A Blog About Cars ... And More
Thursday January 28, 2016
AutoSketch: 1967 Volkswagen Beetle
Let's all acknowledge that the Volkswagen Beetle story is so ridiculous that it sounds like the script for a Mel Brooks movie:
Adolph Hitler orders a car for the German masses. The Nazi high command has it designed and prototyped. Hitler calls it the Peoples' Car. Only a few examples are made before World War II begins. Germany loses the war. The tooling for the car is offered to Henry Ford II who laughs and turns it down, believing the car has no commercial future. Germans begin to assemble the car in the ruins ... (more >>>)
No Longer Swedish: I watched MotorWeek over the weekend; a couple of Volvos were road tested. The surprise was that the 2016 Volvo S60 Inscription, a $40,000 mid-sized sedan, is the first 'Made in China' automobile sold in the U.S.
Bye, Bye Amplitude Modulation: Recently, Doc Searles wrote, "You won't find an AM radio in a Tesla Model X or in other electric cars, such as the BMW i3. One reason is that AM reception is wrecked by electrical noise - especially the kind computing things radiate. Another is that the best AM reception requires a whip antenna outside the car, which no car maker offers any more. Another is that car makers have been cheaping out on the chips used in their AM radios for years, and the ones in home radios are even worse."
Let's face it, AM radio has been going downhill for decades. Most of what's on theses days involves nationally-syndicated political talk, sports talk, all-news or Mexican music on Spanish-speaking stations.
Nevertheless, all three of our cars still have AM radio. And my 1939 Plymouth has a whip antenna as well.
Book Review: 'Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke' by Peter Guralnick
Author Guralnick has written a big, thick, exhaustingly thorough book about the legendary soul singer, Sam Cooke. Mr. Guralnick has written extensively about music, especially rock and roll and rhythm and blues. His two autobiographies of Elvis Presley are considered the standard against which other Elvis books are judged.
Sam Cooke was one of the most ... (more >>>)
Overstaying One's 'Welcome': More than half a million aliens overstayed their temporary visas in the United States in 2015, with more than 482,000 of those individuals believed to be still residing illegally in the United States, according to a new report by the Department of Homeland Security.
"Around 527,127 aliens temporally granted U.S. business and tourist visas were found to have stayed in the United States longer than legally permitted, according to DHS's 2015 entry and exit overstay report.
Of those who did not leave the United States on time, around 482,781 are believed to still be illegally residing in the United States, according to the report, which was issued by DHS amid debate in Congress over an Obama administration initiative to permit around 170,000 new immigrants from Muslim-majority nations in 2016."
Karl Denninger wrote, "So why are these people still here and why haven't they been rounded up and deported? How do you stay in this country without leaving some sort of trace that is trivially-easy to follow? You have to go to a lot of effort - somehow you have to manage to get your hands on cash, and do it without leaving any sort of digital record. You can't work, you can't go to school (where you have to provide an ID and thus are registered in a way that can be trivially discovered) you can't have a driver license, car or insurance to operate a vehicle (ditto; all are registered), etc. Ditto when it comes to a place to live; you can't get utilities in your name (trivially found), etc.
Can you go "off-grid" and "disappear" from easy discovery? Yes, but it takes a lot of work, and I'm willing to bet that absent identity theft, which is a crime, none of these people have done any of that.
The bottom line is this: The government doesn't give a damn and this is why we have had our nice little jihadists come here and stay - and an unknown number of additional ones are in that nice 482,000 that came and then did not leave as they were supposed to."
Last year there were 219 illegal overstays from Afghanistan, 681 from Iraq, 564 from Iran, 56 from Libya, 1,435 from Pakistan, 440 from Syria, and 219 from Yemen. Many are still in the United States illegally.
Trump is right - stop letting these people in.
"Can You Get Me Off The Hook, Tom?" "Can't do it, Sally." Celebrated character actor Abe Vigoda, star of movies and TV shows including 'The Godfather' (where he played the role of Sal Tessio) and 'Barney Miller' (Detective Fish), has died at age 94.
Geezer Joke: Morris, an 82 year-old man, went to the doctor to get a physical. A few days later, the doctor saw Morris walking down the street with a gorgeous young woman on his arm.
Later, the doctor pulled Morris aside and said, "You're really doing great, aren't you?"
Morris replied, "Just doing what you said, Doc: 'Get a hot mamma and be cheerful.'"
The doctor said, "I didn't say that. I said, 'You've got a heart murmur; be careful.'"
Question Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "How come at so-called "Baby Changing Stations" you always end up with the same baby?"
Tuesday January 26, 2016
Like A Rock: You can now order a new Bentley with stone trim.
Coachbuilder Mulliner will now outfit your Bentley with a new stone veneer that measures just 0.004 inches thick, making these trim pieces not only very lightweight, but also translucent.
"The rocks are sourced from quarries in India, cured using fiberglass and resin, and finished by the Mulliner coachbuilding team back at the factory in Crewe, England. Customers will be able to select between a natural finish or in four tints to install on a new Continental or Flying Spur."
In the mid-1970s, I had a conversation with a Ford Motor designer about using acrylic-based synthetic marble trim on the dash and spare tire hump of the Lincoln Continental Mark IV. Nothing ever came of it.
