atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

Miscellanious Car Musings

Let's start with this:,385204

...a short ways down, user Steve S has this to say:

You must never have been to LA because it's the SUV capitol of the world from what I can tell. EVERYONE either owns or wants to own an SUV. It's like driving around in the land of the giants.

But to answer the question of why someone in LA would need an SUV, there are legitimate reasons. Contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of wooded areas where 4-wheel drive is necessary due to mud or rough terrain. This accounts for .075% of the SUV owners. The rest of them require the largest SUV possible for a multitude of reasons including, but not limited to:

- Showing up friends and neighbors
- Getting a false sense of security in an accident
- Carrying a few bags of groceries
- The fun of roll-overs
- To fit a couple 2-year kids in car seats.
- For somewhere to install 24" spinner rims and 20" TVs.
- And many more!

Whenever I see somone driving a Hummer H2 I always have the same reaction: I think, What a colossal waste of money.

Floating around the internet is a short video of an H2 trying to crawl up a rocky wash. It crawls over a boulder, sits for a moment, and then the driver guns the gas. The front tires turn a bit, and then SPUKK! the thing breaks a tie-rod end and both tires point at each other, kind of like: / h2 \ as seen from above.

This is a truck costing $50,000. Rock crawling--even the low-key kind the guy was doing in the video--probably voided his warranty. I wonder if he tried to bill GM for the resulting tie rod end replacement and alignment?

Most SUVs are not built for off-roading. There are a few which you can take on the trails without too much worry (Jeep Wrangler, Land Rovers) but in general the big expensive ones are not going to do too well on any but the easiest trails--you will break something (like that H2 owner) if you try.

SUVs are sold on three basic points: versatility, safety, and all-weather, all-terrain use.

* Versatility: there is little an SUV can do which a mini-van cannot. With the exception of towing large loads (ie a car trailer, an RV trailer, etc--anything over about 2000 lbs), a mini-van will do everything an SUV will, and will get better fuel economy to boot.

* Safety: if you look at the statistics, you'll see that SUVs are no safer than any other vehicle...and in some cases, they are less safe. SUVs lead the pack for rollover fatalities.

* All-weather, all-terrain use: Steve S says above that about 0.075% of SUV owners actually use their trucks for off-road use. I suspect that the actual percentage is somewhat higher, but I suspect it will still be less than 10%. Most owners of SUVs will never go farther off-pavement than driving over grass. So much for "all-terrain".

And "all-weather"? Here in the Chicago area we get a significant accumulation of un-plowed snow on the roads about two or three days out of the year, and it only lasts for a few hours--usually until the snow stops, at which point the plows come out and the roads are cleared and salted.

When we had the huge blizzard in 1999, which dumped 18 inches of snow on Cedar Rapids, I was able to drive my two-wheel-drive Ford Escort without any serious problems. Other times that I've had to drive in snow, the Escort has actually annoyed people in big 4-wheel-drive trucks because I could keep up with them. I couldn't accelerate as fast as they could, but once moving, the car handled the snow just fine.

All told, people end up paying a lot of money (in terms of initial cost, fuel, and insurance premiums) for what? The ability to brag that their land yacht has four-wheel-drive...something they'll never really need or use.

Fiero Stuff

Every time I have to do something in the garage, my '86 gets in my way. I really need to do something with that car.

The rear end is entirely disassembled because I have to finish cleaning and painting the suspension parts. Once that's done I can reassemble the rear end and at least make the car movable again. Then I can clean the garage....

If it weren't for the big Escort project maybe I could see getting to work on it, but the Escort has to come first.

Escort Project

...still working on getting a parts car. I had one lined up, only to have it slip through my fingers; well, it's back again, and hopefully I can go get it tomorrow, and start disassembly on Saturday. $400 plus rent on a tow dolly--how can you go wrong? Once I have the parts car then I can start to make some serious decisions about how to proceed. I figure I'll have a week, perhaps two, to get the parts off that I need, before I have to get rid of the hulk. We'll see, I guess.

Unorganized Thoughts

The Fiero has been needing frame rail repair for over a year, which is why I haven't put the new rear clip on it yet. I have the welder; now I must find a suitable source of sheet metal and a suitable surface on which to practice welding. Welding on my wood workbench, in the garage, is right out. I specifically bought a flux-wire welder because I knew I would not be welding indoors, and a true MIG welder can only be used outdoors on the calmest of days; otherwise the wind blows the shielding gas away.

I need to learn how to use my welder before I can fix the frame rails and do the necessary welds on the Escort. And once I know how to use it, I'm going to have several other projects to attend to, including fixing some patio chairs and my brother's snowmobile trailer. (With luck, once that trailer is fixed, I'll get to use it for some of my own projects as well....)

Once the Fiero's upper frame rails are fixed I can put the rear clip on. I also need to totally strip, clean, and detail the rear engine compartment. I may also need to remove and reinstall the rear window, because it looks like it was badly installed by a previous owner.

The '86 had something going on with it, because the rear clip I took off of it was actually the second rear clip it ever had; and it's on its third decklid.

The current decklid is black. The prior one was silver, but someone had punched out the lock (and damaged the rear clip in the process, hence the need for a replacement); while removing the salvageable hardware from it, I saw that there was blue (1987 blue Fiero blue) underneath the silver paint.

I have no idea why the rear clip would have been replaced. There's no obvious damage, except for the rust. Maybe it was just the decklid which got replaced; I don't know. But the problem with the rear window seal would seem to indicate that there was something else going on; maybe something cracked the decklid and busted out the rear window, or something, necessitating replacement. I'll probably never know.

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