Hello from Key West, Florida

Posted in Legend, Road Trip on October 8, 2019 by tysonhugie

Hello!  Let me blow the cobwebs off this keyboard because I’ve been too busy driving to focus on the blog.

This evening I completed the first portion of a massive cross-country road trip from Phoenix to Florida and back.

As I type this, I covered 2,743 miles over 7 states in the last 5 days.  I reconnected with friends in every stop.  I drove across the Guinness world’s longest continuous bridge over water in Louisiana.  I drove under Mobile Alabama in a tunnel.  I had to buy 2 new tires in Tallahassee.  I got soaked in a thunderstorm in West Palm Beach.  I fought Miami snowbirds in traffic.  And now, I’m at the southernmost point in the United States.  In fact, on a map, it looks like I could damn near throw a football and hit Havana, Cuba.

And don’t worry, I have about 400 photos and video clips of it all happening.  You’ll see some of them in due time.

Now, time for bed.

Ending mileage 569,312

Long Beach Weekend: 2019 Japanese Classic Car Show (JCCS) at Marina Green Park

Posted in California, Car Show, Del Sol, Road Trip on September 26, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (del Sol):  89,349

Trip Distance:  777 Miles

This was a fun way to break up the work week:  My friend Chris invited me to meet up and check out / test drive his very rare model year 2000 Acura Integra Type R.  The car had 48,000 miles on it and handled incredibly.  Like many ‘B-Series’ powered Honda cars, the Type R loves to rev.  Its tachometer goes up to a sky-high 10,000 RPM.  I appreciated the opportunity!

I’m starting to become a ‘regular’ at some of the Southern California car scene activities each year.  The Japanese Classic Car Show (JCCS), now in its 15th year, has been a tradition of mine since I started going in 2014.  Back then, none of my cars were eligible because the cutoff for model year eligibility was in the 1980s.  It’s since been modified, and anything up through the mid-1990s is permissible.

The Key Lime del Sol made the trip this time.  This was the first time it’s made an out-of-town voyage since I brought it to Phoenix from Salt Lake City back in May.  I’m happy to report that the car did great.  Here are write-ups from my prior trips to JCCS.  With the momentum behind the event (growing so much that it had to change venues last year) I’m confident it will be a “thing” for many years to come.

I had a special guest at the house last Thursday afternoon:  My friend Ken from Pennsylvania rolled into town in his vintage 1981 Honda Accord.  His dedication to the event was impressive – even in the face of a breakdown somewhere in Wisconsin, he was able to put a spare fuel pump to use the following day and be back on the road without much time lost.  Driving with an old car in adventure to say the least.  It’s best to live by the Boy Scout motto:  “Be Prepared.”

By the time Ken and I made it out of Phoenix during rush hour, then completed our trek across the desert, our arrival in Torrance at the Holiday Inn was a little before midnight.  The next day, we toured the Honda Collection open house (which I’d visited just recently in July).  I enjoyed a night out with a few local friends before tidying up the del Sol and calling it a night.  My wake-up call on the show day itself always comes very early – in this case it was 5:40 a.m. so I could be at a meeting point in Long Beach by 6:45.

(Why they had this sign up for the “14th” annual 2018 event from last year, I’m not sure.)

This was the largest JCCS in the event’s 15-year history.  Over 400 vehicles were displayed in organized fashion at Marina Green along Shoreline Drive.  The Honda section, as in prior years, was headquartered on the west end of the park.  Luckily I rolled in around the same time as some of my closest colleagues so I got to park near them.

A few particularly cool vehicles caught my eye throughout the day.  I enjoyed my friend Chris’ 1988 Dodge Ram 50 pickup truck.  A Dodge at a Japanese car show?  Yes.  That’s because his Dodge was technically just a rebadged Mitsubishi Mighty Max.  Which reminds me, speaking of rebadges, I think the SLX will make a JCCS debut next year.

At the conclusion of the show, some friends and I dined nearby at the Islands Burger restaurant and hydrated after a day in the sun.  The del Sol got me home safe and sound to Phoenix later that evening.  Until next year!

