Archive for October, 2015

Last Leg in the Million Mile Lexus: Willcox, Arizona to Los Angeles, California

Posted in California, Legend, Road Trip on October 26, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (LS400):  922,607


Total Driven Miles in LS400:  1,383


The eagle has landed:  I’ve returned the LS400 to its proud and rightful owner, Matt, in Los Angeles.  His first words when I met up with him:  “The car is dope, right?”  Yes, Matt!  It’s dope.  And I’m glad I got to spend some time putting miles on it.

Sunday morning, I peeked out of the window of the Super 8 in Willcox and was greeted by a gorgeous 59-degree day.  We treated ourselves to fresh waffles in the lobby and a little OJ, then decided to snag a few pictures at an abandoned Chevrolet dealership on the main street through the old part of Willcox on Haskell Road.  So, the Mazda, Lexus, and Acura lined up for a photo out front as if to say, “Has any Chevrolet ever gone as far as we have?”


Just to the side of the dealership was the carcass of a 1959 Chevy station wagon, still remarkably complete and even with most of the glass intact.  If I were a used car salesman, I’d say, “Clean, one owner!”  The front doors were unlocked so I took a peek inside and probably would have taken a seat if the interior of the car hadn’t been covered in rubble.  I did manage to get a closer look at the gauge cluster but couldn’t make out an odometer reading.  Either way, I’m fairly certain that the odometer would have only displayed 5 digits.  In which case, in Lexus terms, it would have rolled over 9 times.


James L and I split ways from Jason & James Z, then headed westward on I-10 toward Tucson, then Phoenix.  Luckily traffic was light, weather was beautiful, and roads were clear.  We did make just one pit stop off Wilmot road, Exit 269, to meet up with my new friends Chris & Josh who brought their Acura Legends out for a quick meet-up in the Chevron parking lot.  Both of them drive 1991 Legends in rare “Golden Glow Pearl” paint color.  Chris has a coupe with just 91,000 miles on it, and Josh has a sedan with 138,000 miles on it.  Both are extremely passionate about their cars and I was honored they would take the time to swing by and let me take a closer look at them.


Home sweet home in Scottsdale, I responded to some ‘fanmail’ from a The Smoking Tire follower named Kai who’d seen on Instagram that the famous LS400 was in Arizona.  I invited him to come over and check the car out.  What blew me away was that Kai’s LS400 – a 1997 model but pretty much a twin to the #MML – was in phenomenal shape for 254,000 miles on the odometer.  I invited him to take a spin in the ol’ Farah-mobile, but only if he agreed to fill out a logbook page about his experience, and he happily obliged.


My friend Tom stopped by as well on a business trip from Connecticut – bearing gifts, no less!  He showed up with a goodie bag full of tools from the local auto parts store.  He and I took the Lexus out to meet up with friends for dinner.  Thanks, Tom!


Woot woot, gift basket of tools from Tom.  “Legend survival kit,” he called it.


Monday morning was a typical work commute to the office 10 miles away in Scottsdale, except that I was driving a car that had been to the moon, and back, and to the moon again, and almost back again. I was the first person in the parking lot.  A coworker sent me an instant message later that morning, because he knows that’s “my” parking spot.  He asked if I was driving the Million Mile Lexus and wanted to know the whole story about it, which I happily provided.


I took off early in the afternoon today for the 400-mile return trip to LA from Phoenix and it was a drama-free experience – just like I’d wanted it to be.  Huge thanks to Matt from The Smoking Tire for entrusting me with his prized LS400 over the past several days!


Other pics follow:

The 1959 Chevy Wagon from Willcox




Hacienda Motel on Haskell Street in Willcox has been closed for some time now


Meet up with the Golden Glow Legends and their owners


Chris’ odometer reading on his 1991 coupe


Josh’s odometer reading on his 1991 sedan


Kai’s 1997 Lexus LS400 and the Million Mile Lexus


Kai’s odometer reading


Thanks guys for meeting up!

Million Mile Lexus, Meet Arizona: Road Trip to Chiricahua National Monument

Posted in Arizona, Legend, Milestones, Road Trip on October 25, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  539,421


Odometer (LS400):  922,121


Trip Distance:  466 Miles



I held up the worn-out key to Matt Farah’s 1996 Lexus LS400 at “The Dining Car,” a BBQ restaurant inside a train car in teeny Willcox, Arizona.  It was a town of 3,600 people – “The Cattle Capital of the World” (so they say) – and 80 miles from the nearest Lexus service center in Tucson.  “Who wants to take the LS next?”  I asked.  I got two different reactions from the group.  Jack kind of shied away like I’d asked if anyone wanted to dog-sit for a week.  Jason, on the other hand, piped up enthusiastically, “I’ll take it!”

And with that, the 921,000-mile Lexus added another driver to its list of likely hundreds of pilots who had helped get it to that milestone.  Jason’s 37 mile drive from there to Chiricahua National Monument was (as he described it) bouncy, but uneventful.


Chiricahua National Monument covers 18 square miles in remote southeastern Arizona.  It’s known for its vertical rock formations, believed to to be the remains of a volcanic eruption millions of years ago.  The monument was set aside 91 years ago but it is far less-traveled than many of Arizona’s other natural wonders.  It’s almost as if the Grand Canyon steals the show and many of these smaller parks go unappreciated.  I know for a fact that I’ve lived in the state for 10 years now and hadn’t even heard of this one until just a few months ago.


