Santa’s other sleigh’s

Now that we are less than 10 days from Christmas, I will officially acknowledge its presence. There is snow on the ground, I’ve downed some eggnog and my boss told me to write something “festive”.

Santa is not an easy thing for a Jewish guy to write about. Growing up, I was like, “who cares? This guy isn’t sliding down MY chimney anytime soon.” Anyway, he seems like a pretty cool dude, despite forgetting to get me a powerwheel car for, like, ever…. I figured I would like to know what a guy who gives all – well, most – children on earth gifts once a year drives. I mean, isn’t that what every gearhead is wondering: WDSD – What Does Santa Drive?

Ground rules: Santa lives in the North Pole, which is really flat and cold. All said cars are considered to have winter tires. Santa has more than one car. Santa can drive stick.

Dodge Ram Laramie Longhorn 3500 dully diesel, 4×4, long box. This is Santa’s work truck. It’s a necessity due to Rudolf’s recent weight gain (these days, I hear that kids leave milk and cookies on the roof). There are like, eight reindeer, so you need some torque to pull them around, plus hauling all those toy-building supplies for the elves. On occasion, the elves drive it, but a minimum of three need to be present: one to work the gas and brake, one to steer and one to lead the singing.

2007 Audi S8: This is Santa’s daily driver. All-wheel drive, massive amounts of power from a Lamborghini derived V10, and an executive class interior with loads of comfort. Groceries, liquor store, firing range supplies, chauffeuring the Mrs. Around… this car sees 70 per cent of the driving. Mrs. Clause likes this car, but thinks Santa drives too fast and it uses too much gas.

2012 Lamborghini LP640 Coupe. A coupe: helloooooo, it’s the North Pole,duh! This is Santa’s baby. He drives it only on special occasions, like December 26th and every time that punk the Abominable Snowman is playing him at the golf club. When Santa is stressed, he pops the clutch at 7,000 r.p.m.

1959 Cadillac Eldorado convertible. Santa saw these driven in parades dedicated to his name, so he had to get one. The UN comp’d it, so it’s no big deal. He parks it next to the Lamborghini. He starts it every couple of weeks, but only drives it once or twice a year. Mrs. Claus doesn’t even know why he bothers to insure it…she really doesn’t get it. He sits in it and talks to it when he’s upset. Like the Lamborghini, he washes it with a diaper.

Now, more about Mrs. Claus, you know the homely old lady? She’s probably really sweet and bakes a lot of treats (also not dropped down my chimney) and is at her wits end with a husband devoting his life to doling gifts to undeserving, snot-nosed kids.

I’m thinking that Mrs. Claus is a car nut, too. She had a wicked cool Triumph TR4 in college. She took industrial home ec. This car was small, lithe and cute as a button. She has always kept it and loves to drive it during the 10 days of summer the North Pole gets each year. This is her toy, her baby. She goes for lunch with the girls, gets facials, runs errands, etc. Santa is not allowed to touch it. Frankly, he can’t even look at it.

GMC Yukon Denali. This is Mrs. Claus’ daily driver. It seats eight adults officially, but that translates into something like 24 elves if I have my math right. Mrs. Claus uses it to transport the elves to different elf places they need to be. She says she would love to get rid of it, but secretly loves its sturdy size and practical capabilities.

I will note that this post is 100 per cent factual. I called up Santa and interviewed him personally. It was hard to make out what he was saying…what with all the yelling about needing more Justin Bieber T-shirts and Mrs. Claus was going off about shoveling the driveway…

P.S. There is also a 1972 Chevy El Camino rotting in the backyard. It has an eight-track and a custom double-denim interior…far out. Happy holidays.

when a car becomes part of your body, mind and soul

I had one of those strange moments today that only a car nut would understand. I was feeling truly at home in the car: not comfortable, rather, like the car I was driving was an extension of my body. It would do what it was told, go where it was told and innately know how to do it. The car was reading my mind.

Let’s start from the beginning…

I should tell you that I fancy myself an old-school guy when it comes to cars. I like American cars, manual transmissions and carburetors. Here’s a list of my list of prerequisites: ABS, airbags, heated seats, sunroofs – and once even heat – take a backseat to rear wheel drive, V8 torque and loud exhaust. I am the guy who thought it was a good idea to buy a 25-year old Volvo with a Ford V8. I am also the guy who drives a 1959 Oldsmobile with no seatbelts and a sharp, pointy metal dash in bumper to bumper traffic on the highway with no regard to safety.  I’m weird with the cars….little things excite me.

Auto|One Group recently came across a 2003 BMW M3. It is the old E46 M3, with the smooth inline 6 cylinders producing a factory 333 horsepower. It’s rear wheel drive, has custom exhaust and intake and is in fairly good shape. I thought I would take it for a couple of days and see what I thought. I probably should have mentioned earlier that my current lease just expired and the Volvo is about as predictable as a rhinoceros strung out on crack so, yeah, I needed a car.

The M3 is rear wheel drive, has custom exhaust, wicked handling and is decently quick. The problem was the transmission. This BMW has the SMG transmission – the automated manual. No clutch pedal, just paddles behind the steering wheel. I drove the car for a couple of days and brought it back to work, disgusted with the performance of the car. I want a manual transmission! This thing suck: its clunky, not intuitive and an automatic!!! I was especially upset because the chassis was so willing to cooperate with my dirty automotive mind. In fact, three different people all told me that the M3 is impossible to get sideways in a corner – have I mentioned I love a challenge? I was really bummed out about this transmission.

My co-worker, quite smartly told me “You’re an absolute schmuck – the SMG is great”. This co-worker knows A LOT about cars and I really respect his opinion on them. He says he can never get an M3 because he will get in too much trouble with it. That is a bold statement. I just couldn’t figure this new technology out. Of course, I did the only logical thing and blamed the car (it is easy to blame things that can’t defend themselves).

My co-worker took me for a ride in the M3 one day and showed me how it is supposed to be driven. It was like being in a different car altogether. I actually felt bad for the M3 and how I was driving it prior to my tutorial. The car instantly went from “beast” to “beauty”.

Last week, I was getting on a highway after a long day at work. It was dark, the roads were lightly travelled but there were still some cars. I got on the highway, powering through the apex of the on-ramp. Then I accelerated past some slower moving vehicles and dodged a few transport trucks. Then I seamlessly slid into the express lanes… I didn’t realize that I had done any of this until I was buzzing along in said express lanes. I wasn’t tired, fatigued or racing. The car was simply intuiting where to go. I must have shifted two dozen times and modulated the gas and brake countless more. It felt so natural and so “right” – it didn’t even register. It was almost eerie…

Maybe I’m not the old-school rough-and-tumble car guy I once was. Maybe my M3 has shown me the light of new technology and the fine subtleties of effortless driving.