A Blog About Cars ... And Everything Else That Catches My Eye
Thursday March 28, 2013
AutoBiography - Cars In My Life: Company Iron
In an earlier chapter, I wrote about two sports cars I owned. Each made my heart pump rapidly and my blood run faster.
If you're looking for additional exciting vehicle stories, you won't find them in this chapter, which covers company-owned iron - purpose-driven vehicles which were appropriate choices at the time for their intended tasks ... (more >>>)
Variable Weather: The forecast called for partly sunny with scattered showers on Wednesday. At 11:00 am, it was still dry and I spotted patches of blue with general brightening, so I grabbed my keys, ran out to my garage and fired up the Plymouth.
The skies were mostly cloudy and darkish in the west but, to the east, it was still blue with low clouds near the hills. The temperature was a moderate 56 degrees and traffic was light to nonexistent.
I had the Joe Niagara Show playing 1957 tunes through the speakers.
All in all, it was a pleasant little drive but, by the time I returned home, the dark clouds were rolling in.
The Slow Little Caddy: The new, small, $38,000 and up Cadillac ATS sedan is off to a slow start. U.S. dealers are stuck with a hefty 106 day supply of this entry-level Caddy model.
In contrast, BMW's overall stock of unsold cars in the U.S. are at a mere 39 days.
Book Review: 'The Panther' by Nelson DeMille
I'm a big fan of DeMille's novels and especially like his wise-cracking character - New York Anti-Terrorist Task Force agent John Corey.
In this book, Corey and his wife, FBI agent Kate Mayfield, are posted to Yemen and are working with a small team to track down one of the masterminds ... (more >>>)
Death By Line Extension: NCIS is awesomely great. NCIS: Los Angeles is just OK. NCIS: Red is awful.
First Dog: He never told me his birth date but Winky was born 65 years ago this month. That would be 455 in dog years. Yes, he did wink at people.
I hope his little dog-soul is romping around happily somewhere. I'll never forget my old canine friend. (permalink)
No Hope, Lotsa Change: The Congressional Budget Office is now projecting that the U.S. economy will never achieve full employment during the eight years Barack Obama serves as president.
That would make Obama the only American president during the post-World War II era who never presided over a year in which the U.S. economy offered full employment to the American people.
Bad Pun of the Day: I suffer from kleptomania but, when it gets bad, I take something for it.
Tuesday March 26, 2013
Consumer Reports Annual Auto Issue: I put a lot of stock in Consumer Reports' car opinions because I believe it presents pretty unbiased information and has the largest experiential database.
In the 'best car brands' category, Lexus topped the list with a score of 79: "Its luxury models are quiet, comfortable and fuel efficient." Second place went to Subaru, followed by Mazda, Toyota, Acura, Honda and Scion.
The lowest rated brand was Dodge with a score of 46: "Most Dodges are unreliable and even the new Dart is not competitive with the best in its class." Second worst score went to Jeep, followed by Lincoln, Ford, Chrysler and that Lexus-wannabe, Buick. Good luck with that.
A surprise to me was that Audi, once a consistent recipient of bad reliability rankings, has improved substantially with several models being rated above average. The Audi A6 was CR's top pick in the luxury car category.
This year, the dreaded black dot rank for 'much worse than average predicted reliability' was awarded to: BMW 750, BMW X3-35i, Buick LaCrosse, Buick Verano, Chrysler 300 C, Chrysler T&C van, Dodge Charger, Dodge Grand Caravan, Dodge Journey, Ford Edge, Ford Explorer, Ford F-250, Ford Focus, Hyundai Sonata hybrid and turbo, Infiniti G convertible, Jaguar XJ, Jaguar XF, Lincoln MKX, Lincoln MKT, Mini Cooper S and Countryman S, Nissan Armada, Nissan Versa, Ram 2500, Volkswagen Beetle, Volkswagen Toureg and Volvo C70.
Why We Don't Live In Portland - Reason No. 863: The Antiplanner has reported "the consequences of Portland's race to become the nation's best-planned city: failing schools; crumbling streets; lack of funding for building maintenance; and declining transit service."
For example, Portland "has funded only 50% of its pension obligations, making it worse than all 50 states and all but 3 of the 61 cities in the Pew study. Portland's health-care fund is even worse: only 4% of future health-care obligations are funded. But at least they have a streetcar!"
"So why hasn't Portland been able to drive up taxes to pay for its rail plans along with schools, streets, pension, and health-care funds? Perhaps it is easier for Portland taxpayers to vote with their feet than those in California and other places. After all, San Francisco Bay Area residents disgruntled with taxes and housing costs have to go at least 80 miles to Stockton, if not a lot further, to find anything affordable. Portlanders only have to cross the Columbia River to Vancouver, Washington. This may be one reason why Portland seems so eager to shove light rail down Vancouver's throat: by making Vancouver a high-tax city, Portland can raise its taxes too."
