Surprise bitch! Spring is here and so too the itch!
The itch being, of course, the need to blast this all-too-brief season with both barrels – to live twice as much at this time of year to make up for the half-lived lives of winter. It’s the hibernatorial routine that comes part and parcel with living in this northern outpost : it makes men fixated on continual revival and renewal.1 Father Time and with his ceaseless ticking and tocking only exacerbate this effect. Why can’t the old man just shut the fuck up already ? I mean, we’re not getting any younger, but do we really need the constant reminders ?
Still, a seasonal transition is hardly enough to warrant a new set of wheels. The alert reader will recall that new cars are only welcomed into my garage as four-wheeled forgings of the crucible of life, meaning that something significant has manifested of late. But what ? Well, fiat’s continued degradation against The Almighty Bitcoin has certainly contributed to an exceptional feeling of prosperity and breadwinnerliness,2 but there’s also the fact that my start-up is having a fantastic spring ; the handful of snow-free months being highly correlated with higher productivity in general but doubly so in an industry that’s had a few quiet years recently and is now making up for lost time. So I guess I’m kinda feeling on top of the world ? At the very least the future is looking pretty goddam glimmery. So let’s celebrate!
The case being made, this superheated forging – this mini-materialistic-manifestation – needs to be something a bit less understated than usual, a bit more extroverted, still a bit practical,3 and something all too raw and visceral. Ideally, it’d also be something that just fucking scares the shit out of me once in a while, to see if I’m still sharp enough, awake enough, alive enough to handle it.4 Something putting down 500whp,5 moving just 3800lbs, and accelerating to 60mph in less than 2.8 seconds should do the trick, no ?6
But these specs are only clear in hindsight ; that’s not where this three-month journey started at all. In my mind’s eye, the goal was a water-cooled flat-six and a manual. That was supposed to be the path to rawness and viscerality. But that path ended up being far too polished and prosaic – too planned and predictable. It’s actually a bit hard to believe that I set out to buy a classic German sports car, and was dead-fucking-set on it to the point where I’d already purchased the textbooks,7 only to end up with something so quintessentially… not a 911. It’s like setting out to buy a condo in Manhattan and then signing the deed to one in Rio. Or setting out to date a girl in high school and then ending up with her teacher spread eagle on top of the principal’s desk. Like, how the shit did that happen ? Well, it happened because the various manual-box Porsches8 my calculator-for-a-head was so enamoured with while perusing the classifieds finally gave way to reality once I actually drove half-a-dozen 996s and 997s.9 Thereafter, so thoroughly dejected as I was, I had no choice but to dismiss my stupid calculator-for-a-head altogether and restart from square one. My next arrow would be more accurate. It would have to be! The greys stop for no man and this itch was driving me bananas!
So go figure that the next shot would hit the target with such zen-like precision – at once opening my eyes to motorised adrenaline pumps, another planet of vehicular performance, and a means of bullying a road like Bitcoin does “cryptocurrencies.” So it was that I’ve ended up with another Nissan,10 a turbocharged one, and one with an automatic transmission no less.11 This might seem a fairly bizarre turn of events. Unless, of course, you knew who Carlos Ghosn was. Or had ever watched an F&F movie. Or knew all about the near-mythical statuses of each the R32, R33, R34, and now R35. Or knew a bit about turkey dollars ?12 So without further ado…
Say konichiwa to BLACKZILLA!!
Eagle-eyed readers recognise this as a 2013 Black Edition GT-R13 : the second year of the LED DRLs14 and revised launch control, the first year of asymmetric suspension set-ups,15 also the first year of the 545hp engine with sodium-filled exhaust valves, the last year of plaqueless engine bays,16 and also the last year of Mizuno-san as the head of development.17 With the F1-style pace of this car’s development, few years were anything other than a significant upgrade from their predecessors, and after 5 years of working and reworking the formula,18 the 2013 GT-R is something of an engineering and depreciation curve sweet spot.
Despite having neither a manual gearbox nor a naturally aspirated engine, it’s a consummate driver’s car too.19 Even at low speeds it whirs so mechanically and growls so potently, the diffs underneath never resting idle for a moment, that there’s never a moment when the car feels any less life-affirming than fugu.
The berserker way it piles on speed is a big part of this. Blink too slowly and you’ll find yourself in another area code. Wrapped around a utility pole. The way it launches off the line is nothing less than a sublime three-phase experience : car moves, body moves, brain moves ; the latter organ scrambling desperately, hilariously to catch up. To quote one lovely passengerette, “It’s like being shot out of a gun!” which makes sense when you realise that it’s one of the ten fastest factory cars to 60mph… in the world. And mine isn’t factory stock. All told, between the insanely sophisticated all-wheel drive system,20 handbuilt thorium reactor under the hood, and “Bolt”-fast gearbox, this Kamikaze Wunderwaffe has some serious itch-scratching potential. Thankfully the brakes are 390mm front and 380mm rear to slow it all down, bigger than Saddam’s wheels!
