody of the children last year after Joshua Hakken was arrested…” <- Wasn't that an episode in the TV series, Roots?

      Helots on the run.

      • Helots, that’s exactly who we are. The more things change, the more they stay the same. We’re no different than the Spartans, who were no different than the Babylonians. Sometimes, it’s enough to make you want to Hulk Smash it all.

        Origin of Christianity & US Government Icons

        It’s good to get angry, like the Hulk, as long as you can focus and channel your anger productively. Everyone pressures you into being passive and neutral, like a neutron. It’s gotten so we have way so many neutrons, it’s dangerous. We need the spirit of Hulk but not his method.

        Yes raw electrons are more dangerous than neutrons, but they give us electricity. Yes raw protons are more dangerous than neutrons, but they keep things together. Yes a small amount of neutrons is fine, but there is a point where there is too much of a good thing.

        The truth is, a molecule can only tolerate so many neutrons before it breaks apart and ejects pieces of itself. These ejected components of a formerly stable molecule start a chain reaction. The radiation and decay that comes from so many passive and neutral neutrons ends up becoming a sustained fission that destroying everything there is.

        A free man can be a vector, an electron, agile, quick, not too much tying him down, doing work and going where the action is, always on the move.

        A free man can be a attractor. Drawing others towards him in a positive fashion, and threatening to capture any vectors who approach too close to his domain.

        A free man can be neutral, but only for a limited time. Immediately after capturing an attractor, he becomes neutral, but he should seek a safe opportunity to expel the vector and become positive once more. A neutral free man needs to be wise. He should be aware if there is too much neutrality building up and danger of dissolution is on the rise.

        • There’s a lot of good stuff in chemistry. That’s where I learned there’s no such thing as absolutes, …but at the same time there is.

          Chemistry never made any sense to me after learning that, but everything else became much easier to comprehend.

    • Huffington Post has an update from the Hillsorough Sheriff’s department that the family arrived in Cuba.

      That’s got me wondering if, since we Americans are still apparently under orders to hate Cuba and are forbidden to travel there, would those of us who make it there be welcomed or sent packing?

      • At least they’re free now. Or at least, more free.

        This case has me absolutely beside myself. If I could find them and offer them refuge, I would.

        Are we going to have to start an underground railroad for veterans and their children?

        • Maybe moving to Cuba is the answer?

          Screw the Illuminati false dialectic that says you’re either for capitalism or communism. I don’t support the Western Cartel or it’s manufactured East Cartel and Middle East Cartel.

          It’s the War-profiteering Western Cartel that supplies the Communist East Cartel and Middle East Muslim Cartel with free technology transfer. Those are mere puppet economic systems with no viable means of competing without secret assistance.

          They need credible “enemies” mounted on stakes in the fields like scarecrows in order to keep us Helots and Proles constantly working and remaining debt enslaved.

          Screw that. Hulk Smash!

      • “Central Services! We do the work, you do the pleasure!”

        The Office – From Brazil 1985

        AKA “Aquarela Do Brazil” (Watercolor of Brazil)

        Come to NYC – See the giant statue of the Queen of Heaven “Istar” (Easter) – ~Virgin Liberty

        Come to Rio – See the giant statue of the Prince of Heaven “Hey-Zeus” (Tammuz) – ~Jesus, virgin-born of Istar

        Throughout the Americas, the Illuminati/Freemason/Babylonian idols tower above us. Truly this is the Planet of the Apes, and we human helots are ruled by sharp whips of the Illuminati Apes.

        If I owned a skyscraper, this version of “The Brazil Theme Song” would play 24/7.

        Translation of “Watercolor of Brazil”

        Brazil! My Brazilian Brazil. My good-looking mulatto
        I’m going to sing you in my verses.
        Brazil, samba that gives. A swing that makes you sway
        Brazil of my love, Land of Our Lord

        Open the curtain of the past.
        Bring the black mother out of the pastures
        Put the Congo king dancing the Congo.
        Let the troubador sing again.
        To the melancholy light of the moon
        Every song of my love. I want to see this lady walking
        Through the halls, wearing. Her garments of lace

        This palm tree that yields coconuts.
        Oi! where I tie my fishing net. On clear moonlit nights
        These murmuring fountains. Where I quench my thirst
        And where the moon comes to play
        This Brazil, beautiful and wheaten
        Is my Brazilian Brazil. Land of samba and tambourine

        Brazil! Good and pleasant land.
        Of the beautiful brown girl. With the indifferent gaze
        Brazil, samba that gives. The world cause to wonder
        Brazil of my love. Land of Our Lord

        – – – Brazil is the New World hope of a better tomorrow. The world has 37 billion acres of land for only 7 billion people, there is plenty for all.

