Friday, December 2, 2011

A "Not So" Short History of My Car Obsession

I have been told my garage is an eclectic collection of cars. The collection may seem random to some…but this bit of my car history may shed some light on the logic and pattern of what is in the garage today.

To start with, some people have asked me why I am so "into" cars. I really don't know, except that cars have always been part of my life. As a kid, I enjoyed racing (and modifying) Aurora slot cars with my brothers, Jeff and Karl, as well as building model cars and creating crazy wheeled death traps we called "go karts" - which were engine-less platforms of plywood running on axles of 2x4 and steel bolts with wagon wheel tires. We steered them with rope, supplemented by our feet on the forward 2x4 axle, careening down the hills near Hillsdale High School with no brakes except the rubber soles on our Sears-purchased Keds shoes. Mom always wondered why our shoes wore out so fast...Good times.

My parents got divorced when I was about 2 years old, but one thing I remembered about my Dad from the early years was his 1953-ish MG TD. Maybe missing him (or his car?) was the start of my car addiction. Below, left to right, are my brothers Karl and Jeff, and then me…with Mom around 1965. And below that, a shot of me on my first vehicle.



My car obsession has never really wavered. Motorcycles have also played a part in my growing years, and over the last 34 years or so I have owned and driven many vehicles, some of which I will chronicle here. Some I have no photos of, with great regret. Others I have now learned I never should have parted with. Each of them represents a time capsule with some relevance of what was going on in my life. My family members, not my cars, have been the most important constant in my life, and I am blessed with a wonderful wife and two daughters that forgive me for my minor car obsession…

1962 Chevy Impala
My brother bought this thing for $200, around 1977, when I was 15 years old. White with grey primer spots. Pos-a-Traction Torque Twister tires on "moon mags" - yeah, that was cool then. I wish I had a picture of this one, because it was my first taste of real freedom in a car - my brother would drive us wherever we wanted to go. What a concept! Because the car wasn't powerful enough to "burn rubber", we would stack newspapers in front of the rear tires, then hit the gas to make the paper fly out the rear like a card shuffler gone haywire.

1973 Audi Fox
I turned 16 in 1978 and learned to drive in my Mom's 1973 Audi Fox, a car that was a reflection of the new emissions standards in the U.S. and rising gas prices. People were starting to buy smaller-engined cars. But this car was actually pretty darned quick,and handled well, and I often found I could outrace big American cars at the time... in 1978 these were the neutered versions of the prior American muscle cars. This was my introduction to lightweight, sporty cars. When I was 17, I hit the oil pan on a rock while racing down a back road, and blew the engine when the oil ran out as I tried to make it across the San Mateo Bridge. Mom not happy.

1972 Datsun 510
After I blew up the engine in my Mom's Audi Fox, it was time to get my own ride. I had saved enough to spend about $1000 on a car. I was surrounded by kids in high school that were obsessed with late-60s American Muscle cars, but I liked sports cars from Triumph, MG, Fiat, Alfa, BMW. I also like older Corvettes, the only competitively raced 2-seater sports car made in the U.S. at the time. I couldn't afford a Corvette, nor a BMW 2002 nor an Alfa or an Austin Healy 3000, but I had seen races at places like Laguna Seca where the Datsun 510 was beating the pants off some of those other marques. John Morton had made the car famous, driving it to victory for Brock Racing Enterprises (BRE) in the 2.5 Liter Trans Am Championship.
The BRE Datsuns were so successful, they say the other teams just gave up trying to beat them and they folded the 2.5 liter Trans Am racing series. I loved the underdog Japanese car image, epitomized by the Datsun 510. Like me, it was small, but could win. I saw a couple around town that had been modified - this was the "boy racer" crowd long before the "Fast & Furious" type modifiers started up. I found this bright orange one in the summer of 1979, when I turned 17.


I was anxious to modify it (flare fenders, lower it, etc.). But I had limited cash. I worked at a couple gas stations and often worked on it in the repair bays after hours. I eventually blacked out all the chrome, lowered it using a blow torch to cut the springs, put on Koni gas shocks and heavier sway bar, and painted the interior using vinyl paint to make the ugly white interior all black. Yeah, that actually worked. I also sanded it down, prepped the dents in my driveway and undercoated it with many cans of gray primer (I can't imagine what kind of overspray I foisted upon my neighbors!), then took it to Miracle Auto Body for a $99 paint job. It actually looked great. I upgraded the intake manifold, larger carb, had the lower half of the engine rebuilt, added a more aggressive cam, and re-assembled the engine my my garage at home. Just about everyone, including me, was amazed when it actually cranked up and worked. With a new 2.25" stainless steel exhaust, it sounded loud and it moved pretty fast. I loved that car.

