On losing weight and buying cars…

I know that other women get serious about losing weight when they start to salivate over a slinky new dress or want to look gorgeous for an upcoming wedding or be presentable at the beach. But not me. I think about whether I can fit into the car I want to buy. Right now I have a perfectly good KIA Optima which has plenty of room, sort of an automotive version of Not-Your-Daughter’s-Jeans. For those behind the times, NYDJ is the upscale très cher brand sold at Nordstrom’s with enough spandex woven in to bridge the gap between what size you think you are and what size you actually are.

MercedesI’ve never quite gotten over the fact that at age twenty-two, I owned a 190SL and could easily slide my then svelte body into its red leather seats and drive from San Diego to Illinois along Route 66 without a care.

Now I’m almost fifty more years down the road of life and I want a sports car again.

Honda S2000So off I went last week to look at a Honda S2000 which stopped production in 2009. It’s like a Miata’s much better-looking older sister with a tiger under the hood. I eyeballed it carefully as the salesman escorted me to the lot. Then I gingerly lifted one leg and squeezed myself into the seat. You know how bucket seats have raised edges–well, those protuberances felt like spikes sticking into my ample derriere, threatening to set off a major bout of sciatica. I extricated myself as gracefully as possible, relieved that the car’s battery was dead–my excuse for not taking a test drive. I’m sure the salesman had a momentary scary thought that he was going to have to bring in a crane.

2007_porsche_cayman_coupe_base_fq_oem_4_500But back in the showroom was a charcoal gray 2007 Porsche Cayman, with all the dangerous moves and fast-snapping speed of its namesake, the caiman alligator. It appeared roomier and I took the chance. Sliding in comfortably and with the smell of leather in my nostrils, I took to the highway. It sprang to life, although the dark tinted windows all around made me feel like I had just joined the subterranean world of drug lords. Aveline & Estelle April 2014

Price was right but the little upturned faces of my two and four-year-old granddaughters flashed before my eyes. They would want to ride in Mimi’s car but would be denied. How could that ever work!

MiniSo today I found a compromise. A brand new 2015 MINI 4-door hardtop. A entirely new model this year for those wanting easier access to the back seat without the clunky appearance of the Countryman. And in my favorite color Volcanic Orange with a black top plus a sunroof, automatic transmission and enough power, especially in Sports Mode, produced by its 2.0 Liter 4-Cylinder Engine with MINI TwinPower Turbo 189 HP engine to make you believe you’ve got your foot on the pedal of a sports car. Would have snapped it up on the spot but my daughter stepped in and brought me back to reality. I had gone in thinking I would take advantage of a real deal–but that was, of course, on the 2014 models. Isn’t it always true that you think you’ll buy the stuff of sale but see the new stuff and succumb? So although they were willing to deal, I need to wait 6 months until my lease is up on the KIA–big bucks to get out of leases early.

And, in the meantime, I can lose a few more pounds so that this smart and sassy little Volcanic Orange MINI will fit Mimi like a glove.

Raffi Minasian…Industrial and automotive design genius


This gallery contains 9 photos.

I had the wonderful opportunity on November 15th to hear a lecture by Designer, Educator and Automotive Historian Raffi Minasian as he explored the fusion of transportation, mobile devices and nanotechnology in automobiles from the past and into the distant … Continue reading

Lyn St. James – race car driver extraordinaire!

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Visiting my “ride” before taking my laps.

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My tall handsome chariot driver!

I had been looking forward to Lyn St. James’ lecture at the Blackhawk Automotive Museum in Danville, CA in November but then she had to postpone. But an opportunity arose to see her at Sonoma Raceway during the CSRG Charity Challenge. I hung around all morning looking for her and waiting for my 3-lap ride (read “10 minutes of absolutely delicious terror”) around the 12-turn 2.52 mile road track in a 1952 Jaguar XK 120 owned and driven by James Alder. I had been at the track a few weeks earlier watching Helio Castroneves and Will Power navigate their Indy cars around the same track. Hitting Turn 1 at full throttle is fear on steroids! At least for this 71 year old Granny!

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Lyn St. James’ record setting Thunderbird

I did get a gander at Lyn’s 1989 Ford Thunderbird in which she set a myriad of speed records in the track winner’s circle and read a sign about all of her feats, but no sight of its famous female driver.2014-10-04 12.13.22 I was about to give up and strolled over to the cafe for something to eat when I spied her sitting at a picnic table signing her book for a friend.

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Lyn and me at Sonoma raceway

Breathlessly, I introduced myself and ran off into the raceway store to purchase a copy for signing. The most interesting part is that I had read up on her personal history the night before and discovered that she grew up in Willoughby, Ohio, the same small town outside of Cleveland where my grandparents had lived their entire adult lives, where my mother had been born and raised, where many of my other relatives had been prominent citizens, and where I had been baptized, had visited many times, and had even attended second grade. My uncle, Robert Shankland, a famous physicist, had, along with his uncle, served as a trustee of the Andrews School for Girls (now the Andrews Osborne Academy), which Lyn had attended from 7th to 12th grade. My uncle’s father, Sherwood Shankland, had been the school’s first superintendent. Lyn shared about how this school, which was eons ahead of its time in empowering the lives of young women, influenced her character development and ambitions. And we had a lively discussion about her visit next spring to the Museum. I hope to become involved in the preparations for this event. Finally, a volunteer activity that truly captures my attention–a combo of two loves, the excitement of car racing and my passion about the place of women in the fabric of America.

The theme of Women’s History Month in 2015 is Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives. The warp and woof of Lyn’s story is woven with Nomex, a fire-retardant material that is used to make the suit, gloves, socks and shoes worn by race car drivers. But as her website says: “Lyn St. James’ story is not just about being a successful race car driver. It’s a story about goal setting, determination, passion and fully utilizing all her defeats and successes to break into a world no one could have imagined possible: auto racing.” The 2010 revised edition of her book Lyn St. James, An Incredible Journey, is still available. For any woman who was told as a child that she can’t be this or that because it’s a man’s prerogative, this book is a must!