The View Through The Windshield - Car Blog

A Blog About Cars ... And Everything Else That Catches My Eye

Monday December 31, 2012

Year-End Summary: 2012 is finally over. Let's hope that 2013 is better.

Personal: I'm alive and feeling pretty well these days - a big improvement over last year thanks to a new drug treatment. I felt so good that I put up my model train layout for the Christmas season. My family is fine, too - something for which I'm very grateful.

For us, 2012 was an exciting and eventful year. In February, we flew to Palm Springs, California for a two-week stay in nearby La Quinta. In June, we traveled to Hood River, Oregon, visiting wineries and buying bottles. And cases. In July, we ventured to downtown Portland to see 'Jersey Boys'. In September we drove north to Vancouver, BC and had a most pleasant time.

joe sherlock auto blog

In 2013, our flying trips will be limited. Security hassles and the overall decline in airline service makes air travel an unpleasant experience. It's not the Sinatra 'Come Fly With Me' fun it used to be.

As retirees, we have no plans for large purchases in 2013. The uncertainty of investment markets and the still-shaky economy make us cautious. We plan to buy what we need. That said, we ordered a new flat-screen television last week - during an attractive, post Christmas sale - to replace our one of our old tube televisions which died recently. We're perfectly satisfied with our automobiles; they have plenty of life left in them.

In 2012, I posted my reviews of 41 books - a new record. Most came from the local library.

sherlock car blogCar Stuff: In 2012, I managed to get some good drives in my 39 Plymouth.

My wife and I visited the surprisingly impressive Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum in Hood River and new Le May: America's Car Museum in Tacoma. We thoroughly enjoyed both. I also attended the huge Dr. George Car Show in Indian Wells, CA.

Motor Trend magazine selected the Tesla Model S as its 2013 Car of the Year. It is the first all-electric car to ever win the award.

Models which were discontinued included American Suzuki Motor which will no longer sell cars in the U.S. It plans to focus on selling motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and marine outboard engines. Then there was the dead-at-last Maybach. Daimler reportedly lost a half million bucks one each and every one of 'em. One business site named the resurrected, über-hyped Dodge Dart as one of the top product flops of 2012, because it is selling at 1/6th the rate of the similarly-sized Honda Civic.

As a sign of the automotive times we live in, Michael Karesh, testing the 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8, noted that "the most American sedan you can buy is assembled in a Canadian plant with a Mexican engine and a German transmission by an Italian-controlled company."

Car auctions produced some record sales this year especially during August's Monterey Week and January's Barrett-Jackson, where a Tucker was auctioned for $2,650,000 and a rare 1933 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow sold for $2,000,000:

the view through the windshield

In June, a 1962 Ferrari GT0 was sold for $35 million, making it the most expensive car in the world. The record price eclipses the $32 million paid for a 1964 Ferrari 250 GT0 in February. And, a Tag Heuer watch worn by Steve McQueen in the film 'Le Mans' was auctioned for almost $800,000.

In other auction news, Munch's painting, 'The Scream', was sold for almost $120 million.

The Economy: The U.S. continues to recover, albeit very slowly. Unemployment remains stubbornly high - in my neck of the woods, county unemployment is still around 10%. Nationwide, we seem to be witnessing a mostly-jobless recovery.

sherlock blogIt is difficult to be optimistic, since it's likely that taxes, regulatory burdens and healthcare costs will rise for the foreseeable future. Entitlement programs (food stamps, disability programs, Social Security, Medicare, etc.) will soon consume an impossible share of our national income unless drastic changes are implemented. Yet I keep hearing from politicians that these programs are "off the table." No one seems to want to do anything about our biggest national problem, especially since this year's election seems to repudiate a return to sensible values.

Record-low mortgage rates haven't caused the housing market to soar. Locally, house prices seem to have bottomed out, although there are scads of unsold homes in the area.

The stock market was up this year. The Dow rose 7.3%, while the S&P 500 increased 13.4%. P/E ratios of the S&P 500 are slightly below historical norms, indicating that equities are not overpriced. Corporate bond yields are at historic lows, indicating that bonds are overpriced.

My personal financial advice: If you're saving up for new shrubbery for your home, tell people you're investing in a Hedge Fund. It sounds more impressive.