Wheelies On Demand: Road & Track found an unusual car - a BMW Isetta powered by a 150 horsepower Corvair flat-six engine.
"This car has one of the most incredible widebody kits in the world, housing the Corvair engine well behind the rear axle. The combination of engine placement and extreme power to weight has an interesting effect on acceleration: wheelies. Sweet, glorious wheelies."
It's for sale on eBay.
China Boost: Worldwide, Porsche sold 225,221 vehicles in 2015, up 19%. China sales jumped 24% to 58,099. Sales in the world's largest car market are 26% of Porsche's global total.
"For the first time, the strongest single market in 2015 was China. ... In the United States 51,756 vehicles were delivered, a growth of 10%. The European market grew by 24% to 75,354 units where Germany was the strongest single market with a total of 28,953 vehicles delivered (up 21%)."
Porsche reported, "Clearly, the growth drivers are the SUV models and the best-seller is the latest addition to the family. With more than 80,000 cars delivered globally, the Macan became the most coveted Porsche already in its first year of full availability. It is closely followed by the Cayenne (73,119 units). Compared with the previous year, the Macan and the Cayenne achieved two-digit growth figures."
Best Blizzard Headline is from The Rumsford Meteor: 'Concerned Maryland Mother Wonders Why Tips for Handling a Snow Event Don’t Specify Whether Snow Is Gluten-Free'.
It's Only Rock & Roll: Bowser, from the '70s band Sha Na Na, has endorsed Hillary Clinton. The group did covers of fifties rock and do-wop songs.
Who's next? The Captain and Tennille? Blondie? Chic? MFSB?
Pork: It's the Meat of Kings.
My Wish Came True: I can't believe I wrote this in January 2012. "I think Romney's probably better than my perception but, if he doesn't change advisers, we'll never know. We're tired of clubby, Milquetoast candidates - who want to be collegial, professional and waffle in the face of opposing attacks. We want a dose of Howard Beale - that's why everyone loves Newt when he goes bombastic: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore!""
Whoda thought four years ago that Howard Beale would reappear in the form of Donald Trump?
Quote Of The Day is from Rodney Dangerfield: "I went to the doctor because I'd swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills. My doctor told me to have a few drinks and get some rest."
Friday January 22, 2016
Slightly Used Popemobile For Sale: The tiny black Fiat 500L that whisked Pope Francis around Philadelphia last September is being offered for auction to lesser, secular mortals.
At least one of two Fiat 500Ls, custom-made for the Pope's visit to Philadelphia and fitted with Secret Service licence plates, will go on sale at the Philadelphia Auto Show on January 29th. The second, which Catholic authorities said they may sell at the same auction, be displayed at the show.
Update: Sold for $82,000.
Buying At A Market Top? "Looking for a place to park that retirement cash? Find a Porsche crest."
Last year, the average sale price for 1974-1977 Porsches increased by 154%, according to Bloomberg - and the prices aren't expected to drop anytime soon.
"European sports cars in general have been on a real rise in the last couple of years," said RM Sotheby's Gord Duff. "Ferraris lead the way and then you go to the next greatest European sports cars, which are Mercedes, and then you get to Porsches. If we are saying Mercedes have peaked, Porsches are the next best thing."
North American car auctions brought in $1.45 billion this year, more than the $1.31 billion mark set in 2014. That growth is partially fueled by an appetite for newer collectible cars. According to Hagerty's, collectors added 1980s-and-newer cars 17% more than pre-1980s classic cars.
Washington Jobs Evaporate: It's another boom year for commercial aerospace and Boeing is busy building infrastructure in Washington state. Yet it has also cut its workforce for the third straight year. By the end of 2015, Boeing's local assembly plants for the first time will have delivered more than 700 commercial airplanes, propelling Boeing well ahead of Airbus in jet production.
Its workforce in the state is down nearly 7,700 jobs, almost 9%, from the most recent peak in October 2012.
Richard Aboulafia, industry analyst with the Teal Group, said he expects Boeing's job cuts in the Puget Sound region to continue. "A higher level of automation, greater dispersal of engineering work, coupled with the rise of Charleston as a manufacturing center. There's no way to sugarcoat it. It means fewer jobs producing more jets."
Best Song Lyric Of The Week can be found in The Rumsford Meteor:
Geezer Joke: Two elderly women were out driving in a large car, both could barely see over the dashboard. As they were cruising along, they came to an intersection. The stoplight was red, but they just sailed through it.
The woman in the passenger seat thought to herself, "I must be losing it. I could have sworn we just went through a red light." After a few more minutes, they came to another intersection and the light was red. Again, they drove right through. The woman in the passenger seat was almost sure that the light had been red.
She was getting nervous. At the next intersection, sure enough, the light was red and they blew through it. She turned to the other woman and said, "Mildred, did you know that we just ran through three red lights in a row? You could have killed us both!"
Mildred turned to her and said, "Oh my! Am I driving?"
Bad Pun Of The Day: A man walks into a bar with a slab of asphalt under his arm and says, "A beer for me please, and one for the road."
