Car Musings (2005-12)
Thoughts about all things automotive
More recent Car Musings can be found here.
Car Predictions - Then and Now: At the end of 2004, this then-new blog made eleven predictions for 2035, including three about car marques:
• "Buick will introduce a new model in still-another attempt to capture a "more youthful audience." Seeks to portray itself as "aspirational, yet attainable.""
Well, here we are eight years later and the Buick brand, despite many new models introduced since '04, still struggles to be aspirational to anyone under age 80.
In the mid-1970s, one of my work colleagues had saved his money and paid cash for his personal dream car - a new Buick Electra 225. I congratulated him and told him that the good news was that he now qualified to join the Deuce and a Quarter Club.
That bad news was that he would be the only white guy in the organization and, since the all other members were drug dealers and/or pimps and were packing heat, he should be armed if he planned to attend a club meet or event. I don't think he ever bought another Buick.
• "Happy Fun Motor Manufacture of Guangzhou purchases the rights to the Pontiac nameplate. The Chinese firm has had surprising success reviving obsolete, cast-off American car nameplates, including Oakland, Studebaker, Mercury and others.
The company plans to position Pontiac above its Oldsmobile models, just below its two luxury brands, Packard and Lincoln."
In 2004, few people were predicting that GM would kill off Pontiac. But bankruptcy will do strange things to ya. Just ask Saturn. As for Mercury - well, everyone saw that coming, although it outlasted Pontiac.
And Lincoln? The verdict's still out on that brand although the new 2013/2014 models don't seem to be the Game Changers that FoMoCo promised they would be.
• "DaimlerChryslerHindustan suffers another of its twice-every-decade, near-death experiences - despite the success of its Plymouth Tandoori sports coupe in East Asia."
Who knew that by 2009, Chrysler would be owned by Fiat? Will Chrysler-Fiat survive in the long haul? Beats me, although the resurrected, über-hyped Dodge Dart looks like a flop, selling at 1/6th the rate of the similarly-sized Honda Civic. And the tired Mini handily outsells the still-newish Fiat 500. Nevertheless, the Indian economy is rising and there's always a market for crap cars over there, so I'm not ready to give up on that Plymouth Tandoori just yet.
How will 2035 really turn out? I have no idea. Just look at how the radically auto industry has changed just over the past eight years. (posted 12/28/12, permalink)
Small Future: Designer Richard H. Arbib had a fairly broad automobile design resume, having worked for GM's Harley Earl and, later, creating the 1952 Packard Pan Am show car which was the inspiration for the production Packard Caribbean.
In the mid-1950s, Arbib dusted off his crystal ball and designed the car of 2000: the Astra-Gnome, which made its debut at the New York International Automobile Show in New York in April 1956. That same year, the vehicle made the cover of Newsweek.
The then-futuristic car was based on the tiny Nash Metropolitan. The Astra-Gnome had fluted aluminum side panels that had been anodized in different blending colors. It had a formed Plexiglas bubble canopy that provided unobstructed vision but could be raised for entry and exit.
Arbib referred to it as a 'Time-and-Space' car and commented that his designers "are not concerned with high horsepower or competition car performance, because as product stylists we do not believe the primary task of the appearance designer is a mechanical one.
We believe our job is to create new and exciting shapes, textures and colors in a functional car. In the Gnome, a totally new driving sensation akin to flying has resulted from this kind of esthetic exploration. The 'Space' element in the Astra-Gnome is almost self-explanatory, for the designer of the 'personal' car is dealing with a space problem from the very beginning.
The six-foot wide Gnome, because it is wider than most cars of its length (13.5 feet), gives abundant interior room and allows for a phenomenal amount of storage and luggage area. By careful workout, a production version of this car can carry no less than 6 pieces of matched integrated luggage, totaling as many cubic feet as found in the average full-size sedan's trunk compartment."
Arbib had an interesting career. In addition to his automotive creations, he designed dirigibles and timepieces including the iconic Hamilton Ventura watch of the 1950s. He also produced cover illustrations for sci-fi magazines and dated legendary pin-up Bettie Page.
The cars of 2000 didn't end up looking much like the Astra-Gnome, although the original still exists. It has been restored and is on display at the Metropolitan Museum in North Hollywood, CA. When it came to future cars, Arbib was no better other prognosticators.
Most predictions turn out wrong. When I was growing up, magazines like Popular Mechanics, Mechanix Illustrated and Popular Science predicted that tires and roads would soon be obsolete and we'll get around in flying cars. Such stories were profusely illustrated; the renderings often appeared in full color on the cover to help boost newsstand sales. The skies were always clear blue with nary a belching smokestack in sight. (Perhaps the illustrators were prescient enough to realize that, in the future, factories would disappear because everything would be manufactured in China.) Sometimes the flying cars were piloted by silver robots with red eyes. Occasionally flying semis and buses would be visible in the background.
As a youngster, I was promised Social Security in my old age. As a 12 year-old, I could have cared less. As I grew older, I was told over and over that Social Security was "in trouble," "bankrupt" and/or "on the brink of collapse." I made other financial plans just in case and was pleasantly surprised when I actually started getting SS payments. That's the kind of surprise I like: give me something I wasn't really expecting.
On the other hand, if you promise me something and I don't receive it, I become frustrated. So, I'm now peeved that I can't buy a flying car. No one ever told me that aerocars were "in trouble" or that the entire concept was "on the brink of collapse.". Those damn cover illustrations were so nice, too. And most of those flying vehicles had cool transparent dome roofs - just like the Astra-Gnome.
Never mind that Plexiglas acrylic was far more expensive than glass, that it scratched very easily and that the forming process for making those domed roofs would thin out the material at the top - the very spot where strength was most needed. Sitting in a parked car in the California sun, an acrylic canopy would have you fry and die of heat stroke in about four minutes. None of this stopped the press from predicting that all cars would soon have transparent Plexiglas bubbles for all-around driver visibility.
Speaking of domes, we were also told that we'd soon live in domed cities with climate control and our second car would be a small commuter helicopter. With a bubble windshield/canopy, of course. Our homes would have central courtyards covered with a transparent plastic hemisphere to keep the weather out, help the plants grow and allow our robot servants to recharge their solar batteries. Clear plastic bubbles would permeate our lives. We'd be part of a bubble nation living an a bubble-based economy.