Financial Feast: McDonald's has just added the Bank of Cyprus to its Dollar Menu.
White People Just Go There To Eat Pancakes: Over the weekend, there was another black fight at an iHOP - this one in Newark, NJ. One person is dead and two others have been listed as critical following the shooting at an International House of Pancakes.
What the hell do they argue about? Syrup? (permalink)
Quote Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "I planted some bird seed. A bird came up. Now I don't know what to feed it."
Friday March 22, 2013
Truckin': Dan Neil has reviewed the Ram Laramie Longhorn Edition - the name sounds like a Simpsons parody - pickup truck. The model he tested listed at almost $56,000. Are you kidding?
In the mid-1990s, a business friend traded-in a perfectly sleek and fine 1991 Nissan 300Z for a loaded Chevy stepside pickup. I could never understand why; his business didn't require a truck. But, he told me - trucks had become "the new cool thing." Hmmmm. Why hadn't I been told of this before?
While in college, I drove pickup trucks every working day, delivering appliances. These 1/2-ton Chevys and Dodges were very basic: six-cylinder engines with three-on-the-tree. Interiors were utilitarian. They did the job but I could never get excited about trucks. I've never owned one. Whenever I needed a truck for hauling, I rented the size and type which were suitable for my needs.
I can think for better things on which to spend $56,000.
Built By Mexicans, Inspected By Americans: If you haven't seen many Lincoln MKZs lately, there's a reason.
Ford has just stopped shipping Lincoln MKZ sedans from its Hermosillo, Mexico, plant to an assembly plant in Flat Rock, Mich., for quality inspections and repairs. Apparently, the new models were plagued with start-up problems.
Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of the Americas said, "We had our own internal issues ... It took us awhile to get our own processes right."
In February, total Lincoln sales ... (more >>>)
Life's Becoming Too Trendy: Jim Geraghty has written, "We live in a world in which newer is considered better than older, and the definition of 'old' seems to get younger every year."
There are more fads and they seem to happen faster than ever. Remember 10 years ago when people were predicting that there would soon be a Krispy Kreme donut store on every corner? And Bob Lutz was going to be the Savior of General Motors?
"The world changes fast. Walk through your old neighborhoods, and you see buildings torn down and built upon and replaced, beloved hangouts long gone. On one level or another, most of us have had our childhood homes turned into Ultimarts. The older generation passes away, old friends move away and we lose touch. A time and a place, a mood and relationships, preserved only in a dusty photo album full of Polaroids.
Each day brings us some ephemeral distraction, sometimes pleasant, often less than that, rarely built to last or to stand the test of time. Suddenly we're supposed to care what the Harlem Shake is, when we know that in a couple months almost everyone will forget about it. Toss it next to the other forgotten fads, next to the Macarena and the Cabbage Patch dolls."
Or Razor scooters. Or Big Mouth Billy Bass.
Restaurant Review: Manzana Rotisserie Grill; Lake Oswego, OR
I'm a sucker for wood paneling and accents, so I had a good first impression of the place. The menu is described as "Northwest specialties prepared with fresh ingredients and a southwestern influence." That's all well and good but I ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Groucho Marx: "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them ... well, I have others."
Wednesday March 20, 2013
Luddite Love: At TTAC, Derek Kreindler wrote about the proliferation of complex and confusing technology in vehicles.
"In the endless rush to attract younger buyers, luxury car brands may have ended up alienating their traditional customer base older buyers, specifically those old enough to collect social security by implementing complex, technologically advanced features like touch screens and complicated infotainment systems. What if there were a way to opt-out?"
Larry Vellequette of Automotive News has jokingly suggested a 'Luddite' trim package for older buyers, which pairs traditional knobs and buttons with comfortable seating options. It may be a semi-satirical idea, but I am sure that plenty of older buyers would take well to it.
TTAC commenters were mostly supportive of a Luddite Package, most saying they'd specify it if offered. I has been suggested that many traditional Lincoln and Cadillac customers have shifted over to something like a Lexus ES350, because they found CUE or MyLincoln Touch to be too much of a burden. Last month, I related my difficulties with a MyFord Touch-equipped rental car. The Consumer Reports Annual Auto Issue has severely criticized the FoMoCo touch systems and lowered the ratings of vehicles equipped with it.
