John Li

Well, this is a good a story as any, and a nice capstone on the year’s time trials season.

I’ve been splitting my motorsports attention between autocross and time trials. My original plans at the beginning of the year were to go to all of the National Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) autocross events in the Midwest and tackle a few National SCCA Time Trials (TT) events at the tracks that I really wanted to run, but the pandemic had other ideas and flipped my schedule on its head. I ended up not being able to attend a single National autocross event — I even paid for the Pro Solo pass and never got to use it! — and instead went to a bunch of time trials events.

One of those time trials events was the SCCA TT at Road America, originally scheduled for the spring and to be run in conjunction with Global Time Attack (GTA). However, thanks to the pandemic, the event was binned and a rescheduled event was promised. Entry fee refunds were offered for those that wanted them, but I kept my entry in the books for the reschedule, which wouldn’t come to light until the month of October. Eventually, the date of the rescheduled TT was announced: it was to run alongside the American Road Race of Champions (ARRC) on the first weekend of November. (more…)

We were on our way back home from a win at Lake Superior Performance Rally (LSPR). I had just attended my very first stage rally, and did so as a crew member for my friends. Kevin, the owner and driver of a thoroughly used 80’s FC Mazda RX-7 had just driven to a convincing win in the Regional Open 2WD class, with Jay as his codriver. Most notably, Kevin’s naturally aspirated rotary engined car topped another 80’s FC Mazda RX-7 running in the same class, one that had traded its original rotary for a V8.

Kevin has had his rally car for years. For me, he is inextricably linked to this car; he’s had it as long as I’ve known him. I didn’t realize how many years he’s spent with this car until I was hanging out with his folks at a bar (they had come up from Chicago to spectate the rally) and they reminisced about when Kevin brought the car home for the first time… in high school. Damn, how many people these days can claim that they still own (and regularly drive!) their high school car?

So the idea that Kevin wouldn’t rally this car forever and ever and ever was something I couldn’t fathom. (more…)

For a brief while on Facebook, motorsports friends were doing the “10 Year Challenge,” posting a picture of what they were driving 10 years ago compared to what they are driving now. Almost everyone I know is driving something different from what they were driving back then — makes sense, as can someone really run the same car in the same motorsport for a whole decade?

Then I realized that I did basically just that. (more…)

At this moment, my 1966 Mustang is on a slow boat ride to the southern coast of France. I sold the car during the waning days of fall, eager to get some cash and clear some garage space, thinking that the car would end up with someone local, or at least somewhere in the Midwest. I definitely was not expecting the car to go across an ocean. (more…)

Two new electric vehicles were just revealed. One had a brief flash of media coverage and then faded away from the limelight, while the other one is literally one of the hottest topics in pop culture, and will continue to be weeks after its reveal.

The Ford Mustang Mach-E is pretty unremarkable. The only thing people seem to talk about when the vehicle comes up in conversation is the name, which appears pretty blatant as an attempt to hitch a family crossover onto the name of some famous and aspirational. Save your talk of “it drives like a Mustang,” because no one can drive it yet — we can only listen to what the marketers say, and in this jaded era, it shouldn’t be a surprise that a lot of people are cynical.

On the other hand, the Tesla Cybertruck is very remarkable in the literal definition of the word: it’s worth remarking about. It’s in memes, it’s all over the news, no one (myself finally included) can shut up about the damn thing. It’s a masterstroke of attention, something that Ford desperately wants but simply can’t figure out how to get.

The difference in approach has never been more striking. Ford: here’s an electric Ford Edge that you can imagine your Boomer dad driving. Telsa: here’s a truck that 8 year old you desperately wanted, and you too can live out your childish fantasies while looking like nothing else on the road today.

You will never find a Mustang Mach-E in a rap video, but you definitely would see a Cybertruck. It has been one of my longest running conundrums: someone out there had to eventually come out with something that is the equivalent of an electric Land Rover, something tall and boxy, capable of going off-road, but most importantly of all, be a status statement piece that a ovoid egg simply can’t be. With the flexibility of electric car design, why are we still stuck in the same old design paradigms? Why not something, pardon the pun, electricifying?

And then Tesla drops the Cybertruck. It’s polarizing, it’s edgy (both literally and figuratively), and it has captured people’s imaginations like nothing else in the past few years. This is a truck that even the brodozers would want to drive. (I can’t wait for the future videos of redneck Brodozer Cybertrucks griefing Telsas. Maybe instead of rolling coal, you could roll lightning? I’m imagining a Red Alert-style tesla coil hanging off the truck bed that could zap something on command.)

Ultimately, this is the difference between the Mustang Mach-E and the Cybertruck: the Tesla is an assertion, while the Ford is not. An assertion is something that can be disagreed with, it is a statement that can be attacked, and it is point of view not every one will share. But in a world where everyone is trying to please the masses by being as vanilla and palatable as possible, bold assertions stand out. The Mustang Mach-E is trying to be all things to all people, and it shows. The Cybertruck is for some people but not all, much in the same way that the new Corvette is not “the regular kind.”

I, for one, love the truck. Not only that, it’s exciting. When was the last time you were genuinely excited for a future automobile? As someone who wishes he was present in the crazy concept car days of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, the Cybertruck reveal feels like a small sliver of what true automotive wonder might have been like back then.

Car is sold, and is in fact on its way to France!

Up for sale is my 1966 Ford Mustang. I have literally driven this car all over the United States, making a trip down to the Carolinas for the Mustang 50th Anniversary celebration, a round trip to the West Coast and back, and a trip out to Alaska and back. Between me and several friends, I’m pretty certain that we’ve put approximately 30k miles on the car in the past seven years that I’ve owned it.

The car was built to be a highway cruiser and a comfortable road trip car. I wouldn’t hesitate to hop in this car and drive it to, well, Alaska and back. That said, it is a bit rough around the edges, and is probably best thought of as a driving project car. Hopefully, I will pass this on to someone who will have the time and effort to make this car the “nice car” that I had always hoped it could be, since I don’t have the time and effort to do that myself. Otherwise, you could just buy the car and drive it as-is, and simply do the basics in order to keep the car streetable. (more…)

I did not watch the C8 Corvette reveal last night. I’m just now catching up on all of the images and details of the new car, and so far, I really like what I see.

Naturally, with something as so near and dear to the hearts of so many Americans, one of the key pillars of the ongoing story is the heartburn felt by so many over this new car. Too exotic, too impractical, etc. etc. Why did they have to change up the formula so much? Why didn’t they just make a C7++?

I think I’ve pinpointed why I’m taking such glee in others’ agonies. This new Corvette is no longer “the regular kind.”

Seth Godin talks about this all the time. Most people are pretty conservative with their choices, choosing to stick to the kinds of things that everyone else likes. These days, crossovers, SUVs, and trucks are “the regular kind,” proliferating in the marketplace to meet demand from seemingly every other person in the world except me.

The Corvette for the longest time was stuck in a no-man’s land. On one hand, it was a car dedicated to shaming other sports cars around a race track; on the the other, it was the blue collar Mercedes — a status symbol for the frequently derided and ridiculed Corvette Man.

But now, those chains (ba-dum-tish!) have come off. There is no pretending anymore. A mid-engined car designed totally for speed, like an Acura NSX or Ferr-R-ee? This ain’t the America I know!

I love it. If you want a fast Chevy to tootle around town in with a trunk in the back, you can get yourself a Camaro.

In a day and age where economic forces pulls everything into the gravitational black hole that is “the regular kind,” I love that the Corvette has taken the bold path of going the other way. While Ford attempts to paste “ST” badges on regular crossovers and SUVs and say with a straight face “they’re just like the sports cars and fast cars that you’re too scared to buy,” Chevy is willing to push the envelope and say to folks, “hey, this Corvette may not actually be for everyone.”

These are the Cliff Notes of my Alcan 5000 adventure in the Mustang. I wrote this for my work newsletter, so it’s written for a Ford audience, and it leaves out a lot of the smaller stories and adventures I had on this trip, but it gets to the heart of the fun and is as succinct a trip summary as I could write. Enjoy! (more…)

Four weeks ago, I handed my keys off to my friend Dan, hopped on an airplane, and flew from Fairbanks, Alaska back home to Detroit. Dan then proceeded to bring the car home for me, taking the car on his own adventures, driving the car from Alaska through Canada and finally back home to Detroit, pulling into my driveway three weeks ago.

“Canadian Dan,” as he is called in my circle of friends, is one hell of a wrench, a lover a beat up jalopies, and perhaps just as crazy as the friends who joined me for the Alcan 5000, and was the perfect guy to hire to “deliver” my car back home for me. When he offered to drive the car back for me sometime earlier this year, it was an easy decision to make; I wrote him a check for what I estimated would be the cost of shipping my Mustang back home via truck transport, and told him to have fun. He could do whatever he wanted with the car, I’d cover any additional parts and repair costs, and the only requirement was that the car eventually make it home. (more…)

I decided to take the Volvo back home and put it in the garage while I figured out what to do with the flaky transmission. Unfortunately, on the way home from the shop, another malady has appeared to rear its ugly head: the engine appears to be running on three cylinders and not the full compliment of four. Nuts. Well, any further diagnosis and work is just going to have to wait until I return from Alaska…