joe sherlock blogPassings: 2012 deaths included astronaut Neil Armstrong, Automobile Quarterly founder L. Scott Bailey, singer Mickey Baker of Mickey and Sylvia, singer Fontella 'Rescue Me' Bass, voice actor Dick Beals (Speedy Alka Seltzer), conservative commentator Tony Blankley, actor Ernest Borgnine, jurist Robert Bork, sci-fi author Ray Bradbury, publisher and conservative activist Andrew Breitbart, feminist fashionista Helen Gurley Brown, jazz pianist, composer and bandleader Dave Brubeck, Earl 'Speedo' Carroll, lead singer for The Cadillacs, American Bandstand's Dick Clark, television host Richard Dawson, comedienne Phyllis Diller, bass guitarist Donald 'Duck' Dunn, actor Charles Durning, racing legend John Fitch, actor Ben Gazarra, Bee Gee Robin Gibb, actor Andy Griffith, actor Larry 'J.R.' Hagman, actress Celeste Holm, singer/druggie Whitney Houston, singer Etta 'At Last' James, former Monkee Davy Jones, former NFL star Alex Karras - aka Mongo, famous felon Rodney King, kitchy painter Thomas Kinkade, actor Jack Klugman, actor Herbert Lom, friend and all-around good guy Bruce Lulow, my former old-car mechanic Rick Luepke, singer/songwriter Johnny 'Hand-Jive' Otis, once-revered, later-tarnished Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, auto designer Sergio Pininfarina, auto icon Ferdinand A. Porsche, former Platters singer Herb Reed, astronaut Sally Ride, hair dude Vidal Sassoon, Gulf War General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Carroll 'Mr. Cobra' Shelby, model car pioneer David Sinclair, politician Arlen Spector, wrestling legend Chief Jay Strongbow, disco queen Donna Summer, CBS newscaster Mike Wallace, singer Andy Williams and pioneer auto writer Walt Woron.

Surprisingly (to me anyway), Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Lindsey Lohan and Zsa Zsa Gabor are still alive.

Joe Sherlock blogBusiness demises included Gallagher's Steak House and The Stage Deli in NYC, local restaurants Galeotti's, 15 East, O'Brady's Drive-In, Hula Boys (sadly, they didn't live long enough to become Hula Men), Oak Tree Restaurant & Casino - a long-time Woodland, WA staple - and The Coachmen, Hostess Bakeries, makers of iconic Twinkies, Newsweek magazine, battery maker A123 Systems Inc. (went bankrupt and, at this writing, is being bought by the Chinese), Obama-funded Solar Trust for America, Eastman Kodak (Chapter 11 in January), Fuller Brush Company (Chapter 11 in February), Grubb & Ellis Realty (Chapter 11 in February), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing (Chapter 11 in May), Lewis River Motors - a Woodland, WA Chevrolet dealer from 1939 to 1908, Fashion Bug (women's apparel chain, closed in June) and Ritz Camera, which closed all its remaining stores this year.

joe sherlock blogEverything Else: This was a year of surprises and milestones. In 2012, Mr. Potato Head turned 60.

Americans looked at the clear choice between two candidates and chose a path to more entitlements, crushing debt and increasingly socialist-style government. I believe with all my heart that this is the wrong path but the majority think otherwise. They will, I'm afraid, live to regret their votes for the false promise of 'free stuff' over a free country.

Twenty-one of 22 incumbent senators were re-elected, and 353 of 373 incumbent members of the House were re-elected. The American people have, therefore, re-elected 94% of the incumbents who were running for re-election to an institution that has an approval rating of 9%. This indicates that we are a nation of idiots and are now stuck with the useless, dysfunctional government that we deserve.

On the other hand, the Mayans were wrong; the world didn't end. Yes, hurricane Sandy caused devastation. And the murder of four Americans including our ambassador in Benghazi was a horrible act which highlighted the failure of Obama's Middle East policy and exposed the incompetence of the State Department. The rampage killings in Aurora, Colorado, Clackamas, Oregon and Sandy Hook, Connecticut as well as the two recent NYC subway deaths demonstrated America's failure to deal honestly with mental illness.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney received a heart transplant. Washington State raised its minimum wage to $9.04 per hour and it will increase to $9.19 tomorrow, making it the highest in the nation.

Many people, including myself, like to gripe and whine about this-and-that. But the fact is, that - for all its shortcomings - 2012 has been a very good year to be alive, compared with, say, 1912. Or 1812. Or 1412. Or 1349, when the Black Death killed between 75 million and 200 million people. Bet they didn't have many New Year's Eve parties that year and not just because the Gregorian calendar hadn't been invented yet.

Never has there been less hunger, less disease or more prosperity. The civilized Western nations may be experiencing economic doldrums, but most developing countries are charging ahead and people are being lifted out of poverty at the fastest rate ever recorded. The death toll inflicted by war and natural disasters is historically and thankfully low. We are living in a Golden Age.

Economist Mark Perry observed that "in the last three decades, computing speeds have risen 200,000-fold, while costs have dropped 10,000-fold. In 1980, it cost $10,000 for the hardware to store a single book. Today it costs one penny. That's why a Kindle can store thousands of books. And the cost of storing books and digital information is still collapsing."

See. There really was some good news in 2012. Happy New Year!

Friday December 28, 2012

Car Predictions - Then and Now: At the end of 2004, this then-new blog made eleven predictions for 2035, including three about car marques .... (more >>>)

Godless Bentley: A dispute has broken out at luxury car maker Bentley after bosses - in a nod to political correctness - dumped the firm's chaplain because his position "might offend non-Christian workers."

