Archive for February, 2016
A shortlist of upcoming events that piqued our interest
Adult Coloring Club – Thursday, February 25th
Who says coloring should only be for kids? The Coloring Club MPLS gives artistic adults an opportunity to put their colored pencils to use, which is good for people like Amber (one of our graphic designers) who have “coloring degrees” and want to keep up on their skills. Throw in $5 beers from Eastlake Craft Brewery (the event host) and coloring sheets from local artists and you can’t go wrong.
WinterFest at the Union Depot – Friday, February 26th
When he was in town last week Vice President Joe Biden had nothing but good things to say about St. Paul’s Union Depot. If that’s not reason enough to plan a visit maybe a little beer might persuade you. This Friday the Minnesota Craft Brewers guild is hosting Winterfest, a tribute to Minnesota beer. Chase out the winter chill with a multitude of Winter Warmers, hearty food, beer education, entertainment and music
Tech Fest 2016 – Saturday, February 26th
We’re all for introducing our youth to engineering, mechanics and hands-on technology. If we don’t who is going to fix all of these old cars we’ve collected? All kidding aside, The Works Museum is hosting a neat family engineering and technology fair offering hours of technology exploration for the whole family. Consider it a good alternative to sitting home on the couch.
Red Bull Crashed Ice – February 26th and February 27th
The icy spectacle known as Red Bull Crashed Ice returns to St. Paul this weekend for its fifth straight year in a row and serves as the grand finale of the worldwide four-stop tour. If you’ve never been it’s definitely something you should check out. Also be sure to check out the Crashed Ice Village. If you’re looking for easy travel to and from St. Paul Metro Transit will be offering a variety of free shuttles.
We’re all pretty used to freezing temperatures, wind chills well below zero, mountains of snow, and all the other terrible things that come with Minnesota winters. Most of us do not willingly go outside without a very good reason during these times; much less do anything to add to the cold. Scott and Tina, the managers at our Subaru stores, feel differently.
This year they’ve decided to participate in the Polar Plunge. They’ll jump (or be pushed) into the frozen Lake Calhoun to show their support for the Special Olympics. Each store is trying to raise $5,000 for the cause. A portion of that will come from a $25 donation for each new Subaru sold during the month of February. We’re counting on family, friends, and anyone else who’d like to help out to make up the rest.
The manager of the store to hit the fundraising goal first gets to push the other one into the lake on March 4th. They’ve both been training hard and are pretty confident in their chances of winning—so now we ask you to pick a side and make a pledge.
Donations raised from the Polar Plunge help thousands of athletes train for and compete in the Special Olympics. Learn more here.
For the last few years, we’ve been sponsoring the Wayzata Chilly Open. In addition to being a great big chili cook-off for the businesses in Wayzata and neighboring cities, Lake Minnetonka plays host to thousands of “golfers” and spectators who come out to play 9 holes worth of golf on the ice. This year, three distinct courses were set up out on the ice, with Morrie’s sponsoring one of the courses. We set up a booth for Morrie’s Heritage Car Connection and brought our Banana Bronco out on the ice.
The theme this year was “Superheroes” so we turned our hole into a cityscape straight from Spiderman, complete with action figures. If a golfer knocked one of the villains (either the Green Goblin or Venom) off the top of our cityscape they got an automatic hole-in-one! We had a great time out on the ice meeting all the golfers and spectators that came by our booth and were happy to keep people warm with our fire bit. Some of the costumes were really fun and over the top too! Take a look at our photo gallery below to see what we mean.
This is part 2 of this blog, check out part 1 here.
5. Buying fancy windshield wipers: Rain, dust, cold, and heat: your wipers’ biggest enemy is simple exposure to the elements. Over time the rubber will break down, regardless of how fancy and organic and sustainable it is. Just get the basic cheap wipers and change ‘em out on the regular.
Basic wipers do work, but I have found you need to change them out more often, especially in colder climates. I’ve tried all the frameless replacements and have actually found some winners. “Fancy” wipers do cost more—sometimes by 3 or 4 times—but they clean your windshield better and work for a longer period of time.
Recently a coworker sent me an article she found an article on thrillist.com titled 8 Car Parts and Services You Shouldn’t Spend Money On. The email subject line was “You’ll hate everything about this article. Literally EVERYTHING.” I started to read the article and the ranting began right on cue. She found it quite amusing, so I thought I should take this to the people. While some points made in the article are good, I am still going to play devil’s advocate. I’ll break them down one by one:
1. Changing your oil too often: Simply put, the mythological 3,000-mile oil change was the domain of your grandfather. Today, the oil is more pure to begin with (especially if you’re using synthetic oil, which you should), your oil filter weeds out more contaminants, and tolerances in your engine are such that less of those contaminating particles get into the oil in the first place. So how long can you go without changing your oil? That’s a controversy for another article entirely, my friend.
