Wednesday August 31, 2005
Prayers and good wishes to all who are suffering because of Hurricane Katrina. There are many ways to help these folks - Catholic Charities is one.
Long Wait: It looks the Bugatti may finally produce the oft-hyped, never-made Veyron in 2006. Perhaps that equally overhyped California car, the Vector W2 Twin Turbo, will finally be made. It's been around since '81. I saw one on display in Las Vegas in the mid-1980s.
In my opinion, the Vector is the Tucker of the late 20th Century. The Veyron may be the Tucker of the 21st.
Winners and Losers: Harbour Consulting reports that General Motors lost an average of $1,227 per vehicle sold in North America during the first half of 2005.
Ford had a loss of $139 per vehicle, while DaimlerChrysler produced a profit of $186.
Nissan led the world's biggest automakers with a profit of $1,826 per vehicle, followed by Toyota with $1,488 and Honda with $1,203.
Amazing Honda: The 2006 Civic that is has an engine that's physically smaller and lighter, has a larger swept area, has more power, and that consumes less fuel than its predecessor. As if that wasn't enough, they followed this feat with a revised hybrid powertrain that is smaller, more powerful, and more fuel efficient. (permalink)
Darwin Award Nominees: Three men trying to steal fuel from a New Zealand farm ended up setting fire to their own car. Police said the trio had siphoned diesel into a petrol-driven vehicle. When their car would not start, they examined the fuel pipe using a cigarette lighter. Idiots!
Hitch: I don't always agree with Christopher Hitchens but he has a lengthy, thoughtful and generally positive article about the War on Terror in The Weekly Standard. Excerpt: "I am one of those who believe, uncynically, that Osama bin Laden did us all a service (and holy war a great disservice) by his mad decision to assault the American homeland four years ago. Had he not made this world-historical mistake, we would have been able to add a Talibanized and nuclear-armed Pakistan to our list of the threats we failed to recognize in time."
Last week, the ever-superficial and vacuous but sometimes amusing Wonkette reported that he/she watched The Daily Show's Jon Stewart "very politely and quietly handing Christopher Hitchens his ass. The thing about Christopher Hitchens is that no matter how wrong or drunk he is, he always sounds like he's making sense. It's an impenetrable articulateness that makes him a compelling talking head even when he's talking out of his ass. He doesn't often fail to get the last word, but Jon Stewart just beat him to it."
This is very odd. I watched the same show and observed Stewart interrupting Hitch and changing the subject in a rude attempt at one-upmanship. Hitchens seemed sober and not hung over and was just trying to be polite and civil.
Jon Stewart can be a funny guy when he's not channeling his arrogance or political bias.
If I Were President ... is a Spleenville entry by Andrea Harris: "If I were the president, I would:
a.) Abolish the federal income tax, and
b.) Raise the price of gas to ten dollars a gallon at the pumps nationwide.
Then I would state that every single dollar (minus the individual gas stations' profit margins) made from this price increase would be spent on 1) printing the money, 2) maintaining the country's roads, and 3) go to the military for the war effort. ...
Andrea continues: "As for the reaction such an increase in the price of gas would cause … well, it certainly would be entertaining, in a "look at all the ants run around when you hold a magifying glass in the sun above their hill" way. Let’s just say if I hear or read one more whine about the horrible expensive gas that we are somehow entitled to have for cheap because we're Americans! and we didn't all vote for that Chimpler Bush and his war for oil! it won’t be too soon.
I say this as someone who plans to buy a car in the next month or two. What the hell, it would be worth paying over a hundred dollars to fill my tank just to see the heads of these entitlement babies explode."
I like the term Entitlement Babies. (hat tip - Relapsed Catholic)
Headline Of The Day is from Scrappleface: 'California Sues Over French Fry 'Second-Hand Salt'. "Just a day after the state of California filed a lawsuit aimed at requiring cancer warning labels on containers of french fries and potato chips, the state attorney general's office announced that it would also file suit later this week in an effort to 'spare our citizens from the dangers of second-hand salt.'"
Tuesday August 30, 2005
Bad Sign: General Motors will extend its employee-pricing discount plan on select 2005 models until Sept. 30, and apply the discount to "select" 2006 full-size pickups and sport-utility vehicles. I visualize flop-sweat and general panic down at The Tubes.
Saturday's Detroit Free Press carried the headline: 'Ford will launch its Fusion with discount'. This is not a good sign either - making deals on a brand spankin' new model. Has Ford no confidence in the pricing of this significant, just-introduced car? Meanwhile, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota seem to be staying cool and dry.
Obviously His Self-Portrait: German police have arrested a 31-year-old man who vandalizing 330 cars by scratching penis-shaped gouges into them.
Stick To Tires: Michelin wants to extend its brand beyond tires to vehicle accessories, sports, work and leisure shoes, and apparel as well as products, such as toys and gifts, that play on Michelin’s long heritage and culture and leverage the cachet of Bibendum, the Michelin Man.
Today's Michelin Man is a smiling creampuff - an oversized cousin of the Pillsbury Doughboy. The original Bibendum was hard-drinking, bespeckled and monster-mouthed, sort of Babbitt meets Frankenstein. He probably frightened small children. Now he's sunk to cartoon toy level.
A few years ago, Michelin created a new subsidiary, Michelin Lifestyle Unlimited, to further its ambitious intentions. Recently, Michelin and French tennis specialist Babolat have announced they would introduce a new line of tennis shoes to the U.S. market. The soles are made using technology and materials from Michelin's Pilot tires.
Michelin used to make great tires. The last two OEM Michelin sets on our new cars were crap. I replaced both with something else.
Michelin needs to stop screwing around with toys, shoes, etc. and get back to making great tires again.
Hummers Are For Wusses: Meet the Buffalo. Don't try to cut me off when I'm cruising down the road in this baby.
Good Versus Evil: Ben Stein pens a nice tribute to President Bush.
"Media Force Field": Peter Bronson authors a must-read article on media bias for the Cincinnati Enquirer. I just wish mainstream media would provide both sides of the many stories they cover. In too many cases, they don't even try.
I don't expect to get balanced reporting from blogs - most (including this one) are opinion pages rather than news sites. Although a few blogs do excellent and unique investigative reporting. Thank goodness, because most of the newspapers I see are devolving into mere outlets for syndicated columns, AP photos and wire service stories.
In the past five years, our local paper has replaced its business columnists, travel writer, car tester and movie reviewer with generic nationally syndicated pap. Then they wonder why circulation is tanking.
Fictionalized News: The New York Times makes up quotes from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for its own purposes, apparently.
Where's Allegheny? France and Belgium have published separate blacklists of airlines banned from their territory on safety grounds.
Quote Of The Day is from a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times after seeing ads for Dove skincare products featuring plus-sized models: "The only time I want to see a thigh that big is in a bucket with bread crumbs on it.''
Monday August 29, 2005
Facel Fetish: Billy Joel (a guy you should never ... I mean never ... loan your car to) once sang about obsession: "We all have a face that we hide away forever ..."
I have always been secretly obsessed with early Facel Vegas. I've promised myself that I would never buy a real one - too rare, difficult to get replacement parts, etc. So, I comfort myself by viewing them at car shows, buying books and models.
