Weekly Roundup: Pull From Flat Edition

This was a big riding weekend for me and my son — we started off Saturday afternoon by visiting the Mega Cavern trails on in Louisville, KY. It was John’s first time doing actual “dirt jumping” and I think he acquitted himself pretty well. After dinner and an overnight stay with Uncle Bark, we returned home today via Ollie’s Skatepark, just south of Cincinnati. John had a pretty bad crash before I even got my helmet on; his front tire slid out and he tumbled off a box jump to the concrete floor. But he picked himself up and returned to riding.

As for his dad… well, I did okay enough at the Mega Cavern. At Ollie’s, I tried airing-out the six-foot halfpipe and hung up my back wheel on re-entry, which was ugly and painful. It’s alright. Click the jump to see a quick video from the Mega Cavern, which is a four million square foot limestone mine turned into a multi-purpose facility. If you are claustrophobic, you won’t like the idea of being a half-mile away from the nearest exit. John would occasionally ride back to the entrance “so I have it memorized in case the lights go out.” Smart boy.

At TTAC, I wrote about the mob of “teens” who robbed the BART, considered the idea of taking Bimmers, if not coal, to Newcastle, then discussed the ethics of Uber’s “grey area”.

For R&T, I took a reader suggestion about minivan-based pickups then offered my thoughts on the stealh wealth all-wheel-drive wagon that’s taken over America’s wealthiest county.

On a personal level, last week was a little wacky due to a last-minute Colorado trip. This week promises to be sobering; as I was writing this I got a text that a very close friend of mine died over the weekend. As always, however, if you keep reading I will keep writing. Take care — jb

26 Replies to “Weekly Roundup: Pull From Flat Edition”

  1. Avatar-Nate

    That mine track is crazy cool ! .
    Sorry you lost a friend, my Daughter In Law was nearly killed Tuesday afternoon, I spent the week at the hospitl, the Neurosurgery looks fine, she’ll be O.K. we hope .

  2. AvatarCJinSD

    The Subaru phenomenon isn’t unique to Jackson. My home town back east is full of twenty year old Outbacks that have been paid for half a dozen times in routine maintenance and repairs. Maybe that’s the appeal. No other Japanese car is remotely as expensive to keep on the road as a Subaru. They don’t tend to strand people like European cars, but four figure oil changes are their way of life. They’re as maintenance intensive as the cars that the wealthy drove before the depression, only turning wrenches is many times as expensive even when adjusted for inflation. You can tell a poor person’s Outback beater from a wealthy person’s Outback beater by whether or not the CEL is on. Turning it off is typically close to six bills by the time the A/F sensor and downstream O2 sensor are replaced. The rich don’t live in a smog-check zip code, but they’ll pay the price because Subaru sabotages their cruise control if they don’t. The poor just have to live with it.

    • AvatarSubieOwner

      Four-figure oil changes? I’ve never paid more than $50. Never had any sensor issues either in 20 years and three Subies…. Most rich people in this area of the Rockies drive Audis or Porsche SUVs, but I’m in CO, not Jackson.

      On a more important note: condolences, Jack.

      • AvatarCJinSD

        It isn’t changing the oil that costs a grand, it is what the service facility sees when the car is in the shop. If all nine constant velocity joints are intact for some reason, and they’re not, then the incredibly frangible wheel bearings used by Subaru are bound to be an issue. Replacing them involves three wheel seals a piece, which is a special prank played on Subaru owners in itself. Should that fail to build the bill, Subaru steering rack boots are so failure prone that they’re the go to supplier for replacements for any other make. Nobody else needs to keep them on hand. Still think you’re going to pass inspection cheaply? The older Subarus that distinguish the rich from the academic affirmative action hires have two kinds of accessory drive belts. One of them ages like milk and requires a special tool to replace. Might as well do the normal one while it’s off… Head gaskets are maintenance items on the same Subarus. Conscientious shops will suggest ‘reseals’ at the same time, adding about a grand to the total tax for that known design flaw. Ever put aftermarket rotors on an older Subaru? Think again, or break out the lathe for an expensive hour. This one still doesn’t make sense to me, but I’ve witnessed it. Then you’ve got yet another Achilles heel of the Subaru. Perhaps one day the phrase will be Subaru heel. If your tires are worn in any perceptible way and you need to replace one, you’d better’d replace them all. Otherwise, you’ll be spending even more than you usually spend annually keeping your cruise control functional.

