Car Clips: Aug. 7, 2000

August 7, 2000

Soap Box Derby 2000

Click image for larger view

With all the distractions and complications of modern life, it is seldom that there are events that involve parents and children as equal participants in bonding activities that are also fun. One of these is the Goodyear sponsored Soap Box derby. The Soap Box Derby is a youth "gravity racing" program, which has run nationally since 1934. Youths, aged 9-16, build their own cars, then compete in their hometown races for a chance to advance to the championship finals held each summer at Derby Downs in Akron. Cars are set in classes that relate to different cost and construction skill levels, and almost as many girls as boys compete and win. Almost all races are decided by the barest of margins, and call upon skill in building, tuning and driving. Since Goodyear is also the exclusive supplier of race tires to NASCAR's three premier racing series they brought Winston Cup drivers Dale Jarrett, Ward Burton and Joe Nemechek, along with NASCAR crew chief Larry McReynolds to meet Derby participants. Champion Dale Jarrett posed in group photos with the 370 Soap Box Derby racers in front of the Goodyear blimp "Spirit of Goodyear" and all participated in autograph and Q&A sessions. Check the Web site at

Road rage reminders

With all the publicity regarding road rage, few have addressed the causes of that rage. Just as in NFL football, it is likely that the penalty is often leveled against the responder rather than the one that created the incident.

Now, I'm not excusing any bad behavior, but too often the causes are inattention and bad habits. On a recent lazy Sunday, I drove across town, and with summer construction in full swing, ran across several lane closures that caused traffic to merge. Three times on city streets I had people speed up and pass me just before the merge, cutting in very close and causing me to brake. This was after I had left a good margin to the car ahead and each time they were trapped on my front bumper by traffic. I had a small car, no hindrance to their following visibility, and no one should have been in much of a hurry on such a nice casual day.

Another gripe is those folks who drive on multi-lane highways, mile after mile alongside other cars. Not only does this irk the following traffic, but it does not allow room to maneuver to avoid an accident. Try this. If you are involved in any of these situations, ask yourself what you are accomplishing. Try to merge and flow with traffic, causing the fewest ripples. Think respect and courtesy, and may all those waves be of thanks rather than threats.

Gray-market appeal?

f you are interested in a special model or maybe a bargain price on a European car, the gray market probably comes into mind. Be careful, since while there are possible benefits to going outside of the traditional dealer network, they may be outweighed by the pitfalls.

Gray Market vehicles may enter the United States from Canada or other countries and must be sanctioned by the DOT, NHTSA and the EPA. If they do so officially and go through all the PROPER procedures it can involve a lot of work and problems. When a vehicle enters the United States, a Registered Importer is responsible for ensuring that all modifications meet U.S. standards and ensure that future recalls are completed.

This process has been widely abused. Do you trust all these 'independent businessmen' who may be the same guys as the ones who tried once to sell you a 'family member's' car? There are few differences between Canadian and U.S. vehicles and they may sell for less because of the difference in the dollar. Canadian cars are often low dollar, limited equipment, economy models since income and tastes vary. Many don't have air conditioning, and manual transmissions are more common. Tales are rampant of cars coming in that don't have all the safety equipment or corrosion protection, or have parts that don't match those in the supply chain. I knew of someone who had a Mercedes and when a minor transmission part failed, the dealer only would sell him a complete transmission since they were different versions.

Also, lots of abused and high mileage cars are brought in after being rebuilt. That performance version of an executive Mercedes often is a repainted taxi with a manual transmission and an off-breed radio with rust holes appearing where the lights had been mounted to the roof. If the Japanese were smart enough to drive on the right side of the road, we'd be flooded with their older cars since they have to go through an expensive

recertification when a few years old. Other right-hand drive countries are filled with ex-Japanese cars, many of them better deals than the European models.


Bob welcomes comments or questions at

The Car Connection
See the winners »
The Car Connection
Commenting is closed for this article
Ratings and Reviews
Rate and review your car for The Car Connection
Review your car
The Car Connection Daily Headlines
I agree to receive emails from the site. I can withdraw my consent at any time by unsubscribing.
Thank you! Please check your email for confirmation.