Wednesday January 20, 2016
I'm Guaranteed To Win: At Autoblog, Murilee Martin promoted the idea of "rally in which each participant must drive a vehicle that was new in the year of their birth." He proposed the same thing three years ago at TTAC.
This is a very ageist contest. Young 'uns get to pick later model vehicles, which gives them an advantage in acceleration and handling.
I don't have a lot of choices and they weren't making cars the year I was born.
So, I guess I'll have to choose a 1943 M-4 Sherman Tank with standard rotating turret and 75 mm gun.
Hey rally boy, try to get ahead of me and - Boom! - you're dead. Then flattened. (permalink)
In The 1970s, Cars Had Fake Wood Trim ... now something else is fake - cool-sounding engine noise. Recently, Alex L. Dykes tested the sleek BMW i8 plug-in hybrid 'supercar', and noted, "BMW is no stranger to digitally augmented engine noise, but BMW has now taken faux-burble to an all-new level. In most drive modes the engine is nearly silent. Putting the shifter into 'sport' makes the i8 sound more like a Nissan GT-R than a fuel-sipping hybrid. The change isn't due to fancy exhaust valves, but a high-tech speaker system. Not only does engine noise play in the cabin, it also plays outside via the left exhaust tip. Yep, it's not a real exhaust but a speaker with a tail pipe. Do I feel cheated? Yes - yet, I have to admit, it sounds believable."
BMW will soon offer a roadster version of the car, so you'll be able to hear that fake exhaust noise more clearly.
And, it's not always superfast, either: "Zero-to-sixty runs vary greatly depending on the drive mode you've selected. With launch control engaged, the coupé ripped its way to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds. “Sport” mode without launch control extended that sprint to 4.2 seconds. 'Comfort' or 'Eco Pro' with the engine idle stopped pushes that to 5.1 seconds. And if you're in the pure-electric 'eDrive' mode, the i8 accelerates to 60 in a Prius-like 9.5 seconds.
Putting that in perspective, unless you engage 'Sport' mode, the Hyundai Genesis V-8 next to you will be faster from the stoplight. Engage 'Sport' and you'll only be a hair faster to 60 mph compared to the Ford Mustang GT. Try as hard as it might, the i8 will never best an M3 or M4 at the dragstrip."
At a price of almost $144,000, it's not on my wish list. Besides, I probably have a lot of trouble getting in and out of the beast with those wide sills and gullwing doors.
Book Review: 'Car Wars: The Rise, the Fall, and the Resurgence of the Electric Car' by John J. Fialka
The author is not a car guy but does manage to present a decent history of the electric car. The problems begin when he ventures into the realm of replacement powerplants for the internal combustion engine.
In order to enjoy this book, you must ... (more >>>)
Don't Let The Sound Of Your Own Wheels Drive You Crazy: American singer-songwriter Glenn Frey, founding member of The Eagles rock band, has died at age 67 of complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia while recovering from intestinal surgery. RIP.
What Western Culture Has Produced: Don Surber wrote, "Multicultural diversity succeeded in watering down American culture. We have to accept thug music (rap) alongside Beethoven. Now the left is embracing cultural appropriation, a guilt trip laid on gullible white people."
Fine. You want us to give up halal, Thai and falafel? Well, OK. But ... continued Don, "Now give me back the polio vaccine. It is part of the Judeo-Christian tradition. It was developed by Jews (there are two vaccines). Also, give back pasteurized milk. The automobile. The airplane. The train. Electricity, the Internet, skyscrapers, radio, television, and the cellphone - or any other kind of phone. Transistors, too.
Jews and Christians have done more positive good for the world than any other group."
Surber added, "If Jews and Christians are so evil, why is the migration to our countries?"
Sweet News: McDonald's is testing chocolate French fries, calling them McChoco Potato. You can have your fries with two types of chocolate sauces: chocolate with cacao flavor and white milk chocolate.
McDonald's hopes this combination will give customers a salty and sweet harmonious taste, so the customer can eat them as a side to a burger or as a dessert.
Quote Of The Day is from James Lileks: "Remember: You are an individual with free will. You march to the beat of a different drummer. Granted, he has repetitive motion strain from holding the sticks in an unnatural position. But that's his lawsuit."
Monday January 18, 2016
Pretty In Pink: Another Christmas gift I received was a 1:43 scale model of 1959 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer convertible ... (more >>>)
Coming Soon To A Buick Store Near You: The Chinese-built Buick Envision CUV is on its way to the United States just over a month after the United Auto Workers ratified its contract with General Motors.
The Envision is built by joint venture SAIC GM Dong Yue Motors. It goes on sale in July. Future owners of the Envision can expect a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine under the hood.
The GM-UAW contract was ratified even after 60% of skilled trades workers voted against it."
Well, China Is A Big Market: General Motors' sales in China rose 5.2% to a record 3.61 million vehicles in 2015. GM and its Chinese joint venture partners sold 445,227 vehicles last month, a 14% rise from a year earlier, matching its growth rate for November.
"The automaker plans to launch 13 new or revamped models in China in 2016, including the Cadillac CT6, Malibu XL and Cruze XL, compared with 12 launches last year."
