end of an era, beginning of the test

the PT cruiser convertible line was shut down permanently today. which means mine was made on the ultimate week of production, just three or four days before The End. whoa.


a car is born

a car built to my specification rolled off the assembly line today in toluca, mexico, which means i now have a car for life.

what's funny is i wouldn't find out that this was the day until 8/29/08 when i got my car back from a 12k oil change and saw that the "production date" was today.

happy born day, car.

i hope you're just like a human in that you don't actually remember the experience. with all those robots, steel and plastic, it has to be gnarly.

i hope you're not like a human in that you try to blame every single thing on the fact (and the way) that you were born today. and no, i don't want to hear about the fact that you're a saggitarius (although i do think it's funny that you were born in the year of the pig).


dirty for life

i suddenly realize that a beige top also means that i'll have a beige interior. a beige interior means that i'll have beige rugs. beige rugs mean that i'll be fighting dirt forever.

i'm ready to call the cartelligent guy to see if i can go with a dark top/interior instead to keep the filth factor down, but he beats me to the punch and calls me.

"good news, b1. you're on the build schedule. your car's getting made."

i ask if there's any chance of getting the top/interior order changed.

long pause.

long, long pause.

"nevermind," i say, "it's not a problem."

i'll only be cleaning carpets for the rest of my life.

and now it's complicated

i thought the cartelligent people were completely out of the game. i'd wrangled the discount by myself -- in fact i've even got a car on order with another dealer -- but the dealership that i've been working with through cartelligent (antioch chrysler) has decided that they will honor the employee discount. and THAT puts me in a quandry ...

because the cartelligent guy has done a ton of work for me ... a whole bunch of stuff that i haven't included here ... probably the biggest of which was finding out that a GPS added to the car would not be covered by the warranty wrap (only the items that come with the car from the factory are covered). if i hadn't have had the delay from him on the back-and-forths of our discussions, i never would have gotten in touch with my super-close friend for the employee discount.

having said all that, the fleet manager i've been in touch with at autowest in fremont has been super-responsive. in fact, they've been the only dealership that has been adequately responsive to me on email.

still, the cartelligent guy has gone out of his way for numerous items, including giving me a ton of information that goes well-beyond the call of duty.

i can get this car for the same price either place. it costs me $300 more with cartelligent because i pay their service fee. and they have done me a ton of good ...

i call the cartelligent guy and tell him that i'll go with him if they can guarantee i get a spot in the manufacturing queue. he's nearly certain they can.

i call the guy at autowest and tell him the situation and that i'll no longer be needing the car.

"it's too late. we already have a VON," meaning the vehicle order number (as opposed to the VIN -- the vehicle information number). the car has an assembly schedule. only a radical act of nature can stop the production now.

which means i'm in a really funny situation ...

i've gone out of my way to get a cruiser custom made to my specifications in such a way that it would be unique. a cruiser-only color with a dark body and a light top. less than 500 will be built before the line is shut down.

and i've managed to have two identical cars made.

nice work, b1.


we have a weiner

Mr. C (my EXTREMELY good friend) has come through with the employee discount. i'll be able to get my cruiser built-to-order for $21,501; and chrysler's running a $1000 rebate on the car right now which'll bring the grand total to $20,501. the only way you can get this cheaper (assuming you don't steal a car) is to work for chrysler -- and even then it would only be $200 less than what i'm paying.

i couldn't be happier.

i call cartelligent and they're shocked that:

a) i could get it for that cheap

= & =

b) i have access to a discount program they've never even heard of.

i call a local dealer. he's mildly familiar with the program, but extremely fast to give me an order. i'm set, assuming we can still get the order into the factory.

possibilities everywhere

in the car world everyone has heard of the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP), that's the sticker on the window. and most people have heard of the invoice price (which may or may not be the price that the dealership pays for a car -- varies widely according to dealer kick-backs that you never actually see). but there is a thing called the FWP (factory wholesale price) and that is the price is costs to build a car and roll it off the line.

