Meet my New Hooptie: James “Jimmy” Peregrine Jalopington

Or “Jimmy The Jam Wagon”

I just had a busy Monday. In addition to applying to 18 jobs and setting up 2 interviews, making tuna-egg salad, mowing the grass, grocery-shopping and washing clothes and my daughter’s car/child seat, and doing general cleaning, I bought a “new” car and sold my old wrecked one in 2 totally separate transactions involving cash, plus a few hundred other things.

After looking for a good used car that fits my needs and wants plus trying to unload a totaled but still in good shape old car, I’m now qualified to haggle and negotiate at any auction, executive roundtable, Sungei Road, or the streets of Araby.

I looked at all sorts of rides. I have no interest in new cars. They are for a totally different type of consumer and vehicle owner/operator than I am. I’m not defined by what type of car I drive, like most people it seems. I define what kind of vehicle I drive. Meaning I have what suits me and not something that is concerned with superficialities like status, which is usually misleading anyway. I see a lot of very expensive vehicles parked at some very trashy houses and by people who believe that leasing or making payments on a certain type of car makes them something they aren’t. That’s living in a fantasy world and paying dearly to do so.

I let somebody else pay all the depreciation, union dues, employee insurance, pensions and retirement, and all the other costs that are tied up in new cars for me. Lee Iacocca once remarked that insurance and retirement make up about 60% of a car’s MSRP. And depending on the make and model of the car, the depreciation can be very steep, if you want something nice and fancy. The depreciation on Mercedes, BMW, and Range Rovers is ridiculous. They’ll lose 80% of their value in the first 5 years. Mercedes makes some cars that will last a long time. Same with Volvo. And they are both very safe cars, too. Range Rover has a nice fit and finish but has a reliability and high maintenance problem. Same with Jaguars. Porsches don’t depreciate at all, but they are expensive, yet very fun, to own. There’s nothing super-fancy about them compared to other cars though. They’re race cars for the street. Toyotas all last a long time and hold their value, so most people hold onto them. You don’t see many Toyotas for sale that haven’t been totaled or a problem with them, though. Including the one I just sold. Hondas, too. And Honda Elements are going to be collector cars, mark my word. They’re unique, utilitarian, scarce, and last a long time. Good used ones are already hard to find or are relatively expensive. I’d like to have one, in fact. Same with Mini Cooper Countrymans and some VW’s. Great cars that keep their value and hard to find on the second-hand market.

There is also a stratum of cars that belong to Kia, Hyundai, and other Asian and Indian companies that make good cars but I’m not really interested in owning them. I’ve driven a Kia Sorrento, which I was super-impressed with. Very nice for the price. There are just so many to choose from. I’m interested in Teslas, but only the roadsters and P100s. The rest are very nice but stylishly not me, still expensive and, what I see as good in some respects and bad in others, very standardized. That’s done by smart design, engineering, marketing, and operations. I’d love to have a Tesla Roadster and Cybertruck, though.

How to choose?

For some good, I grew up in a house that resembled a garage more than a human home, so I know a few things about automobiles. Not just car parts and tools everywhere, but cars and car manuals, magazines, and anything to do with them wherever you turned. My father never outgrew his teenage obsession with them, and after my mother died when I was 14 and he was in his late thirties, there was no one to confine his unfocused interest. Our property turned into Sanford and Son auto salvage before my eyes. Although I was more of a hostage than a partner.

So after a couple of months of looking and getting an idea of what was available locally, I finally found one. This was after finding a few other possibilities that were either sniped from me by people that just sit and look and wait for a great deal and BANG- gone. Scavengers. That or the seller didn’t have a clean title or had an issue like a cracked windshield, which means I can’t get it to pass inspection to get it titled in KY or something technical. And there are those that post good vehicles for sale that are trying to find someone who will overpay for it and have no real interest in selling, really. People that list items for sale “to see what they can get” is the same a low-ball buyers who go around seeing what people “will take.” different sides to the same lame coin. They aren’t serious buyers or sellers, just scavengers and often I’ve found, con-men. So beware! Caveat Emptor.

How-to-Inspect-a-Used-Car-Checklist-FULL

What I landed on after months of haggling, searching, researching and walking and biking was something that has ended up being perfect. I tend to believe the ups and downs and time it took were all part of a process that had something to do with someone watching over me. Every now and then something like this happens to me, that is nothing short of a miracle and there’s no other explanation. And this one had an even more pronounceable feature to it.

I had seen several vehicles I wanted so badly but had some imperfections and were out of my budget. I tried to talk the seller down with no luck or the things were bought while I hemmed and hawed. He who hesitates in finding what’s a good deal loses, because someone else will yank it up fast. So you have to know what you’re doing and act act fast, almost on intuition, which feels risky. And I don’t like taking risks, although I’m tested all the time. Instead of making me more comfortable with them, it makes me equally skeptical, which is probably the balance I should be looking for.

In any case, when I was finally exasperated and tired of explaining to my daughter why we were still having to walk to the grocery store like Europeans, instead of driving to the mailbox like Americans, I found one. And luckily I live in a little village, called “Beechwood Village” which is a lot of old cottage homes nestled right in the middle of everything any human could possibly want within walking distance. I’m not kidding–EVERYthing. It’s not why I chose to live here, because that also means there’s a lot of traffic nearby with all the retail and transpirational chaos, which was halted by the China virus, but lately is back to normal. I live here because it’s safe, affordable, has TONS of kids, is laid out well, quiet and well-kept. It’s a higly desirable neighborhood for a lot of people and I got lucky with this house, just as I did my last house, and in the same way I got lucky with buying this vehicle.

My ex-wife and divorce have seen to it that I have no money and no credit and I even so I don’t want a car payment. So I’m paying cash and on a very serious budget and working hard to quickly alleviate myself of the dramatically negative toll my last relationship has had on my life.

So I needed wheels. I have a daughter to think of and cart around, plus you have to drive a lot to get around the sprawling county I live in and to downtown to visit lawyers and such, and just because you need a car if you live in America and have a life. Everything’s within walking distance if you have the time, and I don’t.

I’ve had every type of car made, literally, at some point on my life. So I knew I needed something practical, utilitarian, rugged, durable, easy to work on (because I like to do my own mechanical work when I can), fun, unique with some personality, clean(most people in the US don’t keep their cars up to my standards which doesn’t mean mint, but tolerable), relatively problem-free(I’m not buying someone else’s problems. I can fix a lot of things, though myself.) and has a lot of life left on it. The cars made these days should last, with good care taken care of them, 300k miles or more. What usually does them in is an accident that renders them a total, or they outlast the owner. If all else is in order. Most people don’t take proper care of their cars, which is the second-most big expense in many cases, which is unreasonable. Both in the amount of money they spend on a car and the care they take of it. But that’s how people are.

That had me narrowing it down to a rugged wagon or SUV, or maybe something in-between like a Honda Element, although performance-wise, they don’t offer a lot. And I also promised my daughter the car would be red, my favorite color, or green, the color of 99% of all ~20 cars I’ve had in my possession remarkably and for no reason other than choice and fate. And for that 5-year-old who likes exploring as I do, a utilitarian, easy to get around in and around space on wheels with lots of windows and moon roofs would be a good thing to have. So I was looking at Volvo or Audi wagons with their options having bigger engines(I had a Volvo wagon before and it was woefully underpowered) or an older SUV like a Jeep Cherokee, Land Rover, and the like. All of them ended up being sold in a minute, over-represented, overpriced, or a dealer bait-and-switch situation, as I had with the Honda Elements. A guy/”dealer” was buying them as salvage at auctions, fixing them up as cheaply as possible, fixing the title, and overpricing them on Facebook Marketplace. So the business he has is ripping people off by selling them junky cars with band-aids on them. I have red flags all around car dealers. Many of them are charismatic and unscrupulous, like lawyers.

