Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Subtractions

I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog lately and wondering if it’s still necessary for the advancement of the car. At times it has been really easy to write as it naturally fit into a “work then write” scenario. Obviously that’s been different as of late. I think it’s been very important in keeping me focused but obviously there has to be an evolution as my needs have changed.

I’ve decided to keep writing until the TR6 is done and I go for my first extended drive in it. I'm not sure where to go yet (Edmonton, Summerland, Jasper…) but that will be the end of it – A little chunk of time.

It has been great therapy for me to write about this particular passage in life. Every one of us, if we live long enough, will experience the passing of someone close and we will all deal with it in different ways. This is just my way.



I didn’t realize it until my uncle Jim pointed it out but the Belvedere I acquired is a radio delete car. The 330 I wrecked is also a radio delete car. This means they came from the factory with no radio and a plate over where the radio should have been. I find that fact fascinating.

When I was growing up the big thing to do was to drop a huge stereo system in your car. I was right in the middle of all that and remember the big Kenwood, Alpine and Clarion decals on the back of car windows. Looking back on it now it all seems pretty silly.

I remember one guy who I used to work with at a gas station when I was 15 had an 80’s mustang and he had a speaker in the back of that that took up the entire back seat. Later he bought a Ford Ranger and used it to take the whole stereo thing to an insane level. It wasn’t uncommon to hear about guys building five thousand dollar systems – and this was back in the mid-nineties.

In my nineteen eighty Road Runner I had a Sony ten disc changer and even before that in my ’76 Cadillac Seville I had 300 dollar Kenwood CD player – which was goofy because I bought the car for 350 dollars.

I even was responsible for helping to build a respectable base system into an early ‘80s Mazda B2000 which, in the end, turned out to be more stereo than truck.

My dad was a music guy also and loved more than anything to turn the knob to eleven when a great song came on the radio. A lot of stories centering around cars, expecially the TR6, also center around what was on the stereo. He used to take a lot of pride in saying that when all his friends bought eight track players in the seventies he got a Blaupunkt tape deck. With the perspective I have on that car now I think the placement of the gearshift might have played a factor in that decision over foresight.

My musical education started with my dad and I am very glad for it. I love music – but only great music. For my generation I am a bit of a musical savant for naming the band or singer when almost any song comes on the radio – my wife will attest to the fact that is a really annoying personality trait. When Bruce died, in fact even on the last weekend at the ranch - August 2008, he was quizzing me on country music classics and pretty impressed with himself that he was kicking my ass at it. I’ve filled out in that category a bit since then.

I love cars too, and given that and my rambling about car stereos, dad and music, it seems like a foregone conclusion that the TR6 is going to be kitted out in the latest and greatest. Well, to be honest, it isn’t… it’s been the hardest decision surrounding this car but it really isn’t.

I’ve gone back and forth on this and I may again but I think the TR6 is going to be a radio delete car.

I’m a techie. Obviously that’s a given from the medium I choose to write in to the job I have. Right now I have our home setup so I can listen to my Itunes library in any room in which I have a stereo system (even multiple rooms at the same time) all over our wireless network and I control it all from my IPhone. Yes.. I’m a geek.

I don’t want to turn this into a geeky pissing contest but I am trying to make my case for the fact that a lot of thought and research went into this decision.

Put it this way: Let’s say for argument-sake that this particular TR6 had been rebuilt in 1994. It is most likely that if that had been the case then it would have had a Kenwood CD player mounted in the dash. How dated would that CD player look today? It’s such a timeless looking car I’d hate to tie an irrelevant time period to it.

There is the second argument that has been made to me repeatedly about the vintage-look stereos you can buy now that have modern capabilities (CD, MP3, USB and audio jack). The problem with that is these have the same flaw as aftermarket radios: no built in SAT. You can add Satellite radio to these with a kit that also has to be mounted as none of these units possess the capability to handle the process internally.

I fear losing some of my audience as I go “Glenn Beck” here on content but I will anyway - there is a serious content issue going on here in North America. I have abandoned terrestrial radio and I am about to abandon cable. As soon as there is an internet answer for sports I’m pulling out. As it sits now cable makes up only 35% of my media mix. The other 75% is a combination of the Zune network on XBOX Live, Apple Itunes, my Kindle and satellite radio.

It might not be the same in the US but here in Alberta, Canada we have some pretty horrifying radio stations. In fact I’ve grown so intolerant of radio I am more likely to turn the radio off when I don’t have access to satellite radio or my Itunes. In the same vein that syndicated radio has made prophets out of people with room temperature IQs such Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura it has turn morning shows or “Zoos” into mass market commodities devoid of any intellect or relevancy. I swear every station hires one girl just to laugh in the background at bad jokes. To make matters worse I think at peak hours there’s a 60/40 commercial mix.

There – that’s most of my rant about radio – I stopped short of my rant on Canadian content laws.

We are post-peak for technology related to aftermarket radios. To invest in a standard aftermarket radio now is like buying a VCR around 2002. The technology going into these products – after the introduction of superior goods is sub-par to when these were superior goods. Put simply – when factory radios sucked aftermarket radios were better – now that factory radios don’t suck aftermarket radios aren’t made as well – or as cutting edge. Not to mention they look funny too.

Other options I was considering were a) putting a Sat enabled deck in the glove box or b) installing a sat receiver directly into an amplifier. What nullifies these two options is mounting speakers. From the factory – or whenever the radio was mounted – 4 inch speakers were mounted on each side of the kidney pad on the center console. These pointed right at your ankle and rear speakers were not mounted as the gas tank resides right behind the back panel.

TR6 owners don’t agree on much but they do agree that the acoustics of this system sounds quite terrible. Mounting a second set of speakers would help this but I can’t see myself carving up that interior for speakers – just wouldn’t be right.

Some guys have mounted Mazda Miata seats in their 6’s because they have speakers in the headrest. I’m not sure how this sounds but it’s way too resto-mod for my tastes. Besides Miatas are girly and I suspect their seats are too.

Five years ago I had a gen 2 IPod mounted to the dash of my 2002 VW Jetta and wired through the CD changer port on the back of the factory Monsoon stereo – that was a very slick system. I remember heading to class in the car with the tunes cranked – during that time I was listening to a lot of Skynyrd’s “Mr. Saturday Night Special” and every thing by The Band – and popping my IPod out and continuing to jam on as I headed to class. It was truly beautiful system.

I have a similar system in my truck that works with my IPhone. Since they changed the charging voltage on the IPhone I’ve had to install an inline voltage converter. That was a big runaround with a fellow on Ebay – took a month to get straightened around. The MP3 player in the IPhone responds to my CD changer functions on my factory radio (the VW system worked this way too) but if I’m using my Satellite radio app on my phone and I press the stereo off and back on again for any reason the MP3 player kicks on automatically and it turns off the Satellite radio. And for some reason every once and awhile (3 times over an hour drive) the system will just disconnect and play through the IPhone’s external speaker for a bit.

This is not a great system.

Technology evolves – nothing is static but I think the TR6 should be timeless – more along the lines of Rolex’s Daytona than Timex’s Indiglo. It also should be a simple and positive experience to drive. Modern stereos have little buttons, menus and all types of weird sub-functions. External Sat radios add clutter and require, what used to be called, a cigarette lighter.

If a long trip is in the cards a Sat enabled ghetto-blaster can be set in the back seat but I think for the day-to-day the note of the exhaust is more than good enough.

I'm glad I got this out in the open.

Stay tuned...

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