a blog about cars, car blog

The View Through The Windshield
A Blog About Cars ... and Everything Else I See
by Joe Sherlock

Tuesday February 28, 2006

Motel Hell: I'm a member of the Jaguar Club of Oregon (JOCO). The members are a fine bunch of car people. I don't attend many events because of schedule conflicts. The ones I've been to were most enjoyable. JOCO's annual Christmas parties are fun events. I didn't make the one in 2005 but, based on reports in the club's newsletter, I'm glad I didn't. It was awful.

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The culprit, according to the JOCO folks, was the Shilo Inn - a chain of 50 or so motels in the Western U.S. The banquet service at the Beaverton, Oregon facility was execrable, apparently. A report in JOCO's newsletter states that "the food was cold and the London Broil was so tough, it was close to inedible. For some, one bite was enough. ... (C)offee was a serve yourself in paper cups."

The manager was summoned and refused rectify the situation, offering a lame 14% reduction from the $1,000+ bill.

After repeated attempts to resolve the problem, the club wrote to Mark Hemstreet, president of Shilo Inns, letting him know that "the club members, many who are also members of other car and social clubs, have decided to convey a message to never again have an event at a Shilo Inn. We have now put this behind us but we thought we owned you an explanation of why members will not patronize any of your facilities again."

JOCO is run by a reasonable group of people; therefore, I have no reason to doubt the account of the club's bad experience. I have had mixed experiences with Shilo Inns. In the early 1980s, Shilo offered nice accommodations at a reasonable price. Experiences in the late '80s and early '90s were less satisfying; there seemed to be a lot of variation in the condition and management of various properties.

In 2002 or so, many of the Shilo properties filed for bankruptcy. (They have since emerged from Chapters 11.) But there have been recent negative postings on the web about overpriced accommodations, poor service, and hotels in need of remodeling.

Based on the shabby treatment of The Jaguar Club, I'll never patronize a Shilo Inn again.

Off-Road Law Enforcement: The Wall Street Journal 'Corrections' page states that "the name of the NBC television series 'Law & Order SVU' was incorrectly referred to as 'Law & Order SUV' in some editions."

Quote Of The Day is from Jeremy Clarkson: "The current Peugeot range is a bit like John Major's sock drawer. An endless grey world featuring nothing you would even want to steal."

Monday February 27, 2006

It's About Me ... Me ... Me: I am achy and bruised. On Thursday, I visited my internist. He is pleased with almost all of my bloodwork numbers (weight down, blood pressure down, triglycerides down over 24%, LDL cholesterol down by 32%) but my HDL cholesterol (aka - "good cholesterol") is still too low.

This is a fairly big deal because low HDL cholesterol levels are a risk factor for heart disease and further heart damage. While there is some scientific evidence that HDL will come back on its own as one's weight drops further, I have increased my level of exercise to make it more 'aerobic'. Aerobic exercise is another way to boost HDL levels. The increased exercise time is tiring however.

Later on Thursday, we carted many boxes of items from a deceased relative's home to our church's annual rummage sale. More exercise. Then, back home and more treadmill work. But it's about more than just exercise. I have also made further dietary changes to improve my HDL numbers. And began taking fish oil capsules, since they tend to raise HDL values and I don't eat fish. (Yeah, I know. What am I doing living in the Pacific Northwest? I should be living next to a feedlot in Montana.)

On Friday, after another bout on the treadmill, I began to dismantle the train layout. This involves bending, bumping and stretching to remove vehicles, trains, trolleys, tunnel entrances, mountain sections and buildings from the layout and packing each away in its proper box. All of the boxes are stored either upstairs or in the basement, so many trips up and down the steps were required. By afternoon, I was quite tired and sore.

On Saturday, my wife, my kids and I muscled the remainder of train layout from the living room to its storage space in the detached garage. We also moved the heavy steel 'rockers' into the garage's storage room. Everything went especially well, since there was a break in the winter Northwest rain and we actually made the move with dry (but overcast) weather on dry ground. From prior experience, I know that it's no fun setting up the necessary ramps (to get the wood behemoth over the front door's threshold and down the front step) in a downpour.

No one was killed or maimed in this move - a good thing. The layout is now 'at rest' and will be resurrected in November for next Christmas.

With all the activity and miscellaneous bumping-into-things over the last few days, I have enough bruises that I look as if I've been in a brawl with a stevedore. This, of course, is because of the blood thinners I'm taking.

Despite all of the above whining and complaining, I believe I am on the road to better health. My internist feels the same. I'll get my HDL numbers rechecked in early May.

The Cobbler's Children ... have no shoes and the cobbler himself apparently has blisters on both feet.

H&R Block has screwed up its own taxes.

Quote Of The Day is from an old Letterman joke, recalled by Kathy Shaidle: "If Che Guevara were still alive ... he'd be pounding frantically on the lid of his coffin."

Friday February 24, 2006

What Was Ed Smokin'? In an interview with Ward's Auto, GM's head of global design, Ed Welburn, discussed future design trends for GM's brands:

Cadillac - a bold statement, with a high level of sophistication, not bland or boring. The new CTS sedan will kick off the evolved Cadillac look.
Saturn - a European theme tied to the Opel brand
Buick - very sophisticated for its market segment. A premium American design, refined and well-appointed.
Pontiac - sporty, youthful and agile design that says "seductive performance"
GMC trucks - "industrial precision"
Chevy trucks - a "heavy-duty" signature
Saab - will get a strong jet aircraft identification
Chevrolet - includes performance as a key element, but with designs regionalized to suit Chevy's global markets.