I sped around San Mateo for the next few years, through Senior year in High school and into two years at College of San Mateo. That car often put "muscle cars" to shame, especially on the back roads like Crystal Springs Road or Highway 92. This solidified my status as a small sports-car guy.

1981 Kawasaki GPz550
Purchased used in August 1982, just before I left for college at Cal State Sacramento. This was the absolute coolest bike out at the time. I know there is a photo out there (Karen Feeley took it!) with me on this bike - I just have to find it someday. Unfortunately, this one only lasted me about a month, then was stolen from a parking lot in Sacramento. I loved that bike and learned that insurance couldn't quite replace it exactly. So I found the next one...

1979 Kawasaki KZ650
Bought in Sacramento in October 1982 during my first semester of Junior year in college. I couldn't wait to get it home and start modifying it. I removed the big chrome fenders, got rid of the 70's style "sissy" bar in back, put on a 4-into-1 flat black header and short sportier handlebars with aerodynamic mirrors. I thought I looked pretty cool. My buddy Brian Lucero had a 1978 KZ650 in orange and we went everywhere on those bikes. Probably ticked a lot of people off with the way we drove…If I saw me on that bike today, I'd hate me! And on top of that, we wore no helmets and usually tank tops and shorts. Stupid.


I put a lot of miles on that baby from Sacramento to San Mateo, with several trips to Los Angeles, San Diego, even Scottsdale, AZ. I sold it in 1984, figuring I'd be needing a car when I graduated from college in 1985. So I bought...

1969 Datsun 2000 Roadster
Something completely impractical for an up-and-coming accountant. But this car had belonged to my neighbor "Guy" in San Mateo, and I had coveted it for a couple years. I drove it during my final year in college, often sporting a really stupid looking wool british beret, along with my cheesy 80's mustache. Its no wonder I was single… I graduated from college in 1985 and moved from Sacramento to Concord, CA, and most of my belongings fit in the back of this 2-seater. The photo here shows the car and paint color, although this is a 1968 version - I have no good photos of my car from those days.


Life was simple. I started work for a large company in the Accounting/Finance department. It was summer and the car was perfect for the warm evening weather, if maybe a tad sweaty in a 3-piece suit on 100-degree days. Unfortunately, that car's timing chain came off when a guide broke and the whole thing was a mess with bent up valves. It needed a complete rebuild and I was short on cash. So...

The "Bud-Mobile": 1965 Chevy Impala
I borrowed this from my buddy Brian. The entire back seat had been replaced with a twin mattress. A Budweiser Tall can mounted to the hood, hand painted flames on the side, blacked-out wheels with a red X painted on… The roof was caved in a bit from being used as a seating platform at drive-in movies. And to top it off, it read "Eat Me" on the back and "Bud Racing Team" above the windshield. Yeah, a real lady-catcher. But the good news was no cops ever pulled me over… they must have figured I couldn't be doing anything wrong if I was willing to drive that eye-sore. That car actually gained me some notoriety around the accounting department of my employer. Not all to my detriment, either. Turns out girls actually like a guy who is "just a little bit bad". This lasted a couple months before I replaced my now broken Datsun, and my loaner Bud-Mobile, with the shiniest, most technologically advanced bike I could find:

1985 and 1987 Kawasaki Ninja ZX600
I mention these two together because they were pretty much the same bike. Unfortunately, I crashed the first one on a bright February afternoon when a green light turned red and I ran through the intersection into the side of a Mustang. I flew over the car, landed on my feet unharmed. The bike was totaled. A co-worker witnessed it all and nicknamed me "Super Dave", in honor of Super Dave Osborn, the comedy sketch stuntman from the TV show Bizarre and the David Letterman Show.

Here is the first Ninja, along with a partial shot of my then-disabled Datsun Roadster. Yeah, nice 1985 hair…


I was single, and I gave lots of people rides on my bikes. It was a great way to break the ice. And while that isn't my wife on the back in the photo below, she loved riding when we met.