Last week, I purchased a 1:43 scale model of a 1955 Facel Vega in gunmetal gray - made in China by Ixo, a French firm. It's a nicely-made, well-detailed model and even has the correct Parisian amber 'city' headlamps of the period.
This model was hard to find. It was announced and catalogued by Ixo but was apparently discontinued after only a small number were made. I got one of the few brought in to the U.S. Chanceux.
Good News: Citing a need to maintain homeland security in the Pacific Northwest, the Defense Realignment and Closure Commission panel voted unanimously to keep an Air National Guard fighter wing in Portland, OR - the only air-defense unit in the region.
The 142nd's F-15 fighters, based at Portland International Airport, have been responsible for regular patrols from California to British Columbia since the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings and airline attacks. For three days after the East Coast attacks, the Air Guard fighters were aloft 24 hours a day defending possible Northwest targets.
The pilots are trained in air-to-air defense, and the F-15s are capable of shooting down other aircraft or cruise missiles. If the Pentagon recommendation had gone forward, the nearest squadron of air-defense fighters would have been in Fresno, CA. Or Denver, CO.
That's too far for comfort. Or effectiveness.
From The Folks Who Invented The Amazing One-Sweep Broom: Here's a good idea: "Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law should get out ..."
Love-Hate Relationship: I've been tearing my hair out over computer crap. I have long neglected my business web page - constructed in 1998 or so - and it looked old and funky. I decided to update and redesign it using the new Adobe GoLive software that I purchased when I got my new Mac in 2003.
I eliminated a lot of old doorway pages - things which were important in the early years of search engine optimization but which are no longer relevant. (Anybody else remember Go, Excite, Northern Light, InfoSeek and all those other "important" search engines which have faded into obscurity? Or oblivion?) Clunky graphics and out-of-style colors were given the ol' heave-ho.
Animated mail box icons, rotating pencils and other embarrassing dreck were banished. I also updated and re-edited a lot of the information contained on the site. I worked this project most of last week - until I was cross-eyed - but was finally satisfied with the on-screen look, feel and operation of the site.
So, I uploaded it - it looked great on my Safari browser but the pages were out-of-kilter on Internet Explorer. (Curse ye, Bill Gates.) I tried a fix but it only partly solved the problem. Every time I wanted to look at it on a PC with IE, I drove downtown to an office - a 27-mile round trip.
Finally, I finally realized how stupid this was. So, I telephoned my daughter at her office - where she has a PC with the IE browser. We sat in front of our respective computer screens and she described what she was seeing so I could tweak and change things on the fly.
The site is finally fixed ... I think ... I hope.
Conclusion and Quote of the Day: Technology is wonderful - except when it's a major pain in the ass. You may quote me on this.
Friday August 26, 2005
Nice Butt! I was driving behind a new Hyundai Sonata sedan yesterday for several blocks.
The back end was very pleasant - a Honda Accord derivative - but this V-6 model had two big herkin', chromed exhaust pipes which gave it a more muscular look.
The dark blue paint seemed flawless and all the shutlines I could see were straight and tight.
If I needed a new car, I'd actually consider this Hyundai.
Losing Sleep Worrying That We're Running Out Of Oil? Take comfort from Thomas Sowell's fine article.
However .... we do use too much oil - most of it for transportation.
(Don't believe it? Here's a chart.)
The dollars we spend for oil are flying out of the U.S. and some of these dollars are being used to support terrorism.
I'm for a future filled with less-thirsty vehicles and practical, alternative fuel sources.
Quote Of The Day: "Apathy and denial are two of the best qualities in lowering stress."
Thursday August 25, 2005
Termination Notice: Ford Motor Co. announced that production of the Lincoln LS will end with the 2006 model year.
The LS never struck a chord with consumers, who saw it as neither sporty enough nor luxurious enough to compete with BMWs or other premium brands, according to Karl Brauer, editor in chief of Edmunds.com. "There was always a question of what exactly the car was supposed to be. It never seemed to have a real strong identity one way or the other."
Sales last year fell 20% to 28,000, and sales are down 18% so far in 2005, despite swelling incentives. Recently, new Lincoln LS models have been selling at a $7,500 discount from sticker price. In its debut year (2000), more than 50,000 Lincoln LSs were sold.
I road tested a Lincoln LS sport model in 2000 - article here.
Geezer Dreams: Victor and Thelma Hayes, a Canadian couple - both almost 90, won a $7.5 million lottery jackpot. They live in a retirement home and have no plans to move. Says Victor, "We plan on helping out our kids and maybe buy a Lincoln. I've never had one."
Note to Lincoln: If your product has become an aspirational brand for the extremely elderly, you're in really deep trouble.
Photos Of Balloons In Mid-Pop: A group of volunteers pop balloons with pins while high-speed cameras snap away.
Quote Of The Day is from The Simpsons' Mr. Burn's toadying assistant, Smithers: "Sir, I'm afraid we have a bad image, people see you as a bit of an ogre."
Montgomery Burns, wealthy owner of the Springfield Nuclear Plant and gubernatorial candidate, replies: "Why, I ought to club them and eat their bones! Ironic, isn't it Smithers?
This anonymous clan of slack-jawed troglodytes has cost me the election, and yet, if I were to have them killed, I would be the one to go to jail.
That's democracy for you."
Wednesday August 24, 2005
I Feel Cleaner And Greener Already: Despite an effort by auto industry lobbyists to kill the move, two Pacific Northwest States - Oregon and Washington - are getting ready to adopt California's new vehicle emission standards to reduce greenhouse gases.
By 2016, all new cars, SUVs and light trucks sold in the West Coast states would have to comply with the tougher standards on emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which are believed to be a leading cause of global warming.
This Cat's Exhausting: It's the latest Hello Kitty car accessory.
Where's The Mainstream Media? This is a fascinating and uplifting story about Iraq, reported by Melanie Morgan.
Quote Of The Day is from Woody Allen: "Dying is one of the few things that can be done as easily lying down."
Tuesday August 23, 2005
Twenty-First Century Drought? Last Friday, I wrote about the reactions of people from 1965 to 2005 model year vehicles and the amazing features such machines offer. I left out cupholders. After inspecting a 2005 car, a '65 guy/gal would probably conclude that, in the future, the human race is very thirsty.
Demographics: Last week, the Detroit News published an interesting article on vehicle buyer demographics. I have reproduced the data in table form:
The numbers in red represent percentage change since 1995.
I offer the following observations:
1. In all categories, new car buyers are significantly older than they were ten years ago. This may indicate that younger buyers are shifting more to used vehicles. This trend may be caused by a) higher prices of new vehicles and b) more sophisticated, factory-sponsored 'certified' programs for pre-owned cars and light trucks. Such programs now move over one million vehicles per year.
2. Ten years ago, Korean cars were purchased by younger, less-educated, poorer buyers. Today, the typical Korean brand buyer has moved closer to the domestic vehicle buyer demography. Korean vehicles are going mainstream; they are no longer perceived as cheap junk for gullible youths.
3. European car buyers are slightly younger, better-educated and a lot richer than other car buyers. Over the past decade, purchasers of Japanese brands have moved closer to European buyers in income and education level. This change may be partly due to the ever-increasing sales of Japanese luxury brands - Acura, Infiniti and Lexus.
4. Looking at ten year trends, there is nothing demographically to indicate that domestic brands are 'doomed', despite all the hand-wringing in the press and in blogs (including - sometimes - this one). Folks who buy Detroit iron are, increasingly better educated and substantially wealthier than they were a decade ago.
Quote Of The Day is from Mark Vaughn in AutoWeek. He writes a lukewarm and enjoyably flip review of the new 2006 Chevrolet HHR - a reincarnation (according to Chevy) of the 1949 Chevrolet Suburban, a vehicle Chevy claims is the "wellspring of all things SUV."
Vaughn quips, "That may be the case if you look at all SUVs from a certain angle and in the proper lighting conditions and after a few Heinekens - and if you conveniently forget about the whole Willys Jeep 4x4 station wagon thing from 1947."
Monday August 22, 2005
Death In The Family: Last week, our Sharp Carousel microwave passed away at age four. It probably had a fatal myocardial infarction from all the greasy junk food it had cooked during its brief life. Healthy food always seems to be prepared in an oven, stove or grill, while the unhealthy - albeit tasty - stuff gets zapped.
There is something tantalizing about watching grated cheese melt over a rotating pile of nachos. It seemed almost ballet-like - a 35-second performance of 'Cholesterol Lake'.
Our late microwave had a 3-inch LCD screen which counted down the time. When the cooking was done, a little chef appeared on-screen (with chef's hat, funny mustache and 'OK' hand signal) with the message "Enjoy!" Neither of us were watching when the Sharp bit the dust, but I suspect the chef grimaced, grabbed at his chest and produced the message "Aaaarrrrrgh!"
Cheffie, we hardly knew ye. (permalink)
Vehicle Sighting: I passed a GMC Motorhome on Interstate 205 just north of Portland last week. Produced from 1973 through '78, these units were powered by a 455 cubic-inch Oldsmobile engine mated to a Turbohydramatic 425 transmission with torsion bar suspension. Because these RVs were front-wheel drive - ala Olds Toronado - they had a lower, flatter floor than the competition.
The two-axle, rear suspension drew on GM's bus design, using dual swing arms with a single air spring on each side. Thirty-plus years later, the design still looks fresh.
Car Pix: The Auto Prophet has photoblogged the 2005 Woodward Dream Cruise. AutoBlog has a bunch of photos too - see its Saturday and Sunday postings.
Worse Than Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot Combined: Author Andrew Kenney writes that over 50,000,000 people died in the 20th Century because of the gratuitous recklessness of eco-extremists. "In purely numerical terms," says Kenney about the alleged murderous scheme, "It was the worst crime of the 20th century." But what was the worst crime?
"The banning of DDT," says Kenney. Junkscience.com claims that "in the 1960s, World Health Organization authorities believed there was no alternative to the overpopulation problem but to assure than up to 40 percent of the children in poor nations would die of malaria. As an official of the Agency for International Development stated, 'Rather dead than alive and riotously reproducing'." That's certainly cold-hearted.
Read the entire article and draw your own conclusions. (hat tip - Relapsed Catholic)
Quote Of The Day is something I overheard last week: "Why should I pay for tire rotation? Every time I drive, they rotate."
Friday August 19, 2005
Back To The Future: Kris - a friend of mine from the Lincoln Club whose daily driver is a BMW 330i - asked, "If people from 40 years ago could see today's cars, what do you think they'd say?" I'm not sure what exclamations of surprise they'd use but here are ten reasons why they'd be awed:
1. Everyday, low-cost cars offer so ... (more >>>)
Turning Expensive: A Ferrari F-1 steering wheel costs $25,000 (!!), notes Core 77.
Amusing Headline Of The Day is from The Onion: "Chardonnay Vomited Into NPR Tote".
Thursday August 18, 2005
Lincoln-Acura Venture? Bob Elton at The Truth About Cars proposed that these two brands join forces: "The most likely incarnation of this cooperative effort would be a Lincoln LS replacement and a new, upscale Acura. Imagine an LS-sized car with a V8, rear-wheel-drive and an air suspension with active controls tied into an advanced stability system. Trim it out to Acura standards, build it with Honda quality and sell it for the price of a 3-Series BMW. Follow it with coupe and convertible versions, and Lincoln and Acura would both be able to compete head-on with BMW, Mercedes, et al. The Lincoln coupe and convertible versions could reclaim the Mark name from pickup truck hell, and restore the Mark to its rightful place in the automotive hierarchy."
Elton points out that "Ford has sufficient manufacturing capacity to supply Acura with their superb 4.6-liter, DOHC, 239 hp V8. Lincoln's torquey powerplant has all the features a modern luxury car engine requires: variable valve timing, multiple valves and aluminum construction. If Acura felt a need for more power, Ford's expertise with supercharging would certainly come in handy." He adds: "The new Acura model could even use Lincoln’s superb distribution network. It may sound crazy, but Lincoln dealers are consistently rated among the highest for customer satisfaction; they have tremendous experience selling to luxury car owners and providing them with an appropriate level of after-sales service."
This is an interesting idea. Earlier this year, when buying a new car, I was leery of the two area Acura dealers. Both are multi-brand operations and I've had disappointing experiences with each. My brother just ordered a new TSX (6-speed manual); his local dealer is an Acura Dealership of Distinction Award winner with an excellent reputation. But if this venture better get going quickly - while there are still some Lincoln dealers left.
Looks Delicious, Hard To Digest: Small cars, including Smart cars and Mini Coopers - driving through a safari park in England, have been chased by confused lions who think they are prey.
Sweeping Statement: Last week I mentioned the One-Sweep Broom - 'The Most Advanced Broom Ever Created' - as seen on TV. I wonder if Ron Popeil ever wakes up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, regretting that it wasn't his idea. Popeil is founder of the Ronco Corporation and the Grand Old Man of infomercials.
It must bug him that his products are far more complex than the One-Sweep Broom. His Rotisserie & Barbecue or Automatic Pasta Maker with Homemade Sausage Attachments require complex innards - motors, gears, levers and must pass U.L. testing.
I wonder if Ron ever thinks, "That lucky Aussie SOB has got the simplest product on the universe - it's just a molded rubber piece on a stick for Pete's sake. I should have stuck with the Vegomatic. Or the Pocket Fisherman."
Quote of the Day is from the late Dorothy Parker, who once remarked about a too-friendly starlet: "She was the original good time that was had by all."
Wednesday August 17, 2005
Car Sighting: Last week, I ended up driving beside a mid-1980s red Audi 100 sedan. The car was in beautiful, showroom-new condition. The design still looked fresh as well. Introduced in 1983, this third-generation Audi offered clean sleek aerodynamic styling not seen before in a production four-door sedan.
I've always been amazed that Jack Telnack got so much applause for the 1986 Taurus design. To me, it was a rip-off of the '83 Audi. The shallowness of Telnack's design vision became apparent when his uninspired, hardly-changed, second-generation model was launched and when the disastrous, trout-faced, third-generation 1996 Taurus was unveiled. (It remains the only car that ever had its looks improved with the addition of a front-end bra.)