It was a perfect day for road tripping on Saturday morning, October 24th.  Jack, James, Chandler, and I headed out from Phoenix in roughly 1.6 million miles’ worth of cars:  The 1994 Legend, 1996 LS400, and a 2000 Toyota Tacoma.  Luckily we had two-way radios (or would it be three-way, since each vehicle had one) on-hand for the duration of our 233-mile trip to Willcox so we were able to pass the time by bantering back and forth.  James was the first to give the LS400 a whirl.  “Make sure you check out the power seat belt height adjusters on that thing,” I advised.  “Oh, trust me.  I already did,” he responded.  “I’m like a toddler hitting all these buttons.”


Jason and James Z (another James) from Las Cruces, New Mexico met up with us in Willcox just in time for lunch.  The service was top-tier at The Dining Car, but James L didn’t have much positive to say about his rubbery rack of ribs.  Our next jaunt was to the entrance to the national monument — extremely remote and only accessible via some twisty two-lane back road sections of Highway 186 that go where no T-Mobile cell signal has ever gone before.  Sorry, James L, that you were out of cell phone range for virtually the entire day.  It’s no wonder we passed a blue sign stating NO SERVICES shortly after hanging a left onto Highway 181 for the last couple of miles.  This was not the place to be worried about reliability of your car, let alone one with nearly a million miles on it.


The attendants at the Visitor Center were kind enough to draw out some instructions on a folded map.  They asked if we’d be driving or hiking.  “A little of both,” I told her.  We learned about a 6-mile scenic drive that would take us past rock formations called Organ Pipe, Sea Captain, and China Boy.  She also gave us directions to a 3-mile and a 7-mile hike.  And we were off!  Back in tandem, now 4 cars strong with Jason’s 2004 Mazda 6 in the mix, we climbed in elevation to the final roundabout at “Massai Point,” at 6,870 feet.  The wind was gusty but the skies were beautiful and we hiked around on the nature trail enjoying panoramic views.  Jack and Chandler got feeling exceptionally brave and dangled their legs off a steep cliff.  We also subjected ourselves to Jack’s selfie stick for a group shot.


The afternoon was full of scenery as we made our way around the national monument, snapping pictures and capturing a little GoPro video along the way, too.  My favorite part of the hike was “The Grotto” where we could actually climb through a cavern of sorts created by all the rhyolite rocks coming together.


At 4:30 p.m., we set out on a hike up to a fire lookout station that’s on the National Register of Historic Places.  It was a steep and rocky trail originally blazed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.  From the vantage point at the top, administrators could view on a clear day for more than 50 miles in any direction.  I hurried back down the hill and made it to the parking lot just in time for dusk.  Then we rallied back into our Japanese high-milers and returned to Willcox.


When I asked the front desk attendant at our Super 8 motel for dinner recommendations, I said, “What about that Rix’s Tavern on Haskell Avenue?”  “You have to cook your own steak there,” he said.  Oh.  Well, forget that!  We instead went to Isabel’s South of the Border, a Mexican place with great tacos and some of the tastiest horchata I’ve ever had.  I chugged two glasses at $3 each and it was worth it.

Here are the pics from this segment of the trip!  The final leg – and a short video – await you on the next go-round.

See you then!

NSX making a new friend


Tyson, Jack, Chandler, and James at Chevron pre-departure from Phoenix


Driving Jack’s truck with the Legend + LS in my rearview


Here comes that luxo-barge, now!


Getting close – just 33 to go until Willcox


Rare view, getting to see my own car when it’s on the roll.


Arrival in Willcox… otherwise known as…


… “Cattle Capital of the World.”  Okay!


Lunch spot at The Dining Car / Big Tex BBQ


Inside it’s pretty much what you’d expect from food inside a rail car.


Jason meets the LS400 just prior to his 40-mile test-drive


My sign in at the Chiricahua Nat’l Monument guest register


Park attendants showing us the lay of the land


Heading on up the scenic highway


Views for days!


Lexus + Legend at the Massai Nature Trail parking area


Let’s go hiking!


Awesome rock formations throughout the area


Tyson, Jack, Chandler, James Z, Jason


Heading out on the nature trail


Jack perched on top of a rock way in the distance there


Scenery all around.  This remote area was free of excessive tourist traffic, which I loved.


Acura, Mazda, Lexus, touring about the area


And some more


Evening hike on the Sugarloaf trail to 7,310 feet in elevation


Fire watch station at the summit of Sugarloaf, with Chandler


James L’s photo of the vehicles in the parking lot


And a great shot he captured of the Lexus’ rear


Best time of day to drive!


Dinner at Isabel’s South of the Border.  Colorful place, tasty food.


See you again soon!

I just picked up a Lexus with 921,000 miles

Posted in Arizona, California on October 23, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (LS400):  921,619


Odometer (Legend):  538,882


Odometer (ILX):  144,325


Trip Distance:  395 Miles


What better way to explore the sights & sounds of the Grand Canyon State than behind the wheel of a vehicle that’s traveled the circumference of the globe 36 times?  Have a seat in your fine leather saddle, buckle up, and let’s take a trip back in time while discovering one of Arizona’s many natural wonders:  Chiricahua National Monument.  I’m taking you there tomorrow in a special car.


In 1986, Honda took a massive gamble on the prospect of whether people would pay a premium price for a Japanese luxury sedan.  Launched originally under the code name “Channel 2,” the Acura brand took hold in the hearts and minds of consumers with its Legend and Integra models; the formula worked.  The Legend model alone (first generation model pictured above) ended up selling over 477,000 units over its 10-year production span, before it became the RL which sadly faded into nothingness.


