Kartik Thoughts

Thoughts on a Sunday…

It is 6AM on a relatively bright and crisp Thanksgiving weekend. Alpana checks her patient list as she heads to work to see a host of patients, some with COVID19 and others with the usual ailments that fill our plates at work. We talk about how the pandemic has affected us and its impact on society in general. The CNN headline on Japanese suicide rates, the resignation of a local health official over threats to her family and the increase in local spread among the community feature, as we look to the winter ahead with trepidation.

A bright spot in our thoughts, is the possibility that a vaccine might be a savior. But will it be too little, too late? Only time will tell. As more of our colleagues test positive, we look to our own safety. As more and more public officials, on both sides of the political spectrum, show support for preventative and safety measures, we look at the increasing fatigue that we (as much as everyone else) are experiencing in this new reality.

But wait, masks, distancing, washing hands? Restrictions? What restrictions?

As a proceduralist, these aren’t restrictions, these are my every day activities. As they would be for welders, mechanics, sanitation workers, doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists… you name it. And every occupation has its own.

When do these rules of behaviors become a restrictive burden?

I think the answer is in us.

They are “restrictive” as much as we want them to be.

We are “restricted” to breathe air, want for food, desire shelter and companionship.

We are “restricted” to need to care for family and friends.

We are “restricted” to the boundaries of our locale, city, state, country, planet, solar system and galaxy.

Most of all, we are “restricted” to the confines of this body, the most precious gift endowed us by our Creator.

In the face of these restrictions, what of the mere mask, the “6-foot rule” and the hand-washing? When seen from this overarchingly “restricted” life, these seem like just a fraction. But are they “just an increment” or “the last straw”?

Again, the answer lies in us. Despite the profusion of death and disease all around, many, including friends and family, move to the latter. Their attitude, one of defiance in the face of logic, as they abandon all pretense. Social media, the bane and savior of our isolated world, relays videos and pictures of indoor get-togethers, as families and friends gather in close embrace, singing and sharing.

How will this end?

Who knows?

Maybe the naysayers are right. Maybe this is all fake. Or #fake. Maybe this is just physicians trying to whip up panic to demonstrate their power.

Smart people discuss the ethics of caring for individuals that don’t isolate or take precautions. They even suggest that only “good” people deserve to be treated.

My take on this is as follows:

I am a physician who provides a service to those who need it. No part of this involves my judging their behavior or character. What’s more meaningful is that I am PAID to deliver said service. Just like, smoking, sloth, gluttony and pollution that keep our clinics humming, the pandemic is just another, newer, source of activity.

I plan to keep doing what I do for each patient.

Be the best physician I can be.

Dispense the right advice – for THEM to make the best decision.

Do what I can to help them, and let them do what they wish to do. The day that I am paid to police their activity and make their decisions for them, that is the day I leave medicine.

That said, as an individual I can judge and decide who I want to be friends with. That includes family members that I want to relate to and those that I don’t. Like any individual, I retain the freedom to be as arbitrary as I please in doing so.


If you don’t want to wash hands, if you want to make a point of posting pictures and videos of indoor maskless groups, holding hands and in close proximity and if you think you are “tired” of this pandemic and all the “restrictions”, I am happy to be your physician, just not your friend.


Serpentine adventures…

Hello, again. Our Cobra adventure is now three days in. After the torrid rainstorm, that was the St. Louis Diwali, a bright, crisp and windy Sunday meant 2 drives with the Blue Snake.

After waiting till the sun was truly in the clear (and neighbours likely awake from their slumber), it was two pumps on the gas pedal and a push on the starter pedal to awake the beast. From the usual explosion of noise, her engine settles into a Brrump-Brrump-Brrump rhythm. Strapped in my four point harness, like a biplane pilot, I gingerly engage reverse as I crawl out onto my driveway. Pedestrians enjoying the morning walk regard me with disdain as I try to enter the roadway.