The Honda Accords of the early '90s borrowed heavily from the tail end of the 1983 Audi.
VW Bugs: Why are recent model Volkswagens so trouble-prone? Doug Flint offers an explanation.
Diddy Vs. Kitty: Why spend money on P Diddy custom wheels when you can install Hello Kitty custom headlights?
Expensive Squeeze: Every year, the Clark County Building Industry Association stages a showcase of pricey, new McMansions, called the 'Parade of Homes'.
This year, it's in the small town of Washougal - east of Vancouver, WA. Prices of these nine residences range from $650,000 to $900,000.
But the space between the homes is so small, it would be difficult to stage a parade, even if the participants walked single file.
Good Eats: Last week, my wife and I had breakfast at Dulin's Village Cafe - supposed to have the best breakfast in town. Both of us were impressed with the quality (and quantity) of food. We'll be back. Dulin's is at the corner of Main Street and McLoughlin Boulevard in downtown Vancouver, Washington.
Fantasy Of The Day: I don't know about you, but I'd be willing to pay to watch Greta Van Susteren and Rita Cosby mud wrestle in Aruba.
Quote Of The Day is from Groucho Marx: "She got her good looks from her father. He's a plastic surgeon."
Tuesday August 16, 2005
Goin' Belly Up: Last week, Ray - a good friend, regular reader and car enthusiast - wrote me about the crisis with American car companies. Ray suggested that "the major players would ultimately declare Chapter 11 (like the airlines), dumping the pension liabilities on the American public, then butt heads with Toyota without the heavy overhead. ... GM could surprise everyone with a ploy that would bring GM Chinese-built cars and trucks into America ($60 per month wages) and undercut everyone."
I wrote a quick reply that it seemed a plausible scenario, adding the quip: "If it happens, I wonder if anyone will be able to harness the power of all the finger pointing to propel hybrid cars."
Since then, I've given the matter more serious thought. While Chapter 11 is a real possibility for either Ford or General Motors - given their financial weakness, near-junk bond ratings, not-so-wonderful future product plans (no mainstream-model home runs in sight) and continuing pressure from Asian competitors (particularly Toyota and Hyundai), I don't think such a bankruptcy would solve Ford's or GM's problems.
I'm not a lawyer - much less an expert in bankruptcy law - but here are some observations:
1. Bankruptcy hasn't helped United or US Air very much. Sure, they dumped their pension liabilities. But the courts enforced the labor agreements with most - if not all - of their unions, so the airlines still struggle to compete with lower-cost Jet Blue and Southwest.
Even in bankruptcy, union contracts are difficult, if not impossible to break. And, if health care is in the contract - those costs won't be easily reduced. Except for retirees, who may get screwed.
2. All major component suppliers will get stiffed and be pissed off. These vendors will respond either by declaring the contract null-and-void and raising prices sharply or (if they can't afford to lose the account) cutting corners to make more money, producing low-quality crap.
A friend in the auto business told me that that's why Jaguars were so awful in the pre-Ford era. The old Jaguar paid slowly and casually. When Ford bought Jaguar, bills got paid on time and Ford demanded better component quality. It was immediately delivered by now-happy suppliers.
3. Here's another supplier trick: "If you haven't paid for the tooling, we own it." This may or may not be legal but it goes before the court to decide. (Meanwhile, any smart supplier will ship the tooling to an out-of-state subsidiary and play other games to hide it. When deposed, the standard response can be, "Gee, I don't know where it is. I shipped it to our plant manager, Vinnie, in Nevada. Guess you'll have to depose him." Vinnie will disclose that he forwarded it to Phil in Arizona, who now must be contacted and deposed. Etc. Etc.)
While filings and cross-complaints are being made and depositions taken, production grinds to a halt. (New tooling is not an option here - a set of taillight molds for a particular car may cost $300,000 or more. And take months to make.) Meanwhile, you can't sell Ford Fusions or Pontiac G6s if they don't have taillights. The usual solution to such problems involves payoffs and new, under-the-table deals which are neither disclosed to nor approved by the bankruptcy court. The end result is components will now cost even more money for the bankrupt automaker.
4. Moving components and assembly offshore can't be done overnight. (Besides, you've got to get the tooling first. As you can see from the aforementioned, good luck with that.) And, in bankruptcy, time is not always on your side.
5. Sales will suffer. The taint of bankruptcy will drive prospective Ford and GM customers into the arms of other car companies. No one wants to own an 'orphan' car. And the public perception is that, if you declare bankruptcy, you might close up shop. And leave them hanging.
6. Bankruptcy courts are unpredictable. A court may demand that the company sell off profitable segments - the crown jewels - to pay off creditors and fund a turnaround attempt for the remainder of the corporation.
What would happen to GM if it were forced to auction off Corvette and Cadillac? Or if Ford had to sell off its truck division? Neither scenario is likely. But when you go Chapter 11, you're spinning the roulette wheel.
7. Bankrupt firms operate under strict funds disbursement policies established by the bankruptcy court. These policies favor the creditors - at least the secured ones. (Woe betide the smaller, unsecured creditors - they're usually screwed.) For obvious reasons, lenders typically will severely restrict credit to firms in Chapter 11. And it's hard for a bankrupt firm to raise money in the capital markets.
These factors combine to choke off funding for future product development. "No hybrid or six-speed automatic tranny money for you, buddy. Just keep cranking out those Buick LaCrosses. But ya can move the chrome around a little bit to make 'em look different. As long as it doesn't cost much."
8. In the car biz, no future product development = no future. Just ask Studebaker.
Elvis Died Today in 1977. I was in Chicago on a business trip. I had finished a meeting and was driving a Buick Century rental car east on I-90 headed toward South Bend, when the news came over the radio. I don't know why I remember these details but I was wearing a gray, three-piece suit with a button-down shirt and maroon tie.
I watched the news that night (in a depressingly dark motel room) and saw a clip of a young Elvis performing 'Ready Teddy' on The Ed Sullivan Show. In 1956, he was an awesome talent.
The Random Goldberg-ism Generator is an amusing marvelous time-waster. It's a humorous take-off on the colorful, creative vocabulary of writer and National Review Editor-At-Large, Jonah Goldberg. Just go to the site, fill in the name you want and hit the 'Go' button.
Here are two samples: "John Kerry is a beady-eyed, mixed-up, dangerous, pesky moron." And: "The Daily Kos is a jabbering, bogus, drooling, scummy sissy." Heh-heh.
Quote Of The Day is from Grandpa Simpson, reminiscing about the past: "Ah, yes, the Roaring Twenties - when Al Capone did the Charleston on top of the Empire State Building! ... I wore an onion around my neck. It was the style at the time."
Monday August 15, 2005
Car Sighting: On Saturday, I used the Plymouth for a photo shoot - for the new cover of the next edition of my business book, which will be out sometime in 2006. (You may think I'm jumping the gun here, but try getting a good shot at deadline time - during the dark days of January or February. In the Pacific Northwest, you gotta take advantage of sunshine when you get it.)
I noticed that the battery seemed a little run down; it was slow cranking on start-up. Then I found the cause - a short in the kill-switch wiring. Now fixed. But I decided to take a little ride to recharge the battery. I was driving down a virtually deserted back road when I spotted a strange car coming from the opposite direction. Whazzzat? It turned out to be a white and red 1966 English Ford Cortina GT.