Toyota and Nissan saw what was happening and wanted a piece of the pie.  Enter Lexus and Infiniti with their LS400 and Q45 respectively (Q45 pictured above) for the 1990 model year.  Those models took the Legend idea and extended it even further – adding 2 additional cylinders compared to the Legend’s V6 and incorporating rear-wheel-drive to really sweeten the pot for buyers-to-be.  This was a heyday for all three automakers. 1995 brought us Forrest Gump, Braveheart and “All I Wanna Do,” by Sheryl Crow.  Life was good.  And though I was but a wee 14-year-old, I already had an appreciation for fine automobiles.  The LS400 was one of them.  I even owned this diecast 1:18 scale version of said car:


Forever emblazoned in my teenage memory was this Lexus LS400 commercial, where someone in Marketing had the bright idea of stacking 15 champagne glasses on the car’s hood, putting the car on a dyno, and driving at the equivalent of 145 miles per hour to see if the glasses would topple.  They didn’t.  And that level of refinement is exactly what sold the LS in vast numbers.

The LS got its second generation for the 1995 model year, adding 10 horsepower to the 4.0 liter V8 powerplant to make it 260 in total.  A four-speed automatic transmission pushed power to the ground, exactly half as many gears as the car’s successor the LS460 has today, some 20 years later.  Speaking of 20 years later:  Let’s cut to the chase.  Today, I’ve been tooling around in a 1996 Lexus LS400 that has nearly twice the miles as my Legend coupe.  Just when I got feeling like a hot shot, Matt Farah of The Smoking Tire had to put me in my place.


It was December 2014 when Matt bought this Florida-owned, 897,000-mile piece of automotive history from an ad on Craigslist.  He saw it as an opportunity to relive his early driving days when he owned a similar car, but he also saw it as a story in the making.  Over the past 10 months, he’s been passing the keys around to that old Lexus to journalists all over the west coast.  It’s racked up another 20,000 or so miles exploring the countryside.  So I saw fit to reach out to Matt about giving the old girl a taste of Arizona, and we made it happen.  Matt, thanks for entrusting me with your luxo-ride!


When I first saw the LS this morning at Matt’s warehouse in Los Angeles, I was overly critical.  “That marker light is a little out of place.  The center caps on the wheels are scuffed.  It’s missing the ‘L’ emblem from its trunk lid.”  Then Matt started it up.  At first crank, the 4.0 liter V8 took life.  Not a single puff of smoke.  Without a moment of hesitation, and the car just purred like a kitten.  With 921,223 miles on the odometer!  Now, I didn’t care so much what it looked like.  This car was a miracle on four tires, and I was about to spend four days behind the wheel of it.  Excited?  Nah, I was ecstatic.



I drove the car initally like it was some fragile ancient artifact that would crumble if you breathed on it too hard.  I let the transmission shift at 2,500 RPM.  I applied the brakes ever-so-gently.  I refrained from any sudden movements of the steering wheel.  Basically, I drove like a freaking Sunday driver in a 1996 Lexus LS400 would be expected to drive.  And slowly it became apparent that I could ease up a bit and drive under normal behavior.

There’s no better way to put any car through its paces than to subject it to some grueling Los Angeles traffic, and that I did.  Interstate 10 eastbound, even at midday on a Friday, was a mess of stop and go.  In fact, I didn’t even get to full freeway speed until a full SIXTY MILES from where I picked up the car.  I breathed a sigh of relief when I finally confirmed – thank goodness – that the cruise control works, and I was able to sit back and enjoy that plush leather seat and soft ride without the chaotic freeway circus around me.


So here’s where I really started to fall in love with that Lexus.  Sure, the check engine light was on, and sure, only the front two speakers were working.  But Matt had handed me a plastic bag just prior to departure from LA stating, “Oh yeah, and here are some cassette tapes for the drive.”  What was inside the tape player?  U2.  Perfect.


And I just couldn’t get over how nice the car smelled.  Isn’t that weird?  For a car that’s been lived in for such good chunk of its life?  It smelled good.  So, safely and soundly I completed my first 400 miles with the #MillionMileLexus.  Come back for more soon 🙂

Matt’s send-off with an Instagram post


Photo-op in Desert Center, CA.  The sign says 24-Hour Service.  This place is shut down 100%.


As is the cafe.  Nothing but dust bunnies in there!


The Lexus looking ready for its next 216 miles eastward.


Welcome to the Grand Canyon State!


Dusk and approaching Scottsdale


Much more to come!  Stay tuned!

2015 Japanese Classic Car Show (80’s & 90’s Era) in Torrance, California

Posted in California, Car Show, Legend, Road Trip on October 19, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  538,825


Odometer (ILX):  143,838


Trip Distance:  784 Miles


“Do you ever take a break?  You are full throttle!”  That was a valid comment yesterday from my friend Marc in Austin.  It’s been a little bit tough to pin me down lately.  Sometimes I wake up in a motel room wondering just briefly what city I’m in.  On Sunday morning, that city was Torrance, California.  My friend Rustin – who’s one of only a handful of people granted access to my location at all times via his smartphone – saw that I was hanging out at Toyota’s campus and his first text message of the day was:  “I won’t tell Acura.”


Many of my blog followers probably enjoy looking at vintage cars as much as I do – Especially those that hail from Japan.  It wasn’t 10 minutes after the conclusion to the 12th annual ALV awards program, and I was starting my trip to California – yet again – for a car event with a different purpose:  the Japanese Classic Car Show (JCCS).


The last time I went to JCCS it was for the 2014 program in Long Beach at the Queen Mary ship.  This version of the JCCS was a little different from that one.  While the JCCS event at the Queen Mary caters to pre-1985 automobiles, the “Neo Classic” show – new this year – invites participants who drive 1980s and 1990s cars.  Those decades I consider more “my” generation of cars.  My first Japanese car was my beloved 1989 Prelude Si, so from a young age, I have had an appreciation for vehicles of that era.

So once again I hit the open road in the tried & true Legend and headed out on my ~400-mile drive to the west coast via Interstate 10.


