A Blog About Cars ... And Everything Else That Catches My Eye
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Monday September 30, 2013
Autosketch: '1954 Ford F/X Atmos - Buck Rogers Comes To Chicago
Few concept cars encapsulated the jet age better than Ford's F/X Atmos, which was unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show in March, 1954.
Styled by Ford Studio designer John Middlestead, the Ford F/X Atmos show car was fiberglass 'pushmobile' with no powertrain, although Ford PR flacks suggested that it was the type of car which could be powered by nuclear energy. It was painted in patriotic red, pearlescent white and blue colors. F/X stood for Future Experimental; the vehicle was steered with hand grips, had a radar screen, and driver sat in the center. Two needle-like protrusions from the front fender pods were allegedly ... (more >>>)
58 Years Later: On September 30, 1955, actor James Dean died in a horrific car accident with his silver Porsche Spyder 550. While some questions remain, the fact that he was killed can probably be largely attributed to the basic design of the Spyder.
In those days, race cars were designed with low weight as the ultimate objective. Crash-worthiness wasn't much of a consideration. If at all.
Fifty years ago, most cars offered little protection to occupants.
Commenting on his 1955 Buick, Jay Leno once quipped, "If you have an accident in this car, your heirs can just hose the gore off the dashboard and sell it to the next guy."
Concierge Crapper: A firm has developed a toilet that travels to you, wherever you are. The motorized toilet is not fixed in place and can be used just like regular toilet that flushes with the press of a button.
The Bedside Flushable Toilet was really designed for those who are disabled or elderly and can’t always get up to go to the bathroom. But no one's stopping you from buying one if you're just lazy.
Analogies For Obamacare ... submitted by Frank J. Fleming: "It's the Hindenburg crashing into the Titanic."
Or: "It's New Coke, except it's mandatory to drink and trying to obtain Classic Coke will get you arrested."
Small Change: James Lileks has written: "Coins live in the dark. (Except for pennies, the lowliest of coins they bask in the open in dishes in every store.) Maybe it would be worth it just to see what the world looked like as the coin traveled from pocket to drawer or drawer to pocket. Maybe it would be worth it to know the stories of the people who wore these disks smooth. ... my hands had the smell of old metal.
New coins leave no scent. Old coins generously perfume your hands. I can imagine a teller in a Manhattan bank in the 20s, scrubbing the smell of his hands with LUX. He had a date that night and he wanted to impress. Men with money didn't smell of dimes."
Actually, I have a bunch of pennies that live "in the dark." They are 1943 steel pennies manufactured from zinc-plated steel to save copper for ammunition during World War II. The material change made 10 millions pounds of copper available. They were only produced for one year.
I collected them as a child because 1943 is the year of my birth. Such pennies were plentiful in those days. You don't see them anymore but they have little collectable value - about 20¢ each. Nevertheless, I keep those '43 pennies in my safe deposit box because they have sentimental value.
Going Up: U.S. Postal Service has proposed a 3-cent increase in first-class stamp, citing precarious financial woes.
When I was a teenager, the postage rate for a first-class letter was 3¢. It jumped to 4¢ in August 1958.
Book Review: 'Circle of Friends: The Massive Federal Crackdown on Insider Trading - and Why the Markets Always Work Against the Little Guy' by Charles Gasparino
As senior correspondent for the Fox Business Network and the Fox News Channel, Charles Gasparino is a familiar name and face to many. He reports knowledgeably on major developments in the world of finance and politics and is a former writer for the Wall Street Journal.
The author relates the story of government investigators and prosecutors as they pursue one of the most aggressive and broad-reaching - perhaps overreaching ... at great expense to taxpayers - series of insider-trading cases in the nation's history. Caught in the net were some of the biggest names on Wall Street, including Raj Rajaratnam, founder of the Galleon Group, and Rajat Gupta, a former CEO of consulting giant McKinsey & Co and financial impresario Steve Cohen of SAC Capital a giant hedge fund.
Near the end of the book ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun of the Day: Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead-to-know basis.
Friday September 27, 2013
Between Storms: A "potent storm system" is supposed to move south from British Columbia and arrive today, bringing "prolonged rain" to the area for the next several days. This follows another rain system which has just exited.
When I saw patches of sun yesterday morning, I hopped in my '39 Plymouth coupe and took a drive. It was a little on the cool side (53 degrees at 11:00 am) and the sky was heavy with clouds - dark ones to the East - but the old car driving season is coming to a close and I wanted to get as much Plymouth seat time as I could.
I drove to Hockinson and back. Traffic was light. One of the roads was newly paved and glass-smooth. Wheeee!
Overall, it was a good way to spend part of the morning. Today, it poured rain.
Headline I Never Expected To See: 'Vegan Portland stripper, N.J. mayor, are Twitter pals.'
Cory Booker is the Democratic mayor of Newark, N.J. and a U.S. Senate candidate. He exchanged direct messages earlier this year with Portland, OR stripper Lynsie Lee. I couldn't help but wonder if she works at this place.
Also, I didn't expect to see this headline about former President George H.W. Bush, who was an official witness at the same-sex wedding of two longtime Lesbian friends this week: 'Bush Witnesses Wedding Between Two Bushes.'
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Speaking of headlines ...
Headline Of The Week is from the Philippines: 'Jinggoy building multi-million-peso Wack-Wack house.'
Sen Jinggoy Estrada is reportedly building a new, multi-million-peso house in one of the country's high-end subdivisions.