The Doming of America reached its peak with the introduction of the Cone of Silence on 'Get Smart' in 1965. The bubble economy collapsed shortly thereafter. And, apparently, so did the idea of flying cars.
I'm now convinced that there are no flying cars in my future. The closest I came to owning a car with a clear roof was my 1992 Nissan 300ZX which had a T-top with glass inserts.
All things considered, I'm inclined to cut Mr. Arbib some slack. Neither he nor any other futurist foresaw that, in the 21st Century, one of the largest-selling vehicle segments would be trucks and that we'd be driving unsleek four-wheel drive vehicles with blunt Mad-Max-like front ends.
The future is a tricky place, neither linear nor particularly predictable. (posted 11/26/12, permalink)
Gas Pain: On the most recent edition of MotorWeek, Pat Goss warned about the dangers of bad fuel. What danger? The last time I encountered a problem with subpar pump gas was almost fifty years ago.
In his best scary, boogeyman's-gonna-get-ya voice, Goss warned that "problems" can occur when patronizing "low-volume gas stations." Huh? No such animals exist around here. So many stations have closed over the past 20 years that only the volume guys remain. With convenience stores attached instead of repair bays. The old shade tree mechanic who fixed your car in a ramshackle building and pumped a little gas on the side is an apparition of ghostly nostalgia from the past.
When MotorWeek debuted 30-plus years ago on public television, Goss used to talk about work you could do on your own vehicle in your driveway. Or on the road, if you broke down. Life has changed. There are no longer carbs to adjust, points to gap or hand-tweakable distributors. Therefore, the Goss' Garage segment has run out of useful things to say.
Let's face it: if your car breaks down these days, the only "tools" you need in your vehicle are charged cell phone, a valid AAA membership and a bottle of wine with a screw top - to consume while you're waiting for the tow truck to arrive.
And, furthermore, just when I thought the MotorWeek tech tip portion couldn't get any worse, Pat Goss devoted the entire segment to funnels. He said - as best as I can recall, "If you don't use a funnel, you may end up spilling oil in your engine compartment and make a big mess." Me? No, maybe you Pat.
Where to begin? Let's start by noting that metal oil cans have been replaced by plastic oil bottles which are easier to control and less likely to spill. Secondly, most contemporary vehicle engines have easy to access oil filler caps/holes/pipes, further reducing spillage potential.
Finally, if the filler pipe location dictates the use of a funnel, the smartest choice is a disposable paper one. Keeping old metal or plastic funnels around makes little sense. They are oily dirt/dust collectors which enable the transfer of dirt to your engine oil. That's a funnel full of Not Good.
The Goss' Garage segment truly has run out of useful things to say. (posted 11/21/12, permalink)
Chickmobile: The Volkswagen New Beetle, introduced in the late 1990s, was a cartoon parody of the Real Beetle. I speak from experience, having owned several air-cooled Type 1s.
In the U.S., the New Beetle was soon tagged as a chick car because so many were purchased by females. When the car was revamped for 2012, it was given a butched-up, chopped-top look. Volkswagen wanted to increase its appeal to the male market segment.
I finally spotted the latest iteration of the New Beetle on the road last week. It was a baby blue color and was being driven by a middle-aged woman. So much for the macho factor. (posted 11/19/12, permalink)
Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda ... Not: Hemmings has listed a 1965 ASA 1000 GT for sale at an asking price of over $100,000.
What!? You've never heard of an ASA? I have. In fact, I considered buying one after I graduated from college.
ASA - Autocostruzioni Società per Azioni - was an Italian automobile manufacturer. It's primary product, the 1000 GT, was developed by Giotto Bizzarrini from a Ferrari design and was made between 1964 and '69.
It was a very cool, small sports car powered by a Ferrari-designed 1000 cc high-revving four-cylinder engine. The diminutive 153-inch long coupe model had a steel body with aluminum used for the hood and trunk lid.
The silver example I examined in the showroom looked like a miniature Ferrari but, with a price tag over $5,000 and the ever-questionable Italian reliability factor, I passed on it - opting to purchase a used Corvette instead. (posted 11/13/12, permalink)
Lancia Death Watch: The iconic Lancia automobile brand seems to be headed down the same hole as Mercury. And Pontiac. New, unique models are long gone and the brand is almost nonexistent outside Italy. The plan is for most Lancias to be nothing more than rebadged Chryslers.
Founded in 1906, Lancia has a long tradition of producing fast touring, sports and racing cars. Memorable ones, too - like the Lancia Aurelia luxury touring car of the 1950s and its successor, the Flaminia. Or the Stratos and the ultra-wedgy Stratos HF concept car. And even the ill-fated, mid-engined Scorpion of the 1970s. But that's the past. Today's European market is plagued by too much manufacturing capacity and too many brands - far more than in the U.S.
While the U.S. has seen difficult economic times, we are recovering - albeit at a snail's pace. Europe is in much worse shape. Unemployment is very high - the broad unemployment rate (including those inactive job-seekers willing to work) is 30% in Spain, 23% in Italy, 20% in Ireland and 15% in Great Britain. Things are not expected to improve anytime soon due to Europe's underlying structural problems (aging native population, socialist policies, welfare states, excessive business regulation, jobs outsourced to Asia, European Union issues, inability to compete in global markets, etc.).
European car sales are near low levels not seen in two decades - car sales are expected to be less 12 million units annually for 2013.
Hilton Holloway of the UK buff magazine, Autocar, wrote, "First off, most established brands will never be revived or significantly grown. Rover and Saab proved that, short-term blips aside, by never consistently rising above their long-term average annual sales. Jaguar is in the same position, as is Lancia."
Holloway concluded, "The European car industry is approaching the abyss and conventional thinking is steering it straight down the hole. I have no doubt that it's all over for the mainstream European car industry that we have today. It's time for both the manufacturers and punters to go back to basics, starting with simpler cars made in fewer factories." (posted 11/5/12, permalink)
Car Sightings: Last week, I spotted a new-looking 1952 Ford Mainline Ranch Wagon in Sungate Ivory. This was the first year of Ford's all new bodystyle. This entry-level two-door station wagon was probably intended for duties on the ranch but mostly ended up parked under the carports of postwar ranch houses.
I didn't see any V8 markings, so I assumed that this example was powered by Ford's all-new 101-hp overhead-valve straight six. It had business-like blackwall tires and small hubcaps.
