The View Through The Windshield - Car Blog

A Blog About Cars ... And Everything Else I See

Monday August 30, 2010

Ramblin' Little Appliance: These days, calling a car an 'appliance' is considered an insult. It wasn't always so.

Appliances were new-fangled and wondrous things in the 1920s. My maternal grandparents didn't get an electric refrigerator until the 1930s. As a teenager, I could still see and touch the zinc-lined, mahogany ice box which my grandmother kept in the basement - just in case electricity was repealed. Although Bendix introduced the first automatic washing machine in 1937, most households didn't have automatic washers until after World War II.

Kelvinator was among some two dozen home refrigerator brands introduced to the U.S. market in 1916. By 1923, Kelvinator had 80% of the market for electric refrigerators.

The Depression of the 1930s hit the appliance market hard; sales dropped by almost 35%. George W. Mason assumed control of Kelvinator in 1928. Under his leadership, the company lowered its costs while increasing market share through 1936 - a remarkable feat.

Joe Sherlock car blog

When Charles Nash, founder of Nash Motors began looking for his successor, he turned to George Mason. Mason initially ... (more >>>)

Stuffed Animals: Last week, I was watching a train show on RFD-TV. During a commercial break, the station was promoting a cross country tour featuring Trigger and Bullet from the old Roy Rogers shows.

After a little investigation, I found that both were auctioned off in July. RFD's president, Patrick Gottsch, was the high bidder, paying $266,500 for taxidermied Trigger, Roy's famous horse, and $35,000 for Roy's dog, Bullet ... (more >>>)

We Shall Overcome: On Saturday, Glenn Beck's 'Restoring Honor' rally drew hundreds of thousands in D.C. Some attendees said there were 500,000+ people lining the area from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument. A Park Service representative estimated crowd size at 300,000-325,000.

The Associated Press vaguely low-balled attendance at "tens of thousands", a number echoed by the Seattle Post Intelligencer and others. ABC, NBC and CBS reported "thousands." Is it any wonder that no one believes the mainstream media anymore?

In 1963, King's rally attracted a crowd of about 200,000.

In any case, I would bet that 99.44% of the Restoring Honor attendees will be in a voting booth in November. They are people of action, not slacker rabble-rousers. As Paul Mirengoff of Powerline wrote, "The politeness of the crowd did not mask its determination."

I doubt that they'll be voting for anyone who supports the platform of President Obama, who spent the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's 'I Have A Dream' speech playing a dreamy game of golf during his Martha's Vineyard vacation.

Not far from Beck's event, race hustler Al Sharpton's 'anti-rally' yielded a mere several hundred to a few thousand malcontents, depending on which news source you choose.

How many of them will bother to cast a ballot this year?

Before There Was Infrastructure: "In 1816, a U.S. Senate committee found that it was as expensive to move a ton of goods 30 miles overland as it was to move the same ton across the Atlantic from Europe." (source: 'The First Tycoon' by T.J. Stiles)

Quote Of The Day is from Charles Krauthammer: "The Democrats are going to get beaten badly in November. Not just because the economy is ailing. And not just because Obama over-read his mandate in governing too far left. But because a comeuppance is due the arrogant elites whose undisguised contempt for the great unwashed prevents them from conceding a modicum of serious thought to those who dare oppose them."

Thursday August 26, 2010

Joe Sherlock blogHot Ride: Lately, the weather has been very August-like - sunny and hot - with highs in the mid-90s. But the mornings have been reasonably cool, so - on Tuesday and Wednesday - I took the Plymouth for a spin around 9:00 am. Good rides.

Gotta get 'em in before winter rears its ugly head. And it's not that far away either; the days are getting noticeably shorter around here. (Most people don't realize that Battle Ground, WA is further north than Bangor, Maine.)

Small But Pricey: The gorgeous 1949 Delahaye 175S Roadster with the swoopy, blue, chromium-embellished body by Saoutchik that was recently auctioned for $3.3 million (photo at August 11th posting) is now available in model form.

A 1:43 scale replica of the Delahaye is being offered by Ilario Models in their 'Chromes' series.

Only 130 models will be produced; each will sell for $334 - shipping from France not included.

Bad Business Idea: Dress Barn is changing its name to Ascena Retail Group. "The retailer chose Ascena, after consulting with outside experts, because it's reminiscent of the word "ascend.""

Charles G. Hill has noted the negative connotation with typical apparel buyers: "Honey, does this dress make my ascend look big?"

Investment Advice ... from Malcolm Berko: "Your first change is to fire that brain-dead blithering idiot who manages your account. The problem with most money managers is that few are smart enough to think independently. Rather than anticipating a problem, they wait till it explodes, then they try to patch the damage.

Sound familiar to many of you?"

