Thursday, April 26, 2012

Is a red Lotus Esprit a speeding ticket magnet?

I have not post for a while. Ever since Harry and the Vikings Motor Sports fixed and shaped up my 95 Esprit S4, I was having too much fun driving it all over the place. Harry did a great job and the car is smooth, responsive, and reliable now.

Maybe it is a bit too good now as I also got 2 speeding tickets in 4 months. I don't think I changed my driving habits that much. I think I drive my BMW 525i even faster and further because it is smoother and quieter. However, I only got one speeding ticket in the BMW the past 5 years. The Esprit (especially mine is red) seems to be a cop magnet. The CHP officer also said I was speeding well over 90+ mph while I think I was doing at most 80 mph. I was not driving aggressively both times (I only drive aggressively in the mountains); I was just coasting with other cars trying to get home in both occasions and I did check the speedometer regularly. There were a lot of cars passed me up along the way, too. The radar detector was slow to react as well. This is getting seriously ridiculous. How can I enjoy my Esprit on any highway without fear?

Here are my questions: Do you feel the cop will single you out in a line of traffic just because you drive a hot car? Will they perceive you drive faster or more aggressively just because your car looks fast? How do you cope with it? I am a little down now from the ticket. Hopefully talking about it with the group will lighten the pain and even have some fun with it.

Thanks and look forward to your replies.
Howiiieee 95 S4 (Red)
Southern California

Blower wrote: 
I got 'noticed' by a cop while driving a friend's Esprit. This was back before I owned one; I had made friends with a couple of owners in my area in an attempt to learn more about the cars before buying my own. Anyway, it was a bright red '86 and we'd just finished with an oil-change or some other minor maintenance task and had taken the car out for a spin. I was driving and we were northbound on GA 400 (main north-central expressway from central Atlanta to the northern 'burbs). I was going a little bit fast, but nothing totally egregious- maybe 12 over or so...we came over a slight rise and the cop was there on the shoulder, with somebody already pulled over. As the officer walked back to his car, he saw me coming around hot in the left lane and wagged a finger at me. My friend was playfully upset, saying that now that cop will be looking for his car on 400! :)-
Oh and in the interest of cheering Howie up, does anybody have clever names for speeding tickets? In the BMW motorcycle circles in which I hang out, we call them 'Performance Awards.' :D

Tom wrote:
I haven't gotten a ticket in my Esprit after about four years of ownership. I did get stopped on my inaugural ride home from Dallas to Tampa/St. Pete - but the cop clearly only wanted to look at the car and let me go with a warning which he also said quite clearly that it didn't mean damn thing and I could throw it away.

Paul wrote:
I've owned TWO red Esprits over the last 20 years and have not gotten speeding tickets in either one of them. I think one is more likley to get stopped because of some fault in the electrical system (tail lights) if you drive fairly conservatively, which did happen to me recently. The cop just gave me a warning and said "nice car” !

Clint wrote:
As far as names for tickets go I have been calling them bacon strips for years. (because they come from pigs)

Dave C wrote:
I find this is pretty common as well but I usually chalk it up to trying to get a closer look at the car. People will always seem to drive right up into your blind spot and then sit there. Whether they are blocking you or there are miles of empty road ahead of both of you. Its a great place to look at a cool car from, just not so convenient for the Esprit driver who can't see over there very easily.

Rich wrote:
Hey, I received tickets the first 3 times I drove my Elise.the first time I had just bought it, and was picked out from between 2 full sized pickups towing trailers on a 3 lane highway in VA. There's no justice. Only perceived ability to pay. Since I upgraded to Evora, there have been no tickets or pullovers, partly due to the world class brakes, I can be back at the speed limit in 1 second.