In 2012, the senator bought a 3,000-square meter lot in Wack-Wack subdivision in Mandaluyong. Subdivision residents said it was "common knowledge" among them that the house - estimated to cost 120 million pesos - is owned by Estrada. The Philippine pesos is worth about 23¢ U.S.
Shrinking Image: Comedian Jay Leno weighed in on the sad state of America's foreign policy. Or lack of it. "Can you tell I've lost some weight? I'm on that new Obama diet. Every day I let Vladimir Putin eat my lunch."
Definition Of The Day: Flatulence (noun) - The emergency vehicle that picks you up after you've been run over by a steamroller.
Thursday September 26, 2013
Writing It Down: The anal-retentive engineer in me keeps a record of all fuel purchases in a spiral notebook. I keep one in each car and have done so for almost 50 years.
While there is much weeping and moaning about increasing fuel costs, prices are actually down almost 8% from last year.
WTF? Cadillac has announced that the new 2015 Escalade will debut in New York on October 7th.
2015? Geez. Most of the 2014 models aren't even in showrooms yet.
Good Question: John Derbyshire recently wrote: "If a person is biologically male - one X chromosome, one Y - but believes himself to be female and can lawfully engage surgeons to do what is necessary to bring his body into conformity with his belief, then what about a person suffering from Cotard's syndrome?
In one variant of this disorder, a person who is biologically alive believes himself to be dead. Can such a person lawfully engage surgeons to kill him?"
The Princess And The Pea: Technology has allowed people to whine about every little thing.
Shijiazhuang Hams: Virginia-based food giant Smithfield will be acquired by Shuanghui International Holdings,. This is the largest takeover ever of a U.S. company by a Chinese firm. In addition to its signature hams, Smithfield brands also include Farmland, Armour and Cook's.
More Violence By People Of Color: Two men dressed as orange-skinned Oompa Loompas for a night out brutally attacked two passers-by before staring a drunken street brawl.
Louis Gelinas and Matthew Wright, both 20, were dressed as the fictional characters from 'Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory', known for their green hair and orange complexion, when they started a fight in Norwich, a city in the eastern part of England.
I'm not surprised. I never trusted Oompa Loompas and, whenever I'd see more than two of them walking towards me, I'd cross the street just to be safe.
I Am Becoming My Grandmother. The Wellington Fund turned 84 years old in July. Now the nation's oldest and largest balanced mutual fund, its inception was just before the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression that followed. Talk about bad timing.
A young Philadelphia accountant named Walter L. Morgan was its founder and offered a diverse portfolio of common stocks, preferred stocks and high-quality corporate and U.S. government bonds. Despite a rocky (How about 'cliff-like'?) investment climate during the fund's formative years, Morgan's conservatism and balanced approach paid off. Wellington Fund has produced an 8.2+% average annual return since its 1929 inception and has paid an uninterrupted string of 336 quarterly dividends.
Over the past ten years, its overall performance has been significantly better than the S&P 500. Yet it is far less risky and does not drop precipitously during stock market contractions.
Wellington isn't very flashy and gets little notice from those investment gurus du jour. As I got older, I began to shift some of my investments away from growth mutual funds into Wellington. I have not been disappointed.
But I feel like a geezer ... (more >>>)
Start Your Day ... with Obama breakfast cereals.
Understanding Words: When I was in high school, I thought 'rectilinear' was a fancy way of saying 'straight up your ass.' So, I peppered my invectives with things like: "Rectilinear to you, jerk!"
I also thought that 'incontinent' meant going to Europe. I told people, "I can't wait 'till I get older and get incontinent."
Of course, I couldn't go to Europe back then. Because, in those days before airline deregulation, airfares were absolutely rectilinear.
Thought For Today: You can't take it with you; that's why hearses don't have luggage racks.
Tuesday September 24, 2013
Better Quality Cars = Better Quality Customers: So said Tim Devine of Hyundai Capital, the financial arm of Hyundai the automaker.
"Leasing is 40% of our total acquisitions, so we do about 60% on the retail side. (Growing leasing) was probably the catalyst for us back in 2008 and 2009. In 2008, Hyundai launched the Genesis - that's a pure lease vehicle. We shifted the strategy to focus on a higher quality customer because the brand was going upscale with all-new design and all-new vehicles. It has worked well for us."
No longer are Hyundai and Kia purchasers low-income people who couldn't get credit elsewhere.
"At Hyundai, our average FICO (credit score) in 2008 was 672 and today it's 750 - a significant increase in the quality of the customer. Kia is a similar story. Average FICO was 699 in 2008, and it's 747 today. And most of our customers, probably 60 or 70%, are college graduates or above. Here's a really interesting statistic. In 2008, 49% of our customers had a FICO score of 620 or less. Today, it's only 11%. So who's coming through the door is just a better quality Hyundai and Kia customer. Obviously, it's probably tied to the better quality of the vehicles."
"Today, 77% of our customers have a prime credit score, which is 680 or higher, versus 25% in 2008."
On a related note, Kia has told its dealers that it will launch a new full-sized rear-wheel-drive flagship sedan in the United States early next year, accelerating its drive into higher tiers of the luxury car market. Based on the Hyundai Equus, the car will be known as the Kia K900 and will have a base price between $50,000 and $70,000.
Unsafe At Any Height: Summer news reports are usually filled with ultralight disasters. (No one seems to get injured in these mishaps - they always die.) I would wager that twenty times as many people have piloted go-carts than ultralights. But when was the last time you read about a go-cart death?
Go-carts are made by small businesses (or home-made) using tube stock and small engines. So are ultralights - except they have wings. In my mind, ultralights are flying go-carts. I'd guess that they are two hundred times more dangerous than land carts. (Statistics are a hard to come by because ultralights and go-carts are generally outside the government's jurisdiction.)
