Twin-charged Elise is a Dreidel on her private racetrack.

What is it about gambling ?

As alluded to earlier, my humble little garage overfloweth of late. Thankfully, Hashem inventedi 22′ trailersii to keep whatever won’t fit at home so that the neighbourhood runaways can’t make street hockey net backstops out of whatever semi-precious objets de desire spill forth from my measly single-car garage, down the driveway, and into the street. The trailer also doubles as… a trailer, which is handy when you need to tow a not-so-stock Lotus Elise 600 km round-trip figure out what the fuck you just bought, as just so happened to be the case here.

So into the aluminum trailer went the bonded-aluminum sports car and off to Calgary went weiii for an inspection with this featherweight’s bodybuilder : Reg Riemer at RCTS. We sort of knew that the car wasn’t quite the same as it was when it came off the assembly line in Hethel, but never would we have imagined in our wildest dreams that we’d just bought a road-going lightning bolt capable of producing over 400 whp (on 109 octane gas) against a mass of only 2`100 lbs. As we soon discovered in our discussions with Reg, it turned out that a Calgary-based architect had purchased the car new in 2006 and had driven it directly to Reg for fitment of a supercharger, unsatisfied as the new owner was with only 190 hp at the crank. Thirty large later and the stock 1.8L 2ZZ Toyota engineiv was putting out over 200 whp – a full third more than stock. This state of tune was more than adequate for the architect but in 2010 the car changed hands for the first time and landed in our old / new friend Jay’s not immodest collection. Never content to leave well enough alone, Jay handed the supercharged Elise back to Reg and told the HKS Master Pro tuner to add a turbocharger… as well. Over a year and another seventy grand of investment later and the one-off twin-charged Lotus Elise was borne.

Fast-forward another seven years to today and just a few hundred more kay on the clock later – during which time the clutch, transmission, and limited slip diff were all replaced by Jay’s in-house mechanic Aranv –  and Adam and I find ourselves with keys in-hand, proud new owners of our very first sports car.vi One coming drizzled with a 2.2 km private racetrack on top, no less, which is like the proverbial gold leaf and champagne donut.vii Only a thousand times more exclusive. And only appealing to car nuts like us.

Speaking of which, here’s the little pint-sized lightning bolt in all his glory! And next to Adam is our featherweight Dreidel (ha!) taking a breather between sessions to chug a shot of premium.viii Even that Prairie sky is something else. We’re lucky dogs, it’s true!

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Below is a shot from behind the wheel of Dreidel,ix so dubbed because both Adam and I managed to spin her on our first day – he at Turn 1 because his front-left tire had 8 PSI of air pressure and me because I took Turn 9x in third gear instead of second and was at 5000 RPMxi and at the limit of lateral adhesion when the turbo kicked in.xii You can watch Adam’s quick video of our first day out here.

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The overarching sense inside is one slightly less spartan than a bunk bed on a submarine but hardly more spacious (at just 185cm tall I have to slouch a bit with the hardtop and my helmet on) and every bit as minimalistically deliberate. The seats are as hard as my abs but certainly more defined, the steering wheel is fixed and has four stupid centre alignment stripes in every place but at 12-o’clock where it should be, and the speedo / tach are far from intuitive at a peripheral glance. Still, as this new hobby blossoms, this Elise’s stoic pod will surely begin to feel more and more like the Csikszentmihalyian flow-chamber it is ; I’ve already had a glimpse or two into that glorious next dimension and I’m utterly stoked for more. Who knew that a gambling game on ‘roids could be tailor made for adults ?xiii

This time of year – the Rosh Hashanah / Yom Kippur time of year – is when we find awe in our lives once again and for me this Dreidel is a sublime slice of exactly that. It’s a whizzing, fizzing, spinning, banging, wide-open opportunity into an alternative universe overflowing with outlets to prop up my tripod of existential angst.xiv What could be more invigorating, more life-affirming, more of a gamble than that ?

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  1. No, Hashem didn’t literally invent shit. It’s an expression, people, jeez louise. []
  2. As seen here :

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  3. Yes, for the first time in my car-buying life, there’s a “we” here. My co-owner in this spontaneous and slightly spendy endeavour is none other than Adam of “I charged my Tesla Model S with a diesel generator at my first trackday” fame.  []
  4. As seen in the Celica, Matrix XRS, Corolla XRS, etc. []
  5. Yes, like Jay Leno, this Jay (my Jay?) has his own in-house mechanic!! WTFBBQSAUCE already is this guy cool or what ? []
  6. I used to think that Blackzilla was a sports car but Jay – a retired pro driver, recall – questioned this categorisation the moment I met him, before I’d even completed a single lap of Strawberry Creek Raceway. A muscle car, sure, but nothing weighing 3`800 lbs plus driver has any right calling itself a “sports car,” he claimed. Midway through the day at SCR, I couldn’t help but agree. Just as no “computer” without FG plugged in has any right calling itself a computer, at least around SCR a sports car is lightweight first and foremost. Certain labels must be preserved.   []
  7. Head over to Manila Social Club in Miami Beach for the USD$ 100 pastry if you’re really that hungry. And really that ballin’. []
  8. With a positively piddling 34L tank fitted as standard, the Dreidel goes through a whole tank every 80 minutes on track. For this year, we’ll ferry red plastic jerry cans (which actually work perfectly well, though I’m sure a WWII Nazi Edition item would be sweet too) back and forth to the track, but for next year we’ll probably invest in a proper barrel of 109 and leave it there for when we need it. []
  9. A Dreidel is a old country Jewish gambling game based on a spinning top that the kids play at Hannukah. While kids celebrating Christmas are being extra good in December so that Old Saint Nick doesn’t dock them points and give them lumps of coal in their stockings, Jewish kids are spinning four-sided Dreidels and being either rewarded or punished by blind fortune. The only strategy in Dreidel comes from the initial betting strategy. Once wagers are in, it’s ג‎ (Gimmel) to win the whole pot, ה‎ (Hay) to win half the pot, נ‎ (Nun) for nothing to happen, and ש‎ (Shin) to put an extra coin in the pot. Now which of these two child rearing methodologies sounds more adaptive to you ?   []
  10. This G-Maps aerial was published in a previous footnote but now it’s actually numbered :Strawberry-Creek-Raceway-map-numbered []
  11. The GT-R peaks out at 7000 RPM and the meat of its powerband is 4000 – 6000, which is what I was becoming accustomed to on track, but this little Matrix / Corolla XRS engine zings up to 8500 effortlessly and the meat of its powerband is 6000 – 8000. This will take some adjusting to! As will heeling and toeing a proper manual box… And so much more. Thank goodness for Ross Bentley is all I can say. []
  12. SCR being safest track on the planet – at least according to its owner / designer – meant that the worst of our injuries was a tuft of grass wedged into a rear rim and few extra dandelions in the passenger seat (the windows were open). I’ll take it.

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  13. At least in a world post-S.MPOE, which is a world gone but not forgotten. []
  14. Tripod of existential angst = sex, ego, and death. Gotta catch ‘em all! []