A Blog About Cars ... And Much, Much More
Thursday October 29, 2015
AutoSketch: 1951 GM Le Sabre concept car - Postwar General Motors Dream
In 1938, Harley Earl, head of General Motors Styling Division, designed the Y-Job, arguably the first concept car. It contained many novel features and Earl often drove it to help showcase the company's capabilities and hint at future design directions.
After World War II, the once-futuristic Y-Job was beginning to look dated, so Earl, now a vice-president at GM, commissioned a new concept car, the 1951 Le Sabre.
This so-called "dream car" drew its design inspiration from the F86 jet fighter aircraft (especially the narrow and rounded front and rear scoops) and other aircraft-inspired design elements such as the wraparound windshield and tailfins, which became common on automotive designs later in the decade. The Le Sabre was billed as an "experimental laboratory on wheels" and was powered by ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Being Nixon: A Man Divided' by Even Thomas
Thomas is the latest author to try and figure out What Made Nixon Tick. After 500-plus pages, he doesn't figure it out. No one knows. Nixon was half-brilliant, half-nuts and had self-esteem problems great enough to keep an army of psychiatrists busy for years .... (more >>>)
Colorado Republican Debate: Yes, I watched last night's dog and pony show and it didn't really change my preferences. My favorite candidates remain Dr. Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.
The CNBC moderators were obnoxious and snarky but the candidates threw it right back at them to the delight of the audience. Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee exceeded my expectations. Jeb Bush put on an unimpressive performance and was the loser of this debate.
Question Of The Day: Why does a round pizza come in a square box?
Tuesday October 27, 2015
Toyota Is The Sixth Most Profitable Company On The Planet: Toyota is one of the three largest car companies in the world and vies for the No. 1 spot each year with GM and Volkswagen.
VW is the larger company by revenue, but Toyota's earnings exceeded its rival by nearly $6 billion. In its last fiscal year, according to Toyota, "consolidated vehicle sales totaled 8,971,864 units, a decrease of 144,169 units compared to the previous fiscal year."
North America is by far Toyota's largest market, with vehicle sales of 2,715,173 units, followed by 2,153,694 in its home market of Japan.
Not Recommended: Consumer Reports has withdrawn its Tesla recommendation "due to drivers' complaints of a "worse-than-average overall problem rate.""
For its annual car-reliability survey, Consumer Reports said it heard from about 1,400 Model S owners who complained of an "array of detailed and complicated maladies," both in the car's unique touches, like its sprawling touchscreen dashboard, and in its more commonplace machinery, like windshield wipers and ... (more >>>)
Rail Closure: Allied Model Trains, one of the Los Angeles area's oldest and largest model railroad hobby shops, closed in July 2015. Allied originally opened in 1946 and was last located in Culver City, CA.
My friend Ray and I visited Allied during our Great California Adventure. It was an impressive place with lots of merchandise and interesting displays.
Unfortunately ... (more >>>)
Manny, Moe & Haruki: Japanese tire giant Bridgestone Corp. agreed to buy the Pep Boys retail chain for about $835 million, pushing deeper into an auto-parts industry that has benefited from Americans keeping their cars on the road longer.
Both company boards support the deal, which is expected to close in early 2016.
"The deal unites the U.S. subsidiary of Bridgestone, the Japanese tire giant, with Pep Boys' more than 800 auto-parts and maintenance shops. Bridgestone already operates more than 2,200 tire and automotive centers across the U.S., and the merger will create the world's largest chain of its kind."
More Pep Boys history is posted here.
It's A Dark Day For The Metric System: Lincoln Chafee has withdrawn from the 2016 presidential race.
Quote Of The Day is from Pliny the Elder: "The only certainty is that nothing is certain."
Friday October 23, 2015
Big Trouble In Motor City: Only one American car brand - Buick - cracked the top 15 list in Consumer Reports' latest Auto Reliability Survey. Cadillac struggled the most in the annual ratings because of problems with its infotainment system. And complex, fuel-saving transmissions emerged as trouble spots for some makes.
Detroit should be hanging its head in shame over these poor performance rankings.