I rode these bikes from 1985 through 1988. I gave up motorcycles when I got married in 1988 and I sold the last Ninja to buy a condo in Hercules, CA. Bad trade. I really wish I had kept that bike.

1986 Mazda B2000 Pickup
While I still had my 1987 Ninja, I added a truck to the garage, now I was officially a 3-vehicle guy (broken Datsun that I wanted to fix, Ninja for sunny days, and Pickup truck for camping and driving on rainy days). I guess this was the beginning of my "one vehicle can't do it all" view on the world. When I met my wife-to-be, Jill, she should have known I had "car issues", since I owned the truck, a motorcycle, and a half-rebuilt Datsun Roadster. But on our first dates, Jill enjoyed taking the back roads on my bike, and she even took a ride in my half-Datsun (with no seats or interior and no brakes at that point). I knew then she was the girl for me. During this time, I had also become involved with Big Brothers of America, and this photo shows me and my Little Brother, Robbie Faussat, around 1986, before I met Jill. Robbie was a groomsman in my wedding in 1988.


1989 GMC S-15 4X4 Extended Cab
Jill and I were married in September 1988 and my company transferred me to Tulsa, OK in December that year. I couldn't move the half-built Datsun, so I gave it to my brother. Meanwhile, a small 2-wheel drive Japanese pickup wasn't right for Oklahoma bass fishing trips, so after a year in Tulsa, I bought a new 4-wheel drive GMC S-15. Of course, what does one do when now has the awesome power of 4-wheel drive? Well, one goes out and tries all he can to test the limits. I found my limits pretty quickly…right around Lake Eufala, miles from nowhere, stuck up to the axles in Oklahoma mud. Good times.


1992 Isuzu Trooper
After returning to California, I bought this SUV, as a 30-something was supposed to in that time period. It was for commuting, pulling a boat, camping, and hauling stuff. In fact, I bought it just before my first child was born and it has the honored distinction of being the vehicle that transported both my daughters home from their birth hospital. In 1993, I went back to school to get my MBA, and this truck took me to Berkeley every day. I graduated in 1995 and recall hoping that I could get a good enough job to have some fun with a new car some day. The SUV just didn't push all my buttons.

1985 Porsche Carrera Turbo-Look Cabriolet
The mid-1980's Porsche 911 Carrera was, in my mind, the quintessential performance car of my generation, and the Turbo version had been my favorite design of all time. The design had been a favorite of mine since I worked at a gas station in high school and had the opportunity to wash a car like this one (a 1977 version). I can still recall how the curve of the sheet metal felt when I ran a wash cloth over the perfectly formed massive rear-fenders. So, a few years after graduating from Business school, I treated myself to this used one in 1999. Porsche had reintroduced the Turbo in 1985 in Europe but it wasn't available yet in the U.S. due to emissions. So they made a "Turbo-Look" version which had the Turbo's body, suspension, brakes, etc., but with the U.S.-approved normally aspirated engine inside. They only made 220 of these in 1985, and another few hundred over the span of 1986-1989. It turns out this is a fairly rare car and I wish I hadn't sold it. About the time I bought it, we also sold our house in Concord and moved to Danville, just before my older daughter started kindergarten. With a small back seat, it sort of fit the whole family, and I convinced myself it was a "family" car.


I drove that car to BART every day for 2 years and put a cover on it each time, even in the covered parking lot (yeah, a tad "retentive" of me…). The tech bubble popped, and my investment banking job disappeared and I moved into the world of investment research …my new job required an hour-long commute in each direction and after several months I concluded I would ruin this great car with that 65-mile daily round-trip commute. With my two small children growing, I also needed something more practical, so...

1999 Acura TL
The most unexciting car I have ever owned. 'Nuff said. Great commuter car, but I felt like an old man in it. I lowered it with competition springs and shocks but that was a classic "lipstick on a pig" move. Within a couple years, I decided that practicality was over-rated and I dropped the grandpa mobile. I needed something fun.