These little 84 horsepower chuggers were a rare sight even when new. In fact, the last time I remember seeing one was at the 1966 New York Auto Show.
'The English Patient' is an interesting and comprehensive tale about Jaguar published in The Times UK. In the 15 years since it bought British luxury car firm, Ford has put over $4.5 billion into Jaguar, while watching it produce net losses of almost $2.2 billion. In 1987-88 - prior to Ford's buyout, Jaguar began a round of talks with possible suitors, including BMW, Daimler Benz and Toyota. All demurred.
Toyota made the smartest move of all - starting from scratch with its own luxury brand (Lexus) rather than trying to purchase luxury heritage. The success of Lexus - turning an unknown name into a household word in less than 15 years is amazing and will provide fodder for many business school theses for years to come. (I've actually heard someone describe an appliance as "the Lexus of coffemakers". This kinda reminds me of a character, played by Ricki Lake in some forgettable '90s movie, exclaiming, "Ooooh, a Rolls Royce! That's like the Cadillac of cars, isn't it?!")
In the end, Jaguar's search narrowed to Ford and General Motors, the world's largest car companies. Ford outbid GM, offering £1.6 billion pounds for the entire company. In hindsight, GM should have thrown a big party celebrating Ford's stupidity. Instead, GM sulked for a little while and then showed that it could be just as brainless by buying Saab and a piece of Fiat.
Jaguar ran up hefty losses in the five years after the change in ownership, but in 1995 broke into the black. Over the next five years it was profitable. But after 2001, it suffered three straight years of huge losses.
Professor Peter Cooke of the Nottingham Business School believes that Ford's basic problem was a rapid rise in the number of competitors: "When Ford bought Jaguar it was in a small upmarket niche. Now that niche has swollen and everyone has crowded into it, from above and below. Mercedes and BMW have become much more powerful competitors, while Toyota has produced Lexus and in America, one of Jaguar's most important markets, Nissan has launched the Infiniti brand."
Jaguar has also struggled against adverse exchange rates. About half its sales come from America. As production has ratcheted up, the dollar has dropped in value, making Jaguar sales here far less lucrative. In a January 2005 posting, I suggested that Jaguar move some of it's production to the underutilized Lincoln plant in Wixom, MI, since the Jaguar S-Type and Lincoln LS share the same platform. Now that Wixom is closing, it's no longer an option.
Ford's overall financial woes will pressure the company to make Jaguar a profitable entity in short order or get rid of it. Who might be a prospective buyer? I think cash-flush Hyundai would be first in line. (hat tip - Just Auto)
Flunking The Eyeball Test: The Chevrolet HHR is supposed to be GM's answer to the PT Cruiser. But when Paul and Anita Leinert took an HHR to the local Dairy Queen drive-in, no one noticed: "We parked our HHR there one night, ran in and got the dog her usual vanilla cone and watched as people passed, none of them turning a head or asking to see the car. ... When you step into the novelty vehicle market, we concluded, you'd better be prepared to break a new path - one that stops traffic. As nice as the Chevrolet HHR is, it's apparently not unique enough to draw a crowd."
People don't buy new Beetles, PT Cruisers, Ford Thunderbirds and the like for practicality - there are more sensible alternatives. These vehicles are bought for their 'look-at-me' value. If nobody's looking, then nobody's buying either.
In April 2005, I described this vehicle as "the redundant, too-late HHR." And called it a 'Losermobile' back on January 4th of this year. Guess I was right.
Quote Of The Day is from the late columnist Earl Wilson: "Always remember, money isn't everything - but also remember to make a lot of it before talking such fool nonsense."
Friday August 12, 2005
Car Sightings: I'm seeing more sedans on the road these days - mostly Asian brands (I've only seen one Ford Five Hundred since its introduction.) and fewer large SUVs. I still see a lot of full-size pick-up trucks - mostly Ford and Chevy, many with names/logos on the sides (i.e. - used in business by contractors, etc.).
I drove my Plymouth to client meetings on Thursday and gassed it up. Paid $2.629 for Premium at Costco - the cheapest place around. Holy cow! People with those gigantic SUVs are forking over $60 or more to fill up. And with the lousy mileage they're getting, they'll be coming back often.
If gas stays in the $2.50-$3.00 range for any length of time, I think there will be even a bigger shift in car-buying patterns. This may be the final nail in the coffin for the big truck-based SUVs. Owners will probably replace them with smaller, more economical, car-based vehicles.
Earlier this week, I glimpsed a mid-30s Chevy pickup hot rod painted in Chinese red - think 80% cherry/10% salmon. It looked sweet.
Not A Fighter: Paul and Anita Lienert don't think too much of the 2006 Saturn Ion Red Line, saying that "it has enough niggling problems and flaws - distorted windshield glass, trim pieces that don't always fit tightly, a cramped rear seat, door trim panels that look like they were designed by Fisher-Price - to keep it from contending for first place."
Saturn is GM's self-described "import fighter" brand. After 16 years, this is the best they can do? Disgraceful.
Lincoln News: Lincoln's future sedan plans may include two vehicles spun from the platform that has already bred the Ford Five Hundred/Freestyle/Montego trio. Automotive News reports that Lincoln will follow its new Zephyr sedan due this fall with a pair of upscale sedans based on the Volvo/Ford platform.
The new sedans would replace the LS in 2007. A larger four-door would bow in 2008 and may be dubbed the Continental. Both would be powered by a version of the Yamaha-built 4.4-liter V-8 recently introduced in the Volvo XC90 sedan.
These vehicles would be built in a former Taurus plant in Atlanta alongside a new Lincoln crossover vehicle - probably a signal that the Wixom, MI plant - which has been producing Lincolns since the 1958 model year - will be shuttered.
I have more thoughts on Lincoln posted here.
When Nixon And Polyester Ruled: Last weekend, I watched 'The Seven Ups', a movie made in 1973 - starring Rory Scheider. The cars were awful, the clothes were hideous, loud, doubleknit patterns and muttonchop sideburns were everywhere.
There was a very impressive inner-city chase, full of squealing tires, fleeing pedestrians, bouncing over curbs, etc. featuring a 1973 big-bumpered, ill-handling Pontiac Bonneville driven masterfully through New York City by Bill Hickman - a very talented stuntman and the Dodge Charger driver in 'Bullitt'. Bad-guy Hickman was being pursued by NYC undercover detective Scheider, driving a silver Pontiac Ventura (rebadged Chevy Nova), which gets destroyed spectacularly - having its roof sheared off as it crashes into a tractor trailer.
Director Philip D'Antoni previously produced 'Bullitt' and 'The French Connection' and, therefore, does good car chases. The movie takes place during an icy winter - the bare trees, graffitied buildings and NY elevated cars provide a bleak movie backdrop. Later there's a shootout and foot chase in a muddy New Jersey wasteland, filmed as trains roar by on the old Pennsylvania Railroad four-track Broadway. I spotted two GG-1 pantographed electric locomotives - a dirty silver one in AMTRAK colors, the other still wearing the somber black Penn Central colors with the non-descript, obsolete PC logo.
