A Blog About Cars ... And Everything Else That Catches My Eye
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Wednesday April 30, 2014
AutoSketch: 1954 Dodge Firearrow - America Meets Italy
Chrysler products, especially Plymouth and Dodge, of the 1953-54 era were considered stodgy. They were practical, upright designs which lacked the pizazz of competitors' cars of the era. Chrysler's design chief Virgil Exner wanted to change all that and commissioned several swoopy show cars. Asked about his show cars by writer Michael Lamm in the early 1970s, Exner explained: "There was really only a single purpose in all of them, and that was to let the public know that Chrysler was thinking ahead as far as styling was concerned."
Exner's modus operandi was to take a conventional stock production chassis, sometimes shortened, and ship it to Italy where coachbuilders worked on the cheap in destitute postwar Europe. Finished cars were returned to the U.S., where they were exhibited at shows throughout the country.
In 1953 and 1954, Dodge created a handful of concept cars bearing the Firearrow name ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'The Pope And Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe' by David I. Kertzer
For me, this was an eye-opener of a book. The author spent seven years of research in the Vatican and Fascist archives, including reports from Mussolini's spies inside the highest levels of the Church, to properly define of the Vatican's role in the rise of Fascism.
Pope Pius XI played a crucial role in keeping Mussolini in power - both men ... (more >>>)
Thought For Today: Never test the depth of the water with both feet.
Monday April 28, 2014
Something Colorful For Easter: How about a yellow and white '56 Ford? This Mainline sedan has been modeled in 1:43 scale by WhiteBox, a house brand from Model Car World, a retailer in Florsheim, Germany.
Only 1,000 or so pieces were produced in this color combo. (permalink)
New York State Of Mind: If you attended this year's New York International Auto Show, I hope you thoroughly enjoyed it. I still have fond memories and some photos of my first trip to the 1966 show.
When Nixon And Polyester Ruled: Recently, I watched 'The Seven Ups', a movie made in 1973 - starring Rory Scheider. The cars were awful, the clothes were hideous, loud, doubleknit patterns and muttonchop sideburns were everywhere.
There was a very impressive inner-city chase, full of squealing tires, fleeing pedestrians, bouncing over curbs, etc. featuring a 1973 big-bumpered, ill-handling Pontiac Bonneville driven masterfully through New York City by Bill Hickman - a very talented stuntman and the Dodge Charger driver in 'Bullitt'. Bad-guy Hickman was being pursued by NYC undercover detective Scheider, driving a silver Pontiac Ventura (rebadged Chevy Nova), which gets destroyed spectacularly - having its roof sheared off as it crashes into a tractor trailer.
Director Philip D'Antoni previously produced 'Bullitt' and 'The French Connection' and, therefore, does good car chases. The movie takes place during an icy winter - the bare trees, graffitied buildings and NY elevated cars provide a bleak movie backdrop. Later there's a shootout and foot chase in a muddy New Jersey wasteland, filmed as trains roar by on the old Pennsylvania Railroad four-track Broadway. I spotted two GG-1 pantographed electric locomotives - a dirty silver one in AMTRAK colors, the other still wearing the somber black Penn Central colors with the nondescript, obsolete PC logo.
I enjoyed the movie's action scenes but had forgotten how crappy the 1970s really were. Especially the cars of '73 - the first year of 5-mph bumpers. Most manufacturers simply stuck ugly, oversized bumpers on the front and rear of cars, mounted far away from the body. There was little design integration and most of these 'safety' bumpers were reminiscent of medieval battering rams.
Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Here is a compelling animation of a falling female mannequin. If she gets stuck on a bubble rock, you can help free her with your cursor.
Book Review: 'The Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run - or Ruin - an Economy' by Tim Harford
This book is a discussion - in layman's terms - about microeconomics. Harford uses a Q&A format with lots of anecdotes - many absurdly humorous - to make his points. He discusses recessions (including the D.C. Babysitting Recession of the 1970s), money (including the Yap Islands' heavy stone currency), inflation, stimulus, output gaps ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun Of The Day: If you don't pay your exorcist, you get repossessed.
Thursday April 17, 2014
Big Trouble In Big China: Among other comments from Hans-Georg Schmitt, German Associate Editor of Model Auto Review magazine attended the Nuremberg International Toy Fair, and reported that higher wages and spiraling costs in China have had effects in all areas of model car production. "Many brands whose production moved to China in recent years are now suffering; the famous French marque of Solido has now been put into cold storage by Schuco; it remains to be seen if it will ever be revived."
He noted that a number of manufacturers "did not have their own exhibition space this year, including Brumm. He also notes that there were many fewer visitors than in previous years, which seems to be a permanent downward trend."
Hans-Georg also observed ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'The Up Side Of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success' by Megan McArdle
This book started out with great promise and actually has some good lessons to teach. Megan McArdle posits, in a thought-provoking way, that you have to learn how to harness the power of failure in order to succeed. Unfortunately, the book often heads off into the weeds with tales of finance guru Dave Ramsey, too many McArdle personal stories and the pros and cons of various government programs.
This book could have been far more condensed. In fact, some of the material seemed so familiar ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from the late Johnny Carson: "For three days after death, hair and fingernails continue to grow but phone calls taper off."
Tuesday April 15, 2014
April Showers: Monday dawned bright and sunny but when I went to make a library book run in my '39 Plymouth coupe, clouds were moving in to the south. Rain is in the forecast but I lucked out and got in a nice drive while the sun was still around.
Worth The Wait: The 2015 Chevrolet Corvette will be available with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The all-new, GM-designed 8L90 eight-speed is expected to contribute up to 5% greater efficiency than the previous six-speed automatic.
I have an eight-speed tranny in my Lexus and I like it.
Congratulations to my grandson, whose Spartan Robotics Team participated in last weekend's three-state competition and earned a spot at the FIRST Robotics World Competition in St. Louis later this month.
Working Off One's Sentence: I'm sure I'm not the first to think of this. Let's arrest all illegal immigrants and sentence each to six months of hard labor. Doing what? Helping construct a tall, sturdy wall at the U.S./Mexican border. It's good punishment and cheaper than union help. When their sentences are completed, deport them. For most, it will be a short walk.
2016 Is Coming Soon: Almost 11 years ago, Brad DeLong wrote: "My two cents' worth - and I think it is the two cents' worth of everybody who worked for the Clinton Administration health care reform effort of 1993-1994 - is that Hillary Rodham Clinton needs to be kept very far away from the White House for the rest of her life. Heading up health-care reform was the only major administrative job she has ever tried to do. And she was a complete flop at it. She had neither the grasp of policy substance, the managerial skills, nor the political smarts to do the job she was then given. And she wasn't smart enough to realize that she was in over her head and had to get out of the Health Care Czar role quickly."
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "Capitalism knows only one color: that color is green; all else is necessarily subservient to it, hence, race, gender and ethnicity cannot be considered within it."
Friday April 11, 2014
Popemobiles Through The Ages: A Brief History of Papal Conveyances. I've researched the subject of popes and the vehicles that transported them and have posted an essay here.
Sunny Outing: Thursday was sunny with a temperature of 52 degrees at 11:00 am, so I took my '39 Plymouth coupe for a ride on Battle Ground's back roads. Mt. St. Helens was clearly visible and still full of snow. Overall, it was a most enjoyable drive.
A Little Bit Light In The Driving Shoes: A Sicilian court condemned road authorities for suspending the driving license of a man after finding out he was gay. The court said being gay was merely "a personality disturbance" which had no bearing on a person's ability to drive.
The driver was "deeply perturbed by what has happened. He has lost his hair."
He now resembles Right Said Fred.
Interesting Factoid: Researchers now say that the human nose can distinguish at least one trillion different odors.
Even so, most test subjects still found it nearly impossible to distinguish between Obamacare and a road-kill skunk.
Headline Of The Week is from The Onion: 'Elf Finger Found In Box Of Keebler Cookies'.
Quote Of The Day is from James Lileks: "I know eyelashes are designed to keep things out of my eyeballs, but the thing I get in my eyeballs most often are eyelashes."
Wednesday April 9, 2014
There's No Accounting For Taste: I always believed that my taste had improved with age. Then, I found a car drawing I had made when I was thirteen. I cleaned it up and colorized it using PhotoShop:
It has every awful 1950s styling cliche possible. It's very derivative, containing traces of Chrysler Imperial, Corvette SS, Chrysler Dart show car and a touch of Lister Jaguar.
I still like the way it looks and wouldn't mind having it parked in my garage. Go figure.
Homermobile: A car has been covered in computer keys, forming a Homer Simpson mosaic on the hood.
The Well-Engineered Car Of The Future: Jim Geraghty of NRO remembers when car expert Barack Obama hailed the flawed Chevy Cobalt, now infamous for its ignition switch woes.
President Obama, speaking at the General Motors Lordstown Assembly Plant in Warren, Ohio, September 15, 2009: "Today, you made, by the way, some more good news: I understand that the one-millionth Cobalt rolled off the assembly line late last night. So I don’t want to just congratulate you, I want to thank you. You’re doing your part to move us forward and make sure that the high-quality, well-engineered, safe and fuel-efficient cars of the future will be built where they’ve always have been built - right here in Ohio, right across the Midwest, right here in the United States of America."
All Chevy Cobalts produced between 2005 and 2010 are being recalled.
At the time of Obama's speech at the GM plant, saluting the Cobalt, GM engineers knew the cars were unsafe, according to the New York Times: "Any doubts were laid to rest among engineers at General Motors about a dangerous and faulty ignition switch. At a meeting on May 15, 2009, they learned that data in the black boxes of Chevrolet Cobalts confirmed a potentially fatal defect existed in hundreds of thousands of cars."
Book Review: 'Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy' by Eri Hotta
This fascinating book considers the attack on Pearl Harbor - and the events leading up to it - from the Japanese perspective. Author Hotta reveals just how divided/conflicted Japan's leaders were, right up to their eleventh-hour decision to attack the U.S. They attacked despite the knowledge that they could not possible win a protracted war against the United States.
Hotta details the debates and internal warfare between ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Ben Stein, reviewing a book about ads from the 1950s: "My own favorites are the ads for 1950s cars, which summon memories of an age when a car was a chariot for a god - unlike today, when a car is just a little metal box designed mostly to use less gasoline and not pollute and not look very different from any other car. (Okay, with a few magnificent exceptions and a few horrifying exceptions, like that weird specimen the SUV, which exists only to allow small people to feel big.)"
Monday April 7, 2014
Crawling For A Model: For some time now, I've been looking for a bulldozer or crawler tractor to adorn my O-gauge model train layout. Last month, I acquired a new 1:43 diecast model of a 1930 Cletrac 20K crawler made by Universal Hobbies, the same firm that produced the Ferguson tractor model I acquired in 2008.
The Cletrac was made by ... (more >>>)
"Mmmmmm. Poodleburgers!" An animal rights group wants the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA to gut its cafeteria menu of fish and seafood, arguing that "serving fish at an aquarium is like serving poodleburgers at a dog show."
Paper Of Record: The Clark County Board of Commissioners voted to make rural weekly newspaper, The Reflector, the official paper of record for the county beginning July 1st. About $44,000 worth of the county legal notices will soon appear primarily in The Reflector, which is based in Battle Ground, WA.
This is a big loss for The Columbian, the Vancouver-based daily newspaper which, until now, has had pretty much a monopoly on this business. The Reflector's bid to the county included rates nearly half of The Columbian's bid. The Reflector is delivered free to 26,826 homes, about the same number of The Columbian's paid subscribers (27,601). County population is almost 450,000.
County commissioner David Madore said a key factor in his vote to award the bid to The Reflector was ... (more >>>)
Ant Deco: James Lileks has noted that ants "look streamlined, as if they were modeled on 1930s cocktail shakers."
Your Tax Money At Waste: U.S. taxpayers spent nearly $16 million to fly the Obamas to, from and around Hawaii and Africa, Air Force records obtained by Judicial Watch show. "The Obama family 2013-2014 vacation to Honolulu cost $210,877 per hour for travel alone; at 36.9 total hours, the cost to taxpayers for the vacation's flight expense was $7,781,361.30," Judicial Watch said in a statement, noting an increase of $3,695,006.10 from flight expenses for the Obamas' 2012-13 Hawaii Christmas vacation.
Michelle Obama extended her Hawaiian vacation, traveling separately back to Washington after spending time with family friend Oprah Winfrey on Maui."
Congratulations ... to my grandson for beating the 1st ranked team to reach the Finals at the OSU District Qualifying round for FIRST Robotics, allowing his school to move on to next weekend's District Championships. His team also won the Gracious Professionalism award too.
RIP: Actor Mickey Rooney has died at age 93. A celebrated child actor in the 1930s, Rooney appeared in more than 200 films and countless TV shows. Laurence Olivier once called the 5-foot-2 Rooney, "The greatest actor of them all."
Rooney and Judy Garland co-starred in 10 movies, including the 1939 musical 'Babes in Arms'. "Judy and I were so close we could've come from the same womb," Rooney once said.
When planning Mickey's funeral, will anyone use the phrase 'Hey kids, Lets put on a show!'? Just wondering.
Never Trust Old Industrial Films: Apparently, there's a 1954 docu-movie, 'The House In The Middle', sponsored by the National Paint, Varnish and Lacquer Association, claiming that a clean house with a fresh coat of paint will save your house and family from a nuclear blast.
Thought For Today: Did you ever notice that, when you put the two words 'The' and 'IRS' together, it spells 'Theirs'?
Wednesday April 2, 2014
March Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 16.4 million SAAR in March, up 7% from March 2013 and up 7% from the sales rate last month. Light truck sales were up 11%, with passenger cars up by just 1%.
Ford Motor sales ticked up 3% in March, spurred by a strong second half of the month, particularly from the company's two biggest sellers: the F-series pickup (+5%) and Fusion mid-sized sedan (+9%). Lincoln sales rose 31% to 8,969 vehicles, led by the entry-level MKZ sedan - sales increased 72% to 4,052 cars.
Stellar Ram pickup (+28%) and Jeep sales (+47%) pushed Chrysler Group sales up 13% in March. The Chrysler brand itself fell by 23%.
General Motors sales increased by 4% overall, lead by Buick (+13%). On the other hand, Cadillac sales dropped 6% to 14,765 units.
Nissan experienced an 8% sales gain. Toyota Motor sales rose 5%, while sales of Lexus vehicles jumped 23%. Honda sales fell 3%, but Acura sales rose 11%. Mercedes increased 12%, while BMW rose 18%.Subaru sales increased 21% while Volkswagen sales dropped 3%.
Maserati sales soared a whopping 342% to 963 cars, while sales of the line-overextended, this-concept-is-old Mini brand declined by 40%.
Nice Weather: On Monday, it was sunny and 60 degrees at 1:00 pm, so I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and took a little drive.
I guess other old car owners had the same idea; I spotted a 1960 Ford Falcon during my back roads excursion.
The rain returned Monday night and continued all day Tuesday.
Weird-Ohs: If you're old enough, you'll remember these very popular plastic kits from the '60s. These automobile character-toons (similar to ones produced by Ed 'Big Daddy' Roth) were manufactured by the Hawk Model Company, beginning in 1963. Hawk's freelance designer, Bill Campbell, is the father of Weird-Ohs.
The plastic models sold very well. At a single toy show, the company received orders for almost 250,000 kits. The factory had to go into overtime to fill all the orders.
Off The Rails: James Lileks has written a humorous and logical indictment of light rail. "There's a big push to bring back streetcars, which are just like buses, except they require iron lines in the pavement and wires overhead, and can't be rerouted. But dang, they look fine in promotional brochures and videos."
The 'romance' of trolleys blinds people to their disadvantages - expensive to build or modify a line or route, inflexible, unable pull to side of the road for passengers to embark/disembark, the ugliness of all those overhead wires, the nightmare when a streetcar breaks down and on and on.
When it used to cost a few hundred thousand to construct a line, they were called 'trolleys.' Now that the cost is in the billions, they are referred to as 'light rail vehicles' or 'LRVs.' Sounds more sophisticated and NASA-like. I guess bureaucrats think that fancy names and acronyms helps justify the outrageous price.
Lileks notes that silly mass transit schemes are being sold on the basis of ecological guilt. "Really, it's only fair. You're in a car, by yourself, going where you want to go, humming along with the song on the radio, a simple and distinctly American expression of freedom and individuality. You ought to be ashamed of yourself."
The argument for energy-saving is not valid, despite the propaganda from greenies. In 2010, the Randal O'Toole of the Cato Institute wrote, "When taken as a whole, the transit systems for the vast majority of urban areas use far more energy per passenger mile than driving ... Portland's commuter-rail line uses nearly 6,000 BTUs per passenger mile."
Seventy years ago, most mass transit was run by for-profit companies. After World War II, transit usage declined - suburban development and the travel opportunities created by the new interstate highway system encouraged car ownership. By the 1960s, most privately-owned mass transit systems were going - or had gone - bust and were taken over by tax-supported government entities.
Fast forward to 2014 ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Company Man: Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA' by John Rizzo
This memoir covers the author's 34 years with the Central Intelligence Agency. He served under eleven CIA directors and seven presidents and became a notorious public figure during the "enhanced interrogation techniques" controversy.
While it is interesting to read about the various events during Rizzo's tenure (Iran-Contra, 9-11 and terrorist interrogations) and the personalities he encountered along the way, the most important thing I got from reading the book was insight into the process of Congressional 'oversight' and how politicized and potentially ineffective it has become. Rizzo doesn't think much ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Rita Rudner: "Men love watches with multiple functions. My husband has one that is a combination address book, telescope and piano."
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