Sheldon is now getting a Crossfire???
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|February 16, 2007
I keep running across these strange deals that I have a hard time passing on. I love my 2000 Mercedes-Benz SLK Sport, which is now seven years old, only has 53,000 miles on it, runs great, is a stunner, and I do so love the retractable hardtop. This week, as I often do, I went out test-driving cars for fun. I'm always on the lookout for that car that I just can't live without, but was only just a little serious about upgrading as I've only had the SLK for a year. Visited my friend at the Chrysler dealer in Hudson Wisconsin, who ever since I gave him a ride in one of my Russian sidecar rigs, the WWII look Patrol, he's been about the friendliest car salesperson I've ever known. This is a good thing as he loves to show me cars. Haven't bought one from him yet, but at the rate I go through cars and bikes I suspect it won't be long before I do. So, he says, "Ya gotta drive this" and he pointed at a new Dodge Magnum SRT8. A monster with 425hp and we did get on it, even with the ESP turned off. Oh wow!! But, $46,000 loaded. Ouch.
After driving the Magnum I had to go to New Richmond Wisconsin to the Chevrolet/Oldsmobile dealer and chat with the owner of the dealership who has the most wonderful car collection of about two dozen Corvettes, Nomads, and 40's street rods. Even a few sprint cars thrown in the mix. This guy is so car nuts that when he built his new house he put a paved racetrack in the front. After looking through bunches of photos of his cars I stopped at the Chrysler dealer next door, where they had a couple of the limited production Super Bees. My favorite car of all the 50+ cars that I've had was my 1969 Dodge Super Bee with a 383Magnum and 4 speed. These new ones are basically a Dodge Charger SRT8 in yellow with the bumble bee graphics. Nice! As we were talking the salesperson, whom was a new one to me, asked what I thought of the Crossfire. I told him that I really liked the looks, they were very much like my SLK, but I'd heard they were kind of cheaply made and slow. He proceeded to tell me that he had a brand spanking new, still in all the wrapping paper, 2006 Crossfire in Blaze Red, with a 6 speed and it was a convertible. He said that they got it in a deal from Chrysler for some trucks and it was sort of rammed down their throats as they have a very hard time selling two seat roadsters up here in the frozen north. He said it stickered for about $35,500 and they were willing to get it off their lot for $23,600. He asked if I were interested and I told him, "probably not" and went to leave, but on my way I drove around back and took a peek at it.
Oh my, the color was my favorite. Very near the Mercedes-Benz Firemist Red that I'd wished I could have found when I was looking for my SLK. It was gorgeous, even wrapped in all the shipping material. So I went up and found out more. By this time it was tickling me but I was still inclined to stick with my SLK. I did have them check out what they'd give me on trade for the SLK. I was offended by what they offered, but then they are not a Mercedes dealer, can't sell roadsters up here and they'd have to wholesale it out. So trade-in was not an option.
Today I went out and drove a 2007 Ford Mustang GT Convertible. Another monster and nearly as fast as the Dodge Magnum, but not quite my cup of tea for some reason. Then I drove across the street to the Stillwater Minnesota Chevy/Jeep dealer (That is a strange alliance, almost as strange as the GM/Chrysler merger possibility that was on today's news) and drove a 2007 Jeep Sahara Unlimited. Very, very nice but I really don't do enough off-roading to ever justify one of them. But it was fun to drive.
I also called my banker and asked her what would happen to my car payment if I sold the SLK on e-Bay, paid off that loan and put the excess (Yes, I owe less than the car is worth which these days is a bit unusual) down on the Crossfire. She called back and told me that my payment would increase by $32/mo. Oh my.... What now... This is getting too hard to pass up, a 2006 Crossfire convertible, seven years newer than my SLK, and with a real manufacturers warranty for $32/mo more. So back to the dealer to actually drive it.