I enjoyed the movie's action scenes but had forgotten how crappy the 1970s really were. Especially the cars of '73 - the first year of 5-mph bumpers. Most manufacturers simply stuck ugly, oversized bumpers on the front and rear of cars, mounted far away from the body. There was little design integration and most of these 'safety' bumpers were reminiscent of medieval battering rams.
Quote of the Day comes from an old issue of CAR, which commented on the massive amount of development work done to produce a next generation (2004) Audi A3 that is almost exactly the same as the model it replaces by employing a quotation from the Roman poet and philosopher Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus): "Parturent montes, nascetur ridiculus mus." ("The mountains labored to give birth to a silly little mouse.")
Thursday August 11, 2005
Still Another Car Magazine: Primedia is offering 'Motor Trend Classic', a new magazine "aimed at the classic car enthusiast." Motor Trend Classic will publish two issues in 2005 with an initial circulation of 200,000, and will increase frequency to bi-monthly in 2006.
The cover price is $5.99. Primedia also publishes Motor Trend, Automobile and Hot Rod. I saw an issue on the newsstand yesterday.
I thumbed through it and was not particularly impressed. Collectible Automobile has much better photos and better writing. I've posted additional thoughts about car mags here.
It's Frankie Avalon: Your Emblem will create a custom chrome-plated nameplate for your car to be applied individually using adhesive. The cost is $3.49 a letter. Maybe I'll buy 'Frankie' for my wife's Toyota. (hat tip - AutoBlog)
Juxtaposition: I have just finished struggling through the very weighty novel, 'Windswept House', by the late Malachi Martin. A former Jesuit once stationed at the Vatican, Martin's novel posits that the Catholic Church is inhabited by Vatican Satanists who are destroying the Church from within by replacing old traditions with fluff.
Then I read this week's church bulletin, which urged everyone to attend St. Joseph's parish ice cream social. Activities include "special Blessing of the wonderful new corner Church sign ... followed by the unannounced Squirt Gun Competition." Everyone is advised to "BYOT - Bring Your Own Towel."
Headline Of The Day is from The Onion: "Wounded Celebrity Heroically Drags Self Down Red Carpet".
Quote Of The Day is from The Simpsons' TV news anchor, Kent Brockman: "Things aren't as happy as they used to be down here at the unemployment office. Joblessness is no longer just for philosophy majors. Useful people are starting to feel the pinch.
And in environmental news, scientists have announced that Springfield's air is now only dangerous to children and the elderly."
Wednesday August 10, 2005
Sign Of Things To Come: "Ford Motor Co., in another cost-cutting move, is consolidating its Ford, Lincoln and Mercury marketing divisions, and reducing by two-thirds the number of field offices that support its 4,445 Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealerships nationwide." Pretty soon all Ford marques will be the same thing with "brands" becoming mere trim levels. This move is the first step.
I Wonder What This Might Lead To? DaimlerChrysler AG has been asked for a written statement and documents regarding its role in the U.N.'s oil-for-food program, according to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Looking Good: I am always skeptical of factory-issued photos of new cars, with professional staging and lighting. Too often, the vehicle never looks that good in person. But The Auto Prophet has snapped some photos of the new Pontiac Solstice parked in his neighborhood. Even in everyday ambient lighting, the car looks like a winner.
Another Way ... to misuse new technology.
Quotes Of The Day are from Thomas Sowell: "If there was affirmative action in golf, nobody would give Tiger Woods half the credit he gets - and deserves." And: "People have a right to their own cultures - even Americans. Those who come here and say that they cannot follow some of our laws that conflict with their culture are free to leave."
Tuesday August 9, 2005
Garage Sale: Robert Farago writes about General Motors selling off 60% of GMAC's commercial mortgage division: "The bottom line is clear: The General is hawking the family silver. The only solidly profitable part of the entire corporation is being sold off piecemeal to increase GM's liquidity. It's the long-predicted beginning of the end."
Duked Out: I am sooooo tired of all the hype about 'The Dukes of Hazzard'. I never watched the TV version either. I'm old and not Southern. And the car chases were lame.
I guess I'm not the demographic.
Playing With Toys: It's relaxing. It's necessary. Just ask Achewood.
My 15 Minutes Of Fame: Thanks to Little Green Footballs, Michelle Malkin, Relapsed Catholic, Captain's Quarters, Don Luskin, Econopundit, Car Pundit and everyone else who linked to my posting yesterday about The Daily Kos and bandwidth theft (aka - hotlinking). Kos has not personally contacted me but did post a notice on his site that such things are "a potentially bannable offense". Yet, my image was still up on Kos site late yesterday afternoon (the last time I checked). Go figure.
I have received numerous e-mails from Kos supporters, demanding that I "apologize."
Yeah, right. Sit by your telephone. Wait for my call.
Many of Kos' fans wrote nasty things, several were so vile that my e-mail program thought they were porn and put them in the 'Junk' folder.
One abominable viper wished cancer on my family and me.
Another writer accused me of having "a right-wing site, cleverly disguised as a car site" (huh?) and "waiting in the bushes to pounce on The Daily Kos." Actually, I was aware of Kos' existence only because of the occasional mention on Instapundit. But I had never visited the site. I found out about the hotlinking when I checked my server logs - something I do very infrequently, since my site is not ad-driven.
At least three others labeled me as "another whiny Republican." Baloney. I didn't whine; I took action. Then I wrote about it. And tried to make the story funny and interesting.
I did receive a nice note from one Kos individual contributor (not the poster who hotlinked my graphic), who wrote: "Simply as an individual (again, NOT speaking for Markos or any of the others who run Daily Kos), I apologize ..." I sent a thank-you reply. His/her e-mail was a much-appreciated rose in a sea of fertilizer.
Thanks as well to the many folks (both conservative and liberal) who wrote and enjoyed the humor in my response to this situation. Or applauded what I did. Or looked at the blog itself and found it enjoyable. (I hope you'll visit again.) Several made suggestions about how to prevent hotlinking in the future. I'm grateful and plan to look into these ideas.
I'm pleased to report that the Nasty-Grams have mostly subsided. The mob has moved on. The Kos poster who stole my bandwidth has e-mailed me and apologized. I've accepted it. And, as far as I'm concerned, the matter is closed.
Here's A Toast: Moderate drinkers are better thinkers than teetotallers or those who overindulge. Research by the Australian National University in Canberra suggests drinking in moderation boost your brainpower. A study of 7,000 people in their early 20s, 40s and 60s found that those who drank within safe limits had better verbal skills, memory and speed of thinking than those at the extremes of the drinking spectrum.
The safe consumption level was considered to be 14 to 28 standard drinks a week for a man and seven to 14 for a woman. 28 drinks a week?! I mostly drink on weekends, so that's 14 per day for me.
By the way, this study validates Cliff Claven and his Buffalo Theory.
Inventive Australia: The above study is just more proof that Australians are great scientists. Life-changing products, for which we can thank Australia, include penicillin, the black box found on airliners, differential gearsets, Kiwi shoe polish, Vegemite and, of course, the One-Sweep Broom ('The Most Advanced Broom Ever Created') - as seen on TV.
