A Blog About Cars ... And Everything Else That Catches My Eye
Wednesday February 29, 2012
Autosketch: 1959 Corvette Sting Ray race car
Built in 1959, this one-off Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray race car was commissioned by General Motor's Design V.P. Bill Mitchell and styled by Pete Brock and Larry Shinoda. It foretold the styling - and the name - of the second-generation C2 1963-67 Corvette.
This prototype was mounted on the chassis of the 1957 Corvette SS development mule. The Sting Ray racer weighed a mere 2,200 pounds and rode on a 92-inch wheelbase. It looks larger in photos because it is so low.
It was billed ... (more >>>)
A Brief Summary Of The Obama Years: Victor Davis Hanson has written, "As gas nears $5/gallon out west, the president, who has cancelled a key pipeline and frozen federal leases from Alaska to the East Coast, teaches us about American algae potential, in the way he used to emphasize the importance of tire pressure and "tune-ups." He castigates the opposition for making political hay out of bad news, in the way he routinely did as a senator in compiling the most partisan voting record in the Senate. Energy Secretary Chu cannot and will not say a word about soaring gas prices, since he is on record not so long ago hoping that they might double - that is, get to $8-10/gallon as they are in Europe. The Energy Department can do almost everything Americans don't want, but not the single thing they do want."
"The treasury secretary who oversaw $5 trillion in new debt, and who oversees an IRS that he himself not long ago tried to short, lectures us that a premium in taxes must be paid for the fact of our being born American. The first lady, who cannot keep from vacationing at Costa del Sol, Vail, Aspen, and Martha's Vineyard, keeps reminding us, who do not go to those tony retreats or $30,000/plate fundraisers, that we must pay our fair share to a nearly insolvent government to help it help the less fortunate, 50% of whom pay no income taxes."
"And always, in the midst of these problems, we hear of a "they" who caused all of the above."
From The Country That Brought You Benny Hill: An undercover policeman "chased himself" around the streets for more than 20 minutes after a bungling closed-circuit television operator mistook him for a suspect.
The rookie officer was staking out an area in Sussex hit by a spate of burglaries when he was radioed about someone "acting suspiciously" in the area.
"The CCTV operator directed the policeman in pursuit, telling him he was "hot on his heels" of the suspect not realizing the person he was watching on camera was the plain-clothed officer himself."
Happy Birthday ... to Mr. Potato Head, who has turned 60.
"Mr. Potato Head hit the market in 1952 and has been inspiring imaginative play ever since. ... Mr. Potato Head was the first-ever toy to be advertised on television and remains one of Hasbro's most beloved characters."
Over 100 million Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head toys have been sold to date. Mrs. Potato Head debuted in 1953.
Mr. Potato Head cost 98¢ in '52 and consisted of parts only. The owner - or parents - provided the potato. In 1964, Hasbro began supplying Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head with hard plastic bodies, eliminating the need for real spuds.
Hmmmm. I wonder if Dan Quayle had a Mr. Potato Head as a kid.
Back in the 1980s, when Jay Leno did edgy comedy, he had a bit about Toys For Ethiopians. In the piece, he was having a mythical conversation with little Bantu, an African child. Leno presented Bantu with a Mr. Potato Head set. "Look, little Bantu, you can decorate up Mr. Potato and put a funny nose and glasses on him."
"But Bantu is very, very hungry and would just like to eat the potato."
"No, no, little Bantu, this potato is not for eating. It is for play and fun," lectured Leno. (permalink)
Bad Pun Of The Day: Police were called to the day center when a three year-old was resisting a rest.
Monday February 27, 2012
Another Bad Idea: Land Rover is introducing the Range Rover Evoque Convertible at the upcoming Geneva Auto Show.
"At this time, Land Rover is calling the roofless wonder a concept, though a production model seems likely at some point in the near future. Based on the three-door Evoque, the convertible model will offer seating for four."
Who knew that the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet SUV would start a trend - a stupid one?
Nuke 'Em, Danno: Finding that Afghan terrorist captives used their copies of the Koran to pass messages to each other by scribbling scribble in the margins, our military correctly confiscated and destroyed these defaced books.
Muslim mobs expressed their outrage by rioting and killing U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, claiming that they are outraged by the burning of these Korans.
Ironically, Muslims around the world have no problem burning the American flag, effigies of Americans and anything America-related. One sees this almost daily on news broadcasts. Muslims seem to be "outraged" about everything the West does.
