Returning to a pastime

I’m not Ansel Adams. I’ve never climbed cliffs in Yosemite for a shot, sold prints for big money, and I’ve only framed a handful of my photos. My Flickr doesn’t even have that many images. My photography background began with my dad’s Canon T70, continued with bleached shirts after lengthy darkroom sessions, and progressed after many, many rolls of spoiled film. I eventually bought a DSLR, which in hindsight I should have done more research on. But the point is, I enjoyed photography despite not becoming a master of the craft.

One of my other passions is minimalism and decluttering. These days, I don’t own much at all after spending the last few years narrowing down my possessions. It’s been an enlightening transformation. Afterwards, I realized how many of my fundamental passions I had slowly been moving away from. I hadn’t ridden my bike in months, hadn’t cared much about my car in a while, and had spent a lot of time being unhappy. After my mother moved across the country earlier this year, I decided to finally finish my decluttering once and for all in an effort to get back to my favorite pastimes.

During this final push, I sold a lot of items on eBay, and even thought about parting with my photo equipment. But before I did that, I wanted to take my camera out and see if I could reignite my fondness for photography. This past weekend provided the perfect opportunity. The British Motorcar Festival was taking over my hometown and the Blue Angels were performing at the Rhode Island Air Show. I dusted off my Nikon and focused on capturing fewer, but more deliberate images.

Although I love having fewer possessions, I’m not ready to part with my camera just yet.

Here are a few snaps from the weekend. There are more on my Flickr page:






The ultimate fall road trip

Up next on Emily’s bucket list: go leaf peepin’ in northern New England. Her vision was of kaleidoscopes of color, quaint vistas, explosions of color, and no cell reception. Our trip didn’t disappoint.

Obviously, I jumped at the chance to drive the twisty roads of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. I mean, uh, I jumped at the opportunity to spend some time away with my lovely girlfriend.

Our 300 mile route through Keene, NH, the Green Mountains, and the Northern Berkshires dazzled with trees in beautiful transition. Reds, oranges, yellows, and greens were aplenty. We even took a detour to hike a bit of the famed Appalachian Trail.

It was a marvelous road trip with eye candy abound:


Forza 6 May Save Car Culture

Or, why driving simulators can—and should—consume the lives of every generation.

Sean McFarland

This article was originally posted on The Drive, a Time Inc. publication.


Forza Motorsport 6, affectionately known as “that friggin’ car game” by my father, is the newest driving game from Turn 10 Studios for Microsoft’s Xbox One. It also may be the most sophisticated driving simulator ever developed for basement-dwelling otaku around the world. But Forza 6shouldn’t find its biggest fans in basements, but rather in the above-ground legions of car fans who do not play video games.

I was born in 1991 and raised on Need for Speed and Test Drive, simply because they were the next step in the natural progression of car fandom after the Cozy Coupe, Matchbox cars and the city map rug. Parents invariably do not look fondly on their child’s first video-game phase. To them, gaming is an irredeemable obstacle to youth development that does not land you a job or develop character. They don’t understand a boy’s love for shitty Nineties Eurobeat, the Mazda Eunos Cosmo and Gran Turismo’s Special Stage Route 11.

My brother, 15 years my junior, loves them, too. My father still thinks a game like Forza 6 is for retrograde millennials hell-bent on squandering their youth. But there are sound arguments why he—an inveterate, lifelong car guy—should be Forza 6’s biggest fan.

Reason 1: Forza Bridges Generational Gaps

Dad pined after Corvettes in the Seventies, Porsches in the Eighties and Supras in the Nineties. He doesn’t see how Forza could possibly scratch those itches.


And yet, if he gamed, he’d get the feedback of a virtual tire edging beyond its capabilities and the subtleties of a lightened rear end growing squirrelly under braking—all of which can be applied to the dream cars of his youth, which are well represented in the Forza 6 garage. Yes, the game controllers would look like a Rosetta Stone at first. But once up to speed, he’d understand that Forza Motorsport 6 is a storytelling medium—a means of sharing across generational boundaries.