Yes, changing oil every 3,000 miles may be too much, but for some cars but it depends on what type of driving and how much you do. Of course you want to follow manufacturer’s recommendation, but If you only drive your car in the city with a lot short drives, you should change your oil a little more often or see if the manufacturer recommends a Severe Duty Interval. On the other side of the coin, if you drive a lot on the highway you may need to change it less often. Your owner’s manual should have this information, and most new cars will just tell you when you should change the oil based on your driving habits. Remember, oil is cheap—engines are not. Using a good quality oil is key; just because something meets the minimum standard doesn’t mean you should use it.
2. “Restoring” your headlights: Sure, that rough yellowy mess on your headlights ruins their effectiveness, but paying big bucks for a “restoration kit” is total trash when you can DIY instead. Get a few sheets of very fine sandpaper from your local hardware store, soak them in water, and sand your headlights using finer and finer paper until it’s perfectly smooth (if it’s really bad, start with something like 400 grit, then progress to 800 and 2,000). Then use a polishing compound to make it shine, and you’re back to being perfectly clear.
Having the best vision possible while driving is important for safety. The DIY kits can be good, but you have to do your research. I have used them all and can objectively say that the ones without drill attachments work better than the ones with the attachment. The article mentions using sandpaper but buying all the parts separately will likely cost more, so the kits are a good value. If you don’t want to tackle this project yourself, check with a dealer or independent detailers to see if they offer this service. It’ll cost more, but it’s hard to do better than someone using the right tools and products.
3. Opting for service contracts: If you’ve ever bought a new car, you’ve no doubt been bombarded with endless contracts and “warranties” that will see all of your maintenance taken care of, as well as damage to wheels and tires, etc. Newsflash: if these truly made financial sense for you to buy, they wouldn’t be profitable for the dealership, and they would no longer be available. Think about that one…
I was also skeptical about these a couple of years ago. I saw some commercials with the big sales pitch “to buy a warranty if your car has less than 100,000 miles on it, call 1-800-blahblahblah.” There are a couple of questions you should ask when you’re thinking about an aftermarket warranty: “will it cover everything?” and “what does it cover?” The answer to the first one is easy: no, it won’t. But Is it going to cover some of the big expensive issues you might have? Yes. Without a warranty, an engine control unit can cost over $2500 to replace. With a warranty, you’ll most likely only pay a deductible in the area of $100. Some warranties cover some items beyond the common things you would expect, like gaskets and seals or one that covers wheel repair and replacement even if you hit a pothole. Of course these make money for whoever sells them, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in them. In fact, I know multiple people who have aftermarket warranties that have paid for themselves multiple times over. Of course the seller is banking on you not using it, but so is everyone that offers a mail in rebate, your health insurance provider, your car insurance provider, and your grocery store coupon booklet. I have car insurance that I have never used it in my almost 20 years of driving and I have health insurance, yes, but I haven’t been to a doctor since I was 12 years old (that’s probably not good argument). Almost all companies are in business to make money, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in it buying something that someone profits off of.
4. Buying over-the-counter fuel additives: You absolutely do need additives in your fuel to keep your engine running as cleanly as possible. Too much of a good thing, however, can be detrimental, and frankly, unless you’re a chemical engineer specializing in gasoline additives, you probably don’t know how much is too much. The higher prices you pay at “brand-name” stations like Shell and Texaco are partly because these extra proprietary detergents are already added to the gas before it goes into your tank. And that you should pay for. But don’t ever buy them over the counter, period.
I kind of agree with this. There are actually some worth buying, but 95% of them are no better than buying good gas. Most companies that advertise detergents in their gas have already mixed in any beneficial additives. Cars with direct injection really don’t have a need for them, and cleaning the fuel system in older cars will require more than a in tank additive (you need a kit that attaches to your fuel rail and costs more than anything you can buy at a gas station).
Check out part 2 of this blog here.
One of the great things about Morrie’s Automotive Group is that we have a a wide range of truly interesting and amazing sales consultants. Amongst the large percentage of our staff could be considered genuine “car people” with petrol pumping through their veins, we have a handful that are heavily involved in motorsports as well. For instance, Scott Putnam, our fleet sales manager at Morrie’s Minnetonka Subaru is also a co-driver with Lauchlin O’Sullivan. Together, they are 2-time national Rally America Super Production champions, having won in 2012 and again in 2015. Scott has been co-driving in various rally cars with his CPD Racing team for over a decade and living the old adage “Race on Sunday, Sell on Monday.”
With Morrie’s Minnetonka Subaru sponsoring the #90 CPD Racing 2010 Subaru WRX STI for the 2016 Rally America season, Joseph (video lead for Morrie’s Auto Group) and Alex (a content specialist for the group) flew out to Traverse City, Michigan for Sno*Drift Rally, the first round of the 2016 Rally America championship. Because rally races such as these predominantly take place on public roads that are closed for the day of the rally, most of these events happen in small towns and are spread out across the community in a number of stages. Sno*Drift consists of 17 stages, most of which take place in the forests surrounding the picturesque town of Atlanta, Michigan.