The show was one of the best-organized I’ve ever attended.  “Load-in” was easy and the parking was not only pre-assigned, but there were highly visible volunteers directing traffic to designated areas.  I arrived at the same time as my friend Chris who drives an immaculate 1986 Honda Prelude with fewer than 50,000 miles on its odometer.  Throughout the day, I ran into old friends and made a few new ones.  Surrounding me was a parking lot full of cars from the last two decades of the 1900s:  An entire section dedicated to Toyota Supras, at least a dozen Nissan 300ZXs, and of course a Civic and Accord from almost every generation.  Sprinkled into the mix were a few especially well-preserved examples, like this immaculate 1990 Lexus LS400 driven by a father-son pair.


Serenaded by a DJ who played period-appropriate tunes like Billy Joel and George Michael, my friends and I wandered the grounds and enjoyed the sights and sounds of some of Japan’s greatest creations.  By 11:00 a.m., it was time to indulge in Taco Truck grub, and it wasn’t long after that when my friend Brett from Huntington Beach arrived.  As Brett and I were admiring the R/C car “drift track,” a familiar face lined up next to us:  Penny!  Penny is a long-time Legend forum member who hails from Orange County and who I’ve known for the better part of a decade.  She joined us for a walk over to the Toyota Automobile Museum next door on Van Ness Rd.  (More on that later!)


I spent very little time at or near my car all day, but I did hear a few comments from people and saw a handful of passers-by taking a photo here and there.  One guy who now drives a Nissan Skyline commented, “I had one of these and I should’ve never sold it!”  Another guy said, “I’ve seen this car on YouTube!”  A few other special guests arrived throughout the course of the afternoon, including fellow Legend club members Mark and Raul who both drive second-generation sedans.  They each invited me to take a peek at their rides and it was an honor to be granted an exclusive tour.  Raul’s 1995 sedan had 166,000 miles on the odometer and Matt’s 1992 had 222,000.



Thanks, guys, for coming out to say hello!  Keep me in the loop on those upcoming west coast meet-ups.  By 2:30 p.m., the skies had cleared a bit and I was glad for my SPF 50 sunscreen.  One of the show administrators took the stage / mic and announced the first, second, and third place award recipients in each category.  Chris won a well-deserved Second Place for his Prelude!  I hit the road westbound and headed home shortly after the conclusion of the show.  You know you’re in LA when you describe your route like this:

I took the 110 to the 405 to the 22 to the 55 to the 91 to the 215 to the 60 to the 10.  That was seriously my route!  I arrived in scenic Desert Center, California just in time for a couple of quick sunset photos.  The drive home was uneventful – and that’s just the way I like it to be when I’m driving a car with 538,000 miles on it.


Here are the rest of my photos from this quick out-and-back car show trip!

Setting up


Mattel / Hot Wheels Designer Ryu Asada and his NSX.  He also attended NSXPO.


Accords and Integras in this area.


My friend Armando’s immaculate Subaru SVX which I’ve featured before.


Supra Parking Only.


This 1989 Prelude 2.0 Si reminded me so much of my first Honda!  This one only had 68,000 miles on it.


Crazy-clean 40,000 mile 1986 Civic Si right here.


… Complete with cassette tapes on display!


Here’s Chris’ award-winning Prelude.


I love the simplicity of those analog gauges.


Nissan Skyline area.


An NSX joined the party later in the day.  I didn’t get the chance to meet that guy.


Chris, Armando, Tyson.  Notice:  Each of us had on appropriate apparel.  Chris was wearing his Prelude shirt, Armando had his SVX one, and I was wearing my shirt from the recent National Acura Legend Meet (NALM) in Houston.


“Family Photo” with my Legendary friends.  Left to right:  Mark, Raul, Tyson, Penny, Brett.


Pit stop in the Palm Springs area to make a delivery to my friend Scott who has a 34,000 mile Legend (background).


My photos from the Desert Center offramp.  Nothing fancy here!




And lastly, just a couple pictures from our look inside the Toyota USA Museum.


Right off the bat – one of Toyota’s finest!  The Avalon!


Long lineup of Lexus models, each with just a few miles on the odometer.


I’ve always loved these old Toyota pickups.  This 1989 showed 30,000 miles on the odometer.


And Toyota’s (or, at the time, Toyopet’s) first passenger car for sale in the USA.


It’s no wonder that a car this size was considered underpowered with only 60 horsepower.


Short vid:

2015 Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year (ALV) Awards – Chandler, Arizona

Posted in Arizona, Vehicle Reviews on October 17, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  538,420


Odometer (ILX):  143,798


Let’s get a little mud on the tires!


There are so many “vehicle of the year” contests in the world today that it’s sometimes tough to keep track.  This one in particular is unique in that instead of vehicles being evaluated by automotive journalists alone, the ballots are cast by the end users who actually plan on putting the vehicles to work for their designed purposes.  For 4 years now, I’ve joined forces with Event Co-Founder Nina Russin of to put the event together each October.  This year, we also engaged the efforts of Test Driven TV’s own Sam Haymart, who played an instrumental role.


The Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year (ALV) program has now concluded its 12th season, bringing automobiles and athletes together with the intent of identifying exactly which new (or significantly improved) vehicles in today’s marketplace are optimal for someone who has demanding needs and an active lifestyle.  We’re talking about the outdoorsy people – triathletes, ball players, kayakers and adventure-seekers of any type.  They’re rating vehicles based on things like all-weather capability, ease of using climate control functions with gloves, hauling capacity, ease of loading, and many other criteria unique to this demographic.

Here are my write-ups on ALV programs of years prior:

With each year, the size and scope of the event grow and what once started as just a handful of athletes getting together to review some new cars has now turned into a full two-day event that draws over 60 athletes, many of whom are elite competitors in their respective sports.  Also on the guest list are several retired NFL football players and media representatives from local agencies.