Reason 2: It Makes You Want to Drive. Hard.

“Well, the graphics are excellent,” dad concedes from the sofa.

He says nothing else as I weave through the Nürburgring Nordschleife in one of Forza 6’s starter cars, a 2015 Volkswagen Golf R. He was quiet until I pointed out Brünnchen, the corner where he watched me lap the Green Hell for real in July 2012.

“Oh yeah!” he exclaimed. “I remember looking out for you every 15 minutes or so. I’d start to get nervous you had wrecked. How big was that track again?”

We began recounting tales from our vacation in Germany, the cars we saw at the track and the omnipresent risk at the world’s longest, deadliest circuit. We spoke about Niki Lauda’s crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix and my father’s concerns about his eldest son experiencing the same in an econobox with a roll cage. He didn’t care, however, to reminisce about our top-down drive at 127 mph to our hotel in Cologne via the autobahn, with me piloting our rental car.

“That was damn terrifying.”


Reason 3: It’s a Motorsport Utopia

While my eight-year-old brother and I howl through Daytona International in a pair of Risi Competizione Ferraris, I explain the grueling nature of multi-class endurance racing and the history of the Rolex 24. He asks why a fluorescent orange Lamborghini Aventador—his favorite supercar—doesn’t compete in IMSA events. I tell him that I didn’t know.

“It’s probably because it would always win,” he suggests. I can’t prove him wrong.

Forza Motorsport 6 has over 450 cars—twice as many as its predecessor—that provide an opportunity to recreate races and trade experiences. Formulas 1 and E are represented, as are new and old sleds from the Tudor Championship, IndyCar, V8 Supercars and the World Rally Championship. The car list is all-inclusive, covering everything from the golden age of American muscle to the tech-dripping, wind-sculpted world of hypercars.

Daytona International, Brands Hatch and Monza comprise just half of the new circuits. Forza Motorsport 6 presents a motorsport utopia, where race cars from my father’s youth and my own compete on the same track.


Reason 4: “Forzavista” Lets You Get Handsy With the Models

The series’ facelifted “Forzavista” feature slows things down to offer a sharpened, more hands-on environment, allowing players to open doors, start engines and interact with automobiles that are out of grasp for most of the planet’s 7 billion human residents.

Don’t know an Ariel Atom from Ariel the little mermaid? The game provides each car’s upbringing and legacy. And it’s all offered with pornographic levels of graphic precision.


Reason 5: Forza Turns Back Your Clock

But perhaps FM6’s most special trait is the sense of wonderment it inspires. The game’s opening film posits competition as an inherent human trait. Viewers, in the throes of an unexpected nostalgia trip, are led immediately into a race with the game’s title car: the new Ford GT. It’s impossible not to smile.

Enhanced online gameplay turns Forza Motorsport 6 into a social sandbox, connecting fans around the world. But what does this mean for non-gaming car fans? For my dad, and for maybe you? It means that online gameplay is the next generation of the weekly enthusiast meetup.

For non-gamers, Forza Motorsport 6 can be seen with this grander purpose in mind. It’s a meeting table for new and old car fans to swap stories and share their infatuation for driving pleasure. Forza offers proof that people’s fascination with automobiles is not waning, just evolving. It’s keeping car culture alive.

Forza Motorsport 6 is a Digital Dominatrix

The latest Xbox racing sim will punish and demean. And that’s the fun of it.

Sean McFarland

This article was originally posted on The Drive, a Time Inc. publication.


Now that we’ve thrown fodder to the non-gamers, it’s time to plunge into the nitty-gritty of Forza Motorsport 6, this year’s freshly unwrapped, much anticipated driving simulator. Four hundred and sixty cars. Twenty-six tracks. Enhanced graphics. Precision feedback. Turn 10 Studios latest installment seems to have been bred from the notion that Forza Motorsport 5was just too easy. For players nurtured on PSone driving simulators, Forza 6 is pupil-swelling, heart walloping visual amphetamine. It’s an absolute masterpiece. But it will kick your ass.