Ford made over 32,500 Ranch Wagons in '52; this is one of few survivors. Most remaining Ford station wagons are the pricier, top-of-the line, fake-wood-sided Country Squire models. The original base list price for the lowly Ranch Wagon was $1,832 - 16% less than the tony Country Squire. Only 5,426 examples of the wood-sided line-topper were sold during the '52 model year.
While on the same road, I spotted a navy blue Chevrolet Volt. I couldn't see if it had government plates - I'm told that most Volts do. For the second time that week, I saw a 1951 or '52 two-tone blue GMC pickup truck following me into a restaurant parking lot. The old gray-haired guy must be on the same food tour as I am.
In the same parking lot, I got a good look at a new silver Cadillac CTS coupe parked next to my Lexus. It's cool-looking in a concept car kinda way but the pointed rear bumpers seemed to be begging for a big center dent in a parking mishap. The styling of the car was fierce and pointy - not my cuppa tea. But it did have the traditional Caddy styling cues - big gridded grille, knife-like vertical taillamps and swoopy-coupey lines. (posted 10/29/12, permalink)
Small Redefined: The term 'small-block' came into being when Chevrolet debuted its first modern V-8 engine in 1955. The term came from the fact that the displacement of the compact new engine was 265 cubic inches, not much larger than the six-cylinder engines of the period.
The 1954 Chevrolet inline six displaced 235 cubic inches.
Today's engines are smaller displacement - most V-6s are in the 3 to 3.5 liter range - 180 to 210 cubic inches. Two-liter four cylinder engines are not uncommon common on today's cars.
It was recently announced that the 2014 Corvette will be powered by a 6.2 liter "small block" V-8. That's 378 cubic-inches of displacement and not 'small' in my book.
Preliminary numbers suggest no less than 450 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque for the not-so-small Corvette V-8. (posted 10/29/12, permalink)
Book Review: 'Engines Of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars' by Paul Ingrassia
The book purports to offer "a wondrous epic in fifteen automobiles," according to the jacket, including the Ford Model T, LaSalle, 1953 Corvette, VW Beetle, Chevrolet Corvair, Pontiac GTO, Honda Accord, Toyota Prius and others. The author connects various car models to society's cultural shifts.
Remember in 'Animal House' when John 'Bluto' Blutarsky gave a rousing, if inaccurate speech? ("Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? No!") Frat brother Boon waves away the historical error, noting "Forget it, he's rolling." Soon, the whole Delta House is yelling, "Let's do it! Let's do it!" Ingrassia's book begets the same kind of Blutoesque enthusiasm, despite its many inaccuracies ... (more >>>)
What We Need Today ... is the device advertised in the October 1957 issue of Road & Track:
In this era of four buck per gallon gas, we could all use one. Do they make these for other cars too? How about Lexus? Or Toyota? (posted 9/10/12, permalink)
Striking Model: In the most recent issue of Model Auto Review, a British scale model car magazine, there was a brief description and a small black & white photo of an interesting-looking, pricey and rare 1:43 scale model by Ukrainian modelmaker EMC Models.
The model was of a 1935 Mercedes 540K Sports Cabriolet with custom coachwork by the German firm Erdmann & Rossi. The car was originally owned by King Ghazi of Iraq. The full-sized car is quite striking with pontoon fenders somewhat reminiscent of the work done by Figoni & Fallaci during the same period.
Ghazi was quite the car enthusiast and was killed in 1939 at age twenty-seven when his sports car crashed into ... (more >>>)
Crushing The Competition: You can tell it's a slow auto news month when The Truth About Cars' Murilee Martin asks, "What car would you drive in the Year of Your Birth Rally?"
This is a very ageist contest. Young 'uns get to pick later model vehicles, which gives them an advantage in acceleration and handling.
I don't have a lot of choices and they weren't making cars the year I was born.
So, I guess I'll have to choose a 1943 M-4 Sherman Tank with standard rotating turret and 75 mm gun.
Hey, rally boy, try to get ahead of me and - Boom! - you're dead. Then flattened. (posted 8/15/12, permalink)
I Wasted 13 Minutes Of My Life: 'Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee' with Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David was totally boring. I've had funnier unscripted conversations with my own friends. Especially when we are drinking. I guess we should have videotaped them. The 1952 Volkswagen Beetle was the only thing cool about the show.
Big Fur Hat wrote, "What a pantload this was. ... You heard of the show about nothing? This was 2 guys laughing at themselves about nothing. If the series is going to be more of this self-indulgent unfunny, unfresh banter, with the inappropriate lounge music playing incessantly in the background, I'll pass. These 13 minutes were probably culled from hours of footage, and this is what they got? That's frightening." (posted 7/27/12, permalink)
A True Artist Can Work In Any Medium:
Like drawing an old coupe on my son-in-law's cast. (posted 7/6/12, permalink)
Every Gay Florist Will Want One: Mini will begin selling the Clubvan, a nostalgic kind-of panel truck this August.
Prius missed the boat, when they failed to offer a panel version of the Prius v, something I had ... (more >>>)
Best-Looking American Production Cars: Beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder. That qualification aside, I hereby announce my choices for the ten best-looking American production (no concepts, no one-offs, no customs) cars (no trucks or SUVs) ever manufactured ... (more >>>)
Goin' Topless: I went to lunch at Julie's Cottage Kitchen with my friend Steve last week. He drove in his Mercedes CLK550 'Grand Edition' convertible with the top down. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and it was fun to ride in a convertible. I don't think I've done that since renting a Mustang in Florida 20 or so years ago.
I've posted a photo of Steve's cool ride here. (posted 6/25/12, permalink)
I Am Not A Studebaker: I just received an e-mail from my high school, St. Joe's Prep, inviting me to the 'Prep at the Shore Day' in Strathmere NJ (between Ocean City and Sea Isle City).
It is for "alums from the class of 1962 or earlier" - described as "Golden Hawks." Apparently it's because the school mascot is now a hawk. In my day, it was a hawklet but I guess that didn't sound grown-up enough. And Geezer Hawklet would be an oxymoron.
I'm not sure I'm happy being referred to as a Golden Hawk. That's a kind of Studebaker - a long-dead brand. I'm not ready to be dead. (posted 6/21/12, permalink)
Old Car Prices: I read Hemmings blog almost every day and am amazed at the prices for old iron.