Rolling 88,888 miles at 88 miles per hour.  I pictured Doc Emmett Brown from Back to the Future:  “When this thing hits 88 miles per hour, you’re going to see some serious shit.”  Well, I didn’t see any of that, but it was still fun to celebrate.

Visit to the American Honda main office

Inside the museum with David and David

Lineup awaiting in staging lanes

Running into friends from all over

My friend Ryan’s 1988 Daihatsu Charade – love it

My buddy Logan

Dave Heath from Honda who works with Auto Shows & Exhibits

The Honda display was nicely laid out

Ever seen a lifted Lexus LS400 on mud tires?

Primary colors?  I think we were just missing blue

Dinner group before my return trip to Phoenix

Last but definitely not least:  The automotive journalist community is pretty small, and is better described as a close-knit family.  Recently, a colleague of mine named Miles Branman in the Southern California region was injured in an accident.

One of the media organizations (similar to PAPA, that we have here in Phoenix) called MPG (Motor Press Guild) has launched a series of auctions in fundraising support of Miles. Among the items up for grabs are some some exclusive collector items donated by Acura.  Check these out:

These are all one-of-a-kind finds, and they’re for a good cause!  The auctions end next Thursday, October 3 at 5:00 Pacific.

Thanks for looking.

Modified Minivan Manufacturing: Vantage Mobility International (VMI) Factory Tour

Posted in PAPA on September 23, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  566,562

Do you have a friend or family member who uses a wheelchair?  Having been a part of the broader automotive community for over 20 years and in the Phoenix region specifically for over 10, I was surprised to learn recently that one local Arizona company is an industry leader in mobility for folks with disabilities.  It’s a place called Vantage Mobility International (VMI).

Ever since the original Chrysler minivan debuted in 1987 – and even a bit prior – the founders of VMI have tasked themselves with customizing vehicles to make them wheelchair friendly.  The WAV, or Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle, industry has since become a large and important part of the automotive world that I hadn’t ever really thought about until I visiting VMI.  It’s estimated that there are around 30,000 new WAVs sold across the nation each year, from a variety of manufacturers.

Organization leaders and public relations representatives from VMI took me and a handful of other members of the Phoenix Automotive Press Association (PAPA) on a guided tour of the facility in Phoenix.  Our guide through the manufacturing & assembly line areas was named Brian, and he introduced us to the step-by-step process by which a new minivan – straight from Toyota, Chrysler, or Honda, usually – goes through a complete transformation.

Safety first!  Fluorescent vests & goggles – check.

What starts as a cookie-cutter family hauler gets stripped down to basically just a shell.  The floor is lowered 10″ or more via installation of a new frame.  Precision welds are made where the doors are extended, the ramp is installed, and the engine is dropped so that the vehicle’s center of gravity and sense of balance still remains largely the same.  It takes about 2.5 days from start to finish for the conversion to take place and there are about 200 colleagues making it all happen.

Because of the vast number of unique needs that WAV customers have, the vehicles themselves are also heavily customizable.  Some vans even have the ability to “kneel,” like city buses, to lower the angle of the ramp and make for easier ride-up.  There are features available like an integrated remote for quick stow / deploy conversion functionality, power sliding doors, flexible seating configurations, and rust-mitigation coatings on all steel components.  A van that’s intended to be driven by a caregiver, for example, will need to be set up differently than one that will be operated by someone who is in a wheelchair.

One of the great things about VMI’s customization work is that any factory warranties on the vehicles from the manufacturer still apply.  VMI has such a great relationship with the automakers, in fact, that its engineers are invited to take part in the design discussions when new models are undergoing development.  VMI’s Phoenix facility distributes its vans to dealerships only, but its Atlanta operation sells converted vans directly to end users.