        • AvatarCJinSD

          I forgot another one that recently bit a member of the formerly-incredibly-wealthy helicopter and Subaru owner’s club. There are about 18 different driveshafts that cover the socially-desirable years of Outbacks. Their diversity means that no good aftermarket parts supplier bothers to offer them. On top of that, Subaru uses non-serviceable U-joints at then ends of their two-piece driveshafts. Your only choice as a committed Subaru signaler is to buy a new one from Subaru. The dealer wholesale cost of one was $511. Add 40% minimum mark up and a couple hours labor at $85-$125/per to figure that service line item’s price.

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            You know, I always regretted getting a Saab 9-3 in 2000 instead of a Legacy GT wagon.

            I’m starting to NOT regret that.

          • AvatarSubieOwner

            Guess I’ve been lucky! ’05 Legacy GT wagon with manual has been bulletproof. $650 timing belt service at 100,000 miles. Turbos seemingly don’t get the head gasket issues. Know of any manual AWD wagons you could run for less money? Turbo is nice at 7 to 10,000 feet; AWD nice when we get 20 feet of snow.

          • AvatarMopar4wd

            The drive shaft thing is real. I had a 2001 H6 LL Bean. (falls in the desirable category). Mine did indeed eat CV joints and wheel bearings. It also chucked the accessory tension bearing with little warning at 100k miles. When my Left front wheel bearing went it would not press out on a 20 ton press so I bought a whole control arm and spindle setup from a junk yard for $150.00. My rear drive shaft started making noise at 130k miles. No aftermarket fix I luckily found a low mileage one of the exact same car as mine in a junk yard about 60 miles away, Even then they charged $180.00 for it. Mine also rattled like a tin can, and the rear end from the door jams up to the top of the rear shock tower was rotted out when it was 10 years old. In the end it ate a main crank bearing at 148k and that was it. (luckily subbie people are obsessive and I got $800 bucks for the car with a blown engine and rotted quarters) Best part was this car was bought new by a relative and dealer serviced until 90k miles. I picked it up from them as the dealer low balled the trade thanks to the rust starting, so it was well taken care of. It was not a bad car to drive but the reliability was the same as my Volvo XC70 and Golf rather then what I have experienced with Toyota’s and Mitsubishi’s, or for that matter even my mopar rides.

            One more note that car ate tires never had a set last more then 38k. My relative I bought it from had the same issue. Had it aligned at 3 different shops always with in spec, still ate tires.

    • AvatarDisinterested-Observer

      Oil changes are more or less the same as anything else, it’s the 30k-60k service that can hit $1k or more. The timing belt needs be changed and you have three hard to reach differentials and the rear spark plugs. Even the cabin air filter involves tearing out half the dash. I was very fortunate that when I took mine in for the airbag recall the gay service manager was trying to hit on me so they did the filter for the cost of the part. There must be something about me that screws up people’s gaydar, it certainly isn’t the way I dress.

  3. AvatarCJinSD

    Sorry about your loss too Jack. I didn’t read that far before commenting, having enjoyed your observations about the wealthy’s affinity for old Subarus.

    • AvatarVoGo

      I never thought I’d write this…
      …but totally agree with CJ here. One of the unfortunate aspects of adulthood is learning to deal with loss. You think that friends will be with you until way into their 70’s, and then, realize, that no, people die at any age; sometimes those close to you. Sorry for your loss.

      I also liked the article on old Subarus. I still can’t quite figure it out; I probably like cars too much – especially new cars – to understand what drives their popularity among the wealthy.

  4. AvatarSteve Ulfelder

    Enjoyed the Subie piece. It could have been written about the prosperous corner of Massachusetts in which I live, where you see otherwise minty Outbacks with rust holes you could stick a fist through.

  5. AvatarTomko

    The death of anyone, especially a contemporary, is a sobering reminder of our mortal curse.

    In 1976 a boy from my neighbourhood, with whom I occasionally rode bikes, died when the white corvette his mother drove was T-boned at an intersection. He was one year behind me in grade six. That inexplicable sense of loss: now you see me – now you don’t – has stayed with me for more than 40 years. Supplemented of course with regular updates to my personal list of those lost.

