Steve Smart - BMW Enthusiast

WHEELS – St. Louis Metro Cars & Coffee: August, 2015

Wheels. For most people they’re just a piece of the machinery that helps them get to work or the grocery store. For a car guy it’s a whole different story.

Wheels make a statement. Often the first thing customized on a car, they turn the machine into a form of personal expression.

Even straight from the factory, they elicit powerful emotion.  Lamborghini wheels inspire awe. Nostalgia oozes from the hubcaps from a ’59 Mercedes. I grin with simple appreciation for what the Lotus is wearing.

But it’s not just the wheels. It’s the related hardware like rotors and calipers that captures my gaze. I’m especially attracted to the center bolt on a Porsche GT3. I take note of the tasteful addition capping the lowly valve stem on a Ferrari.

Wheels define the car and its owner. “Impeccable taste!” cries one set of forged beauties. The absence of curb rash is proof positive of the owner’s care.  Clean calipers broadcast to the world that this enthusiast truly cares. But only those who bother with careful inspection will notice.

Today my lens takes notice of things that my eye fails to detect. And I appreciate even more the thoughtful application of the cleaning brush, Q-Tip and drying towel. I whisper, “Thank you, car guy, whoever you are.”

Let me take a moment to make one simple request. Next time you hang out at Cars & Coffee, pay attention to the details.



Bifocal Safety Glasses

Here’s a great tool tip I figured out several years ago while working underneath my car.

It wasn’t hard to figure out the importance of protecting my eyes from dirt and grit. With a car that’s several years old the dirt, grit and rust pose a real danger. Nearly dropping a wrench on m eyeball was my wakeup call.

I didn’t want to risk scratching my normal glasses and I found that my vision was blurry with standard safety glasses.

The solution is a set of bifocal safety glasses. They allow me to see clearly when I’m getting up close and personal when turning wrenches while laying on my back. They’ve saved my eyes more than once.

Bifocal safety glasses have a section of the lens with a magnifier. The glasses come in different styles with magnifiers available in different strengths.

It’s pretty easy to find them on Amazon.com and other online sources. A Google search will reveal a pretty wide variety. Mine have rubber nose pieces and rubber bits in the temples for comfort. They are similar to these made by Uvex.

They’re a great way to keep your eyes safe and actually see what you’re doing.

BADGES – St. Louis Metro Cars & Coffee: April, 2015

The first St. Louis Metro Cars & Coffee of 2015 had a great turnout. I didn’t count, but I suspect the cars easily numbered over 300.

At the last minute I decided to grab my trusty Canon T3i. Attached was a 50mm f/1.8 lens. When I arrived I realized that I should have brought my Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 lens.

I found a way to adapt by getting up close and personal. I focused my attention (pun intended) on a few of the badges and hood ornaments.

Of course, I couldn’t resist taking a shot of an E30 M3 motor. Here’s my Cars & Coffee Album on Flickr.

///Marvelous Vacation, 2014

Sharon and I generally don’t take our 1997 M3 for long highway trips. The whole point for our M3 is miles with smiles.

Consequently, I’ve never taken it on a week-long vacation. It has been our mode of transportation to races at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin and to Road Atlanta in Braselton Georgia. In those cases the destinations, complete with BMW CCA corral, make it worthwhile.

This vacation was different. We returned to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We also incorporated more twisty roads, the BMW Zentrum in Greer, SC and other points of interest.

The drive didn’t get interesting for several hours. Then it changed. As Interstate 40 turns south in Tennessee and then into North Carolina, the mountains begin to loom beautifully ahead. And the highway transforms itself from boring to a winding ribbon through hills and tunnels. A great preview of the beautiful part of the world we’re about to enter.



Then things got REALLY interesting. Driving Highway 276 from Waynesville, NC to Brevard, NC was a blast. A stunningly twisty section had plenty of slow speed second gear turns, many marked 15 mph. One twist after the other presented itself, some bordered by sheer mountain walls.  Without bright lights on it would have been a nightmare after 8 hours of highway driving. My concentration level rose like the surrounding mountain peaks. We arrived in the wonderful town of Brevard and were greeted by the friendly staff at Hampton Inn.

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ALMS and Grand-AM at Road America August, 2013

The 2013 ALMS weekend was bittersweet for me. And, no doubt, for many others.

A trip to Road America is ALWAYS a treat, but this would by my last ALMS race as the series discontinues at the end of this season. In truth, the American LeMans Series is “merging” with the Grand-Am. Some have said that it’s more like a buy-out. My camera spent most of its time giving attention to the ALMS side of things. Here are the first 3 of my favorite shots.

The BMW Car Club of America got special access to the work areas of Bimmerworld, Turner Motorsport and RLL work areas. And then there are the rest of the shots.

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Street Survival School, Spring 2013 – Very Rewarding!

Tire Rack Street Survival School: Saturday, May 11, 2013 – one of my most rewarding instructing sessions ever!

Images courtesy of rollingstockphoto

Why was this day so great? What made the difference? I chalk it up to a great student and my own commitment to improving my skills as an instructor. My first time instructing in an SUV was eye opening. I discovered that a Denali handles like a large boat. (I’ll reserve “battleship” status for a school bus.)

What Makes a Great Student?

Every Street Survival student is different in their experience, demeanor and eagerness to learn. Willingness to communicate is a big bonus. On this occasion, my student, Natalie, had all that going for her, plus a dad who obviously cares. She only had her permit, but her father had already taught Natalie a few things. Continue reading

Cool Garage Obsession

Cool Garages: One of my favorite things in life.

My garage is my playpen. And some of my most satisfying time is spent messing around in my garage. Detailing or working on my cars is a great way for me to recreate, so organizing and cleaning my garage is a big part of my hobby. When the rest of the world is in chaos I can count on my garage to be an island of sanity.

Lately I’ve been doing a little more organizing after buying more products from one of my favorite suppliers. My wall cabinets are stocked with a good deal of stuff from Griot’s Garage. Their motto is, “Have fun in your garage.” They certainly have their finger on my pulse.

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2012.08.12 Autocross with SCCA

It had been a long time since I had done an autocross event but I thought I’d try my hand at it again.

I had only attempted it on one other occasion and didn’t do all that well. This time was different, thanks to the help of some friends.

For those of you who don’t know, an autocross is simply an event where cars drive through a course laid out with cones. It’s a timed event where each car makes its run, one by one. You compete for best time in your class. Two seconds are added to your time for each cone you knock out of its “box.”  If you hit a cone without moving it entirely out of its marked spot, no penalty is assigned. Typically the event is held at a large parking lot. In this case it was at the Family Arena in St. Charles, MO.

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