The leadership & executive teams at VMI are all mostly new to the organization – within about the last 3 years – and they are all passionate about what they do.  There is a huge opportunity and a need to enable the great numbers of people around the country who have mobility challenges.  The more the VMI team can do to make readily-available solutions for those needs, the happier they’ll be.  I greatly appreciated the chance to have a look around the facility!

Sedona Weekend Trip, Brochure Re-Creation, & Junkyard Visit to Desert Valley Auto Parts

Posted in Arizona, Integra, Legend, National Parks, NSX, Road Trip, SLX, Vigor on September 16, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  218,802

Trip Distance:  291 Miles

I have a few fun features to share today.  Mom planned a trip down from southern Utah in her new (to her) 2016 Acura RLX.  We met up in one of Arizona’s red-rock gems, the town of Sedona.  It was about a 2 hour drive for me on Saturday morning.  We enjoyed the seclusion and solitude of an Airbnb room about 5 miles up Oak Creek Canyon from the hustle and bustle of the town’s shopping plazas.  Saturday evening, we dined at Javelina Cantina and then enjoyed the sunset from atop the Airport Mesa.

On Saturday, after breakfast at Indian Garden (I highly recommend the “ranchero bowl”), we went to Slide Rock State Park, a recreation area just a few miles up Highway 89A from where we were staying.  The place gets its name from the slippery nature of the Oak Creek’s bed – after years and years of erosion making the surfaces smooth, coupled with mossy deposits, there is some great slipperiness to be enjoyed.  We saw a few people tumble to a very wet riverbed in what looked to be painful experiences!

The rocks were nice and warm, but the water was chilly!

The last stop on our weekend tour of the region was a quick jaunt out Highway 260 toward the small town of Pine, where we were anticipating the arrival of a friend who was running a 100-mile (!) race.  Unfortunately, as the day went on our timelines were crunched and mom had to head back to Utah, and I had to return to Phoenix.  I’m happy to report that our crazy friend did complete his event though.

ILX + RLX at the Airbnb

Shopping at “Tlaquepaque.”  We love saying that one.

I decided to have a little fun bright and early on a Sunday morning and stage my cars in “brochure” fashion like a photo that might have appeared in a 1991 through 1993 full-line pamphlet from Acura, since the 6 cars included there are the full 6 body styles that were available during those years.  Luckily I only had one neighbor drive by at 6:00 a.m. while I was on top of my step ladder looking like a goofball.

1992 Integra GS-R 251,000 Miles

1992 Integra GS Sedan 73,000 Miles

1994 Legend LS Coupe 566,000 Miles

1994 Legend GS Sedan 161,000 Miles

1994 Vigor GS 114,000 Miles

1992 NSX 115,000 Miles

Lastly, I took the chance to pay a visit to “DVAP” – better known as Desert Valley Auto Parts.  It’s a junkyard that was featured as part of a TV series called Desert Car Kings back in 2011.  I visited in 2018 with my friend Dane, and the video that I captured became quite popular, so I decided to go back and give it another whirl.  I filmed 20 minutes’ worth of banter and it received over 10,000 views in its first 10 days online.  A box office hit!

Have you ever heard of a Dodge Seneca?

Nice looking old pickup truck!

Some cool back ends on these next two Chrysler products.

This one looks pretty mean.

And some Chevy Bel Airs for good measure.

Guess what? The SLX got new leather.  Here’s a pic and video as the saga continues.

Thanks for reading, watching, and following, as always!  Have a great week!

Drive to Five Review: 2019 Honda Civic 1.5T Touring Sedan

Posted in Civic, Vehicle Reviews on September 10, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Civic):  4,000

The other day, I was enjoying a rare, quiet, movie night at home and ended up picking the 2006 flick “Employee of the Month,” starring Dane Cook.  One of my favorite lines in that movie refers to a Honda Civic.  A 1981 Civic, to be exact.  After a golf ball attack ensues, the proud owner of a rickety old Civic proclaims, “This is an ’81 Honda – how dare you?!”

That car (and clip) make me think of this brilliant magazine ad from back in the day.