  6. AvatarMopar4wd

    As other have mentioned here in New England Subies are also everywhere. Despite the costs to keep them going. The best selling car here in CT is the Forester.

  7. AvatarSseigmund

    I’m very sorry to hear about another close friend leaving this world too soon. This will be our prayers.

    BTW, you gave some sound advise to the TTAC reader thinking of taking his BMW to the UK. Having just returned from the center of the universe (they still believe it!), I would not relish driving a LHD car though those roundabouts! Personally, I would give preference to an automatic transmission. So much of the driving is going to be grinding traffic and the auto will be much less tiring.

  8. AvatarJoe

    Condolences on your loss.
    I have often thought that a front wheel pickup truck would be doable, I would have used the toronado drive line, the obvious thing about the front wheel drive layout would be the load floor could be so much lower to the ground that you could walk a motorcycle up into its bed area, you would not need a tailgate step. Now days Chrysler/Fiat has their front wheel drive heavy duty work van on a front drive platform and do also have a low floor hight, they even make campers out of them, should have been a no brainer!

  9. AvatarWill

    I read that R&T piece on the Subaru and wanted to offer another rich man ski wagon that may have been overlooked: The Audi A6 Allroad. These are all over Tahoe.

  10. Avatarlink3721

    I think the limiting factor of the Grand Caravan “truck” is crash regulations that may not be able to be met using the current platform past 2019 or whenever is going away. However that doesn’t mean the current Pacifica couldn’t be used as the platform base instead. More platform usage spreads the costs, so not entirely crazy.

  11. AvatarSixspeedSi

    Sorry for your loss Jack.

    Funny how the Honda Ridgeline sort-of a minivan-based pickup already on the market. Although I do believe a cheaper, domestic option would be a good idea. Is it weird that I believe a semi-luxurious, van based pickup would be a good next choice for my aging father. Use the bed for small house/garden stuff and the cab for an easy driving experience.

  12. AvatarTJ

    If I am not incorrect, F/C already sells a stripped down, “Work” version of the Grand Caravan under the RAM banner. If not, they did for years. Converting that to a pick-up should be even easier than a passenger version

  13. AvatarZG

    Sorry to hear about the loss of your friend, Jack. Best wishes to you and your family.

    I live near a prosperous suburb of Philadelphia and I can report that the Subaru phenomenon is alive and well in the Acela corridor too. You can’t swing a dead (or live?) cat without hitting a $4k Outback parked outside of a $750k house. I’ve often joked that there’s a profitable business opportunity to dress up a modern Subaru to make it look like an old one (complete with 2008 vintage Obama-Biden stickers, obviously) like people occasionally do with 911s.

  14. AvatarDirtRoads

    Sorry to hear of your loss Jack, my prayers are with you and your friend’s family.

    I have almost bought a Subaru many times, but have managed to stay away from them. Not that they don’t have a reasonably good reputation here in the Northwest USA, but I have for many years disliked Japanese cars. Asian cars in general. Toyota and Honda are at the top of the unliked heap, because of their tendency, many years ago (like in the 70s) to lie about their innovation which was actually stolen technology for the most part. The Miata’s styling is to me a perfect example of stolen ideas; a mix of Italian, British and “other” that no Japanese car ever had before. Trying almost too hard to be the generic sports car. Yuk.

    But I digress. Sometimes I go on an Al Cosentino-like rant. And I’m too old to remember what the hell I was going to say now. 🙂

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I agree with you: the Miata was basically a ripped-off Lotus Elan.

      Meanwhile, Lotus was doing a “new” Elan that was a FWD nightmare.

      Just like Toyota giving Deming’s ideas a chance while Detroit sneered.

      When the Western world gives up or loses its way, others will step in. That’s true for more than just automotive engineering.

    • AvatarCJinSD

      Look at Honda’s first car, the S500. It was pretty much a small displacement Miata, and it was introduced in 1963. It’s twin cam engine, independent rear suspension, and specific output were well ahead of any affordable British sports cars. The first Miata owed its styling to Lotus, but the steel body, real convertible top, and lack of a back-bone chassis mean that the copying was only skin deep.

      What did Honda steal from anyone? They were trying all sorts of crazy stuff in their early days, and keeping what worked.


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