One seller is asking $58,000 for a black '62 Chrysler 300H hardtop coupe. How about $194,500 for a 1956 Austin Healey 100M? Or $149K for a '48 Mercury woodie? How about a 1956 Chevrolet Suburban for $62,500?
A 1965 Plymouth Satellite is offered at $48,900. A 1971 Dodge Charger R/T is for sale with an asking price of $84,999.
A 1938 Lincoln Zephyr three-window coupe was sold for $330,000 by RM Auctions. At the recent auction, a 1939 Lincoln-Zephyr Convertible Coupe was sold for $269,500.
In the woodie department, a 1947 Ford Super Deluxe Sportsman Convertible went under the hammer for $253,000; a 1939 Ford Deluxe Station Wagon fetched $247,500; a 1938 Ford Deluxe Station Wagon sold for $209,000 and a 1940 Ford Deluxe Station Wagon went for $203,500.
Somebody's got money in this lousy economy. (posted 6/15/12, permalink)
McCahill Remembered: I've profiled numerous people in the past but how could I have forgotten to write about Tom McCahill?
McCahill was best known as he man who tested cars for Mechanix Illustrated magazine. Everybody called him Uncle Tom or Unk - probably because he was the kind of uncle everybody wished for. He was a no-nonsense guy who loved cars, dogs, driving fast and imbibing a couple of scotches at the end of the day.
Born in 1907, Thomas Jay McCahill III was the grandson of a wealthy attorney in Larchmont, NY. His father was manager of the local Mercedes branch, so Tom was exposed to interesting cars early in life. At age 14, he was given an old Winton tourer. After rebuilding the car, he promptly crashed into a tree.
McCahill graduated from Yale University with a degree in fine arts. He became a salesman for Marmon automobiles and, in the mid-1930s, operated dealerships in Manhattan and Palm Beach, featuring Rolls Royce and other luxury cars. The depression and his father's alcoholism wiped out his family's fortune and his automobile shops.
Tom then took up freelance writing, turning out fiction and articles for Yachting, Popular Science and Reader's Digest before deciding to concentrate on automotive journalism.
The first published road test in America was ... (more >>>)
Helping Our Balance Of Trade: In this week's episode, Dennis Gage's 'My Classic Car' visited the Nostalgia Festival in Ronneby, Sweden. There were over 1,000 old cars on display, including a surprising amount of 1950s American iron.
Göran Ambell, senior editor of Nostalgia magazine, told Dennis that Swedish auto enthusiasts import 5-6,000 old cars from the U.S. each year. (posted 5/21/12, permalink)
Back To The Fifties: James Lileks' latest full-color Bleat header is waaay cool. It really appealed to this old car guy. (That's 'old' in the sense of both the age of the vehicles and my age.
I see a '57 DeSoto sedan with a low-number license plate, indicating either a politician's car (mayor, governor, congressperson) or a vanity plate. Next to it is a '56 Chevy. Opposite is a '56 Buick four-door hardtop. The car nearest the windows is either a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud or its Bentley S1 clone. It's probably a Rolls which outsold Bentley in America by many furlongs in those days. But even a Rolls was a rare sight in 1950s America which makes the photo particularly unusual.
Given the palm tree, the white brick, white awnings and the license plates from several states, I guessed that it was Florida in the winter. James confirmed that it was from an old motel postcard from The Sunshine State. (posted 5/18/12, permalink)
Micra With A Touch Of Curry: The Nissan Micra is a sub-subcompact car which is not imported to the U.S. but is popular in Europe.
In 1995, during a trip to Great Britain (including a pilgrimage to the famous, must-see Beaulieu Motoring Museum), we rented a white Nissan Micra. It was a pleasant little car but was incredibly small. Inside - tight quarters. I felt that the car and I were one - like wearing a suit of armor. (And it was probably about as safe as one in any kind of crash ... not very.)
The Micra didn't have a lot of power; it was equipped with a briefcase-sized, one-liter engine, although the 5-speed manual provided surprisingly decent acceleration. Over a two-week period, the eleven-foot long Micra got 56 mpg. The one we drove was made in Nissan's Sunderland plant in the U.K.
Nissan now imports the Micra for Europe from India, where labor costs and parts costs are significantly lower than in Europe sufficient to more than compensate for the EU tariff and shipping costs. (posted 5/8/12, permalink)
Bad Sound: Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear has claimed that the new Maserati SUV, the Kubang, is named after "the noise it will make once the warranty expires." (posted 4/27/12, permalink)
Car Sighting: On Saturday, my brother snapped a photo of a McLaren MP4-12C parked in front of the Four Seasons in Boston. The $231,000 592 horsepower supercar had Pennsylvania plates and a license plate frame from a dealer in Doylestown
He's one-up on me; I've never seen a McLaren MP4-12C in person. He also took a picture of another vehicle I've yet to see personally - the new L.L. Bean Bootmobile which was displayed on the Boston Common the same day
The vehicle, based on a Ford F-250 Super Duty, is seven-feet shorter than the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile. If it were a real Bean duck boot, it would fit a 147-foot tall person. The Bootmobile was constructed to celebrate L.L. Bean's 100th anniversary.
It's not the only shoe-based vehicle on the planet. For instance, I spotted a red shoe car during the 2002 Great California Adventure." (posted 4/17/12, permalink)
Elvis Presley & His Continental Mark II: Let's start by straightening out the common misconception that Elvis Presley was a Cadillac man who painted his cars garish colors and customized them wildly, demonstrating (say his critics) a lack of taste and refinement.
The reality is that Elvis' taste was bipolar - sometimes conservative, sometimes all flash. His home, Graceland, is a stately dwelling; Elvis bought it in 1957 and left the exterior tastefully unchanged.
Inside, some rooms are quite nicely decorated; others look like they've been furnished entirely with merchandise from roadside stands. The stairwell to the basement recreation rooms features mirrored ceilings and carpeted walls.
Elvis had a flashy, purple and white, customized '56 Caddy convertible and commissioned George Barris to make a vulgar gold and white 1960 Cadillac 75 Series custom limousine.
Yet Elvis also owned a black Rolls Royce Silver Cloud, a Mercedes 600 limousine and other expensive, conservative vehicles which would look right at home on the streets of Philadelphia's Main Line, Hilton Head Island or the Hamptons.