ALV 2015 kicked off on Friday with a “Media Day” for credentialed journalists who wanted to come see & experience the vehicles that were entered this year.  Some 20 vehicles were set up in the parking lot of our host facility, the historic San Marcos Crowne Plaza in downtown Chandler, Arizona.  The following day, we had about 60 athletes come on-site for the ride-and-drive.  Meet my team:

  • Rear:  Tyson, Chuck, Paul
  • Front:  Jack, Alan, Matt, Chandler
  • Not pictured:  Mike


We were assigned to evaluate the following four “URBAN” vehicles, each of which stickered at < $25,000:


Fiat 500X:

  •  Base MSRP: $20,000
  • Horsepower: 180 Hp @ 6400 rpm
  • Torque: 175 lbs.-ft. @ 3900 rpm
  • Off-road: No
  • Towing: No
  • Bicycle friendly: Yes
  • Fuel economy: 21/31 mpg city/highway (FWD)


Scion iA:

  • Base MSRP: $15,700
  • Horsepower: 106 Hp @ 6000 rpm
  • Torque: 103 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
  • Off-road: No
  • Bicycle friendly: No
  • Towing: No
  • Fuel economy: 31/41 mpg city/highway


Scion iM:

  • Base MSRP: $18,460
  • Horsepower: 137 Hp @ 6100 rpm
  • Torque: 126 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
  • Off-road: No
  • Bicycle friendly: Yes
  • Towing: No
  • Fuel economy: 27/36 mpg city/highway


Kia Soul:

  •  Base MSRP: $15,900
  • Horsepower: 164 Hp @ 6400 rpm
  • Torque: 151 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
  • Off-road: No
  • Bicycle friendly: yes
  • Towing: No
  • Fuel economy: 24/31 mpg city/highway

Each car had its own merits, but in the end, the Kia Soul took home the prize in this segment for various reasons.  The most important reason, I think, was its power delivery.  In a class of vehicles that are clearly economy-minded, the Kia definitely felt like it had the best power.  “This one actually gets up and goes,” Jack said when he took the Loop 202 onramp for the freeway portion of the drive route.  Additional niceties that put it at the top of its group were the large panoramic sunroof and the best-in-class stereo.

Other winners for this year’s ALV program were as follows:

  • Best Value On-Road:  Mitsubishi Outlander
  • Best Value Off-Road:  Ford F-150
  • Best Value Family:  Ford Edge
  • Luxury On-Road:  Mercedes-Benz GLE450
  • Luxury Off-Road:  Jeep Grand Cherokee

More photos follow!  First, with journalist and fellow ALV Jury Panel member Sue Mead


Dave Lee from Toyota discusses the new 2016 Tacoma


Alex Fedorak from Mitsubishi talks about the new Outlander


Darryll Harrison from VW introduces the Jetta GLI.


This one was fun!  It had a 6-speed manual.



Nicole Ellan from agreed.


Nissan’s newly-redesigned Titan even made an appearance!


The GMC Canyon Diesel came dressed to impress in all sorts of gear-hauling equipment.  The off-road category was exceptionally competitive.


Fleet coordinator Carrie Owens had her work cut out for her.


PAPA (Phoenix Automotive Press Association) members Kyle & Zac Baker took the Jeep Renegade for a spin.


ALV Planning Committee at last night’s banquet dinner


My team learning about the Kia Soul before starting the driving portion of the event


Chuck taking the wheel in the Scion iA


Don Connors from Toyota teaching us about the Scion iM


Ludacris’ Legend Restoration for SEMA Show in Las Vegas; Final NALM Pics

Posted in Legend, NALM, Vigor on October 14, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  538,010


Odometer (ILX):  143,674


“That’s Ludacris!”  It’s a well-known fact that rapper, entrepreneur, and actor Ludacris has had a special bond with his car from the very early days of his career.  I’ve posted about Luda’s car before, right around the same time his latest album “Ludaversal” hit the airwaves.


After a recent run-in that left the right rear quarter panel crunched, and thanks to a couple decades (and over 250,000 miles) of wear and tear, that old 1993 L sedan had seen better days.  Acura has swooped in and seen this as a great opportunity to restore a Legend, for a legend.  The car will be unveiled at a press conference during the Specialty Equipment Manufacturer Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas, the first week of November.  I plan on being there to see the finished product!

Here is a link to the official press release.  You can follow the build progress in social media by watching for the hashtag #LegendaryDuo.


Another Legend, belonging to one of our club members, got posted on Monday on Bring a Trailer.  Pretty nice to see appreciation from the automotive community for a rare and well-kept example:


I recently got ahold of some final edits taken by Event Photographer Daniel Stir at the 11th annual National Acura Legend Meet a few weeks ago in Houston.  Feast your eyes!


Group shot from Yankee’s Tavern in Carlos, Texas


Group photo full shot


Track day at MSR Houston


Another from track day


Cruising the backroads of the Sam Houston National Forest


The 1991 Legend coupe in Cobalt Blue, owned by Event Director TJ Vetrone


Pack of Desert Mist Metallic Legends, with Dallas-based Jeff Plunk in the lead (I’m second)


More from the group drive


Richards, Texas


I’m sending a special shout-out to my friend and fellow automotive journalist Brendan Saur who wrote a piece on Curbside Classic about the oft-forgotten Acura Vigor, and even included a couple photos of my prized car.  Click the hyperlink to read it!


Busy weekend ahead here (do I ever have one any other way?).  Talk to everyone soon!

NSXPO 2015 in Palm Springs, Part 4: “NSX-tra” Car Show & Return to Phoenix

Posted in California, Car Show, NSX, NSXPO on October 11, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (NSX):  102,757


Trip Distance:  279 Miles


At long last, the event that I’d helped to plan for about a year has reached its conclusion and I must say, it’s been a wild ride.  Here are a couple more photos that surfaced of this year’s NSXPO / 25th anniversary NSX event.  First, our parade lap from Friday at Thermal raceway as captured by Bob Ondrovic.  I was only 3 or 4 cars back in the right hand lane (left as viewed in this image).


Seasoned race veteran Peter Cunningham posted a short video (taken by his copilot) that was filmed while driving my car on yesterday’s 100-mile scenic route.  I was happy to lend him the keys, and he even left it full of fuel for me!  This guy has claimed 91 professional race wins, so I hope he had some fun with my ride.


Closing ceremony last night, as taken from standing at a distance.  Each dinner table was illuminated in a different colored spotlight.  I never got to see the stage from this angle because I was always either backstage helping with something or seated at one of the front-row / reserved tables.


The NSXPO Planning Committee members handing signed group photos to Acura representatives, with Event Director Chris Willson at the mic.


Today’s events were very casual in nature.  Most of our attendees have long drives ahead of them.  Each of the three times I had to get in the elevator at the hotel to return to my room and pick up a few things to pack up my car, I ended up sharing the ride with other folks who were there for the event.  One gentleman was about to embark on his return drive to Vancouver, British Columbia.  A few newcomers joined us on the second floor of the parking garage for an informal car show, including my friend Ramon and his son (who also brought me some delicious cupcakes which I’m holding in this photo).


The casual meet & great was a nice break from the very rigid schedule we had all been abiding by for the previous few days.


Knowing that I had a nearly-5-hour drive home myself, I decided to head eastbound by about 11:00 in the morning, but not before taking a quick photo with my friend Ben Lin.  The photo was necessary since Ben & I both attended the NALM (Legend) event in Houston a few weeks ago, so we wanted to document the fact that we were now again together at a different car-related program, only 1,547 miles away from the last meet-up.  Ben’s 2005 “Silverstone” car has the updated 2002-05 front end.


I also met NSX Club of America member “Dan.”  He’s the proud ORIGINAL owner of a 1991 Formula Red NSX.  Though the paint has faded and the car has over 200,000 miles on the odometer, he has hung onto it for 25 years and doesn’t plan on selling any time soon.  I only wish I’d taken a photo of the 25-sticker-thick stack of registration renewal stickers on his license plate.


I cruised over to Rancho Mirage area and had brunch with my friends James & Daniel who happened to also be in the area.


Couldn’t help but take a photo at this storefront entrance near the JW Marriott property.


Perfect setting for a relaxing Sunday bite to eat.


My 297-mile eastbound return trip to Phoenix on I-10 was uneventful and I honestly didn’t even turn on the radio until about 3 hours into it.  My mind was enjoying the solitude and silence – it needed time to process & download the busy activities of the last several days.  I did happen to pass our HPDE instructor / Sponsorship Director Jim Cozzollino a couple of hours into my drive!  He gave me a wave and I blew past him.


Home sweet home!


Hope you enjoyed the ride over the last few days!

NSXPO 2015 in Palm Springs, Part 3: San Jacinto Mountain Drive & Agua Caliente Closing Banquet / Ceremony

Posted in NSX, NSXPO on October 11, 2015 by tysonhugie

I put over 13,000 miles on NSXs today.  Considering I’d guess about 130 people took today’s 103-mile scenic drive that I helped plan out, that comes out to 13,390 miles.  So – sorry to all those collective NSX owners who have lowered the values of their pristine low-milers on account of me!


It was another “crack of dawn” type of morning for me and it’s been a very busy day on the go.  We’ve just concluded this year’s formal event out here in Palm Springs with exception of an open-to-the-public aspect of NSXPO called “NSX-tra” which will take place tomorrow morning.

Our participants on today’s mountain drive on the Palm to Pines Scenic Byway started lining up in the surface parking lot around 7:30 in the morning.  Prior to today, I had driven this same route a couple of times.

  1. Last October with a couple of friends
  2. In August with fellow NSXPO Planning Committee members

This time, it was the real deal.

My own car was piloted by Peter Cunningham and his wife, so I had the great opportunity to hop onboard with a couple of other gracious drivers who had a passenger seat available.  The first was John in a 1992 Berlina Black model with 110,000 miles on the odometer.  We cruised the 30 miles out to Banning and then re-staged the cars to wait for a couple of the other drive groups to arrive before proceeding up the mountain.


The next car I hopped into was a rare (1 of 50) 1999 “Zanardi” edition NSX owned by Glen Kawano of San Diego.  His car handled the curves amazingly, and I enjoyed getting to know him over the course of the next couple of hours while we made the loop via Highways 243 and 74, back to the host hotel in Rancho Mirage.  Peter took great care of my car and while he was still out and about with it, I made use of his Cadillac SUV rental car!  The timing was perfect because I had to run over to Walmart and pick up some receptacles for raffle tickets.  It just so happened that the most suitable (and cost efficient solution) was to buy 26 blue plastic pumpkins at $1 apiece.  You should have seen the looks people were giving me as I rolled through the checkout line with a heaping cart full of blue pumpkins.


LA Prep arrived to get some cars loaded up on the stage for the evening’s show, so I gave them a hand with load-in.  We arranged the Zanardi NSX, the new NSX, the RealTime Racing NSX, and a club member’s car (an all-original 1993 that had driven the farthest @ over 3,000 miles from NY).  Our cocktail hour and vendor merchandising show kicked off at 4:00 p.m., and doors opened to the banquet hall at 7:00.  Our attendees were treated to a feast for the ears, eyes, and tastebuds for the rest of the evening.  NSXPO director Chris Willson kicked off the ceremony with a few words, and then the curtains opened to show the gleaming cars on stage while a dramatic 2-minute Acura “brand” video played on the huge screens flanking the stage and the spotlights danced around energetically.  It was awesome.