The world's largest auto market is expected to have grown 3% in 2015, with the chief of China's automakers association forecasting 5-7% growth for 2016.
Do You Like Your Job? Jack Baruth channeled Robert Bly on job satisfaction: "Bly writes a bit about this in 'Iron John'; he notes that if you can't truly explain your job to your ten year old son in a way that makes immediate sense to him, your job is probably not very satisfying or even worthwhile.
'I'm a welder." Makes sense.
'I put the left-side mirror on the Honda Accord.' Also makes sense.
'When people order french fries, I cook the fries, and put them in a bag, and serve them.' Not exactly like being a fireman or astronaut, but it still makes sense.
'I'm a Six Sigma certified project manager specializing in lean and agile technologies.' Fuck you; you're a useless wart on the unwashed ass of corporate America and you're part of the reason we can't compete as a country on the global stage."
When I was 16 years old (and dinosaurs roamed the land), my dad told me, "I don't care where you work or what kind of work you do, just pick a career you enjoy. If you've got to spend one-third of your life at work, it better be something you love to do. And, if you ever find that you don't like it anymore, go do something else."
His words influenced my career choices and changes throughout my working life.
She Was Quite The Cutie In 1959: Former actress Noreen Corcoran, who played the adopted niece on TV's 'Bachelor Father,' has died at age 72 of cardiopulmonary disease.
On the show, which aired on CBS, NBC and ABC from 1957-62, the attractive Corcoran starred as Kelly Gregg, who - at age 13 - came to live with her well-to-do uncle Bentley Gregg (John Forsythe), a Beverly Hills attorney, after her parents were killed in an automobile accident. Gregg's houseboy Peter (Sammie Tong) helped them get by.
"America watched Corcoran grow up during the course of 157 episodes, and Bachelor Father ended just as her character was about to begin college." RIP.
Living Up To Her Name: Stormy Keffeler turned in her crown as Miss USA Princess from Washington state. She was allegedly caught driving really drunk - at three times the legal limit.
To makes matters worse, Stormy had a Guatemalan soccer star in her South Seattle apartment who was allegedly stabbed in the abdomen, possibly by Stormy. Police are investigating.
Quote Of The Day is from Eric Hoffer: "Propaganda does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves."
Friday January 15, 2016
Edsel Redux: My wife presented me with a 1958 Edsel Citation two-door hardtop coupe for Christmas. This limited production 1:43 scale model is ... (more >>>)
News From The Far East: Lincoln sold 11,630 vehicles in China in 2015, the brand's first full year in that country, as Ford's total sales there rose 3% to a record 1.12 million vehicles.
Combined with about 109,000 sales in North America last year, a 7.7% increase from 2014, Lincoln is about 40% of the way toward its goal of 300,000 global sales by 2020.
This is the first time Lincoln has revealed any sales results in China.
The Most Anti-Catholic President Ever: Internal government emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act demonstrate that, as early as October 2011, the Obama White House was trying to figure out how to structure the exemption so that Catholic universities would be forced to provide student contraceptives in student health plans.
"In July 2012, emails show officials trying to make sure that the contraceptive mandate would treat the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops the spiritual leaders of Roman Catholic entities in the United States differently from the colleges, charities, and other groups that they lead. The documents were originally discovered during congressional inquiries into the sharing of tax information between the IRS and the White House."
Headline Of The Week is from The People's Cube: 'Bill Clinton suffers minor injuries chasing MSNBC intern'.
RIP: British actor Alan Rickman has died at age 69 of cancer. He had a very distinctive voice.
Rickman starred in numerous films, but the ones I remember best are 'Die Hard', the brilliant 'Galaxy Quest' and 'Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves'. Alan also did the whiny voice of Marvin, the depressed robot, in 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'. Ave atque vale.
South Carolina Republican Debate: Last night's debate will probably change few minds but at least the field was smaller - Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul lacked enough poll support to make it to the main event.
There were several substantive issues raised by the FoxBusiness moderators, primarily relating to economic/tax policies and fighting terrorism.
I'm sure I'm in the minority, but I thought Chris Christie won the debate, with Trump and Cruz tied for second place. The Drudge Report poll disagreed with 54% of respondents declaring Trump the winner. Cruz was in second place with 31% of the vote and Rubio a distant third at 8%. Chris Christie was fourth with 2% of the vote. Over 350,000 votes were counted.
Trump gave an excellent response to the 'New York Values' issue raised by Cruz. Cruz bested Trump on the question of Cruz's U.S. citizen presidential eligibility issue - The Birther Question.
The Donald gave a great response to Governor Nikki Haley's "siren call of the angriest voices" remark, replying, "I'm very angry because our country is being run horribly and I will gladly accept the mantle of anger."
Ben Carson showed more energy than usual and got off some humorous comments. Marco Rubio turned in a fairly strong performance but there's something unauthentic about him, in my view. I just noticed that he has Spock ears.
Jeb Bush seemed nervous. I suspect he'll be out of the race fairly soon. Mark Steyn wrote of Bush's performance: "Unfortunately, every time he picked a fight, he'd wind up throwing only feeble tentative jabs - for example, inviting Trump to "reconsider" his position on banning all Muslims. Jeb picking a fight reminds me of that 'Looney Tunes' where Daffy Duck is trying to do the same with the tough hombres in a western saloon and finally asks: "Anyone for tennis?""
Perception is reality and Kasich, with his frequent use of the phrase "Lemme tell ya," really turned me off. Over the years, I've found that 90% of the "Lemme tell ya" guys are nothing but bullshit artists. So, fairly or not, I perceive Kasich as full of crap. Of course, there's a 10% chance that I'm wrong.
Quote Of The Day is from physicist Richard P. Feynman: "It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong."
Wednesday January 13, 2016
2016 Detroit Auto Show: At the precociously-named the North American International Auto Show, which everyone still calls the Detroit Auto Show, there were no truly wild concept vehicles. Nothing like the 1950s when Jetson-like vehicles, such as the Lincoln Futura, Ford F/X Atmos or GM's Firebird turbine car were the stunning stars to be rolled out at key auto shows across the land.
No bubble-topped, nuclear-powered flying dream cars were unveiled this year.
Today, everything's about 'advanced connectivity'. I'm old enough to remember when connectivity involved testing TV vacuum tubes at the drug store.
Renting Luxury: Silvercar rents silver Audi A4s for $89 per day. The company has limited locations - a dozen or so - in major cities. Audi is investing $28 million in Silvercar to help the company expand into more locations.
There's no paperwork, no queuing at fluorescent-lit counters at midnight and no obscure pricing add-ons. The four year-old Austin-based company is taking a shot at the stubbornly old-school industry.
Silvercar uses a mobile app to allow customers to book, access, unlock and pay for their rental car. Everything is done through the app, and always for a fixed price: $89 a day during the week, and $59 on weekends. If you don't have a Smartphone, you're out of luck.
I'm out of luck because I have a dumb phone and I'm a cheapskate - I shop around online for low cost prices for a "full-size car" with cruise control. The last car I rented was a Ford Fusion. We paid $360.84 (including all taxes and fees) for 13 days, which worked out to $27.76 per day. It was an Alamo rental through Costco. It's not an Audi but it was a perfectly adequate vehicle for our needs. I'd rather keep the money saved and put it to use elsewhere. Besides, the A4 is hardly a luxury car - its more like a tarted-up Volkswagen Golf. And the A4 is the only model offered by Silvercar.
I admit that, when my plastics manufacturing company started to make a good profit, I used to show off a little by renting big, comfortable luxury cars on trips. I'd rent fancy cars, mainly Lincoln Town Cars, in the 1980s and '90s. But they really weren't that expensive.
Budget used to do deals on them - $29.95 per day or $199.99/week. Other rental companies sometimes offered similar deals on luxury models to compete with Budget.
Unfortunately, those Town Cars are now gone and so are the 'luxury' car deals.
Book Review: 'Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children's Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became An American Icon Along the Way' by Leonard S. Marcus
The printing business is mostly a job shop operation. Sales calls are made, work is solicited, jobs are quoted and, if the bid is successful, the printing - flyers, brochures, posters or whatnot - is run through the shop and shipped. Then, the shop runs out of work, so more sales calls must be made to feed the presses. It is a never-ending process and many job shops - printers, toolmakers, custom cabinet shops, plastic fabricators and the like - live a hand-to-mouth existence.
In 1907, financially-troubled West Side Printing Co. of Racine, Wisconsin - a job shop, was purchased by its bookkeeper, Edward Wadewitz. The ambitious new owner pounded the pavements in search of business and built the firm into a large and profitable concern. In 1916, the company was stuck with a printing job - a large quantity of bound children's books - made for a customer who couldn't pay. The printer, now called Western Printing and Lithography Co., fell backwards into the proprietary book publishing business.
Over the years, the firm expanded their catalog of book offerings - introducing paperback Big Little Books and obtaining licensing agreements with well-known comic strips, as well as Disney - and, in 1942, introduced Little Golden Books. The first print run - an optimistic 600,000 copies - sold out almost immediately. When the ... (more >>>)
Headline Of The Week is from The People's Cube: 'ISIS opens suicide hotline for U.S. teens depressed by climate change and other progressive doomsday scenarios'.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "Hillary Clinton's idea that we have to see the world from our adversaries' point of view and even "empathize" with it is not new. Back in 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain said, "I have realized vividly how Herr Hitler feels." Ronald Reagan, however, made sure our adversaries understood how we felt. Reagan's approach turned out a lot better than Chamberlain's."
Monday January 11, 2016
Thanks, Kathy: My daughter gave me a model of a 1954 Packard Pacific two-door hardtop coupe. Packard is her favorite marque and she has a number of Packard models and toys in various scales.
This limited production 1:43 scale model was made from cast resin by Neo Limited - only ... (more >>>)
Batteries Don't Work So Well When It's Cold ... and it gets very cold in Maine. Here's a headline from The Rumsford Meteor: 'Maine's First Nissan Leaf Owner Hopes to Make it All the Way to the End of the Driveway Next Time'.
Another Meteor story proclaimed: 'Chipotle Stock Expected to Rebound After Every Location Is Renovated to Include 75 Bathrooms'.
Italian To Go: Olive Garden saw a 1% sales increase in its most recent quarter - the fifth straight quarter of sales growth. Profit rose 12% in the Olive Garden segment, higher total sales, higher prices as well as cost-cutting measures.
"Among the improvements, Olive Garden has been investing in expanding its carryout business, known as 'OG to go', in a bid to better compete with the fast-casual chains for diners who are in a hurry. Carryout sales were up 17% compared to the same quarter last year."
It used to be easy to mock the Olive Garden chain. Just as Domino's and Pizza Hut once blanderized the pizza pie in an effort to offend no one in Iowa or South Dakota, Olive Garden once specialized in inoffensive and forgettable dishes approved by focus-groups somewhere in the U.S. where the Italian demographic was low.
Several years ago, the Darden Restaurants empire, owner of Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Capital Grille, LongHorn Steakhouse and other chains, wised up, redecorated its restaurants and substantially improved the menu, as well as the dining staff, now comprised of post-teen, responsible folks.
We like OG's takeout. Portions are generous and the foot is tasty, even as next-day reheated leftovers.
In the 1950s and '60s, there were ... (more >>>)
Two Bills: Mark Steyn recently wrote: "Why is Bill Cosby finished? He was the most beloved guy. We keep hearing Bill Clinton is the most beloved guy in America. 'If Bill Clinton was on the ticket, he'd sweep all 50 states. It would be a landslide. Americans love Bill Clinton.' They loved Bill Cosby nice grandfatherly Bill Cosby. But somehow, for some reason you don't see 'The Bill Cosby Show' on TV anymore. You don't see it on the rerun channels. He is not appearing anywhere."
"You'd almost think it's some kind of like racism thing, Mark continued. "That somehow, when a bunch of women make accusations against the black guy boom, he's vaporized. When a bunch of women make accusations against some white southern redneck - we're talking about putting him back in the White House for another eight years as First Gentleman."
It's not a racial thing, Mark. I believe the difference is that Bill Clinton never successfully hid his indiscretions. Even before he was elected, people knew he was getting it on the side. The National Inquirer was full of stories and innuendoes.
Cosby, on the other hand, positioned himself as The Ideal Dad - a role model. Then people found out that he was a fraud. Furthermore, Clinton used his power of persuasion, not drugs, to get laid.
Quote Of The Day is from Rodney Dangerfield: "My wife made me join a bridge club. I jump off next Tuesday."
Friday January 8, 2016
Another Scale Christmas Gift: I received a diecast 1:43 scale model of a 1946 DeSoto Suburban ... (more >>>)
Banks On Wheels: Mark Litwin has written a brief history of Banthrico, the maker of toy car banks, posted on Hemmings website.
"Everyone had a piggy bank. Other than being used to store newfound wealth due to a paper route or other part-time job, it was employed to teach us currency and fractional math. Fortunately, not all piggy banks were modeled after the animal. Many a budding auto enthusiast preferred a small stowage unit that came with four wheels, and for that they sought banking institutions that provided "gift" solutions via a contract with Banthrico, Inc.
The Chicago, Illinois, firm started life as ... (more >>>)
2016 CES: Several news sources have declared with the Voice of Authority that the Consumer Electronics Show "is now a car show." Huh? There have been cars at CES for a long time. Back in the early-1980s at the CES, I saw the mega-hyped Vector W2 mid-engined supercar, with its twin-turbocharged, 600 horsepower V8 motor on display. Top speed was claimed to be 242 mph. In my opinion, the Vector was the Tucker of the late 20th Century.
Perhaps this year's Faraday Future will be the Tucker of the 21st Century.
The 2016 show is full of drones (including a $40 mini-drone from Mota which is no bigger than a large paperclip), 3D printers, robots, virtual reality devices and more smart devices than in a 2050 Sharper Image catalog. The show covers 2.4 million square feet of space across several convention centers, including the sprawling Las Vegas Convention Center and the Sands Expo. The Consumer Technology Association hosts CES and its members represent $285 billion in U.S. industry revenue.
There are nine car makers at CES, some of them introducing driverless cars and electric vehicles. Only nine? So much for CES turning into a car show. Of course, consolidation means there are fewer auto makers these days; DeSoto, Mercury and Pontiac don't have booths here. But ... (more >>>)
High Hopes: Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson has quit his job as president of a marijuana company and is running for president as a member of the Libertarian Party.
Self-Destruction: Ben Stein recently wrote, "So, it's 2016. What a strange year this past year has been. Gangs of black people in Baltimore attacking the police for defending their neighborhoods. The media gets bottles thrown at them and yet they join in attacking the police. The police go to work and to war every day to protect civilization and civilization sneers at them, at least left-wing mainstream media civilization.
I have the horrible feeling that ISIS is not going to be the ones to destroy America. The media are going to do it for them, all in the phony name of fighting racism."
Irony Alert: An ABC7 News vehicle was broken into while the crew was attending a Washington, DC antirobbery press conference held by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Police Chief Cathy Lanier. The crime happened within view of where the mayor and chief were speaking, approximately 100 feet away.
Happy Birthday Elvis! He would have been 81 today. And probably would have weighed 810 pounds. I've written more about The King here.
Quote Of The Day is from Terry Pratchett: "Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom."
Wednesday January 6, 2016
Swoopy Christmas Gift: My wife gave me a nice scale model of a 1938 Delahaye 165 V12 Grand Sport for Christmas. The sleek bodywork was supplied by coachbuilder Figoni & Filaschi. The Delahaye 165 was derived from ... (more >>>)
2015 Auto Sales: In calendar year 2015, U.S. auto sales rose 5.7% to 17,470,659 vehicles. This is the best year for auto sales on record; topping 2000, when 17.35 million new vehicles found buyers.
General Motors' total sales for 2015 rose 5% year-over-year (3,082,366 cars & trucks) and retail sales were up 8%. GM is reducing rental deliveries and raising its commercial deliveries by design. Rental sales were down 11% and commercial sales were up 38%. Rental unit deliveries are expected to continue declining in 2016. For the year, total Cadillac sales rose 3% (175,267 units). Buick sales slid almost 3% for the year, while GMC sales increased 11%. Chevrolet brand sales were up 5% to 2,125,347 units.
For 2015, Ford and Lincoln sales totaled 2,603,082 vehicles, up 5% - the best annual sales performance in nine years. For the year, F-Series sales rose 4%, and the F-Series accounted for 31% of Ford brand sales. In 2015, Lincoln car sales were down 10% and utility sales were up 21% but overall the brand enjoyed a 7% increase to 101,227 units.
FCA/Chrysler group had a sales increase of 7% to 2,243,907 vehicles. Jeep sales were ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Motorama: GM's Legendary Show & Concept Cars' by David W. Temple
In the early postwar years, General Motors was an unstoppable force. In those days, GM had over 50% automotive market share in the U.S. Its Electro-Motive Division was the foremost producer of diesel locomotives. Its Frigidare Division was a household name and its washers, dryers and refrigerators could be found in homes across the U.S.
To showcase its automotive might, General Motors presented Transportation Unlimited in 1949. It was the precursor to the famous Motorama extravaganzas and was open to the public.
The Motoramas began in 1950, ending in 1961. They were spectacular product showcases and usually included GM's latest Dream Cars. Typical sites for these public shows were the ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York and the Pan Pacific auditorium in Los Angeles. The displays were elaborate, with animated displays and cutaways, elegant female models and, sometimes, song & dance routines.
Public interest in GM's offerings was so great that ... (more >>>)
White Surprise: One-inch of snow with a top coat of ice earlier this week brought chaos to Portland streets and highways, stranding many TriMet buses. And the mass transit lines suffered delays as well - frozen switches, etc. Plus, the Portland streetcar couldn't climb the slight hill along the line.
Many people who live in this area have no idea how to drive in snow. Or ice. And too many cars are ill-equipped to deal with slippery conditions. Snow tires are rarely seen and most folks do not own chains.
I grew up in Philadelphia where they had real snow and ice storms. But the buses, trolleys and El were almost always kept running because there was dedicated equipment to handle snow and ice chores. In those days, part of National City Lines' contract with the city of Philadelphia stipulated that they had to keep all bus and trolley routes open. And they did so - NCL was a corporation, not a government agency.
Not so in Portland, where the transit system is operated by TriMet - a governmental bureaucracy.
Why Trump Seems To Be Trumping Every Other Candidate: Ann Coulter recently wrote, "At what point in Donald Trump's inaugural address do you figure the GOP establishment will finally grasp what's been happening?
The establishment - not "elites," because they're mostly bland functionaries who went to third-rate schools - have thrown absolutely everything they have at Trump. I've never seen so many Republicans featured on MSNBC."
"Trump is a runaway hit with Americans for the simple reason that he's the only candidate saying anything Americans care about." Last September, I wrote about the establishment Republicans and their woeful record: In the 2010 elections, they begged for control of the House. "We'll make things better." We elected the Republicans; voted them in with a clear majority of 245 Representatives. Lead by John Boehner (aka: The Orange Perry Como), nothing got done. And, in retrospect, anyone who would believe Boehner's shallow promises is tethered to reality by a badly-frayed strand of dental floss.
In 2014, the Republicans asked us to give them control of the Senate. "That's what we need to fix everything - give us the Whole Megillah," they asked. And we the voters dutifully did so; Republicans got a clear majority 54 to 44. What's Mitch McConnell - the man who talks like he's got marbles in his mouth - done since then? Nada. Or, at best, put a pinkie Band-Aid on a massive sucking chest wound. Americans now feel pissed and betrayed. And rightly so.
Along comes Donald Trump in all his brashness - a man with enough fuck-you money that he doesn't have to be nice to lobbyists - a big selling point with unhappy voters, who feel that their representatives are being co-opted by influence peddling. The Donald is a politician not for sale, a phenomenon seen less often than a Higgs boson particle.
I enjoy watching the various Beltway television pundits go into various states of apoplexy when the subject of Trump is brought up, although George Will has that Wasp nonchalant snark down so well that it would be impossible to tell if his brain is hemorrhaging beneath his unperturbed, world-weary face. He hasn't smiled since Keebler quit making Opera Cremes - his favorite white cookie. These Washington Insider pundits do not understand the Trump phenomenon.
Coulter continued, "After the San Bernardino terrorist attack, committed by Muslim immigrants - which followed the 1993 World Trade Center terrorist attack committed by Muslim immigrants; the 9/11 terrorist attacks committed by Muslim immigrants; the Fort Hood terrorist attack committed by a Muslim immigrant; the Boston Marathon terrorist attack committed by Muslim immigrants, and on and on - Trump suggested a temporary pause on Muslim immigration.
The other candidates responded by attacking him viciously. Now, the eunuchs are duking it out over who has the most aggressive approach to ... fighting ISIS! ... But the GOP's demand that we take out ISIS would also have done nothing to prevent the San Bernardino attack. As we know from Jim Comey, the director of the FBI: Syed Farouk and Tashfeen Malik were planning a terrorist attack against Americans before ISIS existed."
Will Trump win? I dunno. But he's doing pretty well so far.
Exchange Of The Day ... is from the old 'Hollywood Squares' television quiz show. Peter Marshall: "Experts say you should avoid sex immediately after ... what?" Paul Lynde: "Surgery."
Monday January 4, 2016
From Russia With Love: My son and daughter-in-law presented me with two scale models of Russian automobiles. The 1946 Zis four-door limousine is dolled up ... (more >>>)
Back Again: Honda will return to the Super Bowl with a spot showcasing the new 2017 Ridgeline pickup. The ad, which will be the Ridgeline's TV debut, is slated to run in the third quarter. The Ridgeline will make its world debut at the Detroit auto show in January.
Plant Fatality: At Ford's assembly plant in Chicago, a 45 year-old contract worker was killed when an 8x8-foot section of a concrete wall collapsed. A Ford employee was also seriously injured trying to rescue the other worker.
Ford has been making cars in Chicago since 1914. I got a chance to tour its Chicago assembly plant in 1993. While some of the structure was antiquated, the assembly process was highly automated and very impressive.
These days, the plant produces Taurus and Explorer vehicles, as well as the Police Interceptor versions of both, and the Lincoln MKS sedan.
Suds-O-Rama: Last week, we took the Toyota Avalon and the Lexus LS to the car wash. Both sorely needed a cleaning; neither had been washed in months. It seems that we've had nothing but rain lately, so what's the use. Last week, we finally got several days of sunshine and we wanted to start the new year with shiny cars.
Unfortunately, the tires and wheels are never cleaned to my satisfaction, so I finished them off - along with a few other missed spots - at home. The pressurized can of tire dressing was stored in our unheated garage and it didn't want to produce a smooth spray; instead, it sputtered and spat in the day's near-freezing temperatures. I ended up with a very thick coat of foam dressing on each tire.
After the foam finally dried, I was left with the shiniest, glossiest tires in town. #BlackTiresMatter
Burning Your Tax Dollars Fighting Fires: The Forest Service habitually spends more than five times as much as the Department of the Interior per acre burned on their respective lands.
The Sad Truth: Scott Johnson of Powerline wrote, "President Obama's all-purpose explanation for the unpopularity of various of his policies never varies. He isn't talking enough to make you understand and you aren't smart enough to understand without his talking. Right? Well, we can all agree we're stupid. That's how he can account for his election and reelection to the presidency."
I Second That: Dave Rogoway of Stumptown Blogger has issued his 'Best of 2015' list. Under the category 'Best Restaurant in Palm Desert', he picked The Lavender Bistro, which is actually located in Old Town LaQuinta, near Palm Desert.
My wife and I have been there a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Why The Chinese Are Winning: My friend and fellow plastic buddy Dennis G. and his wife Sandy presented me with a crystal musical train for Christmas. It makes a great decoration; when a button is pressed various Christmas carols play and the train lights up in time with the music. The lights bounce around all the edges of the crystal-clear styrene plastic molding; the effect is enchanting.
This modestly-priced ... (more >>>)
RIP: Actor Wayne Rogers, best known for playing the role of 'Trapper John' in the CBS television series, 'M*A*S*H', has died of complications of pneumonia at age 82. He later appeared regularly as a panel member on the Fox Business Network cable TV stocks investment/stocks news program 'Cashin' In', although I don't recall any of his investment recommendations being epic.
In 2012, Rogers signed on as the new spokesman for Senior Home Loans, a direct reverse mortgage lender.
Singer Natalie Cole, the daughter of jazz legend Nat 'King Cole who carried on his musical legacy, has died at age 65 of congestive heart failure. A physically weakened Cole, winner of nine Grammy Awards, was forced to cancel a string of concert performances over the last three months after a recurrence of hepatitis C linked to her earlier drug abuse.
Quote Of The Day is from Ann Coulter: "This is the only country on Earth that thinks it's not sporting to consider our own interests in choosing immigrants. Try showing up in any other country on the planet, illiterate and penniless, and announcing: "I've seen pictures of your country and it looks great. I think I'd like to live here! Oh, and by the way, would you mind changing all your government and business phone messages, street signs and ballots into my native language? Thanks!" They would laugh you out of the country."
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