Elvis was definitely a car guy ... (more >>>)
My Pappy Said, "Son, You're Gonna Drive Me To Drinkin' ..." The first time I ever heard the song 'Hot Rod Lincoln' was in 1960. On WIBG - Radio 99. The singer was Johnny Bond. His version was the one that caught on in the Philadelphia area. In those days, there were 'regional hits' - that's why many of those reissued compilation albums have songs or artists you don't recognize.
'Butterfly', a 1957 hit for Andy Williams, can't hold a candle to the 1956 Charlie Gracie version released on Philadelphia's Cameo Records label. It was a far bigger bigger hit in the NY-NJ-Philly universe than the lame Williams rendition.
Charlie Ryan recorded 'Hot Rod Lincoln' in 1955; it became a hit for him during the 1957-60 period, depending on what area of the country you look at. I never heard his version until I bought - you guessed it - a car songs compilation album in the mid-1960s.
Nevertheless, the creator of Hot Rod Lincoln is Charlie Ryan. He fashioned both the car and the song.
Charlie Ryan was a musician, songwriter and a car guy. In the late 1940s, he purchased a used 1941 Lincoln Zephyr four-door sedan. After a couple of years, he decided to make a hot rod out of it. He removed the Zephyr body, cut two feet off the frame to shorten the wheelbase and dropped a 1930 Ford Model A coupe body on it. At first, the car was painted black with red wheels. Charlie installed a '48 V-12 engine in it along with the 3 speed with overdrive '48 transmission.
The car has a lot of Lincoln touches on it, including cut-down Zephyr bumpers, a Lincoln emblem on the radiator, and the Lincoln greyhound radiator ornament. The interior has a narrowed '41 Zephyr dashboard. In 1960, the car was repainted red. It was repainted again in 1986 in "Datsun Z-car red." Charlie told me, "The paint's the only Japanese thing on it."
While he was working on the car, Charlie was thinking about the song. By the early ... (more >>>)
Damn, I Knew I Bought The Wrong Olds: I have only purchased one Oldsmobile in my lifetime and it was a real turkey.
In contrast, a 1912 Oldsmobile Limited Five-Passenger Touring the last remaining example of its kind and fitted with unique coachwork sold for $3.3 million recently, setting a world record for the most expensive Oldsmobile ever sold. (posted 3/16/12, permalink)
Book Report: 'American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company' by Bryce G. Hoffman
Many books have been written about the problems of the American auto industry. Some notable ones include: 'On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors' by John Z. DeLorean & J. Patrick Wright (1979), 'Car Wars' by Robert Sobel (1984), 'The Reckoning' by David Halberstam (1986) and 'Rude Awakening: The Rise, Fall, and Struggle for Recovery of General Motors' Maryann Keller (1989).
Car enthusiasts have bitched about Detroit's arrogance for years, many publicly in blogs and other web postings. I'm one of them ... (more >>>)
Remember The '70s? Pierre Cardin stitched his name on ties and charged high prices for them. Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren rose from anonymity more or less simultaneously to tackle the question of designing clothes for the men and women of the 'me' decade. For them, the 'me' meant 'them', since it was their names stitched on your clothes, not yours.
Back in those days, when asked why I didn't wear designer ties, I told business colleagues that I'd gladly pay the extra bucks for a Cardin tie if Pierre would send me a photo of himself wearing a tie with 'Joe Sherlock' stitched on it. As you mosey around the various areas of this website, you'll find photos of me here-and-there wearing knit shirts, usually in vacation photos. There are initials embroidered on the pockets - mine. Not someone else's.
In the early 1980s, I picked up a nice yellow Jimmy Connors sweater super cheap at a Meier & Frank markdown table in Portland. It had a discrete navy 'JC' embroidered on the front. When people asked about that, I told them that I bought it at the Vatican gift shop and that it was a Jesus Christ designer sweater. (I hope He has a sense of humor.)
In the '70s and even '80s, everything was designer this-and-that. I once bought a exceptional off-white Pierre Cardin three-piece suit from a store with no name in a run down strip mall near Burlington, NJ. $49 - no tax. Cash only. I think it had "fallen off the truck."
In those days, many designers also lent their names to special editions of cars. Gucci was one of the first, putting his name on a special-trim edition 1972 AMC Hornet. Lincoln was also an early adapter, with the designer edition Mark IVs offered in 1976.
Bill Blass once said that he'd put his name on anything, except caskets. I remember his "nautical-themed" 1979 Lincoln Continental Mark V, which featured small anchors incorporated into the exterior accent striping and interior accents within the Blass back-to-back "B" design theme. It kinda made sense because those big Connies and Town Cars were certainly boat-like - real land yachts. P.J. O'Rourke once wrote, "I always rent Town Cars for that nostalgic "Avast, matey! Right full rudder!" road feel."
If you didn't like the Blass Boat, there was ... (more >>>)
Scale Pioneer: David Sinclair, who owned and operated Sinclair's Auto Miniatures for nearly 50 years, has died at age 90.
Sinclair started out in the mail order business in 1963 selling imported gift items and soon began importing miniature model cars from all over the world, beginning with Rio (Italy) and Lesney products (UK).
He quickly learned that ... (more >>>)
BFD: North Korea has claimed that Kim Jong Eun, the scion of the late dictator Kim Jong Il, was driving a car at age 3.
What's the fuss all about? I was driving at that age myself:
Book Review: 'Once Upon a Car: The Fall and Resurrection of America's Big Three Auto Makers - GM, Ford, and Chrysler' by Bill Vlasic
This is a fast-paced narrative about the trials and tribulations of GM, Ford and Chrysler in the 21st Century. Detroit's business model of the past 60 years was no longer working and the financial crunch of 2008 turned the Big Three's sniffles into pneumonia.
Vlasic, a veteran auto reporter and Detroit bureau chief for The New York Times, tells a riveting story. He takes us into the boardrooms of the Big Three and enumerates the three differing paths taken by each automaker. Especially revealing are GM's board meetings in 2006, when directors ignore ominous trends in favor of incremental (inconsequential) changes.
Although Vlasic tries to avoid the Heros and Villains Syndrome, GM CEO Rick Wagoner comes off as a clueless dolt, while ... (more >>>)
The Name Game: Toyota and Honda are successful brands which were growing in market share until the production troubles caused by the tsunami in Japan and, more recently, the flooding in Thailand.
