Speeding

Speeding
iPhone 6s
2017

One of the cool features of my Toyota Matrix is how its gauges are invisible until you turn the car on. I think the display looks especially cool at night.

Astute readers may be curious as to why my car’s redline is so high, 7,800 RPM. It’s a feature of Toyota’s 2ZZ-GE four-cylinder engine, which was designed by Yamaha and built in Japan. It’s the go-fast engine in Toyota’s ZZ engine family. You’ll find versions of this engine in several Toyotas and, surprisingly, one Pontiac and two Lotuses.

Revving the engine past 6,200 RPM activates a second camshaft profile that boosts speed suddenly and considerably. It feels like turbo and is great fun. Unfortunately, my Matrix is hobbled with an automatic transmission, making it hard to reach the revs necessary to have this fun. If you ever buy a 2ZZ-GE-equipped Matrix (it will have the XRS badge on the hatch), go for the six-speed manual transmission.

I’m still talking about this car in the present tense because I haven’t disposed of it yet. It still has the front-end problems that aren’t worth fixing given the car’s market value. It’s days remain numbered. But with everything else going on I haven’t found time to deal with getting rid of it yet.

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Photography

single frame: Speeding

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Old cars, Film Photography

Kodak Plus-X and the Carmel Artomobilia

I had two SLRs slung over my shoulders at the 2017 Carmel Artomobilia last month: my Pentax ME with wonderful Fujifilm Superia 100 inside, and my Pentax Spotmatic F with my last roll of Kodak Plus-X.

Cobra

On this day, with this lens (55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar), the Plus-X returned blacks you could just fall into.

Camaro

And the grays and whites came out creamy.

Hurst Olds

I wished briefly that I had screwed in my 35mm f/3.5 SMC Takumar. The thick crowds made it difficult, at best, to back up far enough to get entire cars in the frame. The 35/3.5 would have made me back up a lot less.

Toronado

But I’ve been exploring the 55/1.8’s considerable charms lately, and in retrospect am not disappointed I left it on the camera. It performed well, and it’s seldom a real problem to focus on an old car’s details.

Firebird

Growing up in the 1970s as I did, when half or more of the cars on the road were from GM, it was easy to take their dominance for granted. Looking back, it’s clear just how good their designs were. How daring it was in 1970 that the second-generation Camaro and Firebird had no distinct rear passenger windows! The shape of this window opening is just smashing.

Flying lady

Packard’s Flying Lady hood ornaments are a favorite subject. I shoot them whenever I come across them at a car show.

Ol' propeller nose

This is the famous front end of the Studebaker I photographed from the rear here. The girl walking away was a happy coincidence as I framed this shot, so I made sure to include her.

Citroen

The Citroën DS is funky from every angle and in every detail. Just check out how these headlights don’t both point forward. This is a later DS; earlier ones had uncovered headlights.

R/T

Plenty of American muscle was on display at the Artomobilia. I’m partial to the Mopars of the era for their no-nonsense styling.

Avanti

Avantis were made in my hometown, South Bend. They were Studebakers at first, but after Studebaker shuttered a new company formed to keep Avanti production going. They used leftover Studebaker engines at first but eventually had to turn to Chevy to provide powerplants. Post-Studebaker Avantis were given the “Avanti II” name, probably for rights reasons.

Avanti II

As the show began to wrap up and the crowds thinned, I was able to get a few wider shots of the event and its cars.

Vette 2

It wasn’t all classics at the Artomobilia. Several owners of newer hi-po Ford Mustangs lined up their cars for inspection.

Hoods up

Here’s hoping I can find time for more car shows. I do love to photograph cars and I think I’ve become pretty good at it. They’re certainly the subject with which I am most confident.

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Carmel Artomobilia 2017

Camaro SS
Pentax ME, 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M
Fujifilm Superia 100
2017

I’m kind of over Chevy Camaros. They’re one of the most common cars at shows, and most of them have been up-restored, if you will, from lower-trim models into fire-breathing high-performance models.

I’d love, just once, to see a plain-Jane six-cylinder early Camaro at a show. Vinyl seats and two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission. The kind we used to call “secretary specials” when that wasn’t considered un-PC.

But the big red stripes on this one were photogenic, so I shot it anyway.

Photography

single frame: Camaro SS

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Photography

Fujifilm Superia 100 and the Carmel Artomobilia

I love to photograph old cars. When the city of Carmel, Indiana, closed its downtown streets late last month for a car show, I took Margaret and we brought our cameras.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017

The Carmel Artomobilia is an annual event and this was its 10th year, but it was my first visit. I assumed for a long time that the show would mostly be newer exotic cars, and those don’t jazz me very much. But I was assured that the show is a good mix of all kinds of interesting cars. So off we went to see.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017

I put my last roll of Fujifilm Superia 100 into my Pentax ME, and mounted my 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M lens. I prefer this lens to my 50/1.4 in everyday shooting as it gives extra depth and warmth to colors. It made the Fuji 100 really sing.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017

It’s not often I get a roll back from the processor and feel my pleasure deepen with each frame I examine. But that’s just what happened with this roll. I am comfortable and confident with old cars as subjects, I was using my favorite camera, and I chose a lens and film that render color well. It was a recipe for success.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017

The Fuji 100 really loves green. It might be the color negative film I’ve used that renders green best.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017

The film returned deeply saturated reds similar to what I experience with Kodak Ektar 100. It’s too bad that Fujifilm discontinued this film. I like it as much as Ektar, and it was less expensive. That flare from something reflective out of the frame is a little bit of a bummer in an otherwise satisfying photograph.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017

All sorts of cars were present. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Morris Minor in person before. I love it when I get to “meet” a car in this way.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017

Plenty of classic American iron was on display, of course. I’m partial to 1960s Mopar muscle. I just adore the crisp and purposeful designs of Elwood Engel, Chrysler’s chief designer during this era.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017

What’s this? One Ferrari photo? The contrast between the sensuous hood line and that crisp wheel arch was too strong to ignore.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017

I’m old enough to remember when first-generation VW Buses were common hippie-mobiles, clapped out and covered in hand-painted flowers. I’m not old enough, however, to remember them as new. This one was beautifully restored.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017

I made so many close shots because, with a 50mm lens, I needed to back way up to get more of each car in the frame. Especially at first, the event was so crowded that when I backed up my viewfinder would quickly be filled with people — usually from shoulder to knee, given where I was composing. Fortunately, I like to make close shots of old cars.

I did get a few photos from a distance. Here’s one of Margaret shooting a Buick. She’s not remotely the car fan I am, and I’m fortunate that she’s so easygoing and will share with me pretty much any experience I ask of her.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017

I also shot my last roll of Kodak Plus-X in my Spotmatic F at this show. I’ll share those photos in an upcoming post.

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Carmel Artomobilia 2017

1951 Studebaker Champion
Pentax ME, 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M
Fujifilm Superia 100
2017

Being from South Bend, I’ll always stop to look at a Studebaker. I was born after the company ended operations, but long enough ago that during my childhood Studes still commonly prowled my hometown’s streets.

I’ll share much more tomorrow, but late last month I went to a giant car show in Carmel, just north of Indianapolis.

Photography

single frame: 1951 Studebaker Champion

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Life, Stories Told

Requiem for a Toyota

Have you ever become irrationally attached to something you owned?

Replacement Matrix

I bought this 2003 Toyota Matrix in 2009 after wrecking my previous car, also a Matrix, on vacation with my sons. My first Matrix had been the base model, but this one was the top-of-the-line XRS with its peppier engine. She’s a blast to drive. I made this photo the day I brought her home from the dealership. Doesn’t she look good?

MatrixNose

But after eight years she has rolled over 185,000 hard miles. It’s shocking how badly the paint has worn on this car — it has faded heavily on every horizontal surface, and has chipped off a large portion of the hood. The front ground effects broke off in a mishap, but by then the paint was already in bad shape. I spent the reimbursement check on other things. Her body is scuffed and dented from other minor mishaps, including a low-speed rear-end accident and that time I broke the side mirror while backing out of my garage. Truly, she looks awful.

Systems are failing. I suppose the least of the failures is the windshield-washer motor, but it’s surprising how much you really need it. Yet given her age and condition I didn’t even bother finding out how much it would cost to replace. I just plunked a bottle of Windex into the center console and drove on. More seriously, she’s developed a slow oil leak. And the Check Engine light comes on from time to time to warn me of a problem with the engine’s variable valve timing system. My mechanic’s advice was clear: “Don’t fix it. Not on a car this old. Just keep her oil topped off and drive her gently. She’ll run for a long time like that.” I bought my own OBD II code scanner so I can check for that error code and shut the Check Engine light off.

Key signs your car is a beater: it looks beat up, you are choosing not to fix some of its problems, and you bought your own OBD II code scanner.

When the Check Engine light came on again recently, however, the error code pointed to catalytic-converter failure. And I’d been hearing an ominous clicking sound from the front end when I turned the wheel hard.

You know you’ve gone the distance with an old car when your mechanic calls you by a nickname. “Aw Jimmy,” he said, “I can fix these problems if you want. But it’s gonna cost you big. Two or three times more than this car is worth. You might want to stop and think about whether it makes sense.”

In the end, I let logic prevail over emotion. It’s time to let the car go.

Dog in the wayback

And I’m sad about it. I love this dumb car. I bought it because my first Matrix worked so well for my family. Even though a Matrix is small on the outside, it offers enormous interior room. I could put my two sons, the dog, and a weekend’s worth of luggage in there. We could take on any adventure we wanted in the Matrix.

Wagon Full of Sod

It has been incredibly useful for moving things. Folding down the back seat opens up a giant cavern of cargo space. I’ve moved an assembled gas grill, a dining room table and six chairs, and many loads of sod. When I recently moved into my new home I moved all my boxes in the Matrix in just a handful of trips.

Brick Lincoln Highway

Along the way she was a great road-trip companion, prowling many old alignments with me. Here, she’s on the Lincoln Highway near Ligonier, Indiana.

Snowy day

Five years ago, as old age began creeping up on my car, I bought a used Ford Focus to be my daily driver and relegated the Matrix to backup duty. I taught my sons to drive in it and let them use it when they needed a car. I used it like a small van to haul house-project supplies home from Lowe’s. And I drove it to church, because then I drove it at least once a week. Though one especially snowy winter I shoveled her in and waited for the thaw. All together I’ve put just 20,000 miles on her since buying the Ford.

I don’t really need her anymore. I haven’t in a few years, really. But I’m sad to see her go just the same.

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