All Hail the RallyCat

Ross Ballot October 21, 2016 All Things Hoon

Source: Allpar

Over the last few years there has been a rising interest in rally and off-road modifications for otherwise street-only cars. It’s a trend that seems to only be gaining speed and attention. And now, we are graced with a 707 horsepower, rear-wheel-drive, six-speed manual Hellcat – with mud tires out back. I proclaim this one of the greatest automotive decisions ever. 

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The new Ford Bronco: What Ford wants to sell vs what enthusiasts want to see


Source: Road and Track

So, the Bronco is coming back. Finally. Or supposedly, at least. It’s been twenty long years since we last saw a Bronco for sale on U.S. soil, and the revival of one of the most iconic 4×4 nameplates should be a marketing force to be reckoned with at Ford. But the rebirth of the nameplate doesn’t necessarily mean that the 2018 (2019?) model will live up to its past glory. Whereas Ford is just hoping for a sales hit, us enthusiasts are hoping for something that’s actually a vehicle worthy of the Bronco name.

But what would Ford need to do in order for the new so-called Bronco to be a worthy successor? Read on to see if you agree with me.

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Photo Dump: The 34rd Historics Festival Sunday in the Park car show at Lime Rock Park

Ross Ballot September 23, 2016 All Things Hoon, Featured


Sunday is a usually a less-than-ideal day to be hanging around Lime Rock Park. Not that it’s ever a bad day to be on LRP’s rolling, scenic grounds, but you’re S.O.L. if you’re visiting the ~1.5 mile track on a Sunday in hopes of seeing some racing. That won’t change anytime soon, seeing as there’s a group of locals from Salisbury and the surrounding towns who are fighting a “No Sunday Racing” battle for reasons that in some cases make no absolutely sense whatsoever, but it opens up Sundays for peace and quiet—relatively speaking, of course.

Instead Sundays are filled with other non-racing events, and one of the highlights comes during the weekend of the Historics Festival. It brings about another type of camaraderie and competition than does racing: a massive, track-filling, mind-bogglingly-diverse car show.

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Will the new Q60 be the best Infiniti coupe yet?

Ross Ballot September 23, 2016 All Things Hoon

The Q60’s bold exterior – lower and wider than predecessors – expresses a powerful elegance through its daring proportions and taut, muscular lines. Dynamic enhancements, including an all-new lightweight and sophisticated 3.0-liter V6 twin-turbo engine, together with new adaptive steering and digital suspension systems, result in a premium sports coupe designed and engineered to perform.

It just so happens that as I’m putting the finishing touches on this piece, the real automotive journalists are on their way to drive (or have just finished driving) the all-new Infiniti Q60 for the first time. It’s a stunning car, the first dazzle of excitement coming from the Japanese automaker in recent memory aside from the Q50 Red Sport. But can the new Q60 deliver on the promise of the original G35 Coupe, and simultaneously give the company the excitement kick it needs? There hasn’t been an Infiniti this promising in years, but it’s looking like the Q60 has the formula figured out just right.

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Everybody was (mostly) right about the Mazda MX-5 Miata

Ross Ballot September 20, 2016 All Things Hoon


I hate to admit it, but for someone who loves movies I tend to lag a bit behind when it comes to watching “modern classics.” In many cases what most people have already seen can take me years to finally catch up on. This was the case with The Shawshank Redemption. As the film passed the birthday on which it would be allowed to legally drink alcohol it seemed that between my friends and pop culture, Shawshank was once again being hyped up so much and also being repeatedly so highly spoken of that I began to wonder not just if it was a good movie, but if everyone was playing into it being so for agreement’s sake. I couldn’t help but question if people were buying into the idea of it being a classic and drowning in each other’s praise, somehow making a good movie out to be a great movie.

The timing seemed to coincide with the boom in popularity of Mazda’s MX-5 Miata, and I found myself in a situation similar to that of my Shawshank curiosity: as the praise surrounding the Miata continued to build, more and more time passed that also saw me still yet to drive the much-loved, critically-acclaimed roadster. I began to worry that driving one could and might actually be an utter letdown, a car that over-sold on its promise as the pinnacle sports-roadster experience and that under-delivered on everything from dynamics to excitement to sheer driving fun. It turned out that my skepticism with Shawshank was not be unlike my skepticism with the Miata, and I’m happy to report that I could not have been more wrong on either front.

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Long-Term Introduction: 2017 Subaru WRX Limited 6MT

Ross Ballot September 14, 2016 All Things Hoon, Featured


Dates: 7/13/16-9/13/16 —– Odometer: ~5300 miles

After months of playing the waiting game, it finally happened: the move from a house to an apartment was no longer looming but rather had actually come and gone. Furniture was transported, boxes were packed and unpacked, IKEA dressers were fought with, and much beer was consumed. What was only the second major move in my adult life was now complete and yet even with the moving-related stress having passed, something was looming in the back of my mind: one parking space, two cars. A lone section of painted lines sized for one car, but a Challenger and a VehiCROSS worth of vehicular capability and enjoyment to fit inside said literal and metaphorical box.

It was time to find a single replacement to “do it all,” something fun, exciting, and enjoyable yet also safe, practical, and reliable. A car that can induce smiles every day but that fares well commuting and that can handle the punishing New England winters with ease. Many vehicles were considered but one stood out: the Subaru WRX. I had done a test-drive for the hell of it (i.e., out of boredom) a few months back, before the move, and came away really impressed. Flash forward to post-move: after weeks of test-driving, price-shopping, and contemplating, the decision was made and the papers were signed. Enter my new car: a 2017 World Rally Blue WRX Limited 6MT.

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A night at the North American McLaren 570GT unveiling (and what it’s like to attend a car event way fancier than you are)

Ross Ballot August 17, 2016 All Things Hoon


A few weeks back I was lucky enough to attend the private, invite-only, North American unveiling of the McLaren 570GT in the fancy-pants town of Greenwich, Connecticut. I should have guessed that I wouldn’t exactly “fit in” but had way too much fun to actually care. It was quite an event: food galore, free-flowing adult beverages, well-dressed people everywhere, and of course, the majority of the inimitable McLaren lineup gracing the area with its presence.

Not only was the experience a bit overwhelming, but it was a totally new and exciting thing for me to witness the revealing of a car for the first time. Fun was had, and many a 650S were drooled over. Read on to get more of an idea of just how extravagant the night was and what it’s like to be present at the unveiling of a car most of us will never be able to afford.

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2001 Isuzu VehiCROSS Final Update: Saying Goodbye

Ross Ballot August 15, 2016 Featured, Project Cars


Once again the written counterpart is lagging well behind real-life happenings, with the following catching us up from the tail-end of the most recent Update. Unfortunately for Project VX, this marks the end of the road. It was a fun, albeit short-lived, period having it as a second car, but life changes and sometimes your vehicle(s) have to do so accordingly. Without further ado, Project VX’s Final Update…

When we last left off Project VehiCROSS had just been out on the road for the first time under my care. It was an overwhelming experience: exhilarating and nerve-racking and laugh-inducing all at the same time. I drove the VX intermittently for a few months between then and now, had my fun, and realized the inevitable: wrong vehicle, wrong time. The cliché scenario– a lack of space, time, and disposable income– eventually reigned supreme, putting the VX in a bad spot when it came to prioritizing. I hinted at it in the post-script of my two Project Car SOTU pieces (Update II / Update III), but it’s for real: the VX is gone.

It was a dream vehicle of mine, an offbeat oddball that had me mesmerized since laying eyes on the little Japanese 4×4 for the first time as a kid, and I’m lucky to have owned one for the short while that I did. But to experience something and know it’s not right for you or for the moment is better than to not experience it at all, and such is exactly what happened here. Keep reading to see how and why things played out the way they did, and also to see how I felt about the Isuzu VehiCROSS after the dust settled and I’ve had time to look back on everything.

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Project Car SOTU 2016: 2001 Isuzu VehiCROSS Bonus Update


2001 Isuzu VehiCROSS Update III: Maiden Voyage — Project VX finally sees the road

Quick note: Hot on the tails of Update II, this update comes well after the following events happened in real life. Doing my best to keep things current, but there’s only so much time in the day…

“That’s my dream car, man.” The voice aimed in my direction me caught me by surprise. Usually people don’t stare at or speak to you as you walk through the parking lot, or at least not in the parking lots I frequent. And yet, it was happening: the guy I was just about to walk past was staring straight at me, and apparently speaking to me as well. I tripped over my confusion and blurted out a semi-mumbled “Thanks!” as my brain caught up to itself, just in time for him to talk again: “I’ve loved those things forever, man, been waiting to find a clean one for years but it hasn’t happened yet.” We spent the following few minutes discussing the VehiCROSS, its quirks and rarity, and his knowledge hit me as both refreshing and pleasingly unexpected. I casually let slip that this was the first time my VehiCROSS was on the road since I bought it, and watched as for some reason he got even more excited, gave me a big congratulations, a handshake, and a parting “good luck with it!” Free of the conversation, and wondering if this would become the norm, I then continued my short walk into the supermarket, smiling like an absolute fool.

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Project Car SOTU 2016: 2001 Isuzu VehiCROSS


Project VehiCROSS Update II – Wheels and tires and quirks, oh my

Quick note: as with Update I, the VX has progressed since this publishing but the written updates are lagging behind real life. Such is what happens when you move…

When we last left off my 2001 Isuzu VehiCROSS was sitting atop three shouldn’t-be-driven-on OEM wheels/tires and one laughably wimpy (and very yellow) space-saver. As the VX waited to be worthy of a “drivable” designation, I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of my new wheels. With a bit of time to spare and the UPS shipment’s progress still not showing “Out for delivery,” I took a stab at fixing some of the VX’s persistent issues. As I mentioned last time, it’s become immediately apparent that working on a not-so-brand-new vehicle is significantly more complicated than anticipated. Not that I predicted all to be smooth sailing, but those little gremlins continue to rear their heads every time I work on the damn thing. All that said…I still love the VehiCROSS. Even looking at it puts a smile on my face. Frustration aside, happiness with one’s vehicle is what matters in the world of projects, right?

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