A Blog About Cars ... And More
Monday February 29, 2016
AutoSketch: 1951 Lincoln Cosmopolitan - Moby Dick's Swan Song
The 1951 Cosmopolitan was a big car. It weighed 4,300 pounds and was 220 inches long. (That's only 9 inches shorter than the barge-like 1958 Lincolns.) The '51 Cosmo rode on a 125-inch wheelbase. When equipped with rear fender skirts and painted a dark gray color, it really did look like a big whale.
The Cosmopolitan wasn't a cheap car; it cost over $3,400 in 1951. The '51 model featured ... (more >>>)
Subprime Auto Defaults: Easy credit, the high-octane fuel propelling U.S. auto sales to record heights, is showing a downside as delinquencies on securities backed by subprime auto loans have reached the highest level since 2009.
Nearly 5% of subprime auto loans were delinquent by 60 days or more, the highest level since September 2009. Experian Automotive reported that 20.8% of auto loans are now held by consumers with subprime or deep subprime credit scores - defined by FICO scores of between 300 and 620. I think there are household pets that have a credit score higher than 300.
The annualized net loss rate - the percentage of subprime loans regarded as likely to default - is expected to reach 10% by the end of 2016. For comparison, the 10-year average annualized net loss rate is 6.2%. The peak from past recessions was 13% in early 2009.
A contributing factor is the trend of finance companies and other lenders making longer loans. That means the buyer builds equity in the vehicle more slowly than it depreciates. In a couple years the car is worth less than what the owner owes on the loan. The average new subprime auto loan is now six years and carries an interest rate of over 10%.
The total of outstanding auto loans reached $1.04 trillion in the fourth-quarter of 2015, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. About $200 billion of that would be classified as subprime or deep subprime.
Combine this with the lowering of mortgage standards, especially down payment requirements and it's obvious that we're headed in the direction of another financial collapse.
Let's Do The Twist: Not too far from Philadelphia is Lititz, PA in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. My son was reminiscing on Facebook about a childhood visit to some of the attractions when he was eight years old.
He wrote ... (more >>>)
Planes, Trains and Layoffs: Canadian airplane and train manufacturer Bombardier plans to cut 7,000 jobs over the next two years.
The staff reductions announced amount to about 11% of the Montreal-based transportation company's current 64,000 employees worldwide.
Most of the positions are in Canada and Europe where its aerospace and rail transportation businesses are centered.
Physician, Heal Thyself: The infamous Doctor Nick, George C. Nichopolous, Elvis Presley's former personal doctor for 11 years before the singer's 1977 death from heart disease and drugs has died at age 88. The Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners later suspended and ultimately revoked Nichopoulos' medical license after it ruled he had overprescribed potentially addictive drugs to 13 patients, including Elvis and fellow singer Jerry Lee Lewis.
Also, Lennie Baker, longtime member of Sha Na Na, who sang lead on the rock and doo-wop group's hit, 'Blue Moon', has died of an infection at age 69. RIP.
Political Quote Of The Week ... so far, is from Luke Ford: "Do you realize that If Bernie Sanders wins, it will be the first time that a Jewish family moved into public housing that was left vacant by a black family?"
Another Trump Endorsement: Former Arizona Republican Governor Jan Brewer (she served from 2009 to '15) is supporting Donald Trump for president. Brewer said she was endorsing The Donald due to his strong stance on illegal immigration. "The politicians in Washington D.C. have continually failed to secure our border. As I've always said: A nation without borders is like a house without walls it collapses."
Governor Paul LePage of Maine has also endorsed Trump. As has U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama.
I always liked Jan Brewer; she got a lot of ink for standing up to Barack Obama on immigration. The woman does not suffer fools gladly.
Quip Of The Day: The Red Cross just knocked on my door and asked if we could contribute towards the floods in Pakistan. I said, "We'd love to, but our garden hose only reaches the driveway."
Friday February 26, 2016
Tesla Falling Apart; Fiat-Chrysler Still Sucks: Consumer Reports has said that, "because of faltering reliability scores, the Model S is no longer the top ultra-luxury car and ranks behind the BMW 750i xDrive, Lexus LS 460L and Audi A8 L." Tesla's quality problems include issues with hatches, door handles, electric motors and batteries; problems have increased as the automaker has ramped up production.
"They are having issues and they need to work that out before they introduce new models," said Jake Fisher, director of auto testing. However, Tesla still is the vehicle most likely to spontaneous combust and set your garage on fire.
Consumer Reports magazine has more than 8 million subscribers and gets survey data from 740,000 owners.
U.S. brands lagged most other automakers, but GM's Buick brand ranked seventh, just ahead of Mazda. Motor Corp. Toyota finished eighth, ahead of Kia and Honda. The Volkswagen brand ranked 15th overall. Chevrolet ranked 20th, while the GMC brand ranked 23rd and Cadillac 24th.
Ford Motor Co's Ford brand ranked 16th overall, but its best-selling F-150 pickup truck was named by CR as best pickup for the first time since 1999.
Texas Republican Debate: Thursday's debate in Houston was the last one before the critical Super Tuesday election. At first glance, I thought that questioner María Celeste Arrasa of Telemundo was Charo's daughter. I was waiting for her to exclaim, "Cuchi-Cuchi!"
There were fireworks - shouting, interrupting and gnashing of teeth - as Rubio and Cruz picked on Trump repeatedly. Trump responded in kind and said, in a post-debate interview, that Rubio was "pouring down sweat" during the debate. When his hiring practices were questioned, The Donald replied, "I'm the only one on this stage who has actually hired people."