Certainly there are many of us who can relate to the protective attitude about our vehicles.  My younger brother drove a hand-me-down 1984 Civic 1500 “S” hatchback in high school – a hand-me-down from my great-grandmother.  This was what our family’s driveway looked like 20 years ago.  Two Legends, a Prelude, and a Civic.  Those were the days!

The Civic has been around as Honda’s compact vehicle offering since 1972 and it has been in its current (10th!) generation since the 2016 model year.  My current 2013 Acura ILX rides on Civic underpinnings and so I can already attest that the level of reliability is all it’s cracked up to be.  Where the Civic differs greatly from its Acura sibling is in sheer volume of sales:  In August 2019, here were some select stats:

  • Civic:  34,808 units
  • Accord:  30,558 units
  • ILX:  1,439 units
  • RLX:  38 units
  • NSX:  25 units

The only vehicle that sold more than the Civic was the CR-V at 44,000 units.  Honda has a home run on its hands, and I set out over the past several days to find out why.

My test-car was powered by turbocharged 4-cylinder engine coupled with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).  The Touring trim level brings nice amenities including leather interior, 10-speaker audio system, and a host of tech like cameras and navigation.  It also has nice looking 18″ alloy wheels, LED headlights & taillights, and a rear decklid spoiler to set things off cosmetically.  Total MSRP including destination and handling runs $28,220.

I had the chance over the past 7 days to put about 500 miles on the car in a combination of city and highway driving environments, and took the chance to assemble some ‘goods’ and ‘bads’ along the way.  To keep things simple, I’ll just dish out the review in that format.

Likes, in random order:

  • Tech – The window sticker on this car reads like Acronym City.  Check some of these out, and study them for the quiz later:
    • ACC – Adaptive Cruise Control
    • CMBS – Collision Mitigation Braking System
    • LDW – Lane Departure Warning
    • LKAS – Lane Keeping Assist System
    • RDM – Road Departure Mitigation
    • FCW – Forward Collision Warning
    • EBD – Electronic Brake Distribution
    • VSA – Vehicle Stability Assist
      • Basically, this Civic almost drives itself.  Do you like all that “helpful” tech, or are you against it?  I’ll let you decide for yourself.
  • Audio – SXM, bluetooth compatibility.  I was driving along and heard an amazing song I liked on the radio.  When the song concluded, I pulled into a church parking lot, paired my iPhone, found the song on YouTube, and blasted it again.  That kind of tech compatibility is awesome!
  • Camera (right side + rear).  Did you know that this car activates a passenger sideview mirror-mounted camera every time you turn on the right turn signal?  It’s pretty sweet.  The back-up cam also has nice resolution.
  • Looks – LED front end – to me, the car “looks” high end from many angles.  The whole front end is graced with LED lighting treatment.  I like the black grille, and the wheels seem borrowed from the sporty “Si” trim model and have a nice look to them.
  • Value / Packaging – I remember being excited about some of the aforementioned features when I first tested the 2014 Acura RLX (a $60k car).  Here we are a few years later talking about how they are available on a < $30k compact.  It’s pretty sweet.
  • Interior Ergonomics – The more I got acquainted with the Civic, the more I liked how things are placed inside the cabin.  I was pleased that there is a compartment for a cell phone below the instrument panel.  And the center armrest opens up to a HUGE storage bin with removable cup holders.
  • Highway Driving Dynamics – The Civic is super smooth at anything above 55 or so.  It would make a great long-hauler.  Perhaps why my friend James took it to LA and back when he tested it a few weeks ago.
  • Anonymity – Sometimes you just want to blend in, and this car does a good job of that – especially in the color that I tested.  I’m also going to put this attribute on the ‘Dislikes’ section.