That corrupt ingrate Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, demanded ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Demonic: How the Liberal Mob Is Endangering America' by Ann Coulter
The TV Ann Coulter is a bombastic flame-thrower of sound bites. In book form, she's still inflammatory and caustic at times but supports her positions with historical facts. In this book, she posits that the demon is a mob, and the mob is demonic, hence the title.
Ann makes a convincing case that the Democratic Party plays to ... (more >>>)
Life Is Precious: Joe Klein has written about Rick and Karen Santorum's child, Bella, whose genetic defect, trisomy 18, is an early-death sentence.
"I am haunted by the smiling photos I've seen of Isabella with her father and mother, brothers and sisters. No doubt she struggles through many of her days - she nearly died a few weeks ago - but she has also been granted three years of unconditional love and the ability to smile and bring joy. Her tenuous survival has given her family a deeper sense of how precious even the frailest of lives are.
All right, I can hear you saying, the Santorum family's course may be admirable, but shouldn't we have the right to make our own choices?
Yes, I suppose. But I also worry that we've become too averse to personal inconvenience as a society - that we're less rigorous parents than we should be, that we've farmed out our responsibilities, especially for the disabled, to the state - and I'm grateful to Santorum for forcing on me the discomfort of having to think about the moral implications of his daughter's smile."
Black History Month? Didn't We Have That Last Year? How come they don't alternate and have White History Month this year? Or Asian History Month? Or Jewish History Month? Or Irish History Month?
A network - I can't remember which one - celebrated Black History Month by showing famous African-Americans. I've only seen two people mentioned - Ray Charles and Jackie Robinson. This is the best the network people could come up with? Perhaps next year they'll add Whitney Houston.
Imagine the outrage if there were an Italian-American History Month, celebrating only Frank Sinatra and Joe DiMaggio.
During the month, I saw no mention of those black people who profoundly changed America. Such as Dr. Charles Richard Drew, who not only revolutionized the medical profession by developing a way to store blood and plasma but also created the world's first blood bank. Or Garrett Morgan, who invented the first traffic signal.
It's a disgrace. And most black people are apparently OK with it. In fact, some are doing waaaay too much celebrating of Black History Month: an African-American woman crashed her BMW at 100 mph into a KFC on Martin Luther King Highway in Maryland. KFC?! MLK?! Talk about stereotyping - it sounds like something from 'The Cleveland Show'.
While we're on the subject of disgraces, I am appalled ... (more >>>)
Speaking Of Ethnicity ... Ben & Jerry's are taking fortune cookies out of its new Jeremy Lin-inspired ice cream flavor after hearing complaints that the ingredient was "racist." Fortune cookies are racist - who knew?
I have two thoughts on matters of race:
Quote Of The Day is from P.J. O'Rourke: "When you look at the Republicans you see the scum off the top of business. When you look at the Democrats you see the scum off the top of politics. Personally, I prefer business. A businessman will steal from you directly instead of getting the IRS to do it for him. And when Republicans ruin the environment, destroy the supply of affordable housing and wreck the industrial infrastructure, at least they make a buck off it. The Democrats just do these things for fun."
Friday February 24, 2012
Trip Report: We have returned from an enjoyable twelve-day visit to the Palm Springs, CA area.
The skies were blue and the weather was sunny and warm - a welcome respite from the grayness and drizzle of the Pacific Northwest.
The bright sun gave me an opportunity to don my Miracle Hat.
We flew round trip on Alaska Airlines and, as usual, were impressed with the service. But the TSA inspections at the Palm Springs airport were a disorganized mess. Lines were slow-moving and chaos reigned.
Trip photos can be found here. Be sure to check out the longhorn cow sculpture constructed using old Mercedes-Benz parts among other things.
Car Sightings: In addition to the many Bentleys and other luxury cars, I finally saw a Chevrolet Volt - just one - a white example which looked ordinary, inspiring and not worth $45,000. During our time in the desert, I saw lots of Prii - including several first-generation examples of Toyota's hybrid.
I spotted three Fiat 500s during our California desert visit - two white ones and a black one. One was parked on tony El Paseo Drive.
A 2012 Jaguar XJ was on display on El Paseo with a sticker price of $91,575. I continue to be unimpressed with the styling of this car, especially the otiose black-painted rear sail panel. It is supposed to mimic wraparound pillarless glass but fails miserably.
A block away, a very nice - and better-looking - 1979 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith II had a for sale sign in the window. It was a relative bargain at $14,500.
I spotted a burgundy Maserati Quattroporte parked in Old Town La Quinta. Regardless of what the automotive press claims, it still looked like a Buick to me. I also saw a silver Zimmer Quicksilver driving around town. This is quite a rare mid-1980s beast. What an Eighties flashback; it made me want to hum the Bangles' 'Walk Like An Egyptian'. Only 170 or so of these Pontiac Fiero-based two-seaters were produced. I've only seen one other Quicksilver - about 25 years ago. It was parked on a street in downtown Portland.
There were over 800 vehicles on display at the Doctor George Car Show in Indian Wells. My friend Dennis and I attended and I've posted two pages of old car photos from the event - here and here. Show proceeds benefited the non-profit Desert Cancer Foundation.
Rental Cars: Alamo provided us with a brand new silver 2012 Chevrolet Impala with only 40 miles on the odometer. Unfortunately, after less than 100 miles, the transmission lever jammed, leaving us stranded. Sounded like a build-quality problem. Thank you, United Auto Workers.
A very non-new silver Nissan Altima (14,600 miles with New Jersey plates and what looked like Snooki's greasy ass-print on the dashboard) was provided as a substitute. It was actually a nicer car; the only thing I didn't like was the CVT transmission. Speaking of Snooki, I read in the news that the meretricious 'Jersey Shore' is now being broadcast in Japan. It has been retitled as 'The Macaroni Rascals'. Not kidding.
Dining: We enjoyed several above-par meals during our stay. And some which were below our expectations. Places where we dined included (click on link for comments):
Miscellany: The Desert is a land of unique experiences:
All in all, our trip was a welcome respite from a dreary Pacific Northwest winter. When we arrived back at the Portland airport, it was pouring rain. I wasn't surprised. (permalink)
Monday February 6, 2012
Back To the 1940s: Dan Neil has educated me about the Chrysler 300 Luxury Series, a model I never knew existed. The second-generation Chrysler 300 - a full-size, rear or all-wheel-drive, V6- or V8-powered sedan - is being rebadged as a Lancia Thema and sold in Europe as an executive saloon.
"Part of the Thema program was setting up the glovers to build a swank full-leather interior, including Poltrona Frau-supplied, French-stitched leather on the dash, cluster brow, upper door trim and center console (Poltrona Frau also supplies Ferrari and Maserati). This couture-quality set of skins - in our test car, a handsome two-tone Mochachino - is complemented with Nappa leather on the seats, armrests and door gussets, and a hand-sanded wood trim on the doors and center console. The investment having been made, Chrysler's product planners called an audible: The 300 Luxury Series was born."
The Chrysler 300C Luxury Series and its sibling car, the Lancia Thema, are built in Brampton, Ontario.
"Among the car's Megillah of features: front heated/ventilated seats and rear heated seats, heated wood-and-leather steering wheel, heated/cooled cupholders, 20-inch polished alloy wheels, LED interior lighting, power backlight sunshade, a huge power sunroof borrowed from Cowboys Stadium, and a slew of safety and convenience features bundled into optional packages, including adaptive self-leveling high-intensity headlights, adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning system. As a charming holdover from the European car, there are rear fog lights."
Even a loaded-up AWD version will sticker at less than $50,000. Sounds like a pretty good deal and a reminder that Chrysler was once an American luxury brand.
Caprice-ous Fatwa: A Salafi sheikh in Egypt has just issued an Islamic legal pronouncement banning the driving or owning of Chevrolets in the country because the Chevy Bow-Tie logo looks too much like a Christian cross. The Salafists just won 20% of the Egyptian parliament.
This would have never happened if Ol' Hosni Mubarak was still running the show.
Don't Cry for Me, America: Is it just me or does Hillary Clinton look more and more like an elderly version of Eva Peron every day?
I bet she's sorry that she took the thankless job of Secretary of State, given all the international problems and gaffes that have plagued the Obama Administration.
Hmmm. I seem to recall that Evita once sang, "And as for fortune, and as for fame, I never invited them in. Though it seemed to the world they were all I desired. They are illusions - they are not the solutions they promised to be."
When Hillary dropped out of the 2008 presidential race and threw her support to Barack, I figured that she'd get a coveted appointment. How does one reward a U.S. Senator from New York, a significant state? I assumed that the fix was in to nominate her for the one job more prestigious and secure - a Supreme Court justice.
But no, she was offered a substantially lesser (IMHO) consolation prize. Why did she take it? Ask Andrew Lloyd Webber's Peron: "It won't be easy; you'll think it strange, when I try to explain how I feel ... that I still need your love after all that I've done."
And I Thought I Had Bad Bouts Of Diarrhea: As of today, Queen Elizabeth II has been on the throne for 60 years.
Taking A Stand: Last week, Susan G. Komen Foundation announced that it would no longer be contributing $700,000 dollars to that rubber-dispensing abortion-mill known as Planned Parenthood, since PP does not provide mammograms and is, at best, a referral service. I can't imagine any woman, upon discovering a lump, having as a first thought, "I better run down to Planned Parenthood and get this checked out." Might as well run down to Arby's. Or AutoZone. Get thee to a proper clinic, girl.
There was a great outcry from liberals, led by the three most despicable women in the U.S. Senate (Pelosi, Boxer and Murray). Despite receiving a flood of contributions within a few hours of its announcement, the Komen Foundation folded faster than Superman on laundry day. Perhaps a white flag is now a more appropriate symbol for this organization than its signature pink ribbon.
Komen could have avoided this nasty publicity by never dealing with Planned Parenthood in the first place. This is what happens when you dance with the Devil.
Dan Cirucci summed it up best: "When Komen decided to cut ties, I felt they were taking a moral stand. That they no longer wanted an affiliation with an organization with a very dubious past and a current shady underbelly. That the fight against breast cancer was stronger without Planned Parenthood.
But it seems that doing what they felt, and what many people still feel, is the right thing, was too hard. And they changed their mind.
And now Komen no longer stands for a promise between sisters over 30 years ago. They stand for nothing."
We've been supporters of Komen for years and my wife has participated many times in its Race For The Cure. No more. We're done.
Professor O: Representative Dennis Cardoza, a moderate Democrat from California, has blasted President Obama, stating that "it has become obvious to me that the president might prefer to be a university professor rather than do the job he holds today."
"Early in his administration, President/Professor Obama repeatedly referred to "teaching moments." He would admonish staff, members of Congress and the public, in speeches and in private, about what they could learn from him. ... President Obama projected an arrogant 'I'm right, you're wrong' demeanor that alienated many potential allies."
"Recently, a senator told me Obama went to his/her state, but issued an invitation for the senator to attend the event only the day before. "I represent a must-win state and lead the president in approval ratings by nearly 20 points. He was totally off-message for what my people wanted to hear. Doesn't the White House get it? I don't need him, he needs me!""
Or Maybe He's Preacher O: Last week, President Barack Obama delivered remarks to the National Prayer Breakfast and said we should be "living by the principle that we are our brother's keeper, caring for the poor and those in need."
Mark Steyn responded, "Oh, give me a break ... his brother is back in Kenya living on $12 a year. ... So all the president has to do in terms of shared responsibility is put a $10 bill in an envelope and mail it to Nairobi or Mombasa or wherever and he will double his brother's salary."
During the breakfast, Obama invoked Jesus, as is the custom of many of the occasionally-faithful who find themselves in big trouble - as his presidency certainly seems to be. Somehow, a scene from 'The Godfather' came to mind, where Tessio asked Tom Hagen desperately, "Can you get me off the hook, Tom? For old times' sake?"
A comparison between the teachings of Jesus versus Obama can be found here.
Super Bowl Commercials: My favorites included:
The worst ones were:
This year, the average 30-second spot cost $3.5 million and was watched by 111.3 million viewers. I thought the overall impressiveness of the ads was not as good as last year's crop.
Quote Of The Day is from Rita Rudner: "I work for myself, which is fun. Except for when I call in sick - I know I'm lying."
Thursday February 2, 2012
January Auto Sales: U.S. light vehicle sales rose 11% in January from a year ago. The seasonally-adjusted annual sales rate for January hit 14.2 million, August 2009 - the month of 'cash for clunkers'. The January SAAR compares to a SAAR of 13.6 million vehicles in December.