My conclusion: go-carts are OK; flying go-carts are very unsafe. Stay away from them ... unless Boeing or Honda decide to get in the ultralight business.
Back To School: My pet peeve of the moment is school buses at railroad crossings. Coming home from Vancouver, I must cross the tracks of the Columbia Basin Railroad at least three times. This small railroad runs one lone train per week and the it travels at 5-10 miles-per-hour. In 1999, every one of the three crossings had drop gates installed to meet a newly-enacted federal requirement. Yet every #%&* school bus still stops at every #%&* crossing because of some stupid-ass law passed in 1912 or thereabouts. And, empty or not, the buses remain stopped for 10-15 seconds as traffic piles up and frustrations mount.
It is a waste of time and it is not saving any lives or doing any good whatsoever. It just pisses off the poor souls stuck behind those huge yellow diesel smoke-spewing tortoises.
I'm sick and tired of this crap and I'm thinking of running for President in 2016 with one lone item on my platform - the elimination of this moronic school bus law. I think there are enough other people who are angry about the tyranny of school buses that I might actually get elected.
Party Like It's 1989: A Census Bureau report revealed that the typical American family now earns less than it did in 1989. In 1989, median household income was $51,681 in current dollars. In 2012, median household income was $51,017.
Book Review: 'My First Car: Recollections of First Cars from Jay Leno, Tony Stewart, Carroll Shelby, Dan Ackroyd, Tom Wolfe and Many More!' by Matt Stone
Pretty hype-filled title, ain't it? This is a book full of stories about well-known people and their first car. Celebrities, auto industry execs, race car folks, musicians and others tell tales about their first car.
This should have been a great read ... (more >>>)
Pair Of Luftwaffe Bombers Spotted: German Chancellor Angela Merkel easily won a third term this week, mainly because of dropping unemployment and a greatly-reduced deficit. Merkel's center-right Christian Democrats boasted its best result since German reunification in 1990.
During a night out at the opera, Angela's breasts seemed ready to celebrate by bursting out of her dress and invading Poland.
Money Quote from Jon Stewart on 'The Daily Show': "The gay and lesbian travel market is estimated to be over $54 billion. That's over 18 billion three-dollar bills."
Quote Of The Day is from Bono: "In dealing with poverty, welfare and foreign aid are a Band-Aids. Free enterprise is a cure."
Monday September 23, 2013
Best Automotive Quote Of The Week - so far - is from Dan Neil: "A car like the 2014 Bentley Flying Spur is as close to maintenance-free as one could reasonably expect. You just fill it with gasoline and champagne and you are on your way."
The Way To Heaven: Jeremy Clarkson has said that the Bugatti Veyron is so fast that "stopping distances become irrelevant because you won't see the obstacle in the first place. By the time you know it was there, you'll have gone through the windscreen, through the Pearly Gates and be halfway across God's breakfast table."
News From Down Under: More women in their 20s are getting 'designer vagina' surgery to "improve looks."
And, in somewhat related news ...
Titillating Headline: '$8,000 In Bras Stolen From Victoria’s Secret In Willow Grove'.
The incident happened at the Willow Grove Mall which - when I was young - was the site of an amusement park.
It's reassuring to know that people are still amusing themselves there.
Today's Thought is from the late, large Orson Welles: "My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four - unless there are three other people."
Friday September 20, 2013
Terms I'll Have To Explain To My Grandson: Three on the tree. Four on the floor. The stick shift - an automotive mainstay since the days of the horseless carriage - is slowly going the way of the tailfin and carburetor. These days only 5% or so of vehicles sold in North American have manual transmissions.
In 2002, 10% of vehicles sold in the United States and Canada were equipped with manual gearboxes. In 1960, almost 30% of all American cars had stick shifts.
Little Idea: Many major auto suppliers will periodically produce vehicles to showcase their wares and ideas. Sometimes it's a one-off, unique concept car. Other times, it's a customized version of a current model.
Chemical giant BASF has taken a different approach - the company restored an old 1958 BMW Isetta microcar and used BASF contemporary products to produce a vehicle the firm has named 'MySetta'.
Let The Price Gouging Begin: This week, Chevrolet began shipping the all-new 2014 Corvette Stingray coupe to dealers. Production of the convertible model won't begin until the end of the year.
A Whiter Shade Of Pale: I haven't had many drives in my '39 Plymouth coupe this month because the weather has been quite rainy.
The sun finally returned Wednesday and that night we experienced a big, bright harvest moon. It was cold overnight; temperatures dropped into the upper 40s and I heard the heater kick on just after midnight. Thursday dawned bright and sunny; at 10:00 am, with temperatures hovering around 60 degrees, I went for a drive.
The calendar says that Fall hasn't yet arrived but the sky was quite wan - the pale, sickly blue of Winter's Soon Upon Us. Most of the foliage was still green but was becoming that faded, low-saturation hue that happens just before it morphs into gold/yellow/brown. A few trees were beginning to display Fall color.
I suspect that things will change substantially within the next few weeks.
Only The Name Remains: Eastman Kodak Co., the photography pioneer overcome by digital competition, emerged from bankruptcy as a commercial-printing company that sells nothing to consumers.
The Rochester, N.Y. firm filed for bankruptcy in January 2012. The company was founded by George Eastman, who developed a method for dry-plate photography before introducing the Kodak camera in 1888.
