The Q96 MINI

At the Imperial Valley Fair this weekend I took this picture of the Q96 MINI parked in the car park:

The Fair was pretty good, lots of exhibits and animals being shown and auctioned (later in the week). If you want to see some more pictures of all the sights, click right here.

Vanity Plates

All three of the vehicles I have owned since living in the US (my first vehicle was leased) have/had vanity plates. One of the reasons for this is that such things aren’t readily available back in the UK. Yes, you can buy them but you can’t usually choose them and then you’ll end up paying $1000 for PAUL4999, hardly a bargain.

This week’s San DIego Reader has a long article about vanity plates, mostly about ones they have seen on the road and talking to the people who chose them. The article opens with some statistics such as CA is the 22nd ‘most vain’ state with 3.49 percent of vehicles having a vanity plate: VA has the most at 16.2 percent. It then makes the following statement:

San Diego Reader | How much can you say in 7 letters?

I wonder what the percentage is just for MINIs in the country? I think it must be quite high, but I don’t agree with the statement in the article. I think it is much more to do with the culture of the MINI community that we take pride in our vehicles – don’t see many vanity plates on the Prius.

Three Quarters of a Century

Yep, last night on the way home I passed the 75k mile mark. Usually I notice when I hit the ‘000 boundaries but this time I missed it, saw 750001 instead. Carrie is still going strong though at the weekend I went to get gas and the DSC light came on and wouldn’t go off. I figured I would troubleshoot it when I got to the gas station but when I cranked her up the light was off and has stayed off ever since.

The front brakes are due to be replaced in the next 2000 miles or so. After Brian’s comment about how much I paid for the rear ones, I am not sure if I will take it back to the last garage or not. One thing I noticed though with the rears is that they replaced the rotors as well – shouldn’t I be able to get just the front pads changed??

To Coast or Not to Coast?

Ever since gas was real expensive I’ve been doing my own hypermiling variant which involves taking the car out of gear and coasting when it makes sense to do so.

At the dentist recently I was reading a car magazine that talked about ‘fuel efficiency myths’ and it said that fuel injected cars do no better coasting than they do with your foot off the pedal, so keep the car in gear in case you need some revs. There is no gas saving.

I’m no car expert but I can see the rev counter at 3k rpm compared to 0 and it seems to me that means gas is being used, although it might be small.

What do you all think?

Future Listening Choices

Some time in the next few weeks we’ll see the official list of who stays and who goes in the Sirius/XM merger lineup. I’ve been a big fan of XM in the past and I wonder if I will like the results. My favourite channel, UPop, was taken off the air for a long time for no reason; it’s currently back but it’s owner, Worldspace, filed for Chapter 11 this week so I’m already resigned to losing it.

Since then I’ve been listening to XM Cafe, The Loft, Fred, Top 20 and some random button pushing to find something I like. The Loft is not bad and Fred is pretty good when they stick to the alternative music and not stray into rock. But I’m not feeling the love for XM that I used to.

Today I read over at that a great many program directors have been let go suggesting that a lot of XM channels are being axed, including many that I like.

So right now I’m thinking that I may return to CDs and the iPod in the MINI for my future commutes. I’m not fond of the Sirius stations, though if BBC Radio 1 is offered, that might be enough for me to keep being a customer.

MINIs Are Too Expensive

From a twitter conversation, name redacted to protect the poor guy:

Test drove a MINI Cooper S over the weekend and it was aight. I expected more and the interior was fugly. Also saw a couple of REAL MINIs on the freeway and that was the coolest thing I’d seen all month.

@xxx don’t make me set my MINI-crazed friends on ya

@tendancer MINI-crazed enough to pay a $3K premium on top of the MSRP?

@xxx only 3K ? I remember when it was 5 or 6! I paid MSRP for mine.

@tendancer The S I test drove would have come out to $35K. That’s an R32!!

Top Gear and the Clubman

I’m behind the times, only watching Top Gear on the tele, so just recently got around to watching the final episode of last season. In the show they had a mini-awards segment where they announced “worst design of the year” to which Clarkson quickly said that the Clubman was so ugly there weren’t any competitors; the other two agreed. Next up was “worst car of the year” to which Clarkson again quickly said it must be the Clubman, but they eventually came up with something else.

So then I was reading that Top Gear gave it some kind of best car award so what happened? Did they subsequently have a big change of mind ? Or What?

More I see them, the more I like them.

My First Clubman Sighting

Turning into the street outside my apartment I spotted a super shiny Clubman S parked on the forecourt of a repair shop (for convenience to the local hostelry I think) – my first sighting in the wild. I didn’t really get a great look as I crept by but I must say it looks a whole lot better in the flesh than in pictures on the web. Looked real nice.

Some Fuel Calculations

Spent last night pondering whether to trade in my “gas guzzling” Cooper for something a little less thirsty. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, so let me explain…. my monthly commute is about 1600 miles, most of that highway miles. Unless I take a big cut in pay by working locally, or my boss decides teleworking is not evil, this isn’t going to change. So, my fuel costs:

Gas Cost Regular Driving Boring Driving Civic Hybrid
5.00 $300.00 $270.00 $200.00
6.00 $350.00 $320.00 $235.00
7.00 $415.00 $375.00 $275.00
8.00 $475.00 $425.00 $310.00

In regular driving I can get 27 mpg, if I try real hard I can probably get 30, though I haven’t managed that yet. The Civic Hybrid claims 45 mpg but I figure 40 mpg is more likely.

Why did I use the Civic Hybrid as my comparison? I was looking at cars that I could trade in the ’05 and not spend much more to buy. This puts the Clubman or new MCS out of reach. An MC could be possible but I’m tired of driving to Escondido for servicing, and the outrageous costs involved.

Am I really thinking about getting out of the MINI? Not sure at this point, it’s possible. I’m depressed about the state of the convertible top, why keep a car that you can’t put the top down? I’ve heard a new top could be as much as $4000, I’d rather put that to something new.

The cost of (private) flying has risen worse than the cost of motoring. Plane rentals in my flying club are up to the $100 an hour mark, saving $1-200 on driving could mean the difference between giving up flying, and still being able to do it. As much as I’d hate to give up the fun of the MINI, high gas prices may mean that the auto becomes utility again.