Hyundai and Kia are fast-growing brands which are rapidly picking up market share. Buick - once a dying brand - is experiencing remarkable sales increases. Nissan has improved its share of market over the past five years. Rolls Royce sales are booming. Bentley is also doing well.
What do these brands have in common? Their models have names: Corolla, Avalon, Civic, Accord, Pilot, Sonata, Elantra, Rio, Optima, Regal, Verano, Altima, Sentra, Ghost, Phantom, Continental and Azure.
Lincoln dropped the Continental and Town Car models, replacing them with meaningless three-letter designations. As did Cadillac - gone is the Seville, DeVille, etc. In the last ten years, sales of Lincoln and Cadillac have dropped by half.
Note to manufacturers: People like to buy cars with names - even mediocre ones. BMW, Audi, Lexus and Mercedes get a pass because their models have pretty-much always had numerical, alphabetic or alphanumerical designations.
I hope that, when Toyota finally brings the much-anticipated FT-86 sports coupe to market, it is renamed the Toyota Tiger. Or Tornado. Or Terrorizer. (posted 11/1/11, permalink)
Imitation Is The Sincerest From Of Flattery: To people my age, the brand Bentley conjures up badge-engineered Rolls Royces with different grilles, which was the case from 1962 to the early 1980s. It's no longer true since both brands now have different owners - Volkswagen for Bentley and BMW for Rolls. Both British stalwarts are now owned ... by the Germans.
Rolls Royce took over Bentley in 1931 but, even by the late 1930s, there was still an effort to differentiate Bentley from RR. Even if it meant creating something a bit Lincolnesque, perhaps as a tribute to Edsel Ford.
Consider the Bentley Corniche prototype, constructed in 1939 on the new Rolls Royce Mark V chassis. The waterfall grille and headlights are reminiscent of late 1930s Lincolns. The Corniche never went into production because World War II intervened.
The car was undergoing road-testing in Europe when war broke out. The Corniche saloon was parked in Dieppe (a port in Upper Normandy France on the English Channel) awaiting shipment back to England when this sole prototype was destroyed in air raid ... by the Germans. (posted 10/20/11, permalink)
Book Review: 'Merchants of Speed: The Men Who Built America's Performance Industry' by Paul D. Smith
This book is about hot rodding and the enthusiastic entrepreneurs who designed and manufactured the parts that made it all possible. It included a fair number of black and white period photographs.
Companies profiled included Ansen Automotive, Edelbrock heads and manifolds, Crane Cams, Hilborn Fuel Injection, Iskenderian Racing Cams, Weiand heads and manifolds and Offenhauser speed equipment.
I should have loved this book ... (more >>>)
Slow Casting: The Old Motor has photos of a transparent Plexiglas Plymouth chassis exhibited at the 1952 Chicago Motor Show.
"It appears that it was a complete chassis setup with some type of electric motor and speed-reduction gear, to rotate the internal engine parts slowly to dazzle show attendees. It looks like both Myra and Josephine were also equipped with plastic head gear and pointers."
The most difficult piece to produce was the acrylic engine block. Because of the large size, irregular shape and non-uniform thickness, it was ... (more >>>)
Liar, Liar, Porsche On Fire: Over at TTAC, Jack Baruth lays into a fellow journalist whose Porsche Panamera blew a turbo and caught fire during some track testing.
Canada's National Post auto writer, David Booth utterly eviscerated Porsche for "building cars that can't handle simple track work." But, in a bizarre case of opposite-logic, ultimately recommended the car to his readers.
Many car buffs are critical of Mr. Booth but I must refrain from excoriating him and invoke the 'people who live in glass houses' rule.
You see, when I went to look at a 1957 Continental Mark II in the Fall of 1987, I arrived at the Boring, Oregon owner's home a little early. As they were trying get the beast started, it backfired copiously through the carb belching flames and setting the engine compartment ablaze.
While one of the helpers was trying to find a fire extinguisher, I quickly tore off my beloved gray hoodie and beat the flames out with it.
I bought the car anyway. And enjoyed it, driving it through five different states over the next five-plus years.
And it never caught on fire again. (posted 9/8/11, permalink)
"Toto, I Have A Feeling We're Not In Stratos Anymore." Lancias were rarely seen in the U.S. but in Europe, it was an iconic brand since its founding in 1906.
Lancia has a long tradition of producing fast touring, sports and racing cars. Memorable ones, too - like the Lancia Aurelia luxury touring car of the 1950s and its successor, the Flaminia. Or the Stratos and the ultra-wedgy Stratos HF concept car. And even the ill-fated, mid-engined Scorpion of the 1970s.
Now, in perhaps the ultimate case of badge engineering, the Chrysler 200 (nee Sebring) convertible is offered as Lancia Flavia Cabrio.
That subterranean hum you hear is founder Vincenzo Lancia spinning in his grave at 6,000 rpm. (posted 9/6/11, permalink)
Clear Sale: The Plexiglas-bodied 1940 Pontiac 'Ghost Car' crossed the auction block for $308,000 recently.
It was constructed for and exhibited as part of the General Motors Highways and Horizons exhibit at the 1939-40 New York World's Fair.
I saw this car make its entrance on the display field at Pebble Beach in 1996. It was eerie to see the radiator fan twirling - driven by a white rubber fan belt - as the car cruised slowly by. (posted 8/3/11, permalink)
This Brought Back Memories: Hemmings has posted a story with photos about the-off Mercer Cobra show car, a Virgil Exner redesign of a classic American automobile reinterpreted to contemporary tastes. I saw the Mercer-Cobra in person at the New York Auto Show in the mid-1960s.
"Funded by the Copper Development Association and built by Carrozzeria Sibona-Bassano of Turin, the Mercer-Cobra was finished in late 1964 and whisked off to a world tour promoting the CDA." RM sold it at Monterey for $600,000. (posted 7/20/11, permalink)
American Graffiti, Philadelphia-Style: I always enjoy watching the 1973 movie, 'American Graffiti'. Set in 1962, it's about a couple of high schools grads who spend on one night hanging out, cruising the strip with their buddies before they go off to college. I can identify with it because of the time frame - I graduated from high school in '61 - but have trouble relating to the California setting and the coolness of the cars in the film.
In the 1950s and early '60s, my East Coast adolescent reality was much different than the 'American Graffiti' kids.
California was (and still is) still much more car-centric than Philadelphia. Most of my friends in high school didn't have cool rides. My school buddies who were car guys couldn't do much work on vehicles because of the heavy academic load at our prep school, a lack of funds, too little free time and nowhere to carry out automotive work. Most of us had crappy minimum-wage summer jobs but had no after-school employment to fund car projects. The intense academic pace kept us plenty busy.
No one at St. Joe's Prep had neat cars like those in 'American Graffiti'. No Suzanne Somers in a white T-Bird. (Of course not. It was an all-boys school.)
No mint-condition, desirable hot rods, either. (No hot rods of any kind, that I can recall.) No one owned a chopped and channeled 1932 Ford. Or a '55 Crown Vicky.
My school friends were mostly ... (more >>>)
Art I Can Appreciate: Yesterday, my wife and I accompanied our daughter and her fiancé to the outstanding 'Allure of the Automobile' at the Portland Art Museum.
It has been described as "the first exhibition to consider the stylistic development of cars in the context of prominent design movements such as Art Moderne and Postwar Modernity."
There were 16 cars on display, with a total value of $81.2 million. I have posted four pages of car photos, starting here. (posted 7/13/11, permalink)
Perception Is Reality: My wife related something she witnessed on 'Jeopardy' late last month. Host Alex Trebek asked a contestant the identity of the luxury auto brand whose logo depicts a stylized calipers. She didn't know the answer.
When told it was Acura, the contestant replied incredulously, "Acura's a luxury brand!?" (posted 7/8/11, permalink)
California - Now Even Bigger: The Great California Adventure was an early 2002 meet-up between me and my good friend and fellow car nut, Ray, to check out every car, train and model train attraction in Southern California. A trip report is posted here.
When I first posted photos of our trip, the image sizes were small ... because almost everyone still had dial-up. The other day, I rescanned and resized some of the photos. I have reposted them in larger format here. (posted 5/27/11, permalink)
For That Kind Of Money, You Could Buy 320 Brand-new Hyundai Accents: Recently, a 1970 Plymouth Hemi Cuda was offered on Hemmings.com for $3,200,000. (posted 5/17/11, permalink)
Ultimate What? To mark the 125th anniversary of the automobile, Auto News Europe is hosting a poll to determine which car represents the Ultimate Legend on Wheels.
The Citroën DS is apparently a major contender. The list is populated with entries from each of the last 13 decades, and includes names like the Jaguar E-type, Mercedes-Benz 300SL, Ford Mustang, BMW 2002 and Porsche 911.
Back in 2007, I compiled a list of 'Ten Cars That Changed Everything' - automobiles which have had the most impact on the auto industry and, in many cases, society. The winners weren't necessarily my favorite cars (they're probably not all your favorites either) and many weren't automotive best sellers.
That's OK, because my list wasn't a popularity contest; rather, it was a recognition of those cars which had the most profound impact. (posted 5/12/11, permalink)
Limited Promotion: I've recently learned that the 1:25 scale plastic promotional models for the 2011 Corvette are now available and selling for $36 or so. Sadly, the Corvette is the last American brand to be offered as a promo. The miniature Corvettes were injection-molded, assembled and finished in China.
Once upon a time, it was believed that little cars helped sell big cars. Starting in the 1920s, Citroën actively assisted toy manufacturers, freely supplying technical details to toymakers and acting as a distributor, selling little cars in its dealerships. The theory was that young children would bond to the brand of auto and, as adults, would be more prone to purchase the full-size namesake. Or persuade their fathers to buy the full-size model. It was just one more way to build brand loyalty in the marketplace.
In the late '40s ... (more >>>)
Preferred Parking: A segment on last week's Top Gear, featuring a Ferrari F40 supercar, triggered a memory.
In the early 1990s, we often dined at the Couch Street Fish House (it closed in 2000) in the questionable neighborhood (aka - seedy, filled with drunks and drifters) of Old Town Portland. The establishment had a small valet lot and, when we arrived in my Lincoln Mark VII, the car was always buried in obscurity amongst the other vehicular iron. When I purchased my new '92 Twin Turbo Nissan 300ZX and fitted it with chrome wheels, the valets parked it right next to the door, like a piece of automotive jewelry.
One evening, I exited the restaurant and found my Z buried amongst the more plebeian vehicles. It had been dethroned; a low-slung, red Ferrari F40 was parked by the door. Fame - especially car fame - is fleeting.
I just learned that Couch Street's affable host, Sherwood Dudley, who was until recently the maitre d' at El Gaucho in downtown Portland, has moved up the street to Wilfs in the Union Train Station. (posted 3/21/11, permalink)
Tire Tales: I've read a lot of online commentary praising Michelin tires. I've not have good luck with them. My Nissan 300ZX, both of my Lincolns and my wife's Avalon came with Michelins as original equipment.
I didn't think much of the tires - they rode hard, wore fast and the M+S all-weathers were lousy in snow. And unexceptional in the rain.
The Michelins were replaced with either Pirellis or Toyos. I've had particularly good experiences with Pirelli tires.
Ray, a friend of mine wrote, "I stopped buying Michelin after my two Michelin All-Terrain WXR truck tires 'chunked' on the beltway at 55 mph. I complained to the company and they cut me short by telling me their truck tires aren't guaranteed because of severe service.
Hell, I don't boondock, don't go off road and always check my pressures frequently.
After arguing ... (more >>>)
Why Not Attach Playing Cards To The Wheels With Clothespins? According to the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, "New vehicles that employ hybrid or electric engine technology can be silent, rendering them extremely dangerous in situations where vehicles and pedestrians come into proximity with each other." (posted 3/9/11, permalink)
Am I Blue? A friend recently asked me about blue-tinted auto glass. I have never seen any in a production car, probably because blue is not very good as an ultraviolet absorber and heat reflector.
Back in 1981 or so, a guy named Mark approached my plastics manufacturing company, asking if we would produce tinted-blue Plexiglas windows and windshields for his custom car. The vehicle was a one-off fiberglass creature that he had designed and had built. It was a very impressive-looking, two-seater, mid-engined sports car. The auto was to be finished in metallic blue paint and he wanted to carry the blue theme into the windows.
Mark made the molds; we modified them so they'd work better and we did the heating and forming. All parts were complex, three-dimensional curvilinear shapes, even the side windows. A couple of months after we completed the work, he came back with photos of the finished car. Mark was very happy with our work, commenting that we were the only people on the West Coast willing to tackle the job. But we never saw the guy or the vehicle again.