Dislikes, in random order:

  • City Driving Dynamics – As much as I tried to make the most of the Continuously Variable Transmission, I just couldn’t love it.  One morning on my commute to work I was so discouraged to get blasted off the line by an aggressive-driving old Altima.  I didn’t stand a chance.  I like my torque delivered more rapidly when hitting the accelerator.
  • MPG – I admit to being heavier on the throttle than most people would be, but I still only got about 29 mpg which is quite a bit lower than the 33 mpg combined on the EPA rating.
  • Tech Nitpicks – I didn’t like the clicky sound the steering wheel volume audio button made, or where it was located.  I also think there should be a “manual” button or knob somewhere on the dash to advance the track / radio station.  It would mean being able to keep eyes on the road a little better.  Finally, when the right-side cam is activated via turn signal, you can’t do anything with the audio system unless you hit the Home or Audio button to go back to that screen.
  • Anonymity – This is on the bad list, just like it’s on the good list.  Since I was driving a Civic, I started noticing Civics, and, they’re everywhere.  I guess that goes back to the fact that Honda is selling over 30,000 of them every single month.  I like to stand out a little more.

Main takeaways:

For a comfortable, tech-packed compact commuter, it’s tough to do much better.  The Civic is economical without being completely uninspiring.  It looks good both coming and going, the connectivity is modern, and the chassis is nimble and precise.

As an enthusiast, I need a little more engagement from the powertrain – quicker off-the-line swiftness and more tangible connection with how the engine is revving and when.  Perhaps there’s a way to configure an Si model (manual, please) in a way that blends everything I like about the latest Civic into one package.  I’d say go ILX for about the same price, but the ILX doesn’t have a stick anymore.

For now, I am happy to recommend this car to anyone who wants a compact car with exceptional bang for the buck and effortless reliability.  A little anonymity on the streets isn’t always a bad thing either.  The sheriff will never even see you coming.

Video:

Beating the Heat: Mogollon Rim Campout + SLX & RL Updates

Posted in Arizona, ILX, RL, Road Trip, SLX on September 2, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  218,415

Trip Distance:  250 Miles

I’ve left town every weekend for the last 6 weeks.  Exhausted doesn’t begin to describe how I feel.  But when it comes to making the most out of my summer, I live by a motto my mom emphasizes:  Carpe diem!  For this past weekend’s excursion, I ventured to the Sitgreaves National Forest in the mountain ranges about 2.5 hours northeast of Phoenix.  It’s a spot where temperatures typically range about 20 or more degrees cooler than the Phoenix valley.

Four friends and I found a great campsite just off Young Road, a couple of miles down a narrow dirt road that overlooked the Mogollon Rim and offered fantastic views to the south.  We set up camp and stoked the fire, then cooked burgers & brats over the flames.  Nobody had any particularly good ghost stories to tell as dusk fell, but we spent a good chunk of time proposing potential names for my friend Adam’s soon-to-be new dog.  More to come on what he ended up deciding.

We managed to avoid any run-ins with local wildlife, and the overnight low dipped to a pleasant 60 degrees.  Woody whipped up some delicious breakfast burritos with ham, bacon, and green salsa for breakfast the following morning.  All too soon, it was time to pack up the site and head back down to civilization.  The ILX fared well on the dirt road, though high grass in the median occasionally tickled the undercarriage due to ground clearance issues.

Thanks for coming along!

Camp all set up

Evening sunset looking south across the Mogollon Rim

Breakfast is served!

A relaxed Saturday morning

Soaking in the view

Headed out toward Payson, then Phoenix

Turning 218,000 miles

The vehicle I probably should have taken on this trip is the 1996 SLX.  I’m still getting comfortable with it – trying to gain a little more confidence in its roadworthiness.  I actually took a 350-mile road trip with it on Saturday, including a stop in a little mining town called Superior about 70 miles east of Phoenix.  It did great!

I like this old dealership.  Maybe a good investment as a place to store / display cars for someone?

I rolled 140,000 miles on the way home.

I also spent some time this weekend working on the RL.  Here’s an update video I filmed today, illustrating current condition and recent maintenance.  The engine bay got a detailing!

Hope the holiday weekend treated you well!