I thought all the candidates were good. Ted Cruz was especially on fire and took no guff from Trump. Interestingly, Ben Carson revealed that after he spoke out against Obamacare, he was audited. I hadn't heard that before.
The Drudge Report poll declared Trump the winner with 54% of the votes, followed by Cruz at 21%, then Rubio at 18% of 623,000 votes cast. Kasich and Carson each received less than 5% of the vote. Who actually won? Super Tuesday will reveal all.
And finally, here's a reason to vote for The Donald: Reverend Al Sharpton told attendees at a Center for American Progress Action Fund event Thursday that he would flee the country if Donald Trump won the election. That's good news.
This morning, Trump picked up Chris Christie's endorsement. Christie proclaimed that Marco Rubio is in the "last days of a losing campaign."
Today's Inspirational Thought: Doing a job right the first time gets the job done. Doing the job wrong fourteen times gives you job security. Especially if you work for the government.
Thursday February 25, 2016
Wednesday Back Roads Excursion: Two different computer dashboard widgets described Wednesday as 'partly sunny' and 'mostly cloudy'. It was both. On my morning drive in my '39 Plymouth coupe, I hit patches of sun then found myself driving under dark, cloudy skies.
The traffic was light and the ride was pleasant, although the temperature was just under 50 degrees at 11:00 am and my hands were quite chilly after the ride, given the Plymouth's primitive box heater beneath the passenger's side dashboard.
The car ran well; I'm looking forward to more drives as the weather improves.
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: Commenters on automotive blogs are always bitching about the lack of 1. manual transmissions, 2. diesel engines and 3. station wagons.
Here's the answer to your wagon prayers: Volvo will be selling an updated station wagon, the 2018 V90, sometime in 2017. It's a nice-looking machine.
Old Time Rattles: At TTAC, Jack Baruth waxed nostalgically about the '79 Cadillac Eldorado. "Who has two thumbs and loves the '79 Eldorado? This guy. I've spent more time writing about it than I've spent writing about Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Maseratis … combined. What made the '79 Eldorado great? Everything. It was styled with a crispness and strength of purpose never again seen on a Cadillac. It had a solid drivetrain as standard, although the optional engines and the later HT4100 tended to misbehave. The packaging was superb inside and out: trim yet spacious, small enough to be hassle-free in a parking lot but big enough to be recognizably Cadillac.
Most importantly, it was the last great coupe from a company that had a reputation for building brilliant luxury two-doors. (The CTS-V Coupe had pace but possessed neither space nor grace.) As a statement of personal wealth, taste, and maturity, no automobile truly satisfies like a full-sized luxury coo-pay."
Jack added this caveat: "The '79 Eldorados, too, were creatures of the moment. Most of them were pretty well worn-out before they reached their 10th birthday. That's part and parcel of being a mass-market luxury car. They're great to own when they're new and under warranty."
In 1984, when my business was doing well enough that I could finally afford a luxury car, I considered Cadillac. The Eldorado was a real looker - especially the Biarritz model with the stainless steel roof.
The Eldo was the perfect Eighties car. It went well with ... (more >>>)
The Trump Machine Steamrolls Along: Donald Trump swept to victory at the Nevada caucus, cementing his lead in the race for the Republican party's nomination.
Trump won 46% of the caucus votes, eclipsing the rest of the field. Rubio garnered 24%, Cruz 21% while other candidates were below 5%. Voter turnout was up 127% from 2012.
Trump has won more votes than Romney did at this point in 2012 and many more than McCain did in 2008.
The Donald has collected an impressive base of angry and/or disappointed Republicans who despise the party's consistent record of saying one thing, doing another and claiming to stand for principles that they have no intention of acting on. He has also picked up Independents who don't trust Hillary and don't want a Socialist like Bernie in the White House.
Trump also gets the Quote-of-the-Week Award because he wrote in a Facebook post, "I wonder if President Obama would have attended the funeral of Justice Scalia if it were held in a Mosque? Very sad that he did not go."
Book Review: 'How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life' by Scott Adams
The author is the creator of the oft-hilarious 'Dilbert' comic strip plus other ventures - successful and not.
This book is about how not to fail and has some valuable business advice mixed with advice which is less useful. Scott claims that "goals are for losers?" Huh? Reading further, it's obvious ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from H.L. Mencken: "A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar."
Tuesday February 23, 2016
A Sheep In Wolf's Clothing: The 2016 BMW X1 is a BMW body mounted over Mini Countryman underpinnings. This FWD/AWD transverse-engined vehicle was described by TTAC tester Alex L. Dykes as "the baked potato chip of the compact crossover world. In truth, all the compact crossovers out there are healthy snacks, but the former X1 was the deep-fried, extra greasy, super salty chip that everyone secretly wanted."
"For purists, the notion of a trio of transverse-engined BMWs prowling around the countryside is an abomination; an affront to everything E46 M3 owners holds sacred."
Basic Black: Back in 2009, after looking at photos of Lincoln's new MKT (described by Ford Motor Company as a full-size luxury crossover), I wrote, "The Lincoln MKT is apparently for those who think not all hearses should carry a Cadillac emblem."