This is a classic case of corporate gobbledegook-speak. For the uninitiated, gobbledegook is a bunch of highfalutin' words which mean nothing. (In other words, horseshit.) These GBPSs (Gobbledegook Brand Philosophical Statements) will later be communicated to potential consumers by the Advertising Department.

My thoughts: GM versus Chevy trucks - what the hell is the difference between "industrial precision" and "heavy-duty"? In fact, what the hell is the difference between GM and Chevy trucks?

Saturn becomes an Opel - oooh ... and Opel has done sooooo well in the U.S. Anyone remember the Opel Catera ... oops, I mean Cadillac Catera? Or the 1960 Opel Rekord, sold by Buick dealers as a Lil' Roadmaster ... or was it Roadmeister?

Are Saabs going to be jet-powered or have a bubble canopy? Or rocket launchers? Will they be able to land on the top deck of a parking garage as a fighter jet does on an aircraft carrier?

What is Buick's "market segment"? It seems to be 70 year-old geezers with canes and hearing aids? I had to drive through an over-55 mobile home park yesterday. Average age of the residents was probably seventy-something. Every other car was a Buick. In various shades of red or beige.

And Chevy "includes performance as a key element." Ummmm, doesn't every car do this? As opposed to non-performance, I mean? I had a friend with an old '61 Rambler American which did have "non-performance as a key element." The engine had seized.

Ian, a poster on AutoBlog, defined Pontiac as "we make our dash lights red so you'll never notice the check engine light." Heh-heh.

Truths And Myths ... about car manufacturing in America and the effect of foreign-owned auto plants. Good article.

"I'm Enraged By Your Nonexistent Dog!" Manisha Koirala and her Persian cats, Mischief and Morgan, are under police protection after her dog's name, Mustafa, sparked protests among Muslim fundamentalists.

But, the puzzled Bollywood actress doesn't even have a dog.

Fall Fashion Forecast: The Easter Bunny goes Goth.

Non-Essential Invention Of The Week: $10 motorized ice-cream cone holder is perfect for lazy people with lazy tongues. Or those with a substantial fear of cone-twirling.

Bad Pun Of The Day: A midget fortune-teller who escapes from prison is a small medium at large.

Wednesday February 22, 2006

Heard On The Radio: Brand spankin' new 2006 Cadillac Escalades at $12,000 off sticker price. Come and git 'em.

Another reason to short GM stock, methinks.

Outta Lifeboats? "Hmmmm. Maybe this Titanic deck chair will float." General Motors said Annette Clayton, its North American vice president of quality, is leaving at the end of this month for a job outside the auto industry.

Good News: States no longer will have to add ethanol or MTBE to gasoline to fight pollution - a requirement that costs as much as 8 cents a gallon (and wrecks gas mileage) under rules announced by the Environmental Protection Agency.

In the winter, all of my cars drop 2-3 mpg. The culprit is that dreaded 'winter gas'. It's crap.

Hurrah! This 'fuel' won't be around next year. As Martha Stewart would say, "It's a good thing."

Which Of These Doesn't Belong? At least I'm not the only one who doesn't like the odd fender flares on the new Mercedes S-class.

Dan Neil writes: "The ninth generation of the S-class is not, strictly speaking, a beautiful car. It's big and handsome, thick with Teutonic propriety, bright with chrome tracery and properly grand, with a wind-sleek skin of glass and steel (drag coefficient of 0.27) so elegantly enameled as to look like cloisonné. And then there are the oddly prominent, compass-cut fender flares. These look like the work of a drunken child."

He seems to like the Merc otherwise.

If Enough Of Us Do It, maybe that annoying little gnome on TV will die a horrible death. I've just unsubscribed from Travelocity's endless junk mail offerings.

Best Headline Of The Week: 'Half-naked bricklayer on a bender lunged at police with 4-foot didgeridoo.' Haven't we all wished for a 4-foot didgeridoo at one time or another?

Exchange Of The Day ... is from the old Hollywood Squares. Peter Marshall: "Paul, why do Hell's Angels wear leather?" Paul Lynde: "Because chiffon wrinkles too easily."

Tuesday February 21, 2006

New Hornet? Dodge has announced the Hornet, a small European-size concept car, to be unveiled at the Geneva auto show in late February. The four-door squared-off hatchback is slightly shorter than a Scion xB. The front-wheel-drive Hornet features a 170-horsepower supercharged four-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual transmission. The Detroit Free Press writes that "the little car boasts big 19-inch wheels and a gaping version of Dodge's crosshair grille for what the company intends to be a combination of American flair and practicality." Ooooooo-kay.

There was an AMC Hornet in the 1970s, but the Hornet model name comes from AMC's ancestor, Hudson. There are a plethora of old Hudson model names for future Dodge endeavors, including Commodore, Hollywood, Country Club Eight, Super Six, Pacemaker Brougham, Jet and Super Wasp. There are more names from the other AMC ancestor - Rambler, Metropolitan, Statesman and more.

Some of these names are silly but all are far superior to the chromed AlphaBits badging crapola being proffered by Lincoln.

Meanwhile, I breathlessly await the return of the Gremlin.

Dullsville: Jeremy Clarkson claims that the new Volkswagen Jetta is "unquestionably the most boring car in the whole of human history." Regarding the Jetta's interior, he rants: "To give you some idea of how dull and featureless life is in there, put a cardboard box over your head. And leave it there for 10 years."

And: "(L)ooking at that dashboard gives you some idea of what it might be like to be dead. ... Volkswagen itself was plainly bored to tears when trying to think of things to say about the car. So what you get in the press blurb is chapter and verse on the windscreen wipers, which apparently perform a number of tasks. Further investigation reveals these tasks to be 1) sitting still and 2) moving hither and thither clearing raindrops. ... (W)hat they've come up with here is an automotive Belgium ... The inside of a ping pong ball. I therefore cannot recommend it to you in any way."

Now Hold Still And Don't Move: Japan's obsession with camera-equipped mobile phones has taken a bizarre twist, with mourners at funerals now using the devices to capture a final picture of the deceased.

At one ceremony, several people gathered round the coffin and took out their phones to photograph the corpse as preparations were made to begin a cremation.

Quote Of The Day is from James Lileks on interior decorating: "Feathers are not part of my aesthetic cosmos. I see feathers, I think dead bird. I see a wreath of feathers, no matter how attractively arrayed, I see some giant pagan bird-god Rectum."

Monday February 20, 2006

sherlock car blogMark What? Ford has decided to abandon some of the traditional names used by its Lincoln brand, opting instead, for alphabetical designations. The old Aviator SUV, for example, will be reborn as the MKX, or "Mark-X," the newly preferred pronunciation. The new Zephyr sedan, one of the division's few recent success stories, will be renamed the MKZ - pronounced "Mark Z."

"'Mark' is one very, very strong nameplate," asserts Anne Stevens, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Ford's operations in North and South America. It was a long-running nameplate used on a variety of Lincoln products, most recently with the Mark VIII coupe, and Stevens added, "We believe it will be very relevant."

A poster on AutoBlog's comment section wrote pithily: "Mark = Lincoln for LeBaron."

Speaking Of Lincoln: It's Presidents Day. And ... did you know that Abe Lincoln had a blog?

Can You Say 'Prememptive Strike'? Iran's hardline spiritual leaders have issued an unprecedented new fatwa, or holy order, sanctioning the use of atomic weapons against its enemies. In yet another sign of Teheran's stiffening resolve on the nuclear issue, influential Muslim clerics have for the first time questioned the theocracy's traditional stance that Sharia law forbade the use of nuclear weapons.

Democratic Question Of The Week: Who's loonier? Lawrence O'Donnell or Al Gore?

Money Can Buy Happiness: A study by the Pew Research Center says the happiest people are rich. It also helps to be married, religious, Republican, white and from the Sunbelt. (As long as the air conditioner doesn't quit.)

Bad Pun Of The Day: Those who jump off a bridge in Paris are 'in Seine'.

Thursday February 16, 2006

A Second Opinion: My best friend, a fellow car nut from back East, wrote, "GM is doomed. The only cars from GM that look good to me are the Corvette, the Cadillac XLR, and the Pontiac Solstice. The rest of their lines are ... mediocre. And for this, they sacrificed Oldsmobile?" He adds, "Pontiac G6s are being heavily discounted. Full-size Oprah Winfrey posters are being given away with each purchase! Locals call the G6 an 'Oprah'." I'm not sure if he means a life-size poster or an image taken of Oprah during one of her less-than-skinny periods.

Hmmmm. A good friend sent me this: "Why do they put pictures of criminals up in the Post Office? What are we supposed to do - write to them? Why don't they just put their pictures on the postage stamps so the mailmen could look for them while they deliver the mail? Or better yet, arrest them while they are taking their pictures!"

What If ... Canadians ruled the world?

Applebee's Shrugged: Here are five pet peeves about dining out with Ayn Rand, including "only tips 3% (except for what she terms 'heroic' service)." (Hat tip - Kathy Shaidle)

Quote Of The Day is from Billy Crystal on sex: "Women need a reason to have sex. Men just need a place."

Wednesday February 15, 2006

Valentine's Gift: Yesterday, my wife gave me a very nice 1:43 scale model of the swoopy Alfa Romeo BAT 7. I already have a model of the BAT 5. I got to see all three of these 1950s experimental aerodynamic vehicles (BATs 5, 7 and 9) at the 1996 Concours Italiano in Carmel, California. They are even more stunning in person.

Short On Rage: Friends have wondered why I haven't ranted about Lincoln changing the "Zephyr" name to the "Lincoln MKZ". Well, I only have a finite amount of outrage in me. I must attempt to apportion it to various automotive brands in a manner I deem to be fair. Even though it is only February, I have already expended most of my annual allocation of outrage towards Lincoln. I have none left.

I can only sigh gently and say that this brand's descent into trite oblivion reminds me of the banal performances by those over-the-hill (and headed downward) celebrities who must keep going in order to feed their families. Or their egos. Carol Channing. Tony Danza. Barry Manilow. K.C. and the Sunshine Band. Various Cosby Kids. Wayne Newton. Pretty much everyone on 'Celebrity Fit Club'. Etc., Etc.

Besides yelling, "Get off the stage!", what can you do? Stay away from showrooms or theaters where they're making an appearance. Change the channel whenever you spot them. Pretend they don't exist. Close your eyes, cover your ears and sing "La-la-la-la-la-la" loudly until they leave.

Are Some Cars Gay? Jeremy Clarkson thinks the original Mazda Miata was: "The old model was a phenomenon. The best-selling sports car the world has ever seen. Probably because it always felt just a teensy bit gay. Yes it was a modern-day and reliable incarnation of the old MG - they even recorded and then copied the sound of the British sports car's transmission whine - but you just knew that given half a chance this little car would be off to the gentlemen's public lavatories with its friends George and Michael. That's why we all liked it so much. It wasn't threatening."