“Car Week” 2019 in Monterey, CA: Type S Concept, Japanese Automotive Invitational

Posted in California, Legend, TLX on August 20, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  217,821

Every week for me is a “car week,” right?  As I motored along Highway 101 near San Jose, California last Thursday afternoon in my rental Dodge Caravan, I spotted this beauty:

It was meant to be.  That Alabaster Silver 2007-08 TL Type-S (and my formerly-owned blue one) was the last of its kind.  When the TL was redesigned for the 2009 model year (its “fourth generation”), the Type-S nameplate was retired.  Now a decade later in 2019, it’s about to make a comeback.  And the event I was headed to was specifically to celebrate the rebirth and to showcase what the Type-S of the future will look like.

The Carmel Valley Lodge just outside Monterey is an exquisite country club that hosted a private reception for Acura senior leaders, designers, and invited guests for the unveil of the “Type S Concept” – a highly talked about model that reflects the brand’s return to an emphasis on sportiness and performance.

Matt Sloustcher, Public Relations, and Jon Ikeda, Vice President, kicked off the commentary from the podium next to the concept car which had a sheet over it at the time.  At 7:00, the dramatic unveil was carried out and the crowd responded with a hearty applause.

Ikeda described this type of reveal being “Like having a designer’s pants pulled off; all of a sudden everyone sees everything and it causes anxiety about what kind of reaction they’ll have.”  I liked that analogy.  Ben Davidson, lead designer for the Type S, shared a few insights over the mic about what inspired him during the development process.  (Ben is pictured at far left below).

I was honored to be among the attendees to get a first in-person glimpse of the car which had been revealed in electronic media form just a day prior.  It had a nice presence – new signature “chicane” headlamp and taillamp design, a grille inspired from the Precision concept car, and of course the Type S badging on both front and rear.  I’ll be anxious to see when and how the Type S concept is transformed into a production car in the coming months and years.

This was our group from the NSXCA along with some of the Acura leadership team.

The Type S was on display the following day at the Quail.  I didn’t make it out for that, but it looked like an impressive display!

Another highlight of my weekend was getting to attend the second-annual “Japanese Automotive Invitational” in Pebble Beach.  The Infiniti and Lexus brands are turning 30 years old this year, and Motor Trend partnered with Infiniti to celebrate and recognize the milestone by bringing together a carefully curated field of vehicles for spectator enjoyment.  Last year my Integra GS-R was there.  One of the vehicles on display this year was my 1994 Legend GS sedan that I’ve had for 11 years now.  It looked good out there.

On the final day of my Monterey visit, I made my first visit to the WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca.  I’d heard of Laguna Seca many times before, but this time – thanks to an “alumni” event sponsored by Bring a Trailer – I had a reason to pay a visit.  My minivan was definitely the lamest vehicle in the spectator parking lot, but that was okay.  I got to see & shake hands with some of my heroes from the BaT community including Zac Beatty who has been with the site since its early days.

All too soon, it was time to work my way to the San Jose airport but before boarding my flight, I made one more visit.  I stopped by the home of my friend Kevin who’s a die-hard 2G Integra fan.  Kevin currently has two of them.  He and his wife (and pets!) were extremely hospitable for my drop-in.

The “Car Week” festivities never seem to disappoint.  It was rewarding to get to reconnect with old friends, make a few new ones, and witness firsthand what the future holds for automotive design.  Thanks for coming along for the adventure!

Acura-themed bevvies!

Hanging with Andrew from Acura Public Relations, and his wife Katie

Type S looking mean and muscular

My coworker said the headlights reminded her of Knight Rider

With Marcus from HeelToe Automotive

Marcus, and Jon Ikeda

Visiting with friends who were about to send their 1979 Mercury Bobcat (named “Bob”) to auction

Infiniti display at Pebble Beach for the Japanese Automotive Invitational

My friend Greg’s Datsun

Coffee named “Q45”!

Classic Car Forum at the Inn at Spanish Bay, with remarks from leaders from Mazda, Acura, Lexus, and Infiniti

Night out in Monterey with Jay and Chris

Type-R sighting at Laguna Seca