1999 Porsche Carrera, with Factory GT3 AeroKit
I loved my job now in Palo Alto, doing energy research and investing. I felt comfortable stepping up in my car addiction. Purchased in 2003 from a dealer in Santa Clara with 40K miles on it, this beautiful blue Carrera had everything I ever wanted in a car. I owned it for 4 years and drove it every day on my commute, which was 32 miles each way to work and back. It made commuting a pleasure, and I credit it for keeping me sane during the hour drive in each direction. I had dreams of race tracks so I occasionally autocrossed this with the Porsche Club of America.



1995 Ferrari 355 Spider
Around 2004 things were going well at my firm. Doesn't every jerk with a few bucks in his pocket need a Ferrari? So I thought. I have always loved the classic lines of the F355 Spider, so I got this one from a dealer in Arizona. Now I had two amazing cars to choose from each day when I drove to work. Not always an easy choice in the morning...



That car sounded like nothing else…it drove beautifully, and it just made you feel good to step on the gas in a big sweeping corner. I had a great time with the car, but unfortunately, the car turned out to be a maintenance nightmare, starting with a complete top-end rebuild and including lots of stupid little things like bad door handles and sticky plastic interior knobs. More importantly, I didn't meet a lot of nice people driving that car. Contrary to popular belief, most women will studiously avoid your gaze when you are in a car like this: I think they don't want to give you the satisfaction of drawing their attention. I'm ok with that, because I am happily married and it wasn't why I bought the car. So mostly I met other Ferarri owners. But it turns out that some of them are just like the stereotype: pricks. So, I would find myself driving along and if I saw a Ferrari on the road, I would think: "A$$hole". Then I realized... I was now that guy! I decided to sell it….more on that in a minute. My current garage is conspicuously void of anything Italian. I love the cars, I just don't love what people think of me when driving one. Unfortunate, because the latest versions are simply amazing.


2006 BMW 750Li
Ok, this was my wife's car, not mine. But I mention it because it changed my view on big sedans. Prior to this car, I wouldn't have believed you can have excellent performance in a big car. But you can, and few cars prove that as well as BMW's 7 series. We traveled on many family vacations in that car, and it was roomy, powerful, and amazingly fun to drive. Our kids and their friends loved the absolutely cavernous, and ridiculously luxurious, back seats. After 6 years and 65,000 miles, and once the warranty expired, the transmission went bad. BMW proved something else to me: that you really don't want to own one after the warranty expires. We sold it in 2011.


2007 Aston Martin V8 Vantage
I saw an Aston Martin V12 Vanquish at an auto show. I thought it was the most beautiful car ever made. I thought that an Aston driver wouldn't be seen in the same way a Ferrari driver was. An Aston driver would be a gentleman, but cool. James Bond made it this way and it would always be so. And if I sold BOTH the Ferrari and the Porsche, I could buy the smaller, lighter, cheaper, and more agile Aston Martin, the V8 Vantage. I had to order it 6 months in advance. My 2007 model arrived in December 2006, custom ordered in Tungsten Grey with black interior and gray stitching, and even had a plaque on the door sill that said "Hand Made in England for David Anderson".
I still have it. It has been my daily driver ever since and it still is, in my mind, the greatest looking car ever made. To me, it exemplifies the period in which it was made: the first decade of the 21st century saw a return of the horsepower wars, and a re-emergence of European style into cars that had become too boxy, uninspired, and utilitarian during the 1980s and 90s.

And I take it everywhere, even on fishing trips!


2006 Infiniti QX56
I call this one the "Gray Whale" for its size and color, but must say it has been a terrific vehicle. I bought it mainly to tow our boat, but it may have done more duty hauling my daughters and their cheerleading squads around. It carries everything, goes in the snow like a champ, tows like an Ox, is comfortable, and has never given me any problems during many years of ownership. Oh yeah, and I've never stuck it in mud up to the axles. Live and learn, eh? I like the fact that it is, at heart, a Nissan - a direct descendant of my first Datsun.

Skip Barber Racing School
I had always dreamed of racing cars, and in 2006 or so my wife was nice enough to buy me an introduction day at Skip Barber Racing School. Well, that led to more racing classes and eventually I started racing in the Skip Barber Western Region Formula Series. Laguna Seca was my primary track, racing on it was my dream come true. I still love that track! I also got to race at other terrific tracks, including Chuckwalla Raceway, shown below. In 2011, I switched from Skip Barber Formula Racing to join the National Auto Sport Association (NASA) and race my own track-prepped car, shown below (2007 Porsche Cayman S). The people at Skip Barber are wonderful, the instructors are some of the best in the world, and if you ever get a chance… get into it.



I turned 45 in 2007. Maybe this was mid-life crisis time. Most would say I already went through that with the Ferrari and Porsches. But it was at this point in my life that I concluded that I never should have sold a few cars that I had previously owned. I decided to collect a few cars and keep them for as long as the world will allow me to. My collection started simply, with one of my favorite cars of all time...

1986 Porsche 911 Carrera Turbo (aka 930)
I bought this one with 81,000 miles on it in 2009. It had been made the year after I left college but it looked to be in significantly better shape than I. Porsche makes great paint…23 years later it still looked new. With power on the decline through the 1970-1990 period, Porsche and others had started using turbo-charging as one method to increase power without increasing fuel use. So, this car epitomizes the use of high performance technology of the era. From a design standpoint, I also consider the 1986-1989 Porsche Carrera Turbo to be the essential Porsche of our generation.




1967 Corvette StingRay Convertible
Of all the muscle cars of the 1960's, the mid-year (1963 to 1967) Corvettes stand out for several reasons. First, they were technologically ahead of rivals with things like 4-wheel disc brakes and independent rear suspension. Second, they were also true 2-seat sports cars, unlike the Mopars, Mustangs, GTOs, and other pony cars of the era. Third, they are classicly beautiful in their design and still look fantastic by today's standards. Corvette has always, and continues to, represent the pinnacle of American sports car power and technology. I bought this one from a local Danville owner, who had spent 10 years meticulously restoring it to showroom condition. Every nut and bolt shines on this car like it was just delivered from the factory. It has no A/C, no power steering, and it sports a 350-HP 327 small block engine. With the top down on a warm evening, its a blast to drive. I was getting too many cars to fit in my 2-car at home, so now I rented a warehouse to house my growing hobby.




1968 Datsun 2000 Roadster
The next addition to the garage came when I was in Houston, and stopped in to look at a vintage Porsche dealership. Sitting among the German cars was one lone Datsun that the dealer had picked up as part of a Porsche collection in the mid-west. It didn't run perfectly and needed some suspension work, but I picked it up anyway. I had a Datsun Roadster specialist mechanic named Mike Young fix the engine issues, and I tore apart the suspension and replaced with competition suspension. It rides like on rails and, truth be told, it gets more attention on the streets than just about any car I have ever owned. Seriously, go buy one of these (they're relatively inexpensive) and you will never be lonely in a parking lot!




2007 Porsche Cayman S
In 2011, I decided to begin racing my own car instead of the Skip Barber Formula cars. The idea being that I can do some modifying and toying with the car, which adds a dimension of fun to track days. For now, the car is set up for Time Trial competitions with the NASA organization. It gets lots of time at Infineon Raceway, which is a short 50 minutes drive from home. My goal is to race it on many new tracks in 2012. Elsewhere in this blog you can find a couple of videos of me and the "Gator" at Infineon Raceway. I have driven many cars in my life, and I can say this is the best-balanced, most completely "perfect" car I have ever been in. With just a bit more horsepower, it would outshine any car in the world. This one was set up for the track by TPC Racing in Maryland with full JRZ race suspension (adjustable coilovers, adjustable toe links, adjustable drip links, GT3 lower control arms, and adjustable sway bars). Fun. Did I mention fun? Yeah, fun. Come on out and take a ride with me sometime at a NASA track day!



2006 Fisker Latigo CS #001
I was fortunate to find this car for sale in late 2011. It is the only one of its kind. Fisker Coachbuild was founded in 2005 and intended to bring back the lost art of custom coachbuilding. The Fisker Latigo was one of their first two car designs. It was built on the BMW 6-series chassis. Fisker intended to build a limited run of 150 Latigos, but only made two cars: the prototype #000, and then car #001, built on a BMW M6. It has an RD Sport upgraded engine with billet crankshaft and rods, forged pistons, re-ported cylinder heads, a completely new exhaust, and even without a turbocharger, it manages in excess of 650 HP. The custom body panels are aluminum and carbon fiber, and the supple leather and alcantara interior was redone by a master Italian furniture maker. This car is more stunning in person than photos suggest, and I managed to pick up Latigo CS #001 on the cheap, as if it were just a nice used BMW M6. I don't think enough people had yet figured out this would some day be extremely collectible.




2012 Fisker Karma #007
By 2007, as both an energy investor (my work) and a car guy (my hobby), I had the opportunity to merge those two passions. I was introduced to Henrik Fisker, the former head of design at Aston Martin and BMW, just as he was trying to start a new electric vehicle company, Fisker Automotive. I eventually led an investment by my firm in the A round venture funding of Fisker, and I sat on the Board of Directors as Fisker brought the world's first electric luxury sports sedan to the world in the form of the Fisker Karma. The Karma is a technological masterpiece, with twin electric motors and a 20 kWh lithium-ion battery, and enough chassis and suspension technology to choke several elephants. Henrik set out to create a car that was all at once efficient, environmentally friendly, powerful, and beautiful. His ultimate car stayed very true to the car we discussed in 2007 when he founded the company and showed me the drawings of the car he dreamed of building.

It was a distinct pleasure watching through several years as he and his co-founder Barny Koehler, and their entire team, brought to life the car that we had first showed the world at Detroit's North American Auto Show in January 2008. Below are photos of me with Henrik and the prototype car in Detroit in 2008.

I was lucky enough to be one of the first non-employees to order a car from the company, placing my order in the Fall of 2007, 4 years before it finally came to fruition. I purchased one of the "Signature Series" first 100 cars. Mine is car #007 of 100, shown below as I picked it up at the dealership in December 2011. This car drives even better than it looks.




The Garage Today






So now you may see some of my collection's logic:

1967 Corvette: the quintessential American muscle car that defined the top end of style, technology, and power of the 1960s

1968 Datsun 2000 Roadster: Represents the emergence of the Japanese manufacturers; stylish, light weight, fun, and competitive on the racing circuits.

1986 Porsche Turbo: The car that defined the 1980's supercar style. It also was the outcome of 1970-1980's emissions requirements: Turbo-charging was the answer to getting power and good emissions from smaller engines.

2007 Aston Martin Vantage: represents the best of design of a new century's era of power and style.

2007 Porsche Cayman S: Representing the best technology of the time: mid-engine, small, high revving engine in a car with perfect balance. The perfect race track toy.

2006 Fisker Latigo CS: Mainly in the collection because of its rarity. But it also reminds me that a certain cross section of buyers started thinking that their cars should be more politically correct, so they didn't buy many of these, which started Fisker on the path to an electric car.

2012 Fisker Karma: represents the beginning of a new era of electric cars. An era where the driver does not have to compromise style and beauty in order to use less gasoline.

Come visit some time. Cars are meant to be driven, and shared!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fisker Latigo CS #001

This is the Fisker Latigo CS, car #001. Built by Fisker Coachbuild and based on a 2006 BMW M6, it has an upgraded engine from RDSport, all new carbon fiber and aluminum body panels, and a custom interior and Fisker wheels. This is one of just two Latigo CS cars ever built, the other one being car #000, the prototype car built on a BMW 645i platform. Car #001 shown here, was originally sold to a Southern California owner and now resides in Northern California, the only car of its kind in existence.




















































From the RD Sport website, the following is RD Sport's description of it's M6 and M5 engine upgrade, aka "Motor Tuning" package RS58:

"True to its tradition, once again RDSport discounts the easier forced-induction route and pushes the envelope of its normally aspirated motors to a new level with 650hp 5.8L RS58 stroker motor.

The V-10 RS58 uses much of the same technology found in the latest F1 motors: billet crankshaft, billet rods, and a set of forged pistons that are amongst the lightest to ever find their way into a production-based motor.

The ported cylinder heads boast 17% more efficiency than the stock ones, and this is mainly obtained through the use of larger valves and modified cam profiles.

The RS 58 M5 Package comes complete with a full exhaust system, including Race Exhaust Manifolds, Metal Matrix Sport Catalytic Converters, Sport X-Flow Midpipe and Competition Rear Silencers with Quad Tips."


Pages from the Company's Brochure show some of the options available...

Attached is the original Fisker Coachbuild invoice, detailing the options and prices.  This is in addition to the cost of the underlying BMW M6.

Added these interior shots and engine pics.  Note the underside of the all-carbon-fiber hood…also note the two plaques indicating "001 of 150".  Optimism abounds!!