Comem47 wrote:
No question that happens on occasion. I once was driving though Grand Island NY(near Niagara Falls) on my way to a LOG event in Grand Rapids MI and got pulled over and written up. I believe I was doing 60 in a 55 zone but other cars were passing me by like I was standing still, most notably I remember a white Firebird that had to be going 65-70 passing me by as the cop was approaching from behind. I was shocked he didn't keep on going past me to get that car. I decided to fight the ticket requesting a supporting deposition with more details from the cop (something you're entitled to in NY in prep for your court case). The ticket should have been thrown out under NY law because I did not receive that deposition 3 days in advance of my court appearance (never did get it), but they made my come out to appear anyway and not only did they not throw it out then per the law, but the judge made me come back a second time allowing more time for the cop to send a second deposition (I kept protesting, quoting NY law, but all he'd say is "do you want to come back in 2 weeks or 3?" with the DA trying to press me to settle. The judge remembered me the 2nd time back and with no cop present he finally threw it out (with 2 180 mile round trips to night court with no compensation -but it was worth it for insurance and surcharge reasons) My experience over the years has been if you're going less that 10 mph over in every day transportation they never bother looking at you as you pass the speed traps.

Travis wrote:
Two words... Grey Lotus
Problem solved!
Travis Vulcan Grey 89SE

WA6 wrote:
 I agree that some cops will stop you in these cars just to "get a look." at your car. I have also had the experience many times of people hanging off of my rear right quarter panel, which they of course do so at their own peril because of the poor visibility there!

Tim wrote:
Yeah, color does have a lot to do with it. Silver, grey, black tend to fly under the radar better than red, yellow, neon anything, etc. Bright colors that really catch the eye, catch all the wrong eyes as well. So do racing stripes/ numbers, and fru-fru bling-bling crap that doesn't belong on an Esprit in the first place. And then, of course, there's big wings. It doesn't help that the car looks fast all by itself, or that you probably don't normally leave any speed margin on the table... not to mention dipping pretty deeply into next year's allotment. On the other hand, I have managed to get two tickets in my dark green Subaru. But then, I was traveling a wee bit in excess of the limit.

To sum it up, it was really interesting to hear other Lotus owners on their cop / ticket situations.

Next post: Race track!!! Auto Club Speedway (Fontana, Ca)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Taipei / International Floral Expo

During our tour in the Shanghai World Expo 2010, I promised my mom and dad that I will take them to the Taipei (our hometown) to visit the International Floral Expo 2011 if they can stay healthy and fit for travel. Dad was fit, but mom was no longer with us. Still, I took mom’s picture along with us for one more visit to the places we loved.

First stop on this trip was Hong Kong.

Hong Kong lodging was expensive, so we stayed in one of the smallest hotel room I ever stayed. My out stretched arms can almost touch both sides of the room’s walls.

It is close to Chinese New Year, so we did some new year decoration shopping.

Next stop, we took a High speed train to Guangzhou. The background is the new Guangzhou tower.

There is also a Chen’s family temple / library from two centuries ago (as I am one of the millions Chen in this world):

We next fly to Taipei. It happens to be my father’s birthday, so we celebrated in my uncle’s home.

We finally got to the Taipei Floral Expo:

I think mom would have loved this place.

Another famous tourist’s attraction at Taipei is the night market:

And Taipei 101

It was a fun trip in the beginning of 2011.

I even bought myself a new Lamborghini.

Next post:

Is a red Lotus Esprit a magnet for speeding ticket?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Glendora Mountain Road

I told you folks that I bought the Lotus Esprit for the handsome look and to fulfill a dream. However, now I do own the Supercar, more and more I want to drive it and enjoy its athletic side as well. It is definitely a fun car to drive, once you get used to it. Now I can shift the manual gear fairly smoothly and have the confidence to rev the engine up for power. I can feel the G-force pinning me back when I rev it up. I am sitting so low to the ground and feel very secure as the car just rocket forward. People told me the thrust is even more on a V8 model, but I am happy with my S4. The superior handling also encourages me to make more G-force by making quick turns whenever I can.

I looked up some posting for the local So Cal Lotus owners club. One posting caught my eyes – A drive day on the Glendora Mountain Road. This is the first time I heard about the road. The date for the drive had passed and they had posted some pictures. There were 6 Elise and 2 Esprit joined the run on that day. It looked like run. I looked up on the Google map, and there it was, a twisting mountain road loop just north of the So Cal valley. I can drive there in 30 minutes. I want to check it out myself.

On an early Saturday morning, I took the Esprit to the Glendora Mountain and had a hard time finding the entrance to this road. Once I found the control gate (which is usually open, unless very bad weather or landslide) and got into to the twisty mountain road, I realized why so many car magazine or blog editors like to use this road to test drive some of the best sports car in the world. I believe they tested the Lexus LFA on this road (you can find the road test as well as many other GMR runs posted on YouTube). This road is well paved, but quite narrow, with hundreds of blind twists and turns. Most of the turns are greater than 90 degrees and test the handling capability of any car to the max. There are a good stretch of the road (like 12 miles) that does not even have a center divider marking so all car have to be very cautious entering many blind turns. The up or down hill portion do have a double yellow lines center divider so I can really turn as fast as I can with more confidence that I won’t collide with an incoming car. I don’t think the cop ever set speed trap in this remote mountain road so it is pretty much up to you to decide how fast you want to make those tight turns. Be careful, one wrong move can make your car skid out of the road and into some pretty rough terrain on both sides of the road. This is a real roller coaster ride that is in your own hands.

I was having a blast. I did not go very fast, but each turns are fun. There were not too many cars on the whole road as it really does not go anywhere but to a weather observation post on the edge of the hill. I do have a lot of 2 wheels companions, motorcycle and bicycles, to share this recreation road. Many people gave me a big thumb up when they rode passed me or I drove passed them in this Exotic car. This road hugging beauty just feels at home on roads like this. How lucky that people in So Cal get tons of good weather days and have this kind of great mountain road to drive on. It took me about one hour to complete the loop and I am hooked. I drove there many more times, especially with the removable top off so it becomes a convertible. I love it every time. I know my Esprit looks great, but now I love it even more because it drives great. The $32K toy is really a dream comes true.

I also found many more mountain roads around So Cal that are also a lot of fun. I especially like the HWY 18 to Lake Arrow Head and HWY 2 Angeles Crest highway. Still GMR is special. No wonder So Cal is the driving enthusiasts heaven on this side of the pond (I heard that Europe has some pretty crazy and stunningly beautiful mountain roads, too). Next time if you have a good car that you want to test it in So Cal, drop me an e-mail, I just may show you some great roads we can do a fun car chase on.

Here is a picture of the Glendora Mt. Road from above. I snap it on one of my business trip flight to Nor Cal. There is a small water damp made lake that is down below some part of the road. I often stopped at one of the vista point to take a break from the exciting driving and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Next post: Another Asia Trip

Friday, March 2, 2012


The Lotus Esprit S4 stayed in Viking Motor Sports for five weeks. I was making a habit to drive 60 miles each way every Friday to check on it in the shop for progress. Here are some pictures of the work in progress:

The car I got had some other missing/broken/old parts so I decided to spend a bit more money to fix it up so it will be a great looking Supercar again. What’s $3000 more dollars when you already spent $7000+. Put in on a credit card of course and try to find a way to pay it down later. (Yeh, we all heard this one before). Here are more works I ordered:

Yes, go ahead with these (part one):
1. Tensioner bearing $100.00 no labor
2. Needs the clutch line, $170.00 plus $115 labor.
3. Wiper blade $30.00 no labor
4. A/c recharge $150.00 no labor
5. All four dampers adjust $115.00 labor
6. Brake switch adjust. No labor

Yes, go ahead with these (part two):
7. Hub caps $200.00 a pair no labor. (That’s just 2 little pieces of aluminum!)
8. Rear Valance $175.00 plus $57.50 labor.
9. Turn signal bulbs. $30.00 plus $115.00 (or less) labor.
10. Gearbox and Clutch inspection. $369 labor.

Yes, go with these (part three):
11. Clutch and pressure plate, $631.15 (inspection and labor cost already included below)
12. Do not need new clutch line and labor (already stainless steel line installed), -$285
13. New fuel filter, $10
14. New pair of rear hatch struts, $126

I also went to DMV to pick up my new personalized license plate, which I ordered right after I bought the car. However, before I received the new plate, which took up to 3 months, the dreadful “444” plate on the car worked its devil deed one last time. I will not drive with it ever again.

On August 30, 2010, I went to Viking Motor Spots, pay the remaining balance (Which add up tax and some more labor, total just short of US$11000), and picked up my “like new” Lotus Esprit S4. I put on the new license plate “JIAHWA7” before I finally got to drive it home. Why “JIAHWA7”? I will tell you in another post.

I was so happy the car is back in my garage again. It runs great, but more works are still needed.

The rear wheel rims are badly bent and I hate the run flat tires last owner out on it. I went Arrowhead wheels to refurbish these OZ racing wheels and put on brand new Sumitomo ZTRIII tires. I also adjusted the ride height to higher (so it won’t scrape the top inside part of the wheel wall when I corner hard) and softer (easier for daily drive). This is another $1200+. This put the total cost of this Lotus Esprit S4 to around $30K. Now it is the car I am proud to own and keep, but it is sure no bargain.

Note: This picture background is not my home, just a nice house and yard that I think it is perfect to photo my car with, so I drove in to take some pictures then left before anyone noticed. I do hope to get a house this nice in the future, but that’s another story.

Next post: Glendora Mt. Road

Monday, February 27, 2012

You don’t really own a Supercar until you pay for the first major repair bill !!!

It was just a beautiful Sunday morning in the summer. July 25, 2010 to be exact. I just finished playing tennis and driving my cool looking Supercar to have lunch. Then it happened. First a “Check Engine” light came on, but then went away on the freeway. I make it to the freeway exit and all of a sudden I lost power, the oil pressure went to zero. I tried to restart the car several time with no luck. I was strained on the road in the Lotus Esprit for the very first time.

I did not think much of it at the time. I asked AAA to tow it to a European cars (Porsche, BMW, Mercedes) specialist shop nearby. It was Sunday and all auto shops were closed so I just left it there and called my wife to pick me up. I check back the next morning and they told me the bad news. The timing belts lost some teeth and slipped. They need to open up the engine to check for damage and replace the belt. That’s at least $3K. Lotus is such a rare car that they don’t even know how to fix it, so they were calling around for help. I went home and ask several Esprit groups about what to do. They ALL told me one thing: send the car to a Lotus specialist for the repair, someone who knows what he is doing on this exotic car. Most said Harry Appleby and his Viking Motor Sports in Costa Mesa, California is the best around. Since I love this car so much, I paid the $220 extra tow fee and tow the car to Harry’s shop. Now looking back on it, it was the wise decision.

How can the timing belt broke on me? Doesn’t it have a 100K miles California warranty on the belt by the factory? The car has only 46K miles on it! Too bad the warranty expired 10 years ago. No plastic belt is designed for 15 years of life. If I have known better, I should have replaced the timing belt right after I got it as an important preventive maintenance. Driving Japanese all these years had spoiled me on car maintenance. I have to be extra careful from now on if I want to keep this baby around.

Harry pulled the engine out and gave it a thorough check. The news got worse – all sixteen valves were bent. Usually only a couple are bent when the belt breaks. Harry thinks only one or two teeth were gone initially so the engine was still running and car was still moving, but off sync. Finally all the valves were bent, the engine seized up, and the timing belt won’t turn anymore. Well, too bad I found out afterwards. My assumption on the 100K rated belt was “dead wrong”. The bad omen of license plate ending with “444” (which rhyme with Chinese “dead dead dead”) did haunt me.

After all, it is a 16 years old car and many things on the car do need service on top of the belt and valves. Here is the list Harry told me is needed to be done on the car:

1. Removed the engine from the car for easier access.
2. 16 valves and some new valve guides.
3. Machine work to repair the cylinder head.
4. Top engine gasket set.
5. JAE blue timing belt.
6. All the auxiliary belts.
7. Water pump.
8. Thermostat.
9. Cam towers bolt.
10. Replace all the engine coolant hoses with new silicone hoses.
11. New coolant.
12. New water wetter.
13. New engine oil (synthetic) and filter.
14. New transmission oil (MT90).
15. Other parts if needed.

The current estimated total, around US$7000 (and may go up more). Time needed for the repair, 3 weeks.

I was hoping to just skip one mortgage payment to pay for it. Now it is more like 3 mortgage payments. Foreclosure time!!! Even though my wife and I can sleep inside the Esprit, where am I going to put my daughter in a two seater?

There is a saying that you don’t really own a Lotus until you pay for the first repair bill. I guess I need to be initiated into a “real ownership” now. I need to get a loan or split the payment into 2 or 3 credit cards. Wait a minute, the $500+ I just spent on the subwoofers and Amp is still on one of the cards. Anyone want to buy an Esprit S4 so I can pay for the repair?

If I really want to keep the supercar, I will have to find a way to pay it. I try to rationalize it this way – There are about $3000 worth of work I should have done anyway after I bought the car (new belts, water bump, hoses, C service), so this is just a $4000 lesson (how did the 4 gets in here again). Since I wanted a 4 cylinder model and S4 is the best, I guess I will have to live with some 4s (but the license plate has to be changed).

More on the repair itself and some upgrades in the next blog.

I personally thank Paul who gave me the encouragment I need to continue this blog. I hope more of you will find it enjoyable for many years to come.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Asia trip 2010

For an Asian Marketing Blogger, Asia trips are frequent. In June of 2010, I took my parents along for a business / pleasure trip to Taipei, Beijing, and Shanghai. Here are some highlight pictures:

At Computex Taipei

At Buddha Mountain Taiwan

At TenAnMon Beijing

At the Great Wall of China

At the River Bound Shanghai

At Shanghai Libao Cyber-Tech, one of the company I represented

and Finally, At Shanghai World Expo 2010

I got a lot of business done a long the way. However, it was extra special as it was the last trip I took with my mother, who past away in September 2010 due to brain cancer. I was able to take her to many places that she really likes one more time, and I am very grateful for it.

I'll have more Asia trips in 2011.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Upgrading the Audio System

(Note: in the sequence of events, this should have been posted in July 2010)
Many people like to listen to the engine and road noise when they drive. I don’t. That’s why I really like my BMW525i. It is agile, smooth, plenty of power, and quiet. The audio system in the Bimmer is first class, too. Nice clear and full audio with two subwoofers underneath the seats. The Esprit, in the other hand, has one of the worst audio systems for an “upper class” car. It has no bass, and the tinny sound from the 4 small speakers is usually covered up by the engine and the road noise. This is fine on short trips, but I want to drive it more. I need to update the audio system.

In order to have good sound quality when I turn it up loud to cover up the road and engine noise, I need an amp. I got an small Kenwood amp for the 4 smaller speaker set. The amp fits nicely between the back window and the steering fluid tank, can’t even see it if you do not know it is there. The big problem is the bass boxes. We all know there is not a lot of room in the cockpit of an Esprit. A big bass box will not fit anywhere. Luckily I found the perfect place for the bass boxes.

I am well under 6 feet and so do most of my friends and families. I have to move the driver’s seat up in order to reach and press the clutch fully when driving. Therefore, I have an about 3 inches behind the seats. I found a pair of Fusion 8” powered subwoofers that can fit behind the seats nicely. I decided to use two power subwoofers in series so I can get the effect of a bigger subwoofer. I have Fry’s installed them for me. They did a good job and it looks nice (see pictures below).

The last and the most important thing to upgrade is the head unit. Since the Esprit only have a single din space for the audio head unit and I wanted a GPS display with the unit, I got a unit with a 7” retractable screen. It has built in GPS, Blue tooth, CD/DVD/MP3/Video/iPod control, pretty much everything I wanted. I installed this myself. It look simple enough, until I found out the screen can’t not pop out fully due to the end of the Esprit S4’s instrument panel is sticking out. I solve this problem by sticking the unit out for a couple of inches. It looks kind of ugly, but it does the job. Now there is another problem. Since it is sticking out so much and there is not much room to start with, whenever I shift into first, third, or fifth gear, my hand will touch the unit’s control knobs. This means I will have to drive with the screen folded in most of the time and pop it out when I am cruising (not shifting much) or when I really need the GPS screen (shift carefully). It is inconvenient, but workable. I may upgrade it to a double din unit in the future to correct this problem. I will need a pro to do it as it is required to move the air flow controllers down.

All these work and money is really making a different. Now the audio system is almost up to par with the BMW. Clear sound and deep thumping bass. The engine and the road noise are still there, but I can cover most of them with great sound and music. It is a total joy to drive the Esprit now. I would not have it any less.

(Next post: Oh NO! First major problem – the Timing belt broke and the engine went with it.)