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Top 10 car gifts for your Valentine

Posted by Bill Griffith February 14, 2010 11:23 AM

Valentine's Day has a special automotive memory for me. The years blur, but I believe it was 1998, give or take a year, when we came out of church one Sunday morning and I spotted the "For Sale" sign on a 1988 Jaguar XJ6.

Turns out, the car belonged to one of my wife's "Church Lady" friends. Normally, the car wouldn't have been of any interest. But Mrs. G always said the car of her dreams was a "Hunter Green'' Jaguar with a tan interior. And there it was, standing before me.

The next morning, driven by the need to come up with "something" for a Valentine's Day present, I went and looked at the Jag-and wound up buying it.

It was, to say the least, a big hit, by far the neatest Valentine's Day present in our family's history. Certainly, it's one I haven't been able to top since.

Buying a Jag can be a bit over the top when it comes to Valentine's Day gifts. Nor do I recommend a dashboard-mounted flower vase such as the ones made semi-famous in the new Volkswagen Beetle. Plastic flowers. Yech! So what's the average guy to do?

Here are some auto-related recommendations, with a tip of cupid's cap to Mrs. G. and Jodi Holihan, executive chef at Joseph's Winter Street Café in Newburyport.


Top 7 handsfree driving apps

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh December 17, 2009 03:20 PM

We all know that it's dangerous to text on a cellphone while driving. Study after study proves it, and everyone from carmakers to cellphone companies is clamoring not to do it. New Hampshire and Rhode Island are among the latest states to outlaw the practice, and AAA and Verizon, among others, are calling for a national ban.

Yesterday, the Boston City Council voted unamimously to ban texting while driving within the city. The ban, according to a report in today's Globe, needs approval by the Legislature, which is already weighing more than a dozen bills to keep motorists from texting. Still, texting is addictive, and those with less self-control — teenagers, perhaps — may have a hard time abiding.

Fortunately, budding technologies are offering another solution. Products abound that enable drivers to speak aloud a text or e-mail message, or listen to one being read, without having to type on their phones. With speech-recognition or "voice-to-text" technology, drivers can keep their eyes on the road.

Other products intentionally jam text messages, both incoming and outgoing, while driving. Ford's new Sync system transfers your cellphone's functions to buttons on your steering wheel, a purer "hands-free" concept than even a Bluetooth headset.

No one's invented the perfect mousetrap yet. Nearly all voice-to-text systems are plagued by transcription errors — you say potato, and it's transcribed as "parade no." Other services have limited features, or are costly. But with the holiday shopping season here, you might want to consider purchasing one for your favorite text-a-holic. Maybe that's your husband, your boss, your daughter, or yourself.


Clever notes for disastrous parking jobs

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh October 2, 2009 05:29 PM

We've all witnessed terrible parking. Parallel parking so atrocious that passengers need a taxi to the curb, cars angled way further than the painted angles on the street, bumper bashing, and just plain bad depth perception.

parking-frustration-cards.jpgEven in an era of bumper-mounted sensors and backup cameras — heck, some Toyotas and Fords park themselves — bad parkers won't ever stop making passersby chuckle. Unless, of course, it's your car they're parked next to.

In that case, Shinebox Print, a small design studio in Arizona, has an elegant, $6.95 solution: 20 cleverly-worded, poster-worthy note cards to stick on the offender's windshield or dash.

"Armed with this bad boy, you can now let your enemies know exactly how you feel about their crappy parking," the website says. Indeed, some are so cheeky that you may want to keep an eye on your ride in case the other guy gets a tantrum.

Not recommended for use in South Boston.

Muses: BMW quits F1, Mini sells Brit apparel, Ford serious on plastic wood

Posted by Bill Griffith July 29, 2009 03:22 PM


Nick Heidfeld drives his BMW Sauber car during a practice session for the Hungarian F1 Grand Prix at the Hungaroring circuit on July 25. (Reuters/Dominic Ebenbichler)

BMW announced Wednesday it is dropping out of Formula One racing at the end of the current season. It also said the upcoming 760Li will be powered by a twin-turbo V-12 producing 544 horsepower and 553 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,500 revolutions per minute. It will be coupled with an eight-speed transmission.


Automotive marketing often involves accessories. Mini, which has a history with bands such as the Sex Pistols, The Clash, and the Rolling Stones, is offering the latest in "Brit Chic" - a line of apparel including duffle coats, branded "Wellies," Lapeer trapper-style winter hat, and rock star belt.

Plastic wood? Many of us always though the highly coated dashboard "wood" on many vehicles wasn't real anyway. But now Ford is working with a German company to develop a plastic "wood" that can be used in injection molding. The goal is to have a product capable of being recycled (remanufactured) five times.


Speedy teens, meet your text messaging foe

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh April 2, 2009 11:36 AM

Like our own John Paul did with a plug-in mileage cost computer, the Globe's Hiawatha Bray tested another OBD accessory this week - a snitching little black box that sends discreet text messages to parents if a young driver exceeds speed limits. It's so smart that it recognizes highways and major thoroughfares from residential back roads, and if turned off, sends another tattletale to mom and dad.

While certain cars come standard with programmable speed limiters and there's no shortage of GPS tracking devices out there - remember the short-lived Disney cell phone? - there's nothing quite like 20-year-old Jonathan Fischer's Speed Demon.

Fischer, of Lunenberg, Mass., started the project when he was 16 after a local teen died in a high-speed crash, and has since won awards and thousands of dollars to pursue his dreams of entrepreneurship - and to help parents and their new drivers feel safer.

The Speed Demon costs $250 plus $15 per month for unlimited texts and precise mapping of each incident via his website, Bray wrote an enthusiastic review, and was indeed annoyed by the alerts as he sped to meet Fischer "before he was old enough to buy beer."

Read more about the Speed Demon and other fun gadgets in Bray's tech lab column.

About Boston Overdrive reports the latest trends, auto shows and wrings out the newest cars in our city's hellish maze — and across the great roads of New England.
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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee
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