So there you have it! My new car.21 But can Blackzilla,22 as the clickbait title suggests, really be owned and operated for $1000* ?23 My track record of predicting fiat’s devaluation or TCO isn’t as renowned as some of my other mad skillz, but a post-oil $CAD should only help my case. So we’ll find out in the next few years, won’t we!
In the meantime, I have some widows to make.
___ ___ ___
- It’s sort of the whole point of living at this latitude – the extremes are extreme! Speaking of which, you may be interested to know that, after four years of growing it out, I chopped off all my beautiful black locks recently. Gone is Sideshow Bob, the handsome devil is back! I didn’t even plan it. I woke up one fine Friday with no intention of any such thing, but by 2pm, my barber shop looked like someone had planted a crop of black licorice cotton candy on the floor. Whims! Because fuck you that’s why :D [↩]
- It’s taken over a decade but I’m finally at the point where even the girl’s seriously impressive professional income is no match for the mega-loaves I’m bringing home. A breadwinrar iz me! You can’t begin to appreciate the weight that this lifts from both of our shoulders. She’s a helluva trooper to have tolerated my jam tomorrow shenanigans for so long.
She also deserves credit for having the least say in the purchasing process in any couple I know of. No small number of married men – and even single men in their early 30’s – who’ve taken passenger rides have been at least as gobsmacked by the car itself as the procurement process. The girl knew I was sort of in the market for something sporty and that I had been looking at some Porsches but she didn’t know until I pulled up the driveway one gorgeous Friday evening that I’d actually plunked down for this black monster. I mean, even if I had wanted to ruin my own surprise, what was I going to say ? “So there’s this car you’ve never heard of, and it’s very fast, and you may or may not like it, and I think we can both agree that such considerations are besides the point anyways, and I’ll be coming home in it on Friday, so neener-neener-neener ?” I seriously have no fucking clue because I’ve never had such a conversation, nor can I imagine the girl having any more say on what’s in my garage than I on which weaving loom she should buy. Division of expertise yo!
Yet this dynamic is the exception rather than the rule. In my car sales days, the stat bandied about was that 90% of new car purchases involved a woman in the decision making process, so if I guy came in the door by himself, dollars to donuts he wasn’t signing the papers that day and you were well-advised to have him call his wife/gf/mother then and there so that she could come down too. [↩]
- A 2+2 seating arrangement will accommodate the whole family for the foreseeable future. This does, however, strike contenders like the Cayman R or R8 from the list. [↩]
- Some objects, though inanimate, are only too capable of reminding us of our own mortality. The old 930 Turbo did this. FUCKGOATS does this. So too today’s car ? [↩]
- As crank horsepower is 10-20% higher than wheel horsepower (less for RWD/FWD cars, more for AWD), manufacturers exclusively advertise the former figure in their marketing materials. Bigger is better! I’m more honest than that, however, and can say with some measure of confidence that while the stock MY2013 was rated at 545hp (~440whp), this COBB Stage 1.5-equipped specimen is closer to 625hp (~500whp), if not a pinch more. [↩]
- Jay has 380hp moving 4400lbs and he’s pretty damn zippy. Alas, it’s still no competition here. [↩]
- For what it’s worth Adrian Streather writes the definitive Porsche 911 bibles. They’re ~$100 each but offer a depth of information unavailable anywhere else. Solid bedtime reading for anoraks, these. And who knows, I may still end up with one someday. A GT3 isn’t inconceivable. [↩]
- The power of the Porsche brand is not only its obsessive insistence on using rear-engined layouts for their halo car but also the provenance and history that comes with such a rich motorsport heritage. Even the silhouette the 911 cuts is just too bloody elegant to ignore, so it was deeply depressing to find out how annoyingly anodyne and agonisingly anachronistic they were first-hand. The 997 Carrera S was particularly disappointing : the rear-slung engine bobbed for apples like a kid at a county fair and the gear lever brusquely brushed between cogs like a John Deere on my Gido’s farm. Don’t meet your heroes!™
Only a well-cared-for 996 C4S was somewhat tempting but not even their rising market values and the consequent potential to feel like an “investor” couldn’t overcome their age, appearance (eggy headlights *ahem*), the fact that I’d still be maintaining a 15yo Porsche, the awkward seating position, and the impossibility of financing a car of that vintage. Yes, opportunity cost is a thing for ol’ Pete too. News at whenever the news is on. Seriously, who watches cable ? [↩]
- I’d driven 993s and 964s before and had already discounted those particular bubblemobiles. They too are a bit bland and a bit pricey to run in top form. $20k for an engine rebuild every 100`000km ? Nothx. [↩]
- My first and previously only sports car was an ’03 350Z back that I purchased in 2009 and kept for three-and-a-half years. [↩]
- Well, it’s really a BorgWarner dual-clutch transmission that shifts in 150ms and is connected to magnesium paddles mounted to the steering wheel column Ferrari-stylez. But sure, “automatic.” [↩]
mircea_popescu: 40k turkey dollars buys you an Ukrainian split, why the fuck would you trade it for a car.
mircea_popescu: Yes, I linked the paperwork coupla days ago. What the Ukr split cost was 40k. But — turkey dollars 40k. US embassy barely scraped it together.
A 996 or 997 would’ve been in the $40-60k range… CASH! No financing was available (for this peon at least) at anything less than 19.9%. Fuck! That! My track record as an investor these last two decades might top that figure but that doesn’t mean that taking out 1980’s-priced loans would be wise. That kind of rate is an sickening 8-ball to put yourself behind, and no Porsche – or any other car for that matter – could possibly be worth it. [↩]
- For those low-level spotters who can’t tell one year from the next from the rear, the front should give it away :
- If ones of very modest complexity, though still attached to a blocky, slabby body, if also one sculpted to evoke Gundam while still katana’ing through the air with a 0.26 Cd (about that of a Prius). [↩]
- The relentless otaku nature of the GT-R’s annual improvement knows no bounds, so for MY2013 a firmer spring rate was calibrated into the right side of the vehicle to counter the combined weight of the driver and propshaft on the left. The opposite arrangement was calibrated into Japanese, UK, Australian, and other RHD market cars. Nuts, eh ? [↩]
- Taking a page from the
AMGV-tronic playbook, MY2014+ have the name and signature of the takumi who hand-assembled the VR38DETT engine for each GT-R. There are only four such craftsmen-engineers in the whole company honoured with this task. [↩]
- Mizuno-san was nothing less than the Steve Jobs of the GT-R development team. Without him, the programme became little more than an effeminate fraud riding the coattails of better men. From 2014 onwards, the car was softened, prettified, and it ballooned in price with every passing year since then. So exactly as you’d expect given the template. [↩]
- The transmission no longer grenades itself after a few hard launches, as was the unfortunate case on 2009 and 2010 cars. [↩]
- The GT-R is theoretically a perfect middle ground between a Grand Tourer and a Racer, but after driving it 600km in one day across Alberta’s desolate northern highways, I can attest to the fact that the big red “R” in the logo is all too justly emphasised. These old bones will be taking the Lexus next time! [↩]
- The ATTESA E-TS AWD system makes this darky winter-ready!
As you can see in the stripped-down image above, the twin-turbo V6 engine rests squarely over the front axle while the transaxle unit lies just fore of the rear axle for superior weight distribution. As you can also see, a large carbon-fibre propeller shaft connects these two components. If that weren’t complicated enough, as this is an AWD vehicle, a second propeller shaft running almost exactly parallel to the first connects the rear transaxle to the front differential. The rear differential is housed within the transaxle, as is the transfer case. An electronically-controlled multi-disc hydraulic clutch within the transfer case splits power between the front and the rear differentials while a limited slip differential controls power distribution between the two rear wheels. The front wheels have an open diff so slippage there is controlled by the ABS module that ties into the braking system. This is not at all dissimilar to the system employed by the Porsche 959 of the 1980’s. [↩]
- If I just wanted the prettiest sports car on the road, I’d buy a ’74 GTV and be done with it. If I just wanted the cheapest and most reliable sports car on the road, I’d buy a ’13 FRS. If I just wanted the most practical sports car on the road, I’d buy an ’15 E63 AMG. If I just wanted the most techy sports car on the road, I’d buy a ’16 i8. And if I just wanted the loudest and most obnoxious sports car I’d buy a ’18 Demon. But I don’t, and didn’t, want any of those. At least not this time ’round. [↩]
- The credit for the “Blackzilla” name obviously goes to Dave C., from before he went bananas like Tiger, Michael, and rest of the tragic, black, and tragically black celebs who struggled dearly with their personal identities in a Euroman’s World. Fame and fortune are a bitch when you come from nothing, know nothing, and yet seemingly have everything. Are you a dancing monkey in a post-prejudicial age or aren’t you ? Just imagine success in a context like that. Nature abhors a vacuum and nowhere moreso than in the minds of the lottery winners.
Also, my old m8 Adnan has the very aptly named “Bronzilla” on the other side of the pond. So big ups o’ sumfing! And if you don’t know how the GT-R came to be known as “Godzilla” (or was it “Dogzilla” ?) in the first place, well, this article is already the better part of 3k words so what so you saw we leave that historical tangent for another day ?
That being said, given my recent record of naming cars after other admirable owners of the same model, naming this beast “Usain” was all too tempting given the Jamaican sprinter’s utter domination of his sport and his specially-branded gold-coloured GT-Rs that launched in 2013 as well. Ultimately, it was a combination of the three things that ultimately deterred me : i) “Usain” was a bit too close in name to the nearly departed Saddam (Hussein), ii) Bolt holds the vomit-inducing title of “Chief Speed Officer” at Nissan (as seen awkwardly below),
and iii) “Blackzilla” (Brakzirra?) genuinely made me lol when I thought of it, lovingly reminding me of the halcyon days of American comedy and the innocent absorption of it in my tender youth. [↩]
- *$USD circa mid-2013, when this car was first driven home, which, if you can believe it, works out to 15BTC. So it’s not just wikipedia that has to affix “x in 2013 dollars” now, but apparently Contravex too! Indeed, you had your chance. [↩]