"Save Money, Live Better" is a Wal-Mart slogan. Malcolm Berko thinks Wal-Mart should replace Congress. "If we put Congress in charge of the Mojave Desert, the desert would run out of sand in three years. And if Congress were running Wal-Mart, WMT would be bankrupt in two. Americans believe their representatives are corrupt and will milk the system as long as they are in office. Americans are beginning to realize that corruption is a sacrament for most members of Congress.

But what if Wal-Mart were running the country? The WMT folks would fix Medicare/Medicaid because they know how. The WMT folks would make Social Security solvent because they know how. The WMT folks would eliminate the deficit and reduce the debt because they know how. The WMT folks would reduce taxes, repair our educational system and lower our health care costs because they know how.

The WMT people would eliminate wasteful spending, mend and amend bridges, roads and airports because they know how. And if WMT were running this country instead of Congress, most Americans could be confident of their future once again."

Vote Wal-Mart for Congress. We'd all probably save money and live better.

More 'Recovery Summer': If economic news hasn't been bad enough, the bottom has now dropped out of the housing market. Existing home sales figure for July were down over 27% from June and inventory supply of existing homes is now more than 12 months.

According to the National Association of Realtors, it was the largest monthly drop on records dating back to 1968 and sharp declines were recorded in all regions of the country.

Three houses in our small neighborhood have received 'for sale' signs in the past week, including one next door. It will be interesting to see if they sell. In our zip code, the average time from listing to sale is 229 days - a possibly too-optimistic number based on May data.

July sales were particularly weak among homes priced in the lower to middle ranges. For example, in the Midwest, homes priced between $100,000 and $250,000 tumbled nearly 47%.

The drop was twice as much as forecast, evidence that foreclosures and almost-zero job growth continue to depress the market, which had been artificially boosted by tax credits which have now expired.

And, apparently, so has the market.

In related news, new home sales fell 12.4% in July to the slowest pace on record - data points go back to at least the early 1960s. Durable goods orders dropped 3.8% when transportation goods - mostly large commercial airplane and parts orders - were backed out.

The Summer of George continues.

"Camelot! Camelot! I Know It Gives A Person Pause ..." Mary Kennedy, wife of Robert Kennedy, Jr., has been charged with Driving While Ability Impaired with drugs after a traffic stop last Saturday. The arrest comes one month after her license was suspended following her guilty plea to driving while impaired by alcohol.

State police gave her pause, pulling her over on the Taconic State Parkway in Pleasant Valley, NY on August 21st. at 7:51 am.

On a more positive note, Teddy Kennedy has been sober for over a year now.

I Love This Headline: 'Profiles in Courage: Obamas Dine Out Despite Rain'.

sherlock auto blog"Say Kids! What Time Is It?" Edward Kean, the original head writer for 'The Howdy Doody Show' - the pioneer NBC children's TV program for which he also created characters and wrote the songs, has died at age 85. He also wrote the 'It's Howdy Doody Time' theme song.

"Eddie Kean invented 'Howdy Doody,' basically," said Stephen Davis, author of the 1987 definitive Doody book. (I have a copy.) Kean also came up with the word "cowabunga" for the show - a exclamation oft used by Chief Thunderthud.

Howdy Doody himself is in residence at the National Museum of American History. I saw him during our D.C. trip in 2004. As a big fan of the show, it brought back pleasant memories. My parents were one of the first on our block to buy a television (in 1950, I think) and my friends and I used to gather in our living room each weekday afternoon to see Buffalo Bob and his gang.

Rest in peace, Mr. Kean.

Bad Pun of the Day: Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead-to-know basis.

Tuesday August 24, 2010

A Fool And His Money ... Investors Business Daily has weighed in on the General Motors IPO, calling it 'Stage-Managed' and noting that the GM initial public offering filed last week "was hailed as a victory for an Obama administration that wants Americans to see the auto bailouts as a success. But that's just what's wrong with it.

Joe Sherlock auto blogGM's rush to the IPO market before it posted a convincing series of profitable quarters raises questions about why it picked a time like this to issue new shares to the market. After all, J.D. Power just lowered its auto sales forecasts to 11.6 million units in 2010 and 13.2 million units in 2011, largely because it expects a slow economic recovery. Overseas markets are slowing, and GM profit is expected to be lower in the second half of 2010 than the first.

At a minimum, an IPO at this time of market volatility means GM will raise less capital than otherwise. Yet GM hopes eventually to raise up to $20 billion. Even if successful, that's far short of what taxpayers have put in. So why now? Only when you consider the upcoming November election does GM's puzzling timing make sense.

Government Motors, it seems, is still run by the government. Until that ends, GM won't be any more sustainable than in the past."

Then there's this scary admission in the IPO prospectus:

"We have determined that our disclosure controls and procedures and our internal control over financial reporting are currently not effective. The lack of effective internal controls could materially adversely affect our financial condition and ability to carry out our business plan."