I wonder where the car is now? (posted 3/6/11, permalink)
If I Were Very Rich, More Agile ... and thirty years younger, I'd buy a Koenigsegg Agera. It has a twin-turbo 5.0-liter V8 that pushes out 940 horsepower tied to a seven-speed tranny.
And, in a world full of ugly supercars, it looks quite nice. (posted 3/4/11, permalink)
Book Review: 'Overhaul: An Insider's Account of the Obama Administration's Emergency Rescue of the Auto Industry' by Steven Rattner
This is a good book, written by a uniquely informed source. I have criticized the philosophy of the auto bailouts and some of the solutions implemented but I learned much from the Rattner's book. Thankfully, the author has created an interesting, fast-paced read.
Rattner has a good command of the facts and, while he clearly has a liberal point of view, he spreads criticism and praise exactly where he feels it belongs, regardless of political philosophy or party affiliation.
Some reviewers have called this page-turner "self-serving." Maybe, but Steve's book is the first out and right now its the only game in town.
When the auto bailouts were first proposed ... (more >>>)
Best Car-Related Dialogue ... from The Simpsons: Realizing that Homer and Marge are being too nice, Bart exclaims, "That's it! They're selling us to be crash test dummies."
Lisa implores, "Oh please, let it be Volvo!" (posted 1/28/11, permalink)
Cadillac Town Car: Hemmings has reported that RM Auctions will offer a spiffy 1956 Cadillac concept car at its Amelia Island auction in March.
Officially known as the Eldorado Brougham Town Car, this opulent exercise was part of the 1956 GM Motorama. The styling foretold the look of the $13,000 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham four-door hardtop of 1957-58.
The passenger compartment of the Town Car contained "such items as a radio-telephone combination, air-conditioning equipment, a women's vanity compartment, cigar humidor and thermos bottle."
Nothing says luxury better than a thermos bottle. (Remember Steve Martin in 'The Jerk'?)
It keeps hot things hot and cold things cold. How does it know which is which? (posted 1/18/11, permalink)
Sleeper Buses: I had never heard of them before but road vehicles with Pullman-style accommodations were cruising the nation's highways and byways in the 1930s.
Last month, I watched the 1939 movie 'Babes In Arms', starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. In one scene, Judy boards a double-decker sleeper bus to travel from ... (more >>>)
A Fool And His Money Are Soon Parted: The silliest product I've seen this year is a super lightweight $120 carbon fiber license plate frame. If saving vehicle weight is that critical, don't put any frame around your plate.
The same company offers carbon fiber valve stem caps for $25 per set. Or a key ring for $40. Ridiculous. (posted 11/23/2009, permalink)
Where's The Passion? During a January 1987 trip to Arizona, we met some of my wife's uncles and aunts who were snowbirding from places like North Dakota, Montana and Colorado. When we pulled up in my white '87 Ford Thunderbird rental car, the uncles came running out ... to look over the car. "What's it got in it?" "Stick or automatic?" "How many speeds?" "What's the axle ratio?" I knew the T-Bird was a V-6 with a four-speed automatic and that the popular rental companies didn't even offer manual transmissions anymore but I didn't expect to be quizzed about the rear axle ratio.
We quickly headed to a local cafe for 'second breakfast'. The portions were huge. The women sat at one table; the men another. At our table, the breakfast conversation was mostly about cars. And axle ratios. Everybody at the table knew theirs - to two decimal places - except me.
They were disappointed by that but were happy to learn that my personal car at home had a V-8. "That 302's a sweet motor," said one. "Got pretty decent git-up-n-scoot," opined another. They had less to say about my wife's brand-new Honda Accord. "Don't know much about that Jap stuff," one muttered. They teased one of the group, whose daughter had a Fiat X1/9: "How's her tin can of Spaghetti-Os runnin' these days?"
These men drove mostly full-size GM and Ford products. All were custom-ordered from their local small town dealer. They sat next to the salesman and checked the option boxes together - one by one. No bundled 'packages' for them. They enjoyed their new cars and traded them every few years for another new one. And they kept track of who bought their old one. "You know ol' Barney, he's still drivin' my '77 Caprice. She still looks nice, too. He keeps her up purty good."
It wasn't that my wife's uncles were car guys, they just knew their machinery ... and how to spec it out. They had a passion for machinery.
All of these men are now dead. A new generation of car buyers has emerged, who know nothing about axle ratios, engine sizes or anything else. Challenge them on it and they'll respond, "Do you know the horsepower of the electric motor on your washer? Or dryer?" A logical question from people who see cars as appliances. (posted 7/1/09, permalink)
Power Dome: General Motors CEO Fritz Henderson certainly has the corporate look. His forehead resembles the hood of a 1953 GMC COE truck.
Proof That People Still Have Too Much Money: Regardless of the economy and/or the stock market, people are still buying stuff like this from Hammacher Schlemmer:
$1,500 and it doesn't even have a battery. (But I guess it's still a bargain compared to ... say ... the Chevy Volt.) Hard to blame HS, though. They know their customers and are successful at what they do.
The company has been in business continuously since 1848. In 1878, the firm was among the first companies to install a telephone in their store as well as one of the original subscribers to the Bell Telephone Directory, setting a precedence of innovation. In 1988, Hammacher Schlemmer became one of the first retailers to go on the Internet with CompuServe. (posted 12/1/2008, permalink)
Chromania: I love chrome. Therefore, I'm jealous of those 1950s Canadians who could buy cars which looked like American ones but had 23 extra pounds of shiny stuff. Compare the 1956 Ford Fairlane with the 1956 Meteor Rideau:
But there's just something about lots of chrome ... come to think of it, the Museum of Modern Art would look a lot better if it were chrome-plated. It would also make it easier to clean off all the pigeon droppings. (posted 8/5/2005, permalink)
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The facts presented in this blog are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Probably.
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If I have slandered any brands of automobiles, either expressly or inadvertently, they're most likely crap cars and deserve it. Automobile manufacturers should be aware that they always have the option of trying to change my mind by providing me with vehicles to test drive.
If I have slandered any people or corporations in this blog, either expressly or inadvertently, they should buy me strong drinks (and an expensive meal) and try to prove to me that they're not the jerks I've portrayed them to be. If you're buying, I'm willing to listen.
Don't be shy - try a bribe. It might help.