        The USSA can either stop its aggressions or be destroyed. BRICS who build and create whatever is wanted is the way forward. Let each man decide for himself his way in the world. Bring to an end any powers who would force or fool him into their systems of lies and enslavements.

        • Dear Tor,

          The way Barroso’s music was matched to the hectic office sequence was masterful!

          But of course you have to watch the film and not just listen to the music.

          • For me, it brings back great memories of working for dystopian “Central Services” inside lots of Trammel Crow built Brazil type office buildings. I remember it all exactly as depicted in the movie.


            Terry Gillam, not your classical Hollywood director, gives you an off-the-wall acid trip of a story, mise-en-scene, irrational characters and surreal set designs that plunge the viewer into a deep sense of alienating unease and genuine dread for the protagonists stuck inside the most baroque totalitarian dystopia nightmare imaginable.

            Mise-en-scene in Wall-E (Pixar)

            Mise-en-scene in Rear Window (Hitchcock)

            Bevin, I think your vision of anarcho-capitalism is the best possible future that could be attained. But neither you nor I need to convert anyone to that vision. We need only dismantle the gallows and cages and the belief in any ruling system being believed to be right through the use of force.

            All we need to do, is to convince the zealots to stop killing and caging for their vision of the world.

            As an example, it cannot be the case that Christianity can claim to be threatened by believers of Grey Aliens.

            Neither adherents of Jesus or of the Zetas need be restrained or encouraged. Let them each contend in the free market of ideas without state force.

            Let the many vastly wealthy Christians build their magnificent villages and forbid mention of the Zetans within their earshot.

            Yet also let the few Zetans and their meagre capital inhabit a poor trailer park somewhere where they can worship the Greys and prohibit most meddlesome Christians from proselytizing their domain.

            Being a scholar of both Christian scripture and Zeta accounts, I would not be surprised if they are both speaking of one and the same entities. Angels/Demons/Zetans may all be and the same.

            – Anything proven right through undue use of force has not been proven in the least.

            Dark Skies – Keri Russell

            Tusk – The Americans – Keri Russell

            – Weird fact. The Album “Tusk” on cassette was given to me for a Christmas gift when I was 6 years old. My parents are squares and probably had no idea what the album was really about, or do they?

            – – Cue massive Monarch Children flashbacks – “Why Hi Eeee, Tusk!”

            – – – – –

            A separation of Church and Military Force is required. No state can hold land except for existing military bases. All land must be distributed to the people at once. Only individuals are stewards or their own land. No more land than necessary should be held by the shadowy unknowns of the nation-states.

  3. Easy solution…Just cut that shiz out and replace it with:

    I wired up a Porsche with one of these. You can buy a kit (I built mine) or you can buy the finished unit. It requires some electronics knowledge and a little elbow grease, but WELL worth it. For like $400 (to start) you can have a completely programmable EFI/Ignition/engine management solution. Just hook up your laptop and drive. You can make changes on the fly.

  4. Eating a big, messy sub in a car you’re test driving,soo awesome. Over the years it’s become sort of my trademark to leave a few empty “road sodas” in the glove box of rental cars or moving vans. Nothing fancy, just a couple cans of Bud or Pbr to let the next guy know some people still know how to have a good time.

  5. i think i figured it out 13 years ago when benz tried to deliver to me their first electronified S and ML series vehicles. i refused to take deliver. and began to seek out “used” benzes with little mileage.

    i had a 1979 450sel6.9 and a 1986 560sel[both of which i acquired new]. i determined that i wanted some more of these.

    first acquisition was a 1987 560sec. one and only one owner. a widow. 42,000 miles in 13 years. unfortunately, a snow belt car[won’t do one of those again] that was never driven often enough or at speed. after some suspension part replacements and a top end overhaul, a wonderful drivers car. arctic white, blue leather. drove it for 58,000 miles and then i put it up.

    1995 e320cab. found it in 2002. virtually unused at 4,000 miles. again white, blue leather, blue canvas top. i only take it out when the weather is right for it in houston.