Our keynote speakers were Michael Cao, Acura Interior Design Project Lead, Ted Klaus, Large Project Leader for the new NSX, and Peter Cunningham, award-winning race champion over his 30-year career with the RealTime Racing team.  During this same time, dinner service was provided.  I had to laugh when Peter gestured to the racecar behind him.  “Well, the right rear quarter panel on that car is original,” he started, “but the rest has been through a lot.”  We took a short intermission after Peter’s comments and gave people one last chance to buy raffle tickets for the $30,000 in prizes to be given away.  Jim Cozzolino took the stage to draw tickets for 26 prices, the biggest of which were a $2,500 clutch from Exedy and a $3k set of Rays wheels.


The conclusion of the show was the presentation of signed & framed posters featuring all the attendees grouped around the cars (the photo that was taken on Thursday night at the air museum).  Recipients of the posters were Ted Klaus, John Watts, and Peter Cunningham.  I must say it was an honor to spend the evening among the likes of such high class people.  The level of camaraderie and respect has been extremely evident throughout this entire event.

Staging for the morning’s drive


Riding with Glen in his Zanardi.  Check those driving gloves!



View from the cockpit


At 6,000 feet in elevation, it was THIRTY degrees cooler than we had yesterday at the track in Thermal!


Twisties on Highway 74


Back at the hotel with Glen


Helping the LA Prep crew unload the new NSX and other show cars for the stage


Getting things situated


Jon Ikeda, head of Acura Division, and Jessica Fini, National Public Relations Manager


Senior Manager John Watts displays some of Acura’s wares at the merchandising booth in the lobby


Tables inside the banquet hall were spotlit in different colors


Peter Cunningham at the mic


Ryu Asada – NSX owner and Mattel employee.  He designed the Hot Wheels NSX!


With Ben and Graeme – these guys are my Legend brothers.  The 3 of us all have Legends & NSXs.


And lastly, our NSXPO Planning Committee, minus NSXCA Liaison John Komar.  These guys have been amazing to work with.


NSXPO 2015 in Palm Springs, Part 2: The Thermal Club Raceway & The Living Desert Museum

Posted in California, NSX, NSXPO on October 9, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (NSX):  102,350


An exclusive members-only track facility called The Thermal Club opened its doors for our NSX owners today!


General Manager Brent was happy to roll out the red carpet for our event, and we graciously accepted the invitation.  We had a day of hot weather and even hotter cars.  Somehow, we managed to make the most of our day before the oven – it was 102 degrees Fahrenheit when I left the track in the early afternoon – really started getting to us.  My day started off with a 4:30 a.m. departure from the Agua Caliente host hotel for a 40-minute drive to the racetrack.

I recognized some jewel eye MDX headlights in my rearview mirror, so I knew the vehicle behind me must’ve been full of Acura folks — and, indeed it was.  Over the next hour or so, we offloaded a TLX, an MDX, the RealTime Racing NSX, and the new black NSX from a huge transport truck that had brought them.  Our general attendees started arriving around 6:30 a.m. and it was a steady stream of incoming NSXers for awhile.  Our day was kicked off by High Performance Driving Education (HPDE) coordinator Jim Cozzolino, with a few remarks from Event Director Chris Willson as well as from Peter Cunningham.

Our skidpad, autocross, and “South Palm Circuit” tracks opened up for business shortly afterward, and about 40 people cycled through three different “run groups” based on skill level.  I didn’t participate in the performance driving activities, but I’m fairly certain that if I had, I would’ve been with the “Beginner” contingent.  The rest of the morning was filled with that characteristic roar of NSX exhaust in the airwaves and the occasional screech of squealing rubber as the cars and people made the rounds.  Ted Klaus and other key Acura engineering personnel showed up to educate us a little on the new NSX.


One NSX owner – and I’m sorry I can’t even remember his name – took me for a track ride in his Formula Red 1995 car.  It was equipped with a Comptech supercharger, custom exhaust system, and upgraded suspension.  I was reminded of just how well the NSX handles when pushed in a performance driving situation.

Lunch was served at an adjacent shaded pavilion – and thank goodness for those high-powered fans on the perimeter.  The hamburgers and quesadillas were just what the doctor ordered, not to mention the generous availability of waters and Gatorades made available by Thermal track management so nobody in our group got dehydrated.  Around that same time, Peter Cunningham took the wheel of the 2017 NSX – for his first time behind the wheel – and gave ride-alongs to the 3 winners of our charity raffle which raised $2,000 last night.  They had huge grins when exiting the track.

The last logistical challenge of the Thermal event was a parade lap where all 100-someodd cars got on the track at the same time.  In the lead was the new NSX, followed by Jim Cozzolino and Rahul Chopra, then the mass following of regular attendees.  Though speed was low at 15-20 miles per hour max, it was still a surreal feeling to see so many NSXs ahead of, next to me, and behind me.


Dinner was held at The Living Desert, a botanical garden and zoo.  It was the perfect “under the stars” setting for our club members to meet and great one another in a casual, picnic table setting.  Chris spoke a moment about our sponsors, and then I made a few remarks about tomorrow’s 103-mile group drive to the San Jacinto Mountains.  More adventures await!  Come back tomorrow for the finale!

Here are the rest of today’s shots.

Notice the clock in here:  4:47 a.m. and headed to the track.  Yawn!


Unloading the new NSX at the track


Having a seat in the RealTime Racing NSX when we had to move it forward.  Pushed, not started!


TLX lights up the Realtime Racing NSX


Getting things set up in the Acura display as attendees start parking


Driver meeting kick-off at 7:30 a.m.


The cars behind me were prepping for track day


Spectator cars


Mountain views that never get old!


All set for my ride.  Standing with Automobile Magazine author Michael Jordan


New NSX takes to the Thermal track, solo


D’oh!  Had to lay off the pics for a bit!  It got toasty out there.


Paused at the end of the parade for some group photos


New NSX at the front of our group during photos


Burn, baby, burn!


Back at the hotel parking garage.  Nice try, Camry.


Parking at dinner.  One of these things is not like the others!


Dinner venue at The Living Desert


NSXPO 2015 in Palm Springs, Part 1: Air Museum Opening Reception

Posted in California, NSX, NSXPO, Road Trip on October 8, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  537,972


Trip Distance:  279 Miles


I’m broadcasting live from the biggest U.S. gathering of Acura NSX owners in history.


NSXPO, the event that brings NSX fans together year after year, is based this year in sunny Palm Springs, California.  The event opened for registration at the end of May and sold out at 250 tickets in a matter of only about a week’s time.  The level of interest has been unprecedented, and we are geared up for a very busy next few days.  2015 marks a special year in NSX history for a number of reasons.  It’s the 25 year anniversary of the year when the revolutionary NSX first launched.  It also represents a 10-year anniversary of its last year of production.  And finally – after a long-awaited hiatus – the newest iteration of this iconic sportscar has come back stronger than ever.  Acura Division is here to show us its latest creation in all its glory.  You’ve seen it discussed here on Drive to Five a number of times – even as far back as the North American International Auto Show in Detroit nearly 4 years ago, but now it’s finally here in tangible form.

(photo credit:  Bob Ondrovic)


I’m an 11-time NALM veteran but this marks the first time I’ve participated in an NSX gathering of this size and scope.  Best of all, I’ve been able to play a key role in the planning & development of the program.  Our 5-person NSXPO Planning Committee has worked hard for about a year now on putting the pieces together to make this possible, but the rewards have been worth it and we’re thrilled that so many other like-minded fans will appreciate our efforts and enjoy the weekend.

Tonight, we kicked off the festivities with an exclusive event at the Palm Springs Air Museum.  The logistics behind corralling over 160 cars into a parking lot behind and airplane hangar got a little complicated – especially when during a 2-hour window of time we had to check people in, have them sign 3 waivers, get them wristbands for the track day tomorrow, give them “swag bags,” ask them to do some judging for the car show, and keep our sanity together!  But, somehow we made it through and thankfully everyone is being very patient with us as we do our best to keep things on track.

(photo credit:  Bob Ondrovic)


My drive out to Palm Springs was a piece of cake last night.  This morning, we had about 50 people check in early, so that helped put a dent in our remaining headcount for registration.  We had some great volunteers to help us get goodie bags assembled and get credentials in alphabetical order.  Then the onslaught of people started arriving.  While people were outside in the heat trying to get cars parked evenly for a group photo, the rest of us were getting everyone inside the hangar situated with their gear.  When I finally peeked outside, I saw a sea of aluminum:  more NSXs in one place than I’d ever seen before!  A few celebrities arrived, too – including Ted Klaus who is the large project leader on the 2017 NSX, RealTime Racing driver Peter Cunningham, and a few other special guests from the Acura development teams, marketing teams, and other areas.  Automobile Magazine author Michael Jordan attended, as did Ben Hsu from Japanese Nostalgic car, and we even had a drop-in from Jason Cammisa of Motor Trend.  Needless to say, I was a little star-struck.

It felt like we were all on The Price is Right when Event Director Chris Willson announced the 3 raffle winners for tomorrow’s ride-along in the 2017 NSX with Peter Cunningham at the wheel.  “Come on down!” he said.  The recipients were super excited and the rest of us will be eternally jealous!

Here are a few photos from our first day of fun out here in Palm Springs.  Thanks for coming along!


The Legend out and about a couple of days ago


I-10 westbound in my 1992 NSX with 102,000 miles on the odometer


Staying last night with my friends Scott & Sandy.  Scott has a 1992 NSX that’s a twin to mine (but with half the miles)


Good way to start the day!  Group message with the other Planning Committee members.


With Event Director Chris Willson during early registration at Agua Caliente


Check-in table signage


Les Rowe and Jim Cozzolino from the Planning Committee, getting a little friendly!


Arrival a the Air Museum before the masses got there


Goodie bag assembly line


Solo shot with my car and the 2017 NSX in Berlina Black!


Scott sent this of the lineup of cars waiting to get in around that time


Chris Hand from Acura Social Media


The view outside!


View 2


View 3


Scott and I were in heaven.


And more


The new NSX was on a rug at the front of the pack


Rear ends


They keep going and going


Racing legend Peter Cunningham arrived with his wife.  Peter had just gotten back from the “NSX Fiesta” event in Japan.


I asked him to sign my dash with a silver Sharpie, and he obliged!


With Ted Klaus, Matt Stall, and Michael Cao – these are some of the key players in the development of the new NSX


Ben Hsu from Japanese Nostalgic Car


Jason Cammisa from Motor Trend


The group assembled to have dinner


Arrival back at the parking garage, with my friend Ben Lin.  I’ve now seen Ben at THREE automotive events in the last couple of months:  S2000 Homecoming in early September, NALM in late September, and now NSXPO.  We are on the same car show schedule apparently!


He’s the original owner of a 2005 “Silverstone” color NSX with only 7,000 miles on the odometer!


Tomorrow:  Track day and an evening at “The Living Desert.”  Stay tuned!