The salesman and I went for a ride and I didn't really nail it hard as it had no miles on it yet, but ran it up to 4,000rpm and about 100mph and I have to tell you that this thing kicks a**. I couldn't believe how much difference there was in the power between this and the Mercedes. I suspect that the Benz would be competitive on a tight track, but in real world driving, drag racing, or a long road course the Benz would be lapped in no time. I've also driven several SLK320s, which are basically the same running gear as on this crossfire, except they were all automatics and I thought the V6 was a bit anemic. Thirty more horsepower than my SLK230 but a bit heavier and I really didn't notice much difference, but pair it up with a 6-speed and Wow! The Crossfire is AWESOME. That almost nailed it for me. But then when we were all done, he handed me the key and said, "Take it home for the night." So I drove it home and you gotta know Patti was surprised when she got home from work and that was sitting in front of the house. We went out to dinner in it and she said, "If it really doesn't make much difference in our finances you should go for it." Nailed.
February 17, 2006
So, today I went to take the Crossfire back to the dealer, and I still wasn't 100% sure this is what I should be doing until.... I'm driving along highway 64 about three miles away from my destination at the Dealer in New Richmond where the road goes down a long, slow hill, and a Bald Eagle soared in from the right and paced me at about 100 feet from the ground for about a quarter mile before zooming off to the left. I'm part Native American (Mohawk from the far east end of Quebec) and bald eagles have always had a very special meaning to me so I took this as a very good omen.
I had spent the morning shopping my financing around a bit as without having the SLK sold first this is a bit of a tricky deal. I don't have a million dollars in the bank so things have to fall in place. I ended up qualified at three different places so it looks like that will not be a problem. Some people even have trouble getting approved for a Titlemax Missouri title loan so this was good news. I'll have papers signed Monday and the car will be mine (actually "ours") officially. The dealer was going to send the car home with me, but the mechanics were gone for the day, being Saturday at 3:30 p.m., and it needed a couple of more prep things including the first and second gear shifts need to be adjusted so I told them to fix that and do the other things and I'll pick it up at 5:30 Monday so I drove away in my SLK.
I love the SLK, but to move to a new car that is very similar I think is a very good choice, especially getting a full factory warranty. It will be a very sad day when the SLK goes away.
February 19, 2006
May 2, 2007
Crossfire at the Dealer
June 1, 2007
It is about a 1:24 scale all plastic model with Barbie's kid sister driving it. The good news is that it says "for ages 3+ years" so it should be ok for me to have it. I actually snagged two of them on e-Bay so I'm really set.
March 28, 2008 - Still lovin' my Crossfire! Took it out of storage
about two weeks ago but might have jumped the gun. Two days before
this photo I was riding around with the top down at 50 degrees f., and
on March 18th we had a bunch of snow.
July 30, 2008 --
Had a bad, bad, bad couple of weeks. On Thursday the 17th of July I had to drive from my home in Houlton WI (Just across the bridge from Stillwater MN) to the site of the Wolf’s Head Motorcycle Rally in Cloquet MN, stopping at St. Croix Harley-Davidson in New Richmond WI. A little bit out of the way but I was looking forward to the drive out of New Richmond on Hwy 65 North. Hwy 65 between New Richmond and Hwy 8 is a very twisty road with only a couple of straights; perfect for a Crossfire Roadster, and the weather was also perfect. Got about 18 miles north of New Richmond, came around a 10mph corner at about 20mph which was way below what I could have done, and “thump, thump, thump”, a blown right rear tire. Argh!!!!!!!!
I won’t bore you with the story of talking to Chrysler Roadside Assistance, only to find out that they do not cover tires, only mechanical failure. So then on the telephone to try to find a flat-bed to carry the car back to Bernard’s Chrysler in New Richmond where I had bought the car. They tried to find a tire but the only one in that size was in Chicago so they shipped it overnight. The car only has 8,000 miles on it but the dealer said that there wasn’t the required tread depth to get any warranty on it. Bummer. So the car was left overnight and on Friday morning at 11:00 a.m. they called to tell me that it was ready. Got there and almost fell over when I was handed the bill for $443.00. The tire was $262, then towing and labor. Ouch, but paid it so I could get on the road.