the cartelligent people have gotten back to me. i can have a factory built cruiser that meets CA air requirements, with stereo upgrade, leather heated seats and an automatic turbo engine for something close to the FWP of US$22,092 -- probably a couple hundred dollars less. this is a car that will have a sticker of $23,325.

but wait, there's more. the dear hunter has come back to me. she has a pal, Mr. C, that has not one, but two employee discounts. and since the person that has it and i are now very close personal friends, it looks likely that i can get a discount.

but the curtain is closing quickly.

inside information

a lot of poking around as well as an inside line or two has given me a chrysler internal document to their dealers. the document is undated but makes reference to 11/9/08, so it must be before that ... it makes reference to all the models chrysler is axing: the pacifica, the crossfire and the PT cruiser convertible. here's the entirety of the part that concerns the car that we all love so much.

2008 PT convertible

this low priced, great value convertible will end production at year end. we have aggressive plas for all convertibles as we enter the spring market, so take advantage of this opportunity now. there is limited production capacity available (less than 500) so place your orders today.

time is, quite literally, running out.


work it!

i need to get a price on a car.

i simultaneously send out internet requests to the 19 dealers in my area. incredibly, only 3 of these are even willing to talk a price in any form -- the others range from ignoring me to insisting that i have to walk in their dealership (which i won't).

none of the prices are very good so i search a bit further and try a place called "cartelligent." they haggle the price for you and for $300 guarantee it's the lowest you can get. i used an outfit like this to buy my honda in the 90's "the car club," that for the same price promised the lowest deal on a car. when i took my papers into my bank for the loan the bank woman was shocked at how good the price is.

i call cartelligent and my guy there quickly understands what i'm trying to do with a car-for-life, although i can tell he thinks it's a bit odd. and it's clear no one has done this with him before -- i have to bring him up to speed on how the warranty and the lifetime wrap works.

within a day he comes back with ballpark numbers that are VERY clearly going to be better than what i can do on the internet ... saying they could be even better. i might be able to negotiate something better, but i'm running out of time. when that factory shuts down the line, convertibles are done, period.

and there is one other glimmer of hope. the dear hunter (sic) used to work at chrysler. i haven't talked to her for years, BUT we're on very good terms. chrysler, like all companies of size, has an employee discount and the rate on cars can be VERY good.

when i tap her, she's quick to respond. yes, it's good to hear from me. no, i don't work for chrysler any more -- in fact i hate them and drive a muscle mustang now. yes, i'll poke around and see if i know anyone.

all wheels are now turning.

any colour you like

i've done a ton of research. it turns out that the sunset pearl color is only available on a very specific special edition hardtop (that also, weirdly, happens to be a bottom-of-the-line car). which means i need to get something else.

the surf blue pearl coat is just a little too light for my tastes. i have no problem with girlie colors and would quickly snap up a pink one, but the light blue is just a little too pop art (in a bad way) and weird.

not just in the PT cruiser line, but in general, convertibles can be had in one of four groupings according to dark or light bodies and dark or light roofs. dark body/dark roof is probably the most common. light body/light roof is probably second with light body/dark top as a close third. the color combination dark body/light top is pretty rare -- it's an old 30's look for things like street limos.

the cruiser black, even though a common color, is nice and maybe a beige roof would look good?

no. a quick scan shows that the beige roof isn't white enough. the resulting "middle vector" between the color of the body and the color of the top isn't even enough -- the beige skews your perception and it actually just makes the top look kind of dirty.

so maybe the answer is the dark blue with a light colored top? the fact that the car isn't black would bring that middle vector closer to level -- so tan might work. it's a bizarre combo -- but the chrysler website allows it to be built (and there's some combos that they don't, so it's probably okay).

the only dark/light combos you ever see in convertibles are red/white mustangs. in fact, that's almost a trademark look for the classic 60's version. but aside from that, nothing.

it's weird to think i would have a car built that i've never actually ever seen a color example of in the flesh, but that's the way i'm headed.


return from the dragon

well, i made my trek to the dealers and it was about as bad as you could imagine.

the first one was stevens creek chrysler. i parked on stevens creek and wasn't three feet onto the lot when i was accosted by the classic white-shirted and tied guy.

"can i help you?"

"sure. i want to see every color the PT cruiser comes in."

you could actually see him deflate slightly as he tried to figure out how to handle this "situation." a brief consultation with the alpha male of the lot took me into the showroom.

"you can find all the colors in here," as he handed me the dealer tome for the PT cruiser.

"this'll take awhile," i said as i sat down at a table in the middle of the showroom.

he sat down at the table with me, at first very attentive, asking questions and having chit-chat. after awhile he was lying with his head down on his arm like he might fall asleep right on the spot. then he simply abandoned me. "don't take that book with you," he sniped as he walked out of the showroom to look for another victim.

the colors were all there in all their perfect little swatches. there's one super-great choice and that's the "sunset." a very orange-y red. but there's more, oh so much more.

not only are there listings of all the different combinations of colors and features -- there are also cross-brand comparisons ... if i want a cruiser that is a color that isn't anywhere in the rest of the chrysler line, i have three choices: sunset, or either of the blues.

but wait, there's even more ...

as hard as it is to believe this phone-book sized monstrosity also has dealer cost in it. that's right, i can sit here right now and price out my PT cruiser with all options ... so i do.

an automatic ragtop cruiser with heated leather seats and top-of-the-line stereo has a factory wholesale price of US$19,858 and a MSRP of $21,120. a turbo tacks on another $1753 and $1905 respectively.

after about an hour at the table, flipping madly through pages and just taking in the whole chrysler meta experience, i walked out trying to find my man ... i want to see sunset on a car.

well my guy's no where to be found "i don't know sir, he's supposed to still be here." but it doesn't matter because they don't have a sunset cruiser anyway.

i make my way to the next closest place. sunnyvale chrysler -- a place that always feels kind of marginally ghetto to me for some reason. i'm swarmed by two sales guys as i walk in "i wanna see a cruiser in sunset pearl."

they flip through some inventory sheets. "oh yes sir! we have one! please take a seat outside."

i do and i wait. i wait about 15 minutes in fact, all the while browsing the web on my hiptop.

my man comes back over to me. "um, we have a problem. the sunset cruiser we have has sat for too long. it needs to be jumped."

so i wait another 10 minutes and then it's wheeled out. and the color is just gorgeous. THAT is the car i want. that color.

i thank the guy. "you wanna drive it?"

"no, thanks."

"you wanna buy it?"

"no, thanks."

"why not?"

"because it's a hardtop. i'm after a convertible that will be factory built for me. nothing else. if you have a car that has everything i want on it, sure, we'll talk." and i leave. it actually felt like the guy might cry.

poor guy.


the prelude (that's not a honda)

(goddamn blogger ate my original [archived] post.)

i need to kick the car hunt into gear. no telling when they're going to close the convertible line.

first stop, the chrysler web site. one thing is for damn sure, if i'm going be driving the last car of my life, and spending 20 grand on it, i want it exactly my way. which means i'm going to have the factory build it for me. i've never done that and i think just that experience will be fun.

color is the first obvious choice/problem. i can get brilliant black crystal pearl coat, cool vanilla clear coat, deep water blue pearl coat, melbourne green pearl coat, brilliant silver metallic clear coat, silver steel metallic clear coat or surf blue pearl coat. online the green looks interesting, but everything else isn't as clear.

(i've always been baffled by stupid car color names -- my first honda was "metallic paisley red." i asked the dealer if they had the same car in "brilliant checkerboard blue" but he didn't laugh.)

and really, if you want to see what a car color looks like you have to see it in person.

as soon as a get a color i need to figure out a way to buy the car. i'll try the internet route -- i may have a couple other tricks i can pull too.


the likelihood of death

the phone conversation with karpov is everything i could have hoped for. actuaries, in case you never learned it, are the math heads that determine how likely everything is ranging from the simple, like your car crashing; to the unthinkable, like your death; to the incredibly difficult to calculate, say the amount of money your insurance company will need to pay all claims if it decided to shut its doors tomorrow.

karpov used to be one of the latter, but now his risen a level. he's an auditor -- the guy who makes sure all the other guys have done all their math right. essentially he's a math killer whose targets are other math killers.

the conversation with karpov is illuminating and includes such tidbits as every state has a commissioner for insurance and big companies will typically have an employee that deals with just one state to make sure they are in compliance.

the big question that comes up is "what's the legals difference between warranty and insurance?" it's a question that neither of us know the answer to for sure, but if they're not the same, they're definitely similar and definitely regulated.

karpov likes the idea of a lifetime bumper-to-bumper warranty -- more from a theoretical exercise than from a practical point of view.

in fact, that's becoming typical of the people i'm talking to about this. they all treat the kind of like bungee jumping from a helicopter over a pond of hungry piranha -- everyone thinks it's interesting (and would certainly like to watch), none of them want to try it themselves.


cast of characters

people are going to be woven in-and-out of this story in the same way that they're woven into my life. here's who's who in continual car land:

automotive fascist: friend of my brother.

b1-67er: my brother, the world's best mechanical engineer.

birdhead: former employee, current conspirator, polterzeitgeist productions insider. coding genius.

cap'n happy: former employee, misanthropist, self-proclaimed expert of everything.  he also has his bad points.

chickory: silicon valley insider whom i know from the (f)red dinner. exceedingly nice and soft spoken -- both extremely unusual traits in silicon valley long timers. probably due to the fact he's a vegetarian.

dear hunter (sic): sexy cousin of an old college roommate and therefore an ex-girlfriend. former chrysler employee. current chrysler hater (and power mustang driver).

fat paulie: former co-worker at apple. now handheld electronics millionaire. he's not fat.

(f)red dinner: not a person, but an event. this is a monday night dinner that has been happening between silicon valley insiders for about 20 years. takes place at a cool retro-diner in palo alto. rotating cast of characters.

grumpy: former co-worker at apple computer. was life-threateningly sick, now quite a bit better. his health is directly proportional to his meanness. close friend of thumpy.

the grumbler: former colleague.  apple bigot.  generally delivers light misanthropy with a side-dish of divine insight.

instigator: long-time acquaintance, big time trouble-maker (by baiting others in conversation). currently works on ipod/itunes at apple.

karpov: national caliber actuary. misfit. legendary 2-fisted gambler and drinker. simultaneously self-assured and dull. he too also has his bad points.

king feddy (aka feddy): close friend. best programmer i know. former head of the (f)red dinner -- back before it had parentheses.

Mr. C: retired chrysler employee. a good friend. the very best kind.

pamila: important person i know.

radioactive dave: owner of my original del sol and proprietor of the boars' nest.

the robot: pal, business partner and owner of a house i often crash at in las vegas, NV.

thumpy: former co-worker and direct report at apple computer. close friend of grumpy.

zz (or z): pal. maker of large statements that may or may not be true and he may or may not remember them in the future. all statements from him need to be filtered. may not currently be speaking to me. not the first time.


what is the meaning of "life?"

but if there's a lifetime guarantee, there's a few things to think about. one is what is meant by "lifetime?"

the chrysler website has definitive information on this. i now quote to you from chrysler, they own the copyright on the following couplet.

Q18: What does 'lifetime' mean?
A18: Lifetime is lifetime.

amazing. amazing not only that someone at chrysler suggested that in a meeting (which undoubtedly drew snickers) but that it actually made it all the way to the public eye. and better still, it's reassuring while actually being totally meaningless.

it's either completely inane, or pure genius. and, i for one, can't tell you which is true.

so what if chrysler "goes away?" what if there is one, and then there isn't?

i call my brother, a person who is not only intimately familiar with the ins and outs of warranties, but has also had the priviledge of having worked at a company that went away.

his feeling is the same as my suspicion, "chrysler won't go away. they're too important. they're too big a part of not only america, but what america means. the government won't allow it to falter. they bailed 'em out before, they do it again if they have to." he blathers on a bit and we talk about chrysler being a buy-out target in a hazy future, "yeah, it wouldn't surprise me if you'd have to take it to a toyota dealer ten years from now."

but what about the concept of lifetime itself?

the obviously wearing parts (brake pads, tires, upholstery [most likely]) aren't covered. neither is the paint. unless it had some kind of glaring defect, i'd bet large money that the cloth of the top isn't covered (although the convertible frame and mechanism are).

the fine print of the warranty talks about manufacturing defects but doesn't actually talk about things like normal wear and tear specifically. i mean, if you put 250,000 miles on a car and then the transmission explodes it's hard to call that a defect.

yet, the overlying intent of the warranty is clear: you can trust these powertrains for life. implying that if you go bumper-to-bumper that'll be true for those 5,000 items as well.

i've had warranty work done a number of times (at least four times on luggage with lifetime guarantees, at least twice on hondas, and on some other miscellaneous stuff) and i've never had a question. never had a rejection. i meet the criteria they specify (e.g. show you have routine maintenence done in the past) and it just works.

irrespective of what people claim, or what their impressions are, the dealership is where the work gets done. they get paid by the corporate headquarters to do warranty work. now it's true that it may be a tremendous paperwork headache, and it could well be compounded by the fact there are incentives from the dealers not to do that work (e.g. bonuses for no claims, or budget on how much they're expecting). but work is work. pay is pay.

maybe i'm the most naive person in the world, but if something fails, i'd expect it to be covered.

the one thing i don't know that my brother pointed out, and that is i have to be aware of a buy-out clause in the contract ... something along the lines of "chrysler will do the repair or reimburse you for the price of a vehicle, whichever is less." 20 years from now a convertible top switch replacement (if it could even be found) might be, say, $500 parts and labor and if the car's worth $3.78, it's a pretty easy decision.

this facet may not sway me from buying a car, but it is something to be aware of.

partially recapping what i said before i need to:
* live a long time
* not destroy my car (crash, fire, flood, riot, monsters)
* have chrysler stay in some form of warranty solvency

right now today, the hardest thing of that set in my health. but hey, i die, it doesn't really matter where the money goes anyway, right?

technically the bumper-to-bumper wrap is overkill. the car has bumper-to-bumper for the first three years and then the wrapper doesn't kick in until after that. in theory i could wait three years before i applied the wrapper (they'll even let you do it with one-year of expiration). however, it would be more expensive (maybe a lot more expensive), and the BIG one: it's possible they wouldn't even sell the wrapper for a lifetime in three years.

which means the time is now.

i need to talk to karpov. an actuarial view of this would be interesting.

make a stain

i have lunch with zz and mention the continual car idea. he's all over it and says, "there's a book." yeah, maybe. but not if you don't write about it.

so the reason you're here right now is just so i can keep track.

and i'm also going to track every expenditure on the car, right on down to gas and parking fees. we'll see truly how expensive a car is.

it'll surprise all of us, i bet.


car for life, car for life, car for life, car for life, car for life, car for ...

i'm digging around more on the pt cruiser and have come across a nugget that is nearly inconceivable to the human mind.

it's typical now for companies to offer a bumper-to-bumper warranty that is somewhat less than the powertrain warranty. for example, before chrysler upped their powertrain warranty to lifetime, it was good for seven years; the bumper-to-bumper warranty on the same car was good for three.

consumers have always had the option of "wrapping" the bumper-to-bumper warranty, meaning they could extend the bumper-to-bumper amount to equal the lifetime of the powertrain. but something like this comes for a price, of course. in fact, this little ploy is widely considered to be a sucker's bet; why would they offer you insurance that you'd make money on. and hey, the real expensive stuff -- namely the engine and the transmission -- are already covered, right?

well right here is where we cross the sanity part of the map ...

get this, you can wrap a lifetime bumper-to-bumper warranty on a loaded pt cruiser convertible, with a $100 deductible, for about $1500 (no deductible is about $2800). it covers essentially everything but the "normal wearing parts," things like brake pads, tires, upholstery. it covers so much that they don't even list everything it does cover, they only list the stuff that it doesn't.


i poke around some more and find some interesting data. chryslers are held an average of 4.9 years by an american owner; the average american car is held 5.1 years. meaning the average chrysler is turned a little more often than the average car.

there are a few catches to the lifetime powertrain warranty that everyone seems to hone in on: one is that it's not transferrable, you have to show the car's been maintained to spec and you need to have your car inspected (at chrysler's expense) in a 60-day anniversary window every five years.

well, i don't even think about re-sale when i buy a car. i didn't do that with my del sol, and here 15 years later, i haven't sold it.

i already keep all my car records and maintain to plan.

and a 60 day window is nothing. if they said i had to get my car checked at 11:33 on november 1st of every prime numbered year, i could do that. simple.

people act like these are big deals. they're not. i don't know why people react in such a way -- i think in their very soul what they think is: i don't like this general concept, so i'm just going to find some stuff i don't like about it and hang my hat there. (my pal zz does this all the time, both with things he likes and things he hates.) i don't understand why people can't say, "i don't like this for emotional reasons." i mean, come on, every single thing you do and decide has a logic component and a emotional component. i have a degree in mathematics and yet i'm willing to readily admit that the reason i'm considering buying a pt cruiser convertible is because it's the most fun car i've ever driven in my life.

so with this warranty, i could get a car and drive it for the rest of my life. it doesn't sound right, it doesn't feel right.

i need to think about this a little more.

in the 80's chrysler was in trouble. under ioccoa, they came back (including paying off a ten year loan, seven years early). they got bought by daimler and almost immediately went back in the toilet.

this year, they got window shopped, and taken private, by a venture capital firm called cerberus. cerberus is run by none other than former secretary of the treasury, john snow (if you've got american currency on you, pull it out of your pocket and look -- it's signed by snow). it's obvious what they're trying to do. buy a lame company, nurse it to heath, sell at a huge profit. okay, fine, i've got no problem with that.

i look closer at what chrysler has done under cerberus and i agree with every decision. closing factories. discontinuing models. streamlining the offering. it's all right. all to a "t."

so what about this bumper-to-bumper wrap? what the hell is going on?

most people trade a car at five years. most chrysler people do it a little sooner. with the exception of my brother, no one i know drives cars as long as i do. no one seems to really think about them exactly the same way i do.

so this price, this bumper-to-bumper price, what do you figure? you know that in their actuarial tables they have to have it figured out to something like a 95 percentile situation. like, "95% of the people who buy a car under these circumstances will somehow leave the plan (death, accident or sale) by ___ years."

what's that number? seven and a half, eight years, something like that.

let's toss some more stuff in.

we can already see a break-over figure in the difference between the deductible and no deductible -- $1300, or 13 trips to the dealer. so they figure you'll go less than that, and these are only trips after the third year. so in five years you'll make less than 13 trips to the dealer. how many less? you've gotta figure they're putting at least 60% profit on the deal. so you're going to go to the dealer for repairs, five times, tops, with it costing you something like $200 a go. no, that puts the warranty profit a little too low at $500 on the $100 deductible plan. it's probably more like $800, which means you're going to make three or four trips to the dealer in five years.

THAT sounds right. that's the right order of magnitude.

= BUT =

the pathological case, meaning, the person who drives a car "forever" in just part of the noise in the long tail of owners. it's all coming together.

i say the phrase out loud just to make sure, "i'm going to buy a pt cruiser convertible. i'm going to wrap a lifetime warranty around it. and i am never going to buy a another car again."

it's hard to grip.

i say it again. "i'm going to buy a pt cruiser convertible. i'm going to wrap a lifetime warranty around it. and i am never going to buy a another car again."


it hits me like a ton of bricks. just resonates in my entire being.

that's right. that's what i'm going to do. i'm going to buy a pt cruiser convertible, i'm going to wrap it, and i'm never going to buy a car again!

really, i only have to do two things: not wreck it and live a long time.

oh yeah.

now i have to find me a car. and a price.


what is a nice ride?

i've started pumping through research on the s2000 and a couple of things are becoming clear:

one is that the performance aspectes of the 2001 are desireable. they played around with the engine a bit after that and took a few teeth out of its road bite. not a big deal to me because i'm such a soft-shoe on the pedal, but it makes a difference in re-sale.