Who's To Blame? Ben Bernanke announced this week that the fed will continue its unprecedented $85 billion a month bond-buying strategy because the economy is still too fragile to try weaning it from the government teat. The Fed calls it Quantitative Easing except that there's no 'easing' that anyone can see.
Almost six years after the Great Recession began, we have not seen the usual robust recovery experienced in prior downturns. At the moment, the economy is at the very edge of stall speed and without the QE updraft it would crash. Why is this? One word: Obama.
Pulchritude: Over at Sippican Cottage, Gregory Sullivan wrote, "When I buy a sofa, I want some upholstery on it." He continued, "Women should cast a shadow. They shouldn't be able to break their nose walking into a wall if they tried. They should have lips without a trip to a doctor's office. It's shouldn't be a straight shot from the armpit to the ankle. ... No matter how bad a housekeeper she might be, a beautiful woman will get to keep the house."
It's a Little-Known Fact ... Google is great. When you type in a phrase, it immediately spits out just what you're looking for. But it also provides pages and pages of links to semi-related obscure trivia.
It finally dawned on me that Google is a virtual Cliff Claven, sitting in some cyberspace 'Cheers!' pub, being careful not to spill beer on his postman's uniform, while rattling off little known 'facts' to anyone within earshot.
Best Cliff Claven quote: "Due to the shape of the North American elk's esophagus, even if it could speak, it could not pronounce the word lasagna."
Runner-up: "It's a little-known fact that the smartest animal is the pig. Scientists say if pigs had thumbs and a language, they could be trained to do simple manual labor. They'd give you 20 to 30 years of loyal service and, at their retirement dinner, you could eat them." (permalink)
Bad Pun Of The Day: Corduroy pillows are making headlines.
Wednesday September 18, 2013
Car Sighting: During our recent trip, I finally got a glimpse of the new 2014 Chevy Impala. It's a very nice-looking machine.
Cachet Diminished: J Mays, Ford's chief stylist and a senior vice president, admitted that the Dearborn automaker's Lincoln brand has lost cachet as a luxury brand and that it will take years to turn things around.
"No, we're not true luxury. We're in an investment stage with Lincoln. We've probably got a 10-year investment to make."
Yawn. Call me in ten years. If sales continue to sink, by 2023, they'll hit a serious level of 'exclusivity'. Like Rolls Royce. Or King Midget.
Book Review: 'Dropped Names' by Frank Langella
Frank Langella is a versatile actor of stage and film. He won a Tony Award for his performance as Richard Nixon in the play Frost/Nixon and was later nominated for an Academy Award for the same role in the film. He played the devious White House Chief of Staff Bob Alexander in the 1993 movie, 'Dave'.
Reading this book is a bit like sitting at a bar, listening to a raconteur tell insider, gossipy stories of movie and theater people over drinks. Frank is a very good story teller and the book is fast-paced easy to read. There are over 60 mini-profiles of the famous and influential.
A New York Times review noted, "The actor Frank Langella went everywhere, met everyone and fell into bed with almost everybody."
I enjoyed reading about ... (more >>>)
Done: Painting of our house is now complete. This before & after shot is of our detached garage:
Fracas Defined: As always, James Lileks has provided enlightenment: "A 'fracas' in newspaper headline terms is somewhere between a flap and a melee."
Nothing To See Here: Our nation can now chillax, yo. Because Obama, Kerry, Putin, and Assad say Syria's now fixed.
Well, that didn't take long. Will the Democrats now dump Hillary and start handing out 'Putin 2016' buttons? Stay tuned.
Wackos With Guns: Jonah Goldberg wrote, "The one thing that unites most of the horrific mass shooting events of late - Tucson, Aurora, Newtown, Virginia Tech and now the Washington Naval Yards - is that they were all perpetrated by people with serious histories of mental illness."
I agree wholeheartedly. I've written about violence and mental illness before.
ACLU-supported lawsuits and legislative changes emptied out most mental hospitals in the '70s and '80s. The do-gooders never acknowledged the differences between the harmless mentally-ill and the dangerous nut jobs. All were given "freedom." That's the period when the homeless population began to proliferate. They were now "free" to live under bridges in cardboard refrigerator boxes. And free to go off their meds.
Fifty years ago, my high school biology teacher, the late, great Rev. John J. Fay, S.J., told us students that "10% of the people you meet in life are certifiably nuts." I later mentioned this to a friend who worked in retail, who quipped, "He's probably low. Based on the customers I deal with, I'd say its more like 20%."
Some of the mentally ill are harmless, except perhaps to themselves. The problem is, we're not doing anything about the ones who would do harm to others.
Discouraging Numbers: The current unemployment rate in Clark County Washington is 9.9%. The median wage has remained stalled at $20 an hour since 2002.
Quote Of The Day is from the late actress Billie Burke (the Good Witch in 'The Wizard of Oz'): "Age doesn't matter, unless you are a cheese."
Monday September 16, 2013
Trip Report - Oregon Coast: Last week, we spent a few days at the North Oregon Coast - a 312-mile round trip. We began with a visit to the Tillamook Air Museum, housed in a former military blimp hangar - the largest clear-span wooden structure in the world. The hangar was constructed in 1942 and is located just south of Tillamook. I've posted ten photos taken at the museum here.
There are about 30 planes on exhibit. We wanted to see this museum before it closes. Some of the collection will reportedly be moved to Madras in central Oregon.
Tillamook, named for a Native American tribe, has an economy based primarily on dairy farms. That's why you'll find tourist attractions such as the Tillamook Cheese Factory and the Blue Heron Cheese & Wine Co. in town.
Later we drove north to Cannon Beach, a very picturesque spot. There's nothing like the sunset-over-the-Pacific as viewed from this little burg.
Cannon Beach received its name because, in 1846, a cannon from the U.S. Navy schooner Shark washed ashore in the area. A small, touristy coast town, it is best known for Haystack Rock, a 235-foot monolithic basalt sea stack which is roughly haystack in shape and was created by lava flows over 10 million years ago. (This being loony Oregon, there is a Haystack Rock Awareness Program. Google it if you don't believe me.)
Also famous is Bruce's Candy Kitchen, a pink-and-white striped confectionery legend which was established in 1963. The firm offers salt water taffy as well as other bulk items. We were parked next door to Bruce's when the proximity key refused to open the doors of my Lexus. Oddly, it worked fine for opening the trunk. By the time we called AAA, the key began to work again. We drove north to the nearest Toyota dealer - Lum's in Warrenton - and got a new key battery installed. When I asked what I owed, the parts counterman replied, "It's such a beautiful day today, consider it 'on the house'." Thank you, sir, and thanks to Lum's for hiring such helpful and friendly employees.
Our next stop was Fort Stevens, close to where the Pacific Ocean and Columbia River meet. The ocean/river jetty was windy and dark clouds were rolling in. Over at the fort, it was sunnier. Fort Stevens was constructed during the Civil War and closed at the end of World War II. It is now a military museum and state park. Nearby is Fort Clatsop, a small log structure, near Astoria. The Lewis and Clark Expedition spent the winter of 1805-06 there.
Astoria was named after American investor John Jacob Astor, whose American Fur Company founded Fort Astoria in 1811. This fishing community begat several large canneries beginning in the late 19th century. At one time, Astoria was home to 39 canneries. The business began to die out in the 1940s, when salmon runs declined sharply. The giant Bumble Bee Seafoods cannery closed in 1980. The timber industry deteriorated as well; Astoria Plywood Mill, the city's largest employer, closed in 1989 and the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway discontinued service to Astoria in 1996.
Searching for a way to replace these major industries, Astoria gradually reinvented itself as a tourist destination with specialty shops, art galleries, dining establishments, colorful Italianate and Queen Anne homes and a tourist trolley running along the waterfront. The Astoria Riverfront Trolley - built in 1913 for a transit company in San Antonio, TX - does run on rails but has no overhead wire.
The red wood-sided trolley gets its electricity from a diesel motor/generator unit which trails behind it. We had an enjoyable ride on the old girl.
I've posted a page with 16 photos - including some car photos - from the North Oregon Coast here.
Restaurant Reviews: Sadly, we didn't have any spectacular dining experiences during our visit. The Creamery Cafe in Tillamook is a good place for lunch. For dinner, avoid the Driftwood Restaurant & Lounge in Cannon Beach; try the Wayfarer instead.
If you are looking for Italian food in Astoria, there's Fulio's Pastaria. It's unexceptional but you could do worse.
Bad Pun of the Day: If killer whales sing as other whales do, do they have an orca-stra?
Tuesday September 10, 2013
The compact Corolla has been available in the U.S. since 1968. Toyota started annual production of the Corolla in November 1966 with approximately 240,000 vehicles produced at its new Takaoka Japan factory and exports began immediately.
Eleven design generations later, over 1.1 million Corollas are produced each year. Every hour, 125 new Corollas drive out of factories in America (Blue Springs, MS), Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, Pakistan, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam and Venezuela combined.
My son bought a new Geo Prism - a Corolla clone - in 1993. Twenty years and 233,000-plus miles later, it is still his family's faithful servant.
Update: Oops - just after I wrote this, the Geo's engine went kaput. The Prism has been replaced by a newly-purchased Barcelona Red 2012 Corolla:
Dreaming Of Cars: The best and most comprehensive concept car book ever published is 'Ford Design Department Concept & Showcars' by Jim & Cheryl Farrell (1999). Unfortunately, it only deals with FoMoCo products.
Another fairly detailed book is 'Dream Cars' by Jean-Rodolphe Piccard from 1981 - it covers many automobile marques. For GM fans, I'd recommend 'GM Motorama: Dream Cars of the Fifties' by Bruce Berghoff from 1995. Finally, 'The Last Dream-O-Rama' by Bruce McCall (2002) - a hilarious parody of the GM Motorama - is a must for any '50s dream car aficionado. Happy reading.
Heh-heh. Heh-heh. Cool. Someone changed the name of Bevis Lake near Lake Stevens in Washington State to 'Butthead Lake.' The U.S. Geological Survey uses Bevis Lake on its topographic map.
But the U.S. Census Bureau calls it Butthead Lake in its records.
Three Simple Rules: Former Clinton advisor William Galston has said, "You need only do three things in this country to avoid poverty - finish high school, marry before having a child, and marry after the age of 20. Only 8% of the families who do this are poor; 79% of those who fail to do this are poor."
Quote Of The Day is from Will Rogers: "The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets."
Monday September 9, 2013
You'd Have To Be Cuckoo To Buy One: For $224.95, you can be the owner of a Chevy Camaro Cuckoo Clock from The Bradford Exchange. "At the top of every hour, the garage lights up to reveal a sculptural 1969 Camaro SS 396 accompanied by the sound of a revving engine!"
The ad I received advised me to "Hurry! Limited to 10,000!" 10,000 suckers, I suppose. It also predicted, "Strong demand is expected." From strong suckers, I guess. (permalink)
Night Rider: We went to a party on Saturday evening and had a very good time. Since the host was a car guy, I took my '39 Plymouth coupe and - like the adolescent-brain that I still am - revved the engine loudly to announce our arrival. And wake the dead.
When we left, it was dark. I had forgotten how lousy the Plymouth's non-sealed beam headlights are. No wonder people drove slowly in the 1930s. But the Plymouth has modern auxiliary driving lights which I used to guide us safely home.
Godspeed: Peter Egan is retiring from his 'Side Glances' column at Road & Track, something he's been producing every month since 1980.
In his final column, he wrote, "I'd like to pull back from the monthly-column routine and have more free time to wander about the country, visiting friends and family and exploring the hinterlands. Just feels like time. I also have a couple of moderately serious health problems (tainted with the usual whiff of hypochondria and sloth) and feel the need to step down onto a slightly slower treadmill."
I've always enjoyed Peter's writing. His anecdotes are ... (more >>>)
Unhealthy Place To Put Your Money: Investment adviser Malcolm Berko likes the cars but doesn't think much of Tesla as an investment, writing that the stock is "a speculation so rank that, like a pack of cigarettes, it should have a "Dangerous to Your Wealth" warning label attached to its TSLA ticker symbol."
He believes that "this company may not be "honestly" profitable until September 2021 or March 2022 and may not pay a dividend until 2026. Therefore, you might have to wait 13 years before you would reinvest any dividends.
Frankly, I think anyone who buys this stock has to be addled and wacky to pay $168 a share for a company that has no earnings and produces $70,000-$125,000 cars that many banks won't finance. TSLA is not an investment; it's a speculation."
Dining Diversity: America is not a monotonous, sustenance-regimented country - no dietary desert, carpeted wall-to-wall with McDonalds, Pizza Huts and Olive Gardens. Rather, we are a delectably diversified nation, full of tasty, interesting regional mini-chains, run by successful entrepreneurs who carefully supervise a limited number of dining locations.
In Colorado, there is a retro-diner chain: Gunther Toody's. We dined there on multiple occasions during a trip to Colorado ten years ago.
Gunther Toody was the name of the character in 'Car 54, Where Are You?,' a forgettable 1960s TV series. Gunther, a policeman who played Fred Gwynne's partner, was the one who always said, "Ooooh! Ooooh!!" The same actor, Joe E. Ross, played a grape in Seventies-era Fruit-of-the-Loom commercials, reciting the same line: "Ooooh! Ooooh!!" (Talk about typecasting!)
Anyway, the place was great, the waitresses were 'in-character,' the decor was amusing and '50s and early-'60s songs played in the background. The door to the men's room had 'Men' on the outside, but read 'Women' on the inside, causing a moment of panic as one prepared to leave. My wife reported that the ladies' room was similarly marked but there was a sign over the ladies' room mirror: "He's Not Worth It."
Toody's offered 'Elvis Fries' - French fries with bacon and cheese mixed in, then totally smothered in country gravy. We didn't try them. The food we did order was outstanding - best diner-style food ever!
While working for Rohm & Haas Co. some forty years ago, I had a ditzy secretary, Miki. Whenever she was excited or upset she'd exclaim: "Ooooh! Ooooh!!" I used to tell people that she was Gunther Toody's illegitimate daughter.
Global Warming Alert: A chilly Arctic summer has left nearly a million more square miles of ocean covered with ice than at the same time last year an increase of 60%.
The rebound from 2012's record low comes six years after the BBC reported that global warming would leave the Arctic ice-free in summer by 2013.
Instead, days before the annual autumn re-freeze is due to begin, an unbroken ice sheet more than half the size of Europe already stretches from the Canadian islands to Russia's northern shores.
The Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific has remained blocked by pack-ice all year. More than 20 yachts that had planned to sail it have been left ice-bound and a cruise ship attempting the route was forced to turn back.
Some eminent scientists now believe the world is heading for a period of cooling that will not end until the middle of this century - a process that would expose computer forecasts of imminent catastrophic warming as dangerously misleading.
"Mr. Gore ... Mr. Al Gore ... please come to the white courtesy telephone."
Good Summation: Attorney John Hinderaker recently wrote, "The roof is pretty much falling down around President Obama's head. Obamacare, finally rolling out and crashing on takeoff, is more unpopular than ever. The economy remains dismal, with labor force participation hitting near-record lows and young people's job prospects in the toilet.
Poverty rates are sky-high, with record numbers on food stamps. The federal government is about to run out of money again, having incurred nearly $17 trillion in debt. In foreign affairs, Obama has become a laughingstock."
"After nearly five years, it is hard to see how anyone could defend Obama's record in office."
Little Known Fact: The Nobel Prize does have some value - each medallion has drilled holes and can actually be used as a police whistle. That's why no Nobel Prize winner has ever been mugged.
Quote of the Day is from Ernest Hemingway: "Writing and travel broaden your ass if not your mind."
Friday September 6, 2013
Euro-Lincoln Substitute: Ford of Europe will sell versions of its larger models with upscale features under a new badge called Vignale.
Vignale was renowned Italian coach builder bought by DeTomaso and ended up in the Ford brand portfolio. Vignale-badged Ford models will be priced at a 10-15% premium.
The Vignale line is the latest attempt by Ford to woo affluent customers more interested in a lifestyle choice than a bargain. Ford last tried this - and failed - in the 1970s with Ghia-badged models - in Europe and the U.S. I blame the failure on the fact that Ford never offered a Ghia Pinto.
Before developing the Vignale, Ford had considered launching its upscale Lincoln badge in Europe. It concluded, however, that the brand "lacked the right products, powertrains and prestige." When you think about it, that's a pretty sad comment on the state of Lincoln today.
"It was better and easier to extend the Ford brand, which already demonstrates upside potential," said Roelant De Waard, Ford of Europe's sales and marketing chief.
Joyless Beachmobile: Smart (Are they still in business?!) has revealed its newest concept car, the four-seater Forjoy. The "joy" part is questionable for this electric beach buggy - with its doorless, roofless, rear-glass-free design.
The ghost of the Fiat Jolly will haunt this pale imitation.
Playing Offense: I played football in high school but this isn't about my athletic prowess - or lack of it.
The Oneida Indian Nation of Upstate New York plans to launch a radio ad campaign calling on the Washington Redskins to change their name.
In the ad, Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should "stand up to bigotry" by denouncing "the racial slur" in the team's name. I didn't know that Halbritter was an Indian name. How come their spokesman isn't named Blackfeather? Or Raindancer? Or Chief Thunderthud?
As someone of Irish descent, I am offended by Potato Skins. After all, we are a proud people, not a T.G.I. Friday's appetizer. I think it's time for chain restaurants to "stand up to bigotry."
The Irish deserve even more respect than Indians. We are a tribal people whose land was subject to numerous invasions by foreigners but still managed to produce the Book of Kells. What did Native Americans do? Made up stories about coyotes and bears - and never wrote them down.
Plus ... (more >>>)
Dining In: On Thursday, I spent the morning cleaning and scrubbing the chairs, tables and the exterior of our grill. All are normally found on our rear deck but had been stored outside on the side lawn while our house is being repainted.
That evening, my wife made Colorado burritos with rice and we shared a bottle of 2011 Fleur de Roy Rosé of Pinot Noir from Phelps Creek Vineyard of Hood River, OR. It was a marvelous meal with fine and lively conversation and much toasting to various good times from our past.
When Words Come Back And Bite Ya: "What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by ... armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne." Barack Obama - 2002
Quote Of The Day is from David Burge: "The government thinks guns, fast cars and alcohol should be banned. I think guns, fast cars and alcohol should be our national motto."
Thursday September 5, 2013
August Auto Sales Summary: Light vehicle sales were 16.1 million SAAR in August - up 11% from August 2012 and up 2.6% from the sales rate last month. This was the first time the sales rate has been over 16 million since November 2007.
FoMoCo sales increased 12%. Taurus sales jumped 26% to 6,836 units. Lincoln sales were flat.
General Motors reported a sales increase 15% compared with a year ago. Retail sales increased 22% while fleet sales were down 8%. Cadillac sales jumped by 38%, while Buick was close behind at 37%. GM said that large SUV sales rose 29%.
Chrysler LLC was up 12% overall, led by the Ram truck brand which increased 29% over last year. Sales of the little Fiat 500 have dropped to less than 3,000 per month. The fad is over.
Toyota Motor's sales rose 23%. Toyota sold over 6,241 Avalons in August, an increase of 254% over last year. In August, 900 Lexus LS flagship sedans were sold - up 15% over a year ago. Overall Lexus sales increased 23%.
American Honda was up 27%, lead by CR-V sales of 34,654 - up 45% compared to August 2012. Combined sales of the Insight and CR-Z hybrids was less than 1,000 units. At Subaru, overall sales increased by a whopping 45%. Nissan sales rose 22%, while Volvo sales were down 11% to 5,519 units.
BMW sales jumped 46%, while competitor Mercedes-Benz increased 15%. Audi's sales rose 22% to 14,005 units. While Jaguar's volume was a modest 1,723 units for August, it represented a ginormous 67% increase over last year.
Brand Loyalty Personified: 102 year-old Floyd Pullin from Confluence, PA has only owned Ford products since the 1920s.
He's done so well by Ford Trucks that the division named him honorary president for a day, not long after he took delivery of his latest ride, a 2013 F-150 STX.
It's the 16th Ford he's owned.
Remember When Lexus Made Pleasant-Looking Vehicles? The Lexus LF-NX compact crossover concept, to be officially unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show, looks like something from a Japanese horror comic. LF stands for the marque's "L-finesse" design language but there's no finesse in this sharp-edged, hideous nightmare.
The unpleasant Lexus spindle-grille/maw remains a major design mistake with an apparent half life of strontium 90, in my opinion.
"I'm Melting, I'm Melting!" A new skyscraper in London has caused extensive heat damage to a Jaguar XJ sedan parked on a nearby street as other drivers came forward to say it has also melted parts of their vehicles as well.
The building dubbed the Walkie Scorchie after it began reflecting a ray of sunlight that has left passers-by shielding their eyes has also badly damaged a van parked nearby.
During the late 1970s, one of the casinos located on the Atlantic City boardwalk was given a modernizing mirror-trimmed facade. The lower panels were fitted with mirrored Plexiglas for safety reasons. The sheets of acrylic were improperly installed and were wedged into the frames tightly enough to form convex shapes. Each panel became a focusing mirror and set the boardwalk on fire.
The problem was temporarily and inelegantly addressed by watering the boardwalk with an oscillating lawn sprinkler to keep the wood wet when the morning sun was reflecting off the mirrored surface.
16 Days of Europe In 4 Minutes: One of my grandson's Oregon Ambassadors of Music friends made this well-produced video of their July trip. Go here and scroll down to see it.
Book Review: 'Red Sparrow: A Novel' by Jason Matthews
I read a lot of novels but rarely write reviews. This gripping spy story is exceptional and deserves a mention.
It's the first novel from ... (more >>>)
Good Riddance: Ariel Castro, the 53 year-old Cleveland rapist/kidnapper sentenced last month to life in prison for holding three women and a child captive in his home for a decade, hanged himself in his prison cell.
Quote Of The Day is from Frank J. Fleming: "Maybe I don't understand the situation in Syria, but have they tried gun control?" And: "With Syria, it's up to Obama to make the least awful choice since the American people failed at that in the last two presidential elections."
Tuesday September 3, 2013
Just Build It: Volvo, a brand which has languished in recent decades, has just unveiled a concept coupe, described as the spiritual successor to the P1800.
"The new Volvo Concept Coupe reveals how we could shape our cars from now on. Free from the superficial surface excitement of other car brands, we add emotional value to the Volvo brand with the calm, confident beauty that is the hallmark of Scandinavian design," said Thomas Ingenlath, Volvo Senior VP of Design.
Volvo should put this beauty into production - now.
Sweet Spot: Everyone talks about heavy Labor Day traffic but, when I took a drive in my '39 Plymouth coupe at 10:00 am, the roads were practically empty.
I guess that everyone who was headed somewhere was already there and I was in the sweet spot of holiday traffic. The skies were pellucid blue with white clouds here and there and the temperature was a comfortable 63 degrees.
As I turned north on 142nd Avenue, a black Nissan Leaf rolled silently up to the stop sign. The Plymouth said to it, "Don't worry, little electromobile, my Glasspacks can make enough noise for both of us." And they did. (permalink)
Soft Ice Cream & The Cold War: This is not the first time I've written about Mister Softee, the mobile ice cream vendor and perpetual butt of erectile dysfunction jokes and a familiar sight when I was growing up in Northeast Philadelphia.
I had never heard of the 'Thrown Wrenches' website but I followed a lead from Hemmings to get there and found an interesting story about Mister Softee ice cream trucks, Civil Defense and preparedness for a nuclear strike. Who knew?
"If the Russians attacked us in the late 1950s and early 1960s, your chocolate malt would simply have to wait until after the H-bomb. You see, many franchise owners pledged their vehicle's use during an emergency as part of the Civil Defense effort. Franchise owners like Raymond Volkerding, of Cape Girardeau, Missouri told the local paper that he'd press his kitchen on wheels into service if needed.
What's more neighborly than that? You have fresh water storage, electricity for cooking, and refrigeration to keep food and beverages safe from spoilage. As it turns out, the Boyertown-built trucks were more versatile than originally thought."
Thanks, Mister Softee, for ... (more >>>)
Is That A Rosary Or A Bomb? The Department of Defense has classified Catholics, Evangelicals, Jews, and Mormons as religious "extremists" similar to Al Qaeda.
And yet, the DOD claims that the Fort Hood massacre wasn't a terrorist attack by a Muslim extremist. Go figure.
Ditherer-In-Chief: President Barack Obama can't make up his mind about Syria and he's doing his wishy-washiness in public. What ever happened to 'speak softly and carry a big stick'?
Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton harshly criticized Obama's handling of the United States' involvement - or lack thereof - in Syria: "This is absolutely stunning. I've been trying to fill in the blank of the following sentence: 'Barack Obama is the weakest president since …' And I have to say, the best I can come up with is James Buchanan who watched the country dissolve into the Civil War."
"We're watching the collapse of American influence in the Middle East and really more broadly. And I say that as somebody who has been opposed to use of force in Syria.
I have to ask of your secretary of state, John Kerry, given the two very strong statements that he has made on this subject since the first indication of the chemical weapons used 10 days ago took place: Are you now thinking of resigning as a matter of principle, having laid out the case, whether you agree or disagree with Kerry, that the United States has to use force here, to see the president take this step."
John Kerry should feel a sense of personal betrayal by Obama and, if he were truly a man of honor, would resign his post, go home and dedicate the rest of his life to counting his money or sailing.
Sarah Palin summed things up nicely: "So we're bombing Syria because Syria is bombing Syria? And I'm the idiot?"
Silenced Songbird: 67 year-old Linda Ronstadt said that Parkinson's Disease has left her unable to sing. She stopped performing in 2009 and now uses poles to walk on uneven ground and a wheelchair when traveling,
During her career, Ronstadt has shown great versatility recording folk, rock, pop, opera, bluegrass and standards - something few artists have accomplished.
The prolific singer has lent her voice to over 120 albums. Ronstadt was voted the Top Female Pop Singer of the 1970s. She also appeared on Broadway, starring in the light opera, Gilbert and Sullivan's 'The Pirates of Penzance'.
Later, she recorded three albums of standards arranged by Nelson Riddle. Her rendition of 'When You Wish upon a Star' is sublime. The recordings were such a commercial success that other rock and pop artists copied Linda, releasing their own takes on the great American Songbook. I'm thinking of Toni Tennille, Carly Simon, Rod Stewart, Anne Murray, Queen Latifa, and others.
Linda Ronstadt also performed Barney Gumble's Plow King song on an episode of 'The Simpsons'.
In recent years her star has dimmed, partly because of on-stage lefty political remarks during performances which got her fired from at least Las Vegas one gig after hundreds of angry fans streamed from the theater. Some of them defaced posters of her in the lobby, writing comments and tossing drinks on her pictures.
Nevertheless, Linda's singing voice will be missed. (permalink)
Restaurant Update: We had a positively awful meal at Vinnie's Pizza in Vancouver, WA recently. The problem wasn't the food but a clueless, incompetent server who made multiple mistakes.
Vinnie's has now been removed from our 'recommended' list. If you're looking for good Italian food in downtown Vacouver, try Little Italy's Trattoria.
Thought For Today: You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
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