Saturday, May 13, 2006

Me Slacking and some Pocket Rocket thoughts

I've been sick and kinda "out of it" this past week so I haven't had a chance to play with the Elise much or mess with the iPod situation much more. Hopefully this coming will be better and I'll get some more quality Lotus time.

The Garage Blog had a great post a couple of days ago about the state of current "Pocket Rockets" and how the US (or world in general) is currently lacking in what boomed in the 80's and early 90's as the entry level sportscars. Cars like the VW Rabbit GTI, Honda Civic Si, Suzuki Swift GT, etc all helped introduce and define a lot of today's current automotive enthusiasts. I'm one of those enthusiasts. My first REAL automotive passion was the Volkswagen Rabbit. I've owned probably 6 or 7 total and still consider those cars to be just barely a notch below the Elise. That probably sounds strange to some but when you strip away price, comfort features, numbers, etc and get down to the feeling you get while driving and the experience of driving it shouldn't be all that strange. Both cars are very nimble for their time, everything seems to be placed exactly where it should be, both are extremely good bargains considering the cars they hold their own against, etc.

Anyway, the point is that there really isn't a good "VW Rabbit" of today. There are some "almost Rabbits" in my opinion but they are just too pricey to even be compared to it. I wish automakers could go back to "the basics" and get the driving experience back. Lotus sure as hell accomplished it with the Elise but it would be great to see Volkswagen or another company deliver a competitve & very fun to drive little car for $10,000 or so. That probably won't happen for a while (if ever) though so for now I'll stick with the Elise and probably (in the near future) a G60 Rabbit (Rabbit with supercharged 1.8 from VW Corrado).

Check out the post on TheGarageBlog for the full article.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Elise iPod Install and "Lidbone" install

Yeah, so I decided to forego the oil change and just hold out until the 7,500 mile service. I did go ahead and install the Blaupunkt iPod Interface adapter and the Sector111 Lidbone though. The iPod installation was pretty straight forward.

The iPod kit includes all of this (aside from my 60Gb iPod Video)

When this is all installed it should be a completely stealth installation.

The factory Lotus Elise head unit (at least with my Touring Pack) is a Blaupunkt Acalpulco MP54, which is on the list of iPod ready recievers.

The installation starts by removing the face plate and using the supplied (with your radio) removal tongs to pull the unit out of the dash.

The Radio has plenty of excess wire which allows it to reach the floor, handy because you don't have to unplug it with one hand while balancing it on the shifter (as is the case with some other cars).

Next you will want to go ahead and remove the right access panel, its held on by two screws inside the cubby hole. It has foam backing that sticks to the frame, it prys off pretty easily. Go ahead and run the iPod interface cable through the dash by feeding it through the big headunit hole and get most of it in and over the bracing. It's a tight fit but isn't too bad to work with. Once you have it fed in go ahead and work your hand as far into the access hole on the right and start feeling around for the cable. My only word of warning here is that the aluminum inside (remember, the car uses Aluminum everywhere, tons of raw edges) is damn sharp and WILL cut you pretty easily.

Now that you have the cable run you can go ahead and plug it in at both ends and get the Radio back into the dash. When you power it on the iPod should display a message with a checkmark showing that its connected. Once you've verified that you can go ahead and seal the iPod up or leave it out. You're done!

Now, my thoughts on this setup. I haven't spent too much time messing with it (Derby week in Louisville is CRAZY) but I'm hoping to get some issues resolved. First is the lack of text display. I KNOW this is possible with the combination but I need to figure out what setting or firmware update it is. Next is the 9 Playlist/99 song maximum. My library consists of about 850 songs so I'm safe for now, but it irks me that I need to center my library around this one application. This is a cross between Blaupunkt and iTunes issue but it is still annoying. Third is the severe electrical noise that comes on after a bit. This isn't hard drive noise but very very similar to alternator whine which is caused by power wires being to close to data/sound wires. I'm sure thats the case here but it still sucks for now.

I'm going to work on these issues sometime this week and hopefully get them ironed out. If they all persist then I'm returning the interface and will just go with a different manufacturer. Thats obviously more expensive and more work, but if it works much cleaner in the end then its more than worth it to me.

So, onto the lidbone installation. The Lidbone is a brand new product from Sector 111 and is used to open and prop the engine lid with one hand. Installation is very straight forward and simple.

This is whats included with the kit. Everything just screw together and seems pretty sturdy.

The assembled Lidbone...

The installation starts by removing these two torx bolts that are used to hold the plug cover on.

Bolt the Lidbone base to that point using the two existing torx bolts.

Once you have that bolted down you can go ahead and remove the two 10mm nuts at the lock/latch area on the lid. They are hard to see but pretty easy to feel and remove.

Sideview of the LidBone holding the lid up. It actually gives you a couple more inches of room over the factory prop rod.

And from the rear (notice our neighbor's cat Veda walking by the Suzuki ;)

Well, thankfully I'm very pleased with this product so far. It took a couple adjustments to get it to work right (needs to be fairly loose) but it works great. I shut the lid and gave the car some quick revs (up to about 4,000) with me about halfway out of the car to see if it was going to rattle around at all and I couldn't hear a single rattle. Either its just very quiet or the exhaust is just getting louder. So far the Lidbone looks like a "must have" for Lotus Elise owners.

The last little bit I did before running inside to start my next (unrelated) project was to toss a reflective Apple sticker on the car. I'm not sure how this managed to go so long but its well overdue. I'm an Apple Computer nut and this was the first question quite a few folks asked (You gonna put an Apple on that one too?), well now they can quit asking.

I'm gonna try and set aside some time for a few little photoshoots soon, hopefully the next blog update isn't too far away ;)

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Pacman and Lotus, what a pair!

So a couple of posts ago I mentioned "The infamous Pacman", it just dawned on me that some folks outside of Louisville might not get what that reference. About a year and a half ago my Louisville Lotus friends (the Saffron Yellow and Chrome Orange owners) wanted some cool shots of their Saffron Yellow car so they brought it over to my house and we busted out my fullsize Pacman, and Ms Pacman, costumes. The resulting Lotus Elise photos showed up everywhere and even made it into the 2005 Club 111 (US Lotus Elise enthusiast club) Calendar. Here are a couple shots from that day...

Pacman Costume and Lotus Elise

Lotus Elise Pacman Costume

Ms Pacman Costumes

Lotus Pacman Costumes

Before you shoot an email my way, I didn't make the costumes, my wife spotted them on Louisville "FreeCycle" and got dibs on them pretty quickly. There are two "Ghost" costumes floating around as well although we haven't managed to get those yet ;) I'm pretty sure that there will eventually be some shots of Pacman chasing the Krypton Green Elise through Louisville.

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