Surprisingly, the clutch is light, the transmission precise as I gently advance through first, second and third as I trudge down Wydown – just under the limit. Shouting a big “Thank you” to the county of St. Louis for fixing Big Bend, I traverse the segment from Wydown to the 40 without the usual bone-shaking that the ultra-stiff suspension of this replica of a 60s racer has. With the smoothness of a P-51 taking wing in the crisp November air, she delights as I gently advance the gas pedal to match the expressway speed as she settles into her overdrive at a meager 1800 rpm and 60 mph. Occasionally buffeted by the near gale-force winds that remained from the prior night’s storm, she continues unabated, her steering light (and a little numb – thanks to the power assistance) and drawing on easy reserves of power to climb inclines without even the thought of a downshift.

Despite the balmy 50o weather, freezing air rips through the cabin as it creeps through the tiny spaces in the soft top. Notwithstanding my relaxed grip, my fingers are numb on the moto lita at 11 and 2 as we coast to the exit towards the Chesterfield Airport. Returning back to the expressway from the overpass, she eases into roadways speeds with the easy alacrity of an old hand, gently reminding me of how outmatched I am to what she is capable of, yet welcoming me to enjoying her thoroughbred power as she flexed her considerable muscle. Her dimunitive proportions (the same as the Mazda Miata) make her a dream to point and steer as she switches lanes accurately and without complaint.

Thundering back up our driveway, she returns to her abode with a clatter and a clang as I remove the battery-kill tag. I enter to find her angry namesake, looking in askance to being left behind. Apologies delivered, I head to work in my trusty Golf.

Returning from work, I find both ladies ready to embark again. The cobra ready to dance, and Alpana dressed in biking gear. A smile on the latter, broader than the Chesapeake Bay greets me as I start up the 4-wheeled one. Accompanied by the thunder of her exhaust, we go through a gentle drive through the quiet Clayton Sunday, as the smiles continue to grow.

Trundling home, my wife looks at me. Of all the cars I’ve had, this would be the first time, her face was both content, yet excited, as she pronounced that this was her favorite car ever.

Which would make sense.

Of all the cars I’ve owned, this is by far the prettiest, meanest, most characterful car that carries a streak of mischief but remains responsible, gentle and smart. Probably my second best choice in all my life.


RT4 with an Iconic 427 ci engine. 488 bhp/533 lbft on the dyno. BMW E91 rear independent suspension with coilovers. 4 piston 13 inch brakes in front and single piston in the back. 18 inch 245/40 (front) and 295/40 (rear). Heated seats and interior with cloth soft top.


Move over Eagle Speedster, THIS is the prettiest car in the world.

The rarefied club of readers of this blog will recognize my many prior ululations in salute of my erstwhile Carrera 3.2. These astute few may also remember that a few months ago, that car had left our families fold, as we searched anew for a replacement. One, distinct from the stark and dull 80s look to a more chrome laden, but new car. Discerning readers might think that a Porsche reimagined by Singer might meet these criteria, but to an untrained eye (and we have many in our family), they still seem like an acquired taste. As cars go, built with Germanic precision, with crisp handling and accurate dynamics, nothing comes close to a Porsche in maximizing the drivability and performance to price ratio. However, the real price you pay, is the push-me, pull-you bug-eyed appearance. Despite my many efforts to portray it otherwise, the beholder that finds a Porsche pretty is rare.

Which is why, the aesthete of the family and love of my life, never really warmed up to it. Also, growing up in a middle-class household, we could never really think of a “used” car as special. On a jaunt to Fastlane Cars in St. Charles, MO, we came upon a gorgeous Porsche Blue Shelby Cobra Replica made by Backdraft Racing in Boynton Beach FL. Coming on the heels of watching Matt Damon and Christian Bale in Ford vs. Ferrari, she was familiar with the shape but enamored of the brightwork and the colors of this beautiful car.

Looking more into BDR, I found that like a modern-day iteration of Carroll Shelby, this was a company with a strong racing heritage, who were not trying to replicate a Cobra, but build a beautiful modern classic racecar inspired by both the spirit as well as the shape of the Classic Cobra. While Shelby American continues to sell “authorized” continuation copies (both in aluminum and fiberglass), there are several manufacturers that build “replica” cars. I would like to briefly review my thoughts on them from my research on the internet and why one could choose to buy on of them and how it influenced my decision to go with a Backdraft.