It turns out I was right. It does make a good hearse ... (more >>>)
Everything Seems To Be Made In China: This is a truly frightening graph. If these trends continue ... (more >>>)
Papal Hypocrisy: Ben Shapiro wrote, "Pope Francis, apparently desperate to reach out to the Catholic Church's growing base in Latin America, spent the day slapping Americans in the face from across the US-Mexico border. In Ciudad Juarez, one of the most violent cities in the Western Hemisphere thanks to the drug cartels, the pope walked up a ramp covered in flowers toward a cross "erected… in memory of migrants who have perished trying to reach the United States just a stone's throw away."
"Funny, he never did that while visiting Cuba to pay tribute to those who died attempting to escape that Communist hellhole."
Sometimes, it takes an Orthodox Jew like Mr. Shapiro to point out the painful truth about this Pope. I would add that the recent dust-up, where the Pope criticized Donald Trump for proposing to erect a wall at our Southern border, further illustrates the Pontiff's own hypocrisy.
Pope Francis said of Trump, "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not of building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the Gospel. As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this is man (Trump) is not Christian if he has said things like that."
Ironically, the thick wall surrounding the Vatican was built by Pope Leo IV to keep out Muslim invaders.
The Pope favors Social Justice, a phrase which has devolved from ... (more >>>)
RIP: Sonny James, singer and songwriter best known for his 1957 hit, 'Young Love' (3 million copies sold), has died at age 86.
Primary Election Results: Donald Trump decisively won the South Carolina primary with 32.5% of the vote, while Marco Rubio edged out Ted Cruz for second place (22.5% vs. 22.3%). Jeb Bush has dropped out of the race after a dismal showing in the Palmetto State - he got less than 8% of the vote. Bush spent over $130 million on his failed presidential quest.
South Carolina was a huge win for Trump, because he swept all or nearly all of the delegates. Voter turnout was much higher than anticipated (20% higher than in 2012); more people are interested and engaged this year - trying to pick the best candidate. That's a good thing; it's the way America is supposed to work - a government of the people, by the people ... etc.
On the Democratic side, the amazing thing about the Nevada caucus is that Queen Hillary's fairly narrow 5.5 point win is being touted by the mainstream media as a "huge victory" for her. Who are they kidding? Sanders will get almost as many delegates in Nevada as Hillary. And Democratic turnout in the state was off by 33% compared with 2008.
And the beat goes on.
Quote Of The Day is from Eric Hoffer: "For many people, an excuse is better than an achievement because an achievement, no matter how great, leaves you having to prove yourself again in the future but an excuse can last for life."
Friday February 19, 2016
More Imports In The Rental Lot: GM, Ford and Fiat-Chrysler accounted for 60.1% - their lowest collective share ever - of the 1.78 million new cars and light trucks sold to rental fleets in 2015.
But leasing to retail clients is up. New-vehicle sales through leases reached their highest level ever, just shy of 4 million units or 28% of light-vehicle sales in 2015.
Lease rates are substantially higher for luxury brands. "BMW sold 59.6% of its new vehicles in 2015 through leases. Leases accounted for 53.8% of Mercedes-Benz' new-vehicle deliveries." When I bought my Jaguar in 1998, I remember the salesman telling me that over 60% of all new Jaguars were leased.
I've never leased a vehicle in my life. Although my manufacturing firm leased our forklift trucks.
Clueless & Classless: Yesterday, William Katz wrote, "President Obama will not be at the funeral for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday. The president will go to the late justice's wake on Friday to pay his respects, but he will not attend the funeral on Saturday. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill will be attending Scalia's funeral.
Obama just lacks class. He wouldn't even send a high-level delegation to Margaret Thatcher's funeral, but personally attended Nelson Mandela's. He should go to Scalia's funeral simply to pay tribute to a great and civilized legal scholar, agree with him or not. French President Charles deGaulle, despite differences with the United States, walked behind John F. Kennedy's coffin after Kennedy's assassination. There are big men and small men."
I would point out that, when Nelson Mandela died in 2013 ... (more >>>)
Late Night Humor from Conan O'Brien:
My introduction to Playboy was at the tender age of 12 at Frank's Barber Shop at Foulkrod and Penn Streets - about two blocks north of the Margaret-Orthodox El station in Philadelphia. Frank also offered issues of Sunshine and Health as reading material. S&H was a nudist magazine; in all the photos, the nekkid people always seemed to be holding beach balls to strategically cover (as the Brits say) "the naughty bits." I have never seen so many beach balls in one place. As a youngster, I figured that nudists must have accounted for 80% of beach ball purchases in the U.S.
Frank's reading material also included True Detective and Confidential - a sleazy, tell-all magazine which made-up most of its salacious stories - featuring blaring, outrageous headlines on the order of: 'Perry Como Is Really A Negro!' So many people sued Confidential for slander that it finally went out of business in the late 1950s or early 1960s.
After we moved to New Jersey, I still went to Frank to get my hair cut. Even after we moved to Oregon, I'd stop in for a trim any time I traveled to Philly. Then, on one trip in the early 1980s, I found the shop boarded-up. I inquired at the place next door and found out that Frank had died. Too bad; he was one of the best barbers I've ever known.
Quote Of The Day is from The Simpsons' Professor Frink: "Elementary chaos theory tells us that all robots will eventually turn against their masters and run amok in an orgy of blood and kicking and the biting with the metal teeth and the hurting and shoving."
Wednesday February 17, 2016
Faded & Blue: A photo, originally posted on Hemmings.com, shows cars lined up for an outdoor church service in 1947. The Pasadena Community Church in St. Petersburg, FL had been holdng drive-in worship services since 1940, "when the church built the 'Garden Sanctuary' with space for 2,000 cars originally intended to help the elderly or infirm who couldn't make it inside the church itself for services."