Staff at the carmaker have launched a campaign to reinstate the Reverend Francis Cooke after he was sacked just days before Christmas. A petition drawn up by workers pointed out that Cook had given "10 years devout service helping workers of all religious backgrounds." Cooke said that, to his knowledge, there have been no complaints about his ministry and he's also been able to counsel non-Christian workers.

One worker said: "It seems really hypocritical that the firm is worried about offending religions when there is a Bentley parked outside with a Christmas tree next to it. That tree is a Christian symbol."

Well, that does it - I've just called Bentley Motors Ltd. and cancelled my Azure convertible order. And I urge all my readers to stop buying Bentleys as well.

Something Tasty For Christmas: I received lots of gifts for the holiday, including some edibles and drinkables. My daughter gave me some Tastykake cream-filled cupcakes. They were, as always, delicious.

the view through the windshield

Speaking of food, my brother gave me an Elvis cookbook, appropriately titled, 'Are You Hungry Tonight?'

auto blogBad Advice: Investment adviser Barry Ritholtz has written: "This time of year, newspapers and magazines are filled with predictions and stock recommendations and trading ideas. I have repeatedly explained why these are terrible ideas and you should ignore them."

As an example, he provides an article from the August 14, 2000 issue of Fortune, titled '10 Stocks To Last The Decade': "A few major trends will likely shape the next ten years. Here's a buy-and-forget portfolio to capitalize on them."

How'd they do? Not too bloody well: "The portfolio managed to lose 74.31%, with 3 bankruptcies, one bailout, and not a single winner in the bunch."

Ritholtz pointed out that if you had invested in the unmanaged S&P 500 index, you would have seen a gain of over 23% during the same period.

Book Review: 'Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy' by Eric Metaxas

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and anti-Nazi dissident. He was a founding member of the Confessing Church - a schismatic German church that arose in opposition to the Nazification of the state-controlled Lutheran church. He strongly opposed Hitler's euthanasia program and genocidal persecution of the Jews. He and his colleagues worked to get Jews safely out of Germany as persecutions increased.

Bonhoeffer was peripherally involved in plans by certain members of the German Military Intelligence Office to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Dietrich was imprisoned ... (more >>>)

sherlock car blogTwo Veteran Actors ... exited Earth's stage this week. Both were known for significant comedic and dramatic roles they played.

Jack Klugman, the gravelly-voiced actor who famously portrayed quirky slob Oscar Madison on the 1970s television series, 'The Odd Couple', has died at the age of 90. Klugman appeared in numerous iconic movies, including '12 Angry Men' and the musical 'Gypsy'. He also starred in television's 'Quincy, M.E.'

Charles Durning died at 89. He appeared in many memorable films in his lifetime, including 'The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas', 'The Sting', 'Dog Day Afternoon', 'Tootsie', 'Dick Tracy' and the oft-underated 'Starting Over'. In 'The Muppet Movie', Durning played Doc Hopper, a man who owns a chain of frog leg restaurants and Kermit's primary antagonist. He was also in the recent cable drama, 'Rescue Me'.

Durning was a World War II hero. He was in a group of gliders who overshot their landing zone and that he had to fight alone all the way back to the beach. He was awarded he Silver Star3 Purple Hearts for his extraordinary service and was one of the most decorated WW II veterans. He suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome but found relief in acting.

As a genuine American hero, Durning will - appropriately - be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Speaking of heroes, United States Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who was was commander of coalition forces in the 1991 Gulf War, has died at age 78. President George H.W. Bush awarded 'Stormin' Norman' the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Finally, singer Fontella Bass - best known for her 1965 hit, 'Rescue Me' - died of heart attack complications at age 72.

Requiescat In Pace.

Quote Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "I didn't get a toy train like the other kids, I got a toy subway instead; you couldn't see anything but every now and then you'd hear this rumbling noise go by."

Monday December 24, 2012

Away In A Manger: Every Christmas, we put up a Nativity set which belonged to my parents. I don't know its history; the stable has a date stamp of 1937 on the base. It may have belonged to my dad's family. Or my mom's. Or maybe my dad made it in high school; he was quite good at carpentry. At some point, my mom painted a Bethlehem scene on the back wall.

I've had to repair the stable several times. The years have taken their toll on the wood, which has dried out, warped and split. But I'll never throw it away because it is part of my family's Christmas tradition.

the view through the windshield

In addition to its original (presumably Pennsylvania-made) parts, some of the wood components have been replaced using branches from our trees - some when we lived in Oregon and some from our present Washington location. New straw, bought locally, has replaced portions of the original roof.

My two children had Nativity figures but no structure in which to house them. In 2004, I fabricated two new stables - one for each - and presented them as Christmas gifts. I kept the 1937 model for my wife and me.

St. Francis of Assisi first popularized the Christmas manger in the 13th Century. The use of a manger or feeding trough as a makeshift bassinet inside a barn or stable recalled the Gospel according to Luke, who wrote that Mary gave birth to Jesus, and "laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."