  1. Shelby American: These are continuation cars with both aluminum and fiberglass bodies sold as rollers (i.e. rolling chassis with everything minus the engine and transmission). Shelby does make a variety of Ford derived engines that fit these. They do have independent front and rear supsensions with updates to make them more modern, but the original top-loader four and the 427FE engine (while classic – tend to be a bit of a 60s handful). These are also at a significant premium with a take-home cost of $150k (fiberglass) and $250K (aluminum) with a typical engine set up. Cost aside, these do represent a good value when it comes to resale.
  2. Superformance. Licensed by Carrol Shelby (after a lawsuit), these are honest copies of the Shelby with a variety of modern accoutrements to make the Serpent less of a threat. No, you don’t get ABS or traction control, but still. With jewel like precision and superb fit and finish, they seem to have become the industry standard. From the 289 “slab side”, the 289 FIA, the 427 roadster and the 427 s/c, they make Cobras in all flavors and shapes. While respected both as a car as well as with resale, I was some what put off by the unashamed similarities to the original and did not want to come of as a poser. Plus, the original Hi-Tech company and Superformance were originally a collision company restoring old damaged cars, not really a Carroll Shelby esque racing heritage. FWIW, all the cars used in Ford v. Ferrari were SPF replicas.
  3. ERA. With Everrett Morrison, probably one of the oldest acts, these are well respected replicas sold as owner assembled kits. I lack the sophistication to assemble one, nor the confidence to drive something I put together in the garage, a car with an enormous engine trying every second to swallow me whole. That said, a well put together ERA is a beautiful sight, but the key is finding one that is well put together. Also, the whole point was to move away from a used car.
  4. Everret Morrison. Also good cars but IMHO in the second or third rung.
  5. Factory Five Racing. Initially building these cars by putting a fiberglass body on an old Mustang ‘donor’, these have moved to modern chassis with wonderful attributes. The fact that several builders will deliver a turnkey product, does not change the fact that something in their appearance or prior stigma – does not really look right to me.

Backdraft Racing is a South Africa based company with strong racing roots. As winners of Daytona in 1984, Reg Dodd and Tony Martin, imbue these cars with the raw spirit and character of the original car that inspired these. With a subtly different shape, these pay an homage to the artistry of the AC Ace body (originally circa 1953) modified by Carroll Shelby in 1965 with flared front and rear fenders, a giant maw and huge side-pipe exhausts. And yet, looking at the car, it does not look like someone cloning a car but creating a different inspired original. Unlike many of the replicas above, these were built to race first, drive or show last. With a typical ladder suspension bonded to a beautifully painted fiberglass shell, these cars represent the best ideals of the performance of the original Cobra without the weakness of the aluminum body. Fiberglass, the shell used in Carroll Shelby’s first choice, the Corvette.

And what is it like?

Glorious. Simply glorious.

As I gingerly, sat down and was briefed by Dan Hillebrandt, the sales manager at FastLane Cars, the horror stories of crazy cobras and drivers out of their depth, filled my mind. Turning the key and pressing the starter button seemed to unleash Surtur as the entire world began to shake and tremble. Passers-by took a step back. Abashed by the drama, I bid farewell to my guide, engaging first and letting out the clutch as the newest member of our household rolled forwards towards the exit of the lot. It is at this point that I realized that the drivers and passenger side, RayDot mirrors were a wonderful cosmetic addition, with no purpose. The only thing scarier than driving a 2400lb pound car with 7.0L V8 engine with 488 bhp and 533 lb ft of torque, is doing so without knowing who else might be on the road.

Gingerly, easing myself on to the highway, I was immediately pleased to see that the more “novice” T5 gearbox, allowed me to shift quickly through the gears to settle into a legal cruise, while traffic seemed to zip around me. Still, noone seemed to come as close as they are wont (in my other vehicles). I would like to believe that the fearsome thunder emanating from this Reptile had something to do with it. The price of all that thunder? Refueling halfway from home. With an uneventful ride back home, this Indigo Blue RT4 with it’s white racing stripes, noisily slipped up our driveway and joined our family, welcomed by her new namesake, her dog and the two kids as they posed for pics.