The circled 1939 Plymouth coupe had faded & chalky blue paint after 8 years of Florida sun exposure. My ... (more >>>)
Tesla Troubles: Tesla Motors, Inc. reported an unexpectedly large fourth-quarter loss of $320 million last week as the electric carmaker incurred heavy costs related to developing two new models. Tesla sold 25,202 vehicles in the U.S. in 2015. The company's primary car is the Model S sedan; last fall, it launched the Model X sport utility vehicle.
Tesla also plans a lower-priced, mass-market electric car called the Model 3 for late 2017. The Model X has been the subject of ... (more >>>)
Something To Remember: Democrats complain that CEO pay is too high but the average CEO makes less than Hillary's speaking fee.
No Wonder He Has An Exclamation Point After His Name: During his tenure as Florida's governor, Jeb Bush increased spending at a rate almost double that of the economy. Additionally, the state's debt went from $15 billion to more than $23 billion, and annual interest payments nearly doubled from $900 million to $1.7 billion.
So much for Jeb's claim that he "cut spending" during his time in office. Fiscal conservative, my ass. And people want this guy as President?!
Book Review: 'Reagan Remembered' edited by Gilbert A. Robinson
This book contains stories and memories from over 80 major appointees of President Ronald Reagan. Contributors included former President George H.W. Bush, Colin Powell, Elizabeth Dole, Steve Forbes, James Baker III, George Shultz, Art Laffler and Ed Meese.
The stories are personal and demonstrate the remarkable humor, courtesy, charm of the late president and his great sense of humor. It also had lots of stories about his determination and firmness with Russian leaders that eventually brought an end to the Cold War with the Soviet Union.
Ronald Reagan's last public communication was ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Michel Fortin: "Perceived truth is more powerful than truth itself."
Monday February 15, 2016
Cleaning Up: Recently, I saw an ad - on James Lileks' site no less (a Google ad) - for the Boyd line of car care products (waxes, polishes, leather cleaner, etc.) with a reproduction of hot rod builder Boyd Coddington's signature on the label. It's a reproduction because Mr. Coddington died eight years ago.
The line now belongs to his son Boyd Coddington, Jr. Think Frank Sinatra, Jr. versus the original.
Coddington is also selling a limited edition (!) paste wax. Only 401 cans will be made and each will be numbered and signed. By Junior, of course. As they say in the fancier stores: $49.95 the can.
The website noted that "Boyd Coddington Garage® was founded by Coddington's eldest son, Boyd Jr., and encompasses multiple businesses and full service licensing for the brand."
When I think of car care product brands, I think first of Meguiar's, Turtle Wax and Armor All. Then maybe Griot's, Mothers, Rain-X and California Car Cover's Golden Shine. It seems like the market is already saturated.
As for me, I use mostly Nu Finish car polish, STP's Son of a Gun vinyl/rubber protective, Meguiar's spray detailer and Lexol leather cleaner/preservative on my vehicles.
Best Political Ad Of 2016 ... so far: 'Damn It Feels Good To Be A Clinton' is a great parody of the 'Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangster' segment of the cult movie 'Office Space'. I love seeing an angry Hillary working the baseball bat. Thanks, Ted Cruz.
South Carolina Republican Debate: Saturday's event had the usual bickering and insult-trading. John Kasich was better than usual and Ben Carson was good. Rubio and Cruz battled as did Trump and Bush.
Trump made the idiotic statement that 9/11 was George W. Bush's fault and said that 'W' erred badly by invading Iraq in 2003, commenting that Bush lied to get us into the Iraq war by claiming there were weapons of mass destruction in that country.
It is my view that Bill Clinton bears far more responsibility for 9/11, learning nothing from the 1993 attempt on the World Trade Center and failing to have bin Laden killed when he had the chance. I continue to believe that there really were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq but that Saddam Hussein moved them to another country, possibly Syria, while UN inspectors were haggling over inspection rules.
Trump's comments were grossly irresponsible but it remains to be seen if they will cost him his lead in various polls. The Drudge Poll declared Trump the debate winner with 53% of the vote. Cruz was second at 22%, Rubio third at 13%, while everyone else was under 6%.
An Intellectual Giant: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has died at the age of 79 of an apparent heart attack.
He was appointed to the Court by Ronald Reagan in 1986. He was an avid proponent of originalism in constitutional interpretation. It was Scalia's view that clear lines of separation among the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches follow directly from the Constitution, with no branch allowed to exercise powers granted to another branch. But Obama never paid attention to him.
Scalia argued that there is no constitutional right to abortion, and that if the people desire legalized abortion, a law should be passed to accomplish it. Same for gay marriage. He believed that the meaning of law could be discerned by focusing on the meaning of the words it contained, rather than by asking ourselves what we want it to mean. Scalia said, that the latter was the stuff of politics, not law, and he drew a line in the sand between the two.
He is survived by his wife of 55 years, nine children (one of them a Catholic priest) and numerous grandchildren. Requiescat In Pace.
Geezer Joke: Maude and Claude, both 91, lived in a retirement village. They met at the singles club meeting and discovered over time that they enjoyed each other's company. After several weeks of meeting for coffee, Claude asked Maude out for dinner and, much to his delight, she accepted.
They had a lovely evening. They dined at the most romantic restaurant in town. Despite his age, they ended up at his place for an after-dinner drink. Things continued along a natural course and age being no inhibitor, Maude soon joined Claude for a most enjoyable roll in the hay. As they were basking in the glow of the magic moments they'd shared, each was lost for a time in their own thoughts ...
Claude was thinking: "If I'd known she was a virgin, I'd have been gentler."
Meanwhile, Maude thought: "If I'd known he could still do it, I'd have taken off my pantyhose."
Quote Of The Day is from Dublin-born political philosopher Edmund Burke (1729-97): "All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing."
Thursday February 11, 2016
Starting Off With A Bad Name: The new flagship Cadillac with the dumb model name of CT6 has now gone into production and offered to the press selectively (TTAC wasn't invited and neither was I) for road tests.
Over a year ago, I suggested a better name for Cadillac to use on its flagship vehicle: 'Outta My Way, Peasants'.
In related news, the upcoming plug-in hybrid version of the CT6 will be imported from China. Who ever thought that Americans would be driving Chinese Cadillacs?
Buying Small Expertise: Daihatsu is a Japanese carmaker founded in its present form in 1951, but with roots that trace back as far as 1907. It is best known for its microcars. Toyota acquired a controlling interest of 51% in Daihatsu in 1988, bringing the company under its umbrella. But now it is raising its stake to 100%.
"As part of the new arrangement, the Daihatsu division will take the lead in developing new small cars, both for itself and for its parent company. Toyota in turn will also share key technologies with Daihatsu, and both will share each other's networks in emerging markets. The bottom line is that we can expect to see more small Toyotas ... developed and built by Daihatsu in the near future."
Anyone Remember PNDLR? Electronic gear shifters on some newer Fiat Chrysler SUVs and cars are so confusing that drivers have exited the vehicles with the engines running and while they are still in gear, causing crashes and serious injuries, U.S. safety investigators have determined.
The government's probe now covers more than 856,000 vehicles including the popular Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV from the 2014 and 2015 model years and the 2012 through 2014 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans with 3.6-litre V-6 engines.
"In the vehicles, drivers pull the shift lever forward or backward to select gears and the shifter doesn’t move along a track like in most cars. A light shows which gear is selected, but to get from Drive to Park, drivers must push the lever forward three times. The gearshift does not have notches that match up with the gear you want to shift into, and it moves back to a centered position after the driver picks a gear."
Sounds very non-intuitive and nuts. What ever happened to Ergonomic Engineering? (Which, when I went to college, was called Human Engineering.)
Book Review: 'Rising To The Challenge: My Leadership Journey' by Carly Fiorina
Carly Fiorina was a 2016 Republican presidential candidate who failed to catch fire with primary voters, although she made some memorable statements - especially about Hillary Clinton's shortcomings. She dropped out of the race yesterday, February 10th.
This short book - 208 pages - was an easy read and was obviously written to help boost her profile and support her candidacy.
In 1980, Fiorina ... (more >>>)
Liberal Hypocrisy: Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, proponent of the job-killing $15 minimum wage, pays his interns $12 per hour.
Jim Who? A perennial joke candidate who wears a boot on his head has received more votes in the New Hampshire primary than former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore. Vermin Supreme, a performance artist with a wizard-like beard, had received more than 240 votes in the Democratic contest, compared to Gilmore's 125 among Republicans.
Supreme, who has run regularly and uses the swarm of press around the Granite State to bring attention to his own satirical showmanship, has been entering elections since the 1980s and joined the fray in the last three presidential campaigns.
I wrote about Vermin in 2012. He is the only candidate who supports fully funding time-travel research in order to go back and kill Hitler before he was born. He's also the only candidate who makes mandatory toothbrushing his signature issue. Supreme says in his Dental Manifesto, "Proper dental hygiene is essential to proper social order."
Chris Christie has bowed out of the campaign. Too bad; I liked him. The announcement follows a disappointing sixth-place finish in New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary. Christie's last words: "Tell Marco it was only business. I always liked him." Tom Hagen replied, "He understands that."
Update: Gilmore exited the primary race on Friday, 2/12/16.
Quote Of The Day is from Lyn Nofziger: "Interesting, isn't it, that the rights of atheists, America-haters and rabble rousers are all protected because the Founding Fathers turned to God for guidance as they sought to give themselves and those who would follow after them a more perfect union?"
Tuesday February 9, 2016
First Drive Of 2016: At 10:30 am Monday, with a beautiful cloud-free blue sky and a temperature of 47 degrees - it reached 63 degrees in the afternoon, I awoke my '39 Plymouth coupe from its winter hibernation and took a drive along Clark County's back roads.
I hadn't driven the car since Thanksgiving; it was a real treat to be behind the wheel, listening to the Glasspacks rumble while 'The Joe Niagara Show' blasted from the speakers.
It made me feel like I was 16 again.
Making It Clear: The German parts maker ZF exhibited a transparent acrylic vehicle at the Detroit Auto Show, complete with seats, a steering wheel, belt buckle and doors that open and close, to show the camera inset above the windshield and the radar system on the sides above the front bumpers components of an autonomous ride ... (more, including photos >>>)
The Power Of Costco: Beginning October 2 and ending January 4, Costco Wholesale Corp. and General Motors sponsored a promotion for Costco members who wanted to purchase a new GM car. Sales totaled approximately 58,000 GM vehicles for the three-month promotion.
The offer featured GM supplier pricing and included all qualifying manufacturer rebates and incentives on a selection of vehicles, including trucks, SUVs and luxury and fuel-efficient models. Buyers also received a $300 or $700 Costco cash card for completing a Costco member satisfaction survey.