    1997 s500coupe. found it virtually unused at 20,000miles in 2006. owned by an old aggie. ruby and black leather. a wonderful road car.

    i have a few more used ones that i found. my faves became the last of the bruno sacco coupes. the 2006 215’s. by that year, benz had solved the garage queens from the electronification 2000-2005 era.

    my favorite is the cl55amg. a beautiful killer.

    then in 2010, i found a virtually unused 2008 porsche cayenne[2,100 miles] turbo.

    fabulous cutting horse of a vehicle in heavy traffic.

    bullet proof except for the electronics. only aspect of the vehicle that has gone astray over 3 years and 40,000miles.

    my recommendation: go look for the single owner old stuff. they are out there.

  6. Good idea on the buckling of groceries….I’d hate to have my wife’s melons get squished 🙂 I think I’ll take my T/A for a spin to the grocery store and not use the buckles for anything, that should make me feel a little bit better about living in this country. Of course i have to pass 4 speed cameras just to get to the nearest store (1.5 miles away).
    14 cameras and counting in my town now…..and the “city fathers” are now bitching that revenue is down from $2 million in 2011 to $1.2 million in 2012 due to people figuring out where they are and how to avoid them. They are trying to figure out new places to put them and considering adding a bunch more. 3 years ago there were no cameras and not the local politicians are already addicted to the stolen money.

  7. I’ve got a ’09 F250 XL 4×4 with not much on it. It even has hand crank windows (just the way I like it). The one thing that did bug me was the seat belt warning chime. Fortunately, right in the manual there was a procedure to disarm it. I had to put the parking break on, turn the key to the accessory position, and then buckle/unbuckle nine times within a minute. Just for good measure, I got out, clicked my heals together three times, and barked at the moon. It worked, but I don’t think I needed to do the last part. I’m wondering if there is a similar procedure for other newer vehicles to disarm various alarms. Not being able to open my door to back up would drive me nuts. When I’m lining the truck up to hook up my boat trailer, I get so close, get out and see how far I need to go, and then I leave the door open so that I can use a reference point on the ground to measure my distance.

  8. Wait until diesel repair prices hit the gasoline engine world!Fuel injectors and fuel pumps are relatively inexpensive now. That will be a thing of the past.

  9. My way of dealing with the annoying seat belt chime is to blare my radio over the noise. It works, the only time I notice the chime is when I have someone else in the car with me and I don’t have the radio blaring. Otherwise I don’t notice it at all. I haven’t noticed a chime when I set something in the passenger seat but maybe thats because I rarely ever put on my seatbelt in the first place so how would I know if its chiming for the passenger side?

    • Good stuff, JJ –

      I just “buckle up” – before I sit down. I connect the male end to the female end and sit on top of the FF’n belt.

      Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety first!

  10. I used to have a Toyota Corolla with the same stupid buckle-up technology, but I managed to find a step-by-step solution on the Internet that turned it off. The whole thing took a couple of minutes and was executed from the driver’s seat via a sequence of actions using the ignition switch and one or more dashboard buttons. Worked like a charm! I’d like to think a similar fix would eventually be Internet-accessible for that BMW.

    • It’s one of my life missions to defeat/evade and destroy suffocating nanny devices. First thing I did when I bought my riding mower was kill the damn kill switch that shuts off the engine if you aren’t sitting in the seat (and also when you shift in the seat, or raise one butt cheek up, as to let loose a fart… so very annoying). Also the same thing on the push mower.

      I’m sick to the point of smashing stuff of idiot-assuming “safety” add-ons… put there because some addled imbecile ran over pwecious Baby Kaylee (or some such) and now the lawyers and the Clovers and the government presume we’re all imbeciles who can’t be trusted not to run over small kids, etc.

      • What really strikes me as stupid about the safety culture is that in all products engineers such as myself have to stupid proof them as much as we can. Yet, on the other hand when scientists make product they don’t even do failure modes analysis. In fact they demand proof something is harmful before they’ll even consider a problem.

        So I am designing something I have to meet guidelines/standards/requirements from a number of government and private bodies depending on what industry I am working in. If I don’t and someone hurts himself, no matter how idiotic he is, there is a likelihood of a lawsuit. Meanwhile scientists just willy-nilly put GMO crops and animals out into the environment without so much as a concern of wrecking the global food supply. I have to design around countless environmental laws that are nothing more chemical pollution but they can screw around with the DNA of living things without even facing liability concerns. It’s ludicrous what this cult gets away with.

        “Science” is a cult. Their arrogance is going to wreck the lives the millions, hell it already has with what they’ve done in the food and medical cartels, but that’s a-ok from the ‘safety’ crowd who believes in “science” and thinks engineers will kill them. Engineers who aren’t protected from liability, engineers who can’t just babble something about how they aren’t responsible for what they didn’t know. Yes, we are responsible for knowing what we don’t know and finding out, scientists are not.

        The ideas of product safety are so warped. Somebody falling off his lawnmower demands attention but screwing around with things that can wreck the global food supply once they are put into circulation are just fine….

        • Back in the ’80s an architect really did say to me, “how were we to know that High Alumina Cement would dissolve in warm, soapy water?”. I don’t think he was being ironic, either.

  11. You’d probably love my “new” car then Eric.

    1985 BMW 325e, less than 110,000 miles, near mint interior, all weather tires front, pirelli tires rear, with the far more reliable older automatic trans and solid little six-banger.
    Pretty good fuel economy compared to modern behemoths, and if you punch it she throws it down like the rally car she truly is, just the ticket for putting some lane weaving Clover doing 12 under in your rearview mirror where they belong.

    In this era of ludicrously expensive mommycars, bagging this one up for under 3K was a downright steal, even with another 1k a mechanical workover which seemed not completely necessary.

    One thing which is really blatant though is how SMALL and LIGHT it is compared to modern cars, even without all the gewjaws it has extraordinarily agile handling, which makes it much easier to avoid hulking Clover-piloted behemoths which, for all their techno wizardry still cannot violate the laws of physics, something aptly demonstrated up here in MI as they pile up on the sides of I94 every year like clockwork as I merrily skip by…

    Also, add to Clover behavior list what I call the Michigan shuffle.

    Slow down further and further till the vehicle begins to get stuck, then freak out and STOMP the gas, then realize oh-noes going too fast and STOMP the brake, slide, fishtail, wallow, and start slowing way down again – lather, rinse, repeat.
    Till said Clover wrecks, possibly taking you out with them – or you take the dangerous course made necessary by this maniac and blow past them in a hurricane of thrown slush as they try like hell to block you.

    For all its other merits, the 325e handles poorly in snow, so that one is a severe pet peeve of mine, especially anywhere near Ann Arbor and their illegally low speed limits, which they have not changed despite being called on it back in 2008.

    • Hi K!

      “One thing which is really blatant though is how SMALL and LIGHT it is compared to modern cars…”

      So true.

      I’ve got a friend who owns a mid-1960s Buick sedan – considered “mid-sized” when new. It feels like a featherweight compared with a modern compact. Particularly striking is the superb visibility conferred by the thin (2-3 inches or so) A, B and C pillars and expansive glass area. It almost feels like you’re driving a convertible compared with a modern car, with its (literally) 10 inches wide (or wider) A, B and C pillars.

  12. I’m not much of a driving aficionado — to me, the car is a means of getting where I’m going, and I don’t really enjoy the driving experience per se. So I’ve never really been bothered by the traction control garbage. But the bitchy seat belt buzzers are *obnoxious.* I have a 2001 Altima and a 2007 Yaris, and the difference is noticeable between the two years; the Altima has never barked at me for having some type of object on the passenger seat with the seatbelt not buckled, but the Yaris has. You wouldn’t think there’d be much upside to making the weight sensors more sensitive — is that just to “protect” people who only weigh three pounds from the terror of not buckling up?

    It reminds me of the government-mandated smoke detectors in my (rental) house, which are so sensitive it’s very nearly impossible to cook *anything* without setting them off.

    • Hi Darien,

      All these things have a common denominator – the presumption that we are all idiot children and must be “handled” accordingly. Aside from the obnoxiousness of it, it’s also (as others here have observed) a form of projection by those who advocate for such things. They feel inept – and thus, the need to feel “safe” – and so, doesn’t everyone?

      • These annoying things are easily fixed. My buddy has a 2012 BMW M3 and there were quite a few annoying things. He took it to a shop (the dealers won’t do it) and they flashed his ecu and for $60 his belt thing no longer flashes and buzz. He also had that program it so when the car is locked the side mirrors fold up and when it is unlocked (keyless entry) the mirrors fold down. He also wanted a digital display of his speed. On Porsche Boxsters, only in the US out of fear of lawsuits, you can not lower and raise the roof from your key fob. You can in every other country. The dealer won’t fix it either even though they easily can by plugging into the computer. Fortunately there are many independent shops around that will fix all of these issues for a reasonable price.

        • Fortunately there are many independent shops around that will fix all of these issues for a reasonable price.

          A beautiful example of what I call “dystopian entrepreneurship” at work.

          • Remember “Harry Tuttle,” the Robert De Niro character in “Brazil?”

            “Brazil” is one of the handful of movies that contain all the wisdom in the world.

            The others are, of course, The Godfather, The Lord of the Rings, The Matrix.

          • I’ve seen the other films. Brazil, I’ve never heard of. I did a search on ‘Brazil’, thinking it would take a minute or two to find. Surprisingly, it was at the top of the list. Odd, that.

            I’ll have to keep my eye open for it. Even-though it may be I’m living it.

            Also, I saw a sign on an independent auto shop that I really liked, “We are your extended warranty.” Made me feel warm.

          • Dear DS,

            Brazil is basically Orwell’s 1984, given the Monty Python treatment.

            It is the blackest of black humor. It’s so dense in its Baroque imagery, you really have to watch it several times before you can fully absorb all the subtext.

            Politically, it ranks right up there with the Wachowski Brothers’ “V for Vendetta” and Orson Welles’ “The Trial.”

            One of my 10 must have on a desert island movies. A must see!

  13. The 3/4 ton Dodge trucks have had a similar feature for several years,
    if you open the drivers door while the trans is in reverse, the horn starts honking,

    no lie.

  14. Reading your articles, Eric, I can see there will be no new vehicles in my future. From the price tag to the irritating computer control of everything, they can stick them where the sun don’t shine!

    If my F150 had that ridiculous driver door / transmission control, I would be SOL. My driver door sensor has failed and now the Drive Door Ajar warning light won’t go out until I am miles down the road.

  15. One thing about modern cars is their amazing performance potential. The newly announced Camaro Z/28 and the ZL1 are amazing vehicles. (I work at a Chevy dealership so I’ve had the pleasure of driving a ZL1)The government mandated traction control/abs/stability control DESTROYS the driving experience. Even if you disable them, they turn back on once the ignition is cycled on/off.

    If you leave them on they are so aggressive that you lose about 250HP in the first three gears. Lets not even get started with OnStar… An early 90’s Fox body mustang with full suspension, brakes and GM LS3 crate motor would be a beast. It would make an easy 400+whp, out handle a modern muscle car, get 25+ mpg on the highway and would have absolutely NO computers besides the ECU.
    Plus it could be built in your garage for less than HALF of what a new car costs.

    • The “safety” technology (ABS, traction/stability control) ruins it for me, too. A new SS Camaro or Corvette would destroy my Trans-Am in a quarter-mile drag, but the TA is so much more fun to drive because you are driving the car – not some goddamn computer. It’s visceral, alive in a way that new cars simply aren’t.

  16. Comrades having a beemer is a sign of evil kapitalist pig one percenter. But seriously the neighbor who is a BMW aficianado has one they are kinda cool. I always wondered if BMW was the cousin of the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (Bavarian Aircraft Works) who made the Messerschmitt 109 and 110 during the second bankster war of the 20th century.

    • Hi not,

      I like BMWs – but older ones, the ones that were still made for drivers…. not Yuppie Clovers!

      And, yes, BMW made powerplants (including jet engines) for the Luftwaffe.

      • Older BMW’s all the way- especially the M1 and earlier 3 series as well as the bigger saloons.

        Yes indeed they powered the imfamous Focke-Wulf FW190 fighter and the Heinkel He111 bomber- made great engines as did Daimler Benz with their Messerschmitt 109s and 110s.

        • One of my favorite older BMWs is the ’80s-era 635 CSi… remember that one? It had the look of a shark – no extraneous lines, purposeful, slick… a killer. And no bullshit in between you and the brilliant engine. It was a car for people who appreciate the art of driving. As opposed to putting the transmission in Drive.

          On WWII-era BMW: IIRC, BMW also produced the Jumo 008 turbojet that powered the Me262 and Arado Volksjager.

          See here:

          • I owned a 850 CSI. Black. It was a 1994 I think. I bought it used from some super rich guy who owned a Mazda dealership for 28k. He was asking 40k at the time lol. Killer car. People stopped me every where asking what it was. Too bad I totaled it after only 3 months of ownership. I didn’t really hit anything but spun out and salt water runoff (I’m in Florida) in a little ditch cause major electrical problems. The insurance company put 15k into the repair and the car was still not right. So, with the help of my lawyer, I ended up getting 40k from Progressive for it.

      • BMW 2002 is a cool car. Unfortunately, I cannot drive the car safely, since there is not enough headroom for me. My uncle had one in his garage. I liked the shape of that car. With an efficient engine that car could do very well in mpg and still be fun to drive.

        • It’s also (the 2002) an affordable – and everyday drivable – classic. I think it’s still possible to pick up a very nice one – mechanically sound and cosmetically presentable – for under $8,000.

  17. The continuing pussification of everything. TV went fem 20 years ago now the cars have to be girly.

  18. I bought my first brand new car in 1987. It was a simple 5 speed Acura Integra. The EPA rating was 26/30 mpg and it frequently met those targets, if not better. That was two decades before EPA ratings were made “more realistic” back in 2008. Looking underneath the hood of that car was a delight. Sure, it was a bit of a challenge to change drive and timing belts as it was a transverse mounted engine, but compared with today, it was a delight. Today, there are components a shadetree mechanic such as me don’t recognize and engine compartments are cased in plastic. I hate having to remove plastic just because carmakers are too cheap to groom an engine properly. HULK SMASH to most plastic engine compartments and double smash those damned plastic belly pans which add hours to a basic oil change.

    • Ah yes, the belly pan!

      Another “feature” brought to you courtesy of CAFE (slight MPG improvement via underbody airflow management). These things are a mondo PITAS. The plastic invariably/inevitably warps, so it doesn’t quite fit right. Or the edges fray – usually, adjacent to a critical fastener point, so now you need a washer big enough to make up the difference that’s not too big for the bolt/fastener… or leave it off and now that end of the pan droops.

      The fasteners themselves are sometimes shitty little plastic pop-in things that always become as loose as a 75 year old hillbilly’s teeth after 5-6 years or so.

      And the pans are grease/crap traps, too. Instead of the inevitable drips dripping onto your garage floor (or the road) where god and man intended, they accumulate on the underside of the pan… your own personal superfund site.


  19. Tell ya’ll what pisses me off more than the fucking belt chime noise when I have something in or press on the EMPTY passenger seat. The fucking bullshit traction control that I fight every winter in the snow! I approach my driveway with enough speed to coast all the way to my parking area, but the damn abs/traction control kicks on and brings me to a stand still. Now, instead of approaching with just enough speed to coast up the driveway safely I have to hole shot the bitch. I’m doing 10mph more than I normally would because I’m fighting my car! If I push the pedal I want the fucking tires to spin… THAT SIMPLE!!! It’s not technologically advanced when it can’t perform its basic function! I’m completely done with new cars.

  20. Eric – As an engineer formerly in the Bus industry, I helped implement the first production Multiplexed Electrical system on Transit buses. Multiplexing allows signal inputs to be read into one module and for other modules to control funcitons. The modules are linked through usually a data bus or a twisted wire pair. Sometimes the same module will control both. It is a variation on programmable logic control devices. At the time, in 1995, multiplexing was getting its start in automobiles as well. I did not design the systems, however, I designed the logic on how different functions turned on and off. The technology itself allows for a nearly infinite switching combinations to turn multiple functions on and off. Hence, when you open the drivers door, the car shifts into neutral. This is all courtesy of the Multiplexing technology.

    In the automotive industry, there are teams of engineers and product planners looking for things to do. Some of these features come up because people are trying to figure out product differentiation between models and vehicles.

    I remember back then thinking about how easy it would be to make the the bus go into reverse when if you turned an interior light on, etc, all though programming. It is crazy.

    The time is approaching when the number of functions performed by the body and engine processors will border on annoying. When that time comes, maybe they will remove functionality from the systems.

    Doing that alone would keep the engineers working for quite some time. As an engineer, that’s my goal… to stay working.

  21. I believe the an appropriate term for these gov’t. mandated “improvements” is: Empty Feature.

    If I’m not mistaken, Microsoft is the inventor and patent holder of the empty feature. You may recall its implimentation on the Vista operating system(tongue firmly implanted in cheek).

    • “Empty Feature.” LOVE IT. And yes, your reference to the Vista OS as such is spot-on. Windows 8, to date, continues that well-established Micro$oft tradition.

      • Microsoft always does that. It’s their basic playbook. What ANY other software vendor would consider a wide beta, they call “revision 1.0”. There’s an old saw in the IT industry that says never buy a microsoft product prior to service pack 1.

        I haven’t used “8” yet, as seven kicks ass and the next revision NEVER does. I figure 8sp2 will work ok and then 9 will work good at sp1…

        Lately I’ve been learning a few flavors of linux. Just as goofy as Windows, but you don’t have to pay for it. And because it’s so commonly screwed with by practically everyone that uses it, each ‘flavor’ is unique enough that programming virii is a bit difficult. Kind of fun. Wish I had the time I did in my youth, Computers have gotten interesting again.

        As for programming cars, it’s already being done with high performance “tuners” to a great degree, so I suspect it’s just a matter of time before there are a lot of mods available for most computer controlled cars. And that of course means all sorts of ways to spoof the government mandated nannyness as well. Like telling Onstar all about your trip to Hong Kong or Hawaii while you’re actually in Kansas (evil grin)

        • It’s true that you should generally stay away from even numbered Microsloth releases. And, there again, yes… once SP1 has been released.

  22. There’s no way to defeat this deal, either. It’s not like the “safety” buzzer – which you can find and smash (or just unplug). This bug is deeply embedded in the all-controlling computer that runs the car.

    The silver lining to this is that it’s opening up a whole new potentially lucrative market for software hackers. The automotive software field is one that has largely been ignored by the hacker community, but with the increasing reliance of cars on proprietary software to control essential performance functionality and with the increasingly paternal and controlling nature of this software, I see it as an irresistible target.

    I’m not a programmer by background (in fact, taking a Pascal class in college [I’m aging myself here] pretty much turned me off of the whole software engineering thing), but I could be tempted to give it another go if what Eric describes here becomes more and more the norm – and thus more and more of a threat to liberty that needs to be dealt with.

  23. I drove a Geo Metro 300+ miles a day for nearly 14 years. It got 60 MPG on the highway, and only two less in town. My 2001 Saturn four door gets 36 MPG.

    As for the seat belt buzzer, on the passenger side, I just plug the belt into the receptacle and hear nothing more from it. I do the same on the driver’s side if I’m just going the mile to town, but actually use the belt if I’m going out onto the highway. No need to disconnect it.

    As for the open door thing… Never felt the need to do that… but yes, I suspect that would call for a sledge hammer.

    Can’t remember the year, but somewhere around 1980 I used to take an old man to the store and pharmacy using his car. He had an older Lincoln MkII, and it was the first car I ever saw that “talked.” It had a really phony British accent and it was annoying to hear it say, “The door is ajar, the door is ajar…” until you closed it. I used to start the engine to warm it up, then had to listen to that all the time it took to get the old man seated and buckled in. Got old fast.

    So that part isn’t new anyway. 🙂

    • Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could go down to your local dealership today and pick up a brand new but VERY slightly modernized Geo Metro or early 90’s Honda civic CRX HF? The cars would probably be in the $10-12k range and destroy anything else in terms of mileage.

      It’s funny how old car guys reminisce about the good ole’ days of the muscle car and my generation yearns for the good ole’ days of 90hp lightweight import cars.

      • I’m with you, Pedro.

        I wouldn’t even modernize the ’90s-era CRX HF. It’s perfect as it was. Easy 50 MPG – and kind of a cool little thing that’s fun to drive, too. Honda could probably make them for $10-$12k, as you say…. if it weren’t for the %$%#@@@ government and Clovers (same thing, really).

        People wonder why they’re broke. I’ll fuckin’ tell you why: $22,000 “economy” cars that cost $60 to fill up that only get 35 MPG.

        • I LOVED my 1985 Honda Civic Standard hatchback five-speed, one that I bought brand new (the ONLY new car I’ve ever bought in my life) shortly after returning from four years overseas during my legionnaire mercenary days. I drove that car for fifteen years until it literally almost fell apart at nearly 325,000 on the odometer (and yes, I did regularly and conscientiously maintain it; it just had had enough after being driven twice back and forth across the country and all over the place in between).

          As I recall, 1985 was one of the last years that Hondas were all imports, before Honda began setting up plants in the U.S. For whatever reason(s), it was the little car that just wouldn’t quit. If I could buy another one brand new, today, I’d do it in a heartbeat, even if it meant selling a vital organ to come up with the cash.

          The BEST damned little car I ever owned – or probably ever will.

        • I completely agree with you on the government edicts, Eric. But you can still find decent economy cars, even if not as good as current technology would otherwise allow. I have a 2012 Fiesta that I bought new (I know, questionable financial decision, but hear me out) for $12,995 after some negotiation. It costs me about $40 to fill up and gets 40-43 MPG if you keep it under 70. The car is nearly identical to the 1993 Geo Prizm (my first car) in terms of length and width, while being only about 150 pounds heavier and sporting 12 more horses. Oh, and my Prizm never saw better than 37 MPG in the 3 years I had it. A base Prizm started at $9,995 in 1993, which translates to $15,880 in 2012 dollars using the understated inflation figures from the BLS. My Fiesta rides better and outhandles the Prizm by a large margin. So, for less money today, I get a better handling and better MPG car than I could get 20 years ago, even while having to pay for stuff like 5 extra airbags (the Prizm only had one), ABS, and traction control (which, funny thing, don’t work very well on my car all the time…)

        • Don’t get me wrong, I love older Hondas. Hell, I’m a Honda mechanic. I’ve made Hondas that would, in their stock form, hit the traps at well over 20 seconds in the 1/4 mile, scream down the track much faster than that. However in the 90’s Honda, and most car companies, would lean out their air/fuel mixtures to get that increased fuel economy. 15:1, or even sometimes much higher than that. Lean burns=heat. Heat=Oxides of Nitrogen, or NOx. NOx is bad.

    • I miss the Metro, too.

      The irony is, when it was new, it wasn’t needed nearly as badly as it is needed now. Gas was $1 a gallon – and people had jobs.

      Today, gas is $4 a gallon – and you know the rest.

      A Metro or similar car would be just the ticket for today. But we can’t buy such cars new – thanks to Uncle.

      • My first new car was a blue first gen Honda CRX si. I think it was a 1988 model. Man I loved that car. It was like a little tank. Handled great. Decent speed. Hardly needed fuel.

  24. Opening the door to help in backing up? Heck! I have to do that all the time with my pickup late at night. That ‘things in your mirror are closer than you think’ label isn’t joking and throws my old eyes off.

  25. The passenger seat seatbelt buzzer weight sensor goes back to the early 1970s. Of course it was removed by the mid 1970s because people complained. My 1973 has one. Of course it’s just a simple detect switch. It wouldn’t take much for it to sound the buzzer. I unplugged it. No more buzzer. It should be much the same in a modern car from a wiring standpoint. Either an open or close tells the system something is on the passenger seat. The other complication is that always seeing nothing on the passenger seat means the airbag may not deploy. Given that they are sensitive to weight, to turn off the airbag for small weights, perhaps a clever circuit to change the resistance it sees would do the trick. It should be quite hackable.

    On the open door transmission thing. Don’t try to redo the transmission, fool it instead. It should at some point tap off the door jam switch or whatever it uses for a door jam switch, hall effect sensor or what have you. All that has to be done is find where those wires go into the transmission or where they tap off. They might even route all the way to the switch itself. Then disconnect them from the switch and rewire so it always thinks the door is closed. Now of course with body networks and such it might have a direct route back to the computer which means losing the dome light and creating other weird behaviors by creating a condition where the door is always closed. Not sure what to do in that case. A warranty voiding reflash of the computer’s software is likely required.

    • I agree with finding the sensor wires and just removing them or shorting them whatever it takes.

      But this will make you wish you had a ball peen hammer the size of a wrecking ball.

      My old garage door opener from the 1970’s died and when I replaced it in 2000, the new model had the safety feature of a sensor and receptor that keeps the door from lowering if there is something in the way.

      With the old model, I could press the button and then trot out the front while the door was coming down. Now the new one won’t let the door come down if the beam is interrupted.

      I tried shorting the connections and the opener would not operate. I tried leaving the wire receptors open and the door would not operate. I tried taping the beam and receptor together and hanging it from the opener instead of placing them on the rails and that would not work.

      Apparently, the beam and receptor must be a certain distance apart to work, so it is as low as possible to the ground and I step over the beam on the way out the door.

      It galls me that the garage door industry needs an engineer or a team of engineers to put a tamper proof safety feature on a garage door opener.

      I wonder how much extra my garage door opener has thanks to the government protecting morons from their garage doors.

      I also had a 1975 camaro with the seat sensors. Unplugged them and never heard that stinkin’ buzzers again. Simple molex connectors under the front seats.

      • I have one of the older ones. I left in in when it worked right but when that stopped I was able to just duct tape the receiver to the transmitter. It’s an older Overhead Door unit. I think they’re the same ones Sears used to sell.

        I agree with Brent on this one, but with some reservations. I don’t appreciate having to spend months modifying a car I just spent $50,000 on to make it act respectfully. In fact I won’t do that. If I have to spend that much time on a car I’d like it to *perform* better (as a car, not as a wet nurse) when I’m done.

        My solution is to not buy new cars. They aren’t worth the trouble. The manufacturers have bent over to government, let them figure it out. I love working on old cars.

    • I had a 74 Pinto with an ignition interlock system. After a few years, the plastic frame around the seat belt buckle broke, which meant that the car wouldn’t start, since the belt couldn’t be buckled. A quick snip to the sensor wire under the seat solved that problem until I could get to the junkyard.


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