Monday, March 7, 2011


So, I had to replace the Deerkiller with something. Perhaps we can define the term "had to". As much as I am not a car person, with work and home and triathlon, a car is definitely useful. So "had to" it is.

But what? I decided on a Smart ForTwo. I knew the car fairly well as La Belle has one. Good on fuel, nice-looking, mostly recyclable, low emissions. Works for me.

It's a gas model, because they don't import the diesel into the US market any more. The US has very stringent emissions regulations which essentially bars the Smart ForTwo diesel from the North America market. The whole thing smacks more of politics rather than concern for the environment, as the emissions standards for gasoline engines are far more lenient and don't even come close to the diesel ones. But hey, you can't argue against the EPA so lets just go with what's on offer.

Black throughout. What else? White was available, but can you see me in a white car? The name came naturally; The Ninja; black, sleek, stealthy and fast! Yup, fast. Way better acceleration than the diesel, and with the semi-automatic gear-box (you change gear, the car does the clutch by itself, so no nasty clutch-control to trip stall you out) it's really easy to speed in this puppy; gotta be careful with this one!

When I picked it up, it only had 20 kms on the clock, it didn't occur to me to take a pic until I'd done a couple of miles

Still, my long run on Sunday was 30 kms!

I could have got a "previously enjoyed" diesel, but getting the absolute best fuel economy wasn't a priority for me. This change in car was more about reducing my own personal carbon foot-print and reducing my fuel costs. The numbers the car was sold to me on are not real-world according to the Smart forums (fora? What is the correct plural?) but the car will likely burn ca. 1L fuel more per 100 kms than the equivalent diesel model, but even this 20% relative increase in fuel consumption still means The Ninja will burn 40% less fuel than the Deerkiller! Reducing emissions and costs. And, to be honest, the hypermilers are kinda kooks anyway. They mean well, but they always come across as being a bit, well, off.

Parking is a hoot. It's 7" longer than La Belle's diesel, most of which is extra trunk space (and when the trunk is that small, any increase is significant) but it's still about as long as a Hummer is wide. Unfortunately, the word is parking nose-in to the kerb is illegal, which is a shame. Still, at the condo we squeezed two Smart Cars into one parking space.

Together, we're not much longer than the Mercedes C class in the adjacent bay! Speaking of Mercs, The Ninja looks boxy but it's drag coefficient is the same as an S-class.

Or indeed, squeeze two cars into the place of one outside one's favourite coffee shop

You can see the differences in styling between the '06 and '10 ForTwos. I've seen it written that the first generation '06s were styled more like concept cars; quite futuristic. The '10s are a little more down-to-earth and with two cup-holders dare-one-say, a bit more North American? You can see this mostly in the interior, but you can see here how the '06s rocket-ship silhouette has become a bit bulkier!

Funny how life comes around. Back in the UK I nearly bought a yellow Fiat Cinqeucento, very similar in lots of way; small, 700cc engine. It was nominally a 4 seater but very nominally, and optimistically.

Finally got a Fiat Uno, same kind of deal, but a larger engine (999cc) and a legitimate 4 seater. Not this one, but very similar.

Anyway, here I am, 20 years down the line, with a very similar vehicle to the one I was looking at 20 years ago. Given the way The Ninja drives (very well thank-you), and the Uno drove, it makes me wonder how the substantially larger bodied Cinquecento would have managed the highway with the same sized engine as The Ninja!

Of course, the problem is the boys. Well, they're never a problem, but a two-seater does pose a challenge. The answer is either we go in two Smart cars, or join Halifax Car Share (or rent) for the rare times I'll need to car both of them independently. Using two Smarts uses about the same amount of fuel as the Deerkiller alone. Not to mention travelling in style! Or, of course, get the bus, ride or walk!

Vroom, vroom


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Farewell, adieu, hello.

It was about time to say goodbye to the Deerkiller. Here we are with 6 months left to go on it's MVI and you could pretty much see daylight through the rocker panels. Which was funny, seeing as I'd just (well 18 months ago) paid $600 to get them fixed seeing as it'd failed the MVI on the basis of them alone. Not to mention a marginal emissions test. Oh, and the brakes. In short, a car that usually cost about a $1000 in repairs a year to keep it on the road. The only reason the last bill at Midas didn't quite reach these giddy heights was seeing as how I "forgot" to go back and listen to what they'd really found. To me the real story was how a $45 summer special oil-change turned into $400 dollars worth of ball-joints.

If she was a human being, the surgeon would have come to the doors in blood-stained scrubs, wearily taken off their surgical mask and said "we tried everything, but the rust had spread too far, I'm afraid.... she's gone" Da da daaah! She'd cost me nearly her blue-book value in repairs to this point and it was clearly only going to get worse. It was, in other words, clearly time to let her go to that farm in the country where she could frolic, care-free in green fields with other clapped-out Hyundais.

As much as I ranted and wailed about her, let us not forget not only was this a car I didn't want in the first place but had been foist upon me not once but twice, she performed sterling work. That trip to Montreal was clearly a huge risk, but she passed with flying colours, getting us there and back without once calling CAA. She never once, except that one time two years ago, refused to start in the cold and ice and snow. To my British friends, I do mean COLD. Not quite plug-your-car-in-cold (as my friends in QC and all points west will attest to), but cold enough should these temperatures occur in Britain, questions are usually asked in parliament.

Then there was that time I had to move and she quite literally held all my possessions (or at least those I wanted to keep).

Yup, if you ever wanted to eyeball the exact internal volume of a 2000 Hyundai Elentra, there it is. Once I'd strapped three bikes to the bike-rack, I was good to go, and was gone. Get a new plan Stan....

Let us not forget, the three bikes; The Carrot, Old Bess and the Kona Fixie, combined, were worth more than the car.

She's been to all the races, here was the sight in my erstwhile rear-view mirror as we left Guysborough last year. FYI, Guysbrough is now in July this year, just so you know.

and she was also the backdrop to one of the best "atmosphere" pictures I ever took at a race.

Admit it, it kinda sums up your life doesn't it?

My pet cow also liked her, but Moo is a sucker for a road-trip!

Speaking of races, there was that deer on the way to TD Riverport in 2008, getting up-close and personal with the genus Odocoileus and putting the arse in virginanus! The deer, of course, was shrugged off with nary a worry, leaving her with a rather raffish dent....

which allowed for easy identification in a line-up!

Spot the difference?

That head-light cluster was always on shaky ground after that, and gradually worked itself loose. However, it only fell out three years later, about a month ago actually, after I got a bit too aggressive clearing a foot or so of snow off the bonnet. I kinda got fed up with the brush and used my snow-shovel, which although plastic was enough to take the cluster straight out!

The fix? Duct-tape of course.

Not any old duct-tape either; the original repair was with a length of duct-tape I found wrapped around an old puncture-repair kit in the glove-box! Ha! The resourceful cyclist strikes again.

I got $300 for her, a mere 5% of what was paid for her three-and-a-half years ago. This was as a trade-in on a significantly different car. Sure I could have got more, say $500, by selling it through Kijiji or similar but this way I was spared hordes of large gentlemen in oily t-shirts and boiler-suits traipsing around and telling me in excruciating detail exactly how crap it was and why they should only give me $300 for it, and why I should feel lucky to get that. Oh, and have them know where I live when something vital dropped off.

A trade-in wasn't exactly a Viking funeral. Come to think of it, it wasn't really the viking funeral of legend either. I've been to one of those, or at least the archaeological remains thereof

I wasn't born that far away you see.

Anyway, I felt the Deerkiller deserved the apocraphyal viking funeral of lore; cast out to sea on a flaming raft whilst hoards of large men in furs and horned helmets sang mournful dirges in minor keys before toasting her soul with strong ale quaffed from the skulls of their vanquished enemies before retiring for the BBQ of all BBQs, but it was easier to arrange the trade-in and as for the whole thing of setting a flaming car adrift - more easily condoned by DFO and Environment Canada, both of whom I believe take a dim view of sending automobile flamb├ęs adrift asea without a permit.

Not much of an eulogy, or indeed a send-off, but she deserved something.