For a while, I began expanding my search criteria to include large sedans I could haul my child and myself in around in comfortably at least, like a Mercedes S-600 or BMW 750. The depreciation on them is staggering. And they’re very dependable cars and they are magnificently luxurious. The maintenance costs will hurt, but if you’re sharp you can find one that won’t need much to keep it up. I even looked at 40-50-year-old Mercedes sedans that were in near-mint condition. With low mileage. I once found a Bentley with low mileage and was clean being offered for around $30k, when that was a cash deal I could handle when the MSRP on it was almost $400k. Everything on it was handmade and built mostly by careful hands. Those are rare. And being in Louisville I had a place relatively nearby, in Ohio, that could service it when needed. I saw a lot of Bentleys in my old neighborhood. And a lot of other beautiful weekend drivers.

Coming back to reality, I needed to just get something-anything-quickly and for a few thousand dollars. there’s nothing worse than being in a position where you HAVE to buy a car. And I was reaching that position and running out of patience.

What fell in my lap one day was a just-listed red 2001 GMC Jimmy 4×4 SLS Comfort package. Which is the same as a Chevy Blazer. Which I’ve had, but I’m not sold on Chevrolets, versus GMCs. Yes, they’re “similar” but the differences are noticeable and real. and are highlighted by the values of them. The Chevrolet versions of comparable vehicles, of which there a number of, seem cheaper and of lesser quality. Cars are made up of tens of thousands of pieces. And there are tens of thousands of opportunities to cut corners and costs. Plastic over metal. The thickness of materials and overall quality. Very subtle but real differences which, when summed, add up to a great deal of separation. To some people, obviously many people, those differences don’t matter over cost. The devil’s in the details. But to others like me, they do. I don’t like cutting corners. And it has to do with taste, like Coke versus Pepsi. I love Coke. I hate Pepsi.

I wasn’t looking for a “Jimmy” or Blazer, I was actually looking at Jeeps and Explorers. My last vehicle was a green Ford Explorer, Eddie Bauer edition V8, which I liked a lot. You get a lot of bang for your buck.

Just like my marriage at about the same time, it croaked on the side of the road and was left there for the buzzards. Which is how I ended up with my ex-wife’s old junker and she drove off into the sunset in a shiny new Mazda C-9. And did the same thing with her next husband. She gave him that vehicle s a consolation prize and sent him packing already with her driving a brand new, expensive and highly depreciative, Honda CRV. Hopefully she remembered to get this car with cruise control, which her last purchase was made, unfortunately for the person who drove it it most, without.

I love this truck. And whenever I find someone online that has one, they love theirs too for the same reasons. They’re pretty easy and cheap to work on, not that you have to all that often, but doing routine maintenance and optimizing it requires getting your hands dirty. Or not if you wear work gloves like I try to do.

Something interesting about this vehicle is that it shares a LOT of its design with several others from the same era. My GMC Jimmy is about the same as a Chevy Blazer. And a Chevy S-10 pickup. And a GMC Sonoma pickup. And a GMC Envoy. As well as an Oldsmobile Bravada. And as someone who’s spent some time behind the wheel of both a Blazer and an Oldsmobile, it’s familiar. Maybe that’s why I like it. Along with some other reasons such as it having all the things you want and nothing more. There are no features that go unused, and none that I can think of that I wish it had that it doesn’t.

Except the audio system. You spend a lot of time sitting in these vehicles, so the experience should meet your standards. And every single person has different standards from the next. So this is where the fabric begins to fray.

And now the fun begins.

Here’s the stuff I’ve done so far:

  1. Replaced the headlamps with LED lights. Much better, and impressed with the people I bought them from.
  2. Installed a steering wheel cover that matches the design perfectly and is a pleasure to use.
  3. Replaced the interior lights with much brighter LED. Now we can see.

But the real story is going to be the stereo. Quadraphonic Sound! Speakers in every corner, with an 8-track playing today’s rocking top hits by the bands that put them there! Def Leppard! Journey! STYX!

Not quite. But I am upgrading the sound system, which is mandatory in any vehicle I own. I’ve never heard a factory stereo that couldn’t be made better. Even Ferrari puts junk in the dash. That’s one element that car manufacturers refuse to piddle in when it comes to customization. This stinks because that’s the time that the wiring and all the components should be put in. But they put in some mass-produced equivalent of a Bose Alarm clock. That might be good enough for some people, or more than some people even want, but for many, especially with higher-end cars, they don’t really try. The car’s about performance, not what you’re listening to, which, as a marketer, I will say is the exact wrong way to look at it. It’s all about the experience with cars. And the ability to influence that experience with music is a HUGE opportunity. But I digress.

The last car I had was a joke. It was my ex-wife’s old car that I “won” in the divorce, and was, literally a piece of garbage. I won’t dwell on it, but it was a blue 2002 Toyota RAV4 with no cruise control and had only been waxed ONCE in its entire life, by yours truly, as a favor when we were dating. Actually, here’s a gallery where you can check it out yourself. I wrecked it like a loser, and sold it like a winner. It’s one vehicle that I will never miss, I promise you.

For reference, the prior cars I had were an Eddie Bauer Explorer and a Porsche. And for almost a decade I drove that 4-banger tin can around Louisville until I hit a post that didn’t do that much damage, but enough to total a piece of garbage. Until then the plan was to drive it until the wheels were about to fall off, then drive it off a cliff with a burning effigy of my ex-wife in it. So you can imagine my disappointment of having to sell it to a couple of Africans on Facebook Marketplace for a slick $900.

So back to the audio system. I’ve got 6 spots for speakers and a basic head unit. All trash.

This is what it’s being upgraded to:

Sony Faceplate

New Reciever: Sony MEX-N5300BT

It has Bluetooth, CD player because I still have a tower of CDs from the 1990s-2000s that I like to listen to every now and then. By regional bands that most people have never heard of, unfortunately.

  • Hands-free calling and Siri Access with dedicated microphone
  • It has 3,000,000+ colors that I can choose for the illumination
  • USB port for all sorts of things that I have

Amplifier!

My intention for this audio upgrade is to enhance and refine the music (and telephone calls and directions) not rumble the hood with my hooptie. A car is a unique opportunity to create a sound stage, because you’re encapsulated in a tonality-neutral environment that won’t disturb your downstairs neighbors.

So the signal will be amplified by a 5 channel 1800 watt Planet Audio box with a remote for the sub. So much wiring to do.

  • I can run my speakers and subwoofer(more on that later)
  • Remote Subwoofer Control. Not that I will need that, ever. (Maybe. Installing it nevertheless. This is the time to do it if I’m going to do it.)
  • MOSFET. And a 6-year warranty.

So that brings us to the speakers. I’ve had Infinity, Polk, Nakamitchie, JBL, and Blaupunkt speakers, back when Blaupunkt was elite, scarce and pricy(before the internet, in other words). Now Wal-Mart sells them.

Of all those I would say the Nakamitchie’s were the best sounding, and they were in the piece of garbage that I just sold, which also had a Blaupunkt receiver. The buyers had no interest or concern for the stereo at all, mind you. I should have yoinked the speakers.

I compared and sought and thought and slept on it and finally settled on Alpine SPE-6000s. Alpine has consistently offered very good products for ages. I remember getting rides in cars of my friend’s older brothers, who were “cool” and seeing that they had Alpine stereos. Wow!

But I didn’t get them for their coolness, since no one’s even going to see them. And that’s cool. They’ll handle anything I throw at them at 480W Peak power, 120W RMS power. I located a deal that I couldn’t refuse. More than half-price of what Crutchfield was selling them. I hated to not give my business to Crutchfield because those guys are good, but I’m on a tight budget. And over the years, going back to 2006 at least when I upgraded the audio system in my Porsche. I’ve given them a lot of business because any car I’m going to be driving for any time gets the treatment.

I have six speaker placements in this thing. Plus a Sub. And an amp. So this is a project I would label above “novice.” And I’ll get to know James intimately.

The dashboard has two crummy little tweeters. So I’m going to replace those with what’s a lot more than an afterthought, which is a pair of Infinity KAPPA-20MX 2″ Dome Midrange with a bandpass crossover enclosure. I’m not sure what a “bandpass crossover enclosure” is supposed to do, so I may be calling my friends at Crutchfield. Even though I bought them off Amazon because of the enormous price difference, I feel confident that Crutchfield will help me because I’ve relied on them for so much over the years. That’s the way to do business, incidentally. Make the customer feel like a part of the family and when you need help you can just call them. And that’s what they do. That’s marketing gold. I find the audio companies I deal with all give 5-star service, and at very good prices. I don’t mind paying a little more for good service after the sale, and it’s even better when I get that and a good deal. Which I do.

I removed the speaker grilles and they were like potato chips, they were so worn out from 20 years of Sun. They crackled and I broke the left grille without even trying. So I bought 2 new grilles off eBay. They never arrived so I got a refund and ordered 2 more grilles plus a new long defrost grille to replace the old one, since I was remodeling the place anyway. Same price, basically. They showed up and were a good match, except they came without the clips that secure them in place. I contacted the seller, who said I should check the local hardware store, as-if.

I finally installed the midrange InfinityKAPPAS where the old tweeters were on the dash with a lot of persistence. The windshield being present right above the space I have to work in presents a good view into where I’m working, but it’s an invisible barrier that limits motion. So it’s a good and bad situation. Getting them out was no trouble. Installing the new speaker, with a foam baffle behind them, and a passover module the goes between the speaker and wiring to the head unit was a little trickier. Spade connectors to the speakers. Poked two small holes in the baffle, and threaded the trough. They went to the passover connected by a screwdown plate to raw wires. Then the crossover goes to an adapter coming out of the dash. For whatever reason, the driver side accepted the adapter that came with the Infinity hardware . Passenger side, after much grumbling and head-scratching, wouldn’t. So I chopped off the old adapter off the old tweeter and spliced it onto the wires that go the passover. We’ll see if that modification was wise and just. Then the speakers are mounted onto an aftermarket plate that is screwed onto another fitment that adapts and screws to the dash in the old holes that were there. And I’m still waiting on the grilles that go over them, and everything will be nice and new and done there. Whew. And that was a fairly easy part of the installation. Edit: the driver’s side adapter did not accept the connection as I had imagined. So I removed and fixed that connection properly and replaced the midrange and passover. Still optimistically waiting on the new grilles.

I still have the doors and sub and to lock down the amp. I finally found a good place to run the ground wire and took care of that. I had to remove a bolt that holds down the back seat, Dremel off the paint and use that. Should work. Please note I haven’t hooked up the positive power to the battery yet. I’ve run the wire, mounted the giant fuse in the engine bay and secured it nicely with zip ties and protective tubing. I finally found a good place to run that wire through the firewall without having to drill a new one thank goodness. Putting more holes in the body of a car isn’t the first thing you want to do. It’s the last. You have to deal with a grommet and rust and it’s just a pain. Working in tight, dark spaces like this at odd angles contorting your body and getting filthy is why people that do this for a living can charge a justifiably high price for labor. Not to mention you need a lot of specialized tools and gear. Or are very resourceful. I have to be a little of both.

I’m going to go off on a tangent for a second and explain why this is so rewarding. When you buy a 20 year old truck, you expect some things to be bad and it to need a lot of TLC and maintenance. The funny thing is, it’s not so with James. This vehicle was SO clean, I couldn’t believe the mileage was accurate, which was already relatively low for the year. And for a mid-duty work truck, the thing was immaculate. It’s as if it had been stored in a box its whole life. The interior is brand new. Not a spot, stain, hair or evidence anyone had ever driven or been it. No smell- just fresh car. Even the door jams that get scuffed up from people getting in and out and the floor mats are like new. I was actually disappointed that there was nothing to clean or improve upon, because I was expecting it so much. It’s as if the owner drove around building semiconductor chips in it, it’s so sterile. It’s unreal.

I’ve had James for a few weeks now and I keep waiting for the punchline or the other shoe to fall, because it just seems to good to be true. But every now and then something like this happens to me, and it makes me think someone’s looking out for me. What’s even freakier is that the man I bought it from is named Miguel Angel. As in, Michael’s angel. My name’s Michael. That’s almost like a wink from my own angel. It may sound silly, but it’s fun to think about. Whatever the case, I’m grateful and couldn’t be happier.

The perspective I have on it is this: drive whatever makes you happy and works for you and your situation. If you want to spend $100,000 on a Range Rover and park it next to everyone else’s Range Rovers for status reasons or some reason they believe their vehicle defines who they are, go for it. That’s your priority and prerogative. I just can’t believe some people place that much importance on such a thing. Don’t get me wrong; I love cars and have always been deeply into them, but it’s just a car. Don’t lose your entire perspective on this, as car manufacturers and marketers would, and have you do.

I’m putting new, better plugs in it and a new fuel filter, distributor and rotor as well. Might as well give it a tune-up. I’m getting the plugs and wires and spanners and filter off the internet for a good deal. I can find a much better range of parts at a much better price myself, which I enjoy doing actually. Same with tires. And then take it to a mechanic I trust here in Louisville to do the labor. They’re reasonable and are used to doing this kind of stuff. I could do it, but they have a lift, know what they’re doing and are already dirty. Wiggling myself under the vehicle on the ground upside down like a worm, and all in the cramped engine bay, and behind wheel wells and into dark, tightly confined spaces that require small, nimble and bruised, bloody hands, good eyesight, patience, know-how, an indifference to getting messy and frustrated is something I try to avoid at this stage in my life. I’ll do if I have to, but it’s not my fave. They also have all the right tools, which is important. My torque wrench, spark plug socket, breaker bar and extender? All stolen. All my nice sockets, wrenches and screwdrivers were taken. And I know who did it but don’t know their names. My ex-wife does, though because they are her friends. And I’m finding myself slowly replacing them all and each time I have to pay I’m reminded of why I’m incurring the expense and think of what else I could be using the $ for instead(my daughter). So very lame.

Here’s a tip for the uninitiated: If you buy quality parts online and your mechanic says he won’t install them for you because of warranty reasons and a lot of mumbo-jumbo? Go somewhere else. There’s no good reason a good mechanic won’t stand behind his or her work, regardless of the product being installed, and no one is going to take a piece of garbage to a mechanic and demand that he puts in in their car. The shop just wants to make money on part markups where they can, and dictate what YOU have in your own car. Nope.Don’t buy it. They aren’t interested in doing what’s best for the customer, they’re concerned about what’s best for themselves. I’ve heard it from several tenured supposedly reputable workshops and can see right through what they are saying. If the mechanic is good and knows wht he’s talking about he can and should explain the pros and cons of whatever you want done and why. That’s why you’re willing to pay them more, for their experience and knowledge. Sometimes they”l charge time and a half if you bring your own gear, which spoils the deal but is fair. It’s not just “labor” as if they’re a robot doing one itemized task. They have to take variables into account and make decisions and take risks and should be able to explain why they’re willing to do so because they are the professionals. Or are claiming to be.

I should probably post this under “Life Lessons” because it goes for hiring anyone for anything, which most people are terrible at doing. They go into a negotiation without doing any research or without a healthy dose of trusting skepticism. Always go into a negotiation or transaction as reasonably educated as possible so you’ll be able to speak their language and be familiar with the terms they’re offering. Knowledge is power. True for hiring. lawyer, accountant, mechanic, housekeeper or anyone you may need to help you out in life. We can’t all do everything 100% professionally ourselves. There’s no way. But you can learn to manage those that can, which is a better skill overall.

Be a maestro of the orchestra, instead of trying to play every instrument yourself. It will sound much better.

Trust me.

Plus I’ve just been falling into deals lately. I ordered some stuff online from AutoZone for me to go pick up. I applied a new user discount, and they had deals on exactly what I was buying, so I knocked about 20% off the retail price. And when I got there to pick it up, the guys were having trouble locating what I wanted most because some knucklehead put an empty box where the item should be and the box with the product in it on the display. They figured it out, and so while he rang me up, he applied another discount on top of the already-taken discount. I took 20% off, and then he took 20% off again. NICE! Plus with the deals they had I came out like a champ.

The thing I was most interested in was a new battery charger. I had a very reliable one I bought from Sears that was about 80 bucks and took forever to wind up a charge and had to be plugged into the wall. It saved me a number of times in the winter up here, so I considered it money well-spent. My ex-wife’s friend stole it from me, so I’m again without one. And a lot of other stuff. To the tune of over ten thousand dollars. Birds of a feather. You think I’m annoyed about that fact?

What I got originally – the battery charger – was about $109+. But after all the discounts, it was about $66. And this thing rocks. It’s a Duralast 800 Amp Lithium Portable Battery Jump Starter. Here’s a video of a guy using it. What he failed to do was power the battery up to 100% before turning it on or using it. These batteries have memories, so you have to keep them topped off. He’s doing it pretty much how everyone that buys it does it, I’m doing it the right way. Go figure. But this will be the best money you ever spent when your battery’s dead and you are in a very compromised situation.

And speaking of batteries, I hadn’t considered that I’ll be drawing a lot of energy from the battery with the audio system I’m installing. I hooked up the stereo today for the first time and it sucked the battery dry. I explored all the reasons that could be and the best/easiest/most affordable solution is to upgrade the battery. What’s in James now isn’t junk. It’s only 4 years old and a decent battery, but it’s not up to the job of working with the electronics I’m putting in now, and may put in the future, such as auxiliary lighting. If I’m already considering it, there’s a good chance it’ll happen while I “sleep on it” for a few months or years.

So I’m grabbing a new Red Top battery in the morning. To be more precise, I’m grabbing a Yellow-top, which is beefier.

Ker-Chunk

* Deep-cycle and cranking power * Up to 3X longer life * 15 times more vibration-resistant * Virtually spill-proof* * Mountable in virtually any position * Maintenance-free
* Faster recharging
* Optimal starting power
* 300+ discharge/recharge cycles
This should do the trick.

It’s an expense I hadn’t planned on but is justifiable due to the critical role the battery has in not only my stereo but the entire vehicle. And when planning projects and budgeting, I always allow for “things that may go wrong” because if you can count on something with any project that’s beyond elementary in scope, which this certainly is,, count on there being problems.

Without fire initially supplied from the battery, the engine won’t go. Therefore it’s a primary necessity and an area that cost shouldn’t be the top priority, but reliability and performance should be. The next measure, should things fall apart (which they shouldn’t, but it’s nice to be prepared in case) would be to replace the alternator. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, but as I type this, I can see future Michael sitting down and writing “So today I had to replace my alternator.”

So today a new battery, plugs, cables, distributor, rotor and fuel filter went in. Majorly important elements to the operations that I no longer need to worry about, as well as the air intake. I’m going to change the oil and filter myself this week and already have everything I need waiting. This is like taking a car to the spa for a week to be refreshed, which is something I would enjoy myself when this is over. And it will be over soon. An important element of any project is the the completion. Know when you’re done and what that’s supposed to look like. Otherwise you’ll keep adding things on at the “end” which never comes. There’s a word for it which escapes me now that we used to use in the insurance business when a clam was closed and a few random expenses would pop up afterwards that needed to stitch things up completely. Same thing. Know when you reach the finish line.

A fantastically accessible demonstration of what happens when project management has no management, budget, boundaries, metrics or milestones and therefore no accountability would be how my own father engaged, approached, handled and ultimately botched every project he was given or assumed upon himself, which were few.

The results are horribly demonstrable. The house was always a cluttered mess of artifacts and detria from projects that went awry and spun out of control at any moment. The living room, which my mother had bought carefully chosen furniture and window treatments for were now housing racks of auto and motorcycle parts and lots of who-knows-what. All very pricey and critical to the success of the project, yet there they remain.

And the back porch, garage, workshop, garden house, and spaces I played as a child were covered in rusty carcasses of moldy heaps of blue and grey tarpaulin coverings that kept the mice, mold and trash in, and the fresh air and sunlight out. It was like a deserted graveyard of ideas and projects that were so amazing at one point, then forgettable the next. And to me they represented misspent resources and to add salt to the wound, they were monumental in size, being an entire building being erected, rows of motorcycles you couldn’t get past, and fences to futilely keep known scavengers at bay.

I guess I’ll go ahead and and mention the “anti” Midas touch my father had. When presented with good, he’d choose bad. If things were going right, he’d go left. Every time. We had a turnstile of cars and motorcycles coming through our house, and the ones he decided to keep and the ones he chose to sell, were the opposite of what should have been done, and even I could spot it as a kid. The 1957 Chevy my mother bought him as a present for $400 that was mint? Sold it. The silver Chevrolet stingray with t-tops that was fantastic? Sold it. Or let it rot in the back yard. The awesome metallic blue Cougar convertible drop top with white interior? Sold. Even my old BMW 2002 that I left alone with him when it went kaput was tossed out, and could have been a fun project car. Same with the 1973 MGB-GT that I drove to his house to sand every single spot of paint off of to repaint, and then he let rot. Notice a pattern here? What was left was that what no one wanted and will/would end up at the scrapyard.

That’s where not being able to manage projects gets you. The bottom of the barrel. It’s a skill that’s highly important to learn and keep getting better at if you want you have a sense of little fulfillments and achievements in your life. He never did. I did because without a sense of fulfillment, no matter how that’s come upon, you’re going to feel lost and empty. And I intend to teach my daughter the value of project management. If you can’t manage yourself, you surely can’t manage others. It’s critical to realize no one is born knowing these skills. You have to acquire them yourself. No one will hand them to you and they don’t magically come with a degree, a child, a marriage, a job, a spouse or anything else that some people seem to think renders them experts at their task, simply by having one.

It’s one of those unfortunate but true facts. Just because you can procreate and played with dolls a child doesn’t mean you’re equipped to be be a Grade-A mother. Or father, for that matter, but boys learned their interpersonal skills and imaginary role playing in other ways that nature prescribes. It’s all valuable and foundational, but it doesn’t set you up for the realities of a harsh world full of responsibilities and priorities.

This has gotten far of-topic, but there associations that involve everything mentioned. If you’re going to be successful and competent at anything in life you need to learn how to manage yourself, projects, expectations, stakeholders, operational elements that involve the dirty jobs of acquiring the resources, assets, tools, and ingredients needed to complete each undertaking properly. That means doing a good job, cleaning up after yourself, making sure everyone’s as happy as they can be and all dust is swept into the bin. I always do the best job I can. But that doesn’t mean I can’t d better, and each time I cross the finish line, I ask myself if there’s something I could have done better to have executed the process even more optimally, or something I can tell someone else to help them if they’re going to undertake the same job.

As we get older the ways we refine and do things better is in increasingly incremental and more precise ways, which makes sense. The cool thing is with technology, more people around to help and the effects of compounding and exponentialization, sometimes we can suddenly trampoline ourselves ahead in large increments, aided by the rapidly evolving and accessible data, tools and knowledge at hand.

diablo rojo es real

El Diablo Rojo

I also got some little red devil tire stem caps. The last car had smiley faces on them. Those goofy days are gone. I like to make subtle indiscreet changes that make a difference but people don’t immediately notice. Except my clever daughter- she spotted them right off the bat.They add a nice red touch. And keep the ayr in my tyres safe from the British.

I learned there is an affordable product that you can put on your tire stems and connect to your smartphone and monitor the tire pressure of your tires, including the spare of course. It’s a tempting little gadget but if I can’t monitor my own tire pressure then I have no business driving a car. I had to buy a new tire pressure gauge because my nice brass, easy-to-read gauge was yoinked by my ex-wife, who has no knowledge of what it even is. Acquiring duplicate items is annoying enough, but having to buy inferior ones due to budgetary limits on such a simple tool makes the experience that much less enjoyable.

I keep forgetting about some relatively small, yet highly useful, things I’m going or have done. One such thing is that I have a microphone installed right above my head on the driver’s side front door pillar. That’s connected to my head unit, which is Bluetooth enabled, so now I’m able to not only make phone calls just by talking, but I can enable commands for anything I want hands-free. This isn’t really a small deal, it’s a big deal, because I can summon and receive a wide array of information and make things happen just by saying so. That’s pretty powerful and futuristic if you think about it. And again, if you think about the small amount of money I have directed towards this project, that’s a pretty good ROI. I’m sure some of the 5 and 6 figure automobiles on the market today offer the same thing, but what was the cost on that? I’d be very surprised if it was less than what my Sony head unit cost which included the microphone and everything needed. The way I wired it, and the smallness of it render it virtually invisible. And it works like a charm.

Here’s my schematic of the thing, which my daughter generously allowed me to use her markers for the wiring diagrams:

schematic
Not remotely to scale.

I think the Boy Scout in me is flaring up because I’m preparing for bad times. I also bought 2 super-bright flashlights, just in case. And I carry a solar or manual-powered radio with USB port and other nifty features in case I’m at the bottom of a gorge upside down with no juice. I can still charge my phone with the manual crank on the radio that powers the USB port if needed. I also have thermal blankets, plus fleece blankets, a Swiss Army knife, a Leatherman, a container that locks closed when twisted (It was my beloved old dog Annie’s water/food gizmo), a 100′ parachute cord, and some bungee cords. Only thing I’m missing is a bottle of water and some rags, and then I’ll be able to catch Rambo.

Back to the nice thing about this truck. It’s the same build as a Chevy Blazer, with the same V6 Vortex 4.3L engine. And I realize I haven’t mentioned it’s a 4×4, so I can attack some rugged terrain. Up here in Kentucky, a 4×4 is good for snow and the crummy weather we get. But in SC where I’m moving, a 4×4 is good for deep sand, swamp, pulling things, and going mud-bogging, which I haven’t done in a long while. So James has a tow hook/hitch receiver and a couple of D-ring shackles – red of course – and some 30′, 30,000# Rocket Straps.

Only some of the trim is different between James and a Blazer. So there are a lot of parts available for it, they’re easy to find and they’re cheap. And there are a lot of forums online with tons of resources for working on it, over the past 20 years. Lots of nice people willing to help and a lot of trials and errors posted that I can learn from. And a lot of YouTube videos of guys working on their Jimmys and Blazers. So I have massive support for James, which has already been invaluable.

I was going to change the plugs but there’s one that is impossible to get to without the right tools. And as I said above, a lot of my tools were stolen by my ex-wife’s friends. So I’m either having to rebuy them or go without. That’s frustrating. The number one thing I’ve learned above all else is that using the right tool for the job makes it 100% easier than trying to do it some other way, which is what a lot of people do. So I carefully amassed an amazing array of tools(And even built a world-class bench for them), like a surgeon has before operating. And POOF–they’re gone. And I had to sell my bench for money, but I am positive it went to a good home. And is getting lots of use, hopefully. So I replaced a huge set of awesome ratchets, which are expensive. I managed to find some innovative, seemingly well-made ones that have a pass-through so I don’t need deep sockets as well as regular length. It should work pretty well for up to medium-duty jobs. Which is all I have the time for these days. But I hate having to buy replacement tools. You finally get just the ones you want and…

I put a roof rack on James. It’s red, like the truck, with Plasti-dip paint so it doesn’t rust. And got a cargo net to hold down the junk underneath. I’m about to move, so that will be handy. Just throwing everything on top, like Jed Clampet. And priming and custom painting the front of the rack. I’m still working m the design but it’s going to look awesome. And coat that with some Rustoleum clear urethane protectant.

I bought some tie-dye car cup coasters to give the interior a hint of color. It’s mostly dark grey/black, with red accents. I’m trying to stay subtle. I’m not sure how that’s going to work out.

I don’t want this thing to turn into a hippie-machine, which is a fine line I’m going to walk. So this week will be revealing.

I started getting a check engine light, checked the codes with my new OBD2 Bluetooth dashboard and it was the air flow, which could have been a few things. I went with the cheapest and easiest route to see if that would handle it and it did. I cleaned the mass air flow sensor with some CDC cleaning solution and Presto! Good as new.

Speaking of air intake. I’ve also now put a performance air intake system on it from Spectre. That will give it a boost and also looks very cool. My experience with that project, as with most, had it’s ups and downs.

It didn’t exactly fit on my vehicle as promised. And with things that engineered aftermarket, they tend to need to be precise, lest you have problems. One of the studs in the throttle body that the plenum fits over wasn’t what was expected. I emailed Spectre and got a short, curt email telling me to use a box wrench and adjustable pliers to twist it off. That didn’t work, and even if it did the diameters of the two screws were different anyway. So I had to buy a new stud and fashion a replacement myself. By sight, using the internet since my car was then sitting in the driveway with the hood up. Amazingly I called the right size, length, and diameter and had the $0.75 “part” sent to me as quickly as possible since it was holding everything up.

Got the plenum in place, the MAF situated and then went to put in the actual filter and lo and behold, it didn’t go in just right. Not only that, but the hole for the ID to go into was too big and the kit didn’t include a much-discussed grommet that was supposed to alleviate that problem. So after calling and emailing customer support about it and getting no response, as usual, I had to fix it myself. And went on a grommet mission around town with electrical tape holding in my ID just like the manufacturers engineered. And while on the topic of ghetto-engineering, I’ll go ahead and mention that where the plenum, which is the black plastic part that fits over the throttle body, was made, it was created in two halves and sealed. Only mine wasn’t sealed all the way and had about a 6″ “crack” left behind as result. A quality assurance issue I presented to the company with no explanation, apology or care. I fixed it with some Gorilla glue. Oh, yeah, and I had to zip-tie the side hose tight that’s some type of overflow function, I believe. In any case, it wasn’t even close to a precise fit, so I had to take that matter into my own hands as well.

Overall, I’d give the guys a Spectre Perfomance a “D” for the whole matter. That being the ease of buying it, receiving it, setting it up, installing it, the explanantion of the procedure and the customer support and help after the sale, which as a standalone grade would be an “F” which I let them know.

For $200, before having to go find uniquely-sized grommets to fit their proprietary equipment for them that they didn’t include as well as handle, choose, find, order, buy, and have shipped, a .75 cent screw to go into the throttle body that would receive their product, I’m proceeding to watch this matter to try and find the gains given for the effort and cost. This is a lesson I’m slowly learning, which is that these days (meaning the 2000’s and up, which I know is a lot of days) don’t be so unsure that the engineers and manufacturers that designed and built the item in question didn’t know what they were doing. That probably sounds laughable, but allow me to explain where I’m coming from.

The decades comprising my childhood were the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, which is when Bill Clinton and his lawyer-wife, both being disbarred, yet not-yet impeached and having disgraced himself by turning the Oval Office into a back room at Studio 54 came to town. I grew up in an era without tort law, frivolous lawsuits, massive settlements, and America was a lot freer and worried about families instead of how the people around them behaved and wanting to tell everyone else what to do.

American kids and families and adults were still allowed to take risks and learn for themselves the dangers that exist in the world and to be accountable for avoiding them. That all changed dramatically when the government and Bill Clinton became very cozy with fellow trial lawyers, lobbyists, and the very same people that were making law were the same to be profiting from a million different ways from crossing them. And it hasn’t slowed since.

So from that freedom and relatively little regulation, lots of corners were being cut at all levels of manufacturing, design, quality assurance, safety, and the elements comprising a durable, reliable, safe, well-designed product like we have today. I remember things just not being well-made and cheap, and people getting hurt a lot(including myself), and a rather “whatever” nonchalant attitude about it all. The sixties produced a lackadaisical approach and anyone that expressed concern were looked at as if they were Sgt. Joe Friday on Dragnet. Squaresville.

But unquestionably America was being handed cheap garbage from Clinton’s NAFTA deal that had everything being “Hecho en Mexico” and falling apart upon arrival in the US. And the leftover “infrastructure” as today’s president wants to define it, meaning “everything,” was all rusty, blood-covered, lead-infused, spiky, carcinogenic, polyester plaid trash. Customer service was non-existent compared to today’s standards. It went on vacation between the 50’s and 2010’s. Companies today finally get it and integrate customer service throughout the “customer experience.” At least the good ones that will remain in business do. My friends at Spectre Performance aren’t among that crowd.

So it wasn’t a bad approach to be skeptical towards every single thing consumers paid for when I was growing up. If you thought you were being sold junk, it was because you were and no one was being held accountable. And many times there wasn’t an alternative. No internet. No malls and retail compounds the size of small towns. We have selection, accessibility, competition, and affordability replacing scarcity and apathy. It’s a reason I’m loving being alive during this time. I saw when it was not like this. Unfortunately, when tort law was addressed, it opened up Pandora’s Box. You had people who were lawyers making the law and friends and buddies with all the lawyers that weren’t making it but using it to win trials. And thus the trial lawyer/tort fiasco began. Frivolous lawsuits everywhere backed up dockets, lawyers could begin advertising their services(which we’ve seen how that’s worked out. Class action, ambulance-chasing buzzards on every billboard and bus stop) and lots and lots of money for the taking. If you were a lawyer, politician, lobbyist, or any such ilk that slithered around those folks. Suddenly the Clintons were multi-millionaires! How’d that happen?!

So me trying to put chips and performance parts on my vehicle probably isn’t going to amount to much I’m now thinking. If it could have been done, it would have been already these days. I’m not saying there aren’t unique examples and exorbitant ways to modify stock. If you have the time and money, then anything’s possible, and there are plenty of people willing to take that money to “help” you. Or you can do it yourself if you’re that capable, such as Chris Fix with his dream car, a HumVee 1, that has been elevated to the next level with legitimate modifications either he or a prior owner, have absorbed the costs on. He found a diamond in a haystack, which is completely possible with the right knowledge, commitment, and resources. Check all three boxes for him on that.

So now, it’s been long enough that there has been a transition. Although tort law is costly, annoying, rewards the wrong people, and is more political and financial-based than legal-based, it eventually provided some rather high-quality goods that people stand behind and are worth a darn. Just things like can openers are in another league than they were for centuries. Nothing’s been left untouched for the betterment. And so it goes with our cars and complex “toys” we used to like tinkering with to find gains the engineers overlooked. Except these days they haven’t overlooked anything. They get it.

The little, incremental improvements I’m making are reasonable and justifiable. And “improvements” aren’t the same as “customizations.” Putting a bull bar on the front or auxiliary lights on the top, back and bar isn’t an improvement for everyone. It’s a customization for me. Just to set that straight.

Putting further “mods” Performance hacks” “improvements” and silly “tricks” has been ended. Lesson learned. If I really want to drive something in another league, then I need to find a vehicle already in that league. They don’t transcend without changing the entire concept.


With my OBD App, I can monitor all of the air intake activities and see performance-wise, if I’m also getting more HP(Not holding my breath on that one) better gas mileage(I don’t see how that’s possible since more air involved means more fuel needed to fill that air) or any other performance uptick. It does look a little cooler with the “chrome” pipe, but the filter is now pointing downward at a 90 degree angle with not a ton of free space around it. I had JUST replaced the air filter in the old intake, which was a sunk cost. I still have the old housing and hoses, in case I want to go back. And really, for cool looks, the original intake that has “V-6 VORTEX!” emblazoned across it isn’t that bad, especially if you keep it clean. And the engine bay was already pretty clean when I bought James, but I cleaned it up so that you can eat in there including polishing up the metallic surfaces and reviving the black hoses and boxes. And with the red and yellow wiring and battery and accents, it’s a nice looking area for the motor. Especially with the nice big light bulb under the hood and reflective sound/heat dampner.

Purrrrrrrr

I also found an electrical cord to be used for warming the engine block up if you live somewhere that might require that. Being from SC, it’s not anything I can imagine ever needing, but in case I find myself needing to bring James to life on the Planet Hoth some dark winter, I’ll be prepared.

If you need this, you probably also need to be taking a lot of Vitamin D
SO-8 inch

Which brings us to the SUB!

I plan to use this vehicle for what it was meant for, which is a 4×4 Truck. It needs to be rugged and haul a lot of stuff. So I don’t want a big stupid-looking subwoofer box in the back of this gem.

Fortunately, I had a powered subwoofer in the previously disposed-of garbage car, which I yoinked. Trouble is, I never really got it working in that POS. Which I couldn’t figure out why but I had too many other potatoes to fry to worry about it since I knew I would shortly and ultimately be saying goodbye to.

It’s an 8 inch Sound Ordnance low-profile, powered sub that can go under a seat or along a surface, or wherever there’s a place for it. I’m not sure where it’s going because I’m not 100% certain that it isn’t defective. I hooked it up in the Toyota and it was on for around an hour. Then nothing, and. checked all connections, fuses, YouTube, you name it. No dice. So we’ll see if it rises up like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster when I put some power and signal through it or not. live Live LIVE!! Ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Scratch that. With a 5 channel amp, there’s no reason to have a powered subwoofer as well. And an 8 inch was fine for the little blue Toyota that I had to drive for so long because of room. But I’ve got a lot more room in this hooptie and an amp that can power a big sub if wanted. I see no need for dual subs or a 15 inch or anything. But I started looking for what might be reasonable and work well. And be affordable. And I’m selling the S/O amp on eBay which will offset the purchase of another one. The Sound Ordnance amp wasn’t all that cheap. $180, which for a little sub is pricey. It’s because of the special housing and being self-powered but still.

After looking at boxed subs and separate subs and boxes to just put together myself, it was pretty easy to narrow down the contenders. Nothing over the top, nothing over $200, nothing from a name I know nothing about or feel is more marketing hype than value and quality. Which you’ll see a lot in the audio industry because it’s both so esoteric and technical.

It dwindled down to 2 Bazooka-type subs that weren’t Bazookas. The whole idea is corny to me. But engineering-wise it can make some sense being built as a ported tube enclusure.

I don’t want a big box o’ woofer back there. The glass in the back is so dark you can’t see what’s back there which is nice, but when I open the tailgate or load it I don’t want to have to contend with a big obtrusive box beng in the way of everything.

So it got down to two Alpine ported tube style subs. Alpine being the maker of 4 of the other speakers being used. And it came down to a 10″ or 12″, and that came down to price and performance. I have 10 and 12 inch subs in my home, and I can tell the difference. The driver makes a big difference, but that’s not all. I wish SVS made car subs. That would make it a no-brainer. I love SVS. They’re simply in another league when it comes to designing subwoofers. I have a SVS PB-3000 for one of my home audio setups and it’s peerless. It’s also massive and a ton of lead. You can feel the bass in your body it moves so much air in the room. It shakes the Earth. It’s awesome. I can’t imagine what dual subs of the 4000 model would be like.

So anyway, here’s the sub, which will go in the rear, strapped down and it will look great and be largely unobtrusive. It also won’t be hindered by cargo being in front of it and baffled by luggage or boxes or whatever. A box sub would present that problem every time. I’m happy with the decision, and I got 10% off. I haven’t paid retail for anything in a very long time. My grandfather taught me that trick. It’s like increasing your income by buying everything you get at discounts. Everything. It’s possible with the internet and the competitiveness it affords and easy to do. I love it. It’s rewarding to get things for so much less than MSRP.

BOOM.

But the journey to transportational bliss has just begun. As with my daughter, I have big plans and expectations of James. I grew up an aesthete, and as such, he’s getting the works. This wagon will be as lovely to look at as to drive and ride in.

Some other relatively inexpensive modifications include new windshield wipers that look and work like a viking. People will put on the cheapest or whatever, but it’s important to be able to see while driving, believe it or not. And I’ve driven in some weather that would make the Abominable Snowman cry.

Also, LED backup lights. Currently, I can see NOTHING. So a bright white cast of light behind me will not only allow me to drive in reverse, but see if any objects are in my path that shouldn’t be. Like a kid. Safety is #1 in my household. #2 is ice cream.

I don’t know who had this truck and how they put over 100,000 miles on it and kept it so CLEAN. I’m consistently surprised everywhere I look that everything is in mint condition. It’s unreal. Totally detailed and it’s immaculate. It was like that when I bought it. I can’t get over the condition this thing is in. I keep waiting for the punchline. It’s like someone put it on a dynamometer, ran up 119k miles, then took it off and took care of it in a sealed garage for 2 decades. I mean, if you look at a random 20-year-old car, you’ll see all sorts of things that have been going on during that time. You can name anything – french fries under the seats, gook in crevices, stained carpet, magic marker all over the headliner, some weird smell…And then take that up a few notches to what people use these 20-year-old 4×4 SUVs for. It has a towing package and a durable roof rack. A painting business, roofing company, landscaping jobs, working at an asphalt plant; you can imagine– it should see muddy, crap, and tar-covered boots and have dings and gouges and tears. Especially the lift gate. But…nothing. James is sterile and I marvel at it. When I was changing the headlamps I dropped one of the restraining tabs into a black hole, apparently, because it never reappeared. But I got up underneath it to see if I could spot it somewhere. And The undercarriage is like it was only driven on the fairways at Augusta National. Spotless!

Something I did come across was a performance chip for James. I’ve never used one, so I’m eager to see what happens. I’m promised more HP, better mixture of O2 and fuel, and what I’m expecting is a noticeable upgrade in performance, which isn’t bad now as far as a heavy 4×4 goes. It wasn’t expensive at all, so we’ll see if it delivers on the value claimed.

*I've now begun to install the performance chip, and first I took off the negative battery cable which I'm told to do overnight. So while I was waiting for whatever that's supposed to accomplish, I started looking around online for videos of anyone else that's installed one of these things.
And I found a number of them. None of them were positive. No one could really tell a difference, although one guy, right after he installed it, remarked how much more punch his 2000 4-Runner had, but then wrote it off to a placebo effect and ended up removing it. 
And I began thinking about it. The manufacturer should have optimized the air intake and throttle body to make it as optimal as possible when engineering it. Why wouldn't they? In addition, I noticed there isn't any data backing the claim of what this chip is supposed to do. If a company, or anyone, wants to show you that something makes a difference, then pull out the data. But there's none on the Performance Chip Revamp website. Nothing but testimonials, which can be generated by anyone.  If the product does what it says, there should be a before/after scenario somewhere with numbers and proof. Alas...nada.
So I'm sending the performance chip back unused. I don't think it wil do anything based upon what I just stated. Bummer. I sent an email to the company to "authorize" my return. I haven't gotten a response yet.
*Edit- I did get a response and an authorization from Cody at PCR and he sent me a shipping label and will refund my money. Well done! I explained to him there isn't any data or proof to substantiate the claims I'll get more HP and better gas mileage, and in fact could make things worse. He seemed to uderstand and it was no problem.

So far I’ve been impressed with the level of quality and thought for items I’ve gotten. The LED bulbs came with a pair of white cloth work gloves. Unfortunately, they were hidden under where the bulbs were packed so I didn’t spot them until after I had finished the job. But that’s a very nice touch. The bright white LED light is nice. I also noticed one of the license plate bulbs was burnt, and I thought I found a cheap replacement online. What I got was the light housing assembly, but no bulbs. So now I have two new license plate light houses, and I ordered some new ice blue LED lights for them, which ought to look cool. That was a pun. I found a deal with 10 of the bulbs which also can go in the glovebox and a few other places around the cabin, so the interior is going to be very well-lit with a calming color.

With all the sound deadening I’m going to do, I was looking at the factory floor mats. They’re what you would expect in a 20-year-old 4 door truck, except for being so clean you could use them as dinner plates. And ever since I bought some very nice artisanal floor mats for a 1992 Honda Accord, which was the only new car I’ve ever had, I’ve been picky about the flooring of my rides.

When someone wants to take a ride with me, or I’m driving alone, what’s going on with your feet is a matter to be addressed. And as a passenger, you don’t want to look down at your feet to see that the chauffeur threw up on your floormat.

When you fly certain airlines or meet the Queen, the red carpet is rolled out, so to be a hospitable driver, I got some new floormats that slide in perfectly with the design, colors, thickness of carpet and would impress Nancy Pelosi. They have red accents. The thing’s starting to look like I should rename it “Jaime, el Diablo Rojo.”

My daughter thinks James is the best vehicle in the world. She wants to go just hang out in it in the driveway, which is fine with me.

I installed a Dynamat Hoodliner sound deadener under the hood. It was easy, it looks great, and it made a big difference. Money well-spent. So when you close the door, it’ll be so quiet you can hear a mosquito burp. Nice and cozy with me, Cecelia and Morrisey.

This is before any of the other things that are going in under the hoodliner. It’ll have a red power cable going along the back, yellow plug cables with red aluminum spacers, and a new downward-facing air intake that’s chrome and red.

The hoodliner from Dynamat was a really good idea. So I began thinking about all the other areas I’m going to want to be deadened as well.

There are 2 kinds of sounds I want to eliminate as much as possible. 1 is the exterior road noise coming in through the body panels and thin areas where there’s no other stock material in the way.

The other is opportunities I find while removing all the trim, bolsters and interior panels to get to the speakers and head unit.

There are a lot of flappy plastic parts and unsecured pieces that, given the right frequency, will surely rattle and come to life. We don’t want that.

So I bought 2 “panels” of Dynamat sound deadener material, which is like a giant, thick square Fruit Rollup that I can cut and place where needed. It was noticeably expensive. I also found that Amazon sold its “AmazonBasics” version of the same thing. Both 80 mil thick.

I approach products that are “me too” items with a very skeptical eye. I’m a marketer and have been around since the 70’s when generic products were literally that. “Beer” was sold in 6 white cans that only said “Beer” on them. You got the product and nothing else. No attached costs that the #1 brand incurred. But there were always other noticeable differences, such as cheap packaging, and corners that were cut in the taste a quality departments.

That was then, this is now. It’s not the same situation at all. We see more co-branding and companies like Amazon, willing to put their name on many items that have become low-margin commodities with the knowledge that the quality of the product will remain high.

I even was at a locally owned gas station the other night and spoke with the driver of a truck who was unloading wheeled racks of doughnuts and pastries into the gas station. The gas distributor had realized it made more economical sense to start, run and operate a full bakery division to supply his stores with his own donuts and pastries than outsource the operation. Economical and quality assurance sense. That’s fine control.

So to continue the sound dampening I also bought a package of “AmazonBasics Car Sound Deadener” because 2 sheets of Dynamat wasn’t going to be enough. I began measuring applying and installing it everywhere I could. I also took off the rear liftgate panel and put some down all across it, since the “Tube” subwoofer is going to be aimed away from the bow, right at the gate. This seems to be the most successful placement from what I’ve researched. I don’t want anything rattling, booming, burping, leaking, blasting, or jingling when the music is playing unless it’s part of the music. And even then, I want it contained inside the vehicle cabin and not emanating from my car like an overripe supernova.

For anyone wondering it it’s better to buy the Amazon Basics sheets or the more expensive DynaMat sheets, I would say go with the AmazonBasics. Reasons being that it’s less expensive, you get more material to work with, it’s almost easier to cut and apply and I see nor hear any definable difference. Yes, to compare the two would require a sound meter being present with each product removed and installed. No thanks. But the fact that you get more material with Amazon Basics means you can cut and apply it to more areas. You don’t have to worry about scarcity. And once everything is covered with deadener, it’s done. Heck put two layers of the stuff in a spot that you’re worried about to make it 160 mil. But what you get is more than sufficient. My doors close solidly and the exterior noise is held at bay quite well. I still have more should I find the need.

Check engine light came on while I was tinkering around with things. No surprise there. I needed to see what codes were being thrown. I have an OBD2 gadget, which works. It’s basic, was inexpensive, and it has cords. I hooked it up. No codes.

This is 2021, so I bought a Bluetooth code reader, which works along with many very cool apps, like Torque Pro, Pocket Dyno, Dynolicious, etc… that will let me see what’s really going on with a slick UI. There are a lot of apps nowadays that will pair up with a Bluetooth OBD2 reader, so I’ll wait and see what seems best once it arrives.

Edit- it arrived. An Autophix 3210 Bluetooth diagnostic device. And I hooked it up and it works with a suggested App “OBDMate,” of course, but would also work with some other 3rd party apps, which I’m going to see if they offer any more or better data than what came with the adapter and free app.

Verdict: All the apps are the same just different UIs and lots of subtle nuances. Not worth it. Even my Audio head unit will show me the battery level if I want. Just by asking it. Amazing. This is a 2001 vehicle. The depth and degree of information this little product yields are plenty for my needs. I’m not racing an F1 car. Unfortunately.

I can do deep dives and monitor performance in a snapshot or over time, do side-by-side performance tests, check and clear codes, get information on those codes, and evaluate input and usage levels for oxygen, fuel, and pretty much anything I can think of. The only thing missing is tire pressure, but I could, and would, have to put monitors on my tire stems for that, which is a cost and situation I don’t feel is necessary. I have a tire gauge and eyes. And I don’t want to have to worry about someone taking them off, them vibrating off, or losing them somehow and the whole effort made futile. I have cheap little stem caps I like, and will replace them as needed or wanted, if at all. Plus my daughter likes the ones on them now, since they are little red devils, which is something I’m sensing she likes to be herself and is her mother’s influence and genes. I hate trickery as the usual target of it. Antagonists seem to be able to locate those unwilling to engage in pranks and deception and feast upon them for their own low-quality and fleeting sustenance. Like mosquitoes, fleas and ticks do. I’m trying to condition my daughter to see that practice is an ugly one. But I have a sizeable force persisting against me to battle with that lesson. It’s a character trait filed under the folder “Empathy” which is maternally barren, unfortunately for my daughter and me.

One giant lesson I learned, among several, thankfully, when installing this audio system, is to pay careful attention to the type of wiring and placement of those wires in the vehicle.

I knew not to run the power and speaker cable together on one side. But I made a mistake in erroneously choosing speaker wire that has both positive and negative wires and terminating in a male RCA plug. No.

What I needed were 3 cables that had Y male RCA plugs for right and left. Even though the manual and back of the head unit was unmarked, that’s what the female jacks are for. Yes. That resulted in a lot of unwanted and unnecessary rejiggering costs in time and money. But were applied to lessons learned and education and knowing what is done was done properly and best practices are in place. Thats valuable for the next time, and I feel certain there will be a next time.

I’ve installed a long list of audio components at this stage in my life, and have picked up on many valuable tips, skills, and resources for doing so successfully. It’s not hard work, but if you don’t have the know-how, it gets expensive very quickly, for the exact same results. That’s a situation I try to mitigate in all aspects of my life, wherever I can. It saves me a ton of money and headache and time, so it’s worth it to me. Other people are fine just paying someone else whatever they ask to just correct the situation. To me, that’s a recipe for going broke by having no idea of the budget involved, having people take advantage of you sensing your cluelessness and avoidance of all responsibility, receiving substandard results and experience, and it becoming a never-ending and growing cycle of frustration and expense. Definitely 2 different types of people and outcomes. Same with solving many problems in life where expertise is needed. Hiring an accountant, lawyer, mechanic, doctor, yardman, plumber, and a long list of other professionals requires the same tactic or willingness to face the undesirable consequences. Another “Life Lesson.”

So here’s where I’ve ended up: I got rid of the totaled Toyota and got more than the trade in value of it and am thankful to have it off my hands forever. It was a vehicle I would have never bought and hated driving.

What I bought was a 2001 4×4 GMC Jimmy which was never on my radar but landed in my lap as a gift from above. Mint condition, very affordable, has all the features and room I want with the ability to tow and pull anything anytime. A mid-duty level truck in great shape. I added a roof rack, upgraded the audio system, replaced the interior lights with LED lights, replaced the third brake light and license plate lights, refreshed the electronics(tune-up), added an upgraded air intake, better battery, better front lights, painted the front tow hooks white, cleaned and polished the paint, added a tow receiver with D rings and rocket/tow straps, touched up any rust spots and scratches I noticed.

That brings things up to where they were when it rolled off the assembly line. And even better. It’s customized to exactly how I want it. Not bad. And what did that cost me versus what I would have paid for a brand new car? I just don’t get it. No, it’s not the latest Land Rover off the line, but is that worth $80,000 to me? No. Is my stereo better than the one in a new Land Rover? Yes. Does that matter to me? Yes. Do I have more towing capability, storage, and 4×4 than a standard Land Rover? Yes.

And was I able to get it in red, just as I promised my daughter and as I wanted? Yes. The only way I can describe driving this thing is like jumping down a slide made of jello. Smooth, comfortable, relaxing, fun, and enjoyable. It has a ton of punch and steers straight and true.

And that seals the deal. Gracias, Miguel Angel, for the perfect vehicle for me at just the right time at just the right price. Here’s the reveal:

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