Chrysler Group reported a jaw-dropping 44% gain in domestic auto sales, led by the Chrysler nameplate which increased 81% over January 2011. The Jeep brand jumped 37% in sales. Chrysler also reported its first yearly profit since 1997 - $183 million net on $55 billion in net revenue. Chrysler sold 1.37 million light vehicles in the U.S. last year, a 26% gain in a market that advanced 10%.
Mazda sales were up 68%; Volkswagen increased 48%. Kia saw a 27% rise, while Hyundai rose 15%. Mercedes-Benz sales were up 23%. Subaru sales increased by 21%.
Honda was up 9%, as was Toyota. Avalon sales increased 79% to 3,219 units, while Camry sales increased 58%. Lexus LS sales dropped 22% to 573 sedans; overall sales of the Lexus brand declined by 5%.
Ford Motor Co. sales were up 7% to 136,710 units, driven by record sales of the Focus. Lincoln sales declined by 8%. Only 279 examples of the hideous MKT were sold in January.
General Motors sales declined 6%, with Cadillac sales off by 29%. Buick sales were down 23%. Only 603 Chevrolet Volts were sold during the month.
GM's overall inventory increased to 89 days, up from 67 days in December. Full-size pickup trucks were the biggest contributor to unsold product.
Scale Pioneer: David Sinclair, who owned and operated Sinclair's Auto Miniatures for nearly 50 years, has died at age 90.
Sinclair started out in the mail order business in 1963 selling imported gift items and soon began importing miniature model cars from all over the world, beginning with Rio (Italy) and Lesney products (UK).
He quickly learned that ... (more >>>)
Another Lie About Auto Bailouts: Last week, Barack Obama claimed that he "saved the auto industry," referring to government bailouts, not making clear how he "saved Ford" which received no bailout.
This week, the U.S. Treasury Department boosted its estimate of government losses in the $85 billion auto bailout by $170 million. In the government's latest report to Congress this month, the Treasury upped its estimate to $23.77 billion, up from $23.6 billion, because of a decline in the value of General Motors stock.
At current prices, the government would lose more than $14 billion on its GM bailout.
The sharp decline in GM's stock price has put the government's sale of its remaining shares on hold. The government booked a $1.3 billion loss on its $12.5 billion bailout of Chrysler.
As part of its $17.2 billion bailout, the Treasury still holds a 74% majority stake in Ally Financial, formerly known as GMAC. Ally put its IPO on hold indefinitely last year because of market weakness.
Back in 2008, I suggested that a Chapter 11 bankruptcy would be preferable to a bailout.
Instead, Barack Obama lavishly rewarded the UAW and screwed the bondholders and taxpayers. It's just one more Obama success story.
Manny, Moe & Alan: Philly-based auto parts chain Pep Boys has been sold for $1 billion ($15 a share) to private equity buyer Alan Gores.
The first store was opened in Philadelphia in 1921. Company headquarters are still located in the city. Pep Boys operates 723 stores and approximately 7,000 service bays in 35 states and Puerto Rico.
In somewhat-related Philly news, the New York Post is reporting that the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and philly.com are up for sale - again. The current owner, Philadelphia Media Network, is hoping to get $100-million or so for the papers and the website.
Anti-Catholic In The White House: On January 20 - three days before the annual March for Life - the Obama administration announced its final decision that Catholic universities, hospitals and charities will be compelled to pay for health insurance that covers sterilization, contraceptives and abortifacients, such as the morning-after pill.
The administration has insisted that Catholic institutions be forced to pay for the privilege of violating ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back' by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum
This book begins with a dramatic and well-told story. In 2010, Friedman traveled to China and experienced the new Chinese high-speed train as well as the new, seemingly-perfect Meijiang Convention Center (2.5 million square feet, with gigantic escalators), which had been constructed in only eight months.
He returns home only to learn from Mandelbaum about the sorry state of the Bethesda stop of the DC Metrorail subway, which still has broken escalators - resulting from poor maintenance; they will be out of service for six months due to the complexity of the parts ordering approval process. And, when Tom Friedman visits the White House, a door handle comes of in his hand. "Oh, it does that sometimes," said a Secret Service agent nonchalantly.
It's much like ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from P.J. O'Rourke: "The U.S. Constitution is less than a quarter the length of the owner's manual for a 1998 Toyota Camry, and yet it has managed to keep 300 million of the world's most unruly, passionate and energetic people safe, prosperous and free."
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1959 Bocar XP6