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What’s Up In Utah With Those Crazy Intersections?

Dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

Those of you that have driven in the great state of Utah know that things are a little different here.  The streets are generally wide, the blocks enormous and the drivers all have four wives someplace to be right now.  The first two can be traced back to Mormon leader Joseph Smith’s plat for the city of Zion – a piece of city planning that recently won an award from the American Planning Association.  When the Mormon pioneers settled in Utah, they implemented that plan in nearly every settlement from Logan to St. George. 

From a planning point of view, the plat has good aspects and bad – the good being the easy access to all points of the city because of the regular grid pattern – the bad being the utter misery inflicted on pedestrians by massive street crossings and lengthy blocks.  

Of course, as in many American cities, the plan kinda fell apart as suburbs developed.  Big blocks became HUGE blocks – a mile or more in length – and the streets in turn became congested as all traffic funneled onto a few major roads.  

But the pioneering nature of Utahns seems to have found a few potential solutions.  Well, pioneering if you mean stealing ideas from other places…

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Truck Thursday: 1990 Utilimaster Aeromate on the Devil’s Highway

Friday, 2:38 AM, Somewhere in the sprawling suburbs north of Dallas: I swipe my debit card through the reader at the gas station and furtively enter my PIN, hoping the taxi driver isn’t lurking somewhere nearby, shiv in hand, waiting to take my card, my PIN and whatever may be left of my checking account. It’s now Day 2 of our van adventure and we thought it would be over tomorrow.

How it all went wrong was one of those situations where you say, “we’ll laugh about this later…”

It had been quite some time since my Vespa GT200 had been “messed with” while strapped down in the back of my trusty Ford Ranger. On my way to a Southern California scooter rally from my home in Utah, I knew for a fact that my hulking black scoot had not been listing at a perilous angle for the previous 450 miles of Interstate 15. To prevent thievery and other shenanigans, I usually parked backed up to a wall or some thorny bushes, but in this particular parking lot, that was not possible. Who knows if someone had actually attempted to steal my bike – in any case, it got me thinking – I need a vehicle that I can lock it inside.

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Fastback Friday: Hatchback Camping

In the Pantheon of bad automotive ideas, the one that has the most floorspace must certainly be the Pontiac Aztek.  Justifiably derided for its appearance, the Aztek regularly appears on page-count-multiplying Top 10, 50 and 100 lists in all corners of the internet.  

However, if you can get over the looks of the Aztek, you’ll see a pretty useful vehicle.  It was big inside, like the minivan it was based on, and had a list of interesting options and accessories.  In fact, the Aztek could be outfitted to be a (very) small camper by checking off a couple of boxes on the order sheet: (1) towing package – which included an air compressor (important in a moment), and; (2) the premium sound system for the rear cargo area-mounted audio controls.  After that, a quick visit to the parts counter to pick up the accessory air mattress fitted to the rear cargo space and a rear hatch tent.  

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Two-Wheel Tuesday – Design Review: Vespa GT200

Ray Lindenburg February 21, 2012 Two-Wheel Tuesday

 

These are not the scooters you're looking for.

You may have heard of them – scooters.  Seen them in the local grocery store or big box…

NO.

What you’re thinking of is a mobility scooter.  Nor is a scooter a moped or a child’s toy.  How many times DO I HAVE TO EXPLAIN…

Sorry.  I’m not bitter.  Just perturbed.  I’ve been roundly mocked for my choice of two-wheeled transportation before.  Called all sorts of rude names.  Had my sexuality questioned.  Whatever.  I’ve reached the point where I just smile and go on with my life – pretty confident that those who mock aren’t really worth my time anyway.  So, in order to cut down on the people that I roundly ignore, I present the following as a brief guide to the scooter – check here for a more complete history.

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(Space) Wagon Wednesday – Design Review: 2007 Kia Rondo

Ray Lindenburg February 15, 2012 Wagon Wednesday

The 182-horsepower V6 makes it possible that this is the only view you'll ever get of the Rondo. The new dad driving ensures that'll never happen.