"If Costco sold nothing but cars it would be the largest new car dealer in the United States. In 2015, the company sold more than 465,000 vehicles. AutoNation Inc. is the nation's largest car dealer, and it sold 343,753 new vehicles in 2015."
Please Don't Change A Thing: Seven Hills Winery, one of Walla Walla's founding wineries and a standard-bearer for the Eastern Washington's Bordeaux-style wines, is getting a California owner.
Napa Valley's Crimson Wine Group acquired the 28-year-old winery for $5.75 million. Founders Casey and Vicky McClellan will stay on with the operation, with the former continuing as winemaker and general manager.
Seven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon is just awesome. The 'nose' on this beverage was distinctive and exceptional. And the taste was just fine, fine, superfine. The winery is located next door to the distinguished Whitehouse-Crawford Restaurant in Walla Walla. A glass wall permits diners to check out the winemaking activity at Seven Hills.
Something To Avoid: Omaha Steaks' Meat Lasagna. Too salty, limp noodles with Godfather's Pizza-style meat pellets. The beef had that unpleasant Fourth Time You Reheat Pot Roast Taste. We'll never buy it again, although OS's Stuffed Baked Potatoes are quite tasty.
We used to order Omaha Steaks' triple-trimmed beef filets but now buy our steaks from local sources - better quality and lower prices. Costco's Prime Grade Fillets are an excellent value.
How do I feel about OS's Potatoes au Gratin? Just pronounce it phonetically: Ugh, rotten.
Quip Of The Today: The older a man gets, the farther he had to walk to school as a boy.
Monday February 8, 2016
Pricey Kitty: According to Dan Neil, the redesigned Jaguar XF sedan is "an aluminum-body midsize rear- or all-wheel drive luxury sedan with a supercharged V6 and eight-speed gear robot, rated at 30 miles per gallon nominal on the highway - a car bedecked with tech (available 8-inch or 10.2-inch touch screen with quad-core brains, laser heads-up display and 12.3-inch high-res instrument panel), splendid with space, drunk on design and, yeah, they are dealing. ... Last year, Jaguar announced a price recalibration as part of a strategy to grab U.S. market share from the German luxury incumbents, or as they are affectionately known in the business, the 'Germs'.
The 2016 XF's base price of $51,900 is a thunderous $5,185 cheaper/more attainable than last year's V6-powered model. That price foot-sweeps the V6-powered Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the I6-powered BMW 5-series and the Audi A6 3.0T. That number also puts the XF in among mass-class shoppers milling around cars like the Infiniti Q70 3.7 ($49,850), for example."
As is typical with European cars, options are expensive and the loaded example Dan drove stickered at $65,700. That's a lot of money for a mid-sized car, especially one with questionable reliability.
New Hampshire Republican Debate: Chris Christie won, in my opinion. He embarrassed Rubio - badly. Trump did OK although he got booed on a couple of occasions. Trump's campaign may be helped by the fact that Ford has just announced that it will build a new assembly plant in Mexico and sharply increase factory output from that country, eliminating even more American jobs.
Jeb and Kasich did a little better than their usual sub-standard performances. Ben Carson wasn't given much debate time and his quiet, thoughtful remarks don't play well in a debate setting. Cruz was somewhat subdued but remains a world-class debater.
Best line was from Christie on Rubio's absence during a key Senate vote, "That's not leadership; that's truancy!" Christie also accused Rubio of having canned, repetitive, robotic replies for key questions. At one point, Christie taunted, "Here it comes, the 25-second sound bite." And he was absolutely right. Pundits are referring to Rubio as 'Marco Roboto'. Domo arigato.
Dave Barry wrote, "The big loser in the debate, according to the pundits, was Marco Rubio, who got this one talking point lodged in his throat and kept saying it over and over, unable to stop himself, until finally Dr. Ben Carson gave him the Heimlich maneuver, sending the talking point flopping onto the stage, where Chris Christie stomped on it."
Super Bowl 50 ... or 'L' if you like Roman numerals: Singer Lady Gaga opened proceedings with a stirring rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. Wearing a red glittering scarlet pantsuit and accompanied by a solo piano, she delivered an uplifting and slightly jazzy version of the anthem. Near the end, the Blue Angels did a dramatic flyover. Gaga closed her performance by saying, "God bless you, America."
The halftime show wasn't to my taste; I guess I'm too old. I was preparing to write that, with Coldplay, never has so much effort and money been put into such a lame performance. Then I remembered Jeb Bush's campaign.
The commercials were not nearly as good as in prior years. My five top picks were:
The Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers decisively, 24-10.
Quote Of The Day is from Don Surber: "I do not want America to be the world's policeman; I want America to be the world's king. Someone will be. Might a well be us."
Friday February 5, 2016
Best Jag Description Of The Century: At Road & Track, Sam Smith wrote that a restored XK 120 as "a stunning cross between manor house and the prime real estate of a woman's birthday suit. The fenders were a sine wave.
The interior appeared to have been laid out for laughs: tach in front of the passenger, and a horn button made large for no apparent reason, except to resemble one of Mae West's … horn buttons."
Fresh Kill: After 13 years, Toyota is discontinuing its Scion brand. Toyota sold a total of 1,092,675 cars under the Scion marque from 2003 to the end of 2015. That's slightly more than 91,000 cars per year, spread over several models - probably not a profitable number for an economy line of cars. In 2015, Scion sold just over 56,000 cars last year - spread over five models. Consider that more than 360,000 Toyota Corollas were sold in 2015 as well as more than 429,000 Camrys.
Starting with the 2017 model year, all surviving Scion models will be rebadged as Toyotas. I'm not surprised. Here are three reasons for the brand's demise ... (more >>>)
Buh-Bye: The overpriced, Chevy Volt-based Cadillac ELR coupe will be discontinued.
Originally priced at $76,000, Cadillac only sold 1,024 ELRs last year, down 22% from 2014's totals. By comparison ... (more >>>)
Senior Moment: I don't know how this happened but I forgot to upload the bubble-topped Plymouth, the California Pizza Kitchen woody and the 'Thirteenth Floor' cop car when I updated my '39 Plymouth website two years ago.
I've now corrected the error and you'll find photos here.
RIP: Bob Elliot, half of the low-key comedy duo, Bob & Ray, has died at 92 from thoat cancer. Bob was the skinny one without the moustache. Ray Goulding died in 1990.
"Bob was the more soft-spoken one, Ray the deep-voiced and more often blustery one were unusual among two-person comedy teams. Rather than one of them always playing it straight and the other handling the jokes, they took turns being the straight man."
They specialized in debunking gasbags, political airheads, no-talent entrepreneurs and Madison Avenue hypemasters, hawking such products as Einbinder Flypaper: "The flypaper you've gradually learned to trust over the course of three decades." Or the Monongahela Metal Foundry: "Steel ingots cast with the housewife in mind."
"Their weapon was not caustic satire but wry understatement."
Bad Pun Of The Day: Two cows are standing next to each other in a field. Daisy says to Dolly, "I was artificially inseminated this morning." "I don't believe you," says Dolly. "It's true - no bull!" exclaims Daisy.
Wednesday February 3, 2016
January Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 17.5 million SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate) in January - up about 5% from last January and down slightly from last month. These positive numbers were surprising considering the crippling East Coast snowstorm in January.
General Motors posted U.S. sales of 203,745 vehicles, a fractional percent increase compared with January 2015. Retail deliveries rose 9%, fleet deliveries slipped 6%. Buick sales jumped a whopping 46%, making it January's fastest growing brand. Cadillac sales fell 8% to 10,740 vehicles.
Ford Motor Co. reported a U.S. sales decrease of 3% year-over-year in January, to 173,723 Ford and Lincoln vehicles, compared with January 2015 sales of 178,351. Retail sales declined 11% and increased fleet sales were not enough to offset the decline. Truck sales rose fractionally for the month but sales of the new F-150 pickups dropped more than 5% to 50,540 vehicles. Car sales fell 12%. One rosy note: Sales of the Lincoln brand rose 8% year-over-year to 7,174 units.
FCA/Chrysler sales were up 7% helped by Jeep (up 15%) and Dodge (up 19%) but the Chrysler brand dropped a whopping 22% and Fiat sales declined 20% to 2,594 vehicles.
Toyota Motor Co's sales were down 6% although the Toyota RAV4 remains the best-selling SUV/CUV and the Toyota Camry remains America's best selling sedan.
Surprisingly, Nissan outsold Honda (97,220 vs.90,247), primarily on the strength of its trucks and crossovers. Volkswagen sales declined 15% in January.
Mercedes was the best-selling premium brand in January (25,563 units, up 1.6%); Lexus finished second (20,933 vehicles, down 10%). Third-place BMW sold 18,082 vehicles - a drop of 5%.
Bring A Large Check: At the Detroit Auto Show, the 2017 Porsche 911 Turbo S cabriolet was on display. The sports car has a 580 horsepower 3.8 liter twin-turbo flat six engine and is priced at a whopping $188,000.
Porsche claims that this 911 will do 0-60 in 2.8 seconds.
The Universal Problem With Mass Transit: James Lileks wrote that "while driving around downtown I found myself not driving at all, because the lights prohibited forward motion when the light rail was in the neighborhood. One train was going west; the other, a few minutes later, was going east. The tracks pierce the intersection at an odd angle. No car moved for about five minutes.
Six light-rail cars, three per direction, trundled past. I counted 14 occupants."
When watching transit buses go by in Clark County Washington, I used to see full-size buses with only .... (more >>>)
Iowa Caucus Results & What They Mean: Short answer - not much. Previous winners include such non-presidents as Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and Bob Dole.
The conventional wisdom is that, to win Iowa, you have to love 1. Jesus and 2. Ethanol. This combo doesn't apply to any other state that I know of. Ted Cruz always loved Jesus but was late to the game on ethanol and remains a Big Corn agnostic. But he won anyway. Trump came in a respectable second and Rubio a close third. It's looking more and more like the Republican primaries are now a three-man race.
Jeb got a mere 3% of the vote. Never in history has anyone used so much money to get so few votes. He spent $2,884 per vote in Iowa.
Hillary defeated Bernie by such a narrow margin that the race ended in a virtual dead heat. This makes Hillary the big loser because she was expecting a coronation, not a contest. Six precincts ended up with tie votes and each flipped a coin to decide. Hillary won all which sounds statistically suspicious.
I think it would have been more fun to decide tie votes by having Hillary and Bernie compete in a potato sack race.
If I were a Democrat, I'd vote for Bernie Sanders just to see what a black, heavily-armored presidential Prius looks like.
Republicans Huckabee, Paul, Santorum and Democrat O'Malley have "suspended" their campaigns - in other words, dropped out of the race. Expect more low-ranking Republican candidates to drop out after New Hampshire's primary next week.
Who's A Racist? The Democratic meme is that Republicans are a bunch of racists. Yet, while three white people were duking it out for a win in Iowa, 60% of white Iowa Republicans voted for two Hispanics and a black man.
Book Review: 'The Time Of Our Lives: Collected Writings' by Peggy Noonan
This book consists of the best of Noonan's columns covering the past 20+ years. Peggy always makes for a good read. Her writing is breezy yet exquisite. And often profound. Even if you disagree with her, she gets her points across. She adroitly covers ... (more >>>)
Coincidence ... Or What? Groundhog Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow yesterday and then the Dow fell 296 points.
Here's A Great Business Idea ... from Tom McMahon: "If I were the Chipotle CEO I would just give up and re-brand all my restaurants as Quick Weight Loss Centers."
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "Someone once said that the most important knowledge is knowledge of our own ignorance. Our schools are depriving millions of students of that kind of knowledge by promoting "self-esteem" and encouraging them to have opinions on things of which they are grossly ignorant, if not misinformed."
Monday February 1, 2016
2016 Scottsdale Auctions: As usual, the various Arizona collector vehicle auctions were full of aging white dudes with buckets of cash bidding up car prices toward the stratosphere as they sought their automotive nirvana du jour. Or the nostalgia of their youth.
How old are these guys? Looking at the televised Barrett-Jackson events, I'd guess that the age of the average seat holder was 50-65. Hemmings Motor News used to claim that its average subscriber was 52 years-old. And that number didn't change much from decade to decade.
It makes sense: By one's early 50s, the kids are out of college and out of the house, the mortgage is shrinking (or paid off) and it's usually peak income time at work. This adds up to Disposable Income to spend on various toys.
It's impossible to cover the various auctions in their entirety, so here is a sampling of cars that I found interesting:
At Bonhams, the first production Kaiser Darrin - a white one with the signature 'Darrin dip' on the side of the body and its unique sliding doors - crossed the block at $198,000. Only 435 Kaiser Darrins were made.
The same auction company sold a 1962 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster for $1,485,000; a 1971 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Berlinetta which went under the gavel for $1,155,000; a 1928 Mercedes-Benz 630K La Baule Transformable, which crossed the block at $973,500; a 1935 Hispano-Suiza K6 cabriolet, which sold for $869,000 and a 1965 Aston Martin DB5 sports saloon, which sold for $781,000.
Gooding & Co. sold a ... (more >>>)
Pickup Game: In 2015, the top three vehicles sold in the U.S. were: 1. Ford F-Series pickup, 2. Chevrolet Silverado pickup and 3. Ram pickup. The Toyota Camry took fourth place, followed by the Toyota Corolla.
Iowa Republican Debate: By the time today is over, we'll know who won the Iowa Caucus. As for last Thursday's debate, I thought the winner - strategically - was Donald Trump. He held his own show at the same time as the debates. Trump raised over $6 million for veterans' causes. Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee appeared with him. I enjoyed The Trump Show - it was patriotic and uplifting.
NBC and the Los Angeles Times also declared Trump the winner of the debate. The Chicago Tribune wrote, "Trump's absence left a vacuum on the debate stage."
Who lost? Maybe, Fox News, which led its "debate" with a cheap shot at Trump. Megyn Kelly (now a celebrity and GQ cheesecake model) and Chris Wallace played the gotcha game with the candidates, picking mainly on Ted Cruz. Cruz and Marco Rubio took hits from Fox News in the form of video clips that catch them contradicting the positions on immigration they're taking in this campaign. By skipping the debate, Trump avoided the kind of embarrassment Cruz and Rubio experienced.
The debate was diminished by The Donald's absence. And Fox allowed two YouTube liberal chicks - one a Muslim activist who apparently was originally put on the program to ambush Trump. She is also a Bernie Sanders supporter, having tweeted a photo of herself wearing a Feel The Bern sweatshirt. Why would Fox News do this? Would any network allow a Cruz supporter to ask questions in a Dem debate? I think not.
I thought the debate winners were Christie, Cruz and Carson (in that order), although no one else seemed to like Ben that evening.
Trump won the Drudge Report presidential poll, with 61% of the vote. Cruz came in second at 19%. Rubio was third with 8%; Paul came in fourth with 5%. All the other candidates polled less than 1.5%.
Not A Good Trend: Weekly attendance at the Church of England has fallen below one million for the first time in history, while Sunday service attendance dropped to 760,000.
The weekly figure accounts for about 2% of the population in the United Kingdom and reflects a downward trend in church attendance amid the growing popularity of secularism and religious diversity, particularly among the nation's youth.
Current figures show attendance numbers falling 12% over the past decade to less than half the levels seen 40 years ago, when Sunday attendance stood at approximately 1.25 million.
Good News: Follow up tests - a PET scan and CEA blood work - indicated that the cancer hasn't returned. The CEA test measures cancer markers - carcinoembryonic antigen - in the blood. Mine is now 0.5, which is well within normal range (0-2.5 µg/L). The PET scan indicated that the tumor has shrunk further; in fact, they were unable to find it. My next tests will .... (more >>>)
Cat Fight! When two stewardesses got into a fist fight on a Delta flight traveling from Los Angeles to Minneapolis, the captain decided to make an unscheduled landing in Salt Lake City.
"A third woman on the plane tried to break up the fight and was also hit by the brawling flight attendants. At that point, the captain made the decision to land the Boeing 757. The plane was flying just south of Salt Lake City when the fight broke out."
Quote Of The Day is from Ayn Rand: "We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission."
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