A Blog About Cars ... And More
Friday June 30, 2017
AutoSketch: 1956 Facel Vega - Strong Competitor?
For every athlete, there's a competitor. For every nation, there's an enemy. For every political candidate, there's an opponent. And if there isn't, the press will invent one. So, in September of 1956, Motor Trend magazine carried a tag line on its cover announcing that a road test of the Continental Mark II's new competitor was to be found inside. And the test itself carried the title '1956 Facel Vega: Strong Competition For The Mark II'.
Certainly, there were some superficial similarities ... (more >>>)
Library Visit: Yesterday, the temperature was a comfortable 60 degrees at 10:30 am (it eventually reached 80 later in the day). I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and drove to the library to return three books and pick-up two new ones.
The past couple of days have been overcast but the sun returned and I wanted to get another old car ride in.
Traffic was a little heavier than usual but the drive was pleasant.
Interesting observation: For the first time this year, Mt. St. Helens is bare near the base. Summer is here and the melting accelerates. As does the Plymouth - with much noise - when I push down on its gas pedal.
Hello Kitty Mania: Kudos to Charles G. Hill, who has passed along this news item on one particular collector. "Masao Gunji, now sixty-seven, has been collecting Hello Kitty memorabilia for the last 30 years, including most of his career as a police officer, and now, retired from the force, he has more of it than anyone else on earth. Gunji says that he currently has over 10,000 Hello Kitty items, but that for the certification by Guinness Records, he was asked to select a number of them that could be counted in an 8-hour period. He settled on 5,250 of his Hello Kitty-themed things, and transported them to the agreed-upon meeting place in Yotsukaido.
The Japanese collector claims that Guinness’ representative had very strict rules when counting his memorabilia, such as only accepting items that featured Hello Kitty's iconic pink ribbon. 81 of the presented items were rejected, but even with 5,169 items, he was still able to beat the previous record of 4,519."
It's OK to collect stuff but, when your collection reaches Guinness World Record level, that's probably an indication that you need psychiatric help. In my model car collection, I have about 620 examples - peanuts compared with the collections of others - many have 10,000+ models.
As to my model trains, I have about a dozen operating locomotives and street cars - a drop in the bucket compared with what serious collectors have.
Book Review: What A Time It Was! Leonard Lyons and the Golden Age of New York Nightlife' by Jeffrey Lyons
The author's dad, Leonard Lyons, was a gossip columnist for the New York Post from 1934 to 1974.
The book is mostly a collection of material from his columns. It is almost 500 pages long, but chapters are short. This tome is chock full of ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from the late Will Rogers: "Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for."
Wednesday June 28, 2017
Goin' Postal: Sunday was sunny and blazing hot - 100 degrees hot. Monday dawned dark and cloudy - what a difference. By 10:00 am, there was lots of thunder and lightning. I was certain that it would pour rain at any moment. But it didn't.
By 1:00 pm, the sun was out. Sort of. The weather was vacillating between partly cloudy and partly sunny. Nevertheless, I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and headed south to the Brush Prairie post office to mail some letters.
The early afternoon temperature was still in the 60s, so I had a pleasant drive and didn't have to deal with Sunday's heat. Summer's here and I'm enjoying my old car drives.
Odo Roll: The odometer on my brother's 2005 Acura TSX hit 100,000 miles this week. Bought new, it has been a trouble-free and enjoyable car. His Acura has a manual transmission.
Falling Faster Than A Tall Spruce Near A Windy Cliff: Circulation of daily newspapers has dropped to a 77-year low, signaling an end to print and a shift to all-digital delivery, according to a new industry review. The Pew Research Center said that circulation has reached a new low of 34.6 million, six million less than papers sold in 1940.
Pew noted: "The estimated total U.S. daily newspaper circulation (print and digital combined) in 2016 was 35 million for weekday and 38 million for Sunday, both of which fell 8% over the previous year. Declines were highest in print circulation: Weekday print circulation decreased 10% and Sunday circulation decreased 9%."
It's Really Hard To Lose A Pal: My very good friend Dennis Gartland passed away on June 26th, following a massive heart attack at age 70. He is survived by his loving wife, Sandy, as well as three wonderful sons and a granddaughter on whom he doted.
Dennis worked in the Plastics Department of Rohm & Haas Co. for many years. In addition to stints at the Bristol (PA) Plant and the Home Office, he was a plastics sales representative in New York, Connecticut, California and later served as district manager for the entire West Coast.
When R&H sold off its plastics assets, Dennis continued ... (more >>>)
Another Fake News Scandal: In a secretly recorded discussion with James O'Keefe of Project Veritas, John Bonifield, a CNN producer, admitted that the Trump-Russia Narrative is "mostly bullshit." "It's a business, people are like the media has an ethical phssssss ... All the nice cutesy little ethics that used to get talked about in journalism school you're just like, that's adorable. That's adorable. This is a business." This came as a surprise to news anchor Kent Brockman of 'The Simpsons'.
According to Bonifield, business is booming: "Trump is good for business right now." He explained that the instructions come straight from the top, citing CNN's CEO, Jeff Zucker: "Just to give you some context, President Trump pulled out of the climate accords and for a day and a half we covered the climate accords. And the CEO of CNN (Jeff Zucker) said in our internal meeting, he said good job everybody covering the climate accords, but we're done with that, let's get back to Russia."
Bonifield also acknowledged: "I haven't seen any good enough evidence to show that the President committed a crime. ... I just feel like they don't really have it but they want to keep digging. And so I think the President is probably right to say, like, look you are witch hunting me. You have no smoking gun, you have no real proof."
Reacting to the CNN fake news story, Iowahawk tweeted, ""The Most Trusted Name In News" is sorta like "The Most Trusted Used Car Lot In Shreveport"."
So far, CNN has fired three people for fake news. Bonifield was not among them.
Diamond Plus One: My parents were married 76 years ago today:
Who Knew? Queen Elizabeth and Mel Brooks are the same age - they both turned 91 this year.
Book Review: 'Target: JFK - The Spy Who Killed Kennedy?' by Robert K. Wilcox
This 356-page book claims that clandestine operative, René A. Dussaq, a man born in Buenos Aires and educated in Geneva and Cuba - an International Man Of Mystery, if you will, was the man who killed John F. Kennedy.
In this slow-moving story, the author ... (more >>>)
Definition Of The Day: Deja Moo - the feeling that you've heard this bull before.
Monday June 26, 2017
Car World Tilts Toward Asia: Ford Motor Company has decided that the next-generation Focus sedan will be made in China.
Current Focus production in Wayne, Michigan will be eliminated in the middle of 2018 and assembly of the '19 models will be shifted to Chongquing, China. Apparently, some Focus production will remain in Mexico but U.S. made Foci will soon be just a memory.
What the heck - most diecast car models are already made in mainland China.
One Door Closes, Another One Opens: Saturday was the season finale of 'My Classic Car'. Wednesday will begin the new season of 'Jay Leno's Garage'.
No Pickup Truck Required: Six years ago, I purchased a new propane grill. Alas, it is near-dead. There is much corrosion, despite my efforts to take good care of it. I've replaced parts, repainted the exterior, reinforced the corroded handle holes with washers and other sundry repairs. The manifold is leaking badly and various corroded holes are growing alarmingly larger. It was made in Shekou, in the Guangdong Province of China, so what do you expect?
The grill's predecessor was nine years old when it died and the manufacturer had gone out of business. The propane grill before it also died of a rusted manifold but lasted about 15 years. That manufacturer had also gone belly up. Fifteen years, nine years, now six years - not a good trend.
Fearing that the old grill would die any minute ... (more >>>)
Why We're Planning To Sell All Our IBM Stock Soon: The late Leon Mandel, founder of AutoWeek magazine, once wrote, "AutoWeek's assets go down the elevator each night and come back in the morning. Only the best and brightest people will do."
When I think back to all the businesses which I've seen fail in my business lifetime, I can't think of a single failure which could be blamed on machinery or mere physical assets. Generally, a failed business will have pretty much the same equipment as a successful business in the same field - the same brand of plastic molding machines, the same kind of die casting equipment, the same types of computers, the same makes of saws and routers. As I've written before, employees are "investments affecting the fortunes of the business."
Recently, Jack Baruth posted an article about IBM, a once employee-centric company which has now completely lost its way. "Thousands of IBM employees who have worked remotely for their entire careers have been given ninety days to sell their homes and move to one of six "collaborative" cities. IBM will pay their moving expenses, but it will not cover the costs of moving to some of the hottest real estate markets in North America."
The instigator of this nefarious policy is one Michele Peluso, IBM's chief marketing officer, who probably won't be around to experience the consequences of her demands. As Jack noted, "She's worked at three different corporations since 2014."
This is a continuation of the white-collar-employees-don't-matter attitude of large corporations. It began in the late 1980s. Of course, blue collar employees never mattered to many big employers which is why unions happened.
These days, it seems that the best employer you can ever have is yourself.
Happy Birthday, Joe! My son and namesake will turn 50 years-old tomorrow. I'm happy for him, because he has accomplished much in his life so far, has been married for 28 years, has a fine son of his own.
Joe is a talented artist and moviemaker and is manager of publications and IT for a local college. Joe always had a talent for drawing. It seems like only yesterday that Joe was five years-old and I was teaching him how to draw Mickey Mouse.
In 2011 ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "Little kids can be adorable when they are asleep. Or maybe we are just so glad that they are asleep that this biases our feelings."
Thursday June 22, 2017
Book Run: On Wednesday, I took a drive in my '39 Plymouth coupe. The weather looked good and I had neither morning chores nor doctor appointments to impede me. At 10:00 am the temperature was a comfortable 60 degrees and the skies were blue with puffy clouds here and there.
I headed to the library to drop off and pick up books. Then I took a drive along the back roads of Northern Clark County. I got a good view of Mt. St. Helens which, while still snow covered, is now full of creases, folds and crags. The traffic was fairly light and my old car ran great. I hope to take another drive soon.
Ghostly Tranny: Dan Neil tested the 2017 Subaru Impreza and remarked on its continuously variable automatic transmission. "The CVT doesn't have any issues with the yawn and saw of city traffic ... within its comfort zone, the transmission is responsive and elastic. But wafting acceleration is not among the Impreza's limbic delights. 0-60 mph is solidly in the eight-second range, and the moan from the CVT sounds like Aunt Martha's ghost is entertaining a gentleman caller.
At highway speeds, sudden demands for acceleration are answered first with indifference, then with a grudging gathering of mph."
Dan noted, "Subaru powers the four wheels equally, all the time symmetrically, if you will. If one wheel slips under power, that wheel's allotment of torque is instantly sluiced to wheels that have traction, proportional to the degree of that traction, with no loss of engine power. Unlike on-demand systems, the Subaru AWD system is always working, always on guard, ready in an instant."
My daughter has a Subaru Forester and its AWD has never failed her, regardless of weather.
New Pilot, New Course: Gerard Van der Luen wrote, "Since 9/11 our flight through history has become more perilous. First there was the continuous bungling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, made more deadly by the constant drone of what came to be known as "Bush derangement syndrome." This of course was no "syndrome" but a conscious plan to harm the nation by traitors within the media and academia; these traitors are legion as are their underlings.
Our American traitors reached their apotheosis with the elevation of a socialist weakling and coward to the office of the presidency. This odd creature, a man whose resume was only skin-deep, piloted the nation through eight years of torpor, appeasement, cowardice, corruption, and a constant drive to increase race hate among Americans.
In those years the America we all inhabit began to lose power, turn nose down and auger into an earth in which China was flexing its power while their vassal state, North Korea, continued to threaten Earth with nuclear Armageddon. Not satisfied with letting our enemies grow strong, the previous president gave billions to Iran, a nation which had sworn to destroy us with nuclear weapons just as soon as it got their hands on one. To this the previous president effectively said, "God speed."
And then somebody unexpected stepped forward to try and get control of the aircraft and, through the intervention of a God that still seems determined to bless America, succeeded. He took his rightful place in the cockpit and began to take the America into higher and safer realms.
This could not be allowed. Since the morning of November 9, 2016, a vast and vile uprising of traitors, quislings, perverts and their lackeys have risen up, daily and hourly, to try and destroy and overthrow a legitimate election with lies, memes, images and hate so vile that even those who did not especially like the President have now begun to see the traitors actions as despicable."
I haven't seen this much hatred of a president since Richard Nixon. And the abhorrence for Trump is far greater than that for Tricky Dicky. When Nixon was elected - and subsequently reelected - people who loathed him still accepted that he was president.
When Obama served as president, I found most of his policies abhorrent. But he was our elected president and I accorded him the courtesy that a president deserves, even though I was critical of him.
The reason that the Left hates Donald Trump so much is that he does nothing to appease them. He keeps them stirred up with Tweets which they angrily dissect while he continues to carry out his campaign promises.
Meanwhile RHINOs, faux-conservatives and Washington insiders keep trying to undermine this outsider president.
Every day, I thank God that Hillary isn't president. And I pray that President Trump succeeds in his mission.
Book Review: 'Panic On The Pacific: How America Prepared for the West Coast Invasion' by Bill Yenne
Americans everywhere were stunned by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but those who lived on the West Coast felt extremely vulnerable. In those, pre-freeway days, north-south main roads were sparse and easily attacked. There were few east-west railway connections; a calculated bombing run by the enemy could knock all out of commission. This was a potential disaster in a time when America moved 97% of its freight by rail.
This book is all about the 'invasion' which never happened, although there were ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Gerard Van der Leun: "Noticing is the gateway drug that leads to judging."
Tuesday June 20, 2017
Channeling Gordon Gekko: Peter De Lorenzo wrote that "no manufacturer in the world has turned extracting boatloads of money from its True Believer enthusiasts into an art form more than Porsche. The company comes up with so many special editions and packages to generate more cash that it makes our head spin. Make no mistake, Greed Is Good in Zuffenhausen."
For the first time ever, Porsche customers can have the optional matching chronograph from Porsche Design configured in the same specification as their $257,500-plus 2018 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series, which - incidentally - makes 607 horsepower from its 3.8 liter flat-six engine.
"Oh, we almost forgot, there's a five-piece luggage set that costs $6,324," about the price of a slightly-used smart car.
Russian Roulette: Some people certainly have short memories. Here are some Russian 'encounters' worth investigating:
So ... remind me again - why is Donald Trump under investigation?
Where Are The Coasters When You Need Them? The famed vocal group recorded 'Young Blood' in 1957 as the B-side of the hit 'Searchin''. 'Young Blood' reached #8 on the Billboard Top 100, while 'Searchin'' reached #3.
Scientists have now learned that Young Blood is important. Older people given transfusions of blood from young adults are at a lower risk of cancer, dementia and heart disease. In groundbreaking trials on humans, scientists appear to have confirmed the long-standing myth that such injections can reverse aging. Ambrosia, a start-up firm based in San Francisco, has been testing the technique to assess its benefits.
Jesse Karmazin, Ambrosia's founder, said, "I don't want to say the word panacea, but there's something about teenagers. Whatever is in young blood is causing changes that appear to make the aging process reverse."
Sixty-years ago, the Coasters could have told him that. By the way, I still have the original 45 recording issue by Atco Records. The recording company has no affiliation with Atco, NJ - home of the Atco Dragway.
But D.C. Has No Money For Schools: The District Of Columbia is spending $20,000 to paint pro-LGBTQ murals on storm drains. Artists receiving $775 each for designs to raise awareness of storm drains and promote LGBTQ.
Quote Of The Day is from Benjamin Franklin: "I am for doing good to the poor, but ... I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. I observed ... that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and - of course - became poorer."
Friday June 16, 2017
Expensive Cars Are Usually Scarce: Jack Baruth visited Germany and noticed a lack of Porsches. "Maybe they know something we don't, or maybe they're just not buying Caymans and Cayennes at the moment because they are spending all their money on subsidizing all those nice young fellows arriving from parts unknown."
I dunno. I didn't see many Porsches when I visited Germany either. In fact, I didn't see many Jaguars in England. I bet Europeans visiting New York City won't see many Corvettes, either.
How Things Have Changed: Fifty years ago, the world's top automakers were General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and Volkswagen - in that order. Today, Volkswagen is at the top, followed by Toyota, Renault-Nissan and General Motors. Ford ranks sixth - below Hyundai-Kia.
Gold Plus One: On Sunday, June 18, 2017, my wife and I will celebrate 51 years of marriage.
That's a very long time for her to put up with my antics and foibles and I thank her profusely for her patience and love. Especially since she spent most of 2014 and 2015 being my nurse and caregiver.
No big party this year - just a quiet celebration with family.
Happy Father's Day To All Dads! Father's Day was inaugurated in the United States in the early 20th Century to complement Mother's Day. It is now celebrated throughout most of the world.
On a personal level, it begins when your child-to-be is still a lightly-formed, growing piece of protoplasm. It's a feeling of anxiousness, protectiveness and fondness, which quickly grows into love. Until they become parents, your children - regardless of their age - cannot understand the phrase "I loved you before you were born."
But it is as true as it is mysterious ... (more >>>)
Heaviest Present Ever: Twenty-three years ago, my Father's Day gift was my 1939 Plymouth coupe.
Quote Of The Day is from James Lileks: "There's really only one use for fake wood grain: the coffin of the man who invented fake wood grain."
Wednesday June 14, 2017
Low-Margin Nissans: In any business, selling volume isn't good enough unless you're making a healthy profit, too. That's why most automakers try to limit low-margin fleet sales. Furthermore, off-rental fleet cars flood the used car market causing a drop in resale values. And, generally, being labeled as Fleet Fodder hurts an automaker's reputation.
New car sales appear to have peaked and are dropping for many vehicle manufacturers. Several analysts forecast that U.S. auto sales will decline this year for the first time since 2009, the year that GM and Chrysler went bankrupt. But not Nissan's sales, because the automaker has been busy stuffing the rental market with Sentras, Altimas and other models.
Almost a third of Nissan Altima sedan sales in the U.S. last year went to fleets. Nissan's fleet sales alone rose by 80,200 vehicles.
Here's another worrisome trend: During the first two months of 2017, 33.8% of new-vehicle loans were in the 73-84 month category. "In the final quarter of last year, 28.7 percent of those loans were for the full 84-month term, up from 17.1 percent in Q4 2010."
Glenn Mercer added, "No doubt longer-term loans are a) a tool OEM finance captives can use to push more cars into an otherwise-saturated marketplace, and b) are dangerous in that they have inherently greater credit risk." I agree.
I've Been Telling People This For 27 Years ... but it takes a philosopher stating it to get people's attention. "'The Simpsons' is more than a funny cartoon, it reveals truths about human nature that rival the observations of great philosophers from Plato to Kant ... while Homer sets his house on fire," says philosopher Julian Baggini in BBC Magazine.
"It is, quite simply, one of the greatest cultural artefacts of our age. So great, in fact, that it not only reflects and plays with philosophical ideas, it actually does real philosophy, and does it well."
Doin' Nuttin': The Republican Congress - House and Senate - has had eight years to craft an alternative to Obamacare. Even though they hold majorities in both houses, they cannot agree on a health car plan. Republicans have bitched about Obamacare for years, proclaiming "we can do better." But they haven't. Their defense: "It's complicated." "Yes, but you've had eight years to assemble it," say I. In fact, I published a health care solution beck in March of 2008.
President Trump and his team worked diligently to craft a federal budget. His own party won't pass it. House Majority Leader Lindsay Graham and Senator John McCain declared the Trump budget "dead on arrival." Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave lukewarm support to President Trump's budget, calling it a "recommendation." All are alleged Republicans.
So lemme get this straight: In the 2010 elections, Republicans 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 (aka: The Orange Perry Como) Boehner, nothing got done. And Paul Ryan's not doing much better.
In 2014, the GOP Establishment 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 'The Mumbler' McConnell done since then? Nada.
"Ooooh ... oooooh .... we can't fight Obama. We need a Republican president," said congressional Republicans. In November, the voters gave one to them. And what has Congress done? Zip. Zero. Americans now feel pissed and betrayed. And rightly so.
The Republican Congress has a death wish. And may well be a dead party after the mid-term elections. And will have no one to blame but themselves.
Book Review: 'Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans' by A. J. Baime
I clearly remember when the Ford GT40 debuted and the Ford-Ferrari racing battle which ensued. Baime's book provides the colorful backstory. Yes, the book does an outstanding job telling the many stories surrounding Ford's winning years at Le Mans, particularly the big win in 1966. But there's so much more in the book - the clash of two famous automakers by their two ego-driven top execs each of whom had their names on the buildings and the cars, the rise and fall of well-known race drivers of yore, the role of Carroll Shelby in making the Cobra and the GT-40 a success, the story of Lee Iacocca and his rise to fame due to his ability to turn racing performance and image into car buyers.
The book took this reader on a wonderful and exciting journey to a risk-filled, bygone era in racing and ... (more >>>)
Good Idea! Tom McMahon offers this sage advice: "Sell Puerto Rico to Cuba."
Quote Of The Day is from Newt Gingrich (circa 1994, but still true): "You cannot maintain a civilization with twelve year-olds having babies, fifteen year-olds shooting each other, seventeen year-olds dying of AIDS, and eighteen year-olds getting diplomas they can't read."
Monday June 12, 2017
Cool Idea: Here's a clever way for an entrepreneur to drum up some business. A retrofit shop selling an aftermarket auto air conditioner called the Refrigair Jr. Cooling Unit attracts the attention of sweating pedestrians by parking a 1952 Ford Customline Fordor sedan on a hot, downtown street. A sign invites prospects to ... (more >>>)
West was born in Walla Walla, WA. In the 21st Century, he regained fame by playing the mayor of Quahong in the cartoon series, 'Family Guy'. Rest in Peace, Caped Crusader.
Go West Young Man: The minimum wage of a laborer who places and picks up orange cones around a Federal highway project in California is set at $43.97 an hour - mandated by the Davis-Bacon Act.
Taking The Fifth: Phoenix has officially edged out Philadelphia to become the fifth biggest city in the U.S. The total population of the city is 1,615,017, according to estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau.
"Overall, New York has the highest population among all cities in the U.S. with 8,537,673. Los Angeles is second (3,976,322), Chicago is third (2,704,958) and Houston is fourth (2,303,482)." Philly is now relegated to sixth place.
From the dawn of the 20th Century until the 1950s, Philadelphia was America's third-largest city. But, its once-mighty industrial base deserted the city, choosing the suburbs or other lower-cost states. When that happened ... (more >>>)
In Local News: In Saturday's Portland Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade, Battle Ground's float won the 'Grand Marshal Award'. Battle Ground, WA has been a participant in the parade since 1955 and its floats are designed and constructed entirely by local volunteers.
Almost all of the other floats in the parade are professionally built and many are remarkably lame - probably built to a (cheap) price. Battle Ground's entries always look awesome and it's nice that this year's entry was given the recognition it truly deserved.
Let's Institute This Nationwide: Thirteen previously exempted Alabama counties saw an 85% drop in food stamp participation after work requirements were put in place on Jan. 1, according to the Alabama Department of Human Resources.
As of January 1, 2017, there were 13,663 able-bodied adults without dependents receiving food stamps statewide. That number dropped to 7,483 by May 1st. Among the 13 counties, there were 5,538 adults ages 18-50 without dependents receiving food stamps as of the beginning of 2017. That number dropped to 831 - a decline of about 85% - by the first of May.
"Based on the trend, the number of (able-bodied adults without dependents) recipients for SNAP benefits is expected to continue to decline statewide and in the formerly 13 exempted counties."
In the U.S., there are about 44 million people receiving SNAP benefits at a cost of about $71 billion. The Trump administration has vowed to cut the food stamp rolls over the next decade, including ensuring that able-bodied adults recipients are working.
Quip Of The Day: I just wrote a book about reverse psychology. Please don't run out and buy it.
Thursday June 8, 2017
Not A Beauty: The four-seat 2017 Ferrari GTC4 Lusso is an odd-looking duck, with a chopped-off tail replacing the normally swoopy rear curves associated with Ferraris.
Dan Neil provides a history lesson: "In 1515, The German artist Albrecht Dürer made a famously bad depiction of a rhinoceros, based on reports of an animal that had been brought to Lisbon.
Dürer's woodcut demonstrates what psychologists call "schema," the natural tendency to impose patterns of the familiar on the unfamiliar. Having never seen a rhino, but moved by the description of its armor-like skin, Dürer girdled his animal in steel, complete with rivets.
What if you were to ask Americans what a Ferrari is supposed to look like: Red? Sleek? Pointy? Raging egomaniac at the wheel? Like Dürer's rhinoceros, that's close enough."
The $330,000 Lusso is the successor to the Ferrari FF, "which made its debut in 2011 to a polite smattering of enthusiast applause. The alien design is called a 'shooting brake' - that is, a three-door variant of a 2+2 coupe, with a long roof and a squared-off hatch." It is powered by a 680-horsepower V12 and can do 0-60 mph in less than 3.4 seconds. The Lusso has a top speed of 208 mph.
It's relatively quiet. "But you have to goose the throttle pretty good or otherwise wind up past 4,250 rpm before it sounds like much. Usually, the engine note is just a low drumming, like Washington Square Park heard from a block away." For that kind of money and a Ferrari badge, I'd want more noise. But that's just me.
Have Fun While You Can: It was 68 degrees and sunny at 10:20 am Tuesday, so I declared that it was time for an old car drive. There was logic in my reasoning: Wednesday was to be cloudier, followed by forecasts of rain for the remainder of the week.
I dutifully fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and headed out for a pleasant back roads cruise. All went well. It was indeed a little cloudier and cooler Wednesday morning, but I took another drive anyway. It was just fine. And, yes, the rain began Wednesday night.
Regular readers may have noticed that I've been doing more old car drives than in recent years. Why? Well, frankly, because I'm feeling much better these days. Last year at this time, there were still some lingering effects from my 2015 chemo/radiation treatments. These days I feel swell. Yes, I have the usual aches and pains of guys my age but I can still drive and enjoy it.
Do stuff while you're still able, I say.
You Can't Be A Car Guy ... without a car hat. I have a miraculous one.
Word Play: Boffins, strumpets, puffins, muppets - they all sound like things you might have for breakfast. With butter on them.
Book Review: 'The Smithsonian's History Of America in 101 Objects' by Richard Kurin
Jokingly referred to as America's Attic, the Smithsonian Institute is America's largest repository for the objects that define our nation's heritage. This book offers thumbnail sketches of America's history using 101 examples from the Smithsonian's vast collection. Author Kurin sheds light on famous objects, such as Lincoln's silk top hat, John Bull (America's first steam locomotive), Dorothy's ruby slippers from 'The Wizard of Oz', Julia Child's kitchen, the Discovery space shuttle and John Deere's steel plow which greatly increased farm productivity. Kurin wrote that in 1800, 80% of America's labor force was involved in agriculture. Fifty years later, it was down to 50% due to improved plows, threshers, harvesters and the like.
Kurin is an anthropologist and cultural historian. He serves as Under Secretary for Art, History, and Culture at the Smithsonian. Despite his credentials and expertise, selecting 101 things to represent America is a difficult call. Not everyone will agree with his choices. Or ... (more >>>)
Ave Atque Vale: Jack Trout has died at age 82 from intestinal cancer. He was one of the pioneers of the positioning theory of marketing.
'Marketing Warfare' by Al Ries & Jack Trout is the best book on marketing strategy, period. I'm sure glad that I bought this book outright instead of paying commissions to the authors, based on the results of their ideas.
You see, I read this book three times and then followed the advice in the book and declared war on my biggest competitor in the acrylic plastic display business. In 12 months, I obtained over $1 million in increased business as a result of my 'warfare' strategy. Our firm's market share jumped by double-digits. Because our customers were now buying on factors other than price, we were able to raise prices and improve profitability by an average of 11.7% while still increasing sales volume.
Ries and Trout also wrote 'Positioning - The Battle For Your Mind' and 'The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing'. I've read both and they're excellent.
Rest in peace, Jack, and thanks for all the help.
Separate Planes: According to an e-mail exchange obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton didn't want to share a plane with Michelle Obama when the two attended Betty Ford's funeral in 2011.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft, where we are hard, cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand."
Those who seek celebrity and a rich lifestyle on someone else's money - call them The Grifter Rich - behave differently than the very rich. They focus on 'stuff' - particularly if it's free and then engage in freebie one-upmanship with their perceived rivals. Hillary is the poster child for The Grifter Rich, as is her husband. The pair make the Kardashian Clan look like pikers.
Speaking of airplanes ... in August 2000, Hollywood organized a big send-off party and concert for outgoing President Bill Clinton. According to Aaron Tonken (a one-time Hollywood fundraiser, who was sentenced to more than five years in federal prison for defrauding donors and underwriters of star-studded charity galas he organized), Rosa Parks wouldn't appear unless a) she was paid and b) they sent a Gulfstream IV private jet to collect her. So much for the image of a humble woman who just wanted a good seat on a bus.
Before he became president, Donald Trump flew in his own private Boeing 757. On his own dime - no freebies requested. He doesn't seem to engage in one-upmanship with his rich friends; instead, he collaborates with them. That's why many well-known, self-made moguls supported Trump in his successful presidential run.
Today's Inspiration: "I was addicted to the Hokey Pokey but I turned myself around." That's what it's all about.
Tuesday June 6, 2017
May Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 16.6 million SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate) in May, down 3% from May 2016, and up 1% from last month. This is the fifth consecutive month of year-over-year decline, confirming that the downturn in vehicle sales, while modest so far, is for real.
Ford Motor Co. reported a 1% sales increase year-over-year to 241,126 vehicles,. Passenger car sales fell 10%. Truck sales rose 9% for the month; sales of F-Series pickups soared by 13%. Retail sales dropped slightly in May to 158,282 and fleet sales rose 8% to 82,844 units. Truck sales comprised just over 41% of all Ford-brand sales in May, and the F-Series pickups accounted for nearly 32% of total May sales.
Sales of the company's SUVs posted a year-over-year increase of 4% in May.
Sales of the Lincoln brand rose 5% in May as sales of Lincoln cars rose 4%, primarily on sales strength for the Lincoln Continental. Car sales totaled 3,874 units in the month and SUV sales totaled 6,414 units, up 5%.
Ford sold 76,027 F-Series pickups in May, topping sales of General Motors' Chevy Silverado by 32,223 units. Adding in sales of the GMC Sierra, Ford outsold GM in the pickup wars by 16,023 units. Silverado sales fell 3%, while Sierra sales dropped 8%.
General Motors posted total May U.S. sales of 237,364 vehicles, a decrease of 1% compared with May 2016. Fleet sales accounted for 21% of total monthly sales.
Cadillac sales increased 9% in May to 13,211 units. Total Chevrolet deliveries in May decreased by 4% year-over-year to 162,950 units. The Buick brand experienced a sales jump of 29% in May. The driver was the Buick LaCrosse with an 88% year-over-year gain.
Year-over-year, sales decreased 1% at Fiat-Chrysler to 193,040 units. The Jeep brand posted a disturbing sales drop of 15% year over year as the Jeep Compass showed a year-over-year sales decline of 43% and the Patriot posted a sales drop of 53%. Grand Cherokee sales rose 14% while Renegade sales decreased by 15%. Fiat sales dropped 16%, Chrysler brand was down 2% and Dodge experienced an increase of 8%. Ram trucks experienced an 18% increase.
Toyota sales were flat, while its luxury brand Lexus fell 5%. BMW sales dropped 11%, while Mercedes-Benz fell 7%. Audi sales grew 3% year-over-year. At Hyundai, total sales plunged 18%. Hyundai's Korean partner, Kia, fell 7%. Mini sales were off 12%, while Volkswagen slid 3%. Honda sales increased 1%; Acura sales were up 3%. Subaru sales increased 12%. Nissan sales increased 2%, while Infiniti sales jumped 16%. Speaking of jumping, Jaguar posted a 44% sales increase to 2,164 Kitties. Maserati sales increased 34% to 945 vehicles. Mazda sales declined 8%.
Smart, the King Midget of the 21st Century, sold 331 cars - a drop of 21%. Bentley sold 210 vehicles, an increase of 88%.
Morning Run: After several days of clouds and light rain, when the sun wouldn't appear until 4:00 pm, there was a change. Monday dawned gloriously bright. By 9:30 am, the temperature was in the mid-50s, the sky was bright blue and cloudless with only a hint of haze at the horizon. So, I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and took a back roads drive.
The roads were nearly empty and Mt. St. Helens was clearly visible. The mountain is still snow-covered but seems to have more definition these days. Snow is melting and the crevices are more visible.
My pleasant morning drive was the prelude to a really nice day. Temperatures eventually reached the mid-70s and there was warm sunshine until sunset at 8:56 pm.
Barking Mad: The June 3rd Islamic terror attack in London, which resulted in seven deaths and almost 50 injured was horrific. If you're even the slightest bit Islamophobic, the large cities of Great Britain are not great places to be these days.
The three dead terrorists lived in Barking, part of East London. While the town has ancient roots, several historic sites and once had a lively shipbuilding industry, it has become a dump - full of public housing populated by seedy-looking people. The largest ethnic group in the area is Pakistani. There are also lots of immigrants from North Africa and East Asia in residence.
My wife and I were in Barking briefly in the mid-1990s. Even then, the place was slummy and unnerving. We didn't stay long. The British term, 'barking mad' - meaning crazy, supposedly refers a medieval insane asylum attached to Barking Abbey in the old town.
Watching the non-stop television coverage of the attack, I was surprised by the many non-British vehicles used by police. The staple of the London police force was once Vauxhall sedans. Or English Fords. The current police cars include BMWs and Audis in the mix. I saw Renault and Mercedes ambulances as well as Volkswagen Transporters in police livery.
England - a nation of shopkeepers, according to Adam Smith and, possibly, Napoleon - once produced many home-built delivery vans, panel trucks and lorries, with nameplates such as ... (more >>>)
Nobody Goes There Anymore: When I was in my 20s, San Juan was a destination spot. Lots of people I knew flew to Puerto Rico for their honeymoon. Or a weekend getaway. In the 1960s, tourism was Puerto Rico's biggest industry.
In 1971, we vacationed in St. Thomas. Our PanAm flight stopped in San Juan, where we had to change to a smaller airplane. Most of the passengers stayed in PR to catch some sun and party.
Unfortunately, the party's over. The Z-Man wrote that Puerto Rico now "has a crime rate higher than every US state, something close to Baltimore. It also has a corruption rate triple the typical US state. In other words, despite the best efforts of the US, Puerto Rico is the product of the people who populate the island."
"Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory since the Treaty of Paris ended the Spanish-American War. It probably would have been setup as an independent country, but the US Navy thought it was useful and the sugar growers liked being a US territory. Even though it no longer has any value to the Navy and they no longer grow much sugar, Puerto Rico remains a territory. It does have a strong manufacturing base, mostly due its status as a tax haven, but also as the result of US policy to encourage industry on the island."
Puerto Rico is now bankrupt and decrepit. Oh well. At least it's in better shape than Haiti. Or Cuba.
Millennial Brainwashing: 40% of millennials (ages 18 through 34) use the news feed at Facebook's social media site as their source for news. That's far higher than the percentage that use Twitter (16%) or Ins tag ram (4%). All other news sites garnered the remaining 40%. Facebook is a well-known source of fake news, especially of the anti-Trump variety.
88% of millennials use Facebook. A full 84% of Americans between the ages of 30 and 49 also use Facebook, according to a report from Pew Research. I have no presence of FB and no longer read anyone's postings.
One More Thing: When Barack Obama was elected, I started a web page which aggregated most of my postings about him. By 2017, it had turned into a 16,000-plus word indictment of the man and his presidency. Re-reading it was a real eye-opener for me; I had forgotten some of the things he did to damage our nation.
I just found the perfect header graphic and have posted it at the top of my Barack Obama web page.
Quote Of The Day is from Charles McCabe: "Any clod can have the facts, but having opinions is an art."
Friday June 2, 2017
Three Million Bucks Worth Of Awesome: The Bugatti Chiron is the fastest, most powerful, most expensive production road car ever produced. And it is glorious, wrote Dan Neil.
"The bleak, beetle-backed monster parked outside our hotel lays claim to being the fastest, most powerful, most expensive road car ever produced by a proper global auto maker. The price tag, should you wish to inform your accountant in Macau? Three million bucks.
It's so evil-looking, birds won't land on it. The back half seems to be devouring the front. The full-width tail light glows like a slash from a Jedi's lightsaber. From its aerospace-standard carbon-fiber safety cell to its titanium tailpipes, the Chiron makes you weak at the knees. Gawd, what an object."
The big, 8-liter, W16 engine makes almost 1,500 horsepower. Estimated top speed is 270 mph. How does it accelerate? "It's like getting hit by a freight train if Hermès made freight trains," says Mr. Neil.
He summarized, "The world of luxury goods is full of inflated brand narratives, but with Bugatti it's something different. I'm reminded of the early decades of the automobile, when engineers and drivers would take life in hand to demonstrate the strength of their machines to an exclusive clientele."
I doubt that I'll ever get to drive one. You probably won't either.
Talkin' Trash: Wednesday's weather was a bit confusing. My two weather widgets gave conflicting forecasts. Nevertheless, at 11:45 am, it was partly cloudy (white puffy ones, not dark gray ones) and sufficiently bright to require sunglasses. With the temperature in the mid-60s, conditions were absolutely worthy of an old car drive. I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and took a ride. There is one road which is usually empty of traffic and newer houses are set back quite a bit from the road. The view through my Plymouth's windshield could have been a scene from 1939 except for two things:
In any case, I had a very enjoyable old-car drive. Later in the afternoon, it clouded up and rained overnight.
Maybe I Need To Paint My Plymouth Yellow: An original 1970 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda in yellow with a black vinyl roof sold for $295,000 at the recent 2017 Mecum Auctions Indianapolis sale. This auction generated "a 73% sell-through rate and $55.6 million in total sales, a 30-year event record."
Top-dollar sales included a 1996 Porsche 911 GT2 EVO $1,450,000, a 1967 Toyota 2000GT $750,000 and a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette 427/435 horsepower Coupe $675,000.
Meanwhile, RM Sotheby's sold a silver 1993 Porsche 911 RSR for over $2.2 million. And a gorgeous, teardrop-shaped 1937 Talbot-Lago T150-C SS Goutte d'Eau with enclosed front fenders fetched $3.78 million.
On a historical note, this week's Woodpile Report has a photo of bankrupt investor Walter Thornton trying to sell his Chrysler Imperial Roadster on October 30th, 1929 for a mere $100 - cash only. This is a stark lesson that a vehicle is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it. Overenthusiastic collector-car auction fans beware. (See also Greater Fool Theory.)
Why Health Care Costs So Much ... shown in one graph ... (more >>>)
Don't Forget: Today is National Donut Day.
Language Barrier: Last Thursday, James Lileks posited that "no one in the executive division of DirecTV has ever called customer assistance. I will detail the exact nature of my complaint at some later date, in thrilling rant-o-rama. I've had to call twice lately, for two different questions, and aside from the obstinate, maddening Robot Lady who does not understand what I want and sends me to a human only after I had pressed '0' about 30 times, there's the issue of the human you finally get. I've talked to four. I've understood one.
The connection is bad, because it's probably VOIP to the Philippines, but the person on the other end varies from the least acceptable level of understanding to utter incomprehensibility."
Apparently, after AT&T acquired DirecTV, all service and tech support was outsourced to India and/or the Philippines.
Last week, I had the exact same experience as James. Thankfully, the local service tech who arrived at our home was great and fixed the problem posthaste. I've had in-person calls from DirecTV about three or four times in the last nine years and all the techs have been great.
Considering that the alternatives are Comcast or Dish, I guess we'll be sticking with DirecTV.
Who's Your Loser Of The Week? There's quite a field to choose from:
You have the entire weekend to make your selection. Sigh. So many choices. I can't make up my mind either.
Zazzle Fails To Dazzle: Online retailer Zazzle.com sells clothing, posters, hats, pillows and the like. The California-based company has been around for almost 13 years and has had plenty of time to get its act together. But they haven't. The in-stock item I ordered took almost three weeks from order to delivery and was received five-days later than promised.
The firm made it difficult to contact them; even though I had a user ID and password, I was forced to go through a Prove You're Not A Robot routine before I could communicate with anyone. And that anonymous 'anyone' - a robot, perhaps - failed to answer my questions. I was also informed that replies might very well end up in my spam trap - which they did. I've never had this spam trap problem with any other online retailer.
Zazzle's tracking information inexplicably listed 'invalid date'. Meanwhile, I was bombarded daily with Zazzle offers for dreck I didn't want. I will never again patronize Zazzle.
Joke Of The Day: A guy met a fairy who said she would grant him one wish. He said, "I want to live forever." "Sorry, I'm not allowed to grant eternal life," said the fairy. "OK," he replied. "Then, I want to die after Congress gets some work done."
"You crafty bastard," exclaimed the fairy.
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