We met up with Scott and Lauchlin at a workshop just outside of Atlanta where the car was undergoing some shakedown and testing runs on some private land. “Whiskers”, the crew chief for the team, would send Lauchlin out on different sets of snow and ice tires to get a sense of which tires they’d want to use on the snow and ice-covered logging roads the following afternoon. After 4 or 5 laps of their own little test track, a decision was made to run on a special set of snow tires. These tires are much, much softer and therefore are able to provide grip on glare ice. With a tire decision made, the crew finished up the last few set-up changes and we went back to the hotel to rest up for race day.
After a few more practice runs the next morning, the team brought the car out to Parc Expose in the heart of Atlanta so fans could meet the drivers and co-drivers and check out the cars up close. 42 cars were on display along the banks of a picturesque, but frozen over, lake. Red bull sponsored the event and had a massive truck on hand with a DJ in the back to pump out tunes for the fans while a few backpack-clad women handed out free cans of the energy drink. All in all, it was a great event for the fans and we enjoyed the opportunity to talk with some of the other teams and check out their cars. While the majority of the field was made up of Subarus in various shapes, sizes, and years, we also saw a handful of Ford Fiestas, some old Vokswagen Golfs, a new Toyota RAV4, a Honda CR-Z, and even some muscle cars. Having won the Super Production championship twice and finishing 2nd overall just behind the Subaru factory team last year, Lauchlin and Scott were fan favorites and most people were betting on the #90 CPD Racing team to win this weekend. Because of that, CPD Racing would be leading the rest of the pack out on the first stage so we had to leave Parc Expose early to make sure we got to the first spectator area in time to see Scott and Lauchlin go by.
Each stage has a designated spectator area to keep fans safe since most of the time, the rally cars go sliding through the corners quickly, just barely on the edge of control. These spectator areas also usually coincide with some of the most exciting turns on the stage and give the drivers a good spot to show off a bit for fans. Unlike going to a race track to watch a race, most rally fans will only get to see each car go by once and in terms of getting any useful photos or video footage, there’s really only about a 5-10 second window to see each car before it goes scurrying off down the road, kicking up rooster tails of snow and mud as it passes. Although the weather was unseasonably warm for this time of year in northern Michigan, we were still surprised to see just how many fans and spectators there were at each stage doing a mix of drinking, grilling, and cheering on the cars.
Throughout the first day of the rally, Lauchlin and Scott were clearly dominating the rally. Although each car starts the stage in one minute intervals, it didn’t take long for CPD Racing to build up a healthy lead – almost 5 minutes over the nearest competitor – after the first day’s stages. After arriving at the service area halfway through the first day, it seemed Lauchlin was very happy with the car and their pace. Scott was just glad Lauchlin had driven smoothly and kept the car out of the snowbanks and ditches so far. While they took a quick breather before the night stages, the crew hurriedly mounted a set of ice tires, checked all the fluids, and removed the packed snow and ice from the wheel wells and underside of the car. Again, we left service early to get out to another stage to try to see the car race by and under the light of the moon and stars, we saw Lauchlin gracefully slide the car through a tight left-hand bend, carefully avoiding the telephone pole and fence hidden within the snowbank at the exit of the turn, and rocket off into the inky darkness just a split second later.
The next morning, we packed up a little earlier and headed out to a big gravel pit to watch the first of the day’s special stages. This gravel pit had more of a clearly defined course that each car would race through twice. Again, Lauchlin drove carefully, avoiding the hay bales and snow banks that could easily suck in a wheel or two and slow the car down. The car’s tight lines and finesse around the course weren’t as flashy or exciting as some of the other cars, but raw speed is rarely shown in extravagant ways.
After the first three stages of the day, CPD Racing still carried a significant four minute lead before heading back out into the forests. Unfortunately, that’s when things took a turn for the worse. On the 13th stage of the rally, the car hit an unaccounted for patch of ice on the exit of a corner and spun nose-first into a snowbank. The Subaru was immediately stuck and after a failed attempt to dig the car out, a competitor stopped and snapped their tow strap trying to unstick the car. Eventually, another competitor stopped and was able to free the #90 car but their chance at an overall win were all but dashed.
Getting underway again, Scott realized that while trying to dig the car out, he’d badly sliced his finger open. With blood quickly covering his racing suit and stage notes, he had no choice but to direct Lauchlin with hand signals, spraying blood around the cockpit in the process. They finished the stage four and a half minutes behind the leader in 7th place and an on-site medic wrapped up Scott’s finger for the time being. Not wanting to drop out of the rally, the team pushed on, clawing back time stage after stage. During the last four stages, Lauchlin made a harrowing run and setting the fastest time in each. They made up two of their lost positions to finish 5th overall and 2nd in Super Production class. The celebration was short-lived however as Scott was quickly rushed to the hospital to receive six stitches in his finger. Lauchlin was solemn about the results but acknowledged that mistakes happen and that all it takes is one to ruin a rally. Despite leading 15 of the 17 stages of the rally, they wouldn’t go home as winners.
The team is looking forward to the next rally – 100 Acre Wood – near Salem Missouri on March 18th. And as usual, Scott was back at work on Monday, happily selling cars just like the one he raced just days earlier.