Category Archives: Car Reviews

Car Ownership

Sometimes you own cars and you keep them for a decade or more. Sometimes cars are only in your life for a short time. In the not too distant future it is possible that we won’t own cars and we will use cars as a service.

After my 2001 Honda Accord EX Coupe was finally put down I had my sister-in-laws Corolla. I don’t remember the year. It was much newer. Owning and driving the Toyota Corolla on a daily basis was nightmare. Well, a nightmare if nightmares are boring and lacking power. It was an ok car. Nothing to write home about.

Then I purchased the 2009 MINI JCW Clubman. It was an awesome car. When the air intake for the turbo didn’t blow off. The acceleration without the turbo was anemic at best.

The problem was that I kept hearing about a lot of people getting in to accidents in their MINI Coopers. And then I was in an accident in my MINI. In afterthought I think the car was too small that it began to suffer from things that happen with motorcycles – in essence – people couldn’t see it. Certainly, the woman that hit me didn’t see me.

It was repaired; however, circumstances change and a max 4 person car no longer suited my needs. At the time I thought there was a chance I would be carrying not only my 4 kids but two other kids and taking them out places and so a Honda Pilot made sense.

I like the car. It does what it is supposed to do. It drives well on bad surfaces, carries people. It isn’t particularly inspired in design. The music interface has much to be desired, but it works and you get used to it over time. It does make me take my eyes off the road a bit too much so I am extra careful.

The 2013 Honda Pilot EX L is a nice vehicle. While it isn’t much to write home about it is much better than the Toyota Corolla that I had once driven daily.

However; the biggest problem with the Honda Pilot is that we own a Honda Odyssey. A 2014 Honda Odyssey Elite.

One year newer – but the Odyssey is a much higher line and virtually everything is better. Not just things like electronics – but the design of a minivan is (sadly) far superior to the design of a SUV – even when both have the same engine, same transmission and likely share a large number of other components.

All that being said most likely I will be keeping the 2013 Honda Pilot for some time to come – probably exceeding the 11 years I owned the 2001 Honda Accord EX L and the 1992 Honda Civic LX that I had owned for 10 years before that. It has been a tumultuous time for my car ownership.

I don’t regret the MINI that I owned. It was a nice fast car. It was also expensive to maintain. If I had known how much I would have just gotten a used BMW 3 series – as the maintenance costs the same (virtually). The rough ride on the small car was not exactly enjoyable. I like feeling the road (which I can do even on my Honda Odyssey and Honda Pilot), but I don’t like having the road jammed in to my butt as if I was riding on the transmission on an old Camaro which I did while I was in high school.

Hopefully, I will make it out to the 2017 New York International Car show this year – and take lots of pictures of lots of interesting things – and I will post them up here.

2009 JCW MINI Clubman 4,000 Mile Update

Arggh mateys and well met.

We here at The Pirate King of Cars (TPKoC) have had the MINI for 4,000 miles of real world driving.

Above all, and higher than the tallest sail on our imaginary ship – the JCW MINI Clubman makes the boring commute fun.

But it has not been a journey without trials.  Very shortly after purchasing the JCW Clubman one of the turbo air intakes came off.  This caused very erratic behavior and if the JCW Clubman were a ship, we were afeared of our lives.

It was straightened out quickly at the dealership (at no charge), but they convinced me that I needed new spark plugs and an oil change.  $500 down the tubes.

There are some other issues…  That cannot be solved so simply.  And while the turbo air intake tube came out again, now that the problem is known it is easily addressed.  Maybe someday I’ll even clean the oil off the turbo and off the inside of the turbo intake tube so it won’t come out again.

Ride quality on the streets of the United States of America…  Well, they were paving the streets near TPKoCs house and sadly they left a layer of highway ripped off for quite some time.  A layer of road that TPKoC drives perpendicular to once daily.

Let’s say the first time I took it like I was driving my wife’s minivan.  I heard what I thought was a gunshot.  There is a possibility that some poo came out.  After a bit of disorientation I continued on the last mile to my home in a slight daze.  Sadly, this isn’t the only time this has happened.  Sometimes, no matter how cautious, you follow a bit too closely and get a surprise with a side order of poo.

The next thing was that I got a service light for the rear brakes.  TPKoC has no idea when the last time the brakes had been done.  This, however, turned out to be an adventure.  Firestone was chosen to do the brakes, but they either missed or TPKoC wasn’t noisy enough about the fact that it was a JCW.  Oh, no, we can’t get that part on a Sunday.  Fortunately, TPKoC has extended family with cars they don’t use everyday.  Monday was an adventure in a 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Driving the Jeep Grand Cherokee was better than driving nothing at all…  But the feel of this vehicle is like stepping in moist dog poo in bare feet.  Not fun.

Firestone then had problems with the passenger side rear caliper.  They were going to replace it.  Then, with lots of elbow grease, research on the internet and, pure determination – they removed the parking brake connection they were able to replace the brake pads on the passenger side rear brake.

TPKoC finally got the car back on Wednesday, sadly at a cost of another $500.  Next time perhaps I’ll buy the parts ahead of time and take the car to a place that specializes in German cars, er I mean British cars!

Finally, the past two days in the NorthEast have been showing the anger of the gods of winter.  Snow, some other kind of precipitation that isn’t quite snow or rain, and cold weather have besieged TPKoC!  Never fear!  The stock tires on the MINI seem to be tolerable in these conditions.  When the time comes, we’ll be sacrificing a bit of performance for non-run flat tires that are all season.

Oh, and to the tire guy in the Linden Sam’s club – yes, they do make tires that small.  I’d hate to see the look on his face if someone had a classic Mini for a tire change.


Oh, and the tire sensors and time for the front brakes are threatening me with needing to do them – but for as long as I’ve been driving the car – it seems like it is 1900 miles until they need to be changed!

Typical fuel economy has been 29 mpg.


The MINI community is awesome – and The League of Extraordinary MINIacs is a great place to learn about MINIs and be with MINI/Mini people!

Enjoy the pics!

2009 Mini JCW Clubman – First week in Review

Pieces of Eight me hearties – feels like platinum to drive this car.

Well, no, honestly, but it is damned good.

TPKoC (The Pirate King of Cars) loves driving this car so much that he nearly drove a thousand miles – starting miles 37040 – current miles – 38010!


TPKoC popped the clutch once late Monday and apparently one of the air intakes for the turbo were knocked loose.  The symptoms were unsteady idle.  Mates – TPKoC was ready to return the car and say “Never again” to used cars.

But no, a quick trip to the dealer and they were able to fix it quickly with no muss.  Paid for oil change and spark plug replacement of $300, though.  It is a new to me car and those didn’t seem like demanding TPKoC walk the plank…

Figuring out some of these buttons might take a bit of time – especially the fog light button.  Sometimes it lights the top, sometimes it lights the bottom, sometimes it lights both, but I can’t figure out how to make it do what?  Right now, it seems I can turn the top fog light on and off with relative alacrity…

Found out from friends on the web that you should warm the car up before setting off and this will hopefully save wear and destruction on the turbos.  Also, apparently, good practice to let the car idle for a minute or two before shutting it off.

Methinks TPKoC can handle that; however, he is sure used to just starting and going or stopping and walking away with most modern cars.  Not such a horrible thing, though, for having such a hot car!

While the onboard electronics have determined my mpg to be 28.9, using math and looking in to the air in the hopes of inspiration TPKoC has determined that the car got slightly better than 30 mpg for the second tank of gas.  This is dead-on similar to the mpg in TPKoC’s old Corolla, with a lot less fun to be had in that Corolla.

The 2009 (coincidentally) Corolla was so mundane it was helping to make TPKoC a boring person.

Now, TPKoC just wants to drive his JCW places and take pictures of it.

A 2009 JCW Mini Review

Arrrgh, mateys…  The first week of owning the 2009 JCW Mini Cooper Clubman!  It has been a week of ups and downs.  In the end it is all good.

I found this video review of a 2009 JCW Mini Cooper that is almost identical to TPKoC’s car!  From a technical perspective this is a great review.  Unfortunately, it is really boring.  TPKoC couldn’t imagine the great god Jeremy Clarkson’s review of a JCW Mini Cooper being boring.

Perhaps The Pirate King of Cars can take a stab at a video review of his car!


The youngest male pirate in the household called the Mini “The World’s smallest Limo!” and loved the door that opened just for him to use.

2009 Mini Cooper John Cooper Works Clubman – 0001

Driving a car and driving a Mini Cooper are two completely different experiences.  Muscle memory indicating where controls are and how they behave should pretty much be thrown out the window.

There are so many good things about the car that little problems with the controls are not really an issue.  So far, this car starting with 37,000 miles – drives like a new car.

Headlights and the Adoption of Beneficial Technology

Years ago, mates, I saw an article in Popular Science or Popular Mechanics where the external lighting systems of cars were supplied by optical fiber and disassociated completely from the traditional forms of headlights.

Today in the present we are starting to see light formats that do not conform to the limitations of incandescent bulbs.  But there was a value in these optical fiber lights.  There were two lights in the system – one that was running and supplying light and there was a backup.  Conceivably, when one light bulb went out a light would go on the dash telling the driver to replace the light.  Meanwhile, no lights would be out increasing the safety of driving cars.  Even in this time period any given night you can see many cars with headlights out.

It isn’t a matter of not getting a ticket – it is a matter that the auto manufacturers didn’t adopt a system that would prevent headlights from ever being out.

And if you’re like The Pirate King of Cars – who did get a ticket for having a headlight out, wouldn’t you wish you could charge it back to the manufacturer?

And if you got in to an accident because of a light failure – who is partially responsible?  No doubt you have a share of the responsibility, but according to Six Sigma, whenever there is a decision point, there is always a question of the correct option being selected and always a question of it being selected in an appropriate time.