Loyal Forza disciples who immediately switching off driver aids, bump up opponent racers and make for a wet track in a 1,000-horsepower rear-drive car may be startled. Approach this game with fists of iron and like this reviewer, you may find your mindset in a flushed toilet of emotions:

Man, I’m rusty. Must be a learning curve. I mean, does Kimi Räikkönen just hop in and start winning? Oh, wait. Yeah, he might. Whatever. The controller is probably dying. One more restart and I’ll be on pole. No, it’s the game. No, it’s me. What happened to me? Is anything I know real? It’s a conspiracy. Chemtrails.

And, finally: Why can’t I win?


With no driver aids, playing Forza 6 is like completing a Rubik’s cube on a roller coaster after smoking angel dust. The Lotus E23 Formula 1 car at Le Mans in the wet: Undrivable. The McLaren P1 at Spa-Francorchamps: Impossible. The Caterham R500, anywhere: LOL. The game’s meticulous car tuning isn’t likely to save you either. Like many of the overconfident, I felt neutered by Forza 6 and slunk away to break in the game’s other fine points.

Good news: You begin this journey with 10 million credits and an assortment of starter sports cars. It’s the perfect opportunity to explore the latest edition of Forzavista, which is even more sophisticated the last. Owing to an exquisite graphics upgrade and enhanced smoothness, each car is obsessively detailed and completely explorable. Players can open doors, rev the engine and hear a thorough account of each vehicle’s backstory. Combine this with a glut of visual and performance upgrades, and your fantasy car stable is at your fingers.

Celebrity voiceovers from Richard Hammond, James May, Tanner Foust and others narrate specific menus within the game. There’s even a one-on-one “beat the Stig” feature that’s tailor-made for Top Gear devotees. To the surprise of few but lament of many, Jeremy Clarkson is absent in this edition.


But the best aspect of Forza is the gameplay. Many tracks are available in wet, dry, and night conditions, letting players take part in virtual recreations of actual races. Endurance racing is back, allowing for truly poetic homages to historic motorsport: The Mazda 787B howling through the blackness of Le Mans, the Audi 90 IMSA GTO cornering flat at Daytona, the Brabham Formula 1 car bouncing through Watkins Glen. It’ll make your neck hairs dance.

But the game isn’t without drawbacks. Porsche, rumored to make a reappearance in the series by way of a 2016 DLC, is absent. Ruf and Citroën are also missing. The lyric-less soundtrack, presumably ripped from a film about overthrowing the English monarchy, can get old and is a bit too epic for racing. Here, buttoned-up Forza 6 could learn a thing or two from the backwards cap-wearing Horizon franchise.

As always, Forza’s opening footage is mad with nostalgia and a “Hell yeah!” conviction. But the minimalistic styling, dreamscape music, and stodgy narration script keep the game’s warmth at arms length. Again, a dash of Horizon mien would pump life into the sterile menu experience.

But my biggest gripe with Forza 6 has nothing to do with the game itself, but the aforementioned learning curve. Adjust difficulty, and it suddenly feels like the game is letting you win; take it head-on, and it’ll slap you around. You may be able to wrangle a featherweight racer without assistance through the 23 other computer cars in most single player races, but it won’t be a fast lap time. To really master the gilded hypercars, you’ll need a scalpel-precise Playseat. But at that point, why not join the SCCA and race for real?

Finding the sweet spot between your own abilities and the game’s level of realism isn’t easy. Mostly, Forza 6 ends up feeling like less of a game and more of a digital racing dominatrix. If you’re a sucker for abuse, the fun here is in the difficulty. Just remember that, like in real modern hypercars, the driver assists exist to make you faster. Say the safe word. Leave some of them on.

This Guy Owns the Pizza Planet Toyota from “Toy Story”

Not even the 30th movie car we’d remember, but still damn near perfect.

Sean McFarland

This article was originally posted on The Drive, a Time Inc. publication.

It’s the 20th anniversary of Toy Story, and for some Disney acolytes, a yellow Toyota pickup truck that appears in one quick scene is the most exciting part of the entire series.

Don’t remember? After squabbling over who is Andy’s favorite toy, Buzz and Woody tumble out of the family car on their way to Pizza Planet. Stranded, they find a rusty, yellow Pizza Planet delivery truck en route, which becomes an impromptu chariot that carries the duo on to one of many adventures.


Four years ago, Marco Bongiorno was a college student working as a Disneyland photographer in Anaheim, Calif. He bought a blue 1988 Toyota pickup to create the most realistic Pizza Planet tribute truck the world had ever seen. Like many car fans, Bongiorno believes that his truck’s glory hinges on the minor details.

“We aren’t the first Pizza Planet truck out there,” he told The Drive. “But when we see others, we can’t help but nitpick about colors and things that aren’t true to the film.”

The primerless Maaco paint job marked the start of the truck’s journey. Then came the rocket sign, the identical white bed cap, intentional rust, the exact drink cup spotted in the cab—and an overheating issue. The truck was featured at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, a convention hosted by the official Disney fan club. There, the crew handed out their “YO” buttons, each clad with the truck’s iconic tailgate nomenclature.

Like the pickup itself, Bongiorno didn’t make the buttons for any reason other than he liked the idea. “Originally, it was built as a disposable spectacle,” he says of the truck. “But now we just like to inspire nostalgia. People really short circuit when they see it.”


Apparently, so does Pixar—Toy Story’s creator and, since 2006, a subsidiary of Disney. Look carefully in nearly every Pixar film since 1995, and you’ll see the animated truck pop up randomly—not just for Toy Story sequels, but even inFinding Nemo and Wall-E.

Bongiorno’s dirt-clad Toyota makes rounds at southern California car shows, where it’s frequently mistaken for a food truck. Once parked, Bongiorno tells people not to lean on the show car, but it’s not informed by the typical garage-queen logic. “We’ll get back from the event and think, we’ve gotta put more dirt on because people wiped it all off,” he says.

Bongiorno hopes to drive his truck cross-country by the time Toy Story 4premieres in 2017, although he needs a new carburetor, muffler, hoses and must “weld the catalytic converter back into place,” according to his GoFundMe page. (To date, the old yellow pickup hasn’t smitten anyone to donate.)

But to answer the obvious, most important question: “We still haven’t delivered a pizza yet.”


In New Hampshire, Meter Feeders Are Getting Harshed

The “Park Free or Die” movement has few fans in uniform.

Sean McFarland

This article was originally posted on The Drive, a Time Inc. publication.


Few of life’s everyday curveballs deliver as much frustration as a parking ticket slapped to a windshield. Local authorities versus street parkers: Isn’t it obvious who always loses?

But in New Hampshire, this joust is actually favoring drivers who forget to feed their meters. Robin Hood of Keene, an activist group based in Keene, N.H., has been combatting meter maids since 2009. The methods are simple enough: Trot a few paces ahead of parking enforcement, add time to expiring meters and leave a business card alerting the vehicle’s owner that the group’s efforts have spared them a citation.

However, parking enforcement officers are not amused, and the city has brought harassment charges against the group, claiming the crusaders have been less than cordial, even aggressive. Some officers even claim to have sought counseling for their encounters.

The Robin Hooders maintain their innocence, claiming that their intentions are merely to save people a hassle.

“It’s ridiculous,” Ian Freeman, a Robin Hooder who told us that his group’s amiable rapport with the meter maids only turned sour when the city filed a suit in 2013. “The demeanor of the parking enforcers has changed dramatically since. Essentially, they’re doing it because they’ve been told to.”

According to the Keene Sentinel, city officials are fighting the Robin Hooders in court, requesting a 10-foot “buffer zone” from the activists—a move that, as the group points out, would effectively kill the practice.

“But I suspect there will be at least one person who’s willing to violate the order and just continue on as normal,” Freeman said. “This is Keene. We’ve got a bunch of activists here and a number have been arrested for civil disobedience in the past.”

Judge John C. Kissinger Jr. of Cheshire County Superior Court previously rejected the city’s injunction request and civil suit against the group, noting that the First Amendment protected the Robin Hooders’ actions. The city’s appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court was also denied on similar grounds.

Not to show our hand too much, but we’d welcome the Robin Hooders in New York, specifically along the perimeter streets of The Drive’s bunker. Plenty of work for them here.

Historic Jeeps Roll Into Las Vegas for SEMA

Watch out, citizens. Fire-retardant 4x4s rolling through.

Sean McFarland

This article was originally posted on The Drive, a Time Inc. publication.

Jeep is a brotherhood: a top-down, doors-off, rolling biopic of masculinity. Owners wave to one another and employ phrases like “capable” and “Trail Rated” liberally. Come winter, during weekend shopping trips, they deliberately climb parking-lot snowbanks.

For Jeep fans, the temptation for vehicle modification is enormous, and ubiquitous. In spring, an overlanding haj to Moab makes a convenient excuse to show off your latest mods.

So where does this zeal come from? Jeeps have been around since World War II, but their civilian uses began with a fistful of rare-formed rigs. And they’re coming together next week in Las Vegas, in conjunction with the Specialty Equipment Market Association show (SEMA). Owned by Omix-Ada, an aftermarket parts manufacturer, these working Jeeps are as iconic as the seven-slot grille itself. Here are some of the collection’s highlights.

1946 Willys CJ-2A Farm Jeep


Jeeps can already be likened to the automotive equivalent of a multi-tool, but how many tools are too many tools? This CJ-2A makes a solid pitch: a GE welder in lieu of a passenger’s seat, a buzz saw, work bench, wrecker boom, a power winch, mower bar and an air compressor are all aboard. Fear not about lugging this equipment to the job site, for this Willys is eight wheels of overkill, and it’s lovely.

1947 Willys CJ-2A Fire Truck


Converted to a fire engine by an Indiana manufacturer named Boyer, these fire trucks were used to battle fires that were too remote for larger engines to access. However, it probably took crews a while to arrive. This Willys’ “Go Devil” engine generated all of 63 horsepower, being harnessed through a three-speed manual gearbox. Snail pace aside, these axe- and ladder-clad Jeeps quickly gained an international reputation. Willys-Overland sold 20 of them to the Brazilian military.

1955 Willys Pickup


The 1955 Willys pickup was a no-nonsense truck with simple suspension and a rigid stature. Each of its four engine names was aggressively termed in that Fifties good-‘ol-boy way: Hurricane, Super Hurricane, Go Devil, Tornado. Over 200,000 were produced in all. This satin-sheened Tin Man was originally owned—and worked hard—by a company near Yosemite National Park, but has been preserved to near mint condition.

1959 Jeep FC-150


This sub-nosed engine-that-could is the American equivalent of the Volkswagen Type 2 Pickup. In the Fifties and Sixties, the “Forward Control” Jeeps featured a hydraulic bed and a puppy-dog fascia that won over municipalities, civilians and even the military. When Willys wrapped up production in 1964, roughly 30,000 had been made. Jeep fans have been lusting for an encore since the brand teased a concept version in 2012.

1978 Jeep J-10 Pickup


There are few things more American than a showroom-condition Jeep pickup with a Levi’s denim interior. With only 2,440 miles on the odometer, this sexy J-10 came replete with a brush guard, light bar and factory air conditioning to cure passengers of envy-induced hot flashes. Of course, all this kit is enhanced by a 5.9-liter V-8. Just our kind of Canadian tuxedo.

1982 Jeep CJ-7 Fire Truck

semajeeps_1982firetruck_artThe CJ-7 offered drivers a road-friendlier alternative to its war-era predecessor. The changes were well received, and more than 375,000 were produced in 11 years. Everything on the CJ-7 was customizable, and buyers were given a buffet of options: nine transmissions, three transfer cases, two axle options and five different engines. This particular CJ-7 was converted to fight wildfires with a brigade in Texas. Like the Willys CJ-2A, it was typically deployed to attack inaccessible infernos.