These many centuries later, we still use miniature Nativity scenes to remind us of the real meaning of Christmas.

No one knows what the real stable and manger looked like; in those ancient times, there was no thought given to preservation of historic sites. Like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Colossus of Rhodes, the original Nativity stable no longer exists. Except in the hearts of Christians everywhere.

"And it came to pass, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that Mary should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger.

The Angel said, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

Glory to God in the highest and, on Earth, peace and good will toward men."

Merry Christmas (permalink)

Thursday December 20, 2012

Money Loser: General Motors is buying back 200 million of its shares from the U.S. Treasury at $27.50 per share. The government plans to sell its remaining stake within 15 months, all but assuring a multibillion dollar loss.

The GM sale will raise the proceeds that Treasury has recovered to $28.6 billion. With $20.9 billion left from the original bailout, the government would have to sell its remaining shares at an average price of $69.72 to break even. Good luck with that.

If the Treasury sold its remaining stock at the price GM is paying now, it would come up short by more than $12 billion. Once upon a time, this mess was presented to taxpayers as a 'loan', backed by stock. Now it's just a bad investment for taxpayers.

I was always against the GM and Chrysler bailouts with good reason.

As a government-backed entity, General Motors has squandered its resources on politically-driven products like the Chevrolet Volt, while failing to put resources behind the latest Chevrolet Malibu redesign, which has tanked in the very important Camry-Accord-Fusion market segment.

Speaking of tanking, under the 'leadership' of CEO Dan Akerson, GM has gone back to many of its old practices - the very ones that put them in crisis before - such as overloading dealers with product, which has recently led to a glut of trucks in the marketplace.

As I write this, General Motors is offering up to $9,000 off remaining 2012 models and almost $5,000 off 2013s. Also included: low interest rates, sweet lease deals and abundant financing. At the end of November, Chevy dealers had more than 169,000 Silverados nationwide - a 138 day supply. The small, mostly unloved Buick Verano sedan is being offered with discounts of almost $5,000. This is how GM went bankrupt the first time around.

AutoExtremist Peter De Lorenzo has called CEO Akerson and his team a "looming train wreck."

Apocalypse Now: Many believe that the Mayan calendar indicates that the world will end on December 21, 2012 at 11:11 GMT.

When I first read about the Mayan end-of-the-world calendar, I thought it was just a ploy by Wall Street to screw me out of my year-end dividends.

But I just got a sneak preview of Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit page for 12/21 and, it looks like the Mayans may have been right after all.

Book Review: 'Into The Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War' by Dakota Meyer and Bing West

Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer relates his personal story of his time in Afghanistan. In Fall 2009, Taliban insurgents ambushed a patrol of Afghan soldiers and Marine advisors in a small mountain village ... (more >>>)

Blacklisting: It seems to me that every spree-killer of the last 20 years has been dressed in black. So, how come Congress and the President aren't proposing banning black clothing outright? If they can't get an complete ban, why not make everyone who wants to purchase a little something in black pass a background check and go through a 14 day waiting period?

And these so-called Trunk Shows that travel from town to town - aren't they just fronts to make it easy for questionable individuals to purchase something black, stylish and trendy?

I'm sure that the Little Black Dress Lobby will be unhappy ... (more >>>)

Everybody's Either Kickin' Back Or Goin' Galt: London-based think tank Legatum Institute has offered empirical evidence of what many Americans have been thinking lately. Our national well-being is slip-slidin' away.

Over the past four years, prosperity has increased around the globe, while it has remained stagnant in the United States. The Institute ranked the United States 12th out of 142 countries on its 2012 Prosperity Index, putting the country outside the top ten for the first time. The U.S. also fell "eight places in 'Entrepreneurship & Opportunity. sub-index."

The authors of the study believe that the fall in American prosperity "is driven by a decline in the number of U.S. citizens who believe that hard work will get them ahead."

Liberals' obsession with "spreading the wealth" through forced redistribution has dampened interest in the entrepreneurship we need to be a prosperous nation.

Quote Of The Day: Politicians are like Christmas lights. They all hang together, half of the suckers don't work and the ones that do aren't that bright.

Tuesday December 18, 2012

Electrical Short: Regarding Tesla Motors, investment advice columnist Malcolm Berko recently wrote that "a longtime acquaintance - I'll call him Bob - who is one of the fund managers of a very large mutual fund family, told me that he would personally short the stock. TSLA had a secondary offering at $28.75 last September and told investors that the company "is on track to deliver 20,000 Model S cars in 2013." Those cars sell for $80,000 plus state tax and Bob said he nearly fell off the floor when TSLA made that announcement.

Toyota Motors, which may have the best R&D engineers and scientists in the auto industry, recently killed plans for an all-electric car. Toyota believes that battery technology is still in the 1940s, that technology necessary to meet consumer demand are least 10 years away, and that the costs are unacceptable.

Tesla's Model S has the classy lines and looks of an expensive, sexy, Italian sports car. Realistically though, would American consumers want to own Maserati that has an electric lawn-mower engine under the hood?

Bob is also highly critical of the company's accounting. He believes the Deutsch Bank valuations are obviously unrealistic and doubts that TSLA can survive without constant cash injections or additional secondary offerings.

I can't find a single, compelling reason to own the stock of a company that burns cash like fire wood, has lost nearly a billion dollars in the past 6 years and is selling cars for $80,000 (plus tax) to consumers who need to save money on gas."

None of this stopped Motor Trend from selecting the Tesla Model S as its 2013 Car of the Year.

When Hate Trumps Common Sense: Hitler's Third Reich was so relentlessly and stupidly anti-Jewish that it harassed the movers and shakers of important industries and professions until they left Deutschland and took their talents elsewhere. Physicians, medical specialists, scientists and manufacturing experts were driven away - simply because they were Hebrew. The toy business is just one small example.

In the late 19th Century, the finest toys came from Germany. Developments in lithographing, stamping and clockwork motors made German toy trains, motorcars and wind-up toys the top choice for discriminating buyers.

In his book, 'A Concise History of Corgi Toys and other Mettoy Products', Rod Ward wrote that the English firm Mettoy "was created by Jewish refugees from Nazi persecution in Germany in the 1930s." Phillip Ullman had joined German toy manufacturer Tippco in 1913 ... (more >>>)

Saving The Innocent: Recent senseless tragedies, especially the murder of twenty children in Connecticut, have caused pundits and politicians to look for quick solutions. Unfortunately, there are no easy ones.

Some of these horrific events have happened in gun-restrictive states but people bent on destruction will steal or seize whatever weapons they need. In Oregon, the Clackamas Town Center Mall killer stole that semiautomatic rifle. In China, a man slashed dozens of schoolchildren with a large knife.

Almost all of these spree killers are judged to be off their rockers. We've yet to figure out what to do about the mentally-ill in this country. When I was growing up, mentally-disturbed people were routinely institutionalized - removed from society because they were considered a possible danger to themselves and others.

These days, all attempts at forcible institutionalization of those who have not yet committed an actual crime are vehemently fought by the ACLU. I've written about mental illness and violence before and the need to do something. Nevertheless, I'm leery about arbitrarily locking someone up just because they're 'odd'. Or 'sullen'.

John Hinderaker has offered a suggestion, which I believe is worth exploring. He wrote, "I think the answer, for most such murderers anyway, is that they want to go out in a blaze of notoriety. Typically people who have made little impression on the world in life, they want to become famous in death. Shooting themselves won't achieve that goal, but shooting lots of others will. I think they inspire one another: the Aurora movie theater killer probably helped to motivate the Oregon mall murderer, and the Oregon mall murderer probably helped to motivate the Sandy Hook killer.

If this is true – and I think it represents common sense – then one practical response to the school/theater/mall murderers presents itself: we could ban all news coverage of mass shooting incidents. If newspapers, magazines, web sites and above all television and radio stations were prohibited from making any reference to mass shooting crimes, then the goal that these criminals seek – fame; in effect, immortality – would not be achieved. It is reasonable to expect that mass shootings would decline as a result. In a less restrictive version of the same approach, we could allow news outlets to cover such crimes, but prohibit them from mentioning the name of the killer or displaying his image. This, too, might reduce the number of mass murders.

The only flaw in my proposal is that it would be unconstitutional."

Actually, John, it wouldn't be unconstitutional if it was done voluntarily. The media has banded together and decided not to release names or photographs of underage rape victims. And, in most cases, adult rape victims. Perhaps they should do the same for mass murderers - let them die in the obscurity they deserve. And not inspire other unhinged individuals.

Finally, it is difficult to feel anything but contempt for our President, who rushed to appear in Newton, CT - allegedly as comforter-in-chief but also to make veiled political threats against the Second Amendment. He said that the nation is failing to keep its children safe, pledging that "change must come" after this elementary-school massacre.

"What choice do we have?" Obama said. "Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?" This is the same bozo whose administration ran guns to Mexico and failed to keep his own ambassador to Libya safe. This is the President who openly courts rap stars whose lyrics are full of rage and violence. The Justice Department of the Obama administration decided one year ago - as his reelection effort was getting underway - to ignore proposals that would have allowed a more comprehensive background–check system for gun purchases. And Barry O's best buddy Rahm Emanuel oversees Chicago - perhaps the most violent city in the U.S. with more than 500 murders per year.

Arid Politics: There are certain beverages I'd rather not drink, including Clamato, Dr. Pepper, grapefruit juice, Campari and soda as well as tonic water. That said, if I were in a desert dying of thirst, any of these would be perfectly acceptable.

There is a great thirst to solve our debt/deficit crisis. If the nation doesn't partake of some elixir soon, we will suffer economic death. Several quenching solutions are available, including the bipartisan, commissioned-by-the-President Simpson-Bowles Plan, the Ryan Plan, or the Fiscal Cliff purgative.

As the dry economic winds blow and the American people and our financial system are getting progressively more parched and desiccated, Obama offers nothing to drink and Congress is fighting to get served their only their picky, political libation of choice.

You know what, Mr. President and Congressional leaders? You're all a bunch of pedantic, stingy losers. Shut up and pick something functionally quenchable or we'll all die.

Quote Of The Day is from Frank J. Fleming: "Due to rising energy costs, Santa will no longer leave a lump of coal in your stocking if you're naughty and instead just punch you while you sleep."

Friday December 14, 2012

Italian Optimism: Maserati expects its new Quattroporte sedan to help the brand boost annual sales to 50,000 units by 2015. The brand sold a modest 6,159 units in 2011 and has moved only 4,700 cars in the first nine months of 2012. Maserati is targeting sales of at least 13,000 Quattroportes in 2013.

Fiat is investing $1.6 billion in Maserati, hoping technology and dealerships from its tie-up with Chrysler will help the luxury sports car brand to take on German rivals BMW and Porsche. Good luck with that.

Don't Buy This For Christmas. Or Hanukkah. Book review: 'The Lawgiver' by Herman Wouk

This is a novel about writing a book about Moses. No, wait. It also about making a movie about Moses based on a book which has yet to be written. The story is told through memos, faxes, e-mails and notes, many in annoying typefaces. Were this the work of an unknown author, it would have never been published. Or, if printed, it would have quickly made its way to the remainder bins.

But ... but it's ... (more >>>)

autoblogBlame Game: The median net worth of American households has dropped to a 43-year low as the lower and middle classes appear poorer and less stable than they have been since 1969.

According to a recent study by New York University economics professor Edward N. Wolff, median net worth is at the decades-low figure of $57,000 (in 2010 dollars). And, as the numbers in his study reflect, the situation only appears worse when all the statistics are taken as a whole. The Average Joe is falling behind.

According to Wolff, between 1983 and 2010, the percentage of households with less than $10,000 in assets (using constant 1995 dollars) rose from 30% to 37%. The "less than $10,000" figure includes the numerous households that have no assets at all, or a negative net worth. The poor are getting poorer. Much of that poverty increase can be traced to ... (more >>>)

Tips For An Awkward Situation: What do you say to someone who voted for Obama but has now lost his/her job? Here are some suggestions:

Look at the bright side; gay marriage passed in four states.

I'm sure Obama cares deeply about your situation. Maybe he'll send you a postcard from Hawaii.

Well, now you and Keith Olbermann have something else in common.

So, you lost your job, your house and gas costs three times what it did when Bush was President. But ... at least your 13-year-old daughter can now get free birth control.

As we become more like Greece, our climate should let us grow olives. Won't that be cool?

Hey, at least that successful Mormon businessman didn't win.

You were let go because of ObamaCare? Well, at least you'll have ObamaCare.

Quote of the Day is from Victor Borge: "Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people only once a year."

Wednesday December 12, 2012

Things To Come? General Motors has applied for trademarks on the names of its nostalgic Chevrolet El Camino and Nomad with the Federal Patent and Trademark office.

New Heights: Recently, I looked at some old photos of my model train layout which I constructed 12 years ago.

car blogWhen I first built the layout, my grandson was only three years-old. I created it with him in mind. The lower level was close to eye level for him; therefore, I added lots of detail and some operating accessories on this level to amuse and entertain him. Every time a train went by, crossing lights flashed, bells rung and a gateman jumped out of his yellow shack to wave his red lantern.

There continues to be a flagpole in the park with an animated 'waving' stars 'n stripes. Press the green button on the right side of Union Station and boarding announcements can be heard. An animated working pumping station still pushes bubbling 'oil' through a clear, lighted vertical pipe.

My grandson is now taller than the top of the mountain. And taller than me. What a difference 12 years makes:

the view through the windshield

Book Review: 'Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power' by Jon Meacham

In 1962, at a dinner honoring Nobel Prize Winners of the Western Hemisphere, President John F. Kennedy famously said, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone." He continued, "Someone once said that Thomas Jefferson was a gentleman of 32 who could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a cause, break a horse, and dance the minuet."

Politicians and pundits of all persuasions have embraced and honored Jefferson for their own purposes. This fascinating, detailed book shows us Jefferson the politician and president, a complex human being forever engaged in the disputes, wars and difficulties of his era.

School-taught history places Jefferson on quite a pedestal - or, more accurately, Mt. Rushmore - and the fog of condensed history makes ... (more >>>)

History Lesson: In Jon Meacham's new Jefferson biography, there is a description of France in the 1780s. The country was broke, having overextended itself over war spending abroad (supporting the American Revolution against France's great enemy, England).

"The financial difficulties facing the monarchy and the French nation were immense. Taxes were unequal and haphazardly collected; the heaviest burden of the cost of the Crown and its expensive ways and wars fell less on nobles and clergy, who were largely exempt, and more on commoners, creating understandable tension and popular hostility."

Charles Alexander de Calonne, King Louis' finance minister wrote frankly, "It is impossible to increase taxes, disastrous to keep on borrowing and inadequate merely to cut expenses."

Sound familiar?

I'll Never Forget ... my godmother and favorite aunt, who died 58 years ago today. RIP, Aunt Ceil.

For The Person Who Has Everything: $500 per pound coffee that's made from beans plucked from elephant droppings.

"Trumpeted as earthy in flavor and smooth on the palate, the exotic new brew is made from beans eaten by Thai elephants and plucked a day later from their dung. A gut reaction inside the elephant creates what its founder calls the coffee's unique taste."

It reminds me of that old Monty Python riddle: "What's brown and sounds like a bell?" A: Dung.

Bad Pun Of The Day: One of Santa's helpers was sent to a therapist because he seemed depressed. Diagnosis: Low Elf Esteem.

Monday December 10, 2012

The State of The Model Car Business: For over 30 years, Model Auto Review magazine has been an anticipated, enjoyable read for me. MAR remains the most comprehensive print source for news about model vehicles, especially 1:43 scale models. Nevertheless, I've decided not to renew my subscription.

the view through the windshield

Rod Ward, founder and editor, is at or near retirement age and is unsure whether Model Auto Review will continue beyond 2013. A declining subscriber base and fewer retail outlets means smaller, more expensive print runs, exacerbated by increased postage costs. The first issue I could find in my collection is Summer 1982; my first subscription cost less than $15 annually. Now MAR costs more than $80 per year.

Another thing on the decline is my ... (more >>>)

Fail Mary: I'm starting to believe that the word 'Catholic' no longer means anything. President Obama has surely been the most openly anti-Catholic politician since the days of the Know Nothings in the 1850s. The Department of Health and Human Services has implemented a new policy obliging almost all Catholic institutions in the United States to cover all forms of birth control, including sterilization and the morning-after-pill abortifacients via their health insurance plans.

Bishop David Zubik has explained to his Pittsburgh diocese that Obama is a 'To Hell With You' guy ... (more >>>)

Bring Us Your Ambitious, Your Skilled, Your English Proficient: America needs immigrants who will assimilate quickly and become productive citizens.

The Center for Immigration Studies has published a very thorough report with alarming findings ... (more >>>)

Quote Of The Day is from Jay Leno: "The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a Nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn't for religious reasons. They couldn't find three wise men and a virgin."

There was no problem, however, finding enough asses to fill the stable.

Thursday December 6, 2012

car blogZooming November Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 15.54 million SAAR last month - up 15% from November 2011, and up 9% from the October 2012. This is the highest level recorded since December 2007. Vehicle sales were up over 70% from their early 2009 low, for an impressive annualized gain of 15.5%.

Chrysler group sales rose 14%. Sales of the little Fiat 500 increased 123% to 3,603 units last month.

FoMoCo sales were up 7% but sales of Lincoln dropped 9% to 5,732 units. Focus sales increased a whopping 56% to 18,312.

General Motors' U.S. sales are up only 3%. Cadillac sales were up sharply to 14,517 vehicles - an increase of 30%. But Chevrolet sales were flat.

Toyota's sales jumped 16%, while Lexus rose 17% to 22,719 vehicles sold. Sales of the flagship LS sedan increased 37% to 1,309. BMW brand sales were up 45% (31,213 sold); Mercedes increased 15% to 31,945 units.

Hyundai was up 8%, while Kia sales increased 11%. Subaru sales soared 60%. Nissan Group sales increased by 13%. Honda rose 41% while Acura sales increased 24%. Volkswagen U.S. sales jumped by 29%.

Porsche sales increased 71% to 3,865. Bentley sales rose 54% to 212 units. Only 713 Jaguars were sold - a drop of 22%, although it outsold the Smart (704 cars).

Awesome Customer Service: On my O-gauge train layout, the Mayfair Diner with its animated sign - the buzzy 'E' always draws raves from onlookers:

joe sherlock blog

But the sign itself has deteriorated over the years. At first, it worked fine as soon as it was plugged in. Later, the plug and sign face connection needed to be bent a little to make it work. This year, the N and E barely lit up, even when bent. The electronics board was fine; the problem was the sign face itself.

I e-mailed Miller Engineering to see if I could buy a new sign face without all the circuitry. Chris at ME responded within the hour: "The replacement cost is $10, which includes the shipping. This cost is basically our cost as it is our policy not to make money on such problems. If you would like one, please send me your address and I will send you one. Once you have it up and running you can send payment."

A few days later, a new Diner sign arrived and it worked perfectly. I can't say enough good things about the fine folks at Miller Engineering, makers of Light Works USA scale model neon signs. (permalink)

auto blogUn-Awesome Customer Service: The very same day, I tried to order some Christmas sweets from The Swiss Colony. The website gave erroneous information. So, I telephoned on my own dime - SC offers no toll-free number - and placed the order.

Given choices of various shipping dates, I selected one. When the order was read back, the order-taker gave the wrong date. I told her so. "Too late, the orders already been placed," she replied glibly. "Then cancel the order," said I.

"I don't have the authority to do that, you'll have to speak to customer service," replied Kenja. She then transferred me to a voice mail that said customer service was closed.

The following day, I contacted customer service and canceled the order. And, after 20 years or so of patronage, I'll never order from Swiss Colony again. We're getting our holiday delicacies elsewhere. (permalink)

A Nation Of Cripples: In 1960, some 455,000 workers were receiving disability payments. In 2011, the number was 8,600,000. In 1960, the percentage of the economically active 18-to-64 population receiving disability benefits was 0.65%. In 2010, it was 5.6%.

In 1960, only one-fifth of disability benefits went to those with "mood disorders" and "musculoskeletal" problems. In 2011, nearly half of those on disability voiced such complaints.

Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute has noted, "It is exceptionally difficult - for all practical purposes, impossible - for a medical professional to disprove a patient's claim that he or she is suffering from sad feelings or back pain."

sherlock auto blogCool Passage: Jazz pianist, composer and bandleader Dave Brubeck, he of the legendary jazz classic 'Take Five', has died at age 91. RIP, man.

Sucker Bets: Last week's big Powerball lottery winnings increased awareness of the scam called The Lottery. States across the nation rely on these poor ticket-buying suckers to fund their spending.

According to recent studies, households earning $13,000 per year spend almost $1,170 per year on lottery tickets - 9% of total income.

"Yet states rely more and more on measures that target those people. Taxes on cigarettes and alcohol disproportionately affect the poor; lotteries target the poor. None of this makes the economy any better. In fact, it impoverishes the poor even more, making them more dependent on government. Those who are spending over a thousand dollars a year on lottery tickets are likely receiving at least that much in government assistance to make up the difference."

Holiday Fact: The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.

Tuesday December 4, 2012

joe sherlock car blogNa-na Na-na Na-na Na-na ... Batman! Anyone under 40 may not realize that Adam West actually had a career prior to becoming a cartoon character on 'Family Guy'. He was television's original Batman in the campy series which ran from 1966 to '68.

The original iconic Batmobile from that series is headed to auction in January. This is the original one which was made from the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car. Then, customizer George Barris built two fiberglass copies of the original Batmobile for exhibition on the car show circuit and a third for exhibition drag racing. These faux Batmobiles were mounted on Ford Galaxie frames.

"Still as striking as when it first came out of the paint shop, the original Batmobile has been a part of Barris' personal collection since he first bought it from the Ford Motor Company for a dollar in 1965. Barrett-Jackson's Scottsdale auction will mark the first time the car has gone up for sale since then." Pow! Bif!

Rolling Stock: On Saturday, my Lionel Entenmann's Commemorative vat car in O-gauge arrived at my front door. I had ordered it in early April.

The packaging was not in the standard Lionel orange box with blue printing but rather an homage to a box of Entenmann's donuts. Very clever:

Dead Restaurants: Last week, The Stage Deli, a landmark 75 year-old New York restaurant, closed its doors.

"It's a sad day for New York," said Paul Zolenge, who has co-owned the deli for 26 years. "We've been struggling to make it through these hard times." He cited the cost of doing business in New York. The landlord had erected scaffolding in front of the restaurant a year ago and, even though it came down in September, "We lost a whole year." Then the landlord jacked-up the rent.

Luckily for deli fanciers, the nearby Carnegie Deli, is still open.

The restaurant business is a harsh mistress. Last Thursday, we went out to dinner on the spur of the moment. Our first choice was "closed for repairs," whatever that means. On the way to our second choice, we passed the darkened Galeotti's which ceased operations in September and The Coachmen which apparently was shuttered quite recently.

Book Review: 'Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama' by Ann Coulter

On television, Ms. Coulter is a bombastic flame-thrower of sound bites. In book form, she is caustic at times but supports her positions with well-researched facts (35 pages of citations and notes).

In this book, Ann examines the race-husting, self-serving liberals who populate Democratic party, the black race-baiters who cry 'racist' every time things don't go their way (or when their 'business' is slow). If Al Sharpton were white, he'd be ... (more >>>)

Welfare Gone Wild: In Pennsylvania, thanks to a generous welfare system, a low-income single mom qualifies to receive $57,327 in net income and benefits, while a hard-working single mom who earns $69,000 ends up with a net income and benefits of $57,045.

One of the reasons that so many Americans are on the dole is that, if you disincentivize work, fewer people will.

Cooking By Flashlight: Last night, I cooked two filets mignon on the grill - in the dark and rain, although it was not too cold at 49 degrees. We quenched our thirsts with a bottle of 2007 Cougar Crest Cabernet Franc (93 points from Wine Spectator magazine and a gold medal from the Indy International wine competition). It was a most pleasant dinner and the wine was exceptional.

Bad Pun of the Day: Sign at a nudist camp: 'Sorry - Clothed for Winter'.


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 2012 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved