Archive for March, 2017

PAPA Event at European Motor Studio (EMS) in Chandler, Arizona

Posted in NSX, PAPA on March 23, 2017 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend Sedan):  151,266

It’s been almost exactly five years since my friend Scott and I got together in a couple of red sportscars for this photoshoot at the Hayden Lakeside parking garage in Tempe, Arizona.

The date was Wednesday, May 23, 2012, and the hue of Scott’s 1979 Porsche 928 was nearly identical to that of my Formula Red 1992 Acura NSX.  Great minds thought alike.

That was toward the beginning of a longstanding friendship with a guy who’s just as nutty about cars as I am, and this story is one about a company he built from the ground up.

One of the many ‘car organizations’ I’m currently a part of is the Phoenix Automotive Press Association (PAPA).  The group has been around for 18 years and is comprised of automotive journalists from around Arizona.  Today, active membership is around 40 or 50 individuals and meetings are held about once a month.  PAPA’s latest activity was held on Wednesday evening in Chandler, Arizona at the home base for one of the Phoenix Valley’s premier classic European sportscar restoration shops & dealerships.

European Motor Studio (EMS) in name was born in the summer of 2013, but the business – in a lot simpler sense – had existed since long before that time.  Entrepreneur Scott Utter first started wheeling and dealing in collector cars starting when he was 14 years old.  His first car was a gold 1985 Jaguar XJ6 when he had his learner permit.  He sold it for a $2,500 profit, and the rest is history.

Today, EMS has grown into a full time job for Scott and the 4 employees he’s brought on.  He also employs a part time mechanic who is brave enough to dig into 12-cylinder Italian engines.  “Anything I can help you guys with?” I asked as I was setting up a few materials for our group’s arrival.  “Sure,” they said, “just rebuild that V-12 sitting over there on the ground.”  I replied, “It would be worse off than it is already.”  And that’s the truth.  The level of complexity in some of those cars is uncanny.

Most of Scott’s business is carried out online – and around the world.  He’s recently shipped collector cars to Germany and Australia (freight to Europe, by the way – isn’t too bad.  The car goes to the port at Long Beach, California for $350 and then takes a $1,700 boat ride to Europe, arriving in 3-4 weeks).  Most of the inventory tightly packed into his holding warehouse consists of models I can’t even correctly pronounce, with price tags near the market value of my house.

For example, right now he’s sitting on an orange 1971 Lamborghini Espada 400GT with a buy-it-now of $170,000.  My favorite vehicle in current inventory is the 1991 Porsche 911 964 Turbo for a cool $120k.  Maybe that’s just because of my readily-apparent obsession with cars from the early 1990s.

We extend thanks to Scott and his team for hosting us.  Next time, let’s incorporate some test-drives!  Haha.

Refreshments are served

Our group getting the lowdown on some of the EMS inventory.

Lineup of Lotus Esprits

80’s Mercedes – isn’t that a song?  And a French ‘Citroen SM’ – in itself, a very special car.

PAPA member Sandra Munoz had her sights set on this 1971 Land Rover in pastel green.  It seemed like it would be a fitting vehicle to take on some sort of African safari.

Getting a look at the shop area where restorations take place, with a very rare Lamborghini Islero in the background – produced only between 1968-69 (and only 125 total units).  That blue is a factory color!

That green Lamborghini Espada is a factory color too, believe it or not.

Here’s the posh interior of a 1985 Maserati Quattroporte III Saloon with fewer than 30,000 original miles.

$20k for some luxury like that!

Canyon Carvers: A 1992 Prelude & 1992 Integra vs. Arizona’s Catalina Highway

Posted in Arizona, Integra, Prelude, Road Trip on March 19, 2017 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  551,894

Trip Distance:  304 Miles

A quarter-century ago in 1992, you could set foot into your local Honda or Acura dealerships and drive away with any number of sport coupes.  From the eco-friendly CRX Si at $11,900 to the flagship NSX at $65,000 MSRP, there was something for just about everyone.

Automotive journalist Steve Lynch (The Truth About Cars) and I decided to pit two against each other that are most alike in price & performance:  The Prelude Si versus the Integra GS-R.  Coming in at about $18k and $17k respectively, they shared more than just a price point.  They each offered a 160-horsepower 4-cylinder powerplant and a slick-shifting 5-speed manual transmission.

Arizona’s “Catalina Highway,” one of the state’s most scenic twisty roads, seemed the perfect spot to carry out our evaluation.  At 26 miles in length from its base in Tucson to the summit at Summerhaven, it climbs nearly 6,000 feet in elevation to over about 8,200 feet – high enough that even now in late March there is snow along the roadside in some stretches.  Arizona, snow?  Yes – it happens.

