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Our Cars: The Saabaru

Robby DeGraff December 10, 2013 All Things Hoon

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“This is a Saab, with a Subaru engine in it?” a confused Valvoline lube tech asked me when I pulled into the bay for an oil change. Usually I tend to avoid these places for that exact reason but single digit temperatures changed my mind about doing a DIY job. I then went on to explain, like I find myself doing almost on a daily basis what a Saab 9-2x is. I don’t mind though, because over the past year or so I’ve owned this swagger wagon, Ive been nothing but impressed by it.

When my cherished eighteen year-old Saturn finally decided to defeat me in a battle of constant hourly upkeep, I went car shopping. I scoured across dealer lots for months and spent countless hours online researching a catalogue of potential players. I had my eyes on a 2003 Mazda6 with a five-speed manual that proved the old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” when every single check engine light came on while exiting the highway during my test drive. Parked it and never looked back. Walking past row after row of cars, a black 2005 Saab 9-2x caught my eyes. I refreshed my memory on what this unique vehicle was and hopped behind the wheel. Two hours later I drove it home with a smile on my face. 

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A Hooniverse Thanksgiving Turkey: “Help Me!” Cried the Plymouth Prowler

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I really don’t want to call this the biggest let down in sports car history…but then again I probably do. While you’re all garbling down warm turkey, delicious stuffing and oomphs of pumpkin pie; take a moment to reflect back on the best-looking car from the pre- and post- millenium. The Plymouth Prowler is gorgeous, there’s no arguing in that. Nothing from the 1990s and early 2000s screamed “hot rod” like the Prowler. If you didn’t crank your head every time one passed by, get your eyes checked. Massive back wheels, visible steering and suspension components up front, dual exhaust and a stubby sharp nose flanked by two Angry-bird like headlamps. A tall hood and bold rear fender flares set it off even more. I’d also argue that the interior looked retro too and miles ahead of other Chrysler interiors during the time. I was seven years old when this car was introduced, and I was hooked. It looked terrifyingly fast and fun. The word we’re focusing on folks though, is “looked.”

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Guilty 1990’s Obsessions

Robby DeGraff November 21, 2013 All Things Hoon

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The 1990s were an interesting batch of years for the automotive industry, it was also the decade I happened to start my car obsession in. From airbags galore, cars breaking past the hailed 200mph mark and the invasion of minivans, we all have our likes and dislikes of four-wheeled vehicles from the era of Biggie Smalls, Rugrats and Furbies – oh, those horrendously terrifying little robotic animal pets. 

Three-door “sport” SUVs were cool, wrap-around headlight bars were “classy” and dent-less plastic body panels were “in”. These were times before iPod integration, back-up cameras, or plug-in hybrids. Permanently installed car phones replaced today’s growing nuisance of texting-while-driving. I remember at my house we had a post-it note near our telephone with numbers for the “Camry” and “Van.” Just remember to take those fixed phone antennas off your back window before going through a brush car wash. Oh the 1990s.  Gas was cheap and the average price of a new car was around $15,000 give or take a few. In my bedroom as a kid were posters of a Ferrari F40, Chevrolet Camaro and a Porsche 911 to name a few. You know, those overpriced, crazy 90s computer graphic background posters you’d find at your elementary or middle school’s yearly book fair? I loved cars from the 1990s.

Here are just a few of my favorite picks and why:

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What Kids Need to Learn These Days

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Growing up, I enthusiastically wanted to help my parents pump gas into their cars at the gas station. Over the years I continued to both teach myself new automotive-related skills, and learn them from others. It absolute baffles me when first time drivers, don’t know how to put gasoline in their car or  get what a parking brake is for? I’m puzzled at how many people in their twenties still don’t know how to properly jump start a car, change a flat tire or know what to do if your car needs more oil. “Can I just buy  a bottle and  and pour some in?” Yes, you can. It’s time for a massive intervention.

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Zooming Around with the RX Club of Wisconsin

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I’ve been behind the wheel of all sorts of vehicles in my lifetime, including an array of sports cars. Mazda’s RX-8 still provides one of the best driving experiences I have ever had, thanks in part to it’s  precise 50/50 weight distribution, quick and snappy six-speed manual, razor-sharp handling and exciting 232 horsepower rotary engine. It’s perfect.  If you haven’t driven one, put that on your list. Having grown up with RX-7s and now an RX-8 in my father’s garage, there’s no way I’d turn down an invitation to join a friend on the RX Club of Wisconsin‘s Fall Cruise.

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Hooniverse Asks (Bonus): What would happen if our streets were made of Legos?

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We all know it; our lives would be much easier and more fun if everything were Legos. Think about it. The fine folks from Denmark have created not just a toy, but a legendary icon for both kids and adults alike. I’m 23 years-old and I’m still obsessed with Legos. 

When I was a young child, I spent hour after hour building all sorts of creations out of Lego blocks. From ocean liners and castles, to airplanes and houses, I even had a 7×2 Lego city…that’s 7 feet by 2 feet. That city thrived and its minifigure citizens lived a flawless life, except for the occasional cat attack.

So that got me thinking. If we replaced every day, common problematic things with Lego bricks, what would happen?

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Stance Wisconsin’s 2013 Summer Car Show

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Little it be known, but Wisconsin has one heck of a good car scene. A trip to one of Stance Wisconsin’s car shows proves it.

Trying to explain what “Stance” is to an older person or non-gearhead is like trying to build a 3,000 piece Lego set in the dark; it’s just  impossible. Heck, I may  not understand it 100% but I’m on a quest to learn. The term “Stance” is a bit broad, but in this case a good type of broad. According to StanceNation, “Stance” is all about aggressive fitment. Take a cool European or Japanese car, slam it down a few inches and stretch some tires around a foursome of offset wheels. That’s just the beginning.

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The Bird is The Word

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Yes those are the familiar lyrics to The Trashmen’s famous Surfin’ Bird hit song that was hilariously exploited by Family Guy. I could go on with all sorts of cliche music references relating to birds… but I’ll skip the embarrassment. In this case however, I’m referring to that simply stunning, 1970 Plymouth Hemi Superbird pictured above.

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Recap: The 2013 Rally New England

Robby DeGraff August 19, 2013 Featured, Road Trip

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Driving for a good cause. That’s what Rally North America is all about. In the past twelve months, members of RNA raised more than $85,000 for Camp Sunshine, an organization that invites children with life-threatening diseases and their families to come and have fun at camp for a week, free of charge. RNA was founded in 2010 by Scott Spielman and Tony Intrieri, two car guys looking to make a difference out on the road.

In recent years past, I drove in the inaugural 2010 Route 66 Rally and the 2011 Rally Appalachia. This time around I was part of the film crew set to document the day-to-day reality of this event. Over the next 1,300 miles (that is if you don’t get lost… like I did), more than eighty unique vehicles from exotics, classics, high performance pickup trucks, sports cars and tuners, will rally to give back.

This is the 2013 Rally New England. 

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An Ode to Ye’ Olde Saturn

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You’re a college graduate, with student loans and need something reliable and cheap to get around in. What do you seek out? Like any gearhead, I spent hours on Craigslist and other online classified posting sites for the perfect beater err. second car to drive everyday. I ended up with the keys to a $2,000 Saturn. Why on earth would someone buy an 18-year-old, forgotten orphan child of the GM family? What car nut buys a 1995 Saturn SL1? Me.