Whither the tall wagon, space wagon, or whatever your chosen moniker is – the key point being that these supremely useful, if nerdy-looking vehicles are all but extinct.  The Mistsubishi Expo/Colt/Vista/etc./etc. variants all died away in the early 90s.  Other casualties included the Nissan Stanza and the Honda Civic Wagovan.  Killed off by the ever larger and ever nerdier minivan, the space wagon seems to have a nicely-defined niche in the marketplace, but can never seem to stick around (I don’t include the Mazda 5 here, as it seems to me to be more on the minivan side of the spectrum).   Perhaps with the upcoming Ford Focus C-Max, interest will pick up.  Truth is, for a small family, the space wagon is an ideal vehicle – plenty of room for passengers and cargo in a very efficient package. 

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Hooniverse Weekend Edition – That weird new guy and his weird car fetish

No, it's not that comfortable

Editors Note: This weekend, Hooniverse will be running a series of posts introducing you to some of the new writers who are now in our part of the Hooniverse. This time it’s Ray Lindenburg who is afflicted with the same weird car bug that seems to infect the rest of us. Let Ray know how much you appreciate his writing here.

I want to let you know that I’m writing this post (and have written others in the past) balancing a tiny human on my lap and trying to prevent my keyboard from falling off the edge of my Eames shell chair school desk.  It’s not the most comfortable setup, but this chair sure looks cool.  And isn’t that what it’s all about?  I mean, during my formative years, cars were shall we say, a little short on power, so looks and style was all we had.  

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Is It So Bad To Grow Up?

The Wallace Tartan. What does this have to do with cars? Read on...

Like many young adults, I had rock-n-roll dreams.  Dreams that involved touring the country while playing loud, obnoxious music that my parents wouldn’t like.  Meeting girls, sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, the whole cliche.  But the fact was that I had no musical talent.  No desire to practice either, really.  And to be perfectly honest, I hadn’t so much as picked up a guitar.  And let’s not get in to the voice.  My mom thought I did great in the 7th grade production of A Christmas Carol.  But she was my mom.

But still, I was young, dumb, about 50 pounds lighter and did unsafe things.  

Kind of like a car of my youth. 

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The Transformance of a Dodge Caliber

Many basic and boring cars throughout history have been the lucky recipients of a new engine, improved suspension and brakes.  
The resulting increase in performance usually results in a pretty big transformation.  A transformance, if you will.

Trans-form-ance (verb)

1. the act of transformation by an infusion of performance

see also Performation

Everyone probably has a favorite car that went through a transformance sometime in its product cycle.  The Volkswagen Rabbit begat the GTi; the Ford Taurus, the SHO; the GMC Sonoma, Syclone. All of those examples began life as a solid, well-rounded vehicle that sold well.  A popular choice in its assigned class.  What if you took a car that was generally panned by critics, unloved in the marketplace and ultimately ended up canceled after only a few model years – and completely transformed it by replacing a thrashy and generally mediocre 158-horsepower engine with a batshit-crazy 285-horsepower turbocharged powerplant and additional braking, suspension and performance goodies?  And what if, at the same time, you were to change the appearance of said car from awkward, unattractive and downright bizzarre to something aggressive, interesting and generally badass?

Well, you’d have a Dodge Caliber SRT-4.

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Why do they all have to be Automatics?

Ray Lindenburg February 3, 2012 All Things Hoon

12 valves of power delivered straight from the heavens.

Please welcome the second of a few new contributors, Ray Lindenburg. Ray comes to us from his own website, hatchtopia.com, which is, surprisingly, about hatchbacks. Please make Ray feel equally welcome and awkward at the same time, as you did Scott. -KK

I saw my high school dream car on eBay last night. It was exactly as I remembered all those many years ago. Sleek sheet metal wrapped around a high tech interior. It figured in to a major motion picture as a car from the future – fitted with the latest in automotive gadgetry. Nice color combination. Low miles. Automatic transmission.

Damnit!

Another bubble burst. I had seen another lustworthy car up for auction a few weeks back – an oddball to be sure, but still cool in my mind.  Fully loaded, rare leather seats, low miles.  Automatic transmission.

I’m not a car snob. I have no room to be. Fact is, if I told a wide audience what cars I liked, I’d probably be whisked away to a padded room somewhere.  What I consider cool, most would view as nerdy.  Ugly.  Weird.  It’s okay, there will be more of these gems on eBay to droll over.  So what.  I’ll take the risk. I like strange cars and I’m no longer ashamed to hide it. The car I saw on eBay last night?

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