===> BUT <===

the car has a rough ride. so much so that even fat paulie had mentioned it to me in a passing conversation once.

when i bought my del sol i had two criteria: it had to be under $20k new and it had to be some variation on a hardtop convertible because i've never been a fan of the way the cloth in a pure ragtop fades.

three cars qualified: the mercury capri (a freakbox made in australia), the honda civic del sol (first production year and from japan -- most american hondas actually come from the states) and the mazda miata (japan's triumphant return to the 2-seater -- in europe this is called the "mx-5").

i drove all-three and, without question, the merci capri was my favorite. i hate the sports car ride where you feel every rock (which was definitely what the miata had) and prefer a tight-yet-silky sedan ride, something akin to say an acura (honda made, btw).

i went to the books and the capri had so many black bullets on reliability that you could see the printers running out of ink toward the end of the reviews ... instead of finishing the review they would just write, "if you buy this car, you're an idiot." thereby saving both the printer and the customer in one fell swoop.

so a del sol it was.

but i can't take a ride that punishes me. i can't.

and the pt is certainly cushy enough -- it's no kia amanti, to be sure -- but it's better than lots of things.

back to the think tank.


dinner with the fat man

another (f)red dinner rolls around, but this time fat paulie is there (as are chicory and the instigator).

we work our way through the standard conversation of movies and cell phones (always obsessions of the majority of (f)red dinner attendees). conversation slows as the food arrives and it's here that i'll try my luck.

"paulie, i've got a question for you. and let me say right up front, that i apologize for how this may hit you, okay? i'm not trying to shake you up."

eating slows and eyes turn to the fat man. we all know that front row seats are where you find them.

"is there any chance you'll be selling your s2000 in the medium term? say the next few months?"

he gives his classic mona lisa smile. "funny you should say that. i'm going to be buying another car and need the space. so, 'yes.' why do you ask?"

"well, chrysler is discontinuing the pt cruiser convertible and i'm thinking of buying one, but i might not if you're selling your car."

he takes a bite of pot roast as his eyes narrow from extreme thought, "what the fuck is that supposed to mean?" chickory and the instigator are beaming.

this is going about how i imagined.

"in simple english it means i might buy your car or i might buy a pt cruiser convertible."

he's stunned. kinda like a lab frog that you started to pithe, but has managed to hop away with a needle still sticking out of a nostril. "they're not the same. you know that, right?" he's looking to see if there's even any signs of intelligent life in my eyes. he slows his down, like the way you would if you were talking to a really dull four year old. "the s2000 is a fairly high performance sports car. the pt cruiser is a ... a," he's searching for words that aren't even part of his automotive lexicon, "a ... a ..."

the instigator pipes in, "mini-van?"

paulie snaps out of his stupor a bit and hisses. "no, it's worse than that." he thinks a bit more, "what do you mean, you might buy my car or that." the emphasis on the word "that" is about even with the way someone would say "house trailer from love canal."

might as well twist the screw. if i don't the instigator will. "come on, fatty. the two cars have one thing in common, you're a smart boy, you know what it is."

his eyes are starting to roll back in his head and his breathing is getting labored. "i have no fucking idea. they both have four wheels? they both live in the mind of someone who has gone totally insane?"

the instigator chimes in, "no, paul. money. they both are being paid for by b1."

paulie looks confused. "money? what do you mean, 'money?'"

everyone's laughing now. he really can't put this all together.

"i'm going to buy a car paul. it's about $20,000. i buy one or the other."

"... you ... buy ... one ... or ... the ... other," he's repeating words the same way you would if someone had asked you a question while reading. he's heard what's being said, but he can't understand it.

we're all laughing harder.

i look at the instigator and chickory. "someone help me here, i can't get through to him."

and chickory comes up with a classic chickory moment. "paul, you have the opportunity to save someone from buying a pt cruiser."

and he snaps out of his stupor like you'd just waved a smelling salt under his nose. "oh, fuck yeah. i'd do that."

time to close this mental door before too much leaks out. "okay, paul. let me know if you sell it. i need to take a drive in that car before i buy it, of course, but i drive a car soft. i won't hurt it, i promise." he's not convinced, so i add, "and if i buy it, i'll never let dogs ride in it." this cheers him up considerably.

ignorning the fact that paul looks like he's lost his appetite, the dinner returns to normal, because, well, the new high-def release of blade runner is being shown down in LA right now.

which means, right this second, it looks like i'll be having a new-to-me honda somewhat soon.


a swing and a miss

i was the only person at the (f)red dinner. which means talking to fat paulie will wait until next week.

i'm anxious because the window is closing on the entire pt cruiser situation.


an s2000 in the 2000s?

there is another factor at work here, though.

my pal, fat paulie, has a 2001 honda s2000 that, due to his inattention and bank account balance, has less than 2000 miles on it. "it's never been washed" is a common chirp of his.

i've had my eyes on this car for a long time for a few reasons.

one is the care the car has received -- and the miles logged as a result. paulie takes good care of this stuff and still cringes over the fact that the acura nsx he sold to a pal has been used to cart a dog around of all things.

another is the color combination is both unusual and good. silver paint, red leather seats. nothing in the automotive world says, "i am so much better than you," than red leather seats.

and a good one is that it's the car that replaced my del sol in the honda line. it's more than twice as expensive, and probably four times as powerful, but it's the right genetic predecessor.

an s2000 of this vintage has a price tag of less than $20k, which would put it in the same general neighborhood as a pt cruiser convertible.

paulie has hinted (more than once) that he might sell it, but has never actually followed through. he will, though. he owns several cars and we all know the old axiom A Car Never Driven Is Eventually Sold.

although technically i could afford it, i'm not buying two cars. it's one or the other.

i should see him at the (f)red dinner next monday. i need to tap him.

which should be really interesting because paulie is a big-time high performance guy and goes through cars faster than bad silicon valley engineers change underwear. a pt cruiser convertible, to the fat man, is going to be roughly akin to talking about joining the elks club. something so inconceivable that it's unpalatable. just talking about this might kill him.

and i don't want him to die.

not without his car, at least.


lifetime powertrain warranty

chrysler, in an effort to boost sales and confidence, apparently announced a lifetime warranty on the powertrains of their non-demonic cars. pretty good deal, especially considering that that includes the turbo charger.

i come from the heady land of honda where things just work. we assume in this austere and stuffy world that american things simply fail. the stupid, dull and less fortunate buy american for unclear-yet-patriotic reasons and when something goes wrong they simply say, "gollyeee! that thang done 'ploded!" and buy another one.

whether or vehicles are actually like that doesn't matter. what does matter is if you think that could be true, you need to have psychological defenses against it.

and warranty counts, sure.

internal combustion

i don't need a new car. i put my 200k miles 1993 honda civic del sol into partial retirement at my mom's place so i could avoid paying for rental cars back there, replacing it with the birdhead's 1997 del sol. my replacement never has set exactly right with me for a few reasons:

* it's a stick and my brother, the world's best mechanical engineer, has (rightly) brainwashed me into thinking automatics are better.

* it's a color (darker green) that i not only don't like very much, but also gives off some kind of crazy stealth characteristics with american drivers. i've been cut off more times in that car in 15k miles than the complete lifetime of my other car.

* it's got a bunch of tiny things wrong with it. the antenna won't retract. the rearview mirror fell off. the passenger window won't stay on track. not a big deal for a 10 year-old car, but mine doesn't do that because i took better care of it.


the pt cruiser convertible has been made for four years if you count 2008. the chrysler website shows that the model has already been brought down from three styles to one -- and tons of options have been added.

i'm sittin' on a pile of cash right now. you know, it wouldn't take much for me to get one of these things.



and so it begins ...

a one-line email from my pal radioactive dave:

One of your favorite cars, the PT Cruiser Convertible has been killed.

damn. i really liked that car.

[10/23/08: radioactive dave was really fast on the draw -- this was the same day chrysler announced the deletion.]