Translation: We don't know what it costs to make stuff.

I cannot, in good conscience, recommend an investment in General Motors any more than I could advise taking a position in Tesla Motors.

Work Request: A Government Accountability Office report released last week shows that the Department of Energy has spent more than $1.9 billion in stimulus funds to create 10,018 jobs through May, an average of $194,213 spent per full-time job created.

Based on a typical 2,000 hours per year per employee, that translates to over $97 per hour. Even a village idiot would realize that this is absurdly wasteful.

I have a solution ... (more >>>)

Worth Remembering: Ghost of a Flea has written, "Many of the men and women massacred on 9/11 fell further than it would take to walk to the Obama Mosque." (hat tip: Kathy Shaidle) (permalink)

The Moon Is Shrinking. According to astronomers, it needs more water.

Quote of the Day is from Bill Vaughan: "Size isn't everything. The whale is endangered, while the ant continues to do just fine."

Friday August 20, 2010

Speaking In Tongues: Jack Baruth of TTAC has written a wonderful article about the sham that is the new auto model press introduction. He correctly lambasts many of the auto "journalists", who attend such outings. Too many are clueless and never bother doing a seriously evaluation of the vehicle in question, relying instead on press kits and hype.

But these scribes continue to find work because they know which cliches and buzzwords which will pass muster with their editors and impress uninformed readers. And get them invited to future press parties.

For your convenience, I offer a guide to road test lingo here.

car blogBusiness Advice - Indecision, Procrastination and Louie: Most small business owners are action-oriented and decisive. They don't have the time or money to agonize over minor issues. They make a decision and move on. Because of their bias toward action, they are sometimes a bit impatient with prospects, clients and customers who don't move as fast.

We've all experienced the indecisive prospect. In retail shops, they come in and browse and may come back several times, examining the same object over and over before they buy it.

At car dealers, they keep returning to the showroom bringing a different friend or family member each time. Then they arrive again to look in the trunk or fiddle with the seat adjustment controls. If your procrastinating prospects and customers are large corporations or government agencies, there are seemingly endless stages of approval with presentations and meetings a requirement at every level.

The trick to selling under these conditions is ... (more >>>)

The 'Summer of Recovery' Continues: Weekly jobless claims have hit 500,000. See also: 'Summer of George'.

Who's Laying Off? The top three companies, based on number of jobs cut since the recession began:

1. General Motors: 107,357 (bankruptcy after years of offering crap cars)
2. CitiGroup: 73,056 (subprime mortgage losses)
3. Hewlett-Packard: 47,540 (Mark Hurd's Reign of Cost-Cutting Terror)

In related news, an Onion story is headlined 'Boeing Lays Off Only Guy Who Knows How To Keep Wings On Plane'.

Primary Indications: Washington's state primary election was held Tuesday. Senator Patty Murray is up for reelection in November; Dino Rossi will be her Republican challenger.

In 2004, Murray received 55% of the vote. In this primary, Democratic candidates (including Murray) only got 47% of the votes, versus 49% for Republicans.

Democratic Congressman Brian Baird's seat is up for grabs. In Tuesday's primary, Republicans pulled 54% of the votes; Democrats received only 46%.

Most political analysts consider Washington to be solidly 'blue'. Liz Mair has described the state as "virtually incapable of electing Republicans to major statewide offices or to a majority of congressional seats."

But, with an unpopular Democratic governor, high unemployment, a collapsed real estate market and a general distaste for bureaucracy, government interference and wasteful spending, people are angry at those now in office. This year may be different for Washington. And other states as well.

It's going to be an interesting election in November.

"I Know It Sounds A Bit Bizarre, But In Camelot, That's How Conditions Are." James Auchincloss - who as a boy carried the wedding train of his half-sister Jackie up the aisle as she married John F. Kennedy - was jailed after admitting to possessing child pornography.

Auchincloss, 63, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of encouraging child sex abuse for having computer images of naked boys.

Proof That Some People Still Have Too Much Money: Artisan pencil sharpening - $15. Pencil not included.

In New York's Hudson River Valley, craftsman David Rees still practices the age-old art of manual pencil sharpening. His artisanal service is perfect for artists, writers, and standardized test takers.

"Shipped with their shavings and a "certificate of sharpening," these extra-sharp pencils make wonderful gifts." (hat tip: American Digest)

Bad Pun of the Day: What did the papa buffalo say to the baby buffalo before he went to work? "Bison!"

Wednesday August 18, 2010

car blogA Change In The Weather: Clouds are rolling in and cooler temperatures are on the way, so I took advantage of Tuesday's bright morning sunshine to get another Plymouth drive under my belt.

Ave Atque Vale: It saddens me to report that a fine gentleman and car enthusiast, Craig Watjen, has died at age 74. I only met him once - at a 2007 Lincoln meet - when he showed his fine 1941 Zephyr three-window coupe.

Craig graciously opened up his private collection, the Lincolnshire Museum, to meet attendees. He had an impressive array of cars, including numerous 1940's-era Lincolns, a Continental Mark II, several Model A Fords, a classic Packard as well as other vehicles. All of the cars were in immaculate condition; most had won awards at the top shows. Craig politely and patiently answered all questions and was very knowledgeable about his own automobiles and cars in general.

Joe Sherlock the view through the windshield blog

He had many interests besides cars - Craig was a former Microsoft assistant treasurer and one of the firm's earliest employees - and a generous contributor to baseball, music and cancer research.

"Mr. Watjen had a passion for finance all his life, but his first love was music. He was a clarinetist from a young age in his hometown of Pawtucket, R.I., and after he got a bachelor's degree in liberal arts at Harvard University, he went on to study at the Juilliard School and the New England Conservatory. He played on occasion with the Boston Symphony Orchestra."

In Seattle classical-music circles, Craig and his wife, Joan, are most known for their donation of the 4,490-pipe organ in Benaroya Hall.

"Watjen was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1992, and when he had his prostate removed, he thought he'd done away with the disease. But it returned about three years ago after small cells metastasized into his liver, his wife said.

His prostate-cancer treatment inspired him to invest $50 million to help found Light Sciences Oncology, a research institute developing more tolerable, effective and repeatable radiation treatments for cancer.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Watjen is survived by family members up and down the East Coast."

Requiescat In Pace. (permalink)

Where's The Work? Raghavan Mayur, president of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, revealed that a recent survey showed that 28% of the 1,000-odd households interviewed reported that at least one member was looking for a full-time job.

"Our numbers are always very accurate, so I was surprised at the discrepancy with the government's numbers," said Mayur, whose firm owns the TIPP polling unit, a polling partner for Investors' Business Daily and Christian Science Monitor. The 'official' number shows the U.S. unemployment rate at 9.5%, with a total of 14.6 million jobless people.

Mayur's polls have continued to find much worse figures, indicating an unemployment rate of over 22%. He has started questioning the accuracy of the Labor Department's jobless numbers.

On a related local note, Clark County's 'official' unemployment rate climbed to 13.3% in July as the county shed 1,800 jobs. The southwest Washington county's jobless rate was 12.4% in June.

I, too, believe that unemployment numbers are under-reporting the number of jobless. Based on comments from friends about their children's employment - most of their 'kids' are in their early 40s - and unemployment rate of 20-25% sounds reasonable.

Some of these folks are also working part time because they can't find full-time work. Others are working at low-wage temp jobs which they despise.

The Truth About Islam: British writer Douglas Murray calls 'bullshit' on all the Religion of Peace crapola. And it's about time. Murray has written, "'Islam is a religion of peace.' That is what every Western leader says every time a Muslim sets something off.

They never tell us which ones they think are the violent religions. But for Islam it's a win-win. Knock down a tower and everyone in government says how terrific Islam is. Build a tower and everyone in government says how terrific Islam is. Either way it's a gain for Islam."

"Subway bombs? 'Peace.' Airline plots? 'Peace.' Car bombs? 'Peace.' It must be hard these days being a violent jihadi. No one in power believes what you say. It's just impossible to get your message across. The U.S. authorities ... (more >>>)

Blago Walks? A federal jury convicted former Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, of just one count - displaying too little forehead in public - and remains deadlocked on 23 other, more-serious criminal counts.

Blagojevich declared his innocence, defiantly taunted prosecutors and sang an Elvis ballad for reporters gathered on the courthouse steps.

Quote Of The Day is from Woody Allen: "You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred."

Monday August 16, 2010

Detroit Putsch: General Motors is as complex, inscrutable and screwed-up as the old Soviet Union.

Last week, GM got a new CEO, Daniel F. Akerson - the fourth chief executive in 18 months.

This is reminiscent of the Chairman of the Soviet Union musical chairs game of the 1980s. In four years, the USSR had six of 'em: Koznetov, Andropov, Kuznetov, Chenrenko, Kuznetov (again) and Gromyko. Remember how that worked out?

Akerson, like his predecessor, has been in senior management at phone companies. What does running a telecom have to do with automobile manufacturing? Where's the product excellence or passion in phones?

Color me skeptical. And send me to a Gulag.

car blogSummer Heat: After a week of morning clouds and generally chilly 'sweater weather' mornings, summer came back on Friday, with temperatures hitting 94 degrees. At 9:00 am, while it was still a cool 64, I hopped in the Plymouth and went for a drive under a cloudless reflex blue sky.

On Saturday, the temperature almost reached triple digits. Sunday and Monday were hot, too. I took another drive in the Plymouth Monday morning (to downtown Battle Ground and Hockinson) and played some '50s Elvis music through the speakers.

Thirty-Three Years Ago ... Elvis died. I was in Chicago on a business trip. It was sunny and hot. I had just finished a meeting and was driving east on I-90 in a rented Buick Century sedan headed toward South Bend when I heard the news on the radio. I was wearing a gray, three-piece business suit with a button-down shirt and maroon club tie.

I don't know why I remember all these details but they are embedded in my brain like a virus-laden Microsoft Windows patch.

That night, I watched the 11:00 pm news in a depressingly dark motel room and saw an old b&w clip of a young Elvis performing 'Ready Teddy' on The Ed Sullivan Show.

I had viewed that very show when it originally aired. It was one of Elvis' finest live television performances. Sullivan was in the hospital after a car accident in his big '56 Lincoln Premiere sedan. Substitute host Charles Laughton introduced Elvis, who performed from a remote hookup in Hollywood where he was making 'Love Me Tender'.

auto blog

While many remember the mid-70s fat, bejeweled, drugged-out parody that he had become, the fact is that Elvis Presley was an awesome talent back in 1956.

I have further thoughts on Elvis posted here.

car blogMaybe He'll Have To Go Live In The Projects: The executive director of the Philadelphia Housing Authority is about to get tossed from his residence.

Wells Fargo Bank has foreclosed on Carl Greene's $615,000, three-bedroom, 2,100-square-foot condominium in the upscale Naval Square development in southwest center city. The bank says in a lawsuit filed late last month that the amount in dispute is $386,685. Greene bought the home in 2007.

The 53-year-old Greene is head of the nation's fourth-largest public housing agency and is one of the highest-paid public officials in the city. His salary is $306,370, and last year he got a $44,188 bonus.

PHA, a state authority, is funded mostly by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and is responsible for providing housing for Philadelphia's poor. It maintains rowhouses and apartments for low-income residents and develops affordable housing for purchase.

sherlock automobile blogNaturally, there's an Obama connection. During the Obama administration's reign, Greene has drawn attention and accolades from HOOD for quickly putting to use economic-recovery money. In the last two years, PHA has received an additional $127 million in stimulus money that Greene has used to build or renovate 1,200 housing units.

Spending over $100,000 per unit to rehab and then selling the same very units for between $30-$50,000 doesn't seem to require much skill. Or smarts.

Recently, he attended the ground breaking ceremony yesterday for the new, $38 million Paschall Village, a former public housing project at 72d Street and Paschall Avenue, described by Greene as "attractive for antisocial behavior." That means drug-dealing on a such a colossal scale, it makes 'The Wire' seem like a Saturday morning kiddie cartoon show.

The money will build 100 dwellings - $380,000 per unit for simple town houses on land already owned by the city. As Mr. Rogers might have asked, "Can you say 'graft'?" Outrageous.

As to his financial woes, Wikipedia has noted: "Experts suggest he may seek help from the President and receive money from what other inner-city residents refer to as 'Obama's Stash'."

But Wait ... There's More: The Philadelphia Housing Authority board has suspended executive director Carl R. Greene while it investigates a series of sexual harassment claims that were settled in secret.

"The decision came just hours after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development dispatched a team of auditors to scour the agency's books.

On a day in which it was revealed that the PHA's insurance company has settled three harassment claims against Greene and is close to settling a fourth for nearly $900,000 in total, PHA Board Chairman John F. Street led the call for suspension and investigation."

Quote Of The Day is from Frank J. Fleming: "Wouldn't it be more efficient to teach only some kids reading and math and the rest how to carry heavy things?"

Friday August 13, 2010

The Trouble With Tribbles Tesla: Legendary manufacturer of PR, venture capital proposals, hype and - occasionally - electric cars, Tesla Motors has reported its first earnings statement as a public company. The numbers are not good. Revenue was $28.4 million but the company lost $38.5 million.

the view through the windshieldA quick, back-of-the-envelope calculation indicates that the $100,000 two-seat Tesla Roadster would have to be priced at over $235,000 per example for the company just to break even.

Oh wait, the company says. They're spending lots of money on R&D. Well then, the firm needs more profit. Merely breaking even won't do then, so maybe the Roadster should be priced at $500,000 per car. Of course, no one will buy it at that price. In fact, few are buying any at the 'bargain' $100,000 level.

"Be patient", says Tesla. We're developing a stylish four-door sedan which will save the company. Last year, Tesla announced that it would be priced at $50,000 or so. Now, the company says that the 'typical' Model S sedan will cost $75,000 and won't be available for sale until 2012. Who knows what the selling price will be when the Model S actually goes into production.

Meanwhile, the soap opera continues. Founder Elon Musk is said to be out of cash, and ex-wife Justine Musk seems to be angling for a large chunk of Elon's shares. "The company only has $47 million left in the bank, down from $70 million at the end of last year."

Some time ago, I wrote and article titled 'Make a profit on everything you do'. Musk and his minions ought to read it as well as 'Entrepreneurs and money'. (permalink)

Book Review: 'Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire That Civilized the Wild West' by Stephen Fried

This book chronicles the rise and fall of the famous Fred Harvey hospitality empire. And how FH enabled the growth and development of the American West.

Prior to reading this well-done, fact-filled tome, my exposure to Fred Harvey had been limited. FH never expanded east of Cleveland, so there were no Harvey establishments in Philadelphia. (I suspect, the closest thing to it was Childs Restaurant in Atlantic City.) I remember seeing 'Fred Harvey' signs on those dining establishments which straddled the Illinois Tollway when I used to travel the Chicago area in the early 1970s. In 1987, my wife and I stayed at the spectacular El Tovar hotel on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. It was a Harvey creation and I remember that our dinner there was spectacular.

British-born Fred Harvey was the inventor of the restaurant chain and, arguably, the first creator of 'branding' as a marketing tool. His entrepreneurial vision ... (more >>>)

the view through the windshield blog

Recovery Summer = Summer Of George: In June, Barack Obama and Joe Biden declared this to be the 'Recovery Summer'. It is turning out to be more like the 1997 Seinfeld episode, the 'Summer of George', initially described by George Costanza as "time to taste the fruits and let the juices drip down my chin."

Just as things didn't work out so well for Mr. Costanza, Messrs. Obama and Biden are learning that the economy's legs "have sustained extensive trauma. Apparently your body was in a state of advanced atrophy, due to a period of extreme inactivity and abuse. But with a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck, I think there's a good chance you may, one day, walk again."

the view through the windshield car blog

Neither businessmen nor consumers have any confidence in the policies being pursued by the Obama administration. Weekly jobless claims are getting worse and worse. The economy is still quite sick.

This is going to be a slow recovery. And a jobless one as well, I'm afraid. (permalink)

Thought For Today: Eagles may soar but weasels never get sucked into jet engines.

Wednesday August 11, 2010

Drain Your Bank Account; Eat Your Heart Out: The RM Auction at Monterey begins tomorrow. Over 200 vehicles are on the block, including including 18 FoMoCo concept cars. If you have a couple of hours to spare, you can peruse (and drool over) all the offerings in the 600 page online catalog.

If your time is limited, I'd recommend a gander at the 1933 Packard Twelve coupe (update: sold for $1,622,500), the 1934 Packard 'Myth' (update: sold for $407,000), the 1938 Talbot Lago T150-C Lago Speciale Teardrop Coupe (update: sold for $4,620,000), the 1937 Studebaker 'Extremeliner' (update: sold for $137,500), the 1949 Delahaye Type 175 S Roadster by Saoutchik (update: sold for $3,300,000) and the 2003 Bugnotti (update: sold for $154,000). (permalink)

A Giant In The Automotive Journalism Field, Jerry Flint, has died at age 79.

sherlock auto blogFlint covered Detroit and its auto industry for 52 years for Forbes, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and trade journal Ward's. I've been reading Jerry's automobile columns for almost 30 years. His incisive and often hard-hitting articles were well-researched. While his most recent work been more analytical, his earlier writing was that of an investigative journalist, who often broke industry stories.

Jerry had won the Loeb Award for business and financial reporting. In 2003, The Journal of Financial Reporting named him one 100 most prominent business reporters of the 20th century. I occasionally corresponded with him by e-mail; his responses were always helpful and friendly. RIP. (permalink)

Who Said Mass Transit Is Clean? On Monday, a contractor for the latest Portland streetcar expansion blocked a pipe, dumping 1,400 gallons of raw sewage into the Willamette River.

I wrote about about the boondoggle that is the Portland streetcar system last month. (permalink)

The $100 Million Paper Bridge: After wasting tons of money studying the problem to death and issuing voluminous reports, there is still no new Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River, connecting Washington and Oregon.

Everyone agreed long ago that the present bridge is obsolete. Originally built in 1917, it is the only lift bridge on busy Interstate 5 between Mexico and Canada. Over 130,000 vehicles cross the bridge on an average day and, for four-five hours each day, the bridge operates at or beyond nameplate capacity.

the view through the windshield blog

The bridge is frequently a bottleneck which impacts both traffic on the freeway, as well as on the river. The lift takes 10 minutes to open and does so between 10 and 20 times per month, which causes nightmarish traffic backups.

The bridge is also ... (more >>>)

'Hope & Change Becomes Run & Hide' is the title of an article by former conservative radio host Lee Rogers: "Those thundering hoofbeats you hear in the distance aren't re-runs of "Bonanza". They're Democrat politicians facing an election in November running as hard as they can AWAY from President Obama, who's accurately assumed to be the Kiss of Death."

Bad Pun of the Day: Reading while sunbathing makes you well red.

Monday August 9, 2010

Birthday Present: I had a very good celebration and received several nice gifts including a couple of diecast cars. One of them is a 1:18 scale model of my old 1963 Corvette Sting Ray convertible in the Silver Blue color - just like the one I bought just after I graduated from college.

car blog

Looking at the model sure brought back memories of driving around Northeast Philadelphia with the top down on sunny days listening to the V8 burble as I shifted through the gears.

I had personally ordered both models along with display cases for each. When they arrived, I handed them to my wife to put away in her gift closet for presentation at the appropriate occasion.

I placed my order for the Corvette model almost three years ago - November 17, 2007. But the manufacturer (Auto Art) kept delaying the issue date; it didn't arrive until late last month. (permalink)

auto blogJuly Car Sales: General Motors, Ford and Chrysler reported U.S. sales growth in July that trailed analysts' estimates as consumers concerned about the economy limited large purchases. Overall sales were 11.5 mm units SAAR, up 3% from a year ago. Summer promotions and easier credit lured shoppers into dealer showrooms.

GM sales overall were up 5% as were Chrysler's. Ford was up 3%. Honda and Toyota were off slightly - by 2% and 3% respectively. Nissan sales increased almost 15%; Hyundai was up 19%. In general, truck and SUV sales lead the way.

Cadillac sales increased 142% to 14,919 units (sales were dominated by the CTS and SRX); in contrast, Lincoln sales were down by 17% (5,586). The flagship Lincoln MKS is bombing in the marketplace with only 969 sold in July, a year-over-year decline of 20%. The weird 'n' ugly MKT appears to be a loser as well - only 606 were sold in July.

Of Ford-badged offerings, the Taurus (+187%), Explorer (+53%), F-Series pickup (+39%), Edge (+19%) and Mustang (+12%) sold very well.

Buick sales increased 137%; sales of the LaCrosse jumped almost fourfold. Toyota Avalon sales increased 48% to 2,815 units; sales of the flagship Lexus LS increased 13% to 986 units.

"I'm Your Savior": Last week, President Obama told workers at a Chicago Ford plant - which once made Model Ts, later Tauri and Sables and now Ford Explorers - that his bailout push helped save an "industry on the brink."

Joe Sherlock auto blogFord is adding jobs at the Chicago plant; Barry O. is claiming credit: "I put my money on the American worker," he said.

Of course, Ford did not take bailout money, but Obama argued the company benefited from a "resurgent industry after General Motors and Chrysler got federal help." By that logic, you'll never feel hungry as long as somebody somewhere eats something. Ask Karen Carpenter how that worked out.

The truth is that many buyers of American cars have switched to Ford rather than deal with 'Obama Motors'. That's why FoMoCo is thriving.

Ford has been making cars in Chicago since 1914. I got a chance to tour its Chicago assembly plant in 1993. While some of the structure was antiquated, the assembly process was highly automated and very impressive.

Michelle Antoinette: Michelle Obama (aka Lady O), has been described by NY Post writer Andrea Tantaros as 'a modern-day Marie Antoinette', "the French queen who spent extravagantly on clothes and jewels without a thought for her subjects' plight."

While much of the country is pinching pennies ... (more >>>)

The Andrea True Connection: Frank J. Fleming has suggested a possible Democrat slogan for 2010: "You have yet to know true suffering."

I disagree. The slogan should be a song: "More. More. More. How do ya like it? How do ya like it?"

Study Hard: With the school district in a financial crisis and hundreds of its members facing layoffs, the Milwaukee teachers union is fighting to get their taxpayer-funded Viagra back. "The union has asked a judge to order the school board to again include Pfizer Inc.'s erectile dysfunction drug and similar pills in its health insurance plans."

My alternate title for this post was "Are You Pointing At The Equation On The Blackboard Or Are You Just Happy To See Us?"

Quote Of The Day is from Joan Rivers: "I was at a dinner party where one actress had adopted a child from Africa and she was saying, 'I want my children to know their heritage.' I said, 'Lock them in a room and throw them a jar of flies.'"

Thursday August 5, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me: On this historic day (birthday of Loni Anderson, Neil Armstrong and the Elephant Man) as I begin my 68th year on this planet, I'm going to take the day off and Enjoy Life. And drive my ol' Plymouth. And later, probably consume a Canadian Club Manhattan with two cherries.

On the day of my birth, a shipwrecked John F. Kennedy and his PT109 and crew were found by Solomon Islander coastwatchers with their dugout canoe. August 5, 1943 also fell on a Thursday.