When I ordered my 2008 Lexus LS 460 in September '07, I had to do a special order because I didn't want the navi/premium sound combo. It would have added $5,600+ to the price of the car. If the sound/navi system combo was $1,000, I probably would have taken it even though it is mostly useless to me. I'm now old/deaf enough that I have trouble telling cassettes from CDs ("What tape hiss?"), so the benefits of Mark Levinson and His Many Tuned Speakers were lost on me.
I'm not a fan of navigation systems either; if I was, I'd probably ... (more >>>)
No Longer The City Of Brotherly Love: Philadelphia magazine has posted an article titled 'Being White In Philly' about white/black relations and how blacks perpetually use the race card and/or violence to intimidate white people.
Excerpt: "On a warm Sunday in October, I buttonhole a woman I'll call Anna, a tall, slim, dark-haired beauty from Moscow getting out of her BMW on an alley just south of Girard College. Anna goes to a local law school, works downtown at a law firm, and proceeds to let me have it when we start talking about race in her neighborhood."
"I've been here for two years, I'm almost done," she says. "Blacks use skin color as an excuse. Discrimination is an excuse, instead of moving forward. … It's a shame - you pay taxes, they're not doing anything except sitting on porches smoking pot … Why do you support them when they won't work, just make babies and smoking pot?" ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun Of The Day: I tried to catch some fog but I mist.
Monday March 18, 2013
I Want One: In 1998, Robert Egger built a custom bicycle based on the styling of a '59 Cadillac. Awesome.
Irish Nutrition: Yesterday, for St. Patrick's Day, my wife made homemade Irish soda bread. I had some for lunch along with potato soup and a pint o' Guinness. It was a great meal - just more of the luck of the Irish.
For dinner, she served a delicious homemade shepherd's pie along with more soda bread and, of course, more Guinness. I've never cared much for corned beef and cabbage but I've been a fan of shepherd's pie from the time I first experienced it at a Croydon pub during a business trip to England (my first trip overseas) in 1974.
Your Tax Dollars At Waste: The National Institutes of Health has awarded $1.5 million to study biological and social factors for why "three-quarters" of lesbians are obese and why gay males are not, calling it an issue of "high public-health significance."
In related news, Pendleton has commissioned a study to find out why so many fat lesbians wear flannel shirts. The secret code name for the investigation is 'Rosie O'Donnell'. (permalink)
Book Review: 'Heads In Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality' by Jacob Tomsky
This quick read was sometimes humorous and contained some interesting stories. Ultimately, it disappointed. The writer's 'experience' in the hospitality industry consisted of working in low to mid-level positions at two upper-end hotels. The promised "insider tips" are few, far-between and unhelpful.
The author's whiny, self-indulgent and profane rants demonstrated ... (more >>>)
Headline Of The Week is from The Onion: 'Origami Bird Poached For Scrap Paper'.
Thursday March 14, 2013
Tuesday Travels: My good friend Dennis and I had an excellent lunch at Julie's Cottage Kitchen in Dollars Corner on an overcast day. Dennis drove me there in his 2012 C-Class Mercedes. It is a comfortable car and it rides well but I was surprised at how low to the ground the seats were. I felt like I was in a sports car.
After we returned to the house, Dennis wanted a ride in my '39 Plymouth. So, I fired it up and - lo and behold - the sun came out and the skies turned blue. We had an enjoyable ride along the back roads around Battle Ground and Hockinson.
The Real Story Would Make An Interesting Movie Of The Week: Henrik Fisker, he of the very expensive Fisker plug-in hybrid fame ... or infamy .... or inflamy, has resigned from Fisker Automotive as executive chairman and has left the company.
According to a press release, "The main reasons for his resignation are several major disagreements that Henrik Fisker has with the Fisker Automotive executive management on the business strategy."
Here's a movie plot summary: After receiving over $500 million in governemnt subsidies, directors of an Al Gore-connected maker of self-immolating cars are looking to move the company to China or sell to the Chinese outright.
Were Mr. Rodgers still alive, he might quip, "Can you say 'bad Karma'?"
Happy Birthday, Dad: My father would have turned 94 today.
Tall Order: The office of Senator Mitch McConnell has produced a shocking photo, showing the seven-plus-foot high, 20,000 pages of all the Obamacare regulations published in the Federal Register up through last week. Last Friday, another 828 pages were added.
Douglas Elmendort, Director of the Congressional Budget Office, said in February of 2011 that Obamacare could cost 800,000 jobs and the Federal Reserve has stated that Obamacare is the reason for "planned layoffs." True dat.
On March 6, The Hill reported, "The Federal Reserve on Wednesday released an edition of its so-called 'beige book', that said the 2010 healthcare law is being cited as a reason for layoffs and a slowdown in hiring."
"Higher healthcare costs were also reported in the districts of Chicago, and the Kansas City district reported 'changes in health care policy and fiscal uncertainty as reasons for delayed hiring'."
Once again, conservatives can say, "We told ya so."
Frankie Goes To
The former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina is 76 years old. His father was an Italian immigrant and railway worker from the Turin region and this new Pope has four brothers and sisters.
Restaurant Review: Pastini Pastaria; Corvallis, OR
This mini-chain has eight locations, most in the Portland area.
Sadly, there are none in Southwest Washington - otherwise we'd be dining there often.
Pastini calls itself a "homegrown Oregon Italian bistro with a passion for pasta. Our reverence for the splendid noodle has inspired us to create over 30 classic and contemporary Italian pasta dishes using fresh, local ingredients in the tradition of the neighborhood bistros of Italy."
My experience is that Pastini is better than many bistros I've encountered in Italy.
We've dined at various Pastini locations and have ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun Of The Day: He stayed up all night to see where the sun went ... then it dawned on him.
Tuesday March 12, 2013
There's Simply No Accounting For Taste: The Bradford Exchange - which our family has nicknamed 'The Crapford Exchange' for its forays into kitchy and otiose limited-edition vulgarities - has stooped to a new level in bad taste by offering a 24-inch tall Chevy Bel Air cuckoo clock.
A quartz movement powers the swinging metal pendulum, bearing the official Chevy logo. The clock face is 'inspired' by Chevrolet speedometers of the era ... (more >>>)
Solar Opportunity: Last Friday dawned sunny with bright blue skies, ringed at the horizon by interesting white cloud sculptures.
I was busy in the morning but at 1:00 pm, with temperatures of 55 degrees, I hopped in my '39 Plymouth coupe and took a drive along some roads.
They were mostly traffic-free, making for a pleasurable ride.
I, Robot: Congratulations to my grandson who participated in the Oregon Regional FIRST Robotics Competition. His Spartan Robotics team won the Jack Kamen Imagery Award celebrating "the attractiveness in engineering and outstanding visual aesthetic integration."
His team's ladder-ascending robot achieved perfect climbing scores on the first day of competition and made it to the semifinals.
Book Review: 'Coolidge' by Amity Shlaes
The intro to that venerable television series, 'All In The Family' had Archie and Edith singing, "Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again." After reading this book, I have concluded that the man we could use again is Calvin Coolidge.
Amity Shlaes has produced a thoughtful, detailed reexamination of America's thirtieth president, Calvin Coolidge, and the decade of unparalleled national growth under his leadership. Shlaes traces Coolidge's improbable rise from a tiny town in New England to the White House. In the midst of government excess and corruption, Coolidge rose to restore the national trust in Washington and left office with a federal budget smaller than the one he inherited.
As Governor of Massachusetts, Coolidge gained national fame during Boston Police Strike of 1919 by ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day: Gun control is like trying to reduce drunk driving by making it tougher for sober people to own cars.
Friday March 8, 2013
Quick, Before It Melts: I thought I'd better post this before winter is over.
An article on Hemmings.com pointed me to this photo taken in the late 1940s (probably during the winter of 1947-48) in southern Vermont (west of Brattleboro). It shows a 1939 Plymouth business coupe parked on a snowy road on top of Hogback Mountain. The Plymouth has navigated the snowy climb up the mountain using chains on the rear wheels. The removable ski rack mounted on the passenger's door is a novelty I've never seen before.
Best First Paragraph ... of the week is from TTAC's Derek Kreindler: "When your offspring or young relatives present you with a poorly drawn picture of a car they made in kindergarten art class, the correct response for most normal human begins is to praise it effusively and hang it on the fridge so as not to crush their burgeoning self-esteem. Lamborghini went one step further. They put it into production."
The Lambo Veneno retails for $4 mm and has been hailed as "the ugliest supercar of all time."
Weather Alert: In D.C., the House Science, Space and Technology Committee canceled its scheduled hearing on global warming this week due to snow.
Jamie Craft, 28, was reportedly drunk when she slammed her car into the side of a trailer home in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
Craft, who was not wearing any pants, then tried to escape the scene by jumping in a child's battery-powered dump truck which has a top speed of 5 mph. She had a blood alcohol level of .217.
Bad Pun Of The Day: Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.
Wednesday March 6, 2013
Reminds Me Of A '65 Rambler Marlin: It's really difficult to make a large car look good in fastback form.
The new Rolls Royce Wraith proves my point. (permalink)
First 2013 Drive: On Monday, it was sunny with clear skies that carried the hopeful blue hue of spring. I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe for the first time since late November, 2012 and took a drive.
It is said that it only rains once a year in the Pacific Northwest - from November 1st to July 15th. This winter, the weather has been relatively warm and wet with only one snow shower - it left only a trace of white stuff.
It was chilly - 42 degrees at 10:30 am on Monday - and the Plymouth's original heater box is never up to the task but the weather was just too inviting. The car fired right up without complaint. Nevertheless, the vinyl seats drained any lower body warmth so quickly that it seemed like they were violating several Laws of Heat Transfer.
I pointed ... (more >>>)
Restaurant Review: Cactus Ya Ya, Vancouver, WA
In 1993, this location was a convenience store, complete with gas pumps. I remember fueling up my '92 Nissan 300ZX there.
Soon, the pumps were gone, the Mini Mart was gutted and remodeled to become Cactus Ya Ya and I was gassing myself up there.
I hadn't visited Ya Ya in ten years or so. The once-stylish, off-axis decor is the same but now looks a bit ... (more >>>)
Good Riddance: Tyrannical Hugo Chavez, supporter of violence against his people, dismantler of democracy, friend of Cuba and Iran and all-around thug, is now burning in Hell. You're next, Fidel.
Quote Of The Day is from Eric Hoffer: "Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength."
Monday March 4, 2013
February Vehicle Sales: Light vehicle sales hit a healthy 15.4 million SAAR last month, up 7% from February 2012, and up about 1% from the sales rate last month.
FoMoCo sales jumped 9%, General Motors experienced a 7% increase and Chrysler Group saw a 4% rise. Toyota was up 4%, while Honda was down 2% and Nissan was off 7%.
The redesigned Toyota Avalon model posted its best month since November 2007, up 63% percent with sales of 5,703 units. 803 Lexus LS sedans were sold in February.
Luxury car sales were up in February: Bentley soared 43% (to 180 examples), Audi jumped 28%, Mercedes 23%, Cadillac 20%, Acura 13% and Lexus increased slightly - a mere 4%. BMW sales were flat and Lincoln sales dropped 29% to 4,883 units. Of five different Lincoln model offerings, the only one to break 1,000 unit sales was the MKX, a gussied-up Ford Edge. And MKX sales were down 13% from last year.
Sequestpocalypse: OMG! It's only been the first weekend of Obama's Dreaded Sequestration and the consequences are just awful:
The Democrats warned me that all these things would happen if I voted for Romney. But I did so anyway and now, everything's coming true.
So, how's it goin' in your neck of the woods?
Your Tax Dollars At Waste: In the 1980s, the military had its infamous $800 toilet seat. Today, it has a $17,000 drip pan.
"Thanks to a powerful Kentucky congressman who has steered tens of millions of federal dollars to his district, the Army has bought about $6.5 million worth of the 'leakproof' drip pans in the last three years to catch transmission fluid on Black Hawk helicopters. And it might want more from the Kentucky company that makes the pans, even though a similar pan from another company costs a small fraction of the price: about $2,500."
The Kentucky company, Phoenix Products, got the job to produce the pans after Representative Harold Rogers, a Republican who is now the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, added an earmark to a 2009 spending bill.
My '39 Plymouth also drips tranny oil and I use a large pan (24" x 36") stamped from galvanized steel with rolled edges. I got it on sale for $4.99 and it hasn't leaked after 18-plus years of service.
So, why can't the military just use a bunch of cheapie auto supply pans instead?
In related news, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is lamenting that his department will need to make drastic cuts that will immediately impact air traffic controllers and airport security lines.
But, under his watch, a $3,700 grant is being used to build a miniature replica of a historic downtown street in Martinsburg, West Virginia - using Legos. The 18-foot-long display will depict Queen Street as it likely appeared in the 1920s and '30s.
Buy your own damn Legos, Ray. Quit wasting our money.
Book Review: '1775: A Good Year for Revolution' by Kevin Phillips
Contrarian and historian Kevin Phillips asserts that 1776 shouldn't have been appointed as the watershed year of the American Revolution. 1775 is a better fit, says he. Unfortunately, he never gets around to proving it.
The more one reads 1775, the more it becomes obvious that there were many outrages - big and small - over many years, that contributed to the colonists finally getting fed up enough to declare their independence. Each colony had reasons of its own but some common threads include various Acts which resulted in more taxation, attempts to restrain and tax trade between colonies, British efforts to disrupt Colonial trade with other countries and the boorish behavior of British troops and officials.
This book is certainly ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun of the Day: He wanted to learn how to make ice-cream, so he started attending sundae school.
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