"Dual-clutch transmissions and those with as many as nine speeds were developed as part of the race to build more fuel-efficient vehicles. But they have led to cars breaking down, according to Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports' director of automotive testing."
General Motors' Buick brand was the only Detroit brand to make the "most reliable" category, while most domestic brands fell in the "least reliable" category. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' Fiat, Jeep and Ram brands were the three least reliable.
"Cadillac, which has struggled to gain footing in the competitive luxury market and earlier this year moved from Detroit to New York, tied with Acura for the biggest decline in reliability (down seven places) from a year ago. Consumer Reports said its main issue was its CUE infotainment system, along with build-quality issues in its newest models."
All of GM's brands besides Buick were in the bottom third of the rankings. Chevrolet gained one spot from a year ago while GMC stayed the same. The Chevy Corvette, Suburban and GMC Yukon XL all struggled more than in previous years.
The Ford brand saw the biggest jump (up six spots) to 17th place, but it still placed among the lower half of all auto brands.
Most reliable brands began with Lexus at the top spot, followed by Toyota, Audi, Mazda, Subaru, Kia and Buick.
The least reliable brand was Fiat, followed by Jeep, Ram, Cadillac, Infiniti, Dodge and Chrysler. Consumer Reports rated the Fiat 500L as the industry's least reliable car model.
Partly Everything: Thursday morning's '39 Plymouth ride had parts of everything - partly sunny, partly cloudy, partly leaves on the ground, partly colors on the trees and partly freezing my buns off on the cold vinyl seats (51 degrees at 11:20 am).
The maple trees were super colorful but are quickly losing their leaves. Other trees were turning brown. It looked like we're near or at peak color around these parts.
A low ring of puffy clouds obscured the surrounding mountains but the rest of the scenery was awesome to behold and made for a very pleasant drive.
Milestone: St. Martin of Tours School will celebrate 90 years of Catholic education with a Mass and luncheon on October 25, 2015.
On September 8, 1925, three IHM (Immaculate Heart of Mary) sisters opened the doors of the Northeast Philadelphia school to 71 students. My mother and maternal aunt were part of that group; my grandparents were founding members of the parish. I graduated from St. Martin's elementary school in 1957.
By 1970, enrollment peaked at 2,749 students, the largest elementary school in the United States. Today, St. Martin of Tours School is part of Independence Mission Schools, a nonprofit foundation formed in 2012 in response to the threatened loss of inner city parish schools, due to lack of funding on a parish level. Once located in a solid middle-class neighborhood ... (more >>>)
Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog ... Cory Wells, founding member of the band Three Dog Night, has died at age 74. Three Dog Night was one of the biggest-selling band of the 1970's and they hold the record for the most bodies in Portland's Memorial Coliseum for their show. RIP.
No Raise For Me This Year: Some 65 million retired and disabled Americans are about to be hit with a double whammy - the Social Security Administration announced there will be no annual cost-of-living benefits increase in 2016 but there may be an increase in Medicare costs.
Meanwhile, inflation remains at over 2%, so lots of seniors are getting screwed.
Quote Of The Day is from comic writer Norman Liebmann: "There is nothing more dangerous than the conviction that diplomats should be America's first line of defense. ... America will get tough or it will get terminal."
Wednesday October 21, 2015
Happy Birthday ... to the Oldsmobile Toronado, arguably one of General Motors' most ground-breaking production cars. It turned 50 this month.
At Hemmings, Daniel Strohl has written a tribute to this collectable automobile. "In mid-Sixties America, front-wheel drive represented - at the same time - automotive past and future. Many others had tried it, but their efforts seemed relegated to the history books, with the last of the bunch 30 years gone. And yet the coming tide of imported cars included many a puller-type as well as pushers. It fell, then, to Oldsmobile to bridge the gap, something it did to much acclaim with the Toronado, introduced 50 years ago."
Manufacturers of toy and model cars realized that this Olds would make a popular offering; little Toronados were produced in a variety of scales and colors:
The ones made by Corgi Toys sold like hot cakes (or like spare electrical parts at a British car meet) - tens of thousands were produced during a four-year period.
Regarding the full-size Toronado, Strohl wrote: "Understandably, Oldsmobile brass felt proud of its front-wheel-drive revival car. They introduced it not with the rest of the 1966 Oldsmobile lineup in September 1965, but on its own a month later. They campaigned heavily for recognition of the car’s achievements, a campaign that resulted in Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award for 1966 as well as Car & Driver's best all-around car award and Car Life's Engineering Excellence award. Sales for that first year totaled a respectable 40,963."
Perhaps more significant, however, was ... (more >>>)
Happy Birthday II: Bubble gum is celebrating its 87th anniversary. Created in 1928 by Walter Deimer - a Philadelphia accountant, the perennial treat was pegged Dubble Bubble by its maker and sold by Fleer Gum, which owned the brand name.
Privately-held Concord Confections, Inc. of Toronto acquired the Dubble Bubble brand in 1998, selling it in 62 different countries and generating sales of more than $100 million.
Did You Have Them As A Kid? I did. Lincoln Logs are notched miniature logs used to build small forts and buildings. They were invented by John Lloyd Wright, second son of legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
For the first time in 50 years, Lincoln Logs are being manufactured in the U.S. again. (Production had been moved to China.) The real-wood logs will be cut and notched in Burnham, Maine, by Pride Manufacturing. (permalink)
Book Review: 'The Dadly Virtues: Adventures from the Worst Job You'll Ever Love' edited by Jonathan V. Last
In this book, seventeen conservative authors offer their thoughts, experiences and opinions on fatherhood. It's a refreshing change from the plethora of mommy/child books available. The lack of written material by fathers is probably because it's tougher for us stoically-inclined dads to write about parenting; it was only this year that I finally got up the gumption to write about it myself.
Prior to reading the book, I had to watch several of the contributors discuss their work at the American Enterprise Institute. C-Span2 picked it up and you can probably find the full video posted in their archives. I recommend that you do so because the authors talk about much more than what was written in the book and there is lots of engaging and witty banter throughout the presentation.
The book itself is pretty good, too - which makes for a nice two-fer.
It's an uneven work ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Rodney Dangerfield: "My wife's such a bad cook, the dog begs for Alka-Seltzer."
Monday October 19, 2015
Peak Electric: Tesla Motors' market cap has now reached nearly $40 billion, which made it over half the value of General Motors Co. Despite its next generation technology, Tesla makes 11,000 cars per quarter, compared with about two million for GM.
Douglas A. McIntyre wrote, "No matter how good Tesla's electric cars are, its valuation cannot be supported on any rational basis, and it has been caught by the gravity of skeptical traders.
Tesla's shares peaked at $287 in September of last year and nearly reached that point in June of this year. However, the current price is a rally from $185 in late April. Shares, now trading at $232, will be back under $200 again."
The company's problem is ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "I like Hostess Fruit Pies better than Pop Tarts, because they don't require all that cooking."
Thursday October 15, 2015
Fall's Here: Oh, you can tell. There's that underlying chill beneath the warm surface. It's sunny, with nice wispy clouds and light blue skies the color of a fading oxford shirt but, at noon on Wednesday, temperatures were still in the mid-50s.
Nevertheless, it was semi-prime, old-car-driving weather, so I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and took a pleasant drive along the back roads of North Clark County.
Traffic was light and I've been anxious to travel; every morning, I've been waiting for the fog to lift. Today was the first day it happened before noon, so I took advantage while the weather was still more-or-less on my side.
Value Where it Counts: Dan Neil has tested the most recent Subaru Forester.
There are certain rules for making 'style' judgements: If a vehicle is made in Germany and looks a bit dull, it's admired as very Bauhausian - that old 'form follows function' scam - something that the French auto firm Citroën has managed to perfect after decades of practice.
When the first-generation Audi TT was introduced, its uninspired styling reminded me of those crude 'Made in Occupied Germany' tin toys. But the critics chanted 'Bauhaus' over and over again until the public nodded dully, knocked back a couple of extra glasses of Rhine wine and wrote a blurry check.
On the other hand, if it's a Japanese brand being examined for its design ... (more >>>)
At my first post-college job, there was an actual Comptometer Department, staffed by ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Rise Of The Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future' by Martin Ford
Author and Silicon Valley expert Martin Ford has seen the future and there's doom and gloom everywhere. He believes that robots - mostly computers and software, rather than giant metal walking things - will eventually take over all human jobs leaving us with nothing to do and no means of earning income. It's disruptive technology taken to the Nth power.
Ford says that this time it will be nothing like the transition from agriculture to industrialization - no farmers hopping on a train from Kansas to go make Model Ts in Detroit. This time there will be no place to go. So what does one do? How does a nation respond? Ford gamely suggests that everyone should get a guaranteed income from the government so that they can buy the stuff the robots are making. Sounds like a bad Sci-Fi novel to me.
The book is further sullied by ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Donald Rumsfeld: "Fortunately, history is not made up of daily headlines, blogs on websites, or the latest sensational attack. History is a bigger picture, and it takes some time and perspective to measure accurately."
Tuesday October 13, 2015
When Cars Were Just Cars: In the 1950s, when you bought a Ford, it came in one size (except for the Thunderbird).
No more. Today, we are inundated with showroom choices, including the latest automotive aberration, the Cute Ute. These are bite-size SUVs based on subcompact car platforms. Led by the Subaru XV Crosstrek and Jeep Renegade, U.S. sales of these subcompact crossovers jumped 104% to nearly 43,000 units in August 2015, a year-over-year gain of 22,000 units. August marked the second consecutive month in which segment-wide sales ... (more >>>)
Sudsy Prayers: Last week, my daughter made this Facebook posting: "Continued prayers for my Dad please - 4 weeks out from his 5-week course of Daily Radiation & Chemo he's still suffering awful side effects with more bad days than good."
I wish to thank everyone - on FB and elsewhere - who have been praying for me. (I've got a prayer list, too, having just found out that two of my high school classmates are on kidney transplant waiting lists.)
Last Tuesday was probably my worst day - I could barely get out of bed and had to cancel all outside appointments. The remainder of the week was filled with medical procedures - some unpleasant. But ... by Friday, something good was beginning to happen and I was experiencing some improvement. My energy levels still remain low but I'm generally feeling better and some of the chemo/radiation side effects seem to be abating.
Thanks to God ... and thanks to all of you. Prayer works.
And so does soap. A few years ago ... (more >>>)
As Long As It Doesn't Cost Anything: California has adopted a series of laws in recent years to help people in the country illegally, and polls show broad support for a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 2 million such immigrants living in the state.
But it's a different story when it comes to providing them with free healthcare benefits. California voters are sharply divided over whether free or low-cost health insurance should be granted to those who reside in the state without legal status, according to a new poll.
Quote Of The Day is from James Lileks: "If carrots are so good for the eyes, why does the pointy end hurt when you stick it in?"
Friday October 9, 2015
Car Names: A car buddy of mine thinks that auto manufacturers are designating models alphanumerically because all the good car names are taken. I dunno.
Plenty are still left: Bolus, Pale, Critter, Dry-Rot, Commode, Payback, Rectal, Walla-Walla, Lactose, Hat, Limpid, Sucks, Sarcophagus, Testicle, Soapscum, Cantaloupe, Dandruff, Yummi-Girl, Rancid, Thumb, Honeydew, Vermin, Stethoscope, Gingivitis, Thunderass, Vomit, Pill, Bloodsoaked, Dungheap, Sticky, Legume, Frightful, Slimemobile, Distress, Colitis, Hello Kitty, Phlegm, Eight-Track, Rastus, Slug, Turnip, Futon, Infertility, Lamprey, Squeegee, Flatulence, Insult, Eggplant, Turn-On, Hemorrhoid, Creature, Tumor, Urine, Knee, Nosebleed, Prude, Burrito, Hematoma and HootchieMama.
I bet some new Chinese car will utilize one or more of these model names. I think the HootchieMama 5000 would make a good name, especially if it's on a performance coupe with a huge engine.
Or ... there's the classic 1965 transporter from ... (more >>>)
Simpson Wisdom: Lisa: "I'm studying for the math fair. If I win, I'll bring home a brand new protractor."
Homer: "Too bad we don't live on a farm."
Question Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "How could so many people across the country spend so much time at night marching, rioting and looting, if they had to get up and go to work the next morning?"
Wednesday October 7, 2015
What's Around The Next Corner? There's always a surprise. Monday's was a pleasant one. Over the weekend, some of my treatment side effects began to abate and I was feeling good enough to fire up my '39 Plymouth coupe and take a little ride along the back roads of Clark County.
The weather was gorgeous - 56 degrees under bright blue skies at 10:00 am - the roads were lightly traveled and I had a most enjoyable ride.
Did I write 'bright blue skies'? Yes, I did. But beneath the azure overlayer, there was a certain wanness - a sign that summer is definitely over and winter is working up a cold head of steam. Leaves are changing - the maples now sport those colorful 'Hey, look at me' shades, while others are losing their luster and settling into that dull green velvet that precedes brown, brittleness and falling to the ground.
The absence of cars on my rural loop made it hard to tell whether the year was 2015, 1959 or 1939, as you can see from the view through the windshield (a phrase befitting this blog):
James Lileks recently wrote ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'The Book Of Joan - Tales of Mirth, Mischief, and Manipulation' by Melissa Rivers
This was an OK book - a string of one-liners, a few good Joan stories and an occasional glimpse ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane."
Monday October 5, 2015
September Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 18 million SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate) in September - up almost 10% from last September and up 2% from the 17.7 million annual sales rate last month. Labor Day was included in September this year and may have helped the numbers slightly.
FoMoCo sales jumped 23% last month. Ford reported sales of 69,651 F-Series pickups in September, down about 2% from August. Lincoln sales increased 20%
General Motors sales were up over 12% September. GMC truck sales were up 24%, while Chevrolet and Cadillac saw increases of 11% and 8% respectively.
Chrysler sales increased by almost 14%, led by Jeep (+40%). Ram sales increased a disappointing 4%. Chrysler brand sales were off 5%. Nissan sales increased 18%, while Subaru sales soared 28%. Honda sales increased 14%.
Sales of Land Rover jumped a whopping 89% to 5,855 units.
High Camp: Dan Neil's idea of camping is when you're ensconced in an expensive, fully-restored, 24 foot-long Road Chief. My idea of camping is when you're more that 200 feet from the ice machine at an Embassy Suites.
Quote Of The Day is from Terry Pratchett: "The pen is mightier than the sword if the sword is very short, and the pen is very sharp."
Thursday October 1, 2015
Beer Stop: In a 1955 period Philadelphia photo, a Route 37 PTC trolley is letting a passenger off in front of the Pennsylvania Railroad's 30th Street Station. In the background, a drab green Market Street Elevated train is passing by and a Schmidt's Beer & Ale billboard towers over all. The Rte. 37 trolley route disappeared in November 1955, merged into ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy' by Stephen Witt
I don't know if Kim Kardashian really broke the internet - it seems to be working just fine now - but the internet certainly broke the traditional music business. That's what this book is all about.
Author Stephen Witt traces the history of digital music piracy, from the German engineers who invented the mp3 format to the bootleggers to the music executives, such as Doug Morris, whose pay got larger and larger as the music business got smaller and smaller.
I found the book fascinating not only ... (more >>>)
Ant Deco: James Lileks noted that ants "look streamlined, as if they were modeled on 1930s cocktail shakers."
No More Cruises: Frankie Ford, who sang the 1959 popular hit song, 'Sea Cruise' has died at age 76.
"Ooh-wee, ooh-wee baby. Ooh-wee, ooh-wee baby. Ooh-wee, ooh-wee baby. Won't you let me take you on a sea cruise." RIP.
'Best Mid-size, Mid-price Car In Which To Break Wind': Every auto ad seems to feature a product which has won a JD Power Award. How many categories are there anyway?
Quote Of The Day is from Robert Benchley: "When I was a child I was of an affectionate disposition, but not enough to get arrested."
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