And, speaking of 'As Seen On TV', let's not forget the miracle cookware from the '80s demonstrated by that little Australian guy with the bow tie. And the Magic Bullet kitchen mixer.
Peter Jennings: Our daily newspaper described him as 'suave' - a perfect, one-word description.
If Peter had an English accent and a dinner jacket, he would have made a great James Bond in the 1980s. (Better than the atrocious Timothy Dalton - that's for sure.)
I almost never watched ABC News but was very impressed when Jennings played straight man to Jon Stewart during an 'Indecision 2000' skit on The Daily Show. He did it with courtesy and class. Rest in Peace.
Quote Of The Day is from columnist Charles Krauthammer: "The world hates us for our wealth, our success, our power. They hate us into incoherence. The Europeans disdain us for our excessive religiosity while the Arab world despises us as purveyors of secularism. We are widely reviled as enemies of Islam, yet in the 1990s, we engaged three times in combat - in the Persian Gulf and in the Balkans to rescue Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo - Muslim peoples all. And in the last two cases, there was nothing in it for the U.S.; it was humanitarianism and good international citizenship of the highest order. The search for logic in anti-Americanism is fruitless. It is in the air the world breathes. Its roots are envy and self-loathing."
Monday August 8, 2005
Siphoning Fuel: The Daily Kos, a liberal, high-traffic blog has posted something from my little blog on his. Sort of.
What he did was set up a page (on July 11th) that pulled one of my graphics directly from my server, using my bandwidth to power part of his blog so to speak. No credit, acknowledgement, hat tip, or link to my site, however. (Thanks for nothing, jerk.)
This is the equivalent of siphoning gas from my little old Plymouth coupe to fuel his big party limo.
Talk about a Limousine Liberal.
Geezer Report: An 87 year-old man accidentally drives off in wrong Chrysler New Yorker. He explained: "I got into the vehicle accidentally. The key worked." Why did this happen? Because all 87 year-olds drive Chrysler New Yorkers. With padded vinyl roofs.
Up! Up! Up! Upon reflection, the most amazing thing about July's auto sales figures is that two niche brands are waaaay up. Saab sales increased a whopping 94%. Land Rover did even better with a sales increase of 110%.
Good News: Thomas Loeb, a Vanguard mutual fund manager, is quite bullish on the market. Loeb told The New York Times that he has only seen stocks this cheap, relative to bonds, six other times, and several times this came at the end of bear markets, giving investors big returns in the following 12 months.
Killing PBS: John Stossel makes a compelling case.
A Lesson For The U.S.: A British publication decries that "without an abnormally large Muslim population by European standards, (the U.K.) has become the continent's capital of Islamo-fascism." Key sentence: "The British government has bankrolled this self-segregation by printing official forms, including, of course, for welfare benefits, in various immigrant languages, ensuring that immigrants can live not only on welfare but in isolation." This is another reason why, in the U.S., we should have only one official language - English.
Connections: A new book reveals Hitler's secret ally and his direct links to today's Islamic terrorists. "... as Pope Pius XII worked to save Jews from the Nazis, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, became Hitler's staunch ally and a promoter of the Holocaust, with a legacy that feeds radical Islam today." (hat tip - Relapsed Catholic)
Best Headlines Of Last Week ... were from the always-entertaining Scrappleface: 'King Fahd's Burial Boosts Fossil Fuel Reserves' and 'Air America Hires Dan Rather as Scandal Spokesman'.
Quote of the Day is from James Lileks, describing his daughter's favorite marshmallow-laced cereal thusly: "The marshmallows give the milk the whitish-blue tint of an asphyxiated albino."
Friday August 5, 2005
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:
Yes, yes, I like the clean look of the minimally-chromed '53 Studebaker Starlight coupe, 1956-57 Continental Mark II, '61 Lincoln Continental and 1963-67 Corvette Sting Ray. And all those classics designated as design milestones by the Museum of Modern Art.
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 make it easier to clean off all the pigeon droppings, too.
Thursday August 4, 2005
Death Knoll: Lincoln has released pricing for its various 2006 models. The LS is now a one-level, one-price model.
Based on prior FoMoCo history, this is a clear signal that the LS will be discontinued.
Much-Traveled 'Stang: Last week, I sold one of my model cars. It was a 1:43 scale model 1964.5 Mustang convertible, made by Precision Miniatures - a now-defunct company in Southern California. I purchased it new from a dealer in Connecticut in 1984 and had it shipped to my home in Oregon.
When we moved to Washington, I packed the little Mustang in its box and took it with us. Now, it has traveled back to Connecticut; its new owner is taking the model to France this month as a gift for a friend. Yet, in 21 years, the odometer hasn't changed one iota!
Speaking Of Connecticut: Saddam's armored Mercedes 560 now resides there.
1 MP3 = Huge Punch Card Stack: Ain't technology swell? Forty-plus years ago, I was teaching fellow students how to program in FORTRAN using punch cards. Consider this ... assuming a non-Hollerith encoding with eight bits per column, and an MP3 file encoded at 128kbps CBR, there would be 36,864 cards in a comparable punch card deck - the 21 boxes of cards needed would by 5 feet 9 inches tall. Amazing!
Whatever Happened To Christendom? Once upon a time, Europe would justly refer to itself as 'Christendom.' "Europeans built the continent's loveliest edifices to accommodate their acts of worship. As pilgrims, missionaries and conquistadors, they sailed to the four corners of the earth, intent on converting the heathen to the true faith."
"Today, barely 20 per cent of West Europeans attend church services at least once a week, compared with 47 per cent of North Americans and 82 per cent of West Africans. Less than half of western Europeans say God is a "very important" part of their lives. And fully 15 per cent of western Europeans deny that there is any kind of "spirit, God or life force" - seven times the American figure."
Last year, a survey revealed that, in an average week, more Muslims attend a mosque than Anglicans go to church.
Miracles Happen: A brain-dead pregnant woman, who has been kept on life support to give her child more time to develop, gave birth to a baby girl Tuesday. Susan Anne Catherine Torres weighs one pound 13 ounces and is 13 1/2 inches long.
Susan Torres, a 26-year-old researcher at the National Institutes of Health, lost consciousness from a stroke May 7 after aggressive melanoma spread to her brain. Pray for good health for this tiny and blessed gift.
The Sound Of .... a suspicious package which "emitted a strange sound when touched" caused an Australian bus driver to call police. It turned out to be a whoopee cushion.
Headline from The Onion: "Bicycle-Riding Circus Bear Pedals Back To Natural Habitat".
Quote Of The Day is from Montgomery Burns, the evil owner of the Springfield nuclear power plant on The Simpsons: "Men, there is a little crippled boy sitting in a hospital who wants you to win this game. I know because I crippled him myself to inspire you!"
Wednesday August 3, 2005
High Zoot: The Daimler Super Eight is a gussied-up version of the long-wheelbase Jaguar sedan and features the Daimler fluted grille. It's coming soon and will be priced at $140,000. The Vanden Plas models, sold in the U.S. from the late 1980s through 2003, were basically Daimlers with Jaguar badges.
The Vanden Plas featured the fluted Daimler grille (a Daimler feature since the dawn of the automotive age - early models featured fluted ribs on the top of the radiator to help dissipate heat.)