Joining for the excursion were two friends who preferred to exercise their American muscle and grunt:  Will in a Chevy SS and James (Six Speed Blog) in a Dodge Durango R/T.  Each one offered more than double the horsepower of our Hondas so it wouldn’t have been a fair fight to include them in the comparison test.  Besides, we found a better way to put those two against each other:  an exhaust sound-off contest.  More on that when you watch the YouTube video.

When you saddle up in the Integra GS-R, you have to be alert and attentive.  The automatic seat belts close in on you forcefully as if to say, “Buckle up.  You’re about to take a hell of a ride.”  A crank of the B17 motor and a glance at the 8,000-RPM redline tell you the car is all about the high-revving playtime.  And even though the car is old enough for historic plates and has its share of mechanical quirks consistent with 239,000 miles on the odometer (hello, ABS light on the dash!), it revs happily like a toddler and the chassis tuning is stiff.

The Prelude takes a more sophisticated approach.  Its futuristic dashboard communicates all relevant driver information in typical Honda sensible fashion.  But its engine’s behavior and suspension’s refinement make it less of a rev-machine.  It’s torquey enough at low RPM that the driver doesn’t feel like he or she has to push it to the limit.  Seats are comfortable and supportive, sounds are more subdued, and it acts like a much more responsible daily driver – with a fun side for the weekends – than the trouble-maker Integra.

We all did enough key-swapping throughout the mountain cruise to come to pretty much the same conclusion.  If I had Marty McFly’s DeLorean and transported myself back in 1992, my $18k would be better spent on a Prelude than an Integra.  Reason being, we all spend far more time in day to day mundane driving situations – traffic, commuting, and the occasional interstate cruise – than we do carving up a canyon road or sprinting around an autocross track.  The Prelude is a better all-around value for the money.

For reference, a prior Mount Lemmon trip in which we took a similar parade of sporty Hondas up the mountain.

Oh, and the Durango versus SS?  Skip to the end of the video to see how that contest went :).

Preparing for our ascent

The V8 contenders

Headed on up the mountain

Prelude in the lead

Arrival at Summerhaven – elevation 8,200 feet

And perfect weather!

Lunch at the Sawmill Restaurant

Sweet potato tots!  (insert heart-eye emoji)

Few more pics up at the ski lift area

Integra engine bay

Prelude engine bay

Making our descent

And finally, a visit from my friend Matt today in his 2003 CL Type-S 6-speed!  235,000 miles and it looks & drives like new!

Here are a few links to share:

TSX Travels Acura Anniversary video that I was honored to be a part of:

 

Wedding Weekend in Phoenix, Arizona

Posted in Arizona on March 13, 2017 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  551,894

Can you believe the movie The Princess Bride is now 30 years old?

“Mawage.  Mawage is what brings us together today.”  (skip to 26 seconds in)

My friend Paul took a pretty good guess at what I would be doing this past Saturday.

He was wrong, though.  I didn’t drive anywhere exotic this weekend.  I did, however, enjoy one of the most well-executed, multi-day parties I’ve ever attended.  This weekend, two of my best friends, Rustin & Wade, got married and while that means there were no road trips on the radar, it was still a memorable time.  My mom flew to Phoenix from Southern Utah to be a part of the events.

Friday night kicked off with an open house / cocktail party at the grooms’ home in the Sunnyslope area of Phoenix.  It was the perfect venue for an evening with friends and family.  Refreshments were provided in the form of a hot dogs and hot chocolate on the patio – it’s an odd combination, but it works!  On Saturday, I donned a tuxedo for the first time since Senior Ball at Pine View High School in 2000.  It took some trial and error to get the bow tie situated just right, and clearly my experience with cuff links is limited because by the end of the night, I’d lost one of them.  But for a few hours, I felt high class.

It felt appropriate that I do a side-by-side photo of my last red 2-door Honda (the Prelude) along with my latest (the NSX) for a photo while wearing my tuxedo garb, so mom and I cruised over to the Arizona Biltmore neighborhood to do the re-creation.  The above pics were taken in 2000 and in 2017.  I’m sure glad my sense of style has improved.  Though, a few people have asked that the skater shoes and frosted hair tips come back.

Wedding festivities kicked off at 5:00 p.m. at the Phoenix Art Museum on Central Avenue.  The entire venue was decked out appropriately, and our group of about 200 people assembled on the manicured courtyard grounds to await the big event.  Rustin and Wade exchanged their vows and then exited the area with Spice Girls’ “Wannabe” blasting over the speaker.  The crowd loved it.

Later in the evening, we dined, then danced.  The dance floor was illuminated and mom put everyone else to shame showing some of the moves she’s been learning in her weekly Wednesday hip-hop class.  I seriously saw a few people doing the “bow down” gesture to her.  She’s that good.  The weekend capped off with a trip to a baseball spring training game at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa.  The Chicago Cubs played against the Oakland Athletics.  Temperatures were pushing 90 degrees but luckily our group had shaded ‘lawn’ seating.  It was a great day at the ball game!

I’ll let the photos (and a short vide0) tell the rest of the story!

The Legend is back in daily duty for a few weeks.

I even had to take it to Tucson for work last Monday.  Here’s a shot at Picacho Peak along I-10.

Picking up mom from Phoenix “Sky Harbor” International Airport.

Friday night cocktail hour at Rustin & Wade’s house, in gold-rimmed sunglasses that were provided.

Headed to brunch in the Vigor with mom on Saturday morning.

View from brunch at Zookz on Camelback Road & Central Avenue.

Couple photos with the NSX at the Arizona Biltmore area.

Some of my friends looking all fancy.  Sam, Lance, Rob, Kyle, Chris, Chandler, Jack, and James.

Wade and Rustin cutting their wedding cake

Having a little fun with pictures later on.

Sunday’s trip to the baseball game in Mesa.

Wade (hiding), Scott, Lance, and me

Congrats to my friend Sean who hit 100,000 miles today in his 2006 Honda Accord EX-L 5-speed!

Sean bought his Accord brand new in July 2006 and it’s been his daily driver ever since.

Reader’s Ride: Steve’s 1992 Honda Prelude Si

Posted in Prelude, Reader's Ride on March 2, 2017 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  550,564

550564

My buddy Steve Lynch has popped up on my blog a few times.  I met him originally through the Phoenix Automotive Press Association (PAPA) and he’s a published author many times over.  Over the years, Steve and I have gotten together for car talk and a couple of drives, including our feature on The Truth About Cars with “orphaned Hondas.”  Steve was delighted to share with me the story of his latest automotive acquisition:  a very well-kept, original 1992 Honda Prelude Si.

prelude_tyson

To Steve, this Prelude is more than just A-to-B transportation.  It represents a life-sized souvenir from the days when he worked for Honda at its main office in Torrance, California.  And to him and many others, it represents an icon of an era 25 years ago when cars were simple, fun to drive, and a little more interesting than the sea of cookie-cutter midsized sedans out on the roadways today.

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Any great car purchase story begins with a long-awaited “first drive” home.  It just so happened that Steve’s first drive in his new Prelude was over 2,000 miles in distance since he’d flown to Florida to pick it up.  Along the return trip, he turned over 100,000 miles on the Prelude’s odometer and visited some interesting roadside destinations like the “Florabama” beach bar, located at the Florida-Alabama state line.  I only wish I’d been able to tag along to enjoy the miles and the scenery!

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The 1992 model year marked the first year for the Prelude’s fourth generation.  Body lines became much more rounded off as Honda departed from the boxy, pop-up-headlight-equipped 1988-1991 model year design that I’ve owned a few of.  That futuristic layout continued on into the interior, where the instrument panel stretches across the entire width of the car with gauges housed in a narrow opening.

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The most beautiful thing about the Prelude, though, is something you can’t readily see.  It’s that 5-speed transmission, so slick shifting you can flick it with a pinkie finger through all the gears.  Honda’s engineering excellence really shines through when you get the Prelude out onto an onramp, just like I did when entering Highway 51 southbound.  The audible and tangible feelings as the car revs to its 6,500 RPM redline are exactly why the Prelude was (and forever will be) a favorite of tuners.

While the “H23” 2.3-liter powerplant puts out only 160 horsepower, it doesn’t matter.  The car’s perfect sense of balance makes it an engaging driver, no matter the speed.  From the moment I got behind the wheel, the car just felt “right.”  Perhaps it’s because the car hails from an era that I’m so acutely familiar with (Honda and Acura products of the 1990s), but it took almost zero time to get comfortable in that supportive bucket seat and to get an understanding of how the controls and features operated.  That’s something I definitely miss in new cars today:  The simplicity of an engine, a transmission, and an open road without a dozen computers deciding how I need to drive or even taking over control for me.

I thank Steve for his hospitality in allowing me a few minutes behind the wheel of his new ride!

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Integra is getting a new radiator this week, and I happened to park nose-to-nose with a Civic CX at the mechanic.

Aztec Green!

aztec