Category Archives: driving

Bonnie CLAC

Over the past few months, I’ve had the privilege of helping an awesome non-profit out with their website and marketing. Yesterday, we just launched a substantially revamped website.
Nominally, Bonnie CLAC’s mission is to help lower-income people buy cars. Typically, when many people with shaky credit need a car, they head straight to their local used car lot. You’ve heard their ads on the radio: “WE FINANCE EVERYONE!!!”
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And they do — by selling their customers old cars at exorbitant interest rates. The monthly payment is affordable — barely. But when the car inevitably breaks down or a major repair job is needed, they often can’t afford to pay it. Worse, they have no way of getting to work.
So they default on the car loan, and the cycle of a paycheck-to-paycheck existence and bad credit continues.
This is where Bonnie CLAC helps. Their goal is to help their clients buy a new car — usually, a Honda Civic. To qualify, clients have to take financial fitness courses, and sometimes build a payment history for several months on a “bridge” loaner car.
Once the client has qualified, Bonnie CLAC will guarantee a car loan, and negotiate for a new car on behalf of their client.
So a new car is the carrot, but the end result for the clients is often a completely new, longer term and vastly more informed approach to their personal finances.
Right now, they have four offices in New Hampshire: Keene, Lebanon, Manchester and Portsmouth. Longer term, they think this has the potential to get much larger. I agree. It’s one of the rare cases where the incentives for everyone involved are aligned in exactly the right way. Even better, they have a tremendous team and do great work. I’ve been lucky to be able to help them out.
Final note: they provide a no-hassle car buying service for everyone, even for those with good credit. If you’re around New England, and know someone who needs a new car but doesn’t want to haggle with a dealer, send them their way. You’ll be supporting a great cause.

Bumper tests have nothing to do with safety

I’ve never understood why the media makes such a big deal about the Insurance Industry’s perennial bumper tests. The tests happen at 5mph, and have absolutely nothing to do with auto safety, but with how much insurance companies have to pay out after a fender bender. The legal bumper requirement is 2.5mph. You might as well publish the prices from the parts catalog…

New car

About a month ago, and after many years of ogling, I finally acquired a certain new-to-me old BMW — a 1988 E30 M3.
BMW M3
The original M3 was the product of BMW Motorsport’s desire to win the european touring car championships of the mid- to late-eighties, which was dominated at the time by entries from Mercedes and Ford. The touring car championship was production-based, which meant that at least 5000 examples of your race car had to be sold to the public for operation on the street.
The race car had to be identical in form, layout and engine configuration to the production model — no extra spoilers, or tube-frame chassis such as you see in some other racing series. So when BMW went out to win the touring car championship, the M3 was the result. Basically a racing car for the road.
And the funny thing is, it’s not very good for commuting. It has a high-strung, peaky engine, and the ride is pretty harsh. It responds best in places where you can really wring it out — either twisty, isolated mountain roads, or race tracks like this one and this one.
And that’s exactly how I intend to use it.

Focus

Adam Curry writes that one of the things he likes most about flying a helicopter is that you can’t be distracted by anything else.
That’s also one of my favorite aspects of my two-year effort to learn to drive my old car on the racetrack. It demands (and gets) your total concentration; while you’re out on the track, you simply cannot think of anything else. So far, I’ve been here, here, here and here. It’s a real skill, combining tactile/motor skills with a real knowledge of geometry and the physics of how different actions affect a car at speed. And it’s a lot of fun.