VDPs also had more upscale interiors than "ordinary" Jaguars with more wood and color-contrasted piping on the leather seats.
The IRA and Islam: David Frum writes about the recent decision by the Irish Republican Army to renounce violence: "The IRA lost because it lost its constituency. The IRA drew support from three groups: angry Catholics in the north of Ireland; militant nationalists in the south; and nostalgic donors in the United States."
Donations from the U.S. have waned. It was common, in the 1970s, to be in any Irish bar in the eastern U.S. and see a jar being passed around with a request to toss in a couple of bucks to "help our lads in the old country." But continuing negative publicity, new anti-terror laws and a new-found distaste for terrorism by any name has dried up the flow of funds.
Frum continues: "Southern nationalists are no longer so militant. A tidal wave of wealth has inundated southern Ireland, submerging a lot of ancient quarrels. Per-capita GDP in Eire has overtaken Britain’s and far exceeds that of the north. The southern Irish see what it cost West Germany to absorb the East, and a great many of them are content to let the British underwrite the rustbelt North."
Frum predicts, "When the day comes that Islamic terrorism fades away, it will not happen because the number of violent people in the Islamic world has fallen to zero. It will happen because the constituency for violence has shrunk away to the point where political authorities can effectively isolate and suppress the violent."
And This Guy Is Handling Your Money: At the end of his winning Senate campaign in 2000, now-Majority Leader Bill Frist still had about $1 million on hand. Frist's campaign committee decided to invest that $1 million in mutual funds.
According to the most recent financial report filed by the Frist campaign, the original $1 million mutual fund investment is now down to only $290,000! (hat tip - Fund Alarm)
Quote Of The Day is from columnist Thomas Sowell: "Reading letters from liberals makes me fear that they are going to dislocate their shoulders from patting themselves on the back so much. The way they tell it, the reason they differ from others is that they are so much more compassionate, aware, concerned, nuanced, sophisticated and - yes - just plain smarter."
Tuesday August 2, 2005
Costly Parking: Daily parking rates have shot up roughly 7% over the past 12 months. Monthly, unreserved rates hit a high of $798 in midtown New York City. Living away from big cities has allowed me to continue to park for free.
My wife and I generally avoid downtown Portland restaurants and shops because parking is a nightmare and there are plenty of places to choose from in the suburbs. When we dined in downtown Portland two years ago, four hours worth of valet parking was $26.
Parking costs certainly have increased over the years. In 1965, it cost $10 per day to valet park my Corvette in mid-town Manhattan. When we first moved to Corvallis, Oregon in the late 1970s, metered parking was 5¢ per hour; parking fines were $3.00 per offense.
I remember being in downtown San Francisco in the mid-80s and feeling outraged because a park-it-yourself garage charged me $6 for an hour's worth of parking.
Best News So Far This Month: Ancient White House press corps veteran troll Helen Thomas, now a columnist for Hearst Newspapers, told The Hill that if "Dick Cheney is going to run for President, I'll kill myself."
Run, Dick, run!
Car Sightings: On Saturday, we dined at Shenanigans on the Columbia. (Shenanigans used to be on the Willamette River; it's now located in a waterfront hotel on the Columbia River. The food and service are still very good.) When we arrived, we were greeted by the sight of a bunch of Corvairs in the hotel's parking lot - the Corvair Club was having a regional meet. There were lots of stock and modified examples of the 1960-69 GM breed.
It was interesting to inspect the early Corvairs. Paint colors were very basic and had little depth - much like cars of the 1940s. In the early 1960s, there was a real difference between the paint on an economy car and the deeper, metallic colors offered on more expensive autos. This difference had largely disappeared by the late 1960s - early 1970s. Today, we expect rich paint on every car.
I have two Corvair memories. One of my college buddies had a girlfriend named Katie. She bought a new 1964 Corvair turbo convertible. In dark blue. It was a wonderful car and had a stabilizer bar on the rear suspension too minimize oversteer and prevent jacking. It was very fast.
In 1967, I carpooled with a guy who drove a '67 Corvair Monza coupe. This one had the fully-independent suspension and was an impressive car. The later models were really nice cars but the brand was painted with the brush of disgrace by Ralph Nader. Corvair deserved better.
On Sunday morning, I spotted a black '56 Thunderbird at a gas station in Battle Ground and, in the afternoon, a young blonde wearing a straw hat was zooming down the road in a gorgeous black 1969 Corvette coupe.
Quote Of The Day is from the late columnist Earl Wilson: "Benjamin Franklin may have discovered electricity, but it was the man who invented the meter who made the money."
Monday August 1, 2005
Final Ride: Mercedes-Benz is very coy about categorizing its new R500. It's too tall for a station wagon, too low for a minivan and doesn't have enough ground clearance to be an SUV. And it's expensive. What is it?
Add some chrome landau bars and all will be revealed ... it's a hearse!
Oily Jag: Wintonsworld tested the new V-6 diesel-engined Jaguar XJ sedan. It's not available here, where gas is less than half the price the Brits pay. I believe that diesel will not become a significant factor in the U.S. until:
1) gas hits $6.00 per gallon and
2) all the people who have horror stories to tell about diesels they bought in the early 1980s are dead or senile.
Diesel: it's the Esperanto of fuels.
Frankengate? Al Franken claims to be a man of the people and champion of the underdog. He spends his days ranting about heartless Republicans on liberal radio network Air America. And is planning to run for Congress.
Now the New York Department of Investigation is looking into whether hundreds of thousands of dollars were illegally transferred from a Bronx community center to Air America. The Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club is a nonprofit organization that runs mentoring programs for children and day care for Alzheimer's patients.
Investigators found "significant inappropriate transactions and falsified documents that were submitted to various City agencies."
Crackpot-nomics: At National Review's blog, John Podhoretz noted that the U.S. economic growth "will be revised upward next month to around 3.8%. Which means the economy has grown at a rate of slightly less than 4% a year for the past two years. And they wonder why there's a) low inflation b) low interest rates c) home appreciation and d) Americans who don't know anything about macroeconomics not knowing that they're living in a miraculously good economic period presided over by President Bush and the Republican Congress."
Tongue firmly in cheek, Jonah Goldberg remarked, "I could have sworn, reading Paul Krugman, that we were hair's width from a barter economy, where we eat grass and wake up to the sound of "bring out your dead!" every other morning."
Paul Krugman is, of course, the usually-wrong, doomsayer economics "expert" who writes for the New York Times.
Krugman is frequently "fisked" by the always-insightful Don Luskin.
Those Wacky Canadians: It's time to add a new verse to Monty Python's 'Lumberjack Song'. The Canadian Supreme Court today declined to hear a case involving the private copying levy and its application to the Apple iPod. While some are celebrating, the decision effectively renders copying CDs onto an iPod unlawful in Canada.
A Lotta Balls: Ever wonder what it would look like if someone released 10,000 superballs on a steep hill in San Francisco? Photos here. And here. (hat tip - Boing Boing)
Quote Of The Day is from columnist Thomas Sowell: "We seem to be getting closer and closer to a situation where nobody is responsible for what they did but we are all responsible for what somebody else did."