Tuesday August 3, 2010

Electric Government On Wheels: Edward Niedermeyer of The Truth About Cars wrote an exceptional, insightful article about the Chevrolet Volt for the New York Times. My only quibble was the title; it should have been headlined 'The Truth About The Volt'.

Excerpt: "Quantifying just how much taxpayer money will have been wasted on the hastily developed Volt is no easy feat. Start with the $50 billion bailout (without which none of this would have been necessary), add $240 million in Energy Department grants doled out to GM last summer, $150 million in federal money to the Volt's Korean battery supplier, up to $1.5 billion in tax breaks for purchasers and other consumer incentives, and some significant portion of the $14 billion loan GM got in 2008 for "retooling" its plants, and you've got some idea of how much taxpayer cash is built into every Volt."

car blog

Mr. Niedermeyer concluded, "If GM were honest, it would market the car as a personal donation for, and vote of confidence in, the auto bailout. Unfortunately, that's not the kind of cross-branding that will make the Volt a runaway success."

As to the Volt's $41,000 base price ... good luck with that. One California Chevrolet dealer has already gone on record that all orders will be subject to an additional $20,000 dealer gouge.

The Washington Examiner referred to the Volt as an Electric Lemon, which sounds like a band from the 1960s.

Greg Gutfeld, who normally drives a manly V8 Facel Vega ("It's got no seatbelts, eats gas and killed Albert Camus. Those were the good old days."), described the Volt as an "EZ bake oven on wheels" and a "sanctimonious sardine can."

"Sure, the "car" is tiny - but there's enough room for the yoga mat, a bag of Craisins and a paper mache sculpture of the tree nymph you did at the Learning Annex (it helped you get over the hypnotherapist who dumped you)."

When he learned that Volt sales would be concentrated in Southern California and popularized by high-profile celebrities, Greg observed that "the only people buying it will be Janeane Garafalo, and/or someone resembling Janeane Garafalo."

the view through the windshield

On Fox's 'Special Report', Charles Krauthammer said that the only customers for this vehicle will be "very rich people who are going to park it outside their townhouses for an ostentatious show of how virtuous they are, while they drive around in their Cadillac Escalades." Amen.

It's Official: Volvo is now owned by the Chinese. Geely bought it from Ford for $1.8 billion. Which is more than the Washington Post got for Newsweek - the magazine was just sold for $1.

In related news, Geely may also be buying the firm that manufactures those iconic British taxis and moving production to China.

Will Hillary Run In 2012? Frank J. Fleming has written, "She's always had that look in her eyes that says she lusts for power and will kill and eat the skin of anyone who stands in her way.

Republicans like her more these days, because they think maybe they can unleash her on countries they don't like.

The Netroots don't like her, but, if they stood in her way, we'd probably start seeing those bloggers end up in landfills and I don't think the police would care enough to investigate."

It's About Time: An independent ethics office has finally accused Rep. Maxine Waters of violating House conflict-of-interest rules by intervening on behalf of a minority-owned bank in which her husband held $250,000 worth of stock. A special bipartisan investigative panel of the committee has found "substantial reason to believe" that Waters violated House rules.

Back in early 2009, I wrote about the favorable treatment OneUnited Bank received from Maxine and her Democrat buddy, Barney Frank, who had also intervened on the bank's behalf, inserting a special provision in 2008's $700 billion financial-system rescue plan.

When will the Ethics office recommend that Barney be tried, too? (permalink)

More Frank: In case you missed it, Barack Obama called African Americans 'mongrels' on 'The View' last week.

Frank J. Fleming has commented, "You'd think the President calling black people mongrels would be something that happened before Sen. Byrd was born, not after he died. ... Oh no! I figured it out! The ghost of Robert Byrd has possessed Obama!"

Frank's friend, Harvey, has asked, "So… since Obama has officially made it OK to call black people mongrels, is it now also officially OK for me to say that Obama has big, sticky-out chimp-ears and bears more than a passing resemblance to Curious George?"

sherlock automotive blogI Didn't Know He Was Still Alive: Mitch Miller, the influential record producer who became a hugely popular recording artist with his atrocious (to me) 'Sing Along With Mitch' series, has died at 99.

He helped Frankie Laine, Tony Bennett, Aretha Franklin and others become famous.

Frank Sinatra felt Miller held him back and, therefore, had no time for him.

Miller was outspoken in his dislike of rock 'n' roll:

"It's not music; it's a disease." RIP.

Quote of the Day is from H.L. Mencken: "The capacity of human beings to bore one another seems to be vastly greater than that of any other animal."


This blog is about cars, automobiles, vehicles of various sorts and more.

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 trying to change my mind by providing me with vehicles to test drive.

If I have slandered any people, politicians, celebrities or corporations in this blog, either expressly or inadvertently, they should buy me strong drinks (and an expensive meal), while patiently attempting to prove 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 2010 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved