The Spectacle Blog

The 390 Horsepower Lawn Ornament

By on 11.27.05 | 12:21PM

Thanksgiving Eve was a joyous occasion in our household, and not only because of the arrival of two of the four twentysomethings (well, three if you count one young lady in tow). #4 son drove in from Laramie, Wyoming in my new supercar.

Having purchased it in September from its original owner in Colorado Springs, and registered it in the Commonwealth to get temporary plates, said registration had expired on his arrival. On Thursday afternoon, I dutifully drove it to our formerly favorite Ford dealer and delivered written instructions to perform an emissions inspection (a legal predicate to obtaining a permanent registration) and adjust the timing and other functions necessary for it to produce maximum power at this altitude (what one does for a car that operates at above 5,000 feet, as this had, is slightly different than for a car that operates here at near sea level.) Ay, and there's the rub.

For, I am now informed to my utter dismay, when one performs the tuning before the emissions test -- as these descendants of Werner von Braun did -- one implants the "P-1000" code in the vehicle's on-board computer thanks to a new rule propounded by Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality. Thinking they must bar people from cheating on their emissions inspections, the DEQ requires that the P-1000 code block emissions testing from the time the car's settings are changed until the car is driven another 300-400 miles. Which I explained to the folks at DMV yesterday after waiting two hours for my turn. Only to be told that no registration can be issued without the report of a successful emissions test, and no extension of the temporary registration can be granted for any reason. At this point, I became convinced that it was neither Mr. Warner nor Mr. Kaine who held Virginia's governorship, but Major Major. The "experts" at the dealership say they cannot do anything to bypass the code, and suggested that I return the car to them so they can drive it for a few weeks to reach the point at which emissions testing can be done. Right.

As things stand now, I can: (1) drive illegally to eliminate the computer code and pay whatever fines and tickets accrue; (2) find a spot on our spacious fields for a ruby-red 390-horsepower lawn ornament; (3) move to one of the many Virginia counties that doesn't require emissions inspection; or (4) move to a state which has a government that hasn't completely lost its mind. Options 1,3 and 4 are under consideration. What would Yossarian do?

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