Went to my Rally in Cloquet and stayed at my business partner’s house. The next morning he came in to tell me that I had a flat tire. Sure enough the same right-rear tire was flat. I finally pulled the air pump out of the trunk, pumped up the tire and headed to Carlton to the Truck Stop/Tire Dealer. Sat for three hours on a Saturday morning while they tried to work it into their schedule. When they finally got it up on the lift they took one look at it and said, “we aren’t touching that.” Sure enough there was a crack in the center of the rim. Was a slow leak so I took my chances and drove it home stopping only once to air it up.
Monday morning I went to Bernard’s and left the car. They gave me a loaner, MINIVAN!!!!!! The only car they had available. Coming home my neighbors pointed and laughed, when I got there my son pointed and laughed. Even my 11 year old grandson, who has never seen me in anything but a sports or muscle car, pointed and laughed. I’m sure his psyche is damaged for good. He will always picture his old granddad driving that monstrosity. The dealer called me last Tuesday morning and said that it looks like something may have cut my tire and hammered the crack into the rim. I argued my point with no apparent success. They told me the new rim would be $700 and the closest one (the Special Edition SRT6 wheels with grey centers) was in San Diego CA. Can’t be too much further from here. I told them to order it and if I have to pay for it I will, but still insisted that it should be warranty and that might have been what caused the tire to go down in the first place. On Friday I ran up there to photograph the rim and they told me they were expecting it to arrive on Monday the 28th and that the Chrysler rep. would be there also on Monday. They called me Monday to tell me that the wheel had arrived, and that the Chrysler rep. said that he would warranty the wheel, but only with “customer participation.” He only hit me for $100 which at that point I thought was fair. I also turned in the $141 towing bill to State Farm and they issued a check the next day. So counting the $10 the guy in Cloquet charged me to look at it I was out a total of $412.oo and I got my car back on Tuesday the 29th.
I guess I should be grateful that they warranted it at all.
And then... The last time I saw the car was when it was sitting on the north side of their building with one wheel off and up on blocks. When I picked it up and drove away I got about three blocks before I realized something was wrong with my Wind Restrictor. I think my first clue was the Lexan screen poking me in the side of the head.
I pulled over and gave them a call and they told me that they had needed that spot so they'd moved the car to the main lot. Full sun for several days with the temps in the upper 80's f. to 90, black top, black interior. Must have been like a blast furnace in there and it got hot enough to warp my custom Wind Restrictor. Oh well. Called Stephen at Wind Restrictor and he told me that the only other time this had happened it was to a woman who lived in the desert Southwest. They said, no problem they would replace it. I guess I lucked out again but from now on I will surely park in the shade or crack the windows.
September 6, 2008
John Bellingham and I spent most of the day at Motorbooks International's Wheels & Wings in Osceola Wisconsin.
October 20, 2009
In these days of wildly fluctuating gas prices, uncertainty of the supply of fossil fuels, and the harm they do to the environment it is only natural that one would consider having an alternatively fueled vehicle for commuting or short distance trips. All alternative fuels have their own set of problems that to this time have either been insurmountable or their viability is so far in the future as to be a moving target. As ethanol production has ramped up we’ve learned the hard way that converting food to fuel has turned out to be a terrible idea as one can see on any trip to the grocery store. Converting electricity to hydrogen then back to electricity is burning fuel to make a storage agent to make fuel and may one day prove to be the hot ticket but for now that seems to be 30 to 50 years in the future. Gas/electric hybrid vehicles are all the rage and so far they have managed to increase the range of a gallon of gas by about 5-10 percent but at an initial premium at car purchase time of $1,000-$10,000 depending on what make and model is bought. Diesel hybrids are starting to hit the streets of Europe but may not come here for some time as this country doesn’t have the infrastructure to make much more diesel than we now have. We’d have to build additional refineries if we had even a small increase in the number of diesel vehicles on the road which could keep supply low and price high for many years.. The amount of research that goes into alternative fueled motorcycles lags far behind that for cars and is almost nil.
Enter the Vectrix, a plug-in, all-electric motorcycle
I drove my Chrysler Crossfire roadster to New Richmond Wisconsin to pick up Vectrix at St. Croix Harley-Davidson/Ural/Vectrix. Sent Son #1 back home with said vehicle and I mounted the bike to ride it home, although... I only eventually made it. The domicile is about 16 miles from "there ta here" and the instrument panel said I had a full charge although it only showed 18 miles range available. Dell at St. Croix thought the gauge was probably off because it had only been moved around their place for the last few weeks and they had put a full charge on it before passing it off to me. About 10 miles down the road it still read “18 miles” range, then started to come down as slowly as would normally be expected. Got about 4 miles from home and it read 9 miles left and then a little red battery icon lit and the speed dropped to 30mph. So I'm thinking maybe it has a "limp home mode" that came on when below 10 miles, but not to be. Another 1/4 mile and it almost came to a halt so pulled over, got out the user's manual and looked for that icon in the book which said that it was a "Battery Malfunction" icon and that if it comes on you should immediately call your dealer for maintenance. Not a good thing.
I pulled out the ever-present cellular thing-a-ma-bob and rang up Dell. He and his wife Ginger jumped in their Dodge panel truck and within 15 minutes I had another Vectrix. This one seemed pretty normal as it said I had 23 miles range left and I had only one very small problem in the time I had it. I believe that the failure of the first one was an anomaly and just part of the teething pains of an entirely new class of motorcycle. The literature says that they have a range of "up to 55 miles” on a full charge and cruising the Internet I found reports of folk getting 70mpg. Supposedly you must deep cycle the batteries at least 5 times before you will experience "extended range" but others claim 40 miles would be a pretty normal range on a new bike. I'd have to question at what average speed one could expect to see the marvelous sounding "extended range." Apparently running at 50-55mph one would see less range than if cruising around town at 30 with lots of regenerative stopping. Although I suspect there are not a whole lot of riders who weigh 295 pounds. Maximum weight of passengers and gear is 353 pounds so with my clothes, boots, helmet, and brochures in the under-seat storage area I'd guess it was getting close to its maximum takeoff weight.
Vectrix uses a Nickel Metal Hydride (NIMH) battery pack of 125 volts whose recharge time is only 2.5 hours to 80 percent charge and it is guaranteed for 10 years or 50,000 miles. The motor is a brushless DC, radial air-gap type putting out a maximum 5.1 horsepower. Because electric motors produce great torque, 65 ft. lbs. in this case, acceleration is quite good at about 7.5 seconds to 60mph, with a top speed of 62mph. It does cruise effortlessly at 55mph and with front and rear Brembo disc brakes, Marzocchi telescopic fork and Sachs Twin Shocks it brakes and handles quite well although much of the braking is done regeneratively so the pads should last a very long time. The bike comes with a 24 month warranty.
Moving the thing around in the garage was tough because of its 515 pounds and small tires at 14” front and 13” rear. At least it “was tough” the first couple of times; till I read the Owner's Manual and found that not only does the throttle turn backwards for regenerative braking but it also doubles as a slow-speed reverse and that is indeed a handy feature on any bike. Storage consisted of a 1.41 cubic foot space under the passenger seat which will hold a full-faced helmet gloves and a few other necessities. There is also a .21 cubic foot glove compartment in the fairing and both compartments have electric locks that are controlled by the dash mounted ignition key. On one particularly bumpy stretch of Minnesota back road the glove box popped open, although because of the shape nothing could conceivably come out and it easily popped back into place.