Portland Mess Transit: New Sisyphus notes that "the Portland Tribune reported that "almost no one on the Portland Streetcar pays a fare." Really? On the Streetcar? Gosh, what a surprise. Also a surprise: the Streetcar's executive director admitting that the Streetcar doesn't receive any federal funding because we "don't come close to meeting the federal cost-effective criteria." Really? You mean it's just a multi-million dollar boondoggle designed to cart around too-old, no-job-having, permanent-student slackers from the Pearl to their "classes" as Portland State University?"

More on mass transit here.

Puppy Mover: A man has built a monorail for puppies. Hmmmm. If they're not housebroken, it really will be mess transit.

The Government Has A #$%@ Form To Fill Out For This!? A 30 year-old a Haitian-born woman (classified as a permanent U.S. resident) was charged Friday with smuggling a human head into the U.S. without proper documentation.

Question Of The Day: Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?

A Close Shave: James Lileks writes, "The Gillette Fusion is showing up in stores, and it's no ordinary razor. It has FIVE BLADES. The first blade lifts the whisker, the second cuts it, the third slaps it around a little, the fourth calls it a taunting name, and the fifth puts the boot in and warns it not to come around anymore. (Sorry, I watched "Goodfellas" last weekend.)

You might say: Gosh, that's a lot of blades. Aren't we tempting the gods somehow? Isn't this the sort of technological hubris that got us in trouble with the Titanic? Well, if that's what you think, avert your eyes now: the Fusion is also battery-powered, so it vibrates like a terrified Yorkie dog. Get a steady grip on this thing, or it's going to tear your throat wide open."

Quote Of The Day is from Robert Farago on the soon-to-be-discontinued Ford GT: "Its supercharged V8 sounded like God scrubbing the world clean with a wire brush."

Tuesday February 14, 2006

Abe Had A Blog, Too: Every blogger has a different objective. I've always wanted my blog to be a writing outlet for my observations, many of them about cars. In the 20 or so months I've been posting, I think that 'The View Through The Windshield' has remained true to my goals.

As you know, I don't have a 'comments' section. My blog is one man's journal rather than a community. Too many bloggers have quit because they were deluged with hate and spam in their comments area. And moderating comments is one more task I just don't have time to do.

Besides, lots of bloggers I admire don't provide a comments option - James Lileks, Instapundit, The Corner, Econopundit, Don Luskin, Mark Steyn and Relapsed Catholic - to name several. So, I appear to be in good company.

It is a little known fact that Abraham Lincoln was an early blogger, but gave it up because he found the 'comments' feedback negative, unbalanced and dismaying. Don't believe it? Well, a newly discovered page from his old blog can be found here.

'Hot' News: A big thank you to Scrappleface for making my day with this hilarious 'news item': "A thick blanket of snow that covered much of the northeastern United States this weekend may increase global warming by preventing the heat that radiates from earth's molten core from escaping into the atmosphere, according to former vice president Al Gore."

Quote Of The Day is from James Lileks on being hip: "A "hipster" used to be some thin sarcastic guy grinning through the reefer haze of a Greenwich Village coffeehouse, snapping his fingers while some guy reads "On the Road" to a bongo accompaniment. Now it's a guy with a soul patch, a tattoo and a tongue stud, typing. Conspicuous typing seems to be an intrinsic part of being a hipster now. This is a rather new addition, since the hipsters in the '50s did not walk around New York City with gigantic manual typewriters slung around their shoulders. Just as well; William Burroughs would have collapsed after a block."

Monday February 13, 2006

sherlock automobile blogCar Sightings: Passed a new Buick Lucerne on the freeway. The rear end is dullsville. When I first spotted it, I thought it was a new Volkswagen Passat with its Toyota Corolla-derived rear.

Then I realized that the chrome circle in the center surrounded the skeletal Buick tri-shield rather than the 'VW' letter-stack. The sides and front of the Buick are undistinguished as well.

This model will not provide Buick's much-needed home run.

Gearathon: I taped the Top Gear marathon Thursday night on the Discovery Channel and watched it Friday.

On Saturday, I watched MotorWeek. It was like shifting from Steak Dianne to a rice cake.

Riding On Air: Jeremy Clarkson thinks that "air suspension is rubbish. It turns all surfaces, no matter how smooth, into washboards. Air suspension was developed because it gives backroom computer geeks a chance to fiddle, which they can't with a traditional mechanical set-up. With air they can make the car go up and down and they can fit sensors to ensure it stays level in the corners. They can tap away all night, writing programs that will make them look good at the next wiring conference in Palo Alto. And that's fine. But all they're really doing is making our lives just a tiny bit less comfortable."

I liked the air suspension on my '84 Lincoln Mark VII. Less so on our '96 Continental. One of my high-school buddies' dad had a huge '58 Caddy Fleetwood with air suspension. The right side bags had a slow leak. When parked overnight, the car would list starbord like a sinking garbage scow. A chrome-laden garbage scow.

Muslims Vs. The Rest Of Us: Andrea Harris offers a wonderful, concise and enlightening comparison table.

Meanwhile, in an interview with the Toronto Sun, Kathy Shaidle remarked, "I'm beginning to think that moderate Muslims are an urban legend, like the crocodiles in the sewers of New York."

The all-wise Dr. Krauthammer is also skeptical about these so-called 'moderates'.

Ann Coulter says: "Muslims are the only group who kill because people call them violent."

I Wonder If He'll Be Buried At Sea? Peter Benchley, whose novel 'Jaws' terrorized millions of swimmers, has died at age 65.

Quote Of The Day is from The Simpsons' Moe Szyslak: "Man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?"

Friday February 10, 2006

Joe Sherlock auto bloggingFill 'Er Up ... With Spuds: Recently, Ford showed an Escape Hybrid that uses E85 ethanol-blend fuel to further wean itself from gasoline. Usually derived from corn, ethanol is still barely used with any regularity outside of the Midwest.

Forget corn. Or switchgrass. I want an electric car that runs on a bank of potato batteries. That way I can drive to the supermarket and buy a ten-pound sack to keep the thing running.

And, if Hillary ever gets elected, my car and I can move to Ireland.

Driving A Box: Ford plans to start building the Ford Fairlane - a production version of the Lego-blocky concept car - as a replacement for the Ford Freestar in early 2008 at a plant in Ontario, Canada. I don't care. If I want to be seen driving a butch box, I'll buy a Land Rover.

Detroit Welfare: Larry Leonard of Oregon Magazine opines about federal subsidies for Ford and GM: "You don't need a dime of government money, Detroit. Get out of your overstuffed chair, dump your overburden of bureaucracy, start supporting capitalist politicians instead of socialists, tell your foundations to cut the liberals (particularly PBS) off at the pockets, hit the ground with both fists ready and give the foreign competition one for the Gipper.

But, you say, some of you might not survive? Ask one of those liberals your foundations feed to explain the methodology of Darwinism."

A poster on Lucianne adds: "Why should the taxpayers subsidize the unions for turning out lousy cars at astronomical prices?"

Oil Is Well: Here's a good explanation of the oil industry and How The World Works by Ben Stein. Written for people who "are in a state of hysteria over oil company profits" and "don't really know a lot about the oil business or how gasoline gets into their Volvos."

Dissin' The Prophet: E. Nough offers this thought-provoking observation: "Using the name of Allah for a terrorist organization, or having a mass murderer like Atta take Mohammed's name as his own does not bother the Muslims a whole lot. Commuter bombings in London, bus bombings in Israel, carnage against Russian schoolchildren in Beslan and Iraqi kids in Baghdad - in the name of Islam - all elicit barely a shrug. But print up some images of Mohammed, and the Muslim world explodes. This is a very crucial insight into the ethics of the Muslim community as a whole. We ignore this particular lesson at our peril."

Islamists - Thin-Skinned Since 1784 (At Least): From Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais' 1784 production, 'Marriage of Figaro' ... "I cobble together a verse comedy about the customs of the harem, assuming that, as a Spanish writer, I can say what I like about Mohammed without drawing hostile fire. Next thing, some envoy from God knows where turns up and complains that in my play I have offended the Ottoman empire, Persia, a large slice of the Indian peninsula, the whole of Egypt, and the kingdoms of Barca (Ethiopia), Tripoli, Tunisi, Algeria, and Morocco. And so my play sinks without trace, all to placate a bunch of Muslim princes, not one of whom, as far as I know, can read but who beat the living daylights out of us and say we are 'Christian dogs.' Since they can't stop a man thinking, they take it out on his hide instead ..."

This prompts Kathy Shaidle to ask, "Where is the Mozart of the Muslims?"

Bad Pun Of The Day: Two peanuts walk into a bar, and one was a salted.

Thursday February 9, 2006

What The Hell Is AutoWeek Drinking? Or smoking? In an article comparing the latest BMW 3-Series with the Lexus IS, an anonymous writer waxes dreamily about "the beloved BMW 2002 changed the world as we know it (okay, the smaller performance coupe/sedan market as we know it) ...".

This assertion is a Unimog-sized load of Teutonic bullshit. It's just another example of the mythological hype surrounding German cars. (Pick your marque - BMW or Porsche. Oooh. Oooh. How 'bout Maybach!?)

The fact of the matter is that the BMW 2002 - as imported to the U.S., was nothing more than a compact BMW with a little more power and 'loaded up' with accessories and overpriced. In Germany, such BMWs were sold as company cars, just like a '70s Mercury Montego in the U.S. Germans used to laugh at how much we gullible, vulgar Americans paid for a model a slightly larger engine and leather interior. We certainly helped West Germany's balance of trade - even with the Deutschemark at a mere 37¢ or so.

This is not so say that the 2002 was a bad car; it was, in fact, pretty darned good. It did not change the world, however. Let the Ford Model T, WW II Jeep and Volkswagen Beetle duke it out for that title.

The Datsun 510 was a better coupe/sedan bargain than the 2002 - a lot less expensive. As I recall, 510s regularly cleaned up in SCCA races of the period. But, in the mind of many effete auto scribes, Japanese cars "have no soul."

Let's keep these road tests in perspective. With more facts. And less "world-changing" hyperbole.

I'm Stating The Obvious: The 2007 Lincoln Navigator is UBB - Ugly-Beyond-Belief. Full of chrome UltraBling - just as the bling market is collapsing. What's the market for this baroque beast? I mean, how many pimps go offroad?

Book Report: Two of the books I received at Christmas were remarkably similar on the surface. Both were written by very funny Jewish celebrities. Both authors are similar in age. Both books are about growing up in ... (more >>>)

It Happens To Everybody: You work at a place you eventually come to hate. Then you leave and derive a perverse satisfaction from watching it go downhill.

Kathy Shaidle writes about "the folks at my old place of employment, 'Catholic New Times', which now hates George Bush more than it hates abortion - and whose circulation is less than half of what it was in my day because normal people don't want to be scolded by a bunch of old, resentful, arrogant hacks on the wrong side of history."

He'd Better Not Mean Itchy & Scratchy: CNN reports: 'Bush urges end to cartoon violence.'

Honestly Dismal: Via New Sisyphus, John Derbyshire reflects on the War on Terror: "Attack them, smash up their assets, kill their leaders if you can, cripple their military. Then leave them in rubble and chaos. They're not going to be making any nukes in that condition. Mission accomplished. That was what I hoped we would do to Iraq, and why I supported the war. It is what I believe we should now do to Iran. The reduced-to-rubble nation might indeed "breed terrorists"; but then, as you pointed out, so might New Zealand or Spain. Rubble nations are not a threat to us. Africa has a score of them; none threatens us.

The administration has taken another course, one of "spreading American values," "building democracy," and so on. This won't work. It will end in tears. Any leaders of Iraq installed under any system we set up will be lynched by ululating mobs within a month of our departure. We can't export our system, even to small, cheap, near places like Haiti (where we have been trying for nigh on a century)." Damn. I'm already depressed.

... And No One Knows Why: The moon smells like gunpowder.

For The Person Who Has Everything: Presenting the Hello Kitty belt sander.

Quote Of The Day is from SithChick, a poster on Ace of Spades: "Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away - and you have their shoes."

Wednesday February 8, 2006

sherlock auto blogCar Sightings: Here in the Pacific Northwest we're having a rare run of winter sunshine and it seems like everyone is giving their cars a well-needed washing.

I saw lots of shiny stuff on the roads yesterday, including a '50 Ford Tudor in navy blue and a first-year 1967 Camaro SS with the Rally Sport package - a rare machine indeed - in red with a black vinyl top.

At Costco, I parked in front of a new Mini-Cooper S in dark blue with a Union Jack decal on the roof.

I washed the Jaguar on Sunday - the first time I've washed a car since my heart attack last month. I gave the surface of the Jag (and myself) a good workout and felt fine afterward. The Jag positively sparkled and I got some worthwhile cardio exercise.

By the way, I had a good experience at my cardiologist visit yesterday - lower weight, lower blood pressure and good heart sounds.

Time Passages: MotorWeek did a 25th Anniversary show and pointed out that the 2005 Kia Spectra recorded a better quarter-mile time than the '83 Pontiac Trans Am.

Patton Vs. Detroit: Chris Sawyer contrasts General Patton and U.S. automakers: "The domestic OEMs ... willingly surrendered their market in order to pursue per-unit profitability. Unchallenged in the 1950s and 1960s, they downplayed the threat of the Asian makers in the 1970s, and hid behind the government's skirts in the 1980s begging for tariffs to stop the Japanese. Then they watched in horror as those same folks built plants in their backyard in response. Now they cry about legacy costs. How did this happen? Ask Patton. "You want to know why this outfit got the hell kicked out of it? ... They don't act like soldiers, they don't look like soldiers, why should they be expected to fight like soldiers?" Detroit's downfall is the inevitable result of a culture of defeat, one that does not accept the virtue of its cause or the positive aspects of its traditions."

No Mas For Hamas: Charles Krauthammer writes: "The world must impress upon the Palestinians that there are consequences for their choices. And so long as they choose rejectionism - the source of a 60-year conflict the Israelis have long been ready to resolve - the world will not continue to support and subsidize them.

And that means cutting off Hamas completely: no recognition, no negotiation, no aid, nothing. And not just assistance to a Hamas government, but all assistance. The Bush administration suggests continuing financial support for 'humanitarian' services. This is a serious mistake." I agree. I don't want my tax dollars supporting what now amounts to a terrorist state.

Perle On Iran: Richard Perle, a key architect of the U.S.-led war against Iraq, said the West should not make the mistake of waiting too long to use military force if Iran comes close to getting an atomic weapon.

"If you want to try to wait until the very last minute, you'd better be very confident of your intelligence because if you're not, you won't know when the last minute is," Perle said.

Headline Of The Day ... from The Onion: 'Black Box Records Last 90 Minutes Of Hot-Air Balloon Crash'

And You Think PBS Is Bad? Kathy Shaidle complains about "teen testicle waxing, paid for by my tax dollars" - part of a television program presented by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Tooth Tech: James Lileks describes his new toothbrush: "I bought a huge Colgate toothbrush. I mean, huge. I can barely get my fingers around the handle. It has little gripping-bumps so you no longer suffer the annoyance of having the thing fly out of your hand and spiral down your throat; it has a Tongue Scraper (ewwww) and special Smart Bristles that send you an e-mail when the brush needs replacement. It's Bluetooth-enabled so you can talk on your cell phone while brushing, contains an embedded GPS device to pinpoint the exact coordinates of your bicuspids and a 2.0-megapixel camera for creating time-lapsed montages of your dental erosion."

Quote Of The Day is from the late Gracie Allen: "All the other candidates are making speeches about how much they have done for their country, which is ridiculous. I haven't done anything yet, and I think it's just common sense to send me to Washington and make me do my share."

Tuesday February 7, 2006

A Story I Couldn't Make Up: Organizers of a vintage car rally in New Zealand have hired karate experts to protect vehicles from marauding native parrots.

Another Reason To Wish Perry Como Was Still Alive: Pop star Michael Jackson could sing some of the prayers written by the late Pope John Paul, said Father Giuseppe Moscati, the head of the music company coordinating the project.

The Church considers hiring a wacko and "alleged" child molester to sing hymns - sounds like something from The Onion.

Busy Day: It begins with a trip to the cardiologist for a check-up. Then I'm gonna catch some rays of rare Pacific Northwest sunshine. (Driving around yesterday, I got a good look at Mts. Hood and St. Helens. Both are beauties - covered in snow. There have been record mountain snowfalls this season.)

Too nice to blog. Bye.

Monday February 6, 2006

Car Sightings: Two memorable ones from last week - a hard-to-miss, very-purple AMC Pacer wagon and a new Jaguar XJ Vanden Plas in red. With New Jersey plates - a long way from home.

It's A Duesey: The $300,000+ 2008 Duesenberg Torpedo will feature a revolutionary 12-cylinder engine with extreme fuel economy and performance. Unfortunately, it looks butt-ugly to me. But I'm not the target market.

A friend of mine recently wrote, " ... As my dad used to say 'It's a doozie.'" I told him that my dad used to use that same phrase, too.

The spelling is a corruption of "It's a Duesey" - a 1930s expression which referred to the very dramatic, rarely-seen Duesenberg automobile. The phrase meant: "It's the cat's meow." "It's unusual." "It's over-the-top."

New Media: Dead-tree publications, broadcast TV and daily newspapers are a thing of the past when it comes to wooing first-time car buyers, according to a new study compiled by the Polk Center for Automotive Studies.

The analysts looked at the shopping habits of first-time new-vehicle buyers and found that 35 percent of them went to the Internet as their first stop for car information. Television ranked second at 8.2 percent, with 4.4 reading magazines and 3.6 percent reading newspapers for their background research, and only 1.1 percent turning to radio.

Lonnie Miller, managing director for the Polk Center for Automotive Studies, put it bluntly: "The Internet's relevance in the 18-30 year age group has reached critical mass and is completely reconfiguring how car companies need to reach out to first-time buyers."

This is surely true for purchases other than automobiles as well.

I Guess It's Now Official: Dave Barry says, "Newspapers are dead."

How Things Used To Be: Going through a deceased relative's papers, we found a deed to a cemetery plot in the Philadelphia area.

In the 'Rules and Regulations' section, the 1952 document states: "No body except that of a person who during his lifetime was of the white or Caucasian race may be buried or interred in ... any plot therein; this provision shall apply even if the body is cremated and nothing but the ashes remain."

The 'good old days' weren't always so good, were they?

Quote Of The Day is from James Lileks on towels: "They're also described as 'hand sewn,' which I rather doubt; I suspect some machinery was involved, and "hand sewn" refers to the process of feeding the edges through a Singer. Which is 'hand sewn' in the sense that a microwave meal made by pushing the buttons is 'home cooking.'"

Friday February 3, 2006

Book Review: Friends gave me a get-well present - 'Crap Cars' by Richard Porter. It's mostly a photo book and lists 50 picks. They include the Chevy Citation (I owned the Olds Omega clone of it and wholeheartedly agree), the Yugo GV (why not pick all Yugos?) and all VW Beetles - a listing I'd dispute. Volkswagens were honest, simple, well-made vehicles and served a purpose. He lists several variations of the Chrysler K-car. That's too easy a target and it seems like cheating if you don't lump them all together as a single pick.

The author is a screenwriter for BBC's 'Top Gear' television program and presumably British. He must be very pro-Brit, because there is a paucity of British models on his list. He berates the TR-7 - truly a trouble-prone beast - not for its mechanical ineptitude but rather, for its styling. (For a '70s car, I thought it looked pretty cool. And dramatic.) He also complains about the styling of the Rolls Royce Camargue, a nice-looking, if over-sized RR coupe. Furthermore, he claims the MG-B has truck-like ride and handling - something I've never heard elsewhere.

Missing from his list are some of the more notorious Brit-crapmobiles: Triumph Stag, Austin America, various Hillmans, Humbers, pretty much any pre-1995 Vauxhall, Rovers, etc., etc. As well as Euroclunkers like the Trabant, almost every Fiat, most Renaults, the vast majority of Audis from the 1980s, VW Dasher and soooo many more.

This book provides a few laughs but will start a lot of arguments, too.

Escalade Hybrid: GM plans to hybridize this gigantic Cadillac SUV in 2007. This is like adding a splash of water to each glass of scotch you drink in the belief that it will keep you from getting drunk.

Quiet Milestone: My wife's 2005 Toyota Avalon Limited passed the 10,000 mile mark last week without fanfare. Or problems. We've not found a single quality flaw in this car so far.

Well, He Is A Dentist, So I Guess He Knows: Writing for 'The Truth About Cars', C. Douglas Weir, DDS, MSD opines that the Dodge Mega Cab 4X4 "has plenty of traction for extraction."

The Ancient Mariner: I've been a loyal reader of the Lienerts' He Drove/She Drove road tests for years. I don't always agree with them but find their observations interesting. This week, the duo tested the Mercury Mariner Hybrid and dissed it for its disappointing mileage and poor interior.

Paul Lienert gave it a 1 star (out of 5) rating - the lowest I've ever seen. Paul explains: "There's a reason the Mariner looks and feels dated. Ford has been building its twin, the Escape, for nearly six years without a major mechanical overhaul and only a few tweaks inside and out. Against newer Asian products, from the Toyota RAV4 to the Kia Sportage, the standard Mariner offers virtually nothing that's different or better. Now Ford has shoehorned the gas-electric driveline into the Mariner and slapped a hefty $8,000 premium on the vehicle, jacking the MSRP up to $30,000. That kind of money buys an awful lot of vehicle these days. For Pete's sake, you can buy a Ford Escape with a gas engine and a five-speed manual transmission that gets the same EPA highway fuel economy of 29 mpg, but the sticker is $10,000 less."

Anita Lienert concluded: "With so many choices out there, and more hybrids on the way ..., you're probably better advised to save your $30,000-plus and keep shopping."

Train Wreck: The O-gauge toy train market has become a bloodbath. An aging customer base, a supply glut, and a technology arms race have turned Uncle Fred's hobby into a blood sport, says Neil Besougloff, editor of Classic Toy Trains.

It's not likely to get better. "The primary thing is that age is catching up with toy trains," says Ron Hollander, author of a book on Lionel. "There's a diminishing pie and the boys are fighting over the crumbs."

Feeling Hungry? The ingredient that gives Dannon Boysenberry yogurt and Tropicana Ruby Red Grapefruit juice their distinctive colors comes from crushed female cochineal beetles.

Quote Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "I stayed up all night playing poker with tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died."

Thursday February 2, 2006

Interesting Factoid: Privately-held Enterprise Rent-A-Car buys about 7% of all new cars sold annually in the U.S.

Social Welfare And Cars: A Connecticut newspaper editorial sums it up: "Over several decades, short-sighted managers and union leaders negotiated contracts that have forced once-vibrant giants such as Ford and GM to become shadows of their former selves, slashing their research-and-development and quality-control budgets to accommodate increasingly burdensome labor costs. In GM's case, contractual health-insurance obligations add $1,500 to the price of every new vehicle."

"When you buy a Hyundai you get a satellite radio as your option, but if you buy a Chevrolet you get social welfare as an option," said Steve Miller, CEO of GM's bankrupt parts supplier Delphi. "Long term, the customer is going to desert you if you try to price for your social-welfare costs."

January Car Sales: Ford's U.S. sales rose 2.7 percent in January on the strength of its new lineup of mid-size sedans. The Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln Zephyr saw a combined sales jump of 25 percent in January over the previous month. Ford's truck sales fell 7 percent, dragged down by a 30 percent decline of the supersized Ford Excursion and a 23% drop in sales of the redesigned Explorer.

Jaguar sales are down by 29%; Volvo sales are off 13%.

Toyota was up 14%; Lexus passenger cars experienced a best-ever January with an increase of 37%. Honda sales were up an impressive 24.4 percent. Acura sales were up a little but flagship RL sales dropped a whopping 44%.

Pontiac sales went up 55%, helped by the G6 and Grand Prix. Solstice sales (at less than 2,000 units) were still less than Corvette - a surprise given the Solstice's low price and favorable media buzz. Saab sales rose 34%; Saturn was up 22%; Cadillac sales jumped 33%.

One person bought an Olds Silhouette van; they must have recently watched 'Get Shorty'.

Another 'Export' From China: "China is already the world's second-biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions and is expected to surpass the United States as the biggest. Roughly a third of China is exposed to acid rain. A recent study by a Chinese research institute found that 400,000 people die prematurely every year in China from diseases linked to air pollution.

Nor does China's air pollution respect borders: on certain days almost 25 percent of the particulate matter clotting the skies above Los Angeles can be traced to China, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency."

Conditional Apology: The Council on American-Islamic Relations has demanded an apology from L.A.'s morning man Bill Handel for making fun of a stampede that killed hundreds of Muslims during this year's annual pilgrimage.

Handel says he will apologize if the Council on American-Islamic Relations:

1) Decries all acts of terror (described specifically, not generally).

2) Agrees that Israel is a sovereign nation with the right to defensible borders.

3) Has no ties of any sort, financially or otherwise, to any terror organizations or individuals.

Kathy Shaidle points out that another famous pilgrimage spot, Lourdes, has already celebrated its 56,892th stampede-free day.

Inspector Clouseau Visits England: A Cambridge museum visitor shattered three Qing dynasty Chinese vases when he tripped on his shoelace, stumbled down a stairway and brought the vases crashing to the floor.

Quote Of The Day is from Ronald Reagan: "We have every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that we're in a time when there are no heroes, they just don't know where to look."

Wednesday February 1, 2006

Does It Vibrate Or Something? Dan Neil calls the new FJ Cruiser, "Toyota's charming venture into what might be called the adult novelty market."

Nanook Of The North: Jeremy Clarkson's take on the Mercedes M-class SUV is pretty much the same as his feelings about Norway: "Efficient and good fun, but odd and too expensive."

More on Norway: "... the hotel room in which I stayed had a fold-out whiteboard nailed above the bed, so guests can use diagrams and cave drawings to explain to their girlfriends what they have in mind next. I can't imagine the whiteboard is for any sort of management meeting because in the whole of human history Norway’s only contributions have been the paperclip and the cheese slicer. Only Australia has achieved less, with the rotary washing line."

State Of The Union: The President gave a confident and effective speech. I liked the HSA proposal where people could purchase health insurance tax-free with HSA funds.

He drew a line in the sand on Iran's nuclear program: "The Iranian government is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons." And Cindy Sheehan got herself arrested. All is well.

God Bless Our Soldiers: "American soldiers on the street of an Iraqi city are near some Iraqi schoolgirls when a truck carrying insurgents pulls up to block the intersection: An ambush!

The Americans immediately and instinctively grab the girls and put them behind them, so that the Americans are shielding the girls with their own bodies. ... This is not what the anti-American propaganda says Americans will do. And the insurgents, for reasons known only to them, get back in their truck and drive on.

Instead of vast arrays of storm troopers, they see young Americans behaving decently and bravely and kindly. It's part of our strategy. It works." (hat tip - Relapsed Catholic)

In The Future ... everyone will receive an award for something. Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki, the man responsible for demystifying belly button lint, has been awarded an Australia Day Honour for his work as a science communicator.

If You Always Believed ... that Socialists were ... ahem ... somewhat 'impaired' in the manhood department, check out this guy's name.

Quote Of The Day is from Chris Browne, the cartoonist of Hagar the Horrible: "Everybody has to believe in something. I believe I'll have another drink."


The facts presented in this car 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.

Spelling, punctuation and syntax errors are cheerfully repaired when I find them; grudgingly fixed when you do.

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 giving me free cars to try and change my mind.

If I have slandered any people or corporations in this car 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.

copyright 2006 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved