Jerry’s Jalopies

When I start dreaming about cars, Ferrari’s and Aston Martin’s aren’t what come to mind. Instead, the time wasted shifting through Craigslist listings inevitably comes back to these following cars. These are the cars I would love to own and restore someday. Each of these can be found for $10,000, some for much less.

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Long Term Update: 2014 Mazda6 Touring

2014 Mazda6 at Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

The 6 has been trouble free for it’s first year of ownership. Although neither my wife nor I commute for our work, we’ve managed to put a healthy 14,000 miles on it so far. The 6 has been a perfect weekend getaway car, racking up freeway miles with ease. Wind and road noise has not gotten worse over time, and continues to be manageable. Early 2014 production units had issues with the rear door weatherstripping, but mine was a later production model. 2015 cars have a different part number and should not have this issue. The audio system leaves something to be desired. There are 6 speakers in the base system on the Touring trim, but the tweeters in the dash barely register. Bass is muddy. Adding the “tech package” upgrades the default system to a Bose package. For 2015, the package has been split into a “Technology Package” ($1,550) and a “Moonroof Package” ($1,325). The moonroof package includes the Bose system.

A sexy exhaust note is not high on midsize sedan buyers’s minds. The Mazda has a particularly unattractive and coarse sounding start up. It smooths out after warmup, but always reminds you that no V6 is available. When first starting, RPMs jump up past idle. The manual recommends against excessively long warm up and says you can start driving immediately. Since I’m typically on the 3rd floor of the parking structure, I coast down in first gear to allow everything to warm up slowly.

The transmission is very smooth and has adapted to my grandmotherly style of driving. Shifts can be felt when the car is cold, but are imperceptible other than looking at the tachometer. It also does a great job of holding gears on inclines and declines rather than hunting like a confused squirrel. With cruise control enabled, it knows to downshift on long grades to provide more engine braking.

The infotainment system is tolerable at best. Pandora integration stopped working with my iPhone 5 after three months. Deleting the phone and re-pairing solved the problem, only to have it break again a month later. The workaround is to use bluetooth audio, which still allows you to listen to Pandora, and keeps the steering wheel control functionality. If Google Maps is started before the phone successfully pairs, audio navigation directions will come in as a phone call and confuse the system. The fix for this is to stop and restart navigation after the phone pairs. I have yet to sacrifice a goat on a full moon for the Zoom-Zoom gods, but it’s unlikely to make infotainment better. There is an online petition started by dansthenman7 on Mazda6 Club to address some head unit issues.

Other than the head unit, the interior is wearing well. The sand leatherette has been durable so far. The driver’s side bottom left seat bolster has a blue tinge to it from jeans rubbing against it. Luckily, it’s easy to wipe off. When the climate control is off, it remembers the last set temperature. If recirculate is off, the air continues to passively flow at that temperature. To change the temperature, the fans need to be turned on first. This only comes up during cold mornings, of which there are few in los angeles.

The tires are wearing well. We rotated them shorter after the first oil change to keep them wearing evenly.  The lug nut torque specification is 108-147 Nm (80-108 lb/ft). We also checked tire pressure at this time and noticed it was at 38psi, higher than the manufacturer’s recommendation.  Once lowered, the average MPG went down 1 or 2 mpg per tank over similar driving conditions.

1st oil change: 5,926 miles

2nd oil change: 12,350 miles

12 quarts of Mazda GF5-0W20 oil with moly, and 2 PE-01-14-302A filters: $97.23. Note the ‘A’ at the end of the filter part number, this is specific for SkyActiv engines.

Average MPG: 37.3 (8018 miles over 215 gallons)

Best tank: 38.6 MPG

Worst tank: 30.7 MPG

Long-Term Update: 2014 Mazda6 Touring


The Mazda has 7,300 miles on it – on track to an average of 15,000 annual miles. That might not seem high, but keep in mind this car isn’t a commuter. It’s also only been on a single longer trip between San Francisco and Los Angeles. That means the remaining miles have been for weekend getaways and quick drives up through the 2 highway. We never expected the 6 to rack up so many miles, but a nimble chassis with great steering combined with stellar fuel economy has us making excuses to go out for a drive.

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Long-Term Intro: 2014 Mazda 6 Touring

After months of drooling over a Dodge Charger R/T, I came home with a Soul Red 2014 Mazda6. Waaaah? The Charger is a gas guzzling, rolling tank of Americana, while the Mazda6 is the slightly quirky choice for family sedan buyers. Other than the color, the two have nothing in common. As much as I loved the Charger on paper, and as much as driving the Super Bee made me smile, I had to choose a car that made sense as my single daily driver. Follow the jump to hear how I decided and my first impressions on the car.

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Road of the Month: Devil’s Punch Bowl


Pasadena was an uncomfortably humid 90 degrees yesterday. To escape the heat, my wife Wendy and I went for a drive out to Devil’s Punch Bowl. At 4,700 ft of elevation with mountains nearby, my reasoning was that it had to be cooler than our apartment turned greenhouse. Sadly, I was wrong. Wendy grew increasingly unhappy as we drove through endless twisty roads further and further into nowhere. The car kept reporting a steady 97 degrees outside. In the last mile, the Devil gave us some slack and lowered the final temperature to 90 degrees, but still not the 72 we were hoping for. Fortunately you stepped out into this view:

Click to view panorama of Devil's Punch

Outside, it was much more pleasant than the temperature suggested. There was a cool desert wind, and at 3PM, the worst was over  and things were already starting to cool down. The small visitor center is packed with interesting display of desert snakes, honey ants (they make honey!), scorpions, and explanations of fossils and local fauna. We spent a half hour there listening to a pink and blond haired young man explain the local wildlife. From the visitor center, there is a one mile loop hike with great views of the surrounding area. Even cooler than the views are the small trails out to the actual Devil’s Punch rock formations. Some skinned knees and dusty shoes are all it takes to scale up these bizarro looking things.

Climbing back down was much trickier and more time consuming, but a great workout.


The drive in is gorgeous and reasonable length to do in a single sitting at about 1.5 hours departing from Pasadena. To catch some mountain views on the way out, take a right on Fort Tejon Rd and continue down Big Pine Rd, which will eventually intersect the 2 Highway. Elevation climbed up to 7,000 ft at one point, and temperatures dropped to a very pleasant 69 degrees. If you time your trip well, you’ll catch some gorgeous sunsets and some great photo opportunities.


Test Drives: Passat and Golf TDI, Charger R/T, Mazda6


I hate shopping for clothes. It’s tedious, and you never know what you’ll get. Sometimes you find something that fits, but it’s not on sale. Other times, there’s 70% off, but all the good sizes are long gone. Now if you love shopping, this is all part of the game, part of the hunt. I hate the process, but at worst, you convert that ugly pair of jeans into work pants – no big deal. Cars aren’t as easy going as jeans, and a helluva lot more expensive. Follow the jump for test drive notes for my top choices for my next car.

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Eugoogly for Fisker Karma


Fisker Motor’s broke. Bankrupt. All outta the green stuff. It’s a real shame. No, I won’t miss the clever hybrid gasoline-electric range extender powertrain. The performance numbers weren’t stellar (0-60 in 6.3 seconds, 125 MPH top speed), it didn’t have enough range to be a grand tourer (230 miles), and it certainly wasn’t cheap ($100k+). So why do I miss it? Well, just look at it.

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Research: 2013 Dodge Charger


I have a weird craving for recent Mopar products. From the swoopy compact Dart, to the unapologetically muscular Charger, and even the self proclaimed “Man Van” Caravan all have an extra shot of attitude and style. I’ve never owned a domestic brand car, let alone a Chrysler, but the unanimous friend consensus was they’re cheap and unreliable, worthy only of rental fleets. Unsatisfied with their anecdotes, I cracked my typing fingers and set about to do some research.