The bike has an interesting starting procedure: turn on the ignition key and the electronic dashboard lights, pull in the left brake lever, then the right one and a large green “GO” will light on the dash to inform you that you are ready for riding. I’m used to riding Harley-Davidson, Moto-Guzzi, Moto-Guzzi sidecar rigs or Russian Ural sidecar rigs so over my 44 years of riding my bikes have attracted a certain amount of attention. The Vectrix is at exactly the opposite pole in that regard and it was apparent that people saw it as just another scooter and virtually no one took more than a passing glance at it. So, if you prefer to be anonymous this would be the bike for you as stylistically it blends in with the background, and I was riding a bright blue model. If you are interested in commuting at non-freeway speeds to work and back for a couple of cents a mile you couldn’t do better. As with any new technology the price is a bit high at $10,995 although I’m told that in some markets the dealers are deeply discounting them.
Five days with one isn’t really enough time to fully appreciate a bike but I believe my time with a Vectrix was a glimpse into the future of motorcycling. Not this decade, or the next, but in twenty to thirty years motorcycles of all shapes and sizes will be whizzing around our roads, silently, without pollution, and probably much more capably than our present internal combustion engined bikes. In that timeframe we can expect 80 pound battery packs that give 500 mile range, acceleration that will be beyond belief, and because of the low center of gravity bobsled tight cornering. I do like it.
February 15, 2009
A very bad day. Patti and I have both had some health problems recently, including my have leg surgery last November. Today is my 59th birthday, and it was also the day that the new owners picked up their 2006 Crossfire Roadster. About killed me to see it go but the Doctors, Hospitals, Ambulance companies, radiologists, anesthetists and on and on and on had to have their pound of flesh so the Crossfire had to go. For the first time since I was 14 years old I am now without a fun car or a motorcycle. I still have my '83 AMC Eagle SX/4 Sport 5-speed, but... It hasn't run in months, needs a clutch servo, tire, battery and more before it can get on the street. Might be some time, so I'll be at the mercy of my lovely wife who's 2006 Buick Rendezvous is now our only running wheels. I hope we can get beyond this and one day soon I'll be up on two, three or four wheels.
March 23, 2010 Update:
Lots of water has passed under the bridge since my last update and life has certainly flowed by for us. I lost some weight, started to feel a bit better and had my perfect brand-spankin' new 2006 Chrysler Crossfire Roadster. It was awesome and I absolutely loved it and for a time I had both the SLK and the Crossfire. Then my health sort of crashed and I was losing the use of my legs. By the fall of 2008 I had to rely on crutches or a wheelchair to get around. I was in a world of hurt. Up till then my doctors had not wanted to do surgery on my leg for fear of what could go wrong. It was not your normal leg in that when I was ten years old I'd had an experimental surgery on my left (my good) knee that made it tough for them to predict the results if they'd started chopping. Here is that info.
In November of 2008 the docs finally figured they had to give it a try and they cut off the top of my tibia and the bottom of my femur, inserted 8 inch spikes up each and attached a bionic knee. To me it was like a miracle! Two days after the surgery I was walking with only a cane and two weeks later I was walking without any support. Absolutely incredible. Unfortunately at the time we didn't have very good insurance and I had huge medical bills to pay and had to sell the Crossfire. I was absolutely crushed to once again see one of my babies go away on a flatbed tow truck. So my "toy score" is now just the non-running AMC Eagle SX/4 Sport. I've been without a car now since February 15, 2009 which has been a killer and it looks like I will have no toys any time soon. Patti still has her Buick Rendezvous but in June of 2009 Patti lost her job as a telephonic Registered Nurse and hasn't been able to find another. It has been 9 months so we've had to pull in our belts and just try to get by. It is tough as she was making good money and with what I took in we had our bills paid. Now it is a struggle living month to month. Luckily I've been able to pick up a little consulting work or some Web site design jobs for a little extra each month. The saga isn't quite over yet and I'm sure there will be many more adventures down the road. Vaya con dios....
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